Biographical Memoirs of Extraordinary Painters, by William Beckford, new edition with introduction and notes by Robert J. Gemmett
William Beckford (1760-1844) a fabulously wealthy and extravagant dilettante figure, is remembered for his strange oriental Gothic novel, Vathek, and for his architectural follies, Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire and Beckford’s Tower in Bath. Biographical Memoirs, originally published in 1780, was his first book. It reveals his extensive knowledge of art as a critic and connoisseur and his satirical talent as a novelist. Through the vehicle of a satire reminiscent of Voltaire, he criticizes the excesses of schools of painting, particularly the Dutch and Flemish, to minute detail and empty virtuosity, while his extended parody of prominent biographies of artists, fostered by such writers as Vasari and Horace Walpole, becomes an incisive commentary on the history of art and art criticism to the end of the 18th century. Robert Gemmett, Professor Emeritus of English, State University of New York, is the author of numerous books and articles of Beckford’s life and works. February 2018, 120 pages, illustrations, hardback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-52-5.
A Grand Gossip: the Bletchley Park Diary of Basil Cottle, 1943-45
This is a contemporary diary from Bletchley Park, kept by a man for whom conversation was the essential oil of daily life, both inside and outside the office. Basil Cottle arrived at Bletchley Park in September 1943, after medical discharge from the Army, and stayed on after VE day to work on Albanian, before a long career at the University of Bristol. He records amusing scraps of conversation, arguments won and lost, lunch-time diversions, and a host of detail about getting by in wartime conditions. Cottle, a gifted illustrator, took great delight in drawing fantasy birds for BP colleagues. The book reproduces many of these, and their accompanying comic verses. Produced in association with Bletchley Park. August 2017, 169 pages, illustrated paperback, £11.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-44-0. (Also available casebound in printed boards, ISBN 978-1-906978-45-7, price on application)
The Unfortunate Captain Peirce and the Wreck of the Halsewell, East Indiaman, 1786: a Life and Death in the Maritime Service of the
East India Company, by Philip Browne.
It was a time of foreign wars, financial crisis, corruption, cronyism and a class system that stifled social mobility. Yet, before that disastrous night in 1786, Captain Richard Peirce enjoyed only good fortune in the maritime service of the East India Company. In a long and successful career, he sailed to the East Indies seven times, encountering military heroes, corrupt ‘nabobs’, artists, map-makers and scoundrels. Then, on a tempestuous January night, his ship, the Halsewell, struck rocks on the Dorset coast. In one of the most dramatic shipwrecks of the eighteenth century, the ‘unfortunate Captain Peirce’ lost his ship, his daughters, his fortune and his own life. This book traces his career to a tragic conclusion that shocked and upset the nation. Two centuries later, his story still has the power to move us. November 2015, 365 pages, illustrated paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-32-7. (Also available as a Kindle download: ISBN 978-1-906978-18-1)
Inheriting the Earth: the Long Family’s 500 year Reign in Wiltshire, by Cheryl Nicol.
One of the most powerful dynasties in England, the Long family of Wiltshire derived enormous power and prestige from land ownership, and maintained their position as the county’s administrative and political backbone for five centuries. This authoritative study explores the forces that shaped and ultimately vanquished a once powerful dynasty. 2016, 444pp illustrated paperback, £16.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-37-2.
The Arundells of Wardour: . . . from Cornwall to Colditz, by Barry Williamson.
Few West-Country families can have had so turbulent a history as the Arundells, whose seat was Wardour Castle in south Wiltshire. Tudor opulence and military catastrophe in the Civil War were followed by the building of the largest Georgian mansion in Wiltshire and a spectacular bankruptcy. The last Lord Arundell died in 1944 on his return from German prison camps. Throughout the centuries the Arundells were steadfast in their loyalty to the Catholic faith. Barry Williamson, a history teacher, spent his childhood in a village on the edge of the Wardour estate, and so began a lifelong interest in the Arundells. With profound historical insight and an eloquent narrative style he has produced this fascinating and definitive account of a remarkable family through five centuries. May 2011, 229 x 152mm, viii, 242 pages, illustrated paperback, £12.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-12-9.
