Thursday, 30 April 2020

Most Expensive Sales from January to March 2020

AbeBooks' list of most expensive sales in January, February and March 2020 features some eye-catching items and covers subjects such as surrealism, American politics, forestry, and spying. However, the ninth item on our list is truly special - the biggest, heaviest book that has ever sold on AbeBooks.

Map of Arabia by Ptolemy, £22,280
Image of the Map of Arabia
A single sheet of Ptolemy's 'Ulm' atlas from 1482, displaying the Arabian Peninsula. Printed in the German city of Ulm, this atlas was the first one to be printed north of the Alps. It features a double-page woodcut on one side and descriptive text on the other. This illustration marked the third time that Arabia had been depicted in an atlas.
Claudius Ptolemy was a Greek mathematician, astronomer, geographer and astrologer. He lived in Alexandria under Roman rule in the second century AD. One of his most famous works was Geographia, which mapped the Roman Empire.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderlandillustrated by Salvador Dali£18,850
Image of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, illustrated by Salvador Dali
Printed by Random House's Maecenas Press in 1969, this illustrated edition contains 12 woodcuts and an etching by the Spanish surrealist plus a second suite of the 13 plates on Japon paper. One of only 200 copies, it is signed by Dali on the frontispiece etching and on the title page. Dali created an illustration for each chapter, using heliogravure, a time-consuming reproduction method similar to engraving. Another edition of 2,500 signed copies was issued without the extra plates.

Image of The Federalist, on the New Constitution by Publius
The Federalist is a collection of 85 articles and essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay printed under the pseudonym "Publius" to garner support for the ratification of the United States constitution. The essays were first issued individually in New York newspapers. This is the first collected edition, published in 1788, and it is the first edition to identify Hamilton, Jay and Madison as the authors. One of the most important books on American constitutional law. It is believed that Hamilton wrote more than half of the essays, sometimes drafting text in the hallway while the printer waited nearby for the finished copy.

Moonrakerby Ian Fleming £10,175
Image of the book Moonraker by Ian Fleming
A 1955 Jonathan Cape first edition, first impression with the first state dustwrapper, which has no tears. The third James Bond novel. The first edition can be identified by the word "shoo" instead of "shoot" on page 10. Moonraker the novel is different to Moonraker the film. Fleming's book reflects a couple of topical themes from the 1950s - the villain Drax is a former Nazi and there is a nuclear rocket aimed at London.

Eau - Forte #8by Pierre Soulages£8,800
Image of Eau by Pierre Soulages
A signed, framed print from 1957, one of 200 copies. Pierre Soulages is a painter, engraver, and sculptor, and one of France's best known living artists. He is famous for his extensive use of black in his art.

La Grande Danse Macabre des Vifsby by Martin van Maële£8,000
An extremely rare set of four series of 10 aquatints featuring the erotic illustrations from a 1905 book called La Grande Danse Macabre des Vifs, which translates as The Great Strange Dance of Life. Illustrator van Maële was famous for his work in erotica.

The Town and the Cityby Jack Kerouac£7,900
A first edition, first printing signed by the author. Published in 1950, this novel was the first major work published by Kerouac. On The Road was released seven years later. The Town and the City has a more conventional writing style than On The Road. It's autobiographical, set in New York and a small town in Massachusetts. The lead character plays football, much like Kerouac did in high school and Columbia University.

Image of Sylvicultura oeconomica
Published by Leipzig in 1732, this is the first German book on forestry. The title roughly translates as Silviculture economics, or natural instructions for growing wild trees. Silviculture is the practice of growing trees and forests for timber production. The study of forests and woods is called silvology. This 18th century book warns of the depletion of forests in German regions due to mining and industry. The author coined the German term for "sustainability".

The National Union Catalog (NUC), Pre-1956 Imprints by Library of Congress and the National Union Catalog Subcommittee of the Resources Committee of the Resources and Technical Services Division, American Library Association, £7,190
Image of the The National Union Catalog
The largest book ever published. We are talking largest in terms of volumes - 754 heavy folio volumes bound in green cloth with gilt lettered spines - and weight, which is three tons. This is a reference book containing a list of books published before 1959 that were cataloged by the Library of Congress and other American libraries. Editors started compiling this book in 1909. This is the first and only edition. It contains around 530,000 pages and lists approximately 12 million titles. The Bible section alone contains 63,000 entries. The Shakespeare and Plato sections are also epic. The NUC displays each entry with a reproduction of the Library of Congress' library card as well information gleaned from the original editions by librarians and additional notes added over the decades. An epic feat to produce and publish in 1968, this massive book is a tribute to American librarians, and perhaps the ultimate book about books. It was also an epic feat to ship this bad boy to its new owner. The NUC was transported to the buyer on palettes by a truck specially hired for the job.

Image of the facsimile of the Lindisfarne Gospels
The Lindisfarne Gospels is an illuminated manuscript produced around 800 AD containing the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Its illustrations are an eye-catching fusion of Celtic, Roman and Germanic influences. With the original edition safely housed in the British Library, this is a facsimile edition published by Lucerne in 2002. As new condition. One of 290 copies produced with a replica of its Victorian cover. It includes two volumes of commentary, a leather case and a video cassette. Lindisfarne is a small island off the coast of Northeast England. Regarded as a holy island, it was a center for Celtic Christianity during the Anglo Saxon period.


"Look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else."
~ Tom Stoppard
"Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn't know you left open."
~ John Barrymore
Keep the door to your heart open so that others may feel welcome within. Have a happy Thursday!

Tuesday, 28 April 2020


A second-hand dog makes for a first class companion!

Julia Kimp's Shakshuka


Julia Komp from restaurant Schloss Loersfeld, in Germany - which has one Michelin star, shared the Shakshuka recipe. 

Monday, 27 April 2020

Yotam Ottolenghi's Sunday lunch recipes

A creamy, garlicky roast chicken with a punchy salad, followed by an ingenious take on the classic jam roly-poly


Yotam Ottolenghi’s roast chicken with creamy garlic and peppercorn sauce. Photograph: Louise Hagger/The Guardian. Food styling: Emily Kydd. Prop styling: Louie Waller. Food assistant: Katy Gilhooly. Photo assistant: Sam Reeves.

Routine, oh how I miss you … To know what to expect, every single day, is priceless: it keeps you sound and sensible; it gives purpose and focus. But not all is lost in these days of lockdown. Old routines are transforming into new ones, and many of them, I am happy to say, revolve around food. Mealtimes have been regaining their past glory as our main way to punctuate the day, or week. In my house, lunches are now makeshift picnics, Saturday mornings are official pancake time, Tuesday afternoons are dedicated to baking, and on Sundays we’ve reclaimed the old lunch tradition. If you are able to sit down for Sunday lunch, with family, housemates or Zoom pals, it can really provide that bit of comfort that is so needed right now.
Roast chicken with creamy garlic and peppercorn sauce (pictured above)

If you can’t get bone-in chicken legs, use a whole chicken, jointed, instead. Leave out the black garlic if you can’t get hold of it and mix a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar into the sauce instead.

Prep 25 min

Cook 1 hr 25 min

Serves 4-6

3 banana shallots (or 5 ordinary shallots), peeled and finely chopped

2 tbsp green peppercorns, roughly crushed, or 2 tbsp roughly chopped capers

1 lemon, cut into 5 slices

400ml dry white wine
105g unsalted butter, cut into 2cm cubes

Salt and black pepper
6 chicken legs, bone in and skin on, or 1 whole chicken, jointed into 8 pieces (ie, 2 legs, 2 thighs and 2 breasts cut in half)

2 tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tsp extra

20 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

20 black garlic cloves, cut in half lengthways (or 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar – see recipe introduction)

90ml double cream
2-3 tbsp (10g) flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped

3½ tbsp (10g) chives, finely chopped

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/ 390F/gas 6, and put the first five ingredients and 150ml water into a large 38cm x 28cm oven tray with half a teaspoon of salt and a very generous grind of black pepper.

In a large bowl, mix the chicken with two tablespoons of oil, three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and a generous grind of black pepper, then lay them skin side up in the tray and spread out as much as possible; take care you don’t get the skin wet.

Toss the whole peeled garlic cloves (ie, not the black garlic) in a teaspoon of oil, arrange them around the chicken legs, then put the tray in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Scatter the black garlic into the sauce around the chicken legs and return to the oven for another 35 minutes, or until the chicken legs are crisp and golden brown.

Lift out the chicken and place skin side up on a second oven tray, large plate or board. Whisk the sauce mix, scraping the sides and base of the tray as you go, then gently stir in the cream and herbs. Return the chicken skin side up to the pan, and serve directly from the tray.
Radish and horseradish salad

This punchy and fresh salad is perfect to cut through richer dishes such as the creamy garlic chicken. The dressing works on any mixture of leaves you can find – iceberg, romaine or even white cabbage would work well here.

Prep 15 minCook 5 minServes 4

30g fresh horseradish, peeled and very finely grated (20g net weight), or 1 tbsp jarred prepared horseradish

3 tbsp olive oil
60ml rice-wine vinegar, or white-wine vinegar

Flaked sea salt
150g breakfast radishes, very thinly sliced (use a mandoline, if you have one)

2-3 baby gem lettuce, trimmed, quartered and leaves separated (200g)

3½ tbsp (10g) chives, finely chopped

1 small mooli, or ½ large one (220g), peeled and thinly sliced into rounds (again, use a mandoline if you have one), or 220g extra breakfast radishes

Mix the first three ingredients in a large bowl with two and a half teaspoons of flaked salt. Just before you’re ready to eat, add all the remaining ingredients to the bowl, toss to dress and serve.
Hazelnut roly-poly with lemon custard

This traditional school-dinner dessert gets very special treatment here with the flavours of hazelnut and plum, which pair wonderfully with a simple maple- and lemon-infused custard. I like to eat both the cake and custard at room temperature, but you could warm either element, or both, if you prefer. The plum jam can be easily swapped with another jam, and if you don’t have hazelnuts, blanched almonds would also work well.

Prep 15 minCook 1 hr 45 minServes 8

300g plum jam
2 tbsp lemon juice

For the cake and praline

140g blanched hazelnuts
4 eggs
80g caster sugar
30g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp double cream
2 tbsp maple syrup

For the custard

300ml double cream
50ml whole milk
2 tsp lemon zest
2 egg yolks
½ tsp vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract

60ml maple syrup

Heat the oven to 170C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Put the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast for 14 minutes, until very fragrant, leave to cool, then transfer to a spice grinder or the small bowl of a food processor and blitz until finely crushed.

Turn up the oven to 190C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Line and grease a 32cm x 22cm swiss roll tin. Put the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment in place and whip for three minutes, until tripled in size. Add the flour, baking powder, lemon zest, 80g of the blitzed hazelnuts and a pinch of salt, and gently fold together until fully combined. Pour into the prepared tin, smooth the top with the back of a spoon and bake for 12 minutes, until golden brown. While still warm and with the shorter end facing you, use the parchment paper to roll up the cake from the shorter end, then set it to one side to cool while you get on with the rest.

For the praline, put the remaining 60g blitzed hazelnuts in a spice grinder or the small bowl of a food processor with the cream, maple syrup and a pinch of salt, and blitz to a smooth paste.

To assemble, unroll the cake, then spread the inside all over with the praline mix. Mix the jam with the lemon juice and use two-thirds of it to cover the praline, leaving a 2cm border around the edges. Starting at the shorter end, roll the cake back up, then discard the paper.

For the custard, put all the ingredients in a medium saucepan on a medium-high heat and cook, whisking continuously for about five minutes, until the mix thickens a little, but is still pourable, then leave the custard to cool.

Serve slices of the cake with some of the cooled custard, with the remaining custard and jam in two separate bowls alongside.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Jam making

“There's something very comforting about the ritual of jam-making. It speaks of cellars filled with preserves; of neat rows of jars on pantry shelves. It speaks of winter mornings and bowls of chocolat au lait, with thick slices of good fresh bread and last year's peach jam, like a promise of sunshine at the darkest point of the year. It speaks of four stone walls, a roof, and of seasons that turn in the same place, in the same way, year after year, with sweet familiarity. It is the taste of home.”
By Joanne Harris.
Artist Jill Barklem


Time Is
Too Slow for those who Wait,
Too Swift for those who Fear,
Too Long for those who Grieve,
Too Short for those who Rejoice;
But for those who Love,
Time is not.
Henry Van Dyke,
Artist Annie Stegg

Friday, 24 April 2020

Mini shallot bhajis with minted yogurt

For the bhajis:
400g shallots, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
175g gram flour (chickpea flour)
1 long red chilli, finely sliced
1 tbsp nigella (black onion seeds)
1/2 tsp turmeric
about 200ml cold water
vegetable oil, for deep frying

forthe minted yogurt:
200g yoghurt
4 sprigs mint, leaves picked and chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper


Add the shallots to a mixing bowl and sprinkle over the salt, stirring well to mix. Set aside for a few minutes to allow the salt to slightly soften the shallots.

Mix up the dip by adding the yogurt,mint, garlic and salt and pepper to a small bowl, stirring well to mix. Set aside.

Add the flour, chilli, nigella seeds and turmeric to the shallots, stirring well to combine. Stir through just enough water to bring the mixture together so a thick batter forms around the shallots, about 200ml. Set aside to rest whilst you heat up the oil.

Pour enough vegetable oil into a large deep saucepan so that it forms a 4-5 cm layer. Turn on the heat and bring the oil up to 180°C, using a meat or jam thermometer to measure the temperature. If you don’t have a thermometer, drop in a little slice of the shallot, it should sizzle instantly. Alternatively, you can cook in a deep fat fryer, setting the dial to 180°C.

When the oil is hot enough, use a heaped teaspoon to scoop up the bhaji mix, then use another teaspoon to slide the mixture directly into the oil, working with care so the oil doesn’t splash.Repeat until you have added about 4-6 bhajis and fry for about 3-4 minutes until crisp and golden, carefully flipping over with a palate knife halfway through cooking. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper whilst you repeat with the rest of the mixture.

As soon as all the bhajis are cooked,serve with the bowl of minted yogurt.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020


Prep time: 40 mins | Cooking time: 10 – 12 mins | Makes: 1 large pizza
  • 150ml warm water – around 27 degrees
  •  1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 15g fresh yeast (or 2 level teaspoons of dry yeast)
  • 225g of plain flour (plus extra for working) 
  • 1.5 teaspoons of salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil (and a little for drizzling) 
  •  80g of PizzaExpress passata (or any tomato passata you have) 
  • 70g mozzarella (or any cheese you have)
  • Pinch of oregano
  • 1 Basil leaf (if you have one)
  • Black pepper
Pizza Express also shared a clip of one of their staff members attempt of making the pizza at home
Pizza Express also shared a clip of one of their staff members attempt of making the pizza at home
1. Preheat the oven to 230°C.
2. Add the sugar and crumble the fresh yeast into warm water.
3. Allow the mixture to stand for 10 – 15 minutes in a warm place (we find a windowsill on a sunny day works best) until froth develops on the surface.
4. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl, make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast mixture and olive oil.
5. Lightly flour your hands, and slowly mix the ingredients together until they bind.
6. Generously dust your surface with flour.
7. Throw down the dough and begin kneading for 10 minutes until smooth, silky and soft.
8. Place in a lightly oiled, non-stick baking tray (we use a round one, but any shape will do!)
9. Spread the passata on top making sure you go to the edge.
10. Evenly place the mozzarella (or other cheese) on top, season with the oregano and black pepper, then drizzle with a little olive oil.
11. Cook in the oven for 10 – 12 minutes until the cheese slightly colours.
12. When ready, place the basil leaf on top and tuck in!