April 2015 Archives

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University has acquired Lisa Baskin’s women’s history collection. Baskin’s collection of approximately 8,600 rare books, as well as manuscripts, journals, ephemera, and artifacts, was one of the most significant women’s history collections in private hands.  The collection, which includes Virginia Woolf’s writing desk, will be absorbed into the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture within the Rubenstein Library.

“I am delighted that my collection will be available to students, scholars and the community at Duke University, a great teaching and research institution,” Baskin said in a Duke University press release. “Because of Duke’s powerful commitment to the central role of libraries, and digitization in teaching, it is clear to me that my collection will be an integral part of the university in the coming years and long into the future. I trust that this new and exciting life for my books and manuscripts will help to transform and enlarge the notion of what history is about, deeply reflecting my own interests.”

Baskin’s collection includes a large selection of letters and manuscripts from anarchist Emma Goldman, correspondence between important suffragists Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Emmeline Pankhurst, and Lucretia Mott, decorated bindings from British binders Sara Prideaux, Katharine Adams, and Sybil Pye, and a manuscript of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s publicity blurb for Narrative of Sojourner Truth.

After the collection is cataloged, it will be available to researchers.  Selected items will also go on display in the Rubenstein Library after it completes a renovation scheduled to finish in August 2015.

[Image of Woolf’s writing desk from Duke University]
library25n-1-web.jpgLate last week the Wall Street Journal reported on a federal investigation of rare book theft. According to New York Public Library (NYPL) officials, eight books--seven bibles published between 1692 and 1861 and Benjamin Franklin’s printshop accounts book, known as “Work Book No. 2”--have been seized pursuant to a grand jury subpoena. The Franklin manuscript book, dating from 1759-1766 and offering a look inside the founding father’s printing partnership with David Hall, would alone be worth more than $1 million.

The NYPL was tipped off to the alleged theft when Doyle New York, an auction house based in Manhattan, alerted library officials in June of 2014 that several books with library markings had come in for appraisal and consignment. The would-be consignor, Margaret Tanchuk of Long Island, New York, said the books had been in her family for nearly three decades. The NYPL explained to Doyle that the contested books had never been deaccessioned and had been illegally removed sometime between 1988 and 1991.   

Tanchuk then offered to sell the items to the NYPL for what library officials called a “significant amount.” The NYPL declined, and Tanchuk initiated legal proceedings to have the books declared hers.

Tanchuk told the New York Daily News that she uncovered the books while putting her mother’s estate in order. Her father, a Long Island jewelry dealer, “developed a network for buying and selling valuable items -- often jewelry, but on occasion other rare and valuable assets as well.” Both parents are now deceased. Tanchuk’s lawyer maintained that his client is “bewildered and horrified that the U.S. Attorney would think for a moment that she would do anything illegal.”

Over at Philobiblos, Jeremy Dibbell turned up an old newspaper account about “Work Book No. 2” showing that the manuscript had been originally discovered in a New Jersey resident’s attic in 1924. The famous book dealer A. S. W. Rosenbach pounced on that rare find and likely sold it to the NYPL soon thereafter. A photocopy of “Work Book No. 2” in the Hall papers at the American Philosophical Society lists the original as belonging to the NYPL.  
While Tanchuk and her counsel acknowledge that NYPL may once have owned the books, they contend that since the library failed to pursue the possibly purloined material sooner, it lost its legal right to the books. Her complaint states: “...not once during those 24-27 years did the NYPL make any effort to claim (or re-claim) the contested items, made no announcement of its loss or misplacement, did not report the contested items missing to the police or any other law enforcement agency, did not make any claim to an insurer and did not generate a single internal document acknowledging the loss or misplacement of the contested items.”

Library officials, however, note that it is not unusual for stolen material to resurface after years or decades from research institutions with collections as vast as the NYPL’s. In a statement released to media, NYPL spokesman Ken Weine said, “This material was evidently stolen from the Library, and now someone is trying to profit from it. We will aggressively work to ensure that this material is returned to the public domain where it belongs.”
Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Gregory Freeman of Surrey, British Columbia who collects the English Reformation.

Where are you from / where do you live? 

Surrey, British Columbia.

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

I entered the book trade at 19 and have been in the business over ten years as a bookstore employee, working for a number of booksellers in that time as cataloguer. Never attended post-secondary. As a self-taught antiquarian I visit rare books libraries (most of them belong to universities) to engage in my hobby -- searching through early printed books for marginalia as I’ve taught myself in English palaeography. I’ve made some fascinating discoveries over the years. But I haven’t bothered to take any courses; Latin would be my first choice.

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

English Reformation period in history, biography, theology, literature, history of the English language, reflecting my own heritage and religion. I also go back to the Anglo-Saxons (as did the Tudors and Victorians) for a better cultural and lingual understanding. Dictionaries--especially the Oxford English Dictionary of which I have the first edition--is another aspect to my collection, with subsidiary publications and a subsection of philologist-theologian Richard Chenevix Trench. Besides printed books (and books-about-books), I also collect handwritten documents of the 13th-19th centuries to indulge in my palaeographical interest. Provenance to a few of my books include the first Duke of Northumberland, Lord Rosebery, and Canadian prime ministers Sir Charles Tupper and Sir John A Macdonald. 

How many books are in your collection? 

About 450 antiquarian books, leaves, and pamphlets; 60 manuscripts on paper and parchment dating back to circa 1270; plus another couple hundred books post-1900.

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

Reading early 20th-century literature at the age of 16-17 sparked the latent antiquarian in me; in senior high school I was already buying cheap Victorian books and sometimes brought them to class. These led to earlier and earlier books, until at the age of 22 in 2007, I acquired my first 16th-17th-century items, A Continuation of Morning-Exercise Questions and Cases of Conscience (1683), followed by Paraphrasis In Psalmos Davidivos (1590), The Gunpowder-Treason (1679), St. Germain’s classic legal text The Dialogue in English (1593), that’s when my serious collecting began. 

How about the most recent book? 

A first edition of bishop John Jewel’s famous Defence of the Apologie for the Churche of Englande (1567), with intriguing marginalia possibly belonging to Stephen Batman the contemporary Elizabethan theologian. 

And your favorite book in your collection? 

A small quarto Bishops Bible printed by Jugge in 1577, bound with The Whole Booke of Psalmes printed by Daye in 1576. It’s bound in early tooled leather over wooden boards, with late Mediaeval MS vellum binder’s waste in gothic lettering (probably cut from a disused breviary) inserted at the front hinge. The Mediaeval fragment is such a splendid commentary on the period : a banned religious service book scrapped for use as binding reinforcement in a Protestant English bible.

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Best bargain you’ve found?

It’s difficult to say which is best, but among them have been a 1561 exemplification document on vellum with Elizabeth I’s great wax seal appended; a near fine copy of John Knox’s Historie of the Reformation of the Church of Scotland (1644); plus the 1577 Bishops Bible above. Also, Herbert Coleridge’s A Glossarial Index (1859), annotated in pen by Frederick J. Furnivall, that I bought online for $40--Coleridge and Furnivall were the two earliest editors of what became the OED.

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How about the One that Got Away?

I try to forget them as best I can. Normally when something sells I consider it fate and move on. I can scarcely afford these things anyhow being a bookstore employee. I’m grateful for what I’ve got. 

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

A 14th-15th-century Wycliffe Bible; a Mediaeval copy of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History ; any book with a previously-unknown Mediaeval music manuscript used as endleaves in the binding. Perhaps a lost copy of Tyndale’s first edition New Testament.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore? 

J. King in Canada has been my favourite for a long time, with Purpora and MacLeod’s Books in Vancouver, plus a number of other Canadian booksellers more recently whom I’ve met at book fairs, such as Bison Books. 

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

I happen to collect music (on CD) composed in England between the 12th-18th centuries, so perhaps if I didn’t collect books and documents my mania would be focused on period musical instruments such as organs, viols, lutes, sackbutts, etc. Religious relics of the Middle Ages would also be fun.
eliot.jpgThis year marks the one hundredth anniversary of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” the starting gun for Modernist poetry, according to some critics. Harvard University (Eliot’s alma mater) is celebrating with an exhibit of the poem’s various forms at the Houghton Library through June 27. Various manuscript and typescript reproductions are displayed alongside multiple printings, from its debut in the June 1915 issue of Poetry magazine to the first edition in book form, Prufrock and Other Observations (1917).

Should it be any surprise that this year, which also marks fifty years since the poet’s death, brings more Eliot-related news? In March the Boston Globe reported that the seven-bedroom house in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where Eliot summered as a child was purchased in late 2014 by the UK-based T.S. Eliot Foundation. The nonprofit plans to turn the $1.3-million seaside home into a writers’ retreat, slated to open in 2016.

9780374279448.jpgA new biography of the Nobel Prize winner is out too. Robert Crawford’s Young Eliot: From St. Louis to The Waste Land, the first of a proposed two-volume account, offers a portrait of the poet as a young man. Reviewers have so far gushed over the book; Booklist, in particular, praised, “It’s hard to imagine a literary biography of greater merit being published this year.”  

Images: T.S. Eliot in the Harvard 1910 Class Album, Courtesy Harvard University Archives, HUD 310.04.5. Young Eliot book jacket via Macmillan.  

Macbeth, the Graphic Novel


This week marks 451 years since William Shakespeare’s birth. While festivities in 2015 may not equal those of the Bard’s quadricentennial, there’s always a steady outpouring of fresh material offering the latest theories about the man, his life, and his work. 

And, since 2007, Shakespeare’s words have been immortalized in comic book form. Macbeth was recently adapted into a graphic novel by acclaimed artist Gareth Hinds, whose previous works include adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, and King Lear. In graphic-novel format, Macbeth is surprisingly easy to follow. Though Hinds plays with the iambic pentameter in order to accommodate speech bubbles by removing most of the line breaks, Shakespeare’s words ring true and clear, and the great soliloquies remain intact, such as the chilling “Is this a dagger which I see before me”.   

Macbeth. Copyright ©2015 by Gareth Hinds. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick PressSomerville, MA

Hinds’ dark and sinister pencil illustrations perfectly capture the claustrophobia and overall anxiety writ on every line of text. An image where Macbeth contemplates his next bloody move shows a shirtless and heavily muscled man in the throes of his malevolent imaginings. A nod, perhaps to Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine from the X-Men comics, which wouldn’t surprise me at all; teenagers are definitely Hinds’ target audience.  Even Banquo has a tattoo. Swimming pools full of blood, sword-fighting, murder, wonderfully witchy-looking sorceresses, personality disorders, and the temptation of evil are all rendered by a deft artist who clearly enjoys his subject. The author’s notes offer illuminating insight into Hinds’ research for this project and page-by-page explanations for some of the details in his illustrations. This psychological thriller is as entertaining in graphic-novel format as onstage, and demonstrates the Bard’s continued endurance. 

Macbeth, a graphic novel adapted and illustrated by Gareth Hinds, based on the play by William Shakespeare; Candlewick Press, $21.99, 152 pages, ages 12 and up. (February 2015) 

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If you happen to be wandering through the Australian bush today, keep an eye open for an antiquarian bookshop operating out of a wool shed.

Antiquarian booksellers across the world are participating in ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers) pop up book fairs. From Sydney to Tokyo to Cape Town, then on to Moscow and the major capitals of Europe, and finally to New York, Chicago, and the Pacific Northwest, these pop up book fairs will celebrate UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day by showcasing rare books in ephemera in unexpected places around the globe.

The pop up book fairs will take place in museums, libraries, private clubs, train stations, museums, brew pups, skyscrapers, and on roof terraces, street corners, and boats. Booksellers will aim to engage passers-by with interesting and curated selections of rare books, prints, manuscripts, and ephemera. 

2015 marks the first time that ILAB has participated in UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day, which celebrates the gift--and human right--of reading. Each pop up book fair will feature a large poster of an empty bookcase.  

In addition to offering items for perusal and sale, the pop up book fairs will solicit donations for UNESCO’s South Sudan project. Symbolic book spines will be “sold” (throughout the day to fill up the bookcase: $3 sends one book a child in South Sudan; $15 purchases a set of 12 school books for a classroom, and $500 provides 45 school book collections for a Sudanese community.

Look for a pop up book fair near you today. You can find a full list of the pop up book fair locations on the ILAB website.

9780062356451.jpgMedieval poet John Gower reprises his unlikely yet likable role as narrator and detective in Bruce Holsinger’s new novel, The Invention of Fire (William Morrow, $26.99). A follow up to last year’s A Burnable Book, this tale begins when sixteen corpses are found clogging a London privy channel. Gross! Holsinger, a medieval scholar at the University of Virginia, revels in this kind of pungent, atmospheric detail. We quickly learn how these poor souls met their gruesome end: “Handgonnes. A word new to me in that moment, though one that would shape and fill the weeks to come. I looked out over the graves pocking the St. Bart’s churchyard, their inhabitants victims of pestilence, accident, hunger, and crime, yet despite their numberless fates it seemed that man was ever inventing new ways to die.”

Gower’s sleuthing sidekick, Geoffrey Chaucer, reappears too, as do the city’s many maudlyns (prostitutes) and crooked officials. As in A Burnable Book, Holsinger succeeds where many historical novelists fail, in the creation of unique characters--e.g., Cripplegate hermit Piers Goodman, boy cutpurse Jack Norris, and steely widow Hawisia Stone--and sharp, approachable dialogue. Holsinger risks flaming (no pun intended) in taking up the history of guns and its attendant violence, even within the framework of a mystery set more than six hundred years ago, and yet his agenda, if he has one, is obscured.

The Invention of Fire is substantial and smart. Those who enjoy historical fiction will delight in its layered, well-researched narrative. 

P.S. Should any reader be interested in the “real” Gower, I spied a 1532 edition of his De Confessione Amantis in Justin Croft’s booth at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair earlier this month.

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Leif Norman of Winnipeg, who collects chemistry and photographic books, as well as books about the history of Winnipeg:

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Where are you from / where do you live?

I grew up in St James and moved to downtown Winnipeg as soon as I was 19.

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

I initially wanted to be a High School Music Teacher, then a Chemistry Teacher, and so I got a 4 year Chemistry degree from the U of W. When I discovered that teaching was akin to babysitting I chose not to get the Education Degree, and because my serious hobby of photography was getting good results I became a photographer. I make all my money with my camera; but I don’t do weddings.

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

I collect 19th century Chemistry texts, anything to do with the History of Winnipeg, including old postcards and matchbooks. I also have a large collection of Photographic books from before the 1950’s because they include the chemical recipes for mixing developers and making your own films.

How many books are in your collection?

There are about 100 books I keep behind glass in a 1930’s cabinet.

leif norman collection byc.jpg

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

The first book I bought which made me think I was actually being an active collector was John William Draper’s 1851 Textbook on Chemistry for Schools and Colleges. Each chapter is a lecture covering very basic Scientific ideas. Anyone can understand it.

How about the most recent book?

The most recent book I bought was “The Growing World, or The Progress of Civilization” from 1885. It is a hodge podge of long and short writings about Astronomy, Exploring in Africa, French Shepherds wearing stilts and much much more. It’s like a Victorian bathroom reader and includes gorgeous illustrations.

And your favorite book in your collection?

My favourite book is the 1st Edition Focal Encyclopedia of Photography from 1956.
It is comically huge with nearly 1300 pages; making it 4 inches thick. I bought it in Toronto and was reading on the VIA rail train back to Winnipeg and everyone was staring incredulously at me with this enormous book.

Best bargain you’ve found?

The best bargain might be a tract by Guy Debord called “Society of the Spectacle” from 1970 Detroit. I have a very small collection of Situationist books and I found this one jammed in a discount box for $5. There is one listed on Biblio for $300 CDN right now.

How about The One that Got Away?

The book that got away would be the one hiding in a corner I never looked in. My girlfriend and I drive to Toronto or Victoria every year and stop in as many vintage, thrift, junk stores along the way searching for treasures, but it’s tiring and I get sloppy. One can only imagine the yard sale that had wonderful things that we never stopped at. Sigh...

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

The Holy Grail for me would be an original Pencil of Nature by Fox Talbot, or something by the French Chemist Lavoisier.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

My favourite book store in Winnipeg is Bison Books. They have great stuff, and appreciate ephemera and the old stuff like I do. In Toronto I always go to The Monkey’s Paw and Balfour Books, and in Victoria BC, Russell Books is an endless bunch of fun.

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

If I didn’t collect books, I would collect mid-century teak furniture, vintage film cameras and Victorian carte de visites, ugly coffee mugs and bizarre vinyls records. Wait, I already do that. I might collect vintage mopeds and scooters if I had all the money and space I wanted.

Nominations for entries in our Bright Young Collectors series can be sent to nathan@finebooksmagazine.com

Coming to auction this week at Freeman’s in Philadelphia is this neat piece of royal (or Revolutionary War) ephemera: a ticket to King George III’s coronation, held “At Mr. Carruther’s in New Palace Yard, Westminster” in 1761. The text is printed with some filled-in bits in manuscript; the red wax seal is present and lovely. The auction house estimate is $600-900, on par with what it made when last seen at auction eleven years ago, when Bonhams London sold it for £549 ($825) at the sale of the Enys Collection of autograph manuscripts. 

