Sunday, 6 March 2016

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

‘Bibliography of British Canals 1623-1950’ by Mark Baldwin and some recent finds.

Mark Baldwin’s bibliography has been an indispensible guide to many collectors of English waterway literature ever since its publication in 1984. It is I think the most comprehensive survey of English waterway books published from the earliest times up until the start of ‘the new canal age’ in 1950.Canals A New Look

It was contained within the book ‘ Canals A New Look’  and as far as I know has never been published elswhere. Also and as a bonus it contains a separate Bibliography of European Cruising 1833-1939  as well as a ‘Bibliography of Charles Hadfield’s published work’. So there you have it -  all the reference sources you need as well as other interesting articles in one volume. No excuses for not owning one either,as it is easily available on the secondhand market for as little as £3 or £4.

In my years of book collecting I have come across several books  or editions of books which are not mentioned in the bibliography and I can only imagine that Mark chose not to include them for some reason or, and this is I feel more likely - was unaware of their existence at the time of his compilation.
So for the benefit of other collectors who may not know them either, I list them below and roughly in the categories that were used by Mark Baldwin. They are nearly all fictional works published before 1950.
Fictional works inspired by George Smith (The so called ‘Moral Tales).
Palmer, F.  ‘Silent Highways – A story of Barge Life.London: J F Shaw, ND c1881, Frontis, 192pgs, pub cat.
F C F, Over There – A Story of Canal Life’. London: Society for promoting Christian Knowledge. ND c1889, Frontis, 94pgs, pub cat. (With an appreciation to George Smith on final page – ….funds will be gratefully received by Mr George Smith, The Cabin, Crick,  Rugby). Later editions of this book have the authors name given – F C Fanshawe. 
Mount, Adela Francis. Robin Dear – A story of Canal Life’. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. ND c 1903, Frontis,  162pgs, Illus 2pl. pub cat.
Further details and some cover photos of these books at - –Part3.
Childrens Fiction.
Philps,A D. Waif and Gypsy’. London: Sunday School Union. ND c1893.Frontis,13pl,pub cat. (Another moral tale partly set on Bridgewater canal).
Morris, Alice Talwin. ‘Our Holiday on a Barge’ London : Blackie. N D but c1911. 40pgs. Illus. For younger readers.
Wilson,Theodora T. ‘Jim’s Children –A tale of town country & canal’  London : Blackie. ND but c1912. 247pgs. Frontis. Illus (Set on the Lancaster canal).
Harrison, F B. ‘Littlebourne Lock’  London:  Blackie. ND but 1892. 282 pgs,Frontis, 1 plate. pub cat. (Set on Thames).
‘Mrs Molesworth’. ‘Us’  London: Macmillan. 1885. 240 pgs, Frontis, illus by Walter Crane, Pub Cat.  (Partly set on canal).
Harborough, Mark. ‘Fossil the Scout’. Oxford University Press.1933. 255 pgs, Frontis, illus. ( The first canal adventure story of the modern period.The first to have decorated endpapers illustrating a canal map. An important book).
Blyton, Enid. ‘The Saucy Jane Story’. London: Lutterworth Press. 1947, 79 pgs, Frontis, Illus. (Canal story for younger readers).
Thomas, Bert. ‘A Trip on a Barge’. London: Pictorial Art. ND c1946, 31pgs, Illus (The first UK canal book to be illustrated in ‘Comic Art’ style. For younger readers. Authentically set on G Union canal). An important book & not in Copac.
Books with editions not noted by Mark Baldwin.
 Reade, Amos. ‘Life in The Cut’ . London: Swan Sonnenschein. 1888. 343pgs, Frontis.  (This must be the First edition as Baldwin gives only the 1889 edition which was a yellowback)
Anon. ‘The Waterway to London’ London: Simpkin. 1869. Frontis,96pgs,illus, maps. (A cheap ‘Yellowback type’  edition priced at 1 shilling, with thin card decorated illustrated cover published in the same year as the first edition noted by Baldwin) .
Adult Fiction.
Hartley,J. ‘Seets I Yorkshire…..or Grimes Comical Trip from Leeds to Liverpool by Canal’. London: Nicholson. 156 pgs. Pub Cat.ND but c 1890 . (A cheap yellowback in dialect.)
Adcock,Almey St John. ‘The Street Paved with Water’ London: Hodder & Stoughton.ND but 1930. 318pgs, (Set on Grand Junction Canal).
Smith,Emma. ‘Monkey Barges’ London: Phoenix House. ( A short story by Emma Smith of ‘Idle Women’ fame.Her first canal story after she left the boats & contained in  ‘Modern Reading –16’ published in 1947.
  Early childrens comic books.
Goodwin,Dave. ‘The Boy Barge Owners – AStory of Canal Life’. London: Amalgamated Press . 1909.120 pgs. In ‘The Boys Friend Library’ series.
Goodwin, Dave. ‘Dave The Barge Boy –A Tale of England’s Waterways’.London: Amalgamated Press. 1910. 120 pgs. In ‘The Boy’s Friend Library’ series.
Anon. ‘All Aboard A Barge’.  London: John Leng. 1932.39 pgs, Illus. (For young readers and published in ‘Fairyland Tales No 553 .’

