June 2012 Archives

I don’t often go to the movies, but last night offered that rare chance, and I went to see Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. I’m a big fan of Anderson’s films (Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, The Life Aquatic, etc.), and this film had that same ‘dollhouse’ quality, quirky plot, and amazing cast of characters.

large.jpgThe film is set in 1965, and one of the main characters, Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), is a twelve-year-old runaway. She meets up with her boyfriend, an orphaned ‘Khaki Scout,’ and they hit the trail and set up camp. Suzy has packed her suitcase with six books that she stole from the library, with titles like The Girl From Jupiter, The Francine Odysseys, and Disappearance of the 6th Grade. Throughout the film, she reads excerpts from some of the books. The books are fake -- props written by Anderson-- but it was great to see books with such a leading role. And, in what must be a first for modern film, the book jacket designers got a huge credit at the end.

When I got home, I did a little quick research on the books, and it turns out that Anderson had considered animating the reading scenes and so commissioned animations of all six books, later used separately in a supplementary video to promote the film. You can view them here.

Image: Focus Features.
One of our ongoing concerns here at Fine Books is the intersection of books and art.  In the midst of a digital revolution in publishing, I would like to start profiling small, independent publishers who produce fine editions of their books; those who relish in the artistic possibilities of the codex and create the collectable books of our age.

This new, occasional series begins today with Scarlet Imprint, a “talismanic publisher” in England who has been producing beautiful editions of occult works since 2007.  Operated by Peter Grey and Akistis Dimech, Scarlet Imprint was the first ever occult publisher to be shortlisted for the Book Design and Production Awards for their fine edition of XVI. But Scarlet Imprint is on a broader mission than simply producing beautiful books.  As their website reads, “We are committed to the fine book arts and the magick that can be bound into the book itself. Books are living things which can be consecrated and brought to life in order to manifest change in the individual who engages with them, and the wider world.” In addition to producing fine editions in limited print runs, Scarlet Imprint also publishes paperback and digital editions of its books under its Bibliotheque Rouge imprint. 

I recently conversed with Peter Grey by e-mail:

scarletimprintbooks.jpgNP: What was the genesis of Scarlet Imprint?

PG: Scarlet Imprint began in order to publish Peter’s book The Red Goddess, in a talismanic edition of 156 copies. We accomplished that and sold the copies largely through word of mouth. Howlings emerged from our work with the Goetia and was our next offering.

crossed keys.jpgNP: What is the publishing vision of the house?

PG: We intend to inspire and fuel the magical revival. We publish both established and respected writers and the radical young voices. We take risks with the material we publish, for example the poetry anthologies, as these are works which would not otherwise see the light of day. In this way we hope to raise awareness of the importance of creativity and craft in magical praxis. As a truly independent publisher we do not belong to any group, order or organisation. All paths can lead to knowledge, and a willingness to share, discuss and engage with others seems appropriate to the times we find ourselves in and the tools we have at our disposal.

snakeskin.jpgNP: Could you tell us about the process of producing your fine editions?

PG: You could see the fine editions as a way to manifest and convey the spirit of a book without the usual constraints. We have a very good relationship with our binder, as well as with artisans in leather and marbling, which has allowed us to explore the possibilities of expression in the medium of book binding. Naturally, the themes and spirit of a work direct and inspire the outcome. These are magical objects, not simply the standard edition with a leather spine. Every edition of our titles exposes a different facet of the spirit of the book itself.
NP: How do you decide on your limitations for each print run?

PG: Choosing limitation numbers is based primarily on the magical requirements of the task at hand.

rouge.jpgNP: Could you tell us about Bibliotheque Rouge?

PG: Bibliotheque Rouge is our propaganda wing. It references the bibliotheque bleue period where grimoires and other books were printed and distributed to the mass market, resulting in an explosion of interest in the occult arts. We do not believe in creating artificial scarcity. In a digital age, with the free flow of information, it is backwards to think otherwise. The world has changed. Though we feel that there is something particularly magical about the creation of books as objects of enduring beauty there are students who want the raw data and cannot afford either fine bindings or luxurious hardbacks. We want the information to reach people, regardless of the depth of their pockets. 

NP: How do you feel about the idea of “grimoire scalping” (borrowing the terminology from the recent post at the blog Balkan’s Arcane Bindings) -- that is, people purchasing your fine editions solely to sell them at a profit soon after they’ve sold out from the publisher?

PG: We do not suffer from this to the extent that other publishers do, as our books are neither self-consciously ‘dark’ nor cynically limited. Our readers are our friends and peers who will rarely part with our fine editions whose value is not in their price alone. We will also take payment in installments and reserve books when necessary so that our readers do not miss out on a book they have set their heart on.
As a problem we think grimoire scalping is overstated, the number of serious practitioners out there in the fine edition market is very small. Those who buy fine editions specifically for resale can be easily blacklisted, although this does not entitle anyone to conduct a witch hunt, as books do come to market for legitimate reasons. People are going to be out to make a quick buck and act opportunistically. Such are the supposed values of our culture.


NP: I know that XVI was nominated for the 2011 British Book Design Awards.  Could you tell us about that?

PG: We are the only occult publisher to ever be shortlisted. This shows that the artistry of our books is recognised beyond the narrow confines of genre. The bookbinders, artisans and printers we work with all deserve due praise. Our typography, design work and harmonious use of materials are acknowledged as superlative by those whose stock in trade is books. However, we do not seek mainstream or industry approval for the work that we do. The book industry is simply that, an industry, looking to sell more product in a collapsing marketplace. As artists we have a very different agenda. Books for us are living things that create change in people and in the world. 
NP: What’s next on the slate for Scarlet Imprint?

PG: We prefer to play our cards close to our chest, but we can say that the next open objective is our Pleasure Dome festival in Brighton on July 21. At the Crossroads is our latest title exploring the new magic occuring as Western Magic enters into a fusion with the diaspora religions.

Ever more wild, challenging and radical texts are in development. Expect the unexpected.

You can experience fin-de-siecle Paris by visiting the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) this summer. Its exhibit, Posters of Paris: Toulouse-Lautrec and His Contemporaries, celebrates the brightly colored advertisements by Pierre Bonnard, Jules Cheret, Edouard Vuillard, and Alphonse Mucha that graced the city at the turn of the twentieth century.

Bonnard-FranceChampagne.jpgPierre Bonnard, (French, 1867-1947), France-Champagne, 1889-1891. Color lithograph. Restricted gift of Dr. and Mrs. Martin L. Gecht, 1991.218, The Art Institute of Chicago. Image courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago.

Paris was plastered with paper -- creating what MAM refers to as an outdoor museum for the masses. The posters themselves were “objects of intense fascination, even mania, and a new term was invented to describe it: affichomanie (poster mania). They were so popular that collectors stole them from billboards almost as soon as they were pasted up...” The posters remain popular to collectors today, filling vintage poster auctions at Swann Galleries and Christie’s and cropping up at Heritage Auctions too.

