The London International Antiquarian Book Fair is a week away, and fittingly, among the 180 dealers who will be there, David Brass (of David Brass Rare Books) is bringing a first edition of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1906), inscribed to none other than Mary Hodgson. Hodgson (1876-1962) was nurse and nanny to George and Jack Llewelyn Davies, the brothers who inspired the “lost boys” of Barrie’s classic tale. What’s more astounding is that there is even an inscription at all, which reads simply, “To Mary Hodgson / with kindest regards / from J.M. Barrie / Jan 1907.” Barrie rarely signed copies of his books, and for years the relationship between Barrie and Hodgson was strained at best, contentious and pernicious at its worst.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

First, the backstory: In 1897, Scottish novelist and dramatist James M. Barrie met Hodgson and her charges in London’s Kensington Gardens. Barrie was instantly captivated by the boys’ spirit, and thereafter would frequently accompany them on their promenades, all the while charming the children with stories of fairies and pirates. These visits would ultimately inspire Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.

Mary Hodgson, nurse of the Llewelyn Davies boys. Taken in 1912. author unknown. {{PD-US}

Both Hodgson and Barrie were possessive of the children. He reveled in their mischievousness, while she felt Barrie undermined her authority. Barrie was completely aware of her hostility.  Nana, the overbearing dog/nanny in Peter Pan, was his everlasting homage to Hodgson.

Eventually, Barrie and Hodgson reluctantly came to terms with each other, and the novelist presented this copy, complete with a tipped-in color frontispiece and forty-nine tipped-in color plates, as a way to bury the hatchet. Barrie may have fancied himself an overgrown child, but he learned that apologies go a long way to healing old wounds.

This stunning presentation copy of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, with illustrations by Arthur Rackham, will be available at the David Brass Rare Books booth starting Thursday, May 28th.
Price available upon request.
More information about the fair can be found here.


Hard Case Crime, one of my favorite indie publishers, recently released a long forgotten crime novel by Gore Vidal titled Thieves Fall Out. Vidal wrote the novel in the early 1950s while reeling from criticism about the controversial content in his third book, The City and The Pillar. Under the pen name “Cameron Kay,” Vidal published Thieves Fall Out in 1953. The pulpy novel--about an American smuggling an artifact out of Egypt in the middle of revolution--was soon forgotten by almost everyone except Vidal scholars.

Charles Ardai, publisher of Hard Case Crime, spoke with us over e-mail about the novel:

Please tell us about the re-discovery process for Gore Vidal’s Thieves Fall Out. It was lost for 60 years--how did you find it again?
I first read about Thieves Fall Out randomly on a blog regarding Gore Vidal’s work. Hunting down a copy wasn’t too hard, with the network of rare book dealers I know, though copies were scarce and I think ran something like $150. I bought a copy, read it, and enjoyed it, and particularly enjoyed that it was not just a Casablanca-flavored tale of intrigue in exotic lands but a crime novel as well. So I reached out to a friend who I knew lived on the same block as Gore in California and got him to help me approach the author. Gore asked to see a copy of the book (“I haven’t read it in fifty years,” I recall him telling us), so I carefully photocopied it and mailed it to him. A few months later he said he wasn’t sure he wanted to be associated, in his advanced age, to this early work by a much younger man, so we discussed the idea of reprinting it only under the pseudonym. But we never quite got there. Then he died, and then years passed, but I never gave up hope. And eventually we persuaded the estate that this book was an important part of an important author’s legacy and shouldn’t be lost forever.
Are there any other lost Gore Vidal crime or pulp novels that you think might eventually turn up?
Not crime. I understand there is an unfinished science-fiction novel in the vaults somewhere, but I don’t believe there’s anything else of the sort we specialize in.
Do you think the writing style is recognizable to Vidal fans?  Or are they in for a surprise?
It’s not written with the same level of care and polish applied to each sentence, just as John Banville’s Benjamin Black books aren’t written quite the same as the literary work he turns out under his real name. But you can tell it’s Vidal all the same. The acerbic observations, the interest in political matters even when he’s mostly occupied with telling an entertaining’s there. But it’s on the edges. In the center is a good, old-fashioned, two-fisted pulp story. And that may be a surprise for readers who think of this author as perhaps too dignified to indulge in this sort of storytelling. But Vidal was always playful and had a taste for the low as well as the high. He liked to surprise, even to shock. I think readers will be able to reconcile the playful, mischievous Vidal with the author of Thieves Fall Out.
What’s coming up next for Hard Case?
Oh, so much! We’ve turned up two early novels by Ed McBain that haven’t been in print for half a century, and those are coming in July (So Nude, So Dead) and next January (Cut Me In). In September, we have a brand new novel by the wonderful Lawrence Block, The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes, debuting in hardcover, as well as an illustrated hardcover edition of Stephen King’s Joyland. In October we’re publishing new editions of Max Allan Collins’ first five “Quarry” novels with new covers by Robert McGinnis, to coincide with the launch of the “Quarry” TV series on Cinemax. And there’s more we can’t talk about yet. But rest assured that Hard Case Crime fans have plenty of good stuff to look forward to.

