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Take a virtual tour of Canada’s biggest used bookstore

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Meet Jordan and Andrea, the husband and wife team who run Canada’s largest used bookstore in Victoria, BC (which also happens to be home to AbeBooks HQ).  Locals and tourists alike flock to Russell Books on Fort St. to spend hours (and hours) roaming aisles that span three floors, each worth a thorough browse. Take a look below for an incredible virtual tour – we’re just sorry you can’t smell the books.

Main Floor

The main floor is stocked to the brim with cookbooks, children’s books, non-fiction, cards, calendars and stationery.  At the back, bibliophiles sell their used books in exchange for Russell Books gift certificates.

Russell Books

The front of the main floor just off Fort St.

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The view from the children’s section at the back of the main floor.

Russell Books

Beautiful books line the wall behind the main floor cash desk.

Russell Books

Classic Hardy Boys in the children’s section.

Russell Books

At the back of the main floor, you’ll find the book buying desk. Jordan appraises stacks of used books.

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Self-help books from floor to ceiling.


Fiction lovers, history buffs, and world travelers will love the upper floor of Russell Books. From brand new releases to long-forgotten travel journals, the top floor is chock-full of amazing tales.

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Endless stacks cover the top floor.

Russell Books

Mystery? Romance? General Fiction? Pick your isle.

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For paper fans…

Russell Books

Salinger for days.


Last but most certainly not least, bibliophiles must head downstairs to the Vintage and Rare Book Floor. I must confess that this is my favorite part of Russell Books. A literary time capsule, the Vintage Rare Book Floor houses a huge array of old books, including children’s books you haven’t thought of in decades, cookbooks your Grandmother treasured, and early editions of your favorite classics. From pretty vintage books that go for a few dollars to those kept behind glass, there’s something for any level of collector.

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Those lucky enough to visit Victoria should certainly pay our friends at Russell Books a visit. In the meantime, browse their expansive catalog online at AbeBooks.com.

Photos: Mark Creery Photography

A rare book of dried New Zealand ferns sells for $1,100

New Zealand Ferns by T. Cranwell – sold for $1,100

A very rare Victorian book containing dried New Zealand ferns has sold for $1,100 on the AbeBooks.com marketplace

New Zealand Ferns by T. Cranwell, from Parnell in Auckland, was published around 1877 and contains 30 pages of carefully mounted ferns. The front and rear covers are made from Kauri wood and the spine is leather.

The bookseller who sold the item, Ann Parson from Epilonian Books in Manhattan Beach, California, reported the 138-year-old ferns “were in very good condition.”

There is only one other copy of this book for sale on AbeBooks, offered by a bookseller in Holland for just over $2,000. Another copy can be found in the State Library of New South Wales in Australia. There appears to be few details about the identity of T. Cranwell but a copy of his book did reach Kew Gardens in London.

The silver fern is an iconic emblem associated New Zealand that appears in many areas of Kiwi life from the $1 coin to its cricket and rugby teams. There is also an on-going debate about whether it should be adopted as the nation’s flag – rather like the Canadian maple leaf.

A dried fern from New Zealand Ferns

Only one other copy of this book is available for sale

Most unusual item for sale on AbeBooks is…. Edith Wharton’s baby rattle

Edith Wharton’s baby rattle

It’s not difficult to find weird things for sale on the AbeBooks marketplace but Edith Wharton’s baby rattle takes some beating. In fact, I’d say it’s the most unusual item to be listed for sale on AbeBooks since Eugene O’Neill’s underpants in 2013.

Priced at $16,500, this is no ordinary baby rattle. It’s made from sterling silver, contains a whistle, is engraved with the word ‘Edith’ and contains a red coral teething section.

Edith Wharton by Hermoine LeeI have learned that coral has long been used to soothe teething babies and that coral teething devices were used in the 17th to 19th centuries by wealthy families. Edith Wharton was born in 1862 in New York into a wealthy family who travelled extensively.

The rattle is offered for sale by Priscilla Juvelis from Maine. She has 100% solid provenance regarding this unusual item. The baby rattle was given to Lucienne Belugou, daughter of Leon Belugou, on her christening. Lucienne Belugou gave it to French scholar Claudine Lesage and Priscilla bought it from Ms. Lesage. The account of the gift and Edith Wharton’s (close) relations with Leon Belugou is to be found in Hermione Lee’s excellent biography of Edith Wharton.

Off the top of my head, I would describe the following items as most unusual:

Truman Capote’s birth certificate;

A rotating celestial globe;

A hat belonging to a 19th century French major general;

An IBM computer technology carrying case;

Albert Payson Terhune’s chair.


Crime writer Judy Penz Sheluk discusses small town mysteries

Judy Penz Sheluk

One of my jobs is to inform journalists about AbeBooks, our books and our booksellers. But I like it when a journalist turns the tables and tells me about their book.

Meet Judy Penz Sheluk. She’s a journalist who specializes in antiques and has covered stories about AbeBooks for years. Judy is also a crime and mystery novelist. A member of the Crime Writers of Canada, she cut her teeth on short crime fiction and her novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published by Barking Rain Press in July. She lives in a small town northwest of Toronto, Ontario. Judy was kind enough to answer our questions.

