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 Home >> Shelf:Life <<

Shelf:Life - what's new in the world of old books and book collecting, links to the news stories that matter, and occassional comments by TheBookGuide.  Archived Stories.

January 2008Skip Free Registration

Egypt about-turn on book fair censorship
Publishers at the 40th Cairo International Book Fair said on Wednesday that the authorities had allowed them to sell a number of Western and secular books that were forbidden only two days ago ... more   Add a comment

Opening a dream bookshop
There's a great spot open all hours in my head, but two brave souls are currently trying to get a real one going in north London ... more   Add a comment

Saved: the hidden Oxford treasures
Former curator's house held an unknown collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and books worth millions ... more   Add a comment

Old book stallsí numbers shrinking in city
Ahmed Saleem, a researcher from Islamabad, said that despite fragile security situation in the city he was coming to Rawalpindi every Sunday to visit old books stalls. He said for him the old books stalls were of great value as he could get good books and educational material at a nominal price. He contradicted that now only a few people were visiting the old books stalls ... more   Add a comment

Institute of Oriental Manuscripts opens
A branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies (Russian Academy of Sciences) opens a new academic institution - the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts in Saint Petersburg ... more   Add a comment

Breton's Surrealist Manifesto arrives in London
A legendary piece of 20th-century art and literary history, Andrť Breton's 1924 Surrealist Manifesto, an attempt to define "once and for all" the nature of surrealism, which instead provoked decades of argument, is on display in London ahead of an auction in Paris ... more   Add a comment

Rowling grieves for lost wizard
Accepting an award for outstanding achievement, JK Rowling told an audience that leaving Harry Potter behind was 'the worst break-up in my life' ... more   Add a comment

Rare books chronicle our obsession with the weather
We have always needed to chronicle our obsession with the elements. Take 1768, when H. Serjeant, London, published the volume breathlessly titled, "A True and Particular Account, of the Most Surprising Preservation, and Happy Deliverance, of Three Women Who Were Buried, Thirty-Seven Days ... By a Heavy Fall of Snow ... at the Village of Bergemoletto, in Italy" ... more   Add a comment

Where was Noggin?
Last week, the Telegraph presented a list of 100 great children's books - to satisfy children of every age, from encouraging the first steps in comprehension to feeding the appetite of a young teenager. We invited readers' comments, and there came back an extraordinary range of responses, kindling a passionate debate ... more   Add a comment

Breton's Surrealist Manifesto arrives in London
Egypt has banned a number of Western and secular books from the 40th Cairo International Book Fair, including works by Czech author Milan Kundera and Morocco's Mohamed Choukri, publishers said on Monday ... more   Add a comment

'Plot to kill' Nobel laureate
Thirteen people have been arrested in Turkey as part of an investigation into an ultra-nationalist gang reported to be planning the assassination of Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk ... more   Add a comment

State worker admits he stole historical artifacts
Almanacs owned by frontiersman Davy Crockett, a timetable from Abraham Lincoln's funeral train, and Currier & Ives lithographs of Niagara Falls and West Point were among hundreds of documents allegedly stolen in recent years by a state worker and sold to pay household expenses and his daughter's $10,000 credit-card bill, officials said yesterday ... more   Add a comment

Who said romance was dead?
In the time it takes you to read this page, Britons will have bought 100 novels by Mills & Boon, now in its centenary year ... more   Add a comment

People of the Book
The survival of the Sarajevo Haggadah, as this fragile illuminated volume is called, from its creation in Spain 600 years ago until today, is a tale to stir the most irreligious, war-hardened heart. Geraldine Brooks is a savvy, almost shrewd storyteller. As a former journalist, she knows she's onto a good story here: an illustrated codex, created in mysterious circumstances in Spain to be read at the table during Passover, miraculously threading its way across southern Europe over centuries to end up safe and sound, the treasured possession of a museum in Bosnia. And there are mysteries as well ... more   Add a comment

Italian history, on a roll
The Garibaldi Panorama tells a story of dedication and Italian pride, of bloody battles and acts of life-threatening bravery. The 19th-century artwork, painted on a 136-foot paper canvas, is meant to be slowly unspooled before an audience as a narrator explains the action. But it is so fragile and large that seeing it from start to finish is a cumbersome endeavor ... more   Add a comment

Online shoppers prefer books
Booming demand in emerging markets from Vietnam to India has made books the most popular item to buy online, according to research out today ... more   Add a comment

Record results at Smythe autograph auction
New York auction house RM Smythe & Co, Inc held one of the most successful autograph auctions in its 125-year history on Thursday, January 17, 2008. The sale, featuring the collection of Steven Lee Carson, saw an unprecedented 77 percent of offered lots sell. Although the auction suffered a few delays due to technical problems with E-bay Live Auctions, in the end bidders on the floor, on the phone, and at their computers were able to take home a remarkable variety of historical autographs and Americana ... more   Add a comment