Cheret-LHorloge.jpgJules Chéret, (French, 1836-1932), L’Horloge: Les Girard, 1875/1878 or 1880/1881. Color lithograph. Collection of Jim and Sue Wiechmann. Photo by John R. Glembin.

The exhibit runs through September 9, 2012 and then heads to the Dallas Museum of Art from Oct. 14, 2012-Jan. 20, 2013.
Sales of eBooks in the United States now command 20% of the market.

Sales of eBooks in France account for a mere 3% of the market.

The Guardian reported yesterday that the French are largely ignoring the digital revolution in publishing, as the vast majority of French readers still prefer printed books.  And this is great news for French bookshops, who are also set to to benefit from a recent commitment by the Hollande government to rescind the VAT (value-added tax) increase on books introduced during Sarkozy’s reign.

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that the French state continues to fix the price of books.  Readers, therefore, pay the same price for books purchased on Amazon.fr as they do at their local bookshop.  Discounting is not allowed. (This price-fixing also applies to eBooks). So French independent bookshops are, if not thriving, at least able to compete in the marketplace.  Paris alone has a healthy 400 independent bookshops.  (London, the ancestral home of the bookselling world, has a scant 130).

France has a long and glorious history of fiercely clinging to its cultural traditions. As the sales of eBooks continue to rise around the world, it will be interesting to see how important printed books remain to French culture.

For now, however, the future of the printed book in France looks very bright indeed.

Vive le livre.

powellyoungsevere.jpgThe Cleveland Plain Dealer reported last week that the complete diaries of novelist, playwright, and short story writer, Dawn Powell, spanning the years 1915-1965, are for sale. Not with Christie’s, Sotheby’s, or another of the major auctions houses or antiquarian booksellers -- the 43 volumes are being privately auctioned by the owner, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and biographer Tim Page, as a single lot. The required opening bid is $500,000.

According to the FAQs on the auction’s informational website, DawnPowellDiaries.com, Page states, “The advancement of social media now permits a seller to bypass the auction houses and reach an interested audience without incurring prohibitive commission fees. Moreover, I like the fact that I can control the sale of these documents and make sure that they find a proper and respectful home.” Page has owned the diaries for almost twenty years. He told the Plain Dealer that he purchased “her entire papers for about the price of an automobile” from Powell’s cousin and literary executor.

Cover-1931-Diary-P01-16-400x600.jpgPowell’s 1931 diary, referred to as “The first of Powell’s great diaries” because it is meatier than her previous appointment-book like diaries.

Powell was born in Ohio but relocated to New York’s Greenwich Village, where she spent the rest of her life. She wrote hundreds of short stories and more than a dozen novels in the mid-twentieth century. A revival of her work occurred in the 1990s, when Page edited and published her diaries and letters wrote a biography about her.

Terms of the forthcoming sale include ensuring that a full copy of all manuscripts “is available to scholars and to the public, through a library or research center.” The diaries are currently housed at the Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library, where interested buyers can view them by appointment. The buyer will not own the copyright to the material; that will be retained by the Estate of Dawn Powell.

Cover-1947-Diary-P03-08-400x600.jpgPowell’s 1947 diary records her visit to John Dos Passos and a hospital stay.

Interested bidders who can agree to Page’s terms and initial bid level are asked to contact him directly through his website. A legal process will narrow bidders by July 1, and final bids will be accepted until July 15, 6:00 P.M., EST. One final caveat: “The highest bid will not necessarily claim the Diaries: the owner reserves the right to place them in what he considers the most appropriate hands.”

Images courtesy of Tim Page.
Thanks to Jeremy Dibbell/Philobiblos for the tip. 
Catalogue Review: Between the Covers, #176

As I considered catalogues to review today, I was thinking about a comment I read on Twitter yesterday. I’ve been following tweets from the 53rd Annual Preconference of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Sections of the Association of College and Research Libraries in San Diego, CA, this week. The three most prominent voices I’ve heard are Molly Schwartzburg @bibliomolly of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia; Ian Kahn @luxmentis of Lux Mentis Rare Books; and John Overholt @john_overholt of Harvard University Library. (The hashtag for the conference is: #rbms12)

Yesterday one of them remarked that booksellers’ catalogues have to be more varied to attract buyers, and he cited the most recent Between the Covers catalogue as an example. I checked my desk for the most recent BTC and found #176. I wanted to see for myself what the tweeter was referring to, and I did. BTC routinely produces excellent catalogues, and what they offer is variety: books, art, ephemera, manuscripts. From an illustrated broadside, “One Day Marriage Certificate” of Richard Brautigan ($3,500; sold) to original dust jacket art for Carl Van Vechten’s novel, Spider Boy ($12,500) to an uncorrected long galley of the first American edition of Sylvia Plath’s Crossing the Water ($2,000) to the more traditional first editions of modern literature. There are also fabulously fun ‘book’ finds like Confessions of a Lesbian Prostitute from 1965 ($225) and a first edition, limited issue, of Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love ($1,200).

Not only does this make for fun reading, but the bookseller reaches a wide audience of collectors, with a broad set of interests.

(Previously reviewed: BTC #169)

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Doug Flamm of Ursus Books in New York City.  Doug’s father, Eugene, a prominent book collector and president of the Grolier Club, was profiled recently in our magazine. In addition to selling books, Doug brews beer and recently won a brewing award in Brooklyn for his Oyster Stout.

Douglas Flamm photo3.jpgNP: Since your father is a major book collector, you must have grown up around rare books.  Did you develop a resulting interest in rare books early in life?

DF: It is true, I did grow up around books and have always been interested in them. My father’s love of books did manage to somehow seep through to me because here I am dealing with books. While my father’s collection is focused primarily on 16th Century medical books along with a strong concentration on bibliography, I have been quite interested in art and illustrated books. This focus on art books stems directly from my background in photography and my strong interest in art history.

NP: How did you come to work for Ursus and what is your role there?

DF: In the late 1990’s, after having worked for an art gallery for years, I developed my own art book business. I handled a lot of conceptual artist books of the 1960s (a personal interest of mine) which included such artists as Sol LeWitt, John Baldessari and of course, Ed Ruscha. While the business was still quite young, the catastrophe of 9/11 occurred and business completely fell off. With a young baby girl at home I felt the need to have something a bit more stable and began to talk to Peter Kraus, the owner of Ursus Book, for advice. He offered me a position where I could continue to work with artist books/livres d’artistes of the 20th century through today. I also do all of the purchasing of the out-of-print art reference books for the shop. In addition I work with clients directly to help them find specific books or to help them develop their own collections - something I greatly enjoy.

NP: Favorite or most interesting book you’ve handled?

