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Backgammon’s back. Surge in demand for backgammon books

Is backgammon undergoing a revival? It appears many people will receive backgammon sets this Christmas along with books about learning to play the board game.

Sales of backgammon guidebooks have been steadily increasing on the AbeBooks marketplace since the start of October.

Vanity Fair’s Backgammon to Win

And then over the weekend, a long out-of-print book, Vanity Fair’s Backgammon to Win by Georges Mabardi, became one of the top 10 search terms on AbeBooks during the seasonal scramble for Christmas gifts. This obscure book features cocktails, a glossary and rules. One scarce first edition from 1930 is available for $500.

For the past two months, we have also seen strong sales for Backgammon by Paul Magriel, a book first published in 1976 which is sometimes referred to as the ‘Bible of Backgammon.’

And it’s not just demand for guides to the board game. In October, American writer Jonathan Lethem released a well received backgammon-themed novel called A Gambler’s Anatomy about a globetrotting professional backgammon player whose luck takes a turn for the worse. That too has become a steady seller on AbeBooks.

In the New York Times, reviewer Dwight Garner wrote:

Mr. Lethem’s backgammon writing has a satisfying crunch. It’s witty and sexy, too. I’m not sure I’ve ever before read a love scene that begins with a woman crying out, “Double me, gammon me.”

Backgammon has a long history with the Greeks apparently playing a similar game in the 5th century AD. The game saw strong interest in the 1920s during American prohibition, and again in the 1960s when tournaments were organized and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner became a prominent supporter.

Celebrity players include composer and rapper Lin-Manuel Miranda, who created the Grammy-winning musical Hamilton. A Twitter search shows an often-shared picture of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour (pictured below, left) and bandmate Roger Waters playing backgammon in years gone by.

AbeBooks’ bestselling backgammon books since October 1

1 Backgammon by Paul Magriel

2 Backgammon for Winners by Bill Robertie

3 Backgammon for Serious Players by Bill Robertie

4 The Backgammon Book by Oswald Jacoby & John R. Crawford

Vanity Fair’s Backgammon to Win is notable for its eye-catching Art Deco dust jacket. Nicholas Grosvenor’s scarce Modern Backgammon, published in 1928, also has beautiful cover from that era.

“Disneyana” – Walt Disney Collectibles and Souvenirs

1993 The Disney Villain $350
The Disney Villain from Hyperion Books, signed and inscribed by Disney Animator Mark Mitchell. Additionally laid in is a 1993 Christmas Card from the Walt Disney Company featuring a richly-colored photo of the “Witch Offering Apple” and signed “With Affection, Mark”.


You may not know the term “Disneyana” yet, but you probably know somebody obsessed with it. Maybe they feverishly collect Disneyland souvenirs like collectible Disney mugs, or vintage Disney park guides, maps and tickets. Or perhaps they have a tattoo of Tinkerbell, and an apartment full of vintage Tinkerbell Disney memorabilia to match. They’d be far from alone.

When Walt Disney and his brother Roy launched the Disney Bros. Cartoon studios (which later became Walt Disney Studios) in the mid 1920s, there’s no way they could have known the unstoppable media conglomerate that would one day result. There are many ways to love and experience the magic of Disney and the countless beloved, iconic characters created by the studios. Films, television shows (I fondly remember staying up on Sunday nights in my pajamas to watch “The Wonderful World of Disney”), fan clubs, and of course the theme parks. Disney as a brand has eclipsed what it even means to be a brand, and in the minds of many have truly become nearly synonymous with magic. They’ve done an excellent job of cultivating and preserving the wonder of childhood and bringing it to life again for adults.  The phrases “The Happiest Place on Earth” and “You just won the Superbowl! What are you going to do next?” immediately bring to mind the enormous playgrounds that attract millions and millions of visitors each year. Disneyland  in California opened its doors in 1955. The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida followed 16 years later. Disney parks have become far and away the world’s most visited amusement destinations.

That makes for a lot of souvenirs. There are vintage Disney collectibles and Disney theme park souvenirs. There are collectible Disney books, Disney puzzles, masks, finger puppets, original animation cels, clothes, books, original Disney art, and much more.  When people spend time with Disney as children, and feel that magical wonderment, it’s only natural to want to hang on to that feeling, and rekindle the joy through nostalgia. It is small wonder that so many people do collect and display Disney memorabilia.

