CATALOGUE 200 AND COUNTING...
In November 2012 Jarndyce celebrated the publication of its 200th catalogue. Reminiscing over 43 years in the book business Brian Lake records in the Afterword, a brief history of Jarndyce and the on-going dedication to the printed catalogue.
When Steve Weissman announced in Ximenes100 that there would never be a catalogue 200, he laid down the gauntlet!
This is a brief history of a catalogue bookselling business that started when the 'Clique' was the trade magazine, rings were an expected part of auctions and tentacles reached out from the West End of London to the traditional bookshops of the cathedral cities. But it was a time when this old order was crumbling.
Jarndyce has now survived more than forty years - which feels like no time at all and, at the same time, no mean achievement as the firm continues successfully into a second generation. Because we have been (and remain) primarily catalogue booksellers, the following is a brief commercial analysis of the development of Jarndyce catalogues, culled from the master copies that survive; but it barely scratches the surface. A closer look at the books and manuscripts we have handled will have to wait until 'Fifty Years a Bookseller'.
The business began life as an idea conjured up by two undergraduates at the University of York in 1968. Chris Johnson, studying English, had been inspired by one of his lecturers to look for first editions rather than just buying a text in paperback. I was studying Social Science, enjoyed visiting bookshops in the City - including Spelman's of Micklegate and Godfrey's of Stonegate - but with money to buy only second hand. After all, a student lived on £30 a month then and renting a room cost £3.10s.0d a week.
York was an inspirational place for many students who eventually made a livelihood out of books: Chris Kohler was probably first of the modern generation - he went to Bootham School. Most of us went to the University, which first took in undergraduates in 1963. Bookish alumni also include Janet Nassau, my partner in life and Jarndyce, Mervyn Jannetta at the British Library, Peter Miller who worked at Spelman's while still a student and quite quickly took over the business, Stephen Wycherley who set up shop in Birmingham, Jeffrey Stern who still lives and works in York, John Fuggles, of the Bodleian & book advisor to the National Trust, Christopher Ridgway curator at Castle Howard and - later - Peter Allen of Robert Temple Books and Tony Fothergill who is now the proprietor of Spelman's. I am sure there are more ...
When Chris and I graduated we kept in touch but it wasn't until 1969 at a party over a pub in Covent Garden that the idea of bookselling came up again. Chris, studying for a BLitt., worked on Saturdays at the Turl Cash Bookshop in Oxford, a 'clearance' outlet for Blackwell's under the managership of the eccentric Oliver St. John Heaton.
Boxes of books unwanted by Ship Street just arrived in the shop for disposal. It seemed as though Oliver was left alone as long as a profit was turned. (Later, we were allowed to offer books through the Turl on a 33% commission basis; if books didn't sell they had to be removed fairly quickly. I remember an early Bible priced £50; it was cheap, but didn't sell. Instead of taking it back, we doubled the price and it sold the same day.)
I was treading water, assistant editor on part works published by Marshall Cavendish - 'Mind Alive' made the company's fortune - we were also left alone as long as the current 'part' was ready by deadline, so there was plenty of time to carouse in Soho's restaurants and pubs such as The York Arms, better known then (and renamed now) as The French House. Life was pretty easy until 'Mind Alive' finished early in 1970 and I decided to leave rather than start on a new project. An office in central London was replaced for the summer with a regular hitchhike to visit Chris in Oxford and to buy and catalogue enough books to produce our first list.
Also involved, briefly, was Woof - he was known by no other name - who had stayed in York and was looking for gainful employment. We decided that a stall in York Market would give us an outlet for cheap books and prints and a stream of income, however small. Woof added underground magazines to our stock - Schoolkids 'OZ '(May 1970) was kept under the counter but sold out very quickly, I remember. The experiment was fun but hard work, particularly on wet winter mornings when the bed in St Saviourgate was warm and difficult to leave. It ended after a year or so and we sold the remaining stock to Spelman's for £35. Woof later set up the Alligator Wholefood shop; I am told he has reverted to his real name of Nigel Clarke and is now a counsellor.
