March 2009 Archives

Possession Obsession, oil on canvas, 2008, 46 x 86cm

Tolstoi, oil on canvas, 2006, 50 x 50c

David Sequeira, oil on canvas, 2008, 80 x 60.5cm

Napoleon, oil on canvas, 2006, 60 x 60cm

Australian artist Victoria Reichelt has been painting bookshelf portraits for a few years. Recently, she began painting portraits of the bookshelves of actual people.

“This was a different way to do a portrait - because the decisions people make about the books they choose to buy, keep and display, reveals a lot about them. It offers a deeper insight into their interests and inspirations” Reichelt told the Inside Out blog who call Reichelt’s work a “debate about ‘the death of painting’ and painting’s relationship with photography.”

Reichelt continues: “These works are a paradox to paint - as once the books are an image on canvas, they are shut forever and can never be read. In a painting, they serve a very different purpose from their intended function - they are purely objects like the others I paint and you’re forced to judge them by the covers.”

The same could easily be said for photography. Once the picture is taken and the image developed one is “forced to judge” by what is presented.

It will be interesting to see how her work continues to evolve. The leap from painting staged bookshelves to actual bookshelves is huge and opens up a whole new realm of possibilities. Imagine high-end collectors having portraits done of their collections to complement their own portraits or a Candida Hofer approach of large scale paintings of library shelves that can be sold or given to top supporters.

The Dianne Tanzer Gallery will have show of Reichelt’s work in November.

She received a $10,000 New Work Grant from the Australia Council for her exhibition Bibliomania: The Bookshelf Portrait Project which was held at the Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts in Melbourne in 2008.

Thanks to the blog of the Kenyon Review for the lead
I’ve just returned from the Paperback Collectors Show & Sale, now in its thirtieth year, held for the last ten years in Mission Hills, CA, just outside of Los Angeles, and organized for the last few years by Black Ace Books here in L.A.

I’ve been attending this show, the largest of its kind west of the Mississippi, since
2000, to scout for books, and connect with dealers and collectors who, over the years, have been extremely generous in helping me with my research on vintage pulp literature. (Allow me  to point out that the paperbacks world has nearly as many reference books as the standard rare book trade; it’s really quite amazing).
I had the pleasure this past week of visiting Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, and speaking at ceremonies held in Cushing Library marking the acquisition of the university’s four millionth book, an auspicious event for a dynamic program that for the past ten years has been embarked on a remarkable program of establishing itself as one of the outstanding research centers in the United States.

don_quixote.jpgBecause a noteworthy event such as this demands a fabulous book, the title acquired for the occasion was an exceedingly rare copy of the 1617 Barcelona edition of “Don Quixote.” Part one of the world’s most consequential work of fiction had been published separately, in 1605, part two in 1615; this edition marked the first time the two parts had been issued together, and appeared in print just a year after Cervantes’s death. To give you an idea of just how scarce this edition is, it is the only perfect copy held in any North American library, making it more scarce, in fact, than the Gutenberg Bible, with copies in twelve American institutions. At Texas A&M, it joins a collection of one thousand other editions of “Don Quixote,” along with a substantial archive of digital images, and contributes mightily to the mission of the university’s Cervantes Project, which has received support from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The four millionth book ceremony was part of a double celebration, the other being the tenth anniversary of the reopening of the Cushing Library as repository of the university’s rare books and special collections, and to showcase, with a splendid exhibition and a terrific catalog, both called “A Decade of Promise,” the new acquisitions that have been made over that period. I plan to write at length about the arrival of Texas A&M as a major player in the world of rare books in a forthcoming Fine Books & Collections column, but I do wish to note here the essential role of the Friend--with a capital ‘F’, as I said in my remarks--in this process.

Making this milestone possible was Sara and John Lindsey, A&M Class of 1944, who purchased the book for the university; they also purchased for the library the two-and-a-half millionth book, a Kelmlscott Chaucer of 1896, and the three millionth book, a first issue, 1855, of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass,” and contributed to the purchase of the one millionth and two millionth volumes as well.

