Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Story of Topsy.

The Story of Topsy: Little Lonely of Central Asia by Mildred Cable and Francesca French.  Hardcover published in 1937 by Hodder and Stoughton.

Whenever I see the words “Mildred”, “Cable”, “Francesca” and “French” in very quick succession, I get a little excited (not Tom Cruise jumping up and down on the couch excited… just a little excited).  These two lovely ladies were Christian missionaries in China in the early 20th century.  They wrote various books about their travels, some books about religion/missionary work in China and even managed to scribble out a few childrens books.  It’s the travel books that are of interest to me and are the reason for my excitement.  I have actually read one of their books (Through Jade Gate And Central Asia) and despite it being a few years ago, I remember very clearly that it was a great read and despite their stopping off to pray a little too often for my tastes, they were very interesting women having a very interesting time at a very interesting time in Central Asia.  

This book unfortunately, appears to not be as interesting as the book I read.  When I write “not be as interesting” I am of course giving my humble uninformed opinionated opinion and I’m willing to admit that I may be wrong (go on tell me I’m wrong).  I haven’t read the book and to be honest, if I had read the blurb a little more closely, I possibly would not have picked this book up… Topsy was a Mongolian girl adopted by Mildred and the book according to the dust jacket is a sequel to another book about Topsy entitled “Something Happened”.  Topsy… somehow I don’t think that it’s a name of Mongolian origin and why you would name someone after a rabbit, I don’t know (sounds like a rabbit name to me) ...again I may be wrong, Topsy may be a very traditional Mongolian name.  Skimming very quickly through the book, it appears to be written for children.  So I made a judgement call when I found it and in hindsight I think it was a mistake.  Travel books... good, religious conversion of Mongolian girls written for younger readers… not so good.  I will still list it on ebay and it will be cheap… you never know something may happen.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bow Wow Wow!: Fetching Costumes for Your Fabulous Dog

Bow Wow Wow!: Fetching Costumes for Your Fabulous Dog by Cathie Filian.

Here is what the publishers blurb has to say:
“Halloween is a great time to turn Fido and Polly into adorable witches, vampires, and biker babes. But these costumes are so special you’ll also find many other occasions for dressing up your best friend. Does Moo-Shu long to be a deep-sea pirate? Is Snowflake a Beverly Hills Valley Girl at heart? Santa Baby is perfect for Christmas, and the French Maid will bring out smiles on Valentine’s Day. With these easy-to-make patterns, you can create amazing dog costumes that will turn heads and get tails wagging! Don’t sew or have limited time? There are several simple and fun no-sew projects.”

I don’t have much to say about this title.  I think the images say it all. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Victoria: A Camera Study by Frank Hurley

Victoria: A Camera Study by Frank Hurley.  Hardcover book published by John Sands 1956.

Frank Hurley… does he need an introduction?  (Antarctic, WWI, WWII, Australia etc.).  Out of work (war was over, the north and south pole conquered), and with camera, he went and photographed Australia and published numerous books and booklets of his photographs.  I recently sold a booklet of his photographs of Queensland and another which had his Antarctic snaps, demonstrating that  Frank is still popular after all these years.

But I don’t want to talk about Frank, I want to talk about the dust jacket of this book.  I can see your eyes glazing over and I can tell your starting to think about something on youtube… come back, this is interesting.  The question here is whether to keep the dust jacket or throw it away (…ok, some of you may want to go back to youtube).  I take great pride in my written descriptions.  If people aren’t holding the book in their hands they need to know everything about the condition of the book… there should be no suprises when a book arrives in the mail. 

“The dust jacket is in poor condition.  There is wear to the edges (creasing, scuffing, large rips to the front top edge as well as some small rips and chips elsewhere), corners (scuffing, small rips) and to the top and bottom of the spine (creasing, scuffing and small rips).  There is some shelf wear overall as well as some scuffs and marks.”

That’s the description I’ve written for the dust jacket of this book.  Sounds bad doesn’t it.  Here’s the description of the cover:

“The cover is in very good condition.  There is some minor wear to the edges (some slight fading to the bottom edges, and to the top and bottom of the spine.  There are some minor marks and scuffs only.”

