January 2011 Archives

...the single best collection I’ve ever seen--and my job has given me the chance over many years to see a number of very fine collections--was formed by people who knew things I did not and built a collection that it would never have occurred to me to suggest.
--Daniel Traister, Are There New Paths for Book Collectors?

Thumbnail image for activitybook.jpgI must admit, collecting children’s activity books that have a TV tie-in is not something that I would likely think of on my own.  Yet many such books exist.  Is anyone collecting them?

These types of books have been published for several decades.  Not all of them tie-in to what one normally would think of as specifically children’s television programming.

I can see how historians of popular culture might put a collection of such books to good use.  Especially where such a collection ranges widely across time and subject matter, it could be examined to determine how ideas of what constitute “child-appropriate” entertainment have changed over time.  This might be suggested not only by the activities contained within such books, but also by the TV shows to which such books are tied. 

o_CCF04052008_00001.jpgBusiness historians could mine such a collection to answer questions like ... What do the TV tie-ins say about the relative marketing clout of competing segments of the entertainment industry (TV vs. movies)?  Or ... What do the TV tie-ins say about the extent to which society’s fears and concerns at particular points in time become fodder for profit-making by the entertainment industry?  Or ...  What do the TV tie-ins say about the ability of publishers to “think outside the box?”

Because most institutional libraries do not collect books that have been marked up by young readers (an activity book’s raison d’être), future historians of the book likely will have very little to work with unless some private collector, somewhere, is avidly collecting such books....
Go back in time and down the rabbit hole by enjoying some book covers of Lewis Carroll’s classic tale, here.
Hot on the heels of Jonathan Safran Foer’s designer book, Tree of Codes, the same British publisher, Visual Editions, has released a souped-up (or pimped-out?) version of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. (They’re also offering two nose posters.) Fast Company Co.Design highlighted the new edition a couple of days ago, reminding readers of the “crucial role” innovative design will play in saving print. According to that article, Sterne’s classic was ripe for this type of make-over: “Sterne, the 18th-century godfather of visual writing, filled his meandering cock-and-bull story with all sorts of glyphic ephemera -- a blacked out page to connote mourning, a blank page on which readers could sketch their impressions of a foxy widow, and so on.” In the new VE edition, visual elements--dots of color, overprinted text, typographical play--exaggerate Sterne’s words. In the example above, a folded page represents a shut door.
p&b.jpgThe International League of Antiquarian Booksellers has issued an update about its Breslauer Prize for Bibliography (Jan Storm van Leeuwen’s Dutch Decorated Bookbinding in the Eighteenth Century was last year’s winner) stating that seven books have already been submitted for the 16th award. They include bibliographies, biographies, and library catalogues. Valeria Gauz’s Portuguese and Brazilian Books in the John Carter Brown Library 1537 to 1839, seen here at left, is one of those now under consideration.

Authors and libraries are encouraged to submit any published work on bibliography, book history, binding, the book trade, etc.) that is published between 2009 and 2012. Submissions accepted until April 2013. See the ILAB site for more details.
Archivist of the United States David Ferriero announced today that Thomas Lowry, a long-time researcher and Lincoln expert, confessed to altering a Lincoln document owned by the Archives. According to the press release, about a dozen years ago, Lowry brought in a fountain pen containing pigment-based ink and changed the year on a presidential pardon from 1864 to 1865. “Lowry was then able to claim that this pardon was of significant historical relevance because it could be considered one of, if not the final official act by President Lincoln before his assassination.”

Close up of the Lincoln pardon for Patrick Murphy, a Civil War soldier in the Union Army, showing the
date change. Records of the Judge Advocate General (Army) National Archives.

Conservators at the National Archives will now assess whether the original date can be restored.

Guest Blog by Jeffrey Murray, former senior archivist with Library and Archives Canada and FB&C Fine Maps columnist

Map collectors were taken by surprise last week when a little-known 1699 map by John Thornton sold at auction in Britain to Daniel Crouch Rare Books for $323,000 (US), nearly three times its estimated value. The one-of-a-kind map was hand-drawn on vellum and still retains its original bright colors. The map shows the North American coastline from Long Island northwest to Hudson Bay in what is now northern Canada.

Image courtesy Lawrences Auctioneers.

John Thornton’s contributions to marine cartography are extensive. In 1689 he produced, with William Fisher, The English Pilot, The Fourth Book, which was the first marine atlas covering North America. It continued in use, with some of Thornton’s original charts, for more than a century. Later in 1703 he published The English Pilot, The Third Book, which was the first English marine atlas of oriental waters. His maps of America are equally distinguished, such as his 1683 plan of Philadelphia.

It would appear that the auctioned map is the one of two originally identified by Richard Ruggles in A Country So Interesting that Thornton prepared in 1699. The maps were delivered, for the princely fee of £3, to the Hudson Bay Company (HBC), an English fur trading company operating in northern Canada. Until now, the maps were known only from HBC Company minutes, since they had been long lost to both Company representatives and modern-day researchers.

Thornton’s 1699 map has some unique features not found in most cartography of the day, the most obvious of which is a border running from about 59° N on the Labrador Coast, southwest to the western end of the Great Lakes. At the close of the seventeenth century, France was disputing the HBC’s trading rights to all the lands draining into Hudson Bay and James Bay. It was insisting on a boundary that would have prevented the Company from accessing its trading posts at the mouths of the Albany, Moose, Rupert, and Eastman rivers.

Thornton invoked the HBC charter by showing the Company’s counter claim. According to Ruggles, the HBC sent copies of this map to government officials and to King William III. No doubt, in an attempt to boost British claims, many of the ports identified by Thornton along the Atlantic coast are English settlements (most of the French ones were probably conveniently left off). The coast was also coloured-coded by Thornton, perhaps to emphasize French-English rights to different parts of the shoreline. The French-English territorial dispute in North America was eventually settled by articles 12 and 13 of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713).

For more on this story, see the Montreal Gazette.

RP.jpgReynolds Price, a true southern gentleman and one of the outstanding American writers of his generation, died yesterday at 77, in Durham, North Carolina, of heart failure. While known best for his thirteen novels, Price was a magnificent stylist adept in many genres, with volumes of poetry, essays, plays, short stories, memoirs, and translations from the Bible among his other credits. His first book, A Long and Happy Life, was greeted on its release in 1962 with immediate acclaim and honors, including a coveted William Faulkner Award that set the stage for the many literary triumphs that followed, A Generous Man (1966), Kate Vaiden (1986) and The Three Gospels (1996) notable among them. His third memoir, An American Writer, Coming of Age in Oxford (2009), recalled the three years he spent as a Rhodes Scholar in the late 1950s; upon his return to the United States, he taught at Duke University, his alma mater, for more than fifty years, a favorite course among students the one on his lifelong hero, John Milton. A splendid obituary of Price’s life--with some lovely comments from such admirers as Allan Gurganus and Ann Tyler--appears in today’s New York Times.

Top.jpgLet it also be said that in addition to his remarkable body of work--thirty-eight published books, by my count--Reynolds Price was a dedicated bibliophile who had a genuine appreciation for books as artifacts. I spoke with him several times back in the 1990s for my newspaper columns, the most memorable get-together coming on May 15, 1992, when we met for lunch at a small cafe just off Harvard Square to talk about his novel Blue Calhoun, which had just been released. As much as I treasure the inscription he wrote in my copy of the book, pictured here--how could I not love being referred to by Reynolds Price as a “fellow bibliomaniac”?--the unqualified highlight of the interview came when we were discussing his courageous battle with spinal cancer, and his will to continue writing despite being confined to a wheelchair as a paraplegic. It was during this exchange that Price told me about a special book he owned, and why it meant so much to him. A phrase he used--“touching the hand”--inspired me sufficiently to use it three years later as the title for the opening chapter in A Gentle Madness.

“Milton wrote his best books after he lost his sight,” he had told me back then. “I have written eleven books since I had cancer, and it represents some of the very best work I have ever done. My copy of Paradise Lost once belonged to Deborah Milton Clarke, the daughter who took Milton’s dictation after he went blind. For me, it was like the apostolic succession. I was touching the hand that touched the hand that touched the Hand.”

When I contacted Price two years later to go over the quote once again--he was delighted to learn that I was going to use it in my book--he reminded me to make sure that the ‘h’ in the final usage of the word ‘hand’ be capitalized. “This is the Hand of God we are talking about here, Nicholas,” he said in his wonderful drawl. I get chills to this day thinking about it.

In case any of you missed last night’s Oddities on the Discovery Channel, here’s a two-minute clip of the segment about a book bound in human skin. “If it’s the real thing,” says the host, “you’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars.” Did bookseller Ian Kahn of Lux Mentis get to the bottom of the mystery? Only he can tell us...

042575W3.jpgOn Friday, the Folger Shakespeare Library launches what looks to be an incredibly interesting exhibit, Beyond Home Remedy: Women, Medicine, and Science. The Folger’s description: “This exhibition highlights women at all levels of society--from the Countess of Kent and Lady Castleton to Hannah Woolley and Mrs. Anne Coates--who were known to practice medicine. Manuscript, text, and image from the Folger’s collection bring the work of these women to life, while natural history specimens and instruments from the Smithsonian help to demonstrate the elaborate nature of the recipes women constructed and shared with one another.” On the exhibit’s webpage, a host of recipes is offered (plague water, anyone?), as well as images of the rare volumes form which they are taken, for example, Woolley’s The compleat servant-maid; or, The young maidens tutor. London, 1683. They’ve also posted a short video on making the syrup of violets:

If you own a thrift shop, there must be a better way to discard the books that don’t sell rather than simply throwing them in a landfill. That’s what Phil McMullin, CEO of Thrift Recycling Management, thought anyway.

Now, TRM, one of the largest used-book distributors on the internet, has received a $8.5 million venture-capital investment that could extend the company’s reach and help keep those books away from landfills and in the hands of readers instead.

The Seattle Times has more on the story, here.
Back in November, I re-posted here part of a blog on modern book scouts by bookseller Matthew Jones. He has continued the series on his site -- part 2 titled “Local Scouts, Local Booksellers” (he’s in the San Fran area) and the newest installment, part 3, titled “Isn’t Technology Grand?” about scouting with handheld scanners. Here’s a bit:

I also know more than a few “secret scouts” who keep their scanners hidden until the last minute, on the low down so to speak, thinking nobody will know what they’re up to if only they keep that little toy in their pants, as if it were a crime or something only they know about. Fact is that TONS of people know about scanning, but not everyone is into it.
Radioactivecover.JPGIt’s not every day that a book artist receives a love letter from the New York Times. Lauren Redniss has earned that rare honor for her stunning new biography of Marie and Pierre Curie entitled Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout. A rave review in the Times--one of many from around the country-is a welcome sign that artists’ books continue to find their way into the mainstream.

Admittedly, Radioactive is not a traditional artists’ book. Published by HarperCollins imprint It Books, some might deem it more of a graphic novel or just a beautifully illustrated biography. Whatever you call it, Redniss has created an exquisitely crafted work of literary and visual art. Her thoughtful text is paired with two hundred pages of striking hand-colored prints and line drawings that portray the love story of the Curies in a way that could not have been done in words or image alone. The author/artist paid the greatest attention to every detail, even designing her own font. Perhaps most strikingly, the book’s jacketless cover, printed in luminescent ink, glows in the dark. The exterior also has a pleasant textural quality that reminds me of my children’s Touch and Feel books.

Radioactive 146-47 LOW RES.jpg Holland Carter once wrote of artists’ books that some are “made for reading, some for looking; some for touching; many for all three.” Radioactive hits the tifecta of sensory experiences. And I’ll add a fourth--it even smells good, probably because of all that gorgeous ink used in the illustrations. Redniss reminds readers that the printed page still has much to offer us.
Washington.jpgThe New Jersey Historical Society in Newark is catching heat this week as it has consigned another twenty items to Christie’s, to be sold at two New York sales on Thursday and Friday (and in another sale in February). The items will include a portrait of George Washington attributed to NJ artist Charles B. Lawrence (seen here at right), several tall-case clocks, some furniture, and a lovely dinner service once owned by early NJ Govenor Mahlon Dickerson. The NJHS stands to make something in the range of $80,000-$150,000.

Guest Blog by Richard Minsky, book artist

Field Report: CBAA Conference, Jan 13-16, 2011

More than 200 book art educators and librarians gathered at Indiana University, Bloomington last week for the Second Biennial Conference of the College Book Art Association. There were about 50 presentations in so many concurrent sessions it was impossible to attend them all. The speakers and topics were of top quality and interest, making it difficult to choose. There were in-depth analyses of individual book artists’ works, including Betty Bright’s study of Gaylord Shanilec’s Sylvae and Mayflies of the Driftless Region, and Tracy Bergstrom’s study of Tom Phillips’ Dante’s Inferno.

px 65-108-sc578830.jpgMarking the fiftieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration this month, Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, and David S. Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, announced yesterday “the nation’s largest online digitized presidential archive.” This allows unprecedented, global access to the documents, photographs, records, and audio/video recordings (including phone calls) of Kennedy’s short presidency and its major themes -- the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War, the Peace Corps., and civil rights. It’s all now available at www.jfklibrary.org.

“As the largest, most advanced digital archive created by a Presidential Library not ‘born digital,’ the project can serve as a model for other presidential libraries and national and international archival institutions,” stated the press release. Twelve other presidential libraries have their work cut out for them.

Libraries of the Rich and Famous

Care to see Rod Stewart’s library? Frank Sinatra’s? Diane Keaton’s is pictured above. Michael Jackson’s? Look no further!
633321.jpgPerusing the list of Swann Galleries’ Performing Arts Memorabilia auction (its first online-only auction opened on Monday, see the press release here), I found one playbill that looked very familiar. Lot 367 is a signed playbill for Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie (seen here at left). He wrote, “Thanks, Henry! -- Tenn. Williams.” A different copy of this playbill also appears on page 50 of the winter 2011 edition of FB&C, within an article titled “The Transformation of Tennessee” about the Ransom Center’s upcoming exhibit on Williams. The Ransom copy has an odd inscription on the cover: “The quizz kid asks you: “which one is the actor”? and at the bottom, “annotated by Laurette Taylor” -- who was an early American actress. The exhibit opens on Feb. 1, the very same day that Swann closes its auction.
Thoreau-CC.jpgFor those of you just digging in to FB&C’s winter 2011 edition, I’d like to point you toward some (more) wonderful images of Sarah Wyman Whitman’s bindings. The Boston Public Library has posted an incredible resource of Whitman images on Flickr. In our article on Whitman, curator-writer Stuart Walker references this vast collection of images. It’s amazing. Seen here at right, her design for Thoreau’s Cape Cod (alas, the only Whitman I own).

I also received today a catalogue announcement from William & Nina Matheson Books, showcasing “The Book Arts of the 1890s.” Looks like a lot of nice secondary material for Whitman collectors.

The Coats of Edward Gorey

There’s a delightful and odd little piece in the Paris Review about the coats of Edward Gorey and how one fan won one during a recent auction.

From the piece...

Once the auction began, anxiety set in. The coat I had settled on was second to last. As my friend predicted, one person was snapping up nearly every lot. Perhaps it was adrenaline, perhaps it was my irrational desire to own a part of Edward Gorey, but I began to bid on coats I didn’t want or couldn’t have even worn. I stayed in far longer than my budget allowed. The coats were selling for $3,000 to $6,000. Part of me knew I would be beyond broke if I won, but I assured myself that winning was impossible.

The coat on which I had my heart set--a stunning Fischer Stroller designed by Gorey himself--went to the mysterious bidder at the back of the room. I was disappointed but relieved and ready to go home. I had tried. But wait! As a model walked down the aisle wearing the final coat, someone from the back pointed out a mistake. The last two coats had been accidentally swapped on their hangers. The auctioneer would reset the bidding, something he said he’d never done before. I would get another chance. The first coat--the Gorey-designed coat--went for $3,800, and I lost again. Then the last coat went on the block: a Lorraine mink stroller. I hadn’t tried it on; for some reason I had overlooked it on the rack. It wasn’t designed by Gorey, but it was gorgeous.

I won the coat. I won the coat that moments ago sold for triple the price I could afford to pay. Everyone cheered.

Boardwalk Empire, HBO’s period drama about the early days of the mob in Atlantic City, offered some of the most compelling television in 2010. I could gush for awhile about the acting, cinematography, storytelling, and music but you can go elsewhere for that. Let’s talk about the books.

The camera lingers lovingly on two books in particular during the show’s first season. (The actual books shown are period-appropriate copies--a welcome attention to detail appreciated by this bibliophile reviewer).
I think I get it. I know, I’m probably the last blogger of the biblioblogosphere to talk about e-readers, but I think I just got it.

I love books as things. The physical artifact. Paper, ink, boards, cloth, leather, all of it. I have not really understood the fascination with e-books. Until now. They seem pretty unsatisfactory, by and large, but are improving. I’ll also admit I have an ereader app or few on my iphone. I use Stanza for books from Project Gutenberg (30K+ titles for free!) and MegaReader for access to books from Archive.org (Over a million, all free!).
In the current issue of Vanity Fair, a long profile of actor Johnny Depp (written by rocker-writer Patti Smith, no less) delves into Depp’s collecting activities (page 3, particularly). Smith asks Depp: “Speaking of books, I was thinking about the letters and manuscripts you have--Dylan Thomas, Kerouac, Rimbaud. Can you remember the first of these that you obtained and how that came about?” Depp’s response to this question refers to John Sampas, Kerouac’s brother-in-law, who invited Depp to the family home to have his pick of Kerouac documents and memorabilia, including Kerouac’s raincoat. Where have I heard this before? In “And the Beat Goes On,” an article we published last January, all about the controversy surrounding Kerouac’s will and how his estate has been/is being handled. Seems like this beat does go on and on...

MarkTwain[1].jpgIf Michiko Kakutani’s column in today’s New York Times is not the best read and most emailed piece in the paper, then not enough people are paying attention. Her take on the announcement that a new edition of Huckleberry Finn is being released with more than 200 uses of the ‘n’ word from the original text--yes, it is “nigger,” and I will use it here just this once--being summarily changed to “slave” is exquisitely reasoned and beautifully supported with historical parallels. (There is the absurdity, for instance, of a British theater group changing the title of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 2002 to The Bellringer of Notre Dame for a new production of the play.)

The editor of the new Huckleberry Finn edition, Alan Gribben, is a professor of English at Auburn University in Alabama. His explanation for changing the word in each usage--and thus bowdlerizing what we can all agree is one of the most consequential works of fiction in the American literary canon--is to make the book more appealing to high school and college teachers who might otherwise excise it from their curricula. It is, he argues, “a racial slur that never seems to lose its vitriol,” and thus, with one simple stroke of a search-and-replace key, voila, Mark Twain is rendered suitable for modern eyes to read without fear of being unduly bruised by the sunlight.

Instead of explaining to students that the reprehensible word has a history that goes back four hundred years, and that the slur as used in the novel was totally in character for the time and the place and the people being profiled, teachers using this sanitized text are now free to ignore unpleasantness altogether. Let’s hope they will be few and far between. If leery instructors need a little help along these lines--it is called teaching, after all--they should take a look at The ‘N’ Word, (Houghton Mifflin, 2007) by Washington Post cultural columnist Jabari Asim. We don’t accomplish a whole lot by denying the past. And we certainly don’t introduce literature to young readers by grooming it to suit our delicate sensibilities.

Kudos to Ms. Kakutani for making the point so eloquently. Meanwhile, Mr. Gribben’s defense of the action (which also changes “injun” to “Indian”)--and that of his publisher, NewSouth Books--can be read at this link.

From one alma mater to another (see yesterday’s post about Drew U. and one of my previous posts about Syracuse to decode that phrase)...Syracuse University’s Bird Library released this week a slide-show of neat documents and objects in its Special Collections Research Center.  A corresponding article previews a bold new video project, spouts impressive library stats, and offers a list of Bird’s top five “Coolest Pieces”: No. 1 -- The cameras and equipment of famed photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White. No. 2 -- Malcolm X’s letter from Mecca to Alex Haley, co-author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. No. 3 -- Miklós Rózsa’s Academy Award for his Ben-Hur musical score. No. 4 -- Edison cylinders in the Belfer Audio Archives, which include some of the earliest music recordings. No. 5 -- The papers and publications of Hugo Gernsback, the “father of science fiction.”
As some of you may remember, William Scott, a Drew University student, was accused of stealing rare Methodist and presidential letters from the United Methodist Archives Center in March of last year. Yesterday, he pleaded guilty in a United States District Court, and sentencing will occur on April 15. 

Scott was working part-time in the archives, when he was tempted to bring some of the treasures back to his dorm room, and from there, sell them to book dealers here and abroad. My original post on this case expressed utter shock, because of the crime, of course, but also because Drew is my graduate alma mater, and I worked in the library and university archives there for several years. 

CharlesWesleyletter-257x300.jpgWhen I was on campus again last month, I did ask about the state of the case and was told that things were still in the works, and no news was being shared. I learned that all but one stolen document had been recovered, and the press release issued today states that that document is the second page of a Charles Wesley letter from 1755 (they do have a scan, seen here at left).

The silver lining in this story is that Drew has implemented security changes that will hopefully ensure no further incidents. But that doesn’t mean restricting access to originals -- Dr. Andrew Scrimgeour, dean of the library, makes a point worth sharing, “...The care of special material is an essential trust, but it should not preclude the singular delight that only comes in working with the special volume--seeing its size, feeling its heft, turning the pages, smelling its aroma, inspecting the watermarks, reveling in the binding, illustrations, and illumination, and enjoying the perfection of ink on paper. That experience should remain the hallmark of special collections of Drew University.” 
So reported the New York Times today, the London-based auction house that bills itself as the leading auctioneer of books and manuscripts is in limbo. From the short article:

Rupert Powell, the company’s deputy chairman, said in an interview that the branch was not closing. “We’re just having a strategic review about what we decide to do,” he said, adding, “I can’t really give you any more clues.” [Read More]
No upcoming sales are listed on Bloomsbury’s online calendar.
If you think you knew all you needed to know about Virginia Woolf, think again. I’ve just read an excellent article, “Dancing on Hot Bricks: Virginia Woolf in 1941” by Maureen E. Mulvihill. A scholar and writer in New York City, Dr. Mulvihill--who we’ve brought to your attention before with her treatment of the Paula Peyraud collection and a recent Jane Austen exhibit--was this time commissioned by Rapportage magazine to cover the last few months in Woolf’s life. Her essay was then included in a traveling exhibit of Carl Kohler’s literary portraits (now at the University of Cork, Boole Library, Ireland). The photo below here shows Mulvihill’s essay in the University of Chicago installation. By focusing on the rich details of Woolf’s last months, Mulvihill offers a magnified look at the desperate writer in her last days.

Mulvihill-Kohler.jpgVirginiaWoolf.jpgKohler’s portrait of Woolf, used in Mulvihill’s paper, is seen here at right. The Kohler collection contains fifty portraits of writers--Grass, Joyce, Kafka, and Miller among them--that has traveled from Sweden to New York City, to Brooklyn, Washington, Canada, Chicago, and now Ireland. To see more images from the exhibit, and to read Mulvihill’s essay, visit the ILAB website, which has a page devoted to it. 

Like last year, I’ll highlight a few of the notable anniversaries coming up in 2011:

50 years ago (1961):
- Jasper Fforde born, 11 January.
- Chuck Palahniuk born, 21 February.
- Dashiell Hammett dies, 10 January.
- Ernest Hemingway dies, 2 July.
- James Thurber dies, 2 November.
- Sheila Burnford’s The Incredible Journey published.
- Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach published.
- Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land published.
- Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 published.
- Marshall McLuhan’s The Gutenberg Galaxy published.
- Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins wins the Newbery Medal.
- Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird wins the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

I have decided to start the new year off with a few books that came to my attention a bit too late to make my holiday roundups, but which are eminently worthy of notice all the same. Think of each one as a little present for yourself; you won’t be disappointed.

horse.jpgThe Horse: From Cave Paintings to Modern Art, by Jean-Louis Gourand, Michel Woronoff, Henri-Paul Franefort, and others; Abbeville Press, 400 pages, with 328 full-color illustrations, boxed, $150.

So you didn’t get a pony for Christmas, too bad, but you can still treat yourself to what is easily the most magnificent art book devoted to the horse that I have ever seen, and the best part is you don’t have to feed it or clean out its stall. Arguably the most beautiful animal in nature, the horse has inspired creative expression for many centuries, with magnificent examples in a multitude of media to be found in the prehistoric caves of Lascaux, the sands of Mesopotamia, and depicted over the generations by cultures as varied as Babylonian, Scythian, Chinese, Greek, and Roman. First published in France in 2008, this remarkable book, newly translated and issued in a lovely boxed edition, pays homage to the horse in all its glory, with more than 300 color illustrations and thirteen learned essays to make the case. The horse, John Louis Gourand writes, is “undoubtedly the most frequently represented living being in art after man himself, from the very earliest of times.” Abbeville Press lives up to its well-earned reputation for producing art books in the grand tradition; the illustrations are superbly chosen, and vividly reproduced.

George Washington’s America: A Biography Through Maps, by Barnet Schecter; Walker, 304 pages, $67.50.

george.jpgKnown most famously, of course, as hero of the Revolution and first President of the United States, George Washington also worked as a surveyor early in his life, and had a lifelong relationship with maps. At his death, many of the charts he had owned and used were bound into an atlas that eventually made its way to the Map Collection of Sterling Library at Yale University, a corpus that provides the framework for this most interesting examination. In addition to the maps he purchased, Washington drew a number of his own that have survived. “These visual images,” historian Robert Schecter writes, “place us at the scene of his youthful ambition and his later battles--in the landscapes and on the waterways that were the theater of war in Britain’s North American colonies, and that sparked the imagination and desires of the preeminent founder of the United States.” Once independence was secured, the maps helped shape Washington’s “vision of America as ‘a rising empire in the New World.’”

The Encyclopedia of New York City: Second Edition, edited by Kenneth T. Jackson; Yale University Press, 1,561 pages, $65.

new york.JPGFirst published in 1995, this wonderful, one-volume encyclopedia about the city that never sleeps was one of the most successful books in the long history of the Yale University Press, prompting the preparation of this completely updated effort. The World Trade Center no longer anchors the Manhattan skyline, to cite just one major change, and Bernie Madoff was not a household name back then. The E-Z pass hadn’t been invented yet either, and the New York Giants hadn’t shocked the New England Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl. These are just a few of the 800 entries to be added to the mix, bringing the total to 5,000. Each is written by an acknowledged authority, be it in sports, entertainment, finance, architecture, or art, and each is a delightful little essay in its own right about every manner of New York person, place, institution, and curiosity, spanning pre-history to the present, and covering all five boroughs.This is one of my very favorite reference books, all spiffed up, and relevant as ever.

500px-J._D._Salinger_Signature.svg.pngJ.D. Salinger was born on this day in 1919. Last year he celebrated his very last birthday; he died on the 27th of the month.

FB&C covered the story of Salinger’s death from several angles -- on the blog, Jonathan Shipley gave us a round-up of obituaries, Steve Alburty offered a fine essay on privacy and the writer, and bookseller Brian Cassidy wrote about the market for signed Salinger material. In our February e-letter, Alistair Highet penned a literary epitaph in the form of pastiche.

Of course, Salinger has also turned up at auction this year. Sotheby’s sold twelve of his letters to a college friend for $12,500. And the mainstream media buzzed when Salinger’s toilet turned up on eBay last August with an asking price of $1 million (the listing has since been deleted). 
Auction Guide