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Pre-first editions? Manuscripts, galley proofs & advanced reader copies explained

Enjoy our latest video about editions printed in small quantities before the release date. A pre-first edition book is any limited run of a book printed before the stated first edition is published. Learn more about these types of books in our book collecting guide.

2014 Booker Prize shortlist announced

The shortlist for the 2014 Man Booker Prize has been announced. The six books shortlisted are:

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma Death Railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. His life is a daily struggle to save the men under his command from starvation, cholera and pitiless beatings. Until he receives a letter that will change him forever. Moving deftly from the POW camp to contemporary Australia, from the experiences of Dorrigo and his comrades to those of the Japanese guards, this novel tells a story of love, death, and family, exploring the many forms of good and evil, war and truth, and guilt.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and our narrator, Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I spent the first 18years of my life defined by this one fact: that I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she says. “It’s never going to be the first thing I share with someone. I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion, I’d scarcely known a moment alone. She was my twin, my fun-house mirror, my whirlwind other half, and I loved her as a sister.”

J by Howard Jacobson
J by Howard Jacobson
Set in the future, J is a love story of incomparable strangeness, both tender and terrifying. Two people fall in love, not yet knowing where they have come from or where they are going. Kevern doesn t know why his father always drew two fingers across his lips when he said a world starting with a J. It isn’t the time or place to be asking questions. Ailinn too has grown up in the dark about who she was or where she came from. On their first date Kevern kisses the bruises under her eyes. Brutality has grown commonplace.Hanging over the lives of all the characters in this novel is a momentous catastrophe – a past event shrouded in suspicion, denial and apology, now referred to as What Happened, If It Happened. J is a novel to be talked about in the same breath as Nineteen Eighty Four and Brave New World.

The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
It is 1967, Calcutta. Unnoticed by his family, Supratik has become dangerously involved in student unrest, agitation, extremist political activism. Compelled by an idealistic desire to change his life and the world around him, all he leaves behind is this note. ‘Ma, I feel exhausted with consuming, with taking and grabbing and using. I am so bloated that I feel I cannot breathe any more. I am leaving to find some air, some place where I shall be able to purge myself, push back against the life given me and make my own. I feel I live in a borrowed house. It’s time to find my own… — Forgive me…’.’

How to be Both by Ali Smith / signed copies
How to Be Both by Ali Smith
A novel all about art’s versatility. Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There s a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There s the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real – and all life’s givens get given a second chance. Smith can make anything happen, which is why she is one of our most exciting writers today .

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris / signed copies
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris
Paul O’Rourke is a man made of contradictions: he loves the world, but doesn’t know how to live in it. He’s a Luddite addicted to his iPhone, a dentist with a nicotine habit, a rabid Red Sox fan devastated by their victories, and an atheist not quite willing to let go of God. Then someone begins to impersonate Paul online, and he watches in horror as a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account are created in his name. What begins as an outrageous violation of his privacy soon becomes something more soul-frightening: the possibility that the online Paul might be a better version of the real thing.

The winner is announced on October 14.

The 2013 Man Booker Prize was awarded to Eleanor Catton for The Luminairies. Just 28 years old when the prize was awarded, the Canadian-born New Zealander was the youngest winner in the prize’s history. Signed copies of The Luminaries are still available.

2014 York National Book Fair coming up on 19-20 September

York National Book FairMore than 200 booksellers will be displaying rare books at the annual York National Book Fair on 19 and 20 September at York Racecourse. This is the event’s 40th year with exhibitors from Germany, Hong Kong and Canada, and from across the UK. Paper makers, calligraphers and bookbinders can also be found at the fair. Organised by the PBFA, this event is billed as Britain’s largest antiquarian book fair. It all began with just 20 booksellers in 1974. For anyone travelling by train, there is a free shuttle-bus from the station to the racecourse that runs every 20 minutes.

Knavesmire, Suite, York Racecourse, YO23 1EX

Opening Times
Friday September 19th 2014 (12 noon – 7pm)
Saturday September 20th 2014 (10am – 5pm)

Admission is £2 on the door but complimentary tickets are available via the fair website.

The art of paper marbling… in video

Endpapers of fine books are often decorated with marbling. The patterns can be extremely eye-catching but sometimes the reader may skip the marbling in order to get to the content. You might enjoy this marbling video from a Turkish artist. This article from Fine Books magazine is also useful.

There is, of course, a book on every subject and we recommend Richard Wolfe’s Marbled Paper: Its History, Techniques, and Patterns for further reading on this little-known art form.

Should we all be reading The Plague by Albert Camus?

The Plague by Albert Camus

Should we all be reading The Plague by Albert Camus? NPR (National Public Radio) in the United States thinks so as the Ebola outbreak continues to dominate news headlines.

La Peste, as the novel is called in French, was published in 1947.  It’s set in an Algerian city and looks at a wide range of people affected by the infectious epidemic, and especially dives into their reactions.

If Camus teaches us anything, it’s that even when tragedy is inevitable we have no choice but to look for that meaning and to find it in one another.