Catalogue 1, Summer 1970, consisted of 140 items including a 1613 King James Bible (lacking A1 title) at £45, over 30 Dickens titles (Great Expectations, 'first edition', also at £45 but noted as 'Withdrawn'), quite a few cheap Tennysons (£2 - £4.10.00) concluding with a collection of Parliamentary franks. The cover illustration (of a printer's workshop) was taken from Gent's Rippon, the lettering undertaken in Letraset by a friendly layout artist who had had one too many at the time ... The catalogue was issued in the name of Brian Lake, 76, Miles Buildings, NW1, catalogue code: 'Jarndyce'. We did not have a business account and it was the easiest way to get started.
The text was printed in Gillygate, York - cost £25 - the catalogues collated and stapled round David Jenkins' kitchen table in High Petergate, then sent out to libraries, booksellers and any collectors gleaned from friends in and out of the trade. A friend gave us an encrypted printout of customers R - T from a large publisher/bookseller, which of course included mostly buyers of new books. We cracked the code - and the Jarndyce mailing list retained a bulge at these letters for years to come. American library addresses came from 'World of Learning'; an advert in The Times Literary Supplement had a surprisingly large response. Fifty eight of the 140 items appear to have sold for just over a thousand pounds.
It was difficult trying to sell books from a very small tenement flat. So small, in fact, that a visiting customer mistook the door to the lavatory for the front door to the stairwell - and stayed there for some while before sheepishly emerging to make successful his egress.
The first two catalogues issued from Miles Buildings were printed on a 'duplicator' ('machine for producing copies, 1894'). Catalogue 3, Autumn 1971 - the first issued under the imprint of Jarndyce Books from our first proper office at 28 James Street, Covent Garden, over a fruit warehouse - was printed off-set litho. It looked more professional, with two illustrations, the items ranging from the 17th & 18th centuries (the first 48 items, including a 1735-45 Law Manuscript at £40) to the 20th century (the last 65 items including Arnold Bennett, Aldous Huxley, D.H.Lawrence, Ezra Pound and Virginia Woolf). But the meat in the sandwich was 19th century, from Ainsworth, William Lisle Bowles (a nice clutch of 6 scarce poems in one volume 1822-35 at £35), Carlyle, Dickens (five Christmas Books for £135), George Eliot, the Life of Douglas Jerrold with various ALsS bound in for £65, Scott, Tennyson, Thackeray, Trollope, Wordsworth. 157 out of 358 items sold for £1,928.
Operating out of one back room on the top floor, without rent to pay if I remained on call to do journalistic jobs for publishers Peter Way Ltd. (for whom I edited 'Great Newspapers Reprinted'), Jarndyce Books had a presence in WC1, albeit a small and rather hidden one as the fruit warehouse had to be negotiated first before climbing the stairs. But Tom Driberg made it and so did John Sparrow, Warden of All Souls who took a reprint Byron, immaculate in original blue paper wrappers, for £1.50.
Stock was largely acquired on buying trips; the first, to the West Country, in a van with a mattress, ended after three days as the van was full. There were occasional auction visits (two lots of Dickens ephemera for £12 each from Phillips I remember), collections offered by friends and relatives - on one occasion ridiculously turned down for want of transport and storage; all they asked was £150 and quick removal. Jarndyce joined the Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association sometime in the mid-70s & PBFA bookfairs proved an increasingly important sources of supply.
Catalogues 4 & 5, 1972-73, followed the now established pattern of a section of pre-1800 books, followed by the 19th century, mainly literature, concluding with (for a few catalogues at least) a 20th century section. Dickens was omnipresent, manuscripts (plays, poetry, travel, letters) interspersed. Catalogue 6 offered a Thomas Rowlandson watercolour for £360 and a collection of George Cruikshank letters and drafts bought from Tony Hattersley of Whitby (including sections of an autobiography - 500 sheets of paper in all) which went for £1,500, via C.C. Kohler to Robert Patten, later biographer of the greatest illustrator of the 19th century.
