National Library of Ireland and W.B. Yeats

If you’re trying to justify a trip to Ireland this March for reasons that don’t involve Guinness and little green leprechauns, consider a visit to the National Library of Ireland’s award-winning exhibit on William Butler Yeats (1865-1939). You certainly wouldn’t be alone--since it’s opening in 2006, more than a quarter of a million people have made the journey to Dublin to explore Ireland’s preeminent twentieth-century poet and playwright.

en: Portrait of young William Butler Yeats by ...

Portrait of young William Butler Yeats by his father, John Butler Yeats (Photo credit: Wikipedia).

Winner of the 1923 Noble Prize for literature, Yeats was a major force behind reviving international interest in Irish literature. In 1892, he founded the Irish Literary Society along with fellow writer T. W. Rolleston and Irish nationalist Charles Gavan Duffy. The group’s goal was to promote the intellectual and literary renaissance in Ireland, and met at Yeats’ home on Blenheim Road in London. Yeats published Celtic Twilight, in 1893,  a volume that American poet Edward Hisrch called a ‘curious hybrid of the story and essay,’ in the 1981 issue of the Journal of the Folklore Institute. In fact, Celtic Twilight was a collection of Yeats’ stories and poems that had previously appeared in newspapers throughout the UK, with a focus on Irish folk and fairy tales. The book’s title eventually became synonymous with the literary movement. Yeats’ social engagement wasn’t limited to the literary scene either: In 1922 he became a senator in the newly formed Senate of Ireland, where he served two terms. (Despite best intentions, the Senate was eventually abolished in 1936.)  

The National Library of Ireland is the world’s largest repository of Yeats’ notebooks, manuscripts and other materials, which were donated by the author’s widow. The exhibition draws on these items to create a thematically organized walk through Yeats life, work and enduring influence. (Note: while patrons must have a reader’s card or temporary pass to enter the National Library itself, this exhibit is open, free, to the visiting public.) Still can’t get to Dublin? The entire exhibit is accessible online--a fascinating multimedia experience that seamlessly wields 21st-century technology to explore the lasting and poignant significance of one of Ireland’s greatest champions. 

The exhibit of the Life and Works of William Butler Yeats at the National Library of Ireland can be accessed here: 

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On March 7, Addison & Sarova Auctioneers in Macon, Georgia, will hold a grab-bag auction of 100 rare books and manuscripts that includes a Zaehnsdorf-bound set of Dibdin’s Bibliographical Decameron, a hand-colored Koberger Bible leaf, a fifteenth-century manuscript on vellum, a finely bound set of Pepys from 1825, two incunabula, early law & religion books, and some Faulkner firsts. Variety is the name of the game here, and the catalogue offers many unexpected turns. Here are few of the stand-out rarities.

Addison-2.jpgRobert Cushman’s The Sin and Danger of Self-Love (Boston, 1724). First American edition of a sermon first published in London in 1622, with its contemporary paper covers. The verso of the title page showcases the penmanship of eighteenth-century owners Elizabeth Follet and Susanna Grant. According to the auctioneer, “We find no record of this scarce edition ever appearing at auction ... The present edition has been seemingly unobtainable until now.” The estimate is $10,000-15,000.

40.jpgGerson’s Opus tripartite de praeceptis Decalogi ...(Cologne, c. 1467). A “very rare first edition of one of the earliest productions of the first press established in Cologne.” Showing fine rubrication and bound in full brown levant. The estimate is $5,000-8,000. Another incunable, Gerson’s Imitatio Christi (Brescia, 1485), is also on offer.

43327688.jpgWilliam Langland’s The Vision of Pierce Plowman (London, 1561). “Aside from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, this work is regarded as the most important of early English literature. All early editions (this being the 4th) of Piers Plowman are rare with Pforzheimer listing only this and the second edition of 1550.” This one is further distinguished by manuscript notes, underlining, and marginalia throughout (from the 18th or early 19th century?) and an engraved bookplate of American industrialist Waldo C. Bryant. The estimate is $5,000-8,000.

