June 2013 Archives

Fun in Philadelphia on the Fourth of July

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Illustration from The Lion and the Mouse © 2009 Jerry Pinkney Studio. All rights reserved.

Celebrating Independence Day in Philadelphia will be especially patriotic next week, because two of the city’s museums have just installed exhibits dedicated to a pair of America’s most celebrated and accomplished artists.


The Philadelphia Museum of Art opened an exhibition two days ago showcasing the work of Caldecott award-winning illustrator Jerry Pinkney.  (June 26th has also been declared Jerry Pinkney day in the city and throughout the Commonwealth.) Five decades of images are on view, ranging from Pinkey’s work on children’s books, record album covers, and even advertising campaigns. The Philadelphia-born artist will be at the museum on July 7th reading and signing books. 


Across town, the Rosenbach Museum and Library is displaying manuscripts and drawings for Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.  The museum is the repository for the majority of Sendak’s papers, and The Night Max Wore His Wolf Suit: 50 Years of Wild Things  showcases his original work. 

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Sendak’s relationship with the Rosenbach dates to 1966, when the author began to make use of the library archives. Soon after, Sendak began depositing his own work at the museum, and continued to do so for the ensuing decades.


If trekking to Philadelphia isn’t in the cards right now, these exhibits will be around for awhile. Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney is open to the public from June 28th  through September 22nd and the Sendak show runs through March 2014. 


Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Lizz Young of lizzyoungbookseller in West Dover, Vermont:

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How did you get started in rare books?

I have always been in love with cookbooks. When I was an assistant editor at Gourmet Magazine my desk was in the middle of their library. Part of my job was to answer questions that the loyal subscribers would ask, either by phone or by letter (before computers). I was in heaven. Imagine a job where they pay you to be surrounded by cookbooks. So, as luck would have it, when my father Roy Young, who has been an Antiquarian Bookseller for over 30 years, suggested I join him, there was little hesitation on my end. 

When did you open lizzyoungbookseller? Also, tell us a bit about why you format the name the way you do?

I officially started lizzyoungbookseller in January 2012. After working with my father for over a year, I realized that I could specialize in the world I know best while still continuing to work with RoYoung and the beautiful books he surrounds himself with. As for the name, lizzyoungbookseller, I have to admit it’s a bit of an inside joke. As I mentioned, my father has been in the business for over 30 years which means that when I was in High School he was always looking for people to work (haul boxes) for him.  Many of my male friends ended up working for him at one time or another, and always referred to him as RO-young. After that, my good friend Peter Callahan started calling me lizzyoung, and it stuck. 

What do you love about the book trade?

I would have to say the thing I love most about the book business is the fact that I learn something new every single day. Whether I’m researching a Cuban manuscript from the 1800’s or a psychedelic inspired cookbook from the 1960’s, I always find something fascinating about the history of the piece or the people who were involved in the production of the item. Another wonderful thing about the trade is the people. Last summer I attended CABS (Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar). This seminar is taught by some of the best and brightest booksellers in this country. Besides gaining an amazing amount of knowledge, I met some fantastic people that I hopefully will be in touch with for a very long time. 

What do you love about rare culinary books in particular?

Culinary books give you a window into the cultural narrative of the specific time and place in which the book was composed. For instance, I have learned a lot about prohibition by studying the tracts and broadsides that the temperance movement published. Another example would be an English manuscript from the late 1600’s I purchased at auction. After cataloging this manuscript I realized more than half the “recipes” were more what we would now refer to as “remedies.” It was a remarkable insight into the way in which people at the time nurtured one another with what they had at hand. I have always been captivated by the human condition. Culinary books show us how much we have changed but also how much we have stayed the same. 

Any vintage/rare/old recipe to share with us from one of your books?

From: THE COMPLETE COOK, Plain and Practical Directions for Cooking and Housekeeping; with upwards of Seven Hundred Receipts, By James M. Sanderson. Philadelphia, Lea and Blanchard, 1843.

Walnut Catsup
Take three half sieves of walnut shells, put them into a tub, mix them up well with common salt, about a pound and a half. Let them stand six days, frequently beating and washing them; by this time the shells become soft and pulpy; then by banking them up on one side of the tub, raising the tub on the same side, the liquor will run clear off to the other; then take that liquor out. The mashing and banking my be repeated as long any liquor runs. The quantity with be about three quarts. Simmer it in an iron pot as long as any scum rises; then add two ounces of allspice, two ounces of ginger, bruised, one ounce of long pepper, one ounce of clove, with the above articles; let it boil slowly for half an hour; when bottled, take care that an equal quantity of spice goes into each bottle; let the bottles be quite filled up, cork them tight, and seal them over. Put them into a cool and dry place, for one year before they are used. 

Favorite rare book (or ephemera) that you have handled?

As much as I would like to say my favorite book is some old and crusty manuscript, I have to admit I loved (and have sold it twice) Son of the Martini Cookbook, by Jane Trahey & Daren Pierce. This comical book, illustrated by Edward Gorey, is broken up into categories according to how many martinis one has had. The recipes are ridiculous and the illustrations are more than entertaining.

What do you collect personally?

I have been collecting cookbooks for over 30 years, it is a bit of an obsession. I’m a bit of a Jello nut too. I love the idea of jello and jello molds. At Thanksgiving I always make a jello mold; everyone make a face at first, but guess what, it is the first thing to go? My favorite food writers are Laurie Colwin and M.F.K. Fisher. Fisher was the grand dame of food writing; a real trail blazer. The way she wrote about the experience of eating is unrivaled. Colwin wrote novels and short stories but she had an incredible knack for food writing that made you feel as if you were sitting in the kitchen with her while she cooked. 

Thoughts on the present state and/or future of the rare book trade?

I love to tell the story of the porter who helped us move into our booth at the Boston Book Fair last year. In a very heavy Boston accent, this large, jolly man says to me, “You know, you got a lot of nice books here but what do you think of the Kindle?” I replied, “I love the kindle, gets people to read, maybe makes them appreciate books more...and in my opinion it increases the odds that these books will be all the more valuable in the future.” That said, I think there are a lot of different things going on in the rare book trade as we speak. Personally, I have an optimistic impression of the state of business. I have attended CABS and The Rare Book school at the University of Virginia in the past couple of years and have found incredible enthusiasm emanating from everyone I encounter. Of course this is like preaching to the choir, but it does give me hope that there is a whole new generation of people out there that treasure the world of rare books. I attended an art book fair at the MOMA in Queens, NY last fall and it was crawling with a younger audience that were highly energetic about books. I tend to believe the Internet and the access of information has given reading and writing a whole new audience that has an appetite for knowledge. 

Any upcoming fairs or catalogs?

lizzyoungbookseller will be showing at the Vermont Book Fair, Sunday August 11th, in Brattleboro at the Living Memorial Park Skating Rink. I will also be sharing a booth with RoYoung Bookseller at the Baltimore Summer Antique Show, August 22-25 at the Baltimore Convention Center. As for a catalog, I have been thinking about putting together a manuscript catalog, but thinking and doing are two very different things!

FBC2013summer-cover.jpgOur summer issue is off at the printer this week, and here’s a sneak peek. Our cover story is a look at the life and legacy of Maurice Sendak by children’s book historian Leonard Marcus. In the Book Art column, Richard Minsky interviews printer Clifton Meador. In the Library, we delve into the Huntington’s forthcoming exhibit of extra-illustrated books. The Ladies of Letterpress talk to us about our their group and its goals. Nicholas Basbanes visits with married collectors who specialize in decorated paper.

The summer issue is also distinguished by the annual Biblio 360 -- our guide to bookish exhibits, classes, clubs, conferences, and more. Clocking in at 12,500 words, Biblio offers readers more than 250 different ways to get involved with books and connect with fellow collectors. Plus our usual dose of auction reviews and record-breakers, fine cartography, some focus on publishers’ bindings, and an essay by bookseller Helen Younger on how collecting children’s books has changed in the past twenty years.

If you haven’t yet subscribed, find us on the rack in the magazine section of Barnes & Noble.
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A previously unknown, and incredibly rare, letter from Robert the Bruce was uncovered earlier this month by a Scottish academic.  Robert the Bruce led the Scottish forces in the Wars of Independence against England during the Middle Ages. The letter, written to King Edward II of England, calls for an end to “persecution and disturbance.”  It was written in 1310, several years before Bannockburn, the decisive battle that would set the path for Scottish independence.

Dr. Dauvit Broun, a professor of Scottish History at the University of Glasgow, found the contents of the letter copied into a manuscript written by the monks of Kirkstall Abbey approximately 500 years ago.  The original letter has not survived.

Broun, quoted in The Independent, said “It’s amazingly rare. A freak survival. There’s nothing like this that survives from that time.”

The contents of the letter suggest that the Bruce was very serious about establishing peace between the two nations - but only if the countries were officially separated and he was recognized as the King of Scotland. The letter apparently had little effect on Edward II, who would soon advance his army into Scotland only to be decisively defeated on the fields of Bannockburn.

The Kirkstall Abbey manuscript that contains the letter is held at the British Library.
In the ‘too-good-not-to-share’ department, read this story from late last week about how soap opera star-rock musician Rick Springfield lost--and then found for $600 on Ebay--his inscribed first edition of Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, signed by the author in 1981. Turns out Springfield is a bit of horror collector. He told Galley Cat, “Now I have it in my collection I’m very glad I did it. But I do check books very thoroughly now on their way to Goodwill.” Read the whole story here.

In February Fine Books & Collections covered The National Endowment for the Humanities’ grant to The American Writers Museum Foundation. The Foundation received the grant to help begin what will become the first museum dedicated to America’s great writers. The Foundation continues to move forward with the project, canvas.pngreleasing this week its conceptual plans for the museum’s first home, aptly named “First Edition.” 

 

The plans for the Chicago-based museum are grand. The museum features several galleries with themes such as “writers of science fiction” and “writers who overcame social adversity.” A large part of the visitor’s experience will include touch-screen technology as well as other computer-based learning systems. In the main hall, for instance, visitors will be able to explore both real and fictional places from American literature by interacting with a large touch-screen literary map of the United States.

 

The Foundation’s president, Malcolm O’Hagan, recently told Fine Books & Collections, “Computers will allow visitors to engage with the writers and their works. We will, of course, have great artifacts, but we do not want just static displays. We want visitors to experience the power of words and become involved with the lives of our great writers.”

 

As for the artifacts that Mr. O’Hagan spoke of, the museum plans on borrowing pieces from the countless museum, university, and personal collections across the country dedicated to individual authors. The Foundation has expressed its desire to “not compete with other institutions, but rather, make visitors aware of the myriad literary resources available nationwide by showcasing and linking to them.”

 

The path to opening day at the American Writers Museum will not be without its challenges. O’Hagan said, “Our biggest challenge is fundraising. We need to raise $10 million for the first phase of the museum. Later this summer we will launch a capital campaign. However we seek broad participation from readers in funding the museum that will honor the writers who bring so much joy and knowledge to their lives.”

 

Those who donate $100 or more qualify to be one of the Museum’s “Chapter One Patrons.” Those interested in contributing to this project are encouraged to donate to the American Writers Museum Foundation at www.americanwritersmuseum.org.


Image Courtesy of The American Writers Museum Foundation



Sara Gran’s latest mystery novel, Claire deWitt and the Bohemian Highway, was released this week by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  It’s a sequel to the excellent Claire deWitt and the City of Dead published in 2011.  Gran formerly worked in used and rare books, for places like The Strand and Shakespeare and Co, as well and on her own as an independent bookseller.  Books - real and imaginary - play significant roles in her novels.  Her private eye, Claire deWitt, is profoundly influenced by an elusive French book of detection from 1959, entitled Détection, which guides - and haunts - her actions throughout the novels.  I recently interviewed Gran over e-mail:

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I understand you used to work in rare books, both for shops like The Strand and on your own.  Could you tell us more about your previous life as a bookseller?

I’ve always been obsessive about books. My parents were not collectors, but they were very avid readers, and they were (and are) indiscriminate in the best way: they read what interests them, not what’s hot or collectable. And somewhere along the way I developed a somewhat warped, almost talismanic interest in books-as-physical-objects. So working with books was always a fantasy for me. I used to go to these little indie bookstores, like St Marks book back when it was on St Mark’s place, and I thought the rude bookstore guys who worked there were coolest people on earth. I really couldn’t believe it when I applied for a job at a bookstore and I GOT IT. Of course, the reality was a lot of hard, dirty work--but I still loved it. And I still think people who love books and stay with that love are the coolest people on earth. 

Are the naming conventions for the series a nod to classic mystery series of the past?  (Claire deWitt and the...; Nancy Drew in the...)

Yes, the great old books and also TV shows. They’re fun but a lot of work to come up with!

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Several old books populate the pages of Claire deWitt and the City of the Dead, but of course the one that casts the longest shadow over the narrative is Détection by the great French detective Jacques Silette, first published in 1959.  This book often has a profound - even life-changing - effect on those who read it.  Could you tell us a bit more about the inspiration for this book and the mythology behind it?

Well, I’m going to answer that with a story: yesterday I went to the Rose Bowl flea market here in LA. And something from Black Sparrow Press, which I’m sure you and your readers will know, caught my eye at one of the booths. So I look and it turns out this guy has stacks and stacks of unused paper book covers (paper wrappers) from Black Sparrow Press, plus a bunch of printing blocks. His friend worked for the printer and, long story short, saved them all from the trash. So he was selling the blocks that had printed Paul Bowles and Wanda Coleman and John Fante and Charles Bukowski, and no one wanted them. I asked if he’d tried ebay, other book dealers (this guy was not a book guy, just a very cool and smart flea market guy), everything I could imagine. And he said no one wants this stuff. He has a whole garage full of this stuff and no one wants it. So, in part, that’s what Détection is about: the fact that we writers put so much into our books, and we hope they will change readers lives, and sometimes they do--but then twenty years later they’re at a flea market and you can’t give them away. This guy has the plates that printed Post Office, one of the most beautiful books in English. But to me--I could cry just thinking about that book. Détection is a book that really changed Claire’s life, and then she went out in the world and found out that no one gives a shit, and that is a heartbreaking place to be--a religion with no members. An equivalent book for me has been Nelson Algren’s book Nonconformity, which likewise has had such an impact on my life and no one else seems to care about. I have given away probably a dozen copies of this book and not one person has loved it like I do.

My other favorite old book mentioned in City of the Dead is Poisonous Orchids of Siberia.  Could you tell us a bit more about that one?

Thank you! My other favorite book, after Nonconformity, is The Golden Guide for Hallucinogenic Plants. The fact that that book exists is proof that wonderful things can exist in this universe. I like Golden Guides in particular, and field guides in general, especially odd ones. 

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How about you -- what are some of your favorite rare books?  Are you an active book collector?  What do you collect?

Most of my favorite rare books are rare in the colloquial sense, not in the bookselling sense of “valuable.” They are uncommon, but no one really wants them, which is fortunate for me. I don’t collect first editions, but I do enjoy early printings of some of my favorites--I have some early Charles Ports novels and some early Andrew Vachss mysteries that really make me happy. I don’t collect in any thorough, completist way, but I buy a lot of books about whatever interests me at the moment, and usually end up writing about it. At the moment, I’m excited by books about Marian apparitions; stage magic; locks, keys, and locksmithing; cons and con artists; and specifically art-related cons (and I welcome suggestions from your readers in these areas). And I will almost always buy something interesting and affordable in the fields of yoga, folklore/magic, flowers, criminology, and early detective fiction. My rule of thumb is: how hard will it be to get this book again if I want it? 
 
What are some of your favorite mystery writers of the past? How about of the present?

Claire DeWitt is, in many ways, an homage to my favorite fictional detectives, some of whom I feel like I grew up with. My father has always been a big fan of Nero Wolfe, and you will see a lot of both Nero and Archie Goodwin in Claire. I also drew a lot of inspiration from how Rex Stout organized and structured his series. Andrew Vachss’ Burke series is another big inspiration--it’s a rare series where the “detective” (in quotes because Burke is not really a PI) grows and changes over the years, as people do. Jim Sallis’ Lew Griffith series is also very much about a flesh-and-blood person who changes over the years, and Sallis also brings a real sense of poetry to the mystery novel. And Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe is just the all-time best, especially in The Big Sleep.

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Claire deWitt and the Bohemian Highway comes out this month. What’s next? Are you already at work on the third book in the series?

Yes, I am, but I am also busy writing for TV and film, so it will be a few years before the next book. And after an extremely busy few years where I’ve had almost no time to read, i am going to spend a lot of time during the rest of 2013 sitting around reading detective novels! 

Visit Sara Gran on her website, or on Facebook or Twitter.

PA Post_July 6 1776_p1-#25B.jpgLast week Seth Kaller announced the forthcoming sale of the first newspaper printing of the Declaration of Independence, to be held on June 25 at Manhattan’s Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries. This rare document is expected to fetch $500,000-700,000.

A closer look at the auction catalogue created for this sale reveals intriguing details. Publication of the Declaration in the Pennsylvania Evening Post on July 6, 1776 was preceded only by the official broadside, printed by John Dunlap. Kaller’s staff discovered a series of typesetting differences between Dunlap’s broadside and Benjamin Towne’s newspaper edition, “particularly in the use of capitalization, too numerous to be coincidental,” according to the catalogue. When compared against two working drafts of the Declaration--one in Thomas Jefferson’s hand, the other a copy made by John Adams--they noticed a pattern. It seems Jefferson had a habit of lower-casing words, while Adams frequently capitalized for effect, e.g. “When, in the course of human events,” versus “When in the Course of human Events....” What’s more, Dunlap’s broadside conforms to Adams’ style, while Towne’s newspaper edition follows Jefferson’s style. Minor variations to some, but meaningful in studying the dissemination of one of America’s founding documents.

“The most intriguing upshot of showing that the Post follows Thomas Jefferson’s style, while the Dunlap follows John Adams’ style, is that this may mean that there were two different July 4, 1776 original manuscripts of the Declaration,” says Kaller.

This new research will certainly add to the lore (and lure) of this rarity. Only four copies have been recorded on the market in the last fifty years; this one was last seen at Sotheby’s in 1993. According to Kaller’s census, only nineteen copies of the July 6 Pennsylvania Evening Post are extant, and of those, only two or three are in private hands.

Image courtesy of Seth Kaller.

As has been widely reported elsewhere, sales of Geoge Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984 have surged in the wake of the NSA surveillance scandal. Amazon reported a massive spike of 5,800% in sales of the “centennial edition” of 1984 after it was reported that the NSA has been monitoring phone records of U. S. citizens.

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The same surge has also spilled over into the antiquarian book market. Abebooks reported the sale of two British first editions of 1984 last week. The first edition, first printing in a green dust jacket went for $3,000, while the first edition, first printing in the red dust jacket brought home $2,845.

1984 was first published by Secker & Warberg in Britain in 1949. The publisher issued two dust jacket variants, one in red, the other in green. There is still some debate about which is the true first edition, however the general consensus is that the red jacket appeared first.

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If you feel like you’ve missed out on the fun, more first editions of 1984 are coming to auction on Thursday. Swann Galleries will offer two first editions of 1984 on June 20th. The American first edition (issued with a red dust jacket) is estimated at $400 - $600, while the first English edition (with the green dust jacket) is expected to roughly double that at $800 - $1200.  Of course, with the recent attention garnered by the novel, it’s possible that both will blow through their estimates.  They are, after all, quite a bit cheaper than the Abebook copies that sold last week.

676526.jpgMy personal favorite edition of 1984, however, has to be the pulpy Signet classics edition from 1954 with its lurid cover and its false hints about the book’s content:

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Screen shot 2013-06-16 at 10.26.40 PM.pngWhen the Margaret Cavendish Society holds its tenth biennial international conference in Sundance, Utah, next month, books will have a place of honor. Keynote speaker Maureen E. Mulvihill of the Princeton Research Forum will present “What Do You See? Frontispieces of Margaret Cavendish -- Invention, Authority, Book Arts” with digital images, a table display of rare books from her personal collection, and a distributed bibliography. Mulvihill will examine these integral pieces of book design and discuss how to “read” them in the context of seventeenth-century book arts and reading habits. Mulvihill has written widely on  rare books, women writers, and the intersection of literature and visual arts. This lecture occurs  at the Creekside Lodge in the Sundance Resort on July 13 at 5:30 p.m. Read more about this program here.

Image Courtesy of Maureen E. Mulvihill.



 If you saw the Fine Books Facebook page on Monday you may have been enticed to guess who will grace the magazine’s summer cover.  A hint to seek out that day’s Google Doodle (see below) would have led you to Maurice Sendak, arguably the twentieth century’s preeminent illustrator of children’s books.   Google created the Doodle because Sendak would have celebrated his 85th birthday on Monday.  (Sendak died last May.)


 Leonard Marcus, a leading authority on children’s books and illustrations, has written a story for the summer issue discussing Sendak and his work. Marcus is also the author of Show me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter (Candlewick 2012) and recently edited a catalogue in conjunction with an exhibition of over 200 of Sendak’s previously unpublished art and sponsored by the New York Society of Illustrators.


Bill Clinton dubbed Sendak “The King of Dreams” when he awarded him the National Medal of Art in 1996.  The Brooklyn native wrote and illustrated close to 100 titles, including perhaps most notably Where the Wild Things Are. He was awarded a Caldecott Medal and the Hans Christian Andersen Award, among many others throughout his sixty-year career. 


Children of all ages can cite their favorite book. Mine is Dear Mili, an unpublished Wilhelm Grimm tale rediscovered in 1983 and published with Sendak’s illustrations in 1988.  The images of death and miracles are wild - abnormally vivid forests, little girls with very large feet, and psychedelic landscapes. I remember reading it as a child, and while the story itself frightened me, I could not stop gazing at those wonderful images and following Mili on her unflinching quest.  In Show me a Story! Marcus asks Sendak about Mili. His response illustrates his complete understanding of children: “...she has the same kind of trudging, hard-working quality that I love in children. They’re trudging children; they go and do what they must do.”


A little Father’s Day tribute regarding Dear Mili: as a prized possession, I have a poster for the book, signed by Sendak, that my father stood in a long line to get at an ABA Convention the year of publication. It’s the only time he ever queued up at any book convention to get a poster signed. And since Sendak was only autographing one poster per customer, my doting dad got right back in line and procured another so that my sister and I might each have one.   


Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Lesley Rains of East End Book Exchange (EEBX) in Pittsburgh:

DSCN1947.jpegHow did you get started in rare books? 

In a lot of ways I feel like I’m still in the process of getting started in this business.  But the story has to start somewhere, and for me it was in 2011.   I had just moved back to Pittsburgh a few months earlier.  I was in the midst of making a dramatic career change, leaving behind a doctoral program in history, with little sense of what I would do next.  Around the same time, I noticed that there were hardly any bookstores in the city.  It seemed like an opportunity to do something fun and meaningful, to do something that would resonate with the community.  I started with a small collection of trade paperbacks, mostly classic and contemporary literature. My first substantive and deliberate introduction to the rare book trade was at the 2012 Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS).  

When did you open East End Book Exchange and what do you specialize in? 

I opened East End Book Exchange in July 2011.  EEBX was conceived to be a general interest used bookstore.  We feature books in a number of genres, but we emphasize classic, modern, and contemporary literature, poetry, history, and philosophy.  I want our shop to appeal as much to the avid reader as to the avid collector.  

I know that East End began as a “pop-up bookstore” - could you define that term and tell us some more about that phase of your existence?  

A “pop-up bookstore” or business, is a nomadic business that opens in a location 
temporarily - a day, a month, several months, then closes and reappears at another location at a later date.  It’s not unlike booksellers who follow the book fair circuit, except instead of selling at fairs, I was setting up the shop at coffee shops and art galleries around Pittsburgh.  After three months of “popping up”,  I settled into a bookstall at the Pittsburgh Public Market, a weekend indoor vendor market.  It’s a permanent market, so I didn’t have to schlep books in and out every weekend. The bookstall was in operation from October 2011 - October 2012 and I regard it as a self-made internship in bookselling and running my own business.  It was a low-financial risk way of gaining experience in the bookselling business.  I learned so much about building and managing an inventory and maintaining a budget (or attempting to).  During this time we also developed a bit of a following, so when we moved to a storefront, we had an established audience and did not have to start from square one. 

But you’ve recently opened a brick-and-mortar shop, right? How’s that going? Do you prefer having a stationary shop?

Yes, the response to the bookstall had been so positive, coupled with a common lament about the dearth of bookshops in Pittsburgh, that in November 2012, we moved to a storefront in the city’s Bloomfield neighborhood (which, together with a number of other neighborhoods comprises the city’s East End, hence the name).  It has been going really well so far.  The response from the community, and the local literary community in particular, has been universally positive.  The shop has its slow days, to be sure, but there have been plenty of very good days as well.  Nothing offends me more as when someone states that they don’t believe another bricks-and-mortar bookstore could survive in Pittsburgh.  There are so many good readers and booklovers in our town.  This isn’t to say that the success of a bookstore is a given, but I do believe that a wellcurated bookshop that engages its community has to have more than a fighting chance.  

I do prefer having a stationary shop.  It has been the most fun growing our inventory and cultivating our identity as a bookshop.  We moved from an 80 square foot stall to a 1600 sq. ft. shop (and we opened within three weeks of that move), so we had to get big quickly.  It’s been a rewarding challenge balancing the need for more books while staying true to our identity as a bookshop.  I enjoy the hustle and bustle that comes with running an open shop.  I like creating the space, setting the hours, and working with local writers and artists to host public readings.  Being a fixed place has allowed us to become more of a community bookstore.  In addition to the hosting literary events, we also host local artists for monthly (or so) art shows and  we work with a local vintage furniture dealer to outfit the shop with comfortable and attractive furniture.  Works by local authors, as well as the art and furniture, are all sold on consignment, so it gives people a lot of different reasons to come to our shop, and ultimately buy books.   Retail businesses have to be multifaceted, but never to the point where the furniture and art crowds out the books.  I like managing all of these dimensions of our shop in the service of bookselling.   To put all of this another way, I like being my own boss and exhilarating/terrifying/just plain fun roller-coaster ride that comes with that.  

What do you love about the book trade?

I love how this business is so incessantly stimulating.  Whether book-scouting and the sense being on a treasure hunt, or the writing catalogue descriptions and crafting narratives, there is rarely a mundane moment.  There is always something to learn, always ways to improve.  I have also found that I have been able to utilize a lot of the research, writing, and analytical thinking skills that I developed while in grad school, which is satisfying and helps me to feel like less of a novice.  

The sense of community among booksellers is astonishing and deeply moving.  
Everyone is so incredibly helpful and kind.  Living in Pittsburgh, I’ve been fortunate to get to know two mentor-friends: John Schulman of Caliban Books and Luke Lozier of Bibliopolis, as well as assorted local writers, who have been crucial to the growth of EEBX.  I can state emphatically that EEBX would not be where it is without John and Luke.  Luke, in fact, was the one who told me about CABS and encouraged me to attend.  CABS 2012 blew me away.  David Anthem and Gabe Konrad (two recent BYTs) thoroughly and colorfully described the experience.  I knew going into the week that I was going to learn a lot about books; I had no idea that I was going to make lifelong friendships.  I’m still in awe of that week and the people that I met.    

Favorite rare book (or ephemera) that you’ve handled?

Two items come to mind.  First is the Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping (Buckeye Publishing Company: 1877).  I found it at an estate sale and assumed it was just another old cookbook, but I like cookbooks, so I picked it up.  When I got researching it, I found it had a much richer history, namely that it is one of the original church-lady cookbooks.  It was such a sensation when it was published that the second edition includes recipes submitted by Lucy Webb Hayes, then the First Lady of the United States.  The second is Fontainebleau: En Relief par les Anaglphyes, which contains a pair of 3D glasses from 1941.   Both of these books are memorable for the work that went into figuring out what they were. 

What do you personally collect?

I don’t personally collect, although down the road I would like to.  For now, all of my collecting time, energy, and money are focused on the needs of the shop, my customers, and clients.  

Thoughts on the present state and/or future of the rare book trade?

I am really excited about the current state of the rare book trade.  There are a lot of booksellers meeting the challenges of bookselling head on and doing really interesting and exciting work.  At CABS I met Adam Davis of Division Leap and Heather O’Donnell of Honey and Wax Books, both of whom who have successfully created niches for themselves in the rare book trade and are also finding new audiences in their larger communities.  I think that going forward, new booksellers will have to pursue both of those avenues.  While I rely heavily on social media to promote the shop, I know that it is also necessary to study the book trade’s history and traditions, issue catalogues, and attend fairs.  All should be utilized in order to create new booksellers and new book collectors. 

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

I just completed my first short list and I am working on the follow-up.  I don’t have any fairs planned for this year, but my goal to attend the Ann Arbor Book Fair and other regional fairs next year.  I am also working on my IOBA membership.

Solving the Lincoln Problem

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A poor early 19th-century Kentuckian boy splits logs from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. If he splits sixty-five logs every half hour and then takes a five-minute break, what is the likelihood that his math homework will wind up in Harvard University’s Houghton Rare Book Library? If that boy was Abraham Lincoln, up until several months ago the odds were good. Now they’re certain. 

 

Two professors at Illinois State University have confirmed that a sheet of arithmetic problems and solutions belonging to the Houghton Library was written by our sixteenth president sometime between his eleventh and seventeenth birthdays. Exercises on the page are simple. One asks, “If 4 men in 5 days eat 7 lb. of bread, how much will be sufficient for 16 men in 15 days?” Sources confirm that most of the problems were solved correctly.

 

Houghton’s leaf left the Lincoln family a year after the President was assassinated in 1865. Lincoln’s stepmother, Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln, gave the leaf to Lincoln’s former law partner, William Henry Herndon. Herndon was collecting Lincoln material for what would become the biography Herndon’s Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life, which was published nearly two and a half decades after he was given the leaf. Over the next half century, the validity of the leaf’s origin was lost.

 

By the time it was donated to the Houghton Library in 1954, it was only a curiosity, but now no longer. The leaf has been confirmed as belonging to a set of ten other known Lincoln arithmetic pages. Together, they form the earliest known Lincoln manuscript in existence.



Photo Credit: Houghton Rare Book Library

 



Two new books take the study of American material culture to the masses by highlighting the country’s iconic objects--a fragment of Plymouth rock, a presidential button, a soldier’s footlocker--and using them to brief readers on an historical event. Souvenir Nation by William L. Bird, Jr. (Princeton Architectural Press, $24.95) and The Civil War in 50 Objects by Harold Holzer (Viking, $36), both recently published, offer fine essays and color illustrations meant for the armchair historian in all of us. It comes as no surprise that reading each of these books is like taking a stroll through a great museum -- Holzer’s book focuses on the collection of the New-York Historical Society, while Bird’s book examines the relics in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. (A related exhibit opens at the Smithsonian Castle in August.) Need I mention how perfect they are for Father’s Day?
 
Souvenir Nation.jpgSouvenir Nation: Relics, Keepsakes, and Curios shows off items preserved in the Smithsonian but often gathered or collected by laymen. Bird, curator at the NMAH, prompts us to think about the idea of souvenirs, not so much in the way of plastic knick-knacks we pick up at landmarks these days, but the ones chipped from monuments and clipped from heads in years past. Here are a few of the neat items you’ll find here: a piece of George Washington’s mahogany coffin, railroad conductors’ punch cards, and actress Laura Keene’s bloodstained cuff worn at Ford’s Theater. As always, I enjoy the format of Princeton Architectural Press books. This trim red, white, and blue hardcover resembles a history textbook, if textbooks were a bit groovier. The endpapers are decorated with patriotic stars, and the book even contains two ribbons (red and blue) for placeholders.  

CivilWar50.jpgThe Civil War in 50 Objects has a narrower focus and yet is a heftier read. Holzer, a Fellow at the N-YHS, offers a more narrative approach, allotting each artifact--iron slave shackles, a draft wheel for drawing names, a Confederate cipher key--a mini-chapter instead of a page. The bookish among us will be glad to note the number of items that fall under the rubric of ‘print culture’ represented by broadsides, prints, letters, newspapers, watercolor drawings by prisoners, a pocket diary of a private from NY, a bible used at a “colored orphan asylum,” c. 1863, the First Dixie reader, and lastly, a manuscript of the thirteenth amendment. Illustrated with fine color reproductions, this book is a collection of treasures for anyone interested in Civil War history.   

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A surprising bit of news surfaced last week in Norway: a new Norwegian translation of the Bible outpaced titles such as “Fifty Shades of Grey” to become the number one bestseller in the country.  This in a country where approximately 75% of the population is thought to be atheist, where just last year the government passed a constitutional amendement officially severing all ties with the Church of Norway, and where a meager 1% of its population of 5 million attend church on a regular basis.

The cultural resonance of the Bible has clearly yet to be usurped, even in increasingly secularized countries like Norway.

The success of the new translation has been attributed to renewed Norwegian interest in their cultural history in the face of recent immigration increases and a successful and innovative marketing campaign for the new translation conducted by the Church of Norway. Church officials marketed the new Bible with borrowed tactics from popular fiction campaigns, including releasing “teaser” stories from the Bible ahead of time.

The Bible was first translated into Norwegian - specifically Old Norse - at the end of the 13th century when parts of the Old Testament were paraphrased in a collection of manuscripts entitled Stjorn.  



N09066-247_web.jpg.thumb.385.385.pngIt may be that William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize and related manuscript will realize a higher price tomorrow at Sotheby’s, but it is this modest booklet that should perhaps share the spotlight. Vision in Spring is a unique typewritten book--written, bound, and signed by the revered American author. Discovered by one of his descendants last summer, it is the only known copy of this early book of poetry--previously known only in a photocopy that became the basis for a 1984 publication. Faulkner made this book in 1921 for the woman who would later become his wife, Estelle Oldham Franklin, and after his death, it remained with her until her death in 1972. It had been missing and presumed lost since then. An autograph manuscript comprising three poems in Faulkner’s hand, a drawing, and two snapshots of him are also tucked in. The Sotheby’s cataloguer calls this book “the most important discovery of Faulkner’s work to surface in the past few decades.” The estimate is $100,000-150,000.

Image via Sotheby’s.

Hickory, Dickory, Dock

Hickory by Palmer Brown; The New York Review of Children’s Books, $14.95, 56 pages, ages 5-8. 

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(c) The New York Review of Children’s Books 


Inspired by the classic nursery rhyme, Palmer Brown’s mouse adventure starts out in a cozy grandfather clock. Aside from the occasional mousetrap, life is good for Hickory, Dickory and Dock. Hickory, the eldest, decides to strike out on his own.  Upon moving to the nearby meadow, he settles into a comfortable, if lonely, existence. Soon a cheery grasshopper named Hop bounds into Hickory’s life, and the unlikely duo revel in the bounty of the summer meadow. 

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(c) The New York Review of Children’s Books 


When the air turns crisp, Hop alerts her companion that soon she will meet her end - in terms that a small child might not quite grasp - and Hickory embarks on a mission to save his companion from her demise.  The pair head south, hopeful that they may outwit Mother Nature. Soon enough, Hickory realizes that some things are immutable, and that acceptance marks the end of a touching and emotional story of friendship. 

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(c) The New York Review of Children’s Books 


Brown’s colorful drawings pepper the book, depicting a miniature world wrought large. Younger readers will enjoy picking out the tiniest of details - a match next to a flowerpot, Hickory’s crutches thrown into the grass - and budding botanists will adore the illustrations of seasonally appropriate plants and flowers.


Originally published in 1978, Hickory was recently reissued by The New York Review of Children’s Books.  All five of Brown’s books for children are in print.  

Our occasional series featuring interviews with bibliographers continues today with Joseph Felcone of New Jersey, who published the descriptive bibliography Printing in New Jersey 1754 - 1800 last year (2012) with the American Antiquarian Society, with distribution by Oak Knoll Press. The book was designed by Jerry Kelly.

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What drew you to 18th-century printing in New Jersey?  Where did that interest originate?

It’s the intersection of my interest in New Jersey history with my interest in early books and particularly the booktrade in early America. I’ve collected printed New Jerseyana assiduously for forty years. It’s the most important collection ever built privately, and it ranks with the half dozen or so leading institutional collections. I’ve published quite a number of books on both New Jersey history and New Jersey bibliography, so, for me, my collection is both a necessary working library as well as a collection of rare books.

Your book is a “descriptive bibliography.” How does that differ from a conventional bibliography?

American imprint bibliographies have traditionally been checklists--chronological lists, of widely varying scholarship, recording everything printed in a particular state or town or produced by an individual printer. In 1974 William Miller raised the bar dramatically with his descriptive bibliography of Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia printing. I’ve attempted to raise the bar even higher. In addition to full bibliographical apparatus such as collations and expanded pagination and contents statements, I’ve identified type, paper and watermarks, and contemporary bindings, as well as the copy-specific attributes of every copy located.

What was the hardest part about compiling the bibliography?

The final mile. Turning a massive database, assembled over more than twenty-five years, into a coherent and consistent book. I was very fortunate to have two of the country’s finest bibliographers--David Whitesell and Michael Winship--as my readers, in addition to the extraordinary resources of the American Antiquarian Society and particularly its publications department.

How about the most rewarding part?

Discovering previously unrecorded New Jersey printing, chiefly in smaller repositories such as regional historical societies but also in the National Archives of the United Kingdom.

On Oak Knoll’s site, it says that you visited 115 libraries as you compiled this bibliography.  Which were your favorites?

I really don’t have any favorites. Different libraries offered different rewards. The major scholarly repositories are, with a few exceptions, well catalogued and efficiently run, and most of the rare books curators are old friends. But there are rarely surprises. Smaller repositories are a very mixed bag, but always exciting because you never know what you’ll find.

You mentioned your personal New Jersey collection. Are you still adding to it?

A large part of my life over the last forty years has been spent building this collection and researching and cataloguing every book. In 1996 I published a bibliographical catalogue of all the books in the collection from 1698 through 1860, in two volumes, 1,100 pages. Today that same catalogue would be almost twice as large. I add to the collection continually.

What’s your next project?

I have one more New Jersey historical book to finish. Then I plan to research and write up the 1861-1900 part of my collection and publish a new catalogue of the entire collection from 1698 through 1900.

Felcone’s bibliography is available to purchase from Oak Knoll Press.
Yesterday Sotheby’s New York sold a lot of seven signed books from George Washington’s library at Mount Vernon--according to the auctioneer, the largest number of volumes signed by the first president to be seen at auction since 1904. The total price for these seven rarities: $1.2 million.

Sotheby's-Washington.jpgThe lot contained the following books: volume III of Oliver Goldsmith’s An History of the Earth (second edition, 1779), bearing Washington’s armorial bookplate; volume VII of the same, also with bookplate; Jonathan Swift’s The Beauties of Swift (1782) also bearing his engraved armorial bookplate; volume III of Alain-Rene Le Sage’s The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane (sixth edition, [1785]) signed; volume IV of the same, also signed; Voyages de M. de Chastellux’s dans l’Amerique septentrionale... (1786) in two volumes, signed; and Joseph Priestley’s Discourses Relating to the Evidences of Revealed Religion...(1796), signed.

The books were part of a larger 250-lot sale of the Library of a Distinguished American Book Collector that included many literary and historical high spots. The sale realized $4.9 million in total. The top lots include: an association copy of the rare first edition of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense for $545,000; a first edition of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations for $173,000; a fine, unsophisticated first edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species for $209,000; and A Narrative, of the Excursion and Ravages of the King’s Troops Under the Command of General Gage on the nineteenth of April, 1775, the first book published in Worcester by patriot-printer, Isaiah Thomas, for $149,000.  

Image via Sotheby’s.com.
Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Heather Pisani of Glenn Horowitz in New York:

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How did you get started in rare books?

I began thinking about books as objects early. The elementary school I attended often had author readings, so as a kid I had this wonderful little collection of inscribed children’s books from people like Stephen Kellogg and Bernard Waber. It wasn’t until later though, during a trip to England as an undergrad at Vassar, that I bought my first “rare” book. It was a nineteenth-century edition of Middlemarch - not actually rare, it turned out... just old. Before I graduated, I was also lucky enough to take a very small, irregularly offered senior seminar on Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts that was co-taught by a Dante scholar and the curator of Special Collections. I wasn’t quite sure at that point where I was headed but knew I liked old books and manuscripts. After graduation, I spent two years in the Rare Book Room at the Strand. Then I attended grad school, during which time I interned in the Rare Book Division at the 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue branch of NYPL. For a little while, I was torn about whether I wanted to be in the trade or in a library - both have always had a certain allure for me.


What is your role at Glenn Horowitz?

I’m the firm’s full-time literary archivist. I work with individual rare books and manuscripts but my main job is cataloging complete archives. In a nutshell, I’m dispatched to homes, offices, storage spaces, attics, barns, and - my personal favorite - “work sheds,” where I usually get to spend a few days with an author, cataloging drafts, letters, notebooks, diaries, etc. We usually end up sharing a meal or two and discussing their creative process. 

I understand that you’ve done a lot of traveling on behalf of the firm. Any favorite bookish places you’ve visited?

I joke that I peaked early! Within my first year I went to Australia to work with John Coetzee. The room where he writes definitely qualifies as a favorite place. 


What do you love about the book trade?

Probably most things. I think a wonderful aspect of the field is that there’s always more to learn, whether about the history of the book itself or the life and work of a particular author. I also appreciate that it’s an evolving field right now, not least because of the internet and rise of born digital materials. I’m not sure whether the latter is for better or worse - I struggle to find email printouts as compelling as holograph manuscripts or autograph letters - but at least it’s an interesting issue. 


Favorite rare book (or ephemera) that you’ve handled?

The answer to this changes constantly. Right now I’d say that Samuel Beckett’s undergrad text books rank very high on my list. We had three volumes of French literature from his freshman year, each with his ownership signature - Samuel B. Beckett / Trinity College / Dublin / Michaelmas Term - 1923 - and each copiously annotated. His English translations filled the margins and there were endearing notes to self - like “Learn by heart” - as well as words defined repeatedly, suggesting he had trouble remembering them. I came in to the office on a Saturday to catalogue those. 


What do you personally collect?

I have a nice group of inscribed books from authors I’ve worked with. I was collecting 19th-century publishers’ bindings for a time. At one point when I was living in Prague I became set on finding the first Czech edition of Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being. It was brought out by a Canadian publishing house and is hard to come by, so whenever I see one I buy it. I have two. 


Thoughts on the present state and/or future of the rare book trade?

I don’t think print books are going to vanish. I do think that in a survival-of-the-fittest kind of way the market will only support the best, most desirable copies. Manuscripts and correspondence are a bit trickier. Archives will be comprised of an increasing amount of electronic material, so instead of notebooks and letters we have hard drives, stacks of obsolete discs, email accounts, etc. Born digital material is a quagmire of technological, practical, and intellectual issues that are now being dealt with formally by creators, dealers, and repositories in terms of preservation guidelines and collection policies. 

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

We recently published Write a Madder Letter if You Can: the Letters of Jack Kerouac to Ed White - the catalogue is available for $25 and the collection of letters themselves for $1.25 million. We’ve also been circulating a PDF list of Seamus Heaney Books from the collection of James O’Halloran that will be available as a print catalogue this summer. My colleague Lauren Walsh is putting the finishing touches on a very cool catalogue of the archive of dust-jacket designer Philip Grushkin, also coming out this summer. No fairs, but at the end of June we’re moving to a new location that will include a street-level gallery space on 54th Street to open in the fall. 

This past weekend Skinner of Boston held its now biannual auction devoted to fine books and manuscripts. This auction achieved an excellent sell-through rate for its 468 lots. Here were a few of my favorites.  

Louisa-Skinner.jpgIt’s not surprising that this Louisa May Alcott letter, c. 1868, realized $10,000, over an estimate of $3,000-4,000. For it is not merely an autograph signed letter by the famous author, but one written to her publisher Thomas Niles, in which she makes editorial notes regarding Little Women. All that, an an ink smudge showing her partial fingerprint!

Gill Map Skinner.jpgI am thankful to our Fine Maps columnist, Jeffrey Murray, for making me feel smart while I perused Skinner’s map offerings. This one, for example, is the work of MacDonald Gill, whose work we featured in our spring 2012 issue in Murray’s column about the Empire Marketing Board. This brightly colored map is a bird’s eye view of London c. 1914, originally commissioned to be displayed in railway stations. This one came complete with the original publisher’s printed envelope. At $1,400, it made more than double its estimate.

Skinner-Binding.jpgThis one I couldn’t resist including--not for its rarity as much as its beauty (though it is unrecorded, according to Skinner). The English psalm book, c. 1625, is bound in a contemporary silk embroidered binding with the death’s head on the front and back covers. It was estimated at $1,000-$1,500 but did much better at $3,250.

Images via Skinner.com.
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