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Did these toy building blocks inspire young Einstein’s imagination?

Albert Einstein’s toy building blocks

Albert Einstein’s much-loved childhood building blocks have been listed for sale on AbeBooks.com.

Housed in two wooden boxes, the set features approximately 160 pieces with some chipped from use. Did these humble toy building blocks nurture the imagination of the boy who would become the world’s greatest physicist? It’s inspiring to think that these simple blocks were indeed the starting point for Einstein.

Einstein – who famously said “Imagination is more important than knowledge” – was born in the German city of Ulm in 1879, and according to his sister, Maja Winteler-Einstein, the young Albert built “complicated structures” with these blocks.

Albert Einstein

The set was created by Anker-Steinbaukasten – a German company famous for its toy stone building blocks that come in red, blue and tan colors. They are made from a composite natural material that includes quartz sand, chalk, coloring, and linseed oil. Anker-Steinbaukasten blocks have been enjoyed by millions of German children since the 1880s. German aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal started manufacturing them, using designs by educator Friedrich Fröbel, founder of the kindergarten system. The blocks are intended to stimulate manual dexterity, creativity and three-dimensional perception.

Under the leadership of Adolf Richter, who died in 1910, Anker ‘stones’ became extremely popular before going into decline around the start of World War I. Today, vintage Anker sets are much-sought after by collectors. Part of the joy of owning vintage Anker blocks is that they can still be used. The company was revived in 1995 and is once again manufacturing toy building blocks.

The blocks are listed for sale at $160,000 by Seth Kaller from White Plains, New York.

Kaller purchased the blocks at auction last year after they were put up for sale by an agent working on behalf of Einstein’s descendants. Kaller specializes in historic documents and artifacts. He will be displaying the blocks at this year’s New York Antiquarian Book Fair on March 9-12.

Kaller describes them as “a unique and important artifact of Einstein’s childhood.” He adds: “Fellow scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, as well as architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Gropius, are among the geniuses who are known to have played with Anker blocks.”

Objects associated with Einstein are extremely collectible. For instance, a 1920 signed first edition of Relativity: The Special and General Theory written by Einstein sold for $12,500 on AbeBooks in 2007. Several letters from Einstein are listed for five figures on the AbeBooks marketplace. A cruise ship postcard from Einstein, featuring sketches by the scientist, is listed for sale at $49,000.

An 1894 advert for Richter’s Anker-Steinbaukasten


Eight Pancake Books Worth Stacking on Your Shelf

Pancakes – loved around the world

The editors at AbeBooks.com have selected eight pancake cookbooks offering recipes that span the world, from California to Russia and Scandinavia, and show numerous forms of this humble but versatile dish.

Pancakes are closely associated with Shrove Tuesday so Christians could use the last of their rich foods (eggs, milk, sugar, and lard) before starting to fast for Lent. The French term, Mardi Gras, which is also celebrated at this time, translates as fat Tuesday. Mmmm, fat Tuesday!

A true global dish, pancakes are popular across the world and regional variations include crêpes from France, the buckwheat blini or bliny from Russia, jeons from South Korea, crepas from Mexico, Jewish latkes (potato pancakes) and injera from east Africa.

Eight Pancake Recipe Books Worth Stacking on Your Shelf

Bette’s Oceanview Diner (and her famous Pancake Handbook on the left)

1 The Pancake Handbook: Specialties from Bette’s Oceanview Diner by Steve Siegelman, Bette Kroening, & Sue Conley

Spending lazy mornings at your favorite diner eating pancakes is a way of life at weekends for Americans. Betty’s Oceanview Diner is located in Berkeley, California, and is famous for its buttermilk pancakes. Discover more than 75 recipes including blueberry yogurt pancakes, golden cornmeal pancakes, and double chocolate pancakes.

2 Crepes, Blinis & Pancakes by Valerie Ferguson

Thirty recipes that include classic American pancakes with bacon and syrup, and a Crêpes Suzette recipe with an boozy kick, as well as modern creations such as avocado cream blinis and oat pancakes with caramel bananas, and also Russian blinis topped with sour cream and caviar.

