Out of Print Books

A lot of historians like to do their research in libraries, but I’ve never been a fan of that approach. If it’s books I need to look at, I would far rather do it in the comfort of my own office and furthermore, I like to be able to scribble all over them, underlining key sentences or passages and jotting down notes in the margin.  And there’s another advantage to owning them oneself – I’ve then got them forever, which is useful because I never quite know when I might need them again.

One of the problem of building up one’s own library is that the vast majority of books that I need to look at are a long time out of print, but this is where the internet comes in so handy.  I do very little actual research on the internet, but I do order a large number of out of print books, and for this, www.abebooks.com is absolutely invaluable.  I find I can generally get most books I’m after.  For those who don’t know the site, it is a brilliant second hand book search engine.  Booksellers around the world list their stock on the site and then prospective buyers simply look up a particular title and a list appears with every bookseller affiliated to them who has a copy.  I usually opt for the cheapest.

Official histories are an essential tool, and although it is usually possible to get original editions, they can be very expensive.  Fortunately, the Naval & Military Press have started producing facsimile copies of many of them, so their site is also always worth looking at.  They have a mass of other titles as well.

Both Amazon and Alibris also have an out of print book service, but I tend to only look at them if I can’t find what I’m after on Abebooks.

9 replies
  1. Sean Higgins
    Sean Higgins says:

    Completely agree. I have built quite a library of books purchased via Abebooks, mostly WW2 fighter pilot memoirs. Its a great site & basically you can get anything you want, att at your fingertips. I find you usually have to pay more for the postage of the book than of the actual book itself!. The author of the brillian book Wartime:Britain 1939-1945 Juliet Gardiner also gives a nod to Abebooks at the end of her book as a great research tool.

  2. Ross
    Ross says:

    Yes, I got Denis Barnham’s book through them. What a book! I tried to find out more about Denis Barnham but there’s very little. I thought there might be something on Epsom College website but nope!

  3. James Holland
    James Holland says:

    Ross – I can give you more information about Denis Barnham, so do get in touch if you wish. His widow lives in Lymington and one of his sons, Oliver, is in Somerset.

  4. Ross
    Ross says:

    Thanks James, I’ll take you up on that. I don’t want to be a nuisance to you or the family. I was just interested in simple things like what he looked like as he grew older or where his wartime and postwar art could be seen.

  5. morrowmm
    morrowmm says:

    Comment by Ross

    I was taught by Denis Barnham at Epsom.
    He was a most low key guy who loved painting, specifically Paul Nash and linear perspective.
    Not many of us knew of his background as he seemed rather overweight and boozy; far from a dashing fighter pilot.
    Just shows how naive we were.
    Funnily I went to Cranwell and ended up doing a similar job as his.
    Charming , laid back and most pleasant.

  6. johnm28
    johnm28 says:

    I have often said that the only master that I remembered at Epsom was the art teacher as he taught a course in anatomical drawing that carried me through medical school. I remember a friend telling me with awe that he had exhibited at the royal academy at the age of nineteen! But most clearly I remember the OTC field day when he suddenly performed a low level strafing flying,I think, a meteor. Then a month ago I saw a brief note in the Epsomian magazine and I just bought his book.I had no idea. I also just ordered james hollands book. The whole story is amazing. As an aside Denis beautiful wife gave a piano concert one sunday at school. The best attended concert ever!I have only found one of denis barnhams art works and would love to find some more if anyone could help. john mayer

  7. Simon Cauchi
    Simon Cauchi says:

    I too remember Denis Barnham and the art room at Epsom. If I remember rightly, the illustrations in One Man’s Window were his own scraperboard drawings. I’d love to get hold of a copy of his book, not least because I have cousins in Malta whose parents endured those war years.

  8. Harry
    Harry says:

    I was in the art room (it must have been about 1955 or 1956) when Denis Barnham announced that his book “One Man’s Window” had been published. He told us that the illustration on the cover had been printed upside down! Whether this was later corrected I do not know as I have yet to find a copy of his book. He infected us all with his cheerful nature and artistic enthusiasm.

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