Sunday, April 29, 2007

I am now officially a Bookseller

I just spent 3 hours this afternoon selling (or trying to sell) my paperback fiction books. My son decided he wanted to sell some of his books as well. He ended up playing at the park with Dad, while I manned the table. So for my first time out as a book seller, I sold exactly 5 of my books, and 2 of my sons - and made $3.00 total.

We just set a table up outside on the street. I wasn't too fussy about the prices - it's more important that I get rid of them as I have too many books. I was charging 50 cents for my books, and a quarter for the kids books.

Next time I think I will have more hard back books (going for $1) and more non-fiction books. Actually I enjoyed myself, just being able to sit in the sun (wearing a cap and suntan lotion) and reading a cheap novel.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Know-It-All - Interesting Facts from the Encyclopedia Britannica

Having finished Among the Gently Mad, I am now reading The Know-It-All. He's reading all 30 plus volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

I'm thinking AJ's book editor missed a factual error. It is the editors job to prove every fact as being correct, right? Anyway, under B for Bell on page 24, AJ writes, The worlds largest bell was built in 1733 in Moscow, and weighed in at more than four hundred thousand pounds.

Even I know that bells are not built - they are CAST!!! I think I might have learned that from one of my favourite movies. National Treasure starring Nicolas Cage and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Or I may have learned that many years ago when I was forced to learn about the American Revolution in my very boring high school history class.

Under B for Book on Page 26, AJ writes The United Nations defines a book as a text that is at least 49 pages long. If that is true - then what does one call all the childrens texts sitting on the shelves in my sons room? The vast majority of them are less than 49 pages. If they are not books - then what are they? I need to start training my 5 year old to call them by another name. Because the UN says they are not books anymore.

Among the Gently Mad by Nicholas Basbanes - Book Review

Well I finished the book Among the Gently Mad. Its the first Basbanes book I have actually finished and it was VERY interesting.

All sorts of interesting comments, and tips on how to collect. One thing I agreed with, was the idea that book collecting was an intellectual hobby. I always knew that I was smart (my IQ is around 125) but I made a few bad decisions, one of which was to not stay at college and do the History degree I have always wanted to do. Now I cannot afford to do a degree. And I am not about to go into debt by taking out a student loan.

Another idea that Basbanes mentioned was that it's ok to collect just what you are interested in, not necessarily what you think will be valuable.

My tastes at this time lean towards History of Science, Elizabethan era (especially the Shakespeare authorship debate), Books about Books, and the Byzantine Empire (330-1430). There are a few other smaller areas of interest, but those are my main ones.

I have very little interest in fiction - although I will read some historical and mystery/thriller type novels. There is one fiction series I would like to collect, and that is John Dunning's Bookman series. About a police officer in Colorado who retires and open a rarebook shop. But still finds himself involved in murders & homicides - usually involving books. I have one book in the series, have read 2 others from the library - but would like to collect & own all of them.

Chapter 4 is called Three Little Words. Those words at the beginning are Rarity, Scarcity & Value. None of which I would need to know about since I will never be able to afford those kinds of books - unless I win the lottery. By the end of the chapter, those 3 words had changed to Two Little Words - Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware). These words I will take heed of.

Chapter five mentions the categories of collecting. Now I know most of you probably already know these, but I'm writing these down for the record, and so I can learn them.

A Major works in Books or Pamphlets
B First Appearence in book form of short stories and poems as well as introductions written in other books
C All known work in Newspapers & Magazines (periodicals)
D Published works in translation
E Anthologies containing the authors works
F Published facsimiles of manuscripts & letters (why not try for the originals?)
G Books & Criticism written about the author
H Newspaper & Magazine articles written about the author

Chapter 7 is my favourite. Its theme is Research, Research, Research. I LOVE doing Research. Basbanes says, and I quote, At every opportunity I get, I like to hammer home my considered belief that the best collectors are the people who know their subjects as well or better than anyone else [...] Unless you are willing to do your homework - to become conversant with the literature in your chosen field, to learn the rudiments of bibliography, to read, for goodness sake - you are doomed to mediocrity.

This is why I think book collecting is an intellectual hobby. Because as a book collector, I cannot just mindlessly purchase books, place them on the shelf, and expect to make a nice big profit when I sell them 5 or 10 years later.

I've already been jolted out of this thinking when I decided it was time to sell my Star trek manuals a few weeks ago. I have 6 of them, and I figured the demand for them would be high, and that I might get maybe $80 if I put them up for auction on e-bay. I received quite a shock when I went looking on ebay to find that none of them were selling for more than $10 each, and most of them had a start price of below $5. Also there were lots and lots of them - so the supply seems to be higher than the demand. My spouse placed a 1986 Ford truck repair book up for auction and it went for $5. The shipping costs were $15.

I'm learning as fast as I can.

