Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Old English with Mandy and Paul of ClickityLit

What Does Þæt Mean?! Ure æghwylc sceal ende gebidanworolde lifes; wyrce se þe motedomes ær deaþe; þæt bið drihtgumanunlifgendum æfter selest. (Beowulf) Old English can seem intimidatingly foreign to the … Continue reading

October 3, 2017 · 2 Comments

The Ring of Words by Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall and Edmund Weiner

Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary In his magisterial overview of the history of the Oxford English Dictionary Peter Gilliver touched briefly and tantalizingly on the part J R R … Continue reading

September 8, 2017 · Leave a comment

The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Very Short Introduction, by Timothy Lim

In an earlier post for VL, I enthused wildly about The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (see my exhortation here). And now I can wholeheartedly recommend a companion volume, … Continue reading

March 31, 2017 · 2 Comments

The Making of the Oxford English Dictionary – Peter Gilliver

The OED. There can’t be many publications which are routinely referred to just by their initials, and it’s a measure of the stature of the Oxford English Dictionary that those … Continue reading

December 9, 2016 · 6 Comments

How English Became English by Simon Horobin

A Short History of a Global Language. (TRIGGER WARNING: Some of what follows could cause high blood pressure, nose bleeds and red haze in sensitive individuals.) Some people get terribly … Continue reading

October 21, 2016 · 2 Comments

The Polar North

This book about living with the Greenland Inuit mixes travel with linguistics and anthropology, but is mostly about how people live in the frozen north. Much like Laurens Van Der … Continue reading

December 17, 2014 · 2 Comments

Collins English Dictionary

The new Collins English Dictionary has a beautiful cover, bound in fabric rather than a slippery tearable paper dustwrapper, so I warm to its tactile friendliness straight away. It’s heavy, easily … Continue reading

November 5, 2014 · 3 Comments


The Scots word ‘to daunder’ is to take a wee walk, a leisurely stroll. This book collects 42 of Peter Ross’s feature articles from Scottish newspapers into a very readable book where he … Continue reading

May 26, 2014 · 5 Comments


Simon Winder’s massive tome Germania is a travel book, a history book, a collection of anecdotes that bludgeon the reader into helpless laughter, and an inspiration for ambitious plans to read more German … Continue reading

May 2, 2014 · 4 Comments

American Bee by James Maguire

Every March, dozens of children from all over the country gather in Washington D.C. for the National Spelling Bee. This book charts some of their journeys, explores the history of … Continue reading

March 3, 2014 · 2 Comments

Shady Characters, by Keith Houston

This book was a very welcome Christmas present from a friend who knows I have a taste for typography and who gave me another favourite on my bookshelves, Just My … Continue reading

January 22, 2014 · 3 Comments

It’s complicated

When I was 14 or so, the Russians invaded Afghanistan, and I thought, this is it, the next world war. I remained nervous about the Middle East at the back … Continue reading

February 25, 2013 · 4 Comments

Trotsky’s Notebooks 1933-1935: Writings on Lenin, Dialectics and Evolutionism

Bad Kirsty (my inner reader, not so much bad as outspoken):  Hello there.  Bet you thought you’d got rid of us, eh? Good Kirsty (the uptight one in charge of … Continue reading

January 10, 2013 · 4 Comments

The Strange New World of Crossword Puzzles

As a lifelong nerd, it always bothered me that I did not participate in one of the elementary nerd activities: crossword puzzles. Oh, I could do the simple TV Guide … Continue reading

March 26, 2012 · 10 Comments



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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)