Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2008 Issue

Nude Mice, Lesbian Horses, and Other Odd Book Titles

Books

Some odd titles from Bookseller.com.


By Michael Stillman

England's The Bookseller has announced the winner of its contest for the oddest book title of the past 30 years. The Bookseller has been running competitions for 30 years, but instead of another annual prize, they opened up a competition among all past winners. The first choice was probably not the strangest, but, as we know, electoral democracy does not always select the best candidate. First prize went to a detailed study of certain postal routes in Greece, Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers.

The books nominated were not ones with intentionally strange titles. Most were serious books whose authors probably didn't even recognize their own humor. A few of the past winners were trashy novels, and a few had sexual connotations likely unnoticed by their writers. Most were just plain bizarre.

The folks who run The Bookseller's Diagram Prize expected the winner would be the book that won the very first prize back in 1978: Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice. However, this proved to be no Mickey Mouse award (though Mickey would undoubtedly have enjoyed that book, or at least the pictures). The Nude Mice didn't even make it to the top three. Runners up to Derek Willan's Greek Postmen were two titles that deal with serious problems we all must face in everyday life. Second in the voting was Gary Leon Hill's People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It. Ew! Third place went to John Trimmer's How to Avoid Huge Ships. Open your eyes and get out of their way.

The list of past winners offered many other worthy selections. National Velvet didn't make the list, but horse lovers had two titles to choose from: Bombproof Your Horse and The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories. I cannot imagine what either of those two is about. Perhaps those lesbian horses should read the Lesbian Sadomasochism Safety Manual before doing whatever it is they do.

As long as we're on useful how-to manuals, how about How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art. Bears should read this. Maybe this is a problem for those Living With Crazy Buttocks. Perhaps the issue will be studied in some distant future edition of American Bottom Archaeology.

Here is a book for people who can find pleasure in just about anything: The Joy of Chickens. For those who can be entertained by even the most mundane of subjects, there is Highlights in the History of Concrete, or Weeds in a Changing World. If those aren't sufficiently dull, how about The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America? If this becomes a best seller, it could open a whole series of books, such as the Stray Shopping Carts of Western South America, Southern North America, and so on. I wonder what makes a shopping cart go astray, anyway? People more interested in practical treatises may instead want to read Reusing Old Graves or If You Want Closure In Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs. There are so many crude remarks that could be made about that last title I dare not make any.

Here's a business that may be expediting that need to reuse old graves: Butterworths Corporate Manslaughter Service. At least Butterworths is helping us deal with Population and Other Problems. Then there is the odd Versailles: The View From Sweden. You can't see Versailles from Sweden, or if you can, it looks very small. Finally, there is a classic of double entendre from Professional Engineer Publishing we must resist all temptation to comment upon: High Performance Stiffened Structures.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500

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