The Selected Bibiography at the back of this book was 10 pages of books about books and book collecting. Some of which I now really want to get.

The first book I need to get is John Carters ABC for Book Collectors (which I have read is the best beginners book around). Nicholas Basbanes says that the Ahearns (Allen & Patricia) will not even sell their Collected Books - The Guide to Values to anyone who has not done their basic homework.

I better get started. Thanks for the excellent tips Nick.

Know it All by AJ Jacobs & Among the Gently Mad by Nicholas Basbanes

I splurged on 2 more books yesterday. Since I have been (and am still) reading Players (about Shakespeare) and The Book Nobody Read (About Copernicus) over the last 2 weeks, I decided I needed some lighter reading material. Never mind the huge pile of books on my TBR shelves. I wanted to read something about books. So I splurged.

I started reading Among the Gently Mad last night - and am already past page 120. Its an easy book to read and there are some very good ideas about book collecting. Such as making up a database and keeping accurate records of all your books, and deciding early what subjects or specialities you want to collect in.

Oh yes and I now own all 5 of Nick's Books.
A Splendor of Letters
A Gentle Madness
Patience and Fortitude
Among the Gently Mad
Every Book Its Reader

This Antiquarian craze can really sneak up on you. Four months ago, I'd never heard of Nicholas Basbanes before.

I browsed through this book at the library a few weeks ago, but did not get it out. So now I have my own copy. I read the Wikipedia article, and my impression of Joe Queenan's bad review is simply this. Joe is jealous that he didnt think up the idea of reading the Encyclopedia Britannica all by himself. Or maybe Joe is jealous that someone else actually managed to finish reading the entire encyclopedia. I'll bet Joe tried and gave up after Volume A.

Here is AJ Jacobs website

And for some silly reason this Blog will not allow me to link to Wikipedia.

Memes - What Happened on my Birthday

I have seen a few of these MEMEs around, so I thought I would do one. Besides it helps to keep me awake at this early hour of the morning.

1. Go to Wikipedia and type in your birthdate, no year.
Mine is May 5 (Next Saturday)

2. List 5 or more important and interesting events.
553 - The Second Council of Constantinople begins.
(Was that the Gregorian or the Julian calendar?)
1260 - Kublai Khan becomes ruler of the Mongol Empire.
(Again - how accurate is this date?)
1862 - Cinco de Mayo in Mexico: Troops led by Ignacio Zaragoza halt a French invasion in the Battle of Puebla.
1877 - Indian Wars: Sitting Bull leads his band of Lakota into Canada to avoid harassment by the United States Army under Colonel Nelson Miles.
1891 - The Music Hall in New York (now known as Carnegie Hall) has its grand opening and first public performance, with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky as the guest conductor.
1916 - American marines invade the Dominican Republic.
1925 - Scopes Trial: John T. Scopes is served an arrest warrant for teaching evolution in violation of the Butler Act.
1936 - Italian troops occupy Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
1941 - Emperor Haile Selassie returns to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (This date has been since commemorated as Liberation Day)
1961 - Mercury program: Mercury-Redstone 3 – Alan Shepard becomes the first American to travel into space, making a sub-orbital flight of 15 minutes.

3. List at least 5 births.
1818 - Karl Marx, German political philosopher (d. 1883)
1826 - Empress Eugenie of France, wife of Napoleon III (d. 1920)
1926 - Ann B. Davis, American actress (from the Brady Bunch)
1942 - Marc Alaimo, American actor (Gul Dukat - on Star Trek Deep Space Nine)
1942 - Tammy Wynette, American musician (d. 1998) Did she stand by her man?
1943 - Michael Palin, British writer, actor, and comedian - AND TRAVELLER

4. List 3 or more Deaths.
1028 - King Alfonso V of Castile, León, and Galicia
1192 - Duke Ottokar IV of Styria (b. 1163)
1194 - King Casimir II of Poland (b. 1138)
1219 - King Leo II of Armenia (b. 1150)
1309 - King Charles II of Naples
1525 - Frederick III of Saxony (b. 1463)
1821 - Napoleon I of France (b. 1769)

5. List 3 Holidays or Observances.
Cinco de Mayo in Mexico (of course)
Albania: Martyrs' Day.
Denmark: Liberation Day (1945).
Ethiopia: Liberation Day (1941).
Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea and Taiwan (2006): Buddha's Birthday.

Birthday Party at Folger tomorrow - Reminder


Please read BiblioShakespeare for details

Little House on the Prairie

There was a blurb in my local paper yesterday about the Little House on the Prairie books first being published 75 years ago. The first book published in April 1932 was "Little House in the Big Woods." "Little House on the Prairie" was actually published in 1935.

