Lauded as the Hans Christian Andersen of our time, Caldecott Medal winner Jane Yolen continues to produce books and poems that inspire readers of all ages. Now, Joslin Hall Rare Books, located in the bohemian, eclectic college town of Northampton, MA, is offering a limited-edition run of poetry broadsides signed by the author.   

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10.15.11JaneYolenByLuigiNovi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eight poems are printed on beautiful art paper and illustrated with what appear to be nineteenth-century calligraphic art images of various animals. The subjects range from a quiet musing on Jerusalem to a charming comparison of how the craft of poetry is similar to the tunneling lives of moles. A selection of eight different poems have also been printed onto bookmarks and signed by Yolen. Except for one, all poems are available in limitations of fifty. The holdout, a poem called "The Story Teller," is available in a limitation of twenty six and was printed by A Midsummer Night's Press, an enterprise once devoted to letterpress printing of broadside poetry. (The independent publisher now prints perfect-bound, commercially printed volumes and operates three imprints dedicated to poetry.) 
English: Line art drawing of a mole.

English: Line art drawing of a mole. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Last winter Yolen discussed with me the process of writing poetry, and creating a poem of lasting merit often requires drafting poems of lesser quality.  In fact, in 2010, she started a project called "A Poem a Day," for which she committed herself to writing one poem every day, and in January 2013 she convinced subscribers to sign up for her daily verses. Now she has at least 150 devotees who receive a daily poem in their inboxes. "I explain to them that many of these poems are never going to be in books - they're not good enough - but, the more you write, the better you get."

Yolen is currently recuperating from back surgery, but if her work ethic is any indication, she's already completed a few poems to meet her daily quota. When we spoke, recent eye surgery kept her from looking at a computer screen for a while. "Some days I cheat and write three or four poems in case something comes up." Poetry subscribers can rest easy knowing that Yolen has already prepared their morning compositions. Perhaps keen subscribers will pick up the Joslin Hall catalog and recognize bits of earlier works they saw first via email. 


Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Lara Haggerty, Keeper of Books at the Library of the Innerpeffray in Scotland.

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Please introduce us to the Library of Innerpeffray and your role at the institution:

The Library of Innerpeffray is Scotland's first free public lending library founded in 1680 and is located in beautiful rural Perthshire.  We have a lovely Georgian building and a collection of some 5000 books, covering five centuries and an amazing register of borrowers: local reading history from 1747 to 1968.
My job is Keeper of Books, and I'm the 31st Keeper at Innerpeffray.  The role is a very varied one: I live on site and the Library is now a museum.  We are open eight months of the year, so my task covers curating exhibitions, marketing and promotion as well as doing guided tours and managing our brilliant team of volunteers.  I also do fundraising which is crucial for an independent organisation, and all the day to day business.
 
How did you get started in rare books?

I've always been a book lover, but rare books was a new venture for me when I came to Innerpeffray, as I spent my early career in the arts, mainly in theatre management, and then in a local authority role advising schools on arts and heritage.  I owe thanks to the National Library of Scotland and the Rare Books in Scotland group for advice and training 'on the job'. 
 
Where did you earn your advanced degree?

My degree is an MA(Hons) in English Literature and Theatre from the University of Glasgow.
 
Favorite rare book / ephemera that you've handled?

It has to be our Borrowers' Register - and meeting the descendants of Borrowers.  In the early part of the register borrowers wrote out a promise to return the book 'safe and unspoiled'.  It is such a  personal insight into the past to see the book your ancestor borrowed from the library.
 
What do you personally collect?

I've very fond of early Penguin crime / thrillers, so very different in quality from the books I handle day to day, many of them falling apart at the seams, but I love the aesthetics of typeface and the classic green and white covers as well as the style of the writing.
 
What do you like to do outside of work?

Apart from reading, I'm lucky to live in a very beautiful part of Scotland and I enjoy being out in it.
 
What excites you about curatorship?

A thousand things! Telling a story with our collection, seeing visitors make their own connections.  Our collection is small, but very varied, so there is challenge and reward in making each new exhibition appealing and engaging.
 
Thoughts on the future of special collections?

I think it has to be one of the most important and interesting areas of conservation and curatorship, but will have to fight for its place.
 
Any unusual or interesting collection at your library you'd like to draw our attention to?

