Oct 6, 2014

Bicycles and Gramophones

Sometimes over the weekend Laura meets one of those shellac records, those stiff fellows which need a proper gramophone to do their thing. And some of these come properly dressed in an old printed sleeve. And sometimes this sleeve becomes a source of puzzlement and wonder.

See what she found last month: Two distributors of records in the Leeds area who also advertise their bicycle business.

The Cycle Shop. Proprietor G Whiteley, Agent for Gilbert Gramophones. All the latest Records in Stock. Pedestal Gramophones. Table Grands. Motor Cycles, Cycles, Oils Accessories, Camping Outfits, Sports Good, Etc. 8 Well Street, Farsley, Leeds.

Arthur Marshall, Broadcast, Radio, Winner, Regal, Columbia, Zonophone, Parlophone, and Piccadilly Records. Electrical Engineers and Contractor. Gramophone and Cycle Dealer. 240, Town Street, Bramley, Leeds.

It seemed very strange to us that records and bicycles should get so close. Are these not very different kettles of fish? How come that the borderlines in the commercial universe are drawn so strangely?

The Gramophone Department of Exeter Cycle Works (www.peterice.com/exeter_nostalgia.htm)

Well, both are rotary objects, somehow. Could that be the reason?
After a little research it appears that the association of bicycles and gramophones is quite characteristic for the structure of the retail trade in advanced technologies around 1920. For instance, in 1910 Carlton Service issued a series of publications to assist the shopkeeper in advertising his business. One of these was entitled: Twelve Months Advertising for a Cycle-Dealer, including Gramophones, Baby Carriages, etc.

A little earlier, H G Wells in "The War in the Air" presents the fictional firm of Grubb & Smallways with a small fleet of bikes for hire, acting as agents for an obscure bicycle manufacturer, also offering repairs, a line of cheap gramophones, and a few musical boxes. In 1916, the US Commerce Report includes an inquiry from "a man in Siberia" interested to receive offers of bicycles, typewriters, gramophones, etc. And on 16 March 1921, Maurice Goldberg (27), a Gramophone & Cycle Dealer and the son of Abraham Goldberg, Cycle Dealer, marries the daughter of Rabbi Jacob Server at Brentnall Street Synagogue in Middlesbrough. Thank you Mr Google!

Norman Field's research into record labels in the period provides excellent examples for this close association of two rotary technologies. He documents how the Raleigh Cycle Co. of Nottingham acts as record publisher, issuing a record under their own imprint: Harry Fay renders, yes, A Cyclists Song. I should look forward to hearing this on Youtube...

Harry Fay, A Cyclist's Song

The best explanation for the surprising association of bicycles and gramophones comes via Norman Field from Frank Andrews, for whom Curry's Records "illustrate a largely forgotten aspect of the early British Gramophone Trade: viz., the 'Gramophone and Bicycle Shop'. They made excellent partners, for both trades were very seasonable. Those who could afford to do so, purchased bicycles in the summer, and phonographs, gramophones and records in the winter months." Curry's was probably the first 'chain' of these combined retail shops; they already had "Depots in Many Towns" as early as 1910. A century later, the nationwide chain of Curry's Discount Warehouses stand in the forefront, as the "UK's Foremost Electrical Retailer" is their byline.

Curry's Cycle Co and Curry's Gramophone Records as one. (http://www.normanfield.com/labelsr.htm)

But why would the bookseller worry? Perhaps the ease which which two new-fangled technologies shared the same showroom strikes us as we worry about the structure of the retail trade for a declining technology: books. As we worry about declining sales of real books, we at least take pleasure in understanding how tradespeople a hundred years ago dealt with their fickle public.

Sep 15, 2014

Rabbinic Bible

Rabbinic Bible or Mikraot Gedolot : These are the "Great Scriptures" of the Jewish religion, published together in a uniform format for the first time in early 16th century. Based on the first edition by Ben Hayyim, published by Bomberg in Venice in 1525, there have been a number of improved or enlarged editions through the ages. The nineteenth century saw one major project from Warsaw, where Yoel Levenzohn produced an edition in 12 Volumes between 1860 and 1866. (Wikipedia)

Our set is uniformly bound in 5 large and very nicely bound volumes. The binding is in excellent condition, somewhat overspecified perhaps, especially when compared with the more humble quality of paper and printing, produced in Poland, under difficult circumstances no doubt. The set proudly displays the arms of Cambridge University to front and spine.

Each volume also has a donation bookplate, which states that the set has been given, more than 100 years ago, to a Cambridge college by the widow of John Sharpe. John Sharpe was a fellow of the college, also Rector of Gissing, a small village in Norfolk, and a contributor to the Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Christian Antiquities and the Dictionary of Christian Biography.

Apart from these mild library traces (also a blind-stamp to the endpaper, see below), the work has apparently never been used and is in superb condition.

Below are some views of the varied typography.

Blind-stamp to endpaper

Yes, we are looking for a new home for this set. The international book-trade does not seem to offer this edition at the moment, except for a single odd volume, in a very poor state, priced at £450 / $700. The title is very rare in the trade. Ingrid Oey of Antiquariaat Rashi in Amsterdam wrote to us that she never had this edition in stock. The high quality of our binding is also indicative of the rarity of the title. Because of this rarity, a reprint was published in Jerusalem In 1960. There are no auction records for the original edition, but the single volume currently for sale, with all its faults, offers some guidance. We can find approx 30 copies in US libraries, only one in Germany (StaBi), the Polish National Library only seems to hold a part volume.
Disclaimer: We are not in a position to read Hebrew text or to offer a bibliographical collation for this title. One library catalogue mentions defects like duplicate and missing pages. Our pricing shall try to account for this possibility. Our full listing is here.

The Warsaw Rabbinic Bible
The latest Biblia Rabbinica, with thirty-two commentaries, is that published at Warsaw by Levensohn (1860–68, 12 vols., small fol.). It contains, besides the original Hebrew, the Targums Onḳelos and Yerushalmi on the Pentateuch, the Targum Jonathan on the Prophets, and Targums to the Hagiographa, including the Targum Sheni on Esther. Of commentaries it contains that of Rashi on the whole Bible; Aaron Pesaro's "Toledot Aharon"; Asheri's commentary and Norzi's notes on the Bible; Ibn Ezra on the Pentateuch, the Five Megillot, the Minor Prophets, the Psalms, Job, and Daniel; Moses Ḳimḥi on the Proverbs; Naḥmanides on the Pentateuch; Obadiah Sforno on the Pentateuch, the Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes; Elijah Wilna on the Pentateuch, Joshua, Isaiah, and Ezekiel; S. E. Lenczyz and S. Edels on the Pentateuch; J. H. Altschuler on the Prophets and Hagiographa; David Ḳimḥi on the Later Prophets; Levi ben Gershon on Joshua, Kings, Proverbs, and Job; Isaiah di Trani on Judges and Samuel; S. Oceda on Ruth and Lamentations; Eliezer ben Elijah Ashkenazi on Esther; Saadia on Daniel. It also contains the Masorah Magna and Parva, tracts on the vowels and accents, the various readings of Ben Asher and Ben Naphtali, and the introduction of Jacob ben Ḥayyim of Tunis. (Wikipedia)

Jul 2, 2014

Trials and Tribulations in Exhibition

A lady visiting the National Portrait Gallery may have been so absorbed by the painted gaze of various notable figures that she returned home minus her umbrella.

The Gallery public relations department of 1974 sprung into action. Their efforts fruitless and yet what remains is a wonderful piece of well crafted correspondence (minus an umbrella)

Jun 23, 2014

Invisible Letters and the Birth of Italics

Like a spy, always looking for a secret message, or like the kabbalist who is scanning the written for what is un-said, the historians of the book have developed a pretty nice little toolbox to read what was printed, without reading the words of the author ("the author"). The ways of the book trade, the economies of the publishing enterprise, the ruses of typography, the direction of the fibers in the paper, the clues left behind by the hammer, the design of the binding, the presence of faint but regular creases in the page, the precise movement of the thread that makes up the binding, the entitlement and authorisation of books, their librarisation, all these externalities have contributed to a bright rainbow of stories about (the) book which keep a growing gaggle of book-spies pretty busy.

Randall McLeod, also known as Erin Dale (Mrs Auga), Ana Mary Armygram, Random Cloud, Randal Mc Leod, Orlando F. Booke, Claudia Nimbus, Random Clod, etc, is perhaps the most important practitioner of the art of reading the early book as a made object, and telling stories about how exactly they were produced. In many ways the book presents as a finished and ideal object. McLeod's readings destroy this imposition, and show us how it was made in the first place.

Randall McLeod

The inventor of the McLeod Portable Collator, a machine which allows to read two copies of the same book at the same time and highlighting minute differences between copies, will be talking about the invention of the Italic typeface in 1501 Venice when Aldo Manutius printed the very first book in this compact type, a face which still today is a cultural marker of the highest order. We know that the early value of the new typeface was that it appeared less bookish than the type in use before Aldus. What will the faint traces of uninked type which our book-spy found hidded in plain sight, what will they tell us about the actual process of giving birth to a new typeface? Join the man with many names on Friday 27 June 2014, Seminar Room 24, Faculty of English, West Road, Cambridge at 12.30 and find out.


Feb 21, 2014

The latest model of bed-sit-kitch-flatlets are after us

In 1935, in the Spectator, Arthur Waugh wrote about how the "latest model of bed-sit-kitch-flatlets" threaten and replace bookshops. His lament: "The historic firm of Bumpus confronts eviction; and by the end of the month yet one more of the familiar haunts of the book-lover will have been sacrificed to the inexorable laws of traffic and speed."

His analysis is still correct. Books inhabit the remote niches of a complex system, and the used book trade is always liable to give way to more profitable enterprises. And so with Plurabelle.

In lieu of condolences and expressions of sympathy, offers of muscular assistance for the move are gratefully received. (5£ / hour) Join us for a joyful lamentation toward a new beginning. Call 07972282092 or check our facebook page for shifts and locations. We have a van starting this Saturday, 22 Feb 2014.

Here is the Film Preview of the 2014 Plurabelle Move 

Neighbor Kip, most bitter-sweet, sad, yet happy, because he himself does not need to move, declares his sympathy, and requests some for himself

Empty Shelves.

Emptier Shelves with afternoon mood-light.

Book charity haul.

Have suitcase, will travel.

Local art teacher removes books for art projects in inclement weather

Keep /  Get Rid: Which one is it to be? 

Rianna (matrial arts fearless) hits the IKEA shelf very elegantly

Removing the printer (First attempt)

Server (HP DL 380) out

Happy Scrap Removal Team

Shelfmeister at work

Signing the contract with Monet in the background