Details & photos of most of these books can be found in or in my main blog.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Mr 'Self Sufficiency'

Those of you who were young in the 1970's and perhaps consciously feeling your way towards an alternative lifestyle may remember John Seymour the self sufficiency guru who was as an author most prolific at this time. 
Wikipedia lists his roles as - Writer, environmentalist, agrarian, smallholder and activist and a rebel against - Consumerism,industrialisation, genetically modified organisms, cities, cars; an advocate for self reliance, personal responsibility, self sufficiency, conviviality ( singing, dancing, food & drink), gardening, caring for the earth & the soil.

After an active and adventurous youth and war service he worked on a Thames Barge for a time before marrying and buying a Dutch Hoogaerse barge on which he lived and travelled before publishing his first waterway book  'Sailing through England' in 1956.
Seymour & his wife Sally sailed their 34 ton barge round the coast and into the Great Ouse and the Nene before travelling to the Humber from where they voyaged over all the wide beam waterways of the Northeast including a traverse of the Leeds & Liverpool canal.

For the next few years Seymour was involved in buying and establishing a smallholding in Pembrokeshire before in 1966 publishing 'Voyage into England'  - a record of a 4 month voyage
around the Narrow canals of a still just working system.

We are fortunate that John Seymour's natural love of people & places combined with an 
 inquisitive nature has left for today's reader a treasure trove of anecdotes and interviews with the working population of a now vanished waterways world. Both books are a recommended good read. You can wallow in nostalgia with 'Sailing through England'  for less than £15 and for less than £10 Voyage into England ' is available on the second hand market. Both books were recently republished by Faber & Faber.
John Seymour 1914 - 2004.

John Seymour's self sufficiency work is still carried on by his family at their Pembrokeshire smallholding where John lies buried in an orchard of his own planting.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016


olga kavelos

Olga Kevelos was one of the handful of women workers on the Grand Union Canal  during the 2nd World War. One of the so called ‘Idle Women’ from the inland waterways badge that they wore, they often showed tough, independent and adventurous traits. Olga’s particular claim to fame was that she twice won  gold in the motorcycling 6 day trials in the later 1940’s -  1950’s.

An extraordinary lady, she is alas no longer with us but during a recent renovation of her family home in Birmingham her family found a relic from her wartime boating days - the badge shown  above, Recently auctioned, it attracted many bids , selling for £80.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

‘Life in the Cut’ An update.

Canal Books
Every time that I used Mark Baldwins book ‘Canal Books’ to  refer to some item or other I was always tempted by the sight of the book in the middle of the top shelf. Since Baldwin’s book came out in 1982, it must be from at least that time that I had been looking for a copy of that book – ‘ Life in the Cut’. 'The description that Baldwin gives of it as being the first full length canal novelLIFE IN THE cut ( and an imaginative one at that )which was published in 1889 in a cheap ‘yellowback’ edition primarily for sale on railway bookstores,was very tempting and particularly so with its eye catching pictorial cover.The very fact that it was cheaply produced and printed meant of course that it had a short life and that survivors are few and far between ,which is my blog understatement of the year - I had never seen one at auction or for sale by bookdealers in 40 years of looking.
So it was with some excitement that I attended Mark’s library sale in November last where this book was to be amongst the books auctioned.Needless to say it went for far more than an old pensioners means allowed, selling for over £500 to a guy who had travelled some distance just to buy  this one book.                                                                 
Well I guess the story would have ended there with visions of more endless years searching (well not exactly endless as age is beginning to feature here!!!) and I was beginning to think that I would have to settle for the British Library’s copy in its Historically important reprint series. When -------
life in the cut 001
A couple of months later I bought this battered and waterstained copy of the book on Ebay.
I had thought that the yellowback version of 1889 was the only printing since the canal bibliography gives this as the only publication date. However it turns out that my purchase is in fact a First edition copy published the previous year in 1888.
The illustration on the cover is by the artist H Johnston whose engravings were used to illustrate Guy Mark Pearse’s ‘Rob Rat’ and which seem to have been used as stock images to illustrate many of the canal articles of the time eg the Graphic canal title page of 1875.
Rob Rat. Illustration1Rob Rat Illus (3) 
Illustrations by H Johnson in Rob Rat.

