In 1898, Isabella Stewart Gardner brought the first Raphael to America, a portrait of Pope Julius II’s librarian, Tommaso Inghirami. Today it goes on exhibit at her namesake museum in Boston in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death.

So who is this man in the red cap, gazing heavenward? A friend of the painter’s, to start, and a lover of literature and theater—the “Cicero of our era,” according to Erasmus, also a friend. More to the point of the portrait, however, is the fact that he was the head of the Palatine Library (now known as the Vatican Library) from 1510 until his death in 1516.  

Raphael’s c. 1510 depiction shows Inghirami with pen in hand, copying text from a red leather-bound book into a quire. “Even after the advent of the printing press, scholars continued to create lavish, hand-copied editions of rare texts for rich patrons,” notes the Gardner Museum. Henry James called the painting “semi-sacred.”

The exhibition, which features a selection of sculpture, drawings, and archival materials to give the painting context, is on view through January 26, 2020.

Every November, Indianapolis hosts VonnegutFest in honor of its native son, the brilliant author Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007). But this year’s event will be quite special, as it coincides with the grand opening of the new Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library (KVML). Called “a pilgrimage destination for thousands of fans from around the world,” the KVML, which has been in operation for eight years, will officially debut its new space with a ribbon cutting on November 9, attended by the author's daughter, Edith Vonnegut.

The KVML houses rare books and memorabilia, including first editions of every Vonnegut novel from the Kevin Scherr Collection, some of Vonnegut’s famous drawings and doodles, family photographs, his typewriter, and even his Purple Heart, earned in the U.S. Army during World War II. The museum also offers fans the opportunity to “sit hunched over the same model typewriter Kurt Vonnegut pecked away at,” and to “ponder rejection letters Vonnegut received from editors.”

And in this, the 50th-anniversary year of Vonnegut’s cult classic, Slaughterhouse-Five, the KVML is raising funds to open a permanent exhibition in its new home called Unstuck in Time: Slaughterhouse-Five Then and Now. According to the Kickstarter page, “The Unstuck in Time exhibition will include a walk-through tunnel of the firebombing of Dresden, art by Kurt Vonnegut and other veterans, and biographical information about Kurt Vonnegut’s experience as a Prisoner of War during WWII. Every part of Unstuck in Time: Slaughterhouse-Five Then and Now will emphasize that literature, including Slaughterhouse-Five, is an important societal tool for understanding complex human experiences … This project will also help KVML offer programming for veterans, students, and the general public about the power of the arts and humanities to help us heal as individuals and as a society.”

Before I preview what's coming up in the salerooms this week, just a few notable results from last week. At Bonhams, the Jesse James letter sold for $212,575, the Jane Austen letter set a new record for an Austen letter at $200,075, and the top lot proved to be that lovely unpublished manuscript maquette for Christopher Webb Smith's Indian Ornithology, which sold for $275,075 over estimates of $50,000–80,000. At Swann, the copy of Newton's Opticks reached $40,000. The Christie's sale realized a total of $3,367,250, with the surprise lots of the sale: a March 25, 1792 letter from Alexander Hamilton to the president of the Bank of New York made $162,500 over estimates of $8,000–12,000; a copy of John Forbes Nash's doctoral thesis, estimated at $3,000–5,000, fetched $137,500.

On Tuesday, October 29, Christie's London sells Topographical Pictures including Selections from the Kelton Collection, in 110 lots. Three oil paintings, field studies by artist William Hodges painted in Tahiti during Cook's second voyage, are expected to lead the sale, but there are some important books on offer, including a first issue of Alexander Shaw's Catalogue of the Different Specimens of Cloth collected in the three voyages of Captain Cook (1787), estimated at £70,000–100,000.

Bonhams Edinburgh holds The Sporting Sale at on Thursday, October 31. Among the books and manuscripts included are Abel Chapman's manuscripts for his books Wild Norway and Spring-notes in Norway (£3,000–4,000) and a set of William Lewin's Birds of Great Britain with their Eggs (£1,500–2,000).

