Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Louis Bernacchi: Saga of the 'Discovery'

I never knew Louis Bernacchi, my great-uncle, because he died five years before I was born, but I met his widow in 1966 when she visited my grandmother, Louis's sister, in Cambridge.

She was a formidable lady, visiting from Hong Kong with her son, Brook. It was mid-summer and a fine day and we all went to lunch at the Garden House Hotel down Mill Lane because they had a large dining room overlooking the River Cam.

When we got there the dining room was almost empty and the head waiter led us to a dark corner far away from the tables by the window. My grandmother said, "Can't we have one of those tables by the windows?". The head waiter replied, "Madam, we have people coming all the way from London to eat here!" "Well," said Mrs Bernacchi, "we've come all the way from Hong Kong." With a bad grace, the head waiter ushered us to a table in the middle of the dining room. As the first course was being served he came and said to the waiter who was doling out the soup, "Do look after our distinguished guests from overseas!" and abruptly disappeared.

(Incidentally, I went back to the Garden House for dinner about two months later as a guest of a famous London caterer. This time the obsequiousness of that same head waiter was a joy to behold.)

After lunch we walked down to the Scott Polar Research Museum in Lensfield Road, where Louis's diaries are housed. They got out a diary from his first visit to Antarctica in 1898 as a member of the Carsten Borchgrevink expedition. Brook read out at random, aloud, a very forthright entry about an altercation Louis had with Borchgrevink, ending up "well if the cap fits, let him wear it!" The truth of the matter is that this expedition was the first to realise that the six month black out of perpetual winter can have a drastic effect on personalities confined together for so long. (The expedition lasted until 1900 and was the first in which humans overwintered on the continent.)

It is because of his membership of this expedition that the Australians regard Bernacchi as the first Australian antarctic explorer because, although born in Brussels of Italian and Belgian parents, the family emigrated to Australia where his father rented the whole of Maria Island off the coast of Tasmania.

Maria Island is now an uninhabited national park and a luxury four day hike of the island culminates in a night in what was Louis's family home. (see Maria Island Walk)

Louis went to school in Hobart, where he lodged with Field Marshall Montgomery's parents. Montgomery's father was Bishop of Tasmania. (I do not know how Louis got on with the Montgomerys but Field Marshal Montgomery so hated his mother that he refused to go to her funeral.)

There is a marvellous modern statue of Louis on the harbour front at Hobart, (of him taking a self-portrait - the first selfie?), surrounded by dogs and packing crates.

Louis got back to London from Antarctica in 1900 (by that time the family had relocated to England). He published an account of his trip, To the South Polar Regions in 1901, in which he displays an astonishing ability to describe the beauty and awesomeness of this unexplored landscape.

When I first read Sara Wheeler's bestselling travel book, Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica I was slightly surprised to see that many of her chapter headings held quotations from Bernacchi's unpublished writing. Several years later I read that, having studied Bernacchi's diaries at the Scott Polar Research Museum, she regarded him as her favourite diarist of the heroic age.

In 1901 Louis was invited by Captain Robert Falcon Scott to join his first expedition to Antarctica on board the RSS Discovery, to replace the physicist who had to drop out due to ill health. Louis made haste to join the expedition in New Zealand. There is a bit of a mystery about this replacement referred to in this brief video of Sir Clement Markham's personal scrapbook. (Markham was the patron of the expedition who appointed Scott to lead it).

The RSS Discovery returned to the United Kingdom in 1904 and in 1906 Louis married Winifred Harris. Captain Scott was the best man at his wedding and during the reception said to him, "Well, Louis, I am looking forward to you coming on my next expedition!" Upon which his formidable bride said "He's not coming," which, under the circumstances, is perhaps just as well.

Louis's book, Saga of the 'Discovery' was published in 1938, a year before war broke out, and Louis died in London in 1942. The book sank almost without trace, and for several decades after the war there was very little interest in books about Antarctica.

In 2001 my family and I were lucky enough to be invited by Discovery Point in Dundee, where the RSS Discovery is now housed as part of a magnificent museum, open 364 days a year, to take part in the Centenary celebrations.

I decided to reissue my great-uncle's book, with the permission of his descendants, in time for the Centenary and took a lot of copies to Dundee the week before the celebrations. Selling the book was a revelation to me, because every single bookshop took stock, even the bargain bookshops. The fine academic shop James Thin, took a dozen copies and the buyer said to me, "How nice to subscribe a book that I know I am going to sell!"

