Tuesday 31 May 2011

A Beautiful Book

I bought this a little while ago, from the small book section of Antiques on High in Oxford, but it is one of the most beautiful little books I own, and I thought I'd share it.

I doubt it would win any awards in fine printing catalogues, but I am very fond of it. The book in question is a 1929 edition of selections from The Female Spectator by Eliza Haywood (usually spelt Haywood, but spelt Heywood in this edition) edited by Mary Priestley. The Female Spectator was the first woman's periodical written by a woman, written between 1744 and 1771 in imitation of Addison and Steele's more famous Spectator. The selections in this book all, apparently, come from a single edition in 1748 - which is as useful as any, as far as a representation goes.

Elizabeth Haywood was incredibly prolific, and taking a gander at her Wikipedia entry I am trying to remember what I read. The City Jilt, I think, and perhaps The Mercenary Lover. I remember her being amusing and a little bit shocking at times. I have done no more than flick through this selection of The Female Spectator (indeed, I shall have to procure a page-cutter before I go much further, as some of it is still in need of cutting) but I can see I shall derive some amusement from sections entitled 'Tennis, a Manly Exercise', or 'Honour of Itself Not to be Relied On', not to mention 'Caterpillars, their Structure very Amazing'. How seriously Haywood is to be taken will doubtless always be slightly unclear.

And I'm not just boasting about a lovely book I had the good fortune to stumble across - it is actually available fairly affordably from Amazon, and would delight any bookshelf. In fact, it's cheaper than an ordinary new hardback - and how much more special!


  1. Blimey! Fancy finding something in that place that was actually *affordable*, the prices usually leave me feeling somewhat light-headed!

  2. Just a thought - when trying to cut the pages on a multi volume novel (the original owner obviously did not finish "Sir Charles Grandison") my tutor recommended a credit card/ debit card/ loyalty card. It worked for me on some 1902 volumes, and didn't tear the pages like my attempt with a knife, as it isn't sharp. Apologies to any appalled purists, but I was happy!

  3. This is such a beautiful book - I love the cover! A lovely find.

  4. Very nice - love that cover!

  5. Alison - I buy things there maybe once every six months, and it is above average cost, but.. well, it's about the same as the overpriced Blackwell's secondhand department, and much nicer! But I'm mostly terrified that I'll knock over all the ornaments.

    Cristina - isn't it?! :)

    Joules - oo, thanks, good idea! I haven't dared yet (I'm so bad at cutting pages - readers wince at me in the library) but that's probably the approach I'll take.

    ABS - I know! The cover is so adorable.

    Susan - The cover definitely drew me towards it. I'm so pleased that the contents will be good too - but I'd have bought it whatever was inside!


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