Tuesday 23 February 2021

Signed Books: FIVE YEARS... by Chris Riddell


My newest acquisition... 

A slightly mail-delayed Valentines' Day gift from Himself: Five Years... A Sketchbook of Political Drawings, Volume One: 2020

Some 380 daily political sketches by the genius that is Chris Riddell: Brexit, Covid, Trump, Barnard Castle, the whole kit-and-capoodle of 2020's political inanities and insanities! 

Swift, urgent drawings that are, by turn, funny, serious, angry, wise and compassionate. This is Riddell with his pencils and pen-nibs at their very sharpest... 


And signed – and numbered – too!!

Friday 19 February 2021



In 1982, on my very first visit to the Walt Disney Studio in Burbank, California, I was wandering round the Archives in a state of bleary-eyed wonderment, when I suddenly heard an outburst of spluttering and squawking and turned to find myself face to face – or, perhaps I should say, nose to beak – with Clarence Nash (1904-1985): the man responsible for the impenetrable vocal tirades of Donald Duck!

'Ducky' Nash, as he was always referred to, was a delightfully wacky character and – after fifty years in the role – thought nothing of holding a conversation with you in 'duckese'! 



Wanting a memento of such an unexpected encounter, I asked him to sign a Donald comic book that happened to be in my bag, but the 'busy' cover design didn't leave much space for anything other than a rather cramped inscription. Subsequently, through the good offices of the then Archivist, the late David R Smith, I succeeded in getting this 1938 vintage Donald book inscribed ––– by both man and bird!

Monday 15 February 2021

Signed Books: THE 13 CLOCKS & THE WONDSERFUL O - by James Thurber


I just love this book! 


Although I do have a couple of books signed by James Thurber (which may turn up here, one day!), this copy of his enchanting fables, The 13 Clocks & The Wonderful O, is signed by its no less distinguished illustrator –– Ronald Searle.


In order to understand Searle's inscription, you will first need to read the letter I wrote to the artist and which accompanied the book when I entrusted it to my two friends, Matt Jones and Uli Myer, who, in 2010, were going to visit Searle in France...



Here, then – in his unmistakable, spidery hand – is Ronald Searle's delightful inscription...


Sunday 14 February 2021


A small selection of vintage – and decidedly weird – Valentine greetings for those who prefer their Lover's Day free of mush, beginning with possibly the most tasteless Valentine card of all time!!




Monday 8 February 2021



I know a great many Carrollians with very fine collections – the finest there are! – so I hesitate to show this copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland from my bookshelves...


It is not, I fear, at all prepossessing: being rather battered and dog-eared with a repaired spine; nor is it a particularly early edition (a copy from Twenty-First Thousand printing, dated 1870, five years after the book’s first publication) but it does have one redeeming feature in that it is inscribed and signed by –– the Author...


Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (otherwise known as ‘Lewis Carroll’) collected child-friends the way other Victorians collected butterflies and, since any collection (whether of butterflies or children) deserves to be accurately labelled with name-and-date-of-capture, I can share with you at least some information about the identity of the young dedicatee of this copy.


I am helped by consulting Mr Dodgson’s Diaries (as edited by Edward Wakeling and published by The Lewis Carroll Society) which contains the following detail from his entry for 10 October 1870:

Oct: 10. (M).  At Guildford … At Margate I made many very pleasant acquaintances, chiefly on account of being attracted by their children: very few turned out to be above the commercial class, the one drawback of Margate society. Among the younger of my friends were Clara and Alice Maud Bristed (children of the chemist), Alice, Florence, and Constance Arnot (from Thurloe Square), Ada, Sophie and Daisy Butler, (address unknown), and Catherina, Frederika and Florence, children of a Mr. Bremer of Tulse Hill (near Herne Hill)…

The editor notes: ‘The Arnot family are not identified, nor are the Butler family, but an inscribed copy of Alice presented to Ada Chambers Butler survives (Sibley Collection).’

‘Sibley Collection’! As Humpty Dumpty remarked: “There’s glory for you!”

Mind you, I can't help wondering what little Ada thought when she read in Chapter II of Alice's Adventures, the passage where Alice, trapped in the long hall of many locked doors, speculates on whether she might have been changed into another child of her acquaintance...

"I'm sure I'm not Ada for her hair goes in such long ringlets, and mine doesn't go in ringlets at all; and I'm sure I'm not Mabel, for I know all sorts of things, and she, oh! she knows such a very little! besides, she's she and I'm I, and––oh dear, how puzzling it all is!" 

[With thanks for assistance from Mark Richards]

Thursday 4 February 2021

Signed Books: CIDER WITH ROSIE by Laurie Lee


I got to know Laurie Lee in 1992 when I was researching my biography of the Reverend W Awdry and was staying at the home of mutual friends in Slad, Gloucestershire, which was within an easy daily commute from Mr Awdry's home in Stroud.


Of course I knew Cider with Rose and Laurie's other writings, but what I didn't know was that he he knew of me!  

By the time of our first meeting – gin and tonics in the garden of a house in the Slad valley, just up the road from Laurie's childhood home (and which had been the used as the idyllic film location for the BBC TV's 1971 film version of his classic coming-of-age story) – Laurie was practically blind but, as an avid radio listener, knew me by voice from my frequent broadcasts and, in particular, as presenter of BBC Radio 4's then arts programme, Kaleidoscope.

His radio listening explains the inscription in my first edition of Cider (originally published in 1959 with drawings by John Ward) as "friend of the  air"...

A few years later, I interviewed Laurie about A Moment of War – his recently published memoir of his days as a combatant in the Spanish Civil War...

It was now 1991 and he was completely blind, hence his moving inscription: "A sign from the dark"...

The following year, I approached Laurie with an invitation to be the subject of a radio conversation of the kind I had recently broadcast with other writers – among them, Terry Pratchett, Roald Dahl, P L Travers, Ray Bradbury and Kathleen Hale – his letter declining to participate is, I think, one of the most gracious refusals imaginable: "...If I did this at all I'd love to do it with you..."

But, of course, I can't help wishing he'd said, "Yes"!