life in the cut .title page 1st Ed 001
Interestingly the Frontispiece illustration of the Waterwitch in the First edition appears to be a swim ended Thames lighter.Compare  this with the Narrow Boat ‘Waterwitch’ on the yellowback cover.Life in the cut.dedication.1st Ed 001 
Dedication to the well known canal reformer in the First Edition.
CONCLUSION. – Well I guess if theres any conclusion its – Dont give up looking!! Even on ebay bargains are still to be found even if its just once in 40 years!!!

Saturday, 9 January 2016



I thought that I had seen most types of British Canal ephemera at auction but the truncheon was a new one for me. It was the only one of its kind in a large collection of truncheons and tipstaffs auctioned recently. Apart from the above inscription in gilt on a blue ground it had a royal cipher  and was inscribed on the reverse ‘ S & W canal Co’. (Presumably –Staffs & Worcs.) One wonders whether it was ever actually in day to day use or purely for official occasions. 17inches in length it fetched £220.
old postcard2
Old postcards continue to fetch high prices particularly when as above they are ‘Real photos’. This one of a wooden Grand Union boat with workers piling fetched £56 recently.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015


Once found in their millions- the 'yellowback' novel was one of the first attempts at popular cheap literature for the masses and with the advent of railway travel and the railway bookstall they could be found everywhere. They really were a follow on from the early Victorian 'Penny Dreadful' with their heyday in the 1870 - 90 period. Usually featuring a sensational and lurid coloured cover they were quite often reprints of existing novels but non fiction and educational subjects are occasionally found.

Cheapness was of paramount importance and so the colour printed (Often with a yellow background - hence the name)  and glazed strawboard  cover protected the contents which were printed on cheap thin paper. This has of course meant they have worn badly over the years and to find a survivor in a reasonable and collectable state is a rarity!

  The First Canal Novel.


This book can claim to be the first 'canal novel' where the cut  plays the main part in a story
which otherwise includes country houses and drunken boatmen. First published in 1888 this cheap yellowback edition appeared in the following year - 1889. It is, in either edition, a very rare book ,so much so, that a copy of the above yellowback which was the first to appear at auction for many years  fetched £504 recently.                                                                                                                                                     

'All Along the River'  a typical yellowback from 1893 with a waterway theme.

  With an increasing use of the Thames - pleasure boating guides began to be published in the 1850's. This cheap yellowback style guide dates from the 1880's.

A late Victorian guide to the Broads.


John Macgregor an industrious Victorian individual started the craze for canoe touring canals,rivers and waterways in the 1860's and published this book which was to remain in print for 30 or 40 years. This cheap yellowback edition dates from 1880.

And Finally another rare item - Quite Unique in that it was published in Yorkshire Dialect - Hartley's novel first appeared in 1885.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Of  Buckby Cans and badges.

For those tired of old books and for whom canal hardware is more their 'thing' ! A couple of recent items at auction......

  Auctioned on eBay recently an old Buckby Can with a seemingly reasonable provenance (The vendors parents bought it in 1952) - £360.

  Inscribed round the top edge 'NATIONAL SERVICE'  and then the letters IW sitting on the waves. This badge issued to the Women recruits on the working boats during World War 2 (The so called Idle Women) must be very rare as these recruits were not exactly too numerous. On eBay recently with at least 10 bidders it made £311.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Canal and River Books at Auction in 2015.

All prices quoted are the 'hammer' price to which should be added 20% buyers premium to get the final purchase price !!

The Bob Date Collection - Auctioned July 2015.

  July saw a two day auction of an immense amount of material of which canal and waterway books were just a small part. Nevertheless several hundred fine Waterway books from all periods went under the hammer as well as a good selection of rare canal maps and ephemera. Few items were auctioned individually but rather by the 'shelf full' and the shelves often contained railway and maritime material. Nevertheless bargains were to be had if one had the time to view and note what the shelves contained.
Some examples- Six shelves of books which contained a first edition Large Paper copy of  Priestley fetched £650.

 A complete 12 volume set of the 1906 Royal Commission on Canals & Waterways (Rare to find all 12 vol's) was an absolute giveaway at £85.

