In a letter dated January 20, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt waxed poetic with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, scribbling some verses from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Sail on, O Ship of State!” FDR preceded the patriotic lines, originally written in 1849, with these words, “I think this verse applies to you people as it does to us.” America had not yet entered the World War II, but his letter was meant to provide support and encouragement. According to the Library of Congress, Churchill was so moved he had the letter framed and displayed at his home.

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 10.04.14 PM.pngOff to auction next week is a significant piece of historical ephemera that brings this fascinating story to the surface: a keepsake broadside of “Sail on, O Ship of State,” signed by both Roosevelt and Churchill during the secret Atlantic Conference held aboard two warships anchored off Newfoundland from August 9-12, 1941. At this meeting, the two leaders plotted strategy as the U.S. inched closer to war with Germany.   
According to Dallas Auction Gallery, “This document was printed at the direction of British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill for presentation to United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his top aides ... Both Churchill and Roosevelt kept copies and very few additional copies were signed for senior advisors present aboard Augusta.” This one, formerly in the Forbes collection of American historical documents and most recently in the collection of Dallas collector Sam Wyly, goes to auction on November 4, with an estimate of $10,000-15,000.

The sale also offers a first edition of Churchill’s The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898), a typed signed letter of FDR’s from 1918, and several other historical documents, letters, and art.

Image Courtesy of Dallas Auction Gallery.

89 Years of Winnie-the-Pooh

Winnie the Pooh, the first in a series of children’s books about the eponymous toy bear and other cuddly inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood appeared between hardcovers on October 14, 1926, making 2015 the 89th year the world has reveled in the sweet tales penned by A.A. Milne and illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard. Since then, the four original books in the Pooh canon have been translated into fifty languages, including a Latin version, which spent 20 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list in 1960. Movies, merchandise, Disney adaptations, and subsequent stories continue to charm new generations of children worldwide. 


“Winnie-the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders.” “Pooh Shepard1928” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -

While this isn’t exactly a milestone year for Pooh and pals, a few events are sure to draw the attention of fans and collectors alike. First up is the auction of a rare 1932 sketch of Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet, available at Nate D. Sanders in Los Angeles. The watercolor includes a note from Shepard to his agent, Carter Brown, thanking him for all his good work. Minimum bidding starts at $50,000, and the auction runs until October 29. (Interested parties can follow the auction here.) Readers may recall the impressive December 2008 sale at Sotheby’s London, where a 42 lot sale of Shepard’s artwork that included 22 original Winnie the Pooh illustrations fetched £1.26 million ($1.97 million).

Nature enthusiasts will find much to enjoy in landscape designer and historian Kathryn Aalto’s The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A walk through the forest that inspired Hundred Acre Wood (Timber Press, $24.95, September 2015), where she discusses the Ashdown Forest, the real woodland setting where Milne’s son often wandered with his stuffed animals in tow. (Among other landmarks, the author points out the real Poohsticks bridge.) Parents nostalgic for a bygone era when children lost track of time playing outdoors might consider Aalto’s book a companion guide to the Pooh tales, a gentle reminder that so much of childhood is founded on magic and secret hideaway places.

I’ve been celebrating Pooh’s birthday by listening to The Best of Winnie-the-Pooh (A Gift Book and CD) (Dutton, $24.95, 1997), a selection of stories narrated by none other than journalist Charles Kuralt, whose distinctly sonorous, reassuring voice lends new dimension to the likes of Eeyore and Piglet. 


“Pooh sticks bridge” by David BROOKER. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

wicked bible 1631.jpg
An extremely rare 1631 Bible, dubbed “The Wicked Bible” after a critical error left out the word “not” from the seventh commandment (“Thou shalt *not* commit adultery), is heading to auction at Bonhams next month.

In 1631, London printers Robert Barker and Martin Lucas printed 1,000 copies of The New Testament. One year later,  it was brought to their attention that The Ten Commandants included the dubious line “Thou shalt commit adultery.” The unfortunate mistake did not go unnoticed by the authorities. The printers were hauled to court on the orders of Charles I where they fined £300 (approximately £45,000 today, or just shy of $70,000) and had their printing license revoked. The vast majority of the 1,000 copy print run was also destroyed, with only 10 copies believed to have survived to modern times. Throughout its subsequent nearly four hundred-year history, the book has been variously dubbed “The Wicked Bible,” “The Sinners Bible,” and “The Adulterous Bible.”

According to Bonhams, which will auction the book as part of its November 11 sale, research has revealed that the mistake may have been a deliberate act of sabotage by a rival printer. The fallout from the scandal did indeed sink the fortunes of both Barker and Lucas. 

The Wicked Bible is estimated at £10,000-£15,000 ($15,000-$23,000).

[Image from Bonhams]
exhibitions2015_spector-01-320x240.jpgBuzz Spector: The Book Under (De-)Construction opened at the Center for Book Arts in New York City earlier this month. Organized by the CBA’s executive director and curator Alexander Campos, this exhibit explores more than three decades of Spector’s altered books, book stacks, and collages made from clipped dust jackets. It is held in conjunction with an artist talk, scheduled for November 20, with a master class following on November 21-22. 

We profiled Spector and his tactile book art back in our spring 2014 issue. At the time, he told Richard Minsky, “Touch has always been central to my work.” Spector further described his first found altered book project:

...The Evolution of a Life: or, From the Bondage of Superstition to the Freedom of Reason by the Rev. Henry Truro Bray. I loved the title, and as a visual pun I tore out the superstition and left the reason. Actually I started making it as a model of a blank book that I wanted Bill to bind for me. I started getting chills altering it after about thirty pages. As I tore the pages away I realized it still looked like pages and columns, but made nonsensical letterforms.
    At first it was the tearing gesture that was the intersection of physical process and text, and I quickly moved on to tearing them and painting on them, or digging into them with X-acto knives to form miniature geographies, and gluing small artifacts onto the surface. After about a year I discovered other artists were embellishing found printed books and realized that it was the tearing of pages that was the significant gesture. I started making serious choices about what book to alter.
The exhibit is up through December 12.

Image: Buzz Spector’s Altered K, via the Center for Book Arts.

OPENROAD_render_cover copy.jpgLast week the Furthermore organization announced that this year’s winner of The Alice Award is David Campany’s The Open Road: Photography & The American Road Trip, published by Aperture. The Alice is an annual prize for illustrated books that puts the emphasis on “The book as book, which is a work of art in itself,” as Furthermore’s founder and president Joan K. Davidson said in a recent interview with us. “When you look around at book prizes, they mostly go to the contents of the book,” she said. “We do that, too, of course, but we consider the quality of the total book. All aspects of it have to be excellent--the idea, the editing, the design, the production.”

Candidates for the $25,000 prize are selected from Furthermore grant recipients by a panel of jurors. This year’s shortlist included Coney Island Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008 (Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut); Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit (Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit, Michigan); One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature (Grolier Club, New York City); and A Portrait of Britain (National Portrait Gallery, London).

Read the full text of our article about The Alice and Furthermore here.

Image Courtesy of Aperture. 

Sci-Fi Epic DUNE Turns 50

An early cover of Frank Herbert’s epic intergalactic adventure. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Before Star Wars, there was Dune. (Certainly, before Dune there was The Blazing World, a 1666 utopian romance by British aristocrat Margaret Cavendish, but let’s stick to the 20th century.) It’s all part of the science-fiction genre, and readers have long been enthralled with what author Isaac Asimov coined in 1953 as “that branch of literature which is concerned with the impact of scientific advance upon human beings.”

Frank Herbert’s Dune particularly reshaped the world of modern science fiction. This epic tale of a warring feudal society in search of a precious natural resource called spice melange, set 21,000 years in the future on a faraway sandworm-infested planet, addresses, among other things, how man-made technology affects our surrounding ecology. The book was groundbreaking, and in addition to becoming the bestselling science fiction novel ever, Dune is also credited with laying the groundwork for the Earth Day movement. The book eventually won the inaugural Nebula award as well as a Hugo, and remains in the public eye with numerous sequels, movies, and other associated tie-ins.

Marking the fiftieth anniversary of Dune’s publication, the Pollak Library at California State University, Fullerton, which acquired the Dune manuscripts in the 1960s (as well as Herbert’s articles, correspondence, and research materials), is exploring the book’s contribution to popular science fiction with a speaker series called Dune: From Print to Cinema and Beyond.” Through November 6, Fullerton faculty and guest speakers will discuss the book’s legacy and how its political and environmental messages remains relevant.

Fans looking for some spice of own might consider the Folio Society’s recently published $125 commemorative edition of the book, with illustrations by Brooklyn-based artist Sam Weber. Weber, you may recall, was commissioned by the United States Post Office to create stamps honoring the life and work of American writer Flannery O’Connor. The artist’s 11 haunting photorealistic oil on board portraits of futuristic men and women are far from being cheesy throwbacks and evoke people whose dark struggles aren’t all that different from our own. The Washington Post’s longtime Book World editor (and Pulitzer Prize winner) Michael Dirda wrote the book’s new introduction, calling it “more than a futuristic swashbuckler or a science-fiction ‘coming-of-age’ novel....It is a serious moral fable about the unforeseen consequences of the choices we make.”

