August 2019

The reading public has long been fascinated with anything having to do with Charlotte Brontë, the author of Jane Eyre and the source of untold spinoffs, movies, and commentary. In fact, Jane Eyre has never gone out of print and has been translated into nearly 60 languages.

Now from the Center for Cartoon Studies and Hyperion Books comes a book that explores the woman behind the classic in Charlotte Brontë before Jane Eyre. Written and illustrated by cartoonist Glynnis Fawkes, the 112-page graphic novel takes middle-grade readers on a trip back to 1837, when young Charlotte faced unrelenting discouragement and setbacks on the path to literary success, all set to the brooding backdrop of the isolated parsonage the Brontë family called home.

Fawkes’ pen-and-ink illustrations are crisp and vivid, capturing in shades of black, white, and gray the oppressive and highly patriarchal world Brontë navigated. It’s a biography that examines Brontë’s formative years and the challenges she faced. Fawkes intersperses Brontë’s own words, where possible, to better express her personality.

Fellow cartoonist Alison Bechdel provides an introduction into why Jane Eyre remains as relevant today as it did when first published under the pen name “Currer Bell” in 1847. A postscript and panel discussions explaining Fawkes’ thought process behind certain illustrated panels round out the book. 

Charlotte Brontë Before Jane Eyre is a fantastic introduction to one of Western literature’s most enduring authors. Tuck this one into your child’s backpack, there’s much here to inspire anyone apprehensive about heading back to school. And though most middle-grade readers may not be quite ready to pick up Jane Eyre, Fawkes’s biography will whet their appetite.

Landing in mailboxes this week (if not already) is our fall quarterly, the last page of which features book collector and NASA engineer Michael L. Ciancone. Can you guess what he collects? If you guessed books about rockets and spaceflight, give yourself a gold star.

The first book Ciancone bought for his collection is also his favorite: The Conquest of Space (Penguin Press, 1931) by David Lasser. As he told us, “Lasser was a founder and first president of the American Interplanetary Society in 1930, which became the American Rocket Society a few years later. They eventually joined with the Institute of the Aerospace Sciences in 1963 to form what we know today as the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics. Thus, this book represents the start of a thread that runs to the present. It is also the first English-language non-fiction book on the possibility of using rockets for human spaceflight. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Lasser in 1992.”

Ciancone built upon that purchase, adding 600+ more books to his collection. He also published Foreword to Spaceflight: An Illustrated Bibliography of Pre-1958 Publications on Rocketry & Space Travel (Apogee Press, 2018). Foreword to Spaceflight is the long-anticipated update to Ciancone’s previous book, The Literary Legacy of the Space Age. It offers a unique resource for book collectors and historians alike through hundreds of annotated entries that identify books in several languages related to the use of rockets for spaceflight published before Sputnik.

The Literary Legacy of The Space Age by Michael L. Ciancone is the most current, most comprehensive and most useful bibliography of nonfiction monographs documenting high altitude rocket research and flight into space published before 1958,” said ABAA bookseller L.W. Currey. “The scope of this updated second edition is substantially expanded with the addition of an extensive list of nonfiction works on rocketry and space travel in Russian through 1957 compiled by Prof. Asif Siddiqi, with contributions by Ciancone. Additionally, the new edition includes pictures of covers and dust jackets of many of the works described, which provides a wonderful iconography of early space art. For early publications on rocketry and spaceflight, this book is the Brockett for the space age.”

You can read more about Ciancone’s collection in our fall issue.

In 1913, the poet Blaise Cendrars collaborated with artist Sonia Delaunay to produce La Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France by letterpress and pochoir. The book became a landmark in the field of book arts, noted for its striking combination of avant-garde typography and abstract imagery. 

Kitty Maryatt of Two Hands Press began researching the production of La Prose du Transsibérien in 2012, culminating in 2018 with the publication of a new edition of 150 copies. (We interviewed Maryatt and covered this publication in our summer 2017 issue). Simultaneous with the publication of the new edition of La Prose, Maryatt and her underwriters commissioned fine bindings by design binders from all around the world. A new traveling exhibition entitled Drop Dead Gorgeous: Fine Bindings of La Prose du Transsibérien Re-creation will display these twenty-two design bindings alongside Maryatt's La Prose du Transsibérien. Featured designers include Don Glaister, Monique Lallier, Midori Kunikata-Cockram, and Julian Thomas.

