The highlights are thrilling: A Walden first edition--"the cleanest copy in existence," says Cramer--plus Thoreau's Aunt Maria's annotated copy of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack, two manuscript leaves from his "Walking" essay, unbound sheets of "Civil Disobedience," two books from Thoreau's personal library, Thoreau family pencils, and unrecorded variant editions. Topping all of those is an extremely rare manuscript leaf from Walden that references Baker Farm (seen below). "That sold it for us," says Cramer. Baker Farm is where the Thoreau Institute is located, so it feels very much "like it's coming back home," he adds.
When Cramer received a notice from Mac Donnell offering the collection, he was immediately very interested. He flew down to Texas to meet the bookseller and survey the collection. Mac Donnell, Cramer says, hoped it would end up in an institution. "It's a wonderful thing for both of us." Mac Donnell agreed, saying that it is "easier to let it go" back to Massachusetts.
Mac Donnell recently decided to sell the collection, much of which was detailed in a 1999 issue of Firsts magazine, in order to concentrate on other projects. He told us, "I'm focusing on Twain, writing scholarly articles for journals, under contract editing a collection of essays on Twain, etc. My Twain collection numbers over 8,000 items but I still find things. I had not added any exciting Thoreau to that collection in years. My wife has moved her antique glass into the bookcases that housed my Thoreau books so she's pleased!"
The Thoreau Institute Library (a.k.a. The Henley Library, named for its founder, singer and songwriter Don Henley) collects, preserves, and provides access to 60,000 Thoreau-related manuscripts, books, maps, correspondence, art, and the Thoreau Society archives. Its location so near Walden Pond and other literary attractions and archives is a boon for both researchers and tourists. Cramer says the collection will be open in about a month. He is still sorting through the boxes and working on a catalog, a webpage, and some limited photography.
Image: A draft manuscript leaf of Thoreau's Walden, in which he writes, "Oh Baker Farm!" Courtesy of the Walden Woods Project.
Some of my favorite examples in the book: the 1894 "Peacock Edition" of Pride and Prejudice, with its lovely gilded cover design by Hugh Thomson; the 1930 World's Classics edition from OUP may be "shocking red," but is quite perfect in its compactness and simplicity; and a 2007 Daily Telegraph edition of Mansfield Park dons an "Edward Gorey-esque cast of black-clad characters, a butterfly with groovy sixties brightness, and snaking roses" by Brett Ryder. The book's author, Margaret C. Sullivan, who has also written The Jane Austen Handbook and edits Austenblog.com, comments on her favorite reprint: a 1960s Gothic Revival design of Northanger Abbey that presents the novel as a Gothic novel, full of terror and menace. She writes, "It's hilariously wrong and I think Jane Austen would have loved it!"
Jane Austen Cover to Cover is obviously a must for Janeites, and it will also be of interest to those interested in book design and popular book history. Although persnickety types might have preferred more in the way of bibliographical descriptions of size, binding material, etc. for each edition in addition the artistic details she offers, beginning and intermediate collectors will value Sullivan's book as a guide to an author so perennially in vogue that tracking her many editions would seem an impossible task.
Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) is being fêted in his homeland and abroad on the eve of what would be his 100th birthday. Thomas' works include 'Do not go gentle into that good night' and 'The hunchback in the park.' The subject of much literary criticism and commentary over the years, he has also been compared to giants like T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden.
Most events will take place at Swansea's Dylan Thomas National Literature Centre. The Centre is housed in the Guildhall, a Victorian-era building extensively refurbished and opened to the public in 1995 by former president Jimmy Carter. The building itself is worth a visit to Swansea and as the city's cultural and literary epicenter, it epitomizes the Welsh phrase Tŷ Llên, "A House of Literature."
Welsh poet and playwright Dylan Thomas, with his wife Caitlin (nee Macnamara) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Activities such as hikes along Thomas' favorite trails, music festivals and exhibitions commence on October 27, the poet's birthday, and run through the date of his death on November 9th.
A two day "Do Not Go Gentle" music and literary festival will take place at the Centre from October 24 through the 26th. The program includes local musical and artistic performances that the promoters believe would have pleased Thomas, who often found inspiration among the people of his beloved city. Thomas loved a good Welsh ale too, and so there will be plenty of local libations available.
The Centre recently opened an exhibit showcasing manuscripts of poems, lists of rhyming words and photographs of Thomas. These items are on loan from SUNY Buffalo Special Collections Library, which is also commemorating Thomas' centennial. The university's Thomas holdings are in good company at SUNY's Poetry Collection, one of world's the largest collections of English language poetry, broadsides and anthologies from the 20th and 21st centuries.
For Thomas fans unable to attend the festivities in Wales, plenty of activities abound in New York City, where the poet conducted reading tours over the last four years of his life. Thomas' last public engagement was on October 29th, when, after conducting a lunchtime reading at City College, New York, he visited the literary hotspot, The White Horse Tavern. Thomas mysteriously collapsed in the Chelsea Hotel a few days later, and died at St. Vincent's Hospital on November 9th. Tourists can visit these and other places associated with the poet by following the self-guided walking tour promoted by The Greenwich Village Walking Tour. A BBC made for TV movie about the poet's life in New York will premiere in America on October 29th. At one hundred, it certainly appears that Thomas' legacy continues to 'rage, rage against the dying of the light.'
