May 2011 Archives

Hay_Castle.jpgMost bibliophiles know the name Hay-on-Wye as the first ‘book town.’ Said to have thirty or more bookshops, it’s a tiny Welsh town that transforms during its annual literary festival. The population swells from its usual 1,500 to 250,000 for one week -- this week. The festival is going on now through June 5. It may be the only place where one can see the literary side of both the Archbishop of Canterbury and actor Rob Lowe. Bill Clinton once called it “The Woodstock of the mind.”

What might be unknown to some, however, is that the Hay Festival isn’t just in Hay-on-Wye. In face, the Hay Festival is also going on in Belfast, Ireland, this week. Later in the year Hay festivals will occur in Kenya and Spain. In 2011, for the first time, the Hay Festival travels to Cape Town (South Africa), Xalapa (Mexico), and Merthyr Tydfil (South Wales).

It’s amazing to see literary festivals making such an impact, particularly on such a global scale. As the Hay blogger put it after this year’s events began: “There has been delightful evidence that dumbing down is dead.”

Photo of Hay castle courtesy Wikimedia/Schuy 
Sometimes, battling sexism in the normal way just won’t do. Sometimes, you must don a gorilla mask, adopt the name of a dead female artist and send estrogen pills to the White House. -- Heather Svokos, Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader.

birthcolor.gifIn 1985, a group of feminist artists in New York City formed Guerrilla Girls, a group dedicated to fighting sexism, discrimination and corruption in art, film, pop culture and politics.  It is a sign of how entrenched such attitudes are that the group is still fighting this fight a quarter-century later.

The group suggests that while its actions have had some effect, there is still much to do.  With respect to female representation in institutional art collections, for example,

there is decent representation of women and artists of color at the beginning and emerging levels of the art world. At the institutional level however, in museums, major collections and auctions sales, things are still pretty dismal for all but white guys. We believe that the economics of the art market is responsible for this. As long as art costs a lot of money and can be owned and controlled by individual collectors, it will represent the values of those people, not the larger art audience or the culture at large. We are still condemning the art world for its lack of ethics, tokenism and other bad behavior.

gg.jpgThe group’s “agenda” has spawned a wide range of books, videos, posters, and related items.  These items make an interesting and important collection for anyone interested in feminism or modern social activism.

Understandably, the group’s own titles are written to convey a particular point of view.  Among these are what are perhaps their two best-known titles, The Guerrilla Girls’ Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art (1998) and Bitches, Bimbos and Ballbreakers: The Guerrilla Girls’ Illustrated Guide to Female Stereotypes (2003).

In 2001, three former members of the group organized Guerrilla Girls on Tour, a theater collective.  In that same year, a group devoted to sexism in the wired workplace, Guerrilla Girls BroadBand, also was formed.  Both of these groups are entirely separate from the original Guerrilla Girls.

More academic works about the group have only recently begun to appear (see Schechter, above).  Interested book collectors may want to set aside several feet of shelf space....

Catalogue Review: Blackwell’s Rare Books: Catalogue B167

Blackwell’s of Oxford, England, is a very well known bookshop that stocks 200,000 new titles, as well as having a large secondhand section, and a rare books department. It is located opposite the Bodleian Library. For those of you, like me, who are quite desperate to visit but must be satisfied for now with catalogues, fear not. Blackwell’s produces the quintessential antiquarian book catalogue--one hundred pages showing a wide variety of antiquarian, modern, and private press books in a range of prices, with exceptional descriptions and enticing images that pepper the text.

In the first section of the catalogue, an extra-illustrated first edition of Ann Radcliffe’s popular gothic novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho: A Romance (£2,500), jumped off the page. The four-volume set from 1794 has some minor issues, but the small engravings of castles and landscape gardens  are “rather endearing,” notes the catalogue.

In the second section of the catalogue--modern first editions and illustrated books--D.H. Lawrence, Ian McEwan, Somerset Maugham, and Iris Murdoch are dominating names in limited editions, first editions, and signed editions. I’m partial to Julia Margaret Cameron’s Victorian Photographs of Famous Men & Fair Women (£800), which was printed by the Hogarth Press in 1926 and has an introduction by Virginia Woolf.

The third section contains a wonderful selection of private presses, from Golden Cockerel to Gregynog, Nonesuch to Old Stile. Swinburne’s Dead Love and Other Inedited Pieces (£250), published by the Mosher Press in Portland, ME, in 1901 looks lovely. As does Loyd Haberly’s Poems (£200), printed by Seven Acres Press in 1930. Haberly was a poet, a professor of English, a university dean, and a collector of books about book arts.

When I reached the end of the catalogue, a beautiful woodcut prompted me to turn back to item #100, one of the catalogue’s big-ticket books. Passio domini nostri Jesu Christi... (£10,000), printed in Strasbourg in 1507, with woodcuts by Urs Graf. Aside from its beauty, the catalogue notes that this book is “covered in binder’s waste wrappers, a middle eleventh century manuscript on vellum, written in a later Caroline minuscule bookhand...” What a treasure!

To find your own treasure, download this entire catalogue by clicking here
Thursday is auction day at PBA, and a big one is coming up one week from today. On Thursday, June 2, PBA Galleries in San Francisco is auctioning the Ross Runfola collection of Charles Bukowski and his circle, what PBA calls, “Undoubtedly the finest collection of works by Charles Bukowski ever to appear at auction.”

The auction is broken down into six sections:
Section I: Books, Broadsides & other Printed Material by Bukowski, Lots
Section II: Original Art by Bukowski, Lots 142-157
Section III: Manuscript Poems & Stories by Bukowski, Lots 158-237
Section IV: Letters from Bukowski, Lots 237-276
Section V: Books about Bukowski, Bibliographies, Ephemera, Periodicals,
etc., Lots 277-325
Section VI: Books & Art by other Authors & Artists, Lots 326-343

217413.jpgCertainly the rarity seen above will draw attention. This original oil painting of a man in a bow-tie signed “Buk” is tipped-in to a 1982 limited edition of Ham on Rye, published by Black Sparrow Press. Estimate: $3,000-5,000.

