Friday, September 28, 2012

A Field Guide to the Tracks & Traces of Australian Animals by R. G. B. Morrison.

A Field Guide to the Tracks & Traces of Australian Animals by R. G. B. Morrison.  Hardcover book published by Rigby 1981,192 pages with black and white photographs.

“THIS UNIQUE BOOK is the product of many years of research in many parts of Australia.”

Earlier this year I wrote about pigeon poo here in this blog. What if the poo you’ve found isn’t pigeon poo?  How can we tell what it is?  Well this is just another one of those tricky situations that Huc & Gabet seeks out the books that will give you all the answers.  Yes, this book contains photographs of poo.  It also contains photographs of animal skulls, tracks, trails, scratchings and diggings and there’s even photographs of Aboriginal tracking, but of course I go for the lowest denominator and just mention the poo.

Here’s a couple of photographs of poo (politely listed as “droppings” in the book).

 Western Grey Kangaroo

Lesser Brown Bandicoot

Maybe it’s just me but I think I would have preferred some colour photographs to get the full experience.  A grainy small black and white photograph just doesn’t really cut the mustard.   Seriously though, this is a great book.  There are plenty of books/field guides that have photographs and/or illustrations of animals, this one is when the animal isn’t actually there, which if you think about it, is more often than it is there… a bit like this book (… a little bit of philosophy???).  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mr Felton's Bequests by John Poynter.

Mr Felton's Bequests by John Poynter.  Hardcover book published by The Miegunyah Press 2003, 639 pages with black and white photographs and illustrations as well as a few colour photographs and illustrations.

As a young boy (in another words… a number of years ago) my mother would often drag me around the National Gallery of Victoria.  She loved it.  I enjoyed it less so, particularly the being forced to look at all those old paintings that I didn’t really understand and therefore was unable to appreciate at the time.  I do remember looking through the Asian galleries and marveling at all the gold and the sheer foreignness of it all totally amazed and bewildered me at the time.  I think this is where my taste for travelling in Asia began.

Another thing I remember from these visits are the words “Felton Bequest”.   It seemed as if every second piece of art has these words associated with it.  When I write associated, this means that the little plaques that accompanied the works had the words “Felton Bequest” somewhere on them.  From memory I had no idea at all what this actually meant, including the “Bequest” part of it.  I did eventually find out that there was a Mr Felton who left a large of sum of money to the gallery and they had (and still do) bought artworks with it.  Even now as an adult, I find this amazing as Felton left his Bequest in 1904 and between 1904 and 2004 more than 15,000  items were purchased.  Now, we’re not talking items in a supermarket, this is classy stuff.  The stuff that you would want to go see in a gallery such as the National Gallery of Victoria.  The sort of stuff that you would want to drag your small child around.  It makes you wonder how much money this guy had and how big the bequest was, all of which at a guess is probably answered in this book.  I wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t bequested.  Would we have had a half empty gallery without him?  More importantly in relation to bookselling, this book would not have existed or at least not the same book as exists now.

This is another great example of picking a book due to a slight familiarity with the subject.  I know of no other Felton Bequest other than ‘the’ Felton Bequest and at a guess, there is no other, so when I saw Mr Felton's Bequests, I knew immediately what it was.  It’s all sorts of experiences that ring bells, even childhood memories.  And is it of interest?  Yes.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Fry Chronicles: An Autobiography by Stephen Fry.

The Fry Chronicles: An Autobiography by Stephen Fry.  Hardcover book published by Michael Joseph 2010, 438 pages with colour photographs and a few black and white photographs.

It seems as if Stephen Fry has a small monopoly over our television viewing here is Australia.  If he’s not hosting QI, then he’s travelling around the United States and telling us about it, or popping up in all sorts of other television programs both recent and repeated.  Maybe it’s just me noticing him more often, but somehow I feel that Stephen Fry has become a more than regular face on our telly over the last few years.  This observation even gets mentioned in a recent television advertisement by The Chaser (Australian satirical comedian group) even though he has nothing to do with the show.  Yet despite his overexposure and dominance on the idiot box, I tend to watch most things that he does (…not all of it).  I don’t know why this is other than a vague thought that if Stephen Fry is doing something on the telly, it’s probably going to be interesting… or at least worth a go.  I guess that’s why I picked this book up.  If I think the guy is of interest, then surely others will as well. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Paddle Boats of the Murray Darling River System by Brian Marshall.

Paddle Boats of the Murray Darling River System by Brian Marshall.  Hardcover book published by Mercury 1988, 207 pages with black and white photographs throughout as well as a few black and white illustrations.

The Murray River is Australia’s longest river… sort of like an Australian Amazon, except shorter and there are no Piranhas.  This river connects with a few others and drains a fairly large chunk of Australia, hence the River System part in the title of this book.  When Australia’s inland was being opened up for exploitation by Europeans in the 1800s, the Murray Darling was seen as a great benefit not only for irrigation, but as a transport conduit as well. 

