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Don’t miss the 2018 PBFA Christmas Fair

The 2018 PBFA Christmas Fair is just days away. It takes place on Saturday, 1st December, from 10:30am to 4:30pm, at the Holiday Inn London in Bloomsbury, Coram Street, London, WC1N 1HT.

It’s the second successive year that the fair has been staged at the Holiday Inn in Bloomsbury and it is expected to attract a wide range of collectors. Close to 60 booksellers will be there, offering rare books, maps, manuscripts, fine art and ephemera. As always, the selection ranges from antiquarian titles to modern first editions, with many scarce signed titles, colourful and nostalgic children’s titles, rare travel books, cookery, history, natural history and beautiful illustrated works. Sellers from across the UK , from Edinburgh to West Yorkshire, are exhibiting at the event.

AbeBooks is proud once again to support this event.

The Holiday Inn London is yards from Russell Square Tube station on the Piccadilly Line. Kings Cross, St Pancras and Euston train stations are all less than a mile away.

Visit the PBFA website for more details, including a ticket for free admission.


The Illustrated Dust Jacket 1920-1970

One of our favourite books of 2018 has been The Illustrated Dust Jacket 1920-1970 by Martin Salisbury. This is a book for anyone who loves beautiful dust jackets. It traces the evolution of the book jacket from its functional origins as a plain protective covering. Salisbury celebrates the work of more than 50 artists from Rockwell Kent to Edward Gorey and NC Wyeth, and covers several styles including Art Deco from the 1920s and 1930s.

Find copies


Anna Burns’ Milkman wins 2018 Man Booker Prize

2018 Man Booker winner

Anna Burns has won the 2018 Man Booker Prize, becoming the first writer from Northern Ireland to take home the award. She wins £50,000 for Milkman, a novel set in the Troubles in Northern Ireland about a young woman being sexually harassed.

People are describing Milkman as “experimental” and it was an outsider to win. The novel is narrated by an 18-year-old girl – never named and known as Middle Sister – who is being harassed by an older paramilitary figure. It definitely carries undertones of the #MeToo era.

This is Burns’ third book. The 56-year-old has previously been shortlisted for the Orange Prize. Burns was born in Belfast and raised in the Catholic district of Ardoyne. She moved to London in 1987 and now lives in East Sussex. Her first novel was called No Bones and that is also an account of growing up in Belfast. She published a novella called Mostly Hero in 2014

See the book

See all the Booker winners


The importance of Paddington Bear

Our latest podcast addresses the importance of Paddington Bear as he approaches his 60th birthday. From marmalade sandwiches to really hard stares, we look at why this children’s book character is so special.


Don’t miss the 2018 Amsterdam Antiquarian Book Fair

People who love antiquarian books, atlases, old maps, fine prints, manuscripts, first editions and the written and printed word in general should plan to be in the Netherlands on October 6-7 for the 2018 Amsterdam International Antiquarian Book Fair. After the last year’s successful event, the fair will be held again in the Marriott Hotel.

The fair has attracted a large number of prominent antiquarian dealers from Holland and abroad. Both serious bibliophiles and general book-lovers will be delighted by almost 50  stands from sellers in the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Belgium. There will be something of interest for everybody, from incunables and antiquarian books to 21st century literature. Anyone who just wishes to browse is welcome and admission is free.

The exhibitors include a large number of members from the Dutch Association of Antiquarian Book Dealers (known in Dutch as the De Nederlandsche Vereeniging van Antiquaren or NVvA). New exhibitors include Acanthus from Utrecht, Alessandro Borgato from Italy, Foldvari from Hungary,  Galerie bei der Oper from Austria, Lynge & Son from Denmark, Mayfair Rare Books & Manuscripts from the UK, and Dat Narrenschip from the Netherlands, and Hanno Schreyer from Germany and Michael Steinbach from Austria.

Just like last year, the curators Reinder Storm and Adriaan Plak from the University of Amsterdam will be giving guided tours on Sunday, walking round the stands and talking about their favorite items displayed in the exhibitors’ collections.

