April 2009 Archives

Via Boing Boing, I discovered this brilliantly bibliolicious make-believe map of “The Land of Books.” As the Strange Maps blog described it:

“This map by German illustrator Alphons Woelfle (1938) shows the extent and the divisions of Bücherland (the Land of Books). The Land consists of about half a dozen distinct territories, most of which are explicitly named: Leserrepublik (Reader’s Republic), Vereinigte Buchhandelsstaaten (United States of Booksellers), Recensentia (a realm for Reviewers), Makulaturia (Waste Paper Land), and Poesia (Poetry) [...] This map was possibly commissioned by the Heimeran Verlag (publishing house) of Munich, a frequent employer of Mr Woelfle’s artisanship - although no information could be found relating to the specific circumstances of this map. One can only presume that it illustrated a book about books, or more precisely, a book about publishing. The look and feel of the map is definitely older than its mid-20th-century age; in a positive case of antiquarianism (i.e. lending something respectability by increasing its age), it has been made to resemble the maps of earlier times (17th, 18th century, I’d say).”

Click through to see the full image.  Someone really needs to track down the copyright holder because this needs to be a poster.
Verunglückte Hoffnung, 2008. Lead and pottery. 51 1/4 x 67 x 78 3/4 inches

The Rome branch of the Gagosian Gallery is currently featuring an exhibit of new work by German artist and Book Patrol favorite Anselm Keifer. The exhibit is titled “Hortus Philosophorum”

The exhibition includes a group of eight sculptures that “evoke some of the central themes in his work deriving from his assiduous study of poetry, mythology, and cultural history.” Each of the sculptures incorporate Kiefer’s signature lead books.

Danae, 2008. Lead, gold granules and aluminum sunflowers. 53 1/4 x 63 x 149 1/2 inches

“By constructing elaborate scenographies that cross the boundaries of art and literature, painting and sculpture, Kiefer engages the complex events of history, the ancestral epics of life, death, and the cosmos, and the fragile endurance of the sacred and the spiritual amid the ongoing destruction of the world.”

More images here

Previously on Book Patrol:
The Book , Anselm Kiefer and the Universe
Anselm Kiefer and the Book
Searching for a German Identity: Anselm Kiefer’s Homage to Paul Celan
Anselm Kiefer Moves into the Louvre

A fine copy in near fine dust jacket of the first edition of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie was appraised at $10,000 by the members of the Southern California Chapter of the ABAA this weekend at its Rare Books Round Up - Free Appraisal booth during the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the largest book event in the United States with attendance routinely at 100,000+ for the weekend.

Why the high appraisal? The copy was signed by Williams, plus each member of the original Broadway cast (including the immortal Laurette Taylor), as well as the composer of the original production’s music.

Who, you may ask, composed the music for the original production of The Glass Menagerie and what’s the big deal about the composer’s signature to this copy? Two words: Paul Bowles, who, before embarking on his career as a novelist, was a successful composer of theatrical incidental music. A student of Aaron Copeland, Roger Sessions and Virgil Thompson during the 1920s-1930s, Bowles’ first visit to Morocco - so closely associated with him through his writings - occurred in 1931 when, traveling with Copeland in Europe, Gertrude Stein suggested that they visit the North African country.

Upon his return to New York, Bowles rose to prominence as a composer of theatrical music, working for Orson Welles and John Houseman, and others, becoming the go-to composer for literary dramas of his era. He composed the music for plays by Saroyan, Hellman, Koestler, Werbel, and Rostand as well as productions of Shakespeare. By the early 1940’s, he had also added respected music critic to his resumé.

This copy of The Glass Menegerie is, without question, the collector’s dream for this book; they don’t get any better.

Other noteworthy books were offered for appraisal, one of which is rarely seen: A first American edition, first printing, first issue, in the publisher’s full sheep binding, of Huckleberry Finn. The bibliographical nightmare that is this book is well-known. Copies are usually seen in a mixed issue, so to have a “pure” copy is quite extraordinary. In the original green pictorial cloth binding, “pure” copies can fetch upwards of $50,000 - $75,000 and more. Less desirable in sheep, similar copies can go for $25,000 -$35,000. The copy presented for appraisal was, alas, in poor condition. Estimated value: $6,000-$8,000.

A fine copy of the signed, limited Presentation Edition of Charles Lindbergh’s The Spirit of St Louis flew in below the radar, estimated value: $2,000-$3,000. And, finally, an inscribed, fine copy in very good dust jacket of Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March goose-stepped up to the Rare Books Round Up booth. Bellow didn’t sign very many books. Estimated value: $2000.

It has become axiomatic that the first life-sucking, brain-pan par boiling, walking on the sun sweltering weekend of the year in Los Angeles will occur during the Festival of Books. Providing further evidence of global climate change, this year visitors (and exhibitors, to be sure) to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, held annually on the UCLA campus during the last weekend of April, were spared. With sunny skies and temperatures in the mid to high 60s, it was a two-day dream, particularly for the man who left the Festival with a million mega-watt smile, his copy of The Glass Menagerie carefully tucked into his briefcase.


Three brief notes for budding collectors, based upon routine appearances at the Festival of Books ABAA Rare Books Round Up: Never store your books in plastic storage bags, zip-lock or otherwise. If the publisher is Grosset & Dunlop, don’t bother bringing the book for appraisal; it’s a reprint. And that copy of Gone With The Wind? The copyright page has to state: “Printed May 1936” for it to be a first edition, first printing, and the dust jacket has to have GWTW listed as an upcoming book in the right column on the rear panel for it to be a first state DJ.

I would just list to pick up where Chris left off and recommend that anyone reading this - whether dealer, collector, librarian, or humble bibliophile - consider attending this year’s Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar. I graduated in 2006 and quite simply my business would not be anywhere close to where it is today without my having attended. It is no exaggeration to say that the Seminar easily saved me two or three years of effort and learning on my own. Between the advice given, information bestowed, contacts made, and inspiration received it is an investment in time and money well worth making. Indeed, in the years since I attended I have made back what I spent on my trip many times over simply through the books I’ve sold to people whom I met via the Seminars. What I wrote shortly after returning from the Seminars, I still agree with and re-post here for anyone thinking about registering:

I’m a bit overwhelmed at the thought of coherently summing up the experience of this year’s Annual Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, which I was lucky enough to attend. So much is packed into the week. So I’m just going to kind of list my thoughts in the order they occur to me -

- The most common question I’ve gotten from other booksellers is “Was it worth it?” To which the simple answer is, you better &%$#@(&%-ing believe it was. Every penny, every hour, every bit of lost sleep was worth it.

- The seminar struck a difficult balance between being useful for the newbie while not boring the more experienced sellers. They managed, in my opinion, to engage both the more advanced attendees as well as those just beginning. This is, of course, a testament to the faculty.

- Was a surprisingly diverse group. Many attendees were literally just starting out. Others had been working at it for years. A few open shops. I was also interested to see that there were a fair number of librarians and pure collectors in attendance. I was also struck by the number of (like me) younger students. Still a minority (about ten of about fifty), but as someone who’s used to usually being the youngest person in a group of booksellers, a nice change. I think part of the liveliness of the discussions stemmed from what was a reasonably eclectic group.

- In a strange strictly-speaking kind of way, the information given during the seminars was in some ways the least of the entire experience. Which is not to say the information wasn’t invaluable, or that this alone wasn’t worth the price of admission all by itself. It was. But for me, two other elements are what really made the seminars outstanding...

- The first was how what the faculty taught told you at least as much about what you DIDN’T know as what you did, and in this way sketched out the boundaries of your expertise while simultaneously inspiring (at least me) to continue to learn more.

- And second, the other amazing part of the week were the other attendees. I think I learned more from the other “seminarians” than anyone else. In addition, it was wonderful to finally be able to talk with other people who know what you’re talking about. We all basically work alone in a business that most people don’t understand. What a relief then to talk books and not have to explain what you’re talking about. Haven’t laughed so hard as I did last week in a LONG time. In addition, the other students are, of course, the people who will be your colleagues for the foreseeable future. Good people to know.

- Highlights? Faculty member Terry Belanger. Erudite, engaging, a bit eccentric and with the driest sense of humor I think I’ve ever encountered, he made what were often fairly dull topics (bibliography, collation, etc) utterly fascinating.

- Also: good bookscouting. Paid for my plane ticket with a few finds from our various field trips. Huzzah!

In short, one of the best week’s of my life. Can’t recommend it too highly. Beg, borrow, or steal but go go go. You won’t regret it. Happy to answer other questions for anyone who’s interested.

As Chris pointed out, there are many scholarships available (indeed more than ever before). But even without scholarship support, any bookdealer or bibliophile looking to expand their knowledge, grow their business, or meet their colleagues would be well advised to attend.
In the spring of 2007, only a few months after I had established Book Hunter’s Holiday, my mentor encouraged me to try to attend the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar.  He’d taken it himself several years earlier and highly recommended it because of the diverse amount of topics covered by the faculty:  buying books, selling books (both brick and mortar and online), pricing books, auctions, how to judge condition, the traditional terminology for bibliographic description, technology for bookselling, marketing one’s business, taxes and accounting, appraisals, and book conservation.  

“Sounds interesting,” I remember telling him. “I’d like to go, but I don’t see how I can possibly be away from home for five days. What will I do with my kids while I’m gone?  And I’ve only just started my business. I’m not exactly pulling in the big bucks. How am I going to pay for it?”

“There are scholarships, you know,” he told me.

I went home and checked the Seminar’s website. Sure enough, there were several scholarships and partial scholarships available. After looking over the list of faculty, which includes booksellers of all types and even a Librarian of Congress, I decided to apply for the Seminar and a scholarship. Though it would take a lot of logistical coordinating, with a little help from my husband and our parents, we could get care for the kids during the week I would be away.  “That’s it,” I decided.  “If I’m going to be taken seriously as a bookseller, I have to do everything I can to learn the trade, and the best people to learn from are those who are already in the trade.  I’m going to that seminar, no matter what it takes.”  

And the rest is history. I did get a partial scholarship and I worked hard to sell enough books to cover the rest of the costs. There’s nothing like the reward of a week in book heaven to motivate a person to sell more books!

The week spent at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar was nothing short of fantastic.  Though there are other rare book schools at UCLA and University of Virginia that teach about rare books and their history, the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar is the only one of which I know to teach people about the various types of bookselling available (open shop, online, specialist dealer, generalist dealer, catalogue-only, etc.), about what is needed to be considered professional, and about how to get established in the trade.

I came away from my week in Colorado energized, inspired, and ready to make plans for my business. I also left having met and gotten to know about 60 other booksellers with whom I still keep in touch. I’ve shared booths at book fairs with a few of them, bought books with a few of them, and sold books to a few of them.  It’s nice not to be the only new person trying to establish an antiquarian book business, and this network of colleagues has been a helpful and reassuring presence more times than I can count in the past two years.  Moreover, the excellent faculty is always available to answer questions during the seminar and are very generous with their time.  They even have an email list that is open to all alumni of the Seminar, a place where one can go to ask (or answer) questions.  I remember being impressed by the faculty’s ability to satisfactorily address both those students (like me) who were brand new to the trade and those who already had some experience.

With the shrinking of the US economy, you may find your book business shrinking as well.  You might be thinking, as I was in 2007, that now is not the time to spend money on something that does not involve selling actual books.  You might be thinking that the last thing you need to do is take five days away from your business.  If your life situation is like mine, you’re might also be thinking that it is near impossible to arrange for kids and family members to be taken care of so you can travel to an antiquarian book seminar.

I’m here to tell you that such thinking is just plain wrong.  Investing in your knowledge of the trade is necessary to your future success in the trade.  When I’ve been confronted with seemingly unanswerable bookselling questions, that seminar has saved me from re-inventing the printing press -- on many occasions.

Now is the perfect time for booksellers, whether aspiring or new in the trade or just wanting to learn more than what you already know, to sign up for the 2009 Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar. Among the many already available, there are three additional scholarships being offered this year, so there’s no excuse not to try for one of those as well.

Whether you’re already a bookseller or you’re just wondering how to start selling books, click here to see the list of faculty, topics to be covered, housing and travel information, scholarships available, and applications.  You can also read comments from alumni on their experiences at the Seminar. This year’s seminar will be held from Sunday, August 2 - Friday, August 7, 2009.  The deadline to apply is July 1, but there is a $100 discount to those who apply by May 1.  

If you want to be taken seriously in business of selling antiquarian books, the Seminar is a very worthwhile investment.

Go on. Apply. You never know how far you can go until you try.

See you at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar!

The Silk Road, sex and World War II, both behind closed doors, and fascinating curiosities of literature--what could be better for a week that begins in the satisfying aftermath of a three-game sweep  of the New York Yankees by the Red Sox at Fenway Park. With the Celtics and the Bruins more than holding their own in the playoffs, it’s a great time to be a Boston sports fan. Between innings, however, and on travel days for the others, there remains plenty of down time to dip into some really good books.

Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present,
by Christopher I. Beckwith; Princeton University Press, 472 page, $35.

EmpSilk.jpgA region often overlooked in the grand continuum of world history--a huge, landlocked part of the world between Europe and Asia that has been home to such empires as those of Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan and the Mongols, Tamerlane and the Timurads, the Anatolians, the Tibetans, and the Scythians--is given its just due in this majestic work that spans a sweep of five thousand years, from the Bronze Age to the present. In the process, Christopher Beckwith, a professor of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University, tackles a number of misconceptions, not least among them that the peoples of an international trading network in Central Eurasia known collectively as the Silk Road were primarily nomadic, warfaring, barbarous and generally slothful groups. Indeed, he argues that for several critical centuries in the development of global civilization--and despite incursions by Persians, Greeks, Arabs, and Chinese, among others--Central Eurasia led the world in science, economics, and the arts. In the process of illuminating this essential piece of the human past, Beckwick constructs a scrupulously researched narrative that is wholly accessible, and demands close attention.

Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love, by Thomas Maier; Basic Books, 411 pages, $27.50

MastSex.jpgIf the subject is about how a single book has the power to impact the way people think and comport themselves in intimate relationships, then you have to include the release in 1966 of Human Sexual Response by William Masters and Virginia Johnson, a blockbuster with international consequences that was followed four years later by a powerful followup, Human Sexual Inadequacy. Prior to these books, what people knew about the mechanics of sexual relationships came from text books. Their first-hand reports of human sexuality, reported clinically in their books--Masters and Johnson observed 10,000 sexual acts in pursuit of their data--changed the entire paradigm. Thomas Maier--the biographer previously of another inhabitant of this exclusive group of attitude-changing authors, the baby doctor Dr. Benjamin Spock--has written a compelling profile of the two pioneers that concentrates on their own relationship and working patterns. Altogether a fascinating book.

World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis, and the West, by Laurence Rees; Pantheon Books, 442 pages, $35.

ReesArt.JPGAs creative director for the BBC, documentary filmmaker Laurence Rees has produced several television series on war and the atrocities that usually follow, including “The Nazis: A Warning from History,” “”War of the Century,” “Horror in the East,” and “Auschwitz: The Nazis and the ‘Final Solution.’”  He also is the author of five books on the same subjects, and was the recipient three years ago of the British Book Award for History . This effort--which is being released to coincide with a PBS series that will air on three successive Wednesdays beginning May 6--draws on the testimony of more than a hundred witnesses to the events which had been kept secret for decades, only available recently since the opening of the archives of the former Soviet Union. Though not likely to alter prevailing evaluations of the war, the book does offer fresh insights on the relationship between Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill.

Curiosities of Literature: A Feast for Book Lovers, by John Sutherland, illustrations by Mark Rowson; Skyhorse Publishing, 273 pages, $22.95.

CuriosLit.jpgLast--but not by any means least--we have this thoroughly engaging compendium of literary arcania (and plenty of significa as well) to salute. British academic John Sutherland has culled every manner of primary source to unearth such nuggets as the longest novel in the English language (Samuel Richardson’s “Clarissa,” c. 1 million words), an interesting enough fact in its own right, but for him the springboard for a learned essay that explores the phenomenon of “writing long” in depth, citing Stephen King’s “The Stand” (464,216 words) and Vikram Seth’s “A Suitable Boy” (591,554) as particularly egregious examples of tomes that require, as a condition of being read, the development of “considerable upper body strength.” In a chapter he calls “The Body of Literature,” Sutherland tells of the battle among provincial forces for the right to bury the corpse of Thomas Hardy, with a compromise finally being hammered out that provided for the novelist’s remains to be divided among home-town loyalists in Stinsford--they got the heart--and Westminster Abbey, which got the cremated ashes of what was left. Similarly, Lord Byron’s heart was interred at Missolonghi, where the swashbuckling Romantic died in defense of Greek independence, while his body--too carnal, apparently, for sacred interment in the sanctity of Poet’s Corner--was laid to rest in the family vault. This is a really fun book, and smartly written to boot. Highly recommended.

