Personal Luxuries | Van der Postings

Rare books that give a fascinating insight into vanished times

A delightful repository of rare and antique books

Rare books that give a fascinating insight into vanished times

November 19 2010
Lucia van der Post

With Christmas in mind, let me draw your attention to Classic Bindings. For anybody of a bookish turn of mind, its catalogue is a delight, almost as gorgeous as some of the books it sells. Its speciality is rare and antique books, and some of them are spellbindingly beautiful.

Though it does sell some modern coffee-table books, most of the ones that caught my eye are those that give a fascinating insight into vanished times. Take Paul Kane’s Indians of North America (pictured), an account of his travels “from Canada to Vancouver’s Island and Oregon through the Hudson’s Bay Company’s territory and back”. Published in 1859, it features both his travel diary and his paintings (he was, it seems, one of the first Canadian artists ever to earn a living from painting), and is a brilliant evocation of pioneering times. It’s a first edition, bound in contemporary half sage calf over marbled boards with brown title label, raised bands and wide gilt rule (those slightly raised bands found on the spine of proper leatherbound books) and it seems to me fantastic value at £3,600.

Then there’s a two-volume first edition, second issue, of Sir Richard Francis Burton’s The Lake Regions of Central Africa (£5,000), which is “a handsome contemporary copy” of one of Burton’s very best books. But there are books for sportsmen (a first English edition of Theodore Roosevelt’s Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter; £260), and for literary types (a first edition of Dickens’ The Personal History of David Copperfield with illustrations by HK Browne; £1,400). The catalogue is online, but visit the shop if you can.