A guest post by Webb Howell, FB&C's publisher

Pete Rose, for all his faults, recognized that "Baseball is a universal language." The first of April assures us that the language is being spoken again and the first pitches of teams everywhere begin to roll over home plate.
670081.jpgSwann Auction Galleries' April 8th sale of "Printed & Manuscript Americana" offers several items of baseball interest, including artwork (above) for a cigar box label depicting Hans Wagner. Better known as "Honus" Wagner, the famed shortstop became one of the first five members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Wagner may be best known for being the face of one of the rarest baseball cards around. A mere 57 cards are known to exist, with sale of the most recent ones toping one, then two, million dollars.

The artwork is watercolor and the pose he strikes is identical to the baseball card. The estimate is $1,500/2,500. Other baseball-related items in the auction also include an 1884 lithograph of vignettes of 12 active players and a group of 30 Hall of Fame player signatures, among them 4 Negro League greats.

LCM small.jpgLCM, the Library of Congress Magazine, also notes the start of baseball season with a feature on "America at Play." While not specifically about baseball, the article wows the reader with the Library's tremendous collection of sports holdings, of which they make the undoubtedly truthful claim as being "the most extensive in the country."

Of particular note is the recent acquisition of recorded sports interviews, among them the Bob Wolff Collection, that dates to the start of his career in 1939. Wolff began as a broadcaster on the Durham, NC, CBS-affiliated station WDNC, while a student at Duke University. Included in this collection are interviews with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson, and play-by-play coverage of Don Larsen's 1956 World Series perfect game. More of the LOC's baseball collection can be found at: http://www.loc.gov/topics/baseball/

Images: Courtesy of Swann Galleries; Library of Congress.
Our dormant Bright Young Things series returns to life this week with an interview with Amy Candiotti of Pistil Books in Seattle.

How did you get started in rare books?

I graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Comparative Literature and one of my first jobs was in a used bookstore.

When did you open Pistil and what does the shop specialize in?

My partner, Sean Carlson, and I opened Pistil Books & News, a retail store in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle in 1993. As a brick and mortar store, we carried used and new books, periodicals, and zines. We also hosted readings and art shows. We were a general used and new bookstore with books in all subjects, but with specialties in alternative culture, such as politics, gay & lesbian, sex, and drugs/consciousness.

In 2001 we lost our lease and became an online-only store, Pistil Books Online, selling on our own website as well as many other bookselling sites. We still carry used books in all categories, with an emphasis on scholarly non-fiction and books on how to do things: homesteading, crafts, building, do-it-yourself.

What is your role at Pistil?

I am co-owner of Pistil Books, and do everything from buying, cataloguing, supervising our two part-time employees, to the fun stuff like bookkeeping and taxes. I've also been making recycled blank books from discarded library books for years, and am recently delving into other formats of handmade books, and printmaking. My books and cards are for sale on our website.

What do you love about the book trade?

I love being surrounded by books and being constantly exposed to the different ideas and subjects they contain. I love being self-employed and having the freedom of a flexible schedule, and since we've been online only, of working at home, which means I can do things like cook lunch while I'm working, or take a break and go for a walk. My work life and home life are integrated in a pleasing way. And I never run out of things to read.

Favorite rare book (or ephemera) that you've handled?

A couple of years ago I attended Rare Book School at the University of Virginia, and my class visited the Rare Book Division at the Library of Congress where I got to see and handle an Alice in Wonderland with original pencil drawings by John Tenniel.

As for ephemera, a favorite zine from the nineties is called Crap Hound, created by Sean Tejaratchi. It's entirely made up of black and white images very skillfully compiled (cut and pasted by hand, no computers) from vintage advertisements and the like, based on juxtapozed themes, such as "Clowns, Devils, Bait", "Hearts, Hands, Eyes" or "Death, Telephone, Scissors." Some of the issues were reprinted in the last few years, but the originals are collectible and hard-to-find.

What do you personally collect?

I collect authors I like - Paul Bowles, Alan Watts, Alice Munro. But I also have a lot of books that I keep just because I like the book as an object - for instance, a beautiful accordion book from the sixties, with removable colored cards, printed in Japan, that is a "Test for Colour Blindness" - I recently had an eye exam, and the doctor used the same book! I'm also very fond of The Golden Book Encyclopedia and Golden Books in general for their wonderful illustrations and depiction of a specific world view of knowledge and science. I have a collection of children's text books from the turn of the century to the sixties for the same reason.