My local bookshop in Bell Street, NW1, was run by Mr Greer, a gruff but encouraging old boozer who despised Dickens and let me have first editions for £1 or £2 each. He had an archive of manuscript material which I was allowed to plunder, and the first tranche went on Catalogue 7: papers relating to the Adams Brothers scheme for the Adelphi (£6), two important letters on the assassination of Gustavus III King of Sweden (£55), Robert George Steevens writing from Hampstead Heath at the time of the Gordon Riots as the mob drew closer (£25) and four letters from Dickens on business matters (£50-£90). Catalogue 7 sold 200 items out of 391 for over £3,000. By now, purchasers and prices were accurately recorded, 'The Master' aproperly watered and cared for (as James Fergusson would demand).
From Catalogue 8 (Winter 74-75) it is recorded that 41% of items were sold. Alan Cuthbertson, the actor, appears in the list of purchasers for books illustrated by Cruikshank; he became a regular buyer as well as a supplier of unconsidered trifles picked up on repertory tours of the theatres, and therefore the bookshops, of the British Isles. No.8 was the only one issued from 29 (rather than 28) James Street (apart from an ABMR trade supplement catalogue). With Covent Garden Market now closed and the properties subject to compulsory purchase by the Greater London Council, we had been given a temporary reprieve with a short-term licence in the attic next door. It did not last long. Dan Cruickshank, the architectural historian & now TV personality, was writing his book 'London: the Art of Georgian Building' and used the office to finish it while I was away on holiday. I returned to find that in the early hours of one morning a bank of shelving had collapsed on to the poor chap. He survived, his book was completed. The Jarndyce stock? Only one board detached.
We had notice to quit, but for six months Jarndyce squatted the premises without paying rent, until the heavies were sent round in mid-1975. Friends rallied, a spare room was found, 29 James Street evacuated. During the summer, Penny Saunders told me that the lease on two rooms on the first floor of 68 Neal Street, north of the Market, was available after a firm of toy importers had gone out of business. We moved in later that year and Catalogue 9 (Winter 75-76) was issued: Part I Books (457 items); Part II Autograph Letters, Manuscripts and Documents (286 items).
Catalogues 11 & 12 (the latter with an ink sketch of Neal Street by Penny Saunders, who later joined the theatre troupe, Forkbeard Fantasy, on the cover) both sold about £6,000 worth of stock. I was running the office, Chris Johnson was teaching in Malvern and then Manchester; neither of us was taking out a salary, any money we made going back into stock. But I needed an income; bits and pieces of journalistic work were not enough. Catalogues 13-16 (16, printed by Fysons of Bath, a stock list of 1,224 items of which 404 were sold for £10,934) were the last with Lake and Johnson as partners. It was summer 1978 and our first son, William, had been born the previous year. Janet Nassau bought out Chris's share of the business and Catalogue XVII, Autumn 1978, was the first to be issued by the new partnership (but still carrying a note that Jarndyce worked 'in association with Christopher Johnson' which continued until Catalogue 49). Chris set up his own very successful bookselling company with Chris Forster, first in Manchester, then in Islington, and latterly in Keats Grove, Hampstead, until his untimely death in 2011.
Jarndyce catalogues continued as before, but author sections expanded and items began to be grouped under sub-headings. For instance, 74 books were listed under 'London', 185 'Novels' in a section and 120 under 'Poetry' in Catalogue 19, Spring-Summer 1979 - when over 460 items out of 1,236 were sold for £15,400 to 140 customers.
Catalogue 21 was the first to concentrate entirely on the 19th century 'including extended sections of Lives and Letters, Three-Decker Novels and Minor Verse'. The next, 22 (Summer 1980), had sections on Law & Trials, London, Plays, Minor Verse and 'as usual, an extensive collection of works by and about Charles Dickens'.