Images via Addison & Sarova.
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As part of a series of celebrations marking the birth of Agatha Christie 125 years ago, an online campaign is inviting fans from around the world to share stories about how the author changed their lives. In an effort to help the campaign, Christie’s grandson, Mathew Prichard, has shared several previously unseen fan letters written to the Queen of Crime.

The letters include a congratulatory note from P G Wodehouse sent to Christie after the publication of Halloween Party.  Wodehouse states he was “pleased and proud” that Christie dedicated the book to him and that “a new Agatha Christie novel is always an event.”

A fourteen year old boy in Bristol wrote Christie in 1958 about the book club he started at his school to raise funds to buy her books.  “I have bought 28 books by you and this is how I have managed it. I charge the boys 3d per book to read at school, and 6d if they wished to take them home.”

More sobering fan letters were also treasured by Christie, including one from a Polish woman who wrote how she exchanged a piece of candle for a Polish translation of Christie’s novel The Man in the Brown Suit while in a German labour camp during WWII.

“I read and reread so often that I almost knew it by heart... for seven months it was my only link with a normal world.”

A woman also wrote in 1963 after having spent a decade in a Romanian prison with no access to books. 

“During the 12 years I spent in prison I never saw a written page. My memory, however, could not be sealed up and thanks to it and to you my fellow sufferers cam to know and to love the works of Agatha Christie.”

Christie’s grandson, Prichard, said of the publication of the letters, “As we call to her fans across the globe to share their stories and experiences of Christie, I look forward to discovering how her work continues to inspire today.”

[Image from Wikipedia]
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An unsigned, 1,300-word Sherlock Holmes story has just been discovered in a pamphlet printed in 1903. The 48-page booklet was published during a three-day funding bazaar to raise funds for bridge restoration in Selkirk, a Scottish Borders town. It includes stories and poetry from local residents of Selkirk. Entitled “The Book o’ The Brig,” the pamphlet also announces the arrival of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the final day of the bazaar as a celebrity guest of honor.  

Sales from the book netted $633, which helped install the iron bridge still standing today.

Walter Elliot, a Scottish historian and poet who resides near Selkirk, found the pamphlet in his attic while searching for bridge mementos to display in a pop-up museum commemorating the bridge as it once again faces restoration work.

The story, entitled “Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burghs and, By Deduction, the Brig Bazaar” features Holmes and Watson in London discussing amongst other things Watson’s upcoming trip to Selkirk to see the bridge.

“It’s unsigned, and I’m not a specialist, but the vocabulary seems pretty close to the way Conan Doyle wrote. I’m fairly sure it was written by him,” said Elliot in an interview with the Guardian.

The implication is that Conan Doyle dashed off a quick story for publication in the pamphlet to help raise funds for the bridge restoration work, winking at his audience by leaving it unsigned. If verified, the story would be the first unknown Holmes story written by Conan Doyle to surface since the last was published 80 years ago.

The entire text of the story is online at The Daily Record.

Coming up this week at Bloomsbury Auctions in London is an incredible collection of vintage NASA photographs. Telephoto panoramic mosaics, crew portraits, and all manor of lunar views comprise this stunning set of 692 images, dating from 1945 to 1972. Some are what we have come to see as iconic space images, while others were virtually unpublished and accessible only to researchers in the archives of the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, where most of this collection is sourced, according to the sale catalogue. Here are some highlights.

2.pngClyde Holliday’s vintage gelatin silver print of the first photograph from space, October 24, 1946. Estimate: $1,230-1,540.

80.pngBuzz Aldrin’s vintage chromogenic print of the first self-portrait in space, Gemini 12, November 1966. Estimate: $923-1,230.
255.pngNeil Armstrong’s vintage chromogenic print of Buzz Aldrin posing beside the U.S. flag, Apollo 11, July 1969. Estimate: $923-1,230.

633.pngHarrison Schmitt’s vintage chromogenic print of the “Blue Marble,” Apollo 17, December 1972. Estimate: $1,150-1,540.
Images via Bloomsbury Auctions.