Averybook.jpgThe famous Schoenberg Collection of Pre-Modern Manuscripts, a 2011 bequest to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries and valued at about $20 million, will be the subject of a roundtable discussion at the University of Tampa Library, April 19, 2015, at 1:30. Sixty-five selections from the collection were on show from Jan-Feb 2015, at the Selby Gallery, Ringling College of Art & Design.

This event was initiated & organized by Dr. Maureen E. Mulvihill (Princeton Research Forum, Princeton NJ; Vice President, Florida Bibliophile Society).  

Here is her Schoenberg event webpage (mark of the Cuala Press, Dublin, displayed at foot of page) ~

Image: Book of Hours, c. 1475-1500. Courtesy of the Florida Bibliophile Society.

Book Smell for the 21st Century

Ask an antiquarian book collector what a room full of books smells like, and responses will probably include the familiar scents of glue, ink, various types of paper, even mold. “Old Book Smell” even attracted the attention of The Smithsonian Magazine, which ran a story on its blog in 2013 exploring the chemical breakdown of a book’s odeur. (Scientists behind the study deduced that old books emit a “combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness.” 

E-books can’t compete with that unmistakable aromatic, but technology has advanced to the point where new digital books can be infused with scent. Think of the Smell-O-Vision, (a 1960 invention intended to perfume movie theaters) but on a mobile device.  Last year, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup Vapor Communications announced the creation of the oPhone, an app capable of emitting scent that corresponds to digitally written material. Here’s how it works: type an oNote using email or SMS. When the message shows up in the oNotes app, a scent wafts from a Bluetooth-enabled oPhone, which looks like two miniature steel chimneys affixed atop a white and stainless-steel platter. Now that same technology, generally called oMedia, exists for a range of products - oSongs, oClothing, and oBooks made with ‘scent-tagged’ images. 

Right now, there’s only one oBook, a collaborative effort with Melcher Media called Goldilocks and the Three Bears: The Smelly Version. Infused with fruit scents, Goldilocks is designed to encourage children to select healthy snacks like apricots and oranges. 

Goldilocks 3.jpg
image courtesy of Vapor Communications 

None of the various oMedia products are available in stores yet, and attempts to download the oNotes app from the company website were unsuccessful. However, on Saturday, April 18, curious parties can test the Goldilocks oBook at Museum of the Moving Image in New York, where it’s part of an installation called Sensory Stories: An Exhibition of New Narrative Experiences.  Another olfactory exhibit, Memory | Witness of the Unimaginable, opens today at Le Laboratoire in Cambridge, MA. Created by music composer Dániel Péter Biró, master perfumer Christophe Laudamiel, and oMedia creators David Edwards and Rachel Field, installations examine how the combination of scent and sound can transform a sensory experience.

At this rate, oMedia is eerily close to fulfilling Anne of Green Gable’s author L.M. Montgomery’s desire: “I wish we could see perfumes as well as smell them. I’m sure they would be very beautiful.” 

Sensory Stories: An Exhibition of New Narrative Experiences runs from April 18 through July 26 at the Museum of the Moving Image 36-01 35 Ave, Astoria, NY 11106 718 777 6888. More information is at: http://www.movingimage.us/ 

Memory | Witness of the Unimaginable is at Le Laboratoire Cambridge from April 18 through August 26. 650 East Kendall St. Cambridge, MA 02142 info@lelaboratoirecambridge.com Tel: 617-945-7515 http://www.lelaboratoirecambridge.com/#!exhibitions/c5jx

Our Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Liam McGahern of Patrick McGahern Books in Ottawa:

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How did you get started in rare books?
I started working in my fathers shop when I was 12 (1986). I was trying to raise money to go to Europe, on an student exchange with my glass. I’d take the bus downtown after school, and then run errands: deliver parcels to the post office, take out the garbage, get coffee for the other staff, and straighten the shelves...
When did you take ownership of McGahern Books and what do you specialize in?
When you work in a family business, you never really take ownership... My father started in 1969, and I started full time in 1999 when I finished university. We still work together.
We specialize (and publish catalogues) in 18th and 19th century books that relate to Canada (and North America) and the Arctic. We also specialize in fishing and angling, and Irish History and Literature.
What is a typical day for you?
Every day is different. Mostly though, I arrive at our office downtown, go through usual checking emails, returning calls, and then spend most of the day wrapping and shipping orders and cataloguing books.
What do you love about the book trade?
I’ve always loved business. All of my grandparents ran businesses, and I think it is really ingrained deep in my DNA.

I love the variety of the book trade. Every copy of every book is different, and every customer is  different.  If I sold car batteries, I probably would have gone crazy along time ago. Booksellers are constantly learning new things, discovering lost treasurers. Many Canadians are very passive about their history. I believe that I’m helping promote and preserve Canada’s history and heritage, by doing what I do, and I take pride in that.
Favorite rare book (or ephemera) that you’ve handled?
In 2014 we sold off the Franklin Search Collection of Bertram Plimer, one of the finest collections in private hands. It took over a year to catalogue. The catalogue which contained 460 items over 160 illustrated pages has become a reference book in itself. You know when other dealers are willing to pay for your catalogue, you’ve done something right. My father was responsible for 90 percent of the work, but it was thrilling just to be involved with it.
What do you personally collect?
I collect books about a small part of the Ottawa River where my family is from. Samuel Champlain and Alexander Mackenzie both paddled up that river.  There is very little about the area, which makes collecting a challenge... and more fun. I also have a Salinger collection which I started as a teenager. Its grown a bit stale though, as I can’t afford to buy and keep the few things I don’t have.
Thoughts on the present state and/or future of the rare book trade?
I’m not too worried about the next 20 years. The market is changed greatly, but collectors keep collecting, and great copies keep selling. The internet has changed the world forever, and we can’t turn the clock backward. It’s a bit sad to see the bottom end books disappear, but not much we can do about it. Markets change, and you need to be able to react to them. Nobody know what the future holds, so why worry? 

Collecting is ingrained in human nature. I believe its always been about having it, owning it. This hasn’t changed.  
Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?
We’ll be exhibiting at the Toronto Antiquarian Book Fair in November of 2015, and our local fair as well. We currently have a Polar, Early Canadian, Irish History and Angling catalogues all in the works.

Nominations for entries in our Bright Young Booksellers series can be sent to nathan@finebooksmagazine.com
9781616892562.jpgJust in time for Tax Day, Harley J. Spiller, aka Inspector Collector, releases Keep the Change: A Collector’s Takes of Lucky Pennies, Counterfeit C-Notes, and other Curious Currency (Princeton Architectural Press, $19.95). In this upbeat and quirky account, Spiller shares his passion for mutilated money. “Mint” may appeal to most collectors, but Spiller prefers patina--misprinted bills and discolored dimes. Much like a collector of imperfect books, Spiller considers use, even damage, worthy of study and appreciation. He writes, “I thrill to the serendipitous discovery of mangled money, whether it is coaxed out of its camouflage within a muddy tree bed or dusty corner or found smack in the middle of a road.” 

Skimming the history of penny production, banknote engraving, and artists who alter dollars and cents (Mark Wagner among them), Keep the Change is slim and selective, e.g., when one thinks of maimed coins, what comes directly to mind are those decorative, elongated pennies cranked out of machines in touristy locales, and yet, they make only a brief appearance in the book’s illustrated glossary. (What is the history of those souvenirs? Does Spiller collect them?) And yet its 112 pages are packed with fascinating facts, colorful illustrations, and zippy writing. Those with an interest in money (and presumably, that’s just about everyone) will find it enjoyable.  

Photo Courtesy Princeton Architectural Press
Thumbnail image for turing3.pngLast week we profiled a composition book written by Alan Turing during WWII while he was leading British codebreaking efforts at Bletchley Park. Yesterday, that composition book was sold at Bonhams for over $1 million (including buyer’s premium) to a bidder in the room who wished to remain anonymous. The manuscript--containing 56 handwritten pages from Turing as he reflected upon Descartes and Leibniz--is believed to be the only extensive Turing manuscript in existence. The composition book sold in just over two minutes of bidding.

“What I really, really hope for is that a collector buys it and makes it available to an institution, at least loans it for a few years and makes it available to scholars,” said Cassandra Hatton, Bonham’s History of Science and Technology director (and early entry in our Bright Young Booksellers series) to AFP. Bonhams is not alone in that desire, although the future of the manuscript remains uncertain at present.

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At the same auction, an actual German Enigma machine from WWII sold for $269,000, blowing through its estimate of $140,000-180,0000. The fully functional Enigma machine also sold to an in-person attendee who wished to remain anonymous.

Bonhams said that a portion of the proceeds from these sales will be donated to charity.

Images Courtesy of Bonhams.

Over the past weekend, New York City hosted three antiquarian book fairs. I set out to cover as much ground as possible -- perusing booths, meeting booksellers and collectors, and, inevitably, keeping an eye out for books to add to my collection(s).

Cassidy.JPGFirst stop: The ABAA’s 55th annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair on Thursday evening and Friday. As glamorous as ever, this fair never disappoints. The art headlining Brian Cassidy’s booth (above), executed by an anonymous graffiti artist who promotes literacy, would make a fine advertisement for the fair overall -- boundlessly appealing books, artwork, and ephemera that you simply can’t find anywhere else. Take for example, what was noticed under the glass at F.A. Bernett Books of Boston, Massachusetts: a collection of vintage lady’s hair fashion ephemera. A retro curling iron accompanied by an accordion-style booklet “12 Minutes with the Marcelwaver -- Makes a Perfect Wave” and several action shots of a young woman curling her hair with the Branford Scrapbook.jpg“amazing new French invention.” Or this (left) scrapbook of newspaper clippings of murders, murder trials, and executions in 1892 and 1893, offered by Michigan’s Garrett Scott. The crime clippings were compiled by William Branford, who then presented it to the Chicago Police in 1903. Ralph Sipper of Santa Barbara, California, showed me two lovely first editions and one offprint of the work of New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell; it was the association copy of Old Mr. Flood (1948) bearing Mitchell’s inscription to longtime New Yorker editor William Shawn that really wowed me. New Jersey’s Between the Covers garnered some attention on Twitter for its Kathy Acker archive. Props to California’s Ben Kinmont Bookseller, purveyor of antiquarian books on gastronomy, who printed an eye-catching limited edition broadside of his fair offerings on pale pink paper.

Seen below is George Koppelman of New York’s Cultured Oyster Books showing me a diminutive Charles Bukowski book, purchased in the 1960s for $1, which has proven to be an excellent investment. He shared a booth with Dan Wechsler of Sanctuary Books, also based in Manhattan. The two made headlines a year ago when they announced their discovery of Shakespeare’s own dictionary. Indeed CBS was filming at the booth just before I got there (an update on the Shakespeare, Wechsler said, is soon forthcoming).

Koppelman.jpgSecond stop: The Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair, run by Flamingo Eventz. In terms of traffic, one could not ask for a better location than this one on 66th and Lexington, virtually one block from the ABAA fair. And Saturday morning was busy! At Eastside Books & Paper of New York, NY, I paged through a very cool pen-and-ink sketchbook of “Ugly Faces” by artist William Cruickshank, circa 1880s. I was glad to make the acquaintance of John Kuenzig of Kuenzig Books of Topsfield, Massachusetts, who specializes in books and artifacts in science and technology. He was offering a first edition of Alan Turing’s paper, The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis (1954), a prelude of sorts to the Turing manuscript at auction this afternoon. The Fine Press Book Fair within the larger fair was buzzing, and I bumped into our book art columnist Richard Minsky, who praised the work of New York City’s Intima Press.

