Truly Terrible Book Covers.

We might want to revise that age-old saying about judging books by their covers. The TerribleBookCovers subreddit has a few recommendations for you. Highlighting the best of the worst in book design, title choice and overall presentation, the subreddit features a stunning collection of bad photoshop, creepy models and — err — niche hobbies. From […]

The London Guide to Cheats and Swindlers, 1819.

A comprehensive guide to help the unwitting visitor avoid falling victim to the various and nefarious crimes abound in early 19th-century London. Written by “a gentleman who has made the police of the metropolis an object of enquiry for twenty-two years”, the book is split into six main chapters: “Out Door Delinquencies”, “Inn Door Tricks”, […]

‘Hells Bells’ or ‘I’ll be dipped’: Notes on Swearing.

In 1904, Roland D. Sawyer launched a crusade against obscenity. No one ever heard my grandmother, in all her eighty-three years, utter a bad word. I can only once remember her even raising her voice. “It’s all fouled up!” she cried then, shaking a broken TV set. She said it with such frustration and despair […]

‘Banjo’ Paterson and Waltzing Matilda.

ANDREW BARTON ‘BANJO’ PATERSON was born in Narrambla, New South Wales, on 17 February, 1864. He lived in the city for most of his life, yet he became wildly famous in the colonies for the poems and stories he wrote about life in the Australian outback. Just before the turn of the century he composed […]

When the Public Feared That Library Books Could Spread Deadly Diseases.

In September 12, 1895, a Nebraskan named Jessie Allan died of tuberculosis. Such deaths were a common occurrence at the turn of the 20th century, but Allan’s case of “consumption” reportedly came from an unusual source. She was a librarian at the Omaha Public Library, and thanks to a common fear of the time, people […]

Youngsters prefer reading Printed Books.

Sixteen to 24-year-olds are known as the super-connected generation, obsessed with snapping selfies or downloading the latest mobile apps, so it comes as a surprise to learn that 62% prefer printed books to ebooks. Asked about preferences for physical products versus digital content, printed books jump out as the media most desired in material form, […]

Lewis Carroll and ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

Lewis Carroll was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, on January 27 1832. His famous pen name did not emerge until much later after his publishing career had got underway. He was baptised at All Saints’ Church, Daresbury in Cheshire where you can still see the original baptismal font where the Carroll brow was sprinkled with Holy […]

‘Bird Portraits’ by Gary Heery.

Feathered friends are the subject of Bird, the latest book from Gary Heery, one of Australia’s most celebrated portrait photographers. Heery says to capture the birds in motion he erected a translucent tent, creating an intimate and contained environment in which the birds could fly. “I treated it, not unlike any other portraiture situation, as […]

The Mystery of the ‘Odyssey’.

A kind of literary whodunit was solved recently when mysterious handwritten notations from a rare, 1504 edition of Homer’s Odyssey were identified. The epic poem was part of a collection donated to the University of Chicago Library in 2007 by a collector, and ever since the unknown notations have told the library little besides their […]

What does the term ‘As thick as thieves’ mean?

Origin: We might expect ‘as thick as thieves’ to be a variant of the other commonly used ‘thick’ simile ‘as thick as two short planks’. The fact that the former expression originated as ‘as thick as two thieves’ gives more weight to that expectation. As you may have guessed from that lead in, the two […]