Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Art of the Window Board

The Brunswick Yard, where Withnail Books' Little Shop resides, has a window looking out onto the street. There are plenty of passers-by, on their way to the two supermarkets just up the road, or the train station beyond, and many stop for a peek. Withnail Books has a board as part of the window display which I aim to change once a week. After a mix 'n match start, it's settled down into themes, but with Richard E. Grant's autobiography With Nails as a constant Withnail connection (after the hardback sold, it was replaced by a paperback copy...).

This week, it's a zarjaz 2000AD collection, but just for posterity here's all the boards to date, in reverse chronological order...

















Wednesday, 18 September 2013

How Sexing Day-Old Chicks Is Like Making Sushi. Apparently.



Heard in the shop:
Her, picking up the book, and leafing through the photo section: "Ew, I'm not reading this, it's pornographic!"
Him: "Only if you're a chicken."

Sexing Day-Old Chicks by W. P. Blount is a rather rare volume, it appears. Or at least original editions are: there are currently no copies of either the first or second editions available online anywhere. It is however very much available as a print on demand title, which suggests that what Mr Blount first wrote back in the 1940s still has a practical use, so good for him (his other books include Poultry Ailments and its blockbuster sequel Rabbits' Ailments).

Sniggering aside, sexing chicks is a very particular skill, which is still done by humans, by hand, at a rate of 350 per hour or more per sexer. Without getting into too much detail (as W. P.'s book does, graphically), you have to pick them up, and have a look at their nether regions, where a tiny, tiny difference, barely visible to the eye, makes all the difference, as it were. (And if you don't know what then happens to the no-eggs-so-therefore-no-use male chicks, it's best not to ask.)

Apparently sushi chefs are taught that when making sushi, you should not squeeze the fish, 'but hold it firmly like a day-old chick'. Whether that makes chick-sexing and sushi-making interchangeable skills I don't know, but it would be a good episode of one of those job-swap reality shows, that's for sure.

The only thing harder than learning how to sex chicks is coming up with a way to accurately teach people how to sex chicks. Withnail Books' Psychology Correspondent writes:

"You may all laugh but the sexing day old chicks problem is a classic in the categorisation literature. It is a very hard discrimination to learn and those few that can do it find it very difficult to describe how they do it (apparently). Obviously the author figured out a way of getting his method into words so probably cleaned up in the process (hence the demand)."

W. P.'s book has 9 chapters of words, plus a chicken-porn photo insert which I will not delve into here, barring the first picture: an informative piece on how the sexer's table should be arranged. I'd like to think that the stern-looking chap at the table is W. P. himself. As he writes in his Introduction: "There is little doubt that chick sexing has come to stay."




Thursday, 12 September 2013

Here is the News, 1888: Penrith Beats Shap at Cricket... and a Decapitation at Southwaite

Elsewhere, George Eastman had just patented roll film and registered the name 'Kodak', the first ever English Football League games were a few days away, and Jack the Ripper was in full swing, but those were the big local stories on Tuesday, September 5th 1888, according to a copy of the Cumberland and Westmorland Advertiser (incorporating the Penrith and Lake District Chronicle) which has recently arrived at Withnail Books.

Both the cricket results, and the brief report of the gruesome accident at Southwaite (news of which reached New Zealand!) are below, along with a letter from a Kirkby Stephen church sidesman, kicking off about a rude Scouser, and adverts for the local suppliers of false teeth and guns.



















Thursday, 5 September 2013

Unseen For a Century? Views of Fairlie, Ayrshire






This rather lovely book is a recent arrival at Withnail Books, and is evidently a rare survivor. I can trace no other copies available anywhere (it's another ABEwhack (tm)). I can't even find any reference to its existence. The title page has a few clues:




Charlie McNair, according to this page, ran the local Post Office and shop (which also served as the savings bank, telegraph station and chemists). He sold postcards of the area, which sometimes appear on eBay described as 'Fairlie, McNair series', and, it would appear, published this book of similar local views. It's beautifully produced, about 5 in x 7in, with a gilt stamped debossed design to the cover, which won't have come cheap. It was probably only ever available in McNair's emporium, as the posh alternative to a postcard for the well-heeled tourist.

There's no date in the book, but the title page reveals it was 'Photographed and Printed by G. W. Wilson & Co, Ltd, Aberdeen.' Wilson was a pioneering Victorian photographer, who popularised stereo views (early 3D prints), and worked for the Queen and Prince Albert, but his company had been wound up by 1908, so we know this book has to be earlier than that. Looking at the clothes in this close up of the image above, I'd guess 1890s to early 1900s was about right.




(An aside: I've just had it pointed out to me by a regular customer that G. W. Wilson & Co in Aberdeen was once the employer of writer, photographer and entertainingly bonkers cult figure Frederick Rolfe, aka Baron Corvo. In fact, such a dedicated employee was he that he continued to work for them even after he'd lost his job there. They had trouble getting rid of him...)

Fairlie is a little town in North Ayrshire, on the eastern shore of the Firth of Clyde looking out to Arran. Wikipedia perhaps unfairly dismisses it as 'little more than a commuter town' these days, with Hunterston B nuclear power station, a deep sea shipping terminal and a NATO base all on the coastline nearby. Charlie's little book is a souvenir of a different time, when the pier was still up and running, and the internal combustion engine was still pretty new-fangled, let alone nuclear...

So here, for what is very possibly the first time in over a century, is the complete Views of Fairlie...













(That's Charlie McNair's shop, above.)



































Sunday, 1 September 2013

A Saki Dust Jacket Surfaces in Australia... But Sells Within Hours

A quick post to cover a newsworthy event for those legions out there following developments in the World of Impossibly Rare Saki Dust Jackets. Earlier today I received an 'ABE has found the book you are looking for' linking to a copy of Beasts and Super-Beasts being offered by Dacobra Books in New South Wales. They listed it thusly:

Publisher's black boards lettered and decorated in gilt, pictorial dust jacket by Hallthorpe. Some offsetting to eps, a VG copy in a GOOD dj which is shelfworn and tanned with some closed tears. This is the secondary issue with cancel title page - the presence of the dust jacket is remarkable and is unrecorded in my reference material.

A dust jacket unrecorded in their reference material perhaps, but it has been previously noted on this blog here, and here it is again:




The Australian copy doesn't sound like it's the same copy that appeared and sold in one day in the US last year (the one pictured above, with a markedly more worn DJ than in Dacobra's description). But like the US one, it sold within hours of being listed (not to me!), for a cool US$1,250. Given what first editions of Beasts go for without jackets, the jacket has added a good $1,100 to the value of the book - and yet someone was obviously happy to pay it!