DF: Between my own shop and working for Ursus books I’ve had the amazing opportunity to handle a diverse group of many very exciting books. These include anything from Bruce Nauman’s LAAIR and CLEARSKY to Matisse’s Jazz.  And as I think about it, my mind begins thinking of Hans Bellmer’s La Poupe, Ansel Adam’s Taos and Ollafur Elliason’s Your House. There are really so many great books out there.

NP: If you could live inside the pages of any rare book, which would it be?

DF: Such a difficult question - and I suppose it is an evolving list depending on my interests at that time. And while that may seem like a big cop out, I think it stems from always being surprised by the unexpected in unknown and/or new books.

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

DF: I very much like being able to see and handle a vast array of books and interact with collectors and customers - all of which make this field so exciting. It does feel like a very small world - where book dealers and collectors all seem to have connections - this is a very nice aspect of the business.

NP: What do you personally collect?

DF: While I still have many of the books from my original enterprise of Flamm Books, I no longer actively search or buy these books for myself. My collecting these days seems to be limited to helping my son develop his baseball card collection, and I suppose I would also have to say that my increasing interest in beer brewing has led to my buying books on beer and brewing as well as brewing equipment in a never ending fury.

NP: You recently won a brewing award. Tell us about that and your brewing hobby:

DF: Most of my free time in the last couple of years has been devoted to learning how to make beer. It has been exciting to learn the process, technique and science behind the brew - and then you get to drink your creation. What could be better? It has been an amazing undertaking. In April I was lucky enough to win the Judges Choice at the Brooklyn Wort homebrew competition. I brewed an Oyster Stout that my son named ‘Moyster’. It was a somewhat chocolately stout with nice roasted flavors complemented by a dry mineral finish. The oysters in the beer help add to that quality - they do not make the beer taste “fishy” but really add an extra layer of complexity to the taste. Winning the contest was extremely rewarding. I put a lot of time and effort into this and it feels great to recieve such praise. If anything, it certainly fuels the fire!

NP: Do you want to open a micro-brewery/rare book shop someday? Because I’d be one of your regular customers.

DF: Although in theory the idea of brewpub and rare bookshop sounds fun, I don’t think it’s practical in the real world.  Spilled beer and rare books do not make a good combination!  

NP: Thoughts on the future of the trade?  

DF: The book trade is vastly different in this age of the internet - but there is still something very solid about a book in your hands.

Palatium_Paradisi_Libro.jpgPaul Johnson’s vivid pop-up, Palatium Paradisi Libro.
Photo credit: Charles Byrne.

The San Francisco Center for the Book is hosting an ambitious summer exhibition, featuring the work of more than forty book artists from the collection of the organization’s co-founder Mary Austin. The name of the exhibition is apt: Exploding the Codex “explores the theater of the book and storytelling through structure.” Which is to say, many of these books aren’t contained within the physical form we often associate with books--folios, quartos, octavos.

Horse_Soul_Book.jpgJudy Serebrin’s Horse Soul Book. Photo credit: Charles Byrne.

Curated by Daisy Carlson, the exhibit allows viewers to appreciate the size, shape, and dimension of each book, and ask themselves how that form adds meaning to the information being presented. Each piece celebrates the drama of book art: the wild, the abstract, the secretive.

Silverberg-Black_Torah.jpgRobbin Silverberg’s Black Torah brings us back to the pre-codex scroll.
Photo credit: Charles Byrne.

Exploding the Codex runs through August 31, at the Austin/Burch Gallery at the San Francisco Center for the Book, 300 De Haro Street, Suite 334, San Francisco, CA.

Images courtesy of the SFCB.  
We recently spoke with Tim Yancey, a master bookbinder, and one of the founders of the Lost Gutenbergs project. After discovering a lost cache of Cooper Square Bibles, (famous facsimiles of the Gutenberg Bible printed in 1961) Yancey and Michael Crisman of Bookbinders Workshop decided to bind the loose sheets into 15th century-style codices. These newly fashioned, beautifully constructed Gutenberg Bibles have since become the closest things to the originals that you can own. Yancey spoke with us about the project, recreating period bindings, and old German recipes for pigskin.

timBibles.jpgNP: How did you discover the lost Cooper Square Bibles?

TY: The Bibles belonged to the Estate of Henry Shelley, Founder of Landmark Books in New York.  Shelley had a business relationship with Cooper Square Publishers and acquired a significant number of the bibles.  He sold them in Landmark Books’ catalog and from his Manhattan showroom.  However, after his death the remaining bibles were never bound.  

I learned of a single unbound copy being offered for sale and bought it from John Prizeman, Shelley’s son-in-law.  My intention was to bind the text in a historically correct manner and thus have my own “Gutenberg Bible.”  Upon completion of the sale, John mentioned that he might have more copies available if I was interested.  John was simply trying to help Shelley’s widow settle the Estate but he was in New York and Shelley’s warehouse was in Connecticut so the number is copies available was unknown.  We were later able to confirm the existence of over 160,000 pages of text.  They were in deteriorating boxes, wrapped in plastic and covered with decades of dust.  128 complete copies were salvaged form the cache.

lg011.jpgNP: After you unearthed the lost Bibles, were you hoping from the start to recreate a period binding for them? Or did you consider other alternatives?

TY: The Cooper Square (Pageant Books) Facsimile was the first facsimile of the Gutenberg Bible ever attempted outside of Germany.   Nearly 60 years earlier Insel-Velag, a German publisher had successfully printed 300 copies - of which virtually none were available.  Cooper Square begin a five-year process to recreated the famed 42-line bible and make it available to the world again.  Their intent was to create an American tribute celebrating the 500th anniversary of the printing of the Gutenberg Bible.  Only the best of American craftsmen and technology would be employed to complete the project.

I really consider the Cooper Square printing to be a national treasure.  From the first day I discovered the bibles, the only real option was to treat them as such and create the very best historically correct binding possible.  It is a mission that will likely take 10 years to complete.


NP: What’s the most challenging aspect of recreating a 15th century binding?

TY: The research and development of all the components - each one individually crafted.  There is nothing about the Lost Gutenbergs that could simply be purchased.  Everything had to be designed and made to our specifications.  Even the heavy cord was made from individual strands of thread in order to obtain the proper diameter, strength and flexibility needed to bind the massive tomes.  Each volume (of the two-volume set) consists of 600 pages and weighs about 25 pounds.

NP: Tell us about the 200 year old recipe for the pigskin binding and how you found it.

TY: It was Michael Chrisman’s idea to explore the idea of using alum-tawed pigskin as the covering material.  We knew that A/T pigskin was certainly an appropriate material for the time period and geographic region of Gutenberg - however the material had not been produced in any significant quantity for decades.  In 2007, Michael contacted Thomas Schmidt of Frans Hoffman Leathers, Stuttgart, Germany and inquired about the possibility of reproducing the skins.  With the aid of the Leather Institute of Bavaria, a 200 year-old recipe was found.  As soon as possible we attempted some test runs but were not satisfied.  Over time, Frans Hoffman continued to adjust the process until the desired results were achieved.  The finished product sparked a marvelous rebirth of A/T pigskin and it is now available for book restoration and conservation around the world.  Allowing for waste, The Lost Gutenbergs will require over 2000 square feet of A/T pigskin to complete the 256 volumes.

