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Biggles Books

Part of the Stella & Rose's Books family

Hobbies Meet Work - Work Meets Hobbies

As a rule I prefer to try and keep work and home life separate but as they say 'life is not that simple!'

When I first started working for Stella Books, some 15 years ago (seems like yesterday), I was employed to process the orders in the fast developing internet side of the business. Well, after a couple of years I developed a fondness for Biggles books when I was looking for something to read one afternoon. As is my way when I like an author, I wanted to read all of the books written by W.E. Johns, and so I started to buy the odd cheap reading copy and this somehow spiraled into a full-blown collecting habit (see my previous article!).

When this once 'secret' collecting habit became more common knowledge, I was asked to take on W.E. Johns as my “specialist subject” and thus, for the first time, I completed the loop of 'hobbies meet work - work meets hobbies'!

Little did I know that it would not be the last instance of one of my hobbies meeting work.

The next instance of this occurred a few months ago. Out of the blue, a list of beekeeping books was brought into the shop offering books for sale. Well, I have been a beekeeper or 'apiarist' on and off since I was about six, having kept bees with my father. So the owners of the business saw fit to say, 'here is a list of beekeeping books - price those up and make an offer.' My initial reaction was 'what has looking after bees got to do with antiquarian beekeeping books?'. To some extent, the answer to this question is 'absolutely nothing', but it is amazing what you pick up along the way in terms of background knowledge, combined with a little research and I was away.

Image from A Complete Guide to the Mystery and Management of Bees

For instance, I already knew of the existence of an excellent reference book 'British Bee Books a Bibliography 1500-1976 published by International Bee Research Association', this made it a lot easier to check if the books were complete and had the required number of plates. Then I realised that I started to recognise the names of the authors of these 'bee books', as they had invented or designed bee keeping equipment which were named after them. One such author was L.L. Langstroth who designed the most commonly used hive worldwide and discovered bee space, the space which bees do not fill with honey comb or propolis, allowing the development of framed hives. Another was Charles Butler who, I presume, the Butler queen cage is named after.

Then with the aid of the reference book I soon got to learn which book has featured a picture of a skep hive for the first time, and so on. All of a sudden, along with a bit of general knowledge about what collectors are looking for in books, I knew a lot more than I realised. That just left prices to work out and the current state of the market for beekeeping books. In this I was fortunate that there was a whole section in our local auction house of beekeeping books so I was quickly able to get some up-to-date realistic prices. So now I am the Stella Books so called 'expert' on beekeeping books, though in reality I feel it is just the beginning of a long road because, if beekeeping has taught me anything, it is that there is always more to learn and another surprise around the corner. If you have a collection of beekeeping books for sale, I will be happy to make you an offer.

Well, this has left me thinking, my other main hobby is Cycling and there are plenty of books on that too! Therefore, for my peace of mind, and to allow me to keep at least one area of my life separate from work, please nobody offer Stella Books any cycling books!

As an aside, since work does so often merge with hobbies, Stella Books currently has a colony of bees living in a hive behind the shop. This colony caused much commotion last week when it decide to swarm, and landed on the wrong side of our pitched roof - two stories up located on the main road. When everybody else had gone home I did a bit of 'fishing' for bees, in that I gave them a nice frame of drawn comb on the end of a pole to walk on to. To my relief it worked first time, and I managed to grab and temporarily cage the all-important queen bee, and then all the others just followed her into the box. Now I have an extra colony of bees doing well at home, whilst the Stella Books colony 're-queen' themselves. Nature is wonderful, and it does bring out the inventiveness in us beekeepers. 

Contributed by Adam

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