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.

March 2014

Harper Lee letters to be auctioned
A letter from Harper Lee, in which the publicity shy author of To Kill a Mockingbird explains that "I simply don't give interviews, because it takes great skill to ask meaningful questions and very few people in the media have it", is set to go up for auction ... more  Add a comment

letters reveal Ian Fleming's tempestuous first love
It might sound more Fifty Shades of Grey than 007, but a series of letters by a young Ian Fleming to his Austrian lover see the man who would go on to create James Bond detailing how he would like "to hurt you because you have earned it and in order to tame you like a little wild animal" ... more  Add a comment

Coded graffiti recalls lost literary talent
Historians studying graffiti in ancient churches have found what they believe might be writing by one of medieval English literature's most extraordinary "lost" talents - including his signature ... more  Add a comment

Secret code found in Weldon university library books
Assistant Professor Mike Moffatt was browsing the stacks on earlier this month, only to unearth an impenetrable coded message in one of the books on the third floor, leading to more than 15 discoveries in different text ... more  Add a comment

Manchester Central Library reopens after 50m revamp
Vincent Harris's neoclassical treasure, closed since 2010, celebrates its 80th birthday restored to its former glory ... more  Add a comment

British Guiana one-cent magenta stamp could fetch $20m
1856 stamp, the only one of its kind known to exist, will be most valuable object by weight and size ever sold, says Sotheby's ... more  Add a comment

Original Harry Potter cover art up for auction
Pieces of original artwork for two of the books in JK Rowling's Harry Potter series are expected to fetch five-figure sums when they are auctioned in the USA. ... more  Add a comment

Authors blast ban on prisoners receiving books
A group of leading authors have launched a furious attack on the Government for banning prisoners from receiving books to read in jail. The new rules, which came into force in November, prevent inmates from receiving parcels from the outside unless they have "exceptional circumstances" such as a medical condition ... more  Add a comment

John Lennon drawings and manuscripts up for auction
A huge trove of John Lennon's writings and drawings is coming up for auction in New York City this summer, offering a renewed look at the former Beatle's lesser known comic literary side. According to Sotheby's, the 89-lot collection titled "You Might Well Arsk" constitutes the most extensive sale ever of Lennon's original artwork, autograph manuscripts and corrected typescripts ... more  Add a comment

Happy 95th birthday, Lawrence Ferlinghetti!
He published Allen Ginsberg and gave the Beat Generation a literary home, won a landmark anti-censorship case and still runs an independent bookstore in San Francisco. Happy 95th birthday, Lawrence Ferlinghetti! ... more  Add a comment

One of earliest English dictionaries is saved
One of the earliest English dictionaries has been saved for the nation after the British Library paid £92,500 to stop it going abroad ... more  Add a comment

"Second Book of Booksellers"
Good news for all book lovers: On 1st May, 2014, Sheila Markham's "Second Book of Booksellers" will be published. Sheila's "conversations with the antiquarian book trade" are legendary. Her interviews with the most influential figures of the antiquarian book business first appeared in the Bookdealer, and were then published in book-form as "A Book of Booksellers" in the year 2004. Ian Jackson called it "an essential archive of book trade history" ... more  Add a comment

George Eliot: What did she ever do for us?
Quite a lot, actually. Misquoted on magnets or trending on Twitter, George Eliot has become an oracle for our times. Rebecca Mead traces her fall and rise ... more  Add a comment

New York Public Library left $6m
A reader who loved the New York Public Library has left it an "unexpected [and] extraordinary" gift of $6m (£3.6m) in her will. Lotte Fields, who was 89 when she died, was a "regular modest donor" to the library when she was alive, said librarians, but they were astonished to find out how much money she left them when she died, calling the donation "a plot twist equal to a classic mystery novel" ... more  Add a comment

The future of the Women's Library
Maev Kennedy (Report, 10 March) talks about the Women's Library having lost its building as if it were a hankie it absentmindedly dropped in the street. In reality, it was forcibly ejected by LSE holding a gun to its head. LSE's message was: "Move into our library in Aldwych or we will withdraw our offer to run you." While campaigners obviously hope that it will not have to move again, we campaigned vigorously for LSE to continue running the Women's Library in its existing building ... more  Add a comment

Race to save Scott's Antarctic images from auction sale
From a glorious past of architectural beauty and educational history to withering books and dusty shelves - the story of Madras Literary Society library is one that needs attention ... more  Add a comment

Longleat House 'spring cleans' its rare book collection
Staff at Longleat House are undertaking their own, specialised version of a spring clean this month. Longleat House has no fewer than seven libraries containing more than 40,000 books in total, many of which are rare or unique ... more  Add a comment

Collecting with the FT: Martin Parr
The British photographer is on a mission to revise the history of photography. He talks about some of the extraordinary finds among his 12,000 books ... more  Add a comment

