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.

December 2011

That's All Folks!
That's all for 2011 but I will be back on the 3rd of January. Happy Christmas and New Year.  Add a comment

Now We Are Ten
TheBookGuide turned ten in 2011 but for some reason I've found myself uncharacteristically lost for words. I feel I should say something but what? The question I'm most frequently asked is 'why do you do it'? - So perhaps that's the place to start ... more  Add a comment

Book Art
The traditional book might be threatened by the advent of E-books but there are some uses for books that the digital equivalent can't compete with. Apart from reading them, a growing number of artists are turning books into artworks of a more sculptural nature. And they can be incredibly diverse.  Add a comment

Cartography and fine art investment
The world of rare maps may also seem one in which only true specialists may concern themselve - particularly at the high prices items like these can command. But with a little know-how and perhaps a little more cash, the right purchase could bag you a real masterpiece - and most importantly, keep your money safe ... more  Add a comment

Seamus Heaney papers bound for Ireland
Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney has donated a collection of his literary papers to the National Library of Ireland ... more  Add a comment

The secret histories of secondhand books
The personal dedications one finds in secondhand books are often as fascinating as the text. In honour of this, we're starting a new series showcasing my most intriguing finds ... more  Add a comment

Who burned Napoleon's Cairo library?
The cost of the Arab Spring in Egypt cannot be counted only in terms of human lives - cultural landmarks have paid a heavy price too. The Institut d'Egypte, one of Cairo's most precious scholarly archives, was burned down on Saturday. Since then, protesters and the country's military rulers have been trading accusations of arson ... more  Add a comment

Napoleon's 'Description De L'Egypte' lost to fire
A fire that erupted on Saturday in Egypt's Institute for the Advancement of Scientific Research has resulted in the loss of several precious manuscripts, according to Zein Abdel-Hadi, head of Egypt's Libraries and Archives Department, which has taken possession of many of the books rescued from the fire. The original manuscript of Napoleon's historic 'Description De L'Egypt' was reportedly among the losses ... more  Add a comment

Light reading
In the digital age we should look back in wonder at illuminated manuscripts: medieval Europe produced some of the most moving images of readers and reading that exist ... more  Add a comment

What the Dickens
Nearly 60 watercolours by English artist Paul Braddon - the pseudonym of James Leslie Crees - were uncovered earlier this year in the Dunedin Public Library Reed Collection by rare books librarian Anthony Tedeschi ... more  Add a comment

Russell Hoban, cult author, dies aged 86
Author of post-apocalyptic classic Riddley Walker as well as numerous children's books described himself as 'an addict to writing' ... more  Add a comment

Historic Titanic company minute book sold
The Belfast shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff, which built the Titanic, has bought back its original Minute Book for an undisclosed sum ... more  Add a comment

Apple founding papers sell 10 times the asking price
Apple proved the power of its brand power again, as founding documents of the computer giant sold at auction on Tuesday for $1.59 million (U.S.), more than 10 times the presale estimate of $100,000 to $150,000 ... more  Add a comment

Founder of legendary Paris bookshop dies at 98
Over the years, George Whitman sheltered about 50,000 young, struggling writer types for free at Shakespeare & Co. on the Left Bank. It also was a magnet for writers like Allen Ginsberg, Anais Nin and Lawrence Durrell ... more  Add a comment

Court clears 'Bookseller of Kabul' author
The Norwegian author of "The Bookseller of Kabul" has been cleared by an appeals court in Oslo of claims she violated the privacy of the real-life salesman on which it was based ... more  Add a comment

Jeanette Winterson remembers George Whitman
George Whitman's Paris bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, became my second home, says Jeanette Winterson ... more  Add a comment

Annie Leibovitz captures America
Annie Leibovitz made her name photographing celebrities for publications like Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. But her new book and exhibition Pilgrimage leave behind contemporary stars and instead show the places which evoke the historical American figures which now fascinate her ... more  Add a comment

Booksellers cry foul at VAT hike on literature
Books have always been prized in France, a nation that has produced more Nobel literature laureates than any other country. And because of strict price controls, France also has one of the most diverse retail networks in the world. But the announcement that VAT will go up on all but the most essential items - and books are deemed non-essential - has terrified France's independent booksellers ... more  Add a comment

Charles Dickens's London of dirt and despair
Alex Werner, curator of the first major museum show on Charles Dickens for more than 40 years, says one of his favourite exhibits is a small drawing that it would be easy for visitors to overlook: it shows a large heap of dust through which women are sifting in the hope of finding bits of metal or bone or anything else they can sell ... more  Add a comment

Captain Scott's Antarctic expedition artefacts on show
Artefacts from Captain Scott's ill-fated Antarctic expedition are on show together for the first time in the UK. The Cambridge University Polar Museum exhibition includes Scott's last journal, on loan from the British Library, and many items which have never been on public display ... more  Add a comment

New Charles Dickens coin honors author
The Royal Mint has come up with a novel way to wish Charles Dickens a happy 200th birthday -- a new coin with a portrait of the author made up of the titles of some of his most famous fictional works ... more  Add a comment

