It pays to work in recycling in Silicon Valley.

Last month, a woman dropped off a box of electronics at Clean Bay Area, a Silicon Valley recycling firm. Included in the box was an Apple I computer, hand-built by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in Jobs’ garage in 1976. These extremely rare computers are highly collectable. In 2013, an Apple I sold at auction for $671,400.

The recycling firm discovered the Apple I two weeks later when it sorted through the donated box. The company promptly sold the computer for $200,000 to a private collector. Clean Bay Area is now looking for the woman who dropped off the box. Per company policy, they would like to share half of the proceeds with her. In other words, they have a check waiting for her for $100,000.

The problem? She didn’t leave a name or take a receipt for her material. The hope is that she hears about the money through media channels.

In the meantime, take an extra glance through your box of castoffs before you make your next donation.

[Image of Apple I from Wikipedia]

Coming to auction at Swann Galleries on June 10 are several lots of hand-drawn and colored costume plates from late nineteenth-century stage productions of Shakespeare. Executed by illustrator Robert Bööcke, circa 1895, each gouache study on board is signed by Bööcke and captioned with the character and the play. The lot of 22 for “Twelfth Night” (estimated at $1,000-1,500) includes Olivia and Duke Orsino.
Twelfth.jpgTwelfth2.jpgA group of 30 watercolor and gouache studies for “The Taming of the Shrew” (estimated at $1,000-1,500) includes Christopher Sly and Lucentio.

Shrew.jpg Shrew1.jpgAnother, less colorful lot includes 30 pencil and wash studies for “The Merchant of Venice” (estimated at $1,000-1,500).

Images via Swann Galleries.

15_FOconnor copy.jpgShort story writer and novelist Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) will be honored by the United States Postal Service (USPS) with this beautiful 93¢, three-ounce stamp to be issued on Friday. The Savannah-born author is perhaps best known for her 1955 collection, A Good Man Is Hard to Find, though she also posthumously won the National Book Award for her Complete Stories in 1972. Her novels include Wise Blood (1952) and The Violent Bear It Away (1960), and her writing is associated with Southern Gothic style, heavy on regional settings and dark humor.    

The 30th stamp in the USPS’s Literary Arts series--which includes Ralph Ellison, Mark Twain, and Ernest Hemingway, among others--it features a watercolor image of O’Connor, based on a black-and-white photograph taken when she was a student at Georgia State College for Women in the 1940s. The vivid peacock feathers surrounding her call to mind the peafowl she raised on a farm in Georgia during the last fourteen years of her life, after she had been diagnosed with lupus. She died at 39 of complications from the disease.

A First Day Cover and a Digital Color Postmark, neat additions to any O’Connor collection, will also be made available from the USPS. The stamp issues from McLean, Virginia.

Image via USPS. The artist for this stamp was Sam Weber. Art director Phil Jordan designed the stamp.

Guest Post by Eliza Krigman

Bookman.jpgThis past Thursday I spent a few hours at the London International Antiquarian Book Fair held at the Olympia National Exhibition Center. This marked my first foray into the world of rare and old books.

Not long after I made my way onto the exhibition floor I came across John Windle, owner of a San Francisco-based shop. Windle was eager to show me a copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in which Harriet Beecher Stowe had written her favorite quote at the start of each book and signed it. I was struck by the quality of her penmanship, which remained very good despite the age at which she had written it (in 1894, two years before her death at age 85).

uncle toms cabin.jpgAntiquarian book dealing is “one of the very last businesses that is truly collegial,” Windle told me. Without a contract, people send each other very expensive books through FedEx because there is so much mutual trust, he added. The only way people make money, he continued, is by helping each other. Immediately I felt welcomed in my new environment.

I moved along the conference center, which was busy but not hectic. Given that the fair was competing with the sun outside, I was surprised that the attendance was so high. I next visited the booth of Adrian Harrington Rare Books, a bookseller based in Kent, England. Jon Gilbert, the attendant at the stand, drew my attention to a signed first edition of Towards Zero, an Agatha Christie novel. For a mere £2,500 ($3,800), the book could have been mine.

Christie.jpgAnd since I was in England, and the date of my visit (May 28th) happened to be Ian Fleming’s birthday, I thought it only appropriate that I spend a little time looking at a first edition of Casino Royale, published in 1953. Only 4,728 of them were ever produced, Gilbert told me. He happens to be a Fleming expert and has written an award-winning bibliography of the famous author’s work.

