Shelf:Life - Links to what's new in the world of old, rare, and collectable books, insights into book collecting, the news stories that matter, and occasional comments by TheBookGuide.  Archived Stories.

November 2015

Pirie's rare book collection to be auctioned by Sotheby's
On December 2-4 Sotheby's will be auctioning the late Robert Pirie's rare book collection. Pirie, a formidable attorney and very successful investment banker, once said, in an anecdote recounted in his New York Times obituary, that his true life's ambition was "to become the rare book curator at Harvard." Pirie amassed what is generally considered to be the finest collection of 16th and 17th century English literature, the fruits of a hobby begun in the 1950s when he was serving in the U.S. Army in Germany. Pirie's collection has been grouped by Sotheby's into 1080 different lots for sale, with prices ranging from more than $500,000 to less than $1000 ... more  Add a comment

Fire, plague and royalty - as seen by diarist Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys never intended his famous diaries to be made public. But without them, we would be denied his very colourful eyewitness accounts of 17th Century London life. How did he manage to be in the right place at the right time? The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is seeking to find the answer in a new exhibition looking at Pepys's meteoric rise from relatively humble beginnings ... more  Add a comment

British Library celebrates Alice's 150th birthday
There's a maths to most stories. In a farce, the consequences of the indiscretion keep squaring themselves. In a detective story, you have to find x. In a romance, one and one make two. The maths of Alice in Wonderland - the 150th birthday of which the British Library is celebrating in a new exhibition that brings together the original manuscript and an array of illustrated editions - is "one and one and one and one and one and one and one ..." Wonder follows wonder with no twist, no revelation. It shouldn't really add up ... more  Add a comment

See a 400-year-old book made entirely from feathers
n 1618, Dionisio Minaggio, Chief Gardener of the State of Milan, created a series of pictures. They were images of birds and scenes from the era: hunters, tradesmen, musicians and actors from the Commedia Dell'Arte. The difference was that these pictures were made of feathers, along with some supplementary bird parts: skin, beak and feet. In total, there were 156 images, which were bound into a book: The Feather Book, or Il Bestario Barocco (The Baroque Bestiary) ... more  Add a comment

Francis Bacon's entire works published in £1,000 title
The Estate of Francis Bacon is set to publish the entire oeuvre of the artist's work for the first time, including 100 previously unpublished paintings, for £1,000 a copy ... more  Add a comment

Book breaker's 'treasure trove of medieval manuscripts acquired
Otto F. Ege, an Ohio-based scholar and book dealer, made a controversial practice of dismantling medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and selling the individual leaves for profit during the first half of the last century ... more  Add a comment

Francis Bacon's entire works published in £1,000 title
The Estate of Francis Bacon is set to publish the entire oeuvre of the artist's work for the first time, including 100 previously unpublished paintings, for £1,000 a copy ... more  Add a comment

Holy return on investment, Batman! Comic book values up
Boosted by a steady diet of comic-inspired movies and television shows about costumed superheroes (mainly those based on characters from publishing powerhouses Marvel and DC Comics), savvy investors in collectible comic books can see a sizable return on their original investment - provided the merchandise is in good condition, and the seller knows what he's doing ... more  Add a comment

Samuel Pepys' other diary on display in new exhibition
The impeccably neat lines of shorthand are familiar, the voracious gathering up of fact, incident, anecdote and sightings of pretty women even more so. Samuel Pepys's other diary, kept 14 years after the last line was ruled on his first - arguably the most famous journal in the world - with a sad declaration that due to his failing eyesight he would never write another, goes on display next week in a major exhibition celebrating Pepys's life and work at the Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London ... more  Add a comment

Bronte Society gets £170,000 grant to buy rare manuscripts
A book which was owned by one of the Brontes and contains unpublished manuscripts by Charlotte will return to Haworth in the new year after being bought by The Bronte Society. The copy of Robert Southey's The Remains of Henry Kirke White, which was owned by Maria Bronte - the mother of the literary sisters, will go on display at the Bronte Parsonage Museum ... more  Add a comment

On the Tintin trail in Belgium
Antony Mason tours the real-life places of Brussels that inspired Hergé the creator of the world-famous Tintin comic series ... more  Add a comment

HP Lovecraft biographer rages against 'political correctness'
ST Joshi has condemned the World Fantasy awards' decision to stop using trophies modelled on the controversial writer as 'the worst sort of political correctness' ... more  Add a comment

The Great Gatsby remains most valuable First Edition
Stanley Gibbons, the London-based dealer best known for trading in stamps and coins, has compiled an index of 35 first editions of 20th-century classics. The most expensive book to feature on the index is a first edition of F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, which is valued at £246,636 ... more  Add a comment

