There were floods in York in December 2016.  This was start of a campaign by the 30 initial businesses to  turn this negative news of the floods into a positive. The creation of a logo for independent shops to display in their windows and share the message that ‘York is open for business’ was the next step in February 2016. Now the project is expanding to include about 100 independent shops who aim through a map and directory to draw attention to the local distinctiveness of York.  We are part of that project. The best way to support local shops is to shop in them and so if you are in the city look out for the logo and map and if planning a visit to the city then have a look at the website of this pioneering self help project.


Two years ago we were in Oakland for the California Book Fair. This year we return for celebrate with other booksellers the 50th Year of the event and re meet old and meet new customers on the West Coast of America. California in February is a contrast to the rather light restricted world of England at this time of the year and the event has a optimism about it which is a welcome lift to the spirits.

If you live in the Bay Area we will be at the fair at stand 402 between February 10th and 12th 2017. Please call by and see us. Our highlights list is published on our website so have a look at these although they are only a small selection of items we will have for sale at the fair.

The World of Capability Brown: Sign up for catalogue

This is the tercentenary year of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, which is being widely and rightfully celebrated. As our contribution to marking his landmark anniversary we have produced a catalogue of books and related material on this design genius, the father of contemporary landscape design, and his world.

Brown wrote very little which has yet been discovered about the philosophy or his methods of design. Thus his landscape designs are his essays on landscape. There is a much quoted clip from Hannah More, who knew Brown  first hand, where she reports he likened his approach to literary composition and of course there are scattered plans of his schemes for certain properties, contracts, an account book and bank ledgers so crafting a catalogue about Brown has thrown up challenges.  One can set the context of the environment in which he was working in terms of his contemporary designers and the literati of the day and draw together later commentaries, some favourable, some critical of his work but there is really nothing in his own words on his work.

A diligent minute taker wrote down his proposals at Burton Constable, East Yorkshire, and here and there are comments; but unlike others in British landscape design practice such as Humphry Repton, John Claudius Loudon [who wrote millions of words], Edward Kemp and later practitioners we can only pore over the surprisingly extensive survivals of his landscape designs, not his words, for understanding of intention. Nonetheless for this important maker of the English Landscape style, whose work is still highly influential on modern designers, we have put together a catalogue of books etc. which may contribute to understanding his work. There are of course gaps in the narrative as booksellers are only able to assemble what they can find but this list is our contribution to CB300* which celebrates and interrogates the work of this landscape designer. We hope it will provide a window on Brown the designer and his historic context to reveal an area that deserves detailed examination and greater understanding.

Email us for your paper copy.

* CB300: i.e.  Capability Brown 300 Celebration and Festival, bringing Brown’s landscapes to a wider audience

Buying Collections of Architecture and Design Material

183640001One of the most enjoyable aspects of bookselling for me is buying collections and recently we have just bought two; both on aspects of design in the 20th century. Our latest collection, books selected from the library of the late Nigel Whiteley, design historian, will form our next catalogue entitled “Reference points in post war design history.” Nigel’s collection extended to some 3000 titles on art, design, architecture and place and reflected his energetic interest in the links between theory, design and culture. The concepts in one of his best known titles “Pop Design: Modernism to Mod,” [1987] on pop theory and design 1952-72, are well represented in the upcoming list in that he collected a whole series of “first” issues of ephemeral magazines, fanzines and zeens which link place and pop culture of the period.

18361The breadth of interest he held in art and design movements, in general, will be also reflected in the list. He followed the progress of Archigram, the influences of modern movement architects and designers amongst other things. If this sounds interesting to you then email us and we will add you to the catalogue email list.

Our other recent purchase concerns British designers of a slightly earlier period who were associated with Alasdair Morton,  who established the Morton Sundour textiles firm and the Edinburgh Weavers. This is a much smaller group of items.  The Morton Family are associated with a whole range of British designers including British illustrators such as Edward Bawden and John Farleigh. Look out for material from this collection on our website. There are a few items featured here already.



In the Kings Manor Courtyard
In the Kings Manor Courtyard

Going to the London Book Fairs Week always turns up some interesting items and this year I have come back to York with a fabulous album of original photographs of the York Pageant 1909; timely because the York Mystery Plays are in progress in the City at the moment and during the 1909 Pageant there was a parade of wagons which included a parade of guild banners accompanying a wagon representing the Nativity and this event is often cited as a precursor of the current mystery play cycle which was reinvented in 1951 at the time of the Festival of Britain.

This is a fabulous album and I have been pouring over it as, it is not only interesting for the people it shows in their strange [to our eyes] costumes, but for the buildings and gardens it shows that were pressed into service as the backdrop of the scenes acted out then.

It comprises 58 photographs, the first two bearing the signature of Louis Napoleon Parker looking very proud [Dramatist and author of the York Pageant] The photographs are fine matt platinum prints mostly by H. Lane Smith + Debenham and Co., York. It depicts the scenes of the Pageant and the key actors and actresses. The setting was the Museum Gardens and St Mary’s Abbey, The Kings Manor and St Leonard’s Hospital all of which were backdrops for variant scenes. There are further photographs of the cast in the main courtyard of the Kings Manor. Photographs vary in size between 10×8 inches and 6 x 4 inches.

The album itself is supported by a very useful contemporary postcard album: 45 sepia photographs of the pageant and participants which are very helpful in interpreting the larger format photographs. These post cards turn up now and then but rarely together.

Of course it is for sale so if you are interested let me know. If you are in York call by and have a look for yourself.


London International Antiquarian Book Fair Thursday 26th May- Satuaba-smallrday 28th May 2016

We are beginning to collect together our books, images and related items for Rare Book Week London. We are exhibiting at Olympia at the ABA venue at Stand CO7 and hope you will come and see us.

The theme of the book fair is “the birth of the gothic” so we have been looking though our stock to see what gothic items we might bring. I imagine those who thought up the theme had little thoughts of architecture and design texts. They were rather thinking of the  gothic novels  of Mary Shelley, WIlliam Beckford and so on and of course other more ghostly and ghoulish things. But the gothic is all around us in architecture and at Janette Ray Booksellers, so much so that often we take it for granted. Be assured we will be there with some fabulous gothic if not gothicky items including the wonderful drawings of John Carter for Durham and Gloucester Cathedral, and related to Beckford, Murphy’s Plans Elevations Sections and Views of the Church of Batalha, in the Province of Estremaduras in Portugal.

On our stand we will also have  the anti-gothic in the form of modernist texts and books relating to architecture, design, art and photography. For a different take on things come and visit us.