PIPE SMOKING IN MIDDLE EARTH: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE SMOKE RING (September 2022)
It is from Tolkien more than any other that I am indebted for my life with pipes. I wrote this, my first pipe book, as a debt of gratitude as well as to find out just exactly what Tolkien wrote about pipes and tobaccos and the pipe smoking of his characters. There were several surprises. The book was originally printed chapbook-style for my nephew and a few friends in 2006. After Peter Jackson had finished with his LOTR film treatments, I thought to revise it and include a concordance of pipe smoking in his films in addition to the original concordance of every mention of pipes and tobaccos in Tolkien’s legendarium. I took copies of the book with me to the Chicago show in 2013 and sold a few dozen and afterwards began selling it steadily through Amazon for the three or four years. This is the third and, I believe, final edition, which contains a completely rewritten set of essay on “The Smoke Ring” in the first part. I know there continue to be pipemen who find inspiration, courage, deep magic and much satisfying pipe smoke in the novels and films and I hope this little work may please them.
xiii + 87 pp. $16.95. Available exclusively at Smokingpipes.com.
OF PIPES & MEN (December 2021)
Out now from Smokingpipes.com, Of Pipes & Men continues the collaboration between illustrator Larry Gosser and myself that began in The Peterson Pipe. Larry approached me with the idea in the late fall of 2020. He wanted to do a book illustrating the lives of many of his favorite famous pipemen and asked if I’d write the biographies to accompany them and even asked me to collaborate in the selection. I said yes, not realizing what a road lay before me. He had thought we might have it done and ready to sell by late Spring of 2021. Writing 24 pipe-centric biographies that do any kind of justice to the man or woman in question, however, proved a bit more time-consuming than I’d anticipated, taking into account all the loafing around I require on any given day. I don’t know the kind of hours Larry spent on his end, but for me it was a very good day to get a single biography drafted. Most of them took at least two days’ writing and some I’d have to come back to after ordering various research materials. Marie Irwin, who designed The Peterson Pipe and Peterson’s Patent Pipes, did the design work for Of Pipes & Men, working with Larry to augment his vision and make sure I got my end straight (it’s nice to have an in-house editor as well as designer). I think the effort was totally worth it, and I’m really pleased with how the book came out, biographies & all.
x + 49 pp. $17.95. Available exclusively at Smokingpipes.com.
PETERSON’S PATENT PIPES: A FACSIMILE OF THE 1896 CATALOG (2022)
A facsimile of the 1896 K&P catalog was a long-standing ambition of mine, going back to the very beginning days of research on the Peterson book. As the very first catalog issued by Kapp & Peterson, you might think it would be somewhere in the Peterson archives. I believe at one time, maybe as recently as the 1970s, it was. But there was no sign of it when Gary Malmberg, Marie and I arrived at the factory in 2013. In just one instance of dozens and dozens of strange coincidences that occurred throughout the gestation of the book, I stumbled on the National Pipe Archive at the University of Liverpool, who own a copy that once (amazingly) belonged to a friend of our publisher at Briar Books Press.
Despite the NPA’s worst efforts, it was possible through much painstaking digital work to present the catalog in something very near its original glory. The big surprise in the restoration work was in finding just how much information the slim volume contained—information on how to smoke the System written by Charles Peterson himself; historical information on the fledgling start-up’s efforts to establish a solid reputation; information on Charles Peterson’s political views; and, of course, 1:1 scale drawings of the first-ever Patent System pipes, among which are several eye-popping designs that would only be around for the first 20 or so years of the company’s history. All of this and more is documented in an extensive commentary at the end of the book.
89pp. $35. Briar Books Press, 2021. Available at Smokingpipes.com.
THE PETERSON PIPE: THE STORY OF KAPP & PETERSON (2019, 2022)
This book continues to amaze me on all kinds of levels. It was a gift to me at a time in my life and career when I needed it most. It was a gift in being the catalyst for a friendship with my co-author Gary Malmberg, with Tom Palmer, then CEO at K&P, with Latvian journalist Sandra Bondarevska, with Sykes Wilford, Josh Burgess, Ted Swearingen and Andy Wike at Laudisi Enterprises and with many other well-wishers and fellow Pete Geeks. It allowed my wife and best friend to show her incredible skills as a book designer, which in my opinion garnered us the Independent Book Publisher’s Gold Medal for best first non-fiction book in 2021. It also allowed me to learn a great deal of humility in working with a great editor like Gary Schrier at Briar Books Press. You can read more about it on the The Story of Kapp & Peterson page.
