August 2015 Archives

Doctrina Breve page copy .jpgTypically when we talk about the oldest “American” book, we are referring to the Bay Psalm Book, printed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1640 (and it is, incidentally, the current record-holder for most expensive printed book sold at auction). To some, that statement is Anglocentric; if we instead take a Pan-Americanist view and eye the entire continent, we find in Mexico City a book printed nearly a century before the Bay Psalm Book. Perhaps it is safest to grant that this volume, Doctrina breve, is the oldest surviving book printed in the Americas*. According to Dorothy Penn’s 1939 article, “The Oldest American Book,” Mexico had a working printing press by 1539, and “from the Mexican press came various booklets in Spanish on the Christian faith, intended for the instruction of Indian converts.” The first full-length book, Doctrina breve, written by the first bishop of Mexico, Juan de Zumárraga, appeared in 1544.  

Beginning tomorrow, September 1, Doctrina breve will be on exhibit at the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia in an exhibit titled “Catholics in the New World: A Selection of 16th-18th Century Texts.” Featured alongside will be the oldest book published in South America, Doctrina Christiana, printed in Lima in 1584; an eighteenth-century Mexican book containing 2,624 anagrams of the angel’s greeting to Mary; and prayer books and catechisms translated into Native American languages from across the Americas, including Aymara, Zapotec, and Montagnais.  

Will Pope Francis get a glimpse of these rare tomes while in Philadelphia in late September? It’s not on the official schedule. You, however, can see them through January 30, 2016.

Image Courtesy of the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

*An earlier version of this post reported that Doctrina breve was the oldest surviving book printed in the Western Hemisphere. Some friends in the UK disagreed, as the Prime Meridian separating East from West slices through England, leaving part of England and several other European countries in the Western Hemisphere--and they were printing before 1544.

Archie Andrews: Looking Good at 75

After seventy-five years, Riverdale’s perennial heartbreaker Archie Andrews got a major makeover. Archie Comics tapped Eisner Award winner Mark Waid (“Daredevil” series) and “Saga” illustrator Fiona Staples to revamp characters who have remained virtually unchanged since their appearance in 1941. The updated look debuted at ComicCon in July, and there’s no mistaking it, Archie is a hot dude. The cover shows young Mr. Andrews stepping out of his (slightly messy) car, looking happily off scene, hair perfectly coiffed, jean jacket tousled just so. Put him in a suit and swap the jalopy for a limo, and you can almost hear the squeals of delight from girls waiting behind velvet ropes for their favorite teen heartthrob to arrive at his movie premiere. Everything screams sexy all-American dreamboat. And why not? He’s been dangling poor Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge along for almost a century, he ought to look the part of handsome stud. It’s not just Archie; everyone is really, really, ridiculously good-looking in the update. (The second issue cover shows a particularly forlorn but beautiful Betty, trying to decide which rebound outfit to wear.) This first issue is an origin tale of sorts, where Archie and Betty have been longtime sweethearts until the mysterious “lipstick event” tears them apart. While the lovebirds are separated, the billionaire Lodges move into town, and though we don’t meet Veronica in issue 1, she’s sure to turn heads shortly.
Archie Cover.JPG
Looking good, my man. (Photo credit: Barbara Richter)
Archie and cast: The Adventures of Archie Andr...

You’ve come a long way, Archie. Archie and cast: The Adventures of Archie Andrews, 1947. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As with most makeovers of major brands, there are significant financial reasons behind Archie’s stronger chin and dreamy eyes. In a Publisher’s Weekly  interview last year, Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater said that the new look keeps the characters relevant and also feeds Archie book sales, which account for a major portion of the company’s revenue. Goldwater noted in the article that bookstore sales of Archie titles have increased 736% since 2008, reflecting the publisher’s introduction of over fifty new titles from 2010-2014.  The company has big plans for 2016, with a TV special, a musical, and more book events to celebrate 75 years and over 2 billion issues sold. Not bad for a freckle-faced teenaged Casanova.

Related articles
Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Anne Steptoe, who recently won the Essay Prize at the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest. Anne collects 20th century Southern literature:

fuqua scrubs pic.jpg
Where are you from and where do you live?

I grew up in the small town of Charles Town, WV. After a decade in the Northeast, I  returned to the South last year and now live in Durham, NC.
What do you study at University?

I was a Classics and English major as an undergraduate at Harvard, focusing on late Republican Latin literature’s influence on twentieth-century Southern literature. After graduation, I made the hard decision to veer away from academia to a career that would allow me to help shape the landscape of the modern South more actively. So, I went on to medical school at Brown University and am now enrolled in business school at Duke University.
Please introduce us to your book collection.  What areas do you collect in?

I started collecting twentieth-century Southern literature in college, as an extension of my academic research. I wrote my senior thesis on the Fugitive poets, and their work remains the cornerstone of my collection. I’ve always been inspired by the notion that a small, ragtag band of Vanderbilt scholars and were among the first to insist that Southern literature should not be a sentimental, apologist look at Southern history. This “small” effort would catalyze an entire generation and revitalize the literature of the South. I’ve expanded my collection over the years to reflect the catalyst moment the Fugitives represent. So I also collect many of the Fugitives’ contemporaries and successors, including William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Katherine Anne Porter, William Styron and their peers.
How many books are in your collection?

Approximately 110 first and early editions, with roughly a third dedicated from Southern literature and the remainder from other modern (mainly 20th century) American and British literature and poetry. I cannot pass up a classic book by an author I love when I come across it, and my collection is a reflection of that.

DukeLibrary_Display.jpgWhat was the first book you bought for your collection?

My first real find was a first edition of Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men - though it’s probably more accurate to say that the book found me. I was living in Boston at the time and got caught without an umbrella in a rainstorm. I happened to walk by a thrift store, and stepped inside for shelter. I was browsing the book section to pass the time when the book caught my attention. It stood out at first because it was older than everything else around it, and very quickly because it was a small piece of home transplanted far from the South. I knew I had to have it, even before I fully understood what I’d found. From there, I was hooking on the collecting experience.
How about the most recent book?

I recently purchased a signed first edition of Katherine Anne Porter’s translation of a French song-book. It’s something I might have passed up in my early years of collecting because, although it’s a rare edition, it’s not traditional literature. However, the longer I collect and grow to know these authors’ bodies of work, I learn details that endear me to these unusual finds. It turns out, for example, that Porter used the songbook project as a way to bridge a period of writers’ block, with some of her most successful work immediately following it. I’ll refrain from the cliché about books and their covers, but I think it applies.
And your favorite book in your collection?

One of my favorites has to be my copy of Allen Tate’s biography-novel of the Confederate general Stonewall Jackson. The novel itself struggles immaturely at achieving the Fugitive’s new complex, non-apologetic telling of Southern history and wasn’t a particularly successful effort. However, my copy belonged to the Southern publisher and thought leader, Louis Rubin.  Rubin served as a kind of adviser and compass to many of the authors in my collection, and having his copy of one of the earlier efforts at modern Southern literature is particularly special to me. But I’d be remiss not to mention my first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird - to every girl who grew up in the South and loved to read and write, that piece of history is like having a talisman on your bookshelf.
Best bargain you’ve found?

By monetary value, probably my copy of All the King’s Men. However, because I collect twentieth-century Southern literature, I’ve been fortunate to find many of my valuable pieces at thrift stores at bargain prices.
How about The One that Got Away?

I regret not purchasing more or the rest of Louis Rubin’s Fugitive collection when I ran into it at a used bookstore in New Orleans. I was a recent college graduate and reluctant to invest significant money in my new collecting hobby. But the decision haunted me so much that I went back to the bookstore on my next trip to New Orleans, only to find them vanished. Most recently, I was on vacation in Ireland and drove to a small town chasing down a relatively inexpensive copy of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury I’d seen online. I got there about five minutes after their closing time on the last day of my vacation - I guess I’ll just have to go back to Ireland now.
What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

I’m still a little bitter about my missed copy of The Sound and the Fury, as it’s my favorite Faulkner novel and, in my mind, the pinnacle of the Southern writing style for which the Fugitives advocated. I’ve also shamelessly neglected Carson McCullers in my collecting, though she’s one of my favorite Southern writers. But the real Holy Grail, from a personal collecting perspective, would have to be the first edition of the Fugitive magazine - the beginning of it all.
Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

A few favorite bookstores, for different reasons. For rare books and its sheer magnitude, I’ve always loved the Strand in New York. For keeping me in used paperbacks and continually reading, I’m grateful to the Harvard Book Store and the Brookline Booksmith in Boston, and Books for America in Washington DC. And I’d be a broke collector if it weren’t for the many small thrift stores and library sales I’ve visited over the years. There’s an extra thrill of finding and rescuing a first edition book among shelves of dingy mass market paperbacks that is hard to replicate even in the best used bookstore.
What would you collect if you didn’t collect books?

Art, especially late 19th century and early 20th century painting (I have a soft spot for the Pre-Ralphelite art since reading associated writers’ work). Or perhaps Roman and Greek artifacts, if I had an unlimited budget and there weren’t complicated ethics around collecting those items.
Coming up for auction next week is, according to the auctioneer, an “apparently unpublished” letter and poem from the hand of American expatriate poet Ezra Pound. Offered by Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh, Scotland, the autograph letter (with envelope dated April 21, 1909) was sent to Mrs. Isabel Konody, later known as Isabel Codrington, a painter whose circle of friends in London included many poets and artists. Pound was new to the scene, having moved to London only the year before and still finding his way among the city’s cultural elite. On page two of the letter, Pound pens a 14-line sonnet which begins, “If poets whom you know are not all fools, Methinks my songs but march amid the rout.”

The auction estimate is £7,000-9,000 ($11,000-$14,140).

Image via Lyon & Turnbull. 
One of the top auction lots of the past two weeks was a pair of handwritten letters (ALSs) from James Joyce in which he discusses the notoriously troublesome publication of his masterpiece, Ulysses. In the first letter, dated November 1, 1918, Joyce writes, “As I have been so long absent from Ireland you must forgive me if I say that I am afraid I have forgotten you. Allow me however to thank you for your very friendly letter and for your kind words about my book Ulysses. Eight installments have now appeared in the Little Review of New York but unfortunately the Egoist (London) cannot find any printer to set up these chapters.”

The Boston-based RR Auction offered the lot with a minimum bid of $2,500, but the final sale price was an astonishing $24,650.68.

Little Review.jpgThis extraordinary sale called to mind the fact that Yale University Press just released The Little Review “Ulysses” which, for the first time, brings together the serial installments of Joyce’s novel the way it was first seen by readers of The Little Review between 1919-1920. Edited by Mark Gaipa, Sean Latham, and Robert Scholes, this new edition allows twenty-first-century readers to enjoy the evolution of Joyce’s prose before the censors stepped in. With a beautiful color insert of the magazine’s covers and essays that contextualize Ulysses, this new edition is a must for Joyce or Little Review fans or collectors.    

E-books are here to stay, but there’s been a shift to reading on phones over e-readers. According to a recent Nielsen study, 54% of polling participants said they chose to read at least part of a book on their smartphone, up from 24% in 2012. In a bid to capitalize on the mobile reading movement, publishers now develop book jackets, font size and promotional materials with the expectation that they will be primarily viewed on a phone. Free multimedia
Jester reading a book

Jester reading a book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

add-ons like games, recipes, chapter excerpts and even whole books are intended to entice readers to make future purchases. Whether one can actually engage in deep, meaningful reading on a smartphone is hotly contested.

Publishers are even partnering with transportation and hospitality companies to court new customers. Penguin Random House offers free e-book excerpts on Amtrak Acela trains, and HarperCollins gives away books on select JetBlue flights. The industry leader (for the moment) appears to be Simon & Schuster, who is embracing mobile reading as the wave of the future. In May, the publisher used the Foli mobile app to give away copies of David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers at fifty U.S. airports. Now they have joined up with the hotel booking site to reach an even larger potential consumer base. If customers use the site to book at least a two-night stay at participating hotels, Simon & Schuster will provide a free e-book. The seven choices will rotate regularly, and the inaugural titles include Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King; The Ascendant by Drew Chapman; The White Queen by Philippa Gregory; Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger; I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes; You by Caroline Kepnes, and The Glass Rainbow by James Lee Burke.  These e-books are available through Glose, a social reading platform.

English: Taylor Swift performing live on Speak...

English: Taylor Swift performing live on Speak Now tour in July 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the publisher will undoubtedly reach new readers, one wonders what this means for the authors, who have been increasingly embroiled in disputes with their publishers over decreasing royalty rates and distribution rights. This situation sounds similar to when Apple  rolled out a new streaming music service and planned to give away music without paying royalties. Happily for musicians, their savior was Taylor Swift, and the company changed course. Who will rally for writers?

Andrew Gulli, editor of The Strand magazine, discovered an unpublished F. Scott Fitzgerald story in the Princeton University archives. Gulli released the story in the summer issue of The Strand, seventy-five years after the author’s death in 1940.

The story, entitled “Temperature” is a comedic tale about a 31-year-old writer named Emmet Monsen, who is a heavy drinker and suffers from heart disease. 

“There’s some madcap comedy, some Wodehousian dialogue, some romance, even a little bit of some tragedy in it,” said Gulli about the story in an interview with NPR. “I just was struck by how funny, how interesting it was. And I said to myself, ‘I really have to have this story.’”

Gulli believes the story was never published because it was written in 1939, just a year before Fitzgerald died, when the author had a falling out with his literary agent.

Interested readers can check out the current issue of The Strand to read the Fitzgerald story alongside work by Ian Rankin and T. Jefferson Parker.

frontcover.jpegFor twenty-seven years, a specialty bookshop devoted exclusively to military history thrived on New York City’s Upper East Side. The Military Bookman, owned and operated by husband-and-wife team, Harris Colt and Margaretta Barton Colt, was established in July 1976, after Harris lost his Wall Street job and decided to follow his dream. Margaretta joined him in this endeavor, even though it meant wrangling with a predominately male customer base, including “Soldier of Fortune” types and even some with “SS tendencies.” Her new memoir, Martial Bliss: The Story of The Military Bookman ($19.95), affectionately chronicles the life and times of that bookshop.

Unique characters abound. One mail-order collector interested in Frederick the Great playfully regarded himself, in his correspondence with the shop, as “part-time Marshal of France” and dated his letters 1757 from his “Winter quarters on the Rhine.” The Colts responded in kind because, the author makes clear, the Military Bookman was that kind of bookshop--one where personal relationships with customers mattered. One regular called it “Cheers without the booze.” Even a few celebrities, e.g. Paul Newman, James Gandolfini, and Bette Midler, found their way to this remarkable place over the years.

We all have favorite bookshops and even bookshop memoirs. In this bibliophilic sub-genre, numerous stories are relayed about hunting for rare books and buying trips abroad; Martial Bliss ably covers this ground. But unlike other booksellers’ memoirs, it’s not nostalgia that fuels the telling. She shares her memories in a pleasant, matter-of-fact way, as if setting straight the record for posterity--or for her former customers, who will, no doubt, adore reading her account. As will those with an interest in antiquarian books, bookselling, or military history.

“The fine line between passion and obsession was probably crossed many times in the stacks of the Military Bookman,” she writes. Sadly, those stacks were dismantled in 2003. The rise of online bookselling as well as the increased production of cheap reprints of out-of-print military titles combined to make such a specialty shop obsolete in the twenty-first century. For those who missed out on this New York City institution, Martial Bliss invites us in. 

Image: Courtesy of Margaretta Barton Colt.

anthologydeluxe.jpgThe Morbid Anatomy Museum announced on Friday a deluxe limited edition of its very popular (and very cool) Morbid Anatomy Anthology, originally published in 2014. Limited to 110 copies, this revised second edition is housed in a custom, handmade black-on-black slipcase embossed with silver foil. Each is signed and numbered by co-editors Colin Dickey and Joanna Ebenstein. They are taking pre-orders now for November delivery; the price is $150. 

You can read more about this fascinating museum and its programs and events in our spring 2014 issue.

Image via Morbid Anatomy Museum.

Noepe, an Island Writing Sanctuary

Back in the early 2000s, poet and recent graduate of Emerson’s MFA program Justen Ahren returned to his Martha’s Vineyard home and found that while the island was full of writers, there wasn’t a formal space for folks to get together and share their writing experiences. So, after attending a few far-flung workshops, Ahren wondered why he couldn’t foster a literary community in his own backyard.

As we spoke at the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival in early August, Ahren recalled how his  writing program took shape:  “In 2006, the proprietor of the Point Way Inn in Edgartown asked if I had any ideas for using the space in a different way, and without hesitating I suggested creating a writers residency.” The next year, the Noepe Center for Literary Arts  opened its doors. “We had two attendees that year. This year we’ll welcome 60 writers-in-residence!” he exclaimed.


