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In 1985, French philosopher and writer Marguerite Duras (1914-1996) published The War: A Memoir, a semi-autobiographical work based on journals she kept during World War II. Famously claiming those diaries had been forgotten for decades until their rediscovery in a kitchen cupboard, the Prix Goncourt-winner used them as inspiration for her novel examining the waning days of the Nazi occupation of France.

  

The story revolves around Duras’s then-husband Robert Antelme, a fellow writer sent to a concentration camp for his involvement in a Resistance group led by François Mitterand. Duras’s young protagonist is mentally tortured by a Gestapo collaborator who offers information about Antelme in return for her affections. Antelme is eventually liberated, and Duras spares no detail about the difficulties nursing him back to health. Once recovered, Duras announces that she plans to divorce Antelme to marry another member of the Resistance movement.

  

The spare volume is quintessential Duras; at the time of publication, critics lauded it for its brutal honesty about life in war-torn France and the complexities of love, loss, and the irony of liberation. 

  

Now, over thirty years after its publication, The War is finding its way to the big screen. Award-winning French director Emmanuel Finkiel’s adaptation entitled Memoir of War opens today at the Film Forum in New York and at The Film Society of Lincoln Center, to be followed by a national rollout in September.

  

Starring thirty-one year old French actress Mélanie Thierry (The Princess of Montpensier) in what may be her breakout role as a pensive, chain-smoking Duras, the first half of the film deals with Duras’s relationship with Nazi collaborator, Pierre Rabier.

  

The second hour reveals Duras waiting and wondering, confronting the possibility that her husband is dead and what that means for her. Deftly weaving passages from the book throughout the film, Memoir of War examines the difficult choices people make in terrible times.

  

Memoir of War, written and directed by Emmanuel Finkiel. A Music Box Films release. Running time: 126 minutes. In French with English subtitles.

  

Image credit: Music Box Films

Guest Post by Catherine Batac Walder

7 stairs.JPGA walk along the famous Cobb, the wall that protects the harbor, must be high on the list of anyone visiting Lyme Regis. The town is known for the fossils found in the cliffs and beaches, which are part of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site. I was one of the many whose main purpose of visiting was not to search for fossils, but to see the stairs from where Louisa Musgrove fell in Jane Austen’s novel, Persuasion. But there were others before me, most notably, Lord Tennyson, who walked nine miles from Bridport to Lyme in 1867, and when he called upon his friend, fellow poet Francis Palgrave, he refused all refreshment, demanded to be taken to the Cobb, and commanded, “show me the steps from which Louisa Musgrove fell.” Up until that time, the historic seaside town of Lyme Regis, cited by Austen as “Lyme” in the book, was mostly only known as the landing site of the Duke of Monmouth’s failed rebellion of 1685. How generations of readers can turn a minor character and a dramatic scene into a literary destination is always fascinating.

6 stairs.JPGWe spent only a day in Lyme and unbeknownst to us, we visited during the annual Regatta and Carnival Week (August 3-12), so there were no parking spaces, and the sandy parts of the beach were absolutely packed. The crowd thinned out as we got to the Cobb, still I thought I should be very careful--the goal was to find the stairs, and as much as I marveled at every chance of a Jane Austen connection, I didn’t want the stairs to be known to family and friends as “the stairs where Catherine fell, as well.” The text from Persuasion is the most important clue as to the location, but I also used the films as a point of reference. I watched the 1995 film version, and I learned that there were two other films made, in 1971 and 2007, and all three films used three different stairs! But as soon as we got to the Cobb, it was easy to find the stairs, all three were a short distance from one another.

1 stairs.JPGThe first we saw was the double staircase used in the 1971 film. I didn’t think they were the ones Austen thought of, they were solid and even the way the fall had been depicted in the film was too contrived. Furthermore, the plaque underneath this double staircase suggested that it had been repaired and completed in 1826, and I presumed that these stairs had only been added that time. Austen died in 1817, and she visited Lyme in 1803 and 1804, so she wouldn’t have referred to these stairs.

