June 2019

The Raab Collection of Ardmore, PA, is offering a treasure trove of historical documents relating to the founding of the United States.

Over 400 documents dating from the 1700s arrived in Raab’s possession en masse after being assembled by a private collector starting in the 1870s. Letters documenting the drive to raise funds for a monument to the first major battle of the Revolutionary War which took place in June 1775 at Bunker Hill. Correspondence from Thomas Jefferson, Daniel Webster, and even soldiers who fought at Bunker Hill figure among the papers.

“This effort was one of the first American pushes for civic engagement in the preservation of history,” said Nathan Raab. “Supporters were encouraged to donate objects, manuscript accounts, and money. It is remarkable that it has survived and been preserved.”

Valued at $200,000, this archive demonstrates an early push for preservation of historical landmarks and offers an unprecedented glimpse into the founding of America. See more here.

Last month, the University of Iowa (UI) Libraries Special Collections announced that it has become the new home of the renowned Sackner Archive of Visual and Concrete Poetry. Founded by Miami Beach-based collectors, Dr. Marvin Sackner and his wife, the late Ruth Sackner, the Sackner Archive currently holds the largest collection of concrete and visual poetry in the world.

For our fall 2015 issue, A.N. Devers interviewed the Sackners about their “artpoe” collection, a term they coined when they began collecting typewriter art and poetry. Since the mid-sixties, the Sackners had been collecting Russian avant garde and Constructivist art and imagery, but that all changed in 1975 when they got a glimpse of British artist Tom Phillips’ The Humument on exhibit in Switzerland at the Kunsthalle Basel. The innovative artist’s book “stole their hearts.” Marvin elaborated: “It was the only exhibition I’ve ever gone to two days in a row … There was a price on The Humument. I think it was $65,000. I thought, ‘I’ll never be afford to buy this book.’ Years later, I bought the book. It worked out.” The Sackners told Devers they considered it the cornerstone of a collection they officially named the Sackner Archive of Visual and Concrete Poetry in 1979.

In 2016, the Pérez Art Museum Miami announced its acquisition of the archive, a deal that seems to have foundered in the past few years. The Archive’s new home at UI is recognized as a center for the study of Dadaism, an area of complementary interest. Beyond that, UI boasts some extraordinary supportive assets, including a world-class conservation program, UI’s Center for the Book, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art collections, and its location in Iowa City (a UNESCO City of Literature).

“It’s a great honor for the UI Libraries to become the new home for the Sackner Archive, which will enrich scholarship, inspire generations of students, and draw visitors from around the world,” commented John Culshaw, the Jack B. King university librarian at the UI.

According to UI, the archive includes over 75,000 items, including “annotated books, periodicals, typewritings, drawings, letters, print portfolios, ephemera, and rare and out-of-print artists’ books and manuscripts represent 20th-century art movements....”

“My beloved wife, Ruth, and I had a dream that one day our efforts to build our collection into one that would reside in a world-class educational institution like the University of Iowa would come true,” Marvin Sackner commented in a statement released by the UI Libraries. “Our dream has finally become a reality. I am just sorry that Ruth is no longer with us to witness this monumental moment.”

The Sackner Archive will open to scholars and students in January, 2020. For more details on this acquisition, read the full news release here.

In Herman Melville’s bicentennial year, which he shares with Walt Whitman, Chronicle Books has published a new pop-up retelling of his most famous work, Moby-Dick. Alongside striking typography, the rich linocut artworks by French artist Joëlle Jolivet portray ten key chronological moments in shadowbox style. Argentinian paper engineer Gérard Lo Monaco then applied his talents to the mechanical side of things.

Melville completists and pop-up devotees will not want to miss out on what the publisher calls “an adventure in book craft and storytelling.” You can take a quick flip-through here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGJvtk2nOys

It’s Walt Whitman’s bicentennial year, and that has meant lots of press for ‘America’s poet.’ A feature story in our current issue explores the three major New York-based exhibitions on view the summer at the New York Public Library, the Grolier Club, and the Morgan Library. (You can catch all three in mid-July if you time it right.)  

However, there are many Whitman-related exhibits and events beyond Manhattan’s “spires and masts,” notably Whitman at 200: Art and Democracy, a yearlong project organized by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, with partner organizations across the region. (Whitman lived his final years in Camden, New Jersey, just across the river from Philadelphia.) Whitman at 200 includes the exhibition, Whitman Vignettes: Camden and Philadelphia, on view at Penn’s Van Pelt-Dietrich Library through August 23, as well as four artistic projects taking place now and through the summer with major support from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

There are also Whitman exhibitions ongoing at the University of Delaware, Rutgers, and the Camden County Historical Society, to name just a few, as well as special readings, historic house tours, and musical events all along the Eastern Seaboard. Check the full event schedule here.

A brief overview of this week's auction offerings:

Sotheby's London will sell Important Manuscripts, Continental Books and Music, in 231 lots on Tuesday, June 11. Rating the top estimate by a fair margin is a calligraphic autograph letter written by Mao Zedong to the journalist and family friend Yang Yi, at £300,000–400,000. The auction house reports that this is the only known Mao autograph letter ever sold on the international market. A first edition of Descartes' Discours de la methode pour bien conduire sa raison (1637), once owned by the natural philosopher Thomas Henshaw, is estimated at £50,000–70,000. A collection of manuscript quotations and tributes to David J. Bach, being sold on behalf of the Master and Fellows of Gonville & Caius College Cambridge, could fetch £40,000–60,000.

On Wednesday, June 12, Christie's New York will hold a single-item sale at 2 p.m., a first edition of Luca Pacioli's Summa di arithmetica (Venice, 1494), very rare in complete condition and in an original binding. Containing the first published description of double-entry bookkeeping, this book is considered a major influence on modern economics, and is estimated at $1–1.5 million.

Immediately following the sale of the Pacioli volume Christie's will sell 232 lots of Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts Including Americana. A galley proof of Watson & Crick's Nature article "Molecular structure of nucleic acids: A structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid," signed by both authors, is estimated at $180,000–250,000. Another Watson & Crick galley, also signed by both authors, could fetch $120,000–180,000. A 1794 George Washington manuscript letter to the governor of Pennsylvania about the Whiskey Rebellion is estimated at $100,000–150,000. Other highlights may include Poe's pocket watch ($80,000–120,000); several letters from Benjamin Franklin to Lord Kames (Lots 103–110), and a 1776 Jefferson letter to his friend John Page ($50,000–70,000).

Finally, on Thursday, June 13, Bonhams New York will sell Fine Books and Manuscripts, in 307 lots. An early presentation copy of Darwin's Origin, given to Professor Robert Caspary of Koenigsberg—and partially unopened—is estimated at $200,000–300,000. A first printing of Shakespeare's  Coriolanus, extracted from the First Folio, could sell for $40,000–60,000. An 1869 Darwin letter about arranging for a second American edition of Origin is estimated at $20,000–30,000. A first edition of Swift's Gulliver's Travels could fetch $15,000–25,000.

Author-illustrator Maira Kalman’s bibliography is an impressive one. In addition to creating whimsical covers for the New Yorker, Kalman claims dozens of books to her credit: she debuted in 1985 with the picture book debut, Stay Up Late, and since then titles have included instant classics like Last Stop, Grand Central (1999), Looking at Lincoln (2012), Fireboat (2002), and, even an illustrated picture book called Cake (2018). Each book explores complex topics while maintaining a certain lightheartedness that makes her work accessible to people of all ages, but especially children.  

In fact, Kalman is adamant that children can handle any subject – slavery, love, even death – as long as it’s done the right way.  “There’s always a way to talk to children as long as you are candid and kind,“ Kalman said in an interview with us back in 2014. “You don’t have to scare them beyond their understanding or above their age level.”

This rather odd-looking globe headed to auction in New York on June 12 reveals some fascinating snippets in the history of popular science, not the least of which is the relatively unknown work of Danish amateur astronomer Emmy Ingeborg Brun (1872-1929). According to Christie’s, only twelve recorded examples of her finely painted globes exist, and there is precious little information about her or them online. The Royal Museums Greenwich in London, which owns one of those twelve, offers this brief bio of Brun: “Mars enthusiast and amateur astronomer who made a small number of globes, many for presentation to particular individuals and institutions. Her inscriptions suggest that she viewed Mars as a potential socialist religious Utopia.”

Our Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Dr. Anke Timmermann of Type & Forme in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England.

How did you get started in rare books?

In 2014, while I was the Munby Fellow in Bibliography at Cambridge University Library, I decided to leave academia but wanted to continue working with books and manuscripts in the UK. Uncertain of which direction to take, through conversations with Suz Paul (then Head of Manuscripts at Cambridge University Library) and the rare book dealer Roger Gaskell (formerly of Quaritch) the idea of joining the antiquarian book trade emerged, as a career which would accommodate my various interests outside of my academic specialisms, as well as allow me to do fundamental research, to publish, and to help individuals and institutions to build collections.