NP: How many hours does it take to complete a single binding?

TY: It’s a great question but one that is very difficult to answer.  Countless hours have gone into making the wooden boards, cord, brass bosses, clasps, and sewing before any assembly begins.  The best answer I can give is that we estimate the research, development, testing, manufacturing of components and binding process will take about 10 years to complete.  In short, hundreds of hours are required to complete each two-volume set.

NP: What’s been your favorite part about working on this project?

TY: When we started our research I gained permission from an institutional library here in the US to examine a genuine Gutenberg Bible. (I was also asked not to disclose the location on our website or publications for fear of being inundated with additional requests from others.)  Having personal access to perhaps the world’s most valuable and influential book was an experience that I will never forget.  It was truly awe-inspiring.  From that moment - I knew the Gutenberg Bible was like no other book in history and the methods we would use to bind the text would have to be worthy of its significance.

Genesis_BerlinCooper.jpgNP: Do you have a favorite leaf from the Gutenberg Bible?

TY: Genesis - The title page of Genesis is illuminated with a 15-inch-tall capital “I” in deep blue and gold.  Within the illumination are six miniatures depicting the six days of creation.  In the background, the image of GOD can be seen overlooking the work of His hand.  It is one of the most famous and beautifully illuminated pages in the world.

lg237_lrg.jpgNP: How do you order a copy of the Bible?

TY: Through our website.

Once you enter the site there is a tab that will direct you through the process of reserving your own copy and acquiring pricing and shipping information.   

Or use this direct link.

- Bonhams London sold Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs on 3 June, the top lot being Francis Frith’s Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem (1858), a collection of twenty albumen photographs. It sold for £337,250. A collection of Howard Carter’s papers fetched £109,250.

- On 7 June at PBA Galleries, Rare Americana, Travel & Exploration with Manuscript Material, Maps & Ephemera (results here).

- Swann Galleries sold Maps, Atlases, Natural History and Ephemera on 7 June. The top lot proved to be a copy of the first printed sea chart of New England/New Netherland, printed at Florence in 1647, which sold for $31,200.

- Bloomsbury had a Bibliophile Sale on 8 June; full results here.

- Christie’s London sold Valuable Printed Books and Manuscripts on 13 June, for a total of £3,175,987. Top lot was a Bach manuscript, which sold for £337,250. A ~1504 antiphonal created for Elisabeth von Gemmingen made £289,250, and a Richard III letter fetched £109,250. A second edition Copernicus sold for £85,250. Lots of other interesting lots in this sale, too.

- Results for Bloomsbury’s 14 June sale of Books, Manuscripts and Photographs are here.

- The 15 June Sotheby’s sale of Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Americana, made a total of $2,671,067. The top lot was an original Apple I computer, which sold for $374,500. A lovely copy of Antonio Fracanzano de Montalboddo’s Itinerarium Portugallensium e Lusitania in Indiam et inde in occidentem et demum ad aquilonem (Milan, 1508) fetched $212,500. The original subscription book for the Pennsylvania Society for the Encouragement of Manufactures and the Useful Arts made $37,500.

- Bonhams New York will sell Fine Books and Manuscripts including Russian Literature on 19 June, in 450 lots. Some of the material is from the stock of Serendipity Books, including the Russian library of London bookseller Alec Flegon (est. $15,000-25,000). A very nice copy of the first de Bry edition in German of Le Moyne’s Florida could sell for $25,000-35,000. The important Revolutionary War diary of Timothy Newell rates a $50,000-80,000 estimate. But it is a manuscript draft of Lincoln’s amnesty policy which rates the top estimate, at $200,000-300,000.

- Christie’s London will sell Fine Books and Manuscripts, in 459 lots.

- Also at Bonhams New York on 20 June, The Gentleman’s Library, in 534 lots. Mostly non-book things, but the catalog makes for a fun browse.

- PBA Galleries sells Rare Books & Manuscripts, Fine Press and Illustrated Books on 21 June, in 354 lots. A 15th-century manuscript of Fasciculus temporum (the only known manuscript of this work in private hands) rates the top estimate, at $100,000-150,000. A first edition in English of Homer’s works is estimated at $30,000-50,000.

- Swann Galleries will sell 19th & 20th Century Literature on 21 June, in 323 lots.

- On 22 June, Christie’s New York sells Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts, in 295 lots. A copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle in German with contemporary coloring is estimated at $250,000-350,000. What the auction house is calling the largest Jefferson manuscript ever offered at auction, a small collection of documents relating to his suit against the Rivanna Company, could fetch $250,000-400,000. Also on 22 June, in a single-item sale, a copy of the first collection of the Acts of Congress, bound for Washington and with marginalia in his hand. It is estimated at $2-3 million.

- On 26 June, Bonhams Oxford sells Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs, in 784 lots, and at San Francisco the Serendipity Shelf Sale, in 631 lots.

At some point in childhood, who hasn’t leapt onto a rope swing, real or imagined, beat their chest like a wild person, and hollered a blood curdling yell, before plunging into cool waters below?  Homage to this familiar scene will be paid this year with the centennial celebration of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ creation of Tarzan.

     Burroughs’ gentle jungle man first appeared in the pulp magazine All-Story in 1912. “Tarzan of the Apes” was an instant success. Seeing greater literary things for his character, Burroughs tried with little avail to get his story published by a “distinguished” publishing house. Finally in 1914, Tarzan of the Apes was published as a book by A.C. McClurg & Co. Since then, Tarzan has appeared in dozens of story lines, and in the process, shaped modern literary and pop culture.

     Bill Hillman, who curates the fan site, Edgar Rice Burroughs web museum, said Tarzan has had the ability to evolve with the times. “Tarzan is a multimedia hero: on film by 1918, as a comic by 1929, on radio by 1932, and a leader in the burgeoning multi-media boom as the century progressed: TV, gaming, merchandising, animation, Internet, etc. The character has the strange plasticity that allows him to be put into countless, even contradictory, kinds of stories.”

     In the collecting world, the Tarzan books have grown to be quite desirable. Last year, a 1912 All-Story first edition sold at a Heritage Auction for well over $40,000. Hillman was not at all surprised to see the pulp magazine that was so “very disposable” in its day fetch such a price.

     Tarzan will enjoy quite the celebration this year. With a documentary about the early Tarzan films being released, as well as the centennial celebration with guest speaker Jane Goodall, Tarzan will certainly swing on into his next century as beloved as ever.

Photo Courtesy of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Web Museum
Catalogue Review: La fin des Livres?

Screen shot 2012-06-15 at 9.58.28 AM.pngIs this a catalogue review? Yes and no. But the list of ten books circulated this week by Justin Croft Antiquarian Books of Kent, England, deserves a closer look. I love the idea behind this list of books by the late nineteenth-century Parisian publisher Octave Uzanne, “a bibliophile who foresaw the potential of electronic publishing. But he also saw that printed books could survive in the coming era by becoming objects of desire.” So he created beautiful books with well-designed covers, color plates, embroidered silk jackets, ribbons, and thick paper; the material artifact spoke volumes.

Here Justin Croft has curated a collection of ten books, not only for the collector of Uzanne or fin-de-siecle Paris, but also for those of us interested in this ongoing ‘death of the book’ narrative -- it is one of the consuming narratives of the current media landscape, and yet, as these books remind us, it has a much longer history. Croft explores the topic not by subject matter, but by the materiality of the books’ production, which is a very cool concept.

To read these descriptions, it seems as if Uzanne’s books were often delicate, with heavy paper and silk chemises. La femme a Paris, from 1894, is seen here in its scarce original pictorial and embroidered silk chemise, for example (£500). A study of women in ‘nineties Paris, it contains twenty hard-colored engraved plates, plus other illustrations, on floral paper. A fine copy of Son Altesse la Femme, from 1885, likewise appears in its original blue paper chemise with broad silk ribbon ties (£800). La nouvelle bibliopolis, “a plea for a new bibliophily” from 1897, was another fragile production, and in this case, the former owner pasted the publisher’s gilt wrappers to heavy boards to preserve them (£1000).   

With only ten books, the list is short and sweet. Don’t miss it -- download it here
Fools-Map.jpgEurope’s largest specialist map fair will take place this weekend at the Royal Geographic Society in London on Saturday, June 16th, and Sunday, June 17th. For those two days, the world’s most significant assembly of maps for sale will be available for browsing in Kensington Gardens. 

Tim Bryars, an antiquarian map dealer and one of the co-organizers of this weekend’s London Map Fair said, “The reason that the map fair has become an unmissable event for dealers, curators and collectors over the last thirty years is the sheer range of material that will be on offer.” Bryars continued, “I know that I’m going to see maps I’ve never seen before, maps that I never heard of before, and maps that I want to buy.”

Over forty international map dealers will be in attendance and prices will range from the entry level £10 to several hundred thousand pounds. In addition to maps, sea charts, globes, travel books, and atlases will all be on display. Several free lectures will be offered, including one on London’s hidden rivers.

Bryars will be bringing several satirical maps to the fair, “including Louis Raemaekers’ 1915 satirical map of Europe, which he titled ‘het gekkenhuis’ (roughly translates at ’ the lunatic asylum’!).” Byars continued, “Raemekers made powerful enemies in Germany. The German government made the Dutch put him on trial for compromising Dutch neutrality, and after he was acquitted and fled to England they put a price of 12000 Guilders on his head, dead or alive! They took satire more seriously in those days.”

gekkenhuis.jpgSpeaking to Bryars for a few minutes will turn anyone into a map collector.  His enthusiasm for maps is contagious. As he said in our recent conversation, “Maps were rarely made simply because something was there; they were seldom made (in their final form) by anyone who had been to places shown; until the modern era, they were expensive items, beyond the reach of most people; they were more likely than not intended for armchair travellers rather than people trying to get from A to B, and what has been deliberately distorted or left off the map altogether is often as significant as what the map actually shows. It can often be reduced to some combination of trade, politics and religion, power and propaganda.”

“Maps are anything but neutral represenatations of parts of the world, made to the best abilities of the map-maker!”

The London Map Fair, with free admission, will take place this weekend:
Saturday, June 16th: 12:00 - 7:00 and Sunday, June 17th: 10.00 - 5:00 at
The Royal Geographical Society (RGS),
1 Kensington Gore, London,  SW7 2AR

In 1935 a reader of the Times Literary Supplement wrote in to address a ‘revolution’ in libraries: “Perhaps the greatest change which has taken place has been in the conception of what a library really is. It is no longer regarded merely as a place where books are kept, nor as a collection of books remaining in such a place.” The correspondent had not read Borges. The piece did not conclude at the indefinite Library of Babel and its endless possibilities. Instead, it was about bookmobiles:
To address the problem of access, local libraries had equipped trucks with a rotating selection of books, extending their services to the outer reaches of their communities. The system was an effective deterrent to dust settling, and the cold hard statistics of borrowing from village to village could make claims for a library’s place in the world, its relevance, its use. This was especially critical during the war: as Percy Muir put it in a 1940 TLS column “The war gave...obscurantists a splendid opportunity to popularise their anti-literary bias under a patriotic camouflage” and close down libraries. But for the bookmobiles on the front lines, among other factors.

Even if it is shocking to think that libraries are still under threat, it’s nothing new, and neither is the success of a little creative advocacy on their behalf: in this case what began as a lone man pushing books in a wheelbarrow through Cumberland in 1857, then a horse-drawn cart by the turn of the century, and finally a fully tax-funded scheme complete with branded vans that continues to this day. There are bookmobiles serving villages across England from Staffordshire to Cambridgeshire (UK residents, find your local bookmobile’s route here). 

Traveling libraries have their place in the US as well (see above image, Rolling Prairie Library Book Mobile, Illinois, 1966): the first ‘Perambulating Library’ was driven by a librarian named Mary Titcomb in 1905 around the backroads of Washington County, “a cross between a grocer’s delivery wagon and the tin peddler’s car of bygone New England days” (Source). The American Library Association celebrates National Bookmobile Day on April 11th each year. Which brings us to 2012, where the itinerant library of the 21st century still has a lot to teach about the outer limits of reading:

There is Always More Space to Fill, because states of disuse are in constant flux. In the town of Westbury-sub-Mendip, population 800, people have teamed up with British Telecom to adopt disused red telephone booths across the countryside for conversion into mini-libraries, an idea that has caught on around the rest of the country. On the opposite end of the spectrum, even New York isn’t too crowded for the same kind of real-estate recycling: the Department of Urban Betterment has set up libraries in a few locations (Source):

Traveling Libraries Can Fight Injustice, the old fashioned way. For instance, in Tucson, Arizona this March the ‘Librotraficante’ (‘Booktrafficker’) movement was born, a caravan of cars carrying books throughout the area’s school districts that had been banned by the Governor. The caravan handed out copies of the books that were banned, most pertaining to Mexican-American history, The Dictionary of Latino Civil Rights History, Rethinking Columbus, but also other works such as bell hooks’ Feminism is for Everyone and Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States. If libraries exist to provide free services to those least likely to have access to information, traveling libraries have the unique ability to reach audiences whose resources have been cut off. 

