November 2014 Archives


This week already saw the discovery of a famous lost Kerouac letter.  Now we can add a previously unknown First Folio to the tally.

Shakespeare’s First Folio - containing 36 of his 38 known plays and printed in 1623 - is one of the most valuable books in English literature.  It’s also one of the most closely inventoried. Of the 800 copies thought to have been originally printed in the 17th century, 233 are believed to still exist today.  And now we can add the 234th to the list.

This particular First Folio has lain dormant in the library of Saint-Omer, an obscure French town near Calais, for over two hundred years. 

Medieval literature expert and librarian Rémy Cordonnier stumbled across the book while searching for items to use in a planned exhibition of Anglo-Saxon authors.

“It had been wrongly identified in our catalogue as a book of Shakespeare plays most likely dating from the 18th century,” Cordonnier said in an interview with The Guardian. “I didn’t instantly recognise it as a book of value. It had been heavily used and was damaged. It had seen better days... [But] it occurred to me that it could be an unidentified First Folio, with historic importance and great intellectual value.”

Cordonnier then reached out to American professor Eric Rasmussen for verification.  Rasmussen, affiliated with the University of Nevada, was in Britain at the time to study at the British Library. Rasumussen quickly hopped on a train to France.  After arriving at Saint-Omer, Rasumussen authenticated in the First Folio in a matter of minutes.  

“This is huge,” Rasmussen said in an interview with The New York Times. “First folios don’t turn up very often, and when they do, it’s usually a really chewed up, uninteresting copy. But this one is magnificent.”

Needless to say, the book will become the centerpiece of the Anglo-Saxon exhibition at the library next summer. 

In the meantime, don’t sit around waiting for the next First Folio to be unearthed.  Their average rate of discovery?  Once every ten years.

[Image of First Folio Table of Contents from Wikipedia]
Guest Post by Catherine Batac Walder

Author Richard Adams, 94, delighted fans in a rare appearance at the book-signing of the new editions of his modern classics, Watership Down and Shardik, in Winchester, Hampshire (UK) on Saturday, November 15. These latest hardback editions are published by Oneworld.

Walder_Richard Adams 1.jpgThe signing lasted only an hour or so, and there was little chance for posed photography or a chat with the author. I realized later that one of his daughters, standing behind him, was helping him to understand what the fans were saying,  so I thought he mustn’t have really heard me when I told him that I hope they would also republish The Girl in a Swing, which is my favorite among his books. He did return me a grin.

In a recent interview with The Telegraph, the author remarked, “I don’t really live in the literary world. I mean, I ought to know them all but I don’t. They don’t know me very much. Real authors are continually meeting each other, aren’t they?” Some of us, who have as high a regard for the freedom-fighting rabbits of Watership Down as we do for Peter or the Velveteen Rabbit, would disagree.

It is not an unfamiliar story of an author whose writing career began as spoken words to his children. In Adams’ case, these were stories he had told to his young daughters during long drives to attend plays in Stratford-upon-Avon, hoping to expose them to Shakespeare’s works. Encouraged to write the tales down, Adams, then in his early 50s, suffered several rejections before finally getting an offer from a small publisher. Watership Down went on to delight readers all over the world, selling over 50 million copies since its first publication in 1972. Shardik was published two years later.

The son of a doctor, Adams grew up in Berkshire and has been living with his wife Elizabeth in Whitchurch, Hampshire, for more than 30 years. Not surprisingly, the real Watership Down in Ecchinswell is only a few miles from their home.

--Catherine Batac Walder is a writer living in the UK.

Editor’s Note: Blackwell’s Oxford announced that it will host Adams for a book signing on Dec. 20 at 3:00.

Image Credit: Catherine Batac Walder.


In 1950, Jack Kerouac famously scrapped his first draft of On the Road after reading a 16,000-word stream-of-consciousness letter from Neal Cassady. That letter - called the “Joan Anderson Letter” and long presumed lost - has resurfaced and will be up for auction in December.

Deeply influenced by Cassady’s spontaneous prose in the letter, Kerouac tried to emulate his style when he re-visited On the Road. The author would later claim that if the letter hadn’t been lost, Cassady would have secured a place as a major literary voice.

“It was the greatest piece of writing I ever saw, better’n anybody in America, or at least enough to make Melville, Twain, Dreiser, Wolfe, I dunno who, spin in their graves,” Kerouac said to an interviewer with The Paris Review in 1968.

How the letter was lost - and found again - brings in another famous Beat: Allen Ginsberg. Kerouac lent the letter to the poet, who in turn lent it to a friend who lived on a houseboat in northern California. Ginsberg’s friend reported the letter as lost, assuming it blew off the boat and into the water.

“It was my property, a letter to me, so Allen shouldn’t have been so careless with it, nor the guy on the houseboat,” Kerouac continued in the same Paris Review interview.

