Yvonne’s Book Blog.
I’ve recently moved house. My advice is don’t unless you have to! If you do have to move and you’ve got a lot of books my next advice is to take a photo of your books on their shelves because the chances are they will not fit when you unpack them. I keep my Victorian fern books in a glass bookcase which is kept out of direct sunlight. My modern fern books go on a sturdy IKEA Billy Bookcase and I’m not so fussy about these.
When I came to unpack my old fern books and put them in their special bookcase not only did they not fit (I didn’t take a photo) but it took me all day! The reason is not that I’ve got thousands of them, just that I sat on the floor looking at each one in turn, trying to remember where I had acquired it, what were the circumstances and generally marvelling over the fantastic illustrations flowery language.
My first fern book which cost 50p is the little book by The Birkenheads who had a Fern Nursery in Sale near Manchester where I lived for 15 years (see my article in Pteridologist 2010). No sign of the nursery now but the range of ferns (allegedly 2,000 species and cultivars) was mind boggling. Needless to say I went on to acquire all 3 editions one of which was published with 2 different coloured covers. (Photo) This is the first sign of becoming a Pteridological Bibliophile!
My next important acquisition was from a very nice bookseller at an event at Dunham Massey in Cheshire. I fell in love with a slightly worn set of the 2 vols of Lowe’s British Ferns in their traditional green binding. I looked at them for ages; they cost £40 which I didn’t have on me (this was pre credit card days). The lady bookseller sidled up to me and said ‘you like those don’t you’? I explained that I did but didn’t have the £40 on me or even a cheque book.. ‘That’s OK’ she said. ‘Take them home and send me a cheque’. So I did!
I did my PhD at University of Central Lancashire based in Preston. When bored with my studies and statistics, or not out in the field, I used to wander down to the second-hand bookshop. One day I came across a copy of Britten’s European Ferns. To my mind the book was a most beautiful piece of art with gorgeous binding. I went in several times and drooled over the book. The bookseller asked why I didn’t buy it. I replied I couldn’t justify the expense at £70 but if it was still there when I got my PhD I would buy it for myself. ‘I’ll tell you what’ he said. ‘I’ll put it upstairs until that day’. What an incentive? It now sits in my glass bookshelf.
I had acquired a copy of Hooker’s British Ferns. It had black and white drawings with an annoying library mark on the spine (Lewisham Library Service) purchased from an antique shop in Pickering; cost £25. A copy with coloured plates eluded me as I couldn’t find a copy at a price I wanted to pay. A sad consequence is that one became available from the book collection of the late Graham Ackers. I desperately wanted the book and bid in the auction at the BPS AGM in Manchester and got it, mostly I think because of the generosity of the other potential bidders who knew I really wanted it. The book is a treasured possession.
Finally my last choice is a copy of Howe’s Derbyshire Ferns (1877) with a preface by the Rev Smith. One of the few books I have bought via the internet. It cost £25 but was falling apart so I had it put back together by Scriveners in Buxton; it cost more to get fixed! But it has been worth it and represents the happy hours of ferning spent in the Derbyshire Dales. What I can report (and I would be more than happy if someone proved me wrong) is that holly fern definitely doesn’t occur in Derbyshire, well not naturally anyway. I expect the Rev (who added the plate on this edition) was mixing up young Polystichum aculeatum which grow profusely, and sometimes strangely, in the Derbyshire limestone.
Before I finish I must mention the BPS Special Publication No 9 Fern Books by Nigel Hall and Martin Rickard. This contains some fascinating info on books you might already have but more importantly on books you might want or didn’t know you wanted! If you are a fern book lover and haven’t got it: why not? I suggest you put that right. Details are on this website.
I would be interested to hear about other members favourite fern books.