The book has been reissued this year in regular and ebook editions, now with photos and maps from the original edition which, for technical reasons, we were unable to incorporate in our 2001 edition.

But the good news for our large print customers is that we have authorised ReadHowYouWant to do a large print edition which you can find on our website here.

It is a surprisingly good read: our local book group read it, not at my instigation, and I was gratified to find how many enjoyed it so much, and recommended it to friends outside the group.

Guy Garfit 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

P J Kavanagh

We are sorry to learn of the death of PJ Kavanagh aged 84 on August 26th. 

The Telegraph obituary says "his first literary success came in 1966 with The Perfect Stranger.  Ostensibly an autobiography of his first 27 years, it was informed by the presence of his wife, Sally, who had died suddenly aged only 24, at four in the morning on Midsummer's Day 1958. 'Once you've experienced the infinite significance of another person's life, you feel something of the same for all lives,' he wrote. 'The rest of my life, any sense I can make of it, is a memorial to that.' The book was not sentimental nor self-pitying but vivid, humorous and bent upon describing a world in which the one person who had seemed to make sense of it had been lost. It won the Richard Hillary Memorial Prize."

The book has been in and out of print ever since. In 2009 The Observer wrote "this wonderful memoir is sadly out of print, but it's a great love story, a rites of passage about an aimless young man whose life is transformed by meeting the 'perfect stranger'. Then something happens... A wise, sad, wonderfully written memoir that's ripe for rediscovery. Track down a copy now."

September Publishing have just reissued the book and we are very pleased to have done the large print edition. We have also managed to publish it at the same price as the regular edition, £14.99, something the RNIB is always campaigning for. 

Further details can be found here

Saturday, 25 April 2015


We are very pleased to announce that we will be publishing Alan Moorehead's classic Gallipoli, with a new introduction by Sir Max Hastings, on May 28th, in large print in both hardback and paperback. 

Prices are still to be decided. We hold World English language rights. This is an exciting new departure for us. So few books are published in large print that we have decided to do our own publishing. 

This book was The Sunday Times book of the year in 1956 and is being comprehensively re-reviewed at the moment. 

Typical of the plaudits are these comments from Germaine Greer in the New Statesman:

"Masterful Gallipoli ... now republished with a thoughtful introduction by Max Hastings ... Alan Moorehead's account of Gallipoli is still the best written. He concentrates on the key players, the commanding officers on both sides and the politicians who were manipulating them."

If you require further information please email:

Thursday, 18 September 2014

September Newsletter

Large Print Books

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Large Print Selection - September 2014

This months highlights include the latest Jack Reacher novel from Lee Child, the final book in the Kinross trilogy from Christina Courtenay and the touching true story of a woman who turned down $1 million to sell her home for a commercial development and ended up sparking an unlikely friendship with the man charged with building a shopping centre on top of her house in Under One Roof.
All these and many more are available from the Large Print Bookshop.

Now Available:

Personal: A Jack Reacher Novel - Lee Child

You can leave the army, but the army doesn't leave you. Not always. Not completely, notes Jack Reacher - and sure enough, the retired military cop is soon pulled back into service. This time, for the State Department and the CIA.

Paperback £21.99             Other books by Lee Child

The Care and Management of Lies - Jacqueline Winspear

The Care and Management of Lies is a lyrical drama of love struggling to survive in a damaged, fractured world.

Paperback £23.50

Monsoon Mists - Christina Courtenay

Sometimes the most precious things cannot be bought....
This is the final novel in Christina Courtenay's award winning Kinross series, the sequel to Trade Winds and Highland Storms.

Paperback £23.50             Other books by Christina Courtenay

Judy: A Dog in a Million - Damian Lewis

Judy, a beautiful liver and white English pointer, and the only animal POW of WWII, truly was a dog in a million. Whether she was dragging men to safety from the wreckage of a torpedoed ship, scavenging food to help feed the starving inmates of a hellish Japanese POW camp, or by her presence alone bringing inspiration, she was cherished and adored by Allied servicemen.

Paperback £23.50

Under One Roof: How a Tough Old Woman in a Little Old House Changed My Life - Barry Martin, Philip Lerman

The heart-warming true story of the bond between a feisty octogenarian and the man in charge of building a shopping mall on top of her home - which inspired the opening scene of the Pixar movie Up!

Paperback £23.50

Classic Fiction Choice:


Evelina - Frances Burney

The story of a young woman's entry into society, womanhood and love.

Paperback £19.50


When ordering for the quickest delivery, always look out for those titles on our website which are marked as either 'currently in stock' or 'In Stock (usually dispatched in 1-2 working days)'.

