April 2014 Archives

The Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS) conference opens tomorrow in Washington, D.C. This annual event provides library professionals the opportunity to connect with book dealers, book artists, and art book publishers in the Exhibits Hall on May 3-4. The theme this year is “Art + Politics.”

minksky-1.jpgFB&C columnist and book artist Richard Minsky will be exhibiting The Bill of Rights, a set of ten bookworks, one for each of the amendments to the Constitution. (Seen here at left is his Amendment I, a reliquary for the ashes of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. You can read more about it here.) Minsky told me that The Bill of Rights has never been shown in Washington, D.C., and he added, “With all that’s going on, it’s more relevant now than ever.”

Minsky will be sharing his exhibit space with fellow artist Warren Lehrer, whose new book, A Life in Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley, is featured in our current issue.

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Sara Sterkenburg, Cataloging and Exhibition Services Librarian at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

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How did you get started in rare books?

 

Early into college I grew enamored with how histories have been expressed visually in different cultures and times. By that I do mean art and architecture, but also the design of newspapers and typefaces, fashion, film, political symbols, and how the technology and politics of the time drove these processes. I knew I wanted to work with art or special collections right away. But it wasn’t until I spent a summer during graduate school digitally archiving and cataloging a newspaper and ephemera collection at the Museo Nacional de Arte in La Paz, Bolivia that I knew I more specifically I wanted to describe them. That role was the most challenging one I’ve ever had, made increasingly difficult by a cataloging language barrier, technology gap, and short timeline. But in the end, the access to these materials was immediately and measurably heightened. After that experience I took on a lot of similar opportunities with unique collections, particularly those that involved working with metadata or taxonomy development. I enjoy every moment of it!

 

Where did you earn your advanced degree?


I hold a Master of Science in Information (MSI) degree from the University of Michigan’s School of Information.

 

What is your role at your institution?


My official title at Vanderbilt University is Cataloging and Exhibition Services Librarian. The position itself is actually split 50/50 between two distinct types of work, but I wear a lot of hats - most of them involve wrangling metadata in some capacity. On one side I am the cataloger for our non-archival materials in the Special Collections Library. This typically means rare, fine press books, and artists’ books. But it can also mean video, audio, music, ephemera, objects, or maps.

 

The other side of my job involves working with an amazing team on exhibit design in our libraries. My main responsibility is to handle metadata creation and input for our program. I work with our curators pretty directly, explaining the schema we use for our program (VRA Core 4.0) building documentation around that, and helping them to identify as much information as we can about each artifact using terminology and fields allowed by the schema. We are fortunate to have not only physical exhibition space, but also online exhibits and some very cool interactive touchscreen monitors in our libraries. These enable us to offer high-resolution images and more expansive metadata to supplement the physical cases and make the exhibit as a whole more interactive and impactful for our campus and community.

 

On your website you mention an interest in “systems, access, and high-fidelity metadata.” Could you tell us more about this and how it relates to cataloging rare books?

 

When I work with rare books I think, deeply, about what someone would be looking for in that object, and I describe it and record it with that in mind. There is a huge responsibility in assigning metadata - but especially so with rare items: we may be the only institution who has it, and I may be the only person who ever describes it, so it’s important that it’s done right. I work very hard at that every day. But beyond cataloging, the system that houses a record must be equally robust and flexible, and its design must make sense to the people using it. Making sure, for example, transliterated titles display correctly in a catalog system and the library website isn’t always easy. Access problems like this happen long before a user touches a book or downloads a journal article. I care about these things because I realize the path to access and scholarship isn’t always straightforward. In the digital age, we have to be aware of every facet of the discovery process in order to do justice to the small parts of it that fall in our lap.

 

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?


That’s a hard question. Can I cite one type of thing rather than a single book? Perhaps because I love modern and post-modern art, I’m interested in books that beg the question: “is this even a book?” Dealing with describing resources that aren’t sure what they are is a wholly separate issue, but I love it when people push conceptual boundaries with their craft.


What do you personally collect?


I’m afraid to say I’m more of a dabbler or sampler than devoted collector. I have an interest in weird book ephemera that I’m starting to hone more and more - maybe I’ll turn that into a Tumblr someday. But like many of my peers who have been interviewed for this series, I pretty much prefer to keep the collecting at my institution and not at home, where the materials represent far more interesting people!

 

What excites you about rare book librarianship?


As someone who works with creating and refining metadata for a living, I am of course interested in semantics and providing greater access to rare materials. But, in coming from an information science graduate program rather than a traditional library science curriculum, I was raised as a librarian in coursework grounded by design, data analysis, user experience studies, and digital preservation. So, I truly value having a technology tool-belt. And I think that with all types of librarianship that’s a growing necessity. For rare books, there’s a constant battle between these materials that are so fragile and innately historical, and the rapidly increasing user demand for digital access in new, increasingly innovative and flexible ways. User demand, luckily, often drives funding, so there is opportunity for grants and support on digital projects for primary resources. It’s an exciting time to be a young rare books librarian. New skills are continually required to keep up with this remarkably intelligent field, so  I definitely keep one foot in the print universe and one in the digital, and I very much love living in that intersect.

 

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

 

The future is very bright! It shouldn’t be a surprise that growth in the management of rare books and special collections is becoming more and more digitally focused. I am seeing fascinating projects coming out of so many different institutions. As the digital humanities expand, we are seeing desire for the re-use and repurposing of data, as well as the creation and extraction of new types of data from our collections. I think we will especially see collaboration with international bodies to digitize rare materials that haven’t previously been accessible across borders.

 

I am particularly interested in seeing where the future takes us with new schema and more robust metadata for rare collections, because I think that will really be the foundation that paves the way for our institutions to continue exploring data curation and big data concepts. I see future projects requiring new types of information professionals in our institutions who are equipped with data mining and programming knowledge and can work with developers to use frameworks like Hadoop to query our metadata and extract new knowledge from our rare materials. This will undoubtedly translate to more interdisciplinary data comparisons, and working with people who used to operate in different silos, but now value cross-pollination from other fields and industries.

 

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


Yes! Vanderbilt University is home to the Television News Archives, which is the most extensive collection of television news in the world! For books, we have an impressive and growing collection of artists’ books - including a large amount of Claire Van Vliet and Barry Moser’s works, all of which have beautiful craftsmanship. In our archives I would point to the James M. Lawson, Jr. Papers, which cover the Civil Rights Movement, include James Earl Ray correspondences, and document much of Reverend Lawson’s activities: including fighting for gay rights, prisoners’ rights, and for basic equality for more than sixty years.

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Christies Torah.jpgOn Wednesday of this week, Christie’s Paris hopes to surpass the $1-million mark for the newly discovered, complete, and large copy of a rare Hebrew Torah, printed in Italy in 1482. It is thought to be the first printed edition of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, in Hebrew. It is the first Hebrew book with printed vowels and cantillation signs, and the auction house refers to the incunable as “arguably the most important book in the history of Hebrew printing and publishing.”

Including this example, only 28 copies of the vellum edition are known (some incomplete), plus an additional 11 on paper (mostly incomplete), making it, as our friend at Booktryst points out, “rarer than copies of the Gutenberg Bible.”

The auction estimate is $1.4-2 million.

Image Courtesy of Christie’s.
7758868.jpgRare bookseller Stuart Bennett delivers yet another delightfully bookish novel with Lord Moira’s Echo, a follow-up, if not exactly a sequel, to his 2012 novel, A Perfect Visit. That novel, as some of you will recall, told the tale of an American librarian and a Canadian graduate student who became involved in a time-travel experiment. The student, Vanessa Horwood, traveled to Jane Austen’s England, only to become trapped there when she is erroneously jailed for forgery.

All is not lost for Horwood because she does become friendly with Austen, but at the end of A Perfect Visit she is indeed stranded in 1817. Lord Moira’s Echo (Longbourn Press, 14.95) opens in 1823. Vanessa has made a new life in Bath, and apart from a few references to her possible “rescue,” Bennett’s second novel has a more defined historical narrative. He takes up Austen’s “lost” years, 1801-1804, for which primary sources cease to exist. It has long been rumored that Austen fell in love during these years, and Bennett uses historical evidence (and imagination) to pin her to Francis Rawdon-Hastings, second Earl of Moira and later Marquess of Hastings.

Two tales intertwine in Lord Moira’s Echo--that of Jane’s 1801-1802 affair with the earl, and of Vanessa’s discovery of it in 1823. Austen family intrigues, the Prince Regent’s insatiable greed, and a kidnapping all do their part to further the plot. Bennett’s ease with dialogue and his ability to convey historical events--without beating us over the head with it--are commendable.

Yes, there is a plethora of fiction out there featuring Jane Austen--and, no doubt, more to come--but “Janeites” will find shelf space for the best of them, including both of Bennett’s novels. 
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Two years ago, I blogged about the start of World Book Night, now an annual tradition on Shakespeare’s Birthday (aka April 23 or “yesterday”) wherein volunteer book givers around the world offer free books to other people. It’s become a spectacular success.  Check out this zip code map of the location of American book givers for the 2014 rendition:

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The entire country was blanketed with book givers.

So here’s how this works: a panel of librarians and booksellers get together each year and decide on 30-35 titles across a variety of reading levels and interests to issue for free for World Book Night.  The authors waive their royalties and the publishers arrange for specially printed editions.  Then folks apply to become “book givers,” filling out applications that are evaluated based on their potential to reach “light and non-readers.”  Successful applicants pick up 20 copies of their selected book at a community book drop (typically the local public library or bookshop). Then World Book Night rolls around and the book givers flood the streets evangelizing their books.

Now I’m curious if any of our readers participated in last night’s event.  If so, please share your experiences in the comment section below.  If you were a book giver, let us know if it was fun, it people were receptive to your gift, and what the experience was like.  If you were a book receiver, tell us about getting your free book.

And on the collecting front, I’m curious about these “specially printed editions” produced by publishers. That seems like a potentially interesting book collection to me.  Is anyone putting together a World Book Night book collection?

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare

 

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Lord Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.
                                                            Hamlet
(2.2 199-200)


The Folio Society has been preparing for William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday since 2006, when the renowned British fine books publishing house embarked on an ambitious project to print every tragedy, comedy and history in a large format, limited edition collection. The entire canon, including poems and sonnets, is now complete and color-coded by genre in individually numbered volumes. Zerkal deckle press paper, Moroccan leather binding and typeset in letterpress on hand-marbled paper, these books are a sumptuous tactile experience.


The series is a feast for the eyes as well; Shakespeare’s words stand alone, elegant and unobstructed by small margins and notes because the texts and commentaries are now in separate volumes. This affords readers the  delight of reading Shakespeare unencumbered by visual clutter.


Each page meets the Folio Society’s rigorous standards for quality and craftsmanship. These gems are also attractively priced at $545 per volume. Such beauty is fleeting - only three hundred copies of each volume exist.  What better way to celebrate the Bard’s birthday than by enjoying his work in such a wonderful manner. 

 

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Celebrations are underway all over the world this year for the centenary of Dylan Thomas’ birth. But one of the most unusual - and most intriguing celebrations will occur in the Welsh town of Laugharne. Thomas lived there for the final four years of his life, calling it “the strangest town in Wales.” Laugharne, and its residents, were the direct inspirations for Thomas’s last great masterpiece, the play “Under Milk Wood.” Described as Thomas’s attempt at a Welsh Ulysses, the play features an omniscient narrator who describes in minute and poetic detail the lives, dreams, and thoughts of the inhabitants of Llareggub (“bugger all” backwards), a small coastal village in Wales.

To celebrate the centenary of their most famous export, the residents of Laugharne are banding together with the Welsh National Theatre to produce an immersive theatrical adaptation of “Under Milk Wood.” Entitled “Raw Material: Llareggub Revisited,” the live theatre event invites audience members on a stroll through Laugharne where they will encounter characters in the play acting out their roles in situ. The free-rolling adaptation will be as much about the residents of Laugharne as it will be about the actors performing the parts.

National Theatre Wales describes the play as such:

On foot, we will explore hidden and transformed spaces as we find Thomas’s characters re-imagined on screen by some of Wales’s most extraordinary and well-loved performers. As we go on our trail through the town, local townsfolk introduce us to the actions, habits and secrets that make today’s Laugharne as curious and unique a place as it was when Thomas called it home.

The play takes place between May 3rd and 5th, however tickets are already sold out.  BBC Wales will also be on hand to record the entire performance for broadcast on May 5th.

[Image of Dylan Thomas’ boathouse from Wikipedia]
Two New York rare booksellers claim to have purchased--on Ebay, no less--an annotated dictionary that belonged to William Shakespeare. George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler, both members of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, and the Grolier Club, have astounded the book world today with what might be the literary find of the century, or millennium.  

The book, John Baret’s An Alvearie or Quadruple Dictionarie, was published in London in 1580. Koppelman and Wechsler bought in for $4,050 on Ebay in 2008, thus beginning an incredible journey. Though the dictionary is unsigned, it holds thousands of annotations in a sixteenth-century hand, including what the booksellers believe are subtle clues to Shakespeare’s writing process. It is, as the booksellers write, “A most obscure book. A humble copy. An extensive network of annotations that, through obscurity and a lack of attention, comes to light only now, never previously studied or speculated upon. These are the basic stepping-stones to providing plausibility to the dream that such a monumental discovery is possible. The rest is in the evidence.”

bookpush copy.jpgThat evidence is presented in an illustrated account of their acquisition and subsequent research, titled Shakespeare’s Beehive: An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light. At Shakespeare’s Beehive online, copies of the limited edition hardcover are $75 (seen here at left), and an e-book version is available for $15.

Rare bookseller Henry Wessells, who received an early copy of the study, posted a review on his blog, commenting, “The ordinariness of the individual annotations is, to me, precisely what argues for their authenticity: they form not a rough draft of any single text, but a tool kit.”

It has been reported that the Folger Shakespeare Library will release an official statement regarding the news later today. (Update: the Folger’s response, “Buzz or honey” was posted here.)

Some are already speculating on the seven-figure sale of the discovered dictionary.   

All this comes just in time for Shakespeare’s 450th birthday on Wednesday.

Image via Shakespeare’s Beehive.

Appointment in Samarra

Appointment in Samarra (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For all the remembered writers of the 20th century, John O’Hara may not be among them.  He was, however, commercial, and in his own words, he said, “I’m not some hairy philosopher. I’m just an ordinary guy who happens to write well.”
    O’Hara was one of the 20th century’s best-selling authors. His biographer, Matthew J. Bruccoli, claimed O’Hara published more words than any other writer in the century. The public loved O’Hara, and he wrote for them. Critics were less kind.
     Still, O’Hara knew what he was about. “The United States in this century is what I know,” he said. “I want to record the way people talked and thought and felt, and do it with complete honesty and variety.”
     The Schuylkill County (PA) Historical Society, the birthplace of O’Hara, is now trying to keep O’Hara’s memory alive. The Society got an early start on preserving the history of the area, having incorporated in 1903, but only last month decided to build an O’Hara collection. Their collection began simply enough with the recent donation of two letters written by O’Hara, one dated in 1954 and the other dated in 1961, and they serve as a cornerstone for other artifacts to come from the author’s life.
     Upon publication of O’Hara’s first book, Appointment in Samarra, the New York Herald Tribune wrote that, “The genuine value of Appointment in Samarra is the author’s grasp of his dubious hero’s character.” Hemingway praised the book highly and Edmund Wilson wrote that the book was “a memorable picture of both a provincial snob, a disorganized drinking-man of the twenties, and of the complexities of the social organism in which he flourished and perished.”
     Last year, Penguin Classics re-issued Appointment in Samarra, and other O’Hara books have followed.  The author is finally receiving a bit of his critical due, particularly for his later works, which remain some of best portraits of the 20th century.

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Sarah Burke Cahalan, Special Projects and Reference Librarian at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington DC.

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How did you get started in rare books?

My first library job was an apprenticeship in the Weissman Preservation Center when I was an undergraduate at Harvard.  I cleaned awful adhesives off of colonial currency--yes, I was a money launderer--and I made clamshell boxes for daguerreotypes.  At the same time, I worked in an independent bookstore, which is where I started to learn about reference services.  After college (thanks to a grant), I had a vagabond year in which I read poetry and rode trains in Europe and Asia.  I spent time with beekeepers in Malta, Tunisia, Italy, and Slovenia.  The amazing thing is that my interest in apiculture is relevant to my current work with rare garden books, which often have coverage of beekeeping and other types of animal husbandry.  My MA in medieval art focused on the making of art objects; it was supervised by a codicologist at the Courtauld Institute, where I also worked part-time in the archives.  By the time I arrived at Simmons for my MLIS I knew to search out people who could teach me about special collections and rare books librarianship.  I finished the degree in 2010--not an amazing time for library jobs!  So I was very happy to find my way to Dumbarton Oaks.

Please introduce us to Dumbarton Oaks and your role there:

Dumbarton Oaks is a Washington, DC-based research institute of Harvard University.  We support research in Byzantine, Garden & Landscape, and Pre-Columbian Studies.  Dumbarton Oaks offers fellowships throughout the year as well as short-term research stipends and internships.  We also have several hundred authorized Readers who routinely visit the Library.  The institute includes Gardens, a Museum, Archival Collections, and a Publications department.  I divide my time between the Research Library and the Rare Book Collection.  The Rare Book Collection supports scholarship in all three subject areas, but it is strongest in Garden & Landscape because of the collecting interests of Mildred Barnes Bliss, one of the founders of Dumbarton Oaks.

My title, Special Projects & Reference Librarian, encompasses the range of my duties.  I do day-to-day reference work and answer complex questions about rare book holdings.  I try to maintain a social media presence for the Rare Book Collection.  I supervise the Rare Book Reading Room four afternoons a week and handle many of the image orders we receive there.  I developed our online exhibit template and the content type for describing rare books (using a MARC-Dublin Core crosswalk).  I hosted a “miracle fruit” party a couple of years back.  I co-organized a symposium in October 2013 titled “The Botany of Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century,” and am currently working on the symposium volume with my co-editors.  I’ve supervised two interns and look forward to working with more interns in the future.  One of the really fun parts of my job is working with the Museum’s gift shop to develop products that use images from the collection.  “Special projects” can mean any number of things!

