February 12, 2013

Charles DarwinThis day we celebrate the birthday of Charles Darwin, born in England in 1809. He is the author of On the Origin of the Species, published in 1859 that illustrated the theory of evolution, the first edition of which is commanding a quarter of a million US dollars.

Darwin published his first book, Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty’s Ships Adventure and Between the Years 1826 and 1836, in i839.


February 8, 2013

Today we celebrate the birthday of Jules Verne, the French writer whose  science fiction stories have contributed to the advancement of science. Some of his inventions and ideas described in his books became scientific developments 100 years later.

Jules Verne wrote many science fiction novels but he is remembered most for his novels: ‘’Journey to the Center of the Earth’’ published in 1864, ‘’Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea’’ published in 1870 and my favourite, ‘’Around the world in Eighty Days’’ published in 1873. You can find a rare copy of the book ‘’Around the world in Eighty Days’’ for around 20,000 USD while his book ‘’Cinq Semaines en Ballon’’ is twice as expensive.


February 7, 2013

Charles Dickens 2012Today we celebrate the birthday of Charles Dickens, a story teller and one of the most well known and enduring novelists of all times. Charles Dickens was born in 1812 and died in 1870. Last year we celebrated his 200th birthday.

George Orwell once said about Charles Dickens: ‘’ No one thinks of Mr Dickens as a writer. He is at once, through his books, a friend’’. How true this is!  Jules Verne once said about Dickens: ‘’there is everything in Dickens,’’ and that says it all!


January 11, 2013

Aristotle's Matter Piece

A banned for 200 years sex manual incorrectly attributed to Aristotle will be up for auction in Edinburgh on Wednesday January 16th 2013. The auction will be held by the auction house Lyon and Turnbull.  It was published in 1766 and it is in fair condition. The first edition was published in London in 1684 and there were 97 editions published before 1800. Interested buyers will have a chance to review Lot 221 from Sunday 13th till the day of the auction.

The auction consisting of rare books, maps, manuscripts and photographs will include 564 lots for sale. The 17th century sex manual to be auctioned is not the most expensive book of the event but it is the one which attracted media attention and potentially buyers.  For more information on the effect of censorship and factors deeming a book rare please read ‘’When censorship affects rare books’’ and ‘Rare Books: What makes them Rare?’’

The book titled ‘’Aristotle’s Compleat Master-Piece” was banned in Britain from the middle of 18th century till 1960. It was incorrectly attributed to Aristotle even though it contains some of Aristotle’s suggestions. The true author is unknown but the name of William Salmon has been suggested as being the true author of the book. The controversial content includes topics on sex and pregnancy from a different perspective. Children born with deformities, children born with hair like monsters and even children born black due to the mother’s mental state of mind during pregnancy!












December 4, 2012

Old Souyh Church in Copley, Boston, MAA rare psalm book is from the year 1640 is now for sale! One of the eleven surviving copies of the 1640 Bay Psalm book will soon go for sale in an auction and it is expected to fetch an amount between 10-20 million USD.

The Old South Church owns two copies of what is considered to be one of the oldest and rarest psalm books, the 1640 Bay Psalm book. Currently the church is under financial difficulties and they find it hard to support and fulfil their charity obligations. So the members of the church have overwhelmingly voted in favor of the notion to sell one of the two copies in order for the church to get the funds to support its activities and repair the damages of the church.
The decision was based on the principle that assets should be used for the best benefit of the church and certainly having two of the 11 surviving copies has made the decision easier.

The psalm book was the first psalm book printed in North America. It was printed in 1640 in Cambridge Massachusetts and soon became the standard psalter used every Sunday around the Massachusetts Bay. The last copy to go on sale was back in 1947. The Old South Church copies are considered to be of historic importance since  church members included  Ben Franklin and Samuel Adams.

1640 Bay Psalm book


November 29, 2012

A rare book lover purchased a booklet with the writing ‘’Brucke’’ for just 5 Euros at a flee market in Germany last October. It turned out that the booklet was quite a treasure made up of a collection of the artist group ‘’Brucke’’ that was formed in 1912. The  art book sold at a rare book auction in Hamburg, Germany for the staggering amount of 27,000 euros, a fair market price for such works.

The auction at which the book was sold was the Ketterer Kunst Rare Book auction which was held in Hamburg, Germany for 2 days on November 21-22 2012. The event proved quite successful grossing 1.5 million euro ( 1.9 million USD). The success was due to fierce bidding often surpassing estimates by significant amounts. Some more examples of success stories included:

E.T.A. Hoffman’s, Prinzessin Brambilla. Ein Capriccio nach Jakob Callot, which had a starting  price of 1800 euros and was sold for the fantastic price of 31,200 euro! 1700% above estimates. A first edition of  Prudentii poetae opera, a collection of poems by a group of early Christian poets, sold for 19,200 Euro close to double its estimated 10,000 price.


November 12, 2012

Sharjah International Book Fair The Sharjah International Book Fair which opened on November 7th will stay open till November 17th and is taking place at Sharjah Expo Centre. This event is one of the most significant cultural events taking part in the region for the past 31 years and attracts the attention of many visitors and publishers from many parts of the world. During the opening Shaikh Sultan announced the donation of more than 4000 titles of rare manuscripts, rare maps and rare books to the Egyptian Scientific Academy in Cairo.