- The Royal Mint commemorates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dylan Thomas with Alderney coins (coinweek.com)
- Dylan Thomas: The Hunchback in the Park (bbc.co.uk)
- Roaming and Reading: Dylan Thomas' Wales (mprnews.org)
- Remember, Remember, Dylan on National Poetry Day (swansea-events.co.uk)
Loker is a member of the Book Club of California and the Grolier Club, where she is also the curator of the One Hundred Books Famous in Children's Literature exhibit, which opens on December 9. More on that in our winter issue. Loker is a member (and past board member) of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America, and serves on the board of the children's literacy organization Bring Me A Book. She is married to bookseller John Windle.
To be honored are the following young collectors:
First Prize: Katya Soll, University of Kansas, Dictatorship, Recovery, and Innovation: Contemporary Theatre of the Southern Cone
Second Prize: Hanna Kipnis King, Swarthmore, "Plucked from a holy book": Ashkenazim on the margins
Third Prize: Audrey Golden, University of Virginia, Pablo Neruda and the Global Politics of PoetryAnother trio of important prizes was given out last week at the LOC. The 2014 Library of Congress Literacy Awards, held on October 8, were originated and are supported by philanthropist (and book collector) David M. Rubenstein, and he gave the keynote address. Michael Suarez, director of Rare Book School, also delivered remarks.
During the ceremony, John Cole, the director of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, and Dr. James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, recognized organizations that have shown exemplary progress in literacy programs and promotion. Each of these three winners gave presentations about their work:
David M. Rubenstein Prize ($150,000): Room to ReadRoom to Read, founded in 2001, believes that world change starts with educated children and that the best way to create long-term systemic change in the developing world is through literacy and gender equality in education. It focuses on literacy as the foundation of all other learning by developing reading skills and the habit of reading among primary-school children. To achieve this goal, Room to Read increases access to culturally relevant, age-appropriate reading materials; increases the effectiveness of instructors teaching literacy skills; and improves the existing school environment so that it is more conducive to learning. The organization also aims to equalize the educational experience for girls by supporting them in completing secondary school with the academic and life skills necessary to succeed in school and beyond. Room to Read's service area
is Africa and Southeast Asia.
The American Prize ($50,000): SMARTThe third-grade reading level is widely recognized as a key indicator of a child's future educational success. A student who cannot read on grade level by third grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently in third grade. In 1992, the Oregon Children's Foundation created a program to address the growing number of elementary school children who were reading significantly below grade level. Start Making a Reader Today (SMART) now operates at more than 250 program sites throughout the U.S. and serves approximately 9,000 children each year.
The International Prize ($50,000): Mother Child Education FoundationThe Mother Child Education Foundation (AÇEV) was started in 1993 and is the largest literacy organization in Turkey. Its mission is to empower the Turkish people through education and enable them to improve the quality of their lives. It operates a variety of projects designed to address family, adult and early childhood literacy. At the time of AÇEV's founding, only one in 10 children received any form of preschool education before starting primary school, resulting in large deficits in readiness to learn. AÇEV developed the Mother Child Education Program (MOCEP) for low-income mothers and children without access to preschool education. However, early MOCEP trials revealed that not all participating mothers were literate and therefore many were unable to carry out the collaborative cognitive exercises with their children, pushing AÇEV into a complementary area of need, adult literacy.
Poe fans have much to celebrate - there was last Sunday's statue dedication in Boston, Susan Jaffe Tane's Poe collection is on exhibit at the Grolier Club, and a movie based on his short story "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether" will appear in theaters just in time for Halloween. While Poe's popularity endures as the father of the modern detective genre, in his lifetime, he was better known as a critic.
1848 Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe at 39, a year before his death (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"The Tomahawk" was Poe's well-earned moniker for his notoriously vicious, slashing, brutal book reviews. He was prolific as well--over fourteen years he published almost 1,000 critical essays and reviews--all of which can now be found in a one volume edition published by The Library of America. Adam Gordon, Whitman College English professor and Poe scholar, says the invention of the steam press and the subsequent proliferation of cheap weekly tabloids created massive venues for lousy writers, and that readers needed guidance navigating these vast, uncharted, literary waters. "Poe felt there were too many bad books out there, and that the job of the critic was to separate the weak from the worthwhile." A transatlantic literary conflict known as the 'Paper War' wherein American critics praised anything American while their British counterparts would slam work written stateside, plus a lack of international copyright did little to quell the uptick in poorly written publications. This blindly nationalistic criticism muddied what Poe considered to be America's admirable budding national literature, and so spurred him to hack away at those he deemed unworthy.
Despite publicizing his own eccentric persona through his gambling and drinking habits, Poe dedicated equal amounts of time and dedication to the institutionalisation of literary criticism, legitimizing the discipline. "He cultivated a rigorous vocabulary for understanding poetry and prose, and his work gave rise to professional literary criticism," says Gordon. "Criticism is no longer simply a belletristic hobby."
And what would Poe make of the current state of literary criticism? "We're going through another transitional moment in criticism with the rise of Amazon reviews and personal book blogs, while newspapers and magazines are simultaneously reducing or completely cutting their book review sections," Gordon explains. "A movie review site like Rotten Tomatoes is actually a critical amalgamator. It takes reviews from around the web and reduces them to a thumbs up or a thumbs down and turns the review into a raw score. The assumption is that a review is only supposed to tell a reader if something is good or bad. But anyone who's read a review by A.O. Scott sees that criticism is an art. When you read a really good review, it changes the way you think about things."
- Poe in Boston (and NY) (finebooksmagazine.com)
- "Evermore: The Persistence of Poe" at the Grolier Club (finebooksmagazine.com)
- Between Popular and Literary: Remembering Edgar Allan Poe 165 Years After his Death (poetryfoundation.org)