May 2014 Archives

Pat and Allen 2 copy.jpgThe antiquarian book world lost one of its nicest, most beloved figures this week with the passing of Patricia Ahearn, the wife of Allen Ahearn, her partner for close to forty years at Quill & Brush booksellers of Dickerson, Maryland, one of the nation’s leading dealers of modern first editions and literary collectibles, and now in its second generation of family management and ownership. Together, Pat and Allen were the authors of seven books on book collecting and rare book values, most famously, perhaps, four impeccably researched editions of Collected Books: The Guide to Values, the successor to Van Allen Bradley’s groundbreaking series of the 1970s and ’80s, Book Collector’s Handbook of Values. The photo of the couple reproduced herewith graced the dust jacket of the 1991 edition, their debut effort, and in the years before the Internet arrived so explosively on the scene, was pretty much the only game in town for determining issue points and comparable values.

On a more personal level, some of my earliest and fondest memories of the rare book world have involved the continuing good cheer and companionship of Pat and Allen Ahearn. My first ABAA fair as a published author, in Washington, D.C., in October 1995, had as an unqualified highlight a sumptuous crab feast at Quill & Brush, and the beginnings of a long and lasting friendship with these two very classy and decent people. For me, a book fair in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, or Boston didn’t start until I went over to the Quill & Brush booth and got my big hug from Pat, and it wasn’t over until we all got together somewhere for spirits and dinner in a group that always included Allan and Kim Stypeck, the owners of Second Story Books, and lifelong friends of the Ahearns. These were special moments for me, and I treasure them.

Connie and I extend our deepest condolences to Allen and their four children, thirteen grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Mary’s Church in Barnesville, Maryland. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that a donation be made to a local non-profit hospice of choice, or the Alzheimer’s Association.

Photograph 1991 by Robert Kalk.

Lost for Words

Most writers with a deadline to meet have at least on occasion been afflicted with a debilitating case of writer’s block. In Natalie Russell’s latest offering we meet Tapir, a creature armed with fresh supplies of pencil and paper but utterly unable find a suitable topic. In search of inspiration he visits Giraffe the poet, Hippo the adventure writer and Flamingo the composer.  All write in different ways, and although Tapir doesn’t realize that right away, he soon discovers just how to express himself best.


Lost Spread 1.jpg

Lost for Words, by Natalie Russell; Peachtree Publishers, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 4-6.

LOST FOR WORDS ©2014 Natalie Russell. Reproduced with permission from Peachtree Publishers

Russell’s screen prints are at once gentle and bright. Charming illustrations of jungle creatures are set against a backdrop of saturated colors, creating a sub-Saharan fantasy world of hot pink flowers and tangerine skies.  Russell’s message that creativity is unlimited and cannot be forced will motivate artists and writers of all ages to follow their own creative groove.  

The Imperial War Museum in London is publishing a new anthology of World War I poetry in June (August in the States) entitled First World War: Poems from the Front. The anthology, edited by Paul O’Prey, a former president of the War Poets Association, aims to “challenge the notion that all war poetry was of a similar anti-war sentiment” by “focusing on 15 poets who all saw active military service and composed poems while they worked, nursed, and fought.”  The anthology will include poems from fifteen men - and women - including a previously unpublished draft of a poem by Robert Graves.

Graves’ poem “November 11th” features a scathing critique of the “thoughtless and ignorant scum” celebrating the Armistice. Graves, a veteran of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, had suffered such serious injuries at the Somme that he was left for dead. His experiences in the war left him intensely bitter.  The poem also refers to the cheering crowds as the “froth of the city,” while “the boys who were killed in battle” are “peacefully sleeping on pallets of mud.”

Graves was persuaded not to publish the poem in 1918, for obvious reasons. Graves did publish a modified, toned-down version of the poem in 1969; this new anthology will be the first time “November 11th” is published with Graves’ original voice.

Along with Graves, the new anthology features both expected (Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen) and unexpected (American nurse Mary Borden) WWI poets.

“The rawness of their anger, their compassion and despair, still feels urgent today and cannot be ignored,” said editor O’Prey in an interview with The Guardian.

With the unofficial start of summer behind us, plans for vacations spent on hammocks and beach towels take shape. When and where, and what will you be reading? I thought I’d share a roundup of four recently published or soon-to-be-published fiction with antiquarian or auction-related themes, i.e., perfect summer getaway reading for bibliophiles and collectors.

-1.jpgFirst up, The Quick by Lauren Owen (Random House, $27, on-sale June 17). Judging by its cover alone, it’s a book I would pick up. Set in late Victorian London, the neo-gothic novel’s main character is a poetic young man named James Norbury. James is new to London, and soon enough, things go very badly for him. His disappearance prompts his sister to come to the city, where her search leads to the mysterious Aegolius Club, whose members are ageless men with strange appetites. At more than 500 pages, this debut novel is bulky enough to satisfy.

Auction-watchers will enjoy A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Press, $25.99), a debut novel inspired by the real discovery of an early twentieth-century French socialite’s apartment in Paris full of fabulous art and antiques. Shuttered since World War II, the apartment was finally opened and its contents auctioned in 2010. In this fictional version, thirty-something American April Vogt, a furniture expert for Sotheby’s, spends a few weeks in Paris combing through the apartment and becoming obsessed by the salty journals of Madame de Florian. Love, art, history, Paris -- what more can you ask for? 

Antiq.jpgIf a haunting tale set in a South American city is more your speed, try this slim but dense read: The Antiquarian by Gustavo Faveron Patriau (Black Cat/Grove Atlantic, $16). The murderous main character is an antiquarian book collector in a world where rare book dealers double as organ traffickers. Translated from Spanish, the language is lush, dark, and erudite, with shades of Calvino and Borges.

Lastly, a recent “HybridBook” reprint of Christopher Morley’s The Haunted Bookshop (Melville House, $16) is new to me -- and such a sweet little mystery, first published in 1919. If you love books, and you haven’t read it, this new edition is the perfect excuse. What happens inside Brooklyn’s haunted bookshop, Parnassus at Home? Well, a certain book keeps disappearing from the shelf, and one lovesick young man is determined to get to the bottom of it. One of my favorite lines in the book (there are many): “Against the background of dusky bindings her head shone with a soft haze of gold.” The “HybridBook” label means that, if you’re so inclined, you can follow a link to see illustrations from the original publication and read more by and about the author.  
In 1940, John Steinbeck and his marine biologist friend, Ed Ricketts, chartered a wooden fishing boat and launched an expedition into the Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California). Steinbeck later published his journal from that trip as “The Log from the Sea of Cortez,” which has since become a minor classic and one of the more important works in Steinbeck’s oeuvre.

The boat from that expedition - called “The Western Flyer” - now rests in a state of gradual decay in Port Townsend, Washington, largely unknown to the tourists who pass through the town. The boat is unmarketed by the local tourism department and isn’t much of a site anyway, covered with mud and rust. But now the Western Flyer is at the center of a new controversy:

The New York Times reported on Sunday that the owner of The Western Flyer, Garry Kehoe, a California businessman, plans to have the boat shipped to Salinas, California soon, where he will install it in a new boutique hotel. The nephew of the boat’s pilot during the Steinbeck / Ricketts expedition, Robert Enea, is fiercely critical of the plan, calling for its return to Monterey instead. The Western Flyer was employed as a sardine boat in the Monterey area for much of its life. Enea would like the boat to installed as part of an environmental education exhibit in Monterey, where it would be freely available to the public. Enea has launched a nonprofit group, called The Western Flyer Project, to help make this a reality. For his part, however, Kehoe has a compelling counterargument.  He is willing to invest the significant amount of money needed to restore the boat and make it seaworthy again.  And he pointed out that The Western Flyer will be the centerpiece of a boutique hotel in Salinas, California, a town more in need of tourism dollars than wealthy Monterey.

In the meantime, The Western Flyer sleepily awaits its future orders in Port Townsend, attracting the occasional Steinbeck tourist excited to see a relic of an expedition that was so important to Steinbeck’s philosophy.

Shackleton’s Endurance: A Graphic Novel

Thumbnail image for Shackleton-COV-300rgb.jpg
Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey
, by Nick Bertozzi; First Second Books, $16.99, 128 pages, ages 12-18. (Publication date: June 17, 2014)

Amateur and professional explorers worldwide will mark the centennial of Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated yet miraculous voyage to the Antarctic this year. Entire documentaries and symposiums are devoted to understanding how the entire crew survived in polar conditions after their ship became trapped and ultimately crushed in pack ice. There’s even a cruise called the Shackleton 100 that will recreate the route of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. 

For adventurers staying close to home, Nick Bertozzi’s graphic novel replicates the voyage through a riveting and wholly original approach to telling this story of survival. Historians have meticulously documented the expedition, but in this account Bertozzi changes the point of view by inviting the reader onto the Endurance alongside the captain and his crew. Each panel illustrates the minutiae of life aboard a sea vessel - from chronicling Mr. Orde-Lee riding a bicycle across the ice, to a chapter called “Last Dog” which delicately handles the issue of starvation and self-preservation. 

Bertozzi’s black and white illustrations overflow with visual detail while creating a solid and engaging story.  Ships, men and various polar creatures are at once grand and familiar. While the author is quite deft depicting each man in the story, Shackleton stands out from his crew; a tall, dark-haired commander determined to bring  all twenty-eight crewmen home after almost two years lost at sea.

Writing and illustrating stories of great explorers seems second-nature to Bertozzi, whose previous work includes Lewis and Clark, an equally inventive examination of two great explorers. Could Amelia Earhart or Thor Heyerdahl be next?  

See more great art from Bertozzi’s SHACKLETON here!

William M. Griswold, head of the Morgan Library in New York for the past seven years, has accepted a new position as the director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Griswold, age 53, will be the 10th director of the museum, starting his new position this fall.

“All told, I’ve been at the Morgan for 13 years,” said Griswold in an interview with The New York Times. Griswold was the head of the Morgan’s drawings department for six years before stepping into his current position in 2007, “I’m ready for my last big challenge.”

And it will be a big challenge as Griswold steps into a role abruptly vacated by its predecessor, David Franklin, who left in a cloud of controversy. The Cleveland Museum of Art has also just completed an eight-year, $350 million expansion and renovation inclusive of 35,300 square feet of new gallery space. With a $750m endowment and an encyclopedic collection covering a vast array of objects and time periods, the directorship of the museum will be an incredible opportunity for Griswold, who has also worked for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Getty and headed the the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for two years.

The president of the Morgan’s board, Lawrence R. Ricciardi, was “suprised,” but “not toally shocked” by Griswold’s resignation.  Riccardi continued, “We are going to move quickly to set up a search committee and an interim director,” adding that the primary challenge for the new director is “continuing to bring new people to the Morgan with creative programming and a vibrant exhibition schedule.”

Below is a video statement from Griswold about his new position:

Meet Bill Griswold, the Cleveland Museum of Art’s tenth director from Cleveland Museum of Art on Vimeo.

Small Rach.jpgThe only surviving autograph manuscript for Sergei Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony in E Minor, OP.27, hidden away for nearly a century and subsequently the subject of an ownership dispute, sold for £1.2 million ($2 million), at Sotheby’s London yesterday.

One of the few autograph manuscripts of a symphony, this 320-page manuscript reveals Rachmaninov’s compositional processes--deletions, additions, annotations--and provides insight into the creation of what some argue is his greatest symphony. Composed in Dresden, it was performed in 1908 and very likely revised thereafter, making this the sole primary source for the composer’s original orchestral vision.

Bound in modern half calf, the large folio had been on view at the British Library since 2005. Where it goes now, only the anonymous winning bidder (a “private collector”) knows.

Image Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
McEwanI_Uncat_3_001_300dpi copy.jpegIan McEwan’s first draft of “On Chesil Beach.” Courtesy of Harry Ransom Center.

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin purchased the archive of British novelist Ian McEwan for $2m last week. The archive includes early drafts of his classic novels, unfinished or abandoned stories, letters to McEwan from other literary luminaries like Philip Roth and Salman Rushdie, and 17 years of e-mail correspondence.

Stephen Enniss, Director of the Harry Ransom Center said the “acquisition represents a rare opportunity to share the work of a living, internationally-acclaimed author whose works are of strong interest to readers everywhere.”

McEwan said of the value of the archive, “The writer tends to forget rapidly the routes he or she discarded along the way. Sometimes the path towards a finished novel takes surprising twists. It’s rarely an even development. For example, my novel Atonement started out as a science fiction story set two or three centuries into future.”

McEwan continued, “I was recently awarded the (Oxford) Bodleian medal. After accepting it, I was shown some of the items in their extensive historical archives. It was deeply moving, to hold in my hand a notebook of the 17-year-old Jane Austen. And then, to turn the pages of Kafka’s first draft of Metamorphosis. An archive takes you right to the heart of the literary creation; it makes for an emotional connection that anyone who loves literature will understand. The experience is almost sensual. Beyond that, of course, critical and biographical work on writers is completely dependent on the resources of a world-class archive collection like the Ransom Centre.”
Guest Post by Meganne Fabrega

9781617690969.jpgI was in the reading room of the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA, when I first came across a notice about Jessica Pigza’s latest book BiblioCraft: A Modern Crafter’s Guide to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects (STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book, $27.50). Needless to say, I was hooked. After spending a month paging through colorful nineteenth-century children’s illustrations, ladies’ newspapers, and household instructional manuals, I was ready to stop researching and start crafting.

Pigza is in a unique position to write a book that is as wonderfully educational as it is inspirational. As a crafter and flea market aficionado, as well as a rare books librarian at the New York Public Library, Pigza describes how she discovered that she was “sitting on top of a craft book gold mine” at the NYPL. She began to sing the praises of the collection in her outreach efforts, which include blogging, “Handmade Crafternoons” at the library, and expeditions to craft shops around the city. In the process, Pigza met other crafters who shared her love for antique inspiration and contributed their own project ideas to BiblioCraft.

In a day and age where everyone with a DSL line imagines that they can find exactly what they are looking for on their own, Pigza has written a much-needed guide to libraries and how to use their collections in “Part One: Finding Inspiration at the Library.” She provides detailed instructions and describes the different types of libraries (branch, research, special collections), recommendations for planning your trip to the library, tips for researching your area of interest, and a directory of physical and digital libraries. Pigza also demystifies the Library of Congress Classification and Dewey Decimal Classification call number systems, as well as subject headings, so that the crafter can best narrow down the topic of choice.

“Part Two: Projects Inspired by the Library” boasts over twenty glorious projects for crafters to choose by an all-star lineup including Heather Ross, Grace Bonney, Natalie Chanin, and Gretchen Hirsch. In addition to beautiful photographs and step-by-step instructions, each project includes the history behind the project’s inspiration. For example, Hirsch’s Wool Rose Fascinator project (inspired by Pierre Joseph Redouté’s hand-finished engravings of roses) also features information about the millinery arts and lists early twentieth-century periodicals to refer to, as well as other books on the topic and subject headings to explore. More projects include Antiquarian Animal Votive Holders, Cartouche Embroidery, and Pigza’s own Cuts of Meat Table Runner.

BiblioCraft is a book that will appeal to the detail-oriented, from its exquisite presentation (I loved the “check-out card” in the front of the book) to the types of libraries and crafts that are explored: no resource is left unturned.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there are some Felt Dogwood Blossoms that are calling my name...

Meganne Fabrega writes about art, craft, books, and nineteenth-century women for a variety of publications. You can find her online at

A guest post by Webb Howell, FB&C’s publisher

Collectors of polar literature no doubt already know that 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated expedition to walk across Antarctica from sea to sea. His efforts are remembered not for his success, but for his feat of survival and endurance, with Shackleton and his crew surviving 22 long months at the bottom of the planet before being rescued.

The accomplishment will be marked over the next two years with films, voyages, books, and more, none more interesting than a planned Woods Hole dive to search for the wreckage of Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, in 2016.

What has perhaps kept Shackleton’s story alive over the past century, though, has been the photographic images of a 29-year-old Australian photographer named Frank Hurley. Hurley lived from 1885 to 1962, a period of dramatic world events, including two World Wars, and he captured much of them on film. More impressively, perhaps, and little known, Hurley was an early experimenter with color photography, and many of the images we’ve seen of Shackleton’s adventure in black and white were originally shot in color. Their drama speaks for themselves.

In news this week comes stunning accounts from NASA scientists about the disintegration of a large section of West Antarctica’s ice, enough, some say, to raise sea levels by as much as four feet globally. If such changes come to pass, they will redraw maps and change the course of human history.

One hundred years ago, Frank Hurley scrambled through the hull of a ship that was crushed and sinking, plucking his glass plate negatives from slushy waters. On his evacuation from Antarctica, Hurley was only allowed to take only 150 of the more than five hundred images he had photographed because of the space limitations of his rescuers. Those images portray a different world, one frozen and beautiful, captured and remembered, and now melting away in time.
Agatha Christie fans have long puzzled over the existence of a real-life inspiration for Hercule Poirot. Did the author base Poirot on someone she knew? Or was he an entirely fictional invention?

A genealogist in Torquay believes he may have found the real deal: Jacques Hornais, a retired Belgian gendarme who fled World War I and settled in a community of refugee Belgians in Torquay. Monsieur Hornais billeted with one Mrs Potts Chatto who lived just down the road from Agatha Christie’s family. 

The genealogist, retired British Navy commander Michael Clapp reported to The Guardian, “The coincidence came when I went to Torquay, and someone at the museum dug out an old newspaper article saying that Mrs Potts Chatto had held a meeting to raise money and clothing for the Belgian refugees, and a young girl played the piano there. She turned out to be Agatha Christie.”

Clapp continued, “...[Hornais] was the only gendarme or detective of any kind I know of to have been sent there. So it’s not proof, but it’s a pretty good coincidence.”

In Christie’s own autobiography, she confesses to an internal debate over the character and nationality of her detective. “Then I remembered our Belgian refugees. We had quite a colony of Belgian refugees living in the parish of Tor. Why not make my detective a Belgian? I thought. There were all types of refugees. How about a refugee police officer? A retired police officer.”

So was Monsieur Hornais the real-life inspiration for Monsieur Poirot? Or was he just part of the general milieu of Belgian refugees who Christie knew as a young girl? Not much else is yet known about Monsieur Hornais.  For example, did he help solve murders on country estates and in pastoral villages? Did he ever mention his “little grey cells”?  Did he curl his mustache? I’d love to hear more.

In the meantime, the mystery continues...

[Image from Wikipedia]
Madeline75.jpgMadeline, that feisty French girl, turns 75 this year. In honor of that, Penguin releases tomorrow a 75th anniversary edition of Ludwig Bemelmans’ classic children’s book. This slipcased edition includes a full-color panoramic pop-up of Paris, where the Caldecott Honor-winning story is set. Penguin also published last month a handsome hardcover omnibus, A Madeline Treasury, with all of the original stories by Bemelmans plus an introduction by Anna Quindlen.

As part of the anniversary festivities, the New-York Historical Society will host an exhibition titled Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans, from July 4 through October 13. The exhibit will  feature more than ninety of Bemelmans’ artworks, including drawings from all six Madeline books, murals from a Paris bistro, and panels from the Onassis yacht (Bemelmans, who died in 1962, was an author-illustrator and later, a serious painter). The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA, will also mark Madeline’s 75th with an exhibit opening on November 15.

Image via Penguin Books.
A Charles Dickens letter coming up for auction May 21st at Chrisitie’s offers a unique insight into the philanthropic side of the author.

In 1847, Dickens and his wealthy friend Baroness Burdett-Coutts established a home for “fallen women” called Urania Cottage in Shepherd’s Bush, London. Dickens - fascinated by the possibility for reform - approached the management of the cottage with verve and gusto, fully involving himself with the minutiae of running the home.  Providing opinions on everything from flowers suitable for the garden to piano music suitable for the parlor, Dickens attempted to create an environment that was “steady and firm... cheerful and hopeful.” (And well ahead of its time).

In a letter written in 1852, Dickens called upon the matron of Urania Cottage to admit Eliza Witken, a reformed prostitute, and to first send her new underwear and enough money for a bath or two.

Will you send under-clothing to Eliza Wilkin ... with money for her to get a warm bath - or two would be better - and instructions when to do so, that she may be perfectly clean and wholesome; and make an appointment to call for her.”

Dickens’s letter will be offered at auction on May 21st at Christie’s in London (Sale 1550, Lot 27) with an estimate of $6,700 - $9,900.
94.jpgDorothy Wordsworth, bibliocrafter? Yes, says auction house Dreweatts & Bloomsbury of London. These three books belonged to English poet William Wordsworth, and the auctioneer believes that Wordsworth’s sister re-bound them. The catalogue copy states, “Wordsworth too seems to have liked the idea of giving his more dilapidated books decorative cloth coverings (a task often performed by the ladies of the house) in order to improve their aesthetic qualities; the sale catalogue of Wordsworth’s books mentions that there are ‘many, indeed, in quaint Cottonian coverings.’” One, Henry Holland’s Some Account of the Life and Writings of Lope Felix de Vega Carpio, 1806, bears a presentation inscription with Wordsworth’s signature. It will be offered alongside John Dunton’s two-volume The Life and Errors of John Dunton, 1818, once belonging to Wordsworth’s friend and contemporary Robert Southey (who is said to have prized ‘cottonian bindings’). The trio is estimated to fetch $800-1,200 at auction next week.
     The British Library holds a copy (shelfmark c61b14) with similar provenance that it believes was bound by Dorothy as well.

Image Courtesy of Dreweatts & Bloomsbury.

477px-Paolo_Veronese,_avtoportret.jpgScholar and book collector Maureen Mulvihill has once again turned her eye toward art and its intersection with seventeenth-century books and printing in a long review of Paolo Veronese: A Master and His Workshop in Renaissance Venice, recently on view at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. (Her last project covered a Rubens exhibit at the same venue.) According to the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, Mulvihill’s illustrated essay, the lead piece in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Seventeenth-Century News, “educates readers on Veronese’s legacy in the 17th century among book publishers, printmakers, and (mostly) Stuart art connoisseurs.” The ILAB website also provides a direct link to the full text of the review.

Paolo Veronese (1528-1588), Self-portrait, c1558-1563.
Oil on Canvas, 63 x 50.5 cm. The Hermitage, St Petersburg.

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Katie Henningsen, Archivist & Digital Collections Coordinator at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington:

photo 3-1.JPGHow did you get started in rare books?