Other titles are normally available for dispatch within about 7 - 10 days as we have more stock arriving all the time.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Book Selection August 2014

Large Print Books

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Large Print Selection - August 2014

Well the summer is here and what with staff holiday and late deliveries last month we didn't get a chance to send our normal email with a selection of books so this month we present a slightly bigger choice than normal with our pick of books from both July and August.
Among those featured is Eeny Meeny, a fantastic debut book by M. J. Arlidge which has been chosen by Richard and Judy as a summer read and one which I (the editor) can say was a thoroughly good read. Other highlights include And the Mountains Echoed which is available again in Large Print and the autobiography of Mary Berry who is once again appearing on our television screens in the new series of The Great British Bake Off on BBC1. All these and many more are available from the Large Print Bookshop.

Now Available:

Dick Francis's Refusal - Felix Francis

Six years ago, investigator Sid Halley retired for good. He'd been harassed, beaten, shot, even lost a hand to his investigating business, and enough was enough. For the sake of his wife and new daughter he gave up that life of danger and uncertainty, and he thought nothing would ever lure him back into the game. He thought wrong...

Paperback £13.99             Also available Dick Francis's Bloodline

And the Mountains Echoed - Khaled Hosseini

A Richard and Judy Summer Read 2014. Afghanistan, 1952. Abdullah and his sister Pari live with their father, Saboor, and stepmother in the village of Shadbagh. To Abdullah, Pari is everything. One day the siblings journey across the desert to Kabul with their father, having no sense of the fate that awaits them there, for the event which unfolds will tear their lives apart.

Paperback £14.99

A Perfect Life - Danielle Steel

From No.1 bestselling author Danielle Steel comes a heartwarming and inspirational novel about a mother and daughter who face challenges, cope with celebrity, and overcome tragedy while maintaining the outward appearance of, The Perfect Life.

Paperback £21.99             Other books by Danielle Steel

Recipe for Life: The Autobiography - Mary Berry

Mary has been teaching Britain how to cook for over half a century. Her far-reaching culinary career has taken her from recipe tester and cookery editor, to TV personality on The Great British Bake Off.

Paperback £23.50

Eeny Meeny - M. J. Arlidge

A Richard and Judy Summer Read 2014. The girl emerged from the woods, barely alive. Her story was beyond belief. But it was true. Every dreadful word of it. Days later, another desperate escapee is found - and a pattern is emerging. Pairs of victims are being abducted, imprisoned then faced with a choice: kill or be killed.

Paperback £23.50

Where Memories Go: Why Dementia Changes Everything - Sally Magnusson

The Sunday Times Bestseller. Regarded as one of the finest journalists of her generation, Mamie Baird Magnusson's whole life was a celebration of words - words that she fought to retain in the grip of a disease which is fast becoming the scourge of the 21st century.

Paperback £23.50

Dead Letter Drop - Peter James

Dead Letter Drop is Peter James' first ever novel, originally published in 1981 and available now for the first time in Large Print. Max Flynn, undercover agent, has the unenviable job of spying on his own side. When to kill, who to kill, whether to kill are all questions which have to be answered at great speed if he wants to stay alive.

Paperback £23.50

A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal - Ben Macintyre

Master storyteller Ben Macintyre's most ambitious work to date brings to life the twentieth century's greatest spy story. Kim Philby was the greatest spy in history, a brilliant and charming man who rose to head Britain's counterintelligence against the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War - while he was secretly working for the enemy.

Paperback £21.49             Other books by Ben Macintyre

Peas and Queues - Sandi Toksvig

The award-winning Radio 4 broadcaster and writer offers advice and guidance on the social pitfalls of everyday life. How do you get rid of unwanted guests? What do you do if there's a racket in the quiet carriage? How should you eat peas, and behave in queues?

Paperback £23.50

Classic Fiction Choice:


The Last of the Mohicans - James Fenimore Cooper

Cooper's most enduringly popular novel combines heroism and romance with powerful criticism of the destruction of nature and tradition.

Paperback £19.50             Other books by James Fenimore Cooper


When ordering for the quickest delivery, always look out for those titles on our website which are marked as either 'currently in stock' or 'In Stock (usually dispatched in 1-2 working days)'.

Other titles are normally available for dispatch within about 7 - 14 days as we have more stock arriving all the time.

