Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Le cuisinier des Cuisiniers by Docteur Jourdan-Lecointe.

Le cuisinier des Cuisiniers: 1000 Recettes de cordon-bleu usuelles, faciles et économiques de cuisine et d'office d'après les praticiens les plus renommés, francais, provencaux, anglais, allemands et italiens (etc) by Docteur Jourdan-Lecointe.  Hardcover book with decorative boards (no dust jacket) published by Vve Magnin et Fils (no date, probably 1800s), 676 pages.  All text is in French.

That’s pretty much it for my French vocabulary… maybe I need to learn some.  If only I was a Bright Young People then maybe i could fully experience the world of vintage French gastronomy (J’ai un faim de loup).  Despite my lack of Francais, i can gather from the title (as on the title page) of this book that there are 1,000 recipes in it .  The “1,000” followed by a word which looks a little bit like recipes was how this rocket scientist figured this one out.   

What I do have a vocabulary for, is rare French books.  From what I can gather this Doctor Jourdan-Lecointe originally published this book in 1825. This isn’t that particular edition, but from my limited French ability, I gather it’s around the thirtieth edition, which I guess proves that it was a bit of a seller in it’s day as you don’t publish thirty editions unless the other twenty nine have sold.  With all those thousands of published copies, there are now only a few still available on the second hand book market.  This book is sort of the exact opposite of the Da Vinci Code, in that it was once popular and is now rare and expensive. 

Unlike the cookbooks of today and probably due to older technology and the cost thereof, this book has only a few illustrations.  They are worth showing you and my apologies to all vegetarians who may be offended.

It’s in shocking condition.  Somebody has even sticky taped the covers to the endpapers as they appear to be in a state of near detachment… as was I, when I realized how bad it was.  The spine has wear and the whole book looks like it’s been through the wringer, in other words the book has been used and used a lot.  A good sign… and keeping in mind that I found this book here in Australia where the French language is not that often on peoples lips… unlike French food… I’m amazed I found a book such as this at all.


This all leads me to once again writing about the curse of the foreign language book.  Here in Australia we have our share of second hand books in foreign languages.  Recently I found 3 titles by Louis Ferdinand Celine and all of them in Dutch.  A lovely French cookbook published in the 1800s is possibly an easier sell than Celine in Dutch, but it’s still a harder sell than if it were in English.  Of course if I were in France (or Holland), it would be a different story.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Esperanto by John Cresswell and John Hartley (Teach Yourself Books).  Hardcover book published by Teach Yourself Books 1970, 205 pages.

Dr. Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof, created the constructed language of Esperanto in the 1870s and 1880s with the intention of creating harmony between people from different countries.  The idea was that if people can talk easily to each other, this creates harmony*.  What a great idea.  If the whole world spoke the same language all our problems would disappear and websites like Babel Fish would close down  (can’t help but notice that Babel Fish doesn’t translate into or out of Esperanto).  Obviously the idea caught on like a house on fire and that is why the interwebs lingua franca is Esperanto… Sorry Dr. Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof, this didn’t happen… and this is probably why the world is fairly void of harmony.

But if you do want some harmony this book will teach you how to be fluent in Esperanto in sixteen “simple” lessons.  The interwebs has some clips to help you as well… a way of keeping it fresh, particularly if you're a sock loving Esperanto fan.

I originally found a copy of this book a few years ago.  Picked it up, considered it and replaced it on the shelf and continued thinking about it deciding that… well maybe I should pick it up.  As I went to grab it someone else snatched it from under my nose.  I’ve been looking for a copy ever since as I genuinely believe that this book could be of some interest to someone out there… and here it is, finally, after all these years. 

The sad thing is that this is not really that exciting a book.  It’s probably very exciting for all those people out there wanting to learn Esperanto but wish to avoid the sock method (see you tube clip above) and it is exciting that I have found this book after all these years.  But overall, other than my passing interest in this subject, excitement is not really what most of us would associate with Esperanto. 

*What about the Russian revolution?  From what I know both sides spoke the same language. Maybe the fact that one side spoke communism was the issue.   

"[Esperanto is] the language of spies."  Stalin 


Brian Barker (a reader of this blog entry) has sent me the following links for anyone who is interested in knowing more about Esperanto than my brief and ill informed blog entry.

Esperanto is a living language - see

Their online course has 125 000 hits per day and Esperanto Wikipedia enjoys 400 000 hits per month. That can't be bad :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

With Musket, Cannon and Sword: Battle Tactics of Napoleon and His Enemies by Brent Nosworthy.

With Musket, Cannon and Sword: Battle Tactics of Napoleon and His Enemies by Brent Nosworthy. Hardcover book published by Sarpedon 1996, 516 pages with some black and white maps.

