October 2013 Archives

Our series profiling the next generation of special collections librarians continues today with Jordan Goffin, Special Collections Librarian with Providence Public Library in Providence, Rhode Island.

How did you get started in rare books?

For a long time I thought I wanted to pursue a PhD in medieval literature. Then one day I realized that even though I liked medieval literature, I liked a lot of other stuff just as much. I ended up at Indiana University, and after about one class at the Lilly Library I came to the conclusion that rare books librarianship was the perfect solution. I’d get to jump from medieval manuscripts to World War II posters to eighteenth-century nautical manuals in the space of a single day.

What is your role at your institution?

As the Special Collections Librarian, I oversee the collection (~40,000 books plus manuscripts, ephemera, etc.) and perform pretty much the full range of rare book librarian duties: I buy new materials for the collections, catalog books and process manuscript collections now and then, put together exhibitions and teach classes, work on digital projects, post to our blog, and work with researchers.

Tell us about your mapping project of the Rhode Island book trade:

When I first arrived in Rhode Island and started working at the RI Historical Society I knew I wanted to work on a project that would give me the chance to become more familiar with the state’s book trade. I had originally intended to just put together a map or timeline for my own personal use, but one thing led to another and I decided to turn it into an online resource for anyone else interested in where and when people were producing and selling books in Rhode Island. As it stands now, the site tries to locate as many people and institutions involved in the state’s eighteenth-century book trade as possible. It’s been really gratifying to see people’s interest in the topic, and there are some great new projects out there mapping the book trade around the world.

Have you worked at other institutions as well?

In addition to Providence Public Library and the RI Historical Society, I worked for about two years in Missoula as the Special Collections Librarian at the University of Montana. I’ve really enjoyed working at all three institutions.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

I’ll start with the obligatory disclaimer that it’s just not possible to pick one favorite (or ten, or twenty...). Here at PPL we have a pretty fantastic medieval mnemonic bible (previously belonging to Henry, Prince of Wales), so that’s an immediate favorite. But I’m just as much drawn to the humbler items that probably say more about their times. Awhile back I came across a brief little pamphlet from the 1830s on the topic of bathing; it’s a fun little tract, and a couple students have already made use of it. My favorite book this month is from our extensive collection of manuscript whaling logbooks. I was pulling together some items for a library tour scheduled for later in the morning. I decided to include a whaling logbook, so I took one off the shelf at random, opened it up and found, in addition to a record of the 1844 voyage, pages of encrypted text, a poem, and about forty pressed plant specimens, including still-fragrant spices.

What do you personally collect?

To be honest, I wouldn’t really consider myself much of a collector. There are a couple authors whose books I try to keep up with, and some topics I collect sporadically (mostly relating to the history of the book), but I think I get most of my collecting compulsion sorted out during the workday.

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

My selfish answer to that question is that rare book librarianship is endlessly intellectually stimulating. If I pull a random book from a shelf, I don’t know what it will be, but I know it’ll be interesting. Then, when I’m feeling a little more altruistic, I remember that there are other people out there who might benefit from our materials as well, so there’s the additional pleasure of seeing people do really creative things with the stuff in our collections. Right now, for instance, I know of at least half a dozen artists who are working on projects that make use of our collections. They’re interacting with these historic objects in ways that are vibrant and new. And working in a public library means that we have people who come in just to see rare books for the fun of it, which I particularly enjoy seeing.

Thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship?

This seems like a great time to be involved with special collections librarianship. I think there’s a widespread interest in physical, historic objects. Special collections libraries have always been the places people go to find answers to the questions nobody else has asked yet. And with the (potentially) extended reach we have thanks to the internet we can bring in new audiences to use our resources and ask those questions.

Any unusual or interesting collection at your library you’d like to draw our attention to?

I think the type of people who read this blog would really enjoy visiting and using our Daniel Berkeley Updike Collection on the History of Printing. It’s a treasure trove of materials on the history of printing, particularly typography. As far as unusual is concerned, we have one of the only collections (as far as I know) of materials on the card game whist. It used to be immensely popular, so if anyone wants to find out how it worked, we’re the place to visit.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

We have one of the best collections on the typographer Giambattista Bodoni in the US, and I’m putting together an exhibition that will open in February. We’ll also be launching a new annual prize for student type design and an online collection of book trade portraits, so it should be a fun event.

Patricia Lyons Simon Newman, a well-loved Chicago native, received a very public farewell this past July when her son, National Public Radio’s Scott Simon, tweeted about his experiences in the hospital with her. Simon, host of Morning Edition Saturday, deeply touched his 1.3 million Twitter followers with his poetic bedside reports of his mom’s final hours. A working single mother in the 1960s, twice widowed, and thrice married, Newman, 84, had enjoyed a full life.

With part of her estate slated for auction next week, Simon had the opportunity to recall one of his mother’s hobbies: collecting rare lottery tickets. “My mother, who had a keen design sense, also thought that many of the lottery ticket designs were quite striking, especially compared to today’s flimsy computer-generated slips. For decades, lottery tickets were designed to look as respectable as currency, and included many of the same features,” Simon wrote via email. “She enjoyed thumbing through the various tickets and finding out about their stories. She said that people shouldn’t buy a lottery ticket because they expected to become millionaires: that (almost) never happens. They should buy one to help build something worthwhile. As she said, ‘That way you always win.’”

Lot51-10211937.jpgOn November 6, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers will offer several lots of historical Americana from Newman’s collection, notably several lots of those antique lottery tickets. The oldest of the offerings are three exceptionally rare colonial lottery tickets signed by S. Watts from America’s first lottery, a drawing held at Boston’s Faneuil Hall in 1745. As a lot, it is expected to sell for $1,000-2,000. A grouping of later eighteenth-century tickets, including a 1762 New-York City-Hall lottery tickets, is likewise expected to realize $1,000-2,000. Another collection features eighteenth- and nineteenth-century tickets for lotteries relating to public works projects, for example eight 1781 Simsbury Bridge lottery tickets and an 1825 Providence and Worcester Road lottery ticket. Another lot features twenty-nine tickets related to the establishment of academic institutions (e.g., Rutgers, Dartmouth, William & Mary, and Harvard). The colorful tickets seen above are highlights of a selection of over 100 pieces of lottery ephemera, including two 1826 lottery tickets to raise funds for Thomas Jefferson, offered together for an estimated $1,000-2000.  

Newman shared an interest in collecting historic Americana with her second husband, Ralph G. Newman, an author, editor, book dealer, board president of the Chicago Public Library, and friend to poets and presidents. He also founded Chicago’s Abraham Lincoln Book Shop. They began acquiring their first tickets in the 1980s, said Simon. “Many states were debating the question of lotteries, and Ralph and my mother were delighted to discover that some of these debates were as old--in fact older--than the Constitution, and that many noted and worthy enterprises were built in part with proceeds from lotteries.” Ralph Newman died in 1998.

Also featured in the sale are several other historic documents from Newman’s collection, including a 1777 Journals of Congress, covering Sept. 5 1774 to Jan 1. 1776; an autographed note from James Monroe, and autograph signed letters by Horace Greeley, Andrew Carnegie, and Julia Grant (wife of Ulysses S.).

Images via Leslie Hindman.

Germaine Greer, pioneering feminist academic and author of The Female Eunuch, announced on Sunday that she sold her lifetime archive to the University of Melbourne. Greer sold the archive for $3m, but some of the cost was for the transportation, storage, indexing, and digitization of the collection. The remaining amount - as yet undisclosed - will be given to Greer’s charity Friends of Gondwana Rainforest. The charity seeks to conserve and restore the Australian rainforest.

Greer has been a natural archivist, keeping meticulous records since her days as an undergraduate at the University of Melbourne. The archive primarily consists of manuscripts of her books, diaries, and correspondence with prominent intellectuals and politicians, but also includes such rarities as her college essay papers, her Ph.D. draft, copies of letters sent to admiring fans, love letters, and correspondence with her father.

Greer was born in 1939 in a Melbourne suburb.  Educated at the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney, and Cambridge University, Greer went on to teach at several prominent Universities - including Cambridge.  The author of many books, she published her most famous work, The Female Eunuch, in 1970. (Its iconic cover was designed by John Holmes, a collectable name in his own right). The Female Eunuch quickly became a bestseller and made Greer a household name.  The book inspired both adulation and condemnation from its many readers and advanced a global conversation about feminism and women’s liberation.

Greer currently lives on a 3 acre property in Essex.  She also owns a home near the rainforest in southeast Queensland.

“Archives are the paydirt of history,” said Greer at an archive event earlier this year at the University of Melbourne. “Everything else is opinion. At a certain point you actually need documents.”

Greer’s archive is anticipated to arrive in Melbourne in July, 2014.

For your viewing pleasure, a look at the official trailer for The Book Thief, based on Markus Zusak’s 2006 novel, out in theaters on November 8. The buzz for this film, set in World War II Germany and starring Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, is getting louder by the day, due in part by last week’s advertisement in the New York Times which almost looked like a printing error -- the pages were blank. Well, blank except for the newspaper’s logo, the date and page number, and, at the bottom of the second page, the film’s website, wordsarelife.com.

Who Stole The Books?


© 2013 Thomas Docherty. Published in The Snatchabook by Sourcebooks. All Rights Reserved.

“The Snatchabook,” by Helen Docherty, illustrated by Thomas Docherty; Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $16.99, ages 3-6.

            “In every house,

                        in every bed,            

                                    a bedtime book

                                                 was being read.”

The story starts innocently enough; all the critters in the arboreal hamlet of Burrow Down complete their days with a delightful bedtime tale. All is well until an unwelcome stranger flies into town one night and steals the books quicker than a bolt of lightening. Who is the book thief? (Readers can rule out Stephen Blumberg.) After all the books disappear, a brave bunny named Eliza Brown is determined to catch the crook.  Once collared, the aptly-named Snatchabook confesses his crimes, and Eliza decides to help the creature find redemption in a most appropriate and caring manner.  Helen Docherty’s jaunty rhymes keep pace with husband Thomas Docherty’s loveable renditions of badgers, bunnies and porcupines. Children will love acting this book out - sometimes as the sneaky Snatchabook, other times as the wise Eliza Brown. While fun to read, The Snatchabook also teaches an important lesson about the power of reading to stir young minds.


© 2013 Thomas Docherty. Published in The Snatchabook by Sourcebooks. All Rights Reserved.

Our series profiling the next generation of special collections librarians continues today with Anne Bahde, History of Science Librarian in the Special Collections and Archives Research Center at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

Anne Bahde.jpg
How did you get started in rare books?

The summer before my last year in college, I got a job paging materials in the Newberry Library’s Department of Special Collections. At the time I had no idea how lucky I was, I just knew I needed a job and that it would be nice to work with books. On my first day during a tour, they took me into the vault and showed me a First Folio. As I thought about how many hands had touched that book, how significant it was as an artifact--it took my breath away, and that moment changed everything. I walked into work that day thinking I wanted to be an English professor, and I walked out wondering how I could spend every day around things like that. 
Where did you earn your MLS?

I went to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and tried to concentrate in rare books and special collections librarianship. This was way before UIUC had a certificate in special collections--I sort of had to make it all up as I went along, and I was lucky to have professors that were willing to support that. I think I had something like five independent studies in rare book topics. I’m so glad that students there now have such a great program to get them started in the profession.

Have you worked at other institutions as well?

I worked in the Special Collections Research Center at the University of Chicago as an undergraduate and a graduate student, working as a page, exhibit and preservation support, and rare books assistant. It was an incredible place to begin- I loved the energy of working in such a vibrant, busy department, and I draw on the lessons of my early experiences there nearly every day. I managed a small used and antiquarian bookstore in Chicago for a while after graduate school, then went back to SCRC as reader services assistant and assistant to the Director. After a brief stop in Washington for a second master’s degree, I started my first professional position in Special Collections and University Archives at San Diego State University. The collections there were fantastic, and I worked on instruction, outreach, exhibits, public services, collection development, preservation, and more as part of a small team there. It was exhausting but terrific.

What is your role at your institution?

I curate the rare books collections and the history of science collections, and do acquisitions, instruction, outreach, exhibits, and reference for those areas. I work with a small team of curators who work on other significant collecting areas, in a department of talented and dedicated professionals. I’ve only been at Oregon State for about a year and half, and it has been tremendous fun to learn the collections over that time--every day is a new surprise in the stacks. 
Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

It’s impossible to choose. In one day I can handle early printed books, mid-twentieth century pulps, modern artists’ books, and more--each one of those can be a new favorite . I’m as excited by a World War II poster as by an incunable. Generally, I’m partial to 19th and early 20th century ephemera, the Wiener Werkstatte, 18th century science, anything with historiated initials, and the book arts work of Julie Chen.

What do you personally collect?

Publishers’ bindings have long been a favorite of mine, and they’re affordable, which helps. I love to collect them because they can be hiding anywhere, and most of the time it is easy to find them in great condition. I love the art and design of the Arts and Crafts period, and I have a growing collection of periodicals from the Roycrofters and others from the period. I am enchanted by an early 20th century children’s periodical called John Martin’s Book, and am trying to complete that collection. I also have a little “medium rare” collection going that I add to whenever I see something odd or unusual from the period of about 1850 to 1930.

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

The joy of discovery is addictive, and something I love to share with others. Finding some wonderful detail-in a book or illustration or letter or diary-is the magic of this profession; I try to teach students the art of looking closer to enable them to have that joy too. Teaching gives me great delight, and I am constantly learning too.  The never-ending variety of both the collections and the work also fuels my energy. Sometimes I keep track of everything I do in one day--last winter there was a day when I deciphered a paragraph of 16th century handwriting, taught a class on natural history and illustration, held two Nobel prizes, answered a reference question using correspondence between two famous scientists, marveled over an artists’ book with an undergraduate, selected rare books for an upcoming display, worked with a donor, and made a big exciting purchase for the history of science rare book collection. I still can’t believe I get paid to have such fun.

Thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship?

I hope to see an age of radical access soon, where we pour energy into making our collections as discoverable and usable as possible. We’ve worked hard to digitize and to inform others of our collections. But researchers often find it difficult to locate our materials, and discovery tools that make that process as easy and rewarding as possible are really needed. There is such inspiring potential at the intersection of rare materials, linked data, digital humanities, and beyond, and I feel lucky to be part of this profession at such a transformative time. 

Any unusual or interesting collection at your library you’d like to draw our attention to?