June Newsletter

Large Print Books

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Large Print Selection - June 2014

The selection this month includes a new novel from the ever popular Jojo Moyes, The One Plus One, a great psychological crime novel from Sophie Hannah and the inside story on the discovery of Richard III's grave. All these and many more are available from the Large Print Bookshop.

Now Available:

The One Plus One - Jojo Moyes

The One Plus One is the beautiful, poignant and utterly compelling new novel by the internationally bestselling author Jojo Moyes. One single mum. With two jobs and two children, Jess Thomas does her best day after day. But it's hard on your own. And sometimes you take risks you shouldn't. Because you have to...

Paperback £23.50             Other books by Jojo Moyes

Lasting Damage - Sophie Hannah

It’s 1.15 a.m. Connie Bowskill should be asleep. Instead, she’s logging on to a property website in search of a house she saw earlier. Soon Connie is clicking on the ‘Virtual Tour’ button, keen to see inside the house. She finds herself looking at a scene from a nightmare: in the living room, there’s a woman lying face down in a huge pool of blood...

Paperback £23.50             Other books by Sophie Hannah

Flight to Coorah Creek - Janet Gover

Only Jessica Pearson knows the truth when the press portray her as the woman who betrayed her lover to escape prosecution. But will her new job flying an outback air ambulance help her sleep at night or atone for a lost life?

Paperback £23.50

The King's Grave: The Search for Richard III - Philippa Langley, Michael Jones

Discover the official inside story of the life, death and remarkable discovery of history’s most controversial monarch.

Paperback £23.50

Bonkers: My Life in Laughs - Jennifer Saunders

Jennifer Saunders' comic creations have brought joy to millions. From Comic Strip to Comic Relief, from Bolly-swilling Edina in Ab Fab to her takes on Madonna or Mamma Mia, her characters are household names. But it's Jennifer herself who has a place in all our hearts. This is her funny, moving and frankly bonkers memoir, filled with laughter, friends and occasional heartache - but never misery.

Paperback £23.50

Classic Fiction Choice:


Plain Tales From the Hills - Rudyard Kipling

Kipling’s early short stories of the Raj are collected here, creating vivid imagery of the sights and smells of India.

Paperback £19.50


When ordering for the quickest delivery, always look out for those titles on our website which are marked as either 'currently in stock’ or 'In Stock (usually dispatched in 1-2 working days)'.

Other titles are normally available for dispatch within about 7 - 10 days as we have more stock arriving all the time.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Large Print Selection - May 2014

Large Print Books

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Large Print Selection - May 2014

This month our hightlights include the The White Princess from Philippa Gregory, the author of The White Queen which became a hughly popular BBC TV series last year. Other books of interest are the lastest DI Banks novel from Peter Robinson and the true story of Malala, the young girl shot by the Taliban for standing up for the right to education for girls. All these and many more are available from the Large Print Bookshop.

Now Available:

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

Flynn's toxic mix of sharp-edged wit with deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds readers at every turn. When his wife disappears on their anniversary, Nick starts having cringe-worthy daydreams and becomes oddly evasive, eschewing his golden boy past.

Paperback £14.99             Other books by Gillian Flynn

The White Princess - Philippa Gregory

The haunting story of the mother of the Tudors, Elizabeth of York, wife to Henry VII. Beautiful eldest daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville - the White Queen - the young princess Elizabeth faces a conflict of loyalties between the red rose and the white.

Paperback £15.49             Other books by Philippa Gregory

Witness the Night - Kishwar Desai

Winner of the Costa First Novel Award
In a small town in the heart of India, a young girl, barely alive, is found tied to a bed inside a townhouse where 13 people lie dead. The girl is alive, but only just...

Paperback £23.50

Children of the Revolution - Peter Robinson

Ex-college lecturer Gavin Miller is found dead; his distorted body strewn across a disused railway track near his home. There’s no sign of a struggle, and no concrete evidence except for one distinguishing package: £5,000 of cash, tucked inside the man’s pocket.

Paperback £23.50             Other books by Peter Robinson

I Am Malala - Malala Yousafzai

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday 9th October 2012, she almost paid the ultimate price. Shot in the head at point blank range while riding the bus home from school.

Paperback £23.50

Classic Fiction Choice:


Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

Bold and unique, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is a heartbreaking tale of love, loss and vengeance, that has become a masterpiece of English literature.

Paperback £19.50


When ordering for the quickest delivery, always look out for those titles on our website which are marked as either 'currently in stock’ or 'In Stock (usually dispatched in 1-2 working days)'.

Other titles are normally available for dispatch within about 7 - 10 days as we have more stock arriving all the time.