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.

October 2014

The guardian angel of ancient Iraqi manuscripts
Just as the so-called Monuments Men salvaged European masterpieces stolen by Nazi forces during World War II, a Dominican priest is protecting priceless manuscripts from falling into the hands of rampaging militants in northern Iraq ... more  Add a comment

The problem with collecting comics
Like most things made by people, the comics industry is rife with frustrating institutional problems that will probably never be solved in our lifetimes. If you ask five different people about the worst thing to happen to comics, you'd probably get five different answers (or one cheating answer: the 90s). But, as someone who writes about comics, here's the one that I find the most destructive, the one that gets in the way of a lot of people reading and enjoying great work: the idea that comics are supposed to be collected ... more  Add a comment

The ultimate cookbook collection
Jamie Oliver inspired Penguin's art director to collect cookery books from the past century. He now has more than 600, spilling into every room of his house ... more  Add a comment

Will the real Shakespeare please stand up?
A new book claims that the world's greatest playwright was actually someone else ... more  Add a comment

Is technology killing old loved books?
In this age of electronic books, are we losing the magic of passing on a well-thumbed paperback, perhaps with a name scribbled inside - or even notes in the margin that tell a story of where a book has been? Or can the two happily co-exist, giving us the best of both worlds? ... more  Add a comment

Bringing Hancock's Half Hour back to life
Actor Neil Pearson now has a secondary career as an antiquarian book dealer. When he was sent several Hancock radio scripts, he realised that their original recordings no longer existed. So he approached the writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson with a view to resurrecting them. The results will soon be heard on Radio 4 ... more  Add a comment

Tough read: World's smallest book
Measuring just 2.4 by 2.9mm, the tiny leather-bound text is said by library curators to be the smallest mechanically-printed book on the planet ... more  Add a comment

Ink-blots and doodles from 1582
New exhibition and poem by Carol Ann Duffy celebrate use and abuse by centuries of owners of the first western printed books ... more  Add a comment

In a bookstore in Paris
Perhaps the most famous independent bookstore in the world, Shakespeare and Company can feel like something of a literary utopia, where money takes a backseat and generations of writers - Allen Ginsberg, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, William Styron, Martin Amis, Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers, among others - have found a Paris home. Chronicling the life of its late owner, the eccentric, irascible, and visionary George Whitman, Bruce Handy meets Shakespeare's greatest asset in the age of Amazon: Whitman's daughter, Sylvia ... more  Add a comment

Thaw reveals photographer's notebook
A photographer's notebook lost for more than a century has washed out of the melting snow at Captain Scott's hut in the Antarctic, the base for his fatal 1911 Terra Nova expedition. It was left behind when George Murray Levick, a photographer, surgeon and zoologist, returned safely with the surviving members of the party after Scott and two others had died in their tent on the Ross Ice Shelf in March 1912 ... more  Add a comment

Vatican library making 4,000 ancient manuscripts available
The Vatican Apostolic Library is now digitising its valuable ancient religious manuscripts and putting them online via its website, available for the public to view for free, as well as turning to crowdfunding to help it complete its work ... more  Add a comment

Limited edition books
As avid readers drop hardcovers for E-books, some collectors are bucking the trend and snapping up well-made limited-edition books. Collectors say we are reaching an inflection point, where dust-collecting books will, in this digital age, be increasingly bought and displayed like artwork ... more  Add a comment

Night at the bookshop
As avid readers drop hardcovers for E-books, some collectors are bucking the trend and snapping up well-made limited-edition books. Collectors say we are reaching an inflection point, where dust-collecting books will, in this digital age, be increasingly bought and displayed like artwork ... more  Add a comment

JM Barrie's inspiration to become Scotland's Neverland
The rambling Georgian villa and terraced gardens where author JM Barrie played as a child, and which later inspired his classic work Peter Pan, are set to become Scotland's first centre for children's literature ... more  Add a comment

Priests race to save manuscripts from jihadists in Iraq
As fighters from the Islamic State group rampage across northern Syria and Iraq, a group of priests are racing against time to save what's left of the region's Christian heritage. Dominican Order priests have already managed to get many precious artifacts and manuscripts safely to Erbil in Kurdistan ... more  Add a comment

Prize awarded for use of book collection
Kayleigh Betterton, a teacher at Christ the King: Aquinas College in Lewisham, collects books by Oscar Wilde but she doesn't lock her treasured collection in a case, she shares them with her students. Now her collection, and her generosity, has won her a prize ... more  Add a comment

Can books change the world?
Robin Talley on why To Kill a Mockingbird is such an important book to help us empathise with those who are different from ourselves - and how it's vital for readers who are in the majority to read diverse books too. When in doubt ask yourself: What would Atticus Finch do? ... more  Add a comment