His Highness Shaikh Sultan felt the need to donate part of his private collection of rare books and manuscripts to the Egyptian Scientific Academy of Cairo so as to cover the losses Cairo Library had last November during the Spring Revolution when a great part of the Cairo Library was burned down and the library was looted by angry ‘’revolutionaries’’.

Among the 4000 titles donate by the Shaikh Sultan is a copy of the series ‘’Description de L’Egypte’’ written in French during the times of the French Expedition in Egypt which took place in 1798-1801. The expedition was sent by Napoleon Bonaparte. The series which is very rare was published between 1809 and 1829 but it is not disclosed whether the donation involves the whole series. The series contains a detailed description of Egypt.It should be noted that a rare collection of the 23 first edition volumes of the series was on sale at a Christie’s sale in Paris with initial price of 500.000 Euros.

October 29, 2012

Hans Werner Henze

Last week, October 27, 2012, the music community lost a great man. Hans Werner Henze passed away in Dresden, Germany, at the age of 86. Henze had a rare gift of being able to study a piece of literature and translate it into music. He would read a book, short story/ novella and compose it into a symphony, an opera, a concerto or a requiem. He created a marriage of two art forms, blending senses and two different genres within the art community.

Henze,  an explicitly political artist, has always opposed the commitment to a certain style or a certain technique. Contrary to the assumptions of the so-called Darmstadt School, he renounced strict serial organization of his works. Henze’s opera Ein Landarzt was inspired by Frank Kafka’s 1919 book by the same title. He dedicated the oratorio “The Raft of the Medusa” to Che Guevara. Hand-in hand with author Edward Bond, Henze wrote “We Come to the River, an opera aimed to inspire pacifism during the turmoil of WWII. In a similar fashion, Henze’s “Sinfonia No. 9” was inspired by Anna Seghers’ novel “The Seventh Cross”, a book again addressing themes of Nazi Germany including concentration camps and the Gestapo.

After fleeing Germany, Henze taught music theory and composition in a variety of countries including Austria, Cuba and the United States. Late in his life, he performed at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home, Tanglewood, located in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

Both the music community and the literary community will mourn the loss of a talented human being. He will be missed as one of the few individuals who was able to integrate two art forms seamlessly and bewitchingly.


October 16, 2012

The Future of the book






The Marjorie G. and Carl W. Stern Book Arts & Special Collections Center of the San Francisco Public Library in association with The Book Club of California are holding a panel discussion titled: The Future of The Book.

The event will take place  Saturday, October 20, 2012 3:45-5:15 p.m. at the Koret Auditorium, Main Library, Lower Level.

The panelists participatings are: poet and scholar Robert Bringhurst, Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, fine-art printer Peter Koch and Professor Harry Reese.

The event is part of  The Book Club of California’s three-day Centennial Symposium, WAY OUT WEST: Fine Printing & the Cultural History of the Book in California.

For more information, please visit : The Future of The Book.

Franz Kafka’s manuscripts go the National Library of Israel

Some of the yet unseen manuscripts of Franz Kafka will go the hands of the National Library of Israel after a long and fiery court battle. The ownership of these rare manuscripts was up in dispute, as the Tel Aviv Family court was believed to have ruled that these rare and valuable manuscripts go to the National Library of Israel and become a part of the heritage of the Israeli people. The actual ruling of the court, however, was that these documents would go to the public institution in Israel and be kept intact.

After a long life of sitting in the hidden storage of safes and attics away from the sight of the public, these rare manuscripts will at long last be revealed to all once the library has scanned and posted them on the internet.

The dispute over the manuscripts started a long time ago, and is the result of many tumultuous events. The manuscripts were first given by Kafka to his friend and associate Brod, a German-language author, with the agreement that they would be burned shortly following Kafka’s death.  After Kafka’s demise in 1924 from tuberculosis, however, these manuscripts were not burned. Further, Brod published two books from the manuscripts entitled ‘’The Trial’’ and ‘’The Castle’’.

When Brod died in 1968, he willed the manuscripts to his secretary Esther Hoffe. Mrs Hoffe, who recently died in 2008, left her estate to her two 70 year old daughters. During the four decades that the manuscripts were in the hands of Mrs. Hoffe, they were never opened to the public. This seclusion was met with much uttered protest, as scholars and archivists desperately yearned to have access to them, with the hopes that they would shed some light to the author’s life.

The question which may come to one’s mind is whether these manuscripts are truly rare and valuable. For the record, it should be noted that during her lifetime, Esther Hoffe sold the manuscripts of the book ‘’The Trial’’ in 1988 at a Sotheby’s auction for 1.98 million USD!

The National Library of Israel in Jerusalem plans to preserve the manuscripts, and in the near future scan them to make them available on the internet for the public and for scholars to read these still unread Kafka rare manuscripts.

However, the two sisters have not given up on their claim to ownership of these rare manuscripts. Through their lawyer they have appealed the ruling, which may mean that the battle over the ownership of Kafka’s manuscripts might not be over!





















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