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A fishy rare book tale from the pope’s doctor

Who needs to sail when you have Rome’s fish markets?

Last month’s most expensive sales on AbeBooks.com span five centuries of natural history, physics and philosophy, and fiction from John Steinbeck. There is also 20th century art and the ultimate book for North American tree-spotters.

The oldest book to sell last month, published in 1554, was also our most expensive – Aquatilium animalium historiae, a study of Mediterranean fish, from a Vatican doctor called Ippolito Salviani, who showed that research can come in many forms. Rather than going to sea to find samples, the man who kept popes healthy trawled the fish markets of Rome.

See the list

110 Birthday Honk-Honkers and big Birthday Horns for Dr. Seuss

Happy Birthday To You! by Dr. Seuss

Theodor Geisel was an American illustrator, poet and author, who rhymed his way into the hearts of adoring children all over the world. But you probably know him by his middle name – Seuss – as in Dr. Seuss. March 2nd is Seuss’ 110th birthday – his Day of all Days, his Best of the Best.

Known for his refusal to be limited by paltry constraints such as real words, Seuss’ books overflowed with nonsense and rhythm, great honkings of joy, and an onomatopoeiac clamor that made children chortle. His mind-blowing gift for rhyme and flair for the silly ensures that his books remain cherished by little (and not-so-little) kids today.

In celebration of a man that’s left readers of all ages with endless entertainment and joy, we’ve compiled a list of some of our most interesting Dr. Seuss sales, from the classics like The Cat In The Hat and How The Grinch Stole Christmas to the obscure, like the once remaindered The Seven Lady Godivas. Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss.

1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas – $9,482
First edition, first printing of Seuss’ 1957 classic including an inscription, “For Stephanie – Best wishes. Dr. Seuss.”

2. The Cat In The Hat – $3,152
First edition, first printing from 1956.  The book was signed, with a beautiful color illustration of The Cat In The Hat.

Original Cat In The Hat drawing by Dr. Seuss3. And To Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street – $2,000
A first edition dating back to 1937.

4. The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins – $1,750
A 1938 first edition. Inscribed, “For all the Todd’s, again. Dr. Seuss.”

5. Green Eggs and Ham – $1,750
A signed first edition, second printing from 1960.

6. Signed letter including an illustration of The Cat In The Hat.  - $1,650
Postmarked June 20th, 1984, the letter was a response to a request to sign books and a question about the availability of prints.  The letter was signed as both Dr. Seuss and Theodor S. Geisel.

7. Butter Battle Book – $1,650
A signed first edition of one of Seuss’ lesser known titles.  In it he wrote, “And a Happy Birthday to You! Dr. Seuss”.

8. Fox in Socks – $1,488
A 1965 first edition of a Seuss classic.

9. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! – $1,250
A first edition signed, “For Gretchen. Dr. Seuss”. Published in 1990, this was the last book Seuss wrote.

10.The Seven Lady Godivas, with a typed and hand-signed letter from Dr. Seuss. – $1,250

The Seven Lady Godivas was one of Seuss’ few attempts at an adult book. It was a flop when released in 1939 and eventually remaindered. The book was republished in 1987. Dated May 18th, 1978, the included letter reads:

The Seven Lady Godivas by Dr. Seuss

Dear Mrs. Moorhead:

Thank you for your interest in my ill-fated 7 Lady Godivas. In answer to  your questions:

1. The other 9,950 copies were “remaindered”.  That means they were disposed of Newsdealers and cigar stores where they were sold for what they would bring, which was something like 25 cents a copy. 2. It is sort of a “collector’s item” today. Occasionally I hear of a copy that changes hands for about one hundred dollars.

I am very flattered to hear that you are one of the select-and-exclusive-few who really seemed to enjoy it.


“Dr. Seuss”, Theodor S. Geisel

The Daphne Shortlist Revives the Best Books of 1963

Old books are what we do best, so when we heard about the creation of the Daphne Award we were on board. Created by Bookslut editor Jessa Crispin, the Daphne Award will recognize the then-unacknowledged books of years past, beginning with 1963. The first-ever Daphne Award shortlist was announced just last week and includes classic titles that have stood the test of time, like Where the Wild Things Are and The Bell Jar.  See the fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and children’s books that made the cut – 50 years later.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, 1963Fiction

Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Grifters by Jim Thompson
The Clown by Heinrich Boll
Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas
Dreambook for Our Time by Tadeusz Konwicki
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima


The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter
Destruction of Dresden by David Irving
Poems by Gwen Harwood, 1963Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt
The Reawakening by Primo Levi
The Making of the English Working Class by E.P. Thompson


Burning Perch by Louis MacNeice
Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law by Adrienne Rich
Requiem by Anna Akhmatova
Selected Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks
Five Senses by Judith Wright
Poems by Gwen Harwood
At the End of the Open Road by Louis Simpson

Children’s Books

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, 1963The Dot and the Line by Norton Juster
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Mr. Rabbit by Charlotte Zolotow
Harold’s ABC by Crockett Johnson
Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back by Shel Silverstein
The Moon by Night by Madeline L’Engle
Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol
Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey

HBO’s True Detective Series Revives Interest in 120 Year Old Book


HBO’s True Detective crime series, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, has sparked interest in a rather forgotten collection of short horror stories published in 1895, reports the Daily Telegraph.

The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers is one the hottest titles in North America right now, thanks to several obscure literary references in the series that tells the story of a 17-year hunt for a serial killer in Louisiana.

The King in Yellow is a collection of short stories, several of which incorporate the recurring motif of a fictional play, also called The King in Yellow, which will supposedly send any reader who gets past the first act into insanity.

Last month TV viewers in the US picked up on the subtle references in episode two of the eight-part series – quotations in a murder victim’s diary, recurring black star and spiral symbols that appear as tattoos and doodles, references to a mysterious character known only as ‘The Yellow King’, and an unknown place called Carcosa.

The first four stories in the book are macabre, including supernatural elements, and are forerunners of HP Lovecraft’s Weird Fiction genre. The most expensive copy on AbeBooks is a first edition, complete with a dust jacket, priced at $3,746. With the exception of connisseurs of the history of horror, The King in Yellow is not widely remembered.

Chambers (1865-1933) also wrote romance, adventure, historical fiction, and war stories, and was highly successfully during this career. His work sold well, frequently achieving best-seller status, and was often serialized in magazines. His 1911 novel The Common Law inspired three films, in 1916, 1923, and 1931, and his 1906 novel The Tracer of Lost Persons was adapted into a radio crime drama that ran from 1937-54. More recently, one of the stories from The King in Yellow, The Yellow Sign, inspired a film of the same name in 2001.

More from Robert W. Chambers:

The Crimson Tide
The Slayer of Souls
In the Quarter

What is one novel all of Canada should read?

Now in its 14th year, Canada Reads is CBC’s annual battle of the books.  This year’s months-long process began in October when Canadians were invited to recommend up to five novels written by a Canadian author.  The most popular titles made up the Top 40 list, and from there Canadians voted to whittle it down to just 10 books. Five Canadian celebrity panelists have selected a title from the Top 10 and on March 3-6, 2014  they will defend their chosen book in a series of debates. The books will be eliminated one by one until a winner is declared to be the novel that all Canadians should read.

The Canada Reads 2014 Contenders:

Cockroach by Rawi Hage Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan The Orenda by Joseph Boyden The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood Annabel by Kathleen Winter

From left to right: Cockroach by Rawi Hage, defended by actor and writer Samantha Bee; Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan, defended by Olympian Donovan Bailey; The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, defended by award-winning journalist and aboriginal activist Wab Kinew; The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, defended by prominent philanthropist Stephen Lewis; Annabel by Kathleen Winter, defended by actor Sarah Gadon.

Happy reading, Canada!

Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible in Victoria, B.C.


Anyone in the Victoria area on February 26th will enjoy a rare opportunity to view two volumes of the Heritage Edition of the Saint John’s Bible at the University of Victoria.

In 1998, the Benedictine Monks of Saint John’s Abbey in Minnesota commissioned the first handwritten illuminated Bible since the advent of the printing press. Created by a team of scribes and artists under the artistic direction of British calligrapher Donald Jackson, the seven-volume Bible took 15 years to complete.

The Heritage Edition is a full-size reproduction of the original – and ‘full-size’ means two feet tall by three feet wide when open. Limited to 299 signed and numbered sets, many of the illuminations were touched up by hand and burnished in gold leaf. The set is also available in a less expensive folio-sized trade edition, about the size of coffee table books.

