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Black Magic! Classic piece of Gothic horror sells for £1,200

A 1909 first edition of Black Magic by Marjorie Bowen

A 1909 first edition of Black Magic by Marjorie Bowen – an influential piece of Gothic fiction – has sold for £1,200 on AbeBooks. Signed and inscribed, this book is very rare with just three other copies from 1909 listed for sale on our marketplace.

Black Magic begins with the ominous line: “In the large room of a house in a certain quiet city in Flanders, a man was guilding a devil.” That man is Dirk Renswoude, a loner from a noble family who has been mistreated in some unspecified way. He meets Thierry, a young scholar on his way to study in Basle and they discover a shared fascination with the black arts. Their experiments lead to murder.

The Viper of Milan by Marjorie Bowen

Bowen (1885-1952) wrote many books, including historical romances, supernatural horror stories, history and biographies. Bowen was one of several pen names she used and her actual name was Margaret Gabrielle Vere Campbell Long.

Graham Greene mentioned Bowen when he was interviewed by the Paris Review in 1953: “I chose Marjorie Bowen [as a major influence] because as I have told you, I don’t think that the books that one reads as an adult influence one as a writer…But books such as Marjorie Bowen’s, read at a young age, do influence one considerably.”

Born on Hayling Island, Hampshire, Long came from a poor family and she had no formal education. Her first novel – The Viper of Milan, set in 14th century Italy – was published when she was just 21 after being rejected by 11 publishers. The author was paid £60 for her work, according to The Independent, and she became the breadwinner for her impoverished family.

Greene wrote a foreword to a 1960 edition of The Viper of Milan, a romance, published by the Bodley Head.

AbeBooks’ bestselling signed books

Bestselling Signed Books on AbeBooks - September, 2015

Once a month we like to take a peek at our top-selling signed books. September’s list features an ex-president, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and an astronaut. British neurologist Oliver Sacks’ book Awakenings makes a special appearance following his death on August 30th.

1. A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety by Jimmy Carter

2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

3. Armada by Ernest Cline

4. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

5. The Martian by Andy Weir

6. The Year of Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota

7. The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

8. Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

9. Awakenings by Oliver Sacks

10. Game Changer by Louise Phillips

Stay tuned for next month’s list of bestselling signed books!

The Ultimate Alice in Wonderland Birthday Cake

In honour of the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, AbeBooks has created a video describing how to make the ‘Ultimate Alice Birthday Cake.’

Have you made a literary cake?

Tickets please. Osterley Bookshop is housed in an old Tube station

Osterley Bookshop in Isleworth, London

Books and trains have always had a close relationship. The Osterley Bookshop, in the leafy suburbs of west London, is located in an old (overground) Tube station. The building is just a couple of minutes walk from the current Osterley Tube station (an Art Deco gem from 1933) and is owned by Tony Vesely and his wife, Pennie.

They started the business in 1972 when they were busy producing posters for London’s underground movement (that’s the cultural underground rather than the Tube).  This property came up for sale and the council insisted that the building had to be a retail operation, and that’s how the bookshop started.

The shop is located at 168A Thornbury Road in Isleworth. Walk in and you may need to ring a bell in order to bring Tony or Pennie into the front of the shop, which is housed in the first Osterley Station, opened in  in 1883 as Osterley and Spring Grove, on the predecessor to the District Line called the District Railway.

The original platforms are still there and can be spotted from the trains that still pass by on the way to central London.

Browse their books.

Island life suits the Ryde Bookshop

The Ryde Bookshop – the view from the High Street

The Isle of Wight is home to the Ryde Bookshop. Ryde is a small town on the northern side of the island, facing much larger Portsmouth on the mainland. Established in December 1988, the bookshop is open seven days a week and very much a traditional bookshop.

Situated at 135 High Street, opposite the Catholic church, the bookshop covers three floors and offers 10 rooms filled with more than 30,000 new and secondhand books. The Ryde Bookshop tends not to offer many bestsellers but covers a wide range of niche subjects, including Isle of Wight history, travel, transport, military, literature and a selection of maps, CDs and DVDs, and postcards.

Owner Mark Sames explains how it all began and what makes this business tick. “Mum and Dad started it buying books at jumble sales and then selling them mail order in magazines such as Books and Magazine Collector,” he said. “In those days you could buy books at jumble sales for 10p each, some of which could be re-sold at higher prices. They then started exhibiting at book fairs throughout the south of England.