2 stairs.JPGWalking farther, we encountered the second and most popular choice of stairs, locally known as Granny’s Teeth, which were featured in the 1995 film. Before this trip, I searched the internet and read many sites, many of them quite reputable, that believe Granny’s Teeth to be the steps mentioned in Persuasion; not surprisingly, as even the Jane Austen Centre said this set was “the most plausible spot for Louisa’s fall.” They, too, are my favorite stairs, there is just something believable and romantic about them that is easily identifiable with an Austen novel.

  

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When you see Granny’s Teeth, you might think the name impolite to grandmothers but it is also the kind of name that Austen would come up with, as honest as she was, I thought. Also, they are so steep that a woman clad in a Regency dress is likely to fall, even if one is very careful.

4 stairs.JPGThe last stairs we encountered (seen in the 2007 film) are the most likely candidate according to locals doing tours in the area, and indeed this is true, if chapter 12 of Persuasion is to be the source. “There was too much wind to make the high part of the new Cobb pleasant for the ladies, and they agreed to get down the steps to the lower, and all were contented to pass quietly and carefully down the steep flight, excepting Louisa; she must be jumped down them by Captain Wentworth.” Here, Austen referred to the “new Cobb,” the part that was destroyed towards the end of the eighteenth century, and rebuilt just before her first visit, where these newer, more modern steps than Granny’s Teeth are located. I’m not sure which stairs Tennyson’s friend had shown him, but I bet he would not have been as annoyed as I was seeing how crowded the bottom of Stairs No. 3 was that day. No time to sit on the step and close my eyes in reverie, with people going up and down every few seconds. Well, they were the stairs closest to the end of the Cobb, the swimmers and spectators needed to get to the events of the day. Had the weather been windy and wet, no one among us would have been allowed there, let alone walk to the end of the wall (no channeling of Meryl Streep dressed in her cloak in bad weather then, from that scene in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, also filmed on the end of the Cobb). At the end of my visit to the Cobb, I’d forgotten all fear of falling down stairs. It was the Cobb itself - it was stepping on that sloping man-made wall and being pulled in all directions by a curious three-year-old that was more than scary for me, even if it was a bright sunny day. Someday I’d like to return, during a quiet and dry spring or winter maybe.

5 stairs.JPGHow exciting it must be for authors to write about something as trivial as a set of stairs and for it to become a fuss later. If Austen were still alive, I think she’d laugh at this confusion and probably say that her stairs were imagined, in the same manner that most of the locations of her stories are fictitious.

--Catherine Batac Walder is a writer who lives in the UK. She has contributed several posts from abroad over the years, including this one about Jane Austen in Hampshire. Find her at: http://gaslighthouse.blogspot.com.

Images (top to bottom): A walk away from the town, seen in the distance; A view of town, as Austen aptly described it, “the remarkable situation of the town, the principal street almost hurrying into the water;” The double staircase; Granny’s Teeth; Close-up of Granny’s Teeth; Possibly the stairs from Persuasion; Author’s copy of Austen’s novels, near the end of the Cobb. Credit: Catherine Batac Walder.

Karin Suni Photo.jpgOur Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Karin Suni, Curator of the Theatre Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia.


What is your role at your institution?

 

I am the Curator of the Theatre Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia, which is a research collection of materials on theatre and other forms of popular entertainment with a special focus on Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. When you count it all up, it contains over a million items, not only about theatre, but also about film, television, radio, the circus, minstrels, vaudeville, and burlesque. In addition to traditional books and magazines, we have programs, playbills, theatrical scrapbooks, posters, newspaper clippings, lobby cards, lantern slides, pictures of productions, and film stills. It is a lot to keep track of, but we do our best.  Additionally, as the Theatre Collection is housed within the Rare Book Department (RBD), I’m also one of the librarians for the department as a whole.  While we are all pretty much generalists, the collections I know best are RBD’s Literary Collections and the Colonel Richard Gimbel Collection of Edgar Allan Poe.  I run our Instagram account (here’s a plug for @freelibraryrarebooks), so I try to be aware of fun and interesting things throughout our very varied holdings.  Like all of our staff in RBD, I answer reference questions, give tours and teach classes, create exhibitions, work in accessions, make and update records for our Digital Collections, and whatever else needs doing on a given day.

 

How did you get started in rare books?

 

When I was getting my MLS at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), rare books/special collections librarianship was not on my radar.  I intended to be a reference librarian in an academic library, most likely in arts and humanities.  Instead, in 2006, I began working in the Literature Department at the Free Library of Philadelphia.  It was a great mix of subject specialty and public librarianship.  Though the Theatre Collection was part of the Rare Book Department by this point, it was once part of the Literature Department and there was still a good relationship between the two.  I was able to make visits and became familiar with the Collection, which planted the seed for wanting to work somewhere similar in the future.  In 2008, I left the library to pursue my M.A. in Text and Performance Studies at King’s College London, co-taught with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.  I was able to visit the National Theatre archives and to focus my final thesis on the problems surrounding documenting performance.  In 2011, when I was interviewing to return to the library, I made it clear that I would very much like to be in charge of the Theatre Collection, and they made it happen for me.  I then completed my Special Collections Certificate through UIUC’s distance learning program because I figured if I was going to be in the job, then I should probably take a few classes.

 

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

 

I’m going to cheat a little and choose two, one from the Theatre Collection and one from the Rare Book Department.  In the Theatre Collection, we have a scrapbook of playbills from the Arch Street Theatre from the early 1860s that was kept by Louisa Lane Drew (better known as Mrs. John Drew) while she was manager of “The Arch.”  She started her acting career when she was eight years old and continued to perform almost until her death at 77.  She was the first female manager of a major American theater, and through her five children, she ultimately became the matriarch of one of the greatest acting families of all time: the Barrymores (she is the great-great-grandmother of Drew Barrymore).  In the Rare Book Department, we’re lucky enough to have a Shakespeare First Folio.  It’s particularly special as it’s complete and has marginalia that’s been dated to prior to 1670.  There are annotations, bracketing, and underlining that correct perceived errors, highlight passages, and point out textual variants.  My favorite is that the prologue to Romeo and Juliet, which is absent in the First Folio, has been written in on the bottom of the previous page.  It’s a good thing the ending of Titus Andronicus didn’t take up more space!

 

What do you personally collect?

 

As you might imagine, I have a lot of books of plays and theatre theory and history.  There’s nothing particularly special about them, other than the sheer amount.  I’m lucky that acting editions of plays are so thin, meaning they don’t require as much bookshelf space.  I also have a special place in my heart for all things Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.  When I was seven, the first theatre production I was in was an adaptation of these stories.  I was the end of the caterpillar and the iris in the flower garden.  So, I collect editions with interesting bindings, older editions that I can afford, and books with alternate illustrations.  While I love the Tenniel illustrations (enough that I have three of them as tattoos), I enjoy seeing new interpretations of the characters.

 

What do you like to do outside of work?

 

Reading, obviously, traveling, and seeing live performances.  But I also really love cooking and baking.  Though their waistlines might wish otherwise, I’m regularly bringing something sweet I’ve made into the office with me for my co-workers.  I’m fascinated by the science behind baking and enjoy tinkering with recipes to see how I can make them my own within the parameters set out by the chemistry involved.  I may also have a slightly unhealthy love of cooking competition shows, particularly those from Australia.

 

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

 

Being a librarian of any kind is about people. Yes, it’s also about the materials we work with, but what I do, what all librarians do, is match patrons up with those materials and give them the tools to find items they need in the future.  I love seeing the excitement on someone’s face when they see all the typefaces on a 19th-century playbill or the shimmer of gold in a medieval manuscript or their ancestor’s name on a Pennsylvania German fraktur baptismal certificate.  I love hearing someone say “this is exactly what I was looking for,” especially if they came in unsure of what they needed.  It’s also great to find amazingly neat things almost every day. For instance, I opened up a box I thought held spare tissue paper only to discover a rhinestone-encrusted headdress that was worn by actress and dancer Gilda Gray in the 1922 Ziegfeld Follies. And no, though I was very tempted, I didn’t try it on.  I regularly email non-library friends saying things like “my desk is covered in colonial money.”  Their response is usually something along the lines of “your job is awesome and also weird.”

