A Birthday Cheers to Pablo Picasso, Father of Cubism


Ask ten people near you right now who the most famous artist of all time is. I guarantee you (in the way where I can’t really pay up if I’m wrong) that at least half will name Pablo Picasso as the first artist who comes to mind. Picasso, a Spanish painter, sculptor, designer, poet and playwright is commonly regarded as one of the greatest and most daring artists of all time – after all, it is he we can thank for bringing world-wide awareness to the Cubist artistic movement and to the artistry of the collage. 

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-10-11-41-pmPicasso was born in Malaga, Spain, in 1881, the eldest child of Don Jose Ruiz y Blasco and Maria Picasso y Lopez. Pablo’s father was also a painter, and he specialized in naturalistic representations of different kinds of birds and animals. Growing up, Pablo’s artist father more often than not taught as a professor of art at schools around the country. At a young age Picasso showed artistic talent – in fact, his mother claimed that the boy’s first words were “piz, piz!” for “lapiz” meaning “pencil.” After turning seven Picasso received  lessons in drawing and painting from his father, and eventually the family settled in Barcelona, where his father taught at the School of Fine Arts and Pablo thrived in the city’s artistic nature. At the age of 13 Pablo was admitted to the School of Fine Arts after finishing an entrance exam that usually took students a month in just a short week. 

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-10-12-28-pmIn 1900 Pablo made his first trip to Paris, and while living modestly (and by modestly I mean burning some of his early work to use as fuel for the fire in an apartment only slightly larger than Harry Potter’s cupboard) he first began to develop his range of painting style. Amusingly, Picasso is one of the few painters whose work is separated into periods based on the color scheme of the paintings! (True, his later work is based on style, but still amusing, no?) The Blue Period, the Rose Period, the African-Influence Period… all use obvious factors to group Picasso’s art into a certain “type”. After 1909, Picasso and his friend and fellow artist Georges Braque began an entirely new style of painting that would come to be known as “Cubism”. Cubism was highly stylized, often using neutral tones to highlight contrasting shapes of people and items. These paintings are extremely remarkable and very distinguishable from other styles of painting. 

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-10-13-25-pmLater on in life, Picasso explored many various types of art, spending quite a bit of time working on sculpture, to the delight of many, and even penning over 300 poems beginning in the 1930s. He moved in Bohemian circles in France for the rest of his life, and by the time of his death he was an international celebrity, often with fans as interested in his personal life (and two wives and four children and various mistresses) as they were in his art! Nevertheless, his art has remained, to this day, wildly popular and unique, and often an inspiration to modern artists. 

One example of a modern artist book out today.

One example of a modern artist book out today.

Now why are we, as an antiquarian book business, blogging about an artist? Funny you should ask! A. It is good to mix it up from time to time, and B. Artist Books are becoming more and more widely known and collected. Artist Books, not necessarily being books about the artist, but rather artistic forms of expression coinciding with our favorite things… books, are created by many designers around the world who were influenced by Picasso’s modes of expression. Artist Books are works of art in and of themselves, often with designer bindings and hand drawn illustrations within. Often, these “books” are not to be read, but rather to be put on display. These beautiful works are sweeping across the antiquarian book world… and we wished to honor the birthday of one who helped bring modern art into this world, and therefore (a long-shot, but still…) helped allow the Artist Book to exist! Happy Birthday, Pablo Picasso. 


