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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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The Codex Rotundus

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The manuscripts and codices which survive from the late 15th century are often large and lavish affairs and usually conform to certain norms in terms of shape. But this curious and unusual little gem, which takes its name ‘Codex Rotundus’ from its unique shape, measures just over 9 centimeters across and is circular.  Its 266 pages are bound along a spine just 3cm long, so small that three clasps are needed to help keep it closed.  Thought to have been rebound in the 17th century, the original clasps which help hold the tiny codex together, were reused. As so many of the manuscripts from this period, it is a devotional text -a lavishly illuminated Book of Hours in Latin and French.

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Remnants of a coat of arms, which a subsequent owner appears seems to have tried to obliterate, in the first initial ‘D’ suggests that it was created for Adolf of Cleves and Mark (1425-92). Adolf was a wealthy and well-connected aristocrat, the nephew of Philip the Good and cousin to Charles the Bold, successive Dukes of Burgundy.  The clasps are monogrammed and these too link the codex to Adolf: the same stylised decorations appear in another Book of Hours known to have been his and now held by the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore.  Despite the codex’s royal and courtly associations, its size and portability suggest that it was intended for private devotional use, for the owner to carry with him to church or on long journeys away from home.

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Photos of a London Police Officer? (Lost Between the Leaves No. 6)

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[Subsequent comments from helpful souls on Twitter suggest that my original tentative identification of these uniforms as City of London police is not right –  see update II below – I’m hugely grateful.  Any further info v gratefully received.]


Finding the things that others have tucked and forgotten between the leaves of old books is one of the joys of a secondhand bookseller.  This afternoon I came across these two intriguing pictures which had been slipped inside a 1901 US edition of George Ade’s Forty Modern Fables.

The pictures have been roughly clipped from an old printed newsletter or newspaper and are about the size of a modern passport photos.  They appear to show the same policeman, sporting an majesterial mustache,  but some time apart as in the second picture he has acquired a sergeant’s stripes – and perhaps a little sergeant’s spread as well. I think these are the uniforms that would have been worn by policemen in the City of London in about the 1890s.  The date at least is consistent with the printing style and paper quality.  On the back of the clippings is a part of a printed story about a heroic police officer who seems to have rescued a woman who had ‘slipped down under the footboard of an oncoming excursion train at Baghill Station, Pontefract’, in 1897.  ‘The [sergeant] threw himself down on the platform a great personal risk’. Unfortunately there’s only a small part of the story on the reverse of the clipping, so we don’t know if the woman or the officer survived; and there’s no way to tell if the story relates to the fellow in the photos at all. (See updates below.)

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