Here at AbeBooks we are lucky to have quite a wide array of Disneyana on offer. Here is just a small sampling to peruse, or even add to your vintage Disney memorabilia collection. With a collection that includes vintage Bambi handkerchiefs, Pinocchio masks, and a pattern for Cinderella’s apron, you’re sure to find the perfect addition for your collection to help make memories.

1939 Pinocchio Masks $350
Apparently issued in a joint promotion with Gilette, these 5 die-cut masks were free with the purchase of Gilette Blue Blades. The masks are of Pinocchio, Geppetto, Jiminy Cricket, Cleo, and Figaro.


1955 Disney's Donald Duck Original Art Original Disney Art: Matted, 5-panel comic strip featuring Donald Duck talking to his three nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

1955 Disney’s Donald Duck Original Art $500
Original Disney Art: Matted, 5-panel comic strip featuring Donald Duck talking to his three nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie.


2014 "Mickey" screenprint by Damien Hirst ~$49,000

2014 “Mickey” screenprint by Damien Hirst ~$49,000
At the request of Disney, Young British Artist Damien Hirst remade Mickey Mouse as one of his iconic series of spot paintings. This is a four-color screenprint of the original 2012 Mickey.


Circa 1950 Original Disney Art $3,300

Circa 1950 Original Disney Art $3,300
Marvelous original watercolor from the Walt Disney Studio. Donald Duck playing the flute, Goofy playing a bucket drum with spoons and Mickey carrying the flag.


1952 Cinderella Apron Pattern $35

1952 Cinderella Apron Pattern $35
Full instructions, pattern and cutting guide to make several versions of Cinderella’s Apron.


1953 Disney Songbook $250

1953 Disney Songbook $250
Songs from Walt Disney’s Cinderella and Walt Disney’s Peter Pan, Published by Walt Disney Music Company, New York


1942 Bambi Hankies $825

1942 Bambi Hankies $825
The story of Bambi is illustrated. Tucked into slits four pages are color printed handkerchiefs – each with a different character (because if you’re reading or watching Bambi – you’re going to need them).


Circa 1940s - 1960s Collectible Disney Matchbooks $33

Circa 1940s – 1960s Collectible Disney Matchbooks $33
Four collectible matchbooks, including two vintage unused gold matchbooks from Disneyland Tobacco Shop


Circa 1950s Cinderella Card Game $32

Circa 1950s Cinderella Card Game $32
Cards in original box, with rules. Cards feature Cinderella and other key players in the the Disney classic. In super condition, a lovely set in original excellent box


1964 Screenplay Mary Poppins Film $7,500

1964 Screenplay Mary Poppins Film $7,500
The original shooting script for the 1964 Disney film Mary Poppins starring the inimitable Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.


1938 Walt Disney's Dopey (He Don't Talk None) $350

1938 Walt Disney’s Dopey (He Don’t Talk None) $350
Twelve pages including wrappers, each with a full page, full color illustration of Dopey or another of Snow White’s Dwarves. Dopey’s antics are told with six lines of text at the bottom of each of the interior pages.


1957 Let's Build Walt Disney's Disneyland Push Out and Put Together $215

1957 Let’s Build Walt Disney’s Disneyland Push Out and Put Together $215
Portfolio consisting of four sets of punch out items with characters, one set each for Adventureland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland and Fantasyland.


1937 Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Sky-High $400

1937 Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Sky-High $400
Rare early Disney book only published in the UK. First UK edition. 4 color plates, many other full-page and smaller textual illustrations. Original laminated pictorial boards.


1951 Alice in Wonderland Children's Album $59

1951 Alice in Wonderland Children’s Album $59A book with twin colour illustrations from the Walt Disney film and 8 musical scores of songs from the film. 20 pages in all.


1936 Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse and His Friends $518

1936 Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse and His Friends $518
Scarce in collectible condition. Shows a Christmas party at Mickey’s house with many favorite characters celebrating and exchanging gifts.


Circa 1940s Pinocchio Jigsaw Puzzle $33

Circa 1940s Pinocchio Jigsaw Puzzle $33
Puzzle complete in original box, with large pieces little fingers can handle. Most nostalgic. Interestingly Pinocchio incorrectly spelt on box, as Pinnochio.


