coversofrobbinsbooks.jpgAbandoned Bookshop, an imprint of British publisher Canelo, is actively seeking any heirs of Clifton Robbins, a golden age detective fiction writer. The publisher, who has begun reprinting Robbins’ mysteries as eBooks, is saving the royalties from Robbins’ book sales to distribute to an heir.


If one shows up.  


And so far no one has made the claim.


Clifton Robbins published nine mystery novels between 1931 and 1940. Five of those novels feature Clay Harrison, a London barrister turned amateur detective. The Harrison novels, while long out of print, remain under copyright. After a lengthy, and thus far fruitless search to find any heirs to the Harrison estate, Abandoned Bookshop is now re-publishing the Harrison novels in eBook form. They will be setting aside royalties until someone comes forward.


“Our royalties are more substantial than most ... [they] will be there waiting if someone comes forward, and it will go on accruing if they don’t,” said Michael Bhaskar, co-founder of Canelo, in a statement. “As a publisher, we respect copyright and we want to do everything we can to find these people. Hopefully we’ll see someone come forward and say ‘this was my great-uncle’ or something.”


Clifton Robbins died in 1964 (or maybe it was 1944, the record is unclear), although he ceased his literary output much earlier, in 1940, at the outbreak of WWII.


Hardcopies of Robbins’ mysteries are somewhat scarce online, with copies averaging in the mid $40s for sale.


If you think you might be an heir to the Robbins estate (or have any leads), drop Canelo a line at hello@abandonedbookshop.com

 








first-1.jpgAll this year, Shakespeare’s First Folio has been touring the U.S. Various venues--museums, universities, public libraries, historical societies, and even a theater--have pulled out all the stops to spotlight the celebrated collection of the Bard’s plays published in 1623. Organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library, this traveling exhibition has been quite the undertaking, all in an effort to spread the word about one of the world’s most influential books and to allow more people to behold a treasure not often seen outside of the Folger’s vault. As the Folger’s registrar and exhibitions manager Sloane Whidden told us just prior to the launch of First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare, “A personal encounter with the First Folio is very meaningful.”

If you’re pining for your own personal encounter, here are the tour locations and dates still to come:

Through Aug 31:  University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO
Through Sept 21: Boise State University, Boise, ID
Aug 29 - Sept 25: The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, IA
Aug 30 - Sept 25: University of Delaware, Newark, DE
Sept 1 - 29: University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV
Sept 2 - 25: University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Sept 7 - 30: Wyoming State Museum, Cheyenne, WY
Oct 1 - 30: Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, AL
Oct 1 - 26: University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Oct 3 - 26: University of Minnesota Duluth, Duluth, MN
Oct 3 - 31: Drew University and The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Madison, NJ
Oct 7 - 31: Gallaudet University, Washington, DC
Oct 8 - 31: Salt Lake City Public Library, Salt Lake City, UT
Nov 1 - Dec 4: St. John’s College, Annapolis, MD
Nov 3 - Dec 11: University of Wisconsin - Madison, Madison, WI
Nov 5 - Dec 11: Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Nov 8 - Dec 5: Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PA
Nov 10 - Dec 10: Frazier History Museum, University of Louisville, and Louisville Free Public Library,  Louisville, KY
Nov 10 - Jan 8, 2017: The Parthenon, Nashville, TN
                                                                                                                                                      Image Courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

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                                                                                                                                               During the depths of winter six months ago, Schubertiade Music & Arts co-founders Gabe Boyers and Drew Massey debuted a preview version of their web-based cataloging software at the California Antiquarian Book Fair. On August 15, the software dubbed Collectival became available to antiquarian dealers with the goal of streamlining running a rare books shop from anywhere in the world.

The Newton, Massachusetts-based startup grew out of the growing needs of Schubertiade, a shop specializing in rare music and visual arts rarities. “As technology in other commerce domains gets better all the time, the tools for dealers of rare material such as art, antiques, and books has failed to keep pace with innovative business solutions we are seeing in these other sectors.” said Massey earlier this month. Massey, who holds a doctorate from Harvard in historical musicology, wrote the code, while Boyers, a classically trained violinist, devised the various outward-facing features, like credit-card payments and ease-of-use functionality.

Boyers and Massey say that Collectival is the world’s first completely cloud-based solution for dealers interested in managing inventory on multiple channels while working from a centralized catalog. Schubertiade is entirely run on Collectival, and in addition, the software has processed sales for private beta users worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Last year the entrepreneurs executed a sale taking place in their Newton shop while they were touring Big Sur ahead of the California Antiquarian Book Fair.

The technology isn’t new, but applying it to the antiquarian book trade is, and Boyers and Massey are confident that Collectival will relieve dealers from mundane tasks like processing orders and organizing catalogs so that they can focus on other aspects of their businesses. “The trade in rare material is booming,” said Boyers. “So why should it take thirty minutes to process orders?” Dealers only need a smartphone now to stay on top of their inventory and sales. Boyers and Massey hope Collectival will simplify what has traditionally been a complex process while bringing the book trade into the digital age. It is a surprising convergence of two worlds that shows great promise.

Collectival is available for a flat subscription price of $249 per month, which includes unlimited item listings and transactions. Clients can also seamlessly merge their current website with one powered by Collectival. Soon, the company will be providing a free online service to collectors interested in organizing and sharing their collections with others. For further information, visit Collectival.com or email Drew Massey at drew@collectival.com

Aries-Cover.jpgIn the 1920s, Spencer Kellog Jr. operated the small but influential Aries Press in Eden, New York. The press attracted acclaim for producing books to a high artistic value and its publications were praised as much for ther aesthetics as their contents. The full story of the Aries Press has been told for the first time in a new publication from RIT Press, entitled “The Aries Press of Eden, New York.” The book was written by Richard Kegler, Director of the Wells College Book Arts Center and a letterpress printer with a long-standing interest in printing history. Copies are available for $49.95 online from the RIT press.  


We recently interviewed Bruce Austin, Director of the RIT Press, about the new publication over email. Austin is also an antiques dealer and an expert in the American Arts & Crafts Movement in Western New York.


Please introduce our readers to The Aries Press:


The Aries Press was a small, private press that operated from Eden, New York, a village that’s south of Buffalo in Erie County. Founded by Spencer Kellogg Jr., the son of an linseed oil merchant, the Press won immediate acclaim for its very first book: THE GHOST SHIP earned inclusion in the American Institute of Graphic Arts prestigious “Fifty Books Award of 1926.” Though it operated only briefly, 1925-1928, Aries’ influence was profound. Renowned type designer Frederic Goudy created a special font, printing of Aries’ work was done on the famous William Morris Kelmscott Albion Press, its compositors were were former Roycroft (East Aurora, NY) print shop employees and brothers, Emil Georg and Axel Sahlin, and illustrations for the Press were created by such artists as Rockwell Kent  and J.J. Lankes.

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Spencer Kellog Jr, who founded The Aries Press, sounds like an interesting figure. Fill us in with his quick biography:


The wealthy son of the largest linseed milling center in the United States, Spencer Kellogg Jr.’s interests were more focused on matters of art than manufacturing. His education included Harvard University, the Art Students League (New York City) and the Buffalo School of Fine Arts. He operated the Aries Book Shop beginning in 1921, and was an active and visible presence in the Buffalo art world. Kellogg served as director of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, today known as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. In his foreword to THE ARIES PRESS OF EDEN, NEW YORK, Anthony Bannon (director of the Burchfield-Penney Art Center) wrote of Kellogg’s magnetic personality: “Wherever he went, people of like minds gathered. That he made art, one way or another, and through it created platforms for discourse is worthy of our attention.” A quirky character, Kellogg was a writer, photographer, patron of the arts and active proponent for the Buffalo Photo-Pictorialists.


How many books did The Aries Press produce in its existence?


Three or four, depending upon how generously one wishes to interpret “book”. Evelyn M. Watson’s NIAGARA (1925) is an 8 page title, 6” x 9”. The Award-winning title by Robert Middleton, THE GHOST SHIP (see above), runs 20 pages. Kellogg’s own THE OAK BY THE WATERS OF ROWAN (1927) is 28 pages. And the 1928 volume, VERSES by Gertrude Kellogg Clark runs 37 pages. BUT . . . Aries produced quite a few booklets and keepsakes, objects that today we’d call commissioned works for limited distribution.

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What are the collecting high-points from The Aries Press?

Because of its limited lifespan and short runs, virtually any Aries product is collectable. While the story told in THE ARIES PRESS OF EDEN, NEW YORK is an interesting and engaging one, collectors will find the bibliography especially valuable as full details for each publication are presented (including, e.g., type, binding, paper, number of copies printed, etc.).


What caused the Press to cease operation?


The received history isn’t entirely definitive on this point. However, it’s safe to say that Mr. Kellogg’s changing art interests, where and to whom he wanted to express his patronage and the Depression probably all combined to lead to the Aries Press’s demise. Kellogg’s compositors, the Sahlin brothers, were quite clear on this point: they needed paying work and, at Aries, there just wasn’t enough of it.


What is the Press’ legacy today?


The Aries Press is an important chapter in the 20th century history of the private press movement and that informs and influences the art of fine printing and bookmaking. Its professional and artistic connections are deeply embedded in Western New York heritage and its contributions have global reach.


[Copies of The Aries Press are available for purchase from the RIT Press website]


 [Images from RIT Press]
















Coming to auction next week in Edinburgh is a deluxe, large folio edition of Captain Cook’s Florilegium: A Selection of Engravings from the Drawings of Plants collected by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander on Captain Cook’s first Voyage to the Islands of the Pacific (The Lion and Unicorn Press, 1973).

205578.jpgAuctioneers Lyon & Turnbull explain the work’s importance, published more than two hundred years after Cook’s 1768-1771 expedition:

”...[I]ts publication reproduces for the first time some of the engraved plates of Australian plants made under the supervision of Sir Joseph Banks. Apart from a proof impression no prints were made from the plates selected here for publication, the original copper-engraved plates, the original drawings, the specimens used for the drawings and the proof impressions all being held by the British Museum. In the 1960s it was decided that the Royal College of Art should print a selection of the most beautiful plates. The superbly printed rich impressions in strong black ink make this one of the finest botanical books produced in the twentieth century.”

Only 10 copies like this exist, containing 42 plates, bound in green goatskin with gilt stamping and incorporating an actual botanical specimen (encapsulated in acrylic) from Botany Bay, Australia. This one is no. 8.  

The auction estimate is £8,000-10,000 ($10,600-13,200).

Image via Lyon & Turnbull.

On Saturday at the Olympic Games in Rio, Matthew Centrowitz Jr won the first American gold in the 1500m since 1908.  Centrowitz’s major accomplishment led me to wonder who was the last American to win that medal.  The answer to that bit of Olympic trivia, as it turns out, was Melvin W. Sheppard, a rough-and-ready Irish-American runner who grew up as a member of a street gang in late 19th century Philadelphia, before dominating middle distance running between 1908 and 1912. Sheppard won four Olympic gold medals spread across two Olympic Games.


Sport_Story_cover.gifSheppard, it turns out, later wrote an autobiography that was published in serial form in the magazine Sport Story, which had a 20 year run between 1923 and 1943. Copies are now scarce on the ground.  In fact, a search in all the usual places failed to reveal a single online copy of the May 6th, 1924 issue that includes the first installment in Sheppard’s autobiography, entitled Spiked Shoes and Cinder Paths.


Happily, for folks less interested in finding or collecting old magazines, the Sheppard autobiography was digitized and is accessible online here.  If you’re interested in Olympic competition in the early 20th century, when American Olympians traveled to London via ocean liner for the 1908 games, an episode, by the way, that included javelin throwers practicing their sport on the sharks that approached the ship, it’s fascinating reading.


And for the collectors out there, it’s a scarce piece of “Olympiciana” to keep an eye on for your collections.




Blockbuster.jpgFor fans of detective fiction, Antipodean literature, book history, nineteenth-century theater, or all of the above, Lucy Sussex’s new book, Blockbuster!: Fergus Hume & The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (Text Publishing, $16.95), is an exemplar of cogent scholarship, engagingly presented. Sussex weaves together the biography of aspiring playwright Fergus Hume (1859-1932), with the publishing history of the bestselling detective novel of the 1800s, and her own quest to discover how and why Hume fell into obscurity.

The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886) is, surely, less known to modern readers than its competition in the same burgeoning crime fiction genre, Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet (1887). But Hansom Cab was by far more popular with Victorians, selling out its first printing (probably 5,000) within days. Reprints and theater adaptations followed. And while Hume did not get rich (he sold his copyright), he did move to London to enjoy the literary life.

Sussex delves into the various aspects of this novel’s sometimes murky history, from its composition and numerous rejections to its eventual publication, marketing, and sales. She considers the people involved, from the author to his collaborators and financiers to the first readers (and later, the collectors*). And she convincingly argues that this “cheap, Victorian paperback,” set in Melbourne and afflicted by “cultural cringe,” was a global phenomenon. In doing so, she revives the book and Hume--not by placing it on a pedestal, but by restoring it to our literary and cultural frame of reference.     

Having not read the mystery at the center of Sussex’s study, nor indeed any of Hume’s total 140 novels, is no impediment to the thorough enjoyment of this book. But, for those of you who are intrigued, a new edition of Hansom Cab is also available.  

*Now about those collectors: “The first Melbourne edition of Hume’s book is an ultimate collectable for detective-fiction buffs,” Sussex writes. Indeed only four copies of that first printing survive, and in one delicious chapter we hear about a lucky scout who uncovered one in a box lot of books from a local auction house a decade ago. Sussex goes on to discuss a later Hume novel, Professor Brankel’s Secret, which features an obsessive bibliomaniac, as well as her own experiences attending the 2012 ANZAAB antiquarian book fair.

Author and children’s picture book historian Leonard Marcus recently curated an exhibition at the Pratt Institute’s Manhattan Gallery that celebrates the art of children’s literature as well as the influence two major New York institutions have had on the creation of picture books over the past eight decades. Marcus also curated the New York Public Library’s The ABC of It in 2014, which explored why children’s picture books matter.

The current show features books and original artwork created by alumni and faculty from both the Pratt Institute and the Bank Street College of Education. The Odyssey: A Pop-Up Book (Sterling, 2011)  illustrated by Pratt graduate and paper engineer Sam Ita, and The Noisy Book (1939) by Bank Street Writer’s Lab member Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner (and Pratt alumnus) Leonard Weisgard are just two of the seventy books, manuscripts, and illustrations dating from the 1930s through today that demonstrate the literature of children’s picture books and the dedication of those who create them.

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Margaret Wise Brown. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

                                                                                                                                                               As an interactive component, Pratt commissioned an art student to create a children’s reading room dubbed the Noisy Room, where young visitors may relax and read copies of the books on display. An adjoining pop-up shop offers books for purchase as well.

“The Picture Book Reimagined: The Children’s Book Legacy of Pratt Institute and Bank Street College of Education” runs now through Sept. 15.
FREE admission
Pratt Manhattan Gallery, 144 W. 14th St., 2nd Fl.
212-647-7778
www.pratt.edu

Head shot Emily Dourish.jpgOur Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Dr. Emily Dourish, Deputy Head of Rare Books at Cambridge University Library.


What is your role at your institution?


I am Deputy Head of Rare Books at Cambridge University Library, working with a team of three professional curators and four reading room superintendents; I’ve been at the UL for 12 years. I also worked for nearly ten years as Joint Exhibitions Officer, working with colleagues from across the Library to co-ordinate and curate our programme of major public exhibitions.


How did you get started in rare books?


My first encounter with early books came as an undergraduate studying History at Cambridge. At that time the Rare Books department was housed in the Anderson Room, our most traditionally historic-looking reading room (now the Music department) and on the open shelves was a set of the Acta Sanctorum, beginning in 1643; they’re bound in vellum-covered wooden boards. I didn’t really need to use them for my studies but they just looked so tempting! A book that was on a different scale to anything I’d used before, and several hundred years older; I wanted to know more about why someone would use this and not a modern edition of the text.


A couple of years later while I was studying for my PhD my college, Jesus, employed postgrads in the Old Library undertaking some very basic restoration work on the early collections; handling these books was a great privilege and encouraged me to feel that these books were for everyone, not only the senior academics who were publishing on them. My first library role was creating collection-level descriptions at the Mander and Mitchenson Theatre archive, and after working there for a year a post came up at the UL so I moved back.


Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?


I studied part-time for the University College London MA in Library and Information Studies while working at the UL. It was a great opportunity to formalise the things I had been learning on the job and included historical bibliography sessions in the National Art Library at the V&A; such a beautiful place to work, though walking through the gift shop every week was dangerously tempting! My dissertation gave recommendations to make possible the cataloguing of the Old Library at Jesus College, to give back something to the place where my interest really took off.  I’ve also been fortunate to attend Nicholas Pickwoad’s remarkable course on bindings at the London Rare Books School.


Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?


This is such a difficult question! I’ve been lucky to pass some of the most amazing books to our readers, and to show visitors some of our greatest treasures and my favourite item changes from week to week. An incunable prayer book with annotations by a sixteenth-century nun, or a miniature library printed for children around 1800, or a set of almanacs belonging to an 18th-century bishop with his notes of medical recipes and his marriage to his wife have all gripped me over recent months. One that I’m really looking forward to doing some more work on is a Greek volume of Luther printed in Basel in 1567, in a somewhat damaged binding; both its boards are detached and the manuscript pastedowns are no longer pasted down , but this means we can see the sheets of an early printed volume that are hiding within the paper boards. I haven’t yet identified exactly what that early printed book is, and it will be one of those really enjoyable bits of librarian detective work to discover it. It amazes me that there are so many things still to be found in the books in this library, which have been in our collections for hundreds of years.


What do you personally collect?


I would love to collect incunabula but the budget sadly does not permit! I have a slowly growing collection of early language phrasebooks for travellers; it is fascinating to see what was considered important to be able to say. I also have a number of early children’s books, which I share with my own children.


What do you like to do outside of work?


I sing with several choirs, primarily unaccompanied music; I love the complete focus it requires. It’s impossible to think about anything else while you’re singing, which is a valuable space in a sometimes over-busy world. I also have two young daughters who take up the remainder of my time! The younger one is just beginning to read, and sitting listening to her make her way through a story book is an enormous pleasure.


What excites you about rare book librarianship?


Having the chance to work with such fantastic books and to share them with other people. Finding out something new every day in books that might be hundreds of years old. The satisfaction of creating a really good catalogue record!


I really do love this job and the variety it offers. One of the best parts is public outreach work with schools and community groups, and seeing a child understand that yes, that is Darwin’s own handwriting, or yes, that book was printed five hundred years ago, and yes, you can touch it (and no you don’t need white gloves!).  You can see a light go on inside their head and perhaps an interest sparked that might stay with them and bring them back in future years to find out more.


I also really want to get other students to have that same experience I had, of understanding that special collections are for them too. We’re working closely with our academic colleagues to bring undergraduates into the reading room early in their university careers so they will want to come back and use our books more often, and it’s great when we see a student who has chosen to write their dissertation on one of our volumes.


I love that our readers are so excited about their work; walking through the reading room and looking over people’s shoulders to find out what they’re looking at, they are always happy to share their discoveries or the little details of what they are investigating.


Thoughts on the future of special collections / rare book librarianship?


In times of limited budgets we all have to prove our worth to our institutions, and while special collections by their nature are perhaps better protected than other areas we are all increasingly involved in new ways to promote and enhance our collections. The creation of online resources like the Cambridge Digital Library enables us all to share what we have with users around the world, giving access to these often fragile artefacts in a way that wouldn’t have been possible a few decades ago. This kind of resource offers much greater value to the user than a simple Google Books scan, and I think a lot more attention will be given to how to increase these digital collections and their usage.


Other forms of new media are making engagement possible with a much wider range of non-traditional groups; Colour our Collections was a brilliant project to catch a trend and bring library collections to the public in a new way. While our books, manuscripts and archives may mostly be physically contained within our libraries, we can take them out digitally to meet people where they are rather than needing them to come to us.


There’s so much great work going on around the world in large and small collections, and I’d love to see even more co-operation and collaboration with other librarians. As a profession we’re already good at helping each other and sharing ideas; it’s a collaborative rather than competitive field and I’m proud to be a part of that. Within the UL we are breaking down some of the barriers between the various special collections and seeing rare books and manuscripts as part of the same broader Library so that we are more flexible in our promotion and use of the collections. I see the future for large collections like ours as adopting the approach of smaller libraries, where we are not narrow experts in one area but able to offer guidance in many; our readers are the real experts in the material they study and we can learn so much from them.


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


We are currently actively creating a new collection of ephemeral material relating to the EU referendum vote (‘Brexit’). A century ago University Librarian Francis Jenkinson wrote an article and letters to contacts worldwide asking them to send the Library examples of any ephemeral material relating to the First World War, noting that it was intended ‘For the historian of the future’. This formed a remarkable and unique resource for scholars of the early twentieth century. We hope that the Brexit collection will form a similar resource for the events around the vote and the political times of the early twenty-first century. If any of your readers has material that could be contributed, we’d be very grateful to receive it.


Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?


We’re celebrating our 600th birthday this year with two major exhibitions. The first, Lines of thought, looks at six themes in which we have outstanding holdings and makes them accessible to a wider audience; having Newton’s annotated Principia alongside the Gutenberg Bible, the Codex Bezae and Darwin’s manuscript sketches for Origin of Species is pretty exciting! This exhibition runs until the end of September. After that comes Curious objects, a display of some of the more intriguing non-book items in our collections which tells the story of how they came to be in the Library over the last 600 years. We’ve also created an interactive book app for iPad to mark this anniversary with six Cambridge specialists discussing six of the greatest treasures of our collections; it can be downloaded free from the app store.

 



























71801926.jpgComing to auction later this week is a neat little relic of President Abraham Lincoln’s life--or more accurately, his death. The fragment of wallpaper was removed from the back bedroom of the rowhouse across the street from Ford’s Theatre where Lincoln breathed his last, and laid into a book called Words of Lincoln (1895) with the note, “Taken from the all of the room in which Lincoln died. 516 10th St. Washington D.C.”

The book’s author, Osborn H. Oldroyd (1842-1930), was a Civil War sergeant and a famous collector of Lincoln memorabilia; a biography of him published in 1927 is subtitled Founder and Collector of Lincoln Mementos. Oldroyd amassed a large collection of Lincolniana, first displayed at Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois, but relocated to the Petersen House, aka the house where Lincoln died, in 1893. He and his family bunked there too.  

The auctioneers, Addison & Sarova of Macon, Georgia, estimate the wallpaper snippet will sell for $2,000-3,000.

Incidentally, the University of Chicago houses a substantial Lincoln-Oldroyd collection. You can read more about Oldroyd and the Petersen House here.

Image courtesy of Addison & Sarova.

Auction Guide