November 2018

"If we didn't already have libraries, they would now have to be invented. They are the keys to American success in fully exploiting the information highways of the future," wrote James H. Billington in the winter 1994 issue of Media Strategies Journal. At the time, the thirteenth Librarian of Congress was reminding a nation enthralled with the nascence of the internet that libraries would be as important as ever in the electronic age, as preservation repositories, testing grounds for experiments in digitization, and strongholds where anyone could freely access humankind's various written efforts.


Billington wasn't just offering his opinion; he was engaged in what would become a battle to preserve the mission of the Library of Congress (LOC).


In 1995, a report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) suggested, in an effort to streamline operations at the LOC, that the library's $350 million annual operating budget be slashed to practically nothing and turn its focus to "increasing revenue" (whatever that means) rather than building and sustaining the country's knowledge hub. Luckily, Congress committee members charged with reviewing the document rejected the plan. As Billington noted in Patience & Fortitude (Basbanes, 2001), the attempt to undermine the LOC's mission was hardly noticed by the national media. "The Messiah could make a personal appearance in the main reading room, and the chances are fifty-fifty that it would get any attention from the press," he said. But the GAO's report, if acted upon, would have had serious consequences for the future of America's library, and Billington "went after it tooth and nail....because it was a cautionary issue of no small significance."


Indeed, what was at stake, as the career humanist realized, was whether the world's largest library--charged with, as he put it, "stockpiling information"--could continue to ensure that anyone could browse the LOC's unique treasures.

  

And yet, Billington did not shy away from the new digital medium. In fact, he embraced what this technology could offer. During his tenure from 1987 to 2015, Billington oversaw great change at the LOC, ushering in dozens of free digital initiatives like the online American culture resource for K-12 education now known as the National Digital Library; thomas.gov, a free portal to U.S. federal legislative information; National Jukebox, which provides free access to over 10,000 out-of-print music and spoken word recordings; and a digital talking books app. He also established programs like the National Book Festival and the Veterans History Project.


And though cost-cutting was often on the wish-list of many political agendas, over the years, Billington raised over half a billion dollars to supplement Congressional financial support no matter who was in office.


Billington faced the future of book culture with steely-eyed awareness and an understanding that far surpassed many contemporaries. He welcomed the Internet age as a liberation of physical books from the cumbersome task of storing facts and figures. "With the move to electronic formats, what I believe you will now see is that books containing data will be online, and the serious kind of traditional literature that has always been in book form will continue to appear in book form. The book, in my view, will be freed from a very heavy burden that it has to bear all these years," he explained in Patience & Fortitude. "It will be allowed to flourish anew."

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Samuel V. Lemley of Charlottesville, Virginia, winner of the 2018 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest:


Lemley 2.pngWhere are you from / where do you live?


I grew up in Northern California but currently live in Charlottesville, where I am a PhD candidate in English at the University of Virginia. 
 
What did you study as an undergraduate?

I studied English literature at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (where I worked as an awed and eager assistant in the Rare Book Collection); earned a masters degree in library science at the Palmer School in New York City; and now study, teach, and write about early modern English literature, seventeenth-century antiquarianism, bibliography, and Renaissance science, among other things. 

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

I've figured the collection as a bibliographic genealogy, or 'biblio-genealogy': it tells the story of my Sicilian ancestry and heritage in the form of books printed in Sicily during the years for which genealogical records of my ancestors survive. The chronological limits of my collection (1704 to 1893) reflect this: Gabriele Militello, my earliest documented ancestor, was born in Bivona in 1704; my great-grandfather, Pietro Marchese, an emigrant to the United States in the aftermath of World War I, was born in Pollina in 1893. These are the genetic bookends of my Sicilian family tree and the figurative bookends of the collection.

My collection is also cast as a supplement to a genealogical history compiled and written over several decades by my grandfather, Vincent J. Militello, and finished last year. His research and mind guide my acquisitive habit and inspire the collection's form. I am trying to acquire one item (book, manuscript, or pamphlet) for each of my documented Sicilian ancestors by direct lineal descent, printed or made in Sicily during the decade of their birth. 

How many books are in your collection?

The unusual criteria I use in selecting books and the relative scarcity of Sicilian imprints mean that it's slow growing. Somehow, though, I've managed to assemble about fifty items, various in genre and format (manuscripts, pamphlets, ephemera, and books) over the last few years. 

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

A vellum-bound and fittingly flyspecked treatise on the plague, Relazione istorica della peste (Palermo, 1743). I found it at the 'shadow fair' in New York City, I think in 2014. 
 
How about the most recent book?

I just bought a preternaturally unspoiled copy of an important nineteenth-century bibliography of Siciliana, Alessio Narbone's Bibliografia Sicola Sistematica (Palermo, 1850-55). The book is uncut in pale yellow paper wrappers, and some of its volumes are tied together with what appears to be nineteenth-century twine. Evidently it was never read. It's a useful book (it lists thousands of texts printed in Sicily or on Sicilian subjects, so I'd have cause to cite it), but I probably won't use it--a digital facsimile online suits and lets me keep my copy safe and unsullied on its shelf.  

And your favorite book in your collection?

It changes. Right now, I'm enamored of one book that describes the path of a large comet that appeared above Europe in July, 1819. It's by Sicilian astronomer Niccoló Cacciatore, who is famed for encrypting his name in the stars: in an 1814 star catalog, Cacciatore assigned the vaguely Slavic-sounding names Sualocin and Rotanev to Alpha and Beta Delphini, two binary stars in the Delphinus constellation. It took astronomers nearly forty-five years to decipher Cacciatore's onomastic conceit: Cacciatore's name, Latinized to 'Nicolaus Venator' and reversed, yields Sualocin Rotanev. I like the book for its author's tongue-in-cheek professionalism, but also because it illustrates the importance of Palermo's Royal Observatory in nineteenth-century astronomy--it was there, for example, that Giuseppe Piazzi discovered the dwarf planet Ceres in 1802. 
 
Best bargain you've found?

For its age and rarity, my first Sicilian book (Relazione istorica della peste, Palermo, 1743) was enticingly priced--somewhere well below $100, if I remember correctly. That book convinced me that collecting Sicilian imprints could be done affordably. But my most exciting purchase came during a recent trip to Palermo's mercato delle pulci--a row of garage-like shopfronts just north of the city's Norman palace. Amidst an assortment of knickknacks and kitsch, I found an unbound sheaf of four folded sheets bearing a manuscript homily in Italian. After glancing through it and discovering that it was a Christmas sermon written by a Sicilian priest sometime in the nineteenth century (I think circa 1830), I offered the shop's owner a wadded ten Euro note and left to decipher the manuscript's contents over dinner in a nearby trattoria. Hauntingly, the text of the sermon is apparently unrecorded elsewhere--it carries a scribal record of a voice that echoes still across two centuries or more. Beyond its intrinsic value and interest, though, the manuscript carries personal associations that will remain forever bound in with my collection: that same morning I had met with cousins at their home in the northern Sicilian countryside and visited the room in which my great-grandfather had died. Near the end of his life, he returned to his hometown, leaving family and America behind to die on his mother's land, south of Cefalù. All that for 10 Euros. 

How about The One that Got Away?

I've somehow avoided that heartbreak.

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

Any illustrated book from the press of eighteenth-century Palermitan printer Angelo Felicella, or a copy of Giuseppe Piazzi's pioneering star catalog, the Praecipuarum stellarum inerrantium (Palermo, 1803). 

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

The Bookery in Placerville, California was the bookstore of my childhood and so tenants my mind as a kind of Platonic ideal for 'Bookstore.' Thinking of it now conjures its shelves, scents, and staff, including a graying dog I'd sit beside while browsing for Redwall books, circa 1999. I revisit it whenever I'm back home in a sort of bookish pilgrimage. More recently, my favorite sellers work in the rarefied world of antiquarian books. W.P. Watson's catalogs teem with remarkable things and bristle with Rick Watson's incomparable erudition and expertise. I've been privileged to work for Watson at ABAA and ILAB fairs in New York, California, and London--I feel I've learned from the best. I also admire A.N. Devers, owner of The Second Shelf in London, from afar. She's doing brilliant things to open up the often tweedy and very male world of antiquarian books to women sellers and collectors and seems to be the best kind of badass. I hope to meet her someday.

