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2017 PBFA Christmas Book Fair coming up soon

Anthony Smithson from the Keel Row Bookshop

The PBFA’s Christmas Book Fair is just around the corner. This year it takes places at the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury on Coram Street, London, WC1N 1HT, on Saturday 2 December between 10.30am and 4.30pm. Once again, AbeBooks.co.uk is excited to be supporting this annual event.

Thousands of rare books, prints, photographs and ephemera will be offered for sale at prices to suit every enthusiast. The attending booksellers include Keel Row Bookshop, Worlds End Bookshop, Lucius Books, Peter Harrington, Jonkers Rare Books, Sophie Schneideman, and Hyraxia Books. Numerous sellers from outside London travel to the capital in order to exhibit at this pre-Christmas fair.

The hotel has a bar/cafe and a restaurant, and the Brunswick Centre is also next door with more services. (Fans of used bookshops will also know that the Skoob Bookshop is close by too.) Russell Square is the nearest Tube station and there’s always plenty to see and do in the Bloomsbury area.

Visit the PBFA website to download a complimentary ticket.

PBFA stands for Provincial Booksellers’ Fairs Association and its legacy dates back to a small book fair in Kensington in 1972. It now stages book fairs across the British Isles and Ireland, from Aberdeen to Dublin, from Chelmsford to the Isle of Skye. Members display a wide variety of books, both used and antiquarian, and also maps, prints and ephemera. PBFA sellers adhere to a code of practice regarding pricing and description of items on sale.

Man Booker 2017 shortlist includes Auster, Saunders, Ali Hamid and a bookseller from York

The 2017 Man Booker Prize shortlist has been announced. You can look at the list in several ways – three male and three female writers; two British, one British-Pakistani and three American writers, or even four established names and two new faces.

Smith is shortlisted for the fourth time. Hamid made the list in 2007 with The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Mozley is the youngest at 29, and one of two debut authors – the other is 38-year-old American Emily Fridlund.  4 3 2 1, or 4321, by Auster is the longest novel at 866 pages, while Lincoln in the Bardo is Saunders’ first full-length novel. Mozley works part-time in a bookshop in York where she has been selling her book. The winner will be announced on Tuesday 17 October in London’s Guildhall, and he or she will receive £50,000 plus lots of book sales.

More about the shortlisted novels:

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

This is Auster’s first novel in seven years. Details of a life spent growing up in Brooklyn—of loving the Brooklyn Dodgers, Laurel and Hardy, summer camp—are laid out with the earnest intensity of a writer looking back on his life. Plot points arise—for instance, a person is killed by lightning—which mimic more unique moments from Auster’s own life experience. At nearly 900 pages, it is also a long novel—but a reason for that is 4 3 2 1 tells the story of its protagonist, Archie Ferguson, four different times. What remains consistent throughout Archie’s life (or lives) is that his father starts out with the same career, Archie falls in love with the same girl, and his personality seems more nature than nurture. But those are starting off points, and if our lives are the sum of our choices, they are the sum of other people’s choices as well. Circumstances matter, and what will keep you thinking about this book is the convergence of time and circumstance within each of Archie’s different lives. His past propels him, his circumstances form him, and regardless of which life we are reading, time will ultimately take him.

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

This is exactly the kind of book you want to curl up with in the winter. It’s propulsive, vividly written, laced with a razor’s chill and filled with imagery that’s impossible to forget. There is a constant sense of foreboding, of wondering when the truth will crash through the Minnesota ice. Linda is a loner, a teenage girl who walks to school and lives on a failed commune in the woods. But her life of solitude cracks open when her history teacher—whom she fantasizes about—is charged with child pornography. Outside of school, Linda begins to spend time with a young boy and his mother who moved into a house across the lake, but their family, like her teacher, are not as they appear. Fridlund masterfully ratchets up the tension, exploding this story of secrets and girlhood with crisp, cutting prose that will leave you shocked and in awe. A remarkable novel, that just so happens to be a debut, by a fiercely talented writer.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

When Nadia and Saeed fall in love in a distant unnamed city, they are just like any other young couple. But soon bullets begin to fly, fighter jets streak the sky, and curfews fall. As the spell of violence spreads, they flee their country, leaving behind their loved ones. Early in Exit West, Hamid explains that geography is destiny, and in the case of his two young lovers, geography dictates that they must leave. Hamid offers up a fantastical device to deliver his refugees to places: they pass through magic doors.

Rather than unmooring the story from reality, this device, as well as a few other fantastical touches, makes the book more poignant and focused, pointing our attention to the emotions of exile rather than the mechanics. Surrounded by other refugees, Nadia and Saeed try to establish their places in the world, putting up different responses to their circumstances. The result is a novel that is personal, not pedantic, an intimate human story about an experience shared by countless people of the world, one that most Americans just witness on television.  

