Whipplesnaith and French cooking

Two curious books have arrived in Oxfam this week – neither is worth a fortune, or indeed much at all, but both provided a diversion from the endless filling of re-cycling sacks with books unwanted by their owners, or I am afraid, us.

That was my daily lot this week – and very dispiriting it is at times. Even with the satisfaction of getting to the end of a mound of black sacks and boxes and seeing the floor and walls again, there is that slight sense of resentment of spending my morning saving some others from the trip to the dump they should have taken with all those dog-eared misery memoirs and 365 ways to dry flowers in a microwave.

Our Antiquarian Book Expert (later to be referred to as ABE) came in this week and the shop was shut. I let him in and at the same time saw the boot opening of a car hovering outside and glimpsed the boxes and books.

Despite my urging him to get inside quick and under cover of darkness in the shop, steal quietly upstairs and let the book owners find another end to the spring cleaning, he insisted we should let them in.

I know was right, you should never turn away a donation but he was going to look at old and interesting books for an hour and I was going to be left with those boxes and I knew that what was more, someone was arriving with 25 boxes the next day – part shipment of their threatened 50 boxes – so any more were not that welcome.

We did let them in and ABE leant over one or two books and said, ‘ Nothing much here then.’

Mmm, well I could have told him that.

To be fair, he did offer to come in the next day and help sort but I am a darn sight quicker than he is and had those boxes dispatched in very short order.

And, of course, right at the bottom of the last box, there was a little treasure. A French cookery book from the early 1800s which I think will be worth about £100.

Back to Whipplesnaith.

If you went to Cambridge and spent your nights climbing around building rooftops, then you will of course know all about Whipplesnaith who wrote The Night Climbers of Cambridge.

Whipplesnaith was the pseudonym for Noel H. Symington, a recent graduate of the University. He worked with as many as 15 other students to create this incredible record in the autumn of 1936. Many climbed, some were camera-men, all helped silently lug the apparatus around in the dead of night.’

I had never heard of it but it is apparently a classic in the world of building and urban climbers and also there is still a thriving tradition of Cambridge night climbing. There is a twitter account for those still at it @whipplesnaith.

Our copy is a first edition and has the name J H Parry Jones on the flyleaf with the Greek beta sign and then the letter N C which I guess might mean Night Climbers.

So, for no good reason except curiosity, I want to try and find out whether J H Parry Jones was one of Noel Symington’s colleagues. If anyone knows, do get in touch.


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