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

Plants. 

[Image credit: Dan Addison]

Another very crowded auction week:

  

On Monday, November 26, Ketterer Kunst held a sale of Rare Books in Hamburg. A German copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle in a mid-sixteenth-century binding sold for ??147,600, and a Latin Book of Hours (use of Troyes) from around 1480 in a nineteenth-century find binding by Simier fetched ??70,110.

  

Bonhams London sold Fine Books, Manuscripts, Atlases and Historical Photographs on Tuesday, November 27, in 216 lots. A Robert Schumann manuscript of his Fantasiestücke for piano led the sale, selling for £224,750. A copy of John Gould's Monograph of the Trochilidae (1849-1861) made £47,500. A seventeenth-century Ethiopian manuscript in Ge'ez sold for £22,500.

  

warhol.pngWednesday, November 28, Binoche et Giquello sells Livres Anciens et Manuscrits, in 53 lots. A very rare copy of ?tienne Dolet's Le Second Enfer d'Estienne Dolet, natif d'Orléans (1544) is expected to lead the way, with estimates of ??80,000-100,000. Chiswick Auctions holds an auction of Rare Books & Works on Paper in 338 lots: among those with high estimates are a presentation copy of Andy Warhol and Suzie Frankfort's Wild Raspberries (1959), at £10,000-12,000 (pictured at left); and an incomplete copy of the Tyndale Bible, at £8,000-10,000.

  

Also on Wednesday, Rossini sells books, manuscripts, and autographs from the library of philosophy professor John Lefranc (1927-2015), in 211 lots. And at Christie's London, Russian Literary First Editions & Manuscripts: Highlights from the R. Eden Martin Collection, in 228 lots. Rating the top estimate is Osip Emil'evich Mandel'shtam's Kamen (1913), inscribed by the author to poet Viacheslav Ivanov (£60,000-90,000); just one other inscribed copy is known. A rare copy of Gogol's Vechera na khutore bliz dikan'ki (1831-1832) is estimated at £50,000-70,000. I'll have more on this sale in the next print issue.

  

On Thursday, November 29, Forum Auctions sells Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper, in 347 lots. A set of Buffon's Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux (1770-1786) is estimated at £70,000-90,000, and a first edition of the King James Bible ("He" version) could fetch £30,000-40,000.

  

Also on Thursday, PBA Galleries sells The Craig Noble Collection of L. Frank Baum & the Wizard of Oz, in 257 lots. An inscribed copy of Baum's Sam Steele's Adventures in Panama (1907) is assigned the top estimate at $8,000-12,000.

  

Friday, November 30 sees a History of Science and Technology sale at Sotheby's New York, in 109 lots. Richard Feynman's Nobel Prize medal is expected to sell for as much as $800,000-1,200,000; his copy of Dirac's Principles of Quantum Mechanics is another highlight. Several lots of Feynman manuscripts are also part of the sale. A bible signed and inscribed by Albert Einstein is estimated at £200,000-300,000, and a working-condition three-rotor Enigma machine could sell for £180,000-200,000.

  

Image credit: Chiswick Auctions

From time to time, we corral the latest books about books of interest to our readers. With the holidays on the horizon, we look at seven new books in this genre that are also gift books, or coffee table books, i.e., books you might wish to give or receive.  

Writer's Map.jpgThe Writer's Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands (University of Chicago Press, $45) is a visual feast: 167 full-color illustrations of maps that have appeared in books or inspired books or were used while writing. From Jack Kerouac's quick pencil sketch of his cross-country route chronicled in On the Road to E.H. Shepard's hand-drawn map of Hundred Acre Wood (recently sold at auction) to the Hereford Mappa Mundi that inspired novelist David Mitchell, each short chapter, written by an author or an artist, offers an enchanting look at the world around us, and the worlds we imagine.

