Monday, 2 April 2018


Last year I blogged about the weird and wonderful things that you can find in second-hand books.
If you've ever bought an old book and flicked through the pages sometimes there are hidden treasures!

This has happened to me many times, once it was 1970s football stickers, another time it was a 1950s railway ticket from Clapham Junction.

All the treasures would actually be a great subject for a book!

And sure enough just a couple of weeks ago it happened again.
I'd got a pile of books from an auction house and found two exciting things within their pages.

First was from a brilliant little book called The Amateur's Telescope.

Written by Rev. WM. F.A. Ellison, Director of the Armagh Observatory, at first glance you could be forgiven for thinking it would be a slightly eccentric Heath Robinson type book.
But it's a highly detailed account of building your own telescope, and the writer's legacy lives long at the Observatory he served with distinction.

As you can see above, our Rev certainly thought big, just look at the size of that telescope!!

Then tucked away in the opening pages was the original receipt from when this book was first purchased. A fantastic find.

The immaculately written out invoice was from the booksellers Deighton, Bell & Co. Limited, at 13 Trinity Street, Cambridge.
The buyer was R.G. Ridgemont Esq of Queens College.

Curiously the date of the purchase was 25th October 1940, a time when the Blitz had started on Britain. With heightened tensions and suspicions, buying a book about building a telescope could easily have been interpreted the wrong way!

It seemed at first when looking for the booksellers online that they still existed, but sadly their shop has now been taken over by a High Street chain.

©Google Maps

The second treasure was oddly another item from 1940, found in a classic 1930s children's book, the Aeroplane Bumper Book.

From ripping yarns and dashing heroes, all with an aeronautical twist, it's an absolute joy to look through and read. 
With its colourful cover, delightful line drawings dotted around and printed on amazingly thick paper, this book published in 1932, had a little secret.

A folded up menu for a Christmas dinner in 1940 at the Antelope Hotel in Dorchester, Dorset.

What a strange thing to find!

The sumptuous feast was all handwritten out in green inkIncluded was cream of asparagus, roast fillet of beef, roast turkey, Christmas pudding and wine jelly.

A bit like the telescope book, you have to think of the context of the time. This was quite a generous dinner, but I don't think rationing had really kicked in by then, and apart from the wine, nothing would really have been imported. 
I hope everyone involved at least had a good time, to forget what had been a harrowing year of war. 

The picture on the menu is captioned, Lisbon, with the stately liner Alcantara passing Belem, the starting point of Vasco de Gama
He was a Portuguese explorer, who in the late 15th century, was the first European to travel to India. 
The Alcantara was a liner built in 1926. During the war it was converted to an armed merchant cruiser then a troop ship. A different scene from the dreamy painting.
At the bottom it reads Royal Mail de luxe Services to South America, presumably via the Alcantara.

Again, like the shop in Cambridge, the Antelope Hotel is no more. Although the facade survives, it now rather ingloriously serves as an entrance to a shopping centre called the Antelope Walk!

This is the hotel in better times, and barring the odd sandbag and tape on the windows, what it would have looked like in 1940.

So please have a look in any old books you have and see what you find!

I'll carry on this occasional series another day with other gems found in books.

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