Brunel's Old Passenger Shed at Temple Meads Station

Brunel’s Old Passenger Shed at Temple Meads Station

I will be exhibiting at the South of England’s largest second-hand and antiquarian Book Fair outside London, in Bristol July 10th & 11th.

BristolBFTwo of the biggest bookselling associations in the country, The Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association ( PBFA) and The Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABA), will be united under one roof.  150 exhibitors from all over the UK will be converging at the Old Passenger Shed at Temple Meads Station, with antiquarian and second hand books spanning all subjects and price ranges – from finely bound volumes to children’s books.

There will be prints too, of course.

Preview some of the NEW stock I will be taking to Bristol here:

The Bristol Premier Book Fair will be held on Friday 10th July from 2.00pm – 8.00pm and on Saturday 11th July from 10.00am – 6.00pm.  Tickets cost £2 and can be bought on the door.

For further information, please call Matthew Butler on 01454218036 or 07771 833188 or Hannah Aspinall at George Bayntun on 01225 466000

Fair website:

Fake or Fortune?

May 12, 2015


Last week I gave a talk at Colet Court, the preparatory school of St Paul’s.

I encouraged the boys to take a closer look at the pictures, maps, family scrap albums and illustrated books in their homes.  Most people have got an old print somewhere, perhaps gathering dust in the attic, even if they don’t know it.


I gave the schoolboys some pointers to help identify a genuine antique print, and reproduce them here in the hope that you too, dear reader, might unearth a hidden gem.

Let me know if you come up with any interesting finds. Email a pic here:

Happy hunting!

  • Signatures:  for an artist to sign a print was rare until the late 19th century, and they also often signed reproductions. Instead, look for Latin terms engraved or etched under the image to denote artist, draughtsman, printmaker, sometimes printer and publisher – in Britain this served as copyright.
  • Plate mark:  can you see an indented line around the outer edge of the image?
  • Paper:  does it look bright and new or has it dulled or browned with age? Can you see any rust-coloured spots (known as ‘foxing’)?
    Hold the paper close to a light: can you see the pattern of vertical lines (‘wire-marks’) crossed by horizontal ‘chain-lines’ from the wires in the papermaker’s tray.  This is evidence of ‘laid paper’, widely used in the 18th century before ‘wove’ papers took over, which have no such marks visible. European papers can be approximately dated from their appearance and feel, and often provide evidence of a modern reprint or facsimile.
  • The Image:  look closely with a magnifying glass: is it made up of a mesh of tiny dots? If so it may be a photomechanical reproduction.
  • Other Clues:  if the print is framed, is it an old frame and mount, perhaps with the original framer’s or printseller’s label on the backboard?

A trip to a hotel in rural Warwickshire last week to attend a NAVA one-day course on auctioneering.

A career change?  No, just hoping to gain some insight into how the other side operate.

NAVAWe all love a good story in this trade, and we students heard a few of those. But I think overall it was a useful experience. The course leaders, Nigel J. Hodson of Peter Francis, Carmarthen, and Robert Stones of Peter Wilson in Nantwich are experienced auctioneers and methodical and revealing on best practise in securing consignments, preparing for sales, and rostrum etiquette.

They are both of a generation that remembers mutual antagonism between auctioneers and antiques dealers, in part due to the notorious dealers’ “rings” which used to operate fairly brazenly in and around the salerooms.

Thankfully much of that antipathy has dispersed as both the wholesale and retail branches of the trade have recognised the merits of co-operation and knowledge-sharing.  Though there were a couple of side-swipes at dealers playing hardball in negotiations.

I was pleased to see Mr. Hodson heartily concur on an issue that is a particular bugbear of mine. When an auctioneer calls “my commission bidder is out” or “I’m all done on the books” – as he or she tries to squeeze one more bid from the room – it is patently unfair to that absentee bidder, and therefore bad practice.


Yet I see this happen on TV programmes fairly commonly, from supposedly respected professionals. It is frustrating as I myself often leave bids with an auctioneer before a sale if I can’t be there in person. An auctioneer’s primary obligation is to the vendor, but for confidence in the profession and in the integrity of the sale process all participants must have fair and equal opportunity.

The now regular exposure to a worldwide web audience via live bidding platforms can only help to encourage transparency. You might think that visiting TV cameras would have the same effect?  In my opinion the special consideration afforded to ‘TV lots’ (0% commissions, no reserves etc) – plus the editor’s cut inevitably distorting reality – give the viewer a false impression.  (TV publicity for the antiques trade discussed in an earlier post:

On that subject of TV, I noted that not all TV shows were welcomed equally by our speakers. Apparently that is to do with certain presenters, who shall remain nameless…