The grouping of books was a sign of specialist catalogues to come and the first of these was 23, Autumn 1980, 'Economic, Political and Social History'. It was not successful, grossing only £7,000, with 36% of items sold, 37% by value. Swiftly followed 24, Literature and Language, mainly English. Like 23, this was a stock list but sales were somewhat better at over £12,000.
In the Summer of 1981, the arrival of Catalogue 25 seemed to be a minor landmark - which we intended to celebrate with a full colour cover reproducing Charles Coote's 'Mugby Junction Galop'. But the cost proved too much and so it was only the border and the catalogue number which were printed in pink - back to the usual Jarndyce Miscellany, typed on the IBM golfball purchased from our accountants.
Catalogue 29 was 'Broadsides and Pamphlets 1670-1690', titled 'Bloody News from Covent Garden' taken from a murder report of 1683. The 210 items were duplicates from a large collection of 17th century material sold jointly by Jarndyce and Johnson. To accompany this mailing, Jarndyce published the first catalogue (28) of entirely pre-1800 material - 605 items.
Also in 1982, in catalogues not included in our numbered sequence, Jarndyce offered two collections with CC Kohler - 'British Fiction 1890-1920 from the Bradford Subscription Library' - 2,777 novels including many rarities in uniformly poor condition sold to a private collector - and a fine George Gissing Collection, printed in the larger imperial size, rather than the A5 used for most of our own catalogues up to 56 in 1988.
Catalogue 32, Winter 1983-84, an 873-item Miscellany was important because, although at the time we did not give her a credit, it was the first to be catalogued by Helen Smith, the first Jarndyce freelance cataloguer, who had previously worked at the British Library. She has been with us most of the time since, keeping us up to the mark and continuing to be involved in catalogues of street literature, theatre and cheap literature, such as penny dreadfuls. Helen's arrival provoked an optimistic announcement of 'Forthcoming Catalogues' - including George Augustus Sala, which still has not been printed. There was also a notice that my 'British Newspapers: a History and Guide for Collectors' was now published by Sheppard Press.
The first catalogue devoted entirely to Charles Dickens was 33; 600 items, over half, sold for a very satisfactory £21,000. And it was illustrated throughout. Up to this time we had used various printers, but by now Plumridge's of Cambridge had become our primary print provider.
Catalogue 34 was another collaboration with Johnson - a thousand pamphlets of the 17th-20th Centuries. 'No.9' in Chris Johnson's own series of catalogues offered joint stock of nearly 450 play texts. Jarndyce 35 was our first London catalogue offering 170 folding maps, followed by 180 'books, pamphlets and panoramas'. It did not sell well but set the pattern for later catalogues which performed rather better.
Books on the theatre, utilising Helen's knowledge, were introduced in 36 - a sign of catalogues to come - together with sections on Dickens and Ruskin; the size of catalogues in terms of pages and items was gradually increasing - in this case 970 items, almost 50% sold with gross sales of £35,000.
'Novels and Tales', Catalogue 37, Spring 1985, was the first 'stock list' in this area, with almost 1,000 items, of which 530 sold, ending with a nice uniformly bound group of Jane Austen first and early editions at £6,500 which went to a bank vault in the Middle East. 1985 was the year when the first edition of 'Bizarre Books' - a collaboration between Brian Lake and Russell Ash - was published by Macmillan. (We still maintain a 'Bizarre Books' window, keep copies of the latest edition in stock, and offer a range of cards reproducing bizarre book covers.)
Catalogue 39 was the first to concentrate on the English Romantics of the late 18th and early 19th centuries: Blake to Wordsworth, 465 items - and it was a sell-out. Initially, through our own mailing list, we sold 240 items for £25,000, including an excellent collection of early Coleridge; then, as sales died down, Japanese booksellers Maruzen ordered everything that was still available - total sales of £45,000. This was the time (Summer 1985) when the Japanese university boom was in full swing, with the libraries being stocked with collections from England, Europe and America. Jarndyce sold several collections, starting with Thomas Hardy Biography & Criticism, and the largest, an English Language Collection. It was about this time that Pam Shaheen typed out several catalogues, the success of which, over just a few months, boosted our turn-over.
