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.

January 2014

Noted naval family's letter to be sold at auction
A 200-year-old naval letter, from Malta to Guernsey, is expected to fetch £3,000 at a London auction ... more  Add a comment

Real books should be preserved like papyrus scrolls
In a future electronic world, there will be a ghastly contingency about the written word. Books have a new place as sacred objects, and libraries as museums ... more  Add a comment

Divorce judge stops husband selling off castle library
A High Court judge has ordered a businessman embroiled in a divorce cash dispute not to dispose of the library at the castle where he used to live with his wife ... more  Add a comment

Holy Grail manuscript goes on show
A centuries-old manuscript telling the story of the quest for the Holy Grail - by King Arthur’s knights - is the star attraction of a new exhibition in Cambridge ... more  Add a comment

Bookshop Crowdfunding in the time of rent spikes
Faced with skyrocketing Valencia Street rents and dwindling sales in the era of Kindle and Amazon, two Mission bookstores have looked to a new source of revenue to pay the rent in the last year: crowdfunding ... more  Add a comment

British comic exhibition at British Library
The British Library is to mount the largest exhibition of comics ever held in the UK. Comic Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK will showcase early work from the likes of Watchmen illustrator Dave Gibbons and writer Alan Moore ... more  Add a comment

Robert Burns' letters on display
A selection of handwritten poems and letters by Robert Burns has gone on display to the public at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh ... more  Add a comment

Centuries-old Spanish manuscript found
A long-lost comedy by one of the best-known playwrights of 17th-century Europe has been rediscovered in the Spanish National Library nearly 400 years after his death ... more  Add a comment

New analysis of Voynich Manuscript published
"Although the Voynich is clearly not the most pressing issue in modern herbal medicine and phytotherapy, we believed we could not pass up the opportunity to publish Art Tucker and Rex Talbert’s insightful essay in which they propose a New World origin for the source and identity of the plants in the Voynich, possibly providing a breakthrough in this historical conundrum," wrote Mark Blumenthal, HerbalGram editor-in-chief and ABC founder and executive director, in his Dear Reader editorial column in the same issue of HerbalGram ... more  Add a comment

Adventures of a medieval manuscript expert
In Reno, she found a 15th-century French prayer book with gold leaf once owned by a Welsh actor-turned-missionary. In South Dakota, she discovered a 600-year-old leaf from another book with a prayer meditating on the final seven statements uttered by Jesus ... more  Add a comment

Buffalo Bill Cody Scotland photos up for auction
Remarkable photographs of Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show, taken during its legendary tour of Scotland a century ago, are going under the hammer in America as part of a sale of rare family photographs owned by the great granddaughter of the famous showman ... more  Add a comment

French medieval manuscripts at Cambridge University
"This exhibition not only gives us a chance to display the Library's treasures, but also reminds us how the French language has enriched our cultural past and left us with a legacy that continues to be felt in 21st century Britain" ... more  Add a comment

Bosnia opens library to house ancient manuscripts
On Wednesday, thanks to a $9 million donation from Qatar, Bosnia's president and a Qatar minister opened a new library in the heart of the Ottoman-era Old Town section of Sarajevo to house those books and more than 100,000 manuscripts. The oldest is a handwritten Islamic encyclopaedia that was written in Arabic in 1105 ... more  Add a comment

The peculiar underworld of rare-book thieves
While the criminal personalities vary, according to the elite detectives who hunt book thieves, they all share something in common: base greed and a knack for gaining insider access to the cozy, exclusive world of rare-book collecting ... more  Add a comment

Letter from lebanon: a bookshop burns
On a Friday night shortly after New Year's, a group of men broke into an antiquarian bookshop in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli and set it on fire ... more  Add a comment

Unpublished manuscripts of Cold Comfort author found
The family of Stella Gibbons, author of Cold Comfort, are hoping to find a publisher for two of her unpublished manuscripts found 30 years after they were finished ... more  Add a comment

A Chilean dictator's secret book collection
The discovery that General Pinochet secretly used public funds to accumulate a vast personal library ranking among Latin America's largest and most valuable book collections is particularly surprising, leaving some here puzzling over the motivation for his obsession ... more  Add a comment

Unlock historical London maps and views
 King George III's personal map and views collection contains over 1,000 maps and views of London. Help the British library raise £10,000 so they can start to catalogue, conserve and create digital access ... more  Add a comment

Rothschild prayerbook set to break record
On January 29th, the Rothschild Prayerbook will be offered for auction by Christie's with an estimate at $15 -$18 million. The book already holds the world record for an illuminated manuscript, when it was sold by Christie's fifteen years ago for $13 million ... more  Add a comment

"First 3D-printed book cover"
US publisher Riverhead has collaborated with 3D-printing firm MakerBot to create the first printed book sleeve. A desktop MakerBot Replicator 2 was used to print the slipcase for Korean-American writer Chang-rae Lee's futuristic novel On Such a Full Sea, released on 7 January ... more  Add a comment

Winners of 2013 bookbinding competition named
The competition has been held every year since 1974 to encourage professionals, amateurs and students to develop their technical and design skills, with a particular emphasis on helping up-and-coming bookbinders become professionals in their field ... more  Add a comment

16th century manuscript could rewrite Australian history
A tiny drawing of a kangaroo curled in the letters of a 16th-century Portuguese manuscript could rewrite Australian history ... more  Add a comment

Cambridge University 'hope' for biblical manuscript bid
Cambridge University has said an appeal to raise £1.1m to buy an early Biblical manuscript it has held for 30 years is "progressing well" ... more  Add a comment

Books as art objects
As a book designer, I'm often asked whether I think printed books have a future. Short answer: yes, but it's complicated ... more  Add a comment