The Migratory Habits of Booksellers

Ahh, book fair season is upon us once more: when booksellers of every stripe take to the skies and highways of America in search of fresh resources and temporary bibliophilic nesting grounds. It’s one of the book trade’s enduring mysteries, and a sight to behold. Drawn by forces scientists have not yet managed to explain — collective memory, blind professional instinct, shifts in the earth’s magnetic field, or merely the prospect of good food and drink with colleagues — flocks of booksellers converge for weekends at a time in cities and towns across the country, clogging bar stools and sharing vast quantities of hugs, trade knowledge and alcohol. Here, they perform the time-honored ritual of artfully displaying their brightest finds for local bibliophiles and librarians to admire, in the hopes of attracting paying customers and thus ensuring continued survival. It’s an improbable business model in the best of times, and the second decade of the 21 st century is not, alas, the best of times. It’s hard to know these days if exhibiting at book fairs is increasingly an exercise in magical thinking — an evolutionary failure to adapt, with portents of incipient dodo-ism – or an increasingly necessary means of making available the real, tactile wonder of books (and ephemera, etc.) and advocating for the pleasures of owning them.

Setting up!

Setting up!

In a bizarre reversal, Tavistock Books kicked off the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair in style and with a degree of hope, toasting a decent showing at the Sacramento fair and our just-released catalogue with a glass of champagne in the American Express lounge at SFO. Contrary to last year’s comedy of bad luck, no van wrecks preceded our departure, and, though we didn’t know it yet, no luggage would be lost en route. Our books, along with those of a whopping 14 other California booksellers, were already waiting at the venue, thanks to the combined might and keen packing skills of road warriors Brad Johnson (The Book Shop) and Jesse Rossa (Triolet Books). If the décor of the Amex lounge – typical neutral airport fare with an upscale twist, backed by a wall-length display behind the bar composed of old 1940s-style suitcases, radios and cheap “antique” books (of the World Book Encyclopedia variety), its warm shades of red and yellow the only color in the place – hinted at an ominous book nostalgia underway around us, we chose to disregard it. Besides, we’d already begun drinking before noon.

As usual, Louis Collins was running a tip-top operation once we got to Seattle, complete with roving bands of equipment crews and free coffee and pastries for exhibitors. The venue was hot, as is always the case, but a brisk pre-fair business left many dealers looking pleased, if glistening. In yet another odd reversal, this time I found myself offering occasional tips to fellow assistant and booth-mate Jeremy Reidel, of Books Tell You Why, doing an admirable job of setting up his first solo booth display. The inevitable rain the following day did nothing to dispel the crowds of fairgoers, given an extra boost by the Ephemera Society, and even Sunday brought a significant number of people into the fair. And, through it all, strangely enough, the Tavistock booth stayed relatively busy. We weren’t selling things hand over fist, to be sure, but we kept selling things: to collectors, institutions, old customers, fellow booksellers, all day Saturday and, to a lesser extent, on Sunday, too. All in all, it was a frankly surreal turn of events. Had the good ship Tavistock finally broken its bad luck streak?

To some extent, astonishing though it may be to admit: yes. Unlike many at the fair, it seems, we had good sales this time around, or at least good enough to cover our expenses and cost of goods and make a little profit, to boot. The buying was decent, and we walked away from a pre-fair Sunday morning trip to Taylor Bowie’s shop loaded with armfuls of great new cookery material. Not to mention this lovely eye-catching poster, scouted by Vic in the first few minutes of set-up and soon to be catalogued (contact us for details if interested):


I even found a book for myself . . . from our own booth, much to Vic’s endless delight, which I eventually bought after hiding it from the customers all morning. As Vic has been fond of telling people, however, we probably made somewhere around $1.38 an hour – and that’s not including potential missed sales from the shop being closed, the costs of repairing at least one book that didn’t weather the journey and extra handling, etc. So did we really come out ahead, in the end?


All dressed up!

I’d like to think there’s more to it than just number-crunching. That, in some incalculable way, discussing Stephen Greenblatt with a long-time Seattle-area collector branching into Renaissance studies, or helping a new customer find just the right early nursing books for her research, or getting a whirlwind lesson in medieval paleography from Kait Manning (Philip Pirages) and being schooled in maritime journals by Greg Gibson (Ten Pound Island Book Co.), or simply being part of a physical, non-virtual book presence in the life of a community once a year, amounts to something. It’s too damn fun not to.


Happy Birthday to our Favorite Children’s Book Serialist… Mr. Edward L. Stratemeyer!