'Plays and the Theatre', the first catalogue devoted to the subject, was 41, Spring 1986 - particularly memorable because of the star item, No.1, a copy typescript of Sir James Barrie's Peter Pan, or the boy who wouldn't grow up, prepared for performance with all stage directuions, inscribed and signed by Barrie to his literary agent, Golding Bright, in full dark green morocco by Bickers. 'No other script of this version is at present known.' Priced at £4,800 this was stolen from the corridor at Neal Street. I describe it here in detail in the hope that it might still reappear. Overall the catalogue was a flop, grossing only £6,100. Which, of course, did not stop us doing it again ...
While 44, entirely 17th & 18th century, sold £14,000, 45 (the second catalogue devoted entirely to Dickens) sold double that. 46, Summer 1986, was a quickly-produced Romantics list of only 160 items accumulated since the sell-out Catalogue 39; it was the last to be issued from our cramped two rooms in Neal Street & announced that 'Jarndyce is moving ... on September 1st'.
Covent Garden was booming and our landlord could see that a fancy clothes shop would produce more income if his cleaning company moved upstairs. We had successfully taken him to court to get our lease renewed, but the situation was uncomfortable. I passed the British Museum every day on the way to work and a 'for sale' sign went up across the road at 46, Great Russell Street.
Luzac & Co, oriental booksellers who had been opposite the BM since the 1890s, were in trouble and had to sell. It was a big leap from small offices to a Georgian house, but our bank manager agreed to an open-ended loan - 'Pay it back when you can!' The first floor was shelved and carpeted and we moved in close to the predicted date - Luzac's staying on in the shop with another sub-tenant, Fine Books Oriental. The lease of Neal Street was sold to 'The Book Collector'.
The first catalogue from our new premises was 47, Autumn 1986, a typical Jarndyce Miscellany but rather bulky - over 1,000 items - of which 450 sold for £26,000. A section devoted to George Macdonald was all sold, and could have been several times over. It sparked an author collection that became Catalogue 192 in 2011 - an example of Jarndyce long-term planning.
Jarndyce was now a 'proper' business. Catalogues had to be produced on a regular basis. The golf-ball IBM was abandoned and hand-written index cards were now delivered to Carol Murphy to word process at home, beginning with 48, another Miscellany, to bring in the money. Carol is still an integral part of Jarndyce. 49, Nineteenth-Century English Literature, followed swiftly after, a stock-list with a large section of Trollope.
Catalogue 50 (1987) was 'Charles Dickens in Original Cloth', type-set, with photographs (the first time we used the services of Michael Dyer of Endell Street and their plate camera providing high quality images). There were only 107 items of which half sold for £21,000. Bench-mark price levels were set: £2,800 for a fine Christmas Carol, STAVE I and Martin Chuzzlewit at £1,200 were high at the time, but there was no copy of a genuine first of Great Expectations.
Miscellanies continued to be the staple fare, with more specialist catalogues interspersed. To make this work, stock had to be held back until a sufficient quantity and quality of items were on the shelves, a pattern which continues to the present day. Regularly-published catalogues began to emerge: 17th & 18thC Books and Pamphlets, Charles Dickens, The Romantics, Plays & The Theatre, Novels.
51 was in another category - the one-off author catalogue, in this case 'Sir Walter Scott & Scotland'. 'Plays & The Theatre', 53, was a second attempt: 413 items sold for £9,400 - average price per item of less than £23. A 600-item 'Romantics' (56) sold 276 items for £28,300 - average price, £102.
Catalogue 57 followed in the footsteps of Catalogue 50 - this time 'George Eliot in Original Cloth'. When published, there was no detailed bibliography so much time and effort went into collations and detailed descriptions of bindings. Sadly Michael Dyer's photographer was on holiday and his replacement provided images of lower quality.
