It’s not an assignment that comes with a deadline. It took years for me to gather books for my sons — not to mention the accumulated wisdom of librarians and other bibliophiles who, over the years, slipped titles into my hands with a knowing nod, or with the question “Have you seen this one?” And it will take me years to build this collection I’ll bequeath to my sons, and any new little readers who will come toddling along. But how could it be otherwise? Home, I now know, is where my children’s books are.
This leads to “bickering, desertion, subterfuge and rivalry”. It also leads to a story that could be read as a disguised retelling of the Russian revolution, or the Reformation, or the Sunni-Shia schism, or any great human falling out. As soon as you form any kind of “us”, Mills suggests, a “them” will form in response. In this, The Forensic Records Society is like Animal Farm but with blokes for pigs, and much better songs.
Nearly 170 years and untold tons of carbon dioxide emissions separate the world of the Crystal Serenity from the world of the Terror and the Erebus. The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen completed the first successful navigation of the Northwest Passage in 1906, but it is only in the last decade, with the dramatic shrinking of summer sea ice because of man-made climate change, that large-scale luxury tourism in the High Arctic has become a realistic possibility. The differences are stark and obvious, yet Paul Watson’s intriguing new book, “Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition,” also points to a surprising area of continuity.
To conservators and historians, smell has always played an important role in assessing the origin and condition of historic books, and in working out how to look after them. “I have no vocabulary to define this, but there is a curious warm leathery smell to English parchment, unlike the sharper, cooler scent of Italian skins,” wrote the Cambridge University don and librarian Christopher de Hamel in his bestselling Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts.
But that lack of vocabulary could be about to change, thanks to a groundbreaking project by researchers at UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, who have devised a way of relating such apparently subjective descriptions directly to the chemical composition of books. In a paper published this week in the journal Heritage Science, Cecilia Bembibre and Matija Strlič describe how they analysed samples from an old book, picked up in a second-hand shop, and developed a “historic book odour wheel”, which connects identifiable chemicals with people’s reactions to them.
My fingers twitched. My pulse spiked. I was so close. I’d brought my technology bag. I’d brought my hard drives and my soft drives. Hacking, bandwidth, a computer with adequate memory, and the superior hacking chops of a pro hacker—I was the only one who could stop the cyborg terrorists.
Now a mere click away from hacking into the hackosphere, I knew I would uncover the truth about who really leaked the spyware. Still, I was plagued by a virus, by a byte of uncertainty. A bead of sweat slipped from my brow and splashed onto my Dell keyboard.