 

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

 

I’m very interested in the use of disruptive technologies in how we can better provide access to our materials.  I was fascinated a few years ago when both Cornell and Colgate scanned and 3-d printed copies of their cuneiform tablets.  I think there’s work that can be done with OCR (optical character recognition) and ICR (intelligent character recognition) that would allow us to expand crowdsourcing projects by getting data points extracted that can then be verified by crowdsource participants.  There are museums doing tours interactive tours for visitors at a distance with robots.  All around, I think there are technologies in other sectors (business, science, etc.) that we could be experimenting with in the library field.  And I look forward to getting to play with them, especially the robots.

 

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

 

Since I’ve already mentioned a number of the collections we have in the Rare Book Department, I’ll use this opportunity to talk about some of the other special collections at the Free Library.  We have the Children’s Literature Research Collection, which houses more than 85,000 books published from 1837 to the present and archives of local children’s authors and illustrators; the Map Collection, which has more than 130,000 current and historical maps covering every part of the world; the Edwin A. Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music represents the largest lending library of orchestral performance material in the world, housing more than 22,000 titles and continuing to grow; and the Print and Picture Collection, which is home to fine art prints, photographs, drawings, and artists’ books, as well as extensive research collections of Philadelphia images.

 

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

 

In the Rare Book Department, we have two exhibitions up currently: In Our Nature: Flora and Fauna of the Americas in our William B. Dietrich Gallery (open through Sept. 15th) and what we call our Treasures exhibition in cases throughout the rest of the department.  Exhibitions in the Dietrich Gallery are our themed exhibitions and change about every six months. The next one is Philadelphia: The Changing City, which looks at planned and unplanned changes to the city and how they have affected Philadelphia’s landscape, buildings, and inhabitants.  It opens October 10th.  Our Treasures exhibition features items from our various permanent collections, including, but not limited to, cuneiform tablets, medieval manuscripts, incunabula, early children’s books, Beatrix Potter, fraktur, Americana, Charles Dickens, and Edgar Allan Poe.


Image Courtesy of Karin Suni

Love language and wordplay, puns and palindromes (you know, those words and phrases that read the same backwards and forwards)? Well, you’re not alone. Following a popular 2015 short film called A Man, A Plan, A Palindrome, documentary filmmakers Vince Clemente and Adam Cornelius decided to continue following--and filming--the world’s greatest palindrome writers. Today they launched an Indiegogo campaign to finance the final phases of post-production of a feature-length documentary titled The Palindromists.

Starring New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz, children’s author/illustrator Jon Agee, entertainer Weird Al Yankovic, and actress and author Danica McKellar, The Palindromists delves into “the history of palindromes while following the world’s greatest palindromists as they prepare for the 2017 World Palindrome Championship.” You can preview the trailer here:



Say the filmmakers, “With the necessary funds, this film will find its rightful place on the shelf next to the other great ‘geek’ documentaries of the past 20 years.”


Doyle will hold an online-only sale of Hunting Books from the Collection of Arnold “Jake” Johnson on Tuesday, August 14, in 215 lots. John Cyril Francis’ Three Months’ Leave in Somali Land (1895), a privately-printed edition issued after the author’s death, is estimated at $1,000-1,500, as is another privately-printed account of a hunt in Alaska in 1930 by Harold Keith. As of Sunday afternoon, a book estimated at just $80-120 was leading the sale: Henry Job’s The Shadow of the Jaguar (1983), noted in the lot description as being a possibly unique copy, had been bid up to $3,200.

  

On Wednesday, August 15, Dominic Winter Auctioneers will sell Printed Books, Maps & Documents, in 335 lots. Very much a mixed bag here, with most lots estimated in the double or low-triple digits. Lots 148-165 comprise bookbinding tools and equipment, and lots 254-335 are “quantity” lots, where it looks like some good bargains might be lurking.

  

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Addison & Sarova sells Rare Books & Ephemera on Saturday, August 18, in 422 lots. Some hefty shelf lots are expected to lead the way, including a 247-volume lot of theological works from the sixteenth-eighteenth centuries ($3,500-5,000). Among the single-lot items are a copy of the 1524 Aldine Odyssey ($1,200-1,800; pictured above).

  

Photo credit: Addison & Sarova

Just as each age has reinvented Shakespeare to suit its own time and culture, so to, it seems, that every era needs its own Kama Sutra, that ancient Hindu treatise on courtship and sexual behavior. To wit: the Folio Society recently published a limited-edition run of 750 hand-numbered copies of the 2,000-year-old instruction manual for joyous living.

  

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This edition of Vatsyayana’s seven-part Sanskrit compendium is a blend of old and new. The text remains Sir Richard Burton’s 1963 landmark English translation but is accompanied by a specially commissioned essay by historian John Keay that explores the importance of sensuality in ancient Hindu society.


But the art is what really sets this edition apart: sumptuous illustrations by award-winning artist Victo Ngai. The work of the L.A.-based RISD graduate has graced the pages of The New York Times and covers for Simon & Schuster and Random House. Here, her precise handiwork expertly captures the nuance and detail of the Kama Sutra. Interestingly, Ngai is the first woman to ever illustrate this pleasure tome, and her art presents a decidedly female focus.

  

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We recently spoke to Ngai after her own recent nuptials and asked about this commission and the various influences that shape her work.


Were you surprised by the Folio commission?

Not really because I first suggested this book to The Folio Society’s art director Sheri Gee a few years ago after finishing our first book Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies together.

Did you consciously illustrate the Kama Sutra to reflect a woman’s perspective?

Frankly it hasn’t been my intention to make a “feminist’s Kama Sutra.” To me, the main objective of this project has always been to create the most lush and sumptuous volume that’s worthy of and true to this 2000-year-old Sanskrit classic. However, examining the pieces now in hindsight, I believe I did subconsciously work from a female-centric perspective by selecting subject matters which interest me and composing images which would tell the stories from the woman’s point of view.

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What was your approach to illustrating the book? How, if at all, was it different from other projects?

In many ways the process is very similar to illustrating other books- reading the book to get the big picture, rereading the book to pick out stories that catch my eye, distilling the stories into short phrases and simple ideas, translating and refining these ideas into visuals through thumb-nailing, polishing the thumbnails into sketches, creating line drawings which forms the foundation of the final images, then finally finishing the pieces with fitting colors and mood. What is unique to illustrating each book is its content as it would inform the composition, storytelling, color palettes and mark making of the arts.

Were you familiar with the Kama Sutra prior to this project?

Only as familiar as everyone else, that it’s an ancient book about sex from India.

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In the West, the Kama Sutra is commonly associated with unexpected and inventive sexual positions, but it’s really a guide to living a well-rounded life. Did anything in the book surprise you?

I was surprised by most of the book, actually. Only one chapter is dedicated to sexual union, which is what you hear mostly about. The other six chapters were a new discovery. I think the biggest surprise to me is how the book can be both patriarchic and progressively feministic at the same time. In many ways it reflects the male dominating social order of its time--that men have the (official) monopoly on polygamy and women’s well-being largely rely on their successes with men. Meanwhile the book stresses the importance for men to keep their women happy and devotes long paragraphs going into great detail on what men need to do to win and sustain a lady’s heart. However, in my opinion, the truly feministic idea appears in the chapter about courtesans. One can always argue the suggested kind gestures and tenderness towards women from other chapters are ultimately means for men to gain what they want, be it sex, love, loyalty or devotion. Whereas in this chapter, the book encourages the women to take charge of their sexuality, giving helpful tips on how to get what they want through manipulation of men, which turns the objectified into an active agency in the heterosexual relationship.

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The 25 black and white positions illustrations are certainly erotic but not pornographic--how did you strike the right tone? When did you know you got it right?

Thank you, that’s great to hear! The figure-design was definitely one of the most challenging and time consuming process in this project. Besides the balance between eroticism and pornography, there’s also the juggle between being poetic and informative.

The first round of thumbnails was too realistic and felt like porny medical diagrams. The second round was overly expressive and looked cartoonish. The third round was excessively geometrical that took the fluidity out of the forms. I knew the sweet spot laid somewhere in between all of these unsuccessful attempts, but it still took a few more rounds to get there. What I was aiming for the final design was that the faces and bodies were generic and stylized just enough, but not much, that they can be part iconographies, which are graceful and unemotional, and part humans, which are sexy and provocative.

Were you familiar with Indian art and culture prior to this project?

I wouldn’t say I was very familiar with Indian art and culture before working on this book, but I have always had a keen interest in Hindu Mythologies, miniature paintings, and intricate and ornate patterns. One of the major reasons I wanted to work on this project was to have a proper excuse to research and learn more about this fascinating culture, while getting paid!

What do you hope readers will take away from your illustrations?

That Kama Sutra is a rich and multifaceted book, it’s not only a great window into ancient Hindi’s bedrooms and their impressive flexibility, it also paints a vivid picture of people’s daily household lives which includes making parrots talk after breakfast and bidding on cricket-fights; their religious beliefs and rituals; regional stereotypes and prejudices; social-economic construct of the time as well as tips and advises on romantic relationships which many are still surprisingly relevant today.

I understand you got married recently--congratulations! Did your work on the Kama Sutra influence your nuptials?

Thank you so much! I think the book is a great reminder that it takes work to sustain a happy and fruitful marriage, both inside and outside the bedroom.

  

The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, Illustrated by Victo Ngai, translated from the Sanscrit by Sir Richard Burton and Forster Fitzgerald Arbuthnot. Available in a limited edition of 750 copies for $595 each through the Folio Society.

  

All images reproduced with permission from the Folio Society. 

Best known for his novels like Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut also created visual art, mainly in the form of drawings and prints, as early as 1969. He made sculptures too, though they are “rare” on the market, according to Case Antiques, who sold this c. 1980 aluminum piece, titled “Wasp Waist,” at auction in Tennessee last month for $5,040. Signed and numbered 6/9, the aluminum silhouette is clearly reminiscent of his famous felt-tipped drawings.

WaspWaist 2.jpgAs Peter Reed wrote of ‘Vonnegut as artist’ in 1999: “His fiction struggles to cope with a world of tragi-comic disparities, a universe that defies causality, whose absurdity lends the fantastic equal plausibility with the mundane. Much the same outlook pervades the graphic artworks that have increasingly occupied Vonnegut in recent years.”

Image courtesy of Case Antiques

hemingwaycover22-e1533177520291.jpg“A Room on the Garden Side,” a short story originally written by Ernest Hemingway in 1956, has been published for the first time in this summer’s issue of Strand Magazine. The story, set in the Ritz Hotel in Paris at the end of WWII, “paints a vivid sketch of soldiers tired from war, yet hopeful for the future.” Hemingway scholar Kirk Curnutt contributed an afterward to the story, placing it in a larger context. (Curnutt’s afterward is also available online here).


Hemingway wrote a handful of similar stories around the same time, which he sent to his publisher Charles Scribner with a note that included the following, “I suppose they are a little shocking since they deal with irregular troops and combat and with people who actually kill people....Anyway you can always publish them after I’m dead.”


Strand Magazine acquired the rights to publish the story from the Hemingway Estate last October. While Hemingway scholars have known about “A Room on the Garden Side” for decades, Strand’s publication marks the first time it is available to a wider audience. Managing editor of the Strand, Andrew Gulli, said, “[The Estate has] steered away from commercializing anything unpublished,” in an interview with PBS. “They were very kind to give the story to the Strand because they understand we have a good track record of publishing unpublished works. They want to make sure that if something is released that it will honor the memory of Ernest Hemingway.”


The Strand is no stranger to releasing previously unpublished or lost material from a variety of 20th-century luminaries. (We’ve covered their publication of a Faulkner story here and a Fitzgerald story here).


Hemingway fans and collectors can order the 55th issue of Strand, inclusive of “A Room on the Garden Side,” from the magazine’s website.





Should you find yourself in or near Hartford, Connecticut, make time for the Mark Twain House & Museum. I visited last week and was awed by its beauty. Twain (or Clemens) and his wife, Livy, relocated to Hartford in 1871 and engaged architect Edward Tuckerman Potter to design the 25-room abode. They moved in three years later. Even if you--or members of your travel party--have only read one Twain novel, back in high school, the house alone will delight. One sign I noticed called it ‘America’s Downton Abbey.’ Not quite, but you get the point.

Twain House.jpgAmong our favorite rooms was, of course, the very plush library. There’s no photography allowed inside the house, so you’ll have to picture patterned wallpaper, an elaborate oak mantelpiece, and a Tiffany chandelier. The wooden bookshelves that line the room do not contain Twain’s books, but they do hold titles he owned in contemporary editions. (Writers, take note: you can rent this room for a three-hour writing session.)

We also admired the conservatory, just a nook off the library really, filled with sunlight and hanging plants and a small fountain set in the floor.

But it’s the billiard room that best evokes Twain the writer, in my opinion. Up on the third floor, the large room is dominated by a billiard table--one that was actually owned by Twain--but tucked into the corner is a desk where the author wrote his most famous books, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Life on the Mississippi, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, among others.

The family, which included three daughters, lived in this home for seventeen years. After that, it became an apartment building and a branch library. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963, and since that time, a series of renovations has returned it to the space that Twain knew and loved.

Image credit: Rebecca Rego Barry

On Thursday, August 9, PBA Galleries holds a 613-lot sale comprising Fine & Rare Books (lots 1-184); Books in Early Jackets - The Bret Sharp Collection (lots 185-385); Art & Illustration, Children’s Books (lots 386-457); Asian & Asian-American Art & Illustration (lots 458-534); the final section (lots 535-613) are being sold without reserve.

  

Osvald Sirén’s four-volume work Chinese Sculpture from the Fifth to the Fourteenth Century (1925) is estimated at $10,000-15,000. An interesting copy of Leaves of Grass, believed to be an undated printing issued in 1896 with an unrecorded publisher’s dust jacket, could fetch $7,000-10,000. At the same estimate is an 1819 topographical and statistical account of Nuremberg, Neues Taschenbuch Von Nürnberg in original dust-jackets and cardboard slipcases.

  

A very rare copy of the “joint-stock novel” An Object of Pity, created by Robert Louis Stevenson, his family members, and visitors in Samoa in 1892 and privately printed at Sydney (but with a false Amsterdam imprint), is estimated at $5,000-8,000. This copy is from the Stevenson family library, and contains a list of the authors and notations by Stevenson’s stepson and collaborator Lloyd Osbourne. The bookplate is signed by Stevenson’s stepdaughter, Isobel Osbourne Strong. Also included is the response, Objects of Pity, written by Mr. Haggard, the British Land Commissioner and the “hero” of the original work.

birds.pngAn early printing of F. O. Morris’s A Natural History of the Nests and Eggs of British Birds, published in 1864 and featuring early plates by Arthur Rackham, very scarce in the printed jackets, could sell for $4,000-6,000 (pictured).

  

Also among the lots are a collection of printed invoices and receipts to bookbinder William J. Roy of Lancaster, Pennsylvania from around 1897-1908 ($300-500); a first edition of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring ($300-500).

  

Image credit: PBA Galleries

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