We are lucky enough to have just been gifted an amazing collection of Scottlsh First Editions from American bibliophile Janet St Germain.  Innerpeffray's original collection wasn't particularly Scottish so this complements it wonderfully.  As well as an incunable (our first, Duns Scotus) there is a wonderful collection of music and poetry including Burns and Ramsay and Enlightenment philosophers and scientists like Hume and Smith. 


Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

In 2015 we will have an exhibition guest curated by a post grad student from University of Stirling and the topic hasn't yet been finalised.  Our other exhibition for the year ahead looks likely to be about Dictionaries & Cyclopedia and will be called Words Words Words.

dsc_0034.jpgComing up this very weekend is Oak Knoll Fest XVIII. This three-day gathering of book artists, collectors, librarians, and booksellers in New Castle, Delaware, occurs every other year. Kicking off events is a Friday symposium on "Craftsman to Collector: Selling and Buying the Fine Press Book" featuring John Randle of the Whittington Press; Russell Maret, type designer and printer; Simon Lawrence of the Fleece Press; Tim Murray, head of special collections at the University of Delaware Library; Vicky and Bill Stewart of Vamp and Tramp Booksellers; and Ian Kahn of Lux Mentis Booksellers.

A book fair follows on Saturday and Sunday. More than in forty printers and book artists will exhibit their work, including our esteemed book art columnist, Richard Minsky. Oak Knoll founder Bob Fleck will also treat this year's attendees to a talk on Sunday, "38 Years and Counting: A Life in Bookselling, Publishing, and Bibliomania."

A full schedule of events is available, and p.s., there is also a 20% off everything sale at Oak Knoll Books & Press all weekend!

Image: From the 2012 Oak Knoll Fest XVII, via the Oak Knoll Blog.
On Wednesday, October 1, Swann Galleries in New York will host a sale of Art, Press, & Illustrated Books primarily from the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods. Here are some highlights...

693745.jpgLes Fleurs et Leurs Applications Décoratives, Art Deco design book by master colorist E. A. Séguy (lot 230, $5,000 to $7,500).


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Salvador Dali's interpretations of Don Quixote (lot 70, $25,000 to $35,000, pictured above) and Alice in Wonderland (lot 65, $5,000 to $7,500). Other Dali lots include one of ten copies of Poèmes de Mao Tse-Toung (lot 71, $15,000 to $25,000).

692734.jpgSeveral works from Gerda Wegener, including her most sought-after illustrated book Eric Allatini's Sur Talons Rouges (Lot 254, $4,000 to $6,000)

And...

12 Italian Futurist manifestos, on the heels of the popular Guggenheim show "Italian Futurism 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe." (lots 96-105, various price estimates)

A complete production of Matisse's cut-outs printed by Verve in 1958 (lot 189, $4,000 to $6,000)

D'Aci i d'Alla. Vol. XXII, No. 179, the Spanish art magazine, containing the scarcest of Joan Miró's pochoir prints from 1934 (lot 196, $2,000 to $3,000)

Gustav Klimt's erotic illustrations for Lucian of Samosata, Die Hetärengespräche des Lukian (lot 158, $3,000 to $4,000).

Images Courtesy of Swann Galleries.


Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 11.00.03 AM.pngFrom the Ontario-based publisher, Biblioasis, comes a charming and cool combination of words and illustrations called By the Book ($25.95) by Diane Schoemperlen. Using the idea of fragmentation as a starting point, and collage as a medium, Schoemperlen constructs entirely new texts and meanings assembled from vintage late 19th- and early 20th-century books such as Seaside and Wayside Nature Readers (1887) and The Ontario Public School Hygiene (1920). The resulting 73 full-color collages were, Schoemperlen writes in the introduction, "constructed in the old-fashioned way by the traditional cut-and-paste method with real paper, real scissors, and real glue."

Again, from the introduction: "In the tradition of objet trouvé, especially found poetry, these stories take the form of a found narrative: an imagined, expanded, and embroidered rearrangement of the original material."

The first story--more narrative in nature than the six that follow it--is an amusing chronicle of a young man's anachronistic adventure in visiting New York from Italy using a guidebook from 1900. (The original guidebook was rescued from a local recycling plant and re-purposed into experiential fiction--how's that for a happy ending?) Schoemperlen's re-mixed antique illustrations delight the eye, and yet also provoke laughter, close study, and further examination. A sequel to her 1998 book, Forms of Devotion, By the Book is unusual, witty, and whimsical.

