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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

May Book Sale

Beginning 28 May 2015 we will offering these books for sale with a low reserve price on the well-known antiquarian book auction site Antiquarian Auctions (http://www.antiquarianauctions.com).

During the seven days of the auction, these titles will not be available for sale on our site, but why worry? You will probably do better at the auction sale anyway.

Books for Sale

*James Kelly. Scottish Proverbs. A Complete Collection of Scottish Proverbs Explained and Made Intelligible to the English Reader. London: Rodwell & Martin, 1818. First edition (pp. 255, index). Small octavo (19 cm)) in blue pebbled cloth, title to spine. Approved by the SNP. Backstrip repaired, tips worn; internally clean and tight.  

*William Shakespeare. Twelfth Night or What You Will. London: Hodder & Stoughton, n.d. This edition illustrated by W. Heath Robinson (pp. 144). Quarto (25 cm) in blue-green pictorial publisher’s cloth, gilt titles and decorations. Sixteen full page illustrations tipped in, tissue guards. Plate of Charles Edward Potter, Jr. Hodder & Stoughton apparently issued three versions of the book with Robinson’s illustrations:  a special, limited edition of 350 with 40 colour plates;  a trade edition with 40 plates; and a less expensive edition with 16 plates. Backstrip repaired, sun faded. A very good copy.    

*Omar Khayyam. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Translated into English Verse by Edward Fitzgerald. London: Musson [1904]. A reprint of the first edition with original notes and introduction, decorations by Blanche McManus. A scarce edition. Quarto (27 cm) in red publisher’s cloth, gilt titles to front cover, t.e.g., with frontis and eleven full-page decorative plates by McManus in red and green in arabesque motif. Printed by Alexander Moring, De La More Press, January MDCCCCIV. Top and bottom edges of spine lightly abraded; otherwise a fine copy.        

*Charles Darwin. Journals of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H. M. S. Beagle Round the World under the Command of Capt. Fitz Roy, R. N. London: John Murray, 1845. Second edition corrected with additions (pp. 518, index). Octavo (19 cm) in half polished calf over green cloth, gilt titles and decorations to spine, new marbled endpapers; several engravings in text. Tips worn, p.400/401 stained, discoloured patches on cloth binding, index ends at ‘v’.     

*Charles Darwin.  Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. London: Cassell, 1909. Later edition (430 pp.). Octavo (18 cm) in full black leather, gilt titles and decorations. Published on the fiftieth anniversary of the appearance of the first edition. A Very Good copy.     


*The Builder’s Dictionary: or, Gentleman’s and Architect’s Companion. London: Printed for A. Bettesworth and C. Hitch at the Red Lion in Pater-noster-Row; and S. Austen, at the Angel and Bible in St. Paul’s Church-Yard, 1734. First edition (prelims, unpaginated), Volume I only (of two). Octavo (21 cm) in full leather, gilt titles and decorations to spine, red-stained edges; three fold-outs tipped in at back. Volume I ends at ‘Hy’, repaired hinges.    

*F. E. Weatherly. Our Darling’s Surprise Pictures. London: Ernest Nister, [1895]. First edition. Large quarto (33 cm) in pictorial boards, a picture book for the young reader with moveable panels with pull-tabs that animate the illustrations-- see illustration. New endpapers; covers scratched and rubbed, light soiling throughout. A very good copy.  

*Walter Jerrold and Charles Robinson (Illus.). The Big Book of Nursery Rhymes. London: Blackie and Son, 1903.  First edition (pp. 320), with a personal note to ‘Chas. Ed. Potter Jr.’ and small ink sketch, signed by Robinson on the ffep (‘With all affection right over the sea/ from/ Charles Robinson/ England/ Xmas. 1907’) . Quarto (25 cm) in red pictorial publisher’s cloth, gilt titles and decoration to cover and spine, a.e.g., fancy endpapers. Three hundred rhymes and stories illustrated on every page with delightful portraits, sketches, doodles, and decorations by Charles Robinson. Skilfully rebacked with the spine preserved and laid down, wear to the extremities, hinges repaired, chipped endpaper; text is clean and bright.   

*V.C. Scott O’Connor.  Mandalay and other Cities of the Past in Burma.  London: Hutchinson, 1907. With 235 illustrations from photographs, 8 colour plates, plans, and maps.  Large octavo (25 cm) in blue publisher's cloth, gilt decoration and title, t.e.g.  Cover spotted, bumped corners, spine repaired, backstrip laid down, end papers foxed.  Internally clean and bright.

*P.L. Simmonds. The Arctic Regions and Polar Discoveries During the Nineteenth Century with an Account of the New British  Expedition Fitted out in 1875, Its Objects and Prospects. London: Routledge, 1878. Frankliniana. Tenth edition.  A revised and updated edition of the 1851, The Arctic Regions (Sabin 81151). Folding map, frontis plate. Small quarto (18 cm) in fancy decorative cloth cover with Japanese motif. Spine rubbed, concealing some of title, fraying top and bottom spine, a bit of browning title page, note on fly. 

*Vilhjalmur Stefansson.  The Adventure of Wrangel Island. New York: MacMillan, 1925. Signature tipped in. First edition, with Stefansson’s signature and presentation note tipped in (pre-dating publication of this work). Apparently less an adventure than an arctic debacle.  Large octavo (23 cm) in  blue publisher's cloth with black titles, illustrated. Rubbed at the edges, text age-toned. A tight, clean copy. 

