Blog Archive

Monday 29 October 2012

Tanjung Tokong in 1970's & 80's - What Did it Look Like?

Tanjung Tokong in 1970's & 80's 
What Did it Look Like?

One of The Penang Bookshelf's author customers is writing a novel set in Penang in the late 1970's and early 80's. 

One of her main characters lives in Tanjung Tokong in 1980 and she's keen to gain as much information as she can so as to be able to recreate the surroundings and atmosphere at the time. Of course, she 's made a start by reading and looking at photographs, but none of these can replace the experience of living there at the time.

Our customer writes: 
" My interest at this stage seems to have settled onto a number of elements concerning the area back then:  Kampong life of villages/markets/food stalls (now I understand almost gone); Aussie RAAF presence (gone); beaches; nightlife/eating (many gone); Chinese Temple, Sea Pearl complex; infrastructure re shopping (different now), phones, post office etc."

Do you have personal experience of the area of the time? Preferably you would have lived or worked there or at least be very familiar with the area at that time.

So, do you think that you can help or know of anyone else who can? The author is coming to Penang in December and would like to spend a day or two touring the area with you. She is willing to pay a fee, if you so wish.

If you are able to offer help or have any further questions before you make up your mind, please contact her initially by email

Tuesday 16 October 2012

The Penang Bookshelf at George Town Literary Festival 2012

The Penang Bookshelf

will be at

The George Town Literary Festival 2012

Friday 23rd - Sunday 25th November

If you're thinking of a good time to come to Penang for a good time, why not head here during the last weekend in November? That'swhen when the city will be hosting its second literary festival. Details of the glitterati who'll be attending follow in the poster below.

Amongst the hangers on will be The Penang Bookshelf showing a selection of highbrow and some more entertaining books at China House in Beach Street and Victoria Street. If you want to see any particular book that's in The Penang Bookshelf's inventory while visiting the festival, do please contact me, William Knox, in advance on 012-972-6485 or by email.

Of course, if you live in Penang already, you have no excuses for not being there.

Read more about the festival on their blog.

See you there!

Saturday 13 October 2012

Yet Another Newsletter

The Penang Bookshelf
Yet Another Newsletter
From The Penang Bookshelf
Dear Friend

8-8  - The New Normal 
Why the long silence? Retired? If I were so lucky lah!

On a whim, masquerading as a carefully considered judgement, I pulled down the shutters on my pseudo street presence in Penang in May to retire to the supposed serenity of my Bati Ferringhi flat. Ha ha. Since then I've sold more books to visitors at the flat than I ever sold in any shop, the internet side of the business has gone beserk (50 books sold this week is now normal), and all sorts of people are making all sorts of proposals, mainly decent, to The Penang Bookshelf.

When we bought the flat I stupidly hadn't paid attention to my wife's warning about the significance of the address - the eigth unit on the eight floor. Go take a crash course in Chinese numerology, if you don't understand what that means.

Wake Up Writing Workshop

Obviously too many people now get to read this newsletter and think I could do with a few tips on style. I presume this is what prompted the Lincoln Resource Center of the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to ask The Penang Bookshelf to help host  a mini writing workshop in Penang at 9.30 am this Monday 15th October. The experienced writer Paul Sochaczewski will be on hand to give tips on how to make your writing sparkle. I'll just be attending to try to find out how he manages to be bald and handsome at the same time. Join the scramble for a place by contacting me,

Come back, Singapore! All is Forgiven!As I've said before, I come from a family which looked down on 'trade,' so learning to be a blood sucking capitalist hasn't been easy. My customers occasionally prod me into action.
Ousted! - Patrick Keith.

A new Singaporean customer, of which there are an increasing number, tried a clever trick in bargaining. Would I send his books post free? When I investigated it, I discovered that posting over 2kg of books to Singapore was significantly cheaper than posting a lighter parcel. So from now onwards The Penang Bookshelf posts free to Singapore for all orders over 2kg.

Attraction, Rather Than Promotion

Of course, while I'm getting rid of so many books, I'm always fretting on how I'll replace them. Fortunately increased sales have also attracted people who either want to sell their books to The Penang Bookshelf or want The Penang Bookshelf to sell books on their behalf. They now come in at such a rate that I struggle to get them up onto my website in time. As an intermediary measure I list new acquisitions on The Penang Bookshelf Blog. You'll find a couple of examples, on a comprehensive range of books on Orchids and Chinese Ceramics have been added in the last few months. As you'll see customers have been buying straight from the Blog too. Other similar posts include this one and yet another both of which were the result of my August raids on UK bookshops. 

Emergence of the Musties 

Not that there's much that there's very musty in the Malaysian book business. There hasn't been too much that's been in print for all that long. However as The Penang Bookshelf becomes better known a few more will arrive on its virtual shelves. There have been a couple just recently. Both are 'unique masterpieces'. OK enough of the puff. If you're not fed up with the blog, have a look at this collection associated with the late Dr Wu Lien-Teh. And just to prove that The Penang Bookshelf caters for all tastes, we have probably the first Arabic-Jawi Dictionary for sale too. 

Of course I could write more, but this really is enough.  

Thanks for reading this far.   
William Knox
The Penang Bookshelf

News Snippets 

The Penang Bookshelf Becomes A Team

Of course The Penang Bookshelf's sudden expansion couldn't continue to be handled by one grumpy pensioner. So grudgingly he's roped in a few part time companions - Angus in Edinburgh, Craig in Park Ridge, Illinois and, the least part-time of them all, Teresa, here in Penang. What they all do's as much a mystery to them as it is to me, but they haven't started complaining - yet.

Linkage the Antidote to Shrinkage?

The Penang Bookshelf's been associated for a while with Spyral Synergy, the people who make it happen in Penang. A couple of weeks ago they made it happen again when we brought Dennis De Witt the author of History of the Dutch in Malaysia to give a talk to what appeared to be a very satisfied group of guests at Clove Hall, one of Penang's lovelier boutique hotels.

Which reminds me...I've discovered a brilliant substitute for sitting in a shop - get others to do it for you. The Penang Bookshelf's in the middle of talks with hotels  and tour companies to place its incomprable (sic) range of books with others who are more adept at sweet talking customers than I am.

Basically bookselling's quite easy - buy, sell, bullsh*t, buy, sell etc. However there's one Penang Bookshelf customer who's far more crazily energetic. He runs a travel website, Malaysia Traveller, and actually tests all the amazingly strenuous places he recommends. However he does have moments of sanity too, the webiste recommends The Penang Bookshelf's books.

Even though I narrowly missed being trampled by a British police horse at an Anti-Vietnam War Rally in 1968, my pink tendencies haven't dimmed. So I was very honoured when The Penang Bookshelf was approched by  Gerakbudaya, publishers and distributors of most of the sensible stuff that's written about Malaysia, to work with them in promoting their catalogue. In  future The Penang Bookshelf will be carrying much more of their stock online.   

The Penang Bookshelf seems to have been bitten by the Borneo Bug ever since our trip to Kota Kinabalu in July. So much so that we've even opened up a special Borneo category on the     
website. Also in KK we met up with the people who run, Borneo Books, another niche bookseller in Malaysia. We swapped trading experiences and tips and looked at ways of working together. One of our first joint ventures is likely to be the purchase of a large Malaysian library in the UK next month.  

Whereas I thought people only wrote about this country in Malay, Chinese, Tamil or English, I  recently met a Frenchman who has an amazing webiste where he proves that there has been plenty written in French as well. Of course one of the best known novels written by an expatriate about Malaysia was written by Henri Fauconnier. Pierre Boulle wrote one or two as well. The Penang Bookshelf does have two or three books in French which have yet to appear on the website.

It suddenly dawned on me in amidst all this frazzle that The Penang Bookshelf's second internet anniversary is almost upon us, so why not be generous for a change? Although The Penang Sketchbook is out of print and being sold for an exhorbitant price at The Penang Bookshelf, its publisher, Editions Didier Millet, produces masses of  other worthwhile books about Malaysia and Southeast Asia. They've teamed up with The Penang Bookshelf to offer massive discounts on their entire catalogue.  

I'm still reading some of the books I sell and still writing random reviews, although there haven't been any published recently. There are about four either half written or waiting to be written which I'll try and get out before the next newsletter. In the meantime a kind customer has come to the rescue with his own review of an obsure, but worthwhile book which, of course, is part of The Penang Bookshelf's inventory. 

About The Penang Bookshelf
The Penang Bookshelf specialises in providing book lovers with a broad range of new and second-hand books, both fiction and non-fiction, primarily about Malaysia, but also about other parts of Asia as well. 

Independent Online Booksellers Association, Professional Member.

Also at: ,Ebay and at IOBAbooks
Category Pages - Asian Fiction,      Asian History,     Asian ReligionsBorneo  Chinese Ceramics   Malaysian Architecture  Malaysian Agriculture   Malaysian Arts and Culture  Malaysia: CartoonsMalaysian Chinese Community  Malaysian Cooking and Food Malaysia: Colonial Biography,     Malaysia: Modern Biography,   Malaysia - Fiction  Malaysia: Journalism,    Malaysia: Language & Linguistics,     Malaysia: Literature, Malaysia: Malay Community   Malaysia & Singapore: 19th Century History,   Malaysia: Post-Independence HistoryMalaysia: Miscellaneous, Malaysian Nature and Wildlife    Orang Asli (Indigenous People)    Malaysian Poetry  Malaysian Politics  Malaysia: Religion   Malaysia & Singapore: World War II  Perak    Singapore: Anthropology & Sociology     Singapore Fiction


Telephone: +60-12-972-6485 
Business Address:  Aquarius, 4-8-8 Jalan Low Yat, Batu Ferringhi, 11100, Penang. (The Penang Bookshelf's entire inventory is available for browsing. Please call to fix an appointment.)  
Mailing Address: 36, Cheeseman Road, 11600 Penang, Malaysia

Registered Business No: PG0282219-D

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The Penang Bookshelf | 36 Cheeseman Road | Penang | 11600 | Malaysia

Wu Lien-teh Classic and Ephemera SOLD!

This lot has now been sold
Wu Lien Teh Collection
For Sale
(Substantially Updated - 29th October 2012)

The late Dr Wu Lien-teh (1879-1960), was a trail blazer in medicine generally and particularly in the Chinese community. He was born in Penang, became the first person of Chinese descent to study medicine at Cambridge University, the first Malaysian Chinese to be nominated for the Nobel Prize for Medicine and led a distinguished, but humble, career both in China and at home in Malaya.

The Penang Bookshelf is happy to be able to offer for sale the following items: -