Sam Weber’s Sandworm from Dune. Reproduced with permission from The Folio Society.

Related articles
Our Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Helene Golay of Lorne Bair Rare Books in Winchester, Virginia:

helene golay lorne bair.jpg

How did you get started in rare books?

I think I fall somewhere between the categories “It was a complete accident” and “I was born to do it.” I graduated from Bowdoin in the spring of 2009, which was at the time the worst year on record to be out looking for work (Great Depression notwithstanding). I moved to Texas for sentimental reasons and, after a few weeks of waitressing, was offered a position at the rare books and special collections library at Texas A&M. This meant I got to catalogue some truly beautiful and intelligent private and curated libraries, including those of my former boss Larry Mitchell and the late Robert Dawson, as well as part of the University’s Cervantes collection. Everything changed in the summer of 2011 when I managed to hitch a ride to the RBMS pre-conference in scenic Baton Rouge, where I spent the first heady day amongst ABAA dealers at the bookseller showcase. It was my first encounter with the rare book trade, and Lorne swears to this day that he overheard me say to a colleague: “What’s the f***** deal with all these booksellers?” (This would have been two years before he even met me.) We both know now that this what I was really thinking was, “[Blasphemous epithet], how the hell can I get into this racket?” As will sometimes happen with first love, I ditched my pride and sent my resumé to every ABAA dealer in my hometown of New York (because after two and a half years Texas had finally worn thin). Fred Schreiber took pity on me and recommended me to Jim Cummins, with whom I interned through the spring, and from Jim Cummins I plied Rob Rulon-Miller with beer, which led to two and a half years of employment with him in St. Paul, Minnesota, from whence I made the obvious transition, in the fall of 2014, to Lorne Bair Rare Books.

What is your role at Lorne Bair Rare Books?

My fellow worker Amir Naghib has a broken hand as I write this, so I’ll say that I’m currently the brawn of the operation. But like most booksellers, I’m a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. Officially I think I’m the “Head Cataloger,” or at least that’s how Lorne sometimes refers to me when he’s on the phone with a stranger. I’m also the self-titled Alfred Jarry fangirl in residence. 

What do you love about the book trade?

Oh lord, the people. I find that the younger generation of the trade is especially salty and intelligent--a pleasure to spend my life with and thankfully I work for Lorne, the best of them. It’s very hard to be a successful bookseller right now and I think as a result the trade has attracted a lot of very idiosyncratic and blindingly intelligent people who probably “marched to their own drum” as children. I obviously can’t ignore the books, they tend to be as interesting as their sellers and I take an embarrassing amount of pleasure in sitting at my desk with a pile of uncatalogued books, passing them through the sieve, so to speak, and learning from them. 

Describe a typical day for you.

I like to start the morning squabbling with Lorne over whose turn it is to make coffee and tend to the office cat’s hygienic needs. Then I spend the rest of the day cataloging, editing images, selling books, and doing my utmost to avoid hard mylar and the phone when it rings.

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

I admit I enjoy a challenge. Currently on my desk is possibly the earliest published appearance of the Haitian dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, inscribed by him both as Duvalier and his Action Nationale pseudonym “Abderrahman.” A previous owner has rather ominously redacted throughout the entire book the first name of one of the co-authors, Arthur Bonhomme, who would later serve as a Haitian ambassador to the United States. The book itself is an important early contribution to the négritude movement and is exceedingly uncommon--my guess is that older “livres brochés” (this one is dated 1934) don’t tend to thrive in the Haitian climate. In the grand scheme of things this probably wouldn’t be what I’d refer to as my “favorite” book, but it is certainly the one that’s freshest on my mind.

What do you personally collect?

In terms of reading material, I have a relatively healthy collection of World War I history. As for items I’ve accidentally collected which are on prominent display in my apartment, I have about twenty booklets of Tintin decals (ca. 1960); a racy pulp novel titled Assignment Helene, bequeathed to me by Amir and Lorne on my first day at Lorne Bair Rare Books; a French ad for fezzes marketed to colonial African shoppers; and a pair of vintage cat photographs. If there’s a theme, I don’t know what it is, though of the items described, two of them happened to be uncharacteristically colorful things I found chez Garrett Scott.

What do you like to do outside of work?

