August 2011 Archives

Cover of just released its list of the 100 most sought-after out-of-print books in 2011.  Madonna’s explicit coffee-table book Sex, from 1992, topped the list, a fact that was not missed by the major news agencies.  The 129 copies of Sex on abebooks, by the way, start at $57.00 (or $100 if you want the accompanying CD), so it’s not quite as rare as it would seem.

Nora Roberts came in second with Promise Me Tomorrow, which starts at $47 on abebooks for an acceptable mass-market copy.  There are only ten copies listed on the site, so it’s quite a bit more uncommon, actually, than Sex.  Roberts has actively tried dissuading her readers from tracking down copies of her early novel.

Stephen King fills in spots 3 and 4 on the list with his novels Rage and My Pretty Pony respectively.  Rage is readily available as part of a compendium of King’s early Bachman novels, but to acquire a stand alone copy, be prepared to dish out $200.  My Pretty Pony, meanwhile, runs about $70.

Two other familiar names in the Top 10 are Johnny Cash with his autobiography Man in Black and Norman Mailer with his biography of Marilyn Monroe.  The Cash autobiography may be out of print, but it’s as cheap as books get on the Internet.  The same goes for the Mailer biography of Monroe.  Both books are rather surprisingly out-of-print, in my opinion.  Interest in Cash and Monroe remains as high as ever; I’d think publishers could still pull in a fair bit of cash from annual sales of both titles.

For regular FB&C readers, there is a particularly interesting inclusion in the Top 100.  Paul Collins, who has written for FB&C in the past, wrote profiles for Lapham’s Quarterly and NPR on the child prodigy novelist Barbara Newhall Follett.  Follett’s compelling life story, wherein she wrote a best-selling novel at thirteen, then, several years later, walked out of her apartment one day never to be seen again, struck a chord with readers.  As a direct result of Collins’ pieces, Follett’s long out-of-print novel The House Without Windows shot into spot 83 on the list.

And here, by the way, we have a truly rare book, as the handful of copies of House Without Windows start at $500 on abebooks.  I think it’s time for a new edition.
I’ve been a fan of Matthew Pearl’s novels from the get-go; while I always have a hard time picking “favorite” books, The Dante Club would certainly make any list of top novels I’ve read. I’m very happy to say that his newest, The Technologists (due in early 2012 from Random House) is another big win.

Set in 1868 Boston, the novel opens with a series of terrifying attacks on the city’s commercial infrastructure: compasses on ships in the harbor suddenly malfunctioning simultaneously, window-glass in the business district spontaneously dissolving ... and the events seem likely to continue unless someone can figure out who’s behind them.

And just who does Pearl assign to figure out how to save Boston from further attacks? Departing from his earlier trio of novels, it’s not a major literary figure, but rather three young men, seniors at the nascent Massachusetts Institute of Technology, plus Ellen Swallow, the first female student at MIT. Facing off against a motley crew of MIT’s opponents (including some rowdy trade unionists, Harvard’s Louis Agassiz, and a mysterious hooded figure calling himself the “avenging angel,”), the unlikely quartet (who dub themselves “The Technologists”) must break some rules in order to protect themselves, their school, and their city.

Pearl’s captured the tensions of post-Civil War Boston beautifully, and told the story of MIT’s genesis and early years very nicely. The conflicts between those who supported MIT’s mission of practical scientific education and those who saw this as a dangerous trend were real, and The Technologists brings that to life in a way that I’m not sure a historian could.

I greatly enjoyed the richly-drawn characters, the pace, the plot, the setting - this is the real deal, a thrilling read that I wanted more of. All I can say is, keep up the good work!
In the Beginning Was the Word: Medieval Gospel Illumination, an exhibit at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, opens today. A look at the “physical manifestation of the word of God,” this dazzling array of images will be up through November 27. Shown here is a leaf from a Gospel printed in Constantinople, around 1325-45. So writes the Getty: “The Evangelist Mark is shown here in the act of sharpening his pen as he prepares to write the text of his Gospel. Other instruments of the scribe’s trade, including an inkpot, a compass, and a bottle of ink, are seen on the desk in front of Mark.”
Lawrence Worms, current President of the ABA in Britain and owner of Ash Rare Books since 1971, has set off on a self-styled book safari.  On his election to the ABA, Worms promised his fellow ABA members that throughout his tenure he would travel around Britain in an attempt to see as many of them as possible.  He set off on his first trip earlier this month, traveling through the south and west of England, and keeping a blog to record his bookish encounters.