221504.jpgThe first story Charles Bukowski ever published is here in the legendary Story Magazine. “Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip” appeared in the March-April 1944 issue, and this copy, though sunned and slightly rubbed, is as fine as they come. Estimate $3,000-5000.

216769.jpg7 Flowers Press published 103 copies of Bukowski’s The Genius of the Crowd in 1966, but many were confiscated by the Cleveland Police Department. Called “a cornerstone piece of any collection,” it seems no copy has sold at auction since at least 1975. Estimate $6,000-9,000.

216325.jpgA special deluxe edition of Bukowski’s short story, “Not Quite Bernadette,” published by the Graybeard Press in 1990. With nine hand-colored etchings (and two extra of a “more erotic nature” in a hidden compartment...) by James W. Johnson and binding design by Joe D’Ambrosio. Signed by all three. Estimate $4,000-7,000.

View the entire online catalogue.

Want to read more about Bukowski’s artwork? Check out our feature from earlier this year on Buk’s lost drawings.

All photos Courtesy of PBA Galleries.

Are you one of those people who have always been intrigued by the idea of collecting old and rare books but who doesn’t know enough about such things to even know where to start? Are you someone who finds the career of antiquarian bookseller intriguing but mysterious?  Are you someone who really loves books and just wants to know more about them?

Yes? I, too, was, until a few years ago, a person just like you. I’ve often lamented the fact that there was no major in college for antiquarian books.  Sure, there’s the much more general and all encompassing “English” major, but other than teaching one to appreciate and analyze literature and how to write well, it really doesn’t do the trick for those of us who love the smell of leather bindings or who want to know about how paper is made and what printing processes were used in the 18th century.

I am a firm subscriber to the belief that it’s never too late to learn.  And, as my endeavor to become an antiquarian bookseller proves, indeed it’s not. Below are links to various bookish educational programs for all levels of bibliophile, from beginning to experienced:

Do you wish to know about the defining characteristics of individual photographic processes? Being able to identifying such process can help in dating certain items.  Here’s a workshop offered by Gawain Weaver.

Gawain Weaver provides, “conservation treatment and consulting services to museums, galleries, collectors, historical societies, libraries, and individuals. Our services range from the treatment of individual fine art prints, to the care of large print and negative collections.

We also offer a range of educational opportunities and products, including workshops, both online and in-person, and historic photographic sample sets.”

Looking to travel somewhere in addition to learning about books? Then try the London Rare Book School.  According to their website, “The courses will be taught by internationally renowned scholars associated with the Institute’s Centre for Manuscript and Print Studies, using the unrivalled library and museum resources of London, including the British Library, the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the University of London Research Library Services, and many more. All courses will stress the materiality of the book so you can expect to have close encounters with remarkable books and other artefacts from some of the world’s greatest collections.”

Smith College offers a new Book Studies Concentration. (Ah, Smith College, where were you when I was an undergraduate?!)

Similarly, St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto in Canada offers either a major or a minor in Book and Media Studies.

And, of course, the California Rare Book School at UCLA has announced its 2011 courses here.

I’ve written about all the amazing things you can learn at both the California Rare Book School and its counterpart at the University of Virginia many times before.

Last but not least, and maybe the best place to start your education if you plan to enter the antiquarian bookselling trade, is the wonderful Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar.

If you click around on the website of each school, you’ll find that many offer scholarship opportunities.

So, if you want to learn more about antiquarian books, what are you waiting for? Bookish educational opportunities abound!

See you in the stacks!

Illustrated First Edition of Mark Twain Abroad.JPGLambuth University, a small liberal arts college located between Memphis and Nashville, is closing after several years of economic struggle. Without much notice, the 168-year-old school is auctioning off its property this weekend in preparation for its closure. Stevens Auction Company of Mississippi will conduct the auction in the Wilder Student Union Building (705 Lambuth Boulevard in Jackson, TN) on Saturday. Alas, no Internet bidding is available, but telephone and absentee bids will be accepted.

Several treasures will be on the block, including a first edition of Mark Twain’s Abroad (seen here at left) and about a thousand other books; artwork, including a piece attributed to Samuel Halpert; an 1832 bronze bell; several pianos, antique bookcases and furniture; Persian rugs; an entire collection of vintage wedding dresses; and a map of Tennessee that dates to 1796.

To read more about this sale, see the university’s press release. The Antique Trader also has more information & images from the auction.
NYPL-stacks.jpgToday the NYPL’s iconic Fifth Avenue building turns 100. Did you miss this weekend’s stack tours? Last year rare materials cataloger Kathie Coblentz posted this digital tour, a transcript of the tour she gave last year for donors. The pictures are great--perhaps the more so because places like the Information desk and the Reading Room haven’t changed all that much. The stacks are depicted here in Scientific American magazine, May 27, 1911.

P.S. Our own Richard Goodman went behind the scenes of the NYPL’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers in our spring issue -- you can read his article here.

Okay, where to begin? The 18 May Sotheby’s Paris sale of Books and Manuscripts brought in a total of €2,022,300; full results are here. The Robespierre and Philippe le Bas papers were pre-empted by the Archives Nationales de France, for a combined bid of €979,500; a news release reports “tumultuous applause” when the documents were saved for the nation. Marcel Pagnol and Jean Cocteau manuscripts were also pre-empted, by the BNF and Paris History Library respectively.

Andy Warhol’s 1¢ Life (1964) fetched €108,750, while the typescript copy of Le Petit Prince(1943) brought in €70,350.

The Printed & Manuscript Americana sale at Christie’s New York on 19 May brought in $1,103,125, with 159 of 210 lots selling. The top lot ended up being a collection of Jackie Kennedy Onassis letters, which sold for $134,500. The Peter Force Declaration of Independence made $17,500. The Breeden-Raedt aende Vereenichde Nederlandsche Provintienand Franklin’s copy of Dryden and Lee’s Oedipus (1735) did not sell.