If you read this and are in any way seriously interested in Kapp & Peterson, do consider buying this second printing of the book. I say this not because I’ll get rich off it but because it is at the center of the blog and offers a thoroughly-indexed guide, identification guide and comprehensive look at the pipes, people and history of the world’s oldest continuously-operating briar pipe company. Pipe books are ephemeral. Briar Books Press is a small one-man operation. The first printing of 1000 copies sold out in 10 months. The second print run was only five hundred copies, and as interest in the Peterson brand continues to swell, it may sell out in about the same amount of time. And if it does, do consider that there may not be another printing.
Xx + 345pp. 2nd printing, paperback. $65. Available at Smokingpipes.com.
THE PIPES OF BASIL RATHBONE’S SHERLOCK HOLMES, 3rd Ed. (2021)
This project goes back to my days blogging for Luca di Piazza at Neatpipes.com. It was fun to launch the blog and then see enthusiasts like Jim Amash (JimInks) pick up the bug and pass it along. We took the book to the Chicago pipe show in 2019, where I was fortunate to run into one of the greatest scholars in the hobby, Eugene Umberger. He agreed to serve as critic and editor of that small first printing and the book went to a 2nd edition later in 2019. Months passed and I began to see various pipe smokers wanting a 4AB, which I thought was fantastic, especially when they had picked up the virus through some intermediary.
In the fall of 2020, Josh Burgess at K&P told me they were beginning to seriously consider reverse engineering the 4AB for the 2021 POY. With Giacomo Penzo, their Italian pipe specialist, on board, I could see this was going to be an incredible release, especially since Penzo also loves the “309” shape 4. With the aid of Federica Bruno, one of K&P’s bilingual talents, I was able to interview Giacomo and allow him to fully express his geeky, brainy passion on the making of the POY for a newly-rewritten final chapter of this 3rd and final edition (not the 2nd, as SPC’s ad states).
61pp. $12.95. Available exclusively at Smokingpipes.com
And here’s something fun seen in the book, from the collection of Pete Geek Chris Lauer:
The amazingly cool Art Deco tobacco jar with bakelite lid seen on pages 18 and 32 of the book:
…and the tobacco jar and pipe rack, decked out just like the “late” Holmes’s rack seen on page 26:
THE FIVE LAWS OF PIPE-COMPANIONING (2013)
This little book was the result of a collaboration with Luca di Piazza, whose Neatpipes website was running at top form then. The website is still there although Luca has since moved on to other interests. We took several of my blog posts for his site and polished them for this little book. Luca added a Coda with his own reflections on the five laws and Rick Newcombe wrote a perceptive Afterword. Luca then sent the book—which only measures 4 x 5 3/4ths inches—as Christmas presents to his clients. I did see copies of the book at a subsequent Chicago pipe show, but by that time I’d moved on to working on the Peterson book and was just launching my own blog site. The book received mostly positive notices, although there were a few scathing remarks, which of course helped me rethink some of what I’d written. It’s long out of print, and although I offered to buy Luca’s remaining stock, I never heard back from him. Not to worry if you’re at all interested, however, because the ideas show up in a much larger book I’m working on about pipe smoking and the contemplative life.
78pp. Out of print
A PIPEMAN’S HANDBOOK OF REALLY USEFUL INFORMATION, by “Chas Mundungus.”
Several years ago I got the idea that it would be great if all the authorities in the hobby could put their genius together and create a kind of pipe smoker’s bible. I shopped the idea around but couldn’t generate any interest. For fun, therefore, I gathered together most of the components that I felt would go into such a work from various sources on the internet, just to get an idea of what it would look like.
In 2008 I assembled my findings as a PDF and put it out just to see if anyone would find it. To my surprise over the years, scores of people have found it and even made comments on its usefulness on YouTube, in forums and elsewhere. Then as now, I believe the internet is mostly a repository for the ephemeral, and looking back at this anthology now it’s surprising at just how different the hobby looks and how some of the names and even websites everyone knew then have faded from memory, even though the topics and issues that fascinate us as pipemen remain the same.
If you want the revised version that I sent out on a Christmas Day post in 2018, you can the link below. As it was never monetized but strictly for sharing among fellow pipe smokers, feel free to pass it along in the same spirit.
PDF 2008, 2013, 2018