As the antiquarian book world readies for the first of its big gatherings of 2020, we thought we’d provide a quick, chronological rundown of the major events. Stay tuned for more information and highlights as we get closer to kickoff.

January 31-February 1: The 2020 San Francisco Antiquarian Book, Print & Paper Fair will be held at the South San Francisco Conference Center. Admission is $12 per day, unless you pre-buy for a discount here.

February 6: PBA Galleries’ Special Pasadena Auction to be held at 10:00 a.m. in the Piazza Ballroom of the Pasadena Sheraton. The first half of the auction will be devoted to books donated by ABAA members to benefit the Antiquarian Booksellers' Benevolent Fund. The second part of the sale will be PBA's offering of Rare Books & Manuscripts.

February 7-9: The 53rd California International Antiquarian Book Fair will be held at the Pasadena Convention Center. Women’s suffrage and Ray Bradbury are among the featured topics. Admission is $25 for F/S/S; $15 for S/S.

February 8: Rare Books LA Shadow Fair, with more than 30 specialists in ephemera and rare books, happens at the Pasadena Masonic Temple. Admission is $10.

And while you’re in California, these exhibitions might interest you:


Bound for Beauty: Highlights from the Kathleen V. Roberts Collection of Decorated Publishers Bindings at the American Bookbinders Museum

(retro)(intro)spection: moving past into the forward at the San Francisco Center for the Book


Beside the Edge of the World at the Huntington Library

In Focus: Platinum Photographs at the Getty Center

Last week, UK Arts Minister Helen Whately announced a temporary export ban on “The Myrowr of Recluses,” an illuminated Middle English manuscript meant to guide those who were retreating from society and devoting their lives to prayer, often referred to as anchorites. The leather-bound manuscript, containing sixty-six leaves, details the reasons one might seek to become a religious recluse and what to expect from such a life. A translation of the “Speculum Inclusorum,” it was written by an unknown scribe in London in the early 1400s. The British Library owns the only other, though incomplete, version of “The Myrowr.”

“This beautiful decorated manuscript is a precious record of the life of hermits in 15th century England and it would be a sad loss if it was sold abroad,” commented Whately in a press release. “I hope that a buyer can be found to save this fascinating piece of history for future generations to study and learn from.”

To that end, £168,750 ($220,000) must be raised before April 13 to keep the manuscript from leaving the country.

The manuscript was sold to an overseas buyer in July of last year at Dreweatts/Bloomsbury Auctions in London for £135,000 ($176,250), thus prompting the export bar. In a bizarre twist, the consignor in that Bloomsbury sale was, according to the Guardian, Oxford don and MacArthur “genius” Dr. Dirk Obbink, who is currently under investigation for his alleged involvement in the theft of ancient papyrus fragments.

Obbink had purchased the manuscript at the Yates, Thompson and Bright: A Family of Bibliophiles sale at Christie’s in 2014 for the much higher price of £182,500 ($312,500). Jeremy Dibbell covered that sale—and even mentioned the sale of this particular book—in our fall 2014 issue. Like many of the books and manuscripts in that sale, this one has a compelling provenance, dating back to the sixteenth century. It also has unique elements, not yet studied by scholars.

Leslie Webster, a member of the reviewing committee for the UK’s department for digital, culture, media & sport, which administers export bans, said the text was “almost certainly written for female anchorites” and as such “offers a rich new avenue of exploration into the nature of women’s religious education in the early fifteenth century.”

Last week, the Center for Book Arts (CBA) in New York City debuted an exhibition that truly takes poetry off the page. Artist Warren Lehrer is well known for playing with forms, combining book art with contemporary art in ways few have imagined. Warren Lehrer: Books, Animation, Performance, Collaboration, on view through March 28, aims to showcase that ambition through books, typography, animation, and performance—and by animation, he means taking the visualization of literature to a whole new level. Check out the animation of a poem by Dennis J. Bernstein, visualized by Warren Lehrer for their book and multimedia project Five Oceans in a Teaspoon (Paper Crown Press, 2019), with music composed and performed by Andrew Griffin and animation assistance from Brandon Campbell:


"Knitting Club"— animated poem from “Five Oceans in a Teaspoon” from EarSay Inc on Vimeo.

According to the CBA, this is called “graphic scoring,” an attempt by the artist/writer to “capture the shape of thought and reunite the oral and pictorial traditions of storytelling with the printed page.”