On October 4th, 1862, a children’s literature tycoon was born. With his humble beginnings, of course, no one ever would have suspected that a talented writer and publisher was in their midst. Stratemeyer was born the youngest of six children in Elizabeth, New Jersey to a young tobacconist and his wife. Both of Edward’s parents had immigrated from Hanover, Germany in 1837, and yet Stratemeyer’s main language was English growing up. 

As a child, Stratemeyer read Horatio Alger often, enjoying his rags-to-riches tales immensely. He later was said to have remarked on how much Alger’s stories influenced him as a young man, and gave him some of the confidence he later used to begin his career. It looks as though even as a teenager Stratemeyer had some idea of what he wanted to do as an adult, as he opened his own amateur printing press in the basement of his father’s tobacco store. He printed local & homemade flyers and pamphlets, and a few short stories such as The Newsboy’s Adventure and The Tale of a Lumberman. After graduating high school, Stratemeyer worked daily in his father’s shop, and kept up printing a few items here and there. It wasn’t until he turned 26 that he sold his first story to popular children’s periodical Golden Days, and received $76 for his contribution (a fact that the helpful internet informs us was over six times the average weekly paycheck for the average US citizen at the time). 

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-11-20-45-amAfter experiencing this hint of fame and riches, the young writer moved to the larger city of Newark (NJ) and opened a paper shop. He continued to write while earning his daily bread, and penned stories in many different genre’s – short westerns, serials for New England periodicals, dime novels, detective fiction… you name it, he wrote it (well, perhaps except for romances. But I digress). In 1893, just three short years after moving to Newark, Stratemeyer was hired by well-known dime-novel author Gilbert Patten to write for the Street & Smith periodical popular with young boys & men at the time, Good News. Stratemeyer was a popular editor & author at the magazine. 

Just a year later in 1894, Stratemeyer began publishing some of his stories as hardcover novels, the first of which being Richard Dare’s Venture – part of the Bound to Succeed series. Though his first four novels sold reasonably well, the publisher of the stories, Merriam, was unable to publish any further stories due to an economic depression that struck the United States in the late 1890s. Stratemeyer wouldn’t be sad for long, however, as shortly thereafter publisher W. L. Allison picked up his books and published twelve of his titles, and in 1899 an amazing thing happened to young Stratemeyer… he was asked to finish writing for two of his childhood heroes! 

Our affordable copy of The Rover Boys on the River, one of the series known to be Stratemeyer's favorite!

Our affordable copy of The Rover Boys on the River, one of the series known to be Stratemeyer’s favorite! See it here>

First Stratemeyer was asked by Lee & Shepard to pen the last book in a series begun by “Oliver Optic”, of William T. Adams. Adams had passed away before being able to complete the series, and the fans were left with baited breath. Around the same time, author Horatio Alger’s health was declining and he was also unable to finish his writings. Stratemeyer began work on Alger’s stories shortly before Alger’s death in 1899. Alger’s sister Olive negotiated with Stratemeyer to complete some of Alger’s stories that remained as notes or early chapters but that were never finished, and publish them under Alger’s name. The first popular series that Stratemeyer wrote was known as The Rover Boys – an instant success and a series that achieved immense popularity. Stratemeyer is even said to have mentioned that this series was his favorite throughout the years of authorship and publication!

In 1905, just a few short years later, Stratemeyer formed the Stratemeyer Literary Syndicate and began hiring journalists and other writers to pen stories based on his plot ideas. Stratemeyer paid each author a flat rate for the books they submitted, and then kept all of the copyrights to the novels themselves. The journalists wrote under pen names, which also allowed different authors to publish books in the same series. In this vein, printer, author and publisher Stratemeyer was now acting as a “literary agent” for ghostwriters in a way. 