When there’s money left over, I’ve been learning to ride a horse “Western” style (which means you don’t need to wear those fancy pants) and I write the occasional review for the local film club. I also cook quite a bit. Last winter I decided to roast a duck after work on a week night--it took until midnight and was a bit of a preposterous undertaking for a woman who lives alone, but I did feast for three days after, grease fire in my oven notwithstanding. It goes without saying that I also try to read like a vacuum. 

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

I’m a pretty firm believer in apprenticeship. When I decided I wanted to be a bookseller, I wanted to be able to start off on my own immediately, though where the money was going to come from was a vast and unsurpassable mystery. I don’t think a penniless youngster, no matter how smart, should really consider diving in without at least a few years with a seasoned veteran. There’s not much room for big mistakes if you’re starting out on your own without any previous knowledge of the trade.

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

We’ve just sent out an online list of postcolonial literature, of which I’m rather proud. Catalog 22 mailed in September and Catalog 23 is already in the early gestation period, though the marathon of cataloging, editing, and layout hasn’t yet begun. I’m hoping to make it to the Boston fair for the first time this year if only to contribute absolutely nothing to the annual trivia competition. I’m also co-curating with Lorne an exhibit at the Yale Law Library on the Tom Mooney trial, which will open in March to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the San Francisco Preparedness Day Bombing.

Nominations for entries in our Bright Young Booksellers series can be sent to

On November 2, 1865, General William Tecumseh Sherman put pen to paper in order to decline endorsing an acquaintance’s book. “...I did...partially examine the bo[o]ks sent me but I would not be willing to endorsement. The book like all others of which very many are sent to me must work its way into fame by its intrinsic merit...” Who knew book blurbing existing during the Civil War? (NPR recently cited Walt Whitman as one of the first to self-promote with blurbs.)

Swann Sherman.jpgSherman’s correspondent was Francis J. Lippitt, and instead of a publicity quote, Sherman offered the author this advice: “...I think after the publication by Congress of the Official Reports of the last war you can combine your learning with the experience gained & illustrate it by recent & modern examples, which will make a Book on strategy most valuable & interesting not only to the General Readers, but to the military.” Still, Sherman continued, “I must abstain from giving my name.... But I will on all occasions express to you and others the interest I feel in the General subject. Officers in whom I have a personal interest, who have grown up under my eye & instruction are rapidly turning their swords into pens and all ask my aid, so that to give one & not another the endorsement of my name & opinion would be construed with partiality.... I hope you will be content with the expression of my general approval of your efforts.”

In other words, he’s had too many requests, and--unlike some modern authors who will blurb just about anything--Sherman simply refuses to oblige. This unusual autograph letter heads to auction at Swann Galleries in New York next week and is estimated to reach $2,000-3,000.

Image via Swann Galleries. 
Over the weekend, we heard the sad news that Miami collector Ruth Sackner, who, with her husband Marvin, founded the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, passed away in her sleep on Saturday night. She was 79.

Art of Typewriting 9780500241493.jpgThe Sackners are featured in our current issue in an article called “The Art of Collecting Typewriter Art.” Just this month they published The Art of Typewriting, a beautifully illustrated look inside their immense collection that showcases 600 examples by more than 60 artists. We at Fine Books wish that she could have fully celebrated its publication.  

Married for 59 years, the couple created a “veritable museum” in their Miami condo, art critic Steven Heller told Fine Books earlier this year. They were first drawn to conceptual word art after seeing Tom Phillips’ artist’s book, A Humument, on exhibit in Switzerland in 1975. They collected voraciously over the decades, amassing 75,000 pieces of art, according to the Miami Herald.

“Miami lost, today, one of its real cultural giants,” South Florida art collector Dennis Scholl told the Miami Herald. “Ruth was one of those people who really cared about culture in our community. Together they built the greatest collection in the world. That is a hard thing to do.”

Image: Courtesy of Thames & Hudson. 
DSCN0894 copy.jpgComing to auction this week at the UK-based auction house Cheffins is this beautifully bound private press book with illustrations by Welsh artist Kyffin Williams. The title is Two Old Men and Other Stories by Kate Roberts, and this is one of a few special morocco-bound copies by bookbinder Desmond Shaw, with the cover design and illustrations by Williams. This copy belonged to Shaw, from an overall edition of 250 copies, still in its original velvetine-lined book box, published by the Gregynog Press in 1981. According to Cheffins, the book is offered together with letters and draft designs from the publishers to the binder and carries an estimate of £600-1,000 ($920-1,500).

Image Courtesy of Cheffins.

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