Court Hay Books are the leading specialists in antiquarian gardening books and their genial proprietor, Howard Walters, stays ahead in this internet age by providing a personal service. He didn’t like to trust a courier service with my order of the Victorian gardening magazine The Garden and delivered them to me personally. Mind you, as he was delivering more than 2,000 weekly editions, covering a period of 20 years, his decision was probably a wise one- they filled the boot of his car. The magazines were bound into 31 volumes, each of 500 pages of dense type, comprising, at a rough estimate, more than 37 million words. This new purchase covers the period from 1880 to 1902 and supplements the run from 1871 to 1880 which I already have. The Garden competed against other weeklies such as The Gardener’s Magazine, Gardener’s Chronicle, Gardening Illustrated and The Journal of Horticulture, which also fill up my shelves, and probably add up to close to half a billion words in all. That’s War and Peace 1,000 times over.
The Garden was founded in 1871 by William Robinson, who wrote many of those millions of words, as did other well known contemporaries such as John Ruskin, Gertrude Jekyll and Dean Hole. Some the articles were reprinted (without acknowledgement) in Robinson’s immensely influential book The English Garden, which went to 15 editions from 1883 to 1935, the year of his death. But the magazines contain a gold mine of material which wasn’t republished in book form. Picking up one volume at random (Vol 49- midsummer 1896), there’s a 3,000 word article by Robinson on ‘Climbers and their artistic use’ which is illustrated by Ellen Willmott. A gem. There’s lots to look forward to in the long winter nights ahead.