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Unique J.K. Rowling book sold at auction for 470 thousand dollars

Source: PressTV

Unique J.K. Rowling book sold at auction

A rare edition of a book written by the author of the Harry Potter saga has sold for nearly 470 thousand dollars.

J. K. Rowlings book sells for 470 thousand dollars

J. K. Rowlings book sells for 470 thousand dollars

The handwritten and jeweled version of JK Rowling’s “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” was sold at auction to an unnamed telephone bidder.

The rare book is covered in semi-precious stones and unique ornaments and features a note from the author. It tells the story of wife wizarding fairytales that were referred to in the Harry Potter Series. There are only 6 other editions of the book.

Jeweled book was Harry Potter author’s thank you gift to publisher ‘who thought an overlong novel about a boy wizard in glasses might just sell’
The author of the famous Harry Potter saga, had handwritten and illustrated the book and its other replicas for the people closely connected to her successful career.

The manuscript of the first Harry Potter book was reportedly rejected by 12 other publishers before Cunningham read it and decided it has a chance.

Irish Jesuits to dispose of rare book collection worth €2m

Source: The Irish Times
By: Michael Parsons

The Jesuit Order in Ireland is to dispose of its internationally important collection of rare books and medieval manuscripts valued at more than €2 million. Thousands of books from the collection have already been shipped to London and will go under the hammer in a major auction at Sotheby’s next summer.

The international auction house says the “rich collection” – owned for the last 117 years by the Jesuit Community at Milltown Park, Dublin – is “one of the most important of its kind to come to the market” and includes rare printed books from the 15th century, early editions of Shakespeare, English and continental literature and medieval manuscripts.

Shakespeare’s Fourth Folio, from the Jesuit collection

Shakespeare’s Fourth Folio, from the Jesuit collection known as “the O’Brien Library”, which will go under the hammer in a major auction at Sotheby’s next June. Photograph from Sotheby’s

A spokeswoman for Sotheby’s told The Irish Times that “before putting the books up for sale, the Jesuits contacted the National Library of Ireland to enable them to review the collection and consider if they would like a number of important books and manuscripts on long-term loan.

As a result, a group of books and manuscripts were delivered to the National Library of Ireland” last month. However, the bulk of the collection will be sold in an auction that is expected to raise £1.5 million (€1.8 million) and possibly more.

The collection is currently being cataloged and the auction will take place on June 7th next in Sotheby’s saleroom at New Bond Street, London.

The Jesuits will use the proceeds of the sale for charitable purposes including “the upkeep of churches, the care of invalid priests, relief of the poor and religious education.”
“The library at Milltown isn’t equipped to care for these fragile books that require such specialist conservation and facilities,” Sotheby’s said, “hence the decision to disperse the collection.”

Among the books that will not be sold and have, instead, been given by the Jesuits “on long-term loan” to the National Library are what Sotheby’s described as “a rare manuscript on the kingdom of Ireland”, De Regno Hiberniae sanctorum insula commentaries by Peter Lombard, the archbishop of Armagh who died in 1625, “and several incunabula [a Latin term for books printed before 1500], including books by Boethius and Thomas Aquinas, some of which are copies unique to Ireland”.

Specialist care required
A spokesperson for the Jesuits in Ireland said many of the books and manuscripts “are of such an age that they require specialist care and conservation” and that the sale would “allow for these precious books to be properly cared for and appreciated”.

The main Jesuit Library at Milltown, which serves the schools of philosophy and theology, will not be affected by the sale and “will still hold all the important and unique theology and philosophy books” needed by students.

The Government has already approved export licences allowing the collection to be shipped overseas. Sotheby’s told The Irish Times that “export licences have been granted for the sale by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, in consultation with the National Library.”

The collection is known as “the O’Brien Library” as it was originally assembled in the 19th century by Irish judge and noted book collector, Cork-born Justice William O’Brien, who died in 1899. He bequeathed the collection to the Jesuit community at Milltown Park. Ironically, O’Brien had bought some of the books at an auction in Sotheby’s in London in 1890.
Sotheby’s said that “the O’Brien library has barely ever been consulted by students or scholars in the past 100 years” and that “after the sale, Dublin will still be rich in libraries with similar collections”, including those at Trinity College and Marsh’s Library.

The Jesuits, an international Catholic religious order formally known as the Society of Jesus, established its “province” in Ireland in 1860. The order has long played a prominent role in Irish education. Among its best-known schools are Belvedere College, Clongowes Wood College and Gonzaga College. Pope Francis, a Jesuit formerly known as Fr Jorge Mario Bergoglio, spent some time at Milltown Park in 1980 learning English.

In 1993, the Jesuits in Ireland gave Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ on “indefinite loan” to to the National Gallery. The painting, believed to be worth at least €50 million, had hung, undiscovered for decades, in the Jesuit House of Writers at Lower Leeson Street, Dublin.


Researcher finds evidence that the ‘world’s most mysterious book’ is an elaborate hoax

Researcher finds evidence that the ‘world’s most mysterious book’ is an elaborate hoax
The plot thickens.

BEC CREW The Science Alert 23 SEP 2016

For hundreds of years, the world’s best cryptographers have dedicated their lives to solving the mystery of the Voynich Manuscript – a 15th century book written in a mysterious coded language that no one has ever managed to crack.

With an unknown author – and rumours that a young Leonardo da Vinci or even aliens could be behind it – the Voynich Manuscript has become the stuff of legend. But now new research suggests that the whole thing could just be one elaborate hoax.

Often referred to as the world’s most mysterious book, the Voynich Manuscript is filled with what appears to be an unfamiliar language or a coded text, and is illustrated with grotesque human figures and the tendrils of other-worldly plants blooming from the borders.

As the text could not be attributed to an author, it’s been named after Lithuanian antiquarian Wilfrid Voynich, who reportedly purchased it in 1912 from a collection of rare books in Italy, and was responsible for bringing it out of obscurity and into the public consciousness.

Since then, the book has never been replicated, and has been locked away in the vault of Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Because of its age and incredible rarity, very few researchers have actually seen it in person.

“Touching the Voynich is an experience,” Juan Jose Garcia, director of the Spanish publishing house Siloe, told Agence France-Presse. “It’s a book that has such an aura of mystery that when you see it for the first time … it fills you with an emotion that is very hard to describe.”

As we reported last month, Garcia has finally been given permission to produce the first ever replicas of the Voynich Manuscript.

The hope is that when 898 exact copies of the manuscript are made available to the public in libraries and academic institutions around the world, someone – anyone – will finally crack the code.

But are we wasting our time trying?

Gordon Rugg of Keele University in the UK has spent more than a decade studying the Voynich Manuscript, and argues in a new paper that the elaborate ‘language’ in the text would have been easy to fake, if the author was familiar with a few simple coding techniques.

“We have known for years that the syllables are not random. What I’m saying is there are ways of producing gibberish which are not random in a statistical sense,” he told Rebecca Boyle from New Scientist.

“It’s a bit like rolling loaded dice. If you roll dice that are subtly loaded, they would come up with a six more often than you would expect, but not every time.”

The method Rugg proposes for coming up with a language based on gibberish that at least looks genuine is coming up with a whole range of gibberish symbols, and arranging them on a table like so:


On his table, he included symbols that appear to be the roots, prefixes, and suffixes of Voynichese words.

You’ll then have different ‘grilles’ – a piece of cardboard with holes cut in it – and the holes in these grilles will reveal a set of three gibberish symbols to produce a word.

If you move across the table, using grilles with different hole positions as you go, you’ll soon come up with many different combinations of syllables to produce whole Voynichese words.

Once Rugg had his results, he wanted to see if the text followed Zipf’s law, which describes the relative frequencies of words within a real written language.

As you can see in the graphs below, which compare his Voynichese selection to the Vulgate Latin translation of the Book of Esther and Caesar’s De Bello Gallico, he appears to have gotten his answer:

Rugg et. al.

Rugg et. al.

“If the words within a text are ranked from most common to least common, and their frequencies are then plotted on a histogram, then natural language texts typically show a nonlinear curve with a steep initial descent followed by leveling off to a long tail of words that only occur a few times within the text,” he writes in his paper.

“The text in the Voynich Manuscript shows this pattern and has a very similar curve to some real natural language texts.”

So is the legend dead after all this time? Well, not everyone is convinced by Rugg’s evidence.

Marcelo Montemurro from the University of Manchester in the UK, who wasn’t involved in the study, argues that the manuscript does contain meaningful text, based on his own statistical analysis comparing Voynichese words to several classic texts written in various languages.

He told New Scientist that the Voynich Manuscript text has far too many layers of complexity for a simple hoaxer to produce, and says he’s found statistical similarities between the botanical and pharmaceutical sections of the manuscript, and has been able to link the art to corresponding, indecipherable words.

