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Time to check in with the Harry Ransom Center (HRC) at the University of Texas at Austin and take a peek at what’s on display in the rotating Stories to Tell exhibition.

Over 150 boxes of Arthur Miller’s papers have sat uncatalogued storage at the HRC since the 1960s. Now, after the purchase of another 8,000 items from the playwright’s estate (and a public tug-of-war between Yale and Texas for those pieces), a teasingly tiny selection from Miller’s massive archive are on view. One item hails from Miller’s three-volume FBI file, which Miller received after filing a FOIA request in 1985. The dossier reveals that the government had a tail on the author of Death of a Salesman for at least twenty years, starting in the mid-1940s. One of the redacted forms indicates that in November 1942 “the subject was employed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a ship fitter trainee. However, by letter dated February 28, 1943, the subject advised his Local Board that he was again engaged in playwriting.”

On a related note: in June, the entire Miller collection will be processed and catalogued for scholarly use, and will be reopened in November 2019. Interestingly, some unredacted documents will not be available for research until December 31, 2047.

Literary tourism is big business. While new book festivals continue to spring up, recent research from the VisitEngland tourist board indicated that more than half of British holidaymakers would visit a literary attraction on vacation. Another increasingly popular way of combining books with holidays is to visit one of the dozens of small villages and towns around the world devoted to bookselling.

Hay-on-Wye in Wales is the best known of these, but I feature all the others in my book, Book Towns (Frances Lincoln, 2018). The most common response from readers to the book has been that they are now considering including a visit to one of these towns on a future holiday (or indeed making a tour of several). Although not officially a member of the International Association of Book Towns, I included the district of Jimbocho in Tokyo in a separate section of the book devoted to ‘literary paradises’ because it is home to around 200 bookshops, publishers, and related clubs and societies, many with an emphasis on rare and secondhand titles.

The area has been developing its current specialism over the last 100 years – if you visit then look out for the two characters 書店 which mean 'Shoten' or bookstore – and plenty offer such a large stock that it spills out onto tables on the pavement outside their stores.  

With such numbers of sellers, unsurprisingly pretty much every subject is covered, mostly in Japanese but also in English and to some extent other European languages. Among them is Kagerou Bunko run by Ryu Sato. "I opened it in 2002 as a bookstore specialising in illustrated western and Japanese books, around half and half,” he explains. “For the last four years we have been actively participating in foreign book fairs and have produced many catalogues in English. The rare books we stock are generally Japanese which helps us to stand out from the crowd at overseas events, but we also have a smattering of Chinese, Korean, and western rare books as well."

Since the epic Battle of Winterfell episode in the latest season of Game of Thrones aired on HBO two weeks ago, the Cushing Library at Texas A & M University has seen its own horde lining up outside its walls: fans excited to see a particular dagger that plays a key part in the episode. (No spoilers here in case you're still catching up, so we'll leave it at that).

The dagger is on display currently at the Cushing Library, along with a rotating selection of other materials related to the hugely popular books and HBO show they inspired. The dagger is viewable at Cushing Library because, ever since 1993, it has served as the repository for all things George R. R. Martin.

The author's association with Texas A & M began in the 1970s during visits to AggieCon, an annual science fiction and fantasy convention. Martin was impressed with the sci-fi and fantasy collection at Cushing and chose the library to deposit his personal correspondence, books, and manuscripts.

The Martin collection at Cushing continues to grow each year as materials related to the HBO production are also deposited there. At the moment, the collection consists of approximately 50,000 pieces in 300 boxes, almost all of which is available for public view. Highlights for fans of the series include swords from the show, correspondence between publishers and showrunners, and a wide variety of memorabilia. 

The dagger -- and the rest of the Martin collection -- are available to view at 400 Spence Street on the campus of Texas A & M in College Station, Texas.


Last week the Kislak Center at the University of Miami Libraries dedicated a new gallery and opened its inaugural exhibition, Open New Worlds: A Journey Through the Kislak Collection, featuring two hundred rare books, manuscripts, maps, globes, and artifacts related to exploration of the early Americas.

Another fairly quiet week in the auction rooms coming up:

On Tuesday, May 7, Bonhams Los Angeles sells Prints & Multiples, in 214 lots. A copy of Albrecht Dürer's 1498 engraving known as Hercules at the Crossroads is estimated at $30,000–50,000, as is a complete set of Robert Indiana's 1968 screenprints, Numbers. Two Andy Warhol works also rate high estimates: a copy of the 1964 offset lithograph Liz ($25,000–35,000) and a framed copy of Black Bean Soup from the Campbell's Soup series ($20,000–30,000).

An RR Auctions sale of Fine Autographs and Artifacts, Featuring JFK ends on Wednesday, May 8. The 749-lot auction includes a manuscript copy of Bob Dylan's lyrics for "The Times They Are A-Changin'" (estimated at $60,000+); an original chalk and charcoal study for the official White House portrait of JFK by Aaron Shikler (estimated at $50,000+); seven documents associated with the rescue of Hungarian Jews during World War II, including two signed by Raoul Wallenberg (estimated at $30,000+); and a window sash from the Texas School Book Depository (estimated at $25,000+). Rating the same estimate are a collection of Boston playbills from the early 1860s, some featuring John Wilkes Booth, and an autograph album featuring an inscribed sketch of Mickey Mouse by Walt Disney.

The Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society holds one of their regular book auctions on Friday, May 10. The 463-lot sale includes a vast quantity of Mennonite and local history material.

Fine press book culture in California owes much to H. Mallette Dean (1907-1975), a prolific printmaker and illustrator perhaps best known for a talent of tailoring his work to each commission. A regular illustrator for the Book Club of California, Grabhorn Press, Colt Press, and the Allen Press, Dean’s distinctive, modernist style was largely influenced by social realist muralist Ray Boynton (1883-1951). Dean completed many WPA-funded projects as well; two massive murals commissioned by the Federal Public Works Project grace the interior of San Francisco’s Coit Tower.

On Monday, May 6, the Book Club of California opens an exhibit dedicated to Dean in conjunction with the publication of its latest book, Mallette Dean: a Printmaker and His Art, written by John T. Hawk (regular edition $285, deluxe $1,200). Items on display hail from the Club’s 10,000-volume-strong Sperisen Library, whose collection focuses on the art of fine printing in California as well as printing history in general. Many of the original images featured in Hawk’s book are part of the exhibition.

Viewing opens at 5pm, with remarks by Mr. Hawk to follow at 5:30. Copies of Mallette Dean will be available for purchase. The show is on view through August 12, 2019. RSVP for opening night here.

This year, Bonhams’ annual collaborative memorabilia auction with Turner Classic Movies focuses on science fiction and fantasy. There are the expected offerings of scripts, props, and animation art, but in the featured collection of classic horror and science fiction “super fan” Wes Shank, three vintage posters can’t help but steal the spotlight, in the wake of the tragic fire that struck the cathedral last month (and the renewed interest in it, and in Victor’s Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.) They are all promotional posters for Carl Laemmle’s 1923 film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Lon Chaney. The film was lauded both for Chaney’s performance and the built-to-scale replica of the cathedral used during filming.

First up is this unrestored U.S. one sheet poster (pictured above) depicting Esmeralda, played in the film by Patsy Ruth Miller, dancing at the Festival of Fools. Its estimate is $150,000-200,000.

Hunchback Insert
                                   Courtesy of Bonhams

A U.S. insert poster, matted and framed, features the faces of twelve cast members, including Lon Chaney, Patsy Ruth Miller, Winifred Bryson, and Ernest Torrence. Its estimate is $10,000-15,000.

Hunchback scene card
                                                   Courtesy of Bonhams

The third Hunchback piece is a U.S. title lobby card and scene card, matted and framed together. One shows the cast, the other is a close-up of Chaney as the King of Fools (pictured). Its estimate is $5,000-7,000.

The sale, titled TCM Presents … Wonders of the Galaxy, is on May 14 in Los Angeles.