One area we’ve been paying a lot of attention to developing is the broad history of alternative health and nutritional medicine. To my knowledge, very few institutions are concentrating on alternative health, and our collections already had significant strength in this area to build upon. The cornerstone of our history of science collections, the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers, have a significant concentration on natural health and alternative approaches to healing stemming from Pauling’s interest in vitamin and mineral therapy and orthomolecular medicine. In other rare book collections, we already had early modern herbals, almanacs, books of folk and botanic medicine, domestic medicine manuals, formularies, and city and national pharmacopoeia. We’re currently trying to fill in the gaps from the 16th through the early 20th centuries, and paying special attention to “vernacular science” in the 16th and 17th centuries, late 19th century patent medicines, and the use of vitamins in the early 20th century.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

We’re in the early planning stages for an exhibit featuring our History of Atomic Energy collection. It’s one of my favorite collections at OSU--it holds thousands of items covering all aspects of nuclear history and the atomic age: scientific, political, economic, technological, cultural, and social elements. Among other strengths, the collection has a section of fiction, poetry, drama, and music that contains some particular rarities, including comics, unpublished plays, and sheet music that I’m excited about having on display. Materials in this collection are always attractive to students, both visually for their content, so I can’t wait to feature it in our gallery.  

FoldingCalendar.pngCarried along by medieval readers like a purse on a string, this vade mecum was created in Paris c. 1290-1300. It is a rare survivor from the medieval period, particularly in such good condition--it has its original twenty-seven leaves, textile cover, and leather case--and was likely carried by a merchant during his daily travels. (You can see it from all angles on Yale’s Flickr page.) The little folding calendar noting local fair dates in Champagne is one of the fifty treasures featured in a new book about the Beinecke Library’s collection.

To celebrate the library’s 50th anniversary this month, Yale University Press has published An Inspiration to All Who Enter: Fifty Works from Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (paperback, $25). Edited by Kathryn James, curator of early modern books and manuscripts at the Beinecke, the book also contains contributions by Raymond Clemens, Nancy Kuhl, George Miles, Kevin Repp, Edwin C. Schroeder, and Timothy Young. With full-color photography of these fifty incredible objects--the young John Hancock’s penmanship workbook, Siegfried Sassoon’s annotated first edition of Robert Graves’ Goodbye to All That, and drafts and typescript of Langston Hughes’ “Montage of a Dream Deferred,” to name a few--this slim volume is eye candy for bibliophiles. There are brief notes for each entry, and one of the most enjoyable relates how the eminent bookseller William Reese sold one of the oldest maps of Mexico City to the library while still an undergraduate at Yale.

Voynich_Manuscript_(170).jpgThe Voynich Manuscript (seen above) is another one of the featured items -- in this book it is called one of the Beinecke’s “most famous, even notorious” manuscripts. The indecipherable manuscript was presented to the library in 1969 by H.P. Kraus, and while it does have a long paper trail, it remains a mystery.


A rare book is helping a forest restoration project in Oxfordshire understand how the forest changed throughout time. The Wychwood Project, centered in Oxford, seeks to conserve and restore the Wychwood Forest, which in earlier times covered most of west Oxfordshire. Aiding in this endeavor is the book Cornbury and the Forest of Wychwood, privately printed in 1910 and estimated to be worth about £500 today. The book was donated to the Wychwood Project by a supporter.

The project managers for the Wychwood Project have found the book’s guidance on the former boundaries of the Wychwood Forest to be particularly helpful as they seek key areas to reforest. The book contains a wealth of information on the extent of the Forest in the 19th century as it was in the process of being cleared for farming. The book also investigates a further 1,000 years of Wychwood history, tracing its development back to the Domesday period.

Using the book as a guide post, the Wychwood Project recently planted 20,000 new trees in an area near Witney called Foxburrow Wood. The area was part of the former Wychwood Forest and was depicted in one of the book’s maps.

As the Wychwood Project continues, the rare book will continue to play an instrumental role in reforestation planning.
I had the good fortune to see Terror of the Soul, the new Edgar Allan Poe exhibit at the Morgan Library & Museum, last week. The array of books, artifacts, images, and manuscripts is nothing short of stunning. When else will you see three copies of the first edition of Tamerlane, when only twelve are known to exist in the world? One of them belongs to Susan Jaffe Tane, a private collector who loaned many items to this show.  

Ultima Thule daguerreotype_Masury and Hartshorn.jpgThere are several images of Poe on exhibit -- an 1860s carte-de-visite long attributed (incorrectly) to Mathew Brady, a linocut portrait by Eduard Prüssen, and this “Ultima Thule” daguerreotype. If he looks more haggard and bereft than usual it is because he tried to commit suicide only four days prior. Another portrait, called the “Whitman” daguerrotype, is thought to have been taken a week after the “Ultima Thule,” once Poe had a chance to recover.

In artifacts, a handwritten label fragment once affixed to Poe’s coffin gave me the willies, for lack of a better phrase. The label was removed when his remains were transferred to a different graveyard.

But, to my mind, the manuscripts stole the show. Not only did Poe have beautiful handwriting, as evidenced in his June 9, 1849 letter to his editor asking for $10, he had an unusual way of collating them: he pasted individual sheets together to form long scrolls. One example, on exhibit for the first time in its original state, is the manuscript of “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fetner.” Poe used sealing wax to affix the narrow sheets end to end. Though it got divided up later on, the scroll was reassembled in 2013. There are several scrolls on exhibit, and another from September 1849, just weeks before his death, is a cool example. On blue paper, Poe made a copy of his poem, “Ulalume,” for Miss Susan Ingram. She wrote that he “made quite a scroll and [it] must have taken him a long time to write out. The ten stanzas were written on five large sheets of paper pasted together in the neatest possible way, end to end.” Still another scroll, for “The Bells” (July 1849), has mysterious fire damage along one side.

Also, in terms of handwriting, you can see Poe using his natural hand for letters and a minuscule, roman script for fair copies of his literary works. This is most evident on his manuscript “Epimanes” from 1833, where he is writing out the text of the story and then writing a letter to Joseph T. and Edwin Buckingham on the same page.

His correspondence with Dickens and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, as well as the manuscripts, books, and ephemera by those he influenced, such as Oscar Wilde, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Stephen King, effectively brings Poe out of the shadows. If you are in New York City before the exhibit closes on January 26, 2014, you must check it out.  

Image: Studio of Samuel Masury and S. W. Hartshorn; Edwin Manchester, photographer; “Ultima Thule” daguerreotype portrait (contemporary copy) of Edgar Allan Poe, November 9, 1848; The Morgan Library &  Museum, New York, MA 8658; Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1909. Credit: Graham S. Haber, Courtesy of the Morgan Library.

A Very Gorey Halloween

Halloween is still two weeks away, yet goblins, witches and faux headstones already claim valuable lawn space across the country. While the kids celebrate with silly tricks and sticky treats, why not indulge grown-ups this season with work by the marvelously gloomy Edward Gorey.

Located in the Flatiron neighborhood in Manhattan, B&B Rare Books is featuring three Gorey first editions; The Doubtful Guest, ($275) The Blue Aspic ($150) and The Loathsome Couple($100).  All three are in fine to very good condition and none will break the bank. 


Although these books aren’t for the faint of heart - unwelcome visitors, death and destruction feature prominently throughout - perhaps the most ghoulish tale is The Loathsome Couple.  It is considered a cult classic among Gorey collectors and tells such a shocking story that even the author acknowledged it as his most appalling. The murderous husband and wife couple is based on a real duo that perpetrated the chilling Moors Murders in England in the 1960’s.  Unlike in most Gorey tales, the characters in this book are caught and suitably punished. 