Pancakes: 72 Sweet and Savory Recipes

3 Pancakes: 72 Sweet and Savory Recipes for the Perfect Stack by Adrianna Adarme

Food-blogger-turned-cookbook author Adrianna Adarme moved to Los Angeles and was inspired to write pancakes recipes for every occasion. You’ll find recipes for chocolate pistachio pancakes, cheddar bacon pancakes, smoked gouda potato pancakes, duck-fat pancakes, and kimchi fritters as well as buttermilk, vegan, and gluten-free pancakes.

4 Posh Pancakes and Fancy Fritters by Helen V Fisher

This book offers more than 50 recipes for pancakes and accompanying sauces that can be served for breakfasts, brunches, and light meals. Ingredients include fruit, vegetables, meat, seafood and cheese.

5 Perfect Pancakes and Crepes by Susannah Blake

More than 20 recipes, from pancakes, wraps and fruit-filled crepes to latkes and scones. A step-by-step guide offering more than 125 photographs.

Waffles Flapjacks Pancakes – a small but useful pancake recipe book

6 Waffles, Flapjacks, Pancakes, Blintzes, Crepes, and Frybread from Scandinavia and Around the World by Dianna Stevens

This tiny ethnic cookbook is small enough to be carried around the supermarket while shopping for ingredients. Recipes include German baked apple pancake, peanut butter pancakes, and lemon crepes. A host of breakfast ideas spanning a wide variety of cultures.

You too could make a giraffe from pancakes

7 OMG Pancakes! 75 Cool Creations Your Kids Will Love to Eat by Jim Belosic

American blogger Jim Belosic is famous for crafting unusual and elaborate pancakes – Star Wars pancakes (the Millennium Falcon as a pancake anyone?), caterpillar pancakes, unicorn pancakes, and pancakes suitable for almost every occasion, including Halloween. He started by cooking for his daughter and blogging about his creations, and then it took off. You will never think of pancakes as flat, spherical objects ever again after seeing Jim’s creations.

8 Pancakes: An Interactive Recipe Book from Phaidon Press

Children love pancakes and this simple recipe book is designed for young chefs to get busy in the kitchen. It has plenty of moving parts to make reading and cooking even more fun.

Pancakes – get interactive with the kids

And here’s a bonus book in case you wish to explore the development of pancakes since Greek and Roman times – Pancake: A Global History by Ken Albala. This book contains more than 50 illustrations and looks at regional variations including injera in Ethiopia and Japanese okonomiyaki.


“Room for Millions of Immigrants” – railroad pamphlet from 1883 shows how American life has changed

“Room for Millions of Immigrants”

A scarce 1883 pamphlet promoting California as a destination for immigrants has been listed for sale on AbeBooks.com. It show how immigrants were once courted in the US.

“California, the Cornucopia of the World” was written by I.N. Hoag for the Southern Pacific Railroad, and was distributed to immigrants who had already reached the East Coast of the United States.

The front cover boldly proclaims “Room for Millions of Immigrants. 43,795,000 Acres of Government Lands Untaken. Railroad & Private Land for a Million Farmers. A Climate for Health & Wealth Without Cyclones or Blizzards.”

Yosemite Falls is one of the attractions described in the pamphlet

Hoag was the Southern Pacific Railroad’s Immigration Commissioner. The word ‘cornucopia’ refers to a place of abundance.

The pamphlet is listed for sale by Mill Race Books in Millheim, Pennsylvania for $600.

“It was designed to bring people onto the railroad and get them to California,” said bookseller Mike Bathrick of Mill Race Books. “The pamphlet was probably distributed from Chicago eastwards. It shows how wonderful California is and contains details on agriculture, geography, animal husbandry and maps. It shows the fruit and vegetables that can be grown. It’s a very fragile thing now and scarce too, as they were thrown away after being read. I suspect people may also have cut up copies because the cover is so eye-catching.”

Bathrick discovered the pamphlet in an antique mall along with a similar pamphlet promoting Colorado Springs.

