Thursday, December 29, 2011

Children's and Maternity Garments (by Mary Brooks Picken)

Children's and Maternity Garments (by Mary Brooks Picken?).  Softcover book published by Woman’s Institute (no date, probably 1920s to 1930s).

This a lovely book published at some stage in the early part of the twentieth century.  The cover is a smart looking embossed black mock leather… at least I think its mock.  Whatever it is, insects are fond of it and have caused a bit of damage to both the cover and endpages.  But not to worry, I believe the subject matter can carry this book towards a sale despite the damage.  Even the preface confirms this thought:

“So satisfactory and pleasurable to most women is the making of clothes for children, that this text, with its thoughtful treatment of the subject, awakens a very lively interest among women.” 

I guess the authors never considered that men might also consider this pleasurable, although men were probably busy at the time fighting wars… or starting them. 

The author of this book was more than likely Mary Brooks Picken who was also the founder of the Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences (the publisher). From what I can gather she was a bit of an expert on the whole fashion, fabric and sewing business and wrote numerous books on the subject(s) during her 95 years.  What I like about this book is the excellent vintage illustrations and photographs.  

I’m not an expert on the whole sewing of maternity wear or children’s clothing (at the time I would probably have been off fighting a war… or starting one), but by today’s standards some of the instructions and illustrations seem a bit sparse on information.  I guess the book assumes a certain skill level, whereas most of todays sewing books tend to have slightly more detailed illustrations and diagrams and assume a slightly lower skill level. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sarcoidosis by J.G. Scadding and D.N. Mitchell.

Sarcoidosis by J.G. Scadding and D.N. Mitchell.  Hardcover book published by Chapman and Hall 1985. 

“Sarcoidosis (from sarc meaning flesh, -oid, like, and -osis, diseased or abnormal condition), also called sarcoid, Besnier-Boeck disease or Besnier-Boeck-Schaumann disease, is a disease in which abnormal collections of chronic inflammatory cells (granulomas) form as nodules in multiple organs. The cause of sarcoidosis is unknown.” Wikipedia

So of all the medical texts in the world of secondhand books why would I pluck out a book on Sarcoid?  It’s pretty dry… the book that is, not the disease.  There’s pages and pages of x-rays and photos of sick people and then there’s heaps of text… Which is page after page of more dryness.  Well dear reader, I picked up this book because I have first hand experience of sarcoid.  I have (had?) sarcoid. 

Sarcoid is a fairly complex disease to diagnose and I only found out that I had it the first time my lungs collapsed.  By the time this happened a second time, I well and truely knew about it… sort of like meeting up with an old friend that you haven’t seen for a while… but with less oxygen.  It took a bit of a biopsy (which is like an autopsy… but on live people) till it was all confirmed that I didn’t have cancer… but I did have Sarcoid… doctors have such a way with words.  So a number of years of monitoring my condition and one round of steroids (never again) and here I am 15 years later and I have no idea whether I still have it or not.  I’ve got a sneaking suspicion it has simply vanished* in the same way that this book hasn’t sold. 

So with my knowledge and first hand experience of Sarcoid, I purchased this book.  It’s the sort of book that I wear with pride… that’s my ability to select this book, not in regards to the having of the disease.  Of course when I found it, I had to share my excitement with someone and what better person to discuss a great book like this than with another bookseller and here’s where it gets really interesting.  I start mentioning this book to a local bookseller and don’t even get to the title and he asks, “It’s not about Sarcoid, is it?” I was gobsmacked.  Of all the medical texts and nasty insidious diseases in the world how did he know?  It turns out, that this other bookseller also has (had?) Sarcoid of the lungs and from my glowing introduction and description to this title, he guessed what it was.  I find this weird as it’s not that common a disease and it certainly is not a disease of the bookseller. 

So there you go, there’s 2 people who know what Sarcoid is.  I’ve met a few others over the years who are acquainted with it but generally only medical professionals and some of those have been a little vague on the exact details.  What they need is a good book on the subject…?

*There is no cure for sarcoid but it can mysteriously just disappear

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Woori Yallock School and District: A Short History by Shirley W. Wiencke.

Woori Yallock School and District: A Short History by Shirley W. Wiencke.  Paperback booklet self published (?) (no date, probably 1974).