Here are the sales I'll be keeping an eye on this week:

At Forum Auctions on Tuesday, January 21, Editions & Works on Paper, in 272 lots. Banksy's 2002 screenprint "Rude Copper" rates the top estimate, at £70,000–90,000. A rare copy of Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson's 1918 woodcut "MT (Motor Transport)" could sell for £40,000–60,000. An artist's proof of Andy Warhol's screen print "Marilyn Monroe" (1967) is estimated at £35,000–45,000.

On Wednesday, January 22, Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper at Forum Auctions. The 243 lots include a northern Italian astronomical manuscript from around 1470 once in the collection of Sir Thomas Phillipps (£40,000–60,000) and a 13th-century Dominican manuscript about marriage, estimated at £25,000–35,000. An 1833 set of lithographs of British Army uniforms could fetch £15,000–20,000, the same estimate given to a first edition of The Great Gatsby with the dust jacket.

PBA Galleries will hold a sale of Fine Literature – Fine Press – Fine Bindings on Thursday, January 23, in 413 lots. A portfolio of the first five Black Sparrow Press broadsides (1966), each signed by Charles Bukowski, is expected to lead the sale at $15,000–25,000. You could also acquire a full set of the 39-volume Library Edition of the works of John Ruskin (1903–1912), estimated at $8,000–12,000. Gaylord Schanilec's Lac des Pleurs (2015) is estimated at $6,000–9,000, and a copy of the Arion Press edition of Moby Dick is estimated at $4,000–6,000. Lots 352–413 are being sold without reserve.

Last July, Christie’s Paris held the first major sale of art books from the estate of renowned bibliophile Paul Destribats (1927-2017), realizing approximately $9 million (€8,116,813) for over six hundred lots focusing on Surrealism and the history of art. Next month, the auction house will hold another Destribats sale, assisted in the endeavor by Parisian rare book experts Jean-Baptiste de Proyart and Claude Oterelo

The first of two sales slated for 2020 will showcase 276 items published by twentieth-century Surrealist publishers Pierre Andre Benoit (1921-1993) and Ilia Zdanevich (1894-1975), a duo often referred to as PAB and Iliazd. 

Major items in the February sale include a proof copy of Guillaume de Vaux’s La Maigre which contains working proof engravings by Picasso, and handwritten notes by Iliazd. A first edition of Dadaist Max Ernst’s Maximiliana, ou, l’exercice illégal de l’astronomie (1964) will also be among the lots.

Destribats began building his collection in the 1960s, focusing on those artists and writers he met during his travels in the bustling neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des Pres.

In 2006, Destribats designated the Kandinsky Library at the Centre Pompidou as the repository of more than one thousand items in his collection, instantly launching the library as one of the world’s top archives dedicated to the visual arts of the first half of the twentieth century.

“Once Destribats’s collection has been dispersed, it will be impossible for future generations to recreate a collection such as this ever again,” reflected Proyart in press material for the auction. “This is why this series of sales represents a truly surreal moment for the book world and the art market.”

See the entire catalogue for the February 4 sale here.

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Manon Schutz, of Luxembourg, who recently won the 2019 ABA Book Collecting Prize.

Where are you from / where do you live?

I currently live in Oxford, United Kingdom. However, I’m originally from a small town in the South of Luxembourg—which makes me one of the country’s only 600,000 inhabitants.

What do you study at University?

I’m in the last stages of my doctorate in Egyptology at the University of Oxford. I already did a Master of Studies at Oxford and a Magister Artium in Egyptology and Classical Archaeology at the University of Trier, Germany. I don’t know yet what I’ll do after my degree, but I hope to stay in the field.

Please introduce us to your book collection. What areas do you collect in?

As an Egyptologist, I basically collect every book that has somehow to do with Egypt: specialist literature, picture books, historic and fantasy novels, etc. I don’t only like to read about Egypt for my work, but also for mere pleasure. I’m for instance very fond of the Amelia Peabody Murder Mysteries, written by the American Egyptologist Barbara Mertz under her nom de plume of Elizabeth Peters. Unfortunately, this beloved author of mine died in 2013, so that there will be no more new adventures of the Emerson-Peabody family.

Within my collection of Egyptological books, autobiographies and biographies of early travellers and Egyptologists—especially of women like Amelia Edwards (actually one of the inspirations for Amelia Peabody)—take up a particular space in my shelves and of course in my heart. For me, it was always important to remember and understand these early figures of my field and thus value their contribution. It was their dreams, motivation, energy as well as sacrifices and hardships that made the study of Egyptology actually possible. They paved the way for students like me. Furthermore, as I’ve been several times to Egypt myself, I like to read about their travels and compare them to my own. It is amazing to see what has changed and what hasn’t changed in the past centuries. Thus, these books also give me the opportunity to learn about the more recent history of Egypt seen through the eyes of many different people with different backgrounds and thus understandings.

As Mason Cooley said: "Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are." Thus, my collection of these (auto-)biographies gives me the opportunity to travel to Egypt—or rather many different Egypts at different times—when I have to stay at home.

How many books are in your collection?

To be honest, it’s hard for me to keep track of the exact number, as my collection is divided between my flat here in Oxford and my parents’ house in Luxembourg. Some time ago, I started registering my books on LibraryThing in order to get a better overview. So far, I’ve recorded over 1,000 books on their website. However, this number includes all of my Egyptological and Egypt-themed books. My collection of (auto-)biographies is significantly smaller, probably only around 75 items.

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

I was only 7 or 8 years old, when I knew that I wanted to become an Egyptologist, and I actually started collecting books before I was really able to buy my own. So, my first books on Egypt were given to me by family members as presents for Christmases, birthdays, and other special occasions.

I actually don’t remember which book about Egypt I first bought myself. However, Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters, the first volume of the Amelia Peabody Murder Mysteries, must have been one of them. In this series, the heroine Amelia Peabody and her husband Emerson, eminent Professor of Egyptology, meet and interact with many of the important Egyptologists of their time, e.g. Howard Carter, the discoverer of Tutankhamun’s tomb. As Elizabeth Peters, actually Barbara Mertz, was an Egyptologist herself, she was aware of the many anecdotes about certain scholars that circulate in the field and must have read at least some of their journals and (auto-)biographies. Her novels definitely sparked my interest in the history of Egyptology.

How about the most recent book?

The most recent book I bought is the fifth edition of Who Was Who in Egyptology, edited by Morris L. Bierbrier. It includes small biographies, often accompanied by pictures, of Egyptologists that contributed to the field. The existing biographies are constantly updated and new ones are added. The Who Was Who is a great starting point to get a quick overview of the lives of specific Egyptologists. And, of course, a great pastime.

And your favorite book in your collection?

Asking a collector about his or her favourite book in the collection feels like asking a parent about his or her preferred child. I actually like all my books and would not want to part with any of them. Of course, there are some books that might be rarer than others. I particularly like old books with dedications that are part of the object’s history and prove that they have been loved and cared for in the past. After winning the Colin Franklin Book Collecting Prize in 2019, I bought an 1877 copy of Amelia Edward’s A Thousand Miles up the Nile. The book was originally given by a husband to his wife for their 29th wedding anniversary and in remembrance of their visit to Egypt in 1867. It is these little details that make books for me even more special.

Best bargain you’ve found?

In a way, every affordable copy of a sought-after book is a bargain for me. As many of the Egyptological books are only published in small numbers, already new ones tend to be quite expensive. Thus, the prices for older and rarer publications go up even more over time—and thus out of reach for a student.

How about The One that Got Away?

As I’m far from done with collecting books, I don’t like to think of books that got away, just of publications that I don’t own yet. After all, if it would be easy to find and acquire all the books I wanted, it would take away some of the excitement, of the feeling of achievement when finally stumbling upon a long sought-after copy.

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

There are of course many books by early travellers and Egyptologists that are particularly rare and thus unaffordable for ‘normal’ people like me, except maybe if I would sell my soul to the devil. However, to be honest, I would actually not want to find the Holy Grail for my collection, as its discovery would mean an end to my quest. And, at least for me, the joys of collecting are as much about the mission, the treasure hunt than they are about the discovery and purchase as such.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

I do not really have a favourite bookseller or bookstore. I do not discriminate, I love all of them. As my collection interest is quite particular—and some Egyptological books are rather rare—it can sometimes take me years to track down an affordable copy. I actually keep a list with rare book titles which I regularly check against the inventory of online catalogues and databases. There are of course specialist bookstores like Meretseger Books and Librairie Cybele, which mainly offer Egyptological publications, and they are often the starting point for my searches. However, it can also happen that I come across a desired book in a very unlikely place. Thus, I bought many books from a market stall here in Oxford, whose owner had purchased part of the collection of a deceased Egyptology professor. I always like to compare the search process to a treasure hunt—although I might just have watched too many Indiana Jones movies.