Elmet by Fiona Mozley

According to the Guardian, “Elmet, charts how John, a man-mountain who used to make his money as a bare-knuckle boxer and muscle for hire, retreats from his hostile world to a copse in Yorkshire’s West Riding. He makes a refuge for his children and teaches them to live off the land, foraging for berries, planting plums and potatoes, hunting pigeons and pheasants with bows and arrows whittled from oak or yew. But Daddy doesn’t own the land on which he has built his home, and, when the man whose name is on the title deeds pays them a visit, a confrontation begins that can only end in disaster.”

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Saunders has said that Lincoln in the Bardo began as a play, and that sense of a drama gradually revealing itself through disparate voices remains in the work’s final form. The year is 1862. President Abraham Lincoln, already tormented by the knowledge that he’s responsible for the deaths of thousands of young men on the battlefields of the American Civil War, loses his beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, to typhoid.

The plot begins after Willie is laid to rest in a cemetery near the White House, where, invisible to the living, ghosts linger, unwilling to relinquish this world for the next. Their bantering conversation, much of it concerned with earthly — and earthy – pleasures, counterbalances Lincoln’s abject sorrow.

Autumn by Ali Smith

According to Dwight Garner in the NY Times, “Autumn is about a long platonic friendship between an elderly man and a much younger woman. His name is Daniel. He’s 101. . . . Her name is Elisabeth. She’s a 32-year-old fitfully employed art lecturer at an unnamed university in London. She comes to read to, and be with, him. . . . There’s a bit of a Harold and Maude thing going on here. . . . As Elisabeth and Daniel talk, and as Elisabeth processes the events of her life, a world opens. Autumn begins to be about 100 things in addition to friendship. It’s about poverty and bureaucracy and sex and morality and music. It includes a long and potent detour into the tragic life and powerful painting of the British Pop artist Pauline Boty (1938-66), whose work, Smith makes plain, should be better known. . . . This is the place to come out and say it: Ali Smith has a beautiful mind. I found this book to be unbearably moving in its playful, strange, soulful assessment of what it means to be alive at a somber time.”

Don’t miss the Amsterdam Antiquarian Book & Map Fair

Anyone who loves antique books, atlases, old maps, fine prints, manuscripts, first editions and any other versions of the written/printed word should visit the Amsterdam International Antiquarian Book & Map Fair on 30 September and 1 October.

Visit the 2017 Amsterdam Antiquarian Book Fair

The fair has attracted a large number of prominent antiquarian dealers from the Netherlands and also Britain, the United States, Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Portugal and even Australia. There will be something for everyone, from incunables to books printed in the 21st century. Anyone who just wants to browse is welcome and there is no admission fee.

AbeBooks.co.uk is thrilled to support this year’s event and we are looking forward to attending.

The exhibitors include a large number of members from the Dutch Association of Antiquarian Book Dealers. First-time exhibitors include Librairie Alain Brieux from Paris, Il Cartiglio Libreria Antiquaria from Turin, and Sophie Schneideman Rare Books from London. Collectors of German crime fiction will find the appearance of Michael Solder especially interesting. His antiquarian book shop in the Frauenstraße in Münster has served for many years as the back-drop for the long-running German TV crime series Tatort.

Just like last year, curators Reinder Storm and Adriaan Plak from the University of Amsterdam will be giving specialist guided tours on Sunday around the stands.

The fair will be found 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 on Sunday from 11am to 6pm.

Learn more at the fair’s website.

Historic unpublished book of Isle of Man paintings from 1887 goes on sale

The Antiquities of The Isle of Man by Hamlet Watling

An unpublished album containing original paintings of the Isle of Man in 1887 by a Suffolk schoolmaster with a passion for recording the past has been listed for sale on AbeBooks.co.uk.

Hamlet Watling (1818-1908) devoted his spare time to either writing about history, or sketching and painting ancient sites and monuments.

The album is titled ‘The Antiquities of The Isle of Man’, and contains 47 full page paintings of scenes and buildings on the island. There is an inscription on the first page that reads, “This book was given to George Abbott by his old Friend Hamlet Watling in 1898”. The paintings have been signed “H. Watling”.

The book offers a perspective of how the Isle of Man looked in the second half of the reign of Queen Victoria. The paintings include Peel Castle, of Lord Bishop of Sodor’s tomb, Corrin’s Tower, Manx runestones at Kirk Braddan, Castle Rushen, and Glen Maye’s waterfall. He also painted a Manx cat, a cottage, celtic crosses, various churches (which were Watling’s passion) and other eye-catching landscapes.