A Heritage Edition is being donated to the University of Victoria’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society by the friends of Bishop de Roo as the inaugural text in the Found in Translation Collection. Bringing the Bible to Victoria is Jim Triggs, Executive Director of the Heritage Program at Saint John’s University. Triggs, who has worked closely with institutions that have acquired the Bible, including Yale University and the Vatican, will give a talk on the Bible and display two of the seven Heritage Edition volumes.

The event is free and open to the public and will take place on Wednesday, February 26, at 7:00 pm, in Room B180 of UVic’s University Centre.







Inaugural Folio Prize Shortlist Announced

The very first Folio Prize shortlist was announced this week. Launched in March 2013 and sponsored by The Folio Society, the Folio Prize is the first major English language book prize open to authors from around the world.  The prize considers any work of fiction published in the UK regardless of form, genre, or the author’s country of origin.

However, it may be a challenge for the prize to present a unique list of nominees each year. In September 2013 it was announced that the decades-old Man Booker Prize would expand in 2014 to include authors from around the world. The Man Booker was previously limited to authors in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland.

With the Folio Prize being awarded so early in the year, its list will largely be comprised of books that were published during the previous calendar year and may have already been through the traditional end-of-year award season. That being said, only two of eight titles on the Folio’s first shortlist garnered attention during last year’s award season.  Rachel Kushner’s The Flame Throwers and George Saunder’s Tenth of December were both finalists for the National Book Award, though the prize went to James McBride for The Good Lord Bird.

The inaugural Folio Prize will be awarded on March 10th following a two-day fiction festival featuring some of the world’s finest writers and critics, all drawn from The Folio Prize Academy.

The 2014 Folio Prize Shortlist

Red Doc by Anne Carson

Red Doc
by Anne Carson

Schroder by Amity Gaige

by Amity Gaige

Last Friends by Jane Gardam

Last Friends
by Jane Gardam

Benediction by Kent Haruf

by Kent Haruf

The Flame Throwers by Rachel Kushner

The Flame Throwers
by Rachel Kushner

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
by Eimear McBride

A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

A Naked Singularity
by Sergio De La Pava

Tenth of December by George Saunders

Tenth of December
George Saunders

The 5th Annual Galiano Literary Festival: Feb 21-23

Galiano Literary FestivalNestled among the Southern Gulf Islands on the coast of British Columbia, Galiano Island is home to birds, wildlife, and bibliophiles. Presented by Galiano Island Books, the fifth annual Galiano Island Literary Festival takes place February 21st-23rd, 2014 at the Galiano Oceanfront Inn and Spa.

A gathering of some of British Columbia’s best writers, the festival is a celebration of local culture and talent. The list of participating authors is a long and impressive one, and includes Canada’s first Poet Laureate George Bowering. Designed with readers in mind, attendees will have ample opportunity to mingle with writers throughout the weekend, including over an intimate Author’s Dinner.

Books from Galiano Literary Festival Authors:

Fly in Autumn by David Zieroth

The Fly in Autumn
David Zieroth

Death was in the Blood by Linda L. Richards

Death Was in the Blood
Linda L. Richards


Congratulations to our Hackathon contestants

Congratulations to everyone who took part in the second AbeBooks’ Hackathon, staged in conjunction with the University of Victoria’s computer science and software engineering programs this past weekend. This 24-hour coding challenge saw three teams of students deliver demonstrations of remarkable quality.

The judges from AbeBooks were treated to a Chrome extension that tracked and recorded a viewer’s Anime episode consumption, a website that recorded prices and coupons for products from local retailers, and a java script tool for a 3D product display system.

One team recorded their adventures as they worked, so enjoy this video, and we’ll see you all next year.

Rare copy of Twelve Years a Slave sells for $3,500

A rare second printing of Twelve Years a Slave — Narrative of Solomon Northup has sold for $3,500 on AbeBooks. The full title of this book is Twelve Years a Slave — Narrative of Solomon Northup. A Citizen of New York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853, From a Common Plantation Near the Red River, in Louisiana.

Published in 1853, this historic slavery memoir is the basis for the movie, Twelve Years a Slave – the bookmaker’s favorite to win this year’s Oscar for best picture.

The book details Northup’s kidnapping, sale into slavery, and plantation life in Louisiana. It was published shortly after Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and was an immediate bestseller. Steve McQueen’s acclaimed movie has given the book a new audience.

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