I became interested in rare books while completing my M.Phil. in Reformation and Enlightenment Studies at Trinity College Dublin.  There, I took a yearlong course on the history of the book, partially taught by Dr. Charles Benson, Keeper of Early Printed Books.  These sessions included working with materials from the collection, tours of the Early Printed Books room and facilities, and one exciting, but very cold January day spent in an unheated building working on a 19th century printing press.  I began the M.Phil. program believing I wanted to be a history professor, by the end of it I knew I wanted to spend my days working with rare books. 

Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?

I earned an MSLIS with a concentration in Rare Books and Special Collections at the Palmer School, Long Island University.  Attending the Palmer School provided the opportunity to meet and learn from members of the rare book world in New York.  I was fortunate to study under Dr. Deirdre Stam, a wonderful mentor and advocate for her students.

What is your role at your institution?

My official title is Archivist and Digital Collections Coordinator.  I am responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Archives & Special Collections as well as chairing the digital projects committee.  As the first full time and sole special collections librarian at my institution I do a bit of everything; instruction, reference, outreach, collections management, digitization, acquisitions, and community outreach.

My time is increasingly spent on the public service aspects of my position. As faculty and students are becoming more aware of the Archives & Special Collections, there has been an increase in student researchers and requests from faculty for class sessions.  I am thrilled that there is such an interest in using the materials.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

This is such a difficult question.  Every time a new item arrives or I discover something in the collections, I get excited, though there are two items that I always come back to.

The first is an item I acquired for the collections shortly after arriving at Puget Sound.  It is a tattered pamphlet by Charles Herle, printed in 1642 at the start of the English Civil War.  I have taught with it a few times, and each time students comment on its condition, a perfect segue to our discussion of its use and the value of the item as a historic artifact.

The second is a letter in the New York Chamber of Commerce records at Columbia University.  While studying for my MSLIS, I worked at Columbia University as a bibliographic assistant on the New York Chamber of Commerce records.  The collection sounded quite dry initially, but as we went through the 300+ boxes we discovered a wealth of documents on the early development of New York City and correspondence from Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., General William T. Sherman, Theodore Roosevelt, and many more.  The letter I am referring to was written by A.B. See, an outspoken member of the Chamber, he sent a single sheet of paper to Charles Gwynne, secretary of the Chamber, with one line, 

Can a leopard change its spots, Mr. Gwynne?”  

The letter lacks a salutation or signature, which is unusual for See; all of his other letters are written on his company letterhead, addressed and signed.  If See intended to send this letter anonymously he made a crucial mistake; he included a return address on the envelope.  I didn’t have time while processing the collection to look through the correspondence and minutes of the Chamber to discover what prompted See to send this letter, but six years later I am still thinking about it!

Tell us about your Behind the Archives Door series:

The Behind the Archives Door series has been a lot of fun to develop and host.  The series features brief presentations by faculty and students who are using materials from the Archives & Special Collections in their teaching and research. The series is informal, after a brief presentation, we tend to have a lively Q&A, followed by the opportunity for the audience to take a closer look at the material under discussion.  During the academic year, we meet twice a month.  We are just wrapping up our first full year and have seen our attendance grow significantly, particularly among students and members of the community.

What do you personally collect?

In my personal collection I have a few pieces that relate to my M.Phil. research on early modern military academies and I hope to build on that in the future.

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

Everything!  I started making a list and attempted to narrow it down, but I enjoy 99.9% of what I do on a daily basis.  I love working with the students and having classes come to the Archives & Special Collections.  Each time I prepare for a class I discover new and exciting items in the collections.  The constant discovery and the opportunity to learn something new each day are wonderful aspects of the job and I hope to always feel a sense of wonder and excitement about what I get to do on a daily basis.

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

This is an exciting time for special collections; there are so many opportunities for increased access to our collections, both physical and digital.  Facilitating undergraduate research and faculty teaching with the materials has been my priority for the past few years.  I see our undergraduate students as future advocates for special collections.  Some of these students will go on to become academics, hopefully drawing on their institutions’ special collections for their teaching and research.  Those that do not stay in academe will have the power to advocate for our collections through local, state, and national legislation.  My goal is that their time in the Archives & Special Collections leaves them excited about the resources we hold and the importance of ensuring they are available for future generations.  

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

The Abby Williams Hill papers are a little known and under used resource.  Abby was a painter and social activist in the early 20th century.  She traveled extensively throughout the United States and completed a number of commissions for the railroads featuring scenes of the national parks.  We have her letters, diaries, photographs, and the vast majority of her paintings.  

In addition, students working in the Archives & Special Collections regularly add items they come across to our Tumblr.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

We have a very active exhibition schedule!