The fifteen years of experience in book history, manuscripts, and bibliography that led me to that point began when I was first studying English and philosophy at the University of Heidelberg. I was a library assistant at the English Department and also started (somewhat precociously) working on alchemical manuscripts with the Paracelsus expert Prof. Joachim Telle in his graduate research seminar at the Germanic Department. With the help of a DAAD scholarship I then immersed myself in the important alchemical collections at Glasgow for my MPhil, and subsequently won a Gates Cambridge Scholarship for a PhD in the history of science. My international postdoctoral career started at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (now Science History Institute), Philadelphia, which is home to the astounding Othmer Library of Chemical History, followed by co-editing ‘The Letters of Bess of Hardwick’ at the University of Glasgow and curating the accompanying exhibition ‘Unsealed’ (Hardwick Hall and The National Archives). After a couple of years immersing myself in the manuscripts of the National Library of Austria, and a summer researching at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin while finishing my monograph (Verse and Transmutation: A Corpus of Middle English Alchemical Poetry (Brill, 2013)), I began compiling ‘Alchemy in Cambridge: An Annotated Catalogue of Alchemical Texts and Illustrations in Cambridge Repositories’ (Nuncius, 2015) as the Munby Fellow in Cambridge. In fact, A.N.L. Munby was a wonderful example for a life in the book trade, libraries, bibliography and collectorship – it was time for me to investigate the life of books outside the library.

So I wrote to Bernard Quaritch Ltd offering my services, attended an interview, and started as a bookseller in the same year. Over the following two and a half years, Mark James and I produced (among other things) a catalogue of works by women travellers that was featured in The Guardian and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, sold books on food and drink from the library of the conductor Christopher Hogwood, and acquired a complete, undisturbed archive relating to the publication of an early-twentieth-century book on travel to Turkestan, which is now in the special collections at Cambridge University Library. There was no turning back from that point, and in 2017 we both left Quaritch to set up Type & Forme.

When did you and Mark open Type & Forme and what do you specialize in?

We established the business at the beginning of 2018 in Sir Isaac Newton’s hometown of Grantham, an hour north of London. Between us we cover a wide range of subjects, including travel; natural history (we are both Fellows of the Linnean Society); science and medicine; gastronomy; English and international literature; early and fine printing; and the performing arts. We deal in books and manuscripts in European and classical languages, and also prints, instruments, maps and globes. As for historical periods, anything from the fourteenth to the twenty-first centuries might come under our remit.

This may sound very eclectic, but we often work with small collections, entire archives and groups of objects on a particular theme, with a specific provenance or relating to a specific aspect of book history, which we then present in themed catalogues. In the past year or so we have produced catalogues on women writers, science and medicine, voyages of discovery and natural history, T.E. Lawrence, and, most recently, a catalogue of fine editions (including Roxburghe Club and William Blake Trust publications) from the library of Stephen Keynes.

What is your particular role at Type & Forme?

Type & Forme is a partnership with two partners, so Mark and I share all responsibilities.

What do you love about the book trade?

The combination of a longstanding tradition with individuality, creativity, and constant learning is wonderful. Where else can one apply knowledge in the history of science to, say, the history of polar exploration and mountaineering (the equipment, apparel, food rations, physiological reactions of the body to extreme temperatures, etc.), and combine a love of modern literature with discoveries that contribute to the bibliography of modern writers? What other job would allow me to use my specialist knowledge in the history of alchemy and medicine on the same day as identifying an unprepossessing ephemeron as historically important (and thus preventing it from being forgotten or destroyed), or to use my background in dance and movement and Mark’s experience in theatre for a performing arts catalogue?

Describe a typical day for you:

If working in Grantham, I will be at my desk cataloguing, researching, and selling books, or planning the next catalogue or fair. Our book room in the Grantham Museum (formerly also a Carnegie Library) overlooks Newton’s statue on the town square and catches the afternoon sun, so it will often be transformed into a photo studio when we are preparing a catalogue. I will make time at some point during the day to exercise – as a fully trained Pilates teacher (I qualified while a research fellow at the Medical University of Vienna) I am keenly aware of how detrimental the physical aspects of antiquarian bookselling can be, whether carrying book boxes, sitting at a desk for extended periods, or standing at a fair for several hours at a time, and I do intend to continue in this business for a long time!

Visits to clients, libraries, auctions, etc. usually take us to London once a week. I might also attend a meeting at the Linnean Society, where I have recently joined the Collections Committee, or a Bibliographical Society lecture. We also travel further afield for valuations of private or institutional libraries, to buy books, or to research – writing is still an important part of my life. At the moment I am writing a four-article series on important alchemical collections in British Libraries for The Book Collector: the first, on Elias Ashmole’s alchemica, appeared earlier this year; the second, on Sir Hans Sloane’s alchemical manuscripts, is imminent; the third, on James ‘Paraffin’ Young’s collection, has just gone to the editor; and for the fourth, on John Ferguson, I have received a Visiting Fellowship at Glasgow University Library, which will enable me to spend two weeks in Glasgow working on Ferguson’s collection later this summer.

Building a new business is an all-consuming passion, and – although I might have the best intentions to relax in the evenings – I will still have a tab on my iPad open to track upcoming auctions. I am currently building a collection for a client, and some of the most rare and unusual items in it have been discovered in the wee small hours.

