Found in our old blog Bookride from 2011 this piece about a quest for the world’s worst condition book. Below (right) is a pic of a particularly lousy LOTR found in a holiday rental college. Compared to the books we found this copy is quite acceptable.. We wrote:
…have been trying to build a set of books by Nancy Mitford for a customer who wants to have them bound in leather. In these cases you require no jackets, the covers can be worn but the text must be clean. I have dismissed all the nice copies at silly prices and all the lousy copies at whatever price, although as usual some of these were pricier than the ones in exemplary condition. Some were so bad they reminded me of the Dada knife (lacks handle and blade). They lacked pages, spines, boards, some even had missing title pages – mentioned as an afterthought as if it was no big deal.
Inspired, motivated, energised and exasperated I started on a search for the worst condition book on the entire web. In 2007 there had been a legendary Webster’s dictionary on Ebay that was basicaly a pile of ruined, frayed and crumbling paper — it looked like, as Jimmy Webb would say -‘Someone left a cake out in the rain…’ It attracted no bids but was a fun item for a while. That was a yardstick. There are not that many truly appalling books on the web as they take a long time to describe and you cannot charge much for them. There are some eighteenth century and earlier books in laughably bad state often with huge loss and every indignity a book can suffer, presumably catalogued because of their antiquity. There is a type of customer who thinks old books should be a bit worn and distressed, even a few dealers. It should be noted that old and ruined books can have their uses as door stops or draught excluders etc., Continue reading
Found in that repository of odd facts, The Collector’s Miscellany, is the following short piece by reporter H. A. Owen in the issue for May 1935.
THE MYSTERY MAN OF COWES
In a certain narrow street of Cowes, Isle of Wight, lives Mr W. Cole, locally known as the Mystery Man on account of the many strange things he has in his house. He is a chemist and has been collecting all sorts of curios for over sixty years. The small room behind the shop contains hundreds of valuable curios and the other rooms are also crammed full with them. All the windows are closely shuttered and fastened and the atmosphere is stuffy, as they have not been opened for years. As a schoolboy he started collecting stamps, butterflies and birds’ eggs and now he has a valuable collection of stamps, hundreds of books and the largest collection of fossils in the Isle of Wight.
One room upstairs contains a collection of Skeletons, including one of the Bronze Age. Among his stuffed monstrosities he has a two-headed calf, a calf with six legs, a one-eyed puppy and a three-eyed kitten! There is also a double-headed pig and a four-legged robin. The latter he found himself at Calbourn many years ago. He also has many valuable pictures and prints and a complete record of the island since 1290. Continue reading
|Farringdon Road Book Stalls|
The second and last part of Bill Lofts article (possibly unpublished) about London markets. This mainly deals with his search for books, comics and 'boy's books.' Loft's prose style is not exactly Nabokov but his enthusiasm and tireless research carries it along…there is much online about the dealer turned publisher Gerald Swan. Bill gives an affectionate portrait of him..
But easily the main attraction to me was the second-hand bookstall where I used to exchange my comics, and later boys papers. The proprietor was a Gerald Swan, later to become quite a famous publisher in our field of cheap paperback novels, comics, and boys papers, as well as Annuals which he named 'Albums'. These 'Swan Albums' were priced at 3/6d each - printed on the cover, but were sold at a shilling, when he probably still made a big profit on them. Mr Swan was really an extraordinary dressed man to be in charge of a wooden shabby bookstall.
From the Peter Haining papers, this typed manuscript by the great researcher and expert on British comics and periodicals W.O.G. ('Bill') Lofts (1923-1997). It is from the early 1970s and is slightly politically incorrect. Autre temps etc., The second part deals with Bill's quest for second hand books at these markets and here his taste is distinctly old fashioned. A vanished world.
My Favourite London Market Places.
I should think that most collectors, or at least those as youngsters in pre-Second World War days, would remember with some affection their local market place. In all probability this was where they bought or exchanged their comics and later Old Boys papers at a second-hand bookstall. This to supplement their regular weekly favourite ordered from the newsagent.