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BBC radio show sparks interest in forgotten farming book from 1944

The Farming Ladder by George Henderson

A long forgotten farming book published in 1944, that promotes small-scale agriculture, is in demand again after being featured on a BBC Radio 4 show at the weekend.

The Farming Ladder by George Henderson was the basis for Sybil Ruscoe’s On the Farm, which is broadcast at 6.35am on Sunday mornings. The book outlines the best methods for agricultural production on small farms, and was intended to encourage soldiers, returning from World War II, to take up farming.

On Sunday, The Farming Ladder was the most searched for book on AbeBooks.co.uk – the online marketplace for used and rare books.

Although farmers are early risers and often listen to early morning radio while milking or feeding animals, the book is also going to appeal to many other people interested in sustainable farming, local produce and organic food.

Henderson was convinced that small farms could be profitable and his book describes an intensive but chemical-free style of mixed farming where animals play a vital role by providing natural fertilizer – manure. The Farming Ladder details cattle, sheep, poultry and pig husbandry on a small scale.

According the radio show, Henderson’s motto was the three S’s – no smoking, no swearing and no standing about. The book, which appears to have been reprinted several times, turned Henderson into an agricultural celebrity in the 1940s and 1950s with thousands of people visiting his 85-acre Oathill Farm in Oxfordshire to learn more about his methods.

Henderson’s widow, Elizabeth, a former land girl, is still alive and was interviewed in the show. George’s granddaughter Kate, who’s in her early 20s, works on Oathill Farm today.

The Farming Ladder is also available as a print on demand book.

The Farming Ladder by George Henderson


The 16th century book that launched a thousand travel books

Navigationi et Viaggi offered by Isseido Booksellers of Tokyo

Travel writing has been around for about two thousand years with both the Romans and Greeks documenting their experiences of early exploration. However, the 16th century marked the real start of travel writing with advances in printing technology and numerous explorers – from Francis Drake to Martin Frobisher – traveling to the corners of the globe on behalf of their respective superpowers.

Tokuei Ueda, foreign books manager at Isseido Booksellers, opens the copy of Navigationi et Viaggi

The Isseido Booksellers in Tokyo recently gave AbeBooks a special insight into one particularly important travel book from this period. Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485-1557) was a civil servant in the Venetian Republic but his real passion was geography and he keenly followed all the latest developments from the great explorers of this age.

Fluent in several languages, Ramusio amassed various books and manuscripts, and compiled his learnings into Navigationi et Viaggi (Navigations and Travels). The book includes details on the travels of Marco Polo, Niccolò Da Conti, Magellan, Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca and Giosafat Barbaro. Early maps of Brazil, Canada, New England, Africa, Asia and Japan were included.

The first volume was published in 1555 with the third volume published in 1556. The second was delayed by a fire that destroyed the manuscript (a not uncommon occurrence at this time) and was finally published in 1559. The book was so popular that is was reprinted several times and translated into several languages. People were genuinely eager to learn about the extent and nature of the world around them.

The copy offered by Isseido Booksellers covers volumes printed in 1563, 1565 and 1583, and is priced at £26,077 ($40,845). There are four more copies available on AbeBooks for higher prices, which indicates the importance of this particular book.

Navigationi et Viaggi


Osama Bin Laden’s bookshelf

I’m confused as to why the US authorities would release a list of the books that appeared on the shelves of Osama Bin Laden’s Pakistan compound but the list is now being analysed around the world.

Bin Laden read books about law, military strategy and, of course, books about the 9/11 attacks, including conspiracy theories. Fiction was not on his bedside table. Many people have called out the presence of books by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward and American academic Noam Chomsky. The book Christianity and Islam in Spain 756-1031 AD by CR Haines actually looks very interesting to anyone who likes Spanish history.

Here is the full list of English language books

Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward

The 2030 Spike by Colin Mason
A Brief Guide to Understanding Islam by IA Ibrahim
America’s Strategic Blunders by Willard Matthias
America’s War on Terrorism by Michel Chossudovsky
Al-Qaeda’s Online Media Strategies: From Abu Reuter to Irhabi 007 by Hanna Rogan
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast
The Best Enemy Money Can Buy by Anthony Sutton
Black Box Voting, Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century by Bev Harris
Bloodlines of the Illuminati by Fritz Springmeier
Bounding the Global War on Terror by Jeffrey Record
Checking Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions by Henry Sokolski and Patrick Clawson
Christianity and Islam in Spain 756-1031 AD by CR Haines
Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies by Cheryl Benard
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
Conspirators’ Hierarchy: The Committee of 300 by John Coleman
Crossing the Rubicon by Michael Ruppert
Guerrilla Air Defense: Antiaircraft Weapons and Techniques for Guerrilla Forces by James Crabtree
Handbook of International Law by Anthony Aust
Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky
Imperial Hubris by Michael Scheuer
In Pursuit of Allah’s Pleasure by Asim Abdul Maajid, Esaam Ud-Deen and Naahah Ibrahim
Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II by William Blum
Military Intelligence Blunders by John Hughes-Wilson
Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies by Noam Chomsky
New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 by David Ray Griffin
New Political Religions, or Analysis of Modern Terrorism by Barry Cooper
Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward
Oxford History of Modern War by Charles Townsend
The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy
Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower by William Blum
The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly Hall
Secrets of the Federal Reserve by Eustace Mullins
The Taking of America 1-2-3 by Richard Sprague
Unfinished Business, U.S. Overseas Military Presence in the 21st Century by Michael O’Hanlon
The U.S. and Vietnam 1787-1941 by Robert Hopkins Miller


Inscribed first edition of The Little Prince goes on sale for £150,000

A remarkable early copy of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic children’s story featuring a drawing and a note of thanks to Dorothy Barclay, the reporter’s assistant who helped the author estimate the number of stars visible from Earth, has gone on sale for £150,000.

The inscribed copy of The Little Prince

Saint-Exupéry wrote The Little Prince, published in 1943, while living on Long Island in the United States. He asked a friend, Helen Lazeroff, a reporter on the New York Times, to help him find out how many stars can be seen from Earth. Her assistant, Dorothy Barclay, phoned the Hayden Planetarium in Manhattan and reported back to the author.

In the book, the Little Prince meets a businessman who is counting the stars – 501,622,731 – which he claims he owns. The grateful author inscribed this copy to Barclay and drew a picture showing a disappointed Little Prince after landing on Earth.

In the sketch, the downcast Prince says (written in French): “You’d have to be completely crazy to have chosen this planet. It is only pleasant at night when the inhabitants are asleep.”

However, below the figure Saint-Exupéry has added (again in French): “The Little Prince was wrong. There are on Earth some inhabitants whose straightforwardness, sweetness and generosity of heart make up for the avarice and egotism of the others. For example, Dorothy Barclay …”

The book, an English language first edition published by Reynal & Hitchcock, is offered for sale by London-based bookseller Peter Harrington (check out their video below about the book). This copy of The Little Prince is by far the most expensive one for sale on the AbeBooks marketplace.

The book for sale also includes a typed note from Barclay to Saint-Exupéry saying she thought the book was “movingly beautiful.”

The Little Prince remains one of the most iconic books published in the 20th century. Translated into dozens of languages, it tells the story of a crashed pilot who meets a young prince who has fallen to Earth. Saint-Exupéry, a pilot himself, died when his plane disappeared over the Mediterranean in 1944 so collectible copies of this nature are extremely rare.

Saint-Exupéry’s inscription to Dorothy Barclay in The Little Prince

This particular copy is around £150,000 out of my personal price range but I can recommend The Little Prince 70th Anniversary Gift Set which includes an audio CD of the fable narrated by Viggo Mortensen.


Next stop Munich’s pop-up rare book fair

My colleague Charlotte Lacroix visited the ILAB pop-up rare book fair in Munich earlier today. The event took place in Kaufmanns-Casino and I particularly adore the idea of books appearing in a place of gambling.

Kaufmanns-Casino is a famous cocktail venue where Munich’s movers and shakers like to drink after work and it’s been that way since the 19th century. Everyone who is anyone in Bavaria has been there. Located on the prestigious Odeonsplatz, Kaufmanns-Casino hosted around 120 guests for today’s ILAB book fair.

One of the organizers, Eberhard Köstler, welcomed the guests and a good number of local booksellers were in attendance, including Abeceda Antiquariat, Christof Groessl, Hartung & Hartung, J. J. Heckenhauer, Daniela Kromp, Antiquariat Kurz, Musikantiquariat  Marion Neugebauer, Dasa Pahor and Thomas Rezek.

Enjoy Charlotte’s pictures.

Eberhard Köstler welcomes the guests

Kaufmanns-Casino is located in one of Munich's upmarket areas

Kaufmanns-Casino is located in one of Munich’s upmarket areas

The team from Antiquariat Kurz display their books

A selection of collectible items from Hartung & Hartung

A selection of eye-catching rare books on display in Munich

More rare books on display in Kaufmanns-Casino


A photographic tour of the ILAB pop-up rare book fairs around the world

In Groningen, Netherlands, the ILAB book fair took over an entire street with booksellers Lyseth Belt and Theo Butterhof leading the way.

To celebrate UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright Day, ILAB booksellers have organised pop-up book fair around the world. Take a photographic tour of the events going on around the globe today. Visit the ILAB pop-up book fair blog for more details.

In Antwerp, Belgium, two booksellers (Erik Tonen and Peter Everaers) combined for an event at Bibliotheek Permeke.

