Popular for her bestselling novels about the American South where she grew up, Dorothea Benton Frank, who died a year ago yesterday, filled her suburban New Jersey home with books, art, and decorative objects. Her estate is now headed to auction later this month at Doyle in New York, where fans can bid on everything from the desk where “many of her twenty bestselling novels were written,” to her designer handbags.
A new literary event aims to make connections between life stories on the page and those waiting to be discovered in a cemetery. As Willesden Jewish Cemetery in London continues its House of Life project to open to the public as a heritage site, it will host almost certainly the first virtual literary gathering ever convened by a cemetery to showcase life stories.
Authors will appear on Zoom for the ‘Life Lines’ event which runs September 7-13. Sessions will explore different aspects and forms of life story--from biography to eulogy and epitaph--to anchor the idea of Willesden Jewish Cemetery being a place to explore and be inspired by past lives.
Among those taking part are Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson; Nikesh Shukla, editor of The Good Immigrant essay collection; Sally Bayley, author of Girl With Dove: A life built by books; and biographer Jean Strouse.
“Our online literary event gives participants the opportunity to join unexpected conversations between writers from different backgrounds and reflect on the great themes of death and life,” said Hester Abrams, House of Life project leader at Willesden Cemetery and curator of Life Lines. “We’re thrilled that so many brilliant authors have agreed to take part. We are sure it will encourage people to come to the cemetery to be inspired by the lives of those buried there.”
Event details and booking information at: willesdenjewishcemetery.org.uk/lifelines. Panel discussions are free and writing workshops, limited to twenty places each, cost £15 (about $20).
In recent weeks, several bookish items that seem unusually attuned to the times in which we are living have come to our attention. Any of them would make a perfect gift for a fellow bibliophile, or frankly for yourself if you need an autumnal treat of the not-pumpkin-spice variety.
Social distancing being what it is, handwritten notes are a safe and mindful way to communicate with friends and family, particularly those who may be elderly, compromised, or alone (and bonus points for supporting the USPS while you’re at it). The “Classic Paperbacks” notecards pictured above, featuring gouache portraits of vintage paperbacks by Richard Baker, are truly miniature works of art. Produced by Princeton Architectural Press (PAP), the box contains twelve cards with twelve different designs—among them Mrs. Dalloway, The Wizard of Oz, and Dubliners—for $16.95.
Currently closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the House of Illustration has shuttered its rented space at Granary Square in London’s King’s Cross neighborhood and will reopen in autumn 2022 at a new location across the city when it will morph into the world’s largest public arts space dedicated to illustration: the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration.
Redevelopment work repurposing four eighteenth- and nineteenth-century industrial buildings by Tim Ronalds Architects is due to start in June next year at the Centre’s new permanent home at New River Head in Islington.
The new complex will contain larger exhibition galleries, an education hub, event spaces, a shop and café, as well as illustrator Quentin Blake’s personal archive of 40,000 items. More than £3 million of the £8 million needed to finance the move has already been raised including £1 million from the Architectural Heritage Fund through its Heritage Impact Fund. Donations, grants, and a public fundraising campaign will provide extra financial support.
“We are thrilled to be embarking on a project that will secure a permanent and much-needed public centre for illustration and graphics in the UK and a home for Sir Quentin’s archive,” said Olivia Ahmad, artistic director of House of Illustration. “We look forward to expanding and developing our pioneering work that explores the importance of graphic art in our lives, supports emerging creators and empowers people of all ages to use visual communication.”
Blake added, “I am enormously proud to have my name associated with this international home for an art which I know and love, and for artists who speak in a myriad of visual languages, but are understood by all. It is going to be amazing.”
During its closure, the Centre will mount online exhibitions and continue with its program of education events.
Inspired by one of the feature stories in our new issue and in honor, of course, of Beethoven’s upcoming 250th anniversary this fall, we’d like to suggest this “virtual tour” through the Morgan Library’s Beethoven manuscripts with Robinson McClellan, assistant curator of music.
Have a suggestion for Video Fridays? Add in comments below, or email me directly.
Doré, at least in the world of antiquarian books, is a name that hardly needs an introduction. Gustave Doré (1832-1883) was a French artist who found enormous commercial success by illustrating everything from classics to comics, and notably, Bibles. As the Getty Museum notes, “Dramatic, chiaroscuro illustrations of the Bible and literary giants such as Rabelais, Balzac, Cervantes, Dante, and Milton made Doré's name.”
Headed to auction in Paris next month are five metal stereotype plates (engraved metal matrices mounted on blocks of wood) used during the printing process of the two-volume La Sainte Bible of 1866. All were engraved by different engravers — Héliodore Pisan, E. Goebel, A. Francois Pannemaker — under the direction of Doré.
Each matrix (lots 56-60) is valued at €800-1,000 ($940-1,180).
The “Agag” plate appears to have been offered at Bonhams in London last year to no avail.
Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Amelia Hugill-Fontanel of the Rochester Institute of Technology:
What is your role at your institution?
Associate Curator at RIT Cary Graphic Arts Collection. We have a lean staff at the Cary, so we each wear many hats. I curate online and on-site exhibitions, devise programming, and do a lot of special collection library instruction. I write grants and do collection development regarding 19th to 21st century graphic design and printing technology. I oversee several student employees and manage our photographic reproductions for online cataloguing.
How did you get started in special collections?
As an art history undergraduate student, I interned at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York. They hired me after graduation as a curatorial assistant in their photography collection. I have sought special collections positions since then.
Favorite rare book / ephemera that you've handled?
We hold a plaster cast of the right hand of American type designer, Frederic W. Goudy, (1865-1947.) While Goudy was a fine draftsman, his hand was quite large, so the cast is affectionately called “The Paw.” Many years ago, an RIT professor started a legend that whomever touched the Paw would have bad luck for an indeterminate amount of time. That has not happened to me yet, as I have handled it! I would like to think that I’m immune to the curse as I often teach about Goudy in a positive light because of his great accomplishments in design. (Picture of the Paw here: https://www.instagram.com/p/Ba4OL-TD3Bc/)
What do you personally collect?
I collect rocks from my travels. They are small enough to carry in my pocket and best of all, they are free! If the rock has naturally-occurring stripes, that’s a bonus. I love the serendipity of finding a keeper.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I have a personal printmaking practice that overlaps with work. I am a letterpress printer, who uses vintage relief type and printing presses to create fine-press prints. So even though I also get to do this activity in my daily work, whenever I travel, I seek out printshops or technology-history museums. My kids roll their eyes at how many side-trips we’ve taken on a family vacation to see printing presses! (Picture of a poster I designed and printed https://www.behance.net/gallery/99768411/The-Girl-with-the-Cooper-Black-Hair)
What excites you about special collections librarianship?
There is a lot of reward in facilitating research for our patrons in special collections. I have seen it so many times: when a graduate student has an “a-ha!” moment because you brought her the box with items that support her thesis question, or when an artist visually responds and appropriates a piece you showed in a tour. It’s an affirmation that the products of past human endeavors that are held in our collections, have so much to inform the future in scholarship and practice.
Thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship?
Let’s think about the incunabula period in printing history: from 1455 to 1501. This was the first 50 years of printing with moveable type when widespread technology changes in communication informed the next several centuries of publication traditions. We are living right now through the “digital incunabula” period: 1985 to 2035. The digital impact of on-screen reading, graphic reproduction, global access, and applied computer technologies with regard to special collections is palpable but still unquantifiable. So much experimentation is going on to digitally deliver and analyze special collections materials. It’s exciting to be a part of a movement that might have such enduring impact. I think the future of special collections librarianship is right at the intersection of preserving collections while aiding innovative digital research about them.
Any unusual or interesting collection at your library you'd like to draw our attention to?
Cary holds a wide collection of 45,000 books and hundreds of primary source archives on printing, graphic design, and the book arts. In addition to these paper-based collections, we maintain a unique working Technology Collection of 30 printing presses, and thousands of fonts of metal and wood type. My belief is that these industrial realia are preserved through use. I lead printing demonstrations, hold workshops, and produce our own Cary limited-edition prints on this equipment. We are also in the midst of cataloguing our type collections using ArchivesSpace, as there is quite a network around the world of typophiles and printmakers who would appreciate this resource.
Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?
For fall, we are mounting a pop-up exhibition of a portfolio of prints by Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr. Quotes by Rosa Parks are a central theme of this body of work. We wanted to display something inspirational that addresses the current BIPOC movement. We are also working on digital exhibitions, so check our site soon. Or curate your own exhibit from our Digital Collections site!
On September 24 at 7 p.m., the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, will hold a “Very Virtual Benefit & Auction,” featuring appearances by Julie Andrews, Yo-Yo Ma, and Andrea Davis Pinkney. This online-only gala is a COVID-era substitute for the museum’s annual Carle Honors fundraising event. Proceeds support the museum’s art and literacy programs, exhibitions, and educational resources for children and families.
A silent auction of art from leading children’s book author/illustrators, including Sandra Boynton, Maurice Sendak, Rosemary Wells, Mo Willems, and Eric Carle (of course!), will open on September 18, and two pieces of art will be auctioned live during the 45-minute broadcast. You can register for the virtual benefit & auction here.
In the meantime, the Carle Museum has reopened with an homage to Swiss artist Paul Klee, whose drawings and paintings of angels inspired Eric Carle to create his own set of found-object collages depicting angels.
Here are the sales I'll be keeping an eye on this week:
Forum Auctions sells Books and Works on Paper on Thursday, August 27, in 209 lots. Sharing the top estimate at £1,500–2,000 are two Hebrew grammatical texts from the 1520s bound together and a volume containing five Shakespeare plays, including the 1730 Dublin edition of the Merry Wives of Windsor). An imperfect copy of Portlock's Voyage Round the World (1789) is estimated at £750–1,000.
At Swann Galleries on Thursday, Vintage Posters, in 353 lots. A 1949 Charles Loupot poster for Lion Noir shoe polish rates the top estimate, at $20,000–30,000. A small-format "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster (1939) could fetch $12,000–18,000. A rare variant of the 1896 Sutro Baths poster is estimated at $10,000–15,000, and a copy of Percy Albert Trompf's 1929 "Australia" poster could sell for $7,000–10,000.
Rounding out Thursday's sales Fine Books with Americana, Travel & Arthur H. Clark Publications at PBA Galleries. The 386 lots include a large collection of publications from the Arthur H. Clark Company from the library of George M. Steinmetz, as well as many Book Club of California and Limited Editions Club publications. Most of the starting bids are in the low three-figure range or below.
On Saturday, Addison & Sarova Auctioneers sell Rare Books, Art & Ephemera at Addison & Sarova on Saturday, August 29. They've got 304 lots on offer this time, with a good mix as usual of early printing, American imprints, manuscript material, and a few large lots of bookplates.
Here’s a fun Video Friday that speaks not only to the services libraries are providing to the community during the pandemic but what they have to do to promote themselves. Meet ‘Curbside Larry,’ aka John Schaffer, a senior library program specialist at the Barbara Bush Branch Library of the Harris County Public Library in Spring, Texas. Don’t miss it: