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Fairy Tales for Christmas!

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

Treasures Unveiled (1): A Durham Missal from the 15th century

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books


To launch our new blog, here we present a series of vignettes of intriguing, and often beautiful, items from our Collections.  Durham Cathedral has custody of a breathtaking array of artefacts, spanning hundreds of years of history; to learn more, you might like to visit

Our first post in this Treasures Unveiled series is a 15th century Missal from the parish Church of St. Nicholas in Durham.

Here is shown a full-page illustration of the Crucifixion, found in its traditional place in this Missal – before the Canon of the Mass, the core of the service. Here is a full-page illustration of the Crucifixion, found in its traditional place in this Missal – before the Canon of the Mass, the core of the service (© Durham Cathedral Library)

A Missal was a book which contained all the necessary material for a priest to conduct services in Latin; their survival today is rare, as all Missals and Latin service books were removed from churches in 1549, with the introduction of the first Book of Common Prayer (which set…

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Designer Bookbinders 2014

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

The Bookhunter on Safari

St Bride Exhibition

Always a jolly evening at the annual prize-giving for the Designer Bookbinders Competition, held again this year at the ever engaging St. Bride Foundation – a feast for the eyes, old friends and new abounding, happy winners of prizes.  I had a particular interest this year in having been roped in at the last minute (the President was indisposed) to select the recipients of the four ABA Highly Commended Certificates.  No difficulty in choosing them: I was genuinely surprised that some of them at least hadn’t already been selected to win some of the top awards.

Bec Britain - Breakfast at Tiffanys Bec Britain – Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Let’s start with them (click to enlarge the images): Bec Britain’s bejewelled, witty, sensuous and stylish take on this year’s set book, Breakfast at Tiffany’s;  Simeon Jones’ abstract and sinuous (but also bejewelled) interpretation of the same book – I really liked this one;  Adelene Koh’s Big…

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Lines in the Ice

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

The Bookhunter on Safari

Greenland Legends Kaladlit Oklluktualliait [Greenland Legends], Godthaab (1859-1863). © The British Library Board. I really rather enjoy these smaller-scale exhibitions (i.e. the free ones) at the British Library.  You get a distinct sense that the bright young curators have just been left to get on with it, without undue interference from the message-spinners and marketing types.  The latest, Lines in the Ice: Seeking the Northwest Passage, which opened a few days ago, is excellent and demands a visit.

frobisher map George Beste, A True Discourse of the Late Voyages of Discouerie, for the Finding of a Passage to Cathaya, by the Northweast, vnder the Conduct of Martin Frobisher Generall. London : Henry Bynneman, 1578. © The British Library Board.

The Arctic has long held us in thrall, from the classical legends of Ultima Thule – “six days’ sail north of Britain … no longer any proper land nor sea nor air, but a…

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Chelsea Dreams

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

The Bookhunter on Safari


So – here I am (in my freshly tidied book-room) dreaming about all the treasures I’m going to find at this week’s Chelsea Book Fair.  Well – I say freshly tidied (see last post).  It just about passed muster at this morning’s inspection.  Just about.  The exact rhetorical diasyrm used was a kindly and encouraging, “Well, I can see you have been trying”.

Enough of that – I now have some freshly excavated shelf-space and I’ve found the cheque-book.  No other way this can end but in some determined book-hunting at Chelsea.  Better still, I don’t have to say too much this week because I’m going to see you all there – at least I hope so.  What excuse could you possibly have for not being there?

Chesea Town HallA lovely venue, books to suit all tastes, some of the best booksellers in the country (and a fair sprinkling from overseas)…

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Terror and Wonder:  Gothic Imagination at the British Library

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

The Bookhunter on Safari

Terror and Wonder

Another crowd-pleaser of an exhibition at the British Library: 250 years since the publication of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, so a convenient enough excuse, as if one were needed, to celebrate 250 years of the gothic imagination, not just in literature, but in art, architecture, film, fashion and music.

Horace Walpole Horace Walpole. Portrait by John Giles Eccardt, 1754. © National Portrait Gallery, London. Horace Walpole in 1754 with his hand on a volume from his library and the Gothicised Strawberry Hill in the background.

The first edition of Otranto, although dated 1765, appeared late in 1764.  It was only with the second edition that Walpole admitted his authorship and the “gothic story” sub-title was added. Despite his own verdict that the novel was “fit for nothing but the age in which it was written”, nothing was ever quite the same again.  As the exhibition swoops through time…

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Get Thee To A Nunnery…

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books


So, I’m back in my basement after being rudely dragged out into the pale Northern sunlight to fight off Mance Rayder’s Army of Wildlings,  attend both the inaugural York Antiquarian Book Seminar and the amazing York Book Fair.

The first of those has been a labour of love; a two year labour of love in the case of Anthony Smithson of Keel Row Bookshop, and just over a year in my own case; since he invited me to join him at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (aka: the best week of book related awesomeness I’ve experienced since I became a professional dealer).

Organising such an event, firstly, is an achievement of epic proportions; herding cats has nothing on herding book dealers. It’s not considered a good idea unless 20 people have told you it’ll never work, ten people have told you you’re not qualified and 4 people…

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ABA support

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the UK and Republic of Ireland

ABALike all academic books, the new edition of the Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections began with a proposal for the publisher detailing aim, scope, market and so forth. The heading “Market” listed among potential purchasers antiquarian booksellers, and noted the Directory’s value for vendors offering collections (or, indeed, single items) to libraries on the basis of existing strengths.

Support from the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (ABA) was evident early on, as an encouraging comment on this blog. Offered to publicise the published Directory, the ABA has stated: “it’s obviously a book every serious bookseller should have.” (May every acquisitions librarian feel the same way about libraries!) Beyond that, the ABA is helping to ensure that the Directory will be as good as it can be, in two ways:

  • Encouraging its members to submit entries of their own collections where relevant. This can be very important indeed, as…

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World Rare Book Day

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

The Bookhunter on Safari

world-map-communicationsI naturally like to regale the family over the supper table with all the latest news from the world of rare books.  The family is slightly ambivalent about this: stifled yawns sometimes remain unstifled; eyes are exaggeratedly rolled; fathomless stupefactions of chronic boredom are elaborately mimed, and silent departures from the table to go and have a lie down are by no means unknown.

A recent pop-up fair in Australia A recent pop-up fair in Australia

Imagine then my surprise, my triumph, when I announced the concept of Pop-Up Bookfairs – and not just one or two, but a worldwide rolling twenty-four hour programme to celebrate a World Rare Book Day – fairs popping up all over the place, time-zone by time-zone, on a single day – right across the globe and all backed-up by the full might of social media.  Tweet-pop, tweet-pop, from Australia to L.A. and beyond.  Pictures, videos and reports on the web,  YouTube, Instagram and…

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Registration now open for ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood: Solutions and Resolutions’

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

Cloisterham Tales

Registration has now opened for our conference on 20 September at Senate House, London: tickets can be purchased at

Ticket prices include refreshments and lunch, while the conference itself will take place in the appropriately courtroom-like state of the Senate Room itself: what better place to hold a public inquiry?

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