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.

January 2016

Virginia Woolf's great niece donates £250,000 to Bloomsbury project
A £250,000 donation from Virginia Woolf's great niece has put the wheels in motion for a Bloomsbury Group "8.5m "centenary project". The project will benefit Charleston, a 17th century Sussex farmhouse, that was once a haven for the Bloomsbury Group artists ... more  Add a comment

First book about golf to go under the hammer
The Goff: An Heroi-Comical Poem, published in Edinburgh in 1743, was the first printed book devoted to the game. Written by Thomas Mathison - an Edinburgh legal writer and later a Kirk minister - it satirises in verse a game of golf between the author and his brother-in-law, Edinburgh bookseller Alexander Dunning, played on the then five-hole course on the capital's Leith Links  ... more  Add a comment

'Godfather' archive goes up for auction
The most remarkable part of the collection illuminates the "Godfather" years: thousands of pages of manuscripts, outlines, screenplay drafts and correspondence that shed light on the making of one of the most beloved books and films in American history and a defining role for Mr. Brando ... more  Add a comment

Aristocrat papered her walls with pictures ripped from rare bird book
An aristocrat papered her walls with pictures ripped from one of the world's most expensive books, which experts believe could now be worth £7m. In 1827, Lady Isabella Hertford decorated her Chinese Drawing Room at her mansion in Leeds with 28 pictures from John James Audobon's The Birds of America. The book - of which there are now just 119 copies in existence - had been given to Lady Hertford by her lover the Prince of Wales, who later became King George IV ... more  Add a comment

Hidden codes and ciphers throughout history
For as long as written language has been around, humanity has been secretly using codes and ciphers in order to communicate hidden messages. For example, the Caesar cipher shifts a certain amount of letters in order to disguise messages just in case an enemy intercepts it. However, some codes and ciphers still remain unsolved to this day ... more  Add a comment

Scientists find evidence of mathematical structures in classic books
Researchers at Poland's Institute of Nuclear Physics found complex 'fractal' patterning of sentences in literature, particularly in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, which resemble 'ideal' maths seen in nature ... more  Add a comment

Andrew Shannon on trial over books taken from taken from Carton House
The books, including a 1660 edition of the King James Bible of which only six exist, went missing after they were put in storage during the restoration of the Kildare country house ... more  Add a comment

Guns, class war and a transvestite cat
Doppelgangers and transvestites, guns and gangsters, secret lives: these are not the first things that come to mind when considering the work of Beatrix Potter. Yet the creator of Peter Rabbit and Hunca-Munca once wrote a story that featured all of them. The Tale of Kitty in Boots was written just before the outbreak of the First World War but never published in Potter's lifetime. Over 100 years later, Penguin Random House will finally release what they describe as Potter's "24th Tale" - a book that may turn everything we think we know about her on its head ... more  Add a comment

Napoleon Bonaparte's wedding certificate to be sold at auction
The certificate from Napoleon Bonaparte's secret religious wedding to Josephine in 1804, eight years after their civil marriage, will go under the hammer in March, the French auction house Osenat has said ... more  Add a comment

'Self-censorship' of children's book depicting smiling slave condemned
Free speech campaigners have spoken out against Scholastic's withdrawal of A Birthday Cake for George Washington, pulled from shelves after it was criticised for its 'light' treatment of slavery ... more  Add a comment

'lost' Beatrix Potter story to be published
The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, penned by Potter in 1914, was found by publisher Jo Hanks in the archives of the V&A museum in 2013 ... more  Add a comment

'Blank books' project seeks to restock historic Baghdad library
An Iraqi-American artist is using online crowdfunding and performance art to help return books to the shelves of the University of Baghdad's library, which burnt down during the Iraq war ... more  Add a comment

National Library employee charged with stealing rare books
Mr Nulty faces 216 counts of stealing books from the National Library of Ireland in Dublin on various dates from 2004 until 2013. He has not yet entered a plea to the charges which are contrary to the Theft and Fraud Offences Act ... more  Add a comment

The race to save ancient Islamic manuscripts
After Islamic extremists took control in 2012 of several major cities in Mali, a majority-Muslim nation in West Africa, it was soon clear that a millennium's worth of classic Islamic manuscripts was in grave danger ... more  Add a comment

Shakespeare Documented
Shakespeare Documented, the largest and most authoritative resource for learning about primary sources that document the life and career of William Shakespeare, was launched yesterday ... more  Add a comment

Behind the scenes at Nottingham's 'secret' library
Distinguished speakers, a family fun day, and even a time capsule, are being lined up to mark the bicentenary of one of Nottingham's most historic institutions. Andy Smart sets the scene for Bromley House's 200th birthday ... more  Add a comment

Library displays rare Robert Burns Ae Fond Kiss letter
A rare handwritten letter from Robert Burns to a married woman goes on show in Edinburgh on Monday ... more  Add a comment

Fairytales much older than previously thought, say researchers
Fairy stories such as Beauty and the Beast and Rumpelstiltskin can be traced back thousands of years to prehistoric times, with one tale originating from the bronze age, academics have revealed ... more  Add a comment

Curry recipe found in 200-year-old book at abbey
Recipes for chicken curry and fricassee of pigs' feet and ears have been found in a handwritten book in the library at Downside Abbey in Somerset ... more  Add a comment

Lottery funding to help showcase Seamus Heaney's poetry
The National Lottery is to provide £688,700 to showcase the Mid Ulster celebrated in Seamus Heaney's poetry ... more  Add a comment