Origin of Species voted most influential academic book in history
Charles Darwin's formulation of the theory of evolution takes overwhelming share of public vote, ahead of Kant, Plato and Einstein ... more  Add a comment

Lost Shelley poem execrating 'rank corruption' made public
An incendiary lost poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, in which the young poet attacks the "cold advisers of yet colder kings" who "coolly sharpen misery's sharpest fang - regardless of the poor man's pang", was made public for the first time in more than 200 years on Tuesday ... more  Add a comment

Undelivered letters shed light on 17th-century society
Thousands of pieces of correspondence, many still unopened, were stored away by Dutch postmaster and are now being examined by academics ... more  Add a comment

Gisele's $700 book sells out
When Gisele Bundchen announced she was to release a $700 book chronicling her career, we did wonder who would pay such a hefty sum. But it appears we needn't have worried: all 1,000 copies of the book - each signed by Bundchen - sold out before it was officially released last Friday thanks to pre-orders ... more  Add a comment

The invisible library
Can digital technology make the Herculaneum scrolls legible after two thousand years? ... more  Add a comment

Did CIA Drugs experiments unwittingly create the Grateful Dead?
Trying to write a definitive history of the Acid Tests, a series of multimedia happenings in 1965 and 1966, in which everyone in attendance was stoned on LSD, is like trying to organize an aquarium's worth of electric eels into a nice neat row, sorted by length. You will never get the creatures to stop writhing, let alone straighten out, and if you touch them, well, they are electric eels ... more  Add a comment

Christie's travel poster auction sells the dream of a bygone era
"Posters", an auction taking place at Christie's South Kensington, celebrates the best of 20th century advertising, including more than 150 sales images of the travel companies that defined the era, such as Cunard, Pan Am and London Underground. Estimated auction prices vary, but are mostly between £800 and £2,500. The most valuable are expected to fetch up to £8,000 ... more  Add a comment

Lincoln manuscript fetches $2.2 million at auction
A handwritten manuscript written and signed by Abraham Lincoln for a 10-year-old boy sold for $2.2 million at Heritage Auctions on Wednesday. The sale price blew through its original $1-million estimate ... more  Add a comment

The truth behind Alfred Stieglitz's iconic photograph
Alfred Stieglitz's 1907 The Steerage is famous around the world as perhaps the classic representation of the 20th-century immigrant arriving in America from Europe for the first time. In the decades since it was taken, the photo has become inextricably tied up with the immigrant journey ... more  Add a comment

400-year-old manuscript shows King James' passion for jewellery
Previously James VI of Scotland, he became the first Stuart king of England in 1603 taking over from Elizabeth I and a document recently uncovered in the University of Edinburgh details a list of jobs his jewellers were tasked with the year after his coronation, including decorating his armour with emeralds ... more  Add a comment

Orwell estate allows poetry to go on general sale
The Orwell estate had originally decided, because 'he is not a great poet', that the £8.99 book published by The Orwell Society should only be sold to the Orwell Society members, fearing that its wider dissemination may damage Orwell's reputation ... more  Add a comment

Britain's scientific history to be sold at auction
In a time of crisis, even the greatest of enemies will unite. Confronted with £2 million of debt, the Royal Institution has been forced to raid its historical archives to select scientific texts to put up for sale. Yet, the way these key books from the history of science are going to be sold is distinctively drawn from the world of art; these artefacts will be put under the hammer at one of London's most prestigious auction houses ... more  Add a comment

Keith Richards sparks rush for rare book
An obscure collection of short stories that sees a one-legged sailor wax lyrical on the various ways in which he might have lost his limb has become the most searched-for title on books marketplace Abebooks, following a tip from Keith Richards ... more  Add a comment

Strange tales of the world's most dangerous book
A stage version of Hitler's rambling manifesto Mein Kampf is attracting big audiences, months before its copyright expires and a new academic edition is published ... more  Add a comment

Judge Dredd's assault on consumer culture icons finally unleashed
Episodes of the Judge Dredd strip from classic British weekly comic 2000AD that poked fun at McDonald's, Burger King and corporate mascots such as the Michelin Man and the Jolly Green Giant are due to be reprinted after almost four decades in legal limbo ... more  Add a comment

Inner Temple votes to cut library space by nearly 60%
Inner Temple has given the green light to controversial plans which will see space at its historic library cut by nearly 60% to create an 'auditorium for education and training' ... more  Add a comment

Mold threatened Faulkner manuscripts
Mold has threatened some of the University of Mississippi's most precious possessions - William Faulkner's original manuscript materials and B.B. King's personal listening collection ... more  Add a comment

The secret journals of a 1920s British woman
In April 1925, at the age of 15, Jean Lucey Pratt began writing a journal, and she didn't put down her pen for 60 years. She produced well over one million words, and no one in her family or large circle of friends had an inkling until the end ... more  Add a comment