January 2014 Archives

2014 Newbery and Caldecott Winners

The American Library Association announced the winners of the 2014 Newbery and Caldecott medals on Monday.   A panel of fifteen librarians from across the country gathered to honor the very best children’s books.  What distinguishes the two awards? The Newbery Medal goes to the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”   The Caldecott recognizes an artist’s excellence in picture book illustration.  Here are the medal and honor winners:


 “Flora and Ulysses: The Illustrated Series,by Kate DeCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell; Candlewick Press, $17.99, 240 pages, ages 9-12.

In this adorable ode to superheroes, comic-book aficionado Flora sets on a series of adventures with a witty squirrel appropriately named Ulysses. DeCamillo’s humor (and wonderfully rich vocabulary) is perfectly matched by comic book artist’s K.G. Campbell’s black and white illustrations.  Readers will adore that this quirky action-packed novel matches a sensitive, sophisticated story.


Honor Books:

“Doll Bones,” by Holly Black; Margaret K. McElderry Books, $16.99, 256 pages, ages 10-14.

“The Year of Billy Miller,” by Kevin Henkes; Greenwillow Books, $16.99, 240 pages, ages 8-13.

“One Came Home,by Amy Timberlake; Alfred A. Knopf, $16.99, 272 pages, ages 9-13.

“Paperboy,by Vince Vawter; Delacorte Press, $16.99, 240 pages, ages 10-14.

Caldecott Medal Winner:

“Locomotive,” by Brian Floca; Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 64 pages, ages 4-10. 

This year’s Caldecott winner is a picture book rich with sensory details about America’s first trans-continental railroad.  The rolling text mimics the turning of the wheels and the rumbling of the train down the track.  At sixty-four pages, this is on the long side for picture books, but the delightful text and sumptuous images will captivate young readers on every page.   



Honor Books:

Journey,” by Aaron Becker; Candlewick Press, $15.99, 40 pages, ages 4-8.

“Flora and the Flamingo,” by Molly Idle; Chronicle Books, $16.99. 44 pages, ages 4-8.

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“Mr. Wuffles!”  by David Wiesner; Clarion Books, $17.99, 32 pages, all ages.

The Vatican Library has partnered with four Japanese institutions to digitize 10,000 documents from a lost Japanese archive. The documents - collectively called the Marega Papers - detail Christian persecution by the Japanese between the 17th and 19th centuries.

The Marega Papers were removed from Japan in the 1940s by Rev. Mario Marega, an Italian missionary priest who eventually deposited the documents in the Vatican library. For decades, the documents languished in the Vatican, forgotten by the world. Then, in 2010, a researcher stumbled across them in storage and was able to read and interpret the Japanese script. The researcher recognized their importance and the Vatican soon alerted Japanese authorities to the existence of the documents.

Japanese researchers arrived at the Vatican in September of 2013 to examine the archive. This week, a six-year agreement to inventory, catalogue, and digitize the archive was signed between the Vatican Library and four Japanese institutions.

Christianity was first introduced to Japan in 1549 by St. Francis Xavier, one of the founders of the Jesuits. For several decades, the religion spread around Japan, before a serious backlash began in the late 16th century, culminating with a mass execution of Christians and an outright ban of the religion in the early 17th century. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that freedom of religion was again allowed in Japan.

Rev. Mario Marega arrived in Japan in the 1920s, working as a missionary.  He discovered the archive of rice-paper scrolls detailing the persecution of Christians in Japan and wrote a two-volume work about the documents before removing them from Japan and depositing them in the Vatican library.

Marega’s treatise on the documents, 續豐後切支丹史料 Documents Concerning the Persecution of the Christians of Bungo, Kyūshū. Tokyo : Don Bosukosha, Shōwa 21 [1946], is quite rare today.

[Image from Wikipedia]
Earlier this week, Bookfinder.com released its eleventh annual report on the 100 “most searched for out-of-print book titles” in 2013. This list tracks old books that have, somehow, either retained popularity despite being largely unavailable or regained it from some publicity bump sometime over the past twelve months.

According to the report, Bookfinder does not “consider a title currently published as an eBook or POD [Print on Demand] to be in print. We felt that In Print meant printed on a page, with ink; so while a book only available electronically may be handy, it did not fit our criteria. We also decided some years ago that we would not consider POD published titles to be In Print.” The reasoning they offer for this: “The BookFinder.com Report is meant to highlight books which traversed the entire traditional book lifecycle from life to death, and yet are once again sought after for one reason or another.”

So what are those popular old titles?

The names in the top ten haven’t budged much from last year’s report--Madonna (Sex, 1992) is still #1, followed by Stephen King as Richard Bachman (Rage, 1977) and Stephen King as himself (My Pretty Pony, limited edition, 1989), and further down, Nora Roberts (Promise Me Tomorrow, 1984) and Kyle Onstott (Mandingo, 1983).