Little House Books
Little House on the Prairie
Laura Ingalls Wilder

But the Native Americans say that Laura did not mention everything that happened.
Little Laura Ingalls, her sisters and their beloved Ma and Pa were illegal squatters on Osage land. She left that detail out of her 1935 children’s book, Little House on the Prairie, as well as any mention of ongoing outrages—including killings, burnings, beatings, horse thefts and grave robberies—committed by white settlers, such as Charles Ingalls, against Osages living in villages not more than a mile or two away from the Ingalls’ little house.
Books to Avoid

There are a number of new books that have been added to the series. "The Girls of Little House" series chronicles the stories of the women in Laura's family. These include her daughter Rose, her mother Caroline, and also Caroline's mother and grandmother as well.

Old Town in the Green Groves
The Girls of Little House
I love genealogy. I really must try and read these books.
Martha's Books
Charlotte's Books
Caroline's Books
Rose's Books

Laura wrote a number of other books as well as the popular Little House Series.
On the Way Home
West from Home
A Little House Traveler

Friday, April 27, 2007

New First Folio Published

New First Folio Published in UK

See my Shakespeare Blog - BiblioShakespeare - for details

Sacred Texts Exhibition at British Library

Sacred texts that reveal a common heritage

British Library exhibition celebrates the links between three monotheistic faiths

For the first time, the oldest and most precious surviving texts of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths have gone on display side by side at the British Library.

They include a tattered scrap of a Dead Sea Scroll and a Qur'an commissioned for a 14th-century Mongol ruler of modern Iran who was born a shaman, baptised a Christian, and converted first to Buddhism, then Sunni and finally Shia Islam.

British Library

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Library of Congress announces a new Blog

Courtesy of the AHA Blog comes some interesting news - The Library of Congress announced [on] Monday that in celebration of its 207th birthday on April 24th, it was launching the Library of Congress blog. Matt Raymond, the director of communications at the LOC, will be the main writer on the blog, but some posts will come from James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, along with other curators at the institution.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fine Books & Collections and Connoiseur Magazines

My very first copy of Fine Books Magazine arrived in the mail today. It is of course the May/June 2007 issue featuring Antique Miniature Books. I have not been so wowed by a magazine since reading Connoisseur Magazine back in the 1980s and early 1990s.

I loved the Connoisseur magazine. Since I couldnt afford to buy them, I always used to borrow them from my local public library. For those of you who may remember that magazine, it was about Art & Antiques, and the editor (at the time I was reading it) was Thomas Hoving.

I met Mr Hoving for the first time in the pages of his excellent book "King of the Confessors". I fell in love with art history courtesy of this book. I have loved maps since I was a child, and now I have come full circle by adding antiquarian books to the list as well.

I do remember seeing a few antique map advertisements in Connoiseur, so there were probably some antiquarian bookseller ads in there as well. Then the library stopped stocking it. I'm still wondering what happened to Connoiseur.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Grand Complication by Allen Kurzweil - Book Review

The Hero of this story is Alexander Short, a Reference Librarian at the New York Public Library. Alexander's job is to mostly take "call slips" from members of the public who request books from the stacks. He does a few other jobs as well such as telephones and the front desk, depending on the senior Librarian's mood. And because Alex is not a conservator, he is banned from the Conservation Room.

He has a number of quirks, one of which is collecting call slips with interesting examples of penmanship. Another quirk is "Girdling" - a notebook on a string tied to his wrist or his jacket - in which he jots down (in an old form of shorthand) anything that he thinks is unusual. He also likes enclosures and mechanical things such as timepieces.

One day he is asked by an elegant man (Henry James Jesson III) with very elegant penmanship on the call slip, to retrieve a book from the stacks called the Secret Compartments in Eighteenth Century Furniture. It is a book on false fronts and secret recesses.

Alexander is drawn into Jesson's desire to find the object that was once housed in a drawer of a small glassfronted display box. The object turns out to be a timepiece. But not just any timepiece. The Queen. The Marie Antoinette. One of a kind.

The only trouble was, Marie Antoinette never got to hold her watch because it was not completed until after she was beheaded. The watch later ended up in a Museum in Jerusalem. In 1983 it was stolen from the museum and has never been seen or heard of since. The book goes into a lot of detail (too much detail in my opinion) over the theft from the Museum, how it was done, and why other vandalism was done at the same time.

Jesson's all consuming desire to find the watch affects Alex, and thus begins to affect Alex's marriage as well. Anyway, Alexander eventually discovers that he has been manipulated by Jesson into finding the watch, and he turns the tables on Jesson, and walks away to save his marriage.

The entire story was a search for a magnificant watch. The background was the New York City Public Library. I loved all the Library details. The ending was somewhat of a disappointment. Never mind that the watch has never been found for real. I would have liked Alex to have found it.

Review 1

Review 2

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Something About Me Reading Challenge

The first Reading Challenge I joined was the Non Fiction Challenge, (to read 5 non-fiction books in 5 months) which starts May 1st.

