Sunday, 7 April 2019

Monuments of Ancient Egypt

Freeman and Wertheimer note that Gosse published four books on Bible lands and this, the first of them, was written as a manual to the British Museum collection of Egyptian antiquities and to show how these monuments illustrate scripture history. The other three are:

Sacred Streams
The History of the Jews

The first edition was published in 1847.

A second edition came out in 1855, and it is this edition held in my library.

It is to be presumed that the illustrations are by Gosse, except for two, which are signed by Josia Wood Whimper (1813-1903), a fine example of which is the frontispiece - ‘Interior of the temple of Esne’.

Both editions contain ‘many illustrations’, as described on the title page. In fact I have counted 119, making this book a work of prodigious labour in the illustrations alone.

The book is a fine example of Victorian binding, with both boards having blind ornamental borders and floral corners. The binder’s ticket is on the back endpaper - Spencer & Son.

The book holds a small piece of social history in the blind stamp on the title page and elsewhere, which reads - Chorlton on Medlock Working Men’s Institute.


Thursday, 23 August 2018

The Birds of Jamaica

Freeman and Wertheimer describe this as ‘one of Gosse’s most important books and perhaps the most enduring of them all’.

The publisher Van Voorst severely overestimated the demand for the book however.

The same first print 1847 edition appeared in a variety of bindings over the years. The book was still available at the original price in 1880, and new copies were again available 30 years later as remainders in John Wheldon and Co’s catalogue.

I have three examples in my library.


Of my three books, only this one is listed in Freeman and Wertheimer. It is down as 27d, described exactly as seen.

My own book carries some notable additions as seen in the photographs.

The bookplate of Rodolphe Meyer de Schauensee is on the left hand front endpaper.

This bookplate has a wonderfully elaborate image of armorial bearings, possibly associated with his De Schauensee name, which does have a ring of nobility about it. 

De Schauensee (1901 - 1984) was curator of birds at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia for nearly fifty years. He was particularly noted for his study of South American birds.

The right hand front endpaper is inscribed with ‘Jamaica 1887’.

Stuck down on to the right hand front endpaper is a press cutting. The golden wedding of Sir Edmund Gosse (P. H. Gosse’s son), provides the occasion for a Gosse anecdote.

‘In his diary for 1849, the elder Gosse made this quiet entry: “E. delivered of a son. Received green swallow from Jamaica.”’

The bird arrived two years too late and there is no mention of a green swallow in The Birds of Jamaica.

The title page is inscribed with ‘Kingston Jamaica Oct. 1887’.


This variant binding of the first edition is in all respects bar one the same as the one numbered 27a in Freeman and Wertheimer. The exception is in the author attribution on the spine, which on my book reads simply - ‘P H Gosse’. On the book listed as 27a it reads ‘By Philip H. Gosse’


This final variant is a one-off leather binding of the same 1847 book. The spine is a repair done circa 1993 as a project to match this book to a book box containing the separately published illustrations to The Birds of Jamaica. This latter item will be described in a later blog post.

Most notable on this book is the beautiful Victorian marbling to the front and back end papers.

Ownership inscription of Thomas Harney.

This is most likely to be the Thomas Harney (?- 2011)of the Smithsonian Institution where he worked for many years as a Science writer at the Museum of Natural History.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Glimpses of the Wonderful - Christmas Annual 1845

The rare and truly wonderful Christmas annual written anonymously by Gosse.

This is the first of three annuals in a series, but Freeman and Wertheimer ‘found no evidence to suggest that Gosse wrote the other two volumes…’

This red binding is 23a in Freeman and Wertheimer.

Annuals of this kind were popular, and the set of three was also published in the USA in at least three editions.

However, the example from my library is the first edition, published by Harvey and Darton, London.

Edmund Gosse makes but a passing reference to the volume in the biography of his father.

…His latest occupation of a purely literary nature… was to write for Messrs. Harvey and Darton a Christmas annual, which appeared the ensuing winter under the title of Glimpses of the Wonderful. This little volume, gaily illustrated in the taste of the time, was a “pot-boiler,” if ever there was one, and the author, though he had not scammed this perfunctory task, declined to allow his name to appear on the title-page.

(Note that Ann Thwaite chose Glimpses of the Wonderful as the title to her biography of Gosse, published in 2002.)

© John Dunn.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

The Ocean

This was the most successful of Gosse’s popular books. First published in 1845, it remained in print until the 1880s in England, with at least five USA printings, two of them with variant titles.

I have five examples in my library, each one representative of the changes to the English bindings over the years. Selected illustrations from the book are included below.


First edition of 1845. This book is numbered 7c in Freeman and Wertheimer, and the binding described as brown fine diaper.


This 1849 binding is not listed in Freeman and Wertheimer. It is in a green morocco with a horizontal fine rib wave pattern.


This book from 1860 is not listed in Freeman and Wertheimer. The case is the same as 15a in all respects, except that my book has a green binding, rather than the purple-brown described.


This book also from 1860 is not listed in Freeman and Wertheimer. The case is the same as 17b in all respects, except that my book has a red diagonal fine rib binding, rather than the green described.


This edition from 1874 is numbered as 21 in Freeman and Wertheimer, where the binding is described as pink. The brown colour of my book is likely to be the result of discolouration over the years, but there is a possibility that it is an unlisted variant.

Selected illustrations that are included in all editions.