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

The business has changed so much during the time that I've been involved, it's hard to predict what will happen. But I am confident that there will always be people who love physical books and who will want to read, handle, and collect them.

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

Nothing scheduled, but we will have our annual outdoor book sale this summer. It's a chance to see old customers from our brick and mortar store, neighbors, and have a party.

With Jonathan Safran Foer as one of the night's honorees and an after-hours dance party, the Center for Book Arts in New York City reaches out to younger book/art lovers at its annual benefit and silent auction on April 4.

The Center for Book Arts, located at 28 W. 27th St., is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting book arts through classes, exhibits, events, and publications. (If you want to learn letterpress printing, paper marbling, or bookbinding, this is your place.) Every spring it holds a benefit event that recognizes the achievements of individuals in the book arts. In addition to Safran Foer, whose 2010 book, Tree of Codes, was hailed as a book arts crossover, this year's guests of honor are Steve Clay, publisher of Granary Books in New York City, and Joan Lyons, artist and founder of the Visual Studies Workshop Press in Rochester, NY.

Silverberg-CBA Auction.jpgThe silent auction offers attendees the opportunity to browse and bid on some amazing contemporary book art. This piece by Robbin Ami Silverberg (profiled in our winter 2013 issue) is particularly appropriate for the occasion -- her Safer Code (2014) it is an altered copy of Safran Foer's altered book, Tree of Codes. The minimum bid is $500.

The benefit begins at 6 p.m., and tickets cost $100. For $30, the DJ-ed after party goes from 9 p.m.-11 p.m. Sounds perfect for those in town for Rare Book Week!  

Image Courtesy of The Center for Book Arts.

grand budapest hotel.jpg
The new film directed by Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is now playing in select theatres around the country. The unique aesthetic and sensibility of the film, set in a 1930s fictional European country, was heavily influenced by the work of Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. 

At one time among the most popular writers in the world, Zweig was also an inveterate manuscript collector, an attribute that we profiled previously in the magazine. Many of Zweig's novels such as Beware of Pity, Letter from an Unknown Woman, and his memoir, The World of Yesterday, were international bestsellers and widely acclaimed by critics. Zweig's popularity, however, has been in steady decline since his suicide in 1942.

But all that might change soon. 

Wes Anderson, who inspires a rabid following amongst his fans, has loudly proclaimed his love for Zweig's novels and declared in a fascinating interview with The Telegraph that he "stole from Zweig" while making his latest film:

"I had never heard of Zweig -- or, if I had, only in the vaguest ways -- until maybe six or seven years ago, something like that, when I just more or less by chance bought a copy of Beware of Pity. I loved this first book, and immediately there were dozens more in front of me that hadn't been there before. They were all suddenly back in print. I also read the The Post Office Girl, which had been only published for the first time recently. The Grand Budapest Hotel has elements that were sort of stolen from both these books."

Anderson fans will now likely be in pursuit of Zweig's almost forgotten novels. While some of Zweig's titles have enjoyed recent reprints, let's check in with Zweig on the collecting front:

An American first edition of Amok, one of Zweig's popular novellas, (New York: Viking, 1931) only costs $12.00.

An American first edition of Beware of Pity, Zweig's longest work, (New York: Viking, 1939) costs a little more - about $30 without the dust jacket; $100 with it.

An American first edition of The Royal Game (also known as Chess Story) published in 1944 shortly after Zweig's death runs about $60.

And an American first edition of The World of Yesterday (New York: Viking, 1943), Zweig's popular memoir of the literary life in Europe - particularly Vienna - before World War II, will set you back about $100.

Or you can enjoy the sensibility of Zweig channeled through the keen directorial eye of Wes Anderson by catching The Grand Budapest Hotel at your local independent cinema:

Images Via Wikipedia.

Richard Minsky has launched a new exhibit and catalogue of publishers' bindings, titled Trade Bindings with Native American Themes, 1875-1933. The book artist (and FB&C Book Art columnist) turned up 116 different decorative and pictorial covers and more than 20 variants by Margaret Armstrong, Frank Hazenplug, The Decorative Designers, Frederick S. Dellenbaugh, Blanche Helen McLane, Rome K. Richardson, George W. Hood, Thomas Watson Ball, Angel de Cora, Amy Rand, George W. Hood, and many others. They are currently on display in his Hudson, New York, studio.

indians-book-1923-700.jpgMinsky is an expert in American decorated publishers' bindings. His first three exhibition catalogues documented more than 1,000 covers, and each exhibition was acquired by a different institutional library. In 2012, he mounted and catalogued a single-artist exhibition devoted to Thomas Watson Ball, which went en bloc to Penn State. Last year, George Braziller published a paperback edition of Minsky's book, The Art of American Book Covers, 1875-1930.

I asked him if he sought out Native American-themed books for this new project, or if the theme presented itself while he was researching the larger topic of American decorated publishers' bindings. "I have some books with this theme and it's one that was not highlighted in any of the previous exhibitions. Searching for more covers with this subject matter turned up some amazing designs--enough for an exhibition," he told me. "Only five of the designs are among the nearly 1,200 in the previous catalogues." In a newsletter to collectors and friends, Minsky also clarified the exhibit's theme: "This exhibition is titled Trade Bindings with Native American Themes rather than American Indian themes because of its geographic and temporal scope. The books are about indigenous peoples from the Aleuts and Inuit of the arctic to South Americans, and fictional prehistoric inhabitants that may predate those believed to have migrated across the Bering Strait land bridge and the Paleoamericans who may have migrated by boat."

Through March 31, Minsky is offering a pre-publication discount on the limited edition or the deluxe edition of the catalogue.  

Image: The Indians' Book
Recorded and edited by Natalie Curtis
Unsigned cover design likely by Angel de Cora ((Hinook Mahiwi Kilinaka, Winnebago)
Harper and Brothers, ©1923
Courtesy of Richard Minsky. 
With a few exceptions, every great writer gets his start in newspapers, magazines, and smaller publications. Before his big break, Mark Twain published news stories in a handful of western newspapers. "Firsts" of Hemingway's short stories can be found in Esquire, and Dorothy Parker's first published poem appears in a 1914 issue of Vanity Fair. For completist collectors, these early pieces are an integral part of a collection, and usually not too expensive.

Updike.jpgThe prolific John Updike--pity the completist--is no different. We can trace his journalism all the way back to his high school newspaper, Chatterbox. Updike attended Shillington High School in Pennsylvania, and he held many positions over the years at the school's paper, including editor. On April 2, a collection of original mimeographed Chatterbox issues from 1949-1950, showing more than eighty Updike contributions, goes to auction in New York City. Among Updike's adolescent jottings, there are reviews, such as "Hamlet Reviewed (an orgy of superlatives)" from Feb. 25, 1949, and many poems, for example, "Ode to the Seniors" from April 14, 1949 and "Valentine to the Hydrogen Bomb" from Feb. 10, 1950.

This run of newspapers was originally collected and owned by Updike's classmate, Barry Nelson, who worked as the paper's sports editor.

The auction estimate is $4,000, with bids being taken online by Heritage Auctions until April 1.

Image via Heritage Auctions.


Marcus Books, a landmark Black bookshop in San Francisco, may close its doors if it is unable to raise $1 million in funding to purchase their building. The bookshop has launched a GoFundMe campaign in the hopes of raising the necessary capital.

Marcus Books was the brainchild of Julian and Raye Richardson, who founded the shop under the name Success Book Store in 1960.  Ten years later, after an inspired reading of Marcus Garvey's Philosophy and Opinions, the Richardsons renamed their shop "Marcus Books." The store moved to its present location on Fillmore St, between Sutter and Post, in 1981. 

Continuously in operation for 53 years, the bookshop has claimed the distinction of being the oldest Black bookshop in America. The shop has also become a cornerstone of African American literary culture, hosting readings from everyone from Malcolm X to Oprah.

The current owners of Marcus Books - Gregory and Karen Johnson - reached an agreement with the building owners: if the store can raise $2.6m, the San Francisco Community Land Trust will purchase the building, letting Marcus Books stay as its tenant in perpetuity.

Marcus Books raised over half of the amount before turning to crowdsourcing for the final $1m.

[Image from GoFundMe campaign]

Next week at Sotheby's London, the library of Franklin Brooke-Hitching, a collection encompassing 1,500 books, 350+ years, and 7 continents, begins its turn at auction. It is, writes Anthony Payne in the catalogue's introduction, "the finest private collection of English global exploration and discovery to have been formed in the last century."

