East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


A cartload of books and the Curse of the Pharaoh

I went to a friend’s lecture last night, hosted in the wonderful hall of the local historical society – a former church, now holding an impressive collection of baroque paintings.
We were there early, and we noticed a big 19th century-style cart, in the back, loaded with books.
We found our places, saw some old friends, started chatting.
At this point, the spokesman for the society taps the mike and explains that,while we are waiting, we might like to take a look at the books on the cart.
These are used books.
They come from the local library, and they were retired.

If anyone feels like taking a few home, you are welcome- help yourself.

Me and my friend Marco traded a glance.
Help ourselves? Continue reading

Leave a comment

Lost in the countryside

51xfB36OKBL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_In a (probably misguided) attempt at coming to terms with my exile in the hills of the Asti wine country, I got me a copy of John Seymour’s classic The Countryside Explained, which – if nothing else – has the right reassuring title.The very fine used copy of the hardback kept

The very fine used copy of the hardback (with great illustrations by Sally Seymour) kept me company in the last two days when we were snowed in and with erratic grid services. As expected, the book is absolutely wonderful. Lots of information, packaged with wit, a sort of gruff, down-to-earth but precise language that works just fine. Continue reading

Leave a comment

A collector’s moment of happiness

high tartaryMaybe because it’s not raining (yet) the postman delivered this morning a pristine (but used nonetheless) copy of Owen Lattimore’s High Tartary, in the gorgeous Kodansha International/Kodansha Globe Edition from 1994. No water damage, no other visible problems.

And I am as happy as a kid on Christmas Morning.
First, because I love Owen Lattimore’s work, and he is one of the most observant of the travelers and explorers in China and Central Asia from the last century. And getting his books in my country is not exactly easy1. Continue reading


Extremes under the rain

middleton extremes on the silk roadYesterday the postman delivered a nice hardback copy of Nick Middleton’s Extremes along the Silk Road, thus stopping a gaping hole in my collection of Silk Road-themed books. The volume details Middleton’s expedition from China to Istanbul following the classic routes through Central Asia.

The book had been on my to-read list forever, but so far I always had something more urgent to add to the collection. Then I spotted this copy, and it was a wonderful bargain and a nice catch: a used book I paid about five bucks, and in pristine condition.
Or rather I should say, it was in pristine conditions.

You see, I was not at home when the postman came, and he decided to slip the book package between the bars of my courtyard’s gate.
It’s now three days that it rains heavily.
Yesterday I was out for various errands, and I came back home around 8 p.m.: the packet remained under heavy rain for about ten hours.
The effect was the same as leaving it under an open faucet for the best part of the day.

So now I have a water-damaged, second-hand copy of Nick Middleton’s Extremes along the Silk Road.
A little warped, but still readable. Which is more that I can say of the gas bill that was left together with the book, and that spent the night drying on the stove.

I’ll let you know about the book. Just give it time to dry.