Living Maps.jpgRelatedly, Living Maps: An Atlas of Cities Personified (Chronicle Books, $35) is another bright, oversized book made for cartographic buffs. Artist Adam Dant playfully re-imagines twenty-eight cities of the world, e.g. London, Rome, Mumbai, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro, among others, in monochromatic (watercolor?) drawings made to look like a traveler's collection of vacation snapshots. Each chapter also contains a color spread of cartographic images within "crumbly old books." Very meta.  

Venice.pngIn Venice Illuminated: Power and Painting in Renaissance Manuscripts (Yale University Press, $70), Helena Katalin Szépe, an associate professor of art history in the School of Art and Art History at the University of South Florida, provides an extensive analysis of the small paintings within manuscripts, with particular attention to the history and culture of art patronage in Venice. For collectors in this area, this heavily illustrated book is indispensable.  

Screen Shot 2018-11-27 at 10.02.17 AM.pngPublished in conjunction with an exhibition now on view at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, Stones to Stains: The Drawings of Victor Hugo (Hammer Museum/Prestel Publishing, $50) is a fabulous collection of Hugo's brooding works on paper. Best known as the author of the novel, Les Misérables (1862), it seems we hardly know Hugo as a visual artist; this book rectifies that. In addition to the inky, blotty drawings, there are also some of his cut-out silhouettes and one or two illustrated sketchbooks. A must for Hugo fans.

Frank Stella.jpgFrank Stella Unbound: Literature and Prinkmaking (Yale University Press, $35), published to coincide with a recent Princeton University Art Museum exhibition, is a vibrant volume dedicated to Stella's literary-inspired prints made between 1984 and 1999, such as his series of 266 works in conversation with Moby-Dick and prints named after Italo Calvino's Italian Folktales. The exhibition is currently on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville.

Chicago.jpgCurrent or former Chicagoan? Chicago by the Book: 101 Publications That Shaped the City and Its Image (University of Chicago Press, $35), edited by the city's bibliophilic Caxton Club, is a perfect gift. As one would expect from the Caxtonians, the production value is high -- the book is brimming with images of first editions and related illustrations, ephemera, and photography -- and the content is a delightful miscellany, from the Montgomery Ward catalogues to the Four American Books campaign to Gwendolyn Brooks and Saul Bellow.

Georgia.jpgFinally, Georgia: A Cultural Journey Through the Wardrop Collection (Bodleian Library/University of Chicago Press, $70) by Nikoloz Aleksidze narrates a history of Georgian literature and culture through the items of the extraordinary Wardrop collection: manuscripts, royal charters, correspondence, and notebooks (at the Bodleian Library). Lavishly illustrated, with a place-marker ribbon, too.

Images courtesy of individual publishers

One of the nicest fairs in the cycle of our year, is the Chelsea book fair. This is managed by Graham York, on behalf of the ABA, and is held in Chelsea Old Town Hall. This is a beautiful venue, with tapestries and paintings from English history adorning the walls, and oozing with that easy charm that this part of London does so well. We were all slightly less "easy" this year, as the town hall has just been fully refurbished. It looks beautiful, but we were slightly nervous about damaging the paintwork!

    

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We arrived on the 1st November, and soon had our stand set up and prepared. This year, we focussed on showing more art and posters, which made for a rather complex arrangement of frames to display them. Nevertheless, Marcia and I managed it, and were able to look round and see what everyone else had provided. 

   

Chelsea is run by the ABA, so naturally, we expect a high standard of material from all of the exhibitors. This time, I thought I would focus a little on the "non-book" items that crop up at an ABA fair! It goes without saying, that alongside these items were many many, many wonderful books, maps, prints and other paper collectables. 

   

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First stop was to Graham York. With his wife Jan, he runs a lovely bookshop in Honiton in Devon. Part of their offering this year was a lovely microscope (in its case), a selection of miniature books and a very nice Italian atlas. 

   

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Next door to them, was the irrepressible Christopher Saunders, the ABA's Cricket specialist. Naturally, he offered many cricket books this year, but he also displayed this bat, signed by 27 of the players involved with a 1926 tour of the Australian Cricket team to England. A snip at only £450 for a whole wedge of cricketing history. 

    

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I think the strangest item for sale at the fair, was a whole tray of (hopefully unused) glass eyes. Presumably intended for the doctor to choose the perfect match to a patient's other eye, this rather macabre, but nevertheless fascinating collection was certainly eye-catching (sorry). 

     

As ever, it was great to catch up with friends, colleagues and relatives whilst in London. A great end to the year's season in the UK, although we still have the Mechelen fair to go in Belgium; hope to see some of you there. 

     

--Marc Harrison and his wife Marcia run Harrison-Hiett Rare Books in The Netherlands. Images courtesy of the author. 

Pippi.PNG

  
Who among us hasn't heard of Pippi Longstocking, a nine-year-old Swedish orphan of prodigious strength and fortitude whose adventures result in all sorts of well-intentioned mischief and fun? Unfortunately for English readers, translations of Astrid Lindgren's (1907-2002) Pippi Longstocking series read a bit clumsily, but the protagonist still charms with steadfast outspokenness against bullies of all sorts. No matter what, Pippi and other characters from Lindgren's vast cast of characters are always resolutely on the side of children.

Now comes a film biopic that traces Lindgren's formative years as a clever girl with a gift for storytelling but whose childhood is cut abruptly short by an unplanned pregnancy. Becoming Astrid, directed and co-written by Pernille Fischer Christensen (A Soap; Someone You Love) offers a captivating examination of the events of Lindgren's childhood that fueled Lindgren's eventual rise to fame. Starring a masterful Alba August as the young Astrid, the 123-minute film is a nuanced look at a girl who must grow up all too soon and face life as an unwed mother largely on her own. Though Lindgren's situation is as old as human history, how she deals with it is mesmerizing.

And yet, as good as Becoming Astrid is, it leaves much on the table. After refusing to marry the older newspaper editor who impregnated her, Lindgren heads to Stockholm where she learns stenography while waiting to give birth. The baby boy is sent to a foster mother in Denmark while she finds her footing and regains her family's acceptance.

And then the film ends. Concluding director's notes say that Lindgren eventually married her work supervisor, Sture Lindgren, and went on to write the books that made her an international sensation. It's a pity the film ends where it does because it leaves so many questions left unanswered, such as: When did Lindgren transition from oral storytelling to putting pen to paper? How did she land her first book deal? Additionally, the film suggests nothing of Lindgren's lifelong devotion to fighting for various causes like banning seal hunting, ending child pornography, and championing equality for the downtrodden and forgotten.

Becoming Astrid offers a tantalizing glimpse of an inspirational woman and provides, in part, an explanation for why Lindgren's stories are full of abandoned, parentless children. And though the film is not a full biographic treatment, it is still very much  worth watching as it ignites a desire to know more about the subject. In fact, a recently published biography by Jens Anderson entitled Astrid Lindgren: The Woman Behind Pippi Longstocking (Yale University Press) fills in those gaps.

In the final analysis, like her characters, Lindgren was a child forced to take care of herself but didn't have the right tools to do so. She made mistakes, learned from them, and despite it all, grew up strong, which is certainly what we all hope for our children.

Becoming Astrid opens in New York today at the Film Forum, to be followed by a national roll out. Watch the trailer here.
   
Image courtesy of Music Box Films

We recently interviewed Marko Matijaševi?, founder and creative director of Amaranthine Books, a new publisher of high-quality, illustrated limited editions of classics, based in Croatia. We talked about the origin of the company, their first publication (a beautiful dual edition of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) and what's next for them.

  

Please introduce our readers to Amaranthine Books:

  
Amaranthine Books started as an idea to create beautifully designed and illustrated special editions of the famous classics. It was officially founded in 2015, but I've worked on it for two years prior to that, developing the vision and the philosophy, as well as working on the first title. I knew I wanted to focus on books that are deemed classics, because I wanted to give those literary works the form that they deserve. I am a book collector myself, so this line of work was a win-win for me :) Also, my prior work experience in advertising, gave me a lot of know-how with various print forms, as well as contacts with the best illustrators and print shops in Croatia.

  
I would like to make Amaranthine Books into an international publishing company that will keep its focus on creating special editions. These special editions should not only accompany the reading experience, but enhance it with numerous details and even hidden easter eggs. More importantly, I want to focus on quality so these books can last. After all, books we love to read are a reflection of us, so when we are gone, they can speak a lot about our character and beliefs. And that is what Amaranthine Books stands for -- books that you'll buy for yourself, but leave to those who come after you.
  
That is also why I chose the name Amaranthine -- besides the usual meaning, it also means 'unfading; everlasting'. It also represents the pink-red colour that can be found in our logo. Logo itself has letters 'a' and 'b' placed in the shape of an almost completed infinity sign. The goal was to say "yeah, nothing really last forever... but in a world where everything passes in an instant, some things should last."
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We were very impressed with the alternate Jekyll and Hyde editions you produced for the Robert Louis Stevenson classic. Tell us more about that process. What drew you to that story in particular?  Where did the inspiration come from to produce the two editions?
    
We made two editions because it seemed like an interesting idea to get people to choose which edition draws them more, while also leaving an option to choose both. Surprisingly, a lot of people went for both editions, even though the content is the same, but having them both next to each other makes each edition stand out even more.
  
When we started working on the Jekyll & Hyde, I knew I didn't want to just make some hardcover edition with a few pretty illustration. The goal was to enhance the reading experience, so it was imperative to not only read and analyse the book, but also the conditions in which it was written. That is why each illustration is double-sided, showing key plot points from two opposite angles, further emphasising the duality of Jekyll and Hyde. The covers and slipcase carry the same idea.
  
Furthermore, I found out that RLS wrote it (twice!) in six days while under the influence of (medically) prescribed cocaine. This served as an inspiration for another easter egg, especially since Jekyll transformed with a chemical compound of his own making, so endpapers feature one formula over and over again -- the chemical formula of cocaine (explained in detail in the book's afterword). Another easter egg is hidden inside the slipcase, while the third one is on one of the illustrations where Jekyll sits in front of the fireplace -- there are two paintings above the fireplace and one of them feature the portrait of the writer.
  
There are even more subtle details in the book and the goal was to make all those things work in unison to enhance the experience for the reader. When that much thought and work goes into a book, it is a special joy when we receive emails from our customers saying they found something or just to tell us how much they enjoyed it. It really helps to stay motivated and work even harder when we see other people get excited about it as much as we do :)
     
We understand that your edition of Jekyll and Hyde recently won an international award. Is that right?
   
In 2016 our partners from Cerovski Print Boutique (they've done all the printing work on Jekyll & Hyde and will produce Dracula for us as well) took the Hyde Edition to DScoop Conference (by Hewlett-Packard) in Tel Aviv. There it won the Inkspiration award in the Best in Publishing category. Funny enough, this was even before we started the large scale production and sale of Jekyll & Hyde, so to receive an international recognition at such an early stage showed us that we were on the right track and that we should keep moving forward.
     
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What can you reveal to our readers about the forthcoming Amaranthine Dracula?
    
Dracula is currently in development, almost all illustrations are completed (there will be 16 of them inside throughout the book, illustration major plot points) and we are currently testing the materials. This is a very important step, because the goal is to make the book sensitive to light, just like Dracula was (it is a common misconception that the sunlight kills him, but it just weakens him, as many of your readers surely know). Using the phosphorescent ink on the covers and illustrations, parts of it will soak the light and emit it in low ambient light (and darkness). The book will be made of high-quality materials and will feature numerous other details as well.
   
