Though Chronicle Books has been publishing award-winning and distinctive titles since 1967, the San Francisco-based independent publishing house is currently celebrating 25 years of its popular gift-publishing program by launching new products, though not necessarily books, with the book-lover in mind.

"For decades, Chronicle Books has been challenging and changing publishing expectations," said Chronicle Books publisher Christine Carswell in a company press release. "We've expanded the definition of what it means to be a publisher by bringing the enduring magic of books into new and surprising formats. And we've expanded the landscape of where publishers sell by going beyond bookstores to so many other places where readers and gift-givers shop." Online, yes, but also airports, grocery stores, and even gas stations are points-of-sale for last-minute shoppers and folks who simply want to check off everything on their list in a single store.

Bestsellers have included ArtBox Frida Kahlo, the Gold Standard Noteblock, and the 52 Deck series, while Chronicle's editors have relished at being free to explore "unique, powerful ways to present visual artists' books."

This year, the company is expanding its profile to include a new line of toys, games, and accessories. Among the bookish gifts in Chronicle's catalog include the Magic Library ($12.95), a Jacob's Ladder that resembles a stack of books, and ceramic "Bibliophile" vases created by Jane Mount ($19.95, pictured above). The brightly colored book-shaped vessels covered with literary quotes on the back are charming catch-alls for flowers, writing utensils, or, if it's my house, candy. Any of these clever, reasonably priced offerings will warm your favorite bibliophile's heart any time of year. 

Would Honest Abe approve? At Julien's Auctions in Las Vegas on June 23, a selection of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia was sold to benefit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, which has been in a tight spot since its 2007 purchase of the Barry and Louise Taper Collection of presidential relics. According to Smithsonian, to avoid selling the Lincoln artifacts, the foundation that runs the library approved the sale of some Monroe prints and objects also acquired in that 2007 purchase, including a terra cotta bust of poet Carl Sandburg once owned by Monroe (estimated at $20,000-30,000, but didn't sell) and one of her little black dresses (estimated at $40,000-60,000, and sold for $50,000). 

During the same sale, Julien's offered three Monroe-owned books, including E.M. Halliday's The Ignorant Armies (1960) and A View of the Nation, An Anthology, 1955-1959 (1960), each of which realized $576. But a third book, Monroe's prayer book for Jewish worship (pictured above), with the cover stamped "Marilyn Monroe Miller," made $16,000.  

That last lot reminded me of a book offered at Doyle in 2017: her "somewhat worn" personal copy of The Form of Daily Prayers, According to the custom of the German and Polish Jews (1922). That one, however, estimated at $4,000-6,000, failed to sell. 

Fore-edge collectors out there, take note: Japanese publisher PIE International recently released an art book celebrating the Fin-de-Siècle movement complete with a double fore-edge. While the fore-edge is printed, rather than painted, it may perhaps be the first widely distributed title with a double fore-edge of any kind. Entitled The Art of Decadence: European Fantasy Art of the Fin-de-Siècle, the book includes 370 art works from the 19th century through to Surrealism, all in a compelling book design by Reiko Harajo.

Each chapter of The Art of Decadence groups together stylistically similar movements: the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in England, Symbolism in France, Germany, and Belgium; Wiener Secession in Austria; Art Nouveau and Art Deco, etc. The theme of the femme fatale is also explored in the book, tracing related artworks through representations of Sirens, mermaids, witches, and so on.

Of course some collectors may be interested in The Art of Decadence exclusively because of the beauty of its double fore-edge, which is indeed quite striking, displaying a floral theme when the pages are fanned in one direction and a skeleton theme when fanned the other way.

Check out this video to see the double fore-edge, as well as an overview of the book itself:


A new exhibition at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper, features the exquisite life-size trompe l'?il paper fashions of Belgian designer Isabelle de Borchgrave. The exhibition actually encompasses four distinct collections of hers: Papiers à la Mode (Paper in Fashion) looks at three hundred years of fashion history from Elizabeth I to Coco Chanel; The World of Mariano Fortuny focuses on twentieth-century Venice; Splendor of the Medici accents ceremonial dress in the streets of Florence; and Les Ballets Russes pays tribute to Sergei Diaghilev and his ballet company. Photo: Andreas von Einsiedel; Isabelle de Borchgrave, Lorenzo il Magnifico, 2007, based on the painting Journey of the Magi by Benozzo Gozzoli in the Medici Chapel in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence. 

