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Trillium Antiquarian Books

Some common memento is better,
Something he prized and is known by;
His old clothes-- a few books perhaps.

William Carlos Williams, Tract

Welcome to the home of Trillium Antiquarian Books where you can search or browse our collections of antiquarian books on Country Life and Natural History -- scarce books, from A to Z, on angling, animals, apiculture, bees, birds, botany, Darwin, farming, fish, flora, fruit growing, gardens, geography, grapes, herbals, horticulture, landscapes, mammals, orchards, ornithology, seeds, vegetables, wildflowers, zoology... and likely several other matters which do not come readily to mind.

Search and browse, too, our antiquarian Canadiana and Literature collections. In our Canadiana collection you will find the early works of Moodie, Traill, Davies, Bouchette, and others from Upper and Lower Canada. Our antiquarian Literature collection makes room among its novels, sermons, and poetry for some rare works by Mark Twain and Stephen Crane.

We will never have thousands and thousands of books for sale, lining the front stairs, boxed and piled in the basement, but we do spend a great deal of time looking, live and on line; our collection of books on architecture and design, number-wise, is modest enough, but lined up together you will find classics on church architecture and designs for book covers-- perfect, if you are determined to build a replica of Ely's cathedral or are looking for a way to apply Tiffany style to mass marketed literary uplift.

Sometimes all that's left of an old book is the pictures. You will find antiquarian prints and maps, together with entire illustrated books, in Trillium's collection of Images from antiquarian sources.

If you spend any time hunting up books, you are bound to come upon an occasional book so odd or idiosyncratic as to be irresistible. Proof of the proposition is to be found in the Trillium collection of intriguing Curiosities. Since their comings and goings are unpredictable, it's usually worth stopping in for a short browse.

Trillium Antiquarian Books has been selling scarce, out-of-print books on the Internet since 1998 and, earlier, by traditional mail order. Look for us at book fairs in Ontario and the American northeast, where we have exhibited during the past ten years or so. We are always buying selected antiquarian books in our areas of interest, whether single volumes or complete collections.

Trillium Antiquarian Books is owned by William Van Nest, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. Trillium Grandiflorum, from which we take our name, is the provincial flower of Ontario and appears in snowy white drifts among the hardwoods each Spring. One of several trilliums resident in the back garden furnished the images on this page.

Historical note.  In response to a number of friendly inquiries about Professor Van Nest's historical and cultural antecedents, he is related to the Van Nests of Kinderhoeck, Nieuw Amsterdam, Dutch settlers in the Hudson Valley beginning sometime in the first thirty years of the seventeenth century-- to this day a major parkway, a neighbourhood in the Bronx, New York, and he is delighted to say a branch of the New York Public Library bear the Van Nest name. An early reference attesting to his family's role in the affairs of colonial America appears in Dietrich Knickerbocker's [Washington Irving] A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty (1809). The reference is quoted here at some length from Chapter V, Book VI, to furnish a suitable historical context: 

But I refrain from pursuing this minute description, which goes on to describe the warriors of Bloemen-dael, and Weehawk, and Hoboken, and sundry other places, well known in history and song—for now do the notes of martial music alarm the people of New Amsterdam, sounding afar from beyond the walls of the city. But this alarm was in a little while relieved; for, lo! from the midst of a vast cloud of dust, they recognized the brimstone-colored breeches and splendid silver leg of Peter Stuyvesant, glaring in the sunbeams; and beheld him approaching at the head of a formidable army, which he had mustered along the banks of the Hudson. And here the excellent but anonymous writer of the Stuyvesant manuscript breaks out into a brave and glorious description of the forces, as they defiled through the principal gate of the city, that stood by the head of Wall Street.  First of all came the Van Brummels, who inhabit the pleasant borders of the Bronx: these were short fat men, wearing exceeding large trunk-breeches, and were renowned for feats of the trencher; they were the first inventors of suppawn, or mush and milk. Close in their rear marched the Van Vlotens, or Kaats-kill, horrible quavers of new cider, and arrant braggarts in their liquor. After them came the Van Pelts of Groodt Esopus, dexterous horsemen, mounted upon goodly switch-tailed steeds of the Esopus breed; these were mighty hunters of minks and musk-rats, whence came the word Peltry. Then the Van Nests of Kinderhoeck, valiant robbers of birds' nests, as their name denotes; to these, if report may be believed, are we indebted for the invention of slap-jacks, or buckwheat cakes. Then the Van Higginbottoms, of Wapping's Creek; these came armed with ferrules and birchen rods, being a race of schoolmasters, who first discovered the marvelous sympathy between the seat of honor and the seat of intellect. 

