Book reviews, June 1982, June 1982

“The Constant Search — Collecting Motoring & Motorcycling Books”, by Charles Mortimer, 303 pp. 11″ x 8 1/4″ The Haynes Publishing Group, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset, BA22 717. £19.95).

Charles Mortimer, Brooklands racing driver and motorcycle racer, who has given us some entertaining books on these subjects, confesses to enjoyment of trading, and in recent times has awned out this form of money-making by buying and selling motoring books. He has now come up with this work, which explains how to approach the hobby or investment and what books to look for. This is really a comprehensive catalogue of such books, magazines, Club journals and the like, covering motoring and motorcycling titles. Having had so many motoring books through my hands, and something of a library of my own, I was asked to wrote a Foreword to what is the first true catalogue of its kind.

The contents are far-ranging, with 24 chapters on the recognised “periods” of the older motor vehicles, the technique of book and catalogue collecting, lists of specialist dealers, a guide to this book itself, and then those on technical, road, motor-racing, individual cars, autobiographies and biographies, etc., marque and other histories, rally and kindred books, non-technical titles, including children’s motor books, those on taxies, buses, models, mascots and badges, and so on, not forgetting travel, each of these chapters being divided into sections where necessary.

Even cycling is included and the lists are interesting and useful, and Club and other organisational addresses are also provided. There are illustrations, some in colour, of the covers of typical books and magazines.

Having said that, it must be added that accuracy is the essence of any reference work, so it was disappointing to find that some corrections suggested to the author had not been made, raving one to wonder about the rest of the entries. For example, it was F. L. M. Harris who edited The Sports Car, an MG journal which grew out of the Brooklands Aerodrome Magazine and Brooklands-Track and Air, not Oliver Holmes, with whom I worked before the war after he had founded the last-named of these magazine, and although Mortimer gives February 1902 as the date or the first issue of The Motor, the publishers themselves say 1903. My “History of Brooklands Motor Course” first published in 1950 by Grenville is more than “the former three volumes in one” which Mortimer suggests (it incorporates the 200 Mile Race data among other additions) and to my knowledge the first BARC Brooklands Year Book appeared in 1913, not in 1907. Unless the indexing has misled me, I can find no mention of such important one-make titles as “The Lea-Francis Story”, Karl Ludvigsen’s “Opel — Wheels to the World” and that American writers great, comprehensive Porsche history (his Mercedes competition cars history is indexed and illustrated but I could not find any other reference to it), and the excellent Peugeot books sold here by Albion Scott Ltd., nor are all the Morgan 3-wheeler and Renault titles listed, or under motor-racing circuits, the “MOTOR SPORT Book of Donington”. I have an idea that Frostick’s Bentley exposure “Cricklewood to Crewe” and “Ford — Dust to Glory” are other omissions, together with Alan Henry’s “4-Wheel-Drives”. My advance apologies if I have missed the relevant references.

However, Charles is so modest about the whole thing saying he listened to collectors to whom he was selling books to learn as much as possible, that he knows his book will be subject to criticism “because the whole spectrum is far too great for any one person to know everything about every section” of motor book collecting, and he leans on me as a reviewer when expressing views about some of the books and makes the point that he has compiled a guide, not an encyclopaedia, that it seems churlish to have made the afore-quoted criticisms. It is just that I couldn’t help enjoying this “Constant Search”, in which Mortimer puts little anecdotes from his motoring and book-vending life, and then scanning my own “hoard”, to see how it adds up — the author explains the difference between proper collectors, and “hoarders”. Not only are magazines dealt with, Club journals have a place in this big book and even the original “Profiles” are in with more weighty books. Incidentally, of Brooklands — Track and Air Mortimer says, “one almost feels its editorial office must have been based at the track”. I could have told him that it was at first, moving from the Aero Club to Butt’s Lodge and then to the disused mortuary (the Boddy in the mortuary!). Curiously, he does not mention the much older Brooklands Gazette) but if he had he wouldn’t have ascribed 1924 to the first year of MOTOR SPORT, which should be 1925.

Nor did I have the help of Denis Jenkinson when I kept MOTOR SPORT going throughout the war years, only myself and the extremely enthusiastic and helpful readers of that war-time magazine, although it is true that it was during the war, at RAE Farnborough, that I realised D.S.J.’s worth and persuaded him to write for us when Grand Prix racing restarted. Then the author says he confesses he doesn’t know, even now, why Vintage and Thoroughbred Car became Lord Montagu’s late-lamented Veteran and Vintage Magazine — I can tell you Charles, as I thought I had — the former little mag was losing money and was sold out to Lord Montagu when it became known that he was looking for an old-car journal. It seems odd that Road-Test annuals are listed with the weekly and monthly magazines, and why was “Taxi” by Anthony Armstrong omitted?

However, having got that off my chest, I must say the idea is unique and ambitious and that for those who are taking motor-book collecting so seriously that they can afford to first spend nearly £20 on a catalogue before devoting this sum to the now desperately expensive, but highly-fascinating, wide range of such books available from specialist dealers, this is the one for them. — W.B.