*Paul Gaugin. Noa Noa. Voyage de Tahiti. Stockholm: Jan Forlag, 1947. First edition (204 pp.), small folio (32 cm) in pictorial dust jacket (chipped with loss to corners, top of spine, a few small closed tears), tan cloth over matching paper. The revised text of Gaugin’s journal, illustrated throughout with watercolours and b&w images. Discoloured endpapers, text and images clean and bright.

*Pomponius Melae. De Situ Orbis, Libri Tres. Glasguae: Robertus et Andreas Foulis, 1752. Ex Recensione Jacobi Gronovii. [Pomponius Mela. The Structure of the World, in Three Books].  12vo., 131 pp., Index. Text in Latin. One of the earliest geographies, dating from the Roman Empire, here in an edition by the Foulis Press, Glasgow. Duodecimo (16 cm) in contemporary calf with four raised bands and impressed decoration, title in red morocco, remnants of gilt decorated edges.  Generally a tight, clean copy.

*W. M. Thomson.  The Land and the Book; or, Biblical Illustrations Drawn from the Manners and Customs, the Scenes and the Scenery of the Holy Land. London: Nelson, 1867.   London: Nelson, 1867. One volume edition: Part One (Phoenicea and Palestine), Part Two (Northern Palestine), Part III (Sea-Coast Plains--Sharon and Philistia), Part IV (Southern Palestine); (xvii, folding map, 699 pp., indices) includes colour frontispiece and 12 other full-page colour plates, together with over 100 b&w illustrations some full-page.Small octavo (19 cm) in black morocco with gilt decorations; five raised bands, a.e.g. Hinges repaired , endpapers discoloured, small tear in folding map repaired. Colour plates are exceptionally clean and bright, as is the text generally. 

*William Gifford Palgrave. Personal Narrative of a Year’s Journey through Central and Eastern Arabia (1862- 63). London: MacMillan, 1869.  London: MacMillan, 1869. Fifth edition (in one volume, vi, folding map, 421 pp.). With portrait on title page, coloured folding map of Arabia, and plans of four sites in central and eastern Arabia. Small octavo (19.5 cm) in green publisher's cloth (back cover moisture stained) with gilt decoration (a somewhat depressed camel) and lettering (faded but entirely legible). A clean, tight copy of an early and important account of European interest in the Arabian peninsula. 

*Typo Mundus 20. A project of the International Center for the Typographic Arts. New York: Reinhold, 1966. First edition (xliv, 545 numbered exhibits of typographic design, index). Large quarto (29 cm) in white publisher's cloth, matching dw; twelve jurors evaluated hundreds of submissions in sixteen categories of typographic design (e.g., books, book jackets, posters, packaging, advertising, signs and symbols, record covers, lettering & calligraphy). Trilingual text in English, French, and German. Lightly soiled dw, covers lightly sun-faded along the periphery. Clean, bright, and sound. 


*Henry Kirke White and Robert Southey [Ed.]. The Remains of Henry Kirke White, of Nottingham, Late of St. John’s College, Cambridge; with an Account of His Life. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1819.  The eighth edition, in two volumes (vi, 336; vi, 316). Tall octavo (22 cm) in high- style late Georgian bindings; polished calf, gilt titles and decoration, decoration in blind, titles in maroon morocco compartments on spine; fine marbled epps. Henry Kirke White (1785- 1806) died, probably of tuberculosis, before his early promise could prove itself. Clifton Grove, a Sketch in Verse was well received by Southey if not by the Monthly Review whose editor (probably Griffiths) had no compunction about attacking the 18 year-old poet who wrote to Southey, in part, “I am presently under afflictions and contentions of spirit, heavier than I have yet ever experienced....the unfavourable review of my unhappy work, has cut deeper than you could have thought; not in a literary point of view, but as it affects my respectability. It represents me as a beggar, going about gathering money to put myself at college, when my book is worthless....” And later, “The extreme acrimony with which the Monthly Review (of all the others the most important) treated me, threw me into a state of stupefaction. I regarded all that had passed as a dream, and I thought I had been deluding myself into an idea of possessing poetic genius, when, in fact, I had only the longing....” Southey has collected here White’s Clifton Grove, early poems, poems written after the publication of Clifton Grove, various prose compositions, and White’s letters; included also is a biographical sketch describing White’s humble origins and pious nature. See the biographical sketch in ODNB.  Some minor corner wear; otherwise quite a handsome set. Near fine. 

John Ray. The Correspondence of John Ray: Consisting of Selections from the Philosophical Letters. Published by Dr. Derham and the Original Letters of John Ray, in the British Museum.  Edited by Edwin Lankester, Secretary to the Ray Society. London: Ray Society, 1848. First edition (xvii, 502; index), one of two collections published by the Society. Tall octavo in three-quarter red leather over cloth, gilt titles, five raised bands, t.e.g. Two full-page engraved b&w illustrations (frontispiece bust of Ray; Dewlands, Ray’s house), foxed and stained. John Ray (1627- 1705) published a number of works on natural history but is best known for his Historia Plantarum in which he advanced a method of classification of plants according to observed likenesses and differences rather than classifying plants according to fanciful notions of the general way of things. Most of these letters (some of which are in Latin and defeat Miss Porter’s heroic efforts to teach me that language) date from 1659- 1705; several are those written by Margaret Ray immediately subsequent to Ray’s death. A trifle worn and rubbed around the edges, engravings foxed as noted. Still, quite a nice copy of a scarce collection of Ray’s correspondence.  


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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