Professor Van Nest, in view of the reference to the invention of buckwheat cakes, has explored the origins of the popular poem "Hotcakes and Sausage" and has concluded that its modern English version is likely a straightforward translation of the original 17th century Dutch. For those unfamiliar with the lyric, here is the English version in the translation by E. Kovacs:

Hotcakes and Sausage

Give me some hotcakes and sausage

Make 'em nice and brown,

Hotcakes and sausage

Flip 'em upside down.

I'm so tired of roaming

Going from town to town,

Give me some hotcakes and sausage

Flip 'em upside down.

You Can't Tell a Cover by Its Book

At the turn of the century, in 1900, two principal designers of book covers and book decoration generally were Sarah Wyman Whitman (1842- 1904) and Margaret Armstrong (1867- 1944). In that year Whitman's career was coming to a close. Her cover designs and decorations had enhanced the work of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Celia Thaxter, and Sarah Orne Jewett-- friends and acquaintances of the busy Beacon Hill matron whose work in stained glass can be found in Harvard's Memorial Hall, keeping company with windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany, in Trinity Church, Boston, and in the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe of which she was an early supporter. For the most part Whitman's design work was commissioned by the Boston firm Houghton Mifflin for whom she completed perhaps three hundred book covers, many for editions of classic American writers such as Henry Thoreau. Typically her designs exhibit a restrained, elegant interpretation of the Arts & Crafts style in which, as it were, she had been brought up. 

Margaret Armstrong's work as a designer, like Whitman's, was influenced by an association with Tiffany. While Whitman was commissioned to design stained glass windows for several important buildings and started the Lily Glassworks to produce decorative glass objects, Armstrong's father had at one time in his varied career worked for Tiffany as a stained glass designer. This influence finds expression in many of  Whitman's and Armstrong's designs for book covers. As one commentator put it, "Like Whitman, Armstrong usually worked in a vocabulary of ornament, rarely producing a purely pictorial design." Armstrong's design for Van Dyke's Fisherman's Luck, for example, uses stylized images of fish decoratively, the elements comprising a sort of golden chain. Generally speaking, both Whitman and Armstrong decorated their covers rather than using illustration to advertise the book's contents. (This probably works better for some titles than for others-- it's hard to imagine, for example, a decorative Armstrong cover for Jack London's White Fang). 

Armstrong designed book covers for several publishers but did most of her work for Scribner's, producing for them upwards of 150 cover designs, many in the Art Nouveau style of the day, featuring lush fruits, entwined vines, and glorious peacocks. Often these images of a burgeoning Nature were framed or boldly highlighted in gilt, producing an effect suggestive of a stained glass window. Armstrong's stained glass covers enhanced the entire Scribner's series of books by Henry Van Dyke for which Armstrong was the sole designer. 

Van Dyke was an energetic churchman, professor, and occasional diplomat who also wrote popular books of enthusiastic piety even while serving as advisor to his friend and fellow Princetonian Woodrow Wilson. But in this case, at least, the cliche about telling a book by its cover has been turned on its head, for Armstrong's striking, glimmering cover designs remain as attractive and interesting as ever; whereas the books themselves, all the many volumes of industrious uplift produced by Van Dyke, have almost without exception, long ago vanished from popular literary and theological fashion.


Charles B. Gullans. "Margaret Armstrong and American Trade Bindings." Library, UCLA, Los Angles, CA (1991)

"Beauty for Commerce: Publishers' Bindings (1830- 1910)." Rare Books and Special Collections, Library, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY (n.d.)

