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1951 manual to the first computer game sells for $4,200

The Ferranti Nimrod Computer Manual from 1951 (pic supplied by Any Amount of Books)

A copy of the manual for the first computer game has been sold for £2,500 (around $4,200) by Any Amount of Books in London via AbeBooks. The Ferranti Nimrod Digital Computer Manual is a key piece of technology and gaming history. The game in question is a long way from Minecraft and Angry Birds – it’s a match-stick game called Nim that was played in the French movie L’Année Derniere a Marienbad and is said to have originated in China. Here’s a link to a game.

The computer was built to play the game alone. The manual was used at the Festival of Britain in 1951 and the cover offers a little early branding with the words ‘Faster than Thought’.

To quote the manual:

 The game is for two players, being played nowadays with matches. At the beginning of the game one of the players arranges the matches in any number of heaps in any way he chooses. The players then move alternatively taking any number of matches from any one heap but at least one match must always be taken. In the normal simple game the player who succeeds in taking the last few matches wins but in the reverse simple game the player who takes the last match or matches loses.

At the exhibition the public could play against the machine. The famous Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing beat it. At the conclusion of each game, the machine flashed up the message ‘Computer Wins’ or ‘Computer Loses.’ It’s interesting to hear that the manual referred to ‘memory’ as ‘storage’.

Any Amount of Books posted about the manual at its excellent Jot 101 blog – I love the picture of the two dancers from the Windmill Girls playing against the computer.

L’Année dernière à Marienbad is a cult 1961 film known for its hard-to-understand narrative. Two men play the match game as the movie explores the relationship between them and a woman through flashbacks. Ferranti was an electrical engineering that began in the Victorian era but went bankrupt in 1993. The best bibliography of computer literature is The Origins of Cyberspace by Diana Hook and Jeremy Norman but it’s not cheap.


My used bookstore find – a vintage Penguin edition of The Gun by CS Forester

The Gun by CS Forester

During my family’s recent road-trip vacation, I picked up this beautiful vintage Penguin paperback of The Gun by CS Forester in a little used bookstore in Cranbrook, British Columbia. It’s a 1959 edition and looks as if it has not been read as the spine is not creased. Not bad for $2 used book. I cannot wait to read it.

I had been reminded about this novel after recently reading a biography of Cary Grant.

Poo-Poo and the Dragons by CS Forester

Grant starred in the movie adaptation of The Gun in 1957 along with Sophia Loren in her first English language role. The movie was titled The Pride and the Passion and also stars Frank Sinatra with Stanley Kubrick directing. I watched a lot of Cary Grant movies in my childhood and The Pride and the Passion was often shown on Sunday afternoons.

This historical novel, first published in 1933, is about an 18-pound cannon during the Peninsular War (1807-1814) where Spain and Portugal struggled to free themselves from Napoleon’s all-conquering French forces.

The 1933 Little Brown US first edition has a lovely dust jacket. I tend to think CS Forester is rather forgotten these days in the era of Game of Thrones, but he is  the man who wrote the 12-book Horatio Hornblower series,  The African Queen and, my personal favorite, Poo-Poo and the Dragons.

(Poo-Poo and the Dragons is the story of a little boy called Poo Poo (real name Harold) and how his family’s life is changed when he brings home Horatio the dragon for a pet.)


Paws for thought: bronze Scottie dog bookends sell for $6,000

A pair of bronze Scottie dog bookends sculpted by famed animal artist Marguerite Kirmse (1885-1954) have sold for $6,000 on AbeBooks. They are the most expensive bookends to ever sell on AbeBooks and were the 10th most expensive item to sell on the marketplace in July. The Scottie pictured to the right is signed by Kirmse.

The English-born artist contributed drawings and etchings to many magazines and books, including Eric Knight’s classic children’s story, Lassie Come Home. Her prints and illustrated books are very collectible.

Kirmse lived in Connecticut where she raised Scottish Terriers with her husband George W. Cole. They also bred Airedales, Irish Terriers and other breeds. Kirmse was often drawn to hunting dogs and this is reflected in her art. Dogs in the Field, a limited edition book produced by Kirmse in 1935, offered many studies of hunting dogs in action and is treasured by collectors of canine art. Only 685 numbered copies were printed.

Although etchings were her forte, she began to sculpt dogs in bronze in the 1920s. Lassie Come Home was published as a book in 1940 with the movie version following three years later. Kirmse’s artwork adorns the memorable front cover.

A 1940 first edition of Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight featuring artwork by Marguerite Kirmse

FoxhoundA 1931 print of a foxhound etching produced by Marguerite Kirmse

The FoxA 1931 print of a fox etching produced by Marguerite Kirmse

Tyke the Little Mutt by Dorothy L’Hommedieu and illustrated by Marguerite Kirmse

A 1926 first edition of My Friend, The Dog by Albert Payson Terhune illustrated by Marguerite Kirmse


July’s Top 10 Bestselling Signed Books

July's Top 10 Bestselling Signed Books

At the start of each month we take a look at AbeBooks‘ bestselling signed books of the previous month. Some appear month after month (hello, The Fault In Our Stars), some are timelessly collectible (ahem, Codex Seraphinianus) and some are brand new (The Miniaturist).