I’ve chosen to write about this book as it has reminded me of an early book selling incident from my early book selling days.  The details are at times little sketchy, but the message is very clear... at least i hope it is.

When I first started selling books on ebay, I couldn’t believe how great it was that I could sell books to people all over the world.  It was an audience/market that had no boundaries, particularly for those wanting to purchase those rarer items that they were unable to find in their own countries.  All it took was for me to find stuff that people would want, write a description and then list it.  If the item sold and the buyer paid, you then posted the item.  Easy.

I’ve written previously about selecting books based upon having a good general knowledge regarding various topics.  Also an understanding of what people are passionate about can seriously help in choosing a book to sell on line.  So early on in my book selling career I found a single volume of a larger volumed set of books about various aspects of Napoleons campaigns across Europe.  I can’t remember what the title was or what the set was called, I do remember that it was a lovely hardcover of not an overly large size.  This particular copy was in great condition.  Napoleon is someone that I believed, and still believe, people are interested in.  I would even go so far as to write that there are some people that are passionate about all things Napoleonic… some of them may even wear funny hats. 

So I wrote a detailed description: title, format, publisher, date, number of pages, mentioned illustrations (if it had any), a brief description of the contents, a section on condition and included a scan, in this instance of the title page as there was no dust jacket.  I then listed it on ebay and waited for the sale and sell it did, to a guy in New Zealand.  He paid and I then posted his book.

What a happy story this is.  A week later I get an email.  “Where’s the dust jacket?”  First thing I do is check my description.  I didn’t mention a dust jacket, I certainly didn’t describe the dust jacket and the scan was of the title page and definitely not of a dust jacket.  So I emailed back with the most honest answer I knew at the time, “There is no dust jacket and there is no mention of a dust jacket.”  A lengthier email returned.  Apparently the Napoleonic gentleman at the other end was a collector of this series of Napoleonic books… but only with the dust jackets.  So I read through my description again.  I had indicated that it was a hardcover.  I described the cover and made no mention of a dust jacket in the condition section and included a scan of the title page… and this is where the whole thing falls apart.  The title page and the dust jacket were identical (the interwebs confirmed this at the time).  I wont go into what happened next and how I tried unsuccessfully… and perhaps clumsily, to placate the New Zealand gentlemen over there across the Tasman.  I do think my description was vague in that I didn’t indicate a missing dust jacket.  I didn’t mention a dust jacket at all as there was none and the other guy assumed my picture was of the dust jacket.  We both assumed something and we were both wrong.

Since this incident I have been very careful to mention in all my descriptions if there is no dust jacket… even if there never was a dust jacket, I write “(no dust jacket)”*.  You’ve got to be clear in the on line world of bookselling.  I personally write lengthy descriptions regarding condition as I believe this is the way to sell a book.  Be honest.  If there’s a rip to some pages, or someone has eaten their lunch over page 15, mention it, don’t hide it.  What I find interesting is descriptions like “A good copy.”  This is a real description that I’ve copied and pasted from ebay and I seriously wonder how these people can manage to survive selling books on line.  Maybe I over describe and it does take a lot of time and I have considered shortening my descriptions and saving myself some time… but then I think about Mr New Zealand Napoleon and I figure it’s important to at least try and get it right.

So what has all of this got to do with “With Musket, Cannon and Sword: Battle Tactics of Napoleon and His Enemies by Brent Nosworthy”, absolutely nothing other than this book is also about Napoleon… and it does have a dust jacket.

*excluding paperbacks… unless the paperback has a dust jacket and then I indicate that this is the case

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens.

The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens, with fifty-nine illustrations by J. Barnard.  Hardcover book with decorative boards published by Chapman and Hall (no date indicated).

They don’t make books like this anymore… actually they do, but maybe not with this sort of gold embossed lettering on the cover (?).  Let’s face it, you can’t down load something like this… actually, you can, but down loading it voids any chance of sensually caressing the embossed cover and the beautiful (?) smell of old books is replaced by no smell at all. 

Like a lot of books of the 1800s, Martin Chuzzlewit was originally published in serial form beginning in 1843, with the final installment published in 1844.  I guess it was sort of like the Lord of the Rings movies… but with less Hobbits.  The book caused a certain amount of controversy at the time as it was considered anti American… sort of like Osama Bin Laden… actually nothing at all like Osama Bin Laden, but I’m sure you get the idea.  I’ve never read this particular title or indeed any Dickens except for Great Expectations... and the reason I have read Great Expectations is that they forced me to do this at school (yes, “forced”).  Why I haven’t read any of Mr. Dickens’s other books, I am at a loss to explain.  Maybe I was scarred by the experience of the high school dissection, or maybe I just haven’t gotten around to reading any others.  Whatever the reason, I can still appreciate this lovely book.