We have just now listed  Margaret Armstrong.  “You Can’t Tell a Cover by Its Book: Representative Book Covers by or Attributable to “MA”.  Two sets of four book covers designed by Margaret Armstrong in the art nouveau style for popular titles of the day; each set matted to gallery standard in antique gilt frame (54 cm x 44 cm). Each $300.  See our Nos. 1741 and 1827.



                (Image courtesy Sara Glatz)



Featured Items

Remarks & Notices

Trillium Antiquarian Books


Over the next while, a number of our books will be offered for sale at auction conducted at www.AntiquarianAuctions.com, an online auction site developed by booksellers a number of years ago. For background on the auction service, see the article, "Upgrade for AntiquarianAuctions.com - Developed by Booksellers for Collectors, Librarians and Dealers," on the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers' site (www.ilab.org). 

Here is a list of our books offered for sale at www.AntiquarianAuctions.com/auction for seven days beginning Thursday, 16 April 2015. Full descriptions, with notes and images, appear on the auction site as well as our own:

Arthur Rackham. Arthur Rackham’s Book of Pictures.  London: Heinemann, 1913.  First edition with an Introduction by Arthur Quiller-Couch (pp. 43, plates).  Large quarto with 43 of  44 colour plates by Rackham tipped in (missing #16 “Adrift”), many published here for the first time-- images of the Little People, Classics, Fairy Tales.  Tan cloth with gilt decoration and lettering. Spine newly repaired retaining backstrip, some toning to backing paper. Images bright and clean.  Very good.   

Elisha Kent Kane.  Arctic Explorations: The Second Grinnell Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin 1853, ‘54, ‘55.  Philadelphia:  Childs and Peterson, 1856.  First edition (pp. 464, Notes; 467, Append).  Two volumes with two daguerreotype frontispieces by [Matthew?] Brady, approximately 300 steel and wood engravings, some full-page; two fold-out maps/ charts (one badly folded with a tear).  Apparently ex libris (catalogue numbers on spines and a number stamp), wear to spine edges and tips, some internal spots (occasionally affecting illustrations).  Otherwise a tight, complete copy of  Kane’s account of the expedition to “Washington” (on the Greenland coast) and “Grinnell  Land” (Ellesmere Island). 

Dard Hunter.  Papermaking through Eighteen Centuries.  New York: Rudge, 1930.  First edition pp. xv, 357, Index).  Large octavo (24 cm)with more than 200 illustrations of papermaking, pull-out frontispiece.  In brown cloth with red paste-on label, gilt lettering, t.e.g.  In Dj with minor wear, chips.  A clean, bright, sound copy.  

Richard Jefferies.  The Amateur Poacher.  London: Smith Elder, 1881.  New edition (pp. 240). Tales of Luke the Rabbit Contractor, among others.  Octavo (19.5 cm) in brown cloth with gilt titling and decoration. Two tips worn through, wear to top and bottom spine, a bit cocked. Otherwise a clean, tight copy. 

[Briggs, James.]  History of Don Francisco Miranda’s Attempt to Effect a Revolution in South America in a Series of Letters.  Boston:  Oliver, 1810.  Second edition.  “By a gentleman who was an officer under that general, [letters] to his friend in the United States...to which are annexed Sketches of the Life of Miranda and Geographical Notices of Caraccas”.  With correspondence seeking support for the adventure addressed to Jefferson and Monroe. In full leather with gilt lettering, decoration on spine and edges.  Front hinge cracked, lower corner of front cover damaged (missing 1cm x 2 cm piece); title page missing top strip (“History” in title torn),  first half-dozen pages with damage similar to cover’s lower corner but diminishing. With all its faults, still a good copy.  

Henrico Caterino D’Avila. The History of the Civil Wars of France. Dublin: Jones, 1760 (To the Reader, List of Subscribers, pp. 734, Index). Folio (32cm) in quarter red morocco and cloth (later), rubricated titles and vignette.  Ex libris with a few small stamps, plate on endpaper.  Otherwise a bright, clean copy.


