February 2016 Archives

Mt. Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, Route 66--these are the sights one sees on an American road trip, which are also now on view in The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip, a traveling exhibit based on the 2015 Alice Award-winning book of the same name that opened this weekend at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Plossu copy.jpgOrganized by Aperture Foundation, the exhibit includes more than one hundred images--from roadside motels to majestic natural vistas--and features the work of nineteen photographers on the move across the U.S. from the 1950s to 2014, such as Ed Ruscha, Robert Frank, and Bernard Plossu (his “New Mexico, 1980” is pictured here).

“It’s an honor to be able to debut The Open Road to our visitors,” comments Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Executive Director Rod Bigelow. “Road trips are a way of life in our region, and capturing the experience by taking photos during those trips is a familiar activity for most of us. The opportunity to explore road-trip photography through significant works of art is one we know our visitors will appreciate and enjoy.”

The exhibit is up at Crystal Bridges through May 30 and will then travel to the Detroit Art Institute from June 17-September 11, 2016; the Amarillo Museum of Art, Texas, from November 4, 2016-January 1, 2017; and the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida, from February 11-June 4, 2017.

Bernard Plossu
New Mexico, 1980
© Bernard Plossu, Courtesy of the Artist and Eaton Fine Art, West Palm Beach, Florida

Alan Turing Decoded in New Graphic Novel

turing.jpgThe Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded, by Jim Ottaviani, illustrated by Leland Purvis; Abrams ComicArts, $24.99, 240 pages. (March 22, 2016)


English mathematician and scientist Alan Turing (1912-1954) has been featured here on the Fine Books Blog before, notably when his wartime personal journal sold last year at Bonhams for over $1 million to an anonymous bidder. The 56-page handwritten manuscript is believed to be the only such item in existence, and reveals Turing’s thought processes as he wrestled with complex equations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Following on the heels of that sale comes a new biography in graphic-novel format. Bestselling author Jim Ottaviani and Eisner award winning illustrator Leland Purvis present a full, historically accurate portrait of the man who helped crack the German Enigma and pioneered groundbreaking work in the field of computer science, only to see much of that laid aside when he was indicted in 1952 on charges of gross indecency. (At the time of his indictment the public had no idea of Turing’s achievements during the war, and his contributions weren’t declassified until the 1970s.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Narrated by characters appearing to give court testimony--referring, no doubt, to Turing’s trial--the book weaves together a thorough examination of Turing’s life, covering his early, awkward school days, his brilliant work at Bletchley Park, and the final humiliating years when Turing underwent estrogen therapy as part of a court-ordered punishment. Purvis’ illustrations belie the complexity of the story at hand, but fascinating details abound. Scenes of Turing spitting out complex mathematical computations cover the pages like numeric snowflakes, impressive and dizzying at the same time. Decoded is an accessible and engaging biography of an underappreciated man of secrets whose legacy is finally coming into full focus.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Visit http://literarykids.tumblr.com/tagged/Alan-Turing-Decoded to see the amazing book art!

British novelist Neil Griffiths has pledged £2,000 for a new award to support literature published by small presses in Britain and Ireland.  Griffiths hopes to attract similar investments from other literary authors in an attempt to celebrate “small presses producing brilliant and brave literary fiction.”

The “Republic of Consciousness” prize will be issued each year based on two criteria: “hardcore literary fiction and gorgeous prose.”

The prize money, which Griffiths hopes will equal £10,000 each year after he “guilt trips” other authors into contributing, will be split equally between the author and the publisher. 

A shortlist of five novels will be decided each December by Griffiths in conjunction with five independent booksellers. The winner will be announced at a ceremony in January.

Griffiths praised small publishers for “doing it often for the love of super-niche books, whether they’re in translation, or highly literary... Small presses don’t ask how many copies will this sell, but how good is this - what is its value as literature? Quality is the only criterion.”

PCS2015B.jpgRecently, the Penguin Collectors Society published Penguin Scribe, a slim volume of collected articles by Steve Hare (1950-2015), whose contributions to the scholarship of Penguin Books is “unequalled.” Hare had been a member of the PCS since 1980, editor of its journal, The Penguin Collector, from 1993-2000, and author of several books, including Penguin Portrait: Allen Lane and the Penguin Editors 1935-1970 (1995) and Penguin By Illustrators (2009)--we posted an excerpt of the latter upon publication.

