Book History, Journalism, podcast

Fake News – The 1835 Version

Hello Book Nerds!

Fake news is nothing new, but it used to be a lot more fun. In this episode of the podcast, we  launch ourselves into some out of this world reporting from 1835 when The New York Sun published six articles that captured the world’s overactive imagination.

It’s a story that combines Edgar Allan Poe, the astronomer John Herschel, tailless beavers, and even Batman, and I know you’re going to love it.

Behind the Scenes

I had never heard of the Great Moon Hoax until about a month ago when I was looking over a book about steampunk culture (for research for a possible future writing project). A little side story in the book told about a hoax article Edgar Allan Poe had written back in the 1840s.

Since I’d recently read something about a bit of journalism flimflam that took place in Oregon in the late 1800s/early 1900s this got me curious about other news hoaxes. And that brought me to find the Great Moon Hoax.

To say I enjoyed this story is a complete understatement. Talk about laughing out loud. After the serious tone of the last episode, it was just what I needed. Of all the episodes so far (and I know there’s only six), this was my absolute favorite to research, write, and record.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Happy listening!!

One more note, subscribers to The Book Owl Podcast Newsletter get a bonus treat with every episode…and this time it’s images from the Great Moon Hoax articles! You don’t want to miss these or any future goodies, so do be sure to sign up today.

Clicking the image will take you to the episode’s web page where you can listen, or you can use the links just under the image to find plenty of other listening options. If you’d like to read along, a rough transcript is a bit lower down.

Listening links…

Links mentioned…

The Transcript

Hey everyone, this is Tammie Painter and you’re listening to the Book Owl Podcast, the podcast where I entertain your inner book nerd with tales of quirky books and literary lore.

It’s episode six and this time we’re stepping away from books and wandering into the wild world of journalism and newspapers. Now, if you’ve dared to look at any social media over the past few years, you’ll have seen a certain person shouting about Fake News. Whether or not you want to believe those tirades, fake news is real. Or at least it was back in August 1835 when the country, and even the world was swept up in some truly out of this world fake news. Hold on to your spaceships because as I promised last time, this is going to be a fun episode.

But first, I just want to say if you’re enjoying this podcast you can show your support by doing nothing other than the shopping you normally do. See, the folks over at Amazon have said to The Book Owl, “If you send customers our way, we’ll give you a tiny commission.” And the Book Owl said, “Hooty-licious!” 

How it works is that for any item you buy on Amazon, I’ll get a tiny percentage to help with the costs of keeping the show running. It’s costs you nothing extra and it’s super simple. All you have to do is, the next time you think you need something from Amazon, rather than going directly to Amazon, go instead to the book owl podcast dot com slash support and head to Amazon using the link on that page and then I get my commission. This only applies to my U.S. listeners, but that page has other super affordable ways to help keep the show running.

Okay, are you ready for some fake news? Then let’s get in the way back machine and head to New York, 1835.

It’s the 25th of August and as people open up their copies of the New York Sun they’re greeted with the first of six articles about a major scientific discovery. It could revolutionize their understanding of the world, it could mean we’re not alone in the universe, or it could just mean people are really, really gullible.

So these articles became known as the Great Moon Hoax and were supposed to have been written by Dr. Andrew Grant to report on a study published in the Edinburgh Journal of Science. Now, scientific journals aren’t anything you would normally pick up to read. Because laypeople couldn’t possibly understand the complexities of scientific jargon, Grant decided to write a series of articles explaining in easy to read language an amazing discovery. 

Grant, who I’ll just tell you now was a complete fabrication, was a colleague of Sir John Herschel and these articles reported on Herschel’s recent work.

Now John Herschel was a real person and he really was an astronomer among many other things. In Grant’s story, Herschel had gone to South Africa in 1834 to set up a huge telescope at a new observatory. The first article was primarily about this telescope and the set up. But the next few articles were all about what Herschel observed using this telescope.

And what did Herschel observe? Wonders upon wonders! I mean the very fact that Herschel didn’t have heart failure from the excitement should have been a clue this was a hoax. I mean the moon was amazing! First there was the landscape. A white pockmarked surface? Hell no! Sure the moon had its craters, but it also featured amethyst crystal outcroppings, flowing rivers, lush tropical vegetation, and beaches. 

What? Tell me more! Sorry, you need to buy the next paper to learn that these landscapes were nothing compared to Herschel’s other findings.

And people did. Basically, the New York Sun was running the click bait scam of the day. The paper’s sales prior to these articles had been slumping, but as people became eager to learn more about this unprecedented discovery, sales dare I say, skyrocketed.

But that’s not to say people didn’t get their money’s worth. Because the next article revealed…are you ready for this…

There was life on the moon. And you’re going to want to really pay attention here because this is good. So we start off a bit tame with some bison, then move up to unicorns (because why not), but there were also two-legged tail-less beavers (I’m not sure how these are beavers at this point, but…), and human like beings with bat wings. Yes, the moon, not Gotham City, was the original home of Batman. 

Unfortunately the moon missed out on a huge franchise opportunity by naming them man bats. Grant reported Herschel had, and I quote, “scientifically denominated them as Vespertillo homo, or man bat and they are doubtless innocent and happy creatures.” 

Okay so as I said, Grant was a pseudonym, and it’s believed that  the actual author of the articles was a man named Richard Adams Locke, who honestly didn’t think people were gullible enough to believe this stuff. But as we know, people believe what they want to believe. And you couldn’t argue with the sales The Sun was seeing. So, Locke wisely kept mum about the hoax.

 The story wasn’t just being picked up in New York. It spread throughout the U.S. And across the pond to Italy, Germany, and the UK. Even a big ol’ smarty pants like Ralph Waldo Emerson was taken in. As were some scientists from Yale who, as scientists are wont to do, were eager to see the source material for Grant’s articles. 

So they traveled to New York to see first hand the study in the Edinburgh Journal of Science. Trouble was, that scientific journal had ceased publication in 1833. But as I said, Locke and the Sun wanted to keep things under wraps to keep sales coming in, so they ended up shuffling these Yale guys from the printing office to another office back to the printing office until the guys couldn’t stay any longer. They returned to Yale none the wiser.

Eventually however, people began to question the articles’ veracity. And this doubt started with the very first article that one where they were talking about Herschel’s telescope set up. This was supposedly a telescope with a diameter of 24 feet and weighed 7 tons, or 6700 kilograms. This massive thing according to the article had been transported from England to South Africa, and this was the early 1800s, they had enough trouble just transporting basic cargo let alone a giant delicate piece of scientific equipment. 

The skeptics finally got their way and a month after the first article came out, The Sun revealed that all the articles were indeed just a bit of satire. In fact, Locke, remember he’s the guy who had written the articles, had a specific target he was poking fun at. 

See, astronomy was capturing people’s imagination…maybe a bit too much. In 1824 a German professor of astronomy…a professor mind you, published a paper with the lengthy title of “Discovery of Many Distinct traces of lunar inhabitants, especially one of their colossal buildings.” In the paper he reports seeing roads and cities on the moon. I think the professor was dipping into the beer stein a few too many times during the day. 

But it was papers like these that had people convinced life really did exist on the moon and this led up to speculations by Reverend Thomas Dick who asserted without any room for doubt that that moon had 4.2 billion inhabitants. Now keep in mind that Earth at that time had only around 1 billion people living on it. Locke couldn’t resist poking fun at such an idea. And poke he did.

So what was the end result of this? Did people cry foul at the Sun, did they demand the paper be shut down, did they cancel their subscriptions? Nope. They had a good laugh at themselves and The Sun’s sales stayed fairly steady.

And the hoax wasn’t just a one and done thing. Over the next few months you could buy yourself Moon Hoax Merchandise including wall paper and snuff boxes. From the time of the big reveal and throughout the rest of 19th century anything deceptive was called Moon Hoax-y. 

