31 October 2011

The other John Lennon

A very odd find in a box of antiquarian books bought at auction-- the completely unknown John Lennon's Rossall Hall. A Poem (Printed for the Author, Preston 1834.) It was bound up with 6 other books including a book of Epicurean recipes (1832) and Memoirs of Madame Malibran de Beriot by Isaac Nathan author of The Hebrew Melodies. All in a small rust coloured moiré cloth-bound book with a leather label on the spine with the word 'Miscellanies' lettered in gold. Decent condition with some occasional foxing to text. The John Lennon book appears to be, like its author, completely unknown-- no copies at WorldCat, Copac or the mighty University of Karlsruhe database which has the complete catalogues of many worldwide libraries. The book is an UNCLE ('Unique No Copy Located Elsewhere') and worth a small fortune (let me dream...)

The book is a mere 36 pages and is mostly devoted to unadulterated praise of the great local landowner and philanthropist Sir Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood (1801 - 1866) who founded the town of Fleetwood, in Lancashire and was squire of Rossall Hall. At the time he also owned most of Southport. The book is dedicated to him and some of the verses may have been used in his election campaign. At the 1832 general election, Fleetwood was elected M.P. for Preston, in the first parliament following the Reform Act. The poem's style is slightly thumping, far better than McGonagall, but Swinburne he was not:

Hail Rossall Hall! thou stately dome,
With heavenly virtues blest:
Where learned sages find a home,
And weary traveller's rest.

Lennon, however, was no sycophant, his backing of Fleetwood was based on the politician's promise of work in the reform parliament for the rights of a million hand-loom weavers '...who, for a series of years have been labouring under the most unjust privations ever yet recorded in the annals of England's domestic history.' Lennon was campaigning in his poems for a minimum wage of a pound a week for the weavers. Fleetwood's many good works are recorded in his lengthy Wikipedia entry. He was also responsible for starting the development of the new resort town of Fleetwood built on a rabbit warren at Rossall Point near his stately pile. Initially he had considered naming his new town New Liverpool or Wyreton. I can find no trace of this John Lennon, the political poet, but an afternoon in Preston Library would probably reveal a few facts about him. Politically he was on the side of the working man and a dogged campaigner for worker's rights- that and a certain facility for rhyming connect him to his illustrious namesake.

Other compelling connections appear with a bit of searching online. Rossall Hall later became a private school and was attended by Stan Parkes, John Lennon's cousin. A fan site has this:
"Lennon had a large affiliation with Fleetwood where he regularly visited his cousin Stanley Parkes, the 'big brother' to the young John, the son of his Aunt Elizabeth (known as Mater)...George Parkes, the husband of Elizabeth and father of Stanley, died young and they moved to 33 Galloway Road where they lived with a local Fleetwood solicitor Mr Hodson. Stanley recalls he would often visit Liverpool and return to Fleetwood in the school holidays with his cousin Leila, Aunt Harriet's daughter. Stanley recalls they would all go up to Blackpool on the tram two or three times a week during their summer holidays to see separate shows. They would visit the Blackpool Tower Circus and see artists such as Dickie Valentine, Arthur Askey, Max Bygraves and Joe Loss and his big band. However, Stanley recalls it was George Formby who John particularly liked. The duo used to pass Formby's house regularly on the bus journey from Preston to Fleetwood where he and his wife would often be sitting in deck chairs in their garden at the front of their house. Stanley recalls he and John would wave and they would wave back. Stanley and the young John were keen fans of Fleetwood Flyers Speedway Club and Fleetwood Town FC. "

For a small outlay you could probably find the original John Lennon on ancestor or public records sites. He may even have been a relation to John Winston Lennon but probably not great grandfather as that man was said to have come from Ireland. A website called John Lennon's Family Tree states John Winston Lennon's great grandfather, James Lennon, son of Patrick Lennon, was born in County Down, Ireland in 1829. His father was a farmer. The John Lennon who flourished in 1832 appears to have been poor. He may have been a weaver himself ('One hundred hours we, every week/ Must toil for scanty fare...') He apologises to the great squire for 'the feeble outpourings of his rustic muse...the rude grasp of poverty will not afford me much time for mature reflection in the humble, but useful ranks, of a workman.' The book was printed by Wilcockson's of Preston. Who paid for the printing?

29 October 2011

Dust Jacket required

Let’s hope that after forty or more years the arguments about the importance of dust jackets/ wrappers has at last ceased. Times were when literary journalists and academics affected to despise this particular field of collecting. Disdainful and depressingly predictable remarks along the lines of : ’…who cares whether…I always throw it away…I wouldn’t pay a penny more for a book with one…it’s the text that counts…’ were frequently expressed. These detractors were often the same people who regarded (and perhaps still regard ) collectors of firsts as ‘ snobs ‘or nerds. I personally recall one incident that illustrated the suspicion that literary critics had for those who dared question the ‘texts’ that they took for granted. On this occasion my tutor, David Lodge, showed exasperation at being told that in a poem by, I think, Ted Hughes, the word ‘flies’ had been incorrectly printed as ‘files’ ( or was it vice-versa ? ). Those, who like me, had opted to study bibliography and textual criticism as a supplementary subject for three years were privately regarded as weirdos or iconoclasts. I suspect that this covert hostility still exists in Eng Lit departments, and the dismissal of book wrappers as somehow peripheral is symptomatic of the myopia of most literary critics. In any case, in the newish discipline of Book History the whole issue now sounds a bit passé. Things have moved on and one of the latest debates concerns the very earliest dust-jackets.

New discoveries are being made all the time. Not too long ago, most collectors would have dismissed the idea that jackets were issued with books before the First World War. A few others might have reported seeing seen them on older books, usually of the 1890s. Hardly anyone would have admitted to having seen a jacket on a book of the 1880s, let alone the 1870s, or earlier. The fact is, of course, that Victorian book jackets are pretty rare, and as such, are collected, both as integral parts of the book and as significant documents of publishing history. Now, thanks to ongoing research it has been confidently asserted that the first jacket with flaps dates from the 1840s and that the jacket as we know it dates from 1830, when copies of The Friendship’s Offering were sold parcelled up in plain, cheap paper with a printed simplified version of the title page facing upwards. There appear to be more late 19th century American books extant that have jackets. A non-English contender for the earliest jacket is Muggendorf und seine Umgebung oder die frankische Schweiz by Joseph Heller, which appeared in 1829.

This is astonishing news for anyone interested in the history of the book. The sadder thing is that probably in 99.99 % of cases,these earliest of book protectors were immediately removed and thrown away by the bookseller when the item went on display in the shop window. The fact that one of these 1830 wrappers has survived this treatment is a minor miracle. After all, why should anyone wish to preserve what amounts to a piece of plain off-white wrapping paper with minimal printing?

Well, as Dr Joad probably didn’t say, ‘It all depends what you mean by paper wrapping’. I am one of those sad people who can get excited by early wrapping paper and was overjoyed to buy a run ( 1809 – 29 ) of a provincial newspaper with each year’s newspaper wrapped in contemporary paper inscribed in ink with the appropriate date. Having never been a great fan of fancy gilt binding (unless from some wealthy collector’s library of Renaissance bindings), I also bought my copy of a 1790s political tract because it came simply sewn in plain paper---no boards. A dealer I know bought some first edition OS sheets of the late Georgian period which were wrapped in the original brown paper.

So it is, I suppose, that for all their visual dullness, these mid Victorian wrappers exude a period charm. I tracked down some of the earliest titles on ABE and found four of them. The earliest was Ancient Armour and Weaponry by John Hewitt (1855), then came Daedalus, or the causes and principles of Greek Sculpture, by Edward Falkener (1860), The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll (1875), and Hezekiah Butterworth’s Zig-zag journeys in Classic Lands (1881). None had jackets, except for the latter, which the alert dealer, who demanded $350 for his copy, knew was a ‘very scarce’ item in its printed and illustrated wrapper. Another site offers for sale various Victorian jackets ( no books with them, it would seem ) dating from 1877 to 1906, and ranging in price from $850 ( Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno Concluded) to just $100. Quite a few have been sold already.

The moral is keeping looking. According to the invaluable (many thanks) Early Dust Jackets blog, at least ‘8 or 10 ‘ copies of The Hunting of the Snark are known to have survived in their jackets, and you can bet that each copy is worth big bucks. [R. M. Healey]

Many thanks Robin. I tend to think dealers rate early jackets on books higher than punters, probably because they appreciate how rare they are. By the way that's Robert E. Howard's 'A Gent from Bear Creek' (Jenkins 1937) although it is only 75 years old I can think of 10,000 reasons I would like to find it wearing a jacket. Ship and bill. A high-end player in modern firsts has a Zuleika Dobson (1911) from the 'incomparable' Max at £10,000 in a decentish jacket. It has been there many moons and £10K may keep it there for a while longer even though it is now 100 years old. Sans jacket it is at best a £100 book, so the jacket adds 100 times value. There are books with greater variables than this-- a copy of Dickens's Edwin Drood (1870) appeared in a jacket and sold for $100 about 70 years ago in Philadelphia (and has subsequently disappeared) - today it could make a comfortable five figure sum, with a decent cloth first procurable at about £400. Likewise the Hound of the Baskervilles or even earlier Sherlock firsts, not completely unknown in jackets, can command staggering sums. However it's hard to beat Brighton Rock for add-on value from a jacket -- £250 to £40,000. It's candy coloured.

28 October 2011

Book signings

When did the cult of book signing begin ? By book-signing I mean the organised book-signing in a bookshop. I ask because it is not always obvious in what circumstances a book was signed. In my copy of E.V. Lucas’s At the Shrine of St Charles (1934), Auntie Jessie of 21, Woodstock Road, Croydon has interleaved a note telling her niece that she had ‘a chance to get this autographed copy of St Charles‘. The question is, did, she stand in line at the Croydon branch of W. H. Smiths some time in 1934 to get that nice Mr Lucas to sign his latest work? Or did she schlep to town later for a talk by Lucas, perhaps at a meeting of the Charles Lamb Society ?

Is an author necessarily going to include in their inscription the fact that the book was signed in a shop, with all that this entails? After all, even today, when we profess not to care about such social niceties, signing a cartload of books from cardboard boxes in a branch of Waterstones, complete with a simpering PR graduate aide, is one thing; a few books brought in by genuine fans for signatures at a Foyles literary luncheon is quite another. Is anyone going to believe you when you boast that Martin Amis signed your first of The Rachel Papers over a glass of Chablis and a longish chat on the literary merits of Saul Bellow at the Hay Festival? ‘Well, all I see is his signature’, your sceptical friend remarks.’ Nothing about Bellow or Hay ‘. Are you sure you didn’t meet him at Hatchards’s ?

You are suitably mortified. You had to talk for ten minutes about tennis to keep him keen, you recall. And the rest of the Festival was a waste of time and money. Good job I like second hand books. But to return to the book store. The literature on book store signings is pretty thin. Diaries and letters of the twentieth century are probably the best source, but I could find little. And if you Google ‘ history of book signings ‘, hoping to get some juicy anecdotes on Auden or Waugh in the thirties, you are disappointed . So perhaps this particular marketing phenomenon is of a comparatively recent date. And indeed, according to one American internet source, Book Tours as we know them today, were the brainchild of the novelist Jacqueline Susann in the sixties. Apparently she would hire a plane, load it with books, and check herself into a string of bookstores. But that degree of glitziness seems particularly American, and today the Book Tour, celebrity or otherwise, seems more popular in the States.

And what of the professional dealers who stand in line with the punters? Many authors despise the breed and claim to be able to pick them out from the modern Auntie Jessies. I have my doubts about this. The cunning dealer intent on obtaining a signature is unlikely to target the same author before a respectable period of time has elapsed. Moreover, many dealers are married (sometimes hard to believe) with children, all of whom can be deployed to obtain signatures. However, it is probably true that at a book signing no author will sign one of their previously published tomes, unless, one supposes, the customer has already bought a copy of the title being promoted.

I must admit to regarding this particular kind of opportunist dealer with sneaking admiration. The risk of being humiliated by an angry author is not something that everyone is prepared to take. And all for a signature ! And so I ask, what’s the big deal with signed contemporary fiction ? Here are some prices attached to items offered for sale by various dealers in the now defunct Book and Magazine Collector over the past three years.

Sean Connery, Being a Scot (signed 1st/1st. W&N 2008) F/F £225.
B. Jacques, Redwall (signed) VG VG £295
J Lindsay, Darkly Dreaming Dexter (signed) F/F £125
Wilbur Smith, Hungry as the Sea (signed) F/F £125
Andrew Taylor, Our Fathers Lies (1985 signed) F/F £90
D. Morrell, Testament, VF/VF, signed UK 1st £100

And so on. They seemed foolishly expensive but surprisingly the net now just about bears them out. [R. M. Healey]

Thanks Robin. The Connery seems toppish but I guess it's bought by those in the thrall of Bond and he might be a difficult chap to corner with book and pen - so 225 smackers could possibly be raised. I had more luck on Google but you have to drill down to fan sites where discussions of book signings and the ungrateful ways of celebs is fairly rife. On the subject of angry authors a friend was at a Rushdie signing and asked the novelist to sign a few books, including a book he had fulsomely praised, the amazing ALL ABOUT H. HATTERR by G. V. Desani. Salman got in quite a bate that he was being asked to sign a book he didn't write, raised voices etc., Not sure about the etiquette there. I would be wary of asking Peter Ackroyd to sign Iain Sinclair's 'Lud Heat' for example (a book he acknowledged as a big influence on 'Hawksmoor.') Keep it simple might be the maxim when meeting the luminaries of lit.

A cautionary tale of a fan who spotted Dylan and asked for an autograph. He produced a book to sign and Bob was about to sign but the fan did not or could not provide a pen. 'No pen, no autograph' snapped the bard and hurried off.

22 October 2011

Dennis Wheatley's Library

This incredible collection, rich in modern first editions, was acquired and catalogued by Blackwell's of Oxford in 1979. The venerable company did not quite 'get' modern first editions at the time and there were many bargains. Later they cottoned on to them and started asking higher prices than most dealers in the field. The condition of dust - jackets is not described and as late as the 1950s jackets were often not mentioned even if present. In Wheatley's case they were often fine but to not describe them seems amazing to the modern sensibility; they are the sine qua non of such collecting.

It is said one of the big orderers on the first day was the late Chris Radmall, one of the champions of the jacket in his boutique like shop in Covent Garden, London 'Bell, Book and Radmall.' Between Covent Garden and Santa Barbara the cult of the modern first, with its emphasis on condition and jackets, was busy being born. John Baxter in his Pound of Paper says that Radmall would have been equally at home in Carnaby Street and the (dust) jackets in his window were objects of beauty in themselves.***

The reasonableness of Blackwell's prices can be demonstated by looking on the net now for books that have Wheatley's bookplate. He had stuck them in the majority of books, usually in the version pictured above. Of the 2274 books about 60 have found their way back to dealers and are on ABE (there are doubtless more, but with the bookplate not noted by inept mom and pop operations etc.,) Many have risen in price by 20 or 30 times while the retail index has gone up about 4 times since 1979, but to be fair a lot of books, especially modern firsts, have outperformed these figures. A jacketless U.S. first of Hemingway's Farewell to Arms was listed at £80 - it has subsequently acquired a jacket and a dealer in Mobile, Alabama wants a not unreasonable £2400 for it. For £15 you could also have bought the 1929 UK first of Hem's great novel in the distinctive Lee Elliott dustwrapper - not uncommon but now a fairly easy £600 in fine/fine condition.

Some books from this cata have re- emerged with their jackets now actually described. Wheatley's signed copy of Eric Ambler's The Night Comers (1956) which was £12 has found it's way to bohemian Mill Valley in California where £420 is needed - the jacket is described as near fine with 'only the most minor wear to the extremities' and it is noted that the price is not clipped-- price-clipping was not much of an issue in 1979 and is not mentioned anywhere in the catalogue. The dealer notes 'this copy belonged to fellow master thriller author Dennis Wheatley (ornate bookplate).'

The bookplate by Frank Papé, whom Wheatley knew and collected, is a curious item. I had always thought that the centaur figure on the left was G.B. Shaw, but in fact it was W's mentor Gordon Eric Gordon-Tombe, murdered in sordid circumstances in 1922. At an auction in 1985 a dealer bought a 35,000 word manuscript by Wheatley that reveals he knew that his charismatic friend was a fraudster, orgiast and thief. He had fought with him on the Western Front and he used him as the model for the pre- Bond hero Gregory Sallust. Talking of Bond there are no Flemings in the catalogue, possibly due to some animosity ...

One of the most startling item in the catalogue was in the first entry - 'the only extant whole copy of the torn-up photograph' in Who Killed Roger Prentice? (1937). This was in the very collectable crime series of crime dossiers consisting of facsimile documents and clues (burnt matches, cigarettes, train tickets etc.,) in little envelopes and the murderer's name in a sealed envelope. This was part of a 55 volume set of his own collection of his works sumptuously bound by Sangorski preserving the jackets (laid down) with the manuscript of one work ( Of Vice and Virtue) and a signed letter from Winston Churchill. All for £4500.

More to come-- including an examination of changing tastes in collecting. For example Blackwell's put £6 on a Charles Birkin's Devil's Spawn (1936) signed to Wheatley and fine in a jacket. At a 100 times this price the book would probably last less than a minute on the web in 2011. Some of the 2274 books however are now worth the same or less than they were priiced at 33 years ago...but not many.

*** Baxter also says that Chris Radmall launched the night-club Annabel's with his pal George Harrison, in fact it was a short-lived club for posh and beautiful persons called Sybilla's. Possibly George helped out.

18 October 2011

The Non Non-Book / Half Book, Half Biscuit

Dealing in used books you occasionally come across scam genealogical books. These were going before the internet and must be an early example of 'Print on Demand' (POD) technology. They were sold as genealogical books about your family and usually cost about £25. You got a general introduction, a section about the origin of surnames in general, a section about heraldry, a couple of blank charts to copy and complete once you had done your own research, a few recipes and (sometimes) a list of names, addresses and telephone numbers of persons with the same surname culled from world telephone directories. People probably bought them as presents but for anyone who consulted them disappointment was guaranteed. Content was all totally generic with nothing about your family. If your name was, say, Liddell the book would be called The Book of Liddells. On the 'never give a sucker an even break' principle these are still marketed and have graduated to the web - they are pathetic objects of no real second hand value and have to be unceremoniously pulped by dealers along with those rather sad scam directories of 'important' people etc.,

I was reminded of these by an article in the most recent Private Eye on the activities of a German company called Betascript who produce books culled from articles on Wikipedia. To be fair this is now proudly declared on the cover and on Amazon 'High Quality Content by Wikipedia Articles.' Like all the best scams it's all legal. They have produced over 150,000 books, mostly edited by a cove called Lambert M. Surhone. They cover thousands of subjects, mostly minor e.g Rail Accidents in Winsford (£28 for a 96 page POD paperback.) It has the 2 page Wikipedia article on crashes in Winsford and pads out the rest of the article with full Wikipedia entries that are hyperlinked within the article - Battersea Park Rail Crash, a history of Cheshire etc., As the Eye says 'people in Winsford aren't to know that and might even be tempted to buy it.' One suspects these books are generated without human interference-- their scholarly work on Orford Ness in Suffolk, U.K. has a map of America on the cover and another work on the Soviet republic of Georgia has a picture of downtown Atlanta on the cover.

The book above on Scams in Intellectual Property is so close to the bone that it may signify that the publisher actually does not know what they are offering. Another major non non-book player 'Books LLC' also out of Germany and responsible for 200,000+ such books, has a book on this style of publishing and the Wikipedia article is less than friendly towards the enterprise. Such a programme could, in theory, generate an infinite number of books. You could even ask it to write a book just for you.

Often the books will wander into irrelevant or whimsical territory through the hyperlinks. In a book on the actor Ronald Colman it mentions that he went to a boarding chool in Littlehampton - so readers get two pretty thorough pieces on Littlehampton and on boarding schools. He had hoped to go to Cambridge but didn't make it-- this is a good excuse for an exhaustive history of the university. The journalist Gene Weingarten found they had generated a book on him which has sold 3 copies apart from the one he bought: these are not great sellers but with 300,000 PODs sitting on their computers even 2 sales per book is handy. There are 950,000 Lambert Surhone books for sale at ABE of which only 500 are actual printed books, presumably bought by unfortunate punters and returned swiftly to the market. This indicates poorish sales -- for example in the relatively sane world of new age publishing there are 3000 used copies of just one title The Celestine Prophecy for sale on ABE.

Some of the connections found in these books are almost Dadaist --in the magisterial Vreni Schneider: Annemarie Moser-Pröll, FIS Alpine Ski World Cup, Winter Olympic Games, Slalom Skiing, Giant Slalom Skiing, Half Man Half Biscuit basically a non non-book about the Swiss skier Vreni Schneider there is a longish piece on English indie rock band Half Man Half Biscuit. Schneider had been namechecked in a song by them called 'Uffington Wassail.' Some trivia hound has added this to Schneider’s Wikipedia page and the Biscuits end up in a slalom skiing book. It's a mad world my masters.

15 October 2011

Libraries of the Great Dictators 1

Colonel Gaddafi

Most of those who commented on the pictures showing the deserted palace of Gaddafi were disturbed by the fact that for all his wealth the Great Dictator’s idea of opulence was having in one room a giant golden mermaid ‘ with a long beard ‘ and in another a bright yellow mock up of a sports car projecting from one wall . The bad taste was seen to spread to two further rooms that might have been small libraries, but were evidently not the sort that, say Hitler or Louis XIV would have had. The wall of one room had shelves stacked with what seemed to be hundreds of multi-coloured plastic bound photographic albums, some of which showed Mr Gaddafi smiling with fellow war criminal Blair. Another room was furnished what appeared to be proper books, some of which had been heedlessly been swept onto the floor. But books were not the concern of one wit who posted that a looter shown on the photograph seemed to have found the Colonel’s prized collection of Richard Clayderman and Barry Manilow CDs.

One mustn’t be too judgmental here. In another raid earlier in the year looters found books on Jewish occultism and sorcery in one of the Colonel’s palaces. And as far as the Tripoli palace is concerned, not all the rooms were photographed, and it could be that one locked room held a priceless collection of Korans and commentaries dating back to the ninth century, together with early Arabic treatises on mathematics, science and philosophy, all bound in precious jewelled encrusted camel-skin bindings. Or perhaps not. Almost all of the above could apply to Saddam Hussein, although he did not look like a Barry Manilow man.

Idi Amin

Could he read ? He became a General, so one must assume that he could. Possible contents of his library might have been: the uniform edition of Walter Scott in leather-style PVC, a colonial edition of Robert Burns in tartan cloth, a colour-in pop-up book of Castles of Scotland published by Odhams Press, and the selected poems of William McGonigall with an introduction by Andy Stewart.
However, probably no firsts…

Adolf Hitler

According to many sources Hitler had been a bibliophile since his student days and at the height of his power received around 4,000 books a year into his library, which at one point consisted of an amazingly diverse collection of around 16,000 volumes, 1,200 of which are now in the Library of Congress. The disappointment is that most of these volumes were signed presentation copies from the authors, and there is no strong evidence that the Fuhrer ever read them. However, a few of the 1,200 have annotations, which suggested that Hitler was a habitual reader. Though no devourer of classic novels, he rated Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travels among the greatest works of world literature. He also loved trashy novels and among his collection were found many dogged eared books by a popular German writer of Westerns.

Some of the books he brought into his Berlin bunker are revealing too. It will probably never be known exactly what books the Russians found when they entered the Fuhrer’s private quarters, but an American Colonel, Albert Aronson, who was one of the first Americans to enter Berlin after the collapse of the Nazi resistance, was allowed by the Russians to take around 80 of the volumes that remained after the communist forces had picked the place clean and left. These books, which ended up in Brown University Library, included over twelve works on the occult that Hitler had acquired in the early twenties, such as The Predictions of Nostradamus and the infamous Magic: History Theory and Practice by Ernest Schertel, who wrote numerous books on flagellation and eroticism, and was "a central figure" in the German nudist movement of the 1920s and 1930s. Hitler’s copy was heavily marked and bears a handwritten dedication from Schertel, scrawled on the title page in pencil. A particularly thick pencil line appears beside the passage "He who does not carry demonic seeds within him will never give birth to a new world." Other books were devoted to Nordic runes, among them a 1922 history of the swastika, richly illustrated with nearly 500 diverse renderings—in Egyptian hieroglyphics, Greek pottery, Mayan temples, and Christian crosses. William Dudley Pelley's The Dead Are Alive delivers "incontrovertible evidence on occultism, somnambulism, spiritualism, with sixteen photographs of ghosts." Among the photographic images that fill the final pages of the volume is one of five people levitating a table at an 1892 séance in Genoa and another allegedly showing the ghost of a fifteen-year-old Polish girl, Stasia, being consumed by a "luminous, misty substance."

The rest of the 80 were, like the Library of Congress books, a mixed bag : picture books, art journals, an Italian libretto of Wagner's Walküre, a 1937 edition of Mein Kampf, and two editions of Dr Alfred Rosenberg's The Myth of the Twentieth Century. [R. M. Healey]

Many thanks Robin. Chilling stuff. I remember once at a slow auction a generalist dealer reminiscing about a carpet he had bought that had been in Hitler's office, one wag asked him 'was it badly chewed?' As for Idi Amin I believe I heard he had a manual for his Ferrari. When it broke down the garage told him he would have to wait several weeks for the part from Italy but the dictator said that unless the car was ready the next day the mechanic would be shot. One imagines the unfortunate fellow somehow fashioned the part from metal or plundered another Ferrari. (Btw that's Gaddafi's pool above.) There is a good glossy book you sometimes see about dictator kitsch - Peter York's 'Dictator Style.' Why do dictators display such bad taste? Maybe it's because no one dare criticise or advise them...