The letter, however, was not lost on the houseboat. Ginsberg’s friend eventually found the letter again and gave it back to the poet. Ginsberg then sent the letter to the Golden Goose Press in San Francisco for their consideration for publication. There, it lingered - unopened - for years until the press closed down. The Golden Goose intended to trash its unopened submissions but a thoughtful owner of a small record label that shared their office asked to take them home instead. Once again, the submissions lingered in limbo for years until the daughter of the record label owner found the letter after he died. She, in turn, is submitting the letter for auction.

The Joan Anderson Letter - so-named for a girlfriend of Neil Cassady’s mentioned in the letter - will be offered by Profiles in History on December 17.

By now many of you have read a bit about the ingenious “First Editions, Second Thoughts” auction scheduled for the evening of December 2 in New York (the New York Times ran an awesome spread of images). Seventy-five modern first editions were mailed out to their respective authors or artists with the request that they annotate, illustrate, extra-illustrate, or mark up the text in some way. Turkish author Orhan Pamuk filled his Snow with original watercolors, while George Saunders provides what resembles a crazed copyedit in various inks and highlighter colors in his CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. Hosted this time by Christie’s, the auction benefits the PEN American Center.

What might be news to you, however, is the participation of ABAA bookseller, Between the Covers, in this venture. The New Jersey-based antiquarian bookseller helped to choose the titles, tracked down many of the first editions, and sent them to the authors for annotation. According to Matt Histand at Between the Covers, a few of the authors were able to provide their own books, but “we provided the majority of the literary first editions.” Some were already in BTC’s vast stock, but Histand had to hunt for others, always looking for “the best copies I could find.”   

The most difficult, he said, was Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969). Children’s picture books are often hard to locate in their true first edition, first state, with dust jacket--and in collectible condition too. In this case, he reached out to speciality children’s booksellers, Jo Ann Reisler of Jo Ann Reisler, Ltd. and Helen Younger of Aleph-Bet Books, neither of whom had recalled seeing a first edition of this title in twenty years. Histand said to himself, “This is not going to happen,” and considered settling for an early edition or a different Carle title. Then, by “pure, absolute luck,” a book collector contacted him and said that he had, astonishingly, found one at a library sale.

articleimage_firteditions7.jpgHistand also communicated with many of the authors who invested so much time and energy in the annotating process. “Anything that you add will be of value,” he told novelist Michael Cunningham, who then created a mix-tape to accompany the first edition of his Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner-winning The Hours.

Last year’s auction of the same name in May of 2013, hosted by Sotheby’s to benefit English PEN, raised about $690,000, headlined by a first edition of Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone, annotated and illustrated by J.K. Rowling, which sold for $228,600.
Image via Christie’s.

“If you have a garden and a library, you have all you need.” Cicero (Epistulae ad familiares,  Book IX, Epistle 4.) 

On November 15 the New York Botanical Garden opened its latest exhibition, but it’s not in a greenhouse filled with orchids or azaleas. Rather, the plants featured in this show are on the sixth floor of the Mertz Library. Flora Illustrata: A Celebration of Botanical Masterworks is a dazzling display of books, manuscripts, maps and art dedicated to the study of botany and horticulture. Of the library’s roughly one million cataloged items (in eighty five languages), just fifty were chosen to highlight the cornucopia of manuscripts, journals, explorer’s notebooks, drawings and Renaissance herbals. There’s a 1667 Recueil des plantes, commissioned by Louis XIV, by Denis Dodart with illustrations by Nicolas Robert. An edition of Carolus LinnaeusSystema Naturae demonstrates a turning point in botany with the introduction of the modern system of classification. Two beautiful incunables of Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis historia (1483) offer encyclopedic knowledge of ancient herbal remedies. All are on display, alongside other important botanical works. 

The library became one of the world’s most authoritative botanical and horticultural collections over a relatively short 125-year period. (The Mertz opened in 1899.) By the early 1900s it was already an established repository and scholarly collection of herbs, flowers and garden materials, assisted by generous early benefactors and philanthropists including J. Pierpont Morgan, a Garden board member, and Andrew Carnegie. Benefactors continue to ensure the library’s role as an immense resource for scientists, artists, architects and writers. 

For those unable to make the show, or who wish to bring the show home with them, a companion volume to the exhibition will be available on November 25th (Yale University Press; $50). The eleven essays in the book cover eight centuries of plant history, from an examination of incunables, to works on American gardening and horticulture, to an exploration of European pleasure gardens showcasing French garden and landscape design. Hand-colored engravings, lithographs, and woodcuts depict the Earth’s bounty and humanity’s relation to it. Happily, the oversize pages allow for close examination of the artwork. Consider Flora Illustrata as a gift for plant enthusiasts, gardeners, architects, and those who love plants but have a perennially brown thumb.

Flora Illustrata: Great Works from the LuEsther T. Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden, edited by Susan Fraser and Vanessa Sellers; Yale University Press, $50, 320 pages (November 25, 2014).

The exhibition Flora Illustrata: A Celebration of Botanical Masterworks will be on display from November 15th to January 2015 in Mertz Library’s Rondina and LoFaro Gallery. 

A two-day auction of rare books by the German firm Ketterer Kunst on Monday and Tuesday this week realized impressive prices for herbals. All the herbals on offer at auction sold above estimates, sometimes by significant amounts.  

The herbal highlight was the Herbarius Patavie, (pictured above), from the collection of botanist and anatomist Lorenz Heister and bearing his signature, which attracted bidders from around the world. In the end, a German bidder won the herbal for $97,500, blowing well past the original estimate of $18,750. Herbarius Patavie was printed by Johann Petri in Passau in 1485. The book contains 150 half-page botanical woodcuts.

Another highlight was the generously illustrated 1497 Hortus Sanitatis, (pictured above), which went for $67,500 after a bidding war. The estimate on the herbal was $25,000. The 1497 edition was the third Latin edition of one of the fifteenth century’s most extensive works on natural history and medicine.

And the first German edition of the first scientific herbal - the Contrafayt Kreüterbuch from 1532-37 (pictured above) - sold for $24,000, $14,000 over its original estimate of $10,000. The herbal contains 280 woodcuts, most hand-colored.

[Pictures from Ketterer Kunst]

photo 1 copy.jpgSome good news from the book/magazine publishing world today. Scribner publisher Nan Graham announced this morning that Scribner’s Magazine, which published some of the best fiction and non-fiction of the early twentieth century during its 1887-1939 run, has been revived and turned into a digital literary magazine. Scribner Magazine will feature its house authors, among them Stephen King, Anthony Doerr, Colm Toibin, and Jeannette Walls.

The first issue hosts a gallery of Ernest Hemingway images, in celebration of his 1926 Scribner-published novel, The Sun Also Rises. Graham told the Wall Street Journal, “I’ve wanted to do something with the old Scribner’s Magazine for a long time because it was such an important part of the culture.” The new publication, she said, is not a direct descendant of its illustrious predecessor, but rather a behind-the-scenes look at the life of contemporary authors. 

Image: A 50th-anniversary issue of Scribner’s Magazine, published in 1937.    
Moby_Dick_final_chase.jpgThe second biennial public reading of Herman Melville’s perennial classic Moby Dick took place this past weekend in New York City. Over the course of three days, a wide variety of participants took turns reading Moby Dick out loud at three different locations around the city. The marathon began at the Ace Hotel on Friday night from 6pm - 11pm, continued on Saturday at the South Street Seaport Museum from 10am - 11 pm, and completed on Sunday at HousingWorks Bookstore from 10am - 4pm. Over the course of those 24 total hours, 138 readers took their turns with the novel. Readers includes actors such as Michael Kostroff of The Wire, writers such as Nathaniel Philbrick and Amor Towles, along with editors from Buzzfeed and Lapham’s Quarterly, and a host of Moby Dick fans.

The biennial marathon reading of Moby Dick is the brainchild of Amanda Bullock of the HousingWorks Bookstore and Polly Duff Bresnick of the Sackett Street Writer’s Workshop. The two launched the first Moby Dick marathon in 2012. The dates for the event are set to approximately align with the U.S. publication of Moby Dick, which occurred on November 14, 1851. Bullock and Bresnick decided to host the event in New York City because the novel opens in Manhattan and Melville was born and died in the city. They funded the event through a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Asked by The Guardian why the novel lends itself to such an event, author Leslie Jamison said, “It’s a book about obsession that lends itself to obsession... You get attached to things you’ve invested time in. [The marathon] allows us to speak and live within the text.”

[Image from Wikipedia]

Lux-Brian Booth copy.jpgOn Saturday afternoon, I spent about five hours tooling around the ABAA’s Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair. It was, incredibly, my first time visiting the Boston fair, and it was exceedingly pleasant -- smaller, less chaotic, and more genial than the two larger annual fairs in New York and California. A few booksellers admitted that they had avoided Boston for a few years and were toeing the waters there again. I imagine they were pleased by the foot traffic and, as far as I could tell, a good amount of those feet belonged to college-aged people sauntering around the fair.

Reese copy.jpgAt least some of those undergrads--these above from Brown University--were there to get a lesson in rare books from Bill Reese.

While in Reese’s booth, I stopped to chat with Joe Fay, formerly of Heritage Auctions and now relocated to Reese’s New Haven shop. He showed me one of his favorites on offer: Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex... by Owen Chase (1821) in its original blue paper boards. A modest little book but one that is widely assumed to be the inspiration for Melville’s Moby-Dick.

Greenwood copy.jpgIs there a trend in morbid offerings, or is it just that places like the new Morbid Anatomy Museum have focused my attention there of late? I thought this tiny book titled Green-Wood Cemetery at the Old New York Book Shop’s booth was sweet. It contained nothing more than a fragile, nineteenth-century folding map of the famous Brooklyn graveyard. That seemed to go with the box of antique glass eye specimens on exhibit at B&L Rootenberg Rare Books & Manuscripts. Or, at John R. Sanderson, Bookseller, a volume that tempted me: Observations on Morbid Poisons, Chronic and Acute (second edition, 1807). Or, at Ken Sanders Rare Books, several pieces of original signed art by filmmaker Tim Burton, including a sculpture he created while making the 1982 stop-motion short film, Vincent, based on a boy who idolizes Vincent Price. 

Crucible copy.jpgAnd though I may be accused of playing favorites, there is always something amazing in the booth of Lux Mentis, and this time my eyes were drawn to this stunning binding of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible by Erin Fletcher at Herringbone Bindery. The binding of gray and cream silk has hand-embroidered lettering and decorative flowers and animals (and a noose). What you don’t see in this picture is the back cover, a depiction of Joseph McCarthy in embroidery.

Images Credit: Rebecca Rego Barry.


Detail. Giambattista della Porta. De furtivis literarum notis. 1591. Folger Shakespeare Library

What does Shakespeare have to do with twentieth-century codebreakers? The folks at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. have a pretty good idea, and on Tuesday unveiled its latest exhibit entitled Decoding the Renaissance: 500 Years of Codes and Ciphers. On display are texts illustrating how the science of creating and breaking codes traces its roots to the age of Shakespeare. 

Samuel Morland. A new method of cryptography. London, 1666. Shelfmark M2781a. (Folger Shakespeare Library)

Bill Sherman, head of research at the Victoria and Albert Museum and curator of the exhibition, explained that most of the materials in the show came from the Folger’s own collection and the Library of Congress. “I found that the incredible concentration of books in codes in ciphers was astonishing. Between the Folger and the LOC across the street, they had a first edition -- at least one of each -- for every key text in that field for the first couple hundred years.” This is also the first time these texts have been brought together to introduce the field of secret communication to the general public. 

While Henry Folger never set out to intentionally collect intelligence literature, Sherman said that one couldn’t possibly cultivate a collection of Renaissance material without the dark arts being caught in the net. (Read about three men who actively collected intelligence material in the Fall 2014 issue of Fine Books & Collections Magazine.) “Intelligence, codes and codebreaking is an incredibly widespread field. Almost every aspect of Renaissance culture has some relationship with ciphers, whether through mathematics, language systems, postal services, or machines.” Rival courts wanted to keep correspondence confidential while also intercepting and deciphering adversaries’ mail, and alongside the proliferation of printing throughout Europe, espionage and intelligence gathering flourished.   

The material from the Library of Congress hails from its George Fabyan Collection. In addition to being a cryptographer who trained analysts to decipher codes during World War I, Fabyan collected seventeenth century English literature focusing on cryptology. He was also fascinated by Francis Bacon, whom he believed was the actual author of Shakespeare’s works. To crack the Bacon-Shakespeare code, Fabyan founded Riverbank Laboratories in Geneva, Illinois and assembled a group of literary codebreakers to assist him. Among those people were William and Elizabeth Friedman, whom Sherman calls “The First Couple of Cryptology.”  William ran the Army’s Signals Intelligence Service in the 1930s, and also led the team that broke Japan’s PURPLE cipher in World War II.  Elizabeth was a cryptanalyst for the US Navy and also assisted the Coast Guard to decipher the german Enigma machine. They also reinvented the science of codes and ciphers for the twentieth century,  and they drew directly from the sixteenth century materials that they had first seen at Riverbank.  These, as well as the Friedman’s own publications, are on display. 


William F. Friedman and Elizebeth S. Friedman, ca. 1957. 310 2nd Street SE, Washington, DC. Photo by Walter Bennett. 

In addition to Friedman’s own SIGABA cipher machine, which was only declassified ten years ago and whose code was never broken, the great unsolved mystery of the exhibition is the Voynich Manuscript, believed to date from the 1410s. On loan from the Beinecke Library at Yale, this is the first time in fifty years that the manuscript has left New Haven. “It’s just a crazy unsolvable manuscript. There may be references to it in other documents, but it’s hard to know what to look for,” said Sherman. Friedman himself spent years trying to decode the manuscript, to no avail. And while dozens of researchers are currently devoted to solving it, Sherman feels that if the manuscript remains cloaked in secret, so much the better. “In a way, a mystery has more to tell you then the solution,” he said. “The mystery makes you think, and ask, and do research.” 

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Hazel Wilkinson of Cambridge and London:

Where are you from and where do you live?

I am from Surrey originally, and I now live in Cambridge and London.

What did you study at University? What do you do now for an occupation?

