I've known Jozef for nigh upon 18 years and I learned something new about him the other day after reading his first blog post "My First Flippant Recollection" (Thursday 8 May 2008) where he so eloquently told us about falling in love with mermaids at the age of four after he spotted a beautiful mermaid statue in a shop. It made me reflect about the moment I came to embrace them too, and I was taken back to the time I got my first library card for the local library. I was eight years old and I was proud as punch. My sensible mother took me into the library on a Saturday morning and I would borrow the maximum number of books possible each time and consume them over the course of the week until my next library visit.
One day, while I was browsing the mythology shelves devoted to the slightly older readers, I came across a collection of books by UK writer Ruth Manning Sanders and illustrator Robin Jacques one of which was the gorgeous sumptuous A Book of Mermaids. My love affair with mermaids began at that moment. I borrowed that book at least three or four times a year after that, even into teenagehood, and read the stories over and over again. I also borrowed the rest of the collection, which included titles such as A Book of Giants, A Book of Charms and Changelings, A Book of Witches, A Book of Ghosts and Goblins, A Book of Dragons and many more. But I always returned to my mermaid stories, which were drawn from Wales, Denmark, Ireland, Scotland, India, America, Portugal, Germany, Italy and Arabia. I coveted those books but they were never my own, and they became an obsession that I think any collectors among you can relate.
In the late 80s I was working as a bookseller, and I decided to check if they were still in print. I tracked down about five of them and happily purchased them. However, the ones I really wanted such as the mermaid book had been out of print for many years. It was the time before the Internet so I got onto a local antiquarian book dealer who progressively over a period of about two years got me all the books on the list. All my hard earned cash went into paying for them, and they didn't come cheap – I paid in the vicinity of $200 for some of them. A Book of Mermaids was the last one to come in, and the dealer found two of them at the same time. I snatched them both up and Jozef bought the second one. I want you to see what I am raving about and why this book is so dear to me, so here is the book cover by Robin Jacques. The edition I have was published in 1967 by Methuen, London. If you are interested in them, then head to eBay.