We have already received recognition with the concept for this title -- the UniCredit Bank holds an annual competition in Croatia where it offers partial funding for especially innovative and interesting projects, and this year, Amaranthine Books was one of the winners with Dracula.
  
Do you have any other publications planned at the moment?
   
We would like to do more titles in the near future, but our focus is currently on finishing Dracula. Our aim is to publish at least two new titles in 2019, but it is still undetermined which ones. Ideally, we will continue scaling the production so that we can publish at least six titles per year.
  
Where can our readers go to learn more about Amaranthine Books and to order copies?
  
Currently, the best way to do it is to visit our website (amaranthinebooks.com). There are numerous high-resolution photos of the books, as well as the webshop where the books can be ordered. It is important to note that we ship worldwide for free. Even better, we ship exclusively with DHL, so our books reach out customers' bookshelves in 3-5 working days tops!
   

Images provided by Marko Matijaševi?

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) wasn't your average Nobel Prize winner. He bucked the image of the introverted, socially awkward scientist who prefers the lab to people. He cracked safes for fun. He played the bongos. He performed in Brazilian Carnival festivals. With the help of Ralph Leighton, he wrote bestselling memoirs with jaunty titles such as Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, and What Do You Care What Other People Think?

   

Lot 100 Crop.jpgFans of the late, beloved American physicist have seen pitifully few items of his come to auction because he donated his archives to Caltech. But as it turns out, he did not give the university everything. 

   

On November 30 in New York, Sotheby's will auction several items that Feynman kept for himself--including a book that directly led to the work that won him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1965 (which is also in the sale, with an estimate of $800,000-1,200,000). 

9886 Lot 100 copy 2.jpgFeynman considered the English theoretical physicist Paul Dirac his hero. Included in the sale is Feynman's 1935 copy of Dirac's The Principles of Quantum Mechanics, which seems to have received between his senior year in high school and his freshman year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Laden with Feynman's handwritten diagrams, formulas, and other marginal notes, the book gives a snapshot of a young genius's brain taking shape and readying to rise to the challenge of its final line: "It seems that some essentially new physical ideas are here needed." A tantalizing Feynman annotation appears in a section on the polarization of photons: "Analyze this some day."

   

The auction estimate is $5,000-7,000. 

   

Images courtesy of Sotheby's

Waylaid by the weather, I had only one day to browse both Boston fairs this year. It's an impossible task, but still, I saw many amazing books, manuscripts, and objects.

Sandburg.jpgThe Boston Book Print and Ephemera Show (aka the Satellite Show) was bustling on Saturday morning. I stopped to chat with Phil Mosher and Sue Bishop of Mosher Books. In addition to a lovely selection of decorated publishers' bindings, one of their highlights was a Carl Sandburg collection, which included his typewriter, as well as 12 boxes of archives, 57 letters, 42 inscribed books, and much else. The collection, being sold en bloc on behalf of an institution, was built over thirty years by his friend and collaborator, Helen Champlain, a New York City bookseller.

I made two purchases at the fair, the one most of interest to readers here might be a salesman's sample of an 1872 book titled Lights and Shadows of New York Life. Here's the thing: it reminded me very strongly of another sample book (or dummy) that I bought in NY two years ago: a historical treatment of NYC, bound in burgundy cloth with a decorative gilt cover design, and empty subscription pages bound in at the back. Except I knew that it was neither the same title nor the same author. (I wrote about that original find here.) Published by the National Publishing Company, this "new" sample book precedes the other by more than twenty years, and yet in content and illustration it is notably similar--a tour of Manhattan, especially the seedier parts, with crisp engravings of people and buildings. I think a thorough collation is in order. These two books are spiritual siblings, or cousins at the very least.

The other buy was a scarce Susan Sontag title. Both purchases were from Books End; I shopped there several times when I lived in Syracuse and picked up an inscribed Tobias Wolff first edition (with a fabulous Fred Marcellino dust jacket) there a few years back.

46486309_497409507410467_4834215674261798912_n.jpgMy husband, who often tags along on my book fair jaunts and has become a collector in the past decade, also made two purchases, including an unknown (to us) edition of Henry Beston's Firelight Fairy Book from 1919, both from Maine's Lippincott Books.

What else? I noted a few first editions of Rex Stout novels, on my mind of late as I just edited a feature about him for our spring issue.

After lunch, it was off to the ABAA Fair for the afternoon.

One of the first booths I ambled into, lured by the Anne Sexton first editions on display, was that of Jett Whitehead, whose specialty is poetry. There I met (in person) Peter K. Steinberg, editor of the two-volume Letters of Sylvia Plath, who wrote a feature about Plath for us last fall. Peter was there signing copies of his books; he also gave a talk on Sunday, which I was sorry to miss. He persuaded me to visit the Jonkers Rare Books booth to stand in awe of Plath's own proof of The Bell Jar, in which she made textual corrections and signed her name/address to the title page. It was priced at $200,000.    

Watches.jpgThe booth shared by Ian Kahn/Lux Mentis and Brian Cassidy was brimming with unique books and objects, like a mid-twentieth-century salesman's sample book of 700+ watch faces (pictured above, courtesy of Brian Cassidy).

Abbey.jpgPersonally I find literary realia/relics very cool, and Ken Sanders Rare Books delivered that with Edward Abbey's National Park Service shirt and hat.

Raven.jpgAnother item that couldn't be passed by without a closer look was an 1875 folio containing Manet's illustrations for Mallarmé's translation of Poe's The Raven, offered by Benjamin Spademan Rare Books. The image of the raven was absolutely striking; it is also "very rare in its original vellum wrappers," according to the bookseller. Its price was $100,000.

Scientia Books was offering a few nineteenth-century medical books that I covet, which were, alas, not in my budget this year. I made one small purchase from Simon Beattie: his recently published translation of Gottfried Benn's Morgue. The poems are dark but quite beautiful. Beattie, who was sharing a very busy stand with Honey & Wax Booksellers, was heartily congratulated by many for his role in the recent booksellers' boycott.

One final observation: the Boston fair hosts "Cultural Row," a series of booths near the bar at the back of the fair for institutions, clubs, and schools, including the American Antiquarian Society, the Ticknor Society, and Rare Book School, among others, to share information with collectors. Why doesn't the New York fair do this? Lack of space? It seems to me a very worthwhile thing.   

Images courtesy of Brett Barry unless otherwise noted

A quieter, mostly Paris-based auction calendar this week:

  

Arcturial sells Sciences: From Galileo to Marie Curie from the Aristophil collections on Monday, November 19. Lots 681 through 690 comprise some amazing Emilie du Chatelet manuscripts, including her translation of Newton (??150,000-250,000; pictured below). (More on that sale here.)

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On Tuesday, November 20, Sotheby's Paris holds a sale of Livres Rares et Manuscrits, in 188 lots. A copy of Antoine Mizauld's Memorabilium utiliu[m] (1566), a collection of Latin aphorisms, extensively annotated by Ambrose Paré, is estimated at ??60,000-80,000. A heavily-corrected manuscript of one chapter from Voltaire's Histoire de l'établissement du christianisme could sell for ??50,000-70,000. A February 28, 1850 Gogol letter to diplomat Alexander Bulgakov is estimated at ??50,000-70,000; only three Gogol letters have appeared at auction in the last four decades.

  

At Christie's Paris on Wednesday, November 21, Books and Manuscripts, in 134 lots. A copy of Apollinaire's first book, L'Enchanter pourrissant (1909), one of 25 copies on Japanese paper, is estimated at ??30,000-50,000. Rimbaud's Une Saison en Enfer (1873) in a lovely binding by Rose Adler, could fetch ??25,000-35,000.

  

On Thursday, Madrid's El Remate Subastas hosts "Antique Books, Manuscripts, Prints, Engravings, Maps & Collecting on Paper," and over the weekend, Cordier Auctions in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has a Book, Ephemera, and Curio Auction worth watching. 

  

Image credit: Arcturial