Swimming without Mangoes, by David R.
Second volume of memoirs by Montserrat-born author who grew up in Swindon during the 1960s and 1970s, and went on to become a successful lawyer and law lecturer. This volume describes his arrival at the age of 8 in the Wiltshire railways town, how he survived ('swam for his life') in unfamiliar surroundings, and how he flourished in his studies, sports and friendships at St Joseph's School. April 2013, 292 pages, illustrations, paperback, £12.95. ISBN 978-1-906978-29-7.
The Life and Letters of William Lisle Bowles, Poet and Parson, 1762-1850, by Robert Moody.
This is the first full-length biography of William Lisle Bowles, considered by many to be the father of the Romantic poets who flourished at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries. His Fourteen Sonnets, Elegiac and Descriptive, written during a Tour was published in1789 and the subsequent editions were read with delight by Coleridge, Wordsworth, Lamb and Southey who acknowledged Bowles’s influence on their own poetry. As the incumbent of Bremhill in Wiltshire, his friendship with the Marquis of Lansdowne at nearby Bowood brought him into contact with many of the celebrities of the day, including the Irish poet Thomas Moore, whose affectionate and frank references to Bowles in his letters and journals enable the reader to obtain a rare insight into his friend’s character. Bowles’s edition of the works of Alexander Pope resulted in a war of words with Byron and others in the literary world, and his many other publications reveal the depth of his knowledge and talents. Further, the account of his day-to-day activities as a country clergyman and magistrate, and later as a canon residentiary of Salisbury Cathedral, tells much of the character of this kindly, and often eccentric, Wiltshire parson. August 2009, 235 x 155mm, x, 407 pages, illustrated paperback, £17.50, ISBN 978-1-906978-02-0.
Collecting the American West: the Rise and Fall of William Blackmore, by Anthony Hamber.
William Blackmore (1827-1878) remain a little known millionaire mid-Victorian polymath. He was a successful lawyer based in Liverpool and an international financier involved in numerous American enterprises. He established an important ethnographic museum in his home town of Salisbury; commissioned an influential set of watercolours of the Yellowstone region by the noted American painter Thomas Moran (1837-1926); and his photographic collection documenting North American ‘Indians’ was copied to form the basis of the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Yet Blackmore’s legacy was to be comparatively limited. He went bankrupt and committed suicide in 1878, and his papers and other materials lay apparently unused for almost half a century. This is the first biography to cover the wide gamut of Blackmore’s professional and private interests and the significance and impact of his wide ranging achievements. December 2010, 229 x 152mm, 310 pages (approx.), illustrated paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-10-5.
Mr Benett of Wiltshire: the life of a county Member of Parliament, 1773-1852, by Robert Moody.
The first full-length biography of John Benett, a statesman who steered a fiercely independent course through all the great issues of his day, before and after reform. More than a match for his political opponents Cobbett and Hunt, he entered Parliament after two violently fought campaigns, and was injured during the machine-breaking riots in 1830. At home in Wiltshire he pioneered agricultural reform, busying himself on his own estate, Pythouse near Tisbury, and with local organizations of every kind. This painstaking and sympathetic biography offers a long-needed reassessment of an extraordinary man – architect, writer, practical farmer and politician. 2005, 356 pages, illustrations, paperback, £14.95, ISBN 0-946418-40-3.
Traumas and Tanks: a Child's War, written and illustrated by Tony Garnett.
As the bombs start to fall over southern England the Mason family try on their gas-masks and take to the air-raid shelter. Wartime life in Salisbury becomes one of shortages, 'make do and mend', and tedious restrictions. When their father leaves for service overseas Tim embarks on a series of adventures, mishaps and near escapes with his brother and friends. The dangers and tragedies of war, followed by the celebration of peace, are vividly portrayed through the eyes of an impressionable young teenager in this beautifully illustrated account of momentous times, based on the author's own experience. November 2009. 244 x 170mm, 132pp, ills, paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-09-9.
Echoes of Ingen Housz: the long lost story of the genius who rescued the Habsburgs from smallpox and became the father of photosynthesis, by Norman and Elaine Beale.