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

I get really excited about manuscript copies of printed works.  The amount of labor that goes into this sort of project is astounding.  One example I’ve returned to several times is a late eighteenth-century manuscript copy of Paolo Boccone’s 1697 Museo di piante rare, with added Linnaean names and morphological details.  Items that complicate my ideas of what is unique and what is a reproduction always catch my interest.  For example, Dumbarton Oaks holds several albums prepared by workshops of artists in Penang, Malacca, and Singapore for Europeans stationed abroad; the illustrations in these albums were copied and assembled for purchase, meaning that similar paintings are extant in multiple horticultural libraries today.
 
What do you personally collect?

I prefer to keep my responsibility for cultural heritage materials at work, where there’s proper HVAC, emergency preparation, etc.  If I acquire anything these days it is all of the kids’ books I loved when I was growing up.  But they quickly get applesauce on them.  My house is not a safe place for books and it won’t be for at least a decade, when my children are less inclined to chew on things that should not be chewed upon.  I do have a beautiful wooden card catalog which is mostly used for seed packets, shells, and other little objects.

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

I love that almost everything I have ever found interesting is relevant to my job.  I worked part-time at the Harvard Botany Libraries while I was attending Simmons.  I remember the day I realized how important my knowledge of Latin was going to be in helping a scholar who was researching the earliest documentation of specific plants.  It was thrilling!  I had been developing obscure skill sets and interests for years, and here was a profession in which they could actually be useful.  Even my guilty pleasures--I have subscribed to Vogue for years, and I love British publications like Tatler--end up being useful when I know the name of a particular country estate or a particular detail about the history of costume.  On a good day, I get to share discoveries from the collection with people in our community and beyond.  Rare book librarianship is really the best job in the world.

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

I am interested in the combination of our assets with other datasets.  No matter one’s opinion on MOOCs, our digital facsimiles can gain new traction and new audiences as learning moves online.  Interoperability of digital collections (such as that facilitated by IIIF and linked open data) will make it possible to compare disparate collections in the same platform.  The potential uses of GIS for understanding intellectual history are extraordinary.  Of course these big projects require collaboration across departments and institutions, not to mention time and money.

The boundaries among rare book librarianship, visual resources, and the sciences are blurring.  So many of the questions I handle are along the lines of “Can you help me find an image of _____?”--whether it’s an archaeological site or a period map or a particular plant.  There are fantastic print resources and databases for some of these queries (natural history in particular), but others are lacking.  Much of it comes down to knowing the collections and knowing the personality of specific library catalogs.  But it’s also important to keep up with developing tools and metadata standards in fields other than our own.  I just learned about Audubon Core, a descriptive metadata standard for biodiversity resources, and I’ve been working with natural history materials for years.

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

Yes!--in collaboration with Jason W. Dean at the University of Arkansas I am working on S. Fred Prince, an illustrator of natural history who worked primarily in the Ozarks in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Much of his work is based on specimens he collected and observed in the field.  He produced work on ferns, wildflowers, caves, and butterflies.  The manuscript materials are now held in a number of collections around the United States.  Some are at Dumbarton Oaks, including a manuscript on ferns that also includes maps and pressed specimens.  We hope to gain more exposure for his work.  We’ve just started putting materials on Tumblr and I’m sure I’ll be Tweeting developments @stampedinblind.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

We have two exhibit spaces and four of us share curatorial responsibilities, so we always have new exhibits going up.  Since some of the exhibit space isn’t routinely accessible to the general public, we’ve been trying to curate at least one online exhibit a year.  My colleague and I are planning an exhibit on Hagia Sophia for next winter.  Several departments at Dumbarton Oaks (notably the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives) have important documents and objects relating to this site, many of which have been or are in the process of being digitized, so in addition to an on-site exhibit we are developing an online portal as a reference tool.  This is the sort of project that will be of use to a broad spectrum of visitors, since Hagia Sophia is the best-known work of Byzantine architecture.


At last, a way to gauge one’s level of bibliomania: What would you give to own a copy of A.S. Byatt’s Possession inscribed by the author to Nicholas Basbanes? Or, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, inscribed to the man who brought book collecting into the mainstream? How about Alberto Manguel’s A History of Reading inscribed to the author of eight books on reading, writing, and collecting books?

These three association copies, and more than six hundred other modern first editions, all inscribed to Basbanes, are being offered en bloc by Lux Mentis Booksellers in Portland, Maine.  

DSC_5982.jpegMost readers hardly need an introduction to Nick Basbanes. He has been, since the publication of A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books in 1995, the book world’s foremost expert on bibliophilia, as well as FB&C’s featured columnist. Prior to that, Basbanes was book review editor and literary columnist for the Worcester (Massachusetts) Telegram & Gazette from 1978 to 1991 and a freelance reviewer and writer from 1991 to 2000. It was during these years that Basbanes interviewed scores of authors. In the introduction to the sale catalogue for the collection of association copies, Basbanes writes that asking each author to sign a book for him “was central to my transformation from an impassioned reader who already loved books for their content into a bibliophile who treasured them as material objects.”

Simon .jpgTwo of the inscribed books recall a lighthearted rivalry between Annie Dillard and Roy Blount, Jr. Basbanes had met with the two writers on the same day. Blount had inscribed, “It’s nice to be able to discuss the concept of raunchiness with you just before you get to Annie Dillard.” To which Dillard “replied” in her inscription: “...with all best wishes after a jolly old time at the Ritz-Carleton on the day of his talk with slightly more raunchy Roy Blount Jr.”

DSC_6026.JPGSome of the authors he interviewed more than once (and so he collected more than one title), including Margaret Atwood, Harold Bloom, James Lee Burke, Pat Conroy, Michael Crichton, Louise Erdrich, P.D. James, Norman Mailer, David McCullough, and Maurice Sendak. He has a few Updikes too, one of which is inscribed “For Nick, the bibliophia expert,” and a few from Joseph Heller, who referred to Basbanes as “an old and welcome friend.”

All of the books are in very good to fine condition, and some even include a bit of publishing ephemera--review slips, press releases, publicity photos. It is, as Basbanes describes it, “a snap-shot of the literary scene of the day as it unfolded.”

The price for the collection is available upon request from Lux Mentis.

