April 2010 Archives

Last Friday, we posted a contest on our Facebook page. The gist of the contest was who found the best antiquarian book bargain. We had 12 contestants. Our judges conferred and determined that Matthew Bailey is our winner! Matthew bought a first edition, first issue of Catcher in the Rye, with the original dust jacket, for 50 cents. Now that’s a bargain! It was part of a box lot on eBay. Congratulations, Matthew -- on your buy, and your win. We’re sending Matthew a copy of Nick Basbanes’ new book, About the Author

Our runner-up is John Henrick, who bought a signed first edition of The Little Prince for $25 in the 1970s, which today might fetch upwards of $10,000. Our judges thought this was one great investment.

The contest was judged by two booksellers.You may recognize their names, because they post to the FB blog. ABAA bookseller Brian Cassidy works in the DC metro area, specializing in Americana & esoterica, art, photo, popular culture, Beats & NY School, little mags, small press, mimeo revolution, poetry & literature, the intrinsically interesting & unusual, vernacular, outsider, and folk books. Chris Lowenstein runs Book Hunter’s Holiday in California. She specializes in Dante Alighieri (just published her first catalogue on him), as well as Western Americana, particularly books written by or about pioneer and frontier women, and children’s books.

My thanks to the judges, and to everyone else for playing!
From the May/June issue of the Harvard Magazine, “Gutenberg 2.0,” a very interesting (and intense) article on the Harvard Library, Google Book Search, digitization, and the future of library collections. 
This first great manuscript library has announced plans to digitize 80,000 manuscripts from its archives. This collection comprises approximately 40 million manuscript pages and is expected to comprise 45 petabytes of data. The plan is apparently well established, expecting to take 10 years and evolving through 3 phases...with a staff of 60 growing to 120.

The technical aspects are interesting. They are tentatively planning to use a Metis System Scanner and a 50MP Hasselblad camera. Most interestingly, they intend to use FITS (Flexible Image Transport System) for the images (“Once FITS, always FITS). FITS is an open standard used mostly primarily in hard science areas. FITS is/was designed specifically for scientific data and includes structural elements for describing photometric and spatial calibration information, together with image origin metadata. Obviously, the inclusion of such data at the time of scanning could make the images significantly more valuable and at least in part address some of the major shortcomings of digital images...loss of the “nature of the original object”. Added info can be found here:

Original Announcement from the Vatican Library

Lengthy and Italian

Vatican Library Site
[N.B. Has a nice Erasmus quotation, but all links are broken...]
Well, it looks like Chris beat me to the punch in her post earlier today. But her praise of L.D. Mitchell’s The Private Library blog is spot on. Aside from the blog posts, the PL site itself is a stunning collection of bibliophile resources. So much reliable information in one place! Only a librarian could do it. One of my favorite things about the PL blog--which I’ve been reading daily for six months now--is that Mr. Mitchell doesn’t chase news or trends. He picks a topic or a genre--e.g., arabic literature, travel and the private library, collectible paperbacks, today it was three-deckers--and provides a solid, well-researched, illustrated introduction. It’s a great service to those who are new to the book-collecting world.

Here’s the good news: The Private Librarian (if I may call him that) will be guest blogging for FB&C every Sunday, beginning this Sunday, May 1. We’re hoping that some cross-pollination will occur between our readerships and that we can foster more feedback among our readers. Yes, readers, we like to hear from you! Please join me in welcoming our esteemed guest. 

While books about book collecting abound, have you ever wished you had a comprehensive collection of internet resources about books and book collecting at your fingertips? Wouldn’t it be great to have list of literary and specialized book terms, a list of bookish organizations, bibliographic resources, bookish blogs and podcasts, and regional centers for the book all available at the click of your mouse?

Wouldn’t it be even better for those who still have more to learn about book collecting (and that’s most of us) to learn about the various types of books and collecting strategies with real-life examples.

Wish no more. 

The Private Library is your go-to resource for all of the above. Written by book collector and librarian, L.D. Mitchell, this blog offers comprehensive and comprehensible bookish information at your fingertips. Best of all, the author of the blog welcomes comments and interaction. Bookish discussion is encouraged by leaving comments. Check it out.
necklace1.jpgAn online auction is happening this week on eBay that may be of interest. Organized by Hand Papermaking Magazine, the auction features artwork, prints, decorative papers, books on papermaking, blank books, and book arts. There are some very beautiful items, like this handmade necklace, made from abaca and linen pulp. Bids will be accepted until May 1. Just in time for Mother’s Day...
Thanks to the Crane Insider for the tip.

How to Print a Book

Old School:

New School:
Are you a bargain hunter? Ever find an incredible book for mere dollars? (I once found a F/F first edition of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman at a church sale in Lenox, Mass. for $1.) We’re running another fun little contest on our Facebook page this weekend all about who among us has found the best bargain in our antiquarian book-buying travels. So be sure to pop by and check it out. If you’re not already one of our “fans” on Facebook, come on over!

At this year’s NY book fair, I very luckily bumped into Stephen Ferguson, curator of rare books at Princeton University. I was on my way back in, he was on his way out -- out to the “shadow fair” downtown to track archives of G. & C. Merriam Co., the dictionary publisher. He told me he had noticed bits and pieces of Merriam’s trade records popping up here and there over the past two years, which he thought strange since Yale and the American Antiquarian Society hold vast collections of the company’s archives and would, one assumes, be interested in preserving the archives together. It was a bit of a mystery, and he was going to get to the bottom of it. In a post to the Princeton rare books blog yesterday, Stephen related his distressing findings. 
woodsburner cover.jpgBack in December, Christopher Lancette wrote a profile for us of author John Pipkin, who had just won the Center for Fiction’s First Novel prize for Woodsburner. The novel is based on a true historical event, when Henry David Thoreau--known to us all as the nature-loving, proto-environmentalist--accidentally set a huge forest fire outside of Concord, Massachusetts.

The minute I read that profile, Woodsburner went on my wish list. A few weeks later, that wish came true, and yet the book sat on my bedside table until I could find the time to read it. It’s a lovely novel. Supporting Thoreau is a full, intriguing ensemble cast of nineteenth-century characters, including, as Chris pointed out in his article, a Boston bookseller who dabbles in pornography and an illiterate book collector, who tucks away some of the great first editions of the time period on her single bookshelf.

Kirkus Reviews called the novel “Pulitzer Prize material” (though this year’s Pulitzer for fiction went to Paul Harding’s Tinkers, also now on my wish list). Indeed, this is the kind of novel that seems rare these days. I don’t often post book reviews here, but if you enjoy historical fiction or literary fiction, take a chance on this one. 

Karl Jacoby 1 with book Shadows at Dawn.jpgI admit it: I failed you. As a Fine Books & Collections correspondent embedded in Washington D.C., it’s my duty to let you know about great opportunities taking place in our nation’s capital. After attending my first-ever annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians this month, however, I realize I should have encouraged all of our history book-loving readers to come along.

In my defense, I had only recently joined the organization (it’s open to anyone, though geared toward professional historians). And I certainly didn’t realize that the event would feature a huge vendor area filled almost exclusively by publishers of all kinds of history books. Some like Penguin Books even brought special guests to their booths -- which gave me the chance to meet Shadows at Dawn author Karl Jacoby. The Brown University professor tells the story of an April 1871 massacre of Apache Indians at Camp Grant in Arizona. They were killed by a group of Americans, Mexicans and Tohono O’odham Indians.

Jacoby picked up the trail of the story because of his interest in issues relating to the U.S. border with Mexico.

“I realized there was history missing here,” he told me. “The story of the Apache at Camp Grant is one wish I had on my bookshelves so that I could better understand the world but it didn’t exist. That’s why I wrote it ... because it was a book I wish I had.”

