Throughout history the world of publishing and art have, regrettably, tended to honour and court male voices in favour of women’s, however as both are becoming more gender inclusive, so too is the world of rare books.
Current literary highlights which can be found on the shelves at 32 St George Street include a first edition of Writ on Cold Slate by the Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, written whilst she was in prison; a first edition of Virginia Woolf’s landmark literary manifesto, A Room of One’s Own; and one of the most famous Poirot novels by the Queen of Crime Agatha Christie, The Mystery of the Blue Train.
Of course we couldn’t celebrate the genius of creative women without including some of the female artists on show in our Gallery. Below you will find a few highlights including works by Barbara Hepworth, showcasing a lesser known side of her artistic oeuvre; Yayoi Kusama, with two of her surreal pumpkins and one of the most important and influential artists working today, Cindy Sherman.
Some of these highlights shine a light on women who have sadly fallen at the cultural and historical wayside. We hope to re-ignite interest in these works and bring them back to the attention of readers and collectors alike.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Alexander Pushkin; Natalia Goncharova (illustrator). Conte de Tsar Saltan. 1921.
‘A spark of the spirit lives in us, it is connected with all spirit. It is divine. It is drawn to other, similar sparks. This is the urge to creation.’ (Natalia Goncharova)
Often referred to as ‘the greatest modern artist, you’ve never heard of’, Natalia Goncharova was a trailblazing experimenter in both painting and design. Finding fame after being kicked out of art school, arrested for exhibiting nude studies, and feted as co-founder of the city’s first radical exhibition group, ‘The Jack of Diamonds’, she established herself as a leader of the Russian avant-garde with a major show in Moscow in 1913. With the Tate due to present the largest retrospective of the rebellious artist ever held in the UK, later this year with many of the works having never been seen outside Russia before, Conte de Tsar Saltan is a truly wonderful work to behold.
Mrs Henry Duberly. Campaigning experiences in Rajapootna and Central India, during the suppression of the Mutiny, 1857-1858. 1859.
‘This life is full of charm for me. You have an adventure, a danger, an excitement, every hour’ (Fanny Duberly)
Frances (Fanny) Duberly has unfairly been forgotten today, but in her time she was a sensation. Accompanying her husband, a captain in the British light Cavalry, she was the first ever war correspondent, a title usually given to William Howard Russell. Writing of her experiences in the Crimean war, she alerted the British public to the true realities of conflict, depicting soldiers boots as ‘little better than paper’, and of the wounded being ‘bundled off to hospital’ in their own excrement. She inspired the poet Tennyson no less, with her report on the Charge of the Light Brigade (…Into the valley of Death/ Rode the six hundred..) and she was the only officer’s wife to join soldiers at the front during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, recording the campaign experiences under severely arduous conditions. However, despite her achievements, she was both ridiculed and slandered by most of her (male) contemporaries. Vilified for unseemly and unwomanly behaviour, rumours abounded. In the 1968 film The Charge of the Light Brigade, she’s wrongly depicted of being the mistress to Lord Cardigan and later in George Macdonald Fraser’s Flashman series she’s merely a sexual target for the male lead.
This first edition of Duberly’s experiences is filled with passion, bite, an eye for detail and a literary flare that often far outstrips her male counterparts and show Duberly in her true likeness: a fearless and tireless reporter of events and a voracious voice in the canon of women writers.
‘Sculptures born in the disguise of two dimensions’ (Barbara Hepworth)
A lesser known side of Barbara Hepworth’s sublime artistic oeuvre are her works on paper. Showcasing her incredible draftmanship, these screenprints in colours from 1969-70, are signed in pencil and numbered from the edition of 60.
Virginia Woolf. A Room of One’s Own. 1929.
‘I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman’ (Virginia Woolf).
The true first edition of Virginia Woolf’s landmark feminist literary manifesto, and a key essay in the context of both feminist and modernist theory. A Room of One’s Own stands as an argument for both a literal and figurative space for women writers within a literary world dominated by men.
‘Only this age that loudly boasts Reform, hath set its seal of vengeance ’gainst the mind, decreeing nought in prison shall be writ, save on cold slate, and swiftly washed away.’ (Sylvia Pankhurst)
The staunch campaigner for woman’s rights, Sylvia Pankhurst first found herself the victim of an archaic social system on the 24th of October, 1906. Protesting in court at the treatment of fellow suffragettes at the hands of a magistrate who would neither listen to the Defendants, nor allow witnesses to take the stand, Pankhurst found herself charged with obstruction and sentenced to pay a pound fine or go to prison for fourteen days. At the young age of 24, she chose prison and was taken to the women’s gaol at Holloway. She was released on November 6th and would go on fighting for the rights of woman. Shining a light on a less enlightened time in English history, Writ on Cold Slate is an historically important collection of the legendary suffragette’s poems.
‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ (George Eliot)
The first edition, first printing and first state of Eliot’s most deeply autobiographical novel. A masterpiece of ambiguity in which moral choice is subjected to the hypocrisy of provincial Victorian life. The narrative depicts Maggie Tulliver’s coming of age, in a bourgeois Victorian community, resistant to change and resistant to strong-willed women. The result is tragedy, on many levels, as the deep love Maggie has for her brother is thrown in to question, whilst she can neither adapt to the provincial life she was born in to, nor escape from it .
