September 2013 Archives

In August, the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America announced the 2013 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest winners. First prize went to Elias Serna of the University of California-Riverside, Ashley Young of Duke University won second prize, and Amanda (Mande) Zecca of Johns Hopkins University took third. 

Because this contest was launched by FB&C back in 2005, we continue to take an active interest in it. To that end, I asked each of this year’s three winners to complete a shortened form of our ‘How I Got Started’ interview (which usually runs on the magazine’s back page) to tell us more about them and their book collection(s).

First up is Mande Zecca.

Age: 28

Residence: Baltimore, Maryland

Main area(s) you collect: Poetry (of all periods), but, more specifically, Modernist, 20th-century, American avant-garde, small press publications/chapbooks. My NCBCC collection focused on some of the “new” American poets of Donald Allen’s 1960 anthology and is titled “From Berkeley to Black Mountain: American Avant-Garde Poetry, 1945-1965.”

Number of volumes in your collection:  I had forty-four at the time I submitted my application, but I’ve since purchased several of the items on my wishlist, along with some other related books, so around fifty at this point. 

Most recent acquisition: Steve Clay and Rodney Phillips’s compendium A Secret Location on the Lower East Side: Adventures in Writing 1960-1980.

When did you start collecting: This collection started with Black Sparrow Press’s The Collected Books of Jack Spicer which, though out-of-print and still somewhat difficult to come by, was the only complete edition of Spicer’s work available at the time (2007). Based on a 1998 exhibition at the New York Public Library, this book documents the “underground” publishing scenes in downtown Manhattan and San Francisco from 1960 to 1980, and includes selections from Jack Spicer and Fran Herndon’s J Magazine, Wallace Berman’s Semina, and White Rabbit Press.

Holy Grail: I dream of someday owning a first or second printing, by White Rabbit Press, of any of Spicer’s individual books (After Lorca, Language, and the aptly titled The Holy Grail being three of my favorites).

Jack Spicer also edited, published, and distributed a little mimeo magazine called J with the assistance of occasional guest editors (George Stanley nos. 6-7; Harold Dull no. 8) and the magazine’s art editor, painter and collage artist Fran Herndon.  It was known for its eclectic editorial selections (Donald Allen, who helped distribute the magazine in New York, wondered “what [Spicer’s] editorial policy may be. Seduction by print?”), its often intricate typographic design, and its original artwork.  While I will most likely never own a copy of J (I can dream, though!), I’m looking forward to my dissertation research take me to Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, and back to The Poetry Collection at SUNY Buffalo to peruse the issues that they own.

Favorite bookseller: Jeff Maser and Hermitage Bookstore (now closed, sadly), an extremely well-curated little shop in Beacon, New York, run by artist and letterpress printer Jon Beacham. Beacham, like Maser, had a phenomenal selection of post-WWII American poetry. On the Road Bookshop in Canton, CT, and Normals Books and Records in Baltimore are two shops I visit frequently. Iowa city, where I lived from 2006-2008, was a tiny mecca of fantastic bookstores: Prairie Lights, Murphy-Brookfield Books, The Haunted Bookshop, etc. I recently visited Marfa Book Co. (an independent (new) bookstore and gallery), which was beautiful and very well curated. I’m going down the rabbit hole here, so I’ll stop. I’ve been to too many fantastic used and independent bookstores across the U.S. to name here!

Future plans: I’m looking forward to exploring the Jack Spicer Papers at UC Berkeley and the Jargon Society Collection at SUNY Buffalo in the coming months. I’m also planning to visit the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library, which houses many small press publications and little magazines from the 1950s and 1960s.

Stay tuned to the blog this week for more Collegiate Book Collectors.

For those in and around Washington, D.C., an awards ceremony to celebrate these young collectors will take place on October 18, 2013 at 5:30pm at the Library of Congress and includes a lecture by noted collector and scholar Mark Samuels Lasner. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Wilde and Wonderful

“The Selfish Giant and Other Stories,” by Oscar Wilde; The Folio Society, $44.95, 192 pages, ages 13 and up.

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THE SELFISH GIANT Copyright © 2013 by Grahame Baker-Smith. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, The Folio Society, London. 

  

Perhaps best known as a playwright and novelist, Oscar Wilde also wrote several fairy tales. The Folio Society has published a new edition that would make an excellent gift to fairy tale fans as well as to those who love a beautiful, well-crafted book.


As with everything published by the Folio Society, the production standards for The Selfish Giant are first-rate. A sturdy metallic silver box keeps everything safe, and beautiful end papers covered in snowflakes set a magical mood. The book is printed on Abbey Wove paper and is three-quarter bound in buckram. (Buckram is a 100% cotton cloth used to cover the boards of the book.) On the cover is an exquisite illustration of the title character looking over a little boy who sits in an ethereal white-blossomed tree.


Grahame Baker-Smith illustrated The Selfish Giant. (Smith was also recently commissioned to illustrate the Folio Society’s 2012 edition of Pinocchio.) During a conversation with the illustrator I asked if he incorporated Wilde’s likeness into any of the images. He did; try to find which one it is in the accompanying image post. The mixed-media illustrations capture Wilde’s wit, yet recall a certain melancholy, suggesting - rightly - that these stories are not for the faint of heart.


British fiction author Jeanette Winterson writes an engaging introduction, giving readers a quick primer on Wilde’s life while intertwining major life milestones with his work. She reminds us that these are not bedtime stories for babies; rather, Winterson declares that these tales ‘tell us what science and philosophy cannot and need not’. As a result these stories deal with themes that young children may not understand.  Still, this is a glorious book, and as Wilde himself said, “With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?” 

Read more and see images from the book here -- 

Ferguson Smith, famous British spycatcher during the Cold War, passed away this month. He was 98 years old. The Telegraph described Smith in his obituary as “a man with a rigorous attention to detail, quiet manner and dry sense of humour.”

One of Smith’s greatest triumphs was busting the Portland Spy Ring, a group of Soviet spies active in Britain in the 1950s. The Ring used the sale of antiquarian books to transport classified information. Two important members of the Ring were Peter Kroger and his wife Lona, who masqueraded as antiquarian book dealers. Peter sold rare books from their home in Ruislip, a suburban section of northwest London. Smith discovered that the Krogers were passing “microdots” that reproduced highly classified information in miniature.  The Krogers including these microdots in sales of antiquarian books to a fellow spy named Gordon Lonsdale, who would then sent the microdots to the Soviet Union accompanying letters to his supposed wife. When Smith infiltrated the Kroger bungalow, he discovered massive amounts of spying equipment, fake passports, large sums of cash, and a longe-range transmitter linked to Moscow.

