Every year the trade magazine The Bookseller awards its "Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year". One of the small joys of working at the BL is the occasional serendipitous discovery of such odd titles which we receive under legal deposit legislation. For years I've kept a list of those which have amused and mystified me. Most remain mysterious as I've never read Famous Tortoises (YK.1998.a.8253), Egg Poems (YK.1991.a.13251) or How to Cook Husbands (012629.de.68), though I did flick through Cluck! The True Story of Chickens in the Cinema (YA.1994.b.5330), and very amusing it was too.
The BL's non-Uk collections are of course rather less eclectic as books which we buy are selected for their academic quality. Still, to the non-specialist some perfecly respectable academic titles can seem a bit strange: Die Emder Heringsordnung von 1597 [The Emden Herring Order of 1597] (YA.1994.b.369) sounds both literally and figuratively fishy but is a genuine historical study of the north German fishing industry, and presumably Der Einfluss der Musik auf die Milchgiebigkeit der Kühe [The Influence of Music on the Milk Production of Cows] (07925.d.2) was intended as a serious piece of research by Georg Tartler who published it in 1936.
Titles of antiquarian books can also amuse unintentionally because of their old-fashined sound and sometimes their sheer length. I've always rather liked Die gantz unvermuthete doch plötzliche Ankunfft Caroli XII ... in dem Reiche derer Todten ... [The quite unexpected but sudden arrival of Charles XII ... in the Kingdom of the Dead ...] (9432.dd.26.), published in 1720, for the charming way it conveys a sense of surprise.
It must be admitted that some genuinely off-beat foreign titles have also made it into the collections. One of my predecessors in German bought Ermordete die Stasi Marilyn Monroe? [Did the Stasi murder Marilyn Monroe?] (YA.1995.a.32575), and the Document Supply Centre purchased - presumably on request - Scandinavian Corkscrews (q96/05001). But for a regular fix of the weird and the wonderful from the German-Speaking world I have to turn to the national bibliographies from which we select books for purchase. In the run-up to Christmas I could have bought an illustrated history of the Christmas tree stand, and a recent bibliography issue offered a study of antique egg-cups. Then there was what would seem to be the definitive study of garden gnomes. I resisted them all.
Aficionados of this kind of thing will be pleased to note that there is now a German version of the Diagram Prize. I don't think the nominees have quite the accidental humour of the Diagram Prize successes: the 2011 winner was Frauen verstehen in 60 Minuten [Understanding Women in 60 minutes], although the first winner in 2008 was a classic of its kind: Begegnungen mit dem Serienmörder. Jetzt sprechen die Opfer [Encounters with a Serial Killer: the Victims Speak]. But it's definitely a website to follow - though not as a source for german books to add to the BL's collections!