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.

December 2015

Antiquarian bookseller sees future in the past
His shop is a single room full of books, some very old, some very rare. He is the proprietor of the Brick Row Book Shop, which, despite the huge changes in the world of books, celebrated its 100th birthday in the first week of December ... more  Add a comment

Season's Greetings
Season's Greetings and thanks again to all of you who contributed links and stories during 2015. I plan to take a break  until January 4th ... unless I stumble across anything interesting enough to post in the meantime.  Add a comment

16th century Talmud fetches over $9 million
A 6th-century copy of the Talmud sold at auction Tuesday for $9.3 million in New York, a global record for any piece of Judaica, auctioneers Sothebys announced. The so-called Bomberg Talmud led a sale of items from the Valmadonna Trust, the world's foremost collection of Hebrew books and manuscripts, which totaled $14.9 million ... more  Add a comment

Japanese bookshop stocks only one book at a time
Owner of Morioka Shoten in Tokyo says the strategy adds up to a dedicated exhibition for each volume it sells ... more  Add a comment

New book chronicles real bear behind 'Winnie-the-Pooh'
Lindsay Mattick's great-grandfather was on his way to fight in World War I when he bought a bear cub he named Winnie, inspiring author A.A. Milne to create the timeless character Winnie-the-Pooh. Now, Mattick has written a new children's book chronicling the real-life story behind the bear ... more  Add a comment

Japanese photography: the birth of a market
"When we first had the Daido Moriyama exhibition in 2004, nobody was interested," recalls Cologne gallerist Priska Pasquer of the photographer whose most prized bodies of work from the 1960s and '70s document the seedy streets of the Shinjuku district in Tokyo. "This changed completely in the past decade"  ... more  Add a comment

Birmingham's ancient Koran history revealed
There are claims that these could be fragments from the very first complete version of the Koran, commissioned by Abu Bakr, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad - and that it is "the most important discovery ever for the Muslim world" ... more  Add a comment

Princess Diana's childhood book sells at auction
The royal wrote her name on a label inside the hardback first edition of Noddy Goes To Toyland by acclaimed author Enid Blyton when it was in her possession in the 1960s. Also included in the lot, sold by International Autograph Auctions of Nottingham, were two similar books featuring the beloved children's character which were owned by Diana's elder sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes. The lot was sold to a private collector for £3,084, three times the initial estimated price of £1,000 ... more  Add a comment

Beethoven manuscript auctioned
A page of the notebook in which the composer worked on King Stephen has been sold for $100,000 ... more  Add a comment

Ladybird book pastiches become stocking-filler hit of 2015
Nostalgia for the days of learning to read with Peter and Jane appears to have made Ladybird's series of spoof titles for grownups a must-buy this Christmas, with more than 600,000 copies of the mini-hardbacks sold in less than two months ... more  Add a comment

Art on the edge
Sometimes, a book is more than a book. A new video from Francis Marion University reveals an example of a hidden medieval art form called "fore-edge painting." In fore-edge painting, artists paint images at the very edges of a book's pages. The artwork is pretty much invisible when the book is closed until you fan out the pages just so, and then, boom: a fully realized painting appears as if by magic ... more  Add a comment

Virginia Woolf letter urging friend to 'go on living' goes to auction
A letter from Virginia Woolf to her friend Philip Morrell urging him to "go on living", because "far too many of my friends have given that up lately", a year before the novelist committed suicide, will go under the hammer this week ... more  Add a comment

Pierre Bergés Library Sale Raises $12.8M
The sale, which was organized by Pierre Bergé & Associés in association with Sotheby's, had 188 lots spanning 600 years, including works in their original languages by Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, William Shakespeare, James Joyce, Franz Kafka and Gertrude Stein ... more  Add a comment

Very rare Hans Christian Andersen illustration sold at auction
A "very rare" watercolour illustrating Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale about the nightingale that sings for the Emperor of China has been sold at auction to an American collector for £32,000 ... more  Add a comment

One of the Greatest Libraries of Judaica Heads to Auction
On December 22, Sotheby's will hold back-to-back million-dollar sales of Judaica that are noteworthy for their rare books and manuscripts, some of which date back to the Middle Ages in Europe. Of greatest note are 12 books and scrolls from the renowned Valmadonna Trust Library (currently based in London), expected to fetch between $10.8 and $16.6 million ... more  Add a comment

Gutenberg Bible reproduced by Falkirk binders
Helix Binders worked with the John Rylands Library in Manchester to create a "handling copy" of the 15th Century Gutenberg Bible. The library wanted to provide scholars with a replica of the volume owned by the University of Manchester that they could view and touch ... more  Add a comment

13 books to read when you reach retirement
TheBookGuide was amongst those asked to contribute a couple of recommended titles for the newly retired - see what we chose on the Age UK website ... more  Add a comment

Justin Skrebowski tragically murdered on Monday 7th December
Via the ABA: Justin Skrebowski, print dealer, framer and library furniture maker, stall-holder on Portobello Road and sometime PBFA member was tragically murdered on Monday 7th December. Our thoughts go out to his family, particularly his wife and young children. The PBFA have begun to collect funds to forward to his family, to help them a little in this incredibly difficult time. Should you or anyone you know wish to contribute to this fund, it is being administered by the PBFA, so that the family can receive 100% of the money. Do get in touch with the PBFA office ( Any cheques should be payable to the PBFA but please mark them "Justin Skrebowski" so that they can be allocated correctly.  Add a comment

Auctions of rare Irish books, manuscripts and maps
Three auctions in Dublin this week offer a wonderful selection of rare books and maps of interest to both collectors and anyone seeking a unique gift ... more  Add a comment

Help to unpick manuscripts from the days of Shakespeare
Hang up your hose and ditch your doublet - there's a new way to experience Shakespeare's era. An online project is asking volunteers to tease apart the spidery scrawl of manuscripts to reveal new insights into daily life as it was more than 400 years ago ... more  Add a comment

Is there still any point collecting books?
A lifetime of collecting books has left the writer Howard Jacobson with back injuries, a lack of living space and a sense of sheer pointlessness. But he'd do it all over again ... more  Add a comment

New home for Lambeth Palace's priceless historic library planned
Proposals to construct a new library at Lambeth Palace are being drawn up. The Church Commissioners for England have appointed husband and wife architects Claire and Sandy Wright to draw up plans for a new library to house one of the world's most important collections of historic religious documents and artwork, second only to the Vatican in size and importance ... more  Add a comment

Building assets in music manuscripts
For collectors, music represents a challenge. It is by nature ephemeral, fleeting; the precious objects associated with it - instruments, manuscripts, autographed black-and-white photographs - are curiously silent, their significance usually evident only with expert training ... more  Add a comment

First edition Dracula novel sells for £5,300
The copy of Dracula in the Anderson & Garland Newcastle auction was exceptionally rare because it was a first print of the first edition. "The first print would have been of a few hundred copies mainly for promotional purposes and if it was successful the publishers would have gone back for a second or third print," said Anderson & Garland book specialist John Anderson ... more  Add a comment

Off the map
Rare-book dealer Daniel Crouch talks Andrew and Tom through a new title from Phaidon 'Map: Exploring the World', which Crouch and his fellow cartography experts have helped compile ... more  Add a comment

Author's family attend Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe premiere
The last two remaining cousins of one of Britain's best loved authors CS Lewis have spoken about the inspiration behind his most famous work. Beth Tate, 87, and Joan Murphy 89, spoke as they attended the Cardiff premiere of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ... more  Add a comment

The secret history of One Hundred Years of Solitude
A half-century ago, Gabriel Gárcía Márquez, after yet another visit to the pawnshop, sent his now signature novel to his publisher. As Solitude turns 50, Paul Elie interviews Gabo's longtime agent - just weeks before her death, at 85 - and discovers the events that led to a literary revelation ... more  Add a comment

Cricket's great early collector: AL Ford
AL Ford, born in 1843, was one of the earliest of the great collectors of cricket books, pictures and prints. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the collection he amassed through his six decades of diligence ... more  Add a comment

Library visits fall 14% in five years
A total of 106 libraries have closed in the UK this year, while library funding has been cut by £50m, figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) have revealed ... more  Add a comment

Sharp eye steers missing map home
A rare map advertised in a New York antiques dealer's summer catalog was created by explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1612 and provided a description of the New England coast and what would later become Canada. But the map had defects. And it was those flaws - slight tears where it had once been folded and a tiny mark where a hole had been repaired - that caught the attention of the Boston Public Library's eagle-eyed map curator, Ronald Grim ... more  Add a comment

Go ahead, judge a book by its cover
Four of the best contemporary bookbinders employ centuries-old techniques to create enduring works of art ... more  Add a comment

British Library uses MoD maps to chart its 2016 exhibition lineup
Declassified documents will form part of show on 20th century maps, while other exhibition topics include Shakespeare, punk and Don Quixote ... more  Add a comment

Library's rare books department reopens after mold outbreak
It took a crew of 20 roughly 7.5 hours a day over 10 weeks, but the mold is gone. The Boston Public Library's Rare Books Department reopened Tuesday after an intense cleaning to eradicate fuzzy white spores that speckled a medieval manuscript and other irreplaceable artifacts ... more  Add a comment

My colour-coded books
Writer Nicholas Royle, 52, has been collecting white-spined Picadors and green and orange Penguin paperbacks since the 90s. What do they say about him? ... more  Add a comment

Typists of the world
Some might call typewriters a dead technology but a quiet revival is afoot, claims philosophy professor Richard Polt - spurred, in his case, by a fear of surveillance ... more  Add a comment

Mali manuscripts saved from destruction
Dramane Maulvi Haidara held up a book of Hadiths, sayings of the Prophet Mohamed, in exquisite calligraphy, produced in the 16th century, and wondered: "Why would they want to destroy this? That would have been terrible." This was in February 2013. The reason the book was saved was because Mr Haidara and other citizens of Timbuktu had spirited it away, along with thousands of other priceless manuscripts, from the city's Ahmed Baba Library, just ahead of jihadists who had started burning the collection ... more  Add a comment