I bought The English Buildings Book: an architectural guide by Philip Wilkinson and Peter Ashley (English Heritage 2006) in a cheap books shop in Horsham the other day for £6 instead of £35. This was presumably remaindered as part of English Heritage’s policy to sell off their books for next to nothing, which also axed the series England’s Landscape (published in 2006 at £35 a volume). I had been planning on acquiring a set gradually, but in August 2008 (I think) the shop at Old Wardour Castle had all but one of the series on their shelves for £5 each. So I bought one of each and subsequently got the remaining volume at a different English Heritage property.
The publisher’s blurb says: “This is the most detailed description of why the countryside of England now looks the way it does, covering the geology, archaeology and history of each area and what effects each has had on the landscape we see today.” The books in this series are well produced, well written, and well illustrated (in my opinion the volumes written entirely by one author are better, as they read more as a continuous narrative, rather than a series of essays); I’m sure they will remain a major source of information on regional landscape history. There are used copies of most available at reasonable prices at the moment, but in a few years’ time they will quite possibly only be available for a premium price.
For example, An Atlas of Rural Settlement by Brian K Roberts & Stuart Wrathmell (EH, 2000) is out of print. Luckily my copy was bought when it was still in print at £25, as today I could only find two copies listing – one in the UK for £74, the other in the USA for £225.
So, the moral is, if you see a book you would like to own published by English Heritage, buy it there and then or you may well be disappointed. English Heritage is the Government’s statutory adviser on the historic environment, aka the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, and it’s a shame that they can’t keep their books in print for more than a few months.