In ancient Rome, correcting errors chiseled into stone was no small undertaking, and, as far as modern historians can tell, slip-ups were unusual. Perhaps the most significant masonry commission for an average Roman was for the family funeral plaque--certainly not the place to screw up. But, nobody’s perfect, and one funerary plaque bearing the scars of a mistake, complete with a revision, is heading to auction on July 3 at Christie’s in London.
A celebration of maps and the stories they tell gets underway at Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries next week. Talking Maps showcases the Bodleian’s world-renowned collection of maps, from the first modern map of Britain (late fourteenth century) to Tolkien’s maps of Middle-earth to contemporary artist Grayson Perry’s Red Carpet (2017).
“Every map tells a story,” commented Jerry Brotton, who, with map librarian Nick Millea, co-curated the exhibition. “The exhibition shows how maps are creative objects that establish conversations between the people who made them and the individuals and communities that use them.”
Facebook is hardly good for anything anymore, but one of its finer applications is allowing a global audience of book lovers to share information and images in a handful of terrific rare book-related groups. (Of course, Fine Books is among them!) Earlier today, UK bookseller Simon Beattie, who launched the fabulous We Love Endpapers group a few years back, posted a hyperlinked list of them, which he has graciously allowed us to share here.
Cover Stories – for the Love of Dust Jackets and Book Covers
Things Found in Books
Endbands Endbands Endbands
Library & Information History Group
Women in Rare Books & Manuscripts
Social Media for Special Collections
The International Marbling Network
National Trust Libraries
Opening at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, on July 12 is Gonzo! The Illustrated Guide to Hunter S. Thompson, an exhibition of letters, photographs, and ephemera focusing on the years 1964-1974. Collector Joe Yasinski, featured in our current issue, has contributed original Ralph Steadman drawings from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, and an oversized Annie Leibovitz portrait of Thompson, among other items.
The exhibition is timed to coincide with GonzoFest, a literary and musical festival honoring Thompson that will be held at the Louisville Free Public Library on July 20.
ALDE will sell 224 lots from the library of Jacques Attali on Tuesday, June 25. Some excellent philosophical and literary editions to be had, including Alain-Fournier's Le Grand Meaulnes (1913), estimated at €14,000–16,000, and Vercors' Le Silence de la mer (1942), estimated at €12,000–15,000.
On Wednesday, June 26, Bonhams London will sell Fine Books, Manuscripts, Atlases & Historical Photographs, in 257 lots. A 1660–61 ledger kept by Edward Backwell to document the transactions of a bank which acted as paymaster to the Excise and the House of Commons is expected to lead the way, with estimates of £100,000–150,000. A first impression of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone could sell for £40,000–60,000 (another copy, with repairs, could still fetch £20,000–30,000). A set of proof copies of Blake's illustrations for The Book of Job is also estimated at £20,000–30,000. A 1737 copy of Horace taken by William Perry around the world on Captain Cook's Endeavour voyage is estimated at £15,000–25,000.
Also on Wednesday, The Library & Picture Collection of the late Martin Woolf Orskey at Dominic Winter Auctioneers, in 440 lots. Rating the top estimate is an illuminated Latin Book of Hours (Use of Rome) from around 1450 (£10,000–15,000). A lovely copy of George Edwards' Natural History of Uncommon Birds (1743–51), from the library Charles Shaw-Lefevre, 1st Viscount Eversley of Heckfield, could sell for £8,000–12,000. Some other interesting lots from this sale include a manuscript recipe book from around 1700 (£1,000–1,500); Caslon's 1785 Specimen of Printing Types (£700–1,000) and a number of other type specimens and auction catalogues. There are some very nice bindings, &c. too; I highly recommend a close look at this sale.
Rounding out Wednesday's sales, University Archives holds an auction of Autographed Documents, Manuscripts, Photos & Books, in 259 lots. A military checklist signed by Edward IV is estimated at $35,000–40,000, while a Stalin letter from 1930 asking questions about American culture could sell for $30,000–35,000.
Chiswick Auctions sells Books & Works on Paper on Thursday, June 27, in 199 lots.
Also on Thursday, Fine Literature with Mystery & Detective Fiction at PBA Galleries, in 519 lots. A first edition, signed, of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind is estimated at $3,000–5,000; a presentation copy of Sinclair Lewis' Main Street rates the same estimate. Lots 457–519 will be sold without reserve.
A 428-lot sale of Livres & Manuscrits at Aguttes on Friday, June 28, will round out the week.
