The Diary: Byron and Shelley; Earl Spencer's new painting; e-readers; Abbas Kiarostami; Barack Obama's mother

Friday 08 May 2009 00:00 BST

Rubbish poetry

Two shabby looking volumes which were recently found in a skip in France have turned out to belong to Lord Byron and Shelley. The rare books, believed to belong to the Canadian collector, Beccles Willson, who settled in France and died there in 1947, were spotted in the skip in the south of France. One is a well-thumbed Italian book of poetry by Guarini, in which Shelley has written his name, and the other a book of Italian poetry by Pulci, belonging to Byron, which has the imprint of his signature and pencil marks in the first canto of the poem "Morgante Maggiore". Byron translated this, and eventually used its rhyme scheme for his masterpiece, "Don Juan". "Neither of them look very smart. Someone obviously had a house clearance and these books happened to get rescued," said a source. Having narrowly escaped the rubbish heap, they will now be sold for thousands of pounds by Peter Harrington Rare Books at the Antiquarian Book Fair from 4 June.

On the hoof

Earl Spencer, the brother of Princess Diana, has bought a controversial image from an exhibition by Wolfe von Lenkiewicz, at the All Visual Arts gallery space, which may give away his views on the monarchy. The drawing shows the head of Queen Elizabeth I superimposed on to the body of a skeletal horse that apparently symbolises "starved Britain". The horse is seen stamping on top of the crown of Queen Elizabeth II, Earl Spencer's very own godmother.

Reading room

The days of stretched arms holding newspapers on crowded Tubes and trains may well be numbered. Unconfirmed reports from across the pond suggest that Amazon may be preparing to unveil a new version of the Kindle with a bigger screen, designed specifically for newspapers and magazines, following hot in the footsteps of the trend for "e-readers" that appears to have taken off in America.

No visa, no travel

Abbas Kiarostami, the award-winning Iranian film director who is unable to be at the opening night of the ENO's 'Cosi Fan Tutte', which he directed, due to "visa problems" at the British embassy in Tehran, is now believed to have cancelled all media interviews relating to the London premiere of his latest film, 'Shirin', showing on 26 June at the British Film Institute. The BFI said that he had not planned to fly in for the June premiere but that he wanted to kill two birds with one stone and talk to the media about his film, based on the reaction of a group of women who are filmed watching the Iranian version of 'Romeo and Juliet', at the end of this month. Both his opera and his new film will now have to speak for themselves, sadly.

Like mother, like son

Barack Obama's late mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, died after having completed an anthropology dissertation about the lives of Indonesian village workers. Sadly, she neither lived to see her son become the first black president nor to see her dissertation published. Now it is rumoured that her study, which culminated after 14 years work in Indonesia, is to be published this autumn. Sources suggest that Duke University Press plan to call the book 'Surviving Against the Odds'. So it may well join her son's two books on the bestseller list...

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