F. B. Head. Rough Notes Taken During Some Rapid Journeys Across the Pampas and Among the Andes. London: John Murray, 1828.  Third edition ( 8vo., xii, 321 pp.).  Capt. Head was dispatched to survey South American gold and silver mines in the aftermath of the collapse of speculative ventures by British interests.  In the course of galloping about the country he manages to give an account of  Buenos Aries society (its houses uncomfortable, the funeral practices crude), various methods of hunting lions and tigers, and the hospitality of Andean villagers. In half leather and marbled paper, marbled end papers, gilt lettering and decoration. Neatly repaired binding; edges, tips, and covers worn.  Internally clean and tight.  

J.D. Salinger. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little, Brown, 1951. Book-of-the-Month Club edition (277 pp).  In black cloth with gilt lettering (clean and tight); Dj with full panel photograph of Salinger (withdrawn from later issues)-- four corners, top and bottom of spine chipped, one or two tiny closed tears, slight soiling on front panel. About a VG- Dj on a VG+ binding. 

Samuel Johnson. The Table Talk of Dr. Johnson; Comprising Opinions and Anecdotes of Life and Literature. Men, Manners, and Morals.  London:  John Bumpus, 1825. First edition (frontispiece, iv, 352 pp.).  12mo (10 cm x 14 cm) in morocco and marbled paper, gilt decoration to covers and spine (faded); frontis lightly offset to title page, ffep lightly damp-stained, hinges expertly repaired. A collection of Dr. Johnson’s pronouncements on dueling, marriage, clerical dress, and a great many other matters. Apparently quite scarce, here expertly revived and very presentable.  

J. D. Wilkinson.  Early New Zealand Steamers. Volume I: The Pioneering Years (1840-1861). Wellington: Maritime Historical Productions, 1966. First edition (x, 230 pp., index). Illustrated by H.C. Berry with 32 pages of sketches and old photo’s. In sun-faded green cloth (faded to tan on the spine), black lettering.  Card bearing compliments of the Northland Harbour Board tipped in to ffep, signatures of thirteen members of the Board on verso, previous owner’s signature on title page. A tight, clean copy of a scarce New Zealand maritime item.  TOGETHER WITH Alan W. Mitchell. New Zealanders in the Air War. London: George Harrap, 1945. First edition, foreword by Archibald Sinclair and W. J. Jordan (pp. 192). Octavo (22 cm) in blue publisher's cloth, gilt titles and decorations (faded on spine), Illustrated with many b&w photos of personnel and aircraft. Absent dw; a tight, clean copy. 

Bacon, Francis [Rt. Hon. Francis Lord Verulam, Viscount St. Albans]. Bacon’s Essays [The Essayes or Counsels. Civill and Morall]. London: Cambridge University Press, 1906. Limited edition ‘printed in the Cambridge type upon hand-made paper, two hundred & fifty copies have been printed, of which two hundred and twenty-five are for sale....The text has been printed from a copy of the edition of 1625. The Fragment of an essay Of Fame first printed by Rawley in the Resuscitatio in 1657 has been added.’ Half vellum and blue-gray paper over boards,  title label on front cover, deckle edges, pages unopened. Small, faded inked title, a few light smudges to spine of an otherwise pristine copy. An especially pleasing example of Cambridge type-- the unopened folded sheets await the next owner’s paper knife.  

Leighton, Clare.  Four Hedges, A Gardener’s Chronicle. London: Victor Gollancz, 1936. Later edition (pp. 167). Quarto (26.5 cm) in green publisher’s cloth, gilt titles to spine. Illustrated with 80 fine wood engravings by Leighton (including full-page plates, cuts in text, chapter heads, tail-pieces).  Leighton’s engravings picture the garden through the year, from April, upon the Leightons’ return from abroad, right through the Winter into the following March. Ffep neatly replaced, a few small spots on the covers, short tear top of spine mended. Otherwise clean, bright, and sound.  

