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.

March 2016

Rare Oor Wullie annuals fetch over £5,000 at auction
A rare set of the earliest Oor Wullie books has sold for more than £5,000 at auction. A full collection of the books, from its first edition to the most recent published this year for the comic's 80th anniversary, went under the hammer at Curr and Dewar in Dundee ... more  Add a comment

A turn-up for the books
This week the New York Review of Books' blog revealed that a literary manuscript assumed to be among those lost for ever has reappeared, but what of the others? ... more  Add a comment

Rare wartime Beano cartoon expected to fetch £1,500 at auction
An original piece of artwork by legendary Beano artist Dudley D Watkins - whose name is said to have been on a "death list" of enemies of the Third Reich due to his comic mocking of the Germans during the Second World War - is set to fetch up to £1,500 when it is sold at at Curr and Dewar in Dundee on Tuesday March 29th. ... more  Add a comment

Scholars condemn 'philistine' cost-cutting at Society of Antiquaries
Some of Britain's most eminent scholars have condemned 'philistine' plans to cut library staff from one of the nation's oldest and most respected learned institutions. The Society of Antiquaries, founded in 1707 and based in Burlington House on Piccadilly in London, was given a royal charter in 1751 for 'the encouragement, advancement and furtherance of the study and knowledge of the antiquities and history' ... more  Add a comment

Manuscripts that influenced William Shakespeare's greatest plays
The British Library has posted 300 manuscripts, maps and illustrations online to show what probably inspired the Bard to write plays such as Hamlet. Monsters depicted in a medieval book may have influenced the creation of Caliban in The Tempest ... more  Add a comment

Too Naked for the Nazis wins prize for oddest book title
The Bookseller's annual Diagram prize, which has been running since 1978, rewards books not for their content, but for the strangeness of their title. Won in previous years by the scarily-specific Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers, the seemingly instructive How to Poo at Work and the eyebrow-raising Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories, this year Alan Stafford's Too Naked for the Nazis triumphed in the public vote ... more  Add a comment

Heinrich Himmler's stash of witchcraft books discovered
The books - part of a 13,000-strong collection - were found in a depot of the National Library of Czech Republic near Prague which has not been accessed since the 1950s ... more  Add a comment

Rediscovered manuscript shows how Isaac Newton dabbled in alchemy
The 17th century manuscript, which was handwritten by Isaac Newton, describes a procedure for making mercury - a substance that alchemists thought could turn lead into gold ... more  Add a comment

Were investors conned into buying rare manuscripts?
About 18,000 people in France are believed to have been defrauded in one of the biggest ever arts-market scams. They bought shares in rare manuscripts and letters to a value of nearly 1bn euros, before the company behind it was shut down by regulators. Now the victims of Aristophil want to know what is left of their investment ... more  Add a comment

Lost HP Lovecraft work commissioned by Houdini found
A long-lost manuscript by HP Lovecraft, an investigation of superstition through the ages that the author was commissioned to write by Harry Houdini, has been found in a collection of magic memorabilia ... more  Add a comment

Bowie's 'The Jean Genie' lyrics could make more than £35,000
The handwritten sheet - signed and dated by the late musical icon - features 18 lines, with various words having been crossed out. They were initially a gift to 'Neal Peters, who was then President of the Original David Bowie Fan Club in the USA' ... more  Add a comment

Book signed by Anne Frank up for auction in New York
Auction house says well-worn edition of Grimm's fairy tales may have inspired young girl to become writer and could fetch as much as $30,000 ... more  Add a comment

Charlton Heston's rare Shakespeare collection to go up for auction
An auction in Los Angeles on 22 March reveals a side of the rugged American film star Charlton Heston that his fans and detractors might have missed. Heston, who died in 2008, won an Academy Award for his part in the epic Ben-Hur (1959) and later served five terms as president of the National Rifle Association (NRA) ... more  Add a comment