James Bond Enters Canadian Public Domain

Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming

Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The next James Bond thriller could take place in Canada. As reported last month by The Globe and Mail, stories written by Ian Fleming featuring the international man of mystery are now in the Canadian public domain. If this seems early, you’re right; Canadian copyright laws only meet the Berne Convention’s minimum copyright term of assuring exclusive rights fifty years beyond an author’s death. (The United States and Europe set their standard at 70 years.) Since Ian Fleming died in 1964, his works entered the public domain on January 1, 2015.  

James Bond remains copyrighted by the Ian Fleming Estate in Europe and the USA, so new books in the series would have to be written and published in Canada. Not that many Canadian authors are interested in picking up the mantle--according to the The Globe and Mail’s story, sticking to what’s in the books could be tricky, because the copyright issue only extends to written works--the Bond movies are still protected, meaning a new book could not use material from any of the films without infringement.  

Still, it’s tempting to envision a Canadian Agent 007, and Ian Fleming may have had some Canadian connections. As a Lieutenant Commander in the Naval Intelligence Division during World War II, he was rumored to have trained at Camp X (now Intrepid Park), a paramilitary and commando installation in Whitby, Ontario. There, over five hundred Allied secret agents mastered the dark arts of espionage such as silent killing, sabotage, and other forms of tradecraft. 

There’s speculation that Canada might extend the James Bond copyright, but there’s been no official word on that yet, and requests to the Ian Fleming Estate for comment went unanswered. Fleming’s series and subsequent films remain hugely popular, with global book sales of 100 million copies and generating over 150 million dollars, to say nothing of the movies and related licensed merchandise. Perhaps there’s room yet in the Bond legacy for another heart-stopping tale of cloak and swagger. 

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Nathan Moore of Eugene, Oregon, who collects books on labor and occupational songs:

Nathan Photo.jpg

Where are you from / where do you live?

I grew up outside of Portland, Oregon.  In 1998, I moved to Eugene, Oregon, to attend the University of Oregon.   

What did you study at University? What do you do now for an occupation?

I earned an M.A. from the Folklore Program at the University of Oregon.  My research focused on the musical traditions of the American labor movement.  The title of my terminal project was More Than A Labor Singer: Converging Traditions in the Harry S. Stamper, Jr. Papers, and it involved archiving and analyzing the recorded and written works of the late Harry S. Stamper, Jr., a folksinger and longshoreman from Charleston, Oregon.  I currently work as an independent folklorist, a bookstore clerk, and a musician with Low Tide Drifters, a folk music band.    

Please introduce us to your book collection.  What areas do you collect in?
I collect books on labor and occupational songs.  Specifically, I collect rare songbooks, many of which were printed by labor unions, political organizations, or independent publishers.  I also collect related academic and popular books on labor songs and other forms of working-class cultural expression.  My good friend Mark Ross, a noted folksinger and book collector, helped me get started by introducing me to musicians, folklorists, and others who published books on labor and occupational music.  In graduate school, James Fox, Head of Special Collections & University Archives, and Nathan Georgitis of the Randall V. Mills Archives of Northwest Folklore taught me how to preserve my rare song books. 

How many books are in your collection?  

I have about twenty songbooks, and at least a dozen of them are rare.  I have another 25 or so books on the subject of labor songs and occupational traditions.  

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What was the first book you bought for your collection?

The first book that I consciously bought for my collection was the 2005 centenary edition of The Little Red Songbook, the famous the songbook that the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have been publishing since 1909.  The IWW was a labor union founded in 1905 that produced hundreds of songs, many of which have become folk music standards or have been recorded by popular artists.  For anyone interested in IWW songs, the noted folklorist Archie Green wrote extensively on the subject.  In 2007, he edited The Big Red Songbook, a detailed collection of IWW songs, which I highly recommend.

How about the most recent book?

I just bought a nice second printing of Starlight on the Rails & Other Songs by U. Utah Phillips.  Phillips was a well-known folksinger and activist who wrote songs about the labor movement, trains, and the American West, as well as many other subjects.  I purchased the book from Ken Saunders Rare Books, an antiquarian bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah.  

