Gold consolidation – assessment of an Armenian MS

Originally posted on John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog:

Gill Birch observing Armenian MS 3. Note our new microscope, acquired thanks to the Innovation Fund!

IMG_1018 Steve Mooney using the old microscope for the consolidation of the Beatus (Latin MS 8)

Collection care is starting a program of gold consolidation, thanks to the acquisition of a state of the art microscope, which wouldn’t have happened without the donations received through the Innovation Fund

Gill Birch, Senior Conservator in the Conservation department, is analyzing and assessing a marvellous Armenian manuscript in parchment, with many pages that look like a glistering ornate carpet.

Steve Mooney, who worked on the pigment consolidation of several treasures of the John Rylands Library, is now in the process of organizing tuition sessions on the gold consolidation for the collection care team.

The first stage of the process includes the assessment of each individual page, in order to check the condition of the gold foil.

Copy of the MS for the assessment, beside the original Copy…

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I Am A Leaf On The Wind.

Greetings my dearly beloved.

Three months in, and Jonathan Kearns Rare Books & Curiosities is still doggy paddling its way into 2015.

It’s been nerve-wracking and occasionally demoralising, exciting and occasionally really rewarding, and overall is reminding me of that “May you live in interesting times.” comment that makes as good a curse as anything else. I’ll tell you what though; the book trade is awesome, books are incredible things, and thus far; we’re still flying. I am filled with humble, dumb gratitude for all the people who helped me so far this year.

I’ve got my first big book fair coming up fairly soon, more on that as I know it. I’m hoping for a printed catalogue at some point, maybe 50 items, probably knocked off on the school library photocopier after everyone has gone home, grainy black and white photos, and the kind of contents that, if I’m fortunate, might come out of a library sale at The House of Leaves. There are a million things I want to do and a million places I want to be and I have only the vaguest idea how to do any of it.

I have some wonderful books coming in at the moment, not many, I’m trying to keep my stock quite small and swift; although the success of that seems to depend upon the stars, the weather and possibly goat entrails.

As yet there isn’t a section in the ABA handbook on haruspicy, but if I can get this to work that’s one of my next projects.

Ah, excuse me? What did you say? What now?

Ah, excuse me? What did you say? What now?

We’re rapidly approaching the bookfair season (although with a number of new fairs filling in the gaps we’re kind of moving away from a ‘season’ and towards a kind of solid monthly timetable if you can travel far and wide enough). There’s the Illustrated, Children’s and Modern First Editions Fair at the London Olympia Hilton on the 21st of March, which will be heaving with pretty things. There’s the crown jewel; The New York Antiquarian Book Fair from the 9-12th of April, which is destined to be amazing and wonderful and filled to bursting with the best books and booksellers on the planet. Then London kicks off with the May fairs; details here,  and here. Tickets for Olympia International Antiquarian Book fair here.

The other major advantage of the Olympia International Fair, at least from an entertainment point of view, is that I’ll be doing a guided tour of the fair this year for anyone who fancies the idea of being led around a bookfair by someone who looks like a bad Doctor Who cosplayer; and talks like the kid who spent his entire school career tied upside down to a tree. I imagine there’s a somewhat limited demographic for that, but I’ll have sweets, and I can point you in the direction of the bar. Wish me luck.

"Conan Doyle first editions are this way!" (this man is actually too good to  serve as an adequate example)

“Conan Doyle first editions are this way!”
(this man is actually too good to serve as an adequate example)

So that’s bookfairs, it’s essential you go to one, or two, or all of them…there is seriously no better way to get your hands on the books and get up close to things of incredible significance and beauty that you might otherwise not get within lustful groaning distance of. Any queries, questions or help you want just drop me an email and I’ll point you in the appropriate direction. It’s really and truly worth every moment of your time, and they are usually as close to free as makes no difference. There is really no substitute for actually seeing a Nuremberg Chronicle or an Origin of Species or your favourite Harry Potter in the wild.

While we’re on the subject of worth every moment (although less free); the scholarships and applications for this year’s York Antiquarian Book Seminar have kicked off!

The seminar takes place in September and is basically a crash course introduction to entering the world of rare books. Whether you want to be a dealer (of any size or inclination), a prospective trade employee, an academic or a librarian there is something rewarding and practical that can be learned at YABS.

Also, it looks like this! Who wouldn't want to come and learn about rare books here? Look, there's a pub!

Also, it looks like this! Who wouldn’t want to come and learn about rare books here? Look, there’s a pub!

I’m a co-director, along with Anthony Smithson of The Keel Row Bookshop, and I’m on the faculty as the bloke who lectures about post-apocalypse bookselling, or how to sell old books in new, interesting ways. I’m a pretty minor part of the whole exploit, but I absolutely love it, and last year’s seminar was an enormous success with our students (I really like saying that), mainly down to the outstanding faculty we were fortunate enough to assemble.

Well, that fantastic faculty has decided to stay with us for this year, which is brilliant news; and we have secured the talents of Sally Burdon of The Asia Bookroom, and Janette Ray as our keynote speakers and speciality dealer.

The main thing about YABS is that it is a labour of love, a necessary and desirable thing for the benefit of the rare book trade in general. Whilst the trade I work in, and love, is fascinating, rich and totally engrossing; the initial steps to enter it can be baffling and obscure. Most book dealer biographies suggest it happens by a weird accident, the fates align and suddenly you’re working in a basement off Charing Cross Road surrounded by Strand Magazines (actually that may have been a dream I had, not sure). The York Seminar is our effort to help the fates along a bit and give the people who really want to make a life in this trade and amongst books in general, able to do so with a little more confidence. It’s general in some areas, and detailed in others, but it is an attempt (and apparently a successful one), to provide a practical and usable overview of many aspects of the book world.

The Only warning is that this is what happens to everywhere you live immediately after the seminar. True Story.

The Only warning is that this is what happens to everywhere you live immediately after the seminar. True Story.

We have a number of scholarships available this year, including one named after me that comes with a free drink…yes, I know (it’s the second one down for those of you who are interested, last years recipient requested a Negroni I believe).

So, apply, register, enquire and feel free to ask any questions you like. If you want to learn any more, have a look at our Facebook page.

See you there!

Burney’s Box of Delights.

Originally posted on John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog:

A surprisingly eclectic mix of curios has been unearthed by Archive Assistant, Karen Jacques, from the E.L. Burney Collection. The Burney Collection, donated in 1975 – 1977, comprises of a large number of printed items, but also includes letters, notebooks and other papers associated with Mrs George Linnaeus Banks (1821–97), née Isabella Varley, the Manchester schoolmistress and authoress of The Manchester Man (1876) and her husband George Linnaeus Banks. However, the subject coverage is wide, with items of local history, women’s literature, general and popular fiction, book illustration and juvenilia, but one of the most interesting parts of the catalogue contains more than 40 items listed as relics, which were collected by Mr & Mrs Banks.

These are a few of our favourite things:

This item is listed in the catalogue as a silk purse made of two scallop (pectin) shells. Unfortunately there isn’t any information to explain how it…

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Treasures Unveiled (1): A Durham Missal from the 15th century

Originally posted on BedesBooks:

To launch our new blog, here we present a series of vignettes of intriguing, and often beautiful, items from our Collections.  Durham Cathedral has custody of a breathtaking array of artefacts, spanning hundreds of years of history; to learn more, you might like to visit

Our first post in this Treasures Unveiled series is a 15th century Missal from the parish Church of St. Nicholas in Durham.

Here is shown a full-page illustration of the Crucifixion, found in its traditional place in this Missal – before the Canon of the Mass, the core of the service. Here is a full-page illustration of the Crucifixion, found in its traditional place in this Missal – before the Canon of the Mass, the core of the service (© Durham Cathedral Library)

A Missal was a book which contained all the necessary material for a priest to conduct services in Latin; their survival today is rare, as all Missals and Latin service books were removed from churches in 1549, with the introduction of the first Book of Common Prayer (which set…

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Originally posted on Shelf Fulfillment:

London dealer Sam Fogg tells Beatie Wolfe the secrets of his success

Sam Fogg is probably the most glamorous and successful of the new generation of British dealers, dominating the market for manuscripts. He is renowned for his ‘eye’ and has brought to his field a fine appreciation of the arts of illumination and calligraphy, both Western and Asian. He has enlarged the traditional repertoire by dealing in various art objects and antiquities, from mediaeval reliquaries to beautiful Islamic bowls decorated with Kufic script – not to mention the occasional Old Master painting. His gallery on the corner of Cork and Clifford Street in London is a treasure trove, where you will often find dazzling, scholarly, museum-quality exhibitions.


I didn’t decide to become a bookseller; I fell into it by accident. In my early 20s I was determined to be an artist and that’s what I was…

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Punk Archaeology and the Mainstream

Originally posted on Archaeology and Material Culture:

The 2014 Punk Archaeology collection (image from MediterraneanWorld blog). The 2014 Punk Archaeology collection (image from Mediterranean World blog).

Perhaps all scholarship inevitably hazards descending into stale convention or becoming an insular academic pursuit.  One of the most novel recent movements to unsettle archaeological conventions is “punk archaeology,” which is perhaps most clearly illustrated in William Caraher, Kostis Kourelis, and Andrew Reinhard’s edited 2014 collection Punk Archaeology.  A fascinating Society for Historical Archaeology session last week examined punk archaeology, especially the public dimensions that Lorna Richardson has most closely examined.  Punk archaeologists are leery of being narrowly defined, but a punk research perspective typically takes aim on “mainstream” archaeology: that is, in archaeology and many other disciplines the notion of punk seeks to transform scholarship that is normative, predictable, easily ignored, apolitical, emotionless, overly academic, or simply dull.  Punk archaeology embraces a critical and compelling assault on unquestioned scholarly traditions and the academy, and it drew a…

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Fear is the Mind Killer.

So, my loves and morsels, my dearest hearts and favourite foes, here is all the news that’s fit to print:

On the 24th of December, Year of Our Lord 2014, two days after my 44th birthday, and just about 13 years after I first walked across the threshold, the doors of Adrian Harrington Rare Books at 64a Kensington Church Street will close for ever.

I interrupt your lamentations at this point, and urge you to cease tearing your raiment and scattering ash everywhere, because Adrian Harrington Rare Books will of course reopen almost immediately in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. All the necessary details can be found here:

Hall's Bookshop, new home of Adrian Harrington Rare Books.

Hall’s Bookshop, new home of Adrian Harrington Rare Books.

In fact the downstairs of Hall’s Bookshop is now entirely open to the public, go there now for your book purchasing needs, and say hi to Lucas, he’s tremendous.

It will be an exciting combination of book-selling disciplines and will be one of the few places in the country where you can buy something from the 10p box outside and minutes later be looking at rare first editions by Dickens and Darwin inside. It will have everything.

Well, except for me.

After nearly a decade an a half of stumbling through the fur coats in search of Turkish Delight and a lamp-post, I appear to have hit the back of the wardrobe. I shall not be taking the pilgrimage to Tunbridge Wells. You may now lament, a bit, those of you who are so inclined.

This blog will cease to be the blog of AHRB and will instead become the blog of Jonathan Kearns Rare Books & Curiosities.

“What do you know about running a book business?” I hear you scoff.

“Hopefully, just enough.” I respond, and adjust my flying goggles to a more rakish angle.


Bookselling you say? Hmm, don't mind if I do!

Bookselling you say? Hmm, don’t mind if I do!

It is however a good question.

In a couple of weeks I’ll have a website, and I have a few shelves of books. I’ll be an Associate Member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association, and hopefully the PBFA if they’ll have me, and alongside Anthony Smithson, I’m a Director of The York Antiquarian Book Seminar. People have set out on risky voyages with less. Plus, I have this map I bought off a very friendly chap with a wooden leg, last Chelsea Book Fair, he said there’s barely any danger to speak of!

So, part of my plan is to document this exploit, week by week between January and June 2015, rather in the manner of one of those people who records their exposure to a pandemic in a horror movie.

“Day three, the scaly, gooey stuff has progressed up my arm towards the shoulder, my thoughts increasingly turn to raw meat. The others have left, apparently there’s a group of survivors at Mercy Hospital, best I don’t follow. Anyone who finds this I, agh, oh it hurts! oh no! -grrrrghrglrawr! Brains!”

Like that, only with book-selling and lovely books.

Please feel free to join me. It’ll be interesting. Anyone wishing to sign up for my newsletter, put their name down for catalogues, sell me books or hand me elaborately constructed wants lists that will enable me to travel the earth in search of treasure…please drop me an email.



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