What would you collect if you didn’t collect books?

I actually cannot imagine my life without collecting books, as it is such an important part of me. However, as an Egyptologist and Egyptomaniac, I actually collect other items that are related to Egypt as well like jewellery, movies, figurines, posters, and other types of decoration. Hence, for instance, I’m the proud owner of a sarcophagus-shaped wine rack. So, if I would—or rather could—not collect books, I would probably just amass all the rest. I guess that collecting really lies in my nature.

The Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, England, has been closed this month for conservation work, but on Friday, January 17, the 200th birthday of novelist Anne Brontë, there is a free preview day (10:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m.) for the museum’s forthcoming exhibition, Anne Brontë: 'Amid the brave and strong'.

Focusing on the life, work, and legacy of Anne, the youngest of the literary sisters, the exhibition will include her final letter; the first of Charlotte’s six ‘little books,’ which she wrote specifically for Anne; and a portrait of Anne by Charlotte, which will be displayed alongside the carnelian necklace which she wears in the picture. Other items include Anne’s sketching block that she bought in 1843 to sketch outside, as well as a selection of her drawings and paintings.   

Later in the evening the celebrations will continue in the Delius Centre in nearby Bradford, which will be holding a party for Anne’s 200th birthday featuring music, poetry, craft-making, dancing, and the promise of a taste of Anne Brontë punch. No booking required and pay whatever you like.

Anne Brontë: 'Amid the brave and strong' officially opens on February 1, 2020 and runs until January 1, 2021 at the Parsonage Museum.

Kicking off the week is the Fine Books, Maps, and Manuscripts sale at Revere Auctions (online), in 463 lots. A set of Sir Richard Burton's translation of The Thousand Nights and a Night (1885), with Supplemental Nights (1886), could sell for $3,000–4,000. The 1666 Pieter Goos map "Paskaerte van Nova Granada en t'Eylandt California," showing California as an island, is estimated at $2,000–3,000. At the same rating is a copy of the first American edition of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1848).

Kestenbaum & Company holds an online sale of Hebrew & Judaic Printed Books on Thursday, in 276 lots. Most estimates are in the three-figure range, but among the expected highlights are the first American edition (and first edition in English, in a translation by Isaac Leeser) of Joseph Schwarz's Descriptive Geography and Brief History of Palestine (Philadelphia, 1850), estimated at $1,000–1,500. At the same estimate is Joshua Falk's Sepher Avnei Yehoshua, the first rabbinical text published in America (New York, 1860). Chaim Abraham Gagin's Sepher HaTakanoth VeHaskamoth (Jerusalem, 1842), a collection of the rites and customs of Jerusalem by the city's chief rabbi, is estimated at $800–1,200.

Also on Thursday, Autographs, Books, Declaration Signers, FDR & More at University Auctions. The 281 lots include Abraham Lincoln's copy of Washington Irving's 1838 one-volume collection of Oliver Goldsmith's Miscellaneous Works, estimated at $100,000–120,000. Lincoln's brother-in-law Ninian Edwards gave the book to him, and it was among a box of books Lincoln gave to his law partner William Herndon before his inauguration. Herndon in turn gave the book to Boston activist Caroline Healey Dall in October, 1866. Since then the book has sold at auction at least four times, in 1923, 1974, 1980, and 2001.

Estimated at $50,000–100,000 is a photo album containing a signed CDV of Lincoln by Alexander Gardner (the Lincoln photograph has been removed and is now stored separately). A 1527 book in a binding bearing the arms of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, once in the collection of H. Bradley Martin, is estimated at $18,000–20,000.

Are you a poet living in Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, or Michigan? If so, there’s a competition out there just for you: Minneapolis-based Milkweed Editions has just opened its Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry to submissions.

The Ballard prize, which includes $10,000 and publication of the winner’s poetry, was established in 2011 with the goal of supporting and promoting poets from the upper Midwest and sharing their work with the rest of the country. The prize also includes national distribution as well as a robust publicity campaign. The winner will be announced in April, with a book launch celebration slated for November 2020.

This year’s judge is Aimee Nezhukumatathil, an English professor at the University of Mississippi, author of four collections of poems, and a grant recipient from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her writing has appeared in Poetry, the New York Times Magazine, ESPN, and Tin House

Patrick Johnson won the 2019 prize for Gatekeeper, a debut volume of verse that explores the ominous inner workings of the dark web. 

Applications are being accepted now through Valentine’s Day on Milkweed’s Submittable page.