March 2013 Archives

The Matchbox Diary

“The Matchbox Diary,” by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline; Candlewick Press, $16.99, 40 pages, ages 5-9. 


MATCHBOX DIARY. Text copyright © 2013 by Paul Fleischman. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Bagram Ibatoulline. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Newbery Medal winner Paul Fleischman (Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices) and acclaimed illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline (Thumbelina; The Nightengale) have crafted a tale about an Italian immigrant’s journey to America that also incorporates a love of collecting.

The book begins with an elderly gentleman meeting his great-grand daughter. As a way to get to know each other, the man tells the girl to choose a book, antique, or other collectible, and he will share the story behind that item’s existence. Tucked away in the midst of these beloved curios, the child chooses a weathered cigar-box.  Much like  a Russian matryoshka, the box opens to reveal dozens of matchboxes.  They, in turn, hold a small souvenir - an olive pit, a fishbone, pieces of lead type - that recall pivotal moments in the man’s life.  This diary is full of tangible objects that recall memories from long ago, while also encouraging the two characters to get to know each other. 


MATCHBOX DIARY. Text copyright © 2013 by Paul Fleischman. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Bagram Ibatoulline. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Using acrylic gouache, Ibatoulline creates an impeccable portrait of a collector’s controlled chaos, with old books, artwork, antique clocks and other bric-a-brac filling every shelf, corner and wall. The images of the past are skillfully  rendered in black and white.

Told entirely through dialogue, The Matchbox Diary is an ode to collectors and diarists of all ages, and certainly stokes the flame of bibliomania. As the story concludes, the worldly grandfather offers this reflection, one that will no doubt resonate with the readers of this blog: “Books are like newspapers. They show you where you’ve been.” 

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Zoltan Földvári, proprietor of Földvári Antikvárium in Budapest.


NP: How did you get started in rare books?

ZF: I was always interested in avant-garde art and I started to collect Hungarian avant-garde books when I was 14.

NP: When did you open Földvári Antikarium and what do you specialize in?

ZF: Beside collecting I was also trading and for that reason I founded Földvári Books in 2007. First I was specialized in avant-garde, literature and philosophy, later the fields has been broadened so now I also trade with books and manuscripts from the 16th to the 20th century in various fields.

NP: Could you tell us about the rare book trade in Hungary? What’s it like?

ZF: In Hungary most of the antiquarian book stores are not specialized in any field and they are both trading with rare and used books.

NP: Do you source most of your books within Hungary or do you travel abroad to find books?

ZF: I buy books in Hungary from collectors, and I also travel in Europe, America, and Asia to find books.

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

ZF: Always the recent acquisition is my favorite.

NP: What do you personally collect?

ZF: It is not easy to create the harmony between collecting and trading, but I’m working on this and continued to collect rare avant-garde editions.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the book trade?

ZF: There will only be market for scarce and important books.

NP: Any catalogues / fairs coming up?

ZF: I have participated at the California Antiquarian Book Fair in February. The next fairs in 2013 are Paris and London.

Next week Les Enluminures gallery in New York City will open a new exhibit. Owner Sandra Hindman wrote in to tell us more about it: 

In April there will be a month-long major exhibition at Les Enluminures called “Paths to Reform,” illustrating the importance of reform in the history of the medieval and early modern church. It includes manuscripts that illustrate important texts from the twelfth through the sixteenth centuries. About forty manuscripts and a few printed books begin with texts and manuscripts associated with the religious orders of the Middle Ages -- Bernard of Clairvaux and the Cistercians, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bridget of Sweden, and St. Francis de Paola -- and then explores in greater detail texts associated with the Devotio Moderna, and parallel movements in France and Italy, leading up to manuscripts associated with the Protestant Reformation.

LES ENLUMINURES Miniature Annunciation 2.Book of Hours (Use of Windesheim) BOH 85 -BOH 85 - ff20v-21 Master Otto van Moerdrecht susan@susanpr.jpg

Previously unknown Book of Hours in the Dutch translation by Geert Grote with the earliest recorded copy of the mystic Henry Suso’s 100 Meditations and 7 miniatures by the Master of Otto van Mordrecht.Courtesy of Les Enluminures. 


The exhibit opens on April 4, 6-9 pm (RSVP necessary) at the New York gallery, 23 East 73rd Street, 7th floor, New York, NY (and will be open from 10-6, Monday-Saturday until May 4). The exhibition will be accompanied by a full-color published catalogue by Sandra Hindman and Laura Light, with an introduction by David Lyle Jeffrey, Distinguished Professor of Literature and the Humanities, Honors College, and Distinguished Senior Fellow and Director of Manuscript Research in Scripture and Tradition, Institute for Studies in Religion, Baylor University. This catalogue will be the third in our Text Manuscripts series (the first, Binding and the Archeology of the Medieval and Renaissance Book, by Sandra and Ariane Bergeron-Foote, and the second, Before the King James Bible, by Sandra Hindman and Laura Light are still available. Information on the show and catalogues is available at and

For more information, read the full press release here.

The rare book trade lost one of its elder statesman when Norman Kane passed away quietly in his sleep on the night of March 23.  He was 88 years old.

