August 2018

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A quick consultation of the weather forecast reveals hot and humid weather for much of the United States...except for Montana, where the first winter weather advisories have already gone out in parts of the state and other areas are enjoying temperatures in the low seventies. Sounds tempting, doesn't it? Why not book a trip out to Big Sky Country for later in September, when the Montana Book Festival gets underway in the city of Missoula. From September 27-30, the festival includes author readings, writing workshops, panel discussions, and live performances. Bonus: the temperatures there during late September average in the mid-sixties.

  

Formerly known as the Montana Festival for the Book, the latest incarnation was born in 2015 after a local group of Montana booklovers took over the festival from the nonprofit Humanities Montana. The festival is currently run by Sam Burris and former bookseller Tess Fahlgren and has welcomed authors like Pulitzer Prize winner Jane Smiley, award-winning short story writer Meagan MacVie, and local authors like Sarah Aronson. This year's lineup will be announced shortly.

  

A favorite event returning this year is Pie and Whiskey, the Spokane, Washington-based tent revival dedicated to literary engagement. The adults-only program offers pie, whiskey, and writers reading stories on topics ranging from sex, drugs, politics, and everything in between.

  

The festival is funded by grassroots efforts and every bit helps. Organizers have even designed a $30 T-shirt with the cheeky slogan "Make America Read Again," with 100 percent of all profits going to towards programming.

  

More info on the festival here.

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In a fortnight it's back-to-school and therefore back-to-books with America's largest regional antiquarian book fair, the annual Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, now in its fifth year and happening over two days on September 8-9 in Greenpoint, Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Expo Center. 

  

Today also happens to be the birthday of Mary Shelley, and in honor of her genius and magnificent creation of her monster, the fair is celebrating Frankenstein with a preview of the Morgan Library's forthcoming exhibition: It's Alive! Frankenstein at 200. 

  

The fair features several Frankenstein editions, including a third edition from Peter Harrington in London. Their copy of Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus is handsomely bound in brown half morocco with Johannes Schiller's The Ghost Seer and Charles Brockden Brown's Edgar Huntly; or, The Sleep Walker. Published in 1831, its spines are lettered in gilt, with illustrated title pages by Theodor von Holst. This is the first illustrated edition of Frankenstein, the third overall and the final definitive text and, Harrington notes, the first to gain true popularity. Shelley incorporated most of the changes introduced by William Godwin in the second edition. It also includes her now famous introduction in which she describes her haunting nocturnal storytelling session with Shelley, Byron, and Polidori at the Villa Diodati. The frontispiece is the first book illustration showing Frankenstein and the Creature.

  

Next week we'll share more items at the fair. For today, happy birthday to Mary Shelley, who wrote a masterful work of genius as a teenager, a fact doubted by many literary critics and scholars over the years, who prefer to assign her husband with the credit.

  

Image courtesy of Book and Paper Fairs

 

Our Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Ellen Saito, proprietor of Excelsa Scripta Rare Books in Hastings on Hudson, New York.


IMG_0176.jpgHow did you get started in rare books?

 

As an intern in architecture, I thought I had found my true calling, which involved drafting, blueprints, models and handmade presentations.  By the time I finished graduate school, those forms of creativity had become obsolete due to the advent of computer aided design (CAD). Eager to adapt, I became a CAD operator, but found it to be relatively dry work. Having developed a hobby of rare book collecting, the idea to become a bookseller sprang to mind to allow me to continue along a creative vein. As I got deeper into the collecting and selling of books, I realized that my interests lay in the antiquarian books and rare books, those that not only offered the script, i.e. content, but also the beauty and exterior, i.e. form, that allowed me to come full circle back to my architectural, creative beginnings.

 

 

When did you open Excelsa Scripta and what do you specialize in?

 

I opened Excelsa Scripta on September 1, 2015 with rare books accessible online, at fairs and by appointment. I specialize in antiquarian social justice books to provide people with inspirational books of historical importance on topics such as human rights, social reform, anti-slavery, women's rights, indigenous cultures, LGBTQ rights, poverty, genocide, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, social and economic equality, diversity, the environment and marginalized achievements.


