Sunday, October 30, 2011

Boxing by R.G. Allanson–Winn.

Boxing by R.G. Allanson –Winn.  Hardcover book (stiff card) with decorative boards published by George Bell 1901.

Earlier this year I sold a copy of "Boxing's Book of Records to June 30, 1914".  It was fairly worn and used/loved and did manage to sell despite having a rough and tumble appearance. This book is more of an instructional volume and also appears to have done a number of rounds.  By the looks of it, it may have been in Lefty Bicek’s pocket for quite a while.  I like the idea of these vintage boxing books being read and reread again, although this may be wishful thinking based upon a stereotype of an obsessed boxer or boxing fan (Never Come Morning by Nelson Algren).

Besides wear, there is some interesting half legible scrawlings to the front endpages.  First title page has “Mr William (?????) Butcher Lethbridge” and the title page has some writing which I can’t read the first part of, but ends with “it is bad for the eyesight.”  One can only assume that William, a Butcher from Lethbridge, lost some of his eyesight due to boxing… maybe even after following the instructions in this book.  Heavy stuff. 

It was only when I got home, that I was able to take off my gloves and have a good hard flick through.  It was then that I discovered these wonderful photographs. ….and by the way, don’t try any of this at home or you’ll end up like the Butcher of Lethbridge.

There are great illustrations as well and the text seems to be fairly straightforward.  Some great advice is given:
“…more attention should in a general way be paid to getting the head out of the way of the blow than to actually warding it off…”
Maybe the butcher should have taken this bit of advice.

I think this book is a knock out and I certainly think it will be a hit once I throw it in the ring. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Australian Civil Defence Handbook: General Information.

Australian Civil Defence Handbook: General Information. Paperback booklet published by The Commonwealth Directorate of Civil Defence (Australian Government Publishing Service) 1972. 

“Civil Defence includes the organisation of Government and the community to meet the effects of attack on them by an enemy.”

This is the first sentence of the preface and for some reason the words “attack” and “enemy” jump out at me.  Enemy? Which enemy?  Someone didn’t like Australians that much that it was considered necessary to publish a booklet about them attacking us?  There was I back in 1972 without a care in the world and some government official was considering whether an "attack" by an “enemy” would take place.  I guess it’s their job and let’s face it, even in 1972 government officials needed to stay one step ahead of any possible threat.

“The danger of such an attack is remote…”

OK. Well that’s some great positive retrospective news.  I feel a little relieved to know that we weren’t under that much of a threat other than the steady invasion of Cane Toads and bad hair.  The book opens with some chapters on the whole beauracratic organisation of Civil Defence under the heading "Principles of Organisation and Operation".  Followed by "Detailed Aspects".  This includes chapters on map reading, message writing (…"help"), fire and some practical fire prevention measures (very handy here in Australia), nuclear weapons…  

“…but the preparations required to meet it, and in particular the worst case of nuclear attack, cannot be completed quickly.”

So what do we do back in 1972 when the nuclear bombs start falling?  Well apparently a building or a trench is good protection and clothing is also good… preferably wool, not cotton, as it doesn’t catch fire as easily (I guess this also means that thongs (flip flops) are out of the question) and of course lead is a great protector. There’s heaps of other great tips, like throwing yourself on the ground if your caught in the open as well as some handy hints on how to protect yourself from Gamma Radiation.

…and all of this in the year that Gough was elected to parliament, Australia pulled out of the Vietnam conflict and Belinda Green won the Miss World Competition.  I guess this book proves that we were prepared… well maybe not "we". 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Skinks of the Northern Territory by Paul Horner.

Skinks of the Northern Territory by Paul Horner.  Paperback published by Northern Territory Museum of Arts & Sciences 1992.

This is another interesting title especially for those with an interest in Skinks (…all of us?).  It’s a lovely handbook written in the Northern Territory (that's the place, not a language), published in the Northern Territory and it’s about Skinks in the Northern Territory.  Being aware that Australia’s north is a relatively dry place with quite a bit of desert, I can only begin to imagine that it’s the perfect environment for these small lizards… although of course I may be wrong.  A quick flick through the book and… no I’m not wrong, there are heaps of these little guys of various patterns and colourings.  I would never have thought that there were that many Skinks but I guess that’s why this book exists… that is, to clarify to Skink novices like myself just how many varied types there are.

