Notebook from the British Summary Court 1919

This is interesting.  It’s an old British Summary Court notebook dating back to 1919, which I found amongst some old books and papers, as posted earlier.

Summary Court 2 003

Notebook with accompanying letter

Summary Court 1 002

Example page

It contains a letter from Cyril Percy Bassingthwaighte, which is addressed to a Colonel Day of 119 Earlham Road, Norwich.  Bassingthwaighte was a Captain and Adjutant in the Norfolk Regiment between 1914 and 1922 and was evidently (see letter) based in Brühl in Germany after the First World War.

According to this Wikipedia article, The British Summary Court was a court created by the Treaty of Versailles that sat as part of the Inter-Allied Rhineland High Commission to oversee the occupation of the Rhineland.


Margaret Pawley at home in Oxford and disguised as an ambulance driver in 1944

It lasted ten years, from 1919 to 1929 and was described in detail by former spy Margaret Pawley in her book “The Watch on the Rhine: The Military Occupation of the Rhineland”.  The article goes on to say that “the court heard 4,295 cases between 1919 and 1925, with possible sentences for minor offences including fines and prison sentences of between seven and fourteen days, normally served in a standard German prison”.

The Summary Court notebook makes for some fascinating reading as it lists the details of many minor misdemeanors committed by locals in the area of Brühl in 1919, not long after the First World War.

For example (see second image above), one Peter Zensen was sentenced to a fine of 50 Marks or 10 days in prison for “not raising his hat when the British National Anthem was played”. That seems rather harsh to me.  He must have agreed – he didn’t attend the court session and had to be summonsed.


I’ve just been reading an interesting Wikipedia article on book-related behaviours. Bibliomania, for example, is described  as “a symptom of obsessive–compulsive disorder which involves the collecting or even hoarding of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged”. In contrast, bibliophilia is the more socially acceptable love of books and is not considered a clinical psychological disorder, unlike bibliophagy (book-eating), bibliokleptomania (compulsive book-stealing) and bibliotaphy (book-burying).

Delving deeper into the article I must admit I began to feel uneasy.  Apparently, “the purchase of multiple copies of the same book and edition and the accumulation of books beyond possible capacity of use or enjoyment are frequent symptoms of bibliomania“.

I have to confess that I have often picked up multiple copies of attractive first editions at flea markets, charity shops, etc which I thought I would be able to sell on when I finally have time to become a real book dealer.

An extreme example would be Roald Dahl’s “Guide to Railway Safety”, which I always thought would become collectable one day – I have no less than 18 copies!

This booklet, nicely illustrated by Quentin Blake, has been described as a humorous

Clear evidence of bibliomania?

Clear evidence of bibliomania?

public information guide to railway safety for children.  A search on revealed many examples available for sale, ranging in price from around £9 to over £38 (unsigned).

Other examples from my collection include first editions of Alan Aldridge’s “The Peacock Party” (only 5 copies), Jonathan Miller’s “The Human Body” pop-up book (5) and Kit William’s Masquerade (3).

I could go on…

Bibliomania is apparently characterized by “the collecting of books which have no use to the collector nor any great intrinsic value to a genuine book collector”.  I”ll take that as my get-out clause and conclude that my book-collecting behaviour has been perfectly normal and absolutely nothing to worry about.

At least I haven’t started eating, stealing or burying books (well not yet, anyway).

The Diaries of Admiral Arthur Hildebrand Alington – Part 2

If you read my earlier post, you will know that I have an interest in the diaries of Admiral Arthur Hildebrand Alington.  Coming from a distinguished family line, Admiral Alington also had a number of notable descendants and relatives.

One of these was his grandson, the aviator Geoffrey Alington.  In his book “A Sound in the Sky: Reminiscences of Geoffrey Alington”, Alington wrote this about his late grandfather:


Referring to ‘the Old Admiral’ again, he was, of course, buried in the lovely little Swinhope church yard where so many of the family rest.  Unfortunately it had been raining for days before the funeral and when the coffin was lowered into the grave, to most people’s consternation, the coffin floated happily and would not disappear.  One old wag was heard to whisper “The Old Admiral won’t mind; e’s floated at sea all ‘is life.

GeoffreyAlingtonThe book, published by R K Hudson in 1994, is an autobiographical account of Alington’s remarkable flying career, during which his flying logs showed 5,910 hours 55 minutes of flying time, involving no fewer than 176 different types of aircraft and without a single accident (however, read this).

Notably in the early 1940′s, as Chief Test Pilot at the Austin Motors Aircraft Factory at Longbridge, he test-flew Battles, Hurricanes, Stirlings and Lancasters.

In addition to family anecdotes, the book contains many technical facts relating to aviation history and is illustrated with many of the author’s own private photographs.

Unfortunately, the manuscript from which it was taken ends abruptly and prematurely in 1943, 44 years before his death in 1987.

I first encountered the book in Reading Library in the UK.  I subsequently bought a copy of my own, but it is not particularly rare and many copies are currently advertised for sale on the Internet.

I would certainly recommend it to anyone with an interest in aviation history.