What do you love about the book trade?

 

I love the books and I love the business. It offers a creative and multifaceted outlet for learning, improvement and camaraderie that I find highly enjoyable.


Describe a typical day for you:

 

There is no typical day for me day-to-day, depending on the needs of my clients and where I am in the process of bookselling and the process of preparing for an upcoming fair or trade show. I am constantly theorizing and implementing improvements to my overall business plan. Some of those exercises entail business or administrative aspects and some specific to the books themselves such as, but not limited to, describing books, researching the historical significance of authors and the books, communicating with clients and packaging of books for distribution.


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

 

My equally favorite books are three autobiographies that I have sold multiple times. The first edition of My Bondage and My Freedom by Frederick Douglass was the first book that really moved me. The first edition of Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington was astonishing. The first American edition of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl absolutely broke my heart.


What do you personally collect?

 

At this point right now, I tend to sell to my clients these special books. I have a significant collection, which includes antiquarian books, beautiful books and petite sets.


What do you like to do outside of work?

 

Outside of work, I find great respite by spending time in nature. For a change, my eyes focus on far away vistas, while I walk, hike and explore new trails. Far away book shops, rare book seminars, and book fairs enable me to travel and to see new places. I am particularly fond of stunning views, even those in metropolitan cities. Located near New York City, I adore the Morgan Library and Museum, Frick Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art. I also enjoy reading paperback copies of my rare books.


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

 

The rare book trade appears to be moving in the right direction. Customers are increasingly well-informed. The collection of prints, maps and ephemera for inventory is intense right now. The demand for brand new books is dwindling, which appears to indicate that rare books will become even more rare and will likely increase in value more quickly than before. Book collectors are likely to increase in number.


Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

 

Yes, my next show will be at the Albany Book and Paper Fair on Sunday, September 23rd. My next catalog will highlight my recently acquired offerings on antiquarian social justice, such as the 1869 first edition of The Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mill, the 1881 first edition of A Century of Dishonour: A Sketch of the United States Government's Dealings with some of the North American Tribes by Helen Hunt Jackson and a 1600 collection of ancient Greek victory odes, including those for the Olympic games, by Pindar.


[Image provided by Ellen Saito]

The books-to-film genre amps up its bookishness with "The Bookshop," a new drama directed by Isabel Coixet and starring Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, and Patricia Clarkson. Based on Penelope Fitzgerald's slim but affecting 1978 novel, the film is a period piece set in a small, coastal English town in 1959. A young widow named Florence Green decides to open a bookshop there, much to the consternation (and later condemnation) of residents.

Florence Green .jpg"This quiet woman, in a quiet village, in very quiet post-war England, is a call to everyone to grow up and claim responsibility for making life better for us all. This is an allegory for the underdog before there was someone there to root for them or make them believe in themselves," the director commented in a release.

Brundish.jpgGreen comes to understand that this town may not be ready for a cultural awakening. One of her only allies, it seems, is Mr. Brundish, a reclusive bibliophile.

Of special note is the attention to detail in bookshop scenery. A New York Post article from last week reveals how the director "found tons of vintage rare books" to use in the film. For example, she needed 250 copies of the first edition of Lolita. Fascinating!

Having just read and enjoyed Fitzgerald's novel first the first time earlier this year, I'm on the lookout for showtimes near me (it is now playing in NYC & LA, and wider distribution begins on August 31). Until then, the trailer must suffice:



Images: (Top) Florence Green, played by Emily Mortimer; (Bottom) Mr. Brundish, played by Bill Nighy. Courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment.

Here's what's coming up this week on the auction front:

  

Forum Auctions holds an online sale on Tuesday, August 28, of the second part of A Bibliophile's Bibliographic Library, in 376 lots; the books are available for viewing in Rome. Much will be of interest here to the Italian-reading bibliographer, bookseller, or book historian, and the starting prices are mostly in the two-three-figure range, so bargains may be quite possible.

