This little book is unique.
There is only one copy, it is handwritten, it has never been published in print or on-line. It contains a fascinating, albeit gruesome, first-hand account of one of London's most notorious institutions.
That little book is just one of thousands of amazing London related titles in stock at Peter Harrington in Fulham Road.
Whilst worldwide attention is focussed on London for the 2012 Olympics, Peter Harrington have unveiled a special display of some of their rarest and finest London treasures.
They have a stock of over 1,000, books, prints and maps with London as their subject, so lots to choose from. The display will only be up for another week. If you have an interest in London's history then I would put a visit to the shop very high on a to-do list.
The Conrad, London's River, for example is one of only 25 copies that were ever printed. There are dozens of other rare books, prints and maps on view.
Inside the shop this particularly magnificent map can currently be seen in all its glory.
It is Richard Horwood's famous Plan of the Cities of London and Westminster the Borough of Southwark and parts adjoining showing every house.
This epic map was produced in 32 separate sheets between 1792 and 1799. I had seen individual sheets before but I had never seen them mounted together. The scale is breathtaking, the detail phenomenal.
The Horwood map is a first edition and in superb condition. The price, £12,000, reflects perfection. You can read the full catalogue entry but please don't buy it before Wednesday, I am hoping for the lottery win that will enable me to purchase it and I'd really appreciate a sporting chance.
The map is by no means the most expensive title in the shop. You could purchase a first edition of Frankenstein for £135,000, or a first of The Origin of Species for £150,000, a Second Folio of Shakespeare will set you back £385,000 or if you still have shelf room perhaps you might like the typescript of Finnegan's Wake for £475,000. The sky really is the limit when it comes to selling the finest copies of the world's most significant works.
But by no means all of Peter Harrington's stock items lie beyond most pockets. They have plenty to interest London obsessives, such as myself, in the £25 -£50 range, lots of unusual and fascinating maps, prints and books. I could happily browse in there for hours, purchasing from the lower end and just feeling privileged and humbled to be able to enjoy viewing the rarer items. The staff are not only incredibly knowledgeable but so welcoming and passionate about their subjects. To a newbie at handling such rare books they were all very happy to explain and demystify all the arcane terminology in a way that made me feel far cleverer than I am.
Yesterday I was shown some of their very rarest and most beautiful London-related items, this really was an honour. What is even more exciting is that Peter Harrington have very kindly agreed to me sharing some very rare London images from their vast stock with you, here on this blog. Most have never been published online before and certainly not in high quality.
I hardly know where to begin. I will need to tackle the task in separate posts. I think I'll start tomorrow, with that mysterious little notebook and then as time permits I'll move on to share some very early street photography, some stunning views of London that are unavailable elsewhere in any quality, a magnificent 18th Century panorama (it's over 12 feet long) and some images from an extraordinarily rare photographic book from the 1930s.
Peter Harrington were also kind enough to photograph a really remarkable map of London that I uncovered a few months ago but had no means of scanning and I'll be sharing that here too in due course.
A tiny sample of full-sized images that will follow in future posts:
My sincere thanks to all at Peter Harrington for making this possible. Special thanks to Glenn, in the rare books room, for so generously sharing his erudition, to Ruth for her wonderful photography (infinitely better than mine) and my deep gratitude to Emilie for all her encouragement and support, and for the initial invitation to visit this amazing shop.
If you haven't visited Peter Harrington before then I would thoroughly recommend a trip down the Fulham Road. For readers who are unable to visit in person their website offers a great overview and flavour of the incredible stock that is available.
Peter Harrington 100 Fulham Road Chelsea, London, SW3 6HS
The Shop is Open: Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm