In the run-up to the Californian Antiquarian Book Fair in Pasadena in February, an innovative social media campaign celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage has been launched. Since its debut on October 30 with nineteenth-century activist Lucretia Mott, the CA Book Fair has been posting brief, daily profiles of women who made history (#herstory) to its Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages. Among those highlighted so far: Octavia Butler, Simone de Beauvoir, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Susan Sontag, Rachel Carson, Margaret Fuller, Audre Lorde, and Margaret Atwood. (We’re showing our literary bias here; they’ve also featured Marie Curie, Abigail Adams, Amelia Earhart, and many more.)
Bookstores hosting New Year’s Eve celebrations aren’t the norm—we were only able to find a few—but think how wonderful this tradition could be: rather than waiting in the cold (or rain, or snow, depending on where you live) to partake in the ritual midnight countdown, why not curl up with a great read and sip of bubbly instead? And yes, you could just as easily do this at home, but why not switch things up a little one night of the year? Below, a sampling of bookish celebrations taking place across the country. Perhaps next year we'll see more NYE events geared to the bibliophile.
The Bookstore Speakeasy NYE New Roaring ‘20s: True, the Bookstore Speakeasy in Bethlehem, PA, specializes in booze, not books, but anyplace named for a repository of hardbound volumes has to be good, right? The flapper-themed celebration will welcome 2020 with drinks and dancing.
Yappy New Year: A Brazos Dog New Year’s Eve Party: Dogs and books—what’s not to like? Houston’s Brazos Bookstore is hosting a canine-themed party on January 4 at 7pm. Customers are invited to bring their special fur baby for a story time and snacks.
BookBar’s Introverts New Year’s Eve Party: This Denver, Colorado-based event is sold out, but if you’re already planning for next year, count on a night filled with board games, silent reading, a coloring party, and a midnight countdown. The $30 ticket fee includes snacks and a champagne toast.
ICYMI: Our top ten most popular posts of 2019. Number one takes a page from our winter issue’s cover feature, pictured above. What can we say? Bob Dylan rules.
1. Collecting Bob Dylan
Music icon Bob Dylan offers collectors several directions: books, manuscripts, photographs, letters, albums, concert tickets, posters, and song lyrics. The winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, Dylan is nothing if not prolific -- and very collectible.
2. Bright Young Librarians: Jesse Erickson
Our signature Q&A with Erickson, coordinator of special collections and digital humanities at the University of Delaware Library, Museums, and Press.
3. Bright Young Librarians: Christine Jacobson
Assistant curator of modern books and manuscripts at the Houghton Library at Harvard University talks Russian avant-garde and Louisa May Alcott.
There's not much going on in the auction rooms this week, but plenty of fascinating things happened last week that are very much worth a recap.
At the Swann Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books sale on Tuesday, an 1840 Hawaiian-language school geography printed at the Lahainaluna Seminary, He Mau Palapala Aina A Me Na Niele No Ka Hoikehonua, was the top lot, selling for $68,750 (over estimates of just $2,500–3,500). The book's maps were engraved by George Luther Kapeau, a seminary student who later became governor of Hawaii. A large Currier & Ives lithograph, "The Mississippi in Time of Peace" (1865) sold for $21,250, more than doubling its presale estimate.
A rare copy of the third issue of the first California newspaper, Californian (August 29, 1846) sold for $10,200 on Thursday at the PBA Galleries Americana sale; it had been estimated at $2,000–3,000. A copy of Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, an American Slave, written by himself, published in New York in 1849, sold for $8,400 over estimates of $300–500.
The Sotheby's New York History of Science and Technology sale on Tuesday realized $2,492,000. Biologist Ernst Mayr's copy of the first edition of Darwin's Origin sold for $175,000, and an operational four-rotor Enigma machine seized from Nazi troops at Trondheim in 1945 sold for $800,000. This is a world record for an Enigma machine at auction. An original Apple Computer, Inc. neon sign sold for $81,250 (it had been estimated at $10,000–15,000).
Audubon's Birds of America sold for $6,642,400 on Wednesday afternoon to Graham Arader.
Prior to the Audubon sale on Wednesday Sotheby's held a Fine Books and Manuscripts sale, which made a total of $11,094,875. Much of that total came from Pierre de Coubertin's "Olympic Manifesto," which sold for $8,806,500; this is a new world record for any sports memorabilia at auction. The buyer has not been announced.
Poe also sold well this week: the Prescott-Manney copy of Poe's The Raven and Other Poems made $312,500, and a copy of the 1831 Poems in a presentation binding and inscribed by Poe to his friend John Neal sold for $81,250.
Looking forward to what treats 2020 brings -- happy holidays to all!
OK, bibliophiles, you’re probably chomping at the bit to see Greta Gerwig’s interpretation of Little Women when it premieres on Christmas Day. Keep your eyes peeled for the scenes involving books and printing, represented here with uncanny authenticity.
Massachusetts-based bookbinder Devon Eastland was tasked with creating period-appropriate book props, and she spoke with us recently about her involvement with the project.
Little Women, it turns out, is not Eastland’s first film credit: “I’ve had a relationship with a property master that goes back to The Crucible in 1995, when I made books for that movie.” Eastland got the call about Little Women in August 2018. “They were going to need plenty of period books and custom-made books. I also made reproductions of two of Louisa May Alcott’s journals based on the originals which I viewed at the Houghton Library.” Paper, pencils, school books from the 1800s, and books mentioned in the story were also on Eastland’s punch list.
For nearly six months, Eastland kept up a blistering pace, creating sketchbooks and portfolios for May, two account books for Meg, and eight journals for Jo. No detail was too minute: “I printed a galley version of Little Women and made a custom case for the galley sheets. I also made a full-scale reproduction of the first edition Little Women itself. I printed out the whole book with an added title page created by the movie’s art department, I sewed it and bound it. I even had a special tool made that is identical to the embossed title on the binding of the first edition, but altered to list Jo March as the author.”
Sourcing nineteenth-century type cases and other printing accessories sent Eastland to Portland, Maine, letterpress printer David Wolfe, who came to the set laden with tools of the trade.
Printing and bookbinding scenes were shot on a sound stage in Franklin, MA, as well as in Harvard, Lancaster, Concord, and downtown Boston. Eastland and Wolfe even have cameos in the film as a bookbinder and printer, respectively: “I brought period-appropriate tools and prepped four or five examples of the book at every stage of the process.” And though Eastland thought she would appear on film as a woman, you won’t actually see her in a dress; for her scenes, Eastland was styled as a man.
The book trade is well represented in Little Women, and Eastland is pleased with the results. “I think we captured something that I hope will be a very beautiful tribute to the book arts and that will make Alcott fans proud!”
A man may work from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done, as the old adage goes. Pity, then, the collector of women’s work, whose subject is virtually uncontainable, not to mention largely obscured. But Lisa Unger Baskin has persisted and prevailed at it over the past 45 years, ultimately placing her massive collection at Duke University’s Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library in 2015. A major exhibition of her collection, Five Hundred Years of Women’s Work, opened at the Grolier Club in New York City last week. Co-curated by Unger Baskin, Naomi L. Nelson, and Lauren Reno, the exhibition debuted at Duke earlier this year.
A year after Duke’s acquisition, while the cataloguing was in process, Laura Micham, director of the Bingham Center, wrote an article about the collection for our summer 2016 issue, noting its incredible range: “Comprised of more than ten thousand print items, over 250 manuscripts collections, and an extensive collection of artifacts from a British suffrage tea set (the most complete known of its kind) to Virginia Woolf’s writing desk, the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection is a transformative body of material focusing on women’s work in all its diversity.”
Among the highlights currently on view are: a land grant from 1240 for a home for repentant prostitutes in Pisa; Hore beatissime virginis Marie, printed in Paris in 1546 by Yolande Bonhomme, one of the most prominent woman printers and booksellers in sixteenth-century Paris; a signed first edition of the first book published by an African American, Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (London, 1773); a selection of manuscripts, correspondence, images, and artifacts related to the Ladies of Llangollen, who made a life for themselves as a same-sex couple in Wales in the late eighteenth century; and an 1897 letter from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Sarah M’Clintock inquiring “Would you sell the table on which the Declaration [of Sentiments] was written and what would you ask for it?”
It was a collection spurred by activism, writes Unger Baskin in the exhibition’s catalog, published by Duke Libraries and the Grolier Club and distributed by Oak Knoll Press. “In the 1960s, I actively began collecting things related to women. The core of the collection was, and is, social history. My politics informed my collecting.” Her essay is titled “Insatiable Lust: or, The story of how a nice girl from Brooklyn fell hard for books and amassed a collection spanning nine centuries,” and it is a delight to read. It is complemented by essays by Laura Micham and Elizabeth Campbell Denlinger, curator of the Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle at the NYPL.
Most of the catalog is given over to a vibrant, illustrated list of the 116 exhibit items, featuring one superlative after the next, e.g., the astonishing first book (1642-44) on obstetrics written by a woman, Louise Bourgeois Boursier; a breathtaking needlework sampler (ca. 1840s) by Charlotte Brontë; and a stunning illuminated manuscript (1892) by Irish-born artist Phoebe Anna Traquair. Unger Baskin’s awe-inspiring achievement is justly celebrated between the catalog’s thick paper covers and should enthrall anyone with allied interests, which is to say, literature, education, civil rights, suffrage, slavery and abolition, science and medicine, and printing and book arts.
The Grolier Club plans to hold a related symposium, Women in the Book Arts, on January 21, 2020, 9:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Dr. Nell Irvin Painter, Edwards Professor of American History Emerita at Princeton University, will be the keynote speaker.
The exhibition will remain on view in New York through February 8, 2020.
Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Arendse Lund, an honorable mention in this year's Honey and Wax Book Collecting Prize, for women 30 and under.
Where are you from / where do you live?
I’ve lived most of my life in California, though I moved to London for my Masters and PhD!
What do you study at University?
I majored in English and Medieval Studies at UC Berkeley. There I took a class that introduced me to the special collections in Bancroft Library and I absolutely fell in love with the medieval manuscripts. This led me to pursue a Masters in Medieval and Renaissance Studies at University College London, followed by a PhD in English, focusing on the connections between medieval law and literature. As part of that, I was a visiting researcher at Lambeth Palace Library in London where I curated “Writing the Law,” an exhibition featuring Lambeth’s legal manuscript collection.
Please introduce us to your book collection. What areas do you collect in?
I collect editions of the sagas, in either Scandinavian languages or English translation. For me it is fascinating to see how the purposes of these editions changed over time. Before Icelandic sagas were published in any great numbers, the old Icelandic and Norwegian manuscripts were used by Scandinavian historians to write the history of Scandinavia as learned works, most often in Latin, with little historical criticism, mixing fantastical tales with historical annals. These works had a surprising long afterlife and were only truly superseded when critical editions of the original texts were published. As time went on, translations became educational tools for the masses. Latin translations disappeared in popular editions, the original Old Norse text was no longer printed, and the translation itself was written in the vernacular.
My collection consists of mono- and bilingual editions. Individually they are smattered through libraries, but the real value lies in having them all in one place to cross-reference and compare how changing views of editions and sagas ties into history and nationalism. Initially I was surprised at how much translations into the same language could vary from edition to edition. However, as the aims of the translators — or those funding them — changed, so did the edition at hand.
How many books are in your collection?
Somewhere around 50 books. Most are translations of the sagas into various languages. However, I also have a small collection of illustrated accounts of travel to Iceland and art books where the saga texts are secondary to the art work.
What was the first book you bought for your collection?
Probably a Penguin Classic version of one of the sagas! I had the experience I think a lot of people do: I was collecting before I realized I was collecting. Initially, the books I collected covered many topics, purchased impulsively for a great binding or an eye-catching dust jacket. Then, as I started to be more selective, I couldn’t understand why the same saga could have such drastically different translations. That really piqued my interest.
How about the most recent book?
I recently acquired Eigil Knuth’s edition of Âlut Kangermio: K’avdlunâtsianik (Aron from Kangek’: The Norsemen and the Skraelings). The backstory is what caught my attention. In 1858, Aron, a hunter in Southwestern Greenland, contracted tuberculosis and, while he was confined to bed, he collected the oral stories passed down in Greenland concerning the vikings. Aron eventually succumbed to tuberculosis, and 100 years later, Eigil Knuth published the stories the hunter had collated and illustrated. It’s a trilingual edition and the only one in my collection that contains English, Danish, and Greenlandic.
