Images: The Land of the Midnight Sun by Paul B. Du Chaillu (Harper & Brothers, 1881). Cover by Edwin A. Abbey. Mr. Bodley Abroad by Horace E. Scudder (Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1881). Unidentified artist. Courtesy of Richard Minsky.
On March 19, there were three more record-breakers, according to Sotheby’s: $66,731 (£45,000) for the Huth-Penrose copy of Mortimer’s Observations and Remarks made during a Voyage... in the Brig Mercury (1791); $51,902 (£35,000) for Middleston’s The Last East-Indian Voyage (1606); and $48,194 (£32,500) for a first edition of Lind’s landmark, A Treatise of the Scurvy (1753).
The sale achieved a total of $1.8 million (£1.2) well above its pre-sale high estimate. The final sale (Q-Z) will be held in London on September 30.
Image: Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
photo credit: PRNewswire
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. (“Mending Wall” Robert Frost, 1-4)
March 26 marks the birthday of four-time Pulitzer Prize-winnng poet Robert Frost, who, although a man of the twentieth century, wrote poems evoking traditional, rural New England landscapes of another time. His poetry recalls a simpler era, and yet Frost conveys the quiet strength of everyday Americans that continues to inspire.
Events across the country will commemorate the day, but one in particular stands out - the inaugural Mending Wall Day, organized by Lowell, Massachusetts-based stoneware studio, American Stonecraft. The event is named for the Frost poem “Mending Wall,” which recounts how fieldstones push their way through the dirt during the winter months. Traditionally, once the snow melted, hardy New England farmers would move the rocks out of their fields in preparation for planting. Since farmers are resourceful folk, these stones were used to build the walls that grace hundreds of fields and backyards from Connecticut to Maine. (In an informative essay on Earthmagazine.org, John-Manuel Andriote explains the history and singularity of New England rocks, estimating that 380,000 miles of stonewalls zigzag throughout the region.) That rite of passage continues every spring on farms throughout New England.
Robert Frost, 1913. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Mending Wall Day project is the brainchild of Groton, MA, native Gerald Croteau III, a former D.C-based mergers and acquisitions consultant who switched careers after a visit to the family farm in the Merrimack valley. “I looked at a fieldstone split open, and all the beautiful colors inside that rock, that’s all it took. I left my old job, moved back to Massachusetts, and set up shop,” he said. Four years later, American Stonecraft partners with local farmers by using their freshly unearthed stones to make custom tableware such as coasters and bowls (called ‘bowlders’ on American Stonecraft’s site). Each unique piece is labeled with the farm of origin, recounting via multicolored striations the time-worn tale of these rocks, and the farmers who put them to good use. Now, the company’s tableware are the vessels for culinary delights at chef Dan Barber’s upscale farm-to table restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, New York. Fieldstones from the restaurant’s adjoining farm provided the raw material for the distinctive serving ware.
A Bowlder. Photo Credit: American Stonecraft
Mending Wall Day’s inaugural goals are modest, but laudable. “We want to increase cultural awareness of New England stonewalls by organizing independent community gatherings like this one, where neighbors gather to rebuild and tend to fieldstone walls,” explained Croteau during a telephone conversation from his Congress Street studio overlooking an historic canal in Lowell, Massachusetts. Croteau’s choice of studio location also reflects his commitment to community. “Lowell has the most working artists per capita in America.” Also known as the Mill City, Lowell is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, thanks to a dedicated group of artists, musicians and entrepreneurs who are transforming formerly abandoned mills and storefronts into thriving galleries, studios, showrooms and restaurants. “It feels like Boston’s Brooklyn,” Croteau mused. Sure, plenty of neighborhoods still resemble hardscrabble scenes from the film The Fighter but things are looking up for the resilient, resourceful people of Lowell.
Lowell National Park Boat Tour of Canal (actually Pawtucket Canal). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Gerald Croteau at Allandale Farm. Photo Credit: American Stonecraft
To inaugurate the complex, two exhibits of Small material will go on display. Seat of Empire: Planning Washington, 1790-1801 will consider urban design and the landscape of early D.C. through rare maps and related images. The Civil War and the Making of Modern Washington will track the city’s evolution from war-time encampment through Reconstruction with prints, maps, and illustrations from the period.