From the inaugural post:

As the current president of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association, a pressing concern is the rapidly diminishing number of genuine antiquarian, rare and simply second-hand bookshops across the country.

We face the loss of the base of the pyramid that supports our trade in rare books. The loss of the habit of browsing in real bookshops. The loss of habitat that can threaten any species.

We travel in search of what remains. We travel in search of ideas

Worms began his first journey on August 2nd and visited Oxford, Stroud, Hay-on-Wye, Bristol, Honiton, Dorchester, Salisbury, and Chichester, amongst other spots.  He just began his second trip this past Friday, heading to points further north.

Worms’ blog about his travels is an interesting read for booksellers and collectors here and abroad as it offers a revealing glimpse into the current state of antiquarian bookselling in Britain.  There are also some amusing moments, such as when Worms is hijacked by wild swimmers, or when his wife and traveling companion, Anne, vents about the trip in her guest post.

Perhaps Sarah Baldwin, current President of the ABAA, will be inspired to follow suit and visit all the ABAA members.  It would be quite the endeavor...
Catalogue Review: Howard S. Mott, #260

It must be said that I have a soft spot for Howard S. Mott Inc. When I met Donald (Rusty) Mott at the 2010 NY Antiquarian Book Fair, I spied a first edition of Walden in his booth, and we got to talking Thoreau, one of my favorite topics. At the 2011 NYABF, my husband secretly visited Rusty’s booth and--my birthday being just two weeks later--picked up something truly surprising for me.

So, biased though I may be, it is easy to see from catalogue #260--the company’s 75th anniversary catalogue, I might add--that Rusty Mott of Sheffield, Massachusetts, is one of best booksellers out there. This catalogue is text-heavy, showing off Mott’s vast knowledge of his books but also his delight in the material. There are several interesting broadsides, particularly having to do with bookselling/printing. One is an unrecorded 1747 advertisement broadside, sold by Peter Griffin, “Map & Printseller at the three Crowns & Dial next the Globe Tavern Fleet Street” ($1,350). Another is an appeal from James Swan, printer, after his “dreadful fire” in 1807 ($350), and still another from Thomas Reeves and Son, suppliers of paper, pencils, crayons, etc., circa 1784-1789 ($500).

One of several major manuscript prizes is a Mexican War diary by West Point graduate Lt. Rankin Dilworth ($9,500). The 94-page original manuscript diary describes his trip down the Mississippi and on to Monterrey, where he encountered intense assault and was mortally wounded. Another interesting manuscript item is an illustrated log of eighteen months on board the Royal Navy Ship, H.M.S. Constance ($9,500).

An anonymous sketchbook “in an accomplished hand” of watercolors, pencil drawings, and photographs from the French Quarter of New Orleans seems destined to find a home quickly ($1,650).

A small section on China seems a smart addition to the catalogue, considering the strength in that market. It also speaks to the breadth of this catalogue. One needs to read through five times to take it all in. To do that, you’ll have to email them for a digital or print catalogue. Visit their ABAA page for more information.

Barack Obama announced his summer reading list the other day.  While, of course, the list is likely only half the story (the half that’s been vetted and field-tested for maximum public appeal), it’s always interesting to hear what our political leaders read in their downtime.  

I thought we could take a look at the collectibility of the titles on Obama’s list in this blog post.

First up is The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, the only non-fiction title on the list, which covers the migration of African-Americans from the South to the North. The cheapest copy of a signed first edition, in fine condition, is $75 and the price goes up from there.
Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...

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Next on the list is Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.  Signed, fine copies of Verghese’s novel of conjoined twins in Ethiopia begin at $85.00.

Then we’ve got Robin’s Debutante by Ward Just.  The novel follows the political awakening of a protagonist who moves to Chicago’s South Side.  (Sound familiar?)  No signed copies are listed for sale on abebooks, but you can pick up a fine first edition for $25.00 or an advanced proof copy for $8.50.

Next is To the End of the Land by David Grossman, which is about a mother hiking the length of Israel while her son is at war.  Signed, fine copies of the first edition start at $55.00

Closing the list is The Bayou Trilogy by David Woodrell, a collection of country noir set in Louisiana.  A single, signed copy of the trilogy is selling on abebooks for $16.00.  The trilogy, of course, was originally published in separate volumes.  The first book (and Woodrell’s first ever novel), Under the Bright Lights commands $150 for a signed copy.  A similar, signed copy of Muscle for the Wing will set you back $80, while The Ones You Do runs a scant $25.00.

The most expensive collectable copy of a book on Obama’s list, therefore, is Woodrell’s Under the Bright Lights (represented by proxy with The Bayou Trilogy) while the cheapest collectable copy is the $8.50 advanced proof copy of Robin’s Debutante, by Ward Just.  Now if only Obama’s personal copies would come on the market...

And there you have it, Obama’s summer reading list, FB&C style.

An exhibit called Sin & the City: William Hogarth’s London will open at Princeton University’s Firestone Library on Friday. Celebrating the work of this eighteenth-century painter and printmaker, the exhibition will prompt a “midnight modern conversation,” a gallery tour, and a musical evening later in the fall, and the exhibit will remain up through January.

hogarth midnight modern conversation3-thumb-440x174-11859.jpgFrom Hogarth’s A Midnight Modern Conversation, 1732/33. Etching, 3rd state. Courtesy of Princeton.

One really neat aspect of the exhibit’s preparation so far is the creation of a website that mapped the eighteenth-century London sites depicted in Hogarth’s prints. Not only is it a remarkable online component to the exhibit, but an example of how an application like Google Maps can inform book history. Brilliant! Here’s a snapshot:

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The Edinburgh International Book Festival is in full swing across the pond.  The Festival, one of the largest of its kind in the world, began on the 16th of August and continues until the 29th.  There’s still time, therefore, to catch a last minute flight overseas and attend a few events.  (So what are you doing here?)

The overall theme of this year’s Festival is revolution.  Many of the authors were invited due to their connection with revolutions past and present.  In attendance are the Egyptian political commentator Ahdaf Soueif, Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie, exiled Chinese author Gao Xingjian, and Libyan novelist Hisham Matar, amongst many others.

Along with such political-minded writers, a number of other authors made, or will make, appearances at this year’s Festival:  Neil Gaiman, AS Byatt, Michael Ondaatje, Alasdair Gray, Ian Rankin, Audrey Niffenegger, Kelly Link, and Dava Sobel are all on the list.


A variety of other literary events will take place in conjunction with the Festival.  FB&C readers may be interested to visit McNaughtan’s Bookshop, an old bookselling firm on Leith Walk (and my former employer), where an exhibit of Angela Lemaire’s work for the Old Stile Press will be on display from the 23rd of August to the 30th of September.  Another must-stop is the National Museum of Scotland, which recently re-opened its doors after an extensive, three-year redevelopment.

For those of us who must vicariously live through the Festival, the Guardian is offering continuing coverage, complete with video footage and audio commentaries.

(Photos in this entry by the author)

Nick Basbanes, our columnist-in-chief, will be talking with Diane Rehm this Wednesday. It’s a Reader’s Review panel, and they’ll be discussing the bestselling (and bookish) novel (about to turn film), The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. A thoroughly enjoyable read, in my opinion. Peter Reid of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and NPR books correspondent Lynn Neary will also join the panel. Should be great fun to listen -- check your local stations and tune in!

Pamela Binnings Ewen has crafted another masterpiece that explores real-life drama spun deep inside historical fiction. The seed of Dancing on Glass was sown from an evening ritual with husband Jimmy sitting on their back deck overlooking a golf course and cypress swamp. During the twilight hour just as the birds began to roost, every evening a white egret would welcome Pam and Jimmy to her home. They named her Iris and soon she introduced her beau and offspring. Infatuated with Iris and the secrets of the cypress forest, a story was born. 

2010 Jacob Thompson 1st place Flight of the Egret 6x4.jpg

(Egret photo courtesy of Jacob Thompson of Amite, Louisiana and winner of Louisiana Outdoor Writer’s Association 2010 Youth Journalism Photography Contest) 

After a well rehearsed tour of the historic Palmer House in Stonington, Connecticut, I felt compelled to take pictures of a rambling stone fence. Taking advantage of the early morning light and a fresh coat of morning dew, my lens spied an odd shaped building with slanted roof. Shaped like an ark with a long wall of windows, the Richard W. Woolworth Library pays tribute to the brave souls who sacrificed everything to help build their new America.

