A new beginning – Wilmslow’s best sellers

Recent book customers at Oxfam Wilmslow may have noticed brightly coloured postit notes on the end papers of our books on the shelves. We have been removing these at the cash desk, counting them and recording the figures. As a result, we now know that the most popular and profitable parts of the book section are the two ‘History’ shelves and the two ‘General non-fiction’ shelves.


These wonderful recent arrivals (and I’m looking in particular at the books by R W Brunskill, published by Gollancz) could probably sit in either section.

Professor Ronald Brunskill, who lived in Wilmslow until his death last month, was an architect and academic with a particular interest in the study and conservation of vernacular architecture in Great Britain. His books, as well as his teaching and research at the University of Manchester established him as a leading scholar in the field and enabled him to play an active part in the conservation of “cottages and farmhouses, barns and cow-houses, water mills and oast-houses”, through active membership of the national commissions, funds and societies that preserve our architectural heritage.

These three important books are generously illustrated with photographs and the author’s own beautiful drawings.

(This was the last post that our blogger was able to make. Oxfam Wilmslow greatly miss her contribution.)

Posted in Architecture, History | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The End. What I have learned from writing 400 posts on this blog.

My intention in starting to write this blog was to let readers know that Oxfam Wilmslow (or perhaps Oxfam in general) was interested in books. We weren’t interested only in the revenue from sales, but enjoyed researching them, loved reading them and derived pleasure from being part of our local book browsing community. The volunteer team at Oxfam Wilmslow has enjoyed sharing the excitement of discovery, the poignancy of revived memory and mystified ignorance when confronted with the strange and obscure.

I can tell you that over the past year the most searched for posts have been:

  • The book of Shirley Baker’s Street Photographs of Manchester and Salford (one of my personal favourites)
  • A Folio Edition of Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson
  • An exhibition catalogue of Andy Warhol’s Portraits
  • A book of Derek Gardner’s paintings of Nelson’s Ships
  • and finally our Leonard Baskin’s prints, illustrating Ted Hughes’ Cave Birds.

However, I also had other hopes and, during the past eighteen months, I have learned that this blog has not fulfilled my need to identify a community within my town. I had hoped to appeal to local people but I find my readers are geographically widespread and the local nucleus is small. As I say good bye I can think of many that I shall miss. I want to thank you all for your interest and encouragement. I have learned a lot and hope to put it to good use.

Now I have another project in mind. I shall spend the summer thinking, planning and assessing its feasibility. It could be that I’ll be trying something different in the autumn.

As this blog attracts readers to old posts and as some of these books are still on sale, I shall leave it up for a while.

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What are you looking for when you are tempted into a charity bookshop?

Occasionally, I am looking for something specific: an author, a title or a subject. But often I’m hoping to be surprised by a curiosity …  something that becomes an impulse-buy. Today’s suggestion is a little something that might be difficult to find elsewhere but will cost you very little.

This is just a small selection from the leaflet box. Many of these items are priced at 49p each.

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100 years of Fashion Illustration, featuring designs by Grayson Perry

100 years of fashion illustration by Cally Blackman I went to the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy last week and basked in the colours of Grayson Perry’s ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’.

Grayson Perry has now joined  Danny Dorling and ‘The Gentle Author’ of ‘Spitalfields Life’  as someone whose work has entranced me this year: intellectual virtuosity married with political commitment.

Even though I don’t see myself as a follower of fashion, I love this book. Some of the art work is wonderful and it’s fascinating to see how we have wanted to look, over the years. I have chosen some pages to show you. It was hard to reduce my choice to these few.

100 Years of Fashion Illustration by Cally Blackman at Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design, published by Laurence King Publishing 2007, is on sale at Oxfam Wilmslow for £5.99

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Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

East Cheshire Past and PresentToday’s story comes from a big battered volume. It must have been a lifetime’s labour of love and was published in 1880 by J P Earwaker. The work was dedicated to his father, James Earwaker of Brocklands, Alderley Edge.

Alderley Edge is noted as being the scene of a curious legend or tradition, which appears to have been first recorded in print in the early part of this century,  but to have been known and believed in the last century.

The story runs that a farmer from Mobberley whilst crossing the Edge on his way to Macclesfield, having with him a milk-white steed, was accosted by an old man dressed in a dark flowing gown, who offered him a price for the horse, which the farmer refused. The old man then said that no purchaser would be forthcoming at Macclesfield, but that on the farmer’s return he would again meet him and purchase the animal.

As he had been forewarned, no offer was made for the horse, and, returning with it towards Mobberley, he was again accosted by the old man, who ordered him to follow, and led the way towards a rock, which he struck, whereupon it opened, disclosing a massive pair of iron gates at the entrance to a deep cavern. The gates flew open with a terrible noise, and the farmer fell on his knees and besought the wizard to spare his life. He was then taken into the cavern, where he saw a countless number of men and milk-white steeds, all fast asleep.

After being paid for his horse, the wizard told him that a day would come when these men and horses would come forth and decide the fate of a great battle and save their country, and till that day no one should ever behold the iron gates again.”

Those of us that live locally know of the Wizard on the Edge, the mystique that in the past has attracted revellers at Halloween and the Weirdstone of Brisingaman, Alan Garner’s novel inspired by the mythology of this very special area.

But if myths, legends and story telling are not your thing, this great guidebook to East Cheshire, can interest you in its Churches:

or the genealogy of its wealthy families or the history of governance of our local towns and villages.

The boards are dark green and richly decorated in gold and black on the front, back and the spine but alas our book is now a reading copy only. Our volume has been horribly covered in sticky plastic and the loose spine affixed upside-down. Volume one is missing.

So we are looking for a customer who can ignore the physical delapidation of the book and focus on the wonderfully illuminating content.

East Cheshire, Past and Present, by J P Earwaker, Volume 2, is on sale at Oxfam Wilmslow for £24.99.IMG_3416 (Update: This book has now been sold)


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To Harrods for Satin Pantaloons

Every November, when I was a child, my parents had anxious communication with cousins in a remote Pembrokeshire village. We needed to know what to buy my great aunt for Christmas. Every Christmas the answer was the same and it led to the annual pilgrimage to Harrods to buy flesh-coloured, satin pantaloons. Not the baggy belly dancing trousers we might see nowadays, but the kind of undergarment featured in today’s wonderfully interesting book. We ordinary Londoners were amazed that anyone could wear these knee-length slippery knickers but my great-aunt was not an ordinary lady. Like many of the other ladies in this unusually ambitious little village, her husband had been a master mariner: in fact for a while he was the captain of the largest oil tanker in the world. She was well travelled, relatively wealthy, had style and knew what she liked. The local shops didn’t stock the lingerie  she had seen in Rotterdam, London and the other great European ports she had visited so at Christmas she appreciated our attempts to make up for her rural isolation. My mother, who did the shopping, wore a more modern style and was concerned to make it clear to the shop assistants who served her in Harrods that the pantaloons were a gift and not a personal preference.

After my much-loved great aunt had died, I had a brief glimpse into her wardrobe. Even at the time I was curious to have a better look, but, as a child,I couldn’t ask for permission to do something that seemed so to intrude into an adult’s private world. I remember that there was white lace and long black garments. It was such a brief, tantalising glimpse.

Mrs Tinne's WardrobeThis book is about the clothes of a woman who was a close contemporary of my great aunt and it is allowing me at last to delve into that wardrobe and rummage around. Every page is profusely and beautifully illustrated with decent sized colour photos and there is a detailed description of each garment featured. It may be a vicarious experience, but I’m loving it all the same.

Mrs Tinne’s Wardrobe – A Liverpool Lady’s Clothes 1900-1940, by Pauline Rushton, published by The Bluecoat Press in association with National Museums Liverpool, is listed by Oxfam Wilmslow on our Amazon page for £24.99.

Posted in Fashion, History, Wales | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Isn’t there something delightful about a Pax Ting?

The Big Test - The story of the Girl Guides in the World WarThis thin little book does a good PR job for the Guides. I was astonished and impressed to see that the first Girl Guide World camp was held in Hungary in July/August 1939. With the imminent threat of war there were still nearly 6,000 girls from 32 countries at their ‘Peace Parliament’. This book begins with the efforts made to build friendship between the different national groups. There was even a brief meeting with the B.D.M. (Hitler Youth Movement) on Aachen station and hospitality organised by the BDM for the British group of Guides on their way to the castle of Gödöllö in Hungary. They were not foolishly naive, however, and contingency plans had been made. The Polish contingent altered their arrangements so that the younger Guides were replaced with older Rangers who were issued with special equipment and maps so that if the Germans invaded Poland before the Pax Ting was over

these Guides would have found their way over the great range of the Carpathian mountains that separate Hungary and Poland. They would have travelled on foot, in small groups or alone..

The rest of the book details the good works carried out by Guides groups between 1939 and 1945, interspersed with interesting correspondence from Guides in Poland, Finland and Belgium and other areas affected by the war. The photos are surprisingly good, but I find the cotton reels puzzling.

The Big Test – The story of the Girl Guides in the World War by Catherine Christian, published by The Girl Guides Association, is on sale at Oxfam Wilmslow for £45.00

(Update: This book has been sold)

Posted in Children, Germany, History, Politics, Sociology | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

What does Rolls Royce mean to you?

I hadn’t given this question much thought until we had the Wilmslow motor show here last summer. It was a successful event: a sunny day, thousands of people, pubs, bars and cafes full and, of course, some great motoring attractions. Among the stars were Porsche, Mercedes, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Audi, BMW, Revere, Rolls Royce, Bentley, McLaren, Maserati, Ferrari, Aston Martin and Range Rover. If you missed the event last year, don’t worry! It’s happening again this year. Bigger and even better .. on September 7th 2013.

I had thought that the Rolls Royces (generously lent for the day from the car dealer in just-down-the-road Knutsford) would be driven to the show. But no! The inevitable ten miles on the clock there and ten miles back, would be unacceptable to a new owner, so the cars had to come on a transporter to keep them in pristine condition. There must be some mystique associated with the brand.

And that mystique might account for today’s two books: the first published by Foulis in the 1940s and the second by Batsford in 1984. They are both fine books, by ‘top of the range’  publishers.

The author of this book was clearly under the spell. Here are his opening lines:

If you had happened to be passing down Cook Street, Manchester, late on a certain Friday afternoon in the spring of 1904, you would have heard a most extraordinary sound. It was as though a score or more of mighty blacksmiths had suddenly lost their reason, and were striking wild blows at their anvils with increasing rapidity.  …..

Then from the entrance of a small workshop, you would have seen emerge a motor-car unlike any other you had ever seen, or heard, before. Save for a gentle phut-phut, phut-phut from its exhaust pipe, it made no noise at all.

The Rolls-Royce Motor Car and the Bentley since 1931The first part of the second book takes the history of Rolls-Royce and Bentley from 1931 to 1984. The second part contains photographs and detailed specifications of all the cars, from the first Royce cars of 1904 to the cars of the 1980s. There is even an appendix with information about Experimental cars. As the Review Service and Purchasing Office of the Dutch Public Library Service said:

Kompleet overzicht van de geschiedenis van één van de exclusiefste automerken ter wereld: Rolls-Royce.

The Magic of a Name by Harold Nockolds, published by Foulis and Company in the 1940s is on sale at Oxfam Wilmslow for £4.99. It appears to be a first edition but the spine is damaged. (Update: This book has now been sold)

The Roll-Royce Motor-Car and the Bentley since 1931 by Anthony Bird and Ian Hallows, published by Batsford 1984, is on sale at Oxfam Wilmslow for £19.99 (Update: This book has now been sold)

Posted in Engines and Machines, History, Manchester, Motors, Transport, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Will you buy these books to remember a passing era or because they are cheaper than wallpaper?

The Master Printer's AnnualThis pile of  books is testament to the printing trade: a trade that has changed beyond recognition in recent years. The volumes are beautifully produced by the best professionals and are a reminder of how things used to be done. They date from the era of typesetting, Parsons Fletcher inks, Two-Revolution presses by Harrild and Sons and printing plates manufactured by John Swain and Sons. Will a craftsman printer chance into our shop and snaffle them up?

If we can’t count on a customer with an academic interest in the printing trade, maybe our books will attract the attention of a someone interested in interior design. The books are in excellent condition and the rich reds and gold provide a more striking effect than book-shelf wall paper at more than £100 a roll.

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Can you tell if these books were written by a man or a woman?

Joan Butler , as we read on the inside flap, was “Author of ‘Team Work’, ‘Unnatural Hazards’, ‘Mixed Pickle’, ‘Trouble Brewing’ etc., etc.”. What exactly does that ‘etc etc’ mean?

Having read these two novels, I’ve come to the conclusion that it means that Joan Butler has written so many books that everyone has lost count and it doesn’t matter anyway. The stories are set in grand residences, peopled by the upper classes who rely on  butlers called Spratt or Spode. There are curvy females, hidden treasure and a twist at the end. Maybe they are basically all the same.

Could these stories really have been written by a woman? The 1940’s slang, “he handed Derek a right smart poke in the snoot”, the insistence on the ladies’ waists and the wriggle of their bottoms to the virtual exclusion of any other characteristic  and the plot’s speedy race from unlikely incident to improbable accident betrays the author as a man.

His name was Robert William Alexander who, after  writing a surfeit of adventure stories for American Magazines, settled down to produce pulp fiction, under the pseudonym of Joan Butler, for publishers Stanley Paul. And Stanley Paul did him proud. The paper is coarse but has not really yellowed, the covers have retained their sheen, the pages are still firmly glued into place and the dust jackets are absolutely lovely.

So if you you already know that you enjoy this genre or are looking for another glimpse into the world of Agatha Christie or Leslie Charteris these could be the books for you.

All Change (1955) and Paper Money (1954) are written by Joan Butler and are first editions, published by Stanley Paul. They are each priced at £14.99.

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