After quite a flurry of auctions last week, a quieter period this time round.

On Wednesday, June 27, Dorotheum in Vienna holds a sale of Books and Decorative Prints, in 497 lots. One major lot to keep an eye on in this one: a 1592 Plantin edition of Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, with a starting price of ??50,000.

Also on Wednesday, Libros Antiguos y Contemporáneos de la Colección de un Bibliófilo at Morton Subastas, in 260 lots. Rating the top estimate, $130,000-150,000, is Don Antonio Del Rio's Description of the Ruins of an Ancient City Discovered Near Palenque (1822). Athanasis Kircher's Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae (Rome, 1646) is estimated at $125,000-140,000. García de Orta's Aromatum, et Simplicium Aliquot Medicamentorum apud Indos Nascentium Historia (Antwerp, 1574) could fetch $60,000-80,000, while a Limited Editions Club copy of Octavio Paz's Sight and Touch is estimated at $50,000-60,000.

PBA Galleries sells Art & Illustration, with Asian & Asian-American Material on Thursday, June 28, in 364 lots. Sharing the highest estimate at $15,000-25,000 are Osvald Sirén's four-volume treatise Chinese Sculpture from the Fifth to the Fourteenth Century (1925) and a sixteen-volume set of Toyo Bijutsu Taikwan ("The Collection of the Eastern Arts"), published in Tokyo in 1919 (pictured). Lots 263-321 comprise the Richard Harris Smith Collection of Asian-American Literature and Illustration, while lots 322-364 are being sold without reserve.

Just in time for Independence Day, Yonkers, New York-based auction house Cohasco is offering a piece of history dating from the early days of the founding of the United States. "According to the Library of Congress, about seventeen documents exist with dates of July 4, 1776, most relating to or signed by George Washington," said Cohasco owner Bob Snyder. "We have what we believe is one of the earliest known documents of the modern United States [dated July 4, 1776] that names a specific African-American." Perhaps of equal interest is that the item offers a glimpse of race relations in the United States over two hundred years ago.                                                                                                                

In something of an ironic coincidence that this arrest warrant bears the same official date Americans celebrate independence, a man named Cuffee Dole is accused of stealing "one Eight Dollar Bill of the Continental Emission" on March 31, 1776, from a soldier near George Washington's Cambridge headquarters. Ultimately, the paper trail runs cold as to what happened next in the case of Cuffee Dole, but historians believe the charges were dropped.

Who then, was Cuffee Dole? Here is where the story gets interesting. Born free in Boston in 1739, Dole was sold into slavery as a three-year-old by his nurse for $40 to Captain Dole of Gerogetown. Dole lived with the captain and his family until his early twenties. Then, according to local lore, Dole's duplicitous nurse felt remorse and summoned Dole to her deathbed where she confessed to selling him into slavery as a child. Dole bought his freedom in 1772 and he lived thereafter as a free man, working on farms and performing other work in and around Boston. Dole even enlisted for two tours of duty with the Continental Army. After the war, Dole purchased twelve acres of land in Georgetown, MA, for $650, where he lived until his death in 1816. In his will, Dole requested that he be given a decent burial, but the local deacons were divided on whether he should be buried in the church graveyard next to white congregants. The deacons agreed that Dole's remains could be interred at the church where he had prayed daily for years, but on the condition that his stone be set in the back of the graveyard. Today the stone bears an epitaph that reads, in part, "White man turn not away in disgust. Thou art my brother, 
like me akin to earth and worms."

The warrant, signed by Justice of the Peace Aaron Wood, is in good condition with some staining and edge chipping. Price estimates are available from Cohasco upon request.

Now through July 24, this and over 400 other items are up for auction. Cohasco doesn't accept online budding, so interested parties must either call in their bids 1-914-476-8500 or email

While a crowd formed a line waiting for entrance into the Bodleian Library's excellent new Tolkien exhibition, the gallery directly across the entryway was quietly waiting for its treasures of women's history, suffrage, and achievement to be revealed to the curious. 

The exhibition, Sappho to Suffrage: Women who dared, marks 100 years since passage of the Representation of the People Act, and covers 2,000 years of history, beginning with second-century fragments of Sappho's poetry on papyrus and highlighting 80 books and objects showcasing stories of women who stand out for their daring work, adventuring spirit, creative gifts, and impact on history.

There are exceptional works on display, from a ninth-century poetry manuscript, "The 36 Immortals of Poetry," turned to an illustration of Lady Ise, one of the five women poets included; to the handwritten leaves of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (in which she notes where to begin chapter two in the margin); and the only known surviving copy of Suffragetto, a formidable-looking board game that pits suffragettes against the police to gain entry into the House of Commons--it was produced by the militant British Women's Social and Political Union to raise money for the suffragette campaign. 

In addition to Jane Austen's notebooks, the exhibition has other famous literary luminaries' work. There are also manuscripts and notes by groundbreaking scientists, including the French royal midwife Louise Bourgeois, and politcial campaigners including Mary Wollstonecraft. A beautifully embroidered book by a young Elizabeth I that she made for her stepmother is displayed next to the work of famous women bookbinders. 

The attention to Tolkien at the Bodleian is much deserved, but the stunning brilliance of women's contributions on display right across the hall is worth equal, if not more, consideration, for how many women we constantly forget and have to rediscover are on display right next to the ones we never forget, reminding visitors of the depth and excellence of women's contributions to history and how often they are overlooked.   

The exhibition was curated by Professor Senia Paseta, co-director of Women in the Humanities, and History Tutor at St. Hugh's College, University of Oxford. It remains on view through February 3, 2019.

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Allie Alvis of Smithsonian Libraries in Washington DC:

What is your role at your institution?

I am the Library Technician of the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History Rare Books, part of Smithsonian Libraries and located in the National Museum of Natural History. Although my job title sounds relatively straight-forward, what I particularly love about my role is that no two days are alike: I've done everything from transcribing a 15th century manuscript passage for a rocket scientist, to finding the provenance of a specimen associated with Teddy Roosevelt for an ornithologist! My more run-of-the-mill duties include staffing the reading room, fetching materials, and fielding research questions, but also extend to packing and shipping rare books and maintaining our workflow as a book moves from conservation to cataloguing to digitization.

How did you get started in rare books?

I have always had a deep love of both books and "old stuff," so it feels like my start in rare books was somewhat inevitable. But my bachelor's degree in Linguistics at the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk!) really made the pieces start fitting together for me. I was particularly interested in the historical development of the English language, which meant that I was looking at a lot of scans of manuscripts in Old and Middle English. Growing up, I was a bit of a Renaissance art snob, and tended to ignore medieval art somewhat, but looking at it through a bibliographic lens was like flipping on a light switch! Desperate to do more work with manuscripts and early printed books in person, I came across the Material Culture and the History of the Book Masters of Science (MSc) program at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, which leads me to the next question...

Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?

I have two rare book related advanced degrees, which go hand in hand: the Material Culture and the History of the Book MSc is what made me a book historian and medievalist, but my Information Management and Digital Preservation MSc from the University of Glasgow is what made me a rare book librarian. Having access to the outstanding special collections of both universities allowed my love of manuscripts to bloom, as well as my understanding of the context in which the collections exist today.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you've handled?

I have changed my answer to this question three times - from the first manuscript I got to handle by myself in the reading room of the University of Edinburgh, to the first time I held in my hands a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio at the University of Glasgow, and to the privilege of spending one-on-one time with the incomparable Hunterian Psalter - but the manuscript I keep going back to is Edinburgh MS 39, a c. 1430 English book of hours, use of Sarum. The intricate and distinctively English border decorations make every page of this manuscript candy for the eyes! It also features a 1958 rebinding by the English bindery of Douglas Cockerell and Son, the work of which is one of my chief research interests. The sympathetic rebinding in exposed oak boards is wonderfully charming and compliments the aesthetic of the manuscript beautifully. To me, it is the Platonic ideal of an illuminated manuscript.

What do you personally collect?

I collect pre-1900 miniature books, as well as normal-sized books that show interesting aspects of the history of the book, especially bindings. I also collect postcards of books and libraries! I'm beginning to sense I'm a bit of a one-trick pony...