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Catalogue Review: Peter L. Masi, #213

Masi-Catalogue.jpgPeter L. Masi is a bookseller out of western Massachusetts, a member of Massachusetts and Rhode Island Antiquarian Booksellers and The Ephemera Society, and a generalist with a broad selection at affordable prices. He calls his most recent catalogue a “basic mixed bag,” which is always fun to rummage through.

As he points out on his blog, his stock is “primarily American, primarily non-fiction.” Here he has more on textiles than usual, due to a deaccession from the American Textile History Museum. The rest runs the gamut from advertising to Yale University. And speaking of Yale, he seems to have a fair amount of college and university-related material, especially from New England schools.

In the books about books category, I was excited to see a New York Public Library commonplace book--published for its “Literary Lions” in 1990--with the bookplate of Annie Dillard. Surely a bargain at $25. For library lovers, he also has a 1905 leaflet, A Village Library, from the Brimfield, MA, public library for $15.

In regional books, he has both Massachusetts Beautiful ($25) Connecticut Beautiful ($20), written and illustrated by the famous artist/furniture maker/antiques expert/collector Wallace Nutting. The contain photos and drawings of scenery and homes in the area.

A neat find resides in his medicine section -- a stapled booklet from 1969 called Narcotics: the Communist Drug Offensive. It’s a ten-page article from American Opinion magazine (John Birch Society) that links drug proliferation to a Communist plot ($10).

Few items are priced over $100, which means you can browse AND buy from this catalogue. Always a good thing.
New England is home to four of the eight Ivy L...

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The New England Chapter of the ABAA is holding an “unseminar” at Dartmouth College on September 14, 2011 entitled New Tools: Marketing Approaches, Platforms, & Technologies for Antiquarian Booksellers.

The “unseminar” is so-named “to emphasize the participatory and ‘bottom-up’ character of the event.”  A variety of speakers will deliver presentations followed (or accompanied) by open discussions.  The event is free and open to the public.

Dan Gregory of Between the Covers will deliver two presentations in the morning: “Rare Book Photography for the Busy Professional Bookseller” and “The Printed Rare Book Catalog in the Digital Age - New Tech Tools for an Old Sales Channel.” 

After lunch, several other speakers will take the stage: 

Greg Gibson of Ten Pound Island on “blogging as a sales tool and as an historical record.”  

Ian Kahn of Lux Mentis on the “use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter in business promotion.” 

Joachim Koch of Books Tell You Why with a talk entitled “Do Social Media Platforms Sell Books, or, Will You Tweet my Facebook?”

Luke Lozier of Bibliopolis on “planning an e-commerce website.”

Further information on the event is available from the ABAA here. 

If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to

Specific questions can be addressed to John Waite of John Waite Rare Books at

Piper.jpgTake a look at the beautiful cover of John Piper in the Watkinson: An Illustrated Checklist -- it is letterpress printed and features a stylized representation of the baptistry window of Coventry Cathedral, designed by Piper.

This slim catalogue was just published in an edition of five hundred to honor the gift of William J. McGill, who donated his collection of books and ephemera related to the British artist John Piper to the Watkinson Library at Trinity College. McGill’s essay about Piper and the collection explains why he--“I am not an art collector, but a book collector”--should be so interested in a British artist. By way of example, he discusses Brighton Aquatints, a folio of twelve etchings and aquatints, as well as Piper’s collaborations with poet John Betjeman. An annotated checklist of some two hundred items follows.

This production is an example of the continuing good work of Richard Ring, head curator and librarian of the Watkinson Library at Trinity College and author of The Bibliophile’s Lair blog (also a former FB&C book review editor!). In his introduction, Ring says he hopes the publication rallies students, that McGill’s collection and donation might be an “inspiring model.”

The twenty-four-page paperbound book can be purchased directly from Oak Knoll.

A common complaint in the rare book trade is the lack of young collectors.  In America, we have the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest to draw some attention, and offer some support, to young collectors just starting off.  Our northern neighbors offer the Canadian National Book Collecting Contest for collectors under 30.

This year’s winner was Justin Hanisch, a graduate student in ecology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.  Hanisch’s impressive collection, A History of Fish, focuses on antiquarian volumes published before 1901.  Hanisch writes, rather beautifully, of his collection, “My books were printed centuries and continents apart and cover a diversity of topics within the general subject of “fish”. I believe that books unified in a collection can play off one another to tell stories, each book like a key struck in a composition for piano. Just as a piano produces innumerable songs with the same keys, books in a collection combine and recombine to reveal many different narratives.”

