Old Books Newly Received

We do like these old books, and we like to share the pleasure of buying books: A little Christmas every day, when you open those boxes and empty the boot of the car to see what we just got in.
The first entry will give you a view of the last few hundred books catalogued. The entries below describe particular acquisitions in a bit more detail, and display the books from these sources when you click on the image to the left

Monday January 30, 2023

Recent Acquisitions

Click on the calendar image for the most recently catalogued books (any error corrections gratefully received!)
Saturday December 14, 2019

Santa Monica California

Plurabelle now has a book scout in Southern California. The picture shows the shipment of boxed books from a Long Beach warehouse which specialises in container-shipping American period cars to old Europe. The pallet goes into on of those containers, sharing space and hitching a ride with a few period cars, gets a glimpse of Panama, onwards to Southampton
Tuesday May 28, 2019

The Boxes (Small) in the Driveway

We were told there were some boxes waiting in the driveway. Small boxes. This turned out to be a rather complex statement. Yes, the boxes had the letters SMALL on them, but the lettering was very large. I surely do not want to meet the boxes lettered BIG, especially if filled with books. All these "small" boxes very much filled to the brim with the printed matter, the libraries of a man who was interested in many things, and probably brought a book home most days. And proceeded to mark his property in bright Dymo colours.
Wednesday July 11, 2018

Illustrator, Typographer

John was an art teacher, an illustrator for Penguin in the 1950ies, and a lover of print and printmaking. He had a weakness for Bewicks old and young, and looked after his books with great care and attention. It was a great pleasure to make his acquaintance, virtually, and to understand how an artist would work with catalogues and other tools, before the internet delivered any image in seconds. Curious to, how the high prices bibliographical works fetched 30 or 40 years ago, have come down considerably today
Tuesday October 17, 2017

Neurosurgery Inc

It looked like a regular estate sale, but upon closer inspection, it contained the core of a neurosurgery library that covered 50 years, from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The books first belonged to Howard Naffziger (*1884). He was a noted neurosurgeon, having worked with Cushing in Boston (Fulton 366). He later led the Department of Neuroscience at the San Francisco Medical School until 1952. The books also bear the name of Eugene Stern. He headed UCLA neurosurgery for over 30 years (until 1987). He was a Cushing Medalist of the American Association of Neurologic Surgeons and received many other professional honors in his field. Stern was also Naffziger's son in law. Welcome to the small but exquisite world of neurosurgery, and do keep your heads well covered.
Monday May 29, 2017

History of Psychiatry

History of Psychiatry. Lacan. History of Psychiatry. Freud. History of Psychiatry. Lacan. History of Psychiatry. Freud. History of Psychiatry. History of Psychiatry. And History of Psychiatry.
Tuesday April 04, 2017

libros mexicanos

These books come from the Alias Wunderkammer in Los Angeles. The collection was formed by a librarian, who in his free time put on his bookseller hat. John Nomland sold his modern poetry and small press collection in English to Hugh Miller in 1977. 29.901 books in 652 boxes. That's pretty effective bookselling. For 40 years his Spanish language material languished, survived after his death in the Wunderkammer of a reluctant bookseller. More about Nomland and his two hats on our blog
Monday September 19, 2016

Andrew Huxley, Physiologist and Biophysicist

Sir Andrew Fielding Huxley, OM, President of the Royal Society was a Nobel Prize-winning English physiologist and biophysicist. He is best known for his work on nerve impulse and muscle contraction. Plurabelle was called to the book rescue in Grantchester after a few others had already received their share of his extensive library. But the less obvious titles from his library are often no less interesting. Many books have his name on the endpaper or have been dedicated to him.
Wednesday June 22, 2016

/'hɔɪk/ - "hoyk" - Hawick

This library was full of character and history, revealed by those little fragments we found in the books. The family was connected with a textile business in Hawick, but there is also a bookshop with the same name, witness the bookseller stamps here. A young man who is very keen on railway engineering just when the war ends, who goes on to study in Cambridge and then moves on to aeronautics. The sister too was interested in airplanes. There is quite a lot of local Scottish history, curious period material, trainspotting, practical engineering, mostly well preserved.
Tuesday January 12, 2016

Schröder Professor of German (yet again)