The fair is on the first floor of the Marriott Hotel, Stadhouderskade 12, Amsterdam, and is centrally located between the Leidsche Plein and the Vondelpark. It will be open on Saturday from 1pm to 6pm, and 11am to 5pm on Sunday.

Visit the fair’s website for more information and highlights, which include a first edition of Florilegium Harlemense filled with beautiful flower illustrations, a contemporary coloured copy of the final Hondius edition of the Mercator atlas, and an early book on Greenland.


Marthe McKenna, the WWI nurse who became a British spy

We’re seeing tremendous interest in the books of Marthe McKenna (1892-1966) after the New York Times ran an “overlooked” obituary. A nurse, McKenna, who was Belgian, spied on the Germans for almost two years in World War I. Her book I Was a Spy! became a massive bestseller after the war. It’s still in print thanks to Pool of London Press.

10 novels set in bookshops

Probably the best book about a bookshop is 84 Charing Cross Road, but what about fiction? There is actually a mini-genre of novels set in bookshops dating back 100 years to the books of Christopher Morley. Romance, mysteries, and tales about life-changing events seem to be the main themes. John Dunning, who still owns an antiquarian bookselling business in Denver (Old Algonquin Books), created an entire series of crime novels about a detective who loves books.

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

A witty, sharply observed novel about a young woman who finds unexpected salvation while working in a quirky used bookstore in Manhattan.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookshop in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life using his intuitive feel for what the reader needs.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Clay Jannon has left life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. After a few days, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest.

Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley

Published in 1917. When you sell a man a book, says Roger Mifflin, the traveling bookman at the center of this novella, you don’t sell him just 12 ounces of paper and ink and glue, you sell him a whole new life. A romantic comedy.

The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley

A 1919 suspense novel that continues the story of Roger Mifflin. Not a ghost story, the title refers to the ghosts of the past in the form of dead authors and old books that can be found in a bookstore.

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

In a small East Anglian town, literature-loving widow Florence Green decides, against polite but ruthless local opposition, to open a bookshop. A bookselling drama of small town politics.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

A. J. Fikry lives alone, his bookshop is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore.

The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard

A Danish literary thriller. When Luca Campelli dies a sudden and violent death, his son Jon inherits his second-hand bookshop, Libri di Luca, in Copenhagen. An arson attempt follows and Jon is forced to explore his family’s past. Unbeknownst to him, the bookshop has for years been hiding a remarkable secret.

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

Nina Redmond has a gift for finding the perfect book for her readers. But can she write her own happy-ever-after? This romantic comedy is a valentine to readers, librarians, and book-lovers the world over. Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village and buys a van, which becomes a mobile bookshop.

Booked to Die by John Dunning

Denver homicide detective Cliff Janeway is an avid collector of rare books. After a local book scout is killed on his turf, Janeway is on the (book)case, while also opening a small bookshop. The first in a series of crime novels featuring Janeway, the others are The Bookman’s Wake, The Bookman’s Promise, The Sign of the Book, and The Bookwoman’s Last Fling.


This week’s podcast: books set in London

Charing Cross Road features in one of our recommendations

In our latest AbeBooks Behind the Bookshelves podcast we go beyond Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle to recommend books set in London. From a genre-defining non-fiction book about Arsenal to fictional descriptions of the immigrant experience by Zadie Smith and Hanif Kureishi, we cast our eye across a wide selection of books. For more recommendations, visit our literary tour of London page.


Jamieson’s Heavenly Celestial Atlas from 1822

Sagittarius: Archer in Latin, and this constellation is usually represented by a centaur firing an arrow

Alexander Jamieson was an 18th century schoolteacher who wrote textbooks on the side. His books included A Grammar of Universal Geography, A Grammar of Logic and Intellectual Philosophy and the Mechanics of Fluids for Practical Men, and you can be excused for giving these three a miss. But you cannot turn your back on Jamieson’s Celestial Atlas from 1822.