Add to that the high production value of the volume itself--a bright, stand-out jacket that reproduces one of the author's collages, glossy paper that seems to illuminate the artwork, and a handy 8 1/2" x 6 1/4" hardcover binding--and you have a terrific gift for a book, art, or ephemera lover. 

Gregory Maguire's Misunderstood Witches

Today's theatergoers and readers like their witches misunderstood and maligned, with an underlying desire to do good. Look no further than the latest offerings from Hollywood - from Angelina Jolie as the wronged Maleficent in the eponymous film, to Disney's reincarnation of the Ice Queen in the animated blockbuster Frozen. Two of Gregory Maguire's books, the bestselling Wicked, and his latest publication, Egg & Spoon (Candlewick Press, $17.99) also deal with powerful women on the fringes of society, whose magical gifts may actually be their community's salvation.


GregoryMaguire.jpgMaguire was a misunderstood witch once as well, without heels and wig. During a conversation this summer, he recalled a Halloween during his childhood when he was casting about the family home for a costume.  "There were seven of us, and so we had to cobble together costumes with what we had. One of my brothers was an altar boy, and I found his black cassock. It is the only time in my life I indulged in cross dressing." That amusing memory helped Maguire to recall why he wanted to be a witch in the first place. "I could tell from my childhood reading that the identity of a witch was porous and permissible. Everybody could partake of that character's possible sense of shape-shifting and of performing mysterious acts. And so could I, even as a young boy." Those commutative properties informed the author's version of Baba Yaga, the fearsome witch of Russian lore who figures prominently in this latest book.


Egg & Spoon is Maguire's masterful tale set in a mystical Tsarist Russia on the eve of the Revolution, where the mythical Firebird maintains the environmental equilibrium and, despite the existence of magic, there is still no food for the poor. Baba Yaga's first appearance is fearsome; she is a skeletal, foul mouthed blaze of energy. She travels around the country in Dumb Doma, her hen-like house bestowed with maternal instincts of its own.  Behind the veneer of sneer and snark, Baba Yaga is in fact quite protective of her charges, two young girls from vastly different social circumstances whose lives become inextricably intertwined during their adventures. "How many cranky old women do we know who are really dear at heart?" said Maguire. "They very often put on a cloak of crankiness to hide just how deeply attached they are to their children and their grandchildren. They are the maternal goddesses of the street, the old grandmothers, and they poke their fingers out the window and say 'Get off my lawn!' But they're really watching very carefully to make sure no child runs into the street."

468px-Bilibin._Baba_Yaga.jpgAs with many of Maguire's books, the world of Egg & Spoon is firmly rooted in the complications of reality. He writes about places that are purposefully full of trouble and complexities, and credits his mentor, the late Maurice Sendak, with showing him the way. "I write books that are understandably dense and full of detail, and full of different kinds of tones - comical, tragic, meditative, suspenseful.  because how can art be believable if it doesn't chime with life in some way? One of my aesthetic gambits with life is to make the worlds in my stories as complicated, and befuddling and lovable as the world in which we find ourselves." Sendak showed him how to do that, and Maguire reanimates his mentor through the character Peter Petrovich. On his deathbed Petrovich implores the living to enjoy life fully, and in a lasting tribute, Maguire used Sendak's own words, pulled from an interview with NPR's Terry Gross and which would turn out to be one of his last: 'Live your life, live your life, live your life.'

Baba Yaga (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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A garden spade owned by both George Bernard Shaw and Ray Bradbury is currently up for auction from Nate D. Sanders. The online auction, which includes many other lots from Ray Bradbury's personal art and book collections, concludes today at 5 p.m. PST. At the time of this writing, bidding on the spade is at $5,000.

Shaw used the spade to plant a mulberry tree in Great Malvern, Worcestershire, on his 80th birthday in July of 1936. Shaw then gave the spade to his friend and gardener Harry Higgs. From there, the spade eventually made its way into the hands of Ray Bradbury, who received it as a Christmas present. 

Bradbury, who died in 2012, was an avid fan of George Bernard Shaw, considering him "the greatest playwright of our century." Bradbury, like many collectors, was inspired by owning an object that was used by one of his literary idols.  Bradbury even wrote an unpublished poem about the spade, entitled "G. B. S. & the Spade," which is included in the same lot at auction.  An excerpt of the lengthy poem follows:

I hold the dear spade in my hands,
Its vibrant lightnings strike and move along my arms, 
The ghost of Shaw climbs up through me
I feel a fiery brambling of chin 
I feel my spine 
Stand straight as if a lightning bolt had struck 
His old voice whispers in my ear, dear boy 
Find Troy, go on, dig deep, find Troy, find Troy!

