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Last Friday (19th July) I ventured out from my desiccatingly cooled and air-conditioned fortress into the Belfast sunshine. My plan was simple – go to St George’s Market; purchase lunch; retreat from sunshine; consume lunch. This was simple and effective – or so I thought! It was all going well until I passed a second hand book stall and spotted ‘The post-medieval archaeology of Ireland, 1550–1850’ … for £10. This was a book that retailed for £65 (if I remember correctly) when it first came out. That wasn’t a problem. Neither was the fact that volume two (Ireland and Britain in the Atlantic World) was also there … also for a tenner! By the time I’d gone to the bank, gotten out more money, and eventually left, I’d picked up copies of three other great books from Wordwell … all for stunningly low prices – and all new, in mint condition! Anyone who’s known me for any length knows that I just adore books … books on Irish archaeology all the more so. If you have an image of me waddling back to my office, sandwich balanced precariously in one hand, trying to cradle a large package of books, but beaming with happiness … then you’re not far off the mark! I eventually got back to my desk, inhaled lunch, and began a close scrutiny of my new purchases. Oh yes! This was the good stuff … crisp paper, lovely illustrations … and the smell … oh that smell! New Book Smell! … some of them even had radiocarbon dates! This was heaven! … and that’s where I kinda’ ruined it … well, sort of … Not content with knowing that I’d just had ‘a great deal’ … I needed to be able to quantify it. I wanted to be able to rejoice in the wondrousness of the deal … but with figures attached. ‘Yes, I saved a staggering quintillion percent on the regular prices, don’tcha know?’ … ‘it’s an average saving of twelfty-four mega pounds per volume!’ … yes! That’s where it went wrong! I went and looked up my purchases on the Wordwell website … I was in for a shock when I found that I could have purchased all of the volumes direct from Wordwell for just about the same price as I’d just gotten them.
If you think I’m here to have a whinge and a moan about not getting as good a deal as I might have liked, you’re wrong! Totally wrong! I may have required a moment to regain my composure and wipe a manly tear from my eye, but then I rejoiced! In my first scenario, only I benefited from this good fortune – right place and right time equalled loads of lovely books … but just for me! This way there are lo ads of people who can benefit from the same good fortune as myself. There’s only one problem … all these lovely people (just like you, reader) probably don’t know about all these wonderful books. Like a matchmaker of old, I want you to meet up and form a lasting relationship. So, gentle readers, please meet some remarkable books that you may like to get to know better. I’ll start with the contents of my Friday shopping bag: The post-medieval archaeology of Ireland, 1550–1850. Papers presented at the 1st Annual Conference of the Irish Post-Medieval Archaeology Group … yours for €12. Ireland and Britain inthe Atlantic World (Irish Post-Medieval Archaeology Group Proceedings 2) also €12. Lough Kinale: studies of an Irish lake (The Discovery Programme Lake Settlement Project: Discovery Programme Monograph No. 8) … just €15. The archaeology of Killeen Castle, Co. Meath … also €15. Rathcroghan: archaeological and geophysical survey in a ritual landscape … again, €15. These are all beautiful volumes that I’m delighted to have in my library, and I would recommend them to any student of Irish archaeology. I’m still exploring them, and it’s a beautiful adventure! If I was a more bitter type, I consider it slightly harder to stomach that this cornucopia of bargains contains quite a few volumes that I paid full price for when they came out. OK … I may be slightly rueful, but I’m delighted to be in a position where I can speak with certainty on how good these books are … take a look … First of all, the excavations:
Archaeological investigations in Galway City, 1987-1998 … not only did I buy this when it first came out, I actually paid for it over a year in advance of publication – that’s how much I wanted it! … and now it can be yours for €20. Coolure Demesne crannog, Lough Derravaragh: an introduction to its archaeology and landscapes … yours for €12 – I can hardly believe it! Discovering the Neolithic in County Kerry: A passage tomb at Ballycarty – a beautiful and important book on a Neolithic excavation, and just €10. Excavations atFerriter's Cove 1983-1995: last foragers, first farmers in the Dingle Peninsula, Woodman’s masterful publication on a defining Mesolithic excavation – also €10. The bog body from Tumbeagh – an excellent account of the finding of a bog body and a mere €15. The Bronze Age landscapes of the Pipeline to the West: an integrated archaeological and environmental assessment – an important work, and essential for anyone interested in the Irish Bronze Age - €12.
The Lisheen Mine Archaeological Project 1996–8 – I can’t believe that copies of this are even to be found anymore – excellent value at €10. Three Irish gaspipelines: New archaeological evidence in Munster – so many great excavations in this one, not the least of which was the Tankardstown Neolithic house. It was published in 1988 and it’s a near miracle that copies even exist for sale, don’t mind that it’s yours for only €10. The North Munster Project (2 volumes) – it’s practically theft to take it for €35. At that price, I’m tempted to buy it again! Underworld: death and burial in Cloghermore Cave, Co. Kerry – another lovely book for €15. Excavations 2004:summary accounts of archaeological excavations in Ireland – one, perhaps, only for the more serious student of Irish archaeology, but a great bargain at €15. If you really hunger for excavation reports, Wordwell are even doing an Excavations Bulletin Special Offer where you can choose any four of seven selected volumes for €50.
They have a beautiful, if somewhat poignant, collection of festschrifts on offer that I cannot recommend highly enough: Above and beyond: essays in memory of Leo Swan – just €20. Relics of old decency:archaeological studies in later prehistory. Festschrift for Barry Raftery €20. From ringforts tofortified houses: studies on castles and other monuments in honour of David Sweetman - €15 (though I should point out that the object of this volume, D. P. Sweetman, is very much in the land of the living – long may he thrive!). There are two other books in my personal collection, and available at ridiculous discounts, that I’d happily recommend. First is Medieval ring brooches in Ireland, by Mary B Deevy, for €10. This is still the premier account of these incredibly interesting objects – well worth having in your library. Slightly more of general interest is Chris Lynn’s excellent Navan Fort: archaeology and myth for €10. You won’t find a better introduction, and by the acknowledged expert on the site, too! Even for a grand bibliophile, such as myself, there are items there that I don’t have, but would dearly love. My personal ‘wish list’ recommendations are:
A grand gallimaufry: collected in honour of Nick Maxwell,
Illaunloughan Island: an early medieval monastery in County Kerry, €12. FARNHAM: Images from the Maxwell Estate, Co. Cavan, €10. I’m not going to list them all, but there are plenty more quality books at bargain prices to be had at the Wordwell sale – go take a look! If you do decide to buy anything from Wordwell after reading this, please let them know where you heard about their sale & tell them that I say ‘hi!’ … I don’t work for Wordwell, and I’m not getting paid for writing this piece … I just genuinely love good books and want to see them go to good homes that will appreciate them! If you’ve written/published an archaeology book and you think I can help bring it to a wider
audience, please let me know & I’ll do my best! But right now … get on over to Wordwell and sort out your summer reading before the weather goes! On the other hand … if you decide to go to Amazon instead/as well … please go via the portal at the end of this post … for every sale made, they pay me a little commission!