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.

May 2015

Proof copy of The Bell Jar to fetch thousands
In a literary version of Cash in the Attic, a rare proof edition of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar which has sat on a spare room bookshelf for the last quarter of a century, is due to be auctioned in London next month ... more  Add a comment

Book dealer gives Nazi titles to Holocaust museum
"The Jews and Their Lies," by Martin Luther, "The Who's Who in the World Zionist Conspiracy" by James Combs and "The Six Million Swindle: Blackmailing the German People for Hard Marks with Fabricated Corpses" by Austin J. App. Not the kind of titles one runs across in a family book store, and for good reason, said John Norby, a Langley resident and online book seller. They're chilling anti-Semitic literature and until recently were kept with up to 10,000 other volumes of similar genre in the massive personal library of a former Luftwaffe pilot ... more  Add a comment

Ancient Christian manuscripts saved from IS
Bullets whistled overhead, a black Islamic State flag flapping in the distance, but all Friar Najeeb Michaeel could think of as he fled the jihadists was how to save hundreds of ancient Iraqi manuscripts in his possession ... more  Add a comment

The iridescent elegance of mother-of-pearl book bindings
For a few years in the 19th century, books bound in covers glistening with mother-of-pearl were a gift-giving sensation. Victorians were enamored of papier-mache, that easily shaped paper pulp medium, and used it for snuff boxes, furniture, and even pre-fabricated housing. Mostly made in New York, papier-mache books adorned with mother-of-pearl were part of a gift book fad, wherein a decorative tome of sentimental or religious poetry was bestowed upon a loved one, often around the winter holidays. The text was usually secondary to the gaudy cover, which was decorated to the extreme ... more  Add a comment

War of the Worlds illustrations go for $250,000
Auctioneer pleased bidders "embraced" the work by Alvim Correa which first appeared more than 100 years ago ... more  Add a comment

'True face of Shakespeare' appears in botany book
A 400-year-old botany book contains what could be the only known portrait of Shakespeare made in his lifetime, according to an academic expert ... more  Add a comment

Rare book experts join forces to stop tome raiders
British Library conference highlights rise in thefts from heritage libraries around the world, with tens of thousands of manuscripts missing ... more  Add a comment

JTS to auction Gutenberg Bible pages
The Jewish Theological Seminary plans to sell a 1455 edition of the Book of Esther from a rare Gutenberg Bible at auction on June 19, the latest sign that the school is grappling with a long-running financial crisis ... more  Add a comment

Manuscripts returning to Peckover House in Wisbech
Ancient and fascinating manuscripts, which were once the pride and joy of Lord Peckover's library, have returned to Peckover for the first time in more than 80 years ... more  Add a comment

One man's hunt for Shakespeare's first editions
Two of the most important books in the English language were printed four centuries ago: the King James Bible and William Shakespeare's first folio. Today, that first collection of Shakespeare's plays would fetch a king's ransom; and in the early 1900s, one man was willing to spend his entire fortune to own as many of them as he could. His name was Henry Folger and he was a successful businessman who worked his way to the top of Standard Oil. Folger managed to buy 82 first folios out of only a couple of hundred that survived from the original 1623 printing ... more  Add a comment

Rare 1611 'Great She Bible' found in Lancashire church
A rare 400-year-old Bible worth about £50,000 has been discovered in a Lancashire village church. Printed in 1611 and known as the "Great She Bible", it is one of the earliest known copies of the King James Version (KJV) of the Christian holy book. It is called a "She Bible" because Chapter 3, Verse 15 of the Book of Ruth mistakenly reads: "She went into the city" ... more  Add a comment

Why Dylan Thomas deserves his international Day
Thomas wrote with unforgettable eloquence about being human, in an English that remains uniquely Welsh. Gillian Clarke, national poet of Wales, explains why he is great ... more  Add a comment