Norman was a true gentleman of the old school, well-versed in literature, history, politics, religion, music, and the arts. He was a rare book dealer for over 50 years, beginning his career in the thriving mid-century bookselling scene in Philadelphia.  He started his own business, The Americanist, in the late 1950s and soon moved to a farm outside of Pottstown, Pennsylvania where the bookshop would be located for several decades.  The hospitality and generosity exhibited by Norman and his wife Michal at their farm is fondly remembered by booksellers, librarians, and collectors across the country to this day.  After Michal passed away, Norman relocated to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to live close to his two daughters and their families. He continued the business until the day he died, actively contributing to a variety of rare book listservs and regularly buying and selling books.

We profiled Mr. Kane in September of 2011 in a lengthy and far-ranging interview that was continued in two installments (the first here and the second here) on the blog.  I asked Norman at the time what were some of his favorite memories of the rare book trade and he said, “Looking back, at eighty-six, I would say book fairs in cities big and small, here and abroad, my son’s auctions, which were always great fun, finding rarities in attics, garages, chicken houses, bottom shelves and top shelves, sharing a life and livelihood for over fifty years with my smart, beautiful wife, and pursuing a profession, with time off for fishing, of course, which enabled me to raise two lovely girls who now have children of their own.”

A fitting tribute to a well-lived life.

Funeral services for Norman will be held on Friday, March 29th at 2:00 p.m. at Schumacher & Benner Funeral Home, 359 King Street, Pottstown, PA. All are welcome to come by the funeral home from 1:00 to 2:00 to share your best stories about Norman. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in Norman’s name to the North Carolina Botanical Garden.

[Photo of Norman Kane by the bookseller Lorne Bair]

Julian Barnes at the Oxford Literary Festival

Guest Blog by Catherine Batac Walder

On Friday, March 22, Julian Barnes received the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence at the University of Oxford Sheldonian Theatre from the newspaper’s literary editor, Andrew Holgate. Barnes sat with acclaimed biographer and literary scholar Hermione Lee for an hour-long discussion of his life and work.

Lee and Barnes.jpg

Lee noted that the word “novel” has become a hugely elastic and unrestricted category partly because of Barnes, who is one of those authors who stretched, squeezed, and manipulated the form. Barnes said that it wasn’t what he set out to do when he first started writing. His only thought was that he was going to write a novel, experimenting on points of view whenever he started a new work. He believes that the novel is informal and is fascinated with the daring form, as when the hero and his sidekick hear themselves being discussed by minor characters through thin walls (e.g., that scene from Don Quixote). There are similarities in the structures of his works, as Lee pointed out; he doesn’t proceed chronologically and sometimes holds three stages or versions of a story alongside one another. She asked if this is a structure that appeals to him. He agreed, deep in thought, as though realizing it only at that moment, “I guess it must, as you’ve noticed it.” He added that one of the things you learn as a novelist over the years is how to move through time, citing Alice Munro as one who deals with whole lives in 20 or 30 pages.

In reply to Lee’s comment that he creates a pattern of images that recur and moments that come back within the book, such as the river running upstream in The Sense of an Ending, Barnes said that it comes with writing and rewriting. 

Lee also observed that “rewriting history” or “lying to ourselves” is a subject that he returns to in different ways in his books. Asking why this is interesting to him, Barnes replied that it might have come out while researching his book Nothing to Be Frightened of, which is partly about death and partly a family memoir. The process of writing and researching involved an exchange of e-mails with his philosopher brother. They discovered that they have a case of incompatibility in memory on things from their childhood, such as the method their grandfather used to kill chickens (this topic reminds me of Speak, Memory by Oliver Sacks). On the whole, he said, “we like improving stories.”

Lee asked about one common theme in two of Barnes’ books--being a boy at school--and wondered if there was something in his memory of what it felt like at school that has stayed with him. He attributed this recurrence to the fact that it was around this age when he started to read serious books. Another recurring theme, as Lee observed, is a narrator or central figure who is somehow inhibited, self-protective, hasn’t lived life to the full--a very English character, such as Chris in Metroland, and Tony Webster in The Sense of an Ending, among others. Personally I find that most authors have more fun creating these characters, as Barnes himself said something like he could explore a character more when they have these qualities.  


Barnes didn’t stay to sign books at the end but signed copies of his latest book, Levels of Life, to be released in April 2013, were available for purchase. Its themes of life, love, death, and grief made me weep. Barnes’ wife of 30 years, Pat Kavanagh, died in 2008. This book is like his love letter to her in the most informal form he could muster. There were thoughts of suicide (not unlike how one of his fictional characters had gone) after her death. There were words and actions he loathed from acquaintances and friends alike, his feelings all written here, in words I suspect he wouldn’t tell them face to face.

Barnes is the author of 20 books including novels, essays, and stories that have been translated into more than 30 languages. His most recent novel, The Sense of an Ending, won the Booker Prize in 2011.

Many thanks to Catherine Batac Walder, a writer living in the UK, for this post. She has previously written for us about Sherlock Holmes and ex-library books. She also reported on last year’s Oxford Literary Festival. Images credit: Catherine Batac Walder. 

Interview at the Waldorf Astoria NYC

Introduction to “Pinocchio” by Umberto Eco, ”’s not even a fairy tale, since it lacks the fairy tale’s indifference to everyday reality and doesn’t limit itself to one simple basic moral, but rather deals with many.” 

Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, the New York Review of Books, New York. 

       On Veteran’s Day, the internationally acclaimed children’s book illustrator Fulvio Testa sat down with me over tea in the Peacock Bar at the Waldorf Astoria to talk about his ground-breaking work for Geoffrey Bock’s new translation of Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio.  The wide-ranging conversation inevitably led to a discussion of his artistic philosophy regarding children’s book illustration in general, and how he can’t get New York out of his mind.  

Focus and Rhythm

         For this project, Testa told me how he created a special storyboard that allowed him to keep constant track of the visual and literary levels he was trying to maintain. During the process, he constantly asked himself, “How can I get readers to understand the story simply by creating an image? There are two ways that I might create an image, either one image with two stories, or one large edited image.” To choose the right scenes for Pinocchio, Testa outlined places where he felt the images would best compliment the text, and read the book repeatedly in order to completely grasp the flow of action.  Perhaps equally important to the actual artwork itself, he added, is the pacing and the precise location of where an image is placed in a printed book. “There are fifty-two images in this book, and they are relatively close together. I try to create a rhythm to the illustrations,” meaning that each picture represents a pivotal moment in the story, and in Pinocchio most chapters either end or begin with an illustration. The flowing imagery allows the reader to maintain a steady pace, while creating pauses in the storyline and breaking the text into manageable parts. 

Action and movement

         At first glance the art for Pinocchio appears lighthearted and buoyant, however Testa’s work is in reality quite dynamic.  To show where the action lies in what appears to be a passive image, Testa pointed to an illustration in the book. In it, Pinocchio stands at Geppetto’s worktable and argues with the Cricket. “Some images are deceptive. They look approachable and friendly, but an older reader will see some of the darker aspects at work here. Look at the table. Pinocchio’s hand is very close to the mallet, which he will pick up shortly and throw at the Cricket, killing him. This is a triangle of violence here.”  This  is not simply a picture of a quarrel, but a violent avant scène, and yet is still an image that is appropriate for children.  “Children need action to convey a story of experience through repetition,” which may be why, in Pinocchio,Testa has filled the pages with the scurrilous puppet in all manner of situations, from skipping school to facing a fearsome serpent. Testa also believes that in order to be successful at his craft, a part of him must retain a childlike understanding and appreciation for the world.  “To illustrate, an illustrator needs to have a part of himself that hasn’t grown up yet,” Testa explained. “I have to be willing to re-experience pain, rejection, joy, and other emotions, as if for the first time.”


         Just as parents once used Pinocchio as a way to teach social and moral values, fables are equally important today in constructing a moral compass for children. Testa illustrated an edition of Aesop’s Fables, and finds their universal qualities a captivating way to educate young minds. “Through these stories there is a possibility to acquire a social sensibility.” He views his illustrations as an educational tool because they show how to deal with society from a children’s point of view, which is often more effective than an adult telling a child what is right and what is wrong. There is historical precedent to this approach going back to the nineteenth century, when Pinocchio was first published.  Before there was mandatory schooling, children’s books were crucial teaching tools. Carlo Collodi originally published Pinocchio in installments and he initially intended to end the book with the death of the unfortunate puppet.  Indeed, the illustration that closes chapter fifteen shows Pinocchio strung up and hanging from a large oak tree.  The puppet survives the hanging, and continues on his adventures. 


Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, The New York Review of Books, New York. 

Read the rest at 

Random House of Canada has recently published special editions of The Life of Pi by Yann Martel and Dear Life by Alice Munro printed entirely on straw paper.  The books were produced in conjunction with Canopy, a Canadian environmental non-profit seeking to raise awareness of alternative paper sources.  The Life of Pi, produced in a run of 300 copies, is signed by Yann Martel and offered for sale on Canopy’s website for $250.  The 50 copies of Dear Life are signed by Alice Munro and retail for $500.

So, why straw?  According to the figures offered on Canopy’s website, millions of tons of straw are leftover each year after the grain harvest in Canada.  Meanwhile, more than half of the logged forests around the world are transformed into paper products. Straw paper provides a way to preserve forests while transforming agricultural residue.  The idea has recently gained considerable traction in Canada, where the office supply chain Staples has agreed to carry straw copy paper in all of their Canadian stores.

Of course, the idea of turning waste into paper is nothing new.  Until the middle of the 19th century, most of the paper produced in America was made out of recycled linen and rags.  During the paper shortage of WWII, some paper mills also experimented with the production of straw paper, a practice that continued for some years after the War.

Canopy would like to export their model to the United States and are currently seeking an author and publisher to produce a special straw edition similar to the Martel and Munro titles.

I’ve never handled straw paper but am intrigued by the idea and support the philosophy behind the project.  Judging from their covers, the straw editions of The Life of Pi and Dear Life look like lovely objects.

There seem to be fewer articles about the death of the printed book, bookshop, bookseller, book lover, book collector, etc. and more about their resurrection lately. If not truly a pessimist, I consider myself dreadfully realistic. But a few weeks ago, I gave a talk at Drew University Library that turned into a discussion about why I’m optimistic about the future of the physical book. Here are some of the things I came up with:

10. The Nook is dead. To paraphrase Twain, the “the reports of [its] death are greatly exaggerated.” Still, in late February, Barnes & Noble reported a big loss in its e-reader division. B&N claims it will not discontinue the Nook, but I see it as a chink in the e-book armor.

9. Because indies aren’t dead. A report from the Christian Science Monitor this week says the “buy local” movement has caused sales at independent bookstores to rise about 8 percent in the past year.

8. Young booksellers are also alive and well. We started a series on our website profiling what we call “Bright Young Things”--i.e., booksellers under 40 who are making a living in the rare book trade. We’ve done about 35 of these profiles over the past year, and we’re still going strong.