Outside the top ten, we can still find Ray Bradbury’s Dark Carnival, Madeleine L’Engle’s Ilsa, Cameron Crowe’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Carl Sagan’s Murmurs of Earth. New to this year’s list are The Afronauts by Cristina de Middel at #15, Life at the Limit: Triumph and Tragedy in Formula One by Sid Watkins at #23, and The Angelique Series by Anne Golon at #18.
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On Sunday Keno Auctions in New York City sold an important piece of early Americana for a startling $912,500. The document, entitled Letter from the Twelve United States Colonies by their Delegates in Congress to the Inhabitants of Great Britain, was a final plea from the Continental Congress to avoid an armed uprising. The document - long thought lost - invited fierce competition from two phone bidders who quickly blew through its $100,000 - $400,000 estimate. The winning bid came from a private collector via manuscripts specialist Seth Kaller. The final price, at $912,500, took the prize for highest price paid during Americana Week 2014 in New York City.

The letter itself was written by the jurist Robert R. Livingston (of Declaration of Independence fame) in 1775 and was printed in July of that year. This draft of the document offers an invaluable perspective into the final printed document as it includes excised paragraphs and marginal notes. Until the discovery of this letter, only the final printed document was known to scholars.

The letter was found in July of this year by Emilie Gruchow, an archivist with the Morris-Jumel Mansion in Manhattan. (The mansion served as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War). Gruchow found the letter in a folder of 18th century doctor’s bills tucked away in the drawer of a desk in the mansion’s attic. After its discovery and verification, the Morris-Jumel Mansion decided to sell the letter to raise funds for the long-term survival of the museum.

With a winning bid just shy of $1m, the Museum’s nest-egg received an impressive boost.
Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 2.10.43 PM.pngThe “writing slope” of English poet-philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge goes to auction Tuesday in London. The mahogany lap desk features little holders for ink wells, a pen rack, and two drawers. No word whether he composed his most famous works--The Rime of the Ancient Mariner or Kubla Khan--here, but family tradition holds that this was the famous Lake poet’s slope and that it was bequeathed to his sons and from there to his grandson E.H. Coleridge, along with the wedding spoons and clock also on offer in this “Gentleman’s Library Sale.”

Says Bonhams, “Although such artefacts are notoriously difficult to date with any precision, it certainly seems to be of too early a date to have belonged to either of Coleridge’s sons.” The sale estimate is $3,300-5,000--and no, the winning bidder will not walk away with the spoons, manuscript pages, or the other objects seen in this auction house illustration.

Image courtesy of Bonhams.

The Little Prince: Made in Manhattan

MORGAN-3. Reynal and Hitchcock_The Little Prince medium.jpgMANHATTAN - The Little Prince is most often associated with the City of Lights.  Yet Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s wartime tale took shape in a rented house on Beekman Place in the heart of New York.  In fact, the ex-pat French aviator - who spoke almost no English - spent two years in Gotham, writing and reworking what would ultimately become one of the best-selling and most-beloved books in history.  As much as the world considers The Little Prince to be a French masterpiece, it took shape and drew inspiration from the people, sights and sounds of Manhattan.

The Morgan Library celebrates the book’s 70th anniversary with an impressive exhibition of the author’s working manuscripts and drawings, as well as other memorabilia such as personal communications, photos, journals and books.  The show opens to the public January 24th and runs through April 27th.    

So how much did the City that Never Sleeps inspire Saint-Exupéry?  Portions of the working manuscript on display show the author referencing iconic landmarks such as Rockefeller Center.  Some of the drawings also appear to be inspired by skyline views of Manhattan.  Much was ultimately removed from the final product, but these coffee and cigarette stained documents provide a fascinating look into the creative process.  Saint-Exupéry was also notorious for working through the night, often surrounded by reams of onion-skin paper - which, when examined under proper lighting, reveals the watermark Fidelity Onion Skin. Made in U.S.A.  

Admirer and fellow aviator Ann Morrow Lindbergh’s diary is also on display and open to a passage where she reflects on what she considered the  “eternal sadness - eternal hunger - eternal searching”  of the work.  Orson Welles loved the book so much that he bought the screen rights; his annoted screenplay is here as well. Perhaps the most moving object is an identification bracelet worn by Saint-Exupéry when his plane was lost at sea.  It was recovered by a Marseille fisherman in 1998.   To the end, the author embraced New York - alongside his name is engraved the Park Avenue address of his publisher.  

Image: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944)
The Little Prince
New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1943
The Morgan Library & Museum, New York
Photography by Graham S. Haber, 2013

Haute Culture Press is a small press based in Stockholm, Sweden with a unique publishing vision. Their goal is to translate European classics into English and distribute them internationally. To fund these efforts, Haute Culture produces rare or “luxury” editions of European classics which are financially supported by “Book Angels” who purchase a luxury edition and then receive 100 (or more) free eBooks of the title to distribute to people or institutions of their choice. We interviewed the CEO of Haute Culture, Luis de Miranda, over e-mail:

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When was Haute Culture founded and where are you based?

Haute Culture is a brand of Kreell AB, a company I founded in April 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden, along with our designer Linda Ayres, although we might move to the UK later this year.

The rest of the team include Jamie Schwartz, our editor, Jean-Sébastien Hongre and Olivier Rieu, early investors and Simon Carney, our PR.

Tell us about your publishing vision; about why you formed Haute Culture:

Our aim is summed up in a two-word slogan: content sublimation.

First of all we only publish masterpieces where the author has taken the collective reality and transformed it into sublime text. Secondly, the first form we use are handmade, precious, rare editions, so we materialize those masterpieces into a sublime object. Thirdly, this device, this ‘dispositif’ allows us to create a free viral distribution of the e-book version of the text and that’s another sublimation, a passage from the solid state to the gaseous, digital state.

I created Haute Culture because I believe it to be a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a company that could contribute to the beauty of the world by sublimation. This is a form of alchemy applied to book publishing.

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Tell us about the concept of book angels and your publishing model in general:

Book Angels allow the sublimation process to take place by pre-ordering the precious material version of the book. That helps us finance the translation, the production of the print edition and the distribution of free e-books. Book Angels are the mini-Medici of our venture, a sponsor that can have his or her name acknowledged in the book.

They’re also enlightened collectors, as we promise never to make more than 500 physical books in order to remain within the limits of a limited edition and in doing so create an object whose value increases year after year. No real alchemy can function without the breath of an angel.

Introduce our readers to Tammsarre’s “Truth and Justice.” How did you come to choose that novel for your first publication?

In fact our first publication was a Flaubert tale, Felicity, in December 2013. In 2014 we plan to publish two books: The Sublimes, by Yuri Mamleyev and Truth and Justice, by Anton Hansen Tammsaare.

The first one (not necessary chronologically), whose original title is Chatuny, is a masterpiece of Russian literature written in the late 1960s by an author who is still alive today and considered by younger Russian writers as the new Dostoyevsky. It’s a horrible and sublime novel about the quest for the absolute truth.

The second is the most important Estonian novel ever written, by an author who is now part of the cultural heritage of the Estonian nation and has his own statue in the middle of Tallinn. It’s a earthy novel about the struggle for a new territory, written in the 1930s. A very universal theme. To my great astonishment neither of these books have been published in English before.


Please describe the luxury edition of “Truth and Justice.”

I prefer to talk about a ‘rare edition’ rather than ‘luxury edition’ as our goal isn’t to be “bling-bling”, but to create a highly-designed artistic object that shares a deep connection with the text and the title. So we might use earthy materials to reflect the setting of the novel for example.

We’re still working on the final version though as we think we can improve on the first prototypes we made a few months ago. If you want to get an idea of our work, have a look at our limited edition of Felicity, which is on sale in Assouline boutiques in London, New York, Los Angeles and Paris.

Today’s sale in 20th Century Illustration over at Swann Galleries will include a signed advertisement by Theodore Geisel. (Lot 223). If the ad has an air of familiarity, it’s probably because you know Geisel by his pen name: Dr. Seuss.

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Seuss created the advertisement sometime in the early 1950s at the height of his career. It’s one of several drawn by Seuss for Holly Sugar, a company that has since been absorbed into Imperial Sugar. The illustration was likely intended for a billboard advertisement. (As an interesting aside, Swann notes that Seuss actually lobbied for the boycotting of billboards in his hometown of La Jolla, California around the same time. Seuss subsequently cut his ties with Holly Sugar.)

Swann estimates the advertisement will sell for $30,000 - $40,000.

Today’s sale also includes a pen-and-ink drawing on card of one of Seuss’s famous advertisements for Flit Insecticide. (Lot 226; Estimate: $15,000 - $20,000). Seuss received his first big break from Flit Insecticide, who initially commissioned him in 1928, when Seuss was 24 years old.  Seuss’s insecticide series continued sporadically until 1941.  The example at auction is from 1938.  Flit Insecticide - once a household staple - was produced by Standard Oil (now part of Exxon), and discontinued after its 5% DDT content fell out of favor.

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In a combination that can only serve to delight, artist Sondra Sherman combines bespoke jewelry design with book art by carving a hollow into the pages of a book and placing a unique piece of jewelry inspired by that book’s subject or theme into the empty space. The piece seen here below, Julia Newberry’s Diary, is a Gilded Age memoir of a young Chicago socialite (who also happened to be the daughter of the philanthropist that gave us the Newberry Library). Inside the hollow that Sherman created is a steel and silver brooch, inspired by Newberry and her time.
Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 9.09.30 AM.pngThis piece and others are on view now at the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, New Jersey, in a solo exhibition called “Found Subjects.” Sherman, an associate professor of art, jewelry, and metalwork at San Diego State University, said of it, “All jewelry becomes a form or element of portraiture, and in ‘Found Subjects’ the book and jewelry piece came to reflect the imaginary reader, author or wearer.”

“Found Subjects” runs through March 9.

Image: Sondra Sherman, Julia Newberry’s Diary, 2010, steel, sterling silver,nail polish, Book: 8 X 5.5 X 1 in., Brooch: 3.75 X 2.75 X .5 in. Courtesy of the Hunterdon Art Museum.

Ever since Leonard S. Marcus did a cover story for us on book jacket designer turned children’s author Fred Marcellino in 2012, I am always trying to “spot” his jacket art on books from the 1970s and 80s in shops and at book fairs. He did jackets for the likes of Tom Wolfe, Tobias Wolff, Anne Tyler, and Margaret Atwood. Marcus wrote, “Marcellino treated a cover as a miniature poster, as an artwork with the supporting role first of catching browsers’ attention, then of offering a clear impression of the experience held in store.”

685303.jpgIt seems collectors are beginning to notice, too. This week Swann Galleries is offering Marcellino’s original cover art for the iconic 1984 re-issue of Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook (seen here at left). The estimate is $5,000-7,000. Another piece of cover art, created for T.C. Boyle’s novel, World’s End, in 1987, is also on the block. Its estimate is $4,000-6,000. Last year, his original art for Thomas Pynchon’s Slow Learner dust jacket realized $6,720, also at Swann Galleries.

Other jacket art at Thursday’s sale includes a selection of original art by Max Ginsburg, including the oil on canvas he made for the 1982 Bantam Books edition of A Separate Peace (estimate: $10,000 - 15,000) and Mark Tauss’ art for Jay McInerney’s 1984 cult classic, Bright Lights, Big City (estimate: $8,000 - 12,000).

Image: Courtesy of Swann Galleries. 

Great Americans


 “Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything,” by Maira Kalman; Nancy Paulson Press, $17.99, 40 pages, ages 5-8. 

Thomas Jefferson was a study in contradictions.  He believed in freedom for all, yet owned 150 slaves.  He built a gorgeous home at Monticello, enjoyed sumptuous foods, yet at his death, had gone bankrupt from financing his lifestyle.    In Maira Kalman’s latest ode to a great American, she illustrates the complexity and brilliance of our third president in her own inimitable style, intertwining whimsical gouache paintings with flowing, handwritten text. 

I had the pleasure of speaking with Kalman earlier this week.  She discussed her approach to projects and how she writes for children.  This is the first of two articles about her. 

Thomas Jefferson grew out of an online column Kalman wrote in 2009 for The New York Times.  “It’s been part of my life for the past 5 years - going to Monticello and working with the curator there, Susan Stein,” explained Kalman.  “I didn’t know anything about Jefferson, and so I was easily surprised.”  Jefferson possessed an extraordinary desire to learn. Yet, as Kalman concluded, “Coupled with his lifestyle, he was a great study in contradictions.  He was a human being who relentlessly explored everything.” 

 Kalman’s bibliography includes such works as Last Stop, Grand Central; Looking at Lincoln, and Fireboat. In each she is able to explore some difficult topics, yet maintains a certain lightheartedness that makes her work accessible to children.   For example, in Fireboat, Kalman describes the heroic efforts undertaken on 9/11 by the fireboat John J. Harvey.  The boat, built in 1931, was reactivated to pump water when the city’s water mains stopped working and pumped water for 80 hours, until the mains were restored.  

Initially, Kalman didn’t want to write Fireboat, but friend and boat co-owner Florent Morellet pressed her to write it.   “A month after the attacks, he approached me, but I flatly refused - I deal in humor, I told him.  Florent believed that it would be an important book, and that I could do it.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I could frame it as a love letter to New York and to the resiliency of the human spirit.”  


In all of her books, Kalman knows exactly how to capture children’s attention.  She is adamant that children can handle any subject - slavery, love, even death - as long as it’s done the right way.  “There’s always a way to talk to children as long as you are candid and kind,” Kalman said.  “You don’t have to scare them beyond their understanding or above their age level.  But it’s absolutely possible to talk about anything with children.  Because they do understand contradictions, and they do understand sadness and they do understand kindness. There isn’t a child in the world who doesn’t.”

Next time we talk dogs, deadlines and drawing inspiration. 

Our series profiling the next generation of special collections librarians and curators continues today with Richard Ring, Head Curator and Librarian of the Watkinson Library, Trinity College, in Hartford, Connecticut.

How did you get started in rare books?

My interest in rare books began in graduate school at the Ohio State University (I was an M.A. candidate in English from 1994-1996), when I studied William Camden’s Britannia in all of its editions, from the small first Latin edition of 1586 to the great 4-volume folio edition edited by William Gough published in 1806--which I actually checked out of the OSU library in 1995! (You know a book-nerd when you see him staggering under a stack of thick volumes, each the size of a cookie sheet, across the quad).  Mostly I was fascinated by how the text grew over two centuries, first in Camden’s hands, and then in those of his successors.

I disliked the hyper-theoretical discourse that was so prevalent in the early 90s, and it was clear that the life of a literary scholar was not what I had imagined (i.e., puffing a pipe in a book-lined office). Seriously though, I wanted more practical work. One of my professors suggested I speak to Joel Silver, then Curator of Books (now Director) of the Lilly Library at Indiana University, about going into rare book librarianship. I visited Bloomington, Joel took me on a tour of the stacks, and I was hooked.  I went to IU for my MLS and spent every minute I could in the Lilly, doing anything they would let me do, and it was the most fabulous experience.

What is your role at your institution?

My title is Head Curator & Librarian of the Watkinson Library--but put simply, I am the head of special collections. The Watkinson is a library within a library.  It was a separate institution for 85 years before it was conveyed to Trinity College in 1950, and folded into the Trinity College Library.  Think of a small liberal arts college suddenly receiving 130,000 volumes, most of them rare or special! Those books were merged with Trinity’s rare books, and currently we have over 175,000 volumes. So it is a huge rare book collection relative to the size of the school (2,200 undergraduates and less than 100 graduate students). We have our own endowment and Board of Trustees, but it is still a division of the College Library. There are not many places like it.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

It changes, depending on what I’ve recently bought. I like a broad range of stuff, and I’m always looking for unique things that would make a good paper project (or even a thesis) for an undergraduate, as well as making sense with our existing strengths.  Currently I am enamored of 19th c. games, especially those dealing with history and interesting manuscript material

What do you personally collect?

I don’t collect for myself--only for the institution.

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

I like that every item we have contains, inherently, many stories; I like that there are thousands upon thousands of items, and millions of stories, and that I get to try to tell some of them every day to a (mostly) appreciative audience. Most of all, I like to create an environment where curiosity, inspiration, and discovery is contagious and electrifying. One way I’ve done this at Trinity is through my Creative Fellowship Program for undergraduates. Here is the program website and here are our two Fall Fellows. We are funding four Fellows this spring.

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

If we play our cards right, it can be the sexiest part of the library world with the most physical growth potential. If you want more of my ideas, you’ll need to meet my consulting fee.

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

Another impossible question, but I love that we have a collection of British and American Valentine’s Day cards back to the 1840s, and several hundred British playbills from 1790-1830; If you want to know what’s happening, what we’re buying, and what I like, see my blog The Bibliophile’s Lair.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

In the spring I like to have student-curated exhibitions, to show off during Commencement and Reunion Weekend. Every fall I teach a course in the American Studies department on museum and library exhibitions, and my students curate their own shows “soup to nuts,” - not just telling a story with artifacts, but also fundraising, planning and budgeting for an opening event and producing a published catalog. This fall I had 13 students, and each one did their own show, so I called the collective exhibition “Lucky 13.” The shows will be on display through June 15 (each student has one case in the library, and an online extension using an Omeka platform will be up soon).

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YYEK85TOS428vluH.jpgOur winter issue features Richard Minsky’s interview with book artist Doug Beube. For those intrigued by Beube’s work--or book art in general--his 2011 book, Breaking the Codex, is an incredible production. A large hardcover of 220 pages, it includes 275 illustrations and longform essays by writers, scholars, curators, collectors, and fellow artists. Having had a taste of his work in the magazine, there’s so much more to enjoy in this book. His 1991 altered atlas, Invisible Cities, a tribute to Italo Calvino’s novel, was new to me, as were the earlier pieces that Beube collects in a final chapter: a 1979 altered comic book, early sketches for his zipper books, and his 1988 Chair of Censorship, once on the campus of Minnesota’s Carleton College, which held a Russian text frozen outside so that viewers could watch its gradual thaw.

For those who enjoyed Minsky’s Q&A, Judith Hoffberg’s interview elaborates on many of these questions.

It was also fun to see Buzz Spector’s contribution to the book, since he will be featured in our spring issue. Spelling out “Douglas Beube,” Spector’s poem uses each letter to list twelve books from his library. FB&C readers will get a kick out of the fact that Nick Basbanes’ A Gentle Madness is there, as is Nicholson Baker’s Double Fold.

To see more of Beube’s work, check out this Vimeo video that was created to accompany the exhibition Rebound: Dissections and Excavation in Book Art at The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art.

Rebreaking the Codex from Halsey Institute on Vimeo.

You may never have a chance to purchase Menabilly - Daphne Du Maurier’s famous estate and the inspiration for Manderley in the Gothic classic Rebecca - but you now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase the original Jamaica Inn.  All you need is two million pounds. A desire to eek out a living as a remote innkeeper might help a bit too.


