Bear with me, this is going somewhere relevant to us. Many years ago I first entered the book trade, as an assistant at Foyle’s bookshop in London when it occupied its ancient premises at the top of Charing Cross Road, not the swanky place just down the road it has today. Some readers may recall its idiosyncrasies; for example to buy a book you handed it to me, I gave you a ‘chitty’ to pass, with your payment, through the bars of an enclosed cash desk some yards away, you brought back the receipt and I let you have the book. One wag of a customer said, when I sent him off to the cashier, ‘that’s somewhere down the Strand isn’t it?’Read More
After a few months a publisher’s trade rep came in and asked me ‘can you drive?’ There followed two years on the road for the hallowed firm of Ward Lock before I tumbled out of books and eventually into computers, to return, as Lodestar Books, years later. Anyway, in those glorious days before the internet and streaming services books had a much larger claim on our attention than they enjoy today. Cookery was the best-selling non-fiction subject, to be superseded later, and briefly, by computing. Mrs Beeton was Ward Lock’s prime cookery book property, her monumental Cookery and Household Management being sliced and diced into numerous smaller volumes with titles like Everyday Cookery, Family Cookery, Weekend Cookery and what-not.
Enter Francis B Cooke (1873–1974) who took a leaf from Mrs Beeton’s book in his series of practical sailing titles from 1903 to the 1950s: Cruising Hints (6 editions), Seamanship for Yachtsmen, Single-handed Cruising, Yachting with Economy, Weekend Sailing… you get the idea. It was high time someone condensed his output into a single non-redundant volume, and I took on this task around 2011. This involved obtaining every edition of all his books, about 25 volumes in all, scanning their 5,000 pages of text, digitally cleaning up hundreds of pen drawings, and condensing and re-setting it all into the 700-odd pages of Cruising Hints, Seventh Edition, which appeared in 2012. In those days I printed digitally, 100 copies at a time, and sold only direct to the reader, there being no room in the costings for trade margins. We sold three or four hundred copies, including a later paperback of slightly reduced format.
Cooke remains an invaluable reference to British yacht designs of the first half of the twentieth century, and Cruising Hints, 7th Ed., contains all of his design commentaries, with drawings, and much else besides in the way of his writings on technique and his cruising yarns. Good bunkside fare, I like to think. Little has changed in the world of trad sailing from his day to ours; well, radio and GPS I suppose. As Sam Llewellyn, publisher of The Marine Quarterly, said: ‘…much of practical value, and plenty to disagree with’. Now out of print, it’s recently available as a PDF with all sorts of tricksy hot-links between the contents, design list and index, and the design commentaries and drawings. And you don’t need to rotate the book to view the drawings.