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Discovering Skeletons in the Attic – mystery author Judy Penz Sheluk on unraveling family secrets

Author Judy Penz Sheluk

Crime writer Judy Penz Sheluk is back with a new mystery novel called Skeletons in the Attic. Her debut novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic is the first book in what is going to be the Marketville Mystery Series.

The heroine of Skeletons is Calamity (Callie) Barnstable who learns she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate and discovers she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville – a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder. It’s a story of family secrets.

Judy took a few minutes to answer our questions.

Skeletons in the Attic by Judy Penz Sheluk

AbeBooks: Skeletons in the Attic is an apt name as it concerns family secrets – all families have secrets and surprises but how did you keep it credible?

Judy Penz Sheluk: “The condition of Callie’s inheritance is to find out what happened to her mother thirty years before, a mother she believed had left her and her father for “the milkman or some other male equivalent.” As she digs through her mother’s belongings in the attic of the house, she comes across several items, some that provide clues, and some that just bring back memories long suppressed. I tried to think of the sort of things I might have put in a trunk in 1986. There’s a sweatshirt from John Cougar Mellencamp’s ‘Scarecrow’ tour, and a mother-and-daughter set of leotard and leg warmers that remind Callie of doing Jane Fonda’s aerobic workout with her mom. There’s also a marriage certificate and a photo album. If we look at old photos, there’s a lot we can learn from them. In Callie’s case, the album and other belongings provide insight into a mother she barely remembers.”

AbeBooks: Tell us a little about the hero, Calamity Barnstable.  Would she remind us of anyone?

Judy Penz Sheluk: “Until she took the assignment to find out what happened with her mother 30 years earlier, Callie (named after Calamity Jane) worked in the fraud unit of a bank’s call center. She’s 36, independent, somewhat jaded, and single with what she calls ‘loser radar’ when it comes to men (her last boyfriend dumped her on Valentine’s Day; Callie was expecting an engagement ring). She wasn’t patterned after anyone in particular, though of course she has some of my quirks. For example, she’s addicted to cocoa butter lip balm. I buy the Body Shop’s cocoa butter lip balm six tubes at a time. I have them everywhere: purse, office, bedside table, living room.”

AbeBooks: And the book is set in Marketville – what sort of small town is this one?

Judy Penz Sheluk: “Marketville is a commuter town located about an hour north of Toronto. Callie describes it as the sort of place where families with two kids, a collie, and a cat moved to looking for a bigger house, a better school, and soccer fields. The town is very loosely based on Newmarket, Ontario, where I used to live, but I have taken great liberties with the location, and the characters are completely fictional.”

AbeBooks: The book is the first in a series – how many books will follow and will they all be set in the same place?

Judy Penz Sheluk: “I’m currently working on the second book, but it’s very early days. This book will go back thirty years to tell Abigail’s (Callie’s mother) story. I haven’t looked beyond book two, but the hope is always that the series is successful enough to support additional novels.”

AbeBooks: What’s your style for writing? A couple of hours at a time, late night sessions, rigid schedule?

Judy Penz Sheluk: “I try to write a chapter a day when I’m working on a novel. The time of day totally varies on the rest of my life. I’m still working as the Senior Editor of New England Antiques Journal, a monthly antiques magazine based out of Massachusetts. I’m also the Editor of Home BUILDER Magazine, a bi-monthly magazine based out of Quebec. But I’m probably the most creative mid morning to mid afternoon. I might jot down a note or two at night if something comes to me, but I’m not a nighttime writer. Early mornings I tend to deal with social media and promotion.”

AbeBooks: How did it go with The Hanged Man’s Noose? Your book from 2015.

Judy Penz Sheluk: “The Hanged Man’s Noose was my first book. It has been very well received and garnered some great reviews. I’m just about finished the sequel and it’s been fun going back to Arabella Carpenter and Emily Garland. The style of writing (third person, multiple points of view) is quite different from Skeletons (first person). What has been exciting is that the success of Skeletons has brought new readers to Noose. I’m very grateful.”

Here is a short excerpt from Skeletons in the Attic.

Leith Hampton placed the will in front of him, smoothing an invisible crease with a well-manicured hand, the nails showing evidence of a vigorous buffing. I wondered what kind of man went in for a mani-pedi—I was surmising on the pedi—and decided it was the kind of man who billed his services out for five hundred dollars an hour.

He cleared his throat and stared at me with those intense blue eyes. “Are you sure you’re ready, Calamity? I know how close you were to your father.”

I flinched at the Calamity. Folks called me Callie or they didn’t call me at all. Only my dad had been allowed to call me Calamity, and even then only when he was seriously annoyed with me, and never in public. It was a deal we’d made back in elementary school. Kids can be cruel enough without the added incentive of a name like Calamity.

As for being ready, I’d been ready for the past ninety-plus minutes. I’d been ready since I first got the call telling me my father had been involved in an unfortunate occupational accident. That’s how the detached voice on the other end of the phone had put it. An unfortunate occupational accident.

I knew at some point I’d have to face the fact that my dad wasn’t coming back, that we’d never again argue over politics or share a laugh while watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory. Knew that one day I’d sit down and have a good long cry, but right now wasn’t the time, and this certainly wasn’t the place. I’d long ago learned to store my feelings into carefully constructed compartments. I leveled Leith with a dry-eyed stare and nodded.

“I’m ready.”

Learn more about Judy at her website.

‘Are we downhearted?’ Rare artwork from WWI POW magazine goes on sale

Artwork from an Alice in Wonderland parody in the Ruhleben prison camp magazine

A rare collection of original artwork published in a prison camp magazine by British World War I POWs has been listed for sale on AbeBooks.

Approximately, 5,000 Britons who were living in or visiting Germany at the outbreak of World War I in 1914 were interned in a detention camp located on a horse racing track in a Berlin suburb called Ruhleben. The prisoner activities at the Ruhleben Internment Camp are a glorious example of British fortitude in the face of challenging circumstances.

An illustration from the camp magazine

The civilians – ranging from merchant sailors trapped in Hamburg to professional footballers, experienced musicians and future Nobel Prize-winning scientist James Chadwick – banded together to create a thriving miniature version of Britain behind the barbed wire.

The activities included gardening via a vibrant horticultural society that became affiliated to the Royal Horticultural Society, an orchestra, theater productions with opera and pantomime shows, golf via the construction of a five-hole course, and clubs for rugby, cricket, soccer and boxing.

An illustration from the Ruhleben camp magazine

There was also a library and a printing press, which became a valuable outlet for writers and artists.

The first issue of the camp magazine was published on June 6, 1915. Ten issues were published that year, featuring a mix of camp news, gossip and results of sporting events, mixed with satirical literature, poetry and humorous fake adverts called ‘Ruhlebertisents.’ Five issues were published in 1916 and a final issue was printed in June 1917.

The collection of magazine artwork has been assembled into two albums called The Lighter Side of Lager Life and it appears to have been a mock-up for London publishing firm, George Newnes. Each album is addressed to J. S. Boot, an editor at the firm.

A colorful illustration from the prisoners

The first album, dated June 1, 1917, contains the following introduction:

“With a few exceptions the contents of this book have already appeared in the pages of the Ruhleben Camp Magazine; it is hoped that they will find favour with readers in England, to whom Ruhleben is a name only. ‘Lager Life’ is not conducive to merriment, but the aim of the Magazine has always been to keep a smiling journalistic countenance. ‘Are we downhearted?’ was a phrase that was often heard in Ruhleben during the winter of 1914, and the answer without exception was ‘No’. It was in order to perpetuate this spirit that the articles and sketches which follow were planned, and though meant originally for interned readers they may serve to show others that the spirit of cheerfulness was kept alive in the confines of Ruhleben.”

The clippings are humorous and revealing. There is a drawing of a prisoner in his bunk that is probably a realistic interpretation of the cramped sleeping quarters inside the stables at the former race course. There is a gentle image of an envisioned escape via a rope thrown over a low cloud. In another illustration, a court jester on a donkey jumps the wire.

There is a parody of Alice through the Looking Glass, called Alice through the Lager Glass.

“She found herself standing on a flat square plot of ground, enclosed by buildings, offices and stables; a gateway to the right led to a row of wooden Barracks. In the doorway of a small building marked ‘Captain’s Office’ a solemn man stood smoking. In the middle the square (which Alice found afterwards was known as Trafalgar Square) stood a tall electric lamp standard, at the foot of which grew some tulips and daffodils. Outside the boundary of the Compound ran a railway.”

