As literary artifacts go, this one evokes childlike delight: an ivory cup-and-ball toy that once belonged to Jane Austen is headed to auction at Sotheby’s London on December 13, where bids are expected in the £20,000-30,000 ($25,000-37,000) range.

Lot 123- Austen Cup and Ball.jpgThe game, also known as bilbocatch, was a popular pastime for the Austen family. As Jane herself wrote to her sister in October of 1808: “We do not want amusement: bilbocatch, at which George is indefatigable; spillikins, paper ships, riddles, conundrums, and cards, with watching the flow and ebb of the river, and now and then a stroll out, keep us well employed...” At the time, Jane was using these amusements to redirect her grieving nephews George and Edward, who had just lost their mother.

Even in happier times, though, Jane’s gaming skills were commanding. Her nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh, wrote in his Memoir of Jane Austen: “Jane Austen was successful in everything that she attempted with her fingers. None of us could throw spilikins in so perfect a circle, or take them off with so steady a hand. Her performances with cup and ball were marvellous. The one used at Chawton was an easy one, and she has been known to catch it on the point above an hundred times in succession, till her hand was weary.”

The cup-and-ball Austen-Leigh references above is the same now slated for auction, complete with minor chips and hairline cracks. It has “always remained in the family of Jane Austen,” according to Sotheby’s. On occasion, it has been exhibited at Chawton House.

512px-Jane_Austen_coloured_version.jpegAusten’s “things,” have garnered much interest in the past several years. Her turquoise and gold ring, for example, made headlines when American singer Kelly Clarkson purchased it at auction for $236,557 in 2012 but was then barred from exporting it to the U.S. The ring now belongs to Jane Austen’s House Museum. And in 2013, Paula Byrne published a biography based on Austen-related objects and artifacts.

Of related interest at the sale next week, Sotheby’s will also offer an Austen manuscript letter, written to her sister Cassandra in 1800 and covering details of Jane’s daily life (new furniture, weather, family news). It is estimated to realize £40,000-60,000 ($49,000-74,000).

Images: Top, Courtesy of Sotheby’s; Bottom, Courtesy of Wikimedia.

Worcester Art Museum EdEmberleyInstallaion_View13_2016-11-21.jpg

Entrance to Emberley exhibition. Image reproduced with permission from Worcester Art Museum. 

A comprehensive exhibition for award-winning children’s picture book author and illustrator Ed Emberley opened November 16 at the Worcester Art Museum (WAM) in Massachusetts that examines Emberley’s enduring 60-year influence on budding artists and authors.

Over 100 artworks from Emberley’s own archive are on display--woodblocks, hand-drawn mock-ups, even a 90” by 30” print of Paul Bunyan--along with another 100 books written and illustrated by the prolific author. 

The career of the 85-year old Massachusetts native began in 1962 when The Wing on a Flea: A Book About Shapes made that year’s New York Times top-10 list of illustrated books. Since then, Emberley has create books stylistically diverse and endlessly creative, with some seeing greater commercial success than others, and many achieving beloved, almost cult-like following. For example, the 1975 out-of-print The Wizard of Op remains a coveted item by collectors, available online at a base price of $50 in acceptable condition. Prices rise to over $200 for copies in mint condition.

Worcester Art Museum EdEmberleyInstallaion_View08_2016-11-17.jpg

Paul Bunyan’s Bunk House with plenty of space to cozy up and read. Reproduced with permission from Worcester Art Museum. 

Why host a retrospective now? Guest curator and fellow artist Caleb Neelon collaborated on a book about Emberley in 2014 with designer Todd Oldham (Ed Emberley/AMMO Books) and has been nursing the idea for a full-scale examination since then. “Putting together a show has been in the back of my mind since our book came out, and it turned out Adam Rozan [Director of Audience Engagement at WAM] and I were on the same page,” Neelon said.

“Emberley’s books stand the test of time in that they teach you something--whether you’re the kid or the grownup with the kid, you learn how to draw a simple lion or something else, and you feel good because you did it, and you can do it again, returning to that good feeling,” Neelon continued. “Ed’s whole goal is to get kids to look at something and say, ‘I can do that!’ When children turn seven or eight, some start to feel self-conscious about their drawing abilities and many stop drawing. These books take kids through that awkward stage and lets them have fun while they’re at it.”