Me personally, I want the second book not the first one, it sounds a lot nicer.  The easy answer to this issue is of course to throw the dust jacket away and just describe the cover.  Dust jackets were originally designed to protect the book for a short period of time and then be discarded, but over time this has changed and at some point in the 20th century the dust jacket took on its own special place in book buying and collecting (  A collector with a choice of dust jacket or no dust jacket will usually choose the dust jacket.  There are those who regardless of the condition of the dust jacket discard it.  Indeed, some lovely fellow booksellers (Fully Booked in High St Thornbury), have even had a customer comment on the lack of necessity to put a removable plastic cover over a dust jacket as they always throw the dust jacket and plastic away, regardless of the book.  So why leave the dust jacket on?  Well the reason is of course possible $ (am I blunt enough)… and if the customer wants to discard the dust jacket then so be it, they can do it.  Occasionally I don’t even consider keeping the dust jacket, particularly if I think it’s the contents and information that a buyer wants to purchase rather than the collectable item or if the dust jacket is in completely unacceptable condition, but in this instance Frank “is still popular” and desirable (he did sell), therefore the dust jacket stays.  How collectable and valuable this dust jacket and book actually are, is another matter completely. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Lebanese Kitchen by Abla Amad.

The Lebanese Kitchen by Abla Amad.  Paperback book published by Viking 2001.

Oh yes, I love Lebanese food.  I am very fortunate to have eaten at Abla’s restaurant in Melbourne, so when I saw this cookbook, I knew what I was getting.  The publishers blurb on the back cover reads, “A meal is a shared experience: an abundance of dishes, lots of courses…”.  The last time I ate at Abla’s I was whipped into submission by an over abundance of food.  Yep, there were courses that despite their incredible appearance, smell and overall appeal, were not able to pass these lips… not even a small taste.  Too much food… seriously too much food.  Even now after 7 years, I quiver with the sad thought of the table being cleared of plates filled with food.  This experience was so distressing that I have never returned.  So what was the food that I did eat like?  It was excellent, truly memorable dishes of the highest quality.  This cookbook could be the answer to this problem, just cook what you and or your guests, can reasonably eat.  Don’t get me wrong, try the restaurant, it is memorable and delicious… and then try the recipes in reasonable quantity at home. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fitzroy: Melbourne’s First Suburb.

Fitzroy: Melbourne’s First Suburb by Cutten History Committee of the Fitzroy History Society.

Fitzroy, for anyone who doesn’t live in or doesn’t know Melbourne very well, is an inner suburb of Melbourne, Victoria.  It has history and by Australian standards quite a lot of it and this book is 354 pages of it.  Local histories overall seem to do quite well on line (…this means they sell).  I know that I personally have searched, found and bought a book on line, about a suburb of Melbourne that I lived in for many years.  At the time of wanting a history (any history) of this area i figured that if I went looking for something so specific in bookshops, new or secondhand, I would have buckleys of finding anything and sure enough after searching on line, a bookseller close by had a title for me (strangely it was in Fitzroy… Pamela Bakes).  Country town histories smaller and larger (towns and histories) often get quite a bit of interest on ebay (…this means they sell)  … from my experience it seems that larger cities get slightly less interest.  This book is a good example.  The current Abe price on this title is between $230 and $290 Australian… so I ask myself why didn’t my copy sell for the $79.50 I had it listed for on ebay.  This was the second time I had it listed, the first time was for $99.50.  I have consulted with some other book dealers and indeed the book is rare and worth $ and often sells for $$$, so the price is good.  I am willing to admit the copy I have does have some wear, which is why I had it listed at these low, low prices.  At the same time as not selling this book, I also didn’t sell a history of Sydney Road, also in Melbourne (there were some other books I didn’t sell… too many to mention here right now).  Both of these non sales have me puzzled.  Maybe my own experience is overshadowing the real sellability of these books or…..?.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cooking for your dog.

Cooking for your dog: Healthy recipes – seasoned with affection by Ingeborg Pils.

