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 2014

Search for Don Quixote author's remains
Work has begun in a convent in the centre of Madrid to try and locate the remains of perhaps Spain's most famous author. It is believed Miguel de Cervantes, whose best known work is Don Quixote, was buried in the convent the day after his death in 1616 ... more  Add a comment

Rise of the 'shelfie'
A new trend for sharing photographs of one's book collection has taken social media by storm. Dubbed the 'shelfie', Instagram and Twitter users have been busy capturing their favorite titles from the 'Complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud' to the 'Complete Works of William Shakespeare' ... more  Add a comment

Physical books have finally become sexy
A few years ago, I started noticing a small wave of a new kind of book: highly displayable coffee-table books about the display of books. They had names like "At Home With Books" and "Books Do Furnish a Room," and felt a bit like an adjunct to that classic, recursive "Seinfeld" gag: Kramer's coffee-table book about coffee tables that could double as a coffee table ... more  Add a comment

Henry Williamson's writing hut for sale
The son of Tarka the Otter author Henry Williamson has spoken of the painful decision to sell his father's writing hut for the first time. Rob Williamson, 80, made the comments a month before the one-of-a-kind hut is due to be sold at auction in Braunton ... more  Add a comment

Princess Diana's last written letter goes to auction
The last official letter written by Princess Diana weeks before her death will go on auction in Birmingham. The hand signed note written on Kensington Palace headed paper was dated August 11, 1997 and sent to humanitarian campaigner Dilys Cheetham ... more  Add a comment

Happy birthday Robinson Crusoe
Daniel Defoe's book was published 295 years ago today, marking the birth of the author Robinson Crusoe and a seriously playful entanglement of fact and fiction ... more  Add a comment

Allen Ginsberg postcard condemns 'Red Lands'
A postcard from Allen Ginsberg, in which the Beat poet writes of how "communism just doesn't work" after witnessing it in action in what he called the "Red Lands" of eastern Europe, is set to go up for auction ... more  Add a comment

Nautical Rarity
It was nothing less but a revolution in the history of nautical cartography - the sea atlas by Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer. The extremely scarce work in first French edition with a Spanish title sheet will be sold in the auction of Rare Books at Ketterer Kunst in Hamburg on 19 and 20 May with an estimate of EUR 85.000 ... more  Add a comment

Shakespeare's Dictionary? Skepticism Abounds
As birthday surprises go, this one's a doozy. This week, just in time for William Shakespeare's 450th birthday, two rare-book dealers in New York City went public with the claim that they had come into possession of the Bard's own annotated dictionary. If true, the news would cause jubilation among Shakespeareans around the globe. But scholars' initial reactions have been more cautious than celebratory ... more  Add a comment

1,500 for 110-year-old police mugshots of Dundee drunks
A collection of mugshots dating back to 1905, which warned publicans of drunken Dundonians, has sold for £1,500. The folio of forms was issued to local landlords warning them not to serve the pictured people, who had been convicted of being drunk and incapable ... more  Add a comment

Germany recovers astronomers book
A valuable, 400-year-old book about astronomy that was dumped by a German public library in a secret and controversial sell-off was returned to the city of Stralsund ... more  Add a comment

Holy Shakespeare! A rare find shakes an industry
George Koppelman and Dan Wechsler may have found the Holy Grail of rare books - a dictionary they claim was owned and annotated by William Shakespeare ... more  Add a comment

Comics Unmasked: Anarchy in the UK, British Library
From Oz Magazine to V for Vendetta, British comics have been wildly subversive, as a new British Library exhibition shows ... more  Add a comment

The end of the road for Ordnance Survey?
Ordnance Survey paper maps are under threat from digital devices. Rachel Hewitt celebrates an 'icon of England' beloved by generations of hikers, poets and artists ... more  Add a comment

Auction house cancels Nazi memorabilia sale
Objects that belonged to the Nazi leaders Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering have been withdrawn from an auction in Paris, after Jewish groups objected to the sale ... more  Add a comment

Rachmaninov manuscript to go under the hammer
An autographed manuscript of Rachmaninov's greatest symphony that was assumed lost for nearly a century is to be sold at auction in London ... more  Add a comment

Bristol artist creates hand-drawn maps of the city
Artist Gareth Wood moved to Bristol in 2010 and "set his heart on" mapping the city - he is now close to completing the intricate hand-drawn images using black ink and white archival mount boards. He said he wants his maps to "connect with the viewer on a personal level" ... more  Add a comment

Flesh-crawling page-turners
Harvard historians say a book thought to be bound in human skin is actually sheepskin. But the macabre art of anthropodermic bibliopegy has a long, dark history ... more  Add a comment

Ivor Robinson
Ivor Robinson, who has died aged 89, was one of the outstanding artistic bookbinders of the 20th century ... more  Add a comment