Not Everyone Has Computer Access, let alone the luxury of travel by car. Luis Soriano Borges takes his “bibliodonkeys” Alfa and Beto through the mountain villages of Columbia to bring books to children. In Kenya, the mobile library is powered by Camels.
Unconventional Approaches Have Lasting Effects. The itinerant library is something of a spiritual reminder that the library as a communal space can lead anywhere, as long as it leads to anyone. But its dependence on petrol makes it a little easier to comprehend than Borges’ limitless library “whose circumference is inaccessible”. The future is a little more concrete. In Argentina Raul Lemesoff’s “Weapon of Mass Instruction”, a mobile library that looks like a tank with space for 900 books provide free reads - with a pacifist message - to anyone he meets. Some kids pick up a love of reading early in life when they find a story that really grabs their attention...others will be lifelong readers after a run-in with a tank on the streets of Buenos Aries.
Ditto Tom Corwin’s refurbishment and revival of an old American bookmobile. Chasing a bookmobile down the street rather than an Ice Cream truck could raise the next generation of book collectors as well as keep us well in touch with the history of access in all its aspects, positive and negative. Corwin has already reconnected with the history of his truck’s influence, according to an article in the Smithsonian: “As Corwin navigated his new ride through the streets of Chicago, he was approached by an African-American man who asked if it was possible to peak inside. Bookmobiles, he said, had been a fundamental inspiration while growing up in rural Mississippi in the mid-1960s. The public library had been closed to blacks - but the bookmobile stopped right on his street, a portal into the world of literature. The man was W. Ralph Eubanks: today an acclaimed author, and director of publishing for the Library of Congress.”

The Museum of Printing in North Andover, Massachusetts, will hold its ninth annual printing arts fair this Sunday. This free event has live demonstrations of letterpress, intaglio, papermaking, and typemaking, and it’s perfect for families. If you’re in the area, check it out!
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A Guest Blog by Carol Fitzgerald, author of the bibliographies The Rivers of America and Series Americana, both of which are available from Oak Knoll Press.

The Rivers of America
75th Anniversary

kennebec.jpgJune 14, 2012, will mark the 75th Anniversary of the publication of Kennebec: Cradle of Americans by Robert Peter Tristram Coffin, the first volume in The Rivers of America Series. The series, conceived and planned by Constance Lindsay Skinner in the mid-1930s during the depth of the Great Depression, was to cover about twenty-four rivers, but the quality and popularity of the books carried the series far beyond the original plan, topping off at sixty-five volumes when the series ended in 1974 with the publication of The American: River of El Dorado by Margaret Sanborn.

americanriver.jpgA succession of publishers: Farrar & Rinehart; Rinehart & Co.; and Holt, Rinehart & Winston, as well as several editors: Constance Lindsay Skinner, who planned and started the series; Stephen Vincent Benét; Hervey Allen; and Carl Carmer, kept the series going during some of the darkest days in our nation’s history. The books, written by some of the finest writers of their time, and illustrated by artists, some of whose work today hangs in fine art museums, captured and preserved the folklore and history of not only the United States, but of Canada, and even of a river in Panama, The Chagres: River of Westward Passage.

chagres.jpgOver the past 75 years, the Rivers of America books have become highly collectible for several reasons: their regional appeal, their authors or illustrators, or for those like me, collectors who wanted to own a complete set of the books in the series.

We should not let this anniversary go unnoticed, as the Rivers of America series is a testament to our heritage, and for future generations the series will serve as a perspective of where we as a nation stood so long ago, as well as our appreciation of our country and its resources, our culture, and literature that mattered during the mid-1900s.

As I reflect on the joys of collecting books in the Rivers of America series, it is hard to decide which of the books are most important or meaningful, as each title is an important part of the whole, with a distinguished author and, if illustrated, a talented artist who, together tell the story of a great river and the region it served.

But as I developed what would be the definitive collection of Rivers books, and had the pleasure of sharing my collection through my work, The Rivers of America: A Descriptive Bibliography, a few books hold special meaning to me, and some have become valuable beyond my expectations.

st johns.jpgI shall never forget my first Rivers of America book: The St. Johns: A Parade of Diversities by Branch Cabell, and illustrated by Doris Lee. The purchase of that book in 1986 began a grand adventure of visits to untold numbers of dusty bookshops across the U.S., and led to precious and unforgettable friendships with authors and illustrators of books in the series, as well as others who shared my passion and interest in the series, an adventure that continues today.

By far my most thrilling “find” was the elusive edition of Powder River: Let ‘er Buck, by Struthers Burt, published in German in 1948, and titled Der Pulverfluss. I learned of this edition while reviewing the Rivers of America files at the offices of Henry Holt in New York, and through Inter-library loan I was able to examine the book -- a cheaply-produced paperboard edition of five thousand copies. But despite years of online and personal searches abroad, I had no luck finding a copy for my personal collection until one afternoon about twelve years ago, when, for what seemed the 100th time, I did a search on abebooks.com, and there it was. A book dealer in Germany was offering it for $11.00 U.S. The book arrived in a thin manila envelope, still in the original publisher’s protective plastic wrapping.

Although it is still possible to assemble a nice collection of first edition Rivers books, many titles command a respectable price in today’s market. For serious collectors the signed, limited editions are particularly attractive, but they can be very expensive, and hard to find.

Here, in no particular order, are a few of my favorite and most memorable books in the series.

brandywine.jpgThe Delaware Edition of The Brandywine, signed by Henry Seidel Canby and Andrew Wyeth (his first commercial illustrations), is currently offered for $500, but I have seen it offered for as much as $900.

everglades_river_of_grass.jpgThe Florida edition of Everglades: River of Grass by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and illustrated by Robert Fink is currently offered for $900.

cape fear.jpgThe Cape Fear by Malcolm Ross, published posthumously and not illustrated, is one of the scarcest books in the series. The book is currently offered for as much as $600.

hudson.jpgThe Hudson by Carl Carmer, with magnificent illustrations by Stow Wengenroth, was issued with four different dust jackets, a challenge for serious Rivers collectors.

st lawrence.jpgFour titles were issued as Armed Services Editions: The Hudson; Powder River; The St. Lawrence; and The Colorado. Of the four, The Colorado and Powder River are difficult, if not impossible to find today.

songsoftherivers.jpgAnd finally, Songs of the Rivers of America, edited by Carl Carmer, with music arranged by Dr. Albert Sirmay, a distinguished composer, conductor, and musical editor. The book, published in 1942, included illustrations taken from fifteen books of the Rivers series. This scarce book is currently offered at between $400 and $500.

And now, on a personal note, regarding my first Rivers purchase, The St. Johns: A Parade of Diversities, my life is coming full circle as my husband and I will soon relocate from Fort Lauderdale to Jacksonville and reside directly on the St. Johns River.

[Many thanks to Carol for this guest post on one of the most interesting Americana series of the last century. For interested collectors, Town’s End Books frequently handles Rivers of America books and has a dedicated page on their website devoted to the series, offering many titles for sale.]

