As Rare Book Week draws near, I find myself scrolling through booksellers’ preview catalogues and lists for the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, which opens on Thursday, March 5, and runs through Sunday, March 8. From the looks of it, an amazing selection awaits collectors.

So far, my favorite item heading to the fair is the one pictured above. London’s Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers will cross the pond with this endearing oval memorial locket inscribed “Papa d. June 9 1870.” That Papa was Charles Dickens; the decorative metal locket was once owned by his daughter-in-law Elizabeth “Bessie” Matilda Evans. Price: $2,000

We’re one week away from Rare Book Week in New York City, which runs roughly March 4-11 this year and features three major antiquarian book fairs, five book & manuscript auctions, and a dozen exhibitions of interest to bibliophiles. There’s also a short annotated list of bookish places to eat, drink, tour, and shop.

As we have since 2014, FB&C offers its readers a handy website as well as a printed supplement within the spring issue (in the mail as I type) to help you navigate to as many of the events and exhibitions as you wish. Check it out HERE.

Also, we have just published the digital edition of our Spring Auction Guide.

Uncommon Goods, the Brooklyn-based retailer of uniquely designed gifts, should be well known to bibliophiles, as it offers a host of wares with literary associations, running the gamut from bookends to library-scented candles to Jane Austen socks. A recent email to customers introduced a new arrival: “First Edition Book Cover Art Prints.”   

Printed on archival paper and framed in a birch shadow-box, the selected book covers include more than two dozen literary classics with appealing cover designs, from A Christmas Carol to Ulysses and then some. Although—and only extreme bibliophiles will quibble about this—they are not all truly “first edition” covers; exhibit A, Antigone, exhibit B, Frankenstein, exhibit C, Jane Eyre… Still, the images are crisp, revealing the wear and tear on the covers by actual readers. Each framed print is priced at $65.

A very busy week coming up in the auctions rooms:

On Tuesday, February 25, Swann Galleries sells Classic & Contemporary Photographs, in 334 lots. Two lots are estimated at $50,000–75,000: a 1940 print of Edward Steichen's White Lotus and Margaret Bourke White's The George Washington Bridge (1933). The latter has been in the family of the original recipient (Bourke-White's assistant Robert Edward Kiehl) since the mid-1930s. A presentation album containing more than 100 photos of Peruvian sites and people (1947) by Martin Chambi and M. Gonzalez Salazar is estimated at $30,000–45,000.

Also closing on Tuesday is an online sale at Doyle New York, A Collection of Edward Gorey, in 201 lots.

Bonhams London holds a Travel & Exploration sale on Wednesday, February 26. The 226 lots include a complete twenty-volume set of the Description de l'Égypte (1809–1822), estimated at £150,000–200,000. A newly-recorded deluxe presentation album containing 79 carbon prints of Frank Hurley's photos from the 1914–1916 Shackleton expedition is estimated at £30,000–40,000.

Two sales at ALDE on Thursday: Bibliothèque Georges Pompidou and Éditions Originales du XIXe au XXIe Siècle. The first comprises 141 lots and the second 187, with French literature forming the main part of each section.

At University Archives on Thursday, a 287-lot sale of Autographs, Books & Relics Include Kerouac Estate & Hemingway. A typewriter used by Hemingway to write A Moveable Feast, loaned to Hemingway in 1959 by his friend and biographer A.E. Hotchner, is estimated at $50,000–100,000. Retained drafts of Samuel Colt's patent documents for "revolving cylinder guns" could sell for $30,000–45,000. Jack Kerouac's final typewriter, accompanied by a purchase receipt, is estimated at $12,000–18,000. A rare letter written by Zachary Taylor as president is estimated at $18,000–20,000.

On Friday, February 28, Binoche et Giquello sells 328 lots of Livres Avant Garde Surréalisme. Much of interest here to the Henri Michaux collector in particular, perhaps.