Leicestershire police sell criminal's comic books
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's the latest criminal asset to be auctioned off by Leicestershire Police. A collection of about 1,200 comic books were seized under the Proceeds of Crime act and officers, who say they are in mint condition, are now selling them through the force's eBay account ... more  Add a comment

Antarctic negatives discovered
Almost one hundred years after a group of explorers set out across the frozen landscape of Antarctica to set up supply depots for famed explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, a box of 22 never-before-seen exposed but unprocessed negatives taken by the group's photographer has been unearthed in one of those shacks, preserved in a block of ice ... more  Add a comment

Rare Neil Gaiman book re-donated to charity
A rare, signed copy of Neil Gaiman's 1999 novel Stardust is up for grabs in a charity lottery after being re-donated for the fourth time  Add a comment

Can reading a good book make you a better person?
Nathan Filer's novel The Shock of the Fall was ascribed life-changing qualities by Costa book judges. But the jury's still out on fiction's positive impact ... more  Add a comment

Frankenstein author's letters found by university professor
A handful of unpublished letters by Frankenstein author Mary Shelley have been found in a public record office. Professor Nora Crook was searching for information about an author called Miss Crumpe when she came across the documents in Chelmsford, Essex ... more  Add a comment

Scattered Leaves
A Christian devotional from the fourteen-sixties, sold by Christie's in 2010 for twenty-five thousand pounds, has been stripped for individual sale by a modern-day dealer ... more  Add a comment

V&A to host Jacqueline Wilson exhibition
The V&A Museum of Childhood will this spring host "Daydreams and Diaries: the Story of Jacqueline Wilson", an exhibition on tour from the Seven Stories Centre for Children's Books in Newcastle ... more  Add a comment

Dylan Thomas centenary
Admirers of Dylan Thomas are expected to descend in droves on South Wales this year not just from across the UK but from the US, Europe and the far east to join a year-long celebration marking the centenary of his birth ... more  Add a comment

Lebanon library torched
Ancient books in a historic library in the Lebanese city of Tripoli have been torched by Islamist, after a pamphlet purportedly insulting religion was found inside one of the books. Security sources say that up to 78,000 books, many irreplaceable ancient Muslim and Christian texts and manuscripts, are now unsalvageable, according to Agence France Press ... more  Add a comment

Mountainous Landscape from an Encyclopedia Britannica Set
In one of his most ambitious book sculptures to date artist Guy Laramee created an homage to the printed Encyclopedia Britannica by transforming a 24-volume set into a sloping mountainous landscape ... more  Add a comment

The enigma of the medieval almanac
A remarkable fifteenth-century folding almanac in a green and pink silk binding was recently acquired by the Wellcome Library. It stands out because of its exquisite textile binding, and the high artistic standard of its illustrative features, particularly the Zodiac Man. Only a handful of such artefacts survive, and this particular example had been in private hands and was previously unknown to scholars ... more  Add a comment

A Hot Mobile Device from the 16th Century
This miniature book was meant to be worn like a holstered Blackberry. Those two holes across the top were for the string that would attach to one's girdle or belt. The book provided the Psalms in English, courtesy of translator John Croke. It measures 1.6 inches by 1.2 inches ... more  Add a comment

Cache of rare antique Japanese books discovered
Scholars have uncovered close to 20,000 rare Japanese books dating back centuries at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, including some featuring woodblock prints of the famed artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) ... more  Add a comment

Welcome to 2014
I'm sure you've had far more interesting things to do during the Christmas holidays than trawl the internet for book related stories, so here are a few that caught my eye  Add a comment

The economics of used books, part 1
Bookselling is a "trade that takes a lifetime in which to master little, suffer much, and on the average, earn less than any union laborer." ... more  Add a comment

A lasting impression on the world of books
A three-volume tome made up of 2,500 pages and costing £250 has been published to tell the story of Oxford University Press. The three books tell the story from the first presses set up in the 15th century until 1970 ... more  Add a comment

Britain's black power movement is at risk of being forgotten
Britain's black power movement is being written out of recent cultural history because it does not fit into the "utopian" narrative of the UK being a nation of civilised fair play, a new book argues ... more  Add a comment

Wellcome Library buys medieval medical almanac
An extremely rare tiny medieval medical almanac once owned by the eccentric poet and critic Edith Sitwell has been acquired by the Wellcome Library for £100,000. The almanac is a combined calendar, astrological chart and medical textbook all folded into a strip smaller than the palm of a hand ... more  Add a comment

Books meet robotics in the Book Hive
Welcome to the Book Hive, a large-scale interactive sculpture created by Rusty Squid to celebrate 400 years of public libraries in Bristol ... more  Add a comment

Local history helps unlock the secrets of our identity
Family History, whether as genealogy or a related discipline, is big business. It is said to be second only to pornography in having the greatest number of internet sites ... more  Add a comment

Free Bookshop
There are 100,000 free books up for grabs at a former pub in north London. You can take as many as you want. So how many do you think are left after three months? ... more  Add a comment

Defaced 'Ulysses'
A first-edition copy of James Joyce's novel 'Ulysses', which is owned by Galway book dealer is set to fetch more than 13 thousand euros ... more  Add a comment

Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria villa faces demolition
Villa Ambron was once the home of Lawrence Durrell, the British author twice shortlisted for the Nobel prize for literature, whose experiences while living at the villa inspired his most famous work, The Alexandria Quartet. But the businessman who owns it says it may soon make way for a high-rise apartment block ... more  Add a comment

Nevinson drawing sets record
A poignant World War I drawing by Christopher Nevinson, official War Artist for the British Government, set a new world record for a work on paper by the artist at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auction's sale of Modern and Contemporary Prints on December 11th ... more  Add a comment