Alembic Blog

Learning to Cook in the Mid-20th Century: A Teaching Collection of Basic Ingredients

I was thinking about Christmas baking today, and was reminded of these fun, mid-century cake decorations we have in stock. They're part of a remarkable collection of 160 samples of cooking ingredients, all housed neatly in glass vials and stored in a carrying case. 

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An Early Female Aviator's 1935 Christmas Card

It's Christmas card time, but we're guessing that very few of you have made cards as cool as this one sent by the Bowmans, a family of early aviators, in 1935.

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A Lovely 1930s Herbarium of British Plants

Our loveliest recent acquisition is this herbarium created during the 1930s by Elsie T. Skinner, who was attending St. Katharine's College in Tottenham. We specialise in herbaria of various types, especially those made by women, and this one is particularly nice. It contains 151 carefully mounted specimens, representing a remarkable 121 different species from around the UK.

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Prints from Life: Ernst Wilhelm Martius and the History of Nature Printing

Does this print illustrating the belladonna plant look unusual to you? It's from a wonderful 18th-century book that we recently acquiredNeueste Anweisung, Pflanzen nach dem Leben abzudrucken by Wilhelm Martius. Compared to most botanical illustrations of the period (and even modern ones) this example is exceptionally detailed—you can see tiny veins in the leaves, the texture of the stem, and areas where the edges of the leaves have folded over on themselves, as if a living plant was preserved between the book's pages. And that tells us we're looking at, not a typical engraving first produced in wood or metal by an artisan, but a work of nature printing—an impression taken directly from a plant or animal.

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Otto Robert Frisch's Hippopotamouse

This charming, Edward Lear-esque drawing isn't by an illustrator or humour writer, but a nuclear physicist! 

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Keeping Time in Your Pocket - A Rare French Perpetual Calendar & Notebook

This is a remarkable survivor — a French pocket notebook with a perpetual calendar in the cover, published in the late 1830s. Movable parts in books of this age are rare, and the few that survive, such as volvelles, tend to be inside the book. This is the first example I've had where the moving parts are in the cover and are designed for daily use. Given the fragility and ephemeral nature of items like this, it's unlikely that many lasted longer than a few years. 

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Wandering in Kew Gardens: Illustrations from a Victorian Guidebook

Do you recognise any of these scenes at Kew Gardens in 1857? The illustrations are from a charming book, Wanderings Through the Conservatories at Kew, published less than two decades after Kew's incorporation as a national botanical garden.

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The Family Tree or, the Hoax-o-Graph

This is one of the strangest items we've ever had in stock, The Family Tree or, The Hoax-o-Graph, probably published in 1913 by Dow and Lester, the firm that was also responsible for Cecil Henland's famous novelty album The Ghosts of My Friends.

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A Bus to the Moon: The New Luna Conveyance Company

Elon Musk eat your heart out. In celebration of tonight's full moon we have an unusual 19-century cartoon depicting "the New Luna Conveyance Company", an omnibus service ferrying passengers “to the Moon” and advertising routes “to the Seven Stars” and “the Milky Way”.

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May 15, 2019

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Upcoming Events: Firsts - London's Rare Book Fair & The York Antiquarian Book Seminar

Learn about two upcoming events featuring Alembic Rare Books:

  • Firsts - London's Rare Books Fair, where we'll be exhibiting on stand P11 and hosting a guided tour on the history of nature books.
  • The York Antiquarian Book Seminar, where Alembic founder Laura Massey is giving a talk as this year's featured specialist dealer.
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