Hare contributed to Fine Books severeal times over the years, and two of those articles can now be found between the covers of Penguin Scribe: his 2004 piece, “The Mystery of the Drowning Porpoises,” a look at the short-lived Porpoise Books imprint, and his 2005 piece, “Compliments of the Season,” about Allen Lane’s limited edition Christmas keepsake books. (Hare also penned this guest blog post about the Penguin Classics anniversary edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover for us in 2010.)

Published by the Penguin Collectors Society in an edition of 500, Penguin Scribe also contains lively and informative Penguin-themed articles from various magazines and journals, including Book and Magazine Collector, Creative Review, and The Journal of Publishing Culture.

                                                                                                                                                     Image via PCS.

32261.jpgArchaeologists may have uncovered the bones of the woman who inspired Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. While excavating the site of a former prison in Dorchester, the archaeologists located a skull and other remains believed to belong to Elizabeth Martha Brown, who was hanged at the Dorchester prison in 1856. A teenage Hardy was in attendance at her hanging, an experience which left a profound and lasting impact on him.

Brown was convicted of the murder of her second husband, John Brown, who she may have killed with an axe after he took a whip to her. Despite always proclaiming her innocence, Brown was sentenced to death and became the last woman publicly hanged in Dorset.

Hardy, shameful at having attended the hanging, later recollected, “My only excuse being that I was young, and had to be in town on other business.” The writer later mined elements of Brown’s fate for the ending of Tess of d’Urbervilles, a novel about a woman who ultimately murders a man that greatly wronged her.

By all accounts, Brown met her death with grace and poise. Hardy wrote of it, “I remember what a fine figure she showed against the sky as she hung in the misty rain, and how the tight black silk gown set off her shape as she wheeled half-round and back.”

The remains found by the archaeologists will be further examined for more details. The site of the former prison is not yet fully excavated.

The news that Italian scholar and author Umberto Eco died last week at the age of 84 hit bibliophiles particularly hard, for not only was he one of us--a rapacious reader and book collector said to own as many as 50,000 volumes--but he also penned The Name of the Rose, the much beloved 1980 mystery set in a fourteenth-century monastery and centered around a secret medieval manuscript. Eco’s first novel warmed the hearts of book lovers. 


Umberto 10.jpgThough he already had an impressive career as an educator and a critic, Eco continued to write novels, which is how Nicholas Basbanes came to interview him in Boston in 1995 (during Eco’s US book tour to promote his third novel, The Island of the Day Before). Soon after, as Basbanes was working on his second book, Patience & Fortitude: A Roving Chronicle of Book People, Book Places and Book Culture, he called on Eco in his Milan apartment, where the two bookmen pored over Eco’s collections, which Eco summarized as “Biblioteca Semiologica, Curiosa, Lunatica, Magica et Pneumatica.” It included several “choice incunabula,” writes Basbanes. But the highlight, he recalls, was a tatty old volume that Eco pulled from a bottom shelf. It was a sixteenth-century Italian translation of the Poetics of Aristotle (pictured above) that Eco had purchased for the equivalent of seventy cents sometime around 1970, but it was so soiled, Eco shelved it and forgot about it. Until 1990, when he and his wife were packing their books in preparation for a move. That’s when he came across this “unpleasant” book, and it suddenly occured to him that the long-neglected volume had inspired the manuscript in his bestselling book, which he began writing in 1978. He told Basbanes, “I believed I had invented a manuscript for this novel, when in fact I was describing that ugly book in my own house.”                                                                                                                                                                

Umberto 16-1.jpgIf you have not had the pleasure of reading the full account of this bookish afternoon shared by Basbanes and Eco, go get a copy of Patience & Fortitude. Basbanes’ three-hour audiotape of his interview with Eco is now in the Cushing Library at Texas A&M, along with the five books Eco inscribed to him over the years, including, of course, The Name of the Rose.


Images courtesy of Nicholas Basbanes.

Mockingbird.jpgAs book lovers, we were saddened to learn that Harper Lee died last week at the age of 89.

It is a regrettable truth of book collecting: an author’s death will likely increase the value of her work, for the obvious reasons that she is neither around to sign books nor to produce them, thus cutting off all supply. (And, as New York City book dealer James S. Jaffe confirmed last year, there is nothing left in Lee’s vault.) It may be crass to consider, but death affects collectability, something we noted after Maurice Sendak passed in 2012. The thing about Lee, of course, is that her entire corpus consisted, until very recently, of one major publication: To Kill a Mockingbird, published in an edition of five thousand in 1960. First editions appear at auction a couple of times a year, and several booksellers also have firsts on hand. (One even turned up at a Philadelphia flea market in 2014 where a savvy dealer picked it up for $3.33, a story I profile in Rare Books Uncovered.) Prices for fine, unsigned first editions run upwards of $15,000. Allen & Pat Ahearn’s book collectors’ bible, Collected Books (2011), sets the book’s market value at $25,000. Signed or inscribed editions currently offered online range from $20,000 to $38,500. The one pictured here--VG with some condition issues--sold for $8,750 at Heritage Auctions in New York last April.  


Will those numbers creep up now that Lee has left us? And what about her second novel, Go Set a Watchman, published a mere seven months ago, fifty-five years after her Pulitzer Prize-winning debut--will it be collectable? With a first printing of two million copies, it’s not likely ever to be rare, although some misprinted UK editions did pique the interest of collectors, and signed limited editions published by Random House can be had for about $4,000-6,000. 


Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

If the 1984 Academy-Award winning film Amadeus is to be believed, Italian court composer Antonio Salieri (1750-1825) played bitter rival to petulant boy-genius Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791), so consumed by jealousy that he even conspired to poison the young prodigy. In reality, the men were more than cordial--Salieri tutored Mozart’s son in piano, and surviving letters between the two suggest a professional working relationship. Now, curators at the Czech Museum of Music in Prague have unearthed a composition set to music by Salieri and Mozart in honor of a mutually beloved singer.


Posthumous painting by Barbara Krafft in 1819. Source: Wikimedia Commons

                                                                                                                                                         Entitled Per la Ricuperata Salute di Offelia, the libretto was written in 1785 by Viennese court poet Lorenzo da Ponte and set to music by Salieri and Mozart for Nancy Storace (1765-1818), a popular British operatic soprano living in Vienna. All three composers admired the diva, who, in addition to appearing in twenty operas, premiered as Offelia in Salieri’s La Grotta di Trofinia and as Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. Unfortunately, a voice ailment sidelined the prima donna for months. Salieri, Mozart, and da Ponte crafted this jaunty cantata in celebration of her return to the stage. The score itself includes da Ponte’s pseudonym, Coretti; the year of publication, the name of the printer, Joseph von Kurzböck, and the first letters of each composer’s last name.

Portrait of Salieri by Joseph Willibrord Mähler. Source: Wikimedia Commons

After 1785, the libretto was only mentioned again in Austrian musician Ludwig Ritter von Köchel’s chronological catalog of Mozart’s music, but that the work had been lost to time. The Museum of Music acquired the libretto in the 1950s as ‘confiscated property,’ but the piece wasn’t catalogued until 1976. At the time, museum curators were unable to determine the authenticity of the famous authors, and so it was classified in the museum’s records using only the letters M, S, and C as the creators. In 2015, the music librarian re-cataloged the libretto collection and was able to authenticate Salieri and Mozart as the co- authors. The composition was performed by harpsichoridst Lukas Vendl for the first time in at least 200 years at a recent press conference at the museum, which can be heard here.

                                                                                                                                                        That’s quite an impressive paper trail.

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Nora Epstein, a Special Collections & Archives Librarian with DePaul University in Chicago:

shelfie.jpgWhat is your role at your institution?

In September, I joined the DePaul University Library as a Special Collections and Archives Librarian. Like many Special Collections Librarians, I do a little of everything from outreach and exhibit curation to collection development and reference. However, the aspect of my job I devote the most time to (and perhaps my favorite) is leading rare book instruction sessions. Last year, our small department taught an impressive 71 instructions sessions, the majority of which were for undergraduate students. This regular interaction with mostly first time Special Collections patrons has changed the way I understand Special Collections Librarianship. I now see my role as providing the framework that allows our patrons to question and interpret the primary sources before them.

How did you get started in rare books?

I first became aware of Special Collections Librarianship when I read Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife in ninth grade (you can imagine my excitement when years later, while doing a practicum in the Newberry Library’s conservation lab, I was assigned a project started by Niffenegger decades earlier.) But it was not until I entered Brandeis University’s Special Collections on a whim in my senior year of college that I realized that I could have a career that combined my love of bookbinding and paper arts with my degree in history. That day, I asked to volunteer in the Special Collection and I have never looked back. Since then I have interned or worked for the Brandeis University Archives and Special Collections, the Budapest History Museum, the Newberry Library, the Northwestern University Archives, Northwestern University’s McCormick Library of Special Collections, The Universal Short Title Catalog, Book History Online, and finally, DePaul University’s Special Collections and Archives.

Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?  

I completed my MLIS at the Illinois Urbana-Champaign in May of 2014 and shortly thereafter began a Master of Letters degree in Book History at the University of St Andrews, in Scotland. While working on my degree at St Andrews, I was fortunate enough to have my research guided by remarkable historians like Andrew Pettegree, Bridget Heal, and Matthew McLean, and been taught Material Bibliography by fellow Bright Young Librarian, Daryl Green.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

So far nothing has beaten the overwhelming joy of discovery I felt while researching my Master’s thesis in the British Library and turning a page of a 1578 edition of A Booke of Christian Prayer (STC 6429) to see a contemporary marginal note that perfectly supported my thesis. I feel exceptionally privileged that now it is my job to help facilitate those same moments for my patrons.

What do you personally collect?

The amount of light and humidity in my apartment would make it a death trap for the books I would like to collect. Instead, I have a serious collection of fine papers that I justify by telling myself that they are destined for a future bookbinding project, but almost never make it into a book. I also have a hard time passing up a publishers’ binding when I come across them, especially ones that look like they might be in need of repair.

What do you like to do outside of work?

The only thing I do outside of work these days is plan my terrifyingly imminent wedding. But once I am safely down the aisle, I would like to start on a new research project and expand my bookbinding techniques.

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

Just about everything about rare book librarianship excites me! I love being able to share my passion for book history through instruction sessions, outreach, and reference questions. Also, having unfettered access to a wide range of texts is a perk that cannot be overlooked.

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

With the increasing availability of digital facsimiles, I think it is our role as stewards to focus on books as physical objects. More and more, it is libraries’ rare holdings that distinguish them from each other and it is our job as librarians to preserve these objects, while championing tactile primary source research. While it is certainly possible to do textual analysis from the comfort of your computer screen, hints about use, market reception, and the cultural impact of a work can often only found when handling the item in person. As someone whose research focuses on the material history of the book, I find this consequence of mass digitization exciting. In my rare book instruction sessions I almost never get questions about the text, rather our students (who for the most part have never engaged with primary sources) inquire about the “old book smell” or why a book has fore-edge clasps.

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

We have quite a few interesting collections that range from Napoleoniana to prison zines. Personally, I think one of our most fascinating works is the commonplace book of Louis de Marillac, the father of St. Louise de Marillac (1573-1632). A section of this unique manuscript was recently added to the Newberry Library’s collaborative French Renaissance Paleography project.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

Like many of our colleagues, DePaul will be mounting an exhibit to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The exhibit I am curating, Shakespeare’s Sources, will focus on the works that informed and inspired some of the bard’s most famous works.

Updike 1.jpegOne man’s trash is another man’s treasure. We’ve all heard the saying, and in this case, it’s quite literal. Some may recall the news back in 2014 about Massachusetts resident Paul Moran, who, for several years before Updike’s death in 2009, would surreptitiously collect the writer’s garbage from his curb before the santitation deptartment got there. What Updike had tossed was indeed interesting--signed documents, honorary diplomas, discarded drafts, canceled checks, bills, holiday cards. Moran referred to as “the other John Updike archive,” the more official archive, having been meticulously assembled and curated by the author over decades, is at Harvard University.