What do you like to do outside of work?

As you might have guessed from reading some of my above answers, my research interests reach far and wide beyond the boundaries of natural history, so I like to do a lot of independent research outside of work! Right now I'm working on an article about Douglas Cockerell and Son, and how their work impacted the history of book conservation. I also maintain a very active personal-professional social media presence on Twitter and Instagram, both under the username @book_historia. In my spare time, I do a quite frankly unreasonable number of jigsaw puzzles.

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

Is it cheating to say "everything?" But really, from the most mundane circulation tasks to the fanciest donor relations events, I love caring for and sharing our collection. Working with objects that have outlived their creators many times over really brings home the temporary nature of our roles as caretakers of heritage, and the importance of introducing the next generation to their significance. One of my favorite things in the world is seeing peoples' faces light up as they enter our reading room for a tour for the first time, or when I open a book to a beautiful plate for them.

The same goes for witnessing the unbridled joy of a researcher that finds what they need! An aspect of natural history rare book librarianship in particular that excites me to no end is the fact that Smithsonian curators are using our old books to do new science. The rule of priority, as described in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, states that the oldest available (i.e., published) name of an animal taxon is the correct formal scientific name; simply put, the oldest published valid scientific name of an animal is the one that has priority when describing the animal. This means that our collection gets a nice workout when scientists are looking to name a new species, and we get to see a lot of happy faces!

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

One of my passions as a book historian and rare book librarian has been, and continues to be, access. The special collections field has come so far recently in trying to make itself more visible to researchers beyond those that occupy the ivory towers, but I think it has a long way to go. The book world is at a very interesting crossroads at the moment between digital and physical, although I think the dust is beginning to settle somewhat; I hope that special collections continue to take advantage of using digital tools to provide access to physical books and increase general awareness of special collections libraries as a resource. Social media is one of these tools that I am particularly vocal about, and I'm lucky enough to be a member of the Smithsonian Libraries' social media working group, which maintains a fabulous presence across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr, just to name a few platforms. Making the effort to meet potential researchers where they are counts for a lot, particularly if the researchers are a bit nervous about using collections for the first time.

But taking it a step further, I hope that the underlying biases against what were once seen as "non-traditional" users of special collections continue to dissipate. Increased access means bringing in new audiences who have never had the opportunity to make use of our collections, and may therefore use them for research or inspiration in fields beyond what some of us are used to. Nothing pleases me more than the collection being used in a productive manner, even if that manner is unfamiliar. In order for special collections to survive and thrive in the future, we need to embrace these new audiences and treat them with the same respect as we have always treated our researchers. I am excited to see where these emerging avenues will take us!

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

The Cullman Library holds rare books relating to the divisions of the Natural History Museum, which means our beautiful plate books of bugs, birds and botany get a lot of play. But we also hold a number of works relating to the Department of Anthropology, including a wealth of 19th and early 20th century material in Native American languages. Although their content sometimes reflects a disturbing colonialist attitude towards indigenous peoples, the books are an incredible linguistic resource for the language revitalization of groups that have traditionally been oppressed, as well as for linguists and anthropologists interested in the development of language and the cultures that surround it.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

We have two new fabulous exhibitions opening in the fall! The first, coming this October, is titled Game Change: Elephants from Prey to Preservation, and traces the shift in public attitudes about elephants from the big game hunting of the 19th century to the critical conservation concerns of today. The core of the exhibition is items from the book, manuscript, and photograph collection of Russell E. Train, the founder of the World Wildlife Fund and second administrator of the EPA, which is now housed in the Cullman Library.

The second Smithsonian Libraries exhibition, opening in November, is the culmination of our 50th Anniversary year of celebrations, and is called Magnificent Obsessions. Since the Smithsonian's founding in 1846, the Libraries have benefitted from passionate book collectors who developed specialized libraries on their topics of study, from design to wildlife to aerospace engineering. The gifts and bequests of these donors have helped develop the Smithsonian Libraries into a world-class resource, and this exhibition is focused on telling the collectors' stories through the volumes they acquired. With such a variety of books to choose from, this is going to be an incredible show!

