Father's Day Gifts at Country House Library - Biographies

6 min read

8 Biographies to Buy Your Father This Father's Day

The writer and thinker Hillaire Belloc said “Just as there is nothing between the admirable omelette and the intolerable, so with autobiography,” and Agatha Christie said “The urge to write one's autobiography, so I have been told, overtakes everyone sooner or later.” The staff at Country House Library love a good omelette as much as we love a vintage autobiography and biography, so from writer to explorer, painter to composer, cricketer to courtier, we’ve cooked up a tasty list for Father’s Day (UK) on 19th June.


  1. Benvenuto Cellini at Country House Library


    The autobiography of Benventuo Cellini, goldsmith, sculptor and author, (1500- 71) has been described as “one of most important documents of the 16th century”. It was started in the year 1558 at the age of 58 and ended around the year 1563 when Cellini was approximately 63 years old. The memoirs give a detailed account of his amazing career, as well as his loves, hates, passions and desires, written in an powerful, straightforward, and ribald style. As one critic wrote "Other goldsmiths have done finer work, but Benvenuto Cellini is the author of the most delightful autobiography ever written." Cellini's writing reveals a self-regard, sometimes running into narcissism. He even writes in a matter-of-fact way of how he contemplated his murders before carrying them out! This 1956 Vintage Penguin copy is a rare find for scholars and collectors of the art of autobiography – setting a very high bar for all who’ve followed.

    Vintage Biographies at Country House Library →

  2. Vintage Katherine Mansfield books at Country House Library


    Katherine Mansfield Beauchamp (1888-23) was born in Wellington, New Zealand and educated at Queen’s College, London. She published her first collection of stories in 1911, In a German Pension, at 23 years of age, and her third and last collection, The Garden Party in 1922. One year later in France, she died of tuberculosis, only 35 years old. A close friend of D. H. Lawrence, Mansfield was recognised as an original and experimental writer, whose stories were the first in English to show the influence of Anton Chekhov, whom she greatly admired. This colourful edition of her journal, published in 1935 by The Albatross, illuminates the innermost workings of this often troubled writer’s mind.

    Vintage Albatross editions at Country House Library →

  3. Vintage David Livingstone books at Country House Library


    David Livingstone (1813-73), doctor, theologian and anti slave-trade campaigner, made it his mission to reach new peoples in the interior of Africa and introduce them to Christianity, as well as freeing them from slavery. It was this which inspired his explorations. In 1855, he discovered a spectacular waterfall which he named 'Victoria Falls'. Returning to Britain a national hero, Livingstone did many speaking tours and published his best-selling 'Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa' (1857) including commentary on the horrors of the slave trade. He secured private support for another expedition to central Africa, searching for the Nile's source. After nothing was heard from him for many months, Henry Stanley, an explorer and journalist, set out to find Livingstone. This resulted in their meeting near Lake Tanganyika in October 1871 during which Stanley uttered the famous phrase, “Dr Livingstone I presume?” This beautifully decorative publication of J. S. Robertson’s biography with gilted text-block will be a wonderful discovery in any home library collection.

    Vintage Books on Africa at Country House Library →

  4. Len Hutton Cricket books at Country House Library


    Wisdens Cricketer’s Almanac once described Sir Leonard Hutton (1916-90) as “one of the greatest batsmen in the history of cricket”. He set an individual record in 1938 of 364 runs in a test match against Australia – a record which remains to this day. Hutton dominated English cricket in the post WW2 years and became the first professional player in the 20th century to captain a test side. Even with a war injury to his arm, forcing Hutton to adjust his style, the English cricket team relied on him heavily until his career ended in 1955. Just My Story was Hutton’s second book of memoirs, written in conjunction with leading sports journalist of the day R. J. Hayter. In this classic, vintage sporting autobiography, the author provides a fascinating insight into the sport of cricket, as told by one of the all-time cricketing greats.

    Vintage Books on Cricket at Country House Library →

  5. Vintage Mozart books at Country House Library


    Arguably the most famous and listened to classical composers of all time, Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart (1756-91) penned more than 800 pieces of symphony, concert, chamber, operatic and choral works during his short 35 year life. According to Mozart’s older sister, Nanneri, he could faultlessly play the clavier at the age of 4, and by 5 years old was composing short pieces which he played to their father, who recorded them on paper. In 1764, Mozart’s father took his eight year old son to London to meet with Johann Bach. This biography of a musical genius was written in 1956 by American man of letters Manuel Komroff, and is a first edition gem in the Country House Library collection of books on music.

    Vintage Books on Music at Country House Library →

  6. Vintage Nancy Mitford books at Country House Library


    Written by one of the six famous (or in some cases infamous!) Mitford sisters, Nancy, this beautifully presented first edition from 1954, charts the extraordinary life of one of France's most famous (or some might say, infamous!) royal courtiers, Madame de Pompadour. ‘Groomed’ by her mother from the age of five, to become a king’s mistress, she duly became the official Chief Mistress of King Louis XV from 1745 to 1751. However, in addition to becoming the King’s most trusted confidante, she proved herself to be an enthusiastic and knowledgeable patron of the arts, including architecture, the decorative arts (especially porcelain) and philosophy. This rare and collectable book will be a jewel in the crown of any home library collection.

    Vintage Books on History at Country House Library →

  7. Vintage books on Sigmund Freud at Country House Library


    “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” – Sigmund Freud

    Just one in a lifetime of famous thoughts from the father of psychoanalysis, Sigismund Schlomo Freud (1856-1939), founder of the Oedipus Complex, interpreter of dreams, and the id, ego and super-ego, among many other neuropathological achievements. In this most atypical of biographies, the famous British cartoon illustrator, Ralph Steadman, takes an askance look at Freud using the latter’s 1905 book The Joke and its Relation to the Unconscious. The result is nothing less than one of the most original and entertaining illustrated adult books of the 20th century and an excellent value addition to your bookshelves or coffee-table.

    Vintage Books on Psychiatry & Psychology at Country House Library →

  8. Vintage books on John Constable at Country House Library


    “Painting is but another word for feeling.” John Constable

    Another subject in our selection of vintage biographies who hardly needs any introduction, John Constable (1776-1837) was an English painter of landscapes in the Romantic tradition. With an impressive portfolio of masterpieces including The Hay Wain (National Gallery, London), Wivenhoe Park (National Gallery of Art, Washington) and Stonehenge (V&A Museum, London), Constable was never financially stable during his lifetime, selling only 20 paintings in England. He sold far more in Europe, however writing to a friend he said, “I would rather be a poor man in England than a rich man abroad.” Author of this 1985 publication, Joseph Darracott, was for 14 years Keeper of Art at The Imperial War Museum in London, leaving for us another fine example from Country House Library’s collection of books on famous painters, and an absorbing biography on one of England’s greatest artists.

    Vintage Books on Art Country House Library →

Vintage Gifts for Fathers' Day at Country House Library

Stuck for a gift idea for the father figure in your life? This collection of eight of Country House Library’s finest vintage biographies has something for everyone. Literature to sport, music to exploration, science to art - this is a small selection from the extensive range on our ever-changing bookshelves.



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