Monthly Archives: May 2012

More thoughts on ereaders

Possibly have a look at a previous post of mine on “Are bookshelves redundant?”. Anyway.

I had a look along my shelves today. Just the shuffle space for the books I have not yet read. I keep them in a seperate location on the shelves because it is easier and faster to both admit to them there and move on, or to pick out a fresh book to read. I know by looking at them what to expect – the size and shape, the book art, roughly the number of pages, the titles and the authors. This was done very quickly by the way, as I am working, but I was satisfied with my glance. Thinking back it covered some 50 books in a few seconds and gave me everything I needed to know. Some of the books were selected purchases where I had an idea – some were wild flight of abandon (internally – I looked quite calm handing over the money), where I had no idea of what is inside the book – a whim now and again. How fast can I do that on an Ereader?

I dropped a book – never a good thing but it came up unscathed – no bumps. How often can I drop an Ereader?

I had a phonecall from London today. From “Global System Care”. It was “Ken” with a south Asian accent. He wanted to access my computer to see if he could “fix” it. He became quite confrontational – did I think it was a scam? Would he sent me an email? What would that prove? He just needed my help to look inside for the infection. Was there a charge? Only if it was a big virus. No? No. Very well then – I will have to watch my machine die. Imagine spending all that money to give me the best laugh of the day. Poor Ken. I’d like to see him try and data grab or infect my “The New Carpenter and Joiner, Vol III with Index” 1955 printed by Caxton, or any other book for that matter.

I get more exercise lifting, holding and page turning. There may also be excessive looking for that blasted bookmark.

A judge can throw the book at someone and it would mean something.

I have a signed first edition. (from a church sale – nevertheless). I journeyed a thousand miles to ask a stranger to sign a book (no chore, it was to Italy).

I foolishly lend the odd book.

A book is powered by my imagination and light alone. No shortage of either.

When I cook, flour, water splash, oily finger prints or even blood may hit a page. If it doesn’t come off it only adds a memory.

This is not anti Ereaders (which may be of use in specific circumstances), its pro Books.

Putting carpentry back now and going to look for the Great Gatsby, again. I may meet a friendly old forgotten book along the way.




Filed under Books and their home.

Now, where was I? Ah yes, been thinking

So, (picking up from the previous post) we go into a bookstore in the northern clime around 1000 years ago and say, “I would like a book please”. In todays terms the answer would be something like “sure, that would be 1 million please and we will have it promptly for you within the year”. “What would you like it to be about?” Reading has only become universally commonplace in the last 50 to 100 years time. Back then the first book you needed was a bible. I will not go into theology here, but the bible was taken as the root of learning. They may even have one in stock! There may be a few scribal errors but didn’t every book have those? Your book would be as good as everyone elses and you could argue fine points of differences in bibles with everyone else on a fairly even basis.

Fast forward 500 years and its still the same, but there are a few men who see an avenue for progress. There were woodcuts for printing, but carved boxwood only lasted so long. Paper had been discovered. Metal didn’t wear out but it was expensive and ink didn’t stick to it. The first thing to do was get ink to stick to metal. The solution to expensive metal was to have small pieces made that could be moved about. Done. Guttenburg was flying, on a high – test sheets worked – again and again. Now, what to print first? No contest. Bible.

They didn’t see it coming. So – which bible? All of a sudden there was a flawless way of producing the bible and it could be the one true word. The difficulties for the buyer grew from price and ability to read to not getting the “wrong book”. There have been rows ever since. It wasn’t flawless either – have I mentioned the “wicked” bible? In another way it was good timing. As Istambul fell to the Turks, scholars fled to Italy and the West. They borught with them new ideas and science long forgotten. There were an abundance of new subjects (church permitting). Printing caught on faster than lightning. Caxton was printing in England just a few years after Guttenburg first wet the metal.

Fast forward another 500 years and here we are (just arrived, as there was no public education till recently) – healthy, long living educated readers with (some) disposable income. 50,000 different books published yearly and quite a few of those can be delivered to your door. Ereaders for people who follow trends and have little space. Book lights, book stands, bookmarks, and software so PCs with readers can read a book to those who cant. And people like me to help build your shelves. Life couldn’t be better.