After a quick coffee, a showcase at the booth of California bookseller Biblioctopus featuring a notebook page with handwritten lyrics caught my eye. It turned out to be the scrawl of Bob Dylan. The songs weren’t his--although he did make minor alterations to them--but he had written them down in preparation for some of his initial performances in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1961. A hardcore Dylan fan can own it for £50,000 ($76,000).

--Eliza Krigman is a journalist based in London who frequently writes about culture, gender and technology. Find her on twitter @ekspectacular, get in touch at, or see more of her work here

Images: Credit Eliza Krigman.
Children across America are counting down the days until school gives way to the lazy, laid-back days of summer. While little ones take a break, the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) in Worcester, Massachusetts kicks off its summer season this weekend with the first of four multi-day seminars dedicated to various aspects of book history and culture, with one in late June that will examine children as readers and authors.

The AAS has held summer seminars in the history of the book since 1983, focusing on a different topic every year, and from June 21 through June 26, the weeklong workshop will examine child readership in pre-1900 America. Over 26,000 childhood artifacts are part of the AAS holdings, offering a seemingly endless array of primary materials to provide fodder for discussion and to paint a more complete view of childhood in early America. Miniature printing presses, toys, and even books created by children all testify to the world of young Americans that was sometimes enchanting and magical, other times thoroughly practical.  

A 1769 speller, published in New London, Connecticut (reproduced with permission from the American Antiquarian Society) 

“There are definitely marks of readership on our children’s material,” said Paul Erickson, director of Academic Programs, who spoke about the upcoming workshop as well as the condition of the items at the AAS.  It’s rare to find antiquarian children’s books that haven’t been well-read and well loved. “I like to call some of the markings ‘juvenile marginalia,” Erickson continued. These notes and scribbles may not appeal to the professional collector, but to a scholar they offer all sorts of valuable information about how and why children read. Pre-1900s children’s books ran the gamut on topics as well. “People wrote kids books about everything from funerals to primers on finance, Erickson explained.” Some of the books were intended as career guides and took the place of formal education.  

Competition to attend this year’s seminar was intense: Over sixty candidates posted applications for only twenty available spots. The attendees include a mix of graduate students, faculty, and librarians from across the country. So while children play and school fades to a distant memory, visiting professors Martin Brückner (Delaware) and Patricia Crain (NYU) will have their students hard at to work as they explore the complexities of childhood in this most engaging way.

For further information, please contact Paul Erickson, Director of Academic Programs at AAS, at or (508) 471-2158. American Antiquarian Society, 185 Salisbury Street, Worcester, Massachusetts 01609-1634
Tel: 508-755-5221, Fax: 508-753-3311,

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Kelli Hansen, Print Collections Librarian in Special Collections and Rare Books at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

kelli hansen byl.JPG

How did you get started in rare books?

When I was a graduate student in art history, I worked as a curatorial assistant on an exhibition called The Art of the Book, 1000-1650, at the University of Missouri’s Museum of Art and Archaeology.  We planned to show materials from the museum’s collections, but we also made arrangements to borrow from the special collections at the university libraries.  I was sent to special collections, a place I had never visited before, to scout items from the catalog that might be suitable for the exhibition. 

The first piece I looked at was a fragment of Bede in Insular script from the ninth century. Even though I had just come from the vaults of a museum, I felt completely awed by this experience of being one-on-one with the oldest manuscript I’d ever encountered.  My MA work focused on medieval manuscripts and early printing, so from a research perspective, I felt like I had stumbled into a treasure trove. 

Over the course of that project, it dawned on me that libraries could offer me a chance to combine my research interests with my desire to work with people. When a para-professional reference job opened in the special collections department a few months later, I applied for it and was hired. I’ve been working in libraries and archives ever since.

Where did you earn your advanced degree?

A few years after finishing my MA in art history at the University of Missouri, I went on to complete an MSIS at the University of Texas with a certificate in special collections and archives.  Austin is so rich in archives and libraries, and I was fortunate to be able to work in some really diverse and fantastic collections and learn from wonderful librarians and archivists.  Just as I was finishing my last semester in Texas, a job opened here, and I jumped at the chance to come back.

What is your role at your institution?

