Of all the many wonderful books, manuscripts, and ephemera on offer beginning tomorrow at Rare Books LA, one collection stood out to me, both because of its serendipitous dovetailing with our current issue's feature story on National Park Service libraries and archives, and the alarming news about damage to our parks in the wake of the government shutdown. It is a catalogue called "Our National Parks," and it is the brainchild of two antiquarian booksellers, Utah's Back of Beyond Books and California's Walkabout Books. According to the catalogue's introduction, it took the booksellers three years to compile this material; while NPS pamphlets and brochures were easy to find, they wrote, "interesting manuscripts, archival, and photographic material appeared on the market less often than anticipated." But, in the end, they succeeded. "Our National Parks" is astounding in its breadth, covering 323 items related to national parks listed literally A to Z--Acadia to Zion--and including photo albums, diaries, first editions, and vintage posters. Of course, John Muir is here, as are Ansel Adams and Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Here are a few more highlights:
Biennially, the Codex Book Fair in California celebrates and exhibits the work of book artists. This year's fair, Codex VII, runs from February 3-6 at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, California. The primary exhibition this year is CODEXNordica, curated by Imi Maufe and Codex Polaris, a book artists group, who are bringing together a collection of artists books and book arts from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. The work of a large selection of book artists from the Scandinavian countries will be on display alongside approximately 80 book works made especially for the fair by a variety of artists involved in a related project called Bibliotek Nordica.
Tables will be curated by the following artists: ?se Eg Jørgensen / Pist Protta, Denmark; Tatjana Bergelt, Finland; Arkir ArtBook Group, Iceland; Codex Polaris, Norway; Carina Fihn and Lina Nordenström, Sweden. In addition, Thomas Millroth will offer a keynote address at Codex and two artists, ?se Eg Jørgensen and Tatjana Bergelt, will speak at the seminar about their projects.
Further, Imi Maufe will be speaking at the Book Club of California on February 4 and a related talk will take place at the San Francisco Center for the Book on the evening February 7. Also on display at the SFCB will be the exhibition "Posted/Unposted", a Nordic letterpress exhibition featuring the work of twenty-five Scandinavian artists. The exhibition will be on display until April 28. After closing at the San Francisco Book Club, the exhibition curators intend for it to continue traveling the United States.
So begins Rare Book Week West and with it the good news that Booktryst, the rare books blog founded ten years ago by antiquarian bookseller Stephen J. Gertz, is making its book fair debut at Rare Books LA this weekend.
Booktryst also issued its first catalogue this past Friday. "Rare Eros" covers--or should we say uncovers--erotica of the 16th-20th centuries, some of it illustrated and much of it provocative. Pictured here is something on the tamer side, a scarce Parisian directory of prostitutes and brothels published in 1829. It is a second edition, a variant of the only other recorded copy at the BnF. No firsts are known. The price is $900.
How about a young rake's exploits in a nunnery? See #57, Nunnery Tales (1932) with five b/w "explicit plates." Or the pin-up style of various mid-century editions of Exotica and Exotique? I wonder what the pages of Nicholas de Cholieres' La Guerre des Masles Contre Les Femelles [The War of Men Against Women], published in 1586, hold?
John Payne, author of Great Catalogues by Master Booksellers (2018), called the catalogue "sensitive, thoughtful, and bibliographically carefully described selection." See his full review here. A PDF version of "Rare Eros" is available, but perhaps NSFW, limited print editions designed by Poltroon Press are available for $40, or go see it for yourself in Pasadena, where, coincidentally, another bookseller will be offering books from the private library of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.
At Doyle New York on Tuesday, January 29, an online sale of Americana from the Library of Arnold "Jake" Johnson, in 312 lots. A wide range of material, including a copy of Henry Hind Youle's Explorations in the Interior of the Labrador Peninsula, the Country of the Montagnais and Nasquapee Indians (1863) and a journal of an 1890 hunting trip to Colorado, illustrated with photographs (both, as of the time of writing, bid up to $1,200).