Seventy - 18th and 19thC  canal acts realised £420.

 Three shelves of 20th century publications mostly David & Charles , Batsford etc fetched £500

A large quantity of Antiquarian mostly 19thC books on cruising European waterways including  'Our Autumn Holiday on French Rivers' & Our Wherry in Wendish lands and most of the Victorian cruising titles plus oddly 'A History of the Ribble' and 2 copies of Tew's Oakham Canal made £880.

Three shelves of David & Charles books -£170.

  A superb and very rare flyer in pristine condition advertising an early 19thC Manchester carriers Fly Boats realised £170.
Hassell 'Tour of The Grand Junction' 1819 with all 24 plates - £300.

A manuscript ; 'Inspector of Canal Boats' ledger containing entries of boat,place of registration,owners name present condition as to repairs and cleanliness  for the years 1909-12. £170.
An official brochure for the opening of the new Hatton Locks in 1934 together with several other canal company promotional brochures all 20th C.  £200
Bradshaw Map (Southern Counties) - £460.
A very early - 'Map of the Navigable Canals & Rivers of England & Wales' by Andrews. Hand Coloured in 20 sections in original marbled covers .1788.  - £460.

All in all an unusual sale and probably of more interest to the dealer rather than the collector due to the size of the lots. 

The Mark Baldwin Collection - Auctioned 4th November 2015.


One of the largest collections of canal & waterway books in private hands went under the hammer on Nov 4th. There can be few canal book lovers unfamiliar with Mark Baldwin's own book 'Canal Books' which has been a kind of bible and reference work to many collectors for over 30 years now.This and his bibliography contained in 'Canals A New Look' have been an invaluable contribution to the world of canal and waterway books.
Mark Baldwin's lifetime collection was in effect 2 collections since he had bought and assimilated Charles Hadfield's (Canal Historian) collection some years ago. So it was not particularly surprising that the sale contained some rare and desirable books including one of the largest collections of signed L T C Rolt material to appear in recent years. 
With such a large collection I can only give general impressions and results for some of the rarer and more unusual items.

Antiquarian -18thC and early 19th C items such as Priestley, Phillips,Fulton, Chapman & Bradshaw are well known, not that scarce and tend to have recognized values which were maintained here.
e.g Priestley - Large Paper copy £1100. Other editions £200-300.
      Bradshaws Maps - 4 different lots £440 - 600.
      Phillips.- 6 different lots . 1st ed £650. Later editions - £100 - 170.
      Fulton - £380.
      Chapman - £230.

A much rarer item - 'The History of Inland Navigations' , the first published history of England's Canals with an anonymous author fetched £1100 in a 1766 first edition.

The Flower of Gloster with rare 1st Ed Dust Jckt. 1911.

Anything to do with British Canal History or Cruising sold well whilst European canals seemed slightly less popular and Canals Worldwide even less.

Some unusual and rare items.- The Dust Jacket shown above on a first edition copy of Temple Thurston's famous book (not in itself at all rare) is in any condition incredibly rare and this jacket was in a complete condition.  £175.

 The first ever books to describe a pleasure cruise by canal are very rare - 'The Thames to the Solent by Canal & Sea' 1868 (£150) 'The Waterway to London' 1869 (£170), Canoe Cruise down the Leam.... 1871(£100) and the exceptionally rare 'Canal & River a cruise from Leicestershire to Greenhythe' 1873 (£280).

Books in the auction did not necessarily have to be old or rare in order to attract good prices
A complete set of 19 vols in the David & Charles 'Inland Waterway Histories' series - £300

14 vols of D&C 'Canals of the British Isles series - £340.

Rolt material sold well. A 1948 copy of Narrow Boat signed L T C Rolt 'Cressy/Banbury Dec 1948 together with 'The Inland Waterways of England' 1st Edtn  signed L T C Rolt Cressy /Market Harborough/ August 1950 (thus signed at the famous First Rally of Boats) together with two other Rolt books (1 signed) - £200
Another lot of 3 books presented to Charles Hadfield of which 2 signed on 'Cressy  in 1949 & 1950 - £240.

 Fiction was well represented in both Adult & Childrens   with lots ranging from Victorian times to the 1980's The book above is probably the first canal novel written for adults. Its a 'Yellowback' which was once to be seen in hundreds on Victorian railway bookstores. Cheaply produced and printed - outside University collections it is virtually non existant so this copy (which before Mark Baldwin, once belonged to Charles Hadfield) was keenly bid for, achieving - £420.

