Spilling the Beans on the Cat's Pyjamas
Popular Expressions – What They Mean and Where We Got Them
In this book from the Blackboard reference series, Judy Parkinson, author of I Before E (Except After C), presents an A-Z of popular expressions, their meanings and origins. With quotations from sources and anecdotes, she explains the facts - and sometimes theories - behind every saying, including who Methuselah was, how and why people were 'sold down the river' and the Shakespearean source of 'It's all Greek to me'.
Writing on the Wall
100 Iconic Blue Plaques Commemorating Britain's History
Across Britain, blue plaques on houses record the notable people who lived there: writers, artists, musicians, actors, sportsmen and women, scientists, politicians and social reformers. In this celebration of individual achievement, Mike Read, who helped create a series of plaques for BBC Music Day in 2017, presents 100 of these memorials. Each entry tells the story of the personality commemorated, from David Bowie to William Shakespeare, and contains an often surprising link to the next featured plaque.
Trivial Events and Trifling Decisions that Changed British History
In 1831 26-year-old Captain Robert FitzRoy advertised for a companion to accompany him on a voyage to South America. The ship was the HMS Beagle; the successful applicant the young Charles Darwin; the result of the voyage the theory of natural selection. This entertaining compendium of 40 historical anecdotes, whose topics include science, politics, food and literature, illustrates how seemingly insignificant events can alter the course of history.
The Angler's Guide
In 1816, TF Salter abridged his earlier Angler’s Guide to provide the novice with this affordable work of ‘real practical Information on the Art of taking Fish’ (‘the words catch and caught are seldom used by anglers’, according to his glossary). There are chapters on each type of fish and appropriate techniques, with illustrations by the author.
I Before E (Except After C)
OId-School Ways to Remember Stuff
Judy Parkinson’s collection of mnemonics includes rhymes, acronyms and curious phrases such as 'My Very Exotic Mistress Just Served Us Noodles’ (order of the planets): all of them learning devices for subjects ranging from spelling to the periodic table (the latter sung to the tune of Gilbert and Sullivan's 'I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General').
Inventions that Didn't Change the World
It’s no wonder the ‘Combined Umbrella Handle and Railway Carriage Door Key’, or the ‘Continuous Stream Enema Fountain Syringe’, were never made, yet Victorian designers were ever hopeful of relieving life’s burdens. This fascinating collection of 240 illustrations, reproduced from the National Archives, features drawings of gadgets and appliances submitted to officialdom for copyright purposes but never realized as products. Domestic needs and health concerns are among the many aspects of Victorian life revealed by the quirky ingenuity on display.
The Craft of the Lead Pencil
Mervyn Peake is best remembered as the author of the Gormenghast trilogy, but he was also an artist and illustrator of immense skill and originality. In this charming little book, first published in 1946 and illustrated with his own work, he explains the secrets of pencil drawing – perspective, proportion, direction of light, thickness of line, light and shadow – in the simplest and clearest terms.
An Anthology of Famous Last Words
Salvador Dali’s enigmatic parting question, ‘Where is my clock?’; Louis B Meyer’s gloomy conclusion, ‘It wasn’t worth it’; Hegel’s final, impenetrable comment, ‘Only one man ever understood me, and he didn’t understand me’... The last words of 200 famous men and women, together with notes on their deaths, are gathered here in five chapters on Hedonists, Optimists, Pragmatists, Visionaries and those who delivered a Parting Shot.
Earth to Earth
A Natural History of Churchyards
As protected sacred places, churchyards provide a tranquil environment in which wild plants and animals can thrive even when their nearby natural habitats have been destroyed. With photographs, newly commissioned drawings and passages from literature, Professor Buczacki celebrates this abundance of nature among the headstones, exploring the long history of our churchyards and describing the species most commonly found there, from mighty ancient yews to woodlice (nicknamed ‘church pigs’), graveyard beetles and lichens. Foreword by Lord Harries.