The two albums are priced at$12,000 and offered for sale by Donald A Heald Rare Books in New York.

See Donald’s listing.

See more of the artwork on Flickr

A very gentle method of escape

An Englishman’s home… in the stables

Introducing INK LDN: London’s latest book fair

Two Temple Place, venue for INK LDN

There’s a new book fair in town… or least in London. INK LDN is a brand new international antiquarian book and art fair that takes place on October 21 and 22 at 2 Temple Place on the Embankment.

The brainchild of London-based antiquarian booksellers Ines Bellin and Leo Cadogan, and sponsored by AbeBooks.co.uk, INK LDN brings together dealers offering rare books, art, photography and manuscripts.

The Fair will focus on exhibitors offering exclusive items. “We don’t want dealers with 12 first editions of Ulysses,” said Ines Bellin. “We are emphasizing quality over quantity. INK LDN will be a sophisticated, elegant book fair.”

The venue is a magnificent building built by newspaper and property magnate William Waldorf Astor that still boasts beautiful artwork, and opulent décor. It’s where Downton Abbey filmed the marriage of Lady Rose and Atticus Aldrige.

You will find 2 Temple Place at London, WC2R 3BD. Admission is £10. The opening hours are Friday 21st October, 11am-7pm, and Saturday 22nd October, 11am-3pm. The nearest Tube station is Temple on the District and Circle lines.

Numerous sellers who use the AbeBooks marketplace will be present at INK LDN, including Peter Harrington, Bernard Quaritch, Maggs Bros, Shapero Rare Books, Sophia Rare Books from Denmark, and Libreria Alberto Govi di Fabrizio Govi from Italy.

INK LDN is staging a charity dinner is in aid of the London Library on 19 October at 7pm, at The Crypt at St Etheldreda’s, 14 Ely Place, London EC1N 8SJ.  There is also a champagne reception and preview on 20 October starting at 5pm at 2 Temple Place.

Visit the INK LDN website for more information and tickets.

One of the booksellers who will be attending INK LDN is Abby Schoolman from New York, who specializes in art bookbindings and artist’s books. Abby was kind enough to answer some questions about her line of work.

Bookseller Abby Schoolman

AbeBooks: Tell us about your business?

Abby Schoolman: “There are five incredibly talented artists with whom I work with exclusively. Whatever they make, I sell. I also include in my inventory a number of specially selected books by other talented bookbinders and book artists.”

AbeBooks: How did you get started in the bookselling business?

Abby Schoolman: “I was trained as an archivist and rare book librarian. In early 2000, while working for a historical society in New York, I was recruited by Bauman Rare Books to work in its then brand new Madison Avenue gallery. I jumped at the chance. For over 14 years, I worked with five centuries of the most interesting and beautiful books in almost every field of human thought. It was heaven.

“A few days before I started working for Bauman, I stumbled across an exhibit of contemporary bindings of books on angling at the American Museum of Natural History. For the first time in my life, I bought an exhibition catalog. Little did I know that, many years later, buying exhibition catalogs of contemporary bookbinding exhibits from the mid-20th century to the present would become my obsession.

“One thing I had often discussed was the lack of information available on the great contemporary binders of the Americas. Who were they and where? My French is terrible and I don’t speak Spanish or Portuguese. The Internet is pretty useless where art bookbinding is concerned. I started haunting The Strand‘s ‘on Books’ aisle and the Oak Knoll website for books and catalogs about modern binding. With those first few gems I picked up at The Strand, I started a blog, American Bound. It was just for fun. I had no idea where it would lead. I studied the work of and met so many wonderful bookbinders and book artists while writing my blog. A year later, I decided to go out on my own, do consulting work in the trade, and try to figure out how to create my dream job: selling art bookbindings and artist’s books made by living artists.

“Almost immediately, the strangest thing happened. A binding I had posted as part of one of my (then) weekly blog entries was purchased by a dealer. He is someone I know well. He sent me an email asking for the contact information for the binder. I didn’t know her personally, but her contact information was in the exhibition catalog in which I had seen the binding. I passed it along. The binder, Malina Belcheva of Chicago, sold the book (which is now in the book arts collection of the Boston Athenaeum) and asked me to be her agent. I quickly asked three of my favorite art binders if they would work with me. They all said yes. I was amazed that Christine Giard (France), Sonya Sheats (USA), and Mark Cockram (UK) would want to work with someone just starting out in their field. I started my business with all the bindings these four artists could send me.

“Less than a year later I took on a few books from Timothy C. Ely. He had worked with many great book arts booksellers such as Ursus Books, Granary Books, and the late Toni Zwicker, and many art galleries. Ely, in my opinion, is one of the greatest living book artists. For just over a year, I have had the great honor of being Ely’s sole bookseller. I recently published a book on eight of his most recently completed works. It’s called Timothy C. Ely: 8 Books. I call it a book, but really it is a bookseller’s catalog that got way, way out of hand: 58 pages on just eight books.”

One of Abby’s Timothy C. Ely books, called Gamma Cruxis

AbeBooks: You work closely with artists – what is that process like?

Abby Schoolman: “Mostly, I stay out of their way. I want them to make whatever they want, in whatever format or medium they choose, regardless of what they have made or sold in the past. The freedom to choose, and the freedom from the constraints of set book competitions, juried exhibitions, and traditional expectations allows the artists breathing space. The result is better art.

“My role as agent and bookseller for my five principal artists varies greatly based on individual needs or projects. Sometimes I am a sounding board for ideas, sometimes a safe space for venting frustration, sometimes I am a student learning about structure or technique or obscure bookbinder lore, sometimes I gently give deadlines by providing a list of dates of upcoming book and art fairs. For some I write or edit documents. I also try to hustle on the behalf of those artists who wish to line up lectures, workshops, or other gigs. Often I listen to their ideas for bookselling; some of my artists have been in the book business for far longer than I, though from a different angle.”

AbeBooks: What is the most prized item in your inventory?

Abby Schoolman: “Timothy Ely’s unique manuscript and binding Bones of the Book: An Oblong Identity is a masterpiece. There is simply no other way to look at it. It’s huge (44.5cm x 30cm x 3.5cm), very personal and, even for Ely, incredibly complex in scope. It is special in many ways, not least because it took him 25 years to complete. The title page says 1990 and it was exhibited. He didn’t sell it. Sometimes he showed it, but the truth is that it just didn’t feel finished to him. In 2015, he removed the original binding (now in the Ely archives), worked more on the original pages, added pages, and rebound the book. It is now truly complete, spectacular, and will be at INK LDN.

Bones of a Book by Timothy C. Ely

“Bones of the Book is the second in a three-book series that differs significantly from Ely’s other art. These books are both biographical and autobiographical. Each honors the important influence of family members in Ely’s life, and combines it with an aspect of bookbinding—the format Ely has chosen to house his artwork throughout his career. In each case, there is also a third narrative that plays a significant role in Ely’s identity as an individual and as an artist.

“The series began with Binding the Book: The Flight Into Egypt in 1985. Egypt is about Ely’s grandfather, the journal he left behind about his mysterious trip to Egypt between the wars, bookbinding, and the geography of Egypt. For much more information, see The Flight into Egypt: Binding the Book. It’s out-of-print, but there are often copies available on AbeBooks.”

AbeBooks: Why do you support and participate in bookfairs?

Abby Schoolman: “I love book fairs. When I worked for Bauman Rare Books, I loved to select the books, travel to the fair venue, set up the showcases, and walk around gaping at all the books. It’s glorious to see the best, the most interesting, their weirdest, the most beautiful books and ephemera from all over the world just lined up for you to look at and hold. There’s a buzz and enthusiasm among the dealers who have carefully selected the sexiest items in their inventory. It’s not at all the same as visiting a bookshop.”

AbeBooks: What’s your favorite book?

Abby Schoolman: “I can answer that a number of different ways, but I’ll stick with the book arts: I have an unreasonable obsession with Paul Nash’s Genesis.”

Amazon’s Top 10 Books for October 2016

So many good books to choose from this month. Time to get reading!


The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang

A hilarious debut novel about a wealthy but fractured Chinese immigrant family that had it all, only to lose every last cent—and about the road trip they take across America that binds them back together.


Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South by Beth Macy

The true story of two African-American brothers who were kidnapped and displayed as circus freaks, and whose mother endured a 28-year struggle to get them back.


The Trespasser by Tana French

A brilliant new novel from the New York Times bestselling author, whom Gillian Flynn calls “mesmerizing” and Stephen King calls “incandescent.”


Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

A brilliant novel from the author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette, about a day in the life of Eleanor Flood, forced to abandon her small ambitions and awake to a strange, new future.


Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

With richly layered characters and a gripping moral dilemma that will lead readers to question everything they know about privilege, power, and race, Small Great Things is the stunning new page-turner from #1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult.


News of the World by Paulette Jiles

It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.


The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.


Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford

From the award-winning columnist and author of the national bestseller The Undercover Economist comes a provocative big idea book about the genuine benefits of being messy: at home, at work, in the classroom, and beyond.


Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge

On an average day in America, seven children and teens will be shot dead. In Another Day in the Death of America, award-winning journalist Gary Younge tells the stories of the lives lost during one such day. It could have been any day, but he chose November 23, 2013.


American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant by Ronald C. White

In his time, Ulysses S. Grant was routinely grouped with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in the “Trinity of Great American Leaders.” But the battlefield commander–turned–commander-in-chief fell out of favor in the twentieth century. In American Ulysses, Ronald C. White argues that we need to once more revise our estimates of him in the twenty-first.

Westworld by Michael Crichton could be a bestseller right now, but where is the book?

HBO’s revival of Michael Crichton’s science fiction thriller Westworld is off to a flyer after an entertaining premiere on Sunday evening.  Entertainment Weekly reported that 3.3 million viewers watched the first episode where it becomes clear that all is not well in the Western-themed amusement park populated by robots.

But wait something is missing. Westworld is the biggest series to arrive on HBO since the launch of Game of Thrones in 2011, and yet there is no sign of an accompanying book.

The 1974 Pocket edition of Westworld

Hundreds of people visited AbeBooks.com on Sunday night and searched for “Westworld by Michael Crichton.” They were probably rather bewildered when it became clear that there was little for them to purchase.

[Edit – interest in Westworld by Michael Crichton continued on Monday when it was the top search term on AbeBooks.com.]

Crichton wrote the original script and directed the film, which was released in November 1973 with Yul Brynner in the lead role as a robot gunman. A companion book was published in 1974 by Bantam/Pocket Books but it’s utterly out-of-print. It contains the script, an introduction from Crichton, and photographs from the film.

AbeBooks has a single copy for sale right now for $179.99 from Wally’s Books in York, Ontario. That’s probably a little steep for ordinary readers but I expect it will sell soon enough. (You can also buy a copy of the 1973 film script for $550 that belonged to an actor who had a minor role in the movie.)

This 1974 edition of Westworld has been getting steadily scarcer. AbeBooks has sold 16 copies of this paperback since January 2015, including one for $200 that had been signed by Crichton. There’s only been a handful of copies available during 2016.

Michael Crichton died in 2008 but his books remain popular on the used book market thanks for the enduring appeal of Jurassic Park. The new HBO series apparently cost $100 million to produce and builds on the growing interest in Artificial Intelligence. It stars Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris, Anthony Hopkins and Thandie Newton. With all this interest, it seems odd that Westworld has not been novelized yet. Somebody could be selling a lot of books right now.

When Field & Stream Magazine Reviewed Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Lady Chatterley's Love by DH Lawrence

This week a 1928 privately printed first edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover sold for $3,500 on AbeBooks. No big deal but though slightly ironic as it is Banned Books Week.  This book’s past is well-documented in the long history of censorship – printed in Florence by Tipografia Giuntina at DH Lawrence’s expense. This particular copy had been rebound in black morocco.

However, the history of Lady Chatterley’s Lover isn’t all suppression and controversy. There’s also humor.

An issue of Field & Stream from January 1947

In November 1959, Field & Stream (a US magazine, founded in 1896, and dedicated to hunting, fishing and outdoor life) ran a review of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Written by Ed Zern, the review is short but memorable.

In 1959, Lawrence’s novel was back in the news. Grove Press had published an edition on May 4, 1959. It was the first complete, unedited, and legal American edition to be printed. It was an important moment for sex and publishing in the States. The book was not published in full in the UK until 1960 after Penguin won a famous obscenity trial.