Victor Hugo was exiled from France in 1851 after unsuccessfully blocking Louis Napoleon Bonaparte’s coup d’etat, which left him bumping around Europe for a few years until finding sanctuary on the island of Guernsey, located off the Normandy coast. Of Hugo’s nineteen years spent in banishment, fifteen of those were at Hauteville House, a majestic property built in the hills of Saint Peter Port. There, Hugo turned out masterpieces like Les Miserables, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and scathing anti-Napoleonic pamphlets banned in France. The five-story house was built by an English ship owner in 1800, which then remained vacant for years until Hugo purchased the house with the proceeds from his book of poetry, Les Contemplations. Hugo was so grateful to the tiny outpost for welcoming him that he dedicated Toilers of the Sea (1866) to “the rock of hospitality and liberty...to the island of Guernsey, sever yet kind, my present asylum, perhaps my tomb.”
Hauteville House proved to be more than an adequate asylum--Hugo spent years designing and decorating the interiors and gardens to create a place bursting with sumptuous colors and fabrics. The house accommodated a billiard room, workshop, photography studio, a Renaissance-inspired bedroom, even a fifth-floor addition dubbed the Lookout with unobstructed sea facing views. Hauteville remained in the Hugo family until 1927, when descendants donated it to the City of Paris. Now maintained by the organization Maisons de Victor Hugo, Hauteville House has been turned into a museum, open to anyone willing to make the boat ride to Guernsey.
Homes built on the ocean need more maintenance than most, and Hauteville underwent an extensive 18-month renovation funded in large part by French billionaire François Pinault, the same benefactor who donated over $100 million to the restoration of Notre Dame cathedral. (Interestingly, Hugo’s 1831 Hunchback was instrumental in spurring conservation of the Gothic house of worship, devoting two chapters to describing the cathedral and making Notre Dame as much a character as Quasimodo and Esmeralda.)
Hauteville was reopened to the public in April 2019, and visitors may once again revel in the world Hugo created for himself on this rugged outpost. Open daily except Wednesdays, admission is £10 ($12.70) per adult and free to children under 18. Reservations are required and should be booked at least a week in advance.
Many people will recognize Desmond Morris as the author of The Naked Ape (1967). As a zoologist and the curator of mammals at the London Zoo, Morris popularized evolution for a mid-century audience. Still contentious at the time, his book became one of eleven titles named in a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case related to book banning and First Amendment rights, alongside Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Richard Wright’s Black Boy.
Morris, 91, is also an artist and a collector of antiquities and books. On July 3, Bonhams in London will auction his collection of ancient art, to be followed, we imagine, by his “fabled library of 11,000 books,” as Lucinda Bredin, the editor of Bonhams Magazine, described it. (Stay tuned.)
Until then, let’s have a look at some of his animal-themed antiquities. The one pictured above is a large Persian pottery jar dated circa late 3rd to late 2nd century BC, and shows a hunter with a bow and arrow holding a curly-tailed dog which, in turn, is herding goats on a mountainside. It is, according to Bonhams, one of the first known depictions of a dog on a lead. The estimate is £20,000-30,000 ($25,000-38,000).
How did you get started in rare books?
I started and ran my own high-ish volume, warehouse-style, online, used book operation in New Orleans from about 2006 until 2012 when I sold the inventory and moved to Washington, D.C. for my partner’s career. Pretty quickly, in the course of local scouting there, I became acquainted with ABAA dealer Brian Cassidy. He put me in touch with an appraiser working with a brilliant collector of early children’s illustrated and movable material there named Larry Seidman. I helped catalog Larry’s collection for a couple of years, then took a position with B-cass as his assistant from about 2013-2015. In late 2015 we moved from D.C. to Findlay, Ohio, where I began working exclusively for myself.
When did you open Martin Hartzold Bookseller and what do you specialize in?
I started this iteration of my bookselling career in 2015 and try to focus on mostly 20th-century material, much of it visual or archival in nature, with an emphasis on vernacular photography, transportation, and the Midwest. My focus has always been pretty fluid though, shaped not only by my interests and experience, but also by local opportunity. This particular part of Ohio was the backyard of a couple of great 20th-century booksellers (Ernie Wessen and Bob Hayman) for decades and they seem to have done quite a number on the local supply of Americana. We are in the midst of another move, from Ohio to St. Louis, this month, and I expect the change of region to further influence my specialties and offerings going forward.
What do you love about the book trade?
Booksellers. I wouldn’t be doing this if another bookseller hadn’t answered a completely unsolicited email offering back when I was scouting D.C. with a bar code scanner in 2012. He didn’t buy the book, but insisted on inviting me to lunch, which turned in to a job, which then turned into a new stage of my career. Whether it’s buying from one of my lists, partnering on an expensive item, teaching at CABS, introducing me to a new customer, etc… the support I’ve received from other booksellers is the only reason I’ve been able to continue in this space and their generosity seems boundless.
Describe a typical day for you:
I have a strict early morning routine involving feeding multiple domestic animals and a five-year-old human child. When that’s finished, we leave the animals behind and commute about thirty miles north where my son Harry (our photographer for this piece) gets dropped off at school and, unless there’s a sale or auction to hit up, I then settle into my office a few blocks away. I then usually take a moment to gaze around the place and wonder, sometimes out loud, “Why do I have most of this stuff?” I go through emails, conduct a daily scour of specific and not-so-specific search terms on a couple of different online auction sites and marketplaces. I check auctionzip.com for any local, live auctions that seem appealing (there is still quite the rural farm auction scene in NW Ohio), check estate sale listings in Toledo and Detroit for the week, etc… If I’m lucky enough for it to be Monday I’ll cue up the latest episode of Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast as background while I [hopefully] ship out a few packages. My office isn’t open to the public for browsing but there are a few middling dealers and scouts who are always welcome and they often stop by through the week, either to chat or do business. On the weekends, there are a few long-running country flea markets nearby, including the monthly summer market at the fairgrounds in Tiffin, Ohio where I seem to consistently find good material. Don’t sleep on your local flea markets, people!
Favorite rare book (or ephemera) that you’ve handled?
Shortly after landing here in Ohio, I handled a snapshot photograph archive compiled by a man who traversed automotive junkyards of Northwest Ohio and Southwestern Michigan in the 1980’s, photographing almost exclusively pre-war Cadillacs. Hundreds of them. He would snap these fantastic, haunting images of the rotting carcass of what was once a top-of-the-line luxury car, then remove the body plate from the vehicle (a credit card-sized piece of metal with the factory particulars of the car stamped on it). He then paired the two together, the photo and the plate, in album pages, to form an archive of outsider photography that was both visual and tactile. It was remarkable and precisely the type of thing I hope to find and sell.
What do you personally collect?
I am building a couple of long term collections for the business that seem to keep my impulses to accumulate pretty much in check. Other than the occasional splurge on a piece of artwork, I don’t actively collect anything for myself.
What do you like to do outside of work?
The past few years much of my free time has been consumed with working on home improvements, especially lately as we’re preparing to sell one 100+ year old home and move into another. When I’m not scraping paint or tearing up concrete, I enjoy spending time with my son, travelling some, usually to New Orleans, with my wonderful partner who for some reason has tolerated me going on ten years now, as well as reading about, following, and betting on thoroughbred horse racing.
Thoughts on the present state and/or future of the rare book trade?
I think the generational differences between the baby boomers, those coming of age right now, and everyone else in between are significant and will affect our business in the immediate future, especially at the lower end of the market. If one reads financial news, it seems nearly every major corporation is preparing for the same (see the decision of Ford to essentially stop making cars). There is going to be a ton of stuff coming out of the boomers’ homes soon and it seems reasonable to think that no one is going to want much of it. As a personal example: My sister and I were moving my 75 year old father into an assisted living home last summer and he was trying to give us things, big, wieldy things like hope chests, old bicycles, and tool boxes that we had little interest in and even less room for. As we were going through boxes, I found like 15 years worth of cancelled child support checks he had written to our Mom in two small check boxes. That was what I wanted. That would evoke something. They conjured the image of the only in-person interactions I ever saw my parents have, him spitefully handing those small white envelopes over in person once a month. This ephemeral trash is what did it for me and while it may be a deeply personal example, I think there’s a distinct commonality with younger generations to be found there and applied to the decisions we make as we work in this trade going forward. Kids and grandkids of baby boomers seem much less obliged to objects than their precedent generations. I believe the desire to collect is still very strong with those my age and younger, but the work of a bookseller will continue to become less rote and more abstract, seeking out and presenting the unique in a way that captures imaginations, not senses of propriety.
Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?
Most of our material is presented via illustrated PDFs of recent arrivals sent directly to our mailing list about once per month. The lists are on hold through the summer as I’m working on a very limited schedule amidst the move and renovation of our new home and we hope to make up that lost ground by bringing our absolute A-game to the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair this September 7-8 where we’ll be exhibiting loads of fresh material alongside our pals from the Cleveland Book Co. I encourage anyone who’d like to keep tabs on our offerings to head to our site and sign up for our direct email list or follow us on Instagram @mhartzoldbooks where we document new finds and scouting adventures almost daily.
The National Trust holds around 400,000 titles in their 160 historic properties in the UK. Rarities includes William Caxton’s 1487 Lyme Missal at Lyme Park in Cheshire and the first edition of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, given by the author to Eddy Sackville-West while he was living at Knole. The charity is also increasingly putting its finest items on display, and there are currently two excellent exhibitions at Peckover House and Blickling Estate.
Lord Peckover’s Lost Library concentrates on Quaker banker and philanthropist Alexander, the first Baron Peckover (1830-1919), who collected ancient manuscripts and early maps, many of which he donated to the Royal Geographical Society in 1905. When his home was acquired by the National Trust in 1948, most of the contents and none of the library at his Cambridgeshire residence were included and it was instead dispersed to collectors and museums worldwide. To mark the centenary of his death, the house has been working to find these lost volumes and bring some of them home.
An important part of Lord Peckover’s library was his huge collection of bibles and on show is his 1538 New Testament (on loan from Colchester and Ipswich Museums) translated by Miles Coverdale who disliked this edition because of its many misprints. Also on display is a 1635 Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (from Wisbech & Fenland Museum) produced by the Amsterdam publishing firm of Willem Blaeu, a lavish, hand-colored atlas with more than 200 maps, including one of the earliest mappings of Australasia and the American colony of Virginia.
Meanwhile at Blickling in Norfolk, The Edge of Things includes some of its most significant volumes including the Eliot Bible (1663, pictured above), one of the first books printed in British North America, translated into the Massachusset Indian dialect by Englishman John Eliot who learned the language phonetically from the Wampanoag tribe. The Blickling copy is one of forty surviving first editions. Other delights include Robert Hooke’s groundbreaking book of microscopy, The Micrographia of Minute Bodies (1665), the star atlas Harmonia Macrocosmica (1661), and Conrad Gessner’s Historia Animalium (1551–8), the first effort to list all known creatures, though noting that the unicorn and hydra “may not actually exist.”
Lord Peckover’s Lost Library runs until November 17 and The Edge of Things until October 27.
Another busy week coming up:
Today at ALDE in Paris, Livres Anciens et du XIXe Siècle, in 442 lots. Some impressive bindings at somewhat modest estimates to keep an eye on in this one, as well as a 1483 Latin Bible printed at Lyon (€4,000–5,000); an illustrated edition of the Decameron (1757–1761), estimated at €5,000–6,000; and—of great interest to bibliophiles—a copy of the library catalogue of the great collector Jacques-Auguste de Thou (€2,000–3,000).
Doyle's online sale of Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold 'Jake' Johnson closes on Tuesday, June 18.
Also on Tuesday, Sotheby's Paris hosts a Livres et Manuscrits sale, in 193 lots. Expected to lead the way is a copy of Henri Matisse's Jazz (1947), at €100,000–120,000. Goya's Los Desastres de la Guerra (1863) is estimated at €50,000–60,000, and a Zola autograph manuscript, "Deux Définitions du Roman," could sell for €30,000–50,000.
Lyon & Turnbull sells Rare Books, Maps, Manuscripts & Photographs on Wednesday, June 19, in 475 lots. The highlight is expected to be a set of two dozen unjoined gores for a large terrestrial globe designed by Vincenzo Maria Coronelli, estimated at £20,000–30,000.
Dominic Winter Auctioneers will sell Printed Books, Maps & Documents, Early Bibles & The Ladwell Collection of Fine Bird Books: Part II on Wednesday, in 479 lots. A 137-volume set of the New Naturalist series (1945–2018) rates the top estimate, at £5,000–8,000, while a presentation copy of Cook's Voyage towards the South Pole (1777) could sell for £3,000–5,000.
On Thursday, June 20, Dominic Winter holds an auction of Modern Literature & First Editions, Children's, Fine Press & Illustrated Books, in 294 lots. A set of the Lord of the Rings novels, each signed by Tolkien and from the collection of David A. Smith, is estimated at £7,000–10,000.
Swann Galleries holds the Pride Sale on Thursday. The 274 lots include a collection of 120 photographs of New York Gay Pride Parades by Hank O'Neal, each with annotations by Allen Ginsberg ($70,000–100,000); Walt Whitman's Memoranda of the War (1875–1876), inscribed by Whitman to Pete Doyle ($50,000–75,000); and one of just twelve copies of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest printed on Japanese vellum ($50,000–70,000).
At Freeman's on Thursday, Books, Maps & Manuscripts, in 514 lots. A wide range of material in this sale.