Founded in San Francisco in 1865, Southern Pacific was a major railroad company that spanned the country with rail systems in California, Kentucky, Texas, Louisiana and numerous other states. It had extensive routes across California.

No other copies of “California, the Cornucopia of the World” are listed for sale on AbeBooks.com, which is an indication that this is a scarce example of ephemera from second half of the 19th century.

See the pamphlet.

Agricultural opportunities are illustrated in the pamphlet


Goodbye from the Vinyl Cafe: Stuart McLean 1948-2017

We’re so very sad here  to learn that Stuart McLean has passed away. His stories were the soundtrack to so many Christmas Eves, so many roadtrips, and many family laughs. Have ever other fictional characters felt so real, and generated such camaraderie as Dave, Morley and their kids?  I find it impossible to imagine anyone reading or listening to “Dave Cooks the Turkey” from Home from the Vinyl Cafe and remaining composed. My face hurt at the end of it, the first time.

What a gift for storytelling McLean had.  He was born in Montreal in 1948, and certainly seemed to epitomize the nicest stereotypes about Canadians – he was gentle, kind, good-humored, and quirky. Following a brief flirtation with politics, McLean found the radio – specifically CBC Radio – in 1978. It was clearly the perfect arena for his talents. His journalistic efforts earned him an ACTRA award in 1979 for his work on a radio documentary exploring the Jonestown Massacre. When he published Stories from the Vinyl Cafe in 1995, and introduced us to Dave, Morley, Stephanie and Sam (as well as a host of other folks), he no doubt had little idea he was beginning the rest of his life. The books he wrote, 15 in all (and all but two from The Vinyl Cafe) won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour three times. The last instalment, Vinyl Cafe Turns the Page, was  published in 2015.

McLean was diagnosed with melanoma in November that year, and passed away today, February 15, 2017, at age 68. He will be sorely missed.


Bookseller Q&A: Inga’s Original Choices

Inga Eubanks, surrounded by books and framed art

Our latest bookseller Q&A features Inga Eubanks, who runs Inga’s Original Choices in Piggott, Arkansas. Inga combines custom framing with bookselling, which gives her a special insight into art, photography and books. Inga has sold with AbeBooks since 2000 and takes a great deal of pride in providing a high level of customer service.

AbeBooks: How did you become a professional bookseller and also get involved in custom framing?

Inga Eubanks: “My photography got me into custom framing. I needed matting and framing for my shows, got acquainted with a local framer who was expecting a baby and she asked if I could help in the shop in exchange for the framing. I happily said yes and a few  months later I became her partner in the business. Ten years later I became sole owner of the business and in 2000 I had a chance to buy the entire an book inventory from a teacher. I have always been an avid reader and don’t even own a TV set. Adding books in my store seemed very appropriate since literature is, after all, an art form. So, to the art and photography in my shop, I added books. Eventually I found AbeBooks and became a bookseller.”

AbeBooks: What do you love most about selling books and your framing business?

Inga Eubanks: “Helping my framing customers find the perfect frames for their art and memorabilia. As to selling books I don’t unfortunately get a chance very often to help someone find a book here in my shop because most of my bookselling is done online, but I have often become acquainted with a buyer via email, resulting in very interesting exchanges of ideas or just simply finding out unusual reasons why a particular book was needed or purchased.”

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

Inga Eubanks: “Until recently it was a signed copy of Living History by Hillary Clinton. But the following means even a little bit more to me because I love Art Deco and because of my interest in photography – Devantures et Installations de Magasins: A Complete Set of 48 Prints (photographs which appear to have been printed via the aquatint process) of Art Deco shop fronts and interiors in Paris, France. Published in 1927.”

Devantures et Installations de Magasins, an Art Deco treasure

AbeBooks: What’s the oddest thing you’ve found in a book? And the oddest collectible item you have had to frame?”

Inga Eubanks: “I once found several signed checks belonging to a doctor who had died but the bank they were drawn on no longer existed so even if I had been tempted…. I have framed a few odd things. Men’s underpants, a dead beetle (a Kentucky Hercules Beetle about 2″ long and 1″ wide), dead, of course, and the broken pieces of an elaborately painted eggshell. There are probably more strange things I’ve framed but since I have been in business for over 30 years I may have forgotten a few.”

