Friday, April 27, 2007

Father Himalaya-

I'm afraid I'm a bit behind in blogging this week- we were in New York for four days last week through the weekend, and then I had to rush to get the new catalog to the printer. But now that's all done, and as I was sitting here, browsing through images on my computer, I came across the picture you see to the left, which is part of a very interesting tale...

We once had a book which had the ownership inscription of a "Father Himalaya". Being curious, I did some digging and discovered a really amazing man-

Manuel Antonio Gomes 'Himalaya' [1868-1933] was known as "Father Himalaya", and is considered to be the father of solar energy in Portugal, and a visionary pioneer in the field of renewable energy. After taking Holy Orders in the Society of Jesus he studied natural sciences, physics, chemistry, mathematics and astronomy, and traveled to France where he studied with the noted chemist Marcelin Berthelot. In 1899 he was granted a patent by the French government for a device to produce heat by focusing the sun's rays.

In 1900 he constructed a test device in the Pyrenees and attained a temperature of 1100 degrees centigrade. In 1902 an experiment in Lisbon attained 2000 degrees, and he made a final, startling demonstration of the power of such a device at the St. Louis Exposition in Missouri 1904. There he constructed his "Pireliofero" (that's it in the picture), a 3-story high parabolic mirror mounted on a monstrous iron framework which focused sunlight on an oven mounted opposite the mirror. The oven reached a temperature of 3500 degrees, melting a test chunk of basalt, and Father Himalaya won a Grand Prize for his efforts.

He promoted other forms of renewable energy as well, including tidal energy and hydroelectric power, wind power, and geothermal power. Alas, there was plenty of cheap coal and oil available, and his work was generally ignored and forgotten. Father Himalaya retired to become chaplain at Viana Castle, a charity home, where he died at the age of 65. His work has excited interest in Europe in recent years, and his ideas have only lately attained a measure of the respect which eluded them in his lifetime.

That's what I love about bookselling- you find out all sorts of things you didn't even know you were looking for.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Our New Books on Glass Catalog-

Glass and the Book Elves have always been uneasy companions, whether we are talking about flying croquet balls going through plate glass windows or the fact that if you are going to buy a rare and expensive Lalique clock on Ebay you had better make sure the trademark is spelled with a "q" and not a "k"...

But before their latest "let's see how high we can stack the Baccarat stemware" contest crashed down to its inevitable, messy conclusion, they finished our "Books on Glass & Glassmaking" catalog. This catalog features 151 books and other items about antique glass, glassmakers, glass technology, and the history of glass. Highlights include-

-A 1919 history of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers.

-An 1835 guide to Crown Glass cutting and glazing, written by the "Glass Cutter, Glazier and Stained Glass-Maker to the King of Scotland".

-A bound compendium of 19th century glass patents.

-An 1898 and a 1940 history of the Worshipful Company of Glass-Sellers.

-An uncommon catalog of a leading Arts & Crafts designers' work, including stained glass windows.

-The extremely scarce true first, private, edition of the first book on American glassmaking.

-A nice 1880 glass lamp catalog.

-Two early 19th century editions of Neri's "Art of Glass", including a rare edition published by Sir Thomas Phillipps' Middle Hill Press in 1826 in an edition of 100 copies.

-A ca.1810 broadside of terms for London Plate Glass Manufacturers.

-and many standard glass reference books.

The catalog is available in printed format, or you can see it here.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday, Monday...

A beautiful spring morning at Foggygates! It's going to be near 80 today, a day to sit on the porch with a good book and sip lemonade instead of hunkered down over the computer in my office. For those commuting to work today to their own offices, it could be worse- you could have to deal with boarding the commuter train using the railway's new "Super-Dooper Express Service"...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Let's Have a Contest-

Let's have a contest! This is going to be a variation of those "rotten writing" contests, and the rules are as follows: entries must be book-related, over the top, and you can enter as many times as you want. Anyone who wants to break any of those rules, be my guest.

Here are my starting entries-

Patty was a knockout, but the longer you looked at her the more you had the feeling that she had been well-thumbed by avid 'readers', like an old paperback copy of "Jaws" sitting on the bedside table at the beach house.

Tony walked up to the bar and sat down beside Tanya. "Boy", he thought to himself, "I'd love to index her text."

Barabara shook her head sadly. "Jack's got a good title page," she told Samantha, "but his colophon's surprisingly small, if you know what I mean".


Monday, April 16, 2007

Monday, Monday...

Another cold and rainy start to the week here at Foggygates- I think I'm beginning to notice a trend.

In fact, it's so rainy here in New England that all the Patriot's Day celebrations and activities have been called off- all the parades in Concord and Arlington and the other towns, the re-enactment of the embattled farmers standing up against the British troops at Lexington Green -everything. About the only Patriot's Day acitvity going on is the Boston Marathon, and I understand that they are offering free snorkel equipment to the runners.

But even as the rain continues and I keep checking the basement for flooding, I'm reminded that there are worse ways to start the week...

I could, for example, be a human traffic light-

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Birthday Games

Catalyst has thrown down the gauntlet (ok, ok, he "tagged" me, but "thrown down the gauntlet" sounds so much more NASCAR) in an internet blog game having to do with birthdays. I've always sort of liked some of the stuff that has happened on my own birthday, February 7th-

1839 - Henry Clay declares in the Senate "I had rather be right than president!"

1914 - Charlie Chaplin’s alter ego “The Little Tramp” made his film debut in “Kid Auto Races at Venice” with the Keystone Cops.

1935 – Board game ‘Monopoly’ invented.

1940 - The Disney classic “Pinocchio” premiered.

1949 - Joe DiMaggio becomes 1st $100,000/year baseball player.

1962 - US begins blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

1964 - Beatlemania officially begans when the Beatles make their first appearance in the U.S. The Fab Four were greeted by over 3,000 fans when they arrived at New York’s Kennedy Airport.

1965 - Cassius Clay becomes a Muslim and adopts the name Muhammad Ali.

1971 – Women in Switzerland get the vote.

1974 - The Mel Brooks comedy “Blazing Saddles” premiered.

Of course, February 7th has not always been a beer and skittles sort of day. Amongst the lower points-

1965 - George Harrison has his tonsils removed.

1979 - "Supertrain," TV's Superbomb of 1979, debuts on NBC.

1984 - Michael Jackson awarded a 4-ft-high platinum disc by CBS.

1988 - Heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson marries actress Robin Givens.

As for folks who bought the farm that day, it's a bit of a mixed bag-

2001 - Dale Evans
1999 - King Hussein
1993 - Arthur Ashe
1979 - Josef Mengele
590 - Pelagius II, Gothic Pope (579-90), dies from plague

Some notable briths on February 7th (besides my own)-

1966 - Chris Rock
1962 - Garth Brooks (same year as me)
1960 - James Spader
1936 – Felix the Cat
1910 - Buster Crabbe
1905 – the state of Oklahoma
1885 - Sinclair Lewis
1883 - Eubie Blake
1873 - Thomas Andrews (designer of the ‘Titanic’)
1867 - Laura Ingalls Wilder
1817 - Frederick Douglass
1812 - Charles Dickens
1804 - John Deere
1478 - Sir Thomas More

Now that's more like it!

Silly Sunday...

An industrial engineer was given a ticket by his boss for a performance of Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony."

The next morning, the engineer sent the following note to the orchestra's conductor:


1. For a considerable period, the oboe players had nothing to do. Their number should be reduced, and their work spread over the whole orchestra, thus avoiding peaks of inactivity.

2. All 12 violins were playing identical notes. This seems unnecessary duplication, and the staff of this section should be drastically cut. If large volume of sound is required, this could be obtained through use of an amplifier.

3. Much effort was involved in playing the 16th notes. This seems an excessive refinement, and it is recommended that all notes should be rounded up to the nearest 8th note. If this were done, it would be possible to use paraprofessionals instead of experienced musicians.

4. No useful purpose is served by repeating with horns the passage that has already by handled by the strings. If all such redundant passages were eliminated, the concert could be reduced from two hours to 20 minutes.

5. This symphony has two movements. If Schubert didn't achieve his musical goals by the end of the first movement, then he should have stopped there. The second movement is unnecessary and should be cut. In light of the above, one can only conclude that had Schubert given attention to these matters, his symphony would probably have been finished by now.

Friday, April 13, 2007


My friend Zann just wrote about her day, which included presenting a shawl she knitted to anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.

I am lucky to know people like Zann- they keep me humble. I hope she will not mind my stealing her picture-


I swore to myself at the end of last week I was not going to devote a post to Imus, but I guess I will.

Reading a bunch of email lists and blogs, a lot of people I respect are pretty upset about what happened to him.

I am not. And I ask myself- why?

Well, to begin with, and of the most importance, I do not view this as a freedom of speech issue. Freedom of speech is threatend when the government takes action against somebody, but in this case they never even peeped. This, by the way, is the same government which decided that, even though they are the "public" airwaves, we did not need the Fairness Doctrine. And after deciding that, they went Uber-Ballisticon over a woman's breast being shown for a quarter-second at the SuperDooperBowl.

So I looked and asked "is the FCC doing anything?" and the answer was "no". OK, so it's not a Freedom of Speech issue.

Or is it? Well, there were plenty of people calling for Imus to be punished. But isn't that their right, as a matter of freedom of speech? Not to make too big a point of it, but isn't freedom of speech the right to say what you think, not matter how hypocritical you are?

Hypocritical? you ask. Well, there is the Jessie "Hymietown" Jackson issue...

Many people I respect made a big deal out of the fact that Jesse "Hymietown" Jackson was amongst the biggest Imus critics. Well, ok, but I'm not a big fan of the "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" doctrine. Hey- Osama Bin Laden didn't think much of Saddam Hussein. What's it all mean?

My thinking is that Imus made a career, and Big Bucks, out of being an asshole. He finally went too far and got burned with his own torch. I'm not sure why I should weep for that. Just because I would defend his *right* to say whatever he wanted against any government claim to the contrary, does *not* mean that I am a defender of what he says. It also does not mean that I will defend him to his advertisers. Hey- I think he's a jerk. If one of his advertisrers asked me -"would you be inclined to avoid a product because it sponsored Imus", I 'd be proud to say "YES".

That is because *I* have a right to freedom of speech also, and because I know that advertisers can pick and choose who they sponsor.

I would not buy a product that sponsored Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter, or Don Imus. They are all, in my own mind, sponsors of hate and abuse. And if that affects their respective career paths, that's too damned bad. It's a free country.

Random Musings

Don Imus made a fortune out of saying outrageous things and making people angry. Last week he suceeded in doing the latter beyond even his own wildest expectations. And now he's bitching about the consequences.

Well cry me a river. Sometimes, in Life, even if you are rich and famous, there are consequences.

If any of the rest of us who are not as rich and famous as Don Imus went into our boss's office and called them a "nappy headed ho", we'd be out of a job too. If you did that to a white male boss in certain states, he'd probably shoot you.

It would have been completely wrong for the government to censor Imus, but it was perfectly proper for his bosses to decide he was more trouble than he was worth. That's called capitalism. Hey, Life's a bitch when it bites you in the ass. It's not like he won't get another job- he'll be on satellite radio within a week for a six-figure salary.

Imus spent a number of years dishing it out- perhaps it's time for him to show he can take it as well, just like he expected all the targets of his abuse to take it, for all those years.

- - -

Speaking of being bit in the ass, Paul Wolfowitz has succeeded in making a hash out of his new job as President of the World Bank (gee, who saw that coming?), by giving his on-staff girlfriend a big promotion and raise that she didn't deserve. So when this comes out, what does the little rat-fink do?

He says "I'm sorry".

Uh huh. Back in The Day, when the President of a company who had spent his brief tenur there criticizing other people for being corrupt was caught with his own hand in the cookie jar, he'd do the decent thing and say "I resign". Today he just says "I'm sorry", and then gets all indignant when anybody still wants to discuss the issue.

- - -

According to a report I have now lost the link to, emergency rooms across the country are reporting far fewer tree-climbing injuries amongst kids than they reported a few decades ago. The reason? Kids no longer go outside. On the other hand, repetitive-stress injuries to kid's game-boy thumbs are skyrocketing. I find that incredibly frighening for the future of the country.

- - -

Dice-K Matsuzaka made his debut at Fenway Park this past Wednesday and got outpitched by Seattle Mariner phenom Felix Hernandez, who pitched a gem of a 1-hit shoutout. Dice-K pitched a decent game- giving up three runs these days will win many a game for a pitcher, but not when your own team scores a donut.

You know, as we got to the 7th inning and Dice-K had hit the showers, I actually felt myself hoping the Sox didn't get any hits. I've been a Sox fan since I was 8, but there is just something beautiful about a skillfully pitched no-hitter, especially against a powerful team like Our Sox. And if you're gonna get beat (as we obviously were) I'd rather get beat by a perfect performance.

- - -

When all is said and done, the most important thing that happened this week was that Kurt Vonnegut died. I will miss having him on the planet.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Trilobites and Fossils and Megatheriums- OH MY!!

In the 19th and early 20th centuries it was accepted practice to furnish museums with casts of all types, from classical statues to trilobites, and I thought I'd share some illustrations from an interesting trade catalog, published in 1866, which served the latter trade.

Henry A. Ward's "Catalogue of Casts of Fossils, from the Principal Museums of Europe and America, with short descriptions and illustrations" , offered for sale a complete and comprehensive listing of fossils, from minute Ammonites to a complete Plesiosaur or a Megatherium, many taken from originals at the British Museum.

In the 1860s and 1870s dinosaurs were not yet a major subject for study- few had been discovered. Paleontologists were very excited though, by earlier plant and animal life, as shown here, and especially by another set of animals amply illustrated here- early mammals. The fight to discover and name early mammals was at least as heated as the dinosaur wars which would erupt a few decades later, because it was through these fossils that scientists were slowly attempting to prove Darwin's controversial theory of Evolution.

Ward catalogs everything in a scientific manner and also includes fossil tracks, and even replicas of the models shown at the Crystal Palace. At the rear of the catalog he offers skins and skeletons of contemporary American animals and also, grotesquely, "Aborigines -Indians of various Western Tribes: Skulls, from $15 to $25 each. (These are taken fresh, not disinterred from old graves)".

Henry Ward was one of the most interesting and omnipresent characters in Victorian natural history. After making a fortune supplying museums with natural history and paleontological exhibits he turned his attention to meteorites with the same zealous thoroughness. The chronicle of Henry A. Ward's career and various interests is well covered in Roswell Ward's 1948 biography.

I thought I'd finish here with the fold-out plate of a cast of one of the most famous fossils of the day, the Megatherium. My apologies- it's too wide to present here in a decent size unless I turn it on its' side-

Monday, April 09, 2007

Monday, Monday-

A sunny Monday morning at Foggygates, but unseasonably cold. They say it may snow Thursday...

Still, better to be driving to work on a Monday morning when the sun is out than when it is raining or cloudy. My wife's aunt from New York likes to tell a story about Monday mornings back in the '50s. She used to spend her Summer weekends at a popular resort area several hundred miles from the city, and there were a large number of Manhattanites on the last, late-night train back to the city on Sunday night. The train got into Grand Central station at about 3 a.m., and instead of waking everyone up, the engineer would simply pull the passenger cars off onto a siding and let everyone sleep. Along about 6 or 7 a.m. people would start to get up, brush their teeth and wander off to work.

The train, of course, is long gone, but I'll bet that a few booklovers manage to enjoy their Monday morning commutes-

Friday, April 06, 2007

Bookselling Tales-

We met in neutral territory- at one of those Swiss hotels up the side of a mountain- you know the kind. You look down and see cars below you the size of dust specks, and the rising moon seems to be coming in at shoulder level. I don't like heights, so I was at the bar downing Saphire gin and nibbling at the cheese plate they had put out just to make me thirsty.

She caught my eye from across the room- brown hair down to her waist and a shape that her low-cut, body-hugging black dress didn't try to hide.

She raised an eyebrow and I raised my glass and the next thing I knew she was sitting beside me, ordering Stoli and downing the first one in a single gulp. She ordered another and then turned to me.

"Did you bring it?" she asked, her voice deep, but tinged with silver, like the swiftly flowing streams in the mountains around there.

"Right here" I said, patting my coat pocket.

She nodded.

"All of it" she said. Not a question really.

"All of it" I said, sipping my Saphire, trying to keep my mind on my mission and off her figure which perched on the barstool in perfect balance, like something drawn by Picasso.

"Good". She gave me a quick smile. "I have to go, I have another delivery to make". She was apologizing, but women like her should never have to apologize. For anything. I took the envelope of cash from my pocket and handed it to her.

She tucked it into the fold of her dress without looking at it.

"Merci" she said and drained the last of her Stoli. "Perhaps we will meet again". She uncurled herself from her perch on the stool and stood still for a moment as if trying to make up her mind about something.

"I have to go" she said, as if trying to convince herself, not me, of the fact. "After I'm gone, go over to the table".

I nodded and she was gone.

I sat there for a moment, then ordered another Saphire and drank it slowly. Then I got up and crossed the room. It was there, on the chair, wrapped in brown paper, tied with string.

A nice touch.

Smuggling it out past customs was a breeze.

After her, everything else was anticlimactic.

I kept that book for a few years, but then decided to sell it.

I'm a bookseller.

That's my job.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Ashes to Ashes...

Cremation dates back at least to the ancient Romans, though after Rome fell cremation also fell on hard times. It only made a comeback in the late Victorian age, with many cremation societies springing up, all dedicated to making it legal again. They finally succeeded, and it is a booming industry today. I think it's a fine way to dispose of bodies if one is so inclined, so I mean no disrespect to all the cremationalists out there when I offer the following little smattering of news stories that just popped up on the web-

Keith Richards says he snorted father's ashes
MSNBC News Services
April 3rd, 2007

LONDON - Keith Richards has acknowledged consuming a raft of illegal substances in his time, but this may top them all. In comments published Tuesday, the 63-year-old Rolling Stones guitarist said he had snorted his father’s ashes mixed with cocaine. "The strangest thing I’ve tried to snort? My father. I snorted my father," Richards was quoted as saying by British music magazine NME. "He was cremated, and I couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn’t have cared," he said, adding that "it went down pretty well, and I’m still alive."

- - -

Ashes of Star Trek's 'Scotty' Primed for Space Launch
2 April 2007

The ashes of Star Trek’s Scotty and one of NASA’s first astronauts are once more bound for the final frontier, this time aboard a privately-built rocket to launch from New Mexico this month. Portions of the cremated remains of actor James Doohan, the plucky engineer of television's Starship Enterprise, and Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper are set for an April 28 launch aboard a SpaceLoft XL rocket built by the private firm UP Aerospace.

- - -

Grandmother thwarts 'dead dad into diamond' plan

Reuters. April 04, 2007

A German woman's plan to turn her dead father's ashes into a diamond was thwarted yesterday by her grandmother. A district court in Wiesbaden ruled the 19-year-old could not take the cremated remains to Switzerland where a company creates synthetic diamonds from ashes.

“The daughter of the deceased could not provide sufficient proof that it was his final wish to be pressed into a diamond,” the court in western Germany said, ruling in favour of his 86-year-old mother.

- - -

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Bookstore Tale...

A newlywed couple is on their honeymoon. They've spent the first couple of days in the hotel room, so they decide to go outside and play a game of golf for the first time in their lives.

On the first tee the husband slices the ball so hard to the right that it goes crashing through the plate glass window of an antiques/bookstore across the street from the golf course.

The couple immediately run over to the shop to apologize, but when they get there they don't see anyone... just broken glass everywhere.

Then the young wife screams when she notices a man with a goatee laying on the floor. The man is in a daze. The couple drop to their knees and begin apologizing. The goateed man raises a finger to his lips and tells the couple that they have done him a great favor. He explains that he is a genie and has been trapped in an antique vase for 211 years. By virtue of the errant golf ball, the vase was shattered, and he was finally freed.

The newlyweds are relieved, but still slightly baffled by the turn of events.

The genie then stands, dusts himself off, and then says with a big smile, "Now I would like to repay you for your act of kindness. I'll grant you two wishes. What would you like? Anything... Just name it!"

The husband speaks up first. "One billion dollars."

The genie smiles and says, "Your wish is granted. I'll have the money deposited into your joint account within 15 days."

The young wife hugs her husband with delight and says to the genie, "For our second wish, I'd like you to make us PAR golfers on any golfcourse in the world."

The genie says, "After this day, playing par golf will be as natural for you as breathing."

The newlyweds are giddy with delight. The young wife turns to the genie and says, "You've been so kind to us, is there ANYTHING we can do for you?"

The genie lowers his head, smiles a slightly embarrassed smile, and says: "Well, I have been locked in a bottle for 211 years, without the warmth of a woman's touch. I would very much like to make love with you. I would understand if you didn't want to, but I am GIVING you one billion dollars...."

The husband and wife are shocked, but they they figure what the hell...it is a BILLION dollars.

The young bride goes upstairs with the genie. While the genie and his wife are upstairs, the husband sits down and begins to read one of the old first edition books in the store. As he reads he can hear the squeaking of the antique boxsprings coming from one of the beds upstairs.

After a couple of hours of strenuous lovemaking, the genie looks down at the young bride and asks her how old she is.

"22," she says demurely.

"And how old is your husband?" asks the genie.

"He's 32," she answers.

"32? And he still believes in genies?" asks the bookdealer with a smile.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Monday, Monday-

The second gray Monday morning in a row at Foggygates. Still, as I sit at my desk surrounded by cats and books, I'm reminded that there are worse ways to start the week...