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 at the top of the structure. 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"...

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

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

The Value of Art...

An interesting quote from an 1862 periodical review of the loan collection of art treasures that had just gone on view at the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A)-

"Art, far more than use, is the stimulus of expenditure. A sense of art makes Mrs. Brown envy and finally outshine Mrs. Jones’s d’Aubusson carpet, though her own Brussels was but little the worse for wear. Art urges Mrs. Jones to emulate Lady Robinson’s Minton dinner-service, while her previous set (over which Jones grumbled so much at Copeland’s only the year before last, and of which but one sauce-boat and three plates are yet broken) subside to lower shelves in her pantry as second best. Art relegates to the second-hand dealer in Tottenham-court-road those armchairs which Sir John Robinson so long persisted in proving to be perfectly comfortable, by dropping off in one of them every time Lady R. delivered her tirade on their shortcomings."

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 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 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

What's in a Floor?

We have a beautiful book in our March catalog- H.F. Rodlich's "Praktische Anweisung zur Verfertigung der Venezianischen Estriche" is an 1810 guide to the art of making Venetian crushed-stone floors. It illustrates the tools and the step-by-step processes involved-

Venetian crushed stone floors are a rather difficult subject -very little material about them is available in the literature. Certainly the neo-classic elements are unmistakable, and the influence of recently excavated Roman ruins must have played a part in their popularity in Italy and, as this book illustrates, Germany.

The plates show the stone being prepared and colored, the floor surface being planned, laid-out and prepared, and the stone being applied and smoothed. The workmen are all stylishly dressed for such a dirty job, and appear very happy at their tasks. Young boys help with the work in a number of plates. Obviously a labor and time-intensive task, the laying of a stone floor is chronicled here in hand-colored plates that can only be described as jewel-like.

A scarce book, with only a single OCLC listing. Hardcover. 8.5"x10.5", 28 pages of text plus 24 hand-colored engraved plates on 12 leaves. We have a more extensive description in our March catalog.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Books on Furniture-

[update: when I posted this yesterday, Blogger, as it sometimes does, auto-converted the link I gave to our website to a Blogger-site link. I've corrected that now]

Just posted on our website-

We do love lists, and after some hard battles with wonky computers we've finished our latest Bibliography pages, which comprise our new Bibliography of Books about Furniture and Cabinetmakers!

These pages include entries for every book on furniture and cabinetmaking we have sold over the last decade. If you see a book listed which you would like to locate, please let us know.

We also have a printed catalog of books on furniture for sale- if you would like a free copy, please email us.

If you would like to see a list of books on furniture for sale from our stock right now, click here

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Big Spring Sale!

Spring cleaning is never pretty, and it can get downright surreal when the Book Elves do it. There was, for instance, the unforgettable April when they decided to throw away their sense of shame, which was quickly followed in May with summonses for nude sun bathing on the porch roof.

But before they took up their shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and began going through the garage, searching for "more common sense than God gave a rutabaga" (which it was recently suggested to them they lack) they finished work on our new "Big Spring Sale" catalog, which features more than 250 selected books and catalogs on antiques and art which we would like to clean off our shelves, most reduced in price from 25% to 60%! The sale prices are good through May 1st. Unlike most of our other catalogs, this catalog is only available in printed format.

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...