Shelf Fulfillment

The Antiquarian Booksellers Association…

“A town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore it knows it’s not fooling a soul.”

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books


So, last night a thing happened to me. I went to a party. I don’t get invited to parties much as a rule, I always end up pulling someone’s hair or sticking my fingers in the cake, and none of the other kids like books as presents. This, however, was a rare book trade party, and they always have to make up the numbers somehow.

The shindig, or indeed hootenanny, in question was the opening of this:

A bookshop, not messing about, yesterday. A bookshop, not messing about, yesterday.

This is Peter Harrington Rare Books new Dover Street branch in the posh bit of Mayfair. In case you were wondering, no, there’s no bit of Mayfair that isn’t posh. If there were an un-posh bit, this shop wouldn’t be in it, I needed an escort of smartly dressed adults to get within ten feet of the door unchallenged.

As you can see, it’s very pretty, very green and…

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From Manchester to Melbourne: Gutenberg Bible on the move

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog

GB on stand

We are very excited that our copy of the magnificent Gutenberg Bible is on display for a limited time at the University of Melbourne as part of Melbourne Rare Book Week and the Cultural Treasures Festival. This Bible is the first book to be printed in Europe with moveable type, by Johann Gutenberg in Mainz around 1455.

The substantial two folio volumes are remarkable for the fine quality of the printing, executed with great care and attention to detail. The John Rylands Library copy is one of forty-eight substantially complete surviving copies, now housed in libraries across the world. Purchased by George John, 2nd Earl Spencer in 1790 it found its way to Manchester in 1892 when Enriqueta Rylands purchased the Spencer Collection of books. It includes original hand decorated initials at the beginning of each book and was probably at the Augustinian monastery in Colmar, northern France, in the…

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Rare Book Week – Olympia 2014

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

The Bookhunter on Safari

Olympia Poster From Antiquariat Johannes Müller

I was asked yesterday at the ABA Council meeting if I could institute a live Instagram feed for next week’s Olympia Book Fair, synchronised to the Fair’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.  Or something along those lines, anyway.  What sort of question is that to ask an old age pensioner, I thought to myself – but then looking round the table it seemed reasonably clear that I was the only person there (including , I very strongly suspect,  the person who asked) who had the vaguest idea what the question meant.  The answer obviously is, No I couldn’t – Don’t be silly – but I do know a young woman who could, so if you are a devotee of such things, it may well come to pass.

Only in the ABA of course would an old age pensioner be put in charge of the Fair’s social media output…

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Comics Unmasked

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

The Bookhunter on Safari

Roy of the Rovers Roy of the Rovers

Comics to me have always been associated solely with childhood and early attempts at pictorially assisted reading.  Moving on from Desperate Dan and Dennis the Menace (never really understood that whole Beano/Dandy rivalry), carefully skirting round the significantly more menacing Beryl the Peril, at all costs trying to avoid the more improving varieties of comic well-meaning parents and sometimes aunts would try to foist on us – the Eagle was founded by a vicar, for heaven’s sake – we arrived at those happy and wholesome days of Roy of the Rovers in the Tiger and the amazing Wilson the Wonder Athlete in (I think) the Wizard.  Then, our core values for better or for worse now firmly set, our intuitive understanding of the British class system polished and perfected by Lord Snooty and his pals, we discovered books.  And moved on.

Jamie Hewlett poster, photographed by Tony Antoniou Jamie…

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Inaugural Lecture of the John Rylands Research Institute: Professor Ann Blair

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog

Professor Ann Blair Professor Ann Blair

Ann Blair, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History at Harvard University, delivered the inaugural John Rylands Research Institute Lecture, Script, Type, and Byte – Manuscripts after Gutenberg (reflections on technological continuities), on 31 March. The lecture, in the magnificent setting of the Historic Reading Room, was attended by over one hundred guests, including leading academics from across the country.

Professor Blair, who specialises in the cultural and intellectual history of early modern Europe, explored the continuities between manuscripts and printed books, from the fifteenth century to the eighteenth, drawing upon many examples from our own collections, which she had studied in the preceding few days.