The Sanford B. Dole family archive archive of letters and clippings made $9,000 at PBA Galleries on 19 May.

And now on to yesterday’s event: the third round of Copley sales at Sotheby’s New York. The third selection of American Historical Documents brought in a total of $2472,28; full results are here. Many of the top-estimated lots didn’t meet their reserves: the Dwight Eisenhower letters to his wife Mamie, as well as the archives of material relating to John Charles Frémont, the 1865 Hampton Roads peace conference, the assassination of President Garfield and the trial of Charles Guiteau all failed to sell, as did the first edition of  The Federalist (New York: 1788) in contemporary boards.

Washington’s letter to Nathaniel Gorham celebrating the ratification of the Constitution did better than expected, selling for $182,500, and the Lincoln letter to the House of Representatives from May 1864 made $68,500. Three copybooks kept by Tobias Lear during his time as U.S. Consul at Algiers fetched $80,500.

Last but certainly not least came the two John Lansing notebooks from the Constitutional Convention, which ended up selling for $902,500 once premiums are factored in. I was watching the sale online, and the buyer appeared to be in the room, but no word has yet come through on the identity of the notebooks’ new owner.
Catalogue Review: John Howell for Books, #1

Screen shot 2011-05-20 at 8.24.23 AM.pngI couldn’t pass up the opportunity to review a bookseller’s very first catalogue. John Howell, newly minted ABAA member, recently published Catalogue 1, containing 113 items issued by the Book Club of California. The Book Club of CA, as he notes in the catalogue, was founded in 1912 by a group of San Francisco bibliophiles.

His selection runs the gamut from the Club’s first publication, Robert Ernest Cowan’s A Bibliography of the History of California and the Pacific West, 1510-1906, published in 1914 ($450) to the latest project, not even available until June, Peter Hanff’s Cyclone on the Prairies: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Arts and Crafts in Publishing in Chicago, 1900, designed and printed by Peter Koch ($375).

The Club’s 1925 edition of De Bury’s Philobiblon--said to be the first book about book collecting--is tempting. This one is No. 204 out of 250, printed at the Grabhorn Press. In good condition for $150, you wouldn’t feel too bad about reading it before shelving. Same goes for Christopher Skelton’s The Engraved Bookplates of Eric Gill, 1908-1940 ($75).

Another cool title here: The Diary of Patrick Breen, Recounting the Ordeal of the Donner Party snowbound in the Sierra 1846-1747 ($250). It was printed in an edition of 300 by the Club in 1946.

Howell’s thirty-nine-page color catalogue is available in PDF format. It is pleasantly designed and clearly written. It’s no wonder -- according to the catalogue, Howell is an old hand at catalogues, having worked on them for eight years at Jeff Weber Rare Books prior to striking out for himself in the business.

With prices affordable to most, Howell’s books should appeal to any collector with an eye for California, Western books, printing arts, or fine press. Congratulations to him on such a strong start!
Greg book cover jpeg.jpgI sit in my living room and watch the Corps of Engineers open the Morganza Floodway releasing the swollen Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya Basin inside Louisiana’s Cajun Country. The Basin is the largest river basin swamp in the country and just a month ago I spent a weekend there with my sister and brother-in-law, Misha and Ed Guirard, when Ed’s uncle, Greg Guirard, stopped by to give me his book Atchafalaya Autumn II published last October. 
There is so much going on at the NYPL as it celebrates the centennial of its landmark Fifth Avenue building -- exhibits, stack tours, and perhaps the most interesting, today it launched a book, Know The Past, Find The Future (published by Penguin), that contains photographs of over one hundred New York and US notables, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, actor Stephen Colbert, The Rockettes, John Lithgow, Vampire Weekend, Philip Roth, Jonathan Franzen, and more. (Vampire Weekend?!) Many of the images are accompanied by an essay by that person discussing what manuscript or object they looked at. The book is being distributed FREE on the streets of NYC -- in subway stations, on park benches, at all ninety branch locations. Said Angela Montefinise, the public relations director at the library, “The goal is for the books to be passed on -- someone picks it up, looks at it, leaves it somewhere for someone else to look at it. Sort of a traveling library book.” Attempting to get my hands on a copy, dear reader, and then I can tell you more. In the meantime, check out this hourlong slide-show video of NYPL’s featured digital collections.

A rare collection of drawings by the much-loved children’s illustrator Edward Ardizzone for Mark Twain’s novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been discovered.

From a piece in the Guardian...

The daughters of the late Anthony Beal, chairman of Heinemann Education and founder of the progressive New Windmill series of books, were clearing out their father’s study when they stumbled across the complete set of 37 drawings. First published in 1961, the pen and ink pictures are currently being displayed at the Illustration Cupboard gallery.

“We knew Ardizzone had been a friend of dad’s from his publishing days,” said Kate Beal. “We came across this folder of amazing illustrations. Dad was a real hoarder and kept everything ... We decided to have this exhibition of the pictures; it’s nice because it celebrates dad’s work as well.”

Coming up on Thursday of the week, Christie’s sale of Printed & Manuscript Americana in NY has some interesting stories to tell. Why? Because the consignors include historical societies. This is considered a controversial action by some. Back in January, the New Jersey Historical Society took some heat for its consignments to Christie’s, and yet here it is again, this time with early American imprints.

The NJHS is selling its “very rare” 1775 folio broadsheet, A declaration by the representatives of the United Colonies of North-America, now met in general Congress at Philadelphia... It is one of the few early documents to enumerate “the causes and necessity of taking up arms.” NJHS is hoping for $10,000-15,000 for it. NJHS has consigned the folio broadsheet, The Manual Alphabet for the Deaf and Dumb (Hartford, c. 1840), at an estimate of $1,800-2,500. Other early American imprints from NJHS are also on the block.

NJHS is not alone in its need to sell pieces of its collection to pay debt and/or fund future purchases.

How about a fine “exceptionally fresh copy” of the Declaration of Independence, printed in 1833 by Peter Force from W. J. Stone’s 1823 plate. Consigned by the The Historical Society of Montgomery County, PA. Its estimate is $15,000-$20,000.

The Brooklyn Historical Society has consigned several lots of autographs. One is a collection of ten American autographs, late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, including Elbridge Gerry and LaFayette. The catalogue notes that this lot will be “sold to benefit the collections fund.” They hope to make $2,000-3,000 on it.

The BHS is also selling a Chang and Eng autograph signed letter, for the low estimate of $600-800, a Henry Clay als for $2,000-3,000, and a printed document with John Hancock’s John Hancock for $4,500-6,000.

Any readers want to weigh in on this practice? 
Catalogue Review: Cattermole Books, No. 49

Children’s books are and always will be collectible because, in so many cases, people have fond memories of a particular title from their youth, and so they chase it. There are several booksellers dedicated solely to this area, and one whose catalogue I recently received is Cattermole Books of Newbury, OH. They offer a trip down Memory Lane for readers, and--perhaps best of all--they make them accessible and affordable to all levels of collectors.  

This is an important point. I have often wondered how a collection “starts.” Do you begin with one high-end book that kick-starts a collection and then surround it with other (less expensive) items from the same author or genre? Or, do you start with a $10 item you picked up somewhere and keeping building until one day you reach the $1000 items? For many folks, the answer is likely the latter. Which is why Cattermole’s catalogue is wonderful, with books ranging from $8 to the mid hundreds, it makes book collecting possible for new, young, savvy collectors.

Cattermole has titles from the standard children’s favorites: Bemelmans, Carroll, Dahl, Grimm, Lionni, Lobel, McCloskey, Sendak, and Steig. This catalogue showcases a collection of William Mayne, called by the cataloguer, “the best English writer of the 20th century.” Debatable, I say. But a copy of the first edition of his 1973 story, The Jersey Shore ($45)--not debatable. There are many more Maynes, most in the $20-$40 range.

It is surprising to see names like Baskin, Asimov, Gaiman, Daniel Pinkwater, Mario Puzo, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Vonnegut show up in this catalogue, but they do. Some are cross-over authors, some have surprising little children’s books up their sleeves. A few Philip Pullman titles, including a first signed copy of The Scarecrow and His Servant ($75), will draw collectors. H.A. Rey’s The Stars (also $75), with its rare original dust jacket that unfolds to double size and contains a map of the constellations, sounds quite enticing.

It’s nice to see some surprises in this catalogue, even more so when they aren’t terribly out of reach.
The Hotel Monteleone is celebrating its 125th anniversary and since 1999 has owned the title of Literary Landmark awarded by the American Library Association, a distinction shared with only three hotels in the country. The Monteleone has long been a favorite haunt of distinguished southern authors with many immortalizing the hotel in their work. Richard Ford, Truman Capote, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner always made 214 Royal Street their address while in New Orleans. Although you may not stay in the exact room where they penned their prose, you can definitely feel the vibes sitting at the Monteleone Carousel Bar. Join me as we toast the Monteleone and learn more about this literary legend as noted in the book, Hotel Monteleone: More than a landmark, the heart of New Orleans since 1886.

Monteleone Exterior.jpg 
Recollections of a Providential Bibliohaven

Guest Blog by FB&C reader, Martin J. Murphy of Richmond, Virginia

    Nick Mamatas’ recent article in Fine Books Magazine about H.P. Lovecraft and Providence, Rhode Island, struck many chords with me. Both the city and the writer figure prominently in my life as a reader, book collector, and incurable biblioromantic.

    While I was a student at Brown University in the early 1970’s, I shared Lovecraft’s fascination with the peculiar character of College Hill, which remains today a remarkable time capsule of New England architecture and ambience, spanning three centuries. I was introduced to his writing while I was there, and promptly fused his atmospheric storytelling with my own experiences of that singular, mysterious, and slightly haunted neighborhood. Lovecraft loved the character of old Providence and wove it deeply into his stories, where detailed descriptions of the neighborhood streets, buildings, odors, and atmosphere run throughout. That, in turn, allows one to walk those streets, still very much as described in tales such as “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”, and pass directly into the stories themselves. Strolling along Benefit Street on a moonlit night is engaging enough; gazing up at The Shunned House at midnight, imagining its dark and sepulchral cellar secrets, bumps the experience up to a whole new level.

    Providence has further claims to a bookishly gothic character, having briefly been host to Edgar Allen Poe. Local lore says that Poe courted poet Sarah Whitman in amongst the headstones of St John’s Church, just below Benefit Street, next door to Sarah’s family home.  True or not, that legend has been enough to make the graveyard a regular haunt for like-minded readers of Lovecraft and Poe such as myself. (It is perhaps not altogether unfitting that the very first poem I memorized - in fourth grade - was “The Raven”.)

    Poe also pursued his courtship of Mrs Whitman within the august environs of the Providence Atheneum. One can hear the librarian now: “Mr Poe! Either the whispering stops or I’m going to have to ask you and Mrs Whitman to leave!”

    During my college days there was a used bookstore in Providence called Dana’s Old Corner Bookshop, downtown in an old commercial building, that had been in business for several decades. The shop was on the ground floor of the building, entered from street level down a few steps. It wasn’t very big but had an eclectic collection including volumes that, for me at the time, were very old and arcane. That stoked my nascent book collecting instincts and I became a regular visitor.

    One day a nineteenth century set of DeQuincey’s Works appeared in the shop - ten volumes bound in old half calf. It was fifteen dollars - almost a week’s rent.  I had to have it, even though the pages were marred by a tide mark of waterstaining along the bottom. The proprietor (I’ve forgotten her name, but not her kindness) apologized for the waterstain and explained:  the set had been in the shop, up on a high shelf, when the great hurricane of 1938 flooded downtown Providence. It escaped, but just barely, as the floodwaters lapped at its bottom edges. The surviving stock had then been moved up to a storeroom on an upper floor, where the DeQuincey dried out and then rested quietly for nearly forty years before returning to the downstairs shop. Such were those days, when a bookseller’s inventory moved at a more leisurely pace.