“I would help, buying at the sales, and attending the fairs. This carried on for about five years, but then I lost my job and Dad was approaching retirement, so Mum and Dad sold their house, and I sold my house to buy the shop. It was already a bookshop, but only offered new books, and cards and stationery. We added the secondhand books, expanding into rooms at the back. At first I lived in a flat above the shop, but eventually the stock became so large I had to move out in order to convert the rooms of the flat into more rooms for the shop. We also covered over a backyard to make another room for the shop.

“We have two part-time staff, and Dad still comes in to help, but only once every two weeks as he is very old now. I work there full-time and go in seven days a week. It is my hobby as well as my work.

“The trade is still quite good in the Winter because more wealthy people and retired people come to the island for a second holiday. There is also a good trade approaching Christmas. A lot of the people who come in the Summer do not have a great amount of money and cannot afford to go abroad, and they tend not to buy many books.

“We do sell maritime literature and nautical maps, but no more than other subjects. It would probably be different if we were in Cowes, which is renowned for Cowes Week and sailing. The subject that we sell the most is books about the Isle of Wight.”

Browse their books.

Books galore in the Ryde Bookshop

2015 Man Booker Shortlist

The judges have announced the 2015 shortlist for the Man Booker Prize and the list is full of interesting choices. The judges commented on the different writing styles, the literary backgrounds of the writers and the cultural heritage. The list includes both new and well known, established authors including Tom McCarthy and Anne Tyler. The winner will be announced on Tuesday 13 October 2015.



The 2015 shortlist is:

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
James brings to life the people who walked the streets of 1970s Kingston, who dominated the crack houses of 1980s New York, and who reemerged into a radically altered Jamaica of the 1990s. Brilliantly inventive, A Brief History of Seven Killings is an “exhilarating” ( The New York Times) epic that’s been called “a tour de force” ( The Wall Street Journal).

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
From the author of Remainder and C (short-listed for the Man Booker Prize), and a winner of the Windham-Campbell Literature Prize, comes Satin Island, an unnerving novel that promises to give us the first and last word on the world – modern, postmodern, whatever world you think you are living in.

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma
Told from the point of view of nine year old Benjamin, the youngest of four brothers, The Fishermen is the Cain and Abel-esque story of an unforgettable childhood in 1990s Nigeria. When their father has to travel to a distant city for work, the brothers take advantage of his extended absence to skip school and go fishing. At the forbidden nearby river they encounter a madman, who predicts that one of the brothers will kill another. What happens next is an almost mythic event whose impact-both tragic and redemptive-will transcend the lives and imaginations of both its characters and its readers.

The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota
The Year of the Runaways tells of the bold dreams and daily struggles of an unlikely family thrown together by circumstance. Thirteen young men live in a house in Sheffield, each in flight from India and in desperate search of a new life. Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver, will say nothing about his past in Bihar; and Avtar has a secret that binds him to protect the choatic Randeep. Randeep, in turn, has a visa-wife in a flat on the other side of town: a clever, devout woman whose cupboards are full of her husband’s clothes, in case the immigration men surprise her with a call.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
‘It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon…’ This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that day in July 1959. The whole family on the porch, relaxed, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before. And yet this gathering is different. Abby and Red are getting older, and decisions must be made about how best to look after them and their beloved family home.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is an immensely powerful and heartbreaking novel of brotherly love and the limits of human endurance. When four graduates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition.

Who do you predict will take the prize?

Carnforth Bookshop – a Lancashire tradition since 1977

Carnforth Bookshop in Lancashire

North of Morecambe and east of the M6, Carnforth Bookshop is an independent, family-run business in the historic town of Carnforth in a part of Lancashire where there’s a hint of the seaside in the air.

Located on Market Street on a very recognizable brick building, the shop was established in 1977 and visitors will find books on three floors. The second-hand department stocks more than 150,000 books alone. New books are on the ground floor. You browse via themed rooms – and they include local interest, maps, railways and transport, children’s books, art, biographies and history.

There is a large selection of local interest books on various Lancastrian matters – from food to walking to nature and history – and many walking guides as this part of the world is a hiker’s heaven. Carnworth itself is close to the coast and the hills. The River Keer, the West Coast trainline, the Lancaster Canal and the A6 all pass through the town.

