December 2011 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Pickering & Chatto

Catalogue Review: Pickering & Chatto #787

P&C.pngThe newest catalogue from longtime London booksellers (established 1820) Pickering & Chatto is titled Women in Literature and Society. There are many books and ephemera dealing with the suffrage/suffragette movement, prostitution, ideal feminine beauty and health, and the like. It's fascinating material, the more so because there is such breadth and depth in the catalogue. There are unusual pieces on every page, and first-class descriptions to help draw out their unique stories.

One example is the 1854 memoir of Marie Lafarge, Heures de Prison (£385). LaFarge was convicted in 1840 of poisoning her husband with arsenic, and this is the story of her eleven years in jail. Says the catalogue: "The Lafarge case became a cause celebre is France, with many prominent figures, including George Sand, arguing publicly that the conviction was based on insufficient evidence." Indeed, in 1978, Lafarge was vindicated when it was revealed that the husband actually died of typhoid fever.
One of the many suffragette items listed is Mary Fielden's "Album Amicorum" (£550). This is essentially an album of photos and drawings done by Mary, a supporter of the suffragettes who came from a long line of cotton manufacturers. The image seen in the catalogue, of The Suffragette's Prison Cell is cartoonish, but compelling.

In the area of prostitution, two exciting finds: a faked broadside that the booksellers believe was produced for collectors, announcing the murder of a man in a "bawdy house" which the house's owners and workers tried to cover up by making it appear as a suicide (£850); and two, An Essay Towards a General History of Whoring, published in London in 1697 (£4,750).

One would expect at least one Austen first edition in a catalogue like this, and we are not failed; they have a first edition of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park (£12,500). But it is the two items that follow it in the catalogue that elicit my interest. They are both first editions of books dealing with the trial of Jane Leigh Perrot (Jane's aunt), who was accused to stealing lace. Who knew?

Download the catalogue (or request a print version) here.