North Dakota congressional representatives have approved a budget that includes the construction of a Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in western North Dakota. The budget for the library includes a $15-mllion endowment fund and authorization for a $35-million loan, but only if $100 million is raised in cash or pledged donations. Roosevelt, the nation's 26th and one of its most influential presidents, does not currently have a presidential library.

Governor Doug Burgum (R) said the following in a press statement: "This game-changing legislation supports the creation of a world-class tourist attraction that will elevate North Dakota in the eyes of the nation, have lasting economic and educational benefits and share the incredible legacy of Theodore Roosevelt for generations to come.”

Roosevelt, often associated with New York state, also had a deep attachment to North Dakota, spending the better part of four years hunting, ranching, and exploring the Dakotas after the death of his wife and mother in 1884. Roosevelt often returned to North Dakota in later years for hunting expeditions after his political ascent began in earnest.

The library will be built in Medora, North Dakota, where Roosevelt owned a ranch. The library plans to open in 2020. A library website with news, FAQs, and a venue to contribute donations, is currently live:

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., recently announced a major expansion project, adding a 12,000-square-foot public pavilion under the Folger’s lawn and updating other spaces. The 1932 building, designed by Paul Philippe Cret, will begin renovation next year in order to “expand public space, improve accessibility, and enhance the experience for all who come to the Folger,” according to its website. The proposed Shakespeare Exhibition Hall, a new permanent installation devoted to the Bard, will include a First Folio gallery that features the library’s signature collection of all of the First Folios collected by the Folgers. The project is expected to take two years.

Folger architectural drawing
Paul Cret's study for the front of the library, c. 1929. Courtesy of the Folger Archives.

But as the Folger looks ahead, it is also taking a backward glance. The library’s current exhibition, A Monument to Shakespeare: The Architecture of the Folger Shakespeare Library, focuses on its founding — and its founders, Henry and Emily Folger. Some of the spotlighted items include Cret’s detailed architectural drawings of the “Tudor-deco” structure and the Folgers’ correspondence with various power brokers as they built a home for the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare-related books, manuscripts, art, and artifacts.  

The exhibit remains on view through January 5, 2020.

A trio of sales to kick off the new month:

On Wednesday, May 1, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers sells Fine Books and Manuscripts, in 654 lots. Expected top lots include one of just four examples known of Martha Washington using her "free frank" postage privilege, on an October 1800 letter from Tobias Lear to cancel a newspaper subscription ($30,000-40,000); the 1909 certificate of incorporation for the Wright Company, signed by both Orville and Wilbur ($20,000-30,000); the first printed edition of Alhazen's Opticae thesaurus (Basel, 1572), estimated at $18,000-25,000; and a 1908 photograph of the first hour-long airplane flight, signed by both Orville and Wilbur Wright ($8,000-12,000).

Wright Bros. Photo
                               Courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers

At PBA Galleries on Thursday, May 2, Rare Americana, including California & the West, in 455 lots. Sharing the high estimate at $30,000-50,000 are a copy of the Taber Photographic Album of Principal Business Houses, Residences and Persons (San Francisco, 1889), with 110 mounted photographs; and the 1843-1844 expense ledger of William Alexander Leidesdorff. At $15,000-25,000 we find an 1846 third edition of Henry Tanner's map of Mexico and a copy of the 1858 Selma first edition of Reid's Tramp, an account of John C. Reid's travels through the American southwest. Lots 419-455 are being sold without reserve.

Also on Thursday, Forum Auctions holds a 193-lot online sale of Books and Works on Paper. René-Primevère Lesson's three volumes on hummingbirds (1829-1833) rate the top estimate, at £1,500-2,000. An 1803 James Gillray etching, "The Hand-Writing Upon the Wall," is estimated at £600-800. An unrecorded Book of Common Prayer, dated 1666 and perhaps a piracy published for the Irish market, could sell for £600-800. A collection of Thomas Chatterton volumes from the library of Stuart Schimmel is estimated at £500-700.