January 2013 Archives

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Travis Low of Ken Sanders Rare Books in Salt Lake City.  (We also profiled Kent Tschanz of the same shop earlier in the series).

BYT_travislow_kensandersrarebooks_web-res.jpgNP: What is your role at Ken Sanders?

TL: I get to wear a few different hats here: I manage online orders and inventory, I create and upload book images, I order new books and process special orders for customers, I catalogue some books, I’m beginning to venture into buying used books. Also, we run an open shop, so I help customers find books, answer phones, and work the cash wrap.

NP: How did you get started in rare books?

TL: In 2008-2009 I was directing a film called “The Sonosopher: Alex Caldiero in Life...in Sound” which is an experimental documentary on the writer/performance poet, Alex Caldiero, who happens to be a good friend of Ken Sanders. Ken appears in that film, so I got to know him a little bit that way. I had also been a regular store customer for some time, but didn’t know very much about the rare book world. One day I was shopping here and casually asked if there were any open positions. As luck would have it, a spot had opened up just a few days earlier and I immediately began working as a part-time shipping clerk. I always had a love for books and printed material, so the wealth of experience and stock that circulates here had my undivided attention. As I learned more about the trade, I began taking on more responsibilities as they came up. I have also continued to work on documentary films. I am currently working on a series of short documentary films called the Lost & Found Series. Someday I’ll do a documentary on a story from the rare book world, I’m just not sure which one to follow yet (ideas welcome).

NP: What’s your favorite rare book that you’ve handled?

TL: This is a difficult question because I see interesting material on a daily basis. A recent favorite of mine is a signed first edition copy of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, rebound by Stikeman in two beautiful volumes. I’m a sucker for nicely designed copies of modern first editions and fine illustrated editions of the classics. The items that we deal with from local history are always fascinating as well. My current favorite thing that I’ve personally purchased for my own collection is a six volume reprint set of William Blake’s Complete Illuminated Books (Princeton University Press)...for what I can personally afford, the reproductions are excellent -- and it is a great way to read William Blake!

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

TL: Handling and researching the books. More than anything, I love it when an exciting new collection comes in. Maybe it is something that you already know and love, maybe it is something that you know almost nothing about. Either way, it is an exciting learning opportunity. We recently received a great Lafcadio Hearn collection. I had previously known of Hearn’s work only by way of a brilliant Japanese film adaptation of Hearn’s book Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (Masaki Kobayashi’s 1964 film, Kwaidan). What I discovered in that collection is an incredibly rich, diverse, and beautiful body of work from a unique genius of the late 19th century.

NP: What do you personally collect?

TL: I am a generalist, so I read and collect anything that I find curious or interesting that fits into my budget. My interests are pretty broad and integrated. I am particularly interested in Film, Philosophy, Literature, Poetry, Illustrated Books, Art, and Photography. I’m becoming increasingly interested in Utah and The West as I interact with that material on a daily basis here at Ken Sanders Rare Books.

NP: Do you want to open your own shop someday?

TL: It is a hard question to answer. I do plan on working in the trade long-term, and I love working in Ken’s shop. There are very few things that I enjoy as much as browsing in an open shop, and I love the kind of culture that can form around open shops, but I don’t know if I would have the guts to open a shop myself. If I were ever to do my own thing, it would probably be out of an office with sufficient space to organize and conduct trade online, by phone, by mail, and on the road (book scouting, book fairs, etc.).

NP: Thoughts on the future of the trade?

TL: Excited. I think there are many interesting new opportunities for booksellers in ‘the information age’. Having said that, I also believe it is becoming increasingly important for young booksellers to understand the history of the trade and to engage with experienced individuals and institutions. I have been fortunate enough to benefit from the mentorship of Ken Sanders, a seasoned veteran who has been at this for 40+ years. I was also fortunate to have attended the 2012 Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar where I benefitted from a diverse and immensely knowledgeable group of professionals that are actively engaged in the antiquarian book trade. Personally, I love the printed and bound word and image. For me, digital technology is great in that it provides new ways of researching and circulating that physical material. I know a lot of folks my age and younger who seem to understand and share that perspective, so I am very optimistic.

NP: Any upcoming fairs / catalogues for Ken Sanders?

TL: Yes:

Catalogues

We have recently released the following catalogues:

Ken Sanders Rare Books Catalogue #45 (PDF file)

The Collective Returns (The Collective Catalogue #2) (PDF file)
(A cooperative effort by 6 ABAA booksellers, The Collective Returns features highlights of each firm’s offerings at the coming February San Francisco International Antiquarian Bookfair.)

We are also working on Ken Sanders Rare Books Catalogue #46 which will likely contain new acquisitions of books, maps, art, photographs, and prints in our favorite categories of Utah & The Mormons, Western Americana, and Literature. I am working on another catalogue of approximately fifty items comprised of a handful of old gems as well as some new acquisitions which I am personally fond of. In addition to these catalogues, we often issue smaller lists of new and noteworthy items or collections.

Fairs

We will be exhibiting at the following upcoming book fairs:

-The Santa Monica Antiquarian Book, Print, Photo and Paper Fair: February 9-10, 2012 (Santa Monica, CA)

-The California International Antiquarian Book Fair: February 15-17 (San Francisco, CA)

-The New York Antiquarian Book Fair: April 12-14, 2012 (New York City, NY)

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The last emerging archive highlight was the Women’s Liberation Music Archive, whose headquarters is entirely digital, so it only makes sense to consider now some of the latest tools that can shape digital archives, and how they are made and used. This is especially true with new media that combines reading with social networking, because each platform usually aggregates and archives its own content, as with Twitter (although Twitter could do better).

Two great examples of two-in-one digital tools and archives come from Betaworks, the folks behind Digg among other things. Both take to the digital extreme a scholarly goal several centuries old: how to best organise and store information for easy recall and use later on.

Findings

Findings provides an interface to clip extracts from your online reading. Simply highlight the text you wish to save, and use the bookmarklet to ‘clip’ it to your Findings account. From there it will become part of a universal collection of other clippings, which you can also access and use, organizing each into personal ‘collections’, making headings such as ‘politics’, ‘technology’, as you need them.
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In other words, Erasmus is dancing dancing dancing in his grave: Findings provides a quick way to save the most important bits of your reading, full citations preserved, organized under topical headings. It’s a digital commonplace book - and one that operates on both a personal and communal level. It follows suit with the projects like Erasmus in De Copia (1512), distilling from the copious amount of books a few noteworthy ideas and phrases. But collecting all that is worth knowing takes up space, and lots of it.
And print alone stretches such compilations of knowledge into the hundreds of volumes, thousands of pages - since each collection of information also must be accompanied by an index with with to search it. Later 17th century projects sought to overcome the problem of replacing books with boxes: slips of paper containing information and a descriptive keyword could be kept in little boxes (like the one pictured above). This allowed topics or subject headings to multiply exponentially, but with alphabetical order preserved for the search to remain efficient.

One of the earliest inventions of this sort came from Thomas Harrison (b. 1595), upstart royalist to the end of his days (1662), who created “The Ark of Studies: or, a repository, by means of which it is proposed that all the things one has read, heard, or thought can be more speedily arranged, and more readily used.” Unlike earlier systems which averaged in the hundreds of topics, Harrison’s boasted use of 3,300 keywords and growing - he claimed to have added 10,000 extracts on a few hundred topics in 1648 while he was in prison for accusing a Court Justice of treason. Samuel Hartlib wrote of his project what resonates for just about any endeavor to compile knowledge, on paper or in pixel:  “One perfection of it is that it can never be perfect.” 

Tapestry
Betaworks’ most recent release is Tapestry, a publication platform that emphasizes shorter form writing through an imposed method of reading: ‘tapping’ (or clicking) the computer screen to propel the narrative forward rather than scrolling or page-turning. Here is an example: Don Saltero’s Coffeehouse: Or the Secret History of the Museum

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Other authors who have written using Tapestry include Robin Sloan, of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore fame, with his short essays Fish and The Italics, and Craig Mod, who has adapted his amazing longer essay on Subcompact Publishing into an appropriately compact form.

The beauty of Tapestry is that it slows you down, calling attention (and proposing a solution) to habits like skimming that skimp on focus. As Francis Bacon wrote:

“Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.” 

What is so exciting about Tapestry is that it applies to a very specific area of Bacon’s world of books: the small bite of important information that merits diligent reading. 

When retro-fitted to longer form essays, Tapestry also helps to tighten organization and flow. My tapestry was distilled from a longer work of 5,000 words, and the exercise made editing those 5,000 words easier, and more enjoyable.

As Bill Sherman recently said at the Permissive Archive conference at UCL in London: “The digital is finally beginning to catch up with the complex interface of the early book.” This is true for endeavors like Annotated Books Online, to which he was referring to at the time, or the Archimedes Palimpsest. But it’s also true that in the course of playing catch-up with early reading and annotating practices, the digital has begun to fine-tune awareness of our own diverse ways of reading.

Projects like Findings and Tapestry heighten the attention we pay to the endless array of variables that affect what happens when we read, what we remember of it, and how we use it. They emphasize the very different routes by which we come to remember something. As Edmund Wilson said, “No two persons ever read the same book”. Equally true, is that no one person reads everything with the same technique. 

Title Image Credit: Vincent Placcius, De arte excerpendi (1689). From the Max Planck Institut. An illustration, with suggested improvemens, of Harrison’s Ark.

Further Reading: Noel Malcolm’s excellent essay, “Thomas Harrison and his `Ark of Studies’: An Episode in the History of the Organization of Knowledge,” The Seventeenth Century 19 (2004), pp. 196-232
The book blogosphere put forth not one but two articles in the past week on book collecting for beginners (cheers all around). First, Laura Massey at The Cataloguer’s Desk: Dispatches from a Rare Book Shop (Peter Harrington in London) presented Book Collecting: Tips for Beginners. She gives advice on how to pick a topic, where to buy, and why condition is important, but also gently reminds us that “Our books will in all likelihood outlast us, so it’s many collectors philosophy that they are paying not for the book itself, but the privilege of preserving it for the next generation.” I like that.

Just a few days later, Richard Davies of Abebooks published Book Collecting 101 in Publishers Weekly. He gives much the same advice as Massey regarding investment, discusses some value points, and tells collectors with hyper-modern firsts on their shelves to be patient. He suggests pulp paperbacks, e.g. vintage Penguins, as an inexpensive and fun starter collection.

These two posts brought to mind one I read last month on the blog of Rebecca Romney, the rare book expert on Pawn Stars and manager at Bauman Rare Books, Las Vegas. She posted a Rare Books 101, part I and II. In 101.1, she gets down to basics like, “How can I tell if my book is a first edition,” accompanied by useful illustrations. Part II provides more detail into editions, printings, issues, and states. Romney plans a third and fourth part in the series on topics such as, “How much does restoration matter” and “How to store and take care of your rare books.”

What else does the Internet have to offer beginning book collectors? One of my personal favorites has always been Your Old Books, published by the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries. It’s a direct Q&A format, with basic questions like, “Are all old books valuable?” Alibris offers “A guide to book collecting in the 21st century,” written by the late bookseller Roger Gozdecki. The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America has an introduction to book collecting and a set of FAQs.

Last, but certainly not least, we must not forget the comprehensive contributions on these points from The Private Library--where a novice (or an expert) can enjoy hundreds of posts on the how-to of book collecting.
Timbuktu_Mosque_Sankore.jpgFrench and Malian troops reclaimed the historic city of Timbuktu yesterday from militant Islamic extremists.  Timbuktu has been a center of culture and learning for centuries and the city is famous for the width and breadth of its ancient manuscripts.  As was feared by historians and scholars around the world, the militants torched the city’s recently renovated library and research center, the Ahmed Baba Institute, as they retreated.

In a twisted bit of irony, the Institute held early handwritten copies of the Koran amongst other gems of medieval Islamic culture.

But all may not be lost.

While conflicting reports continue to surface from the war-zone, TIME reported yesterday that a large-scale rescue operation may have been conducted last year in advance of the militant occupation.  Thousands of ancient manuscripts may have been removed from the Ahmed Baba Institute and hidden in a safe-house somewhere else in the city.  TIME’s informants would not go on record, however, with the location of the manuscripts citing fears of a vengeful return by Islamic extremists.  TIME’s informants also indicated that some less-important manuscripts had been purposefully left behind in the library to deceive the militants about the removal.

If these reports are true, it would be an enormous relief to the global community of scholars - and to anyone around the world with an interest in the preservation of history and culture.

It also wouldn’t be the first time Malians had successfully hidden manuscripts in private households, a rich tradition in Timbuktu history.  Houses throughout the city are notorious for their treasure troves of uncataloged ancient manuscripts passed down through the centuries as family heirlooms.

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[Images of Timbuktu and ancient TImuktu manuscripts from Wikipedia]


For many collectors and dealers, February is a high point in the year -- it offers the chance to browse, buy, and sell at several major book fairs in California, including the Codex International Book Fair, the Santa Monica Show, and the California International Antiquarian Book Fair, held this year in San Francisco. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll see preparations in the form of final book fair schedules, booth numbers, and catalogues.

Collective.pngOne group of enterprising booksellers has banded together for the second year to issue a “collective” catalogue. Each of the six ABAA/ILAB booksellers--three from California, one from Utah, one from Maine, and one from New York--offers herein two or three highlights to show “the flavor of their taste and discrimination.” (Last year’s debut effort was every bit as enticing.) So what kind of gold can you expect to find in California this year?

-Tavistock Books celebrates its California origins with an unique Death Valley photograph album of original black-and-white prints by Floyd B. Evans, taken during the late 1950s ($7,500).

-The Book Shop (also of California) likewise offers a California treasure: a first edition of Mary Austin’s nature classic, The Land of Little Rain, in the scarce dust jacket ($1,500).

-B&B Rare Books of New York highlights its modern firsts, including the first edition of Raymond Chandler’s The High Window in “superb unrestored dust jacket” ($14,000).

-Ken Sanders Rare Books, a full-service shop in Salt Lake City, has a neat-looking fine press book on the history of irrigation and water in the Salt Lake Valley that he is selling alongside the original hand-cut lino-blocks that were used in the printing of the book ($1,000).

-Book Hunter’s Holiday, known for its specialization in the works of Dante Alighieri, features some spectacular paper and stick puppets used in the production of a film adaptation of Dante’s Inferno (small puppet, $500; larger, $750; entire set, $5,000).

-Lux Mentis of Portland Maine, next in the line in the catalogue, has a fantastic follow-up: a limited edition portfolio of forty-one etchings from Dante’s Inferno by Michael Mazur ($12,500).

All but one of the booksellers will exhibit at both the Santa Monica show (Feb. 9-10) and the San Francisco fair the following weekend (Feb. 15-17). It’s a busy and exciting time of year in the book trade -- if you can, join in the fun! If you’d like a copy of the collective’s catalogue, contact any of the above-mentioned booksellers directly.

This year’s collegial catalogue is dedicated to the memory of passionate bookseller and collector Roger Gozdecki of Anthology Rare Books, who participated in the “collective” last year. He died in April of 2012.
A quick rundown of the January sales so far, and a look at what’s coming up this week:

- PBA Galleries sold Architecture Books & Folios on 10 January, in 195 lots. Results are here. The top price, $8,400, went to a copy of Cornelius Gurlitt’s Die Baukunst Konstantinopels (1912), a study of Istanbul architecture.

- Lyon & Turnbull held a Rare Books, Maps, Manuscripts & Photographs sale on 16 January, in 564 lots. Two lots fetched £7,500: an East India Company logbook of the Seaford (1703-1706), and another logbook, of HMS Kent (1800-1803).

- At Bloomsbury’s Bibliophile Sale on 17 January, a partial set of Buffon’s Histoire Naturelle (32 of 44 volumes) sold for £1,500.

- Swann held a Shelf Sale on 17 January. Ten volumes of reference books related to porcelain sold for $4,320.

- At Swann’s 20th Century Illustration on 24 January, it was a set of 48 of Garth Williams/Rosemary Wells proof plates for the 50th Anniversary Edition of Charlotte’s Web for the top price, at $28,800.

- Bloomsbury sold Antiquarian Books on 24 January, in 202 lots. Léon Bakst’s Bakst: The Story of the Artist’s Life (1923) came out on top at £7,000 (well above the £600-800 estimates).

- PBA Galleries sold Americana, Asian-American History, Travel, Maps & Views on 24 January, in 434 lots. Results are here. A copy of an early account of Frémont’s expeditions (1847) fetched the highest price, at $14,400.

- Christie’s sells Albrecht Durer Masterpieces from a Private Collection on 29 January, in 62 lots. A ~1501 St. Eustace rates the top estimate (so high that it’s only available on request). Knight, Death and the Devil (1513) is estimated at $500,000-700,000, Melancholia I (1514) at $400,000-600,000, and St. Jerome in his Study (1514) at $300,000-500,000.

- Dominic Winter sells Printed Books, Maps & Ephemera on 30 January. A set of first impressions of each of the three Lord of the Rings books rates the top estimate, at £10,000-15,000.

- Bloomsbury sells Maps & Atlases, Drawings & Prints on 31 January, in 440 lots.
On January 1, Sharon L. Gee assumed ownership of the San Francisco-based auction house, PBA Galleries. Gee, who had a successful career in corporate sales, has no prior auction house experience, but she was looking for a career change and spending some free time cataloguing books in her father-in-law’s collection for an ABAA dealer when opportunity knocked. “I was also looking for something where I could use my sales and marketing skills and last year I met Roger Wagner (the previous owner of PBA) at the ABAA Book Fair in Los Angeles,” she explained. “One thing led to another and nine months later, I was convinced it was something I wanted to do.”

Gee plans a smooth transition for buyers and consignors, with auctions continuing every two weeks on Thursdays in San Francisco as usual. “PBA has had an impeccable reputation over the last decade, and I want to continue that going forward,” she said. Her long-term goal, however, is to “broaden PBA’s presence nationally.” According to a press release, Southern California, where Gee is based, would be the first stop.

As for her bookish interests, Gee is an avid reader and said she collects “books that I consider my friends, which usually introduce me to authors and then other books that become my friends,” such as those by Lisa See, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, Gail Tsukiyama, Abraham Verghese, Sara Gruen, T.C. Boyle, Simon Winchester, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and Anchee Min. With her husband she collects fine press books, as well. She has also delved into bookmaking, taking bookbinding classes at the San Francisco Center for the Book and Scripps College. 

PBA’s next auction is February 7, with a focus on angling, sports & pastimes, and natural history. A sale is also scheduled for February 18, the Monday following the California Book Fair, for those staying in town. 
482px-Carl_Sandburg_NYWTS.jpgIn the midst of a national debate on gun control, a previously undiscovered - and surprisingly pertinent - poem by Carl Sandburg was found by a volunteer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign rare book library.

The poem, entitled “A Revolver,” meditates on the nature of the weapon and the finality of its effects.  It ends with the following two lines:

When it has spoken, the case can not be appealed to the supreme court, nor any mandamus nor any injunction nor any stay of execution in and interfere with the original purpose.

And nothing in human philosophy persists more strangely than the old belief that God is always on the side of those who have the most revolvers
.”

The poem was found in a file folder by long-term volunteer Ernie Gullerud, a former professor of social work at the university.  Gullerud volunteers weekly at the library, where he has spent the last two years cataloging a large file folder of poems.  After uncovering the poem, Gullerud passed it on to Valerie Hotchkiss, head of the department.

Sandburg’s extensive archive of papers were donated to the University of Illinois by the poet’s wife and daughter after he died in 1967. Other undiscovered and unpublished poems by Sandburg likely linger in their midst.

Read the entire poem in an article about its discovery at the Chicago Tribune.

[Photo from Wikipedia]

A great new exhibit of ‘bad books’ just opened at Syracuse University’s Special Collections Research Center. Strange Victories: Grove Press, 1951-1985 traces the history of the infamous indie publisher on Grove Street in New York’s Greenwich Village. Led by Barney Rosset, who died in February of last year, the Grove Press became known for taking on radical--and often salacious--book and film projects. It was Grove that went to trial to win the right to publish an unexpurgated Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1959, and then followed it up with Sartre’s Anti-Semite and Jew in 1960, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer in 1961, and Burroughs’ Naked Lunch in 1962.

StrangeVictories2.jpgWhat’s on view is a selection from the press’ archive, including business correspondence, first editions, and art. Grove’s earliest big success was Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (1954), represented in the exhibit by a fragment of a signed, typed letter from Beckett to Rosset in 1953, discussing the upcoming publication, as well as a fantastic black-and-white photo of the two men. Editions of Games People Play (1964), The Story of O (1966), and Robert Frank’s seminal photobook, The Americans (1959), show off its products well. The mocked-up cover artwork for Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book (distributed by Grove, 1971) is certainly a piece of publishing history worth eyeing.   

