In 2004, author J. K. Rowling made a handwritten, illustrated, and obviously abridged version of her first blockbuster Harry Potter tale. Consisting of 31 pages and measuring just 1.6” by 2.4”, the unique bound manuscript features extracts of the welcome letter Harry receives upon admittance to Hogwarts, as well as the author’s sketches of a wand, a cauldron, and a witch’s hat. Now that tiny tome is headed to auction through the UK-based outfit JustCollecting.

Rowling initially created the mini manuscript for a charity auction in 2004, where it sold for £10,000. When the current auction closes on March 26, it is expected to reach ten to fifteen times that amount, or about $125,000-175,000.

“For rare book collectors and Harry Potter fans, this is the ultimate prize,” commented JustCollecting’s Dan Wade. “Sure, you could own one of the 500 first edition hardbacks of Philosopher’s Stone, you could even hunt down one of the seven handwritten copies of Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard – but there is only one copy of this book.”

A first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, inscribed to the person who pulled it from the slush pile, sold earlier this month for $145,800, while another copy sold for a record-breaking $162,500 last December; even tatty copies of a true first sell for $30,000+. And the last time one of the seven Beedle the Bard books was seen at auction, in 2016, it sold for nearly half a million dollars. So there you have it—Harry Potter can still work his magic. We’ll be watching this one with interest.

Auctions currently scheduled for this week include the following (but be sure to check websites for updated information):

At Morton Subastas on Tuesday, March 17, the Backal Collection and Library, in 250 lots. The top lot, a copy of Antonio Peñafiel's Monumentos del Arte Mexicano Antiquo (1888), has a starting bid of MX$750,000. A volume of early Puebla newspapers has been given a starting bid of MX$230,000.

On Thursday, March 19, PBA Galleries holds a sale of Art & Archaeology of Asia – Travel & Exploration – Cartography. The 319-lot sale is expected to be led by Aurel Stein works: a complete copy of Serindia ($15,000–25,000); The Thousand Buddhas ($10,000–15,000); and Innermost Asia, with the portfolio of maps ($10,000–15,000). The Bridgewater Library copy of Adam Olearius' Voyages & Travels of the Ambassadors sent by Frederick Duke of Holstein, to the Grand Duke of Muscovy, and the King of Persia (1662), could fetch $8,000–12,000. Lots 272–319 are being sold without reserve.

Binoche et Giquello sells Livres Anciens et Modernes on Friday, March 20, in 349 lots. The Heures de G et H, an early sixteenth-century book of hours produced at Bourges, is expected to top the sale, estimated at €600,000–800,000. An earlier book of hours, the Heures de Pierre Soppite et Marie Deschevert, produced at Paris in the early years of the fifteenth century, could sell for €250,000–350,000.

Forum Auctions will hold an online sale of The Partridge Fine Arts Research Library on Friday. The 111 lots, being sold mostly without reserve, include Tipping & Hussey's English Homes (1921–1937), estimated at £2,000–3,000; the eleven volumes of The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor (1967–1982), estimated at £1,500–2,000. Many important and interesting sale catalogues and other works to be had here.

Take care of yourselves.

Prize Books and Politics, a digital exhibition on Instagram and Twitter that launched on March 5, looks at the history of inscriptions in books at the start of the twentieth century in Britain when a literate working class was making the most of two decades of compulsory education and a dramatic fall in the price of books.

“Book inscriptions offer a unique opportunity to explore the lives of working-class Edwardians, standing as important first-hand evidence of their reading habits, social circles, jobs, hobbies and political and religious beliefs,” said exhibition curator Dr. Lauren O’Hagan, research associate in the Centre for Language and Communication at Cardiff University, Wales. “Choices of language, image, typography, color and texture were all used to explore options of identity and a sense of belonging to a wider world, as well as to make statements, whether on a personal or political level. While some provide the formative voices of future Labour MPs or trade union leaders, most capture the voices of forgotten ‘everyday’ Edwardians who toiled as servants, seamstresses and miners.”

Every day, Dr. O’Hagan is posting a new image of a book inscription on Instagram (@prizebooksandpolitics) and crossposting on Twitter (@prizebooks), along with a brief look at what the inscription shows about the owner or the reason the book was given. “It’s now time to paint the working classes back onto the historical canvas,” she said.

Prize Books and Politics runs online until May 1 (International Workers’ Day) and from May 2, it will become a physical exhibition at Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives, which will include workshops on bookplate design.

The book fairs held in New York City during Rare Book Week last week just skirted by state and national precautions against large group gatherings, which are now shortening, postponing, or cancelling several upcoming book and art fairs.

First, the London Book Fair (a publishing industry event, not a rare book fair) announced its decision last week to cancel. Similar announcements from the Paris Book Fair, the Leipzig Book Fair, and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, followed swiftly. But the smaller fairs took a wait-and-see approach, allowing the New York antiquarian book fairs and fine art fairs to go on as scheduled—though foot traffic was lighter than usual, and everyone was talking about COVID-19.

Then, earlier this week, TEFAF Maastricht indicated that it would shorten its fair, which was slated to run through March 15 but instead closed yesterday due to health concerns, stating, “While the health advice of the authorities in the immediate region has not changed, we understand the situation in the Netherlands and neighboring countries is changing. We have also taken into account the growing concern of exhibitors, visitors and staff and the ever-growing difficulties regarding travel and transport.”

HistoryMiami, the organization that runs the Miami Map Fair, which was expected to open tomorrow, March 13, has decided to scrap this year’s fair, announcing: “As a precautionary measure for the health and well-being of our valued dealers and guests, HistoryMiami Museum has canceled the 2020 Miami International Map Fair and all related events. Our Map Fair is an international event, drawing dealers, collectors and others from a number of countries and from throughout North America. Their health and the health of those in our community with whom they would be in contact is our first priority.”

The L.A. Art Book Fair, previously scheduled for April 3-5, is also off the calendar. Printed Matter, the organization that runs the Art Book Fair, put out this statement: “We are deeply saddened to announce the cancellation of the 2020 LA Art Book Fair … We have been closely monitoring the escalating spread of coronavirus COVID-19 outbreaks in California and globally, and in light of recent news and advisories, it will not be feasible to stage the Fair in a way in which everyone's safety can be assured.”

Paris Photo New York, originally scheduled for April 2-5, is postponed for now. The organizers said, “After careful consideration and comprehensive discussions with galleries and partners, the inaugural edition of Paris Photo New York, organized by Reed Expositions France, will be postponed to a later date due to the growing concerns over public health and safety and the developing COVID-19 situation. A new date will be announced as soon as possible.”

UPDATE 3/13: The Ephemera Society of America’s upcoming conference and fair, which was to be held in Greenwich, Connecticut, beginning March 26, has also now been cancelled. Their statement: "Based on recent events concerning Covid19, and specifically, the Governor of CT’s Executive Order prohibiting large gatherings, The Ephemera Society of America has sadly decided they must CANCEL the 40th annual conference and fair in Greenwich, CT that was scheduled to take place March 26-29, 2020." The FPBA Fine Press Book Fair in Oxford, UK, has been postponed, announcing, "Due to the present circumstances, we have taken the decision to postpone the Fine Press Book Fair from the end of March until November 28th & 29th.”

UPDATE 3/13: The Edinburgh Book Fair, scheduled to open on March 20, has also now been cancelled.

UPDATE 3/13: Word from the organizers for the NYC Vintage Photo Fair, which was to be held on April 3, is now postponed. Also, Marvin Getman announced the DC National Rare Book & Ephemera Fair, originally planned for April 17-18, is "being re-scheduled due to the unfolding crisis."

UPDATE 3/16: The Vermont Antiquarian Booksellers Association has cancelled its Spring Book Fair on March 29 in Burlington, Vermont. 

UPDATE 3/17: Flamingo Eventz has pulled the plug on Paper Town, the biannual Boxborough, Massachusetts, show that had been slated for April 11. The next one is on the calendar for September 19. 

Our Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Jon Munster, proprietor of Munster & Company in Corvallis, Oregon.

How did you get started in rare books?

Mainly through chance and unemployment, although I would like to think that my father unknowingly planted the seed. He was my sixth grade teacher, and one day when he passed out the monthly book order forms to the class, he quietly told me to pick out what I wanted and put it on his desk. I tried to keep myself under control, but must admit that I may have taken advantage of his unexpected generosity in order to try to collect all of the Sherlock Holmes books. Many years later I started college as an English major, which made sense to me given my love of reading. After that first year of college, I moved to Oregon, and began to question whether teaching literature was really my calling. I spent the next few years working in a coffee shop while wondering what I really wanted to study, the main problem being that too many things appealed to me. In 2001 when I was between jobs, I noticed that a local book store was hiring. It wasn’t what I was necessarily looking for, but decided to apply as I was quickly running out of money. I was initially hired as a clerk, but within a few months was given the position of used book buyer. My collecting compulsion kicked in, and I ended up spending a good portion of each paycheck on a bag full of books. It wasn’t long until I started being more selective by seeking out first editions and signed copies of books by the authors that I loved. I became more and more interested in rare books and book collecting itself, and started reading up on the various aspects of the book industry and rare book trade. In the meantime, I finally returned to school in 2003 as a Philosophy major, and focused on Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy and started studying Classical Tibetan. My plan had been to get a M.A. and PhD. and then teach Asian Philosophy, but within a few years of graduating, I began to question my path yet again. After I attended the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair for the first time, I realized it was all over for me. Working with books was my passion, not a life in academia. It was then clear to me that if I ever went into teaching, I would spend my career longing for retirement and the chance to sell books again.

When did you open Munster & Company, and what do you specialize in?

My wife Jessie and I started the company in the autumn of 2017 when we bought Black Oak Books, formerly of Berkeley, California. We filled three massive freight trucks with boxes of books and shelving and had it sent up to where we live in Corvallis, Oregon. As we are currently sitting on thousands of uncatalogued books, I would have to say that for the time being we are generalist booksellers. In the coming years we hope to focus more on our interests and strengths, which are British, European, and Asian literature; Buddhist philosophy (primarily Tibetan); textiles and textile arts; oppressed peoples; and accounts of ordinary people in extraordinary situations, with a special focus on material relating to the Holocaust and the various partisan movements during WWII. I also have a keen interest in people who do good works, and hope to start collecting material related to Mister Rogers and other people who are simply and inexplicably good.

What do you love about the book trade?

Definitely the people and the variety of the material that we get to work with. I can point to just two times in my life when I felt that I was finally in a place where I actually belonged, and one of those times was when I attended the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar in 2015. I had found my clan, so to speak, and was suddenly among people that were just as passionate about working with books as I am. Despite the huge variety in interests, we all shared the same excitement for what we do. That feeling of belonging comes back every time I’m at an antiquarian book fair and get to spend time among colleagues, who are some of the nicest people I’ve ever had the honor of calling friends. The customers are wonderful as well, and I love having the chance to share something that they might find exciting, regardless of whether or not it ends in a sale. Being someone that can get interested in just about anything, the sheer breadth of material satisfies my curiosity and need to constantly learn something new. If I went into academia, I would have had a hard time keeping a narrow focus for several years. With the book trade, however, I can focus on a number of areas, and keep adding as my intellectual appetite demands. Bookselling is nearly infinite, and even after nearly twenty years of working with books, I can’t see myself ever possibly getting bored.

Describe a typical day for you:

My wife and I have two children; a four year old daughter and a one and a half year old son.  The day starts with trying to get everyone out the door before 8:30 when the kids need to be at their daycare. After dropping them off, my wife and I head to the office. Processing orders and answering inquiries happen first, and then any other pressing emails are dealt with. After that, I can usually focus on cataloguing or research until just before noon, when we leave to pick up the kids.  Once my wife and the kids are settled at home, I walk back to the office for a bit more cataloguing and/or research. I always package orders for shipping around 3 pm, and then walk them to the post office at 4 pm. After that I can be cataloguing, photographing books, or agonizing over something interesting to say in an Instagram/Facebook/Twitter post, which I try to do at least once a week. When the weather is conducive, I go out to our storage units for a few hours to look for promising material to catalogue. At 6 pm I walk home, make dinner, and then my wife and I get the kids to bed.

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

Although I can’t say that I have ever had any interest in Americana, I think my personal favorite from the past two years is a handful of letters written by John, Abigail, and John Quincy Adams.  They had been sitting in a box in the office for over a year, when I decided to have a closer look at them. Up until then I hadn’t bothered to give them more than a cursory glance or see who they were written by; they were merely American letters that I would deal with at another time. Little did I know that I was holding John Quincy Adams’ earliest known confession of love for Mary Frazier, whom he courted when he was twenty-three years old. I spent three solid weeks transcribing them, researching content in the letters, and studying up on the Adams family. I ended up with a completely unforeseen admiration for the Adams family. A close second is a pair of Emily Dickinson’s First and Second Series of poetry that were owned by the author and progressive journalist Elia Peattie. Although I’m still working on determining whether or not they were actually inscribed to Elia by their editor, Mabel Loomis Todd, they have sent me down several fascinating rabbit holes in regards to the life and work of two utterly fascinating women.

What do you personally collect?

I must say that I haven’t really added much to my own collection since starting Munster & Company, focusing instead on selling rather than collecting for myself. I have, though, been trying to recreate and improve upon my first collection of British and European modern firsts, Holocaust memoirs, and religious studies, which had a strong emphasis on Tibetan Buddhist philosophy.  I’ve always collected what I enjoy reading, out of both interest and pleasure, and am always on the lookout for anything by or associated with my favorite author, Italo Calvino. Unfortunately my first personal collection which consisted of hundreds of titles was destroyed in a fire just over ten years ago. Since then I’ve tried to collect better copies of what I once had, and also expand on what I originally possessed.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Our children are fairly all-consuming little creatures, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way.  I love spending time with them, and look forward to the day when I can send them off to clean cases at book fairs. When they are finally down for the night, my wife and I indulge in lying on the couch, drinking hot chocolate and snuggling the cats while watching a nice British or European crime drama. We party pretty hard at Chez Munster. When the season is right, I enjoy helping Jessie in the garden, which is an ongoing project. I enjoy walking to and from the office, and relish having a bit of solitude to get locked inside my own head in order to troubleshoot problems, come up with new ideas, and fantasize about the minutiae of future projects. We hope to have an open shop some day after the kids are in school full-time, so I spend a great deal of time imagining what that shop will be like. 

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

It’s a pretty exciting time to be a part of the book trade. Actions are being taken to make the trade more inclusive, and so I’m looking forward to seeing how the trade becomes more diverse in the coming years. A newer generation of booksellers has been introducing some exciting and creative ways of presenting and selling material. Contact between booksellers through social media and email has increased communication, fostered collegiality, and improved security in the trade. As we face the uncertainty of how to attract the interest of new generations of potential collectors, the benefits of inclusion, creativity, and communication will be paramount in keeping the rare book trade alive and relevant. Although I can’t say with any certainty what things will look like in ten or twenty years, I have tremendous faith in the abilities of my colleagues and their willingness to adapt.

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

It will probably be another year or two until we’re ready to issue a proper catalogue, as we still have a lot to do get the business built up and on sound footing. I’ve only just started mentally playing with a design idea for our first catalogue, and my creative process can be a bit slow and requires a lot of gestation. As for upcoming fairs, we will be exhibiting at the Rose City Book & Paper Fair in Portland in June and the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair in October as usual. Beyond that we haven’t made any definite plans, although we do try to have a booth at the Rare Books LA fairs when possible.

Today is “pub day” for ABAA bookseller Nathan Raab of Raab Collection. Nate’s book, The Hunt for History: On the Trail of the World’s Greatest Lost Treasures—from the Letters of Lincoln, Churchill, and Einstein to the Secret Recordings Onboard JFK’s Air Force One (Scribner, $30), is an utterly captivating look at the day-to-day life of a dealer in historical documents who has turned up major treasures from America's attics, basements, and country auctions. Since unlikely finds are exceedingly interesting for collectors, I asked Nate about his favorites—and about forgeries.

RRB: Your book discusses historical documents and objects that surface seemingly out of nowhere (attics, etc.). What do you say when people claim that all the great finds have already been made?