Browse their books.

Carnforth Bookshop – three stories of new and used books

Derbyshire’s Scarthin Books – beating the odds since 1974

In 2008, The Guardian revealed its list of the 10 best bookshops in the world. Scarthin Books from Cromford in Derbyshire was on the list. Quite an achievement for a bookshop in a small rural community.

David Mitchell is the founder and owner of Scarthin. He started the business in 1974 with just a single room of not-so-many books, no experience in bookselling and no staff. He openly admits on the shop’s website that launching the business in Cromford was a gamble. “Stuck away in Cromford… we felt marginalized,” he said.

But he plugged away and steadily grew the business until he had 12 rooms open to the public plus a café, offices, a warehouse and a packing room. Today, people travel a long way to visit Scarthin Books – they’ll combine book-buying (they offer close to 100,000 new, used and antiquarian books) with hiking or cycling or simply soaking up the beautiful Derbyshire countryside.

David Booker from Scarthin Books

Visit the Scarthin Books website, a self-proclaimed “baffling website,” and you’ll see the business described as “a bookshop for the majority of the minorities.” But still it bucks the trend and continues to survive as an independent seller of books.

David described the magic formula as “committed staff, who in the seventies tended to be doing it for fun and pin-money (and) now look to the business for vital family income.” This is a bookshop that specializes in “everything,” according to David, who is now in semi-retirement. David Booker is now general manager of the business.

Earlier in 2015, it appeared the business was on shaky ground after it was discovered that its building needed major structural repairs – four steel columns were required to prevent collapse. A crowd-funding appeal raised £12,000, which guaranteed the shop’s future and ensured the repairs were made.

Browse their books.

Scarthin Bookshop in Cromford, Derbyshire

Books of the Beat Generation, from Rob Warren Books

Rob Warren, of Rob Warren Books

Rob Warren, of Rob Warren Books

Rob Warren is no stranger to nostalgia. The Bronx-born bibliophile traded in it for years as the owner of Skyline Books.

Skyline was a New York City bookshop that made its home on W. 18th Street in Manhattan for two decades, until its closure in 2010. Its proprietor’s background was as book-soaked as one could dream – Warren’s father was a printer with a shop dedicated to old-time printing presses, selling greeting cards and stationery, and eventually books. Warren worked there, then several varied New York-based bookshops, before striking out on his own and building Skyline in 1990. He has been with AbeBooks since 1998, the very early days of our business.

Skyline was tailor-made for bookish types – a cosy, creaky hole in the wall, piled high with quality books and a much-beloved cat named Linda. Linda was featured not only in a Japanese calendar, but also the cover model for a book about Paris’ Shakespeare & Co. bookshop (those are her hindquarters below left, adorning Time Was Soft There).

Skyline attracted a certain kind of person. Bookish, passionate people from the neighborhood and beyond would stop in to buy, to browse, or even to connect with other like-minded people over a first edition or two. time-soft-there
Over the years the likes of Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, Ted Joans, Anne Charters, Robert Frank, and Herbert Huncke darkened its doors. A review from the shop’s now defunct Yelp business profile states “This shop is definitely a book forager’s shop and not one for those with a weak sense of adventure. If you prefer your bookstores with organised shelves, clearly marked prices, and pristine covers, this place is not for you. But if you’re one who doesn’t mind combing through titles for hours on end, Skyline, with its jumbled collection, can be quite a treat.”. Sounds heavenly to me.

When his lease increased suddenly and steeply, Warren was unable to afford the space and was forced to make the painful decision to close his doors. Linda came home with him, of course (and continued at his side until she passed away at age 16, halfway through 2015). And the books? Well, the more pedestrian of the Skyline collection were sold in the shop’s last days, at great discounts. Lots others were snapped up at a West Village book fair, the proceeds of which went to benefit LGBTQ organisations. Still more, the cream of the crop, were put aside by Warren, who just couldn’t bear to part with certain titles and gems. howl-ginsbergModern first editions, special finds and an impressive collection of works by and about the Beat Generation all went home with him to his small apartment, whose two storage rooms he estimates hold ~1500 volumes.