Hanisch won $1,000 for his collection and its accompanying essay. (Available here as a PDF).  But his good fortune did not end there.  The Bruce Peel Library at the University of Alberta approached Justin to guest curate a lovely online exhibition of his collection.  The exhibition features gorgeous illustrations from collection highlights and includes commentary from Justin on each individual item as well as his collecting method and ideology.

So congratulations to Justin for winning this year’s contest.  The Bruce Peel Library should also be applauded for its innovative and forward-thinking exhibition.  By highlighting a young collector, and offering him a platform to exhibit and discuss his collection, Bruce Peel is setting an encouraging example to libraries everywhere.  Young collectors are out there; they just don’t always have the money (and subsequent access) to be noticed by the rare book trade and its surrounding community.  Libraries can do much to redress this balance.

If you’re one of our Canadian readers, the contest is now accepting applications for its third year.
Seventy antiquarian booksellers--Adrian Harrington Rare Books, Between the Covers, Brian Cassidy, and Quill & Brush, to name a few--will be on hand at this year’s Baltimore Summer Antiques Show coming up Aug. 25-28 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Twain-Imperial.jpgImperial Rare Books is bringing this very handsome set of Twain in twenty-five volumes (seen above). It is the autograph edition of which this is #260 of five hundred with a tipped-in signed note by Twain. Bound in full olive green calf with gilt edging. The price tag: $22,500.

29-1510 Blumenthal books.jpgM.S. Rau Antiques is highlighting its leatherbound six-volume set of books that catalogues the collection of George and Florence Blumenthal, well-heeled Jazz Age collectors of paintings, sculptures, furniture, drawings, and more. Printed in 1926 in an edition of two hundred, this is #162. Priced at $3,850.

Beyond books, five hundred other exhibitors will show furniture, silver, art, porcelain, jewelry, glass, textiles, and more. A full exhibitor list is here:
Guest Blog by bookseller Garry R. Austin

The Searles Castle Book Fair was held the last weekend of July in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, in the heart of the Berkshires. This fair has been run for a number of years by Bernice Bornstein who also produces the “Shadow Show” to the Boston ABAA Show in November. Bernice is a good-hearted bundle of energy, frenetic, dedicated and has a memory for people’s names and business history that is nothing short of amazing. Years ago she and her late husband Hal, ran the “Woburn Antique Show” three times a year, with about 400 dealers in each show with a waiting list as well. Today in the “Castle,” the number of dealers is about sixty, the floor plan is fluid given the nature of the rooms in this late 19th century mansion, columns here and there, large pieces of furniture that can’t be disturbed, a Veranda that is utilized, a stage and a lovely painted ceiling in the Music Room. The price of admission is worth the walk through in this remarkable facility that now houses the John Dewey Academy, a private school. And it’s the Berkshires in high season!

This fair has a very good mix of dealers and there are always a number of finds that make the weekend fulfilling and profitable. This year’s event was no exception. What was noteworthy was that amidst a time of depressing economic news, high unemployment numbers, passionate debate on debt ceiling deals, debt downgrades, and what market analysts term uncertainty, this fair seemed to be immune to those pressures. There were interesting books to be found. The trade was engaged and buying, and the public that attended also contributed to a healthy “handle” for the affair. Without naming names, at opening there was a line, and on that line were some of the more well known, sophisticated, high-end booksellers of the ABAA. One of the great tell-tale signs of a vibrant fair is the number of patrons carrying packages. Folks were browsing and clutching their previous purchases. One dealer was observed folding up a case from his table mid fair, he had sold all the books in it. I’m not claiming that everyone had a successful show, that rarely happens, but the stars seemed to be aligned and there were plenty of buyers there, both from within and without the Trade. The material was a cut above the average regional fair, was reasonably priced in most cases and was moving. It was a very good weekend, and many of us left in an optimistic mood. So I’ll be back next year as I assume will most of this year’s exhibitors too.

Garry R. Austin
Austin’s Antiquarian Books
Wilmington, VT
Abebooks has a cool feature up on their website displaying twenty-five of their favorite retro monster covers.  As a confirmed lover of pulp covers, I enjoyed browsing through the lurid illustrations and sensational titles.  It got me thinking about my own childhood and some of my favorite monster illustrations from children’s books; in particular the ones that stuck in my head and crept back in the nighttime to haunt my dreams.

One such illustration, which seems a bit tame now, but had a powerful impact on my young imagination, is this battling squid from a children’s version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea:

Another favorite horrific illustration from my youth comes from the ubiqutious Childcraft books, which now haunt the dusty, basement shelves of many baby-boomer parents.  One entry in the series, Mathemagic, presented an eerie lesson in multiplication by demonstrating how quickly vampires could take over the earth.  Under the logic that a vampire must bite one person a week in order to stay alive, (and that all bitten people become vampires), it would only take 32 weeks to go from one solitary vampire to a complete Vampire-Apocalypse.  As if their logic wasn’t horrifying enough, they brought in a devilish illustrator to drive the point home:


Finally, I loved the John Bellairs books while I was growing up, all of which were illustrated in that particularly eerie way by the great Edward Gorey.  After John Bellairs died, Brad Strickland continued writing the series into the present day.  Gorey also continued illustrating until his own death in 2000.  Here is one of the more monsterly of his covers:

Any other favorite monster books out there from your youth?
If you’re off to Italy this fall or just thinking about it, there are two events to put on your itinerary. The 8th Annual Artelibro Art Book Festival will be held September 22-25 in Bologna. Antiquarian booksellers, contemporary publishers and printers, artists, and collectors gather here to celebrate the art of the book with lectures, special events, and, of course, opportunities to buy. It sounds like a dream vacation. Last year, Artelibro attracted 55,000 attendees.

The theme of the 2011 fair is archaeology/archaeologies. To read more about this year’s specific events and dealers, go here:

Stay on in Italy for an extra week or so to attend the 27th Florence International Antiques Fair (a.k.a. the Florence Biennale), which will be held October 1-9 this year at the Palazzo Corcini. Not only is it one of the most important art exhibitions in the world, about ninety dealers will be on hand with fine art, antiques, and books.

 Biennale Firenze Grand Choir Book with 5 miniaturesThe French gallery, Les Enluminures, will be celebrating its twentieth anniversary by participating in the Biennale for the first time. One very special item they will show is a ‘Gradual,’ an illuminated choir book in Latin (pictured above, courtesy of Les Enluminures) in its original binding, metal hardware, and leather decoration from the Olivetan monastery where it was made and used. Les Enluminures also plans to bring manuscript leaves and cuttings, miniatures, paintings, and a thirteenth-century signet ring.

Then, you can go see David!
In the latest literary casualty to the ongoing economic crisis, the Poe house has been denied City of Baltimore funding for the second year in a row.  Currently operating on reserve funds, the house is likely to close in 2012 when it runs out of money.  To be fair, the Poe house is struggling anyway: it’s located in the midst of a housing project and has trouble luring tourists away from Baltimore’s other tourist sites, which are concentrated closer to Baltimore’s core.  But it does raise an important question about the value of literary monuments in a time of economic belt-tightening.  What do you think?  Should Baltimore continue siphoning $85,000 of its annual budget to keep the house operating?  Or is the money better spent elsewhere?

The house, at 203 North Amity Street, is protected by Baltimore as a designated landmark.  As such, it’s not in any danger of deconstruction.  The museum, however, may be forced to close in the near future unless a benefactor steps to the plate, or the City of Baltimore has a change of heart.

While the fate of the Poe house is up in the air, it’s important to stay vigilant for similar situations around the country.  The Poe house is unlikely to be the last literary closure as government funds dry up everywhere.
324_1.JPGOn Tuesday of this week, this tattered copy of Edgar Allan Poe is expected to sell for more than $20,000 at a Leslie Hindman Auctioneers sale in Chicago. Why so pricey, you ask? Provenance. It was owned by celebrated Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, whose artsy marginalia fills the book. So proclaims the catalogue, “The inscriptions and collages in Kahlo’s personal copy of The Works of Edgar Allan Poe form an extraordinary record of the artist’s creative process in addition to revealing an important literary influence of her work. The item demands further study of Frida Kahlo’s motivations, her selection of specific works, and the pointed references to her relationship with Diego Rivera.”

219 (3).jpgThe other block-buster (pun intended) is a three-volume folio edition of History of the Indian Tribes of North America with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs Embellished with One Hundred and Twenty Portraits. From the Indian Gallery in the Department of War, at Washington. It is estimate at $30,000-$40,000.