There are some more new Challenges available to choose from.
Just read the Reading Challenge to keep up to date.

The second Reading Challenge I will be joining is the Something About Me challenge.

This challenge will start on August 1st, 2007. To join, you will choose up to 5 books that represent you in some way...

Now which 5 books do I think represent me in some way?
This choice might be harder than I thought. But I have some time yet.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Oh Dear - I Splurged on more Books this week

I spent $30 on more books this week. They were mostly historical novels.
Modern first editions I guess you could call them. Here's the list.

The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease
The Grand Complication by Allen Kurzweil
The Good Men: A Novel of Heresy by Charmaine Craig
My Father Had a Daughter by Grace Tiffany
The Floating Book by Michelle Lovric
God's Secret Agents by Alice Hogge

I've already finished the Grand Complication. Will post a review over the weekend.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Modern Book Collecting

A rather interesting story about the pros and cons of collecting Computer Manuals and other IT related books. (April 2005)

Forget stamps and coins, computer manuals are what's catching on

On the other hand - maybe not.

Net history sold cheap at Christie's

Monday, April 16, 2007

Warmly Inscribed by Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone - Book Review

Warmly Inscribed
By Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone
Published St Martin's Press 2002

I read this book over Friday and Sunday, because I left the other book I was reading at work. I really enjoyed it.

I LOVED the detailed descriptions of the Library of Congress and the Folger Shakespeare Library. I also enjoyed the stories of the NY Antiquarian Book Fair and the New England forger.

For a beginning collector such as I am, I found this to be very easy to read and a very educational book.

And while some people think that the mentions of meals and passing acquaintences and teddy bears and the writers 8-year-old daughter was somewhat over the top, I had no problem with them at all. In fact I appreciated the Goldstones being enlightened parents and willing to take their daughter with them, on their trip to Washington DC.

This is the third book by this couple.
Now I simply must go out and find the first two books.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Non Fiction Challenge - The Final List

I posted two lists of books at the end of March for the Non-Fiction Challenge. Of the original 11 books - I have dropped two because I have already read them, and another two because they are too big.

Which leaves 7 books - I'm sure I can read all 7 books in the 5 months of this challenge.

So this is my final list - those books I will not start until May 1st.

The Queen's Slave Trader (Queen Elizabeth I & John Hawkyns)
The Ambassadors (history of diplomacy and exploration)
A Perfect Red (history of the colour RED)
Old Books Rare Friends (Antiquarian Book sellers in NYC)
The Map that changed the world (Geology)
Improper pursuits (Bio of the First Lady Diana Spencer)
American Jezebel (Bio of the Founder of Rhode Island State)

First List I posted

Second List I posted

Time Was Soft There - Book Review

Time Was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer
(UK - Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs)

I read this book in one day - today. Being a Saturday - I seldom get time to do much reading, let alone an entire book. But this book is about 2 things I love - Books and Paris!! And to make things even better - the Author is a Canadian!!!

"Hard time goes slowly and painfully and leaves a man bitter.... Time at Shakespeare and Company was as soft as anything I'd ever felt."

When I first spotted this book on the shelves, I was attracted to the books on the cover. Any books about books will catch my interest. I read the blurb and the back cover, and thought Shakespeare & co bookshop in Paris. I remember reading about that shop, but I thought that was old, back before the war. So I figured this a biography of the shop when all the famous authors were there, before the war. I believe I read that the Montmartre district (arrondisement?) was called "Bohemian Paris".

Well it turns out I was only partly right. I was right about the Bookshop before the war and the famous authors and the Bohemian era. What I had not known was the bookshop had been started up again (by George Whitman) during the sixties, and was still going strong in the new millenium.

I loved the descriptions of Paris. The out-of-the-way places that most people dont get to see. I was somewhat disconcerted to read about the run-down state of the building - inside and outside. I was horrified to read about George's lack of security, his blase attitude to money, and the numerous thefts.

George Whitman (the owner) definitely did not have a head for business. Despite being a communist as he claimed, I think he wore his heart on his sleeve, and allowed everyone to walk all over him. While reading the early part of the book, I was thinking, I must go visit this bookshop, if I ever get to Paris. About two thirds of the way through, I was thinking, if its still that run down and non-secured, I think I will stay away. But in the last chapter, I was cheered to read about the improvements to the shop, after George's daughter Sylvie took over as Manager.

The problem is that George wanted to live in a socialist and utopian society. Where money means nothing and everyone helps everyone else. The real world just does not work that way. I don't much like the real world either. I often wish I was born 100 years earlier so that I could grow up in the late 1800's and early 1900s, and see the beginnings of the technological & industrial society that now consumes us.

