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It’s 70 years since John Hersey’s ‘Hiroshima’ New Yorker article shocked the world

Seventy years ago, The New Yorker published a ground-breaking piece of journalism from John Hersey. The 30,000-word article – published in the 31 August 1946 issue – was called ‘Hiroshima’. It detailed the horrific effects of the American nuclear attack on this Japanese city on 6 August 1945, which helped to finally end World War II.

The 1946 Random House edition of Hiroshima by John-Hersey

The entire issue was dedicated to Hersey’s remarkable article. It has been hailed as one of the 20th century’s great works of journalism, and it is still widely read and referenced today. The article made headlines around the world as it was the first time that the full destructive nature of nuclear warfare was made clear to the general public.

John Hersey (1914-1993) had spent the war working as a correspondent and had also written a novel called A Bell for Adano about a Sicilian town occupied by the US army. He was a talented writer and A Bell for Adano won a Pulitzer Prize. He visited Japan nine months after the bomb was dropped from Enola Gay but did not file his copy until he had returned to the United States. It would probably have been censored by the occupying US forces.

The New Yorker had never before dedicated an entire issue to a single story but the editors realized that Hersey’s report was very powerful. All 300,000 copies quickly sold out and the article was reprinted in numerous newspapers and magazines. Every word of the article was also converted into chilling radio programs for listeners in the US and Britain.

Six people are prominently featured in the article, including two doctors and a German Jesuit priest. Importantly, the report revealed that the effects of the bomb were still killing people long after the initial explosion – this was shocking news to readers. Radiation sickness was unknown.

The article was also remarkable because it did not demonize the Japanese, who had been lambasted in the media since the attack on Pearl Harbor. Hersey described the awful experiences of the six ordinary people in order to illustrate the overall event. This storytelling style was new for a journalist.

The article was published as a book also called ‘Hiroshima’ in November 1946. The book has never been out-of-print and has been translated into many languages.

In 2007, Easton Press published a leather-bound edition of Hiroshima but the most interesting edition to be published came from the Limited Editions Press in 1983. LEP published 1,500 copies signed by Hersey, Robert Penn Warren (who contributed a poem) and artist Jacob Lawrence (who contributed eight beautiful but haunting silk screen illustrations, one of which you can see below). These Limited Editions Club copies – bound in black leather and contained in a slipcase – are prized by collectors.

Find copies of Hiroshima

Find copies of Hiroshima published by Easton Press

Find copies of Hiroshima published by the Limited Editions Club

One of Jacob Lawrence’s illustrations from the Limited Editions Club edition of Hiroshima

False alarm: no valuable magic in “1 Wand” typo in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

The “1 Wand” error in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Earlier this month there was a news story concerning copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone that were judged to be valuable if they contained a particular wand-related error. The story originated from a British auction company, who have a Harry Potter sale coming up in November, and it was picked up by a large number of media outlets around the world, including The Independent.

The reports said a first edition of the Philosopher’s Stone containing this error was expected to sell for as much as £26,000 at auction.

Now, exciting though this story is, it is misleading.

True first editions of the novel – which are as scarce as hens’ teeth – do indeed contain the typo but the mistake also appears in later printings. That means a fair number of copies containing the mistake are in circulation. A week ago AbeBooks started receiving messages from people who had a copy with the typo and suddenly thought they had a valuable book on their hands. It was the same situation for London rare bookseller Peter Harrington, who also started to receive emails from hopeful Harry Potter fans. Search for “Harry Potter wand typo” on Twitter and you will see at least nine people who have copies of the book with the error.

This whole thing sounded fishy to me, so I contacted Peter Harrington to double-check and they were kind enough to provide this statement:

Several items in the press have recently suggested that a typo found on p. 53 of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone renders a copy extremely rare and valuable.

The repetition of ‘1 wand’ on the list of Harry’s required equipment for Hogwarts does indeed appear in true first editions, but in fact also appeared in later printings and does not, on its own, mean that the book is rare or valuable. The typo only confirms the rarity of the book if it is a first edition, first printing and the following criteria are also fulfilled:

  1. The publisher must be listed as Bloomsbury at the bottom of the title page.
  2. The latest date listed in the copyright information must be 1997.
  3. The print line on the copyright page must read “10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1”, ten down to one, exactly. The lowest figure in the print line indicates the printing. (For instance, if your copy has “20 19 18 17”, it’s a less valuable seventeenth printing.)
  4. The book must be printed in the UK, not Canada, Australia or anywhere else.

