James Purdey & Sons

James Purdey & Sons

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This second edition celebrates Purdey's two hundred years of gunmaking from 1814 to 2014


"There is no gunmaker personally better known than Mr Purdey; there is none less written about" wrote G. T. Teasdale-Buckell in Experts on Guns and Shooting in 1900. The name 'James Purdey & Sons' is universally respected and known the world over as makers of the finest quality guns. Established by James Purdey the Elder in 1814, Purdey built best-quality guns, rifles and pistols to the highest standards, right from the start. Patronised by European royalty and nobility, they could claim to have built guns for all nine kings attending King Edward VII's funeral in 1910. Today the firm still continues that tradition begun in 1814.

James Purdey the Elder's son, James Purdey the Younger, took over the running of the firm in 1858 and was responsible for developing the muzzle-loading rifle to the pinnacle of its development, the Express rifle. In the early breech-loading period he invented, in 1863, the most famous closing action of all time, the Purdey bolt. He was quick to see the advantages of the hammerless gun and astute in purchasing and developing the Beesley hammerless action of 1880 that is universally admired today. He created guns of great style and elegance and established the form of the hammerless ejector for all others to follow.

Donald Dallas has produced several appendices of great interest to the Purdey owner and collector. Purdey serial numbers are listed for the years 1814-2014 to assist with dating guns; production figures are given to show the rarity of certain weapons; all the Purdey patents are described and of particular interest are the Purdey gunmakers, named to help identify initials stamped on the various parts of Purdey guns.

This second edition celebrates Purdey's two hundred years of gunmaking from 1814 to 2014. It brings the history of the firm right up to date - over 170 new photographs have been added which sit alongside fresh material. New appendices have been inserted covering Purdey rifle cartridges, a rare 1885 Purdey gun catalogue and Purdey gun cases.


Donald Dallas, a graduate of the London School of Economics is, by profession, a teacher of history. His particular interest has always been the history of the sporting gun and following the success of his first book, Boss & Co. Builders of Best Guns Only he was asked by James Purdey & Sons to research a similar history for them, resulting in Purdey, Gun and Rifle Makers, The Definitive History.

Following this, he wrote a detailed history of Holland and Holland, Holland & Holland, 'The Royal' Gunmaker. His recent works include The British Sporting Gun and Rifle, Pursuit of Perfection, 1850-1900, Charles Gordon, Magnificent Madness and David McKay Brown, Scotland's Gun and Rifle Manufacturer.

After the first edition was published, Donald continued to research Purdey and gather new material; subsequently the firm asked him to produce this second edition to celebrate their two hundred years as gunmakers.

Book Specifications

Additional Information

Sub Heading Gun & Rifle Makers: Two Hundred Years of Excellence
ISBN 9781846891649
Author Donald Dallas
Binding Casebound
Extent 310mm x 250mm, 472 pages
Illustrations Colour photographs throughout
Ebook No

'Meticulous historian and brilliant contributor Donald Dallas has brought his admirable skills to this second edition celebrating Purdey's 200 years of gunmaking from 1814 to the present day. After the first edition was published this incorrigible historian continued to research the greatest name in gunmaking, and so he was asked to produce this second edition to help celebrate the company's amazing two centuries in the business.' Shooting Gazette

'This magnificent book, recently updated, details the 200-year history of English gunmakers James Purdey & Sons and contains several appendices including serial numbers to assist with dating guns, as well as production figures to show the rarity of each. All of Purdey's world-famous patents are described, plus the Purdey gunmakers are named to help gun owners to identify initials stamped on parts. Comprehensively illustrated throughout, this coffee table book is a must for all gun collectors.' Fieldsports

'James Purdey & Sons: Two Hundred Years of Excellence has been meticulously re-researched, revised and enlarged, and published in a larger format to carry more photographs and illustrations, many of them previously unpublished. I hope you enjoy reading this book, which relates so much fascinating history of the life and times of the Purdey gunmaking family, as well as the Beaumonts, who were at the helm for almost 50 years following World War II. And finally it brings us up to the present day, with James Purdey & Sons standing on the threshold of its third century as one of the worlds greatest sporting gunmakers.' Beverly Drive Magazine

'As with all Quiller books, build quality is excellent and the black ribbon bookmark is a nice detail. The colour photographs are bright and the line drawings are crisp. This book would make a wonderful Christmas present for any Purdey owner or anyone who loves fine English guns. I can think of nothing better than coming home after the Boxing Day shoot and immersing myself among images of guns that I covet but will never be able to afford. Still, we all crave the opium of our dreams and Donald's new book is full of them.' Shooting Times 

'One of the book's most interesting features is the details of individual Purdey craftsmen and their initials that are found stamped on the guns made. Social convention consigned these talented men to oblivion until the author combed the wage books and brought their names to life. There are numerous photos of them both in the factory and at leisure on works outings...This fantastic book makes a definitive contribution to that canon of gunmaking history. Highly recommended.' Classic Arms and Militaria

'Next year (2014) sees the centenary of Britain's most famous gunmaker, James Purdey and Sons. To celebrate the occasion Donald Dallas has written a revised edition of his 200 work, Purdey the Definitive History. Donald is a history teacher, so it comes as no surprise that his work is meticulously researched, beautifully written and presented in an easily comprehensible form. But he goes beyond the mere chronicling of gunmakers' lives and works. Donald's passion for his subject and his love of fine guns is apparent in everything he writes. And this is very much more than a revised edition of his earlier work. Donald has continued to research Purdey and gather new material. Consequently, the new work is much expanded and effectively a new book with several new appendices including a copy of a rare 1885 Purdey catalogue. I can think of nothing better than coming home after the shoot and immersing myself among images of fine guns that I covet but will never afford. Still, we all crave the opium of our dreams and Donald's new book is full of them.' BASC Shooting and Conservation

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