 Finally and just to show that thorough examination of otherwise inauspicious lots sometimes pays off. The book shown below is - for a book printed in 1930 almost as hard to find as the Victorian 'Life in The Cut' published in 1889 shown above. It is incidentally one of the most authentically 'placed' novels I can think off .Places on the cut,characters,language and a first hand knowledge of Canal lore characterize its production, unusually so for a 1930 book. It also has a complete and fine dust wrapper. In a lot together with 15 other canal novels £40 . -What a bargain.!!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Recent Canal collectables at Auction


Rarer Measham (Bargeware) always achieves a good price amongst the dedicated collectors out there. This 1884 Chamber Pot  with the usual inscription ‘ Pick me up and use me well and what I see I will not tell’   inscribed around the rim and with entwined lizards inside the bowl  -  sold for £700. It has the owners name & ‘Swadlincote ‘on the usual cartouche. Nice canal connection there.!!


An ordinary ‘cottage single spout’ teapot is one of the commonest Measham items to appear at auction and can be bought for a lot less than £100. The pot shown above (apologies for picture quality) however is a rare example commemorating Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee and is inscribed ‘ Jubilee 1887 & God Save the Queen’  - this fetched £320.


Henry Dawson (1811-78) is one of the better known artists with canals as a favourite subject for study. This early view is entitled ‘Trent Bridge from the Grantham Canal’  . Unfortunately the Trent Bridge can hardly be seen in the background and instead, and  of the greatest interest for modern viewers, the junction lock of the Grantham Canal with the Trent is shown with some detail. An estimated guide price of £200 - £300 was given for this lot . There are very keen collectors of early canal/waterway subjects around.



This  was one of the more unusual canal shares to be sold recently – It dates from 1847 and fetched £90.


Another collecting area where deep pockets are required are early Canal view Post Cards. Good early cards rarely appear now and this view (sorry about my reproduction)  shows a close up of canal boatwoman and horse on the Leeds & Liverpool C . Superb but plenty of interest and a final price of £96 .

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On the other hand this view of two Edwardians standing in the stern end of an unidentified butty didn’t attract much interest selling for a fiver.


1250-20141117151936_468x382 (1)

Canal & waterway tokens,badges & medals appear regularly in the salerooms and the rarer items excite some interest. Such was the case with this Cove token of the early 19th C.

Augustus Cove was a London dealer in china and glass who had a lease on a canal side wharf in Paddington Basin. He seems to have fallen out with the Grand Junction Canal Co and perceived himself to have been the victim of a great injustice. The chip on Cove’s shoulder weighed so heavily that he published a booklet of 185 pages (and in at least 2 editions) To publicize his booklet Cove also issued this token which bears the legend ‘ Beware of the Grand Junction Canal Comp.y some of whose fraud, oppression, perjury, forgery & robbery & Ca, are set forth in … and on the tokens reverse…’ Augustus Cove’s publications entitled ‘The Tocsin Sounded or The Bull taken by the Horns &c to be had of the booksellers’. This rare token had a guide price of £150.



In the same sale a Basingstoke Canal token of 1789  showing a navvy’s tools and a barge  had a guide price of £500 - £600.

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This leather bound  copy of ‘Descriptions des Cataractes et du Canal Trollhatta’  in French was published in Sweden in 1804. A rare book containing 11 aquatints and a map of the locks at Trollhattan  was a bargain at £90.

Another recent bargain was an 1831 first edition copy of Priestley in original boards which fetched £70.


Explorers Afloat first Ed 1940429

All collectors of Children’s canal books will know of the incredible scarcity of Garry Hoggs book. A First Edition copy(1940) with only a photocopied Dust Wrapper recently sold for £125.  It is an important & pivotal book which I dealt with in my first ever post in 2010 see ‘Oodles of Ice Cream & Fizzy Pop’ . Why it should be so rare is a mystery but I suspect that it may have to do with the outbreak of war and printing restrictions although a second edition in 1952 is equally elusive. If you are lucky enough to stumble across it then you can count your lucky day!!!

John Knill's Navy 1998

Finally you may have seen my recent post on John Knill’s book but in case you didn’t I can report that it sold for £35 which is a tidy sum for a paperback printed only a few short years ago.Try and find one now!!!

Last but not least some early photographs on Ebay at the present time may find some interest.

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Eleven photographs taken around the junction of the Erewash canal with the River Trent circa early 1920’s.

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Four photographs of the Grand Junction canal around the 3 locks (Stoke Hammond area) circa 1930’s.