1955 Signed Studio Dye Transfer Print for The Lady and the Tramp $5,500

1955 Signed Studio Dye Transfer Print for The Lady and the Tramp $5,500Rare Walt Disney signed studio dye transfer print cel from the 1955 classic “Lady and the Tramp.” Beautiful full “Walt Disney” signature with a flourish and inscription.


1964 Mary Poppins Travelling Fun Book $52

1964 Mary Poppins Travelling Fun Book $52
Page and pages of games and puzzles. Pictorial cardwraps. Originally only available from Shell Garages.


1933 Original Artboards for Mickey Mouse in King Arthur's Court $5.700

1933 Original Artboards for Mickey Mouse in King Arthur’s Court $5.700
Seven artboards with artwork used in preparing the British edition of “Mickey Mouse in King Arthur’s Court” after the success of the 1933 American edition.


Love vintage Disney books and Disney memorabilia, but didn’t quite see what you’re looking for? Visit our Collections pages to browse more Disney collectibles. There you’ll find everything from affordable Disney souvenirs to the most rare Disney collectibles.  And if you like your Cinderella more murderous than magical, be sure to read our in-depth look into The Gruesome Origins of Classic Fairy Tales (you may wish to sit down, first).

Amazon’s Best Books of the Month: December 2016

There’s really nothing as cozy as curling up with a good book and a mug of something warm when the weather is lashing against the windows outside. But what to read? Not to worry – the talented curators at Amazon books have furnished us with their Top 10 Books of the Month (and just in time for the holidays)! Let’s get to it.

undoing-project-lewisThe Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis

The Undoing Project is about a compelling collaboration between two men who have the dimensions of great literary figures. They became heroes in the university and on the battlefield, both had important careers in the Israeli military, and their research was deeply linked to their extraordinary life experiences.

normal-novel-warren-ellisNormal: A Novel by Warren Ellis

When Adam Dearden, a foresight strategist, arrives at Normal Head, he is desperate to unplug and be immersed in sylvan silence. But then a patient goes missing from his locked bedroom, leaving nothing but a pile of insects in his wake. A staff investigation ensues; surveillance becomes total. As the mystery of the disappeared man unravels in Warren Ellis’s Normal, Adam uncovers a conspiracy that calls into question the core principles of how and why we think about the future–and the past, and the now.

against-empathy-bloomAgainst Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion by Paul Bloom

We often think of our capacity to experience the suffering of others as the ultimate source of goodness. Many of our wisest policy makers, activists, scientists, and philosophers agree that the only problem with empathy is that we don’t have enough of it. Nothing could be further from the truth, argues Yale researcher Paul Bloom. In Against Empathy, Bloom reveals empathy to be one of the leading motivators of inequality and immorality in society.

christmas-days-wintersonChristmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson

For years Jeanette Winterson has loved writing a new story at Christmas time and here she brings together twelve of her brilliantly imaginative, funny and bold tales. For the Twelve Days of Christmas—a time of celebration, sharing, and giving—she offers these twelve plus one: a personal story of her own Christmas memories. Perfect for reading by the fire with loved ones, or while traveling home for the holidays.

game-queens-gristwoodGame of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe by Sarah Gristwood

Sixteenth-century Europe saw an explosion of female rule. From Isabella of Castile and her granddaughter Mary Tudor, to Catherine de Medici, Anne Boleyn, and Elizabeth Tudor, this is a fascinating group biography of some of the most beloved (and reviled) queens in history.

mincemeat-lucarelliMincemeat: The Education of an Italian Chef by Leonardo Lucarelli

Leonardo Lucarelli is a professional chef who for almost two decades has been roaming Italy opening restaurants, training underpaid, sometimes hopelessly incompetent sous-chefs, courting waitresses, working long hours, riding high on drugs, and cursing a culinary passion he inherited as a teenager from his hippie father. In his debut, Mincemeat: The Education of an Italian Chef, Lucarelli teaches us that even among rogues and misfits, there is a moral code in the kitchen that must, above all else, always be upheld.

signals-talking-webbThe Signals Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstream by Amy Webb

Amy Webb is a noted futurist who combines curiosity, skepticism, colorful storytelling, and deeply reported, real-world analysis in this essential book for understanding the future. The Signals Are Talking reveals a systemic way of evaluating new ideas bubbling up on the horizon—distinguishing what is a real trend from the merely trendy.

prince-lestat-realms-ricePrince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis: The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice

At the novel’s center: the vampire Lestat de Lioncourt, hero, leader, inspirer, irresistible force, irrepressible spirit, battling (and ultimately reconciling with) a strange otherworldly form that has somehow taken possession of Lestat’s undead body and soul. This ancient and mysterious power and unearthly spirit of vampire lore has all the force, history, and insidious reach of the unknowable Universe.

krazy-tisserandKrazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White by Michael Tisserand

In the tradition of Schulz and Peanuts, this is an epic and revelatory biography of Krazy Kat creator George Herriman that explores the turbulent time and place from which he emerged—and the deep secret he explored through his art. The creator of the greatest comic strip in history finally gets his due.

seventh-plague-james-rollinsThe Seventh Plague: A Sigma Force Novel by James Rollins

Two years after vanishing into the Sudanese desert, the leader of a British archeological expedition, Professor Harold McCabe, comes stumbling out of the sands, frantic and delirious, but he dies before he can tell his story. The mystery deepens when an autopsy uncovers a bizarre corruption: someone had begun to mummify the professor’s body–while he was still alive.

Today’s Weird: The Jewish-Japanese Sex & Cook Book and How to Raise Wolves

Yes, you read that right - The Jewish-Japanese Sex And Cook Book And How To Raise Wolves

Yes, you read that right – The Jewish-Japanese Sex And Cook Book And How To Raise Wolves


Here at AbeBooks, we’re no strangers to weirdness. Not only are we a little bit odd ourselves, but we have been combing the literary world for bizarre books to add to the Weird Book Room for years. So maybe I should not have been surprised, this morning, to learn of a book called The Jewish-Japanese Sex & Cook Book and How to Raise Wolves by Jack Douglas. I felt my eyebrows raise despite myself.

Investigation reveals that the book’s author, Jack Douglas (1908-1989), was an American comedy writer (not to be confused with comedic actor, Jack Douglas from the Carry On films), making the book less likely to be any kind of how-to manual or serious tome bent on enticing one into a cult. What a relief. Rather, the 1972 title published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons seems to be a sort of memoir – Douglas’ tongue-in-cheek, comedic account of trying to raise (literal) wolves in suburban Connecticut. When the wildness in the wolves proves too much for quiet cul-de-sac life (as it would), Douglas and his family (two-legged and four-legged alike), head off to greener pastures – in this case, two small islands in wild northern Ontario that Douglas purchased in 1968.

Reviews of the book are mixed, with some readers put off by the 1970s language deemed definitely racist, sexist and otherwise prejudiced by today’s standards, and other readers able to suspend their outrage, forgive the trespasses of decades ago, and enjoy the silly humor and heartfelt story of the book, and of course the notion of owning pet wolves. The book also seems to hide some serious messages about conservation of wilderness beneath its raunchy, wisecracking surface. The book is out of print and there are currently only ~a dozen copies available on the site, ranging in price from $200 to $850.

Douglas  was born in 1908 and named Douglas Linley Crickard, but chose the pseudonym Jack Douglas for his writing. He wrote primarily for television and radio, but authored humorous books on the side. He was known for his work on Laugh-In (I wonder if he was responsible for “Here come the judge!”?), as well as writing for both Red Skelton and Bob Hope. He had a decades-long friendship with television personality Jack Paar, and appeared on his show regularly, as well as on Merv Griffin. Douglas had three marriages in his life, the final and longest being to a Japanese singer, comedian and acrobatic dancer named Reiko Hashimoto, who he wed in 1960. The Jewish/Japanese Sex and Cookbook, and How to Raise Wolves was Douglas’ ninth book. By 1959, his appearances on television and work with big names had garnered him quite an interest in his writing. He eventually authored a dozen humorous memoirs in total, and died in 1989 at the age of 80. His books were No Navel to Guide Him (1947), My Brother Was an Only Child (1959), Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver (1960), A Funny Thing Happened to Me on My Way to the Grave (1962), The Adventures of Huckleberry Hashimoto (1964), The Neighbors Are Scaring My Wolf (1968), Shut Up and Eat Your Snowshoes! (1970), What Do You Hear from Walden Pond? (1971), The Jewish/Japanese Sex and Cook Book, and How to Raise Wolves (1972), Benedict Arnold Slept Here (1975), Going Nuts in Brazil (1977) and Rubber Duck (1979). All titles are now out of print, and vary from a couple of dozen copies, to quite scarce, to very rare.

The Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2016, According to The New York Times


It’s a tradition that goes back more than 65 years – the annual selection of The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books. Full of color and whimsy, these 10 illustrated books will surely please budding readers. (I think The Polar Bear might be my favorite…)

The Cat From Hunger MountainThe Cat From Hunger Mountain
written and illustrated by Ed Young

In a place called Hunger Mountain there lives a lord who has everything imaginable yet never has enough. To satisfy his every desire, he hires builders to design the tallest pagoda; a world-famous tailor to make his clothing from silk and gold threads; and a renowned chef to cook him lavish meals with rice from the lord’s own fields. What more could he possibly want?


The Dead BirdThe Dead Bird
by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Christian Robinson

One day, the children find a bird lying on its side with its eyes closed and no heartbeat. They are very sorry, so they decide to say good-bye. In the park, they dig a hole for the bird and cover it with warm sweet-ferns and flowers. Finally, they sing sweet songs to send the little bird on its way.


Freedom in Congo SquareFreedom in Congo Square
by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

This story chronicles slaves’ duties each day, from chopping logs on Mondays to baking bread on Wednesdays to plucking hens on Saturday, and builds to the freedom of Sundays and the special experience of an afternoon spent in Congo Square.


The Polar BearThe Polar Bear
written and illustrated by Jenni Desmond

A gorgeously illustrated nonfiction book about the polar bear, this is a factually accurate as well as a poetic exploration of polar bear bodies, habits, and habitats. A story about bears that engages the reader’s interest in amazing facts as well as their deep sense of wonder.


Preaching to the ChickensPreaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis
by Jabari Asim, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

John wants to be a preacher when he grows up—a leader whose words stir hearts to change, minds to think, and bodies to take action. But why wait? When John is put in charge of the family farm’s flock of chickens, he discovers that they make a wonderful congregation!


A Voyage int the CloudsA Voyage in the Clouds
by Matthew Olshan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

In the year and a half since the flight of the first manned balloon in 1783, an Italian has flown, a Scot has flown, a woman has flown, even a sheep has flown. But no one has flown from one country to another. John Jeffries, an Englishman, and his pilot, Jean-Pierre Blanchard, a Frenchman, want to be the first.


The White Cat and the MonkThe White Cat and the Monk
by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Sydney Smith

A monk leads a simple life. He studies his books late into the evening and searches for truth in their pages. His cat, Pangur, leads a simple life, too, chasing prey in the darkness. As night turns to dawn, Pangur leads his companion to the truth he has been seeking.


Little RedLittle Red
written and illustrated by Bethan Woollvin

On her way to Grandma’s house, Little Red Riding Hood meets a wolf. Now, that might scare some little girls–but not this little girl! She knows just what the wolf is up to, and she s not going to let him get away with it.


The Princess and the WarriorThe Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes
written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh

Princess Izta had many wealthy suitors but dismissed them all. When a mere warrior, Popoca, promised to be true to her and stay always by her side, Izta fell in love…


The Tree in the CourtyardThe Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window
by Jeff Gottesfeld, illustrated by Peter McCarty

Told from the perspective of the tree outside Anne Frank’s window—and illustrated by a Caldecott Honor artist—this book introduces her story in a gentle and incredibly powerful way to a young audience.

Collectible Memorabilia from Fidel Castro’s Communist Cuba

Original 1st. edition. A wonderful book about Cuba and its history, geography, revolution, daily life, education, science and culture, with superb images taken by the French photographer and photojournalist Roger Pic (1920-2001).

1961, Original 1st. edition. A wonderful book about Cuba and its history, geography, revolution, daily life, education, science and culture, with superb images taken by the French photographer and photojournalist Roger Pic (1920-2001).


Rarely has there been a more controversial and polarizing political figure than Fidel Castro.

On Thursday, November 24th, my mother-in-law arrived to stay with my family for two weeks. She is a Cuban woman who was born and raised in Cuba, and lived there until the early sixties, when a series of terrifying incidents relating to the political climate of the time made it dangerous and impossible to stay. Along with her husband and her first young child, she fled to the United States, eventually settling in Miami, Florida like so many other Cubans.

On Friday, November 25th, we learned Castro had died. There had been close calls before – Castro’s declining health had deteriorated to the brink previously, with people worldwide awaiting news of his death, but he always recovered. This time, however, he died, at the age of 90.

Fidel Castro ruled Cuba from the 1959 overthrowing of Fulgencio Batista all the way up to 2008 (officially 2006) when his younger brother Raul took over. When news of his death broke, friends from Miami called my mother-in-law and woke her to tell her the news. There were Cubans in the Miami streets, they told her, banging pots and pans, yelling, laughing, singing. Whole families flocked to 8th Street to gather at Miami’s world-renowned Cuban restaurant, Versailles, and be together.  There were signs reading “POR FIN!” (Finally!”).  It was news they had been waiting a very long time to hear. To them, a corrupt, oppressive dictator, the man who had ruined their beloved country, had finally died. And for them, even with communist Raul Castro still in power, it felt celebratory.

Not everyone shared the sentiments, however. Just as we see t-shirts emblazoned with the stylized image of Che Guevara’s face in coffeeshops across the globe, so are there people for whom Fidel Castro symbolized the promise of something better. Many saw him as a visionary, a brave revolutiuonary, fighting hard against the evil and unstoppable tide of capitalism. They saw Castro as idealistic and Cuba as a hopeful experiment. To many, his death represents the loss of a fearless and brilliant political mind.

Nobody disputes the life of Fidel Castro made a profound impression, not only on Cuba and her people, but on the global economy and the political stage in general.  Whether celebrated or reviled, he will certainly not be forgotten. His death marks the end of a culturally and economically significant rule – only Queen Elizabeth II is a longer-ruling world leader alive today.  Some of the Castro-related collectible items for sale on the site sold over the weekend, but for those curious to explore or eager to own a piece of history, have a look below at some collectible books and memorabilia from early Communist Cuba.

Moscow, Ediciones Pravda, 1963. Hardcover with dust jacket in very good condition. 191 pages with black and white photographs

Moscow, Ediciones Pravda, 1963. Hardcover with dust jacket in very good condition. 191 pages with black and white photographs


Income tax return document, signed twice by Fidel Castro

Income tax return document, signed twice by Fidel Castro



A collection that includes three signed and inscribed books, two inscribed photographs and an autograph note in English signed by Fidel Castro.

A collection that includes three signed and inscribed books, two inscribed photographs and an autograph note in English signed by Fidel Castro.



This rare two-page manuscript, entirely in the hand of Fidel Castro, contains text in Spanish on the recto and verso of a single leaf, with cross-outs and marginal notations. Possibly containing his notes for a speech at the United Nations.

This rare two-page manuscript, entirely in the hand of Fidel Castro, contains text in Spanish on the recto and verso of a single leaf, with cross-outs and marginal notations. Possibly containing his notes for a speech at the United Nations.



1971 Certificate of the Workers' Central Union of Cuba (Central de Trabajadores de Cuba) for the schoolboy Esteban Cisneros Cruzata for having participated successfully in a competition for the emulation of historic dates. Signed Fidel Castro

1971 Certificate of the Workers’ Central Union of Cuba (Central de Trabajadores de Cuba) for the schoolboy Esteban Cisneros Cruzata for having participated successfully in a competition for the emulation of historic dates. Signed Fidel Castro



An Avid Collector at China in Print

We recently wrote about the China in Print fair which took place this month in Hong Kong. A variety of leading international dealers exhibited at the fair showcasing some of their most interesting items.

Avid collector, Gautam H has kindly shared a recap of the fair and has highlighted some of the more interesting items he came across when visiting China in Print.

10 Jewels from China in Print by Gautam H.

November 18-20, 2016 in Hong Kong, saw the 5th edition of China in Print. It is the foremost fair of rare books, maps, prints, photo albums and manuscripts on China and Asia one will come across.

In museums you can find priceless objects you can look at.  In the occasional auction on Asian print, you will find great stuff as well. But it is very difficult to come across a collection like this from exhibitors all over the world. You can hold, look and caress them to your hearts content.  It is a priceless combination of museum quality books & objects that you can buy and take home immediately!

Here are 10 jewels from it.  The descriptions are adapted from the catalogues of the exhibitors.

