July 23rd: Veitch exhibit

Our current window display (from July 23rd 2012) features botanical books, in keeping with the week's special Veitch Exhibit by Caradoc Doy. The centrepiece contains two rare begonias: the early long-stemmed protoypes collected overseas by Veitch plant-hunters, and from which the familiar modern short-stemmed begonias derive.

From Monday 23rd to Saturday 28th July, The Topsham Bookshop is hosting a presentation by horticulturist Caradoc Doy to commemorate the legacy of the Veitch Nurseries of Exeter and Chelsea.

Caradoc will be on duty all day to answer any questions.

This year is the centenary of the 1912 International Horticultural Exhibition organised by Sir Harry Veitch, the precursor of the Chelsea Flower Show; and Caradoc was one of the members of The Veitch Team at Plant Heritage, which staged a Veitch exhibit at this year's show in May.

Hortus Veitchii
James Veitch & Sons were central in international botanical expeditions that found some 1500 plants to introduce to British garden collections. Their 1906 reference work, Hortus Veitchii is an important botanical work of reference containing details of over 1,500 plants introduced by the nurseries of James Veitch & Sons including information on the plant hunters who found them, where they were found and many other important details. In addition, this book chronicles the details of many of their plant collectors as well as the early hybridization work carried out by their pioneering staff

The Topsham Bookshop display will feature information boards on the Veitch nurseries and its work, memorabilia, an original copy of Hortus Veitchii,  copies of other classic Veitch publications, photos of the Veitch holdings at Kew, classic illustrated botanical magazines, and more. Caradoc's 2006 centenary facsimile reprint (normally priced at £95) will be on sale at £35, continuing the special offer from the Chelsea Flower Show.

It will be on show during the shop opening hours: 10.30am-5pm..

See caradocdoy.co.uk for further background.


May 30th window feature

Our current window display (May 30th 2012) features our stock in two classic and collectable book series.

A classic series of the 1960s

The Travel Book Club operated from 121 Charing Cross Road, London during the 1960s and brought out for their subscribers many inexpensive editions of books originally published by big names like Faber & Faber, Jonathan Cape, Robert Hale, Hodder & Stoughton, Allen & Unwin and Heinemann. 

Hardback books with colourful, enticing covers, the Travel Book Club editions cost between 21s. 0d. and 35s. 0d. (from just over £1 up to £1.75 in today’s money) and featured titles by well-known travel writers, such as Robert Gibbings, Freya Stark, Peter Fleming, J. B. Priestley, David Attenborough, Ethel Mannin, and A. F. Tschiffely.

From the comfort of their armchairs, subscribers in the 1960s could enjoy the exploits of explorers and travellers and hear about lands they might never be able to visit themselves.

The Travel Book Club was part of The Book Club - another similar offshoot was The Scientific Book Club, which had titles on subjects ranging from aeronautics to zoology. We also have in stock some immaculate editions of The Scientific Book Club.

A classic series of the 1940s

With most of Europe in Adolf Hitler’s hands, Britain was in a grim predicament in 1941, but in that year William Collins (the publisher now known as HarperCollins) launched a remarkable series of social history books called Britain in Pictures.

The books were designed to boost morale but perhaps also to record the British way of life in case the Germans completed their European campaign by successfully crossing the English Channel. The books were slim volumes with distinctive elegant covers, but it was the star-studded array of authors that made the series really special, for example:

George Orwell on the British people
Cecil Beaton on English photography
Francis Meynell on English books
John Betjeman on cities and towns
Graham Greene on dramatists
Neville Cardus on cricket
Edith Sitwell on women

Some of the authors have faded into obscurity but they were all experts in their field during those dark days of World War II.

A wide variety of subjects were covered from battlefields to boxing, clocks to mountaineering, butterflies to farm animals, and from waterways and canals to maps and map-makers. In all, there were were 132 titles. Collins published them in large quantities and priced them cheaply. The books were so successful that they were published until 1949.

No-one knows more about this series than Michael Carney, and his 1995 work Britain in Pictures: A History & Bibliography is essential for any collector.

- from “Morale & Preservation: Collecting the Britain in Pictures Series” by Richard Davies


Terroir: The Role of Geology, Climate, and Culture in the Making of French Wines
James E. Wilson (Author), Hugh Johnson (Foreword)
Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (February 1, 1999)
Hardcover: 336 pages
ISBN-10: 0520219368
Dimensions: 10.7 x 8 x 0.9 inches
Our price: £45.