Camus died in 1960 but many people think it’s one of the best novels of the past 75 years. The book has enjoyed some gruesome covers over the years – opposite is the Hamish Hamilton edition from 1959.

One bad cover for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and five good ones

Penguin’s latest cover for that enduring children’s classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is about as popular as a rattlesnake in a lucky dip. My sources tell me Roald Dahl is turning in his grave.

The cover of the new Penguin Modern Classics edition is targeted at adults. No Charlie, no Mr Wonka – just a pink doll-like girl and some sort of Mad Men-style mum in the background. Where’s the poor kid? Where’s the crazy factory owner? Where’s the blinkin’ chocolate?

It does indeed look like a cover for Lolita. It’s creepy and sexualised, and yet the story is about being poor and having a dream come true. Yes, the other kids are nasty little blighters but they are not disturbing. Perhaps Penguin simply wanted to stir up a hornets’ nest to breathe life into a 50-year-old book. It seems hardly necessary as every bookstore in the world offers a copy for sale and it’s just nine years since Johnny Depp starred in a movie adaptation.

Penguin’s Facebook page is a mess, littered with negative comments about the cover. The top comment simply reads: “Sorry, I wouldn’t buy the book with this cover.”

It’s a dangerous thing to mess with books that people always associate with their childhood – this is one of those books. Nostalgia is a powerful thing.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory first edition 1964The 1964 first edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from 1964.

A Puffin edition from 1978.

An Unwin edition from 1980

Another Puffin edition from 1985

A Viking edition from 1995

Today’s startling news, Harry Potter is going grey

JK Rowling has placed a 1,500-word article on her Pottermore site where Harry Potter is reunited with Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger and their old Hogwarts friends at the final of the 2014 Quidditch World Cup. The boy who lived is now the middle-aged man who was once famous. The article is written in the sensational voice of scandal-hunting journalist Rita Skeeter.

Poor Harry is going grey. I imagine that he now looks like TS Eliot.

Ron’s hair is thinning. Hermione is going from strength to strength as is deputy head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement in the Ministry of Magic.

I always knew Hermione would do the best out of all them.

First edition of legendary crime novel The Three Coffins sells for £1,300

A rare copy of The Three Coffins by John Dickson Carr has sold for £1,300 /$2,250 on AbeBooks. The 1935 Harper first edition had a restored dust jacket.  The Three Coffins is a Dr Fell mystery and at first glance appears to be a standard Dickson Carr crime novel.

However, chapter 17 of the The Three Coffins contains Gideon Fell’s famous ‘locked room lecture’, in which the amateur sleuth describes many of the ways by which apparently locked-room or impossible-crime murders can be committed. It is a seminal piece of crime-writing.

Dickson Carr wrote more than 20 Dr Fell mysteries spanning four decades.  Fell is based upon GK Chesterton – he has a moustache, wears a cape and a shovel hat, and walks with the help of two canes.

Women who write as men – from Blixen to Rowling

The publication of The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling/ Joanne Rowling, once again puts women who write as men into the spotlight. The Silkworm is Rowling’s second Galbraith mystery novel and pushes her another step away from the Harry Potter legacy.

Many women write under pen names but few actually use clearly male names. Aside from Rowling/Galbraith, the three most famous examples of women writing clearly as men are Mary Ann Evans who wrote as George Eliot, Karen Blixen who wrote as Isak Dinesen and French novelist Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin who wrote as George Sand, which is also less of a mouthful.

Many prefer to use initials as part of the pseudonym such as Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb, Erika Leonard writing as E.L. James, Susan Eloise Hinton writing as S.E. Hinton and Joanne Rowling writing as J.K. Rowling. Initials can be understood to be either male or female but the inference is that the author is male.

There are also many examples of female authors adopting a pen name that appears to be neither male or female. Anne Brontë wrote as Acton Bell. I’ve never known an Acton, male or female.  The same could be said for Charlotte Brontë who wrote as Currer Bell. Again the inference is that the author is a man.

The whole discussion about whether it’s better to be male or female when writing is moot when it comes to Rowling/Galbraith. Rowling, the literary world’s one true show-stopping superstar, could publish as Donald Duck and still sell books.

BBC revisits Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning

Next week’s BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week will be Laurie Lee’s account of walking in Spain, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning. The show marks the centenary of Lee’s birth on 26th June.

The memoir was published in 1969 and is the sequel to Cider with Rosie. The author leaves rural Gloucestershire for a epic journey to Spain and then through Spain, starting in Galicia in July 1935,  just as the Spanish Civil War begins.

Lee’s decision to visit Spain was taken because of his knowledge of the Spanish phrase for ‘Will you please give me a glass of water?’

To the right, you can see the cover of the Andre Deutsch first edition with its dust jacket designed by Shirley Thompson. Lee died in 1997. The third part of his autobiographical trilogy is A Moment of War published in 1991.

Here’s a piece of literary trivia – there is a statue of the author in Almuñécar in Andalusia. The town plays an important role in As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning.