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.


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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.