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Page-turners jostle for position on the shelves

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 15, 2012

  • The rebound set of The Lord of the Rings (top) and the Shell Guide to Cornwall by John Betjeman (above left) are available at the Exeter Book Fair at St Mathews Hall, Topsham on Sunday. Also for sale are a 1957 first edition of The Guns of Navarone (above left), a 1945/46 first edition of An Indian Album (above middle) and an 11th impression from 1959 of The Hobbit

  • The ABC of Poultry (top) and Ernest Shackleton's South, which features the account of the crushing of the exploration ship Endurance in the Antarctic

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Anybody visiting the Exeter Book Fair in St Mathews Hall, Topsham, on Sunday will see that books are still very much alive, despite the popularity of using a fashionable electronic device to read the latest novel.

The fair, which is organised by the Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association, is held twice a year and features 20 dealers selling antiquarian and collectable books. It offers a perfect chance to find that elusive Christmas present.

The works of popular authors are prominent. Kingsbridge books have a copy of JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit. An 11th impression, the 1959 edition for £28 would be the perfect read before seeing the newly-released film starring Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen. They also have a 1957 first edition of The Guns of Navarone by Alistair Maclean for £12 and a 1968 first edition of Roald Dahl's The Magic Finger for £58. This is one of the famous children's authors lesser-known works and is illustrated by William Pene Du Bois.

Tolkien is also offered by Ellwood Books who have a beautifully rebound set of The Lord of the Rings. Two volumes are first impressions and the other is a second impression. Rebound by Atkinson's of Salisbury, they are bound in Morocco with the gilt Eye of Sharon device to the front board. At £2,200 they would take pride of place on any collectors shelves. For the Eden Phillpotts collector, there is a copy of his A Hundred Lyrics. His second volume of poetry was published in 1930. A good copy, this book is quite scarce now and is available for £15 from Richard Wells.

Travel books are always popular. Kingsbridge books have a copy of Ernest Shackleton's South, published in 1919 at £385. It is the thrilling account of the crushing of the exploration ship Endurance in the Antarctic. The men were marooned for a year before finally being rescued after Shackleton's courageous sailing a small lifeboat 800 miles across the stormy Southern Ocean to South Georgia. The centenary of this expedition's departure from Plymouth Sound occurs in 2014.

Heading towards warmer climes Richard Wells has a 1945/46 first edition of An Indian Album for £20, which contains attractive collection of photographs of India.

Richard Wells also has a nice copy of the Shell Guide to Cornwall by John Betjeman for £15 which will appeal to collectors of these attractive guides and lovers of the writings of Betjeman.

Anyone keen on self sufficiency will be interested in an early copy of The ABC of Poultry by EB Johnstone published in 1920. Full of practical information, which is still relevant today, it has a stunning and graphic cockerel on the front cover and is available from Richard Wells at £12.

Local bookseller Geoff Cox has a number of First World War items offering real interest to collectors of that period. A more common volume features letters from TE Lawrence, a slightly more unusual volume here contains letters to TE Lawrence from a range of famous figures such as John Buchan, Winston Churchill, Noel Coward, Augustus John and HG Wells. These throw a fascinating light on a complex character who became, and still is, an enduring legend. This is offered at £20.

Various Christmas cards from the First World War are, among others, from HMS Implacable, Australian Commonwealth Military Forces and RFC 45 Squadron. These range in price from £3 to £9.

Two intended morale-boosting musical items are the Kitchener Army Song Book prepared for the use of the troops in camp and field, priced at £8 and a well-used Regimental Songs – Canadian Expeditionary Force priced at £7. A further sample from this collection records The German Raid on Scarborough December 16th 1914.

This caused an outrage at the time as it represented a concentrated attack on civilians living in this seaside town directed from battleships of the German Navy patrolling the North Sea. It is available for £12.

Frank Richards was the pen-name of Charles Hamilton, and he used the name as author of the Greyfriars School stories, which featured Billy Bunter, the "fat owl of the fifth remove", as well as a host of other colourful characters such as Harry Wharton and Horace Coker, "the duffer of the fifth".

Published in The Magnet from 1908 through to the war, these stories were just some of Hamilton's prodigious output, estimated to have reached the equivalent of 1,000 full-length novels. Other stories were based at St Jim's (written under the name of Martin Clifford ) and published in The Gem, while Hamilton used other pseudonyms, including Owen Conquest and Peter Todd.

Appledore bookseller Peter Hames will display a collection of Hamilton's works, published by Howard Baker, in fine condition and priced at £10 each. Eagerly anticipated as Christmas presents for boys in days gone past, these volumes still qualify as good presents for a young (at heart) lad.

Geoff Cox also offers a Peter Pan Keepsake for £100. This scarce and attractive publication was produced to commemorate the success of J M Barrie's long-running play, Peter Pan, at the Duke of York's Theatre, London. This is the first edition, 1907, edited by Daniel O'Connor. It still has its bright original card wrappers featuring Peter Pan and Wendy flying over the rooftops on a cold starlit night.


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