7. Craftsmanship has made a comeback. Whether learning (Center for Book Arts, American Academy of Bookbinding, North Bennet St. School) or buying (Etsy, Artfire, Renegade Craft Fairs), people have become more interested in handmade wares over the past few years.

6. College kids prefer print. You read that right! And not only do they prefer reading printed books for class, some of them are competition-level book collectors.

5. Vinyl returns. Some dislike the comparison, but vinyl--seen by many as an outmoded medium for the past twenty-five years--is hip again. Vinyl sales rose 36% last year. The lesson: a great product is impossible to beat.

4. Rare Book School flourishes. Last fall, the Rare Book School at The University of Virginia received a Mellon Grant of nearly $1 million to “reinvigorate bibliographical studies within the humanities.”

3. Books are worth millions. Not the majority, of course, but institutions and collectors invest in book culture and want to pass the torch, to the tune of $11.5 million, if necessary.

2. The Codex Book Fair succeeds. This year the Codex Book Fair in California had 175 exhibitors for its book fair and a sold-out symposium on book arts and papermaking. The New York Art Book Fair and the new LA Art Book Fair also rocked.

1. The Monkey’s Paw survives, thrives, and gets profiled in the New York Times. The Toronto antiquarian bookstore that received so much attention a couple of weeks ago is known for its quirky curation and its old-book vending machine. It is the bookshop of the future--a future full of super cool readers.

Yesterday, Rebecca wrote about the world’s tiniest book, recently published by a Japanese firm, which measures 0.75 x 0.75 mm.

On the other side of the equation, is the Earth Platinum Atlas - the largest atlas ever produced - which clocks in at an impressive 6 ft x 9 ft.  The Earth Platinum Atlas was in the news recently as the the publishing company behind it is seeking new investors to keep the project afloat.

The Atlas is being published by Millenium Publishing, a company established by the Australian publisher Gordon Cheers in 2005 with the primary goal of producing this book.  The idea had been rejected by a variety of mainstream publishers due to its extraordinary high price tag.

At a reputed cost of $1m+ to produce the 31 copies of the Earth Platinum Atlas, it’s not hard to see why.

Millenium has thus far sold seven copies of the book, which retail for $100,000.

A copy of the Earth Platinum Atlas resides in the British Library, along with the freshly de-throned Klencke Atlas, which has held the title of World’s Largest Atlas since King Charles II ascended to the throne of England.  

In 1660.

The Klencke Atlas - produced with 17th century technology - measures a puny 5 ft 9 by 6 ft 3.  

It was only publicly displayed for the first time three years ago in 2010.

[Promotional images gleaned from Millennium House and the British Library respectively]


Last week Toppan Printing Co. of Japan announced its creation of the world’s tiniest book, measuring 0.75 by 0.75 mm. The images and lettering in this 22-page book on flowers are nearly microscopic, which is why a magnifying glass comes with the book for the purchase price of ¥29,400 ($308). 

Toppan has been making miniature books since 1964, but this lilliputian book was made using high-tech currency printing techniques. It is currently on display at the Toppan Printing Museum in Tokyo.  

The company plans to apply to Guinness World Records for official recognition. The current record is held by a Russian book that measures 0.9 by 0.9 mm. 

Draw your own alphabet

“Draw Your Own Alphabets: Thirty Fonts to Scribble, Sketch, & Make your Own,” by Tony Seddon; Princeton Architectural Press, $19.95, 160 pages, ages 12-up.

(Available April 9, 2013)


Draw Your Own Alphabets: Thirty Fonts to Scribble, Sketch, & Make your Own Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, NY. 

This book takes the art of custom-drawn fonts, - lively, hand-drawn letters often perfected by middle school adepts - to an extraordinary level of sophistication. British graphic designer Tony Seddon opens the manual with a primer on the history of hand-lettering, including tips for perfecting one’s craft, the pros and cons of tracing, and understanding the basic structure of letterforms. Seddon teaches the proper techniques to create funky, personalized fonts in this very hands-on workbook.

The thirty alphabet fonts all are custom drawn by a team of young designers and illustrators who each reveal a little about themselves and the inspiration for their fonts. For example, artist Michelle Tilly discovered the origins for her “Spotty Fairground” font by observing antique signs on a Bristol pier.


Draw Your Own Alphabets: Thirty Fonts to Scribble, Sketch, & Make your Own  Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, NY. 

There is a style here to suit any mood and personality, ranging from the Pacman-inspired “Butterman,” to “Topiary” where the letters resemble leafy bushes. My favorite font is the “Octobet.” This intricately detailed font is influenced by the Norse legend of the fearsome sea-monster, the Kraken.  

Seddon concludes with a useful section on how to use one’s fonts by digitizing them.  A glossary of terms as well as an anatomy of principal font features rounds out the book. This isn’t necessarily a book geared towards children, but placed in the right hands it would no doubt be lovingly received and perhaps nurture grains of artistic creativity.  A perceptive child might also enjoy reading the included designers’ biographies.


Draw Your Own Alphabets: Thirty Fonts to Scribble, Sketch, & Make your Own  Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, NY. 

To continue reading, visit me at Literary Features Syndicate

The Folio Society was named yesterday as the sponsor of a new international prize in fiction.  The £40,000 Folio Prize will be awarded for the first time in 2014 to the best fiction written in the English language.  Unlike the Booker, the new prize will be open to American writers, allowing literary luminaries such as Cormac McCarthy and Joyce Carol Oates to compete with Ian McEwan and Hilary Mantel.