Another way to celebrate Halloween would be to visit the Gorey House in Yarmouth Port on Cape Cod. Since the author’s death in 2000, the home has been converted into a delightfully unique museum that chronicles the life, work and charitable endeavors of the master of macabre. 


The Gorey House hasn’t planned anything special for Halloween this year. (The House co-hosted a Dracula Blood Drive with the Cape Cod Hospital in 2006, but hasn’t since then.) It is currently exhibiting original artwork from The Vinegar Works, Three Volumes of Moral Instruction.

Currently featured in the gift shop is a toy theater based on Gorey’s drawings and sets for his award-winning Broadway production of Dracula. It retails at a reasonable $25.00.

Sadly, Ombledroom, the twenty-eight pound white cat who ruled the House and delighted visitors for twelve years, passed away last summer at the age of twelve. Visitors can pay tribute at to the feline’s final resting place, which is situated under a Southern magnolia tree on a patch of lawn by the house.   Happy Haunting!


Our series profiling the next generation of special collections librarians continues today with Michael Taylor, Assistant Curator of Books and History Subject Librarian at Louisiana State University.


How did you get started in rare books?

I applied to be a student assistant at my college library when I was a freshman, really just looking for a job shelving books. I ended up being hired by the Special Collections department because they needed somebody who could read music. Working with old books seemed a lot more interesting than any of my other job options, so I stayed on until I graduated, then went off to Indiana University to get my MLS, specializing in rare books and manuscripts librarianship. A part-time job in public services and digital imaging at the Lilly Library turned into a full-time one, then the opportunity to work as a curator came up at LSU. It has all been a great experience!

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

I’m a jack of all trades. Acquisitions, reference, outreach, teaching, exhibitions... there’s a lot to keep me busy! I like to spend as much time as I can developing our various rare book collections, working on exhibits, and just digging around in the stacks to see what I can find and share it with others. I hesitate to say I have specialized in anything (I actually think being a generalist has its advantages), but I guess I feel most at home working with early printed books, natural history, and Americana. I have also enjoyed doing some research on antebellum plantation libraries and early print culture in Louisiana.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

My interests are very broad, so it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I definitely have a soft spot for Edward Curtis’s and Karl Bodmer’s books on Native Americans, which we have at LSU, and I’m still pretty excited about one of our recent acquisitions, Jan Vredeman de Vries’s book on linear perspective from 1604, sometimes considered an early example of surrealist art. I also like books that have an interesting “life story.” For example, we have a few books from the library of Pierre-Clément de Laussat, the last governor of colonial Louisiana. He included a moving passage in his memoirs about how he acquired books as a young man in France in the 1770s but then had to leave many of them behind in Louisiana after he handed it over to the Americans in 1803. “There was no memory, no joy, no sorrow in my life in which the books had not played some part,” he wrote. “They had followed my fate, and one of its strange aspects was that I had come to the banks of the Mississippi to separate from them.” I think he would be glad to know that some of his books are still here over 200 years later and are still being used.

What do you personally collect?

I got hooked on the history of cycling several years ago and have found it to be an affordable area to collect. Even bicycle “incunables” from the 1860s and ’70s are relatively cheap. Most of my collection is from the 1890s. I have found some terrific postcards, photographs, catalogs, trade journals, and advertising ephemera, and even managed to acquire a small archive of a bicycle manufacturing company with interesting letterheads from all around the U.S.

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

I can honestly say I learn something every day, and hardly a week goes by when I don’t find something surprising in the stacks. Working with donors can be full of surprises, too. I recently went to a donor’s house to pick up a box of magazines and left with 500 science fiction novels. I also love it when I can get other people “fired up” about rare books. Our annual showing of Audubon’s Birds of America draws a crowd of over 200 people, ages 8 to 80. If they aren’t glowing with excitement when they come in, they definitely are when they leave! The event was featured in a 2011 Wall Street Journal article titled “The Joys of Slow Looking.”

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

Digitization will continue to reshape the special collections landscape, but I think it will have a generally positive effect. It’s not like the physical books and archives are going away. We’re just opening another door to them. LSU’s school slogan is “Love Purple, Live Gold.” In Special Collections, I like to say that we “Love Digital, Live Analog.” Researchers will increasingly rely on digital resources when they simply want to read a text. For the most part, I’m cool with that. As long as we are able to articulate why physical books still matter, we will still have people coming through our door. At the end of the day, I don’t see why e-books and rare books can’t coexist.

Any unusual or interesting collection at LSU you’d like to draw our attention to?

As a matter of fact, we just started a new one. After taking a course at Rare Book School this summer about non-traditional materials, I came home and started brainstorming with my colleagues about what we could collect at LSU that might appeal to people outside of our usual clientele but also support scholarship in a variety of disciplines and complement our existing holdings. Vampire literature was what we came up with! I’m sure it will raise a few eyebrows, but I think it fits perfectly with our collections of Gothic and Victorian literature, science fiction and fantasy, occult science, “outsider” literature (from the library of Romanian-American writer Andrei Codrescu), and even our local writers collection (Anne Rice is a native New Orleanian, and a surprising number of vampire novels are set in Louisiana). As questionable as some of the material may be as literature, it’s a publishing phenomenon that has endured since at least the 1750s, influencing everything from opera to advertising, and except for a few things like the first edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it’s something we can collect on a budget.

Any upcoming exhibitions you’re working on?

Our next exhibition will be La Langue Mondiale: French as the Language of Art and Thought. It is being produced in conjunction with a visit by Marc Fumaroli, a French historian, former director of the Académie française, and author of When the World Spoke French. The first-floor gallery is being curated by students. Upstairs, we’ll be displaying a few volumes of plates from the Description de l’Egypte (the record of Napoleon’s scientific expedition to Egypt), selections from Diderot’s Encyclopédie, a section on French naturalists and explorers, some volumes from our stellar collection of early French dictionaries, and two cases of materials about what I call “the Enlightenment in the swamp,” i.e., philosophy and science books from eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Louisiana libraries.

ArtMadeFromBooks.jpegThe fall issue of FB&C always contains a holiday gift guide, in which Nate Pedersen and I highlight about fifteen bookish items that might make a nice present (for you or for someone else). Obviously, this list often contains books, old and new. There were three new books that made the list this year -- Art Made From Books: Altered, Sculpted, Carved, Transformed (Chronicle Books, $27.50) is one of them.

Compiled by Laura Heyenga, with a preface by Brian Dettmer and an introduction by Alyson Kuhn, it is, by coffee table book standards, rather slim and handy. It is an anthology of artists who use books as their primary material in making art -- this could mean “treating” a book with any number of tools and instruments, from scissors, X-Acto knives, and needles to ink, paint, and glue.

The first thing one notices about this book is the creative binding -- the front and back boards seem to float in place while the sewn (and glued) signatures are fully visible along the spine, where a strip of chartreuse binding tape holds it together. Inside is a beautifully illustrated look at working book artists. Some of them will be familiar to readers of this magazine--in the past we have featured the work of Brian Dettmer, Guy Laramee, and Jeremy May--while others no doubt have a following among artists, collectors, and dealers. Su Blackwell’s book tableaux invite viewers into her captivating storybook world, while the intricacy of Julia Strand’s three-dimensional collages are astounding. I have long enjoyed the bookish photography of Cara Barer, and it’s nice to see large, color reproductions of some here. There are also great photos of the book sculptures left around Edinburgh by an anonymous artist in 2011. Her sculpture marking the publication of Ian Rankin’s The Impossible Dead, showing a couple of paper skeletons drinking, smoking, and listening to records, is particularly striking.

If I had one gripe with the selection of artists presented here, it’s that the focus seems to be on younger artists, shunning the artists who, in many ways, created the field. For example, Doug Beube is one of the most experienced book artists in this book. He started altering books in 1979. (Beube is the subject of our winter issue’s Book Art column.) On the other hand, reading up on the newer artists is ideal for collectors.  

morrisey penguin classics.jpg
Penguin Classics, well known amongst collectors for their editorial taste and iconic covers, will be publishing Morrissey’s autobiography on Thursday in the United Kingdom. Morrissey, a colorful personality, was the lead singer for the classic British rock band The Smiths in the 1980s before launching a hugely successful solo career. Morrissey was - and still is - an icon of the counterculture movement, with legions of dedicated fans around the world.  In recent years Morrissey has become almost as well known for his dedication to animal rights movements.

Penguin’s decision to publish the first edition of Morrissey’s autobiography as a “classic” has sparked a great deal of controversy. The book, apparently, has not even been read by anyone outside of Penguin’s team.

The Independent ran a scathing critique of Penguin’s decision, with contributor Boyd Tonkin writing, “How do you wreck overnight the reputation of a global brand that, since 1946, has built up its worldwide trust on the basis of consistent excellence, expert selection and a commitment to pick and sell only the very best? Easy, really. You chuck 67 years of editorial rigour and learning out of the corporate window and kowtow to the whims of a petulant pop icon.”

Reportedly, Morrissey only agreed to publish his autobiography with Penguin if they released it under their Classics imprint.  

In my opinion, Morrissey’s arguable bluff - which obviously paid off - is so classically Morrissey, sparking admiration and condemnation in the same breath. I can’t help but be amused at the audacity of the stunt.  It’s such a violation of the previous editorial vision, that I’m stunned into a bemused silence.

Of course, all critical views aside, the book will sell in droves. But the decision to release the autobiography as an instant “classic” will be debated for some time to come.

In the meantime, Penguin Classics collectors out there will have another volume to add to their 1300+ collections.
Swann-Mugshot.jpgComing up this week at a photographs and photobooks auction at Swann Galleries are four lots of mugshot cards and albums from the collection of Mark Michaelson, editor of the 2009 book, Least Wanted. The intriguing item seen here is a wooden drawer with 46 catalogued mugshots of (mostly) female shoplifters in the Baltimore/D.C. area from 1936-1947. Each small silver print contains a typed caption describing the offender’s age, physical characteristics, location, and crime. The estimate is $1,500-2,500.
Guest Blog: A Trove of MLK, Jr. Material Surfaces by Bryan Booher of Heritage Auctions

The Civil Rights Movement was arguably the most pivotal event in twentieth-century American social history. And sadly, one of which I knew little (shhh, don’t tell my boss!). When I was first presented with the prospect of researching and cataloguing an extensive--and I stress extensive--collection of Civil Rights material focused around, but not limited to, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), I was apprehensive. Sure, I knew the main players and some of the major events: Rosa Parks, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington, the “I Have a Dream Speech,” and King’s tragic demise in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. But I felt some reluctance because of my own ethnic background: I’m your typical white, middle-class, Anglo-Saxon (or close enough), Protestant. And I’m from the South. It sounds silly. I’m trained as an historian, how can that possibly present a problem? I suppose it’s because of the profound impact the Civil Rights Movement has had, and continues to have, on American society. How do I convey genuine respect for something so central to the history of black Americans (and indeed all minority groups in the United States)? Then it dawned on me. No one is going to know my skin color, and it doesn’t really matter. So I got the material and dove in head first. After doing some cursory research I realized this isn’t just the story of African Americans fighting for equality. The movement is about freedom for ALL men, of all races, creeds, sex, and sexual orientation, with the black community taking the lead in that fight. I found myself, as I delved deeper, both fascinated from a historical perspective and inspired as a human being.  

This particular collection of items (over thirty-eight individual lots [lots 34512-34550], some of which I will highlight below) comes from the personal papers of one extraordinary woman, Mrs. Maude Ballou. She acted as Dr. King’s personal secretary during his time in Montgomery as the national face of the bus boycott (December 1, 1555, through December 20, 1956) and pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. She was also his close friend. Ballou has kept these treasures for over five decades, and she has some awesome stuff! Here are some of my personal favorites.

MLK-Notecard.jpgIn late 1959, Dr. King had decided it was time to move back to his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, and take the reins as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference full-time (he had actually led the group since 1957 and would continue to do so until his death). He broke the news to his parish and said farewell in the form of a speech. We are beyond excited to have the actual notecards containing the talking points (pictured above) for that very speech, written entirely in the hand of Dr. King!

As a student of Gandhi’s principles of non-violent civil resistance, Dr. King went on a five-week tour of India in February 1959. Ever the busy body, he sent letters home to Ballou directing affairs of the movement in his absence. We have two of those important letters; one is dated February 27, 1959, the other is undated, but from around the same time.  

Looking for something a little more unique? How about the first letter opener used by the MIA during the bus boycott or the 1957 desk calendar used at MIA headquarters? The calendar is exceptional in that it contains notes for meetings with politicians, including then Vice President Richard Nixon and fellow civil rights and religious leaders such as E. D. Nixon, Bayard Rustin, and Billy Graham, plus Dr. King’s speaking engagements, appointments, etc.

Walking.jpgOne thing that never occurred to me was the existence of opposition to the bus boycott, not by the white community, but by members of the black community. I was astounded to discover a flyer titled “Are You Tired of Walking?” (pictured above) accusing the leaders of the boycott of “playing us for suckers while they get rich on our money” and expressing the cynical attitude that “there isn’t a chance in the world of breaking segregation in Montgomery.” How wrong they were!

Bryan Booher is manager of historical manuscripts & Texana at Heritage Auctions in Dallas.

Images Courtesy of Heritage Auctions.
Our series profiling the next generation of special collections librarians continues today with Meghan Constantinou of the Grolier Club in New York City.

Meghan picture 004_cropped.jpg
How did you get started in rare books?

I have always felt grounded by objects. As an undergraduate, I majored in studio art and then moved on to working with prints at a commercial art gallery (Childs Gallery, Boston) and museum objects  at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. I fell in love with rare books while doing my Master’s Degree in Art History at the University of Delaware, where my thesis focused on a medieval manuscript. I felt stimulated and challenged by the multi-dimensionality of medieval manuscripts--the manner in which they combined art, penmanship, text, literature, language, and functionality. From there, my interests naturally flowed into printed books. It was actually my advisor who suggested I look into rare book librarianship. Since I had always seen myself as a future museum professional, librarianship had never entered my thoughts. However, as soon as I started exploring the field, I knew immediately that this was the right path for me. Not only would it bring me into regular contact with the types of objects I loved most, but there was a focus on service and outreach that really appealed to me. I also felt liberated by the breadth of special collections work--the promise that I would be constantly exposed to new and different types of things. I started volunteering at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia to learn more about the field. When I moved to New York City to get my library degree, I was fortunate to get a job as Library Assistant at the Grolier Club, which put me in a great position to apply for my current job as Librarian.

