November 2013 Archives

Soup’s On!

“Blue Moon Soup: A Family Cookbook,” Recipes by Gary Goss, illustrated by Jane Dyer; Sky Pony Press, $16.95, 72 pages, ages 6-10.


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Blue Moon Soup Illustrations ©1999, 2013 by Jane Dyer All Rights Reserved.


Cooking together is a wonderful way for parents to interact with youngsters, and Blue Moon Soup presents thirty delicious recipes, grouped by season, plus recipes for bread, salad and snacks for the whole family to enjoy.

The book is written to engage sous-chefs of all ages. Small children will happily collect the “Stuff” (ingredients) for each recipe, while older children can advance to tasks such as sorting, whisking and peeling. Everyone in the kitchen will relish the quirky and charming names of each dish: “Mary had a Little Lamb Stew,” “Sob Soup” (an onion-based preparation), there’s even “Bisque in the Sun.” 

Blue Moon Soup is more than just a cookbook; it’s a primer on proper cooking techniques. There’s a kitchen tools checklist, soup kitchen rules, even a diagram for properly setting the table. Before cooking anything, be sure to read aloud Lewis Carroll’s slurpy homage to potage “Turtle Soup” on the first page. 

Cooks can rest assured that these recipes have been thoroughly tested before publication: Chef Gary Goss is an expert soup maker.  In 1997 he founded the successful Soup Kitchen in Northampton, Massachusetts. The proof of his dedication is in the pudding: Since it’s original publication in 1999, Blue Moon Soup has won numerous accolades, including the Smithsonian Notable Books for Children Award, the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, and Parents’ Choice Award.

Legendary children’s book illustrator (and fellow Northampton resident) Jane Dyer renders 14 full-page watercolor illustrations of sunbathing vegetables, dancing ducks and sobbing onions in her trademark whimsical style. Children will love pouring over the images of dancing utensils and piano-playing animals while indulging in a bowl of happiness that they helped make.  This book is a visual and gustatory delight to be enjoyed all year long.  
9039 Bay Psalm Book, Title Hands.jpgTonight at Sotheby’s New York, philanthropist David Rubenstein paid $14,165,000 for one of only 11 surviving copies of the Bay Psalm Book, the first printed book in America. Even though the sale price fell under estimate, it still exceeded the previous auction record for any printed book, held since 2010 by Audubon’s Birds of America. No copy of the Bay Psalm Book had previously appeared at auction since January 1947, and this copy is very likely the last ever to go under the hammer.

According to Sotheby’s, Rubenstein plans to exhibit the book around the country.

David Redden, Director of Special Projects and Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s Books Department, commented, “We are thrilled that this book, which is so important to our history and culture, is destined to be widely seen by Americans who can appreciate its singular significance. We are of course also thrilled to have achieved a new world auction record price for any printed book, which affirms that books remain a vital part of our culture.”

This copy of the Bay Psalm Book was consigned by Boston’s Old South Church last year in a move that caused some concern and controversy among its congregants.

Lilly Library Director Joel Silver wrote an excellent overview of the book’s history for us earlier this year.

Image Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Our series profiling the next generation of curators and special collections librarians continues today with John McQuillen, Assistant Curator of Printed Books at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City.

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How did you get started in rare books?

I started my Master’s degree in Medieval Studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas wanting to work on Early Medieval art in the British Isles. Talking to the professor after my first class on Romanesque Art, she asked if I needed a campus job and sent me to her husband, the Curator of Special Collections at Bridwell Library. I got a job as his curatorial assistant and started working with Reformation pamphlets, Methodist printing, English bibles, and Kelmscott and Ashendene Press books and ephemera. Most importantly, though, I was introduced to the physical study of medieval manuscripts and incunabula (of which Bridwell has an incredibly strong collection), and I never looked back.

Where did you earn your advanced degrees?

After my MA, I decided to pursue a PhD in Art History at the University of Toronto focusing on fifteenth-century books: their decoration, binding, and use, and the changes to libraries and book production networks when printed books entered the manuscript world. Describing the books in our collections is integral to my work at the Morgan, and my visual expertise as an art historian has attuned me to the visual nature of printed books, their decoration, bindings, and signs of use.

What is your role at your institution?

In the Printed Books & Bindings Department I am largely responsible for items in our collection from the 15th-16th Centuries, although all curators are often called on to work with items out of their specific area. There is the daily work of acquisition, cataloguing, research, answering reference requests, discussing conservation needs, and exhibition preparation, but I truly relish talking to classes and tours and bringing rare materials out for them to see. It is always fun watching some visitors wrap their heads around the fact that I am actually showing them something 500 years old.

My most long-term project is expanding the catalogue descriptions of our incunabula and blockbooks in order to bring them up-to-date with contemporary standards and practices and to highlight the copy-specific aspects of the books. The collection is just less than 3,000 items, and although many--like our three Gutenberg Bibles--are quite well known and researched, many, many more have important bindings, inscriptions, provenance, and signs of printing history and use that have gone relatively unpublished. I hope that my efforts will bring even some of these characteristics to the attention of other scholars and researchers who will deepen our understanding of this important period in history.