In 1988 & 1989, two catalogues were published with substantially increased sales: 60 was a pre-1800 catalogue which sold £42,000 and 61, presumptuously titled 'The Dickens Catalogue', passed sales of £50,000 for the first time. 64 was the first 'English Language & Education' catalogue. (Education had originally been the intended subject of 51; the cover was ready, but before the text had been printed, the entire contents were sold to Japan.) Dictionaries sold very well, but overall it was a modest success - 156 out of 490 items sold for £20,200 and the Manuscript of the first completed Cornish-English Dictionary (c.1730) sold later to the British Library.
Type-set and with the first colour cover, Catalogue 65 took its title 'XIX CENTURY FICTION' from Michael Sadleir - and was also guided by his principle of finding (mainly) three-decker novels in the best possible condition, in original boards and cloth. The format and bibliographical descriptions followed Sadleir, and latterly Wolff. It was a palpable hit, with 68 of 103 items sold for £16,000. Prices were mainly between £80 and £250.
Catalogue 67 was the first Jarndyce Miscellany to be called 'The Museum' - a 'museum of curiosities' offered for sale opposite the British Museum. The idea was borrowed from the title of Quaritch's voluminous 19th century 'General Catalogues'. 68 was another Romantics catalogue and there were colour covers for 69 (flat-backed for the first time rather than stapled or wire stitched) '17th & 18th century Books and Pamphlets', (£51,000) and also for 70, the first 'Yellowback' catalogue (Summer 1990); from the latter 254 of 258 items sold (98.45%). The next Dickens (71) ignored colour, as did the first Jarndyce 'Women Writers' (72) which offered 70 different titles by Mrs Braddon and a first of Jane Austen's Emma for £3,500. 73, December 1990, was an unusual one-off - 'Books from the Manchester Reform Club Library'. The bulk of the shop-stock, heavily begrimed with Mancunian soot, had gone to Spelman's of York in a groaning transit van and Jarndyce catalogued 500 selected items, mainly economic, political and social history.
'John Ruskin' was the subject of 76, 230 items; 78 was 'In Original Boards 1764-1890', the text word-processed by Kathy Swift - 200 items presented chronologically, with an index; all were in v.g. to fine state and more than half sold for over £12,000. These functional, drab, blue, pink, cream boards and labels remain my favourite publishers' binding.
Catalogue 82 related entirely to the Trollope Family, particularly Anthony. 225 items from 380 sold when Trollope was at his zenith in popularity. In December 1991, 'The Dickens Catalogue' (83) hit a new high with sales of £64,000, and 89, 'London', justified itself with £29,000 sales - including a very large order from Japan.
A second George Gissing catalogue (85 - again issued in collaboration with CC Kohler) appeared in Spring 1992, with the bulk of items pictured across the inside covers - 160 0f 205 items sold for £19,000. Before publication, all the items had been offered as a collection at £14,000 but failed to find a buyer. Pierre Coustillas provided the introduction; item 10 was a copy of the genuinely rare Isabel Clarendon, 1886 for £2,800.
The next Romantics (86) again broke our sales record and was the first to include items (mainly Byron and Byroniana) from the amazing collection of Anne and Fernand Renier of Barnes. For the next ten years or more, books and pamphlets from 12 Melville Road, Barnes continued to form the basis for many Jarndyce catalogues, starting with 87, 'In Original Printed Wrappers', Summer 1992, and 88 'Terrible Tales and Racy Romances' - 343 novelettes, many with accompanying hand-coloured folding plates from the early 19th century.
89 and 90, 1992-93, began the trend for two, three, four (and in one case, five) part catalogues. 'Books & Pamphlets 1600-1700', in two catalogues with a total of 943 items, created sales from both of £79,000. Included were a few items from the library of Colquhoun of Luss, which were in the finest 18th century condition. William Wilkie Collins was the subject of author catalogue 93: 176 items sold for £17,700. Catalogue 94, (when we offered payment by Visa and Mastercard for the first time) and 95, 1993-94, were another 'pair', the items continuously numbered: 'Books by, about and for Women 1800-1920'. Combined sales reached £81,000 - helped by a large order from what was to become the Chawton House Library.