From one of the greatest playwrights to one of the greatest science fiction writers, this simple garden tool has a stunning literary provenance. The next owner of the spade will have a lot to live up to.

[Image from Nate D. Sanders]
Art and Ownership: An Exhibit of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts opens today at Sam Fogg's London gallery. Fogg, one of the world's leading dealers in medieval art, chronicles the development of readership and book ownership in the Middle Ages and beyond. Until the 12th century, manuscripts were primarily owned by monks and royals, but the dawn of the 13th century brought increased literacy, making book ownership more widespread. Commoners and laymen had greater opportunities to buy a personal prayerbook, or book of hours.

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 8.29.20 PM.pngFogg showcases examples from the 12th-16th centuries, a number of them with fantastic provenance, e.g., this 13th-century illuminated Bible looted from the library of King Charles IV of Spain by Napoleon's brother, Joseph Bonaparte, and then seized from him by the Duke of Wellington (above). Another highlight is a c. 1495 manuscript compendium of astrological texts, still in its original binding, produced under the supervision of its author, Lewis of Caerleon, who wrote part of it while imprisoned in the Tower of London in the 1480s.

The exhibit is on view through October 24 at 15D Clifford St., London.

Image: The Bonaparte - Duke of Wellington Bible France, Paris and Lyon, c. 1250 and c. 1300. Courtesy of Sam Fogg.


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After leaving Lowell, Massachusetts, on a football scholarship to Horace Mann, a prep school in New York City, Jack Kerouac maintained a friendly and candid correspondence with his childhood friend George Apostolos. Seventeen of those letters, along with two postcards, and seven writing fragments were discovered by Apostolos's daughter after his death and will be auctioned this fall in Boston by Skinner.

Like so many teenage boys before and after him, Kerouac spends much of his letters writing about girls: 

"There is no doubt in my mind that you or I have never laid our eyes on such an exquisite creature as Jacqueline Sheresky. Her neck has that stamp of blueblood; it curves up delicately and like ivory to a perfectly moulded almond chin, and thence to quivering scarlet lips, covering a row of alabaster teeth. Her eyes are dark as ebony, with a flash of fire in them. Her hair topples down in rippling cascades of black sleekness, over a pair of resilient, lush shoulders. She is slim, blooming and graceful; I have never seen anything like it."

Kerouac's densely typed letters - in a precursor of his later style - run in unbroken, single-spaced lines across multiple pages. In addition to various love affairs, Kerouac discusses playing football, adjusting to life in New York City, reading, writing, and developing his personal philosophies. The letters continue through Kerouac's freshman year at Columbia University in 1940 and 1941.

Estimates for the letters, which will be sold as separate lots at Skinner's November 16th auction of fine books, run between $2,000 and $5,000 each.
In 1931, the Michigan Tuberculosis Association issued four lithograph posters meant to encourage in children the healthful effects of the outdoors. Tuberculosis--a.k.a. consumption in the nineteenth century--is an airborne disease caused by bacteria that attacks the lungs and transmitted by coughing, sneezing, even laughing, i.e., close living. Thus it had long been held that fresh air was, if not an antidote for the contagion, then at least a form of prevention. (A semi-efficacious vaccine has been available since the 1920s, but it is rarely used in the U.S., which relies instead on antibiotic treatment.)

The vibrant posters, which feature wild animals eating, playing, and resting in nature, were designed by the foremost animal illustrator of the time, Charles Livingston Bull (1874-1932). Bull's illustrations regularly appeared in publications including the Saturday Evening Post and McClure's and in books alongside the writing of Jack London. Lowry-James Rare Prints & Books offers three of these color lithographs in a new catalogue devoted to the work of Bull, also containing several of his decorated bindings and original charcoal and pen works on paper.

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Cougars: Play Out of Doors The Year Round. Based on his original watercolor, Mother Cougar and Three Young, 1931.

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Deer: Eat for Strength Grace - Vigor. Based on his original watercolor, Doe and Fawns browsing on Lily Pads, 1931.

6665.jpg Rams: Sleep Long Hours in the Cool, Clean Air. Based on Bull's watercolor, pen and ink of Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheet, in the collection of Oradell Free Public Library in Oradell, NJ.

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