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Halloween is still two weeks away, yet goblins, witches and faux headstones already claim valuable lawn space across the country. While the kids celebrate with silly tricks and sticky treats, why not indulge grown-ups this season with work by the marvelously gloomy Edward Gorey.
Located in the Flatiron neighborhood in Manhattan, B&B Rare Books is featuring three Gorey first editions; The Doubtful Guest, ($275) The Blue Aspic ($150) and The Loathsome Couple($100). All three are in fine to very good condition and none will break the bank.
Although these books aren’t for the faint of heart - unwelcome visitors, death and destruction feature prominently throughout - perhaps the most ghoulish tale is The Loathsome Couple. It is considered a cult classic among Gorey collectors and tells such a shocking story that even the author acknowledged it as his most appalling. The murderous husband and wife couple is based on a real duo that perpetrated the chilling Moors Murders in England in the 1960’s. Unlike in most Gorey tales, the characters in this book are caught and suitably punished.
Another way to celebrate Halloween would be to visit the Gorey House in Yarmouth Port on Cape Cod. Since the author’s death in 2000, the home has been converted into a delightfully unique museum that chronicles the life, work and charitable endeavors of the master of macabre.
The Gorey House hasn’t planned anything special for Halloween this year. (The House co-hosted a Dracula Blood Drive with the Cape Cod Hospital in 2006, but hasn’t since then.) It is currently exhibiting original artwork from The Vinegar Works, Three Volumes of Moral Instruction.
Currently featured in the gift shop is a toy theater based on Gorey’s drawings and sets for his award-winning Broadway production of Dracula. It retails at a reasonable $25.00.
Sadly, Ombledroom, the twenty-eight pound white cat who ruled the House and delighted visitors for twelve years, passed away last summer at the age of twelve. Visitors can pay tribute at to the feline’s final resting place, which is situated under a Southern magnolia tree on a patch of lawn by the house. Happy Haunting!
If you saw the Fine Books Facebook page on Monday you may have been enticed to guess who will grace the magazine’s summer cover. A hint to seek out that day’s Google Doodle (see below) would have led you to Maurice Sendak, arguably the twentieth century’s preeminent illustrator of children’s books. Google created the Doodle because Sendak would have celebrated his 85th birthday on Monday. (Sendak died last May.)
Leonard Marcus, a leading authority on children’s books and illustrations, has written a story for the summer issue discussing Sendak and his work. Marcus is also the author of Show me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter (Candlewick 2012) and recently edited a catalogue in conjunction with an exhibition of over 200 of Sendak’s previously unpublished art and sponsored by the New York Society of Illustrators.
Bill Clinton dubbed Sendak “The King of Dreams” when he awarded him the National Medal of Art in 1996. The Brooklyn native wrote and illustrated close to 100 titles, including perhaps most notably Where the Wild Things Are. He was awarded a Caldecott Medal and the Hans Christian Andersen Award, among many others throughout his sixty-year career.
Children of all ages can cite their favorite book. Mine is Dear Mili, an unpublished Wilhelm Grimm tale rediscovered in 1983 and published with Sendak’s illustrations in 1988. The images of death and miracles are wild - abnormally vivid forests, little girls with very large feet, and psychedelic landscapes. I remember reading it as a child, and while the story itself frightened me, I could not stop gazing at those wonderful images and following Mili on her unflinching quest. In Show me a Story! Marcus asks Sendak about Mili. His response illustrates his complete understanding of children: “...she has the same kind of trudging, hard-working quality that I love in children. They’re trudging children; they go and do what they must do.”
A little Father’s Day tribute regarding Dear Mili: as a prized possession, I have a poster for the book, signed by Sendak, that my father stood in a long line to get at an ABA Convention the year of publication. It’s the only time he ever queued up at any book convention to get a poster signed. And since Sendak was only autographing one poster per customer, my doting dad got right back in line and procured another so that my sister and I might each have one.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first eight short stories, originally published in The Saturday Evening Post, are out in a new edition (print or digital), complete with the original illustrations, cover art, reproductions of the Post pages, and an introduction by the Post’s historian, Jeff Nilsson.
On sale May 7, Gatsby Girls is a collection of Fitzgerald’s ‘flapper stories,’ e.g., “Myrna Meets His Family,” “Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” and “Popular Girl I.” All were published between 1920 and 1922, before his Great Gatsby appeared in 1925.
“By the time he published The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald was already one of the best known authors in America thanks to The Saturday Evening Post,” said Nilsson. “Through a span of 17 years the magazine published 68 of his short stories, and with 2.5 million subscribers, the Post brought Fitzgerald into the living rooms of Americans who might never have encountered his novels.”
The new edition of Fitzgerald’s early stories is a collaboration between The Saturday Evening Post, SD Entertainment, and BroadLit. With the much-anticipated film of The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, about to smash the box office, what better time to turn your gimlet eye on the stories and the art that not only preceded it but offers literary and cultural context for the novel that is considered Fitzgerald’s most famous.
The Keepsake Cityscape series began in 2011 with a miniature foldout guidebook to New York City. The series has since expanded to include popular destinations such as Paris, London, and Washington, D.C. Each volume is presented in a lovely little slipcase.
The most recent publication shares the pleasures of strolling through Rome, from visiting the Villa Borghese to exploring the inner workings of the Colliseum. Author-illustrator Kristyna Litten skillfully renders twelve of the Eternal City’s attractions with lively and bright mixed media illustrations.
Although these books are marketed to children, I’ve been collecting them from the start. They are a unique travel companion, and are small enough to tuck away in a luggage side pocket. Most volumes have been written and illustrated by different authors, which makes these more interesting than the average mass-produced tourist novelty. And for less than ten dollars, each of these pleated jewels can share their global tales on the same stretch of shelf.
The fifty-third annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair welcomed booksellers from all over America, and many came from across the Atlantic as well. French sellers presented their treasures with typical Gallic flair, charm and grace. Below I share three of my favorite bouquinistes at the Fair and some of their eye-catching wares.
Children’s and Juvenile
More than two dozen dealers at the Fair specialized in children’s books, and two were from Paris. Michèle Noret, whose shop is nestled in the tony sixteenth arrondissement, brought lovely examples of children’s literature from around the globe. Her most intriguing items were Soviet-era volumes printed for budding Communists. One choice example was a second edition 1927 primer called Lenin for Children. Available for two thousand dollars, the book includes thirty-one full-page illustrations by Russian painter Boris Mikhailovitch Kustodiev, whose paintings had previously shown at the 1906 Paris Salon.
Hailing from near Montmartre in the eighteenth arrondissement, Chez les Librairies Associés brought books covering a wide thematic selection (such as calligraphy and moveable books). They also enticed passers-by with beautiful children’s collectibles. Among their wares were seven titles illustrated by acclaimed Russian artist Ivan Bilbin, known for his renderings of Russian folk tales. One of those volumes, from the 1937 Père Castor series, was a fine first-edition of H.A. Andersen’s La Petite sirène for $350.
Parties and Celebrations
Libraries Benoît Forgeot (you’ll find them on rue de l’Odéon in the sixth) brought an outstanding collection of illustrated books celebrating holidays and festivals spanning the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Available for a tidy $80,000, one particularly sumptuous volume was a perfectly conserved depiction of a 1688 regatta. The boating event was organized in honor of the marriage of Ferdinand de Médicis, Grand Prince of Tuscany and Yolande-Béatrice. Fourteen gorgeously illustrated in-folio plates by Alessandro Della Via portray the extravagant festivities. An image from the book also graced the bookseller’s most recent catalogue. (see below)
Later this week New Orleans Auction Galleries will offer a very special copy of Sherwood Anderson and Other Famous Creoles: A Gallery of Contemporary New Orleans (1926) by William Spratling with introductory text by occasional New Orleans resident William Faulkner. The book was published by the Pelican Bookshop Press in New Orleans in an edition of 250 and contains drawings of the author, Faulkner, and 41 of their French Quarter acquaintances--artists, musicians, academics, preservationists, socialites--with their uptown patrons. It was once described as “one of the great literary curiosities in the city’s history.”
Forty-one of the 43 persons featured in the book--all except Faulkner and artist Ronald Hargrave--signed this copy, which originally belonged to Stella Lengsfield Lazard (Mrs. Henry Calme Lazard), who was herself on the fringes of the literary/bohemian circle. “Forty-one signatures is a record unlikely to be surpassed: the highest number I’d encountered before was 31, in a copy now missing,” writes John Shelton Reed. Reed used the book as a source for his recently published history, Dixie Bohemians: A French Quarter Circle in the 1920s.
A long post on the intricacies of this copy, those featured in the book, and speculation on why Faulkner didn’t sign it, is here.
New Orleans Auction Gallery estimates that the book will fetch $2,500-4,000. Proceeds will benefit The Ogden Museum of Southern Art. And, as an added bonus, the winning bidder will also take home a signed copy of Reed’s Dixie Bohemians.
Theodore Roosevelt’s family photography album depicting the president and his children c. 1980-1910 is one of the standout items in the Peter Scanlan collection, on the block at Swann Galleries on April 16. The album contains 71 photographs mounted on 27 scrapbook pages. One of three images of the president himself is shown below -- he is standing proud in riding books in front of the White House. The Roosevelt children -- Teddy Jr., Kermit, Ethel, Archibald, and Quentin -- are the the primary featured faces in the album, and it is believed to have been compiled by the First Lady. The estimate is $4,000-6,000. A second family photo album is also on offer, this one consisting mainly of the president’s grandson, Theodore Roosevelt III.
Other highlights from the Roosevelt collection include the rare 1884 booklet In Memory of My Darling Wife Alice Hathaway Roosevelt and of My Beloved Mother Martha Bulloch Roosevelt. There is also a group of letters and documents signed by Roosevelt, including a 1918 autograph letter signed to a girl who lost a cousin in the war.
Another interesting New York collection is a lot of architectural/excavating diagrams, maps, and contracts related to major buildings in the city. Covering the years 1891-97 and 1901-1905, the pair of project logs belonged to prominent contractor John Daniel Crimmins, who worked on some incredible spaces, such as the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the Schaefer brewery, the Tiffany lamp factory-studio, the Metropolitan Club building, and the New York Athletic Club. The estimate is $2,000-3,000. Blueprints of Coney Island, Niagara Falls guidebooks, and an early Dutch manuscript discussing the invasion of New Amsterdam are a few of the other NY items for sale.
For some, the New York Antiquarian Book Fair is all about the book fair weekend (beginning tomorrow night). But as I’ve mentioned in the last few blogs, there are several other browsing and buying opportunities. This auction is undoubtedly one of them.
It’s not often that a Noble Prize is offered at auction, but collectors will have two opportunities this spring. One, in fact, this very week. On Thursday, April 11, Heritage Auctions will offer Dr. Francis Crick’s Nobel Prize medal and hand-illuminated Nobel diploma at its Manuscripts auction in New York. According to Heritage, “The auction of the medal is a historic moment, marking the first time in decades that a Nobel Prize has been sold at auction.”
And while we wouldn’t call it a trend just yet, in late March Sotheby’s announced that it will offer William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize medal in June. Part of a larger and incredibly impressive archive, the prize medallion is lotted with an early handwritten draft of Faulkner’s Nobel acceptance speech--written on Algonquin Hotel letterhead!--and the Nobel diploma. It is expected to realize $500,000.
Heritage has similar hopes for Crick’s 23-carat-gold Nobel. Bidding has already opened online--it’s currently at $280,000--to be followed by a live floor session.
News of the Crick Nobel at auction prompted the the San Diego Union-Tribune to poll readers about whether they would “bid on a Nobel Prize at auction.” A surprising 40 percent said “It just feels wrong to auction off the medal,” while the yes and no votes were split evenly, and 13 percent asked, “Who has that kind of money?”
MATCHBOX DIARY. Text copyright © 2013 by Paul Fleischman. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Bagram Ibatoulline. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.
MATCHBOX DIARY. Text copyright © 2013 by Paul Fleischman. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Bagram Ibatoulline. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.
Using acrylic gouache, Ibatoulline creates an impeccable portrait of a collector’s controlled chaos, with old books, artwork, antique clocks and other bric-a-brac filling every shelf, corner and wall. The images of the past are skillfully rendered in black and white.
Told entirely through dialogue, The Matchbox Diary is an ode to collectors and diarists of all ages, and certainly stokes the flame of bibliomania. As the story concludes, the worldly grandfather offers this reflection, one that will no doubt resonate with the readers of this blog: “Books are like newspapers. They show you where you’ve been.”
Next week Les Enluminures gallery in New York City will open a new exhibit. Owner Sandra Hindman wrote in to tell us more about it:
In April there will be a month-long major exhibition at Les Enluminures called “Paths to Reform,” illustrating the importance of reform in the history of the medieval and early modern church. It includes manuscripts that illustrate important texts from the twelfth through the sixteenth centuries. About forty manuscripts and a few printed books begin with texts and manuscripts associated with the religious orders of the Middle Ages -- Bernard of Clairvaux and the Cistercians, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bridget of Sweden, and St. Francis de Paola -- and then explores in greater detail texts associated with the Devotio Moderna, and parallel movements in France and Italy, leading up to manuscripts associated with the Protestant Reformation.
Previously unknown Book of Hours in the Dutch translation by Geert Grote with the earliest recorded copy of the mystic Henry Suso’s 100 Meditations and 7 miniatures by the Master of Otto van Mordrecht.Courtesy of Les Enluminures.
The exhibit opens on April 4, 6-9 pm (RSVP necessary) at the New York gallery, 23 East 73rd Street, 7th floor, New York, NY (and will be open from 10-6, Monday-Saturday until May 4). The exhibition will be accompanied by a full-color published catalogue by Sandra Hindman and Laura Light, with an introduction by David Lyle Jeffrey, Distinguished Professor of Literature and the Humanities, Honors College, and Distinguished Senior Fellow and Director of Manuscript Research in Scripture and Tradition, Institute for Studies in Religion, Baylor University. This catalogue will be the third in our Text Manuscripts series (the first, Binding and the Archeology of the Medieval and Renaissance Book, by Sandra and Ariane Bergeron-Foote, and the second, Before the King James Bible, by Sandra Hindman and Laura Light are still available. Information on the show and catalogues is available at http://lesenluminures.com and http://textmanuscripts.com.
For more information, read the full press release here.
Julian Barnes at the Oxford Literary Festival
Guest Blog by Catherine Batac Walder
On Friday, March 22, Julian Barnes received the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence at the University of Oxford Sheldonian Theatre from the newspaper’s literary editor, Andrew Holgate. Barnes sat with acclaimed biographer and literary scholar Hermione Lee for an hour-long discussion of his life and work.
Lee noted that the word “novel” has become a hugely elastic and unrestricted category partly because of Barnes, who is one of those authors who stretched, squeezed, and manipulated the form. Barnes said that it wasn’t what he set out to do when he first started writing. His only thought was that he was going to write a novel, experimenting on points of view whenever he started a new work. He believes that the novel is informal and is fascinated with the daring form, as when the hero and his sidekick hear themselves being discussed by minor characters through thin walls (e.g., that scene from Don Quixote). There are similarities in the structures of his works, as Lee pointed out; he doesn’t proceed chronologically and sometimes holds three stages or versions of a story alongside one another. She asked if this is a structure that appeals to him. He agreed, deep in thought, as though realizing it only at that moment, “I guess it must, as you’ve noticed it.” He added that one of the things you learn as a novelist over the years is how to move through time, citing Alice Munro as one who deals with whole lives in 20 or 30 pages.
In reply to Lee’s comment that he creates a pattern of images that recur and moments that come back within the book, such as the river running upstream in The Sense of an Ending, Barnes said that it comes with writing and rewriting.
Lee also observed that “rewriting history” or “lying to ourselves” is a subject that he returns to in different ways in his books. Asking why this is interesting to him, Barnes replied that it might have come out while researching his book Nothing to Be Frightened of, which is partly about death and partly a family memoir. The process of writing and researching involved an exchange of e-mails with his philosopher brother. They discovered that they have a case of incompatibility in memory on things from their childhood, such as the method their grandfather used to kill chickens (this topic reminds me of Speak, Memory by Oliver Sacks). On the whole, he said, “we like improving stories.”
Lee asked about one common theme in two of Barnes’ books--being a boy at school--and wondered if there was something in his memory of what it felt like at school that has stayed with him. He attributed this recurrence to the fact that it was around this age when he started to read serious books. Another recurring theme, as Lee observed, is a narrator or central figure who is somehow inhibited, self-protective, hasn’t lived life to the full--a very English character, such as Chris in Metroland, and Tony Webster in The Sense of an Ending, among others. Personally I find that most authors have more fun creating these characters, as Barnes himself said something like he could explore a character more when they have these qualities.
Barnes didn’t stay to sign books at the end but signed copies of his latest book, Levels of Life, to be released in April 2013, were available for purchase. Its themes of life, love, death, and grief made me weep. Barnes’ wife of 30 years, Pat Kavanagh, died in 2008. This book is like his love letter to her in the most informal form he could muster. There were thoughts of suicide (not unlike how one of his fictional characters had gone) after her death. There were words and actions he loathed from acquaintances and friends alike, his feelings all written here, in words I suspect he wouldn’t tell them face to face.
Barnes is the author of 20 books including novels, essays, and stories that have been translated into more than 30 languages. His most recent novel, The Sense of an Ending, won the Booker Prize in 2011.
Many thanks to Catherine Batac Walder, a writer living in the UK, for this post. She has previously written for us about Sherlock Holmes and ex-library books. She also reported on last year’s Oxford Literary Festival. Images credit: Catherine Batac Walder.
Interview at the Waldorf Astoria NYC
Introduction to “Pinocchio” by Umberto Eco, ”...it’s not even a fairy tale, since it lacks the fairy tale’s indifference to everyday reality and doesn’t limit itself to one simple basic moral, but rather deals with many.”
On Veteran’s Day, the internationally acclaimed children’s book illustrator Fulvio Testa sat down with me over tea in the Peacock Bar at the Waldorf Astoria to talk about his ground-breaking work for Geoffrey Bock’s new translation of Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio. The wide-ranging conversation inevitably led to a discussion of his artistic philosophy regarding children’s book illustration in general, and how he can’t get New York out of his mind.
Focus and Rhythm
For this project, Testa told me how he created a special storyboard that allowed him to keep constant track of the visual and literary levels he was trying to maintain. During the process, he constantly asked himself, “How can I get readers to understand the story simply by creating an image? There are two ways that I might create an image, either one image with two stories, or one large edited image.” To choose the right scenes for Pinocchio, Testa outlined places where he felt the images would best compliment the text, and read the book repeatedly in order to completely grasp the flow of action. Perhaps equally important to the actual artwork itself, he added, is the pacing and the precise location of where an image is placed in a printed book. “There are fifty-two images in this book, and they are relatively close together. I try to create a rhythm to the illustrations,” meaning that each picture represents a pivotal moment in the story, and in Pinocchio most chapters either end or begin with an illustration. The flowing imagery allows the reader to maintain a steady pace, while creating pauses in the storyline and breaking the text into manageable parts.
Action and movement
At first glance the art for Pinocchio appears lighthearted and buoyant, however Testa’s work is in reality quite dynamic. To show where the action lies in what appears to be a passive image, Testa pointed to an illustration in the book. In it, Pinocchio stands at Geppetto’s worktable and argues with the Cricket. “Some images are deceptive. They look approachable and friendly, but an older reader will see some of the darker aspects at work here. Look at the table. Pinocchio’s hand is very close to the mallet, which he will pick up shortly and throw at the Cricket, killing him. This is a triangle of violence here.” This is not simply a picture of a quarrel, but a violent avant scène, and yet is still an image that is appropriate for children. “Children need action to convey a story of experience through repetition,” which may be why, in Pinocchio,Testa has filled the pages with the scurrilous puppet in all manner of situations, from skipping school to facing a fearsome serpent. Testa also believes that in order to be successful at his craft, a part of him must retain a childlike understanding and appreciation for the world. “To illustrate, an illustrator needs to have a part of himself that hasn’t grown up yet,” Testa explained. “I have to be willing to re-experience pain, rejection, joy, and other emotions, as if for the first time.”
Just as parents once used Pinocchio as a way to teach social and moral values, fables are equally important today in constructing a moral compass for children. Testa illustrated an edition of Aesop’s Fables, and finds their universal qualities a captivating way to educate young minds. “Through these stories there is a possibility to acquire a social sensibility.” He views his illustrations as an educational tool because they show how to deal with society from a children’s point of view, which is often more effective than an adult telling a child what is right and what is wrong. There is historical precedent to this approach going back to the nineteenth century, when Pinocchio was first published. Before there was mandatory schooling, children’s books were crucial teaching tools. Carlo Collodi originally published Pinocchio in installments and he initially intended to end the book with the death of the unfortunate puppet. Indeed, the illustration that closes chapter fifteen shows Pinocchio strung up and hanging from a large oak tree. The puppet survives the hanging, and continues on his adventures.
There seem to be fewer articles about the death of the printed book, bookshop, bookseller, book lover, book collector, etc. and more about their resurrection lately. If not truly a pessimist, I consider myself dreadfully realistic. But a few weeks ago, I gave a talk at Drew University Library that turned into a discussion about why I’m optimistic about the future of the physical book. Here are some of the things I came up with:
10. The Nook is dead. To paraphrase Twain, the “the reports of [its] death are greatly exaggerated.” Still, in late February, Barnes & Noble reported a big loss in its e-reader division. B&N claims it will not discontinue the Nook, but I see it as a chink in the e-book armor.
9. Because indies aren’t dead. A report from the Christian Science Monitor this week says the “buy local” movement has caused sales at independent bookstores to rise about 8 percent in the past year.
8. Young booksellers are also alive and well. We started a series on our website profiling what we call “Bright Young Things”--i.e., booksellers under 40 who are making a living in the rare book trade. We’ve done about 35 of these profiles over the past year, and we’re still going strong.
7. Craftsmanship has made a comeback. Whether learning (Center for Book Arts, American Academy of Bookbinding, North Bennet St. School) or buying (Etsy, Artfire, Renegade Craft Fairs), people have become more interested in handmade wares over the past few years.
5. Vinyl returns. Some dislike the comparison, but vinyl--seen by many as an outmoded medium for the past twenty-five years--is hip again. Vinyl sales rose 36% last year. The lesson: a great product is impossible to beat.
4. Rare Book School flourishes. Last fall, the Rare Book School at The University of Virginia received a Mellon Grant of nearly $1 million to “reinvigorate bibliographical studies within the humanities.”
3. Books are worth millions. Not the majority, of course, but institutions and collectors invest in book culture and want to pass the torch, to the tune of $11.5 million, if necessary.
2. The Codex Book Fair succeeds. This year the Codex Book Fair in California had 175 exhibitors for its book fair and a sold-out symposium on book arts and papermaking. The New York Art Book Fair and the new LA Art Book Fair also rocked.
1. The Monkey’s Paw survives, thrives, and gets profiled in the New York Times. The Toronto antiquarian bookstore that received so much attention a couple of weeks ago is known for its quirky curation and its old-book vending machine. It is the bookshop of the future--a future full of super cool readers.
Last week Toppan Printing Co. of Japan announced its creation of the world’s tiniest book, measuring 0.75 by 0.75 mm. The images and lettering in this 22-page book on flowers are nearly microscopic, which is why a magnifying glass comes with the book for the purchase price of ¥29,400 ($308).
Toppan has been making miniature books since 1964, but this lilliputian book was made using high-tech currency printing techniques. It is currently on display at the Toppan Printing Museum in Tokyo.
The company plans to apply to Guinness World Records for official recognition. The current record is held by a Russian book that measures 0.9 by 0.9 mm.
(Available April 9, 2013)
Draw Your Own Alphabets: Thirty Fonts to Scribble, Sketch, & Make your Own Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, NY.
This book takes the art of custom-drawn fonts, - lively, hand-drawn letters often perfected by middle school adepts - to an extraordinary level of sophistication. British graphic designer Tony Seddon opens the manual with a primer on the history of hand-lettering, including tips for perfecting one’s craft, the pros and cons of tracing, and understanding the basic structure of letterforms. Seddon teaches the proper techniques to create funky, personalized fonts in this very hands-on workbook.
The thirty alphabet fonts all are custom drawn by a team of young designers and illustrators who each reveal a little about themselves and the inspiration for their fonts. For example, artist Michelle Tilly discovered the origins for her “Spotty Fairground” font by observing antique signs on a Bristol pier.
Draw Your Own Alphabets: Thirty Fonts to Scribble, Sketch, & Make your Own Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, NY.
There is a style here to suit any mood and personality, ranging from the Pacman-inspired “Butterman,” to “Topiary” where the letters resemble leafy bushes. My favorite font is the “Octobet.” This intricately detailed font is influenced by the Norse legend of the fearsome sea-monster, the Kraken.
Seddon concludes with a useful section on how to use one’s fonts by digitizing them. A glossary of terms as well as an anatomy of principal font features rounds out the book. This isn’t necessarily a book geared towards children, but placed in the right hands it would no doubt be lovingly received and perhaps nurture grains of artistic creativity. A perceptive child might also enjoy reading the included designers’ biographies.
Draw Your Own Alphabets: Thirty Fonts to Scribble, Sketch, & Make your Own Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, NY.
“The Olive Fairy Book,” by Andrew Lang, illustrated by Kate Baylay; The Folio Society, $84.95, 296 pages.
In late January, author Jane Yolen - considered by many to be the ‘Hans Christian Andersen’ of her generation - spoke with me about the introduction she wrote to theFolio Society’s The Olive Fairy Book, a new edition of fairy tales originally published in 1907 by Scottish author Andrew Lang. We also talked about heroes, magic, and discovering hope through storytelling.
THE OLIVE FAIRY BOOK Reproduced by permission of the publisher, The Folio Society, London.
The Folio Society & Andrew Lang
There are twelve Fairy books, and the Olive Fairy is the eleventh in the series. As a child Yolen read many, if not all, of the Rainbow Fairy series. In the introduction to the Folio Society’s edition she highlights three of her favorite stories- ‘Jackal or Tiger,’ ‘Samba the Coward,’ and ‘Kupti and Imani.’
“I’m pretty sure I read them all as a child. I was one of those childhood readers who, once I found something that I loved, I would seek out everything that was related to it.” The Olive Fairy Book includes all the elements necessary for riveting reading - heroic princes, wise fairies, talking animals, evil trolls, and witches. While being a prolific writer of children’s novels and poetry, Lang was recognized as a leading authority on world folklore and mythology.
Bound elegantly in olive green cloth, this edition of The Olive Fairy is itself a work of art, featuring an Art Deco frontispiece and bright gold illustrations by British artist Kate Baylay. Inside, readers will find more visual feasts- twelve full-color illustrations and thirteen black and white drawings.
Yolen discussed the era that inspired the artwork, and why it is wholly appropriate for this edition. “This book was published originally in 1907, which is when arts and crafts, art nouveau and art deco all come together.”
Yet as beautiful as these pictures are, this edition is perhaps most appropriate for older readers. “I think the pictures in this book are exquisite. But they’re also not for children. They’re very sexy, very dark; some are quite violent. It’s exquisite bookmaking and of course the Folio Society is known for that. And the price reflects that; it’s for collectors. You can get the edition in paperback for very little money, but the point of this kind of book is that it’s an art object.” If a collector wishes to acquire the entireRainbow Fairy series, The Folio Society is issuing all twelve of the books, each similarly designed and illustrated by a contemporary artist. The Olive Fairy Book is the tenth to be published.
THE OLIVE FAIRY BOOK Copyright © 2013 by Kate Baylay. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, The Folio Society, London.
At least once a summer for the past twenty years Yolen has visited the gravesite of Andrew Lang in St. Andrews, Scotland, partly because his work played a significant role in her development as a writer. “He was one of the most important ones [to me.] And I happen to have a house there. When writers visit, I’ll take them to the grave. Or if I’m on my own I’ll go. It isn’t that I’m genuflecting at his grave, it just happens to be a lovely grave with a beautiful Celtic cross on it.”
In a classic example of serendipity, Yolen was unaware of the writer’s presence in the town before settling there with her late husband, David Stemple. “I didn’t even know about the connection when I first moved there. My husband was a professor of computer science, and took his second sabbatical at St. Andrews.” (Now she spends her summers there, and returns to her home in western Massachusetts each winter.) After some poking around, Yolen found a chapel with a plaque dedicated to Andrew Lang. “I discovered that Lang was buried on the cathedral grounds. It was a hunt.”
In November 2012, Yolen was the 22nd person and the first woman to deliver the annual Andrew Lang Lecture at the university, which was also celebrating the centennial of Lang’s death. “Every academic in Cambridge has lectured here. The month after I was born, in March 1939, an Oxford professor named J.R.R Tolkien gave the lecture, which became the iconic essay on fairy stories - and really changed my life as a writer. So St. Andrews asked me, and I said, ‘How can I follow in these footsteps?’ As I said to the audience, ‘Here I am, walking in Tolkien’s shoes, who walked in Lang’s shoes -- why not give me a ring and point me towards Modor?’”
To continue reading about The Olive Fairy Book, read my full review at Literary Features Syndicate!
“Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”
Thornwillow, a New York-based private press, and Montblanc, the European maker of writing instruments and timepieces, have joined forces to celebrate the forthcoming presidential inauguration. A pop-up shop featuring their wares will open January 18 in the lobby of the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C., where visitors can put fine pen to fine paper: use a Montblanc to write a letter on Thornwillow stationery to President Obama, and the St. Regis butlers will deliver it to the White House for you.
Of course, you may also choose to shop. As part of the inauguration celebration, Thornwillow has issued A Presidential Miscellany, a limited edition, letterpress-printed compendium of anecdotes, facts, and figures relating to presidential history, edited by Lewis Lapham. They’ll also sell a special edition of President Obama’s first inaugural address and American-themed letterpress stationery. Montblanc will showcase limited edition fountain pens from its “America’s Signatures for Freedom” collection, a series that pays tribute to America’s founding fathers, as well as leather goods and accessories.
The Presidential Miscellany is available online for pre-order in both a standard edition in wrapper for $40 and a half-leather edition signed by Lapham and limited to 150 copies for $400. It will also be available at Thornwillow’s Library Gallery at the St. Regis in New York City.
English: Thomas Bodley, the founder of Bodleian Library of Oxford. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“Sir, as touching your Catalogue, which you writ for me in London, I should have little reason to think to find it in perfection, considering then your troubles. But my desire is only now, than in making anew, you would take the pains to do it by the books themselves, and that very exactly and deliberately. For I do find every day many errors in the former, of sundry sorts.” (Feb 5 1602)
“The very first impression, that men shall have had upon the sight of your Catalogue, will be it that shall give credit or discredit to the Library: because the Appendix perhaps will either not be bought, or not perused after. The general conceit as well of other nations, as of our own at home, of the Library store, is so great, that they imagine in a manner, there is nothing wanting in it: wherein when they find their expectation greatly frustrated, I doubt the credit of the place will be hardly recovered, with many after Appendixes. And hereof I pray you consider very thoroughly. I am further to tell you from Mr. Norton [King’s printer and bookseller], that there are many books forgotten to be put in the Catalogue, which are in the Library, of which I willed him to send me some for example, which I have here enclosed, and know most assuredly they are in the Library.” (Oct 26 1604)
This set is consigned by Detroit bookseller John King, and, says the auction house, it “appears to be the only complete version in which a treasure trove of photogravures with Curtis’ stylized signature exists.” This unique suite includes 722 large-format photogravures on Japan tissue, with 111 signed plates in Folios I, IV and V. The accompanying 20 text volumes contain an additional 1,505 photogravures, 4 maps and 2 diagrams, and were produced by Lauriat from Curtis’ original copper plates.
We asked John King about his experience with Curtis’ work.
RRB: You’ve been in the book trade for more than forty years -- is this the most beautiful photobook you’ve ever handled?
JK: We’ve handled Brett Weston portfolios, original Ansel Adams, Fox Talbots, Albums of Civil War carte-de-visite views, but this is by far the most important piece.
RRB: Do you collect personally (apart from your business interests)?
JK: I collect some modern American poetry but just reading editions only. Plus, I collect images and other representations of people reading and/or selling books. I try not to compete with our customers, though. I do enjoy handling fine and important items, and while owning them is fleeting it still satisfies my soul.
RRB: How long have you owned this set?
JK: The Curtis set was a multi-year project for me, and I feel fortunate to be its owner.
RRB: Why is now the time to part with it?
JK: Though I was mesmerized with each and every photogravure, and if I could I would have kept this to the end of my life, my job is bookselling and that’s what I’ve done for over 4 decades. I need to pass this one on to someone who can bestow on it the care and love it deserves.
RRB: Will you come to NY to attend the auction in person?
JK: I’d like to go but I can’t commit to it. Being an active bookseller, there might be a library to purchase that might get in the way. There is often a fine line between buying and selling great books.
RRB: Edward Curtis is a fascinating character -- a man obsessed by the multi-year, multi-volume project to document the ‘vanishing’ race of Native Americans. What do you think of the fact that he died virtually unknown and penniless?
JK: Just like a great many accomplished artists of the past, their work preceded their deserved compensation after death. Curtis deserved accolades while he was still alive, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.
To read more about this auction, or to register to bid go to: http://www.swanngalleries.com/full.cgi?index_id=559&sch_id=581
Unsurprisingly, Madonna’s 1992 book, Sex, topped the charts once again. Stephen King (as himself and as Richard Bachman) and Nora Roberts are the other leaders. Thereafter follows quite an eclectic group of authors/books who are apparently “sought after:” Lynne Cheney’s 1981 novel, Sisters, which the author refuses to reprint (she also denies that it contains lesbian content) is #15; Marie Simmons’ Pancakes A to Z, a 1997 cookbook, is #71; and Edward Matunas’ Practical Gunsmithing is #59. (Strangely the latter is not the only gunsmithing title on the list; James Virgil Howe’s The Modern Gunsmith is #78.)
One of the questions this list evokes is why some of these titles are out-of-print. Cameron Crowe’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High (#11) would be awesome re-issued. Surely a reprint of Cecil Beaton’s The Glass of Fashion (#52) would be heartily embraced by a certain milieu. Johnny Cash’s Man in Black (#7) was in Bookfinder’s top ten last year, too. The 1983 Zondervan edition of Man in Black shown on Amazon.com’s page says “More Than 700,000 Copies in Print.” Where the heck are they all?! Bookfinder’s report makes it clear that the market wants more.
Bookfinder has issued this annual report for ten years. See the whole list here: http://www.bookfinder.com/books/bookfinder_report_2012/.
Astor was a legendary figure in New York society until her death in 2007. She was primarily a collector of decorative arts, furniture, and jewelry, a piece of which is a jewel-encrusted lion brooch (estimate $20,000-30,000) that evokes the iconography of the NYPL, an institution the Astors have supported for more than a century.
But was she a book collector? Holly Hill boasts this lovely library (above), and yet there appears to be only one lot (#67) consisting of “A Very Good Reading Library of Standard Authors Mostly 19th Century.” There are approximately 711 volumes in the lot, and the asking price is $3,500-5,000. Not bad. A pre-fab library of classics mostly bound in morocco or calf with a charming provenance. Later in the auction, fifteen lots of miscellaneous books sorted by subject (Reference, Cooking, Dogs, New York, etc.) turn up, with low estimates of $100-500 for lots of one hundred-plus books each.
There are some book objects of interest. A French earthenware vase in the form of a stack of books (seen here at left; estimate $1,000-1,500) and a painted book box (estimate $100-200) and a few historical documents crop up too, but the evidence suggests that Brooke was not much of a book collector even if she had a beautiful library. Still, for the right antiquarian bookseller or book collector, her books might yield surprising opportunities -- association copies from society artists, or tucked-in treasures related to this Old New York family...
A few hours before dusk last Thursday in Archer City’s town square, the parking spaces lining the courthouse and the perimeter of shops were at near capacity, yet there was no one in sight. I made a beeline for Building Four of Booked Up--the site of Friday’s auction--and inquired about registration and the meet-and-greet. I introduced myself to the auctioneer, and he suggested I head over to the screening of The Last Picture Show that was already well underway; registration would have to wait until the following morning. After fumbling my way into the darkened theater, I grabbed a plate of picked-over BBQ, assorted fixins, a beer, and proceeded to prop up the back wall of the Royal Theater.
As the familiar images flickered past, thoughts of the screening as a bookend for a celebratory yet difficult weekend for Larry McMurtry and his guests entered my mind. I imagined three of the four buildings empty, the perplexed townspeople and their relationship with the author, and all the complexities within his own work and its perception out in the world.
Not that I hadn’t come without my own baggage as well. I had been a seasonal regular at Booked Up for well over ten years, and I was disheartened to see the entirety of the stock broken up, though I could certainly understand McMurtry’s reasons for doing so. I had simply grown accustomed to my habits and thoughts about and within the shop, looking forward to future trips and reflecting back on good finds, and frankly, I was a little torn-up about the whole darn thing.
The next morning, Building Two trumped a cup of coffee in order to get registered for bidding. Outside the auction venue, a line of about twenty-five people had begun to curl outside the door with about fifteen minutes to go. Soon the appointed time came, and McMurtry appeared to make a short opening statement. In a matter of quick sentences, he managed to express the tenacity of the attendees with regards to the Texas heat, comparing them to the fish population in southern rivers adjusting to the current rise of temperatures. He then thanked his staff, the local businesses, and the residents of this small town, and we were soon underway.
The sixty or seventy chairs filling the main space were full, with additional onlookers standing in the aisles or sitting on the low shelves at the front of the store. The crowd’s enthusiasm boosted the start of the 1,400 shelf lots to be sold over the next two days, with many opening in the low hundreds and selling thereabouts. But soon enough they dipped down to a hundred or just below. Most lots had between 200-250 books each, some comprising parts of sections, with others being a hodgepodge of titles.
I began to pace about the building as shelves were steadily emptied and eventually wandered down the street to Building One, the main store that was--and will still be--open for business. McMurtry had returned and was seated at his usual outpost at the front table, holding court with a small group of devotees and journalists. It was difficult not to notice that there was a new assortment of swag positioned about: t-shirts with quotes from Lonesome Dove or Terms of Endearment, bumper stickers, and bags with the Booked Up pig, and a whole shelf of signed McMurtry books for sale; the likes of which hadn’t been welcome in these parts for years.
I headed into the garage beyond and combed through the monolithic stacks that flank the sorting tables, realizing that it had been an area I had neglected in past visits. Not being an air-conditioned space, it can take some stamina to effectively work the room. After a good hour or more, I resurfaced with three quality finds and headed to the register.
When I returned to the auction, they were heading into the hand-picked single book lots of “The McMurtry 100,” and a renewed sense of purpose and excitement filled the room. Every few lots, the bidding would ratchet up into the mid-hundreds and then settle down again. I waited for the last-minute additional added lot to come up: a 1,139-page ledger full of original manuscript erotic stories commissioned by a wealthy Oklahoma oilman with an apparent daily appetite for the sordid. Rather quickly, the bidding surpassed my self-imposed limit, and I didn’t raise my hand once, watching the lot go to bookseller Tom Congalton of Between the Covers.
After lunch, the walk-through for the upcoming lots in Building Three was the next order of business. I had spent many hours alone in these aisles, mostly poring over translated literature and fiction. Now, I really had no interest in ineffective browsing or bringing several shelves home whose individual volumes I had previously left behind. I left the building and headed to my car, retrieving three McMurtry books I had brought along should I find the courage to ask the daunting question with pen in hand. I prefaced my asking with an apology of sorts, using the notable day’s events as an excuse. He signed them all while I thanked him heartily and then beat a somewhat hasty retreat.
Returning to the auction for a spell, I decided I was about done. Successful bidders were packing up their winnings, filling boxes, and overloading their cars. Some bought a few hundred books as a keepsake, while a few hatched future bookstore plans with what they had acquired. The most successful bidders of the day were either those who had the logistics in place to deal with sheer quantity or the space to store thousands of books.
The heat had defeated my enthusiasm and the repetition my curiosity. I headed to the American Legion with some friends to escape for the remainder of the afternoon. After signing in as guests, we ordered some beers and played a few rounds of pool in the back room. Soon enough, other writers started to filter into the cool, dark space, wanting to share stories and opinions of the day’s events. Everyone offered their take, and toasts went around the table.
The bookstore and community within this small town had brought this group together years ago, kick-starting their writing lives with local stories, self-imposed isolation, and a knowing guide. I couldn’t help but think that McMurtry himself had started much the same long before with the backdrop of Archer City as his subject and muse. Where there once had been a notable absence of books but plenty of space, the sudden release of hundreds of thousands of volumes that had taken years to assemble has created rivulets of books, ideas, and people. We can now only hope for tide pools to gather elsewhere.
Photos and essay by Brandon Kennedy, an occasional artist, former bookseller, and currently works in the modern and contemporary art department at Heritage Auctions. Kennedy wrote our spring issue’s cover feature on Larry McMurtry. He lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife and son.
Guest blog by Catherine Batac Walder
I haven’t composed a handwritten fan letter in a while. I wrote two to author Maeve Binchy, and she replied to both. I was much younger when I wrote my first letter, and I must have commented that she wrote mainly about women and whined that I was disillusioned with her portrayal of men. One of her postcards is in an album back home in the Philippines. I don’t remember her exact words, but it was something along the lines of “this is real life.”
The second time I wrote to her was a few months after I first came to Europe in 2005. I wanted to visit Ireland. I wrote to Binchy about my trip, and I was bold enough to ask if I could visit her. It was a long shot (she didn’t know me, it was before Christmas, and I was visiting only for a few days), so I didn’t expect that it would happen. That she replied at all in the new year was something to be grateful for. She wrote, in part, “I am not able to meet all the people who come through Dublin. But I do send you warm wishes for 2006.”
I’ve always had trouble classifying her works. They’re not quite romance novels. In Circle of Friends, for example, good-looking Jack falls for the plain girl but still gets seduced by the beautiful woman in the end. The professor in The Evening Class has a troubled marriage. His wife is unbearable, and it should be rather romantic for him to find Sigñora, who is very understanding. But there is something about Binchy’s writing that makes you question the happy ending and instead mull over issues of morality and guilt, even as you turn the last page. Sometimes you fall in love (Light a Penny Candle) with her characters or hate (Firefly Summer) them with a passion. Binchy’s humor and study of the human character are a constant in her novels, as are universal themes. Even though I lived in a different country, it was as if she had written about my next-door neighbor.
At a time when I shifted from classics to contemporary authors, I found myself collecting Binchy. I was selective about reading female authors at that time but anything about my beloved Ireland was an exception. Binchy was a guilty pleasure to an extent but one I would readily share with others. I had introduced her to a few female friends who still read her up to now. She wrote of what she knew, so her stories were real and for someone who wanted to go beyond the thick forests, glass lakes, and lush countryside of Ireland; she was my free ticket. I’m one of her millions of readers who are saddened to see the last of these books. Maeve Binchy died after a short illness on July 30. She was 72.
--Catherine Batac Walder is a UK-based freelance writer. She has previously written about Ex-Libris copies, the Oxford Literary Festival, and Sherlock Holmes for FB&C.
The card with the surprising signature was discovered by a Humes HS librarian while weeding the collection years later. Heritage is offering the card along with a copy of the book. The current bid is $2,400, but the auction house believes it will reach $4,000 at least.
This item reminded me of the library slip signed by J.D. Salinger that realized $1,314 at Heritage last year. A fun find in both cases, and the kind of evidence of readership and reading habits (of the rich & famous, or otherwise) that won’t exist for future scholars or collectors.
Holabird-Kagin’s 2-day, 1700-lot auction--dubbed the “Hot August Auction”--will be held at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno, Nevada. It will be heavy on Nevada history, Old West items, saloon and brothel-related material, railroadiana, mineral and gold samples, coins, and a selection of printed broadsides. One of the particularly handsome broadsides is a full-color sign advertising Reno Brewing Company’s Sierra Lager. The lithographic broadside, seen above, depicts the Reno brewery that remained open until 1948. It is estimated to sell for $15,000-25,000.
The signed illustration shows Spider-man sparring with the Hulk. It was formerly part of the Shamus Modern Masterworks Collection. Martin Shamus owned a popular comics shop and had the opportunity to obtain many pieces of original comic book art directly from the artists soon after publication in the late eighties and early nineties.
In that special group are: a signed 1933 illustrated edition of Stein’s Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas; an 1810 edition of Robert Southey’s Curse of Kehama; a London edition of Thomas Wolfe’s The Web and the Rock; Rulka Langer’s 1942 book, The Mermaid and the Messerschmitt; and Elmore Leonard’s The Bounty Hunters, in dust-wrapper. Swinburne, Trollope, and James appear more than once, but it is certainly an eclectic catalogue.
In describing how the McMurtry 100 took shape, auctioneer Michael Addison has written that McMurtry offered to select the titles to get bidders interested in the larger auction:
“Why don’t I just pick out around 100 books to sell individually just as a sampling for the bidders of the types of books we have in the shelf-lots” McMurtry says.
Nodding in agreement, I reply, “Well, you’ve been a book-scout for 50 years, so people will know that any books that you pick out are rare or unusual....”
“I’ll pick out few for you to play with” he says with a grin.
Thirty minutes later, I see a stack of books on the table of building #2, and I begin to lot them individually. After numbering them, I walk over to Booked Up building #1 where I find Mr. McMurtry and say, “Well, there are 90 books there. I’m going to call them ‘The McMurtry 90’ -- how about that?”
“You want me to find 10 more? Let me find 10 more and make it an even 100,” McMurtry says.
I reply, “Even better. A nice round number.”
It only took him a few moments to put another 10 books on the table in the other building, and the “McMurtry 100” was complete.
Richard J. Ring, head curator and librarian of the Watkinson Library at Trinity College, has taken this idea to a whole new level. Last year, he implemented creative fellowships in special collections for undergraduates. Five students receive a $1,500 stipend for one semester, in which they produce a creative project based on or inspired by materials held in the Watkinson Library. The project can be art, writing, performance, film -- virtually any medium.
As Ring says in the promotional video they produced to promote the fellowship, “My hope is to set a trend nationally of special collections encouraging their undergraduates to use the collections in creative ways rather than academic ways.”
One of last year’s fellows composed a piece of original music based on a French manuscript from 1833 that contains songs and hand-drawn illustrations. Another fellow printed a chapbook of poetry, having carved the font out of linoleum blocks.
Take a look at the video -- you’ll be inspired by higher education (for once)!
That isn’t happening fast enough for some dealers. Catherine Petruccione of Old Scrolls Book Shop in Stanley, NY, said, “It seems odd that they are way behind the mark in ‘trying’ to come up with an alternate solution.” She said she also worries that this is a precursor to raising the monthly web-hosting rates. “As it stood, ChrisLands was a pretty good bargain. But with the credit card option disabled, not so much of one anymore.” ChrisLands has been touted as an affordable e-commerce solution for indie booksellers.
Carla Wykoff of Bent River Books & Music in Cottonwood, AZ, said, “We are looking into alternatives--there are several--tomfolio, bibliopolis, and our personal favorite, forseeingsolutions.” She said the ChrisLands decision sparked an extensive discussion on booksellers’ listservs and that “quite a few” booksellers have switched to a new online host.
A California-based bookseller said, “In the first heat of the moment, a LOT of people (including me) threatened to close our ChrisLands sites, but of course that means either giving up our own site or spending quite a lot of money establishing an alternative.”
Some booksellers have also raised the idea that this move essentially channels most sales through the AbeBooks marketplace. Ever since AbeBooks acquired ChrisLands in 2008, booksellers have measured the “inherent conflict of interest between ABE’s genuine desire to aid independent booksellers and ABE’s corporate self-interest in channeling as many transactions as possible through the ABE site,” as one dealer put it.
When asked if the new restriction was prompted by Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance regulations, Richard Davies of AbeBooks said he was “unable to comment.” He added, “However, the change was not made to channel sales through AbeBooks. ChrisLands continues to operate as an independent subsidiary of AbeBooks.”
View the film’s trailer here.
Above: Eric Carle in his studio holding The Very Hungry Caterpillar book. Photo by Motoko Inoue.
When I got home, I did a little quick research on the books, and it turns out that Anderson had considered animating the reading scenes and so commissioned animations of all six books, later used separately in a supplementary video to promote the film. You can view them here.
Image: Focus Features.
Paris was plastered with paper -- creating what MAM refers to as an outdoor museum for the masses. The posters themselves were “objects of intense fascination, even mania, and a new term was invented to describe it: affichomanie (poster mania). They were so popular that collectors stole them from billboards almost as soon as they were pasted up...” The posters remain popular to collectors today, filling vintage poster auctions at Swann Galleries and Christie’s and cropping up at Heritage Auctions too.
The exhibit runs through September 9, 2012 and then heads to the Dallas Museum of Art from Oct. 14, 2012-Jan. 20, 2013.
According to the FAQs on the auction’s informational website, DawnPowellDiaries.com, Page states, “The advancement of social media now permits a seller to bypass the auction houses and reach an interested audience without incurring prohibitive commission fees. Moreover, I like the fact that I can control the sale of these documents and make sure that they find a proper and respectful home.” Page has owned the diaries for almost twenty years. He told the Plain Dealer that he purchased “her entire papers for about the price of an automobile” from Powell’s cousin and literary executor.
Powell was born in Ohio but relocated to New York’s Greenwich Village, where she spent the rest of her life. She wrote hundreds of short stories and more than a dozen novels in the mid-twentieth century. A revival of her work occurred in the 1990s, when Page edited and published her diaries and letters wrote a biography about her.
Terms of the forthcoming sale include ensuring that a full copy of all manuscripts “is available to scholars and to the public, through a library or research center.” The diaries are currently housed at the Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library, where interested buyers can view them by appointment. The buyer will not own the copyright to the material; that will be retained by the Estate of Dawn Powell.
Interested bidders who can agree to Page’s terms and initial bid level are asked to contact him directly through his website. A legal process will narrow bidders by July 1, and final bids will be accepted until July 15, 6:00 P.M., EST. One final caveat: “The highest bid will not necessarily claim the Diaries: the owner reserves the right to place them in what he considers the most appropriate hands.”
Images courtesy of Tim Page.
Thanks to Jeremy Dibbell/Philobiblos for the tip.
As I considered catalogues to review today, I was thinking about a comment I read on Twitter yesterday. I’ve been following tweets from the 53rd Annual Preconference of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Sections of the Association of College and Research Libraries in San Diego, CA, this week. The three most prominent voices I’ve heard are Molly Schwartzburg @bibliomolly of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia; Ian Kahn @luxmentis of Lux Mentis Rare Books; and John Overholt @john_overholt of Harvard University Library. (The hashtag for the conference is: #rbms12)
Yesterday one of them remarked that booksellers’ catalogues have to be more varied to attract buyers, and he cited the most recent Between the Covers catalogue as an example. I checked my desk for the most recent BTC and found #176. I wanted to see for myself what the tweeter was referring to, and I did. BTC routinely produces excellent catalogues, and what they offer is variety: books, art, ephemera, manuscripts. From an illustrated broadside, “One Day Marriage Certificate” of Richard Brautigan ($3,500; sold) to original dust jacket art for Carl Van Vechten’s novel, Spider Boy ($12,500) to an uncorrected long galley of the first American edition of Sylvia Plath’s Crossing the Water ($2,000) to the more traditional first editions of modern literature. There are also fabulously fun ‘book’ finds like Confessions of a Lesbian Prostitute from 1965 ($225) and a first edition, limited issue, of Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love ($1,200).
Not only does this make for fun reading, but the bookseller reaches a wide audience of collectors, with a broad set of interests.
(Previously reviewed: BTC #169)
The San Francisco Center for the Book is hosting an ambitious summer exhibition, featuring the work of more than forty book artists from the collection of the organization’s co-founder Mary Austin. The name of the exhibition is apt: Exploding the Codex “explores the theater of the book and storytelling through structure.” Which is to say, many of these books aren’t contained within the physical form we often associate with books--folios, quartos, octavos.
Curated by Daisy Carlson, the exhibit allows viewers to appreciate the size, shape, and dimension of each book, and ask themselves how that form adds meaning to the information being presented. Each piece celebrates the drama of book art: the wild, the abstract, the secretive.
The twelve-page, accordion-style book is set in 17th Century Print typeface and illustrated with original pieces by Simpson as well as sixteenth-century historical prints. The edition of sixty was printed on a Vandercook on Rives BFK Tan mouldmade paper by Dee Cutrona and hand-bound in gold-stamped clamshell boxes in Asahi silk by Bruce Kavin. The “Bronze Diamond” pastepaper endpapers were done by Claire Maziarczyk.
A book fit for royalty with a whimsical spirit, for $350.
I doubt I would have been satisfied continuing to sell five and ten dollar books, and doubt even more I ever could have made any kind of living doing that [...] I certainly wouldn’t have had the confidence to buy a bookstore without the seminar. Or to know what to do with a catalogue once it was printed, even assuming I finished one. And being, like many booksellers, predisposed to shyness and independence, I doubt I would have found a foot in the door to meeting other dealers that CABS provided. It is probably not too much to say that CABS provided me the vocation I am now pursuing.
Here’s where the “help” comes in: the Bowler Press is using the crowd-funding site Indiegogo to reach out to subscribers and other lovers of good print. Currently, donations amount to just over $8,300 of their $20,000 goal. There are “perks” for donations of $10 and up, so if you’re an Austen fan without the $1,500 needed to purchase the standard edition, you can still help the press achieve its goal and come away with a letterpress-printed invitation to the Netherfield Ball.
To see and hear more about this project, watch as Morrison explains:
Helen Younger of Aleph-Bet Books, who specializes in antiquarian children’s literature, told me she sold twelve Sendak books and prints the week he died. “That’s never happened before,” she said. “The reaction to Sendak’s death was definitely out of the ordinary.”
At Between the Covers, a general antiquarian bookshop, Dan Gregory reported that they sold three “low priced” Sendak books immediately following his death, but that didn’t beat the four “moderately priced” books they sold back in January. Gregory explained, “Author deaths usually do create a sales bump of one kind or another (as can media mentions while the author is still alive), but the bump usually is greater for figures who’ve been somewhat neglected or overlooked for some time.”
So book collectors could gamble on octagenarian or nonagenarian authors, particularly those who experienced some critical acclaim or won an award at some point in their careers. But, as Gregory noted, you shouldn’t bank on the bump. It isn’t usually large, and “doing so would be pretty creepy, sleazy, and somehow disrespectful.”
The letter’s current owner, a Louisiana resident and himself an avid collector of historical and political materials related to Louisiana who wishes to remain anonymous, said he believes that Dr. Rickels had absolutely no concept of the monetary value of the items, and that she would not have cared about that anyway, as the real value to her lay in the memories that the items represented. “I don’t even think that she knew that the letter still existed. It was tucked amongst a lifetime of other collected correspondence with items from the same era. By the time A Confederacy of Dunces was published I am sure that she had forgotten about the letter and that it had never even been removed from the drawer were it was placed in 1963.”
The lot at Sotheby’s, estimated at $10,000-15,000, contains not only the autograph signed letter but a first edition of Confederacy in its dust jacket, Patricia Rickels’ copy of The New Orleans Review from 1978 containing the first published excerpt of the novel, and a “compliments slip” from Toole’s mother. There are also ten children’s books previously owned by Toole (seen above), including three with inscriptions. Said the current owner, “These were very important to Dr. Rickels because Toole gave these to her son Gordon in 1960. Gordon was killed in an auto accident in 1983, just as Confederacy was at its apex. So the books were both a blessing - a reminder of a special time - but also painful because of the tragically early deaths of her friend Toole and son Gordon.” He added, “I simply do not have the same sentimental attachment to the Toole items ... Ultimately it was a very difficult decision to sell the items, but one that is easier knowing that the items will be appreciated and valued.”
Since the novel won the Pulitzer in 1981, and given the scarcity of Toole material, that auction estimate may prove conservative. There is hope that Hollywood types, some of whom have been trying to make a film adaptation of Confederacy for years, might join the bidding. Just last week, actor Zach Galifianakis was reported as trying to jumpstart a Confederacy movie.
The current owner plans to follow the auction from Louisiana.
Letter image courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Books image courtesy of a private collector.
Specialists on 17th century books and book arts may enjoy viewing Maureen E. Mulvihill’s illustrated exhibition review of the Rubens show at the Ringling Museum, Sarasota, Florida (February 17th-June 3rd, 2012). The review (12 pp, with a Gallery of Images from the installation) is published in Seventeenth-Century News (Spring-Summer, 2012). The Ringling’s permanent collection includes five Rubens canvases (the Louvre, two). The show presents selections from Ringling’s Rubens collection and many fine prints of the master’s work (engravings, woodcuts) on loan from the Royal Museum of Fine Art, Antwerp.
In addition to the show’s spectacular installation (4 large galleries) and its creative multimedia approach (visual art, printed books, electronic exhibit, original ‘didactic’ constructions), the show wisely brings attention to the painter’s successful collaboration with book publishers in seventeenth-century Holland, most especially the Plantin Press at Antwerp, for which Rubens produced frontispieces, ornate title-pages, printers’ devices, and other book arts. (Dr Mulvihill’s essay includes embedded links on these subjects.) Likewise, the show highlights Rubens’s (prescient) advocacy of intellectual property rights: he established a copyright for prints of his paintings which circulated in Holland, England, France, and Spain.
The festival opens on Friday, May 25 and runs through June 10. You can download a program guide or ticket information here.
“Contrappunto,” the official festival poster (seen here), was designed by Linda Elksnin.
They auction, to be held on Aug. 10-11, will be run by Addison and Sarova Auctioneers. In addition to 1,400 shelf lots (each lot containing about 150 books, mostly hardcover), they’ll be selling off The McMurtry 100--one hundred titles personally selected by McMurtry to be auctioned individually. “Some were chosen as books that Mr. McMurtry, through 50 years of book-hunting, has scarcely seen (such as a book by Dostoyevsky’s daughter). Some are both rare and valuable,” say the auctioneers. The list is not yet available.
The director, Michael Addison, offers an overview of the lots here, adding that “Larry McMurtry will be on-hand,” plus there’ll be music, BBQ, and cold beer. “Don’t be the dealer or collector who misses this!”
See the auction preview & sale schedule here.
An exhibition of this breadth and depth is no slapdash affair. I asked the exhibition’s curator, Chris Loker, a few questions about this multi-year undertaking.
RRB: Tell me about your career in children’s books.
CL: As a long time rare book enthusiast, I began working in the antiquarian book world in 2002 in San Francisco, when I joined my husband, John Windle, in his business, John Windle Antiquarian Books. After a 25-year career in the corporate world in Human Resources, I was energized by the dramatic change of working full-time with rare books. In 2004 we decided to expand John’s business into a new area ~ children’s literature ~ and my bookshop, Children’s Book Gallery, was born in 2006.
Although I’m now on hiatus from my business to devote my full efforts to the Grolier Club’s inspirational children’s book exhibition project, my shop’s focus has been on antiquarian children’s books from 1750 to 1950 that represent the best of the marketplace, both in rarity and condition. I’ve focused primarily on books of charm, character and color for young children and adolescents. This has included alphabets, nursery rhymes, fairy tales, pop-up and movable books, grammar books, books of education and virtue, as well as traditional picture books and storybooks.
RRB: How and when did this project get started?
CL: We got started on this landmark project two years ago, in 2010. One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature is an exhibition of one hundred renowned children’s books published from 1600 to 2000. This exhibition will be mounted in New York City at the Grolier Club, America’s oldest bibliophile society, in late 2014. To give you a frame of reference, The Grolier Club has organized just four “Grolier 100” book exhibitions in its 130-year history. One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature is the fifth in this canon of exhibitions.
The Grolier Club had planned for some years to organize this children’s “Grolier 100” exhibition. In 2010 I proposed curating a children’s book exhibition at the Club, and was asked if I would take on this broader-scope event. Since that time I’ve worked with an international advisory committee of ten children’s book scholars and collectors to select the exhibition’s “one hundred famous books,” and to borrow those books (along with historically important ephemeral items and related objects) from twenty lending institutions and collectors. The tasks that remain before the show goes up in December, 2014 are to write and publish the 300-page exhibition catalogue, and to organize the display of the one hundred celebrated books and beautiful related objects that we hope will bring joy to all exhibition viewers and catalogue readers. I also will continue my fundraising activities to support this important exhibition event.
RRB: Are you still working on the exhibition catalogue, and how is that proceeding?
CL: Yes, the exhibition catalogue is being written “as I type.” This exciting and exacting process began in January of this year, and is proceeding very well. I expect to have a draft of the catalogue finished by December of this year. Then members of our advisory team and I will edit the draft, and send the catalogue manuscript to be designed and printed by the well-known New York book designer, Jerry Kelly, in 2013. The catalogue, which will have a full-page bibliographic entry and a full-page, color photograph of each of the one hundred books, will be printed in 2014 to be ready when the exhibition is unveiled on December 10th of that year.
RRB: As Joel Silver pointed out in one of our recent issues, The Grolier Club “One Hundred” exhibitions have become overnight checklists for any great collections in a particular area. How do you expect the list will affect the market?
CL: This is hard to comment on, Rebecca, since the marketplace is always so tough to anticipate. Certainly we hope that One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature will be well received by the collecting community. And I agree with Joel Silver that the previous four “Grolier 100” exhibitions have become classic checklists for collectors, as well as key bibliographic references in their fields. My belief is that a major exhibition of this kind usually has an energizing effect on the collecting marketplace. And in this case, I hope it becomes a stimulus for collectors to consider literature for children with the same excitement and commitment that we see in the collection of literature for adults. It would be wonderful, as well, if this exhibition inspires new collectors to enter the field to experience the joy of collecting fine works for children.
The exhibit is scheduled to open in December of 2014. We’ll be following along till then, checking back in with Chris every now and again to watch this major exhibition and catalogue take shape.
He came across Repton’s work at the antiquarian book fair in New York in the early days of his collecting. Tired from walking up and down the aisles, he asked a bookseller if he could rest a moment on a seat in her booth. “I was sitting there looking at landscape and gardening materials and was struck by this gorgeous book unlike anything I had ever seen before,” he said. Small had in his hands a reproduction of one of Repton’s famed “red books,” one-of-a-kind volumes the designer presented to clients with descriptions and renderings of his proposed designs. “It was one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever see in my life,” Small said. He bought the book and now proudly claims ownership of the second largest collection of original Repton volumes in the United States. He admitted with a laugh that the leading collector only has four; Small has three.As of Friday, perhaps the leading collector will have seven.
He added, “All the materials for this work add to the layers of meaning...some of them nobody will see. The Chinese money that backs the credit cards isn’t visible when the house is assembled and the back door is shut. You can see the engravings of the U.S. Treasury on the $10 bills that border the base, but the flip side of them is pasted down, so nobody sees Alexander Hamilton’s portrait, the torch of Liberty, and ‘We the People’ in pink....In an earlier state the portrait side was face up, but in the end I decided it looked better with the greenbacks up, and the treasury building relating to the house of cards.”
Minsky began construction on March 1, when he posted this image of his materials on his Facebook page. There you can click on each of the photos and read along as the house takes shape and also peek ‘inside’ the back door, where, Minsky points out, you can see that the building on the back of the 100 Yuan note is similar to the treasury building on our bills.
Pop Delusions makes its institutional debut in an exhibit titled Beaten & Bound at the Lubeznick Center for the Arts in Michigan City, IN, on May 26. A reception will be held on June 1, and the exhibit will run through August 26.
Photos courtesy of Richard Minsky.
- Richard Minsky Collects Thomas Watson Ball (finebooksmagazine.com)
- Interview with Minsky (finebooksmagazine.com)
“As far as I know this is the first museum based on a novel,” [Pamuk] said. “But it’s not that I wrote a novel that turned out to be successful and then I thought of a museum. No, I conceived the novel and the museum together.”Don’t miss the slideshow of images from the NYT.
In the image seen here, a full-page border incorporates medallions with profile heads, landscape vignettes, and a coat of arms. The illumination is thought to be the work of Florentine artist Giovanni di Giuliano Boccardi, known as Boccardino il vecchio (1460-1529), or of his followers.
The chunky Hebrew manuscript is bound in a mid sixteenth-century gold-tooled goatskin binding (seen above), featuring a coat of arms, a unicorn, and a rabbit. The text--in black, red, blue, and gold--is comprised of prayers for everyday rituals, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkoth.
The Mahzor was purchased in Frankfurt before 1908 and subsequently owned by Edmond Bicart-See and his family in Paris. It has never been publicly exhibited. The manuscript goes to auction on May 11 in Paris and is expected to bring $540,000-800,000.
Photos © Christie’s Images Limited 2012
You can read more about the fascinating history of The North American Indian--and how it plunged its creator into debt and obscurity--in a feature we ran last year.
Part I of the sale includes printed books up to 1800. Among the highlights are a second edition of Andreas Vesalius’ Fabrica (1555), the first edition of Hippocrates’ Works (1525), and John of Gaddesden’s Rosa Anglica (1502), pictured above and below. It is the first printed medical book written by an Englishman and the oldest book in the collection.
Part II of the BMI sale will occur on July 26 and will contain the remaining printed books, bound pamphlets, and manuscripts dating from 1670-1920, as well as medical artifacts and surgical instruments.
You can view the catalogue for Part I here.
- Vesalius’ Personal, Annotated Copy of De Humani Corporis Fabrica Found (finebooksmagazine.com)
He recently told MU Libraries’ Connections newsletter about the new book, set to be published by Knopf next year:
The latest book, Common Bond, is what I am loosely describing as a cultural history of paper and papermaking. It is a story that covers two thousand years but, consistent with the way I do things, is pretty much an exercise in storytelling. I go where the good stories are. In this case, I traveled to China and spent three weeks along the Burma Road in Yunnan Province, because that’s where papermaking started. I went to Japan, because that’s the only place I could meet with a Living National Treasure papermaker. I went to the National Security Agency, a supersecret facility in Landover, Md., because that’s the only place I could see millions of high security documents pulped. That book took me six years to research and write. And like the earlier ones, I enjoyed it enormously.You can read the entire article by going here and clicking on Winter 2012 issue.
A few months ago, in preparation for this exhibition, filmmaker Chiara Ambrosio created a series of five short animated films about Victoria’s life with her prince. The visuals are very cool -- animated clay figures, paper dolls, original drawings -- with a clear narration of the queen’s diary for each event in her life with Albert: the first meeting, time apart, courtship, proposal, and marriage. Each film runs 4-5 minutes. The first can be seen here:
Did anyone else know that calligrapher and type designer Hermann Zapf held a professorship at RIT from 1977 to 1987? Or that the Strong Museum holds “the largest and most comprehensive public collection of video and electronic games (35,000 and counting), and game-related historical materials in the United States”?
I was also excited to see/hear this interview with Curator Steven K. Galbraith and Assistant Curator Amelia Hugill-Fontanel of RIT’s Cary Collection of graphic arts. It just so happens that in our current issue of FB&C, we have a short piece on printers’ medals, and the Cary Collection houses one of the largest collections of them in the country.
It’s wonderful to see some overlooked bookish sites get their due. Where to next? According to a press release, Literary Tourist intends to undertake other Literary Tourist City Audits™ that can help local tourism officials attract “a new, unexplored consumer market:” book lovers.
According to Abe’s Richard Davies, a pilot project with 600 Misses (and Mssrs.) Lonelyhearts has been running for the past six months. “Ideal for lonesome librarians, avid readers who don’t get out much, and bibliophiles devoted to their book collections,” proclaims the website.
The results: Two couples already married! Yes, Mr. Defoe, a garbageman from Cleveland, hooked up with Ms. Spillane, a sausage factory accountant from Brooklyn. A Ms. Michener from Seattle found a book-loving partner in Mr. Blyton, a Los Angeles-based puppet designer.
If only Abe had thought to launch this program for Valentine’s Day! But no, April Fool’s Day seems much more appropriate...
Here’s a video posted to that site, in which Liam McGahern, president of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of Canada, explains his organization’s opposition to changes underway at Library and Archives Canada.
I had nearly given up on the question of the original manuscript until a year ago when I interviewed Lynda Martin, the sister of Toole’s best friend in high school. “The manuscript?” she said in a soft southern accent. “Yes, well I have it in my closet here at home.” I nearly dropped the phone as she explained Toole’s mother had given it as a gift to her brother after the novel was published. When her brother passed away in 2008, she acquired it. It had a few penned-in edits, she explained, but not drastic revisions. “I don’t know what to do with it, really” she said. “I considered selling it at auction.” Christie’s estimated its value up to $20,000, if deemed authentic. She hadn’t called Sotheby’s yet. “Please” I begged, “just hold on to it. I’m on my way down.” ...[Read more at The Millions.]
The current exhibit at the Grolier Club, Ray Safford: Rare Bookman, is a collection of Safford’s business correspondence and photographs, as well his personal collection of bookplates and English and American literature (Carroll, Twain, Stevenson). It is the collection of Grolier member Mark D. Tomasko of New York City. When asked how he became interested in Safford, Tomasko said, “I met Ray Safford’s daughter in the 1970s, and over a period of years purchased his papers and most of his remaining books. Ray Safford was my introduction to the rare book world.” Tomasko added, “In his collection, and in the exhibit, are various books inscribed (or with drawings) by Scribner authors and illustrators he knew, as well as letters, and some, such as Oliver Herford and A. B. Frost, were good friends.”
One of the more intriguing bits of Safford’s story--relayed in the exhibit and the exhibit catalogue--was his sale of a perfect Shakespeare First Folio (now at the Huntington Library) to the beautiful Miss Emilie Grigsby for $12,500 in 1903. Grigsby, pictured here at left, was the mistress of transit tycoon and art collector Charles Tyson Yerkes. A friend of Belle da Costa Greene and a secret admirer of Grolier founder William Loring Andrews, Grigby was, according to the exhibit catalogue, “most capable of playing in the man’s world of rare books.” The lady even had a bookplate designed by Lalique!
Ray Safford: Rare Bookman is a fascinating look at the world of publishing and bookselling in fin-de-siecle New York. It’s up through April 13 at the Grolier Club, 47 E. 60th Street, a mere twelve blocks and a couple cross-streets away from the current Scribner headquarters.
Needless to say, this is an amazing find, sure to interest scholars in many fields, particularly those in the history of science. And, as one collector put it, “The discovery of a copy annotated by Vesalius for another edition that was never published is about as good as it gets for rare medical book collectors!”
The book is now on deposit at the Fisher Rare Book Library of the University of Toronto. A full description of the discovery and research done by Canadian pathologist Gerard Vogrincic and Professor Nutton will appear in the journal, Medical History, in October. More information is available at My Science.
Guest Blog by Todd Pratum of Owl & Company Bookshop, Oakland
After 31 years in the book business, five bookshops and three warehouse internet operations later, I’ve pulled myself out of the internet (almost entirely--tired of staring into a screen instead of a face or walls of fine books) and moved most of my 30,000 volumes into a beautiful new bookshop of my creation. 1,200 sq. ft. for $3,000 on a very busy street, one of the best shopping and clubbing streets in the Bay Area and the Bay Area’s greatest concentration of bookshops, six now, within five blocks. My website is primitive but there are photos on Yelp. So far so good, though there are a lot of people coming in saying things like “I love bookshops,” “I love the smell of old books,” “Thank you for joining our neighborhood,” “I LOVE books,” etc. then leave without buying anything, waving from the door and saying, “Good luck!”
For this reason I am starting something unique in the book business (I believe), what I am calling ‘Community Supported Bookshops.’ CSB, modeled on something well established here in the US, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where people, who now realize the value of the family farm ‘join’ the farm for certain (usually minor and at no extra cost to the farm) benefits, and the joy of supporting something local and real.