There is the whole drought issue here in Australia and at times this lack of water has caused problems for the rivers.  I’m fairly certain that in our most recent drought, parts of this system stopped flowing completely, which if you’re a paddle boat is a bit of an issue.  Now there’s quite a bit of discussion about the health of the river and the buying back of water allocations which has become extremely politicised… all of which is only slightly related to this particular book, but I thought I’d mention it anyway for those readers not aware of all of this (particularly those not here in Australia). 

This book looks at both earlier paddlers and also at the more recent additions to the flotilla that traveled (travel) this inland river highway.  From memory the reason Paddle Boats were used (and still are used) on the Murray Darling had something to do with the lack of water depth.  I seem to also remember that unlike the Paddle Steamers of the Mississippi, ours were usually smaller and were usually, but not always, used for commercial purposes, with the more recent additions generally used for pleasure.  The book has an amazing collection of photographs and illustrations with a large selection of post Second World War snaps.  It seems to be fairly comprehensive and to be written by someone who is passionate about the topic.

I’ve had a few books on the Murray River Paddle Boats in the past and from experience there is a certain amount of interest in this subject.  This particular title is not that common and i was only able to find one other copy for sale at this point in time (September 2012).  This can only be a good thing as with so few copies currently available for sale, mine should have a higher probability of selling… at least I’d like to think it has.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mary Grant Bruce

Billabong Gold by Mary Grant Bruce.
Son of Billabong by Mary Grant Bruce.
Bill of Billabong by Mary Grant Bruce.
Back to Billabong by Mary Grant Bruce.
Billabong's Daughter by Mary Grant Bruce.

Hardcover books published by Ward, Lock & Co. 1950s and 1960s.

You can’t get much more Aussie than Mary Grant Bruce.  No, she never participated in the Olympics and no she never openly slipped a shrimp on the barby.  Mary was one of those special people who helped in “forming concepts of Australian national identity, especially in relation to visions of the Bush”* by writing books.  Granted, these concepts were formed quite a while ago, but it was with Mary’s skill as an author that she was able to push some of these boundaries.  Yes, there are a few issues regarding some dodgy portrayals of Aborigines, Chinese and the Irish, but nothing that a quick editing of later editions didn't fix.

Her books were and still are eagerly sought out and collected here in Australia, probably due to the whole nostalgia thingy (… unless of course your Aboriginal, Chinese or Irish).  From my experience, Mary Grant Bruce is no longer the desired reading of the younger generations.  It’s a rare thing when a collector of Mary Grant Bruce doesn’t have at least a few grey hairs.

These five books were found all together along with a few other MGB titles that were without dust jackets.  The books all have some wear and age… probably because they are aged and worn.  The biggest issue is the condition of the dust jackets, which are all VERY worn and aged.  Recently I have started covering some of my books in PVC.  There are a few reasons for this, but the main reason is to protect and enhance worn and aged dust jackets.  My good friends at Fully Booked (High Street, Thornbury), often comment on the way that PVC tends to bring out the colours of a dust jacket whilst protecting and securing what are often fragile pieces of paper.  I agree totally.  These five books look much better with the PVC and will be easier to sell because of it.  This whole PVC thing is something I have avoided over the years and it is only recently that I have begun to embrace the concept.  I won’t be going crazy and covering everything, but those titles that need that little bit of lift such as these titles, will be getting it.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

C.T.C. Gazette: January 1939 – December 1939

C.T.C. Gazette: January 1939 – December 1939 (12 issues) (The Cyclists Touring Club). 12 Magazines in green folder with “C.T.C. Gazette” on the spine published by The Cyclists Touring Club 1939, 360 pages (with extra pages of advertising) with black and white photographs and illustrations.

I recently picked up this folder with a whole pile of WWII military map folders, thinking it was more of the same.  It was only when I got home and started looking a little more closely at my treasure that I realized what an amazing item it was that I had picked up.  I had to do a bit of research to figure out what it actually was, as I had no idea about C.T.C. and once again the trusty interwebs peddled into action.  

I guess it’s not that unusual that I wouldn’t know that CTC is the largest cycling membership organization in Britain and has been around since 1878, as I was born and grew up in Australia. The fact that they produced a Gazette is evidence enough of the size of this club which in 1939 was quite large… at least I think it was.  The Gazette contains various articles including: riding tips, travel, news, correspondence, advertising (fantastic) but interestingly, as far as I can tell, no maintenance or repair articles.  Maybe in 1939 it wasn’t the done thing to repair one’s own pushy*.

So I’ve listed this book on eBay without much interest from any of the punters out there in eBay world… When I write eBay world, I’m actually referring to eBay Australia.  I no longer list items worldwide as to be blunt and honest about it, I got sick of the grief that buyers would give me regarding the high cost of postage and the length of delivery times.  Yes, from Australia to the United States postage will take at least 10 working days, sometimes more, sometimes less… and yes, postage is incredibly expensive on heavy items.  Both of these selling factors are beyond my control, so if I list books within Australia only, postage isn’t as expensive and it’s usually pretty quick, to the point that my life becomes a lot easier and hassle free.  Since I’ve started doing this, selling books via eBay has become easier and the lack of foreign sales hasn’t really impacted on my overall business performance.