Public Collectors is the brainchild of Marc Fisher. Its goal is to allow “large collections of materials to become accessible so that knowledge, ideas and expertise can be freely shared and exchanged,” and is “founded upon the concern that there are many types of cultural artifacts that public libraries, museums and other institutions and archives either do not collect or do not make freely accessible.”

Tremendous potential here for the book world. Creates an opportunity for collectors to add their wares to the public domain allowing the gems of their collections to be accessed by scholars, researchers and other interested parties.

Now if we can get some of these collectors or other like-minded souls to partner with libraries and special collections to help them get their backlog processed we would really be on to something.


Documentation of Bibles Stolen From Hotels

Artists’ Books: Collection of Anthony Elms, Chicago, IL, USA

Artists’ Books & Ephemera Collection of Philip von Zweck, Chicago, IL, USA

Thanks to manystuff.org for the lead
Last weekend, on a visit to Portland, ME, I ran into one of those little books that just grabs ahold of you in the shop and won’t let go. I don’t know if there’s a name for this sort of book - you know the type, the one you know will be yours as soon as you pick it up, even if you can’t always explain why ...

This one is Abrégé de l’Histoire Ancienne, en Particulier de l’Histoire Grecque, suivi d’un abrégé de la fable, a l’usage des Elèves de l’Ecole Militaire (A Paris: chez le veuve Nyon, Libraire, rue de Jardinet, An 10, ou MDCCCII [1802]). It’s one of a series of small texts produced for the use of the students of the École Militaire in Paris beginning in the 1770s. It’s in French. I don’t even read French.

Pics 219.jpgBut it’s a fascinating book. It’s bound in pasteboards covered in what appears to be waste parchment (later stained or painted to produce the colored pattern). The old parchment, however, is almost entirely taken up with manuscript writing - which, from the way it overlaps the edges of the boards, was clearly there prior to the parchment’s being attached to the cover boards. I can’t make out much of the writing, which appears to be in French (if anybody wants to have a go, let me know and I’ll get you some hi-res images), but I like it.

That’s interesting in and of itself, and there’s still more. Several previous owners have madePics 220.jpg this book their own. Benjamin Duprat signed his named on the front pastedown, adding the date “14 fevrier 1812.” Duprat also signed the rear pastedown, and glued the letters of his last name there, ransom-note style. I still have some tracking down to do on Duprat, but it’s possible that he’s the same Benjamin Duprat who went on to become a well-known publisher and bookseller in Paris in the mid-19th century. If anyone has any information on that Duprat, I’d be delighted to receive it.

Other owner’s marks include an early inked list on the front pastedown of the fourteen rulers of Persia from Cyrus the Great (550-529 BC) to Alexander the Great (330-323 BC), and a later inscription on the recto of the front flyleaf: “Lucy D. Waterman / New York, July 1896.”

Sometimes it’s not the content that matters. It’s the story. And this little book has a great story to tell. What’s your book with the great story? Or, what’s the book that you picked up off the shelf and knew immediately would be yours?

Earth Day, 2009.

Nell Greenfieldboyce’s feature Judging a Book (Bag) By Its Cover on NPR’s All Things Considered gives us a glimpse into the world of Caitlin Phillips.

For five years now Phillips has been transforming discarded books into functional purses.

Why purses?

“The book kind of pretty much decided what form it was going to be,” she says. “The spine becomes the bottom of the purse, because I keep the cover completely intact.” She adds handles and a vintage button to match.”


Book most often requested - Pride and Prejudice

Books out of bounds-

Phillips “won’t cut up the Quran, although she will sometimes cut up a Bible, especially if it’s a custom order from someone who wants to commemorate a well-loved copy that has fallen apart after years of use” and “For a long time, she wouldn’t cut up Fahrenheit 451, “because the irony was just overwhelming, to cut up a book about destroying books.”

Phillips’ natural inclination leads her more toward the preservation than the altering of books. “Growing up, Phillips read constantly and was taught to treat books as almost sacred. She would never write in the margins or dog-ear the pages” then “a job at a used bookstore taught her that every year, huge numbers of out-of-date or damaged books are just tossed in dumpsters.” Now 500-750 books a year are reclaimed by Phillips.

The NPR piece also includes a video of Philips at work and a 3 minute podcast.

More at Rebound Designs
Something happened to Maurice Girodias when he moved Olympia Press to New York during the late 1960s.

A bold and brave publisher in Paris but with a self-destructive streak, he would routinely scamper amongst cow-pies and deliberately splat a few; he was cavalier with business and casual regarding ethics. When he arrived in New York, he upped the ante by playing hopscotch in a mine field.

In September of 1969, Simon and Schuster published The Seven Minutes by Irving Wallace. This was Wallace’s novel concerning obscenity and censorship, its plot centering upon a bookseller accused of selling copies of a fictitious obscene book titled, The Seven Minutes by J.J. Jadway. As part of his research, Wallace had interviewed Girodias, at the time the world’s most notorious publisher with Barney Rosset of Grove Press a close second.

Girodias was tipped to the upcoming release of Wallace’s book and its content. He was not happy about the way Wallace had handled the Girodias-based character of Christian Leroux, a sleazy Paris publisher who had been the “original” publisher of Wallace’s fictitious The Seven Minutes by J.J. Jadway. So unhappy was he that Girodias had a book quickly written purporting to be The “Original” Seven Minutes by J.J. Jadway that the Wallace book was based upon.

Additionally, in a grand, single-finger salute to Wallace, Girodias wrote an inflammatory Preface, which told the “real” story behind The Seven Minutes, of how he got a hold of the original manuscript, and how rotten he thought Wallace’s novel was. He added a blurb to the front cover of the book, too, just to make sure Wallace got the message:

The Last and the Greatest Underground Erotic Masterpiece...On which Irving Wallace Based His Bestselling Novel.”

Suffice it to say, Wallace and Simon and Schuster got the message and they were not amused. They took legal action against Girodias, and the court ruled that Girodias had deliberately produced a book guaranteed to confuse the public and do harm to the publisher and the reputation of the author.

Girodias was ordered to destroy all 150,000 copies of the book’s print run. In practical terms this was done by tearing off the front covers to provide proof and pulping the now defaced books.

Thus this book, with its great backstory, has become one of the most rare and desirable books in all of erotic literature.

And so I recently decided to conduct a census to determine just how many copies of this exceedingly scarce book were still extant.

Amy Wallace and her brother David Wallachinsky report that there is one copy, perhaps two, boxed up and in storage along with other books and items from their father’s estate. Irving Wallace’s personal copy(s): Monster association!

A private collector has one intact copy. I’d heard about this copy but did not know the owner. In a bizarre coincidence, he recently found me in regard to another matter. We established a correspondence and soon, in relation to O7M, he wrote: “I got it mail order. When I was collecting Olympia Press/Ophelia Press I had set up a notification of all new listings, for those publishers, on Abebooks.com. When the listing for The Original Seven Minutes by JJ Jadway came up I bought it. It was years ago but I didn’t have to pay much for it $15 or $20. Sorry but I can’t remember the bookseller involved.”

An amazing bargain; the bookseller clearly didn’t know what he had and how rare it was.

The actual author of Girodias’ The Original Seven Minutes by J.J. Jadway, Michael Bernet, reports that he has three intact copies, and one with the cover removed.

So, a total of  six copies accounted for. There may two or three other intact copies in the hands of former employees of Giroldias. So, we have a strong estimate of nine intact copies extant.

But, at the end of his note to me, Michael Bernet declared that “I had them before they were condemned, unlike Girodias’s partner who stole them from storage.”
Ah, the mysterious and mythical missing box. This apocryphal tale has been floating around for decades with no solid evidence of the magic box of fifty’s actual existence.

Until now.

Continuing the census, I asked a fellow I’ve been acquainted with for twenty five years, an erotica collector of some repute and casual scholar who once interviewed Girodias, was a  part-time now an occasional dealer who has not and will never list through third-party aggregators, about how many extant copies of  O7M he was aware of. To which he replied:

“Girodias did not remember how many boxes were shipped before the Court Order, but Girodias did give a full box of 50 copies to his partner [Ah! Stolen or gifted? Another choice tidbit about this book]. When he died access to them passed to a person very close to me. I can attest that the box of 50 mint copies was gifted by Girodias. My first mint copy came from this box.”

