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.

April 2012

Larry McMurtry's massive book auction
Here's some bittersweet news for North Texas book lovers. This August famed author and book collector, Larry McMurtry, will host a massive book auction in Archer City, the West Texas town that is the home to his sprawling, multi-venue downtown book store, Booked Up, and the setting of his novel The Last Picture Show ... more  Add a comment

Birmingham medical institute rare books raise 407,000
Historic medical books - some up to 500 years old - have been sold off by a cash-strapped Birmingham health group. The Birmingham Medical Institute raked in more than £400,000 from the sale of half its 5,000-strong library to help it cope with rising rent and falling income ... more  Add a comment

Creepy tips on how to 'collect pretty girls'
It may have been intended  as a joke, but few women - past or present - are likely to find much humour in pages from a Fifties magazine instructing readers how to 'stalk and collect pretty girls'. At first glance, the June 1959 issue of Girl Watcher magazine appears to be a typical Fifties pinup publication. But closer examination reveals it to be a highly sexualized attempt at parodying the satirical Mad Magazine ... more  Add a comment

Walden Woods video game
Its lack of thrills, spills and multiple deaths means it is unlikely to appeal to fans of Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, but a video game based on the years Henry David Thoreau spent living alone in a Massachusetts cabin is in development, following a US government grant ... more  Add a comment

Near-infrared spectroscopy illuminates medieval art
Scientists in the US and Italy have borrowed a technique more usually associated with geophysical remote sensing and applied it to medieval artwork - with stunning results. The near-infrared hyperspectral imaging of a leaf from a 15th century illuminated manuscript has produced a map of the pigment binders used by the artist. The technique will not only allow conservation specialists to better plan strategies for restoring and stabilising paintings, but will also give art historians new insights into the materials and methods favoured by individual artists ... more  Add a comment

$5 Blyton book reaches $1200 on Trade Me
Last weekend Welsh backpacker Tim Bow found a copy of Blyton book We Want a Story, a compilation of short children's stories, when he was at a Nelson garage sale searching for a present for a friend's child ... more  Add a comment

Truman Capote typewriter makes $8,281
A typewriter, reportedly belonging to famed writer Truman Capote, has fetched $8,281 on eBay. But surprisingly, typewriters were-not Capote's first choice for writing (thanks to James Massey for the link) ... more  Add a comment

Clunes southern hemisphere's first international book town
There was hardly a murmur on the main street of Clunes yesterday, but behind the heritage streetscape of the old gold town the townsfolk are celebrating. Clunes has been put on the world map with recognition as the southern hemisphere's first international book town ... more  Add a comment

Oscar Wilde book expected to fetch $100,000
A vellum-bound, first-edition copy of Oscar Wilde's theatrical masterwork The Importance of Being Earnest - dedicated in his own hand to the Canadian man who sparked the Irish literary icon's embrace of homosexuality - is expected to sell at a New York auction this week for more than $100,000 ... more  Add a comment

Fish book nearly sank Isaac Newton's Principia
Poor sales of lavishly illustrated book forced Royal Society to go back on promise to finance publication of Newton's Principia ... more  Add a comment

Lock of Michael Collins' hair removed from auction
The owner of a lock of Michael Collins' hair has decided to donate it to a museum rather than auction it, after the Irish Civil War leader's grandniece said she was appalled by the plan ... more  Add a comment

Ghandi items raise 128,000 at auction
An incredible collection of Mahatma Gandhi artefacts has been auctioned off in south Shropshire for £128,000 with the great man's iconic spectacles fetching more than £40,000. Ghandi's family had branded aspects of the sale 'morbid' after it was revealed a piece of blood splattered earth on which Gandhi was standing when assassinated in 1948 would go under the hammer ... more  Add a comment

British Library acquires St Cuthbert Gospel
The oldest intact European book - the St Cuthbert Gospel - is to remain in the UK after the British Library raised £9m to buy it. The acquisition of the 7th Century copy of the Gospel of St John follows the library's largest fundraising campaign ... more  Add a comment

German artist turns old books into art
Alexander Korzer-Robinson cuts out the illustrations from Victorian novels and history books and pieces them together to create magical collages. The Bristol-based artist said: "My creations have been made by cutting into the books, cutting around some of the illustrations and removing others ... more  Add a comment

Unknown Poe manuscript on display
Newly discovered Edgar Allan Poe manuscripts will be revealed in a major exhibit at Richmond, Virginia's Edgar Allan Poe Museum from April 26 to July 11, 2012. Among the recently uncovered pieces are four letters and the only known manuscript for Poe's important early poem "To Helen" ... more  Add a comment

Why Do Old Books Smell?
Walk into a used bookshop and you will encounter the unique aroma of aging books. The smell is loved by some, disliked by others, but where does it come from?  Add a comment

The London Rare Books School
In 2012, London Rare Books School will be running for two weeks: 25 June to 29 June and 2 to 6 July.  Each course on offer will consist of thirteen seminars, amounting in all to twenty hours of teaching time spread between Monday afternoon and Friday afternoon.  It is therefore only possible to take one course per week.  There will be timetabled 'library time' that will allow students to explore the rich resources of the University's Senate House Library, one of the UK's major research libraries.  There will also be an evening programme with an opening reception and talk, a book history lecture, and receptions hosted by major London antiquarian booksellers. There are still spaces on most courses for this summer ... more  Add a comment

15th century Jewish siddur to be auctioned
A rare 15th century festival prayer book written in Hebrew and estimated to be worth up to $800,000 will be exhibited in New York next week ahead of its sale at Christie's Books and Manuscripts auction in Paris next month ... more  Add a comment