Professor Blair describes her visit to Manchester:

“My first visit to Manchester on March 27-31 was wonderful, complete with some sun and only a little rain (and, as one of my hosts predicted, the rain was quite dry). I spent most of the…

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Beautiful Vintage Photos of Bygone Bookstores

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books


In this age of online ordering, physical bookstores aren’t getting all the love and attention they deserve. But you know that already. So before you head out to your local bookseller to pick up the latest new thing, perhaps you would like to indulge in some literary nostalgia and appease your book-beauty tooth (you know you’ve got one) with these lovely old photos of old bookstores (in some of which you could, at one time, find old books). And all right, not all are complete bygones — some, improbably, wonderfully, are still standing — but they don’t look quite like this anymore, and so the vintage-photo-ogling endures. After the jump, check out a selection of lovely vintage photos of old bookstores, and be sure to link to any of your favorites that are missing here in the comments.

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From Manuscripts to Metal

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

Material Witness

Owen Coggins blogs about the workshop ‘Text as Object 2: Printed Books and Pamphlets’ held at Canterbury Cathedral Library in January 2014

I’m studying religious discourses and mystical practices surrounding an extreme form of heavy metal music, in the Music and Religious Studies department at the Open University. So, heading to Canterbury Cathedral Library for the Material Witness event ‘Text as Object 2: Printed Books and Pamphlets,’ I was confident I’d be learning something new about medieval papers and marginalia, but wasn’t too sure how closely it would relate to my own project. Happily though, as is often the case with such interdisciplinary inquiries, it turned out there were some unexpected and thought-provoking points of contact between the heavy manuscripts and the heavy metal.

Fig. 1. Canterbury Cathedral Library Canterbury Cathedral Library

Arriving at the cathedral library through some invitingly confusing passageways, I found the group sat discussing all kinds of research interests under stained…

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by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

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

As I mount this, there is just under a month to go before entries for the Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections are due. The first couple arrived very shortly after my January emails requesting updates to old entries, and submissions have been trickling in ever since. Sometimes I have sent back questions; often I have just saved the documents in the growing folder of 2015 entries and acknowledged them with brief thanks while concentrating on making initial contacts with elusive repositories. If Barry Bloomfield’s experience when editing the second edition of the Directory is a guide, in the next four weeks the trickle will become a flood. A daunting prospect in a way, but an exciting one.

Producing my own library’s entry has been on my work “to do” list for several weeks now; I can’t myself fail to meet a deadline that everybody else is heeding conscientiously!…

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George Hebert, librarian and bookseller

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

London Street Views

Street View: 38
Address: 88 Cheapside


This story starts when George Hebert, a weaver, and Ann Peltrau get married in St. Leonard Shoreditch Church on 16 April 1772. They were both of French Huguenot descend and their children were baptised in the French Protestant Church in Artillery Street. Two of the children, George David and Guillaume (later more often called William) were to set up a bookshop and circulating library.(1) On 1 April, 1794, William Lane, Citizen and Stationer of London takes on apprentice George (David) Hebert at a premium of £100. This premium was paid by David Descarrieres who, according to the indenture, was George’s guardian. George acquires his freedom after the regular 7 years. His brother William was apprenticed in 1799 to Richard Lekeux, Citizen and Fishmonger, which does not sound likely in view of William’s later career, but although Lekeux (or Le Keux) happened to be…

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Beautiful Science

by Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

The Bookhunter on Safari

British Library Wearing my hack’s hat this week, in my guise of reporter-at-large for the ABA website and newsletter.  Off to the British Library, always a pleasure of course, but specifically there on this occasion to take in the press view of a brand-new exhibition: Beautiful Science .  Pausing only to drop off a little something at the Map Library upstairs, in hope that it might duly be acquired by this great and august institution, I made my way to the smallish Folio Society Gallery to check out the exhibition.

An august institution, yes of course, our national library, so I suppose I was rather expecting a staid parade of the editiones principes of the great masters, leavened with the odd choice manuscript, and a morning of gentle savouring and genteel pleasure.  Not a bit of it.  The modern BL has fully embraced digital.  Everywhere I looked it was all infographic, interactive…

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