My first degree was in English at Oxford University; I then did a Masters in Renaissance Literature at York, before doing a PhD in English at University College London. My PhD was awarded in September 2014, and I’m now a research fellow at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, where I am working on my first book, and teaching undergraduate English.

Please introduce us to your book collection.  What areas do you collect in? 

I collect books of poetry, from Spenser (1552-1599) to Tennyson (1809-1892). Since I was an undergraduate I’ve enjoyed buying attractive or unusual books, when I’ve been able to find them for affordable prices. When I was at university I would often go to a second hand bookshop and see if I could find a nice old copy of the poet I was studying that week. Owning a big nineteenth-century volume of Keats made me feel much more intelligent than reading the standard scholarly paperback.  I never thought of myself as a book collector until entering the Anthony Davis Book Collecting competition. I didn’t expect to win, as I hadn’t assembled my collection particularly deliberately, or spent much money on any of the books. When I thought about the books that I own, I realised that there was a coherent theme running through them, even if I didn’t plan it. They are all editions of canonical poets, published after the author’s lifetime. I am interested in how each generation reinterprets the literary past. So, for example, I have a copy of Spenser from 1758 which is illustrated in a Classical style, and a copy of Spenser from 1908 which contains Art Deco illustrations. It’s interesting to see how Spenser was repackaged and reimagined. Similarly, I have a big, leatherbound Byron from the 1860s, and a Penguin paperback Byron from the 1950s. These books say a lot about how fashions and reading habits changed over the course of a century. A lot of the books in the collection are prize copies, with school book plates. I have a copy of Thomas Gray which was presented to a student leaving Eton, which is quite expected, since Gray wrote about Eton. I also have a Wordsworth which was given as a Botany prize at a Diocesan Training College in nineteenth-century Bristol. I found this provenance really surprising, and incongruous, and it got me thinking about the way books are sometimes produced and kept as trophies, and aren’t necessarily read. That will certainly sound familiar to many book collectors, I expect.

How many books are in your collection?

30-40. Me and my partner, Will, often buy books together, and since we have similar interests there are quite a few jointly owned items, so the collection doesn’t have clear boundaries. 

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

I’m not entirely sure, as I never thought of myself as buying “for a collection”. However, I won an essay prize when I was an undergraduate and was given £30 in book tokens. I used these at Blackwell’s in Oxford to buy an edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost with Gustav Dore’s illustrations. The book is hughe--nearly a metre high. This might not be the first book in the collection that I bought, but it is the most memorable. 

How about the most recent book?

Will and I went to Alton for a literature conference earlier this year, and we bought an illustrated nineteenth-century copy of Edward Young’s poems, and a copy of Tennyson’s In Memoriam bound in leather. We often end up in book shops when visiting a new place.  

And your favorite book in your collection?

Probably my 1758 edition of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, because it is the oldest book I own. It is also one of the only books that I tracked down and purchased on the internet. I don’t do this too often as I like finding things unexpectedly in bookshops. However, my PhD thesis was on eighteenth-century editions of Spenser, so I thought it would be great to own one of them. Doing a PhD on book history also got me more interested in collecting books, and in thinking more about the ones I already own. I kept an eye on eBay and ABE for months, and finally managed to find a 2 volume illustrated Faerie Queene from 1758 for only £40. It’s not in very good condition, but that didn’t matter to me as I was interested in studying its paper, type, and illustrations.

Best bargain you’ve found?

A huge nineteenth-century edition of Byron’s complete poems and plays, containing illustrations, notes, introductions, and even facsimiles of Byron’s handwriting. It’s a big, heavy volume, with an embossed leather spine, marbled covers, and gilt page edges, and it was only £12.50 in Blackwell’s in Oxford. I think this is because it isn’t a particularly “important” edition, in terms of being a first or early edition, or having a notable editor etc. Later editions of authors are exactly what I find interesting, which is very lucky when it comes to buying books!

How about the One that Got Away?

Since I tend to just by books as and when I find them in bookshops, there’s not been anything that really got away. 

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

The 1751 edition of Spenser, illustrated by William Kent. It’s my favourite eighteenth-century edition of Spenser, but I’m sure I’ll never be able to afford a copy. It was a luxury, high end edition in its day, and it still is now.

What is your favorite bookstore?

I like the Oxfam charity shops in Oxford, and the second hand department in Heffers in Cambridge. 

What would you collect if you didn’t collect books?

I don’t think I would collect anything. I’m not really a collecting type. My book collection has arisen out of my studies rather than out of a desire to collect something.
This Gonzo Sword, hand-cast in bronze in 2014, is one of only 100 copies of an art object created in homage to “Gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Offered by Quill & Brush of Dickerson, Maryland, the kooky two-foot long, ten-pound artifact depicts, according to the booksellers, “Thompson’s dual-thumbed, peyote-in-the-palm ‘Gonzo fist,’ first seen on the campaign poster created by Tom Benton when Thompson ran on the ‘Freak Power’ platform for Sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado, in 1970.” It is one of many incredibly cool items for sale at Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair this weekend (booth 206). Check out some more highlights here. See you there!

