Monday, February 28, 2011

The Snowy Mountains Scheme: Phase 1 – The Upper Tumut Projects

The Snowy Mountains Scheme: Phase 1 – The Upper Tumut Projects, edited by W. Diesendorf.  Hardcover book published 1961.

I was flicking through this book and was struck by how wonderful these images are.  As some of you are probably aware I have another blog entitled “Smiling faces sometimes… but only sometimes” which looks at communist propaganda from all over the world.  Unfortunately “The Democratic Peoples Republic of Australia” remained only a dream of The Australian Communist Party members and its associated comrades, so therefore these images fail to meet the criteria of “Smiling faces sometimes”.  The whole book is a wonderful promotional tool, which also gives enough technical detail to bamboozle the untechnically minded… like myself.  It is great propaganda in the best tradition.  Anyway, I’ve decided to post these images here at Huc & Gabet.  I hope you don’t mind.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Malay Archipelago by Alfred Russel Wallace.

The Malay Archipelago by Alfred Russel Wallace.  Paperback book published by Periplus Editions no date.

A number of years ago I read The Spice Island Voyage: In Search of Wallace by Tim Severin.  The book is about the authors voyage around the Spice Islands recreating Alfred Russel Wallace’s voyages around the same islands.  To be honest Tim’s book didn’t exactly set my world on fire… what it did do was introduce me to Wallace. (Thanks Tim).  So after reading The Spice Island Voyage I managed to borrow a lovely early edition of the Malay Archipelago by Wallace and found the book to be a very enjoyable read.  I’m sure there are many people out there who would disagree, but I loved it and it stands out as one of my personal favourite reading experiences.  After reading this book, I then explored a little further and read a biography of Wallace written by Peter Raby and this gave me a better understanding of who and what this man was.  I was also impressed soon thereafter to see that the Melbourne Museum has some specimens that were collected by Wallace… which I guess is not that difficult as that is what he spent a lot of his time doing… that is, killing and stuffing a lot of animals.

Early editions like the one I read, are worth a hefty amount and despite my eagerness and eagle eye, I have not managed to find one of these gems.  This particular copy published in recent years appears to be in nearly new condition and to be honest, I don’t think it’s been read.  Each book I sell has some sort of story.  This book has a very short and unread story or possibly a long and complicated story as to why it wasn’t read.  Regardless, I now have a copy which I hope I can sell to someone who will read it… and strange as this may seem, the idea that someone else is going to read this wonderful book makes me very happy… that is if it sells.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Barbie Annual.

Barbie Annual.  Hardcover book published 1983.

I like to think that I’m reasonably in tune with what’s happening in the world.  This is something that can help me as a bookseller.  When something becomes news or becomes topical for whatever reason, there seems to be a spike in interest in relevant books related to the subject.  Of course there’s the icky area of selling books and memorabilia when someone dies, of which even I have been guilty of.* 

So when I read about Ken and Barbie possibly getting back together ( ) and then find this 1983 Barbie Annual a few days later, I immediately snap it up with the knowledge that Barbie is hot news once again.  Obviously Barbie has had enough of Blaine (Australian Surfie guy) or maybe i should say that Ken has had enough of Barbie having enough of Blaine…   

The book is full of illustrations with some colour photographs and some stories and articles.  To be honest it’s a little bit girly for me.  I really don’t need make up or fashion tips courtesy of Barbie, but then again I am a 48 year old man (there are some people out there who may argue that I do need this sort of advice).  There is another reason why i think this book is very sellable.  Recently some friends visited me with their 5 year old daughter (Heide) and as kids do, she had brought some toys along to play with… her toy of choice, you guessed it, Barbie.   So with the “news” and my recent experience, I’m pretty certain that Barbie is still topical and very sellable.

Now for the bad news.  So I’m writing up and describing this book for an ebay listing: the cover has some wear but isn’t too bad (not unusual for this sort of children’s book i.e. well loved), some names written on the front endpages (not the end of the world), there’s a colouring in picture that has had some small bits coloured (not ideal, but still OK) and some wear to the back endpaper spine hinge… hang on a sec… the wear looks like there’s something missing and a quick www search reveals that this is a 64 page book… of which I have 62 pages.  Due to the incredibly high standards here at the house of Huc & Gabet, if a book doesn’t have all it’s pages it doesn’t get sold.  I’m not even going to try and sell this book.  I guess Heide may be acquiring a new book, which was always in the back of mind anyway… just don’t tell her the last page is missing.

*In Michael Jackson’s case, accidentally. I had a tour program listed on ebay.  It hadn’t sold the first time at the $9.50 price I had it listed at.  I relisted it slightly lower… he died… and I ended up selling it for $45.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bushrangers of the sky by Arthur Upfield.

Bushrangers of the sky by Arthur Upfield.  Paperback book published 1965.

I don’t think Arthur Upfield needs any introduction… if you don’t know who he is, check out this website or even .  Needless to say his books are VERY sought after and VERY collectible and VERY occasionally I come across the odd paperback and VERY rarely, a hardcover.  Upfield is one writer where I’m OK if the book is worn, as long as there are no loose pages.  I’m OK with rips, creasing, marks etc to the cover and some wear to the pages is OK as well.  Basically I’ll still pick up Upfield’s even if they are more worn than my usual high standard and criteria regarding condition… in other words, if an Upfield is looking more downfield, I’ll still grab it.  I should also add that if I were to find a mint condition Upfield (yeah… in my dreams)… I’d be writing about it here.

Upfield’s books are generally read, reread and reread again… at least the copies I find, appear that way and if that wasn’t the case then surely I’d find more secondhand copies (i.e. read once and then discarded).  Due to the popularity and collectability of Arthur Upfield’s works, I feel that this book (which is worn and obviously read) will sell, even in its worn state.  The www indicates that this title is also worth a wee bit… so whilst not being rare, it’s not that common.  As I write this blog entry, I have a copy for sale on ebay… which has now been bid on.  Upfield’s popularity is obviously on the up and up. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

One Letter Words: A Dictionary by Craig Conley.

One Letter Words: A Dictionary by Craig Conley.  Hardcover book published 2005.

I first saw this book at a friends house a few months ago.  It was sitting on his shelf amidst a collection of Latin and Yiddish dictionaries (that’s 2 different sorts of dictionaries although if there was a “Latin Yiddish, Yiddish Latin” dictionary, I’m sure he would have it) and various other books looking at the use of language (Eats, Shoots & Leaves etc. being one of the more popular titles).  I had a good look at it and thought to myself this is a very strange book…

Anyway, a few weeks after that, and Huc & Gabet had acquired a copy.  Casually over dinner with a few other friends, I mentioned this book... obviously it had stuck in my mind or why else would I mention this book over all the others I had recently acquired… and why else would I write about it here.  Friend No.1 (a bookseller) was amazed and excited indicating that he would be eagerly awaiting a copy to hit his shelves.  Friend No.2 (a scientist) claimed it was obviously a sham and not a worthy tome.  Both of these people had never seen the book.  Upon reflection, I believe both of these comments are appropriate.   

I think as a dictionary it fails.  The book is set out like a dictionary but possibly a little less formal.  It has the word dictionary in the title because… it is a dictionary, but as crazy as this may sound it isn’t really a dictionary.  Lets look at the word “O”.  There are 62 listings under “O”, to get a meaning you need to read 8 pages of text.  Granted the book has divided up the definitions into categories… but still, for a quick look up in the dictionary I think it fails, it is a sham.  As a look at the use of language particularly in print, I think it is interesting, if that’s what your interested in. 

My friend who has the book on his shelf is very interested in the use of language and language in general (truely a man of letters)… which I guess is why it’s on his shelf.  So I asked him via email if he had used the book as a “dictionary”.  His response: “I've never actually looked up a word/letter in it.  I read it from cover to cover once.”  I think this is a conformation of my thoughts on the book and on the comments of No.1 and No.2.  As a dictionary this book is a sham, a dictionary it’s not.  As a book about language and words, it is interesting and  entertaining… something to peruse and enjoy, for the sake of perusement and enjoyment.  So… peruse and enjoy.    

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Science of Composting by Eliot Epstein.

The Science of Composting by Eliot Epstein.  Hardcover book published 1997.

So there I was on safari, deep in the wilds of …somewhere… when what do I find but this exciting volume.  OK maybe exciting isn’t the word I’m looking for here… lets say “interesting” volume… possibly “expensive” volume.  When I’m hunting, I don’t always know when I have found something worth the big $$$.  Usually I find out when I’m back in civilization and on the www doing a search of some of those book sites that I’ve briefly mentioned elsewhere.  With this title… which I had never seen before… I immediately knew I had something special despite a lack of on hand information.  The interesting thing here is how did I know... or rather, guess… that this was something special? 

>The book was published by a company called Technomic… I’d never heard of them, but the name sounds good… and it sounds technical. 
>There’s NO glossy dust jacket with a picture of a garden and lots of flowers (compost = garden… but not necessarily, no picture = ???)  
>This book with it’s blue faux leather binding, has the appearance of an academic book (experience is the best teacher in this instance). 
>A quick flick through and what do I see but lots of graphs, tables, chemical names… and no glossy pictures… a few grainy black and white photographs and that’s it (not what the casual home gardener wants). 

So combining all this information together, I come up with an answer.  This book aint for the gardener, it’s for the scientist… which I guess is why the title has the word “science” in it (rocket science taking place here… as I write).  So all this information points to academia.  Anyone out there who has ever bought a text book or a technical/academic volume (often large and with very dull titles eg. Principles of Inorganic Chemistry) will know that these things are rarely cheap.  … and this one is so specialized that it’s just gotta be worth something… which it is (according to www).  If you were a scientist and wanted the full story, then I would assume this is the book for you.  I just hope that there is a science minded gardener or a gardening minded scientist, out there wanting to REALLY explore the world of compost otherwise I’m stuck with this stinking, rotting book… that is, this book about stinking and rotting.  

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lady Penelope’s Secrets.

Lady Penelope’s Secrets, text by Jenny Oliver.  Hardcover book published 2000.

“The secret agent of chic’s personal tips on beauty, fashion and lifestyle.”

I haven’t written about nostalgia for quite a while...  This book is a great example of the fine art of nostalgia and goes to show that Lady Penelope has still got it after all these years… “it” being nostalgia.  The original Thunderbirds series was made in the mid 1960s and still has fans worldwide, both old and new.  I’m tempted to write that Lady Penelope has been at the top of her game for all these years (…that is the top of the female puppet spy world) but lets look at this seriously, has she?  This book is probably the best evidence that she has.  Which other female "supermarionation" spy from the 1960s has a book published about them in the year 2000, that’s 35 years after the fact?  This Lady has stood the test of time.

To be honest she wasn’t my favourite character from the series.  To me Parker was a much more interesting spy... a complex and intriguing character.  I could never really figure him out… did he work for Lady P. as a servant or did he work for International Rescue as a spy… or was it all a lot more complex than my 5 year old brain could ever begin to imagine.  These were things that I pondered.  

Anyway… back to Lady Penelope.  This book has wonderful photos… although they look like stills from the TV show (I guess it was cheaper than organizing a photo shoot)… and it does look at the beauty, fashion and lifestyle of this secret agent of chic as the front cover indicates… for fans of Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, this is perfect.  And for a woman born in 2039, she looks amazing for her age… one could even say timeless… although some of her hairstyles have dated a little.

As an exercise in nostalgia, this book is a great success.  It gives the reader access to the world of Lady Penelope and The Thunderbirds and enables the reader to relive the TV series through the eyes of one of the central characters.  The books focus on “beauty, fashion and lifestyle” may seem a bit dated and irrelevant… but then again, I’m not a supermarionation puppet, so how would I know. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Maitland “Double Headless” Murders: The untold story

The Maitland “Double Headless” Murders: The untold story by Bill Tuckey.  Paperback book published in 2009.

This is the sort of title that stands out in the same way that “Principles of Inorganic Chemistry” doesn’t. I had never heard of the “Double Headless Murders” until I found this book, this may be a geographical issue (Maitland is just out of Newcastle in N.S.W. and I’m from Melbourne in Victoria) or it could be the passing of history (the murders took place before I was born)… or maybe it’s due to my lack of interest, not so much in Headless bodies, but in true crime.  

The title is a good indicator as to the content.  I didn’t even have to read the blurb to have a fair idea that there were 2 bodies and they were both lacking heads and it all took place in Maitland.  So I won’t go into the details… lets just say that it was pretty horrible… and in case you’re wondering, there are no photographs of the bodies… or the heads.  True Crime books are a strange thing.  In this case, history and crime combined to excite a morbid fascination.  True Crime fans out there may disagree with the words “morbid fascination” and “excite”… all right, I’m an outsider looking in on the subject and I don’t get it… yet I am also willing to admit that I did check to see if there were any pictures of the bodies (morbid fascination?).  Not sure why… but I did.  For some reason I think most of us would… oh boy, I feel this blog entry getting weighed down with deeper psychological inquiries into the meaning of True Crime books, so I’m going to take a step sideways and write about some friends of mine.

There is a secondhand bookshop that I know of, that no longer stocks any true crime.  Many years ago they had a small true crime section but decided that after too many strange people wanting to come in and talk about these books at great length… sometimes with a little too much detail and for an uncomfortable amount of time… that for their own safety they would no longer stock these books.  So the upside for me, is that I don’t have this problem.  The anonymity and lack of personal contact of the www lets me sell this book without a discussion on how the heads were cut off, bodies disposed of and how some super sleuth caught the “perp”.  Kept at a distance, I’m happy to service their needs… and have a quick look at the pictures.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wir Kochen: braten – backen

Wir Kochen: braten – backen.  Hardcover book.  All text is in German.

Some vintage cookbooks have an otherworldliness that I find enthralling.  Besides recipes for food gone by, there’s also the photographs.  I particularly enjoy the way that food was presented... I think the word people use today is “styling”… often (not always) combined with vintage printing processes that were cheap and nasty and give a completely wrong colour spectrum to food that we all recognise, know and love, but no longer necessarily eat, that makes this sort of book so appetising.  The way food is “styled” now is very different to the way it was when this book was published (probably the 60s or 70s), and of course there are in this instance cultural differences between German food and other food.  These images whilst not going to the extremes of some, are a great example of what I enjoy in a vintage cookbook.*

This book is written in German… this is problematic… not problematic if you're in Germany with a large population that can read German… problematic if you are in Australia where the majority of people don’t read German.  In the past I’ve had a mixed response to foreign language books but I have sold some… not all, just some.  I guess if your looking for that authentic German flavour to your meals and in this instance, a 70s authentic flavour and you can read German, then this is the book for you.  Personally… I like the pictures.

*Check out “The Gallery of Regrettable Food”  One of my favourite blogs.