R. V. TOOLEY – An appreciation by Robert Stockwell

R. V. TOOLEY – An appreciation by Robert Stockwell

An appreciation by Robert Stockwell
former Chairman Robert Stockwell Ltd

I am very glad to contribute to this Festschrift and in doing so, to pay tribute to Mr R. V. Tooley, and to some of his achievements. I have had the privilege of knowing Mr Tooley for over 45 years and my admiration and regard for him have grown with the passing years.

We first met when he was working at Francis Edwards Ltd in the mid-192os. He was then producing catalogues of rare books, autograph letters, and old maps. I often wondered how it was that he came into the secondhand book trade, and on one occasion he told me something of his early life.

He was born and brought up in London, and in 1918 during World War I he joined the Queen’s Westminster Rifles. He was accepted into the army by overstating his age. After a short period of training in England he was sent to France. In the battle of Cambrai, one of the sternest battles of the war, 400 men from his regiment were sent to the front line; he was one of the 120 who returned alive.

On leaving the army in 1919 he was not sure what work to take up, and he then happened to see an illustrated catalogue of secondhand books, published by Tregaskis (of Great Russell Street). This made an immediate appeal to him as the kind of work that he would like to do, and his late headmaster gave him a letter of introduction to a new bookseller. It was this new bookseller who advised him to go into the secondhand trade, and gave him a letter of introduction to Francis Edwards Ltd. He was interviewed by Mr Francis Edwards, who immediately offered him a post, which he accepted. So that it was a secondhand bookseller’s catalogue that brought Mr Tooley into the secondhand book trade!

During the 1920s most countries of Europe were still recovering from the effects of World War I. The secondhand book trade at this time was enjoying a period of relative prosperity. But when the Wall Street collapse came in 1929, the economic life of many countries was shaken, and the secondhand book trade, in common with most other trades and businesses went through a very difficult period; a period that was to continue into the depression of the 1930s.

It was early in the 1930s that Mr Tooley left Francis Edwards Ltd and opened a shop, which he called the Atlas Bookshop, in Cranbourn Street, off Charing Cross Road. Here he dealt almost entirely in old maps. This was a great act of faith on his part, because not only was the interest in old maps considerably less than it is today, but also it was the period of the ‘great depression’, with two million people unem¬ployed in Great Britain. After a short time the business was transferred to Cecil Court, and it continued there until he closed the shop at the end of 1936.

From 1932 to 1934 he worked part-time with Mr M. Sinelnikoff, of Orion Booksellers Ltd. Mr Sinelnikoff’s great interest was in old maps, charts and globes, and together they shared their knowledge, and carried out much scholarly research. Here he worked on the preparation and production of catalogues of old books and maps.

One of the other subjects that has always interested Mr Tooley is Colour Plate books, and it was in 1935 that Batsfords published his first book Some English Books with Coloured Plates, which has since become the standard work on the subject.

With the closing of the shop at Cecil Court Mr Tooley went to work at the Parker Gallery in Albemarle Street; a firm who specialise in military and sporting pictures and old maps. He continued here until the outbreak of World War II in 1939. During the War he worked as a telephone operator, and in his spare time did free¬lance work on secondhand books and maps.

In 1946 Mr J. P. Love, the chairman of Francis Edwards Ltd, invited him to join the Firm again, and this he gladly agreed to do. There was little doubt as to the contribution that he was to make to the Firm. His business experience had increased, and his knowledge and research into the whole subject of old maps had put him into the forefront of this particular field. He continued to devote much time to research, spending many Saturday afternoons in the Map Room of the British Museum whilst at home he often worked long into the night. His talents and his experience were quickly recognised and rewarded when he was appointed a director of the Company. Mr Tooley often visits the Continent, buying and selling maps, and he is as well-known in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland and Italy as he is in England.

In 1949 Batsford published Mr Tooley’s second book Maps & Map-makers, a book which has been the means of introducing many newcomers to this interesting subject, and is probably the best general guide on the subject. New editions of the book are still being produced, and to date about 40,000 copies have been sold. In 1968 Thames and Hudson published his book A History of Cartography.

In some ways, one of the crowning achievements of Mr Tooley’s long and successful career has been ‘The Map Collector’s Series’. It was in 1960 that Mr Tooley and I first discussed his general idea of producing a series of monographs on a variety of subjects, all connected with maps. Mr Tooley discussed his ideas with other interested people, and he received from them much help and encouragement for the project. The result was that in April 1963 The Map Collector’s Circle was formed under the direction of Mr R. V. Tooley and Mr David Schrire, the first monograph being issued in the form that is now so widely known. The series was received with enthusiasm in all parts of the world, and was recognised as an important contribution to the growing interest in old maps and related subjects.

The success of The Map Collector’s Series encouraged Mr Tooley and Mr Schrire to form the Carta Press for the express purpose of publishing larger authoritative books on specific subjects connected with maps and map-making. The first book, published in 1968, was Maps of the African Continent and Southern Africa. This was followed in 1970 by the first volume of County Atlases of the British Isles, by R. A. Skelton, of the Map Room of the British Museum.

It is interesting to compare some of the changes that have taken place during the time that Mr Tooley has been associated with maps. When he first started, there were practically no reference books on old maps; one of the earliest writers being Sir George Fordham, who wrote from 1901 to 1929. Today the British Museum has a whole room that is devoted to maps and books on maps. When Mr Tooley joined Francis Edwards Ltd in 1919, atlases and maps were easily obtainable. The Firm always had in stock several examples of the atlases of Speed, Mercator and Ortelius; their values being far below those reached today. For example, they then had three or four copies of Speed’s atlas priced at £3 10s each; today a copy realises upwards of £4,000.

It is gratifying to know that in his 75th year Mr Tooley’s achievements have been recognised by his being elected a Fellow of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

Looking back over the years, two of Mr Tooley’s qualities of life seem to stand out. There is his patient thoroughness in using every opportunity to increase his knowledge of the subject he loves so much: early maps and cartographers. Secondly there is his willingness to share his knowledge and experience with others. It is these qualities that have earned for him the respect and esteem of a wide range of well-wishers, and have endeared him to all who have had the privilege of knowing him.

COPYRIGHT 1973 Francis Edwards and Carta Press,  All rights reserved.
No portion of this article nor the accompanying illustrations can or may be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.


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