Captain Cook's untitled chart of "The Great Pacific Ocean" and "South Pacific Ocean" (London: Joseph Banks, 1772) is the first printed map of Australia. Only three are extant, and this is the only one in private hands. The auction estimate is $130,000-195,000.

Captain Cook, Walter Raleigh, David Livingstone, Ernest Shackleton, Charles Darwin -- these are just some of the explorers in this collection that spans 1576-1939. The March 27 sale is the first of four, with the next scheduled to be held in September, and two following in the spring of 2015. Two of the highlights of this first sale include the earliest printed map of Australia (above) and the first book printed in Alaska.

Brooke-Hitching, 72, has been collecting for more than 40 years, and as a banker-turned-bookseller, only bought the best. From all accounts, he is a meticulous and persistent collector -- his fine bindings are in the best condition, and many of the books are unique or rare presentation copies. This auction is one for the ages!

Image via Sotheby's. 

Our series profiling the next generation of special collections librarians and curators continues today with Allison Jai O'Dell, Special Collections Cataloging and Metadata Librarian at the University of Miami.


How did you get started in rare books?

By following sage advice.  My undergraduate degrees were in ancient history and classical languages.  This educational path doesn't often translate into a ready (let alone lucrative) career, so I went to work as a database administrator.  I quickly became enamored of information management and enrolled in library school at The Catholic University of America.  During the first months of my MLS program, everyone kept saying, "You know Latin and Greek?  Have you thought about rare books?"  So, I heeded their collective recommendation and registered for courses on book history and rare books librarianship.  Being trained in archaeological methodology, exploring book history felt natural to me.  Something clicked: this was the perfect way to combine my academic background and professional experience.


I hear you also have a background in book arts. Tell us more:

Once I immersed myself in rare book cataloging, it became clear that to do the work justice, I was going to have to learn to reverse engineer a book artifact.  That is, I was going to have to learn to make books.  I enrolled in the Corcoran College of Art and Design's M.A. program in "Art and the Book."  Studio practice in printmaking, typography, layout design, binding, and papermaking offered a foundation for assessing the products of these activities that has proved invaluable in describing and arranging them.  I draw upon my knowledge of the book arts constantly in my work, and always refer new professionals to Kathleen Walkup's essay, "Why Book Arts Matter." 

What is your role at your institution?

I serve as the Special Collections Cataloging and Metadata Librarian for the University of Miami Libraries.  Practically speaking, I am involved in all things that relate to facilitating intellectual access to print and manuscript materials in our special collections.  My duties include "traditional" rare book cataloging, metadata management, policy development, and collaborative work with the systems and web development teams to build better user experiences. 

I am fortunate to work with future-focused colleagues who are creatively reconsidering the habits of twenty-first-century information consumers.  Lately, I have been facilitating usability studies to improve and invent front-end interfaces, coordinating library-wide discussions to address implementation of linked data features and open metadata strategies, and investigating possibilities available in new systems and schemas. 

And naturally, I take pictures and blog.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you've handled?

I adore Melissa Jay Craig's work.  She engages with book aesthetics and book form through the corporeal nature of handmade paper, and she creates conversations about the experience of reading in the absence of textual content.  Finding "Working Philosophy" at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts was definitely my favorite book-object experience.

What do you personally collect?

My apartment is full of prints, books, and textiles made by friends and colleagues.  I keep them for their sentimental value - because I know the stories behind their creation, I respect the labor involved in making, and I'm fond of their makers.  But I don't endeavor to be a collector.  I live with two house rabbits who frequently make snacks out of works on paper.  My home isn't the most appropriate space for stewarding artifacts into future use.

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

I love being employed in the study of material culture.  Everyday objects, such as books and ephemera, are a record of who we are, what we do, and what we want.  I'm fascinated by the anthropological aspects of my career.

Thoughts on the future of special collections / rare book librarianship?

I see an increasingly exhibition-heavy role for special collections and rare book libraries.  A few days ago, I was explaining my job to a new friend.  I said that I work to help users access the information in our catalogs and databases.  Her response was, "So, you make infographics?"  I laughed, but it was a very telling moment.  The public assumes that information professionals will curate information for them, and services that distill content into a meaningful and digestible product appear attractive.  Besides, audiences expect museum-like programming when we promote the artifactual value of our material.  Graphic displays and narrative formats have the power to extract and present knowledge, and we can harness this capacity through exhibits, blogs, data visualizations - and yes, infographics.