(Woori Yallock is a small town here in Victoria, situated somewhere between Lilydale and Warburton, it has a population of around 2,800… so it’s a bit bigger than where I live.) 

This little booklet is something that I stumbled across quite by accident.  I didn’t buy it.  I didn’t pick it up.  So where did this magical mystery booklet come from?  Well, it was accidentally inserted in another book, totally unrelated to Woori Yallock, that I did pick up and purchase (… everyone’s dream is to find a $100 note squirreled away in a book…  and all I find is a history of Woori Yallock… no offence meant to the residents of Woori Yallock).  What is interesting is that if I have of found this book, I would have picked it up.  This kind of local history is something that I tend to buy and list on ebay to varying success.  Sometimes you get lucky and a little inconspicuous self published booklet like this one, can be worth the big $... but more often than not, its worth just under $10… or nothing.  Of course when you’ve paid what I paid for this book anything is a good margin… The implication that a free book has a great profit margin, is possibly a little misleading.  I did of course have to drive to the place where I found the book and I did have to spend time looking through books to find the other book that I did purchase.  I also had to clean the book and spend time describing it, scanning it and then listing it (ebay).  I then had to relist it (it didn’t sell the first time around) and of course I have also spent time writing about it here.  If it sells, I will then have to pack it up and go to the post office, which is of course more time and we all know what time is*.  There’s a lot of work and effort that goes into this bookselling business.  Sometimes I despair at the amount of time and effort it takes.  It would be lovely to find all those easy to sell $100 books (key words here are “easy to sell”), but that isn’t the nature of this business… at least not the nature of my business.  I’ve found over the years that any book worth $$$ is more often than not, jinxed.  Any book valued under $20 is a much easier sell… which is why I tend to pick up books like “Woori Yallock School and District: A Short History”…  and always hope that there’s a $100 note in it.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lighthouses of Australia: A visitor's guide by John Ibbotson.

Lighthouses of Australia: A visitor's guide by John Ibbotson.  Hardcover book with pictorial boards (no dust jacket) published by Australian Lighthouse Traders 2003.

As the fog of Christmas starts to thin, I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Which brings me to this lovely guide to the Lighthouses of Australia.  John Ibbotson is a bit of a one man beacon in the world of Australian Lighthouses… yes, a bit of a shining light in the world of the Lighthouse fancier.  If you go to his website you can see the passion that this guy has for all things sitting on rocky coastlines shining lights.  There are a number of books with his name on them and they all sell for a good price both new and second hand.  This particular book no longer appears to be in print, although I’m sure that once John has finished promoting his book about “Climate Change Myths”, he will get back to the world of Lighthouses and once again guide us through the rocky world of the Lighthouses of Australia.

I was in my local post office the other day and quite casually and in a round about way, the post master informs me that she spent her early years growing up in a lighthouse in Queensland.  Unfortunately her family left when she was quite young and she doesn’t remember much, but still it’s not everyday that you meet someone who has first hand experience of not being able to go sit in the corner as a small child.  She also informed me that the lighthouse she grew up in is in this book… if only I could remember which one it was.

John Ibbotson’s Lighthouse books are all beautiful productions and I haven’t met anyone yet who hasn’t ooohhhed and aaahhhed when perusing any of his titles… even a hardened bookseller like myself ooohhhed.  I like the fact that John not only writes but also self publishes his books and from all appearances quite successfully.  

(I bumped into the Post Master mentioned above.  It was the Low Isles, Port Douglas. This is a photograph from the book of the Low Isles.) 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Return from the stars by Stanislaw Lem.

