Category Archives: Famous authors – or not

Mills & Boon at Calke Abbey

Apologies for recycling last post’s image!Title page of a 1920s Mills and Boon

As I mentioned the last time, I had not come across a Mills & Boon to catalogue before, although if it were ever to be found in a historic library, it would have to be in Calke Abbey’s weird and wonderful collection of about 10,000[!] volumes.

Gerald Mills (1877-1928) and Charles Boon (1877-1943) met at Methuen, and set up their own publishing house in 1908. Although Mills & Boon is associated today with romantic fiction of a formulaic nature, the firm initially established itself as publishers of high-quality fiction and non-fiction. Mills had a background in education and focused on signing authors who could write text-books to be used in schools (and so ensure a wide distribution). Until the start of World War I, Mills and Boon were hugely successful in this field.

Joan Sutherland’s romantic fiction set in India may be an indication of the reversal of fortune for the firm in the 1920s. Because of its size, it was unable to compete in the field of literary fiction with larger power houses, such as Methuen and Macmillan, and in fact, Desborough  also seems to have been published by Hodder and Stoughton. From the mid-1920s onwards, the firm focused more and more on romantic, escapist, fiction for women, issuing between two and four new titles every fortnight in the 1930s.

 Sources:

  • Joseph McAleer, ‘Mills,  Gerald Rusgrove  (1877–1928)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press,  2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/73895, accessed 3 Jan 2014]
  • Joseph McAleer, ‘Boon,  Charles  (1877–1943)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press,  2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/73896, accessed 3 Jan 2014]

 

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Filed under Calke Abbey, Famous authors - or not, Female authors, Historic Libraries, Publishers, Twentieth century

Famous authors – or not (2)

Title page of a 1920s Mills and Boon

Romantic fiction at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire

Sometimes I come across an item which makes me look twice. On this occasion, there were two elements of this, otherwise boring, title page which caught my eye: first, the author: Joan Sutherland. Secondly, the publisher: Mills & Boon – the first one I ever catalogued!

Since this book was published in 1920, the author was unlikely to be the famous soprano 🙂 Instead, she was an author signed to Mills & Boon in the 1910s, and she published with them titles such as The edge of Empire (1916) and Wynnegate sahib (1918). Like these, Desborough is set in India during the British occupation.

Sources:

  • Haiti Trust digital library catalog (http://catalog.haititrust.org)
  • Jay Dixon, The romance fiction of Mills & Boon, 1909-1990s. London: UCL Press, 1999.

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February 9, 2014 · 12:00 am

Famous authors – or not (1)

Image of the front cover of Douglas Adam's Skating

And here I was, thinking that the answer was “42”. Evidently not.

This is a book on ice-skating, or rather the art of figure-skating, first published in 1890 (the image is of this edition). Although it has a very dapper looking chap on the front cover, it also contains chapters on skating for ladies (in which is described “the beauty of hand-in-hand skating”, p. [v]) and a chapter on speed skating by a “well-known Fen skater”. Mr Adams himself was a member of the National Skating Association and the Wimbledon Skating Club. The book appeared at a time of some controversy in the figure skating world. International competitions favoured a particular style of skating, which was not the “English style” advocated by Adams in this book (incidentally, he maintained that the best skating outfit for men was the tweed suit). Apparently, Adams competed in a European figure skating competition in 1905 and was placed last…

This  is not a great image, because it was taken with the camera on my phone, but you can still see the discolouration of the spine and the stains on the cover. The bleached spine is probably sun damage, but I like to think that the stains are a sign that Godfrey Mosley, who signed the book in 1891, used it to learn how to skate! The book is now at Calke Abbey, in Derbyshire. Mosley married Hilda, the eldest daughter of Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe, 10th and last baronet, and a large number of Mosley’s books and those of his family are now in the bookstores at Calke.

Sources:

  • Oliver Garnett, Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. New edition. London: National Trust, 2000.
  • Douglas Adams, Skating. London: George Bell & Sons, 1890.

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January 13, 2014 · 12:00 am