RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS

22 March 2012

Books Bought 1922


Found on the slightly worn spine of a Kelly's Suffolk 1922 a 'books bought' advertisement by one John Jeffery of 35 High Street, Barnes (London). Kelly's was a sort of yellow pages listing trades and residents by streets and some are much prized by local historians and collectors. The ad reads:
BOOKS BOUGHT. Large or small collections also prints, portraits, engravings etc., Libraries Catalogued and Valued. Any Distance. Write To-day. John Jeffery, 35 High Street, Barnes, S.W. 13.
No phone number so first approaches were made by mail in a leisurely way. I had thought John Jeffery was something to do with George Jeffery of the unforgettable book barrows on London's Farringdon Road - the Jeffery's were trading from about 1880 until the late 1990s. However all Jeffery's were called George and the last street trader was George IV and his son a familiar figure at PBFA bookfairs who also trades online is, I guess, George V.

John Jeffery seems to have flourished in the early 1920s and is only to be found once at Google Books in a 1922 Book Auction Records in a list of dealers. He is next to the legendary dealer Christopher Millard of Abercorn Place St John's Wood, the dealer who set AJA Symons on his quest for Baron Corvo and a pal of the young Anthony Powell to whom he wrote: "A sordid business selling books, but very amusing." I like the sound of Jeffery's Catalogue no 324:

MSS., Association Books, Presentation Copies, etc., including the Original
MS. Volumes of Shelley's Poetical Works, with Notes and a Memoir by Rosetti,
3 vols., 1868-9 £200, ;; Museum Hermeticum, Francofurti, 1678, Arthur
Edward Waite's own copy used for his translation, £65 ; Dee — Relation of
what passed between Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits, folio, 1659, ; etc., etc.

Assuming 15 catalogues a year he must have been trading for at least 20 years. There were rich pickings in country houses after the Great War and I like to think that Jeffery's bold speculation in spine advertising paid off and he hit such a rich hoard of books that he was able to retire in luxury shortly thereafter...
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