Here’s Zern’s review from the November 1959 issue of Field & Stream:

Although written many years ago, Lady Chatterley’s Lover has just been reissued by the Grove Press, and this fictional account of the day-to-day life of an English gamekeeper is still of considerable interest to outdoor minded readers, as it contains many passages on pheasant raising, the apprehending of poachers, ways to control vermin, and other chores and duties of the professional gamekeeper. Unfortunately one is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous material in order to discover and savor these sidelights on the management of a Midland shooting estate, and in this reviewer’s opinion this book cannot take the place of J.R. Miller’s Practical Gamekeeping.

Practical Gamekeeeping did not exist. Mr Zern was pulling our leg. If we are referencing Zern’s review, then we should also mention  Philip Larkin’s poem Annus Mirabilis, which begins:

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) –
Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban
And the Beatles’ first LP.

Featured Collection – film ephemera (& that Ava Gardner mugshot) from Royal Books

Page one of Ava Gardner’s employment questionnaire for MGM

The thing about cinema-related ephemera is that it is very broad. An immense variety of objects come under this umbrella, including posters, lobby cards, publicity photos, candid on-set photography, contracts, screenplays, letters, and concept art.

Royal Books, run by Kevin Johnson, is located in Baltimore, Maryland, and specializes in 20th century literature with a strong focus on cinema. It’s hard to not feel a little star struck while browsing their Film Ephemera Collection.

Ava Gardner’s mugshot for MGM

Ava Gardner’s employment questionnaire for MGM stopped me in my tracks as I scrolled through. Gardner (1922-1990) was one of Hollywood’s greatest female stars in the second half of the 20th century. She starred in The Hucksters, Show Boat, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Barefoot Contessa, On the Beach, 55 Days at Peking, The Night of the Iguana, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, Earthquake and The Cassandra Crossing.

Gardner’s third and last marriage was to Frank Sinatra from 1951 to 1957. It was a tumultuous affair although she always admitted by Sinatra was the love of her life. She lived the full life a major Hollywood star along with drama and scandal, and celebrity and numerous memorable films.

The employment questionnaire, completed for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1942, indicates the 19-year-old starlet was already married (she had married Mickey Rooney on January 10, 1942), her social security number and that she came from North Carolina. MGM was the first studio to offer Gardner a contract

“Gardner came from a large family of poor cotton and tobacco farmers, and while she required a speech coach to rid her of an incomprehensible southern drawl, her presence on film was magnetic from the very beginning,” said Kevin Johnson from Royal Books.

The questionnaire asks many questions about nationality and citizenship.

“There was a flood of actors, actresses, directors, and cinematographers fleeing Germany and going straight to Hollywood at the time,” explains Kevin. “And a lot of them were getting hired, because training in the German film industry was the best in the world at the time. It may be that skills and training were covered in another document. This strikes me as a very standard application for work at MGM, and of course country of origin was a huge concern at the time, as boatloads of immigrants were moving to California.”

Elsewhere in Kevin’s collection of cinema ephemera you will find a lobby card for A Clockwork Orange, a poster for Sisters (a Brian De Palma thriller about Siamese twins from 1973) and a program for the first New York film festival. Browse away.

Browse Royal Books’ collection of cinema ephemera.

Visit Collections.

Featured Collection: engravings of marine invertebrates from Charles Lewis Best Booksellers

An engraving from Charles Lewis Best’s collection

It’s a long way from the English lanes and woods of Surrey to the sandy beaches of San Diego. But these are the sort of distances that collectible objects from the past tend to travel.

Bookseller Charles Lewis Best offers a wonderful Collection of engravings of marine invertebrates which combines beautiful artwork with scientific study. The engravings are plates acquired from an artist who retired to San Diego. It is believed they had originally been part of the Calvert Collection, which was most probably located in Woodcote Park near Epsom in Surrey.

Engraving of two jellyfish

Woodcote Park is quite the estate. The Calvert family founded Maryland and Baltimore takes its name from Baron Baltimore, which was the family title. Like most English stately homes, Woodcote Park had a library of substance.