Potomac Books was there, too. You might remember it published one of my favorite finds of the past few years -- Following the Drum, which examines the lives of the women at Valley Forge. I made a mental note to pick up another one of Potomac’s intriguing titles: Fruits of Victory: The Women’s Land Army of America in the Great War.

The only down side for me during the four days I spent at the OAH meeting was the lack of sufficient time to spend in the books area. I didn’t want to miss any of the sessions so I had to patrol the books area through multiple shifts. At Random House, I flipped through the pages of a biography on the life of Cornelius Vanderbilt and thought it looked like a real winner. The First Tycoon promptly won a Pulitzer Prize the next day.

I don’t know how many publishers I visited but I knew where my last stops would be. As someone who specializes most of my magazine article and book research on the American Revolution, I returned to Basic Books to pick up a copy of Forgotten Patriots: The Untold Story of the American Prisoners During the Revolutionary War by Pulitzer winner Edwin G. Burrows. 

Then it was time for some weight lifting: The University of Virginia Press had so many fascinating books on the Revolution that I filled up an entire backpack and shopping bag. My hottest grab was the fresh-from-the-press first volume of The Selected Papers of John Jay. I completed my transaction, shook editor Richard Holway’s hand, and headed for the Metro: I couldn’t support any more weight without tipping over.

My history euphoria lasted for several days, as did the guilt of not making you aware of the event. Next year’s Organization of American Historians’ meeting takes place March 17-20 in Houston. Make your travel reservations today, and bring an empty suitcase for books.

Now we’re even.

Check out this interesting little read from Daniel Grant of the Huffington Post about how and what auction houses reject. Interviews with Nick Lowry of Swann Galleries, auctioneer Leslie Hindman, and others. 
I confess I was utterly flummoxed (and more than a little disappointed) this morning to find not a single Google News result for yesterday’s sale at Sotheby’s of the fabulous letter signed by Button Gwinnett and five other Signers (you can see images and read background here[PDF]). The AP ran a short piece on the sale of a first edition of the 1790 Census signed by Jefferson (which made more than expected, selling for $122,500 to a private collector), and a Canadian reporter wrote about the lower-than-expected prices on several documents linked to Canada, but the Button Gwinnett result didn’t even get that. Hopefully the reporters are just still digging to find out the buyer, and will file stories soon. We’ll see.

The sale is certainly newsworthy. Somebody (I don’t yet know who), paid $722,500 for this letter, containing the signatures of John Hancock, George Read, Robert Morris, Francis Lewis, Arthur Middleton, and the rarest of the rare, Button Gwinnett. The letter, found by a descendant of the recipient (John Ashmead), was sold at Anderson Galleries on 16 March 1927, for the then eye-popping sum of $51,000. The buyer was Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach, the great Philadelphia bookman, who displayed the letter as part of several public exhibitions in the 1930s and 1940s (and included it in several of his catalogs).

Rosenbach finally sold the letter to Countess Carrie Estelle Doheny in 1948, and it sold at the sixth round of her sale, Christie’s (1989) to the Copley Library for a bid of $209,000 (where it became the final Signer signature in the library’s collection). That price for a Gwinnett signature was not beaten until 27 March 2002, when Christie’s sold a different letter signed by Gwinnett, this one from the Forbes Collection. That made $270,000, a record which stood until yesterday’s sale obliterated it.

Interestingly, there seemed to be some Southern Signer Spillover - along with the Gwinnett letter, several other letters did much better than expected. The North Carolina Signers did very well: a1775 Joseph Hewes letter to Samuel Johnston better than tripled its esimates, selling for $53,125, then a February 1776 William Hooper letter more than doubled its projections and made $122,500. That was followed hot on its heels by a second Hooper letter from April 1776, which sold for $206,500 (over high estimates of $50,000).

The South Carolinians didn’t do quite as well, but certainly exceeded expectations: a book from the library of South Carolina Signer Thomas Lynch fetched $40,625, and a document signed by his fellow Arthur Middleton and Thomas Heyward beat its estimate more than four times over, reaching $46,875. An Edward Rutledge letter made $23,750 (nearly double the estimate).

Gwinnett’s fellow Georgians (Lyman Hall and George Walton) weren’t represented in the sale.

If and when I learn who the buyer of the Gwinnett letter was, I’ll be sure to report.

I’ve posted a full recap of yesterday’s Copley Sale, if you want all the non-Gwinnett auction prices.
There’s a brand new book out there irresistibly titled Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards by Josh Wilker that is getting some terrific reviews. When my copy arrives, I’ll offer a considered response, though I have to say out front that it has all the earmarks of being my kind of book, combining as it apparently does a number of elements that resonate with so many of my own interests, not least among them the continuing splendor of our national pastime, baseball, and the idea that collecting is a metaphor for life itself.

But in the meantime, I’d like to share a baseball card story of my own, and the best part is that it isn’t one that has mellowed over the many decades since I, too, hoarded these marvelous little objects that so evocatively define a certain time and place, but one that came my way a mere two months ago during a trip my wife and I made to Mississippi, and which I wrote about in my most recent online column for Fine Books & Collections.

Jim&NAB.jpgSince length was an issue in that article--and since the topic at hand was the literary tour we had just completed--one detail I did not mention in the piece was a wonderful conversation Connie and I had one morning over breakfast with Jim Miles, the personable gentleman who so capably drove our bus from town to town throughout the Mississippi Delta over the three days of the tour. A tall, broad-shouldered, athletic man with a rock solid handshake--and clearly someone, to my eye, who had participated in organized sports back in the day--Jim smiled when I teasingly asked what position he had played as a youngster, linebacker or tackle. “Well, I did play a little football in high school,” he said amiably, “but baseball was my sport.”

And thus began the following tale:

A native of Batesville, Mississippi, Jim grew up on a farm harboring a dream like so many millions of other American boys that he might one day play in the big leagues, and he became fairly adept at throwing tattered old baseballs wrapped in electrician’s tape at targets he had drawn on the side of the family barn. “This was hard-core St. Louis Cardinals territory back then, but my favorite team was always the New York Yankees, because they won all the time,” he recalled in his easy Southern drawl. “I threw pitch after pitch at that barn, and in the game I always played in my head, it usually came down to me against Mickey Mantle in the bottom half of the ninth inning with the World Series on the line. And the way it always played out was that Mickey Mantle would hit a grand slam off me to win the game, and the series.”

Pretty odd, I thought, that he didn’t whiff Mantle in his imaginary confrontation, he served up what amounted to a gopher ball. “He was my hero,” Miles explained unapologetically. “To my way of thinking, it would have been an honor to just pitch against him.”

So now we jump ahead to the 1960s; James Charlie Miles, Jr. is a star right-handed pitcher with Delta State University, and he signs as a free agent with the Washington Senators organization. He bangs around the minor leagues for a couple of years, moves from farm team to farm team, and then one day in 1968 he is told to get on a bus and join the parent team, which was in dire need of some fresh relief pitching to help what was, historically, a club that had earned the reputation for its city as always being “first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.”

Jim appeared in just three games that year in the majors, ut one of them was played in New York City, where the young man had never been before in his life. “When I came out of the runway into Yankee Stadium, and looked around, I was dizzy with excitement,” he said, and he recalled going to Monument Park in the outfield to pay his respects at the plaques honoring Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig before the game got underway. He passed most of the contest uneventfully in the bullpen, but in the top of the sixth word came from the dugout that he should warm up and get ready to pitch the bottom half of the inning.

The Senators, typically, were behind, so there was little drama involved in the outcome. But it was an opportunity for Miles to show what he had, and he wasted little time getting two men out. “Then one thing led to another,” he said, and before he knew it the bases were loaded, with none other than Number 7 himself, Mickey Mantle, then playing in what would be the final year of his illustrious career, due up next. A switch-hitter, Mantle stepped into the batter’s box from the left side of the plate, where his power was greatest, and focused his attention on the lanky right-hander standing 60 feet, 6 inches away.

“I had a sneaky little fast ball that tailed away from left-handed hitters,” Miles said, and he quickly got ahead in the count, no balls and two strikes--but not without suffering through two monster swings that seemed to take the air out of the park. “So here I am ahead in the count, and I figure I’ll try this tricky little pitch of mine, a Luis Tiant kind of twirl I had developed where I have my back to the plate for an instant before releasing the ball. I admit I was probably being a little too cute for my own good, and when I let it go I could see it was heading right down the middle of the plate, exactly where I didn’t want it to be.”

It was a grooved pitch, in other words, right in the Mick’s wheelhouse, but the funny motion, in all likelihood, caused the slugger to flinch momentarily and lay off the ball--which the umpire shockingly called strike three. “Well let me tell you I floated off the mound into the dugout,” Miles said, and it was the only time he would ever face Mantle. He returned to the Senators the following year, played for the legendary Ted Williams, pitched in a dozen games, then retired at season’s end after suffering a career-ending injury. He would spend many years in Mississippi as a coach and athletic director at a local college, winning a number of divisional championships, all the while rich in the memory that he’d had a once-in-a-lifetime moment in Yankee Stadium, living out a boyhood fantasy in ways that he could have never foreseen.

Jim Miles 001.jpgAs luck would have it, Jim had an extra baseball card along with him in the bus, which I was honored to accept as a gift. It’s a Tops 154 rookie card, issued in 1970--Miles was still technically a rookie in 1969--and features his photo on the front, above that of another Washington player, Jan Dukes. His Minor League stats appear on the back, with this spine-tingling line:

“Jim comes equipped with a sinking fast ball and good curves. Fanned Mickey Mantle only time he ever faced him.”

Such stuff as dreams are made on; and a keeper for sure.

Thumbnail image for 2210_259.jpgYesterday’s Early Printed Books auction at Swann Galleries in New York was, according to the Swann blog, an “extraordinary success,” with 97% of lots sold. Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Commentum in octo libros Physicorum Aristotelis, dated May 9 1492 (pictured here), was the day’s top seller at $9,600. The first Baskerville edition of the King James Bible in a contemporary binding went for slightly less.

Unfortunately, lot 272--John Hawkesworth’s A New Voyage Around the World (1774) with an engraved frontispiece by Paul Revere--was unsold, after an estimate of $8,000-$12,000.

More from New York, but thankfully, not from me! A sweet article from Forbes (“Rare Books and Suicide Bombers”) on the treasures at the NY fair this year. 
A much more leisurely day at the NY fair for me, not so for booksellers; when I arrived at noon, there was a line out the door to get in!

I was able to spend an hour strolling around, talking with booksellers I’ve never met before and looking around for some goodie to take home. Stopped in at Antipodean Books and had a lovely conversation with Cathy Lilburne, after which I purchased a fine first of Letters and Memories of Susan and Anna Bartlett Warner (1925). What a nice surprise! Susan Warner wrote the Victorian bestseller The Wide, Wide World, and I’ve been interested in the sisters ever since I wrote an article about them and their dilapidated house last year for Preservation magazine.

I chatted with Priscilla Juvelis, browsed the publishers’ bindings at Sumner & Stillman, and discussed Thoreau with Donald (Rusty) Mott of Howard S. Mott, Sheffield, MA. I could have spent much more time, and MUCH more money, but it was time to go. My short weekend in the city consisted of research at the NYPL, book fair, a fabulous dinner, exhibit at the New York Historical Society, more book fair, and lunch at Zabar’s. I’m already looking forward to next year. 

p.s. check out this super cool “library wallpaper” featured at the fair by cavernhome.com.

Friday at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair! I had the pleasure of meeting with several booksellers with whom I’ve had “email relationships,” but no faces for names until now. I spent two hours in the late afternoon assisting Nick Basbanes during his book signing, which was very successful.

As for any “conclusions” about the fair, all I have at the end of this busy day is a handful of random thoughts: booksellers seemed happy overall (I saw a lot of checks being written), there were more international booksellers on hand than in the past, and several collectors stopped to tell me how excited they are to see Fine Books back in print. Also, I saw more than a few younger (under 40) buyers.

Things my husband found of interest: a fountain pen crafted from the wood of Abraham Lincoln’s house, the famous asbestos-bound copy of Fahrenheit 451, a signed Dorothy Parker (who knew she’d have such loopy handwriting?), and a first edition, three-volume set of Frankenstein.   

Alas, I wasn’t able to browse much, so no purchases were made. I’m planning to return tomorrow for more leisurely looking.
The first sale of items from the James S. Copley Library will be held on Wednesday, 14 April at Sotheby’s New York, and this is probably going to be the Americana sale to watch this year. The entire catalog is highlights, so I’ll preview just a few of them here.

One item warrants its own mini-catalog [PDF]: one of 51 known Button Gwinnett signatures, being called “the finest ... that will ever be available for sale.” It’s a 12 July 1776 letter written by Timothy Matlack and signed by John Hancock, Robert Morris, Francis Lewis, George Read, Arthur Middleton, and Gwinnett. This very copy was purchased at a 1927 auction by Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach for $51,000, then considered a totally outrageous price for an autograph. It was acquired by Countess Estelle Doheny, and sold at her sale, Christie’s (1989) to the Copley Library. The estimate this time around: $500,000-700,000.

The main sale on Wednesday will be 188 lots, a first selection from the Copley Library. There’s a terrific selection of Adams family letters, including one from Abigail to Benjamin Rush defending her husband from attacks made on him during the 1800 campaign ($10,000-15,000); a 1795 John Adams letter to Winthrop Sargent noting JA’s lack of interest in Indian artifacts (“I am not enough in the habit of Antiquarian Speculations to hazard any Conjectures concerning them. I have never interested myself much in the Inquiries concerning the ancient Inhabitants of this country, or the Part of the World from which they first emigrated”), which is estimated at $25,000-35,000; letters from JA to Benjamin Rush dated 1808 and 1812 about partisan politics ($45,000-60,000 and $70,000-100,000 respectively); an 1837 JQA letter thanking his constituents for backing his anti-slavery efforts in the House ($120,000-180,000), &c. &c.

There’s a 1784 Samuel Adams letter to Elbridge Gerry lamenting Washington’s participation with the Society of the Cincinnati ($12,000-18,000); several notable documents by Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold, John Brown, John Paul Jones and others; British general John Burgoyne’s account of the Battle of Bunker Hill ($40,000-60,000); a small archive of British Revolutionary War commissary and auditor-general Daniel Chamier ($150,000-200,000); American Andrew Eliot’s eyewitness account of the Bunker Hill battle ($20,000-30,000); several Benjamin Franklin letters, including one relating to his autobiography ($50,000-70,000).

One of the lower-end items (heh) that I find pretty cool is a “Faneuil-Hall Lottery” ticket signed by John Hancock ($3,000-5,000); if you’re into Hancock there’s also a 1782 letter by him written in an attempt to recoup some of his expenses while serving in the Continental Congress ($40,000-60,000). If Jefferson’s more up your alley, you can get a 1773 letter pertaining to the settlement of his father-in-law’s estate ($70,000-100,000); or a 1785 letter to Richard Price thanking him for sending a copy of his latest publication ($60,000-90,000); or a 1786 letter to Crevecoeur relating news from America ($30,000-50,000). There’s even an 1825 note to Rufus King sending payment for books and scientific instruments to be used at the University of Virginia ($35,000-45,000).

The major Lincoln item in this sale is an autograph telegram to General McClellan, dated 25 May 1862, in which the commander-in-chief urges his commander to move: “you must either attack Richmond, or give up the job and come to the defense of Washington.” This is estimated to bring between $500,000-700,000.

In a c. 1708 document Cotton Mather decries the rampant sinning going on at Harvard ($5,000-7,000); Robert Treat Paine informs David Cobb of the selection of Washington as commanding officer in a 17 June 1775 letter ($18,000-25,000); Joseph Warren informs his correspondents of Arnold’s victory at Ticonderoga in a May 1775 note ($25,000-35,000).
Among the George Washington documents are a 14 September 1775 letter ordering Benedict Arnold to march on Quebec ($100,000-300,000); a 12 March 1776 letter to John Tayloe in which he mentions plans to break the siege of Boston ($50,000-80,000); a wide-ranging 1781 letter to Joseph Jones ($60,000-90,000); a fascinating July 1788 letter to MA’s Nathaniel Gorham, celebrating ratification of the Constitution ($150,000-250,000), and several other very interesting pieces.

I think my very favorite piece in this sale is the last lot: a printed copy of the U.S. Constitution annotated by an anti-federalist delegate to the Massachusetts ratifying convention. Aaron Wood outlines his disagreements with the proposed constitution, which makes this an awfully interesting document. It’s estimated at $35,000-45,000.

If you’re looking to round out your collection of signatures by Signers of the Declaration of Independence, this is a good sale for you - a fair number of them are represented here. It certainly will be fascinating to watch, and I suspect we may see some very high numbers posted for this sale.
stjerome-thumb-490x300-1274.jpgA neat essay by Colin Dickey about book-collecting and librarians featured in the Latham’s Quarterly Roundtable. From the piece: “Every librarian, every book collector, finds him or herself between these two mythical places--the Perfect Library of God and the Infinite Library of Babel, the one transcribed by Jerome, the other by Borges.”
As Rebecca mentioned in the previous post, the New York Antiquarian Book Fair is being held this weekend. I’m very excited to be exhibiting for the first time at this event, where my fellow FB&C blogger Ian Kahn (of Lux Mentis) and I will be sharing a booth (B17). I know I speak for both of us when I say we hope readers will stop by and say hello.

For those who can’t make it to the event, I have created a Flickr set where I will be posting images and commentary throughout the fair:

From set-up to break down (the books, the booksellers, the booths, the attendees, etc.), it may be the next-best thing to being there. I’ll also be “tweeting” the book fair (as I’m sure Ian will be as well).

And finally, this year also marks the fiftieth anniversary of this august event and a wonderful history of the fair can be found in the latest issue of the ABAA newsletter. A great read.

Hope to see you at the fair!
We’re coming upon one of (dare I say THE) best book fair of the year: The New York Antiquarian Book Fair. In our spring quarterly, writer Christopher Lancette talked to show organizers and booksellers who were confidently gearing up for the Big Apple. What are they bringing? Martin Luther’s will, to name just one extraordinary piece (from Inlibris Gilhofer Nrg.). And today my inbox was flooded with booksellers’ catalogues and emails related to the NY fair -- the book world is abuzz.

Here’s something really interesting that I’d like to share. This year, the Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts Company (PRB&M) is filling its front showcase entirely with books, manuscripts, and broadsides costing $500 and under! According to co-proprietor Cynthia Davis Buffington, the impulse isn’t so much about the economy as it is about enticing younger book collectors and to promoting book-collecting to beginners. Bravo!

A sampling of what will be available in that PRB&M front case: an array of nineteenth- and twentieth-century “pamphlet scriptures,” a group of seventeenth-century sermons, some fine bindings, a series of nineteenth-century American woodcut-illustrated “toy” books, illustrated books, and several volumes in travel, Mexicana, and Americana, including “a classic life of Washington in a gorgeous gilt-stamped striped cloth binding.”

I’m planning to be at the show on Friday and Saturday and will post updates. Stay tuned.
Fourteen “exceptional creative writers, independent scholars and academics” have been named as the New York Public Library’s 2010 Cullman Center Fellows. The group will get to spend a year in residence in September at the library’s famous building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, where they will work on a variety of projects.

“I’m hugely looking forward to introducing this extraordinary group of writers and scholars to the center and the lbrary -- and to each other -- next fall,” said Jean Strouse, the Cullman Center’s director. “It’s thrilling to see what personal and intellectual magic sets in here each year.”

The 2010 class includes some very well known names and less heralded writers. They include:

  • Fiction writers David Bezmozgis, Maile Chapman, Mary Gaitskill and Wells Tower.
  • Poet Geoffrey Brock
  • New Yorker staff writer Larissa MacFarquhar
  • 2009 National Humanities Medal recipient Annette Gordon-Reed, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family.
“This exceptional class of Fellows will serve as a wonderful tribute to the great generosity and wisdom of Dorothy and Lewis Cullman,” said the library’s president, Paul LeClerc. “Once they arrive, the Fellows are sure to take full advantage of the library’s unparalleled holdings in this, the building’s centennial year.”

bible.jpgA new museum has opened in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Part of Luray Caverns, the Luray Valley Museum “is a collection of restored buildings representative of life on the frontier circa the 1800s, including the restored Dunkard Elk Run Meeting House which served as a hospital to Civil War soldiers from both sides during the conflict (their signatures can still be seen inscribed on the walls of the church). The cornerstone of the project, however, is the refurbished Stonyman building which houses an extensive collection of decorative arts, tools, literature, and artifacts that weave the tapestry of the region’s rich history.”

Bible1.jpgOf particular interest to FB&C readers might be a rare 1536 Swiss Bible, known as the
Abraham Strickler Bible (pictured here, credit: Tyler Driscoll Photography). Printed in Zurich by Christopher Froschauer, it was brought to America in the early 1700s by German-speaking Swiss immigrants. According to the press materials for the museum’s grand opening this past weekend:

This Bible is one of the first printed in Europe that combines both the Old and New Testaments in one volume, and is printed in the vernacular language of German. The bible’s woodblock illustrations were done by Hans Holbein, the Younger, better known for his paintings for the English court of King Henry VIII. The Bible came to the Luray Valley Museum collection from the Modisett family of Leaksville (Mill Creek), who also sold the Elk Run Meeting House to the Museum. Mennonite preacher, teacher and artist Jacob Strickler likely built the Meeting House about 1825. After his death in 1846, the building was conveyed to the Dunkard Brethren faith, and was moved to the Luray Valley Museum site in 2008.
cbjheader.jpgBack in November, I blogged about Dr. Maureen E. Mulvihill’s essay on the Peyraud collection sale, “Literary Property Changing Hands.” Mulvihill has now written another piece of interest to FB&C readers, this one a multimedia exhibition review of the Morgan Library’s recent Austen exhibit titled “Captured by Jane,” published by the Jane Austen Centre Online Magazine in Bath. Writes Mulvihill, “The Morgan’s Austen show was the literary success of New York City’s 2009-2010 winter season; it also was the first major show on this English novelist in the United States.” She later adds, “The exhibition’s two busy curators did not merely ‘hang a show’: they created a portal--a ventricle--to Jane Austen and her Regency world.”

If you missed it, Mulvihill’s essay will take you there. An online version of the exhibit is available too.
Our spring quarterly--in the mail now, just received my copy yesterday--has a super cool resource called Biblio 360. Basically, it’s a list of book clubs & societies, classes & seminars, exhibits, lectures, readings, symposia, etc. of interest to bibliophiles, happening this spring and summer (which complements the list of book fairs and auctions already available in our calendar). While compiling this guide, we also pulled together a list of about 80 of the best and most comprehensive online exhibits related to book collecting, bookbinding, printing, rare books, maps, publishing, and manuscripts. Take an educational jaunt -- you’ll be glad you did.
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