What is your role at the Grolier Club? What is a typical day like?

My official title is Librarian. I am responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Club’s research library, which consists of approximately 40,000 general monographs on the history of the book; 150,000 antiquarian bookseller and auction catalogs; 10,000 rare books; 10,000 prints, drawings, and photographs; and 1,500 linear feet of archives and manuscripts. I administrate all of the activities relating to technical services, public service and outreach, and collections management. I also do small library exhibitions and tours on a regular basis, and I am in charge of collection development for our general collection. Since we have a small staff of only three and a half, I am directly involved “on the ground” with all of these activities, which lends the job an endless amount of variety. There is definitely no typical day. One moment I might be engaged in strategic planning, another I might be teaching a class, and another I might be cataloging recent rare acquisitions. 

How is it working as a librarian for a private club in comparison to an academic institution?

Working for a private club has been an incredibly rewarding experience. There is a vibrant social aspect to the job that is really unique. Through my work in the library, along with Grolier Club lectures, seminars, and social gatherings, I have had the chance to develop close relationships with many of the members, who embraced me from the start as one of the family. There is a feeling of fellowship, camaraderie, and mutual passion that permeates the Club, and it is exciting to be at the center of it.

Favorite rare book/ephemera that you’ve handled?

This is a tough one. One of the qualities that characterizes many special collections librarians is our passionate interest in all kinds of “stuff,” whether it’s a beautifully illustrated incunable or a badly printed broadside. I’m most drawn to objects that have a strong human element. The Grolier Club has a fantastic collection of private library manuscript catalogs that excites me a lot. I like comparing the different organizational schemes, handwriting styles, papers, bindings, etc. You can learn a lot about a person by the way they’ve organized their books and how they’ve chosen to physically document them, particularly in the intimate space of a manuscript. I was once updating the cataloging on an attractive eighteenth-century French manuscript catalog that we had recorded only as belonging to “Madame La Vallière.” When I checked the title page, I noticed that her honorific, “La Duchesse,” had been systematically crossed out. As I did more research, I learned that Madame La Vallière was the wife of the famous bibliophile, Louis-César de la Baume le Blanc, Duc de la Vallière (1708-1780), and that she was arrested during the Reign of Terror on September 11, 1793 at the age of nearly 80. Nobody knows what happened to her after her arrest, but this manuscript survived as part of her story. It gave me a chill. 

What do you personally collect?

Recently, I started collecting bookplates designed for women. I am interested in both women’s histories and the graphic arts, and bookplates are a perfect combination of the two. I also enjoy biographical research and hope to be able to learn more about the women whose bookplates I have collected. I like looking at the different designs and thinking about the women who commissioned them. Plus, they don’t take up too much space in my small New York City apartment!

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

There is a sense of wonder at the core of this work that never ceases for me. I have always been fascinated by how our experience of the world is mediated through the objects that we encounter and create, and rare book librarianship allows me to explore that question in a meaningful way every day. I am also excited by having the opportunity to connect people with objects. There is nothing that beats seeing my own passion for historical objects reflected in the face of a visitor. There is something universally human about the tactility of these books, and in a classroom setting these connections can feel almost palpable at times. 

Thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship?

I think a key word for the future is access. Special collections librarians are working hard to dispel the perception that their collections exist under lock and key. The emphasis on access has been facilitated in many ways by new technologies, such as the web and digitization, which allow our objects to perform more dynamically for wider audiences. For many of us, it is no longer enough to simply house and preserve the objects under our care. We have to prove the relevance of our collections to a degree that I suspect is unprecedented, and this is inspiring a lot of creative, out-of-the-box thinking.  

Another issue we are grappling with as a profession is the advent of born-digital materials. At the Grolier Club, we are known for our unparalleled collection of antiquarian bookseller and auction catalogs, which provides a valuable primary resource for scholars interested in the history of the book trade. However, much of the material generated by the trade now comes in the form of online catalogs, pdf lists, and dynamic websites. How do we document, archive, and provide access to these new formats in a sustainable way? This is just our version of a larger problem that many special collections librarians are dealing with now on a regular basis. 

Any upcoming exhibitions?

I do small library exhibitions three or four times a year, which are open to members and outside researchers visiting the library by appointment. These exhibitions are always drawn from our collections, and give me a great opportunity to explore our stacks and do a little research. Right now, I am showing “Private Press Editions of Chaucer in The Grolier Club Library,” from Sept. 9 to Dec. 20, 2013.

However, the Grolier Club also has a very active public exhibitions schedule, and all of those exhibitions are free and open to everyone. In our main gallery, we are showing “Extraordinary Women in Science & Medicine: Four Centuries of Achievement,” which explores the legacy of thirty-two remarkable physicists, chemists, astronomers, mathematicians, and medical doctors (Sept. 18-Nov. 23, 2013). After that, we will be showing “Selling the Dwelling: The Books that Built America’s Houses, 1775-2000,” curated by Richard Cheek (Dec. 11, 2013-Feb. 7, 2014). In our second floor gallery, we are showing, “William Everson: Poet, Printer & Monk, from the Collection of Nicholas Scheetz” through Nov. 1, 2013. Information about all of our exhibitions (past, present, and forthcoming) and related activities may be found on our website.  
All manner of rare, signed, and/or inscribed books and little magazines from the likes of William S. Burroughs, John Fante, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey, and Allen Ginsburg hit the auction block tomorrow in San Francisco. So it seems unfair to highlight the non-book oddities on offer, but they’re just so ...  far-out.

Burroughs Bottle.jpgLot 65 is an empty prescription drug bottle from Burroughs’ medicine cabinet. Instead of liquid methadone, the bottle now contains a few stones from Burroughs’ gravesite and a .45 caliber bullet casing from his shotgun. The estimate is $600-900.

Burroughs List.jpgLot 66 is a list, c. 1989, on lined notebook paper on which William S. Burroughs has enumerated his grocery needs, including honey, milk, saltines, and Lysol. The estimate is $500-800.

Kerouac check.jpgLot 141 is a $300 check written to the IRS, signed in full by John L. [Jack] Kerouac, and dated Dec. 14, 1963. The estimate is $1,000-1,500.

Tomorrow’s auction is the first of PBA’s three-part sale of collector Richard Synchef’s counterculture and avant garde books and ephemera -- the second, in January, will feature books about drugs, and the third sale in May of next year will be dedicated to music, politics, and cartoon art.

Images via PBA Galleries.
203 - Evelyn Marsh Jones Memoir.jpg
On October 10th, Swann Galleries will offer at auction a manuscript memoir by Evelyn Marsh Jones, a Kennedy family servant. The manuscript entitled, “Remembrances of My Kennedy Years,” was written after Jones retired in 1964.  It has never been published.

Jones (1906 - 1978) spent about ten years employed by the Kennedys on and off between 1932 and 1964. She served the family as a parlor maid and a household manager in both Hyannis Port and Palm Beach.

The memoir contains dozens of insightful anecdotes into domestic Kennedy family described by someone in a special position close to the family. Such anecdotes include a time when Caroline Kennedy interrupted a press conference by walking onto the White House patio wearing her mother’s high heels. Jones also writes that the Kennedy family was able to “help themselves, if necessary,” adding that Rose Kennedy “often came out and dried dishes so I might get away a little earlier.”

