What to Read This Long Weekend

It’s been a while since we last wrote you a book recommendation list, since the introduction of our Staff Picks area in the shop. Our staff have been choosing books to recommend our visitors for the last few months, and we’re loving sharing the books that we’ve enjoyed with all of you.

But! A long weekend means lots of time to delve into a new book or an old favourite. So, with that in mind, we’ve put together a big list of recommendations – some taken from our Staff Picks in store – that we think will make the perfect reads this Easter weekend.

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Darwin Featured: “The Fairy Mythology”

Having dipped my toes into fairy land in “Common Wayside Flowers”, one of the books featured in last week’s Darwin blog post, I suddenly spied The Fairy Mythology, in two volumes, perched high on a shelf near my head. So this week I am diving head first, deep into the dark and mercurial heart of the land of fairies, elves, dwarfs, wild-women, kobolds and nixes.

The Fairy Mythology, published by William Harrison Ainsworth in 1828, explores fairy tales from the British Isles, Persia, Arabia, Scandinavia and Northern Islands, amongst other places. The origins of these tales of popular belief are described as poetic fiction, generated to explain natural phenomena by ascribing them to the works of various heroes, saints, gods or other mythical beings.


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My Top 10 Children’s Book Illustrators

-By Emma Bilsborough, Sales & Marketing Coordinator

I love Children’s literature. My house is filled with stacks and stacks of kids books, because I can’t resist trying each new title that falls into my lap at Bookbarn (and it should be pointed out that, due to the influx of books we receive each day, I am too often leaving laden with new books). I love the words, I love the depth of imagination in the stories, I love the way that Children’s authors present the world to young people, I love the way that the writing respects the way that Children think, and I absolutely love the illustrations. In another life, I’m sure, in which I am talented with a pencil or paintbrush, I could have been an illustrator. But, woe is me, I have to settle for working in a giant bookshop with lots of cool, creative people. What a shame.

Anyway, I commit the absolute sacrilege that is cutting up books (what! how dare she! I hear you say) on a regular basis, because I love to have framed illustrations in my house. When doing this last, I considered the thought that my favourite illustrator has changed as of late, and then I found myself mulling over my top ten. When I reached it, after much deliberation, I thought I’d share it. So, here it is.

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Darwin Featured: “Common Wayside Flowers” and “The Language of Flowers”

The clocks have sprung forward, and Spring is pulsing everywhere. There are tight green buds unfurling into brand new leaves on every tree and bush. Primroses, violets and daffodils jubilantly celebrate the spring sunshine, and other flowers are waiting invisibly in the wings. As soon as the sun comes out, country walks and beautiful gardens beckon, as do the garden centres with their rows of pretty packets full of flower seeds.

I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I have spent the last few weekends completely outside amongst trees, spring flowers and budding bushes. So back at work, trying to conjure up Spring again, amidst torrential rains hammering on the roof, these two books in our Darwin Rare Books room, caught my attention this morning.


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Easter at Bookbarn!

We’ve said it before, and we will say it again – the school holidays are our favourite time at Bookbarn. It’s always so much fun to help unite little readers with their new favourite books and authors, and to have them telling us about what we should read too.

Today marks the last day of school before the Easter holidays, two weeks filled with fun activities and a ridiculous amount of chocolate. With that in mind, we thought we’d share with you what you can expect from your visit to Bookbarn this half term. If you weren’t planning to visit, hopefully this post will change your mind.

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Darwin Featured: ‘The Farmer’s Companion’

-written by Diane Newland, Bookseller.

The Farmer’s Companion; Being a Complete System of Modern Husbandry: Including the Latest Improvements and Discoveries, in Theory and Practice” By R.W.Dickson, M.D.

This book, in two volumes, contains swathes of fascinating detail on every aspect of  farm, arable and livestock management. It covers everything about an early 1800’s farm that you could possibly imagine. It even includes precise measurements for planting with, and setting drills, as well as tables of monetary accounts from that time.

What really drew me to this two volume set, however, are the beautifully detailed, fold-out illustrations; meticulous engravings of various ploughs, carts, rakes, harrows and hoes. These I could study, and marvel at, for ages. They are like precise engineering drawings, and have a clear, descriptively graphic quality to them. The objects they depict, although purely practical, appear beautiful in both proportion and shape.


The subjects covered by these volumes include different ploughs, drills and “thrashing” machines, the maintenance and construction of various farm buildings, the methods of enclosing land with fences, walls, palings, hedges, ditches and gates, road construction, soils, manures, preparation and cultivation of arable and grassland, and, of course, all kinds of livestock. An exhaustive list which, once the information is absorbed could no doubt turn you into the perfect nineteenth century farmer. Even if this is not your calling, the immense detail is absorbing and fascinating.


There are Swing-ploughs, Rotheram-ploughs,Wheel-ploughs, Two-furrow-ploughs, Skim coulter-ploughs and Common Mole-ploughs. A variation of the latter, invented by a Mr Lumbert was designed “especially for women” to use apparently, and was operated by windlasses. They are so called because they create drain channels while leaving the surface nearly intact and there is a lovely diagram of Lambert’s Mole Plough. Some of the more unusual sounding implements include a Hop-nidget, a Scuffle, and a Twitch-rake!



