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>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Sergio Trujillo Magnenat, <i>Bogotá 1938 / IV Centenario / Juegos Deportivos Bolivarianos,</i> 1938. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>McQueen Drives Porsche,</i> designer unknown, 1970. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>Joe Bridge, <i>Bignan / A Des Ailes,</i> 1921. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Graham Simmons, <i>The Army Isn’t All Work,</i> 1919. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Leonetto Cappiello, <i>Je ne fume que le nil,</i> 1912. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>Attack of the 50 ft. Woman,</i> designer unknown, 1958. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Raymond Tooby, <i>Festival Guiness / Have You Tried One Yet?,</i> 1952. $600 to $900.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Francisco Tamagno, <i>Terrot & Co. / Dijon / Cycles Motorettes,</i> 1909. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>A. Hori, Oakland / General Motors, circa 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> James Montgomery Flagg, <i>Travel? Adventure? Answer – Join the Marines!,</i> circa 1918. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions