“Palpable history”, says Sir David Attenborough. We are at the annual Antiquarian Booksellers Association Rare Books Fair, and he is describing the pleasure of holding an incunable – a book printed in the fifteenth century, in the first few decades after the printing press was invented.
I like things like this: a rare game of divination, published in Graz, Austria, in 1846, which shows the international legacy of Marie-Anne Lenormand, who had died three years before. Marie-Anne Lenormand (1772–1843) was a clairvoyant, publisher, and self-publicist extraordinaire. Orphaned at an early age, she was raised in a Benedictine convent where she first came to believe in her powers of fortune-telling ...
In a series of articles antiquarian booksellers and rare book collectors from all parts of the world write about bookselling and collecting in their country. Part 1, written by rare book expert Fabrizio Govi is dedicated to the history of the book in Italy.
"Picaresque" derives from the Spanish word "picaresca," which comes from "picaro" ("rogue" or "rascal"). Usually satirical, a picaresque novel follows the exploits of a hero, usually low born, who must survive by his wits as he travels about on various (usually unlooked-for) adventures. The roots of the genre can be traced all the way back to Rome, with works like Petronius' Satyricon and Apuleius' The Golden Ass. Although influential writers like Chaucer and Boccaccio certainly included elements of the picaresque in their writing, the first modern picaresque novel is Lazarillo de Tormes. It was published anonymously in Spain and Antwerp in 1554. Cervantes undoubtedly popularized the genre, which blossomed in the next two centuries all over Europe. Sterling examples Voltaire's hilarious Candide and Henry Fielding's The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. Here's a look at other great authors who have contributed to the genre of the picaresque.
It was Simon Beattie who kindly put us in touch with a dealer on the continent who had this for sale. Not something he wanted, but thought we might. Quite what grounds he had for thinking this, I'm not at all sure – lurid, criminous, obscure author, published by a trio of even more obscure publishers, set in a vividly realised 1890s London, inscribed by the author, no copies on the internet – nothing at all there to appeal to me that I can see. As Simon himself likes to deal in 'The Books You Never Knew You Wanted' (see his delightful blog of that name: link in the Blogroll) – I suppose this by definition probably makes Death and the Woman one of those books you never knew you didn't want – but then (to judge from recent sales) that's probably becoming a fair summary of most of our stock.