Images courtesy of Nick Basbanes.
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On Thursday, April 17th, Swann Galleries will hold the first ever vernacular photography auction presented by a major house. The sale, entitled “The Vernacular Eye: Photographic Albums, Snapshots, and Objects,” commences at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, with 294 lots represented.

Swann was inspired to hold an auction dedicated to vernacular photography (described as “anything outside of the fine art realm”) after being surprised by the high prices realized by vernacular photography in previous auctions. For example, an album of 27 spiritualist photographs depicting seances in Winnipeg blew through its $4,000 estimate at Swann last December, realizing a startling $93,750. 

Daile Kaplan, Vice President and Director of Photographs & Photobooks at Swann compared the uniqueness of vernacular photographs to snowflakes.  Swann describes the collection offered for sale on Thursday as “pre-curated by a group of serious photo collectors,” with a wide variety of subject matters and price points.

In preparation for the sale, Swann hosted a talk by photography collector Peter Cohen on April 8th.  Cohen’s talk was recorded by Swann and was combined with snapshots from Cohen’s collection into a 30 minute video you can watch here.


The Grapes of Wrath bookcover copy.jpgToday marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. The novel, which traces the Joad family’s journey from Oklahoma to California during the Depression, won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. The National Steinbeck Center (NSC) in Salinas, California, plans to celebrate with a three-day festival next month. Events include an “Opening Night Speakeasy” and various talks and tours.

Last fall, the NSC sponsored a migration reenactment in which a team of artists traveled along Route 66, presenting programs and collecting oral histories related to The Grapes of Wrath and its themes. (An article in our spring issue interviews two participants.) A documentary by P.J. Palmer about that experience will premiere at the May festival.

Image: Courtesy of NSC
MAA.jpgToday is the official pub date for The Morbid Anatomy Anthology, a lavish 500-page book of essays edited by Joanna Ebenstein and Colin Dickey. The book was funded through a Kickstarter campaign in which 1,319 backers pledged $46,338 to ensure its publication (disclosure: I was one of them). Curators, writers, and artists contributed articles on a range of eccentric topics, including books bound in human skin, the catacombs of Palermo, and “artist of death” Frederik Ruysch, some of which had been previously presented as lectures at Brooklyn’s Morbid Anatomy Library. A book release party will be held on April 26.

You can get a copy of the anthology through the Morbid Anatomy gift shop, or by supporting for $25 or more a new campaign to help build their new museum space. You can also read more about the Morbid Anatomy Library & Museum in our spring issue.

Image: Courtesy of Morbid Anatomy.

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“Migrant,” by José Mateo, illustrated by Javier Martínez Pedro; Abrams Books for Young Readers, $17.95, 22 pages, ages 10 and up. 


Over 5.5 million children of illegal immigrants live in the United States whose stories go largely undocumented. Migrant chronicles the tumultuous trek of a young Mexican boy who enters the United States with his mother and sister.  The border crossing is perilous, but the family arrives safely in Los Angeles. There the story ends, leaving readers to wonder what happens next - does the family stay in the United States, or are they deported? Does the boy speak English?  Author José Mateo says he kept the characters in Migrant anonymous because there are so many untold, complex tales of woe and desperation that hopes this story may speak for those without a voice.

Migrant is composed as a modern day codex, bound in an accordion foldout. The text is translated in English on one side and is in the original Spanish on the reverse. Read top to bottom, the text and illustrations recall the pre-Hispanic society that flourished in Mexico.

Award-winning artist and amate papermaker Javier Martínez Pedro rendered the images using pen and in. Reminiscent of ancient Mayan hieroglyphs, the throngs of anonymous people spiral down the foldout mural, descending from a life of relative calm into a world of uncertainty.  Pedro’s art is on his own handmade amate paper, a product similar to papyrus and is only produced in the artist’s village of Xalitla.  

The book beautifully demands a people’s right to exist, and will no doubt incite readers to learn more about this situation taking place right on our doorstep. 


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Six early Stephen King novels will be republished in deluxe special editions by the independent publisher Cemetery Dance. The move continues a long-term partnership between King and Cemetery Dance, who have already released several of the horror master’s novels in special editions, beginning with “From a Buick 8” in 2002.

The first novel on the dock is “Carrie,” which will be released in August in three different formats: a hand-numbered edition, limited to 52 copies, artist-signed and already sold out, a traycase edition, limited to 750 copies, artist-signed and priced at $225, and a slipcase edition, limited to 3,000 copies and priced at $85. All three formats will be produced as oversize hardbacks with heavy paper.  The new edition of “Carrie” will include six original paintings and dust jacket art by Tomislav Tikulin, an essay by Tabitha King, a new introduction by Stephen King, and a reproduction of a telegram sent by Doubleday to the author announcing they would publish the book (King’s first).

After releasing “Carrie,” Cemetery Dance will continue with “Salem’s Lot,” “The Shining,” “Night Shift,” “The Stand,” and “Pet Semetary” in six month intervals.

Guest Post by Catherine Batac-Walder

Pamuk signing.JPGNobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk flew to the UK to talk about his life and writing at the invitation of the chancellor of the University of Oxford, Lord Patten of Barnes, for the chancellor’s lecture in this year’s Oxford Literary Festival, which ran from March 22-30. The chancellor’s lecture has been presenting international literary figures, including the late great poet and fellow Nobel winner Seamus Heaney last year, an event I regret missing.

The Sunday Times ended its sponsorship of the festival after nearly ten years, and FT Weekend took over as the new title partner. The festival also went “ticketless.” As a festival-goer since 2009, I was hesitant to attend this year, recalling that even last year’s festival was not like what it used to be. Many had voiced their disappointment about the fact that there was no marquee and personally, I felt there was something celebratory about the marquee, and without it, it was as though there was nothing special going on. Having known only lovely spring festival days, last year, it rained when we were in Oxford, and there was no marquee to shelter us when, ironically, it was needed the most.

So when it was announced that a new marquee would be set up outside the Sheldonian Theatre, I was more than eager to come visit Sheldonian first when we arrived on Saturday, March 29. When we arrived, A.C. Grayling was about to have a book signing, but I hardly noticed as I was already drooling over signed editions of Michael Scott’s Delphi. Canadian novelist, poet, and critic Margaret Atwood was also in town as she was the guest speaker at the closing festival dinner at the Great Hall of Christ Church (the one used as Hogwarts Hall in Harry Potter films) that night. The Atwood dinner was a black-tie event and obviously not appropriate for my three-year-old; besides, I knew it would coincide with the Pamuk event that I had already planned to attend.