“The natural assumption is that these plates are from an unbound manuscript, awaiting the customized binding of the owner,” explains Charles.  “One can but assume that the library was purchased by an agent of an American such as J. P. Morgan or William Randolph Hearst and sent to New York, whence it somehow found its way to San Diego. “

Browsing Charles’ collection reveals numerous intricate engravings of marine life, including starfish, jellyfish, corrals, and sea urchins. Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville (1777-1850) was a prominent French zoologist and these drawings were published in his books. He succeeded Jean Baptiste Lamark as the Chair of Natural History at the Academie des Sciences in Paris, and was a leading authority on numerous species and apparently coined the term “paleontology.”

Browse Charles’ collection of marine engravings.

Visit Collections.

An engraving of sea anenomes

Featured Collection: Eccentrics, Cranks & Difficult People from Lorne Bair Rare Books

A police sheet on Gessler Rosseau who wanted to rid the United States of “foreign things”

A specialist collection of books written by, or about, eccentrics, cranks and difficult people firmly places us on the fringe of the literary world. Lorne Bair Rare Books has just such a gathering of unusual literature.

“Each one of these books could be placed into another wider genre but they make for an interesting experience when they are grouped together,” said Amir Naghib of Lorne Bair Rare Books. “We usually discover that the author or the main subject is a difficult person when we are doing the biographical research.

“We sell books covering ‘touchy’ subjects so we see radicalism from the left and from the right, and covering many subjects from sexuality to politics and medicine. For instance, a medical book from the 19th century could be written by a quack or a member of the medical profession. We find anyone and everyone purchases books such as these. It’s common to see institutional buyers picking up these books but sometimes people buy them for genealogical research. Sometimes these books are self-published via vanity presses if the author had the financial resources.”

God in a Rolls Royce by John Hoshor

An excellent example is Herb Blackschleger who wrote a book called Hide! in 1959. According to Lorne Bair, “The author, a right-wing Christian conspiracist, attacks communism, socialism, and capitalism in equal measure along with evolutionary theory, modern psychology, vaccination, and practical jokes.”

Another example is a police sheet about Gessler Rosseau (pictured above), a domestic terrorist who “made it his mission to ‘rid the country of foreign things”‘ such as a statue of Frederick the Great.

In the 1945 book, Medical Mussolini: A Comprehensive Text Book on Humanity’s Scourge – Medical Politics by Morris A Bealle, the author attacks the mainstream medical industry. Lorne Bair describes Bealle as “from a prominent Maryland family, an ardent anti-Communist and anti-New Dealer who appears never to have seen a conspiracy theory he didn’t like. His later works included exposes of the Rockefeller family and the Kennedy assassination plot.”

In the 1936 book, God in a Rolls Royce: The Rise of Father Divine – Madman, Menace or Messiah by Josh Hoshor, the author looks at the career of Father Major Jealous Divine (born George Baker), the charismatic Harlem religious leader who claimed to be the living incarnation of God.

There are more just like these items. Lorne Bair’s collection of books about and by eccentrics, cranks and difficult people show us that books have traditionally described views and opinions from every angle, including the most challenging ones to understand.

Browse Lorne Bair’s collection of books on eccentrics, cranks and difficult people.

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My favorite Collections – from literature on eccentrics to bus books & propaganda

My favorite Collections – from literature on eccentrics to bus books & propaganda

I am drawn to books and ephemera that are either beautiful, intriguing from a historical perspective or downright quirky, perhaps even weird. My ideal book would combine all of these characteristics. My reading tastes range from travel, food and sporting memoirs to biographies and history. Right now I am reading Shoe Dog by Phil Knight of Nike fame. I’m very comfortable reading a used book that’s been out-of-print for decades. I rarely read fiction. I’d like to know more about art and photography, but I’m a beginner when it comes to artists and art movements. I also love a book with a story behind its story – does that sense?

Richard Davies

Richard Davies, AbeBooks Editor

This week we launched Collections, which features thousands of themed lists curated by our sellers. Here are my favorite Collections on AbeBooks.com.

1. Eccentrics, Cranks & Eccentrics, Cranks & Difficult People curated by Lorne Bair Rare Books

Let’s begin with something quirky. This Collection features books from the fringes of society, people with abstract opinions that are usually written off as being crazy.  A fine example is God in a Rolls Royce: The Rise of Father Divine – Madman, Menace or Messiah by John Hoshor. Father Major Jealous Divine (born George Baker) was a charismatic Harlem religious leader who claimed to be the living incarnation of God. Need I go on? Lorne Bair has more books just like this one.