A 19th-Century Bookseller's obsession with a lost masterpiece
In 1846, John Snare, a provincial British bookseller and self-taught art connoisseur, set out on a quest: to prove that a portrait of England's Charles I as a prince, which he had bought for next to nothing and loved more than anything, was a long-lost Velázquez painting ... more  Add a comment

William Shakespeare's handwritten plea for refugees to go online
The last surviving play script handwritten by William Shakespeare, in which he imagines Sir Thomas More making an impassioned plea for the humane treatment of refugees, is to be made available online by the British Library ... more  Add a comment

Happy birthday punk
"Punk is not an easy thing to define," says Andy Linehan, curator of popular music at the British Library. "As with any type of music, people will say, 'That's punk', 'No, that's punk'. Some say punk died in a specific year, others say punk lives" ... more  Add a comment

My Life’s Work: Éamonn de Búrca, antiquarian bookseller and publisher
Éamonn de Búrca runs De Búrca Rare Books, along with his son William, in Blackrock, Co Dublin. He buys and sells old and rare books, manuscripts and paper ephemera, items relating mainly - but not solely - to Ireland ... more  Add a comment

Why collecting books can be a deep source of pleasure
Words are just one element of a book and not always the best part. Books as physical objects have a charm that also comes from typography, illustration, format and back-story. That is why collecting books can be such a deep source of pleasure ... more  Add a comment

Ansel Adams Print Sells for $221k at Auction
A mural-sized silver print of Ansel Adams' dramatic Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1948, sold for $221,000 at Swann Galleries' February 25 auction Art & Storytelling. Photographs of famous and influential figures were among the top lots, with Garry Winogrand's portfolio 15 Big Shots, with each of the silver prints signed, selling for $45,000 ... more  Add a comment

Learn the secrets of the Birmingham Koran manuscript
The story behind a 7th century copy of the Koran is to be told at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery later this month. Found last year hidden inside the pages of another book in the University of Birmingham Library, radiocarbon dating found the Islamic manuscript was at least 1,370 years old ... more  Add a comment

How Isaac Newton's 'Principia' was almost scuppered by a book about fish
It is arguably the most important scientific work ever published, but Isaac Newton's Principia was nearly scuppered by the author's prickly behaviour and a row about fish, a new exhibition at Cambridge University reveals ... more  Add a comment

John Lennon's first known letter to be sold at auction
The fold-out note, penned by Lennon when he was 11 years old, thanks his Aunt Harriet for presents she gave him, including a book about ships. He sent the thank you message shortly after Christmas in 1951 to his mother Julia's younger sister ... more  Add a comment

Adolf Hitler's personal copy of 'Mein Kampf' to go up for auction
The unique copy of the twisted tome was discovered by 11 American officers who raided the dictator's Munich apartment at the end of the war, according to the website for Alexander Historical Auctions ... more  Add a comment

Burglars indicted for heist of 17th Century manuscripts
The would-be antiquities thieves hatched the plot after a corridor was created during renovations that links the Golda Meir parking lot underneath the library to the room holding the safe in which the manuscripts were kept ... more  Add a comment

Doris Lessing letters reveal 'polygamous, amoral' character
A "bitchy" collection of letters from Doris Lessing to a former lover sees the Nobel prize winner telling pilot Leonard Smith that she is "not made for matrimony" and that she is "selfish, an egotist, polygamous, amoral, irresponsible, unbalanced, and utterly not a good member of society" ... more  Add a comment

Cambridge University Library dusts off Darwin and Newton for display
Cambridge University Library is celebrating its 600th anniversary by putting some of its greatest treasures on display - including volumes that have become more precious because their owners scribbled all over them ... more  Add a comment

JK Rowling's 'Harry Potter chair' goes up for auction
The oak chair that author JK Rowling sat in while writing the first two book Harry Potter books may not confer magical powers. But as a piece of literary memorabilia, it is impossible not to be charmed by it - perhaps even bewitched enough to bid $45,000 for it. That will be the opening bid when Heritage Auctions offers the very special seat for sale in New York next month, on behalf of an unnamed consignor in Manchester, England ... more  Add a comment

What makes us buy books?
I have this whole backlog of famous writers I want to read. But each time I visit a book store, my mind draws a blank. I literally cannot remember the name of a single author on my list when I'm asked if I'm looking for anything specific. The only person who comes to mind in that oddly high-pressure environment, for some bizarre reason, is Kurt Vonnegut. Fucking Kurt Vonnegut. He's not even in the top 20 (maybe he should be) ... more  Add a comment

16 Reasons to be proud of being a book hoarder
Your tallest TBR pile nearly collapsed on your cat the other day. You're out of both bookshelf space and space for more bookshelves. Your best friend has started meaningfully reading passages from Marie Kondo's The Magical Art of Tidying Up to you. You nearly started crying when your boyfriend suggested donating your old textbooks ... more  Add a comment

Rare edition of Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit set to sell for £18,000
A rare privately printed edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, the book which would help make Beatrix Potter one of the most famous children's authors of all time, is up for auction ... more  Add a comment

A bookseller's guide to book thieves
Notoriously, during the riots in London five years ago, Waterstones was the only high-street shop that wasn't looted. But that depressing lack of book-pinching belied a thriving -tendency. Think of a bookshop and you think of a musty, hushed spot where people browse and whisper. In fact, it is thick with thieves ... more  Add a comment

Russian claims new record for world's tiniest book
Microminiaturist Vladimir Aniskin, from Novosibirsk in Siberia, spent five years developing the technology to create the book, which measures 70 by 90 micrometres, or 0.07mm by 0.09mm. It then took him a month to create, by hand, two versions. The first, Levsha, is named after Nikolai Leskov’s 19th-century story The Steel Flea, in which a craftsman from Tula beats the English by managing to nail flea shoes on the clockwork flea they have created. Aniskin’s Levsha contains the names of other microminiaturists who can also, in his words "shoe the flea". His second book, Alphabet, contains the Russian alphabet ... more  Add a comment

Bob Dylan reveals vast ‘secret archive,’ to be opened to public
In a stunning announcement, a group of Oklahoma institutions has shared news of the acquisition of an enormous private archive maintained by Bob Dylan. Spanning Dylan's entire career, the archive includes everything from song drafts to personal correspondence to multimedia. The archive is set to be opened to scholars and made available to the public, possibly in a new center to be built next to a Woody Guthrie museum in Tulsa ... more  Add a comment

Peter Rabbit gets his own 50p coin - and he didn't have to steal it
Peter, pictured in the blue jacket that he is forced to abandon in the garden of Mr McGregor when he is caught stealing vegetables, is captured on a special, coloured edition of a 50p coin available from today. The Royal Mint, which described Peter as "the most recognisable of Potter’s creations, and one of the most cherished from children’s literature", will release uncoloured versions of the coin in change later this year ... more  Add a comment

Priceless collection of black literature crumbling in Chicago
The Midwest's largest collection of black literature is in jeopardy and Chicago city officials do not exactly appear to be on the case. The Carter G. Woodson Library in the Southside Chicago neighborhood of Washington Heights, which is primarily African American, is in danger of being destroyed as the building housing it crumbles. The city does not seem to have a timely solution to save it ... more  Add a comment

Amazing photos of the Sahara Desert's lost libraries
Polish photographer Michal Huniewicz, 31, has been traveling the world for the last seven years with the goal of visiting and photographing some of the most interesting - and remote - places on earth. And while on a trip through Mauritania in West Africa, Huniewicz discovered the ancient stone city of Chinguetti, a remote destination home to to one of the world's most impressive collections of ancient Islamic manuscripts ... more  Add a comment

The Giver and the gift
Daniel Crouch and Tom Harper on the ongoing digitisation of the the atlases in the King's Topographical Collection at the British library ... more  Add a comment