Jester reading a book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Taylor Swift performing live on Speak Now tour in July 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Jester reading a book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Taylor Swift performing live on Speak Now tour in July 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
After ten years of hurtling through space, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft approached Pluto and its moons this week, sending home stunning photographs of the icy dwarf planet. Over the next six months the vessel will continue accumulating data that astronomers hope will reveal some of the secrets concealed by this rocky world at the limits of our solar system. Before the spacecraft began its 3 billion-mile trek in January 2006, NASA scientists maintained that this mission - the exploration of the Kuiper Belt (the farthest, oldest portion of the solar system where Pluto resides) - as the highest priority in space travel.
IImage of Pluto from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, taken on July 13, 2015 when the spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. The bright feature in the bottom portion of the planet has been coined “the heart”.
Image Credit: NASA/APL/SwRI
Much what we knew about Pluto (and hundreds of asteroids) is due to Clyde Tombaugh. As a 24 year-old at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, the farmer-turned-astronomer discovered Pluto in 1930 and sparked what could be considered the modern push to planetary exploration. Tombaugh spent his entire life gazing towards the heavens, and built over thirty telescopes to better understand the cosmos. (His first telescope, a store-bought Sears model, proved insufficient rather quickly.) He died in 1997, just shy of his 91st birthday. Tombaugh was the first American to discover a planet in our solar system, and was honored for his work by becoming the first person whose remains, included in the New Horizons craft, were launched into the stars beyond our corner of the universe. After getting a close-up look at Pluto, he will continue charting new worlds beyond our galactic neighborhood.
Clyde Tombaugh: Discoverer of Pluto (1906-1997) Image Credit: NASA
Halloween is still two weeks away, yet goblins, witches and faux headstones already claim valuable lawn space across the country. While the kids celebrate with silly tricks and sticky treats, why not indulge grown-ups this season with work by the marvelously gloomy Edward Gorey.
Located in the Flatiron neighborhood in Manhattan, B&B Rare Books is featuring three Gorey first editions; The Doubtful Guest, ($275) The Blue Aspic ($150) and The Loathsome Couple($100). All three are in fine to very good condition and none will break the bank.
Although these books aren’t for the faint of heart - unwelcome visitors, death and destruction feature prominently throughout - perhaps the most ghoulish tale is The Loathsome Couple. It is considered a cult classic among Gorey collectors and tells such a shocking story that even the author acknowledged it as his most appalling. The murderous husband and wife couple is based on a real duo that perpetrated the chilling Moors Murders in England in the 1960’s. Unlike in most Gorey tales, the characters in this book are caught and suitably punished.
Another way to celebrate Halloween would be to visit the Gorey House in Yarmouth Port on Cape Cod. Since the author’s death in 2000, the home has been converted into a delightfully unique museum that chronicles the life, work and charitable endeavors of the master of macabre.
The Gorey House hasn’t planned anything special for Halloween this year. (The House co-hosted a Dracula Blood Drive with the Cape Cod Hospital in 2006, but hasn’t since then.) It is currently exhibiting original artwork from The Vinegar Works, Three Volumes of Moral Instruction.
Currently featured in the gift shop is a toy theater based on Gorey’s drawings and sets for his award-winning Broadway production of Dracula. It retails at a reasonable $25.00.
Sadly, Ombledroom, the twenty-eight pound white cat who ruled the House and delighted visitors for twelve years, passed away last summer at the age of twelve. Visitors can pay tribute at to the feline’s final resting place, which is situated under a Southern magnolia tree on a patch of lawn by the house. Happy Haunting!
If you saw the Fine Books Facebook page on Monday you may have been enticed to guess who will grace the magazine’s summer cover. A hint to seek out that day’s Google Doodle (see below) would have led you to Maurice Sendak, arguably the twentieth century’s preeminent illustrator of children’s books. Google created the Doodle because Sendak would have celebrated his 85th birthday on Monday. (Sendak died last May.)
Leonard Marcus, a leading authority on children’s books and illustrations, has written a story for the summer issue discussing Sendak and his work. Marcus is also the author of Show me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter (Candlewick 2012) and recently edited a catalogue in conjunction with an exhibition of over 200 of Sendak’s previously unpublished art and sponsored by the New York Society of Illustrators.
Bill Clinton dubbed Sendak “The King of Dreams” when he awarded him the National Medal of Art in 1996. The Brooklyn native wrote and illustrated close to 100 titles, including perhaps most notably Where the Wild Things Are. He was awarded a Caldecott Medal and the Hans Christian Andersen Award, among many others throughout his sixty-year career.
Children of all ages can cite their favorite book. Mine is Dear Mili, an unpublished Wilhelm Grimm tale rediscovered in 1983 and published with Sendak’s illustrations in 1988. The images of death and miracles are wild - abnormally vivid forests, little girls with very large feet, and psychedelic landscapes. I remember reading it as a child, and while the story itself frightened me, I could not stop gazing at those wonderful images and following Mili on her unflinching quest. In Show me a Story! Marcus asks Sendak about Mili. His response illustrates his complete understanding of children: “...she has the same kind of trudging, hard-working quality that I love in children. They’re trudging children; they go and do what they must do.”
A little Father’s Day tribute regarding Dear Mili: as a prized possession, I have a poster for the book, signed by Sendak, that my father stood in a long line to get at an ABA Convention the year of publication. It’s the only time he ever queued up at any book convention to get a poster signed. And since Sendak was only autographing one poster per customer, my doting dad got right back in line and procured another so that my sister and I might each have one.
The release of a new film adaptation of Fitzgerald’s classic novel has reignited a mania for all things Gatsby. And why not? The story illustrates a prosperous, glamorous, yet sometimes garish, period in American society. On Monday Rebecca wrote about a new edition of Fitzgerald’s first eight short stories. Today, we look at the creation of the first award for children’s literature, which was the same year in which Fitzgerald set The Great Gatbsy.
While Fitzgerald described the cosmopolitan world of flapper culture set to decadent jazz music, American publisher and renowned admirer of children’s books Frederic Melcher commissioned the first Newbery Medal. Melcher named the award after the eighteenth-century British bookseller and printer Jon Newbery because he is regarded as the first dedicated printer and publisher of children’s literature.
Newbery felt that making beautiful and accessible books for children was essential to their development. When he published Pretty Poems for Children Three Feet High he added the following inscription: “To all those who are good this book is dedicated by their best friend.”
The first Newbery medal winner went to a non-fiction history book called The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon (Liveright). In the 1920’s this book was considered the authoritative children’s resource on 5,000 years of history.
Like The Great Gatsby, the Newbery Award is a uniquely American institution, since only authors contributing to American children’s literature and published in the United States by an American publisher are considered for the prize.
Source: Hazard, Paul. Books, Children & Men. (M. Mitchell, Trans.).Boston: The Horn Book Co., 1944.
The Women’s Liberation Music Archive emphasizes one of the great services the internet allows collectors to provide: free and comprehensive access to collections which otherwise might not survive by their own means. There are at least two kinds of materials that make up collections: works that are self-evidently collectible like fine press books, and those works for whom it takes an outcry or two to bring to our notice. Since many of the bands and their associated paper-and-song trails archived here were created in opposition to commercial culture, it’s hard to imagine their place in an archive by their own means. It’s emerging archives like this that turn historical deficits into surpluses, and that’s important work in any field.“Fusing music with politics to develop and express feminist ideas, women musicians and bands were a major part of the WLM [Women’s Liberation Movement]. However, there is scant permanent record of their ground-breaking activity during this era, much of which is not widely known about. Many groups never made recordings and operated outside the commercial, mainstream or alternative circuits - or indeed were oppositional to them. They were self-funded and worked on a shoestring and thus unable to create lasting material. Despite being a vital and integral part of the movement, they are often omitted from or marginalised by media reportage and feminist histories.”
Neighbors and passersby joined in, and soon the covered wall was featured as a zoomable, interactive images on The BBC: “Peckham isHome”; “CHANGE!”; “I feel at home here”; “PECKHAM LIVES”, and “I love Peckham”.There was so much fear, anger and distress in the area in the aftermath of the rioting that we wanted to do something to remind people that lots of people really care about Peckham; that there are incredibly talented young people here and a vibrant and proud community which wants to come together to try to address the problems here. (Source)
English: Great Seal of the State of Georgia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There has been an outcry from archivists and librarians from blog to shining blog, and the American Libraries Association has issued a press release condemning the closure:
“The Georgia Archives is a treasure trove of unique documents and official records. As one of the original 13 colonies, Georgia has a rich and colorful history. Events of historic importance continue to occur. The State of Georgia established the Archives to preserve the history of Georgia, and access to that resource is vitally important to the future of Georgia and its citizens.”
There is a large spectrum of scholars who suffer from such a drastic action: historians of the South from Professor James C. Cobb of the University of Georgia, to local genealogy researches, historical re-enactment societies, and families interested in their own history. And lest we forget, 21 September is the Civil War Sesquicetennial.
Archives are an important component of civic life, counting forward from the records of Colonial American days which enrich our understanding of the past, to the present need for easy access to legal documents, court rulings, marriage certificates, mortgages and deeds. Between the two, this archive is in constant use.
The outer limits of the need for access to are no less vital. Rachel Maddow recently reported, for instance, on Jeff Thigpen’s use of local archives in Greensboro, North Carolina to challenge potentially fraudulent signatures filed by banks and mortgage companies and used to take away homes from families during the housing crisis. Thigpen: “Public recording
offices are part of our democracy in rule of law and the laws that govern them need to be respected”. These are exactly the same documents that closing the Georgia archives would place under lock and key. Each document has a role to play in local culture and local administration, and in the extreme case of Greensboro and many other counties across the United States, in preserving local dignity.
Georgia would be the first state to close its archives, but seen in a more threatening light, it would be the first state to set the precedent that it is okay to close the archives, to deny citizens access to historical and legal documents. For this reason a petition at Change.org to the Governor of the state has collected over 13,000 signatures so far, and you can add yours here. You can also contact the Governor by e-mail.
UPDATE (20 September 2012):
The Clayton News Daily has reported that Governor Deal announced Wednesday evening that the archives would remain open for now, without providing further details as to how. The news was a surprise to protestors who had confronted the Governor with a print-out of the 13,000 strong petition against closure, as well as the Secretary of State himself:
Making a promise to keep the archives open is different from actually fulfilling that promise, however. Kemp said the funding issue still has to be addressed. He added the governor did not tell him about his pledge before it was made. Kemp’s office oversees the archives operations.
“If he funds it to keep it open, that’d be great,” said Kemp.
The secretary explained Deal would have to “tell me we weren’t going to have to come up with a $733,000 cut” in order to fulfill the promise to keep the archives’ doors open.
Nothing has been guaranteed. Watch this space for more information.
Earlier this week Michael Moynihan ran an article in Tablet Magazine that exposed several glaring problems in a new book by Johan Leher: Imagine: How Creativity Works.
The author had completely made up six quotes and attributed them to Bob Dylan, for example, regarding his song lyrics:
(The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan indeed, via Buzzfeed)
The media-driven outrage that erupted shortly after the article was published, whether or not commensurate with the crime, resulted in Lehrer’s resignation from his post at The New Yorker and a letter of apology: “When Mr. Moynihan followed up, I continued to lie, and say things I should not have said”.
There are several ways: the petition in protest of such an upheaval to the Library has reached over 11,000 signatures already: you can sign it here. If you are a UK resident you can lobby your local MP to take action here. Finally, there is a campaign website that accepts testimonies about the library here . In other words the bad has brought out the good, and praise for the library has poured in from all sides, which has sparked a large-scale consideration of what it means to have a space uniquely dedicated to Women’s history: from UNISON to The Guardian, from historians historians to lesbians, and even Private Eye has covered the endangered library...twice. What is the measure of a library’s cultural impact? One non-theoretical answer lies in who it incites to action, and it is a credit to the Women’s Library that the public outcry has been so strong, the testimonies across Facebook so numerous. Indy Bhullar, Information Librarian at the Women’s Library, put it best when I asked the question many others have been answering: what does the library mean to you?
“The Library means a good deal of things to me and perhaps the best way of focusing a response would be within the 3 goals of the Save The Women’s Library campaign, thus: The collection which holds so much history and through which so many stories can be revealed, with narratives interweaving and adjoining constantly (many of which are still yet to be uncovered or re-read) but all of which reflect the lives of a plethora of women and organisations and which are still relevant to so many people. I love that it is still a growing collection and continues to reflect new ideas and perspectives, so we’ve room on our shelves for boxes of zines as well as suffrage banners or a first edition of Adam Bede. The building which arose like an anti-phoenix (that is out of flood-water rather than fire...) and was purpose-built to house the materials which we have but also enabled the expansion of the Library, enabling us to attract and host other groups, organisations, events and exhibitions and which has given the Library more than just a room of its own; The staff who are all committed to seeing this unique institution flourish through the expertise and knowledge that they’ve amassed over the years and who have helped develop and operate a world class institution. They are also to be commended for putting up with my woeful sense of humour.”
The cornerstone of the collection is the archives of the Fawcett Society, dating back to 1866. This is the group currently campaigning hardest for women, especially women affected by austerity measures in the UK; this is the group who has made claims based on the latest budget figures that the path to gender equality is moving in reverse. So the irony that closing the Women’s Library threatens access to Fawcett’s history as far back as the bluestockings can’t only be symbolic.
Nor is the damage done distantly historic: this isn’t just Virginia Woolf who’s fuming all over again, because this decision disrupts the Library’s endeavours to archive the experience of women in the 21st century, including personal blogs, DIY publishing, and zines. The Women’s Library is so committed to the idea of the active, living archive, that it documents its new materials as they are catalogued and digitized and keeps up a robust rotation of exhibitions free to the public (the latest is “All Work and Low Pay: The Story of Women and Work”), as well as online exhibitions for events passed. It’s this level of energy that makes the thought of slowing the momentum the Library maintains five days a week down to one day a week all the more painful, and the need to act all the more vital.
The several hundred thousand books that we are putting in play constitute a kind of anthology of American bookshops past. In our forty-one years as booksellers we have bought twenty six bookshops and some two hundred personal libraries, some humble, some grand.
So why push them out?
Because we believe that in the book world migration is healthy: old pages await new eyes. Yesterday in Lubbock, Texas I found a copy of Sons and Lovers in the oil-cloth Modern Library with my bookplate in it. Twenty eight thousand volumes have my bookplate in them; they reside in my big house in Archer City, and yet this one strayed. How it got to Lubbock I’ll likely never know. It’s home again now; but three hundred and fifty thousand of it’s cousins will be flooding into the great river of books that delights and refreshes. Good reading and good luck!
In the 1984 issue - was such an iconic year for free speech activists met with hysteria? resignation? a grim “I told you so”? - there is the first publication of Samuel Beckett’s short play “Catastrophe”, performed two years earlier in solidarity with Vaclav Havel. Immediately after comes Havel’s response: “Mistake”, the first work he wrote after his release from prison in 1983, published for the first time.
ABAA security chair John Waite has forwarded this Gilkey update/request from Inspector Jeff Levin of the SFPD. Please feel free to forward and/or repost.
Earlier this month convicted fraudster and thief John Charles Gilkey of California was arrested for a parole violation stemming from a series of incidents in San Francisco late last year. Now that he has been re-apprehended, he will be brought up again on charges either later this month or next in San Francisco.
A career criminal, Mr. Gilkey has a long record of defrauding rare book and autograph dealers and dealers in other collectibles, with the use of stolen credit card numbers or with bad checks. His first arrest goes back more than a decade to the 1990s when he was brought up on charges for passing bad checks. He was arrested and jailed for credit card fraud in 2003, then released on parole less than two years later. In autumn 2010 he was arrested again after threatening to burn down a San Francisco print gallery after the manager declined a sale. Mr. Gilkey posted a bail bond for $75,000.00 and subsequently disappeared.
There is ample evidence that between last November and his arrest this month, John Charles Gilkey continued to defraud a number of dealers in collectibles, including a Maryland comic book dealer. San Francisco Police have asked members of the collectibles trade to please forward to them any new information concerning fraudulent activity by Mr. Gilkey. His new bail and eventual sentencing largely will be influenced by the number of new crimes that can proved he has committed since he skipped bail.
Mr. Gilkey is reported to have a storage unit containing rare books, autographs, prints, maps, stamps, comic books, Hollywood and film memorabilia, and coins. Many of these objects may have been obtained through fraud. However, police cannot obtain a search warrant of the storage unit until they provide a judge with a list of items that they are seeking. For that reason, it is imperative for dealers in all fields to come forward and provide police with information about any losses since the beginning of 2011, especially if John Charles Gilkey is known to have been the involved in the transaction. If the collectibles trades can provide police with a targeted list of stolen goods, then police will have a legal basis on which to execute a search warrant.
If you have information or questions, please contact:
Inspector Jeff Levin
SFPD Arson Unit
If no answer, please leave a message.
Please be aware that convicted fraudster and thief John Gilkey is operating once again, likely out of northern California. A comic book dealer in New York state is his latest victim. Besides defrauding book dealers, Gilkey has also left his dubious mark in the print, stamp, and comics trades. He was arrested late last year in San Francisco following a parole violation, but was released after he (or someone) posted $75,000.00 bail. He then disappeared, but is active once again. He is a serious criminal who continually looks for new opportunities and deceptions. An investigation by the SFPD is ongoing; there is an outstanding warrant for his arrest.
Good news from the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries this week: Donnie Curtis, Head of Special Collections, has announced that Special Collections will not be closing, as recommended in the university’s proposed budget cuts announced earlier this year.
Kathlin Ray, Interim Dean of Libraries, said in a statement to the Friends of the Library: “On March 7 the university announced proposed budget cuts of $26 million, and a further $13.8 on April 4 to address a potential budget reduction of $59 million by July 2012 as required by Nevada Governor Sandoval. These cuts are campuswide. While initial recommendations included Special Collections, the library provided an alternative plan to meet the budget reductions. Therefore, Special Collections has been removed from the list of closures, and we are hard at work on a long-term plan to ensure its continuing health and vitality. As we move forward, we welcome your continuing contributions of historically significant Nevada materials and support for fundraising initiatives.”
Has it really been ten years since Nicholson Baker shook up the cozy world inhabited by librarians and conservators with publication of Double Fold, his National Book Critics Circle Award-winning examination of the way materials on paper--most notably newspapers--were being displaced by surrogate copies in other, more easily stored media? Not only has it been a decade since Baker made the word “microfilm” a synonym for “leprosy”--and not undeserved, I should add--it has been an eventful decade in the book world to boot, as our own Rebecca Rego Barry reminds us in a splendid overview of Double Fold and its continuing impact. It is featured in the current issue of The Millions, the superb--dare we say indispensable?--online magazine offering comprehensive coverage of books and the arts. Here’s a link. Nice going, Rebecca, very well done.
Call it bittersweet, if you like, but the sale next week of the entire contents of the City of Boston’s Graphic Arts Printing Plant at 174 North St., is yet another passing of the torch, and proof positive that the times surely-are-a-changing. Some 175 lots will be hammered down, according to Stanley J. Paine, the auctioneer retained by the city to clear out every vestige of a printing operation that closed last year after 78 years of service, and everything, in his words, is not only old, but downright antediluvian. “We’re selling the room,” he told the Boston Globe. “It’s all antique. All of it. Everything has its own particulars and story.”
Anyone want a Vandercook Letter Press? Or a Linotype Model 31 Typesetting Machine (there are two of them)? A Heidelberg Sheet-Fed Printing Press? A Miehle Vertical Letter Press? Saddle stitchers, folders, paper cutters, collators? Drawer after drawer filled with wonderful metal type? A Super Portland Paper Punching machine? Some splendid oak filing cabinets from the 1930s and ’40s? The sale will start at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 24, on-site, and for those who can’t make it, bids can be submitted online via Bidspotter, where a complete list and description of the lots--with photos--is listed. (Bids, in fact, are already being accepted.) I am particularly charmed, I must say, by Lot 154, pictured here at right, identified only as Antique Letter Press S/N 28546. I don’t have room in my cellar--and I don’t imagine my wife would be much too pleased in any case--but I sure am tempted.
Reynolds Price, a true southern gentleman and one of the outstanding American writers of his generation, died yesterday at 77, in Durham, North Carolina, of heart failure. While known best for his thirteen novels, Price was a magnificent stylist adept in many genres, with volumes of poetry, essays, plays, short stories, memoirs, and translations from the Bible among his other credits. His first book, A Long and Happy Life, was greeted on its release in 1962 with immediate acclaim and honors, including a coveted William Faulkner Award that set the stage for the many literary triumphs that followed, A Generous Man (1966), Kate Vaiden (1986) and The Three Gospels (1996) notable among them. His third memoir, An American Writer, Coming of Age in Oxford (2009), recalled the three years he spent as a Rhodes Scholar in the late 1950s; upon his return to the United States, he taught at Duke University, his alma mater, for more than fifty years, a favorite course among students the one on his lifelong hero, John Milton. A splendid obituary of Price’s life--with some lovely comments from such admirers as Allan Gurganus and Ann Tyler--appears in today’s New York Times.
Let it also be said that in addition to his remarkable body of work--thirty-eight published books, by my count--Reynolds Price was a dedicated bibliophile who had a genuine appreciation for books as artifacts. I spoke with him several times back in the 1990s for my newspaper columns, the most memorable get-together coming on May 15, 1992, when we met for lunch at a small cafe just off Harvard Square to talk about his novel Blue Calhoun, which had just been released. As much as I treasure the inscription he wrote in my copy of the book, pictured here--how could I not love being referred to by Reynolds Price as a “fellow bibliomaniac”?--the unqualified highlight of the interview came when we were discussing his courageous battle with spinal cancer, and his will to continue writing despite being confined to a wheelchair as a paraplegic. It was during this exchange that Price told me about a special book he owned, and why it meant so much to him. A phrase he used--“touching the hand”--inspired me sufficiently to use it three years later as the title for the opening chapter in A Gentle Madness.
“Milton wrote his best books after he lost his sight,” he had told me back then. “I have written eleven books since I had cancer, and it represents some of the very best work I have ever done. My copy of Paradise Lost once belonged to Deborah Milton Clarke, the daughter who took Milton’s dictation after he went blind. For me, it was like the apostolic succession. I was touching the hand that touched the hand that touched the Hand.”
When I contacted Price two years later to go over the quote once again--he was delighted to learn that I was going to use it in my book--he reminded me to make sure that the ‘h’ in the final usage of the word ‘hand’ be capitalized. “This is the Hand of God we are talking about here, Nicholas,” he said in his wonderful drawl. I get chills to this day thinking about it.
If Michiko Kakutani’s column in today’s New York Times is not the best read and most emailed piece in the paper, then not enough people are paying attention. Her take on the announcement that a new edition of Huckleberry Finn is being released with more than 200 uses of the ‘n’ word from the original text--yes, it is “nigger,” and I will use it here just this once--being summarily changed to “slave” is exquisitely reasoned and beautifully supported with historical parallels. (There is the absurdity, for instance, of a British theater group changing the title of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 2002 to The Bellringer of Notre Dame for a new production of the play.)
The editor of the new Huckleberry Finn edition, Alan Gribben, is a professor of English at Auburn University in Alabama. His explanation for changing the word in each usage--and thus bowdlerizing what we can all agree is one of the most consequential works of fiction in the American literary canon--is to make the book more appealing to high school and college teachers who might otherwise excise it from their curricula. It is, he argues, “a racial slur that never seems to lose its vitriol,” and thus, with one simple stroke of a search-and-replace key, voila, Mark Twain is rendered suitable for modern eyes to read without fear of being unduly bruised by the sunlight.
Instead of explaining to students that the reprehensible word has a history that goes back four hundred years, and that the slur as used in the novel was totally in character for the time and the place and the people being profiled, teachers using this sanitized text are now free to ignore unpleasantness altogether. Let’s hope they will be few and far between. If leery instructors need a little help along these lines--it is called teaching, after all--they should take a look at The ‘N’ Word, (Houghton Mifflin, 2007) by Washington Post cultural columnist Jabari Asim. We don’t accomplish a whole lot by denying the past. And we certainly don’t introduce literature to young readers by grooming it to suit our delicate sensibilities.
Kudos to Ms. Kakutani for making the point so eloquently. Meanwhile, Mr. Gribben’s defense of the action (which also changes “injun” to “Indian”)--and that of his publisher, NewSouth Books--can be read at this link.
Rupert Powell, the company’s deputy chairman, said in an interview that the branch was not closing. “We’re just having a strategic review about what we decide to do,” he said, adding, “I can’t really give you any more clues.” [Read More]No upcoming sales are listed on Bloomsbury’s online calendar.
But while Shakespeare, Audubon and the Gutenberg Bible, which in 1987 netted around $5.4 million, are the top highlights of the trade, prices for most other books are performing reasonably. This may be because “collectors tend to buy the books because they love them, not so much with an eye to investment,” Mr. Sellsey says. “Compared to works of art, which can be displayed, books tend to be a solitary pleasure.” [Read more]
In addition to knowing what titles you’d like to purchase at auction,
reading and understanding the auctioneer’s descriptions of the books,
and deciding what will be your maximum bid, you’d be well served to
understand the terminology of auctions. Formed in 1949, The National Auctioneers Association (NAA) promotes the professionalism of auctioneers and auctions and has a comprehensive glossary here.
For example, if you’re new to buying books at auction, you’ll want to make sure you understand the difference between the hammer price and the buyer’s premium. Go to their site and read it all. It only takes a few minutes and you’ll have a better understanding of some of the vocabulary you’ll hear when you participate in a live auction.
See you in the stacks!
Anthony Marx, the president of Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, has confirmed to Bloomberg News that he will become the new president of the New York Public Library next year, succeeding Paul LeClerc, who has been at the helm since 1993. LeClerc announced his retirement last November, prompting a nationwide search to find a replacement.
The appointment of Marx follows a long-standing precedent at the NYPL of turning to academe for its top leadership. LeClerc, a noted scholar of 18th-century French literature--and an enthusiastic collector of Voltaire in his own right--came to the job from the presidency of Hunter College, the largest institution of public learning in New York City. He succeeded the Reverend Timothy S. Healy, a native New Yorker who had previously been president of Georgetown University in Washington; Healy, in turn, had succeeded the historian Vartan Gregorian, former provost of the University of Pennsylvania, and later the president of Brown University.
Given the increasing reliance on electronic resources, along with the evolving role of libraries as institutions in American cultural life, the selection of Marx to this premier position is particularly interesting, especially for the NYPL, which has assumed such an important role in public education in New York, not only through its 87 neighborhood branches, but at the extraordinary research centers it maintains in Manhattan. In an email to Bloomberg News confirming his appointment--which must still be approved by the library’s board--Marx wrote that the NYPL is “New York City’s preeminent education institution that is free and open to all.”
Also a New York native, Marx, 51, initiated a no-loan financial aid policy at Amherst that allows graduates to pursue careers without worrying about debt. Before assuming the presidency of the college eight years ago, he was a professor of political science at Columbia University, where he helped found Khanya College, a prep school in South Africa, and started the Columbia Urban Educators Program, which recruits and trains teachers.
The New York Public Library budget exceeds $500 million a year, and last year had more than 18 million visitors. We wish Marx success in his new position, and LeClerc well in his retirement.
One of the most extraordinary bibliophiles I have ever met, Irwin T. “Toby” Holtzman, passed away in Detroit this past week at 82, leaving behind his lovely wife Shirley, three children, three grandchildren, and a legacy of tenacious commitment to books and libraries that is unequaled in my experience. Truth be told, I never met anyone quite like Toby, and expect I will not again anytime soon. As a collector, his interests were generally centered on twentieth century and contemporary fiction. At the height of his activity, he collected the works of some 350 authors, and he did it with a remarkable degree of thoroughness. I first learned about Toby in the late 1980s when I was in the early stages of researching A Gentle Madness, and looking for suitable people to profile. When I told Peter Howard, the owner of Serendipity Books in Berkeley, Calif., the premise of my book--the title pretty much says it all--he suggested I spend some time in Detroit with Toby. “He has a native feeling for books that you really have to experience first hand to appreciate,” Howard said.
What Peter was saying in a delicate way is that Toby, for want of a more precise description, had a certain intensity about him when it came to books. “Toby can definitely wear you down,” he offered, and pretty much left it at that. When I asked Toby about this apparent single-mindedness of his, he offered no apologies, acknowledging that yes, he was an “in your face kind of guy” when it came to books, but that the cause was literature and reading, after all, and what could be more important than that. Indeed, when we first got together in August of 1991, he was already finding suitable homes for his books. Today, his various collections can be found in no fewer than fifteen major libraries around the world, his William Faulkner collection at the University of Michigan, his Russian writers collection at the Hoover Institution in California, his John Osborne collection at the British Library, his American Indian collection at the University of Illinois, his gift to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem of five thousand Israeli books, manuscripts, and inscribed copies, most notable among them.
As a collector of modern firsts, Toby always favored the living and the hopeful, and he took special pride in “discovering” new talent. To get a leg up on the competition, he regularly read the forecasts in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, and he took great pride in being able to say that fully 40 percent of the collectible books he had acquired were bought at their jacket prices. And as much as he loved his books, he had no separation anxiety whatsoever about parting with them--so long as they went to the right places. “You reach a point in your life where you begin to collect by subtraction, not addition,” he said.
Following the publication of AGM fifteen years ago this month, Toby and I kept in touch. We ran into each other often, at the New York Book Fair, the California Book Fair, in the basement of the Strand Book Store, wherever book people gather. A few months ago, I gave a talk at the Clements Library in Ann Arbor, and we had dinner together with a group from the University of Michigan. It was great fun, and Toby gave me a photo of himself--the one pictured above--seated in a nifty “book chair” he had bought during a recent trip he had made to Italy with Shirley. Yes, that is my book he is holding. Pretty cool, I thought, and so typically Toby.
Totally in character, too, is the request Toby’s family made this week of friends and colleagues following private funeral services in Michigan: “Please honor the memory of Toby Holtzman and the values of his life by supporting a library, buying books at your local bookstores and reading to your children and grandchildren.”
What an epitaph. And what a bookman.
What better way for bibliophiles to observe the Fourth of
July than to reflect a bit on the legendary passion the author of the
Declaration of Independence had for his books, and for the care he took not
only in selecting them, but in one amusing instance, expressing his regrets to
a hopeful bookseller trying to make a sale.
Thomas Jefferson’s best known comment on the
subject--“I cannot live without books”--was confided in a letter to
John Adams in 1815, and has been celebrated on everything from coffee mugs to
T-shirts. (I used it myself fifteen years ago as one of four epigraphs for A
Gentle Madness.) But in another letter written four years
earlier Jefferson made clear that while books certainly were essential to his
sanity and well-being, he was not about to read everything that might come his
Responding to a query submitted to him by his friend Thomas
Law to subscribe his name for a translation of a French atlas of the world then
“I am now entered on my 69th year. The tables of
mortality tell me I have 7 years to live. My bibliomany has possessed me of
perhaps 20,000 volumes. Of these there are probably 1000 which I would read,
of choice, before I should the historical, genealogical, chronological, &
geographical Atlas of M. Le Sage. But it is also probable I shall decamp before
I get through 50. of them,.Why then add an unit to the 19,950 which I shall
never read? To encourage the work?”
The full text of Jefferson’s wonderful response has been
edited and published online by The Papers of Thomas Jefferson Retirement
Series, based in
Editor of the series is J. Jefferson Looney, who my wife and I
had the good fortune to meet a few weeks ago at the Horatio Alger Society
annual meeting. Jeff kindly sent this letter along, which I saved for use
today. He advises me too that this letter is previously unpublished, so it should
be of considerable interest to admirers of
So check out the Retirement Series site, it’s great fun.
It is no exaggeration to say that the Seminar easily saved me two or three years of effort and learning on my own. Between the advice given, information bestowed, contacts made, and inspiration received it is an investment in time and money well worth making. Indeed, in the years since I attended I have made back what I spent on my trip many times over simply through the books I’ve sold to people whom I met via the Seminars.
Dismayed Parks Canada staff arrived at work early Tuesday morning to find the 6,000-square-foot basement of their leased office space under two metres (seven feet) of water. The flood badly damaged the parks’ huge archival inventory documenting the cultural and natural history of the area to the early 1900s.
“It was underwater,” DiGiandomenico
There are so many times I wished I had a bricks and mortar bookshop -- to interact with customers every day, to be able to play with displays of books, and to have the sense that I am, indeed, a real bookseller.
There are numerous reasons why that’s not a practical thought at this stage in my life -- one of which is the fact that I want to be home after school and on weekends, when my kids are home, and not at a shop across town. Still, if I had a brick and mortar shop, I could also hang up beautiful posters about books, like this one, in the window:
Then I realize that my website and this blog are a sort of virtual store. Pretend that you’re walking down the street (to your favorite bookseller, natch) and you see the above poster in the window of her shop.
I attended the California Rare Book School, held at UCLA each summer, two summers ago, taking the Books in the Far West course taught by Gary Kurutz of the California State Library (and, not coincidentally, author of the book California Calls You among others). I had a wonderful time and highly recommend it to collectors, booksellers, and librarians. I am already plotting how I can fit in another week away so I can return to Cal RBS. And, yes, some scholarships are available. Go for it!
See you in the stacks!