Even if I have never been Paris, maybe I already do know what a bookshop like Shakespeare & Co feels like. I used to spend hours in a similar shop near my home back in New Zealand. It's called The Hard to Find, but Worth the Effort second hand book shop. They have 10 rooms in what used to be a 3-storey house, all jam-packed with books. And while the owners do not allow people to sleep there, it does have a bathroom.

Anyway, this book was more about the people, and not the books. I was disappointed that there was not more mentions of Book titles. I would have loved more details on the rare books being sold in the "antiquarian room".

But that's just me. I am more of a Books person, and less of a People person.

So, here are 3 more reviews on this book, plus Jeremy's own website.

Review 1

Review 2

Jeremy Mercer

Review 3

PS To those who still dont know what the title refers to - "Soft time" refers to time spent in medium and & minimum security jails. Where inmates often have access to TV, books, computers, the internet and sometimes even distance education. Hard time is usually time spent in maximum security jails.

Friday, April 13, 2007

ABAA, West Side Loft, and PADA Book Fairs NYC

I don't know how many people read this blog - probably not too many - but I got an email today, and I thought I would pass it on.

New York City will be bustling with books next weekend as three important book-related fairs get underway, including the ABAA New York Antiquarian Book Fair, on Friday, April 20. Fine Books & Collections hopes you'll have an opportunity to attend, and we hope you will stop by our table to see us.

For hours, locations, and a preview of some of the treasures for sale at all three fairs, we have posted a special preview section from the May/June issue of Fine Books:

New York Book Fairs April 19-22, 2007

One Note: The West Side Loft Book Fair will be held in the Arts Building (W. 37th, near 8th Ave.) on Saturday and Sunday. A shuttle will run between the ABAA show and the Arts Building. The PADA show will be held on Sunday at the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel at the south end of Central Park.

Author Nicholas Basbanes will be signing books on Friday, April 20, at our table at the ABAA fair from noon to 2:00 p.m. His latest book, Every Book Its Reader, will be available for sale.

I wish I could be there just to see Nicolas Basbanes, but that is just not possible right now. And I am still waiting for my first issue of Fine Books magazine to show up. I paid for a subscription at least 4 weeks ago. I know, I know, the email said to wait between 3 & 12 weeks. So I will hurry up and wait patiently.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

Shortlist for the 2007 Man Booker Prize

...three Canuck [Canadian] authors - Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje - are among 15 contenders for the 2007 Man Booker International Prize, which honours fiction writers for their entire body of work.

The 15 authors on the list are:
Chinua Achebe
Margaret Atwood
John Banville
Peter Carey
Don DeLillo
Carlos Fuentes
Doris Lessing
Ian McEwan
Harry Mulisch
Alice Munro
Michael Ondaatje
Amos Oz
Philip Roth
Salman Rushdie
Michel Tournier

Man Booker Website

Kurt Vonnegut dies

I never read this author, but I am just reporting the news. April 12, 2007

New York Times

Kurt Vonnegut, whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Cat’s Cradle” and “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation, died last night in Manhattan. He was 84 and had homes in Manhattan and in Sagaponack on Long Island.

Sydney Morning Herald

Counterculture idol Kurt Vonnegut has died at his home in Manhattan, aged 84.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Courtesans and Art

"I thought, 'Who else could she be but a courtesan?' Now work being done on Titian's letters shows we're pretty certain she was."

The Venus Of Urbino inspired Fiammetta Bianchini, the talented, high-class prostitute in Dunant's latest historical novel, In The Company Of The Courtesan.

In the Company of the Courtesan - Sydney Morning Herald Review.

I love Art History. I love reading Books about Art, Art History and Art Mysteries.
My favourite painters are the Flemish & Dutch painters such as Rubens, Rembrandt and Vermeer. But I also like some of the Italian painters like Titian, Caravaggio and Canaletto, and lastly my favourite Impressionist is Renoir. And of course Leonardo is in there as well, but he's more of a scientist, engineer & inventor rather than a painter, but his paintings are brilliant as well.

I've noticed a number of other books about courtesans on the shelves, which means that of course they are a hot topic. It probably comes out of the success of the Novel Memoirs of a Geisha, since Geisha are sort of like courtesans as well, even if they were not actually at court.

I read once that Courtesans were more like escorts rather than actual prostitutes. They were educated, could read, write, play music and dance, usually knew enough about the topics of the day to hold a decent conversation, and in general just helped the men to relax without actually being intimate. That is my understanding of what a Courtesan was. It turns out I was right.

The closest modern equivalent is the geisha, she [Sarah Dunant] says. "Courtesans play musical instruments, they read poetry, discuss politics and love sonnets, and they also deliver in the bedroom - they have a great portfolio."

Dunant, an award-winning thriller writer and creator of private detective Hannah Wolfe, switched to historical novels in 2004 with The Birth Of Venus, set in Renaissance Florence.