    The next time I was in the shop the proprietor mentioned that periodically she went up to the storeroom to replenish the stock in the shop and asked: Would I like to go up and look at it? “Absolutely!”, although I expected to find only a closet with a few boxes of books. We went up in an old iron cage elevator, she unlocked an innocuous-looking door in a dusty hallway and ushered me into ... an enormous warehouse-like room filled with thousands of books, all neatly categorized and shelved, just as in an open bookstore. My jaw dropped at the sight - for me it was like stumbling into King Tut’s tomb, or Ali Baba’s cave. Although my memory fades, it seems to me that there must have been several times as many books up there as were in the actual shop. How many customers, I wondered, had any clue of this? I felt genuinely privileged. Off the main storeroom was a smaller room, filled with antiquarian books from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the likes of which I had never before seen. I bought one of them, a 1621 edition of Plautus, for what was then the cost of two weeks’ groceries. (I don’t imagine I went hungry afterwards, but the extravagance probably led to a long stretch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner.)

    In a conversation once with a distinguished rare book dealer I mentioned that I was thinking of selling those earliest antiquarian acquisitions, as they weren’t particularly good copies of especially great books, and he said: No, you should keep your first rare books - they’re worth more to you than anyone else. So I still have DeQuincey and Plautus. The groceries I would have eaten.  (It is told of the essayist Thomas Young that one time his wife sent him out with money to buy a goose for dinner; he returned home with a book instead. In reply to her remonstrations he said that by tomorrow the goose would have been gone, but they will have the book forever.)

    I saw that upstairs storeroom only one time, leaving Providence soon thereafter, so my lingering impression is vague and insubstantial, but the general feeling of a great, silent chamber of sleeping books remains. Sadly, the building housing Dana’s burned just a few years later and the bookstore, with nearly all of its stock, was destroyed. Ironically, the books in the ground floor shop itself didn’t burn, but were lost to water damage, once again. As for the storeroom upstairs, no mention is made of it in accounts of the fire. I wonder how many other customers might have been invited up to browse through that hidden trove before it disappeared in flames?

    Many of Lovecraft’s stories involve shuttered rooms, hidden labyrinths, and mysterious inner sanctums harboring unexpected things that are lost in some cataclysmic event before their secrets can be revealed, so it is perhaps fitting that in 1945 Dana’s acquired H.P. Lovecraft’s personal library, some of which might still have been tucked away in that sequestered loft when fire consumed its contents. (Incidentally, word that the collection was for sale attracted two men - Donald Grant and Thomas Hadley - whose chance meeting in the bookstore led to the founding of a small publishing house for Lovecraftian science fiction titles. That won’t happen at the ABEbooks website.)

    Fire and rain - twin enemies of books, and probably among the forces driving open bookshops to extinction. Internet shopping is great - it’s convenient, effortless, and efficient, provided you already know what you’re looking for. But no Internet experience will ever even remotely approximate that serendipitous moment of dumbstruck awe as I entered a hidden bibliohaven high above the streets of Providence and wandered among its ancient bookcases, lit by dusty beams of late-afternoon sunlight, unknown to the outside world. Sometimes I wonder if I just dreamed it all.

    Providence hands you these stories without your asking, which is one of the things I love about the city.

Many thanks to Martin for this wonderful essay, a perfect complement to our Lovecraftmania this month!
Have you read this month’s feature story on H.P. Lovecraft and his beloved city of Providence, Rhode Island? Up until I read it a few months ago, when a freelancer pitched it to me, I didn’t know much of anything about Lovecraft. Then I visited the book fairs in New York and saw his name pop up in half a dozen places. Funny how that happens.

For those of you interested in antiquarian Lovecraft material, two great booksellers to start with are those whose material was featured in our article. L.W. Currey, Inc. of Elizabethtown, NY, provided the image of The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and he has so much more available in his shop. Bloody Rare Books of Exeter, NH, allowed us to use an image of their copy of “The Shunned House.” They too have much more Lovecraft on hand.

Building a House with Books

Guest Blog by Catherine Batac Walder, a FB&C reader, “cured bookaholic,” and blogger who has a question for booksellers and book collectors about ex-library copies

Walder_JillPatonWalsh.JPGA self-published book-is it worth anything? Maybe something like a copy of Jill Paton Walsh’s Knowledge of Angels, one of the first 1000 printed, signed by the author (pictured here with her book). The book was self-published but then later it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. However, if the book is an ex-library copy with a few stamps on it, how much is it really worth?

In 1994 when Knowledge of Angels was published, Ms. Walsh was already a prominent and award-winning children’s book author. Rejection after rejection of Angels led Ms. Walsh and her husband to take the self-publishing route. This ‘disturbing and beautiful novel of ideas’ (Ursula K. Le Guin) was shortlisted for the Booker Prize that same year.

I handed a copy of Angels to my husband who inspected it and remarked about the latest book I had bought, “so, someone could nick a book from the library and sell it online?” It was a joke but to be honest, one I never really thought about before. I thought that buying an ex-library copy online would be the same as getting one at the sale that is stamped “discarded.” Within two seconds I was Googling ex-library copies on the brink of paranoia. I found very helpful forums with some people assuring others who are reluctant to buy ex-library copies. One seller suggested that if a buyer is really concerned about having bought a book that may not have been discarded, the best thing to do is to contact the library directly and check just to put his mind at ease.