But what about Herschel? Was his career ruined by this hoax? Did people claim he was less credible as a scientist? Nope again. In fact, at first he was amused by the articles and kind of enjoyed the silliness of them. But as the years went on he got a little annoyed because people kept asking him about the life he’d discovered on the moon. 

The only person who seems to have been really bothered by the hoax was Edgar Allan Poe. See Locke had been his editor, and a few months prior to the hoax, Poe had written a short story about life on the moon, with some similarities to the Great Moon Hoax articles. A story Locke had edited. The story had been published in another paper but was never popular. I think Poe was mainly upset that Locke’s version of the story got more attention than his own. But a few years later, the Sun published another series of hoax articles written by Poe about a hot air ballon ride over the Atlantic. Unfortunately for Poe, these articles just didn’t grab the world like the Great Moon Hoax.

So that’s it for the moon hoax. All I can say is that the fake news of 1835 was way more entertaining than the supposed fake news of today. 

For those of you who get The Book Owl Podcast newsletter I’m going to include a few wonderful images of those moon inhabitants as part of your bonus goodies. If you aren’t already part of the flock, be sure to sign up at the book owl podcast dot com slash contact. 

If you’d like to keep listening I’ve got a quick personal update as well as a Book Owl update coming up, but if you’re done, I just want to thank you for putting me in your ears. And if you like what you’ve heard, it’d be wonderful if you told just one other person about the show.

Okay, update time.

As the Book Owl Podcast. We’ve made a new nest over on YouTube! That’s right. There’s not really video, it’s just a show graphic, but if you click play you’ll get the full podcast episode right through your computer speakers. If you’re a fan of YouTube, I’ll have the link to the channel in the show notes, or you can just search for the book owl podcast the next time you’re popping into YouTube Land. 

As for my personal update, during the month of June I’m taking a break from my Cassie Black contemporary fantasy trilogy. Starting July , I’ll be editing and rewriting like mad, so I wanted to give my brain some time off from it. In the meantime though I’ve been drafting a stand alone novel that combines fantasy with a tiny bit of sci-fi. I’m more than half way through…which means I’ve climbed the highest hill and now should have smooth sailing from here on out. Or so I hope.

Alright everyone, that is it for The Book Owl, Thanks so much for listening and I will hoot at you next time!

The book owl podcast is a production fo daisy dog media, copyright 2020, all rights reserved. The theme music was composed by Kevin Macleod.

Book History, podcast, Quirky Books

A Girl Named Anne Gets a Diary

Hello Book Nerds,

Seventy-eight years ago, a girl had her 13th birthday. And on that birthday she was given a book. The pages of that book were completely blank until she quickly jotted down a single sentence expressing her hope that the book would be a great support to her. 

Her writing career was cut brutally short two years later.

The girl was Anne Frank. The book in question would become her diary and a record of life trying to be normal under a very abnormal circumstances. And unfortunately, hate and utter cruelty would put an end to that life.

And it’s the story of how her diary turned into a book that would resonate and inspire hope in people across the world that I’m covering in this latest episode of The Book Owl Podcast.

Behind the Scenes

So when I was digging into a podcast topic for The Book Owl Podcast a couple weeks ago, I discovered that Anne Frank had been given her infamous diary on 12 June, which matched up well with my next release date of 11 June.

At the time, I was only thinking of how well Anne’s life in the attic could provide some perspective into everyone whining about Stay Home orders.

At the time, a man named George Floyd was still alive.

At the time, protesters against hatred and racism weren’t raising their voices across the country.

By the time I’d finished recording and editing, well…you know….

I really hadn’t intended the podcast episode to be a reflection on where hatred leads, but it’s hard not to tell the story of a young girl who died for no other reason than hatred and cruelty spurred on by the people in power without thinking about what’s going on today.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this more somber and timely episode. Clicking the image will take you to the episode’s web page where you can listen, or you can use the links just under the image to find plenty of other listening options.

Be Kind and Be Safe!!

Listening links…

Links mentioned…

Rough Transcript

Hey everyone, this is Tammie Painter and you’re listening to the Book Owl Podcast, the podcast where I entertain your inner book nerd with tales of quirky books and literary lore.

And while I usually try to keep things light and fun on this show, today we’re going to get a little somber with a story of a very special, very inspiring book written by a young girl who had great hopes for her future.

Now, because this is a more serious show, I’m not going to sully it with any sponsorship stuff. But I do want to say thanks to everyone who has been listening to the show! I love delving into these stories about books and libraries and stuff and it’s really humbling that you’re listening to them. 

And I want to give a ginormous amount of thank yous to Helen Crawford who mentioned the show on her blog a couple weeks ago. Helen, well, Helen makes monsters and I’m going to put a link in the show notes because you have to check her creations out. Each one of her hand knit Beasties – of which I have three – is unique, made of high-quality materials, and the amount of work and detail she puts into each one blows my mind. So do check out her site, but be warned…once you invite a Beastie into your life, things will never be the same!

Also I know a few of you over on Twitter have been sharing the podcast with others and that’s really brought a big grin to my face as have the very unexpected comments about my speaking voice. I’m going to be honest I HATE my voice and that really held me back from starting a podcast. So these compliments hav felt really weird and really unexpected and have really given me a huge boost in this endeavor. Anyway, as ever, if you like the show, I’d love it if you told just one other person about it. 

Alright enough babbling. It’s time to put a somber expression on The Book Owl’s beak. 

So, I’m releasing this episode on 11 June, but it’s actually in honor of a certain book that was given on 12 June 1942 to a girl on her 13th birthday. The pages of that book were completely blank until she quickly jotted down a single sentence expressing her hope that the book would be a great support to her. 

Her writing career was cut brutally short two years later, but her words of hope still touch readers today.

The girl was Anne Frank. The book in question would become her diary and a record of life trying to be normal under a very abnormal circumstances. And unfortunately, hate and utter cruelty would put an end to that life.

So Anne Frank was Jewish and she was born in 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany. This is right around the period when Germany was reeling from their defeat in World War I, their economy had tanked, and the Nazi’s were rising to power under the leadership of a rabble rousing, racist rogue named Adolf Hitler. So, basically Anne was born in both a really bad time and a really bad place to be Jewish. 

Because they didn’t like the vibe in Germany and because the German economy was doing so poorly, Anne’s parents, Otto and Edith, decide to move to Amsterdam. Good plan, Amsterdam’s a great city. Unfortunately, Hitler’s army shows up there in 1940 and starts throwing its weight around, including severe restrictions on Jews.

Then in early 1942, Anne’s older sister Margot gets a letter telling her she’s been recruited for work at a special camp. Yeah, just like a phishing spam email today, Otto and Edith weren’t buying this ruse. Trouble is they can’t leave the Netherlands due to those restrictions I just mentioned. 

So, Otto, again seeing what’s about to happen, begins remodeling the attic of his business on Prinsengracht. And one June day his daughter Anne picks out a journal which she is given as her birthday gift. About a month later, Otto’s family – which were himself, Edith, Margot, and Anne – and four other people enter the small attic that would be their their home for the next two years.

And during this time, Anne Frank writes in her journal. And boy does she write. She ends up filling most of the diary, then continues on filling up notebooks given to her by Margot.

At first Anne writes her diary to a range of imaginary friends, but by September she starts writing to one person who she names Kitty. Well, apparently Kitty was the cat’s meow because it’s not long after that Anne is writing solely to Kitty and dreaming of hanging out with her in Switzerland, which was neutral at the time, where they would go skating, star in a film, and probably giggle a lot over boys. 

So anyone who has been a teenage girl knows you have thoughts and feelings that you just HAVE to get out or you’ll burst. And of course you can’t tell anyone those feelings. I mean THEY wouldn’t understand, so you commit them to paper. Anne was no different and this seems to be the primary reason she started her diary. 

But we don’t really remember Anne as being full of teenage angst. We mainly remember her account of her daily life in the attic. So, what inspired this secondary work? Well, On 28 March 1944, keep in mind this is nearly two years since they entered the attic, the Dutch minister asked his people to keep a record of what was happening to them so they would be able to document what had happened during the German occupation. Anne got word of this request and set to work poring over her journals and rewriting portions of it into a new text that would be called The Secret Annex. 

During this rewrite she did plenty of self-editing and since she was the ripe old age of fifteen, gave a critical eye to that 13 year old Anne had written. She worked in missed details and left out a few details that had made it into her diary such as her crush on Peter and some very teenage comments about her mom such as, ‘my mother is in most things an example to me, but then an example of precisely how I shouldn’t do things.’ Ooh, snap.

I’m not sure exactly when Anne completed her rewrite, but in August 1944, Anne, her family, the four others in the attic, and the people who helped them were arrested during a Nazi raid of the premises.

Anne and 100s of others were crammed into train cars for the three-day journey to Auschwitz. And I know it doesn’t get all that hot in the Netherlands, but this was August and that’s a lot of bodies crammed together. It was likely incredibly hot and miserable as well as terrifying because by this point they knew exactly what happened to Jews who entered Auschwitz. 

Of the 100s of people on that train, 350 were immediately sent to the gas chamber. 

Anne and her family were strong and healthy enough not put be to death, and were instead selected for labor. Her dad went to the mens’ camp, she and her mom and sister went to the women’s camp. Sadly, even mom and daughters wouldn’t be allowed to stay together. Edith was kept at Auschwitz while Margot and Anne were sent off to Bergen Belsen in October 1944. Edith would die at Auschwitz only weeks before the camp was liberated.

At Bergen-Belsen, the cold, wet, cramped conditions of winter, and the severe lack of food left the girls susceptible to disease. The both died of typhus in February 1945. 

Of the eight people in the attic, Otto would be the only one to survive. When the camp was liberated, he weighed only 52 kilo, 114 pounds, and could barely walk.

But wait, remember those helpers who wee also arrested at the same time as the Franks? Well, they eventually were freed and two of them, Miep Gies and Bep Voskuil found Anne’s diaries. Miep held onto them hoping that one day she would be able to give them back to Anne. Instead, she gave them to Otto.

As you can imagine, Otto was torn. He wanted to read Anne’s words to bring his daughter back to life in some way, but it was also painfully hard for him to read those words. It took a while, but he did eventually read the diaries and couldn’t believe how strong her writing was. He’s quoted as saying

 ‘The Anne that appeared before me was very different from the daughter I had lost. I had had no idea of the depth of her thoughts and feelings.’

Like any proud papa, Otto showed his daughter’s work to a few family members who ended up showing a few friends who then encouraged Otto to compile them into a formal book and publish them because these were important words that needed to be read by others.

In 1947, The Secret Annex was published. Anne would have been eighteen. Upon its publication Otto said, ‘How proud Anne would have been if she had lived to see this.” Because Apparently in March 1944, she had written “Imagine how interesting it would be if I published a novel about the Secret Annex.”

Imagine.  Because of hatred, Anne’s life ends painfully early, but because of a few brave people she was able to live long enough to tell an amazing story that would impact thousands upon thousands of lives for years to come. 

And so while this episode is about Anne Frank and her diary, I also think it’s important to remember the people who helped her and her family. I mean these people stuck their necks out to help knowing full well that they risked being arrested and sent to the concentration camps for doing so. 

So while Anne Frank’s name is famous, it’s important to remember those who did their best to keep her and her family alive. They include…

Mies Gies  Her husband Jan Gies  Victor Kugler

Johannes Kleiman  Johan Voskuijl   And his mom Bep Voskuijl

Yeah, I don’t know where to go from here. Stop hating, stop giving voice to people who spread hate and incite violence, and do your best to be tolerant and compassionate. 

As Anne said…

“What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it happening again.”

Thanks for so much for listening and I promise more fun and giggles with the next episode. Since this is a longer episode than normal I’ll skip the personal update. However, I do want to say that I’d love to hear from you. If you have a favorite book or book-related topic you’d love me to explore, don’t be shy about suggesting it for a future show. The best way to get in touch is at thebookowlpodcast.com/contact.