“That means whoever made the hoax was aware of these subtle layers of structure that are very difficult to find just by looking at the text,” he says.

“We cannot say for certain whether it is a hoax, or hides a message. But we can say, whoever wants to propose that it is a hoax needs to explain how all of this can arise spontaneously without the author planning all these things.”

At this stage, the researchers will have to agree to disagree, because Rugg maintains that he’s demonstrated how simple it would be for the Voynich’s author to make gibberish look genuine, and the burden of proof now lies on the ‘true believers’ to demonstrate the veracity of this language.

But he admits, “I don’t think there will ever be a resolution that everybody will be happy with.”

As the replica publisher Garcia told the AFP last month, the mysterious author might have been a genius, but “could also have been a sadist, as he has us all wrapped up in this mystery”.

Rugg’s research has been published in Cryptologia.


Tiny Spanish Publisher Clones World’s Most Mysterious Book

It’s one of the world’s most mysterious books, a centuries-old manuscript written in an unknown or coded language that no one — not even the best cryptographers — has cracked.
Scholars have spent their lives puzzling over the Voynich Manuscript, whose intriguing mix of elegant writing and drawings of strange plants and naked women has some believing it holds magical powers.



The weathered book is locked away in a vault at Yale University’s Beinecke Library, emerging only occasionally.

But after a ten-year quest for access, Siloe, a small publishing house nestled deep in northern Spain, has secured the right to clone the document — to the delight of its director.
“Touching the Voynich is an experience,” says Juan Jose Garcia, sitting on the top floor of a book museum in the quaint centre of Burgos where Siloe’s office is, a few paved streets away from the city’s famed Gothic cathedral.

“It’s a book that has such an aura of mystery that when you see it for the first time… it fills you with an emotion that is very hard to describe.”
Eternal youth? Da Vinci?

Siloe, which specialises in making facsimiles of old manuscripts, has bought the rights to make 898 exact replicas of the Voynich — so faithful that every stain, hole, sewn-up tear in the parchment will be reproduced.

The company always publishes 898 replicas of each work it clones — a number which is a palindrome, or a figure that reads the same backwards or forwards — after the success of their first facsimile that they made 696 copies of another palindrome.

The publishing house plans to sell the facsimiles for €7,000 to €8,000 (USD 7,896 to USD 9,025) apiece once completed — and close to 300 people have already put in pre-orders.
Raymond Clemens, curator at the Beinecke Library, said Yale decided to have facsimiles done because of the many people who want to consult the fragile manuscript.
“We thought that the facsimile would provide the look and feel of the original for those who were interested,” he said.

“It also enables libraries and museums to have a copy for instructional purposes and we will use the facsimile ourselves to show the manuscript outside of the library to students or others who might be interested.”

The manuscript is named after antiquarian Wilfrid Voynich who bought it around 1912 from a collection of books belonging to the Jesuits in Italy, and eventually propelled it into the public eye.

Theories abound about who wrote it and what it means.

For a long time, it was believed to be the work of 13th century English Franciscan friar Roger Bacon whose interest in alchemy and magic landed him in jail.
But that theory was discarded when the manuscript was carbon dated and found to have originated between 1404 and 1438.

Others point to a young Leonardo da Vinci, someone who wrote in code to escape the Inquisition, an elaborate joke or even an alien who left the book behind when leaving Earth.
Its content is even more mysterious.

The plants drawn have never been identified, the astronomical charts don’t reveal much and neither do the women.

Does the book hold the key to eternal youth? Or is it a mere collection of herbal medicine and recipes?

Scores have tried to decode the Voynich, including top cryptologists such as William Friedman who helped break Japan’s “Purple” cipher during World War II.

But the only person to have made any headway is… Indiana Jones, who in a novel featuring the fictitious archeologist manages to crack it.

Fiction aside, the Beinecke Library gets thousands of emails every month from people claiming to have decoded it, says Rene Zandbergen, a space engineer who runs a recognized blog on the manuscript, which he has consulted several times.“More than 90 per cent of all the access to their digital library is only for the Voynich Manuscript,” he adds.

The manuscript is named after antiquarian Wilfrid Voynich who bought it around 1912 from a collection of books belonging to the Jesuits in Italy, and eventually propelled it into the public eye.