Human skin bindings used to be 'somewhat common'
"While books bound in human skin are now objects of fascination and revulsion, the practice was once somewhat common," writes Heather Cole, assistant curator of modern books and manuscripts at Harvard's Houghton Library. "Termed anthropodermic bibliopegy, the binding of books in human skin has occurred at least since the 16th century. The confessions of criminals were occasionally bound in the skin of the convicted, or an individual might request to be memorialized for family or lovers in the form of a book" ... more  Add a comment

Bookseller of Kabul shuts up shop in city under siege
The bookseller of Kabul doesn’t close for anyone. Not for the warlords, who bombarded the capital in the 1990s, nor the Taliban, which burned his books in the years after. His shop was never shut for more than a few days in the past 25 years. Until now ... more  Add a comment

Remember, You don't own your Kindle books
The core issue might actually be a simple matter of semantics: when we click a digital button that is labelled "Buy," we expect that we're actually buying something. But we're not buying anything, we're licensing it. Just last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the first-sale doctrine does not apply to software or e-books. Or apps. Nor pretty much everything you "Buy" online that doesn't get shipped to your home in a cardboard box ... more  Add a comment

Remember, You don't own your Kindle books
The core issue might actually be a simple matter of semantics: when we click a digital button that is labelled "Buy," we expect that we're actually buying something. But we're not buying anything, we're licensing it. Just last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the first-sale doctrine does not apply to software or e-books. Or apps. Nor pretty much everything you "Buy" online that doesn't get shipped to your home in a cardboard box ... more  Add a comment

Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning
Claire Handscombe has a commitment problem online. Like a lot of Web surfers, she clicks on links posted on social networks, reads a few sentences, looks for exciting words, and then grows restless, scampering off to the next page she probably won't commit to. "I give it a few seconds - not even minutes - and then I'm moving again," says Handscombe, a 35-year-old graduate student in creative writing at American University. But it's not just online anymore. She finds herself behaving the same way with a novel ... more  Add a comment

4-century-old Utopia book added to collection
One of the rare books that has been on the wish list of UC Riverside's Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy for decades has arrived. Using a $54,000 grant from the B.H. Breslauer Foundation, the university acquired a first edition of utopian writer Tommaso Campanella's "Civitas Solis" ("City of the Sun") ... more  Add a comment

New deadline for sale of rare 1.1m Biblical manuscript
A new deadline has been set for the sale of a £1.1m early Biblical manuscript owned by the Bible Society in Swindon. The Codex Zacynthius, which dates back to the 6th or 7th Century, has been held in the Cambridge University Library since 1984 ... more  Add a comment

Sixth-century clay tribute to Nebuchadnezzar II up for auction
For all those homes still lacking an ancient piece of Babylonian history, a clay cylinder from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II detailing his rebuilding of a temple to Shamash is set to be auctioned next week. Expected to fetch up to US$500,000 (£300,000) when it goes up for sale on 9 April, the cuneiform cylinder is dated to around 600 BC, said auctioneer Doyle New York, and is "a remarkable written record in clay" from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II ... more  Add a comment

Thousands of books can't be reached by librarians
Staff at the flagship £190 million Library Of Birmingham can't access tens of thousands of books - because they can't reach them.Now, more than six months after the landmark facility was opened, it has been branded 'unfit for purpose' ... more  Add a comment

Marquis de Sade manuscript returned to France
The original scroll on which the Marquis de Sade wrote the draft of his novel on sexual depravity, murder and paedophilia "The 120 Days of Sodom" has been returned to France following years of legal wrangling ... more  Add a comment

Scott's Antarctic 'lost' negatives saved from auction
Photographic negatives taken by Captain Robert Falcon Scott during the doomed 1910-13 Antarctic expedition have been saved from sale at auction following a fund-raising appeal ... more  Add a comment

Rare Audubon books fetch $3.77 million
The auction scene was, in the words on a keenly interested observer, what you might expect: A group of 12 or 15 people seated in a room with the auction items on display. The bidding started low - nervously low for the seller - and then pushed up, up, upward with each new bid until it became clear this was going to be a rewarding exercise ... more  Add a comment

Orson Welles' Citizen Kane scripts to be auctioned
The youngest daughter of the director and writer Orson Welles is giving film buffs a chance to buy some of his personal possessions, including a camera, scripts and photos from the set of Citizen Kane ... more  Add a comment

Tim Waterstone 'predicts e-book decline'
Tim Waterstone, the founder of the Waterstone's book shop chain, has predicted that the "e-book revolution" will soon go into decline in the UK ... more  Add a comment

Death of the Great British map
Just this weekend came fresh reports that the greatest mapmakers on the planet, the Ordnance Survey, have a long-term strategy to phase out traditional production of paper maps and sell bespoke maps only to order. ... more  Add a comment