September 2014 Archives

On Wednesday, October 1, Swann Galleries in New York will host a sale of Art, Press, & Illustrated Books primarily from the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods. Here are some highlights...

693745.jpgLes Fleurs et Leurs Applications Décoratives, Art Deco design book by master colorist E. A. Séguy (lot 230, $5,000 to $7,500).

Salvador Dali’s interpretations of Don Quixote (lot 70, $25,000 to $35,000, pictured above) and Alice in Wonderland (lot 65, $5,000 to $7,500). Other Dali lots include one of ten copies of Poèmes de Mao Tse-Toung (lot 71, $15,000 to $25,000).

692734.jpgSeveral works from Gerda Wegener, including her most sought-after illustrated book Eric Allatini’s Sur Talons Rouges (Lot 254, $4,000 to $6,000)


12 Italian Futurist manifestos, on the heels of the popular Guggenheim show “Italian Futurism 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe.” (lots 96-105, various price estimates)

A complete production of Matisse’s cut-outs printed by Verve in 1958 (lot 189, $4,000 to $6,000)

D’Aci i d’Alla. Vol. XXII, No. 179, the Spanish art magazine, containing the scarcest of Joan Miró’s pochoir prints from 1934 (lot 196, $2,000 to $3,000)

Gustav Klimt’s erotic illustrations for Lucian of Samosata, Die Hetärengespräche des Lukian (lot 158, $3,000 to $4,000).

Images Courtesy of Swann Galleries.

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 11.00.03 AM.pngFrom the Ontario-based publisher, Biblioasis, comes a charming and cool combination of words and illustrations called By the Book ($25.95) by Diane Schoemperlen. Using the idea of fragmentation as a starting point, and collage as a medium, Schoemperlen constructs entirely new texts and meanings assembled from vintage late 19th- and early 20th-century books such as Seaside and Wayside Nature Readers (1887) and The Ontario Public School Hygiene (1920). The resulting 73 full-color collages were, Schoemperlen writes in the introduction, “constructed in the old-fashioned way by the traditional cut-and-paste method with real paper, real scissors, and real glue.”

Again, from the introduction: “In the tradition of objet trouvé, especially found poetry, these stories take the form of a found narrative: an imagined, expanded, and embroidered rearrangement of the original material.”

The first story--more narrative in nature than the six that follow it--is an amusing chronicle of a young man’s anachronistic adventure in visiting New York from Italy using a guidebook from 1900. (The original guidebook was rescued from a local recycling plant and re-purposed into experiential fiction--how’s that for a happy ending?) Schoemperlen’s re-mixed antique illustrations delight the eye, and yet also provoke laughter, close study, and further examination. A sequel to her 1998 book, Forms of Devotion, By the Book is unusual, witty, and whimsical.

Add to that the high production value of the volume itself--a bright, stand-out jacket that reproduces one of the author’s collages, glossy paper that seems to illuminate the artwork, and a handy 8 1/2” x 6 1/4” hardcover binding--and you have a terrific gift for a book, art, or ephemera lover. 

Gregory Maguire’s Misunderstood Witches

Today’s theatergoers and readers like their witches misunderstood and maligned, with an underlying desire to do good. Look no further than the latest offerings from Hollywood - from Angelina Jolie as the wronged Maleficent in the eponymous film, to Disney’s reincarnation of the Ice Queen in the animated blockbuster Frozen. Two of Gregory Maguire’s books, the bestselling Wicked, and his latest publication, Egg & Spoon (Candlewick Press, $17.99) also deal with powerful women on the fringes of society, whose magical gifts may actually be their community’s salvation.

GregoryMaguire.jpgMaguire was a misunderstood witch once as well, without heels and wig. During a conversation this summer, he recalled a Halloween during his childhood when he was casting about the family home for a costume.  “There were seven of us, and so we had to cobble together costumes with what we had. One of my brothers was an altar boy, and I found his black cassock. It is the only time in my life I indulged in cross dressing.” That amusing memory helped Maguire to recall why he wanted to be a witch in the first place. “I could tell from my childhood reading that the identity of a witch was porous and permissible. Everybody could partake of that character’s possible sense of shape-shifting and of performing mysterious acts. And so could I, even as a young boy.” Those commutative properties informed the author’s version of Baba Yaga, the fearsome witch of Russian lore who figures prominently in this latest book.

Egg & Spoon is Maguire’s masterful tale set in a mystical Tsarist Russia on the eve of the Revolution, where the mythical Firebird maintains the environmental equilibrium and, despite the existence of magic, there is still no food for the poor. Baba Yaga’s first appearance is fearsome; she is a skeletal, foul mouthed blaze of energy. She travels around the country in Dumb Doma, her hen-like house bestowed with maternal instincts of its own.  Behind the veneer of sneer and snark, Baba Yaga is in fact quite protective of her charges, two young girls from vastly different social circumstances whose lives become inextricably intertwined during their adventures. “How many cranky old women do we know who are really dear at heart?” said Maguire. “They very often put on a cloak of crankiness to hide just how deeply attached they are to their children and their grandchildren. They are the maternal goddesses of the street, the old grandmothers, and they poke their fingers out the window and say ‘Get off my lawn!’ But they’re really watching very carefully to make sure no child runs into the street.”