That’s right, the Jamaica Inn, in operation since 1750 and dramatically situated on the windswept moors of Cornwall - is up for sale. Du Maurier stumbled across the Inn by chance in 1930 when she was wandering the moors alone on horseback after becoming lost in a thick fog.  Shaken by her ordeal, Du Maurier holed up for a few days at the Inn, where the local rector regaled her with colorful ghost stories. The rector - who inspired the Vicar character in the novel - also introduced Du Maurier to the rich history of smuggling in the region.

The remote location, howling winds and eerie local stories were a heady mix for the young writer. Six years later, she published Jamaica Inn, which brought all of these ingredients together into a Gothic masterpiece.

The inn was originally built in 1750 as a coaching inn, a place for changing horses on stagecoach runs over the Bodmin moor. It was expanded in 1778 and soon became a local smuggling haven, a veritable den of thieves, where contraband could be safely and secretly stored. By the early 19th century, the Cornwall coast was practically crawling with smugglers, importing items such as Jamaican rum (a possible inspiration for the Inn’s name), brandy, and tea. Worst of the smugglers were the crews of wreckers who would lure ships into dangerous territory to run them aground, before killing the sailors and stealing the cargo. A gang of such wreckers features prominently in Du Maurier’s novel.

Perhaps predictably, the Jamaica Inn is listed as one of the most haunted places in Britain.

A BBC adaptation of the novel is set for later this year.

In the meantime, if you’d like to purchase the Inn, you can make inquiries on the Inn’s website.

[Image from Wikipedia]

At auction this week a rare lithographed map of New York City’s early sewer system. Potty humor aside, the Sanitary and Topographical Map of the City and Island of New York, 1865, is an important map, included in Stokes’ Iconography of Manhattan Island. It depicts original land and water sources, as well as reservoirs, landfill, piers, and streets. The hand-coloration shows marsh (pale blue), made land (yellow), and meadow (white), with sewers denoted by a black lines that run along the roads.

146593_0.jpgAccording to PBA Galleries, which will sell this map on Thursday, the map is “fragile” and “seldom found in reasonable condition.” Only seven institutional copies are listed in OCLC/WorldCat. The estimate for this one, even with two small center holes, is $6,000-9,000.

Image via PBA Galleries.

Clara Barton’s Childhood

“Clara and Davie,” by Patricia Polacco; Scholastic Press, $17.99, 40 pages, ages 4 to 6. 

Before she earned her nickname “Angel of the Battlefield” from tending to wounded soldiers during the Civil War, American Red Cross founder Clara Barton (1821-1912) was a shy farmer’s daughter with a lisp, who was home-schooled because classmates teased her.  This tale of inspiration and family strength comes straight from Barton’s own flesh and blood - Polacco is a relative, and as a child was told stories about her remarkable ancestor. 

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Growing up on a farm in North Oxford, Massachusetts, Barton was the youngest of five children.  Clara was born on Christmas Day, but her mother died shortly thereafter.  Polacco reveals this in such a way as not to frighten young children, yet still  poignantly conveys the loss; “Mama grew weak from illness. Soon all of the mothering of that baby was left to [Clara’s older sister] Dolly.” Dolly was a stern guardian, but Clara’s great champion was her older brother Davie.  He encouraged her to accept and cultivate her ability to heal others - eventually, farmers would travel from all over for her to cure their sick animals.   Clara’s strength and courage are put to the test when Davie is gravely injured in a fall. 


As mentioned above, Clara was home-schooled - each of her four older siblings was responsible for teaching her a different subject.  She thrived in this homemade schoolhouse, and Polacco’s loving illustrations of the family reading in the parlor surrounded by filled bookshelves is a wonderful testament to the healing power of books. 

Polacco’s trademark storytelling and charismatic illustrations will delight readers of all ages.  Don’t wait until Women’s History Month to read this book - Barton’s captivating story is one to share year-round.

Publication Date: January 28, 2014


“Percy is growing up a very fine young man, and developing tastes and talents that would remind you of his father - though he has not that touch that at once made Shelley angelic and unfortunate...” wrote Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley of her son Percy in a newly discovered letter.

Thirteen previously unknown Shelley letters were recently unearthed by Nora Crook, professor emerita at Anglia Ruskin University, and an expert on on the Romantic period. Crook chanced upon the letters while conducting Internet searches for an obscure 19th century novelist. She discovered listings for thirteen documents cataloged as “Letter from Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley” held at the Essex Record Office. Crook suspected immediately that the letters had not previously been published.

And she was right: the cache at Essex University is the largest collection of unknown Shelly letters to surface in decades.

The letters cover the period in time between 1831 and 1849, concluding two years before Shelley died from a brain tumor. Shelley wrote the letters to Horace Smith - a stockbroker with a societal reputation as a wit - and his daughter Eliza.  The Smith family had been close with Mary’s husband, the poet Percy Shelley, and befriended Mary after his death. 