Rounding out the week, Potter & Potter sells the third part of the Magic Collection of Jim Rawlins on Saturday, February 29. The 488 lots include a very wide range of magic-related material, but some of the printed matter includes a 1918 "Chung Ling Soo Mysteries" poster ($4,000–6,000), a "Horace Goldin: The Tiger God" poster from around 1910 ($3,000–5,000), and a slightly earlier poster from around 1900 for "Servais LeRoy: A Really Marvellous Conjuror" ($3,000–4,000).

The Charles Dickens Museum in London has acquired a substantial private collection of Dickens material from the U.S., including 144 handwritten letters by the author (25 of which are unpublished); personal items including writing implements and jewelry; original artwork by the illustrators of Dickens’ books, including George Cruikshank, John Leech, Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz), Joseph Clayton (Kyd), and Frank Reynolds; 50 unpublished manuscripts and letters written by others in Dickens’ circle; and 25 books from Dickens’ own library.

Among the letters are Dickens’ instructions for a secret gin punch stash to be kept under the table for his private use during a dinner party, details of his family life including his wife Catherine’s miscarriage, and an account of how Dickens and Wilkie Collins got lost up a mountain during a walking tour of Cumberland. There are also rare unpublished letters from Charles’ father, John, and an exchange between Dickens and a fan, Emmey Gotschalk.

The collection includes the family’s home magazine the “Gad’s Hill Gazette,” a handwritten manuscript excerpt from David Copperfield, personal effects including a golden writing implement which doubles as both a pen and a pencil, and a collection of 40 playbills, including very rare notices for private performances at Dickens’ home. A set of household account books from Gad’s Hill Place begins in April 1866 in Dickens’ hand but is completed shortly after his death by his sister-in-law and housekeeper, Georgina Hogarth.
 
Cindy Sughrue, director of the Charles Dickens Museum, described the collection as “a treasure trove.” Mark Dickens, great-great-grandson of the Victorian author and chair of the board of the museum, commented, “This quite staggering material brings us even closer to the man himself, his character, feelings, family and friends.”

The acquisition was funded by a grant of £1.22 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, together with substantial contributions from Art Fund, Friends of the National Libraries, and the Dickens Fellowship, totaling £1.8 million, or about $2.3 million.

Book Commode? Yes, ye olde toilets trimmed with an outer “book” wrapping, either to obscure or at least to accessorize, were a thing in the eighteenth century, particularly in France. This example, which heads to auction in New York on March 4, is constructed of wood and features iron hinges, clasps, and latches. When collapsed, it appears to be just another folio-sized leather-bound book, complete with spine label reading Historia Universalis. But a quick construction of parts reveals a 20 x 18 x 14.5-inch pop-up stool and the necessary hole. A chamber pot would be been placed within.

Our Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Will Baker, proprietor of W. C. Baker Rare Books & Ephemera in Brooklyn, New York.  Mr. Baker will be exhibiting at the Greenwich Village Antiquarian Book Fair this weekend.

How did you get started in rare books?

I first became aware of rare books as a child listening to my grandmother’s stories about her favorite aunt and uncle, Florence and Laurence Gomme. Laurence was an antiquarian bookseller and appraiser, and he and Florence took my grandmother under their wing when she was young, introducing her to New York’s theater and book worlds in the years leading into World War II. The characters and scenes she described occupied an important part of my imagination growing up, and I was surprised to find they still existed with some continuity in odd corners of the city when I moved to New York, myself, in 2001.

I was beginning a masters program in museum studies and soon developed a new group of friends through a small antique store in the East Village (which, sadly, just closed last month) and a dime museum on the Lower East Side run by the sword-swallower Johnny Fox, who had hired me as an assistant. I was also spending significant time in the special collections of museum libraries for school and for an internship I was performing at the American Museum of Natural History. I had already worked for a few years at that point in my college archives and at an old and rare book store in Cleveland, and I found myself gravitating towards the book-related parts of the collections I was now encountering.