This month’s list pays tribute to the late Louis Zamperini who passed away on July 2nd at the age of 97. At age 19, Zamperini participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games as a long-distance runner. When WWII broke out, he joined the US Army Air Forces and served as a bombadier in the South Pacific. In April, 1943, his plane crashed in the Pacific, killing eight of the eleven crew members on board. He is the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken (no. 1 on the list). He also penned a memoir titled Devil at my Heels (no. 5).

Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal winner The Giver was published over 20 years ago, but the YA classic has appeared on our bestselling signed books list multiple times since news came out that the book will hit big screens this summer.

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour was just long-listed for the 2014 Man Booker Prize, and California is one the summer’s hottest new titles.

1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

2. The Giver by Lois Lowry

3. Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini

4. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

5. Devil at my Heels by Louis Zamperini & David Rensin

6. Black Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black

7. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

8. California by Edan Lepucki

9. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

10. The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry


2014 Man Booker Prize Longlist Announced

It’s the day this book nerd has been waiting for since Eleanor Catton was declared the winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize – today, the 2014 Man Booker Longlist was announced.  Since its founding in 1969 the prize has been awarded to the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the UK, the Commonwealth, or Ireland. In 2013 the Man Booker Prize announced it would include American authors in its consideration for future prizes. Thus, the 2014 longlist includes four Americans – Joshua Ferris, Karen Joy Fowler, Siri Hustvedt and Richard Powers.

Six of the 13 books are yet to be released, but there’s nothing wrong with planning your fall reading list now. Without further ado, the 13 contenders:

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, Joshua Ferris

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

Richard Flanagan

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan, to be released August 2014.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Blazing World, Siri Hustvedt

Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

Howard Jacobson

J by Howard Jacobson, to be released September 2014

The Wake, Paul Kingsnorth

The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth

David Mitchell

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, to be released September 2014

The Lives of Others, Neel Mukherjee

The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee

David Nicholls

Us by David Nicholls, to be released October 2014

Joseph O'Neill

The Dog by Joseph O’Neill, to be released September 2014

Orfeo, Richard Powers

Orfeo by Richard Powers

Ali Smith

How to be Both by Ali Smith, to be released September 2014

History of the Rain, Niall Williams

History of the Rain by Niall Williams

 


5 Debut Novels You Better Hurry Up and Read

5 debut novels you better hurry up and read

I don’t know about you, but I love reading a book by an unknown. Sure, it’s great to dive into a book penned by a favorite author, but you can’t help but approach it with a pile of expectations. Will it be as good as their last?  Will it be better? A debut novelist is someone nobody knows. You can’t compare his or her work to their previous, and your friends can’t impact your judgement with their opinions. Reading an unknown is, in my opinion, quite freeing.

Here are five brand new books by brand new novelists to get you started, but based on the media’s glowing reviews these authors won’t be unknown for long. Better hurry up and get to them before your friends do.

1. The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe
An astonishing debut about friendships made in youth, this is a fiercely beautiful novel about how these bonds, challenged by loss, illness, parenthood, and distance, either break or endure.

2. The Fracking King: A Novel by James Browning
A striking novel about boarding school, hardcore Scrabble, and fracking—a new kind of environmental novel by an important new voice in the debate about fracking in America.

3. California: A Novel by Edan Lepucki
A gripping and provocative novel by a stunning new talent, California imagines a frighteningly realistic near future, in which clashes between mankind’s dark nature and deep-seated resilience force us to question how far we will go to protect the ones we love.

4. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet… So begins the story of this exquisite novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. This book is at once a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait.

5. High as the Horses Bridles: A Novel by Scott Chesire
An urgent, electric novel about inheritance, belief, and a father and son divided by a dangerous prophecy.

Want more brand new books? Visit our Best Buys page for steals and deals on the latest and greatest books.


Nobel-prize-winning author Nadine Gordimer dies at 90

Author Nadine Gordimer died peacefully at her Johannesburg home on Sunday, at the age of 90. The South African writer’s novels and stories depicted the drama of human life in a society troubled by racial segregation. She won the Nobel prize in 1991.

Gordimer’s works were highly controversial. The Guardian reports, “she had three books banned under the apartheid regime’s censorship laws, along with an anthology of poetry by black South African writers that she collected and had published.” The banned titles include A World of Strangers and Burger’s Daughter.

The Guardian shared some memorable quotes from the author on censorship, writing, and life in general:

Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever.

Writing is making sense of life. You work your whole life and perhaps you’ve made sense of one small area.

Nothing factual that I write or say will be as truthful as my fiction.

Books don’t need batteries.

Power is something of which I am convinced there is no innocence this side of the womb.

Nadine Gordimer leaves behind an epic legacy of literature, including several short story collections, essays, and 15 novels. Several signed books are available.