Moustaches, Whiskers & Beards
The extravagant whiskers of prominent Victorians such as Charles Darwin and WG Grace seemed impossibly archaic until the recent 'hipster' fashion reinvented the wearing of long beards for young men for the first time since the hippies of the 1960s. This book traces the history of fashions in facial hair from the ancients to the present day.
Skyscrapers, Hemlines and the Eddie Murphy Rule
What is the difference between Murphy’s Law and Sod’s Law? Why is the Pooh-Pooh Theory implausible? Will we fall victim to the Skyscraper Index? In chapters on everything from politics and economics to scuba diving, Philip Gooden sets out informal laws, unwritten rules and theories, and reveals their origins, the people responsible and what they mean – unless they are as inexplicable as Herblock’s Law: If it’s good, they’ll stop making it.
As Easy as Pi
Stuff about Numbers that isn't (just) Maths
Numbers are all-pervasive in our world; Pythagoras even said they rule the universe. This guide to the numbers of everyday life explains how they influence our religion, myth, fiction and linguistic idioms, why some numbers are considered lucky or unlucky, how they are exploited in games and scams, and their vital role in the realms of mathematics and science.
Gift Wrapping Paper Book
With their imaginative, modern designs, high-quality paper and careful printing, these wrapping papers will make presents look very special, but they are also suitable for all kinds of craft projects. Each book contains an introduction and 12 large sheets (50x70cm) of wrapping paper - one each of 12 designs - folded into the book and easily removed along perforations.
A Collection of Epigrams and Epitaphs Serious and Comic
Originally published in 1933, this little book of witty epigrams and epitaphs by the English writer and poet Martin Armstrong (1882–1974) is illustrated with wood-engravings by Eric Ravilious (1903–1942). The subjects of the verses are 54 professionals or types, ranging from a judge to a snuff-taker and a ‘boarding-house lift man’; and each one is accompanied by its own woodcut.
And Other Grammatical Grumbles
Greengrocers are not alone, even PhDs can misuse apostrophes: these ‘little things’ cause more problems in the English language than any other element of grammar. By going back to the roots of the language and understanding why we use apostrophes, Patrick Notchtree promises that ‘all will be made clear’, and he presents the ‘One Easy Rule’ that will point the way to apostrophe mastery.
An Alphabet of London
This beautiful and unusual book contains more than 200 linocuts, many in colour, celebrating the landmarks of London and distinctive life of the city. From A for Queen Anne's Alcove in Kensington Gardens - not to mention Abbey Road - to Z for London Zoo, via Shakespeare's Globe, Hampton Court and the Old Vic. In the final chapter, the artist explains the fascinating - yet very accessible - process by which he created the linocuts.
The Illustrated Book of Prayer
Poems, Prayers and Thoughts for Every Day
Arranged by theme – Thanks and Praise, Love and Forgiveness, Children's Prayers and Strength and Healing – this anthology includes prayers by churchmen and poets, hymns, psalms, and words from the Bible, including Daniel's Blessing and the Magnificat. The book is illustrated with a wonderfully varied collection of paintings on religious themes, with Botticelli's The Virgin and Child on the cover.
The Curious Cookbook
Viper Soup, Badger Ham, Stewed Sparrows & 100 More Historic Recipes
This collection of 90 unusual recipes from historical cookery books includes some extraordinary dishes, such as Artificial Asses' Milk Made with Bruised Snails (1747) and Porpoise with Wheat Porridge (1450). Recipes reveal a lot about their time, and here a perceptive commentary discusses their social and economic context. A foreword by Heston Blumenthal sheds light on the way our cuisine is constantly evolving in response to trends and new ingredients.
Keep Britain Tidy
And Other Posters from the Nanny State
'Don't ask a man to drink and drive', 'Coughs and sneezes spread diseases', 'Take your litter home'... Combining snappy slogans with eye-catching graphics, post-war British governments sought to influence the way we lived – all for our own good, of course. Accompanied by informative captions, more than 40 of these posters, produced between 1945 and 1975, are reproduced in this book in handy detachable format ready to pin up as nostalgic decoration. But remember – take care how you do it.
Or, The Happy Land!
Author and illustrator Mary Frances Ames (1853-1929) produced several quirkily patriotic books at the turn of the 20th century. This example, first published in 1902, consists of a series of short humorous verses facing colour illustrations that celebrate such symbols of Englishness as cricket and golf, the Lord Mayor and First Sea-Lord, roast beef, ping-pong and bank holidays.
Back to Basics
The Education You Wish You'd Had
All of us from time to time are tortured by forgetting simple facts that we learned long ago, or are made aware of glaring – and potentially embarrassing – gaps in our knowledge. If you still have to think about the grocer's apostrophe or can't remember your irregular French verbs, then this book will remind you of the basic English, Maths, Science, History, French and Geography that we were all taught at school.
Infographic Guide to Sports
Serena Williams may be all conquering in women's tennis but as one of the colourful graphics in this book points out, she has not yet managed to surpass Monica Seles in the volume of her grunting. This entertaining volume presents 80 amusing artworks analysing aspects of different sports, from a diagrammatic plan of the Ali shuffle to the 35 designs of Olympic torch between Berlin 1936 and Sochi 2012.
The Missing Ink
The Lost Art of Handwriting (and Why it Still Matters)
'Handwriting is good for us', argues Philip Hensher, 'It involves us in a relationship with the written word which is sensuous, immediate and individual'. In his witty and highly entertaining defence of handwriting, Hensher discusses teachers of handwriting, theorists and graphologists, goose quills, nibs and the Cristal Bic, and he makes a passionate case for continuing to scribble notes, write letters, chew Biros, and 'enhance the quality of our lives by going for the slow option'.
Buried in Books
A Reader's Anthology
'But how can I live here without my books?' wrote Balthazar Bonifacius Rhodiginus in 1656. 'I really seem to myself crippled and only half myself.' This compilation of literary extracts, quotations and bons mots is a must for all bibliophiles: it comprises more than 350 items describing the most bookish behaviour of the past few hundred years.
The O Level Book
O levels were taken in Britain between 1951 and 1988 and are often considered by the people who took them to have been much harder than the GCSEs that replaced them. Whether this is true or not can be put to the test by studying this book, which collates sample questions from O level exams set between 1955 and 1959 in English, Maths, History, Geography, General Science, Music and Household Cookery.
The Life and Times of the Penis
To possess a penis, Sophocles said, is to be 'chained to a madman'. This light-hearted but impressively researched book ranges across history, world cultures, literature, art, medicine and myth to examine man's relation to his characteristic member. It investigates the reasons why this unruly appendage all too often appears to have a mind of its own - and the joint relationship of man and his madman to the opposite sex.
How to Sound Cultured
Covering the cultural figures you feel you ought to know about, but don't – Sappho, Talleyrand, JK Galbraith etc – this book concisely describes the achievements of 250 people whose names are frequently dropped in intellectual discourse. Arranged by attribute, under headings such as Hermits, Stinkers and Militant Atheists, this is an informative guide to the peaks and troughs (such as mistaking Rimbaud for Rambo) of clever conversation.
Teddy Bears, Tupperware and Sweet Fanny Adams
How the Names Became the Words
As you lie on the davenport in your cardigan, eating garibaldi biscuits, do you ever consider how people's names become words we use in everyday English? From Achilles to Zeppelin, this entertaining book investigates both familiar and unusual eponyms and describes the stories behind them. At last, we meet the man who gave the world the Hoover, the farmer responsible for macadamia nuts (John Macadam), and Dr Salmon, immortalized in salmonella.
The Dog that Survived the Titanic
and Other Amazing Animal Stories
Inspired by the incredible tale of Rigel, the Newfoundland dog that survived the Titanic disaster, this book is a celebration of animal antics. With over 500 stories including the cat that flew the world, the gorilla who learned sign language, the horse that drove a Cadillac and a dog arrested for skateboarding, this entertaining collection reveals the intelligence of our animal friends.