1. A watercolour album on the Opium Wars


This amazing collection made by an unknown Chinese artist has 36 water colours depicting aspects of the Opium Wars. The figures are clearly made from the Chinese viewpoint. For example most British soldiers have orange-red hair (sounds familiar?!), and merchants wearing top hats. It is mainly propaganda, depicting fictitious Chinese victories. For those interested in Canton, 35 of the 36 depict scenes from there. They are quite large (1 foot by 2 feet) and are of astonishing beauty.

From Asia Bookroom in Macquarie Australia.

2. Sun Yat Sen and Mao


This is the first English edition of the famous “Little Red Book”, one of the handful signed by him.


A letter handwritten by Sun Yat Sen on 24 June, 1897 to the Russian revolutionary, journalist & writer, Felix Volkhovsky. Beautiful, clear handwriting, something alas we see little of today.

Written in the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, after the end of the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-5 that China lost, it presages the upheaval that would be the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.

From Antiquariat Inlibris in Vienna

3. A map of the famous Spice Islands – what started Western exploration and expansion in Asia.


There no such place called the Spice Islands. It was term coined by Western explorers who came in search of the islands where nutmeg, mace and cloves were first reported. Today, they a part of Indonesia. The map however, made from the Western viewpoint, is of great interest as it sparked colonial expansion into Asia. It is also a beautiful sight to behold.

From Daniel Crouch Rare Books in London

4. Horsfield’s Zoological Researches in Java, and the Neighbouring Islands


Sounds a bit boring, right? It has stunning illustrations, including species unknown to the Western world in the 19th century. Many are by the famous William Daniell.

Thomas Horsfield was an American, who, attracted by the richness and natural beauty of Java, came back to serve with the Dutch East India Company. When the British took over Java in 1811, an enduring friendship started with Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore. He published this beautiful book in 1824 during his long stint there.

From www.lokmanbooks.com in Hong Kong

5. A Travel Journal


This is set of journal of travels over 30 years in China, Japan, Java, Sumatra, Sri Lanka and Egypt. It’s type-written, full of pasted pictures and beautifully bound in a set of 7 volumes.

From Peter Harrington in London

6. Kublai Khan Printing Block for paper money


This is from about 1287, a century before the first known Western printing. It was during the reign of the great Kublai Khan, for circulation in China, Burma, Siam (Thailand) and Annam (Vietnam).

This was in use when Marco Polo visited and is probably the block for the paper currency he said was in use. The text on the block includes a warning that counterfeiters would be decapitated, and the denouncer would get all their property and 5 ingots of silver. Firm deterrents and clear compensation in those times!

7. Prints depicting the battles of K’ien-Lung, Manchu Emperor of China 1735-95


The greatest of expansion of Chinese territory occurred in Emperor K-ien-Lung’s reign. He added huge tracts of Central Asian to the west of what was then China. The Emperor asked his commanders to make drawings of the campaign. These were later painted on silk, and based on these, Jesuits in his service made fresh drawings.  Blocks of these Jesuit drawings were made in Paris under the supervision of Charles-Nicholas Cochin. This is one of the 200 sets of prints made from these blocks for the Emperor’s personal use. Given that the burning of Summer Palace in 1860 ordered by Lord Elgin destroyed many, this is a very rare set.

From Shapero Rare Books in London

8. Watercolours presented by Joachim Bouvet, to Louis XIVs grandson, the Duke of Burgundy on his marriage to Marie Adelaide of Savoy


Louis XIV, the famous “Sun King” sent Jesuit priests to China in 1685. One of them, Joachim Bouvet, returned with this amazing set of watercolours depicting the court, including Emperor Kangxi shown here. The book is superbly bound with the arms of Louis XIV.

From Librairie Camille Sourget in Paris

9. Souvenir of Albert Smith’s China. Something very different.


What is this you ask? Strange looking thing, but it is very intricate. It is a set of 30 panorama’s folding into a single triangular sheet with the rose on top. Has views of Canton, Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Egypt.

Albert Smith was one of London’s greatest showmen. He climbed Mont Blanc and travelled to China, entertaining crowds in the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly. This set was produced for him to depict his travels titled “Mont Blanc to China”.

10. My Treasure Box


This is a marketing catalogue from the 1930’s that can teach us a thing or two.  It is from a female Chinese arts dealer in objects.  The introduction guarantees that the objects will be from the dynasty stated! And also refers to good foreign exchange rates. Another unique piece I have not come across in my 10 years of trawling the world’s antiquarian stores.

