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.

July 2014

Book gift buying fall 'concerns' industry
A fall in people buying books as gifts has contributed to an overall 4% fall in UK book sales over the past year. The Nielsen Book Survey of book buying habits showed a year-on-year market decline in both volume and value in 2013 ... more  Add a comment

Small volume, big patron
An illuminated prayer book the dimensions of a credit card is a test of the artist's skill ... more  Add a comment

Artist breathes new life into old books
Jodi Harvey-Brown is behind the weird and wonderful paper sculptures, which are helping people to tell a book by its cover ... more  Add a comment

'Pristine' original Superman comic up for auction
Collectors know of about 50 remaining copies of the book, and consider this copy to be in the best condition of them all. It earned a 9.0 grade - "very fine" - from the Certified Guaranty Company, which rates comic books ... more  Add a comment

Sotheby's high priced book auctions
The London auction house Sotheby's often attracts attention for the high priced sale of artwork. But bibliophiles know Sotheby's was originally an auction house only for books. Founded in 1744 by the London bookseller Samuel Baker, Sotheby's first auction was the sale of the library of the Irish book collector Sir John Stanley. It was not until 1937 that Sotheby's began to auction paintings and other collectibles. Over the years, Sotheby's has auctioned off many rare and unique documents. Here are the most amazing of Sotheby's high priced book auctions and why they fetched such extravagant prices ... more  Add a comment

Paean to piers published
British Seaside Piers celebrates seaside structures created as part of Victorian health and entertainment industry ... more  Add a comment

First printed book in English sold for over 1m
The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye is a version of a French book written around 1463. It was translated over a three-year period by William Caxton, who pioneered the printing press in England ... more  Add a comment

The ultimate guide to Cornwall
A review of Cornwall, by Peter Beacham and Nikolaus Pevsner. Uniting two classic guides by Pevsner and John Betjeman, Beacham has left no fernbanked lane or secret drive unexplored ... more  Add a comment

Book Review: 'The Map Thief'
'This is Forbes Smiley, from the Vineyard." Would that all criminals introduced themselves with such genteel address. But then, E. Forbes Smiley III, with his classical education, third-generation suffix and "rich, nasally" accent, is hardly an ordinary felon. In "The Map Thief," Michael Blanding intersperses the tale of Smiley's theft of nearly 100 maps between 2002 and 2005 with the histories of mapmaking and of the pioneering works that Smiley coolly pilfered ... more  Add a comment

How to get ahead - or at least stay afloat - in the rare book trade
I've been a dealer for over 30 years, and I still don't understand, quite, how the rare book trade works, or how so many of us make a living from it. A customer of mine, a super-accountant of apparently unlimited means, once observed to me that "whatever book dealing is, it isn't a business" ... more  Add a comment

Collecting books that are just covers
Anything that looks like a book but is not one interests Mindell Dubansky, a preservation librarian at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For 20 years, she has been buying antiques with simulations of covers, spines and pages ... more  Add a comment

Das Kapital sells for $40,000
One has to wonder what Karl Marx would make of news from Abebooks that it has scored a coup with the sale of a volume of Das Kapital for $40,000, its second-highest cyber-trade of the year so far ... more  Add a comment

'Beckett on a bender': Julian Cope's debut novel has landed
Love Julian Cope's description of writing fiction as "smearing the truth" ... more  Add a comment

The house of twenty thousand books
An ordinary house might have at most a few bookcases lined with an assortment of hard and paperbacks. So it's hard to grasp the idea that an unassuming semi-detached home on Hillway, Highgate, once held more than 20,000 rare books, manuscripts and documents ... more  Add a comment

A prisoner's reading list
I met Daniel Genis at a bookstore. It was March, and I was there to speak on a panel about Sergei Dovlatov, the comic novelist of late Soviet decay, and Genis came up to me afterward, wanting to talk about books. Books, it became clear, were something he knew about ... more  Add a comment

Recognition for Tarka author's hut
A wooden hut built by author Henry Williamson with the proceeds of his famous children's book Tarka the Otter could soon become a listed building ... more  Add a comment

International exhibit of designer bindings opens
La Couleur Du Vent (The Color of the Wind) showcases the remarkable book binding skills of 51 French, Canadian and American artists who are all graduates of l'Ecole Estienne in Paris and/or members of Les Amis de la Reliure d'Art du Canada (Friends of the Art of Bookbinding of Canada) ... more  Add a comment

Typical author earnings 'dropped to 11,000 in 2013'
The typical income for a professional author in 2013 was just £11,000, more than£5,000 below the income level considered to be a socially acceptable standard of living, according to research commissioned by The Authors' Licensing & Collection Society (ALCS) ... more  Add a comment

What happened to the manuscript of 'Under Milk Wood'
A decade after Dylan Thomas's death, a lawsuit was brought by Caitlin Thomas on behalf of his estate to recover the manuscript of Under Milk Wood from Douglas Cleverdon. It was Cleverdon who had produced the play for BBC radio and had now put the manuscript on the market. The claim failed: the judge, Mr Justice Plowman, accepted Cleverdon's case that Thomas had made him a gift of the manuscript ... more  Add a comment

Classic books become London benches
Literary classics ranging from Peter Pan to The Day of the Triffids are being celebrated in a series of colourful illustrated benches ... more  Add a comment

Build fireworks the 18th century way!
Handwritten manuscript reveals explosive blueprints for 'sky rockets' ... more  Add a comment

Quentin Blake opens House of Illustration
Sir Quentin Blake, best known for his illustrations in the books of Roald Dahl, has launched a unique gallery dedicated to the art form ... more  Add a comment

George Orwell's birthplace set to become a museum
Conservationists in India have started to restore the dilapidated colonial bungalow in which George Orwell was born, as the government of Bihar state announced plans to convert it into a museum dedicated to the author ... more  Add a comment

The power of old books
As C. S. Lewis once said, the only way to break out of the thought patterns of the present and get some truly novel ideas would be either to read the books of the future, or the books of the past. The books of the future are, inconveniently enough, not yet available to us. Therefore, we should read books of the past ... more  Add a comment