To which I replied, “Your first mint copy?”

His response:

“The late bookseller Seymour Hacker secretly purchased dozens of mint copies of the first edition of LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER from the lover of the deceased publisher. (Told to me by Hacker). For years he quietly put up a copy for auction every six months or so. This way he kept the price of the book in the thousands of dollars. It is enough for any one to know that I have at least one copy of ‘Original Seven Minutes’ in both mint and ‘front cover removed’ condition. It makes no economic sense to divulge how many total copies I have.”

The ethical sense appears to be beyond him. This jus’ ain’t right.

Thus, The Original Seven Minutes is not a scarce book. With at least fifty mint copies extant, it is not even a rare book. With that many mint condition copies, a premium can’t be placed on condition; almost every copy is brand new. Any copies in less than mint condition are the true rarities and, theoretically, should turn condition issues on their head.

The paucity of surviving copies in the marketplace of the first edition of O7M and their price is the result of the deliberate creation of an artificial shortage.

Making the Market

“Common sense tells us that the only way to increase the value of diamonds is to make them scarce, that is to reduce production” (Ernest Oppenheimer, diamond miner and marketer whose business would be swallowed by the De Beers cartel).

Until recently, De Beers completely controlled the international market for industrial- and jewelry-grade diamonds. Far from what we’ve been led to believe, diamonds are not rare. With the exception of large, multiple carat stones of exceptional clarity, color (meaning no color at all), and brilliance, diamonds are common. It was De Beers’ paramount marketing strategy to control the price of diamonds by withholding their supply from the markerplace.

It is one thing for a rare book dealer to buy up as many copies of a genuinely rare book as they can acquire to set the market price. I have done this myself when, finding that there were only three copies of a certain book being offered worldwide on the Internet, I bought them all. I “made the market” for a book that was quite rare and, for a number of reasons, had been previously unknown to collectors of this particular genre of literature and possessed a degree of importance. Years later and long after my dealer involvement in that genre of collecting, that book remains quite rare with only a copy or two surfacing every now and then.

It is quite another thing to deliberately sell copies of a reputedly scarce book at an exorbitant price when you know that the book is actually common because you have access to four dozen or so from a private, clandestine stash and want to prevent your stratospheric price from nose-diving into Earth at Mach II, which would be a virtual certainty if the secret got out.  The operative plan seems to be to sell the last of the remaining copies on the day of death. Only afterward, while the dealer’s carcass rots, when collectors begin to talk to each other - as like-minded collectors always do - will they discover that they’ve been had, big-time, that, far from being the coolest collector on the planet with a mint copy of a legendary rarity, they’re just another collector with a book that everyone has; that the mint condition book they were told was scarce beyond belief in any condition and paid well into four figures for is actually worth, at best, $50-$100.

At that point, the only recourse left to the collector will be to visit the cemetery and autograph the dealer’s grave in yellow. 

Thumbnail image for Seven Minutes[1].jpg                 The reprint, OPS/3                                                     The controversial first edition, OPS/1     

Girodias lost a fortune when he was ordered to destroy all copies. But he made up for some his losses by issuing another edition of The Original Seven Minutes under the title Seven Erotic Minutes, without the offending Preface, without the J.J. Jadway byline, and without the wrapper blurb associating the book with Wallace’s. With the news of the box of fifty copies of The Original Seven Minutes, that reprint may now be rarer than the original edition.

It may come to pass that more than 59 collectors will want to add the book to their collection. At that point, another generation down the line, the book may become scarce in the marketplace again. But it will be true scarcity, not bogus, as this example of professional misbehavior demonstrates.


My thanks to Stuart Fanning for providing images of the two earliest editions of Girodias’ Seven Minutes.

The facts concerning the case of Wallace & Simon and Schuster v Girodias/Olympia Press are drawn from the Introduction to Patrick J. Kearney’s A Bibliography of the Publications of the New York Olympia Press (Privately Printed, Santa Rosa, 1988).

By pure coincidence, it has been my good fortune to participate in the re-dedication of two libraries recently, the Cushing Memorial Library at Texas A&M in March--which I wrote about in this space a couple of weeks ago, and which will be the subject of my next Fine Books & Collections column--and the Morris Library at Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale, Ill. just last week. Especially heartening in both instances is the fact that each institution has made clear an unequivocal belief that books as we know them still matter a great deal, and that the library remains the center and soul of their universities.

At SIU, the commitment involved the appropriation of $56 million five years ago to take a building that had been built in the 1950s and make it suitable for use in the twenty-first century, quite a courageous stand for a publicly supported institution to make at a time when so many others feel that computers are the only way to go. The 235,000-square-foot structure is the central repository for the university’s three million volumes--SIU is an Association of Research Libraries (ARL) member--and maintains an extensive battery of terminals and laptop connections to satisfy all electronic needs. Fully accessible to the 25,000 enrolled students, the library also serves the general public, giving the taxpayers a mighty bang for their buck.

An attractive building located at the virtual crossroads of the campus, the Morris Library has been newly fitted with common rooms that make it particularly inviting as a gathering place; there is a coffee and food gallery, of course, but also eleven nicely appointed group study areas that are ideal for reading and contemplation. During a walking tour provided by Dean of Libraries David Carlson, I was especially taken by what he called the “time out” room--a soundproofed cubicle where students can take a break from tedious routines without annoying others.

Carbondale is in the extreme southern section of the state, just 96 miles from St. Louis, 330 miles from Chicago. To be expected, special collections are strong in the history of the Middle Mississippi Valley, but there are outstanding holdings too in American philosophy, twentieth-century world literature, British and American expatriate writers of the 1920s, the Irish Literary Renaissance, and freedom of the press and censorship issues. Rare Books Librarian Melissa Hubbard provided a nice introduction to some of her favorite items, including a Kelmscott Chaucer, several of the nine first-edition copies the library has of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” and a few incunables that any curator would be pleased to have in the vault.

In anticipation of my visit to SIU, Gordon Pruett, editor of Cornerstone, a quarterly publication  of the Morris Library, did a lengthy Q&A with me that was published in the current edition of the magazine on pages 4-5 and 11; click here for a PDF.

All in all, it was a very busy trip, but there was still time for a whirlwind visit to the local second-hand/antiquarian book store, a terrific place called The Bookworm, conveniently located at the Eastgate Shopping Center on East Walnut Street, owned and operated by Carl and Kelly Rexroad. I found three books from their stock of 50,000 volumes that added to the weight of my suitcase, and thank them for the terrific job they did to make for such a successful signing following my public talk.
click to enlarge

A librarian digging through the archives at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford has found the earliest known example of a publisher’s dust jacket. The dust jacket, which had been separated from the book it was created for, was found bound with other booktrade ephemera.

It belonged to:

Friendship’s Offering for 1830. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1829

Mark Godburn has more on this historic discovery at his website, 19th Century Dust Jackets.

The previous record holder, discovered by John Carter in 1934, was a jacket issued in 1832 on the English annual, The Keepsake for 1833.

Image courtesy of Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
4:26AM : Troubled dreams. No sleep. Toss, turn. Aches, pains. What is happening 2 me?

5:03AM : I feel like I’m sleeping in a carapace. I’d kill for a Tempurpedic mattress.

6:01AM : I awake from troubled dreams into troubled life. Oy, again?

7:12AM : Is it me or is my entire family slathered in insect-repellant? And when did Black Flag get into the scented candle business?

7:34AM : I hear my parents talking about me as if I’m not here. What’s a “roach motel?”

7:46AM : WOTFS!*

8:07AM : “U can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” Pop says, intent unclear. Whatever, I’m starving and a nice, fat Diptera Psyhcodidae sounds pretty good 2 me; I’ve always dug 2-winged head-cases and now I’m simply ravenous for them. But 4 breakfast?

8:26AM : I’m so lonely I could scream. But I can’t. I used 2 be able 2 say, “I slit a sheet, a sheet I slit and on that slitted sheet I sit” 3 times fast w/o mistakes but now I can’t even express a phoneme much less a syllable.

9:03 : Fight w/Mom. The network of pheromone trails I laid down on walls, floor, ceiling and her side of the bed has upset her. Was it necessary 2 scour all with bleach? How does she expect anyone to find me?

 9:05AM : I’ve left home. It was that or becoming slime on the bottom of Mom’s shoe. Y does she hate me so much?

11:14AM : I crawl these means streets in search of social intercourse. I’ve given up on the other. How would you feel if your partner tried 2 kill you with a sharp axial appendage during afterplay?

11:15AM : Where do I find these nut jobs?

11:19AM : Under rocks.

11: 20AM : Note to self: avoid rocks, sleep under stars. Scarlet Johansson would be nice.

12:04PM : Oh joy! Oh rapture! I have found a colony of like-bodied folks just like me. But I sense something sinister afoot or, more accurately, a-sticky pad

12:59PM : I’m being followed. I can’t see anybody but I know, I can feel them.

1:23PM : They’re out there, I know it.

1:47PM : They’re hanging on my every thought. Constantly. Sucking the goo from my brain and swallowing it, one tiny bolus after another after another. Why, oh why am I being tormented so?

2:13PM : Whoops, my mistake: I’m sending out signals through the rabbit ears on my head. Mea culpa! I loathe myself but only halfway. Sure, it’s not enough but half a loathe is better than none.

2:28PM : I’m trying, I’m trying!

2:43PM : Success! I now completely abhor the very thought of me.
Why? President Obama has 100,000,000 hits on Google; me, none. I am such an underachiever I don’t even rate the underachiever Top Ten.

3:41PM : Must stop thinking. Thinking leads 2 thoughts and we know what thoughts lead 2: signal broadcasts!

4:19PM : Still being followed. My followers have grown into an army but who the hell are these strangers and why are they bugging me?

4:21PM : Alright, already, I’m sorry: Why am I bugging them?

4:52PM : Multi-lensed eyes: I can read so fast, now! I run across the lines of text and just absorb them. I read War n’ Peace in 4 minutes flat. Fell asleep between the lines and almost missed the short, French guy’s retreat. (Comprehension has suffered).

4:57PM : ...Attention span, 2. Often, I begin 2 read and the next thing I know I’m wandering all over the page, aimlessly. My textual orientation is all mixed up.

5:11PM : Yikes! First edition of Der Verwandlung (1915) selling for $14,000; Der Prozess (1925) for $1800. I earned bupkis. Where were these damned book collectors when I needed them?

5:12PM : Identity crisis! I have become a bookworm.

6:03PM : I engage in marginal worming, not affecting text. But the word “paranoia” looks tasty; I smell dessert.

8:17PM : “Funny, you don’t look chewish” - just what are you trying to say, what do you mean, who told you to say that?

9:32PM : Having completely digested five of ten volumes of the complete works of Poe (Tamerlane Edition, limited to 300 numbered sets printed on delicious Ruisdael hand-made paper), I have now distended to 1000 times my original, post-human size.

9: 55PM : Having completely digested the final 5 volumes of Poe, I am now back 2 my original, human size. I look remarkably fit and am feeling my old self again.

10PM : Suicidal ideation!

10:16PM : Someone is trying 2 kill me: Me. I’m out to get me. Or am I being irrationally afraid, perceiving threats where none exist? Is that a gun in my pocket or am I just sad 2 see me?

10:18 : My followers - Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em. I need my audience to affirm my existence. I’m a ‘skeeter on a scum pond.

10:59PM : Rumblings in the boiler room; time 2 lose the Poe.

11:03PM : Hey, get outta here, all 10,000 of ya, wherever you are. Can’t you see I’m trying 2 take, uh...Just leave. Now.

11:04PM : Another 5,000 followers. What am I, Mr. Popularity?

11:06PM : Was it as good for you as it was for me? I love Poe.

11:22PM : “Get one yourself” is not an appropriate response to “get a life.”

11:59PM : The world is closing in on me. I can’t take it anymore. I wriggle up the steps, all six feet, one inch of me, stand up tall, wipe the loam off all of my svelte segments, and ring the doorbell.

12Midnight : “Hi, Mom, it’s me, Franz. I’m home! Set a few extra places at the table. I’ve brought all 15,000 of my followers home for dinner. Aren’t you glad to see me? Mom? MOM!?”


*Writhing On The Floor Squealing

Storytime was part of this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll festivities. Here’s a 5 minute video of President Barack Obama reading Maurice Sendak’s “Where The Wild Things Are” on the South Lawn of the White House.

The first lady and children followed by reading If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond.

C-Span has more video here.

Event doubles as a tremendous plug for the upcoming film adaptation of
“Where The Wild Things Are”

Here’s the trailer for that:

Thanks to the LibraryThing blog for the lead
First off, the proper provenance for those words--that “anything can be anywhere”--is the Larry McMurtry novel, “Cadillac Jack” (which I regard as his most entertaining work), attributed there to the antiques and rare books scout Zack Jenks. I liked the line so much--and found it to be an axiom of the universal book hunt--that I used it as one of my epigraphs for “A Gentle Madness.”

What occasions its use today is the discovery I made this week of a nine-volume work by one Robert Waln Jr., titled “Biography of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence,” published in Philadelphia in 1823 by J. Maxwell and R. W. Pomeroy. Each volume is bound in lovely marbled paper boards with calf-skin spines, and all are in remarkably fine condition. There is no foxing to speak of, no loose hinges, no missing plates, all of the steel engravings are present, with original tissues in place. Each volume bears the elegant signature of a prior owner, “Robt. Winthrop,” who I hope, in time, to learn more about through further research.

In the meantime, I did due diligence on the title, running a quick ABE search, and coming up with a number of dealer quotes and descriptions for individual volumes, finding only one for the entire set, which leads me to believe this is an item of some scarcity. I’ll obviously have to do more work on this baby, but what is fun about it right now--indeed, what prompts the writing of this entry--is the circumstance of its discovery.

It happened that a couple of days ago I was in a tizzy about locating my first-draft manuscript for “A Gentle Madness,” this being part of an ongoing effort to put some order in my sprawling archive of research papers. My best recollection was that I had put the thing in a cardboard box and stored it in my bedroom closet, a walk-in affair that contains its share of objects that have nothing whatsoever to do with my wardrobe, including a bunch of nineteenth-century Harper’s Weekly prints, my old Navy sword, some superannuated cameras that I don’t have the heart to part with, altogether a pack rat’s paradise. Well, it was in this closet where my wife, who was participating in the frenetic search, located the box with the manuscript, underneath which was another box, containing some books.

And the books? You guessed it--this splendid set, which I immediately recalled having bought some years ago on Cape Cod at Titcomb’s Book Shop in East Sandwich, but misplaced, and forgot about entirely over time. Why I put them away back then in the closet remains a mystery to me, but there they were--and I am thrilled to welcome them back into the fold. Score another one for Zack Jenks. Anything, indeed, can be anywhere.
One of the highlights I experienced at the 2009 New York Antiquarian Book Fair was  finally meeting Jed Birmingham, who I’ve been corresponding with over the last few years in connection with our mutual interest in William S. Burroughs, and his Burroughs-devoted website, Reality Studio.

Jed and his editorial partner, Kyle Schlesinger, have just published Number 2 of Mimeo Mimeo, their magazine devoted to artists books, fine press printing, and the mimeo revolution. For those who missed the mainstream media’s scandalously absent coverage of this particular insurrection, Mimeo Mimeo documents how poets and writers, upon the technology’s introduction, empowered themselves with the means to print and publish their own and others’ work through use of mimeographed journals, and how current poets and writers are revisiting the mimeograph as an expressive medium, whether for the particular charms that mimeographing can bring to their work or in rebellion against the computerized print process, or both.

Issue 2 has a fascinating article by James Maynard about poet Robert Duncan and the mimeographed magazines he published between 1938 and 1941, Epitaph, Ritual, and Experimental Review, as well as an insightful essay about TISH, the mimeographed literary newsletter published 1961-1969 by students at the University of British Columbia. The Duncan mimeographed literary magazines, respected then and to the present day, have become quite desirable and collectable. Peter Howard of Serendipity Books, is offering a copy of Ritual#1 (April, 1940) for $600. Waiting for Godot Books is offering a copy of Experimental Review #3 (September, 1941) with pieces by Anais Nin, Henry Miller, and Lawrence Durrell for $75. All the pieces within Mimeo Mimeo 1 & 2 highlight Jed and Kyle’s understanding that the Mimeo Revolution is an attitude -- a material and immaterial perspective on the politics of print, an issue particularly acute in the digital age.



In 1876, before the light bulb lit up in his head, before he pioneered the first practical phonograph, before he invented a functional motion picture process and a zillion other practical devices, Thomas Edison invented the mimeograph, elegant in its simplicity: Cut a stencil, push ink through the holes onto paper, and repeat.

200px-1889_Edison_Mimeograph.jpg Chicagoan A. B. Dick improved the process using waxed paper. The A.B. Dick Co. released the Model 0 Flatbed Duplicator in 1887. Later refinements replaced the original flatbed press with a rotating cylinder and an automatic feed from the ink reservoir. Deluxe models included an electric motor. Cheaper models, using a hand crank, were also available.

By now, many readers of a certain age no doubt have a sweet, intoxicating aroma wafting within their sense memory that harkens back to school days and fresh off the mimeo machine test papers and handouts. School Daze: putting the test right up close to one’s nostrils, taking two or three deep inhalations, feeling lightheaded, then getting down to business - inserting “Maybe” for True or False questions, and filling in blanks with answers not found amongst the multiple choice options. Like ex-junkies recalling their first shot, many people who attended school during the 1930s through mid-1960s vividly and fondly remember those mimeographed papers with purple ink whose odor lifted us a millimeter or two off the floor.

The problem, however, as I’ve just recently discovered to my horror (being completely wrong for over forty-five years is humbling if not humiliating)), is that those papers were not copied on mimeograph machines, which do not duplicate with purple ink or produce a distinctive smell.

Conjuring The Spirit Duplicator

Not a contrivance for charlatans to divest the bereaved and gullible of their savings, nor a Victorian occult device for creating dopplegangers on-demand, it was the spirit duplicator or “ditto machine” or”Banda machine” and not the mimeograph that was responsible for providing duplications in schools and libraries nationwide until Xerox technology completely supplanted  older, low tech duplicating processes. The hectograph, another duplication system, followed the mimeograph, and then, in 1923, the spirit duplicator was invented. The best-known manufacturer in the United States of spirit duplicators was the Ditto Corporation of Illinois, hence the “ditto machine,” a most appropriate name for a copying device. “Mimeograph” became a generic term used for all the early low-tech duplicating machines, hence the confusion.

1965 advertisement for the Ditto Corp. spirit duplicator

The Dead Media Project provides an excellent primer on the subject:

“The spirit duplicator master consisted of a smooth paper master sheet and a ‘carbon’ paper sheet (coated with a waxy compound similar to that used in the hectograph) acting ‘backwards’ so that a wax compound (we’ll call it the ‘ink’) was transferred to the back side of the master sheet itself. The master could be typed or written on, and when finished the ‘carbon paper’ was discarded. The master was wrapped around a drum in the spirit duplicator machine. As the drum turned, the master was coated with a thin layer of highly volatile duplicating fluid via a wick soaked in the fluid. The fluid acted to slightly dissolve or soften the ‘ink.’ As paper (preferably very smooth or coated) pressed against the drum and master copy, some of the ‘ink’ was transferred to make the final copy. A spirit duplicator master was capable of making up to about 500 copies before the print became too faint to recognize.”

Wikipedia has a worthwhile, well-researched and solid entry on the spirit duplicator that provides insight into the “ink” used:

“The usual wax ‘ink’ color was aniline purple, a cheap, durable pigment that provided good contrast, but ditto masters were also manufactured in red, green, blue, black, and the hard-to-find orange, yellow, and brown. All except black reproduced in pastel shades: pink, mint, sky blue, etc. Ditto had the useful ability to print multiple colors in a single pass, which made it popular with cartoonists. Multi-colored designs could be made by swapping out the waxed second sheets; for instance, shading in only the red portion of an illustration while the top sheet was positioned over a red-waxed second sheet. This was possible because the pungent-smelling duplicating fluid (typically a 50/50 mix of isopropanol and methanol) was not ink, but a clear solvent.”

It pains me to report that inhalations of solvent alcohol and methanol have no psychotropic effect whatsoever. The “high” we remember was the placebo effect at work, the suggestion of intoxication all that was necessary for it to be experienced.

Along with the free market as the safest, best social and economic problem-solver known to man, another myth blown to smithereens.


Mimeo Mimeo is not available in an online edition, nor by subscription. Copies can be ordered through Cuneiform Press or Small Press Distribution.

Copies ($10 each) may also be bought directly from:

Kyle Schlesinger
214 North Henry Street #3
Brooklyn, NY 11222


One of Robert Duncan’s friends and co-editor of Ritual was the painter Virginia Admiral. Admiral would marry New York abstract expressionist painter, Robert De Niro, Sr.; their son is the actor, Robert De Niro. Robert De Niro Sr. played a small role in the clandestine underground for erotic literature during the late 1930s-early 1940s as part of a group of literary luminaries who wrote erotica on commission to support themselves as they were coming up or during lean times. I’ll be telling that story in an upcoming post. Keep watching the skies...

William Warren’s Shelves For Life :

a self-initiated project by the designer to further explore ideas of built-in sentimentality within our possessions. The aim is to make stronger emotional relationships with our belongings and encourage life-long use.

The shelves are CNC cut in oak veneered plywood to the customer’s measurements. They are intended to be used throughout life as storage for personal belongings. On death, the shelves are dismantled and rebuilt as a coffin.

Shelves for Life
was launched at the British Library during the Travelling Apothecary Show and simultaneously at Liberties as part of Design UK, during London Design Week, September 2006.

Thanks to Core77 for the lead
click to enlarge

Altered books are one thing but altered bookmarks open up a whole new can of worms.

Back in November of 2007 the Book Design class from Cornish College of the Arts paid a visit to Wessel & Lieberman. One of the students, Mare Odomo, grabbed a bookmark and went to work.

I am not sure where the glove part comes from but; nonetheless, what a treat to see.

See more of Mare Odomo’s work at Flickr

and here’s an Altered Bookmark project for the kids via suite101.com
Here is a sneak peek at the new and improved website of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA). The much needed and long overdue overhaul is being lead by Bibliopolis with an assist from the team at Biblio. It is set to launch in June.

When completed it will finally provide the ABAA with a solid foundation on which to build their online presence and will provide them the chance to compete with the other online marketplaces. I just hope it’s not too late, for they have a lot of catching up to do and with the online landscape still in a state of flux just catching up might not be enough.

After packing books, traveling, checking-in to a hotel with an unfamiliar and uncomfortable bed, awaking jet-lagged, haggard, with lower and upper back muscle kinks, or with a serious case of post-cross country driving fatigue, then unpacking books and setting up, most dealers start the Fair exhausted, this writer included, and it’s downhill from there. As a consequence, one begins the Fair in a twilight dream state prone to hallucinations, mild to major, and a peculiar sensitivity to events generally associated with the occult, surrealism, or Rod Serling. But maybe that’s just me. Probably.

The Fair opened last Thursday evening, a private showing to benefit the Morgan Library. This year the benefit was not as crowded as in prior years, no doubt due to the Madoff Effect and the general economic thrill-ride to hell leaving the well-heeled worn-heeled, their Baroni suits with frayed collar and lapels. The only benefit they were truly interested in, apparently, was that which TARP funds might reap. Clearly, the mega-bonuses were being saved for a rainy day. Yet though it rained in New York that night there was no concomitant shower of simoleans inside the Park Avenue Armory, specifically within the Armory’s Wade Thompson Drill Hall where the Fair took place.

“The Armory was built by New York State’s prestigious Seventh Regiment of the National Guard, the first volunteer militia to respond to President Lincoln’s call for troops in 1861. Members of what was known as the ‘Silk Stocking’ Regiment included New York’s most prominent Gilded Age Families including the Vanderbilts, Van Rensselaers, Roosevelts, Stewarts, Livingstons and Harrimans. Built as both a military facility and a social club, the reception rooms on the first floor and the Company Rooms on the second floor were designed by the most prominent designers and artists of the day including Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White, Herter Brothers and Pottier & Stymus. The Armory’s 55,000 square foot drill hall, reminiscent of the original Grand Central Depot and the great train sheds of Europe, remains one of the largest unobstructed spaces of its kind in New York. A marvel of engineering in its time, it was designed by Regiment veteran and architect Charles W. Clinton.”

Though the latter-day Greedy and Gulled Age Silk Stocking regiment marched in louche-step around the hall in close order, they had holes in their socks, feet blistered by current events. Very sad. I was offered an apple by one of the recently fallen but though it was deeply discounted from its $250,000 asking price, I had to decline; my mother taught me to always have a dime for an emergency phone call and I needed it, no matter that a phone call hasn’t cost a dime in decades and phone booths are history.

After doing the N.Y. Fair and the Morgan Library benefit for years, old, familiar faces are seen. Fashion designer Mary McFadden was in attendance, still defying age and 20-20 vision, her hair a shade of black not occurring in nature but matching her outfit and overly Mabelline’d eye-liner and lashes, her facial structure and derma surgically preserved as a living death mask, her skin a shade of white generally associated with Dracula’s daughter, here Dracula’s grandmother. We’re talking Morticia Adams with a Louise Brooks bob. She was accompanied by her ninety-one year old paramour, Marquette de Bary, who didn’t look a day over eighty-five.

And She was there, again, parading the aisles. She being a tall drag queen, her pate covered with a huge platinum blond wig styled ala Vidal Sassoon on steroids. She wore a tight, hips and enhanced-breast enhancing Valentino-red dress with straps that highlighted her daddy-was-a-fullback shoulders, and stilettos that reached for the Hubble telescope. I will pass over her make-up job. Suffice it to say, My Fair-To-Be-Charitable Lady was a sight to behold, a parody of alluring womanhood. In fairness, this person is a noted and knowledgeable collector of art books with an excellent eye and though my mother taught me to always play in traffic, talk to strangers and accept candy from them, I’ve yet to strike up a conversation with this individual.

The Fair finally opened to the public on Friday. Dealer expectations for trade and public sales were very low and were met. One dealer, a British firm with a long and noble history, sold a total of one book during the entire weekend, a $3,000 volume. Their profit margin barely covered the cost of a glass of orange juice on their hotel’s breakfast menu. Expensive books forlornly sat on shelves. It was reported to me that some dealers with high five-figure books were offering discounts up to 50% yet still had no takers. Few dealers were selling books at their posted prices, with most adjusting for grim reality and plane-fare back home. The action, such as it was, was in the $2500 and below range, and dealers who had interesting material at a price did alright, particularly if their booths were located to the front and middle of the Armory floor. If you were on the side aisles down toward the end of the hall, you’d have been better off if your booth was located in Ulan Bator. While I haven’t checked the official figures, attendance seemed to be down from last year

2009 New York Antiquarian Book Fair, Park Avenue Armory, Saturday April 4th, 1PM. Or so it seemed.

From The Big Book of Rare Book Trade Jokes, appropriate to this year’s Fair:

• One morning on the way to opening up, a rare book dealer is walking down the street where his shop is located. There’s a long line of people snaked up the block and around the corner. He follows the line to its origin, which miraculously begins at the entrance to his shop.

“What’s going on,” the shocked dealer asks the first person in line.

“All of us who’ve ever said to you, ‘Let me think about it,’ and then left have actually returned to buy a book.”

• How do you retire from the rare book business with a million dollars? Start with five million.

• Definition of a rare book shop: Where old books go to die.

Saturday and Sunday brought another interesting person to my -  and everyone else’s - attention. She was a short woman, circa 60+, who  appeared to have stepped out of 60’s counterculture comix: An aged, hippie chick with natural, parted down the middle semi-frizzed hair past her shoulders; beaded bangles and leather bracelets on her wrists, poured into a tight, spaghetti-strapped floral mini-dress that just barely covered once generous now stingy breasts and extended to just millimeters below the female gift to mankind, her thighs and caboose strong and bountiful if no longer sturdy, forelegs ensheathed in funky, knee-high leather boots. In short, R. Crumb’s wet dream.

There were, to be sure, three highlights at the Fair this year.

A first edition, first printing, first issue copy of H. Rider-Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines (1885) surfaced. The bibliographical points to the extremely rare first issue of King Solomon’s Mines are simple, revolving - as these things often do - around the date of the advertisements found at the rear. It’s a scarce, low-five figure book, David Brass reporting that in over forty years in the trade he’d seen only three first issue copies. So, what’s the big deal about King Solomon’s Mines, the basis for six film adaptations, at least two of which were really bad movies? It is, simply, the prototype for the modern adventure novel, that’s all; a major book, and the genesis of the Lost World genre of literature.


The biggest book to surface at the Fair was a first edition, first printing copy of Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows in dust jacket. In dust jacket: alert the media. Like The Great Gatsby, fairly easy to obtain without dust jacket with prices hovering between $8500-$12,000, the price for a first edition copy of The Wind in the Willows with the dust jacket in just about any condition skyrockets into the $100,000+ stratosphere.

The final highlight was the brownies offered by Lux Mentis, Ian Kahn’s firm from Portland, ME. These were not just any ordinary brownies. Rich and chocolatey, they were topped with very tasty, firm vanilla icing that sported the visually satisfying, full color and cool Lux Mentis logo illustration. I have no idea how this is accomplished but I presume by some sort of black magic or offset-icing lithography by Betty Crocker. By this one sweet giveaway and Mr. Kahn’s predilection for minute to minute Facebook status updates that have made me more aware of his daily life than my own, Portland cements its reputation as an up and coming book town to be reckoned with.

I end this impressionistic account by relating a foreboding incident that occurred upon deplaning in New York. While waiting at the baggage carousel, I spotted someone who looked familiar but due to acute post-transcontinental flight derangement I did not immediately recognize. Standing next to a baggage skycap neatly dressed in a clean, dark suit with crisp white shirt and tie, the man was a shamble of wrinkled, ill-fitting and worn pants, white shirt buttoned at the collar that appeared to have been slept in for week, sport jacket that for politeness could best be characterized as loose construction fit from better days, three-day beard, eyes puffy enough for him to be charged for excess baggage, with a deeply cragged face and a shock of near-white hair that seemed to be attempting a desperate flight from his scalp. I know this guy, I thought, but who is he? Samuel Beckett’s ghost? Then he opened his mouth, and I knew. Now, in retrospect, everything about the 2009 New York Fair falls into place.

Though the Log Lady was not in attendance, Special Agent Dale Cooper wasn’t waxing eloquent on the virtues of a good slice of pie and a nice cuppa joe, Laura Palmer’s dead body was not found in a dealer’s booth wrapped in clear plastic sheeting, there were no reports of surreal dreams involving a one-armed man named Mike, no one wore blue velvet or compulsively huffed on a bottle of nitrous oxide, and the Elephant Man was a no-show, the strange, dream-state quality that permeated the Fair was assured by the portent of the shabby man all alone at night in J.F.K. airport’s baggage claim zone, the man who Mel Brooks once characterized as “James Stewart From Mars,” and who haunted the Park Avenue Armory like Eraserhead haunted (and halted) my desire for a child.

I presume that David Lynch made it to his hotel that night without detour to the Lost Highway.

ehhead1.jpgPortrait of the writer, post-2009 New York Antiquarian Book Fair

I am just back from the annual ABAA book fair at the Park Avenue Armory, where sales were, if not brisk, certainly made. Most of the booksellers I talked to had at least made back their expenses, and some, Priscilla Juvelis among them, did very well. Though the place wasn’t buzzing, there must have been at least a few movie stars, judging from the hoodies and sunglasses. (Can’t they come up with a new way to attract attention?)
Philadelphia Rare Books was there, despite having lost their house (the historic 18th-century officers’ arsenal) and much of their priceless inventory, in a freak electrical fire last month. You can read about it on their site: http://www.prbm.com.
Apart from that real tragedy, the overall mood was one of gallows humor: Michael Brown and many of the other sellers displayed political satire (said Brown: “How could you not?!”) dating back to the kings of England and France, showing, were proof needed, that Wall Street didn’t invent cupidity or folly. I had a very interesting conversation with Seth Kaller, who gave me a succinct lesson in document and manuscript authentication. He told me how he discovered a Davey Crockett forgery: the letter’s embossed seal had a locomotive on it--a thing not invented for another 30 years! I also talked to Bill Schaberg of Athena Rare Books, who had one of the most elegant displays at the fair, and to Charles Agvent, who was showing a letter by Martin Luther King. Agvent told me that Republican noisemaker Bill O’Reilly had stopped by the booth and offered half the asking price for it. Agvent refused, but suggested he might come down a bit should O’Reilly come back. I say O’Reilly doesn’t deserve to own the letter at any price.

A couple of trips to South Carolina, Texas, and Maine have given me the opportunity to read a number of fun novels while traveling, which I will write about, I promise, in an upcoming entry, but first these worthwhile works of nonfiction, all recent releases, and each deserving of your attention.

First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process,
by Robert D. Richardson; University of Iowa Press, 112 pages, $19.95.

EmersonIowa.JPGWinner of the Bancroft Prize two years ago for “William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism,” and the Francis Parkman Prize in 1996 for “Emerson: Mind on Fire,” Robert D. Richardson is one of the outstanding literary biographers at work today. This taut, beautifully written monograph explores the relationship between the voracious reading habits of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the thoughtful sessions of writing that followed. He draws the title from an essay Emerson wrote in The American Scholar. “First we eat, then we beget; first we read, then we write.” Richardson reports how Emerson--taking his cue from Coleridge--identified four classes of reader: the hourglass, that gives back everything it takes in, unchanged; the sponge, that gives back everything it takes in, only a little dirtier; the jelly-bag, which squeezes out the valuable and keeps the worthless, and the Golconda, which runs everything through a sieve, keeping only the nuggets. He saw himself, needless to say, as a Golconda.

All the Art That’s Fit to Print (And Some that Wasn’t): Inside the New York Times Op-Ed Page, by Jerelle Kraus; Columbia University Press, 260 pages, $34.95.

OpEdArt.JPGBefore there was a blogosphere to serve as a gathering place for multiple thoughts and commentary, there was the Op-Ed Page, introduced by the New York Times in 1970, and now a staple in newspapers everywhere. As an art editor at the Times for thirty years--thirteen of them with the Op-Ed Page--Jerelle Kraus worked with the many non-staff artists who were commissioned to execute original drawings for the section, a good number of them, as we discover here, never published, some because they were found too offensive--or too cutting-edge--for the newspaper’s top editors. This splendidly produced, over-sized effort--and it could comfortably grace the most discriminating of coffee tables--reproduces many of the works that never got onto the streets; Kraus explains that she was able to print these pictures because they are not the property of the Times, but the artists who drew them. “A rich trove of censored graphic treasures appears in this book for the first time,” she writes. Her history of the page, and its contributors, is must reading for those of us who begin each day with the Times immediately at hand.

Carolina Clay: The Legend of the Slave Potter Dave, by Leonard Todd; W. W. Norton,  316 pages, $25.95.

CarolinaClay.JPGAuthor Leonard Todd first learned of the slave potter known as Dave in 2000 while reading an account of an exhibition of the man’s work. Known for having created some magnificent jugs and storage jars while living as a slave in South Carolina,  Dave was attracting considerable attention by virtue of his having signed his name and scrawled lines of original verse on many of the pieces he had fashioned by hand, quite an accomplishment since it was illegal for blacks to read or write in much of the South before the Civil War. A native of Edgefield, SC, where Dave had lived and worked, Todd soon learned that the man at one time had been the property of his ancestors, prompting him to embark on an exhaustive investigation into the man’s life and times, which he details here, in this fascinating book. Todd also includes a thorough discussion of Dave’s clever couplets.

Mathematical Works Printed in the Americas, 1554-1700, by Bruce Stanley Burdick; Johns Hopkins University Press, 373 pages, $55.

Mathematical.jpgRarely do we think of the earliest printed works in the Americas being mathematical texts, since most scholarly works for use in the Colonies were imported from Europe, though quite a body of interesting titles, it turns out, were produced in Mexico, Peru, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York, among other places.This learned work, ostensibly an annotated bibliography, offers a number of surprises that students and collectors of mathematical books and books of science will find particularly useful.

The L House comes to us via the Swiss-based architect, Philippe Stuebi Architekten GMBH and was completed in 2005.

“The three-sided glazing of the library in the ground floor is mirrored-glass. Depending upon time of day and conditions you can see the stored books or the reflected garden. The upper floors are implemented in bright lime rendering and the glazings in nature-anodized aluminum.”

More photographs here

homeless seattle public library image.jpgAsleep at the Seattle Public Library. Image via

So much for the trickle down effect as a sane economic and social policy.

As the woes of Wall Street make their way to Library Street the trickle down effect is quickly becoming the trickle death effect.

If your library is not in danger of it’s hours or staff being cut due to the strained budgets of cities, counties and towns across the world then it is probably in danger of being overused and overstressed by the hordes of visitors reeling from the economic troubles of our time.

Either way is unsustainable and without quick action god only knows what will become of these community centerpieces.

The New York Times piece, “Downturn Puts New Stresses on Libraries,” gives us a glimpse of deteriorating conditions most libraries are facing. First, there is an increase in violence in and around our libraries. Of course if we lose the safety fight, all else will fail. Then there is the increase in usage and the increasing needs of library patrons and staff.

Barbara Vlk, a librarian at the Arlington Heights, ILL. library says “More and more people are in need of help and direction” and adds “I’ve had people come in and talk for hours.” Now one doesn’t usually think of the library has a place to go to “talk for hours.”

As for the librarians, “Many say they feel ill-equipped for the newfound demands of the job, the result of working with anxious and often depressed patrons who say they have nowhere else to go” and some libraries have even hired therapists to help the staff!

It’s not looking much better in the UK. John Harris’ piece in the Guardian, “Our libraries are at risk - just when we need them most” reminds us of the danger of underfunded libraries. “Thirty-odd years of underinvestment has often led to libraries becoming so shabby and poorly resourced that warnings about their supposed unpopularity become self-fulfilling prophecies.”

The library as social service center is far from a new concept. It is; however, the type of social services that are most in demand that has changed.

Previously on Book Patrol
The Library as Shelter, 11/06
The Library Asylum, 04/07
The Lord of the Rings by Kurt B. Reighley

The International Edible Book Festival is held every year around April 1st.

“This ephemeral global banquet, in which anyone can participate, is shared by all on the internet and allows everyone to preserve and discover unique bookish nourishments. This festival is a celebration of the ingestion of culture and a way to concretely share a book.”

There are events taking place around the world so get baking and get ready.

Yours truly will be a “celebrity judge” at Seattle’s annual contribution, Cook the Books!,  I’ll be awarding the prize for the “Most Structurally Book-like” entry.

The World According to Carp by Karen Fredericks

With past entries like:

The Milagro Bean Dip War
One Hundred Spears of Solitude
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Bread
The Unbearable Lightness of Bean
Remembrance of Things Pasta and
Banana Karenina

How can you go wrong!

Here is a list of scheduled activities around the world.

Here is a visual feast of past entries at Seattle Edible Book Festival’s Flickr set

Previously on Book Patrol:
Books to Eat and Books about Eating
I saw an amazing production this past weekend, at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, of a vocal/theatrical piece by the world-renowned Hilliard Ensemble, a quartet of Brits trained in the music of the Middle Ages. In recent years they’ve become interested in working with contemporary theater directors in Europe, and their new partnership with German director Heiner Goebbels, “I Went to the House But I Did Not Enter,” is truly an inspired work of avant garde theater and song. The Hilliard interpreted four literary texts that are powerful in their own rights: T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” French nihilist Maurice Blanchot’s “The Madness of the Day,” Franz Kafka’s “Excursion into the Mountains” (with “a pack of nobodies,” as Kafka says) and Samuel Beckett’s inscrutable yet moving “Worstward Ho,” a meditation on death written at the end of Beckett’s life. The production is preoccupied with aging and death and the meaning of life, so if you’re looking for a light experience (or you’re in your 20s) you probably won’t love this performance. But I found it riveting and darkly funny. You can read the Guardian review online and also read the Hilliard quartet’s discussion of the piece. It was supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. Production by Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne; co-produced by Edinburgh International Festival, Schauspielfrankfurt, Teatro Communale di Bolzano, Stadttheater Bozen, Grand Théâtre de La Ville de Luxembourg and Musica, Festival international des musiques d’aujourd’hui de Strasbourg. Co-commissioned by Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College and Carolina Performing Arts/The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. UPDATE: Hilliard performed the piece at Dartmouth and is now touring Europe with it, where I predict audiences will be more comfortable with, and more receptive to, the wondrous strangeness of it. The schedule: Luxembourg: April 23-24. Caen, France: May 14-15. Vienna: May 20-22. Amsterdam: June 17-18.
ALSO, while I have your attention, please go look at the April issue of Fine Books and tell us what you think. We have a gorgeous photo essay of New York City by New York native John Rosenthal, as well as a story on the writing life in New York by a young editor with the great e-newspaper The Morning News. (Check out their 2009 Tournament of Books.) Akiko Busch, longtime Metropolis editor and author of many books on design and a recent book on swimming across rivers, has a story about the international design firm Pentagram; the company puts out an annual booklet of its favorite things, which might range from rural mailboxes in Australia, to cigar papers. There’s lots of other good stuff, she said modestly. But seriously, I do think it’s our strongest issue so far.
Auction Guide