April 2011 Archives

In 1821, Charles Knight -- who one day would attain a modest measure of fame as publisher of works like The Pictorial Shakespeare (parts, 1838-1841) and the 8-volume Popular History of England (1856-62) -- had recently completed an apprenticeship in his father’s bookselling business.  Knight, as a recent Cambridge Quarterly article observes,

soon began to acquire additional skills --  most notably, printing and journalism -- to increase his understanding of publishing, in which direction he clearly intended to develop the family business. In 1812, his father and he [had] established a weekly newspaper, which he edited himself, The Windsor and Eton Express, which ran for fifteen years. Periodicals and books, most typically published as part-works, all designed for a broad readership, appeared with increasing frequency from 1820....

These experiences led Knight to publish an article, in 1821, wherein he decried, in the words of Richard Evans, “the woeful influence of the popular press on the working classes.”

5598464-L.jpgEducation of the working classes was a hot topic in Great Britain in the 19th century.  For centuries, books had been out of the financial reach of all but the well-to-do.  Knight wanted to make the world’s knowledge available to everyone.  But he needed help.

In 1825, a like-minded British lord -- Henry Peter Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux (who one day would attain his own measure of fame as Lord Chancellor of the United Kingdom) -- published a small pamphlet that would have a big impact: Practical Observations upon the Education of People. The pamphlet (at least twenty editions are recorded the first year of publication) proposed that books popularizing science and general knowledge be published at a price that even the lowliest worker could afford.

Perhaps because Brougham was that rare aristocrat who actually had to work for a living (he worked many years as both a lawyer and a journalist), he seems to have been more empathetic to the plight of working class readers than might otherwise have been expected.  In any event, in the same year that his little pamphlet was published, he founded (with Matthew Davenport Hill) an organization to create a comprehensive and inexpensive range of educational literature for the masses: The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.  To oversee (from 1827) and publish (from 1829) this literature, Brougham appointed Charles Knight.

The Society eventually published a number of now-famous weekly and biweekly periodicals and pamphlets: the Penny Magazine (1832-1845); the Quarterly Journal of Education (1831-1836); the Penny Cyclopedia; and, the subject of this post, a series of biweekly pamphlets known as The Library of Useful Knowledge.

libraryofusefulk02socirich_0019.jpgThe first number in the Library of Useful Knowledge sold some 33,000 copies, but within five years each number was selling only about 6000 copies.  This was partly due to the high price (sixpence per number).  More importantly, though, the material was not light reading.  As Richard Evans points out,

[t]he publications did not engage in political or religious issues but rather focused on popularizing other areas of knowledge. The SDUK wanted to appeal to workers who had just learnt to read and the material was aimed at improving their reading as well as informing them. The SDUK focused primarily on teaching artisans the scientific principles associated with their trades and imparting useful information.

By 1848 the Library was no more.

It would be a significant challenge to collect the Library of Useful Knowledge in its entirety.  I personally have never encountered a complete collection.  Do any FB&C readers know if a complete collection even exists ... anywhere?

[N.B.: Images are via the Internet Archive.]

Good news from the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries this week: Donnie Curtis, Head of Special Collections, has announced that Special Collections will not be closing, as recommended in the university’s proposed budget cuts announced earlier this year.

Kathlin Ray, Interim Dean of Libraries, said in a statement to the Friends of the Library: “On March 7 the university announced proposed budget cuts of $26 million, and a further $13.8 on April 4 to address a potential budget reduction of $59 million by July 2012 as required by Nevada Governor Sandoval. These cuts are campuswide. While initial recommendations included Special Collections, the library provided an alternative plan to meet the budget reductions. Therefore, Special Collections has been removed from the list of closures, and we are hard at work on a long-term plan to ensure its continuing health and vitality. As we move forward, we welcome your continuing contributions of historically significant Nevada materials and support for fundraising initiatives.”

Catalogue Review: Between the Covers, #169

BTC Cover.pngBetween the Covers of Gloucester City, New Jersey, is one of the most successful antiquarian booksellers. They have a 15,000-square-foot warehouse of treasures--which I cannot wait to see one day--an absurdly wonderful website, and an extraordinary staff. They also create dynamic, colorful catalogues with the best book images around. I got this spring catalogue just prior to the NYABF three weeks ago.  

Two items jumped out at me right away -- a first edition of Robert Benchley’s No Poems or Around the World Backwards and Sideways (1932) that is inscribed by the author, who signed himself “Bobby” ($950). As the catalogue copy noted, “The intimacy of the inscription is telling; we’ve never before seen Benchley inscribe a book as ‘Bobby.’” The other item--on the very same page--is a copy of Henry Beston’s The Outermost House inscribed by the author with an eight-page letter to a Mrs. Sweeman enclosed ($5,000). I am a huge fan of Beston’s nature writing, and I was thrilled to actually hold this book at the fair in New York and chat with BTC’s Dan Gregory about it.

BTC has a particularly strong selection of galleys or proofs. The four Thomas Pynchons they have from the collection of Pynchon’s editor Ray Roberts are neat, especially the publisher’s dummy of Mason & Dixon ($3,500). It’s actually an unprinted text block with a provisional dustwrapper affixed to the pastedowns. There’s also a galley proof of Hemingway’s Moveable Feast ($4,500) and an uncorrected proof of Brendan Behan’s Confessions of an Irish Rebel ($225).

Other surprises that poke out -- the Harvard Class Album of 1932 featuring James Agee ($750), a film corporation stock book associated with producer Harry Aiken ($3,500), and promotional ephemera for Maurice Sendak’s I Saw Esau ($350).

But even all this is just the tip of the iceberg at BTC. A new catalogue appeared just days ago -- Archives & Manuscripts, No. 4. All catalogues can be viewed online or in PDF. In print if you request it. You can also visit them at the Bookshop in Old New Castle, in Delaware, where BTC and three other booksellers have partnered in an open shop.

There was a hue and a cry when Seattle’s venerable and beloved Elliott Bay Book Company moved from Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square to the quirky up-and-coming neighborhood of Capitol Hill because it was failing financially.

They’ve been on Capitol Hill for a little while now. It was a good move. The Puget Sound Business Journal is reporting that the 150,000 title independent bookstore has had better sales. In fact, sales are up 15% to 20% better than they were at Pioneer Square.

Huzzah! Long live independent bookstores!
Get some “insight into the collecting mind” with this three-part web documentary, The Curators,  created by the Museum of Online Museums to showcase little known collectors and collections across the country. Below is Part One. Each part is between five and seven minutes, so you can watch everything in about twenty minutes. Enjoy!

The Museum of Online Museums’ “The Curators” (Part One) from Coudal Partners on Vimeo.

Sad news today for typewriter devotees -- according to the Atlantic, the last typewriter factory in the world has shut its doors. From the piece:

With only about 200 machines left -- and most of those in Arabic languages -- Godrej and Boyce shut down its plant in Mumbai, India, today. “Although typewriters became obsolete years ago in the west, they were still common in India -- until recently,” according to the Daily Mail, which ran a special story this morning about the typewriters demise. “Demand for the machines has sunk in the last ten years as consumers switch to computers.” Secretaries, rejoice.
Nick Basbanes’ lament about New York City’s Writers Room banning typewriters last year has proved more prescient than we would have liked. 
A few prints by Hungarian photographer Brassai went under the hammer last week at Doyle NY (see our photo essay). Two others will be for sale this upcoming weekend at Stair Galleries in Hudson, NY. Their two-day modern and contemporary art auction features an entire day of photography, and a second day devoted to paintings, prints, and other works of art. Here is a brief sampling:

Gelatin silver print; 9 3/4 x 7 3/8 in. (image).
Estimate: $ 500.00 - $ 700.00

320.jpgLot #320: BARBARA KRUGER (b. 1945): HAPPY, SAD AND AWAKE
Offset lithographic print, 23 5/8 x 22 3/4 in.
Estimate: $ 1000.00 - $ 1500.00

523.jpgLot #523: ROBERT MOTHERWELL (1915-1991): UNTITLED
Lithograph and collage, 21 7/8 x 15 7/8 in. (sight), 24 1/16 x 20 1/8 in. (sheet), with original folio cover, numbered 408/500 taped on verso.
Estimate: $ 1500.00 - $ 2500.00

703.jpgLot #703: JULIAN SCHNABEL (b. 1951): BAM PORTFOLIO, 1989
Sugarlift aquatint in two sheets, 120 7/8 x 42 1/2 in., signed and numbered 58/75.
Estimate: $ 2000.00 - $ 3000.00

Catalogue Review: Whitmore Rare Books # 2

cat_1_356.jpgWhen I visited the Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair two weeks ago (recap here), I met young bookseller Daniel Whitmore of Whitmore Rare Books, Pasadena, CA. I was glad to see his very elegantly produced color catalogue in an age when many booksellers have done away with printed catalogues altogether. It’s slim and bright, with great images and clear descriptions.

Lest I be accused of judging a catalogue by its cover, I’ll tell you some of the items that caught my eye on the inside. He has several ultra modern first editions, such as Cameron Crowe’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High ($200), an inscribed first of The Hunt for Red October ($750), a signed first of Stephen King’s Carrie ($2,450), and an inscribed first of The Color Purple ($925). He also has some science fiction from Asimov, Clarke, and Robert A. Heinlein.

Whitmore has a nice mix of books--a literary generalist, so to speak--and I found myself pleasantly surprised by the intermingling of signed Cormac McCarthys with first editions of Mark Twain and Samuel Butler. He has several titles that were later made into films, a first edition of Gone With the Wind ($2,750) prominent among them.

It seems that every bookseller in California has at least some Bukowski on hand, and Whitmore is no exception. Except that he has something very a la mode. Bukowski’s “Fax Poem” -- a poem sent by Buk to John Martin, publisher of Black Sparrow Press, in 1994, just before Bukowski’s death. It is one of ten copies that Martin made, numbered and initialed; this is #4/10. It is listed at $950.

If his catalogue is any indication, we’ll be seeing much more of Daniel Whitmore in the future. Download his first two catalogues here.

Doyle New York’s Books, Photographs and Prints sale was held yesterday, in 506 lots. The big seller, and a surprise one, was a manuscript music album compiled by Arnold Wehner, Director of Music at the University of Gottingen (1846-1855). Presale estimates pegged it at $8,000-12,000, but it was hammered down for $158,500!

Several top-notch items from the library of Ezra Pound’s son Omar Shakespear Pound also did very well: a copy of A Draft of the Cantos 17-27 (London: John Rodker, 1928) printed on vellum and accompanied by a collection of proof sheets sold for $59,375, while a copy of A Draft of XVI Cantos (Paris, 1925) inscribed by Pound to his son made $27,500 and a signed copy of A Lume Spento (Venice, 1908) fetched $28,125.

Full results available here.
Back in 2008, I wrote a short article for FB&C on the stellar season of award-winning films that were based on books (it was the year of Atonement, No Country for Old Men, Into the Wild, and others). I asked antiquarian booksellers whether a good film adaptation had any effect on book sales. The consensus seemed to be that only if the film was great would book sales surge. Harvey Jason of Mystery Pier Books in West Hollywood told me at the time that all the movie hype “does help because it brings the title to prominence.” But, he added, “it has to be a literary high spot to begin with.”

As many of you know, Ayn Rand’s conservative classic, Atlas Shrugged, was released into theaters last Friday (Tax Day!). So I was intrigued to see this write-up in Forbes about how the film has already spurred Atlas to the Amazon bestseller list (it is #21 today). In the article, Mark E. Babej writes, “all signs point to the fact that the mere existence of the movie is causing interest in the book to spike to new heights.”

Curious about the film? Here’s the trailer:

Taking a stab at the empty cultural space for serious book reviews these days, The Los Angeles Review of Books (a digital magazine) debuted--or at least posted a preview of itself--yesterday with a thoughtful and worthwhile (if somewhat ironic) essay on “The Death of the Book” by Ben Ehrenreich. It begins:

Pity the book.  It’s dead again.  Last I checked, Googling “death of the book” produced 11.8 million matches.  The day before it was 11.6 milion.  It’s getting unseemly.  Books were once such handsome things.  Suddenly they seem clunky,  heavy, almost fleshy in their gross materiality.  Their pages grow brittle.  Their ink fades.  Their spines collapse.  They are so pitiful, they might as well be human. [....More]

Penguin Threads Deluxe Classics


Penguin does it again.

The upcoming Penguin Threads collection were designed and embroidered by artist Jillian Tamaki. Booklicious has a small gallery of what’s in store, here.

Catalogue Review: Brian Cassidy, No. 5

Screen shot 2011-04-15 at 8.35.43 AM.pngAfter a brief break for the NYABF coverage, I’m back to Catalogue Reviews on Fridays. This week, a catalogue I picked up at the NYABF. For those of you who don’t know Brian Cassidy (here he is in the Washington Post last fall), he’s a young bookseller who has carved out a niche in pop culture, poetry, the avant-garde, little magazines and small presses, and “outsider books of all kinds.” He gravitates toward items that are “intrinsically fascinating,” which means that a look through his catalogue is sure to surprise (and sometimes shock!).

In this catalogue, for example, you run the gamet from five transcripts of spiritualist medium messages from sessions held in Brooklyn, NY, in 1904-1905, during which the medium channeled Disraeli ($375) to the first visitors guide to Disneyland printed in 1955 ($125). A mimeographed flier for a Columbia University sit-in in 1969 is another intriguing find ($125). A “special galley” of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest signed by Wallace will surely find an owner quickly ($750).

For modern poetry collectors--particularly The Beats and the New York School--Cassidy has many items of interest in this catalogue, and many with great associations. Michael Palmer to Diana Di Prima; Adrienne Rich to Louise Bogan and May Swenson; Theodore Roethke to his wife; Charles Bernstein to Ray Di Palma. The highpoint here may be a copy of Charles Bukowski’s If We Take with a  long inscription and illustration by Buk to Harold Norse. Cassidy calls it “one of the closest Bukowski associations we’ve seen” ($5,000).

At the NYABF, Jeremy Dibbell pointed out one of Cassidy’s curiosities to me: a beautiful manuscript that very skillfully recreates two seventeenth-century Puritan tracts. Produced in the mid nineteenth century for an unknown purpose and bound in a leather journal, Cassidy describes it as “bibliographic trompe-l’oeil.” It’s very cool to see ($2,000).

Kurt Cobain and Neil Armstrong as bedfellows? Yes, in Brian Cassidy’s No. 5. Download the PDF here.
Photolucida is a non-profit arts organization that holds what it calls a Portfolio Reviews Festival every other April. The 2011 event begins today, April 14, and runs through Sunday. At this event, gallery owners, curators, critics, collectors, and publishers gather in Portland, Oregon, to review fine-art photography from professional, mid-career artists.

This year, Lauren Henkin, who has produced two photobooks in the last two years, will be giving a talk on Saturday during lunch. The title of her talk is, “Turning Toward Books: Shifting Focus.”

Silence is an Orchard, Henkin’s second photobook, was released earlier this year. It exhibits fourteen images from Maine’s Acadia National Park. Limited edition of thirty, plus five artists’ proofs. $650.

In our current (spring) issue, writer Nicole Pasulka took at a look at the strengthening market for artists’ photobooks. The recent publication of Publish Your Photography Book by Darius D. Himes & Mary Virginia Swanson is likely to add more muscle. So says the first line of copy on the interior flaps of that book: “We live in the golden age of photography books.”  

The American Library Association has declared today to be National Bookmobile Day. How many readers and collectors out there got their start with a bookmobile passing through town? Novelist and book artist Audrey Niffenegger is the honorary chair. She wrote a graphic novel last year called The Night Bookmobile, featuring a mysterious bookmobile that “contains every book she has ever read, from her childhood diary to college textbooks to Gravity’s Rainbow, complete with bookmarks.”

Another bookmobile to follow today--the gypsy wagon bookmobile belonging to Wandering Book Artists Peter and Donna Thomas.
Screen shot 2011-04-11 at 9.02.54 PM.pngFor those of you who enjoyed reading about Greg Boehm’s collection of bartending and cocktail books in our spring issue (or those of you who are still in a New York state of mind), here’s a great video tour of Greg’s Cocktail Kingdom. He shows off the oldest book in his collection, discusses jacket art, and talks about how his books are shelved and why.
Yesterday was another full--productive, surprising, humbling--day of looking at books. I started off at the Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair, otherwise known as the ‘Shadow Show,’ and I’m so glad that I did. It’s a smaller and more casual atmosphere (also more affordable) than the show uptown, with about fifty dealers. For younger and beginning collectors who might be intimidated by bigger, flashier shows, this is a perfect fair to get one’s feet wet. 