Novels by Nadine Gordimer

The Lying Days (1953)
A World of Strangers (1958)
Occasion for Loving (1963)
The Late Bourgeois World (1966)
A Guest of Honour (1970)
The Conservationist (1974)
Burger’s Daughter (1979)
July’s People (1981)
A Sport of Nature (1987)
My Son’s Story (1990)
None to Accompany Me (1994)
The House Gun
The Pickup (2001)
Get a Life (2005)
No Time Like the Present (2012)

 


Bill Gates reveals his favorite business book & AbeBooks sells every copy of forgotten title from 1969

**UPDATE – The new edition of Business Adventures by John Brooks is now available.**

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal printed an interesting article written by Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates about this favorite business book – Business Adventures by John Brooks. It is a long forgotten out-of-print book published in 1969 containing 12 essays about business that had originally appeared in The New Yorker magazine.

Thanks to this article, Business Adventures by John Brooks was the top search term on AbeBooks.com on Friday and Saturday. This morning (Sunday), there are no copies left on the site.

Brooks – the Michael Lewis of his day – was a long-time contributor to The New Yorker. The essays include Ford Motor Company’s epic failure with the Edsel, the rise of Xerox, and scandals at General Electric and Texas Gulf Sulphur.

Gates discovered Business Adventures after fellow tycoon Warren Buffett lent him a copy in 1991 (I hope Gates returned it!). In the WSJ article, Gates writes:

Unlike a lot of today’s business writers, Brooks didn’t boil his work down into pat how-to lessons or simplistic explanations for success. (How many times have you read that some company is taking off because they give their employees free lunch?) You won’t find any listicles in his work. Brooks wrote long articles that frame an issue, explore it in depth, introduce a few compelling characters and show how things went for them.

Brooks died in 1993. His obituary in the New York Times reveals a little about the breadth of his writing:

Mr. Brooks was known for his ability to give Wall Street trends, history and personalities a narrative flavor far beyond standard financial reportage. He wrote three novels, all published by Harper: The Big Wheel (1949) about a news magazine resembling Time; A Pride of Lions (1954), and The Man Who Broke Things (1958). He was also the author of 10 non fiction books on business and finance, including Once in Golconda: A True Drama of Wall Street, 1920-1938 (Harper, 1969); The Go-Go Years (Weybright, 1973), a history of the speculative 1960′s on Wall Street, and The Takeover Game (Dutton, 1987), about the epidemic of mergers in the 1980′s. A collection of his work, Business Adventures (Weybright, 1969), included his most famous New Yorker article, ‘The Fate of the Edsel.’


Copy of Das Kapital sells for $40k just as Dow Jones hits record high

On Thursday,  the day that the Dow Jones index closed at an all-time high of 17,068 points, AbeBooks.com sold a first edition of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital for $40,000.

Published in 1867 by Otto Meissner with German text, this copy of Das Kapital was the only one published in Marx’s lifetime (he died in 1883). The book is housed in a slipcover with cloth wrapping.

Das Kapital famously attributes the growth of capitalism to the exploitation of labor and the book became the basis for Marxism, which influenced many subsequent political systems and labor movements, including Communism. Marx lived in London from 1849 until his death. He is buried in Highgate Cemetery.

It’s not the first time that a copy of Das Kapital has sold for a high price via AbeBooks. In November 2011, a very rare copy in three volumes sold for $51,739. Interest in Marx’s book, which arguably did indeed help change the world, remains as strong as ever.

The $40,000 sale is AbeBooks’ second most expensive sale of the year. A collection of French Art Nouveau posters sold for $43,450 in March.

On a bumper day for the stock markets and used bookselling, a copy of the first ever Rupert the Bear annual from 1936 sold for $8,497 on Thursday. The first edition, illustrated by Alfred Bestall, was unmarked with the “Belongs to” box left empty, a rarity for this children’s favorite.


Louis Zamperini Dies at 97

Unbroken

Louis Zamperini, the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s bestseller Unbroken, died on July 2 at the age of 97.

At age 19, Zamperini participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games as a long-distance runner. When WWII broke out, he joined the US Army Air Forces and served as a bombadier in the South Pacific. In April, 1943, his plane crashed in the Pacific, killing eight of the eleven crew members on board.

One of the three survivors, Francis McNamara, died after 37 days at sea. Fourteen days later, Zamperini and fellow survivor, Russel Allen, landed on the Marshall Islands and were immediately captured by Japanese forces. They remained in captivity, enduring sevedevilre mistreatment, until the war ended in August, 1945.

Zamperini went on to become an inspirational speaker and wrote two memoirs detailing his experiences, both titled Devil at My Heels. The first was published in 1956 and as of this writing, is still available. The second, published in 2003, was completely rewritten and contains a significant amount of new material.

In 2010, Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand, published a biography of Zamperini called Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. An international bestseller, copies of Unbroken signed by Zamperini still regularly appear on AbeBooks Bestselling Signed Books list. A movie based on the book, adapted by Joel and Ethan Coen and directed by Angelina Jolie, is set for release in late 2014.


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