Now that collection of “trash” has found its way to RR Auction in Boston, where final bids will be accepted tomorrow, February 18, at 7:00 p.m. ET. The estimate is $20,000-30,000. The highlights, according to the auctioneer, include 3,500 personal checks signed by Updike (many to bookshops and literary organizations), Updike’s address book, his library cards, several books inscribed to him or with his ownership stamp inside, and floppy disks labeled “Poems,” “Book Reviews,” “Now It Can Be Told, The Black Room,” and “Bluebeard.”

Updike 2.jpegUpdike’s biographer, Adam Begley, told the Atlantic back in 2014 that the act of collecting this material represented “an outrageous violation of privacy,” which is certainly an arguable point. He also called the collection “completely worthless,” which seems, to me, untrue. Not only will Updike collectors find value in owning something associated with the Pulitzer Prize winner--something as fantastic as a book inscribed by Salman Rushdie to Updike or as lowly as one of Updike’s many golf scorecards--I would venture to guess that scholars will too. The floppy disks, the “hundreds” of photos and slides, the trip itineraries, whatever salvaged manuscript or draft material--all seem worth keeping for some future biographer, even if the esteemed author thought otherwise.


Images courtesy of RR Auction.     


Penguin_Classics.jpgIn a response to a plea from UK schools minister Nick Gibb to introduce secondary school children to literature “free from the constraints and analysis of public exams,” Penguin will be offering a set of 100 Penguin Classics to schools across Britain for £100. Penguin followed the lead of Scholastic, here, who recently launched a plan to sell 26 classic novels to schools for £1.50 per copy.

“I want every secondary school to have a stock of classics such as Great Expectations, Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre so that whole classes across the country can enjoy them together,” said Gibbs in his public plea last November.

In addition to standard classics such as Gulliver’s Travels and Madame Bovary, the Penguin Classics sets will include various sacred texts from world religions, as well as writings in Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic.

Penguin described the responsibility to select just 100 texts as “crushing” but added the “fun bit was trying to spread it as widely as possible.”

On March 2, Sotheby’s London will auction a rather extraordinary collection--that of Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, the last of the legendary (and literary) Mitford sisters. The selection consists of the contents of her final home, the Old Vicarage at Edensor on the Chatsworth estate. She died in 2014 at the age of 94.




Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 10.12.10 AM.pngFrom fine and decorative art (much of it animal-themed) to sets of silver spoons to diamond brooches, the auction lots are, perhaps, predictable. And yet, there are some wonderful surprises, such as Debo’s collection of Elvis ephemera. For followers of this blog, it is the Duchess of Devonshire’s library that attracts attention. There are books inscribed by members of the Kennedy family, with whom she was friendly, even one book inscribed by Madonna to the duchess. Her collection included British mainstays--Fleming, Wodehouse, Woolf--as well as books on cookery, gardens, royalty. The crown jewel, however, is an inscribed, pre-publication copy of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisitied, one of fifty that the author presented to his friends in 1944 (pictured here). The estimate for which is £15,000-20,000 ($22,000-30,000). Several Waugh titles follow in the auction; as the duchess observed many years later in her memoir, Wait for Me! (2010), “In spite of his uncertain ways, Evelyn remained a friend and a generous one. He sent us the limited edition of Brideshead Revisted in its floppy dark blue cover...and he sent me his other books as they were published, inscribed in friendly terms.”


Image via Sotheby’s.  


What do a musical manuscript signed by Beethoven, a photograph of violin virtuoso Isaac Stern, and just-launched software have in common? All three will make their debuts at booth 505 at the California Antiquarian Book Fair, courtesy of Schubertiade Music & Arts co-founders Gabe Boyers and Drew Massey.

What’s software got to do with an antiquarian fair? Boyers and Massey believe their technology will revolutionize how dealers and collectors manage, store and sell their wares. The duo created the program, dubbed Collectival, in a bid to meet their own needs running Schubertiade. “This software is new for the book trade,” said Boyers while en route to Pasadena. “Collectival is completely mobile, so while there’s an employee back in Newton [Massachusetts] watching the shop, we can review her work and manage from our mobile phones and ipads.” The entrepreneurs even finalized a sale while sightseeing at Big Sur earlier this week.
big sur final.JPG

Collectival co-founders Massey and Boyers handle sales and take a selfie at Big Sur. Image courtesy of Gabe Boyers. 

