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12:36pm on Sunday, 25th October, 2009:

Book Fair 2009


Every year, if we can, we go to the NSPCC Book Fair. This year was no exception.

I love this book fair — I just wish I could get to go early on the first day before all the really interesting stuff has been bought up by second-hand book-dealers and people who break them up so they can sell the colour plates. Yesterday was out of the question because my wife and daughters were meeting up in London for a shopping expedition, and because my wife also likes the book fair I couldn't really go on my own.

I find the old books most interesting. Some of them obviously have a story to them (there were a bunch of children's books dated 1921 to 1925, for example, which were almost certainly there because a woman in her 90s had recently died and her family had cleared them out). Others give powerful insight into the Way Things Were by their mundane details (the Girl's Own Annual vol. XLI, which dates from 1920 and seems more for teenagers, contains an article entitled, "Facing the Maidless Condition"). I wasn't going to fork out £25 just so I could show you, though...

The books are arranged in boxes of the kind normally used for holding fruit. Their spines are upward, so you can see what the titles are. This leads to the occasional unintended combination, just as this one I snapped with my mobile phone:

My favourite title of the day went to Reinforced Concrete Simply Explained:

Lest you think reinforced concrete can't be explained any other way, think again:

It's obviously a passion for some people.

There are a couple of signs at the school where they hold this book fair that I thought I'd blogged before, but I couldn't find them when I had a quick look just now. At the very least, they seem to be an encouragement to voyeurs, and possibly much worse:

I did buy some books at the fair, and am quite excited by them: they're bound volumes of Punch from 1859, 1871 and 1883. They were £1 each. Already, I'm regretting not having bought the ones from 1906 and 1908 they also had, and wishing I'd come in yesterday when they might have had some others out (particularly 1869). The university used to have a full run of Punch magazines on its shelves, but now they're in a special collection you can only look at if you figure out whom to ask for permission to look at it.

Although Punch is best known for its cartoons, it's mainly text. Here's an example of the kind of thing it published, which my wife found as she thumbed through the 1871 volume:

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...

Referenced by Twice as Full.

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Copyright © 2009 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).