Monday, October 20, 2014

S25: Seventh Census of Canada/Columbia Records

Quick post for a quick submission:

Book: Seventh Census of Canada, 1931
Submitted by: Phil P.

Just a quick snap from Phil on his Biblio-Mat book. I think we can all agree that it's probably not the most interesting of reads and will most likely spend quite a while in that wrapper. I was kind of interested, though, on how this would be the seventh census, as Canadian censuses have been going on since the 1800's. It turns out that first census that had Canada as a federation (versus merely a province) was taken in 1871 and each subsequent census was taken 10 years apart.

Phil also sent in another Biblio-Mat book, received much earlier:

While not overtly exciting, a vintage music catalog should be more entertaining than a census book at the very least.

Monday, October 6, 2014

S24: Sea Shells

Interesting little hardcover from the Biblio-Mat this week:

She sells something something something.

Title: Sea Shells

Billed as having 350 illustrations, the Grosset All-Color Guide – Sea Shells by S. Peter Dance, published in 1973, is a neat little hardcover for those with a love of conchology. The 156 page hardcover contains pretty much everything one would ever need to know about seashells, from how they form, to all the different types, to how to buy and sell them.

Everything you never knew you wanted to know.

Yep, that's a shell alright.
From the layout of the chapters to the muted colour illustrations, everything about it screams 70’s youth education book. There’s nothing wrong with the illustrations – they look fairly detailed and I’m sure they’re accurate, but the fact that the book did not contain a single photograph is interesting since it probably would’ve been easier and cheaper to commission a photographer than an artist to provide images.

Cartoons as a kid made this out to be more common than it really is.

Clam chowder looks pretty good about now.

Flipping through the pages, the text is split into short entries, which made it easy and quick to read. Even just delving into a few entries I learned some interesting things, like how there’s actually an industry that makes fabric out of mollusk fibers. Mostly, though, it just made me hungry for mussels and oysters.

Monday, September 29, 2014

OT15: Vintage Crawl Biblio-Mat Celebration

As part of Vintage Crawl Toronto 2014, the Monkey’s Paw will be celebrating the two year anniversary of the Biblio-Mat. From the Monkey’s Paw:

For those who prefer to browse the Monkey's Paw by candlelight, October 9th promises to be rich on atmosphere. As part of Vintage Crawl Toronto, we'll be extending our melancholic brand of hospitality to visitors until 11pm. Also, since we installed the legendary Biblio-Mat at this same event just two short years ago, we're treating the evening as a celebratory Tooniversary for our eccentric vending machine. (Is that the smell of birthday cupcakes, or is it just book dust?) Expect a cameo appearance by Biblio-Mat designer Craig Small, and audio wallpaper by our in-house musicologist DJ Anachronistik, who will spin some very scratchy grooves on a century-old Edison cylinder player.

Date: Thursday October 9th, 2014

1229 Dundas St. West
Toronto, ON M6J 1X6

A birthday party for the most interesting machine in Toronto? Count me in!

Monday, September 22, 2014

S23: Tillicums of the Trail

For the most part, this Biblio-Mat offering looks like a run of the mill turn of the century Canadian exploration book, and it is. However, it does contain a nice little morsel of history within its pages.

Might've been original in the 1920's?

Title: Tillicums of the Trail

Written by George C. F. Pringle and published in 1922, Tillicums of the Trail looks and feels like a book that’s nearing a hundred years old. With 253 faded acid-washed pages sandwiched between burnt orange cloth covers, it begs to be written off as another one of those books that are old enough to garner some sort of respect, but not interesting enough to actually pick up. That is, until you open it.

Like a tree, it is!

After a certain incident, I try to stay as far away from any books with “Trail” in the title but this one did pique my curiosity in that I had no idea what a Tillicum was outside of the name of one of the orcas in Blackfish. Looking it up, it turns out Tillicum is a Chinook word meaning people/family/tribe. Interesting, but not interesting enough to actually spend time reading through it for me.

Couldn't have designed it better.

What I did notice opening the book off the bat was that there is a water stain on the inside cover that bled through the first thirty pages, creating a gorgeous ring design that will no doubt be appropriated for one of my future design projects.

Klondike - much better in ice cream form.

The second, even more fascinating, thing I discovered is that the book is signed by the author and given away with an inscription on the inside cover.

Yep, that's a writer's scrawl.

The handwriting is as you would expect from a writer and it appears to say:

Mr. M. Macdonald –

For the sake of his good Scotish name and in appreciation of a kind(?) reception at the N. P. Cover(?) in Sept. 1923 with the author’s compliments.

George C. F> Pringle

Vauandes(?) BC.

Oct 1923

Inscriptions are always a fun find but ones written by the author seem to add so much more value to the book as a piece of history. Interesting for sure, but still probably won’t read it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

OT14: Kipps

Browsing through the Monkey’s Paw I found an amazing edition of a somewhat understated book:

Well well wells...

Everyone loves slipcases.

Kipps is an understated book in the sense that it is a fantastic social drama that was greatly over shadowed by the reputation of its author – H. G. Wells. Yep, the sci-fi writer that shook up the genre with War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and the like.

Illustration of H. G. Wells, not Kipps.

One of the fathers of science fiction.

Being at the forefront of science fiction and releasing a dramatic critique on society went as well as could be imagined. However, over the years more and more people have warmed up to it.

3 books in one.

This particular edition is from the 50’s and published by Collins is a very nice leatherbound slipcase. The 380 pages contain the three parts of the story that follows the eponymous Artie Kipps as he rises up through society and I would say it’s a fairly biting portrayal of the social classes at the time.

Intro by Edward Shanks.

While it’s a huge departure from what Wells is mainly known for, it’s a good read and highly recommended if you ever come across it.

Monday, September 8, 2014

S22: Messalina

The Biblio-Mat has been going in and out of commission for the past month or so but luckily it was back to running order right as I got to the Monkey’s Paw this week. Can’t help but feel it’s a little happy to see me, though.

Sex sells, regardless of era.

Title: Messalina

Novels are fairly uncommon offerings from the Biblio-Mat and novels with a nude woman holding a sword is even rarer. Written by Jack Oleck and published in 1959, the 307 acid-washed pages have faded into a burnt yellow, making it look much older than its age.

Which 5 letter word?

The book itself is pretty tame, having no illustrations or fancy script work. However, the end flaps are actually pretty amusing.

And it gets very uncomfortable...

It also seems to romanticize and re-imagine life during Imperial Rome, which doesn’t sound too appealing, until you bring Caligula into play.

I have a feeling this won't end well.

Might be worth reading just to see how Oleck unravels the ruling class.

Monday, August 25, 2014

S21: Aldine Second Language Book

A lot of books pique my interest with just the title but this week’s book title created an enigma that gnawed away at me until I finally flipped it open.

What does it all mean??

Title: Aldine Second Language Book

Was this a book on learning a second language or a book for people for whom English was a second language? Or perhaps the second volume in a series of books about language? Second edition? What was an “Aldine”? That and more questions were left unanswered because the book does not explain the title at all, only that it’s an important text for students.

Truthfully, this should be required reading nowadays.

In case there was any confusion.

Written by Catherine T. Bryce and Frank E. Spaulding, Aldine Second Language Book was published in 1914 and has survived amazingly well considering it’s a century old. The binding is remarkably tight, and the 328 pages are crisp and white. Considering it is a grammar and language textbook for grades five and six, presumably more than a few students failed the exams miserably as the book looks like it has never been opened.

Yep. 1914.

Usually I’m not a fan of textbooks, but the Aldine Second Language Book turned out to be pretty entertaining and actually quite useful. It contains hundreds of short stories and fables that are used as examples for lessons on composition and structure. Some are amusing, others just go nowhere. There’s even a section teaching students how to write a proper invitation letter, an art that is definitely lost in this texting age.

Amusing stories if nothing else.

Surprisingly not as racist as it could be.

Breaking down all the basic components of the English language, it did remind me on many rules that people generally don’t follow anymore, either due to stylistic choice or incorrect usage that has been accepted as commonplace. It’s interesting to see how language evolves, even in a short period of time.

Between and among - oh how we use them wrong.

Funny enough, the book also has a section on story composition that I might end up working on for fun. Chapter twenty-two contains half-finished stories as exercises for students to finish, but what’s interesting about them is that they all seem to be horror stories.

Cause that's not worrisome to a kid at all...

All in all a fun read, even with the lack of explanation on the title. Seriously, why is this a ‘second language’ book? The need to know is going to gnaw at me for a long while.

Monday, August 18, 2014

S20: Treasures in Truck and Trash

Frequenting The Monkey’s Paw and the Biblio-Mat as much as I do, I have developed a large collection of old books. At times I worry that I might be straying into hoarder territory, other times this type of book pops up and makes me wonder if I need to buy more things:

Looks more trash than treasure...

Title: Treasures in Truck and Trash

Written in 1949 by Morgan Towne, Treasures in Truck and Trash is essentially a guidebook on finding buried treasure in things people throw away. Pretty much Storage Wars in the 40’s, with less item planting (probably). While the book itself looks like it’s been through a trash compactor, it turned out to be a pretty entertaining read.

$2.00 in 1940's dollars. The author made his own treasure.

After the book-a-week project ended last year, I rarely read through the new Biblio-Mat books I get, mainly because I’m a year older and 52 weeks of random books wiser. However, I actually read most of this book in one sitting without meaning to.

This is how hoarders are created.

Beginning with stories of people finding rare and expensive items amidst garbage, it’s meant to build up peoples’ sense of adventure and invoke the spirit of treasure hunting. That, paired with the light-hearted prose, made it actually a lot more enjoyable than what the cover implied. Broken up into short chapters focusing on random types of collectibles, the anecdotes were fast paced enough to keep it interesting.

Theoretically should hold true sixty years later.

Who doesn't like short chapters?

Having a father who collected antiques and art, I’ve seen some of these situations unfold in real life more than a few times when things he bought for a couple of dollars at a garage sale turned out to be worth thousands. 

Dustjacket: Fell off a truck and into the trash. Repeatedly.

Conversely, I’ve also seen the other side of the coin where he’s picked up things that were worth a lot less than what he paid. And I guess that is the danger of buying into the glamour of Storage Wars, Junk Brothers, Pawn Stars, and even the Antiques Roadshow – they only show the exciting 1% of the time treasure hunting pays off and gloss over the 99% of the time where it’s actually a disappointment.

Monday, August 11, 2014

OT13: Salome

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Oscar Wilde fan and I usually go out of my way to pick up interesting copies of his work. As you can imagine, I own a lot of different versions of his books. Last week, though, was the first time I’ve ever picked up a duplicate book – Oscar Wilde’s Salome:

Black on black with a wax paper dustjacket.
Giddy with excitement when I saw it.

Years and years ago when I was first getting into book collecting I came across a copy of this and fell in love with it. Published in 1945 by the Heritage Press, it was a thin slipcased black book that opened into vivid gold and orange. When I saw a copy at the Monkey’s Paw with the original wax paper wrapping, I picked it up in a heartbeat.

Actually more impressive in person.
Spoiler alert - he loses his head.

Translated by Lord Alfred Douglas, the 51 pages are a quick retelling of the Salome and Herod story in play form. The illustrations are stated to be decorated and hand-illuminated by Valenti Angelo, which pretty much just means someone re-inked the lines and added highlights in gold ink to make the images pop. Gorgeous? Yes. Done by one guy? Probably not.

Most likely had a team of street urchins painting the shiny bits.

What’s more intriguing is that the pages are printed on a broadsheet then folded into the book instead of being cut. This leaves an interesting double paged feel to the pages, adding the decadence of the book.

A great place to leave notes.
The infamous beheading scene.

Also of note is that this particular copy bears an an ex-libris plate of being from the library of William Albin Herold. 

I should really get one of these done up.

Could not find any information on this gentleman outside of an obituary in Toronto, but he must have been an interesting man to his own bookplate done up.

Monday, August 4, 2014

S19: Escape to the West Indies

August long weekend means cottage country and trips to water bodies. This week’s Biblio-Mat book falls along the same lines of just getting away from it all:

Title: Escape to the West Indies

Witten by Bradley Smith and published in 1959, it’s an interesting look at a relatively unspoiled paradise. Each regional chapter begins with population and geography information that is definitely dated now but still fun to flip through.

A hundred and fifteen photographs accompany the text, showing a good variety of people, architecture, and the sheer beauty of the land and seascape.  

Unfortunately the photographs are in black and white, which doesn’t capture the vividness of Caribbean water, but empty beaches bereft of resorts and tourists make up for it.