DANCING CHANCELLOR_PAGE3-4.jpgWith Queen Elizabeth II on our minds these days (even over here in the U.S.), a newly published fine press book captures the moment. Alice Simpson, a California-based artist who makes sculpture and artist’s books inspired by dance, has designed and illustrated Queen Elizabeth I & Sir Christopher Hatton, The Dancing Chancellor.

DANCING CHANCELLOR_Open-2.jpgThe twelve-page, accordion-style book is set in 17th Century Print typeface and illustrated with original pieces by Simpson as well as sixteenth-century historical prints. The edition of sixty was printed on a Vandercook on Rives BFK Tan mouldmade paper by Dee Cutrona and hand-bound in gold-stamped clamshell boxes in Asahi silk by Bruce Kavin. The “Bronze Diamond” pastepaper endpapers were done by Claire Maziarczyk.

A book fit for royalty with a whimsical spirit, for $350. 
This is Jane Austen:

Or maybe this is:

But this definitely is:


One of the most beloved authors of all time has long suffered from an identity crisis: we don’t really know what she looked like.

The final image, a watercolor and pencil sketch of Austen believed to have been painted by her sister, Cassandra, in 1810 remains the least controversial. But even it has its detractors, including Austen’s own niece who wrote in a letter, “there is a look I recognise as hers, but the general resemblance is not strong...”

Then there’s the supposed portrait of Jane discovered last year (the second image above) a graphite on vellum sketch of the author as she may have appeared around 1815. The drawing surfaced at a British auction where it was described as an “imaginary portrait” of Austen. Scholars have debated it ever since. Some believe the sketch to be an authentic period portrayal of Austen; others believe the sketch is indeed “imaginary” - Jane as interpreted by a distant fan of her work.

And then there’s the (apparent) painting of a young Jane Austen at age 13. While the authenticity of this painting has been debated for years, new evidence surfaced last week that the portrait may indeed be genuine.  Digital photographic analysis revealed the name “Jane Austen” painted in the upper right corner, along with the name of the artist, “Ozias Humphry,” a known portrait painter active in the period.  Both names were lost in restorations of the painting conducted in the early 20th century, but digital examination of a photograph of the painting from before the restoration revealed the names.  (The painting has long been held by the Rice family, descendants of Jane’s brother Edward, who have created an entire website about the portrait).

If confirmed, the painting would be the only professional portrait of Jane Austen in existence.

But the debates continues.  The style of the girl’s clothing in the painting appears to some experts to be early 19th century, rather than late 18th century. (If Austen was 13 in this portrait, it would date to 1789).  It also remains unclear if Humphry signed his name himself or if the attribution was added, perhaps erroneously, by a later owner.

Ah well.  At least in the meantime, we definitively know this isn’t Jane Austen:


I have periodically written about my time at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, including on this blog. But the further along I get in my bookselling career, the more I recognize the enormous part attending played in whatever success I’ve managed to have. As this year’s seminar approaches, I have expanded on my earlier praises for the seminar:

I doubt I would have been satisfied continuing to sell five and ten dollar books, and doubt even more I ever could have made any kind of living doing that [...] I certainly wouldn’t have had the confidence to buy a bookstore without the seminar. Or to know what to do with a catalogue once it was printed, even assuming I finished one. And being, like many booksellers, predisposed to shyness and independence, I doubt I would have found a foot in the door to meeting other dealers that CABS provided. It is probably not too much to say that CABS provided me the vocation I am now pursuing.
I have posted these (lengthy) thoughts, along with some thoughts on the future of the book trade, on my blog. I hope anyone considering attending will take a few minutes to read and then go and register. With Bradford Morrow and Adam Davis as guest faculty, it promises to be a banner year.
Catalogue Review: Tomberg Rare Books, #1

Screen shot 2012-06-07 at 8.28.18 PM.pngIt is always a pleasure to review a bookseller’s first catalogue, and this one, just issued by Tomberg Rare Books, is no different. The Connecticut-based bookseller specializes in little magazines, the mimeograph revolution, Beat poetry, artists’ books, art, and ephemera.

A selection of William Burroughs includes a signed catalogue from Atticus Books listing 360 items for sale with a foreword by Burroughs on “The Future of the Novel” ($400) and the very cool Burroughs cut-up of the Nov. 30, 1962 Time magazine cover ($400). That issue contained a negative review of Naked Lunch, and Burroughs lashed back with this “part parody and part critique.”

A complete set (four volumes) of City Lights Journal is a nice find ($120) for collectors of Burroughs, Ginsberg, Corso, Snyder, etc. Too much San Fran? The “overseas wing of the New York School” is represented in a complete set of Locus Solus ($320).

Here are some other names you’ll encounter in this stand-out debut catalogue: Timothy Leary, Bob Dylan, Ezra Pound, & Hunter Thompson.   

My favorite? The Complete Press Kit for ‘Fugs’ Cross Country Vietnam Protest Caravan -- actually, a two-page handbill -- but what a great piece ($450). And this one comes from the collection of Ralph J. Gleason, San Francisco Chronicle music editor & co-founder of Rolling Stone.

Check out the full catalogue in PDF here
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As many of you will have heard already, Ray Bradbury passed away yesterday in Los Angeles at age 91. The versatile and much-beloved author of such classics as “Fahrenheit 451” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” left behind an expansive literary legacy. His many interests led him to explore, and subsequently master, a variety of genres, including fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and horror.  But what really elevated Bradbury out of the ordinary rank of writers - and what he is most fondly remembered for within the rare book community - was his warm and generous personality.

Bradbury was always a cheerful book-signer, which accounts for the plethora of signed Bradbury books available online.  He was also famously generous with his time, mentoring other writers, and encouraging young people to continue to write in the face of many obstacles.

Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois in 1920 and published his first collection of short stories, “Dark Carnival” in 1947. In the early 1950s, Bradbury produced an astonishing succession of future classics: “The Martian Chronicles,” (1950) “The Illustrated Man,” (1951) and, of course, “Fahrenheit 451” (1953). The rest is history.

The bookish side of the Internet is quickly filling up with tributes to Bradbury, but if you are only going to read one essay on his life and work, check out Neil Gaiman’s post on the Guardian’s book blog. His touching tribute perfectly encapsulates the warmth of Bradbury’s personality and the importance of Bradbury’s work.

And for collectors, see Rebecca’s post from earlier this week on “Death and Collectability,” which discusses the tendency for demand to rise sharply in the wake of an author’s death.  For an overview of current rates for Bradbury books, and for some great images of his dust jacket covers, visit this post at the Abebooks blog, which includes the 15 most expensive copies of Bradbury currently available on their website.