Through the Syndicate, Stratemeyer would be the imagination behind quite a few immensely popular series books, including the Tom Swift series, the Bobbsey Twins, the Hardy Boys, and the Nancy Drew books. Though there are many more titles and series under the Syndicate’s name, these are the most well-remembered today. After Stratemeyer’s death in 1930 at the age of 67, the ownership of the Syndicate was passed on to his two daughters, Harriet and Edna. At first, the sisters thought to sell the Syndicate, but quickly realized that they preferred to keep their father’s business alive. They went on the keep the Syndicate running for twelve years together, and then Harriet kept the Syndicate together until her death in 1982. 

Today, Edward Stratemeyer’s books are largely considered some of the most beloved and well-known children’s series books in the business. They certainly opened a door for series books, and gave many authors the ability to write a be published (even if it wasn’t under their name and they had no rights to their work… but regardless). Happy Birthday to Edward L. Stratemeyer!


Our Fearless Leader Reports from the 42nd ILAB Congress in Budapest!

In 2010, the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Hungary was admitted to be a member of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB). They marked their admittance with a promise to be active within the community, and they took their promise very seriously! Thus marked the beginning of a plan to hold the ILAB Congress in Budapest – a grand affair with lectures, field trips to see magnificent books and libraries, dinners with respected members of the antiquarian book world, and a book fair. As Ádám BőszePresident of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Hungary put it, he felt that Hungary “had an important part to play in saving and reviving our often ‘endangered’ profession” – and boy did they ever. For the second time our fearless leader Vic Zoschak Jr. attended the Congress, and reports back!


Regrets have been few the 22 years I’ve been an ABAA member, but I confess, I do have one…  to have waited until 2014 to attend my first biennial ILAB Congress, which was held in Paris that year.  This year, the Hungarian Association played host, with the 2016 42nd ILAB Congress held in Budapest, September 20th through the 23rd.  The experience was nothing short of awesome.

The beautiful parliament building that sits along the Danube River!

To start, I found Budapest to be one of the most picturesque cities I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit.  And the Congress program, as arranged by Adam Bosze, President of the Hungarian Booksellers’ Association (MAE), was quite absorbing & engaging…  of course we went to libraries, and saw wonderful books [e.g., the first book to feature Count Dracula, a believed unique copy, seen at the National Széchényi Library].

This the Dracula that so impressed Vic!

This the early (and quite possibly unique) Dracula title that so impressed Vic!

I think everyone reading this blog will agree that books are fun, but that’s not the underlying raison d’être of the Congress…  it’s more about meeting colleagues from around the world, and for a few days, sharing experiences while getting to know each other better under the common roof of bibliophily.


Yum, yum… a typical Hungarian meal!

This Congress achieved that end admirably…  dinner at the Ankert, a ‘ruin pub’ [think ‘bombed-out building’ decor]; lunch at a traditional Hungarian cafe, Café Central [loved the local beer, Dreher]; a tour of the Buda Castle district [very much fitting my picturesque comment above]; Lazar Equestrian Park; a sobering tour of the ‘House of Terror’ [a memorial to Hungary’s victims during the fascist & communist regimes]; a lovely lunch cruise on the Danube; and last, but certainly not least, the concluding Farewell Dinner at the nicely appointed Kempinski Hotel Corvinus.


The Congress dinner.

While the dinner concluded the Congress, it did not conclude the trip…  Adam also arranged the very first Hungarian International Antiquarian Book Fair which began Friday September 23rd.  Though modest in scope [~ 25 exhibitors], it was monumental in concept.  While I wasn’t fortunate enough to find anything that fit my inventory profile, I noted many others more lucky than I.  I hope it was a resounding success for all concerned.

So I conclude this short missive by encouraging my fellow ILAB members who have not yet attended an ILAB Congress to consider doing so…  truly, they are an experience not to be missed.  See you in 2018?



[Insert Clever Title Here]

One thing has become abundantly clear since I worked my first book fair a year ago: these post-fair blogs have gotten harder to write. I’m no longer the wide-eyed book fair ingenue I once was, after all, fresh off the bus (or pickup truck, as the case may be) from Ohio and armed with a stranger’s gaze at life on this side of the display cases. The same array of minor catastrophes, clothing fails, relentless anxieties, and even, on occasion, small triumphs, still happen, of course, and I can only assume will continue to do so at every book fair I work, ever. Vic will go on being grumpy and morosely pessimistic before every show; other booksellers will, invariably, be helpful and generous, not to mention gratifyingly abundant in their teasing of Vic when he wanders off to scout other booths or simply dozes in his chair while I sweat through the set-up. We’ll do well, or we won’t, and I’ll probably never fully understand why. It’s not that these details are unimportant, just that they’ve lost the sheen of novelty. The honeymoon, in other words, is over. And yet, on this anniversary of my first year on the book fair circuit, having just closed out the Fall 2016 Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair with its usual vendors, in their usual booths, visited by many of the usual customers, what strikes me is not that all book fairs are essentially alike. It’s that the more things stay the same, or appear to, the more they change.


The Sacramento fair is a well-run local show, tirelessly promoted by Avant Retro’s Jim Kay and reliably filled with customers. Free pizza and cold beverages on set-up day ensure a moderately happy (or at least, not overly cranky) group of booksellers, and Jim opens the doors bright and early on fair day proper for any latecomers. Dealers come to buy as much as to sell, manage their expectations accordingly, and are generally not overly disappointed one way or the other. As fairs go, it’s a steady workhorse, no more and no less, and this year was no exception.

kate-at-the-sac-fairThe temperature was already inching over 90 degrees when we pulled into the parking lot at the Scottish Rite Temple on H Street, but Q (Queue? surely that would be too ironic . . . ) and his fellow crewman were undaunted as they wheeled load after load of books and bookcases into the venue. Vic promptly went off to prowl any exposed stock, and I started in on cleaning out the display cases, sorting, and, in general, making myself useful. Bill Bastick of Asian Steppes, whose booth was situated as usual across the aisle, joked about my slave status, as is his wont; Michael Good (Michael Good Books) stopped by to ask what was taking me so long; Judith Mason (Cultural Images) pointed out a nonexistent fingerprint I’d missed; James Dourgarian (James M. Dourgarian, Bookman) asked if I’d brought any ice to soothe Vic’s aching muscles after his herculean labors on our booth; Kim Hafer Herrick (The Book Lair) gave Vic bourbon and me chocolate, thus ensuring both of our lifelong friendships; Taylor Bowie (manning the booth for John Michael Lang Fine Books) and I discussed books; and . . . er, well, both Laurelle Swan (Swan’s Fine Books) and Kol Shaver (Zephyr Used & Rare Books) pointed out that customers would have an easier time reading the titles of our books if they weren’t upside-down, observations they kindly made while Vic was out of earshot, and which I speedily remedied. All in all, it was the usual delightful camaraderie, and, eventually, I even managed to get the booth set up. And sold something while I was at it, too, getting our fair off to a promising start.

img_3235As you may know, Tavistock hasn’t always had the best of luck at book fairs, shall we say: my first Sacramento fair was resoundingly dismal, in fact, as were most of the following fairs we exhibited at. So I’ve learned to approach these with a certain amount of trepidation. Nevertheless, as the fair opened on Saturday with a steady stream of visitors to our booth, and purchases poured in from Vic’s successful scouting, I began to feel cautiously optimistic. I even had a good find, at least for myself: a copy of Books and Bidders snagged for a whopping $4, and now next in line on my reading list. Sales and crowds continued throughout the day, and while not all of the dealers I talked to had a successful fair, Tavistock did . . . really well. On all fronts. It was strange and wonderful, and for the first time, we left a fair with a spring in our step.

Does this mean we’ll magically do well in Seattle, too? Of course not. When I say I have no idea why one fair is better than another, I’m not joking. I’d like to think, though, that this might just be the beginning of a run of successful fairs for the good ship Tavistock, or that at the very least Vic will have more finds like this lovely 1976 poster supporting the land reclamation and establishment of the Mohawk community of Ganienkeh, in New York:


To be catalogued shortly… if interested, please send us an email!

And as for that pesky problem of having become an old hand on the book fair circuit? I’ve lost my privileged outsider status, it’s true. But you know what? It’s more of a privilege than ever to get to hang out with fellow booksellers and bibliophiles for a day or two.

See you next time.


We out!


Happy International Literacy Day! All Hail the Printing Press


As everyone (at least, everyone who is reading this blog) probably knows, the advent of the Printing Press in 1454 (the year the Gutenberg Bible was printed) instigated a major boom in reading and literacy worldwide. Suddenly even the common man could afford a booklet or even a book… there was no longer an aristocratic or religious hold on reading! Huzzah! But how much did it really and truly do? The results are endless. In honor of International Literacy Day, we’d like to take a look at the beginnings of printing for the masses and how it helped shaped the modern world.

A long, long time ago (not in a galaxy far away), in the 13th & 14th centuries, printing used a technique now known as “block-printing”. Characters and images were literally carved into a block of wood, ink was poured into the crevices, and then the block was pressed onto paper. You can imagine how time consuming and expensive this method was, as each block of words or pictures had to be carved by hand. As “trendy” as woodcuts are now in fine press items, back then they were almost a nuisance – the wooden blocks tended to break after too much use and once a single thing changed within the image an entirely new block would need to be created. As governments and businesses grew to realize the importance of written records in their lives, demand for an easier printing technique became apparent.


Johannes Gutenberg

Though several print specialists were looking into faster & easier ways to print for the masses with moveable metal type, the first to make his mark was the well-known Johannes Gutenberg, an aristocrat from Mainz, Germany. Born in 1398, he was in his 50s when his fame spread far for his invention developed with an alloy of lead and tin that would be more durable and far easier to re-use when placed in a printing press. In his format, the reusable separate pieces of type would be placed in the press, and then the mirror images of each letter were carved in relief to create words. And since the letters could be rearranged into any format – the possibilities were endless! Any type of writing could be printed – finally printing was not only a technique used for the wealthy or the church.


A printing press similar to the one that Johannes Gutenberg set up in the 1450s.

In 1452 at the age of 54, Johannes Gutenberg was finally able to get the necessary funds together to begin what would become his legacy – the Gutenberg Bible. He printed two hundred copies of his Bible in 1454 and sold many of them (for very large sums of money) in 1455 at the Frankfurt Book Fair (glad to know Book Fairs were enjoyed even so long ago!) According to one online source, the Bibles cost the equivalent of three years’ pay “for the average clerk.” (So available for the masses, but sort of not.)

In less than 50 years, over twenty-five hundred European cities boasted printing presses, and the technique grew and spread like wildfire. Of course its immediate effect was that it multiplied by hundreds the production of the written word, and also (quickly) cut the cost of books to an affordable treat. A large population of the world was hungry for information, and the printing press was able to give them what they needed. Though at first the texts still mainly dealt with religious subjects, they soon dealt with a variety of topics and were purchased and read by all kinds of people – scientists, students, businessmen and nobility all benefitted from the advance in printing technology. The advances in many fields (particularly in science and technology) were obvious – the propagation of knowledge in a form available to all manner of people made the sharing of ideas and observations all the more easy.

In a way, the advent of the printing press in the mid 15th century could easily be compared with the spreading of ideas via the internet currently. A quick and easy (not to mention cheap) way of spreading religious, scientific, political and moral thoughts and conceptions went “viral” and literacy rates worldwide boomed in the 1500s. On today, International Literacy Day, we should give thanks to the invention that (in a way) started it all! All hail the moveable type printing press!

A modern day printing press!

A modern day printing press!