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

Inga Eubanks: “There have been several but the only one I can think of right now is selling an 1898 copy of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre to the assistant of a TV movie director, who was in the process of filming Jane Eyre and who was going to be given this somewhat rare copy as a Christmas present. Ordering it two days before Christmas and needing express delivery in order to get it delivered to New York in time made it rather challenging at my end since there is no FedEx office here and the US Post Office was closed on the day the order came in but I managed. The assistant promised to let me know when the movie would be on TV but I never heard from him again.”

Search Inga’s books

Framed art meets used books at Inga’s shop


Vinegar valentines – the worst card to receive on February 14

More than 150 years ago, Victorian ‘greeting card trolls’ were using the fledgling postal system to insult people with so-called ‘Vinegar Valentine’ cards. These anonymous cards, illustrated with caricatures and snarky poetry, were a major phenomenon as the ability to communicate regardless of distance became more accessible.

It appears vinegar valentines originated in the United States around 1840 and were used for around 100 years. They were also widely used in Britain. The artwork and verse mocked some characteristic of the recipient. Gluttons, drinkers, braggarts, windbags, ugly people, vain people, and stupid people – they were all fair game. The tone of verse ranged from gentle to downright vicious and abusive.

Learn more about vinegar valentines.


Amazon’s Best Books of the Month: February 2016

So many books, so little time! Our friends at Amazon have released yet another exciting list of their top 10 book picks for the month. Are you a fan of the 80s? A mythology buff? Which of these titles will find its way to your TBR pile?

The top spotlight pick of the month is the delightfully intriguing-sounding 4 3 2 1: A Novel by Paul Auster.

Nearly two weeks early, on March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four identical Fergusons made of the same DNA, four boys who are the same boy, go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Athletic skills and sex lives and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Each Ferguson falls under the spell of the magnificent Amy Schneiderman, yet each Amy and each Ferguson have a relationship like no other. Meanwhile, readers will take in each Ferguson’s pleasures and ache from each Ferguson’s pains, as the mortal plot of each Ferguson’s life rushes on.

An exciting debut novel on the list, The Impossible Fortress: A Novel by Jason Rekulak warms us to the cores of our 80s-loving little hearts:

Until May 1987, fourteen-year-old Billy Marvin of Wetbridge, New Jersey, is a nerd, but a decidedly happy nerd.

Afternoons are spent with his buddies, watching copious amounts of television, gorging on Pop-Tarts, debating who would win in a brawl (Rocky Balboa or Freddy Krueger? Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel? Magnum P.I. Or T.J. Hooker?), and programming video games on his Commodore 64 late into the night. Then Playboy magazine publishes photos of Wheel of Fortune hostess Vanna White, Billy meets expert programmer Mary Zelinsky, and everything changes.

A love letter to the 1980s, to the dawn of the computer age, and to adolescence—a time when anything feels possible—The Impossible Fortress will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you remember in exquisite detail what it feels like to love something—or someone—for the very first time.

And the rest of the list for the month:

The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World by Brad Stone

In the spirit of iconic Silicon Valley renegades like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, another generation of entrepreneurs is using technology to upend convention and disrupt entire industries. These are the upstarts, idiosyncratic founders with limitless drive and an abundance of self-confidence. Led by such visionaries as Travis Kalanick of Uber and Brian Chesky of Airbnb, they are rewriting the rules of business and often sidestepping serious ethical and legal obstacles in the process.

The Upstarts is the definitive story of two new titans of business and a dawning age of tenacity, conflict and wealth. In Brad Stone’s riveting account of the most radical companies of the new Silicon Valley, we discover how it all happened and what it took to change the world.

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.

Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her. Scandalous and whip-smart, Swimming Lessons holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious truths of a passionate and troubled marriage.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.

Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Profoundly moving and gracefully told, Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them. Betrayed by her wealthy lover, Sunja finds unexpected salvation when a young tubercular minister offers to marry her and bring her to Japan to start a new life.

