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 2015

Boethius text found at Glasgow
An academic from Oxford visiting a Scottish university has discovered the oldest surviving non-biblical Scottish manuscript in a vault  ... more  Add a comment

And then there was one
The head-scratching genius of Murder on the Orient Express will compete with the genre-changing twist-in-the-tail of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, when the estate of Agatha Christie launches a quest to find the best-loved novel by the queen of crime ... more  Add a comment

Theft of rare books investigated at New York Public Library
The feds are investigating the theft of eight priceless books from the New York Public Library, including one written by Benjamin Franklin ... more  Add a comment

Huge collection of rare London books for sale
Hawk Norton owns what might well be the world's largest private collection of books about London. His Brentford home is jammed to the rafters with around 5,000 volumes about the capital. He started his collection in 1976, acquiring books both modern and ancient. His personal library now contains everything from a 1598 first-edition of John Stow to Alan Johnson's London-set autobiography of last year ... more  Add a comment

Huge annual World War II auction at Bonhams in New York
Cartoons drawn by a British soldier from inside a Nazi prison camp during the Second World War are expected to fetch up to $30,000(£20,000) as part of a huge war-time auction in New York. The paintings show how PoWs at Stalag Luft III, a Luftwaffe-run camp near the town of Sagan, 100miles southeast of Berlin, plotted the famous Great Escape of World War Two ... more  Add a comment

'May I have the pleasure of seeing you home?'
Long before mobile phones came along - allowing single men and women to flirt behind the comfort of a glowing screen - shy love-seekers had to resort to other tactics. In the case of late 19th-century America, it was the 'escort card' - not to be confused with the explicit sort you might imagine today - but rather a comical printed card men would hand to women they found attractive ... more  Add a comment

Stolen 18th-century book found in Argentina
An 18th-century book on the history of Saint Peter's Basilica that was stolen last year in Rome has been recovered at a bookstore in Buenos Aires ... more  Add a comment

Beware, your e-reader is watching you
Escaping from the hectic world to curl up with a good book is one of life's simple pleasures. But thanks to the popularity of e-readers, it seems that when you settle down to enjoy a novel you're no longer alone. The digital devices not only track which books you read, but can monitor the passages you dwell on and the time you put your book down at night to go to sleep ... more  Add a comment

Unknown Hermann Hesse Manuscript
A trove of newly rediscovered works by the Nobel Prize-winning poet, novelist, and painter Hermann Hesse is going under the hammer at a rare books auction at Ketterer Kunst Hamburg on May 18 and 19 ... more  Add a comment

Penny sellers
Can you really make a living by selling used books on Amazon for a penny?  ... more  Add a comment

Genteel Shoplifting
'To discover a book in a well-staffed, lovingly maintained shop, then to sneak off and buy it online, is really just a genteel form of shoplifting' ... more  Add a comment

Alan Turing's notebook sells for more than $1 million
The 56-page manuscript was written at the time the mathematician and computer science pioneer was working to break the seemingly unbreakable Enigma codes used by the Germans throughout the war. It contains his complex mathematical and computer science notations and is believed to be the only extensive Turing manuscript known to exist, Bonhams auction house said ... more  Add a comment

Agatha Christie and the book cover most foul
She was the queen of crime fiction, but Agatha Christie should also be recognised as one of the most formidable businesswomen of her era, according to academics. A newly released letter from the Christie archive illustrates the care that the author took over the marketing of her books, dismissing a publisher's proposed cover design as "common" and "awful" ... more  Add a comment

Improbable libraries
In an extract from his new book, Alex Johnson looks at the imaginative forms the modern library takes ... more  Add a comment

Artist carves fairy tale scenes out of old books
Have you ever tried to re-purpose an old book? Isobelle Ouzman, an artist based in Seattle, transforms them into beautiful book carvings.