All the paintings are captioned, some with lengthy descriptions.

Sadly, Hamlet Watling is not well remembered these days as much of this work went unpublished. According to the website Suffolk Painters:

His drawings were mostly accompanied by profuse notes and his architectural drawings were very accurate being purchased by the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Ipswich Museum and others. In his retirement he spent most of his time making copies of his drawings and records for sale. At one time he had accumulated a huge amount of material for which the Ipswich Museum failed to come to terms with him for its purchase and a few years before his death he disposed of much material to various purchasers.

The album is priced £3,500 and offered for sale by a dealer called Andrew Cox in Shropshire.

See the album

Peel Castle with Hamlet Watling’s inscription across the top

Cathedral ruins captured during a clear, fine day

Recording ruins appealed greatly to Hamlet Watling

Celtic crosses and runestones

A beach view

The southwest view of St. Trinian’s Church

Bookseller profile – John Atkinson

John Atkinson’s bookselling business, which was launched in 2007, is located in Ripon in North Yorkshire. We were thrilled to meet John at the recent London International Antiquarian Book Fair and he has given us an insight into his work as a seller of some beautiful modern first editions.

John Atkinson surrounded by his books

A member of the ABA and PBFA, John’s inventory includes Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, winners of the Booker Prize and literary fiction including many of the great female authors of the 1950s.  His books range from £25 for a signed Donna Leon novel to £15,000 for signed limited edition of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. His listings are always accompanied by beautiful photography – take a gander at this lovely first edition of A Kind of Loving by Stan Barstow.

AbeBooks – You have an MSc. and PhD from the University of Newcastle in sociophonetics. What is sociophonetics?

John Atkinson – It’s the study of accent and dialect mapped across social, age and gender influences and how these affect the way we speak

AbeBooks – You only began bookselling in 2007. What made you decide to take the plunge?

John Atkinson – I decided to just go for it. I had an interest in antiques and had bought sold pieces of furniture in the past. I then found some old books in the attic and sold them on Amazon and made a better return than I did on the furniture. The beauty of the productions of some on the books and the wonderful artwork made me enjoy the things I sold

AbeBooks – Why do you list Roald Dahl’s Danny The Champion of the World as your favourite book by a mile?

AbeBooks – I’m very close to my father and he encouraged me to become a bookseller. It’s the story of a father’s bond with his son and he read it to me as a child. My son is only two and I’ve read it to him twice!

AbeBooks – Two of your specialisms are 007 books by Ian Fleming and 1950s fiction by female writers – two very different areas. What attracts you to these areas?

John Atkinson – I think the 007 angle is easy to explain….every boy/man loves the idea of being Bond. The superb artwork used for the dust wrappers, the storylines, and the rarity of some of the books all blend to make selling 007 an adventure. 1950s female fiction is the complete opposite – my bookselling model is like a magnet what can I say?!

AbeBooks – If you weren’t selling books, what else could you be doing?

John Atkinson – I seriously can’t think of something…probably something involving selling something to someone!

AbeBooks – What’s the book that you have always wanted to own but not found yet?

John Atkinson – I know it’s out there, but it’s probably the copy of ‘You Only Live Twice’ signed by Fleming to the ‘real’ James Bond (the ornithologist) in the West Indies.

Here are five books from John’s inventory that caught our eye – all of them priced less than £100.

A 1986 first edition of Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor

A 1958 first edition of The Bell by Iris Murdoch

A 1983 first edition of The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

A 1958 first edition of Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan

A 1965 first edition of The Man With the Golden Gun by Ian Fleming

Selling academic books the Skoob way

Entrance to Skoob Books

Most of London’s students, academics and intellectuals find their way to Skoob Books eventually. Skoob (that’s books backwards in case you were wondering) specializes in academic literature and offers thousands of used copies of titles that are simply not available elsewhere.

This underground bunker of bookishness is piled high with books about philosophy, psychology, modern literature, art, history, politics, economics, science and technology.

Skoob is located on Marchmont Street, close to a shopping centre called The Brunswick. The area is surrounded by Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury, Russell Square, the University of London, Great Ormond Street Hospital, the British Library, the British Museum and numerous colleges and other places of learning. Basically, everyone reads in this part of town.

There’s a piano nested among the books

Skoob was founded in the 1970s. The present owner, Chris Edwards, bought the shop in 2005 and merged it with his bookselling business (named Psychobabel because “many psychology books contain a lot of rubbish”). Chris employs 20 people and is proud that he pays a fair wage and suffers very little staff turnover.