Prof Dennis Green was Schröder Professor of German at the University of Cambridge. He was a fellow of Trinity and a leader in German studies for many years. His field was Medieval studies, especially the female experience of reading. His books started to find their way to us back in 2009. The remainder arrived, in one big wave, early in 2016.
Many of Green's books are review copies. He must have reviewed hundreds or thousands. Reviewing was a very serious business, conducted with a fine pencil, and the result, as far as the book itself is concerned, are many pages with faint lateral lines to the margin. Many lateral lines to many margins. There are slight variations in the design of the line, but mostly faint and lateral. Rarely is there a word written in the margin, rarely are words in the text underlined. He did mistreat his books carefully. Often there is a college notepaper inserted which gives the scaffold of the published review. Green is the second Schröder Professor of German whose books found their way to us. Twenty years earlier, Leonard Forster's library preceded his.
Saturday December 12, 2015

Andrew's Books

Happiness would be the wrong term, but Andrew was ready and content when we helped him to clear his office. "I am a great believer in passing on books" he said later. An admirable attitude, which also shows in the manner he kept and organised his library (history of science, history of medicine). First, there is no bookplate, no name ink, no pretense of extended ownership. But there are small colour dots, two for every book, with numbers, which may refer to an still undiscovered system of shelfving, of buying, of reading these books. The dots are always placed on the free endpaper, top, they have a colour and the number inscribed on them is also in colour. Questions, questions
Tuesday December 01, 2015

The Grantchester Parking Ticket

Oliver Rackham digs trees. Not with a spade! I mean, he digs trees, like, he gets them. Think historical ecology, think woodland culture, think trees and humans, and the entire archaeology of it. Countryside, yes, but with numbers and all the science he could muster. Pollen analysis for instance, also known as Palynology. But also architecture, coppicing, a fascinating relationship. The parking ticket in Grantchester was definitely worth it.
Friday October 16, 2015

David Holbrook

David Holbrook was a British writer, poet and academic and a fellow of Downing College. His library included many works on education, criticism and the role of art in society. He was also a prolific poet. He published in major and minor periodicals and his library contained quite a few of them. His books are marked with a bookplate which showes his name in white on a black oval. Some of his books may have spent time boxed up in a garden shed, but no damage was done.
Friday August 28, 2015

Rimbaud etc

This is the library of a Rimbaud scholar, a critic of post-romantic French poetry, a doctor of letters with an interest in psycho-analysis. C A Hackett's collection includes many lesser-known publications and reviews. Some books were inscribed to him, but these inscriptions were blacked out before the books came to us. Does this mean that our business, the organized sale of books that were given as presents, is in some way illegitimate? Perhaps a gift-inscription somehow invalidates the book as commodity? What was once given as a gift, can it become a commodity? Or is this a very French hesitation, the fear that the marketplace could corrupt the pure sentiment of the gift? Marcel Mauss to the rescue!
Monday May 04, 2015

Lutterworth Books

It started out as the Religious Tract Society more than 200 years ago. Since 1931 the publisher has been known as Lutterworth Press: Christian literature for young readers, including Boy's Own Paper and Girl's Own Paper, but also Enid Blyton and Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Lutterworth office in Cambridge had to be cleared, so they called and Plurabelle came to the rescue. Some of the books were publisher's file copies and have a paper label ("To be returned to Record Library") which covers the front of the book or jacket, all the way to the inside of the board.
Wednesday October 01, 2014

Trotsky, Marx and Rosa Luxemburg

Norman Geras was a political theorist and professor emeritus of politics at the University of Manchester. After his retirement he published Normblog, which had a very wide readership. He was also a co-author of the Euston Manifesto (2006). It proposed guidelines for the democratic left, but it has been criticized for equating opposition to Israel with anti-Semitism.
His library was very strong on modern Marxist authors. It included also a little Jack London corner. And a little mystery: In a few of his books we found small bookmarks (35 mm wide, 35 to 80 mm long, cut out from index cards) with numbers in red ink or pencil. All numbers are 6 digits, some with an additional number in brackets. The numbers occur singly, in pairs or triplets. They could be part of an unknown bibliographical system, but their exact function is, as yet, unknown. 160200 / 171120; 171212; 220000 (33) / 080915; 101120 (1); 160129 / 090327 (4); 111101 / 040000; 040823. Any suggestions?
Friday July 25, 2014

Board of Education

Back in September 2005: Arrival of a whole pallet load of interesting educational literature from the turn of the century: The source is a ministerial library, no less. It includes many reports of what today we would call the Charities Commission, Back then it was called the Friendly Societies Commission.
Comparative educational literature before 1935, from Germany, Belgium, Italy, France, Switzerland etc, some bearing the traces of the political process in action in the form of marginalia or interleaved copies.
Thursday May 01, 2014

Geography and Typography

Here are three designs for stamps marking books from this library. We do not know when they were changed, but we can gather the sequence of change. As Cambridge University becomes University of Cambridge we recognize a path towards flatness and simplicity. The typographical repertoire is reduced to plain uppercase, and the fully three-dimensional projection which depicts depth turns flat and authoritarian like a seal. Was the original design inspired by the problem of geometrical projection? Geographers do know a thing about that, don't they?
Placing lettering on a curved line was pretty difficult too, before Adobe brought us type on a path.
Thursday July 11, 2013

Back Lane, Barrington

The daughter wants the mother to move closer, into more comfortable quarters. But Margaret was still looking after all those books, her own and those of the teacher husband, who was rumored to have been a student of Wittgenstein. Could we please take care of them? Her husband loved books. He also loved a bargain deal at the market or at David's. Some of these bargains were too poor for internet sales. Greek and Latin, French and Italian, linguistics, philosophy and much more.
Friday October 19, 2012


The Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge was moving to new premises. Some of the old stock was deemed no longer useful. But experts and collectors will appreciate a book from a world-famous institution which has accumulated more than a fair share of Nobel Prizes, and which has been a major influence in modern medical sciences.
Tuesday September 11, 2012

Colloid Science

These are parts of the library of Paley Johnson, Colloid Scientist, which had become, without any fault of the books, part of the sale of a house in Girton, Cambridge. The new owners had little patience for yesteryear chemistry, but it turned out just the ticket for Plurabelle.
Mr Johnson was a very respectful owner of his books. He understood dustjackets very well and would not hesitate to protect them with an additional spontaneous secondary jacket. Nor would he write in his books. Some he received because he served on the editorial board for a scientific series. When he acquired his books in the trade, he consistently "filed" the receipt inside the book. Buy now and assist the dispersal of centrifuge chemistry literature.
Tuesday July 17, 2012

Westminster College

Things are changing in the Cambridge Theological Federation, a group of theological colleges which are not directly members of the University of Cambridge. Such change always means changing demands on the library. Updating a library invariably leads to the surplus books occurrence. The librarian leads us to a dark cupboard, filled to the ceiling with precarious boxes. When we come onto the scene, most of the work has already been done. Yes, we will look after them, and yes, we will find a new home for them. All titles in very good condition, except for some of the 19th century leather spines which may have reached the end of their useful life.
Friday April 20, 2012


Economic History of the 19th Century, especially Germany and the United Kingdom. Industries, customs, personalities, the library of William Otto Henderson (1904 - 1993) was full of surprises. Occasionally he would have a book rebound in plain cloth, others are review copies and include an offprint of his review. A Festschrift in his honour was published in 1975.
Friday July 17, 2009

Earth Sciences in Cambridge

The Department of Earth Sciences has a wonderful library of stones and ore samples: Just as compelling as any library of books would be. And more weighty. And they also had some departures recently, which left them with a surplus of reading matter. Skaergaard Intrusion Kangerlugssuaq and many more un-pronouncable words from a very significant offprint-collection.
Thursday July 09, 2009

Madingley Hall

The library has the finest (finest) position among all the fine libraries in Cambridge. Far from the maddening crowd, in an estate set up by Capability Brown, we found quite a few old books which needed to move on and get out a bit. The stock is in excellent condition, not least because by buying books the library ran out of space to accomodate their readers. The collection also includes books from the Cambridge Board of Extramural Studies and some bear a Stuart House bookplate.
Thursday May 21, 2009

Timber Research and Development

High Wycombe: TRADA is the Timber Research and Development Association, the remains of this specialised library includes titles on woodworking, forestry, funiture making, wooden structures, arboriculture, the economy and commerce of timber.
Tuesday December 02, 2008

The Leys School

A newly refurbished Library for the Leys - not at all your ordinary circulating library - and we take away the books that won't fit.
Saturday April 12, 2008

Victorian Mansion in Balsham

The Lady and the Gentleman are downsizing. Many trips to the Victorian Mansion with a collection of books to match. Includes several boxes of new Christian literature written by a famous Welsh Clergyman, the Lady's father. A memorable pick-up - we were offered coffee and cake. On you go, to bookshelves new !
Saturday April 12, 2008