There’s no date listed, but by the looks of it, I would offer an educated guess of it being from the nineteenth century.  There are illustrations and these are a good indicator as to the date of publication… except of course if the book was a reprint, but by the looks of the cover and the overall condition I’m pretty certain it’s not a reprint.

I think you can see the small splits and wear to the spine hinge (see cover photo).  But this is all part of the allure of the antique book.  In the scan below I think you can see some of the foxing that is mainly around the endpapers and there is also some marks and overall wear to some of the pages.  Keeping in mind that the book is probably 130 to 150 years old, I think it’s in fairly good condition.

Why I’ve written about this book and what makes it of interest, is the reason that I bought it.  This book is not destined for ebay or Books & Collectibles (where I sell books on line), this is a shop book.  In other words, I think the book has a hands on appeal to those that are willing to put their hands on it.  I mentioned above the feel of the cover and the smell of an old book like this one.  I think the beauty lies not only in it’s appearance, feel and smell, but also in it’s history which are best viewed and experienced first hand.  A description or photographs are unable to convey these points of interest and I tend to avoid trying to sell this sort of item on line… that is unless it’s something worth $$$ and then the interwebs seems to be able to accommodate for the lack of tactile, visual and nasal experience as the scarcity/rarity of an item can encourage a sale.  It will be interesting to see how long this book sits on the shelf.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Occupation: Citizen: The Story of Northern Territory Women and the Vote (1894-96) by Barbara James.

Occupation: Citizen: The Story of Northern Territory Women and the Vote (1894-96) by Barbara James; Helen J Wilson, research consultant; Joanne Van Os, research assistant/ illustrator.  Paperback book published by Barbara James 1995, 132 pages with black and white photographs and a few black and white illustrations.

How rare is rare?  This book as far as I can tell, is extremely rare.  From my delvings, searches and explorations of the interwebs, I believe I have the only copy of this book available for sale at this point in time.  This can only be a good thing… that is if there is anyone out there wanting to purchase a book looking at the history of Northern Territory Women between 1894 and 1896.  There must be thousands of people itching to read about this subject… well maybe not exactly this subject, but maybe about the history of the Northern Territory… and that’s not to take away the significance of those pioneering women of the Northern Territory who were, by the way, the first women in Australia to get the vote at a time when this was not the done thing.  Indeed I think this is an interesting aspect of Australian history and it is of even greater interest that it was the Northern Territory and not the more populated and refined Eastern States that were willing to let their women vote.  Well done.

So what does it mean when I have the only copy for sale?  I have no idea.  A few years back I had a copy of a book published by the Indian Government on the children of India.  I could find no copies for sale and only 2 mentions on the interwebs about the book.  Now that’s rare… also completely unsellable… at least my copy was unsellable.  I know of another book seller who found a book that he could find absolutely no reference to anywhere.  In other words, there were no copies for sale, no reviews and no library holding anywhere.  Unfortunately it was an out of date economics book that by the sounds of it even the author was trying to distance themselves from.  

Northern Territory history isn’t an out of date economics book and there are references to this book on the interwebs, so it definitely exists… that is, exists not only on my shelf.  One day someone out there will want this book…

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Australian Indigenous Orchids: Volume 2: The Epiphytes: The tropical terrestrial species by A. W. Dockrill.

Australian Indigenous Orchids: Volume 2: The Epiphytes: The tropical terrestrial species by A. W. Dockrill.  Hardcover book with pictorial boards (no dust jacket) published by Surrey Beatty & Sons 1992 (completely revised).

A few months ago I was visiting a fellow book dealer in his shop when the inevitable one bookseller to another question of, “how’s business?”, arose.  The usual answer revolves around a reply of one of the following:

a/ quiet
b/ not so good
c/ miserable
e/ what’s the point of continuing when no one buys books anymore.

Very occasionally there is a reply indicating that business is “OK… not great… just OK”.  So on this particular day I was privileged to receive a reply of OK.  Apparently a customer had decided to part with their cash and purchase a copy of Australian Indigenous Orchids: Volume 2, which is not a cheap book and was the reason why this particular days business had been OK.  We booksellers then discussed the whole issue of selling a single volume of a multi volume set (2 or more) particularly the ability to sell the second or third (etc) volume.  I think most of us will agree, that it is easier to sell a complete set as apposed to an incomplete set.  Some books though will sell as a single volume, as is the case with this bookseller and his copy of Australian Indigenous Orchids: Volume 2.

A few weeks later and I find a copy of… yes, you guessed it… Australian Indigenous Orchids: Volume 2.  Volume 1 was no where to be seen.  I looked around, but this volume as with my fellow book dealers volume, was all alone.  I listed it on ebay, which is what I do with most books that I find and was unable to make a sale.  It’s a lovely book on a subject that people are passionate about and I think it will sell at some stage… so much so that I now have the book listed on Books & Collectibles patiently awaiting a buyer. 

Now all of what I have just written is not really that remarkable until a few weeks after that I found another copy of volume 2 … and yes, once again, it was all alone.  Now I’m worried.  There seems to be a glut of this volume and only this volume (a glut meaning 3).  What happened to all the volume 1’s?  It’s sort of like the single sock phenomenon, except in this case it’s a book about Orchids.  I purchased the book regardless of having an unsold copy on my shelf as, as I mentioned before, it’s worth a few $$$ and to be blunt, one of my jobs is to make $$$.  So what do I do with the new copy?  I of course try selling it on ebay once again… you never know what might happen.

In the meantime I’m looking for a bag of single socks which may have multiple copies of Volume 1 in it as well.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Quantum Theory of Fields: Volume II: Modern Applications by Steven Weinberg.

The Quantum Theory of Fields: Volume II: Modern Applications by Steven Weinberg.  Paperback book published by Cambridge University Press 2005, 489 pages.

This book is not about farming… in other words, no green pastures with bunny rabbits running around them.  It’s about physics… at least I think it is… and the last time I checked there were very few rabbits associated with physics.  Other forms of science are often associated with rabbits, but not physics (I’m happy to admit I have no clue at all regarding the use of rabbits in physics… I am making a wild and crazy assumption here and I’m happy to be corrected).  I tend to pick up a book like this as it looks like it’s important.  Yeah I know, that’s a bit of a dumb thing to write, but it can’t be as dumb as my opening line in this blog entry.  I’m not a scientist (you may have guessed this) and I certainly don’t have any idea at all, about anything to do with the Quantum Theory of Fields… but this book has an aura of importance about it and therefore it must be good… Isn’t it? 

The fact that I’m a bit of an ignoramus re the subject is not really that important.  What is important is that the author knows what’s going on.  Me, I just find the book and then try to sell it.  There is that magic moment when I pick up a book like this one and make the decision about whether the author does know what they’re talking about or not. And how do I know?  This is a tricky question and I don’t really have an answer.  What I can say is that it’s not Voodoo and it’s not a booksellers sixth sense.  Experience and a vague general knowledge of a wide variety of subjects, are probably, the most useful tools in choosing these magic books of interest, particularly regarding The Quantum Theory of Fields.   

Monday, May 7, 2012

Clunes Booktown Festival 2012 Part 3

Well it’s come and gone for another year and I feel like it may take me another whole year to get over the whole thing.  Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos (I was a little busy), but I’m sure there was enough publicity and that now the interwebs is full of lovely pictures of the town in full Booktown mode.  And if you were really lucky and watched the local Ballarat news, you may even have seen yours truly on the telly, talking about being an online book seller.

Saturday started off as usual with a slow trickle at around 8.30, followed at around 10 by an increase in pressure and by 11 there was a steady stream which continued for the rest of the day until just after 4.  Then the pressure eased off a bit and it began to get a lot less intense around 5.  5.30 when the weather started to get a bit chilly and the evening approached, things petered out and it was thankfully time to go home.  We had a number of tables outside with cheap stock and a friend (Geoff) manned them and collected the cash.  I hung around inside the shop and also collected the other bits of cash and guided those who were looking for specifics towards their interests and desires.

Sunday is usually a quieter day and this year was no different.  The morning was very relaxed and it was around 12 that the masses really started to appear.  Yes there were masses of people on the Sunday… unfortunately most of them left their wallets and purses at home and were unable to buy anything (i.e. lots of lookers, less buyers… this year was no different to previous years).  A friend came up from Melbourne to give me a hand with the tables outside (Al) and another friend assisted by giving both of us lunch breaks (Lorna).

I was very pleased that on both days, people were keen to know that we are a permanent store, but I was very careful to point out that we were permanent, but not always open.  The last thing I want is for disgruntled customers to turn up on a Monday to realise that most of the bookshops in town are only open on Weekends and a few days during the week (we are only guaranteed to be open on Sundays).  This unfortunately happened last week on more than one occasion and the book shopers concerned were not impressed.  I guess in all the excitement of achieving Booktown status, the powers that be forgot to mention that not all the shops are always open.

Of course after all the dust has settled, the big question is always, “How did you go?”.  Well here are the hard facts… I made more $$$ than last year… and had more fun, mostly due to the Sunday evening celebratory dinner that I attended with various locals, discussing the ins and outs of Clunes and its Book Fair.  Always an enjoyable activity.  But I should also add, that thousands of people buying large numbers of books… some of them from me… is a very enjoyable thing to be involved with.  This is not just a reference to making money, I genuinely like it when people buy books.  

I now have to get out there and find more books to restock the shop… and to write about here. 

Normal transmissions to follow in the next few days.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Clunes Booktown Festival 2012 Part 2

So Friday has come and gone and yes, i did manage to sell a few books.  Mainly to those people who were here a day early and eager to begin their shopping asap.  I was of course happy to help them out.  There were a few booksellers around as well and they bought a few things and overall i think it was the right thing to begin trading today as now i have a little extra $$$ in my pocket. Tomorrow is an early start and it doesn't stop until late afternoon... and right now it's the calm before the storm.  I may even watch a bit of TV and zone out.

Here are a few photographs of the shop looking pretty and ready for business. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Clunes Booktown Festival 2012

It seems like only yesterday that I was writing about my adventures at last years Booktown.  A lot has changed since then in regards to my business and also in the way I will be selling books this year. 

As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, I live in Clunes and I’m part of the criteria that makes Clunes the International Booktown that it is (see my last blog entry).  This year is the first year that I will be selling directly from a shop and not from a stall.  To be honest, I’m a bit nervous about the whole thing.  I’m not sure why, but I am.   Some of the main differences for me personally this year, are:  I don’t have to set up and pack up a stall as I’m now in a shop (and as I write this, I’m nearly ready for the onslaught), I will have help from friends and associates (solo is always hard, particularly if one wants a coffee… and then wants to micturate*) … I’m sure there are other differences which will occur to me later or over the weekend and most importantly I can’t think of any negative differences.  Regardless of the positives (yes, I can be positive… regardless of the rumours), I still feel a bit nervous.

So one of my strategies this year is to open on Friday.  Yes, the book fair is on Saturday and Sunday… We will open on Friday.  One thing I can tell you all, is that when you have a town full of booksellers they tend to snoop around and look for anything they might need/want/can pick up cheap and resell expensive (I think I’ve even been guilty of doing this).  They tend to do this less when they are selling and more when they are setting up, which is of course, Friday.  I don’t have an issue with selling to other book dealers… except when they demand a discount on a $5 book… this bothers me (it’s 5 bucks and as much as I’d like to retire from the profit I make on a $5 book, it aint happening too soon)… and I figure I may as well make some money when I can.  So Friday makes sense (cents) to me, that is if the other book dealers can be convinced to part with their $$$.

It’s now Thursday night… I’m still a bit nervous.  I’ll try and take a few photos over the weekend and post them when I can.

*the wonders of the interwebs thesaurus.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Clunes Booktown 2012.

Clunes Booktown 2012.

Some of you booklovers, and or booksellers, may have heard via the media, that Clunes* (Victoria) has achieved international booktown status.  The first such booktown in the southern hemisphere.  This is a massive achievement and something that Clunes has been aiming for, for a number of years.  There are certain criteria that need to be ticked off so as to achieve this and I wont bore you with the details, I’ll let the I.O.B. (International Organisation of Book Towns) do that.

Here is the current (2nd may 2012) list of international booktowns as listed by the I.O.B.:

Bredevoort (NL) Fjærland (NO) Hay-on-Wye (GB) KampungBuku (MY) Montereggio (IT) Redu (BE) Sedbergh (GB)St-Pierre-de-Clages (CH)Sysmä (FI) Tvedestrand (NO) Wigtown (GB) Wünsdorf-Waldstadt (DE)Urueña (ES) Pazin (HR)

You can see where all these booktowns are worldwide, by having a look at their map… which unfortunately doesn’t really show the bottom bit of Australia as Google advertising obscures us.  It is a great thing to be added to such an illustrious list and to have our name associated with this organization.  This will hopefully encourage book buyers from all over the world to visit us here and sample some of our bookish delights.

So for us booksellers here in Clunes (that’s 7 or 8… possibly 9, depending on which media outlet you read) this can only be a good thing.  As all of us know, book sales are on the decline due to fierce competition from ebooks (etc) and aggressive companies such as Book Depository and Amazon… whose adds regularly pop up when doing a search for articles regarding booktown accreditation… so any promotion can only be good for us smaller secondhand booksellers.  

(Any comments are welcome.)

*Yes.  Where i live and where i sell books.