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.

February 2015

John Aubrey and our golden age of life writing
John Aubrey's Brief Lives invented biography - it sought the 'naked and plain truth' about its subjects. But how to tell the story of his own life? ... more  Add a comment

Second 'lost' Sherlock story found
Another book containing the 'lost' Sherlock Holmes story has been discovered in Selkirk, bearing the signature 'Arthur Conan Doyle' ... more  Add a comment

Diagram Prize
A book about the evolution of genitals has been shortlisted for this year's Diagram Prize for the oddest book title of the past year ... more  Add a comment

Looted 400-year-old books from Italy turn up in California
Two antique books dating to at least the 17th century that were looted from Italy have turned up in California  -- a relief for the Italian government, which will get the rare tomes back, and a surprise for the San Francisco buyer, who was unaware they were stolen ... more  Add a comment

Bookseller offers rarity that inspired Charlotte Bronte
A rare first edition of Thomas Bewick's History of British Birds belonging to Frances Currer, the woman believed to have inspired Charlotte Brontes pseudonym of Currer Bell, has come to light ... more  Add a comment

Gordon College's bid to auction books creates uproar
When a wealthy family bequeathed a collection of rare Bibles and Shakespeare folios to Gordon College in 1922, it came with a catch: the works had to remain intact and with the school ... more  Add a comment

Is Adolf Hitler's book too dangerous for the general public?
Old copies of the offending tome are kept in a secure 'poison cabinet,' a literary danger zone in the dark recesses of the vast Bavarian State Library. A team of experts vets every request to see one, keeping the toxic text away from the prying eyes of the idly curious or those who might seek to exalt it ... more  Add a comment

Is 1,300-word yarn a lost Conan Doyle?
A mystery that might have intrigued the great detective himself has unfolded in Scotland with the discovery of a previously unknown Sherlock Holmes story. Is it or is it not by Arthur Conan Doyle? ... more  Add a comment

The crack of the spine
Why do we find wear and tear in books so comforting? ... more  Add a comment

Alan turing's hidden manuscript set to reap millions
Interested in more than a movie about Alan Turing's life? An unpublished notebook, containing 56 handwritten pages by Turing, is scheduled for auction on April 13th. Cassandra Hatton, Bonhams' specialist on the history of science, sits down with Bloomberg's Pimm Fox to discuss the auction ... more  Add a comment

Isis burns 8000 rare books and manuscripts in Mosul
While the world was watching the Academy Awards ceremony, the people of Mosul were watching a different show. They were horrified to see ISIS members burn the Mosul public library. Among the many thousands of books it housed, more than 8,000 rare old books and manuscripts were burned ... more  Add a comment

One man's obsession with rediscovering a lost typeface
Designer Robert Green first encountered the Doves Press type at art college but it was in 2010 that he began an interest which, he says, became an "obsession" ... more  Add a comment

Frank Sinatra driver's licence up for auction
From Willie Nelson's pigtails to John Lennon's tooth, not all rock memorabilia directly relates to music. Online auction house Paddle8 has listed Frank Sinatra's 1944 driver's licence and Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain's credit card among items in its Legendary: Memorabilia from Rock Gods to Pop Stars auction ... more  Add a comment

Prince of Wales' 1919 love letter doubles reserve price
The 1919 letter written by Edward VIII to his married mistress Freda Dudley Ward sold for £1,100 at Reeman Dansie auction house in Colchester, Essex ... more  Add a comment

BT blasted for banning phonebox book shelf
BT bosses have ordered residents to remove a book shelf they put inside a red telephone box - branding it a health and safety hazard. People living near the phone box, which is one of the last ones still active, put a small wooden shelf up on the existing ledge so residents could swap and share books ... more  Add a comment

Why our comic-book heroes deserve to be celebrated
The long history, abundant diversity and visionary quality of comics produced in the English-speaking world are too rarely appreciated by mainstream critics ... more  Add a comment

J-Lo sparks quest to find 'first editions' of The Iliad
A scene in Jennifer Lopez's new film in which her character is given a supposed first edition of The Iliad has prompted viewers to attempt to find their own first edition of an epic poem composed at least 2,000 years before the invention of the printing press ... more  Add a comment

Electrician who stole priceless manuscript gets 10 years
Jose Manuel Fernandez Castineiras, the former electrician of the Santiago de Compostela cathedral in Galicia, in northern Spain, has been given a 10-year prison sentence for stealing the Codex Calixtinus, a priceless 12th-century illuminated manuscript from one of the church's chambers, El Mundo reports ... more  Add a comment

How to buy rare books the right way
Though Yadalam had been an avid book buyer since he was 10, he stumbled across a book at the Bangalore Club library in 2004, which opened up a world he never knew existed ... more  Add a comment

American Pie manuscript 'to fetch $1.5m' at auction
Singer-songwriter Don McLean is to auction the original notes from his 1971 classic and promises all will be revealed about enigmatic song ... more  Add a comment

The Bookplate Society auction
During February 2015 the Society is running its second online auction. There is a huge selection of British, American and Continental European bookplates on offer, largely from the estate of our former honorary member Brian Schofield. In accordance with our aim to widen interest in the study of bookplates, this sale is open to non-members. ... more  Add a comment

Blow 20,000 on rare original Gone With The Wind
A rare original version of the script for timeless classic film Gone With The Wind, signed by more than 20 members of the cast, is up for auction... and is expected to fetch at least £20,000 ... more  Add a comment

Expert cracks mystery of historic manuscript
A 150-year old manual for Buddhist monks in Burma - written on the leaves of a palm tree - was found tucked away in a council archive ... more  Add a comment

The wonderful botanical drawings of Helga Crouch
Helga Crouch is one of those special people who have turned everyday living into an art form. As a botanical artist of considerable repute she has recorded the flora and fauna of her surroundings in a series of paintings, so we can all share in its bounties ... more  Add a comment

Latin-Americana library sells for $1.2 million
A number of items in the Latin-Americana library of Dr. W. Michael Mathes - offered by Swann Auction Galleries on November 6, 2014, in New York City - made the Bay Psalm Book look like a Johnny-come-lately. While the metrical psalter, issued in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1640, was the first book printed in Britain's North American colonies, it was not - not by a long shot - the first one printed in the New World ... more  Add a comment

Big Foot Aficionado?
A First-edition 1896 tome, the first mention of creature in book form, one of the quirkiest items at 40th annual Washington Antiquarian Book Fair ... more  Add a comment

Bavaria returns stolen books
A total of 543 historical works - primarily from the 16th and 17th centuries - plundered from Italian libraries are returning home. The total value of the books is estimated at 2.5 million euros ($2.8 million). The books were seized from a Munich auction house in 2012. Munich's Public Prosecutor's Office then ruled the works should be handed over to the Italian judiciary, scheduled to be returned on Friday ... more  Add a comment

Magna Carta edition found in Sandwich archive scrapbook
An early edition of Magna Carta has been found in a Victorian scrapbook during a search of a council's archives ... more  Add a comment

A library for the mad?
A fascinating look inside the Wellcome Library in this week's LONDONIST podcast  ... more  Add a comment

Recovering the Doves Type
In 1916, the Doves Type was seemingly lost forever after it was thrown into the River Thames. Almost 100 years later, and after spending three years making a digital version, designer Robert Green has recovered 150 pieces from their watery grave ... more  Add a comment

Maps that shaped the world
Bursting with information and often incredibly beautiful - maps do more than just showing you where you are, or where you might be going. Here we tell the stories behind some fascinating examples ... more  Add a comment

The handmade tale
Commonplace reading matter may be increasingly reduced to pixels on a digital device, but the book as an art form still has its fans. In particular - as an antidote perhaps to the growing preponderance of technology - more and more people seem to consider handmade books worthy of conversation and collection. That is the message that will be delivered by CODEX 2015, a biennial four-day book fair and symposium that is about to take place in the San Francisco Bay area ... more  Add a comment

Inflame her to venery with wanton kisses
A first edition of the 17th-century bestseller Aristotle's Masterpiece goes under the hammer this weekend. But just how enlightened was this Enlightenment sex manual? ... more  Add a comment

A pop-up from the past
Two centuries before Robert Sabuda began thrilling readers with bold feats of paper engineering, there was Leopold Chimani, whose 1827 Naturgemahlde is a brilliant example of 19th century multi-dimensional illustration, and part of London bookseller Simon Beattie's California Book Fair cataloge ... more  Add a comment

Codebreaking materials devised by Turing discovered
During restoration work at Bletchley Park, papers which had been stuffed between the roof rafters to act as insulation were discovered and found to include unique surviving examples of Banbury Sheets. At the end of World War II all the documentary evidence connected with breaking the communication codes of the German High Command was ordered to be destroyed. However, nobody thought to investigate the roof space! ... more  Add a comment

An Anti-Suffrage Children's Book From 1910
Anti-suffrage literature printed in the 1910s, as suffrage activists in the United States ramped up their campaign for enfranchisement, took a number of clever forms. Advocates like the members of the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage tried to portray a desire for the franchise as foreign to women's nature ... more  Add a comment

'Gospel of the Lots of Mary' found
An ancient gospel has been discovered in the pages of a diminutive book dating back to the 6th century. The text, dubbed the 'Gospel of the Lots of Mary' is written in Coptic and contains oracles that would have been used to provide support and reassurance to people seeking help for problems. It is not a gospel in the traditional sense, because it doesn't predominantly teach about Christ, and its translator suggests that the discovery could rewrite the ancient definition and purpose of gospels ... more  Add a comment

Londons fabled book runners
Two legends in the London Antiquarian Book Trade who continue to fascinate me are Driff and Stone, London's famous book runners. (Martin Stone has been profiled a few times, Driff less so) ... more  Add a comment

A million rare documents damaged in Moscow library fire
A fire that ripped through one of Russia's largest university libraries is believed to have damaged over one million historic documents, with some describing the fire as a cultural "Chernobyl" ... more  Add a comment

Jane Austen family letters offer deeply personal insight
A window into the life of Jane Austen's mother's family, the Leighs of Adlestrop, is promised by an unpublished collection of manuscripts which are set to "draw back the curtain on the formalities of society" in Regency England ... more  Add a comment

Iconic Tintin comic book cover fetches incredible price
The original cover design for Tintin adventure "The Shooting Star" has been sold for $A3.63 million in a near-record for a work by the boy detective's Belgian creator Herge ... more  Add a comment

A brief history of the dust jacket
As most collectors are aware, a dust jacket in fine condition can greatly enhance the value of a book. Indeed, for modern first editions, a book without the dust jacket will sell for only a fraction of the price. Once intended to be temporary and disposable protection for beautifully bound books, dust jackets have become - in some ways - more valuable than the books they protect. How and when did this change occur? ... more  Add a comment