Libraries require a lot of elements to achieve greatness, not least among them administrators with foresight and librarians with vision, but never, to my knowledge, have they been able to accomplish anything of substance without the help of their friends--excuse me, their Friends--and that applies at every level of participation. Those with modest means--but eager all the same to help preserve our literary patrimony--can participate in other ways, such as the Adopt-a-Book program sponsored by the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Mass. It’s all for a great cause.
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“Of War & Wits & Power” is the latest from the Singapore-based industrial designer Daniel Loves Objects.
NYTimes has an article on the winner of this year’s Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year (sponsored by The Bookseller magazine). The winner for 2009 is “The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-Milligram Containers of Fromage Frais”. A special collections librarian summed the win up aptly, stating, “As a collector of books on fromage frais, I’m elated that this award will help jack up prices for cheese container books!”

On the other hand, Dr. Brooks D. Cash, who was a runner-up with his “Curbside Consultation of the Colon,” said that while he was “honored to be in such august company,” also added, “I think being beaten by someone with that title is really cheesy.”
On April 21, 1954 a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee was charged with investigating the causes of juvenile delinquency and went right to the heart of the matter: comic-books.

The subcommittee’s first and starring witness was Fredric Wertham, author of Seduction of the Innocent, which, in so many words, asserted that comics were Lucifer’s lure, Beelzebub’s bait. Seduction of the Innocent was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, excerpted in Ladies’ Home Journal, and published two days before Wertham testified before the Sub-committee. The hearings were televised.
Michael Powell and his daughter Emily. Photo by Leah Nash for The New York Times

The plans for a $5 million expansion of Powell’s flagship store have been put on hold.

Citing the overall current economic downturn and a 5% decline in sales the “project no longer looked prudent” according to owner Michael Powell.

How close were they to enlarging their city of books? The plans were already drawn up and the financing was secured. And when do they feel they’ll be ready to move forward?

“It’s going to take a period of time to recover...Whether it’s 2 years or 10 years I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s going to be quick. People are nervous.” says Powell.

More at Peter S. Goodman’s piece for the New York Times on the current economic climate of Portland, Ore “A Downturn Wraps a City in Hesitance
Often, I’ll be walking down the street minding my own business when a complete stranger will come up to me and declare, “Steve, I desperately want to be a book collector but I have little money and no idea what to collect.”

“Are you attracted to the strange, the bizarre, and the off-beat?” I’ll inquire. (This is the standard line I use when meeting anybody for any reason).

“Why yes, I am!”

“Well, then,” I’ll say, “I have good news for you, my off-beat, bookish friend.”

Editor’s Note: If you didn’t get a chance to read this post or this one, I recommend going back to do so.

I stepped off the elevator and through the replica of Rodin’s “Gates of Hell” into the Ninth Circle, the offices of the team developing the “Dante’s Inferno” video game at Electronic Arts.

Worlds collided.

Last Friday, I left the cozy comfort of my small office (it’s only a corner of my dining room) for the sophisticated environs of the Electronic Arts campus. Electronics Arts creates, develops, and sells video games. I was on a field trip of sorts, going to meet with the Executive Producer of EA’s forthcoming video game, “Dante’s Inferno”.  As I’ve spent the past couple of years collecting books for a print catalogue featuring illustrated and unusual editions of the works of Dante Alighieri, I was interested to see how the book influenced the video game.

EA’s offices are slightly larger than the dining room/corporate headquarters of Book Hunter’s Holiday. All of the large buildings below make up the EA campus in Redwood Shores, California:
This piece by Charles Seluzicki originally appeared on Book Patrol. It is fittingly reproduced here in its entirety.  

I recently read a blog item in Down East magazine speculating on why it is that Maine, that big, craggy, irresistible coastal state in Northern New England, is “so bookish.” By that, the writer, Paul Doiron, says he means “the whole literary shebang,” to wit: “the bookstores and reading groups and vast hosts of library volunteers,” not to mention a vibrant community of writers, Stephen King being the best known contemporary voice in a long tradition of accomplishment that has included Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Sarah Orne Jewett, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Kenneth Roberts and Edwin Arlington Robinson.

Doiron speculates that this passion for books and reading might have something to do with the long winters, which I know, as a person who went to college in the Pine Tree State (Bates, ‘65) can be formidable. But there is also something wonderfully complex in the Maine character, I think, that savors a good story, and maintains an enduring respect for things in print. (One response on Doiron’s blog offered this: “It’s dark. It’s cold. There’s a lot of empty space and the mind wanders. The options? Read, write or drink a lot. In really tough winters, sometimes we go for all three.”)