Thoyts, E. E.  How to Decipher and Study Old Documents, Being a Guide to the Reading of Ancient Manuscripts.  London: Elliot Stock, 1893.  First edition, with an Introduction by C. Trice Martin, Assistant Keeper of H.M. Records (xii, 143 pp., 11 b&w illustrations). In pictorial olive cloth with gilt lettering. Corners, top and bottom spine bumped, minor spotting and rubs; a few foxed pages.  Features helpful, and interesting, discussion on how to read early handwriting in, for example, monastic documents, legal instruments; lists and describes useful books on paleography (e.g., How to Write the History of a Parish, Upon Parish Registers).  A hard to find book, especially in this first edition. 


A True Walter Scott Rarity

In 1809 or so Sir Walter Scott's friend John Ballantyne asked Scott for some help with a publishing project. Would Scott help select a suitable collection of poems from among those written by the best English authors? Not only did Scott, as an anonymous editor, sort through the poetic canon, but he also contributed several previously unpublished works of his own to the anthology entitled English Minstrelsy. Being a Selection of Fugitive Poetry from the Best English Authors (Edinburgh and London, 1810). Apparently but one copy of the book has been offered at auction in the past hundred years. If not a rarity, it's at least a scarcity. See our Book No. 1836.

 Obscure, Overlooked, Neglected

We have just listed several obscure literary titles published from 1806 to 1832, in the middle of the British romantic period. They are of the sort discovered in the Corvey Collection, a library begun in the nineteenth century by Victor and Elise Amadeus, which includes many thousands of works of British and European Romanticism most of which have been overlooked by scholars of the period. (See www.schloss-corvey.de for more information about the Corvey Library in Westphalia, Germany.) As one university library publication says in part, "The Corvey Collection provides a vast archive of materials that document [sic] the nature and scope of literary publications... and that collect [sic] in one place uncommon, scarce, and even unique materials for the... systematic comparative study that will enable students and scholars to continue to interrogate important questions of canonicity, peridoicity, and aesthetics that have emerged in recent years..." (University of Nebraska Library).

Many of the titles we have just listed are indeed uncommon or scarce and one or two even unique, but I can say, having sampled several (e.g., Don Juan; or, the Battle of Tolosa and The Lake of Geneva, a Poem, Moral and Descriptive), that while they may have been overlooked, they have not been unduly neglected. You depart their tedious precincts with a greater appreciation of Keats, Wordsworth, Byron, and the Shelleys. Perhaps there are hidden gems in the Westphalian archive (I hope there are), but mostly I think investigators will come away simply with a clearer sense of what most ordinary writers of the period were going on about. See Recent Acquisitions for the complete list of newly listed titles worthy of the Corvey Collection.

Our New Mark Twain Catalogue

Bernard DeVoto, along with numerous other literary commentators, believed Mark Twain was the first quintessentially American writer. His western themes, his stories, and his language marked him as unbeholden to classical models unlike, say, Emerson and his New Englanders. Wherever Sam Clemens fits among some other American writers like Melville, Whitman, and James Whitcomb Riley, he is always an engaging original, one who seemingly worked without a net and whose lapses were all the more dramatic, as witness the lame conclusion to the masterpiece Huckleberry Finn.  So we are always on the look out for a copy of an unusual edition from the Twain oeuvres (as they say).  Here are several works which we have come across in the past little while and are pleased now to offer for sale.


We discovered a first edition (second state) of Twain's first published book The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Stories in distressed condition, but now after some skilful book work, perfectly presentable.  You will find as well a first edition Life on the Mississippi together with the Western Pilot, the steamboat pilot's guide to navigating the Ohio and Mississippi rivers of the sort Sam Clemens kept handy at the wheel (Our copy looks as if it was consulted from time to time). Then you'll find a nearly unique copy of the Autobiography, still waiting to be bound, and two of Twain's burlesques, Innocents Abroad and A Yankee in King Arthur's Court, neither of which is as innocent as it seems.

You will find the connection to our Mark Twain catalogue just over there in the navigation column to your left. We would be pleased if you had a look.


Here are pictures of some friends...


Mark Jokinen, Mark Jokinen Books, Peterborough, Ontario (www.jokinenbookstore.com)


Paul Dyment, Scholars' Bookstore, Peterborough, Ontario  (www.scholarsbookstore.com)

 John W. Burbidge, Bookbinding and Book Repair, Peterborough, Ontario  (www.johnburbidge.ca)



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