For Fine Books & Collections subscribers, the painting above will look familiar. George Catlin’s 1838 depiction of the Seminole leader Osceola appears on the cover of our winter 2021 issue, which lands in mailboxes this week. One of our feature stories recounts how and why a lock of Osceola’s hair and a related manuscript were pulled from auction earlier this year after issues regarding its sale were raised by Native Americans.

Just as the magazine was going to press, we were interested to note another repatriation story in the news wherein Florida’s Seminole Tribe was able, after a protracted battle, to compel a policy change at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). In an effort to reclaim their ancestors’ remains, the Tribe pressed for an update that will allow native groups to reclaim human remains and funerary objects based on their own oral tradition and tribal knowledge even if the NMNH archaeologists had previously, and imprecisely, labeled them as culturally unaffiliated. According to the Seminole Tribe of Florida, this includes approximately 1,496 Seminole ancestors exhumed in Florida, as well as sacred objects, such as potsherds, arrowheads, bone tools, and wooden effigies.

“The NMNH holds vast collections of human remains that have been refused repatriation for nearly 30 years,” Domonique deBeaubien, collections manager and chair of the repatriation committee, commented in a press statement. “Until now, there has been no legal mechanism to return those ancestors to their homelands. That transition can now begin.”

Tina Osceola, member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Associate Justice for the Tribal Court, and member of the repatriation committee, said, “The revised policy has been a long time coming and generations overdue. As our Tribe continues to seek the return of our stolen ancestors, we will continue to work on behalf of Indian Country to pass better laws that can help to return more ancestors, funerary, and sacred objects. I hope that the nation and world will shift their beliefs that our culture and people are only valuable when owned, displayed or studied.”

Just as the UK’s writers’ homes museums were gearing up for the Christmas season, they have been forced to close again as part of renewed coronavirus lockdown restrictions through December 3. Among them is Jane Austen’s House at Chawton, Hampshire, which had already weathered the first major lockdown and a roof leak (supporters have been asked to sponsor a roof tile to help with the costs).

The house is providing a package of online alternatives to visiting in person called Jane Austen’s House From Home which features a short but enjoyable virtual exhibition called Jane Austen’s Artful Letters which has been supported by the Art Fund. These look at the part that letters played in both the work and life of the author including a four-line poem-letter written by Austen to her friend Catherine Bigg in 1808, and advice on how she would have written and folded her letters. There are transcripts of the letters and video performances too.

Elsewhere on the site is a new 360° virtual tour of the cottage which allows you to navigate around the rooms at will and stop to ‘look’ at various objects including the table where she wrote. In addition, for younger visitors (and cat lovers) there is A Cat’s Eye Audio Tour of the site which is led by the museum’s cat.

A rather less busy week coming up in the salerooms, but here's what I'll be watching:

The last of this tranche of Aristophil sales, Histoire Postale: Guerre de 1870–1871 (Aristophil 40) will be held at Aguttes on Tuesday, November 24 (noted in last week's post).

Also on Tuesday, 143 lots of Rare and Important Items at Kedem Auctions in Jerusalem. Estimated at $50,000–80,000 is a large archive of nearly two thousand commercial and legal documents from the Moroccan-Jewish Assaraf family of Fez, Morocco. A partial copy of a 1492 Naples edition of a commentary to the Mishnayot is estimated at $60,000–100,000.

Doyle holds a sale of Rare Books, Autographs & Maps on Tuesday: the 322 lots include a copy of the 1603 edition of John Florio's translation of Montaigne's Essayes with the armorial of Elizabeth I on both boards ($25,000–35,000). The lid from an Apple II Plus computer, signed by both Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak at the release event for the Macintosh computer in 1984 is estimated at $20,000–30,000. A mixed edition set of Christian Zervos' Catalogue Raisonné of Picasso's works could sell for $10,000–15,000. A second octavo edition of Audubon's Birds rates the same estimate.

On Wednesday, November 25, Forum Auctions holds a sale of Books and Works on Paper, in 303 lots. Four Fleece Press publications, including one of 40 special copies of Dearest Joana, is estimated at £500–700, as is a Jimi Hendrix autograph. A second edition of William Rabisha's Whole Book of Cookery (1673) is estimated at £400–600, the same estimate given to John Guillim's A Display of Heraldry (1632) and a copy of Ted Hughes' Five Autumn Songs for Children's Voices, one of 37 copies signed by Hughes with a verse in manuscript.

On October 23, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts announced Sara Langworthy as the winner of this year’s MCBA Prize. This recorded hour-long event offers the chance to see some of the best in contemporary book arts and to hear a thought-provoking conversation between Langworthy and writer, curator, and historian Betty Bright.

Collectors of modern & hypermodern first editions might be interested in a current online auction of author postcards hosted by the literary magazine, The Common. From now ’til December 1, bidders will vie for personalized, handwritten postcards from famous authors such as Anne Tyler, Edwidge Danticat, George Saunders, and many more.

So far the Fran Lebowitz postcard is leading the pack with a current bid of $350, with David Sedaris not too far behind at $300, and most others at/under $100. Take a look, perhaps your favorite is among them. The postcards will be sent by the holidays, so it might make for a unique gift for a fellow bibliophile as well.

As an added bonus this year—The Common’s tenth anniversary—some bidders will receive rewards from Penguin Classics. All proceeds from the auction will go to the nonprofit foundation that publishes the Amherst, Massachusetts-based journal.

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Dorothy Berry, Digital Collections Program Manager at Houghton Library, Harvard University.

What is your role at your institution?

​I am the inaugural Digital Collections Program Manager at Houghton Library. My work involves managing digitization workflows for patron-driven requests and for curated projects, as well as facilitating cross-campus work on digital discovery, display, and scholarship. This fiscal year my work is focusing on a project I proposed over the summer, "Slavery, Abolition, Emancipation, and Freedom: Primary Sources from Houghton Library." This project is designed to address our historical lack of digital representation from our rich collections relating to the African American freedom struggle.

How did you get started in archives?

My first library job was in undergrad, as a circulation assistant at the Mills College Library. I was studying music performance and loved working in the stacks with Mills' amazing collection of 20th and 21st century music. I even loved dealing with all the Cage transparencies and maneuvering giant Stockhausen scores! I thought, at that time, that I'd like to be a music librarian, but realized my interest in history and culture might be better served working with primary source documents.

Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?

Those combined interests led me to the dual masters program at Indiana University, where I was able to pursue my MA in Ethnomusicology and MLS at the same time. It seems a bit bonkers to me in retrospect, but I'm really glad I had to chance to study simultaneously, as I feel it has had a direct effect on how I view the archival subjects I interact with through my work.

Favorite rare book / ephemera / archival collection that you've handled?

I'm generally not one for favorites, so this is a difficult one for me. A collection that continues to bring me joy is the YWCA USO collection held in the Social Welfare History Archives at University of Minnesota. I was working at Minnesota on a grant funded project to identify, describe, and digitize African American materials across the Special Collections department and was brought a box full of photos -- candids and posed -- from USOs ranging from World War II through the Vietnam War. Many of the photos were of celebrations or special events and seeing the snapshots of family and experience amid war and segregation was fascinating.

What do you personally collect?

I've moved around quite a bit so I've always been a bit wary of collecting. I do like to have things with my that remind me of my research interests or connect me with the past. I have three framed items that come with me to every new apartment; the lithograph of the burning of the Colored Orphans Asylum from Harper's Weekly (1863), sheet music for Bert Williams' signature song "Nobody" (1905), and a copy of "Evah Dahkey is a King" from In Dahomey, published as a music supplement of The New York American And Journal (1902). My graduate MA research was on African American Musical Theater in the 1890s through 1910s, and having physical copies of material I was only able to access digitally is a nice feeling.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I'm very much a homebody, not at all surprising of someone in our field! I love to embroider, and usually have a project I'm working on. I am also in the slow, slow, process of improving my skill at Byzantine chant -- something I'm sure I will never be at all expert at, but I do enjoy the process!

What excites you about archives?

I am continuously excited by the interpretative possibilities provided by increased access. The past is always somewhat opaque, and our understandings constantly shift with new context and reflections. I love the extent to which I see colleagues adopting concepts of cultural humility and openness, inviting new patrons and researchers to reinterpret and reimagine the past.

Thoughts on the future of archives and archivists?

The future of archives and archivists is truly a mystery to me. One thing I do foresee, if I'm going to prognosticate, is increased involvement across disciplines. Archivists have distinct experiential and professional knowledge to share, and the more we participate as active research community members and not just facilitators the more innovation we can expect. I think we are all a bit tired of hearing some academics talk about "the archives" and ignoring the physical realities of our field, but I think a solution there is joining in the conversation and troubling the notions that erase practical histories of collecting, storage, description, etc. There are great debates and discussions waiting for us if we'd just jump in! 

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

Houghton Library feels fairly unknowable -- the amount of interesting collections is enormous and ever-growing! Lately, I've been working with our large pamphlet collecting detailing the public discourse around slavery, abolition, racial formation, and Black citizenship. These materials were collected by Harvard Library within a few years of publication, generally, and represent a type of contemporaneous collecting that we associate today with archives. The thousands of pamphlets argue from all directions -- pro-slavery, anti-slavery, slavery as enshrined by the Bible, slavery as anathema to Christ -- I've even come across a pro-miscegenation pamphlet. We are working to make sure the pamphlets are all cataloged properly to prepare them for digitization, and I'm really excited for the future research opportunities this opens up.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

Of course, like everyone else, we are placing the safety of the community first and so our reading room and exhibits are currently closed, not to mention, Houghton is in the process of finishing up a major renovation! I recommend folks follow Houghton's renovation progress for more news of our eventual grand reopening and the spectacular exhibit that will be a real highlight of the event.

London-based graphic novel publisher SelfMadeHero has launched a new social media campaign via Twitter today to support UK bookshops – which are not classed as “essential” and thus unable to open – during the current lockdown.

#DrawYourBookshop is a callout for all artists to support bookshops across the nation with a quick sketch, drawing, or indeed masterpiece, of their local favorite bookshop. The project also aims to help artists reach a wider public.

“With theatres dark, concert venues closed, cinemas silenced, and galleries shut during lockdown, it is time to re-brand our bookshops as an essential service and recognize the existential crisis they are facing,” says SelfMadeHero press officer Paul Smith. “Now more than ever before, in the delayed run-up to Christmas, bookshops need to be seen and celebrated on social media, through all possible means – and the most possible means is through the unique combination of word, image, and print that is comics art.”

As an object, the death mask of John Keats manifests the poet’s romantic and tragic life. It feels almost too private a thing to be sold at auction, and yet, one will be offered in London on December 9 for an estimated £12,000-16,000 ($16,000-21,000). Fellow sensitive souls needn’t panic. There are eight other copies, five of which are held in public collections.

Having published more than fifty poems, and penned the oft-quoted line, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know,” Keats died from tuberculosis at the age of 25. He had traveled to Italy, well aware that his time was limited. His friend, painter Joseph Severn, accompanied him, and bore witness to the poet’s tortured end. Shortly thereafter, a death mask was cast, with the cast-maker taking an impression of Keats’ foot, hand, and face.

“The hand and the foot disappeared, but two casts of the face remained," writes Christie’s specialist Mark Wiltshire. One mask was sent to Keats’ publisher, John Taylor, and one was kept by Severn, who then used it to create the posthumous portrait of Keats that also features in this sale.

Another whopper of an auction week, as the next round of Aristophil material goes under the hammer.

Sotheby's Dada Data: Books and Boîtes by Marcel Duchamp and Others sale ends on Monday, November 16. The first twenty-eight lots are from the collection of Chilean collector Carlos Alberto Cruz; they include a copy of Duchamps "Box in a Valise" from Series F (1966), the last series issued during Duchamp's lifetime. It is estimated at $150,000–200,000. An out-of-series deluxe copy of Hugnet and Duchamp's La Septième Face du Dé (1936) could sell for $40,000–60,000.

This tranche of Aristophil sales begins on Tuesday, November 17 at Aguttes with a sale of Littérature: Boris Vian et les Maudits (Aristophil 33), in 230 lots. The manuscript of Alfred de Vigny's Les Consultations du Docteur Noir rates the top estimate, at €100,000–150,000. An autograph poem by Rimbaud could sell for €80,000–120,000. The autograph manuscript of Céline's Rigodon and a volume of autograph poems by Paul Verlaine are each estimated at €80,000–100,000.

Also on Tuesday, Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History at Sotheby's London, in 200 lots. A first edition of Description de l'Égypte (1809–1822), in twenty volumes, could fetch £150,000–200,000, while a hand-colored subscriber's copy of Roberts' Holy Land (1842–1849) is estimated at £80,000–120,000. A five-volume set of the Blaeu Theatrum orbis terrarum (1640–1654), in a contemporary Dutch gilt vellum binding, could sell for £50,000–60,000, and a subscriber's copy of T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926) is estimated at £40,000–60,000.

At Swann Galleries on Tuesday, 299 lots of Fine Books & Manuscripts at Swann Galleries. Sharing the top estimate of $30,000–40,000 are a first edition of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility (1811) and a first state copy of Charles Dickens' American Notes, inscribed by Dickens to Richard Henry Dana, Jr. 

Artcurial holds the next two Aristophil sales on Wednesday, November 18: Histoire Postale: Guerre de 1870–1871 & Aviation (Aristophil 34) and Littérature: Fonds Romain Gary & Littérature du XVIIe au XXe Siècle (Aristophil 35). A collection of plans and documents relating to the construction of Lindbergh's plane "The Spirit of St. Louis" is expected to sell for as much as €200,000–300,000, and estimated at €75,000–100,000 each are a partial manuscript of Saint-Exupéry's Pilote de guerre and a volume of fifty-one original drawings by Saint-Exupéry. In the second sale, two lots share an estimate of €60,000–80,000: a draft manuscript of Saint-Exupéry's Le Petit Prince and the autograph manuscript of Flaubert's Louis XI.

Forum Auctions will sell 299 lots of Selected Books from Rugby School Library on Wednesday. These include a Shakespeare Fourth Folio (1685), estimated at £30,000–50,000; an incomplete Second Folio (1632), which could fetch £20,000–30,000; and another copy of the Second Folio, described as "substantially defective and rather grubby" (£10,000–15,000). A 1468 Sweynheym and Pannartz Lactantius, the second book printed in Rome, with early Cyprus provenance, could sell for £10,000–15,000.

On Thursday, November 19, Druout sells Livres, Lettres et Manuscrits Autographes (Aristophil 36), in 221 lots. An album of autographs, documents, and original drawings of French Revolutionary figures extra-illustrating a copy of the 1830 reissue of Pierre-Nicholas Coste D'Arnobat's Notes sur les hommes de la Revolution could sell for €200,000–300,000. Many items of interest to the Napoleon collector will be up for grabs in this one.

Aguttes sells Histoire (Aristophil 37) on Thursday, in 267 lots. Much more Napoleon-related material here.

At Forum Auctions on Thursday, Fine Books, Manuscripts, and Works on Paper, in 447 lots. Albert Sangorski's 1916 illuminated manuscript of Spenser's Una and the Redcross Knight, in a Rivière & Son binding, could lead the way at £20,000–25,000, and there are a few other Sangorski manuscripts and jewelled bindings. This sale also includes some interesting lots for the railway collector.

The Heritage Auctions Comics and Comic Art sale runs from 19–22 November, and includes 1,799 lots. As of Sunday morning, a copy of Detective Comics #27 (May 1939), featuring the first appearance of Batman, had already been bid up to $912,500. The auction house describes this copy as the best one to come up for sale in a decade.

Rounding out Thursday's sales will be 222 lots of Rare Books & Manuscripts at PBA Galleries. Rating the top estimate there is a 1495 Salamanca edition of Antonio de Nebrija's Introductiones latinae, cum commento, estimated at $10,000–15,000.

There will be two more Aristophil sales on Friday, November 20, both of music-related items: Musique (Aristophil 38) at Ader and Musique (Aristophil 39) at Aguttes. The first includes 137 lots, including the manuscript of the first version of a scene from the last act of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro (€300,000–350,000) and a fragment from a Bach cantata (€100,000–120,000). The Aguttes sale of 220 lots includes an unpublished Bizet manuscript of his orchestration for the opera David Rizzio (estimated at €40,000–50,000).

On Saturday, November 21, Addison & Sarova will sell Rare Books & Ephemera, in 244 lots.

Rounding out the Aristophil sales is a 158-lot auction of Histoire Postale: Guerre de 1870–1871 (Aristophil 40) at Aguttes on Tuesday, November 24. A collection of fifteen letters sent out from the Siege of Paris in the diplomatic bags of the American ambassador rates the top estimate, at €70,000–80,000.

In honor of the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, which is being held virtually today and tomorrow, we’re taking a wistful look back at last year’s fair via Lux Mentis Booksellers, which always does a quick video tour of its book fair highlights.

Don’t miss out on the free virtual book fair events this weekend — listed & linked here.