Exciting news for young female book collectors: Brooklyn’s Honey & Wax Booksellers has announced an annual prize of $1,000 to be awarded to a woman aged 30 or younger with an “outstanding book collection.” The collection can include books, manuscripts, and/or ephemera, organized by whatever principle the collector deems appropriate to the material.

H&R copy.jpgHoney & Wax booksellers Heather O’Donnell and Rebecca Romney, pictured here at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair last year, took some inspiration for the collecting prize from the American book collector Mary Hyde Eccles. “Rebecca and I are both interested in the historic role of women in the rare book trade, on both the buying and the selling sides, and want to do whatever we can to get younger women involved,” said O’Donnell.

The Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize “rewards creativity, coherence, and bibliographic rigor,” according to the announcement, and “collections will not be judged on their size or their market value.” Entrants need not be enrolled in a degree program, a significant difference from similar collecting contests, and one that opens it up to a broader range of applicants. As O’Donnell said, “We want to give those women who have applied to their college book collecting contests and/or to the National Collegiate contest an additional chance to be recognized for their work, and we’d also like to reach out to bookish young women outside the academy.”

The deadline is July 15, and the application details are here.

Image courtesy of Honey & Wax.

Massive Freud Collection for Sale


Bronze relief portrait medallion. 1906. 60 mm diameter.


The 19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop recently announced the sale of a massive 750-piece collection dedicated to the life and works of the father of modern psychology and psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. 

The collection includes a comprehensive representation of Freud’s published works from the 1880s to the 1940s. Freud was is one of the field’s most prolific authors, and many of the books in this collection are in their original printed wrappers. A run of 22 rare offprints--galley proofs, presentation and association copies--is believed to be the largest such collection in private hands.

Also among the items are etchings, lithographs, bronze medallions, and photographs of Freud, many of which are signed by the doctor. In addition to manuscripts, correpondance, and psychoanalytic journals, are nearly 80 books that Freud had donated to the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society, remarkable because the Nazis dissolved the society and destroyed the library in 1938. This cache was secretly saved. 

                                                                                                                                                                          Believed to be one of the most thorough private collections on Freud, the entire collection is being offered for $350,000. For a detailed inventory, contact Stephan Lowentheil at 19th Century Rare Book and Photograph shop at http://www.19thshop.com/


Sangorski & Sutcliffe is synonymous with fine binding and often hailed as the “Rolls Royce of Bookbinding.” At the turn of the twentieth century, Francis Sangorski and George Sutcliffe wowed their fellow craftsmen with elaborate and innovative leather binding designs. Ornate jewelled bindings--featuring inset semi-precious stones--became one of their specialties.  

Next month one of those sumptuous bindings is going to auction in New York. It is, according to Bonhams, a “fantastic example of a Sangorski & Sutcliffe jewelled binding ... with 9 pearls and 3 rubies, and incorporating 9 sapphires, surrounded with a wreath of laurel enriched with 79 pearls.” And the inside is as beautiful as the outside: Bound within is an illuminated manuscript on vellum of Byron’s “Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte” accomplished by L. Fairfax Murray, an artist associated with the English Arts and Crafts movement.

80 copy.jpgNotably, this book was once owned by Phoebe A.D. Boyle, a Brooklyn widow and prominent Sangorski & Sutcliffe collector. Boyle’s collection of 45 S&S jewelled bindings (and 31 illuminated manuscripts done by Alberto Sangorski, Francis’s brother) went to auction in 1923. “It was by far the greatest array of these masterpieces ever put together and can never be replicated,” wrote Stephen Ratcliffe, in a 2014 article for Fine Books about the Ransom Center’s renowned S&S collection.

Perhaps not replicated, but some collector will have the opportunity to nab this one at least -- for an estimated $40,000-60,000.

Image courtesy of Bonhams

In response to California’s recently passed autograph law, Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation filed a First Amendment lawsuit in the Northern District of U.S. District Court in California on behalf of Bay Area bookstore Book Passage and its co-owner, Bill Petrocelli, seeking a repeal of a law they consider unconstitutional.