028935.jpgIt may have come as a surprise to some when Yale University Library announced earlier this year its acquisition of 2,700 VHS tapes, becoming the first institution in the country to actively collect the outmoded medium. What arrived at Sterling Library back in March were largely horror-genre movies from the seventies and eighties, prompted by librarian David Gary and PhD student Aaron Pratt.

So how long before VHS tapes turn up in the catalogues of antiquarian booksellers? In what he calls a “c-list” of “Uncommon, Unlikely & Odd” books and book-related items, Ken Lopez of Hadley, Massachusetts, offers up this rare VHS of the 1975 Academy Award-winning film of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (HBO/Cannon Video, n.d.), signed by Kesey, who, according to the bookseller, was rather unhappy with the movie’s casting. For collectors of Kesey, or perhaps for the burgeoning subset of VHS collectors out there, this rare VHS is priced at $750.

Image via Ken Lopez.  
Kahlo.jpgMexican artist Frida Kahlo, who died in 1954, is a hot topic of late. First, a group of 25 unpublished love letters written not to her husband, Diego Rivera, but to her lover, Spanish artist Jose Bartoli, sold at auction for $137,000 back in April. Then, earlier this month, a London gallery put on exhibit her colorful wardrobe, apparently secreted away in the bathroom of the Mexico City home she shared with Rivera. And over the past weekend, the New York Botanical Garden in New York City opened Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life, a reimagination of her Casa Azul home and studio. The NYBG’s Enid A. Haupt Conservatory is transformed into Kahlo’s garden, with folkart and native plants, while the gallery features 14 of her paintings and works on paper, including Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940), Flower of Life (1944), and Still Life with Parrot and Flag (1951). This exhibit is the first to focus on the artist’s engagement with nature. It is on view through November 1.  

Image: An evocation of Frida Kahlo’s studio overlooking her garden at the NYBG’s Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life. Photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen.

“If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.”  

Sojourner Truth spoke these words at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention on May 28 1851, as part of her famous “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech, and her message of equality and self-empowerment is as relevant today as it was 164 years ago. (Though it’s likely Truth’s exact words were amended by fellow suffragist Francis Gage, there is an undeniable power and strength in the sentiment.)  Over two hundred years after her birth as a Dutch-speaking slave named Isabella Baumfree, the life and work of this charismatic preacher, suffragist and abolitionist is being remembered with newly dedicated sculptures and musicals, a petition to have her likeness printed on the $20 bill, and continues to inspire today’s activists striving for social justice.  

Towering over her peers at nearly six feet tall, Truth had “a heart of gold and a tongue of fire,”  and was an immensely spiritual woman who agitated alongside Frederick Douglas and William Llyod Garrison for universal suffrage and an end to slavery. Truth spoke with a passion and eloquence that could spur audiences to action and stop rabbles in their tracks.

By Randall Studio (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 

ALA-notable author Ann Turner recently wrote My Name Is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth (HarperCollins, $17.99) which explores the life and times of this larger-than-life figure. Written in flowing free-verse, and told from Truth’s fiery point of view, Turner recounts the heartbreaking story of Truth’s early life and how those experiences informed her decision to change her name, became an itinerant preacher and champion for civil rights. Truth spent almost thirty years toiling in fields, enduring beatings and extraordinary hardship at the hands of masters who thought “my back was a cart for hauling rocks wood timber and grain”.  She eventually escaped to freedom with the youngest of her four children, and from that point on became a courageous voice for oppressed people.  Her story is at once enthralling and harrowing, with enough challenge and heartbreak to fill more than one lifetime. (My Name is Truth is by no means a complete biography, but it’s a great jumping-off point for further education, and Turner helpfully provides additional resources in the postscript.)

©2015 James Ransome, reproduced with permission from HarperCollins.

Truth practiced what she preached, and was incredibly self-sufficient, a model for women of any era to emulate. In 1846 she purchased a home in Florence, Massachusetts with the earnings from her speaking engagements and sales of her autobiography. (Since she could not read or write, Truth dictated her memoirs to Olive Gilbert of Northampton, Massachusetts.)  She was the first African-American woman to bring three lawsuits to court and win them all.  When her son was illegally sold to an Alabama plantation owner, Truth sued and retrieved her child. She filed a slander lawsuit when a newspaper printed that she was a witch and had poisoned a leader of a religious group, and won a $125 judgement.  And when she was hit by a street-car in Washington D.C. Truth filed a personal injury lawsuit, and again a judge ruled in her favor.
Turner touches on the first lawsuit where we see mother and child reunited, but it’s bittersweet; at first the son doesn’t recognize Truth, and “his back is a mess of scars, his soul too.”
Coretta Scott King Award-winning illustrator James Ransome’s watercolors capture the magnitude of Truth’s life and impact on the American political and cultural landscape. Bright, bold images of a woman determined to incite change match the sonorous and passionate storytelling.
Complete with insightful author’s notes, My Name Is Truth is a story of courage and determination, of a woman whose purpose was to call people out of slavery and into the light of freedom and equality. 

My Name is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth, by Ann Turner, illustrated by James Ransome; HarperCollins Children’s Books, $17.99, 40 pages, ages 6-10.

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Micah McCrotty of Knoxville, Tennessee:

Where do you live?

I have lived in the great city of Knoxville, Tennessee for 10 years.

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

I studied counseling, theology, and literature while in college at Johnson University.  Now I manage a long term living facility for adults with mental disabilities.  I hope to eventually return to school to study either theology or literature. 

Please introduce us to your book collection.  What areas do you collect in? 

My collection focuses on ephemera and first editions of southern American authors and poets, primarily the first half of the 20th century.  Because these authors are relatively recent and common, I often find them at local thrift shops.  I love the writings of Flannery O’Connor, James Agee, Alex Haley, Robert Penn Warren, James Dickey, some of the Fugitive poets, other southern themed poetry from small presses or university presses, and of course Faulkner.  I collect other writers as well who are more current, including Cormac McCarthy, Walker Percy, Shelby Foote, and Charles Frazier.  

I often try to read critical works as well and so my collection also includes a large amount of authorial studies.  Reading in this way has been a major help in realizing direction for the collection as a whole. Before my interest became honed to southern writers, I sought after the great modern American writers in first edition, and so I still hope to finish my Hemingway and Steinbeck collection.
How many books are in your collection?

It varies depending on trading and a continual need to free up bookshelf space, but currently I have about 200 in the southern lit collection with 9 various ephemera pieces.  My entire first edition collection totals near 375.

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

I tried to read through Hemingway’s works in order of publication while in college.  I came across a hardback of ‘Islands in the Stream’ at a local thrift shop and I learned later that it was in fact a first edition. That sparked my interest in serious collecting.  The first piece I bought intentionally for the southern lit collection was a signed copy of ‘A Place To Come To,’ which now I have realize is very common, but at the time I thought I had discovered a national treasure.

How about the most recent book?

This week I found a signed numbered pre-released copy of ‘A Place To Come To,’ still in the original box, at a very reasonable price.  Three weeks ago I purchased an uncorrected proof with some minor pencil notations and corrections of Carlos Baker’s biography of Hemingway (only chapter 8) which eventually became ‘Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story.’  Before that document, I added a signed Reynolds Price book called ‘Love and Work’ to the collection.

And your favorite book in your collection?

My parents gave me a fine copy of ‘The Nick Adams Stories’ when I first began collecting and it has remained special to me.  The fly fishing and nature descriptions which highlight the book were some of my first favorite short stories and I find myself rereading them every few years. 
Best bargain you’ve found?

Just like any rare book collector, I hold a hope of finding a rare book at a used bookstore which has been mislabeled.  I once found a first edition of Flannery O’Connor’s ‘The Violent Bear it Away’ in Good + condition for $8 in a store which has a reputation for being thoroughly picked through by collectors.  It was a very beautiful copy which I later traded for my copy of ‘Death in the Afternoon.’  I also purchased a signed ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ for $6 at another local used bookstore.  I could hardly believe my luck.  

How about The One that Got Away?

I was once offered to buy a Flannery O’Connor galley proof for a price that, at the time, seemed far too much for me to spend.  It was one of those situations where I had to make a decision without research or price comparing and so I passed.  After I returned home I looked up similar items online and realized the amazing opportunity I had just waved away then immediately reached out to the seller in email.  I received an email back after two weeks of waiting which informed me that he had sold it minutes after I walked away!  
What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

This is a difficult question.  My favorite of Faulkner’s works is ‘Light in August’ so a signed Fine/Fine copy would certainly be a treasure.  I would argue it as one of the greatest American novels, and the artwork on the dust jacket is very striking.  Shelby Foote called it Faulkner’s “greatest novel as novel,” and I would agree. I haven’t yet made the plunge into Twain, but there are certainly several books among his canon that I foresee hunting for a lifetime.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

Knoxville does not have a stand alone rare book store and so I have to travel or shop online for anything specific.  Nashville’s Yeoman’s in the Fork is a fun gallery for anyone passing through the area and I sometimes call them if I have a question.  I have also made friends at conventions who sell online without a storefront and I contact them with inquiries. 

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

Split cane fly rods have a long history with their own celebrities and dignitaries.  I think it would be interesting to collect and preserve some of the work of those master craftsmen.
An incredible collection of pen-and-ink illustrations for the 1906 edition of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds goes to auction tomorrow in Beverly Hills. Brazilian artist Henrique Alvim Corrêa, whose imagination was spurred after reading a French edition of the science fiction classic, produced some sketches of tripod aliens and death rays and brought them to Wells in London. Wells was so pleased with them (and so dissatisfied by the earlier illustrations commissioned for the 1898 first book form), he asked Corrêa to illustrate a 500-copy, limited edition published by L’Vandamme in Brussels.

Thirty illustrations, plus a promotional poster and a postcard from Wells to Corrêa, were consigned to Heritage Auctions by collector Stefan Gefter. Here are a few highlights:

Larrivee copy.jpgLot 71264: The illustration for the title page of Book I: The Coming of the Martians, 1906. Estimate: $20,000-25,000.

Emerges copy.jpgLot 71268: The illustration “Martian Emerges,” from Book I: The Coming of the Martians, Chapter IV: “The Cylinder Opens,” 1906. Estimate $8,000-12,000.

Humans copy.jpgLot 71284: The illustration “Frightened Human,” from Book II: The Earth Under the Martians, Chapter III: “The Days of Imprisonment,” 1906. Estimate: $4,000-6,000.

Drunken copy.jpgLot 71289: The illustration “Martin Viewing Drunken Crowd,” from Book II: The Earth Under the Martians, Chapter VII: “The Man on Putney Hill,” 1906. Estimate $8,000-12,000.

Images via Heritage Auctions.
ben-david-israel museum.png

Heading to Israel in the next week? Swing by the Israel Museum in Jerusalem to see the oldest surviving copy of the Ten Commandments, dating to somewhere between 30 and 1 BC.  

The fragile 2,000-year-old manuscript is very rarely allowed on public display. It was loaned to the Israel Museum from the Israel Antiquities Authority for a simple and powerful exhibition called “A Brief History of Humankind,” which displays fourteen pivotal objects in the evolution of humanity.  The exhibition is part of the museum’s celebrations for its 50th anniversary.

The manuscript was found as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery in the mid 20th century when Khirbet Qumran was excavated.

“When you are thinking about universal law, the universal principle of ethics, ... this is the first law that comes to your mind,” exhibit curator Tania Coen-Uzzielli said in a press release.

The manuscript of the Ten Commandments will only be on loan for two weeks - and we are one week in already - so if you are interested in seeing it, you better jump on the next jet to Jerusalem. After the loan period expires, the manuscript will return to its hyper-secure and hyper-controlled storage environment in complete darkness.

A facsimile will replace it.