Now here’s the problem.  A collection of magazines/gazettes such as C.T.C. Gazette is bound to be more popular in the country of origin than here in Australia.  In this case Great Britain is also a larger market, therefore you would assume there was a slightly better chance of a sale if I offered the book for sale in Great Britain.  Yet despite all of this, I haven’t listed this collection for sale in the best place to sell it.  Now here’s my thinking/theory on the whole thing.  Firstly I offer it to Australia only via eBay as this may prove to be successful, therefore hassle free, quick and easy.  If there is no interest (as is the case at this point in time), then list it on Books & Collectibles as this is international (therefore UK as well), and very interestingly, there seems to be less hassle regarding postage cost and delivery times from international buyers through Books & Collectibles.  I’m not sure why this is.

So Books & Collectibles this volume goes… unless it sells beforehand.  I think it’s an amazing collection/item and I can’t imagine it will be on my shelves for very long.

* Push bike

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Inventor’s Handbook of Patent Law and Practice by Francis Ernest Bradley and Frederic Hungerford Bowman.

The Inventor’s Handbook of Patent Law and Practice by Francis Ernest Bradley and Frederic Hungerford Bowman.  Hardcover book (no dust jacket) published by Ewart, Seymour & Co. (no date, approx 1914), 185 pages with a few black and white illustrations.

I personally haven’t invented anything recently, so I don’t really have a use for a title such as this.  Indeed, I doubt very much whether the good people at Apple Inc. have much use for a title like this one, although their lawyers would probably have a good giggle at some of the stuff in this vintage guide to Patent Law. 

“PREFACE: It is hoped that this Handbook may be found useful not only by inventors but also by solicitors and patent agents. Its object is to present in a small compass a comprehensive summary of PATENT LAW AND PRACTICE.  The book does not consist of a mere digest of the Acts and Rules, or of excerpts from decisions of the Courts. It is an attempt to deal scientifically, but without excess of technicality, with the considerations that influence the Comptroller in making or refusing a grant and the principles by which the Court is guided in its decisions as to the validity of a patent.”

A book like this, is another one of those problem books that I find irresistible.  It’s a problem because I see a book such as this one and I think about how great it is (?) and then immediately think that no one would be interested in it.  So then I stand there going back and forth between the two thoughts (in this particular instance I even put the book down… and then quickly picked it up again) and then figure that if I’m debating about it this much, then I should just get it.  Now, with the distance of distance (and time), I realize that possibly my choice was a little ill advised as somehow, without being an expert on the subject matter, I think that maybe Patent Laws have changed a little in the last hundred years.  Still it’s a nice book and you never know someone at Samsung may want a giggle as well. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Gunners in Borneo: Artillery During Confrontation 1962-1966 by Alan H. Smith.

Gunners in Borneo: Artillery During Confrontation 1962-1966 by Alan H. Smith.  Hardcover book with pictorial boards (no dust jacket) published by Alan H. Smith 2008, 184 pages with black and white photographs as well as some black and white maps and some colour maps.

“This is an appreciation of the use of artillery in Borneo during the ‘confrontation’ with Indonesia. It is a little known story.... a war with extraordinary physical and political complexities.... During my services with Australian Force FARELF, the high reputation of our gunners, infantry and sappers in Borneo operations was well known and acknowledged. This work will fill a void in our Army history.” Major General John Whitelaw

Australia has a long tradition of becoming involved in many of the worlds military conflicts.  This book is about a ‘confrontation’ that Australia was involved in with Indonesia.  To be honest, I had absolutely no idea that this ‘confrontation’ had ever taken place until I found this book.  Which I guess is why my inquisitive attention became focused on it.  I like the use of the word ‘confrontation’.  To me it implies that the powers that be were desperate to avoid the ‘w’ word and figured that ‘confrontation’ was a more user friendly term.  From what I can gather this whole thing was kept fairly quiet at the time “Because of the sensitivity of the cross-border operations…” (see link above), in other words, probably because it was all a little bit dodgy.  But don’t trust what I write about this stuff.  What do I know?  Nothing.  That’s why people like Alan H. Smith write books about it and I don’t.  I just sell the book.

Military books are an interesting bunch.  There are so many out there that at times it seems as if everyone who came home from a war (as well as many who never went) either wrote a memoir or a history.  Where this all gets interesting from a booksellers point of view, is that some of these books are worth $$$, and most aren’t, some are very desirable, and most aren’t which means that some I pick up and most I don’t.  There was something about this book that breathed a certain authenticity, which is why my attention was drawn to it.  Firstly it’s a book on a very specific subject that I have never seen before, and even better than that, it’s not a repackaging of the usual images and stories… which in this particular case there are very little… if any… of.  This book is something different to the run of the mill military history.   Self published by somebody who is obviously enthusiastic about the subject matter, is also a good sign and some great recommendations by authoritive people like Major General John Whitelaw is another indicator as to the quality of this book.  This is serious military history for anyone seriously interested in interesting serious military history.