468px-Bilibin._Baba_Yaga.jpgAs with many of Maguire’s books, the world of Egg & Spoon is firmly rooted in the complications of reality. He writes about places that are purposefully full of trouble and complexities, and credits his mentor, the late Maurice Sendak, with showing him the way. “I write books that are understandably dense and full of detail, and full of different kinds of tones - comical, tragic, meditative, suspenseful.  because how can art be believable if it doesn’t chime with life in some way? One of my aesthetic gambits with life is to make the worlds in my stories as complicated, and befuddling and lovable as the world in which we find ourselves.” Sendak showed him how to do that, and Maguire reanimates his mentor through the character Peter Petrovich. On his deathbed Petrovich implores the living to enjoy life fully, and in a lasting tribute, Maguire used Sendak’s own words, pulled from an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross and which would turn out to be one of his last: ‘Live your life, live your life, live your life.’

Baba Yaga (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

gbs spade.jpg

A garden spade owned by both George Bernard Shaw and Ray Bradbury is currently up for auction from Nate D. Sanders. The online auction, which includes many other lots from Ray Bradbury’s personal art and book collections, concludes today at 5 p.m. PST. At the time of this writing, bidding on the spade is at $5,000.

Shaw used the spade to plant a mulberry tree in Great Malvern, Worcestershire, on his 80th birthday in July of 1936. Shaw then gave the spade to his friend and gardener Harry Higgs. From there, the spade eventually made its way into the hands of Ray Bradbury, who received it as a Christmas present. 

Bradbury, who died in 2012, was an avid fan of George Bernard Shaw, considering him “the greatest playwright of our century.” Bradbury, like many collectors, was inspired by owning an object that was used by one of his literary idols.  Bradbury even wrote an unpublished poem about the spade, entitled “G. B. S. & the Spade,” which is included in the same lot at auction.  An excerpt of the lengthy poem follows:

I hold the dear spade in my hands,
Its vibrant lightnings strike and move along my arms, 
The ghost of Shaw climbs up through me
I feel a fiery brambling of chin 
I feel my spine 
Stand straight as if a lightning bolt had struck 
His old voice whispers in my ear, dear boy 
Find Troy, go on, dig deep, find Troy, find Troy!

From one of the greatest playwrights to one of the greatest science fiction writers, this simple garden tool has a stunning literary provenance. The next owner of the spade will have a lot to live up to.

[Image from Nate D. Sanders]
Art and Ownership: An Exhibit of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts opens today at Sam Fogg’s London gallery. Fogg, one of the world’s leading dealers in medieval art, chronicles the development of readership and book ownership in the Middle Ages and beyond. Until the 12th century, manuscripts were primarily owned by monks and royals, but the dawn of the 13th century brought increased literacy, making book ownership more widespread. Commoners and laymen had greater opportunities to buy a personal prayerbook, or book of hours.

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 8.29.20 PM.pngFogg showcases examples from the 12th-16th centuries, a number of them with fantastic provenance, e.g., this 13th-century illuminated Bible looted from the library of King Charles IV of Spain by Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte, and then seized from him by the Duke of Wellington (above). Another highlight is a c. 1495 manuscript compendium of astrological texts, still in its original binding, produced under the supervision of its author, Lewis of Caerleon, who wrote part of it while imprisoned in the Tower of London in the 1480s.

The exhibit is on view through October 24 at 15D Clifford St., London.

Image: The Bonaparte - Duke of Wellington Bible France, Paris and Lyon, c. 1250 and c. 1300. Courtesy of Sam Fogg.

kerouac letter.jpeg
After leaving Lowell, Massachusetts, on a football scholarship to Horace Mann, a prep school in New York City, Jack Kerouac maintained a friendly and candid correspondence with his childhood friend George Apostolos. Seventeen of those letters, along with two postcards, and seven writing fragments were discovered by Apostolos’s daughter after his death and will be auctioned this fall in Boston by Skinner.

Like so many teenage boys before and after him, Kerouac spends much of his letters writing about girls: 

“There is no doubt in my mind that you or I have never laid our eyes on such an exquisite creature as Jacqueline Sheresky. Her neck has that stamp of blueblood; it curves up delicately and like ivory to a perfectly moulded almond chin, and thence to quivering scarlet lips, covering a row of alabaster teeth. Her eyes are dark as ebony, with a flash of fire in them. Her hair topples down in rippling cascades of black sleekness, over a pair of resilient, lush shoulders. She is slim, blooming and graceful; I have never seen anything like it.”

Kerouac’s densely typed letters - in a precursor of his later style - run in unbroken, single-spaced lines across multiple pages. In addition to various love affairs, Kerouac discusses playing football, adjusting to life in New York City, reading, writing, and developing his personal philosophies. The letters continue through Kerouac’s freshman year at Columbia University in 1940 and 1941.

Estimates for the letters, which will be sold as separate lots at Skinner’s November 16th auction of fine books, run between $2,000 and $5,000 each.
In 1931, the Michigan Tuberculosis Association issued four lithograph posters meant to encourage in children the healthful effects of the outdoors. Tuberculosis--a.k.a. consumption in the nineteenth century--is an airborne disease caused by bacteria that attacks the lungs and transmitted by coughing, sneezing, even laughing, i.e., close living. Thus it had long been held that fresh air was, if not an antidote for the contagion, then at least a form of prevention. (A semi-efficacious vaccine has been available since the 1920s, but it is rarely used in the U.S., which relies instead on antibiotic treatment.)

The vibrant posters, which feature wild animals eating, playing, and resting in nature, were designed by the foremost animal illustrator of the time, Charles Livingston Bull (1874-1932). Bull’s illustrations regularly appeared in publications including the Saturday Evening Post and McClure’s and in books alongside the writing of Jack London. Lowry-James Rare Prints & Books offers three of these color lithographs in a new catalogue devoted to the work of Bull, also containing several of his decorated bindings and original charcoal and pen works on paper.

Cougars: Play Out of Doors The Year Round. Based on his original watercolor, Mother Cougar and Three Young, 1931.

Deer: Eat for Strength Grace - Vigor. Based on his original watercolor, Doe and Fawns browsing on Lily Pads, 1931.

6665.jpg Rams: Sleep Long Hours in the Cool, Clean Air. Based on Bull’s watercolor, pen and ink of Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheet, in the collection of Oradell Free Public Library in Oradell, NJ.

On Thursday, in dramatic fashion, Scots turned out in record numbers to vote on a referendum to decide whether or not Scotland should remain part of the UK or become an independent country, an historic occasion that carries not just political and economic repercussions, but social ones as well. Perhaps battered bonds might begin to mend over a few tumblers of Scotch whiskey and a rousing rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ penned in 1788 by Scotland’s own Robert Burns as a testament to brotherhood and long-lasting friendship.

English: Robert Burns Source: Image:Robert bur...

English: Robert Burns Source: Image:Robert burns.jpg Replacement of existing commons image with higher res version (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in the village of Alloway claims that ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is  the world’s most popular tune, and to further its point, invites visitors to record themselves singing, then uploading their video to the museum’s Facebook page. Submissions come from across the globe, a testament to the universal reach of Burns’ work.

The poem was not set to music during Burns’ short yet prolific lifetime, though the rhythm suggests he was influenced by traditional Scottish folk songs sung in the Lowlands where he lived, wrote, and ultimately died at the age of thirty-seven. (Contrary to popular belief, Burns did not die of venereal disease or alcoholism, but rather succumbed to endocarditis, caused by a particularly harsh case of rheumatism he caught during childhood.)

Usually warbled by new year’s revelers clutching a champagne glass in one hand, ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is often mistaken for a song of loss and parting. While Burns touches on those melancholic elements, it is in fact about reunion. While Scots language is difficult to decipher, and many singers have little idea what exactly they’re saying, it reminds singers that old friends are the ones that last. Here’s the verse, sung in large groups with participants interlocking arms in a long, daisy-chain of uninterrupted embrace:

And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!

And gie’s a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught,   

For auld lang syne

The last two lines implore old pals to take a hearty drink in the name of good will and the good old days, So, here’s to another lively chapter in the long history of Scotland and England. If that fails, maybe reading Burns’ ‘Oh My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose’ would soothe raw wounds too.   
Cambridge University Library has purchased the Codex Zacynthius for £1.1m after a fundraising appeal was supplemented by a £500,000 grant from the National Heritage Fund. A critically important manuscript in the development of the New Testament, the 7th century Codex Zacynthius has been on loan to the Cambridge University Library since 1984.  The library was able to purchase the codex from its lenders, the British and Foreign Bible Society, who wished to raise funds to establish a new visitor center in Wales

The Codex Zacynthius is a palimpsest, meaning that it is a recycled manuscript with a hidden layer of “undertext.” That undertext - part of Luke’s gospel in Greek - was written in the seventh century. The undertext was eventually scrapped off sometime in the 13th century, when it was replaced with the text of an Evangeliarium comprised of text from all four gospels.  The known existence of the Codex’s undertext - and the clues it offers into the early development of Christianity - make the manuscript particularly valuable to religious scholars.

The Head of the National Heritage Fund, Fiona Talbott, said: “The Codex Zacynthius has been part of the UK’s heritage for over 200 years and is a truly fascinating and unique object. Our trustees felt it was incredibly important that it should be safeguarded so future generations can explore its undiscovered secrets.”

Cambridge University Library will now conduct multi-spectral imaging and XRF spectroscopy on the Codex Zacynthius in the hopes of revealing more of its secrets.

[Image from Cambridge University Library]
As biblio-fiction goes, reaching back to the birth of printing in medieval Germany is pretty ambitious, but so little is known about the “real” Gutenberg that Alix Christie landed a perfect topic for her fiction debut, Gutenberg’s Apprentice (Harper, $27.99). She was able to explore his vibrant and changing world by focusing the narrative on the printer’s young apprentice, Peter Schoeffer, a former scribe whose world is upturned by the advent of moveable type.   

GutenbergsApprentice hc c copy.jpgAs a former printing apprentice herself--under her grandfather, Les Lloyd, at San Francisco’s Mackenzie & Harris type foundry--Christie certainly clearly followed the old adage to ‘write what you know.’ She also happens to have a way with words that is steady, delicate, and beautiful. Take, for example: “He pictured them, the hundred eighty copies of their Bible, stowed in casks attached to boats--to convoys, caravans--spreading far beyond Rhineland. It seemed to him they moved out ponderously, yet with great purpose, into the world. Like oliphants, he thought: great hidebound beats out of the East, spreading across the land, bearing their thick and transcendental cargo.”

In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called the novel “enthralling ... a meticulous account of quattrocento innovation, technology, politics, art and commerce.” I couldn’t agree more, and so I’m glad to share with you a recent interview with Christie about her work as a novelist and as a printer.

FB&C: I think many of us have viewed Gutenberg as a solo act--the man behind the first printed book--and what I like about your narrative is that it disrupts that idea and makes him human. It also brings his apprentice, Peter Schoeffer, into focus. Why did you decide to write about the apprentice rather than the master?

AC: As an amateur letterpress printer, I became intrigued with Gutenberg’s technique in 2001, when Princeton researchers first suggested that his types had been made in a more rudimentary fashion than generally thought. By chance or fate I stumbled a few years later across Helmut Lehmann-Haupt’s 1950 monograph on Peter Schoeffer at the Strand bookstore, and knew I’d found a voice that no one had yet heard. Most people know about Gutenberg, but few know of the significant roles played by Schoeffer, a great printer in his own right, and Gutenberg’s financier Johann Fust. The more I dug, the more I realized that the ‘great man’ theory was woefully inadequate to explain the massive undertaking required to produce this 1,282-page book. Today we understand better than early German incunabulists how technology startups work--as collaborations between innovators, financiers and skilled technicians. And this was the world’s first tech startup, really. My aim was to give Schoeffer and Fust their due, and bring them out of Gutenberg’s long shadow.

FB&C: It’s clear that so much research went into this historical novel. How long did it take from idea to complete manuscript? Did you travel to Mainz for research?

AC: It took me seven years of active research and writing to complete the book-- the length, I like to think, of a medieval guild apprenticeship. I was lucky to speak German and be living in Berlin at the time, and made several trips to Mainz, Eltville and Frankfurt. There I met city archivists and librarians who assisted me enormously; I also became close to the two greatest Gutenberg and Schoeffer scholars, Paul Needham and Lotte Hellinga, who advised and helped me in innumerable ways.

FB&C: Although you have been a writer and a journalist for decades, this is your first novel. Were you surprised by the writing process or by how much story there was to tell?

AC: I never imagined I would write historical fiction or this book, particularly. I had been writing contemporary stories after receiving an MFA in fiction. But from the moment I discovered the existence of Peter Schoeffer, the passion to unearth his story grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. There was both so much material, and--crucially for fiction--a huge gap in the key years between 1450 and 1454. I saw my task as inventing a human narrative that could make sense of the available scraps of evidence, mainly the surviving books and ephemera themselves. The writing process was fascinating: I felt it was a spiral, from draft to draft. Each new draft (and there were 8) raised questions about the characters’ motivations and difficulties, pushing me to understand the world of medieval Mainz more deeply.
FB&C: I read that you trained as a letterpress printer and that you own a 1910 Chandler & Price letterpress--is it a still a hobby? What do you print?

AC: I bought my C&P in the 1980s and dubbed my shop “The Itinerant Press.” Initially I printed mainly broadsides, poetry chapbooks, invitations--the usual ephemera. Since I have in fact been much more itinerant than this ton of cast-iron, I have lent it over the past decade to a series of young printers in San Francisco. It resides in their shops and does good work while I visit from Europe to pat it from time to time. Eventually I’ll come home to California and put it back to work.

FB&C: Tell me about your grandfather and his work in California printing.

AC: My grandfather, Les Lloyd, was for many years foreman of the Mackenzie & Harris type foundry, the last major hot type operation on the West Coast, which survives now as the historic foundry M&H Type under the conservancy of the Arion Press. He was active in the Roxburghe and Craftsman’s clubs and beloved by all west coast printers for his composing and design skills and unfailing modesty. He worked with the greats: the Grabhorns, Ansel Adams, Fred Goudy, Bruce Rogers, Lawton Kennedy; he oversaw a menu for Khrushchev and San Francisco’s printed bid to host the United Nations. I was his apprentice, starting at the age of 16, when he retired; we printed a lot of little books together at his Red Squirrel Press.
GutenbergsApprentice_KEEPSAKE_SEPT (2).JPGFB&C: What is the collaboration with Foolscap Press you mention in the book’s acknowledgements? Are there private press editions of the novel, or special printed ephemera?

AC: I would love to see a fine limited edition of Gutenberg’s Apprentice, but it would require an underwriter! My association with Foolscap goes back decades; bookbinder Peggy Gotthold and I were both apprentices at the Yolla Bolly Press. We previously collaborated on a fine edition of stories based on the Hemingway story, “For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn.” She and Larry Van Velzer very graciously printed a gorgeous keepsake announcement for the novel [seen above], featuring a 16th-century woodcut of a printing house, which I’ll be giving away at
FB&C: Are you a book collector, and if so, what do you collect? If you won the lottery, would you buy a Gutenberg bible (or leaf) if it came to auction?

AC: I am not a collector so much as an accumulator of books. That said, I have most of Foolscap’s inventive, lovely books, and several gorgeous Yolla Bolly Press editions. If I won the lottery I probably would buy a replica Bible leaf from the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz.

p.s. For anyone in the Bay Area, Christie will be discussing her roots in letterpress and reading from Gutenberg’s Apprentice on September 25; reception at 6 p.m., program at 7 p.m. at The Arion Press, 1802 Hays Street, The Presidio, San Francisco. RSVP to Booksmith or Arion Press.


Jane Austen fans gathered in Bath, England, this past weekend to break the world record for the largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costume. (Apparently not counting the people who were actually alive in the Regency era). With 550 men, women, and children regaled in Regency apparel in front of the novelist’s former home, the fans were pleased to learn that they broke the previous world record of 491 people. That record--in a disappointing, albeit temporary setback to British Jane Austen fans--was set in America. 

After the announcement was made, light cheers arose from the stately tea rooms inside the Assembly Rooms. The town crier (Bath still employs a town crier) then loudly proclaimed the new world record in the streets.

The event was only one of many to celebrate the novelist during the annual Jane Austen Festival, which runs for 10 days every year in the city most closely connected to her name.

Beate Muller, an Austen fan from Paris, told The Telegraph, “It is not just about Jane Austen, it is about a way of life which was much more elegant, much more refined.” Muller continued, “It is a much better way of living, there was so much more style and deportment, and people lived a wonderful lifestyle.”

Muller, like the beloved novelist herself, is assumed to be commenting exclusively on the lives of the wealthy during the Regency era.

[Image from Jane Austen Festival website]

In a stunning announcement this weekend, Derick Dreher, director of the Rosenbach of the Free Library in Philadelphia, stated that the institution’s Maurice Sendak collection, which had been “on loan” for decades, will be transferred to Connecticut, where Sendak estate trustees are planning to build a museum dedicated to the artist.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Sendak never formally gifted the thousands of original drawings and manuscripts he deposited at the Rosenbach beginning in the 1960s. The artist died in 2012, and his will indicates that the collection belongs to his eponymous foundation, the trustees of which are tasked with founding a Sendak museum near his former home in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The collection formerly on deposit at the Rosenbach will populate the new museum’s vault.

Kimerly Rorschach, who was a curator at the Rosenbach in the 1980s and is now director of the Seattle Art Museum, told the Philadelphia Inquirer: “It’s a huge loss. I am sorry about it for Philadelphia and the Rosenbach. I can see the charm of having it at his house. I’ve visited, and it’s an enchanting place. But it won’t be so easily accessible.”

On the bright side, writes Dreher, “The Rosenbach does own certain work made by Sendak, and this will remain a valued part of the collection. In addition, the so-called ‘Chertoff Mural,’ Sendak’s only work in that medium, will continue to be owned by the Rosenbach and displayed with its interpretive materials for public enjoyment.”

Plus, Sendak did leave his collection of rare books and manuscripts to the Rosenbach, including an extensive Melville collection. 
Guest Post: A Second Book of Booksellers, by Jerry Morris

I don’t claim to be a connoisseur of books about books. But I am a collector of them, having over 1000 books about books in my library. And I enjoy reading and writing about them in my blogs. I also love recommending the very good ones. And Sheila Markham’s book, A Second Book of Booksellers: Conversations with the Antiquarian Book Trade, is second to none.

100_6185.JPGIf the title sounds familiar, it’s because A Second Book of Booksellers is a sequel  to Sheila Markham’s first book, A Book of Booksellers: Conversations with the Antiquarian Book Trade,  first published in 2004 and reprinted in 2007.

The first book contains interviews of 50 booksellers conducted between 1991 and 2003. These interviews first appeared in the Bookdealer. Barry Shaw, the editor of the Bookdealer, wrote the foreword to the first book. The second book contains interviews of 31 booksellers conducted between 2007 and 2013. The last ten interviews appeared in the Book Collector. And Nicolas Barker, the editor of the Book Collector, wrote the introduction to the second book.

Most of the booksellers interviewed in the two books are English, with two Americans and at least one Canadian also interviewed. One of the English booksellers interviewed in the first book started his career with a book stall in the Portobello Road Market and ended up on Bond Street. Another bookseller found Winston Churchill’s manuscript notes for his World War II books on Portobello Road, yet kept his own military books in the basement of his bookstore with the rats. One bookseller in the second book spent twenty years amassing the greatest Charles Darwin collection ever. Another bookseller was blind, but that did not prevent him from buying and selling books -- I love the title of that interview: “A Feeling for Books.” What I found most fascinating about all the interviews is that I learned first-hand, from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, what effect the internet has had on the book trade in the last twenty years. I like the viewpoint of one bookseller who said, “I cannot imagine a time when one of my clients will start to tremble and perspire holding in his hands a first electronic version of Don Quijote de la Mancha. Rare and beautiful books will disappear only if beauty itself disappears from our existence.”

Now I enjoyed reading both books. And I recommend you buy both of them. But don’t just take my word for it. Go to her website,, and click on “Interview Archives.” While there, you can read over forty interviews online that were not printed in her two books. By then, you will want to read more. But I would not wait too long.

A Second Book of Booksellers is available from either or from Sheila Markham’s website. And Sheila says PayPal is fine!

-Jerry Morris is a book collector who blogs at Contemplations of Moibibliomaniac.

The Long Run

English: Painting of Pheidippides.

English: Painting of Pheidippides. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The story of the Μάχη τοῡ Μαραθῶνος (Battle of Marathon) has long drawn writers and poets. The ancient epic pits the outnumbered Athenians against the mighty Persians, and since the actual event took place over 2500 years ago, many writers have played with the facts to suit their various needs. The outcome is always riveting, no matter if the date of battle is set on August 12th, 490 BC, or September 12th. Some historians estimate the Persian force numbered 25,000 men; others put it at 60,000, not including cavalry and ships. Either way, they greatly outnumbered the 10,000 Athenians waiting their arrival.

