civil war chandler pic.jpg
Last week, the Library of Congress acquired a unique and iconic Civil War image of a Confederate soldier leaving for war with his slave. The image was donated by photograph collector Tom Liljenquist, who has been actively purchasing Civil War photos for the Library of Congress over the last four years.
The photograph - a 150 year old tintype - shows Sgt. Andrew Chandler of the 44th Mississippi and his slave Silas Chandler armed with a shotgun, two pistols, and two large knives. The enigmatic photograph raises questions about the involvement of slaves with the Confederate army. At the time of the photo, Andrew Chandler was 17 years old while Silas was about 23.

The photograph was privately owned by descendants of the Chandler family, but had made appearances in recent years on the shows History Detectives and Antiques Roadshow. It was also featured in a recent book, "African American Faces of the Civil War" by historian Rod Coddington. Collector Tom Liljenquist, who thought the photograph should be part of the holdings of the Library of Congress, convinced a family descendant to sell the photo for an undisclosed price.  (When the photograph was appraised on Antiques Roadshow, it was estimated at $30,000 - $40,000).

As for Andrew and Silas, they both survived the war.  Andrew was severely wounded in the leg at the Battle of Chickamauga and was helped home by Silas who was promptly sent back to the front with Andrew's brother Benjamin. By the end of the war, Silas had seen four years of action.

[Image from the Library of Congress]

Write on, Beethoven

The music and the myth of Ludwig van Beethoven have enjoyed unending popularity over the past two centuries. Recently, he became the subject of a massive new biography, and a separate examination of his use of paper give modern admirers fresh insight into the mind of a tortured genius.  

Portrait Ludwig van Beethoven when composing t...

Portrait Ludwig van Beethoven when composing the Missa Solemnis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A prolific writer, Beethoven composed nine symphonies, thirty-two piano sonatas, sixteen string quartets, and five piano concertos. Even while clinically deaf, he wrote some of his most profound musical scores. Beethoven's reliance on sheaves of manuscript paper to compose, to communicate and to create is explored in Nicholas Basbanes' most recent book, On Paper. Beethoven wrote and re-worked his music until what he saw on paper reflected the sounds in his head. Paper, like a piano, was essential to the composer, and through surviving sheet music historians are able to follow Beethoven's creative process. Even a cursory look at any leaf of Beethoven's handwritten music reveals ink smudges, swooping notes dashed madly across the page and holes in the paper where corrections were made, undone, then corrected again. Everything had to be set down on paper, because, as readers learn in the book, that Beethoven was, as professor Robert Winter says in On Paper, "creating sounds that did not previously exist."  

Unlike Mozart, whose arrangements sprang almost fully formed from his hand to the page, Beethoven suffered over each and every note. Examples from both composers affirm two different men at work; one whose results are flawless from the outset, the other a tormented soul filled with divine music.

Jan Swafford's new biography, Anguish and Triumph, aims to extricate the man from the cult of personality that surrounded Beethoven even during his own lifetime. Swafford, also a composer in addition to biographer, spent a decade meticulously researching a man known to be quarrelsome, thunderous, and totally incapable of cultivating personal or professional relationships. In this 1,104-page book, published by Houghton Mifflin, Swafford surveys the era and the ideas that informed Beethoven's work, as well as offers critical insight into the composer's music. Both books peel away the composer's legend, and reveal the man within. 

Piano Sonata in A Major, op. 101, Allegro: man...

Piano Sonata in A Major, op. 101, Allegro: manuscript sketch in Beethoven's handwriting. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

poster_enlarge.jpgComing up on Saturday of this long Labor Day weekend is the annual Library of Congress National Book Festival, taking place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Expanded hours and the new location promise an even wider array of literary events, including a poetry slam, dedicated pavilions to particular genres, and scheduled readings and signings by more than one hundred authors and illustrators, among them Billy Collins, Kate DiCamillo, Paul Auster, Jules Feiffer, Claire Messud, Percival Everett, and Alice McDermott. Politics & Prose of Washington, D.C., will be on hand to sell selected books by Festival authors.

The Library will also debut Christopher Columbus Book of Privileges: The Claiming of a New World at the festival. Published by Levenger Press, the volume is a 184-page, full-color facsimile edition of the earliest manuscript reference to the New World, of which the LOC owns one of four principal copies, and the only one to contain contain the Papal Bull Dudum siquidem, the four-page letter that Pope Alexander VI composed on Sept. 26, 1493, containing the first written reference to a New World. The translator, John W. Hessler (curator of the Jay I. Kislak Collection for the Archaeology and History of the Early Americas at the LOC), and the other two authors, Chet Van Duzer (who wrote Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps) and Daniel De Simone (Librarian at the Folger Library) will discuss the book at 3:30 in the LOC pavilion on the second floor of the convention center. Prior to that, "Magna Carta & Related Rare Book Items" is on the presentation schedule for 3:00 in the same LOC pavilion.

The theme of this year's event is "Stay Up With a Good Book," hence the lunar imagery on the poster art, seen at left, by illustrator Bob Staake. For a fun look at Book Festival posters, 2001-2014, go here.
A previously unpublished memoir by beloved children's author Laura Ingalls Wilder will see the light of day this fall. "Pioneer Girl," which was rejected by publishers during Wilder's lifetime, will be published in September by the South Dakota Historical Society. The memoir includes a variety of episodes from Wilder's girlhood on the American frontier that she considered inappropriate for inclusion in her bestselling children's novels.

"Pioneer Girl" was written by Wilder in 1930, a full two years before the publication of the first of her "Little House" books. Wilder's chronicle of her pioneer family's journey through the Upper Midwest in the late 19th century failed to attract a publisher. Wilder re-worked the memoir into a series of children's books, which were picked up by Harper & Brothers.  The first novel, "Little House in the Big Woods," was published in 1932.  In the next eleven years, six more "Little House" books, as well as "Farmer Boy" were released to critical and popular acclaim.  Over 80 years later, the books remain bestsellers and continue to attract new and devoted fans and collectors.

The publication of "Pioneer Girl" this fall will include significant annotations from Wilder biographer Pamela Smith Hill, comparing the memoir and her novels with facts about Wilder's early life.
infopage_header02.jpgMany collectors, booksellers, and librarians are making plans to attend Acknowledging the Past, Forging the Future, a national colloquium on library special collections on October 21-22 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. According to its web site, "This national colloquium will explore some of the factors that governed the growth and use of special collections of the past, as well as current and emerging challenges for special collections in the future. How can libraries and university faculty work together to educate students to become more aware of the hidden treasures that are available on their own campuses, and to gain a lifelong appreciation for them? How can collections from individual institutions work together to create a robust whole from the parts? How can scholars, libraries, potential donors, and collectors come together to forge new partnerships to employ these valued collections to advance knowledge and scholarship--particularly in a digital age? This colloquium will be a seminal event in acknowledging the historic strengths of special collections of the past, and for speakers and participants to chart a course for the next decade and beyond."

We're proud to note that longtime FB&C columnist Joel Silver, director and curator of books at Indiana University's Lilly Library, will moderate one of the panels on "Acknowledging the Past." Other panelists include booksellers Ken Lopez and Tom Congalton, Sotheby's vice president Selby Kiffer, collectors Paul Ruxin and Jon Lindseth, and a number of "front-line" special collections librarians. There are also five featured speakers: Sarah Thomas, vice president, Harvard Library and Roy E. Larsen Librarian for the faculty of arts and sciences; Alice Schreyer, interim library director and associate university librarian for area studies and special collections, University of Chicago Library; Jay Satterfield, special collections librarian, Dartmouth College; Stephen Enniss, director, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin; and Mark Dimunation, chief of the rare book and special collections division, Library of Congress. Sounds like quite a lineup!

The colloquium is organized by the Kelvin Smith Library at Case Western Reserve, and presented in collaboration with River Campus Libraries at University of Rochester, Vanderbilt University, and Washington University in St. Louis Libraries. Major sponsors include Preservation Technologies, L.P. and Addison & Sarova Auctioneers. The full schedule of events is posted here, and early bird registration is open until September 1.

Dorothy West and The Harlem Renaissance

Dorothy West

Dorothy West (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dorothy West (1907-1998) knew from an early age that she wanted to be a writer, but little did she realize that international success would come in her eighties, and that she would bear witness to the Harlem Renaissance, an artistic movement which took root in 1920's New York.  Black painters, poets, musicians and writers from across America - many fleeing repressive Jim Crow laws in the South -  founded a dynamic core based in that Manhattan neighborhood, leading to a flourishing cultural and social phenomenon that continues to impact the arts - from rap music, African-American literature, sculpture and poetry - all can trace their roots to this moment in history. 

West's background was different from many of her peers. She hailed from a prosperous upper-middle class black family in Boston where her father, a freed slave, had been a successful fruit merchant. West attended the prestigious Boston Latin Public School and enjoyed summers on Martha's Vineyard.  Eventually she moved to New York and while living at the Harlem YWCA, she became friends with influential writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, Countée Cullen, Langston Hughes and Claude McKay.  

As a young writer, West won various prizes for her short stories.  Still, she struggled to find outlets that would publish her work - very few successful black publications existed in the 1920's, and West focused on life in black America, a topic that most magazines with a white readership would not publish. Despite setbacks, she continued to write, leaving Harlem and moving permanently to Martha's Vineyard in 1943, where she would write a weekly column for The Vineyard Gazette until her death in August 1998.

West's first book, The Living is Easy, published in 1948, examines the complexities of being black and upper-class in Boston around World War I. This would be her only book for decades, until she met fellow Island resident and Doubleday editor Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Onassis encouraged West to complete what would be, at 85 years old, West's breakthrough hit, The Wedding.  Oprah Winfrey turned The Wedding into a two-part miniseries starring Halle Berry, airing in 1998.  While success came late for West, she never relented in her literary pursuits. After The Wedding was published, she was asked in an interview to describe herself. West was a 'serious' child, and intently focused on her writing. Her mother suggested she loosen up a little. "'You better learn to laugh, little girl, you'd better learn to laugh,'" West's mother advised. "Before long, I discovered that I like life - and I like people."
The Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, Germany--one of the country's finest special collections--suffered a terrible fire in 2004. Fifty thousand books were lost to the flames, a full 25 percent of which were considered by the library to be irreplaceable. One of the lost titles was Copernicus's 1543 treatise De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, Libri VI, an essential work in the history of science.  

This month, ten years after the fire, the book was found amongst a group of damaged books awaiting restoration. (The above photo is of the Library's copy.)

In the chaotic aftermath of the fire, books injured by flames, smoke, or water were put into groups based on their level of damage to await restoration. Copernicus's work was placed in Group 4, amongst the most damaged books, where it languished for a decade while the books in Groups 1 - 3 were restored first. This year, the Duchess Anna Amalia Library finally began work on Group 4 and were overjoyed at finding Copernicus.

De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, Libri VI, written toward the end of Copernicus's life, offers mathematical proof that the earth rotates around the sun and spins on its own axis. Even in its damaged state, the Library's copy is thought to be valued at about $1.8 million.

Hopefully more pleasant surprises await the library's conservators as they continue to restore the remaining damaged books.

[Photo Credit: Nikolaus Kopernikus: De Revolutionibus Orbium coelestium, Libri VI., Nürnberg, Petreius, 1543, Foto: Candy Welz © Klassik Stiftung Weimar]

Tor House, the iconic Carmel, California, home built by poet Robinson Jeffers, is a beautiful Tudor-style cottage. Jeffers designed the original stone cottage as a home for his wife and their twin sons. Construction began in 1918, and soon thereafter Jeffers began work on a second structure, Hawk Tower. Together, on a craggy knoll so near the sea, they seem to belong more to Ireland than coastal California. Tor House was where Jeffers did his writing, where he entertained literary friends, e.g. Sinclair Lewis, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Langston Hughes, and where he died in 1962. Now open for tours and events, Tor House is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Tor House.jpgThis original oil painting of Tor House by Australian artist Kenneth Jack, c. 1969, goes to auction next week at PBA Galleries in San Francisco. The painting is signed, and a note card glued to the verso is signed and inscribed to the artist's friend Marlan Beilke in California, who specifically requested a portrait of the famous poet's house. It's a fine oil on board, ably executed, with literary associations -- certainly tempting for any Jeffers collector out there. The estimate is $2,000-3,000.  
Action Comics #1, better known as the first ever Superman comic, is currently up for auction on eBay. With five days left in the auction, the bidding has already reached $1,850,101. (As of 10:30 p.m. PST on August 18th). The auction will likely exceed $2m, perhaps by a significant amount. The original price for the comic when it was released in 1938? $0.10.

Long considered the "holy grail" for comic book collectors, approximately 50 - 100 copies of Action Comics #1 are thought to still be in existence. The last time the comic came to auction was in 2011 when actor Nicholas Cage sold his copy for $2.1m.

The copy up for auction is owned by comic book dealer Darren Adams, who purchased it a few years ago from a collector. That collector in turn purchased the comic from its original owner who had housed it in a cedar box since the day he purchased it in 1938. As a result, the comic is in exceptionally nice condition, rated a 9 out of 10 on a comic book rating scale.

Adams already turned down an offer for $3m for the comic book, so he is clearly anticipating a record-breaker with this eBay auction.

A portion of the sale's proceeds will be donated to The Reeve Foundation, a charity set up by actor Christopher Reeve after a horse riding accident left him paralyzed.
Charlie.jpgIt's not often that book jacket art makes headlines, but such is the case with Penguin UK's fiftieth anniversary edition of Roald Dahl's classic of children's literature, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The new cover art for the 144-page paperback, seen here at left, was unveiled on August 6. It has been called "creepy" and over-sexualized, and, honestly, it hard not to see "Toddlers & Tiaras" in this image of a doll-eyed little blonde draped in a pink feather boa. Sarah Kaplan wrote in the Washington Post, " was controversial enough that bookworms worldwide tore their eyes from their reading to register their outrage."

In an attempt at clarification (or rationalization), a company blog post notes that this new edition is packaged under the "Modern Classics" imprint, and its design should be more mature (as opposed to the whimsical children's editions that feature the illustrations of Quentin Blake). "This new image for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory looks at the children at the centre of the story, and highlights the way Roald Dahl's writing manages to embrace both the light and the dark aspects of life, ready for Charlie's debut amongst the adult titles in the Penguin Modern Classics series."

Penguin releases the new edition on September 4. For a view of the various covers used for the perennially popular novel over the past fifty years, check out the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Facebook page. You can even vote for your favorite through Sept. 15.

Image via Penguin. 

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