‘Out of the ash/ I rise with my red hair/ And I eat men like air’ (Lady Lazarus, Sylvia Plath).
Courageously fusing the personal with the universal, Sylvia Plath’s poems created a stir on both sides of the Atlantic when Ariel was first published. With dark energy and forceful imagery, this collection was published two years after Plath’s suicide and with it’s free flowing images and characteristically menacing psychic landscapes, marked a dramatic turn from Plath’s earlier Colossus poems
‘I, Kusama, am the modern Alice in Wonderland’ (Yayoi Kusama)
Yayoi Kusama’s pumpkins have taken on a near legendary, mythic status. The pumpkin is to Yayoi Kusama what the Campbell’s Soup can is to Warhol. These two painted cast resin works were created in 2016 and come with their original boxes.
‘Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.’ (J.K. Rowling)
An excellent first edition of the third Harry Potter book. Increasingly hard to find in such condition, the Prisoner of Azkaban revolves around the escape of the notorious ‘mad’ wizard Sirius Black from Azkaban. Notable for it’s considerable darkening of tone that deepened as the series developed, J. K. Rowling has revealed that the inspiration for the Dementors that we are first introduced to here, came from her bout with severe depression before her phenomenal success.
‘When we first met, we shared a dream. We decided that one day we would like to do a comprehensive study of… the African continent……we’ve been working toward that for the last ten years in order to prepare our double-volume book.’ (Carol Beckwith).
Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher are world-renowned photographers who have dedicated their lives to recording the traditional cultures of Africa. Numbered 1 from the edition of 15, this colour print depicts the Southern Sudan Dinka living in perfect harmony with their cattle, believing their animals to be the essential link to God. During the dry season the Dinka move their herds through the swamplands of the River Nile in search of pasture, surviving on the milk of their cattle.
‘And it seemed to her that kisses, voices, tinkling spoons, laughter, the smell of crushed grass were somehow inside her. She had no room for anything else.’ (Katherine Mansfield)
A classic of modernist literature, The Garden Party can be seen as a masterful handling of a young girl, after coming within touching distance of death at the end of a party, unable to explain life and death concisely, and beginning to realise her own mortality. Striking a semi – autobiographical note, the setting is based on Mansfield’s own childhood home at 133 Tinakori Road in Wellington.
‘You will hear thunder and remember me,
and think: she wanted storms…’ (Анна Axmatoba).
From Six Books was the first work Anna Akhmatova was allowed to publish in eighteen years in Soviet Russia. She was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1946 and her next major collection, The Flight of Time, did not appear until 1965. In this time between publication dates, Akhmatova was treated as an enemy of the people, not being imprisoned herself she had to witness all her loved ones being sent to the Gulag, executed or committing suicide. The miraculous publication of this book was according to legend down to Stalin himself. Seeing that his daughter Svetlana was copying out Akhmatova’s poems into a notebook he asked why they didn’t publish the poet. The book was hence published but its composition was not controlled by the poet herself
‘The still must tease with the promise of a story the viewer of it itches to be told.’ (Cindy Sherman).
A surreal and humorous original Ektacolor photograph from one of the most important and influential artists in contemporary art today. From 1986-87, Untitled is signed, dated and numbered from the edition of 90 in pencil on the verso. On photographic paper, the work comes framed.
‘Tonight, or tomorrow, or in a year or two of to-morrows’ (Margaret Irwin).
Marked with the humorous sympathy and integrity that have distinguished all of Margaret Irwin’s work, Knock Four Times is a story of Twenties London, the London of little flats and haphazard hospitality, the London of the young and poor and friendly. A London holding the dream of another world round the corner.
‘I’m going to enjoy what I’ve got as long as it lasts.’ (Patricia Highsmith).
Often seen as a dark re-working of Henry James’s The Ambassadors, The Talented Mr Ripley is an obsessive psychological thriller like no other. The first of five novels featuring Highsmith’s most enduring, albeit decidedly unendearing anti-hero, the titular Tom Ripley, memorably brought to the big screen by Alain Delon, in Purple Noon, 1960, and Matt Damon in 1999, with a Bafta winning Jude Law in the role of Dickie Greenleaf.
‘Laugh as much as you choose, but you will not laugh me out of my opinion’ (Pride and Prejudice).
The 1923 limited edition of this academically highly regarded, and attractively presented set of The Novels of Jane Austen. Rare to find in the full set of dust jackets,
‘I do not argue with obstinate men. I act in spite of them’ (Agatha Christie).
Partly set against the wonderful French Riviera but also in part based in St Mary Mead, wherein abides Miss Viper, a formidable character very much a precursor to Christie’s other famous sleuth Miss Marple, The Mystery of the Blue Train is one of Agatha Christie’s most famous Hercule Poirot novels and a classic of crime literature by the Queen of crime fiction.
‘I have dreamt in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind’ (Wuthering heights, Emily Bronte).
In twelve volumes, this Thornton Edition of the Novels of the Bronte Sisters is regarded as the definitive edition of these three talented and wildly influential sisters. The set also includes Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘Life of Charlotte Bronte’.
All these works can be viewed at 32 Saint George Street