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Selling of the Esoteric

· Fine Book Collecting,Esoterica,Unusual Books,Unusual Topics,Rare Books

One of the fun things about being a book dealer is finding and acquiring unusual titles. Some are strange, some are focused on quite unusual topics and often they are very scarce. Some are science based but way out of date – maybe? They are all esoterica. I thought I would share some of these with you. The descriptions are taken from our on-line posting.


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Ships Without Names – The Story of The Royal Navy’s Tank Landing Ships of World War II; by Brian Macdermott; Arms and Armour Press, a Cassell Imprint; London, 1992.

The LST – Landing Ship Tank – was the key to the amphibious invasions that launched the Allies to victory in the Second World War. In this first ever study of the Royal Navy’s LSTs, Brian Macdermott brings to life the story of a class of ship very much ‘born in battle’. The standard LST(2) was essentially a 300-foot box with a flat bottom, capable of carrying 20 tanks and 27 lorries on to an invasion beach and hauling itself off to return for another load. The author has extensively researched service records and reports as a factual framework, with which he has blended the memories of many ex-crewmen who wanted their story told. The result is a worthy tribute to the men and their ships that have been nameless for too long.

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Album of the Yiddish Theatre, Zalme Zylberzweig, New York, 1937.

This book is an incredible photographic history of the Yiddish theatre in the United States, primarily New York, but also of Jewish Theatre around the world. There are photographs, starting in 1894, taken in the United States, Russia, Poland, Romania, France, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, South Africa, Uruguay, Austria and Argentina. There are rare photos of Charlie Chaplin, Paul Muni, George Jessel, Eddie Cantor and Albert Einstein. The photos were not taken by professionals but by members of theatre groups and their families. It must have been quite the chore to gather these very personal photographs from all over the world.

I sold this book to a young woman, from New York, who visited our shop last summer. She was the most thorough searcher of shelves that we have had, and she bought some nice items. When she pulled this book off the shelf, I said to her “This book belongs in the Jewish Community”. She looked at me, smiled, and said “Yep”.

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Dracula Was A Woman: In Search of The Blood Countess of Transylvania; by Raymond T. McNally; McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1983.

McNally presents the true history of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, the ancient “vampire” of Transylvania. The Countess is reputed to have murdered close to 700 young women in the belief that their blood would keep her young. Dr. McNally recounts her life in detail, using forgotten feudal records – previously untranslated Latin and Hungarian historical accounts – of the Blood Countess’s crimes and trials for witchcraft. The author separates the actual woman from the legendary vampire, in the end recreating a true tale more horrifying than the myth.

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Rrose is a Rrose is a Rrose – Gender Performance in Photography; Jennifer Blessing,
Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1997.

From the proliferation of films with cross-dressed protagonists to advertisements featuring androgynous adolescents, the contemporary fascination with gender and sexuality is manifested in a variety of media. Film, video, and especially photography provide an ideal arena in which to explore and play with gender identity. Rrose is a Rrose is a Rrose provides an art-historical perspective to contemporary interest in gender, linking it to Surrealist investigations in the period between the two world wars, as well as to work done in the early 1970’s by European and American artists. The title combines Gertrude Stein’s famous motto, “Rose is a rose is a rose,” with the name of Marcel Duchamp’s feminine alter ego, Prose Selavy.

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The Year-Book of Treatment and Medical Formulary for 1899; A Critical Review for Practitioners of Medicine and Surgery; Illustrated; Philadelphia, New York and Chicago: The F. A. Davis Company, Publishers; 1899.

For this, the fifteenth annual issue of the “Year-Book of Treatment” only a few words of introduction are required. This book is now generally acknowledged as indispensable to all members of the medical profession who endeavor to keep themselves abreast of progress in therapeutics. New in this volume is the “Medical Formulary” department at the end of the volume”. This section at the end of the book, pages 473 to 562, is fascinating. It is a pharmacist’s delight – 90 pages of conditions with detailed remedies for treatment. The remedies include the details of how to make up the treatment drug - a la 1899! The text of the book contains a number of illustrations, especially in the chapter on “The Open-Air Treatment of Phthisis” or Consumption now called “TB” or Tuberculosis.


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Practical Notes on the Cyanide Process; by Francis L. Bosqui, Ph.B, Supt. Of the Standard Mining Co.’s Cyanide Works, Bodie, Cal.; Illustrated; The Scientific Publishing Company, New York and London, 1899.

Toxic sodium cyanide has been used in gold mining since 1887 and it remains the primary reagent in use for gold processing today because it allows for efficient extraction of gold from low-grade ore. This book would appear to be one of the first “scientific” works on the use of cyanide, bearing in mind who the author works for. The word “environment” does not appear in the book. There is a chapter called - Cleaning Up and Refining the Precipitate – and the first sentence is “The difficulties incident to cleaning up and reducing the zinc-gold slimes, or precipitates, are popularly thought to be the weakest points in the cyanide process. Surprise!!

And, of course, cyanide has other useful, non-mining related, uses.

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Insects Injurious to Fruits; by William Saunders, F.R.S.C., F.L.S., F.C.S.; illustrated with
four hundred and forty wood-cuts; Second Edition; J. B. Lippincott Company,
Philadelphia, 1889.

William Saunders (1836 – 1914) was a Canadian agriculturalist, entomologist and pharmacist. He was a pioneer in Canadian agricultural science, led the establishment of the Experimental Farm System and served as its first director for almost 25 years. In 1883, he published Insects Injurious to Fruits (this book), which served as the standard text on the subject in North America for 25 years. He belonged to many scientific societies and received many honors. He was one of the original members of the Royal Society of Canada, the recipient of honorary degrees from Toronto and Queen's Universities, and in 1905 was made a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George.

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Consumption: Its Cause, Prevention, and Cure. George H. Cox, M.D., Literary Editor; John W. MacLeod, Business Editor. Issued by The Tri-County Anti-Tuberculosis League of Antigonish, Guysborough, and Pictou, Nova Scotia, 1911. Printed by Eyre and Spottiswoode, Ltd., London.

From chapter 2 – Prevalence and Importance of Tuberculosis – “Tuberculosis causes more deaths than any other disease that afflicts the human race. It kills more people than war, famine, or any of the raging plagues or pestilences that startle our imaginations by their fearful ravages…we find the number of deaths from tuberculosis in these three counties during the preceding year to have been, in Pictou, 65; Antigonish, 38; Guysborough, 27; in all, 140.” While much of the book’s content is generic to all there is a great deal of local content. The book is well illustrated but what is quite fascinating are the large number of advertisements from local organizations, including a Physician’s Directory for the three counties.