Jones saw President Kennedy for the last time eight days before his assassination in 1963. The final visit in Palm Beach is affectionately described in a lengthy passage.

Swann Galleries added in its catalogue entry, “Even leaving the Kennedy connection aside, this is a worthy account of life as a parlor maid and household manager for one of America’s most distinguished families. The hard work, last-minute improvisations, staff turnover, and parties with famous guests are all described in detail.”

The unique manuscript is estimated at $2,000 - $3,000. 

Searching for Serendipity in Cyberspace

Recently I wrote about the Folio Society’s new edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant and Other Stories. (Check out some of the book’s illustrations here http://bit.ly/1fMGzm0 and the story here bit.ly/18H9MuZ.) Greenaway Medal winner Grahame Baker Smith created the illustrations.  

After my story went up,  I wandered the Twittersphere until I unintentionally stumbled upon the illustrator’s Twitter handle. In 140 characters I asked him if he would discuss perfecting his craft, inspiration, and future projects. He agreed, and below is our conversation, happily unrestricted by character limits.


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

Could you tell me how you prepared for this commission?

A couple of coincidences actually prepared me for this commission, not the other way around. In early 2012 I was reading Richard Ellmann’s biography of Wilde, (a fabulous work of literature in its own right) which chronicles the extraordinary and poignant life story of Wilde.  At that time I also received a letter from a man named Nicholas Wilde inquiring about the illustrations I made for the 2011 Folio edition of Pinocchio. Nicholas Wilde is a book collector and he particularly enjoys illustrated editions. We exchanged a few letters before I finally asked if he was by any chance related to Mr. Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde. In fact, he is very distant cousin, and suggested that I ask Folio if they would like to do an edition of Oscar’s stories. Since the Folio Society is always open to suggestions they seized the opportunity.

What inspired your illustrations for this book?

The stories are what inspired me, it’s always the story and then - after lots of reading and making notes - I just start drawing and see what happens.

How long did it take to complete the images?

Each image took about a week to a week and a half, spread out over a period of about six months.

You are self taught. Can you describe how you became an artist?

I always loved art at school but didn’t get great marks for it (or anything else). I had a couple of jobs after leaving school but soon realised the ‘work’ thing wasn’t going to light me up! A period of unemployment became a time of complete obsession with drawing and painting. Sometimes it was very lonely, but my dream of doing this - and only this - became a powerful motivating force to practice, practice, practice and get good, something I’m still trying to do. So, I didn’t really become an artist - there just wasn’t an option to do anything else with my life! I still feel the same now, there is a cost in following your dreams but any other path seemed to me as a waste of life.

Do you have a favorite medium?

I have worked in most mediums at various times in my career - acrylic, watercolor, gouache, pastel, charcoal pen and ink. When I started using Photoshop five or six years ago I found it incredibly exciting to be able to mix virtually anything together. I still use a lot of drawing and other traditional methods, but usually it all gets filtered and composited through Photoshop.  For example, I used Photoshop techniques in the Wilde illustrations. It’s a part of the process now, just as drawing or painting is. 

What would you like to illustrate next?

I would love to illustrate some Edgar Allen Poe next, and do more fiction book covers, for some reason I don’t often get asked to do them. I’m also writing a novel for Templar (who published FArTHER) which will have black and white illustrations.

What are you working on now? 

I have formed a company called MisFits with my wife Linda, who is also an illustrator and designer. It’s a family affair; our 17 year old son is a brilliant coder for iOS and is helping us tremendously. We are using MisFits to develop story apps for iPad. We create apps from the idea phase to story, plot the flow-through and wireframe it, create the interface, artwork and animation and then code in the function and interactivity - all in-house! This is a really interesting challenge and it is amazing to weave animation and sound into a story. In terms of the artwork, we maintain the same standards as are applied to print books.  We are also actively finding other ways around the awful ‘page turn’ effect, a totally redundant feature in page-less applications.

I feel the creative possibilities are enormous but it seems a very natural progression to make. We want to make something beautiful and hopefully inspiring - that goal never changes.

I’m not turning my back on books though. I love books more and more as I get older and feel there is an awful lot more to do in print. I never want to give up illustrating books. To me, every day, it is a great joy and privilege to be involved in the world of story-telling.


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).

Elias Serna.jpgUp today is first-prize winner, Elias Serna of UC, Riverside, pictured here at left.

Age: 45

Residence: Santa Monica, CA

Main area(s) you collect: Chicana/o Studies, Chican@ Movement literature, rhetoric, polemics

Number of volumes in your collection: 52 books, pamphlets, magazines, 2 videos, one poster.  

When did you start collecting: My first Chicano books are from my senior year in high school when my older brother brought home Betita Martinez’ classic, 500 Years of Chicano History in pictures (it was called 450 Years at the time; I own both editions). In college, I was inspired by the literature in Chican@ Studies classes, as well as Berkeley’s fine bookstores, to continue collecting.

Most recent acquisition: The Chicanos, by Rius. Rius is a famous Mexican cartoonist, known for initiating the “... for beginners” books, such as Marxism for Beginners, Cuba for beginners, etc.. The Chicanos is an obscure 1972 comic book-style portrait of Chicano history and their struggle, published by NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America).

Holy grail: Several texts, but I’ll single out 4 big ones: activist/author Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez’ 450 Years of Chicano History in Pictures (1976) is a visual-historic classic, what started it all for me, currently at the top of the list of banned books in Arizona’s anti-Ethnic Studies law. Second is Rudolfo Acuna’s Occupied America, called by Chicano activists “the Chicano bible.” I read the 2nd and 5th editions cover to cover, and I’m mentioned in the preface of the most recent 7th edition. I also have a signed copy of the first formal printing of Corky Gonzales’ I Am Joaquin (1967). Another is a clean rare first edition of El Plan de Santa Barbara (1969), the manifesto credited with inspiring the creation of Chicana/o Studies departments and programs nationwide.

Favorite bookseller: Raul Salinas’ Resistencia Bookstore (San Antonio), Tia Chucha’s Bookstore (LA/San Fernando), Libreria Martinez Books (Santa Ana, CA)

Future plans (for you & your collection): I’m displaying my Chicano Movement Book collection at the Tomas Rivera Library (UC Riverside), and possibly at my local library, Santa Monica Main Library. I am also writing articles/essays on my collection’s connection to the attack on Ethnic Studies in Arizona, particularly the ban on Chican@ Literature and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. My performance comedy group Chicano Secret Service is writing a multi-media performance piece on Raza Studies in Arizona. Lastly, I’ve collaborated with artist JohnAvalos of UC Riverside to create “Xican@ Pop-Up Books,” short illustrated and tactile zines, that demonstrate the importance and current struggle around Chican@ Studies and literature. Our motto is: “You can Ban Chicano Books, but They’ll Still Pop Up!”

display day one.jpgA display of Serna’s collection at the Tomas Rivera Library is seen above. You can read more about his collection here.