And as ever, If you like what you’ve heard, please do subscribe to the show, and if you want to get more out of every episode, be sure to join the flock by signing up for the book owl podcast newsletter. All the links you need are in the show notes. The book owl podcast is a production fo daisy dog media, copyright 2020, all rights reserved. The theme music was composed by Kevin Macleod.

podcast, Unique Book Stores

Riding the Rails to Barter Books

Hello Book Nerds!

This time on The Book Owl Podcast we’re going to figure out why there’s a train running through a bookstore. Or is it a bookstore running through a train?

Either way, I’ll introduce you to Barter Books in Alnwick, England, where trains and books collide. Not literally…or at least I hope not.

And if you “Keep Calm,” you’ll also discover why books and trains aren’t the only claim to fame for this fabulous shop that’s been called “The British Library of secondhand bookshops.”

Behind the Scenes

The inspiration for this episode came from watching a PBS special featuring Julie Walters (who played Mrs. Weasley in the Harry Potter movies). She made all kinds of rail journeys across England and made a special point to take small, historic side lines off the main rail lines.

And while the show does dive into history, that doesn’t mean it’s dry and dull. In fact, some parts are hilarious (if you can find the one where she visits a sheep farm, you’re in for a good laugh). Anyway, the show’s called Coastal Railways and I believe you can find it on YouTube, at your local library, via your public television streaming app, or on Amazon if you want to purchase it.

But on to Barter Books. I had a ton of fun with this episode and I hope you enjoy it. Clicking the image will take you to the episode’s web page where you can listen, or you can use the links just under the image to find oodles of other listening options.

Listening links…

Links mentioned in this episode:

Episode Transcript (or Roughly So)

Hey everyone, this is Tammie Painter and you’re listening to the Book Owl Podcast, the podcast where I entertain your inner book nerd with tales of quirky books and literary lore. 

It’s episode four and today we’re going to sort out why there’s a train running through a bookstore. Or is it a bookstore running through a train? Either way, we’ll sort it all out and delve into this shop’s claim to fame after this quick sponsor break.

And this week’s sponsor is YOU. That’s right! If you like what you’re hearing, you can show your appreciation by buying The Book Owl a cup of coffee. I know, birds probably shouldn’t have caffeine, but if you don’t tell the vet, I won’t either. So, if you’re able to lend the show a little support, just head over to the book owl podcast dot com slash support and click on the Owl whose cuddled up with a cuppa.

Speaking of a cuppa, get your tea bags steeping because we’re heading off to Jolly Olde England to go book shopping….in a train station.

Alright, so what in the world am I talking about? How can you have noisy things like trains running through a peaceful place like a bookshop? Well, let me introduce you to the Alnwick Bookstore where trains and books collide. Not literally, of course. I mean it would be really bad for business if customers were having to dodge the Hogwarts Express while browsing for a copy of Harry Potter.

So, for those of you not up on your British geography, Alnwick is a small town in Northern England and, although small, it was an important market town for the area for hundreds of years. Then in the 1800s a little thing called the industrial revolution barreled its way in and a huge importance began being placed on making sure people and stuff could be moved about efficiently. Since cars hadn’t been invented yet and horses couldn’t haul large enough loads with any amount of speed, around the 1830s and 1840s Parliament said, “let’s get these goods chugging along,” and approved the construction of thousands of rail lines, and by thousands I mean eight thousand miles of track networking across the country.

Don’t worry, this hasn’t turned into the Train Owl Podcast and this really does have something to do with bookstores.

Eventually, one of those rail lines rugged its way to Alnwick. That shouldn’t be any surprise since this was a market town. But what might have been a surprise to the locals came in 1887, when Alnwick got itself a huge and ornately decorated station designed by William Bell. This station was constructed of metal and glass with decorative ironwork touches in the Victorian style. Now, Alnwick as I mentioned is a rather small town, but at 32,000 square feet, its station is huge compared to other towns of similar size. Why did it need to be so big?