The Schubertiade website is powered entirely by Collectival. “We worked on this software for 18 months,” Boyers continued. “Drew (a Harvard grad who has been hardwiring computers since his teens) wrote the code, and I devised the features.” Two major components make up the platform. The public side includes sophisticated search and credit-card processing functions, want lists, and client accounts, while the back-end of the platform is the most innovative. Dealers (not clients) can manage multichannel inventory, create a centralized catalog, and take advantage of advance imaging, multi-platform e-commerce, shipping, record reporting and communication services.

Boyers and Massey consider Collectival a game-changer. “Now, we have access to all the components of our business, from anywhere. I can email a full invoice to a client, right from my phone. Previously, we spent at least thirty minutes orchestrating sales taking place one of our platforms, like ABE or Amazon.” Now, a text message alerts Boyers to a sale, and Collectival automatically updates Schubertiade’s various selling platforms while also creating an invoice and shipping label. None of this technology is unique, but Collectival is the first to package and integrate these tools into one software, designed with an antiquarian dealer in mind.

Boyers, a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music and current president of the Professional Autograph Dealers Association, began collecting music memorabilia and antiquarian sheet music in college. The desire to acquire persisted. “After school, I started Schubertiade Music & Arts, where I sell and appraise rare books, manuscripts, and art related to music. Drew is the technical and finance director.” Collectival is currently in the beta-testing phase and scheduled to launch in a few months. Dealer packages start at $199 a month. A scaled-down version is available free to collectors interested in a modern way to handle their storing and cataloging needs.

If you’re in Pasadena this week for Rare Book Week West and the 49th Annual California Antiquarian Book Fair, here are two auctions this weekend that might pique your interest:

On Sunday, February 14th, both Bonhams Los Angeles and PBA Galleries will be hosting auctions. The auction at PBA, which begins first at 8:00 a.m., includes an archive of twenty-six manuscript letters signed by King Philip IV of Spain, to Luis Enríquez de Guzmán, 9th Count of Alba de Liste, his Viceroy in New Spain, written between February 1651 to February 1653. Estimate: $80,000-$120,000. Also on offer will be a Second Folio (estimate $200,000 - $300,000) and an ALS from Albert Einstein on God and physics (estimate $60,000 - $90,000).

ontheoriginbonca.jpegLater the same morning, Bonhams Los Angeles is also hosting a Fine Books & Manuscripts sale.  Their highlight is a first edition, first issue of On the Origin of Species from Charles Darwin.  This copy has an excellent provenance as well, having been owned by Darwin’s contemporary John Gwyn Jeffreys, a conchologist on several marine expeditions in the mid 19th century. Estimate: $70,000 - $90,000. At a higher price point in the same auction is Dr. Kary Mullis’s 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry which is expected to bring in $450,000 - $550,000. Also on offer is a copy of History of the Indian Tribes of North America from McKenney and Hall, a highpoint of Americana collecting with its 120 hand-colored lithographs.  (Estimate $40,000 - $60,000).

101195.jpgWell, it is Hollywood after all (or close enough). One of the spotlight items at the California International Antiquarian Book Fair in Pasadena this weekend hails from James Cummins Bookseller in New York City: Jerry Seinfeld’s full handwritten draft of the Seinfeld episode “The Pez Dispenser” (air-date January 15, 1992). The 42-page manuscript on yellow ruled legal paper is an early draft, with numerous revisions and dialogue that was obviously cut from the final script. It is priced at $25,000.

     Seinfeld appears just before Shakespeare in the Cummins fair catalogue, with not only this manuscript, but several others, including two one-page Seinfeld monologue manuscripts in Jerry’s hand and a handwritten letter from Seinfeld to fellow comedian George Burns. Like Cummins, we have never seen a Seinfeld draft manuscript on the market. The Emmy Award-winning series, it should be noted, is widely considered one of the best television shows of all time.  

Image courtesy of James Cummins Bookseller.

If you’re heading down to California this week for Rare Book Week West - and the 49th Annual California Antiquarian Book Fair  - here are a few special exhibitions at local institutions to tempt you (briefly) away from the bookseller stalls:

gettyda.jpg1) The Getty: In Focus: Daguerreotypes. “This exhibition presents a selection of one-of-a-kind images from among the Museum’s two thousand daguerreotypes, alongside those from the collection of Graham Nash.”

Also: Traversing the Globe Through Illuminated Manuscripts. “This exhibition features illuminated manuscripts and painted book arts from the 9th through the 17th century that bring to life in stunning ways the real and imagined places that one encounters on their pages.”

huntingtonca.jpg2) The Huntington: Friends and Family: British Artists Depict Their Circle.  Portraiture from the mid-18th through the early 20th centuries. “This exhibition presents another, more personal side of British portraiture. A wide-ranging selection of small-scale portraits in various media shows how artists from the mid -18th to the early 20th centuries portrayed subjects well-known to them in the prevailing artistic styles of the day - from the fashionable pastels of the Georgian era, to the careful observations of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood a century later, to the avant-garde abstractions of the modernists.” (Free admission if you’ve purchased a $25.00 ticket to the California Antiquarian Book Fair).

lacmaca.jpg3) Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Living for the Moment: Japanese Prints from the Barbara S. Bowman Collection. Over one hundred prints of the genre known as ukiyo-e, or pictures of the floating world. “During the Edo period (1615-1868), commercially printed ukiyo-e showed the sensualist priorities of Japanese at a time when a shogunal government restricted nearly all aspects of life.”


Bjork Book 11829a.jpgA rare Icelandic fairy tale and poetry book, Um Úrnat frá Björk, written and produced by the teenaged Björk in 1984 will be on offer at the California International Antiquarian Book Fair later this week. The sixteen-page folded paper booklet features the singer-songwriter’s handwritten text and extensive watercolor and colored pencil illustrations. It is also signed and inscribed by Björk.

According to the bookseller, Schubertiade Music & Arts, the book was acquired “directly from Björk in downtown Reykjavík when she was a young girl selling these on the corner, just on the threshold of world stardom.”

The book is believed to exist in fewer than one hundred copies, each uniquely illustrated. It is rare on the market. This one is priced at $9,500. See it for yourself in Pasadena this weekend!

Image courtesy of Schubertiade Books.

How to Be a Tudor

While exploring the Folger Shakespeare Library’s latest online endeavor in a blog last month, I cited the Bard’s will where he bequeaths his ‘second best bed’ to his wife, Anne.  Though that passage was not considered a slight on Shakespeare’s part, I admit I didn’t understand why. After reading Ruth Goodman’s How to Be a Tudor (Liveright Publishing, $29.95, 336 pages), the reason is clear: Beds in the 16th century were precious commodities, and often the first items mentioned in wills. Shakespeare was simply ensuring that his wife would have a warm place to lay her head when he was gone. This, and other details fill Goodman’s follow-up to her 2014 volume, How to Be a Victorian.


Fans of the BBC’s Wolf Hall will be happy to learn that Goodman, who was the historical advisor for the series, wanted the producers to portray the times accurately. In doing so, she wholeheartedly embodies the phrase “living history.” She slept in a one-room, timber framed house on an earthen floor covered by six inches of rushes, did not bathe for three months, only changing her Tudor-style undergarments daily (and surprisingly passed a modern smell test of her peers), fashioned her own writing quill, and washed her teeth with linen rags and soot.


Portrait of Sir Thomas Knyvett, de jure 4th Baron Berners, later Lord High

Sheriff of Norfolk. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Taking the reader from dawn (or in some cases, pre-dawn) to dusk for Tudor aristocrats, farmers, and women, Goodman draws on fascinating firsthand accounts such as wills, contracts, pamphlets and even coroner’s reports to flesh out a detailed portrait of life in England 400 years ago, and her clear explanations of these texts bring fresh meaning to the paper legacy the Tudors left behind. Whether sleeping on a floor, distilling essential oils, or dancing the volta, Goodman’s enthusiasm and enjoyment are a revelation and pour from every page. The Tudor era was a time of great change, and the author makes no claim that hers is the definitive guide to the period, though the book is thoroughly researched. It is, as she puts it, “a broad gallop through a typical day...a taste of the ordinary that seems to us so extraordinary.”