“We hope our visitors will appreciate that Ed Emberley is an artist that must be seen and shown in art museums,” reiterated WAM’s Rozan. “His is the work that will be viewed in institutions now and in the future. Emberley’s work reminds us to innovate, dream, and wonder about the importance of the visual image and its relationship to the written word.”

WAM’s associate curator Katrina Stacy sees Emberley’s work as emblematic of a story with deep intergenerational Massachusetts roots, “and surprisingly, has never been the focus of a museum retrospective.” To ensure people of all ages can fully appreciate the breadth of the show, the curators included elements like easy-to-read labels and plenty of areas to rest, read, play, and of course, draw. WAM will be hosting regular drop-in workshops during the exhibition where visitors of all ages can try their hand at Emberley’s own artistic techniques. (See website for details on dates and times.)

“There are a lot of sad moods flying around our world right now,” concluded Neelon. “This is a good show to see if you are feeling low and need a lift.”

KAHBAHBLOOM: The Art and Storytelling of Ed Emberley runs through April 9, 2017 at the Worcester Art Museum 55 Sailsbury Street, Worcester, MA 01609


IMG_6990 (2).jpgOur Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Zoe Abrams (formerly Zoe Mindell) who has opened up her own rare book business after working for The Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts Company.  We profiled Zoe back when she worked for PRBM. Today, we check in with her again to see how the new business is coming along:

Please introduce us to your new shop. What does Zoe Abrams Rare Books specialize in?

ZARB is a sole-proprietor shop based in Center City, Philadelphia, specializing in social history, especially as it relates to women. My inventory includes books and manuscripts from the 16th to 20th century concerning etiquette, education, domestic science, cookery, fashion, theater, and related subjects. Many of my books have contemporary annotations or hybrid qualities that distinguish them as unique objects.

 Remind us of your background in rare books:

I was introduced to the world of rare books through the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College. During and after college I did internships at a few lovely libraries and auction houses, including the Book Department at Christie’s London. After that I moved to Philadelphia to work for Bruce McKittrick and PRBM, then to NYC to work for Ursus Books. Last year my husband’s sabbatical sent us to Paris. It was the perfect opportunity, in one of the best book cities in the world, to launch my own business.

How has the transition been from employee to shop owner?

Very smooth! My work experience has helped immensely and I’m grateful to friends and former colleagues in the trade for their encouragement and readiness to advise. I took the CABS course last summer to boost my business savvy and highly recommend it to everyone. There are still a few things I’m learning: anyone have good tax advice?

Favorite book that’s crossed your door at Zoe Abrams Rare Books?

One that I love is also one of the oddest: the author’s copy of Napoleon et la Superstition (1946), so filled with clippings, photographs, and manuscript notes that it was expanded from one volume to two. The author, Georges Mauguin (1881-1961), was editor in chief of the Revue de l’Institut Napoléon. He spent about ten years compiling and arranging the documents, judging by their dates. The contents comprise personal matter, like the funeral announcement for his wife (juxtaposed with a facsimile letter from Napoleon to Josephine on the facing page), as well as emblematic ephemera like business cards for psychics. He was obsessed with Napoleon and occultism and finding a relationship there.

Describe a typical day for you:

Not too much has changed since I wrote about it on my blog last year. I still start my day with coffee from a French press, although my croissant is now a muffin. Then I get straight to cataloguing and photography to take advantage of morning light. Throughout the day I communicate with clients by email and phone and check dealer catalogues and auction listings as they arrive.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I’m alone most of the day so when I have free time I try to get outside and talk to people! I often go to flea markets, movies, chamber music concerts, and author talks. Recently I started scrapbooking to preserve the souvenirs from my travels.

Still actively collecting on a personal level?  What are your collecting interests these days?

I wouldn’t call it “active” collecting but I pick up things here and there, like vintage glassware and clothes. Book hunting is still one of my favorite activities.

Are you participating in any upcoming fairs?  Have any catalogues on the way?

I’ve done five lists so far, all posted on my website. Perhaps I’ll do a bigger catalogue someday, but right now I find the shorter format effective. No definitive plans yet for fairs, but I am considering a shadow show or two in the spring.

Image Courtesy of Zoe Abrams.

In this, Mount Rushmore’s 75th anniversary year, an interesting auction lot has surfaced in London: a manuscript letter written by the South Dakota landmark’s sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, to his collaborator, Jesse Grove Tucker. The three-page letter, dated c. 1925-26, also contains a partial sketch showing only Washington’s rock face. The Rushmore project officially began in 1927, and was finally completed in 1941, shortly after Borglum’s death.

Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 9.04.42 PM.pngBorglum writes, “I’ve had a two hours talk with Norbeck, who you know is head of the Black Hills Park. I can’t tell you all we talked about but it amounts to this. He goes home as soon as congress adjourns and jumps at once in to the monument work= meantime I go to Texas on the fifteenth stopping in Raleigh: where you and I should have a talk= that talk should deal with the question - number of men, money necessary to start and possibly cut the Washington Head on shoulder of cliff this summer.” (You can read it in its entirety at Letters of Note.)

The provenance of this letter can be traced from the James S. Copley library to Florida collector Dan Brams, who purchased it at a book fair in New York in 2010. Later that year, he consigned it to auction, where it sold for $5,826 to UK dealer Paul Fraser, who, in turn, sold it, according to his blog post, “10 jaw-dropping objects sold by Paul Fraser Collectibles.”

Back at auction on December 1, Bloomsbury Auctions estimates it will bring £2,000-3,000 ($2,500-$3,700). 

                                                                                                                                                Image via Bloomsbury Auctions.

Wells_cover-min-300x389.pngAndrew Gulli, editor of Strand Magazine, has made it a personal mission of late to track down unpublished stories from famous writers and publish them for the first time in his magazine. Last year saw the first-ever publication of a Faulkner play and a Fitzgerald short story. This month’s issue of the Strand continues the tradition, featuring the first publication of “The Haunted Ceiling,” a short ghost story by H. G. Wells.

Gulli discovered the story in a significant archive of Wells’ work held at the University of Illinois. An assistant photocopied hundreds of Wells manuscripts, which Gulli combed through in an effort to find something new.

“Initially, from the titles of the manuscripts, I thought I happened upon lots of unpublished works, but those thousands of pages were narrowed down to this delightful story,” said Gulli in an interview with The Guardian.

Scholars have dated the story to sometime around the mid 1890s, when Wells, about 30 at the time, also wrote “The Red Room,” the most famous of his ghost stories.

Gulli continued, “The reason we released it now is to keep up the tradition of having ghost stories read during the cold months and during the holiday. There is something very cosy about it: the old house, the main characters playing chess and discussing this odd ceiling, but at the same time you have something very macabre and unsettling.”

Image via Strand Magazine.

The Dictionary of the Book copy.jpgMake room on the reference shelf. Sidney E. Berger’s newest book, The Dictionary of the Book: A Glossary for Book Collectors, Booksellers, Librarians, and Others (Rowman & Littlefield, $125) is a remarkably comprehensive volume of book terminology, beginning with ABA and ending with zinc cuts nearly three hundred pages later, plus related appendices and a foreword by Nicholas Basbanes, who calls Berger’s opus “a reference of first resort.”

Berger will be known to many of our readers. He was the director of the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum and, prior to that, the curator of printed books and then the curator of manuscripts at the American Antiquarian Society. He has taught rare books and librarianship courses at Simmons College and at the University of Urbana-Champaign. He did a seven-year stint as an antiquarian bookseller early in his career, and he even makes paper, casts type, and prints short texts at his Doe Press. His qualifications for this undertaking are irrefutable.

After perusing the book, I called Berger and asked about the impetus for this dictionary--46 years in the making--and how it differs from other sources like it. Here’s the transcript of our conversation:

RRB: What prompted you to write this book?

SB: I have been teaching the history of the book since 1971 and I’ve used all the editions of Carter’s textbook [ABC for Book Collectors], always knowing that there were terms that I would like to add to Carter. In fact, for every one of my classes--not just the history of the book but other book history classes--every time I taught, I would make a list of terms that I would like my students to know, many of which are in Carter, but many, many more of which were not. So my list grew from 500 to 600 to 700 to 800 words, and over the years, my list became much more germane to the rare book world than Carter’s.  
    Carter’s book is excellent for what it purports to be, but Carter left out a lot of things that he was not interested in. He was not interested in the book as a physical object so much. I mean there are some entries in there, but I have a huge amount of information about that, and my feeling is, if you’re selling these items, if you’re collecting them, if you’re a librarian dealing with them, you need a vocabulary that covers the territory, that describes the objects thoroughly and accurately. Other glossaries on the market--I’m going to say that generically--but I’m specifically referring to Carter, but there were other glossaries, and they had terms that were current at the time those glossaries were compiled, and words change meaning. New words are formed. For example: Internet bookselling. Carter didn’t have an entry on that because he couldn’t have, the Internet didn’t exist when he wrote his book. And that’s only one of hundreds of examples of things that other glossaries lack but which were in the current parlance of the trade--booksellers, book collectors, librarians, archivists, historians, and anybody interested in books as physical objects, as commodities to be bought and sold, as containers of information.
    Anybody who deals with books needs to know the full vocabulary of them so that they can, first of all, talk intelligibly and correctly about them, and second, so they can communicate with one another using like words. Carter was very good in his day, for his relatively narrow audience. I think my audience is broader than his. But it completely encompasses his audience, and the audience that he and the other writers of such glossaries had, I have always believed needed much more information than they provided. That’s why I’ve been thinking about this book since 1971. Little by little, I’ve been compiling my own list of terminology that I thought was essential for people working in the field. What I tried to do was to be as comprehensive as possible, to give the vocabulary of the book world to the widest range of people who need it. And for all the major and minor terminology, even the minor terminology is important if you have a phenomenon and you don’t know what to call it, then what do you call it? There’s a book that if you hold it face up right in front of you, you can read it, but if keep the spine to the left and flip the book top to bottom, you’re looking at another front cover. So you can read the book halfway through and that’s one text, and you flip it and read it again and it’s another text. Well, there is a word for that. Carter doesn’t have it. None of the other dictionaries on books has it. It’s called tête-bêche. It’s a term that exists. There’s lots of books out there that are tête-bêches. In fact, Saks Fifth Avenue catalogues come out as tête-bêches. I have a couple of them in my office. It goes back centuries. It’s a genre of book production. I’m using that as a single example.

RRB: What distinguishes your book from other reference books like it?

SB: My dictionary has over 1,300 terms in it. It’s about twice what Carter has. The other thing is, none of the other editions was extensively illustrated. Glaister’s Encyclopedia of the Book had some illustrations in it, but from my perspective, how do you explain certain things without showing them? The old cliché, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words,’ you know. I have 150 illustrations in my book. I think they are tremendously revelatory of the things that I’m writing about. They will reveal a huge amount of information.
    I don’t want to denigrate any other volume that’s out there that can help us in the book world talk about books as objects, but your readership really needs a solid, reliable text that gets the words right so that we’re all talking the same language and we’re using the language correctly. There is no volume out there now that does that, except mine, that I know of. There might be others out there, but I’ve done my research, I haven’t found any!

RRB: Tell me about your experience and history in the book world.

SB: I started working as a graduate student in the 1960s at the Center for Textual Studies at the University of Iowa. This was a national center devoted to editing, book history, textual scholarship, historical bibliography, descriptive bibliography, enumerative bibliography, and half of my PhD was in this field. The other half was medieval English literature, in which I studied the medieval book, the medieval manuscript, its manufacture, the making of the ink, the making of the parchment, the making of the quills, the transmission of texts from one generation to the other, and so on. From the sixties till today, I have been teaching courses in this, I have been writing articles about it, I’ve been giving lectures, I’ve read all of the literature, I know this field as well as just about anybody ... I’ve immersed my whole life in this stuff. I’ve written five books and about sixty articles about paper. I know more about paper than anybody needs to know! I come at this with expertise from many angles. I’ve made my own paper. I have cut my own punches, made my own matrices, cast printing type by hand. I have been a printer and studied fine press printing for many years, and I’ve been printing for fifty years. I’ve printed on thirty or forty handpresses over the decades. I come at this not just from having read about it, but having done it. The only thing I haven’t done is I haven’t made parchment. I haven’t killed a sheep--I’m a vegetarian, I won’t do that. It’s really clear that no other glossary or dictionary of this kind was compiled by somebody with the same kind of scholarly and hands-on immersion in the field as I have had.

RRB: How long did it take to compile this book?