So there you go – if you have the typo, Bloomsbury, 1997, 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1, and it’s printed in the UK then you have a rather valuable book. Peter Harrington has an excellent blog post on the Philosopher’s Stone first edition. You can also use AbeBooks’ Harry Potter Collecting Guide for further information.

Rhinoceros by Albrecht Dürer – Armour-plated Awesomeness

Rhinoceros by Albrecht Dürer

What’s amazing about this woodcut, apart of the artistic brilliance and the $300,000 price-tag, is that Dürer had never seen a rhinoceros when he created this image in 1515. The German artist relied upon a written description in a letter and a brief sketch provided by an unknown person. Armour was clearly on his mind. People thought it was an accurate representation of the animal for several centuries. Today, Dürer’s rhino looks like something from a fantasy movie. Even though this image was wildly popular during Dürer’s time, prints are very scarce today.

Bookseller Q&A: World of Rare Books

Michael Laundon, Managing Director of World of Rare Books

Michael Laundon, Managing Director of World of Rare Books

AbeBooks recently caught up with Managing Director of World of Rare Books Michael Laundon to talk all things bookish. Sister company to World of Books, WORB was founded in 2012 and focuses on rare and antiquarian books from the pre-ISBN era. Naturally, Michael had some interesting stories for us. From providing a special book to a Nigerian tribe, to returning a long-lost childhood treasure to Australia, this Sussex-based bookseller is living up to their name. Read the Q&A to learn more about the fascinating world of rare book selling.

AbeBooks: What do you love most about selling books?

Michael: I love finding homes for the most unusual books the most. It thrills me to sell an obscure book on Geology when the only online alternative is a reprint. One such story was a book we had on the ancient Ibibio People of Nigeria – we sold a very rare book about a particular tribe to a chap who wanted to collect the book in person. When he arrived at World of Rare Books HQ we quickly realized he had traveled all the way from Nigeria and was part of the tribe. The book was so precious to his people that they wanted him to collect it in person rather than having it sent via the postal service!

World of Rare Books

Vintage Penguin paperbacks from World of Rare Books.

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

Michael: Currently my favorite showpiece is Anglo-Saxon Magic by Godfrid Storms. I love this book because of the bizarre nature of it, and I find it interesting to read about history in the context of how far society has moved on – in this case, how there is no requirement for using a leech to cure a sore throat! I also think it represents our stock nicely – it’s an interesting, unique, and fun book.

AbeBooks: What is the most interesting book you’ve come across?

Michael: Too many to mention, however, it always sends shivers down my spine when holding a famous first edition in my hands, especially when researching how to spot the printing errors to define the validity of the copy you have. An example I can give is the now sold first edition of Pickwick Papers with the famous printing errors.

World of Rare Books classics

Beloved classics from World of Rare Books.

AbeBooks: What’s the oddest thing you’ve found in a book?

Michael: I think it has to be a bullet shot into the actual book! Most frustrating thing is probably crayon marks in the illustrations of classic children’s books!

AbeBooks: What’s your most memorable moment as a bookseller?

Michael: Many years ago, we sold an old children’s annual from the ’60s to a customer in Australia. A few weeks later we received a phone call from the same very excited customer – she was looking for her favorite childhood book, which is what she purchased…literally! When she received the book she realized the book had her name in the front and all the puzzles were filled in by herself as a child! The most interesting thing here is she had never been to England. The book had somehow exchanged hands and managed to travel across the world to England where it ended up with us 30 years later and resold to its original owner. Let’s just say it made everyone’s day!

AbeBooks: And of course, what’s your favorite book?

Michael: War of the Worlds by HG Wells – yes, it pained me to sell a first edition of this a few years back that I should have purchased myself!

Les Phipps, Joy Ridley, and Michael Laundon of World of Rare Books.

Les Phipps, Joy Ridley, and Michael Laundon of World of Rare Books.


Amazon’s Top 10 Books: August 2016

I don’t know about you, but my pile of to-be-read books is growing taller by the minute! I’m confident that at least a few of the books mentioned below will be added to the teetering tower.