Oscar Wilde’s Part-Time Job

Despite famously describing fashion as “a form of ugliness so intolerable we have to change it every six months”, Oscar Wilde accepted the position of editor of The Woman’s World in 1887 and stayed in this role until 1889. Strictly speaking, it was a part-time job – two mornings a week for the princely sum of £6. It’s not clear whether he made the quote before, during or after his employment.

Oscar Wilde


The Woman’s World 1889

I came across this little known fact when leafing through a copy of The Woman’s World 1889, a heavy tome which I subsequently purchased at a bookshop in Windsor, UK.

To my surprise, in bold upper case letters on the title page, were the words:



A brief Google search revealed a number of references to what I can only describe as Wilde’s other guilty secret.  It turns out that it is a well known fact in literary circles that Wilde was actually in gainful employment for a period of two years, during which time he managed to produce a number of important works, including The Picture of Dorian Gray.  Less well known perhaps is an article from this journal entitled “Note on Some Modern Poets” by the Editor (pp108-112).

There is also another article curiously entitled “Muffs” by one Mrs Oscar Wilde, illustrated (pp 174-178), which might explain a few things…

The volume is large (ca 24cm x 31cm x 4cm) and heavy (ca 2.6kg).  I haven’t been able to find any other copies on the Internet, although there are plenty of modern facsimiles for sale.

This is the genuine article; the photos above give some idea of its condition.  If any completist Wilde collectors are interested in taking it off my hands, please get in touch.

Which is the true first edition of Patrick Süskind’s “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer”?

I recently picked up an early edition of Patrick Süskind’s “Das Parfum” in a local flea market.

The book’s dustcover features part of Antoine Watteau’s “Nymph et Satyre ou Jupiter et Antiope” and overall condition is excellent (probably unread). 

Das Parfum
Having enjoyed the English version some years ago, I thought it might be interesting to tackle the German one.  On inspection of the publication details at the front of the book, I noted the following:

Alle Rechte vorbehalten

Copyright © 1985 by

Diogenes Verlag AG Zürich


ISBN 3 257 01678 6

It struck me that being German, Süskind must have originally written the book in his mother tongue and a quick Google search confirmed this.

According to Daniel Kampa, An author “contacted Keel to ask if he would read the manuscript of his novel. The author was Patrick Süskind and the novel was Perfume. Keel planned a first edition of 50,000 copies; Süskind suggested 5,000. Neither man could have been more off track. Since 1985, the novel has sold 12,5 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 38 languages. It was the turning point for Diogenes, the publishing house founded by Keel in 1952“. 

So the true first edition of “Das Parfum” was in fact a German language version published by Diogenes in 1985 and English language versions entitled “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” appeared shortly afterwards in the UK and the US.  Since then, the book has been translated into at least 46 languages (goodreads currently lists 218 different versions).

Incidentally, I’ve no idea whether my copy is a true first or not, even though the ISBN 3 257 01678 6 matches editions claimed in bookfinder to be firsts.  Perhaps the code 500/86/8/9 is a clue?

The Diaries of Admiral Arthur Hildebrand Alington – Part 1

Over twenty years ago, my late father, who was at that time a second-hand book-dealer, managed to salvage some old books which were about to be thrown away by the owner of a house in Falmouth, Cornwall, UK.

Rescued DiariesThe collection of books consisted of an incomplete series of diaries written by Admiral Arthur Hildebrand Alington (10 October, 1839 – 7 December, 1925) of Swinhope, Lincolnshire, UK and some domestic accounts and ledgers from his place of residence Swinhope House.  There is also a “Journal of HMS’s Himalaya and Peterel” and what appears to be a ship’s log (1877?):


According to research carried out by the Dreadnought Project, Admiral Alington, J.P., Royal Navy, was promoted to the rank of Commander in 1870, Captain in 1879 and Rear-Admiral in 1894.  In 1895, he became Second-in-Command of the Channel Squadron and was placed on the Retired List at his own request on 13 January, 1899.  He was advanced to the rank of Vice-Admiral on the Retired List on 1 January, 1901 and to the rank of Admiral on the Retired List on 16 June, 1904.

Here is a photograph taken when he was Rear-Admiral Second-in-Command of the Channel Squadron, seen with his Flag Lieutenant:

Photograph: Navy & Army Illustrated

The diaries start in 1865 and end in 1923, two years before his death.  The earlier editions contain descriptions of naval activities, the later ones are focused more on family and social activities.  This is the complete listing:

  • 1865/6, 1873, 1877, 1881, 1982/3/4, 1888, 1889
  • 1892-1923 (1919 missing)

DSCF0529The diaries contain a range of ephemera, including newspaper cuttings, images, telegrams,etc and several transcript,s of old sea shanties (e.g. the “Old Sea Song”).DSCF0532

There is a short, hand-written account of the author’s early life, which includes a description of the circumstances of his enlistment into the Royal Navy and life as a Naval Cadet aboard HMS Victory and subsequently HMS Rodney..  Here is a sketch (“My bedroom as a Middy!”), presumably in his own hand:

DSCF0527There are many more historically interesting entries, including a first-hand account of a Zeppelin raid over Swinhope in 1916 (see related report here).  There is also a very interesting British Summary Court notebook from the first part 1919. Now that these artifacts are in my possession, I intend to dig a bit deeper into the details and will report back on any items of particular interest at a later date (Part 2).