The art of cloning

Only slightly bigger than a paperback, the book contains over 200 pages including several large fold-outs.
It will take Siloe around 18 months to make the first facsimiles, in a painstaking process that started in April when a photographer took detailed snaps of the original in Yale.
Workers at Siloe are currently making mock-ups before they finally set about printing out the pages in a way that makes the script and drawings look like the real deal.
The paper they use — made from a paste developed by the company — has been given a special treatment so it feels like the stiff parchment used to write the Voynich.
Once printed, the pages are put together and made to look older.

All the imperfections are re-created using special tools in a process kept firmly secret by Garcia, who in his spare time has also tried his hand at cryptology.
“We call it the Voynich Challenge,” he says.

“My business partner… says the author of the Voynich could also have been a sadist, as he has us all wrapped up in this mystery.”


Prince Of Tides Author Pat Conroy Dies At 70

Published March 5, 2016 12:20 AM ET
Richard Shiro/AP

Pat Conroy dies at 70.

Pat Conroy dies at 70.

Pat Conroy, author of best-selling novels including The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides, died Friday of pancreatic cancer. He had revealed the diagnosis — and vowed to fight it — just weeks ago.

Novelist Pat Conroy, who announced last month that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer, has died, according to a statement from his publisher. Conroy was 70.
He announced his diagnosis on Facebook almost three weeks ago, saying “I intend to fight it hard.”

Today’s statement from Todd Doughty, executive director of publicity at Doubleday included comments from Conroy’s wife and his longtime editor:

“Conroy passed away this evening at his home in Beaufort, S.C., surrounded by family and loved ones. ‘The water is wide and he has now passed over,’
said his wife, novelist Cassandra Conroy. Funeral arrangements are currently being made at this time.

“Pat has been my beloved friend and author for 35 years, spanning his career from The Prince Of Tides to today,” said his longtime editor and publisher, Nan A. Talese of Doubleday. “He will be cherished as one of America’s favorite and bestselling writers, and I will miss him terribly,” Talese said.”

The Associated Press notes that four of Conway’s “novels of troubled relationships and dysfunctional families” were turned into movies, including his best-known books, The Great Santini and The Prince Of Tides.

“Conroy writes from his own experiences, as a child of a violent father,” said NPR’s Tom Vitale in a 1986 Morning Edition interview with the author. “Like his Prince Of Tides protagonist, Pat Conroy grappled with his own conflicted sense of identity, particularly as a Southerner”, Conroy told Vitale:

“I’m a military brat. My father was a Marine Corps fighter pilot from Chicago, Ill. I did not live in Southern towns, I lived on bases. I was a Roman Catholic, which is the strangest thing you can be in the South. Not only that, I married a Jewish woman from Bensonhurst. So when people refer to me as a Southerner … I liked it because I never had a home. It was the first name that was ever associated with me that put me in a place.”

Even 30 years later, Conroy’s determination to crack his identity hadn’t stopped. In the previously mentioned Facebook post, he added:

“I celebrated my 70th birthday in October and realized that I’ve spent my whole writing life trying to find out who I am and I don’t believe I’ve even come close. It was in Beaufort in sight of a river’s sinuous turn, and the movements of its dolphin-proud tides that I began to discover myself and where my life began at fifteen.”


Harper Lee, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ author, dead at 89

Source: By Todd Leopold, CNN
Updated 8:31 PM ET, Fri February 19, 2016

(CNN) Harper Lee, whose debut novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” immortalized her name with its story of justice and race in a small Southern town and became a classic of American literature, has died. She was 89.

Her death was confirmed Friday by the City Hall in Monroeville, Alabama, where she lived.

In a statement, Lee’s family said, “The family of Nelle Harper Lee, of Monroeville, Alabama, announced today, with great sadness, that Ms. Lee passed away in her sleep early this morning. Her passing was unexpected. She remained in good basic health until her passing. The family is in mourning and there will be a private funeral service in the upcoming days, as she had requested.”
Added nephew Hank Conner in the statement, “This is a sad day for our family. America and the world knew Harper Lee as one of the last century’s most beloved authors. We knew her as Nelle Harper Lee, a loving member of our family, a devoted friend to the many good people who touched her life, and a generous soul in our community and our state. We will miss her dearly.”

Her publisher, HarperCollins, also released a statement. “The world knows Harper Lee was a brilliant writer but what many don’t know is that she was an extraordinary woman of great joyfulness, humility and kindness,” said the company’s president and publisher, Michael Morrison. “She lived her life the way she wanted to – in private – surrounded by books and the people who loved her. I will always cherish the time I spent with her.”

