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The nearly ruined colonial bungalow where George Orwell was born in the small Bihar frontier town of Motihari will be restored and converted into a museum. The property consists of the three-room bungalow in addition to several tiny cottages and a warehouse for storing opium.  Orwell's father, Richard Blair, was employed by the British colonial government as an opium collector. While the buildings are dilapidated, conservationists have already begun work on their restoration.

Orwell - born Eric Blair on June 23, 1903 in India - left with his mother for Oxfordshire in 1904, never to return to his birthplace. 

No other museum exists to celebrate the life and work of the popular and influential author. 

"I am delighted that my father's old house is now under restoration and will be turned into a museum, a museum which will be the only one in the world," said Richard Blair, Orwell's son, in an interview with The Guardian. "For many decades the house was allowed to decay, so it's only to be applauded that the Bihar government now sees fit to put money into the project."

University College London, home of the George Orwell Archive, will raise the issue of supporting the museum through loaning items or the creation of replica material at its next archive committee meeting.

[Image from Wikipedia]



JamesI_057085 small.jpgLast summer I took a class at Rare Book School (RBS) titled Provenance: Tracing Owners & Collections. We looked at ownership inscriptions, stamps, bindings, and bookplates, and we dipped into paleography and heraldry.  Deciphering coats of arms was utterly new to me, and I found its application for book collectors fascinating. So when I read, a few months later, that the Folger Shakespeare Library was planning an upcoming exhibit titled Symbols of Honor: Heraldry and Family History in Shakespeare's England, I knew it was something we should cover in our summer issue. We were very lucky that Heather Wolfe, curator of manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library and co-curator of this exhibit with Nigel Ramsay, agreed to write a behind-the-scenes account of the mounting of such an exhibit. Her essay, "Impaled and Quartered" is available in our summer quarterly, out this week.

Symbols of Honor, which opens tomorrow, looks at the craze for coats of arms and introduces us to the cantankerous yet talented heralds who debated who was worthy of such an honor--one feud involved Shakespeare's father, granted arms in 1596--and drew beautiful, unique designs for each family.

One of my favorite items from the exhibit is this James I binding (above). The royal arms encircled with the Garter appeared everywhere, including on bindings. King James I of England must have commissioned the binding of this copy of his Meditatio in orationem Dominicam (1619), since his own arms (as king of England, Scotland, and Ireland) are surmounted by a crown and inlaid in gilt on crimson velvet.

For those of you visiting Washington, D.C. this summer, the exhibit runs through October 26. There is also a case-by-case online version of the exhibit, which will be an excellent resource when RBS holds the Provenance course again in the summer of 2015.

Image courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 9.44.16 AM.pngIt is the year of Dylan Thomas. The Welsh poet is enjoying a revival in his centenary year (he was born on Oct. 27, 1914) with the Dylan Thomas 100 Festival, a National Theatre of Wales theatrical adaptation of "Under Milk Wood," and a selection of unseen material at auction last week, where this autograph manuscript (seen at left) of his "Prologue to an Adventure," c.1935, made $19,154.

Now, the Guardian reports, a piece of his unpublished verse will come to light in a new book. The pub ode, scribbled in pencil in 1951, was discovered by Fred Jarvis among the papers of his late wife, Anne, whose parents knew Thomas. "Written in Henneky's Long Bar - now the Cittie of Yorke - in High Holborn, London, it was described by one Thomas expert, Professor John Goodby of Swansea University, as 'no masterpiece' but a very rare, exciting and 'pretty valuable' find."

Image via Bonhams.
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On Tuesday, the working draft of Bob Dylan's iconic song "Like a Rolling Stone" pulled in over $2 million at Sotheby's. At the drop of the hammer, a new world record was set for a popular music manuscript. The final price of $2.045 million was inclusive of a buyer's premium. 

The buyer was not identified, except to say that he is a private collector. Neither was the seller named, excepting a hint from Sotheby's that the seller was a longtime fan from California "who met his hero in a non-rock context and bought directly from Dylan."

Dylan wrote the song in 1965 in pencil on four sheets of Roger Smith Hotel letterhead stationery. The manuscript includes revisions, additions, marginalia, and even little doodles of a hat, a bird, and an animal with antlers.

The manuscript is "the only known surviving draft of the final lyrics for this transformative rock anthem" about a debutante cast out from upper class social circles.

The previous world record for a popular music manuscript was set in 2010, when John Lennon's handwritten lyrics for "A Day in the Life" sold for $1.2 million, also at Sotheby's.

[Image from Sotheby's]
9780300204070.jpgFor many (myself included), Winston Churchill is primarily known as a politician. Jonathan Rose's* new book, The Literary Churchill: Author, Reader, Actor (Yale University Press, $35), seeks to disabuse us of that shallow description and introduce us to the Churchill we don't know. Detailing his relationships with publishers, editors, and agents, as well as the authors who shaped his writing, Rose shows the larger canvas of Churchill's literary work and traces the influence of his personal reading on his public life.

To those readers surprised by the fact that Churchill won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953, take a look at this full bibliography of his 43 book-length works (in 72 volumes), starting with 1898's The Story of the Malakand Field Force and ending with the posthumous limited edition publication of The Dream in 1987. Collectors might also be interested in a Churchill specialty bookshop called Chartwell Booksellers in New York City, where you can browse and buy Churchill's works and download chapters from Richard M. Langworth's book, A Connoisseur's Guide to the Books of Sir Winston Churchill.

*Who, in full disclosure, was my MA thesis adviser at Drew University, where he is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of History. He was also the founding president of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP) and is co-editor of the journal Book History

Image via Yale University Press.

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Australian-British novelist P. L. Travers wrote about her great-aunt Ellie who inspired the beloved children's character Mary Poppins in an unpublished story in 1941. Travers printed her story, entitled "Aunt Sass," in a run of 500 copies for distribution amongst family and friends as a Christmas gift. The publisher Virago will resurrect the story and publish it for the first time for a wider audience this Christmas as part of its Modern Classics imprint.

"Aunt Sass," known to Travers as "Ellie" and to the rest of the world as Helen Morehead Christina Saraset ("Sass for short") was Travers' great-aunt and unconscious inspiration for Mary Poppins. (Travers published the first Mary Poppins story in 1934). It wasn't until later in her life that Travers realized she had mined aspects of Aunt Sass for her famous creation.

"I thought to myself, 'Some day, in spite of her, I shall commit the disrespectful vulgarity of putting Aunt Sass in a book.' And then it occurred to me that this had already been done, though unconsciously and without intent. We write more than we know we are writing. We do not guess at the roots that made our fruit. I suddenly realised that there is a book through which Aunt Sass, stern and tender, secret and proud, anonymous and loving, stalks with her silent feet," wrote Travers. "You will find her occasionally in the pages of Mary Poppins."

The Modern Classics edition out this Christmas will include two other stories that Travers privately printed in runs of 500 copies for Christmas gifts for family and friends: "Ah Wong," from 1943 and "Johnny Delaney" in 1944.

[Image of P. L. Travers from Wikipedia]
Institutional collections of rare hip hop material -- check. Archives full of punk zines -- check. But can we say the same for heavy metal demo tapes, fanzines, and related ephemera? Not just yet, but The Book Shop in Covina, California, aims to change that with an assemblage of books, zines, photographs, flyers, posters, vinyl records, and more that documents the ear-splitting musical genre. In a catalogue that the ABAA bookseller will debut this week at the Rare Books & Manuscripts Society (RBMS) Preconference in Las Vegas, co-owner Brad Johnson writes by way explanation: "Metal, however, hasn't received its due. That this important segment of our culture has been neglected is inexplicable, especially at a time when so much in the way of source material, the building blocks of original research, is on the verge of being lost."

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 10.40.59 PM.pngMetal: The First Heavy Metal Catalogue is super fun to peruse -- check out the complete 132-card set of KISS bubble gum cards from 1978 (gum included), a later issue of the original demo tape for Metallica's "No Life 'Til Leather," and an Alice Cooper-signed and dated concert t-shirt. A collection of 70 backstage passes for metal and hard rock concerts between the late 1970s and the early 2000s, most printed on satin and showing original tour art from the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, and Motley Crue, is an incredible find. And sending this writer right down Memory Lane: the 1986 vinyl record of Poison's "Look What The Cat Dragged In!"

Between the musicians' memoirs, the fanzine collections, and items like the May 11, 1968 issue of Rolling Stone that contained the first documented use of the phrase "heavy metal," this catalogue makes a convincing argument as to the material's scholarly appeal. Books like Chuck Klosterman's Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota (2001), of which there is a signed first edition here, and a 2011 scholarly article, "Collecting Heavy Metal Music" by Karson Jones of Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music, certainly help to bolster that position as well. As Jones writes, "The fact is that, regardless of how one feels about the music and culture of heavy metal, an increasing amount of social scientific and musicological research is being done on the subject. ... Research collections and archives are needed to support this study and teaching. These collections need to contain not only the academic literature and the seminal sound recordings, but also the visual art, fashion, and other ephemera that are inseparable from the metal experience."

In the catalogue's introduction, Johnson explains that the archives and artifacts listed in the catalogue would function as a foundation for a comprehensive collection devoted to the art and culture of heavy metal. The Book Shop is offering this collection en bloc for $40,000. 
Yesterday at Christie's NY, a first edition, first issue of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman sold for a world-record price of $305,000 (including premium) to a US dealer. Was it the five scarce broadside advertisements tipped to the front endpapers that tipped the scale?

The auction of "Clark Family Treasures" was intense--lasting nearly 8 hours and covering rare books, art, furniture, silver, and musical instruments--and very fun to watch, with 96% of lots selling, very often over estimate. The beautiful Baudelaire I posted about earlier this week sold to a European dealer for $293,000, double its high estimate.

Another record-breaker from the sale: Lionel Walden's oil on canvas, Hawaiian Coast, sold to a private collector for $106,250, a world record for the artist.

Overall, the sale realized $8.5 million.
Our Bright Young Things series continues today with Kaitlin Manning of B & L Rootenberg in Sherman Oaks, California.

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How did you get started in rare books?

My journey into the trade was anything but straightforward. My first love was Shakespeare, and after college I pursued classical acting (inevitably picking up some bartending skills along the way). I started feeling pretty dissatisfied with that lifestyle, so I decided to transition into the visual arts.  Though my undergraduate major was in Art History, I knew I wanted more training and expertise in a specific field. I was lucky enough to secure a spot at the Courtauld Institute where I completed a Master's degree in Medieval Art, with a special emphasis on illuminated manuscripts. While writing my dissertation, I went to the London book fair for a little inspiration and, frankly, to get out of the library for a few hours. It was there that I met Howard Rootenberg, who got me thinking about turning my academic interests into a career in rare books. Five months later I was working for him!

What is your role at B & L Rootenberg Rare Books & Manuscripts?

I was interested in working with the Rootenbergs because I wanted to learn the business from top to bottom. I do everything from packing and shipping to cataloguing and attending book fairs throughout the year. Now that I understand the business and the culture a bit more thoroughly, I am also starting to develop a social media program to engage with the broader community. As images are becoming more and more important to what we do, a big part of my job has been learning to photograph our inventory and think about ways to promote it. At our last few book fairs we featured illustrated, digital versions of our catalogues, and I think we will continue to do so in the future.

What do you love about the book trade?

I get to learn something new every single day. The first book I catalogued here was a British treatise on kidney stones, and I just finished researching a rare seventeenth century book on heavenly phenomena. I never know where my day will take me. There is so much to learn, so many rabbit holes to fall into, that there will never be a point when you can "know it all." That, to me, is a pretty exciting line of work.

Favorite rare book or ephemera that you've handled?

Handling first editions of the major scientific breakthroughs - Newton's Principia, Copernicus' De revolutionibus, and Darwin's Origins, to name a few - have certainly been awe inspiring moments; but the art historian in me is always drawn (pun totally intended) to exquisite images. One of the first rare books I handled in grad school was a copiously illustrated Apocalypse at the Wellcome Collection in London. I think that was the one that hooked me. 

What do you personally collect?

Nothing at the moment, though I would love to start. At each book fair I will have my heart set on some Japanese prints, only to be lured by the pull of some bizarre ethnographic study, which then gets me thinking about travel and voyages. In short, I'm still looking for that "gateway" book. 

Thoughts on the present state and/or future of the rare book trade?

Now that it's looking like this whole internet thing isn't just a fad, and with technology continually replacing itself like some asexual swamp frog, the times are, clearly, a changin'. I think it's easy to project fears and anxieties about the future of the trade onto young people (particularly those who grew up with the new technology) by arguing that they just aren't interested in what we do. Frankly, I think that's unfair. The challenges of bookselling and reaching new customers may be different than they were fifty years ago, but the tools at our disposal are also more powerful. Unfortunately, the multitude of digital platforms out there can seem overwhelming, and I think it prevents a lot of booksellers from really investigating the potential power of social media, particularly in terms of expanding the community and sharing expertise. But although maintaining an online presence is becoming more and more important to what we do - and indeed, to EVERY business and institution out there - I think it's equally important not to swing too far in the other direction; I am still of the opinion that personal contact will always carry the day. In a way, this is a great metaphor for the rare book trade itself. The era of the "e-book" might be here to stay, but words on a screen will never replicate the experience of interacting with the real deal.

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

We have been talking about putting together a catalogue of books related to chemistry (with images, of course!) in the coming months. We will be attending RBMS in Las Vegas at the end of June, and then hopefully a relatively quiet but productive summer before gearing up for Boston in the autumn.

the_paper_snake_cover-0.jpgLA's Siglio Press releases this month a reprint of Ray Johnson's long out-of-print The Paper Snake (1965), a book the publisher describes as "a vertiginous, mind-binding artist's book...far ahead of its time in its subversive and exuberant confluence of art and life." Johnson, whose circle included Andy Warhol, Christo, and John Cage, is considered a pioneer of "correspondence art" (or "mail art"), and much of his art is revealed in his collage-style letters. Siglio's 48-page jacketed hardcover is printed in an edition of 1,840 copies (the same as the original run) and includes an introductory essay by Frances F. L. Beatty, director of the Ray Johnson estate, as a separate insert.

Complementary to that, Siglio will also release Not Nothing: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson, 1954-1994, edited by Elizabeth Zuba with an essay by Kevin Killian, in July.

Image: From The Paper Snake by Ray Johnson. Copyright the Estate of Ray Johnson, courtesy Richard L. Feigen & Co.

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