Well Alnwick just happened to have a castle where the Duke of Northumberland spent some time. But the Duke wasn’t up in Northern England, skulking around like some big old broody Bronte character. He liked to entertain. And when you’ve got other nobles, and possibly royalty, popping by for a holiday weekend you do not want them showing up in some little rat trap of a station. You want to impress them from the get go. Alnwick station was designed to impress…and to have plenty of space to accommodate all the many servants, baggage, and other entourage that would accompany royal travelers.

Unfortunately, in the 1960s, finances needed trimming and several of England’s smaller rail lines were shut down, including the Alnwick line. So, in 1968 and the station was shuttered.

At some point, the station made its way into the hands of Stuart Manley who turned it into a manufacturing plant. Then, in 1991, Stuart’s wife — who I’m going to assume is a book nerd — wanted to open a book shop. Stuart said, “Well go ahead and use the front of the building for your venture.” Mary jumped into action, filled some shelves, and soon opened the doors to a little shop she called Barter Books.

So, why was it called Barter Books? Well, because you could bring in your old books, get yourself some store credit, and then take home some new books. The scheme proved quite popular and what started out as just few shelves in the front of a manufacturing plant, grew and expanded and eventually filled the entire station. The shop is crazy popular and has been referred to as “The British Library of secondhand bookshops.” Of course, these days, while most visitors end up paying cash for their books, the practice of bartering still continues.

Okay, so what in the world does this have to do with trains other than being opened in a shut down train station? Well, the Manleys decided that since they owed the building’s existence to trains, they should start their own train line…in the bookshop itself. Today, if you step in, well not today because of travel restrictions, but if you were able to go in today, as you wandered the shelves, if you were able to pull your eyes away from all the tempting tomes, you’d see a model train running throughout the bookstore. And this isn’t just a little loop like you might have had as a kid. This thing chugs along elaborate bridges that connect the tops of most the standing shelves within the shop. 

So, I love book shops. Whenever I travel, I’m usually mapping out all the bookstores and, when packing go home, I’ve been known to have trouble fitting my clothes back into my suitcase because I’ve filled it with so many books. Apparently, I’m not the only one with this quirk because Barter Books has become a huge tourist draw. But it’s not just the books, the unique setting, and the model train luring people in. The Manleys commission artists to add to the shop’s charm and to really bring home the theme of books and writing. One of these projects is the…

The Writers Mural by Peter Dodd. I’ll include a picture of this as one of the newsletter bonuses this time around and a link to the mural n the show notes, but if you can picture in your head a mural featuring 33 authors from Charlotte Bronte to Salman Rushdie, Jane Austen to Oscar Wilde all hanging out. And as a very cute touch, the painting includes a few of the authors faithful companions. Okay, now that you’ve got authors and pets in your head, I want you to imagine the size of this thing because each author has been painted life-size, although a bit flatter than real life. Seriously, this thing is huge and complex. Work started in September 1999 and wasn’t complete until October 2001 

But there’s one more claim to fame for Barter Books, and when I found this out, I couldn’t believe the luck of the Manleys. See, second hand bookshops can’t rely on people bringing in books to keep their shelves stocked. So how do secondhand booksellers get new, or well, old new material? They go to book swaps and book auctions. So the Manleys are out snagging some new stock at a book auction one day in 2000. They begin sifting through their purchases and they find a poster. It’s a rather striking red poster. They slip it out and see big white letters centered on the red background and topped off with a small crown. The words? “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Even if you know nothing of English history, you’re probably familiar with this sign because it has become insanely popular and is also the source for gobs of knock offs like Keep Calm and Eat a Cookie…excellent advice. 

But the original phrase was a slogan from 1939 when a little something called the second world war was going on and the British were really having to maintain that stiff up lip to not break down in sheer terror as Germany bombed the daylights out of them. The Manleys quite liked their discovery, so they popped it in a frame and hung it in the shop. Well, the Manleys must have the midas touch when it comes to selling without trying because customers were soon were asking for copies. From that bargain bin discovery, the popularity of the sign’s simple design and the slogan soared. 

