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.

Sorry about the image - It is 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 .

$_103 (1)

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.

$_103 (3)

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.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014



Explorers Afloat first Ed 1940430

I wonder if any of my readers can help in identifying the location of these early photographs. They come from a collection of views taken I think in the 1880 – 90 period in the Oxfordshire area. They are almost certainly of the Oxford Canal and show three boats in the above picture waiting to enter a lock which I think  is probably Cropredy bottom lock.

Explorers Afloat first Ed 1940431


I think we can be fairly sure that both photographs were taken on the same day as the same lady onlooker appears in the scenes. I rather think that the Cropredy? view was perhaps taken first and as the boats are working uphill that the second view was taken somewhere on the Claydon flight. However the puzzle is – the lockhouse  cottage - as I cannot think of a single story lock cottage anywhere on this canal. The only other building on this flight is the maintenance yard at the top of Claydon whose buildings bear no resemblance to the one shown here.

Of course my placing of the scene in the Cropredy/Claydon area is pure conjecture and  it could be anywhere on the canal. As far as I can remember all the surviving lock cottages on the canal are double story and so the building in the photo could have been demolished. There was for example a cottage at Shipton Weir lock which was demolished within living memory.

The photographer & lady friend may have walked up the towpath from Cropredy following the boats to the next lock Broadmoor – was there a now long vanished single story cottage here???  Please leave a comment or conjecture if you have any ideas as I am totally puzzled.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Small Boat 1948-1987.

Original Eric de Mare photos 1948 & BTC photos c1954424
Roger Pilkington is probably best known as the author of the ‘Small Boat ‘ series of books although as a Congregationalist Christian by conviction and as a geneticist by training he was a prolific author on these subjects too.
In the late 1940’s having purchased his first boat Commodore he spent a couple of years cruising the Thames before in 1950 he managed to battle his way up the moribund Kennet & Avon canal to Newbury after which he visited the Grand Union Canal. These early voyages were published in ‘Thames Waters –1956 ‘ which is the only book in the series without the words ‘Small Boat’ in the title.With a wide beam and seaworthy boat and rapidly running out of new cruising ground he turned to the waterways of the Continent which at that time were treated by visiting yachtsmen as as through routes to the Mediterranean or the Baltic rather than for their own intrinsic interest.
Original Eric de Mare photos 1948 & BTC photos c1954422
The Belgian Small Boat book was published in 1957 and  began a series of books rarely matched in the canal publishing world for their uniformity  and scope and twenty titles were to be published over the next 30 years.
As a member of the Pilkington glass family I don’t suppose that Dr Pilkington was ever exactly strapped for cash but at least in the early days he was working and with a young family was only able to cruise the waterways during the school holidays
Original Eric de Mare photos 1948 & BTC photos c1954426

 If I were travelling any of the waterways he describes today I would certainly like to take or to have read his comments on the waterway concerned. Navigational details, descriptions of scenery and of people met are excellent and informative.  As a folklorist the author was interested in the myths ,legends and history of the places he passed through and there is always rather a lot of this.For me and a personal grouse here – its too much and I could do without it. His style too I find annoying at times being for me a little elitist and tending I find to treat all foreigners with a kind of  amused forbearance  but on the whole when he sticks to journey details and descriptions he is very readable.
Original Eric de Mare photos 1948 & BTC photos c1954421

The series appeared to end in 1971 with the appearance of ‘Small Boat on the Upper Rhine’.  but then in 1987 the author brought out ‘Small Boat Down the Years’  which, as his usual illustrator (David Knight) had by this time died, was illustrated with photographs.
Original Eric de Mare photos 1948 & BTC photos c1954420Original Eric de Mare photos 1948 & BTC photos c1954425
In the late 1980’s Roger Pilkington made one last journey to South West France and described the journey in ‘Small Boat in the Midi’  and here on the Canal Du Midi and now in his early seventies he finally decided to end his cruising days. The boat was tied up and eventually sold and he and his wife bought a house and vineyard in the area – this last period of his life is recorded in ‘One Foot in France’  -1992. Roger Pilkington died in 2003
The complete series of 20 Small Boat books is – Thames Waters –1956, Small Boat (In,on or through)—Belgium 1957, Holland- 1958, Skagerrak-1960, Alsace –1961, Sweden-1961, Bavaria-1962, Germany-1963,  France-1965, Southern France-1965, Thames-1966, Meuse-1966, Luxembourg-1967, Moselle-1968, Northern Germany-1969, Elsinore-1969, Lower Rhine-1970, Upper Rhine-1971, Down the Years-1987, Midi 1989.
All these are easily found quite reasonably and in first editions with dust jackets if that’s your thing!!

Friday, 14 November 2014

The Rarest Canal Book?

I am often asked this question and usually give the reply that it is the book that you haven’t got and the one which you have been searching for, for the last 40 years.
The late Charles Hadfield the Canal Historian and himself no mean collector whose library I remember being sold some years ago said in his introduction to Mark Baldwin’s ‘Canal Books’  (the bible for all collectors) that he had never heard of F C South’s ‘ The British & Irish Waterways Gazatteer’  of 1910. It is very rare and so I was pleased to find a copy many years ago and have never seen another for sale to this day.
waterways gazateer 1910

Published four years earlier than H R De Salis’s  ‘Canals & Navigable Rivers of England & Wales’  it covers the same sort of ground with its lists of carrying companies and water routes both inland and sea.waterways gazateer 1910.
A limited print run is of course one of the reasons why a book may be scarce and this is very apparent in the case of privately printed books. In the world of British waterway books I am thinking in particular of a small group of books which described waterway voyages made by their authors & published in the very earliest days of cruising for pleasure in the 1860’s /70’s. As incredibly hard to find now as they are, I was fortunate to obtain one recently and again it is the only copy I have ever seen.
Canoe cruise down the leam,avon,severn & wye 1871
‘Canoe Cruise down the Leam,Avon,Severn & Wye’  by George Heaviside 1871.
‘Waterways for pleasure’ was a new concept in the mid 19thC and although people had enjoyed and used their local rivers since time immemorial it wasn’t until the advent of a new affluent middle class in mid Victorian times that such pastimes as rowing and canoeing really took off. 
Canoe cruise won the leam 1871
As a member of the newly formed Royal Canoe Club – George Heaviside was in right at the beginning of the new craze and was soon expanding his watery wanderings of midland waterways to include journeys by water on the continent and of course privately printing the results of such journeys for friends and the public at large.
So there are known to be several of these published accounts ‘out there’ that I have yet to find and I live in hope that they may yet come my way.
Nevertheless not all rare canal books need to be 150 years old and in fact a book published only a dozen years ago has proved to be a very scarce item and one eagerly sought after by those interested in the history of the working narrow boat community of the 1940s/50s.
John Knill's Navy 1998
John Knill ran his own pair of working boats from Braunston during the 1950’s and in this book he recounts the history of those years. With an introduction by the late Sonia Rolt (the subject of my last blog) it is jam packed with details, photographs and anecdotes and  is a mine of information that is rarely exceeded in other publications of this type.
Again its rarity (It was published in the one paperback edition in 1998) stems I think from the fact that it was privately printed in an obviously very limited edition. So if you have a copy –Treasure it. I can find one copy on the internet for sale at £87 although I have seen one copy that fetched £35 on E Bay in the past. – Obviously a Bargain.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014


Original Eric de Mare photos 1948 & BTC photos c1954413

Sonia Rolt one of the last surviving members of the group of wartime young women recruits to the Grand Union Canal Carrying Co’s fleet has passed on at the ripe old age of 95.

She will be remembered not only as the wife of Tom Rolt the author of the landmark book ‘Narrow Boat’ but as a pioneering campaigner for working boaters conditions and for the English canal system in her own right.

As the author of ‘A Canal People’ published in 1997 she has left us with what are generally agreed to be some of the best photographs ever taken of the working boat community. From her time on the boats just after  the war she remembered Robert Longden’s quiet  presence on the canal side always with his Leica camera in hand. The boat people became familiar with his appearances on the cut side in the late 1940’s & early 1950’s and the results were some delightfully informal pictures of a normally shy and unassuming community.

Twenty Five years later Sonia Rolt went in search of Longden who had by that time died and discovered that his camera and photographs had been destroyed on his death. Fortunately however a box in a garden shed was discovered containing glass plate negatives. From these Sonia published the book ;A Canal People’' If you have not read it then beg ,borrow or buy a copy – you wont be sorry.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Eric de Mare at auction.

Architectural Review. Canals Issue.Eric De Mare 1949

Front cover of the Special Canals number of  ‘The Architectural Review’  1949.


Eric de Mare was one of a small group of artists, designers & photographers who after the 2nd World war started to record the architecture,  indigenous art, and the way of life on the English canal system.

In 1948 having purchased an ex army pontoon he set out on a 600 mile journey through the waterways of the midlands and the South East. The resulting photographs were published in a special issue of the ‘Architectural Review in 1949 to be followed a year later in book form as ‘The Canals of England’.

Original Eric de Mare photo 1948.397

De Mare’s pontoon on the Welsh Canal.

It is generally agreed that De Mare’s black & white photographs were some of the finest ever taken, showing in particular an appreciation of the form,  pattern & design to be found in the architecture and functional engineering artefacts of a canal. Viewed 60 years later they are a nostalgic and beautiful record of a way of life now sadly long gone but still just existing in 1948. Original Eric de Mare photo 1948.396


So it was with great interest that five of his original photographs taken on his 1948 journey came up for auction earlier this summer. The photos all have the authentic studio stamp on the reverse together with hand written remarks and notes regarding reproduction and sizes for use in his forthcoming book.

Original Eric de Mare photo 1948 394

T & S Element boat at Bratch on The Staff’s & Worcs canal with coal for Stourport Electric station.

Original Eric de Mare photo 1948 .395

Shrewley tunnel.

Of the greatest interest - the collection includes one photograph that does not appear to have been used in the book. A superb study of a pair of Joshers descending Hatton.

Original Eric de Mare photo 1948 &

Incidentally ‘The Canals of England’    has been through many editions over the years and is still in print today I think and well worth a look if you have never seen it.

Canals of England

First Edition 1950.