NR: That is clearly not the case. Just last week, we bought a letter of Thomas Jefferson that was unpublished. Though he had written about it in his summary journal, the contents were lost and the original not known to have survived. The reality is that history is hidden all over the world waiting to be discovered.

RRB: I particularly enjoyed reading about the famous forger, Robert Spring, since my husband’s grandmother bought one of his fake Washington checks in the 50s or 60s (and which we have on display in our home). How many forgeries do you see, say, in a month?

NR: The reality is that reproductions are a bigger issue for us than forgeries. Reproductions, particularly on glossy images, can be a challenge to detect without seeing the original. I probably see 5-10 forgeries a year by people who don't already know they are forgeries.

RRB: The Thomas Edison chapter also makes clear how tireless the research can be. Is that just part of the job for you?

NR: It's part of the job and part of the fun. When you are on the hunt for that information, the entire search can be exciting and fun, because it often leads you to better appreciate the importance of what you have.

RRB: Another theme is finding the right home for historic material, i.e. the Jefferson book being offered to the LOC first, or the Bredig archive going to the Science History Institute. Again, it takes the job of book dealer to another level. Why is that important to you?

NR: When possible, we like to find the most appropriate home for a document. That is not always possible, because of the amount of money involved and the limited budgets of some institutions. There are important examples of this, like placing the order to seize the Rosetta Stone with the British Library, where it belongs because their counterpart museum has the Stone itself. But most pieces don't fall into this category.

RRB: This book is chockful of amazing treasures, but if you had to pick one item that really knocked your socks off, so to speak, which one would it be?

NR: The hardest question to answer. That answer tends to change depending on the discovery of the day. I suppose the one that lingers most may be the order to seize the Rosetta Stone. Nowhere near the most expensive, but wow what a find! The most emotional had to be the archive of the scientist whose papers survived the Holocaust. I lived their lives, one letter at a time, and became friends with his grandson.

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

On Tuesday, March 10, ALDE sells 360 lots of Livres Anciens du XVe au XIXe Siècle. A four-volume edition of La Fontaine's Fables (1755–1759) could sell for €20,000–30,000. A third edition of the Poeticon astronomicon of Hyginus (Venice, 1485) is expected to fetch €8,000–10,000, while Galileo's Istoria e dimostrazioni intorno alle macchie solari (1613) is estimated at €10,000–12,000.

Also on Tuesday, Printed & Manuscript Americana at Swann Galleries, in 370. An early Bay Psalm Book editions printed in England and bound with a defective 1648 Cambridge Bible is estimated at $50,000–75,000. A first edition Book of Mormon could sell for $40,000–60,000, and the same estimate has been assigned to an 1836 broadside printed in Mexico City which announces the fall of the Alamo. A portfolio of illustrations by William Sydney Porter is also estimated at $30,000–40,000. The images were made to illustrate a memoir by miner Joseph T. Dixon, which the author ended up destroying before publication.

At Bonhams London on Wednesday, March 11, Fine Books, Atlases, Manuscripts & Historical Photographs, in 156 lots. The complete autograph manuscript of de Sade's novel Histoire secrète d'Isabelle de Bavière reine de France (1813) shares the top estimate of £70,000–90,000 with an inscribed copy of the first impression of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Rowling inscribed this copy to Bryony Evens, the office manager who plucked the manuscript from the "slush pile" and urged the agency to represent Rowling. A volume from Walter Raleigh's copy of Tasso is also for sale, estimated at £30,000–50,000.

Bonhams also holds an online sale Wednesday of the third part of The Medical & Scientific Library of W. Bruce Fye. The 337 lots include Edward Jenner's 1798 Inquiry into the causes and efforts of the Variolae Vaccinae ($15,000–20,000) and the third English edition (1596) of Monardes' Joyfull newes out of the New-found Worlde ($2,500–3,500).

Rounding out the week, an online sale of the residual part of The Erwin Tomash Library on the History of Computing at Forum Auctions on Thursday, March 12 (the initial offering was covered at length in our winter 2019 issue). The 292 lots include a first edition (1484) of Pietro Borgo's Aritmetica mercantile, estimated at £15,000–20,000. A copy of the first illustrated Italian work on arithmetic, Calandri's Aritmetica, could sell for £12,000–18,000.

Charcoal Book Club launched a few years ago as a subscription service and takes the hassle (or fun) out of building a photobook collection. The company's value prop lies in its ability to provide signed, first edition photobooks (plus a "collectible print") to subscribers at a standard rate. The average retail cost of each monthly selection varies from $40 to nearly $100 apiece, meaning subscribers will, on the whole, save money per book when plotted out over the course of twelve months.

To guild the lily, Charcoal turns to artists and photographers to select each month’s offerings. Past curators have included Tokyo-based vintage photography retailer Super Labo, South African portrait photographer Zanele Muholi, and others. Charcoal sources books from over 250 publishers, ensuring subscribers will grow their collection quickly and with a minimum of personal investment. Don’t like what arrives in the mail? Already own the book of the month? Books can be swapped for those of similar value. Monthly packages start at $58.

This month's pick is Centralia by Indian transmedia artist, photographer and activist Poulomi Basu.

Of course you can see many booksellers now through Sunday during Rare Book Week in New York City. Or you can catch them on the big screen. That’s right, The Booksellers, a documentary about antiquarian and rare book dealers, which debuted last fall at the New York Film Festival, opens in theaters nationwide tomorrow.

Bibliophiles will be treated to a visit with collector Caroline Schimmel and a poke around James Cummins’ New Jersey warehouse overflowing with books and relics. And they will swoon over inventor/entrepreneur Jay Walker’s sumptuous private library. For anyone who has never been to the New York Antiquarian Book Fair or the Strand Bookstore or the Argosy, here's a chance to peek in. The visuals do not disappoint.

The film, directed by D.W. Young, is a paean to antiquarian booksellers—lively, eccentric folks who live among stacks of teetering books and enjoy digging around in boxes looking for treasure—and features David Bergman, Glenn Horowitz, Henry Wessells, Bibi Mohamed, Justin Schiller, and others. The lack of lower thirds to introduce the interviewees will make it difficult for most viewers to identify them, which is a shame.  

Both the old guard and the new have their say, with some commenting on how negatively the internet has impacted bookselling, while others speak to broadening the scope of traditional collecting. The Booksellers elegantly covers a lot of ground, and in doing so, provides a captivating snapshot of book collectors and booksellers at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

If you’re in New York for the book fairs this weekend, you can see The Booksellers at Quad Cinema at 34 W. 13th St. In honor of its release, Left Bank Books at 41 Perry Street (about a 10-minute walk) will be pouring wine and beer at the shop on Friday, 3/6, from 5 p.m. onward; the screening is at 7 p.m.

On Saturday at Quad, booksellers Heather O’Donnell of Honey & Wax and Rebecca Romney of Type Punch Matrix, both of whom appear in the film, will join the director’s Q & A after the 7 p.m. screening.

Check out the trailer:

The Book Guide (TBG), the UK’s best guide to secondhand bookshops, book fairs, auctions, and bookbinders, will close its virtual doors at the end of the month after operating for 19 years.

TBG is run by Mike Goodenough who also ran the popular Inprint secondhand bookshop in Stroud, Gloucestershire, England, with his wife Joy for nearly 40 years until they retired in 2018, although they continue to sell online and at pop-ups. Its goal was to provide details about “how and where to get physical with old books” in the age of internet selling and contains listings and user-generated reviews for all secondhand booksellers in the UK. It filled a hole left when Drif's Guide to the Second-hand Bookshops of the British Isles ceased publication.

In a statement, Goodenough said that he had tried unsuccessfully to find some way of keeping the site live in the face of a fall in advertising revenue despite increasing numbers of visitors. “As a result of the dedication of its readership it is a more accurate and reliable resource than I ever dared hope for,” he said. “My sincere thanks to all of you for your encouragement and support over the years, it’s been fun and you’ve been great. But I must say I looking forward to doing more of the things one’s supposed to do in retirement.”

No more listings and reviews will be added this month, although Goodenough added that he was happy to pass on the data to anybody interested in continuing his work.