  

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On Thursday and Friday, August 30 and 31, Keys Fine Art Auctioneers holds a two-day sale of Books & Ephemera, in 1309 lots. Among the top-estimated lots are a 1532 edition of Durer's Institutiones Geometricae, with the final leaves supplied in manuscript fascimile (£1,800-2,200); a copy of the second issue of Darwin's Descent of Man (£1,500-2,000); Bowen's Atlas Anglicanus with the prospectus laid in (£1,500-2,000); and the first issue of The Beano Book (£1,200-1,500; pictured).

  

Image credit: Keys Fine Art Auctioneers

The Korean Cultural Center in New York is hosting an exhibition on typography now through September 10. In collaboration with New York-based nonprofit Stigma and Cognition, Found in Translation is a celebration of International Literacy Day (recognized this year on Saturday, September 8) while also exploring how literacy and meaning changes in translation.  

  

19 ???????? ?????? ???? ??? by Yang-Jang & Bazbon.jpg     
To examine various similarities and differences between Korean and Western cultures, the show looks at how language is used in both artistic and typographic endeavors. Show organizers paired nineteen Korean and nineteen Western artists to represent their take on a theme through typography, with the goal of highlighting common ground.

  
Each typographic artwork examines expressions regularly used in both cultures, highlighting that though the translation may not be literally identical, the meaning is generally the same. For example, Korean typeface studio Yang-Jang & Bazbon (????) and New York-based calligrapher Margaret Fu were paired up to explore the phrase, "It takes two to tango." (???????? ?????? ???? ???.) Yang-Jang & Bazbon's work shows a close-up of two men in black suits shaking hands against a red background, the whole creating a very Big Brother, almost menacing vibe. Written in slashing Korean characters, the expression back translates into English as "It takes two hands to make a clap," suggesting that cooperation helps get things done. Meanwhile, Fu's artwork also shows two hands, though intertwined in a dance-like embrace, with flowing, graceful script spelling out the phrase. The American's representation is a more literal take on the the expression.

19 It takes two to tango. by Margaret Fu.jpg

  
Additionally, a pair of artists was commissioned to create works inspired by "the progress for peace and harmony on the Korean peninsula."

  
Found in Translation is at the Gallery Korea at the Korean Cultural Center New York (460 Park Ave at 57th St., NYC). The exhibition is on view through September 10.

  

Image credits: (Top) Yang-Jang & Bazbon; (Bottom) Margaret Fu

There are books about rare book collecting, and then there are books that are simply bibliophilic in nature -- booklovers' delights. There are a couple coming out or forthcoming that are fun and full of frivolity and worth pointing out to readers of Fine Books.

bibliophile.jpgFirst is Jane Mount's Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany. Mount is a beloved illustrator of personal and dream bookshelves, a series which she calls "Ideal Bookshelves" -- she uses simple drawings and watercolors to paint assemblages of readers' favorite books together on mini-bookshelves, whether or not they own them. Over the years she's made a huge impact on the book-loving internet with coverage in just about every book and design blog out there, and there's good reason, her artwork is heartening and warm, positive and book-celebratory. Her new book, Bibliophile, is a wonderful look at her work, and Mount takes readers behind the scenes of favorite writers' spaces and shelves, bookstores, and their literary cats. It's an airy and charming and beautiful book.

Next is Susan Harlan and Becca Stadtlander's Decorating a Room of One's Own: Conversations on Interior Design with Miss Havisham, Jane Eyre, Victor Frankenstein, Elizabeth Bennet, Ishmael, and other Literary Notables. Harlan, a humorist and professor of English at Wake Forest, spoofs decorating culture and English literature in a series of imagined interviews of famous fictional homes and their residents and plays skillfully with literary history. Who wouldn't want to know Lady Macbeth's favorite room in the castle?

To round it all off, there's Anne Bogel's I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life. Bogel is a celebrated book fiend, writer, reader, and literary podcaster. This collection of her work is an argument for reading as a lifestyle choice. We couldn't agree more.

Illustration of Bibliophile by Jane Mount

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Kim Sherwood of Bath, England:

 

kimsherwoodbyc.pngWhere are you from / where do you live?

 

I was born in Camden, in London, in the house that I lived in until I was eighteen. Since then I've lived in Norwich, Devon, and Bath, where I am now.

 

What did you study at University? What do you do now for an occupation?

 

I studied English Literature with Creative Writing at undergraduate level at the University of East Anglia, and then went on to do the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia as well. I am a novelist and a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of the West of England. My first novel, Testament, came out just a few weeks ago (July 12th 2018) with riverrun/Quercus, so it's been an exciting summer. Testament is about the impact of the Holocaust on three generations of a family - it explores identity, memory, and what happens after survival.

 

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

 

It all began with dictionaries, which I started collecting when I was about eleven. I collect in two main areas now: dictionaries; and popular twentieth century fiction in hardback, and Penguin and Pan paperbacks.

 

My dictionary collection began with my love of language - I used to go to sleep reading dictionaries as a child, which probably says something worrying about me, but has given me a grandiloquent, indefatigable, lexiphanic vocabulary, or perhaps simply an abecedarian one, by osmosis. I am interested in how dictionaries illuminate histories and relationships, whether between words, ideas, or even objects. I don't limit the collection to language, so I also have dictionaries that offer taxonomies of clocks, antique furniture, inventions, colour.

 

Within early popular twentieth century fiction, I predominantly collect Georgette Heyer, P.G. Wodehouse, Ian Fleming, and Peter O'Donnell, with a growing number of Agatha Christie, Enid Blyton, and Baroness Orczy. I collect first edition hardbacks, and Penguin and Pan paperbacks, for their designs and significant publishing histories.

 

I have all of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels in Pan Paperback. I love the eye-grabbing designs, from borderline lurid pulp illustrations to cut-out bullet holes and films reels.

 

kimcoll1.pngI also have every Georgette Heyer romance in Pan Paperback. I particularly love the colourful cameo designs. I also have nearly all of Heyer in first edition hardback. I love the watercolour covers by Philip Gough, and later Arthur Barbosa. Both artists very often place the characters in landscaped gardens or Georgian streets, highlighting the precisely fixed lines of the period's aesthetic - and, through that I think, the rigid lines of the hierarchical society Heyer's characters usually buck against.

 

How many books are in your collection?

 

Oh goodness. (Goes away to count, loses count, tries again.) Well, I have thirty-one dictionaries, and about one hundred and twenty books in my broad popular twentieth century fiction pile. 

 

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

 

Good question. I don't remember the first dictionary I bought myself, but the first significant one I was given is the one-volume hardback Oxford English Dictionary, which was a present for my thirteenth birthday.

 

How about the most recent book?

 

The most recent addition was also a gift. My Georgette Heyer collection was made complete by my partner's grandfather, John. John was a lifelong Heyer fan, and left me his set in his will, so those books are really special to me.

 

And your favorite book in your collection?

 

That's hard! For my birthday, my Mum tracked down an edition of Dr Johnson's dictionary from 1834. It's my oldest dictionary, and my most treasured, because of my love for Johnson. It's a first edition of its run, published by James and John Kay in Philadephia. It's bound in calf leather with a gilt spine. The Kay brothers used the text Dr Johnson abstracted himself from his two volume 1755 folio edition. I am currently using it to help write my second novel, which is set in the eighteenth century.

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Best bargain you've found?

 

Many of my Georgette Heyers were incredible bargains, because the secondhand shops in which I found them didn't quite know what they had. Heyer can sell between £25.00 and £35.00 - I've found a lot of mine for £3. That has changed since Stephen Fry declared his love for Heyer on the radio and drove the price up, though! But I forgive him for bringing the delights of Georgette Heyer to more people.