The idea of a career in the trade became more and more appealing, and I eventually began meeting with rare book dealers for guidance. They invariably recommended I attend the Introduction to Descriptive Bibliography course at Rare Book School as soon as I could, and I followed their advice. When I arrived in Charlottesville and met Terry Belanger, I mentioned that I was looking for a job with a dealer, and at the end of the week he told me that Bill Reese had just contacted him about an entry-level position opening at the Reese Company. I wrote Bill immediately and somehow managed to ride the momentum to New Haven, where I wound up working for him as a cataloger in Americana for the next five years.

When did you open W. C. Baker Rare Books & Ephemera and what do you specialize in?

Technically, W. C. Baker Rare Books opened in 2007, when I was still working for Bill, who allowed his staff operate our own businesses during our off hours. I left the Reese Company at the end of 2008 to begin library school and continued selling books, manuscripts, and ephemera online for the several years to supplement my income.

In 2014, I moved to Pittsburgh and began selling books and performing appraisal and consulting work full-time. I returned to New York in 2016, and most of my business today is in appraisals and collection management. But, I definitely still sell, with a vague specialty in Americana, social movements, and unusual currents in science, religion, and the performing arts.

What do you love about the book trade?

The constant learning and discovery and the incredible sense of mutual encouragement among colleagues. If it had not been for the mentorship I received early on or for the moral and material support I’ve experienced since returning to the trade a few years ago, there is no way I would still be in it today.

Describe a typical day for you:

As I work primarily for clients, it depends largely on the current assignment. But, generally speaking, I try to start the day with bookkeeping and other administrative matters, then head out to inspect materials for an appraisal or perform whatever other on-site work is needed for a consulting job, then return home in the early evening for whatever off-site work (auction research, image processing, catalog editing, etc.) I can do there. If I receive an order, I usually process it and pack the item in the evening and send it out the next day at lunch. Then, once enough inventory accumulates, I dedicate a few days exclusively to cataloging and photography (which I see I’m overdue for now).

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

I cataloged a group of manuscript lectures for the Reese Company I’ve never been able to stop thinking about: Sketches of the Geography, People, and Institutions of the United States, by A. J. Mason (A Resident of Nine Years), first delivered in London in 1841. Abraham John Mason was a British wood engraver who had lived, worked, and lectured in the U.S. during most of the 1830s, recording invaluable data, conversations, and personal reflections throughout his stay. The text that emerged presented a broader and deeper view of the U.S. in that era of any I had seen then or have seen since – including Tocqueville’s – thanks in part to the unusually wide cross-section of the population Mason received access to. It was also a particularly well-documented foreign account of slavery and the way its perpetuation was infecting every part of American society and culture. In one lecture, Mason reflected on a trip to Monticello and observed drily that Thomas Jefferson’s legacy of equality was alive and well on its grounds, where the enslaved who clearly bore Jefferson’s features lived in the same cabins as those who didn’t. His final lecture was dedicated entirely to the subject and the lives of black Americans across the country and concluded with a plea for support for the Oberlin Collegiate Institute and the racially integrated higher educated it represented.

The manuscripts were a memorable example of a unique or rare document that needed to be read to be described – not just checked against a bibliography – which I find to be a much more interesting and satisfying approach to the cataloging process (if not always more remunerative). And, it was a great example of the kind of document one often finds in collections of Americana that dispels the lazy and cynical arguments that our forebears, in their worst injustices, were merely “products of their time” and “didn’t know better.” Plenty of their contemporaries didn’t think so. And, despite where we find ourselves today, plenty of people still believe that primary-source documents like this can play an important role in deflating demagogues and equipping students, educators, journalists, and others in fights for truth and social change. I believe booksellers find real meaning in our work when we help locate these materials and lead them to good homes.

What do you personally collect?