Born on the Isle of Bute, the son of a Scottish wheelwright, Jamieson became a member of the Astronomical Society of London and is chiefly remembered for his beautiful depiction of the heavens in a celestial atlas. The book’s full and lengthy title is A Celestial Atlas, Comprising a Systematic Display of the Heavens in a Series of Thirty Maps, Illustrated by Scientific Descriptions of their Contents, and Accompanied by a Catalogue of the Stars and Astronomical Exercises.

Cost forced Jamieson to produce a small atlas

Jamieson’s Celestial Atlas contains 30 engraved illustrations by a firm called Neele & Son. The star maps are overlaid with imagery from the Zodiac and ancient mythology. The latest scientific knowledge is combined with artistic craftsmanship. Jamieson wasn’t the first to mix art and astronomy, but his atlas, which was allowed to be dedicated to King George IV (quite the honor), remains memorable to this day.

Twenty six of the plates are constellation maps. Jamieson only displayed stars visible to the naked eye, making it widely accessible to anyone who looked at the heavens.

Pictorial star atlases were popular at this time but these impressive books were often large and expensive. Jamieson’s Celestial Atlas was much smaller and cheaper. Each chart was approximately 9 inches by 7 inches in size. Jamieson explains in the preface that he had originally wanted larger charts, but used smaller ones to reduce production costs.

He printed black and white and hand-colored versions which were offered for £1 5 shillings or £1 11 shillings and 6 pence respectively. These books are now scarce and only one copy can be found on AbeBooks, for £2,350, (NOW SOLD) but individual prints are available.

Orion was a hunter in Greek mythology who was sent to the heavens by Zeus.

Jamieson produced a second edition of the star atlas just four months after releasing first, almost certainly due to demand. In 1824, he published a follow-up called An Atlas of Outline Maps of the Heavens but it did not sell well.

Jamieson’s original Celestial Atlas was so popular that his artwork was copied and used in a book called Urania’s Mirror, which was published anonymously (since it was blatantly plagiarised) in 1824. Urania’s Mirror contains hand-coloured cards depicting mythological figures while strategic pinholes indicate the location of the stars, allowing a viewer to visualise their appearance in the sky when held up the sky. Apparently, these cards had a tendency to catch on fire. It was books like Jamieson’s Celestial Atlas and Urania’s Mirror that helped popularize the idea of the heavens being a blank piece of paper for artists.

Find Jamieson’s Celestial Atlas

Auriga: This constellation was identified as early as the 2nd century AD by the astronomer Ptolemy. Its Latin name means ‘charioteer.’ Illustrations traditionally show a chariot and its driver, who is holding goats and reins.

Cancer: The fourth sign in the Zodiac. This constellation is usually represented by the crab, based on Karkinos, a huge crab that harassed Greek hero Heracles during his battle with the Hydra.

Cetus: A whale-like sea monster in Greek mythology slain by Perseus in order to save Andromeda from Poseidon.

Ursa Major: Also known as the Great Bear, this constellation is in the northern sky and has been known for eons. It was one of the original 48 constellations listed by Ptolemy.

Hydra (SOLD): The largest of the 88 modern constellations and commonly represented as a water snake.

Perseus: A constellation in the northern sky, named after the Greek hero Perseus. Andromeda is also in the north and named after the daughter of Cassiopeia. She was chained to a rock to be eaten by a sea monster.

Cygnus: A northern constellation lying on the plane of the Milky Way, deriving its name from the Latin and Greek for swan. Cygnus contains Deneb, one of the brightest stars.

Taurus (SOLD): A large constellation in the northern hemisphere’s winter sky. Stargazers have looked up to this constellation since the Bronze Age. The association with a bull dates back thousands of years.


Jamieson’s heavenly Celestial Atlas

Alexander Jamieson was an 18th century schoolteacher who wrote textbooks in his spare time. In 1822, he published a memorable Celestial Atlas that contained engraved illustrations of constellation maps overlaid with imagery from the Zodiac and ancient mythology.