Lost at Sea? (Stacking the Shelves No. 2)


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Rummaging around local charity shops often rewards with a wee gem or sought after book but the this morning’s find turns out to be a little different.  I’m very fond of reading vintage crime fiction and Freeman Willis Crofts is one of my favourite authors in the genre.  His books were published largely in the early part of the 20th centre and are rarely reprinted, so finding one his books that I haven’t read being offered second hand makes for a good day and I almost always snap it up.  And this one comes in the lovely green and cream bands of classic Penguin mystery and crime, so was irresistible.  It is a little battered and dog eared but I don’t mind books like that if their just for reading, so long as they are not smelly, brittle or falling apart.

But its turns out that this copy has another twist which appeals in particular to that part of me which wishes I was a book collector as well as a reader.  When I got it home I found it had a bookplate in it.  When I find bookplates, I always google a bit to see if I can find out a bit about the previous owner – often they turn out to have been local or had local connections.  Turns out though that the Anne and  F G Renier, whose names appear on the bookplate,were themselves book collectors of some note.

Fernard Gabriel Renier (1905-1988) was a Dutchman, born in Flushing, who as a young man settled in England around 1918, studying languages at London University in the 1920s.  It was here he met his future wife, Anne Cliff (1911?-1988) through a common interest in collecting match box labels.  After university, Renier worked for the BBC World Service but he also translated several works from his native dutch and from German into English and produced various Dutch and German grammars and learning aids among other books,  at times working in collaboration with Anne . Together they built up an enormous and in elements important collection of books, illustrations and popular printed materials.  In 1970, they donated their collection of children’s literature to the Victoria and Albert Museum.  The Renier Collection was subsequently transferred to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green and more recently to Blythe House, where it is now known as the Renier Collection and comprises some 80,000 books, games and printed materials. Two delightful colouring books from the Renier Collection were recently featured in a V&A blog post, Colour Our Collections.

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Am I a published author?


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Advice needed: Am I a published author?

It’s been a particularly exciting week for my inner geek this week, with the arrival this week of an ‘author’s copy’ of Parliament: Legislation and Accountability (edited by Alexander Horne and Andrew Le Sueur, Hart, 2016).  All those hours, days, weeks, spent slaving over drafts, with my dear friend and colleague, Helen Kinghorn, of a chapter examining the ways in which Parliament considers draft legislative, and the impact it has on the shape of legislation which hits the statute book and ultimately affects people’s lives, now seems so worth it.  (Those who read my blog closely will probably know that Parliament is my day job and a long-term obsession.) Of course, a niche publication of this sort is only likely to interest a small cadre –  those who are nerdishly interested in the inner workings of legislatures and the practices of law-making. It’s not going to reach any best-seller list or be talked about in reading groups but I am nevertheless ridiculously excited.  The book is officially launched later this week but is already available on Amazon (hardback and kindle) and, of course, from all good bookshops! I have a lovely hardback in my hands, complete with an elegantly stylist dust jacket which gives my words more credibility and authority than I felt while drafting.

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The Book Addict has been Stacking the Shelves (No. 1)


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Bees, Honey History and Secrets

Receiving books through the post – whether gifts from friends, review copies or purchases, is always a high point, bringing intrigue and anticipation into the working week (and well as a child-like pleasure in ‘unwrapping presents’).  But this week’s book post was better than most – a bright and shiny review copy of Josephine Moon’s The Beekeeper’s Secret. It arrived with wonderful serendipity on the very day that The Republic of Slovenia had proposed to the United Nations as World Bee Day. Why Slovenia?  I hear you ask.  And ‘Why 20 May?’. In Slovenia, 20 May is remembered as the birthday of one Anton Janša (1734-1773). Considered the pioneer of modern beekeeping, Janša was the first teacher of apiculture at the Hapsburg court in Vienna.  He wrote two books on bee-keeping – Discussion on Bee-keeping (1771) and A Full Guide to Bee-keeping (1775) After his death, the Empress Maria Theresa issued a decree obliging all teachers of apiculture to read and use his books. Can it be co-incidence that the central character in Moon’s The Beekeeper’s Secret is also called Maria?   My review copy (from Allen & Unwin – thank you) came with a lovely tin of beeswax lip balm and a wee pot of English Wildflower honey – so I will read the book while eating honeyed toast through beeswaxed lips (and with a good slug of tea).  I rarely read family sagas or romantic fiction but somehow I’m really looking forward to this one.


Josephine Moon’s The Beekeeper’s Secret will be published in paperback on 7 July 2016 by Allen & Unwin. Watch out for a review here on BookAddiction before that.

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My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry


It starts with a stabbing. But fifteen years earlier, Lily is a newly-minted solicitor who, as she secures a place with a prestigious legal firm in London, resolves to make a fresh start and put her woes and secrets behind her. She’s helped in this mission when she meets up-and-coming artist, Ed at one of those parties no one really enjoys.  Ed proposes on their second date and Lily finds herself swept away for a romantic Italian honeymoon.

Jane Corry’s My Husband’s Wife has haunted me ever since a review copy slipped into my bag at the inaugural meeting of the First Monday Crime Club and then, a few evenings later, a flyer whispered out from the elegant surrounding of the University Women’s Club. At first glance, this is not the sort of book I would usually read. I like my crime hard-boiled and plot-driven with plenty of opportunity for the reader to outwit the author. My Husband’s Wife, with its pastel-coloured wraps boldly proclaiming ‘first comes love’ looks like another chick-lit romance dressed up as family saga. And the crime is given away on page two! Yet this is just one of many intriguing semi-deceptions – make no mistake, there’s intrigue and layering and mind games aplenty.

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Shelving Books the old-fashioned way


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These days we tend to shelf books ‘spine out’ and publishers, conveniently, usually reproduce the title, author and other helpful details on the spine so that we can easily run our eyes along a shelf to find a particular book.  But it wasn’t always thus!

This 17th century painting by Guercino shows the Italian lawyer and one time governor of Cento in northern Italy, Francesco Righetti, at home in his library.  Righetti is surrounded by his law books, speaking to his learning and erudition.  But his books are shelved ‘tail end’ out, with the titles written on the base of the text block.


Portrait of Franceso Righetti by Guercino, 1626-8

Look too at this engraving of the poet William Cartwright (printed in 1651 as a frontispiece to his ‘Poems and Plays’).  Again, he’s in his library and his books can be seen – this time with the fore-edges facing out from the shelves and the spines neatly tucked in against the rear walls and hidden.  This was a common practice in the 16th and 17th centuries. Imagine shelving books with gilded page edges in this way – they would have gleamed and glistened, catching the candlelight, in quite a glorious way.  Some medieval manuscripts and early printed books now in rare book collections have the title and other details written on in several different places, reflecting changes in shelving the preferences of owners and book collectors over time.


William Cartwright and his books, frontispiece from his Poems and Plays (1651)

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