[Image from the Israel Museum]

The National Museum of Women in the Arts, located in Washington, D.C., opened today an exhibit of Vanessa Bell’s book design. Bell,
(1879-1961) ,w
a member of the celebrated Bloomsbury Group, designed graphic dust jackets and illustrations for the Hogarth Press, a publishing house co-founded by her sister, novelist Virginia Woolf. Enjoy here a sampling of exhibit’s highlights:

Bell__Monday or Tuesday copy.jpgVanessa Bell, cover design for Virginia Woolf’s Monday or Tuesday, The Hogarth Press, 1921; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center.

Bell__The Waves copy.jpgVanessa Bell, jacket design for Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, The Hogarth Press, 1931; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center.

Bell__The Years copy.jpgVanessa Bell, jacket design for Virginia Woolf’s The Years, The Hogarth Press, 1937; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center.

Bell__Three Guineas copy.jpgVanessa Bell, jacket design for Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas, The Hogarth Press, 1938; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center.

Bell__Haunted House copy.jpgVanessa Bell, jacket design for Virginia Woolf’s A Haunted House and other stories, The Hogarth Press, 1943; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center.

Music, a lecture and an Italian dinner in honor of Robert Browning’s 203rd birthday were the order of events on Thursday at Baylor University’s Armstrong Browning Library. An annual celebration, the birthday festivities are held in the grand three-story Italian Renaissance-style building built by the Browning collection founder, Dr. A.J. Armstrong. Filled with sixty-two stained glass windows, marble columns, black walnut marquetry paneling, and intricate ceiling designs, the Armstrong Library is routinely cited by various tastemakers as one of America’s most beautiful libraries, and attracts over 25,000 visitors a year. 

Elizabeth and Robert Browning, public domain (Wikimedia)

Rita Patteson, director of the Armstrong Library, spoke with me ahead of the celebration.  “Browning Day is the biggest event of the year for us,” she said. “It’s our chance to share the beauty of Browning’s poetry with the world, and to showcase our collection.”  The library is the repository of the largest collection of correspondence and other material written by Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, two of the 19th century’s preeminent poets and prolific letter-writers.

ABL McLean Foyer 20141001_va_52271.jpg 
ABL McLean Foyer of Meditation, Ryan Duncan, Baylor Marketing and Communications

Events started at 3:30 p.m in the Hankamer Treasure Room with the premiere of “Mysterion,” a composition created by the Armstrong Library’s Artist-in-Residence Carlos Colón.  Baylor professor Joshua King followed up with a lecture entitled “Reforming Christ’s Body in Aurora Leigh,” discussing Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s 1856 masterpiece, a nine-book novel composed in blank verse that assured her position as one of the foremost poets of the Victorian era.

ABL treasure room 20070717_mm_5630x.jpg
ABL Treasure Room, credit Matthew Minard, Baylor Marketing and Communications

After a light reception and time to visit the collection, members of the Fano Club convened their annual dinner, also held in the library. Browning scholar William Lyon Phelps founded the Fano Club in 1912, naming it for the Italian seaside town nestled on the Adriatic Sea where the painting “The Guardian Angel,” by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (1591 -1666) had inspired Robert Browning to compose “The Guardian Angel: A Picture at Fano” (1848). Initiation requirements include traveling to Fano, Italy and, once viewing the painting, mailing a postcard to the library stating that the aforementioned tasks were complete.  (Seeing “The Guardian Angel” is not as easy as it sounds; Fano is a three-hour drive from Florence, and, in typical Italian fashion, the Civic Museum (where the painting now hangs) is closed Mondays, for a few hours most afternoons, and all Italian holidays.) There are approximately 200 current Fano Club members, of whom nearly 40 traveled to Waco to enjoy the annual dinner. This year, the meal was served family-style and featured a traditional meal of antipasto, chicken saltimbocca and tiramisu for dessert.  Patteson, who is also a Fano Club member, was looking forward to the dinner. “We catch up, read some poetry, and enjoy a wonderful meal, all in the name of Robert Browning.” La dolce vita, indeed.

ABL pied piper 20111115_mm_28316.jpg  
ABL Pied Piper of Hamelin Window, Haskins Studio, Rochester, New York, 1924, credit Matthew Minard, Baylor Marketing and Communications

Click here for more information about Armstrong Browning Library.

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