Andrew Kidd, a London literary agent, originated the idea in 2011 in the midst of a public debate about the future of the Booker prize.  Some felt the Booker was heading in a worrisome direction when judges remarked that they were looking for “readability” or books that “zip along” in addition to literary merit.  Kidd wants to keep the focus more specifically on literary fiction with the hopes of bringing literary gems to a wider audience.

The Folio Society was announced as the surprise sponsor yesterday in the British press.  The Folio Society - who needs no introduction on this blog - was proud to be a part of the new prize.  Its managing director, Toby Hartwell, was quoted in the Guardian saying he was won over by the idea “of recognizing literature of enduring value and celebrating books that will be read not just in five years time but in 100 years’ time.”

Presumably the Folio Society will try to make some sort of arrangement with publishers to produce Folio Society editions of the prize winners.  This could initiate a whole new series of books for Folio Society collectors.
JA.jpgYou either love Jane, or you don’t. Me, I’m a Janeite. So when a new biography appeared last month titled The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, I rejoiced! And the good news is that--unlike most of the Austen material flooding the market--this book delivers.

Written by Paula Bryne, author of the acclaimed Evelyn Waugh biography, Mad World, this new bio of Austen takes an innovative approach: Byrne collects a set of objects from Austen’s world and uses each as a jumping off point to talk about one aspect of the author’s life. For example, an East Indian shawl calls forth some family history, and a card of lace purchased in London conjures a time when Austen was perhaps preparing for the “marriage market” in Bath. Red velvet cushions are wonderfully evocative, and it turns out they can tell us a lot about the fine houses Austen visited and wrote about (Humphry Repton, known for his “Red Books” quite fittingly has a cameo in this chapter.)

It’s a rare biographer who can write a serious book that is immensely readable. For me, the description and study of the objects and the emphasis on material culture makes Byrne’s achievement all the greater. It tugs at my antiquarian side, and as someone who has studied book history, I found her insight into this subject using Austen’s childhood notebooks, a subscription list, a royalty cheque, and Austen’s lap desk encouraging for the discipline.

I would love to ask Byrne about the Austen ring sold last year at auction for $236,557. What does that humble gold and gemstone ring tell us about what was important to the author, or what relationship did it inform? Those are the kinds of questions Byrne takes up when she discusses Austen’s topaz cross in chapter 14 or a painted ivory miniature in chapter 11. By rummaging through her “things,” we see Austen at a personal level, and she’s as amazing as ever. 

First, let’s get February’s sales recapped, then we’ll take a look at March.

- Bonhams sold Fine Books & Manuscripts on 17 February, in 300 lots (results). A 1619 Mercator atlas sold for $27,500, and an inscribed original “Peanuts” strip fetched $25,000. The copy of Bien’s Audubon failed to sell.

- PBA Galleries sold Rare Books & Manuscripts on 18 February, in 225 lots (results). The top lot was a copy of the second volume (only) of the first book edition of The Federalist, which sold for $16,800. The collection of all sixteen printings of the first edition of the Alcoholic Anonymous Big Book and the first issue King James Bible didn’t sell.

- At Bonhams on 18 February, Printed Books and Maps, in 436 lots (results). A collection of ~70 maps of Germany and Eastern Europe (mostly C16-18) made £16,875.

- Bloomsbury sold the Beatrix Potter Collection of Mark Ottignon on 27 February, in 307 lots (results). A first issue of The Tale of Peter Rabbit sold for £20,000.

- Also at Bloomsbury, on 28 February, Literature, Manuscripts & Modern First Editions, in 386 lots (results). The two lots of Hester Thrale Piozzi letters were the main attraction, selling for £26,000 and £15,000.

- On 28 February at PBA Galleries, Rare Golf Books, Clubs & Memorabilia from the collection of Georgia Dyer Burnett, in 391 lots (results). A copy of History of the Edinburgh Burgess Golfing Society was the top lot, at $8,400.

And here’s what’s coming up for the rest of March:

- On 11 March, ALDE sells the Bibliothèque du Chateau de La Plagne, in 331 lots.

- PBA Galleries sells Fine Literature, Children’s Books, &c. on 14 March, in 621 lots. A Hemingway family photo album and a first printer Tender is the Night with later jacket are each estimated at $10,000-15,000.

- There will be a Bibliophile sale at Bloomsbury on 14 March, in 579 lots.

- Bonhams sells Books, Maps, Manuscripts & Historical Photographs on 19 March, in 235 lots.

- Also at Bonhams, on 20 March, The Xi’an Incident: The Papers of Hyland “Bud” Lyon, in just eight lots.

- At Christie’s London on 20 March, The Library of a Spanish Bibliophile, in 427 lots.

- Bloomsbury sells Travel, Topographical, Sporting and Natural History Books, Maps, Prints and Photographs on 21 March, in 366 lots.

- No preview yet for the PBA sale of Rare Americana and African American History on 28 March.


The London Review of Books published a lost Charlotte Bronte story last week entitled, “L’Ingratitude.”  The seven paragraph story was written in French as a homework assignment for Charlotte’s French tutor while she was living in Brussels in 1842.

The writer Brian Bracken found the story in the Musée royal de Mariemont of Brussels, where he was researching Charlotte’s tutor Constantin Heger.  The last time the story surfaced was in 1913 when Heger’s son, Paul, gave the letter to a wealthy Belgian collector.  That was the same year Heger donated love letters from Charlotte to Constantin to the British Museum, making Charlotte’s infatuation with her tutor public for the first time.  The revelation caused a minor public uproar.