Currently we have up “Stan!,” featuring the collection of Lyle “Stan” Shelmidine (1906-1966), a popular Puget Sound professor of Near and Far East history who travelled extensively, collecting books and artifacts.  Four art history students drew on Stan’s books, artifacts, and papers to create the exhibition, which they discussed as part of our Behind the Archives Door series.

Each summer we host the annual exhibition of the Puget Sound Book Artists’, on display from June 5 to July 31, 2014.  In August we will co-host an international juried exhibition of book art focusing on social and political issues, “Book Power Redux,” with 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland, Oregon.

In October we will open “Sparking Imaginations,” an exhibition on the history of electrical science and electrical power, curated by faculty in the Physics and the Science, Technology, & Society departments.  This exhibition will span multiple buildings on campus and feature scientific instruments, our history of science collection, and (hopefully) some live experiments.

152478_0.jpgIf only Nathaniel Hawthorne had a better address book! In this brief letter, dated March 4, 1852, Hawthorne writes to William H. Adams at Amherst College, providing direction as to where to find the residences of historian George Bancroft, poet Fitz-Greene Halleck, and satirist/Secretary of the Navy James Kirke Paulding. He writes, “Bancroft and Halleck live in New York, and so, I think, does Paulding. I do not know where Mayo (?) resides, but a letter would probably reach him through his publisher, G.P. Putnam, of New York. Duane (?) lives in Boston, except during the _____? season.”

According to PBA Galleries, which is offering the note at auction tomorrow for an estimated $5,000-8,000, it is “a letter significant for its associations, one of the leading American authors of the 19th century making reference to the homes of his literary associates.”

Coincidentally, according to John Hardy Wright’s book, Hawthorne’s Haunts in New England, Hawthorne finalized his purchase of the Alcotts’ home in Concord, Massachusetts, only four days later. Were other writers’ houses on his mind? He had been living in the borrowed West Newton, Massachusetts, home of Horace Mann and Mary Peabody Mann while writing The Blithedale Romance. In June, the Hawthornes moved out to “The Wayside,” which the family kept until 1870.

Image via PBA Galleries. 
Charlie Lovett is no stranger to our readers.  Lovett’s first novel, The Bookman’s Tale, was reviewed on our blog last May and his first-class Lewis Carroll collection was profiled in our spring 2014 issue.  Today we are happy to reveal the cover for his second novel, First Impressions, due out in October from Viking:

From the publisher:

Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield. Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice - and ultimately threaten Sophie’s life.

In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie’s quest to uncover the truth - while choosing between two suitors - and a young Jane Austen’s touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books.

Henry David Thoreau springs eternal. His is a literary legacy that continues bright and strong, season after season. Reprints of his best work, editions of annotated essays, books of his quotes, biographies, even comics -- Thoreau remains a force of nature. So in commemoration of his death day, May 6, 1862, let’s consider three new books, published in just the last six months, that honor his life and work.

Walden Warming.jpgIn Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods, author Richard B. Primack uses Thoreau’s Walden, as well as the nineteenth-century naturalist’s unpublished notes, to track the effects of a warming climate on Concord’s flora and fauna. In one example, Thoreau records the first open blueberry flowers on May 11, 1853; Primack finds that after the record-breaking warm season of 2012, blueberries in Concord began flowering on April 1. Thoreau biographer Robert J. Richardson Jr. writes, “Primack’s book is important in three ways: it is a report on what global warming has already done to a much-loved bit of American space--Walden Pond; it is a detailed warning about what we are now facing; and it is a stirring call to arms, especially to young Americans and students about how they can help.”

Walden Shore.jpgWalden’s Shore: Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Science by Robert M. Thorson depicts Thoreau as a man whose brain ‘toggled [between] poetic and scientific.’ The University of Connecticut professor takes a fresh approach by looking at him as a geologist--a rock collector who was able to interpret his landscape as both a poet and a field scientist. Jeffrey S. Cramer, editor of the Portable Thoreau and curator of collections at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods wrote, “Walden’s Shore has no predecessor in the field of Thoreau studies. It is a welcome addition and a needed reassessment of an iconic figure.”

In his new biography, The Adventures of Henry Thoreau: A Young Man’s Unlikely Path to Walden Pond, Michael Sims recounts the author’s younger years --from Harvard to the excursion at Walden--and uncovers a “hidden” Thoreau,  rowdier perhaps than we would expect. Many critics have lauded Sims for his fresh take on Thoreau. Booklist called it a “
surpassingly vivid and vital chronicle of Thoreau’s formative years - See more at:
surpassingly vivid and vital chronicle of Thoreau’s formative years.” 
a previously hidden Thoreau--the rowdy boy reminiscent of Tom Sawyer, the sarcastic college iconoclast, the devoted son who kept imitating his beloved older brother’s choices in life - See more at:
a previously hidden Thoreau--the rowdy boy reminiscent of Tom Sawyer, the sarcastic college iconoclast, the devoted son who kept imitating his beloved older brother’s choices in life. - See more at:
a previously hidden Thoreau--the rowdy boy reminiscent of Tom Sawyer, the sarcastic college iconoclast, the devoted son who kept imitating his beloved older brother’s choices in life. - See more at:

Images via University of Chicago; Harvard University Press; Bloomsbury USA.

Bird Books for Kids

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HAVE YOU HEARD THE NESTING BIRD images ©2014 Kenard Pak. Reproduced with permission from HMH Books for Young Readers

Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? By Rita Gray, illustrated by Kenard Pak; HMH Books for Young Readers, 32 pages, ages 4-8.

Bird books are wonderful reasons to employ onomatopoeia, and Rita Gray’s latest foray in nonfiction joyfully employs this device. Written in rhyming call and response format, the story is at once active and calm, asking readers to step back and listen to the distinctive and musical sounds of neighboring nesting birds. Dreamworks artist Kenard Pak debuts as a book illustrator with lovely watercolors and digital media. Double page spreads of crows taking flight and robins sitting on their eggs evoke the soft, first-blush colors of spring. A mock interview with a mother bird (“A Word with the Bird”) explains nesting bird behavior as well as best practices for human-avian interaction.   


MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST  images © 2014 Steve Jenkins. Reproduced with permission from Beach Lane Books 

Mama Built a Little Nest, by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Steve Jenkins; Beach Lane Books, 40 pages, ages 4-7.

Veteran nature writer Jennifer Ward (I Love Dirt!) teams up with Caldecott Honoree Steven Jenkins (What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?) to showcase the different ways birds build nests using all sorts of tufted materials. Each spread features a different bird with a read-aloud rhyme on the left page, and supporting information for grownups and older readers on the right page. Jenkins’ masterful collages of woodpeckers, weaverbirds and wrens are large, bright and inviting. The author’s notes elaborate on the architectural ingenuity of nest building and also include resources for further backyard birdwatching.


 NEST images ©2014 Jorey Hurley. Reproduced with permission from Simon & Schuster

Nest, by Jorey Hurley; Simon & Schuster, $16.99, 40 pages, ages 0-5.

Debut children’s book author and illustrator Jorey Hurley has crafted a lovely seasonal book about the life cycle of a robin while also explaining in the simplest of terms how birds raise families. Starting in spring, two robins build a nest, lay an egg, and the family grows alongside blooming leaves and blades of grass.  Hurley’s illustrations are sharp visual feasts, rendered entirely in Photoshop yet looking very much like paper collage.  Most illustrations are double spreads with one word defining the action.  Like many great children’s books nowadays, this one includes author’s notes where robin nesting and incubation habits are explored in greater detail for adult readers.

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First new Reading Room to open in nearly a decade - the Newsroom at the British Library, St Pancras.
Image credit: Charles Birchmore photography.

A state-of-the-art newspaper reading room opened earlier this week at the British Library in London. The new room, completed at the cost of £33m, will offer free access to 400 years of newspapers dating back to the English Civil War.  The microfilmed and digitized collections present more than 750m pages of newspapers and 4.8m archived websites to researchers. The newspaper room, located in the St Pancras branch of the British Library, replaces the newspaper room at the Colinsdale branch in London that closed last year.

The oldest newspaper in the collection which is still being published is the Stamford Mercury, first published in 1713, and in operation today as the Rutland & Stamford Mercury. The archive also includes a complete run of News of the World, as well as The Blackshirt (Oswald Mosley’s newspaper). 

The library in Colinsdale was almost destroyed during the Blitz, when it suffered a direct bomb attack that resulted in a lost of 9,000 volumes of newspapers. Researchers are still digitizing newspapers from the Colinsdale library with shrapnel embedded in them 70 years later.

Roly Keating, the British Library chief executive said of the opening, “The opening of the Newsroom means that news and newspapers are no longer the Cinderella of the library’s collections, but are now at the very heart of the British Library’s offering to researchers. By moving the collection out of Colindale and into the world-class storage facility at Boston Spa, we’re ensuring this vast, precious and incredibly fragile resource is available not just for today’s researchers, but also future generations.”

Numerous print newspapers that have not yet been digitized will be stored in the affiliated Bath Spa facility. The goal is to deliver requested newspapers to the new St Pancras reading room within 48 hours of a researcher’s request.

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