The letters will soon be published in the Keats-Shelley Journal. Their contents range from asking for small favors, to describing last-minute preparations to attend the coronation of William IV, to reflections on her son Percy (her only child to survive infancy) as he grows into a young man.
In the not-too-be-missed reading pile this week, an article on book crime from Travis McDade, whose recent book, Thieves of Book Row: New York’s Most Notorious Rare Book Ring and the Man Who Stopped It, we excerpted in our spring 2013 issue. McDade writes in The Millions that the Massimo De Caro news combined with the Bay Psalm Book sale back in November “put me in the mind of an earlier tale that combined forgery, theft, and the earliest American imprint in one stranger-than-fiction saga.” He then details the Hofmann “Oath” forgery and how a thieving librarian from the Library of Congress assisted the plot. 
On January 29th, the Rothschild Prayerbook will be offered for auction by Christie’s with an estimate at $15 -$18 million. The book already holds the world record for an illuminated manuscript, when it was sold by Christie’s fifteen years ago for $13 million.

The Rothschild Prayerbook is a Book of Hours commissioned by a member of Holland’s imperial court circa 1505. The gorgeously detailed manuscript features 150 decorated pages with miniatures and borders painted by renowned artists including Gerard Horenbout, Simon Bening, Alexander Bening and Gerard David.

“Every aspect of this Book of Hours - from the quality of the parchment to the wealth and refinement of the decoration - marks the Rothschild Prayerbook as one of the most prestigious and exquisite examples of Flemish manuscript illumination,” said Nicholas Hall, International Co-Chairman of Old Masters & 19th-Century Art.

Dr. Sandra Hindman, expert on Medieval and Renaissance illustration and owner of Les Enluminures galleries in Chicago, New York, and Paris, offered some context on the sale:

“Recent demand for Books of Hours has been fueled by increased scholarship over the last few years, which in turn has led to new discoveries and attributions. Moreover, Books of Hours remain such treasured objects because of the exceptional level of artistry exhibited by the distinctive craftsmanship of each work -- each illuminated initial, handset page, and gilt binding -- puts other rare books to shame. Also their condition makes them quite exceptional, as illuminated manuscripts cannot be restored. In fact, among our recent museum-quality offerings, the Tree of Jesse by the Master of the Chronique Scandaleuse (France, Paris c. 1490) and Virgin and Child, Book of Hours (Use of Rome) (Southern Netherlands, Bruges c. 1450) constitute some the best preserved examples of medieval painting from those time periods and regions.”

Hindman also added some advice for any collectors considering branching into Books of Hours:

“Look for richness of detailing on the border, and the quality of the marginal illustrations. Medieval clients paid by the page and painted scene, and even more for such expensive materials as gold leaf or lapis lazuli, and so should you. Often commissioned by royals and aristocrats, best examples among these “Medieval bestsellers” feature richly painted and layered visual illustrations, ornately decorated with gilding and inks made with pigments of ground precious stones. Avoid fading or flaking paint, retouched miniatures, excessive trimming due to rebinding, and paper backing as early fine manuscripts were mostly made from papyrus and animal skins.”

Dr. Hindman will be speaking about Books of Hours at the Winter Antiques Show in New York City on Jan. 29, the same day the Rothschild Prayerbook will go under the hammer.

View a special e-catalogue issued by Christie’s for the Prayerbook here.

Some literary anniversaries coming up in 2014. Obviously not an exhaustive list!

50 years ago (1964):

Bret Easton Ellis born, 7 March.

Elizabeth Kostova born, 26 December.

T.H. White dies, 17 January.

Rachel Carson dies, 14 April.

Flannery O’Connor dies, 3 August.

Ian Fleming dies, 12 August.

- Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory published.

- Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang published.

- Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree published.

100 years ago (1914):

William S. Burroughs born, 5 February.

Ralph Ellison born, 1 March.

Octavio Paz born, 31 March.

Bernard Malamud born, 26 April.

Dylan Thomas born, 27 October.

Patrick O’Brian born, 12 December.

- James Joyce’s Dubliners published.

150 years ago (1864):

Nathaniel Hawthorne dies, 19 May.

Walter Savage Landor dies, 17 September.

- J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Uncle Silas and Wylder’s Hand published.

- Jules Verne’s A Journey to the Center of the Earth published.

200 years ago (1814):

J. Sheridan Le Fanu born, 28 August.

William Wells Brown born, 6 November.

Marquis de Sade dies, 2 December.

- Walter Scott’s Waverley published.

- Lord Byron’s The Corsair published.

- Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park published.

250 years ago (1764):

Ann Radcliffe born, 9 July.

Robert Dodsley dies, 23 September.

- Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto published.

- George Psalmanazar’s Memoirs published.

- Cesare Beccaria’s Of Crimes and Punishments published.