Also on Tuesday, Swann sells Fine Illustrated Books & Graphics, in 201 lots. Kandinsky's Klänge (Munich, 1913) rates the top estimate, at $30,000-40,000. A set of Marie Laurencin's illustrations for the Black Sun Press edition of Alice in Wonderland (1930), could sell for $15,000-25,000. A copy of the complete Nonesuch Dickens, with an original woodblock, is estimated at $5,000-7,500. Many lots from the Cheloniidae Press, as well, so the collector will want to keep an eye on those.
Dominic Winter Auctioneers sells Printed Books, Maps & Documents on Wednesday, January 30, in 578 lots. A collection twenty of rare Mauritius lithographs from the Souvenirs de Maurice series is estimated at £10,000-15,000, while a collection of correspondence between automobile pioneer Charles Stewart Rolls and photographer F. Howard Mercer could sell for £4,000-6,000.
At Forum Auctions on Wednesday, a 568-lot sale of Private Press, Illustrated Books and Modern Editions. Sharing top pegging at £10,000-15,000 are an unsigned, out-of-series copy of Fernand Leger's Cirque (1950; pictured); one of just twenty-five large paper copies of Oscar Wilde's The Sphinx (1894), designed by Charles Ricketts; and a Jessie Marion King ink drawing on vellum, "The Lament," (c.1890s).
Also on Wednesday, Bonhams London holds The Gentleman's Library Sale, in 628 lots. Mostly furnishings, art, &c., but the catalogue is well worth a browse for the bibliophile.
On Thursday, January 30 at Lyon & Turnbull, Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps & Photography, in 470 lots. Among the top-estimated lots in this one are a special edition of Ian Fleming's On Her Majesty's Secret Service (£8,000-12,000) and a set of Captain Cook-related titles (£7,000-9,000).
Freeman's sells Books, Maps & Manuscripts on Thursday, in 414 lots. A collection of 240 volumes relating to Jewish Displaced Persons in Europe in the years following the end of World War II is estimated at $100,000-150,000. A great mix of other material as well.
Rounding out the busy week of sales, Potter & Potter holds a Fine Books & Manuscripts sale on Saturday, February 2. The sale features a wide range of Chicago memorabilia, including a 1929 New York Central Lines railroad poster ($4,000-5,000). Several lots of Frank Lloyd Wright drawings and blueprints will be on the block, including a signed original floor plan for the Louis Frederick House ($6,000-8,000).
Everywhere you look there seems to be some product inspired by a unicorn: purple frappuccinos, table lamps, there's even a shop (in Brooklyn, naturally,) that specializes in unicorn horns proudly crafted in the USA. Privately held companies valued at over a billion dollars are known as "unicorns" to represent the statistical rarity of such entities. (Airbnb and SpaceX are two examples.) Yet, despite what seems to be rampant unicorn fever, it's nothing new; the ancient Indus carved unicorns onto seals, and the beasts appear in the Physiologus, an ancient Greek bestiary, which ascribes curative powers to unicorn horns. By the Middle Ages, unicorns came to symbolize the life and trials of Jesus Christ.
Far from the playful, purple-and-pink hued creature we often think of today, historical unicorns were squat, compact, notoriously ferocious creatures that could only be captured by virgins. Unicorn horns were believed to be powerful aphrodisiacs as well as effective teeth whiteners, leading to the robust sale of ground-up narwhal horns passed off as genuine unicorn. Wealthy families and merchants often commissioned unicorn images for their coats of arms and emblems to suggest magnificence and power.
Now, Magical Unicorns, the latest exhibition on view at the Musée Cluny in Paris offers a comprehensive look at how unicorns have been depicted over the past 500 years. Engravings, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, and other items illustrate the allegorical significance of these mythical beasts and humankind's enduring fascination with them.
The highlight of the show is a set of six tapestries entitled The Lady and the Unicorn, part of the Cluny's permanent collection. Woven around 1500, the tapestries are believed to have been designed by Jean Bourdichon, offical court painter to four French Kings and the illuminator responsible for the sumptuous Book of Hours created for Queen Anne of Brittany. Showcased in a dimly-lit rotunda to preserve the fabrics, the scarlet 12-feet by 9-feet silk and wool tapestries are complex visual meditations on the meaning of life, filled with allegorical iconography.
The Bodleian Library in Oxford announced earlier this week its acquisition of a rare, fifteenth-century French Gothic coffer, or book chest, once used for the transportation of books. According to the Bodleian, only about 100 such book coffers are extant, and this is the first of its kind to enter the library's collection. It is also the centerpiece of a new exhibit at the Bodleian's Weston Library called Thinking Inside the Box: Carrying Books Across Cultures.
The book chest is made of wood, covered in leather, lined with red canvas, and reinforced with iron fittings, hinges, and a lock. As you can see in the above image, the coffer's inside lid contains a colorful woodcut print dating to c.1491 depicting "God the Father in Majesty."
What the coffer held is unknown, although, according to experts, it is believed to have secured religious or devotional texts, perhaps with accompanying relics, such as a rosary.
Dr. Christopher Fletcher, Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian Libraries, said, "The Bodleian collects books and manuscripts but also objects which helps us to understand the history and culture of the book - how they were kept, used, moved and understood. The coffer is a remarkable item which is both utilitarian and devotional and preserves an exceptionally rare woodcut in its original context. Among other things, it shows us that our preoccupation with carrying information around with us in mobile devices - including texts and images - is nothing new.'
The exhibition, which features a selection of boxes, bags, and satchels designed to carry books, remains on view through February 17. If you can't make it to Oxford, a 3D model and photos of the coffer can be seen on the University of Oxford's Cabinet website.
Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Miriam Intrator, special collections librarian with Ohio University in Athens, Ohio:
What is your role at your institution?
I am special collections librarian responsible for rare books and liaison librarian to the Honors Tutorial College and other University honors programs. In my special collections librarian capacity I am responsible for managing any and all aspects of the rare book collection, ranging from collection development and donor relations to instruction and exhibit curation. I work closely with preservation and digitization to stabilize materials physically and to increase online access. I work with our social media coordinator to promote our collections on IG @aldenlibrary and on my own @miriamlibrarian. I often co-teach with my colleagues, the special collections librarian for manuscripts and the University archivist, as well as with other liaison librarians. We have a wonderfully active and collaborative instruction program, which translates into a very heavy and busy teaching load, particularly during fall semesters. We are also committed to community and k-12 outreach. Athens County and the surrounding region is one of the poorest in the country so we feel it is vitally important to provide the broadest possible access and to create diverse learning opportunities, including by bringing select materials to schools within a 2 or so hour radius. To give one current example, I'm working with a graduate student in music this semester who also teaches at the Athens Community Music School. He is planning a program for those students that he and other Ohio University students in the Music Teachers' National Association collegiate chapter will lead using our musical manuscript leaves and early printed music leaves. This academic year I am also co-leading, with two faculty members, a faculty learning community on Teaching Book and Print History Across the Disciplines, which has been fun and very informative and inspiring.
How did you get started in special collections?
Like a lot of others who have written here, it was a convoluted path. I never planned or imagined that I'd be doing what I am today, but I couldn't be happier about it. When I was in library school I became interested in museum librarianship and founded a new student organization, AMLISS, the Art and Museum Library and Information Student Society, to help meet the interests of other students like myself. I also worked as a research assistant at the Ackland Art Museum on campus, which I loved. I learned so much working with the registrar and with the educators, and was given the opportunity to curate my first exhibit entitled, surprise surprise: "The Art of Reading: Images of Booklovers." After library school, despite applying for more than I care to remember, I did not get any job offers. I did, however, get multiple internships and decided to accept one in the Library & Museum Archives at MoMA. First, because, MoMA. But I'd also always wanted to live in NYC, where my mom grew up, and I thought if I didn't do it then it might never happen. It turned out to be an incredible experience on multiple levels, not least because the Chief of MoMA's Library & Museum Archives, Milan Hughston, knowing of my interest in World War II, introduced me to the then-director of the Leo Baeck Institute at the Center for Jewish History. As it happened their photo archivist was leaving at the end of the summer, coinciding with when my internship was ending. I loved living in the city so I applied, was hired, and ended up staying in NYC for eight years, during which time I started the PhD program at CUNY. I decided to pursue the PhD in history knowing that I loved being a librarian, had no interest in becoming a professor, and fully intended to continuing working as a librarian when I finished. I just loved the research and writing processes. At Leo Baeck I was responsible for managing all aspects of the photo collection, but I also worked at the reference desk in the reading room, and ended up working as collections registrar as well. These various roles gave me some experience with and insight into both archives and rare books, and I was always drawn more to the books. I left NYC in 2011 to complete my dissertation research and writing. As I was finishing that up and prior to my current position I worked part-time in reference at Monterey Peninsula College and part-time in reference and local history at the Pacific Grove Public Library where I was responsible for organizing and researching the historic book collection. By then I was hooked and almost could not believe it when I was hired to be fully responsible for a rare book collection, something I had never previously done. Now I can't imagine doing anything else!
Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?
My MSLS is from UNC Chapel Hill, my PhD in modern European history is from the Graduate Center, City University of New York.
Favorite rare book / ephemera that you've handled?
This is almost impossible to answer! I get excited or awed by something almost every day because I encounter new items in the collection almost every day. Recently I pulled a book by Helen Keller off the shelf and there was her name, beautifully printed, in her hand, on the first free endpaper. It gave me chills and I showed it to everyone who was around. We have a 13th century illuminated gothic bible and I could spend endless hours looking at the illuminations and the marginalia throughout. Also interesting is that it was previously owned by William Morris. After taking Todd Pattison's fantastic Rare Book School class American Publishers' Bindings I was thrilled to go into our collection and find our copy of Six Months in a Convent from 1835, still in its Benjamin Bradley stamped publishers' binding. We have Edmund Blunden's personal library, containing almost 10,000 volumes. He interacted heavily with his books, adding thoughts, corrections, questions, marginalia, doodles, sometimes including notes about where he bought the book and when, how much it cost, or who gave it to him. I also welcome the fact that he was not a wealthy collector, just someone who loved books and who rummaged tirelessly through used book stalls in London and elsewhere, happening upon treasures, and appreciating every book, modest or luxe, for what it had to offer. I of course love fine press productions and luxury bindings and the beauty of the book as a physical, even artistic, object, but one of my favorite things is to come upon people's interventions in books, the signs of ownership and other personal traces that readers, collectors, and others leave behind and what those can tell us, and the questions they raise, about a book's life and history. One favorite is in a bound volume of the 19th century periodical "The Household: Devoted to the Interests of the American Housewife" published in Brattleboro Vermont. A previous owner created tiny knitting samples and pinned them, with the sewing needle, onto the pages with the instructions they had followed to create the samples.
What do you personally collect?
I don't really have the funds or space in my home to truly collect anything but I do buy the occasional affordable book that has an interesting or beautiful publishers' binding, or that demonstrates some other important moment in or aspect of the history of the book, or that contains evidence of the particular book's unique history and provenance. I also buy the very occasional artists' book because I am absolutely fascinated by people's creativity and ability to play with form, format, and structure in unexpected and sometimes provocative ways. I do of course have way more books than space for them. I prefer non-fiction and most of what I read, including for pleasure, are books about books and related technologies and the history of the book and of libraries. One thing I love about being in this field is knowing that there will always be more to learn. I want to learn as much as I possibly can and still feel like I've barely scratched the surface. Otherwise I'm usually reading food, travel, or garden essays. My husband would probably suggest I admit to collecting scarves and wooden spoons-the single greatest kitchen utensil-because I have entirely too many and can't stop buying them. If plants count, I'm obsessed with bulbs and buy hundreds every year. Sadly, between our voracious squirrels and my lack of gardening expertise, relatively few of those grow or bloom.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I love to be active and outside, as long as it isn't too hot. Hiking, biking, and just going for long walks. Athens is in the southeastern corner of Ohio, very close to West Virginia, so we're in the hills of Appalachia and it's beautiful, rural, and full of good hiking. I moved here for this job five years ago and it's a completely different world from anywhere else I've lived previously so it still feels new and I really enjoy exploring it. I swim a lot and try to do a few triathlons with open water swims and some runs every season even though running is miserable. Every year my husband and I spend more and more time gardening, just having a blast playing, experimenting, and learning as we go. I also love to bake, go on long road trips, travel, and spend time with my husband in his shop. He's a woodworker who handcrafts amazing furniture. As someone who is not a maker at all, I find it very inspiring to be in any atmosphere of creation and artisanship, and we often finding fascinating connections between the tools and terms used in hand furniture-making and handpress book-making.