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Russian library fire update
When fire devastated great Moscow library in January, book lovers stepped up - the state didn't ... more  Add a comment

Improbable libraries
In an extract from his new book, Alex Johnson looks at the imaginative forms the modern library takes ... more  Add a comment

Bye bye Miss American Pie
Don McLean's famously enigmatic masterpiece American Pie is about "life becoming less idyllic", the singer-songwriter revealed after the song's original manuscript sold for $1.2m (£800,000) at Christie's in New York on Tuesday. The 18-page manuscript, which McLean, 69, admitted he had decided to sell on a whim, included handwritten notes and deletions from the 1971 hit that was a cultural anthem for a "generation lost in space". The sale was highly anticipated because of McLean's assurance that the manuscript would shed light on the meaning behind the song's elusive lyrics ... more  Add a comment

The Bangalore Alice
I had of course heard of the India Alice - that scruffy, monsoon weathered copy with a mysterious past that is often referenced in antiquarian collecting and dealing circles. Apparently it had turned up, quite extraordinarily, in some Indian bazaar in the 1950s when an Englishman bought it and took it back to England not fully realising what it actually was: the true first printing of Alice In Wonderland, the scarce 1865 copy that preceded the authorised 1866 first edition from Macmillan ... more  Add a comment

The original Yellow Submarine set to fetch 10,000
The unique psychedelic cartoon, which is hand-painted, depicts the eponymous submarine from the 1968 film in which the Fab Four travel to Pepperland to save it from the Blue Meanies.The rare celluloid painting, known as a cel, was used as a master version from which artists working on the film created all other images of the wacky vessel ... more  Add a comment

That's why I love my job ...
Okay. Hang on to your hats. Here comes the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, presented by the ABAA (9-12 April). This is the Big Leagues, baby. The World Series of Book. From Thursday night through Sunday afternoon at the Park Avenue Armory, we'll be keeping company with some of the world's finest books and manuscripts - mind-bogglingly rare and valuable items - sought by collectors of inestimable wealth (those unspeakably rich folks obvious to all but known by name only to Bill Reese, Don Heald, and their Continental cohorts); representatives of Institutions of Higher Learning whose annual budgets exceed those of many African nations; young men and women of good breeding who've attended the right schools and have decided to invest family millions in ruinous antiquarian ecstasy; smiling auctioneers and avaricious dealers cruising the floor like so many leopards, attended by their pimps and minions; suave counter monkeys contentedly grooming themselves, waiting for their chance; bloated industrialists, technocrats, and financial guys for whom "to want" = "to have," and their pimps and minions ... more  Add a comment

Not just for children: 100 great picture books
Spanning a century and featuring foreign gems as well as British cult classics, Martin Salisbury's stunning collection of the greatest picture books is a revelation for all ages ... more  Add a comment

Victorian children's peep shows
Victorian children peered into mass-produced accordion boxes of paper prints called peep shows, which gave the illusion of depth and motion. The layers of scenes, pierced with viewing holes, represented parks, gardens, battlefields, theaters and engineering feats like canals, tunnels and bridges. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has received about 350 of these fragile toys from the British collectors Jacqueline and Jonathan Gestetner, who own Marlborough Rare Books in London. (The museum is now planning an international touring exhibition of the gifts.) ... more  Add a comment

Stanley Gibbons profits warning
Penny blacks, penny reds and unissued Edward VII stamps have not flown off Stanley Gibbons' shelves in recent months, forcing it to issue a profits warning ... more  Add a comment

The Black Book of Carmarthen
Scholars left shaken after ultraviolet light reveals ghostly faces staring at them from medieval manuscripts ... more  Add a comment

The strange, true tale of the naked bookseller
In Quartzsite, Arizona, at the sprawling Reader's Oasis bookshop, readers can purchase their books from a man known as the naked bookseller. Also known as Paul Winer or Sweet Pie, the naked bookseller has been selling books for 24 years ... more  Add a comment

Politician removed books valued at several million dollars
The authorities pursuing a thread in one of the biggest rare book heists in Italian history said this week that some of the 20,000 books seized two years ago from the private Milan library of Marcello Dell'Utri, a former senator in prison for Mafia association, had been removed from public libraries and religious institutions across Italy ... more  Add a comment