Not in dispute is that one of Western civilization’s most storied military events took place in a field roughly twenty-six miles from Athens, near the town of Marathon, in what would be the first of many attempts by the Persians to subjugate the Greeks. The Athenians, desperate for reinforcements, sent word to their ferocious Spartan neighbors 140 miles away. The only way was by foot, and so professional military messenger Pheidippides  covered the rough, mountainous terrain in two days, and by foot. The Spartans were in the midst of a religious festival and wouldn’t commit troops at that time, so Pheidippides ran back to Athens (again, in two days) with the sober news.

Undaunted, the Athenians (aided by tiny neighbori
Bust of Plutarch of Chaeronea, a Greek philoso...

Bust of Plutarch of Chaeronea, a Greek philosopher and author (46-c.122). The statue is located at the Archaeological Museum of Delphi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ng city-state Plataia) planned a fierce, early morning attack, surprising the Persians and engaging in hand-to-hand combat, successfully (if momentarily) driving the invaders off shore. There would be more running, this time by the entire Athenian army, back to their undefended city to meet the Persians, now under sail and headed that way. Pheidippides ran to Athens with his fellow soldiers, where, at the foot of the Acropolis, he famously announced victory,(
νικῶμεν!) then promptly expired.

Still, over 400 years would pass until the historian Plutarch wrote about the battle in his collection of essays called Moralia.  His “In what were the Athenians famous?” (Κατὰ τί ἔνδοξοι Αθηναῖοι;), cites a lost work of fellow Hellenic writer Herodotus, who had written an account of the battle thirty to forty years after it happened. Herodotus did not bind himself to the truth - he likely exaggerated the Persian death toll, for starters - but his is the only surviving account from that era, and the one from which Plutarch wrote his own essay.  

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, photographed Septe...

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, photographed September, 1859, by Macaire Havre, engraving by T. O. Barlow. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the 1800s Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning composed a poem dedicated to that ancient battle.  Notable among young lovers for penning “How do I love thee? Let me Count the Ways...,” Browning also wrote, at the tender age of fourteen, no less, a four-book epic narrative poem recounting the battle at Marathon. Handwritten on medium-weight paper with iron-gall ink, the 1819 manuscript, eventually ended up at the Harry Ransom Library at the University of Texas, where it underwent repair in April 2013. Adding to the already difficult challenge of conserving century-old paper, Browning would revise portions of her manuscript by sewing pieces of paper onto the existing larger document. Archivists managed to save the work by removing the original threads during restoration. Then, the document was restitched together by using a combination of archival thread alongside the original. Like those who compete in the race named in honor of the ancient battle, the story of Marathon trudges on, undaunted, persevering against the odds. 

On Tuesday, September 16, Freeman’s of Philadelphia will feature photographs and photobooks. One of our favorite lots here at Fine Books & Collections:

Unknown Photographer, Family in Plaid ca. 1850 [detail], Estimate $700-1,500, and a worthy 19th-century entry for the Awkward Family Photos compilations.

Other auction highlights include:

George Zimbel (American b.1929) “At the Bar, Bourbon Street [detail],” Estimate $1,500-2,500.

Eileen Neff (American b. 1945) “Winter (The Couple) [detail],” Estimate $2,500-3,500.

Francis Frith (British 1822-1898) “The Statues of the Plain, Thebes [detail],” Estimate $8,000-12,000.

Diane Arbus (Amerian 1923-1971) “Untitled (8) [detail], ” Estimate $10,000-15,000.

The auction will consist of 130 lots, viewable online here. If you are in the Philadelphia area, visiting hours for the sale are Friday, September 12, 10-5, Saturday, September 13, 12-5, and Monday, September 15, 10-5. There will also be limited viewing the day of the auction.

Photos: Courtesy of Freeman’s.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz film, which means the time is right for buyers and sellers who focus on related memorabilia, such as autographs, scripts, storyboards and concept art, and costumes. Profiles in History is offering these three very special Wizard pieces at a 4-day auction event in Los Angeles, October 17-20.

WoO-Script copy.jpgAn original, 113-page, studio-bound script dated October 10, 1938. According to the catalogue, this version of the script “includes important revisions by writer Edgar Allan Woolf, the visionary who changed the famous slippers from silver to ruby, inserted the dream sequence, and is responsible for the fantasy aspects of the film--all elements not in the L. Frank Baum novel.” It is estimated to sell for $12,000-15,000.

Painting.pngAn original matte painting from the film depicts the woods at the foot of the Wicked Witch’s castle. Executed in colored pencil, gouache, and chalk on black artist board, the image is “attributable to the scene when our heroic quartet ambushes the ‘Winkie Guards’ to steal their uniforms and gain access to the castle.” The estimate is $8,000-12,000.

Press Book.pngA complete press book with original herald, published by MGM in 1939. The cover features bold window card art, and the book is illustrated with production details, plot synopsis, cast list, sheet music, etc. and includes a record of all the movie tie-in advertisements. Its estimate is $5,000-7,000.

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Alison M. Greenlee, Collections Specialist at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan.  


Please introduce us to The Henry Ford and your role there:

I’m a Collections Specialist for The Henry Ford’s digitization initiative. The Henry Ford is a national history destination with collections that document the American experience. The collections with which I work are spread across Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, and the Benson Ford Research Center. I catalog artifacts, photographs, and ephemera before they’re uploaded to our digital collections site. I also use the “rapid capture” process to digitize 2D material.

How did you get started in rare books?

I’d known I wanted to be a librarian since high school, but it wasn’t until I was in the first semester of my MLIS program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that I realized working with rare books was even a possibility. I steered my coursework in that direction, completing a certificate in special collections from the Midwest Book and Manuscript Studies program. I jumped at every practicum and alternative spring break opportunity, gaining experience at UIUC’s wonderful Rare Book and Manuscript Library as well as Monticello’s Jefferson Library and the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

The materials with which I’ve worked span different centuries, cultures, and media, so it’s hard to pick just one. One memory that stands out is from my time as Special Collections Librarian at the University of Tulsa. I had a group of books from the personal library of Sir Rupert Hart-Davis on my cart, waiting to be cataloged. When I picked one up, it was suspiciously light. Upon opening it, I discovered it was a book safe! Three hollow books contained letters, clippings, and mementos from Hart-Davis’s children. It was definitely a fun surprise!

What do you personally collect?

Although I’ve been a lifelong fan, I’ve just recently begun collecting Edward Gorey books for my son’s nursery. He’ll thank me later.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I’m a lapsed runner who enjoys thrifting and traveling around the beautiful state of Michigan.

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

Working with awe-inspiring materials every day and getting to share those with the public. Much of my work over the last five years has been describing items to make them available to more people. 

Thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship?

Of course we will continue to digitize and disseminate collections online to meet the “everything’s on the internet” demand, but I hope this makes the tangible objects more dear. Whenever anyone talks about ebooks and the death of print, I can’t help but think of the job security. I see this as an opportunity to talk about my field of work, introducing someone to the concept of rare books: what they are and why they’re important. In the future, we’ll need more outreach to not only promote and advocate for our collections, but also to simply explain what we have and why we have it. 

When all those paper books or Microsoft Word files are added to special collections, the world will need rare book librarians to decipher their secrets. Rare book librarians are stewards not just of the physical object, but also the spirit of that it conveys. A high-res digital image can’t capture the smell of pipe tobacco embedded in a leather binding or the worn, sticky letters of a keyboard that document the history of an item’s use.  

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

It’s not unusual, but it’s also not something that comes to mind when you think of The Henry Ford. I recently had the pleasure of working with our Fraktur collection. We have dozens of drawings, birth and baptismal certificates, family registers, house blessings, and New Year’s wishes. They’re gorgeous examples of Pennsylvania German folk art.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

As an institution for American history, our exhibitions vary greatly, and the next one is a world away from rare books -- Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (October 3, 2014-January 4, 2015). It will document the story of professional football with artifacts from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
newweblogo.jpgMake your plans now for the first-ever Brooklyn Antiques & Book Fair, kicking off with a special preview opening on Friday evening from 7:30-9:30. FB&C readers get a free pass, courtesy of Marvin Getman of Impact Events Group Inc., by clicking here.
Held at the Brooklyn Expo Center at 79 Franklin St., the fair continues on Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. More than one hundred dealers will be hand to showcase their very best antiques, with a focus on on fine & decorative art, folk art, Americana, antiquarian books, ephemera, manuscripts, prints, autographs, and the like. So many dealers we know and love will be there, including some of our recent “Bright Young Things,” Honey & Wax Booksellers, Tomberg Rare Books, Lizz Young, and Little Sages, and FB&C supporters Old Editions, Jeff Bergman Books, and Enchanted Books.

Mac Barnett enjoys talking to children. He enjoys it so much he’s made a successful career out of writing everything from picture books to novels just for the junior set. At 32, Barnett has already racked up accolades for his work too, winning the Caldecott Honor, the Boston Globe-Horn Book award, and the E.B. White Read-aloud award for his 2012 picture book, Extra Yarn, which was illustrated by fellow award recipient (and longtime friend) Jon Klassen


(Photo Credit: Jeffrey Beall/Wikimedia Commons)

Earlier this summer the author spoke with me from a farm in California where he was working the land and awaiting the arrival of the first hardbound copies of Barnett and Klassen’s forthcoming collaboration, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (Candlewick Press; available October 14th, $16.99). We discussed the importance of creating good children’s literature and what Barnett calls the literary bargain children happily make when choosing a book.

Text for picture books are all about setting up the accompanying image, and for Barnett to realize that goal, he and Jon Klassen collaborated extensively on Extra Yarn as well as Sam and Dave, which is often unheard of in today’s publishing environment. “The picture books I love so much from the 1950s and ’60s were often constructed with authors and illustrators constantly pitching ideas back and forth, with the story and images changing throughout the process,” said Barnett. Think of Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak, toiling away in the same apartment, then visiting the editor together to defend their product. Such close contact often produces powerful books that stand the test of time. 

Whether writing picture books or middle-grade mystery novels, Barnett seems moves seamlessly from either sphere, even with each genre demanding distinct requirements from the author. As an undergraduate at Pomona College, Barnett studied writing with Infinite Jest author David Foster Wallace. “I told Wallace that I wanted to write for kids, and he said, ‘I have no idea how to write for kids.’ That’s wasn’t what I was there to learn,” Barnett recalled. “I knew how to talk to kids. I wanted to learn writing, because I think they deserve the best art and the best sentences that we can make for them.” After graduating, Barnett set himself a deadline of writing a book within the year, and if it didn’t happen, he would return to school and pursue his other passion, medieval Scandinavian literature.  