Image via Quill & Brush.
A protest letter signed by 500 authors and artists has successfully halted Liverpool city plans to close 11 of its 18 branches. The letter described the proposed cuts as a “massacre” and pinpointed children as paying the heaviest cost for the closures.  “The loss would devastate Liverpool,” wrote the supporters. “With recent figures showing that one in three children does not own a book, it seems to us terrifying that even the chance of borrowing a book is about to be taken away from many Liverpool children.”

The letter was signed by children’s laureate Malorie Blackman, poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Caitlin Moran, Jonathan Coe, Alan Gibbons, Cathy Cassidy and Meg Rosoff amongst many others. In addition to producing the protest letter, the campaign held rallies, stitched banners, and garnered international support.

Liverpool had seen a dramatic 58% cut in its government funding.  The Liverpool council said the cut would necessitate a £2.5m loss to the library service provided by the city, primarily in the way of branch closures.

In a statement issued yesterday, however, Liverpool city mayor Joe Anderson announced a reversal of plans.

Cathy Cassidy, young adult author and a primary organizer of the campaign, said in an interview with The Guardian, “I asked people to write ‘love letters to Liverpool libraries’ and send them to Liverpool’s mayor, and hundreds of heart-breaking and uplifting letters flooded in from schoolchildren, families and library users as well as supporters all around the UK - this was devised as a positive, peaceful and non-political way for people to show the council how much the libraries mean to them.”

[Image of Liverpool central library from Wikipedia]
Seen here at left is the iconic book jacket for J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel, The Catcher in the Rye, featuring E. Michael Mitchell’s angry red horse illustration -- or is it? Upon closer inspection, you will note that this Catcher’s author is Richard Prince. And the publisher’s name on the spine is no longer that of Little Brown, but instead something called American Place.

In 2011, Richard Prince, an artist whose paintings have sold at auction for millions of dollars, created this reproduction of the first edition of Catcher in a limited edition of 500 copies.

It was an act of “provocative appropriation,” according to Swann Galleries, which will auction one of the now scarce artist’s books on November 18, for an estimated $800-1,200. Prince sold unsigned copies at the 2011 New York Art Book Fair for several hundred dollars and--unbelievably--hawked them one day on a sidewalk outside New York City’s Central Park for $40. You can read more about this stunt at the Poetry Foundation’s blog.    

Image Courtesy of Swann Galleries. 
“Snow White,” “Rapunzel,” and “Hansel and Gretel;” three stories read and beloved worldwide in a narrative style that has remained unchanged in two hundred years. Evil stepmothers cast out the beautiful Snow White and Hansel and Gretel, while Rapunzel works on a ladder to join her prince. In the first edition from 1812, however, readers are confronted with evil biological mothers wishing their innocent children dead, and Rapunzel is cast from her tower because she is impregnated by her plucky prince. The cleaner, less subversive versions we know are from the seventh edition of tales, published by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in 1857. They are the result of the brothers’ tireless efforts to refine and edit German folk and fairy tales, while the men simultaneously worked to preserve stories that had been part of an oral folk tradition. Now, Princeton University Press has released a translation of the complete first edition, including the Grimms’ preface and notes. Translated and edited by Jack Zipes, professor emeritus of German literature at Minnesota University, these stories capture the varied voices of those people who originally told the Grimms these colorful tales. 
The Grimm brothers were fascinated by what they called “natural poetry” (Naturpoesie), stories passed down from generation to generation. They felt that these ancient folk songs, proverbs and anecdotes were the foundation for German Kuntspoesie (“cultivated literature”). Viewing themselves as literary custodians of the origins of German literature, Jacob and Wilhelm spent years researching and recording stories of the German Volk. Contrary to popular belief, the Grimms did not travel the countryside in search of tales. Rather, they commissioned storytellers to share their stories. A list of contributors indicates the dozens of teachers, ministers, bourgeois women and poor peasants who provided tales.  With so many sources, the brothers often heard variants of the same story, and so included them in their first edition. As a result, there are multiple entries for some tales, such as “Little Red Cap” and  “The Little Magic Table, The Golden Donkey, and the Club in the Sack.”
The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. Image reproduced with permission of Princeton University Press. Illustration ©2014 Andrea Dezsö.

