Whatever their backgrounds, Bermudians share a deep love of their country and a curiosity about its past, present and future. Perhaps that is why so many are keen collectors of Bermudiana books and pamphlets. As Anthony Pettit, dealer in Bermuda books, points out, given the island’s size, an amazing amount of material has been published about every aspect of Bermuda – from history and politics to ecology and flora and fauna, from fiction and poetry to guidebooks and cookery books, from military history to Bermuda’s maritime heritage, from art and music to antique silver and furniture.
What are the key out-of-print or limited edition titles a collector of Bermudiana publications should have? Of course the answer to that question depends on reasons for collecting. Rarity may be one reason, investment value another. Some collections are restricted to a specific area of interest, but whatever the reason, Bermuda in Print : A Guide to the Printed Literature on Bermuda by A.C. Hollis Hallett is a must. Both Pettit and book collector Horst Augustinovic, also known for his passion for philately and his extensive collection of stamps, agree they would not be without this volume, whose list of titles included ends in 1995.
Dr. Jolene Bean, retired Professor of History at the Bermuda College, also enjoys books in the “Hollis Hallett Collection”. As a genealogist and family historian, she particularly values 19th Century Church Registers of Bermuda, indexed by A.C. Hollis Hallett; 19th Century Bermuda Wills 1835-1913, along with Bermuda Index 1784-1914, compiled by C. F. E.Hollis Hallett.
For historians interested in Bermuda’s earliest years of settlement, Sir John Henry Lefroy’s Memorials of the Discovery and Early Settlement of the Bermudas or Somers Islands, 1515-1685 is a must. A governor of Bermuda from 1871-1877, he compiled records available in the Archives during his time here. His work was first published in 1877 (very rare), reprinted in 1932 (rare) and reprinted by the Bermuda National Trust in 1982.
Dr. Bean is also deeply interested in the contributions Bermudian women have made to Bermuda’s society. “Nellie Musson’s Mind the Onion Seed played a major role in my decision to write my dissertation on Bermudian women fighting for the right to vote,” she explains. Another book she treasures for its associations as well as its content, is The History of Mary Prince edited by Moire Ferguson. “This book brings back fond memories of E.P. Thompson, author of The Making of the English Working Class. Thompson was a visiting professor at Queen’s University in Canada, and it was he who introduced me to the History of Mary Prince. This is definitely one of my favourite books, and it’s a must read for history students at Bermuda College.” Second-class Citizens; First-class Men made her finally understand why her former teacher at the Berkeley Institute, Dr. Eva Hodgson, was so passionate about black history.
Dr. Kenneth Robinson’s Heritage is a must have for historians and for readers interested in black history. For Meredith Ebbin, former editor of The Bermudian, it’s especially useful for her research for her online www.bermudabiographies.bm. Published in 1962 it was one of, if not the first, compilations of the activities of black Bermudians during the pre and post-Emancipation era. Cyril O. Packwood’s Chained on the Rock (1975) is another invaluable resource. As book loverJennifer Waelzholz, former reference and bibliographic instruction librarian at the Bermuda College, says, “This was the first comprehensive book on local slavery. It described the many trades which the enslaved population mastered, and it gave valuable insights into the interdependence between the slaves and their masters.” She also appreciates E.A. McCallan’s Life on Old St. David’s Bermuda.
Dr. Clarence Maxwell, historian and assistant professor of Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Millersville University in the US, feels strongly that all collections of Bermuda books are valuable to the national heritage. He appreciates very old books because they detail experiences not usually chronicled. Chained on the Rock is relatively not that old but it is a reference for his work he uses frequently.
Henry C. Wilkinson’s histories of Bermuda are popular for collectors, too. Says Bean, “Whenever I pick up this book [Bermuda in the Old Empire] I’m reminded there are two sides to every story and this is just one of the sides. It’s also useful because it’s one of the few secondary sources covering that period.”
