Alembic Blog

Keeping Time in Your Pocket - A Rare French Perpetual Calendar & Notebook

This is a remarkable survivor — a French pocket notebook with a perpetual calendar in the cover, published in the late 1830s. Movable parts in books of this age are rare, and the few that survive, such as volvelles, tend to be inside the book. This is the first example I've had where the moving parts are in the cover and are designed for daily use. Given the fragility and ephemeral nature of items like this, it's unlikely that many lasted longer than a few years. 

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Wandering in Kew Gardens: Illustrations from a Victorian Guidebook

Do you recognise any of these scenes at Kew Gardens in 1857? The illustrations are from a charming book, Wanderings Through the Conservatories at Kew, published less than two decades after Kew's incorporation as a national botanical garden.

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The Family Tree or, the Hoax-o-Graph

This is one of the strangest items we've ever had in stock, The Family Tree or, The Hoax-o-Graph, probably published in 1913 by Dow and Lester, the firm that was also responsible for Cecil Henland's famous novelty album The Ghosts of My Friends.

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A Bus to the Moon: The New Luna Conveyance Company

Elon Musk eat your heart out. In celebration of tonight's full moon we have an unusual 19-century cartoon depicting "the New Luna Conveyance Company", an omnibus service ferrying passengers “to the Moon” and advertising routes “to the Seven Stars” and “the Milky Way”.

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Upcoming Events: Firsts - London's Rare Book Fair & The York Antiquarian Book Seminar

Learn about two upcoming events featuring Alembic Rare Books:

  • Firsts - London's Rare Books Fair, where we'll be exhibiting on stand P11 and hosting a guided tour on the history of nature books.
  • The York Antiquarian Book Seminar, where Alembic founder Laura Massey is giving a talk as this year's featured specialist dealer.
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A Hunger of the Mind: Four Centuries of Women and Science

Today I'm proud to release my first major catalogue, A Hunger of the Mind: Four Centuries of Women and Science, published jointly with Deborah Coltham Rare Books. It contains books by famous scientists such as Marie Curie and Jane Goodall, but also focuses on lesser-known women. Many of these researchers weren’t household names but contributed enormously to their fields, and others were popular science writers, educators, translators, entrepreneurs, explorers, and activists. The catalogue shows that, despite the obstacles placed in their way, women have always engaged with science. As astronomer Maria Mitchell put it, "We have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire; the more we see, the more we are capable of seeing". 

See the full catalogue as a .pdf here, or email info@alembicrarebooks for a paper copy that will be available in a few weeks.

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"The Difficulty Would be Stupendous": The Future of Automation in 1928

A lot has changed since 1928, when this unusual book, Automation or, The Future of Mechanical Man by Henry Stafford Hatfield, evaluated the potential of many types of automation that we now take for granted.

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October 29, 2018

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anatomy › medicine ›


A Rare Victorian Prosthetic Hand by J. Gillingham & Son

Our new email catalogue was released today, and one of the stand-out items is this rare and exquisitely articulated right hand and arm by J. Gillingham & Son, the UK’s most important prosthetics firm of the 19th and early 20th centuries and “the equivalent today of some of the most advanced companies working on prosthetics”.

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I Sold That! The Chicken in Trousers Manuscript

One of the delights of being a bookseller is that occasionally something you work on strikes a chord with the general public and goes a little viral. Recently I sold what may go down in history as the "Chicken in Trousers Manuscript"  a wonderful mathematical workbook by an 18th-century boy named Richard Beale, who seems to have spent as much time doodling as completing his homework. It was a real pleasure to link the manuscript with the rest of the family's papers at the Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading, which was then able to purchase it with the help of a generous donor.

I wasn't online much last week, and was pleasantly surprised when the Museum got in touch about all the press attention their tweets generated, including some love from JK Rowling! The day-to-day work that booksellers do in researching stock and placing it with the right clients is often hidden, so I was thrilled that the Museum kindly gave me permission to highlight my association with the notebook. Read on for my cataloguing and some of my favourite doodles.

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September 21, 2018

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Sex Education or Vice & Quackery? The Liverpool Museum of Anatomy

Before the internet, how did people learn about anatomy and physiology, especially the sexy bits? Books, including cheap, illustrated texts aimed at the working classes, had been available since the dawn of printing, but a more visceral experience could found in displays of hyper-realistic wax models. These originated as teaching tools in museums and medical schools during the early 18th century, and by the Victorian Era had made their way to the general public via private "museums" such as the Liverpool Museum of Anatomy, whose intriguing guidebook we recently acquired.

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