The Smithsonian Press has also issued a new illustrated book, The Evolution of Washington, D.C.: Historical Selections from the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection at the George Washington University, featuring 90 pieces of memorabilia from the collection.
You can read more about Small’s “Capital Collection” and GW’s new museum in our spring issue.
Image: Map of Future Site of Washington, D.C., 1790. From the Albert H. Small - George Washington University Washingtoniana Collection.
More than Words: Illustrated Letters from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art by Liza Kirwin (Princeton Architectural Press, $24.95). Out this month is the paperback edition of this popular compendium of letters written by artists--e.g., Alfred Joseph Frueh sent his fiancee a pop-up gallery of art on the back of a 1913 letter and Andy Warhol drew a smiley face with speech bubble on his 1949 letter to a Harper’s editor. From pen-and-ink caricatures to almost fully realized scenic watercolors, each correspondent illuminated his or her note with something other than text. The result is endlessly enticing. And for a bonus track: full transcripts of all the letters.
The Pebble Chance: Feuilletons & Other Prose by Marius Kociejowski (Biblioasis, $18.95). This is a collection of intelligent and charming essays on poetry, art, and books, at least two of which, “A Factotum in the Book Trade” and “The Testament of Charlotte B.,” will have direct appeal for antiquarian book-collector types. The author has long worked as a book dealer in London, and he is also a poet and a travel writer. Plus, Michael Dirda raved about the book in the Washington Post. What else could you ask for?
The King Penguin Series: A Survey by Michael Lake (Penguin Collectors Society, £12). This new book from the PCS surveys the original King Penguins, a hardback imprint launched by Allen Lane in 1939. The King Penguins were meant to be both affordable and handsome enough to be collectible. This compact and beautifully illustrated book offers a wonderful history of the series, a gallery of cover art, and a full bibliography.
The War That Used Up Words: American Writers and the First World War by Hazel Hutchinson (Yale University Press, $45). Henry James, Edith Wharton, Grace Fallow Norton, Mary Borden, Ellen La Motte, E. E. Cummings, and John Dos Passos -- how did these seven writers shape American opinions about WWI? Hutchinson focuses her lens not on the “lost generation,” but on the writers who were observing and participating before America even joined the effort.
Grandma’s Killer Chocolate Cake
Here’s one “killer” Alex Cross always loves to catch--Grandma’s Killer Cake! A special family recipe dating from the 1940s, this decadent cake seems to get better with age; it is tastier on day two. And you need to be a good detective around the house after it has been made, sitting there in its glass-domed cake stand, staring back at you with deadly temptation, because a piece seems to mysteriously disappear every time I go into the kitchen. Not to be caught red-handed, so looms the “Killer Cake Killer”!
YIELD: 1 SINGLE- LAYER 9-BY-12 INCH CAKE OR 1 DOUBLE LAYER 9-INCH CAKE
2⁄3 cup butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups flour
11⁄3 cups buttermilk
11⁄3 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 2 ⁄ 5 cup hot water
31⁄2 squares bitter chocolate, melted gently
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄2 cup butter
3 squares bitter chocolate
2 cups granulated sugar
2⁄3 cup milk 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs.
2. Blend in flour and buttermilk in alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour. Add baking soda mixture, followed by chocolate and vanilla extract.
3. Pour batter into one 9-by-12-inch pan or two round 9-inch springform pans. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool.
4. Combine all frosting ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a full boil, and boil for 2 minutes. Let cool. You can put saucepan on ice if necessary to cool quickly.
5. Remove the cake from the pan, frost, and serve.
James Patterson has sold 300 million books worldwide, including the Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Maximum Ride, and Middle School series. He supports getting kids reading through scholarship, Book Bucks programs, book donations, and his website, readkiddoread.com. He lives in Palm Beach with his wife, Sue, and his son, Jack.
Excerpted from The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook edited by Kate White. Reprinted with permission from Quirk Books.