Not all interesting accounts of Bermuda were written by established academics. Bermudian William Zuill’s Bermuda Journey A Leisurely Guide Book, first published in 1946, not only takes readers around Bermuda’s best sights of the time but also gives them excerpts from Bermudian oral history and lore often unattainable anywhere else. For writers about Bermuda it’s an invaluable resource. Other earlier guidebooks to Bermuda first published in the 19th century, such as Beautiful Bermuda by Euphemia Bell, and Bushell’s Picturesque Bermuda, and written accounts by visitors can offer interesting fascinating insights into Bermuda’s past and remind us that today’s Bermuda guidebooks will one day become historical references. One very rare title is Sketches of Bermuda by Susette Harriet Lloyd, published in 1835. She spent over a year as a guest of Bishop Spencer and wrote letters to her friends and family recounting her experiences. It’s prized by Mike Jones, former bookseller and collector, who says, “Every book distils something of its author’s personality and with this book we share the thoughts and personality, prejudices and preoccupations of an earnest abolitionist and missionary lady of one hundred and seventy years ago.” He also prizes another rare book, Bermuda, a Colony, a Fortress and a Prison by Ferdinand Whittingham, a colonel in the 26th Highland Regiment at Dockyard in 1857, because it reveals another colonial personality. “Arrogant, pretentious, snobby, supercilious and a bit of a brawler, he’s a bundle of British Empire fuelled testosterone.”
Both titles are available in on demand –printed copy but all collectors mentioned agree with Augustinovic that the quality of print and illustration can never match the original.
American Julia Dorr’s not so rare Bermuda An Idyl of the Summer Islands (1884), an appreciative account of her holiday here, reveals a warm, openminded personality.
Naturally, as Pettit says, art and photography books are an excellent resource for visual glimpses of Bermuda’s past. Two important titles are Through the Camera of James B. Heyl and Mark Emmerson’s In Celebration of Bermuda’s 400th anniversary. John S. Humphreys’ Bermuda Houses (1923) reveals Bermuda’s architecture through his photographs and text.
Literary novels about or set in Bermuda are few and therefore sought after. Dr. Kim Dismont-Robinson, Folklife Officer for the Bermuda Government, values her Brian Burland collection “because of who he was and what he represents as the first significant Bermudian writer of fiction.” Ebbin also appreciates Burland’s novels, especially his The Sailor and the Fox, and admires his fortitude as a member of a Bermudian white family for revealing in his fiction the racial discrimination of his time.
Ebbin, Bean and Waelzholz all would love a copy of The Painted Lily a novel by Amy J Baker, published in the UK in 1921. As Bean says, it “offers insight into the challenges facing racially mixed families, in Bermuda (from a historical perspective), and the opportunities available to those who passed for white.”
Perhaps this title would have become rare anyway but in Bermuda white people were so upset by its subject matter they bought up all the copies for sale. No doubt they took covert enjoyment in reading them. Today, there is one original copy available in the Bermuda National Library and one photocopy in the Bermuda College Library.
And what of out-of-print books focused on Bermuda’s flora and fauna? Many of the guidebooks and journals already mentioned include valuable information, but Nathanial Lord Britton’s Flora of Bermuda (1918) was definitive while Louisa Hutchings Smith’s attractive book Bermuda’s Oldest Inhabitants Tales of Plant Life with botanical illustrations by May Middleton (1934) contains local anecdotes. Jill Collett’s Bermuda Her Plants and gardens 1609-1850 (1987) is an invaluable reference tool for information about herbal remedies and the introduction of plants to Bermuda. Bermuda’s Botanical Wonderland A Field Guide, compiled and beautifully illustrated by botanical artist, Christine Watlington (1996) is essential for book collectors interested in Bermuda’s botany.
Below we offer a list of additional useful Bermuda titles covering a range of subjects that are either still in print or readily available second hand locally or online.
Another World: Bermuda and the Rise of Modern Tourism by Duncan McDowell 1999
The Bermuda National Trust’s Bermuda’s Architectural Heritage Series: Devonshire, Hamilton, Paget, Pembroke, St. George’s, Sandys, Smiths, Southampton, Warwick Parishes and Hamilton: Town and City
Bermuda Five Centuries by Rosemary Jones 2004
Bermuda Maps by Jonathan Land Evans 2017
Bermuda Recollections Transcribed and edited by Elizabeth Jones 1993
Hall of History Bermuda’s Story in Art Illustrated by Graham Foster and written by Rosemary Jones
Dr. Savage’s Bermuda 2015
I Wish I could Tell You Bermuda Anthology of Children’s Literature and Young Adult Stories edited by Lynn Joseph
In the Eye of All Trade: Bermuda, Bermudians, and the Maritime Atlantic World, 1680 – 1783 by Michael Jarvis 2010
Isle of Devils, Isle of Saints by Michael Jarvis 2022
Island Thyme Tastes and Traditions of Bermuda by The Junior Service League 2005
John Lyman’s The Old Bermudas to be published 2023
This Poem – Worthy Place Bermuda Anthology of Poetry Volume II edited by Kendel Hippolyte 2011
Nothin’ but a Pond Dog by Llewellyn Emery 1996
Picturesque Bermuda by Roland Skinner 2007
This article was updated 2023.