Many folk tales in this edition did not make it to later publications.  Certain stories were too gruesome for young readers and middle-class sensibilities, such as the disturbing “How Some Children Played at Slaughtering.”  Indeed, as the Grimms published subsequent editions, the stories became more literary and refined, retaining the magic but losing some of the more absurd, raw qualities that lend some qualities later seen in work by Kafka. The tales of the 1812 edition are direct, simple, and full of raw emotion. Sometimes the hero (often a downtrodden underdog) doesn’t live happily ever after, if at all. Children are frequently at the mercy of wicked adults, yet these stories belong to a world inhabited by fairies and talking animals, where innocents are tested and, if successful, rewarded for their bravery and honesty. Thoroughly engaging, Zipes’ translations into colloquial American English breathe life into these stories. Award-winning artist Andrea Dezsö’s cut-paper black and white illustrations capture the essence of this strange and enchanting world that will entice fans of mystical realms and those interested in better understanding the Grimms’ enduring influence on literature.

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, translated and edited by Jack Zipes, illustrated by Andrea Dezsö; Princeton University Press, $35.00, 568 pages. (November 5, 2014)

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Kayleigh Betterton of Islington, England:

Where are you from and where do you live now?

I grew up in a small town in rural Northamptonshire but moved to London six years ago to study English Literature at Queen Mary University; I currently live in Islington.

What did you study at University? What do you do now for an occupation?

At university I studied English Literature but whilst I was there I interned at Bloomsbury Auction house. This role involved working with first editions as a junior cataloguer and then authenticating and valuing these items ready for auction. It was during my time at Bloomsbury that I began to extend my book collection. However upon completion of my degree I left Bloomsbury to train as a secondary school English teacher and have now moved on to teach A-level English at a sixth form college in South London. Unable to leave Academia behind however, I’m also studying on the Victorian Studies MA course at Birkbeck College.

Please introduce us to your book collection.  What areas do you collect in?

My collection consists mostly of works by Oscar Wilde or books which are associated with the Aestheticism and Decadence movements. I tend to collect first editions, such as Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, however I’ve recently become interested in privately printed editions and have one of the limited copies of ‘The Portrait of Mr. W.H.’ which was a published in 1904, as well as a privately printed copy of ‘Vera; Or, The Nihilists’ from 1902. My latest desire is to collect the thirteen volumes of the quarterly periodical ‘The Yellow Book’, of which Beardsley was the Art Director. But so far I only have the two.

How many books are in your collection?

In terms of late Victorian works, I probably have in the region of 30 books now and yet I’m on to my fifth floor-to-ceiling bookcase of modern texts. I’m dreading the day when I have to move out of my third-floor flat and carry them all down two flights of stairs!

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

The first book I bought for my collection was purchased unintentionally. It was the first edition of ‘De Profundis’; Wilde’s letter, written during his imprisonment in Reading Gaol, to Lord Alfred Douglas. I was on the lookout for ‘Dorian Gray’ and had been scouring Auction House catalogues for the novel but kept getting distracted by other books in the meantime. Walking through the auction room at Bloomsbury one day, I saw ‘De Profundis’ come up for sale and on a whim, bid for it.

How about the most recent book?

The most recent addition to my collection is the 1912 Bodley Head edition of ‘Salome’, featuring Beardsley’s illustrations. Although it isn’t the purple-wrappered 1893 edition, Beardsley’s illustrations presented too much of a temptation. Although I am currently on the lookout for the 1907 edition with the previously suppressed peacock-feather cover illustration, in gilt.

And your favorite book in your collection?

It has to be ‘Dorian Gray’, and not because it’s my favourite novel, but because of the thrill of the chase and the amount of time it took for me to locate and buy a copy. I waited for two years for the right copy to come up at auction!

I know this must sound sacrilegious to come book collectors but I now use my copy of ‘Dorian Gray’ as a teaching aid. For A-level English Literature, students must be aware of the significance of contextual factors in the production and reception of texts and so to be granted access to the first and early editions of texts they’re studying, or from the era they’re researching, is invaluable. Therefore I deliver lectures and workshops using my collection to give students a real hands-on, materialism-focused approach to analysing texts; I teach them how to ‘read’ books as physical objects and then allow them to interact with the collection themselves.


Best bargain you’ve found?

The first volume of The Yellow Book that I purchased was from a university library sale. I wandered past the sale table and couldn’t help but notice Aubrey Beardsley’s distinct illustrations on the cover. Despite its location it was in remarkably good condition and I picked it up for about £5.

How about the One that Got Away?

Three months after ‘Dorian Gray’ was published by Ward, Lock & Co in 1891, the publishers issued a large-paper deluxe edition of the novel which was signed by Wilde on the limitation page. Only 250 copies of this edition were published.

Throughout my time at Bloomsbury, I only came across two editions of ‘Dorian Gray’, one was a copy of the 1890 Lippincott’s magazine where the story first appeared but the other was one of these deluxe editions. Now whilst it may be inaccurate to say this was the ‘One that got away’ (as I would never have been able to afford the deluxe edition in a million years), I still feel as though I let it slip through my fingers, as there hasn’t been a deluxe edition come up at auction now for some time.

