April 2013 Archives

In 1975, the librarian at Lambeth Palace (the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury) noticed there were gaps in the library’s holdings.  He concluded that roughly 60 volumes were missing, including an early edition of Shakespeare, and several important works related to exploration and discovery such as Bry’s America. The theft was reported to the police, who investigated the trail, but came up empty-handed.  Nothing more was heard about the case for nearly 40 years.

Then, in February of 2011, the books were discovered hidden away in a London attic.  The thief, who had just passed away, left a full confession with his solicitor and included directions to the attic where he hid the books.  In effect, the thief willed the stolen books back to the library.  When investigators entered the attic, however, they found many more books than the 60 originally thought missing. In the end, the final number of stolen volumes was closer to 1,400.  

The library revealed the news to the British press on Monday, after having spent the past two years conducting restoration work on the books.  Many of them were damaged by the thief, who had attempted to remove ownership markings.  Despite his efforts to obscure the provenance of the books, the thief does not appear to have sold any of them.  

While details of the theft remain unclear, it appears the thief had some sort of connection with the library at Lambeth Palace.

Sea Monsters cover low res.jpgThere are few things quite so charming as the images of sea monsters that turn up on old maps -- personal favorite: the map of Iceland surrounded by sea monsters done by Abraham Ortelius in 1585. What’s charming to me, however, was terrifying to sailors for centuries.

Now those sea monsters are getting some deserved scholarly attention, thanks to Chet Van Duzer, an invited research scholar at the John Carter Brown Library and soon-to-be research curator in the geography & maps division at the Library of Congress. His new book, Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps (British Library/U. of Chicago Press, $35), is illustrated with 147 color images. Van Duzer analyzes the most important examples of this decorative cartography from the tenth century to the end of the sixteenth, examining each mapmaker’s sources and influences.

Van Duzer is also the co-author of last year’s Seeing the World Anew: The Radical Vision of Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 & 1516 World Maps.

Have Popup, Will Travel

Rome : A 3-D Keepsake Cityscape, by Kristyna Litten, Paper Engineering by Gus Clarke ; Candlewick Press,  $8.99, 15 pages, all ages.

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ROME: A 3D KEEPSAKE CITYSCAPE. Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Kristyna Litten. Text copyright © 2012 by Walker Books Ltd. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.


The Keepsake Cityscape series began in 2011 with a miniature foldout guidebook to New York City. The series has since expanded to include popular destinations such as Paris, London, and Washington, D.C. Each volume is presented in a lovely little slipcase.


The most recent publication shares the pleasures of strolling through Rome, from visiting the Villa Borghese to exploring the inner workings of the Colliseum. Author-illustrator Kristyna Litten skillfully renders twelve of the Eternal City’s attractions with lively and bright mixed media illustrations. 


Although these books are marketed to children, I’ve been collecting them from the start. They are a unique travel companion, and are small enough to tuck away in a luggage side pocket.  Most volumes have been written and illustrated by different authors, which makes these more interesting than the average mass-produced tourist novelty.  And for less than ten dollars, each of these pleated jewels can share their global tales on the same stretch of shelf.   

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Nine letters written by a young J. D. Salinger to a fellow aspiring writer in the early 1940s were recently acquired by the Morgan Library and Museum. The two year correspondence began in 1941 when Salinger was only 22 years old and experiencing his first brush with literary success with stories published in Esquire and Collier’s and upcoming stories in The New Yorker. Salinger’s early correspondent was Marjorie Sheard, a young Canadian woman who had read Salinger’s first published stories and wrote to him seeking advice.

“Seems to me you have the instincts to avoid the usual Vassar-girl tripe,” Salinger wrote to Sheard. “You can’t go around buying Cadillacs on what the small mags pay, but that doesn’t really matter, does it?”

Salinger’s letters, which were shared with The New York TImes, contain tantalizing references to short stories that were either lost or never came to fruition.  Salinger was working on one story entitled Harry Jesus which he said would “doubtless tear the country’s heart out, and return the thing a new and far richer organ.”  The fate of the story remains unknown.

Marjorie Sheard, who is now 95 years old, saved the letters for 70 years in a shoe box in her closet.  She and her family recently made the decision to sell the letters in order to pay for the cost of her care.

The Morgan has declined to reveal the amount of money paid for the letters, which offer a rare glimpse into the early character of the notoriously reclusive Salinger.
At $2.5 million, Jonathan Singer’s Botanica Magnifica is considered the most expensive new book ever produced. Now, you can own one for $11.95.

Botanica.jpgThe hand-bound, double-elephant folio of flower photography was created in an edition of ten in 2008-2009 (we profiled Singer in our July/August 2008 issue). Last month, Abbeville Press published an unabridged, palm-sized “Tiny Folio” edition of Singer’s masterwork. In 376 pages, there are 250 full-color photographs, with text describing each specimen’s botany, geography, history, and conservation.

Singer was a New Jersey podiatrist with a great eye before his botanical photography became so popular. Using his Hasselblad camera, he began photographing rare and exotic plants. When a curator of botany at the Smithsonian saw some of Singer’s images, he invited Singer to have a look at the museum’s greenhouse. Singer ended up snapping 750 pictures there; he selected 250 to print and publish as Botanica Magnifica. Singer also recently published Fine Bonsai: Art & Nature.

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Primula auricle, from Botanica Magnifica

Incidentally, Abbeville Press has an impressive list of Tiny Folio editions of art/museum collections (e.g., Audubon’s Birds of America, Morgan Library’s Illuminated Manuscripts). Take a peek.

Images courtesy of Abbeville Press.

A crowdfunding campaign is currently underway to create a limited edition letterpress book of quotes from Leopold Bloom, protagonist of Ulysses.  Entitled The Works of Master Poldy, Yes the book will be a collaborative, trans-Atlantic effort between Jamie Murphy, a Dublin based letterpress printer and designer, and Steve Cole, a Joyce fanatic in Baltimore.  The creators hope to release the book on June 16th, a date better known to Joyce fans as Bloomsday.

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Murphy and Cole previously collaborated on letterpress broadsides inspired by Ulysses, which are now sold out.  (Cole is also behind the multimedia LiberateUlysses project, which encourages multimedia engagement with Joyce’s work). Their idea for “The Words of Master Poldy” came from the source itself. Toward the end of Joyce’s masterpiece, Molly Bloom references assembling a book of quotes from her husband. She declares, “somebody ought to put him in the budget if I only could remember the one half of the things and write a book out of it the works of Master Poldy yes.”  

Now that the Euoprean copyright on Joyce’s published materials has expired, someone can.  Murphy and Cole plan to produce the entire book by hand, using a combination of metal and wood type with their letterpress.

The book will be officially published by The Salvage Press, a newly created entity by Murphy that has the goal of “preserving, promoting and pursuing excellence in design, typography and letterpress printing.” The Works of Master Poldy, Yes will be its first publication.

If you pitch into the crowdfunding campaign, a variety of perks can be had at various contribution levels.  If you want the book itself, 280 euros will secure you one of the 100 being produced. 400 euros will buy you a deluxe edition, one of twelve, which will be hand bound in quarter leather with several hidden extras.  Other perks, for less money, include postcards, posters, and broadsides.

Typically historical documents aren’t seen as quick-turnaround investments, but the confirmation of the discovery of Richard III’s bones in Leicester this past February turned that notion, well, on its skull. 


Case in point: at an auction in Los Angeles earlier this month, a manuscript letter signed by the short-lived royal monarch sometime in the 1470s, was bid up to $43,681 in extended online and phone bidding (the actual purchase price is $52,417, adding in the 20% buyers’ premium). The auction house, Nate D. Sanders, Inc., says it had 13 bids, from the United States and the United Kingdom. The buyer, Nate Sanders said, is from the UK. 


As a relatively old and rare object, the price is hardly shocking, especially considering Richard’s rarity, and yet, this very same document was last seen at auction only five months ago, at Christie’s London on November 21, 2012, when it sold for about $18,000 less (£16,000/$24,150, or £21,250/$33,750 with the 25% premium; our auction columnist Ian McKay covered the sale in our current issue.) Is the five-figure return in such a short period of time due to the recent exhumation and international interest in the king’s skeleton? 


“He’s so rare even without the recent discovery,” said Sanders, who agreed nonetheless that this pre-discovery investment proved wise. 


C-Richard III.jpgThe restored paper document dates to the 1470s when Richard was in his twenties and still the Duke of Gloucester. In the pedestrian letter, he intervenes in a land dispute between the 2nd Earl of Westmorland and his tenants. The letter was once sealed with his signet ring. 


In better condition, Sanders estimated a Richard III document might sell for as much as $200,000. The scorned king’s documents have been scarce at auction. Last year, Christie’s estimated that fewer than a dozen early Richard III letters were known, all of them “either in public archives or now untraced.” 


But with so much media attention focused on the discovery, the DNA evidence, and the debate over where the last king of the Plantagenet dynasty’s remains will ultimately rest, will we see more Richard III collectibles surface?


Dickon Dearman, owner of Churchgate Auctions, in Leicester, UK, recently told the Leicester Mercury, “There’s certainly been more interest following the discovery, but you’d expect that. When something like this comes into the public eye, people tend to get related items revalued and you find more items are put up for auction. It also has an effect on price - values tend to go up if things become more widely known.”


Image: Courtesy of Christie’s.

The fifty-third annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair welcomed booksellers from all over America, and many came from across the Atlantic as well.  French sellers presented their treasures with typical Gallic flair, charm and grace. Below I share three of my favorite bouquinistes at the Fair and some of their eye-catching wares.

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Children’s and Juvenile

            More than two dozen dealers at the Fair specialized in children’s books, and two were from Paris.  Michèle Noret, whose shop is nestled in the tony sixteenth arrondissement, brought lovely examples of children’s literature from around the globe. Her most intriguing items were Soviet-era volumes printed for budding Communists.  One choice example was a second edition 1927 primer called Lenin for Children. Available for two thousand dollars, the book includes thirty-one full-page illustrations by Russian painter Boris Mikhailovitch Kustodiev, whose paintings had previously shown at the 1906 Paris Salon.  


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            Hailing from near Montmartre in the eighteenth arrondissement, Chez les Librairies Associés brought books covering a wide thematic selection (such as calligraphy and moveable books). They also enticed passers-by with beautiful children’s collectibles. Among their wares were seven titles illustrated by acclaimed Russian artist Ivan Bilbin, known for his renderings of Russian folk tales. One of those volumes, from the 1937 Père Castor series, was a fine first-edition of H.A. Andersen’s La Petite sirène for $350.


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 Parties and Celebrations

            Libraries Benoît Forgeot (you’ll find them on rue de l’Odéon in the sixth) brought an outstanding collection of illustrated books celebrating holidays and festivals spanning the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries.  Available for a tidy $80,000, one particularly sumptuous volume was a perfectly conserved depiction of a 1688 regatta. The boating event was organized in honor of the marriage of Ferdinand de Médicis, Grand Prince of Tuscany and Yolande-Béatrice.  Fourteen gorgeously illustrated in-folio plates by Alessandro Della Via portray the extravagant festivities. An image from the book also graced the bookseller’s most recent catalogue. (see below) 

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Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Joe Fay, manager of the rare books department for Heritage Auctions in Texas.

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How did you get started in rare books?

I’ve visited a bookstore at least once a week since I was 11 years old. There is a chain of used bookstores founded in the Dallas area called Half Price Books. There were two in my childhood hometown of Arlington, Texas. Between HPB, the little paperback shop down the street from my house, and the school library, my interest in books started young. My interest in rare books and manuscripts, however, began while in college in Austin, specifically the day when I learned that I could go to the Harry Ransom Center and hold in my hands the original manuscript for a Sherlock Holmes story (“A Scandal in Bohemia”). I couldn’t believe that I could just walk in the building, show them an ID, and get to read what, to me, is a priceless artifact of literary history. Later, while working at Half Price Books just after college, I ran into the Nicholas Basbanes books, the books about rare books by the Goldstones, the Rosenbach biography, and many other books-about-books in that vein. These tales of the rare book trade, the landmark auctions, and the people who inhabited this world further stoked an interest in working in the field of rare books. Then, after working a “real job” for awhile in medical informatics (yeah, it’s as exciting as it sounds), an opportunity came open at Heritage for an entry-level position in the Americana department. I jumped at the chance to work with objects of all types that ran the gamut of American history. Six or eight months later, my current boss, James Gannon migrated to Heritage Auctions from the recently-closed (and now revamped) Heritage Book Shop in Los Angeles. I volunteered to be his lieutenant, and the rare books department at Heritage Auctions was born.

What is your role at Heritage? Do you have a particular specialty?

I currently serve as the manager of, and one of the consignment directors for, the rare books department. I solicit consignments of rare books for our catalogs and also our weekly Internet auctions. On top of that, I manage our catalog production, serve as the main customer service contact for our department, and generally do whatever is necessary, including cataloging books for the main sales once the deadline has passed. I also handle appraisals, purchase the occasional collection for re-sell at auction, and travel all over the country securing consignments, and attending book fairs and appraisal fairs.

As an auctioneer, it really doesn’t pay to specialize. We see such a broad spectrum of material in printed books and manuscripts of all eras, maps, prints, original art, and more that we have to be generalists. I especially enjoy handling handpress period books and early American imprints, and have been able to learn more deeply about each from classes at Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. My particular personal interests are in genre fiction from the Romantic period to the present, including science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and most importantly, horror: Polidori and Shelley; the Sherlock Holmes books of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Arkham House imprints; H. P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury and Stephen King. And then all of the side roads, back alleys and dark, deserted streets that fork off from those subjects.

What do you love about book auction events, or more broadly, the book auction business?
 
There are many things to love about the book auction business. First, I’m lucky enough to work with books each day. I get to travel quite a bit, too. Also, as some of the other book dealers who’ve appeared in this series have said (and it holds true for the auction business), I just never know what I’m going to see next, what’s going to come across my desk each day, what kind of collection will be revealed in the next phone call, or what that Excel file attached to the next email will contain. No two days are remotely alike. Further, I generally just love talking about books with collectors and dealers, finding out what someone collects and trying to fill vacancies for them in their holdings. I often get to do this once the catalog is completed, and we start “selling the sale.” Lastly, there’s an excitement to auction day that is almost electric, at times. Sitting in the room last week in New York when the Francis Crick Nobel Prize medal sold for over $2 million, my hands were shaking as the increments climbed. Then, when the hammer fell, I felt my heart start again as the applause rolled through the crowd. We also set two world records at auction last week, one for an unsigned first printing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and one for an inscribed copy of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (inscribed to W. W. Jacobs, author of “The Monkey’s Paw”). Those are the kinds of results I’ll remember fondly even decades from now.

Favorite rare book that you’ve handled?

On a personal level, my single favorite book that I’ve handled at Heritage was the first book Stephen King ever signed, an advance proof copy of Carrie that King inscribed to his former college roommate, Phil “Flip” Thompson. It sold last year at our New York auction for $11,250. The inscription reads, “For Flip and Karen - two of the best there are - and I mean that - by the way, this is the first book I’ve signed in my life - it’s kind of fun. All the best, no matter what. Stephen King February 4, 1974.” Are you kidding me!? I’m a nostalgic fool, and sometimes it seems like Stephen King WAS my childhood. His books, and the films made from them, permeated the culture when I was growing up, and to hold the first book he ever signed was a religious moment for me.
 
What do you personally collect?