I’ve been collecting books relating to Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, where I grew up, for some time – especially ephemera relating to the area’s avant-garde, counterculture, and punk scenes, which flourished in the area at various points during the 20th century.

What do you like to do outside of work?

When the elusive work/life balance strikes, I enjoy going to flea markets and watching live music at small venues around town.

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

My colleagues have already spoken in these interviews much more eloquently than I could on the quickly and vastly expanding diversity of material on the market, in both form and content, that has been redefining the trade and what it means to be a “bookseller”. Correlate to this are the serious efforts being made to increase the diversity of actual people participating in the trade, which I think is crucial to its health, relevance, and credibility moving forward. The Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (now based in Northfield, Minnesota) has been leading the charge with this, working for several years to recruit students from the various backgrounds underrepresented in the trade through targeted outreach and scholarships. In the meantime, the staff and many officers of the ABAA have taken major steps to make, in Executive Director Susan Benne’s words, “the book trade diverse and equitable,” including the launch of its Women’s Initiative in 2016. Another organization deserving recognition in this area is Marvin Getman’s Impact Events Group, which runs the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair and several other East Coast book and paper shows. Marvin and Brian Chidester, who was hired as Director of Programming in 2018, have done a remarkable job in a short time of drawing in new audiences with well-curated exhibitions and seminars on topics ranging from early modern spell books to Afrofuturism. These talks regularly sell out, and I met a number of first-time antiquarian book fair visitors at the Brooklyn show last year who made their plans specifically because of the events. Especially as most rare book dealers today no longer operate from open shops, I think we need to pay attention to and support programs that encourage face-to-face interaction, expand our reach, and signal who we are and what, as a profession, we are trying to become.

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

We are looking forward to selling at the Greenwich Village Antiquarian Book Fair February 21-23.

Successful writers have long been adept at self-promotion – indeed, Stendhal even suggested that “Great success is not possible without a certain degree of shamelessness.” Taking advantage of the latest in technology can be particularly helpful, whether that means honing your tweets or Instagramming your writing shed.

In the nineteenth century, the arrival of the photograph was a boon to early adopters such as Charles Dickens who is among writers featured in the current From Studio to Selfie exhibition at the Old Bodleian Library in Oxford, England. Dickens posed for daguerreotypes from the early 1840s, and the 1867 portrait of him on show is by the leading American photographer Benjamin Gurney. His contemporary, Wilkie Collins, was also a popular subject whose photographs were used to promote his books, especially The Woman in White. So many of him were taken that he complains about numerous sittings in letters to his mother.

The small but intriguing exhibition also features: translator Marjory Wardrop (1869-1909) in full traditional Georgian national dress; Alfred, Lord Tennyson in a 1865 shot by Julia Margaret Cameron which he described as the ‘Dirty Monk’; and a selfie by poet Philip Larkin who was also a keen photographer and invented a trigger mechanism to take photos of himself on his Rolleiflex camera.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is also present, in a really impressive false beard. The photograph displayed was taken in 1912 and used for his Professor Challenger novel, The Lost World. Conan Doyle sits in a group portrait as Challenger himself.

The exhibition runs until March 15. Of related interest: an article Fine Books published last year about photographer Lotte Jacobi, whose specialty was author photos, including portraits of Salinger, Auden, and Dreiser.

Lot of lots to watch this week:

On Wednesday, February 19, Lyon & Turnbull will sell Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps & Photographs, in 543 lots. Estimated at £15,000–20,000 are a 1583 French map of Scotland and a copy of Sowerby and de Carle's Mineral Conchology of Great Britain (1812–1846). A 1655 Blaeu atlas of China and Japan could fetch £10,000–15,000. There is also a first British edition of Poe's Tales (1846), estimated at £3,000–4,000.

Also on Wednesday, Biblioteca Alberto Marín at Soler y Llach in Barcelona. The 415 lots include a 1738 edition of Don Quixote published in London (estimated at €11,000) and a copy of the 1780 Ibarra edition of the same work (estimated at €10,000). Much more Cervantes material and some very interesting early printing in this one, too.