Filed under Books and their home.

Been thinking

I am told that posting on a blog is publishing it. Imagine. I love books and enjoy looking at their history. How lucky do you think we are to be in this point in human development?

Books from scratch. Lets go back, say a thousand years – not long in historical terms. We know an awful lot of what happened back then. Ok so we want a book – what do we need?

Vellum was widely used in northern climes as papyrus was used up around the med. Thats scraped and treated sheep skin (lamb was best). So, say two pages per animal. A carpenter was needed to bind large books as vellum tended to harden and curl. You ever seen those lock type of things on books? They were to keep the pages straight – not because the contents were dangerous. So say you need 200 sheep for a book – thats about 100 acres of land to feed them.

You will need a well for the water and a workshop to make the inks – berries, crushed rocks and lampblack was all used.

You will need a flock of geese for the quills for writing. They will take up a few acres, by a small river if possible. Also there has to be sheperds and gooseherds to mind the animals.

Anything else? Trained scribes – about one per page per day, or one per week to two weeks for illuminated pages. They have to be paid and housed as well. That has to come from somewhere.

Easypeasey. Now think about putting together a collection or library?

Guttenburg had some good ideas!


Filed under Books and their home.

Where to put our shelves

Quantity. Light and Atmosphere. Space.


This will be in feet and inches. For those who can only see in metric – 25.4mm to an inch. I can do both, but it gets confusing. Look at your books – all your books. For some of us it means getting them from the four corners of the house. It’s no bad thing – we all meet old forgotten friends from time to time. Your book is an inch. None of them are, but it averages out at about that, time after time. So a count of your books will give you most of the shelf space you need. I say most because we all need more space for future books. Do not over-estimate your ability to divest yourself of your books if you are anything like me. It hurts. So plan for more space – about 5 feet or 60 inches usually works for the average house. In the meantime the space can be used for ornaments or shuffle space (books yet to read, books taken out for ongoing study, books read but not put back properly yet – all real life stuff). As previously posted a “shelf” is a length of PAO pine or red deal an inch thick between two supports. We now know how many shelves we need for what we have got. Say its 2240 books so that’s 200 feet of books when you add in the 5 extra feet. That’s 67 shelves. Give room for tall books and people my height and its an average of 6 shelves high so its 11 bookcases running 33 feet. Whatever it is for your house – they are better on the shelf and ready to use (and look well too).

Light and Atmosphere

Books don’t need light, we do. Direct sunlight bleaches books – not good. As for acid, well please have a look at this link, which is better put and more helpful than I could put together (please remember to come back).

Damp is not good at all. Of all the thousands of papyrus scrolls found in Egypt, none were in Alexandria. There was a fire, but the figure is none was because Alexandria was built in a march. We may think it’s not an issue, but damp books are bad for our health, as well as damp places. So, dim places that are dry. Don’t panic, all is not lost, we will get to how they look in a while.


On average shelves are against walls and are about 9 inches deep (that caters for most books without missing smaller books at the back). It can add up to quite a bit of space, but it tidies the rest of the house up. If you have enough books and a cold room it can also insulate a wall in the nicest possible way. Now the big question, where do we put them? First we must ask ourselves three questions.

Where do we read them?

Where do we use them?

Where do we want them?

Where do we read them? It is different for all of us. The bedroom, the kitchen (but remember the damp?), the living room, the study, (does anyone have a library at home now?), the hallway, the attic. There have been some good online photos of books on staircases but its awkward to attempt to use this on a daily basis, so unless all we have is stairs, we should put it somewhere else. Just imagine collecting six books to work with,  moving up and down the stairs. It could be a good workout, but you need very good balance. Anywhere else? Someone who can fit a small set of neat shelves in an ordinary car will make a million in my humble opinion.

