An early nineteenth-century board game that heads to auction in London later this month casts the religious pilgrimage in a playful light. Thought to derive from Germany, the game consists of a folding, linen-backed hand-colored engraving (the ‘board’) on which vivid scenes depict camels, deserts, mosques, and bazaars. Seventy-two numbered squares are marked by captions in German and French. Players roll the dice and move around the spaces in a spiral form, dodging wild animals, shipwrecks, and pirates until they arrive at #73, the center destination: Mecca.

The game, in its original paper-covered box, is a rarity. Sotheby’s says it has been “unable to trace another example.”

The auction estimate is £2,000-3,000 ($2,500+), conservative considering both its scarcity and the newfound appeal of board games in real life and in collecting circles. In our spring issue, columnist Ian McKay reported on the mid-nineteenth-century board game, Game of the Star-Spangled Banner, or Emigrants to the United States, which sold for $4,500 at Forum Auctions in late November. At that same auction, a game by the same maker, Edward Wallis, called New Game of Genius, or Compendium of Inventions connected with the Arts, Sciences and Manufactures was also on offer and sold for $5,000. Another example of that one turned up earlier this summer, again at Forum, selling for $7,620, as did one called the New Game of Wanderers in the Wilderness, which you’ll read more about in our next issue.

Alcott completists, take note: Though she died in 1888, Little Women author Louisa May Alcott is back with a new story. Entitled "Aunt Nellie's Diary" this incomplete novella was rediscovered among her archives at Harvard's Houghton Library by Strand Magazine editor Andrew Gulli, who published the piece in the latest issue of the magazine. 

Composed in 1849 when Alcott was a teenager, the 9,000-word story focuses on a tale as old as time: a summertime teenage love triangle, here told from the perspective of the 40-year-old title character whose niece feuds with a friend over the affections of a boy. Though the piece is incomplete and penned nearly twenty years before Little Women, Gulli maintains that Aunt Nellie seems to serve as inspiration for Jo March had she never wed.

Alcott scholar Daniel Shealy provides an introduction and context to the piece appearing in the Strand. Additionally, the magazine launched a contest challenging readers to come up with an ending to the story. Contest rules will be sent out to magazine subscribers and to those who purchased this issue. 

Published quarterly, the Strand Magazine has made a name for itself over its sixty-issue history by publishing obscure or forgotten works by major authors such as Ernest Hemingway and Mark Twain alongside interviews with some of today's bestselling authors.

Back in February the Ransom Center in Austin, Texas, opened a major new exhibition Gabriel García Márquez: The Making of a Global Writer, which had been our radar for months if not years. We knew it was something we’d want to cover and so found a local literary journalist Michael Schaub to check it out. Literally just days before his visit to tour the exhibition, the Ransom Center had to close due to the coronavirus. Instead, Schaub relied on photos, documents, and an interview with the curator to write this piece for our summer issue. We hoped the health crisis would be over by summer and the article would serve as an appetizer for anyone wanting to go see ‘Gabo’ for themselves.  

Because the Ransom Center has been so proactive about sharing material online, the story still does do that. It not only points us toward the virtual version of the exhibition, but to the deeper digital archive, particularly the scrapbooks.

And still there are more resources to mine. You can browse the Nobel Prize winner’s manuscripts or read the exhibition guide or watch this eight-minute interview with curator Álvaro Santana-Acuña, which reveals more about García Márquez and how his novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, transformed him into one of the most celebrated writers of the twentieth century — this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the novel in English.

Once the Ransom reopens, the physical exhibition will remain on view through January 3, 2021.

The Pratchett Project is a collaborative team of researchers from Trinity College Dublin, Senate House Library (University of London), and Liverpool University which since 2018 has been studying the life and work of writer Sir Terry Pratchett (1948-2015), author most famously of the Discworld series of humorous fantasy novels and also adjunct professor in the School of English at Trinity College Dublin.

Registration is now open for the inaugural Prachett Project Conference 2020, originally intended to be a ‘normal’ conference but which has nimbly leapt online. Attendance at the two-day event on September 17 and 18 is free, though donations are welcome and will go towards research into Alzheimer’s Disease from which Pratchett suffered.

The scope of the research is wide – taking in neuroscience, translation studies, and cartography – and the organizers of the conference hope it will lead to the beginning of a new interdisciplinary and collaborative field of Pratchett Studies.

Split into four sections over the two days, the conference will focus on The Space of Ideas, Translation and Humour, Ethics and Identity, and Research and Teaching. Scheduled sessions include The Big Wahoonie: Ankh-Morpork as Cross-Media Urban Imaginary; Translating Pratchett into Ukrainian: Strategies and Challenges; The Move from Fantasy Parody to Moral Complexity and Literary Fiction in the Ankh Morpork-novels; and 'Lies to children': From folk to formal science in Terry Pratchett's Discworld.

More details are available in the conference booklet and signing up details are available at Eventbrite.

Pictorial or armorial, bookplates provide booksellers and book collectors with literal paper trails when trying to decode a volume’s provenance. But they can also be fascinating pieces of visual art that captivate collectors all on their own.

The vast collection headed to auction in New York on July 9 provides proof of this mania, an endearing offshoot of the “gentle madness” of book collecting. Comprising more than 750 eighteenth- and nineteenth-century engraved bookplates, ownership labels, and booksellers’ tickets organized and mounted in two volumes, the collection once belonged to Washington, D.C., collector Pickering Dodge, a “renowned 'Ex-Libris' collector and advocate,” according to Swann Galleries. Mostly American in origin, the examples present many different styles: Early Armorial, Jacobean, Chippendale, Ribbon and Wreath, Pictorial, Name Labels, etc. Engravers are often identified.

The auction house’s “brief and very much not in-depth accounting” of owners reveals some Declaration signers and Major Joseph Bloomfield, a Revolutionary War soldier and later governor of New Jersey. There’s also De Witt Clinton, John Quincy Adams, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, H.L. Mencken, and numerous other authors, statesmen, politicians, aristocrats, libraries, and societies, as well as a “very nice selection of women's plates.”

The collection is estimated to reach $2,000-3,000.

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Ashley Cataldo of the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts:

What is your role at your institution?

I am the Curator of Manuscripts at the American Antiquarian Society. AAS has a fantastic collection of American book trades manuscripts and New England diaries and account books, but they often get less attention than our printed collections. We often say that we want one copy of everything that was printed in what became the United States before 1877 (with some exceptions), but we also actively acquire manuscripts. So we purchase and accept through donation New England family and business papers, diaries, and United States book trades manuscripts, all generally within our pre-20th century time frame. I’m primarily responsible for seeking out and bringing those collections to AAS. Once those collections come through the doors, I process and catalog them with help from a few dedicated volunteers. I also work closely with the fellows, of whom we have about 50 each year, researchers, and class visits and present on the manuscript collections at conferences and other venues. Additionally, I serve as the institutional archivist, which means I do lots of filing and, more recently, deal with digital archives and email. And because curators wear many hats, I also handle rights and reproductions requests for the Society.

How did you get started in special collections?

As I was completing a Master’s in English from Clark University in Worcester, I visited the AAS often for class and research visits. Like a lot of visitors, I fell in love with everything about AAS--the people, the collections, the space, the scholarly community. So I had my sights on a job at AAS from the very beginning of my academic career and decided to pursue a PhD in American history at Clark to remain close to AAS. At the time I planned to write a dissertation on eighteenth-century printing history and worked closely with the Printer’s File, a catalog of biographical data on printers, publishers, bookbinders, and booksellers operating before 1820. By some stroke of luck, I was offered a job working with the newspaper collection at AAS after a couple of years into the PhD program. During my second year working at AAS, Michael Winship, who was in residence as an NEH long-term fellow, turned me onto bibliography and the materiality of the book. Over the years I’ve worked in almost every library department except conservation, so I’ve cataloged books, worked in digital expediting with some of our vendors, and spent time in both the reference and graphic arts departments. Now I’ve landed in the manuscripts department, where I’ve been for the past 5 years.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you've handled?

I’ve always been partial to bindings, and I’ve written about late eighteenth-century American bookbindings for Cathy Baker and Julia Miller’s Suave Mechanicals series. Many years ago, I spent my summer weekends working with a binder near Cambridge, so I have some hands-on experience doing leather binding. My favorite books are probably the several copies of Charlotte Smith’s 1795 Sonnets in the AAS collections that were published by AAS founder and printer/publisher/bookseller Isaiah Thomas. When you look at the copies together, you can see the range of bindings in which Thomas offered and sold the title. Early American trade bindings are a neglected area of study, but when you have access to collections like AAS’s, you really start to understand the nature of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century American trade bindings. We also have the business records and correspondence of Isaiah Thomas at AAS, so we can study the manuscripts that discuss his printing or binding of a book and then go right to the shelves to look at his personal copies in their original bindings. Sometimes I feel like I’m in Thomas’s own warehouse or bookshop.

What do you personally collect?

At AAS we are prohibited from collecting in our library’s area of specialty, which prevents staff from collecting American books and other printed materials produced before 1900. I’ve always been a reader and have a rather large collection of books, but I became interested in collecting rare books when I picked up a copy of Daniel Carson Goodman’s 1913 book Hagar Revelly. Mitchell Kennerley, his publisher, was arrested by Comstock for this supposedly obscene novel. Goodman was also involved in early film production, and that whole period of 1910s film history is really interesting to me, so I collected Goodman titles and association copies for a while. After a period of time, I became more interested in Kennerley and the Kennerley typeface by Goudy, so I started collecting some Kennerly titles and examples of Goudy’s printing. The Kennerley typeface was used in the first edition of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Renascence in 1917, and for some years I’ve been focusing solely on Millay, mostly editions of Renascence, and works from writers in her New York circle. My copy of the first edition, laid-paper issue of Renascence was owned by the African-American singer Muriel Rahn. I love the titular poem of Renascence, there’s an interesting history to the Harper reprints of the Kennerley editions, and there are bibliographies by Daniel Boice on Kennerly and Tom Tanselle and Karl Yost on Millay. It’s always fun to work with a good (or bad) bibliography.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Since I was a teenager I’ve played the guitar. I’m not a technically great (or even particularly good) player, but I have fun trying to learn something new about music every time I sit down to play. Now that there are so many YouTube tutorials on learning almost every song under the sun, I’ve become less interested in learning or perfecting songs. For me it ‘s about figuring out something new about the way notes interact with each other. On any given weekend you can find me sitting around for hours, listening to a song, and trying to figure out how it was made. I have a nice collection of tube amps and instruments that belonged to my father, who was a mainframe engineer. He was always building new electronic equipment to produce new sounds. I never learned anything about engineering from him, but when I sit down to play I feel like he’s there with me. I think there are lots of ways we can bring the dead to life, and playing music and working with old books and manuscripts is one way I do that. And, honestly, it’s just nice to escape from words every once in a while. I’ll also add that I really like just wasting time with my family and friends.

What excites you about special collections librarianship?

Most definitely the community. Watching a group of researchers or fellows gather around a table to look at an item, knowing that one of them will write that collection and that moment of intellectual discovery into history, is very exciting. I particularly love working with vernacular manuscripts because they tell the story of everyday life. Collecting histories of everyday life is something AAS has been committed to for years, and nothing can compare to watching those stories come to life in the reading room in vibrant discussions

Thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship?

