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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.

Arts funding in the UK has had a torrid time over the last decade and the coronavirus-related lockdowns (the second came into force earlier this month) are driving many organizations to the point of collapse. Among those aiming to safeguard its future is London's St. Bride Library (which we featured back in summer 2017 in A.N. Devers' "Lost Libraries of London"). Just off the country’s former newspaper hub in Fleet Street, St. Bride celebrates its 125th anniversary on November 20 and has set up a crowdfunding campaign to ensure its continued existence.

Originally a library for the surrounding printing and publishing industry, it has a huge collection of print-related books, collections (including Edward Johnston’s designs for the London Underground), as well as physical artifacts such as woodblocks, punches, and of course an incredible amount of type.

The danger to St. Bride is very real – it closed in the summer of 2015 because of funding problems but happily reopened later that year and since then has built up an impressive reputation for talks, exhibitions, and performances/concerts in the theatre housed in its atmospheric Grade II buildings. Though it does have permanent staff, St. Bride relies on a team of dedicated volunteers. It currently has around 65,000 visitors a year but receives no core funding from the government, relying instead for 90 percent of its income from venue hire, and the rest from fundraising.

It also offers regular letterpress courses which have become hugely popular. I took one of them a couple of years ago and enjoyed it immensely. It inspired me to buy my own small printing press (an 8 x 5 Adana) and start producing my own printed material after 50 years of enjoying other people’s.

Funds from the campaign will go towards the upkeep of the library as well as special events and projects over the anniversary year, including the digitization of its collections which would improve access to its holdings for an international audience.

More details at the crowdfunding page at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/st-bride-library-125th-anniversary

Page Mill Press of San Francisco will be publishing a trade edition of Barry Moser's illustrated Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the first of three autobiographies written in 1845 by the escaped slave turned orator. Launched in 2019 by former HarperCollins editor Roy M. Carlisle, the publishing house focuses on "transpersonal studies through innovative research to tackle the most challenging contemporary issues of modern living and global concerns." The firm's first slate of books, including Moser's, are currently in production.

More than 170 fabric and textile sample books, mostly French, spanning the early nineteenth century through the 1940s, head to auction at Tennants in North Yorkshire, England, next week. The current owner amassed them over three decades, using them for reference and inspiration. According to the auctioneer, “The collection charts the history of design, fashion and the European textile industry through a period of extraordinary growth and change.”

And I thought last week was busy! It's a veritable deluge of sales this week:

On Wednesday and Thursday, 11–12 November, Dominic Winter Auctioneers will sell 600 lots of Printed Books, Maps & Autographs, Lord Nelson, Scottish Topography, The David Smith Print Collection. Rating the top estimate at £8,000–10,000 is a March 13, 1939 letter from Edward, Duke of Windsor to the newspaper editor Lord Beaverbrook, quibbling about recent coverage of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The 1605 edition of Plotemy's Geographiae published at Amsterdam by Claesz and Hondius could sell for £5,000–8,000, and a November, 1797 Horatio Nelson letter to the mayor of Norwich is estimated at £4,000–6,000. A good variety of interesting items throughout this sale.

Also ending on Wednesday, the James Bond: A Collection of Books and Manuscripts, The Property of a Gentleman at Sotheby's London. Rebecca Rego Barry has covered this one for CrimeReads, so do have a look at her post over there.

The last of Wednesday's sales is at University Archives: Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books, in 289 lots. An 11x14" signed and inscribed photograph of Marilyn Monroe is estimated at $20,000–25,000, while an October, 1796 George Washington letter could sell for $13,000–14,000. A 1786 Pennsylvania land grant signed by Benjamin Franklin is estimated at $8,000–9,000. If you're interested in beginning a collection of books signed by Richard Nixon, you can pick up 37 in one go in this sale: they're estimated at $3,000–5,000.

Thursday, November 12 is going to be a markedly busy day in the salerooms:

ALDE will sell Lettres et Manuscrits Autographes, in 204 lots. 

At Freeman's, Books and Manuscripts, in 230 lots. A late fifteenth-century Book of Hours, use of Rouen, later owned by Charles X of France, is estimated at $40,000–60,000. A copy of the 37-volume Definitive Edition of the works of Mark Twain could sell for $15,000–25,000, while the Centenary Limited Edition of Churchill's works, in 38 volumes, may fetch $8,000–12,000. The same estimate has been assigned to an unsophisticated first issue of A Christmas Carol and the Golden Cockerel Four Gospels.

Skinner's annual Fine Books & Manuscripts sale also ends on Thursday; the 463 lots include Edward Steichen's personal set of the first fifty volumes of Camera Work (1903–1917), deaccessioned from the John Teti Rare Photography Book Collection at the New Hampshire Institute of Art (estimated at $250,000–350,000). From the same collection come the first six volumes of Stieglitz's Camera Notes ($15,000–20,000), and various other photographic publications. Fifteen volumes of Jane Austen's works from the library of Mary Orne Bowditch could sell for $20,000–30,000.

At Heritage Auctions on Thursday, Historical Manuscripts Signature Auction, in 617 lots. A short Beethoven manuscript letter has an opening bid of $30,000, while a 1670 Robert Hooke manuscript written in his capacity as a surveyor after the Great Fire of London starts at $25,000. A copy of the October 9, 1989 issue of Fortune inscribed by Steve Jobs opens at $21,000.

Another of Thursday's sales is the PBA Galleries auction of Vintage Photography, with Books and Monographs, in 441 lots. This sale includes monographs and periodicals, cased and paper prints, albums, portfolios, &c.

On Thursday and Friday, November 12–13, Hindman Auctions sells Fine Books and Manuscripts, in 476 lots. A copy of Audubon's Birds in octavo is estimated at $25,000–35,000, while a first edition in English of Machiavelli's The Prince (London, 1640) rates the same estimate. A limited edition of Paul Éluard's Un poeme dans chaque livre (Paris, 1956), in a fine binding by Pierre-Lucien Martin, could sell for $20,000–30,000, as could a first edition of John Filson's Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke, the first book on Kentucky and the first biography of Daniel Boone. There is also a huge range of Goreyana to be had in this sale.

Round out the week, Livres & Manuscrits at Tessier & Sarrou on Friday, November 13, in 383 lots.