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 2016

Umberto Eco: In Memoriam
For a young woman who trained as a linguist; who spent more hours in her college years reading in Latin than reading modern novels; who has a particularly delicate spot for Borges, and for Bruno Schultz; and who found her calling in the rare book world, Umberto Eco was like a lodestar ... more  Add a comment

Time lists Evelyn Waugh as a ‘most-read female author’
Who knew that Evelyn Waugh, author of "Brideshead Revisited," was a great female author? That's a real Scoop ... more  Add a comment

Transvestite Vampire Nuns book up for prize
Transvestite Vampire Biker Nuns from Outer Space is among the contenders for a prize given annually to the year's oddest book title. This year's seven-strong shortlist includes Too Naked for the Nazis, Soviet Bus Stops and Reading from Behind: A Cultural History of the Anus ... more  Add a comment

Classic Vogue magazine covers up for auction
Some of the fashion magazine's classic covers will go under the hammer next week at London's National Portrait Gallery as part of the Vogue 100: A Century of Style exhibition ... more  Add a comment

Bookshops are back
There is nothing like the romance of a bookshop. A living, breathing behemoth where people wander around in dreamy circles, bump into interesting strangers, flirt, buy a book, go for coffee, fall in love, get their hearts broken, then go back for consolation. We know this from films of old, from 84 Charing Cross Road and The Big Sleep to  Manhattan, Notting Hill and You've Got Mail. This is the "How We Met" story that we would like to tell our children and friends: "Oh, we met in the poetry section of that old bookshop in 1984, and look at us now!" ... more  Add a comment

5 minutes with ... A 19th-century Islamic manuscript
Romain Pingannaud, Head of Christie's Islamic Art department, introduces a beautifully illustrated work whose style crosses dynasties ... more  Add a comment

Prince Charles launches £1m appeal to save rare books
The Prince of Wales was joined by leading lights from the arts world as he launched an ambitious £1 million appeal to help save rare books and manuscripts for the nation. Singer Bryan Ferry and Nobel Prize-winning author VS Naipaul were among those who joined Charles at Lambeth Palace for the event ... more  Add a comment

Rare 1962 Spider-Man Comic Book Sold For $623K
The comic book was purchased by an anonymous collector, and Heritage Auctions says Thursday's sale is a record for a public auction price for any Spider-Man comic book ... more  Add a comment

The 10 most expensive comic books ever sold
Here is a list of the ten most expensive comic book sales of all-time, on a per-title basis. Instead of listing the biggest sales ever, we'll stick to the most expensive copy of each title rather than listing every notable sale of "Action Comics" #1, for example ... more  Add a comment

Did Sartre and de Beauvoir groom high school girls?
Sarah Bakewell's At the Existentialist Café exposes the high-minded follies of Sartre and de Beauvoir's circle in Paris, says Jane O'Grady ... more  Add a comment

The Feminist Library faces eviction after rent hike
The library, an extensive archive of Women's Liberation Movement literature housed on Westminster Bridge Road in London, says that Southwark council is threatening to close it down unless it agrees to an immediate increase in its rent from £12,000 to £30,000 a year. The library launched a petition on Wednesday, already signed by more than 3,000 people, calling on Southwark to withdraw its notice to evict on 1 March - which it points out is the first day of Women's History Month - and to negotiations to "gradually implement the proposed threefold rent increase"  Add a comment

Rare 14th century Scots manuscript snapped up by National Library
A precious medieval manuscript written in a Scottish abbey around 700 years ago has been secured for the nation - after being missing for 300 years ... more  Add a comment

Were Radiohead inspired by William Blake?
Radiohead might have taken inspiration from William Blake for some of their most iconic work - after a tatty paperback of Blake's work containing Thom Yorke's handwritten lyrics was discovered in an Oxford charity shop ... more  Add a comment

The Duchess of Devonshire's rare books at auction
On March 2, Sotheby's London will auction a rather extraordinary collection--that of Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, the last of the legendary (and literary) Mitford sisters. The selection consists of the contents of her final home, the Old Vicarage at Edensor on the Chatsworth estate. She died in 2014 at the age of 94 ... more  Add a comment

Unseen JRR Tolkien poems found in school magazine
Two poems by JRR Tolkien, in which The Lord of the Rings author writes variously of "a man who dwelt alone/beneath the moon in shadow", and of the "lord of snows", have been discovered in a school magazine in Abingdon, Oxfordshire ... more  Add a comment

Amazing Fantasy #15 is among the most sought after comic books
The first appearance of Marvel's Spider-Man in a comic book is a huge deal among fans and collectors. So huge, in fact, that issues of 1962's Amazing Fantasy #15 - which not only features Spidey's first showing, but also his Uncle Ben and Aunt May's - could shatter previous auction records and sell for over $400,000 at Heritage Auctions' February 18-20 Comics and Comic Art Signature sale in Dallas ... more  Add a comment

Want to buy The Godfather author's manuscripts?
Make them an offer they can't refuse, and a massive collection of The Godfather author Mario Puzo's papers can be yours. The 45-box archive, which includes multiple drafts with handwritten revisions to both the novel and the screenplay, is being sold by Boston-based RR Auction on February 18th ... more  Add a comment