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

A series of six Christmas cards which were sent by Jacob and Rita Bronowski to Gritta Weil in the 1950s come to mind. Jacob Bronowski was one of the most famous public intellectuals of the post-war era, a brilliant scientist, and an important populariser of science. He saw art and science, the ‘two cultures’, as twin expressions of the human imagination, and also published on poetry and science, and William Blake. These Christmas cards contain Bronowski’s own poems on, among other things, Isaac Newton and Copernicus, and are beautifully illustrated by his wife, who was an artist and sculptor. They are a beautiful, well-thought-out yet visceral expression of the beauty of science, and I was delighted to be able to place them in the Science Museum in London.

What do you personally collect?

In the interest of dedicating both shelf space and resources to Type & Forme’s development, I am restricting my personal collection deliberately, but I have a small collection on dance and movement (including dance notation) to which I add as the occasion arises.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Cooking is a longstanding interest – it is nice to improvise at least once a day, and whenever there is the time (or a bunch of fresh produce from the market) I will cook from a book. Reading cookbooks outside of mealtimes is, actually, a great pleasure, and naturally leads me into the historical literature.

When out and about I also enjoy listening to audiobooks – ironically it is hard to find the time to read for pleasure in this life full of books – and podcasts. It is fascinating to see the developments of this relatively new medium. Curiously, my first experience of podcasts was as a contributor rather than a consumer, writing segments for ‘Distillations’, the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s podcasts, from 2008 onwards. I then single-handedly wrote and produced the podcast accompanying the exhibition on Bess of Hardwick’s correspondence, ‘Unsealed’, in 2011, and became a compulsive podcast listener during that time – anything from Ottolenghi and Jay Rayner on food to true crime (e.g. ‘Last Seen’, the story of the art thefts at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum) and music (especially ‘Coverville’ – I particularly recommend the episode on Prince!).

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

It is constantly changing, but is currently seeing some exciting new developments: antiquarian books are arguably even better appreciated in recent years than they were when I first became aware of the world of rare books. Social media, especially Instagram, has brought forth a new generation of bibliophiles who want to see the real thing after discovering the intricacies of, say, medieval manuscript illumination in an Instagram post. And there is a growing understanding that collecting need not be expensive, does not need to follow a prescriptive programme or timeline, and will evolve through conversations in all parts of the book world, whether with librarians, book dealers, or other collectors. The growth of book collecting prizes during recent years has shown an exciting resurgence in young collectors, and the energy, intelligence, and discrimination that the bring to their collections is remarkable.

Given this general enthusiasm I do wish that it was less difficult for antiquarian booksellers to maintain traditional shops on the high street. I remember hours and hours spent as a student at Antiquariat Hatry in Heidelberg, and Mark spent his teenage holidays working in a second hand bookshop, where he started collecting first editions, taking payment in kind from the shop’s stock. These experiences were, in retrospect, an important education, and it is regrettable that future generations may not have the same opportunities to learn from knowledgeable booksellers that we did.

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

We are currently preparing for the London Rare Book Fair, Firsts, and busy finalising our fair catalogue. In addition to that we have joined forces with Charlotte Du Rietz, a Swedish dealer specialising in travel books, to produce a printed catalogue on Travel & Exploration. The books will be exhibited on our stands (N08 and N09), and feature books, manuscripts, and photographs relating to Africa, the Middle East, China, India, Europe, and the Americas, by explorers, pilgrims, women travellers, and plant hunters. Type & Forme will also exhibit English and international literature, early printed books, science and medicine, private press books, and fine printing.

Finally, I should mention that I am the ABA Library Liaison – Tim Pye of The National Trust is my counterpart on the CILIP side. For Firsts London we have arranged a friendly get-together for librarians on 7 June: the fair will be opened at noon by Stephen Fry, and there will be time to see the guest exhibitions by The Globe and the International Society of Bible Collectors as well as browsing the fair at large before coffee and cake will be served at the onsite café from 4-5pm. I hope to see many familiar faces there, and look forward to making the acquaintance of those international librarians whose paths have not crossed mine yet.

 

For many people summer brings at least a short break from the workaday world, time to be spent chipping away at personal projects and hobbies or simply reading a great (bookish) novel. Five recently published books about books speak to these priorities. So if you’re seeking a stack of summer reads, look no further!

Firsts: London’s Rare Book Fair, the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association's annual flagship event, opens its doors for the 62nd time in the capital in June. There will be plenty on view with more than 150 exhibitors from fifteen countries presenting signed first editions, maps, manuscripts, art, and ephemera.

To raise awareness of the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre’s Project Prospero, which is fundraising for a new Shakespeare library and archive, there will be various related items on show from the John Wolfson Rare Books Collection including a Shakespeare First Folio (1623) as well as a first edition of The Two Noble Kinsmen (1634) by Shakespeare and John Fletcher, not included in the First or subsequent Folios.