The nonprofit bills itself as an inspirational sanctuary where writers attend workshops and author lectures, and offers both established and emerging writers space and time to put words to paper. Workshops are open to the public - this week, for example, husband and wife team Author Richard Zacks and ICM Agent Kristine Dahl explain how a book gets published, from conception to publication. Writers interested in the residency program apply through Noepe’s website.

Even with the island literary community well-established, a touch of wanderlust drives Ahren to keep traveling. This November he is inviting ten writers to pack their bags and meet up in Orvieto, Italy, for a weeklong workshop devoted to cultivating a daily writing practice. “I chose Orvieto after visiting the town with my daughter. It’s small enough to feel intimate, yet big enough to offer ample cultural, social and entertainment opportunities,” Ahern said.

The writing center is called Noepe after the Wamanpoag Indian name for Martha’s Vineyard. It means ‘land between the currents,’ and that’s what this place offers its visitors - a small, serene patch of solid ground in an ever more turbulent and congested publishing world.

The Gay Head cliffs in Martha's Vineyard consi...

The Gay Head cliffs in Martha’s Vineyard consist almost entirely of clay and have long been a sacred spot for the Wampanoag. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pope Francis will present a copy of the St. John’s Bible to the Library of Congress during a visit to Washington, D.C. next month.

The Pope is donating one of twelve deluxe reproductions of an original seven-volume edition of the Bible that was handwritten and illuminated by the monks at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. With an estimated production cost of $8 million, the St. John’s Bible was completed in 2011 and is housed at St John’s University. Twelve special edition reproduction sets were then reproduced by lay people in the United States and Britain.  One of these sets was then gifted to the Pope, who will in turn give the book to the American people.

The St. John’s Bible is thought to be the only handwritten and illuminated copy of the Bible to be produced in its complete form since the invention of the printing press.

When the Pope addresses Congress on September 24, he will formally give the Bible to Rep. John Boehner, as Speaker of the House, who will in turn transfer the book to the Library of Congress.

Image: Via Wikipedia.

Note: This blog entry corrected 8-14-15 with publication details about the twelve reproductions of the illuminated Bible.
Meeting the Authors as They Sign Books
by Terry George

IMG_1112 copy.jpgIt was a dark and stormy, not really. Actually it was a sunny summer day at a book show when my wife, Helen, former children’s librarian, explored an antiquarian book show in Minneapolis.
     You can imagine what developed. She decided to get into the market with her personal books and knowledge and I came along as the muscle for the  book racks and boxes. Deciding that H.M. George Books could use some modern adult literature I joined forces. As a one-time budding journalist I was quickly disenchanted. My first buy for market was nice but it had no dust jacket and was soon recognized as a book club edition. It also was distressing to find there were two Winston Churchills who wrote books. I had so much to learn.
    My penchant for photography in newspaper work and public relations worked its way into the agenda and as the market became more competitive in the 90s the need for an upgrade to signed books was recognized. Thus I was buying books and photographing the authors at the signings which led to a display of my growing photo collection at book shows in Florida, Michigan, and Minnesota. It was a nice way to set off our booth and be remembered by potential buyers. We met and heard a good number of authors. Occasionally we got a book signed but forgot the camera. We find Nicholas Basbanes in that limited group.
    Listening to author presentations at signings was often revealing and, sadly, I regret not gathering more of their words of wisdom which were given in personal conversations with them. Authors such as Vince Flynn, John Sandford, Jon Hassler, Norman Mailer were helpful on one or more occasions. Mailer, for example, applied a personal drawing of the Rhinehart logo along with his signature, adding a nice value to an early printing of his first book and later signed my 8x10 glossy for the booth display. Judith Guest has also been free with art to enhance her signature. Some Hassler fans also own paintings by the author I found that authors often have an artistic side in addition to their talent for writing.
     Signatures of authors vary from one to another. And they vary with the number of books they sign. As collectors are well aware, the first books by an author may contain an easily recognizable collection of letters but speed follows success in most cases. The exception being female writers who take more time. Even Hillary Clinton’s signature looks good despite her rate of 500 an hour. Authors such as Sandford who signs an unbelievable number of his books are best read under his name on the title page.
    Authors at presentations can be humorous even when their books are not. Sandford certainly sees the funny side of life, which can be found in his current mysteries. Early on I asked Sandford how he avoids “writer’s block.” His answer was direct and to the point: “It just means that you don’t know where you’re going,” he said.
    Some writers have a serious approach in their appearances. Sara Paretsky, for example, has an impressive scholarly delivery on occasion. Vince Flynn’s approach was just as conservative in nature as you might expect from his thrillers. He provided some personal writing advice along with an easy method of protecting your writing efforts: “Put your work in a sealed envelope and mail it to yourself...and don’t open it,” was his recommendation. I’m sure his many readers felt he was a great young author who died too soon.
    Like any collector/seller it is difficult to draw the line between the personal and the salable. It is painful when a copy is gone that could have been retained. So far we have managed to hold on to all of Jon Hassler’s novels which are encased in clam shell cases. John Sandford’s numbers increase each year to the point where it occupies a shelf and a half. Emphasizing the signed book has been a great approach for me but the personal inscription makes it difficult to part with some of these books.
    There seems to be a division among collectors concerning signed books and inscribed. Many prefer a signature only on the title page but there are those who appreciate the author’s effort to personalize a book which, incidentally, often shows an improved Palmer method.
    It was most interesting and educational in the early years traveling to some of the big book shows on both East and West Coasts. But we have noted a decline (sometimes 50% and more) in the number of booths at these shows. Some new faces have replaced the familiar in the booths but not enough to bring back the old numbers as we knew them. However, it is interesting to read the news about the United Kingdom book shows. They appear to be surviving very well.
       Time also has taken its toll on H.M. George Books. We no longer do book shows except as collectors and we are limiting our intake as we wind down our activities after more than two decades of the good and occasionally bad but never ugly. --Terry George is a bookseller at H.M. George in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Image: Courtesy of Terry George.  
Good news from Los Angeles collector Steve Soboroff: He purchased Maya Angelou’s personal typewriter at an estate sale at her former home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, last weekend. He paid $5,000 for the late poet’s electric Adler. 

