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Astonishing laboriousness

Thursday, 30 September 2021 at 22:29

Gosse plates on Dr John Dunn. Astonishing laboriousness

Popular British Ornithology, 1849, by P. H. Gosse

My library includes the second edition (!853) of this beautifully illustrated work, albeit in a variant casing not included in the Freeman and Wertheimer bibliography. What follows is a contribution to the complete listing of the P. H. Gosse books in my collection, which I understand to be the most complete in private hands.

The colour plates which include more than seventy figures, were drawn and lithographed by Gosse.

The plates appear to have been individually and laboriously water coloured, presumably by Gosse himself.

The family copy has a note in Gosse’s hand: ‘commenced on Sept. 16th and finished Nov. 21st 1848’ - the day before he married Emily Bowes. This represents an astonishing work rate from the author.

The book in my collection has an undocumented variant case colour, which is in green bead. The central gilt bird and flower ornament on the front board is particularly fine.

The publisher is Reeve and Co., London.

The printer is John Edward Taylor of Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

The binder’s ticket on the rear endpaper is diamond shaped and reads ‘Bound by Westley’s & Co London’

This is a fine copy of a fine book, and the colour plates were but an overture to the grand opera which was to follow; I’m speaking of Gosse’s Birds of Jamaica, but more of that anon.

I will include some, if not all, the colour plates in a later post.

See Gosserie, for more on Gosse.


© John Dunn.

"Horrible contrast"

Wednesday, 29 September 2021 at 22:16

The new town on Dr John Dunn. "Horrible contrast"

I am currently editing my videoed motorcycle ride along the Burford to Faringdon Turnpike. A number of villages relevant to my filming were covered by Joanna Cannan in her book Oxfordshire. What follow are the relevant extracts.

Thames has come into the county from Wiltshire and, in a wide valley of clay, through a landscape utterly different from that of the Evenlode or of the Windrush valley, he meanders slowly down towards his city of spires.…Shilton, Brize Norton, Carterton,… stand on the high ground that separates the Windrush and the Thames Valleys.

Carterton is a horrible contrast (to other villages in the area), a collection of rabbit hutches on the Faringdon to Burford road.

Alvescot, on the Shill, is a pretty picture; there is a fifteenth-century Malorye portrait brass in the early English church.

Black Bourton is almost on the clay. In the church, which once belonged to the Abbey of Osney, there are thirteenth-century wall paintings…

Clanfield is also in the meadows (Thames) and here, on the site of the house called Friars’ Court, was once a preceptory of the Hospitallers of St. John, of which only a window and a fishpond remain. The originally Norman church is dedicated to St Stephen. Amazingly and inexplicably, this village contains several examples of Victorian domestic architecture.


Posted by John Dunn.

Gosse's Birds woodcuts

Tuesday, 28 September 2021 at 21:29

A favourite book on Dr John Dunn. Gosse's Birds woodcuts

As promised in the previous blog, I have featured below just a small selection of woodcuts from drawings by P. H. Gosse from his book Gosse's Natural History: Birds, 1849.

As ever in a work by Gosse, the artistry is stunning, almost as amazing ashis capacity for work, given that he also authored the text to the book.

Gosse's Natural History: Birds is one of a number of works by P. H. Gosse that I have in my library. I understand that it is the most complete collection of P. H. Gosse outside of an academic library.


As ever, the guidance on things bibliographical comes from the Gosse bibliography compiled by R. B. Freeman and Douglas Wertheimer, 1980, a favourite book of mine. Some of these details as they relate to the specific volume in my possession can be found in the previous blog.

Some of the books in my collection came from R. B. Freeman via Eric Korn, the author, radio personality and book dealer. I remember the place, which was at the York Book Fair, some time in the mid-1980s.