Europe's oldest book back in Durham
The St Cuthbert Gospel, created in the region in the 7th century, was secured for the nation in 2012 following a £9m fundraising campaign. It is now shown at the British Library in London and Durham University's Palace Green Library, where it will remain until Sunday, January 4, as the centrepiece of the Bound to Last exhibition which explores the history of book binding ... more  Add a comment

The quirky world of bookshops
Jen Campbell unearths some of the globe's most quirky bookshops, from a one-book bookshop to a bookshop on a barge, for her new non-fiction work, The Bookshop Book ... more  Add a comment

Oldest Buddhist manuscripts damaged in Kashmir floods
An operation to restore priceless manuscripts, antiques and artefacts damaged in the recent Jammu and Kashmir floods has begun in India ... more  Add a comment

Agatha Christie's lost jewels sell for 50,000
A Hercule Poroit fan who found Agatha Christie's lost jewels inside a mysterious trunk she bought for just £100 has sold them at auction for a £50,000 profit ... more  Add a comment

The (still) mysterious death of Edgar Allan Poe
Was the famous author killed from a beating? From carbon monoxide poisoning? From alcohol withdrawal? Here are the top nine theories ... more  Add a comment

Sale of book-themed benches raises 250,000
The 50 brightly coloured benches have been scattered around the capital over the summer in the Books about Town project, a collaboration between public art impresarios Wild in Art and the National Literacy Trust, to celebrate London's literary history while raising money for the NLT's work to improve literacy in the UK ... more  Add a comment

Magna Carta manuscript reveals its secrets
Text that was hidden on a damaged copy of the 1215 Magna Carta for more than 250 years has been uncovered. The near-invisible words were revealed using groundbreaking multispectral imaging work at the British Library in London ... more  Add a comment

Raymond Chandler given blue plaque
Down those not very mean streets of Dulwich and Upper Norwood a man must go, to see a new English Heritage blue plaque honouring one of the most improbable residents of the leafy and affluent south London suburbs: Raymond Chandler, creator of Philip Marlowe, the 10-minute egg of the world of hard-boiled detectives ... more  Add a comment

Ballot to view four original Magna Cartas
Vast swathes of the population may not understand what the Magna Carta was all about, but the 800th anniversary of its signing by King John, under the watchful gaze of his rebellious Barons at Runnymede in 1215, has generated enough interest for the British Library to launch a ballot for people wanting to see it ... more  Add a comment

Gorgeous love letters found in used books
What I love about used books is that in a strange way, they connect people and imbue an otherwise solitary activity -- reading -- with a sense of community. Our opinions on Raskolnikov and his actions may differ, but here's something we have in common. We've both held this book in our hands and eagerly turned its pages ... more  Add a comment

Unveiling the ghost of Holmes
Historian Lucy Worsley explores an exhibition that goes to the heart of Sherlock's appeal and shows how foggy London was as much a character in Arthur Conan Doyle's books as Holmes and sidekick Dr John Watson ... more  Add a comment

Medieval doodles
Medieval scribes got just as bored at work as you do. Hunched over piles of parchment and the heavy books they were tasked with copying, long before Gutenberg and Xerox changed everything, they responded in the same way - by doodling ... more  Add a comment

Old books' home
Secondhand bookstores have taught me some of life's valuable lessons. Spending hours slumped in a corner of a room full of yellowing paperbacks and hardbounds, I learned that great things are not sought, but "stumbled upon" ... more  Add a comment

Cranford author Mrs Gaskell's house and garden restored
The Manchester Historic Buildings Trust has restored the Grade II* listed villa, where Gaskell lived between 1850 and her death in 1865, and re-established its Victorian gardens as part of a £2.5m project, part financed by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, to promote the family's literary and cultural heritage. For the first time, visitors can experience the home of one of the most important 19th-century women writers as it might have been furnished, and the garden as it might have been planted ... more  Add a comment

Terror and Wonder
Part of the British Library's new exhibition Terror and Wonder: the Gothic Imagination, which opens on 3 October and will be the UK's largest showing of gothic literature, the image is from a 1901 edition of the novel - the first to include an illustration of the character. It shows Jonathan Harker looking down in horror at the count as the vampire crawls down the castle walls ... more  Add a comment

Unpublished Oscar Wilde photograph to be auctioned
Dressed in tweed plus-fours, with a slightly wistful smile on his face, a young Oscar Wilde leans against the steps of Ashford Castle in 1878 in a previously unpublished photograph found in a family album ... more  Add a comment

Original Mozart manuscript discovered
Considered lost for over two centuries, the original manuscript of one of the most famous works of Mozart's Sonata in A major has been uncovered in a library in Budapest ... more  Add a comment