As a little side note, for many years after the Manley’s find, it was thought their poster and maybe one other were the only ones left of the over 2 million that were printed during the war, but in 2012 another 15 were found and a few others have popped up since then. But still, the Manleys get credit for starting the Keep Calm craze.

Anyway, the shop also has a cozy cafe, features the works of several outstanding artists, and oh yeah, they have tons of books. If you do ever make it to Alnwick, the shop says it’s open 9 to 7 every day except for Xmas.

Thanks for listening everyone, I’ve got a little personal update coming up but I just wanted to let you know I really appreciate you taking time from your day to listen to my tales and if you haven’t already I would love it if you would subscribe to the show via your favorite podcast app, podchaser dot com or at the book owl podcast dot com slash subscribe. And, if you want to get more out of every episode, you can join the flock by signing up for the newsletter at the book owl podcast slash contact. As ever, all the links are in the show notes.

Cheers everyone, I’ll hoot at you next time!

As for my personal update, last week was Release Day for my book The Return of Odysseus. This is the final book in my historical fantasy series and I have to say, after 6 years since the start of this project, it’s really strange to have reached the end. I won’t go into the whole story of where the series began and the stumbling blocks along the way, but if you are interested in that I get a rather nostalgic on my writing blog and I’ve got the link to that post in the show notes.

Anyway, so what’s this book about? Well, as the tagline says, “The war may be over, but the fight for Osteria’s future has just begun.”

And here’s the description…

With the immortality of the gods resting in the hands of the titans, all of Osteria is at risk of annihilation. As their powers fail and their allies fall, the gods must put their trust in the unlikeliest of heroes in the unlikeliest of places.

As the weakened gods limp their way toward a final battle against the titans, one man simply wants to return home from the war in Demos. But getting home may just be the toughest challenge Odysseus has ever endured.

Captured by a vengeful foe who makes the brutality of war seem like child’s play, Odysseus faces torture, indignity, and despair. His only hope proves to be a cunning sorceress, but even she has tricks that keep Odysseusâ’s goals impossibly out of reach.

With Odysseus’s world about to fall apart, with Osteria teetering on the edge of ruin, and with titans on the verge of supremacy, can the gods band together and intervene before it’s too late? 

For both gods and mortals, it’s a race against time for survival, for love, and for Osteria in this emotionally-charged final installment of the Osteria Chronicles.

If you’re interested in the book you can find it on most retailers, and if you haven’t started the series yet, Book One is always free on those same retailers. The links you need are in the show notes.

Okay, that’s it for me. Have a great couple weeks!

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The Book Owl Podcast is a production of Daisy Dog Media, Copyright 2020, All rights reserved.

Theme Music “Monkeys Spinning Monkeys” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

 

Episodes

All Aboard the Book Store

 

Links mentioned in this episode:

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The Book Owl Podcast is a production of Daisy Dog Media, Copyright 2020, All rights reserved.

Theme Music “Monkeys Spinning Monkeys” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

 

Book History, podcast

Are Bookmakers in League with the Devil?

Hey Book Nerds,

If you love reading as much as I do, you’ve probably pondered just what you’d give to keep the books coming.

Now, while selling my immortal soul for the latest bit of fiction might be going too far,  back in the day to make a book, printers did need to get in league with the devil. A printer’s devil, to be exact.

So what in the world is a printer’s devil and where did their demonic name came from?

I’d never heard of them either until one day when I was flipping through a book on the history of Portland (for future novel-writing research) and came across a picture of this little boy, maybe eight years old, working at a print shop. The caption said he was a printer’s devil and I just had to find out more about what this kid was doing and where that intriguing name came from.

The result? Well, there was no one clear answer to the name question, but I did come across several legends and lore surrounding these little fellows. You can hear the tales in this week’s episode.

Note: clicking on the image below takes you to the Book Owl’s Podfellow page where you can listen to the episode and read the transcript. If you’d like to download the episode or subscribe to the show, simply use the links just under the image.

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