Smith’s discovery was heralded as a great espionage coup and prevented the further loss of an array of classified military information about Britain.

The Krogers were arrested, imprisoned, and eventually traded with the Soviet Union for a British civilian in their custody.

(As an interesting aside, Peter Kroger knew Frank Doel, the antiquarian bookseller in London who inspired the novel and film 84 Charring Cross Rd.)

Smith’s distinguished career as a spyhunter continued with other high-profile catches: George Blake, considered the most dangerous of the Soviet spies in Britain, and John Vassall. Smith retired in 1972 and lived out his days comfortably with his wife in Surrey.




A couple of days ago, I received a number of questions from Gregory McNamee, a freelance writer who does book-related features for Britannica Online, for a piece he is doing about my forthcoming book from Knopf, On Paper. One of his queries--and he assures me he doesn’t mind my using it in this context for the FB&C blog--went like this: 

Has there ever been a “golden age” of papermaking, as there has been for so many other artistic endeavors? Perhaps put another way, does your heart warm in particular to any of the historic periods you write of in On Paper? 

 Truth be known, I don’t think the question has ever been seriously raised before, at least not to my knowledge. From an artistic standpoint--if we’re talking about craft and excellence of achievement, not necessarily volume--my initial response would be that a “golden age” of papermaking, if any such creature exists, would likely embrace that period before machines began to replace hand papermaking in the nineteenth century as the principal means of production, and before the introduction of chemically treated fiber from trees. 

 But old-salt journalist that I am, I decided to ask a couple of people whose judgment I respect in these matters--MacArthur Fellow Timothy D. Barrett, director of the Center for the Book at the University of Iowa and renowned authority on hand papermaking, and Sidney E. Berger, director of the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum, who with his wife, Michèle Cloonan, has assembled one of the finest collections of decorated papers in private hands--if they had any thoughts on the subject, and if they could do it in 150 words or less.  

Here’s what Tim had to say: 

 “I would venture to guess that all cultures/countries/regions have had periods when really excellent paper was made and what came afterwards was not as uniformly good. But tastes change and it depends on who you are talking to. It’s kind of like asking, ‘Was there ever a golden age of winemaking?’ You can imagine the arguments that would ensue. Many book conservators would point to incunabula-era papermaking because much of the paper made then is still in excellent condition. More to that story of course. For me it was a golden era, but excellent paper was made afterwards, and still is.” 

 And Sid: 

 “The Germans, French, and Italians in the 19th and early twentieth century created an unbelievable array of magnificent decorated papers--thousands upon thousands of them--using machinery and wood-pulp stock. Their papers were of every imaginable (and many unimaginable) designs, textures, colors, patterns, sheens, materials, and weights. These papers were used for millions of books and pamphlets, and the extent to which their decorative aesthetics went have never been equalled since the end of the First World War. Only the Japanese rival them for numbers of decorated papers and techniques. In fact, they are neck and neck in producing vast numbers of beautiful papers using every decorative technique known.” 

If any of you have your own thoughts, feel free to offer them on my author page on Facebook.
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On September 26th and 27th, 100 volunteers from around Saginaw, Michigan will gather together to renovate the childhood home of Pulitzer prize winning poet Theodore Roethke. 

“Our goal is to bring the museum up to standards that will allow us to host visitors year-round, and house a poetry library and Roethke Special Collections materials,” said Mike Koleth, Vice President of the Theodore Roethke Home Museum.

The volunteers - drawn from the ranks of Dow Chemical Company - will conduct extensive landscaping, re-paint the interior and exterior of the house, and update the electrical system.

The museum is also in the process of expanding its Roethke library.  “We are trying to build the special collections both through donation and the small acquisitions budget that we have,” said Koleth. The museum features some of the interesting material from its special collections in regular updates to its Facebook page.

Theodore Roethke is widely regarded as one of the finest American poets of the 20th century.  His childhood home is a registered National Literary Landmark.

Roethke, the son of a German immigrant, grew up at 1805 Gratiot St in Saginaw. His father and uncle ran a greenhouse where Roethke spent much of his youth.  The experience had a powerful influence on him.  He later wrote, “[The greenhouses] were to me both heaven and hell, a kind of tropics created in the savage climate of Michigan, where austere German Americans turned their love of order and their terrifying efficiency into something beautiful.” Roethke went on to attend the University of Michigan and Harvard University before embarking on a life and a poet and professor, teaching at a variety of universities around the country.  Roethke won the 1954 Pulitzer Prize in poetry his book Waking. Roethke passed away from a heart attack while swimming in his friend’s pool on Bainbridge Island in 1963.  Roethke was 55 years old.

[Photo of Roethke house provided by Mike Koleth]
Salinger Contract.JPGIn the midst of all the recent Salingermania, I discovered a new novel called The Salinger Contract (Open Road Media, paperback, $16.99). Its dual narrative concerns two writers--one a former journalist whose primary job these days is stay-at-home dad, the other a successful thriller writer with waning talent and confidence. An uneasy friendship develops between them when a Chicago book collector with a penchant for reclusive authors makes a provocative offer and sends the plot spinning. I loved the novel’s dark playfulness and its fresh approach to the biblio-fiction genre that has been feeling stale of late (in that way, it reminded me of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, but I found The Salinger Contract more complex and more enjoyable.)    

As fate would have it, the author is Adam Langer, a magazine editor with whom I worked a dozen years ago at a start-up called Book Magazine. He and I haven’t been in touch since, so this felt like a great opportunity to seek him out and tell him how much I enjoyed his novel--and also to ask him a few questions about the story.

RRB: I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that the antagonist is a collector who insists on hoarding manuscripts that will never be published, indeed will never be read by anyone else. In fiction, collectors are often depicted as sinister and compulsive, but you give it a bigger twist. Do you think collectors get a bad rap?! (And do you collect anything?)

AL: Well, I would hate to think of my collector character representing collectors as a whole group of people. For myself, I can’t say that I’m much of a collector except in the case of stories, which my collector character also collects in his own sinister way. When I was younger, I collected baseball cards and stamps and my father gave me his stamp collection, which I still have and cherish. And somewhere safely locked away, I do have some Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Roberto Clemente baseball cards, which aren’t worth anywhere near what one would think because I never thought to keep them in mint condition. But, like the stamps, they’re more valuable for their role in history--both mine and history in general--than whatever negligible resale value they might have.

RRB: It’s impossible to ignore the fact that the novel’s main character shares your name -- why did you do that? After all, you’re not a house husband/aspiring writer in Bloomington, Indiana.

AL: Well, I was living in Bloomington for a while so that’s actually true. The real reason for using my name is because I thought it was as good a method as any to get the reader to trust me, which, of course, is almost always a silly thing for a reader to do. I wanted to start out with some basic realities, then totally warp them into a funhouse reflection of reality, and the easiest way to do that was to use a lot of elements of my own biography. There are also some very specific reasons why I thought that using my own name and that of my father would work well for the plot, but I probably shouldn’t get into that.

RRB: One of the blurbs on the back of the book describes the plot as a series of “nesting boxes,” (I was thinking Russian dolls), but your novel has that Calvino-esque quality. Was it hard to plot out? How long did it take you to conceive and write it?

AL: I love Calvino. When my Italian professor Doris Ingrosso introduced me to The Baron in the Trees I was totally taken with it. I had a similar reaction, perhaps an even more profound one to If On a Winter’s Night A Traveler. Both taught me how much you could play with form in a novel and still tell an engaging story. As for The Salinger Contract, I didn’t really plot it out. I’m not a writer who outlines. I follow the plot where it takes me. I let it surprise me and then I spend a lot of time backtracking and making sure it all makes sense. It might not be the most logical method for writing a novel, but it’s fairly organic and it’s the one that I find most satisfying.

RRB: Your book takes literally the adage that a book can “save your life.” What book--metaphorically speaking--saved your life?  

AL: I don’t think any one book saved my life, but there are certainly plenty that helped to form who I am, and if they didn’t save me, they did change me. Probably for each phase of my life, there’s a different book or series of books. When I was a kid, it was Beverly Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona books, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and Donald Sobol’s Encyclopedia Brown books and Secret Agents Four. When I was in high school, it was Kerouac, particularly On the Road and The Subterraneans and also a play by Simon Gray called Quartermaine’s Terms. In college, it was Calvino and Borges. When I was studying literature in grad school, it was Jane Eyre and The Aeneid. There has been a Graham Greene phase and a G.K. Chesterton phase and an Edna O’Brien phase and a Joseph Conrad phase. And about ten years ago, I got into a Virginia Woolf phase that I still haven’t gotten out of. Even now, when I’m stuck or I don’t know what to write about, I pick up The Waves or To The Lighthouse. Most recently, the book that blew me away was one I was surprised I’d never read before--Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now.

RRB: As a reader, do you enjoy “biblio-fiction” -- meaning novels about rare books and manuscripts -- and if so, what are some of your favorites?

AL: The first character that comes to mind is Arthur Geiger in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. And then there’s James Atlas’s The Great Pretender. I really liked the first fifty pages of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind, but then I misplaced the novel and never actually finished it.

RRB: And with a title like The Salinger Contract, I have to ask, will you see the new Salinger documentary?

AL: I did. I didn’t hate it as much as some people did, but it’s not a very good movie. And now that all the spoilers have been spoiled--more Salinger books are on their way; Salinger was pretty much a creep; Salinger was deeply affected by the time he spent in the war--there’s no real artistic reason to see the movie. But then again, I’ve never been all that interested in author’s biographies. That’s why I decided to make some up, including my own.
Slave Mss.jpgThis is how buying an obscure manuscript for $8,500 at an auction can turn into a bestselling book, a scholarly puzzle spanning a decade, and a groundbreaking literary discovery.

In early 2001, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., received a catalogue from Swann Galleries, containing “Printed and Manuscript African-Americana. In the catalogue he noted with interest lot 30, an unpublished original manuscript thought to be a fictionalized biography of escaped slave Hannah Crafts. That it came from the collection of African-American historian and bibliographer Dorothy Porter Wesley made it all the more interesting to Gates. On auction day, February 15, 2001, a friend attended the auction for him and secured the manuscript for $8,500. Gates was the only bidder. He then spent the next several months speaking with document experts, including Kenneth Rendell and Joe Nickell, and verifying the manuscript’s authenticity.

The Bondwoman’s Narrative: A Novel by Hannah Crafts, edited and with an introduction by Gates, was published by Warner Books the following year. It became a bestseller, and Gates donated the manuscript to the Beinecke Library at Yale. And even though Gates had been unable to say for certain who Crafts was--Crafts was presumed to be a pseudonym--the book’s publication was enough of a happy ending.

Eleven years later, Gregg Hecimovich, a professor English at Winthrop University in South Carolina, believes he has “found” Crafts’ real name: Hannah Bond. In an article in yesterday’s New York Times, Hecimovich described his decade of “obsessive” researching of wills, diaries, almanacs, and public records. He intends to publish his findings in a forthcoming book. Gates commented, “Words cannot express how meaningful this is to African-American literary studies...It revolutionizes our understanding of the canon of black women’s literature.”  

Image: The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
Our new series profiling Bright Young Librarians continues today with Heather Cole, Assistant Curator of Modern Books & Manuscripts and Curator of the Theodore Roosevelt Collection at Houghton Library, Harvard University.

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How did you get started in rare books?

As a kid, I picked up old books here and there, thinking they were fun and interesting, without realizing that what I was doing was actually collecting. During my first year in college, one of my classes visited the library’s Special Collections, and it was a huge revelation for me: that not only was this a thing, but it was a thing that people did for a living. I asked for a job on the spot, and within a few semesters I knew it was the career for me.
 
What is your role at your institution?

I have two roles: as the Assistant Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts, I support a busy department that focuses on material produced between 1800 and the present (which is a LOT of great stuff, both canonical and esoteric). The collection is amazing, and I’m always coming across new things I haven’t seen. Along with helping the curator, Leslie Morris, develop and add to the collection, I give presentations to class groups, answer reference questions, work a few hours a week in our reading room, develop exhibitions, and maintain our department’s blog, among other varied tasks.
 
My second role is the Curator of the Theodore Roosevelt Collection. TR was one of the last presidents to not have an official presidential library; Harvard holds the bulk of his personal papers. It’s an amazing collection to work with, and TR is an endlessly fascinating figure, so I have a lot of fun with that material.
 
Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

It changes constantly! I was a weird kid who read a lot of Shakespeare growing up, so when I started working in Special Collections libraries, the First Folio was the Holy Grail for me.
 
There are so many cool things at Houghton to play with. We have a set of tiny manuscript booklets that the Brontë siblings made. And we have John Keats’s set of Shakespeare, edited by Samuel Johnson, in which Keats often violently scribbled over Johnson’s commentary, with which he seemed to have strongly disagreed (on one page he wrote, “Fie Johnson!”) I love association books; it’s so interesting to see how writers respond to what they’re reading. And while our literary collections are amazing, I also really like items that relate to pop culture, such as a manual distributed to writers for the original Star Trek series with rules of what they could and couldn’t include in an episode.
 
What do you personally collect?

What my pocket money allows, which isn’t too much! I collect a few modern authors, including Margaret Atwood and A.S. Byatt. I also recently started collecting ephemera relating to vegetarianism. I have a lot of interests, but there’s never enough funds, or space on my bookshelves, to accommodate all the collections I’d like to build.
 
What excites you about rare book librarianship?

I love the variety. Every day I have something different on my desk, and I love the challenge of learning about new material or a new area of collecting. I’ve had the most fun working on exhibitions on topics that I didn’t previously know anything about.
 
One of my favorite parts of my job is introducing our collection to students and other visitors. It’s great to see students who come in and are very skeptical about spending an hour in a library, and then to show them something that blows their minds and gets them excited about using primary sources (everything from the first edition of Leaves of Grass to pulp novels to artists’ books seem to work).
 
Thoughts on the future of special collections / rare book librarianship?

I’m both excited by and a bit afraid of the advent of born-digital materials. I’m glad that it’s an issue that the field is discussing and working on, but a real solution or consensus has not really been found yet. Digital objects are piling up and we need to figure out some way to make that material available to our researchers. I don’t want to turn down a wonderful archive because we have no way to make available the material within it, but we need to make sure that material is as accessible as paper-based collections.

This is very nitpicky, but I would love to see the field find a way to maintain the romance of the places we work while somehow also communicating to the public that our libraries are not populated with dusty tomes on equally dusty shelves, or that amazing material is somehow hidden there and waiting for some intrepid researcher to discover it. That kind of notion downplays how hard the staff at special collections libraries work, and what the very nature of our jobs is!

I hear you’ve done some interesting exhibitions. What has been your favorite to work on?

I curated an exhibition in 2010 to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of William Makepeace Thackeray. It was an interesting challenge; he’s an author that not many people are familiar with, and so I not only needed to introduce him, his writing, and why he deserves attention, but also to make the exhibition visually appealing and entertaining. Luckily Thackeray’s a pretty easy sell - not only was he a great writer, but he was also a decent artist, a witty letter writer, and a very affectionate and present parent.

Any upcoming exhibitions you’re working on?

I’m currently working on an exhibition to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for 2015. Thanks to collector Harcourt Amory, a contemporary of Carroll’s, Houghton has many of Tenniel’s original drawings for the illustrations, as well as a rich collection of early editions, translations, and ephemera (I’m particularly smitten with a gorgeous Art Deco Alice, with illustrations by Willy Pogány, published by Dutton in 1929.)

splash_image.jpgNow in its eighth year, Printed Matter’s New York Art Book Fair returns this weekend at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City. Last year, more than 250 booksellers, antiquarians, artists, and independent publishers from 26 countries exhibited their work, and more than 25,000 people come to browse and buy.

If you’re interested in contemporary artists’ books, zines, photobooks, letterpress, and the like, here’s the prefect opportunity to take it all in. Look out for book artist Clifton Meador (whose work is featured in our summer issue). Previews begin Thursday evening, and the fair runs Friday-Sunday.


The Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University, in partnership with the American Antiquarian Society, will be digitizing, cataloging, and providing online access to a wide variety of American vernacular music manuscripts. The project has been made possible through a $126, 956 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Director for the Center, Dale Cockrell, said the collection contains some 9,000 music manuscripts, dating from 1775 to the 1970s. Cockrell said the project will particularly focus, however, on music from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Cockrell also said that handwritten music books were common in that time period.

“Instead of buying books, they would keep books they made themselves around, then they would write the book, so they could keep it to play time and time again,” Cockrell said, in an interview with the Daily News Journal. “These are kind of like a play list on your iPod. They wouldn’t have spent so much time writing the songs down if it wasn’t music that mattered to them.”

The project will catalog the music manuscripts and make them viewable online for free.  Lindsay Millon, the cataloging librarian for the project, said it will be a “big task.”  She continued, “Sometimes the ink bleeds through pages over time, or some of it is so old that I may have a terrible time reading it. I’ll, of course, scan that material into our database; it just really limits what information I can include as part of the cataloging process. And a lot of these are written in beautiful handwriting -- that I can’t read. It’s this beautiful, old scroll-style writing. It’s crazy, beautiful handwriting, so we may have to get some assistance for that.”
-1.jpgLike many people, I’ve been fascinated by the story of Huguette Clark, the 104-year-old multimillionaire who died in 2011 after having spent much of her life in anonymous seclusion. Ever since Bill Dedman’s investigative reports began surfacing in 2010, I’ve enjoying reading about the copper heiress who was born in Paris in 1906 and lived most of her long, luxurious life in New York City before meeting what I would call a tragic end -- with a relatively healthy body and mind, Huguette spent the last twenty-two years of her life in a hospital room instead of one of her three palatial homes.

In Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune, Dedman and co-writer Paul Clark Newell, Jr., Huguette’s second cousin, have written the definitive account of her eccentric life. As the last child born to 67-year-old copper king and (briefly) Senator William A. Clark and his 28-year-old wife, Anna LaChapelle, Huguette was perhaps bound from the beginning to be odd. The death of her older, teenaged sister, with whom she was close, surely didn’t help. Nor did the immense amounts of money and attention. Still, hers was a charmed life, full of travel and music and lengthy correspondence with friends. It wasn’t until 1991, when a doctor made a house call to her Fifth Avenue apartment and discovered a skeletal woman with various cancers, that it seemed her life was coming to its natural close. But, in many ways, that was just the beginning of this strange tale, because the patient recovered, and yet ended up staying in the hospital for the next 7,364 nights. And she began giving away her money -- by the millions -- which didn’t go unnoticed by long-lost relatives or, once Dedman was on the trail, the media. This is a story that very much needed to be told.  

How much money did Huguette have? Something in the range of $300 million. (Among other things, her father had founded Las Vegas.) Like her parents, Huguette was a collector. Mainly she collected dolls and doll houses, but she also had Stradivarius violins and major paintings, including Manet, Monet, and Renoir. (Nate Pedersen wrote about Clark’s collections on our blog last year.) Christie’s auctioned a collection of rare jewels from her estate, which realized $18 million. She seemed fond of books, as well. Of all the rooms in her father’s dismantled 121-room New York City mansion, Dedman writes, “the library was the one Huguette described with the most fondness, the one she missed most of all.” (According to the footnotes, Senator Clark’s library is detailed in an auction catalogue for a sale on January 29, 1926 by the American Art Association. I’d love to see that.)

Empty Mansions is full of rich details and solid research--we’d expect nothing less of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Dedman--and yet I did not come away as convinced as the authors seem to be about Huguette’s decision-making skills as she aged, or indeed that her mental capabilities had ever progressed past childhood. It’s difficult and sad to imagine that a person of reasonable adult faculties would choose to remain hidden away in a small, sterile room watching The Smurfs on television when she could have had the world at her fingertips, or that she didn’t feel trapped by those around her--nurses, hospital administrators, lawyers, accountants--who claimed to be (or truly thought they were) helping.

The book’s publication this week coincides with a trial set to begin tomorrow that pits nineteen of Clark’s (mostly estranged) relatives against the beneficiaries of her last will (a charitable foundation, a hospital, a nurse, a goddaughter, an attorney, an accountant, and several employees). The relatives believe that Huguette was mentally incompetent when the last will was signed and that she may have been the victim of fraud.

It’s an incredible tale, and not yet complete.
Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 9.04.30 AM.pngGo ahead, say it like Austin Powers. Tomorrow is the launch of the UK’s unprecedented nationwide campaign for books and bookshops, Books Are My Bag. A collaboration of publishers, booksellers, authors, and agents is urging book lovers to “to show their support by visiting and purchasing a book from their favourite bookshop.” Booksellers will hand out these canvas bags with the slogan, “Books Are My Bag;” the campaign hopes to distribute 250,000 bags between tomorrow and the end of the year.
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The Harriet Beecher Stowe house in Hartford, Connecticut, which houses 200,000 manuscripts and 6,000 objects related to Stowe, will be the recipient of a $150,000 federal grant to help preserve its collections.

Stowe lived in the 5,000 sq foot home for the last 23 years of her life.  For many of those years, Stowe’s next door neighbor was Mark Twain. 

Stowe also famously hid a fugitive slave at her Hartford home.  Research earlier this summer published in Common-Place, from the American Antiquarian Society, revealed the slave’s name as John Andrew Jackson.  He escaped South Carolina in 1847 by stowing away on a north-bound ship in Charleston harbor. (The paper was written by Susanna Ashton a professor at Clemson University in South Carolina). 

The Harriet Beecher Stowe house is now a National Historic Landmark, freshly listed earlier this year. 

The $150,000 of federal funding will supplement $400,000 raised by the center already for buying and installing a new mechanical system, making climate and environmental control improvements, and installing a fire detection and protection system.

Visitors can tour the house most days.  Researchers can gain access to the extensive holdings of the research library by appointment. 
Hotel_Large_ph41.jpgThe Joule, a luxury hotel in Dallas, Texas, debuted its Taschen Library last week, taking a page from the numerous hotels now offering literary amenities (see the NYT, July 29, 2013, “Hotels Add Libraries to Keep Guests Inside”; and recall that New York’s Plaza Hotel boasts an Assouline shop). Taschen, a publisher known for glamorous art books and limited editions, is a good fit for the high-end hotel that hosts its own modern art gallery. A  Dallas Morning News writer was “surprised and delighted” by her visit to the Taschen Library. She wrote, “Did you hear the happy squeals coming from the Joule Hotel last week? That was me, on glimpsing the literary wonder that is the Taschen Library, the Joule’s jewel box of a bookshop.” Like a good library, browsing is free, but you can, of course, buy books at this one--volumes range from $10-$1,000+.

Image courtesy of The Joule.

For almost two years now, we have been profiling young antiquarian booksellers in our “Bright Young Things” series here on the blog. Today, we launch an expanded definition of “Bright Young Things” to include the next generation of special collections librarians.  We begin with Anthony Tedeschi, Deputy Curator of Special Collections at the University of Melbourne in Australia.  Tedeschi, an American, began his career at the Lilly Library, then continued as a rare book librarian with Dunedin Public Libraries in New Zealand.  He recently accepted a new position with the University of Melbourne and moved to Australia earlier this year:

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How did you get started in rare books?

It was in 2002. I was a first year graduate library science student at Indiana University. I entered the program with the intentions of becoming a map librarian, having studied geography and history as an undergraduate at Rutgers University. A friend at Indiana suggested I might be interested in ‘History of the Book: From Antiquity to 1450’, one of the rare books courses taught by Joel Silver at the Lilly Library, and so I enrolled. The second or third session, Joel wheeled in a trolley of books, one of which was an illuminated Book of Hours. It was the first medieval manuscript I had seen that was not under glass and locked in a display case. I was hooked from the moment I turned the first leaf. That was where I closed the door on map librarianship and began down the path towards a career working with rare books, which, of course, includes antiquarian maps and atlases, so my undergrad education remained nicely relevant despite the change in focus. Two years later I was fortunate enough to land a full-time position at the Lilly. Could not have asked for a better place to begin my career.

What is your role at your institution; what do you specialize in as a librarian?

As deputy curator, my primary role is to assist the curator in the day-to-day operations of the department and share curatorial responsibility for a collection of approximately 250,000 volumes. The position offers a good deal of scope, from collection development and outreach, to selecting items for digitization and cataloguing. Plans are afoot to establish a greater online presence for the collections through social media, which is something I’m really looking forward to overseeing.

I have to agree with Gabe Konrad’s response from your Bright Young Booksellers series: ‘Specialize is a strong word’. There is always something new to learn in this field, which is one of the things I love about it, and working with diverse materials (from medieval and Islamic manuscripts to modern Australian artists’ books) means that I’ve tried not to become too focused on one particular aspect. I would say, however, that my area of greatest knowledge is in British and Continental books from the late medieval period through to the early nineteenth century, with specific interests in provenance evidence, early printed books, and the history of the book in Britain up to the private presses established during the Interwar Period (1919-1939). I’ve recently been reading up on the history of the book in Australia (for obvious reasons!) with a particular focus on the vibrant nineteenth-century Melbourne book trade.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

Impossible to pick just one! With each institution for which I’ve worked comes a particular set of favorite books, so perhaps a selection is allowable? At the Lilly, I would say Abraham Lincoln’s law book, the Shakespeare First Folio, and the Gutenberg New Testament (a dream triumvirate). During my time with Dunedin City Library, it would be any of the examples of early printing in the Maori language and a copy of Richard Knolles’s The Turkish History (London, 1687 ed.) inscribed by Samuel Pepys. I am still exploring the Melbourne collections, but at this point a favorite book has to be the library’s copy of Richard Cosin’s An Apologie for Sundrie Proceedings by Iurisdiction Ecclesiasticall (London, 1593), not for its subject matter, but because it is signed by William Juxon, Archbishop of Canterbury. Juxon, when Bishop of London, attended Charles I on the scaffold and administered last rites before the king’s execution. Did I mention my interest in provenance?

What do you personally collect?

I don’t collect, really. The odd volume of literature and occasional book about books find their way to my shelves, but this is in no way a concentrated effort to build a collection, just leisure reading. I have, though, considered collecting private press prospectuses, which is something I might yet take up.

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

Besides being able to exercise my grey cells on a weekly basis, the chance to work with a variety of rare books and manuscripts never ceases to thrill me. I still get the same charge now that I had when I handled that Book of Hours a dozen years ago, which is a feeling I doubt will ever dissipate, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet some really great people passionate about books, be they fellow curators, librarians, members of the trade, or collectors. It’s also a real sense of satisfaction that comes with being able to share that excitement and passion with students or a visiting group from outside the university, and get them thinking about the importance of books as physical objects beyond the text. Few things say ‘job well done’ like receiving a thank you card signed by a group of visiting high school students, complete with a decorated initial and snail in imitation of one of the medieval manuscripts they were shown.

Thoughts on the future of special collections / rare book librarianship?

Part of my answer can apply to the above question, since this is a rather exciting time to be working in special collections. Much like the antiquarian book trade, special collections libraries are in a period of transition. There is a shift from a focus on collection development, though this remains an integral part of the job, to one of greater access and outreach. More importantly, this is being done by going where users are, e.g. Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, &c. I think this is key to the long term survivability and viability of special collections. The Web not only offers special collections the means to promote their materials--materials that are often what differentiates one library from another and are therefore increasingly important as general resources homogenize online--but also provides a way to remove the veil of elitism (real or imagined) that so often accompanies the term ‘rare books’ and reach a far wider audience than ever before. As David Pearson noted in his 2013 Foxcroft Lecture, ‘It’s the public and the politicians who they vote into office and who ultimately fund libraries ... who need to be converted at least as much as the academy’. The more people that become aware of the existence and importance of special collections, the greater the chance, I think, of ensuring a long and positive future, but it will take those presently employed in the field to really push the agenda. You don’t have to search hard to see this is happening, so I am certainly optimistic.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

Now that the most recent exhibition (‘Libri: Six Centuries of Italian Books’) has finished, the gallery space is closed for the rest of 2013 and into 2014 for expansion and refurbishment, so no exhibitions on the immediate horizon. The first exhibition slated for the new space is called ‘Radicals, Slayers, and Villains’, which draws from the Special Collections Print Collection of over 8,000 prints. The exhibition focuses on controversial figures from history that have challenged the status-quo and helped shape our world, and includes prints by such seminal artists as Dürer, Goya and Rembrandt. There will also be a major exhibition next year on the eighteenth-century Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi hosted by the State Library of Victoria, to which Melbourne Special Collections is lending a number of bound volumes and single prints. Expect updates by listserv, blog, and Twitter feed!


BronteSigEnd.jpgAt an Edinburgh auction last week, an autographed letter signed from Charlotte Bronte to Liverpool pharmacist David Waldie, thanking him both for his praise of her novel, Jane Eyre, and a gift of some “little books,” doubled its estimate, reaching £24,000 ($37,500).

In the letter, dated January 19th, 1853, Bronte wrote: The sincere affection of a reader’s gratification is - I scarcely need to say - one of the much acceptable favours in which an author can be repaid for his labours. I shall be glad if any future work of mine gives you equal pleasure to that you speak of having found in “Jane Eyre”.

Cathy Marsden, book specialist at the auction house, Lyon & Turnbull, said, “We had huge interest in the letter, particularly from all the press coverage we have had and it seems to have caught the public’s imagination.”

Image via Lyon & Turnbull.

Guest Blog by C. Bailey


The discovery, on 23 and 26 August, of the remains of roughly twelve books from an archaeological dig at Pointe-à-Callière in the Old Port of Montréal may be all that remains of the library of nearly 24,000 original source documents and books held in the library of the first Parliament building of Canada, which was burned to the ground in 1849 after a riot.


Assembly_burning.jpgThe current dig has been in progress since 2011, according to the project website, though this is the first discovery of any kind of paper in the layers. CBC News reports that the books have been taken to the Canadian Conservation Institute for refrigeration treatment, which according to the institute may make the remains accessible.   


Canada’s first parliamentary meeting place was active from 1844 until 1849; during the fire some 200 documents and a painting of Queen Victoria were saved, however the rest were lost completely. The building was burned by members of the city’s English community after the parliament sitting at the time made the decision to offer restitutions to those who lost property during the Patriote rebellion of the 1830s.


If the books can be made readable, they could offer a unique perspective on the early history of Canada and particularly that of the province of Québec. At the moment, the photos available show the books to most closely resemble a pile of charred rubbish. However, time will tell. 


Caitlin Bailey works with, collects, and writes about rare books and ephemera. Follow her blog at Curious? Adventures with rare books or on Twitter @cdot_b


Image: The Burning of the House of Assembly at Montreal, 25 April 1849. The Illustrated London News, 19 May 1849. - Courtesy National Archives Canada, C2726.

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The Agatha Christie estate has authorized HarperCollins to publish a brand-new Agatha Christie novel.  The book will be penned by bestselling British crime author Sophie Hannah.  Hannah’s first novel, Little Face, was published in 2006 and sold over 100,000 copies. Her most recent novel is The Carrier, which came out earlier this year. Hannah won approval from the estate after presenting a detailed 100 page outline of her plan for a new Christie novel.

HarperCollins announced in its press release that the new novel would feature Hercule Poirot “in a diabolically clever murder mystery sure to baffle and delight.” The new novel, as yet untitled, will be published in September 2014. Its events will take place sometime between The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928) and Peril at End House (1932). As yet, the estate has not commissioned any further titles, nor does it plan to bring back Ms Marple. For the time being, it wishes to proceed “cautiously” into this new endeavor.

Of course, Christie herself killed off Poirot in Curtain, the final entry in the Poirot series, published in 1975. Her feelings on the return of her iconic character remain up for debate.  Cynical money ploy on behalf of the estate? Or sincere effort to give fans more of what they want?  

Either way Christie collectors will soon have a new volume to add to their shelves.


Word circulated on several electronic discussion lists yesterday that London’s Senate House Library--the central library of the University of London--plans to sell four Shakespeare Folios at a Bonhams auction this November. The immediate effect of the sale would be to create an endowment in order to attract more readers and push for restoration of government funding lost in 2006.

Professor H.R. Woudhuysen at Lincoln College, Oxford, sent a long letter last week to Christopher Pressler, director of Senate House Libraries, responding to Pressler’s request for ‘support’ in his decision to sell the folios. Woudhuysen, also vice-president of the Bibliographical Society and co-general editor of The Oxford Companion to the Book wrote, “I have come to the conclusion that I am not able to offer the support that you seek and that I am entirely against any such move.” He goes on to say, “On the basis of the documents that I have seen, it seems to me that the sale and its implications have not been thought through properly and that the Trustees have already taken a decision to sell the books through Bonhams, making any public consultation merely decorative. The decision will, I hope, attract a great deal of opposition from supporters of Senate House and if executed, it will, I fear, make many who are supporters of the library and possible donors to it turn their charitable interests elsewhere.”

Book historians and special collections librarians on the ExLibris and SHARP-L lists (and Twitter) noted that this type of “asset stripping” in collections is hardly new and should be carefully scrutinized. Library-donor relations are a major theme of this conversation, as many wonder how to trust a library that renegotiates the status of a gift fifty and one hundred years on. The folios in question were donated to the university by Sir Louis Sterling in 1956; as a group, the four have been together since the 1830s. The SHL’s website calls the Sterling collection, “an unusually integrated resource for research on the transmission of English literary texts from the 14th century to the present day.”

While Professor Woudhuysen did receive a “bland reply” from Pressler in response to his letter, the SHL has not issued an official statement on the auction. A request for comment sent to Mr. Pressler yesterday has not yet received a reply.

Today, The Bibliographical Society joined the debate by starting a petition that urges the SHL to “reconsider the proposed sale of its first four Shakespeare Folios.” After signing his support on that page, antiquarian bookseller Laurence Worms commented, “I teach at the London Rare Books School at Senate House. This proposal damages the very basis of all we try to do.”
Yesterday was Labor Day, a holiday founded in the aftermath of the Pullman Strike to celebrate “the social and economic achievements of American workers.” It has since become synonymous with the last weekend of the summer, a final time to light the barbeque and visit the lakeside cabin before the kids go back to school.  Over the weekend, I interviewed Lorne Bair, a bookseller specializing in the history of labor and social movements, about his impression of Labor Day and his thoughts on building a Labor Day book collection:

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Does Labor Day have any extra significance to you as a bookseller specializing in social movements and labor history?

Interesting you should ask, because, you know, Labor Day is a strictly American phenomenon and, in a sense, it’s an invention of Capital, not Labor. Labor Day had been celebrated unofficially by workers’ groups as early as 1882, beginning in New York City, but the firstofficial (i.e. government-sanctioned) celebration of Labor Day in the U.S. was in 1894, the result of a bill sponsored by President Grover Cleveland. Cleveland had spent that summer breaking the Pullman Railway Strike, probably the largest and certainly among the most violent labor conflicts in America up to that time. It was a huge strike, involving something like 70% of the entire American railroad workforce (something like a quarter-million workers!), and it was a just strike -- George Pullman was notoriously anti-Labor, and a terrible prick; looking back, it’s hard to take his side in this conflict no matter how you feel about organized labor! What you need to know is that all Pullman employees were required to live in a planned community, built by Pullman himself -- it was called Pullmantown, and it was on the outskirts of Chicago. Workers had to live in Company housing, and they had to buy their food and dry goods at Company stores. So, earlier in 1894, in response to lost revenues as a result of the Panic of 1893, the Pullman Company had begun laying off and cutting the pay of its workers. “Fair enough,” you might say -- after all, there was less product being built -- but at the same time the Company decided to raise the rents on workers’ company-owned houses and to raise prices at the company-owned stores! Remember: the workers had no choice in the matter; many were already in debt to the Company, so they couldn’t even leave!  The workers sought to negotiate, and even invited arbitration - but Boss Pullman would have none of it! Real robber baron stuff. So the workers struck, and then the ARU -- the American Railway Union -- struck in sympathy, crippling the railways and instantly tanking the country’s recovery from the 1893 recession. It was a great strike, and it would certainly have succeeded had the National Guard, under Cleveland’s orders, not sided with Company thugs to help break it. 

Anyway, the mid-term election campaigns of 1894 happened to coincide with the end of the Pullman strike, and the Democrats realized they were going to lose a lot of seats if they didn’t figure out a way to get Labor on their side, quick. So right after the strike was broken they rushed through the bill that established Labor Day. It didn’t do much for the Democrats in 1894, and Cleveland’s political legacy was pretty much repudiated in the Presidential election of ‘96, but the holiday stuck. So that is where Labor Day comes from! 