Where do we use them? Reading habits are hard to change so it might be easier to put the shelves (or a portion of them) close to where we read our books. It’s a place of comfort or a place of work, either way it is a place where we can concentrate on the subject at hand. Some books need tables, travel books to refer to maps, cookery books to refer to while trying recipes (please try buying cookery books without pictures – that way everything usually works out fine), gardening books, mechanic shop books, etcetera. We need the light to read them, under an oil lamp, candle light, a window, a book light, lovely warm sunlight, very clear moonlight, flashlight, bedside light, kitchen spotlights ordinary room light, flourescent tubes – it is far more of a choice than people have had for the vast majority of the existence of books.

Where do we want them? Everywhere? A shelf in each room (including the garden shed) is an answer with a main bank of shelves in one location in the house. The shelf in each room then becomes the shuffle space. It is also an idea to have a shelf in the guest room where you can leave a selection of books for guests to browse if they wish to – poetry, light fiction, local history, a favourite of theirs if you know one, and so on. Maybe that’s just me. Sometimes we want them (books) to be more a part of our lives than just for reading. It is a very personal thing but some of us wish to include friends and visitors in our reading habits. I have to admit – full bookcases are inviting when visiting someone. If you are lining a room with bookcases look to their shape first. The young (see it as a ladder) and the elderly (reaching and bending) force the shelves off the ground (possibly on cabinets with doors) and down from the ceiling. That is unless you want to use something such as a library ladder like – . If you do, remember the floor will be a victim of you rolling around on the ladder recreating the Rex Harrison song in My Fair Lady. By all means sing your head off, but use hardwood floors or stone/heavy tiles. Do remember the rolling and singing can be heard an amazing distance if the library room is upstairs. No unsupervised young visitors. The shelves should be 9 inches or slightly more deep to look after your books. Remember previous posts that mention looking after the weight of your books, or rather can your poor floor stand them, and finishing shelves to look after both your books and yourself. The coating should be safe for you and the books. IMHO they should look well to you first, and impress others second. Previous suggestions for coatings were things like wrapping paper. If you like it, do it. How you explain it to others is up to you – blame me if you like! Paint them in a brilliant gloss white. Red? Why not. I like the look of the natural timber. Do not have shelves over the door, or if you do – don’t put any books on them you want to read again. The door opening always happens at an awkward moment. Traffic lights may be a drastic solution if you insist on using shelves over doors. Remove skirting from the wall before shelves are put there and fasten the shelves to the wall near the ceiling. Do not put shelves right up beside windows if you are in the Northern latitudes – we need all the light we can get. Remember to paint the wall before you case over it and leave electrical sockets exposed – NEVER among books. Think of the heat of the average phone charger. No books over a fire-place. Do not case over wall vents – they help reduce humidity and regulate temperature. The rest of the room is yours to case and shelve. Note on Kitchens – I do believe the best cook books are ones without pictures (I have always been happier with the results as there is no comparing with the photoshoped, professionally taken, professionally cooked (possibly plastic) food. However its the books with pictures that use glossed paper – these do last longer if kept in the kitchen as they are a wee bit resistant to moisture damage. Anyone know of a gloss paper cookbook with no pictures – please let me know. If you have a large number of books – leave room for a writing desk and a Dewey cabinet – now that would impress the bejaysus out of a visiting book lover. I do beg pardon for the random air of this and other postings but I didn’t learn this in an organised fashion! I also am sorry for leaving the posting so long. Why is this blog sometimes reduced to advice and instructing? I see shelves as the desperate poor relation of furniture and think its unfair. Our books deserve better and it does me good to try to help people.


Filed under Books and their home.

That last post was a lead baloon

It was too straightforward, too……. you know. Was I in a hurry? Was I not in good form? Both it seems, sorry about that. The books are good by the way. Here are a few links to perhaps have a look at to get a better feel of the subject I love.

Timber information American Lumber Export Council. Good site for any info you might require, including how scarce a type might be. You need to log in as an associate member – its free and you get use of the online library. The timber grain and types carry photos if you wish to indentify a timber. They list the ease at which you can work with a timber and how strong it is as well.

Timber Supply wholesale global timber supply. ( also linked as ) a more local wholesale timber supply.

Woodworking methods and plans. a good site for tips and methods as well as plans you could use. You get a 14 day free trial.

The results we all desire!

I do hope you like these links and get some use from them. I have used them myself, the last two with awe and on occasion, some small amount of envy. I worked with and still help out the guy who owns the site. Nice fella. I still use Trada and finewoodworking. The trada library of timber is a very good resource and although my 14 days were up some years ago, I still get mails now and again from finewoodworking with tips and offers – some of which still help me. I have spoken of this blog to friends and some have said there is no practical use for dedicated shelves. Where else do they go? Most readers have (as have I) experienced looking in the boxes, the window ledges, under the bed, in the attic, the bathroom, the car door, large pockets, parents houses, under the stairs, the spare room, on dressers and sideboards. And where is the book you need? It’s somewhere else. Shelves help. I think they can look well too. I think the next post will be on planning our shelves. I have successfully studied kitchen design for working in as well as appearance and I feel it applies to shelves – its feeding an appetite (I checked the spelling of that, but it still doesn’t look right – do you ever get that feeling?) in the best possible way. So, yes, the next post will be on the space for shelves in a room. I have included some of my pictures as – well, people like nice pictures. The last one was a three legged cat chacing a mouse. The comedy was complete when the mouse got away. Just got the camera out as the cat stopped and looked in a very vexed way into the field.


Filed under Books and their home.

History and shelves.

Well, to start at the start. This does not mention Oriental writing  (worth looking at that in Michael Woods “In Search of the First Civilizations”) much but starts with clay tablets in the Middle East. Handy things – leave them to dry or even burn them and they only get tougher. As I type, I begin to wonder what the specs were for those shelves. This is covered in “Libraries in the Ancient World” by Lionel Casson and runs through papyrus in Egypt (why did they have to build the Library of Alexandria in a marsh for petes sake?) and on through the Romans take on writing and its storage. The evolution to the codex and on to the book. Did you know Guttenburg was sued by his partner and kicked out of the business? Didn’t get a cent from the publication. They already had printing with woodcuts but one of the most tricky bits they encountered was getting ink to stick to metal type.

You can carry on with the theme from reading “The Book on the Bookshelf” by Henry Petroski. To the near present with “Bookbinding and the care of Books” by Douglas Cockrell. In the present there are many books on books and shelves – I liked ” At home with Books” for its sections on shelves in the home. As for books – Millers “book Collecting” and “Discovering Book collecting” by John Chidley are a good start. I do miss the “Book and Magazene Collector” monthly, but am still picking up back issues. For the joy of books and the joy of knowing you are not alone in collecting – “A Book Addict’s Treasury” by Julie Rugg and Lynda Murphy and “Adventures of a Book Collector” by Philip Murray do hit the spot. Take your time – have them finished by the end of the week. I could of course type so much more – but they say it so much better than me. Echos of thunder are not the same.

Next post should be on Timber. Perhaps with pictures.

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Filed under Books and their home.

Nice pictures about books

I have done my best to post only pictures I have taken myself on this blog. Its something of an honesty thing. I do this for myself mostly and dislike embellishment. I have looked at Freshly Pressed and topics that interest me. It is amazing, some of the pictures posted there. A credit to the bloggers for taking them or finding them (in fairness, what I have read do not take credit for pictures that are not theirs). There are people who read this (didn’t think it would happen, so thank you) so just for you I have found some pictures I hope you like. I took them. I only include pictures with a vague book link (of course). Back to making shelves after this.


Siena - this was built by people who could read.

Nice place to climb and look out for a bookshop.




















Central square in Siena from tower Mangia

From up here the book shop is back down and exit the square to the left.



No TV aerials - must be all bookworms

No TV aerials – must be all bookworms












One of the most striking trees I have ever come across.

Magical. This is one tree I would not like to see turned into a book.












The Barnes and Noble in Cadiz.

The Barnes and Noble in Cadiz.


Get them reading at an early age, but make sure they are comfortable.

Get them reading at an early age, but make sure they are comfortable.




Filed under Books and their home.