And your favorite book in your collection?

It’s definitely hard to choose a favorite, but it’s probably my IWW song book from 1945.  It’s the twenty-eighth edition and is the oldest song book  in my collection.  I’d love to get some older ones, though!  

Song Books 2.JPG
 Best bargain you’ve found?

I just found a nice copy of Joe Glazer and Edith Fowke’s Songs of Work and Freedom.  It was only a couple of bucks, so that was exciting.  To be honest, I’m always looking for a deal.  That’s part of the fun.  Anyone can go online and find a book that they want for a lot of money, but I like searching the thrift stores and used book stores for a bargain and a treasure!  
How about The One that Got Away?

I try not to dwell on those.   

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?
I would absolutely love a copy of “Coal Dust on the Fiddle” by George Korson.  Korson was a pioneering occupational folklorist who documented the songs and stories of coal miners, especially in Pennsylvania.  He was also one of the first American folklorists to illustrate how immigrant traditions influence occupational folklore in the United States.     

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

Right now, I work at Tsunami Books in Eugene, Oregon.  I find great titles there every day!  I recently found a very unique book called “Men and Machines: A Story about Longshoring on the West Coast Waterfront.”  It’s a photographic essay about the technological changes that occurred on the waterfront in the last half of the twentieth century.    

What would you collect if you didn’t collect books?

Well, I actually do have a number of other collections.  I collect LPs (work/labor music, folk and country, blues, and old punk records).  I also have an extensive CD and cassette collection.  Oddly enough, I also have a growing science fiction book collection as well.      

Thanks to Nathan Moore for participating in our series.  Nominations for Bright Young Collectors (including self-nominations) are welcome at

Guest Post by Catherine Batac Walder

For our first visit to Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, “The Making of Harry Potter,” we thought it would be quite an experience to also see Hogwarts in the snow. Weekend tickets for this seasonal event appeared to be sold out. We checked for changes every week and finally saw an availability for January 31. (One thing about visiting the studios is you can’t just turn up and buy tickets; another is, since it’s mostly a self-guided tour, it’s best to get a morning slot so as not to feel rushed as there is so much to take in. Visitors do stay around for hours and so afternoons can get really crowded.)

Walder2_Harry Potter studio.JPGInside a mandrake.

Much has been said about the ten years and all the work it took to make the eight Harry Potter films; for example, how props were painstakingly made by hand. Everything on display at the studios is original--costumes, sets, and props. Some of the creatures were huge, like Aragog the spider, which was covered by hand with yak hair, sisal, and hemp from brooms. The spider was so complex that it required nearly 100 technicians to operate it.

There are two soundstages, J and K, and a backlot. We spent a lot of time exploring the sets in J: Hagrid’s hut, the Gryffindor common room, Dumbledore’s office, among others. Many of these were built to scale, while special “forced perspective” techniques were used for the other sets, such as the hallway at the wizard pub and inn, to make them appear much longer. Studio K housed the bigger sets, such as Diagon Alley and Hogwarts Castle.

Walder1_Harry Potter studio.JPGThe Monster Book of Monsters

For someone not entirely familiar with filmmaking, the surprise was those scenes in the film that I thought were computer-generated imagery but were actually mechanical effects. The visuals used in The Burrow (Weasley home), e.g., the knife chopping on its own, all used special mechanical effects. As did the mandrakes and The Monster Book of Monsters. A guide showed us how to work the machine that produced Harry’s footprints in the snow while he was wearing the invisibility cloak.

Walder3_Harry Potter studio.JPGThe device used to make the snow footprints of an invisible Harry.

As expected, the merchandise at the studio shop was a little overpriced. There were items of very good quality but you wouldn’t really expect one to pay much just for a plastic broomstick. Speaking of broomsticks, our daughter was surprisingly cooperative during the broomstick flight experience that we did pay for the photos and video as souvenirs (convincing ourselves that we wouldn’t be able to get this anywhere else, and considering that she is under five and was admitted to the tour for free).