So begins a sweeping saga of exceptional people in exile from a homeland they never knew and caught in the indifferent arc of history. In Japan, Sunja’s family members endure harsh discrimination, catastrophes, and poverty, yet they also encounter great joy as they pursue their passions and rise to meet the challenges this new home presents. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, they are bound together by deep roots as their family faces enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the critically-acclaimed New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Sapiens, returns with an equally original, compelling, and provocative book, turning his focus toward humanity’s future, and our quest to upgrade humans into gods.

Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style—thorough, yet riveting—famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake?

Universal Harvester: A Novel by John Darnielle

Jeremy works at the Video Hut in small-town Iowa. It’s a job, quiet and predictable, and it gets him out of the house, where he lives with his dad and where they both try to avoid missing Mom, who died six years ago in a car wreck.

But when a local schoolteacher comes in to return her copy of an old movie, she has an odd complaint: “There’s something on it,” she says, but doesn’t elaborate. Two days later, a different customer returns a different tape, a new release, and says it’s not defective, exactly, but altered: “There’s another movie on this tape.”

Jeremy doesn’t want to be curious, but he brings the movies home to take a look…

Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders

The long-awaited moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln, as well as an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented.

Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me by Bill Hayes

Bill Hayes came to New York City in 2009 with a one-way ticket and only the vaguest idea of how he would get by. But, at forty-eight years old, having spent decades in San Francisco, he craved change. Grieving over the death of his partner, he quickly discovered the profound consolations of the city’s incessant rhythms, the sight of the Empire State Building against the night sky, and New Yorkers themselves, kindred souls that Hayes, a lifelong insomniac, encountered on late-night strolls with his camera.

And he unexpectedly fell in love again, with his friend and neighbor, the writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks, whose exuberance–“I don’t so much fear death as I do wasting life,” he tells Hayes early on–is captured in funny and touching vignettes throughout. What emerges is a portrait of Sacks at his most personal and endearing, from falling in love for the first time at age seventy-five to facing illness and death (Sacks died of cancer in August 2015). Insomniac City is both a meditation on grief and a celebration of life. Filled with Hayes’s distinctive street photos of everyday New Yorkers, the book is a love song to the city and to all who have felt the particular magic and solace it offers.


Meet @mybookbath – Where Beauty Meets Books

If you are an avid user of Instagram, you are no doubt well aware of the keen eye for beauty and photography layout that many creative folks and artists share around the globe. Happily, the same is true of booklovers, many of whom can be found sharing their collections there in gorgeous visual buffets. Among our favorite “bookstagrammers”, we couldn’t help but particularly notice the @mybookbath account, run by a lovely woman named Jude, in Vancouver BC. Jude started the account in October 2014, because she wanted a place to share her love of reading, and hoped to connect with fellow bookworms. With over 36,000 followers, we think she’s done a pretty good job of achieving just that.

Since we love books, and we love beauty, we naturally loved Jude and her Instagram account right away, and set about approaching her to feature some books from us here at AbeBooks in her posts. She graciously obliged, and even granted us an interview. Read on to get to know Jude of @mybookbath a little bit.

So what makes @mybookbath stand out? First and foremost, beauty. One of the most glorious things about books is how well they pair with the other delights of life – a cup of tea, a windowseat, a cat – and Jude’s photographs showcase that special synchronicity perfectly, whether through the use of stunning fresh flowers she keeps on hand, a beautifully-foamed latte, or an embroidered cushion whose delicate threads are the same color as the book cover she features. Whether she is posting her latest reads, her latest finds, or the next book on the horizon, her images are always fresh and pleasing. She has utilized all kinds of complimentary details beyond the usual fare, as well, including sculptures, furniture, blankets, a horse, an axe, and most notably, socks. Once a week is #socksunday, when Jude’s photographs include not only beautiful books but also, whimsical matching socks. The effect is strangely satisfying.

AbeBooks: What’s your favorite thing about sharing beautiful pictures on Instagram?
Mybookbath: I really love connecting with all the kind-hearted book lovers around the globe. I have met some amazing people who I have become very close with over the years and because our common interest is books, we never run out of things to talk about.