The most expensive books at the California AABA Book Fair
Imagine holding a first-edition of "Frankenstein" in your hands. You can probably visualise the worn and yellowed cover of the book, which was written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and published in 1833. But you might have trouble visualising the $35,000 you'd have to fork over to buy it ... more  Add a comment

Ancient Greek manuscripts reveal life lessons from the Roman empire
Newly translated textbooks from the second and sixth centuries aimed at language learners also provide pointers on shopping, bathing, dining and how to deal with drunk relatives ... more  Add a comment

"Bright Young Booksellers"
Fine Books & Collections series continues with Jennifer Ebrey, a Junior Cataloger in the Rare Books & Manuscripts Department at Bonhams, London ... more  Add a comment

'Witch Book' with ties to Salem trials sells for $221,000
A previously unknown seventh edition of the Bay Psalm Book - once owned by Jonathan Corwin, a judge in the Salem witch trials - fetched $180,000 + premium at an auction hosted by Swann Auction Galleries in New York ... more  Add a comment

A copy of TS Eliot's The Waste Land inscribed to his therapist
A First edition dedicated with 'enduring gratitude' to the doctor who treated Eliot's 1921 breakdown, listed alongside F Scott Fitzgerald book made out to 'the original Gatsby' and a first edition Huckleberry Finn signed by Mark Twain. Alison Flood takes a look at Peter Harringon's latest catalogue ... more  Add a comment

How Oliver Sacks put a human face on the science of the mind
The world's most famous neurologist believed that every patient had a story worth hearing. Norman Doidge explores the legacy of Oliver Sacks, whose work and life remind us that humanity belongs at the heart of medicine ... more  Add a comment

The brand new Yorkshire gallery which showcases literary masterpieces
Some of the world's most rare books and manuscripts have gone on public display for the first time. Sarah Freeman takes a look at the Treasures of the Brotherton ... more  Add a comment

'Big books by blokes about battles'
Only four female writers appeared in the list of top 50 bestselling history titles in the UK last year. And women are still perceived as more suited to writing about drawing rooms than battlefields. Why? Leading historians and biographers discuss sexism and subject matter ... more  Add a comment

The book most people have lied about reading
You might expect hefty Russian tome War And Peace to be the book that Britons are most likely to have lied about reading. But children's favourite Alice's Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is responsible for the most literary fibs, according to a BBC survey ... more  Add a comment

The rarefied world of rare book collecting is not a dying art
In this age of Kindle and Nook, when used book stores are rapidly disappearing and real estate is at a record premium, one might assume that the world of rare book collecting should be declining as cemetery plots fill up. But in reality, a rich field of rabid book collectors remains ... more  Add a comment

Ebook sales falling for the first time, finds new report
Ebook sales for the UK's five biggest publishers fell in 2015, according to a new report in the Bookseller, collectively declining 2.4%, to 47.9m units. It is the first drop in numbers of books sold in this medium for the "big five" since the digital age began ... more  Add a comment

Aristophil group collection struggles to find buyer
Sources in the art world suggest the collection may be overvalued, and that a top asking price of 100m Euros might be more realistic. "Yes, 5 per cent of the collection is extraordinary, but the remaining 95 per cent is insignificant," one antiquarian bookseller told the Financial Times ... more  Add a comment

Man found guilty of illegal book possession also damaged £10m Monet
Andrew Shannon, previously jailed for damaging £10m Monet painting, has been convicted of possessing 67 stolen antique books including an extremely rare King James Bible ... more  Add a comment

Alan Titchmarsh: I can't stop collecting books
It is, I confess, a disease, and one for which there is no apparent cure. I should know, I have been searching to rid myself of it these past 40 years. The affliction from which I suffer is book collecting ... more  Add a comment

Rare Book Hub reports that book prices at auction slipped 7% last year
This is not likely to be a major surprise to those in the book trade, but results compiled from book and paper auctions showed a 7% decline in prices in 2015 from the previous year. After several years of increases, nervousness about the economy, perhaps even more in Europe than America, has taken its toll ... more  Add a comment

Librarian uncovers one of the world's rarest atlases
A reference librarian at the National Library of Norway came across an old Ottoman atlas in the collections there that seemed perfect for a Reddit board devoted to the appreciation of maps. Weeks later, he figured out that the map in question was a previously-unknown copy of one of the rarest atlases in the world: the Cedid Atlas ... more  Add a comment

'Blook' madness: inside the world of 'bogus books'
In the elegant second floor gallery of Manhattan's Grolier Club, a haven for serious-minded rare book collectors, Mindell Dubansky presents something novel: her collection of blooks. You read that right. Blooks is an abbreviation of "book-look", what she further describes as "a thing that looks like a book, but isn't one". From book-shaped biscuit tins to books made of stone, her exhibit, Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren't, is the first major survey of the decidedly quirky - but utterly delightful - topic. ... more  Add a comment

Agatha Sadler, bookseller - obituary
Agatha Sadler, who has died aged 91, was the proprietor of St George's Gallery Books in St James's, a treasure trove of art books which for three decades traded at the heart of London's art market ... more  Add a comment