Walder4_Harry Potter studio.JPGThe wand shop where each box bears the name of one of the more than 4,000 people who worked on the Harry Potter motion pictures.

Sometimes, imagining a story and sharing it with an audience of one is fulfilling enough; J. K. Rowling was able to achieve this millions of times over, allowing other people to create with her. It is fascinating to learn that the Hogwarts ‘portraits’ are of the filmmaking staff and their families, and such aspects of the film make it the filmmakers’ own, not the author’s, as these were obviously not the faces Rowling had imagined. While it’s true that there is always that case of an author not fully agreeing with what is brought to screen, the makers of the Harry Potter films shared Rowling’s imagined world to a large extent, making the stories accessible to a wider audience and possibly more fantastical for a lot of people.

The Hogwarts model covered in snow, along with the Christmas decorations, were up till February 1. February 5 saw the first-ever Harry Potter Book Night. On March 19, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London will be opening a 20,000-ft. expansion, including the original Hogwarts Express steam engine and a recreation of Platform 9¾.

--Catherine Batac Walder is a writer living in the UK. She has blogged for us recently about Richard Adams and the Oxford Literary Festival.

Images: Credit: Catherine Batac Walder.
Quinn’s Auction Galleries is offering a signed condolence letter from President Lyndon B. Johnson to Coretta Scott King after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  The letter - an enormously important document in the history of the Civil Rights movement - is dated April 5, 1968, the day after Martin Luther King was shot in Memphis:

Dear Mrs. King:  

My thoughts have been with you and your children throughout this long and anguished day. 

Tonight, Mrs. Johnson and I pray again that God gives you the solace of His strength. 

Since early morning, I have devoted all my hours and energy to honoring your good husband in the manner he would most approve. I have sought --by word, deed, and official act - to unite this sorrowing and troubled nation against further and wider violence. 

I have met in that cause - in your husband’s name and faith - with leaders of government, Negro and white communities, our cities, churches and courts. We found more than grief to share. I wanted you to know tonight of the determination that binds us: We will overcome this calamity and continue the work of justice and love that is Martin Luther King’s legacy and trust to us. 

I am also determined that the assassin will be found and punished. The full powers of local and Federal authority are marshaled now to assure it. 

I am enclosing copies of my statements today so that you may know fully the concerns and intentions that guide me. I believe, with all my heart, that the American majority will also be guided by them, in goodwill and great hope. All of us ask God to comfort you now and restore your compassionate influence to us. 

Lyndon B. Johnson.

The letter arrived at Quinn’s from the collection of Stoney and Shirley Cooks.  The letter was gifted to Shirley Cooks from Harry Belafonte, the songwriter and social activist.

Bidding starts at $60,000 with a $120,000 - $180,000 estimate. Online bidding is currently open.  The auction, which also contains other items related to Martin Luther King Jr and the Civil Rights movement, will be held on March 5th.

For this President’s Day, how about a quick gamgeorge-washington-portrait-1.jpge of Presidential Lost & Found? Prompted by an article published in Slate last week (“Who Owns Lincoln’s Letters”), in which professor Louis P. Masur accosts private collectors who squirrel away important presidential documents, I wondered about presidential books and letters surreptitiously saved (by collectors) and then brought to light.

Masur mentions one -- in 1984, Lincoln’s last address was found in the secret compartment of an antique table in Long Island. Malcolm Forbes then bought it at auction for $231,000. An amazing find, completely unknown to the consignors, but obviously treasured by some former owner. (Another Lincoln document was dislodged from a college president’s closet in 2013.)

What of George Washington’s has turned up recently? In 2007, one of his letters was unearthed from a scrapbook kept by a young girl named Julia Kean. It’s now safely housed at Kean University in New Jersey. Amidst the playing cards and party invitations, she also had a Thomas Jefferson letter. 

Speaking of Jefferson, a cache of his annotated books was discovered in the collection of Washington University in St. Louis in 2011. His books were scattered at auction upon his death; these 74 volumes were acquired by collector Joseph Coolidge. (You can read more about that in our Fall 2011 issue). 

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