For many, the highlight of this exhibit will be a beautifully handwritten letter on blue stationery. Written by Malcolm X to Alex Haley, his co-writer on The Autobiography of Malcolm X, published by the Grove Press in 1965. Malcolm X begins his letter, “I have just completed my pilgrimage (Hajj).”

StrangeVictories12.jpgA photo of Che Guevara’s corpse is another surprising sight. It was Grove that bravely published Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War (1968) after another publisher backed out. Even better, Rosset traveled to Bolivia to acquire the secret manuscript, and the Grove offices were later attacked with a grenade by Cuban exiles in retaliation for the book’s publication. Now that’s avant-garde publishing at its best.

The South American trip and the office bombing were two of the amazing stories shared during a one-hour panel discussion prior to the exhibit’s opening last week. The Syracuse University Library hosted a panel of “Grove alumni,” moderated by Professor Loren Glass, author of the forthcoming book, Counter-Culture Colophon: Grove Press, the Evergreen Review, and the Incorporation of the Avant-Garde. The alumni included Fred Jordan, Judith Schmidt Douw, Nat Sobel, and Claudia Menza. All offered wonderful stories of life with Rosset, who, by all accounts, was a real character, committed to pushing boundaries and furthering change with his infamous press. The panelists recalled Rosset’s editorial mission as, “If he liked it, be published it.” Claudia Menza, an editor at the Evergreen Review for more than a decade, added, “Making money was not in the equation. Publishing was the equation.” Grove became a magnet for the kind of writing that was cutting edge and socially conscious. Nat Sobel, Grove’s longtime sales and marketing manager, said, “To be at Grove Press in the 1960s was to be at the center of things.”

Strange Victories celebrates the indie publisher’s lasting effect on culture. It’s an important collection for Syracuse University, rich in treasures for book historians if this exhibition of highlights is any indication. The exhibition’s curators are Susan M. Kline, Grove Press project archivist, and Lucy Mulroney, curator of rare books and manuscripts. It is open through June 22. 

Images courtesy of the SCRC, Syracuse University Library.


George_Orwell_press_photo.jpgYesterday was the inaugural “George Orwell Day” in the United Kingdom, held in commemoration of the writer’s work on the sixty-third anniversary of his death.  Orwell died in London on January 21, 1950 of complications from tubercolosis.  He was 46 years old.

Orwell’s estate joined forces with the Orwell Prize and Penguin (the author’s publisher) to create and launch the soon-to-be annual “Orwell Day.”  The holiday is intended to “celebrate [Orwell’s] writing in all its forms and explore the profound influence he has had on the media and discourse of the modern world.”

In celebration of the holiday, Orwell’s famous essay on political language, “Politics and the English Language,” is being given away for free on the website of the Orwell Prize.

Penguin also launched new editions of four Orwell classics: Animal Farm, 1984, Down and Out in Paris and London, and Homage to Catalonia.  The cover of 1984 is particularly notable for any Penguin classics collectors, as the title has been purposefully blacked-out:

1984.jpgThe bold new cover for 1984 is wonderfully effective - both as a graphic design piece and an ironic statement in perfect alignment with the text.

Any of our UK readers can also tune-in to BBC Radio 4’s series of radio adaptations of Orwell works, which begin on January 26.  The BBC will produce adaptations of the four classics mentioned above in addition to readings of Orwell essays and factual programming on Orwell’s life and times.

The Swann Galleries sale of twentieth-century illustration art on January 24 seems destined for success. Its biggest draw (pun intended) being a very fine collection of works written and/or illustrated by the late Maurice Sendak. He was collectible before his death last May, and, as it goes, more so now. The sale has also garnered an unusual amount of “mainstream” media buzz. And, the sale falls during Bibliography Week in New York City, when many of the highest-end collectors and dealers are in town.

WildThings-Reed.jpgThe Sendak collection belonged to bookseller and longtime Sendak collector Reed Orenstein. The two became acquainted when Sendak asked Orenstein to sell him an early copy of his own book, one so rare that Sendak himself did not own it. Orenstein refused, preferring to give it to Sendak as a gift. The gesture was repaid through the years with inscribed copies of books and artwork from Sendak to Orenstein. One of the highlights of that provenance is this first edition in original dust jacket of Where the Wild Things Are inscribed and signed to Orenstein with a drawing of one of the Wild Things in blue ink. Sendak writes, “This certainly looks like a first Edition -- it has all the wrong colors in the right places!” The estimate is $10,000-15,000. An even higher price will be paid for a suite of eight signed concept pencil sketches for Sendak’s Really Rosie TV special.

Marcellino.jpgBut it’s not an all-Sendak sale. Another lot that caught my eye is a watercolor by Fred Marcellino, a book jacket artist and children’s author/illustrator who we featured in our fall 2012 issue. Slow Learner (seen above) is the dust jacket design for Thomas Pynchon’s Slow Learner, published in 1984. Says the auction house, “This is the first time his work has ever appeared at auction.” Surely not the last. The estimate is $6,000-9,000.

Baskin-Morris.jpgWorks by Gorey, Bemelmans, Disney, Hirschfeld, Garth Williams, and many more artists and illustrators round out the sale. This signed Leonard Baskin watercolor painting of William Morris (above), commissioned by bookseller Ed Nudelman, is another pleasant surprise. The estimate is $3,000-4,500.

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Joseph Mandelbaum, proprietor of The Royal Mandelbaums in New York City.

Joseph_Headshot (1).jpgNP: How did you get started in rare books?

JM: I was first made aware of the significance of First Editions when I was a student at Antioch University in Seattle. I was very close to the Director at the Center for Teaching and Learning, Anne Maxham, and I would be in her office on a near-constant basis telling her about this and that amazing sentence I found. One day, out of the clear blue sky, she told me that whenever I buy a book, I should always buy a First Edition. I believe her friend had just lost her job and had sold her collection of First Editions to get back on her feet. That was the first time I equated books with monetary value. When I moved back to New York City, I got a job at Left Bank Books in the West Village. It goes without saying that I learned what it takes to run a book business there. I loved the experience; I catalogued their stock, learned about condition, and picked the brains of the different book collectors and scouts that made up the clientele. The owner of the shop, Kim Herzinger, is a collector himself, as well as a literary professor and book dealer, so in one conversation with him, I was able to get all three perspectives. 

NP: When did you open The Royal Mandelbaums and what do you specialize in?

JM: I have been personally selling books through ABE for just over a year now. We launched The Royal Mandelbaums website two months ago. We specialize in Modern Literature, with a focus on Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Signed Books. We will and do reach outside of our specialty genre’s for specific clients and their requests, but we do not keep a stock or actively buy anything that isn’t Literature. 

NP: The name is a nod to the Royal Tenenbaums, right?  What is your favorite Wes Anderson movie?

JM: I have to admit that we didn’t come up with the name, or the nod, for that matter. Our good friend Olivia Wolfe - she is one of two owners of the Manhattan boutique, American Two Shot - came up with it on a whim. American Two Shot is our only brick-and-mortar retailer, and we kicked off the summer with a book fair. Olivia was making limited-edition bookmarks and realized we were without a name for the fair. Olivia was like, “I’ll just write The Royal Mandelbaums.” In short, the name simply stuck. We have to admit one more thing - we have never actually seen The Royal Tenenbaums! My favorite Wes Anderson movie, though, is “The Darjeeling Limited.” I love the look of the hotel room that Jason Schwartzman’s character lives in.