The 2000 square foot shop contains more than 55,000 different titles with even more housed in a deeper storage area below the Brunswick. However, Skoob’s warehouse in Oxfordshire contains more than a million books, which makes up its online inventory. With a shop in a busy area of London and a massive warehouse catering to the Internet, Chris benefits from traditional and modern methods of bookselling.

You head downstairs to a bookish bunker

Chris is a former academic who now uses his close connections with academia across the country to obtain books that help people learn. His desire to source hard-to-find books takes him to places of learning across provincial England from Stoke-on-Trent to Norwich. Like any modern bookseller, he has diversified and that includes renting books by the yard to movie companies.

“In the shop, our customers are post-graduate students, academics, researchers and people in need of foreign language books. Online, there is always someone somewhere in need of a book no matter how obscure the subject,” said Chris. “I’m proud to say that I help to educate more people now than I ever did as an academic.”

Browse Skoob’s selection on AbeBooks

Inside Skoob Books

Visit the 2017 London International Antiquarian Book Fair

Visit the 2017 London International Antiquarian Book Fair

Save the date for the 2017 London International Antiquarian Book Fair, one of the world’s leading rare book shows. The event takes place at the Olympia exhibition centre on Thursday 1 June (1pm to 8pm), Friday 2 (11am to 7pm) and Saturday 3 (11am to 4pm).

Visiting Olympia is a fantastic way to view and buy rare books in person, as the event brings together more than 150 international booksellers who will be offering for sale everything from medieval manuscripts to signed first editions, as well as prints, maps, and ephemera. All exhibitors are members of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, a mark of distinction that guarantees their expertise and the quality of their stock.

This year the Fair celebrates its 60th anniversary with a special Affordable Collectibles scheme highlighting the best books at certain price points. In addition, first-time visitors and seasoned collectors alike will enjoy activities such as expert-led guided tours and hands-on book binding and printing sessions.

We offer a free ticket to the London International Antiquarian Book Fair for our blog followers. This ticket admits two and can be shown on your smartphone when entering the event.

Get your free ticket

Before he was ‘Glam’, archive showing 18-year-old Marc Bolan goes on sale

Marc Bolan archive (Pic: Between the Covers)

A collection of letters, photos and poetry from 18-year-old Marc Bolan, showing the early days of his music career, has been listed for sale on AbeBooks.

Bolan became one of the biggest names in 1970s Glam Rock but this archive provides an insight into his life as he prepared to release his debut single, The Wizard, in 1965.

18-year-old Marc Bolan (Pic: Between the Covers)

The photographs show a fresh-faced and handsome 18-year-old with short hair. Most people who became fans of Bolan’s music never saw him with short hair. Bolan died at the age of 29 – in September, it will be 40 years since his death in a car accident in 1977.

The archive includes two copies of the typed lyrics for his first single, five pages of typed poems stapled into a booklet, six photographs taken by Fiona Adam (two of which show Bolan during his first recording session with producer Jim Economides) and a tour programme for Tyrannosaurus Rex.

There is also a draft press release for Bolan’s first single with his name spelled “Mark Bowland” and corrected in black marker. Bolan’s actual name is Mark Feld but he used several stages names before settling on Marc Bolan.

The collection comes from the archive of Sunday Times music critic Derek Jewell, who died in 1985. Jewell learned about Bolan while writing an article on Economides.

The collection is priced at approx. £11,800 ($14,000) and offered by Between the Covers Rare Books, in Gloucester City, New Jersey.

See the archive

Press release promoting Mark Bowland / Marc Bolan (Pic: Between the Covers)


15 Literary Heroines for International Women’s Day

For over a century, each year on 8th March, people all around the globe take time out to celebrate the work, struggles, and achievements of women. We remember and acknowledge with gratitude those who fought for us in the past and recognise we have a long way yet to go for equal rights. Feminists and allies worldwide pledge to continue standing up for women’s rights, and hold in their hearts and minds that we should all be feminists. With whatever skill sets, resources and tools available, all over the world, women and allies persist.

Here at AbeBooks we spend our days gloriously immersed in books. The ideas, stories, characters, history and possibility found in their pages are among the greatest pleasures of being alive, and so much of that comes from women. We choose to celebrate today by recognising 15 (a drop in an ocean) literary heroines who, through books, have made a positive impact on the world somehow. Some are the fictional characters who inspire us, reassure us, and embolden us. Some are the authors who use their voices, talent and skills to shed much-needed light on the issues still facing women and girls today. Still others are the women who have used their influence, intelligence and resources to fight for women’s right to education, access to literacy, and more.


See the Whole List of Literary Heroines

As always, we love to hear from you – leave a comment to tell us who we missed.


Walk through Umberto Eco’s private library

Be warned. Umberto had a mighty big library. Let him lead the way.