In The Company Of The Courtesan, her second novel in this period, follows Fiammetta and her companion, the dwarf Bucino, as they flee the 1527 sacking of Rome to begin again in the decadent metropolis of Venice.

I also have had sitting on my hard-drive (for quite some time now) a picture of Titian's daughter Lavinia. I've been waiting for the right time to use it, and I think the time is now. This was painted in 1561.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

De viribus quantitatis (On the Powers of Numbers)

I came across some very exciting news today. The world's oldest magic text - De Viribus Quantitatis - has now finally been translated into English.

AFTER lying almost untouched in the vaults of an Italian university for 500 years, a book on the magic arts written by Leonardo da Vinci's best friend and teacher has been translated into English for the first time.

The world's oldest magic text, De viribus quantitatis (On the Powers of Numbers), was penned by Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan monk who shared lodgings with da Vinci.

It was written in Italian by Pacioli between 1496 and 1508 and contains the first ever reference to card tricks as well as guidance on how to juggle, eat fire and make coins dance. It is also the first work to note that da Vinci was left-handed.
Pacioli was born in Tuscany in 1445 and was a travelling mathematics tutor. He is often called the father of modern accountancy because his book The Summa (1494) contains the first published description of double-entry book-keeping, accountancy's basic technique.

He lived with da Vinci in Milan from 1496 for several years and taught maths and geometry to the painter, scientist and inventor. They collaborated on many projects.

In the magic book, Pacioli explains a technique for writing in code, which may have been inspired by da Vinci, whose left-handedness meant he sometimes wrote backwards, making the words decipherable only with the use of a mirror.
The translation of De viribus quantitatis will be published next year to coincide with its 500th anniversary. Until then, Da Vinci aficionados and aspiring magicians will have to be content with visiting the Conjuring Arts Research Centre where a copy will be kept.

The Guardian

I cant wait to see pictures of the original - especially the Title page. I've never heard of this Luca fellow, nor did I know that he invented the double bookkeeping system. If you didn't already know, I am a huge fan of Leonardo Da Vinci. Have been since, well, forever, and especially since he sometimes visited the Starship Voyager on TV. LOL

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Shakespeare again - an update

I've decided to move all my Shakespeare musings and links to a new blog. It's called - BiblioShakespeare. There is a link in the Sidebar.

Biblio Historia will continue to be about History and Biography books which is what I originally intended to write about. Oh, and Antiquarian Books as well.

The Shakespeare authorship debate is just too big to be part of this blog.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Preservation versus Conservation

With all this blogging about Antiquarian Books, and what exactly constitutes a rare book, I was thinking, that I dont need to touch the original books to appreciate them. I just love looking at them.

One thing that Annie Tremmel Wilcox wrote in her book was "Simply put, preservation is the attempt to save the intellectual content of books, while conservation is the attempt to save both the intellectual content and its vehicle..."

I actually own quite a few antiquarian books already - but they are preserved on CD-ROM as pdf texts. I purchase these from a business called Archive CD Books.

If you scroll down the above link, you will see that there are 6 branches - UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Ireland & Holland. Most of the books these people scan to CD are related to genealogy. Records such as census records, telephone directories etc.

But they also scan old history books as well. I've got several antiquarian English books on CD, dating back to the 1700s. I still get a lot of enjoyment out of them, as I get the thrill of reading an ancient book with all the original calligraphy and typesetting, and the original illustrations as well.

Since most of my ancestors came from the County of Devon in England, I have purchased a number of books relating to the city of Exeter.

Books such as:

Gleanings from the Municipal & Cathedral Records relative to the History of the city of Exeter - published in 1877

Remarkable Antiquities of the City of Exeter - published in 1741

Hoker's Description and Account of Exeter - published in 1765

Civil and Ecclesiastical History of Exeter - published in 1841

and History of the City of Exeter - published in 1861.
And this book also contains a City map of Exeter dated 1617.

I'm very happy with purchasing antiquarian books in this manner, because I know that I will probably never be able to afford to buy the original books. But I still get the same enjoyment as someone who collects the original book.

To me the intellectual content is more important that the vehicle. As long as the intellectual content is a faithful copy (or facsimile) of the original. If I was reading a modern edition, I don't think I would get quite the same enjoyment.

Please excuse me using the Canadian catalogue, but that is the one I buy my CDs from. All shops have access to all the same Books on CD. And anyone can purchase a CD from any shop.

Audio Books

As I have been reading around the book blogs, I have seen a number of bloggers mentioning that they are "listening to books" as opposed to reading books. I assume this means the bloggers are actually listening to audio books (or books on tapes).

Now please do not take the following personally, as it is just my opinion.

I personally do not like listening to audio tapes. Something in me (personally) says this is cheating, and that one does not get the same pleasure from the words as you would when you are reading. Now I do realise that some people are naturally auditory rather than visual, but still, a book is made to be read, more than spoken.

The other reason I do not listen to audio books is that I am hard of hearing, which means I frequently miss words or I miss accents, nuances and so on. I have enough trouble trying to cope with the telephone or the TV in my everyday life without voluntarily adding books to the issue.

And listening to an audio book while driving is not very safe or practical. One moment of concentrating on the audio and not the road, and you can be involved in an accident.

OK - you can call me biased if you like, but that's why I am a STRICTLY a reader and not a listener of books.

Newsy Book items

Number one - the latest on the Massey University Book Thefts. An item from the NZ Herald.
Stolen books list - prices in NZ$ Prices realised at auction: Total: $23,310.

* A Missionary Voyage to the Southern Pacific, performed in the years 1796, 1797, 1798 in the ship Duff commanded by Captain James Wilson. Anon, $1000.

* The Art Album of New Zealand Flora, Mr & Mrs Edward H. Featon, $800 (recovered).

* The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage of HM Discovery ships Erebus and Terror (Vol 1: Flora Antarctica), in the years 1839-1843, Joseph Hooker, $9000.

* The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage of HM Discovery ships Erebus and Terror in the years 1839 to 1843 (Part II: Flora Novae Zelandiae), $5400.

* The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage of HM Discovery ships Erebus and Terror in the years 1839-1843 (Part III: Flora Tasmania), $7000 (recovered).

* An Elementary Manual of New Zealand Entomology: Being the study of our Native Insects, G.V. Hudson, $110.

Thanks to Philiobiblos for keeping me up to date.
Despite being from NZ, I really dont read the Herald as often as I should, but I left NZ over 6 years ago.

Number two - I have started another blog called Historia's Books. Its going to be my picture file, and will be showing mainly pictures of books, title pages and so on. A link to my new blog is in the sidebar.

And lastly, I am still working on the glossary about Book Binding for Annie's Book, mentioned a few days ago. I have found a number of excellent book binding links and will be posting them soon.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

I love Antiquarian Books

The Book Nobody Read - Complete Review

I love Antiquarian Books. I love the look of them. I would probably love the feel of them too except that I have never SEEN a real antiquarian book, let alone touched one. But I have seen tons of pictures of them. I have never purchased such a book either - those prices are just so expensive. If I could afford to buy them, you can bet your bottom dollar I would be buying the original books. But instead I have to settle for buying other books that are written about antiquarian books instead.

The Book Nobody Read is one such book.

Its all about one very famous book published around 1543. De revolutionibus By Nicholas Copernicus. Here's the English version of De revolutionibus for those who are interested.

Aaaah the Internet is such a wonderful thing. Without it I would not see, read about or even be aware of most of these ancient books that are carefully preserved in vaults, libraries and other private collections. And if one follows the links, one can find some very interesting information.

Hey I just found two books about Tycho Brahe. Another Renaissance Scientist.

One book is called On Tycho's Island by John Robert Christianson. And the other is Tycho & Kepler by Kitty Ferguson. There is another book called Kepler's Witch - but I already have that one. Most of these are biographies, but the source documents the authors use are the original books that these scientists wrote. And usually there are pictures of these original books included as well. Thats why I collect these biographies.

If you haven't figured it out, I love of the History of Science. And to get to the real history, one must read the original documents. Thats something I learned in my Genealogy class. Always find the source (or primary) documents. They are far more reliable, and valuable than a secondary source.

Oh yes I LOVE Antiquarian Books.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

A BookBinding Glossary - Introduction

A Degree of Mastery: A Journey through Book Arts Apprenticeship
By Annie Tremmel Wilcox

I finished reading this book today - took about two days. For me, that is slow. It's a very slim book, barely 200 pages. Just 5 chapters. Usually I would have finished reading it in just one afternoon & evening, but the job and the family do have to take priority. So I read it when I could - on the bus to & from my job, during my lunch break, and in bed before I fell asleep.

I found a small Glossary (3 pages) which explains a number of words quite clearly. It even has some photos. So my glossary will just concentrate on those terms that Annie uses which are not on this list.

Also, here is a Book Binding Tutorial from the University of Iowa's Center for the Book. The same University where Annie did her Apprenticeship.

And lastly The Book is a short history of bookbinding, paper making and other related book arts. Just click the links at the bottom of the page.

Call this my spring project. A personal foray into the world of book binding. Hopefully, I might be able to do a fair amount of work on this project over Easter.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Book Thief - Times Two

The Book Thief By Markus Zusak

Liesel is 10 when she moves in with foster parents Rosa and Hans Hubermann. She, of course, is the book thief of the title, and the books she steals — from the cemetery where her brother is buried, from a Nazi bonfire and from the mayor's library — are symbolic of her struggle to understand the horrors of war. Across the ensuing years of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen books as well as a peculiar set of friends.

Everyone has been raving about this novel. I'm sorry to go against the flow, but it does not appeal to me at all. Mainly because it is set in Germany before World War 2, and I am sick and tired of WW2 being thrust in my face every day. WW2 is over, done with and finished. Many things were stolen in that war - Books, Artworks, Dreams, Lives and Innocence. Things that we mourned over, and put behind us. And some of us moved on with our lives. Some of us have not. Most of us alive today were not even born when the last war ended. So why must we be continually be reminded of things that were stolen 60 years ago? Why should I care?

The Book Thief - The True Crimes of Daniel Spiegelman By Travis McDade

But I do care about what is being stolen today. I care that more and more of our art, music, stories and dreams are being ignored or are now deemed as no longer important. Thats where the second The Book Thief comes in. This story is also about Books being stolen. Not just any books, but rare books, old books, books from our past, books about our past. History Books.

HISTORY. Our History. Human history. History is supposed to be able to teach us what we did wrong back then, so we dont make the same mistake now. For some reason Man does not seem to want to learn that lesson. Books were stolen in the last war. Will more books be stolen when the next war starts?

Thanks also to Philobiblos for bringing this book to my attention.

A Degree of Mastery - Book Review

A Degree of Mastery: A Journey through Book Arts Apprenticeship
By Annie Tremmel Wilcox

Although I am still reading this book, I wanted to mention how much in awe I am of this author, her mentor, and anyone else who has ever worked or trained as a bookbinder.

Right from page 1, Annie jumps into the nitty gritty of how to bind a book. Interspersed with those details, is her story of the apprenticeship she did under William Anthony.

Bill Anthony was considered to be the foremost Bookbinder and Book Conservationist of the 20th century in America.

There is so much detail and jargon in this book, I found the first few pages a little overwhelming. But by page 45, I was getting used to it. But still, a Glossary or an Index would have been very useful. So I think I will make a glossary of my own.

After a little more digging, I found an online bookbinding magazine. While it is still fairly new, it certainly looks interesting. The Bone Folder

I will be publishing some posts of the jargon/words and tools that Annie uses in her book, as I find them. Hopefully, I can find some pictures to use as illustrations as well.

A new home for my books & other news

It's spring cleaning time.

For the last 6 years since we moved to this apartment, my books have been piling up in boxes and bags on the floor of my bedroom. With a small path to the dresser & closet. Yesterday I acquired a large cupboard and I spent last night moving some of my books to their new home. It was wonderful to rediscover old books I had forgotten about, and find others that I still have not read. It was also time to get rid of those I don't want to keep, mostly novels, and other books in bad condition.

I've been thinking about the Non Fiction Five Challenge. Since it does not officially start until next month, I may need to change my official list. Will keep you posted.

A couple of newsy items - one is about a new novel based on a "lost play" by Shakespeare. The novel is called Air and Shadows. Looks rather interesting. I think I will keep an eye out for it to read.

The other new item that Philobiblos has commented on, is the sentencing of a Rare Book Librarian from Massey University in New Zealand. She stole several rare books from the Library and sold them. Apparently two of them have been recovered. So now I'm trying to track down the titles of the books she stole.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Journeys of Socrates by Dan Millman - Review

How many of you remember the Peaceful Warrior books by Dan Millman? They were written a long time ago - around 1982 I think. In 2005, Dan finally published the prequel to the Peaceful Warrior series. The story of his mentor Socrates - who turned out to be his great grandfather.

The Journeys of Socrates is the story of Sergei Ivanov, in Czarist Russia during the time of Tsar Alexander and the beginning of Tsar Nicholas II. Sergei's father was a Russian Cossack Militiaman, his mother was Jewish. One day Sergei's older brother Sasha fell off the roof of the family house and died. The shock also killed his mother who was expecting Sergei at the time. Sergei was born by an emergency caesarian section. The last thing the mother said before she died was to request that the baby be raised by her parents. Sergei's father did what she asked and sent him to live with his Jewish grandparents. 3 years later, the father changed his mind and ordered Sergei to be sent to a Military school. Sergei spent the next 12 years there. At age 15, he ran away. The story of Sergei's journeys over the next 25 years around Russia amidst a changing political world, and how those events shaped his being, is a fascinating story.

More choices for the Non Fiction Challenge

OK so I have had another look at my Non-Fiction choices, and maybe two of them qualify for the Chunkster Challenge - A Gentle Madness (over 500 pages) & Shakespeare by Another Name (over 600 pages). So I am going to add a few alternates, just in case I am not able to finish all the original choices.

History of the colour RED

The Memoirs of two Antiquarian Booksellers in New York City.

The story of the first Geology Map and how it was made.

Did you know there was another Lady Diana Spencer?
This is the story of the first one.

The history of the Jigsaw Puzzle

The Biography of Anne Hutchinson - and the first Pilgrims.
Anne was a major player in the founding of the State of Rhode Island.