Soon we will be charging $40 per year for membership. Besides T-shirts and bumper stickers, all members really get is advance notice of our quarterly 35%-off sales, and they get to come in a week before the public. These sales are held anyway so this costs us nothing. This is my answer to all the people who ‘love’ bookshops but never buy anything. Or come in and find books then use their phone to find it cheaper. (NB about 30% of all purchases on Amazon are generated first by a discovery in a brick and mortar shop).
What I’ve built here is a ‘traditional looking’ bookshop: 13-foot custom wood shelving to the ceiling, with only incandescent lights, a community meeting / art gallery in back, and generous open hours to serve the browser. Most everybody that comes in says things like “This reminds me of London,” “4th Street NY,” “The Old Library where I grew up,” “What a bookshop should be,” Harry Potter, Charing Cross Road (or the movie), the Ninth Gate, etc. And for Generation Y, they intuitively know this is a good authentic thing even though they have never seen anything like it. They value at least the idea.
If there are any dealers who would like to help me develop this idea into a movement, where other bookshops join the CSB Society and make it global then I would like to correspond. My manager is hot on the idea, and I can pay her for some extra time to work on this project.
A few details: We still pay our generous rate on books for cash and trade but mark everything much cheaper than the net. Turnover is the key (read The Mathematics of Bookselling). No longer do I price books compared to the net but much cheaper.
What do I love the most these days? The amazing books that find their way here. My shop has brought in wonderful libraries and collections. Many are GIVEN to me. But my best and most exciting experience is working with salvage people who find crazy and unique collections of books, documents, letters, ephemera, photos, etc. that have been left at the dump or thrown in dumpsters, or though real estate agents, probate attorneys, even the City Of Oakland (abandoned houses especially), and the like. Why? Because there are only a few bookshops in this entire area of 13 million that buy books, so people are just desperate to do something with them.
We are a totally general shop which is key I think, but I have still retained my old focus on esoterica, antiquarian scholarly books, and “uncommon fact & fiction.”
The SF Book & Fair Show last month in San Francisco was a great learning experience. I haven’t exhibited or even attended a fair for many years, and I sold very few books at this fair, one of the largest in the world, ugh... But I learned. My most memorable observation? Almost everybody was at least 40 years old, with many ancient people and no ‘20-something’ people. This I believe is partly due to the fact that the dealers there only sell the old standards, and don’t try to appeal to young people’s interest. Yet after five bookshops I have always found that when it comes to used books the bread and butter of a general shop is the young people who are most willing to pay for books, and eat later (Erasmus).
Soon we will have a computer terminal here so people can check the internet on any books and decide for themselves what is the better deal.
Thanks to Todd Pratum for sharing his essay. Tell us what you think of community supported bookshops!
But a peruse through the catalogue reveals a handful of lovely literary-minded images worth sharing as well. The first of these is perfect for FB&C readers -- its title is Book Auction.
Though not intended to be definitive, Minsky’s exhibition will guide scholars and collectors in this area. To that end, Minsky has also produced an exhibition catalogue. Until February 29, a pre-publication discount in in effect for both the limited and deluxe editions. The deluxe edition of twenty-five is signed and numbered with color photos of all books in the exhibition, printed in archival high resolution inkjet, in a hardbound cloth binding by Minsky, based on a T. W. Ball cover design.The limited edition of one hundred is printed in full color on an Indigo 5000 digital offset press and housed in a flexible cloth cover with a gold-stamped panel adapted from a T. W. Ball design, an archival inkjet printed dust wrapper, and polyester protective overwrap.
Every year Architectural Digest designs an exclusive backstage lounge for Oscar presenters and honorees. This year, that greenroom has a designer library, too.
“The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences gave me access to their archives,” he said. “I picked out classic film scenes, then printed them on book jackets.” All of the photographs he chose are recognizable, fit to a new medium. As anyone who has seen Wine’s custom dust jackets (FB&C profiled his work last fall) can attest, the effect is incredible. “There is no one else in the world who does what I do with the book jackets, so this was the perfect project for me to come up with a never-before-seen idea ... I am so honored to be a part of it,” he said.
Wine flew out to Los Angeles earlier this week to personally install the library backstage at the Kodak Theatre in anticipation of Sunday’s 84th annual Academy Awards.
While it’s not the first library in an AD Greenroom, it is certainly one in which the books don’t just blend into the background. “The idea being that books are relaxing and help calm the presenters before going on stage. My library calms and also inspires with a dose of film history and nostalgia,” Wine said.
What’s underneath the jackets? A selection of entertainment biographies and books about film, he said. When Wine works on a project like this, he leaves it up to the client whether they want a curated collection or just props behind the art.
Among the highlights in the 281-lot auction is this Kelmscott Chaucer, regarded as the most famous modern private press book. It is one of 425 copies printed by William Morris in Hammersmith in 1896. Estimated at $30,000-50,000, this one is in original holland-backed boards.
McEllhenney recalled a childhood love of books, but credited Fred Maser, a major collector of prayer books, with really sparking his interest in collecting in the 1950s and 60s. When a parishioner gave him a signed copy of Frost’s A Further Range, he was well on the path to bibliomania, but he felt that a real collection of Frost might be beyond his pocket. His advice to collectors, particularly those without an inheritance: “Find something to collect that you think will grow in value.” Then, in 1974, he read a review of R.S. Thomas’ Selected Poems, bought it, and enjoyed it so much, he decided that Thomas, also a fellow clergyman, would be the focus of his collecting activity.
Not only did McEllhenney voraciously collect Thomas in all forms, he made several trips to Wales to meet him during the 1990s (the poet died in 2000). He had the pleasure--unknown to most collectors--of conversing with, exchanging letters with, even touring the countryside with the object of his collecting life. It is a heartwarming story for any bibliophile.
McEllhenney has given much of his R.S. Thomas collection--including more than 200 books, 100 periodicals, essays, articles, reviews, typescripts, sound recordings, and ephemera--to Drew, as well as his Frost holdings. He surprised the audience this past week by handing over two more Thomas books, signed by the author to his wife with an elegant cross for a signature.
But surely there is room for serendipity at this auction, as a peruse through the catalogue verifies. How about this portrait (seen above) of Walt Whitman looking like Rip Van Winkle by the Philadelphia artist Gladys Logan Winner, c. 1910. The estimate is only $600-900.
Or these original gouche on paper sketches of costume designs for an unknown production, unsigned but attributed to Orson Welles -- one of the figures clearly resembles him. The estimate for these bold and beautiful sketches is $3,000-5,000.
There’s also a wonderful collection of Robinson Jeffers books and letters spread over fourteen lots. Having just learned about Jeffers’ Tor House and Hawk Tower from our winter issue’s article on literary spots in Big Sur, I can better appreciate the warm inscription and architectural sketch he placed on the front flyleaf of this copy of Roan Stallion, Tamar and Other Poems.
To view the full auction catalogue and experience the serendipity for yourself, click here.
To read more about the heyday of Serendipity Books, here’s an article from our winter issue about one writer’s encounter with the legendary bookstore. Kurt Zimmerman also posted an appreciative essay about Peter Howard on his American Book Collecting site.
In addition to shelf sales at the store in Berkeley, Bonhams intends to sell other material from Serendipity Books within these scheduled 2012 auctions: Fine Photography in New York on May 8, Period Art & Design in San Francisco on April 15 and May 20, Made in California in Los Angeles on May 21, Fine Books and Manuscripts in New York on June 19, and Entertainment Memorabilia in Los Angeles on June 24.
As I perused the collection, one of the lots of greatest interest to me is a collection of Pocket Books, including a complete run of the first 1,257 titles, published in New York between 1939 and 1960. These little paperbacks with their vibrant cover illustrations for novels like Lost Horizon and The Maltese Falcon are incredible cultural artifacts, and to see them as a group must be stunning. Another collector had all the fun of acquiring this incredible collection, but someone else can now have the pleasure of it as a standing collection. Much as I’d love to have them--and enough bare bookshelves to shelve them--it would be best for them to end up at an institution with an interest in mid-twentieth-century reading habits, publishing, and print culture. I can imagine great projects that could arise from such a collection in such a complete form. The estimate is $1500--a bargain, in my opinion.
Another fun find is a first limited edition of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 that has been signed by the author a total of four times to the same owner, “Ted.” Signed once upon publication in 1953, again 1969, then in 1982, and finally in 1990. What a neat story that book has to tell.
I feel at odds to pluck a few items here and there to highlight from this big and varied sale, but others that caught my eye include an early Virginia imprint of Peter Cottom’s The Whole Art of Book-Binding...(1824), a first edition of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land from Margaret Anderson’s personal collection, and a set of of The Book Lover’s Almanac from 1893-1897.
You can view the catalogue online and begin the bidding straight away, as Heritage has already opened the auction to online bidders.
Our reader has done some Googling and found the same rose print in brighter colors, with the words “Bouquet No. 3” printed below the image. Hers lacks that, having only “P. J. ReDoute” under the image. I’m also showing below the more colorful version offered by J. Manley Gallery. Comment below or email me at rebecca at finebooksmagazine.com if you can help solve this mystery!
I asked her how her creative life has changed since the incredible success of The Time Traveler’s Wife. Here is what she said:
Well, one of the things that changed a lot, I never used to have any money, so I never used to go anywhere...I got a lot done. With Time Traveler, I spent about three years running around doing festivals and promoting it, and with Symmetry, I spent about a year and a half, just solid running around, constantly away. And it’s almost impossible to do real artwork in hotel rooms, so that has been kind of slowing me down. What I’m hoping to do in the next couple of years is not move around as much, get more centered. I’ve got big projects that I’m working on that have to get done with real deadlines, so I basically have no choice but to turn things down and make sure I get my work done. Time management is really the big problem. The monetary impediments were removed, but at the same time the time constraints became overwhelming. A lot of people are like, ‘So that new novel, it must be done, right?’ I’m like, ‘no.’ It’s just difficult when you’re constantly talking about the work you’ve already done to get the new work happening.
Niffenegger collects taxidermy and books. I asked her to talk a bit more about those collections.
The taxidermy is, in a way, not really a serious collection because it’s just strange things that hang around the house, and you look at them and think, ‘hmmm, that’s really strange’... It’s not like I’m a biologist and have great insight into all these creatures. I mean, in my collection, the more damaged they are, the more interesting. There are missing eyes and paws, looking really pathetic. Occasionally I’ll buy a really glorious piece because it’s interesting, but for the most part I buy very strange, cheap, damaged taxidermy. The taxidermy collection is completely eclectic and based on pathos and strangeness. The book collection, on the other hand, there’s a very definite train of thought running through that collection. I am interested in books that use images and words together in interesting ways. So if something is typographically interesting, if it’s telling an interesting story in a way where everything supports the story interestingly, if the illustrations are really spectacular or if it’s going beyond illustration and into a wordless novel or something like that, I’m very interested in that. I’m less interested in sculptural books. I mean, I have a few. I’m very interested in fine print, so, for example, I’m very fond of Arion Press, and I’m always sort of looking out for their things. I’m always interested in what my students and former students are doing, so I veer toward them when I can. Always partial to aquatints because it’s what I myself do. I sometimes buy with an eye to showing my students things, so if I don’t have a good example of a such-and-such, I will sometimes try to acquire one so that when I’m talking about such-and-such, I can say, ‘and here is a such-and-such’ and give them a better chance of understanding what the heck I’m talking about. Books are really hard to show in slides ... it’s so much better if they can handle it, it just becomes a completely different experience.
One question that many people ask is if, as an artist, she gets to design her own books and limited editions. Here is what she said:
For Time Traveler and for Symmetry, there were limited editions, and I got to design those. I did not get to design the commercial edition because everybody immediately agreed that I am not a very commercial artist, which is fine with me! The design for the cover of Time Traveler was done by Suzanne Dean who is the head designer at Random UK, and she did Symmetry in the UK. Scribner’s designer Rex Bonomelli, he came up with the shiny, metallic, twiggy cover, which I liked tremendously. Then when it became a paperback, everyone was saying, ‘there must be a person on the cover,’ and I said, ‘well, okay, but just don’t cut off her head.’ And so we went through lots of iterations of people with and without heads. I like what they came up with...The limited editions are fun because they don’t necessarily have to follow all the rules of conventional book design. Like the limited edition I did for Scribner for Symmetry, it doesn’t even have the title on the spine, it the initials of the title and my initials, and if you had it spine-in, that’s all you would be able to see. It’s not the most readable typeface, the book is entirely black, so it’s got lots of things going on that wouldn’t scream ‘buy me!’...A limited edition of a printed book made by commercial processes is a whole different deal than a real printing.
Francis Jenkinson, pictured at right in John Singer Sargent’s 1915 portrait, is featured in Shelf Lives. Jenkinson was the Cambridge University Librarian from 1889 until 1923 (H.G. Aldis was his secretary!). Jenkinson is an interesting collector because he compiled the War Reserve Collection containing some ten thousand unofficial, personal, and ephemeral works distributed during World War I, e.g. trench journals, battalion orders, and propaganda leaflets. It is a wonderful example of “front-line” collecting.
A list of the exhibition’s captions is available online, but should you have the opportunity to view it in person, Shelf Lives runs through June 16 of this year.
According to the American Antiquarian Society, “The publication of clipper ship sailing cards began in 1853 and continued through the Civil War, reflecting the enormous increase in commerce between the east and west coasts after the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in California.” The ephemeral cards were made for advertising ship departures--“Current Rates and No Deception”--and they often feature full-color illustrations and beautiful design. AAS also notes that those cards which carry an imprint reveal that just three printing offices issued most of them: Nesbitt & Company and Watson & Clark of New York and John H. Bufford of Boston. The one seen above is a Nesbitt production.
The PBA auction also includes more than two hundred lots of Americana, Californiana, and maps. Check out the full catalogue here: http://www.pbagalleries.com/live/sale_details.php?s=471&
1. “Plain But Good” by Karen Edwards. A look at R.R. Donnelley’s highly collectible Lakeside Classics series.
2. “A Classic Back in Print” by Nicholas Basbanes. Nick’s recent column on Allen and Patricia Ahearn of Quill & Brush and the fourth edition of their indispensible guide, Collected Books.
3. “The Americanist” by Nate Pedersen. Nate’s interview with longtime antiquarian bookseller Norman Kane.
4. “On the Road” by Tom Bentley. A profile of Peter and Donna Thomas, the ‘Wandering Book Artists.’
5. “Exceptional Ephemera” by Nicholas Basbanes. Nick visits the Grossman collection of ephemera at Winterthur.
6. “Comic Cartography” by Jeffrey S. Murray. The witty world of cartoon maps -- even the New Yorker liked it!
7. “Scholars in the Stacks” by Richard Goodman. Richard went to the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center to see what they were up to.
8. “Lovecraft’s Providence” by Nick Mamatas. Seeing the homes & haunts of H.P. Lovecraft.
9. “Edward Curtis’ The North American Indian” by Jonathan Shipley. A neat story about how this million-dollar set of photos actually plunged its creator into debt and obscurity.
10. “Temple of the Muses” by Nicholas Basbanes. The first in-depth report on the burgeoning American Writers Museum.
And on our blog, the top 5 of 2011 were...
1. “Oddities: Books Bound in Human Skin” by Rebecca Rego Barry. A video-clip from a Discovery Channel episode on these oddities.
2. “Foliomania” by Rebecca Rego Barry. A review of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s exhibition catalogue, Foliomania.
3. “John Gilkey Redux” by Brian Cassidy. A virtual APB for book thief John Gilkey.
4. “Game of Thrones, Collectable Fantasy Book, Hits HBO” by A. Genevieve Tucholke. Different editions of George R.R. Martin’s books, as the show premieres.
5. “Banned in Boston!” by L.D. Mitchell. Only one copy of 1690’s Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestick survives -- because it was banned!
Audubon was an itinerant artist who traversed the American wilderness of the early nineteenth century, drawing birds. His idea to create an oversized folio of more than four hundred hand-colored plates showing the birds in life-size was visionary; it was also prohibitively expensive. He relied on subscriptions to raise the necessary funds. His magnificently illustrated double-elephant folio was issued in parts in the years 1827-1838, initially printed by W.H. Lizars of Edinburgh, but soon transferred to Robert Havell & Son in London.
...Regardless of how you view your collecting, whether serious or recreational, there are techniques that you can use to maximize not only the quality and value of your art, but also your own personal enjoyment, appreciation, and understanding of that art. Step one is being true to your tastes. This means acknowledging that you like certain types of art regardless of what you think you’re supposed to like or what seems to be the current rage. All great collectors share this trait-- that’s one thing makes their collections stand out. When personal preference is ignored in favor of the status quo, one collection begins to look just like the next. A few people dictate, the masses follow, everyone walks in lock-step, and the art you see from collection to collection becomes boring and repetitive....[Link to more]
A Secret Index Autograph Investment Report published by Paul Fraser Collectibles of Bristol, England, tracks the forty rarest and most investment-worthy autographs in the world. The price of the average autograph from the PFC40 rose 14.84% per year. And, he notes, “The rising trend shows no sign of stopping.”
Calling autographs a “mid- to long-term alternative investment that you may not have thought of before,” Paul Fraser believes the market for collectibles is gaining strength, and he cites several reasons: 1) baby boomers are “nostalgia investors” who have a lot of wealth; 2) China is a nation of enthusiasts; 3) there are an estimated 200 million collectors in the world, and that is predicted to double in 20 years; 4) leading collectors continue to fight over the best pieces; 5) museums are still actively acquiring; and 6) there is a finite supply and growing demand.
Some of the autograph examples PFC offers in the Secret Index (recently featured on MSN Money) are Neil Armstrong (up 981.8% since 2000), Fidel Castro (up 22% since 2000), Walt Disney (up 22.65% since 2000), and George Harrison (up 26.10% since 2000). Other figures on the list include Salvadore Dali, Bob Dylan, and J.K. Rowling.
The earning power of these items is quite aside from the fact that autograph collecting, like book collecting, is often a personal pursuit. But the fruits of that pursuit are genuinely good investments, some better than others. It’s certainly worth a look at the Secret Index!
An accompanying book, edited by Kenneth L. Ames, contains 375 images with text that examines their visual and cultural history. It’s a perfect guide for collectors of ephemera, collectors of graphic history, and, of course, collectors of Christmas material.
As one would assume, the Institute’s Thoreau collections are fabulous, but in Stirling’s words, “it needed Emerson, his essential associate in the history of ideas.” The vast collection is primarily manuscript and association items, accumulated by Stirling over the course of twenty years. Some fine examples, according to Jeff Cramer, curator of collections at the Thoreau Institute in Massachusetts, are a first edition, first state copy of Nature, a manuscript leaf from Emerson’s lecture, “Reform,” and one of only five hundred printed copies of An Oration, Delivered Before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Cambridge, August 31, 1837 (“The American Scholar”).
Seeing this letter about Dickens’ ‘theatrical career,’ if we can call it that, brought to mind a feature we published two years ago about his stage performances in America and the prompt book he carried--containing the marginalia that reminded him know how to inflect certain words or lines, when to turn a page, and how to deliver particular phrases--which now resides at the New York Public Library.
The holiday catalogue from James Cummins is a wonderful selection of Christmas books, letters, and cards. From the first printed illustration of Santa going down a chimney in the New York Mirror, 1841, to a first edition, first issue of The Christmas Carol with “very rare variant state with pink endpapers” and an even more scarce “trial issue” of that book. Grab some eggnog and take a look.
Reminds me of Melville’s lap desk Bonhams had not so long ago. That one sold for $34,160.
Quite an incredible Salinger collectible for the estimate of $800-$1,200 (much prettier and display-worthy than, say, the Salinger toilet up for auction on eBay last year). Online bidding has already begun and looks competitive. The live auction happens in New York on Thursday of this week.
Isaacs will also judge the accompanying exhibit of work by book artists who were invited “to explore and respond to book covers from the legacy collections of the Athenaeum” through “one-of-a-kind, artist books, book objects, altered books or zines.” The exhibit will remain up through March 9, 2012.
Raab just sold another Thanksgiving treasure, the first-ever Thanksgiving proclamation by a man holding the title president of the United States, John Hanson, in 1782.
Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving!
The breadth of the collection is certain to appeal to Woolf enthusiasts. Beekman built this collection over forty years, and the highlights include an early, apparently unpublished photograph of thirteen-year-old Virginia, many of her letters, two unpublished poems by Vita Sackville-West written for Woolf (“Your darkened windowns numb my darkened heart” is intriguing...), plus inscribed editions of the books she wrote and published and books from her own library. Vanessa Bell’s preliminary sketch for the 1930 limited edition of Woolf’s On Being Ill, is particularly interesting to see, as is the dedication copy of The Village in the Jungle, from Leonard to Virginia.
The 134-page catalogue was printed in a limited trade edition of 500, featuring photography by David Levinthal. Twenty-five deluxe editions are specially slipcased with a signed print by David Levinthal. Levinthal’s prints are delightful historical tableaux. For example, a setting of doll furniture with the Complete Catalogue of the Hogarth Press or Woolf’s passport photograph against a black background with a old-fashioned camera in the distance.
Richard showed some images from each of his books, read a short entry on how he designed his first unique binding, and talked about what he looks for in great book art, or fine art to be more broad. “Material, image, and metaphor,” must all be in balance, he said. When asked about what he finds interesting in commercial publishing, he cited the ingenuity of pop-ups and moveable books and a revival of stamped covers, such as can be seen in B&N’s redesigned “classics.” Some new Penguin hardcover classics also have stamped cloth covers (designed by the awesome Coralie Bickford-Smith) as do recent bestselling children’s books like The Dangerous Book for Boys (U.S., 2007). If we are trending away from jackets and back to decorated cloth, we’ll have Richard Minsky to thank.
Are any of the books in Amazon’s new e-book subscription/lending program properly there?
Earlier this month, Amazon launched its Kindle Online Lending Library as a perk for its best group of customers, the millions who’ve paid $79 per year to join Amazon Prime and get free delivery of their Amazon purchases. Under the Lending Library program, Amazon Prime members are allowed to download for free onto their Kindles any of more than 5,000 books. Customers are limited to one book per month and one book at a time--when a new book is downloaded, the old one disappears from the Kindle.
The program has caused quite a stir in the publishing industry, for good reason (as you’ll see).
First, let’s look at how books from some major U.S. trade publishers wound up on the Lending Library list.
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh had a private viewing just before Friday’s opening. And what did QE2 fancy? According to the BBC:
The Queen was said to linger most over Henry VIII’s manuscripts.That Latin psalter--showing Henry VIII as King David--was created in London c. 1540 is pictured here. It survives in its worn red velvet binding. Other highlights of the exhibit include the stunning Shrewsbury Book (Rouen, 1445), presented to Margaret of Anjou on her marriage to Henry VI by John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, and the Genealogical Chronicle of the English Kings (c. 1300), created in a roll format measuring five meters long.
Curator Andrea Clarke said: “She called Prince Philip, who was looking at something else, to come and have a look.”
Dr McKendrick said Henry VIII’s psalter, a volume containing the Book of Psalms, was rare because it contained annotations written by the king.
To see more, watch a four-minute BBC tour with curator Scot McKendrick here. The exhibit is open through March 13, 2012.
Image credit: Henry VIII as David, Henry VIII’s Psalter, London c. 1540, Royal 2 A xvi © British Library Board.
Prints by other American regionalists, such as Grant Wood, George Bellows, and John Steuart Curry (and the Mexican social realists they were inspired by), as well as a rare book library of Americana, presidential biography, modern literature, and illustrated books round out the 268-lot sale. See the entire catalogue here. Below is a visual preview of some highlights.
Anonymous is a film that proclaims that Shakespeare didn’t write anything, and Edward deVere is the true author of what we’ve come to know as the Shakespearean canon. This idea is, of course, not without controversy. In the New York Times earlier this week, James Shapiro, author of Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, wrote of the film: “The most troubling thing about “Anonymous” is not that it turns Shakespeare into an illiterate money-grubber. It’s not even that England’s virgin Queen Elizabeth is turned into a wantonly promiscuous woman who is revealed to be both the lover and mother of de Vere. Rather, it’s that in making the case for de Vere, the film turns great plays into propaganda.”