Since the Morgan is both a library and museum, we have a strong exhibition focus and strive to bring book materials and works on paper alive for museum visitors. We have a rotation of highlights from our permanent collections that changes every four months and is set in glowing light of Morgan’s original 1906 library. I am responsible for choosing the printed items, a binding, and at least one piece of printed Americana for these exhibits. Also on display are highlights from our Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts, Literary and Historical Manuscripts, and Music Manuscripts and Printed Music collections. I have only been at the Morgan since October 2012, and preparing these rotations has helped me greatly to learn the breadth and depth of the collections. Additionally, we present about twelve exhibitions from our own collections as well as loans from other institutions each year in the galleries. I am working on two loan exhibitions for summer 2014 and fall 2016, as well as my own exhibition on William Caxton, the first printer in England, for summer 2015. The Morgan’s Caxton collection is quite extensive with about 70 items, including the first and second edition of The Canterbury Tales, as well as the only extant complete copy of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le morte d’Arthur.

Have you worked at other institutions as well?

Aside from Bridwell Library, where I was a curatorial assistant and then the Special Collections Cataloguer, I was a Graduate Fellow at the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies (CRRS) in Victoria University at the University of Toronto. I worked in the CRRS library for four years, where I assisted researchers and visiting scholars, helped organize CRRS conferences and events, worked on the newsletter and mail-outs, and worked with the Victoria University library cataloguing department to more fully describe and organize some of the rare book collections.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

My favorite book at the moment is a 1527 copy of a Martin Luther New Testament, where the Four Gospels have been combined into a single narrative of the Life of Christ with full-page, multi-scene woodcuts visualizing the narrative. Another full-text edition of the Gospels from 1527 has been bound into our copy, which is still in its original 16th-century binding, but this edition was translated into German by Hieronymus Emser, a vehement opponent of Luther. I find it fascinating that whoever wanted these texts bound together did not really care which side of the Reformation the translator supported, and it inspires interesting questions about contemporary book use and readership. Of course, I never get tired of looking at the Gutenberg Bible, and I think I am developing extra muscles from hefting those volumes off of the shelf. I also recently found a small book-shaped flask from Noel Coward hiding amongst the octavo Psalters in the 1906 library shelves; it was empty.

What do you personally collect?

Frankoma Pottery. The company was founded in the 1930s by John Frank, an art professor at the University of Oklahoma, and it used the local red clay of Oklahoma for dinnerware and sculpture. My family is from Oklahoma and already had a lot of this material, but eBay is turning out to be my undoing. I also take small rocks from places I visit: Iceland, Maine, Palm Springs, Ireland, the Adirondacks, etc.; I can (largely) remember from where they all came. If I had more space in my apartment, I would go after original Guinness and early 20th-century travel America posters.

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

I guess it goes without saying: the books themselves. That’s why most of us are in this field, right? Whether I am recataloguing an incunable or answering a research question about the first edition of the Icelandic bible, every historical artifact gives you the opportunity to learn something new, that is, if you ask it the right questions. What excites me about the field is trying to convey this historical wonder to audiences, whether in a tour setting or an exhibition case. It is frequently difficult to cram all of your interest and excitement over an item into a brief exhibit label, but I always hope that a visitor would find something that excites or inspires them in one of the books or through one of the labels.

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

I will answer this from my own point of view as a rare book curator at an art museum, as opposed to a library. As with many other professions, the nature of rare book curating is changing with advents in technology and a public whose relationship to reading, books, and history is also changing. We have the same challenges as many art museums and cultural institutions in a world where the arts must compete with a burgeoning array of leisure-time activities, and we work hard to keep our collections alive and relevant to an ever-changing society. I think to ensure the future of rare book curating--whether in a museum or library--we must maintain a perpetual and relevant dialogue between our artifacts and our public through multiple means of bringing these items to life for our visitors.

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

We hold the entire extraordinary archive of the Paris Review, including ephemera and all correspondence. Perhaps most unusual, or just non-typical, items for a library is the large collection of realia, including Arturo Toscanini’s baton, Alice Liddell’s childhood ring, Martha Washington’s wedding dress, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s quill pen, among many other literary and historical items.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

Currently, there is Edgar Allan Poe: Terror of the Soul on view until 26 January 2014 and Bookermania, on the Man-Booker Literary Prize until 5 January, as well as Leonardo da Vinci drawings and manuscripts from the Biblioteca Reale in Turin, Italy until 2 February. On 24 January 2014 an exhibit showcasing the original manuscript and watercolor drawings of The Little Prince will open. For the complete listing, please visit http://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/default.asp

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A rare 18th century illuminated Haggadah manuscript sold at auction on Friday in Britain for £210,000 ($340,000). The manuscript generated some news coverage after an auctioneer found the manuscript languishing in an Odem soup box in a garage in a suburb of Manchester, England this past summer.
The manuscript - along with a variety of other rare books - was inherited by the unnamed Manchester family in 2007. The family wished to sell off some of their inheritance, so they arranged for a routine valuation from local auction house Adam Partridge. Partridge sent out an appraiser who stumbled across the manuscript while looking through the garage. The family did not even realize the manuscript existed.

The 20 pp illuminated Haggadah was created in 1726 for the Oppenheimer banking dynasty. (The Haggadah is traditionally read on the first night of Passover by Jews). Its creator was likely Aaron Wolff Heringen, court scribe to the Imperial Vienna Court, and exquisite illustrator. The manuscript was probably commissioned to commemorate the birth of Emanuel Mendel Oppenheimer, first child of Samuel Emanuel Oppenheimer of Vienna.

The family of the Haggadah’s present owners smuggled the manuscript out of Belgium while fleeing the Nazis in WWII.

The Haggadah was expected to reach £500,000 at auction.  It was instead purchased for £210,000 by an unnamed European collector.  Many hope that its purchaser will arrange to the have the manuscript on public display.

“Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address,” by Abraham Lincoln, illustrated by James Daugherty; Albert Whitman & Company, $19.99, 48 pages, ages 6-12.



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On November 19th, America commemorated the Sesquicentennial anniversary of Lincoln’s immortal speech at the battlefields of Gettysburg.  In recognition, Albert Whitman & Company re-issued Newbery medalist James Daugherty’s 1947 pictoral commemoration of that day.   Daugherty’s sweeping, heroic images accompany the 272-word oration. Lincoln’s address dedicated part of the bloody fields as a sacred burial ground - a testament to those who fought for equality and freedom.  


In the afterword is an image by image explanation of how Daugherty chose to interpret various sections of the text. There’s also a facsimile of the address in Lincoln’s own handwriting and an afterword by Civil War professor Gabor Boritt.  


This is a book meant to be read and shared by generations of Americans, and it’s a superb reminder that despite our current troubles, America will always stand for liberty and equality.  


Harold Holzer’s new book “The Civil War in 50 Objects” tells the story of Civil War by examining 50 objects in the collections of the New-York Historical Society. Holzer, a renowned Lincoln scholar, is also the Senior Vice President for Public Affairs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a Roger Hertog Fellow at the New-York Historical Society. We recently interviewed Holzer over email about his new book:

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Tell us a bit about the genesis of this book:

The idea for the book came to me from the New-York Historical Society, where I serve as Roger Hertog Fellow.  President and CEO Louise Mirrer asked if I would be interested--the answer was an immediate “probably”--and Louise then invited me to come to the museum on Central Park West and have a look at the original objects themselves.  It was absolutely the best behind-the-scenes museum tour I’ve ever taken--and from that moment it was an enthusiastic “yes.”  I was lucky to have been asked; this was a privilege, not just an opportunity.

Of the 50 objects profiled in the book, do you have a particular favorite?

It’s difficult to choose a favorite, but because I’ve spent so many years writing about Lincoln, I think the discovery of an unknown handwritten Lincoln piece was pretty sensational for me--in this case a little memo he scribbled one day in the War Department telegraph office assessing how many electoral votes he might be able to amass on Election Day 1864--a kind of desperate “path to victory” chart written at the low point of his campaign for re-election--which by the way calculated that at best he would win a second term by only a couple of electoral votes.  How extraordinary to picture him there, maybe during a lull between telegrams from the battlefront, wondering whether he--the Union commander-in-chief--would be given another four years to finish the work of saving the Union and destroying slavery.  I think another “favorite”--an odd word for it because it’s so horrifying--is a manacle once used to restrain a slave child.  It’s a painful reminder that behind the bravado of secession, there was a determination to preserve a sickeningly cruel institution.

I’m sure it was hard to limit this book to 50 objects.  Any “deleted scenes” we could restore in this interview?  Are there a couple of objects you would have really liked to include but had to cut?

I think we really got the major highlights included.  Is there enough for a second book? Absolutely--the Historical Society owns a million or so pieces devoted to the Civil War--but no one who buys “50 Objects” should think we left any icons in the files.

You write in the preface of the “heroic survival” of some of these pieces. Was there any particularly dramatic story of survival here?  Did any of the objects survive against all odds?

I am amazed, speaking from a purely preservation point of view, that a complete Zouave military uniform could survive intact under any circumstances, and with all its vivid reds and blues as sparkling as when its brave owner wore it at Antietam--what a target he must have been in that outfit!  The piece that might easily have gotten away from the collection, I suppose, was the half-model of the USS Monitor that its builder owned--more avaricious descendants might have sold this icon at a profit.  Same for the signed Appomattox surrender terms, a copy owned by Col. Ely Parker, an American Indian who served on Grant’s staff.  Parker’s widow sent it elsewhere, but it eventually made its way to the N-YHS--a real treasure.  Just think of it: this is the guy with whom Lee shook hands after he’d surrendered his army--but glared at because, no doubt, it crashed his entire world down to see a person of color on the winning side.  Lee said to him, “I’m glad there’s at least one real American here.”  To which Parker gutsily shot back: “General, today we’re all Americans.”

How about the actually missing objects... Is there a Civil War object that you know existed during the War, but has since disappeared, that you would love the NYHS to get its hands on?

Well, for all Lincoln enthusiasts, it’s the long-lost letter to the widow Lydia Bixby, offering condolences for the loss of five sons fighting for the Union.  As it turned out, some of her sons had survived, Mrs. Bixby was an anti-Lincoln Democrat, and the letter may have been drafted and written out by the president’s secretary John Hay.  Until; we find the original., we won’t know for sure.  But maybe Mrs. Bixby threw it into the fire!

I really like the idea of telling history through surviving material objects. Do you think this approach would work well for other areas of history?  Or is the Civil War uniquely situated to be interpreted in this way?

I actually think the strategy worked before our book appeared--with the fine “History of the World in 100 Objects” from the British Museum and its great director Neil Macgregor--and in a new history of America from the Smithsonian.  Objects tell the story so well--in part because people treasured them so--and of course as long as these projects give historians an opportunity comment, what better way to tell our collective story?

Are you a collector of material objects yourself?  If so, what do you collect?

I actually started out collecting Lincoln engravings and lithographs more than 40 years ago.  I never kept up with it, but I keep some on my walls and they were the starting point of my writing--they interested me so much I started researching their origins, the artists who produced them, and the political and commercial circumstances that inspired them, so I guess, for me, “objects” were a way into the field, rather than academe.  Today I think my most treasured pieces are two modern works that I keep in my office--a breathtakingly beautiful new Lincoln sculpture by a young New York artist named Frank Porcu--which had a nice exhibit at the New-York Historical Society earlier this year--and a magnificent watercolor of Lincoln by a New Yorker who is an institution in his own right--an artist in several creative genres--the great Tony Bennett.

You can purchase Holzer’s book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound.
Going to auction next week at Doyle New York is a collection of signed celebrity and society Polaroids, most dating from 1976 to 1981, and picturing New York’s Studio 54 set: Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, Elizabeth Taylor, Hugh Hefner, Brooke Shields, Robert De Niro, Matt Dillon, and about two hundred other “actors and models in their salad days,” as the Doyle catalogue describes them.

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 4.33.05 PM.pngThe collection was created by Tim Boxer, a photographer and ghost writer for the New York Post society columnist Earl Wilson in the 1970s. Boxer attended film premiers, Broadway openings, and all manner of society parties at the Plaza, the Waldorf, Sardi’s, and the Playboy Club, always with two cameras in hand: a Nikon for his professional work, and a Polaroid for his pet project. He then asked each celebrity to sign in the white margin under the image, in felt-tipped pen.

Doyle offers this collection of famous faces at its November 25 auction, and its estimate is $20,000-30,000.

Image via Doyle New York.
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Washington University in St. Louis has acquired the archive of Illustration House, a New York gallery that led a renaissance in illustration art sales and appreciation in the last quarter of the 20th century. Opened by Walt Reed in 1974, the Illustration House remains in operation in Chelsea, Manhattan, where the gallery “offers a fascinating look at the intersection of American popular culture and art history of the past.” 

Washington University’s Modern Graphic History Library (MGHL) acquired the Illustration House archive with the assistance of Walt Reed himself. The acquisition includes 8,000 periodicals, 1,200 illustrated books, 250,000 magazine tear sheets, and 140 pieces of original art, ranging from sketches to production art and finished canvases. Walt Reed is famous in the field for his encyclopedic knowledge of illustration history and for the long-term friendships he developed with many of the top illustrators of the 20th century, including Norman Rockwell, Tom Lovell, Al Parker, Jon Whitcomb, and Stevan Dohanos.

Roger Reed, Walt’s son and the current president of Illustration House, said of the acquisition: “Most institutions and collectors approach this field with a narrow focus on a few trophy objects, and context gets lost, whereas my father always took a broad stance, had catholic taste and shared information with all comers. Even a minor drawing could delight him in its draftsmanship or cultural resonance.”

In addition to housing and maintaining the collection, Washington University will also digitize material from the Illustrated House archive.

[Image of the John M. Olin Library at Washington University from Wikipedia]

On Wednesday of this week, Christie’s London will auction the collection(s) of the late Mrs. T. S. Eliot in a sale titled “A Life’s Devotion.” This extraordinary collection of portrait miniatures, British art, modern prints, jewelry, and furniture was amassed by T.S. Eliot’s second wife, Valerie Eliot. She worked as the poet’s secretary at Faber & Faber and eventually married him in 1957. After his death in 1965, his literary legacy became her life’s work, and she was a deft manager; her successful licensing of Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats to create the hit musical Cats largely made possible a budget for substantial collecting. Valerie Eliot died in 2012.

Screen Shot 2013-11-16 at 3.13.08 PM.pngThe double sale, containing 385 lots in total, is replete with high points from Gainsborough to Picasso. A portrait miniature painted by Charlotte Bronte has already been snapped up prior to auction by the Bronte Society. One item perhaps not quite as coveted as those, but conveying a wonderful literary association is Percy Wyndham Lewis’ Lady Reading (1921), a pen and ink watercolor of a woman reading a book (seen here at left). Both in content and provenance, this drawing evokes the friendships among modernism’s artists and writers.

It was formerly owned by novelist Sydney Schiff (pseudonym, Stephen Hudson) whose social circle included the artist, as well as T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound. It was Pound who introduced Lewis to Eliot, who then wrote to Schiff of Lewis, “I do not know anyone more profitable to talk to” (T.S. Eliot, The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Vol. 1: 1898-1922). Eliot also wrote for Lewis’ magazine. According to Christie’s, “The last oil that Lewis completed before his eyesight failed was of Eliot, painted in 1949, which is now in the collection of Magdalene College, Cambridge.”

The estimate is $32,000-48,000.

Image via Christie’s.

Hirst Strikes Again

“ABC,” by Damien Hirst; Harry Abrams, $16.99, 58 pages, ages 15 and up.

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Damien Hirst ABC (c) Other Criteria, 2013.


Describe the achievements of contemporary artist Damien Hirst, and children’s book author is likely not the first thing that comes to mind. Controversial and divisive, the unofficial leader of the Young British Artists group has scaled his art to board book dimensions. 


Let’s be clear: ABC is not for children, despite the back copy saying it’s “Fun for all the family.” Children should not be given this book. It is for collectors who enjoy or appreciate Hirst’s fascination with death, religion and medicine.  

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Other Criteria (c) Damien Hirst & Science, 2013


This alphabet book is a retrospective of sorts - each letter of the alphabet is accompanied by a piece of Hirst’s art. If an ignorant parent offers this book to a child, it won’t help young readers learn the alphabet because the images don’t always correspond to the letters they represent. For example, opposite the letter J is a close-up photograph of the artist’s 1991 installation of a dead tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde called The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. Here the J refers to “Jaws.” Other creepy images of dead animals, as well as Hirst’s infamous diamond encrusted skull, show up throughout the book. 

 

That being said, the images are fascinating, and that the artist even produced a book nominally geared towards child-age readers will no doubt provoke discussion among readers. This is an excellent book to consider giving as a holiday gift to anyone who adores modern and contentious artists and would appreciate Hirst’s latest attempt to provoke the viewing public. 

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Other Criteria (c) Damien Hirst & Science, 2013
fer-de-lance.jpgA special collection of early detective fiction by Rex Stout, creator of the legendary armchair detective Nero Wolfe, will be offered for auction at Swann Galleries on November 21st as part of a 19th and 20th century literature sale.

The Rex Stout collection offers ten rare first editions with dust jackets, including the first edition of Stout’s first detective novel, Fer-de-Lance, from 1934. Estimated at $15,000 - $25,000, a first edition of Fer-de-Lance in dust jacket has not surfaced at auction since 2002 at Christie’s. 

The collection also includes first editions with dust jackets of the following:

  • Forest Fire (1933, est. $1,500 - $2,500)
  • How Like a God (1929, est. $2,000 - $3,000, Stout’s first published book)
  • The League of Frightened Men (1935, est. $7,000 - $10,000, second Nero Wolfe mystery)
  • The President Vanishes (1934, est. $800 - $1200, written anonymously by Stout)
  • The Red Box (1937, est. $3,000 - $4,000)
  • The Rubber Band (1936, es. $4,000 - $6,000, third Nero Wolfe mystery)
  • Seed on the Wind (1930, est. $2,500 - $3,500, Stout’s second published book)
  • Some Buried Caesar (1939, est. $3,500 - $5,000, a copy of the sixth Nero Wolfe mystery with a laid-in signature)
  • Too Many Cooks (1938, est. $4,000 - $6,000, fifth Nero Wolfe mystery)

the rubber band stout.jpgEven if you don’t collect mysteries, the lots are worth browsing to see the rare and attractive dust jackets issued by Farrar & Rinehart.

If you are a mystery collector, this sale also includes several Raymond Chandler titles as well as The Benson Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine.





Here’s a quick reminder and run-down of bookish events in Boston this weekend, for those lucky enough to be in the area.

Friday-Sunday: Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair at the Hynes Convention Center. 120 antiquarian booksellers offering books, manuscripts, maps, autographs, photographs, and prints. Some highlights to ponder (and evidence of the show’s depth): a first edition of Pride and Prejudice, a first edition of the first issue of Playboy, and a 1969 U.S. dollar signed by John Lennon. In addition, there are several special events held during the fair, including a Saturday talk on sports book collecting; a Saturday lecture on scrimshaw books; a Saturday roundtable with the Ticknor Society, a book-collecting group; and a book signing with our own Nick Basbanes, for his newest book, On Paper. On Sunday, there will be free appraisals.

Honeywaxphoto.JPGSaturday only: The Boston Book, Print and Ephemera Show at the Back Bay Events Center. This is what we often refer to as a ‘shadow show’ -- collectors and dealers alike will find themselves scouting there when the doors open at 8 a.m. Some highlights to look out for: the first edition of the coveted 1932 photoplay, King Kong; a Doves Press edition of Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson; a rare Revolutionary War broadside; and a splendidly bound 1678 edition of Paradise Lost (seen here at left, from Honey and Wax Booksellers).

Sunday only: Skinner, Inc.’s auction of Fine Books & Manuscripts at 63 Park Plaza, 11:00 a.m. The bi-annual books auction from Boston’s premier auction house is not to be missed, featuring a wide selection of rare books, documents, prints, and maps. A particular focus for this auction is children’s books from the collection of Julia F. Carter, who worked under NYPL children’s librarian, Anne Carroll Moore. Many first editions of Caldecott and Newbery Award winners will be on the block, including a signed first of Boston’s beloved, Make Way for Ducklings (seen below via Skinner).

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Malcolm X’s heirs are suing to stop the publication of his diary by Third World Press. The civil rights activist’s diary, about his travels in Africa and the Middle East in 1964 on the eve of his assassination, is set to launch this week. The book, entitled “The Diary of Malcolm X: 1964” is a reproduction of material currently on loan to New York Public Library from Malcolm X’s daughters.

Several of those daughters are now claiming that Third World Press does not have a right to publish the material. Malcolm X’s heirs formed a company called “X Legacy” which seeks to “protect and enhance the value of the property held by his estate.” That company filed papers in a Manhattan federal court asking for the court to halt the publication of the diary as Third World Press does not hold the relevant rights.

Third World Press believes otherwise. In fact, they signed a contract to publish the diary with one of Malcolm X’s daughters, Ilyasah Shabazz. She is listed as a co-editor on the book and can be seen in a video on the publisher’s website discussing its publication. Shabazz, however, signed away her rights to X Legacy - and by extension to her father’s work - in 2011.

So it’s a complicated web.

Meanwhile - and ironically under the circumstances - Third World Press is running an Indiegogo campaign to finance a marketing effort for the diary. The sudden controversy over its publication, however, is already generating plenty of media attention.

At this point, it appears that “The Diary of Malcolm X: 1964” will publish on schedule on Thursday, November 14th.

[Image from Wikipedia]

Many collectors of books and prints are focused on the upcoming weekend’s Boston book fairs, obliging me to point out that an incredible collection will come to auction in New Jersey on Saturday, the 16th. Rago Arts in Lambertville, NJ, is selling 152 lots of original art and limited editions from the Vermillion Limited Editions Collection.

Master printer Steven M. Andersen studied in New York City before founding Vermillion Editions Limited in Minneapolis, MN, in 1977. Over the next fifteen years, the studio allowed contemporary artists to experiment with print, particularly in the form of multiples. Says Meredith Hilferty, director of fine art at Rago, “Artists from Arakawa to Warhol were eager for Andersen’s expertise and his willingness to translate unconventional ideas into print. The work he retained from his years in New York and Minneapolis, originals and editions, is much of the best of his years of extraordinary collaborations.” The Vermillion Limited Editions Collection also includes works by Red Grooms, Sam Gilliam, T.L. Solien, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning, William Wegman, Nicolas Africano, Larry Rivers, Herb Ritts, Ed Moses, Dan Flavin, and many others. Here are some of my favorites:

Vermillion-892.jpgLot 892: Red Grooms’ Katherine, Marcel & the Bride. Mixed media. Signed, edition 45/48. The estimate is $7,000-9,000.

Vermillion-785.jpgLot 785: Robert Rauschenberg’s Signs (1970). Screenprint in colors. Signed, dated, and numbered 7/10. The estimate is $5,000-7,000.

Vermillion-862.jpgLot 862: Wayne Thiebaud’s Neighborhood Ridge (1984). Etching. Signed, dated, and numbered 1/50. The estimate is $4,000-6,000. 

If you happen to be in New Jersey on Wednesday of this week, Andersen will speak at the auction house’s open house. His topic: “Why Can’t We Do This? Renegade Artists and Contemporary Art.” Reception at 5 p.m., lecture at 6 p.m.

Each Sold Separately

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“Lego® Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History,” by Gregory Farshtey and Daniel Lipkowitz; DK Publishing, $40, 256 pages, ages 8 and up.  


 Budding architects and lifelong LEGO® collectors will have Lego® Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History, at the top of their gift lists this holiday season. Published by DK, this comprehensive volume chronicles the thirty-five year history of LEGO® minifigures. The company has been in the business of manufacturing plastic blocks since 1949, but minifigures didn’t appear until 1978, and they have covered bedroom floors and tripped unwitting parents worldwide ever since. Every minifigure ever created is cataloged here, and the book also includes significant details about particularly rare and sought after pieces. Author and LEGO® authority Daniel Lipkowitz is a story developer for the company and has authored other books dedicated to the iconic wedges. This hefty tome (weighing just under four pounds) will be a welcome addition in any collector’s reference library and likely encourage die-hard enthusiasts to expand their own ranks of tiny, molded figurines.  For the truly devoted, LEGO® created a complete miniature replica of the book on a 1:15 scale and can be gripped by minifigures’ claw-like hands.  


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Our series profiling the next generation of special collections librarians continues today with Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University.

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How did you get started in rare books?
 
The short answer is that I got a job at the Newberry Library, one of the nation’s great vectors of the special collections librarianship contagion.  A slightly longer answer is that I started prowling the stacks at the University of Nebraska’s Love Library as an undergrad, and reading Jorge Luis Borges, and the two things led logically to wanting desperately to work (or live, maybe) in libraries, with books and archives.  I’ll spare you the much longer answer.
 
Where did you earn your MLS?
 
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  I’m a LEEPer, a graduate of UIUC’s excellent LEEP online learning program. 
 
What is your role at your institution?
 
My primary areas of curatorial responsibility are printed and archival collections in literature and Southern history, and archival collections in the history of economic thought.  Collection development, instruction, exhibitions and other outreach efforts, and reference are all a part of my position.  I also work collaboratively with the Rubenstein Library’s Head of Collection Development, Andy Armacost, and our other curators for women’s history and culture, African and African American history and culture, documentary arts, the history of medicine, human rights, and sales, advertising, and marketing history, finding materials that connect our areas of responsibility. 
 
We’re fortunate to have a wonderful staff here, and my job includes a great deal of work with many of them: discussing cataloging and processing strategies with our Technical Services staff; reviewing potential treatments for fragile or damaged items with conservators; planning acquisitions, class sessions, and exhibitions with curators and research services librarians in the Rubenstein Library and subject librarians in the circulating collections of Perkins Library.  
 
Have you worked at other institutions as well?
 
I started as a page in the General Reading Room the Newberry Library and then moved into the reference department there before coming to Duke. 
 
Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?
 
Every time I meet with a class or group to show them materials, I find myself saying, “This is one of my favorite items in our collections” about something different.  So I could go on and on. 
 
It’s hard to top the first edition of Leaves of Grass, which beyond its iconic status is such an immensely powerful teaching tool.  I love showing this along with Whitman’s manuscripts to students--the camera phones come out when they realize they’re seeing the real thing, words Whitman scrawled (or helped to design, bind, and typeset) on paper he touched.  A close second for me personally would be the 1930 Lakeside Press edition of Moby-Dick. 
 
But then, many more modest items tell such interesting stories, too.  For instance, we recently acquired a collection of memorial cards, including an example of a printed Victorian funerary biscuit wrapper.  I showed this to a class and they were flummoxed by the existence of such a thing--flummoxed in a way that seemed to open them up to thinking about the reasons why it was made and persisted, and the history of the tradition.  (This is what happened to me, too, when Ian Kahn first showed it to me at a book fair.)
 
What do you personally collect?
 
I dabble in many inexpensive things.  Dream literature (both pamphlets of dream interpretation and books describing dreams themselves) and books/ephemera about card games are two of my most consistent collecting interests.  Others include the writings of the Oulipo experimentalists, photography of books and art made from books, Nebraskiana, and a very modest Melville collection.  How’s that for eclectic?
 
What excites you about rare book librarianship?
 