Archivists are rescuing old manuscripts using dry ice
One of the big problems in preserving papers, or getting a closer look at old, salvaged papers has been figuring out how to get beneath the grime of history to what's waiting below. Obviously, the old standards of soap and water are far from ideal for cleaning paper. So what does an archivist do? ... more  Add a comment

Iconic War of the Worlds pictures up for sale
On Thursday in Texas, the iconic illustrations which accompanied the 1906 edition of War of the Worlds - and which came to be seen as a foundation stone for science fiction art - will go on sale to the public for the first time. Brazilian artist Henrique Alvim Correa's 31 drawings of the extra-terrestrials' deathly rampage through a litter of Surrey landmarks will go under the hammer at Heritage Auctions in Dallas on May 14, with some of the individual pieces expected to go for more than $25,000 ... more  Add a comment

The mystery of the 'Devil's Bible'
The Codex Gigas is the largest surviving medieval manuscript in the world. At nearly nine inches (22cm) thick and 36 inches (92cm) tall, the book is so large that it is said to have required more than 160 animal skins to complete. But it's not just its size that has surprised historians. Inside is a menacing full-page colour image of the Devil, leading many to believe the pages themselves are cursed ... more  Add a comment

Nepal quake leaves century-old library in ruins
Janaki Karmacharya sits on a plastic chair under the tarpaulin that now serves as her office and despairs at the wreckage of her once magnificent library in the heart of Kathmandu. Until last month's earthquake, the Kaiser Library buzzed with Nepali students, intellectuals and tourists attracted by its collection of rare books, maps and ancient manuscripts -- all housed in an opulent former palace ... more  Add a comment

A history of cartography in 12 amazing maps
When was the last time you consulted a paper map? Nearly 15 years ago, when I first moved to London, the famous A to Z was a crucial piece of urban kit: indispensable once you'd been disgorged by the tube into unfamiliar surroundings. Now, all you need is a phone, and the Royal Institute of Navigation (RIN) is concerned. Learning to read maps properly, it argues, is an important rite of passage, developing character and encouraging independence. "Generations are now growing up utterly dependent on signals and software to find their way around," it warns ... more  Add a comment

Council bans homeless people from using library
Homeless people in Manchester have been banned from entering the city's main public library or using the library toilets after they set up a protest camp outside ... more  Add a comment

Pristine 9th century gospelto be sold for up to 10m
The gospels of Queen Theutberga of Lorraine, an astonishingly rare example of a 9th century complete works, has emerged for sale at Christie's, two decades after it was last seen in public ... more  Add a comment

King of Soho's family back rare book dealer
The family of the late pornography baron and property tycoon Paul Raymond has emerged as an unlikely major backer of a rare book dealer ... more  Add a comment

Mark Twain stories uncovered
Scholars at the University of California, Berkeley have uncovered and authenticated a cache of stories written by Mark Twain when he was a 29-year-old newspaperman in San Francisco. Many of the stories are 150 years old ... more  Add a comment

Inscribed Little Prince on sale for 150,000
"I am concerned with matters of consequence," declares the star-gazing businessman whom Antoine de Saint-Exupery's Little Prince meets during his journey. "I am accurate." But a unique first edition of the novella, which has just gone on sale in London for £150,000, reveals how the author came up with the figure of 501,622,731 for the number of stars the businessman claims as his own ... more  Add a comment

Architects pledge to rebuilt Mackintosh library
Page\Park, based in Glasgow, have been named as the design team who will lead the restoration of the world famous building, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. David Page, head of architecture at the firm, said the final look of the library was yet to be decided, and would only be constructed after discussions with the school ... more  Add a comment

A medieval prayer wheel surfaces
In April, Manhattan's Les Enluminures Gallery, a dealer in medieval manuscripts, put a book on sale with a first page so rare that only five of its kind are known to exist. In fact, the book itself is rare, with a massive ancient carved-oak cover and sturdy clasps of worked copper. Dating back to the year 980, it contains just the Gospels, the four accounts of Jesus' life ... more  Add a comment