Here’s the first book of 2015! I’ve been thinking about “Nightengale’s Catalogue” for a while, ever since I started putting their labels on my vampire hunter kits and anything else that seemed a bit spooky. I thought the idea of Jos, Nightengale & Sons, Supernatural and Metaphysical Supplies sounded a bit more in keeping with the mood of the merchandise. So I’ve made a pastische of 19th century printer’s ornaments, with Nightengale’s as the star of the show.
Gilbert and Sullivan wrote a comic opera called “The Sorcerer” in which John Wellington Wells, of J. W. Wells & Co., Family Sorcerers appears. Tom Holt used J. W. Wells & Company in a series of novels about the modern version of G & S’s magical supply company, and I’ve founded Nightengale’s on the same idea. I have a whole backstory for Nightengale’s:
The history of the Nightengale company began in the late 16th century, when they supplied Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelley with ‘shew-stones’ or crystal balls. The company flourished during the European alchemy boom of the late 16th and early 17th century, and expanded into optical tools and occult mathematical devices as alchemy gave way to modern chemistry and the beginnings of Mad Science. In the 19th century, they achieved, if not fame, at least notoriety, as purveyors of a line of monster abatement equipment. They also began courting collectors of antique metaphysical artifacts, and at one point had almost cornered the market in rare editions of C’thuliana.
After the turn of the 20th century, Enoch Nightengale, then president of the company, became so concerned about the advent of modern rationalism that Nightengale’s catalogs became difficult to come by, passing from hand to hand among the adept, with word-of-mouth their only advertising. The 1889 catalog is the last to have achieved a general circulation, and even copies of this edition are increasingly difficult to come by. To have discovered a copy with the laid-in price list is very unusual indeed.
Traces of Nightengale’s continued existence occasionally turn up. Some printed items bearing their name have come to light from the Infernal Regions (see Welcome To Hell!), and their label is sometimes found on the Vampire Hunter Kits of Bo Press Miniature Books. It is to be hoped that a company as old and storied as Nightengale’s is still around in some nearby dimension, ready to supply “. . .the explorer of uncanny places, magimetician, philosopher, alchemist, monster hunter, or wizard.”
It’s up on the website now, here: Joshua Nightengale & Sons, Supernatural and Metaphysical Supplies (the 1889 Catalogue and Price List)