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

JM: I really love everything about the book trade, and most of all, I enjoy being in this business. I love explaining the importance of books and collecting - at any price point, I might add - because it is often the first time someone realizes that something they love also has, in some instances, enormous monetary value. I love the process of scouting for books. There is this few-second rush of spotting a title I desire, flipping through to the Copyright page, seeing that it’s a First, turning to the Title Page, and seeing if there is a Signature or Inscription, and finally seeing who blurbed this book in my hands. Putting the purchase into the context of my collection is just a joyous experience. 

NP: What is your favorite rare book (or ephemera) that you’ve handled?  

JM: Personally, I am a huge James Baldwin fan. I was reading Sol Stein and James Baldwin’s co-written book “Native Sons” and, in that memoir, Sol Stein writes about being on the student writing staff of his High School journal, along with - this still amazes me - his classmates James Baldwin and Richard Avedon. They all attended DeWitt-Clinton High School in the Bronx, at the same time, no less. I was so intrigued by the anecdotes he was recounting about those days. I went in to work the next day, and was talking about the stories I had just read. I was told that (my now dear friend) Eric had just dropped off an original copy of the exact High School journal I was referring to. I ran to see it, and there it was, the journal called Magpie Review. In its Table of Contents was writing by Richard Avedon and a short story and poem written by James Baldwin. I purchased it right away for my own personal collection! I think it was Baldwin’s first published story. As a side note, I learned then that Ralph Lauren and Burt Lancaster were also graduates of DeWitt-Clinton High School.

NP: What do you personally collect?

JM: I collect books by Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, Richard Wright, and James Baldwin. My Fiance and I also have an extensive magazine collection.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the book trade?

JM: The future of the book trade - I hesitate to say “the future” as I only think in the present - is fundamentally about added value and curation. By added value, I am really talking about education; educating young collectors on the importance of the library and the importance of First Editions. When I say added value, I am also implying that people are done with basic descriptions and publication information and condition, although all of those things are critical to the business, and always will be. People now want to know the context and provenance of books. What was the environment of the world that the author was in when he wrote this book? Who was the author? What were his biases, and who were his fans? The future is in Association Copies, Inscriptions; we will likely see a new found importance regarding Advance Reader’s Copies. Books that include press materials and issue points play a huge roll in my sales, absolutely. 

NP: Any upcoming book fairs or catalogues?

JM: We are planning another book fair at American Two Shot. We are also working with an excellent creative team on a BookLook, a twist, so to speak, on a fashion brand’s LookBook. It will be our version of a catalogue; heavy on editorial, the books photographed in a new context. For this project, we will be staying away from books-on-shelves or the traditional still-life-on-white-background. We love both of those for their individual purposes but it isn’t the story we are interested in telling. 


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Thornwillow, a New York-based private press, and Montblanc, the European maker of writing instruments and timepieces, have joined forces to celebrate the forthcoming presidential inauguration. A pop-up shop featuring their wares will open January 18 in the lobby of the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C., where visitors can put fine pen to fine paper: use a Montblanc to write a letter on Thornwillow stationery to President Obama, and the St. Regis butlers will deliver it to the White House for you. 


Of course, you may also choose to shop. As part of the inauguration celebration, Thornwillow has issued A Presidential Miscellany, a limited edition, letterpress-printed compendium of anecdotes, facts, and figures relating to presidential history, edited by Lewis Lapham. They’ll also sell a special edition of President Obama’s first inaugural address and American-themed letterpress stationery. Montblanc will showcase limited edition fountain pens from its “America’s Signatures for Freedom” collection, a series that pays tribute to America’s founding fathers, as well as leather goods and accessories. 


The Presidential Miscellany is available online for pre-order in both a standard edition in wrapper for $40 and a half-leather edition signed by Lapham and limited to 150 copies for $400. It will also be available at Thornwillow’s Library Gallery at the St. Regis in New York City. 

657px-Robert_burns.jpgJust in time for this year’s Burns Night celebrations, a Scottish researcher has uncovered two lost manuscripts by the famous poet, along with several letters between Burns and his friends. The researcher, Chris Rollie, received a call from an old friend alerting him to an exciting find within her copy of the “Extra Illustrated” W. Scott Douglas edition of The Works of Robert Burns (1877-79). These particular copies had been owned by Burns’ publisher Walter Paterson. Tucked inside the volumes were a handwritten manuscript of the Burns song “Phillis the Fair,” and a draft of the poem “Ode to a Woodlark.” 

In addition to the manuscripts, several letters were uncovered.  The highlight was a letter from “Clarinda,” the pen name of Agnes McLehose, Burns’ lover.  The letter, which is addressed to Burns’ physician several months after his death in 1796, tenderly requests the return of her intimate letters to the poet. A second letter from Clarinda was also revealed, containing a poetic response to Burns’ poem “On Sensibility.”

Rollie presented the findings last week at a Burns conference in Glasgow.

The manuscripts have already been sold to a private collector. The name of the individual who purchased the material was not revealed.

More about the find can be read on The Guardian.

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Initial from 16th c. Antiphonal ms.  (Bibliopathos)

It’s time again for an update on top eBay sales since my report in September. As one would expect, most of the hot antiquarian material on the list sold in December during the pre-Christmas runup. The list includes an incunable, an early modern manuscript, a modern first, and one of the great collectable atlases. As in my last report, I’m only including true auctions (those with competitive bidding) in order to get more accurate account of sales.

1. $15,000: Bibliopathos booksellers of Milan appears again at the top of the list, this time for a Spanish 16th c. illuminated antiphonal manuscript (see Initial V above). Once the property of an Iberian Antonine house the manuscript remains in its original binding. Sold after 8 bids on December 19th. This is an impressive turnaround for Bibliopathos as the same manuscript was sold at auction by Florentine dealer Gonnelli in November for just 3,900 euros (lot 26 in catalog 11).

2. $10,500: Second on the list is a volume from one of the most treasured early modern atlases, Willem and Johan Blaeu’s mid-17th c. Theatrum orbis terrarium sive Atlas Novus (Amsterdam, 1649-55). Offered here is volume 5, published in 1654  covering Scotland and Ireland. Note especially the original vellum Blaeu binding. Sold by Antiquariat Steffen Völkel of Seubersdorf, Germany after a remarkable 48 bids on December 11th. This is of course a far cry from the enormous sums the entire set of Blaeu atlases can command, see for instance the $458,000 paid at Christie’s in 2009.

3. $10,200: The history of science and mathematics continues to be a hot collecting area as represented by the third volume on the list: Isaac Newton’s Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica 3rd ed. (London: William and John Innys, 1726). [ESTC T98375]. Records indicate  that 200 copies of this edition were printed, at least 98 of which are now in institutional hands. Sold by Charles Vyvial of Montreal after 4 bids on October 8th.

4. $8,950: The ever desirable books of the Aldine press are represented at number four with the incunable Thesaurus Cornu copiae et Horti Adonidis (Venice, 1496) [ISTC it00158000]. Sold after 16 bids on December 9th by Bibliofind. A more complete copy sold for 11,250 GBP at Sotheby’s in 2009.

5. $8,100: With the Hobbit hitting theaters it’s perhaps no surprise that a first printing of the first edition sold after 11 bids on December 26th.Offered by “Oneinamillionbooks” of Summerland, British Columbia.

An honorable mention should also go to another Aldine incunable [ISTC if00191000] offered by Bibliopathos which garnered 22 bids on December 9th (topping out at $14,550) without meeting the reserve price. The volume was re-listed for $19,000 but failed to sell by January 1st. Also in the world of manuscripts and print ephemera, a remarkable lot of documents, bill heads, programs, and other items relating to 19th c. American minstrel shows sold for $3,552.22 after 22 bids on December 27th.








Well that’s a headline to entice many readers and collectors -- it’s also the title of a new novel by Syrie James, author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen


MissingMss.jpgIn The Missing Manuscript, James uses a twenty-first-century story to frame the nineteenth-century narrative, i.e. Austen’s missing first novel. While on vacation in England, Samantha McDonough, an American special collections librarian who failed to finish her dissertation on Austen at Oxford, pops into an antiquarian book shop and picks up an old poetry book. Much to her surprise, a letter is found tucked into the uncut pages, and that letter turns out to be an unknown and unsigned letter from Jane Austen to her sister. Better still, the letter mentions a missing manuscript. 


While that frame proved hackneyed at best, Samantha does uncover a manuscript, stowed away in a secret cupboard in an English country manor house. (She also finds its handsome, young, divorced owner, Anthony Whitaker.) They begin to read the manuscript, written in 1802. It involves a clerical country family named the Stanhopes, who endure financial and social ruin and an embarrassing trip to Bath. The characters of Rebecca Stanhope and the friends and suitors she encounters have more life to them than their modern counterparts in this novel. Thankfully, their well-plotted story constitutes the bulk of the book, which will delight Austen fans. It may even gain a few new ones. 


Meanwhile, back in the present, Anthony Whitaker is counting his chickens, ticking off prices of book and manuscript sales at auction found via his cell phone browser. He feels that his manuscript will break the current record--that of $30.8 million paid by Bill Gates for Leonardo Da Vinci’s Codex Leicester. With the proceeds, he can restore his family’s ancestral home. But will he sell? 


After several hours amiably passed, you, dear Reader, will know the answer to that.

Catalogue Review: Buddenbrooks Rare Books and Manuscripts

I don’t know how it has happened, but I’ve never had the opportunity to visit Buddenbrooks Rare Books (in Boston) or even to peruse one of their catalogues -- until now. I’ve been flipping through catalogue 159 all week, each time finding something incredible.

As any follower of this blog will know, I zero in on Thoreau in any catalogue, and here I found an autograph manuscript fragment, containing approximately 143 words in Thoreau’s hand of an article he was writing for the Atlantic Monthly ($10,500). The content relates to his “first sight of Katadn” in Maine. Buddenbrooks also features a fine Hemingway autograph letter ($9,500) on the same page, but for me, there’s no contest.

In fine bindings, two offerings gave me pause. One is a black morocco binding by Paul Bonet, gilt tooled in high Art Deco fashion--and picturing what looks like an upside-down Empire State Building made of multi-colored onlays on the spine ($24,500). The other is a set of Milne’s four “Pooh” books, all first editions, bound by Bayntun-Riviere in fine full gilt decorated morocco ($17,500).

I also love the original painting by Edward J. Detmold for the cover art to The Peacock Book ($2,450). Quite a desirable piece for collectors of the popular illustrator.

In this catalogue there is no theme necessarily, but Bruddenbooks does have a nice selection of collectible bibles, including the 1634 English Bible in period calf ($2,250), the Ballantyne Press’ Three-Decker in deluxe hand-tooled morocco bindings ($795), an extensively illustrated Victorian American Bible ($950), and Dore’s super folio, deluxe, two-volume Bible c. 1875 ($4,950).

I know where I’m going to go next time I’m in Boston!
Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Simon Patterson, proprietor of Hyraxia Books in Leeds, England.

simonpatterson.jpgNP: When did you open Hyraxia and what do you specialize in?

SP: Hyraxia, as a bookshop, officially opened in 2010. I’d been buying and selling for about a decade prior to this but more as a collector as our stock (or collection as it was then) was in storage which made it tricky to sell. My wife and I moved house in 2010 partly to have a room for our books and she started working on the business too pretty much straight away. She does most of the marketing and admin work, and I do most of the client contact and buying. We have a two-year-old and three-year-old, so it’s been a pretty hectic couple of years.

We sell modern first edition fiction primarily, specialising in speculative fiction. We’re gradually increasing our stock of science fiction, fantasy, horror and weird fiction. It’s what I’m most familiar with. Saying that, a good portion of our stock is in regular fiction, and it’s just as exciting getting a rare Evelyn Waugh in stock as it is getting a Tolkien - well not as exciting, but exciting still! We’re also buying and selling fine press books and photobooks, though that’s something we’re just branching out into and the dynamics are slightly different, so it’s pretty slow.
 
NP: You also are a partner in a children’s bookshop, is that right?

SP: Yep, though that’s really just in the embryonic stage at the moment. We’ve got the site, a small stock and a handful of ideas. Building the Hyraxia brand takes enough time at the moment, never mind building a secondary brand. But we do keep on top of it and do intend to progress it over the next five or ten years.
 
NP: How did you get started in rare books?

SP: I used to read a lot of fiction as a young child, but as I grew up I was encouraged more towards educational books. I read very little fiction between the ages of seven and 21. I remember clearly the first day of my first job as a computer programmer after I’d finished university. I was on the bus with a textbook and realised that I didn’t need to read them any more. That lunch I went out and bought Salem’s Lot by Stephen King in paperback. I was immediately pulled back into the world of fiction and haven’t read a textbook since. A short while later I was looking for a copy of The Regulators again by Stephen King, I found a US first edition and bought it for a couple of quid. I barely knew what a first edition was at this point. When it arrived I thought it was a lovely object to hold, the cover was striking and the reading experience was quite different. I read it and sold it for twice what I’d paid for it. I used that money to buy a couple of other books, reading them and selling them on for more. Eventually, I found myself buying more than I could read but not spending any more. Moving forward a decade I found myself with a sizeable collection which formed the basis of our stock. The majority of that collection has since sold, and those that haven’t are annoying me a little. I’m not sure how I made the transition to a dealer from a collector, I feel possessed.
 
NP: What is your favorite rare book (or etc) that you’ve handled?