No funds to save 83,000 rare books
From a glorious past of architectural beauty and educational history to withering books and dusty shelves - the story of Madras Literary Society library is one that needs attention ... more  Add a comment

Christies to hold first auction of classic comics
Hundreds of valuable comic books are expected to fetch more than £2.5 million at the first auction of its kind after experts said cartoons were a "valuable artistic craft" ... more  Add a comment

Tarka the Otter author from beyond the grave
The son of Tarka the Otter author Henry Williamson is preparing for an extraordinary beyond the grave ‘meeting’ with his father 36 years after his death. A haunting interview that Williamson gave to the BBC about his experiences in the First World War has been brought back to life and is being made available to view for the first time ever from Tuesday ... more  Add a comment

John Constable pencil drawings make 187,000 at auction
The seven works, and an eighth by his son Lionel, were bought in 1952 for £500, but went unnoticed until the owners decided to move house. They were authenticated by fine art auctioneers Cheffins in Cambridge, who valued the collection at up to £60,000 ... more  Add a comment

Rare 15th Century Torah May Fetch $2.1 Million
A rare 15th century Torah volume, the first printed version to unite all five books of the Hebrew Bible, is coming to the auction block next month in Paris ... more  Add a comment

Rocket cats from the 16th century
Everything about this news story is perfect. A researcher at the University of Pennsylvania was startled, gazing at a recently digitized manuscript, to notice what appeared to be a 16th-century cat in a jet pack ... more  Add a comment

Rare book offers clues to China's musical past
A book stored in Cambridge for the last two centuries has been identified as a rare record of early Chinese music ... more  Add a comment

New texts found in 'Dead Sea Scroll' caves
An archaeologist says he discovered nine tiny scrolls with biblical text from the Qumran caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were unearthed, according to news reports ... more  Add a comment

New Annie Leibovitz book will set you back 1,750
In a career spanning four decades, photographer Annie Leibovitz has snapped some of the world's most famous people. Film stars, musicians, politicians and athletes have been just some of the high achievers who have posed in front of her lens as she's worked for publications including Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Vogue. Now some of her most famous images - and others that have never been seen before - are to be showcased in a new book that has been several years in the making ... more  Add a comment

Probation for theft of $100,000 worth of rare books
A man charged with stealing rare books worth more than $100,000 from Becker College - including an original copy of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and a book signed by Abraham Lincoln - has been sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution ... more  Add a comment

Mayfair antiquarian booksellers listed for 16 million
Scholium Group is set to raise £10 million when it lists later this month, valued at £16-£20million. Its adviser is WH Ireland. Its main business is Shapero Rare Books, which specialises in travel, natural history and Russian books, selling to public institutions and rich collectors at an average price of £6,100. ... more  Add a comment

Spoof Ladybird book provokes wrath of Penguin
Publisher tells Miriam Elia to stop selling satire in which Peter and Jane grapple with Tracey Emin-style conceptual art ... more  Add a comment

Beckett scholar giving manuscripts to Trinity College
Trinity College Library has acquired the Samuel Beckett manuscripts of renowned Beckett scholar Stanley E Gontarski, as well as his working library ... more  Add a comment

John Lennon 'nonsense' lyrics fail to sell at auction
Bizarre alphabet list of lyrics and thoughts by Beatles legend too psychedelic to meet auction reserve ... more  Add a comment

Lord Nelson letter withdrawn from auction
A rare letter from Admiral Lord Nelson to a descendant of the famous Lloyds banking family has been withdrawn from auction by its owners ... more  Add a comment

A field trip to the Marquette University Tolkien archives
The Raynor Memorial Library at Marquette University in Milwaukee is home to original manuscripts and working drafts for three of the J.R.R. Tolkien's most celebrated works: The Hobbit, Farmer Giles of Ham, and The Lord of the Rings. It also holds the original copy of the children's book Mr. Bliss and has, over the years, grown to become one of the largest repositories of secondary works on Tolkien and his writing ... more  Add a comment

Gloucestershire libraries follow guidelines when selling books
Following reports in the Echo that Gloucestershire Libraries made £10,000 when it sold a collection of 2,000 unused books, the county library service has been contacted by the Chair of The Historic Libraries Forum, Katie Flanagan ... more  Add a comment

The shameful truth of how slavery paid for fine library
The most prestigious example of how slavery shaped Oxford is the Codrington Library at All Souls College, one of the most beautiful buildings in the university ... more  Add a comment

Hungary's Interior Minister returns stolen antique maps
Hungary's interior minister on Tuesday presented to the French ambassador 110 maps printed in the 16-18th centuries, which had been stolen in France and then recovered in Hungary ... more  Add a comment