The complaint, Passage v. Becerra, alleges that Assembly Bill 1570  makes it illegal for Book Passage to host author talks and signing events. According to section 1739.7 of the law, anyone selling an autographed book worth more than five dollars must provide a “certificate of authenticity,” which must include a description of the book, the signatory’s identity, the identity of any third parties witnessing the autograph, date of sale, insurance information, and other such details. A copy of these records must be maintained by the seller for seven years. Violating these requirements subjects a seller to huge fines: “a civil penalty in an amount equal to 10 times actual damages, plus court costs, reasonable attorney’s fees, interest, and expert witness fees, if applicable, incurred by the consumer in the action. The court, in its discretion, may award additional damages based on the egregiousness of the dealer’s conduct.” (California Civil Code § 1739.7(g))

The law went into effect on January 1.

Book Passage alleges AB-1570 is a violation of the First Amendment because of the undue burden it creates on the bookseller to both disseminate books, autographed or otherwise, and burdens protected speech.The lawsuit also claims that AB-1570 irrationally exempts pawn shops and online retailers from the law but not brick-and-mortar storefronts. “The new restrictions were held out as a means to protect consumers, but the Legislature exempted precisely those transactions -- internet and pawn shop transactions -- where consumer vulnerability is highest,” said PLF Senior Attorney Joshua Thompson.

Petrocelli says Book Passage hosts over 700 author events a year and that this new provision to the autograph law will create a “massive bureaucratic nightmare,” severely hampering his ability to continue hosting author talks at his three stores.

Pacific Legal Foundation is representing Book Passage pro bono in the lawsuit. “With the passage of AB-1570, California lawmakers have threatened the vitality of bookstores and the hosting of author events, and in so doing, dealt a major blow to free speech,” said PLF Attorney Anastasia Boden.

A spokesperson for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said they are reviewing the complaint.

                                                                                                                                                                                                   Speaking on behalf of the ABAA regarding any legal action, Executive Director Susan Benne said: “We fully understand and share the frustrations and problems AB-1570 has caused since its passage. The ABAA has chosen to pursue a legislative solution by collaborating with California lawmakers to amend the legislation to protect our members, rather than suing the state of California to overturn it in court. A protracted lawsuit would be costly, could take years to resolve, and risks a judgement adverse to our interests.”

                                                                                                                                                                                  See the complaint here.

Collectors of any stripe will recognize themselves within the pages of James Barron’s absorbing book, The One-Cent Magenta: Inside the Quest to Own the Most Valuable Stamp in the World ($23.95), published earlier this year. À la The Red Violin, Barron traces the episodic history of the penny postage issued in British Guiana in 1856 that implausibly became the world’s most expensive stamp when it sold at Sotheby’s for about $9.5 million in 2014 (auctioneer David Redden, who has sold his share of famous rare books, plays the role of supporting actor in Barron’s book).

magenta.jpgIt all began with a twelve-year-old philatelist who discovered the reddish scrap with clipped corners among his uncle’s old papers. He sold it for six shillings (about $16.83 in today’s dollars, Barron informs us). After that, the stamp had many adventures and more than a few oddball owners, which Barron, a New York Times journalist, reports with verve.

Hidden away for large blocks of time in a Parisian castle and a New York City bank vault, the unique one-cent magenta became a source of intrigue: Was it doctored? Over-painted? Was a second discovered and quickly destroyed to bolster its value? Barron delves into these details without getting bogged down in philatelic minutiae--readers need not have more than a passing interest in postal matters to thoroughly enjoy this book.    

                                                                                                                                                                                       Image Courtesy of Algonquin Books

FBC2017summer-cover.jpgOur summer print edition is currently en route to subscribers. This year we decided to try a travel theme, apropos to the vacation season. So our readers will be swept away to London to join a walking tour of the city’s “Lost Libraries,” and they’ll get a preview of Chicago’s brand new American Writers Museum, and they’ll peek inside Winterthur’s mysterious Memorial Library in Delaware. Where else will they armchair-travel? Colonial Virginia and Civil War-era Gettysburg; an orchard in Colorado and a country house in Wales. And our “How I Got Started” collector interview focuses on what else? Literary travel guides.

All that in addition to our featured columns from the likes of Nick Basbanes and Joel Silver, auction reports from Ian McKay, a feature story on Griffin & Sabine creator Nick Bantock, and our annual Biblio 360 guide to the bookish clubs, classes, fairs, and events of interest.

Didn’t subscribe but still want to order one? Email our circulation department at circasst@finebooksmagazine.com or visit our online store.


Image copyright 2012 the Balbusso sisters. Reproduced with permission from the Folio Society.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

                                                                                                                                                                                      Motherhood takes on a whole new meaning in The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s dystopian tale of a fundamentalist theocracy. The award-winning bestseller was recently adapted into a television series airing on Hulu to much fanfare--to get up to speed, read Emily Nussbaum’s excellent analysis of the series and how the show’s creators adapted Atwood’s critique of Reagan-era sexual politics for a contemporary audience. The takeaway: it’s different, but rendered totally relevant to 2017, and a quick internet search yields all sorts of fascinating (if chilling) comparisons between the show, the state of feminism, the environment, and our current political climate. (Be on the lookout in episode one for a cameo by Atwood, who plays one of the women indoctrinating Offred, played by Elizabeth Moss.)

Before binge-watching the show, consider picking up the Folio Society’s 2012 edition of the book. Complete with a new introduction by the author, this incarnation includes illustrations by Italian sister-artists Anna and Elena Balbusso, whose painterly creations are often heavy with iconography and symbolism, and their work here is no different. “For a long time we hoped for a book like this [The Handmaid’s Tale] and we loved the challenge,” the Balbussos said. “The theme of a woman’s body appealed to our sensibility.” The sisters strike a decidedly futurist note with images full of bold, fascist-era strokes of red, white, and black.

Watch the show. Read the book. Discuss. If the whole enterprise starts to feel too grim, chin up: “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.”

Hulu streams new episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale Wednesdays. 


The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, illustrated by the Balbusso sisters; Folio Society, $74.95, 366 pages. Image Courtesy of the Folio Society.

California bookseller David Brass has uncovered a rare first edition of Edward Lear’s famous children’s book, A Book of Nonsense. First published in two volumes in 1846, the book includes seventy-two humorous verses, accompanied by Lear’s absurd illustrations. The two volumes are bound here in one small quarto in contemporary half red hard-grain morocco over marbled boards. Brass plans to exhibit this beauty at the ABA London International Antiquarian Book Fair at Olympia, June 1-3.

03897_5170.jpgAbout five hundred copies of “Nonsense” were initially published, but, as is often the case with children’s books, they were read to tatters. A census taken in 1988 located only eleven complete copies and twelve incomplete, most of which are in libraries. In a press release, the ABA commented, “The appearance on the market of a previously unknown, complete first edition is therefore an extremely unusual and exciting event for book lovers.” This one had been in a private collection for the past twenty-five years, according to Brass.

The price tag for this newly unearthed treasure? £59,000 ($75,000).

03897_4278.jpgLear’s Book of Nonsense is often cited as one of the high-spots of children’s books, coming in at #32 in the Grolier Club’s One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature.

                                                                                                                                                                         Images courtesy of the ABA 

Guest Post by Kara Accettola

                                                                                                                                                 “Life began with waking up and loving my mother’s face.” --George Eliot, a daughter

The contemporary world brings many new things: an undeniably brisk pace, an unclear future, and an ever-changing face of motherhood. Working vs. stay-at-home  mothers elicit philosophical mommy wars, along with a side of mommy guilt. We are called to nurture, rear and cultivate, as well to bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan, to stay sexy, remain relevant, and preserve the muse. We evoke countless archetypes: the hausfrau, the hunter, the trophy, the school marm, the momma bear, the CEO, the soldier, the revolutionary, the blogger, the woman.  

While the state of motherhood redefines us, the roles of our past and the roles as yet realized do not simply vanish. Once the default condition--the cultural currency of our sex--now the pendulum of mother balance swings even closer to our tender underbelly.

Observe her in the wild and she may be listening to a podcast on her commute, juggling baskets and toddlers at the market, or sitting focused in front of a laptop at midnight--burning that oil, the incandescent glow flaring against black mirrors of glass as it has for so many before her. This may be the contemporary snapshot of 21st-century matris, but is it very different than our matriarchal forebears?  

Here, four literary notables who wore the cape of motherhood and left us with a legacy reaching far beyond their natural heirs:

Mary Wollstonecraft (b. 1759- d. 1797)

“The man who can be contented to live with a pretty and useful companion who has no mind has lost in voluptuous gratifications a taste for more refined pleasures; he has never felt the calm and refreshing satisfaction. . . .of being loved by someone who could understand him.”  

So Mary Wollstonecraft writes in one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Written in part as a response to Tallyrand-Perrigord’s assertion that a domestic education was all that women needed,  she called vehemently and originally for rounded and worldly education, to elevate women’s place as companions, not ornaments. Absent the formal argument style of the day’s philosophical writings, her long essay form presented with a large dose of sensibility. While later criticized, it is thought to have been well received at the time of release. Twentieth-century feminists have tended to view her life itself, as well as works, as a template for a progressive femininity, yet the writings have been held in evolving yet continuous regard, from both within and without the academy and at the crossroads of intersectional feminism.

Mary, the challenger to Rousseau, the inspiration to Wordsworth and Coleridge, the author-activist immortalized in words and legacy, and mother. Her first child was born of an affair predating her marriage to anarchist forefather William Godwin. Years later, she died shortly after giving birth to her second daughter, who would come to be known as Mary Shelley.

Mary Shelley (b. 1797 - d. 1851)

“Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.” -- Shelley, from Frankenstein.

The daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, she took an early liking to writing and was encouraged to this. Having lost her when she was a newborn, she was raised by her philosopher father and his new wife, provided access to libraries, tutors and governesses and surrounded by artists, thinkers, and politicos.  

At a time when girls are choosing prom dresses, she was entwined in an affair with Percy Bysshe Shelley, meeting in secrecy at her mother’s grave. Shortly thereafter, the duo would leave for Europe, leaving behind a wake of lost hearts, including Shelley’s pregnant wife who would in later years throw herself into the river Thames. Their radical circle and subsequent tumultuous years would write deep loss for Mary, most profoundly the deaths of her two children, a miscarriage, her sister’s suicide, and her husband Percy’s laudanum-fueled drowning.

Her salvation and solace was found in rearing her remaining child and through her work. While best known for her iconic work, Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus, released anonymously in 1818, recent scholarship has shed light on the sum of her literary output and steadfast radical philosophy.  

Doris Lessing (b. 1919 - d. 2013)

After half a century of work, a mother of three, novelist, poet, playwright, librettist, and biographer, described by the Swedish academy as “that epicist of the female experience,” became the eleventh woman and the oldest person to receive the Nobel prize.

Born in Iran to British parents,  Doris Lessing began as a teen penning African magazine articles. Her jewel, The Golden Notebook, is considered a feminist classic by many scholars, yet Doris rejected being overtly labeled as a feminist author, quoted as telling the NY Times: “What the feminists want of me is something they haven’t examined because it comes from religion. They want me to bear witness. What they would really like me to say is, ‘Ha, sisters, I stand with you side by side in your struggle toward the golden dawn where all those beastly men are no more.’ Do they really want people to make oversimplified statements about men and women? In fact, they do. I’ve come with great regret to this conclusion.”

A prolific, socially prescient writer, she reflects with bold honesty on the arc of her own motherhood. In 1949 she left Africa for London to pursue her craft and communist beliefs. She travelled with her second husband and two-year old son, but left her elder children with their father, later saying: “For a long time I felt I had done a very brave thing. There is nothing more boring for an intelligent woman than to spend endless amounts of time with small children. I felt I wasn’t the best person to bring them up. I would have ended up an alcoholic or a frustrated intellectual like my mother.”  

Nikki Giovanni (b. 1943)
Poet and author Nikki Giovanni, single mother by choice to one son, is considered the “Poet of the Black Revolution.” One of the most noted Black Arts movement authors, she is known for her powerful examination of race, gender dynamics and social issues. She examines black womanhood, culture, and family status markers such as the concept of ‘breadwinner’ in her canon of work now decades in the making.

In “Mother” she recalls:

i’m sure i just hung there by the door
i remember thinking: what a beautiful lady
she was very deliberately waiting
perhaps for my father to come home
from his night job or maybe for a dream
that had promised to come by
“come here” she said “i’ll teach you
a poem: i see the moon
the moon sees me
god bless the moon
and god bless me”
i taught it to my son
who recited it for her
just to say we must learn
to bear the pleasures
as we have borne the pains

--Kara Accettola is the owner of Little Sages Books, Member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, The Ephemera Society of America, and The Grolier Club. She works with letters, books, photography, archives, and ephemera relating foremost to Women, History, Art, Cultural and Social History.

05_Chiharu Shiota, The Key in the Hand_2015-photo_SunhiMang.jpg

The Key in the Hand, Japan Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2015. Image courtesy of Galerie Templon. 

                                                                                                                                            The Galerie Templon in Paris is hosting an exhibition dedicated to Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota from May 20 through July 22, 2017. The performance and installation artist is known for her room-filling pieces that are at once monumental yet incredibly intricate, as if a giant spider has enveloped everything in its path in skeins of thread. Indeed, Shiota signature is quite literally tying various components of her work--often mundane items like keys, shoes, and dresses--together with red woven wool yarns, spinning intricate, ghostly webs beckoning for inspection and introspection. Shiota’s pieces are art as theater--viewers become participants in the installations, themselves springboards for meditations on the constant tension between life and death. She has said in interviews that most of her work focuses on “the memory of absent things” and that rooms can possess memory of those no longer with us, recalling, in a way, the cognitive realism of Proust and his madeline in À La Recherche du Temps Perdu.

Entitled, Destination, Shiota’s current exhibition employs empty boats as an attempt to explore life’s journeys, dreams, and how modern lifestyles have pushed humankind towards the unknown at an ever increasing pace. The show follows a theme Shiota explored at her other recent installation at the chic Parisian department store Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche, where she suspended a fleet of spectral wooden boats like a massive chandelier over the store using 300,000 yards of woven white thread. (Check out the opening night here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwshqeh-k9s )

Shiota revisits the boat theme in Destination, where a fleet of eleven-foot boats surround a sixteen-foot vessel, the ensemble caught in a red sea of red yarn. “I have been using boats [in my artwork] since my exhibition at the Japan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015,” explained Shiota, who, like many artists, uses boats as symbols of travel and finding one’s destination, though there is a slightly dark element to all this. If viewing the boats from below, as in the Bon Marché exhibit, the viewer becomes a drowning victim looking up at the hulls. Here, red yarn ensnares the boats, possibly preventing these vessels from arriving at their final destination. None of Shiota’s boats carry passengers but perhaps, as the artist suggests, they carry spirits and memories of the dead.

Destination also suggests that, in this age of hyper-fast everything, perhaps we’re getting tangled in the process, forgetting what harbor we’re actually navigating towards, and that maybe we should all just slow down a little bit and enjoy the ride. “Though we may not know where we are heading, we can never stop,” Shiota said. “Life is a journey of uncertainty and wonder, and the boats symbolize our dreams and hopes.”



Image courtesy of Galerie Templon. 

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