'Burns & Scotland' (it has to be admitted the Burns offerings were insubstantial), Catalogue 97, included Galt and Scott. 99 was a further collection of original bindings: 'In Original Cloth', Winter 1994 - again, like 78, Original Boards, presented chronologically from a canvas binding of 1775 to Trollope's Noble Jilt of 1923 imitating a 19th century binding heavily blocked in blind. The catalogue covers displayed many of the books to show the development of cloth bindings. The fold-out had to be done by hand; another feature was the use of an Apple Mac to word process the preliminaries - introduction, author and binder indexes.
'Nineteenth-Century Working Class Fiction' (100) was the first Jarndyce Bloods and Penny Dreadfuls catalogue, expertly compiled by Helen with an introduction; most of the 580 items came from the Reniers. The last collaborative catalogue with Chris Johnson was 102, Samuel Butler. 104, April 1995, listed over 200 items relating to just one book - Edwin Drood - with an introduction by Grenville Cook. This was one of only a handful of catalogues to be fully word processed on the Mac; more than three-quarters of the items sold for £12,882.
107 and 108 were issued together; 107 a flat-backed 'Performing Arts Miscellany' combined with 108 a cheaply-produced, small format, 'Standard Plays and Acting Editions' - almost a thousand plays, £8 each for 1-5 copies, £6 each for 6-20; more than 20, £4 each. 17th & 18th century catalogues continued to perform well, as did Dickens (113) selling £92,000 with 823 items sold from 1,766 to over 200 customers.
The Reniers' pamphlet collection made two catalogues (114 and 115 - 'Radicalism, Reaction and Reform 1780-1832'), full of scarce ephemeral material. 'Victorian Verse' (119), a unique offering so far, sold over 400 items for £38,000. 'The Romantics Catalogue', 124, was the first to sell over £100,000.
125, 'The Museum' of May 1998, celebrated the opening up of the ground floor shop in Great Russell Street, with panelling reinstated and a working fireplace, the renovation supervised by Marianna Kennedy. The 256 items were selected to reflect Jarndyce stock. One of the star items was a collection of 293 pieces of ephemera relating to the 'Natural Philosopher and Poet of the North' William Martin, brother of Jonathan Martin who set fire to York Minster. The catalogue covers show the shop-front and shop interior in full colour.
126 was a one-off - 'Turn of the Century 1890-1910'. The first Jarndyce 'Chapbooks and Street Literature' catalogue (130, June 1999) came largely from the Reniers, as did most of the 'Trials and Crime Miscellany', 132, August 1999. 133 was 'Economics, Politics and Social History 1780-1920' - the first since the unsuccessful Catalogue 22, and this time it worked selling 600 items. It was also notable for being the first Jarndyce catalogue entered on to our database by Carol. And the two-part 'Women Writers' (137 & 138) sold £144,000.
Our friend, Sue Biltcliffe, died in 1999 and Jarndyce sold her remaining stock on commission in three catalogues: 143, 149 & 153 (2001-03), 'Victorian House & Home', 'Commerce' & 'Life & Labour'.
'The Dickens Catalogue' 145 broke all records selling 878 items to over 600 customers for £229,000 (still unbeaten as a sales total for a single catalogue). 147, in small format, listed the economics collection of Professor Armstrong - the first catalogue to be compiled by Edward Nassau-Lake. 148 is our most recent 'Language, Conduct, Education' catalogue, a new edition is set for 2013.
151 was the second 'Bloods' catalogue: 'A Feast of Blood' - this time most of the collection came from Eric Golding of Wisbech who had purchased it en bloc from John Medcraft, the collector and bibliographer of the genre, in the 1950s. From another source came 'Varney the Vampire', a notorious rarity. Helen again catalogued the 950 items and 650 items were sold to over 200 customers. At the same time, Jarndyce published her research on disputed authorships which she was now able to identify correctly: 'New Light on Sweeney Todd, Thomas Prest, Malcolm Rymer and Elizabeth Caroline Grey'.