55th Stuttgart Antiquarian Book Fair, 29-31 January
The most expensive book at the fair is to be found at Heribert Tenschert's stand. It is a chivalric epos for 2 400 000 Euros: Wirnt von Grafenberg, Wigolois mit dem Rade. This is one of the last manuscripts of a Middle High German chivalric epos in private hands. It is also one of only two illustrated manuscripts of this important text, and by far the more complete one. It stems from the Fúrstenberg Collection of Donaueschingen and is an illuminated manuscript on paper with 31 large or full-page miniatures from the scriptorium of Diebold Lauber, and can be dated before 1418 ... more  Add a comment

Poohsticks contest organisers celebrate author AA Milne's birthday
Pooh fever is at maximum today as the organisers of Oxfordshire's World Poohsticks Championships celebrate AA Milne's birthday. Oxford Spires Rotary Club, which organised the championships in 2009, is especially excited after making Winnie the Pooh himself an honorary member ... more  Add a comment

Rare copy of British official's 1760 book sold for $17K
A Colonial British government official's copy of a rare book detailing France's holdings in North America at the end of the French and Indian War has been sold for more than $17,000 at a Massachusetts auction. ... more  Add a comment

What Orson Welles really thought about Ernest Hemingway
Orson Welles once described his relationship with Ernest Hemingway as "very strange". The two men were friends, rivals and sometimes prickly antagonists. Now a previously unpublished manuscript has revealed just what the director thought about the novelist's take on a common passion: Spain ... more  Add a comment

All the Year Round
It has something of a Dickensian quality itself, the story of how long-lost articles by Charles Dickens and other superstars of the mid-Victorian era had been rediscovered and attributed. The man responsible is Mr Jeremy Parrott, who, in line with his evocative surname, makes a living as an antiquarian bookseller, just as he might have done in the era of Dickens himself ... more  Add a comment

What happens if you find the people who owned your second-hand books?
It is a lovely idea and you wonder why it hasn't been done before: tracking down the previous owners of your second-hand books, talking to them if they're alive, telling their stories if they're not. You find out, if possible, what the books meant to them, how they came by them, the circumstances under which they parted. You have the potential for a series of poignant narratives; and besides, who hasn't ever felt, however fleetingly, like doing the same? ... more  Add a comment

Rare Books Uncovered
Few collectors are as passionate or as dogged in the pursuit of their quarry as collectors of rare books In Rare Books Uncovered, expert on rare and antiquarian books Rebecca Rego Barry recounts the stories of remarkable discoveries from the world of book collecting ... more  Add a comment

CUP to publish £400 Shakespeare guide to mark anniversary
The two-volume Cambridge Guide to the Worlds of Shakespeare is the first transnational, international and interdisciplinary study of Shakespeare and aims to reflect the expansive reach of Shakespeare's global reputation. Eight years in the making, it brings together 300 of the world's leading experts in Shakespeare studies, led by an international board of editors from North America, Brazil, Netherlands, Scotland and Japan ... more  Add a comment

17th-century flap book details the wonders of anatomy
Nowadays, pop-up books and flap books are mostly found in the children's section, but centuries ago, they served a much more educational purpose. As early as the 16th century, paper flaps were integrated into anatomy books to illustrate how the parts of the body all fit together and overlap ... more  Add a comment

Keep Calm and Carry On
It is on posters, mugs, tea towels and in headlines. Harking back to a 'blitz spirit' and an age of public service, 'Keep Calm and Carry On' has become ubiquitous. How did a cosy, middle-class joke assume darker connotations? ... more  Add a comment

John Dee: the man who spoke to angels
The life of John Dee, the pre-eminent magician of the Elizabethan age, remains shrouded in mystery. Can his library, on display for the first time, shed new light? ... more  Add a comment

Stunning vintage ski posters expected to fetch £1million
A collection of striking vintage ski posters that hark back to a golden age of winter holidays are expected to fetch a whopping £1million at auction. The pictures of Europe's top skiing destinations were created in the early 20th century when the first resorts began competing against one another to be recognised as the most beautiful and glamorous. The bold and colourful paper images are incredibly valuable and can fetch up to £25,000 for one single poster ... more  Add a comment

The Cinderella of the arts
This new book, written by Rob Shepherd charts the history of one of the most celebrated craft bookbinding workshops of the twentieth century. Sangorski & Sutcliffe was founded in 1901 and within a few years the workshop had grown into the most important hand bindery of the Edwardian era ... more  Add a comment

Ladybirds for grown-ups push up Christmas book sales
The popularity of a series of tongue-in-cheek Ladybird books for grown-ups on subjects ranging from mid-life crisis to hipsters gave a festive boost to booksellers ... more  Add a comment

In which books are protagonists
A round-up of the less-noticed books about book titles this year has to begin with The Last Book. This is award-winning Amsterdam photographer Reinier Gerritsen's book of black and white photographs of people reading in subway trains on their daily commute to work. He captures a variety of passengers completely absorbed in the act of reading their book. "The world - and the word - is in the process of becoming less and less dependent on paper," observes the text of the book ... more  Add a comment

Shakespeare's 400th anniversary
The world shares him and London claims him, but Stratford-on-Avon intends to spend 2016 celebrating William Shakespeare as their man: the bard of Avon, born in the Warwickshire market town in 1564, and who died there 400 years ago ... more  Add a comment

Lifting the Veil
The New York Public Library's erotica collection (yes, it has one) includes seedy Times Square ephemera, early transgender magazines and copies of Playboy ... more  Add a comment

Meet the man who owns around 80,000 magazines
In 2012, the Guinness Book of Records named his Hyman Archive the largest collection of magazines in the world. Mr Hyman spoke to the BBC about his plans to digitise his vast collection to "unlock the value and make it accessible to researchers and members of the public" ... more  Add a comment

6th century Ramayana discovered
The new 6th century Ramayana discovered at a Sanskrit library in Kolkata has the potential to widen our understanding of this Indian epic ... more  Add a comment