SP: It has to be Ringworld by Larry Niven, it’s not the scarcest or most-valuable book we’ve had but it is quite important to me. At the first book fair I attended (A PBFA fair in York, UK) I found a copy of Ringworld in the lovely yellow Gollancz wrapper. I had little idea of value at the time but saw it had a price tag of something like £2000. Along with Neuromancer, another yellow Gollancz book with a similar price tag, it just stood out as something very important and desirable. It was far too expensive for me, but stood out as a book I would want more than any other. As a dealer though, it was a feasible purchase and when my own copy arrived I had it on display in the book room for a good six months before reluctantly listing it. It was like a rite of passage. It sold a couple of months ago and I was a little sad - I put three return address labels on it.
 
NP: What do you personally collect?
 
SP: Haruki Murakami - signed books, limited editions and ephemera. As a collector I couldn’t justify spending too much on a single book, and bought plenty of books that were only worth say £10 or so. When it came to making the transition to a dealer I found it easy to sell books that I found highly desirable, simply because I treated them as stock and they were very common. Murakami was different though as I had some uncommon items that I bought around the publication date, so the attachment was already there and there was the thought of appreciation in value. I still haven’t made them available for sale but will this year - probably at prices that will stop them from selling too soon! Ask me the same question next year, and if I’ve been brave, I’ll say that I collect nothing. I still think I collect Philip K. Dick too, but my wife reminds me that I don’t and puts them on sale.
 
NP: What do you love about the book trade?

SP: The books. Sounds obvious, but I’ve come in from the collector angle, so getting lovely, scarce and often expensive books in stock is still a buzz. I admit that they’re not as special as when I would buy for my collection but as my business has grown I find books in my possession that I would never have dreamt of. I’m very picky when it comes to stock. I mean, I won’t turn down a bargain just because it has a chip in the jacket or fading to the spine but there’s a good chance I’ll dislike it and make it sit on the naughty shelf. There are a handful of books that I need to own before I can be satisfied with the business. Those books keep changing as I get them in stock, so I know I’ll never get that closure, but I guess that’s part of the fun. 

It’s also a fairly trusting trade. I like the way that dealers will send you a book to have a look at, and you can be comfortable with what you receive knowing that it’s not going to be a problem to return it. I actually like it when I have a book at £100 and a dealer hands me a cheque for less than that. It sounds ridiculous, but I like the implicit trade discount - it gives the deal a much friendlier feel to it. It’s an honourable trade, and a reputation for honesty is everything. I’m getting to know people in the trade a lot better, other dealers and collectors. I don’t know that many people yet, but pretty much everyone I’m getting to know I’ve found very approachable and friendly. They’re more like colleagues than anything else.

I love telling people I’m a rare bookseller, it’s something I’m proud of. It’s something I’ll be happy to look back on a life of.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the book trade?

SP: Coming into the trade within the last few years means that I haven’t seen things change. All the doom I hear of the Internet ruining the trade doesn’t ring true with me. The way I see it is that the supply of rare books stays pretty much the same with minor fluctuations (authors go out of fashion, authors come into fashion) and the demand stays pretty much the same (the number of collectors and their combined buying power is pretty flat). What needs to be flexible is a seller’s business model, constant reinvention.

I can see the number of printed books dropping dramatically over the coming decades, but to me this implies that the supply of new collectables will be lower. I’d like to see small presses having an increasingly important role to play. Publishers like the Tartarus Press, Subterranean Press and PS Publishing are producing books that are not only for reading, but are for collecting.

What I think we need to do as sellers is focus on bringing new collectors into the marketplace and this means being accessible and responsive, pulling them away from sites like eBay and offering them a preferable and more reliable alternative. I’m 100% certain though that the trade will persist. 
 
NP: Any upcoming fairs / catalogues?

SP: We intend on doing our first catalogue this year, it will be an electronic version though I imagine. We’re also doing a number of PBFA fairs in the UK, the York fairs, Harrogate, A couple in London and hopefully some others as the year progresses (and if we can get a babysitter!)

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If you’re in London, you have until 13th January to see some of the materials making up the Women’s Liberation Music Archive at Space Station 65. Luckily, since May 2011 the archive itself has been completely available online, a DIY initiative built from scans and stories, some of them contributed via e-mail. 

Started by Deborah Withers and Frankie Green in October 2010, the archive is organised alphabetically by band name, with songs, lyric sheets, photos, posters, ephemera, and recollections about each in its place in the music scene of the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s and 80s UK. It’s a good example of multi-media collecting, since it includes audio and video files which have been uploaded to digital formats, and the world of posters, photos, and other press clippings that any comprehensive music archive draws to itself. Most importantly, it’s a great example of an emergent archive at its best: continuously growing and actively filling a gap in the existing historical record. As the founders write:

“Fusing music with politics to develop and express feminist ideas, women musicians and bands were a major part of the WLM [Women’s Liberation Movement]. However, there is scant permanent record of their ground-breaking activity during this era, much of which is not widely known about. Many groups never made recordings and operated outside the commercial, mainstream or alternative circuits - or indeed were oppositional to them. They were self-funded and worked on a shoestring and thus unable to create lasting material. Despite being a vital and integral part of the movement, they are often omitted from or marginalised by media reportage and feminist histories.”

The Women’s Liberation Music Archive emphasizes one of the great services the internet allows collectors to provide: free and comprehensive access to collections which otherwise might not survive by their own means. There are at least two kinds of materials that make up collections: works that are self-evidently collectible like fine press books, and those works for whom it takes an outcry or two to bring to our notice. Since many of the bands and their associated paper-and-song trails archived here were created in opposition to commercial culture, it’s hard to imagine their place in an archive by their own means. It’s emerging archives like this that turn historical deficits into surpluses, and that’s important work in any field.

Image Credit: From the Women’s Liberation Music Archive, under C for Clapperclaw.


How many seagulls does it take to lift a giant peach?

No, that isn’t the beginning of a bad joke -- it’s a valid area of scientific inquiry recently pursued by University of Leicester physics students. The students investigated the claim made by Roald Dahl in his classic children’s novel James and the Giant Peach that it took 501 seagulls to lift James and Co’s peach into the great blue yonder.

As it turns out Dahl was off in his figure.  Way, way off.

It would take a staggering 2.5 million seagulls to lift a giant peach.

The students began by measuring the theoretical weight of the peach, which Dahl described as being “tall and wide” like a small house. They then multiplied its presumed density by its volume.  They concluded that 4,890,579 newtons of force would be required to carry the peach. Seagulls are able to lift just over two newtons each, so that means approximately 2.5 million of them would be necessary for the job.

There are only 840,000 seagulls in all of Britain.

(First state first editions of the novel with dust jacket, by the way, currently command about $800+ on the open market).




Maybe it’s just that I have Downton Abbey on the brain (season three having premiered here in the States last night), but PBA Galleries is in a good position to capitalize on our manor house fascination. At its January 10 auction later this week, PBA is offering architecture books and folios, many consigned by the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, Northern California chapter. Among the lots are these early twentieth-century books on English and American country homes and gardens. You don’t need to be a lord to afford them, either.

CountryResidences.jpg Country Residences in Europe and America by Louis Valcoulon Le Moyne (New York, 1908). A first edition, illustrated throughout, showing country residences in Italy, France, England and America. Estimated at $300-500. 

GardensNew.jpg Gardens Old & New: The Country House & its Garden Environment (London, c. 1925). A fourth edition, but an attractive three-volume set featuring the great houses of England. Estimated at $300-500.

AmericanCountryHouses.jpg  American Country Houses of To-day ... 1912 & 1913 (New York, 1912, 1913). These are two annual volumes (both first editions), profusely illustrated with photos and plans of American country homes. Estimated at $200-300.

InEnglishHomes.jpg In English Homes: The Internal Character, Furniture & Adornments of Some of the Most Notable Houses of England... by Charles Latham (London, 1904-09). England’s stately homes and estates in three illustrated volumes, all bound in pretty blue cloth with pictorial gilt. Estimated at $200-300.

AnAmerican.jpgAn American Country House: The Property of Arthur E. Newbold Jr. by Arthur J. Meigs (New York, 1925). A first edition in dust jacket that surveys the suburban Philadelphia banker’s estate. Estimated at $150-250.

Images Courtesy of PBA Galleries.
Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Seth Glick of Caliban Books in Pittsburgh.

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NP: How did you get started in rare books?

SG: I found my job through craigslist. Instead of sending a resume, I wrote a smart-ass paragraph about myself, and included the last 3 books I had read. John Schulman, the owner of Caliban, apparently thought I was an endearing smart-ass, and after an interview he offered me a job as cataloger.

NP: What is your role at Caliban?

SG: Currently, I’m the manager of our online department, which operates out of The Warehouse. My average day includes cataloging, answering customer inquiries over email and phone, scanning and photographing books. I oversee sales on our website and the mega-sites we list on. I also schlep plenty of books - boxes and boxes of books.

NP: What is your favorite rare book that you’ve handled?

SG: A few years ago we sold a photo of F. Scott Fitzgerald in drag from a Triangle Club production. It was inscribed by Fitzgerald, “Lovingly, Geraldine.” Currently for sale we have a 1759 bound volume of The Scots Magazine that has the first published map of Pittsburgh so-called; it’s basically 5 lines showing the rivers and a few forts, but it’s pretty cool.

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

SG: My favorite part is just handling the books. Feeling the different bindings, looking at the type, flipping through the pages. I also love the spell that books cast on people, and how discernable this trance can be. Without fail, whenever someone walks in The Warehouse for the first time they stand in the doorway, look at the stacks of books and gasp like they’re looking at the Grand Canyon. It’s nice to be a part of that.

NP: What do you personally collect?

SG: I always keep an eye out for a few things: books by Aldous Huxley, especially his writings on psychedelic drugs, and Lenny Bruce material. Also, a few years ago a coworker turned me on to the dust jackets of Alvin Lustig, specifically his designs for New Directions’ New Classics series - I have about a third of those. Looking for books and ephemera on 80’s-90’s hip-hop is going to be my next project.

NP: Do you want to open your own shop someday?

SG: That’s a tough one. I certainly hope to be active in the bookselling community for a long time, but I don’t think that a brick and mortar is in my future. Caliban has a storefront where I work occasionally and I enjoy the rhythm of working behind a counter, watching customers come in and browse. But operating an open shop is a challenge these days. Pittsburgh is a relatively large city, and we can barely sustain five physical bookstores. If I go on my own, it would be solely online.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the book trade?

SG: I think we have no option but to keep on finding better, rarer, more interesting material, and finding new and exciting ways to promote and package it. Outstanding books will sell themselves; we may just have to try harder at convincing the public on why they would want to start collecting antiquarian books. It’s an exciting time to be an online business. We’ve mailed books to people a mile away, and to people in over 100 countries. We have an enormous base of potential customers, we just need them to notice us.

NP: Any upcoming fairs / catalogues for Caliban?

SG: We’re still working on getting a catalog out there. In the last few months I’ve seen a lot of exciting catalogs, both in print and .pdfs -- they’re starting to look like works of art. We do three fairs a year: NY, Boston and San Francisco/LA. We’re looking into trying out some of the smaller, regional ones as well.
What were your favorite FB&C blog posts from 2012? If you’re like most of our readers, these were the top ten stories that piqued your interest last year. And if you missed one, here’s your chance to look back.

#1: The Books of Moonrise Kingdom. A brief look at the faux books created for Wes Anderson’s film, Moonrise Kingdom.

#2: The Return of the Edinburgh Book Sculptor. During Book Week Scotland, the anonymous artist struck again with her beautiful book sculptures.

#3: The World’s Most Expensive Book at Auction. We wondered if Christie’s would break the world record for a printed book at auction with the Duke of Portland’s set of Audubon’s Birds of America. It didn’t, but the price tag was a hefty $7.9 million.

#4: Inside the Academy Awards Greenroom Library. Behind the scenes with Thatcher Wine of Juniper Books, who designed a library for the star-studded event.

#5: McMurtry’s Booked Up Moving On. An announcement that McMurtry would be selling off the majority of his Archer City bookstore stock.

#6: At Downton Abbey, Elizabeth Von Armin Returns to Life. A late nineteenth-century novel got a lift from a PBS hit (and p.s., the show starts again this Sunday!)

#7: Scandal, Hype, and Making Rare Books. We asked what modern books will become collectible--and got some fun answers.

#8: Selling a Million-Dollar Photobook. Edward Curtis’ The North American Indian went to auction and ended up realizing $1.44 million.

#9: Classic Novels Get Erotic Makeover. A British publisher’s erotic versions of literary classics. Hmmm.

#10: One Hundred Famous Children’s Books. The first installment of our series on The Grolier Club’s forthcoming exhibit on children’s literature.


An anonymous donor gifted a rare Stephen King book to the Emmaus Center, a homeless shelter in Ellsworth, Maine. The book will be sold to raise much needed funds for the shelter.

The book is a limited-edition copy of The Regulators, which King wrote under his pseudonym Richard Bachman. The book was published in 1996 by Dutton / Penguin, who also commissioned 552 copies of a special, limited edition. Five hundred limited edition copies were bound by Gregg Campbell of The Campbell-Logan Bindery in Minnesota*. (Not to be confused with the “deluxe edition” of fifty-two copies, complete with spent Winchester bullets, bound by Claudia Cohen and published by Charnel House, a publisher we recently profiled in the magazine).

regulators.jpgOne of the five hundred limited editions made its way to Maine after the death of Tim Clark, another Minnesota bookbinder who, according to the Bangor Daily News, also worked on the book. The person who inherited the book from Clark decided to anonymously donate it to the Emmaus Center last month to help with fundraising. When Stephen King learned about the donation, he volunteered to sign the book to increase its re-sale value.

Current online prices for signed copies of the special edition of The Regulators run between $1250 and $2000.

The book is presently on display at Scottie’s Bookhouse in Hancock, Maine. The owner of the bookshop, Michael Riggs, is accepting bids for the book on behalf of the homeless shelter. Bids will be accepted until January 31, at which point the book will be sold to the highest bidder and the funds donated to the Emmaus Center.

If you’re interested in bidding, Scottie’s Bookhouse can be reached at 207-667-6834.

*Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post did not give proper credit to Gregg Campbell, the bookbinder in charge of the edition shown above.
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