Children are fortunate that Barnett found success because he believes so passionately in the importance of solid literary choices for young readers, and his work delivers. “Children are the best audience for serious literary fiction, there are a lot of things adults find too strange.” Barnett uses the Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon, as an example. “It is a weird book. And it has this status as a classic, and most reassuring of all picture books. And I think that it is, but it is also incredibly dark. Strange things happen - clothes disappear from on and off the drying rack. It’s a very strange book, with strange rhythms, but it is so deep and incantatory and taps into a very real childhood fear of going to sleep, which is also linked to a fear of death. And that’s why I think it is so comforting.” Still, a book this unusual is one of the best selling picture books of all time. Barnett feels children will read experimental literature because “the experience of childhood is experimental. Children are constantly having to learn new rules for new situations.”

Barnett finds children to be the very best critics of all. “Either children love your work, or they don’t. And they don’t mince words. They’ll tell you.” 
Novelist David Mitchell recently completed his short story “The Right Sort,” released over Twitter in a series of 280 tweets. Each tweet was limited to 140 characters, a restriction Mitchell labeled a “diabolical treble-strapped textual straitjacket.” “The Right Sort:” is believed to be the first work by a major novelist released via Twitter.

But sometimes the medium eludes the creator.

Over a century ago, editor, journalist, and Parisian art critic Felix Fénéon wrote a series of news items for the French newspaper Le Matin. Each piece was a complete story told in three lines, submitted anonymously and with no further explanation. 

Several examples from 1906 follow: 

“Bones have been discovered in a villa on Ile Verte, near Grenoble, belonging - she admits it - to the clandestine offspring of Mme. P.”

“No one hanged the young Russian Lise Joukovsky; she hanged herself, and the Rambouillet magistrates have allowed her to be buried.”

“Maître Tivollier, attorney of Grenoble, was hunting. He tripped; his gun went off; Maître Tivollier was no more.”

Although they were written over 100 years ago, Fénéon’s Le Matin stories are uniquely suited for Twitter, as they all hover beneath the 140-character limit. This quality has not gone unnoticed by the New York Review of Books, who have set up a Twitter account in Fénéon’s name (@novelsin3lines) and are gradually re-releasing Fénéon’s stories over a medium uniquely suited to his aesthetic. (The New York Review of Books also published a collection of Fénéon’s stories several years ago entitled Novels in Three Lines.)

The exercise has given a new life to Fénéon who quite contentedly labored behind the scenes in turn of the century Paris. A committed anarchist, Fénéon was also an art critic and art dealer, uniquely trusted by Matisse and the initial promoter for Seurat. He was also an editor and journalist, although he steadfastly refused the spotlight and famously once said “I aspire only to silence.”

But perhaps Fénéon was only missing the right medium for his voice.

[Image from Wikipedia]
Last month, the Library of Congress announced that it had acquired the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) archives--more than 50,000 items of visual and written documentation--and would mount an exhibit to celebrate not only the major donation but the ABT’s forthcoming 75th anniversary in 2015. The exhibit, American Ballet Theatre: Touring the Globe for 75 Years, showcases a selection of 43 artifacts, photographs, scores, and costumes, and is currently on view in the Library’s James Madison Memorial Building in Washington, D.C. Here are some of the stunning images on display.

Pillar of FIre.jpgAlfredo Valente, photographer. Diana Adams in Pillar of Fire, 1942. Judith Chazin-Bennahum Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

18_Swan_Lake_Gregory_3B copy.jpgMyra Armstrong, photographer. Cynthia Gregory in Swan Lake, 1980s. American Ballet Theatre Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

Obj21_PalomaHerreraDonQ_MIRA_(2) copy.jpgMyra Armstrong, photographer. Paloma Hererra as Kitri in Don Quixote, 1990s. American Ballet Theatre Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

ab0042 copy.jpgMarty Sohl, photographer. Anne Milewski and Misty Copeland in La Bayadère, 2009. American Ballet Theatre Collection, Library of Congress.

In a press release, Susan Vita, chief of the Library’s Music Division, said, “The ABT archives is unique in that it connects with so many of our major collections of composers, choreographers, set and lighting designers, and orchestrators. It is a thrill to have America’s Ballet Company’s archives as a centerpiece collection in America’s Library.”

The exhibition will close in D.C. on Jan. 24, 2015 but will then travel to Los Angeles, opening at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in its Library of Congress Ira Gershwin Gallery in March 2015 and running through August 2015.
The estate of Doris Lessing, the British novelist who died last year at 94 years old, donated 3,000 books from her personal collection to a public library in Harare, Zimbabwe. The donation was made in her name by various beneficiaries listed under her will.

In August, staff from Lessing’s publisher Harper Collins, in conjunction with the nonprofit Book Aid International, packed up books in the author’s former London home for shipment to Africa. The volunteers found books in packed into every nook and corner of the house. Biographies, histories, reference books, poetry, and fiction were among the selected books.

The donated was warmly welcomed by the public library in Harare, under duress from many years of underfunding. Zimbabwe public libraries sometimes lack any funding at all for the purchase of new books. Despite this lack of financial support for libraries, Lessing found Zimbabwe readers “the most passionate readers anywhere in the world.”

Lessing was born in Persia (modern day Iran), but grew up Rhodesia (modern day Zimbabwe) and was strongly associated with the country throughout her life and writing, which included “The Grass is Singing” (1950), and “The Golden Notebook” (1962).  Lessing won the Novel Prize for Literature in 2007.

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