The best book of the month, according to Amazon book editors is Another Brooklyn by National Book Award winner, Jacqueline Woodson.


Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant part of a future that belonged to them. But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.


I’m Supposed to Protect You From All This by Nadja Spiegelman

For a long time, Nadja Spiegelman believed her mother was a fairy. More than her famous father, Maus creator Art Spiegelman, and even more than most mothers, hers—French-born New Yorker art director Françoise Mouly—exerted a force over reality that was both dazzling and daunting. As Nadja’s body changed and “began to whisper to the adults around me in a language I did not understand,” their relationship grew tense. Unwittingly, they were replaying a drama from her mother’s past, a drama Nadja sensed but had never been told. Then, after college, her mother suddenly opened up to her. Françoise recounted her turbulent adolescence caught between a volatile mother and a playboy father, one of the first plastic surgeons in France. The weight of the difficult stories she told her daughter shifted the balance between them.


Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite. Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?


Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency by James Andrew Miller

The movies you watch, the TV shows you adore, the concerts and sporting events you attend—behind the curtain of nearly all of these is an immensely powerful and secretive corporation known as Creative Artists Agency. Started in 1975, when five bright and brash employees of a creaky William Morris office left to open their own, strikingly innovative talent agency, CAA would come to revolutionize the entertainment industry, and over the next several decades its tentacles would spread aggressively throughout the worlds of movies, television, music, advertising, and investment banking. Powerhouse is the fascinating, no-holds-barred saga of that ascent.


Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst

How far will a mother go to save her family? The Hammond family is living in DC, where everything seems to be going just fine, until it becomes clear that the oldest daughter, Tilly, is developing abnormally–a mix of off-the-charts genius and social incompetence. Once Tilly–whose condition is deemed undiagnosable–is kicked out of the last school in the area, her mother Alexandra is out of ideas.


To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

In the winter of 1885, decorated war hero Colonel Allen Forrester leads a small band of men on an expedition that has been deemed impossible: to venture up the Wolverine River and pierce the vast, untamed Alaska Territory. Leaving behind Sophie, his newly pregnant wife, Colonel Forrester records his extraordinary experiences in hopes that his journal will reach her if he doesn’t return–once he passes beyond the edge of the known world, there’s no telling what awaits him.


The Perfect Horse: The Daring US Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis by Elizabeth Letts

In the chaotic last days of the war a small troop of battle-weary American soldiers captures a German spy and makes an astonishing find—his briefcase is empty but for photos of beautiful white horses that have been stolen and kept on a secret farm behind enemy lines. Hitler has stockpiled the world’s finest purebreds in order to breed the perfect military machine—an equine master race. But with the starving Russian army closing in, the animals are in imminent danger of being slaughtered for food.


The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history—and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?


Good as Gone by Amy Gentry

Thirteen-year-old Julie Whitaker was kidnapped from her bedroom in the middle of the night, witnessed only by her younger sister. Her family was shattered, but managed to stick together, hoping against hope that Julie is still alive. And then one night: the doorbell rings. A young woman who appears to be Julie is finally, miraculously, home safe. The family is ecstatic—but Anna, Julie’s mother, has whispers of doubts.  She hates to face them. She cannot avoid them. When she is contacted by a former detective turned private eye, she begins a torturous search for the truth about the woman she desperately hopes is her daughter.


Christodora by Tim Murphy

In this vivid and compelling novel, Tim Murphy follows a diverse set of characters whose fates intertwine in an iconic building in Manhattan’s East Village, the Christodora. The Christodora is home to Milly and Jared, a privileged young couple with artistic ambitions. Their neighbor, Hector, a Puerto Rican gay man who was once a celebrated AIDS activist but is now a lonely addict, becomes connected to Milly and Jared’s lives in ways none of them can anticipate. Meanwhile, Milly and Jared’s adopted son Mateo grows to see the opportunity for both self-realization and oblivion that New York offers.

Debut Spotlight:


Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades.

Books about Cupping: the ancient Chinese healing used by Olympic athletes

If you, like the rest of the world, are wondering about the circular purple bruises seen on Michael Phelps and other Olympic athletes, then you need to learn about the ancient Chinese therapy of cupping. It sounds rude but it’s not.

