Sunday, October 31, 2010

Women of the Gobi: Journeys on the Silk Road

Women of the Gobi: Journeys on the Silk Road by Kate James.  Paperback book published 2006.

Some of you may remember that I recently wrote about “The Story of Topsy: Little Lonely of Central Asia by Mildred Cable and Francesca French”.   Paul Perry of  AllSorts Bookshop Northcote commented at the time on Kate James’ book which is a sort of contemporary travel book and biography of these women.  Surprise, surprise 2 weeks later what do I find, but the very book mentioned.  I’ve never seen a copy of this book before and then someone mentions it and whammo it’s in my hand.  If I was the sort of person who believed in divine intervention, I’d say it was meant to be… but I’m not (that sort of person), pure coincidence is what it is… and my scanning booksellers eye for the key word “Gobi”. 

There are some great photographs in the book including this one of the Trio with Topsy in London 1937:

… and this one of Eileen Guy, known to her friends as Topsy, in 1994:

... finally, I like to say that I would never name a rabbit Eileen.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Respected Citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malyasia.

Respected Citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malyasia.  Paperback book published in 2003.

Talk about obscure…  I don’t want to get into the politics of why Armenians left their homeland, that’s the job of Politicians, Armenians and their neighbours to discuss and argue over.  I’m more interested in who this book was written for.  The back cover blurb indicates that there were “no more than 830 Armenians (that) ever lived in Singapore and Malaysia”, but goes on to mention that their “achievements were quite incommensurate with their minute numbers” (what a great word “incommensurate” is).  So the history of Singapore and Malaysia has an Armenian tinge and this book is intended to let us know about it.  I guess if your Singaporean, Malaysian or Armenian this book could be of interest… I picked up the book because anything this obscure has to be good.  Am I being naïve, when I write this?  Is it possible that I’ve got it completely wrong and this book is not interesting?  Its got nice pictures and it seems to be detailed.  Would I read it?  Probably not, but I’m not Singaporean, Malaysian or Armenian. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

CWA Esk Valley Cookery Book.

CWA Esk Valley Cookery Book.  Paperback book (no date).

Country Women’s Association cookbooks offer that promise of good old fashioned home cooking that is loved and treasured by those that are nostalgic for food that isn’t offered with French Fries.  This food doesn’t come in a box or a wrapper.  It isn’t branded nor is it on every other street corner available for immediate consumption... this is food… the real deal.  The cake recipes alone are of great interest and worth the purchase of this golden collection of appetising yummies.  There are 3 chapters of cake recipes: Cakes – Small, Cakes – Sponge and Sandwich and Large Cakes… and none of these contain biscuits or scone recipes (they have their own sections).  This book originated in the Esk Valley of Tasmania and this edition unfortunately isn’t dated.  Its definitely vintage… well that’s what my super book sleuthing super powers tell me. The recipes cover everything one may need to cook.  There are tasty dishes like: Tripe Pie, Red Flannel Hash, Baked Cheese Rice Ring, English Monkey, etc.  There seems to be a lack of Asian or Middle Eastern Recipes from the Esk Valley, my only guess as to why this is, is that there were no Country Women in the Esk Valley from Asia or the Middle East… at least if they were there they didn’t belong to the CWA… hang on a sec, I’ve just found a recipe for something called “Afghans”, is this an effort at welcoming and embracing the local Afghan community in the Esk Valley in mid 20th century rural Tasmania by including a traditional Afghani recipe?  The ingredients include: Butter, Flour, Cocoa and Cornflakes…mmmmm, somehow I get the felling this recipe isn’t authentic and maybe not from an Afghan.

…anyway this is a lovely book and the CWA cookbooks from all over Australia are of interest to many people, myself included, although I probably wont be making Tripe Pie.  I have been finding it more difficult to locate these culinary collections as they seem to have become more collectable and desirable over recent years. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Takamiyama: The World of Sumo.

Takamiyama: The World of Sumo by Jesse Kuhaulua with John Wheeler.  Hardcover published in 1973. 

Jesse Kuhaulua also known as Takamiyama Daigorō (高見山大五郎), was a Hawaiian born Sumo champion who began Sumoing in the 1960s and finished in the 1980s.  Your probably aware that Sumo has had its ups and downs in the west and realistically, it has never really taken off and despite all the best efforts and promotion, its still mostly considered a novelty (this is a gross generalisation and any Sumo fans who wish to comment, please feel free to do so).  This book is not only autobiographical it is also about the art and practice of Sumo.  Flicking through it, it looks to me like the book was intended to promote the sport in the west and what better way to do it than with the outsider who had crossed the cultural and racial barrier to become a champion.  What I find most interesting about this book is the stunning photography.  The photographs are all black and white and deliberately a little grainy giving the whole book a slightly arty retro feel… beautiful.

I mentioned Takamiyama and this book to a Japanese friend who informed me she was well acquainted with the phenomena of this large Hawaiian… she then proceeded to laugh and mentioned his sideburns… strange but true.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wild game of Australia

Wild game of Australia edited by Keith Winsor.  Hardcover book 1963.

Wild game… oh its another lovely book on Australian animals… hang on a sec what’s this?:

Wild life is protected in all States and numerous farmers and others are good game wardens to save the extinction of many of our birds and animal life. Heavy fines and confiscation of weapons can be levied on anyone found with firearms on restricted days or seasons. For up-to-date advice on shooting regulations contact your State’s relative department for open season of certain wild duck and other sporting game.
(From the verso of the title page).

…and what’s this about?

This photograph… there are some serious questions here.  Not only do we have mum with the Pith helmet, boots and possibly Jodhpurs (obviously a serious hunter), but we have little Rambo(lina) with the cartridge belt ready for some heavy gun action.  But the big question is, why is Rambolina sitting on top of a petrol tin and what’s in the other tin (the foot rest)?  This is all very explosive stuff in more ways than one.  The 2 blokes are obviously going fishing (net and basket), so my next question is, why does mum and daughter need 3 guns?  Maybe they are planning a shoot out with the police, maybe this whole scene is actually a terrorist training camp (petrol is obviously intended for bomb making)… or maybe this is just a misguided effort to create a hunting scene, complete with lethargic dog.

This is a picture of all the animals that one can kill in 1963… 

…actually it doesn’t say that.  This map doesn’t really explain anything other than these are animals in Australia… as shown in a book about hunting.   

There are some graphic descriptions on the best way to kill animals and I guess the book wasn’t meant for the squeamish or the conservationist.

The back cover contains this image:

One of these animals looks a little but like a Tasmanian Tiger without the stripes (maybe that’s what the petrol is for). 

When I first picked up this book I wasn’t sure what it was about.  First glimpse and thought was that it was a book about Australian wildlife, which I guess it is.  It was the advertising that gave it away.  If you are trying to promote an appreciation of Australian wildlife, why would you put adverts for guns, gunshops and ammunition (advertising revenue?).  The photograph above is also a good indicator.  Times change and attitudes change.  This book is a fascinating glimpse at certain attitudes from a bygone era… at least I think its bygone.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Glove Making

Glove Making by Isabel M. Edwards.  Paperback (stiff cardboard with a dust jacket) published by Sir Isaac Pitman 1948.

1948, the year this book was published, was still a time of post war austerity in Britain where this title was published.  If you wanted to dress up and look special… maybe a little bit fancy, what better way to do this than by wearing gloves… although probably the main reason people wore gloves was the same reason they wore hats… ???.  Times were tuff… some might even say, ‘austere’… and if you couldn’t afford to buy fancy gloves, you made them yourself.  

The only gloves I have ever owned have been woolen, although at one stage I did have a pair of bike riding gloves to keep my hands from freezing to the handle bars (made from synthetics…my hands were still cold… maybe leather would have been warmer).  This book does not explain how to make woolen gloves or synthetic bike riding gloves, it does however explain how to make all sorts of leather gloves.  I guess times have changed and back in 1948 the need for

 Chamois slip-ons, 

Motor Palm Gauntlets,

and Ladies Visting gloves outweighed the need for woolen hand warmers that one would imagine were easier to make, but not as warm, or as suitable to wear with a hat…???.  But I reckon there is still a market for the budding home glove enthusiast (or goth) and this book will be perfect for them.

…ok the real reason why I’m writing about this book, this is the first glove making book I have ever found.  Macrame books, I find thousands of, tin can craft books, I find a few of, Glove Making books… this is it.  This book is part of a series entitled “Craft for all”, so its not a specialist book, its meant for you and me.  I can’t see myself in Motor Palm Gauntlets and Ladies Visiting Gloves… but maybe some Chamois slip-ons.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Tashkent. Hardcover published by Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad 1977.  Text is in English and Russian.

“Tashkent, the capital of the Uzbek SSR, is one of the most ancient cities of Central Asia. It was a major cultural, economic and political centre as far back as the fourteenth—fifteenth centuries. During the years of Soviet power it grew into an important industrial centre in which large-scale housing and public construction was initiated, new parks and gardens were laid out and numerous pools and water-reservoirs created. In 1966 a violent earthquake interrupted the systematic development of the Uzbek capital. Many buildings were damaged or totally destroyed. In the reconstruction of the city which began almost at once architects and builders from all the republics of the Soviet Union played an active part. Never before in the world had construction on such a grand scale been effected in so short a time. It took only a thousand days for the new building complexes of Tashkent to be put up. Today the ancient metropolis is a city grown younger, a city reborn. The authors of the album focus their attention on the architecture of the new housing complexes and the unique public buildings erected in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is an architecture in which modern construction methods go hand in hand with the national artistic tradition.”

Firstly a small confession of a guilty pleasure.  I collect what I refer to as “Communist Propaganda Books”  (See my other blog: ).  The criteria is fairly broad, any books that are used to directly or indirectly promote a communist country/government, generally up to the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Tashkent, a book which I have in my personal collection, is a truly beautiful example and one of my favourites.  The publisher was Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad and the year was 1977.  The book looks at the architecture of Tashkent with the emphasis on the rebuilt architecture post their 1966 earthquake.  It is amazing.  Soviet architecture at times combined with Central Asian architecture… 

I guess these images are a bit like those Boring Postcard books.

…and these wonderful restaurant photographs

This is a copy I recently found to sell and will be listing on ebay (could I really be that lucky).   Ages ago I was talking to a well known Melbourne bookseller about these sort of books and he informed me that they are becoming rare… this information may or may not be true (booksellers…can you trust them?).  I know of at least one collector ….ME, and there are bound to be more of us out there (?).  A few years back I found a spare copy of “Karst in China” another amazing propaganda title, combining geology and communism (surprisingly easy).  I listed it on ebay and it sold for a nice price.  Maybe it was someone interested in Karst, although I’d like to think I’m not alone. 

...and finally
Many years ago I briefly visited Tashkent.  The Aeroflot flight was from Delhi to London, stopping in Tashkent and Moscow on the way.  We landed, were herded onto the Tarmac by machine gun carrying soldiers and were watched as we watched rather large women supervising the loading of food onto the plane.  They then bussed us into the terminal (soldiers still present) and into a guarded room.  Very kindly they gave us some disgusting lemonade and some stale sandwiches.  After about an hour they bussed us back to the plane and we left.  Seeing this book makes me realize how much I missed out on.

Algorithms for RPN calculators

Algorithms for RPN calculators by John A. Ball.  Hardcover published by Wiley-Interscience 1978.

My most recent postings on this blog have been rather light hearted (some may disagree) and I have decided to keep up the tradition of the last few weeks by writing about this charming book.  “Calculators” was what first attracted my attention… “RPN” was the unknown and “Algorithms” is… ummmm… something you do on a calculator???  So I read the publishers blurb and RPN stands for Reverse Polish Notation… I can see you all shaking your heads thinking, yes of course it does… I didn’t know this, but I am now partially enlightened by the concept.  A fellow bookseller (Paul Perry of Allsorts Books in Northcote) who is a man truly enlightened with these sort of concepts, started to further enlighten me about RPN and before he got too far into his explanation and my eyes became permanently glazed over, I figured its “something you do on a calculator”… ok a bit more than this did sink in and its something to do with the use of memory in old school calculators… you know the ones, with all those extra buttons that most of us don’t understand and would never use.  The truth is that the importance of me understanding what RPN means is totally irrelevant to me selling this book.  What is important, is that someone who does have an interest and understanding of this subject, finds my listing of this book and buys it.  My bookselling understanding of this book is that RPN is a very specific thingy that you do on a calculator and that someone out there may be interested in it… of course I also understand that most people no longer use RPN or vintage calculators and that this book only has a retro scientific appeal.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Magic with Tin Cans.

Magic with Tin Cans: Handicrafts for Fun. Large format booklet published in 1965.

I guess the word “handicrafts” is the best indicator of what this book is about.  Its great to think that in 1965 someone would write a book about this environmentally friendly, green handicraft.  By “green” I am of course referring to the fine art of recycling and, flicking through this booklet, what a fine art it is.  These sort of unusual craft books are something that I love to sell, that is, I love to try and sell.  I always imagine/hope that someone out there who has been looking for this book (or something similar), possibly for a long time, has finally found what they are looking for… the passion and driving need fulfilled with this title. The world does need more Christmas trees made from tin cans… well maybe I don’t, but someone out there does… and the jewelry… wow.

This booklet is part of the “Handicrafts for fun” Library and there is a list of other titles on the back cover.  They include: Foam craft projects, Creating with cookin’ crystals, Magic with marbles, Plastic bottle fun, Holiday fantasies in foil etc etc.  This publisher obviously cornered the market in unusual, or uncommon… can I even go so far as to say “outsider” handicrafts for fun.  Some of these titles are not that common and sound very interesting.