Hitler's account book for sale
Adolf  Hitler's private account book, the desk set with which he signed the Munich Agreement, letters Joseph Goebbels received from his Jewish girlfriend, and documents linked to a senior Nazi later recruited by the Mossad are among the items to be auctioned off this week in the United States ... more  Add a comment

S. Korea reclaims looted ancient books from Japan
South Korea on Tuesday reclaimed 1,200 ancient books about a century after they were stolen by Japan during its 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula ... more  Add a comment

Cover story: a year of beautiful books
This year for the first time more ebooks were sold than hardbacks. Publishers have responded by bringing out exquisite new releases and revamps of classics ... more  Add a comment

Early Marilyn Monroe photos sell for $352,000
A collection of images taken at Marilyn Monroe's first photo shoot have been sold at auction for $352,000 (£225,000) in Beverly Hills, California ... more  Add a comment

'New' Jane Austen portrait unearthed by author
A British author is claiming to have unearthed a previously unseen portrait of Pride And Prejudice writer Jane Austen ... more  Add a comment

Medical records show deaths from lethargy and "itch"
Seventeenth century medical records which show people dying of lethargy, itch and even fright are to go on display in a new exhibition ... more  Add a comment

Almost 4m children in Britain do not own a book
Almost 4 million children in Britain - one in three - do not own a book, a poll has found. The National Literacy Trust charity, which carried out the survey, said the proportion had risen from one in 10 in 2005. The charity said the findings were very worrying because book ownership was linked to children's future success in life. Children who read well can often overcome other hurdles that lock their peers into a cycle of disadvantage, it said ... more  Add a comment

Kurt Vonnegut's dark, sad, cruel side is laid bare
A new biography of acclaimed American author Kurt Vonnegut, beloved by fans worldwide for his work's warm humour and homespun Midwestern wisdom, has shocked many with a portrayal of a bitter, angry man prone to depression and fits of temper ... more  Add a comment

Computers crack manuscript's code
A team of Swedish and American linguists has applied statistics-based translation techniques to crack one of the most stubborn of codes: the Copiale Cipher, a hand-lettered 105-page manuscript that appears to date from the late 1700s ... more  Add a comment

National Library of Wales criticised
One of Britain's most important libraries has been severely criticised for accepting money from a Nazi collaborator. The Welsh government is leading the attack on its national library for taking £300,000 along with papers and tapes left to it by Louis Feutren ... more  Add a comment

Voynich code cracked?
It's known as the world's most mysterious manuscript - an illustrated tome that's baffled experts for centuries. Written in bizarre 'alien' characters and illustrated with sketches no one can understand, the book's author is unknown and it has no official title. Cryptographers, historians and bibliophiles have examined the 15th Century text. But so far no-one has worked out what it means ... more  Add a comment

Voynich Manuscript gets digitised online
One of the biggest mysteries of publishing, the enigmatic Voynich Manuscript, has been digitised and made available for viewing in full online in an effort to solve its centuries-old riddle ... more  Add a comment

Collecting pop-up books & movables
Pop up books and paper ephemera with movable parts can be one of the most interesting and delightful genres of all the book arts. Endlessly fascinating and diverse they are situated at the intersection of many fields. In a host of creative ways pop ups combine books and toys, books and artists, books and engineering, books and science, as well as books and excursions into the third dimension to name a few ... more  Add a comment

Exhibition of rare and historic books in Ulster
Some of the conserved rare and historic books and pamphlets held at the University of Ulster will be displayed in a unique exhibition to mark the completion the Derry and Raphoe Diocesan Library Project. The exhibition in the Chapter House Museum of St Columb's Cathedral from December 7 to December 19 marks the culmination of a £500,000 Heritage Lottery Funded project to conserve the Church of Ireland's Diocesan Library ... more  Add a comment

Knut Hamsun and Henrik Ibsen forgery case
Two of Norway's most famous literary figures, Knut Hamsun and Henrik Ibsen, have been the unwitting subjects of a major forgery case that resulted in indictments this week. The National Library, literary experts and collectors claim they're deeply shaken by the case ... more  Add a comment

Bibliophilia for Beginners
Tips and traps when buying for the aspiring book collector ... more  Add a comment

Superman Comic Nets Record $2.1 Million
Nicolas Cage's nearly-pristine copy of Action Comics No. 1 featuring the first appearance of Superman sold for a record $2,161,000 in an online auction that ended Wednesday ... more  Add a comment

Apollo 13 notebook fetches $388,375
Shortly after Apollo 13 astronauts reported, "Houston, we have had a problem," Commander James Lovell jotted down handwritten calculations in hopes of guiding his crew safely home. The notebook with those calculations from the aborted 1970 NASA mission to the moon fetched $388,375 at auction on Wednesday in Dallas when it was sold to an American collector who was not identified ... more  Add a comment

Fahrenheit 451 becomes e-book despite author's feelings
The science fiction novel Fahrenheit 451 has been published as an e-book despite its author's dislike of the format. Ray Bradbury previously claimed electronic books "smell like burned fuel" ... more  Add a comment

The book collector
Book collectors tend to be strange animals who will resort to any device in order to acquire their prey ... more  Add a comment