The Bowler Press of North Vancouver, Canada, is about to undertake a huge printing project (with your help): a hand-printed, letterpress edition of Pride & Prejudice in three volumes. Jarrett Morrison, proprietor of Bowler Press, will hand-set the text in Fournier typeface, with the accompanying italic. It will be cast from English Monotype matrices at the Bixler Letterfoundry in Skaneateles, NY. The paper--all 5,600 sheets of it--will be Zerkall mould made paper. A dozen of Morrison’s wood engravings will illustrate each volume. They intend to produce 138 copies, to be bound by Alanna Simenson, of the Mad Hatter Bookbinding Co., in both standard and deluxe editions.

Here’s where the “help” comes in: the Bowler Press is using the crowd-funding site Indiegogo to reach out to subscribers and other lovers of good print. Currently, donations amount to just over $8,300 of their $20,000 goal. There are “perks” for donations of $10 and up, so if you’re an Austen fan without the $1,500 needed to purchase the standard edition, you can still help the press achieve its goal and come away with a letterpress-printed invitation to the Netherfield Ball.

To see and hear more about this project, watch as Morrison explains:


Last week Tom Phillips celebrated his 75th birthday and the release of the 5th edition of The Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel, a watershed in the latter-day history of artists’ books inspired by Surrealist methods in cutting, pasting, and heavy duty reassembly and collage. The work takes the text of A Human Document, by W. H. Mallock and effaces the pages in every which way: scraping, painting, pasting images, and obscuring huge swathes of text. As Phillips ‘writes’ on the title page: “I have to hide to reveal”.


Unlike the Surrealists, and unlike anyone else working in 1966 when Phillips began the book, The Humument was not a one-off but something he wanted “to spend the rest of [his] life working on”, “sometimes mining, sometimes undermining” and constantly remaking. So the work is not one story but many, with 80 new pages in and a few alterations of the original 367 treated pages, Phillips explained to a packed basement at the Review, an independent bookshop in Peckham, southeast London.

It was a fitting location, close to the spot where the great-grandaddy of DIY bookmaking, William Blake, hallucinated a tree full of angels, and more recently close to the (now-defunct) antique shop where Phillips first came across the book he would transform into The Humument. The shop was Austin’s Furniture Repository, the price was a thruppence, another far cry from the present day, as Phillips pointed out that in 46 years using 15 copies of The Human Document in his art, Mallock’s original has “seriously appreciated in value” to around £100-£200. 

If the celebratory launch of the 5th edition was a chance for Phillips to reflect in good company about what has changed in his life since 1966 (for instance, The Humument’s archive is now established at the Bodleian Library, Oxford), his selected readings from the new edition spoke to what has changed about life in general. For starters, the artist admitted that he has improved over time in cutting out words and sentences, shapes and shadows, from the book, a temperamental medium. The visual style has also evolved to include other interests on Phillip’s part, for instance his extensive postcard collections. Among the additions to the story, Bill Toge, the “forced” protagonist of the novel, “condemned to appear, to be apart of the story whenever the word ‘together’ or ‘altogether’ occurs”, experiences the horror of 9/11 (“nine eleven, the time singular, which broke down illusion”) and the rise of social media. This is the first edition of the book where it is possible for a character to check her facebook profile on an app to find pictures of Bill Toge. And never merely a source for commentary, Phillips has already adapted the late 19th century work to the times in big way: as of 2010, it was translated into an app for iPad - with an added feature allowing readers to use the book as an oracle, combining bibliomancy with social networks (you can post your results on Facebook and Twitter).

As an oracle for the future of artists’ books Phillip’s Humument brings tidings from a world where digital apps complement rather than replace the works they represent, and where repetition is always an enriching experience (“your weaknesses become your strengths,” Phillips noted when asked by a member of the audience why he was so repetitive). As Daniel Traister writes: “collage, a shaky assertion of stability, orders materials with no obvious or stable basis for their relationship into a framed composition”. What was true for Dadaists and Surrealists, and each edition of The Humument, is now one way of thinking about the relationship between books and their digital counterparts: they are the new components of collage, of making meaning, and of creating stable links between otherwise unstable media.

Where-Wild-Things-Sendak.jpgDoes the death of an author have an immediate impact on his or her “collectability”? The question came to mind when AbeBooks announced last week that its second most-expensive sale for May was a signed 1963 first edition of Where the Wild Things Are, which sold for $25,000. Sendak passed away on May 8. Other notable Sendak sales at Abe last month included a signed copy of the same book, published in 1964, for $4,195, and five other editions, all selling for more than $500 each.

Helen Younger of Aleph-Bet Books, who specializes in antiquarian children’s literature, told me she sold twelve Sendak books and prints the week he died. “That’s never happened before,” she said. “The reaction to Sendak’s death was definitely out of the ordinary.”

At Between the Covers, a general antiquarian bookshop, Dan Gregory reported that they sold three “low priced” Sendak books immediately following his death, but that didn’t beat the four “moderately priced” books they sold back in January. Gregory explained, “Author deaths usually do create a sales bump of one kind or another (as can media mentions while the author is still alive), but the bump usually is greater for figures who’ve been somewhat neglected or overlooked for some time.”

So book collectors could gamble on octagenarian or nonagenarian authors, particularly those who experienced some critical acclaim or won an award at some point in their careers. But, as Gregory noted, you shouldn’t bank on the bump. It isn’t usually large, and “doing so would be pretty creepy, sleazy, and somehow disrespectful.”  
Catalogue Review: Sophie Schneideman Rare Books

Screen shot 2012-06-01 at 10.27.25 AM.pngThe latest catalogue from London dealer Sophie Schneideman is dedicated to the Ashendene Press. So we’re are talking about beautiful books -- fine paper, typography & bindings.

The books offered here were once a part of the collection of Clarence B. Hanson, a newspaperman from Birmingham, Alabama. Hanson, a Grolier Club member, was a major collector of private press books in the 1960s and 70s, acquiring Kelmscott, Doves, and Ashendene Presses. The former two were featured in another recent Schneideman catalogue, but here we concentrate on the latter. It includes every book and minor piece created by the Press except the tiny Dolls House Horace.

For bindings, my favorite is the one done by Stikeman & Co. for Ashendene’s first illustrated volume, The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales (£4,500). The blue morocco is set off by spaced gilt letters that seem to float like stars in a sky. The design is repeated on the back cover with gilt flowers.

For typography and page design, Ashendene’s Song of Songs is breathtaking (£45,000). Hand-pained by Florence Kingsford, this lushly illuminated volume is one of only forty copies, all on vellum.

The “masterpiece” of the Ashendene Press, Tutte le Opere di Dante Alighieri, is here in the original morocco-backed laminated oak boards, plaited leather and silver clasps, and plain paneled spine lettered in gilt (£45,000). It is, says the catalogue, the “rarest of the three magnum opi of the English Private Press movement.” A very handsome book.

In the ‘minor pieces,’ a beautiful Christmas greeting, publication announcements, specimen pages, and a wedding booklet printed by Hornby for his son’s wedding.

Be dazzled for yourself. Download the catalogue here.  
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