Zwiggelaar Auctions in Amsterdam will hold a three-part sale this week: Part I (Children's books, Literature, Old books, Manuscripts, Cookbooks, Amsterdam, Topography) on Monday, November 30, in 565 lots; Part II (Topography, Atlases, Comics, Asian arts, Fine arts) will be held on Tuesday, December 1, in 560 lots; and Part III (Photography, Sports, Chess books, Picture postcards, Erotica, Various) will be sold on Wednesday, December 2, in another 559 lots. 

A sale of Music, Continental Books and Medieval Manuscripts at Sotheby's London ends on Tuesday, December 1. The 116 lots include a painted miniature by Simon Bening on vellum, laid down on wood, dated to the 1530s–40s (£150,000–200,000). An incomplete but substantial copy of the 1482 Bologna edition of the Hebrew Pentateuch, the first book printed with the Hebrew text fully vocalized, is estimated at £120,000–150,000. This copy contains indications that it was used as a model for copying Torah scrolls. A four-page August 1818 letter from Franz Schubert to his brother Ferdinand could sell for £80,000–120,000, while a series of 62 letters and postcards from Hermann Hesse to Stefan Zweig over the period from 1903 to 1938 is estimated at £60,000–80,000. The auction house describes this as "perhaps the most significant collection of Hesse's letters ever to be offered at auction."

As our readers will already know, the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth is being celebrated this year. In our fall issue, we surveyed nine noteworthy Beethoven collections/repositories around the world, one of which is the Library of Congress (LOC). For today’s Video Friday, enjoy this new 9-minute video released by the LOC in which the Library's Stephanie Akau speaks about the manuscript sketches for Beethoven's op. 131 string quartet held at the Library of Congress.

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.

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.”