Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ooze Leather Christmas Series, No. 4

In the spirt of the holiday season, I'm profiling a small (5 x 6.5 inches and 47 pages) leatherbound book published by Browne & Howell Co. in 1914 as part of the Ooze Leather Christmas Series. Apparently there were ten of these little books and ours is No. 4, "The Night Before Christmas" by Lillian Bennett Thompson. Ooze leather is not in my desk dictionary, but "google" it and you will find "ooze" refers to either the type of leather and/or the tanning process used on the skin that becomes the cover for the book. These books are not widely available.

The title and author are stamped on the top of the leather cover. Ours has faded with time so it's difficult to determine if it was stamped in gilt at one time. However, there's something charming about this small book, especially at Christmas. That's about all I know; if you can add to this, please feel free.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

You’ve heard of Maurice Sendak, Shel Silverstein, and even VIP, but have your heard of S. A. Wakefield? He wrote four children’s books, and we acquired one a short time ago. The lovely illustrations for his first book were created by Desmond Digby. We don’t know much more than that, and there isn’t that much available online. Here’s a photo of the first book, “Bottersnikes and Gumbles,” that he wrote and published in 1967. What do you know about this book, this author, this illustrator?

Friday, November 20, 2009


We acquired an unusual document titled the “Personal and Professional Memoirs of Forest Joy Pinkerton, M.D., F.A.C.S.” A large paperbound volume, its binding edge is taped and the pages are heavily tanned/foxed. An inscription and signature of the author are inked onto the top margin of the Preface, and original photographs are glued onto a few pages. (Photo of Preface, signed and dated by Pinkerton in December 1972.)

Information on Dr. Pinkerton is available online ( He was born in Lowell, Indiana in 1892 (died 1974), but eventually came to Hawaii where he stayed and made significant contributions to the community. Here’s the Memoir's Table of Contents:

Chapter I: Ancestry and Boyhood
Chapter II: Medical School
Chapter III: Professional Career
Chapter IV: Kahunaism and Old Hawaiian Customs
Chapter V: Leprosy (History in Hawaii, Father Damien, My experiences with Leprosy)
Chapter VI: History of the Pan-Pacific Surgical Association
Chapter VII: Chamber of Commerce Public Health Committee
Chapter VIII: History of the Blood Bank of Hawaii, Review of World War II, Office of Civilian Defense and Procurement Assignment Service
Chapter IX: 1953 Consultant’s Trip to Far Eastern Combat Theater
Chapter X: 1956 Far East Tour-Consultant, Lecture and Pleasure
Chapter XI: 1958 Trip to Medical Meetings & Personal European Tour
Chapter XII: 1961 Consultant’s Trip to Far Eastern Military Theater
Chapter XIII: Pan-Pacific Surgical Association
Chapter XIV: 1963 Mobile Educations Seminar
Chapter XV: 1967 European Tour

Dr. Pinkerton specialized in “eye, ear, nose, throat and larynx,” and beginning in 1918, he regularly treated the lepers at Kalaupapa on Molokai and at the Kalihi Receiving Station in Honolulu. In 1930, Dr. Pinkerton was appointed by Governor Poindexter to the first “Department of Lepers Hospitals and Settlement” devoted to the segregation and care of all leprosy patients at the Kalihi Receiving Station. Dr. Pinkerton’s memoirs describe the types of medical treatment available for leprosy and give a brief history of changes through medical research. Father Damien had died long before Dr. Pinkerton visited Kalaupapa, but it is fascinating to read the doctor’s observations and opinions from the early 1900s.

Another chapter in the memoir describes Dr. Pinkerton’s work in creating the first Blood Bank in Hawaii the importance of which was almost immediately evident with the attack on Pearl Harbor. Another interesting chapter is “Kahunaism and Old Hawaiian Customs,” based on Dr. Pinkerton's research and observations.

My object is not to belabor the numerous achievements and experiences of Dr. Pinkerton or review his memoir but to ask: what should be done with this document? The memoir is in delicate condition. If it warrants preservation, who should do that? Apparently the previous possessor of this memoir did not feel that they could keep it, so it came to us. If anyone has a suggestion or comment, please feel free to provide it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

USS Jeannette

Because I work in a used bookstore I recently discovered the fascinating story of the USS Jeannette, a ship that was privately owned but commissioned by the U.S. in 1879 for an expedition to the North Pole. Its captain, Lt. George W. DeLong maintained a detailed journal of the voyage, and based on this journal, the ship’s log and personal letters, DeLong’s wife published posthumously the captivating story of this expedition: “The Voyage of the Jeannette.”

According to Wikipedia, the Jeannette began its existence as the HMS Pandora, a gunboat in the Royal Navy. James Gordon Bennett, Jr. owner of the New York Herald purchased her in 1878. An Arctic enthusiast, he obtained the cooperation of the U.S. government in fitting out the ship for an expedition to the North Pole including new boilers and a massive reinforcement to her hull. Renamed the Jeanette, she contained the latest in scientific equipment. Her crew consisted of 30 officers and men, including the captain Lt. George W. DeLong, a veteran Arctic explorer, and 3 civilians.

On July 8, 1879, the USS Jeannette sailed out of San Francisco and headed northward to Alaska’s Norton Sound crossed the Chukchi Sea and sighted Herald Island on September 4. Soon afterward the ship was caught in the ice pack near Wrangel Island and for twenty-one months she drifted to the northwest towards the North Pole. DeLong’s journal details the daily weather, drift, land sightings, and so much more. Even while drifting, in May 1881 two islands were discovered and named Jeannette and Henrietta. In June, Bennett Island was discovered and claimed for the U.S.

On June 12, 1881, the USS Jeannette was crushed by the ice pack and quickly sank. The men on board split into three groups and began an arduous journey towards land. One boat capsized and sank. The other two boats made land but in different locations and then faced a long overland trek. The Jeannette’s captain, Lt. DeLong, and all but two men in his group perished; the third group eventually reached safety. The expedition that began in San Francisco on July 8, 1879, and the search and rescue following the loss of the Jeannette was scrupulously set out in two large volumes published in 1883, that include drawings, charts and maps (fold-out). A first edition published in leather in 1883 was followed by the 1884 hardcover illustrated edition shown in the photo.

I wonder about books so old that no one alive remembers the men or the expedition. Reading the book is like being transported to the cramped wood ship, stuck in the ice and not knowing where I am or if we will be rescued. For almost two years. This seems incredible now with our satellites and cell phones. But it’s all there in over 900 pages of fascinating detail.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Philippine Food

Today I’ve chosen to present a paperback publication in rather marginal condition titled “Preservation of Philippine Foods: A Manual of Principles and Procedures,” that was compiled and edited by Sonia Y. de Leon, Ph.D. Published by Phoenix Press, Quezon City, Philippines, the preface is dated July, 1966, and states in part, “Food preservation could alleviate the ever growing problem of hunger and malnutrition in the Philippines. …The object of this manual is to encourage housewives and students to preserve foods at home.” Included in the Appendix is a “Lecture Outline,” indicating that Ms. Leon, possibly used this book as part of the curriculum at the University of the Philippines where she was an Assistant Professor in the College of Home Economics. (Another interesting Appendix is a "Dictionary of Preserving Terms.")

The book sets out sections related to freezing, salting, drying, smoking, curing, fermenting, and canning of meats, fruits and vegetables apparently raised or grown in the Philippines. For those interested in the science of cooking Dr. Leon includes sections on sugar concentrates with a table of pectin content of some Philippine fruits, the pectin-sugar-acid ratio in jelly formation, the pH values of important food groups useful for canning, food spoilage agents, and chemical additives in preserving food. But, what intrigues me most about this 198 page paperback is the large array of local (Philippine) recipes. A sampling: Tapang Baboy (salting of pork), Chicharon (pork cracklings), Dried Sinkamas (some sort of vegetable), Tapang Baka (jerked beef), Burong Isda (fermented rice with fish), Longanisa (native pork sausage), Burong Mustasa (pickled mustard leaves), Papaya Achara (pickled papaya). Anyone who cooks, or who appreciates food preparation would enjoy perusing this wonderful book.

Online, Dr. Leon appears to be a Board Member for the Philippine Association of Food Technologists, and President of the Foundation for the Advancement of Food Science and Technology. Obviously, she is still active. However, I could not find a reference to this book online anywhere.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

1893 Chicago World's Fair

We recently acquired this lovely "Souvenir of the World's Fair," more specifically, "Souvenir of the World's Columbian Exposition" in photo-gravure, copyright 1893 by A. Wittenmann, New York. Of course, this is the Chicago World's Fair that Erik Larson featured in his book, "Devil in the White City." The Souvenir book's photos are in black and white and held together with a gold tassle (seen on the left) between soft grey boards. There is barely any wear to the boards--some on the very edges. The inside pages are tanned with age, but not otherwise marked, creased or dirty. The photo on the left was taken with a flash which darkens the grey but shows the still gorgeous gilt title over a detailed scene.
There were several publications around 1893, but we have found none available on the internet in either the condition of ours or by A. Wittenmann. As such, the 5" x 7 1/2" book is difficult to value. If you have any information on this item, we'd love to hear it.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Christopher G. Moore

I didn't call this blog "old" books but "odd" books on purpose. Not all the books I want to write about are old. Today's author is a relative newcomer. Authors Brian Moore and Chris Moore are familiar writers, but Christopher G. Moore was new to me when I started at the bookstore. We don't acquire many of his books and over time I learned that every one has to be checked online because the resale price can vary greatly. Even his new books sell for between $19 and $26 in paperback. Some of his older paperbacks start at $74 at Amazon and go higher. He has written many books, and from what I gather most are set in Thailand where he lives; he has an online blog that updates his followers with his daily movements. What is his appeal? His book jackets label him an "expat" writer and contain praise from such as Gore Vidal. We have a very small group of Moore's readers here, which surprises me as Hawaii has many ties with Thailand including a large Thai population. I'd love to hear from Moore's readers with recommendations on his books and explanations of just what it is that makes him so special.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thomas Mann & Harry Warner

In 1938, Knopf published Thomas Mann’s Joseph in Egypt as a two volume set in a slipcase. We acquired a third printing dated March 1938. There are hundreds of these books available online, but a fewer number that are a third printing in good condition and with the slipcase. It can be purchased for about $12.00 including shipping. However, on the inside blank page of our volume one it reads in pencil “From Harry & Rea Warner, Hollywood,” and below this in the same writing is “Royal Hawn Hotel, Honolulu, and ’38.” In the second volume on the half title page, it reads in pencil “From Harry Warner (Warner Bros. Studios).” According to Wikipedia, Harry Warner was married to Rea Levinson; he was a studio executive and one of the founders of Warner Brothers. He served as the company president until 1956.

This set is not pristine and shows its age with spotting, tanning, and rubs on the top and bottom of the spine. The slipcase is also darkened and spotted with age. Stuck in the slipcase was a newspaper clipping from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin of Tuesday, June 21, 1938, showing a picture of Thomas Mann and information that he had been named as a lecturer in humanities for the 1938-39 term at Princeton University.

Without an inscription, we do not know who obtained the signatures or if the signatures are by Harry as opposed to his wife Rea on behalf of both of them. Because one book is signed with only Harry Warner’s signature, and the signatures in the books are identical, we assume it was signed by Mr. Warner. Given this, how much does a penciled signature, assuming it’s valid, add to the value of the set, if anything? (I invite comments/information)

Monday, October 26, 2009

What are Odd Books?

One of the reasons I love the bookstore business is the sleuthing required almost every time we receive a batch of used books. Almost everyone likes a puzzler, an enigma, a conundrum. We deal exclusively in used books, and you’d be amazed at what people drag through the doors--sometimes literally, in large garbage sacks. Even with information widely available online, we find treasures among the moldy and buggy books (this is humid Hawaii). One example. A local organization collected used books for several weeks for a fundraiser then after the sale brought the leftovers to us. In one of the boxes was an old Bible in Hawaiian: a special, hard to find book that is fairly easy to identify.

It’s the older and obscure titles that engage my curiosity, those with issues such as unusual signatures or inclusions like letters that describe a history to the book’s past ownership. Should the book command a higher price? Should we separate the letter from the book? Who are these people? Sometimes with research, I can resolve the confusion and set a reasonable resale price on the book; but over time, the stack of books with unresolved issues has grown. And I’m curious. Someone out there must know something. Thus, the Odd Books Blog. I hope you enjoy this blog, or if not, I hope it attracts the occasional bibliophile who will take the time to comment with details on the books I profile.