Tim Butcher's top 10 books about Congo
Few rivers have inspired writers more than the Congo. Here's my pick of ten titles with Africa's mightiest river running through them ... more   Add a comment

Burmese poet arrested for veiled protest
A Burmese author known for his love poetry has been arrested after penning a Valentine's Day verse carrying a hidden message about the leader of the country's military junta, Senior General Than Shwe ... more   Add a comment

Hyderabadís rare book seller
William Dalrymple has been here and so have been numerous scholars, authors, librarians, and book collectors from around the world. Haziq-N-Mohiís clients have included the libraries of Harvard, MIT, Oxford, and McGill. For all its international connections the rare book sellerís location belies its importance. Tucked away in the labyrinthine lanes of Hyderabadís old city, across the street from the historic Chowk Masjid, the rare book seller has played an important part in salvaging and saving books from the private libraries of Hyderabadís erstwhile aristocracy ... more   Add a comment

No news today ...
I'm afraid there just isn't anything worth passing on, a situation I haven't faced since I started this blog nearly four years ago.   Add a comment

Publish and be damned
The literary journal Granta started as an act of rebellion, and ended up as the Establishment. It must shake things up again if it is to survive in the 21st century ... more   Add a comment

Kiosque illuminates world of medieval manuscripts
A new exhibition of medieval manuscripts at the Royal Armouries in Leeds showcases a technology that lets visitors examine digital pictures of the manuscripts in fine detail ... more   Add a comment

Scavengers redefine recycling with used books
By 9:15 most mornings, Thomas Germain, a ruddy-faced man in a yellow slicker, is pushing his oversize black wheeled suitcase down 12th Street in the direction of the Strand Bookstore on Broadway. Sometimes, the suitcase is stuffed full of books; sometimes the books fill a box or two or three that he balances carefully on top of it, a mass of swaying literature he rolls all the way from Greenwich Village or SoHo or Stuyvesant Town ... more   Add a comment

"Hell at the Library, Eros in Secret"
The lighting is bordello red, but the librarians insist that their X-rated Paris exhibition is serious ... more   Add a comment

Lindisfarne Gospels
IThe British Library sneers at attempts to put the Lindisfarne Gospels back into context as "regionalism gone mad" (Echo, Jan 8). These attempts to prevent the return of the Gospels are another example of the cultural imperialism which seems to affect so many London-based scholars ... more   Add a comment

Censorship and conflict: inside the Harold Pinter archive
Simon Basketter took a tour round the British Libraryís new exhibition devoted to Harold Pinter ... more   Add a comment

Preserving manuscripts from 14th century Mali
Delicately written, with illustrations and drawings in gold, they risked wasting away at the Ahmed Baba Institute in Mali but now stand a chance of being saved, as the first cultural project of the African Union (AU) which has in South Africa been given the status of a presidential lead project under president Thabo Mbeki ... more   Add a comment

Does the world needs book prizes?
John Sutherland suggests a way of narrowing the gap between book prizes and readers ... more   Add a comment

So You Want to Be a Book Collector
In 1909, almost 100 years ago, these Twelve Maxims For Book Collectors appeared in Volume 1 of The Bibliophile. A Magazine and Review for the Collector, Student and General Reader.
    Even today, one would be hard-pressed to find a better guide to the field. So if you are just starting out or have thought about starting a book collection here is your 12 step program. No need to spend your money on how-to books in the field or on book collecting classes, save that money and buy a good book! ... more   Add a comment

Secondhand book websites form joint portal
German second-hand book-dealers hailed Tuesday the creation of a joint internet portal to help book buyers dig up rare books in five European nations. The portal, which is already up and running, serves results from five bookseller-run web search services, including Milan-based site In all, the site lists 20 million books from 2,000 participating bookstores ... more   Add a comment

Battle ahead for 'cigarette pack' books
The books, released as Tales to Take Your Breath Away at the start of the cigarette ban in pubs and restaurants last July, were well received by the design press and have made popular Christmas presents. But now the publishers are having to inhale deeply themselves as British American Tobacco (BAT) claims that one of the packs, containing Hemingway's The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Undefeated, resembles its own Lucky Strike pack. Claiming that such an association could seriously damage the health of the brand, BAT is trying to have the works pulped ... more   Add a comment

Spider-Man turns back clock and winds up fans
Spider-Man fans are outraged that Marvel Comics has turned back time and dissolved the super-hero's marriage to Mary-Jane. While followers of the movies know the couple only as sweethearts, as far as comic book fans are concerned, Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson have been married for the past 21 years ... more   Add a comment

Muslim worker refuses to sell 'unclean' book
A Muslim store worker at Marks & Spencer refused to serve a customer buying a children's book on Christianity because she said it was "unclean" ... more   Add a comment

Bookshop to give away books
The Children's Bookshop in Edinburgh has launched an exciting new scheme to supply local schools with books Ė completely free of charge ... more   Add a comment

German experts crack Mona Lisa smile
German academics believe they have solved the centuries-old mystery behind the identity of the "Mona Lisa" in Leonardo da Vinci's famous portrait ... more   Add a comment

The lost archive
Missing for a half century, a cache of photos spurs sensitive research on Islam's holy text ... more   Add a comment

Buddy Holly's widow in fight to stop book
The widow of Buddy Holly, the late American rock and roll pioneer, is trying to prevent the woman made famous by her husband's hit song Peggy Sue from publishing a book about the music legend ... more   Add a comment

Businessman sees art, city sees graffiti
Seven weeks ago or so, rare-book dealer and Ypsilanti property owner Hedger Breed noticed a four-square-foot, stenciled graffiti piece spray painted on the side of his building at 117 Pearl St. It's done in two colors, with a red heart and, painted in black, a screaming figure with a gun pointed at his mouth. "In my opinion it's absolutely charming," Breed said, "in a gritty, urban sort of way." So Breed decided to leave it there, because he considers it art. The City of Ypsilanti disagrees ... more   Add a comment

Peter Pan house up for sale
The house where JM Barrie is believed to have written the children's story Peter Pan is up for sale today for £6.75m ... more   Add a comment

John Milton: the poet who gave us 'Star Trek' and 'The Matrix'
Without him nothing would be terrific, nobody would be sensuous, and we would never have gone into space. Those three words are among the many still in use that were invented by John Milton, author of Paradise Lost and second only to Shakespeare among English poets. This week, there is an unprecedented chance to see how his mind worked, when Cambridge University Library displays documents written by Milton rarely or never viewed by the public before ... more   Add a comment

Cartoons and Kit-Kats: the Giles archive
The Carl Giles collection - one of the most comprehensive compilations of any British cartoonist's work and life - has lain in Canterbury for a couple of years. Most of it has never been seen by the public ... more   Add a comment

Top shelves
Every booklover has their favourite shop, and while it's true that many independents have been driven out of business by online sales and supermarket bestsellers, you still don't have to look too hard to find one that's thriving. To prove it, Sean Dodson chooses the 10 bookshops from around the world which he considers to be the fairest of them all ... more   Add a comment

Microsoft to provide virtual access to Library of Congress
The new technology is designed to assist people who want to visit the library in person, said John Sampson, director of federal government affairs at Microsoft. Visitors to the Web site will be able to bookmark areas of interest, then use a bar code at the LOC's information kiosks that will point them to more information in person, he said ... more   Add a comment

The history of children's books
"There have been children's stories and folk-tales ever since man first learned to speak. Children's books, however, are a late growth of literature" ... more   Add a comment

Texas State acquires Cormac McCarthy papers
Texas State University in San Marcos announced Thursday it has acquired the papers of Cormac McCarthy, author of 11 violent but lyrical novels and widely considered one of the half-dozen finest living American writers ... more   Add a comment

Do you need to read books to be clever?
It's the National Year of Reading. Just as well, as one in four adults say they haven't read a book in at least a year. With so many other ways to get information these days, do we still need books? ... more   Add a comment

Smythe Historic Autograph Auction
New York - On Thursday, January 17, auctioneers RM Smythe & Co, Inc, will hold its live Winter Autograph Auction, presenting collectors and dealers with one of the most interesting selections of historic autographs in recent memory ... more   Add a comment

A treasure trove of books
As the row over the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to the North-East simmers on, the region can console itself with the fact that it is already home to a veritable treasure trove of the written and printed word ... more   Add a comment

Ted Hughes tops critics' league table
For those in a hurry to find last year's "must reads", Booktrust has obligingly boiled down the reviewers' books of the year into one handy league table. After totting up 1,600 recommendations, the independent reading charity has found that The Letters of Ted Hughes was the title most frequently chosen as book of the year by newspaper critics ... more   Add a comment

Are the old ones the best ones?
Some of the world's oldest travel guides have been updated for the 21st Century traveller. But how far would a 100-year-old edition get you on today's tourist trail? ... more   Add a comment

A 40-year love affair with lending literature
At the busy junction of Le Van Huu and Thi Sach, behind a faded green wooden door lies a small antiquated book store, a long-standing haunt of Ha Noiís book lovers ... more   Add a comment

£500,000 Grant To Restore Historic Derry & Raphoe Library
Over 5,000 volumes in the historic Derry and Raphoe Diocesan Library are to be restored and their contents made available to the public. The unique University of Ulster conservation and outreach initiative - funded by a grant of £500,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund - will take three and a half years to complete ... more   Add a comment

Books stolen by Nazis to be returned to Polish owners
The authorities of Nuremberg intend to return books stolen by the Nazis to their Polish owners or their heirs. According to the information of the municipal library, its archives still contain almost 10,000 such books ... more   Add a comment

The Marriott Library goes robotic
The University of Utah's main library has installed the largest automated book retrieval center in North America. The new robotic book storage and retrieval system holds 2 million books and frees up 80,000 square feet of prime library space ... more   Add a comment

A Cheltenham ladyís guide to teenage speak
An A-Z of Teen Talk, by 13-year-old Lucy van Amerongen, has been a surprise Christmas bestseller among baffled parents who struggle to understand their offspring ... more   Add a comment

Love that book? Then set it free
The idea behind is simple. You drop off a book in a public place. Or pick up one someone else left behind. Eventually the whole world becomes one big, free library. More than 600,000 people engage in "catch and release" missions worldwide ... more   Add a comment

Book market reflects mood, scars and resilience of Baghdad
Dusty books lie on flattened cardboard boxes on a sidewalk buried in litter and building debris. Their vendors hunch their shoulders and sip hot black tea to fend off the cold. What matters is that they're here. The revival of the Mutanabi Street book market is a microcosm of today's Baghdad ... more   Add a comment

Mailer archive opens to public
The University of Texas collection includes childhood writings, letters to other authors and unpublished short stories ... more   Add a comment

Academic tug-of-love over De Beauvoir legacy
She was the high priestess of 20th century French thought, the mother of modern feminism and a champion of sexual freedom who shocked Paris with her threesomes and passionate bisexual affairs.
    But as France begins a glittering celebration of the centenary of Simone de Beauvoir's birth next week, some academics have warned against the rush of debate and publications descending into prudish attacks on her deliberately outrageous sex life ... more   Add a comment

George MacDonald Fraser: 1925 - 2008
America never really understood George MacDonald Fraser's Victorian antihero, Harry Flashman. It's a sure sign he was a true Brit ... more   Add a comment

Comic books in the classroom
New York - Generations of children grew up reading comic books on the sly, hiding out from parents and teachers who saw them as a waste of time and a hazard to young minds. Comics are now gaining a new respectability at school. That is thanks to an increasingly popular and creative program, often aimed at struggling readers, that encourages children to plot, write and draw comic books, in many cases using themes from their own lives ... more   Add a comment

Bookshop owner seized for printing 'illegal' Bibles
A Christian bookshop owner has been arrested in China for printing unauthorised copies of the Bible. Police seized Shi Weihan, 37, the owner of Holy Spirit Trading Company, in the early hours from his home in the Chinese capital, Beijing. He is accused of conducting "illegal operations" and remains in custody, more than a month after his arrest ... more   Add a comment

Metropolitan Museum of Art acquires Diane Arbus archive
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has acquired the complete archive of Diane Arbus (1923-1971), the legendary American photographer known for her revelatory portraits of couples, children, nudists, carnival performers, and eccentrics ... more   Add a comment

Vendetta suspected in death of Sardinian poet
82-year-old Peppino Marotto, shot on Saturday, may have been victim of vendetta dating back half a century ... more   Add a comment

Ken Sanders: Pimp of the Printed Word
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the eponymous brick-and-mortar rare book store that bears Ken Sandersí name. In one form or another, Ken Sanders has been involved with books and the book business his whole life but the genesis from bibliophile to book seller is as interesting as, if not more so, any printed matter that Ken sells on his shelves ... more   Add a comment

Rowling 'may pen eighth Harry book'
JK Rowling has admitted to "weak moments" when she could agree to write another book in the Harry Potter series. But it is unlikely that young wizard Harry would feature as the main protagonist in an eighth novel, Rowling said, adding: "Let's give it 10 years" ... more   Add a comment

Heavyweight book becomes latest collector's item
Spare change left over from Christmas shopping and the sales? How about treating yourself to a very special book? Weighing in at 16kg with a price tag of more than £7,500, "New York" is the latest book to tap into a booming collector's market ... more   Add a comment

Literary Life
Madeleine Stern was a renowned antiquarian book dealer, but her most important discovery was not a book at all. It was a series of lurid stories, all published in gaudy popular journals, all written under a pseudonym, all by New Englandís fresh and hearty Louisa May Alcott ... more   Add a comment

Stolen maps find their way back to library's collection
More than 30 rare, antique maps stolen from the Boston Public Library by a Martha's Vineyard map dealer were returned to the library in 2007, library president Bernard Margolis said this week, part of the conclusion of an international scandal that rocked the staid world of map collecting ... more   Add a comment

The growing value of old books
Investing in books, says Warwick Jordan, is not unlike buying shares. "Not all books go up in value. Valuable books can go down over time - tastes change, collecting habits change. It's very similar to playing the stock market" ... more   Add a comment

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