Initially released to theaters last year, Pressing On: The Letterpress Film becomes available on DVD & VOD today. Pressing On is a feature-length documentary that begins with a simple question: "Why hasn't letterpress died?" 

Pressing On is artfully composed and includes some great interviews with 'old-timers' and the new generation of printers that is benefiting from their knowledge and putting it to work. It is reminiscent of the 2009 film Typeface, which focused its attention on the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum (whose director, Jim Moran, is also interviewed in Pressing On). Pressing On is broader in scope -- spotlighting, for example, the Platen Press Museum in Zion, Illinois, and Nashville's Hatch Show Print -- yet shares the sensibilities and sympathies of Typeface, and, well, letterpress lovers everywhere. 

Pressing On: The Letterpress Film - Trailer #2 - Exclusive VOD from LetterpressFilm on Vimeo.

very busy auction week coming up.

First, a quick survey of the five Aristophil sales this week: on Monday, June 18, Aguttes sells Beaux-arts, uvres et correspondances, in 324 lots. Highlights are expected to include an illustrated Van Gogh letter (250,000-300,000) and a second Van Gogh letter at the same estimated price, and Henri Matisse's 1947 Jazz (100,000-150,000). Tuesday sees two sales of nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature, at Drouot (96 lots) and Aguttes (116 lots). In the first, a collection of Paul ?luard's letters to his first wife could sell for 300,000-400,000, and the manuscript for Louis-Ferdinand Céline's Maudits Soupirs pour une autre Fois (pictured below) is estimated at 250,000-300,000. At Aguttes, the top-estimated lot is a manuscript of Victor Segalen's Stèles (100,000-120,000).

Two music sales on Wednesday, June 20: Musique, de Jean-Sébastien Bach à Boulez at Ader (151 lots) and Musique, de Lully à Stravinsky at Aguttes (176 lots). At Ader, anticipated highlights include a manuscript fragment of a Bach cantata and a complete Beethoven signed manuscript (both estimated at ??150,000-200,000). In the final sale of the week, a Mozart youth serenade manuscript could sell for ??120,000-150,000. 

Also on Tuesday, Lyon & Turnbull sells Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps & Photographs, in 432 lots. Richard Bowdler Sharpe's monograph on birds of paradise rates the top estimate, at £15,000-18,000. Quite a few other interesting lots of ornithology and natural history more broadly. 

On Wednesday at Bonhams London, Fine Books, Manuscripts, Atlases & Historical Photographs, in 296 lots. Henry Popple's twenty-sheet engraved map of North America could fetch £30,000-50,000, a notebook containing drafts of several Edward Thomas poems is estimated at £30,000-40,000, and a particularly fine copy of the first impression of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone rates a £25,000-35,000 estimate.

Dominic Winter Auctioneers sells Printed Books, Maps & Documents on Wednesday, in 535 lots. Items to watch include Bloch's Ichthyologie (the first six parts bound in three volumes), estimated at £15,000-20,000, and an album containing 216 Hogarth etchings and engravings (£5,000-7,000).

A third sale on Wednesday is University Archives' auction of Autographed Documents, Manuscripts, Books & Relics, in 266 lots. As usual with these sales, a fascinating array of notable things, but a large archive from Disraeli's secretary Algernon Turnor is estimated at $40,000-50,000, and a ledger containing records of mail sent and received from Fort Bridger in 1860-1861 could sell for $30,000-40,000. 

On Thursday, Swann Galleries sells Revolutionary & Presidential Americana from the Collection of William Wheeler III, in 229 lots. This catalog is definitely worth a browse for anyone with an interest in the field. Potential top lots include a May 3, 1776 pay order to express rider Jonathan Park and a Thomas Jefferson letter as Secretary of State to the governor of Maryland relating to the Genét affair (both estimated at $20,000-30,000), and a February 26, 1780 letter from George Washington to Nathanael Greene ($15,000-25,000).

Finally, also on Thursday, Dominic Winter Auctioneers holds a Modern Literature & First Editions sale, in 366 lots. This sale includes a number of children's, fine press, and illustrated books, as well as toys, games, and film posters. A first issue of Casino Royale is estimated at £10,000-15,000, and a near-complete run of Matrix could fetch £2,000-3,000.