Browse the Collection.

My grandmother may have rode this very route

2. Buses & Trolleybuses curated by Dereks Transport Books

There’s a Collection on buses? Most certainly, tickets please! Dereks Transport Books offers books on all sorts of transportation from sailing to motorcycling. This particular Collection has a very British feel with numerous books on regional buses (and as usual if you wait 20 minutes two will come along). The iconic Routemaster comes up several times. The fact that there’s a book called ‘Midland Red Bus Garages’ leaves me aghast – there really is a book on every subject.

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3. Propaganda curated by Földvári Books

Földvári Books is a seller based in Budapest, Hungary, who specializes in the avant-garde, modern art, literature, manuscripts, and philosophy. This Collection of propaganda covers books and ephemera from across the Eastern Bloc during Communist rule. Look at all the imagery of the working man – powerful, productive, and heroic. You won’t find these items in your average big box bookstore.

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4. Art Deco curated by Ira Joel Haber – Cinemage Books

I have had a strong interest in Art Deco since visiting Napier in New Zealand – a city destroyed by an earthquake in 1931 and then completely rebuilt in the Art Deco style. Ira Joel Haber specializes in cinema and entertainment industry books and ephemera, and this Collection is eye-catching. These magazine and book covers from the 1920s and 1930s feature so many stylized figures and angled lines. Just a simple passenger list for a cruise ship can be presented in a beautiful fashion, while this book of Josephine Baker lithographs offers a wonderful insight into the 1920s Jazz scene.

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The Engraved Work of Eric Gill

5. Eric Gill curated by Cheshire Book Centre

Gill (1882-1940) was an English sculptor, typeface designer, stonecutter and printmaker.  He may also have been a little crazy too. He created several fonts, including Gill Sans. You can find his sculptures all over England. Gill also wrote books about art and religion. A huge figure in the Arts & Craft movement, Gill had followers and critics. In the design world, he is a legend. This little Collection covers some of his writing.

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6. New Naturalist curated by Loe Books

The New Naturalist Series is a collection of books published by Collins in the UK that focuses on natural history. What makes these books stand out from the crowd is the gorgeous cover design. These books, full of essential information on the natural world, make the reader want to venture out into fields, valleys and mountain ranges before a page has been turned. My personal favorite is New Naturalist #114, simply called Badger.

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7. Etiquette curated by Between the Covers.

If there is one thing I cannot stand, it is bad manners. Politeness still matters in my world, so I’m fascinated by the books found in this Etiquette Collection put together by Between the Covers in New Jersey. When a book is called ‘Better than Beauty: A Guide to Charm’ I have to pick it up because we all need charm. These books cover manners, homemaking, dancing, values, morals and court etiquette.  Just don’t forget to say ‘thank you’ after you’ve placed an order.

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Russian Revolutionary Posters by David King

8. Art Posters curated by Strand Book Store

There are many publishers who have gathered posters around a single theme and published them in single book. These books of posters are on the whole highly affordable and cover numerous genres from art movements to movies and politics. The Strand has an excellent Collection of these books of art posters. Some of the highlights include Russian Revolutionary Posters, Posters for the People: Art of the WPA and The Theater Posters of James McMullan.

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9. Penguin Books curated by Island Books

Used books and Penguins have gone hand in hand for many years. Today, vintage Penguins are easy to find and cheap to buy. Building a vintage Penguin collection is a piece of cake. I love these old Penguins because they are a little piece of publishing history and cover such a wide range of subject matter. This Collection of Penguins shows the breadth of cover designs used by the publisher and goes beyond the classic orange design so familiar to many of us. There are some Penguin Classics in there too and this beauty, Ackermann’s Cambridge from 1951.

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10. Vintage Life Magazines curated by Azio Media

Life Magazine was published from 1883 until 1972. Its cover, with that red and white masthead, is instantly recognizable. So many famous figures have adorned that front page. This Collection shows numerous famous faces – including Clark Gable, Lana Turner, and Carl Sandburg – and also many ordinary people who enjoyed being in the spotlight for a week. I find the advertising almost as interesting as the articles in these old magazines. Ads for cigarettes, cars and appliances abound.

Browse the Collection