Jan Ingen Housz (1730–1799) was a remarkable physician and scientist who lived in a circle of very famous names and through tempestuous times. His reputation has slid into obscurity and deserves new prominence, especially his discovery of the primacy of light in photosynthesis. ‘Echoes is an outstanding work of biography; science with the nasty bits left in . . . every sentence nursed to perfection . . . I couldn’t put it down.’ (From the book’s foreword by David Bellamy.) ‘This is a remarkable book . . . one in which you should immerse your-self and enter a period of history during which our understanding of life on earth took a huge leap forward . . . I thought that this type of comprehensive scholarship had died.’ (Timothy Walker, presenter of the BBC series, ‘Botany: A Blooming History’, and Director of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden.) August 2011, 632 pages, illustrations, £25.00. ISBN 978-1-906978-14-3.
An Exceptional Woman: the writings of Heather Tanner, selected and introduced by Rosemary Devonald.
Heather Tanner (1903 – 1993) is best known as the author of four exquisite books about Wiltshire and its countryside, products of the lifelong collaboration with her husband, the etcher and artist Robin Tanner. Throughout her life she wrote poems, letters, essays and dialogues, which reveal the depth of her understanding of rural life, her benign humour and her mastery of language. This selection, made and introduced by her friend Rosemary Devonald, draws on largely unpublished material which she collected after Heather’s death. To her many friends, and those to whom her published work is known and appreciated, this collection will be an irresistible memento. To those unfamiliar with the name of Heather Tanner her writing will come as a delightful discovery – the work and life of an exceptional woman. September 2006, 154-page hardback, with about 25 illustrations (mostly by Robin Tanner), price £14.50, ISBN 0-946418-47-0
Foot Loose in South Wiltshire, by Jane Holmes,
is a diary kept by a young woman growing to maturity through the Second World War and after – a young woman fascinated by nature and the countryside, and embarking with enthusiasm on a farming career. Her explorations, initially from her home at Bemerton, take Jane Holmes all over the Salisbury area, south Wiltshire and beyond. In his Foreword, Patrick Holden describes Foot Loose as: ‘a poignant and heartfelt reminder of what once was, a countryside teeming with beautiful birds and animals in a natural and healthy habitat. Where many country-folk, particularly those whose work brought them into contact with the soil, had an innocence and gentleness of spirit about them that has been lost to our detriment in the intervening years. It is an important and valuable document to remind us of what we have lost through our mistreatment of the Earth and our failure to understand the interconnectedness of all life forms.’ 240 x 170mm, 132pp, ills, paperback, 978-0-946418-71-8, £7.95, December 2007.
Joseph Priestley in Calne, by Norman Beale.
Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen, one of the most significant advances in the history of Chemistry. The breakthrough came during the seven most productive years of his life, while he was living in Wiltshire, at Calne and Bowood. Priestley’s personality and family life have remained something of a mystery. Now, Dr. Norman Beale, retired Calne GP, tells the full story of Priestley in Calne,how it was that he came to Wiltshire, what he then did (not just the science): the effects on his family life; why he had to leave under a cloud and the surprising extent of the legacy he left. At last it is possible to fully appreciate an important eighteenth-century figure in science, religion and politics who turns out to be as fickle and fallible as the rest of us. November 2008, 96 pages, illustrated, paperback, £7.95, ISBN 978-0-946418-81-7.
Beyond a Cottage Window, by Mary Roberts.
The author has lived in Rockley, a small hamlet on the Marlborough Downs, for over 40 years and amassed a huge store of rural wisdom and observation about wildlife, cottage gardening and the Wiltshire countryside. This beautifully produced 96-page paperback, illustrated by Michael Charlton, is her perceptive celebration, through the year, of ‘all things wise and wonderful’. 2003, £5.95, ISBN 0-946418-18-7.