AbeBooks: The Hanged Man’s Noose is a ‘Glass Dolphin’ mystery – what is that a reference to?

Judy Penz Sheluk: “One of the main characters in the book is Arabella Carpenter, owner of the Glass Dolphin antiques shop. The shop was named after her first antique find: a pair of blue Boston & Sandwich glass dolphin-shaped candlestick holders. In my first quarterly newsletter (July 2015), I included some information about the company, as well as a photo and a recent sale of at auction. If anyone’s interested, they can sign up. My next newsletter will be in November , but I would be happy to send the July one to any new subscribers.”

The Hanged Man’s Noose

AbeBooks: There’s journalist and an antiques shop in the novel – sounds like a little of your real life can be spotted in the book?

Judy Penz Sheluk: “Absolutely. I’ve been a freelance writer/editor since 2003, specializing in antiques and the home building industry. In fact, I’m the Senior Editor of New England Antiques Journal and the Editor of Home BUILDER Canada. In The Hanged Man’s Noose, Emily Garland, a Toronto-based freelance journalist, is sent to the small town of Lount’s Landing to uncover the truth behind a proposed development plan. She quickly learns not everyone in town is on board with the plan, least of all Arabella Carpenter.”

AbeBooks: It’s a small town mystery – why do you think small towns make such good settings for murder mysteries?

Judy Penz Sheluk: “We tend to have an idealistic image of small town life. That it’s inherently safe. That everyone knows everyone. That’s probably true in one sense, but the reality is few among us don’t harbor a secret, some darker than others. The threat of exposing those secrets can change the small town dynamics pretty quickly. As a writer I can create a world where everyone knows everyone (and therefore everyone can be a suspect).”

AbeBooks: Are there more books planned featuring Emily Garland?

Judy Penz Sheluk: “I’ve just started A Hole in One, the sequel to The Hanged Man’s Noose, and hope to submit it for publishing consideration by March 2016. In that novel, Arabella will be the protagonist, and Emily will be her sidekick.
I recently completed Skeletons in the Attic: A Marketville Mystery, and it’s now being considered for publication. It’s another small town mystery, but all the characters are new, with the exception of Arabella Carpenter, who makes a brief appearance.
I’m also planning to write a novella featuring Emily. It would be a prequel to Noose. I have some ideas for it, but I haven’t started writing it yet.”

AbeBooks: What are the mysteries that inspire you?

Judy Penz Sheluk: “There are so many. I grew up reading Nancy Drew and graduated to Agatha Christie, John D. MacDonald, Dick Francis, Ed McBain and Ngaio Marsh. My favorite current-day authors include John Sandford, Sue Grafton, Tana French, Michael Connelly and Louise Penny. I love the way Sandford and Connelly have allowed their characters to age and change. Sue Grafton is a terrific example of how much a writer can evolve over the years. Compare her first book, A is for Alibi, with her more recent W is for Wasted and X. Kinsey Millhone may not have aged a lot, but the plots have become much more complex, and the writing far more layered. Louise Penny is the bright light for all Canadian authors; she proved that there is a market for well-written stories set in Canada. Tana French changes her protagonist with each book, taking them from a minor or lesser character from a previous work. What each of these authors have in common is their ability to create believable settings. I’ve never been to Ireland or to Minnesota, for example, but French and Sandford have taken me there.

“I also read other genres besides crime fiction, though I do tend to gravitate towards darker reads. For example, two of my favorite books are Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden and The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald. All the books I read influence my writing in some way. Reading is the best teacher.”

AbeBooks: What books are on your bedside table today?

Judy Penz Sheluk: “I’m always reading two books at a time, one novel and one collection of short stories. I’m currently reading Louise Penny’s The Nature of the Beast, and Flash and Bang, a short crime fiction anthology. I do have a flash fiction story, Beautiful Killer, in that anthology, but I’d be reading it regardless because it is the first anthology by members of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. I’ve also got Murder Under the Oaks, another collection of short mystery stories, on my table, but I haven’t started it yet. I enjoy short stories because you can read one in a few minutes between other commitments.”

Visit Judy’s site for more information.

AbeBooks Visits the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair

The 2015 Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair took place October 10-11 in the Exhibition Hall at Seattle Center, steps away from the Space Needle and AbeBooks was there!

Close to 100 book dealers exhibited their wares and bought and sold unique books and ephemera.

Despite, or perhaps because of, torrential rain on Saturday, the fair was bustling with crowds of people and the room was aglow with excitement and joviality.

There were many amazing books and knowledgeable dealers at the fair and some highlights are pictured below:

A selection of tiny books from Edition De Luxe.

A selection of tiny books from Edition De Luxe.

Bauman Rare Books Beatrix Potter

Bauman Rare Books – Beatrix Potter

See books from Bauman Rare Books.

Greg from Coconut Rose Books

Greg from Coconut Rose Books

See books from Coconut Rose Books, ABAA.