Bell.jpgThird stop: The New York City Book & Ephemera Fair, run by Marvin Getman of Impact Events, Inc. The venue, St. Ignatius Loyola Church at 980 Park Avenue, was roomy and bright. Wilfrid M. de Freitas of Quebec showed, as always, a variety of great antiquarian books. Brooklyn’s Honey & Wax had the prettiest velvet and silk-embroidered binding (on a 1902 illustrated dictionary). Different Drummer Books of Niantic, Connecticut, offered a first edition of Thoreau’s Cape Cod (1865) that my husband could not pass up. Me, I was tempted to pick up a first edition of J.B. Mattison’s The Treatment of Opium Addiction (1885) from Brooklyn Books, but found instead a better fit (above) for my collection of illustrated surgical books in the booth of Cooperstown, New York, dealer Willis Monie: The Principles of Surgery, abridged by J. Augustine Smith, written by John Bell (New York, 1810).

In between the fairs, I took a 90-minute spin around the Grolier Club’s exhibit on Italian Renaissance printer Aldus Manutius, which was fabulous. If you haven’t seen it, get there before it closes on April 25.

So ends another successful Rare Book Week

Photo credits: Rebecca Rego Barry, except Koppelman photo, credit: Brett Barry.

New York Book Week’s Latest Addition

New York’s Rare Book Week just got better. Saturday April 11 marks the arrival of the New York Book and Ephemera Fair, taking up temporary residence at Wallace Hall at St. Ignatius Church, barely a mile from the Park Avenue Armory site for the Antiquarian Book Fair (NYABF). Organizing the event is Massachusetts-based Impact Events Group, which, since 1981, has coordinated affordable satellite book and antiques shows to coincide with marquee events. (Such as the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair.) Tickets are $15 at the door, and savvy shoppers who purchase online receive a five dollar discount. (In comparison, admission to Antiquarian Book Fair is $20 per day.)  Since the Book and Ephemera Fair is a one-day event, visitors interested in attending this fair and the NYABF on the same day should start the morning at Wallace Hall, then take the free shuttle to the Armory in time for the NYABF’s noontime opening.

One of the exhibitors at the Book and Ephemera Fair is Mark Brumberg, owner of Boomerang Booksellers in Northampton, Massachusetts. Brumberg is exhibiting at both the Book and Ephemera Fair and The Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair, both organized by Impact Events, because “the shadow shows are the biggest draws for us,”  he said. “I also think Marvin Getman (president of Impact Events) is a great promoter. He knows how to bring awareness to the shows.”  Brumberg specializes in modern firsts, limited editions, poetry, as well as in Pioneer Valley artists and authors such as Eric Carle, Barry Moser, and Jane Yolen. His limited edition, signed copy of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, illustrated by Barry Moser will be available at the Fair this weekend. Published in 1985 by Moser’s own Pennyroyal Press, this is one of 350 numbered volumes, signed by the illustrator and housed in a cloth clamshell box, and priced at $2,500.  Brumberg is also bringing  a beautiful first American trade edition of Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle, published in 1905 by Heinemann and Doubleday. Complete with fifty-one color plates by Arthur Rackham, this classic, in very good condition, is available for $485. 

Image courtesy of Boomerang Books.

Moser is famous for using lots of models for his work, including himself. Image courtesy of Boomerang Books.

Will you be attending the New York Book and Ephemera Fair? Share your finds with us! For more information about this show, and to purchase a discounted ticket, visit www.bookandpaperfairs.com.

New York Book and Ephemera Fair April 11, 2015 Saturday 8am-4pm Wallace Hall at St. Ignatius Loyola Church 980 Park Ave. (between 83-84 sts) New York

image courtsey of Boomerang Books
Bonham’s is offering British codebreaker Alan Turing’s composition book at auction on April 13th.  The previously unknown wartime manuscript, consisting of 56 pages of mathematical and logical notes from Turing, is likely the only extensive manuscript by Turing in existence.  An extreme rarity as such, Bonham’s has not released an official estimate for the lot.

Alan Turing was the pivotal figure in British WWII codebreaking, leading the efforts at Bletchley Park that solved the German Enigma codes and significantly aided Allied war efforts. By solving the Enigma codes, Turing and his crew probably shortened WWII by two to four years.  His work in early computing was essential as well and he is considered the father of computer science. Turing was recently featured in the award-winning film The Imitation Game, where he was portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch.

From Bonham’s lot description for Turing’s composition book, “The manuscript sheds light on the problems that were of fundamental importance to Turing’s work in the field of computer science, including deep issues in the foundations of mathematics such as the interpretation of symbols, and his quest to develop a universal language with the aim of allowing mathematics to be executed by machines rather than people. More than anything, the manuscript sheds light on Turing’s great potential, giving us a glimpse into the types of work that he might have gone into had his life not tragically been cut short.”

Turing committed suicide - or possibly died from accidental poisoning - when he was only 41 years old.

Bonham’s is also offering a German Engima machine - the source of the codes solved by Turing - at the same auction (lot 2), which is estimated at $140,000 - $180,000.

The Bonham’s auction is one of several major auctions occuring during Rare Book Week in New York City.

Les Enluminures Liesborn copy.jpgDuring Rare Book Week in New York City, you can see many treasures on exhibit and for purchase. One of the oldest among them--if not the oldest--is the Liesborn Gospel Book, a tenth-century parchment manuscript in a fifteenth-century wood-carved binding. Les Enluminures, a gallery on 73rd Street, presents the Ottonian manuscript within the larger Idda Collection of sixteen early biblical manuscripts.

