Blog Posts

This year’s winner of the Alice Award has been announced: Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South. Southbound contains fifty-six photographers’ visions of the South over the first decades of the twenty-first century.  It was published to accompany an exhibition at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, College of Charleston, South Carolina, which is currently traveling to several art museums around the country. (Check here for current venues.)

For several years now we’ve been covering the Alice Award, an annual $25,000 prize for superior illustrated books sponsored by Futhermore grants in publishing, a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund. We also published a profile of the president of Furthermore, philanthropist Joan K. Davidson. The Alice Award is a worthy endeavor that deserves celebration each and every time.  

Southbound was chosen from over over 120 submissions. The two books short-listed for this year’s prize were Artists and Their Books/Books and Their Artists from the Getty Research Institute and Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa from the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University. Each will receive $5,000.

The award money goes to the supporting institution. Since 2013, Furthermore has distributed $210,000 to institutions to foster the publication of high-quality illustrated books.

The award ceremony will be held at the Strand Bookstore in New York City on October 28.

It’s September, that time of year that tends to bring us all back to the books, so to speak. The ‘books about books’ market is no different, but there seems to be a more-than-usual amount to share with you—a baker’s dozen in all, unevenly split with eight non-fiction titles, three fiction, and one adorable gift book. Let’s dive in! (Part II will appear on Thursday.)

First up is Edward Lear and the Pussycat: Famous Writers and Their Pets (British Library, £9.99), which merits this above-the-fold placement for several reasons: its author, Alex Johnson, is part of the Fine Books family, contributing to FB&C both online and in print; Johnson is also the author of several books we have enjoyed in the past, such as Bookshelf and Book Towns; and because this volume is wonderfully quirky and so much fun to dip into. Learn all about Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel, Flush, and Charles Dickens’ raven, Grip. Are we surprised that Sartre’s cat was named Rien? No, no we are not.

If illustrators are your interest, there are two new titles in Thames & Hudson’s Illustrators Series: Walter Crane by Jenny Uglow and Judith Kerr by Joanna Carey, both in pretty cloth hardcovers and fully illustrated in color, priced at $29.95. Crane illustrated children’s literature but was also a leading figure in the Arts & Crafts movement. Kerr is best known as the creator of The Tiger Who Came to Tea.

On Tuesday, September 17, Bonhams New York holds The Air and Space Sale, in 156 lots. Expected to lead the way is a rare vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite, at $400,000–600,000. A significant collection of more than 1,300 photographs documenting the aviation industry from its earliest days through the 1940s, collected by Flying magazine editor Henry Woodhouse, is estimated at $50,000–70,000. A 52-page autograph manuscript by cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, written in 1975 about his experiences on the Apollo-Soyuz mission could fetch $20,000–30,000, as could a partial transcript of the first phone call to the moon signed by Nixon, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins.

PBA Galleries holds a sale of Cartography – Americana – Exploration – Voyages: The Warren Heckrotte and Margaret Gee Collection (with additions) on Thursday, September 19, in 223 lots. An 1800 atlas of Russia published at St. Petersburg shares the top estimate, at $10,000–15,000, with James Burney's Chronological History of the Discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific Ocean (1803–17). Five lots are estimated at $5,000–8,000, including a copy of the first complete atlas of Russia (St. Petersburg, 1745) and a large-paper copy of Theodore Roosevelt's Big Game Hunting in the Rockies and on the Great Plains (1899).

Also on Thursday, The Collection of Victor Niederhoffer: Books and Autographs and Books, Maps & Manuscripts at Freeman's in Philadelphia. The first comprises 99 lots, including a Thomas Jefferson manuscript letter about the Embargo Act ($30,000–50,000); a 1990 Ronald Reagan letter to his daughter Patti Davis could fetch $15,000–20,000. Another 337 lots will be offered in the broader sale, including a copy of the sixth state of the Fry-Jefferson map of Virginia ($12,000–18,000). A presentation copy of Clement C. Moore's Poems (1844), inscribed to the Prussian envoy to the United States, is estimated at $5,000–8,000. A collection of more than forty documents relating to the Mary Ann Furnace of York County, Pennsylvania, could sell for $4,000–7,000.

Rounding out the week on Saturday and Sunday, 21–22 September is The David and Janice Frent Collection of Presidential & Political Americana, Part VI at Heritage Auctions. As with previous installments from this collection, a fine mix of textiles, buttons, posters, and other campaign memorabilia.

Originally founded in 1694 as a private bank to the British government, today the Bank of England serves as the central bank for the United Kingdom, and much has changed in the past 325 years in the world of monetary policy. To recognize the milestone, the world’s second-oldest central bank recently opened an exhibition at its adjoining museum that explores three centuries of money and its handlers.

325 Years, 325 Objects draws from the Bank of England Museum’s archives to illustrate the ever-evolving world of money, with the earliest items hailing from the Roman era. Examples of seventeenth-century items include paper banknotes with the denominations filled in by hand, and other pieces showcase the workaday world of a bank: calculators, banknote sorters, paper postal orders (created in 1881) a printing block from The Old Lady, a staff magazine published from 1921 through 2007; there's even a forged banknote confiscated by tellers in 1895. The exhibition goes straight through to the present day with paperless transactions, though cash remains as vital as ever to the economy, with 70 billion pounds currently in circulation, double the number of notes in circulation just ten years ago.

Cash may not be going anywhere, but its future may not be made from paper. The Bank of England issued its first polymer-based bankote, a fiver (£5), in September 2016, followed by a £10 in 2017, with plans to continue rolling out new synthetic-based money to replace the bank's currency. Why? According to the BoE, polymer banknotes are stronger, cleaner, more durable, and have a smaller carbon footprint than paper money.

The museum is open Monday through Friday from 10am through 5pm excluding, clearly, bank holidays. Admission is free. The show is on display through May 2020. 

Earlier this year the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport announced an export ban on the notebooks of nineteenth-century geologist Sir Charles Lyell, Charles Darwin’s mentor. A total of 294 notebooks and manuscripts, which had been kept in the family until now, contain Lyell’s field notes, conversations with fellow scientists, and his transcribed correspondence with Darwin himself. They are in danger of being sold abroad and/or being sold piecemeal unless £966,000 (revised from £1.4 million) can be raised before October 15.

“This archive reveals the workings of one of the most influential scientists of the last 200 years and provides us with an extraordinary insight into a time when science was changing long-held beliefs about the world,” commented Arts Minister Michael Ellis.

Working to keep the notebooks together and 'in country,' the University of Edinburgh launched a pledge drive this past July in which the university and nearly 1,000 other supporters collectively promised £600,000+ toward the goal. That amount convinced Ellis to give the university a three-month extension for fundraising, but the October deadline is fast approaching. At this point, they are still short about £296,000.

Lyell, who died in 1875, is best known for his Principles of Geology (1830-33), a work that is credited with establishing a firm footing for the study of earth sciences. His influence on Darwin—and on science in general—was vast; as Darwin wrote, “I always feel as if my books came half from Lyell’s brains.”

If the university’s appeal is successful, it intends to make the Lyell collection accessible to the public through conservation and digitization.

 

Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire, England, the now publicly owned ancestral home of Lord Byron, has just opened a new exhibition of objects on loan from the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth showing the influence that Byron had on the Brontë family who grew up in the years after his death in 1824.

On display is a first edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Brontë’s second novel which has a distinctly Byronic chief male protagonist, and Branwell Brontë's notebook from his time working at Luddendenfoot railway station in Calderdale, filled with poetry and sketches that includes examples of his interest in boxing, which Byron also enjoyed.

Also on show is a lovely watercolor painting by Charlotte Brontë, a copy of The Atheist viewing the dead body of his wife by Alfred B Clayton. “The central figure has been utterly Byronified,” said Simon Brown, curator at Newstead Abbey. The exhibition runs until April 2020.

At the Brontë Parsonage Museum itself, the Patrick Brontë: In Sickness and In Health exhibition presenting the medical life and times of the siblings’ father runs until January 1 and includes Anne’s blood-speckled handkerchief, Patrick’s carefully annotated medical manuals, and the family’s spectacles.

And finishing at the end of October this year at the parsonage is the Shall Earth No More Inspire Thee audio experience featuring ten of Emily Brontë’s poems set to music by Adrian McNally and sung by popular folk group The Unthanks. Listeners can enjoy the music on headphones as they take a circular walk through the churchyard and onto the moors towards Penistone Hill, close to the parsonage.

Charles Dickens was no teetotaler, as this 1870 manuscript record of his spirits cellar makes clear. In fact, he clearly enjoyed sherry, brandy, rum, and whisky, all of which he accounted for in his slim “Gad’s Hill Cellar Casks” notebook, which heads to auction at Sotheby’s in London later this month. Nor is it the only such boozy checklist he kept — another, from 1865, is currently on loan at the Dickens House Museum in London. As the auctioneer dryly notes, “[I]n the intervening years Dickens appears to have switched from gin to whisky.”

Gads Hill Place was Dickens’ home in Higham, Kent. This inventory of the home’s cellar, in the author’s own hand, only covers May-June, 1870. It was written just days before his death on June 9 of that year.

Running to four pages, this manuscript forms a small part of an amazing Charles Dickens collection that includes more than 200 first editions, inscribed/presentation copies, original serial parts, and Dickens ephemera — there’s even the famous author’s annotated ‘prompt’ or public reading copy of Mrs. Gamp (1868), presented on the final night of his American book tour to his Boston publisher, H.M. Ticknor. The 84-year-old collector, Lawrence Drizen, writes in the auction catalogue that after “55 years of vigorous collecting,” it is time to disperse his prized possessions to other collectors. “The sale will be a very sad occasion for me.”

The “Gad’s Hill Cellar Casks” notebook was last seen at auction ten years ago at Christie’s in London, where it made £5,000 ($8,181), roughly as much as it is expected to raise this time around.

Here are the sales I'll be watching this week:

On Wednesday, Dominic Winter Auctioneers sells Printed Books, Maps & Documents, in 410 lots. The top-estimated lot is a copy of the 1527 Giunta edition of the Decameron (Florence), in a Grolieresque binding for Michele da Prato (£5,000–8,000). The Rome 1525 edition of Hippocrates, containing the first complete Latin text of his works, in a contemporary blind-tooled pigskin binding and with early marginalia, could fetch £3,000–5,000. The December 1520 edition of Thomas More's Epigrammata (Basel), with early English provenance and original English binding panels inlaid on the upper and lower boards, is estimated at £3,000–5,000. A copy of the Kelmscott Press History of Reynard the Fox (1892), one of 300 copies on paper, could sell for £3,000–4,000.

Also on Wednesday, Photographs & Photobooks at Freeman's, in 253 lots. One of just fifty copies of The Quiet in the Land portfolio (Laumont Editions, 2006), is estimated at $5,000–7,000. A gelatin silver print of Lillian Bassman's 1959 photograph of Ann St. Marie for Chanel, inscribed by Bassman, could sell for $4,000–6,000, while an 1876 five-print Joshua H. Beal panoramic view of Manhattan showing the Brooklyn Bridge under construction (in fact taken from the bridge's East Tower), is estimated at $3,000–5,000.

Heritage Auctions will hold an online sale of 471 items from the Glynn and Suzanne Crain Science Fiction Collection on Thursday, September 12. Among the top lots in that sale so far are a Virgil Finlay scratch board illustration for Ray Bradbury's story "A Sound of Thunder," first published in Wonder Stories Anthology in 1957 (up to $7,750 as of Sunday afternoon).

As if there ever needs to be justification for a trip to the City of Light: the Paris Biennale art fair takes place next week from September 13-18 at the Grand Palais, where exhibitors from around the world will showcase art spanning 6,000 years. Meanwhile, fairgoers looking for more action should trek a quarter mile up the Champs-Elysées to the headquarters of auction house Artcurial, which will host a sale of materials from the collection of renowned antiques dealer and collector, Joseph Altounian (1890-1954).

"The Joseph Altounian Collection is a rare testimony of the relationship between the Altounian family of antique dealers and the greatest artists of the 20th century: Auguste Rodin, Max Jacob, Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani, to name a few,” said Artcurial’s associate director and auctioneer Stéphane Aubert. “Artcurial is proud to unveil this never-seen before collection of the Altounian family who provided the greatest American museums and collectors worldwide. "

Armenian-born Altounian made his mark in Paris, where he developed friendships and business relationships with Pablo Picasso, Guillaume Apollinaire, Amedeo Modigliani, and other artists and writers. Altounian opened his first gallery in 1918 and eventually became the go-to dealer for top collectors throughout Europe and the United States. Pieces sold by Altounian are now found in the Louvre, the Rodin Museum and the Met, among other institutions both public and private. 

After marrying antique-dealing scion Henriette Lourbet, Altounian continued to cultivate a personal passion for art through his own collecting, which became a tradition continued by his children. 

This sale of 400 sculptures, art objects, drawings, and even furniture hail from antiquity through the modern day and represent Altounian’s impressive range. Highlights include an Egyptian statue dating from roughly 2040-1782 BC (€50,000 - 60,000); Roman sculptures, and medieval medallions, but perhaps the blockbusters are six Modigliani drawings that have, until now, remained in the family archives. One signed drawing, entitled Tête, drawn circa 1911-1912, is being offered with presale estimates of €250,000-350,000 (pictured above). Modigliani's work and reputation skyrocketed after his death at age 35, and just last year one of his paintings sold at Sotheby's for $175 million. 

Artcurial's entire catalogue devoted to the Altounian sale may be previewed here

Artcurial will host a presale exhibition at 7 rond-pont des Champs-Elysées from Sept. 11-17. The auction takes place in two parts: on Sept. 17 at 7pm, and Sept. 18 at 2pm. 

 

The Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, which makes its sixth annual return to the Brooklyn Expo Center this weekend, has become a vibrant kick-off to the fall book fair schedule. Featuring 110 dealers and a slate of engaging events, it should not be missed. Some booksellers circulated lists of their fair highlights earlier this week. Here are a few that particularly caught my eye:

The Vermont-based Augur Down Books is bringing several items of NYC interest, including three watercolors on board, dating from c. 1937-1940, depicting automobile intersections in Queens. The bookseller aptly describes them as “interesting relics from the Robert Moses era, which shaped the infrastructure landscape of New York City.” Pictured above is an undated watercolor, "Linden Boulevard Overpass at Southern Parkway.” The price is $1,200.