Happy Birthday to Mary Shelley… and the Birth of Frankenstein

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 1.58.49 PM

Once upon a time, there was a large house that sat alone on a cliff in the countryside. It contained more dark corners and cobwebs to count. On one dark and stormy night, inside that house a birth took place. One young lady (and a terribly naive young and handsome doctor) created a terrible creature that would come to haunt the world for years to come. His name… was Frankenstein.

(I was joking about the cliff thing. I have no idea if there were any cliffs or cobwebs about that weekend. In any case…)

Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin in August of 1797. She was the daughter of the famous feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and the political activist William Godwin. The young Mary was raised by her father after her mother passed away only a month after her birth. Godwin raised his daughter in a relaxed well-off atmosphere, being sure to educate her thoroughly (in literature and the humanities, as well as his own political ideologies). In 1814 at the age of 17 she began a romantic relationship with a fan of her father’s – one Percy Bysshe Shelley. Unfortunately Shelley was already married and their relationship would cause both parties much heartache and also and pain for their loved ones. Mary and her stepsister Claire Clairmont traveled through Europe for a few months, where she became pregnant with Shelley’s child. The daughter was, unfortunately, prematurely born and passed away.

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 1.58.24 PMFrom here the story only gets stranger and stranger – with reports that the three traveled around Europe for six weeks on foot reciting poetry and the great classics to each other, returning (when Wollstonecraft was reportedly with child) penniless and bedraggled. After returning, Mary and Shelley (with neither families on speaking terms with the young couple) lived together in a cottage in Bishopsgate. In mid 1816, numerous disheartening events took place – both couples endured suicides from each side of their relationships. Mary’s eldest half-sister Fanny committed suicide (long to have been thought to be because of her exclusion from the circle that Mary and Claire were a part of) by taking an overdose of laudanum in an inn in Wales. A couple months later, Shelley’s wife Harriet was found drowned in the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park, the result from her own suicide. Though both events undoubtedly shook the young couple, it did not detract from their hasty marriage a short three weeks after Harriet took her own life.

Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont had fallen in love with Lord Byron (despite his lack of affections towards her) and convinced the Shelleys to rent adjoining houses with the director on the shores of Lake Geneva. She resumed a sexual relationship with Byron, that eventually amounted to a daughter (and little else, as it was said that Byron could not stand her personality and constant desperation for him). In any case, this proved to be a most fruitful summer for Mary (or shall I say, Mrs. Shelley?) as it was here at Byron’s Villa Diodati that the group would meet and work on their writings.

Percy Shelley, the love of Mary's life!

Percy Shelley, the love of Mary’s life!

One night at Villa Diodati, Byron, Shelley, Mary, Claire and Byron’s young doctor John William Polidori made a pact to each write a ghost story. Though this caused Mary severe amounts of anxiety at her lack of ideas, she eventually became haunted by the image of a young man reanimating a corpse… and so Frankenstein was born! Though she began it as a short story, with Percy’s encouragement she fleshed the idea out into her first full-length novel. She would later remark on this summer of writing and editing as the time “when [she] first stepped out from childhood into life.”

This time of writing and intellectual stimulation did not last long, however. The Shelley’s were tormented by the deaths of all but one of their children – and just a few short years later Shelley would drown in a sailing accident off the coast of Italy. Though Mary Shelley continued to write throughout her lifetime – stories for ladies magazines, five volumes of “Lives” to the Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopaedia, novels such as The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck in 1830, Lodore in 1835 and Falkner in 1837 – her primary concern was the welfare and well-being of her one surviving child, Percy Florence. She made sure he was brought up in a manner that would have suited his father, and the mother and son were close and very fond of each other. She became quite ill towards the end of the 1830s, and passed away over a decade later of what is suspected to have been an undiagnosed brain tumor. She was only 53 years old. A year later, her son and his wife finally opened her box desk, and are said to have found locks of her two dead children’s hair, a notebook with entries from both herself and Percy Shelley, a copy of on of his poems along with a silk satchel of his ashes and the remains of his heart.

Now that’s true love, eh?