 I also envision research analyst positions growing among the special collections workforce.  We train as researchers in book and human history; we become intimately familiar with our collections and their descriptive metadata; we cultivate strengths in investigative methodologies and data mining techniques - and yet, we typically stop short of performing research services ourselves.  In an age of information obesity, and given the potential for collaboration available in the digital humanities, I think that might change. 

 Any unusual or interesting collection at your library you'd like to draw our attention to?

The Jackie Gleason Collection focuses on parapsychology, including both scholarly and popular works in areas such as occultism, reincarnation, hypnotism, UFOs, ghosts, spiritual healing, demonology, magic, telepathy, astral projection, clairvoyance... really, really cool stuff.

 Our Artists' Books Collection is what drew me to the University of Miami.  It's a top-notch representation of the genre and highly regarded among contemporary artists. 

 I was surprised to discover that our zine collections are both quite substantial and fully described.  They provide amazing primary source material for researching political, social, sexual, and musical subcultures of the latter 20th century.  The Firefly Zine Collection was donated by former residents of the Firefly, a local Miami collective house and important part of Miami's punk rock and activist scene.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

Golly, lots!  "?#@*$%! the Mainstream: The Art of DIY Self Expression," which ran at the University of Miami Lowe Art Museum this past winter, will be seeing a reprise at the Otto G. Richter Library in the coming year.  Our Special Collections Division is working on an exhibit showcasing local culinary culture.  (Being a cultural melting pot with indigenous tropical fruits, Miami is a great place for chow!)  The Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) is a partner in bringing the Guantanamo Public Memory Project to the University of Miami in October.  And the CHC's fall 2014 exhibition will be on Manuel Ochoa, founder of the Miami Symphony Orchestra.

The HMS Bounty was just a small merchant vessel on its way to Tahiti to collect breadfruit. Under the command of the now infamous Captain Bligh, the ship left dock in December of 1787 for its arduous ten-month journey at sea, during which time Bligh demoted his sailing master and replaced him with Fletcher Christian, a move he would surely come to regret. Still, they made it to Tahiti, where the crew stayed for five months. In April of 1789, they left the island and headed for disaster.

It took only a few weeks for the mutiny to foment. Christian and his band of mutineers took the ship (eventually to Pitcairn Island, where they eluded the Royal Navy), and set Bligh and his loyalists adrift in a small boat. Amazingly, Bligh returned his crew to England.

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 9.21.31 AM.pngIt is, of course, a story that was sensational from the beginning, providing the basis for many books and films. One of the first publications was the printed minutes of the 1792 court-martial of the Bounty mutineers--those the Navy had caught, anyway. Ten men went to trial, of which three were hanged. For a collector of Bounty books and relics, this is undoubtedly a high spot. Bonhams sold one last year for slightly more than $50,000.

Edward R. Leahy is one such Bounty collector. His interest lies in the historical efforts to demonize Bligh, who was often portrayed as tyrannical. "From Bligh's Narrative to the mutineer's court martial transcripts to the spurious Fletcher Christian letters and the authentic and extremely rare Peter Heywood letters, Mr. Leahy has assembled the historical evidence," according to the University of Scranton special collections librarian Michael Knies. "But he has also collected the start of the Mutiny saga in the arts with works like Lord Byron's The Island."

Mutiny Small Boat 2.jpgThe image seen here of the small boat that Bligh and his crew survived in after the mutiny, from Leahy's 1818 first edition of An Account of the Dangerous Voyage, Performed by Captain Bligh, With a part of the crew of His Majesty's Ship Bounty, in an open boat, over twelve hundred leagues of the Ocean, with an Appendix, In which is contained an Account of the Island of Otaheite (London, Juvenile Library edition). With other selections from Leahy's library, it is currently on display through April 17 at the University of Scranton's Weinberg Library in an exhibit called The Mutiny on the Bounty: A 225-Year Voyage from Fiction to Fact. On April 9, Leahy will present a lecture on the facts and the myths of the Bounty.

Images: Top, courtesy of Bonhams; Bottom, courtesy of the University of Scranton, Weinberg Library.

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