There are indeed used book shops that make money by including in their stock books that had been discarded by libraries. It gets more complicated in the digital age when book browsing is made easy online but the most you can find out about the sellers’ reputation are through feedback left by other buyers. Whether online or in person, there is that huge element of trust when buyers deal with some used booksellers. Book lovers who buy books simply to read them do not care whether they’re rare books and do not think of the history of the sellers’ acquisitions. Others who are keen on first editions but are not necessarily collectors find their copies in used book shops and sales, without knowing how much they’re really worth. As a buyer, sometimes I find that the discarded items are those rare hardbound books so I don’t really mind paying for those. But is it even legal for bookshops to sell ex-library copies?

The library stamps in this particular copy of Knowledge of Angels were certainly not attractive. Further research on the background of this edition wasn’t inspiring, either. One buyer who had bought the same book complained to the seller that the book was in awful condition, with the pages unevenly cut. Now as I held in my hands a copy with its pages having the same “unevenly cut feature,” I still knew there was something special about the way the edges had been cut. Never an expert on books, I just assumed that uncommon features in them are what errors are in rare stamps.

Early in April 2011, I went to the Oxford Literary Festival, as I’ve done these last few years, to attend a P.D. James and Jill Paton Walsh talk. Afterwards I queued up to have two books signed by each author. “Catherine, this copy you’ve got here...” Jill Paton Walsh began after she had signed my copy of Knowledge of Angels. Around this time I was about to have a heart attack, thoughts of my husband’s remarks running through my head, worried about being embarrassed. But I kept saying to myself, nothing to worry, it has two or three library stamps, yes, but just say it’s an ex-library copy I had bought online. But before I could say anything she said that it is a very rare book, one of the first 1000 printed. She showed me the distinguishing features such as the way the pages had been roughly cut and the “Green Bay” on the spine. She said, “take care of this book. It is very rare. Another copy (obviously a signed one as well) was sold at £6500.”

And so these are questions I would like to throw at experts: how much do library stamps decrease the value of a book? If one’s copy of a book is valued and say, someone would like to purchase it, and if it’s an ex-library copy, will it be enough to say about the book’s provenance, “I bought this book at a charity shop not knowing that it costs so much”?

Photo and text courtesy of Catherine Batac Walder. Thanks for sharing this question with us, I hope some of our readers chime in with an answer. 
- Sotheby’s London will sell Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History titles in 210 lots on 10 May, including a Paolo Forlani world map (1570), estimated at £100,000-150,000; a first edition of Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625-6), estimated at £60,000-80,000; an archive ofembroidery templates and artwork from the workshop of Egypt’s Dar al-Kiswah, estimated at £60,000-80,000; and a first edition of John Gould’s Birds of Europe (1832-1837), estimated at £45,000-60,000.

- The fourth part of the collection of Michel Wittock will be sold at Christie’s Paris on 11 May, in 80 lots. Watch for a full writeup of this in the summer Fine Books & Collections. The top-rated item in this sale, but a wide margin, is a fantastic copy of Description de l’Égypte ou Recueil des observations et des recherches qui ont été faites en Egypte pendant l’expédition de l’armée française (1817-1830), in 22 volumes and with its own wooden storage/display case. The copy was previously owned by Jean-Joseph Courvoisier, Justice minister to Charles X. It’s estimated at EUR 500,000-700,000. Some other fine bindings and artist books are included in this sale. I

- Also at Christie’s Paris on 11 May, 238 lots of Importants Livres Anciens, Livres d’Artistes, et Manuscrits. Some important John Gould titles are among the top-estimated lots: a Birds of Australia (1840-1869), estimated at EUR 120,000-180,000; A Monograph of the Trochilidae(1880-1887), estimated at EUR 100,000-150,000; and Birds of Asia (1850-1883), estimated at EUR 80,000-100,000. Other key illustrated natural history books are included, as well as a fair number of interesting incunables.

- Swann will sell Literature; Art, Press & Illustrated Books on 12 May, in 479 lots. A numbered copy of Dalí’s Die Göttliche Komödie (1974) is estimated at $7,000-10,000; a copy of the Vincent FitzGerald edition of Joyce’s Epiphanies with Susan Weil and Marjorie Van Dyke rates an $8,000-10,000 estimate.

- At Bloomsbury London on 12 May, Continental & English Literature and Manuscripts, in 532 lots.

- At Sotheby’s Paris on 18 May, Books and Manuscripts, in 107 lots. A collection of Robespierre papers rates the top estimate, at EUR 200,000-300,000. A first edition of Andy Warhol’s 1¢ Life (1964) is estimated at EUR 100,000-150,000, and a typescript copy of Le Petit Prince(1943) could fetch EUR 40,000-60,000.

- Christie’s New York will sell Printed & Manuscript Americana on 19 May, in 210 lots. The top-estimated lot is a very cool one, a copy of the first edition of the first publication relating to New Netherland (Breeden-Raedt aende Vereenichde Nederlandsche Provintien. Antwerp: Francoys van Duynen, 1649.) No copy has sold at auction since the Streeter Sale in 1967, and this one is estimated at $70,000-100,000. Among the other goodies in this sale are a copy of Peter Force’s 1833 printing of the Declaration of Independence, estimated at $15,000-20,000. Also on the block will be a copy of Dryden and Lee’s Oedipus (1735), from the library of Benjamin Franklin (estimated at $12,000-18,000).

- Also on 19 May, PBA Galleries will sell Americana, Maps and Atlases, in 376 lots. The top lot is an extensive archive of letters and clippings related to Sanford B. Dole and his family, estimated at $10,000-15,000.

- Sotheby’s New York will host the third round of sales from the James S. Copley Library on 20 May. I’ve previewed this sale here.
Catalogue Review: Oak Knoll Books: 296, Books about Books, Bibliography, and Non Books about Books

img70_5.jpgIf you know only one name in the books-about-books world, it’s Oak Knoll. The first bookseller catalogues I ever requested and received were Oak Knoll catalogues, a dozen or so years ago. I was just then becoming interested in publishing history, buying a few publishers’ histories here and there, when I found out about Oak Knoll. They stock books on printing, binding, illustration, papermaking, bookplates, type specimens, bookselling, etc. Then and now, it is the bookseller for the book collector’s reference shelf.

The newest catalogue pointed out to me what is missing from my own shelves. Let’s start with Dibdin’s The Bibliomania; or Book-Madness; a Bibliographical Romance ($350). A later edition of the classic, but so says the catalogue, “The best edition to buy for those who want to read the full text of this book.” Yes, please.

Book Collecting, A Modern Guide from 1977 ($100) looks interesting. It contains twelve essays by well-known book people. This one was owned by contributor Susan Otis Thompson, and many of the chapters have been signed or inscribed by the other essayists.

How I would have loved to get my hands on this four-volume set of Tebbel’s History of Book Publishing in the United States ($550) when I was in grad school. Still would, in fact. It could use some updating as a reference, but there is lots of history here.

The type specimen books also caught my eye, particularly the Specimen Book of Nineteenth-Century Printing Types, Borders, Ornaments & Cuts In The Collection of Bowne & Co., Stationers ($125). Bowne & Co. is a gem of a letterpress printer in downtown Manhattan. This book, published in 1985, is limited to 300 copies.  

Any collector or bibliophile would do well to have the History of the Book in America series published by Cambridge University Press (and later by UNC Press) between 2000-2010. Oak Knoll has volume one: The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World ($100). Luckily I already have that one.

Oak Knoll also has generous handfuls of private press books, by Bird & Bull, Limited Editions Club, Derrydale Press, and others.

So if these appeal to your collecting interests, take a look at Oak Knoll’s catalogues (antiquarian or publishing) online or visit their shop in New Castle, Delaware. 
127928.jpgFor those of you who have read through the FB&C spring issue, you’ll have noticed a wonderful article by Suzanne Karr Schmidt, the Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago. She wrote about her experience curating the current exhibit, Altered and Adorned: Using Renaissance Prints in Daily Life. A 112-page exhibition catalogue with 98 illustrations (shown here at left) is now available.

For non-subscribers (shame on you!), here’s a snippet from our spring article:

This exhibition--containing over one hundred printed objects and objects with printed components--focuses on how early print owners physically manipulated these ephemeral artworks. As such, it is an unusual theme for a museum show. Books are notoriously difficult to exhibit in this type of setting, and yet they are intrinsically important to the topic at hand. Altered and Adorned therefore includes eleven bound volumes and albums, while at least six of the single-sheet prints were once book illustrations, four others were intended (and in two cases, used) as bookplates, and two remain attached as frontispieces for the books that originally housed them.

As any aficionado of old books might infer, many types of evidence of hands-on treatment endure, for owners routinely annotated prints. They also cut and pasted them everywhere--onto books, boxes, furniture, and walls, and sometimes they went even further and transformed them into three-dimensional objects. ...

Rulon-Miller Books’ latest catalogue bears the dedication “to young booksellers everywhere” and the following on the front cover:

LO AND BEHOLD, LO AND...Oh never mind. You are looking at yet another catalogue, extensively illustrated with words [...] being number 142 in the sequence. The books herein are priced under $500, and have been recently checked against others on line (where there were others on line) and the prices reduced, often comically. Yet, the books remain as good (or even fine) as they ever were, and the knowledge and learning they impart seem, in this turbulent era, even more alive and true than they might have seemed last century.

This is not a catalogue review (though there are many excellent items, over 1000 [!]; the catalogue -- and the cover -- can be viewed here). Rather, the mixture of market realism and bibliographic optimism expressed in the above paragraph simply struck me as particularly emblematic of this particular moment in bookselling. For both the “young bookseller” and the collector, the balance Rulon-Miller describes suggests (at least to me) the proper path forward: with an understanding of how the internet (and e-readers, and...) are influencing the trade, but also with a vision of and appreciation for the book’s continued vitality.
Nigel Beale is a writer and broadcaster who specializes in literary journalism. He hosts a radio program called The Biblio File, in which he interviews authors, publishers, booksellers, editors, and others in the book trade. This week Beale launched Literary Tourist, a web-based community where book lovers can plan trips to bookshops, festivals, libraries, etc., and also exchange their experiences with other biblio-travelers. This sounded amazing to me, and I wanted to learn more, so I asked Beale a few questions about his new project. Here is our Q&A.

RRB: Literary Tourist is such a fabulous idea but also quite a large undertaking. How and when did you decide to pursue it?

NB: I’ll start with the HOW: The idea took hold about a year and a half ago, when I first learned that the Book Hunter Press (BHP) was for sale. Since 1993 owners Susan and David Siegel had been producing their Book Lovers Regional Guides which listed all of the used/antiquarian bookstores in North America.

This, I thought, might fit very nicely with what I was doing at the time, namely pursuing an interest in books, collecting, hosting a radio program, and traveling around visiting and photographing bookstores - sort of a mid-life folly I called it.  I’d been working, quite successfully, in the media/public relations business for  more than 15 years, and had decided that it was time to follow my passion full-time, for as long as the money held out that is!

I soon came to realize that this wasn’t a folly, it was something very important to me.  I loved doing it, and the idea of making money at something you love is very appealing; wedding passion with business. And besides, BHP sort of retroactively explained to me why I was fanatically taking all of these photos! So I went down to visit the Siegels one day in December 2009, and we came to an agreement.

As for the WHY... Partly the same answer: the appeal of getting paid to do what you love, but, on a more fundamental level, I was concerned about the alarming number of used bookstore closures, and saw BHP as an opportunity to help slow the trend.

RRB: Is the ABAA or ILAB involved? Have any booksellers offered feedback?

NB: Funny you should mention ABAA. Susan Benne, its executive director,  was the person who initially put me in touch with Brendan Sherar at He was the one who told me that BHP was for sale. Biblio, incidentally, is partnering with Literary Tourist to help bookstores promote themselves.

While there is nothing formal in place with ABAA yet, they are supportive, and we are currently talking about ways we might jointly work to increase open bookstore traffic. As for ILAB, I haven’t formally approached them, however, they have been keen on the radio work I’ve been doing, promoting my Biblio File interviews. I’m hopeful, once we move into other parts of the world (we’re currently covering North America with plans to open the U.K. later on this year), that we’ll do something together.