In 1945, the Liesborn Gospel was described as “one of the most valuable manuscripts of the gospels in private hands.” It has been privately held since then, and the last time it was on the market was 1987. Said dealer Sandra Hindman in a video produced by TEFAF, “In 23 years, I think this is the most unique and extraordinary manuscript that I’ve brought to the fair. Maybe one of the most unique I’ve ever owned.” The price is $6.5 million.

An opening reception for the Idda Collection will be held tonight at Les Enluminures from 6-9 p.m. After that, the exhibition will be up and available for viewing Tuesday-Saturday until May 2.

What else can you see while in town this week & weekend? Check our listing of 12 great exhibits to enjoy!

Image: Courtesy of Les Enluminures. 
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Over 100 original, unpublished illustrations for Sir Walter Scott’s novels--by an unknown artist--are heading to the New York Antiquarian Book Fair this week with British bookseller Simon Beattie. Commissioned by noted print collector E. W. Martin sometime in the 1830s, the 108 illustrations are watercolor and gouache paintings on card. 

“They’re exquisite,” said Beattie about the illustrations. “It’s particularly fascinating to see one artist’s take on all Scott’s novels. The artist was very talented--particularly good at light--the scenes with moonlight or fire are especially fine.”

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But who this talented artist was remains a mystery. For his part, E. W. Martin was purposefully, almost boastfully, opaque in his note on the front free endpaper:

“The collection of Drawings was done for me expressly & under my direction. No other exists. There may be a few duplicates of some, as I had such I did not deem sufficiently good, or well portraid to be done again in a somewhat different way and alterations made & when done I selected those I preferred in execution ... The Artist is dead, consequently no more can be had. He died within a few Weeks, after completing the set, from Waverley to Castle Dangerous, 27 Tales in all ...”

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The paintings are on offer from Beattie for $22,500 at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair this weekend.
267808-1.jpgIn blue ink on blue paper, author Ayn Rand proclaims her passion for philately. The heavily corrected autograph manuscript of her article,  “Why I Like Stamp Collecting,” touts the hobby as “a miraculous brain-restorer.” Jacques Minkus’ Stamp Journal published Rand’s piece in 1971.

Rand began collecting at the age of ten but was forced to give it up when she fled the Russian Revolution. She returned to philately later in life, enjoying the fraternity of collectors, the thrill of the hunt, and the aesthetics of fine stamps. It is, the famous novelist writes, an occupation for “busy, purposeful, ambitious people.” No doubt she would have described herself much the same way.    

The 16-page manuscript, along with a copy of the published article, is one of the highlights at this week’s New York Antiquarian Book Fair. It will be offered by James Cummins for $7,500. The book fair opens on Thursday evening and runs through the weekend.

Image via James Cummins Bookseller.

Self-Sanitizing Books in the Digital Era

Français : Pape Clément IV (Fresque de la Tour...

Français: Pape Clément IV (Fresque de la Tour Ferrande à Pernesles Fontaine, Vaucluse, France) Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Thomas Bowdler is alive and well, residing comfortably in tablets and e-readers across the globe. 

For as long as people have been writing, there have been groups dedicated to keeping words and phrases away from the public. English physician Thomas Bowdler began his crusade to expurgate objectionable verses from both Shakespeare and Gibbon in the 1800s, but he wasn’t the first to impose his views of good taste on others--church censorship goes back centuries, such as when Pope Clement IV ordered the Jews of Aragon to submit all written work to Dominican censors prior to dissemination in the thirteenth century.

Today, the internet is full of filters and other mechanisms to block content. It’s not news that China employs such filters on its ISPs--insiders call it “The Great Firewall”--it’s more startling when expurgation happens on home turf, where freedom of speech supposedly reigns. In 2011 English professor Alan Gribben sanitized a new edition of Huckleberry Finn, replacing the pejorative term for a black man--which appears over 200 times in the book--with “slave,” rationalizing tampering with Twain’s classic in his introduction as as way to “spare the reader from a racial slur that never seems to lose its vitriol.”

Even at college campuses across the country, professors are prefacing literature with so-called “trigger warnings” (often at the request of students, no less) when reading course material containing explicitly violent, sexual, or otherwise upsetting verbiage. In one example, an internal memo from Oberlin College in Ohio suggested professors flag any material containing elements of “classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism (bias against the transgendered), ableism (bias against the handicapped), and other issues of privilege and oppression.” There was much backlash, and the college eventually backed away from the proposal. Still, there are plenty other schools accommodating student requests by including warnings on syllabi, and shielding students from material that might make them uncomfortable.

As of January, readers needn’t rely on academics or clerics to clean up their literature--there’s an app for that. For free, consumers can download “Clean Reader” through the Apple Store or Google Play. Once installed, the app promises a sanitized version of any e-book available for purchase. Clean Reader’s press release explains the process: “Clean Reader delivers the opportunity of reading any book without being exposed to profanity. By selecting how clean they want their books to appear, readers are presented the content of a book without offensive words and phrases. To preserve the context of the book, an alternative word with the same general meaning is available for each instance where a word is blocked from display.”

Readers can even select just how devoid of profanity they want their book; levels are categorized as Clean, Cleaner, and Squeaky Clean.  I spoke with Kirsten Maughan, co-developer of the application, who said that the product has already been downloaded about 1,000 times, in every state in America and eighty countries. “People seem to like it, but we’ve heard from both sides,” she said. After our brief chat, Maughan called back, wishing to make clear that the Clean Reader app does not violate copyright laws - it doesn’t actually change the text, it merely allows readers to self-sanitize as they wish. “We had a lot of lawyers look at it. They say we aren’t violating author copyrights, and we are not censoring books. Users can even turn off the Clean Reader if they want. It’s just a filter.”