What has made me think about all this was a quick trip my wife Connie and I made this past week up to Bar Harbor for a bit of research, a pleasant getaway that allowed us to enjoy a leisurely drive home along U.S. 1, visiting one second hand bookstore after another, six by my count, over one forty-mile stretch between Trenton and Searsport, all of them open for business, which is saying something, since there is still scattered snow on the ground despite the official arrival of spring, and most of the summer tourist attractions still off-season.

ChickenBarn.jpgBrowsing was pretty much the order of the day for me, though I was nonetheless impressed by the numbers and the variety of the offerings. One place I would certainly put on the must-visit list for anyone trekking Down East is Big Chicken Barn Books & Antiques in Ellsworth, a perfectly appropriate name for a converted chicken barn one hundred yards long, three stories high, and filled on the first floor with every manner of antique and knick-knack, and lined on the second with 120,000 books, magazines and pieces of ephemera. The place was bustling when we stopped by Saturday afternoon, so there was little time to chat at length with owners Annegret and Mike Cukierski, who opened this splendid curiosity twenty-three years ago, and have every intention of keeping it going, what with son Chad now fully involved in the operations. There’s lots of stuff in here on Maine, a healthy section of regional history and literature, and remarkable runs of magazines and periodicals. The owners say this is the largest book store in the state, and I don’t think this is a case of hyperbole. It is easily the longest book gallery I have ever seen--a football field, one end to the other, and a fabulous chicken sign out front.

Book Wine.jpgWe had great fun, too, at Country Store Antiques, Books & Wine, just outside of Bar Harbor in Trenton, a pretty spacious operation in its own right, with a fine variety of offerings, including a full floor devoted entirely to 50,000 books. I especially enjoyed schmoozing with owner Vicki Landman, a former county librarian in Maryland, now a full time books and antiques seller in her native state. I told her of my interests in the Maine paper industry, and she suggested a number of titles that might be useful, and gave me the names of some people to contact for more information. “Hey, I’m a librarian,” she said.

We didn’t get a chance to stop at Harding’s Rare Books further down the coast in Wells, a lot closer to my home in Central Massachusetts, and always a favorite stop of mine whenever I’m in the area. Any booking odyssey to Maine has to include a stop here--with ample time set aside for serious examination of each and every one of the fourteen rooms. Founder Doug Harding has been in the business here since 1960, and is a widely respected professional in the trade. (I got my deathbed edition of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” from him twenty-five years ago, a lovely copy in mint condition, and my collection of Winslow  Homer wood engravings has been greatly enriched by my many visits here over the years as well.) For those who need a navigational fix, Wells is 48 miles south of Freeport, home of L.L Bean. There are many splendid places to stop for lobster in between. 

NAB BH.jpgFinally, if I may, how about a picture of yours truly in Acadia National Park, courtesy of CVB, to prove that one does not live entirely by books alone (at least not all the time):

Happy booking!

Henry Bemis, the compulsive reader whose tragedy was limned in a short story by Lyn Venable and dramatized for television in a 1959 biopic written by Rod Serling for an episode of The Twilight Zone that made Bemis a champion to reading geeks worldwide, is dead after a gallant, fifty year struggle with the cumulative effects of eye strain and radiation poisoning.

Bemis, a bank teller cruelly henpecked by his wife and brow beaten by his boss for a reading habit that they considered a waste of time, was eating lunch one day, secluded in the bank’s vault and cozying up to a book, when Nuke War I broke out and ended within thirty seconds. Protected by the vault, Bemis emerged into a crumbled and depopulated Reading, PA, his home town. Alone and bereft, he was on the verge of suicide when he noticed that within the ruins of the local library were thousands of books waiting to be read. Now with Time Enough at Last (the title to Serling’s Twilight Zone episode) to read as much as he wanted to without interruption or opprobrium, Bemis had just opened a book and was eager to begin reading when he reached to pick something up and his glasses fell to the ground and shattered.

250px-Time_Enough_at_Last.jpgBurgess Meredith as Henry Bemis

Bookbag, 2008

Lizania Cruz designed this canvas bag for Anthropologie. It was sent as a holiday gift to their better customers.

Cruz also created this:

Worn Stories, 2006 Found photograph, laser printed on fabric, then silkscreened as a dress pattern.

Thanks to swissmiss for the lead
We book folk are often socially inept or, if ept, we’d rather be reading: excepting the occasional clunker, a close relationship with books is very satisfying to the single/divorced and persnickety printslut.

But even the most cerebrally occupied must bow to the will of  the flesh and the desire for human company. Thus the appearance of personal ads in the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books.

The nature of the ads in each of these august publications is, however, decidedly different, and reveals the character of the British and American booklovers who place them. Without putting too fine a point on it, the Brits are much more direct, often brutally honest, eccentric and, yes, wittier than we are on this side of the Atlantic (book) Shelf.

“My animal passions would satisfy any woman, if only it weren’t for the filibustering of this damned colon. And the chafing of these infernal hospital sheets.  Write now to M, 83, for ward visiting hours and list of approved solids.”
Every bibliophile wants to hunt at Larry McMurtry’s Booked Up in Archer City, Texas.  At least you should.  It was my pleasure to organize such a trip for the toddling Bibliophiles of Oklahoma back in January.

archer city, tx.jpg If you’ve not heard of Booked Up, it is a world class book mine in an unlikely place.  McMurtry has bought and sold books for decades.  Sure, he’s a Pulitzer Prize/ Oscar winning writer, but in interviews and his recent memoir Books , he’s just another bibliophile bookseller.  McMurtry’s purpose relocating to his ancestral home was to establish an American book town (without a festival, which, “is the last thing I want”, according McMurtry). A fantastic interview spelling out his motivations and ideas on Nigel Beale’s Biblio File is here.

The National Museum of Health and Medicine [part of the National Library of Medicine] has just created a massive archive of medical illustrations and photography. Best yet, it is *all* free and housed at flicker.
Per a very good Wired article:
An Army archivist is undertaking a massive project to digitize and make public a unique collection of rare and sometimes startling military medical images, from the Civil War to Vietnam. This previously unreported archive at the Army-run National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C., contains 500,000 scans of unique images so far, with another 225,000 set to be digitized this year. Mike Rhode, the museum’s head archivist, is working to make tens of thousands of those images, which have been buried in the museum’s archive, available on Flickr. Working after hours, his team has posted a curated selection of almost 800 photos on the service already. “You pay taxes. These are your pictures,” Rhode said. “You should be able to see them.”
It is a remarkable collection. All images are being provided for free under a Creative Commons Attribution license. I look forward to see how this project evolves.
Thanks to CD at BoingBoing for the heads up.

Last summer Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). While well intentioned, being primarily a result of the toys being made with in China with lead paint scare that swept the country, CPSIA has potential catastrophic consequences for the book world. What’s the problem? Any book printed before 1986 becomes illegal in the hands of children.
As I cannot eat meals at home without a few savory print-based side dishes as accompaniment, I routinely have reading matter piled on my little dining room table.

Per usual, there are the latest issues of The New Yorker, New York, Macworld, Traps (a quarterly for drummers), etc. that require attention. Though these magazines, over time, sojourn, nomad-like, at various spots throughout my home, they always find their way back to the table.
As some may know, David and Cynthy of The Philadelphia Rare Books and Manuscripts Company suffered a tragic loss recently. On March 9, 2009, a fire tore through the shop consuming books and taking their two shop cats, Sessa and Thalia. The silver lining is that no humans were hurt, many of the books were unharmed and/or will be salvaged and the building itself appears to be structurally sound.

Our thoughts and best wishes go out to them. I can thinks of few things worse and hope all goes as well and as smoothly as possible.

Please note, they have indicated that their internet connection is currently flakey. That said, words of support and commiseration are seldom a bad thing and can be directed here. A short article, image and video can be found here.AOL video can be found here.
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Malin Källman is a product design student at Edinburgh College of Art. For her final project she is building a bookcase using a methodology she is calling ‘Design by Darwinism.’

Her goal is “to take as much as possible of the design process out of my own hands in order to create an object that is created for the user not for the designer.”
Display table at Wessel & Lieberman that holds many of the 21 New(er) Books We Like

For those who follow Book Patrol you’ve heard this song before. For a bookshop to survive in today’s rapidly changing landscape one must take a more integrated, holistic approach to bookselling. The days of being able to survive selling just new books, or to a lesser extent used books, are just about up. The current seismic tremors in the publishing world coupled with the new and emerging modes of content delivery just might be the straw that breaks the traditional bookstore’s back.
Many years ago, when I was a first-year high school English teacher, I overheard some of the veteran teachers talking in the faculty room of our school.  The conversation went something like this:

“These kids today. No self-discipline.”
“I haven’t taught a really smart class since 1987.”
“Kids these days don’t read, don’t care, and can’t write.”

This kind of conversation made me uncomfortable.  While I did  have the occasional difficult student -- several actually -- I liked most of my students and felt that for the most part they worked hard.  Because I had worked an office job I hated for a short time before becoming a teacher, I felt that teaching was a gift. I was lucky to be able to work in a classroom and to help others to see the what’s so great about good literature and to teach them to write and to work towards their goals of college or career.  I won’t lie and say every day was a good and perfect one or that I always achieved every goal I set or that all my students claimed me as their favorite teacher, but I really did feel like I was lucky to be able to have a job that allowed me to indulge my love of books and to share that appreciation with others, even with the reluctant students who felt books were unlovable and beyond comprehension.
I see by the papers a recent article in the Financial Times of London on the general subject of book theft, the occasion for the piece being three cases that achieved “high profile” status in Europe by virtue of the materials stolen, and for the stature of the people who committed the crimes. Indeed, the perpetrators have been described by some officials as “gentleman thieves,” a description that could well apply to Edward Forbes Smiley III, the dapper American dealer whose theft of 97 maps valued at $3 million from various repositories earned him a sentence in 2006 of three and a half years in federal prison.

The most recent case in Europe involves a 60-year-old Iranian businessman, Farhad Hakimzadeh, who was sentenced to two years in prison in January for having removed pages from rare books in the British and Bodleian libraries over a seven-year period. He did this, it was later learned, to improve imperfect copies in his own collection--“augmenting” them is the bibliographical term--which he could then sell at better prices on the open market. One of the books he vandalized contained a 500-year-old map painted by Hans Holbein, an artist in the court of Henry VIII, and valued at 32,000 pounds.

The two earlier cases discussed in the article involve the thefts in France of Stanislas Gosse, a 30-year-old former naval officer whose particular passion was for illuminated manuscripts plundered from the library of a monastery in eastern France, and the five-year feeding frenzy of one William Jacques, also known as Mr. Santoro, David Fletcher, and to those who finally apprehended him on charges of making off with rare books from the London Library, Cambridge University Library, and British Library valued at 1 million pounds, as the “Tome Raider.”

The details of these cases are fascinating, and those interested in learning more should read the Financial Times piece. But what puzzles me the most, I have to say, is not the disclosure of the crimes--since book theft has been with us for centuries--but for the incredulity of it all--as if such crimes are a recent phenomenon, and that anyone should be shocked that the perpetrators turn out to be “respectable” persons.

Let me note that there is a very good reason for why it is pretty difficult to go into the reading rooms of special collections libraries in much of the world these days. Bags and coats must be left outside, surveillance cameras are operating, and people are being watched. You can credit a good deal of that to the lessons learned from the twenty-year campaign of book theft undertaken by Stephen Carrie Blumberg, who I wrote about at length in “A Gentle Madness,” and who we can safely say was the quintessential book thief of the twentieth century. His toll over a twenty-year spree: 23,600 books stolen from 268 libraries in forty-five states, two Canadian provinces, and the District of Columbia, booty conservatively valued at the time of his arrest in 1990 at $20 million. Part of Blumberg’s MO, it should be noted--one way he gained the trust of libraries--was to masquerade as a visiting scholar.

I shall remember always the words of W. Dennis Aiken, the FBI special agent who supervised the investigation of the case:

“My conviction is that Steve Blumberg was going to get this stuff no matter what he had to do. He did nighttime burglaries. He defeated sophisticated alarm systems. He threw books out windows. He knew what was going on in the life of libraries, and he picked their weakest moments. I suppose if these people were willing to dig a fifty-foot hole in the ground and encase everything in concrete, he might not have been able to get in, but I wouldn’t bet on that either. This is a very clever man. Book theft was his life.”

Cautionary words if ever there were any.

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This clever webstrip, titled “Progress,” appeared at Penny Arcade earlier this week.

This is a test designed to determine your bookman’s I.Q. A score of 20 right should entitle you to consideration as the editor of the next edition of “The Bookman’s Glossary”; 18 or 19 right makes you a super-bookman. If you get 16 or 17 right, you are a top-flight bookman; 14 or 15 right, a competent bookman; 12 or 13 is fair; 10 or 11, a conditional-pass. No matter what your score, you can add to your bookman’s vocabulary and background by owning and referring frequently to the latest edition of “The Bookman’s Glossary.” (Bowker).
The story so far: In One Touch of Venus (Library): Odyssey of an Imprint, Part I we find Grove Press publisher Barney Rosset on the ropes, desperate for money, and, in a deal with his paperbacks distributor, Kable News, establishing Venus Library. Venus Library flounders, Kable News’ chief John Hayes seizes the imprint from Rosset, it becomes Venus Books, loses a a small fortune, and Hayes seeks a way out.

Enter Maurice Girodias.
With all the gloomy news about the publishing industry cutting back drastically on worthwhile releases in the face of pressing economic times--take a look at the most recent developments at one major New York house, where a new imprint devoted to pop culture and entertainment has been announced--it is gratifying to report on some fabulous books being released this spring that are truly worth spending valuable time with (dare I say, too, actually “worth the paper they’re printed on”?).

A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers From Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx, by Elaine Showalter; Alfred A. Knopf, 586 pages, $30.

Showalter.jpgI admit I’m a sucker for books about books, and that I am particularly partial to trenchant works of literary biography and literary criticism, especially when new ground is clearly being broken. Elaine Showalter, professor emerta from Princeton University and author previously of A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from From Bronte to Lessing (Princeton University Press, 1977), a standard work, now offers a penetrating history of American women writers in America, as the subtitle states, from the early seventeenth century, up to the present moment (a nice touch, that--Anne to Annie.)

“I believe that American women writers no longer need special constituted juries, softened judgment, unspoken agreements, or suppression of evidence in order to stand alongside the greatest artists in our literary heritage,” she writes, explaining her purpose. “What keeps literature alive, meaningful to read, and exciting to reach isn’t unstinting approval or unanimous admiration, but rousing argument and robust debate.”

Lighter Than Air: An Illustrated History of Balloons and Airships, by Tom D. Crouch; Johns Hopkins University Press, 191 pages, $35.

AirBalloon.jpgThis copiously illustrated overview of lighter than air aviation chronicles an adventurous period in human accomplishment with style and insight, focusing on the earliest attempts to take flight by way of inflated envelopes, with two French paper-makers, the brothers Jacques-Etienne and Joseph-Michel Montgolfier, leading the way in the 1780s. “Why did it take so long to learn to fly?” Tom Crouch, curator of aeronautics at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, asks.  “The Greek philosopher Archimedes (287-212 BC) explained the basic principle of buoyant flight more than twenty centuries before human beings first took the sky aboard balloons.” He offers a fascinating account of the thrilling quest for human flight.

Babylon.jpgBabylon, edited by I. L. Finkel and M. J. Seymour; Oxford University Press, 238 pages, $40.

Few names from antiquity conjure up images of exotic mystery and curiosity more than biblical Babylon, the city of the wondrous Hanging Gardens,the Tower of Babel, King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, the Ishtar Gate, despite the passage of 2,500 years since its fall. Located on the banks of the Euphrates River in what is now war-torn Iraq, what remains of the vanished city today are mostly dim memories and second-hand accounts passed on by such historians as Herodotus and Ctesias, and, of course, a range of exquisite artifacts that have been recovered over the years and removed to a number of great museums.

Irving Finkel and Michael Seymour have edited this comprehensive catalog issued in conjunction with what by all accounts has been a dazzling exhibition at the British Museum in London (it closes on March 15), showcasing treasures from numerous collections, the BM’s, of course, but also twenty-three other lenders, including the Louvre in Paris and the Vorderasiatisches in Berlin. “Babylon, in all its manifestations,” they write, “is at once remote to us and all around us. Like no other city, its history has become bound up with legend.”

History buffs, art buffs, and archaeology buffs alike with love this book.

One area I collect in is books about books.  A part of that collection includes book trade labels.  What is a book trade label?  If you’ve handled old books, you’ve likely noticed teeny-tiny labels typically on the front or rear endpaper.  They will often be less than an inch long and a half inch tall. 

I’m not really sure why, but it seems more natural to refer to these tiny bits of paper as tickets when associated with a bookbinder, and a label when it is from a bookseller. Perhaps because craftsmen use jobbing tickets and retailers label their merchandise. In the interest of casting my net wide, I refer to them all as book trade labels.  That was the nomenclature used when I found Seven Roads Book Trade Labels and realized I was not the only one interested in these gems.  Unfortunately, Seven Roads went dormant in June 2007.  However lost Seven Roads is, we gained the Bibliophemera blog, which often features labels.
We just posted our Top Twenty, our annual report on the top prices paid for books and manuscripts at auction last year, proving once again that people will pay top dollar for religion (Islamic manuscripts) and rock & roll (Lennon’s lyrics to “Give Peace a Chance”). Richard Goodman interviewed Abigail Rorer, whose wonderful book Mimpish Squinnies was honored at the Codex fair last month in Berkeley. We also found a completely driven collector (is there any other kind?), a neurologist in New Jersey, who has managed to assemble what may be the finest collection of American magazines anywhere. (So print may be disappearing, but not in this guy’s house!) Also, look for a piece by our maps columnist Derek Hayes on the desk Barack Obama uses in the Oval Office (why maps? read it and see), a nutty story about a lost Mormon journal; a preview of a contemporary book arts show in Seattle; and, as they say, there’s much, much more.

The historic documents specialist and ABAA member Seth Kaller (marked with a red arrow) has been involved in many events celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday, including attending the closing bell ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange.

In a recent post, I mentioned one of Canadian poet John Glasscoe’s novels, Fetish Girl by Sylvia Bayer, originally published in 1972 by Venus Library, and noted that Venus Library “evolved from Olympia Press- New York.”

This is sort of true but far from the whole story. The history of Venus Library is much more tortured and I’ll have to get on the rack and stretch out a bit to tell it.
Those of us based downstairs in the United States often neglect our upstairs neighbors in Canada who take a lot of ribbing from us for being from, well, Canada. The land of maple leaves has, however, produced some great literature, in addition to being a fertile breeding ground for comedians (think SCTV and the initial cast for Saturday Night Live).

We do not, alas, hear enough about the Canadian literary scene. Brian Busby is doing something about it.

“A writer, ghostwriter, écrivain public and bibliophile, I’m the author of Character Parts: Who’s Really Who in Canadian Literature (2003), and editor of In Flanders Fields and Other Poems of the First World War (2005) and Great Canadian Speeches (2008). There are several other odds and ends, some of which I dare not speak.”
Recently, CBS Sunday Morning gave us 6 minutes of Bibliomania at it’s finest with this report from Paris.

It begins with a trip to the apartment of a self-professed bibliomaniac. This guy is first ballot.

Then we get some time with the dynamic duo of John Baxter and Martin Stone.

Baxter gives us a little evolutionary history of one type of collector; the modern firsts collector - how one goes from simply a reader - to hardcover first edition- to a signed copy - to advanced proofs. As Baxter says in his 2003 book chronicling his biblio-escapades, A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict, “One rationale of book collecting is that it brings you closer to the writer’s you admire.” Baxter then breaks out his copy of the The Great Gatsby in a dust jacket; one of the true hi-spots of modern literature.

Then we move on to Martin Stone, the legendary rocker turned legendary book scout. We watch as he scouts a two volume set which by the end of the segment he has resold for a $300 profit! Why does Stone live in Paris? “The best books in the world are in France” says Stone who goes on to sum up his relationship with books by saying “I need to have many more books than I am going to read.”

Baxter and Stone are not strangers to one another. Baxter’s book A Pound of Paper is dedicated to Stone and he’s mentioned throughout as a sort of guiding light for Baxter’s obsession. After the American edition of Pound of Paper was released Baxter and Stone came to America. Though touted as a promotional tour for the book part of the plan was for Baxter to follow Stone around as he scouted the West coast and then write a book about it. One of their first stops was Seattle and Wessel & Lieberman. It was quite a treat for us and an honor to be part of their biblio-escapades. I am not sure what happened to that project but it’s good to know that Martin Stone’s scouting tour of America was chronicled.

Nigel Burwood’s post on Stone over at Bookride
Piece in the San Francisco Chronicle that appeared during Baxter and Stone’s visit to the Bay area.
Auction Guide