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2014 Summer Newsletter

LoeBooks Newsletter 
Summer 2014                                  View Website

Dear Collector

Welcome to our Summer New Naturalist Newsletter, and as we are only a few days away from the summer solstice, I suppose, for once, our timing is pretty good!  And if the old adage "Oak before ash we're in for a splash; ash before oak we're in for a soak" is correct it should be a good summer too.  Some of the ash trees here in Cornwall have been incredibly late coming into leaf - still completely bear at the beginning of June, just leafing up now, which must be to their physiological disadvantage?  Oak trees are stimulated into growth by warmth whereas ash trees by light, but the spring did not appear to more overcast than usual. The UK Phrenology Network organised by the Woodland Trust has recorded that in the last 50 years ash has beaten oak on only four occasions, so with the recent record of appalling summers, it would seem we shouldn't put great store by this popular little saying.     


This newsletter includes a few non New Naturalist items, but all natural history related, several of which are rare and beautiful.  We have also recently added some fine NN titles, a few of which, described below are particularly fine un-faded examples. Over the next few weeks more will be added to our website.


On a positive note, we have over the last few months, witnessed a significant upsurge in the demand for New Naturalist books so it seems that the better economic conditions are filtering through to books. Assuming this trend continues, then now it probably not a bad time to buy as eventually this demand will result in higher prices.


As always, we are keen to receive your comments regarding this newsletter and any other book related issues, and of course if you are ever in our area it would be a pleasure to see you here.



There are several NN titles which are almost impossible to obtain in fine un-faded jackets  - nos. 12 The Sea Shore,
24 Flowers of the Coast, 38 World of Spiders, 40 Bumblebees, 75 Freshwater Fishes and 77 The Soil, are all obvious examples.  Of this short list, we have never seen un-faded first edition copies of The Sea ShoreFlowers of the Coast or of Bumblebees, though reprints of the first two titles are not 
 infrequently un-faded.  
The other three titles are very rarely found in un-faded jackets, and so it is a first for us to be able to offer un-faded copies of each at the same time.  Freshwater Fishes (note the correct title 'Fishes') with its rich scarlet band is eye-catching, but so light sensitive that it is more suited to the darkroom than the bookshelf; consequently most copies are badly faded and unfortunately it is one of those designs which is unable to accommodate any colour loss without it being both noticeable and aesthetically detrimental. On the basis that at least 9 out of 10 copies are faded and that only 1,470 copies were printed (c. 1,300 sold) then there can be no more than one hundred or so extant un-faded copies.  The same statistics would apply to The Soil, though fading is less detrimental to the design (the mole cricket on the spine should be the same sandy colour as the tunnels on the front cover), and it is not unusual to see faded copies advertised as being un-faded.  

 A wonderful opportunity to acquire unusually bright copies of these three titles - strictly on first come first served basis.     




  'THE GOLDEN 13' or 'G14'?

The rarest books in the NN series, published from the mid-1980s to the mid-90s, are often referred to as "
the Golden 13", which is a misnomer in that they number 14 and are more notorious than golden (perhaps golden from a seller's perspective?). Notorious because they are expensive; because the dust jackets are particularly prone to fading and because some of them are set in a tortuously small typeface. "
The gang of 14" might be a more appropriate term to describe them, but whether this or a modified "
Golden 14", 'G14' would seem an appropriate abbreviation and in fact is the term used in the forthcoming bibliography.  The 14 are nos. 70-83, that is Orkney; Warblers; Heathlands; New Forest; Ferns; Freshwater Fishes; Hebrides; Soil; Larks; Caves; Wild & Garden Plants; Ladybirds; New Naturalists; and Pollination.    



New Naturalist No. 71
British Warblers 
First Edition  First State

Normally advertised at £1800 but for one week only we are offering this title for sale for £1200.
The book is in near fine condition with just a little fading to the spine, not price-clipped, with duraseal sleeve, no inscriptions or marks.



Like the New Naturalist series Warne's Wayside and Woodland series is highly collectable, but there are a few differences.  W & W collectors will collect jacket and book variants, whereas NN collectors tend to favour first editions only, or at least one only of each title.  This is probably because there is greater variation in W & W jackets and books and also because collecting multiple copies of each NN title would require more yards of bookshelves, than the average house can accommodate! While Wayside and Woodland titles may generally be less expensive than their New Naturalist counterparts, this is certainly not always the case; early copies with dust jackets, that is books dating to the 1920s, can sell for hundreds of pounds each.


