Marcel Proust died in 1922 at age 51. While there are many surviving photographs of the author, his voice was never recorded, and he was never captured on film. Or at least that’s what scholars have long thought. But that may just have changed.

A Canadian professor, Jean-Pierre Sirois-Trahan, of Laval University, announced last week that he believes a film of wedding guests in 1904 may contain a brief clip of the elusive author. The film was recently found in the archives of the Centre National du Cinéma in Paris. It documents a wedding celebrated in 1904 between Elaine, the daughter of the Count and Countess Greffulhe, and the Duke Armand Guiche, a wedding which Proust is known to have attended.

The young man thought to be Proust descends the stairs at 0:37 in the above clip, wearing a frock coat and a Derby hat. Proust would have been 34 years old at the time.

Amongst a collection of antique rifles, carved pipes, and Civil War imprints for sale tomorrow at Cowan’s Auctions in Cincinnati is this beautiful late eighteenth-century English rebus Bible. Titled The Hieroglyphick Bible, III Edition by its anonymous creator, the 8 x 12.75” copybook contains selected verses from the King James Bible, illustrated in rebus form, with small watercolors throughout. The auction house believes the illustrator to have been an English seaman--albeit one acquainted with Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.

Better rebus.jpgThe book comes from the collection of E. Norman Flayderman, a collector and antique arms dealer who founded the militaria outfit, N. Flayderman & Co. According to Cowan’s, “Flayderman apparently acquired this while researching his book, Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders: Whales and Whalemen (New Milford, CT, 1972).” Files found with the rebus Bible indicate that it originally hailed from a New Bedford, Massachusetts, family.
Rebus 2 copy.jpgThis illustrated Bible is, as Cowan’s intimates in its catalogue, sea journal meets Nuremberg Chronicle. It is estimated to reach $15,000-25,000 at auction.

Images via Cowan’s Auctions

Bonhams will hold its Fine Books and Manuscripts sale in London on Wednesday March 1st, and as usual, the accompanying full-color catalog brims with well-appointed material sure to pique the interest of a range of collectors. The theme for the March auction appears to be exploration and scholarly inquiry, with particular emphasis on science, technology, and literature through the ages.

Political documents pepper the catalog as well, such as a 1797 Letters Patent signed by President John Adams confirming the appointment of Thomas Bulkeley as the United States Consul for the port of Lisbon. Included in the lot is a letter rebuking any conflict of interest; Bulkeley sought no monetary favors in the deal because, “he possesses a very large independent fortune.” Estimated bids at $2492.20.

Arguably the highlight of the catalog is the collection of a deceased, unnamed French bibliophile comprising of fantasy and scientific literature from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. The collector assembled his material over the past thirty years, focusing initially on the recent history of aviation and then moving into the annals of the past. Bonhams has arranged this section of the catalog into two sections: one dedicated to the philosophers and scientists whose heavenly observations informed their work, and the second explores the challenges of human flight.

Among the high spots in the deceased French bibliophile’s trove include a first edition, two-volume set of Jonathan Swift’s Travels into Several Remote Nations of the Lemuel Gulliver, commonly referred to as Gulliver’s Travels, estimated at twenty-five thousand dollars. A 1634 first edition of Johannes Kepler’s A Dream: or, a Posthumous Work of Lunar Astronomy is also estimated at twenty-five thousand dollars.

Whether flights of fancy or grounded in scientific principles, the material in the forthcoming Bonhams sale has a common goal of making sense of the world beneath our feet and the universe above. The catalog is also available online for further browsing. 

The University of Delaware’s Special Collections Library has received the largest and most valuable donation in its history. The Mark Samuels Lasner collection of British literature and art, worth an estimated $10 million, was officially donated to the library last week.

                                                                                                                                                              Library-Mark_Samuels_Lasner-Portraits-Room-122216-035 copy.jpgSamuels Lasner, legally blind and sometimes labeled the “foremost blind book collector in the world,” began collecting at a young age. His collection, built over 40 years, focuses on British literature and art between 1850 and 1900, with a particular emphasis on the Pre-Raphaelites and writers and illustrators from the 1890s. In total, the collection includes over 9,500 books, letters, manuscripts, photographs, ephemera, and art. Lasner has long been attracted to association copies. Notable signatures on items in the collection include those of Oscar Wilde, George Eliot, Charles Darwin, Max Beerbohm, William Morris, Henry James, Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Aubrey Beardsley. Nearly 1,000 items alone relate to Max Beerbohm.

                                                                                                                                                                             “This is a monumental gift that will be transformational for the University of Delaware,” said UD Provost Domenico Grasso. “There’s no collection quite like it in the world, and the benefit to scholars across disciplines and backgrounds is remarkable. Mr. Samuels Lasner’s generosity will impact UD students and faculty for generations.”

                                                                                                                                                                   Related events include a symposium titled “Celebrating the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection: Rare Books and Manuscripts, Victorian Literature and Art,” to be held March 17-18, featuring keynote speaker Elaine Showalter, and an exhibition, Victorian Passions: Stories from the Mark Samuels Lasner collection, currently on view through June 3.

                                                                                                                                                                     Samuels Lasner is a senior research fellow at the University of Delaware Library in addition to serving on the council of the Grolier Club. He has also written bibliographies on Aubrey Beardsley and William Allingham, amongst a host of other accomplishments.

                                                                                                                                                                      Image Courtesy of the University of Delaware

It might be hard to square Rambo with rare books, but then again, people can surprise you. It turns out that actor and director Sylvester Stallone, best known for his beefy roles in Rocky and Rambo, amassed a private library of roughly 1,000 volumes, which will be offered in 40+ lots at Heritage Auctions in New York on March 8-9.

James Gannon, Heritage Auction’s director of rare books, told HA’s house magazine, The Intelligent Collector: “The collection includes attractive and desirable library sets by the greatest authors of the 18th and 19th centuries ... Sir Walter Scott, Washington Irving, The Bronte Sisters, Jonathan Swift, Voltaire, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emile Zola, and Charles Dickens are all represented.”

Stallone.jpegWalt Whitman, too. Stallone owns the Paumanok edition of The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman (1902), limited to 300 sets and bound in blazing red morocco (pictured above). The $4,000 estimate reflects the fact that an extraordinary 1890 handwritten postcard from Whitman accompanies this set.

Other highlights include a 10-volume leather-bound set of Sir Walter Scott’s The Waverly Novels (c. 1910), which includes a one-page autographed letter, signed by Scott (estimate: $2,000), and a 22-volume example of the Complete Writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1900), signed by Hawthorne on a tipped-in Liverpool customs certificate dated 1854 (estimate: $1,500).

Image: Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

In the early morning hours of January 30, a gang of thieves, in a carefully coordinated scheme, broke into a warehouse near London’s Heathrow airport and made off with over £2 million in rare books. The books, belonging to three different rare book dealers, were being shipped to the United States for the 50th Annual California International Antiquarian Book Fair this past weekend.

                                                                                                                                                                In total, the thieves stole over 160 books, mostly incunabula and early printed works from the 15th through the 16th centuries, including a 1566 copy of Copernicus’s De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium worth an estimated £215,000.

                                                                                                                                                                           After scaling the warehouse, the thieves bored holes through reinforced skylights, then descended into the warehouse via ropes, without disturbing any of the building’s motion sensors. Once inside, the thieves pried open six specific containers, ignoring a variety of other valuable merchandise in an effort to find the rare books. They seem to have compared the books against a master list, as they left quite a few books behind. In total, the theives may have spent several hours inside the warehouse.

                                                                                                                                                                    The thieves were likely stealing “to order,” based on a list generated by a collector. The books, all known titles, would be impossible to sell on to a reputable dealer or auction house, so are almost certainly headed to a private collection somewhere.

                                                                                                                                                                  Brian Lake, of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (UK), said to The Daily Mail, “Quite honestly I have never heard of a heist like this involving books - it is extraordinary.”



Statement from the ABA:
                                                                                                                                                        A break-in took place at warehouse in Feltham on the night of January 29th. We understand that it was a well-planned operation and the thieves abseiled through the roof to avoid alarms. Antiquarian books in transit to a book fair in California were stolen. Some of the books were over 500 years old, and the total value may run into hundreds of thousands. Investigations are ongoing and the ABA is doing everything it can to establish the full extent of the thefts and assist police in the recovery of the missing books. We have an excellent national, and international, communications network in place, which has helped recover many lost and stolen items in the past, and we are confident that we will be able to help on this occasion too.

Full details of the stolen books can be found at
If you are offered any of the titles on the list, please contact of London’s Metropolitan Police.

Guest post by Jonathan Shipley

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 1.38.47 PM.pngA first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses. The first photograph ever taken of the American West. The book, The Culture of the Nude in China. A manuscript letter written by John Wilkes Booth. Charles Darwin’s Insectivorous Plants. A piece of sheet music written by one Ludwig von Beethoven. Oskar Schindler’s business card. Black Panther magazines. These are just some of the thousands of treasures that were available last weekend at the 50th California International Antiquarian Book Fair.

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 1.37.54 PM.pngFeaturing over 200 booksellers, book arts booths, lectures, and an auction put together by PBA, the fair was a banquet for book lovers. Exhibitors spanned the globe, from Denmark to Delaware, as did the subject matter, from John Steinbeck first editions to ancient tomes about vertebrate zoology. With Trump’s ascendency, there was an undercurrent among the offerings of nationalism, patriotism, World War II, women’s rights, and race relations.

All in all, another banner year at the book fair.

--Jonathan Shipley is a freelance writer based in Washington state. He sent us a postcard from the 2015 CA book fair too. Follow him @shipleywriter.

                                                                                                                                                            Images, credit: Jonathan Shipley.

The 50th California International Antiquarian Book Fair (CIABF) kicks off today, and in addition to the nearly two hundred booksellers bringing beautiful books and manuscripts, nineteen local book artists and organizations, from calligraphers to letterpress printers, will be sharing their love of all things biblio as well.                                                                                                                                            

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights visitors won’t want to miss:

The all-volunteer San-Jose Printer’s Guild of letterpress printers will have a vintage table-top printing press at the fair where attendees are invited to print their own letterpress coasters. A Valentine’s Day design graces the front, while information about the Guild’s May 6 Printers’ Fair is on the reverse. The Guild will also be displaying examples of letterpress printing created by members, including flyers, booklets, posters, and other ephemera, as well as a few collectible catalogs from type foundries of decades past.



credit: Matt Kelsey

More info about the Guild can be found at



credit: Matt Kelsey

The Friends of Calligraphy, based in San Francisco, will be on hand to demonstrate calligraphic techniques while exploring the history and applications of the art of hand lettering, gestural art, and design. Four calligraphers will be on site during the fair, showcasing calligraphy in a variety of styles and providing an opportunity to watch calligraphy being crafted by expert hands.



credit: White Rain Productions

Representatives from the non-profit Ephemera Society of North America (based in Cazenovia, New York) are operating an information booth promoting society membership as well as their annual conference in March in Connecticut. Members will discuss various examples of ephemera and the importance of collecting and studying items never intended for posterity. Two displays, “Early Trade Cards and Ephemera,” and “Easter Egg Dyeing Ephemera,” include material from the collection of Society president Bruce Shyer, who will be at the booth to answer questions. More information at:



credit: Ephemera Society


San Francisco’s American Bookbinders Museum will showcase the history and craft of bookbinding by displaying and explaining the various tools and traditions of bookbinding.

209681_0.jpgAll this week on the blog we’ve been highlighting Rare Book Week West.

Today’s post is about a special benefit auction to be hosted by PBA Galleries.

On Sunday, February 12, at 8:00 a.m. at the Oakland Marriott City Center Hotel, PBA Galleries will host a two-part auction. The first part, consisting of lots 1-127, will be a general rare books and manuscripts auction, while the second part, lots 128-221 will feature books donated for auction by antiquarian booksellers. Money raised from the donated books will be used to benefit the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Benevolent Fund and the Elisabeth Woodburn Fund, which provides financial support for scholarly research and education relevant to the antiquarian book trade. 

Some unusual highlights from the benefit side of the auction include a lot of fruit, vegetable, and fish can labels from the 1920s-1940s (estimate $500-800), 55 Japanese woodblock prints from the 1920s, (estimate $300-500), eight photo albums of a railroad trip through the United States in 1936 (estimate $400-600), and a collection of 132 pieces of illustrated vintage sheet music (estimate $700-1,000). The big ticket item in the benefit auction is a first printing of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (pictured above), estimated at $6,000-9,000.

Online bidding is also available for buyers not attending in person.

[Image from PBA Galleries]



We’re highlighting Rare Book Week West offerings this week, and today my morbid curiosity gets the better of me. Check out this awesome objet du livre, for sale at the 50th California International Antiquarian Book Fair, which opens on Friday at the Oakland Marriott: a limited edition, red morocco-bound copy of Jack the Ripper: A Bloody Alphabet, housed in a papier-mâché human heart-shaped box, and including a handmade wooden anatomical specimen stand for display. The book--and its custom cardiac enclosure--was crafted in 2014 by Sean E. Richards, director of Byzantium Studios, Ltd. in Norman, Oklahoma, with illustrations by Kristi Wyatt.  

John Howell_ Jack the Ripper_2.jpegJohn Howell_ Jack the Ripper.jpegAccording to the bookseller, John Howell for Books, “This artist’s book reflects Sean Richards’ life-long fascination with Jack the Ripper and his years of research on the Victorian crime spree attributed to this shadowy character. It also displays Richards’ virtuosity as a visionary artist and creative bookbinder, who manifests his ideas in leather and papier-mâché.”

In other words, it’s just incredibly cool. The price is $5,500.

Images courtesy of the CA International Antiquarian Book Fair.

Auction Guide