When I was a young boy (yes, it’s another flashback) I remember catching skinks in the wilds of Melbourne’s outer suburbs… which is about as far away as you can get from the Northern Territory here on mainland Australia.  All you needed was an ice-cream container, some grass (to put in the container… they might eat it), a quick hand and there you go, instant pet.  Of course as you were catching them their tails often fell off and to this day I can still remember the way they would wriggle around… the tails that is, not the skink… I don’t remember the skinks looking very happy about this.  Sometimes we were able to find eggs… I don’t know that I can remember how we did this, but we did.  Ah yes… how cruel we were.  These days this sort of activity bothers me and for the record, I have no intention of catching any Skinks in the near future… my Skink catching days are long gone.  I say let them live.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe.

The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe.  Hardcover book published by Thames and Hudson 1996.

Recently I wrote about the popularity of Stalinism as apposed to the popularity of Chocolate, having had a book on the history of each subject for sale at the time.  The eBay auctions have now finished and I have a final result.

Sadly, Chocolate is NOT more popular than Stalinism… but I’m happy to report that Stalinism is NOT more popular than Chocolate.  In the end it was a nil nil draw.  Both auctions were a little lacklustre…. well… ok… VERY lacklustre (neither book sold)… with absolutely no interest at all.  So what does this mean?  I have no idea, other than the fact that Chocolate and Stalinism have unwanted histories.  Sad but true.   

Monday, October 17, 2011

Birds of Arid and Semi-Arid Tracts by Ajit Kumar Mukherjee.

Birds of Arid and Semi-Arid Tracts by Ajit Kumar Mukherjee.  Paperback published by Zoological Survey of India 1995.

Firstly I want to let you know that Ornithology is not a pastime of mine.  I am happy to admit that I have a slight appreciation of birdlife and wildlife in general but this is a casual appreciation only.  Where I’m sitting now has an occasional view of some of our feathered friends (and even the occasional furred friend) and I do sometimes pause and observe, yet I would never consider myself a Twitcher.

Many years ago whilst backpacking through India, I met a pair of British women who were there for one thing and one thing only… bird watching.  They had met at a bird watching club and after a few years of joint twitching expeditions, had decided that India would be their next Ornithological conquest.  When I met them they weren’t watching anything, but they did assure me that they had been Twitching (I did observe binoculars and field guides) and were taking a break before heading home.  At the time I was impressed and I guess I’m still impressed with their passion and dedication for things feathered.

So here we are many years later and I stumble across this book and of course having an experience and understanding of those who Twitch in India, I’m happy to venture into the world of the Indian Bird Book, which you may have noticed doesn't indicate in the title that is about the birds of India... i assure you it is.  This book of course would be perfect for those two lovely ladies (Nicky and ?????) I met all those years ago… that is if they were going to Arid or Semi-Arid Tracts.  I can only assume that there are further volumes covering those non arid areas not covered by this volume, so maybe they would need more than the one book…. which starts to get a bit tricky if backpacking and trying to not carry too much around with you.  Hang on though, there were two of them.  They could carry one book each… unless of course there are more than two volumes in which case they may opt for the “Compact Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan: Together With Those of Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka” published by Oxford University Press which is a single volume smaller book (…which is not a book that I’m selling).

This particular volume is an Indian publication which means that it has a certain feel, smell and overall impression that is hard to describe in a few words other than it’s an “Indian publication”.  The paper is pinkish in tone and the spine appears to be creased… but from experience this may not be the case, it just appears to be creased.  Interestingly there are very few photographs or illustrations in the book which I guess means it’s intended for the serious Ornithologist and not the casual Bird Watcher who wants to match up the pictures with what they see. 

So this book should be of interest to all those Nicky’s and ????? heading to India and have the room for just that one more book… or two… or three.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Canvas Documentaries: Panoramic Entertainments in Nineteenth-Century Australia and New Zealand

Canvas Documentaries: Panoramic Entertainments in Nineteenth-Century Australia and New Zealand by Mimi Colligan.  Hardcover  published by Melbourne University Press 2002.

There was a time when there was no interwebs and no computers.  There were other things missing from peoples lives as well, like: television, mobile phones, CDs (remember those things that played music), DVDs and lots of other stuff that I could waffle on about for ages but will refrain from doing so now.   So what did people do for leisure?  Well sometimes they talked to each other, sometimes they read books (real books) and sometimes they did other things that didn’t involve any of those things I’ve mentioned.  This book looks at one of those other pastimes that people partook of in the eighteenth and nineteenth century which is the presentation of Panorama’s.  These were usually travelogues and comprised of back lighting on large illustrations with a running commentary and props (sand, plants, smoke).

So let me write that again.  A Panorama was a picture, or series of pictures, with some snappy lighting, some commentary and a bit of sand, a few bushes... maybe some smoke.  Sort of a bit like the interwebs, except the connection was very slow and copy protection was extreme. Another way of looking at is that it was the you tube of its day… except there wasn’t kittens inspired by kittens

This book is a history of this pastime in Australia and has many wonderful illustrations and photographs (no kittens).  I guess for most of us (me) we have no idea how amazing this all could be... that is, a life without Kittens.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Maurice Sendak.

Here’s a great article about Maurice Sendak of whom I wrote about here, a while ago.

I particularly like his comments on E-books:

''I hate them. It's like making believe there's another kind of sex. There isn't another kind of sex. There isn't another kind of book. A book is a book is a book.''

I’ve deliberately avoided writing about e-books and the whole tablet thing before today and I don’t want to make too much of an issue about it now.  But I do agree with Maurice “A book is a book is a book.”  Some people like to read their books on an electronic screen and some of us prefer the old fashioned way.  Unlike the CD which revolutionized our listening and changed our world forever (click here), I think maybe a lot of people will try these new fandangled machines and then switch back... i don't know why i think this, it's possibly just wishful thinking.  And to show you all my dedication to the printed format, i'm going to figure out how to get this blog out to you all via the printed word… or maybe not.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

British Public Opinion and the Abyssinian War 1935-6 by Daniel Waley.

British Public Opinion and the Abyssinian War 1935-6 by Daniel Waley.  Hardcover published 1975.

Abyssinia, now known as Ethiopia (…actually Homer* used the word Ethiopia in the Illiad, so it has been known as Ethiopia for quite a while… longer than I can remember…), was attacked and occupied by Italy in 1935.  1935 Italy was of course a fascist state and Ethiopia was invaded to demonstrate Italy’s powerful iron fist by the defending of it’s borders (Italian Somaliland)… lets be honest here, they probably wanted to get something from the Ethiopians (money… power).  Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia, appealed to the League of Nations for some assistance and… ummmmm… it took a few years for anything to happen.  Haile Selassie went to Bath (a place in England) whilst his people suffered under the fascists.

But this book is less about the Ethiopians or the Italians and is about British Public Opinion in regards to this whole schmozzle.  This was of course a time when Britain still ruled a lot of this planet and the British Public still considered all of this stuff of great importance.  In this day and age when everyone is either invading everything or sending troops everywhere usually to get something (money… power), this little incident has possibly been nearly forgotten.  With the distance we now have and particularly considering what happened soon thereafter (there was a war), this particular war seems fairly minor and of little consequence… that is unless of course you’re either an Ethiopian, an Italian… or even British… and are interested in Imperialism particularly in relation to Africa.  With all that has happened and is happening in this region (Sudan, Somalia… the World) I think this book is of great interest.

*The old Greek guy. Not the father of Bart.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s by Sheila Fitzpatrick.

Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s by Sheila Fitzpatrick. Hardcover book published 1999.

Everyday Stalinism.  Wow.  What does that mean?  When I read this title I keep thinking of the extraordinary Stalinism… not the everyday run of the mill Stalinism that we’ve all come to know and love…

OK, I’ve calmed down now.  This is another one of those titles that I look at and think about how incredibly interesting it is and even now as I write this, I think the same thing.  I just can’t help myself.  So when I see a title like this one, I pick it up and then inevitably have considerable trouble selling it.  There has to be someone interested in Everyday Stalinism or am I mistaken?  Stalin (and Stalinism) was a fairly big event as far as events go in the 20th century.  Wasn’t he (it)?

I recently bumped into a fellow book dealer to whom I asked if they had found anything interesting recently.  The reply was that they had found a lot of interesting titles, but they had decided to concentrate on titles that would sell.  This statement keeps going through my head.  These are very wise words, but try as I might, I just can’t help myself.  Just like i can't help myself when i find a book on the History of Chocolate.  

Surely someone out there likes Chocolate… at least I would think there would be more people who prefer chocolate to Stalinism.  Although if you think about it, Stalinism… OK… Chocolate is more popular.  But if sales of these 2 titles is anything to go by, both Stalinism and Chocolate have both lost their flavours.  So I’ve got both of these books for sale at the moment, the question is which if any of them will sell.  I’ll keep you informed.