Essentially all collectors, whatever their genre, are looking for the same thing - rare material in outstanding condition.   Unique items in such condition are, of course, the holy-grail; they can, by definition, grace only one collection.  Loebooks was lucky enough to procure one such item - the 24 superb original watercolour drawings reproduced in Wayside and Woodland Trees.  These plates by Dorothy Fitchew first appeared in Edward Step's New Edition of 1940 and reused in Edlin's New Edition of 1964, (reprinted 1971) and in all the interim reprints. "Trees" is one of the cornerstone's of the Wayside and Woodland series and the plates, spanning a 30-year publishing history have assumed an iconic status, particularly that of the Hawthorn, which featured on every Trees' jacket for much of this period (albeit often applied upside-down).  The paintings are beautifully and finely executed, each essentially a "miniature" of outstanding quality and composition, and so much better than the reproductions in the book would suggest. 


 Dorothy Fitchew was a professional artist/illustrator of the old school who was trained to draw and could draw, and was expected to be versatile and was versatile.  She painted figures, portraits, landscapes, children's illustrations and butterflies, though she is now best know for her botanical illustration.  As well as private commissions she illustrated numerous books including Wild Flowers at a Glance by Mabel Colebrooke Carey, J.M. Dent, 1949; Collins Pocket Guide to Wild Flowers by David McClintock and R.S.R. Fitter, Collins, 1965; Collins Pocket Guide to the Sea Shore by John H. Barrett, and C. M. Yonge, Collins 1958.  Along with Roland Green and F. W. Frohawk, Dorothy Fitchew illustrated a series of educational wallcharts for Macmillan in the early 1940s.  These few examples of her published work, immediately
"Roses" by Dorothy Fitchew which sold for £1800 at Christie's in 20

establish links with New Naturalist authors and other well-known natural history artists of the twentieth century; such links are always fascinating. Away from natural history subjects, some of Dorothy Fitchew's illustrations, particularly for children's books, are highly stylised and reflect and art nouveau influence. One such work, a pen and watercolour painting, probably dating to the 1920s entitled Roses, sold at Christie's in 2007 for £1,800 (see illustration). The Natural History Museum, London hold a number of Dorothy Fitchew drawings in their collections.

We feel that the suite of the 24 original paintings for Wayside and Woodland Trees, should ideally stay together and therefore in the first instance are offering them as a single collection.  At £2,610, (on our website) they are a little over £100 each, which we believe represents excellent value and an unrivalled opportunity to add a unique and iconic item to your W & W collection.  



ILLUSTRATIONS OF BRITISH HAWK MOTHS, AND THEIR LARVAE, (Including the Sesidae.) With Thirty-Six Original Drawings by the Author from Specimens in His Cabinet. London, 1874-[1876]


Small 4to 170 x 229mm [leaf size 160 x 220mm); 36 fine original watercolour drawings on card; pp. [4 - blanks], 4, [3]-46 pages of letterpress text [but paginated to the printed side of the leaf only], original brown-coated end-papers. Each plate depicts a different hawkmoth species along with its foodplant, with additional plates for the larger moths showing the larva and pupa.  Contemporary pebbled green cloth binding with the binder's ticket to the rear end paper "Bound by H. Pearman, Printer and Bookseller, 62 High Street, DARTFORD."  Signed in pencil "Theod Johnson" to the verso of the front free end-paper - possibly the author's copy (see notes). The contents are remarkably clean with minimal marking. Binding very good with a couple of inconspicuous repairs to the joints; internal stitching remains strong, but a number of the pages have opened up where the binding glue has failed, and while this could easily be repaired, we have not done so as it allows the plates to open flat.  A very good copy.

Bibligraphic Notes: A very good copy of a very rare and beautiful book by one of the most idiosyncratic natural history publishers of the nineteenth century. Theophilus Johnson was born in Tottenham in 1836 and trained to be a letterpress printer. He lived most of this life near London Zoo and moved to Dartford Heath in Kent at the turn of the century and died there in 1919. His output as a naturalist, artist and publisher was immense, though many of his works remain obscure and are little known.  Some were specifically commissioned and consequently just a single copy may have been produced.  All his works are illustrated with original watercolour paintings; a prodigious achievement, which ensured that every copy published was unique. It would seem that his earlier works were generally painted to a higher standard than his later works, though copies of the same work vary in quality and certainly in specification; for instance in the current work plates 3 
and 4 are on separate leaves but copies exist with these two plates on one leaf; the position of the Death's Head Hawk Moth on plate VI varies - either facing left or right; and so on. David
Dunbar writes "Johnson
produced a confusing range of titles which often covered broadly the same ground...He had a habit of using precisely the same printed text in similar publications produced up to thirty years later.  He also varied the number of plates, and the ways species were illustrated in individual copies of the same work, changing the position or number of figures shown and even the caterpillar food plants."  It would seem that the existing work was published with variant titles - some including the words "with the plants on which they feed"; auction records also point to a The quality of the painting in our copy is outstandingly good with plate X featuring particularly delicate pencil work. A copy, offered in Wheldon & Wesley's catalogue No. 132 in 1975, included a cutting from a previous bookseller's catalogue that stated "only 25 copies executed" though this remains unverified.