The NY Times writes:

In cupping, practitioners of the healing technique – or sometimes the athletes themselves – place specialized cups on the skin. Then they use either heat or an air pump to create suction between the cup and the skin, pulling the skin slightly up and away from the underlying muscles.

Michael Phelps undergoes ‘cupping’ therapy

The treatment is similar to receiving a love bite or a ‘hickey’ (but not as fun). Cupping draws blood to a particular area of the body and is designed to help reduce soreness, especially for muscles that are being worked hard.

Phelps’ shoulders were covered with purple marks as he helped the US team win the 4×100 freestyle relay team on Sunday night. He has previously posted on Instagram about cupping treatment. The NY Times writes that Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow and NFL player DeMarcus Ware also use cupping.

Cupping is nothing new and numerous books have been written on this therapy. The best known is The Art of Cupping by Hedwig Manz. This guide includes historical facts, step-by-step instructions for application, and treatment of specific health problems.

Oddly enough, it’s possible to purchase a vintage French “cupping set” from AbeBooks seller Atticus Books for $275. The seller claims the set and pump, manufactured around 1900, are in working order.

Cupping may have been used as early as 3000 BC. The Ebers Papyrus, written around 1550 BC and one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, describes Egyptian use of cupping. Archaeologists have found evidence of cupping in China since 1000 BC.

NFL star Demarcus Ware receiving cupping treatment

10 Colorful Book Covers for a Cheerful Shelf

Webster’s Dictionary defines a bibliophile as “a lover of books, especially for qualities of format.” So while we’re advised not to judge a book by its cover, it’s our duty as devoted bibliophiles to do just that. After all, it would be an injustice to beautiful books everywhere not to. Here are 10 of our favorite colorful covers – you’ll have to get reading to see what’s inside!

A Tale for the Time Being

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

You Are Having a Good Time

You Are Having a Good Time by Amie Barrodale

The Interestings

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

All That Man Is

All That Man Is by David Szalay

Who Will Catch Us As We Fall

Who Will Catch Us As We Fall by Iman Verjee

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay

Book of Numbers

Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen


Euphoria by Lily King

Fates and Furies

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

The Flame Alphabet

The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus

Elon Musk recommends obscure history book, Twelve Against the Gods

Elon Musk now has something else in common with Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, like the others, can now sell books by simply revealing what he is reading.

This is exactly what happened last week when Musk revealed he is reading Twelve Against the Gods by William Bolitho – an obscure, out-of-print history 1930 book that offers a series of sketches about 12 historical figures, including Casanova, Napoleon, Isadora Duncan, Woodrow Wilson and Alexander the Great.

Elon Musk’s latest read Twelve Against the Gods

AbeBooks has sold out of every copy available, including one for $149. Bolitho is a former newspaper journalist (1891-1930) who hung around with the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Noël Coward.

According to Business Insider, Elon Musk has mentioned the following books as being important to him during media interviews over the years.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson

Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down by J.E. Gordon

Ignition!: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants by John D. Clark

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness by Donald L. Barlett & James B. Steele

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Ignition by John D Clark is a rocket science textbook from 1972 – also pretty obscure. Isaacson is the master of the biography – could Musk have read his biography of Steve Jobs?

Harry Potter Quiz – The Answers


We certainly have Harry Potter on the brain this weekend and can’t wait to devour Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. For those of you who tested your Harry Potter knowledge, here are the correct answers:

Q. Who wrote Advanced Potion Making?
A. Libatius Borage

Q. What color is the egg of a Ukrainian Ironbelly?
A. Turquoise

Q. What is Hermione’s wand made of?
A. Vine wood with a dragon heartstring core

Q. What is Harry’s daughter’s full name?
A. Lilly Luna Potter

Q. What is Ron’s number in Quidditch?
A. 2

Q. What color are Arnold’s eyes?
A. Blue

Q. At the Quidditch World Cup, Harry buys a pair of omnioculars for himself and who else?
A. Ron

Q. What is Voldemort’s mother’s name?
A. Merope Gaunt

Q. When is Ginny’s birthday?
A. August 11, 1981

Q. What is the Educational Decree no. 28?
A. Dolores Jane Umbrige has replaced Albus Dumbledore as head of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry