Kafka_portrait.jpgAn Israeli court has awarded a unique collection of Franz Kafka manuscripts to the National Library of Israel, ending a legal dispute that lasted for several decades.

The court ordered Eva Hoffe, a resident of Tel Aviv, to remit all of the Kafka manuscripts in her possesion to the National Library of Israel.

Hoffe currently owns the Kafka manuscripts because of a complicated provenance line.  When Kafa died in 1924, with much of his work still unpublished, he willed his manuscripts to his friend Max Brod. Brod was instructed by Kafka to burn the manuscripts after Kafka died, however Brod ignored his order and carried the manuscripts with him to Palestine in 1939 when he fled Nazi persecutions in Europe.  On Brod’s death in 1968, he left the Kafka collection to his secretary Esther Hoffe, instructing her to “publish his work and ensure after her death that his literary estate be placed for safekeeping in a suitable institution.”

Esther Hoffe, however, instead considered offering the manuscripts for auction overseas in 1973, which drew the attention of the Israeli government. The government instructed Hoffe that she was was not to dispose of any documents, a move that prompted a decades-long legal battle that surpassed Hoffe’s own lifespan.  When she died in 2007, she passed the Kafka manuscripts on to her two daughters, including Eva Hoffe. The pair of sisters began legal proceedings claiming the manuscripts were legally theirs in 2008, however one sister died in the intervening years and a court officially rejected the claim in 2012.

This week a Tel Aviv court upheld the ruling, denying an appeal from Eva, the surviving sister.

So, after a long and complicated legal battle - one could say a “Kafkaesque” legal battle - much of Kafka’s literary legacy will come to rest in the National Library of Israel. The library commented that they will eventually digitize the manuscripts, making them freely available online. 
Sightseers in Washington, D.C., have endless opportunities to be awestruck. This summer, the Library of Congress provides yet another option with its excellent new exhibit, First Among Many: The Bay Psalm Book and Early Moments in American Printing.

Bay Psalm copy.jpgThe first thing visitors behold upon entering the exhibit space is a case containing two copies of the Bay Psalm Book (1640), the first book printed in colonial America, of which only eleven survive. On the left sits the Library of Congress copy--worn and incomplete, but in its original binding. On the right (pictured above) is David M. Rubenstein’s copy--rebound, but complete, even with the original title page. Rubenstein purchased the book at auction in November 2013 for $14.2 million, the current auction record for any printed book. It is a remarkable pairing, and any bibliophile might be pleased to make the trip for it alone.

And yet, there is more to ogle. From the Bay Psalm Book, the exhibit encourages viewers toward the Eliot Indian Bible, the first complete bible printed in the Western Hemisphere, in 1660-1663. Printing spread slowly in the colonies, and it remained less expensive to import English books well into the eighteenth century. But it took off during the pre-Revolutionary period, and the work of New York newspaperman Peter Zenger and of printer-patriot Benjamin Franklin stands to represent these heady days. Franklin, of course, has an entire case devoted to his output, from his apprenticeship to his older brother, James Franklin, to his almanacs, to his “masterwork,” Cicero’s Discourse of Old-age (1744).

“The Revolution in American thought, captured in print, was underway; and the rebellion was soon to follow,” wrote Thomas Paine. An “extremely rare broadside printing” (1777) of his American Crisis hangs in the exhibit, as does a Dunlap broadside of the Declaration of Independence (July 1776) and John Hancock’s “Plea for Support,” printed in December 1776 by Mary Katherine Goddard. Another highlight in this section is Isaiah Thomas’ Royal American Magazine from July 1774, opened to showcase Paul Revere’s engravings.

The Federalist, a mainstay on any list of important early American books, is illustrated in this exhibit by a copy of the 1788 compendium once owned by Alexander Hamilton’s wife, whose sister gifted it to Thomas Jefferson. The annotations he left indicate his best guesses for authorship of many of the anonymously published essays.

Other “firsts” of note include the first novel published in America, William Hill Brown’s The Power of Sympathy, or, The Triumph of Nature, Founded in Truth (1789), and the first volume of poetry by an African American published in America, Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1787).

Tight in scope, well organized, and chock-full of incredible historical high spots, First Among Many situates itself perfectly within the city’s tourism complex. “Lay” museumgoers will enjoy it; book lovers will adore it. The exhibit is up through January 2, 2016. If you can’t make it to D.C., check out the online version.

Image: Credit Brett Barry. Used by permission. 
On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, Guernsey’s will auction the World War I poster collection of Colonel Edward H. McCrahon, a Brooklyn-born soldier so passionate about the Allied cause that he joined the French Army as an ambulance driver before his enlistment once America entered the war. McCrahon became enamored of the patriotic posters produced during wartime by the likes of James Montgomery Flagg, Theophile Steinlen, Ludwig Hohlwein, and Howard Christy and spent the next sixteen years collecting what is, according to the auction house, “the most extensive collection of war posters known to exist.” Roughly half of the 2,000-piece collection was produced in the U.S. Here is a sampling:

Leyendecker.jpgUSA Bonds by Joseph Christian Leyendecker, estimated at $2,000-3,000.

Walker.jpgDivision for Foreign Born Women by Howard Walker, estimated at $2,000-3,000.

Booth.jpgHow Much Will You Lend to the Boys Who Are Giving All by Franklin Booth, estimated at $2,000-3,000.

Bibliotherapy - The Healing Power of Books

Talk therapy is nothing new, but how about bibliotherapy? I’m not talking about self-help publications, but rather using literature as a means to physical and psychological salvation. And really, who else but the French, the beneficiaries of a literary patrimony that dates from the 9th century, would be at the vanguard of such a movement.

Régine Detambel, award-winning author of more than thirty books and a Chevalier of Arts and Letters, is also a licensed physiotherapist, and she maintains that bibliotherapy, in some form or another, dates back to antiquity. Many of her books (La Splendeur, Opéra sérieux, Son corps extrême,) explore the aging process and how to live (and die) with grace.  As a writer and as a physiotherapist, she is a healer with her hands, and Detambel believes that literature can be found everywhere - in the air we breathe, in our bodies, and in the various liminal moments of our lives (birth, marriage, death). “Everything is literature if we know where to look,” Detambel graciously wrote to me, explaining bibliotherapy in detail: “I didn’t create bibliotherapy. It existed in ancient Greece and Rome, and was revived after World War I to heal soldiers who had experienced psychological trauma at the front.” Poetry and literature became part of her “creative bibliotherapy” (bibliocréativité as Detambel coined it), and has found immense success and personal satisfaction through her efforts. “I think that working with the energy of an author, with poetry and metaphor, with stylistic and textual arrangements and so forth is extremely effective to revitalize the psyche,” Detambel continued. “We are all beings of language, and so it is necessary to move and to shift the language that resides within us so that our efforts are rewarded positively.” *

image provided by Régine Detambel

Detambel has played with the idea of bibliotherapy for as long as she has put pen to paper, but it was after writing a short story about skin (Petit éloge de la peau, Folio, Gallimard, 2006) that she recognized an analogy between skin and paper. “Books are caresses, in the strongest sense of the term!” she wrote.  Hosting daylong seminars from her hometown nestled in the southern region of Languedoc-Roussillon, Detambel teaches aspiring bibliotherapists -- nurses, doctors, psychologists, booksellers and librarians -- how books can help people better understand themselves and to reconnect with the world. “There’s more to bibliotherapy than just handing a book to someone and leaving them alone. There’s a certain rapport between the text and the body that must be considered too. Even before one’s eyes settle on the text, we must consider body posture, breathing, voice, and other physical considerations. I teach my trainees how to renew the dialogue between words and the body.”

Some of Detambel’s most rewarding work happens at retirement facilities, where she meets people whose psyches are often “abandoned, because culture is so rarely allowed to pass through the doors of establishments set up for the elderly,” she explained. “I don’t want these people to be left without words that could help them reestablish contact with their internal world. These people live in a sterile, naked, even cruel world. And unfortunately, they’re not alone.” Books themselves aren’t the cure, but they can be part of a curative program where literature nourishes the body, mind, and soul.

An invitation to learn about the healing arts with books. (image provided by Régine Detambel)

*All translations are my own.


Scholars at Cambridge University have uncovered an alternate ending to Austrian dramatist and novelist Arthur Schnitzler’s 1925 novella Traumnovelle or Dream Story. The erotically charged story - one of the most risque published in European fiction by the early 20th century - was later adapted into the film “Eyes Wide Shut” by Stanley Kubrick in 1999. It follows the psychological transformation of a Viennese doctor who attends an orgy after his wife confesses to sexual fantasies involving another man.

Traumnovelle was first published in installments in the magazine Die Dame between 1925 and 1926.  In the story’s original ending, the doctor confesses to having attended the orgy, however the wife tells him not to worry and they move on from the transgressions. However, in an alternative ending, discovered recently by scholars at Cambridge University amongst the novelist’s papers, the wife chases the doctor out of the house after his confession. The alternate version also suggests that the doctor participated in - rather than simply observed - the masked orgy.

The discovery was the first breakthrough in a new international project, involving researchers from Cambridge University as well as institutions in Germany and Austria, to decipher Schnitzler’s 40,000 sheets of handwritten notes held at Cambridge. Schnitzler’s papers were almost lost in WWII, however were saved by the intervention of a 23 year old Cambridge graduate who happened to be in Vienna on the eve of the Anschluss. A British seal was placed on Schnitzler’s door and his papers were spared burning in the Nazi book fires. Schnitzler had, in the meantime, fled to America, not returning to Austria until 1959.

Bronte Cabinet copy.jpgDeborah Lutz’s The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects (W.W. Norton, $27.95) landed on FB&C’s list of “8 Beach Reads for Bibliophiles.”    

As Paula Byrne did with The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, published in 2013, Lutz shapes her narrative not as a ‘cradle to grave’ biography of the Brontës, but instead targets nine objects that reveal, through facts and extracts from the sisters’ fiction, something meaningful about their lives and passions. For example, Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell, all obsessive scribblers and crafters, used whatever paper scraps they had on hand to create tiny manuscript books. Lutz writes, “these children wanted to be bookmakers.” Their little magazines were not only communal play, but creative rehearsal for future novels. Branwell’s walking stick is the focus of a chapter on the Brontës’ “near-daily” engagement with their physical environment, the Yorkshire moors, and Emily’s wild side. An engraved brass dog collar, a seemingly unlikely artifact to mine in a literary biography, provides the fodder for an enlightening chapter on the family’s pets, the “cult of the pet” in Victorian England, and bizarre incidents of dognapping at the time. Desks, sewing “workboxes,” mourning jewelry made with hair--Lutz allows her research to bloom from each object in such an engaging and intelligent way that one hopes this archeological approach to biography, akin to material culture, flourishes.   

What other titles made our list? Check out our summer issue, which will begin arriving in mailboxes and at bookshops next week.
M31554-94_2 copy 2.jpgAt Swann Galleries’ June 17 sale, this first edition of Agatha Christie’s Murder in Mesopotamia (1936) set an auction record when it sold to a dealer for $7,250. And it’s not even her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), or her best known--of her 66 detective novels, either And Then There Were None (1940) or Murder on the Orient Express (1934) might best stake that claim. But Murder in Mesopotamia is a “Poirot” novel, referring to the character Hercule Poirot, who debuted in The Mysterious Affair at Styles and went on to appear in 33 novels, numerous short stories, and a long-running British television drama.

To read more about the Queen of Crime, check out antiquarian bookseller Vic Zoschak’s recent blog post, “Agatha Christie: Unrivaled, Record-Breaking Crime Novelist.”

Image: Courtesy of Swann Galleries. 
On June 30, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, will open A Renaissance Man: The Art of Fred Marcellino. Faithful readers of FB&C will recall our 2012 feature on Marcellino, a book jacket designer turned children’s book author and illustrator. The Carle’s exhibit will showcase 90 pieces that span Marcellino’s career, from early works of Abstract Expressionism and album covers to the sketches he finished just before his death in 2001.

Marcellino’s most famous book covers include Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Anne Tyler’s The Accidental Tourist. Having acquainted myself with Marcellino’s style, I picked up a copy of Tobias Wolff’s Back in the World, correctly guessing that he had designed its jacket, featuring a cool, blue, empty swimming pool with a bicycle parked at the bottom. (Original art for the jackets Marcellino designed has been spotted at auction, too.)

Marcellino.jpgIn special focus at the Carle exhibit will be the original art for Puss in Boots (1990; seen above), Marcellino’s first attempt at picture book illustration, which won a Caldecott Honor. He went on to illustrate Hans Christian Andersen’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier (1992) and E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan (2000). He also wrote and illustrated I, Crocodile (1999).  

A Renaissance Man will be up through October 25.

Illustration © 1990 by Fred Marcellino. Courtesy of the Eric Carle Picture Book Museum. 

Munari’s Books

Italian artist Bruno Munari (1907-1998) made significant contributions to advancements in graphic design, photography, painting, and even teaching, and is recognized throughout the art world as a pioneer in modern visual expression. Munari spent much of his seventy-year career on book design and illustration, employing various bindings, materials and typesetting techniques, to the point that Pablo Picasso even called him “the Leonardo of our time”.

On June 23rd, Princeton Architectural Press will release the first English-language monograph on Munari’s book designs, showcasing the artist’s gift for multi-sensory storytelling, with books as his preferred medium. Written by art historian Giorgio Maffei, the book focuses on Munari’s work in the publishing industry, which ranged from illustrated books, artists’ books, and educational materials full of design and illustration theory. All are part of the mix, and presented in chronological order alongside detailed notes.
Abecedario de Munari.jpg
Abecedario de Munari Image Credit: Rome: Emanuele Prandi, 1942

In the 1920s, Munari was a major proponent of the futurist movement, exhibiting at various art shows dedicated to this youthful, vibrant movement. Soon enough, he began manipulating how books communicate ideas and can exist as an art form and as a teaching tool. Perhaps the most accessible culmination of his book experiments can found in his works for children. With unusual formats, layouts, and striking images, Munari’s books appealed immediately to young readers, and encouraged young, preliterate children to delight in all the ways of engaging with a book, and to discover their own creativity in the process.  Despite reenergizing the world of children’s publishing, Munari remained surprisingly humble on his contributions, and in the June-July 1975 edition of Italian art magazine Le Arti said that his work was simply meeting a need: “There is nothing utopian about this; it is just a real social service.”


Bruno Munari’s Zoo. Mantua: Graziano Peruffo, 1963

Munari’s Books is a visual treat from start to finish; printed and bound in Italy with hot pink wrappers, the book maintains a modern European layout with wide right-hand margins. It is a thorough and glorious examination of this innovative artist, whose work continues to inform multiple domains today.

Munari’s Books, by Giorgio Maffei; Princeton Architectural Press, $40.00, 288 pages. (June 23)

MunarisBooks Cover.jpeg

If you’ve ever dropped a book in your bathtub, this new Kickstarter campaign is for you.

Jasper Jansen hopes to create waterproof books made out of synthetic paper. He will publish waterproof editions of classics such as Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, and W. B. Yeats. Jansen hopes to encourage readers to engage with the classics in a stress-free, relaxing setting, without the usual worries about dropping your paperback, or worse, your eReader, in the tub.

Of course, the water-resistant books will be just as useful in other settings, such as an afternoon by the sea, or a canoe trip down the river.

Jansen will start by producing four books in waterproof bindings and paper: Short Stories by Mark Twain, Selected Poetry by W. B. Yeats, Macbeth by Shakespeare, and The Art of War by Sun Zi. Collectors out there might want to support the campaign just to acquire an unusual edition for their collection.

At time of writing, Jansen has raised almost 1/3 of his goal with 27 days left in the campaign.

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