The largest group of catalogues published by Jarndyce was the 5-part series of Romantics (155, 157, 159, 162 & 164) Byron to Wordsworth, with 164 'Romantic Background' largely reprising Catalogues 114 & 115. The series sold an astonishing £274,000. 160 demonstrated that if at first you don't succeed ... as this 'Performing Arts Miscellany' sold over 650 items. The accompanying 161, 'Plays', has sold more items than any other (2,300), and still counting in sales on the internet, at an average price of less than £10.
'European Literature Translated into English 1780-1920' (Catalogue 167, 2006) was catalogued by Joshua Clayton whose background research and title and author notes on books originally published in the major European languages broke new ground. His work was rewarded with sales of over 630 items to 260 customers.
We are getting close to 'up-to-date'. 170 and 175 were the first two parts of our 'Street Literature' trilogy - the third part of which is being finished as I write. 171, (Summer 2007), was 'Books for and About Women', followed by three 'Women Writers' A-Z - the last of which (Catalogue 198) came out only this year.
Jonathan Swift was the subject of 177. Michael Foot had previously sold us Defoe pamphlets, and now proposed that we sell his Swift Collection, on commission, and dictated the (generous) terms. Before the catalogue was distributed, Notre Dame University Library purchased the collection in its entirety.
Edward masterminded Catalogue 179, 'The Jarndyce Gazette' - 185 items, mainly volumes of newspapers, totalling some 21,000 issues. 'The Social History of London', 181 (Spring 2009), was our most ambitious yet in this field.
185 was another issue of 'The Museum' but with a twist; Edward introduced the concept of 'Books for Presents'. This was a successful attempt to give people guidance in finding the right book for the right person. We have repeat customers now for unusual wedding presents - 'School for Wives' for instance. Ed has also edited the two most recent Social Science catalogues (188 & 194). George Macdonald was subject of the author catalogue 192, March 2011, with many presentation copies and a manuscript, as well as cheaper reprints, the majority of items sold to one purchaser. Outside the normal sequence of catalogues, Jarndyce has recently sold a collection of 1,800 minor 19th century novels to an American university.
2012 has seen two Dickens catalogues to celebrate the bicentenary of his birth: 'The Dickens Catalogue' (195), followed by the 'Library of a Dickensian' - a collection sold on commission which, thanks to Edward's efforts, is the most spectacular of all our catalogues, in folio with full colour throughout. Catalogue 201 will be 'Dickens and His Circle' to round off the year.
What else is to come? We build up our stock towards future catalogues and that will continue. (Please accept my apologies if you are still waiting for George Augustus Sala. It is one collection I find difficult to finish - there always seems to be something new to add ...) Printed catalogues remain the most efficient way of selling - particularly specialist catalogues - although a small but growing percentage of sales are now via our own website and, of course, through our shop managed by Janet which had its second best year ever 2011-12.
Catalogue 200 has allowed me the indulgence of this Afterword. I hope it goes to show there is life in the old book yet. I also hope that Jarndyce continues through a new generation as Edward shows every sign of becoming an excellent bookseller with the charm I have never been able to master. And Jarndyce would not be the productive madhouse it is without many, many, thanks to Janet, Helen, Carol, Joshua Clayton & Catherine Prowse - as well as Tim & Oliver Plumridge who print the catalogues, and The Royal Mail which delivers them. Charles Gledhill & his team, together with Lynn Powley & Claire Leckenby, are the binders who keep 19th century traditions of workmanship alive. Trade colleagues Peter Miller & Tony Fothergill of Spelmans and Richard Axe - the Yorkshire connections - as well as those assiduous collection builders, the Kohlers, who were one of our first customers - are our closest friends in the trade. And it is important to mention both British trade associations which have been vital to our success - first the PBFA and then the ABA.
The final 'thank you' is, of course, to all our customers.
It is easy to become cynical about visitors to the shop who say: 'It must be wonderful to work here'. But they are, in fact, right.