 

How about The One that Got Away?

 

As yet, I don't have a one that got away, which probably means I'm not very good at denying myself what I want.

 

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

 

A two volume first edition Johnson dictionary from 1755. I'll need to become a bestseller several times over before I can afford that though.

 

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

 

My favourite bookshop is Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath. Mr B's has a brilliantly curated collection, and the booksellers seem to know everything. Recently we've been having a lot of fun because I've been offering signed copies of my novel Testament through the Mr B's website. We've sent off a stack of personalised copies since publication day - the farthest to Australia, the most heartening to a prison library. 

 

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

 

I have noticed a worrying trend in myself to buy too many cushions, and frame everything I possibly can. So I would most likely develop a furnishings obsession. I do collect Fortnum & Masons ceramics, though it's a slow collection, because I like to find them in charity shops, rather than buy something new and just eat its contents. That would be cheating.


[Image credits: Rosie Sherwood, Kim Sherwood]

Lovecraft's legions of fans may be interested to hear that his family's 1881 bible, which contains his birth record and his parents' certificate of marriage, is currently on offer at Heritage Auctions. The now tatty leatherbound bible was gifted to his mother, "Miss S. Susie Phillips. From her Mother. March 22nd, 1889." As is typical with family bibles of this era, decorative leaves offer places to record marriages, births, and deaths. In this one, someone, presumably his mother or father, penned: "Howard Phillips Lovecraft born Aug. 20th, 1890. Providence, R. I., 94 Angell Street." A later inscription, in a different hand, notes the deaths of both Sarah and H.P.

Bible 2 copy.jpgLovecraft's fame as a writer of short stories in the horror and fantasy genres was, sadly, posthumous. (He died in 1937.) Today, he is beloved by fans, including Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King, and collectors--in 2016, a typewritten manuscript of a story he is believed to have ghostwritten for Harry Houdini sold for $33,600.

Bible 1 copy.jpgThe bidding for the bible opened at $500, and will continue online until the live auction of rare books on September 13 in Dallas.

Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Chiswick Auctions holds their Summer Books sale on Tuesday, August 22, in 192 lots. Some interesting lots of bibliographical texts in this one (lots 20-38), as well as a first edition of Watership Down inscribed by Richard Adams to his friend Randall Thornton (£800-1,200) and a ready-made collection of forty-one Tauchnitz editions of Wodehouse novels (£300-400).

  

Also on Tuesday, University Archives sells Autographed Documents, Manuscripts, Books & Relics, in 298 lots. A July 1863 Abraham Lincoln letter to Freedmen's Inquiry Commissioner Robert Dale Owen is estimated at $50,000-60,000, while a fragment from the shirt Lincoln was wearing when he was assassinated could sell for $25,000-30,000. A life-size wax mold of Albert Einstein's head, signed by Einstein, is estimated at $15,000-20,000.

  

PBA Galleries sells Americana & the Mexican-American War - Travel & Exploration - Cartography on Wednesday, August 23, in 739 lots (with lots 563-739 being sold without reserve). The 1866-1868 diary of a mining engineer in Montana rates the top estimate, at $6,000-9,000. A very large world map printed on cloth, used to advertise revival meetings around the turn of the twentieth century, is estimated at $3,000-5,000. At the same estimate, and being sold separately, are two photographic order books from the San Francisco firm R. J. Waters & Co., offering photographic prints of sailing ships and of the city of San Francisco.

  

thurston.png Last but certainly not least, Potter & Potter holds their Summer Magic Auction on Friday, August 25, in 467 lots. Among the expected highlights are a three-sheet color lithographic poster from 1916 for Thurston the Great Magician ($15,000-25,000; pictured). A metal kettle designed to allow the magician to pour any of four drinks could sell for $10,000-15,000, and at the same estimate is Isaac de Caus' 1659 treatise New and Rare Inventions of Water-Works. Many books, tricks, scrapbooks, &c.

  

Image credit: Potter & Potter