Still six hours to wait before the chancellor’s lecture, from Sheldonian we took the obligatory walk amongst the dreamy spires, to Christ Church and then to the river to watch the punts and pedalos. We took our daughter to Alice’s shop, a.k.a. “The Old Sheep Shop” in Through the Looking Glass, a.k.a. the shop where the real Alice, Miss Liddell, used to buy sweets. It is tiny, always packed, and a major tourist trap, as we’ve found in previous visits. Nevertheless we are always drawn back like children who wouldn’t mind being lost in a sweet shop. Our daughter was enthralled, recognizing each Alice in Wonderland character she saw on every item.

After afternoon tea, I headed back to Sheldonian Theatre on my own to listen to Pamuk. The chancellor introduced him and interviewer Jason Cowley, who used to edit Granta and is now the editor of New Statesman. While it was quite an experience to have been there in person, I must admit I’ve heard more interesting and in-depth interviews with Pamuk elsewhere. The jump across topics - politics, religion, life, books, among other things - was dizzying.

Somebody in the audience asked Pamuk a question related to translation: if we who do not read his work in Turkish are missing anything? For a man whose work is translated into 46 languages and whose primary task is to write, he said translation is such a “vast geography,” and he could only check English, but he worked closely and went over the work carefully with his translators. “If we know you’d miss a joke (in Turkish) we did our best to supply another joke,” he said. He explained further that there is that anxiety of being a bad writer in translation, “you definitely lose a bit, alliterations, jokes that depend on the nature and structure of the Turkish language.” (It brought to mind a tea and chat I had with Sophie’s World author Jostein Gaarder while a graduate student in Oslo. He said some readers do get angry about some things in his books, and it turned out he didn’t even write them as the translation was not accurate.) But oh, to read Pamuk in the original Turkish!

There was also a question about his museum that opened two years ago, conceived when he was writing The Museum of Innocence. He said of it, “We have quite a number of visitors, the museum is doing fine, it’s open except on Mondays, and if you happen to be in Istanbul, please visit.” [Editor’s note: the spring issue of FB&C contains an article on bookish Istanbul, featuring Pamuk’s museum.]

cover of My Father's Suitcase copy.jpgAs interesting as the many layers of stories in Pamuk’s novels are, I am curious as to why some critics are not as interested in his lectures and nonfiction, which are the ones I like to explore. I brought two books of his with me -- he signed my copy of The Naïve and The Sentimental Novelist (Harvard University Press, 2010), and my copy of My Father’s Suitcase (the Nobel lecture), one of only 1500 copies printed privately for Faber and Faber, is more precious now with his dedication in it. It is not every day when one gets to meet a Nobel Prize winner. It was nice to return to the festival after all.
    
     --Catherine Batac-Walder is a writer living in the UK. She has covered the Oxford Literary Festival for FB&C before, both in 2012 and 2013.

Images credit/copyright: Catherine Batac Walder.
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The former home of Luther Brewer - Iowa book collector, editor, publisher, and all around man of letters - was relocated last week by a Cedar Rapids couple who have plans to restore it. The couple, Greg Young, an engineer, and Dawn Stephens, arranged for the 2,900 sq. foot-house to move 10 blocks on the back of a semi-truck. The move, which attracted much local attention, was heralded by a marching band that accompanied the slow moving truck through Cedar Rapids.

The Luther Brewer House was the last remaining home in the town’s mansion hill district, now entirely washed away by the tide of progress. The home was situated on the campus of the expanding Mercy Medical Center, which had plans to demolish it, despite a listing on the National Register of Historic Places. 

When Young and Stephens heard about the demolition plans, they approached the Mercy Medical Center about purchasing the home. The medical center agreed to sell the house for $1 under the condition it was moved and restored. They then donated the potential cost of demolishing the house to help bankroll its $37,000 move. After months of planning, Young and Stephens relocated the house to a site in the nearby Oak Hill Jackson neighborhood last week.

Luther Brewer (1858 - 1933) was the editor of Cedar Rapid’s Daily Republican newspaper. He founded The Torch Press in 1907 and published a number of collectable limited editions, including several about his world-class collection of Leigh Hunt material. (His Leigh Hunt collection was subsequently donated to the University of Iowa). The well-connected Brewer played host at his home to many prominent businessmen, writers, and politicians through the years, including President William Howard Taft. Taft was a frequent guest at Brewer’s house and considered Cedar Rapids a second home.

Young and Stephens hope to have partially restored the Luther Brewer house into a livable home by June with a functioning bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen. In a pleasing touch, they have also begun collecting Torch Press books, which they will store in the house’s library.

You can follow progress on the move and restoration on the Luther Brewer House facebook page.

(Many thanks to collector and blogger Jerry Morris who introduced us to this story).

Image from the Luther Brewer House facebook page.
I spent about seven hours on Friday at the NYABF, which did not allow enough time to see everything or everyone that I wished to, but I did get to see a lot of books and friends, old and new. It was busy, and overall, the dealers I spoke to were very happy with this year’s traffic. Here are some of my highlights...

Reese1.jpgAt William Reese Co., Teri Osborn and I had a laugh over this hand-colored frontispiece of The Art of Swimming, c. 1810-1820. So fascinated by the naked bather who is, strangely, trimming his nails while learning to swim (lower right corner), I nearly overlooked the pamphlet’s famous author: Benjamin Franklin. Just a fascinating piece of Americana.   

LuxM copy.jpgAs usual, the booth shared by Lux Mentis and Brian Cassidy was something to behold. A shrine to the odd and avant-garde, I found Lux’s vintage condom packages very amusing -- the type of thing you don’t expect to see at the best antiquarian book fair in the world, and yet, at Lux Mentis, it makes perfect sense within their “Sex, Death, and the Devil” theme. Brian Cassidy was kind enough to allow me to peruse Morrissey’s rare biography of the New York Dolls.   