Charlotte moved to Brussels at the age of 25 in 1842, accompanied by her sister Emily, to study on the Continent in the hopes of acquiring the skills and accomplishments necessary to open her own school.  While there, she quickly fell in love with the married Heger, who did not return the sentiment.  The experience affected her deeply and served as the inspiration for both “Vilette” and “The Professor.”

Charlotte’s lost story, “L’Ingratitude,” is about a rat who regrettably leaves behind the protection of his family to seek adventure in countryside.  The London Review of Books printed the full text of “L’Ingratitude” in the original French and the translated English.  They have also included an embedded link of an audio file of Gillian Anderson reading the story.

In San Francisco later this week, a remarkable 100-page photo and memorabilia album belonging to the Hemingway family will go to auction for an estimated $10,000-15,000. The album contains 121 sepia-silverprint photographs, nearly all of which are identified in the handwriting of Ursula Hemingway, Ernest’s younger sister. The flyleaf proclaims the album to be hers, “Book IV from July 1st 1913 to July 1 1916, Eleven years 2 months to Fourteen years and 2 months old.” 

Hemingway Photo Album.jpgThe Hemingway family’s photos aren’t so different from a modern family’s vacation shots -- images of children playing, family dinners, group portraits. Many of these were taken at the Walloon Lake summer house in Northern Michigan, a haven for the Hemingway family. Young Ernest features in 21 of the images. In the page seen here, the top photo shows “July  21, 1913 -- Ernest’s birthday,” and he is seen fishing at bottom left. Other memorabilia, including a printed birth announcement for Leicester Hemingway, recital programs, postcards, letters to Ursula, and about thirty pieces of original art drawn by Ursula, are contained within in the flexible morocco binding. 

The album has survived with the Hemingway family until now, descending from Ursula, who died in 1966, to her daughter and family. It’s hard to imagine a Hemingway collector who wouldn’t jump at the chance to own this very personal piece of his history. A later photo album, family copies of Ernest’s books, inscribed copies, and other related items (lots 64-77) are also on offer at PBA Galleries on Thursday.

Image/PBA Galleries.

The Olive Fairy Book

“The Olive Fairy Book,” by Andrew Lang, illustrated by Kate Baylay; The Folio Society, $84.95, 296 pages. 

 In late January, author Jane Yolen - considered by many to be the ‘Hans Christian Andersen’ of her generation  - spoke with me about the introduction she wrote to theFolio Society’s The Olive Fairy Book, a new edition of fairy tales originally published in 1907 by Scottish author Andrew Lang. We also talked about heroes, magic, and discovering hope through storytelling.image

THE OLIVE FAIRY BOOK Reproduced by permission of the publisher, The Folio Society, London. 

The Folio Society & Andrew Lang

There are twelve Fairy books, and the Olive Fairy is the eleventh in the series. As a child Yolen read many, if not all, of the Rainbow Fairy series. In the introduction to the Folio Society’s edition she highlights three of her favorite stories- ‘Jackal or Tiger,’ ‘Samba the Coward,’ and ‘Kupti and Imani.’

“I’m pretty sure I read them all as a child. I was one of those childhood readers who, once I found something that I loved, I would seek out everything that was related to it.” The Olive Fairy Book includes all the elements necessary for riveting reading - heroic princes, wise fairies, talking animals, evil trolls, and witches. While being a prolific writer of children’s novels and poetry, Lang was recognized as a leading authority on world folklore and mythology.

Bound elegantly in olive green cloth, this edition of The Olive Fairy is itself a work of art, featuring an Art Deco frontispiece and bright gold illustrations by British artist Kate Baylay. Inside, readers will find more visual feasts- twelve full-color illustrations and thirteen black and white drawings.

Yolen discussed the era that inspired the artwork, and why it is wholly appropriate for this edition. “This book was published originally in 1907, which is when arts and crafts, art nouveau and art deco all come together.” 

Yet as beautiful as these pictures are, this edition is perhaps most appropriate for older readers.  “I think the pictures in this book are exquisite. But they’re also not for children. They’re very sexy, very dark; some are quite violent. It’s exquisite bookmaking and of course the Folio Society is known for that. And the price reflects that; it’s for collectors. You can get the edition in paperback for very little money, but the point of this kind of book is that it’s an art object.” If a collector wishes to acquire the entireRainbow Fairy series, The Folio Society is issuing all twelve of the books, each similarly designed and illustrated by a contemporary artist. The Olive Fairy Book is the tenth to be published.


THE OLIVE FAIRY BOOK Copyright © 2013 by Kate Baylay. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, The Folio Society, London. 

At least once a summer for the past twenty years Yolen has visited the gravesite of Andrew Lang in St. Andrews, Scotland, partly because his work played a significant role in her development as a writer. “He was one of the most important ones [to me.] And I happen to have a house there. When writers visit, I’ll take them to the grave. Or if I’m on my own I’ll go. It isn’t that I’m genuflecting at his grave, it just happens to be a lovely grave with a beautiful Celtic cross on it.”

In a classic example of serendipity, Yolen was unaware of the writer’s presence in the town before settling there with her late husband, David Stemple. “I didn’t even know about the connection when I first moved there. My husband was a professor of computer science, and took his second sabbatical at St. Andrews.” (Now she spends her summers there, and returns to her home in western Massachusetts each winter.) After some poking around, Yolen found a chapel with a plaque dedicated to Andrew Lang. “I discovered that Lang was buried on the cathedral grounds. It was a hunt.”

In November 2012, Yolen was the 22nd person and the first woman to deliver the annual Andrew Lang Lecture at the university, which was also celebrating the centennial of Lang’s death. “Every academic in Cambridge has lectured here. The month after I was born, in March 1939, an Oxford professor named J.R.R Tolkien gave the lecture, which became the iconic essay on fairy stories - and really changed my life as a writer.  So St. Andrews asked me, and I said, ‘How can I follow in these footsteps?’ As I said to the audience, ‘Here I am, walking in Tolkien’s shoes, who walked in Lang’s shoes -- why not give me a ring and point me towards Modor?’”

To continue reading about The Olive Fairy Book, read my full review at Literary Features Syndicate! 

Richard_III_earliest_surviving_portrait.jpgA rare book formerly owned by Richard III - and bearing his signature - has gone on public display for the first time since it was compiled 550 years ago.  The book is part of the new exhibition “The Kings Body: Richard III King of England 1483 - 1485” at Longleat House in Wiltshire.  

Richard III has been the subject of a resurgence in interest ever since archaeologists uncovered his bones last month at the formerly lost site of Greyfriars Church in Leicester.  Immortalized by Shakespeare’s play, Richard III’s controversial personality and historical influence continues to be debated by scholars.

The book, written on vellum, includes stories by Chaucer as well as other popular writers of the 15th century.  It is one of only thirteen surviving books from Richard III’s library.  Above his signature, in neat and educated handwriting, is a French line: “Tant le desieree,” which translates to “So much desired.” Richard signed the book as “R Gloucester,” as he was still a teenager when the book was given to him and his only title was Duke of Gloucester.

RichardIII_side_02.jpgThe book was purchased by Thomas Thynne, the First Viscount Weymouth, as part of a collection of medieval manuscripts in 1709.  It has been housed at Longleat House ever since, still in the care of the Thynne family.

The exhibition at Longleat also includes a First Folio from 1623.

Longleat_House.jpg[Images from Wikipedia and Longleat House]

As Oscar Wilde put it, “The birds are singing for joy of the Spring’s glad birth.” The New-York Historical Society is set to open part one of a major, three-part exhibition featuring all 474 original watercolors related to the double-elephant folio first edition of Audubon’s Birds of America. NYHS acquired all but one of the watercolors in 1863 from the artist’s widow, Lucy Bakewell Audubon. She also sent all 435 watercolor models.

1863_17_039_TuftedTitmouse.jpgAudubon’s Aviary: The Complete Flock, Part I, on view March 8 - May 19, will display the artist’s watercolors in the order in which they were engraved--and received by original subscribers. It will showcase more than 200 avian watercolors, the first 175 models, and a range of objects from the NYHS’s Auduboniana collection, including a handwritten draft, Robert Havell’s engraved copper plates, hand-colored proofs, and various documents related to the book’s publication.

Even if The Birds of America was not the most expensive printed book ever sold at auction, this exhibit would still be a must for bibliophiles. A lavishly illustrated and award-winning book by Roberta J.M. Olson, curator of drawings at the New-York Historical Society, complements the exhibit.

Coincidentally, Abbeville Press has just published a new baby elephant folio printing of Birds of America, derived from the original plates of the National Audubon Society’s archival copy of the original, with text by Roger Tory Peterson and Virginia Marie Peterson.

Image caption: John James Audubon (1785-1851), Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), Study for Havell pl. no. 39, 1822. Watercolor, graphite, gouache, and black ink with touches of black chalk and glazing on paper, laid on card; 18 5/8 x 11 11/16; in. (47.3 x 29.7 cm). New-York Historical Society, Purchased for the Society by public subscription from Mrs. John J. Audubon, 1863.17.39

Today’s post is a guest blog from Zhenya Dzhavgova, proprietor of ZH Books in California and a former profile in our Bright Young Things series. She writes about the significant relief effort recently undertaken by the book trade to rescue Blue Jacket Books in Ohio after the store lost 20,000 books in the aftermath of a burst water pipe.

Several weeks ago, every antiquarian book dealer’s worst nightmare was realized when, over the course of a few hours, Blue Jacket Books in Xenia, Ohio effectively ceased to exist. Word spread around the book world of the calamitous sequence of events which began overnight with a burst water pipe in the building housing the bookshop and ended up with half of the entire inventory being reduced to a sad, unrecognizable, soggy mess. To add insult to the injury of thousands of independent bookstores closing down and doomsayers professing the end of books as we know them - a simple fact glared, to wit: money helps but money cannot instantaneously replace an inventory of carefully picked and assembled books the way money buys a replacement car from the neighborhood dealership. Fortunately, what started as a disaster ended up as the ultimate tribute to collegial camaraderie, friendship, and true appreciation for books and for one of our own.