It’s changed over the years. At some point in the past, I’ve collected baseball cards, comic books, bookmarks, Star Wars toys, foam fingers from sporting events, chess sets, craft beer, movies, movie posters, silk-screened music posters, and Mr. Potato Heads. I still collect movie posters (generally genre movies and anything printed in the early days for the original Alamo Drafthouse), art made by my kids (which all but wallpapers the house and I LOVE it!), and a friend of mine recently introduced me to the wonderful world of mid-century furniture. I think I’ve finally settled on a few areas of book collecting, namely books about books, Lovecraft, Bradbury and King, scholarly works regarding the Sherlock Holmes stories, McSweeney’s publications, and any imprints, posters or ephemera published by the Harry Ransom Center (or the Humanities Research Center as it was once known).

I have a grand dream that someday I’ll have the time and wherewithal to collect together in one place every single printed and recorded expression of horror from the 1980s: novels, story collections, periodicals, posters, videos, ephemera, you name it. But I probably won’t live that long, make nearly enough money, or be able to stretch my wife’s patience that far.

Thoughts on the present and future of book auctions?

First of all, the “book” is here to stay. Period. And I’ll stand up and fight (with words, of course) anyone who says differently. Every generation sounds the death knell of the book, and it ain’t happened yet. Book auctions are only going to get better, I think. With the Internet and tools like the Heritage online bidding platform, Heritage Live!, anyone, anywhere, at any time of day or night can bid from his or her home, office, or wherever he or she can catch a wireless signal. As technology like this helps more people grow comfortable with bidding at auction, I think you’ll see it become an even bigger and more muscular vehicle for transmitting books directly to collectors and institutions.

Any upcoming auctions you’re particularly excited about?

I’m always excited about our next sale, which is October 10-11 in Beverly Hills. You can see it develop at www.ha.com/6100. It is early yet, but we’re working on some fantastic single items and collections for that catalog. Personally, I’m also always interested in the Illustration Art auctions (next one in July) and Movie Posters (also July, but I pay most attention to their weekly Internet auctions). Needless to say, there’s always something afoot at Heritage.

Paging Sarah Michelle Gellar, a.k.a. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (who also happens to be a book collector), ... a real set of vampire-killing tools is coming to auction


Screen shot 2013-04-16 at 8.21.59 PM.pngWhat’s inside is enough to scare the bejesus out of anyone. The wooden box contains three crucifixes, a bible, a mirror, a wooden mallet, a pistol, two wooden stakes, a powder-horn, three silver bullets, pliers, vials (for holy water), and a dagger decorated with ivory.  


Some believe that kits like these were sold to European travelers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to protect themselves from the undead, while others view them as souvenirs that cashed in on the popularity of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, first published in 1897.   


Similar sets have occasionally turned up at auction. At Sotheby’s last year, a smaller kit sold for $13,750. This one is conservatively estimated to sell for €8,000-12,000 ($10,477-15,716) when it goes under the hammer at Christie’s Paris next week.

Last week at the celebrated Roy Davids poetry sale at Bonham’s in London, poems by Charlotte Bronte and John Keats set new world records.  The sale on April 10, which was the first of a two part poetry sale to be continued on May 8, netted a very impressive £940,000 (almost $1.5m).

A major contributor to that number was an early poem by Charlotte Bronte, entitled “I’ve been wandering in the greenwoods,” which sold for a new world record of £92,450, doubling its estimate, and beating the last Bronte record by £30,000.  Bonham’s estimated that no more than four Bronte manuscript poems remain in private hands, with the vast majority of her 200 poems now residing in institutions.

“I’ve been wandering in the greenwoods” was written when Bronte was a scant thirteen years old, scribbled onto a tiny piece of paper measuring approximately 3 x 3 inches.  Today a magnifying glass is required to render the text legible.  The poem is signed “C. Bronte” and dated 14 December 1829.  

The poem, which surprised no one when it was revealed to be a moody celebration of nature, was first published in The Young Man’s Intelligencer, a literary journal edited by the young Bronte siblings.  The journal’s distribution extended throughout the entirety of the Bronte parsonage, with an estimated readership of three to five persons.  Accusations of nepotism may be justified.  Traditional barriers to publishing were blithely set aside by the young Charlotte, who assumed the editorship of The Young Man’s Intelligencer in 1829 -- and promptly published her own poem.

Here is “I’ve been wandering in the greenwoods” in its entirety:

I’ve been wandering in the greenwoods 
And mid flowery smiling plains 
I’ve been listening to the dark floods 
To the thrushes thrilling strains

I have gathered the pale primrose 
And the purple violet sweet 
I’ve been where the Asphodel grows 
And where lives the red deer fleet.

I’ve been to the distant mountain, 
To the silver singing rill 
By the crystal murmering fountain, 
And the shady verdant hill.

I’ve been where the poplar is springing 
From the fair Inamelled ground 
Where the nightingale is singing 
With a solemn plaintive sound.

Later this week New Orleans Auction Galleries will offer a very special copy of Sherwood Anderson and Other Famous Creoles: A Gallery of Contemporary New Orleans (1926) by William Spratling with introductory text by occasional New Orleans resident William Faulkner. The book was  published by the Pelican Bookshop Press in New Orleans in an edition of 250 and contains drawings of the author, Faulkner, and 41 of their French Quarter acquaintances--artists, musicians, academics, preservationists, socialites--with their uptown patrons. It was once described as “one of the great literary curiosities in the city’s history.” 


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Forty-one of the 43 persons featured in the book--all except Faulkner and artist Ronald Hargrave--signed this copy, which originally belonged  to Stella Lengsfield Lazard (Mrs. Henry Calme Lazard), who was herself on the fringes of the literary/bohemian circle. “Forty-one signatures is a record unlikely to be surpassed: the highest number I’d encountered before was 31, in a copy now missing,” writes John Shelton Reed. Reed used the book as a source for his recently published history, Dixie Bohemians: A French Quarter Circle in the 1920s.


A long post on the intricacies of this copy, those featured in the book, and speculation on why Faulkner didn’t sign it, is here


New Orleans Auction Gallery estimates that the book will fetch $2,500-4,000. Proceeds will benefit The Ogden Museum of Southern Art. And, as an added bonus, the winning bidder will also take home a signed copy of Reed’s Dixie Bohemians

NAL_BOOKBINDER12121_251557a_8col.jpgOne of our faithful contributors, book collector Maureen E. Mulvihill, sends news of a forthcoming guest presentation in St Petersburg, Florida, by Welsh-trained book restorer, David H. Barry. Barry (seen here at left) specializes in hand bookbinding, designer binding, and book/document restoration. 


The event is hosted by the Florida Bibliophile Society next Sunday, April 21, in Barry’s studio at Griffin Bookbinding. For more details, visit: http://www.floridabibliophilesociety.org/id2.html.

Yesterday I posted about my Friday at the Manhattan book fairs. I returned to the NYABF fair at the Armory on Saturday for another few hours of intense browsing. My first stop was row E, having only made it as far as D the day before. 


The double booth belonging to Ian Kahn/Lux Mentis and Brian Cassidy Bookseller, located in E, is the fun stop on the book fair tour. Fine press, avant-garde, music-related, and sex-related books and ephemera. A set of pink undergarments fashioned out of strips of pink paper on which are printed slang terms about women? Seen at Lux Mentis. A 1968 paper dress of Andy Warhol’s soup can design given away by Campbell’s to women who sent in two can labels and $1? Seen at Brian Cassidy. 


I also attended the Book Collecting 101 Seminar run by Brad and Jen Johnson of The Book Shop in Covina, CA. It was a great seminar on the basics, covering insuring collections, packing/shipping books, and my favorite, the “Don’t list”: Don’t Follow Fads; Don’t Buy Blindly; Don’t Settle, and Don’t “Invest.” I was also reminded that a $5 Mylar cover is a necessary investment for a fine book (Note to self...). 


Other booth highlights included Phillip J. Pirages, where I scanned some stunning illuminated manuscript leaves. They don’t fit into any of my three main collecting paths, so I sadly passed on them. At Les Enluminures, I picked up the catalogue for its current gallery show of medieval manuscripts, Paths to Reform, and I’ll be nearly as happy paging through it.  


Two purchases were made in the final hour -- both in the natural history/nature literature category, a collection my husband and I share -- which caused us to meet two booksellers we will surely seek out at future fairs: Jeffrey H. Marks and Jeff Bergman


The NYABF is still open today. Happy hunting. 

I don’t recall seeing a copy of E.B. White’s famous book in my browsings yesterday at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair during the day or the Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair in the evening -- but who knows, there is so much to see, and my eyes give up before my feet do. In four hours at the Armory fair, I stopped in most booths in four rows (Row E, I’ll see you later today!) which may seem slow going to some, but I try to look closely and chat with the booksellers when they’re not too busy with other clients. Here are some highlights. 


029594.jpgKen Lopez is offering this rockin’ copy of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest -- it was fully marbled in psychedelic pinks by Kesey himself. Inside, Kesey has also signed it in block lettering. Lopez knows of only one other book treated by Kesey in this way. Also in Lopez’s booth: an advanced reader’s copy of The Name of the Rose inscribed by Umberto Eco--what bibliophile wouldn’t want that?


Between the Covers had an interestingly covered book that caught my eye: the Cincinnati edition of Robert Owen’s New View of Society wrapped in a homemade newspaper dust jacket dating to 1827. At Estates of Mind, I enjoyed seeing a early draft manuscript page from Thoreau (personal favorite) as well as Walt Whitman’s own copy of Leaves of Grass, in which he lettered his name on the title page. Other fun finds: collectible editions of Baudrillard and Foucault (!) at Athena Rare Books, Cole Porter’s typewriter at Schubertiade, and I saw so many first editions of Fowles’ The Collector that David Lodge was a breath of fresh air at Gekoski.


After a two-hour eye rest, I traveled downtown to the “Shadow Show.” Melissa Sanders was exhibiting as Red Queen Book Arts for the first time in New York with her list of book arts, fine press, artist’s books, bindings, miniatures, and more (she also has books from Ken Sanders). Her display case is filled with the unique and interesting, e.g. Ed Bateman’s artist’s book, Gutenberg


Mosher Books has a beautiful Haberly book: The Keeper of the Doves, authored, wood-block illustrated, printed and beautifully bound by poet-printer Loyd Haberly, and published by Seven Acres Press in 1933. As usual the Country Bookshop of Vermont is a reliable purveyor of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literature. We left the fair with one book, purchased there. 


Both shows are open today. 

A unique, casket-side drawing of Abraham Lincoln is bound to be the highlight of the Professional Autograph Dealers Association (PADA) show this Sunday in New York City. This last true image of the assassinated president, drawn in ink and opaque white gouache on heavy paper, was executed by a Frenchman named Pierre Morand on April 25, 1865. Morand had drawn Lincoln in life on numerous occasions. It has been suggested that Morand bribed a guard to get a few minutes of sketch time after Secretary of War Edwin Stanton disallowed visitors to Lincoln’s deathbed. Morand drew a quick outline in pencil and then went back to his studio to produce a more elaborate ink version, followed by this one, which he labeled “Final Drawing.” It is published for the first time in today’s New York Times


MorandEntireWSigs.jpg“It is the only [face-up] picture you will ever see of Lincoln laying in his casket,” said Bill Ecker of Harmonie Autographs & Music in New York City. Ecker is chairman of PADA’s New York Show committee. The drawing is being sold by the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop of Chicago for $375,000.


TchaikovskySP.jpgIn a show like this, there are many items which by their very nature are unique and interesting. Ecker recalled a few: a Walt Whitman signed photograph, a Beatles-signed album, and an “elusive” letter by Frank Lloyd Wright. Schubertiade Music and Arts of Boston is bringing this rare, original 4 x 6.25 cabinet bust portrait by Muller and Pilgrim of Leipzig, signed and inscribed in the lower portion of the image in German by Peter Il’yich Tchaikovsky to friend and virtuoso organist Carl Armbrust in 1888. 


Peary original.jpgThis menu from a 1907 dinner held in honor of Robert Peary is elaborately illustrated and signed by the great explorer. The fun thing about this item, offered by Lion Heart Autographs of New York, is that the dinner was held at Manhattan’s Lotos Club, one of the oldest private literary clubs in the United States (Mark Twain was a lifelong member). The Lotos Club also happens to be the venue for this year’s PADA show, closer to the New York Antiquarian Book Fair traffic. 


This year’s PADA show boasts 21 dealers, the largest in New York in over ten years, said Ecker. It opens on Sunday at 9 a.m. Admission is $10, and “business casual” dress is required.

Here are a few other highlights en route to the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, which opens with a special preview tonight and continues with day hours through Sunday:

From Bruce McKittrick, the first printed book on birds, William Turner’s Avivm Praecipvarvm from 1544. ($45,000)

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Also from Bruce McKitterick, a book on the the first trade school and its accompanying interactive museum, also the first of its kind, in Germany. The Catalog of Semler’s Mechanical Museum for his Newly Founded Trade School in Halle, from 1709. ($15,000)

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From William Reese, a legendary rarity of Americana, Bauman’s detailed battle plan of Yorktown: ($250,000)

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From Leo Cadogan, crossing the pond from Britain, a c.1500 book of hours formerly owned by a Franciscan nun and inscribed by her with a curse: ($28,000)

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And from the same firm, a 19th century devotional print surrounded by what appear to be real human bones: ($1,200)

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And many, many more interesting books and ephemera will be on display and available for purchase at the “world’s best book fair” this weekend.  So if you’re anywhere near New York City, stop on by.

Theodore Roosevelt’s family photography album depicting the president and his children c. 1980-1910 is one of the standout items in the Peter Scanlan collection, on the block at Swann Galleries on April 16. The album contains 71 photographs mounted on 27 scrapbook pages. One of three images of the president himself is shown below -- he is standing proud in riding books in front of the White House. The Roosevelt children -- Teddy Jr., Kermit, Ethel, Archibald, and Quentin -- are the the primary featured faces in the album, and it is believed to have been compiled by the First Lady. The estimate is $4,000-6,000. A second family photo album is also on offer, this one consisting mainly of the president’s grandson, Theodore Roosevelt III. 


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Other highlights from the Roosevelt collection include the rare 1884 booklet In Memory of My Darling Wife Alice Hathaway Roosevelt and of My Beloved Mother Martha Bulloch Roosevelt. There is also a group of letters and documents signed by Roosevelt, including a 1918 autograph letter signed to a girl who lost a cousin in the war.


Another interesting New York collection is a lot of architectural/excavating diagrams, maps, and contracts related to major buildings in the city. Covering the years 1891-97 and 1901-1905, the pair of project logs belonged to prominent contractor John Daniel Crimmins, who worked on some incredible spaces, such as the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the Schaefer brewery, the Tiffany lamp factory-studio, the Metropolitan Club building, and the New York Athletic Club. The estimate is $2,000-3,000. Blueprints of Coney Island, Niagara Falls guidebooks, and an early Dutch manuscript discussing the invasion of New Amsterdam are a few of the other NY items for sale. 


For some, the New York Antiquarian Book Fair is all about the book fair weekend (beginning tomorrow night). But as I’ve mentioned in the last few blogs, there are several other browsing and buying opportunities. This auction is undoubtedly one of them. 

While by no means complete, here are a few of my favorite highlights that will be on display at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair this weekend.  Beginning with a preview evening on Thursday, the “world’s best book fair” begins in earnest on Friday.

Two New York items from British bookseller Simon Beattie:

A set of twelve lithographs depicting New York scenes from 1927 by Zurich artist Hans Welti.  Welti completed the drawings during an earlier visit to New York as part of an “Economic Study Tour.”  Each lithograph is signed by Welti.  $7000

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And from the same year (1927) a Russian translation of Theodore Dreiser’s early portrait of New York, The Color of a Great City, priced at $1800.
Dreiser 2.jpgFrom Utah bookseller Ken Sanders, a lot of two very scarce (one previously unknown) early Mormon broadsides: (The lot for $75,000)

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ksrb_nybf_2.jpgFrom Lorne Bair of Virginia, a first edition with the extremely rare dust jacket of Abraham Cahan’s The Rise of David Levinsky, published in 1917: ($5,000)

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Bair is also brining an original photograph from 1917 depicting the Young People’s Socialist League of Elizabeth, New Jersey, with children representing various wards in the city during a very different time in American politics: ($600)

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Stay tuned for some more highlights on Thursday...
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It’s not often that a Noble Prize is offered at auction, but collectors will have two opportunities this spring. One, in fact, this very week. On Thursday, April 11, Heritage Auctions will offer Dr. Francis Crick’s Nobel Prize medal and hand-illuminated Nobel diploma at its Manuscripts auction in New York. According to Heritage, “The auction of the medal is a historic moment, marking the first time in decades that a Nobel Prize has been sold at auction.”


And while we wouldn’t call it a trend just yet, in late March Sotheby’s announced that it will offer William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize medal in June. Part of a larger and incredibly impressive archive, the prize medallion is lotted with an early handwritten draft of Faulkner’s Nobel acceptance speech--written on Algonquin Hotel letterhead!--and the Nobel diploma. It is expected to realize $500,000. 


Heritage has similar hopes for Crick’s 23-carat-gold Nobel. Bidding has already opened online--it’s currently at $280,000--to be followed by a live floor session. 


News of the Crick Nobel at auction prompted the the San Diego Union-Tribune to poll readers about whether they would “bid on a Nobel Prize at auction.” A surprising 40 percent said “It just feels wrong to auction off the medal,” while the yes and no votes were split evenly, and 13 percent asked, “Who has that kind of money?”


Where: Manhattan. When: Next Week. What: Three antiquarian book, fine book, and manuscript fairs, plus three major auctions. Here’s the lowdown on the week of events that book collectors look forward to all year long. 


New York Antiquarian Book Fair--Called “The Best Book Fair in the World,” the NYABF goes on for three days at the Park Avenue Armory, beginning with a preview Thursday evening, April 11th, and running through Sunday, April 14th. Over 200 dealers will display an astonishing array of rare books, fine art, maps, manuscripts, and ephemera. To read what three long-time dealers told us about the NYABF, see our article, “The New York Antiquarian Book Fair, Past and Present.


The Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair, a.k.a., the “Shadow Show”--This one is held downtown at the Altman Building on W. 18th St. It’s open on Friday night and all day Saturday. My advice: go early. It’s an open secret that the “uptown dealers” scout the Shadow Show and leave with bags full of new acquisitions. Antiques appraisals by John Bruno, star of the hit PBS series “Market Warriors,” will be held on Saturday from 1-3 pm at $5/item. 


The Professional Autograph Dealers Association Show (PADA)--This annual and highly anticipated show for historic autograph collectors has been revamped. The location (and dress code) has changed; it will be held at the Lotos Club on E. 66th Street on Sunday, April 14th from 9-5, and asks visitors to dress business casual. Top dealers will bring guaranteed authentic manuscript material in all areas and at all price levels. 


Christie’s Auction(s)--With its auction on the evening of Tuesday, April 9th, Christie’s kicks off the NY book collectors’ week with the collection of Arthur and Charlotte Vershbow. The evening session features 75 highlights, followed the next day by a second auction of the Vershbows’ illustrated books and manuscripts from the Renaissance and Middle Ages. (In our current issue, Jeremy Dibbell offers an extended look at this outstanding collection.) Also on the 10th, Christie’s offers the Francis Crick “Secret of Life” Letter


Heritage Auctions--On April 10th, Heritage holds its Rare Books Signature Auction at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion on E. 79th St., featuring the largest selection of Harry Potter first editions offered at one time! Plus, some great Ian Fleming books. On the 11th, it offers Manuscripts at the same location, AND Francis Crick’s Nobel Prize Medal


Swann Galleries--On April 11th, there will be an auction of Fine Books, including a Gutenberg leaf, incunabula, and Audubon’s Quadrupeds. On the other side of the book fairs, an auction of Printed and Manuscript Americana, featuring NY-related manuscripts, rare Mormon documents, and the Peter Scanlan collection of Theodore Roosevelt material happens on April 16th.


It’s going to be a busy week for bibliophiles in New York City. Stay tuned to the FB&C blog next week for previews and reporting from the floor. See you there! 


The novelist and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala passed away in New York City on April 3.  Best known for her collaborations with film producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory, Jhabvala was dismissive of her Academy Award winning screenplays, which she called a “recreation” in her entry the in Who’s Who guide.  Jhabvala considered herself first and foremost a novelist and her novels were consistently met with critical acclaim   She won the Booker Prize for Heat and Dust in 1975.  All together, she published twelve novels and eight collections of short stories.  Her final publication, a short story entitled The Judge’s Will, appeared in the March 25th issue of the New Yorker.

Jhabvala had a truly international perspective in her writing, honed from a life spent acros several continents.  Jhabvala was born into a German Jewish family in 1927 on the eve of Nazism.  Her family fled Germany for Britain in 1939, where she completed her education at Queen Mary College. Soon after, Jhabvala married a Parsee architect in 1951 and moved to India where she would spend the next twenty-five years, writing fervently about her adopted home.  Her first novel, To Whom She Will, was published in 1955 to favorable reviews.

In 1963, Jhabvala was approached by the Merchant and Ivory filmmaking duo to write a screenplay for her novel The Housekeeper.  It was the beginning of a partnership that would span 20 films and four decades.  Jhabvala won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for A Room with a View (1985) and Howard’s End (1992).  She was also nominated for The Remains of the Day (1993).  All three films are beloved to this day by fans of classic literature and period drama.

Jhabvala permanently left India for New York City toward the end of the 1970s, where she would live the rest of her life.

Here is a classic clip from The Remains of the Day, which showcases Jhabvala’s power and subtlety as a screenwriter.  The subject of the scene, appropriately for this blog, is about a book:




Screen shot 2013-04-02 at 10.32.35 PM.pngIf someone out there still thinks that book collecting and bibliography are stuffy endeavors singularly concentrated on pretty bindings and fine print -- take a gander at the program for this weekend’s Symposium on the Book, focused on zines, samizdat, and alternative publishing. The biannual event is hosted by Chicago’s Caxton Club--an exclusive collectors’ club--and the Newberry Library, and co-sponsored by the Bibliographical Society of America. The topics at hand are self-produced books and pamphlets made “to express individualized, unconventional, controversial, or prohibited messages.”

Speakers include Lisa Gitelman of New York University, Amateurs and Their Discontents, 1870-2000; Ann Komaromi of the University of Toronto, Inside, Outside, Around, and Through: Conceptualist Publishing in the U.S. and U.S.S.R.; and Jenna Freedman of Barnard College Library, Pinko vs. Punk: a Generational Comparison of Alternative Press Publications and Zines. A panel discussion on self-publishing will follow the talks.

A related exhibition will also be open for viewing. “Politics, Piety, and Poison,” is an exhibition of French pamphlets from 1600-1800, some of them examples of alternative publishing, including an early crime “zine.” 

Events begin at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 6 at the Newberry Library. Free and open to the public. Quimby’s Bookstore of Wicker Park will be at the event selling do-it-yourself and other alternative press materials.
One ring to rule them all,
One ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all
And in the darkness bind them.

A mysterious gold ring that may have been the inspiration for the One Ring in J. R. R. Tolkien’s novels has gone on public display at The Vyne, an an aristocratic country house in Hampshire.  The ring - which has a strange curse associated with it - has been in the possession of the Chute family for several centuries.  It was donated to the National Trust along with the rest of The Vyne in 1958.

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According to Chute family stories, the Vyne ring was discovered by a local farmer plowing land inside the ruins of Silchester around 1785.  Silchester was a prominent early British settlement that was abandoned for unknown reasons in the 7th century.  The farmer sold the ring to the Chutes, who have maintained a multi-generational interest in antiquarian matters for hundreds of years.  The heavy gold ring is particularly large, requiring a gloved thumb to fit snugly. The ring is ornamented by a spiked head, wearing a crown, and bears a cryptic Latin inscription: “Senicianus live well in God.”

Tolkien entered the story of the ring 150 years later, when he was called upon to offer translation advice to archaelogists in Gloucestershire.  The archaeologists - who had been excavating the appropriately named site “Dwarf’s Hill” - found a Roman tablet inscribed with a curse: “Among those who bear the name of Senicianus to none grant health until he bring back the ring to the temple of Nodens.”

The curse worked - in part.  Although the ring was never returned, its thief only made it 100 miles to Silchester before losing it.

What inspiration Tolkien may have gathered from these events remains uncertain, however the story of the Vyne ring raises intriguing possibilities.

The ring, accompanied by a first edition of The Hobbit and a copy of the Senicianus’ curse, are now on display at the Vyne, viewable to anyone that tours the country house.

The Mount Saint Alphonsus Seminary of Esopus, New York, built up by Redemptorist priests on numerous European book-buying trips and currently valued at $700,000, is about to scatter to the four winds. Of the 4,000 rare books selected for sale, 180 will be offered later this week at Freeman’s in Philadelphia, including manuscripts, fifteen incunables (books printed before 1500), and books from the early presses of Aldus Manutius and Anton Koberger. More of the collection will appear in forthcoming sales this year and next.

David Bloom, book specialist and head of department at Freeman’s said, “It is our privilege to offer this previously all-but hidden American collection of early European printed books and manuscripts so richly illuminating our fifteenth- and sixteenth-century heritage.”

VitaChristi.jpgSome of the highlights include: a 1555 book on astronomy and astrology, heavily annotated in an unidentified sixteenth-century hand; a copy of Hieronymus, dated 1497, containing a woodcut frontispiece by Albrecht Durer depicting St. Jerome dressed as a cardinal removing a thorn from a lion’s paw; a rare book on mineralogy, De Mineralibus Libri Quinque, 1519, is estimated to be one of the top lots at $12,000-18,000; and the complete first edition of Ludolphus de Saxonia’s Vita Christi, 1474, (seen above) will be offered at auction for the first time since 1980.

The auction of the library is a result of the closure of the Seminary’s historic campus on January 1 of last year. Proceeds from the sale will go to preserving the Seminary’s archives in a new facility in Philadelphia at the National Shrine of St. John Neumann. It has been implied that the books will be better utilized in other collections.

“Every once in a while a random scholar would pass through, and we’d grant them access,” the Rev. Matthew T. Allman, a Redemptorist priest in Philadelphia who is coordinating the group’s heritage preservation projects, told the New York Times.
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