300 years ago (1714):

William Shenstone born, 13 November.

Scriblerus Club founded.

- Bernard Mandeville’s The Fable of the Bees published in book form.

350 years ago (1664):

Matthew Prior born, 21 July.

- John Evelyn’s Sylva published in book form.

400 years ago (1614):

Isaac Casaubon dies, 1 July.

450 years ago (1564):

Galileo Galilei born, 15 February.

Christopher Marlowe born, February (bap. 26 February).

William Shakespeare born, April (bap. 26 April).

John Calvin dies, 27 May.

Andreas Vesalius dies, 15 October.

- First datable printed work in Russian printed, 1 March.

500 years ago (1514):

Georg Joachim Rheticus born, 16 February.

Andreas Vesalius born, 31 December.

Hartmann Schedel dies, 28 November.

- Albrecht Dürer engraves Melencolia I and St. Jerome in His Study.

This past Friday, extremists torched Tripoli’s Al-Saeh Library, run by Greek Orthodox priest Father Ibrahim Sarrouj. Conflicting reports indicate that Sarrouj was targeted after rumors circulated online that he had insulted the Prophet Mohammad and/or had a pamphlet in his collection that insulted Islam. According to the Huffington Post UK, the fire left up to 78,000 books and manuscripts unsalvageable.

Lebanese blogger Elie Fares wrote on Saturday night: “The country is burning, let’s not worry about a library. A lot of people might say that. But the library in question was a true national treasure, containing 78,000 books, many of which exist in very few copies and many of which are, ironically, books about Islam.”

Today, Father Sarrouj told reporters that he forgives his as-yet unknown attackers.
It’s that time of year--before we shove out the old and ring in the new, let’s take a quick look at last year’s top ten blog posts here at Fine Books. ICYMI...

#1 Ten Reasons a Pessimist can be Optimistic About the Future of the Book. Pulled from a talk I gave at Drew University last year, my thoughts on the future of the physical book.

#2 Books: A Documentary, Starring Larry McMurtry. A report (and a trailer) on the upcoming documentary about McMurtry’s famous auction.

#3 Top Collectible Children’s Books. Antiquarian bookseller Helen Younger of Aleph-Bet Books in New York offers a revamped list, from Peter Slovenly to Harry Potter.

#4 Bright Young Librarians: Meghan Constantinou. From our series profiling the next generation of special collections librarians; this one is on the Grolier Club’s librarian.

#5 Recent Top Ebay Book Sales. Mitch Fraas finds an incunable, an early modern manuscript, a modern first, and one of the great collectible atlases in the last quarter of 2012.

#6 The Bookman’s Tale. A review of Charlie Lovett’s novel, featuring an antiquarian bookseller, his dead wife, and a Hinman collator.

#7 Bright Young Things: Jason Rovito. From our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers; this one is on the proprietor of Paper Books in Toronto.

#8 The Xenia Relief Project. How the book trade helped Blue Jacket Books in Ohio after the store lost 20,000 books in the aftermath of a burst water pipe.

#9 Bright Young Librarians: Anne Bahde. From our series profiling the next generation of special collections librarians; this one is on the History of Science Librarian in the Special Collections and Archives Research Center at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

#10 Bright Young Things: David Anthem. From our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers; this one is on The Andalusia Bookman in Philadelphia.
Villa Dubron - the Alexandria residence of British expatriate author Lawrence Durrell - may soon be demolished to make room for a high-rise apartment complex. Durrell’s life at the Villa between 1942 and 1945 inspired his most famous work, The Alexandria Quartet.

Durrell moved to Alexandria in 1942, fleeing Nazi-occupied Greece. At the time, Alexandria was a cultural mecca, famous for its mix of nationalities, religions, and artists. Durrell rented the top floor of Villa Dubron from its owner, the Jewish architect Aldo Ambron. Durrell and his second wife - herself an Alexandrian and the inspiration for the heroine of The Alexandria Quartet - lived there for three years before returning to Britain at the conclusion of WWII. While in residence, Durrell wrote Prospero’s Cell.

Reflecting on his time in Alexandria, Durrell later wrote Justine, the first volume in The Alexandria Quartet, which was published in 1957. Balthazar and Mountolive both followed in 1958, while the fourth and final volume, Clea, was published in 1960.

The Ambron family, meanwhile, sold the villa to a local developer and businessman in 1966.  The developer has since established two apartment complexes in the former gardens of the villa.  While the house is theoretically protected by a 2006 preservation law that is thinly enforced, the developer plans to demolish the house anyway unless a conservator can quickly raise enough money to buy it.

This preservation issue is not a new problem in Alexandria, which has seen other historic buildings go illegally under the bulldozer in recent years. A recent movement called Save Alex hopes to preserve as much of Alexandria’s fin-de-siècle heyday as possible.

[Image of Durrell from Wikipedia]
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