“Mockingbird,” which was published in 1960, was drawn from elements of Lee’s childhood in Monroeville. In steady prose shaded by memory and lyricism, she describes how an impulsive girl, Scout Finch, her older brother, Jem, their friend Dill and a variety of other townspeople get caught up in the case of Tom Robinson, a black man who’s been accused of rape in the Depression-era town of Maycomb, Alabama.

Through it all, no character is more indelible than that of Scout’s widower father, Atticus Finch. The scrupulous, fair-minded lawyer who defends the falsely accused Robinson in a racist courtroom set a standard for goodness and bravery that still resonates more than 50 years later.

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand,” Atticus says to Scout at one point. “It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see through it no matter what.”

The book won the Pulitzer Prize, and Gregory Peck, who played Atticus in the acclaimed 1962 movie, earned an Oscar for best actor. Finch was named the greatest hero in movie history in a 2003 American Film Institute survey. His reputation is such that a 2010 poll by the American Bar Association Journal was titled “The 25 Greatest Fictional Lawyers (Who Are Not Atticus Finch).”

An earlier draft of the book, titled “Go Set a Watchman,” was published in 2015. The book was criticized for a different portrayal of Atticus, who voices racist sentiments, and questions arose as to whether Lee actually wanted it released.

Despite mixed reviews, the book was one of the top sellers of 2015.

Throughout all this, Lee maintained a low profile. She had assisted her friend Truman Capote, the basis for Dill, while he researched his novel “In Cold Blood,” and though he reveled in the praise and fortune that came with fame, she resisted it.

“I never expected any sort of success with ‘Mockingbird,'” she told critic Roy Newquist for an interview published in 1964. “I didn’t expect the book to sell in the first place. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of reviewers, but at the same time I sort of hoped that maybe someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected.”

Even as “Mockingbird” became a fixture on high school reading lists and demands for her became ever more pronounced, she took shelter in New York and Alabama, hiding in plain sight. It wasn’t that she was reclusive, exactly; it’s that she preferred to let her work speak for itself.

At one event in her honor — and there were many — she was asked to address the audience at the Alabama Academy of Honor. She turned down the opportunity.
“Well, it’s better to be silent than be a fool,” she said.

‘I kept at it’

Nelle Harper Lee was born in Monroeville on April 28, 1926. She was the youngest of five children born to Amasa Coleman (A.C.) Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch. Though A.C. was not a widower like Atticus, Lee’s mother was mentally ill, so she and her siblings were essentially raised by her father. The two became very close.

She met Truman Persons, who was two years older, as a child. The tomboyish Lee and the sometimes petulant Persons, who was sent away by his parents to spend his summers in Monroeville, became close friends and would spend hours reading and making up stories. Recognizing his daughter’s imaginative temperament, A.C. Lee gave her an Underwood typewriter. She carried it everywhere.

Lee attended the University of Alabama, including a short stint in law school, but didn’t finish. Instead, she moved to New York where Truman Persons, now Truman Capote, had established himself as one of the country’s leading writers.

Lee, too, wanted to write but had little time to pursue the vocation until a pair of Capote’s friends, Michael and Joy Brown, gave her a Christmas gift: They would pay all her expenses for a year. Lee took two to write “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Though the book seems effortless, she told Newquist it came in stops and starts.

“Naturally, you don’t sit down in ‘white hot inspiration’ and write with a burning flame in front of you,” she said. “But since I knew I could never be happy being anything but a writer, and ‘Mockingbird’ put itself together for me so accommodatingly, I kept at it because I knew it had to be my first novel, for better or for worse.”

After she finished “Mockingbird,” Capote — fresh off the success of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” — invited her to assist him on a new project: the story of a murdered Kansas family, the Clutters. Lee became part secretary, part interviewer, part go-between for the flamboyant Capote. The work they did would become the foundation of Capote’s 1966 best-seller, “In Cold Blood.”

“Mockingbird” was published in July 1960 and became an immediate best-seller. Indeed, it’s never stopped selling; as of 2006, it had sold 30 million copies and moves a million more each year.
Lee was caught off guard by its success.

“I can’t say that (my reaction) was one of surprise. It was one of sheer numbness. It was like being hit over the head and knocked cold,” she told Newquist.
Book to screen

The book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was optioned for a movie. Lee was wary of Hollywood’s attention but was allowed some input. Her choice for Atticus was Spencer Tracy, but he was unavailable. The studio’s first choice was Rock Hudson.

When Gregory Peck was chosen, he traveled to Monroeville to meet with Lee. He became so attuned to the role that Lee burst into tears the first time she saw him in character. The two became lifelong friends. After filming concluded, Lee gave the actor her father’s prized pocket watch; later, Peck’s grandson was named for the author.

The movie has been called “the best-ever book-to-screen adaptation.” It captured Lee’s world just right: the dilapidated homes, the county courthouse (built on a backlot but based on the actual Monroeville building) and, above all, her characters.

The performers who played Scout and Jem, Mary Badham and Philip Alford, were Alabama-born acting novices. Brock Peters, who played Tom Robinson, broke away from the heavies he’d portrayed before landing the role. (More than five decades later, he would deliver the eulogy at Peck’s funeral.) Robert Duvall, who played the mysterious Boo Radley, was a screen newcomer. He would go on to a storied career.

With the success of the film, “To Kill a Mockingbird’s” place in the culture was cemented. But Lee never followed up. She worked on a second novel but never finished it. Later she tried her hand at a true-crime book. That, too, would remain incomplete.

“Go Set a Watchman” was an earlier version of “Mockingbird.” The book engendered its share of controversy over concerns that Lee, by then in an assisted-living facility, hadn’t approved its release, despite a statement that she was “humbled and amazed that this will now be published.”

Regardless, “Mockingbird” was a career in itself.

The story was both a steady source of income and, eventually, somewhat of a millstone for Lee. She spent many years sharing a house in Monroeville with her sister, Alice, a centenarian who followed in her father’s footsteps as a lawyer. Strangers would knock on the door and ask for autographs. Lee sued a local museum over trademark infringement. She got caught up in a lawsuit in which she claimed she was “duped” into signing over the copyright to her book. The suit was settled in 2013.

Over the years, biographers and reporters would attempt to get close to Lee. For the most part, she resisted their blandishments, though one teacher, Charles Shields, wrote a 2006 biography, and a Midwestern journalist, Marja Mills, moved next door and eventually wrote a book, “The Mockingbird Next Door” (2014). By then, Harper Lee had suffered a stroke and both Lees needed more detailed care.

Nevertheless, there is no forgetting “Mockingbird.” The film lives on; it’s in the National Film Registry. Each year, Monroeville puts on a staged version of the story.
And, of course, there is the book, still selling, still being read, still moving many to tears.

The book, and its author, offer two qualities that are often in short supply: respect and restraint.

Perhaps there is no more moving example than a famous scene from the book and movie. Atticus Finch has just lost the rape trial. His client, Tom Robinson, will probably be put to death. In the balcony, Scout and Jem sit with Maycomb’s black community in stunned silence. As Atticus quietly leaves the courtroom, the Reverend Sykes, a local black leader, gets Scout’s attention. The citizens on the balcony are all standing. He urges her to do the same. “Miss Jean Louise,” he says, “stand up. Your father’s passin’.”

Lee never married and had no children.


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Tolkien’s annotated map of Middle-earth discovered inside copy of Lord of the Rings

Source: Guardian

finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge in the last 20 years

Perhaps the finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge…

A recently discovered map of Middle-earth annotated by JRR Tolkien reveals The Lord of the Rings author’s observation that Hobbiton is on the same latitude as Oxford, and implies that the Italian city of Ravenna could be the inspiration behind the fictional city of Minas Tirith.

The map was found loose in a copy of the acclaimed illustrator Pauline Baynes’ copy of The Lord of the Rings. Baynes had removed the map from another edition of the novel as she began work on her own colour Map of Middle-earth for Tolkien, which would go on to be published by Allen & Unwin in 1970. Tolkien himself had then copiously annotated it in green ink and pencil, with Baynes adding her own notes to the document while she worked.

Blackwell’s, which is currently exhibiting the map in Oxford and selling it for £60,000, called it “an important document, and perhaps the finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge in the last 20 years at least”.

It shows what Blackwell’s called “the exacting nature” of Tolkien’s creative vision: he corrects place names, provides extra ones, and gives Baynes a host of suggestions about the map’s various flora and fauna. Hobbiton, he notes, “ is assumed to be approx at latitude of Oxford”; Tolkien was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University.

The novelist also uses Belgrade, Cyprus, and Jerusalem as other reference points, and according to Blackwell’s suggests that “the city of Ravenna is the inspiration behind Minas Tirith – a key location in the third book of the Lord of The Rings trilogy”.

“The map shows how completely obsessed he was with the details. Anyone else interfered at their peril,” said Sian Wainwright at Blackwell’s. “He was tricky to work with, but very rewarding in the end.”

The notebooks reveal that Hobbiton is on the same latitude as Oxford

The notebooks reveal that Hobbiton is on the same latitude as Oxford, and imply that the Italian city of Ravenna could be the inspiration behind Minas Tirith. Photograph: Blackwell’s Rare Books

Correspondence between Tolkien and the late and acclaimed illustrator Baynes, who also worked on books for CS Lewis, as well as Baynes’s unpublished diary entries, gives further details about the sometimes thorny relationship between the two. On 21 August 1969, Baynes describes a visit to Tolkien and his wife in Bournemouth, “to chat about a poster map I have to do – he very uncooperative”.

The author later apologies for having “been so dilatory”, and a later lunch sees the author “in great form – first names and kissing all round – and pleased with the map”.

Henry Gott, modern first editions specialist at Blackwell’s Rare Books, said the map was “an exciting and important discovery: new to scholarship (though its existence is implied by correspondence between the two), it demonstrates the care exercised by both in their mapping of Tolkien’s creative vision”.

“Before going on display in the shop this week, this had only ever been in private hands (Pauline Baynes’s for the majority of its existence). One of the points of interest is how much of a hand Tolkien had in the poster map; all of his suggestions, and there are many (the majority of the annotation on the map is his), are reflected in Baynes’s version,” said Gott. “The degree to which it is properly collaborative was not previously apparent, and couldn’t be without a document like this. Its importance is mostly to do with the insight it gives into that process.”

Blackwell’s is selling a range of works by Baynes, who died in 2008, aged 85, including a range of her original signed drawings from the Narnia books.

This article was amended on 23 October 2015. The map was not found by a Blackwell’s Rare Books specialist, but found in a book handed into the shop. This has been corrected.


Stanley Gibbons launches rare books index

By: Nia Williams


Stanley Gibbons Investments has launched a rare book index measuring the value of 30 first edition 20th Century classics.
The index will help guide investors and collectors looking to build a rare book portfolio as part of a long-term investment strategy.

The index of first editions includes Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale and Live and Let Die, which are valued at £24,000 and £8,000 respectively; J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, valued at £65,000; while F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is the highest at £247,000. George Orwell’s Animal Farm has experienced significant value growth according to auction data, rising from £190 to £5,100.

Overall the index has shown 398% growth, an 8.8% annual growth for the last ten years.

“As an authority in the collectibles market, Stanley Gibbons aims to help guide and provide access for investors who are looking to diversify some of their wealth into alternative assets,” said Keith Heddle, managing director of Stanley Gibbons Investments.

“While the index may cause households to start examining their collections, it is important to understand that in order to be investment grade these books must be of a certain condition, have the ‘dust jacket’ still intact and have a particular history and rarity associated with them. That said, they can give immense pride of ownership as well as strong capital growth potential.

“There is a book in everyone and this resonates with investors.”

The rare books index follows the now established rare stamps and coins indices, which Stanley Gibbons says demonstrates these collectibles to be one of the most reliable, long-term ‘buy and hold’ alternative assets for investors looking for portfolio diversification and low volatility.

Over the past 10 years, the GB250 Index, which tracks the performance of the top 250 traded, investment grade British stamps, recorded a CAGR of 11.4%. The GB200 coin index, charting the performance of 200 rare British coins, showed a CAGR of 12.75% without a drop in that time.


Utrecht University’s rare book of psalms included on Unesco heritage list


The Ultrecht Psalter

The Ultrecht Psalter

A richly illustrated book of psalms, which is part of the Utrecht University library, has been included on the Unesco Memory of the World register.

The Utrecht Psalter was made in or close to Reims in 830 and includes 150 psalms and 16 Bible verses illustrated in what experts say was a ‘revolutionary’ manner for the time.

It will be on show at the Catharijne convent museum in Utrecht for a month and viewed digitally.

Dutch items on the documentary heritage list include the original Diary of Anne Frank, the archives of the VOC (‘Dutch East India Company’) and Marx’ scheme for his Communist Manifesto and his notes on Das Kapital, which were partly written in the Netherlands.