Emmanuel College

College library downsizing. Argent a lion rampant azure holding in the dexter forepaw a wreath of laurel proper and above its head a scroll azure bearing the word EMMANUEL in letters of gold. The discharged lion was conscientiously crossed out with black ballpoint pen. Lion angry, bookplate collector disappointed, but you can't hold a rampant lion back.
Wednesday January 23, 2008

Humid in Algeria

Storing books in Algeria is never easy, to do it for many years does not improve the results. In this case, quite a few titles could not be saved, and what remains may show traces of imperfect storage. But the subject matter (esoteric travel and islamic mysticism) is compelling. The collection incorporates some stock from the British Library in Tangiers.
Wednesday September 19, 2007

M/C University and the Rubberstamp Mystery

M/C, that could be the initials of your bookseller. But no, we are in ManChester, in the department of Mathematics, which had to let go a good chunk of applied and engineering maths. Good books mostly, a little aged, perhaps a little too much tape to the endpaper which once held a protective jacket, some front endpapers may even be missing. A few display a library stamp to the page edges: Not exactly collector's fare, but pretty exotic and very useful for sure.
Books come about when ink is pressed on paper. The impact of this pressure has been investigated by Randall McLeod (also known as Erin Dale (Mrs Auga), Ana Mary Armygram, Random Cloud, Randal Mc Leod, Orlando F. Booke, Claudia Nimbus, Random Clod, etc.) The ink applied on some of these books to mark them property of "Dept of Mathematics M/C. University." shows a consistent distortion which raises questions about how it was applied. In a rolling motion? From a defective stamp? Why is the frame not square? Calling all print detectives for enlightenment.
Tuesday January 16, 2007

Cambridge Union Society

This is a library set up for the use of students outside the colleges. Over the course of time the use of the library decreased, rainwater seems to have taken an interest in some of the books, and recently some stock was sold off. The books have a nice bookplate, often more than one on top of each other, and offer an interesting view of student reading in the past. Most books date back more than 50 years, - too old for the students of today.
Saturday August 05, 2006

Going to India

We knew him from the local Car Boot Sales, where he would, always impeccably elegant, bow to the same depth as any other dumpster diver. Sometimes he had sales in the front of his lovely house (slightly humid though) with the Joshua tree, and many of his books were scrupulously inscribed with prices or "prices".
In the end we took away three car-loads full, plus three pigskin suitcases. But only a certain proportion is actually sellable. India, Indian Fiction and History, plus many other interesting subjects. Good luck for your "retirement" in India!
Sunday July 09, 2006

Finished with Chemistry

I ask him for a photocopy of his entry in the Who is Who, and he says he is now Finished With Chemistry. No anger, no sadness, just the next step. We promise to find a new home for them, including the magnetic resonance books from his former wife. Click on the picture if you have not yet finished with chemistry
Wednesday July 05, 2006

Five Boxes Poetry from London

Five boxes of poetry from London, and a few copies of a poetry periodical bearing the pencil note: Not Jack. Go figure, inscribing books with what is missing in them, now there is a thought!
Thursday February 16, 2006

Distance Education

The International Extension College advised and offered consultancy services for many Developing Countries regarding distance education and adult education. We were neighbours on the Rattee & Kett site on Purbeck Road, but recently they had to close shop, and we were to look after their books. Their parking spaces are still marked, but their services are now only available in their crude form: Not as expertise, but as books
Thursday January 19, 2006

von Lippe

From the Library of Johanna von Lippe, 1888 - 1982, who was married in the Frauenkirche, Dresden, 1913, to William Holden Duke, fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge.
She came to Cambridge in the 1920s, back when the collected works of the classical authors really did mean a lot. I mean it really mattered that you had your Goethe and your Schiller, and perhaps there were points to be had for who was on the top shelf. Her daughter looked well after the library, and added her own books. Desperate piety perhaps, that is what books induce in some, and then it is left to the bookseller to sort out the remains.
The nephew would look at every book carefully, just as one ought to. He also wore the same sweater, - well almost.
Saturday December 17, 2005

Department of Applied Economy

There was a time when the University of Cambridge took pride in applied subjects, and it is still a good rhetorical move to discount your colleagues by calling yourself applied: In Cambridge it was Applied Mathematics and then Applied Economics with many important names.
In a recent move partly led by applied economic considerations the library has now been merged with the Marshall Library of Economics just a staircase away and in the process a few duplicates have come to light. We went through them one by one and now you can take your pick: All in very good nick and from a prestigious source!
Friday November 25, 2005

Library of Education

Big upheaval in the educational department of the local university: Colleges and departments re-arrange their respective responsibilities, departments are raised to a new level, and new buildings are promised. Not all the books could make the journey, here is what was left behind. Note the conscientious erasure of prior ownership. It may seem pedantic, but somewhere must be a library manual which proscribes this procedure of cancellation. The effort of de-accessioning is an important clue for a better understanding of book ownership.
Friday October 14, 2005

Hirschhorn Library: Blinds, Canopies, Rolling Shutters

These books are connected to the firm of Hirschhorn, which operated in Wood Green in the 50s and 60s, supplying blinds, canopies, rolling shutters: There is a bit of Spanish Civil War interest, anarchism perhaps, and some standard literary texts, and a fair bit of European history.
The books were delivered in old whiskey boxes, and came to us in a slightly dusty condition, but most of them are quite OK. And we have retrieved a large amount of business cards from the Hirschhorn Enterprises, habitually inserted into the books at various points, and if you want one, just let us know
Tuesday September 13, 2005

Girton College

Girton College had a new and beautiful library extension built recently. When the builders are knocking at the door, the librarian suddenly finds it is a good time to go make some space on those crowded shelves and get rid of the unused books.
Plus, the architects often reduce the total amount of shelf-space. Something has to give. All subjects, all formats, various languages, often with a very nice bookplate, very good ex library (VG ex lib)
Monday August 29, 2005

Evolution Protest Movement etc

Adelaide: Lutheran Publishing; Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing; Biblical Creation Society; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House; San Diego: Creation Life and not to forget the ever popular Evolution Protest Movement, with a sprinkling of Satanism, Anti-Communism, A Christian View of Origins, and the answer to the old chestnut: Why Colleges Breed Communists. Plus a nice collection of Doorway Papers by Arthur Custance.
Friday July 29, 2005


Plurabelle and Homerton go back a long time. In order for the college to join the Approved Society of the University of Cambridge as a full member, the library had to make adjustments. Duplication between the college and the Institute of Education was to be reduced. There was building work and a new library building. The books which became surplus to requirement found their way to us: Mostly education: history and theory and practice and and and.
During our early days it was a trip across town from the warehouse to the library, but the move to our Purbeck Road site made us proper neighbors, and good neighbors too.
Wednesday June 29, 2005

Germanistik frühe Neuzeit

Here we have parts of the working library, rich in review copies, from a scholar of the early modern period, mostly Germanistik, and all in excellent condition. Und das meiste auf deutsch!
Monday May 16, 2005

His Lordship

Actually, it turned out to be a bit embarassing.
I was so much looking forward to meet the eminent scholar of European prehistory, archaeology and linguistics, - that I ended up missing the appointment by arriving one hour early, with plenty of scholarly questions for the gentleman who wanted to dispose of his Hansard Volumes.
Wednesday April 13, 2005

Villiers Park

They foster inspirational learning and teaching for 14 to 19 year olds by facilitating the sharing of knowledge and best practice. A few books fell by the wayside on the outskirts of Cambridge.
Saturday March 19, 2005

Molteno Library

We acquired the remains of the Library of the Molteno Institute a number of years back, but some of the material on tropical Medicine is still available, and curious and special material indeed it is.
If you are into ticks, or some of the horrible tropical diseases which make life miserable for millions, you have come to the right place. And if you are lucky, your book will carry this lovely bookplate, a design based on an ancient Roman mosaic, and inserted by A E Shipley in the books which he donated to the library.
Saturday January 01, 2005

Sweet Honey

Chris once said, conversations with Mr H contained many words, mostly his. He was a linguist of received pronuncation (RP), a historian of education, and an academic in the 20th century, with all the awkwardness this involves.
He brought together a substantial collection of school histories, of which only a few still remain (find them by combining "Education" and "Local History" on the Book Kitchen Page ) and among his books we found a bookplate which is strikingly wrong, wrong in a philosophical manner: This book has been lost by (or stolen from) J R de S Honey
Dear Honey: In the view of the book trade, this conceit appears extremely naive: entangled in the simplistic notion that we can somehow fully own our books, when in reality they are just passing through us. Did you get that?