Much of that collection is available now on AbeBooks, after he started selling in the Tin Pan Alley district of New York City later in 2010 under the name Rob Warren Books. The collection that has his apartment and storage areas packed must go, a bit at a time, and so he’s adding more inventory all the time, albeit gradually. Warren’s days are more varied now – he still receives occasional calls from interested book buyers and booksellers. He enjoys plenty of down time, including playing guitar, on his own in the park or along with the other members of his rock band. A few at a time, he’s listing his books for sale, those gems that were his “keepers” for 25 years. Once a booklover, always a booklover, and Warren will still venture far and wide to attend particularly choice book signings. By and large, though, he spends his time close to home, in the coffee shop, library and restaurants in Manhattan’s East Village. Life is soft.

beat-beat-beat-brownWarren was kind enough to talk with us and answer some questions about his collection of Beat books, and how they became the focal point of his book love.

AbeBooks: How and why did you begin collecting books of the Beat Generation?

Rob Warren: I just liked reading them. As a teenager I discovered Burroughs and Kerouac, reading them in hardcover then eventually wanting a first edition.

Abe: What was the first Beat book you remember acquiring?

RW: On the Road. It took me 20 years to get a true first edition of On the Road – and I still have that copy!

Abe: What is the prize find in your collection?

RW: It used to be to be a first edition Naked Lunch by Burroughs (Grove Press) warmly inscribed to Paul Bowles for inspiring him to write the novel. Burroughs was visiting Bowles in Tangier when he wrote it. My current favorite is Junky, also by Burroughs under the pseudonym William Lee. This is the original Ace Double 1953, signed by Burroughs and his close friend Herbert Huncke who is the main character in the book. Interestingly, this book was published by Carl Solomon to whom Howl is dedicated. My other favorites might also be a few original unpublished notebooks by Gregory Corso from the early 90’s. Corso was a regular customer in my shop and one day he brought them in. They’re pretty amazing.

Abe: How long have you been collecting?

RW: From my teens on I always collected books even if they weren’t first editions. I officially started collecting when I discovered Raymond Carver. That was in 1983. We became acquaintances over the years.
Abe: What Beat books do you not yet have, but wish to acquire?

RW: I always regretted not getting a signed first of Howl.

Abe: Who would you call the key figures of the Beats, outside of Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs?

RW: Gregory Corso, primarily, but also Ferlinghetti as a publisher. Herbert Huncke wrote some very interesting books. Ted Joans for awhile. Gary Snyder never considered himself a Beat, but he got lumped in as he was the inspiration for the main character in Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums. Ah, and Neal Cassady! His The First Third was actually written before On the Road.

Abe: What do you think contributed to the formation of the Beat poets and movement?

RW: The experience of World War II and the realisation that perhaps the American Dream wasn’t necessarily what they’d been told all along. In many ways they were inevitable just as the protests of the 60’s were inevitable.

Abe: What else would you like to tell us about collecting and your collection?

RW: My entire Beat collection is going up on AbeBooks. At this point I’ve listed 130 Beat-related items with pictures. It took 30 years to build so this is going to take some time! After the Beats I’ll start listing my Raymond Carver, William Faulkner and Charles Bukowski collections. And of course a sizeable run of signed books by Samuel Beckett, including an inscribed copy of Waiting For Godot, Grove Press, 1954. A Near Fine copy in NF dust Jacket. Stay tuned.

I will say that over the years I met all the major Beats except Kerouac. They either came into Skyline or I spoke with them at signings at St. Mark’s Church. I also got to meet Robert Frank. He signed a few copies of Les Americans, the true first edition of his seminal work. Kerouac wrote the introduction to the American edition published a year later. You just can’t find yourself in these situations if you don’t inherently love what you do.

Check out all the books currently offered by Rob Warren Books.

Beautiful 1928 Parisian theatre poster sells for £1,146

Coq D’Or theatre poster

This beautiful Parisian theatre poster from 1928 has just sold for $1,760 (about £1,146) on the AbeBooks marketplace. It promotes a French opera-ballet called The Golden Cockerel (Coq d’Or in French) by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

The libretto derives from Pushkin’s poem, The Tale of the Golden Cockerel, which was based on a section of Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra. The opera was a satire of Russia’s Tsarist regime, including the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).

The poster artist was Georges de Pogedaieff (1897-1971) – an influential Russian visual artist who created art for Russian ballets including the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo.