Archive for January, 2007

Your Old Books Revised

The good folks at Fine Books have just posted a good article on the value of Old Books. In the article, they mention that the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department at the American Library Association have released a revision of the classic reference Your Old Books.

I really enjoyed the write-up at Fine Books, because friends frequently tell me about a stash of old books that they have that they are convinced must be worth something. Of course, more often than not, a small bit of research shows that most old books are not worth an awful lot. The article concludes that spending money on books is less of an investment and that the value lies more in the entertainment value. This conclusion may appeal less to the bookseller than the collector. But its an important message. And while I am aware that a proportion of the books sold in this industry are often sold based on their investment value. The heart of the collector is more likely to be grounded in the sheer pleasure of owning the book than in its monetary value.

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January 16, 2007 at 11:48 am 3 comments

Aaargh! Jahrbuch der Auktionspreise can’t install on PC’s running IE7

One of my colleagues recently ordered the latest Jahrbuch der Auktionspreise CD-ROM. Unfortunately JAP Nr. 10 has made a significant change in the software used to present the database, and this has caused some undue frustration. By using the Microsoft JET database engine technology and MDAC in order to provide access to their data, their application has a dependency on a version of Internet Explorer that is rapidly disappearing off the net.

Bundled on the CD-ROM is the installer file for Internet Explorer 5.5. The JAP setup application checks to see which version of Internet Explorer is available. If the version precedes IE 5.5, it offers to install this version. However, with some intelligence, the installer recognises if IE 6 is installed and will proceed without a hitch. Unfortunately, for computers running IE 7, the installer presumes that Internet Explorer is not installed and offers the option of installing IE 5.5. If you cancel this, you cancel the entire install. If you accept this option, the IE 5.5 setup fails because a newer version of Internet Explorer is already installed. And so the JAP install fails.

If you are running a computer with Automatic Updates enabled, it is quite possible that without even thinking about it, you are already running Internet Explorer 7. The result, no JAP-CD Nr. 10.

The only workaround that I can find to this, is to actually go into you Control Panel and Add-Remove Programs, and remove Internet Explorer 7. Then install the JAP-CD. Then finally, go to the Microsoft Internet Explorer website, and download the installer to reinstall IE 7. Be aware, though, the IE7  website uses Active-X controls to validate your copy of Windows before you can download. For some reason, on my colleague’s system, Active-X was disabled after we uninstalled IE7. And we didn’t seem to be able to access the Internet settings to re-enable it. If you look further down the screen on the website, there is an option to download an application that will run to give you a validation code that you can then enter manually to get access to the installer download link.

When you have finally re-installed IE7, you will find that JAP runs without a problem. It seems to me that the publishers of the Jahrbuch need to rethink the installer somewhat. Meanwhile, there are going to be a number of frustrated users out there who are just unable to install the application.

January 12, 2007 at 12:05 pm 5 comments

From lunch to a rare book

Ah, lunch can sometimes be an inspiring affair. Today, as I picked through my Spicy Dumpling Noodles, and scanned through my RSS Feeds, I became aware of how much online activity seems to revolve around the science vs. religion debate. Much of this has been escalated by the publication of The God Delusion by outspoken athiest, Richard Dawkins. Prior to this event, though, plenty of interesting discussion along this line has taken place at Edge, home to voracious thinkers known as The Reality Club. However, the noise reached fever-pitch sometime ago with the appearance of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and his noodly appendages, created as a parody by Bobby Henderson. Somehow, the combination of my noodle lunch and the Flying Spaghetti Monster inspired a wild web search that resulted in some amusing discoveries and led me back to my antiquarian roots.

The word ‘noodle’, most likely derives from the latin nodus, which means ‘knot’. The foodstuff originated in China some 4000 years ago. And of course, legend has it that it was brought across to Italy from China by none other than Marco Polo. Nonetheless, it appears that Europe had at least managed to invent its own noodle like pasta before any likely interaction with the Far East. Indeed, through trawling the British Library’s Manuscripts department, Constance Hieatt managed to provide a 13th century Anglo-Norman recipe for noodles and for ravioli. These are documented in her article in Speculum v. 61 #4 (1986), Two Anglo-Norman Culinary Collections Edited From British Library Manuscripts. However the noodles displayed at the above link look nothing like the noodles that I would associate with any traditional Italian pasta or Chinese take-away. So who knows?

But noodles have other associations. In particular, one frequently talks about ‘using one’s noodle’ with reference to putting the old grey matter to work. I would presume that the association of the noodle-knot had somehow managed to link to the image of a brain. But in an interesting twist, in the 19th century, the word was used to denote a fool. Perhaps in the sense that the fool manages to get his thought tangled into a knot. And so, in 1888 we have the appearance of The Book of Noodles by W.A. Clouston. I wonder to myself if this could be an apocyphitic text belonging to the Cult of The Flying Spaghetti Monster. Indeed this church has only managed to produce a singular Gospel. After all, the book includes the wondrous story of a man who sets out to find a trinity of fools that surpass the idiocy of his wife and in-laws. And this made me return to the storm of atheists who are engaged in revolutionary activity that brings to mind the names of Martin Luther and John Calvin. The thrust of their attack rooted in deep-seated rationalism that presents scathing arguments that belief in a personal god is nothing more than foolery. Indeed, the Spaghetti Monster itself is a symbol of Foolish Fear. And ironically its followers are noodles.

Incidentally, my discovery of The Book of Noodles, gave me cause to further peruse the site at which it is hosted, The Internet Sacred Text Archive. It is a fascinating resource. By sheer coincidence, I stumbled on another religious work that had caught me eye recently. This being The Worship of The Serpent, by Rev. John Bathurst Deane. I had seen that this work was a recent acquisition at Bernard Shapero Rare Books recently in my feeds. And my old occultic interest in the history of religions was re-awakened. The thrust of this 19th century book is to present serpent-worship as evidence of the validity of the Genesis story of the garden of Eden. As such, it opens with a fervent Preface:

…I have therefore endeavoured to establish the fact, while I appeal to the argument: to prove the universality of Serpent-worship, while I adduce the universal worship of the Serpent as a testimony to the Temptation and Fall of Man…

And so it seems that this fight to establish the historical proof of any belief in the stories as presented in Biblical text, has raged for much longer than the appearance of a bunch of vocal atheists. Though I would find the argument presented by the good Rev. Deane almost laughable, the text itself is a testament to the battle that arrived with people like Mr Darwin himself.

And so ended my noodle lunch.

January 5, 2007 at 3:35 pm 3 comments

Lazy blogging and link-sharing

Things have been busy since I got back from my brief vacation and I’ve hardly had a minute to write anything. So in the tradition of a huge variety of lazy-bloggers I’m going to skip writing a lengthy diatribe on rare books or technology and just point to a few links that I have found of interest already this year:

Jorge Luis Borges, a BBC Radio 4 special, discussing how Borges has influenced the world through his writings.

Photographs that changed the world, a blog posting of 13 images that altered history. Its worth looking through the comments on this blog for links to a few more interesting images that have a similar scale of impact.

The Times has published an article on how Oscar Wilde has been paid rare tribute to by the Vatican. Father Leonardo Sapienza, head of protocol at the Vatican, has published Provocations: Aphorisms for an Anti-conformist Christianity, which includes many of Wilde’s witty quotes.

Time to update your websites. The Register points out that companies in the UK that do not publish specific regulatory information on their websites will breach the Companies Act and risk a fine.

January 5, 2007 at 1:02 pm 1 comment

I’m back

Hello everybody and welcome to 2007. I’ve just got back from a wonderful holiday in France, where I stuffed myself on fine wines and a variety of fantastic cheeses. I hope that this year is filled with interesting book trades and goodwill to all of you.

Meanwhile, I returned to discover that with some speedy resolution, the Maggs thief that I posted about at the end of last year was apprehended just before Christmas and that the stolen books were recovered. Good work.

Now, I’ll get around to posting interesting news soon, but my Inbox is flooded with correspondence and I have to deal with the ton of spam that I managed to get over the holiday season. So come back and visit soon and hopefully I’ll have a few posts up through the beginning of the week.

January 2, 2007 at 11:26 am Leave a comment


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