Alembic Blog

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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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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How to Start Collecting Rare Books

As a rare book seller I regularly meet people who love old books but aren't sure that book collecting is the right hobby for them. Popular culture creates the idea that it's for older, wealthy men who attend glitzy auctions and have beautiful libraries. But in reality, book collecting is a very accessible hobby, and you don’t need to become an overnight expert or spend vast sums to build a meaningful library. To get you started, this article provides guidance for those new to rare books, with links and suggestions for additional resources.

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Victorian Infographics: Reynolds's Pictorial Atlas of Arts, Sciences, Manufactures, & Machinery

One of the most exciting aspects of recent print & design culture is a renewed emphasis on infographics. But we're certainly not the first generation to be caught up in the visual display of information. In Europe and the United States the Victorian Era saw a flowering of infographics as the industrialisation of printing made it easier and cheaper to create books with detailed colour illustrations.

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Seeing Inside: The Golden Age of Anatomical Flapbooks

Today almost everyone has seen inside a real human body. We have access to an incredible array of visual resources: high-resolution photographs, x-rays, MRI scans, videos of surgical procedures, and even the cryogenic slices of the Visible Human Project. But throughout most of history there were only a few options - viewing bodies in real life, which was generally not very pleasant and sometimes illegal; as expensive hand-made models; and as illustrations. Among the most interesting of anatomical texts from this period are flapbooks. Rather than depicting the body statically as in most book illustrations, they are an attempt to create a deeper understanding of organ systems as they relate to each other in three dimensions, with the viewer an active participant who "dissects" the body by opening the flaps.

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A Quaker Education: William Gawthrop's Arithmetic for Young Ladies

Some of my favourite books to have in the shop are the ones that combine my interests in science and women's history, and today I had the pleasure of cataloguing a rare and delightful book on mathematics for "the use of young ladies". The Scholar's Introduction to Arithmetic; Designed for the Use of Young Ladies and the Junior Classes in Boys' Schools was published by William Gawthrop in Liverpool, probably in the 1820s or early 1830s (an owner's signature in this copy is dated 1832). It speaks to us not only about mathematics teaching in early-19th century Britain, but also about the history of women's education and the role that the Quaker religious community played in its advancement.

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Watermarks & Foolscaps: Exploring the History of Paper Production

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen this intriguing watermark in my 1672 first edition of Nehemiah Grew's The Anatomy of Vegetables Begun, the first work of scientific botany. Watermarks are often obscured under text, but in this case I was lucky, as it happened to coincide with the blank portion of a folding plate. Most of the watermarks I'd seen had been smaller, simpler and more condensed, so I was immediately fascinated by this sprawling, seemingly abstract symbol. With a background in book history as well as science, I was also interested in this as evidence of the book's production history, and decided to investigate further.

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