Return from the stars by Stanislaw Lem.  Paperback published by Mandarin 1990.  (This book was originally published in 1961) 

Chapter 3, page 79.
"I spent the afternoon in a bookstore. There were no books in it. None had been printed for nearly half a century. And how I had looked forward to them, after the microfilms that made up the library of the Prometheus! No such luck. No longer was it possible to browse among shelves, to weigh volumes in the hand, to feel their heft, the promise of ponderous reading. The bookstore resembled, instead, an electronic laboratory. The books were crystals with recorded contents. They could be read with the aid of an opton, which was similar to a book but had only one page between the covers. At a touch, successive pages of the text appeared on it. But optons were little used, the sales-robot told me. The public preferred lectons—lectons read out loud, they could be set to any voice, tempo, and modulation. Only scientific publications having a very limited distribution were still printed, on a plastic imitation paper. Thus all my purchases fitted into one pocket, though there must have been almost three hundred titles. A handful of crystal corn—my books. I selected a number of works on history and sociology, a few on statistics and demography, and what the girl from Adapt had recommended on psychology. A couple of the larger mathematical textbooks—larger, of course, in the sense of their content, not of their physical size. The robot that served me was itself an encyclopedia, in that—as it told me—it was linked directly, through electronic catalogues, to templates of every book on Earth. As a rule, a bookstore had only single “copies” of books, and when someone needed a particular book, the content of the work was recorded in a crystal."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Terry Nation's Blakes 7, novelization by Trevor Hoyle.

Terry Nation's Blakes 7, novelization by Trevor Hoyle.  Hardcover book published by Arthur Barker Limited 1977.

I’m a very late convert to Blakes 7 which was a British Sci-Fi TV series that screened from 1978 till 1981.  It was written by Terry Nation who was the guy who created the Daleks in Doctor Who.  It’s not everyone whose claim to fame is that they created one of the most feared alien races in TV history.  I viewed Blakes 7 on a friends recommendation and here we are many years later and a galaxy away and Blakes 7 has stuck with me.

The story revolves around a group of people travelling through space on a “found” spaceship who are plotting and fighting against the Federation… which I guess was the government.  In other words, they were terrorists.  Now before all you Blake 7 fans start foaming at the mouth and start sending me nasty messages re this terrorist comparison, this quote from our friends at Wikipedia:
“The word "terrorism" is politically and emotionally charged, and this greatly compounds the difficulty of providing a precise definition.”
I guess I’m using the word terrorism in a VERY broad sense.  In Blakes 7 there was a government and some rebels were fighting against it… These rebels are of course, good rebels fighting against a bad government a bit like… ummm… well…ummm… somebody… Maybe like Mahatma Gandhi… or Nelson Mandela… but with spaceships and more blowing up of things.

Blakes 7 had the appearance and production values of contemporary episodes of Doctor Who.  If I had to define the main difference and avoid the concept of Terrorism, I would describe it as being more adult oriented and less panto. Now that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t panto (it was), it was just less panto than Doctor Who.

This book was written by the Science Fiction author Trevor Hoyle and was published before the TV series was first broadcast.  I find this interesting as here we have a book written by a Sci-fi writer based around the story of another Sci-fi writer.  The difference is that Terry wrote for the telly and Trevor wrote books… and this book is a book and is not on the telly and Terry’s scripts were not books are were on the telly.

So I was out and about patrolling the galaxy on my quest for more books to sell.  I had my crew with me at the time and we were all frantically searching for those elusive power titles to little avail.  All of a sudden, one of my fellow intergalactic travellers walks over to me and hands me this book, knowing that I am a fan of the TV series.  So I look at it and ummm and ahhh and seriously consider putting the book back when all of a sudden and inexplicably, I decide to make the purchase.  In retrospect the fact that I only had 2 other books in my hand made me think that I needed to walk away with something… anything.  I pretty much immediately regretted my purchase, thinking to myself that I would be better off spending my money on books that I can actually sell.

Back at mission control, I check this title out on the interwebs and…. WOW (if your keen on checking it try this and type in “Blakes 7” “Hoyle” and “Barker” in the appropriate fields).  How wrong was I?  But you know, I still have the book and maybe… just maybe… I might have been “better off spending my money on books that I can actually sell”.  Still, it’s all part of the adventure… and it is another episode in the story of Huc & Gabet... but without Daleks.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong.

Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong.  Hardcover book published by Modern Library 2000.

A number of years ago I was contemplating the history of the middle east and was wondering how i could possibly find a good unbiased history of this fascinating and often volatile region.  A co-worker at the time kindly recommended Jerusalem by Karen Armstrong. To cut a long story short (…as in, avoiding the long story about me looking for the book, finally tracking a copy down and paying too much for it… etc etc), this was an excellent introduction to the writings of Karen Armstrong and it did give me a better understanding of the middle east and in particular Jerusalem.  Since then I have read a number of her other books and have enjoyed them immensely.  Maybe enjoyed isn’t quite the right word… actually it is, but maybe I need to clarify “enjoyed”.  I have “enjoyed” the learning experience gained by reading her books. 

As a complete layman in regards to most things religious, I find Karen’s writings to be very enlightening and interesting (of interest).  The way she writes about these subjects is particularly of interest to me, as she tends to look at the history rather than the emotional and metaphysical aspects of the subject (the history is more my thing)… that is unless she’s writing about the history of the emotional and metaphysical aspects of the subject (does this make sense?). 

Karen was originally a Catholic Nunn but left that all behind her quite a while ago and has become "arguably the most lucid, wide-ranging and consistently interesting religion writer today".This particular book is of course about a very topical religion and despite Karen’s background she tackles the subject in a most readable and sympathetic way avoiding bias as best she can.**  She tends to do this with her other books as well and indeed (and this is completely from memory), in her book Jerusalem she was most critical of the Christian involvement in Jerusalem. 

I like Karen and I like her books and would not hesitate in recommending any of her titles to anyone vaguely interested in the subject matter or even if they were not interested… it’s still good.  

*Laura Miller (quote stolen from Wikipedia).

**My opinion… probably not the opinion of the Taliban.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Interest Rate Swaps and Their Derivatives: A Practitioner’s Guide by Amir Sadr.

Interest Rate Swaps and Their Derivatives: A Practitioner’s Guide by Amir Sadr.  Hardcover book published by John Wiley and Sons 2009.

Books of interest.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Gentle Art of Smoking by Alfred H. Dunhill.

The Gentle Art of Smoking by Alfred H. Dunhill.  Hardcover book published by Max Reinhardt 1954.

As tobacco packaging laws here in Australia become more extreme, I thought it might be appropriate to write about this book written by Alfred H. Dunhill.  Here in Australia we are more acquainted with the Dunhill brand of cigarettes and less so with the shops of the same name that specialize in selling men's luxury leather goods, writing implements, lighters, timepieces, fragrances and clothing.  Dunhill cigarettes are considered a luxury brand and are…. hang on a sec “luxury brand”.  A cigarette, luxurious?  No, no, no, no. … Whoops.  Sorry.  I forgot.  I’m trying to sell this book.  Yes, it’s a luxury brand and yes, it is named after the author of this book.  Dunhill was the brand favoured by Hunter S. Thompson… and my father, the two of whom had very little other than the cigarettes they smoked in common.

So this book looks at the history, growing, preparation of Tobacco and then moves on to Pipes, Cigars, Snuff and some other bits.  There’s a few photographs and a few illustrations.  

This photograph and illustration of a cigarette making machine reminds me of a visit to The Royal Melbourne Show at some stage in the early 1970s (I was a young boy at the time).  I remember very clearly seeing a machine there that demonstrated the making of cigarettes.  It’s interesting to reflect on the fact that a cigarette making machine was on display at an event mostly catering to children.  At the time it didn’t seem that strange.  I personally found it interesting to see where the three packets a day that my dad smoked came from.

Recently I had someone email me about a book I had for sale at that time.  Their question was in regards to the odour of the book and particularly whether the book smelt of cigarette smoke.  Fortunately it didn’t, although to be honest I hadn’t sniffed it until asked to do so.  Mr Dunhills book though, did get the full sniffer test before purchase… and passed.  At the moment I do have 2 other books that do have a vague scent of cigarette smoke. I find this to be fairly obvious whilst checking books for any defects (… they tend to waft).  In the past I have aired these odourous books over a few weeks by standing them up, fanned out and leaving them in a well ventilated spot whilst occasionally flicking through the pages (usually once a day).  This has worked to varying degrees in the past.  Sometimes this problem (stinky smell) can be removed completely, usually it is decreased in intensity and occasionally it doesn’t matter what you do, it still smells.

The Gentle Art of Smoking is a puff from the past and I don’t know that many people would now describe smoking as a “Gentle Art”.  This book is possibly of interest to those that persist despite the health warnings and social stigma that now surrounds “The Gentle Art”.