The selection for this LH sale is broad. There is so much here for the collector who doesn’t mind spending a few hours with the catalogue, for he or she will surely find something of personal interest: a hand-colored Merian engraving (from ... Insectorum Surinamensium), several lots of incunable leaves, also single leaves from the First Folio, several lots of medical books from the Collection of Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, some Civil War material, a first edition of Naked Lunch, fine bindings, works on paper, some basketball memorabilia, and coins! Should be an exciting sale.

Photos courtesy of Leslie Hindman. 

Catalogue Review: Priscilla Juvelis, #53 Contemporary Book Arts

P-J-catalogue53.pngPriscilla Juvelis of Kennebunkport, Maine, specializes in literary first editions, especially women authors; nineteenth- and twentieth-century reform movements, especially suffrage and temperance; and contemporary book arts. She has her hand on the pulse of contemporary book art and stocks the work of the finest artists and private presses, such as Donald Glaister, Julie Chen/Flying Fish Press, and Walter Hamady/Perishable Press.

Indeed all three can be found on the pages of her short but incredibly sweet new catalogue. From Glaister, she has an artist’s book, one of ten copies, of A Few Questions, among others ($3,500). From Chen’s Flying Fish Press and Barbara Tetenbaum’s Triangular Press (a collaboration), a brand new artist’s book in a modified flag book structure, one of one hundred copies, titled Glimpse ($975). And from Perishable Press, a scarce 1964 title, The Disillusioned Solipsist, written, printed, and published by Hamady ($2,650). There are also several books from Cheloniidae Press (now Press of the Sea Turtle).

Book art is, more so than other areas of book collecting, about subjective tastes. What appeals to the heart or the eye, rather than one more title from a specific author or genre. For me, Bad Girls, a 2011 unique artists’ book by Mary McCarthy and Shirley Veenema, is one such piece ($6,000). It is made up of six “dos-a-dos” titles--Seductress, Promiscuous Actress, Rich Man’s Mistress, Miser, Mass Murderer, and Robber Plunderer--in which a saint is produced twice, first as a “bad girl” and then as a converted saint.

The other that draws my attention is Remember the Ladies, a 2008 artist’s book in a custom box, one of ten copies, by Sande Wascher-James ($1,200). The image of Abigail Adams sitting on Liberty Lawn fabric of red roses with the hand-printed admonition to her husband, John, “Remember the Ladies...” has a traditional look to it, and yet contains layers of meaning. Inside, the pages contain postage stamps of famous American women, such as Georgia O’Keefe, Margaret Mitchell, and Eleanor Roosevelt, that have been digitally printed onto fabric in a collage with text, ribbon, lace, and other fabrics. I love the idea and the execution. When stood on its “spine,” it is truly a compelling book object (you must see the catalogue picture to understand how it works).

Go ahead, download catalogue 53 and take a look. 
“You ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re alright.”

So says the Boss in the lyrics to Thunder Road, one of the most famous rock songs of all time.

Well, Mark Cashion, a book collector and newly turned chapbook publisher, sure churned out a beauty in his first publication, which combines the classic Springsteen lyrics to Thunder Road with an essay in praise of the song by Nick Hornby.


While enrolled in a class in letterpress printing and bookbinding at the Center for Book Arts, Cashion decided on a whim to try to publish a chapbook uniting Springsteen’s lyrics with Hornby’s essay from his 2003 collection Songbook.  To the surprise of everyone, including himself, he managed to wrangle permission from both artists to publish the chapbook as long as the sale proceeds were donated to charity.  Several years, and two letterpress printers later, the Thunder Road chapbook was born.


Thunder Road is a limited-edition letterpress publication in a dos-a-dos binding with Hornby’s essay on the left spine and a broadside of Springsteen’s lyrics on the right spine.  The cover is printed on black somerset velvet with a hand-rolled yellow deckle edge meant to resemble, appropriately enough, road paint.  The book is hand-stitched with matching yellow thread.  The cover and fly-sheet are illustrated with a linocut of storm clouds.  The letterpress printing was conducted by both synaestheia press and Lead Graffiti.

Cashion published the book in a limited run of 200 copies, all of which are signed by Nick Hornby.  Each chapbook costs $60.00 and all the proceeds are being donated to TreeHouse, a London school for autistic children.  