The rare books, obviously: I love that working to provide access to and preserve these materials is our work.  Dealers, collectors, and institutions are all finding fascinating materials, and being involved in the process of giving some of these things a home is rewarding.  I think that the scope, policies, and definitions of institutional rare book collections, and ideas of what scarcity is and what investment of resources signify for institutions, have been shifting in interesting, hopefully democratizing and diversifying, ways in the last few decades, and it’s exciting to be a part of that. 
 
I’m always excited to open doors to people who haven’t realized that our collections are available for them to use--that we want them to come and experience these things, one on one.  Introducing students to our collections is one of my favorite things to do.  It’s thrilling to see a student latch on to the possibilities--and the detective work--inherent in research using rare books and other primary sources.
 
And there is no more satisfying experience, for me, than seeing something that I helped to acquire for the library put to use. 
 
Thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship?
 
I always try to keep in mind Terry Belanger’s famous reminder that much of this work is janitorial.  It remains true, and important.  No matter how much seems to change, we must do our best to make sure the books and manuscripts and digital artifacts will still be there and still warrant our care and attention a century from now. 
 
That being said, there are many, many brilliant people working in this and allied fields, and they seem to be coming from a broader range of backgrounds and disciplines than in the past.  The embrace of colleagues with backgrounds in information technology, digital humanities, and many other areas is heartening to see, and critical, I think, to the profession’s health moving forward.  There also seems to be increasing communication between archivists and librarians, and increasing recognition of the common cause both have with museums, historical societies, and other cultural heritage institutions. The involvement of faculty and students with library-based digital humanities projects, and projects using crowdsourcing to improve metadata for digitized collections, are both very encouraging for the future of special collections.  It’s hard for me to keep up, but I have this sense that the profession is full of energy right now.    
 
Exploring and documenting the future of the book is a terribly exciting prospect: from born-digital electronic literature to rapid change in e-book formats to the continuing vitality and creativity found in small presses, fine printing, and artists’ books, we are in for an interesting period.  It is not as though the variety and amount of printed material to be collected has decreased--we’ve just had many more formats and interfaces put into play. 
  
The ways in which digitization and the digital realm have impacted rare book collecting are also fascinating to me.  It will be interesting to see how the dual imperatives for institutional collectors to find some materials that resist digitization and reward a personal experience with a unique object or collection, and others that invite large-scale digitization for global use--and ideally, items that can work well in both of these ways!-- will play out in the market and in the shape collections take. 
 
Any unusual or interesting collection at your library you’d like to draw our attention to?
 
You’re really opening Pandora’s box here.  The Rubenstein Library specializes in the unusual and interesting.  Many of our collections work and play at the intersection of popular culture, historically marginalized groups, and scholarly interest. 
 
We have thousands of zines created by women and girls.  We have an African Americans in Film collection that features pressbooks, publicity stills, posters, and other advertising ephemera. We have the Nicole DiBona Peterson Collection of Advertising Cookbooks, some 3800 strong.  We have the Edwin and Terry Murray Collection of Role-Playing Games, perhaps the country’s largest institutional collection of RPGs.  We have a Tijuana Bibles collection.    
 
I’ve become very interested in the early works of literature (ca. 1860-1920) illustrated with real photographs and photogravures, and I’m snapping up as many of them as I can find and our budget can allow.  I don’t know how unusual that is, but I hope it’s interesting.
 
Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?
 
The Rubenstein Library’s permanent space is currently under renovation, so we are beginning to plan for the grand reopening exhibit in that space in 2015.  This will include some of our most treasured and important items--and the process of determining these is no easy task!  I also have high hopes for future exhibits related to German utopian literature, comic books and art, and the relationship between photographs and writing, but dates for all of those are yet to be determined. 

In the meantime, we still have many exhibits happening in other spaces.  There’s a great show curated by Duke graduate students scheduled for February-May 2014 entitled “Cheap Thrills: The Highs and Lows of Paris’s Cabarets, 1880-1939.”  This will feature evocative illustrations from Parisian literary, satirical, and cultural journals, and there are plans for performances of original music based on the songs of the cabaret by students in the Music Department, as well. 

“Defining Lines: Cartography in an Age of Empire,” an exhibit of maps from the Rubenstein Library, is on display at Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art until December 15, 2013.  The exhibit was curated by Duke undergraduate students, and it’s been wonderful to help them discover maps in our collections and see their pride in the finished product. 

Another exhibit, “Beijing Through Sidney Gamble’s Camera,” curated by Luo Zhou, Duke’s Chinese Studies Librarian, is currently touring a number of sites in Beijing.  This exhibit features selections from the Sidney D. Gamble Photographs in the Rubenstein Library’s Archive of Documentary Arts.

When Serendipity Books of Berkeley, California, closed in September 2011, the auctioneers were summoned, for its longtime owner, Peter B. Howard, was renowned in the rare book world for his acumen in buying and selling incredible books, art, and archives. Through numerous lots spread over a year’s worth of auctions and shelf sales, Bonhams dispersed some of Serendipity’s high spots, including a James Joyce broadside for $17,500, a John Steinbeck screenplay for $12,500, and a signed copy of Faulkner’s Sartoris for $9,375.

Serendipity.jpgStill, many books remained in the Berkeley landmark. Some estimated the number at 50,000, but Scott Brown of Eureka Books in Eureka, California, who purchased Serendipity’s closing inventory this fall, says the number of items actually reaches 100,000. Brown, the former editor of this magazine, says he has spent the last few weeks looking at every book in the store. “And by book I mean every scrap of paper, letter, flyer, broadside, prospectus, poster, oil painting, engraving, sculpture, baseball, and African mask,” he adds. “We definitely didn’t realize the magnitude of what we were undertaking, but overall it’s going pretty smoothly and we are right on schedule.”

Eureka Books is now planning a series of sales over the next five weekends at Serendipity’s Berkeley location, 1201 University Ave. Aside from the poetry, drama, and Canadian sections, which have been sold en bloc to other buyers, all books will be offered at $5 each the first two weekends, dropping to $3 at later sales, and $1 during the final weekend. (The full schedule is here.) It will be a book scout’s dream. “The books are quite good and they are going to be very cheap,” says Brown. “There’s a sense that the store’s picked over, but that’s really not true. Sure they’re probably aren’t very many $500 books left, but there are a lot of hundred-dollar books left.”

Howard, it seems, predicted this end for his shop. He once told Nick Basbanes that he would have liked a colleague to take over the business, but he knew better: “I have made my business so big and so complex that no one in their right mind but me would ever want to take the responsibility for it.” The second-best option would be to sell the books to other booksellers and collectors, therefore supporting the market that he helped to create over his fifty years in the business.

For Brown, sorting through the final contents of Serendipity has been exciting, exhausting, and a little sad. Customers have come in to reminisce about the good old days, and Brown himself recalls Howard’s generosity toward young booksellers. He said, “It’s been great talking about Peter with people who knew him in many different ways--it’s really like an ongoing memorial service for him at the store right now.”

What better memorial than a legacy of books to be shared by so many.

Image Courtesy of Eureka Books. 
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If you sell antiquarian books and had the book “Betty Cornell’s Glamour Guide for Teens” on your shelves last week, it’s probably been sold by now. In fact, no one seems to have a copy anymore.

Readers around the country rushed to buy copies of the 1951 guide to teenage popularity after Dreamworks announced early last week that it bought film rights to an upcoming memoir inspired by the book. Maya Van Wagenen - all of 15 years old - employed tips from the book in an effort to become popular at her school in Texas. Van Wagenen kept a diary of her efforts, which she sold in June for an impressive $300,000 to Dutton, a Penguin imprint. Her memoir, entitled “Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek” will be published in April, 2014. The movie will be hot on its heels.

“Betty Cornell’s Glamour Guide for Teens,” meanwhile, is nowhere to be found. A book that a week ago could be had for $10 - $15 online is now completely absent from the usual listing spots.

As for Betty Cornell herself, she was one of the top junior models in the 1940s, who moved on to lecturing and fashion show commenting after she aged out of her category. She then began writing books for teens, including the glamour guide that inspired Van Wagenen, as well as “Betty Cornell’s Popularity Guide for Teens,” “All About Boys,” and - rather surprisingly - “Betty Cornell’s Teen-age Knitting Book.” The knitting guide was the only one of the three I could easily find for sale online. It was priced at $80.

Check out this blog post for more details on the glamour guide as well as excerpts from the book.



CodexS.jpgThe new edition of the cult classic, Codex Seraphinianus (Rizzoli, $125), was one of the three “coffee-table books” that made our annual holiday gift guide (Art Made From Books, reviewed here, was another). Originally published in 1981, this whimsical encyclopedia-of-sorts was conceived and designed by an Italian artist/architect named Luigi Serafini. Since then, several editions have been released to an avid collector base. The first edition is by far the most coveted and valued upwards of $5,000, but booksellers also offer the 1983 Abbeville Press edition in the $1,000-2,000 range, and still later editions command healthy three-figure prices.

Codex Seraphinianus is an art book in the most direct sense--there are big, beautiful drawings accompanied by indecipherable letterforms--and it is impossible to “read” it in a literal way. Form prevails, and that form is an elegant large quarto bound in cream canvas with gold lettering and laminated decoration, containing thick, textured paper. When paired with the cryptic script, Serafini’s surreal illustrations recall centuries-old manuscripts of natural history--and yet the overall effect is not old-fashioned; it is Salvador Dali and Italo Calvino with a dash of Dr. Who.

Rizzoli’s newest edition, Codex Seraphinianus XXXIII, is published to coincide with the book’s thirty-third anniversary. It is available as a deluxe limited edition signed by Serafini for $400 or the trade edition for $125.

The text has remained a mystery all these years, and perhaps that’s part of its draw as an art object. And if you think the Decodex pamphlet provided in the book’s back pocket will give you even a sliver of understanding, think again. In it, Serafini tells us that the true author of the Codex was a stray white cat found on the streets of Rome.

Wegman’s Weimaraners

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Courtesy of Penguin Young Readers Group


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Courtesy of Penguin Young Readers Group


“Flo & Wendell,” by William Wegman; Dial Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 3-5.


After a decade-long hiatus, William Wegman and his loveable, huggable Weimeraners are back in print.  In this story, we meet little Flo and her brother Wendell, and aside from their adorable faces, these puppies have very little in common. Flo likes dressing up and baking delicious cupcakes, while her younger brother is more interested in playing sports and causing mischief.  Their hopeful parents encourage them to try and find something to do together, but with each page it seems less and less likely. Wegman playfully dissects the intricacies of sibling rivalry through simple text and engaging images. In previous Wegman books, the dogs are pictured in actual clothing; here the author departs from tradition and mixes photographs of the dogs with painted costumes and backgrounds.  This book is so cute parents may find themselves suddenly besieged with requests to bring home actual puppies.  (Full disclosure: our family recently brought home a pair of pups after reading this book.) Cave canem amabilem.  

Auction Guide