Also on Thursday Forum Auctions holds another of their online sales of Books and Works on Paper, in 200 lots. Top-estimated lots include Bligh's account of the Bounty mutiny (£750–1,000) and a 1579 London edition of Plutarch's Lives (£600–800).

On November 2, Heritage Auctions holds a Lincoln and His Times Americana & Political Signature Auction. The 521 lots include an 1858 Abraham Lincoln letter to Henry Asbury sent during the senatorial campaign of that year, previously in the collection of Malcolm Forbes, Jr. The letter has an opening bid of $100,000. A large 1864 Lincoln-Johnson campaign poster is bid up to $67,500 at time of writing.

Going rogue takes courage, and what better place to cultivate that feeling than between the hard covers of children's books, where rebellious protagonists like Pippi Longstocking and Oliver Twist have long captivated young readers with their verve and spunk. The British Library is celebrating these brave characters and others in a free exhibition running from November 8, 2019 through March 20, 2020.

Marvellous and Mischievous: Literature's Young Rebels revolves around forty books, manuscripts, and original artwork spanning over 300 years of children's literature. Highlights include the first UK edition of Anne of Green Gables, color illustrations for Oliver Twist by George Cruikshank, and work by contemporary illustrators like Alex Scheffler and Jessica Love. 

"Children's literature over the last 300 years has shown that rebels come in all shapes and sizes," said the show's head curator, Lucy Evans. "These resilient characters are very much part of our story."

The family-friendly show has a full slate of events planned as well as interactive elements designed with tiny rebels in mind.

Next month the Brontë Parsonage Museum, the former home of the Brontë family, will get a second chance to secure one of Charlotte Brontë’s ‘little books.’ The tiny manuscript, written in 1830 when she was just fourteen years old, contains three handwritten stories that evoke the rich imaginary world she and her siblings created. It came to light in 2011, having been in private ownership since the death of the Brontës, and was subsequently sent to auction at Sotheby’s with an estimate of £200,000-300,000. The museum raised what it hoped were the necessary funds, but in the end it was diabolically outbid — to the tune of £690,850, or just over $1 million — by Aristophil, a now bankrupt company that defrauded collectors and dealers and whose collections are currently being sold off in a series of auctions in Paris.  
“This extraordinary manuscript slipped through our fingers in 2011 so we are especially determined to make the most of this second opportunity to bring it home to Haworth,” said Kitty Wright, executive director of the Brontë Society, in a press statement. “It is expected to sell for at least £650,000 and we’ve been working hard for many months applying to trusts and foundations. This is the final and public phase of our campaign and we urge lovers of literature everywhere to support us now, so that we can go to the auction with a competitive bid and prevent the little book from disappearing into a private collection.”

To that end, the society has posted this informational video and is taking donations on its website.

This ‘little book’ is one of six in a series the Brontë children titled “The Young Men’s Magazine.” The Brontë Parsonage Museum already owns the first four booklets, and the item up for sale is the fifth in the sequence; the sixth is nonextant. The manuscripts were written, folded, and stitched into brown paper covers by Charlotte. The one headed to auction is particularly exceptional, according to the museum, because it describes a murderer driven to madness after being haunted by his victims and a fire that causes his bed curtains to ignite — a clear precursor of the famous scene in Jane Eyre, which Charlotte would publish seventeen years later.
Ann Dinsdale, principal curator at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, commented, “These little books are enormously important to both visitors and scholars. The four that we are fortunate enough to own are some of our most popular exhibits and to see this volume of 'The Young Men’s Magazine' reunited with the others in our collection would be wonderful. If we are successful, it would be one of the most important things to happen in the 30 years I’ve worked at the Parsonage; a real highlight.”

Even Dame Judi Dench, president of the Brontë Society, weighed in on the much desired acquisition, saying, “I have long been fascinated by the little books created by the Brontës when they were children. These tiny manuscripts are like a magical doorway into the imaginary worlds they inhabited and also hint at their ambition to become published authors. It’s very moving to think of 14 year-old Charlotte creating this particular little book at home in Haworth Parsonage and I hope that everyone will help the Brontë Society to bring it back to Yorkshire where it belongs.”

The auction is scheduled for November 18 at Drouot.

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Christine Jacobson, Assistant Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts at the Houghton Library at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

What is your role at your institution?

I am the Assistant Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts. My main role is to help steward and develop the library’s collections from 1800 to present day, but I also provide advanced reference, teach classes, field copyright questions, host visiting groups, and curate exhibitions.

How did you get started in special collections?

While I was in graduate school doing an MA in Russian and Eurasian Studies, I took a part-time job working in the stacks at Houghton Library to help pay my rent. I struck up a friendship with an archivist there who eventually pulled me out of the stacks to help process a few Russian-language collections. I enjoyed the work immensely and soon took on more odd jobs with other campus libraries that had Russian-language special collections. By the time I finished my master's program, I knew I wanted to work in special collections full-time.

Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?

I hold a master's degree in Russian and Eurasian studies from Harvard University, and am nearly done with my MLIS from Simmons University, which I work on part-time and online.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you've handled?

I imagine everyone struggles with this question and Houghton Library’s astonishing collections won’t help matters much. There is a book I return to repeatedly when I teach classes, and that is Vladimir Mayakovsky’s Dlia Golosa or “For the Voice.” It’s a beautifully made book of poems written by Mayakovsky and designed by the Russian artist El Lissitzky in 1923. Lissitzky designed the book to be read aloud to an audience (typically, in a smoky St. Petersburg café), which was a very important aspect of Mayakovsky’s work. To this end, each poem has a tab that depicts the poem’s title and a small illustration so that the reader can quickly thumb their way from one poem to another in any order. The poem's verses are also splayed out across the page, with certain words printed in bold or bright red to assist with dramatic readings. This book excites students in Russian literature classes, poetry classes, and graphic design classes and raises questions like, “what is the purpose of a book?” “how might a book like this have been printed in 1923?” and “what are the limitations of the traditional book?” Blessedly, MIT published an English-language facsimile in 2000 which I also keep handy for students who wish to understand the work in translation.

What do you personally collect?

I’m not a very studious or thorough collector, but I do have a large collection of catalogs for exhibitions held in the west on the Russian avant-garde movement. I not only love the 1910-1930 period in Russian art but am also fascinated by how different curators in Europe and America have approached such a complex and politically-motivated art movement over time.

I also collect modern firsts or simply well-designed editions of my favorite novels. I particularly love to own books by female writers with female illustrators or dust jacket designers, such as the Barbara Pym Dutton editions.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I live near several wonderful theaters that play classic Hollywood movies, foreign films, and independent cinema, and so my husband and I go to the movies at least one a week. I’ve also recently reconnected with music, which was a big part of my adolescence. It’s been a bit vulnerable and scary, but I’m taking drum and voice lessons and I absolutely love it. I’m hoping someone in Cambridge is searching for a Karen Carpenter to complete their band.

What excites you about special collections librarianship?

I was initially drawn to special collections for the opportunities to work with foreign-language materials. That aspect continues to excite me, but as a curator, I’m now more excited by this moment special collections librarianship finds itself in. First, I’m elated that our ideas about what has enduring research value are expanding to include material like tarot cards and tart cards, rrriot girl zines and graphic novels, Black Panther pamphlets and Marvel comics. I have been particularly inspired by my supervisor, Leslie Morris, who has worked hard to expand the traditional collecting boundaries of our department.

Secondly, I’m excited about the field’s devotion to accessibility. The other day I was going through a trove of internal library files related to a well-known collection of papers and I couldn’t believe how much paperwork was generated by old gatekeeping practices. I’m very proud to work at a library that no longer requires a letter of recommendation or an appointment, but rather, invites anyone with an interest in our collections to pull up a chair. My favorite moments at work are usually when a shy undergraduate asks me, “You mean I can touch this?” and I get to shout back at them gleefully, “Yes! That’s what it’s there for!”

The field still has some way to go in making everyone feel welcome in our spaces, but locally, I feel encouraged by the work my Houghton colleagues are doing to make our future renovated library building such a space:

Thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship?

I’m tempted to just link to my colleague John Overholt’s article Five Theses on the Future of Special Collections. (And in fact I will because it’s well worth reading.) In it, John argues for many things I endorse: enhanced access to digital collections through collaborative partnerships, fewer restrictions on our collections, user empowerment, transformative use of primary sources, and a field that not only advocates for itself but holds itself accountable to its users’ needs.

I want to add to this wish list that our field meaningfully address diversity in hiring, collection development, and partnerships. We are making strides in each of these areas, but too often we don’t go far enough. When PWIs hire librarians and archivists from historically marginalized communities, do they feel supported and safe at work? When PWIs collect material from historically marginalized communities, do we describe that material in a way that encourages members of those communities to use it? When PWIs engage in post-custodial partnerships with underfunded institutions, do they approach the work as charity or as solidarity? I think we have some work to do when it comes to answering these tough questions.

Fortunately, we have some amazing colleagues working to address these issues and I highly recommend seeking out work by April Hathcock, Dorothy Berry, and T-Kay Sangwand on these topics, respectively.

Any unusual or interesting collection at your library you'd like to draw our attention to?

I am currently reading Little Women and so I’m a little obsessed with our Louisa May Alcott collection. Houghton is home to Alcott’s manuscripts, correspondence, and diaries as well as the Alcott family papers and library. Though the manuscript for Little Women did not survive, Houghton holds many editions of the novel, including Sarah Orne Jewett’s copy of the first edition (!), as well as fun theatrical posters and ephemera from the novel’s many adaptations.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

When Houghton Library reopens in the fall of 2020, we’ll celebrate with three exhibitions: one showcasing children’s literature in recognition of a major gift from the philanthropist and bibliophile Peter J. Solomon and his wife Susan, another on the poet John Keats to coincide with Bicentenary Keats Conference, and lastly, visitors to the library will also enjoy collections in a new exhibition space located in the library’s lobby.

Opening this Friday at the British Library is an exhibition exploring the roots, philosophy, and relevance of Buddhism—and that means a display of rare books and manuscripts encompassing Buddhist scriptures, literary works, and historical narratives. From sacred scriptures written on tree bark or palm leaves to twentieth-century “folding books,” Buddhism covers twenty countries and over 2,000 years.  

Certain to be one of the highlights is a copy of the Lotus Sūtra in a lavishly decorated scroll from Japan, written in gold and silver ink on indigo-dyed paper dating back to 1636.

Jana Igunma, lead curator of Buddhism at the British Library, commented in a press statement: “Buddhism continues to inspire diverse artistic expression and lifestyles and, with the concept of mindfulness becoming mainstream, we are excited to host the British Library’s largest ever display of Buddhist collections, shining a light on the Library’s lesser-known treasures from across the world.”

The exhibition will be on view through February 23, 2020.

Relatedly, the BL recently launched a new website called Discovering Sacred Texts that brings together more than 250 digitized items (printed items, manuscripts, films, articles) from several different faiths and makes them freely available for study.

Here are the auctions I'll be watching this week:

On Wednesday, October 23, Bonhams New Yorks sells Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Dodge Family Autograph Collection, Natural History, Travel and Americana, in 323 lots. A very rare Jesse James autograph letter to a Mr. Flood demanding that the recipient retract comments he had made suggesting that James was a horse thief, is estimated at $200,000–300,000. An 1813 letter from Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra could sell for $80,000–100,000. The unpublished manuscript maquette for Christopher Webb Smith's Indian Ornithology, once in the collection of H. Bradley Martin, rates a $50,000–80,000 estimate.

PBA Galleries holds an Americana – Yosemite – Travel & Exploration – World History – Cartography sale on Thursday, October 24. The 382 lots include Sun Pictures of the Yo Semite Valley (1874), containing forty-four photographs of Yosemite by Charles Weed and Eadward Muybridge ($40,000–60,000). Petrus Bertius' Tabularum Geographicarum Contractarum Libri Septem (1618), a French-language edition of this work with 220 engraved maps, could fetch $15,000–25,000. The daybook and ledger of the Mariposa Hotel near Yosemite, covering the period 1890–1895, are estimated at $800–1,200. Lots 333–382 are being sold without reserve.

Also on Thursday, it will be Early Printed, Travel, Scientific & Medical Books at Swann Galleries, in 254 lots. A first issue of Newton's Opticks (1704), is estimated at $15,000–25,000. Sharing an estimate of $10,000–15,000 are an attractive nine-volume set of the official accounts of the voyages of Captain Cook, and a first edition of Galileo's Dialogo (1632). Quite a few interesting incunabula in this one.

On Friday, October 25, Christie's New York sells Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana, in 153 lots. John Forbes Nash's Nobel Prize medal and associated documents are expected to sell for $500,000–800,000. Reinhard Selten's Nobel Prize medal, also awarded in 1994, is estimated at $200,000–300,000. Rating the same estimate is an operational Apple-1 motherboard from 1976. Maria Sibylla Merian's insect books, bound in one volume, are estimated at $180,000–250,000. For the Americana fans: the Brinley copy of Thomas Morton's New English Canaan (1637), is estimated at $35,000–45,000, and Samuel Groom's A Glass for the People of New England (1676), also from Brinley's collection, could fetch $20,000–40,000.

Kolbe & Fanning sell books from the library of George F. Kolbe on Saturday, October 26, in 562 lots.

At time of writing, Heritage Auctions' website was down due to a malware attack, with a note that "all currently affected auctions will be extended or rescheduled." So watch for updates there on their scheduled sales for this week: Historical Manuscripts Featuring the Bret J. Formichi American Civil War Rarities Collection on October 23 and Estate of John and Elaine Steinbeck Manuscripts on October 24.

It’s the time of year when organizations start asking for donations, and here’s one that ought to pique the interest of you bibliophiles out there: the nonprofit TYPA studio of Estonia is looking for boosters for its letterpress edition of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince.

Formerly known as the Estonian Print and Paper Museum, TYPA is a private museum and studio focused primarily on preserving historic printing and papermaking techniques, and regularly hosts workshops such as hand-crafting paper, linocuts, and creating notebooks using its 150-year old letterpress. Now, TYPA is asking for donations to fund its ambitious limited edition of The Little Prince.

The book’s type will be cast line by line via a Linotype typecasting machine, and illustrations will be etched into metal plates using the 19th-century technique known as photozincography. Ultimately, TYPA plans to release three variations of the book, each of which are available at increasing price points to donors; a letterpress edition ($111), each individually numbered and bound in cloth, while the collector’s edition ($223) will boast marbled endpapers and a binders mark; and the exclusive gift edition ($334) will include an extra title page with the option of including a dedication that will be entirely typeset by hand. And finally, for $556, donors are invited to TYPA’s Estonia headquarters where they will help create their own copy of The Little Prince. All books are expected to ship in February 2020.

The fundraising campaign has, to date, raised nearly $3,000 of its approximately $34,000 goal, and has 23 days left in its campaign. Learn all about it here.

The Library of Congress announced yesterday the winner of its first annual Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film is Flannery, a film about National Book Award winner Flannery O’Connor. Directed by Loyola University professor Elizabeth Coffman and Jesuit priest Mark Bosco, the documentary chronicles the life of the Georgia author known for her provocative, Southern Gothic fiction (and a penchant for peacocks). The filmmakers will receive a $200,000 finishing grant.

From eighty submissions, the winner was selected by the Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden in consultation with filmmaker Ken Burns.

Flannery is an extraordinary documentary that allows us to follow the creative process of one of our country’s greatest writers,” said Burns. “It also provides us a glimpse into her life, including her Catholic faith, her unusual sensitivity to race as a Southern white woman and her daily struggles with illness and the prospect and reality of an early mortality. The story is beautifully told and captures the power of her Southern birth and life. We’re hopeful that a new generation of readers will rediscover the writings of Flannery O’Connor because of this film.”

You can watch the trailer here; or read more about the film and its makers.

Relatedly, a collection of more than 100 unpublished letters from O’Connor and her circle of friends (Walker Percy, Katherine Anne Porter) has just been published. Titled Good Things Out of Nazareth, the volume “explores such themes as creativity, faith, suffering, and writing.”