In the second half of the nineteenth century the English were the most active, passionate and eccentric collectors in the world. Drawing on journals, eye-witness accounts and news reports, Magpies, Squirrels and Thieves tells the stories of some of the period's greatest collectors, following their hazardous journeys abroad. Closer to home, it explores the perils of the dodgy dealer and the forger, the cut-throat world of the trendy London market and the single-minded obsession that drove the great collectors.
At the centre of the book is John Charles Robinson, curator at London's new Victoria and Albert Museum. Desperate to make his mark as a connoisseur and to create one of the world's most impressive and important collections, he relied upon individual collectors, who, like him, were resolute and obsessive; in thrall to the endless desire for the perfect collection.
Jacqueline Yallop read English at Oxford and did her PhD in nineteenth-century literature at the University of Sheffield. She has been curator of the Ruskin Gallery in Sheffield and now writes novels. She does not collect anything.