Many of the planting crops mentioned sound the same as a conventional farmer would probably plant today; carrots, parsnips, potatoes, wheat, barley and oats..(white, black, red, blue, naked, Siberian, Friesland, Scotch grey, Short smalis, and Churche’s). I had no idea there were so many types! Other crops however, like woad, weld, flax, hemp, madder, mangle-wurzel, teasels, liquorice, and lavender, sound much more unusual these days, certainly as everyday farming crops, and much more rooted in the main farming of the past, when there would have been real practical demand for their use as cordage, for cloth, as a dye, in the woollen trade, or as a sweet treat etc:


An equally wide array of natural grasses are listed, including ones called Cocksfoot, Crested dog’s-tail and Meadow fox-tail. I love the visually descriptive names. The grasses described as “artificial” (ie; needing to be especially sown, to restore tillage lands to the state of grass), include Red Clover, Saintfoin, Lucern, Tares, Bush Vetch, Tufted Vetch and Chicory.

This book is, therefore, agriculturally, botanically, and historically fascinating. Published in 1813, the volumes are leather bound and decorated with a fine filigree gilt border. If you are into older, traditional farming methods, or even if you’re not, this rare two volume set is a rich and fascinating storehouse of farming expertise straight from the pre-Victorian past, and it is worth purchasing purely for the intricate engravings alone.


It can be purchased online, and is also currently for sale in our Darwin Rare Books Room for £498.

Do also come in and browse all our other rare and unusual books we hold in stock, as we have a vastly eclectic collection of old books on a huge array of subjects including history, nature, ancient crafts, the sciences, and many more! 


Visit us on the Bank Holiday Sunday or Monday to enjoy our Kilo Sale, in which you may find little treats just like this one!


A Couple of Event Updates!

Our Kilo Sale announcement received such a wonderful response that we have decided to extend the original event to a TWO DAY sale event. This means that if you have plans on Bank Holiday Monday and were sad to miss out, you don’t have to!

The sale will be running on both Sunday the 5th of May and Monday the 6th of May. We are so incredibly excited!

Updated event details can be found on our Facebook events page.


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Darwin Featured: A Mother’s Day Special

-By Diane Newland. Darwin Bookseller.

A Mother’s Day Special: The Baby’s Bouquet. Arranged and Decorated by Walter Crane.

Mother’s Day, these days, is a day of flowers, cakes, chocolates, cards, sticky fingered cuddles, or days out, if you are lucky. Working in the Darwin Rare Books room surrounded by tales of olden days however, encourages a quick delve into the history of this special day. Mother’s Day actually originates from the ancient Greeks who dedicate a yearly spring festival to the maternal goddesses, Rhea and Cybele. The Romans celebrated mothers with their festival of Hilaria, and the Christians have Mothering Sunday, which is actually a commemoration of ‘Mother Church,’ not motherhood, although they have become intertwined.

The modern holiday of Mother’s day however was first celebrated in 1908 when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother, whose work she wanted to honour. Her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died in 1905 and was a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers during the Civil War, and set up Mother’s Day Working Clubs to address public health issues.

With Mother’s Day this Sunday, and the idea of celebrating mothers in my mind, I hunted through the titles of the richly coloured book spines in the Darwin Rare Books Room. Some faded, some still glowing warmly with old gilt, I happened to pull out a plain brown spine which previous to this had passed unnoticed, lodged as it was, between the very decorative spines of our bound and beautiful collection.


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Where’s Wally?

Happy Friday, everybody! We hope you have a weekend filled with bookish fun ahead of you, we certainly do (as we always do). If you’re desperate to visit a bookshop but can’t find the time to make the trip, we have an excellent solution.

Over a month ago we were visited by a Google photographer, who took panoramas of our shop, inside and out, for Google Maps. We thought it’d be fun, as we are mature, hard-working adults, to set up a game of virtual Where’s Wally? to be played when the images were live.

You can guess where this is headed, I’m sure!

Our Google Maps 360 photos are now up, and we want you to join in! All you have to do is head to this link right here: Inside Bookbarn International, and take a virtual tour around the shop. Whilst you’re perusing the shelves and checking out the cafe, keep your eyes peeled for a certain stripey, behatted and bespectacled book character hiding amongst the books.


So, we’re encouraging you to pay us a visit this weekend, whether virtually or physically (isn’t that neat!). We’d like to point out, also, that if you are visiting us in person, don’t expect Wally to be here. He takes the weekends off.

We’d also like to offer a free book to those of you who can tell us where to find Wally in our shop, to be collected upon your next visit to Bookbarn. Just comment on this post or send us a message, and we’ll take down your name and let our shop team know that you are to be awarded a free book.

Happy hunting!


Darwin Featured: World Poetry Day Special

-written by Diane Newland, Darwin Bookseller

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child who knows poems by heart.”

I have this quote, by Rainer Maria Rilke, pinned up in my kitchen, and it fills me with hope and childish joy every time I read it.

The lush buds of spring are everywhere now, despite the recent rain and storms. It is also World Poetry Day tomorrow, so that’s two great reasons to be filled with celebratory joy!

Poetry is a daily part of life for many people. It adds beauty, vision, inspiration, solace, and humour to life.

Like spring bulbs under earth, the joy of a poetic spirit is, I believe, in all of us. It might be buried deep under mundane practical necessities, a daily grind of unpalatable chores, or an inbox full of tedious spreadsheets, but it’s in there somewhere, so let’s dig deep into our jaded hearts, retrieve our neglected souls, and revisit the intensity and wonder of the world through a few diamond-cut words, strung like jewels on a spider web.

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