For years we’ve been trying to figure out how to make our collections more available, visible, and accessible in the virtual realm, but the pandemic has forced us to make more progress in a few months than we might otherwise have made in a few years. I hope we continue to utilize these tools after the pandemic. We’ve also made some baby steps in making the special collections world more inclusive, but it’s still hard for a working class kid to make his or her way into special collections. I’d like to see that change. What’s gotten the American Antiquarian Society through 200 years of war, pandemics, economic depression, and unrest is the commitment to tell stories by protecting and sharing America’s history. As long as special collections librarians focus on telling the most inclusive stories from their collections in the most inclusive way possible, then I think we will survive.

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

How do you pick out one collection in a library full of unusual or interesting material? AAS has a collection of racy newspapers, the composing stick that Isaiah Thomas used to set type, a copy of the 1663 Eliot Indian Bible, the only known copy of Benjamin Franklin’s 1740 edition of Pamela (and countless other only known copies, for that matter), a copy of the first anthology of African-American poetry from 1845, and even coffee beans from the desk of Ulysses S. Grant. But at the present moment I’d like to point out the James Fenimore Cooper Collection. AAS has long collected editions of Cooper to aid with the MLA scholarly edition of the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper, and it’s one area in which we buy far outside of our geographic and chronological scope. We have German, Russian, and Italian editions from well into the twentieth century, some of Cooper’s manuscripts, the papers of James Franklin Beard (who edited the Cooper Edition before his death), and even a collection of Cooper comic books. Along with the editors of the Cooper Edition, I am helping to plan a two-day conference at AAS next year before the American Literature Association conference in Boston. We’re planning to focus the mini-conference on radical textual editing and ideas about who gets to make a book. This conference will hopefully help us to rethink and remix authorial authority when it comes to book production, in particular the scholarly edition.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

AAS recently organized a traveling exhibition called Beyond Midnight: Paul Revere. Before the pandemic, the exhibition was shown at the New York Historical Society and returned to Massachusetts to be jointly presented at the Worcester Art Museum and Concord Museum. Unfortunately the pandemic cut short the exhibition’s run in Massachusetts and made its summer journey to Crystal Bridges impossible. But we’ve produced an online exhibition based on Beyond Midnight, and we’re always producing other online exhibitions and online content. And while AAS does not have an exhibition space in the building, visitors are welcome to come to Worcester for a behind the scenes tour of the stacks when we resume public tours.

In terms of backlist sales alone, Scribner made one heck of a deal when it put F. Scott Fitzgerald under contract. The publishing house has issued elegant editions of his work for a century and still it beats on: today, a new set of five “collectible” hardcover editions become available featuring mod dust jacket designs (see above).

The titles include The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night, The Beautiful and Damned, The Last Tycoon, and This Side of Paradise, which also happens to be celebrating its centennial this year. This Side of Paradise was the author’s first novel, written when he was just twenty-three. While not a financial windfall, the novel did garner some nice blurbs. No less than the curmudgeonly H.L. Mencken called it the “best American novel that I have seen of late.” Still, The Great Gatsby, published five years later, is largely considered Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. The "first-ever" graphic novel adaptation of Gatsby is also being published today, with an introduction by Blake Hazard, Fitzgerald’s great-granddaughter.

Those looking to commune with the Jazz Age author should visit the Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, which reopens to the public on July 2. It is “the only dedicated museum to the lives and legacies of F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald in the world,” and where he wrote part of Tender is the Night (1934) and Zelda wrote part of her only novel, Save Me The Waltz (1932), also published by Scribner but sadly not reissued in fancy new garb.

A slightly quieter week this week, but still an interesting trio of sales to watch:

An online Livres et Manuscrits at Sotheby's ends on Tuesday, June 30. The 107 lots include a first edition of André Malraux's La Condition Humaine (1933), one of 39 copies reimposed in quarto. This copy is in a remarkable Paul Bonet mosaic binding from 1968, and was inscribed by Malraux in 1972 to the Belgian bibliophile Louis de Sadeleer. It is estimated at €30,000–50,000. A previously unknown Gédéon Tallemant des Réaux manuscript of more than 750 pages (not all in Tallemant's hand) is estimated at €30,000–40,000. François Levaillant's Histoire naturelle des oiseaux de Paradis (Paris, 1801–1806) could sell for €20,000–30,000, and an early manuscript version of Pierre de Ronsard's "Ode des estoilles au roy" (1573) is estimated at €18,000–24,000.

At Binoche et Giquello on Wednesday, July 1, Curiosités Typographiques – Reliures Remarquables: Collection C. L., in 167 lots. A super-deluxe copy of Les Climats, a collection of poems by Anna, Comtesse de Noailles published by the Société du Livre contemporain in 1924 in a Georges Cretté binding rates the top estimate, at €20,000–25,000. A 1561 protestant Bible printed at Lyon by Jean de Tournes in a fancy contemporary Parisian binding could sell for €12,000–15,000. Many more extremely impressive bindings in this sale: I highly recommend looking through the lots.

On Thursday, July 2, Forum Auctions sells Books and Works on Paper, in 260 lots. Scarce second issues of Percy Shelley's The Revolt of Islam and Queen Mab, bound together and signed by Richard Dry (perhaps the Richard Dry who was Shelley's tailor) rates the top estimate at £600–800. The 1894 George Allen edition of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, with the striking peacock cover design by Hugh Thomson, could sell for £400–600. A book from David Garrick's library is estimated at £300–400.

Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, a novel about suffocating social mores set in New York City during the Gilded Age, observes its centennial this year. The author’s twelfth novel, it won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, making Wharton was the first woman to attain that honor.

To mark the occasion, The Mount, Wharton’s house museum in western Massachusetts, is encouraging everyone to “re(read) or (re)watch” The Age of Innocence this summer. Just about any of the many editions out there will do, but there is a brand new anniversary edition out this year (in paperback and ebook) with an introduction by author Colm Tóibín. The 1993 Martin Scorsese film starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Winona Ryder is absolutely worth a second viewing.

The secret to great book design may be akin to an exquisite ballet performance: the experience is nearly perfect when the effort and work put into the creation of the piece is invisible. In A Grammar of Typography: Classical Book Design in the Digital Age, author and book designer Mark Argetsinger compares the work of a book designer to that of an architect--everything in balance and in proper proportion to the project at hand. And though form serves function, it needn’t be dull or an afterthought--great design elevates and enhances the overall experience.

And now, it seems that Argetsinger has created what will be considered the definitive work on the subject of the history and application of  book design. Released May 5 by Godine, A Grammar of Typography is no lightweight; my bathroom scale registered the volume at a precise five pounds. From the mathematical roots of typographical classicism to the transition to digital book design, there is plenty to engage everyone from the casual typophile to the professional designer.

Perhaps, to my mind at least, two of the most engrossing chapters (if only two could be chosen) are those exploring the transition to digital design. Chapter three heralds the new dawn of digital printing by providing a brief chronology in the history of desktop publishing (including a fascinating look at the so-called “Font Wars” between Adobe and Apple in the 1980s) while chapter eight examines what Argetsinger calls the restoration of a typographer’s powers with the advent of OpenType, a digital typographic tool. Over 425 images, many in color, round out this impressive work.

As exhaustive as A Grammar of Typography may be, Argetsinger encourages eager readers to further their study by examining other typographic and design manuals in his excellent annotated bibliography.

What font was selected for this book? Dutch Type Library (DTL) Fleischmann, a robust, digital font developed in the 1990s that Argetsinger calls “charming” and “sculptural.”

Classic book design didn’t disappear with the arrival of the digital revolution--it is alive and well, which Argetsinger adroitly proves in this handy, hefty compendium.

The trade edition of A Grammar of Typography is available for $65, while a deluxe slipcased version--in an edition of 123 copies--only available through Godine, is $95.