I would point out that, beginning in 1886, most Americans celebrated “labor day” at the same time as the rest of the world -- that would be May 1st, May Day, which is still widely celebrated as the International Day of the Worker. Problem is, that “labor day” was established to commemorate the martyrs of the Haymarket Massacre of 1886, and has always been associated with radicalism and revolutionary change -- not a legacy that American civic and political leaders wished to perpetuate in the American memory, especially not on the heels of a large and violent strike! So one of the imperatives behind the official establishment of thenew Labor Day was to de-radicalize the celebration of American Labor; to detach the movement from its revolutionary roots. So most radicals I’m acquainted with have their realcelebrations on May Day and think of Labor Day as sort of a dark footnote to labor history. Because, what the day is really celebrating is the triumph of Capital over Labor, right? It should be called Pullman Day! 

One interesting side-note: the Great Pullman Strike of 1894 is also the event that put Eugene Debs, then head of the ARU, on the map as a national figure. Even better, as a result of his famous intransigence in that strike, he was thrown in jail for 6 months -- he spent that 6 months reading Marx, and emerged a committed Socialist, probably the greatest socialist leader we’ve had in this country. He ran for President 4 times.

If someone wanted to build a Labor Day book collection, what would be some key titles to include? I wonder too if there is enough Labor Day material to build a collection around or if it would necessarily dovetail into a labor history collection, or, alternatively, a U. S. holidays collection.  I think the intersection of the two is interesting, but I’m not sure what’s out there...

Well, yes, I think a Labor Day collection could be very interesting indeed, whether on its own or as part of a larger group of material. A particularly interesting approach, it seems to me, would be to juxtapose two collections: the literature that has grown up around May Day versus that of Labor Day. The first would (or could) be a much larger collection, since May Day is internationalist in nature and has generated a great deal of iconography in nearly every culture except our own. Labor Day on the other hand, being a quasi-patriotic holiday, but one with such an interesting (if flawed) origin, has generated comparatively less literature, much of it rather tepid at that. What I would look for would not be books -- there are relatively few relating to Labor Day itself, and there are are rather tepid -- but rather the rich and often very regional genre of ephemera that the holiday has produced. Of particular interest would be material pre-dating the “official” government sanctioning of the holiday. What would I look for? Well, Labor Day from the beginning has always been a great occasion for parades, concerts, and public speechifying, so I would keep my eye out for broadsides, photographs, postcards, posters, concert programs, menus -- anything that reflected the real interaction of the American working class with this holiday that had been established just for them. Here’s the kind of thing I mean, courtesy of Duke University’s Special Collections: 

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Or, another example, recently sold at auction - I like this one because it combines a sort of Ideal Worker iconography with the sort of patriotic top-down rhetoric you (thankfully) don’t hear much anymore. I mean, that tag line -- “All Right Thinking Americans are Constructive Workers” -- sheesh. It brings chills:

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So, yes, there’s simply tons of material out there - not books, necessarily, but ephemera, graphics, and other non-traditional material and print culture -- and one could make a really stunning collection out of it.  As far as I know, no one is really doing so - at least, not among my customers. I never get requests for “Labor Day” material (whereas I get many, many requests for May Day material). Which says to me that it’s a wide-open collecting niche, just the sort of thing I’d be looking for if I wanted to assemble an interesting collection that hadn’t already been “done” to death! 

Another interesting place to start would be to collect the literature and ephemera of the Pullman Strike itself, and that is certainly a colorful area to collect! The 1890s were already an era of sensational publishing and yellow journalism, so as you might imagine the strike practically spawned a publishing industry of its own. Dozens of books - none of them especially worthwhile from an historical standpoint - and hundreds of pamphlets, magazine articles, leaflets, broadsides and other little bits of ephemera -- were produced between 1893 and 1895. I think my favorite Pullman-related item is a little book by H.H. Van Meter called The Vanishing Fair : A poem about the destruction by fire of most of the Exposition’s buildings during the Pullman Strike of July 1894 (Chicago: Literary Art Co., 1894), about the destruction of the Chicago World’s Fair grounds, one of the less felicitous after-effects of the strike. It’s a nicely printed, thin quarto volume, filled with sensational illustrations and some of the most horrid poetry you can imagine. It is exceedingly uncommon; I’ve only had one copy, and that was some years ago - but I always keep my eyes open for it! If one wanted a semi-reliable contemporary account of the strike, its antecedents and its aftermath, I would probably recommend William Carwardine’s The Pullman Strike (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 1894) -- reliably pro-labor, and issued by a socialist publishing house, so undoubtedly a little biased. But trust me -- the pro-Company accounts are worse! They’re simply lies. Interesting lies, maybe, but lies nonetheless; you really can’t believe a thing they say! 

That said, there was published in 1893, before the strike, an exceedingly interesting (and now nearly unprocurable) little volume by a Mrs. Duane Doty, called The Town of Pullman: its growth with brief accounts of its industries (T.P. Struhsacker, 1893). This was a company-sponsored (so obviously decidedly pro-Pullman) account, but it is important for offering a detailed portrait of the architecture, social hierarchy, and economic structure of one of America’s first full-scale company towns. It included a folding plan. I’ve sold one copy in my career, but a very nice reprint was done in the Seventies which can be had for not too much money. It’s an interesting read. 

And then, of course, there’s the whole government angle: it’s been traditional for Presidents to issue Proclamations on Labor Day, usually some sort of lukewarm endorsement of organized labor and all it has done to make America Great (after all, right thinking Americans are Constructive Workers...).  Most of them have been published in some form, often as pamphlets by the Government Printing Office...wouldn’t a substantial run of these make for interesting comparisons? (note I didn’t say “interesting reading”). And, though I’ve never seen it or sought it out, there must have been some print and/or manuscript culture that devolved from the Cleveland administration during the process of founding the first Labor Day.  I’d look for that, and for any House & Senate speeches that may have been published, for or against. Congressmen were always printing up their speeches to distribute among their constituents back home, to make it look like they were busy during their months in Washington.

As  you can see, I could go on all day, but I won’t. My basic feeling about collecting is that practically any subject area, no matter how seemingly obscure or ephemeral, generates a sufficient print culture that one can construct a meaningful, fascinating, and informative collection around it. This is the sort of collecting I try to encourage my customers to do -- because as I’ve said elsewhere, history begins on the ground, with someone picking up a scrap of paper and then going on to make it mean something. And that act of discovery is a function that collectors perform that no one else in society performs! It’s important, and inspiring, and it’s why I continue to do what I do.

Many thanks to Lorne Bair for speaking with us.  Visit his website or check out his blog.
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