Is Clean Reader any different than the act of excising text in a physical book?  Perhaps not. Clean Reader doesn’t permanently change a text, but it does point to a larger trend at work, where readers of e-books stand on shifting sands of permanence in an ever-increasingly pixelated literary landscape. Should we be more troubled that readers are volunteering to avoid potentially squeamish material in the name of comfort? How much pleasure, inspiration, or cause for discussion (and education) is lost when a reader selects a Squeaky-Clean version of a text because of the potential to offend?  I’m reminded of that oft-repeated phrase from Thomas Gray’s poem “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College” (1742): “Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise.”

Our Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Aimee Peake of Bison Books in Winnipeg:


How did you get started in rare books?

Twenty years ago this fall, I was 19 and taking Philosophy at University. Out for coffee with friends one evening, I saw a “Help Wanted” sign in the window of the adjacent used bookstore, so I went in the next morning armed with my resume and idealism. I’d happened upon one of Canada’s well-respected antiquarian bookstores, Greenfield Books. In my first year there, I vividly remember moving the shop to a new location, painting and assembling bookcases, and hauling countless loads of books. Trial by fire! I worked there on and off for years, inching along in my apprenticeship as I worked on my degree and came and went from the city. In 2001, the proprietor offered me the management position at the new shop he was about to open: Bison Books. I had my run of the place! I enjoyed the independence and responsibility and wanted more of both, so I became a partner in the business in 2007 then assumed sole proprietorship in 2010.

When did you take ownership of Bison Books and what do you specialize in?

I am a generalist, so I specialize in whatever comes through the door! I have a busy open shop in the heart of downtown Winnipeg and I love the daily challenge of filling the shelves with fresh, high-quality, wide-ranging stock, including everything from fine bindings, collectable and antiquarian books, through to quality contemporary literature, art, children’s, and everything in between. If I acquire a collection of cookbooks, well, that’s my specialty for the week! I also specialize in customer service, as I think the old-fashioned personal touch not only makes my days more fulfilling, but also gives customers a sense of belonging. 

What is a typical day for you?

First thing, I get a cup of something warm, put on some good music and sift through the email to enjoy all the orders, catalogues, and correspondence from clients new and old. New and long-time customers file through over the course of the day, to chat and/or browse: a welcome interruption from my paperwork! I handle all aspects of the business, attending to my social media accounts (I’ve been growing the Instagram @bison_books, which has been fun!), accounting, shipping & receiving, collections development, and of course acquisitions: every day, new books come in - or I leave the shop in the hands of my staff to go dig through basements and attics to uncover forgotten gems and restore them to their rightful place in society. Sometimes I tend to the backlog of acquisitions, and sometimes I make it worse. Inevitably I leave before the work is done, otherwise I would never get home!

What do you love about the book trade?

I love the books, and the customers, and the challenge of running a business. I love the daily possibility of discovery - of anything from a book of poems I know will garner a smile from a particular customer, up to a breathtakingly-illustrated antiquarian treasure to enrich the day. I love that every day, I feel a sense of community as customers turn into friends. I love characters who are attracted to bookstores. I have been taking forays into Collections Development work with a few clients, and I love having the opportunity to follow them into their niche, pour over catalogues with them in mind, quote them on items I see, and share in the excitement when we peel open the packaging on their newest acquisitions!

Favorite rare book that you’ve handled?

I remember working at Greenfield Books about 15 years ago, on a collection of Nonesuch Press books. There was a turquoise vellum Herodotus that took my breath away. It was out of range for me, and I remember/rue the day it sold. More-recently, I was working with one of my favorite customers, who collects 16th century books. When he opened up the front of his bookcase to reveal his stunning collection, I was filled with hope and awe, feelings that intensified as I leafed through a few of his breathtaking, important books: tangible examples of history, appropriately revered and painstakingly cared-for. For a little while, all was well in the world.

What do you personally collect?

A book can catch my eye for several of reasons: the author, binding, illustrations, content, etc., but my pulse quickens when style meets substance. Sometimes I’ll take a favorite item home with me, unless I know of another good home for it! I am the consummate dealer that way: I am happy when I can find the right placement for any book, be it my house or any other. I also help run the family antique/art auction business, so I really have to be diligent not to bring too much stuff home. Easy come, easy go.... most of the time, anyway!

Thoughts on the present state and/or future of the rare book trade?

I can’t imagine the uncomplicated practicality of the book’s perfect technology ever reaching obsolescence! Many of us will always relish the simple sensory pleasures of turning a page. Some books have lost their relevance, but at the same time books are gaining value as Objects. Vellum bindings, hand-coloured plates, handmade rag papers and the like will always gain ground and provide a living to those of us who remain quick on our feet. And there will always be a core of loyal intellectuals who want to preserve and grow our collective cultural knowledge, and thus continue to patronize the time-honored tradition of the bricks-and-mortar bookstore.

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

I plan to do one of the Canadian fairs this fall - either returning to the Vancouver Fair if it happens, or wetting my feet at the Toronto ILAB fair. As for catalogues, I don’t have any firm plans at the moment, though I make customized catalogues on request, and I regularly post photos of new acquisitions on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the blog on my website!

Nominations for entries in our Bright Young Booksellers series can be sent to nathan@finebooksmagazine.com

M31162-1 copy.jpgComing up at Swann Galleries’ April 9 auction of rare books is volume 1 of Cicero’s Orationum volumen primum (1543), the contemporary calf binding of which shows the gilded ownership badge of Queen Elizabeth I: a crowned falcon holding a royal scepter. She adopted the falcon in honor of her mother, Anne Boleyn. Books from QE1’s personal library are exceedingly scarce, and this one contains some early marginalia too. The estimate is $8,000-12,000.

Image: Courtesy of Swann Galleries.

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