There was a period a few years ago when I worked as a rare bookdealer. I got all sorts of goosebump-raising works of cultural wondrousness, such as a 15th Century illuminated manuscript, or the 2nd Edition of the King James Bible. What I never could find was Lake Allen’s 1817 work, The History of Portsmouth.
I checked the auction records only to find one had never come up for auction in the last 50 years. No originals were for sale. It took me 10 years to find a proper, pukka first edition.
When I got hold of it, I was pretty impressed by the effort the young Lake Allen had put into the book. He wrote it when he was only 18 years old, living on Portsmouth High Street with his grandfather, Lake Taswell. Taswell was himself something of a local historian, who wrote The Portsmouth Guide, in 1775 and revised it as The New Portsmouth Guide in 1790. The fact is, though, these were pamphlets. Lake Allen’s work was the first comprehensive survey of the town’s history.
Lake was genuinely proud of his association with Portsmouth, and because it’s such a rarity, I decided to make a modern edition with foreword and added footnotes.
The book above is what we’ve produced, with an engraving of the King James Gate that I found in an antiques shop in Portsmouth on the cover.
I hope you like it!
You can order your copy here: Lake Allen – The History of Portsmouth