Firstly, a confession.  Dogs are not my thing.  Some of you may be shocked by this and wonder how… why… and consider me the lowest of the low.  That’s OK, I just don’t like dogs (I’m not too fond of cats either… i can feel the scorn seeping across the www).  Now that I’ve got that out of the way, books about dog food are always of great interest.  Here’s the why theory.  Everyone wants the best for their pets and quite honestly when looking and smelling a can or pack of dog food, or that “fresh” stuff, most people are well aware of how little they really know about what their pets are eating.  This book fulfills that hope that no longer will it be necessary to open that stinky can of dog food and dish out that indescribable mess of…. whatever its supposed to be.  Some of these recipes besides being healthy for your dog, look quite appetising and one would hope that there may be some leftovers….  So despite being a non dog person, I can see the benefit of this book and hope that it will bring joy to many pets (and their owners)… that don’t live in my house.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Early Ming Wares of Chingtechen

Early Ming Wares of Chingtechen by A.D. Brankston (1938).

One of the things I don’t want to do with this blog is to just write about rare and expensive books and to be honest, I don’t really find many books that fall into this category.  This book was a rare and pleasant surprise.  Chinese ceramics, as with many subjects, is not one of my specialties (I bet you're surprised).  Despite a lack of knowledge in this subject, there was something about this book that sparked my interest.  Possibly it was the year it was published (1938, so it is definitely an antique…could be good or bad) or the fact that it clearly states that there were only 650 copies of the book published (rare) but the primary reason it caught my attention is that it appears to be quite technical and detailed but still aimed at the general reader.  I always imagine if you are a serious collector you want the detail not the gloss.  The book was published in Peking by a publisher with the very un Chinese name of Henri Vetch… I don’t know if this makes it more reputable or not, but it certainly makes it interesting.

The book is worn and the dust jacket is in poor condition with rips and chips (just like an old vase) and there are some sticky tape repairs.  There is some foxing throughout the book and creasing to the spine… and wear etc etc.  ABE has this book listed at US$200 (approx), there are some later reprints listed at cheaper prices but this is one of the original 650 original copies.  So the intestinal disquiet was correct and the book has an on line value, it now remains to be seen whether this can be transferred to a real value.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Partridge Family Annual 1974.

The Partridge Family Annual 1974 featuring David Cassidy.  Authorised edition based on the popular Television Series.

The Partridge family.  They made us “get happy”, they showed us a “whole lotta lovin’” … and “singin” and you “get a happy feelin'” when they’re singin.  This book was published in 1973, the year before the Partridge Family TV show was axed.  I do remember watching the Partridge Family and liking the show….not “lovin’” it, just likin’ it.  I remember very clearly that I didn’t like the songs (hard to believe, I know).  In hindsight, this doesn’t make much sense.  Wasn’t the purpose of the show to cross promote the 10 Partridge albums that came out at the time, or was it the other way around?  For some reason it didn’t work on me.  Not once did I pester my parents for a Partridge Family album, book or any other merchandise (lunchboxes?).  I was happy to turn on the telly, watch the show and then turn off.  I didn’t need and still don’t need to see, hear, or look at the Partridge Family other than that half hour after school… but after all this time, and rather inexplicably, I still remember the show despite my lack of interest in the music and in this instance my personal lack of nostalgia for it.  After 35 years there are people out there who DO feel nostalgic, who didn’t get the annual and would rather like to be reminded of another time when David Cassidy was a star (is a star?) and Danny was relatively on the straight and narrow. 

Anyway, this book has no photographs of the family other than what is on the cover.  Which sort of makes you wonder how much they had to do with it… probably nothing… which I guess isn’t unusual.  The book is illustrated and there are illustrations of the family, there are also some photographs… but not of the family.  I wonder if this was a copyright issue or was the book about really about cashing in (photographs may have been more expensive).  And re “cashing in”…10 lp records in 4 years… think about it.  The Partridge Family were very popular and I guess they are still popular in some circles.  This book is perfect for anyone who did pester their parents and wants to revisit* that moment in time.

*The Partidge Family…not the pestering.