In Barcelona, Spain, the famous Las Ramblas street staged a pop-up book fair.

Also in Spain, Bilbao hosted another pop-up book fair at Librería Anticuaria Astarloa.

In Hungary, Budapest's Instituto Cervantes hosted a book fair.

In Hungary, Budapest’s Instituto Cervantes hosted a book fair.

In the Netherlands, booksellers took over Haarlem Central Station.

In the Netherlands, booksellers took over Haarlem Central Station.

In Japan, a pop-up fair was hosted at the World Antiquarian Book Plaza in downtown Tokyo.

In Japan, a pop-up fair was hosted at the World Antiquarian Book Plaza in downtown Tokyo.

In London, the historic Middle Temple library became a book fair for the day.

In London, the historic Middle Temple library became a book fair for the day.

In Salisbury, the book fair was hosted via a VW campervan.

In Salisbury, UK, a book fair was hosted via a VW campervan belonging to bookseller Amanda Hall.

Salisbury's campervan book fair.

Salisbury’s campervan book fair.


ILAB’s Pop-up Rare Book Fairs set for World Book & Copyright Day on April 23

April 23 is UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright Day when literature and literacy is celebrated around the globe. This year, this special day will have a strong rare book flavor thanks to more than a dozen pop-up book fairs organized by the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB).

Locations are still being added to the list but so far you will be able to visit pop-up book fairs in London, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Seattle, Portland (Oregon), Sydney, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Moscow, Tokyo, Milan, Zurich, Antwerp, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and The Hague.

Support ILAB’s pop-up book fairs

There are also book fairs set to appear in smaller towns and cities such as Lund in Sweden, the Western Australian communities of Hamilton and Dunkeld, Haarlem and Groningen in the Netherlands, Lucca in Tuscany, and Konigstein in Germany.

What is most appealing about this initiative is that rare books are being brought to the people and displayed in places that are often quite different to traditional antiquarian bookshops.

For instance, the Dunkeld event is being held in an historic woolshed – a most appropriate venue considering sheep outnumber humans in this part of the world. In Groningen, an entire street – Folkingestraat – is being turned into a book fair for the day. This famous street includes about 50 shops and a beautiful synagogue.

The booksellers at each venue will be collecting financial donations on behalf to UNESCO’s South Sudan Literacy Project. A donation of $3 sends one book to a child in South Sudan, $15 US purchase a set of 12 school books for a classroom, and $500 provides 45 school book collections for a rural community.

On April 23, AbeBooks will join ILAB is promoting pictures, video and news from these events on our blogs and social media.

The list of venues goes on and on….

In Sydney, Australia, you will be able to see a Shakespeare First Folio at the pop-up fair at the State Library of New South Wales.

In Portland, Oregon, ILAB dealers Elisabeth Burdon, Nat Des Marais, Philip Pirages, and Charles Seluzicki will be offering books in a pub called Lucky Lab on Hawthorne Boulevard. Books and beer sounds like the ideal combination.

While in Munich, you can read and gamble at Kaufmanns Casino, which will host around15 antiquarian booksellers from Bavaria. In Konigstein, the auction house Reiss & Sohn is hosting a fair.

In Tokyo, a pop-up fair occurs at the World Antiquarian Book Plaza where 22 antiquarian booksellers from 11 countries share a common space.

In Russia, there will be free book appraisals from sellers at the Moscow State University of the Printing Arts.

In Zurich, there will be a pop-up fair at August Laube Rare Books on the bank of the River Limmat. In Italy, Lucca’s fair can be found in Corte del Biancone and in Milan at Biblioteca Chiesa Rossa. In Vienna, ILAB President Norbert Donhofer will host a fair on the roof terrace of his new shop on Taborstrasse 64/Top 18.

In Budapest, Hungarian booksellers will hold a pop-up fair at the Institute Cervantes. In Holland, you can see antiquarian booksellers and their books in Haarlem central station – catch your train, pick up a book.

In Antwerp’s harbor, you can browse books at Bibliotheek Permeke from Belgian booksellers. In London’s Middle Temple Library, there will be a pop-up fair close to Fleet Street, The Strand and Embankment.

Chicago’s fair can be found in the Cliff Dwellers Club which overlooks Lake Michigan. Lund’s book fair in Sweden is dedicated entirely to pop-up books.

Visit the ILAB site for details as more venues are still being added.

This page details the four methods in which you can make a donation to UNESCO’s literary project in South Sudan.


The Hobbit read as the BBC Radio 4 Shipping Forecast

The BBC Radio 4 Shipping Forecast has always fascinated me. I love the rhythm and cadence of the forecasts for each respective shipping area along with all those memorable names – Dogger, Rockall, German Bight anyone? I even don’t mind when the test match cricket commentary is interrupted by a five-minute break for the Shipping Forecast just as England are about to lose/win the game.

The inspiration for this video came when I was reading The Hobbit to my youngest daughter and glanced at JRR Tolkien’s illustration of Thorin’s map. For some reason, I thought of the shipping areas that surround the British Isles. This was the third time that I had read The Hobbit – once to myself, once aloud to the eldest daughter and now aloud to the youngest – so the story is well ingrained into my memory. It was actually an easy script to write but not so easy to deliver – I now know that I will never be a newsreader on BBC Radio 4.

Incidentally, my favourite book about the Shipping Forecast is Attention All Shipping: A Journey Around the Shipping Forecast by Charlie Connelly, who attempted to visit all the areas (even the God-forsaken ones).

Of course, this video will completely baffle anyone who does not know what the Shipping Forecast is all about. Here’s another video for our North American cousins in order to explain this peculiar piece of radio.


3D Charles Dickens captured in Ivorex

Charles Dickens in Ivorex offered by Tiger Books of Canterbury

Do you know what Ivorex is? Well, you are looking at an image of Charles Dickens in his study created from Ivorex, which was a wax-like material created by the B. Osborne Company who operated from 1899 to 1965.  These three-dimensional plaques are collectible and quite rare. This particular plaque is offered by Tiger Books of Canterbury and is surely a bargain at £50. At the peak of the Osborne Company’s success, thousands of these pieces were produced and sold around the world.


10 Beautiful, Varied Editions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales

A miniature edition, dark green with inlaid morocco design and paint by Philip Smith. Book published 1970, art completed 1978.

A miniature edition, dark green with inlaid morocco design and paint by Philip Smith. Book published 1970, art completed 1978.

In the early 19th-century, two German brothers named Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm put together a collection of Germanic folktales, to preserve and share. In 1812 they released them as a book – Grimm’s Fairy Tales, originally actually titled Children’s and Household Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen). Dark, often harsh and scary, these were a far cry from the nursery rhymes typically aimed at children. It’s been over two centuries since that first volume was published, and many others followed in its footsteps. In that 203 years, the Grimm’s tales have fallen under the pen of many an editor, some more liberal than the last, and many more recent editions will bear little more than a passing resemblance to their original counterparts. Justice is gentler, lessons learned are less bloody, and stories are overall softened little by little.

The collection has had its share of ardent admirers over the years, but also much criticism and detraction, as well. A not-insignificant number of readers found passages in the book to be questionable not only in terms of violence and cruelty, but also anti-Semitism, most notably in the original editions. Again, you’ll find most or all of that sentiment absent from recent editions.

Here are ten very different, very beautiful editions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales from over the years.

UK 1930 Reprint, published by Dent, with 102 B&W drawings by R. Anning Bell, with beautiful decorative cloth covers.

UK 1930 Reprint, published by Dent, with 102 B&W drawings by R. Anning Bell, with beautiful decorative cloth covers.

A 1919 edition published by A. &. Black and ullusrated by Charles Folkard. Complete with 8 color plates, including frontis.

A 1919 edition published by A. &. Black and ullusrated by Charles Folkard. Complete with 8 color plates, including frontis.

1909 First edition illustrated and signed by Arthur Rackham. Limited to 750 copies, edition bound in white vellum and gilt.

1909 First edition illustrated and signed by Arthur Rackham. Limited to 750 copies, edition bound in white vellum and gilt.

UK 1st edition thus published by Cassell in 1916. Decorated cloth over boards, 8 color plates, numerous B&W illustrations.

UK 1st edition thus published by Cassell in 1916. Decorated cloth over boards, 8 color plates, numerous B&W illustrations.

First American edition, 1900, Published by J.B. Lippincott Co. According to description, this is the original Rackham edition.

First American edition, 1900, Published by J.B. Lippincott Co. According to description, this is the original Rackham edition.

An unusual 1920 edition by Raphael House Library from 1920, with 12 full-page color plates, and adorable cover illustrations.

An unusual 1920 edition by Raphael House Library from 1920, with 12 full-page color plates, and adorable cover illustrations.

Miniature more modern edition published by Hillside Press in 1963, limited to just 350 numbered copies. 6 cm by 5 cm.

Miniature more modern edition published by Hillside Press in 1963, limited to just 350 numbered copies. 6 cm by 5 cm.

1940 edition by The Children's Press, UK, with four full-page color illustrations. Uncommon in condition as good as this.

1940 edition by The Children’s Press, UK, with four full-page color illustrations. Uncommon in condition as good as this.

Published by S.W. Partridge & Co. in the UK, this 1910 edition has gorgeous rust-colored decorated cloth over boards.

Published by S.W. Partridge & Co. in the UK, this 1910 edition has gorgeous rust-colored decorated cloth over boards.