On Thursday, February 20, Aguttes sells Livres anciens & illustrés modernes, manuscrits & lettres autographes, in 311 lots. A 1916 Henri Matisse letter with a penned self-portrait is expected to lead the sale, estimated at €25,000–30,000. A manuscript book of hours for Pierre Fijan, with illuminations by the Master of the Missal of Troyes, is estimated at €18,000–20,000. Seven letters from a young Jules Verne to his parents could sell for €15,000–20,000.

Forum Auctions holds an online sale of Books and Works on Paper on Thursday, in 220 lots.

Collectors of Californiana will be watching the sale of Rare Americana & Cartography with the Robert M. Ebiner Zamorano 80 Collection at PBA Galleries on Thursday. The 539 lots include Francisco Paloú's Relacion Historica de la Vida y Apostolicas Tareas del Venerable Padre Frey Junipero Serra (1787). This, the Irving W. Robbins, Jr., copy, was annotated by Robbins "Copy like this, the best I've seen." It is estimated for this sale at $10,000–15,000. A nice copy of Dana's Two Years Before the Mast (1840) could sell for $5,000–8,000. At the same estimate is an 1865 lithographed Declaration of Independence in calligraphy forming a potrait of George Washington.

Rounding out Thursday's sales, Fine Books and Manuscripts at Swann Galleries, in 414 lots. Jane Austen is estimated to lead the sale: a first edition of Sense and Sensibility is estimated at $30,000–40,000, and a first edition of Pride and Prejudice could sell for $20,000–30,000. Another Austen first edition, of Emma, is estimated at $15,000–20,000, and Mansfield Park could fetch $8,000–12,000. A draft-related document signed by Lincoln as president is estimated at $15,000–25,000.

It's old news that vintage comic books are global phenoms, inspiring massive conventions and blockbuster movies. Collectors obsess over completing their sets and hunting down rare editions. (Is there a suffixed word of Greek origin akin to bibliomania to describe this particular drive to acquire? There should be.)

But now, as some so-called rare editions aren’t as exceptional as once believed, some collectors are turning to original artwork, and paying top dollar, too: consider the 2012 Heritage Auction sale of Todd McFarlane’s Amazing Spider Man 1990 #328 cover art, which fetched a princely $685,000. In May 2018, Frank Frazetta’s Egyptian Queen, which appeared in print as the cover for Eerie magazine #23 in mid-1969, sold for $5,400,000, also at Heritage, setting the world record for the most expensive piece of comic art sold at auction. The previous record was $1.79 million, also for a Frazetta original.

There’s more to comic art than Stan Lee originals; European artists have been perfecting the genre for decades. (A 2016 story from Paste magazine provides a detailed history of European comic artists.) And, to that end, Line and Frame: A Survey of European Comic Art will open in New York later this month highlighting over 50 original European strips and illustrations of comic art from the last 70 years. Artists in the exhibition include Franco-Belgian masters such as Moebius (aka Jean Giraud), a designer who also worked on sci-fi films including Tron, Alien, and The Fifth Element); Enki Bilal, who has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Louvre and at Arts and Métiers; Florence Cestac, the first woman to win France’s top comics prize; and Jacques de Loustal, whose work has graced the cover of the New Yorker.

The show is organized by comic art collector Philippe Labaune, the founder of Art9, an organization whose mission is introduce the original European comic art to Americans. After a career in finance, Labaune turned his attention to building his comic art collection and established Art9 in the process. His is a member of the Society of Illustrators, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Morgan Library. This exhibition is presented in coordination with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the Consulate of the Kingdom of Belgium, the Cultural Services for Wallonie-Bruxelles International, and the French-American Foundation.

Line and Frame will be on view February 27 through March 14, 2020 at Danese-Corey on 511 West 22nd Street in New York.