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Collecting books on rockets & spaceflight

NASA engineer Michael Ciancone collects books on rockets and spaceflight

Michael Ciancone’s day job is working as a NASA engineer. He serves as the safety and mission assurance lead on the European Service Module of the Orion Program, which is designed to take astronauts to the Moon and bring them home again.

In his spare time, he collects books about rockets and spaceflight. Michael’s collection spans more than 600 books about rocket development and spaceflight published prior to 1958 – that’s books published before the Russians put their first sputnik satellite into space.

Michael has also written a bibliography that encapsulates his knowledge of this area. It’s called Foreword to Spaceflight: An Illustrated Bibliography of pre-1958 Publications on Rocketry and Space Travel, and a selection of pictures from the book can be seen below.

We talk to Michael in our latest podcast about his collection, the challenges of collecting such a specialist subject, the book that started it all and the importance of Russian writers.

Michael’s bibliography is based upon his extensive collection
The cover artwork for early books on rockets and spaceflight is eye-catching
Michael’s collection includes books from German and Russian authors

Podcast interview: Doris Moskowitz from Moe’s Books

Doris Moskowitz, owner of Moe’s Books in Berkeley, California

Doris Moskowitz is the owner of Moe’s Books in Berkeley, California. With four floors of books, Moe’s has been a bookselling institution since the 1960s when Berkeley was at the heart of America’s free speech movement and the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations.

We discuss her father, Moe, who founded the store, her mom, Barbara, cigars, hippies, the 1960s, being a working mom, being fired by her father (twice), the nearby university, millennial confusion, and why Moe’s has a huge philosophy section.

Moe’s Books has a long legacy and holds a special place within the bookselling community on the West Coast. Enjoy our podcast interview.

The red and white awning is a landmark on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley
Moe Moskowitz founded the bookshop and his presence can still be felt
The top floor at Moe’s Books features a rare book room
Moe’s Books boasts a vast selection of literature
Doris Moskowitz says young people are stunned when they enter Moe’s for the first time.

Meet the Movable Book Society

Shawn Sheehy is a book artist and a paper engineer

The Movable Book Society was established in 1993 after a librarian from Rutgers University called Ann R. Montanaro published a book called Pop-up and Movable Books: A Bibliography. The positive feedback convinced Anne that there was enough interest from collectors to found a society about Movable Books.

The society is a non-profit organization that provides a forum for artists, booksellers, collectors, curators, and others to share enthusiasm about pop-up and movable books. There are nearly 450 members worldwide.

In the latest AbeBooks podcast, we are joined by Shawn Sheehy from the Movable Book Society. Shawn is a book artist and a paper engineer. Discover how pop-up books are created, their long history, the importance of Lothar Meggendorfer, and why paper engineering fascinates children, collectors and people who love books when the art that literally pops up off the page.

Shawn’s specialty is presenting animals and plants through movable paper structures. He is the creator of two trade pop-up books published by Candlewick – Welcome to the Neighborwood and Beyond the Sixth Extinction: A Post-apocalyptic Pop-up.

Beyond the Sixth Extinction began life as a limited edition artist’s book. The book imagines what species would survive if the Earth suffered major catastrophes – the cockroach, for instance.

Learn more about Shawn at his website.

Rex Roach from Shawn Sheehy’s Beyond the Sixth Extinction
Beyond the Sixth Extinction is both an artist’s book and a trade publication
Brownfield Pigeon from Shawn Sheehy’s Beyond the Sixth Extinction

Signed with a leaf

What’s better? The leaf or the message?

Fame is foolish and fleeting, and so will the human race go down the tube if we can’t find a way to stop nuclear war, toxic chemicals, and other foolish things. I hope your sons learn, though, that there is joy in struggle – and Who knows? We may yet overcome – Pete Seeger.

See the letter

Frank Capra’s copy of Parnassus on Wheels

Frank Capra’s copy of Parnassus on Wheels sold for $4,000 last week via AbeBooks. It was a 1917 first edition in a dust jacket.

The front endpaper has a signed autograph inscription by the author, Christopher Morley, to Capra, who directed movies such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).

“This is Frank Capra’s copy of this little book and I am grieved when I think how much he paid for it! It cost him 160 times as much as if he had bought it in September 1917 – also, the Author is not worth 160 times what he was then! There is a mistake somewhere! With embarrassment and every good wish – Christopher Morley Jan 28-1935.”

Parnassus on Wheels was Morley’s first novel. It remains one of the most famous novels about books and bookselling. Morley also wrote The Haunted Bookshop in 1919.

Parnassus on Wheels concerns a traveling bookseller
Christopher Morley’s inscription to Frank Capra

Collecting Film Scripts

Film scripts are humble documents but offer many secrets about movie production

Kevin Johnson – owner of Royal Books in Baltimore, an open bookstore that specializes in rare books and paper relating to 20th century literature and pop culture – has written a book called The Celluloid Paper Trail: Identification and Description of Twentieth Century Film Scripts, which was recently published by Oak Knoll Books.

Cinema is one of Kevin’s passions. His Royal Books inventory includes numerous scripts and other movie memorabilia such as photographs. He is also the author of The Dark Page, a 400-page guide to the rare book sources for American film noir in the 1940s.

The Celluloid Paper Trail is a guide to American and British film scripts issued between the 1920s and the 1980s.

In our podcast interview with Kevin, we discuss the growing phenomenon of collecting film scripts. Kevin Johnson reveals why film scripts are so desirable, how studios and production teams have created and used scripts over the years, the vita role of the script supervisor, the most expensive script he has ever sold, and why availability and prices vary, from The Wizard of Oz to Night of the Living Dead.

Kevin Johnson will also be holding a seminar to discuss The Celluloid Paper Trail at the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair on Sunday 7th September.

Learn more about film scripts.

Barack Obama’s summer 2019 reading list

Former US president Barack Obama posted his summer reading list on Facebook a few days ago. As usual, it’s broad. Here it is, copied and pasted.


It’s August, so I wanted to let you know about a few books I’ve been reading this summer, in case you’re looking for some suggestions. To start, you can’t go wrong by reading or re-reading the collected works of Toni Morrison. Beloved, Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, Sula, everything else – they’re transcendent, all of them. You’ll be glad you read them. And while I’m at it, here are a few more titles you might want to explore:

Sometimes difficult to swallow, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead is a necessary read, detailing the way Jim Crow and mass incarceration tore apart lives and wrought consequences that ripple into today.

A collection of nine stories that looks at humanity’s place in the universe

Exhalation by Ted Chiang is a collection of short stories that will make you think, grapple with big questions, and feel more human. The best kind of science fiction.

Wolf Hall won the Booker Prize in 2009

Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel­’s epic fictionalized look at Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power, came out in 2009, but I was a little busy back then, so I missed it. Still great today.

Haruki Murakami’s Men Without Women examines what happens to characters without important women in their lives; it’ll move you and confuse you and sometimes leave you with more questions than answers.

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson is a whole lot more than just a spy thriller, wrapping together the ties of family, of love, and of country.

The Shallows by Nicholas Carr came out a few years ago, but its arguments on the internet’s impact on our brains, our lives, and our communities are still worthy of reflection, which is something we all could use a little more of in this age.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren is a beautifully written memoir about the life of a woman in science, a brilliant friendship, and the profundity of trees. Terrific.

Inland by Téa Obreht just came out yesterday, so I won’t spoil anything. But those of you who’ve been waiting for Obreht’s next novel won’t be disappointed.

You’ll get a better sense of the complexity and redemption within the American immigrant story with Dinaw Mengestu’s novel, How to Read the Air.

Maid by Stephanie Land is a single mother’s personal, unflinching look at America’s class divide, a description of the tightrope many families walk just to get by, and a reminder of the dignity of all work.

Sophia Bogle unveils the secrets of book restoration

Sophia Bogle is a book restorer who has taken a new direction in her career. She has just written a book called Book Restoration Unveiled, which is part of her desire to make book restoration accessible to everyone.

Sophia Bogle – book restorer, tutor and author

Sophia has more than 25 years of hands-on experience restoring books, but was prompted to begin sharing her skills and knowledge after suffering an injury. Our podcast interview sheds light on Sophia’s clientele, her materials and tools, the beautiful and valuable books she has restored, the most common repair requests, and the peculiar terminology of the industry.

Book Restoration Unveiled explains book restoration through case studies, illustrations, and interviews with clients and people in the industry. Sophia – who lives and works in Ashland, Oregon – explains why things are done in a certain way, and offers lots of context and background.

Sophia’s book offers restoration tips to a wide audience

You can also find her on YouTube where her Save Your Books channel offers interesting videos where you can see Sophia at work, restoring books in her studio. Her website also hosts numerous online courses and more useful information.

Book Restoration Unveiled is also available through Sophia’s website and she is offering a 10% off coupon to listeners of our Behind the Bookshelves podcast. Use BTB in her checkout.

Long live used books

Our latest video is a short celebration of used books, which are at the heart of the AbeBooks world. If you love vintage Penguin paperbacks, discovering a long forgotten out-of-print gem, or just receiving amazing value for money when book-buying, then this video is for you.

Pedal power posters: vintage bicycle advertising

The Tour de France remains one of the world’s most significant and most grueling sporting events. The world’s most famous bicycle race was first staged in 1903 and its long history mirrors the development of the bicycle as a method of transport for leisure and work. Advertising posters for bikes have been around for even longer, stretching across art movements such as Belle Epoche and Art Deco. Enjoy these 10 original bicycle advertising posters, all offered for sale by the AntikBar poster gallery in London.

A striking French Art Deco poster from 1928, designed by Maurice Lauro. Automoto was a French bicycle and motorcycle manufacturer founded in 1902. It became part of Peugeot in 1930. $4,585.

A 1930 poster. The boy is saying “I also have a Peugeot” as a blue Peugeot car drives by. $850.

This 1908 Peugeot poster reflects the militaristic sentiments felt across Europe at this time as nations armed themselves for war. One soldier hands a message to a mounted colleague. Cycles Peugeot was founded in 1882 in France. $1,572

A very British poster from 1930. Phillips was formed in 1908 and later became part of Raleigh. The Birmingham-based manufacturer was Britain’s second-largest bicycle producer for many years after Raleigh. $580

The French also liked lions. This 1900 poster pitches Rochet cycles for customers around the world. $1,570.

Terrot was a manufacturer in Dijon, France. It began by building both bicycles and motorbikes before focusing solely on motorcycles. This 1920 poster combines their product lines. $1,040.

Boy meets girl. Royal Enfield was a brand name of the Enfield Cycle Company which manufactured motorcycles, bicycles, lawnmowers and stationary engines. $450

A Spanish poster from 1929. “Pulphi, the queen of the bicycles,” reads the tagline. The poster’s text at the bottom reads ‘champion of Spain’, but the Vuelta a España (Spain’s equivalent of the Tour de France) did not start until the 1930s. $710.

A Belle Epoque-style poster from 1890, advertising Humber cycles, a premium British manufacturer of bicycles founded by Thomas Humber, who expanded into various overseas markets. Humber eventually moved into making cars. Is the lady going to ride the bike that dress? $1,240

Riders using Automoto bicycles won the Tour de France in 1923, 1924 and 1925 – a fact that the company used in their advertising in 1925. Oddly, the winning riders suffered tragic ends. Frenchman Henri Pélissier won in 1923 but was shot by his lover in 1935. Italian Ottavio Bottecchia won in 1924 and 1925, but was found badly injured by a roadside in 1927. He died 12 days later. His death remains a mystery. $980