After my 3rd visit to China in Print and I intend to keep returning. It has an amazing collection and one meets old friends from the trade. And makes new ones.

It is set in the Hong Kong Maritime Museum on the waterfront, with superb views of Kowloon ahead, and Hong Kong island behind. One sees many of these views a hundred or two hundred years ago, leaving us wondering at the progress of modern Hong Kong.

Shake off holiday stress with these Christmas coloring books for adults

Let’s face it, the holidays are a stressful time for adults. Kids get to have all the fun, while everyone over the age of 18 worries about family gatherings, shopping, cooking, and weight gain. Adults, we’re here for you. We’ve gathered 10 remedies for holiday stress – in the form of coloring books, of course.

Johanna's Christmas by Johanna Basford

Designed to stave off lengthy conversations with your weird uncle.
 Order Johanna’s Christmas

Winter Magic

The perfect alternative to hiding under the covers when the kids just. won’t. stop.
Order Winter Magic

A Christmas Carol: A Coloring Classic

The mall got you down? Fear not, Dickens is here.
Order A Christmas Carol: A Coloring Classic

Christmas to Color

Pairs well with wine.
Order Christmas to Color

A Million Christmas Cats

The perfect remedy for long lines and pushy shoppers.
Order A Million Christmas Cats

Vive Le Color! A Christmas Coloring Book

Flight delayed! Good thing you brought your pencil crayons…
Order Vive Le Color! A Christmas Coloring Book

The Magical Christmas

Reprieve from your seven year old who won’t stop practicing Jingle Bells on the piano.
Order The Magical Christmas: A Coloring Book

Christmas Magic Coloring Book

Pants don’t fit? Forget about it with a little coloring zen.
Order Christmas Magic

Very Merry Coloring

For your parking lot PTSD.
Order Very Merry Coloring

Color Your Christmas

Relax, the kids are finally in bed.
Order Color Your Christmas

“It Can’t Happen Here” sales soar as book buyers rush for reassurance


A thoughtful Sinclair Lewis in a signed photo available on AbeBooks

Why have sales of Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 dystopian novel It Can’t Happen Here suddenly spiked, leaving some retailers with no copies on the shelves? Well, they say truth is stranger than fiction – but what if fiction just gets there first?

It Can’t Happen Here is a dark, partially satirical novel written by American author Sinclair Lewis, chronicling the rise to power of a charming, well-liked senator named Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip in the United States. Windrip campaigns on, and is eventually elected on, a platform promising to restore the United States to its former glory and greatness. Yes, he promises to make America great again, and his charisma, strength and promises see him comfortably defeat his opposition.  Sure enough, upon election, Windrip’s fascism and authoritarianism come to the forefront as his presidency moves forward with anti-immigration policies, silencing  and imprisoning his detractors, and other classic fascist power-moves. As the new America continues to unfold, citizens are left wondering what went wrong. The book was written in 1935, two years after Adolf Hitler’s appointment as chancellor of Germany, and during the Nazi party’s rise to power.

it-cant-happen-here-firstWith America’s presidential election being won by Donald Trump earlier this month, sales of the book have risen sharply as people revisit the novel and its now-familiar themes. I suspect sales are due to droves of Americans, suddenly very eager to discover how Sinclair’s story ends.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) was a prolific novelist, with 24 titles under his belt all told, as well as countless short stories. He was the first American to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, five years prior to the publication of It Can’t Happen Here, which remains his best-known book.

It isn’t the first time a book we were sure was science fiction has proved eerily true given enough time.

Ray Bradbury’s unforgettable novel Fahrenheit 451 details a bleak world in which people are consumed by media. Citizens are utterly addicted to screens and out of touch with nature and other people. News is heavily curated, biased, and delivered in brief, quippy sound bites. In 1953, the book seemed nightmarish and laughable. In 2016, when it is common to drive past a group of people, standing together but all staring down at the glowing screens in their hands, it is less so. Books are still beloved (thank goodness), but the prevalence of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat et al make the other plot lines of the novel suddenly plausible, and suddenly here.

Maybe life imitates art, just later.

If you’re curious to read It Can’t Happen Here yourself, AbeBooks has many copies remaining, whether you’re looking for an affordable paperback, or a hardcover first edition.

Video: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Favorite Fairy Tales

For more grisly truths about ancient tales, read our latest feature, The Gruesome Origins of Classic Fairy Tales.