From Ceylon to Corsham, by Commander Pat Hoare, RN. The son of a tea planter, Pat Hoare was born in 1917 and determined on a naval career from the very early age of eight. After Dartmouth College and a training ship he became a Midshipman in the Royal Navy in 1935 and a Lieutenant after war broke out in 1939. A skilled navigator, his naval career took him all over the world, to the South Atlantic, Norway, the Sicily and Normandy invasions and Korea, as well as shorebound postings at H.M.S. Dryad near Portsmouth and H.M.S. Royal Arthur in Corsham. He rose to the rank of Commander in 1950, had command of his own ship in the Falkland Islands and retired from the Navy in 1960. Commander Hoare’s witty and entertaining memoir, of naval and social adventures on board ship and in port, continues through his subsequent civilian career, when living near Corsham, and ends with the death in 1974 of his beloved wife, Peggy, whom he had married in 1941. December 2008, 206pp, illustrations, paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-0-946418-82-4.
Bath Buns and Chocolate Olivers: A Bath childhood, by Rosamund Willoughby.
Born in Bath in 1912, the author spent her childhood and adolescence there, in the comfortable homes of her grandparents. Her absorbing memories of wartime and the 1920s depict a city and society vastly different from today, yet played out within street scenes and buildings which are still instantly familiar. 2004, 80 pages, £7.95, ISBN 0-946418-26-8.
The Basingstoke Admiral: a life of James Lancaster, by Michael Franks.
Historical biography of Sir James Lancaster, a ‘forgotten’ Elizabethan international merchant and naval commander who was celebrated in his own day but has been neglected by historians. Best remembered as the commander of the first fleet of the East India Company (1601-3) Lancaster had a varied career, touching many aspects of Elizabethan life, in rural north Hampshire, in London and overseas. Using new material based on archive research and re-working of the published sources, Franks argues the case for recognising Lancaster as one of the earliest ‘global traders’. Foreword by Andrew Lambert, Laughton Professor of Naval History at King’s College, London. November 2006, 230-page paperback, 55 illustrations, price £14.95, ISBN 0-946418-59-5
Coming of Age in Anna Valley, by Mary Pierce.
As a small child (7 in 1938) in a small Hampshire village (near Andover) Mary Pierce grew up in a big world through a big war. Sensitive-ly told and delicately illustrated, this is her account of coming of age in wartime and coming to terms with a grown-up world. 2004, 157-page paperback, £6.95, ISBN 0-946418-23-3.
Walking on Wheels, by Jill Brown.
Daughter of a bishop, the author’s promising career as a physiotherapist was cut short by a rare form of muscular dystrophy; but, accompanied by her assistance dog, she has become a familiar figure around Salisbury supporting numerous cultural and welfare organisations. This is her story. December 2011, 192 pages, illustrated paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-25-9.
Figures in a Wiltshire Scene, by Ken Watts,
reveals the author’s encyclopaedic knowledge of Wiltshire’s associations with literary figures and other famous men and women, as well as his profound love of his native county. A massive work, the culmination of many years’ meticulous research, it covers every part of Wiltshire, and every period of history, from the Roman emperor Vespasian, to the 20th-century etcher Robin Tanner and his wife Heather. Ken’s perceptive and appreciative portraits of his subjects in their local setting will make you explore Wiltshire in a completely new light. A handsome 288-page hardback, copiously illustrated and fully indexed, 2002, price £20.00, ISBN 0-946418-11-X; or in paperback, 2005, £9.95, ISBN 0-946418-34-9.
In the Shadow of Salisbury Spire: Recollections of Salisbury Cathedral Choristers and their School (1826-1950), edited by Peter L Smith.
This book of memories spans 125 years in the lives of choristers and others closely involved in the music of Salisbury Cathedral. Recalled are not only daily life in the cathedral and school, but also events that made life rather more exciting. Stories abound of the bishop tobogganing on Harnham Hill; hair-raising Guy Fawkes’ Night fireworks mayhem in Salisbury market place; ferrying a piano precariously up the river on a wooden punt; and ghostly apparitions in the boarding house. These, together with the more serene moments of life spent in close contact with that glorious cathedral; or astute and sometimes acerbic observations on the eccentricities of teachers and clergy alike; or meeting great musicians or composers in the daily round of prayer and music; all have been collected and presented by the school’s honorary archivist. June 2011, 356 pages, illustrations, £14.95. ISBN 978-1-906978-17-4.