Soboroff, whose collection was profiled in our winter 2015 issue, said he felt “incredibly fortunate and honored” to add Angelou’s typewriter to his renowned collection, which numbers 33 now and focuses on typewriters owned by people who have appeared on the cover of Time magazine, including Ernest Hemingway, John Updike, and Truman Capote. His collection is on view at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills.

The weekend auction, run by Laster’s Fine Art & Antiques, was, incidentally, a hot topic on Friday afternoon when alarms were raised that Angelou’s books were being sold without having been catalogued. Oprah Winfrey apparently bought the core library, but the remaining books were scattered to the winds. Jeremy Dibbell has more on that in his weekly post at PhiloBiblos
Pulpfest.jpgComing up in Columbus, Ohio, is PulpFest, an annual convention for collectors of pulp fiction and magazines. Successor to Pulpcon, first held in 1972, PulpFest celebrates the history and culture of dime magazines and vintage paperbacks. As described on its web site: “The summertime destination for fans and collectors of vintage popular fiction and related materials, PulpFest seeks to honor pulp fiction by drawing attention to the many ways it had inspired writers, artists, film directors, software developers, and other creators over the decades.”

The four-day confab opens on August 13 with “early bird shopping in the dealers’ room,” followed by programming that includes lectures by dealers and collectors of mysteries, science fiction, westerns, Street & Smith comics, and pulp art, plus a Saturday night auction. In special focus this year is horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, born 125 years ago this month, and Weird Tales, the magazine that published much of his work.

Image: This year’s PulpFest flyer features Matt Fox’s artwork for the front cover of the November 1944 Weird Tales and the 35th issue of Thrilling Comics, published by Standard Comics and dated May 1943.
Martha’s Vineyard has long attracted writers and poets to its sandy shores, and since 2005, the island’s Book Festival brings writers from across the country to celebrate reading, writing, and the creative process. The free biennial event has grown over the past decade: This year, over thirty authors spoke about their current projects and also participated in panel discussions on various topics. Investigative journalist Stephen Kurjikan, 30 Girls author Susan Minot, and the Atlantic’s TaNehisi Coates were among those on the podium, sharing their thoughts and offering fresh perspectives on a range of topics. The two day event spanned both ends of the Island;  the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown hosted Saturday’s panels, and the Chilmark Community Center welcomed authors and attendees to billowing white tents on Sunday. Writers discussed issues such as women and sports, animals, race, and writing. Panels were moderated by fellow writers, such as Pulitzer-Prize winner Tony Horwitz and memoirist Alexandra Styron. Presenting partner A Bunch of Grapes Bookstore ensured that titles were available for purchase and inscription.

Steamer Martha's Vineyard, from an 1890s souve...

Authors didn’t arrive via steamer, but it’s a charming image nonetheless. Steamer Martha’s Vineyard, from an 1890s souvenir booklet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The festival is the fruit of the labors of Suellen Lazarus, a former director at the World Bank Group in Washington D.C. and longtime summer Island resident. Inspired by the National Book Festival, she felt confident about replicating the event on a smaller scale. “I saw the Washington festival, and I thought we could do it. We have tents, better weather, and people like to come here - and many of them from D.C,” Lazarus said Saturday morning during a quick chat between panel discussions. “I’m very proud of our festival this year. There were a few themes I wanted to include - race, gender, and sustainability - and when we were organizing back in January, we thought about which authors we could intersperse into panels to generate thoughtful and engaging discussions.” As an example, that morning’s panel on Women in Sports included Olympian Ginny Glider, Boston Globe sports columnist Bob Ryan and professor Kenneth Shropshire, offering different points of view on a fascinating topic. Later that afternoon, Boston Globe investigative journalist Stephen Kurkjian (who wrote about the 1990 art theft at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), joined the stage alongside Jeff Hobbs, David Kertzer and novelist Sarah Wildman to discuss the craft of writing itself. 

Though she had worked tirelessly since the depths of winter to ensure everything was ship shape last weekend, Lazarus found time to enjoy the show. “I love listening to the panel discussions, so I don’t really work today.” Words of wisdom for any hard-working Islanders,as the rest of August will be very busy here: President Obama and family arrive tomorrow for a two-week vacation.


Digitization efforts are underway at the Baghdad National Library to preserve one-of-a-kind books and manuscripts. With the looming threat of ISIS on the horizon -- an organization determined to destroy and rewrite Iraq’s history - the digitization efforts have a unique sense of urgency.

The head of the library’s microfilm department said in an interview with The Associated Press that they are testing a digitization process with documents from the Interior Ministry under Iraq’s last monarch Faisal II.

In the meantime, older documents are undergoing a careful restoration process to prepare them for digitization.

“Once restoration for some of the older documents from the Ottoman era, 200 to 250 years ago, is completed, we will begin to photograph these onto microfilm.

The manuscripts will not be immediately available for public viewing. Instead, the digitization efforts are primarily a form of threat prevention. The library lost 25% of its books and 60% of its archives when arsonists set fire to the library during the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. The library hopes digitization will help prevent such catastrophic loss in the future.

[Image of the library after the 2003 fire from Wikipedia]

800px-Miniature_DNF_Dictionary_055_ubt.JPGThe Miniature Book Society, a small (pun intended) faction of collectors within the larger book collecting community, will meet for its annual gathering this weekend in Amsterdam. A miniature book, by definition, may not exceed three inches in height, length, or width. The 23rd “Grand Conclave” will bring together tiny tome enthusiasts for lectures, a silent auction, and a book fair. There are museum tours as well, and the highlight this year is sure to be the Bibliotheca Thurkowiana minor, a miniature library of 1,515 books collected by Guus and Luce Thurkow that is now housed at the Museum Meermanno in The Hague.

Past conclaves have been held in Boston, Vancouver, and Asheville, North Carolina, which we covered back in 2012.

Image: A miniature Danish-Norwegian-French dictionary. ©2010 Tomasz Sienicki via Wikimedia Commons.

176044_0.jpgComing to auction this week at PBA Galleries is a collection of original art for the Limited Editions Club edition of William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring (1942). There are 59 drawings; one in pencil, the others in pen as seen above. They are the work of Fritz Kredel, a German artist and graphic designer who illustrated several volumes for the “LEC,” a subscription club founded by retailer George Macy in 1929. Macy was known for commissioning major artists, e.g. Picasso and Matisse, for his high-quality publications.

The set of drawings is estimated to realize $1,500-2,000 at Thursday’s auction in San Francisco. There are several lots of LEC volumes in the sale, too.

Image via PBA Galleries.
Auction Guide