We have a small staff, so all of us do a variety of things. My roles are to do reference, instruction, outreach, and web development. In daily life, that means I help instructors devise assignments and activities that introduce students to primary source research, lead course sessions, assist students with the research process, and take shifts on the reference desk.  We have a wide range of courses that use the collections here - in any given week I might find myself presenting on comics, medieval manuscripts, propaganda, posters, or the history of information technology.

I also curate exhibitions and help to coordinate partnerships with other campus and community institutions.  Recently I’ve been active in helping to organize a cross-campus working group of librarians, archivists, and curators, with the goal of integrating our collections more fully into the university’s curriculum.  We also partner with the campus Life Sciences and Society Program to curate an exhibition based on their yearly symposium topic, which challenges all of us to think about our collections in different ways. I’ve worked on exhibitions and digital projects related to food science, epigenetics, and science communication since I’ve been here.  Last year, I curated an exhibition on narrative and sequential art from the fifteenth century to the present, and I was approached by Exhibits USA to package it for national tour.  It’s currently in the marketing phase, and I’m looking forward to continuing that project!

On the digital site of things, I manage the Special Collections web site, digital exhibitions, and social media (Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook).  My most recent project on social media is our weekly Beautiful Math series, which looks at intersections among the arts, sciences, and mathematics.  And I’m in the process of revamping our digital exhibition system.

That sounds like a laundry list, but it’s what I do!  The variety of my day-to-day work is both challenging and invigorating. 

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

Impossible to choose.  I probably have a new favorite every week, and I love that about my job.  I do tend to love things that have value as artifacts in that that they have interesting marginalia or give us some sense of use or ownership contexts.  I love manuscripts of all periods, especially illuminated ones, but ordinary ones are also interesting for many different reasons.  I love correspondence, although I don’t work with it much in this position, but I have in the past. 

Right now I’m also fascinated with the history of illustration and printmaking processes, and how words and images interact on the page.  That interest includes everything from early printed books to graphic novels.  I’ve gotten very interested in the early woodcut novelists, especially Frans Masereel, from seeing examples in the collections here. 

What do you personally collect?

I don’t collect anything for myself. I’m surrounded by so much stuff at work that I often feel a need for minimalism when it comes to my own household.  With two small children, I don’t do very well at it, but I try. 

What do you like to do outside of work?

Spend time with my family and work in my garden. I also knit and read, when I get a rare moment to sit down by myself.

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

You truly never know what you’ll find when preparing for a class, or researching for an exhibition, or just paging something in the stacks.  I love being surrounded by history and beauty every day.  But I think what excites me the most is seeing all the different ways our researchers and students use the materials in their work.  There is no better feeling than teaching a class session full of students who are engaged with what they’re studying and are eager to know more, or helping a researcher find exactly the missing piece they were looking for.  I hope to bring about the same type of “aha!” moments that happened to me in the reading room here.

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

I think the future for all of us (libraries, archives, and museums) is to become more open, collaborative, and community-oriented.  We’re all in the process of shifting our roles from being the gatekeepers to being the guides and facilitators, both in person and online.  I welcome these changes and am excited about where we’re headed. 

At the same time, higher education is changing.  I suspect those of us in academic institutions will find that our roles will change too.  For example, the number of classes and students in Special Collections here at Missouri has tripled over the past decade and is still increasing, leading us to prioritize teaching as a big part of what we do.  Being able to demonstrate growth and utility is vital.  It’s going to be more and more important for us to be able to explain why we and our collections are a valuable educational resource.

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


One of the strengths of the collections here is a large group of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British pamphlets on religious and political subjects.  There are thousands of them, and many are very scarce.  We’ll be starting a project to identify unique materials from that collection over the next few months.  The Fragmenta Manuscripta collection is a group of medieval manuscript fragments assembled in the seventeenth century, which supplements the mainly textual medieval and Renaissance manuscript codices in the collection.  That’s the collection that contains that Bede fragment that got me started down this path in the first place.  We have a substantial collection of comic books and artwork, including a nice collection of underground comics and early graphic novels.  We also have the collection of a nineteenth-century French lawyer, Jacques Flach, which has lots of unique materials, and we have the papers of the American playwright Lanford Wilson.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

We will be mounting an exhibition of work by comic artists with ties to Mizzou this fall.  There’s a great comic community here, with people interested in comics as literature, art, history, and journalism.  We’ll try to get that community involved with what we do this fall.

In spring 2016, we’ll have two exhibitions. One will deal with climate change and the Anthropocene, which is next year’s Life Sciences and Society Symposium topic.  The other will celebrate the centennial of our library building, and will also incorporate materials from the Missouri Historic Textile Collection and the University Archives.  

(Nominations for Bright Young Librarians, Booksellers, or Collectors are welcome at

Smithson-List-1-autographs.jpgJames Smithson, after whom the Smithsonian Institution is named, was a rock hound.

This 1820 manuscript, in his hand, is an inventory describing the collection he kept in a mahogany cabinet. At the top, Smithson has written, “Catalogue of my Cabinet: 1820” before commencing to list his rocks and minerals--pyrites, green micaceous stone from Switzerland, bog iron ore, etc.

The incredible document, “almost certainly the only one in private hands” says bookseller Nathan Raab of the Raab Collection, was recently deaccessioned from a New Jersey institution and is now for sale for $75,000. Prior to its NJ residency, the manuscript had been owned by William Jones Rhees, the Smithsonian’s chief clerk from 1852 until the early 1890s.

Smithson is an intriguing character. Born in 1765 an illegitimate son of the first Duke of Northumberland, he pursued natural sciences with particular attention to mineralogy. He never married, and when he made his will, he decided that should his nephew/heir also die childless, his entire collection should be shipped to the United States “to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of Knowledge among men.” He died in 1829, and the Smithsonian Institution was founded, after much legal wrangling, in 1846.

Image: Courtesy of Raab Collection.

9781439118238_custom-a465912f88ba4a1af9faef7450a8ef251c96f154-s300-c85.jpgAcross an ocean and more than 500 years, America remains gripped by Shakespeare. That is perhaps no where more apparent than the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., which houses the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare, including 82 First Folios (of the 233 surviving copies). And in the past two years, two books have been published about its founders and their “foliomania.” Last spring, it was Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry And Emily Folger by Stephen H. Grant (Johns Hopkins University Press, $29.95). This month, Andrea Mays offers her take in The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger’s Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare’s First Folio (Simon & Schuster, $27). There was also Paul Collins’ The Book of William: How Shakespeare’s First Folio Conquered the World, published back in 2009, which begs the question: what’s new?

All of these titles are pleasing reads and each will provide insight into Shakespeare’s spare biography, but what’s fresh is the concentration on Henry Folger and how this shy, self-made oil tycoon amassed such a collection. Slightly less formal than Grant’s biography, Mays’ account is lively without sacrificing detail. We hear how Shakespeare’s contemporaries sourced the first collection of plays, seven years after the playwright’s death; why actor David Garrick’s 1769 ‘Jubilee’ Shakespeare festival in Stratford was a disaster; and what were the sticking points in Folger’s intense negotiations for the Folio presented by its printer William Jaggard to Augustine Vincent. Mays excels in the accounting, too: purchase prices and circumstances of each and every First Folio Folger bought.
Framing the Folgers as romantic figures is problematic no matter where one looks. If theirs is a love story, it’s the adoration of acquisition. Moreover, it is difficult (for the reader, and the writers, it seems) to reconcile the fact that while the Folgers’ intentions were wonderful and they did inevitably create an unprecedented resource for Shakespearean and Elizabethan scholars, they also locked away their books for decades, secretively, even selfishly.

Fellow collectors will enjoy tagging along on Henry’s great chase, as he secures one treasure after another. His collection can never, of course, be replicated. But the passion and the determination can be contagious. 

The London International Antiquarian Book Fair is a week away, and fittingly, among the 180 dealers who will be there, David Brass (of David Brass Rare Books) is bringing a first edition of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1906), inscribed to none other than Mary Hodgson. Hodgson (1876-1962) was nurse and nanny to George and Jack Llewelyn Davies, the brothers who inspired the “lost boys” of Barrie’s classic tale. What’s more astounding is that there is even an inscription at all, which reads simply, “To Mary Hodgson / with kindest regards / from J.M. Barrie / Jan 1907.” Barrie rarely signed copies of his books, and for years the relationship between Barrie and Hodgson was strained at best, contentious and pernicious at its worst.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

First, the backstory: In 1897, Scottish novelist and dramatist James M. Barrie met Hodgson and her charges in London’s Kensington Gardens. Barrie was instantly captivated by the boys’ spirit, and thereafter would frequently accompany them on their promenades, all the while charming the children with stories of fairies and pirates. These visits would ultimately inspire Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.

