Tag Archives: book collecting

Information wants to be free!


We’ve been tidying up our cataloguing recently, and generally trying to look at the world of rare books through the eyes of people who have an interest but weren’t abandoned in the wild and brought up by bookdealers. Those few unfortunates out there whose first words weren’t “Incunabula” (which most people think is a spell from Harry Potter) or “Trigesimo-Secundo” (which actually is).
In the interests of such bereft types, I’ve scrabbled together some information regarding book sizes, (in addition to the blog article I did a while back with the help of my little brother) and I hope it will be if some use.

In the future I’ll be adding more bits and pieces, problematic technical terms (or just silly words we use), and if anyone has any queries that need clarifying I’ll have a go at that or find some actual clever grown up who can…so feel free to ask.

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The Best Lack All Conviction. Part 2


So, why don’t people see books as valuable?

First off, I’m going to point out this fantastic piece of work to everyone:

 

http://marissakmason.com/2012/07/05/timeline-history-of-the-preservation-and-conservation-of-books-and-manuscripts/

 

Then secondly I’m going to point out that you’ll spend a lot less time shouting “Borderline Simpleton!” at a computer screen if you prefix everything I say with “In my opinion…”

Also, trying adding the phrase “And everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked” to the end of everything you read.

 

Amongst the issues related to writing anything at all is that there’s so many people better than you at it…there’s the Wikipedia definition of a First World Problem right there. That particular post is a cracking example of the kind of thing I’m going to go back to and re-read far too much for my tiny brain to handle. Especially interesting is the way that; stretched over a long enough time period the words “preservation”, “conservation”, “collecting” and “dealing” become close to synonymous when associated with books.

 

One of the first things you humans associate with value is rarity. Paintings and sculptures don’t shock people with their value because in the majority of cases they are unique…even if you aren’t a fan of the art, the concept of something being the last and only example of its species places hooks in your brain. We get that, we understand it…probably because there’s something in it that reflects our own view of ourselves. We preserve the things that are unique because in doing so we are preserving parts of ourselves. We achieve immortality by recognising, protecting and ensuring immortality in objects, ideas and places.

 

Everybody gets that; the concept of uniqueness is an instant ticket to perceived value. That’s why everything on eBay and Etsy is unique, because it says it is.

This makes sense…well it makes sense that it’s valuable.

This somewhat less so…

Books are rarely unique. There are notable exceptions, and there are vast, misty realms of ignorance where we may discover tomorrow that where we thought we had many copies, it suddenly turns out we don’t.

Books were not designed to be unique, they end up that way by accident, the friction of the centuries and the manifestation of our species-wide obsession for playing with dice.

They can be rare, sometimes ridiculously so. There are maybe 16 or so copies of the first imprint of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, Forty-Eight Gutenberg bibles, forty or so complete First Folio Shakespeare. To further add to the confusion it is reckoned that originally the print run of Shakespeare’s First Folio in 1623 was 750…which is twice as many copies as the first print run of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone…which leads me to the next issue.

The Gutenberg Bible *dribbles uncontrollably*

Another perceived and widely accepted indicator of value would be age. Again, people in general are not particularly shocked when something 8000 years old sells at auction for enough money to buy your own moon. It makes sense, whether it’s a head of Rameses II or a chunk of Viking drakkar or a Maori greenstone Mere (though I’ve probably randomly picked a selection of items it would be very difficult to actually sell without someone wanting them back). In general understanding age confers value; ask any old person if things were better back when they were in charge.

 

Everybody gets that, it’s why everything on eBay and Etsy is vintage or antique, because it says it is.

 

Books are perplexing in this regard. We’ll gloss over the fact that there are very few boring, worthless medieval manuscripts and we’ll fast forward to the 16th century and onwards. To a book-dealer, that’s old, to a normal human being that’s truly ancient.

The normal human being definition of old is the Victorian period, to book-dealers (because we are sooooo smart!) that’s actually pretty modern…this is probably part of our trade that we ought to be able to describe to people without sounding like that guy from Good Will Hunting who didn’t get Minnie Driver’s phone number.

Yes, that guy…we don’t want to be that guy.

There are plenty of books, a plethora, a multitude that are hundreds of years old and yet are of very little financial value. It’s a fortunate fact that human beings write books all the time, and that they always did, it’s an unfortunate fact that the majority of those books are really not all that important. 18th Century works on religion (there were many of these, surprisingly not all of them fascinating or informative), 19th Century Family Bibles, and children’s encyclopaedias from the early 20th century are all (admittedly sketchy) examples of things of which there are vast numbers with only a few individuals reaching out above the crowd and waving their arms about shrieking “Save me!” That’s without novels, short stories and poetry written by people with lots of time on their hands who paid a jobbing publisher to produce a couple of hundred copies that could then be inflicted on relatives for Christmas and birthdays forever more. I can guarantee that in a hundred years, no-one is going to want to pay money for my poetry.

This is counter-intuitive (except for the bit about my poetry) and in many ways goes against a number of things that we as humans tend to hold dear no matter what: If something survives, we respect it; if something makes an effort, we congratulate it; if something was once important to people, there is perhaps part of us which feels that importance ought to endure.

 

When someone calls me and says they have a book for sale and I tell them it has no worth, and they say “But, it’s really old!” and I tell them it still isn’t worth money; that isn’t the book being worthless; that’s me being unnatural (which by a strange coincidence is an adjective that has followed me my whole life).

When I put £20,000 on a Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone first edition: that’s similarly unnatural. Because the world is full of people who have shoes older than that book, and it does not compute.

A Philosopher’s Stone First Edition seen not making sense, yesterday.

Another issue, albeit one in the eye of the beholder, would be beauty. Some books are undeniably beautiful, some books are mouth-wateringly, heart thumping, knee wobblingly gorgeous. Some books I am almost afraid to touch, not because I might damage or drop them, but because they’re too good for me, I don’t deserve to run my fingers over something that stunning.

If I were to show a normal, uninitiated person a copy of The Great Omar, for example they would instantly comprehend its value. The same would be true of say an illuminated manuscript, or a giant folio of astronomical charts and intricate volvella.

The Great Omar…two years of constant work to create, over a thousand gems and jewels inlaid into the binding, and then it sank on The Titanic. Effectively we swapped Kate Winslett for this.

If I were to show them a first edition “Ulysses”, or a “Picture of Dorian Gray” first edition in a dust-wrapper, or “Wuthering Heights” in original boards, and then tell them they were holding something not far short of the price of a house, the chances are this hypothetical person would be a shade more sceptical. They look kind of dull.

I’d be on the floor making inappropriate mewling noises of naked lust and awe, they’d be edging away from the lunatic and his grubby looking old books.

 

To me they are undeniably gorgeous; the stitching of the binding, the clean lines of the text, the carefully designed arrangement of words upon the page…the mere fact that they exist, the smell of them. Add in the fact that they also have some considerable cultural and social significance and I’m lost and flailing, hopeless and babbling in adoration. A man standing, astounded, by the sudden unlooked for appearance of his god.

The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili has actually taken a restraining order out on me, I’m not allowed within ten feet of a copy. It’s sad.

But here’s a picture from back when it still said it loved me, before Brooke Palmieri got involved and suddenly I wasn’t good enough anymore…

 

So books often confound the standard definitions that we have when faced with something of value. In many ways that’s a particularly on trend topic for the 21st century: defying expectations and previous conventions, the renaissance of a stubborn refusal to let things continue as they have done and to point out that although they might not fit your norm, although they might be confronting you with attitudes and opinions you hadn’t previously considered…you still have to share the world with these new, vocal and valuable notions.

 

One of the most pressing notions for the time is not one of the most pleasing; the oft-repeated notion that as far as the printed book is concerned…Winter is Coming.

 

I’m not sure what I think about that…I’ll undoubtedly tell you in part 3.


The Best Lack All Conviction. Part 1.


   (I’m not sure where this is going yet, but it’s going to be spread over the next week or so with me thinking aloud and trying not to be dull or obvious…fingers crossed for that happening)        

 

We had a person the other day who just didn’t get it. Her daughter got it; she was giddy with Austen, besotted with Emily Bronte and oddly fascinated with Anthony Trollope, if she could have stayed all day quietly sitting in the corner, she would have. Her mother; not so much.

It was the money that baffled her I think, she couldn’t get why you’d want to own a hand coloured Culpeper first edition when you could own a coffee table version for a fraction of the price. I’m not saying she was mean, or greedy or ignorant or anything of the sort, absolutely not, we discussed various authors, literature, art; she was a voracious reader. I’m guessing that she could just not equate the objects I was showing her with any idea of “value”.

In a way this is an excellent attitude; cut through the pretentious art-speak from the ginger eejit with his unpleasantly long fingers and get down the the actual facts…it’s a bit of old wood and dead goat and he wants two thousand quid for it. For some reason (and this is what I’m thinking about, not how people don’t understand me and I must run off and play some Smiths), people are happy, ecstatic even to buy a car, or a watch, or a vase or a pair of shoes for enough money to feed me for six months…but when they look at a book; they don’t see it. It doesn’t say “You want me. I’m your treasure.” It doesn’t make them not want to eat for six months so they can own it.

A sensible person, the kind of person that I am utterly not, would say that it takes all sorts; that if everyone was the same the world would be a tedious place. Then they would move on.

She left with her daughter, one of them clutching our latest catalogue as if it contained by proxy some of the value of the things it represented, the other amused and tolerant, a parent humouring a phase. This week it’s books, next week it’s a nose piercing. J.K. Rowling gives way to Veronica Roth.

Apart from feeling like I’d failed slightly, as if I’d somehow let down my vocation by not being able to represent it properly (a recurring theme), it occurred to me that my world is an arrogant one in many respects. Rare book people can often be like teenagers in love, they’ll burn the world down for the objects of their desire.

Which made me ask; why?

Why are we like this? More so in many ways than antique dealers, or sellers of fine art we represent the manic obsessive depths that antiquarianism can lead one to, bibliophiles carry with them the grubby hint of a passion turned to fetish; the object not the essence has become the focus of slightly unhealthy desire.

There’s another blog post waiting to be written about rare book-dealers in fiction. I’m willing to bet more of them will turn out to be the Devil in disguise than otherwise. We are seldom seen in a bright light: We dabble and delve and we know things we shouldn’t and Oh Dearly Beloved, there are always more things to unearth and to know. We are keepers of secrets, we speak our own language and we don’t share our business; it is hermeticism turned trade, grand alchemies gone to market.

A rare book dealer, yesterday, as far as the public is concerned

But more than this.

You need to know some of the things that books are, before you can decide if they are what you care for, what you recognise as treasure.

Amongst other things they’re wood pulp and dead goat, this is true. It’s also true that I am made of hair and bone and little teeth (and bits of fibre and a myriad of unsightly secretions). I have it on good authority this is a somewhat simplified way of looking at me (although depressingly accurate), the same is true of using that as a definition of a book.

Their primary purpose, way back in the primordial mists of human thought, was as a method of recording, transmitting and sharing information. The information could (and was) be anything; how to build a barn, what plants could be eaten and which were poisonous, what Eumenus had said about Hector, which direction to sail in to find China.

Factual, fictional, religious, secular, practical or fanciful; the creation and proliferation of the book made it possible for all these concepts to be shared widely by something other than word of mouth for the first time in human history.

Starting with clay tablets, moving through papyrus scrolls, the bamboo butterfly books of the Tang Dynasty (I just really wanted to write that sentence), the codices of Mayan America (codex actually originally meant “block of wood”, the other two most familiar root terms “liber” and “biblos” actually refer to wood pulp or pith, so maybe that definition wasn’t too far off) and eventually through the ancient knowledge obsessed cultures of Greece and Rome, the tremendously ancient and erudite civilisations of what used to be Persia and is now a playground for arms dealers, down to the point at which the existence of my breed properly gained a foothold (in Europe anyway) during the medieval period.

This is actually instructions for assembling a flat packed wardrobe from the Babylonian branch of IKEA

As soon as we humans discovered we had something to say, and had formulated a symbolic way to say it (nearly all writing started off pictorially, as a little tiny drawing of a thing which represented another thing in the mind of the person who saw it) we couldn’t stop ourselves.

There is however far more to be said about books than that they are efficient receptacles of knowledge and information, second only to our own brains in terms of space, flexibility and breadth. They’re that too.

In our culture they serve more diverse purposes than can be described by someone with my glaring limitations (so naturally I’ll go ahead and give it a try).

Medieval manuscripts depict gaunt scribes at work in their cramped monastic carrells, transcribing and rubricating the works of St. Augustine and Aristotle and writing tiny human editorial in the margins “Thank God it will be dark soon.”, “I am so cold and this man wrote so much.”

Their abbots, kings and princes however, are depicted seated next to shelves and cases of these books, intended to symbolise the wealth of wisdom they had at their fingertips, and also, not incidentally the actual wealth they possessed; a book that took a scriptorium of talented men weeks to transcribe and decorate was not going to be cheap, if you had twelve books you were not only a person of great learning, you were a person of substantial wealth. A significant donation or a commission might result in a member of the nobility being commemorated in illuminated form in a Book of Hours for example, giving us some of the only portraits from life we have of the luminaries of the time; converting a literal article of faith into an actual piece of documentary evidence.

Anselmus of Wurtenburg ruined his health early in life by staying up until the early hours writing Loki/Dean Winchester slashfic

But more than this.

Books then, were power given form. Knowledge had always been power, now that power was portable, tangible, it could be hidden away to be used when needed. Similarly the knowledge could now be stolen, smuggled, hidden, translated and transcribed. It needed to be jealously preserved, protected. In the same way previous men and women of power would be seen surrounded by weapons, armour, horses and hounds, the new breed of movers and shakers would add books to their potent displays of bling, books on an equal footing with weapons.

If you wished to destroy an enemy’s castle, then you could obtain (at great cost and/or difficulty) a copy of Renatus’s De Re Militari, the 5th century guide book to all forms of military tactics, logistics and leadership for example, the relative rarity of copies, translations and variations on a theme that must have been circulating would be impossible to guess at. The value of such a work to someone with the resources to use it would have been enormous.

In other news: this is terrifyingly beautiful

The mysteries of explosives, the intricacies of building and operating siege machines, the methods of motivating men be they mercenary, conscript or volunteer, what the weather is like in the Alps in April, which rivers are in flood when and what happened when Flavius Aquila charged his cavalry uphill against a fixed defensive  position. These things could all (quite suddenly) be found in books; the practical alternative to trying to keep knowledgeable, gifted men alive in times when, even without war and conflict, life expectancy was less than half what it is in the modern world.

The Duc De Guise’s new gazebo was the talk of Poitiers

Throw in some half decent maps, tidal charts, pilot’s rutters or periplus (if you’re feeling classical) and a few details about what makes the natives happy and you have the tools to conquer a world, or at least the portions of it that you know to exist.

Books also contain the motivational and aspirational means to drive you to look for parts of the world that you merely believe to exist; it was reading the travels of Marco Polo that inspired Columbus to go exploring, and look how that ended up.

This is before Johannes Gutenberg and his movable metal type gave rise to a form of mass book production. Imagine what happened after that momentous point in human history. As an event that’s right up there with the internet, with the original formulation of written language, that’s Episode IV important.

This is Christopher Columbus’s copy of the Travels of Marco Polo, with his notes in the margins (probably saying things like “Leave harbour, turn left, keep going until legendary…”). Even George Lucas couldn’t spoil how amazing this is.

But more than this.

They can be seen as portable repositories of the secrets and tenets of a myriad of faiths and sciences. They are and ever have been best ally of the heretic and the revolutionary.

The right book could bring empires and churches to their knees, the writings of Galileo (1632; Dialogo Sopra i Due Massimi Sistemi del Mondo ) and Copernicus (1543; De revolutionibus orbium coelestium) carried the fight for enlightenment up to the gates of Heaven themselves and altered the shape of the known universe.

Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859) permanently changed the expression on the twin faces of science and faith. One the one hand there’s no God because we don’t need one (not that Darwin personally thought so), on the other hand if there is one then he’s waaay more into detail and the long haul than we originally thought.

This is the title page of “The Dummies Guide to Changing the Course of Human Thought.”

Fifty years before Origin the followers of Cuvier and Lamarck were arguing in Parisian cafes over the relative virtues of their opposing theories; Cuvier’s idea that catastrophes shaped the development of species, Lamarck’s that all diverse species evolved from simple organisms and were thus related. Their respective books (amongst an Alexandrian library of others) trickle down to Wallace and Darwin and their ilk, kick-starting their own studies and there you have it, Galapagos Finches and beetles and David Attenborough is on the gravy train for life.

All this was taking place against the backdrop of an immediately post Napoleonic France and an ascending British Empire (busy filling its own libraries and museums from the looted treasures that Paris was stuffed with; Napoleon, like most emperors, being apparently partly descended from a magpie) even though we’d already bid farewell to the Americas.

The reason that someone as ignorant as myself knows any of this…is because someone wrote it down.

Just think about it. Pretty much every fact, idea and concept recorded prior to 1877 (the invention of the phonograph, for the sake of facile argument, my favourite kind) has reached us through a book.

Since the beginning of recorded history, through clay tablets, scrolls and sheets of papyrus and parchment right the way up to the possibility of an alternate medium first reared its comparatively inefficient head…all down to books and the written word. Dreams, hopes, fears, prejudices, ignorance and wisdom all transmitted through the supremely democratic medium of books. It would probably be fair to say that books produced us, as much as the other way around.

 

So why don’t people see them as valuable?

to be continued…


Olympia International Antiquarian Book Fair: A glass menagerie.


Book fairs of recent years have been somewhat changeable. They’re usually fun, they’re always hard work. Sometimes you don’t sell any books. Occasionally this doesn’t matter that much. Occasionally. One of my favourite Boston book fairs was commercially disasterous but featured, amongst other delights, a young librarian from Harvard being so overcome with excitement about the Tolkien letters I was showing her, that she began quoting great strings of his verse at me…in Elvish.

Such behaviour is nearly always going to make me all weepy with joy a) because I’m a  geek of quite cyclopean proportions and b) because you don’t truly love something until it has made you faintly, beautifully, endearingly ridiculous. This being the book trade, someone is bound to ask me whether she was declaiming in Quenya or Sindarin, which is yet another reason to love my job.

“Hmm, where did I put my copy of Fifty Shades of Grey, I wonder?”

Apart from meeting elves and buying and selling books, one of the great pleasures of book fairs is that I get to see people I consider my friends, even though I only get to meet them a few times a year. I very much look forward to staring in awe at Josh and Sunday from B&B, being intellectually intimidated by the crew from Bauman’s, terrified out of my wits by the walking renaissance that is Heather of Honey & Wax and being gently mocked by Cynthia Gibson. There is very little more fun than hanging out with both Paul and Stephen Foster, and the pinnacle of any book fair has to be attempting to drink the Dennii of First Folio underneath a table…just don’t ever try it with Melissa Sanders. A couple of times a year I get to goggle at the fearful symmetry of Justin Croft and Simon Beattie, the patrician splendor of Maggs Brothers and Quaritch and the unrelenting energy of Lucius Books. There’s a couple of hundred others as well, but you’re going to have to turn up to the next book fair to meet them.

There was an almost constant stream of people staring at this saying; “How on earth did they get that up there?”

This year’s Olympia International Antiquarian Book Fair was all new and improved and shiny.

New venue: a giant glass ceilinged Victorian railway station kind of affair which admitted glorious amounts of light, and somewhat intimidating amounts of heat. In my frequently not very humble opinion it’s a big improvement on the old venue; everybody looks prettier in sunlight (well, nearly everybody) than under fluourescent  strips, it’s loads more airy and open and just more…bookish. It puts one in mind of a gallery rather than a trade show.

Heat, not too good for the books though, I now have a couple of vellum bindings that are never going to be quite the same again. The Paris book fair (with a similarly glass roofed venue although let’s be fair, their venue is the Grand Palais) suspends white muslin over the tops of the stands to keep off the heat. Just sayin’.

New Bosses: alright, still the Antiquarian Booksellers Association, but with a new committee in charge of organisation. Generally committees and antiquarian book-dealers go together extraordinarily badly, like icebergs and over-sized cruise liners with too many cheery, plucky steerage passengers and not enough lifeboats. Book-dealers are a calculatedly perverse breed, many of whom delight in their ability to remain in a group only long enough to be ejected from it for bad behaviour. In the same way that lions feed most easily near watering holes, book-dealers operate best in small groups in pubs and restaurants. 150 of them together in the same building can end up looking like a slowed down version of the school gym scene from West Side Story, only with more tweed, and smelling slightly of Germolene.

“Three boxes of A&C Black books, this big, missing from my Volvo. Tell me where they are or Pablo will cut you bad!”

The committee in charge this year did a sterling job, it has to be said. The atmosphere (at least the one projected) was calm and organised and really rather cheery.

Side Note: Both the Olympia and Chelsea ABA book fairs have organiser committees, but the common thread between them is a lady called Marianne  (whose role should probably be re-titled “Cat Herder Extraordinary”), who, along with other members of the ABA office probably frequently falls victim to the Newtonian concept of effluent travelling in a downwards motion. The success of a book fair can often be gauged by observing her. A lot can be learned from watching her hands…if they’re around someone’s neck, she’s probably displeased. A fair amount of the benefit gained from London’s two major antiquarian book-fairs can be credited to her involvement, along with able assistance from the rest of the ABA office.

Some of the highlights of the fair can be seen here. Including pictures of our very own Jon Gilbert and  his mammoth Ian Fleming Bibliography with Fergus Fleming; the James Bond creator’s nephew, who turned up at the fair to see how things were going.

And the official ABA response to the fair: here.

The dealer turnout was splendid, especially the number of notable continental dealers and a couple of very high profile US dealers we wouldn’t normally have seen exhibiting in recent years. It’s always a very good sign for a book fair when the foreign talent turns up. They bring books, opinions and gossip that we would otherwise not encounter, and their ways of dealing with and engaging customers often provide a nice contrast to our own. I think it shows a encouraging amount of confidence (or possibly bravado in the case of Between The Covers) in the current climate when dealers from as far afield as New Jersey and Baltimore are prepared to travel halfway around the world for something as potentially random and costly as a book fair. I mean, we buy them copious amounts of alcohol and tell them how wonderful they are, but I really don’t think that has anything to do with it.

Notable US bookdealers rapidly rethinking the wisdom of their journey.

The customer turnout was a little quieter than usual, possibly there were more of the serious collectors and fewer browsers than usual. In all likelihood because it was the first scorching hot weekend of the year.

It’s always nice to see our favorite customers, and it’s great when a serious bibliophile turns up and walks away with something truly splendid (an event which happened at least twice during this particular fair), it is however arguably more wonderful when someone who has previously only had a passing interest in old books, who perhaps wandered in out of nothing other than curiosity, realises that they have found their home and that haunting bookfairs and bookshops is going to be their primary vice henceforth.

My beloved customers know who I am, and where to find me (in the bar, naturally)…To them bookfairs are often more of a social event, they wander around, I give them a guided tour of what’s wonderful and beautiful (I must have showed Sokol Books’ Nuremberg Chronicle to 20 people, getting steadily more enthusiastic as the fair wore on), we grab a drink and they make an appointment to pop into the shop to have a look at what I’ve bought for them. That’s my job. It’s a really good job. I wish I were better at it, but I love doing it.

Sokol also had this Hypnerotomachia Polyphili tantalisingly on show. I could hear it calling to me throughout the course of the fair, asking me to take it up out of its glass cabinet and show it the world…Can you get a kickstarter for buying a book? Is that selfish?

What I also love doing is meeting the people who will be keeping the book trade alive over the next few decades. They turn up at a fair, ask delightfully infuriating questions, carry away a stack of bookseller’s catalogues, pick things up and gasp over them, stare fixedly into glass cabinets and spend £25 before going away as happy and awestruck as if they’d just purchased a signed Galileo first edition. They are what book fairs are for, in my (again) not very humble opinion. They know they love books, they don’t necessarily know which books, or how they would like to proceed with collecting them…they don’t know if they’re in love with Victorian children’s books, 1940’s pulps or medieval illuminated manuscripts. They aren’t going to know unless they see them, ask questions about them and touch them. It is our job, and in fact our livelihood, to assist in any way possible, to inform and educate and provide examples and resources and enable people to enter the world of rare books. I love people asking silly questions and giving vent to undignified squeals of enthusiasm when you show them something truly wonderful, it’s what is supposed to happen. Bookshops aren’t supposed to be places where people whisper, they are supposed to be places where people laugh and gasp and get excited. Book fairs doubly so.

Some booksellers have a tendency to treat such visitors as if they were small children caked in jam, or a kind of subsonic annoyance that gives them a headache. I find they are often the same booksellers who seem to relish uttering prophecies about the end of the book trade and how all the good books have gone, or all the good collectors have gone or things aren’t what they used to be and everything was better before the internet/telephones/women got the vote. Some booksellers are in line for a Darwin Award.

H.M. Fletcher Books, most definitely out of the running for the above award, had this:

History’s Best Dressed Geek, the Victorian Felicia Day…MIss Ada Lovelace.

This is the luminous Augusta Ada King (nee Byron, yes, that Lord Byron was her father), Countess of Lovelace, mathematician, visionary, something of a babe, and also the world’s first computer programmer.

The spirit of Ada Lovelace, complex algorithms and all, would like a quick word with the New York Times regarding their stance on a recent Silicon Valley discrimination lawsuit.

Ada will be getting a blog post all of her own as soon as the post book fair hangover has worn off. In the meantime, all giddy questions welcomed.


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