You can order the book and read more about the story behind its publication from Cashion’s blog here.
Samaritan.jpgEarlier this week the Atlantic posted an interesting article about a Tim Brookes, who preserves ancient scripts by carving them into wood. His “Samaritan” is seen here above (with his permission). From the Atlantic:

...Without support from governments, NGOs, or foundations, the English-born, Vermont-based writer Tim Brookes has been documenting this heritage in a unique way, carving specimens on local curly maple in his Endangered Alphabets Project. Every research library may have one or more reference books of world alphabet specimens, but wood carving presents texts in what is literally a new light...[read more]

Intrigued, I visited the Endangered Alphabets site. It is a singularly awesome project that consists of fourteen 18” x 12” slabs of Vermont maple onto which endangered alphabets (Manchu, Samaritan, Syriac, etc.) are carved and painted. These art objects have been on exhibit at several universities and colleges over the past year and are available for future exhibitions. Mr. Brookes has also published a book that acts as a catalogue to the exhibition. You can read an excerpt here; and buy one here.

He is now working on an Endangered Poem Project, and the coming attractions look very cool.

Bali-poem2-1024x768.jpg“First stage of the Endangered Poem Project: using carbon paper to transfer the text to the wood.” Credit: Tim Brookes, here with his permission.

The Associated Press reported last week on the loss of historical records and documents in the 9/11 attacks, a frequently (if understandably) overlooked aspect of the tragedy.  The twenty-one libraries destroyed in the World Trade Center attacks joined a long list of war-damaged archives stretching back to the Library of Alexandria.

Among the lost and missing:

  • The art and sculpture collection of the Cantor Fitzgerald brokerage, which included a cast of Rodin’sThe Thinker.”  The brokerage’s founder, B. Gerald Cantor, was one of the world’s largest private collectors of Rodin.

  • The Ferdinand Gallizoli Library of the U.S. Customs Service, which included U.S. trade documents dating back to the 1840s.

  • Over 900,000 objects from the Five Points Neighborhood during its heyday as a working class slum.  (Vividly depicted in the Martin Scorsese film “Gangs of New York”)

  • The archive of Helen Keller International, which burned up in the aftermath of the crash and included a number of Helen Keller first editions and original letters. (For more on this, read FB&C’s story from a few years back.)

  • A significant portion of the photographic archive of the Broadway Theatre Archive, which held 35,000 photos depicting the development of the American stage. 

Most of these items were destroyed in the attacks or the aftermath, however some are classified as *missing* and thus may be out there circulating in the trade for rare documents and antiquities.  The bust of Rodin’s “The Thinker,” for example, turned up briefly after the attacks only to disappear again.  So stay vigilant.

A more detailed report of the cultural loss sustained on 9/11 is available here as a PDF from Heritage Preservation.

This Wednesday Swann Galleries will hold a two-session auction of vintage posters that are truly fun to look at, which is why a handful of interesting examples are in order. The sale opens with American turn-of-the-century literary posters, including magazine cover art for Harper’s, Scribner’s, Collier’s, and Lippincott’s, and moves on to summer resort and travel posters, WWI and WWII propaganda posters, Russian prop art, circus posters, and advertising art. The vibrant colors, the classic graphic design, the embedded cultural history--all make these vintage posters something worth seeing. And a few Henri de Toulouse-Lautrecs too!

Lippincotts.jpgA collector of late nineteenth-century novels? This poster for Lippincott’s Series of Select Novels by Will Carqueville would be an excellent addition to your library. The estimate is $400-$600.

harpers.jpgA poster of a Harper’s cover from February 1898 of a man reading with his attendant literary cat? An awesome buy. Designed by Edward Penfield, whose work is represented throughout the auction. The estimate is $1,200-$1,800.

army.jpgOne of several in the auction by James Montgomery Flagg, this is the one we all know and love (we love it, right?). I Want You for U.S. Army, 1917. The estimate is $6,000-$9,000.

circus.jpgA handful of circus posters by designers unknown from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey are on the block. This one is Dainty Miss Leitzel from 1918/The Strobridge Litho. Co. The estimate is $1,500-$2,000.

readinglady.jpgI couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share this lovely reading lady by Sadie Wendell Mitchell, 1909. The estimate is $400-$600.

Mucha.jpgAnd, of course, the classic Art Nouveau ad art of Alphonse Mucha is not to be missed. Here’s one of his Job Cigarette ads from 1898. The estimate is $8,000-$12,000.
Auction Guide