Timbuktu librarians protect manuscripts
Malian scholars, librarians and ordinary citizens in the rebel-occupied city of Timbuktu are hiding away priceless ancient manuscripts to prevent them from being damaged or looted, a South African academic in contact with them said ... more  Add a comment

Snoop Dogg on a roll with smokable book
Rolling Words: A Smokable Songbook contains the lyrics of songs including Nuthin' but a "G" Thang and Gin and Juice. The songs are printed on Snoop's new king-size slim rolling papers, with the pages perforated for easy removal. The book even features a match-striking surface on the spine to make life as easy as possible for readers ... more  Add a comment

1823 Declaration of Independence makes $597,500
With a price worthy of its historic stature, a recently discovered 1823 printing of the Declaration of Independence, painstakingly engraved and printed by William Stone to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the founding of The United States, sold for $597,500 - more than doubling its presale estimate, at auction in New York April 11, 2012. It was purchased by an anonymous East Coast buyer and was considered the centerpiece of Heritage Auctions' Historical Manuscripts Signature Auction ... more  Add a comment

CAMBO closes
The Campaign for Real Books (CAMBO) established in November 2010 to preserve and promote paper books and the independent bookshops that sell them, has removed all content from its site, leaving just a note that it has been discontinued. Jeremy Carson spent a good deal of time and money on promoting the idea, and despite my reservations, I'm sorry it didn't work out.  Add a comment

Bright Young Things
Fine Books & Collections Blog have been running a series entitled "Bright Young Things", profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers. Of particular interest to UK readers will be a recent conversation with Simon Beattie of Chesham in Buckinghamshire ... more  Add a comment

Antiquarian bookstore was favorite Hitchcock haunt
Fans of the Hitchcock classic "Vertigo" will remember the scene at the Argosy Book Store - the one where Jimmy Stewart asks the proprietor about mystery woman Carlotta Valdes ... more  Add a comment

The magic of Encyclopedia Britannica's 11th edition
Representing a peak of colonial optimism before the slaughter of war, the 1910/11 edition has acquired an almost mythic quality among collectors ... more  Add a comment

Rebel capture raises fears for ancient manuscripts
The seizure of Timbuktu by a fractious group of separatist and Islamist rebels in northern Mali has raised fears for the fate of the legendary city's ancient manuscripts and architectural treasures ... more  Add a comment

From Rossetti to Voysey: Arts & Crafts Stamped Book Cover Design
This unique exhibition brings together over 90 books with case-bound cloth covers by artists and designers, their names read like a roll-call of the leading artists and designers of the day. Philip Webb, DG Rossetti, William Morris, Charles Ricketts, Walter Crane, Lewis F Day, Selwyn Image, Laurence Housman, James Guthrie, Gleeson White, Robert Anning Bell, Lucy Faulkner are all represented. Published between 1866 and 1911 and issued by commercial publishers the books all come from the collection of Malcolm Haslam, co-curator of the exhibition with Kathy Haslam, Blackwell's curator. 10 May - 15 July 2012 at Blackwell, Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria.  Add a comment

Collecting Ephemera
The third in the new series of seminars organised jointly by the Institute of English Studies (London University) and the ABA Educational Trust will be given by one of the most experienced and knowledgeable dealers in the area of printed ephemera, Valerie Jackson-Harris, Chairman of the Ephemera Society. All are welcome, it’s free, and there is no need to book; 6pm in room G37 on the Ground Floor of the Senate House Library, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU.  Add a comment

Rare Books Mobile App
The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB)  has launched an ILAB Mobile App which is now available in the Apple Store and the Android Market. Search for "ILAB rare books" or "International League of Antiquarian Booksellers" to find the free App ready to install on your phone. A Blackberry version will follow soon ... more  Add a comment

Unfavourable Amazon reviews case is struck out
An author who tried to sue a father of three from the West Midlands over comments made in a series of unfavourable reviews on Amazon is facing a six figure legal bill after a judge struck out his case ... more  Add a comment

Encyclopedia Britannica nearly sold out
The final edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica has almost sold out after nostalgic readers rushed to acquire their own copies of the 32-volume set, which will be the last ever printed ... more  Add a comment

PAN Books website updated
Tim Kitchen has expanded his PAN Books website, which now covers the first 25+ years. It now also features at least one of all the known titles issued by PAN under their quirky numbering system. Tim says he still has a lot of the later titles to add (those issued with ISBNs but the old yellow and black logo on the spine) and he is now including PAN Piccolo children's titles plus Topliners teenage fiction.  Add a comment

Rare history book used as doorstop
A rare 213-year-old piece of Wallingford's history has been recovered - after being used as a doorstop ... more  Add a comment

660-year-old Jewish prayer book could be lost
The Sarajevo Haggadah has endured the Spanish Inquisition, the expulsion of the Jews from southern Europe, the Nazi Holocaust and the war in Bosnia. It's been hidden under floorboards and in bank vaults; spirited out of danger by people willing to risk their lives; and shielded from the ravages of ethnic cleansing. Over six and a half centuries, this beautiful little book - which tells the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt - has escaped the grips of enemies with hate in their hearts. But it may not survive its newest and most formidable foe: the banal indifference of a government that no longer cares about its national treasures ... more  Add a comment

A bibliophile's paradise
As well as the much publicised hilltribe treks and elephant rides through lush rainforests, there are a host of other slightly more low-key attractions such as the Chiang Mai's iconic second-hand bookshops which carry an amazingly diverse array of publications, many brought in by backpackers from all corners of the globe ... more  Add a comment