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

I think my above response probably answers this one!

Who is your favourite bookseller / bookstore?

I’m more than likely biased when I say Bloomsbury, having worked there, but I still appear to have sourced most of my collection from the auction house. But if we’re talking about bookstores in general then I love the second hand book store on Church Street in Stoke Newington. They permanently have jazz playing in the background and their literary criticism section always seems to have what I’m looking for.

What would you collect if you didn’t collect books?

Is it cheating if I say bookplates? I know the damage that can be inflicted on the price of a book with an ill-placed bookplate belonging to an unidentifiable owner, and yet I still adore them. I’ve yet to go so far as to collect them by themselves... I still much prefer them to be stuck inside a book!

Blame Johnny Depp. Or maybe Arturo Perez-Reverte, author of the 1993 novel The Club Dumas, which was then adapted into the 1999 film The Ninth Gate, starring Depp as a shady rare book dealer. Either way, we seem to have accepted this idea that the rare book trade is a dark underworld, peopled with deceptive booksellers, maniacal collectors, and greedy forgers. Two new novels pull on this thread in different and engaging ways.

9780802123213 copy.jpgThe Forgers by Bradford Morrow (Mysterious Press, $24) stuns from its first line, “They never found his hands.” A reclusive Long Island collector named Adam Diehl has been murdered. His sister is justly horrified, and her boyfriend, Will, a bibliophile with a talent for literary forgery, avoids telling her some secrets he knew about Adam. But as they begin to move on with their lives, Will receives a series of threatening letters, written in the script of dead authors.          

Morrow, formerly a rare book dealer and currently a collector of first editions and the author of seven previous novels, clearly knows his way around the subject and parlays that expertise into lovely lines about putting his pen nib to “antique leaf, its wire-and-chain lines singing like lyre strings beneath the flowing words.” Roundly praised by all the pre-pub review magazines and a list of literary luminaries (Joyce Carol Oates, Karen Russell, Peter Straub...), Morrow offers a suspenseful plot that coexists with gritty characters and ominous imagery. 

9780525427247_large_First_Impressions.jpgFirst Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen by Charlie Lovett (Viking, $27.95) has a pretty neat premise: someone has stumbled upon the fact that Jane Austen may have stolen the idea for Pride & Prejudice from a tale shared with her by an elderly clergyman. Getting to the bottom of that mystery will involve murder, theft, deceit, assault, and desire. The dual narrative moves back and forth between a Hampshire village at the end of the 18th century, where Austen finds a literary mentor, and present-day London, where recent Oxford graduate Sophie Collingwood is trying to rebuild the library of her recently deceased and beloved uncle and choose between two romantic partners. That is, until she is strong-armed into locating a rare, possibly unique, volume that will discredit Austen.

Lovett is also a book collector and a former antiquarian bookseller (he was featured in our spring issue’s ‘How I Got Started’ column), and this is his second novel, following his 2013 bestseller, The Bookman’s Tale. First Impressions is nimble and entertaining. Austen fans will surely flock to it, as will bibliophilic and publishing history geeks who can’t pass up a novel with characters that include an unknown 18th-century printer and a man who keeps his fabulous family library locked at all times. 


An ongoing copyright case closed on Monday after the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal about Sherlock Holmes stories in the public domain.  The Court left intact a ruling from the seventh US circuit court of appeals that 50 Sherlock Holmes stories published before 1923 are no longer protected by copyright.  An appeal to that ruling had been filed by the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate, but their last-ditch effort to preserve an undoubtedly generous stream of income was denied.  The Estate can, however, still collect royalties on the final 10 Holmes stories, which were published between 1923 and 1927 and remain protected by copyright.

All this hoopla began last year when writer and attorney Leslie Klinger put together an anthology of Sherlock Holmes stories from modern writers.  Klinger was asked by the Conan Doyle Estate to pay a $5,000 licensing fee, which he refused. Klinger then sued the estate and a legal battle ensued.

In the meantime Klinger’s publisher, Pegasus Books, refused to publish the book after threats from the Conan Doyle Estate to stop sales from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Presumably, the book - entitled “In the Company of Sherlock Holmes” - will now move forward with publication.

The case is Conan Doyle Estate v Klinger, US supreme court, No14-316.

[Image from Wikipedia]
M30105-1k copy.jpgThe top lot--and big surprise--at Swann Galleries’ auction of prints and drawings last week was this late fifteenth- or early sixteenth-century manuscript prayer book with hand-colored engravings, after or attributed to Albrecht Dürer and Heinrich Aldegrever. The auction estimate of $3,000-5,000 was blown out of the water by a dealer who finally won it for $100,000 (including premium). The book contains twenty engravings pasted onto vellum pages, each vibrantly decorated in watercolor and gouache--but the buyer must have seen something beyond its beauty...?

Image Courtesy of Swann Galleries.
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