The exhibition opens in San Francisco on September 6, with an opening reception at the San Francisco Center for the Book, 375 Rhode Island Street, on September 6 from 6:00-8:00 pm. Maryatt will also be leading a workshop at the SFCB over the weekend to introduce people to traditional French pochoir. Related events include a screening of a documentary produced about Maryatt's re-production of La Prose on October 4 from 6:00-8:00, again at the San Francisco Center for the Book. The original 1913 publication will also be on special exhibit on October 5 at Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts from 3:00-5:00 pm.

When it closes in October, the exhibition will travel, first to UCLA from October 12 through January 5, 2020, and then to Minneapolis, Boston, Montreal, and London in 2020 and 2021.

The Waukegan Public Library in Waukegan, Illinois, unveiled a 12-foot statue of Ray Bradbury last Thursday, August 22, on what would have been the late author’s 99th birthday. The stainless steel sculpture, titled “Fantastical Traveler,” is much like the man himself: brilliant and bursting with creative energy. It features Bradbury riding a rocket ship while holding onto a book and was inspired, said its creator, Zachary Oxman, by Bradbury’s poem, “If Only We Had Taller Been.”   

Bradbury, best known for his novels, The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451, was born in Waukegan, a Chicago suburb, on August 22, 1920 and lived there until he was thirteen. A few years after his death in 2012, a proposal to memorialize the town’s literary icon with a piece of public art began to circulate. A committee was formed, funds were raised, and, after 41 artists submitted ideas, Oxman’s exuberant sculpture was chosen. As the Maryland-based sculptor commented at the time, “Bradbury’s writing was not rooted in the possible world, but rather in a fantastical one. I wanted to evoke that whimsicality.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, the $125,000 cost of the statue was financed through donations. Those who gave at least $150 received a book from Bradbury’s personal book collection, which had been donated to the library upon his death. (Bradbury’s manuscripts, art, and rare materials were auctioned in 2014.) 

Another pair of auctions to keep an eye on this week:

On Wednesday, August 28, University Archives holds a sale of Historical Documents, Autographs & Books Including a Large Science Collection, in 255 lots. An 1804 Thomas Paine letter to John Fellows asking for assistance in dealing with a tenant farmer (and for Fellows to please bring Paine his mail) is estimated at $25,000–30,000. A 32-volume set of the novels of James Fenimore Cooper owned by Millard and Caroline Fillmore, deaccessioned from the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Library, could sell for $18,000–20,000. A 1799 Boston legal document signed by Paul Revere as a witness is estimated at $15,000–17,000. Other items on offer include a 1953 Albert Einstein letter ($10,000–12,000); a large collection of documents related to the Coffin family ($4,000–4,500); and 27 separately printed eulogies of George Washington ($2,000–2,400).

Forum Auctions holds an online sale of Maps and Atlases on Thursday, August 29, in 241 lots. A 1589 Ortelius map of the Pacific, the first printed map focused on that ocean, is estimated at £3,000–5,000, as is Jean Baptiste Bourguignon's Nouvel Atlas de la Chine, de la Tartarie Chinoise, et du Thibet (1737), the first survey atlas of China. Forum's description calls this the "most important cartographic record of China from the eighteenth century." A first edition of Tommaso Porcacchi's atlas of islands, L'Isole piu famose del Mondo (Venice, 1572) is estimated at £2,000–3,000. Andrew Dury's 1765 edition of A Chorographical Map of the King of Sardinia's Dominions and A Chorographical Map of the Territories of the Republic of Genoa, once in the library of the First Duke of Westminster, could sell for £2,000–2,500.

This past June Manhattan welcomed a new museum whose goal is to bring outdoor advertising indoors. Dubbed Poster House, it’s the first in the United States entirely devoted to exploring the enduring history and influence of posters. The museum’s 7,000-piece collection highlights 150 years of outdoor advertising, and now it’s adding to that total with the acquisition of 55 posters from the personal archive of graphic designer Paula Scher.

Known for creating the brand identities for Citibank and Tiffany & Co. in her role at Pentagram design studio, Scher’s donation includes rare prints of her own work ranging from the mid-1900s through today.

“These posters are a landmark addition to our permanent collection,” Poster House director Julia Knight commented in a press release. “Paula Scher is among the most renowned graphic designers in the world and we are honored to be housing such incredible examples of her innovative typography and unparalleled sense of design.”

Learn more about this funky new museum and what its founders hope to achieve when your fall issue of Fine Books & Collections arrives in mailboxes this week and next.

Think of French painter Paul Gauguin, and surely Tahiti will come to mind. He first traveled there in 1891, and though disappointed by the pervasiveness of French colonial culture there, he stayed for two years and tried to immerse himself in island culture. He returned in 1895 and stayed on for another few years. It’s clear from this Tahitian-French dictionary in his hand, which is headed to auction on September 5, that he also tried to learn the language.

The four-page dictionary, which lists approximately 246 Tahitian/Polynesian words and their French translations, will be offered among a strong selection of artists’ letters and sketches known as the Maurice Car Collection of Arts and Sciences at Heritage Auctions in New York. The auctioneer believes the artist “probably created this manuscript during one of the two periods of time he lived in Tahiti.” Examples of the words listed in the dictionary are "Ani" for the French word "Demander" (request) and "Ta ahu" for "Habiller" (dress). Gauguin ultimately gave up on Tahiti, though, moving to the French Polynesian island of Hiva Oa in 1901; he died there two years later.

The opening bid for the artist’s work of lexicography is $4,000. You can read more about the Car Collection in our Autumn Auction Guide.

As sales of audiobooks rise, so there are also increasing numbers of literary podcasts to cater for readers interested in listening to book discussions. In the UK, there is a particular dearth of radio programs about books, especially those not recently published, so both Backlisted and the Slightly Foxed podcast are very welcome.

The National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, D.C. announced last week its acquisition of one of the most important photographic works of the American Civil War and the nineteenth century: Alexander Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1866). Gardner, who ran Mathew Brady’s D.C. studio and was present at both of Abraham Lincoln’s inaugurations, is said to have captured Lincoln’s likeness more than any other photographer. His Sketch Book spans the entire war and contains a total of one hundred albumen prints organized chronologically and “intentionally composed to elicit an emotional response from the viewer,” according to the NGA. “Among the subjects featured in the photographs are the engineering accomplishments necessary to prepare for battle: pontoon bridges, wooden railroad trestles, fortifications, and batteries. Other photographs depict army headquarters and posed scenes of camp life, while a handful of images show the destruction wrought on cities and the dead on the field at Gettysburg.”

Gardner’s Sketch Book was a costly project at the time and only two hundred were produced. When it appears at auction in fine condition, it sells in the $100,000-200,000 range.

 

A couple fairly quiet weeks coming up, with just two sales I'm watching this week:

PBA Galleries holds a 522-lot sale of Americana, Travel, Cartography, the Mexican War - with Material from the Warren Heckrotte Collection on Thursday, August 22. Expected to lead the way is a copy of Michael Collins' Liftoff: The Story of America's Adventure in Space (1988), signed not only by Collins himself but also by his Apollo XI colleagues Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. It is estimated at $10,000–15,000. George Wilkins Kendall's The War Between the United States and Mexico Illustrated, with lithographs of artwork by Carl Nebel (1851) could sell for $8,000–12,000. A third edition of the six-volume account of the 1838–42 Wilkes Expedition (1845) is estimated at $5,000–8,000. The sixth issue of the first California newspaper, The Californian, rates the same estimate.

Lots 439–474 comprise Mexican-American War material being sold without reserve, and Lots 475–522 include more general material also sold without reserve.

On Friday, August 23, Leland Little Auctions sells Advertising & Americana, The Collection of Mary Wells of Greensboro, NC. The 295 lots include a huge variety of advertising material, mostly for tobacco and soda products, but with a few display posters and other items included, such as the 1930s poster for a Mother Goose pantomime illustrated above.