Abe: Which type of books are your favorite to photograph?
Mbb: I don’t discriminate, I love all books!

Abe: What books do you have on your bedside table right now?
Mbb:Nearly Normal by Cea Sunrise Person which comes out at the end of January 2017
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
The Monocle Guide To Cosy Homes
The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

Abe: What was your favorite book of 2016?
Mbb: My top classic was: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
My top memoir: Just Kids by Patti Smith
My top new fiction: All The Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Abe: What’s your favorite bookstore in the entire world?
Mbb: I have a few. Russell Books and Munro’s Books, both in Victoria, B.C. and also Barts Books in Ojai, California.

Jude, aka @mybookbath

Abe: What’s your day job?
Mbb: I worked in interior design, set design and art publishing for many years. But since my children were born, I decided to work from home helping my husband with his importing business.

Abe: Any tips to share with a beginner bookstagrammer?
Mbb: Yes – I suggest you post daily, connect with those you follow and your own followers not only with likes but with comments too and have fun with it! This community is an amazing place. You are going to love it!

(We bet she’s right.)

Be sure to follow Jude to be treated to more sublime and sumptuous bookish photos. And of course, if you just can’t ever get enough beautiful books, we have some too – don’t miss our collection of Beautiful Bindings, our Beautiful Book Boutique. And of course, the experts at the Folio Society, Easton Press and the Franklin Library know a thing or two about exquisite books, too. Feast those eyes.


Imagine a sequel to 1984? We did & so did Gyorgy Dalos

1985 – it’s doubleplus good!

What would have happened if George Orwell had written a sequel to Nineteen Eighty-Four? A few years ago, we asked our designers to imagine that exact scenario and this is what they came up with.

Not bad, and the Ministry of Truth thinks “it’s doubleplus good.”

Published in 1949, Nineteen Eighty-Four was Orwell’s last book. He died from Tuberculosis on January 21, 1950.

Sequels to classics are difficult things to pull off and it would have been even tougher for Orwell as 1984 offers so much commentary on the dangers of authoritarian regimes. What more could Orwell say? The point had been made. The characters of Winston and Julia are interesting but their struggles are dwarfed by the overwhelming presence of Big Brother. A happy ending to this story would dilute the message about authoritarian rule.

The experience of seeing Harper Lee’s legacy degraded by the publication of Go Set a Watchman in 2015 was a depressing experience.

However, somebody did attempt to write a sequel to Orwell’s dystopian classic. A notable Hungarian author called Gyorgy Dalos wrote a book called 1985: What Happens After Big Brother Dies, where Eurasia inflicts heavy defeats on Oceania.

Dalos, whose father died in a Nazi work camp, lived under Communist rule in Hungary and helped organize the opposition movement. He had the first-hand experience to consider how Big Brother’s story could be advanced. It’s worth noting that Dalos’ The Guest from the Future is considered one of the best books written about the Cold War.

There are many forgotten sequels. Tales of Watership Down doesn’t compare to Watership Down. Most people don’t even know there is a sequel to Little Women called Little Men. The magic often fades when someone else produces a sequel – 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye by John David California, aka Fredrik Colting, was soon forgotten unlike JD Salinger’s classic novel.

A classic is best left alone.


Trump’s pipeline orders sparks interest in Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

A first edition of Rachel Carson’s classic book

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson – the book that launched the modern environmental movement – was the most searched for book on AbeBooks.com yesterday with 1984 by George Orwell a close second.

Silent Spring was published in 1962 and addressed the indiscriminate use of pesticides at the time. The last edition was published in 2003.

AbeBooks sold a signed first edition of Silent Spring yesterday, priced at $2,400.

Yesterday Donald Trump signed executive orders to revive the controversial Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines. There was also a PBS documentary about Carson broadcast last night.

It appears that Trump is influencing bookselling in quite a different way to the early days of Barack Obama’s presidency when there was interest in the two books written by Obama, and anything he admitted to reading, such as Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.