Category Archives: Treasure Hunting

The Kitchen Magician ‘Food Glamorizer’

The local country op-shops seem to be stuffed with kitschy kitchenalia, and considering I now have many open kitchen shelves that are screaming to be filled with knick-knackery I am in trouble.Then again strange things happen when you move out to the country. I now put flowers in the bathroom. I spent two weeks on an obsessive hunt for a vase – for my bathroom.

One of my more amusing finds, the Kitchen Magician ‘Food Glamorizer’. I am seriously doubtful it would stand up to carving a pumpkin however, and this doesn’t look like it was ever used. But I was very happy to find it in the box complete with the instructions, everything from stringing celery to radish roses.






Books(s) of the Week – Nurse Matilda by Christianna Brand

We found these little treasures on a book hunting trip today. Actually, Craig found them, the scoundrel. I was clutching a rather large haul of children’s books and feeling pleased with myself when Craig appeared with these two tiny books.

They were well hidden. These books measure a pocket-sized 10×16 cm, and have beautiful gilt-embossed covers, decorated by one of my favourite illustrators Edward Ardizzone. I have never seen the original format before, only later paperbacks and re-issues so I was very excited to have finally found one (or two)

Christianna Brand, a British crime author, wrote three books in the Nurse Matilda series, the first Nurse Matilda in 1964, Nurse Matilda Goes to Town in 1967 and Nurse Matilda Goes to Hospital in 1974. I’m familiar with the series and the movie adaptations (Nanny McPhee by Emma Thompson, a favourite of mine)  But today I found out that Edward Ardizzone and Christianna Brand were cousins, as shown in the adorable childhood portraits on the back flap of the dust-jacket.

The cousins worked together on the books based on stories told to them by their Grandfather. I can just imagine slipping one in my pocket to take to school with me as I’m sure many children did. These two books are both almost 40 years old and beautifully bound, with no wear to the gilt, the pages haven’t aged at all and this is surprising as they’ve been well-read, if the worn-out ribbon markers are anything to go by.

Edward Ardizzone, of course, has illustrated many children’s books. They’re beautifully decorated with little black and white illustrations throughout,  so I’ll leave you with some of them to enjoy while I go and get started on the first book.

Our Bookshelf: Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe

This one is not technically from my bookshelf, although it has a lot of sentimental value to me. This one if from Craig’s shelf, considerably smaller than mine as he generally only keeps books that I buy him. One book he had purchased and kept, however, was this Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe illustrated by Harry Clarke, from the early 1930’s.

When we opened the book shop in Parkdale, we put some glass cabinets at the front to serve as a counter and house some of our rare books. Craig added his copy of Tales of Mystery and Imagination to the collection, and then printed cards for each book in the cabinet.

I was looking after the shop while he was out a couple of weeks after we opened when the owners of Bound Words in Hampton, Ailsa and Peter,  came in to introduce themselves and have a look around. Aisla took a shine to the Edgar Allen Poe in the cabinet and told me she loved Harry Clarke’s illustrations, and after a brief look decided to buy it. I, of course, am pleased to make a good sale.

That is, until Craig got home and informed me, to my complete bewilderment, that he didn’t want to sell the book. I protested that it had a price tag on it, therefore I had imagined it was actually for sale. He told me it was just there for display and he hadn’t thought anyone would actually buy it as it was an expensive book. I had to agree there, we were a tiny bookshop and had only been open a couple of weeks. But the book was sold.

A couple of months later Craig’s birthday was coming up, which is shortly after Christmas, and wondering what on earth to buy him as usual, and if I could afford a good Philip K. Dick, inspiration struck. I’d replace the Edgar Allen Poe book. Maybe with a first edition instead of a later print. I’m sure my wallet actually shrieked in protest when I looked at the first editions on abebooks. I also noticed the first edition had a different cover than his first copy. So I figured I’d try eBay.

So I found a British copy which I think was from the early 1920’s. The first edition had only black and white plates, this edition had been updated with tipped-in colour plates as well as the full page black and white illustrations in the first edition. I decided it would do, and then got into a mad panic about actually securing the book. The seller was local, and sympathetic to my panicked pleas to come and collect it so I could give it to him for Christmas and bemused as I explained half-a-dozen times I wasn’t selling it (she had given me a good price and knew I was a book-dealer)


So now it’s in our collection (and yes he was completely tickled with it) and I keep it on one of our book stands rather than the shelf, so I can flip through it occasionally.

Harry Clarke is a wonderful illustrator, so please have a look at the full album of illustrations from this book on my Facebook albums here, and enjoy. They’re outstanding and I am sure you’ll love them as much as we do.

Book of the Week: James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl 1967

James and the Giant Peach was always my favourite Roald Dahl book when I was a kid. Yes, I liked it more than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the Twits, and even a little more than Fantastic Mr. Fox. I must have read it at least 25 years ago for the first time. I read it over and over, a battered old Puffin copy that has long since disappeared, and been replaced, and read over and over again. And why James? It was the Peach. And Quentin Blake’s wonderful illustrations.

Special books, it seems to me, always turn up in the oddest of places. Dave and Maria were down for a visit, so we drove them out to the country to visit Carmel and go to a library sale. This was the usual leapy-grabby affair, and I wasn’t really in the mood for digging (which lead to me filling only two bags full while fastidious Dave chose only two books, an off day for both of us. Well perhaps it was three bags) We headed over to the next town to go to some op-shops and the bakery (who, for a wonder, ruined the jam tarts that day) Three stops for book shopping, however,  is not enough for Craig (always a fight to the very end!). We had to stop at some more on the way back.

So at the end of the usual exhausting sort of day we stopped at a poky little op-shop. The book shelves had all sorts of things stacked in front of them. There was a girl on the floor sifting through an enormous pile of books, so I had to edge in sideways to get down to the very last shelves which were obstructed by a pile of smelly couches. But I had spied the kid’s books, so off I sidled. After managing not to hurt myself or knock over the couches (no mean feat) I was wedged in between the shelves and the couches with no room to crouch to look at the bottom shelves and trying to lean at a very odd angle, and then I spied this…


Which I of course snatched up (with some difficulty mind). It had no jacket, and the boards were a bit worn. Dave decided to look it up on his phone and tell me it was worth $1. I thought I’d keep it for myself then, as it had these wonderful illustrations by Michel Simeon which I hadn’t seen before

Of course Dave told me he was waiting for my email when I remembered to have a better look at it when I got home, after a good long nap. This is, in fact, the first British Edition from 1967, not as valuable as the American edition printed earlier, but a little gem nonetheless (and he got the email of course)

It is also the first Roald Dahl first edition I have ever found, and led me to the usual dilemma of a book seller who is also a book collector (and why it should belong to me) I have, however, photographed and listed it, and would like to share some of the amazing illustrations


You can view all the illustrations on my Facebook album. Enjoy! I think it’s time for another visit with a childhood favourite.


Book of the Week – Lasseter’s Last Ride 1931, First Edition by Ion L. Idriess

This week’s best book I am going to have to hand to Craig. Every bookseller loves to find an Ion Idriess, as much as the collectors. Fittingly discovered on a hellishly long exploration of the countryside, (thankfully in a car and not on camels) Craig was trying to show me this while I was absorbed in a pile of dusty old kid’s books and kept impatiently waving him away.

This particular book, Lasseter’s Last Ride, is Idriess’s  second book. Harold Bell Lasseter was, briefly, an Australian explorer who claimed to have found a huge gold reef in the desert, somewhere between Western Australia and The Northern Territory. In 1930 he had raised enough money to fund an expedition, and set off in search of the reef. After being abandoned as a madman by his crew, and then his camels, he never returned.

His remains, along with a diary, were discovered by Bob Buck in March of 1931, with Lasseter thought to have perished around the end of January. His ‘diary’ revealed that he had lived among Aborigines for several months in the Petermann Ranges and had most likely died of starvation.

Angus and Robertson purchased the diary and then commissioned Ion L. Idriess to write the book. This was first published in 1931, and has been reprinted many times. The diary can be viewed here


‘What good a reef worth millions? I would give it all for a loaf of bread.’

Recorded in the diary before his death beside a remote Northern Territory creek bed.

1931 Ion L Idriess Lasseter’s Last Ride Angus and Robertson First Edition

On ‘Recycling’ Vintage Books and What It’s Worth

‘Cassandra by Chance’ by Betty Neels original cover from 1973,  opposite a 1990’s reprint of the same book.

While you’ll often find art-work reproduced from vintage pulp-fiction, the early Mills and Boon and Harlequin artwork tends to get overlooked. Some of those old covers feature the coolest artwork, and I am sorry they don’t reproduce it when they reprint collector’s editions of books. Once in a (very long) while I come across large collections of M&B from the 60’s and 70’s, and if I am lucky I might find some of the 1950’s hardcovers (I have featured a picture of one in a previous blog on Betty Neels) which are really a lot of fun to go through.

You’ll also find some cool cover-art on the Women’s Weekly Fiction magazines. Unfortunately you will also find some ‘interesting’ uses of it.

A few days ago on Twitter, Penguin books posted a link saying they ‘loved the use of vintage covers on these notebooks’ Thinking someone is reproducing old cover-art on notebook covers I click on the link to have a look. They’re not actually reproducing the cover art, they are removing the covers from old books and using them to make notebooks. For a princely sum of $18 mind. You can order the text block of the book, sans cover,  to be sent for an additional $5. I suppose that is something.

I don’t know how I feel about defacing and destroying vintage paperbacks to make a largely disposable item. I have seen worse, however.

On an online-site-that-shall-not-be-named, a seller-that-shall-not-be-named was selling purses made out of Women’s Weekly Fiction magazine covers. The purses were, they claimed, fairly fragile as they were made of paper, and would probably hold up six months. I was browsing the covers with a mix of horror and intrigue when I stumbled across a purse made with a Lucilla Andrews cover. Before I could stop myself I had shot an email off to the seller begging them to stop.

“You can’t sell these” I was told huffily “They’re not worth anything”

So as every year, thousands upon thousands of vintage paperbacks are sacrificed to recycling, or to, er, “quirky” ideas like the aforementioned. For every collector that treasures their out-of-print and/or vintage paperbacks, there are probably dozens of people who claim they’re “not worth anything”

And every year we might lose another book, the final book, long out-of-print, once-cherished, to the recycling pile, never to be read or enjoyed by anyone again.