As for feedback, we’ve had positive response from everyone we’ve spoken to so far; not surprising I suppose, given the fact that our goal is to generate more business for used bookstores. The test will come in the next few weeks when we launch the site; we’ll be emailing thousands of booksellers inviting them to claim and update their listings.

RRB: As I’ve read on your ‘About Us’ page, you began updating the BHP database in 2009. Had it been nine years since the previous update? What did you notice in that process?

NB: BHP put its data online in 2000. In fact, they were updating their databases right up until I took over in 2010. Still, it is a challenge to keep up with all the closings and start-ups. This is why we are inviting all used booksellers to visit to claim, add, update and maintain their listings.

What I’ve noticed in the process is that although there have been quite a few closures, the information we have on existing stores is surprisingly accurate.

RRB: The site offers collectors a place to plan a trip to book shops, landmarks, festivals, libraries, and other places of bibliophilic interest. Members will have the opportunity to ‘review’ these things, such as we see on typical travel websites, is that right? That’s an interesting aspect to this.

NB: Yes, we’ve provided space on the site not just for members, but for all visitors to review bookstores and other destinations. This, in addition to our own in-house reviews and comments, is I think a strength of the site: accurate, useful assessments that will help book lovers to spend their time most profitably.

As things progress, we want to create a community of traveling book lovers where participants can exchange thoughts about their experiences. The idea is that this input, along with an ‘events and sales’ feature, will make literary trips that much more fruitful.

RRB: I’m interested to read that a new set of printed regional Book Lover’s Guides will also be published. What are your plans there?

NB: Although the Internet, ebooks, iphones, and similar innovations, provide all sorts of convenience and benefits, I like the idea of providing book lovers with something tangible and tactile; to use or abuse as they see fit as they travel along literary highways and bi-ways. So, two things: one, we will be introducing downloadable pdf State Reports for $.99 (members), $4.99 (non-members) which will include state maps and listings of all in-state destinations; and, as you say, we’ll be re-introducing the seven printed regional guides which, in addition to all the bookstores, will also now include all kinds of other literary destinations, events and activities. These will be printed on demand.

I should mention too, before closing, that we plan to offer a discount program where participating dealers will offer a percentage off their books to customers who present one of our Guides or State Reports. Again, the idea behind this is to get more people into the physical bookstore in hopes that this will help keep more of them open.

Our thanks to Nigel Beale. Best of luck with the new endeavor!

The final round of the sale of the James S. Copley Library will be held at Sotheby’s New York on 20 May, in 252 lots.

A major highlight will be John Lansing’s notebooks from the Constitutional Convention, covering 25 May through 10 July, 1787. These are estimated at $600,000-900,000. See the full description here [PDF].

An impressive archive of Dwight Eisenhower letters to his wife Mamie, totaling 240 pages, is estimated at $400,000-600,000. A complete copy of the first book edition of The Federalist(New York: 1788) in contemporary boards, could fetch $200,000-300,000. Several other significant archives will be offered: a collection of materials related to John Charles Frémont is estimated at $100,000-150,000, while documents about the 1865 Hampton Roads peace conference could bring $80,000-120,000. Letters and documents about the assassination of President Garfield and the trial of Charles Guiteau are estimated at $50,000-80,000.

Three major single letters for sale include a 21 July 1788 George Washington letter to Nathaniel Gorham celebrating the ratification of the Constitution (est. $80,000-120,000); a letter from Abraham Lincoln to the House of Representatives from May 1864 (being a transcription in his hand of a letter sent to Montgomery Blair on 2 November 1863), estimated at $70,000-100,000; and an August 1808 letter from Thomas Jefferson to NH governor John Langdon (est. $60,000-90,000).
Having just returned from a long weekend in Cambridge and Boston, I realize I should have planned better when I booked months ago and scheduled my visit to coincide with the Massachusetts and Rhode Island Antiquarian Booksellers Association’s annual book and paper exposition which happens NEXT weekend on Saturday, May 7, in Wilmington, MA (just outside Boston). Here is sampling of some of items you can see (and buy) next weekend.

Ten Pound Island Books of Gloucester, MA, a specialist in nautical books and maps, has this rare example of a folio for the Merchants’ Express Line of Clipper Ships printed in two colors in 1855.

From bookseller Peter L. Stern of Boston, a children’s classic: a first edition of Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat.

Rabelais Books of Portland, Maine, known for its vintage food and beverage books, offers a selection of special cookbooks, just in time for Mother’s Day. They’re bringing an early edition of American Cookery, the first American cookbook, as well as an early edition of the Joy of Cooking. War rationing inspired a Wartime Edition (1944) of the popular The American Woman’s Cook Book, pictured here.

In addition to the seventy-plus dealers, there will be several talks, demonstrations, and exhibits to enjoy. John B. Hench, a retired curator from the American Antiquarian Society will be there to present a talk and sign copies of his Books as Weapons: Propaganda, Publishing, and the Battle for Global Markets. Boston book artist Laura Davidson (whose ‘tunnel books’ we admired recently in NY) will be there with her artistic decks of cards, pop-ups, and accordion books. With talks on counterfeiting, postage stamp design, the origin of paper, historic photography, and bookbinding, it seems you could easily spend an entire busy day at the fair.

Dealer Greg French will  present Women of the Civil War, a collection of photographs of female participants in the war. The one seen below is of  Frances Clayton, a woman who fought in the Union and served in the cavalry and artillery units as a man named Jack Williams. She and Elmer L. Clayton, her husband, enlisted together in a Missouri regiment the fall of 1861.

Mariah-CivilWar.jpgShow hours are: Saturday May 7, 10-5pm, and admission is $7 for adults. The Shriner’s auditorium is located at 99 Fordham Road in Wilmington, MA. More information can be found at Enjoy!
Auction Guide