Mary Hodgson, nurse of the Llewelyn Davies boys. Taken in 1912. author unknown. {{PD-US}

Both Hodgson and Barrie were possessive of the children. He reveled in their mischievousness, while she felt Barrie undermined her authority. Barrie was completely aware of her hostility.  Nana, the overbearing dog/nanny in Peter Pan, was his everlasting homage to Hodgson.

Eventually, Barrie and Hodgson reluctantly came to terms with each other, and the novelist presented this copy, complete with a tipped-in color frontispiece and forty-nine tipped-in color plates, as a way to bury the hatchet. Barrie may have fancied himself an overgrown child, but he learned that apologies go a long way to healing old wounds.

This stunning presentation copy of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, with illustrations by Arthur Rackham, will be available at the David Brass Rare Books booth starting Thursday, May 28th.
Price available upon request.
More information about the fair can be found here.


Hard Case Crime, one of my favorite indie publishers, recently released a long forgotten crime novel by Gore Vidal titled Thieves Fall Out. Vidal wrote the novel in the early 1950s while reeling from criticism about the controversial content in his third book, The City and The Pillar. Under the pen name “Cameron Kay,” Vidal published Thieves Fall Out in 1953. The pulpy novel--about an American smuggling an artifact out of Egypt in the middle of revolution--was soon forgotten by almost everyone except Vidal scholars.

Charles Ardai, publisher of Hard Case Crime, spoke with us over e-mail about the novel:

Please tell us about the re-discovery process for Gore Vidal’s Thieves Fall Out. It was lost for 60 years--how did you find it again?
I first read about Thieves Fall Out randomly on a blog regarding Gore Vidal’s work. Hunting down a copy wasn’t too hard, with the network of rare book dealers I know, though copies were scarce and I think ran something like $150. I bought a copy, read it, and enjoyed it, and particularly enjoyed that it was not just a Casablanca-flavored tale of intrigue in exotic lands but a crime novel as well. So I reached out to a friend who I knew lived on the same block as Gore in California and got him to help me approach the author. Gore asked to see a copy of the book (“I haven’t read it in fifty years,” I recall him telling us), so I carefully photocopied it and mailed it to him. A few months later he said he wasn’t sure he wanted to be associated, in his advanced age, to this early work by a much younger man, so we discussed the idea of reprinting it only under the pseudonym. But we never quite got there. Then he died, and then years passed, but I never gave up hope. And eventually we persuaded the estate that this book was an important part of an important author’s legacy and shouldn’t be lost forever.
Are there any other lost Gore Vidal crime or pulp novels that you think might eventually turn up?
Not crime. I understand there is an unfinished science-fiction novel in the vaults somewhere, but I don’t believe there’s anything else of the sort we specialize in.
Do you think the writing style is recognizable to Vidal fans?  Or are they in for a surprise?
It’s not written with the same level of care and polish applied to each sentence, just as John Banville’s Benjamin Black books aren’t written quite the same as the literary work he turns out under his real name. But you can tell it’s Vidal all the same. The acerbic observations, the interest in political matters even when he’s mostly occupied with telling an entertaining’s there. But it’s on the edges. In the center is a good, old-fashioned, two-fisted pulp story. And that may be a surprise for readers who think of this author as perhaps too dignified to indulge in this sort of storytelling. But Vidal was always playful and had a taste for the low as well as the high. He liked to surprise, even to shock. I think readers will be able to reconcile the playful, mischievous Vidal with the author of Thieves Fall Out.
What’s coming up next for Hard Case?
Oh, so much! We’ve turned up two early novels by Ed McBain that haven’t been in print for half a century, and those are coming in July (So Nude, So Dead) and next January (Cut Me In). In September, we have a brand new novel by the wonderful Lawrence Block, The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes, debuting in hardcover, as well as an illustrated hardcover edition of Stephen King’s Joyland. In October we’re publishing new editions of Max Allan Collins’ first five “Quarry” novels with new covers by Robert McGinnis, to coincide with the launch of the “Quarry” TV series on Cinemax. And there’s more we can’t talk about yet. But rest assured that Hard Case Crime fans have plenty of good stuff to look forward to.

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