I was happy to meet new bookseller Daniel B. Whitmore of Whitmore Rare Books, Pasadena, CA, who specializes in modern firsts and whose catalogue has a good amount of first editions from which popular films were made. Melissa Sanders told me that they already sold the Tim Burton manuscript we featured on the blog last week. I enjoyed poking around in the booths of Wilfrid M. de Freitas of Montreal, Richard Mori of Mori Books of New Hampshire, and The Country Bookshop of Vermont. John and Tina Bruno of Flamingo Eventz are very welcoming hosts too.
institute.jpg Mention the city of New Haven to most bibliophiles, and they will immediately think of the world-renowned Yale University Library, or perhaps the antiquarian bookselling firm William Reese Company. Fair enough: even many of us book people who call New Haven home are completely unaware that the only remaining membership library in Connecticut is tucked away on the upper floors of a building on Chapel Street, where it has served members since 1878.

2011-04-08 15.33.34.jpgA long, fun day at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair! One of the best parts of a major book fair such as this is meeting up with old friends, or new friends with whom you’ve only corresponded via email. Here we all are, book people.

I saw many amazing things today. At Ken Lopez’s booth, I was so pleasantly surprised by a galley of Nicholson Baker’s The Fermata coupled with John Crowley’s manuscript notes, taken while he was reviewing Baker’s book. Very cool! At PRB&M, Cynthy Buffington Davis showed me a handful of treasures, the one that comes quickly to mind is a microscopic edition of the Declaration of Independence printed on card stock in 1836.

And now for the grand finale of our Preview Week here at the FB&C blog: 9 Items Not To Miss at PADA’s Spring Show on Sunday. Looks like music and politics are quite popular this year!

Herndon-3-410x341.jpg1. Herndon-Lincoln letter (seen above, courtesy of the Raab Collection). You’ve seen Lincoln letters before, you say? This one is “a newly discovered primary resource,” says Nathan Raab. Just this week, Raab announced this special find. The letter, written by Lincoln’s law partner, William H. Herndon, sheds light on the president’s religious beliefs, calling him “a Theist & a Rationalist.” The letter will be on display at both the NYABF & PADA. $35,000
In addition to the two auctions we previewed earlier in the week and the NYABF at the Armory this weekend, there is one more (small) auction & two other shows going on in NYC this weekend. Wow! Who has the energy for it all?

On Friday evening, over at the Center for Book Arts on West 27th St., Richard Minsky will be toastmaster and auctioneer at the Center’s Annual Benefit and Silent Auction. According to the CBA site, “This year’s theme is “Signs of Life,” inspired by a Victorian naturalist’s desk.” The evening features live music, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and gourmet cake, besides, of course, the work of many wonderful contemporary artists. To view some of art up for auction, click here.

Candace Hicks.jpg
One of the items up for bid is Composition by Candace Hicks, which Minsky blogged about while at the Codex Fair back in February and wrote about in his column for our spring issue.

The CBA event runs from 6 to 9 p.m. To read more or buy tickets, click here.

On Friday & Saturday, the Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair (a.k.a the ‘Shadow Show’) will be held at at the Altman Building on W. 18th St., and on Sunday, the Professional Autograph Dealers Association (PADA)* will hold its annual fair at the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel on Central Park South.

What dealers will exhibit at the Shadow Show? James Arsenault & Co., Lame Duck Books, and Whitmore Rare Books, to name just a few. Click here to see a longer list.

burton nightmare.jpgMelissa Sanders of Ken Sanders Rare Books told us about a really neat Tim Burton manuscript that they’re bringing. Seen above, it’s an early treatment for Nightmare Before Christmas. Burton wrote the seven-page document on a legal pad and pitched it to ABC as a television special in the early 80s, but they declined. A highly original item, offered at $15,000. I’m hoping to see it when I visit on Saturday morning.

*In tomorrow’s preview, we’ll look at the 9 Items Not To Miss at Sunday’s PADA show.

As we inch closer to the weekend, many collectors and dealers have their eyes on the prize: the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. It opens on Friday, April 8 at noon at the Park Avenue Armory (Park Ave. & 67th St.), and is always quite an event.

Show director Cristina Salmastrelli of Sanford Smith & Associates emailed to tell me how excited she is about this year’s fair. “My expectations are grand right now. I have not been this excited for a book fair yet! We have a great mix of new dealers and old timers that truly make up the best of the best in the book world ... My conversations with dealers these past two months have been upbeat and optimistic. Each dealer seems to be convinced they are bringing the gem of the 2011 fair, and I love it,” she wrote. SS&A also started a blog this year, where daily posts highlight an autograph, manuscript, or book that one of the exhibitors is bringing.

23752_2.jpgI’d like to call attention to a few more here. Susannah Horrom of the Kelmscott Bookshop told us about one very special book that she’s bringing to NY this year. It’s a signed limited edition artist’s book by James Alan Robinson titled Cetacea, The Great Whale (seen above, courtesy of Kelmscott). Printed at the Cheloniidae Press in 1981, it is number 24 of 100 copies, signed by the artist, as well as the binders (David Bourbeau and Gray Parrot) and printer Harold Patrick McGrath. The book has seven bleed etchings by Robinson, wood engravings on the title page and colophon, and blind stamped line-cuts of whales along the margins of the text on several pages. The price is $4,500.

[Fitzgerald letters, courtesy of Quill & Brush]

Over at Quill & Brush, F. Scott Fitzgerald will be the hot topic. They’re selling two autograph letters signed by Fitzgerald along with a telegram from him to Pauline Brownell, a nurse who took care of him after a driving accident in 1936. One of the letters reads, in part, “I wonder if you are happier--somehow you seemed so when I saw you, even to my alcoholic eye. God, I hope so--it was sad to see anyone so young and with so much stuff in such a state of depression. I wish I could have helped you as you tried to help me...” All three items will be sold together for $12,500.

Also at Q&B, collectors will be thrilled to hear that the 4th edition of Allen & Pat Ahearn’s Collected Books: The Guide to Identification and Values will be out next month, and pre-publication orders (a 20% discount off the list price of $75, domestic postage paid) will be taken at their booth or on their website.

James S. Jaffe has some very fine Elizabeth Bishop material, including an association copy of Poem, a broadside elegy for Robert Lowell, two original watercolors, and a collection of thirteen artworks collected by Alice Methfessel. Robert Frost, Frank O’Hara, W.B. Yeats, some Janus Press editions, some Perishable Press editions, and many more are featured on his impressive NYABF list.

James Cummins has some film-related material to showcase, including a typed contract between Faulkner and Twentieth-Century Fox regarding The Sound and the Fury and several facsimile scripts of Woody Allen films that bear inscriptions by his co-writer Marshall Brickman. Also on their NY list: an eyewitness letter regarding Lincoln’s assassination and an inscribed Catcher in the Rye.

Be sure to check out the ABAA’s blog, where some booksellers have been posting highlights for the past couple of weeks. See you at the show!

My son switched piano teachers this past February, the same month that my book about the publishing history of Gone With the Wind was released. His new teacher, a lovely Chinese woman named Vivien, has been kind enough to regularly ask me about the launch and to comment on the different events I’ve spoken at around town. Until this week, I had thought she was just one of those incredibly generous people who is always kind enough to express a curiosity in others. She is one of those people, but there is more to her interest than that.


As we were leaving Vivien’s studio the other day, I noticed that she had a beautiful hard cover edition of Gone With the Wind on her bookshelf. I then saw that her shelves were full of nice editions of classic novels. Vivien explained that she had read all of the books as a young girl in Communist China and that, of all them, Gone With the Wind had been her favorite. She called it a “great epic” and explained how it opened up to her “a whole new world about the people and culture in the American South.” She also had been touched by the romantic relationship between Scarlett and Rhett.

Gone With the Wind had been Vivien’s father’s favorite as well. Father and daughter were voracious readers. They often kept each other company by each reading their individual books in the same room. “We felt very close,” she said. “It was a camaraderie spirit that we shared.”

The books on Vivien’s shelves today are not the ones she had read as a girl though. Her books had all been confiscated. Vivien explained that, during the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards entered private homes to seize items they considered “bourgeois” and “poisonous” to the people. Her family lost its music, piano, and extensive library of Chinese and English-language books, including many rare volumes.

In 1984, Vivien immigrated to the United States. In the years since, she has made a point of reacquiring copies of the books that had been taken from her, including Gone With the Wind. Though she was not able to rebuild her family’s entire library, she has assembled a beautiful collection of which she is understandably proud.

            Vivien’s story is a wonderful reminder of how lucky we are in the United States to have virtually unlimited access to the reading material of our choice. And on a personal level, I’m thrilled that spying GWTW’s distinctive yellow dust jacket has brought me closer to another book lover. As Vivien said when I commented on our new bond, “there is a kindred spirit between people who love books.” 

Swanncat.jpgOn Thursday, April 7, Swann Galleries will hold its spring auction of fine books & manuscripts at 104 East 25th Street at 10:30 a.m. A great variety of material in a manageable 136 lots.

A Zaehnsdorf binding of Edmund Spenser’s long-form poem, The Faerie Queen, bound here in three volumes, is one lot I’d love to see in person. “Lavishly gilt chestnut brown crushed morocco,” boasts the catalogue (est. $4,000-6,000).

And like the Thoreau set for sale at Heritage on Thursday, the 23-volume set of John Burroughs that Swann is offering is another quiet beauty that I’d love to own. A Riverside Press set from 1904-1922, it is one of the 750 sets signed by Burroughs. Neatly bound in red morocco, decorated in gilt, its estimate is $5,000-7,000. Looking further down the lot list, I also spy a ten-volume set of John Muir, with an original leaf in Muir’s hand, estimated at $4,000-6,000.

The art of sculptor-designer-printmaker Eric Gill seems to be enjoying extra-special attention these days. (In the past week, I’ve seen notice of two new limited editions of his work, one from Kat Ran Press and one from Old Stile Press). And what could likely be the star of Swann’s sale is an association copy of the 1931 Golden Cockerel Press edition of The Four Gospels...illustrated by Gill. One of only twelve copies printed on Roman vellum and bound in gilt-decorated white pigskin, it also features an inscription by Gill to his friend Leonard Woolf. Its estimate is $60,000-75,000.

Also on the block at this sale: a first edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species... (est. $50,000-70,000), an interesting set of volumes with fore-edge paintings showing London views (est. $4,000-6,000), a first edition of Joyce’s Ulysses (est. $25,000-35,000), a section of Rackham-illustrated books, and a nice selection of manuscript leaves (est. $500 and up).

For more highlights, read Swann’s press release for the sale here.

For those who stick around, Swann is holding a second auction on Monday, April 11, featuring early printed books, including a section of Armenian books.  

Has it really been ten years since Nicholson Baker shook up the cozy world inhabited by librarians and conservators with publication of Double Fold, his National Book Critics Circle Award-winning examination of the way materials on paper--most notably newspapers--were being displaced by surrogate copies in other, more easily stored media? Not only has it been a decade since Baker made the word “microfilm” a synonym for “leprosy”--and not undeserved, I should add--it has been an eventful decade in the book world to boot, as our own Rebecca Rego Barry reminds us in a splendid overview of Double Fold and its continuing impact. It is featured in the current issue of The Millions, the superb--dare we say indispensable?--online magazine offering comprehensive coverage of books and the arts. Here’s a link. Nice going, Rebecca, very well done.

I adore New York, and after reading the new issue of Fine Books & Collection highlighting the city and the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, it brought back fond memories of my fist visit with my daughter. It was just weeks before Christmas 2008 and with our love for history and the arts along with her career in advertising and mine in writing, New York was the perfect destination.

empire skycraper jungle b&w.jpg 
To kick off a week of previews relating to this week in New York City -- two major auctions and three fairs -- I sat down this weekend to conquer the Heritage Auction Galleries’ catalogue for its April 7th live auction at the Fletcher Sinclair Mansion (2 E. 79th St., where lots are on view Wednesday & Thursday). It is not quite the Sears catalog in heft, but close. There I sat, diligently, with my set of lavender sticky notes to mark pages of interest. I quickly realized this method was futile when I had used twenty notes in the first forty pages.

HeritageCat.jpgWhich is to say it would be impossible to summarize, so I will merely offer a few highlights as I see them. The star of the show may be the “Astor-Aubery de Frawenberg” Book of Hours, produced in France c. 1500-1520. One of the illustrations is seen here on the catalogue’s cover. Once owned by William Waldorf Astor, it is a stunning manuscript on parchment in an equally stunned binding of seventeenth-century red velvet under European silver-gilt pierced covers. The starting bid will be $305,000.

Novelist Sarah Burney’s copy of the first edition of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (est. $90,000) looks quite beautiful, and it strikes me that the Austen collector we profile in our spring issue’s “How I Got Started” column would be awestruck.

A first edition of the first volume of Lewis & Clark’s History of the Expedition...with an association to Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the preface, uncut and in the original boards seems likely to beat its estimate of $25,000, even if there are some minor condition issues. The same is true for a book of American state constitutions published in 1781. Uncut, in the original boards, and inscribed by Bushrod C. Washington, the nephew and heir of George Washington, it is estimated at $20,000. Perhaps this is a good place to mention F. Scott Fitzgerald’s personal and heavily annotated textbook edition of George Washington’s The Farewell Address...also at this auction. Published in 1911, it’s a textbook example of how much ownership and association can mean to a book’s value (pun intended!). Bidding starts at $20,000.

It will come as no surprise to my everyday readers to hear that the twenty-volume set of The Writings of Henry David Thoreau with eighteen pages of manuscript bound in at the front of volume one (est. $15,000) certainly caught my eye. As did a rare limited edition in vellum of Danish folktales illustrated by Kay Nielsen, which will open at $2,500.

There are more than a few Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Edward Curtis items for sale. The Victor Gulotta collection of Charles Dickens comprises a large part of the sale, as well. A small collection of inscribed and/or signed Stephen King first editions and special editions are here, many opening at $400. Or perhaps a sterling silver seagull pin engraved “To Bert from Ayn” [Rand] piques your interest? (Its estimate is $3,500). There literally is something for everyone at this sale.

The floor auction will commence in two sessions; one at 1:00 p.m., the other at 5:00 p.m on Thursday. A third session on Saturday is an Internet, Fax & Mail only session. (There are also two manuscript and autograph auctions happening at Heritage this weekend, for which there are two separate catalogues!) Good luck, bidders.
While we’re led to believe any job is better than no job, young twenty-something Laura Dodd, a New Orleans native, had a different opinion. She sent an email to her contacts asking about their “career” experience. The message went viral and the emails began to mount with people confessing frustrations in their careers. Dodd decided to bring together what she called, “honest, candid, over-a-beer style conversations about what work is really like.” And how to tackle finding a meaningful career in a lackluster job market. Her book is titled Dig This Gig. Find Your Dream Job--or Invent It. 

Sad news today in the antiquarian book world. Peter B. Howard of Serendipity Books has died. I was lucky enough to meet him, however briefly, at the California book fair in San Francisco this past February. In tribute, I am posting an essay Nicholas Basbanes wrote for this blog in August of last year, when a number of booksellers banded together to pay tribute to Howard, who had been ill for some time.

For the last couple of weeks, the Booktryst blog has been running a series of moving tributes to a legendary California bookseller under the collective heading, “A Wake for the Still Alive: Peter B. Howard.” People who either don’t know Peter or who have never been to Serendipity Books might reasonably regard this as audacious at best, but since everything about Peter is completely honest and candid, it is very much in character. For a case in point, just take a look at his no-nonsense website. “If you’re in Berkeley, California, feel free to come in and browse,” he writes. “We are usually friendly.”

It is no secret in the book world that Peter has been gravely ill for some time now. Indeed, the details of his illness were reported several months ago in several media outlets, one of which used the occasion to speculate on the future of his extraordinary bookstore. Always open and always willing to share his considered impressions on just about anything--I have never met a more forthcoming or more unassuming person in my life, and that is something to say for a person who has spent more than forty years as a professional journalist--Peter readily acknowledged the nature of his illness with the reporter, and offered the additional assessment that he was custodian of the “greatest bookstore in the world,” and used a descriptive adjective for emphasis to make his point--as only he can do...

...For myself, I am eternally grateful to Peter for being there twenty years ago when we met for the first time to talk about a range of matters. I had no earthly idea before we met how knowledgeable he would be about everyone and everything in the book world, or the depth, for that matter, of his piercing intellect. Especially memorable was his willingness to respond, on the record, to every reasonable question I put to him, regardless of the potential fallout. I can’t imagine writing A Gentle Madness without the benefit of his many insights, and when it came time to include a section on scholarly booksellers in Patience & Fortitude, he was the first person I chose to profile. All I can say, Peter, is thank you for sharing your wisdom with me, thank you for your friendship, and thank you for being such a remarkable bookman. You are truly one of a kind. -- Nicholas Basbanes
Auction Guide