Witches copy.jpgPriscilla Juvelis, who deals almost exclusively in contemporary book art, had a very busy fair. I was completely enamored by The Witches’ Sabbath (2013) that she had sitting atop a glass exhibit case. It’s a “witch’s library,” created by Sandra Jackman, that includes four unique artists’ books and a book object which opens to reveal a spooky red silk interior, but also houses the books. A combination of collage, paint, and found objects, it’s a beautiful and bizarre creation, and I envy whoever took that one home from the fair.  

Athean copy.jpgWhat else? The William Bundy-annotated set of published Pentagon Papers at Seth Kaller would make for awesome reading. And speaking of Vietnam, I had the pleasure of meeting historic document dealer Stuart Lutz in person, whose personal Vietnam collection is vast; part of it is now on exhibit at the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum. Extra points for Athena Rare Books, which had an innovative booth set-up, displaying images of the authors whose books were on offer.

Three small purchases were made (by my husband for “our” collection of nature classics): at Antipodean Books, a signed later edition of John Burroughs’ Birds and Poems, and at Jerry N. Showalter, a first edition of Burroughs’ Wake Robin, from the library of Bradley Martin. No new Thoreau for us this year, although the Excursions at B&B Rare Books was quite lovely.

On Saturday morning, we made a pilgrimage to Rizzoli, the 57th Street institution that will be closing on April 11 (and until then, books are 40% off). A little band of bibliophiles, including my husband, Brett, Jeremy Dibbell, Jeremy Howell, and I then made our way to Manhattan’s famous Argosy bookshop, where I found a gruesome surgical book to add to my burgeoning collection, and then over to James Cummins Rare Books, where we were greeted by James the younger.

I returned home to find Simon Beattie’s newest catalogue in my mailbox, and so the browsing and coveting continue.

Images: Swimming via William Reese; Lux Mentis c. Rebecca Rego Barry; Witches courtesy of Priscilla Juvelis; Athena booth c. Rebecca Rego Barry.
Capping off Rare Book Week on April 9, Doyle NY will offer this Babylonian cuneiform cylinder, estimated to bring $300,000-500,000. The clay cylinder describes the rebuilding of the Temple of Shamash by Nebuchadnezzar II and dates to c. 604-562 BC. At 8 1/4” in length, the auctioneer states that it is the largest example to come to market in recent times. For a private collector or an institution, it is an opportunity to own a unique piece of ancient history. It last exchanged hands in 1953.

Cuneiform.jpgCuneiform is one of the earliest systems of writing, and this piece would have been prepared by a court scribe and then buried in the foundation of the restored temple to seal the relationship between the king and the gods. This record reads, in part, “NEBUCHADNEZZAR, King of Babylon, the Wise, the Provider, Favorite of Marduk, Sakkanakku of the lands of Sumer and Akkad, who established the foundation of the lands; the Venerated Ruler whom Marduk, the Great Lord, has chosen to renew the Holy Sanctuaries and maintain the cities as his calling: into whose hands Nebo, the Victorious Son gave the scepter of prosperity to extend the lands for Man’s guidance; the understanding and reverent, the maintainer of E-sagila and E-zida; the first-born Son of Nabopolassar, King of Babylon am I.”

Image via Doyle NY.

Our series profiling the next generation of special collections librarians and curators continues today with Jason W. Dean, Assistant Librarian and Head of the Special Formats Cataloging Unit at the University of Arkansas.

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How did you get started in rare books?


While I was still in library school I volunteered in the research library at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, which is to my mind one of the great undiscovered American book places, as Nicholas A. Basbanes calls them. I am constantly indebted to the great library and archives staff there that allowed me to try my hand at many different things - cataloging maps and rare materials, writing about Diderot’s Encyclopédie, and working with the papers of the Hardinge Family and Eliot Porter. However,  my real “start” in rare books was as the cataloger at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  The library there holds a significant and largely unknown collection - the American color plate collection, collected by William S. Reese. This collection is an under-researched gem, something I am trying to address in my own writing and scholarship. The time I spent cataloging those items was very much an education by necessity in rare books and bibliography. I am fortunate that my current position is broad enough (and the administration supports my varied interests) that I can continue doing work in special collections as well as my other responsibilities. This means I continue thinking about and working with rare books in my present position - something I’ll discuss more below.


Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?


I earned my MSLIS at Syracuse University, and I am currently in the PhD program in history here at the University of Arkansas, looking at the history of the book in the American West with Elliott West and Beth Schweiger. I am really interested in using books as context for history, and looking closely at the material evidence that books are. Placing these objects in the context of their own time enhances the users’ understanding of the object itself, its intellectual content, and the wider context of ideas. This contextualization is so important to me, I think, due to my background in art museums, where the contextualization of artworks is a key element in art historical scholarship.


What is your role at your institution?


I am assistant librarian and head of the special formats cataloging unit at the University of Arkansas Libraries. Our unit handles media, theses, and dissertations. Recently, I’ve been tasked with cataloging items for our amazing Arkansas Collections and a rare book collection in conjunction with my “work next-door neighbor,” special collections cataloger Mikey King, in addition to the head of special collections, Tim Nutt. It’s lovely to wear lots of hats - something I did at my previous two institutions. I am immensely grateful to my supervisor and the library administration for supporting me in my varied professional and scholarly interests.


Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?


Any time I hold a one of a kind item, it’s such a thrill. That said, at this very moment I am researching the life and works of a botanical illustrator named S. Fred Prince in conjunction with Sarah Burke Cahalan at Dumbarton Oaks. We are presenting a paper on Prince, his life, his work, and our research methods at the RBMS preconference in Las Vegas this year. I’ve detailed many of my favorite things in my old tumblr in a series called Neat Things I’ve Cataloged. Those were mostly things I worked on at my previous workplace, though.


What do you personally collect?


Far too much! It should be no surprise that my wife and I have an overflowing home library that includes several fine press books, signed books, and so on. Our home library reflects our varied interests in history, writing, education, and art. Outside of our overflowing bookshelves, we also collect the work of artists Allison V. Smith, Craig Varjabedian, Shannon Richardson, Scott Barber, and the work of John Kristensen and his Firefly Press.


What excites you about rare book librarianship?


Like I said above, the thrill that comes from handling, thinking about, and chiefly sharing the amazing items in rare book collections. Handling these items really puts our profession in a much larger picture - that we are simply caretakers of these items for the next group of patrons and librarians, and so on. It makes one feel very humble to have these things entrusted to you.


However, the real excitement for me is in the sharing of these items. The experience reminds me of a Mark Rothko quote:


A picture lives by companionship, expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer. It dies by the same token. It is therefore risky to send it out into the world. How often it must be impaired by the eyes of the unfeeling and the cruelty of the impotent.


These books only live when they are used, talked about, and appreciated. I remember singing a song as a child about how love is only something if you give it away - and that is true for rare books as well. It’s all well and good to store and preserve these titles, but they have no real “life” unless we speak up on their behalf - as they aren’t standing up and dancing on the shelves!


One of the great thrills for me of late has been interacting with other rare books and special collections folks on twitter - it’s the best community I’ve found online, frankly, and I am so happy to be a small part of that.


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


The importance of special collections and rare book librarianship comes for me in the material object. I understand and am committed to the creation and description of digital surrogates, but to my mind the key to the successful future of special collections and rare book librarianship lay in the physicality objects in this realm. Perhaps I am in danger of repeating my above response, but without an analog copy of the items in these collections, how will we provide digital surrogates of these items? All of this reminds me of one of my favorite New Yorker covers.


I recently watched William S. Reese’s talk about the Zinman Collection at the Library Company of Philadelphia, and an extract from that talk seems very germane:


One argument for the necessity of using original sources is the notion that the original artifact lends an immediacy to our understanding of the text. We handle and observe firsthand the aesthetic of a place and time, providing context to text.


Though he might disagree with Reese’s quote, John Overholt did a lovely job of talking about this advocacy in his Five Theses on the Future of Special Collections. In the article Overholt asserts that special collections “cannot survive merely as a prestigious ornament to the university; we will need to articulate the centrality of our collections to the university’s mission.” Of course, John is right on-point on this - the items in special collections - rare books, manuscripts, &c are indeed lovely, but their real value is in their physical nature. Paper, binding, marginalia, associations, notes - so many of these have direct bearing on scholarship done both inside and outside the academy. I suppose my rejoinder to John’s point is to re-emphasize the unique nature of these items, and tie this uniqueness to scholarly activities, and directly to the university’s mission and goals.


Of course, there are a myriad of challenges for the preservation of, and access to, born-digital materials, something we will contend with as professionals for the foreseeable future. Here at the U of A library, the university archives are a part of special collections, so that makes the born-digital concerns of great interest to special collections librarians and collections.


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


I recently completed working with a group to complete a digital project we called CAPA, or, the Colonial Arkansas Post Ancestry Project. Arkansas Post was one of a myriad of posts and settlements established by the French to legitimize their claims to the Mississippi River. As such, it’s far older than most people might suspect - Henri de Tonti established the post in 1689. The project is based largely on the personal papers of Dorothy Jones Core, held in special collections here. Core was interested in the genealogy and ancestry of those French and later Spanish families that lived at or were associated with Arkansas Post. Her life’s work dealt with researching and collating the disparate primary source materials that deal with French and Spanish colonial activities in North America.


There is a large body of secondary material, chiefly by Judge Morris Arnold, alumni of the law school here at the University of Arkansas, and recently retired FISA and federal appeals court judge. However, the majority of the items in the CAPA collection are primary source materials, and as such we have digitized many items not previously available online. Our work in establishing controlled forms of family and place names, as well as in transcribing and translating these documents will make CAPA a key resource for users examining either genealogy or early Euro-Arkansas history. This part was especially challenging, as the Post was first French, then Spanish - with the resulting written record being a unique melange of those languages and spellings. Bringing a level of consistent description and access through the creation and application of controlled vocabulary to places and names was both challenging and fascinating to me as a librarian and a historian. Of course, having one of the largest repositories of Arkansas related materials one floor down made that work far easier.


Of course, these materials are only part of a much larger collection of manuscripts, from those of J. William Fulbright to the noted architect E. Fay Jones.


Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?


On display right now is Isaac C. Parker’s personal copy of the Constitution, which was recently donated to the library. Also recently opened were the papers of retired Arkansas senator Dale Bumpers.



Owl.jpgYesterday at Sotheby’s New York, a copy of John James Audubon’s famous double-elephant folio of The Birds of America reached $3,525,000. The Indiana Historical Society consigned the copy in hopes of gaining at least $3 million from its sale, which will be used to fund “acquisition of more Indiana-specific collections, and to build out enough archival storage space ... to meet the organization’s needs for active collecting over the next 30 years.” In addition, IHS’s second consignment, Audubon’s Viviparous Quadrupeds of America, also met its goal price, fetching $245,000. IHS President and CEO John Herbst commented prior to the sale, “While these sets are rare and valuable, they were acquired when the Indiana Historical Society’s mission was broader, more eclectic and not as focused on Indiana-related history as it is today.”

Rare Book Week starts with a bang!

Image: Audubon’s Great Cinerous Owl via Sotheby’s.

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April begins today and with it the start of a month long celebration of poetry.  Since its inauguration by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, every April has been celebrated as National Poetry Month. Schools, libraries, publishers, booksellers, and, of course, poets, across the United States all come together to celebrate poetry in American culture. Readings, festivals, special book displays, workshops, and other events take place throughout the month.

“We hope to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated,” reads a statement on the Academy of American Poets’ website.

Interested in helping to celebrate poetry?  Check out 30 ways to join the festivities this month from the Academy of American Poets.  Suggestions include:

1) Read a book of poetry

2) Celebrate Poem-in-a-Pocket day

3) Put a poem on the pavement

4) Start a commonplace book - “Since the Renaissance, devoted readers have been copying their favorite poems and quotations into notebooks to form their own personal anthologies called commonplace books.”

5) Play exquisite corpse. “Each participant is unaware of what the others have written, thus producing a surprising--sometimes absurd--yet often beautiful poem.”

And we here at Fine Books & Collections can add another way to celebrate National Poetry Month:

Add a poetry volume to your book collection.

Does your collection have nothing to do with poetry? Get creative about relating a book of poetry to the rest of your collection.  You might find yourself exploring a new and fascinating avenue of your library.

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