There's a large amount of mystique around the world of wine appreciation, and a number of recent experiments - for instance, that assessment of the nature of a wine correlates with the taster's belief about its cost or its colour - might lead to the nihilistic view that some differences in wine may be illusory. Nevertheless, there are agreed-on major differences in quality and nature of wines, and this book is a fascinating analysis of French wines in terms of "terroir" (a French word meaning "the total elements of a vineyard") by James E Wilson.
Why do the fine wines of France grow where they do? How can two seemingly similar sites, even within a single vineyard, produce wines of different quality? How much credit goes to the winemakers and how much belongs to nature itself? Who better to ponder these questions than a geologist and wine-lover in equal measure? James E. Wilson is a firm believer that "terroir" - the interplay of natural elements that make up the myriad environments in which vines grow - is the key to understanding why fine wines are produced where they are. This in-depth study, the result of years of meticulous research, reveals the relationship between rocks and grapes. Here is natural history and social history, little-known fact and anecdote, woven into the tale of how geology influences the quality of wine.
While the central thrust is geology - Wilson's view is that the varied geology of France is the primary driver of its variety of wines - this is not a dry geological text, but a rich travelogue of the French wine-growing regions, and you'll come away from this book knowing a great deal about the history, scenery and atmosphere of France.

The Topsham Bookshop has one copy in good condition at £45. The price reflects its scarcity, but we feel it's good value and an excellent addition to the bookshelf on any enthusiast of the history and culture of wines.

Damned by Destiny

Damned by Destiny (David Williams and Richard P. De Kerbrech, Teredo Books, 1982, 350pp) is a fascinating and long out-of-print book about the surprisingly large number of major passenger liners (20,000 tonnes and up) that never made it to their intended purpose, or at least didn't last long in it:
A complete account of all the World's projects for larger passenger ships, which, for one reason or another, never entered service. Some were still-born, some met with disaster after launching, and some were diverted to other purposes during war. Potentially, some were the greatest liners ever conceived and would have surpassed the most famous, not only in speed and splendour, but in their very size and appearance. They were victims of circumstances.
The examples range from the 19th century to the late 20th century, starting with Victorian mega-liners: the ill-fated SS Great Eastern (aka Leviathan), the planned Spirit of the Age, and a number of examples of off-the-wall ship designs, such as Knapp's Roller Boat and Darius Davison's experimental cigar-shaped steamer, that started off the technological race for ever-larger passenger ships.

Some of the nearly 200 featured ships include the unfinished White Star Oceanic III; the SS Justicia (built as a replacement for the Lusitania, but immediately requisitioned as a troopship and torpedoed after a few trips); the Principessa Jolanda, that sank at launch; the Kashiwara Maru and Izumo Maru, that became the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carriers Jun'yō and Hiyō; the never-built President Washington and Cunard "Q3"; and many more. Though the book ends in the 1980s, the story looks likely to continue; there's an addendum about a planned 'floating city' catamaran built by the Finnish shipbuilders Wärtsilä to its SWATH (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull) design.

This is a superb book, exhaustively researched, well-illustrated, and well-regarded by the cognoscenti of maritime history; if you're interested, there's a good-condition copy currently (18th April 2012) in the window of The Topsham Bookshop, priced at £12.

The Simple Pleasures Comparison Chart!

Click for more details on our current window display.

Simple Pleasures Comparison Chart

Hard Times?

When funds are tight, you want to get maximum value for money out of everything, including your leisure activities.

Think how much pleasure reading can give, and how little it costs for a pre-loved book from The TOPSHAM BOOKSHOP.

Reading is one of the most rewarding and inexpensive pastimes: for less than a fiver you can be transported to another world for hours (or even days!)

Compare this with your other pleasures......(see our Pleasure Comparison Chart)

All the books in this window cost £4 or under - grab yourself a bargain today!

The Simple Pleasures Comparison Chart!

As-new paperback from The TOPSHAM BOOKSHOP:
on average £3.00 for 300 mins

Swim at Pyramids pool: £3.35 for 60 mins
Pint of beer in the pub: £3.50 for 30 mins
Bottle of claret (Waitrose): £4.25 for 100 mins
Single train fare to Crediton: £4.40 for 33 mins
Watch a film at the cinema: £7.00 for 90 mins
Takeaway pizza (small): £8.00 for 20 mins
Tour of Killerton House: £8.40 for 60 mins
Large fruit cake: £12.00 for 120 mins
Visage House manicure: £26.00 for 30 mins
Indian Head Massage: £35.00 for 45 mins