References: Radclyffe, Howard. Theophilus Johnson: amateur naturalist, artist and publisher extraordinaire. Archives of Natural History (1995) 22 (20): 183-190. // Dunbar, David. British Butterflies A history in books. The British Library, 2010.



We are often asked what we think of 'Print on Demands' (pods) and their effect on the value of the New Naturalist series.  Our standard response to these two questions is usually along the lines of 'not a lot and not much.'  Flippant undoubtedly, but it's probably a reasonable summary from a collector's perspective.  


For those unfamiliar with pods, they are books manufactured to order, printed from digital copies of the originals and often, though not in the case of the New Naturalist, bound up in a cheap paperback format. They offer an affordable option to original texts and where these texts were previously rare and expensive, they are unarguably an excellent technological advance.  However, their purpose is less easy to understand and indeed justify, when it comes to collectable books, The New Naturalist library included.


HarperCollins introduced print on demand editions of the Main series in 2009 and of the Monographs last year.  Print on demand offers a mechanism for publisher's to benefit commercially from their out of print texts - or at least this is a commonly held perception. It must be frustrating, if not galling, for publishers to witness others benefitting from their publications, which are, after all, the results of their endeavours and speculations. Print on demand could perhaps redress this and many publishers have been quick to embrace this new technology. 


The problem is that book collectors (not general readers) want the real thing, and print on demand editions, being digital copies will always be inferior, and besides will never have the status of a first edition.  Admittedly, NN pods are much better made than most of this genre and are bound in real buckram cloth, but physically are just not as good as the original published book: -


1)     The reproduction of Illustrations is often poor particularly b/w photographs.

2)     The book-block (the pages together) is "perfect-bound" i.e. only glued and not stitched; the book is consequently not so durable.

3)     The book is not "rounded and backed" i.e. the spine is square without the attractive convex curve associated with a conventionally bound book.

4)     The buckram casing is not lettered to the spine.

5)     The laminated jacket is made from two sections joined together with a vertical seam along the rear spine fold.


Another consideration with NN pods is their price; at £60 each they are more expensive than many second-hand NNs, especially reprints, fine copies of which may cost as little as £20.  Why therefore would anyone purchase a pod, when a superior original copy can be had for considerably less?  Of course original copies of scarce NN titles, will cost significant more than £60 and for those who cannot afford the real thing, pods are a welcome alternative.  This brings us to an important point as in such cases the pod copy is not a substitute for an original edition, but rather is a substitute for what would have previously been an empty space on the shelf, and therefore will have little or no effect on the price of the original.  Pods will only influence second hand prices where they are substitutes for the original, and this is more likely to be the case for popular modern titles, which are purchased for reading and research rather than collecting.


Collins has stated that "print-on-demand edition sales are fairly low across the board, though there is the odd volume, such as Altringham's British Bats, which has seen a massive uptake".  An author of one of the titles numbered in the 90s kindly lent me his royalty statements, which reveal that in the three year period from the inception of the service, 15 pod copies were sold.  For each copy sold he receives a small royalty, which must represent an administrative nightmare for Collins.  It is difficult to see how Collins can make much money from this venture.  It is worth bearing in mind that at the moment the service is only available through the Collins website and their Ebay shop; perhaps if pods were available through the general trade sales would be greater.


It is almost impossible to confuse a pod copy with an original edition, firstly there are the various distinguishing features mentioned above, but more obviously, every pod is carefully declared as such to both the rear panel of the dust jacket and the imprint page "This edition is a print on demand edition produced from an original copy by Collins." Incidentally not every NN pod title is a copy of the first edition, some are copies of reprints or new editions.  Each pod has been allocated a specific 13-digit ISBN, different from that of the original book.


In conclusion, NN pods are a useful addition to standard printed books, particularly in the case of popular modern titles where demand goes well beyond the collectors' market, and also as shelf-fillers for those expensive titles, which would otherwise remain as gaps.  However for the collector they are not substitutes for the real thing and so have had little effect on the value of the conventionally printed New Naturalist.  The old adage "always purchase the best first edition copy you can find" remains true, and all the time there are collectors there will be a demand for such books.

Loe Books
Tim & Kate Loe 
Landreyne Manor 
Coads Green 
PL15 7LZ
Tel: 01566782528    Email:  Website:

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