Members of ABAA (Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America) and IOBA (Independent Online Booksellers Association), two trade organizations for booksellers, were notified. The ABAA came through with a generous financial donation from its Benevolent Fund, a non-profit charity fund intended to assist any antiquarian bookseller in time of need. Hank Salerno of H&R Salerno first raised the alarm on the IOBA internal network closely followed by Elizabeth Svendsen, proprietor of Walkabout Books in Xenia and former owner of the destroyed bookshop which she had sold to Dr. Lawrence Hammar a few years earlier. The response was immediate and swift. We simply refused to accept the involuntary demise of a bookstore. Mark Lambert of Cereal City Books dropped a bomb with an announcement which Lorne Bair of Lorne Bair Rare Books deemed “one of the most generous gestures I have ever encountered in the book business.” Having decided to focus on his developing bindery, Mark offered to donate his entire inventory of about 4,000 books to Dr. Hammar. It turned out that Mark also had a strong personal connection to Xenia where his great-great-grandfather had lived, farmed, and raised a family during the Civil War. Many others, though not able to nearly match Mark’s number, immediately began assembling boxes of good solid stock to ship to Blue Jacket Books. Meanwhile, amidst emails flying and arrangements being made, Stephen of Allington Antiquarian Books, LLC had the presence of mind to point out that transporting the thousands of books comprising the inventory of Cereal City Books from Michigan to Ohio would put a tremendous financial stress on Mark. Problem solved: IOBA members from as far away as Great Britain offered to send money to offset the cost of renting a truck, boxing, and driving the massive load of 180 cartons. With the news coming in of a kind landlord offering his commercial space just a few doors down from the soaked former premises, what came to be called “The Xenia Relief Project” was set in motion. Mark made the interstate trek on February 22 - bringing all-around best wishes, leftover cash from the generous donations, and, of course, thousands of books.

In the meantime, concerned citizens and booklovers from the region had also gathered to help. Volunteers worked, with no power and in 8 degree weather, to remove the damaged books and set up the new place. Somebody brought a home-cooked meal for the workers. A retired professor donated 104 boxes of books from his personal collection. A little Cub Scout from Jamestown, Ohio made everybody cry when he walked in and put $1.12 in change in Dr. Hammar’s hand while solemnly announcing: “I emptied my piggy-bank for you so you can buy more books.” The same child and his mother later organized a Boy Scout book drive. The “Book Nook” on WYSO-FM did a piece on the disaster and the consequent developments. The whole community rallied to prevent another bookshop from going on the “endangered species” trade list.

In the end, Dr. Hammar - a former college professor of anthropology and a true lover of books - got a semblance of his old business back in less than 4 weeks. We, as an organization, got the satisfaction of helping a colleague and the assurance that we have each other’s backs. The community of Xenia, Ohio got a new-old bookstore. I would not go as far as saying that one day Hammar would look back and laugh at the memories but he would certainly remember the happy parts of the story fondly. As will everybody else who believes that books of the old-fashioned paper kind are here to stay.

Opening tomorrow at New York’s Gagosian Gallery is an exhibit titled Ed Ruscha: Books & Co. Ruscha, who once said, “I want to be the Henry Ford of book making,” wanted to make artists’ books accessible to a wider audience. His first photobook, Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1962), was a series of photos of gas stations along Rt. 66. It originally sold for $3.50. According to the gallery’s press release, the book received a poor reception at first and was even rejected by the Library of Congress for its “unorthodox form.” But the ensuing years have been kinder to the book, now considered one of the first modern artists’ books. (Looks like a first edition goes for about $7,500-8,500). The Los Angeles-based artist followed up with other photo-conceptual books, Various Small Fires, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, Thirtyfour Parking Lots, Real Estate Opportunities, and A Few Palm Trees.

The current exhibition is not of Ruscha’s own work--that was held last fall--but of contemporary art that responds to or is inspired by Ruscha’s seminal debut. It runs through April 27. Homage is also paid in a coinciding book, Various Small Books: Referencing Various Small Books by Ed Ruscha (MIT Press, $39.95).

Ruscha, who studied commercial design and typography, told the New York Times last week, “I love books, the physical objects of them ... My interest was always in books and how to make them.” The article goes on to talk about the value of printed books--catalogues, zines, art books--and the intimacy they evoke, particularly for artists.

Catalogue Review: Lorne Bair, One Hundred Recent Arrivals

What I have at hand is not one of Lorne Bair’s “major” catalogues (one of which we reviewed in 2011), but it is a handy printed catalogue containing 100 new acquisitions, some of which he may have already sold at the California fair, and some of which he is likely to have for this weekend’s fair in Washington D.C. and next weekend’s Florida Antiquarian Book Fair in St. Petersburg. 

But a small catalogue makes a big splash when it is filled, as this one is, with so many good-looking books. Bair, as some may know, specializes in the history, art, and literature of American social movements. His offerings are often visually striking, and sometimes bizarre (in a good way). This catalogue features modern literature, he explains in a brief introduction, from a major collection of 19th- and 20th-century American literature. And while he calls it, “100 Books You’ve Totally Heard Of,” some aren’t seen terribly often, e.g. a first edition of Mary Poppins, in the pretty pictorial jacket in near fine condition ($950), or the American edition of E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, in its scarce, text-heavy dustwrapper ($2000), or William Carlos Williams’ five-volume poem, Paterson, in near fine condition with original jackets ($1,750), or the American edition of John Dos Passos’ first book, One Man’s Initiation, in dust jacket ($1,500). 

There are also firsts from the standards: Faulkner, Hemingway, Hammett, Kerouac, O’Connor, Steinbeck, and Twain. Modern firsts collectors, take note.

I’d be insanely happy to have the first edition of Tim O’Brien’s If I Die in a Combat Zone, with a bookplate signed by the author inserted ($1,200). The book is near fine, the jacket is near fine, the signature is clear, and it is the work of a brilliant writer. I’m sure others out there might feel the same way about the 1954 Grove Press first English edition of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, the “best copy we have seen,” writes the bookseller ($3,750). If so, you know where to find it. 

Auction Guide