And your favorite book in your collection?
I’m going to cheat and pick two favorite books because they go together. The first is N.F.S. Grundtvig’s Bjowulfs Drape: Et gothisk helte-digt fra forrige aar-tusinde (Beowulf’s Epic: A gothic heroic poem from the last millenium). This is the first translation of Beowulf into any modern language and is only preceded by Thorkelin’s terrible 1815 edition and translation into Latin. In this 1820 edition, Grundtvig uses and corrects Thorkelin’s translation and produces a modern Danish edition of the poem. However, this isn’t a typical translation and is instead based on Grundtvig’s national romantic mindset, causing critics to fault it. This leads me to my second book, which is Grundtvig’s 1865 edition of Bjovulus-Drapen: Et Høinordisk Heltedigt Fra Auguls-Tungen (Beowulf’s Epic: An Old Norse heroic poem from the old tongue). After the criticisms Grundtvig received from his first edition, he went back and retranslated the poem. So while this is understood as the second edition of his Beowulf translation, it might be more accurate to say that this is the first edition of his re-translation and issuance of the story. In the 45 years between his two editions, an Old English dictionary had been published, and he used that to correct his first translation and publish his second version in Danish.
Best bargain you’ve found?
My favorite surprise was finding a first-edition copy of Gisli Saga illustrated by the American painter and printmaker Rockwell Kent for only $30! There are these incredible, dramatic black-and-white chapter headpieces throughout. He illustrated both Gisli Saga and Beowulf in the 1930s.
How about The One that Got Away?
I had an opportunity to purchase Rockwell Kent’s illustration of Beowulf (1932) but I wasn’t quite fast enough and the edition got snapped up by a library in Denmark!
What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?
That would probably be H. Peder Claussøn’s 1633 edition of Norske Kongers Chronica. It’s the first translation of Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla, making it unfortunately (at least from my point of view) very rare and expensive. On the other hand, what happens if you achieve your Holy Grail? Then I suppose I’d need to find something else to yearn after.
Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?
I absolutely love the Book Barn in Niantic, Ct. You never know what you’ll find in there and the stores are all sorted by genre. Plus, there are all the book store cats who are always willing to say hello! But I love walking into antiquarian bookstores; there is always the feeling that you will stumble over the next great find, the palimpsest, the lost Reformation print banished and burned by the Church, or your favorite childhood book long lost!
What would you collect if you didn’t collect books?
That would probably be propaganda posters. They’re incredibly fascinating for the way they direct public opinion. The images of Uncle Sam pointing and saying “I Want You For U.S. Army” or the strong female war production worker saying “We Can Do It!” are still pervasive in American society many decades after their creation. Even if I don’t describe what they look like, the slogan alone is likely enough to have their images spring to mind. Propaganda is a powerful tool.
Troy: myth and reality at the British Museum is the first major Troy exhibition in the UK. While it concentrates on pottery, weaponry, and sculpture to tell the story of the Trojan War and its legacy in around 300 objects, the show also features a wealth of literary treasures associated with the well known legends as well as the discoveries made by archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in Turkey in the 1870s.
The two oldest written pieces date to the 1st century AD, part of a papyrus manuscript of the Odyssey with passages from book 3 annotated by ancient scholars, and from the same period, again on papyrus, a school pupil has written line 2601 from The Aeneid seven times in practice, “non tibi Tyndaridis facies inuisa Lacaenae,” referring to the role of Helen in the downfall of Troy ("not for you the hated face of the Laconian women, daughter of Tyndareus"). More pupil exercises are featured on a wooden board dating back to the Roman occupation of Egypt in the 5th century AD. These are also lines from the Iliad celebrating the joys of drinking. As historian Bettany Hughes says in her book, Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore, it resembles a “swinging, Wild West saloon sign.”
On display too is the Townley Homer from 1059 which not only includes the text of The Iliad, but also has many marginal notes and interlinear glosses. When this was last sold in auction, in 1814, it was bought for £620.
Among other early volumes in the exhibition are John Lydate’s Troy Book from around 1457-60, telling the story of Troy in Middle English thanks to a commission from the Prince of Wales, later Henry V; the first book ever printed in English, Recuyell of the historyes of Troye, published by William Caxton around 1474, possibly an inspiration for Shakespeare’s "Troilus and Cressida"; and Chapman’s Homer c. 1616, which John Keats memorably first looked into.
Also of interest is the English translation by John Dryden of The Aeneid from 1697. This was a very personal approach in which he made additions and changes, claiming optimistically that these expansions of Virgil’s work were “not stuck into him, but growing out of him.”
The exhibition runs to March 8, 2020. Visitors should remember to take their reading glasses as the signage is rather small and frequently at ankle height.
A great big week coming up:
We'll start things off on Tuesday, December 17 at Swann Galleries with a sale of Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books. The 429 lots include a Latin Nuremberg Chronicle in a contemporary blind-stamped pigskin binding (estimated at $40,000–60,000); a copy of the 1513 Waldseemüller "Admiral's Map" of the Atlantic ($20,000–30,000); and a second-state copy of John and William Norman's "New and Accurate Chart of the Bay of Chesapeak" (Boston, ~1803), estimated at $18,000–22,000.
Also on Tuesday, Sotheby's New York holds a History of Science and Technology sale, in 108 lots. Among the books and manuscripts are some Isaac Newton manuscripts (a leaf of his notes on ancient historians and a copy of his "A Short Chronicle from the first memory of things in Europe to the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great" ($60,000–90,000); two typed letters signed and a book inscribed by Stephen Hawking to physicist Lewis Strauss ($80,000–120,000); a signed photograph of Albert Einstein writing on a chalkboard ($60,000–90,000); and biologist Ernst Mayr's copy of the first edition of Darwin's Origin ($50,000–80,000).
On Wednesday Sotheby's Books and Manuscripts Week continues in New York with a 205-lot sale of Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Olympic Manifesto. Pierre de Coubertin's autograph manuscript of his 1892 speech calling for the revival of the Olympic Games is estimated at $700,000–1,000,000. A 1944 Mao Zedong calligraphic manuscript thank-you note to Major Wilbur Dexheimer, described as the earliest Mao autograph letter ever sold on the international auction market, could sell for $300,000–500,000. Other highlights are expected to include a first issue of Whitman's Leaves of Grass ($150,000–200,000); a copy of the fine-paper issue of the first book edition of The Federalist ($130,000–180,000); and the Prescott-Manney copy of Poe's The Raven and Other Poems ($120,000–180,000).
Following the morning session at Sotheby's on Wednesday comes the big kahuna of the week: at 3:30 p.m. they will sell John James Audubon's The Birds of America. This early subscriber's copy is accompanied by Audubon's Ornithological Biography and an oak folio display cabinet from around 1830. The set is estimated at $6–8 million, and it will certainly be interesting to see how the bidding goes on Wednesday! The auction catalogue provides a great overview of Audubon's Birds and recent auction sales of the work.
Rounding out the week is a sale of Americana – Custeriana – Travel & Exploration – Cartography at PBA Galleries on Thursday, 19 December, in 457 lots. A three-volume set of the second edition of Captain Cook's Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (1785), with the plates bound into the text volumes, is estimated at $8,000–12,000. Two clipper ship logbooks from the early 1850s are estimated at $6,000–9,000, as are Matthew Pear's journals documenting his trips to and from Boston and San Francisco, 1852–1854. Lots 415–457 are being sold without reserve.
Éditions des Saints Pères (SP Books) recently reproduced the previously unpublished manuscript edition of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan & Wendy (1911), just in time for gift giving this holiday season. The Parisian publishing house specializes in offering manuscript facsimiles that form the backbone of the world’s great written works, from Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein to the musical diary of Wolfgang Mozart. This edition includes the 21 full-page color illustrations by Gwynedd Hudson that appeared in a 1930 edition of Peter Pan.
Retailing at £140 ($185), this limited-edition volume appears in a handmade, iron-gilded slipcase and is printed on eco-friendly paper with plant-based inks. Each volume is hand-numbered from 1 to 1000.
Barrie's original manuscript is located in the New York Public Library’s Berg Collection, a massive archive of literary works in English dating from 1480 to the present day. This is the first time Barrie’s 282-page manuscript has been reproduced, and this particular publication has been restored by a team of graphic designers to enhance readability. This luxurious volume reveals the author at work by offering an insider’s look at the process of crafting a classic beloved by readers worldwide.