Last round of tiny books from Edition De Luxe LLC

More tiny books from Edition De Luxe

Nick at Louis Collins Booth Seattle 2015

Nick at Louis Collins Booth Seattle 2015

See books from Louis Collins Books.

Pacific Coast Books - book bound in shipwreck salvaged, 18th cent. calf leather

Pacific Coast Books – book bound in shipwreck salvaged, 18th cent. calf leather.

See books from Pacific Coast Books ABAA/ILAB.

Priscilla and Jonas from Lowry-James Books

Priscilla and Jonas from Lowry-James Books

See books from Lowry-James Rare Prints & Books ABAA.

Rob Rulon Miller, Elizabeth Svendsen, Greg Gibson and Priscilla Lowry

Rob Rulon Miller, Elizabeth Svendsen, Greg Gibson and Priscilla Lowry

See more books from Rulon-Miller Books (ABAA / ILAB)Walkabout Books ABAA and Lowry-James Rare Prints & Books ABAA.

Seattle Fair Entrance

Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair Entrance

Save the Date – Sydney Rare Book Fair November 5th – 7th


The Sydney Rare Book Fair is just around the corner. This year’s event will take place from Thursday November 5th to Saturday November 7th at the heritage Customs House at Circular Quay.

Visitors to the fair will see a wonderful selection of books, manuscripts, maps, prints, photographs and ephemera. This year, Cali Andersen (Andersen’s Bindery, Redfern) and John Turner – both Sydney based bookbinders and book restorers will be available to provide advice and talk about bookbinding and book repair requirements.

Over 15 booksellers from around Australia will be displaying their books and ephemera including Antique Bookshop, Asia Bookroom, Grant’s Bookshop, Harbeck Rare Books, Hordern House, Kay Craddock – Antiquarian Bookseller, Louella Kerr Books, Out of Print Books and Sebra Prints.

Winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize is Marlon James with A Brief History of Seven Killings

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James - winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James – winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize

Congratulations to Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings. James is the 2015 winner of the prestigious Man Booker Prize and the first Jamaican author to win the prize since it was first awarded 47 years ago.

His novel is fictional history and focuses on the attempted murder of Bob Marley in 1976. With more than 76 characters, this epic story has been hailed by many to be one of the best books of the year. Brilliantly inventive, A Brief History of Seven Killings is an “exhilarating” ( The New York Times) epic that’s been called “a tour de force” ( The Wall Street Journal). Find copies of A Brief History of Seven Killings here.

Explore the 49 winning books since the prize’s inaugural year in 1969.

AbeBooks Literary Link Lineup


1. Penguin Books celebrates its 80th anniversary

2. 13 Creepy Bits of Bookish Trivia from Book Riot

3. Ladybird publishers updates its famous kids books for modern adults

4. The supremacy of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books.

5. A disaster manual is proving to be very popular with people in Tokyo.

6.  Loss, Politics and the Stars: Going remote with George Orwell

7. Books with Beasts on Lithub.com

8. Fine Books & Collections reports on an illustrated version of Lolita published by The Folio Society.

9. The 68th Frankfurt Book Fair runs from October 19-23

10. Instagram feed to follow: lilitslittlelibrary

Champion of oral history Svetlana Alexievich wins Nobel Prize for Literature

Belarus journalist and author Svetlana Alexievich has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The Swedish academy praised her for: “polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.”

Her recordings of oral histories documented the implosion of the Soviet Union from the point of view of the ordinary person. English translations of several of her books are available.

Alexievich was born in 1948 in the Ukrainian town of Ivano-Frankovsk. Her father is Belarusian and her mother Ukrainian. Her family returned to Belorussia when Svetlana was a child and she began her working life as reporter on a local newspaper in Narovl. As a journalist, she has covered the Chernobyl nuclear accident, the Soviet war in Afghanistan and many other key moments in modern Russia. In Voices From Chernobyl, Alexievich interviewed hundreds of people affected by the disaster.

She was forced to leave Belarus in 2000 by the ruling regime, who disliked her writing, and she lived in various European cities before settling in Minsk in 2011. Alexievich becomes the 14th woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature since it began in 1901.

Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich

Voices From Chernobyl

On April 26, 1986, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history occurred in Chernobyl and contaminated as much as three quarters of Europe.

Voices from Chernobyl is the first book to present personal accounts of the tragedy. Alexievich interviewed hundreds of people affected by the meltdown – from innocent citizens to firefighters to those called in to clean up the disaster – and their stories reveal the fear, anger, and uncertainty with which they still live. The book offers interviews in monologue form.

A short film, embedded below, based on Voices from Chernobyl, was nominated for an Academy Award in 2010.

Zinky Boys by Svetlana Alexievich

Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War

This account of the Soviet war in Afghanistan takes its title from the name given to the bodies of soldiers sent home in zinc coffins. Her interviewees include soldiers, doctors, widows and mothers.

The conflict raged from 1979 to 1989 and forced millions to flee the country.

Her writing is also featured in Nine: An Anthology of Russia’s Foremost Woman Writers, published by GLAS New Russian Writing, the authors include Ludmila Petrushevskaya, Olga Slavnikova and Ludmila Ulitskaya.