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 (if the Library of Congress has re-opened by then; it has been closed due to the government shutdown since Oct. 1) and includes a lecture by noted collector and scholar Mark Samuels Lasner. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Images: Courtesy of Elias Serna.
Tom Clancy passed away yesterday in Baltimore at age 66. At the time of death, Clancy had 100 million copies of his books in print around the world and had hit the number one spot on the New York Times Best Seller list seventeen times. Clancy’s enormously successful career launched in 1984 with the publication of The Hunt of Red October. Clancy published 25 fiction and nonfiction books - primarily in his own invented genre of “techno-thrillers - throughout the rest of his life. His stories also inspired several spin-off book series and even launched some video games.

So, how do you go about collecting Clancy?

The highlight of any Clancy collection is the first edition, first printing of The Hunt for Red October. Clancy submitted the manuscript to the Naval Institute Press, publishing arm of the U. S. Naval Institute, while he was working as an insurance salesman in Maryland. An editor at the Press, Deborah Grovesnor, was smitten with the manuscript, which she thought could potentially become a big bestseller. Grovesnor asked Clancy to trim some of the technological details and the press offered him $5,000 to acquire the manuscript. Published in 1984, The Hunt for Red October went on to become the bestselling book of the decade. The first edition, first printing of The Hunt for Red October issued in its white dust jacket had a much smaller print run than future Clancy novels and commands about $300 and up on the open market.

Clancy’s next books were published by G. P. Putnam. The publisher issued signed, limited editions with smaller print runs of many Clancy titles to feed the collector’s market. The titles that I know about --with the caveat that there could be more-- are:

Clear and Present Danger (1989), 250 copies
The Sum of All Fears (1991), 600 copies
Submarine (1993), 300 copies
Debt of Honor (1994), 450 copies
Armored Cav (1994) 150 copies
Rainbow Six (1998) 675 copies
The Bear and the Dragon (2000) 425 copies
Red Rabbit (2002), 550 copies
Teeth of the Tiger (2003) 300 copies

These signed, limited editions can be purchased in the $100 - $300 range per title.

So, while Clancy is known for the sheer quantity of his work, quality reproductions of many of his titles also exist and are ripe pickings for the budding Clancy collector.

[Image from Wikpedia]
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).

Ashely-small.jpgUp today is Ashley Young of Duke University, pictured here at left.

Age: 25

Residence: I am splitting my time between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and New Orleans, Louisiana

Main area(s) you collect: Historical Southern Cookbooks, 19th Century Southern Folklore, and Creole Literature. My PhD research in history focuses on 19th century Southern food cultures, particularly in the city of New Orleans. My current research project focuses on the representation of food vendors in 19th century cookbooks and other print media such as newspapers and magazines.

Number of volumes in your collection: 63

When did you start collecting: In the summer prior to my senior year at Yale, I interned at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SoFAB) in New Orleans and began making frequent visits to Kitchen Witch Cookbooks in the French Quarter.

Most recent acquisition: Lena Richard, New Orleans Cook Book, First edition. Houghton Mifflin, 1940.

Holy grail: The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book, First edition. New Orleans, Louisiana: The Picayune, 1901.

Favorite bookseller: Off Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi

Future plans (for you & your collection): As I embark on my dissertation research, I am eager to expand my historic Creole cookbook collection and hopefully acquire more hand-written cooking manuscripts. I am particularly enthralled with the scribbled notes, drawings, and quirky commentary on the pages of cookbooks. These notations provide clues about the lived experiences of my research subjects and the ways in which they incorporated cookbooks into their daily lives.

You can read more about Young’s collection and the Duke book collecting contest here. 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 (if the Library of Congress has re-opened by then; it has been closed due to the government shutdown since Oct. 1) and includes a lecture by noted collector and scholar Mark Samuels Lasner. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Image: Courtesy of Ashley Young. 
Our series profiling the next generation of special collections librarians continues today with Patrick Olson, Special Collections Librarian at the University of Iowa.


How did you get started in rare books?

I started college thinking I’d teach high school English. Problem was, I had enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, not the College of Education. Too lazy to transfer colleges, I opted for the plain old English degree instead, putting my career trajectory in serious flux. Writing seemed too uncertain a life and I didn’t know the first thing about steaming a latte. Old books, however, had captivated me since high school, when I learned about Fanshawe, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s rare first novel. Just as I started my junior year of college, I asked the owner of a rare bookstore if I could work for him. I think I even said I’d work for free. He took me on--for a fair hourly wage, I should add--and I suppose that’s when I really got started. Boy, that was ten years ago this month. Memories!   
What is your role at your institution; what do you specialize in as a librarian?

My official title at the University of Iowa is Special Collections Librarian. I’m effectively a curator with a strong focus on collection development. I do some instruction and outreach, but most of that is handled by our department’s dedicated Outreach and Instruction Librarian (who has swiftly conquered the Web with an impressive social media presence). My background is in early printed books, though specialization implies some degree of expertise--something I sure won’t claim to have. Iowa has a rich tradition of practicing and collecting the modern book arts, so I’ve been having a blast inhabiting that world lately.
Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

Do I have to pick one? I remember fondly my first bibliographic triumph, identifying for the bookstore a later edition of Walter Raleigh’s History of the World that had been sophisticated to masquerade as a first. Just as memorable was working through a small backlog at DePaul University, where I got to catalog a Richard Pynson incunable that York Minster sold to A.S.W. Rosenbach to help fund some building repairs. It was breathtaking to handle a book that was part of such a storied and controversial transaction. Another one of my all-time favorites is something I cataloged at MIT, an official report on the therapeutic uses of animal magnetism. It had a disturbing note scrawled in the back: “Avoid the breath of the infected in...” But the destination to be avoided had been torn away! You can imagine our frustration. We never did figure out what infected part of the world to avoid.
What do you personally collect?

My focus as an English major was Anglo-Saxon, so my early collecting was directed at (affordable) copies of Anglo-Saxon literature and scholarship. I actually scared up some important books at bargain prices, like the very copy of Edmund Gibson’s 1692 Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that Anna Gurney used to prepare the first Modern English translation. I admit that my grocery budget suffered in those days. I ate a lot of boxed rice. These days, I eat marginally better and my collecting is more focused on modern mountaineering memoirs.
What excites you about rare book librarianship?

The people. I love working with the dealers, the craftspeople, the donors. And the librarians, of course, and there’s really no substitute for enthusiastic patrons. Having started out at the supply end of collection development, it’s fun to be working with dealers on the demand side of things. There’s nothing quite as exciting (or educational) as attending one of the big book fairs and surrounding yourself with people who are passionate about books. What’s more, I’m lucky enough to be marrying a bookbinder and book conservator, so even when I go home at night there’s someone to get excited about rare books with. It’s wonderful.
Thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship?

I think the future is looking good. Use statistics are generally up and the demand for rare materials sure isn’t letting up. Our instructors at Iowa are increasingly interested in bringing their students to special collections, and our administrators really seem to understand the unique value these collections add to the institution. Methods for delivering content are fast evolving, and probably always will, but people are constantly finding new and important ways to study and appreciate the originals.
Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

On October 21 we’re launching “Hell But Heaven Too: The Making of a Fine Press Book from Idea to Deluxe Edition.” In this exhibit, one of our staff members will explore the creation of Ink on the Elbow, a masterpiece of printing and design from David Esslemont and Gaylord Schanilec. We’re home to Esslemont’s archive, so the exhibit will draw heavily on this unique material. This will be followed in the winter with an exhibit on food as portrayed in the very popular Downton Abbey television series. Culinary material is one of our great strengths here at Iowa, and this will be a fun way to connect our collection to a phenomenon familiar to many of our users.
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