The Poster House was the last place I visited before New York enacted its statewide stay-at-home order back in March. I trekked down to SoHo via an eerily empty Metro North and the subway to catch a glimpse of The Sleeping Giant, an exhibition dedicated to exploring China's economic progress through poster design. (That show is still on display through February 2021.)

Though the museum closed its doors on March 10, Poster House launched a citywide public health campaign in coordination with PRINT Magazine, Times Square Arts, and For Freedoms artist collective aimed at encouraging mask wearing and proper hygiene. More than 1,800 billboards across New York were emblazoned with calls for solidarity and words of gratitude to frontline workers, providing a much-needed morale boost for a city that was once the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

On September 27, Poster House announced it was reopening on a limited schedule and with timed tickets available in advance via the museum's new online ticket portal. In an effort to promote social distancing while welcoming visitors back, the lobby has been repurposed into a mini-exhibition space, which is were you'll find The Letterpress Posters of Amos Kennedy. Featuring works culled from the permanent collection, this show explores why the Detroit-based Kennedy (featured in our summer 2012 issue) is considered one of the most important letterpress printers practicing today, with the posters on display highlighting the advertisement of Black cultural events in the rural South. And, if you're like me and still not trekking anywhere anytime soon, be sure to register for Poster House's free virtual Q&A with the artist on December 1. 

In many ways this feels like the perfect time to feature the brooding genius of Edward Gorey, and, as luck would have it, Hindman Auctions in Chicago is offering a substantial collection on November 13 that once belonged to Thomas J. Barrett. “He is a true Gorey enthusiast, and the books, prints, posters, and ephemera in his collection are fresh to market at auction,” said Gretchen Hause, director and senior specialist in books and manuscripts at Hindman. Here are some favorites:

Two engrossing new books of interest to collectors are out this Halloween season, both covering gruesome topics yet not grim to read.

Murder Maps: Crime Scenes Revisited. Phrenology to Fingerprint by Dr. Drew Gray (Thames & Hudson, $35) is organized geographically, and like our quarterly “Fine Maps” column, it examines historical events through the lens of cartography. The idea is that certain patterns might emerge when looking at crime from this vantage point, not only connections between specific events, but also the links to “poverty, wealth, architecture and immigration” that existed. The book covers the years 1811-1911, so we also get a sense of how investigation worked (or didn’t work) at the dawn of forensic science.

Design-wise, Murder Maps showcases the best in our current craze for super-illustrated nonfiction, containing 500 color illustrations, stylish fonts, decorative endpapers, and other embellishments. A slew of historic prints—crime scene photos, mugshots, etc.—brings all of the individual entries to life; from alleged ax-murderer Lizzie Borden to James Corder, who was hanged for murdering his girlfriend in 1827. Corder’s body was dissected, and his skin tanned into leather used to bind his memoir.

Corder’s tale provides the perfect segue into the second book at hand: Dark Archives: A Librarian’s Investigation into the Science and History of Books Bound in Human Skin by Megan Rosenbloom (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26). The history of books bound in human skin, aka anthropodermic bibliopegy, is fraught with apocryphal stories, which is what Rosenbloom, the Collection Strategies Librarian at UCLA Library, tackles in her book. Enlisting a team of experts (the Anthropodermic Book Project) to do peptide mass fingerprinting tests on the objects in question, she aims to separate truth from rumor and to create an authentic list of these singular bindings for future research. (As a graduate student twenty years ago, I handled a book in Philadelphia said to be bound in human skin, which, as I read in chapter six, has yet to be verified.) 

Rosenbloom also delves into the murky world of nineteenth-century doctors who “made these skin books as luxury items for their private book collections” — a fascinating connection. Her lively prose moderates a macabre subject and gives it broad appeal.  

Just this week Netflix dropped the new film adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel, Rebecca. Starring Armie Hammer, Lily James, and Kristin Scott Thomas, the updated gothic romance has stiff competition from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 version, but we’ll give it a try!

For a collector, the associative value of this upcoming auction lot is hard to beat: Edward Steichen's personal, complete set of Alfred Stieglitz's Camera Work will be offered for sale online from November 2-12. The set was deaccessioned from the John Teti Rare Photography Book Collection at New Hampshire Institute of Art and is estimated to sell for $250,000-350,000.

Conceived and edited by Alfred Stieglitz as an indie magazine devoted to the promotion of modern photography as its own art form, the first issue of Camera Work appeared in January 1903. Stieglitz declared, “Only examples of such work as gives evidence of individuality and artistic worth, regardless of school, or contains some exceptional feature of technical merit, will find recognition in these pages.”

In the new issue of Strand Magazine published this week, a previously unpublished Raymond Chandler story appears along with an Agatha Christie story never before published in America.

The Chandler story, "Advice to an Employer," shows a different side to the author most closely associated with LA noir. Before he became a mystery writer, Chandler was an executive with an oil company, and this amusing story stems from his corporate experiences. 

The Christie story, "Christmas Adventure," features her beloved Belgian detective Hercule Poirot celebrating Christmas at an English country estate. The story was first published in Britain in 1923 and was expanded later into a novel, The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding. The Strand's publication will be the first time the original story has been published on this side of the Atlantic. 

With the new issue, Strand's editor, Andrew F. Gulli, continues his fine tradition of uncovering unpublished gems from major twentieth-century authors. Gulli said of the stories, "Reading this version of Christie’s short story, you realize why her works are classics. They have the ability to engage and entertain from start to finish. And as far as Chandler, beneath that stark and world weary author of noir, you can see that he had a wonderful zany sense of humor.”

The October issue of Strand Magazine is on stands now. It can also be ordered directly from the magazine's website. The Christie story will also be included in an upcoming HarperCollins anthology of Christie's short stories featuring Hercule Poirot and Ms. Marple entitled Midwinter Murder.

This past Friday, the Morgan Library & Museum opened Poetry and Patronage: The Laubespine-Villeroy Library Rediscovered, an exhibition that brings together for the first time in 450 years spectacular bindings from the library of Claude III de Laubespine, one of the great collectors of the French Renaissance.

Little is known about Laubespine (1545–1570), who lived a life of luxury and royal favor but died young. He did, however, leave behind a magnificent library which was eventually dispersed and largely forgotten until bookbindings scholar and guest curator Isabelle de Conihout rediscovered it. As she said in a 2015 interview with Christie’s, her quest began in 1993, when she was compiling a census of the decorated French bindings in the Rare Books Reserve of the Bibliothèque nationale de France:

Shortly after I began perusing the stacks, I noticed two folio 16th century books on architecture with very fine bindings executed at the end of the 1560s, but with no indication of whom they had belonged to – no ex-libris or coat of arms. They each bore on their fly-leaf an old shelf-mark in brown ink, a number in a large end 16th century hand between two parallel strokes. I went on searching and finally found in the BnF 40 volumes in extraordinary bindings, all bearing the same shelf-marks which I called the 'cotes brunes'. I continued my search in other Parisian libraries (where I found about 40 more volumes, revealing nothing about their original owner except for the mysterious 'cotes brunes'), in British and American libraries, and in a few private collections, most of them outside France….

It was in a literary manuscript that I finally picked up the trail. Finely bound with a double C repeated, the manuscript was believed to be a King Charles IX copy. Upon opening it I was surprised to find my 'cote brune' written on the fly-leaf. This early luxury calligraphic edition of the love poems of the French court poet Philippe Desportes, published in 1573, contains a final sonnet about the year 1570. In it Desportes mourns his ‘wise, happy, and perfect’ friend, Claude de Laubespine … the patron who commissioned this great Renaissance library.

Now identified, Laubespine’s books form a showcase of ornamental binding design and enrich our understanding of book collecting during the French Renaissance. Exhibition highlights include a copy of Jacopo Vignola’s Regola delli cinque ordini d’architettura (ca. 1564, pictured above) in a mysterious binding, which former Morgan director Frederick Adams declared sent “a tingle of pleasure down the spine.” Also on exhibit are three copies of the renowned illustrated incunable, Francesco Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499). The copy in the gold–powdered binding was “a centerpiece of Laubespine’s library, a fitting representation of his collecting ambitions,” according the Morgan.

“We are pleased to present Poetry and Patronage: The Laubespine-Villeroy Library Rediscovered, an exhibition that revisits the central role of bindings in our collection and one of the most splendid libraries of the French Renaissance. The exhibition takes a close look at the art of connoisseurship through the detailed task of reuniting an exquisite set of bindings that have been separated for over four centuries,” said the Morgan’s director, Colin B. Bailey.

The exhibition runs through May 16, 2021. A hardcover catalogue, designed by Jerry Kelly and bound in gilt stamped cloth, is available to order.

The week kicks off with 407 lots of Livres anciens du XVe au XIXe siècle at ALDE on Tuesday, October 20. Some really nice early printing and bindings in this one. The expected leader is a copy of Dahlberg's Suecia Antiqua et Hodierna (1726), estimated at €25,000–35,000.

On Wednesday, October 21, it'll be Americana, Travel, and Natural History at Bonhams New York, in 260 lots. Moran and Hayden's The Yellowstone National Park, and the Mountain Regions of Idaho, Nevada, Colorado and Utah (1876), containing fifteen chromolithographed plates and described by Bill Reese as "the greatest American landscape book of the post-Civil War era," could sell for $150,000–200,000. A copy of Lorenzo Aldrich's Journal of the Overland Route to California! and the Gold Mines (1851) is estimated at $40,000–60,000. From the conchology collection of the late Richard I. Johnson comes Albertus Seba's Locupletissimi Rerum Naturalium Thesauri Accurata Descriptio (1734–1765), which could fetch $30,000–40,000. And a copy of the first three parts of Theodor de Bry's Great Voyages (1590–1592) is estimated at $30,000–50,000.

Forum Auctions will sell Books and Works on Paper on Thursday, October 22. The 292 lots include several Bram Stoker rarities, including a copy of his first published work, Address Delivered in the Dining Hall of Trinity College (1872), estimated at £1,500–2,000. The first abridged paperback edition of Dracula (1901) could sell for £1,200–1,800, while a copy of the first edition of Dracula in Irish (1933) is estimated at £600–800. A set of six John Buckland-Wright etchings for the 1950 Golden Cockerel Press edition of Swinburne's "Pasiphae," perhaps proof sheets, is estimated at £400–600.

Also on Thursday, Fine Photographs at Swann Galleries, in 301 lots. Yousuf Karsh's Fifteen Portraits (1983), one of one hundred numbered copies, is expected to lead the way at $40,000–60,000. Manuel Álvarez Bravo's Fotografías (1945) and Platinum Portfolio (1981) are each estimated at $25,000–35,000.

Rounding out Thursday's sales is PBA Galleries' 360-lot auction of Fine Books – Fine Press – Fine Bindings. The Trianon Press edition of Blake's Illustrations to the Book of Job (1987) and the Kelmscott Press Poems of William Shakespeare (1893) are both estimated at $6,000–9,000.

Yesterday, a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio (1623) sold at Christie’s in New York for $9.9 million, fees included, to Stephan Loewentheil, president and founder of the 19th-Century Rare Book & Photography Shop, who commented post-sale: “William Shakespeare is incomparably the greatest writer in the English language and one of most important international cultural influencers in all history. The first Folio is the most important collection of plays ever published and revered throughout the world. It is an honor to purchase one of only a handful of complete copies of this epochal volume. It will ultimately serve as a centerpiece of a great collection of intellectual achievements of man.”

One of the very few complete copies known in private hands, this First Folio formerly belonged to Mills College in Oakland, California, which deaccessioned the highly sought-after book in light of a budget deficit. It had been donated to the college by James E. and Mary Louise O’Brien in 1977, and before that, it had been exhibited at the Festival of Britain in 1951.

The sale marked the first time in twenty years that a complete First Folio had appeared at auction, and the result was a record for the Folio. The previous record had been collector Abel E. Berland’s copy sold in the same rooms in 2001 for $6.2 million.

Margaret Ford, international head of books & manuscripts at Christie’s commented, “Christie’s is delighted to have established a new world auction record not only for a work by William Shakespeare, but for any work of literature. It is befitting that William Shakespeare’s First Folio, printed in 1623, holds this remarkable record, given its tremendous significance and influence around the globe.”

The record for a printed book at auction, however, still firmly belongs to the Bay Psalm Book, sold for $14.2 million to American philanthropist David M. Rubenstein in 2013.

Anything with Jane Austen's imprimatur is destined to generate interest, and independent Paris-based publisher SP Books has just released a limited facsimile edition of Austen’s least known novel, Lady Susan.

This first significant novel written by Jane Austen, Lady Susan is believed to have been composed in the 1790s when Austen was 18 or 19. The epistolary novel was not published until 1871, 54 years after the author’s death. In it, we meet the titular heroine, a selfish, scheming, and serial seducer. Scholars have compared the novel to Les Liaisons Dangereuses, also epistolary in format and published in 1782. 

The only complete surviving manuscript of Lady Susan is preserved at the Morgan Library, and it is from this volume that the SP edition was created.

According to Austen scholar Kathryn Sutherland, this copy reflects Austen’s habit of not wasting paper; the manuscript was "made in the same manner as those used for the three volumes of [Austen’s] teenage writings." The pages of Lady Susan are filled, leaving almost no margins or interlinear space. And yet, her handwriting is supremely legible, and SP’s edition is, like all of its endeavors, exquisitely matched to the material at hand. This limited deluxe edition is available in 1,000 hand-numbered copies and will be published on October 22.