SB: Forty-six years! I’m not kidding you. In graduate school, I took printing from Kim Merker. He was one of the great twentieth-century book designers and printers. We were working on old Washington presses, and since then, I’ve printed on Columbians and Albions and wooden handpresses and Acorn presses...I started learning about books from the ground up. I have my own press, by the way, the Doe Press. If you look an entries like makeready or tympan and frisket, or look at handpresses--I know the tools of the trade intimately. I’ve used them.
    I actually starting compiling the knowledge in about 1965. When I started teaching courses in the history of the book, I started making my list of terms. There was no book out there--I mean, Carter was available, but it was never enough--so I was always giving my students lists, starting with about 370-400 terms, and as the years went by, and I continued to teach these classes, more and more terms occurred to me. Little by little, my list kept growing, and the latest iteration of it was about 800-900 terms, and at that point, I said, I have the makings of a book.
    I think the book that I have produced should be the standard go-to Bible for anybody working in the book trade: collectors, booksellers, librarians, archivists, historians, artists, bookmakers, bookbinders, printers. Every term that I thought would be useful, I put in there. Every term is not going to be useful for everybody in the audience, but this is a broad audience ... I feel fairly proud of this, this is a lifetime achievement type of book. It comes from more than fifty years of immersing myself in the world of books.

RRB: You’re a collector, as well?

SB: Yes, my wife and I have a substantial collection of books: fine press, some rare books, particular private presses, and an enormous collection of books on the book arts. Of course, our paper collection* is the largest paper collection in the U.S. We just sold it to Texas A&M University. It had 21,400 sheets in it. The papers go back to 740 AD.

*You can read Nick Basbanes’ profile of Berger’s paper collection in the summer 2013 issue of FB&C.

Image Courtesy of Rowman & Littlefield.

Revisiting Raptis Rare Books

So pleased to see the new print edition of the Raptis Rare Books catalogue, in which Matthew and Adrienne Raptis announce they’ve moved from Brattleboro, Vermont, to a glittering new gallery on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, Florida. Raptis specializes in modern first editions, inscribed volumes, and “landmark books in all fields.” The firm last appeared on the blog when Nate Pedersen profiled Raptis in 2011 on the eve of the publication of their first catalogue.


The current full-color catalogue highlights an inventory of well-appointed high spots, such as a $150,000 presentation copy of James Joyce’s Ulysees in its original blue wrappers inscribed by the author, while children’s book collectors might be interested in a first edition near-fine set of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books for $16,000. A signed, limited edition of Winnie-the-Pooh with an original handwritten poem by Milne is available for $55,000.

Snow-weary Northerners now have another reason to visit Florida in winter--best wishes to Raptis in their new home. See the catalog for yourself here.

Roald Dahl died twenty-six years ago today. In this, his centennial year, books have been published, films released, and beer brewed in his (well-deserved) honor. Today, our correspondent in England brings us to Dahl’s Great Missenden, the village he called home and where he is buried. The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, which opened in 2005, celebrates his literary legacy.--Editor
                                                                                                                                                                                Guest Post by Catherine Batac Walder

                                                                                                                                                                           In Roald Dahl’s writing nook that’s preserved behind glass, we find ucky-mucky and strange things similar to what our grandparents might have possessed. There is what appears to be a cannonball that is in fact made from hundreds of silver foil chocolate wrappers, presumably Cadbury Dairy Milk, which he ate every day while working in London.
                                                                                                                                                                       No doubt Dahl loved his chocolate, and he devoted a chapter to it in The Roald Dahl Cookbook. In it he charted a ‘history of chocolate,’ seven glorious years that started from Crunchie in 1930 to Kit Kat in 1937 (as someone with Norwegian parentage, it would have been interesting to hear his thoughts on Kit Kat vs. Kvikk Lunsj). I overheard a young boy looking for “Dahl’s bone” and that would indeed sound gruesome if you didn’t know he meant a piece of Dahl’s femur bone, removed during one of his hip replacement operations, now a paperweight. Dahl also had a glass bottle containing shavings from his spine, from several operations on his back to ease wartime injury problems. These objects were once housed in Dahl’s writing hut at the bottom of his garden in Great Missenden. They were in the inner part of the hut where Dahl wrote his books, which was transferred to the nearby Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre a few years ago.
                                                                                                                                                                          IMG_4471.JPGWe didn’t go to museum when we first visited the village in 2011, and instead searched for Dahl’s home, Gypsy House, and the writing hut, which were understandably not open to the public. Months later, Dahl’s family’s appeal to raise £500,000 to save the hut (and a further £500,000 for the interactive exhibitions) in a recession-stricken England received a lot of criticism. The hut was built in the 1950s by Dahl’s friend Wally Saunders, who was also the inspiration for The BFG. Built only of a single layer of bricks and insulated by polystyrene blocks, it wasn’t made to last. Moving it would cost a lot of money--bear in mind that the hut was left untouched since Dahl’s death in 1990, so the objects there were probably damaged and crumbling. The project required for nearly 300 objects to be checked for bugs or mold and treated for damages. This wasn’t just packing an ordinary room, this was now a museum and conservators were needed to do the job. Hundreds of photographs and measurements were taken to keep a record, as in every paperclip and the hole it made pinning a photograph on the polystyrene, should go back to where it should be. Once packed, further treatment and freezing were required to keep away bugs. Old curled postcards and photographs were dry and brittle and thus needed to be softened carefully by re-humidifying them with damp air. Included in the move was real dust swept up from the hut floor and baked to kill any bugs, giving the place a “never cleaned” look. Only the contents were moved as the building itself was too big to house in the gallery. In a way, it was sad to think that the humble garden shed that served as a story factory, would just be left to rot.
                                                                                                                                                                     IMG_4561.JPGOther curiosities at the museum included pages from Dahl’s manuscripts. He mainly wrote by hand, and with a pencil. “There are six children in this book,” he wrote in an earlier draft of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There was something for film fans as well, such as Mr. Fox’s study, the original set from Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), and I only realized it then that details of Dahl’s writing hut were recreated in the film. At the entrance of the museum are the gates from Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), that is, smaller replica ones donated by Warner Bros., as the ones in the film were too large.
                                                                                                                                                                IMG_4433.JPGDahl’s 100th birthday was in September, and schools in England celebrated it by encouraging students to dress up as their favorite Dahl character. Recently, my daughter’s homework was to read Revolting Rhymes and create one to share with the class. There is a lot of Dahl being done at school so I thought it was time to go back to Great Missenden. Places of interests in the village include the library where Matilda read all those books, the petrol pumps in Danny the Champion of the World, and the Crown House which was the inspiration for the orphanage in The BFG. The Post Office that received hundreds of sacks of letters every year from fans all around the world still stands, and when Dahl was alive, the postman would deliver up to 4,000 letters every week to this house. In the village is also the Church of Peter and Paul, where Dahl is buried. His gravesite is marked by a tree surrounded by a memorial bench carrying the names of his children and stepchildren. There are BFG footprints from the bench to the grave. Carved into stone slabs around the bench are lines from The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me which could bring tears to anyone’s eyes:
                                                                                                                                                                   “We have tears in our eyes, as we wave our goodbyes, we so loved being with you, we three. So please now and then, come see us again, the Giraffe and the Pelly and me.”
                                                                                                                                                                    As we walked on that cold autumn day, I told my daughter that it was in this village that Roald Dahl lived for thirty-six years till his death, “just imagine him walking these paths all the time,” I said to her, “and shivering,” the freezing daughter added.
                                                                                                                                                                           If you’re visiting and have more time, go beyond and explore the countryside. Though admittedly, there was so much to see and do within the museum itself that it felt like a day wasn’t enough. Pre-booking a visit was advised. You book an hour slot although apparently you could turn up any time, and a wrist band would allow you to get in and out of the museum for the day (which isn’t ideal during school holidays when this small and popular museum really gets busy). We went during term time on a Sunday and it was fine. Parking in the village is very limited so visitors are advised to go by train.
                                                                                                                                                                        My favorite things at the museum were Dahl’s replica writing chair in which we sat and just wished that some of his magic would rub off on us. There was the rolled up paper underneath his writing board to keep it in place and the clothes brush he used to clean the board every day before he began writing. The brush is believed to have been from his Repton School days and had “R. DAHL” carved by hand on the back of it. I liked that he used nothing fancy to write and it reminded me that however intimidating he looked with his towering height and success, above all, he was a granddad and in BFG speak, just plain hopscotchy and fun.
                                                                                                                                                      --Catherine Batac Walder is a writer who lives in the UK. She has contributed several posts from abroad over the years, including “Sherlock Holmes in Switzerland,” “The Making of Harry Potter,” and “James Joyce’s ‘Years of Bloom’ in Trieste.” Find her at:

Images: Dahl’s writing hut behind glass; A list of words kept with the first draft manuscript for The BFG; Dahl’s grave. Credit: Catherine Batac Walder.

519xtekiaKL.jpgThe Thanksgiving meal coming up on Thursday is on the minds of many Americans this week. While most dinner tables will feature a roasted turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, a reprint of Salvador Dali’s surrealist cookbook, Les Diners de Gala, out this week from Taschen, might inspire some more creative additions to the T-day meals. Thousand year old eggs? Conger eel of the rising sun? Frog pasties?  

Any takers?

Dali’s cookbook, compiled with his wife Gala, was first published in 1973 with predictably strange photographs and illustrations depicting the lavish food creations. The book went on to become a collector’s item, located at a lonely intersection between culinary and art collections.  (The book also became a “must-have” for enthusiasts of unusual books). First editions typically attract a few hundred dollars on the marketplace today and only 400 copies or so are thought to have survived.

This year the German publisher Taschen picked up the copyright for the book, hoping to “bring it to today’s kitchens” with a lovely reprint of the original edition. 

“You’ll see looking through it how much of a cultural artifact it is,” said a Taschen representative in a statement to The Guardian. “Recipes from top chefs at French restaurants that are still pumping and serving today, beautiful artworks that were made explicitly for the book, and recipes that people will enjoy simply by reading or [if they are game!] challenge them in the kitchen.”

Dali included a warning to would be consumers, however, in his introduction: “If you are a disciple of one of those calorie-counters who turn the joys of eating into a form of punishment, close this book at once; it is too lively, too aggressive, and far too impertinent for you.”

Les Diners de Gala releases in America on Thursday the 24th, just in time for your last minute Thanksgiving preparations.

Image Courtesy of Taschen.

On December 5, one of the world’s best private collections of English Bibles will hit the auction block at Sotheby’s New York. It is the collection of Dr. Charles Caldwell Ryrie, described by the auction house as a “renowned theologian and the editor of a bestselling study Bible.” Ryrie’s collection is comprehensive--including papyrus fragments, illuminated manuscripts, and two leaves from the Gutenberg Bible, alongside many early printed editions. Highlighted here are six of the very rarest in the collection, each of which is estimated to realize six figures.
                                                                                                                                                                     8.pngLot 8: An Italian manuscript Bible, dated 1273, with numerous historiated and decorated initials throughout and bound in 15th-century brown leather with original brass bosses. The estimate is $150,000-250,000.
                                                                                                                                                                       9.pngLot 9: The Wycliffite New Testament, manuscript, early 15th-century, with marginal corrections in a contemporary hand. “Possession of a Wycliffite Bible in the 15th century could lead to accusations of heresy, and imprisonment, so they very rarely have early marks of ownership,” according to Sotheby’s. Bound in modern white pigskin. The estimate is $500,000-800,000.
                                                                                                                                                                          44.pngLot 44: The 1530 Tyndale Pentateuch--“one of the great rarities of the English Bible.” This is the only copy in private hands and the only copy to appear at auction in more than 100 years, according to Sotheby’s. The estimate is $300,000-500,000.
                                                                                                                                                                    46.pngLot 46: Coverdale Bible in English, printed c. 1535-36. “First edition of the whole Bible in English, and one of the most complete copies to appear at auction in over twenty years.” The estimate is $150,000-250,000.
                                                                                                                                                                     86.pngLot 86: The 1611 King James Bible. This copy originally belonged to a “close confidant” of King James I. It is bound in contemporary London calf over boards. The estimate is $400,000-600,000.
                                                                                                                                                                  140.pngLot 140: Eliot’s ‘Indian Bible’--the first Bible printed in America, it was translated by Eliot for the Natick-Algonquin Native Americans of Massachusetts and printed in Cambridge, MA, in 1663. The estimate is $175,000-250,000.
                                                                                                                                                                                  Images via Sotheby’s.

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