Alembic Blog

Join Us at the ABA Rare Book Fair London

ABA Rare Book Fair London Ticket

This month we're proud to be exhibiting at the ABA Rare Book Fair London, previously the Olympia Book Fair. 

Now celebrating its 61st year, and being held for the first time in central London's beautiful Battersea Park, this major three-day event is one of the largest and most prestigious antiquarian book fairs in the world, showcasing rare, unique and unusual items from more than 170 leading UK and international dealers. This year the fair will be specially opened by beloved broadcaster and bibliophile Sir David Attenborough at a public ceremony on Thursday at noon. And there will be a number of other special events, including demonstrations and workshops on hand-press printing and bookbinding, and guided tours and talks introducing various aspects of rare books and book collecting.

The graphic above is a ticket that admits two, and can be shown on your phone or printed out. We look forward to seeing you there!

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A Rare Biographical Sketch of Rosalind Franklin by Her Mother

Dying at age 38 is a tragedy for anyone, but it is a double tragedy when that person is potentially a Nobel Prize winner with many more years of productive science ahead of them. When biochemist Rosalind Franklin died of ovarian cancer in 1958, only a few years after her work contributed to the discovery of the structure of DNA, her mother was distraught not only for the loss of a child but for the international recognition that her daughter had not achieved in life. The result of her grief was this touching autobiographical sketch, Rosalind, published privately a few years later, ostensibly for the much-loved nieces and nephews who would grow up with only dim memories of their aunt.

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Free Tickets to the Olympia Book Fair

Olympia Book Fair Tickets

We're very pleased to announce that we're exhibiting for the first time at one of the world's great book fairs, the ABA London International Antiquarian Book Fair at Olympia, June 1st-3rd, on stand F07. This is the perfect opportunity to have a look at our stock in person. If there's something you like on our website just let us know and we'll be happy to bring it along. The graphic above is a ticket for free entry - just show it on your phone at the door or print it out. 

Olympia is one of the largest and longest-running rare book shows in the world, and all 150+ exhibitors are fully-vetted members of the ABA and ILAB. There will be an incredible variety of books, maps, prints, ephemera, art, and manuscripts for sale, and it's an excellent opportunity for new collectors to meet dealers and learn about books. There is also an excellent line-up of guided tours and hands-on workshops. We hope to see you there!

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An Exciting Announcement - We Are Now ABA Members

I'm very proud to announce that I have been elected an associate member of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association.

The ABA is the senior trade body for dealers in rare books in the British Isles, and is the oldest organisation of its kind in the world. Members are elected solely on the basis of proven experience, expertise and integrity, and we observe the highest professional and ethical standards.

The ABA also organises book fairs, and now that I'm a member I will be exhibiting at Olympia and Chelsea, two of the most important rare book shows in Britain.

But more than just a trade body, the ABA and its sister organisations around the world are also like a family. It's been nearly three years since I set out on my own as a bookseller, and over that time my colleagues have been incredibly generous with support and advice. I wouldn't be where I am today without their encouragement, and I hope that over the coming years I can give back to this wonderful community.

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"Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman!" The Birth of a Classic.

New in stock this week is a superb first edition of one of the most popular scientific memoirs of the 20th century, Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman!. It was this volume of humorous short stories, depicting Feynman as an outsider and prankster, that cemented his popularity. But it's a book that almost wasn't written, and the story of its publication is as fascinating as the ones within its covers.

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How to Start Collecting Rare Books

As a rare book seller I regularly meet people who love old books but aren't sure that book collecting is the right hobby for them. Popular culture creates the idea that it's for older, wealthy men who attend glitzy auctions and have beautiful libraries. But in reality, book collecting is a very accessible hobby, and you don’t need to become an overnight expert or spend vast sums to build a meaningful library. To get you started, this article provides guidance for those new to rare books, with links and suggestions for additional resources.

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A Wheel Within a Wheel: Bicycles & Women's Rights

As specialist in science and technology I'm not interested in discoveries and inventions only for their own sake, but also for how they affect people's everyday lives, sometimes in unexpected ways. A wonderful example is the adoption of the bicycle by late-19th century women as both a practical tool and a symbol of freedom. In A Wheel Within A Wheel: How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle (1895), the American suffragist leader Frances Willard describes her attempts to master this new technology, as well her belief that the bicycle will transform women's lives and their fight for equal rights.

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Bringing Some Culture to the Physicists: Nina Byers & Richard Feynman

This first edition of Richard Feynman's The Theory of Fundamental Processes is from the library of the pioneering female physicist Nina Byers (1930-2014), who made important contributions to particle physics and superconductivity and had a humorous personal connection with Feynman, earning her a mention in Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman.

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What Does Sloth Taste Like? A Victorian Guide to Meats of the World

As a rare book seller you spend a lot of time working with books you already know pretty well, the famous or infamous works that have had an out-sized impact on history. But the most fun part of the job lies in the chance encounters - in finding the strange, unusual and near-forgotten volumes that can teach us about the past. Recently I found remarkable Victorian book on how animals were used for food around the world: The Animal Food Resources of Different Nations with Mention of Some of the Special Dainties of Various People Derived from the Animal Kingdom (1885), by Peter Lund Simmonds. In addition to providing detailed information and statistics on the usual domestic and game animals, the book contains passages on the preparation and flavour of a staggering number of exotic creatures.

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How Men (and Women) Fly: Gertrude Bacon & Early Aviation

'Have you ever seen a man fly?' A few years ago this question was too ridiculous to be worth answering seriously. A very few years hence it will be equally pointless. As well ask, 'Have you ever seen a man drive a motor-car, or ride a bicycle, or push a wheelbarrow?'

 So wrote the inimitable Gertrude Bacon, the first Englishwoman to fly in a plane, in the opening lines of How Men Fly, a significant early work on aviation.

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