  • The Life of Dr Arthur Jackson of Manchuria – Alfred J. Costain (Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1911. Second edition. Hardback in Good condition without a Dust jacket. (The blue cloth boards have minor rubbing and the gilt lettering on the spine is still clear, but not bright. There is spotting on the first and last few pages. Mild tanning throughout. 188 pages.) Jackson was a colleague of  Dr Wu in fighting the plague in China at the beginning of the 20th century.
  • Introduction: The Expedition to Manchuria and the Conditions under which the Work was Performed There – Richard P Strong (Reprinted from the Philippine Journal of Science, 1912. 5 pages of text and 6 pages of black and white plates  Very Good Paperback with minor discolouration of the cover and mild tanning throughout.)
  • Free School Magazine, 21st October 1916 including a five page article 'Recollections of Twenty Years (1896-1916) written by Dr Wu in commemoration of the centenary of the Penang Free School (The magazine is in poor condition with a damaged and repaired cover and loose pages. There is medium tanning throughout)
  • A Treatise on Pneumonic Plague – Wu Lien-Teh (The League of Nations Health Organisation, 1926. 466 pages with a fold out map with 40 black and white and coloured plates and line drawings. Good Paperback with a library sticker on the spine, a former owner’s name and some damp marks on the cover. The binding is tight and pages have medium tanning at the edges and mild tanning of the text.)
  • History of Chinese Medicine: being a Chronicle of Medical Happenings in China from Ancient Times to the Present Period written by Dr Wu together with K. Chimin Wong and published by The Tientsin Press, Ltd. Tientsin, China, 1932. 706 pages.) This is the first edition of this classic. (The book is in good condition and was formerly part of Yale Medical Library. The cover, protected in plastic, is worn at the extremities, but the gilt lettering on the front and spine are still visible, the hinges at the front and rear are beginning to loosen and there are two small library plates on the inside front cover. There is mild tanning throughout the book and a map of China has been laid in a pocket attached to the rear cover.)
  • Dugald Christie: Pioneer and Medical Missionary –Mrs Dugald Christie (James Clarke & Co Ltd, 1932. Good in red cloth boards. The spine has been sunned, but gilt lettering visible. The book has mild to medium tanning throughout and an owner’s name on a front end paper.) Laid in the book is a 1906 letter from Mrs Christie and her husband and a photograph of Dr Christie, a colleague of Wu Lien-Teh
  • Cholera: A Manual for the Medical Profession in China – Wu Lien-Teh, JWH Chun, R. Pollitzer & CY Yu (National Quarantine Service, Shanghai, 1934 In Good+ condition with medium tanning to the end papers and mild tanning throughout the rest of the book. In blue cloth covers with minor rubbing to the extremities.Gilt lettering on the spine has dulled, but bright on the front cover. 197 pages) Signed with a dedication by the author
  • Malayan Problems: From a Chinese Point of View –Tan Cheng Lock with a Foreword by Dr Wu Lien-Teh (Tannsco,1947 Paperback in Very Good condition with mild tanning to the end papers. 182 pages)
  • Plague Fighter: The Autobiography of a Modern Chinese Physician -  Wu Lien-Teh ( W.Heffer & Sons, 1959 Very Good in Very Good dust jacket. Previous owners’ names on front end paper. Medium tanning throughout the book and spotting on the text block. 667 pages)
  • Plague Prevention and Politics in Manchuria 1910-1931 – Carl F. Nathan (East Asian Research Center, Harvard University, 1967. 106 pages. Very Good Paperback. Some minor discolouration of the cover, but the text is clear and bright.)
  • Past and Present: A Journal of Historical Studies No 90 February 2006 includes a 38 page article by Mark Gamsa entitled The Epidemic of the Pneumonic Plague in Manchuria 1910-11. The Journal is in Near Fine condition
  • Two post cards and one letter written by Dr Wu in 1956 to a Miss Austin in Bromley, Kent, UK
  • Two Christmas/New Year cards for 1957/8 and and 1958/9. Both cards are from his address in Ipoh before he moved to Penang in the final year of his life. (All the cards and letter are protected in plastic and in very good condition.)
All these items are being sold as one lot. 

RM3,900 (AU$1,240/GBP790/Euro 980/SG$1,560/US$1,280)

All the items are available for inspection in Penang. Further pictures and details can be provided to enquirers. Those interested in this special collection please contact William Knox on +60-(0)12-972-6485 or by email.
Post free within Malaysia and to Singapore. Please ask for a quotation for postage elsewhere.

A further selection of pictures of the collection follows below.

Rare Arabic-Jawi Dictionary For Sale

Rare Arabic-Jawi Dictionary
For Sale

This book has now been sold by The Penang Bookshelf.
Thanks for your interest!
A Kuala Lumpur bookseller has approached The Penang Bookshelf to see if any of its customers would be interested in getting their hands on this unusual book. It appears to be the first or one of the first Arabic-Jawi dictionaries ever published. It was probably published in Cairo sometime around the beginning of the 20th century.
The book has been rebound, but the original spine has been retained. You can see a photo of the book with its current cover and other photos of the book hereThe bookseller describes the book's conditon as follows: -

"There are slight worm holes in the back margins, 20 or so in the last 20 pages and 'very very few in the next back 50 or so. The beginning is similar, all small margin holes, 20 or so in the first 50 pages and thereafter very few. The bulk of the text has no holes. I can only say this copy is in excellent condition relative to the only 2 other copies I have seen for sale.On the title page there is a Jawi name and the date 7.6.04, can this be 1904? Someone else told me the date is 1931 but the plane in the picture section is far too early for this later date.

It is a very interesting text with plenty of illustrations and picture pages. It is of course in black and white throughout on yellowed paper. It has little foxing and the paper seems strong."
If you are interested to know more please contact me, William Knox, on 012-972-6485 or by email. An appointment to view the book in Kuala Lumpur can be arranged.