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A Very Gorey Halloween

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. 

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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. 

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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!

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 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.   


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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. 


Have Popup, Will Travel

Rome : A 3-D Keepsake Cityscape, by Kristyna Litten, Paper Engineering by Gus Clarke ; Candlewick Press,  $8.99, 15 pages, all ages.

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ROME: A 3D KEEPSAKE CITYSCAPE. Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Kristyna Litten. Text copyright © 2012 by Walker Books Ltd. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.


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.

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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.  


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            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.


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 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) 

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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." 


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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. 


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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. 

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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?"


The Matchbox Diary

"The Matchbox Diary," by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline; Candlewick Press, $16.99, 40 pages, ages 5-9. 

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MATCHBOX DIARY. Text copyright © 2013 by Paul Fleischman. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Bagram Ibatoulline. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Newbery Medal winner Paul Fleischman (Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices) and acclaimed illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline (Thumbelina; The Nightengale) have crafted a tale about an Italian immigrant's journey to America that also incorporates a love of collecting.

The book begins with an elderly gentleman meeting his great-grand daughter. As a way to get to know each other, the man tells the girl to choose a book, antique, or other collectible, and he will share the story behind that item's existence. Tucked away in the midst of these beloved curios, the child chooses a weathered cigar-box.  Much like  a Russian matryoshka, the box opens to reveal dozens of matchboxes.  They, in turn, hold a small souvenir - an olive pit, a fishbone, pieces of lead type - that recall pivotal moments in the man's life.  This diary is full of tangible objects that recall memories from long ago, while also encouraging the two characters to get to know each other. 

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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.


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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.


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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.  


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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." 

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Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, the New York Review of Books, New York. 

       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."

Fables

         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. 

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Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, The New York Review of Books, New York. 

Read the rest at LiteraryKids.tumblr.com 

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.


6. College kids prefer print. You read that right! And not only do they prefer reading printed books for class, some of them are competition-level book collectors.


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.

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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. 

Draw your own alphabet

"Draw Your Own Alphabets: Thirty Fonts to Scribble, Sketch, & Make your Own," by Tony Seddon; Princeton Architectural Press, $19.95, 160 pages, ages 12-up.

(Available April 9, 2013)

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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.

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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.

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Draw Your Own Alphabets: Thirty Fonts to Scribble, Sketch, & Make your Own  Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, NY. 



To continue reading, visit me at Literary Features Syndicate


The Olive Fairy Book

"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.image

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.

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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! 

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The last emerging archive highlight was the Women's Liberation Music Archive, whose headquarters is entirely digital, so it only makes sense to consider now some of the latest tools that can shape digital archives, and how they are made and used. This is especially true with new media that combines reading with social networking, because each platform usually aggregates and archives its own content, as with Twitter (although Twitter could do better).

Two great examples of two-in-one digital tools and archives come from Betaworks, the folks behind Digg among other things. Both take to the digital extreme a scholarly goal several centuries old: how to best organise and store information for easy recall and use later on.

Findings

Findings provides an interface to clip extracts from your online reading. Simply highlight the text you wish to save, and use the bookmarklet to 'clip' it to your Findings account. From there it will become part of a universal collection of other clippings, which you can also access and use, organizing each into personal 'collections', making headings such as 'politics', 'technology', as you need them.
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In other words, Erasmus is dancing dancing dancing in his grave: Findings provides a quick way to save the most important bits of your reading, full citations preserved, organized under topical headings. It's a digital commonplace book - and one that operates on both a personal and communal level. It follows suit with the projects like Erasmus in De Copia (1512), distilling from the copious amount of books a few noteworthy ideas and phrases. But collecting all that is worth knowing takes up space, and lots of it.
And print alone stretches such compilations of knowledge into the hundreds of volumes, thousands of pages - since each collection of information also must be accompanied by an index with with to search it. Later 17th century projects sought to overcome the problem of replacing books with boxes: slips of paper containing information and a descriptive keyword could be kept in little boxes (like the one pictured above). This allowed topics or subject headings to multiply exponentially, but with alphabetical order preserved for the search to remain efficient.

One of the earliest inventions of this sort came from Thomas Harrison (b. 1595), upstart royalist to the end of his days (1662), who created "The Ark of Studies: or, a repository, by means of which it is proposed that all the things one has read, heard, or thought can be more speedily arranged, and more readily used." Unlike earlier systems which averaged in the hundreds of topics, Harrison's boasted use of 3,300 keywords and growing - he claimed to have added 10,000 extracts on a few hundred topics in 1648 while he was in prison for accusing a Court Justice of treason. Samuel Hartlib wrote of his project what resonates for just about any endeavor to compile knowledge, on paper or in pixel:  "One perfection of it is that it can never be perfect." 

Tapestry
Betaworks' most recent release is Tapestry, a publication platform that emphasizes shorter form writing through an imposed method of reading: 'tapping' (or clicking) the computer screen to propel the narrative forward rather than scrolling or page-turning. Here is an example: Don Saltero's Coffeehouse: Or the Secret History of the Museum

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Other authors who have written using Tapestry include Robin Sloan, of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore fame, with his short essays Fish and The Italics, and Craig Mod, who has adapted his amazing longer essay on Subcompact Publishing into an appropriately compact form.

The beauty of Tapestry is that it slows you down, calling attention (and proposing a solution) to habits like skimming that skimp on focus. As Francis Bacon wrote:

"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." 

What is so exciting about Tapestry is that it applies to a very specific area of Bacon's world of books: the small bite of important information that merits diligent reading. 

When retro-fitted to longer form essays, Tapestry also helps to tighten organization and flow. My tapestry was distilled from a longer work of 5,000 words, and the exercise made editing those 5,000 words easier, and more enjoyable.

As Bill Sherman recently said at the Permissive Archive conference at UCL in London: "The digital is finally beginning to catch up with the complex interface of the early book." This is true for endeavors like Annotated Books Online, to which he was referring to at the time, or the Archimedes Palimpsest. But it's also true that in the course of playing catch-up with early reading and annotating practices, the digital has begun to fine-tune awareness of our own diverse ways of reading.

Projects like Findings and Tapestry heighten the attention we pay to the endless array of variables that affect what happens when we read, what we remember of it, and how we use it. They emphasize the very different routes by which we come to remember something. As Edmund Wilson said, "No two persons ever read the same book". Equally true, is that no one person reads everything with the same technique. 

Title Image Credit: Vincent Placcius, De arte excerpendi (1689). From the Max Planck Institut. An illustration, with suggested improvemens, of Harrison's Ark.

Further Reading: Noel Malcolm's excellent essay, "Thomas Harrison and his `Ark of Studies': An Episode in the History of the Organization of Knowledge," The Seventeenth Century 19 (2004), pp. 196-232
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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. 

Maybe it's just that I have Downton Abbey on the brain (season three having premiered here in the States last night), but PBA Galleries is in a good position to capitalize on our manor house fascination. At its January 10 auction later this week, PBA is offering architecture books and folios, many consigned by the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, Northern California chapter. Among the lots are these early twentieth-century books on English and American country homes and gardens. You don't need to be a lord to afford them, either.

CountryResidences.jpg Country Residences in Europe and America by Louis Valcoulon Le Moyne (New York, 1908). A first edition, illustrated throughout, showing country residences in Italy, France, England and America. Estimated at $300-500. 

GardensNew.jpg Gardens Old & New: The Country House & its Garden Environment (London, c. 1925). A fourth edition, but an attractive three-volume set featuring the great houses of England. Estimated at $300-500.

AmericanCountryHouses.jpg  American Country Houses of To-day ... 1912 & 1913 (New York, 1912, 1913). These are two annual volumes (both first editions), profusely illustrated with photos and plans of American country homes. Estimated at $200-300.

InEnglishHomes.jpg In English Homes: The Internal Character, Furniture & Adornments of Some of the Most Notable Houses of England... by Charles Latham (London, 1904-09). England's stately homes and estates in three illustrated volumes, all bound in pretty blue cloth with pictorial gilt. Estimated at $200-300.

AnAmerican.jpgAn American Country House: The Property of Arthur E. Newbold Jr. by Arthur J. Meigs (New York, 1925). A first edition in dust jacket that surveys the suburban Philadelphia banker's estate. Estimated at $150-250.

Images Courtesy of PBA Galleries.
English: Thomas Bodley, the founder of Bodleia...

English: Thomas Bodley, the founder of Bodleian Library of Oxford. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week a first edition (1605) of the Bodleian Library Catalogue sold for a whopping £19,000 (£23,750 including premium) at an auction of Early Printing and English Books to 1640 held at Bonhams, London. Auctions exclusively offering books printed before the English Civil War not only show the vitality of interest in early books, but their relative immunity to the E-Book Blues threatening younger books today. The dusty little Bodleian catalogue, bound in contemporary limp vellum, unwashed and looking just as it ought to for its age, was among the high earners in a sale that made over £1 million.

What is this book about, this volume which made more money than Boccaccio, Lucian, Cicero? Unlike other highlights from the auction, several of them illuminated manuscripts, it's reference work, an early book on books, the earliest in print to describe the holdings of an institutional library in Europe. 

It includes nearly 7,000 books purchased for and donated to the Library, which Bodley had first undertaken to furnish in 1598 but which had not officially opened until 1602. The books first are divided into four typical fields: "Divinity", "Medicine", "Jurisprudence", and the catch-all "Arts". Some sense of their spatial arrangement is preserved by listing the size, shelf, and row number of each. Shelves are organized alphabetically. The combination of subject and numbers comprise the call number, and 17th century acquisitions have by and large the same call numbers then as now.

Technically the Bodeian Catalogus librorum bibliothecae publicae should not be as rare as it is. It was printed in large runs because visitors to the Duke Humfrey library had to buy a copy of their own to consult. For instance, Library records from 1620-22 show that 558 copies were sold at a price of 2 shillings eight pence to private persons, 2 shillings sixpence to booksellers. Today, requests are made online (and sometimes they can go horribly wrong). 

In addition to being one of the most expensive book lists going, the first edition catalogue is also inaccurate. Its publication was a fiasco from the very beginning for the Bodleian's first librarian, Thomas James. Bodley had the idea to print and circulate a catalogue as early as 1603 to aid visiting patrons, but also to advertise the library's great success to critics and potential donors alike. The basis for the printed catalogue would be the manuscript records James kept, but Bodley was unhappy these even before the library was open to the public, according to his correspondence with James: 

"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)

Not only that, but he had trouble with James' handwriting: "For it chanceth many times, that your writing is both ill to be read, and understood" (Sept 1 1602). The project was stalled until 1604 by the trouble of fixing so many earlier mistakes, and by the constant and overwhelming influx of new books Bodley acquired through donation and the assistance of the printer and bookseller John Bill, who went on a book buying trip through Europe.

By the time the catalogue was in its proof stages, new problems had arisen. As one of the great Hebrew scholars of the day Bodley avidly collected Judaica for his library but bemoaned his librarian's difficulty with the language: "You have almost failed in every one of your Hebrew books which were printed with Hebrew letters," he wrote to an overworked James (Aug 8 1604). Moreover he found fault with the catalogue's printer: "It doth somewhat move me, to see a work of this expectation, and charge unto me, to be so much disgraced through the Printer's carelessness considering what warning I gave him..." (Aug 24 1604). 

Bodley worried that so many mistakes would diminish the catalogue's credibility, and hurt sale of future editions and appendices James might compile, not to mention that it would harm the international reputation he had worked to acquire:

"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)

While an appendix of some 200 books was then added to the end of the Catalogue before its final publication in the New Year, Bodley's letters of dissatisfaction continued across the years. The difficulty in accurate record keeping exponentially increased for James when the library became the first for the legal deposit of all books printed by the Stationer's Company in 1610. 

What is it that makes this catalogue, inaccurate and bearing little evidence of the intellectual labor that produced it, worth so much? The book was popular in the auction room, provoking a four-way bidding war among those in attendance, and ultimately acquired by a telephone bidder. If the Bonhams sale was proof positive for interest in early printed books in general, the sale of the Bodleian library catalogue was a about the sustained interest in the history of libraries in particular. Even geekier, and more exciting, its commanding figure shows a strong interest in the history of information science. As the earliest catalogue of its kind, the decisions Bodley and James made about what books to acquire, how they were to be arranged, and even the errors in their arrangement, were decisions that impacted literally generations of scholars and students. The book is as important in its flaws as it is a record of cultural accumulation. James' struggle to keep up with the incoming titles and authors isn't an individual story of information overload, but one that shaped the experience of anyone that walked into the library. As James wrote in an earlier manuscript catalogue he compiled, taking from St. Paul: Non quaero quod mihi utile est, sed quod multis, "I seek not what is good for myself, but for many" (1 Cor. 10.24). 

If catalogues are about recovering works for use by many, market confidence in the value of old catalogues and what they have to tell us about our intellectual heritage can only be good news.



Further Reading:
The catalogue has been printed in facsimile with a useful introduction:

The letters of Thomas Bodley to Thomas James have been collected and edited by G.W. Wheeler.



 








North_American_Indian_fullset2.jpgSwann Galleries will offer a rare, complete set of Edward S. Curtis' The North American Indian during its Fine Photographs & Photobooks sale on October 4. Considering that the estimate is $1,250,000 - $1,750,000, this has the potential to be big news in the rare book world (a copy from the Kenneth Nebenzahl library made a record $2.9 million at Christie's earlier this year over a similar estimate).

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
Yesterday, BookFinder.com issued its annual report on books that are "out-of-print and in demand," i.e. the top one hundred old books that remain popular among book buyers.

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/.
Next month Sotheby's New York will sell property from the Estate of Brooke Astor. Nine hundred items from her Park Avenue duplex and her Westchester country home, Holly Hill, will go under the hammer during the two-day auction.

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.

Astor Lib small.jpgBut 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.

BookVase.pngThere 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... 
Guest blog by Brandon Kennedy

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.

Photo-poster.jpgAs 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.

photo-auction.jpgThe 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.

Photo-Autographed.jpgI 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.

Photo-van.jpgThe Abracadabra Books van 

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.

Two Postcards from Maeve Binchy
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."

Walder_Binchy Postcard.JPGThe 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.
Elvis.jpgElvis Presley's signed high school library check-out card is coming to auction next week at Heritage Auctions' August 14 Elvis memorabilia sale. Among some other of the King's artifacts--concert posters, jewelry, autographs, photographs--the library card from 1948 holds Elvis' early autograph; he was only thirteen when he signed it. His family had recently moved from Memphis, Tennessee, to Tupelo, Mississippi, where Elvis attended Humes High School and checked out The Courageous Heart: A Life of Andrew Jackson For Young Readers from the school's library.

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.

Elvis-book.jpgThis 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. 
earp.jpgOn August 17-18, Holabird-Kagin, the Nevada auction house that specializes in Western Americana, will offer this unique photograph of Wyatt Earp and his family, taken in Dodge City in 1875. Shown here are the legendary lawman with his father, Nicholas, and brothers Morgan, Virgil, James, Warren, and a half brother, Newton. It is, according to the auctioneers, "the only [photographic] record of the male portion of the Earp clan known to exist." The auction estimate is $200,000-300,000.

renobrewing.jpgHolabird-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.


ShakespareFF.jpgThe Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford has just announced its intention to digitize its first collected edition of the works of William Shakespeare, "to publish our First Folio online for the benefit of everyone." (Since most of us can't afford the $5 million price tag for our very own FF.) The Sprint for Shakespeare Campaign--Olympic language pun surely intended--hopes to go for the gold, i.e., hopes to raise £20,000 ($31,000) for this project. For more information, or to make a donation, check out the Sprint for Shakespeare site
lf.jpgHeritage Auctions snagged a world record for comic art at a Beverly Hills auction last night. Todd McFarlane's 1990 Spider-Man #328 original cover art brought in $657,250 at the vintage comics & comic art sale, beating McFarlane's Spider-Man #1--thought to be the auction's frontrunner--by nearly double.

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.

As we've reported here (and here), Larry McMurtry is gearing up for the book auction of the century. Next month book collectors of all stripes will descend on Archer City, Texas, for the two-day event, where festivities include 1,400 shelf-lot sales, a BBQ, a movie screening, and the sale of the McMurtry 100, a hand-selected collection of titles chosen by McMurtry to "prep the bidders." Not all are rare or expensive, some are just favorites.

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. 
I have long lamented the fact that as an undergraduate, I stepped foot into the special collections area of the university's library only once and that was to interview the director about a budget issue for the student paper. When I later worked in a university library's special collections/archives, I reached out to history professors to promote the use of primary sources among undergrads -- give them a chance to decipher that nineteenth-century handwriting and sift through photos of early campus beauty pageants. It not only enriches the learning process but some of those students are going to walk away with a newfound desire to collect or preserve or perhaps help their alma mater do so at a later date.

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)!
 
Independent booksellers are still reacting to the news that they can no longer accept credit card payments directly through their own websites. As of June 22, booksellers who rely on the Missouri-based ChrisLands Inc. to host their web shops were no longer able to process credit card payments online. In a decision handed down by ChrisLands' parent company, AbeBooks, ChrisLands stores are now limited to Google Checkout and PayPal. According to the statement issued by ChrisLands, it is "reviewing what other payment processing options we may be able to include in the future."

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."
EricCarle-small.jpgLater this month the Woods Hole Film Festival will premiere a new documentary, Eric Carle: Picture Writer, The Art of the Picture Book. The film follows the beloved children's book author and illustrator, now 82, learning about his childhood love of art and nature and his quest to build the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA. Said the film's director, Kate Geis, "[Eric] has retired from the public life of book-touring and visiting schools, but his audience is still growing and is eager to see who Eric is in 'real life.' This documentary is to help satisfy that curiosity, and Eric is generous in sharing his artistic techniques, showing how he plans a picture book, all while telling deeply personal stories of his life."

View the film's trailer here.

Above: Eric Carle in his studio holding The Very Hungry Caterpillar book. Photo by Motoko Inoue.

I don't often go to the movies, but last night offered that rare chance, and I went to see Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. I'm a big fan of Anderson's films (Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, The Life Aquatic, etc.), and this film had that same 'dollhouse' quality, quirky plot, and amazing cast of characters.

large.jpgThe film is set in 1965, and one of the main characters, Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), is a twelve-year-old runaway. She meets up with her boyfriend, an orphaned 'Khaki Scout,' and they hit the trail and set up camp. Suzy has packed her suitcase with six books that she stole from the library, with titles like The Girl From Jupiter, The Francine Odysseys, and Disappearance of the 6th Grade. Throughout the film, she reads excerpts from some of the books. The books are fake -- props written by Anderson-- but it was great to see books with such a leading role. And, in what must be a first for modern film, the book jacket designers got a huge credit at the end.

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.
You can experience fin-de-siecle Paris by visiting the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) this summer. Its exhibit, Posters of Paris: Toulouse-Lautrec and His Contemporaries, celebrates the brightly colored advertisements by Pierre Bonnard, Jules Cheret, Edouard Vuillard, and Alphonse Mucha that graced the city at the turn of the twentieth century.

Bonnard-FranceChampagne.jpgPierre Bonnard, (French, 1867-1947), France-Champagne, 1889-1891. Color lithograph. Restricted gift of Dr. and Mrs. Martin L. Gecht, 1991.218, The Art Institute of Chicago. Image courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago.

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.

Cheret-LHorloge.jpgJules Chéret, (French, 1836-1932), L'Horloge: Les Girard, 1875/1878 or 1880/1881. Color lithograph. Collection of Jim and Sue Wiechmann. Photo by John R. Glembin.

The exhibit runs through September 9, 2012 and then heads to the Dallas Museum of Art from Oct. 14, 2012-Jan. 20, 2013.
powellyoungsevere.jpgThe Cleveland Plain Dealer reported last week that the complete diaries of novelist, playwright, and short story writer, Dawn Powell, spanning the years 1915-1965, are for sale. Not with Christie's, Sotheby's, or another of the major auctions houses or antiquarian booksellers -- the 43 volumes are being privately auctioned by the owner, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and biographer Tim Page, as a single lot. The required opening bid is $500,000.

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.

Cover-1931-Diary-P01-16-400x600.jpgPowell's 1931 diary, referred to as "The first of Powell's great diaries" because it is meatier than her previous appointment-book like diaries.

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.

Cover-1947-Diary-P03-08-400x600.jpgPowell's 1947 diary records her visit to John Dos Passos and a hospital stay.

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. 
Catalogue Review: Between the Covers, #176

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)



Palatium_Paradisi_Libro.jpgPaul Johnson's vivid pop-up, Palatium Paradisi Libro.
Photo credit: Charles Byrne.

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.

Horse_Soul_Book.jpgJudy Serebrin's Horse Soul Book. Photo credit: Charles Byrne.

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.

Silverberg-Black_Torah.jpgRobbin Silverberg's Black Torah brings us back to the pre-codex scroll.
Photo credit: Charles Byrne.

Exploding the Codex runs through August 31, at the Austin/Burch Gallery at the San Francisco Center for the Book, 300 De Haro Street, Suite 334, San Francisco, CA.

Images courtesy of the SFCB.  
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In 1935 a reader of the Times Literary Supplement wrote in to address a 'revolution' in libraries: "Perhaps the greatest change which has taken place has been in the conception of what a library really is. It is no longer regarded merely as a place where books are kept, nor as a collection of books remaining in such a place." The correspondent had not read Borges. The piece did not conclude at the indefinite Library of Babel and its endless possibilities. Instead, it was about bookmobiles:
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To address the problem of access, local libraries had equipped trucks with a rotating selection of books, extending their services to the outer reaches of their communities. The system was an effective deterrent to dust settling, and the cold hard statistics of borrowing from village to village could make claims for a library's place in the world, its relevance, its use. This was especially critical during the war: as Percy Muir put it in a 1940 TLS column "The war gave...obscurantists a splendid opportunity to popularise their anti-literary bias under a patriotic camouflage" and close down libraries. But for the bookmobiles on the front lines, among other factors.

Even if it is shocking to think that libraries are still under threat, it's nothing new, and neither is the success of a little creative advocacy on their behalf: in this case what began as a lone man pushing books in a wheelbarrow through Cumberland in 1857, then a horse-drawn cart by the turn of the century, and finally a fully tax-funded scheme complete with branded vans that continues to this day. There are bookmobiles serving villages across England from Staffordshire to Cambridgeshire (UK residents, find your local bookmobile's route here). 

Traveling libraries have their place in the US as well (see above image, Rolling Prairie Library Book Mobile, Illinois, 1966): the first 'Perambulating Library' was driven by a librarian named Mary Titcomb in 1905 around the backroads of Washington County, "a cross between a grocer's delivery wagon and the tin peddler's car of bygone New England days" (Source). The American Library Association celebrates National Bookmobile Day on April 11th each year. Which brings us to 2012, where the itinerant library of the 21st century still has a lot to teach about the outer limits of reading:

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There is Always More Space to Fill, because states of disuse are in constant flux. In the town of Westbury-sub-Mendip, population 800, people have teamed up with British Telecom to adopt disused red telephone booths across the countryside for conversion into mini-libraries, an idea that has caught on around the rest of the country. On the opposite end of the spectrum, even New York isn't too crowded for the same kind of real-estate recycling: the Department of Urban Betterment has set up libraries in a few locations (Source):
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Traveling Libraries Can Fight Injustice, the old fashioned way. For instance, in Tucson, Arizona this March the 'Librotraficante' ('Booktrafficker') movement was born, a caravan of cars carrying books throughout the area's school districts that had been banned by the Governor. The caravan handed out copies of the books that were banned, most pertaining to Mexican-American history, The Dictionary of Latino Civil Rights History, Rethinking Columbus, but also other works such as bell hooks' Feminism is for Everyone and Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States. If libraries exist to provide free services to those least likely to have access to information, traveling libraries have the unique ability to reach audiences whose resources have been cut off. 

Not Everyone Has Computer Access, let alone the luxury of travel by car. Luis Soriano Borges takes his "bibliodonkeys" Alfa and Beto through the mountain villages of Columbia to bring books to children. In Kenya, the mobile library is powered by Camels.
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Unconventional Approaches Have Lasting Effects. The itinerant library is something of a spiritual reminder that the library as a communal space can lead anywhere, as long as it leads to anyone. But its dependence on petrol makes it a little easier to comprehend than Borges' limitless library "whose circumference is inaccessible". The future is a little more concrete. In Argentina Raul Lemesoff's "Weapon of Mass Instruction", a mobile library that looks like a tank with space for 900 books provide free reads - with a pacifist message - to anyone he meets. Some kids pick up a love of reading early in life when they find a story that really grabs their attention...others will be lifelong readers after a run-in with a tank on the streets of Buenos Aries.
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Ditto Tom Corwin's refurbishment and revival of an old American bookmobile. Chasing a bookmobile down the street rather than an Ice Cream truck could raise the next generation of book collectors as well as keep us well in touch with the history of access in all its aspects, positive and negative. Corwin has already reconnected with the history of his truck's influence, according to an article in the Smithsonian: "As Corwin navigated his new ride through the streets of Chicago, he was approached by an African-American man who asked if it was possible to peak inside. Bookmobiles, he said, had been a fundamental inspiration while growing up in rural Mississippi in the mid-1960s. The public library had been closed to blacks - but the bookmobile stopped right on his street, a portal into the world of literature. The man was W. Ralph Eubanks: today an acclaimed author, and director of publishing for the Library of Congress."

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The Museum of Printing in North Andover, Massachusetts, will hold its ninth annual printing arts fair this Sunday. This free event has live demonstrations of letterpress, intaglio, papermaking, and typemaking, and it's perfect for families. If you're in the area, check it out!
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DANCING CHANCELLOR_PAGE3-4.jpgWith Queen Elizabeth II on our minds these days (even over here in the U.S.), a newly published fine press book captures the moment. Alice Simpson, a California-based artist who makes sculpture and artist's books inspired by dance, has designed and illustrated Queen Elizabeth I & Sir Christopher Hatton, The Dancing Chancellor.

DANCING CHANCELLOR_Open-2.jpgThe 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 have periodically written about my time at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, including on this blog. But the further along I get in my bookselling career, the more I recognize the enormous part attending played in whatever success I've managed to have. As this year's seminar approaches, I have expanded on my earlier praises for the seminar:

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.
I have posted these (lengthy) thoughts, along with some thoughts on the future of the book trade, on my blog. I hope anyone considering attending will take a few minutes to read and then go and register. With Bradford Morrow and Adam Davis as guest faculty, it promises to be a banner year.
The Bowler Press of North Vancouver, Canada, is about to undertake a huge printing project (with your help): a hand-printed, letterpress edition of Pride & Prejudice in three volumes. Jarrett Morrison, proprietor of Bowler Press, will hand-set the text in Fournier typeface, with the accompanying italic. It will be cast from English Monotype matrices at the Bixler Letterfoundry in Skaneateles, NY. The paper--all 5,600 sheets of it--will be Zerkall mould made paper. A dozen of Morrison's wood engravings will illustrate each volume. They intend to produce 138 copies, to be bound by Alanna Simenson, of the Mad Hatter Bookbinding Co., in both standard and deluxe editions.

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:

 
Where-Wild-Things-Sendak.jpgDoes the death of an author have an immediate impact on his or her "collectability"? The question came to mind when AbeBooks announced last week that its second most-expensive sale for May was a signed 1963 first edition of Where the Wild Things Are, which sold for $25,000. Sendak passed away on May 8. Other notable Sendak sales at Abe last month included a signed copy of the same book, published in 1964, for $4,195, and five other editions, all selling for more than $500 each.

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."  
John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces is a cult classic, and its many devotees will be interested to know about a scarce letter and archive that goes under the hammer on June 15. Sotheby's New York is offering a letter written on January 7, 1963 by Toole to close friends Pat (Patricia), Rick (Milton), and Gordon Rickels. Upon her death in 2009, Dr. Patricia Rickels willed the letter to a friend, who has now consigned it to auction. It is, said Sotheby's, the first Toole letter at auction in thirty years.

SothebysTooleLetter.jpgThe 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."

TooleBooks.jpgThe 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. 
RubensImage.jpgWe'd like to turn your attention to this excellent essay on Peter Paul Rubens by Maureen Mulvihill, a scholar who has published several essays of interest to us in the past (e.g., on Jane Austen, or Virginia Woolf). In it, she reviews an exhibition on Rubens currently at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida. The ILAB website provides this fine introduction (and a link directly to the essay in a PDF):

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.

Screen shot 2012-05-21 at 9.37.26 AM.pngThe Piccolo Spoleto Festival, a two-week celebration of literature, film, music, dance, theatre, and visual arts in lovely Charleston, South Carolina, opens this Memorial Day weekend. The festival, now in its 34th year, runs nearly 700 events at many locations around town. Of particular interest to you, dear readers, would be the literary lectures and book signings held at the Charleston Society Library. Our own Nick Basbanes will be there on Thursday, May 31, to tell stores of the "Gently Mad" and to sign copies of the new edition of A Gentle Madness, just published by Fine Books Press.

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.
Last late month we reported that Larry McMurtry had decided to auction 350,000 books from his Archer City bookshop. Today we have more details to share.

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.
GrolierProspectus.pngThe Grolier Club of New York is planning one of its landmark "One Hundred" exhibitions, this time with its eye on children's literature. Showcasing the best known and most admired children's books of the past 400 years, it is sure to be a hit with collectors, book trade professionals, and the general public. A 300-page exhibition catalogue is also in production, featuring essays by American bookseller Justin Schiller, Canadian scholar Jill Shefrin, British scholar Brian Alderson, Eric Carle Museum Curator Nick Clark, and American scholar and Cotsen Children's Library Curator Andrea Immel.

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. 
The Albert H. Small Collection goes on the block this Friday at Christie's New York. The collection of high spots from a man who has been collecting for sixty years is dazzling -- we have Audubon, Shakespeare (as in second, third, and fourth folios), a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible, and a Kelmscott Chaucer, plus a large selection of presidential autographs, various Declaration of Independence editions, and a hand-colored engraving of Paul Revere's Bloody Massacre.

2655_38a.jpg Humphry Repton's autograph manuscript "Red Book" for Sunning Hill, Berkshire the Seat of James Sibbald, Esq. 1790. Estimate $30,000-$50,000.

The selection of Humphry Repton manuscript books (one seen above) and other material are among the most "personal" items in the sale. In a special feature we ran on Mr. Small last autumn, he told us about his infatuation with the eighteenth-century British landscape artist:

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.
popdelusions20-800.jpgBook artist Richard Minsky has just announced his latest work, Pop Delusions, a house made out of his own credit cards, Chinese and American paper money, and gold leaf. Look inside and find two editions of Charles Mackay's Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, bound in credit cards. Yes, credit cards, which sounds like quite an impossible task. Minsky used eighty of his own cards, collected over twenty-five years. "It's certainly the least replaceable material I've ever used," he told me. "It was the right material for the book, so I had to."

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."

PopMarch1.jpgMinsky 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.

Related articles
Yesterday's New York Times ran an article about novelist and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk's new museum. The Istanbul museum, which opened on Saturday, is based on Pamuk's 2008 novel, The Museum of Innocence. The display cases contain nearly one thousand objects--cigarette butts, earrings, ceramic dogs--described in the novel; the protagonist is a collector, of course. Here's a neat quote from the novelist about the project:

"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.
Earlier this week Christie's unveiled an extraordinary fifteenth-century Jewish festival prayerbook--an illuminated Mahzor containing 442 vellum leaves. I had the pleasure of seeing this book in New York last week, and the illustrations seem as bold and bright as they day they were created, c. 1490, near Florence, Italy.

Illumination.jpgIn 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.

Screen shot 2012-04-18 at 11.29.14 AM.pngThe 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
At the rare evening sale of the Kenneth Nebenzahl library at Christie's tonight, a full set of Edward Curtis' The North American Indian, on the very desirable Japan vellum, in exceptional condition took in $2.9 million, including buyer's premium. Hammered down by Francis Wahlgren, international head of books and manuscripts at Christie's, it seems to be a world record for the Curtis work. The estimate was $1 - $1.5 million (a complete set sold for $1.4 million seven years ago).

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.
With so much focus on New York this week, I did not want to miss taking a look at Dominic Winter's (South Cerney, England) auction of medical books, coming up on April 18. The first of two sales occurs that day to disseminate the collection of the Birmingham Medical Institute, founded in 1875. For collectors of rare and antiquarian medical books (myself included), this is a major opportunity: 5,000 volumes in 1,000 lots, dating from 1502 to 1920.

G110-small.jpgPart 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.

G109-small.jpgPart 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.

Related articles
While many of us in the antiquarian book world will descend upon New York City next week, our columnist Nick Basbanes will be giving the keynote at the University of Missouri's Library Society dinner on Friday, April 13. He'll be talking about his life as a reporter and writer, about the "special place in his heart" for his first book, A Gentle Madness, and about his upcoming book, Common Bond.

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.
For those of you with our spring issue in hand, one of our longer features is about Queen Victoria and the opening of Victoria Revealed, a major exhibit at Kensington Palace about the queen's childhood ("I was only a child and a lonely one indeed.")

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:


When you think of literary cities you might visit in the U.S., what comes to mind? New York City; Concord or Amherst, Massachusetts; Hannibal, Missouri; Monterey, California--you get the drift. But Rochester, New York? According to LiteraryTourist.com's recent 'literary audit,' Rochester has a rating of 93 due to its rare book collections at the University of Rochester, the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Eastman House, and the Strong Museum; plus two literary landmarks; and six (!) used bookstores. (Also, Yesterday's Muse in Webster, NY, is just east of town.)

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.
Can people be romantically linked by the books they read? The Canada-based bookselling site, Abebooks.com, thinks so. Today Abebooks launched BiblioCupid, a dating service that "uses a specially designed love algorithm" to match mates based on their shared literary tastes.

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...
Having read Nigel Beale's recent, disturbing account of Canada's national library and archives--large, empty exhibition rooms, slashed acquisition budgets, possible de-accessioning of collections--I asked our Fine Maps columnist, Jeffrey Murray, what he knew about the situation. Murray retired from Library & Archives Canada a few years back. He said he met with some former colleagues recently and "was quite taken aback by how demoralized they were." He also pointed me toward a Save Library & Archives Canada website, which I hope readers will take a moment to look at.

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.


Today in The Millions, author Cory MacLaughlin shares a wonderful tale of literary sleuthing. In the seven-year process of researching and writing about A Confederacy of Dunces and its author, John Kennedy Toole, MacLaughlin heard about an original manuscript -- a dream come true! Or, another dead? Here's a snippet.

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.]

Safford Image.jpgTake a jaunt to the Grolier Club for a peek into old-school Scribner, when the publishing company founded by Charles Scribner could boast its own bookstore and a rare book operation with a serious bookman at its helm, Ray Safford. Safford worked for Scribner's from the 1880s until his retirement in 1928. Along the way he met and worked with various authors and artists including Joseph Conrad, Eugene Field, and Maxfield Parrish.

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."

Emilie_Grigsby_b.jpgOne 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. 

VesaliusPic.jpgIn 1543, Andreas Vesalius, the founder of modern human anatomy, published De Humani Corporis Fabrica (The Fabric of the Human Body), what is now considered the most famous and beautifully illustrated of all early printed medical books. Later today, Professor Vivian Nutton of the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, will present the discovery of an annotated copy of the later 1555 edition that includes hundreds of Vesalius' manuscript notes and corrections to the printer plates. It seems the Flemish anatomist was working on a third edition of his magnum opus!

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

Jack Kerouac was born ninety years ago today. Did he ever think this would be his legacy? Apparently, Kerouac wanted Marlon Brando to play Dean Moriarty...


Community Supported Bookshops

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!

Coming up this week at Swann Galleries of New York, a large auction of prints, drawings, and lives d'artiste. A major selection of prints and illustrated books of Jean-Emile Laboureur will start the 786-lot sale, followed by all the names you would expect in an auction of prints and drawings: Chagall, Picasso, Manet, Whistler, Pissarro, Renoir, Lautrec, Tissot, Grant Wood, and more. John Steuart Curry's infamous lithograph of John Brown is one to note, not so much for its price (est. $4,000-6,000) as for its beauty. And with so much attention on Edvard Munch these days, surely his Selbstbildnis mit Weinflasche, or, Self-portrait with Wine Glass, 1930 (est. $40,000-60,000) will command a high bid.

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.

mabel.jpgMabel Dwight's Book Auction. Lithograph, 1931. Signed and dated in pencil. Its estimate is $1,000-1,500.

sloan.jpgOn the same theme, this one is called Connoisseurs of Prints by John Sloan, depicting an exhibition of prints to be auctioned at Manhattan's old American Art Gallery. Etching, 1905. Signed, titled and inscribed in pencil. Its estimate is $2,000-3,000.

sloan1.jpgAlso from John Sloan, this etching it titled Reading in the Subway, from 1926. Signed, titled and inscribed. Its estimate is $1,500-2,500.

Ilsted.jpgAnother female reader (more serious perhaps) can be seen here in Peter Ilsted's color mezzotint, Woman Reading, from 1925. Signed and numbered in pencil. Its estimate is $2,000-3,000.

Benton.jpgYet another reader turns up in Thomas Hart Benton's Old Man Reading, a lithograph published by Associated American Artists in 1939. Signed in pencil. Its estimate is $2,000-3,000.
Book artist (and our book art columnist) Richard Minsky has just unveiled his latest collection -- The Book Art of Thomas Watson Ball. Following in the footsteps of his three highly successful collections of American publishers' bindings, he assembled this single-artist collection of more than sixty books, dating from 1897 to 1905. Ball was a designer for Harper's and other turn-of-the-century publishers, and his work was often unattributed (and copied). Writes Minsky, "Ball was a master of silhouette and skyline, and excelled at landscape and marine subjects. His abstract landscapes on book covers predate Kandinsky and other modernists' ventures in that direction, beginning in 1897." The exhibition is up now at Minsky's Hudson, New York, studio, and some of it can be seen online.

Minsky-Ball.jpgThough 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

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OFFICIAL PHOTO - 2012 AD Greenroom at Academy Awards®.JPG
Architectural Digest's 10th Annual Signature Greenroom at the 84th Academy Awards®. Credit: Roger Davies for Architectural Digest

Every year Architectural Digest designs an exclusive backstage lounge for Oscar presenters and honorees. This year, that greenroom has a designer library, too.

Thatcher Wine of Juniper Books in Boulder, Colorado, was called on by this year's AD Greenroom designer, Waldo Fernandez, to fill the room's empty bookshelves. Fernandez's overall design evokes the Hollywood of the 1930s and 40s, with references to the glamorous parties of director George Cukor. Wine ran with that idea, imagining shelves of books that look like vintage film reels.

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A portion of the library prior to installation. Courtesy of Thatcher Wine. 

"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.

Later this week Swann Galleries will auction the libraries of two American private press collectors. Expect to see books from Ashendene, Bird & Bull, Doves, Golden Cockerel, Gregynog, Kelmscott, Nonesuch, as well as more contemporary printers like The Limited Editions Club, Janus, Arion, and many more. It is a great opportunity for those who are actively collecting private press books--there is both a variety of printers and price points (estimates range from the low hundreds to the tens of thousands).

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.
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Thinking about taking a course at Rare Book School this year? I am! The 2012 course schedule is up, and there are so many to choose from. Our very own columnist, Joel Silver, of IU's Lilly Library is teaching a new course this year, Reference Sources for Researching Rare Books, which sounds fantastic. I took Alice Schreyer's Special Collections course several years ago, and it was life changing. RBS also has a certificate program now for those of us who can't get enough RBS. Speaking of which, have you seen this short video, filmed during last year's summer session?

  
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of 'going home again' so to speak. Drew University Library in Madison, New Jersey, has been holding a series of conversations on collecting. Drew is where I did my graduate work in book history, and where I stayed on to work in the library's archives for several years. This past fall, the library held a talk on collecting Byron and Whitman with collector Norman B. Tomlinson, and another on collecting political ephemera with Dr. James Fraser. This past week, collector and Rev. John McEllhenney, whose particular interests are Methodism, Robert Frost, and Welsh poet R.S. Thomas, gave a wonderful talk that he titled "Evolution of a Bookish Magpie."

thomas.jpgMcEllhenney 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.
Nearly a year after bookseller Peter Howard's death, Bonhams is holding the first of many auctions to dissolve the store's stock this Sunday. This first auction is chock-full of amazing books and art, John Steinbeck material leading the pack with a typed manuscript of "The Pearl of the World," the original version of his novel, The Pearl, estimated at $15,000-20,000. Another highlight is James Joyce's rare self-published broadside poem, Gas from a Burner. Its estimate is $12,000-18,000.

whitman.jpgBut 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.

welles.jpgOr 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.

jeffers.jpgThere'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.
Coming up on Thursday of the week, Heritage Auctions will hold a large auction of rare books and manuscripts in Beverly Hills, where the heavy hitters will be a first edition of Hemingway's Three Stories & Ten Poems inscribed to Margaret Anderson, a Pony Express Bible in its original binding, a complete set of first editions of Dickens' Christmas books, some Poe, some Melville, and a few others.

Pockets.jpgAs 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.

Pockets2.jpgAnother 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.
A reader wrote in to us to ask for help in gathering information about some Redoute rose prints (chromolithographs?) she has. I'm posting a picture in the hope that someone out there might have some information about the publisher, Henry B. Sandler of NYC (printed on its verso).

Screen shot 2012-02-05 at 8.35.40 PM.png 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!

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What I like about Freeman's auction of books, manuscripts, ephemera happening on Thursday of this week is the incredible selection -- 500+ lots of letters, books, photographs, newspapers, posters, find binding sets, works on paper. It's great fun to peruse because there surely will be items to interest one's particular collection(s). The sale also features the Wendy and Alan C. Wasserman collection of N.C. Wyeth. I've chosen a few pieces to highlight below, to give you an idea of the breadth of the auction; the first piece is from the Wyeth collection.

829419.jpgWhat is hoped will be one of the bigger sales of this auction. Wyeth's original charcoal drawing on paper of Abraham Lincoln, c. 1920s. The estimate is $8,000-12,000. 

826192.jpgLife in London; Or Day and Night Scenes, illustrated by I.R. & G. Cruikshank. The first edition in book form published in 1821. I like the pictorial boards, not a common sight. Moreover, this book contains an inserted 12mo sheet bearing George Cruikshank's autograph annotation and his embossed Hampstead Road address. The estimate is $500-800.

826502.jpgAn autograph letter signed of Walt Whitman's, May 24, 1879. References a play about Lincoln's murder. The estimate is $3,000-5,000.

822142.jpgA signed and dated silver print of Queen Elizabeth II, showing her in her coronation dress, 1953. The estimate is $500-800.
I suspect that most of us have vices that we occasionally rue.  Mine is the so-called political novel.

Despite the fact that most such novels rarely rise to the level of brain candy, I can't seem to get enough of them.  I blame this unfortunate defect of character on the American Legion.

In the summer of 1972, the American Legion post where I was living at the time decided to send me to Boys State, one of this nation's best-known institutional attempts to instill in young men some modest sense of civic responsibility.

A month or so later, the Legion compounded its mistake by sending me to Boys Nation, a program which sought to instill that same sense of civic responsibility at a national, rather than a state and local, level.

The political process that myself and my fellow delegates were privileged to witness, especially at the national level, was fascinating.  But then, the American Legion had worked very hard back then (as it continues to do now) to make certain that delegates such as myself came away with precisely that impression.  

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The inner workings of the Defense Department were outlined for us in a meeting with the Secretary of Defense (and former Congressman) Melvin Laird.  A former Attorney General, William P. Rogers, briefed us on the State Department, where he was then serving the nation as Secretary of State. Each delegate had lunch with his state's two Senators in the Senate Dining Room.  The highlight of the program was a handshake and a few brief words with President Richard Nixon in the East Room of the White House.  (Unbeknowst to us teenagers, the seeds of this President's eventual downfall had been sown only a few weeks earlier in a hotel just a mile or so from where we then stood.)

I was hooked.  On politics.  Shortly thereafter, I took a B.A. in Political Science with the idea of going into the Foreign Service.  And I started reading everything political that I could get my hands on: theories, histories, biographies ... political novels.

I think I should get at least partial credit for not starting out immediately with the dross. No sirree!  It was Stendahl's The Red and The Black, Dostoevsky's The Possessed, Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984, as well as American political classics like All the King's Men, Advise and Consent and The Last Hurrah.

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Unfortunately, there were enablers.  Lots of them!  I was doing a good bit of travel in those days.  Lots of airports.  Lots of airport bookshops.  Lots of enforced downtime (this was BLT: Before Laptops).  A copy of Irving Howe's Politics and the Novel.

Pretty soon, my briefcase was stuffed with the likes of Time Will Run Back, Speak No Evil, even (much later) my current Senator's A Time to Run....

At one point, I had hundreds of political novels, mostly paperback, scattered about my abode-of-the-moment. Alas, I eventually parted company with most of them due to demands on my time.

But my addiction to the political novel has never been entirely suppressed.  A couple of years ago I picked up a copy of Stuart Scheingold's The Political Novel: Re-imagining the Twentieth Century.  

Oops...!
FBC2012winter-cover.jpgWhen I saw the news bit earlier this week that artist and novelist Audrey Niffenegger will be publishing a short story titled "The Wrong Faerie" in the upcoming anthology, Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane, I was beyond excited. The story is about Charles Altamont Doyle, "a Victorian artist who was institutionalised for alcoholism. He was also the father of Arthur Conan Doyle, and he believed in fairies." In short, it sounds fabulous already. Maybe I'm biased. As FB&C readers know, I traveled to Chicago this past summer to meet Niffenegger and discuss books, art, fame, and collecting. She also signed a few books for me. The result of that interview is our winter issue's cover story. But we talked a lot that day, and so there is more to share about our conversation.

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.

P1020571-small.jpgAudrey Niffenegger shows me her prints at Printworks Gallery in Chicago this past summer. Photo credit: Brett Barry.

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.
shelf-lives.jpgLast week the Cambridge University Library in Cambridge, England, opened an exhibition dedicated to individual book collectors. Shelf Lives: Four Centuries of Collectors and their Books "allows us to observe the changing motives, fashions and tastes of book-collectors over the course of four hundred years." Spanning the sixteenth to the twentieth century, the collector/donors include manuscript collector George Lewis, music collector Marion Margaret Scott, map collector Alfred Harker, and bindings collector Samuel Sandars, along with ten others. Seen here at left are volumes from the collection of Sir Geoffrey Keynes, in one of the bookcases in which he housed them. Keynes' collection includes the work of Jane Austen, William Blake, and Siegfried Sassoon to name a few; these were the books he used to compile his bibliographies.
 

jenkinson.jpgFrancis 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.
Tomorrow at PBA Galleries, a fantastic collection of seventy clipper ship sailing cards goes on sale (pun intended). Pictured here is one highlight: a card for the clipper ship Sparkling Wave, in the Merchants' Express Line, 1859, printed on porcelain coated stock, with color wood-engraved illustration. It is estimated at $2,000-3,000.

ClipperShip,jpg.jpgAccording 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&
I've had fun reading year-end lists of the most popular online articles at The Millions, Latham's, and Slate, and I thought it would be neat to see what's been most appealing to our readers as well. Working our statistical magic, we came up with a list of our top 10 online articles of 2011.

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!

s-germany-gutenberg.jpgFor those of you enjoying the winter issue of FB&C, you'll note an article on bibliophilately by Larry T. Nix, writer/publisher of the Library History Buff blog. Larry has set up a webpage with lots of supplemental resources, information, and images for anyone interested in learning more about this fusion of stamp and book collecting. The stamp seen here is from his collection, issued by Germany in 1954 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Gutenberg's 42-line Bible.
audubonbooks.pngComing up later this month at Christie's, the Duke of Portland's four-volume set of John James Audubon's Birds of America, the most expensive book ever sold at auction. Estimated at $7-10 million, bibliophiles will wait with bated breath to find out if the duke's Birds will break the current world record of $11.5 million, set at Sotheby's sale of Lord Hesketh's rare books and manuscripts in December of 2010. The duke's set is bound in full crimson wide gilt-panelled morocco (seen here at left) and is, according to Christie's, "in very fine condition, with colors fresh and bright, and showing minimal handling evidence."

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. 
Today I direct your attention to a speech given by Alan Bamberger (a dealer of rare and out-of-print art books and an art consultant) to the Friends of the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC. It's titled "Collecting Art Like a Pro," but I think you'll find it could very easily apply to books, or any other type of collectible.

...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' of investment-worthy autographs, you say? Yes, and it has produced a 14.84% return per year since 2000.

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!
12910.jpgOn display through December 31 at Bard Graduate Center's Focus Gallery in New York City, is a selection of Christmas cards that serve as "an introduction to a large artifactual and aesthetic field that until now has been largely unexplored ... These cards constitute a category of American material culture that is rich in documentary potential yet has been nearly invisible in the scholarly literature." Seen above is a modified French-fold card in green, black, and gold lithography on lightweight imitation parchment, short fold at bottom, ca. 1935, from the Bard Graduate Center exhibit and book, American Christmas Cards, 1900-1960.

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.

Happy holidays!
Ralph_Waldo_Emerson_ca1857_retouched.jpgLast month, I received my Walden Woods/Thoreau Institute newsletter--always a welcome piece of mail bearing good news about education and preservation at Walden Pond. Even better, this newsletter had a bit of rare book news. Bookseller Mark Stirling of Upcountry Letters, who specializes in the Transcendentalists, sold (at a discount) his personal collection of Emerson material to the Thoreau Institute. Stirling wrote to me recently, "I was pleased that the items were returning to their hometown, so to speak, and that they would be available for study."

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").
Dickens.jpgCharles Dickens missed dinner with his wealthy benefactor, Angela Burdett-Coutts, because he had a gig that night. In this letter, offered by James Cummins Rare Books in New York City for $12,000, Dickens sends his regrets, for he is "going to Bradford in Yorkshire to give a Christmas Reading to some three thousand people." That was December, 1854, one year after Dickens began giving such public readings of A Christmas Carol. Turned out that 3,700 people attended his performance.

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.
heller.jpgComing up this week Bonhams' Fine Books and Manuscripts sale on December 15, a desk owned and used by Joseph Heller, complete with coffee ring stains to the top. From the picture, the twentieth-century wooden desk does look a bit worn, but considering that the celebrated author owned it for about thirty years, let's call it a writer's patina. It is believed that Heller wrote at least some of the following works sitting at this very desk in his East Hampton, New York, home: God Knows (1984); No Laughing Matter (1986); Picture This (1988); Closing Time (1994); Now and Then: From Coney Island to Here (1998); and Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man (published in 2000). Heller died in 1999. His desk will be offered without reserve and is (conservatively) estimated to reach $1,500-2,500. Lamp included.

Reminds me of Melville's lap desk Bonhams had not so long ago. That one sold for $34,160.
The Paris Review is holding an online holiday auction. So if you're in the market for some unique, tres literary gifts--like naming a character in an upcoming novel, high tea with an author, or a literary tour of Greenwich Village--take a look at its auction on Bidding for Good, now through Dec. 11. What other treasures await?
Bolano.jpgOriginal artwork by Leanne Shapton for Robert Bolano's The Third Reich. There are four pieces available, as well as a working sketch of captions. The illustration seen here appeared on the front cover of The Paris Review and in the first serialization of Bolano's novel. Signed and framed in a shadowbox. There is already spirited bidding on this piece, which is estimated at $750.
lf.jpgComing up for auction this week at Heritage Auctions is this library book due date slip (remember those?) bearing the penciled signature of "J. Salinger." The worn card with seventeen other signatures dates from December 1959. And what was the famous 40-year-old author reading? Norman Forrest's Death Took a Publisher, a bibliomystery from 1936. Presumably this library card comes from a public library close to Cornish, New Hampshire. Salinger moved there in the early fifties and gradually slipped into a reclusive lifestyle.

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.
Armstrong_Large.jpgComing up this Friday, Dec. 2, at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia is a symposium on decorated commercial bindings (such as the beauty seen here designed by Margaret Armstrong for Scribner's in 1912). Our own Richard Minsky is one of three speakers at the symposium, along with Barbara Hebard of the North Bennet Street School of Bookbinding and Susan J. Isaacs of the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts.
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.
In honor of the holiday upon us, here's a fun look at Thanksgiving past. By the time Grover Cleveland took office, the nation had been celebrating the holiday "officially" for more than twenty years, since Lincoln signed a proclamation in 1863 stating, "I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving." Roosevelt fixed the date into law in 1941.
Shown here is Cleveland's signed proclamation, declaring, "I, Grover Cleveland, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate and set apart Thursday the 26th of November instant as a day of public Thanksgiving and prayer, and do invoke the observance of the same by all the people of the land." Every president's official proclamation is housed at the National Archives, but presidents often sign extra copies to be distributed to officials. This is one such copy, currently offered by the Raab Collection in Ardmore, PA, for $9,000.

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!
There are times when booksellers' catalogues are more like limited editions, and such is the case with Glenn Horowitz's new catalogue, Virginia Woolf: The Flight of Time. And with good reason--this beautiful new catalogue chronicles the superb collection of William B. Beekman that is being offered en bloc for $4.5 million. An exhibition of the collection goes up tomorrow at the Forbes Galleries in New York City and will remain there open to the public until January 14.

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.
MinskyB&N.jpg

Tonight at my local Barnes & Noble, book artist, author, and FB&C columnist Richard Minsky did a talk/signing for his new book, The Book Art of Richard Minsky. As one of the five books we highlighted in our holiday gift guide this year, you may already be aware of this stunning new retrospective of Minsky's book art, which is available in a trade edition from your local bookseller or a limited slipcase edition direct from Richard. But those were not the only books on display while Richard shared some stories of his bookmaking. There was also the Barnes & Noble 2012 Desk Diary (day planner, calendar, whatever you call it) featuring the American decorated bindings that Richard has been researching, collecting, cataloguing, selling, and celebrating for years. (He chronicled many of them in his 2010 book, The Art of American Book Covers: 1875-1930.) There is a hardcover version of the Desk Diary, which comes in its own box, and two faux leather softcover versions, all of which are beautiful for those of you who, like me, still keep a written calendar. And, at under $20, the price is perfect for gift giving.

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.
A Message from the Authors Guild...

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.
The British Library's new exhibit, Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination, showcases the library's incredible collection of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. The 154 colorful and gilded books on exhibit were made for and owned by England's kings and queens between the ninth and the sixteenth centuries.

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.

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.
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.

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.
Tomorrow at 10:00 a.m., Doyle NY will auction the Fath collection of prints, books, and autographs. Creekmore Fath was a Texas lawyer and politician who served in the FDR administration and made an unsuccessful bid for Congress. His collection is particularly strong in the work of Thomas Hart Benton; it is the largest private collection outside the artist's family and contains all but five known Benton prints. In an exhibition catalogue for a selection of his prints, Fath once wrote, "The desire to collect, and the pleasure derived from each acquisition, are as exciting and compelling as passionate love."

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.

Race.png
Thomas Hart Benton's The Race, a haunting lithograph, signed and numbered in pencil. Estimate $6,000-8000.

Wreck.png
Benton's expressive lithograph, Wreck of the OL'97, is also signed. Estimate $6,000-8,000.

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John Steuart Curry captures the wildness of John Brown in this 1939 lithograph, signed. Estimate $3,000-4,000.

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There is amazing energy in George Bellows' Billy Sunday, lithograph signed and titled in pencil. Estimate $6,000-8,000.
As if you needed a good reason to travel to Toronto, its International Antiquarian Book Fair is coming up this weekend. From Friday Oct. 28 through Sunday Oct. 30, nearly fifty booksellers will fill the Metro Toronto Convention Centre with an amazing selection of collectible books, manuscripts, maps, and ephemera. Here are a few items to look out for.

Nansen.jpgThanks to one of our freelancers, Erica Olsen, who wrote about the 100th anniversary of Sydpolen in our current issue, I know that 2011 is "Nansen-Amundsen Year" in Norway, and, as she put it, "polarlitteratur is hot." The Wayfarer's Bookshop of North Vancouver has this original signed Nansen letter in English from 1899, together with a studio cabinet photograph of Fridtjof Nansen. Price: $2,750.
It cannot escape notice that there's a bounteous crop of literary-inspired films coming to theaters this fall. Get out your popcorn--here's a preview.  

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."

On Thursday of this week Sotheby's NY will hold the second part of its incredible sale of the library of an English Bibliophile. Judging from the list, this English bibliophile was quite the collector of the high points of American literature. Several of the lots estimated in the six-figure range* are American first editions, including:

A first edition of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby in its second state (still ultra rare) dust jacket (est. $150,000-$180,000).

A first edition/first issue of Edgar Allan Poe's Tales (est. $200,000-$250,000).

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