What excites you about special collections librarianship?
See everything above and below! I learn and see something new virtually every day and that keeps me excited and motivated. I'm excited about working with new faculty, students, and departments, especially those in the sciences and other areas that are less traditional visitors to special collections. I find that faculty in different departments are getting more interested in the book as physical object which leads them to teach from more of a history of the book perspective and in more hands-on ways. There is a recognition that students respond better to active learning opportunities and that special collections provides a way to be creative with assignments and projects. Along those same lines there is a move toward teaching and learning techniques and processes. When students practice writing with a quill on parchment and experience how difficult it is, then come in and see a book or individual leaves written in that same fashion, but incredibly beautifully and expertly hundreds of years ago, there is a real impact. Most of all I feel we have a unique opportunity to offer students an interactive, immersive, learning experience that can engage all the senses and that enhances, content-wise, the rest of what they are learning.
Thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship?
We need to continue to strive to always be more open, accessible, and inclusive. I think the field has made great strides especially over the past decade or so, but I see in my community that there is still a feeling of exclusivity around special collections that is off-putting, intimidating, or plain mysterious for many. To some extent that distance is inevitable because of the policies we need to have in place to protect and preserve our collections for the long term. So it is our responsibility to explain those policies and procedures in a way that is still welcoming and inviting. The conversations we are increasingly having in the field about also making our collections more inclusive and more representative of the communities in which we live are really inspiring and heartening. It is obvious that students become more engaged when they are able to connect, somehow, with the materials they see in front of them, and when they feel a sense of ownership of and relationship to the materials. One thing we've been doing is providing the opportunity for students who have heavily used our collections over the course of the semester to give their final presentations in our classroom, with the physical materials in front of them. We send out invitations and have a reception (in a separate room of course!), and generally turn it into an event where the students are the experts on the materials and they are teaching others, including us, about what they have learned. It's been incredibly mutually rewarding and it's a program we're looking to grow and expand.
Any unusual or interesting collection at your library you'd like to draw our attention to?
So many interesting things and as I said before, I'm always discovering new things! In our manuscripts collection we have the diary of the first woman to ever graduate from Ohio University. Margaret Boyd kept a tiny diary during her senior year, in 1873, and it's incredibly moving to imagine her being here alone, the first, surrounded by men. The Lynn Johnson Collection contains over two million items from the work of that notable, and still very actively contributing, documentary photojournalist. Her work is extraordinary and so relevant to our daily lives. We historically had a strong focus on collecting artists' books, an area of specialization that we have been returning to over the past few years. Maybe somewhat unusual is our Textbook Collection. It might sound boring but, covering many subject areas from the late 18th through the early 20th century, most of the textbooks show so much evidence of the students who once owned and used them that current students end up getting pretty interested. We also use them of course to illustrate how subjects were taught in the past and students are often blown away especially by the history and geography books.
Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?
I'm really excited to be working with a doctoral candidate in creative writing this spring. As part of her dissertation she is creating three interactive installations for our library, which will be placed on three different floors. The title of the exhibit is "Beasts of the Interior by Sarah Minor: Creative Writing Off The Page," which tells you a bit about her approach. Each piece incorporates text with visual, tactile, auditory, and other sensory components. To complement the notion of writing "off the page" we will be installing complementary displays, primarily of artists' books as well as of some historic materials from the rare book and fine art collections, in cases near the installations. I'm thrilled to be exhibiting student work that speaks to and offers a different perspective into items in our collections. I hope this will help inspire other students both in their own creativity when thinking about narrative, form, and structure, and of course in thinking about special collections as a resource for their own work or personal interests. I think a goal most of us currently working in special collections have is to de-mystify the space and the materials. We want to be more welcoming, more diverse, more inclusive, and to create a range of opportunities for learning and teaching experiences that are hands-on and interactive. I also get really excited anytime students are teaching other students. Including student voices and perspectives in the work we are doing helps to demonstrate to other students that they can be a part of this world too. I find artists' books are a huge help in this area because they are such fantastic conversation starters and they often speak to issues and topics that are relevant to students and their daily lives. Because they are often more immediately relate-able, I often use them in instruction as a door into rare books in the more traditional sense, meaning the old stuff. And I find that they usually pair beautifully and effectively. We're also just starting work and conversations in preparation for various University and community events to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage. I'm fortunate to be working with a research apprentice, a student getting course credit to do research with me in rare books, who will be spending this semester identifying and researching relevant materials for possible inclusion in an exhibit we'll have to honor that momentous decision.
This past weekend, Yale's Beinecke Library opened an exhibit dear to the hearts of we gently mad. Even its title is a draw: Bibliomania; or Book Madness: A Bibliographical Romance, taken from Thomas Frognall Dibdin's 1842 book on the topic. The exhibition is divided into four distinct parts, as it explores the relationships of readers, owners, authors, and collectors.
\Every Book in the World! tells the story of the legendary nineteenth-century bibliomaniac (emphasis on the maniac), Sir Thomas Phillipps, whose massive collection of manuscripts and early printed books numbered well over 100,000 items.
Collated & Perfect, organized in conjunction with the Harry Ransom Center, at the University of Texas, Austin, explains the history of collation and the the quest to find a more perfect text -- including the work of Charlton Hinman, editor of the first folio edition of Shakespeare's plays (1968) and inventor of the Hinman Collator.
Habits Ancient and Modern: Surface and Depth in the Pillone Library Volumes delves into a fascinating family library assembled in Italy in the sixteenth century, and the decision to have the fore-edges of many of their volumes painted by Cesare Vecellio, a distant cousin of Titian.
The Whole Art of Marbling offers a sampling of the Beinecke's vast and beautiful collection of marbled papers to illuminate the art's history, techniques, patterns, and practitioners.
The exhibition is on view through April 21. Related events are listed here.
Quite a range of auctions this week to keep an eye on, including three sales on Tuesday, January 22:
At Bunch Auctions, a combined sale of Rare Books & Fine Prints and Native American Artifacts. A first edition of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, with a tipped-in Dickens letter to Ticknor & Fields and other extra material included, is expected to lead the way at $18,000-26,000. Also to be had are a first issue of Oliver Twist ($8,000-10,000) and a number of other important Dickens lots, as well as a 1681 William Penn indenture ($4,000-6,000).
Books and Manuscripts, in 216 lots, will be sold at Il Ponte in Milan. A few highlights are expected to include a copy of La Pérouse's Voyage (1797) and a 1478 Venice edition of Pomponio Mela's Cosmographia, both estimated at ??6,000-9,000; a Hebrew book in a silver binding is estimated at ??3,000-5,000, and a modern fascimile portolan chart (c.1960) based on a sixteenth-century Italian original could fetch ??5,000-8,000.
Morton Subastas sells Mexican Historical Documents and Books, in 230 lots. George Wilkins Kendall's 1851 work The War Between the United States and Mexico is estimated at $350,000-400,000. A reissue of the collection of lithographs published as México y sus Alrededores, originally published in 1855, could sell for as much as $150,000-200,000. Mateo Ximénez's book of engravings depicting the life of Sebastián de Aparicio y del Prado (Rome, 1789) is estimated at $100,000-120,000, as is a copy of Lorenzana's Historia de la Nueva España (Mexico City, 1770). An album containing photos and autographs of Mexican actresses of the early twentieth century is estimated at $50,000-60,000.
On Wednesday, January 23, University Archives sells Autographed Documents, Manuscripts, Photos & Books, in 260 lots. Handwritten and signed lyrics to Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" are estimated at $50,000-60,000, and a 1786 letter from John Paul Jones to Thomas Jefferson (as American minister to France) could sell for $24,000-26,000. What is described as the longest J.D. Salinger autograph letter ever offered at auction ($8,000-9,000) will also be up for grabs.
Also on Wednesday, Rare Books & Works on Paper at Chiswick Auctions, in 337 lots.
PBA Galleries sells a Mid-Winter Miscellany Part II, with Illustrated and Children's Books, on Thursday, January 24. Prices are mostly expected to be in the three-figure range for this 377-lot sale, and lots from 249 through the end are being sold without reserve.
Rounding out the week's sales is Thursday's Fine Manuscript and Printed Americana auction at Sotheby's New York. The 189-lot sale caps Americana Week at the auction house and contains a huge number of very impressive items. Rating the top presale estimate, at $800,000-1,200,000, is a copy of the extremely rare broadside announcing the American ratification of the Treaty of Paris, printed by John Dunlap at Annapolis in early 1784 (pictured). This is just one of two known copies featuring the embossed seal of the United States and signed by both the President and Secretary of Congress.
A copy of the 1823 Stone facsimile of the Declaration of Independence on vellum, inscribed by John Quincy Adams to Thomas Emory--then serving as the President of Maryland's Governor's Council--is described by Sotheby's as the only known copy in private hands to have passed by descent from the original recipient; it is estimated at $600,000-800,000. A fascinating 1757 letter from George Washington to Virginia governor Robert Dinwiddie about the rights of British Americans could fetch $300,000-400,000, while a copy of the first book printing of the Declaration of Independence in a sammelband volume with other important Revolutionary War pamphlets is estimated at $300,000-500,000.
For thirty-five years, New York's Westsider Rare & Used Books has held court at 2246 Broadway (between 80th and 81st Streets), but increased pressure from larger stores--there's a Barnes & Noble on W. 82nd and the recently resurrected Shakespeare & Co. is at W. 69th and 70th--e-retail, and rising operating costs led owners Dorian Thornley and Bryan Gonzalez to announce that they will be closing their doors in February. (Westsider Records, also owned by Thornley and Gonzalez, will remain open.)
When pressed what it would take to keep the store open, Thornley replied--perhaps in a moment of exasperation--$50,000.
Longtime friend Bobby Panza heard Thornley and set up a GoFundMe campaign, which, since launching on January 15, has already raised nearly $25,000.
"Of course we'd like to keep Westsider open," explained Gonzalez early Thursday morning. "Dorian and I purchased the shop seventeen years ago from the previous owners, and we were employees here before that. But the book market has changed, and even though we do have loyal customers, the cost of doing business here in Manhattan is getting too expensive." Indeed, empty storefronts seem to dot this stretch of the Upper West Side with greater regularity, part of a larger trend confirmed by a recent Douglas Elliman survey finding that 20 percent of the city's retail space is vacant. (See the New York Times' recent infographic documenting the commercial blight sweeping Manhattan in "This Space Available.")
Westsider is something of a local landmark and recalls the halcyon days of used bookstores in Manhattan. The shop even had cameos in Woody Allen's Fading Gigolo and Todd Haynes's Wonderstruck. "It's one of the last remnants of the West Side as it used to be," wrote GoFundMe supporter Daniel Okrent. "I actually shop here," added Westsider regular Maggie McComas. "Last week [I] bought a biography of Wendy Wasserstein and one of Deborah Tannen's books."
And if the fundraising campaign succeeds? "We're not sure how far $50,000 will take us--we haven't really sat down and crunched the numbers," said Gonzalez. If Westsider does in fact close, however, expect a fire sale of current stock.
Aside from skyrocketing costs of doing business in Manhattan, Gonzalez pointed to readers' changing habits, too. "When you get on the subway, everyone's reading--they're just doing it on a Kindle."