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Local Collectibles – Classic Histories of Derby

Local Collectibles – Classic Histories of Derby

In 2013 I wrote an article in Country Images about collecting local books, and threatened to continue the theme with further examples at a later date. Since then, we have been concentrating on modern collectibles, but following three separate appeals from readers for me to continue with collectible old local books, I thought I might take a detour and look at the oldest printed accounts of Derby itself.

The very first written account after John Leland appears in William Camden’s Britannia of 1610, but which is not only in Latin, but is also hard to come by and contains accounts of everywhere else too, as does the account in Britton & Bailey’s Beauties of England & Wales (1801 on). There were also one or two short notices written in the later 17th century, but key is the MS account by William Woolley of Darley Hall, written in 1713. It was only published in 1981, but was much plundered (being in various local collections from the start and probably in more than one copy).

Woolley wrote quite a full account of the town, and was followed by most who came after. The first was William Hutton, FSA (Scot) who published his History and Antiquities of Derby in 1791, devoting 320 pages to his subject. He was a native of the town, a former child employee of the Silk Mill and much of what he wrote is from personal experience which makes his book crucial, although he also quotes copiously from Woolley. 

The book is 9 by 6 inches (octavo) and contains an east prospect of Derby as a frontispiece, by George Moneypenny, Joseph Pickford’s former carver, P P Burdett’s revised map of Derby and a number of engravings, also by Moneypenny who was a fine sculptor, but in my view less accomplished as a draughtsman! 

A second edition – little changed – was printed in 1819, but which is less desirable to the collector. A reproduction version of 2017 should cost about £20-25 but an original copy is more expensive and much scarcer: £480 was paid for one recently, although rebound in half calf. My copy has Horatio Walpole’s bookplate and is thus from the library at Strawberry Hill, which might add a premium, but £120-£180 should buy a serviceable copy, and less for the second edition. In between came Samuel & Nathaniel Lysons’ History of Derbyshire (1817) with a Derby section closely based on Hutton but with a better map.

Robert Simpson was the next in the field, publishing A Collection of Fragments IIlustrative of the History and Antiquities of Derby, three parts in two volumes in 1826. Part one reproduces in full all the documents then available relating to Derby’s History whilst part II is an account of the topography, churches and buildings. Part three contains biographical notes, lists of Mayors MPs and High Sheriffs and so on – all very useful, if hardly gripping reading!

For both volumes, complete with folding map and lithographic illustrations, you will need £200 plus – one dealer is currently asking £150 for volume II only! – but the 2015 paperback reprint usually costs £30-35. 

The classic history is that of Stephen Glover, being an amplification of his 1827 directory of the county (published, confusingly, in 1829). That same year he published volume one of a projected History and Gazetteer of Derbyshire, which consists of a general history, natural history, manufactures etc, plus 17 useful appendices, reprinting documents, many of which had eluded Simpson, including the town annals in full, a document since lost in the 1841 Guildhall fire.

But just for a good history of Derby itself, one requires volume two (he never published any more volumes, due to a variety of problems) which came out in 1831. This has nearly 500 pages with 250-odd devoted to Derby, with lots of (well-known) woodcuts and some good engravings. In the same year Glover published a revised volume I and in 1833 came the best, revised volume II, now 623 pages. The first edition now goes for about £140 plus, the second for £60-180. However, he also had imperial octavo editions printed, like mine, which normally go for over £200. A single volume II of either edition now costs between £50 and £80. 

The Derby section of Glover’s history was revised again in 1843 (with a gazetteer and directory), reprinted in hardback in the 1990s by Breedon Books, this going for some £15 these days, although the original makes between £50 and £80 in good condition and there is even an 1858 version usually obtainable (but very rarely available) at the same sort of price.

One nice chatty book about Derby which is readable and includes some quirky asides is John Keys’ Sketches of Old Derby and Neighbourhood, a limited edition on high quality paper and binding published by Bemrose in imperial octavo in 1895. Keys was an ex-employee of the China Factory, so adds some fascinating insights. It is a handsome book and contains a number of engravings, some of unfamiliar buildings. It also reproduced the famous 1712 plan of The Friary. Ex-library and well-thumbed this should cost no more than £25, but for a good copy you must expect to pay up to about £80.

In 1909 came A W Davison’s Derby, its Rise and Progress which is a handy account as far as it goes, as is its close cousin, W. A. Richardson’s Citizen’s Derby, of 1947, issued to all Borough Schools and therefore quite common and inexpensive (£10-15) Neither has any pretension to scholarship, and much of the information has been modified by later research.

Finally, there is Llewellyn Eardley Simpson’s Derby and the ’Forty Five, published in London by Philip Allen in 1933 and fairly scarce. Despite being pretty fiercely partisan in favour of the Jacobite cause, it is very detailed and useful, drawing together all the available sources including those in the Royal Archives, and reproduces some in full. 

There is also a sort of prosopography of those involved, setting out their backgrounds, careers, and allegiances or suspected allegiances. It is also very helpful in identifying buildings and is sound on what Derby was actually like two hundred years before. This should be available for £30-40 in average condition, although pristine more like £50-60.

Subsequently, research has transformed the story of Derby, especially in its first thousand years and in its role in the Midland’s Enlightenment, but those books which tackle these matter are relatively cheap and plentiful.


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