How to Be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life, by Ruth Goodman; Liveright Publishing Corporation, $29.95, 336 pages. Pub Date: February 15, 2016

Our Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Jennifer Ebrey, a Junior Cataloger in the Rare Books & Manuscripts Department at Bonhams, London:

Staff Photo.jpg


What is your role at Bonhams?


I’m a Junior Cataloguer in the Books & Manuscripts Department. I’m still relatively new to the department, so I haven’t yet developed a specialist area, but there are so many things I get enthusiastic about: iconic modern firsts, wonderfully quirky limited editions and delightfully curious and charming antiquarian books. I also have a partiality for E.H. Shepard illustrations.

Describe a typical day for you:

It’ll depend on where exactly we are in the sale’s calendar, but I tend to spend the majority of my day cataloguing and collating and offering valuations. Although, once in a while, I’ll receive something that’s slightly more unusual that would need a little bit more attention and research. Then I’ll spend an enjoyable afternoon reading up on an incredibly niche subject. I’ve also tried to incorporate social media in to the department, so I try to make time every day to share something (hopefully) witty or interesting on Twitter and Instagram. It’s also a really lovely way of showing people what happens behind the scenes.  



How did you get started in rare books?

In a very roundabout, meandering sort of way. Although I’ve loved books ever since I was old enough to read and I chose to study literature at university, I wasn’t sure if I would ever have a career that would let me utilise my passion for books. It was only when I began to work for Bonhams that I thought it might be possible. I originally started in the Collections Department at New Bond Street, which was absolutely fascinating - I literally handled everything from Picasso paintings to Tiffany jewellery and imperial Chinese vases - through that I was able to learn, in a very osmotic way, about appraising and valuing. After a while I was invited to join the Books and Manuscripts Department. Since then I’ve just wanted to learn as much as I possibly can, which is easy when you’re lucky enough to be part of a team with the sort of knowledge that Google would envy.



What do you love about working for an auction house?

Working for an auction house is easily the most fascinating and exciting job I’ve ever had. It’s the ultimate combination of handling some of the world’s rarest and most remarkable books and meeting wonderful, interesting people. If you’ve never been to an auction, please, please do - it’s an amazing experience... and I promise we don’t think you’re bidding if you sneeze.



Favorite rare book or ephemera that you’ve handled?

That’s actually a really hard question because I think that most of the things we have in the office are amazingly cool, but I love the curiosities! One of my favourites was a really unassuming little book that my colleague discovered to have an incredibly rare printed fragment sewn in to its binder’s waste. It was John Stanbridge’s The Longe Accydence and I think it was actually the only located copy in the world. We’ve also had Coleridge’s writing desk, a ‘wicked’ bible, Howard Carter’s archaeological papers, diaries and sketchbooks from pioneering explorers... and who could forget Napoleon’s death mask?!



What do you personally collect?

The wonderful thing about working with rare books is that you accumulate a dream bookshelf in your head chockfull of all the amazing things you’d love to fill it with. There are some things that I’ve always, always wanted - like a first edition of Lord Byron - but now I find myself cataloguing things that I might never have thought of like beautiful botanical plate books and stunning limited editions and I think ‘how amazing would it be to own that?’ I’d also love to have a copy of the very first book I catalogued, which was Sir Walter Raleigh’s The Historie of the World. At the moment though, I just have a few signed books, most of them happily acquired in very long queues in bookstores, but my absolute favourite is a copy of The Midnight Palace signed by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, which was a gift from my sister.



What do you like to do outside of work?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I love reading - especially anything with a hint of mystery. Although in the last year, I’ve been trying to teach myself Italian, so perhaps one day I’ll be able to read Umberto Eco in the original. I’m also a huge fan of the theatre - The Globe’s production of Twelfth Night with Mark Rylance is still the best thing I’ve ever seen.



Thoughts on the future of rare books / auction houses?

I’m still fairly new to the book trade, but I have great faith in its future. I think it is very much its own entity. While other forms of collecting are dependent on contemporary tastes, the variety within rare books means that while certain fields or genres may become unfashionable, other subjects and specialities will continue to be sought after. Working in auctioneering has also made me aware of exactly how global the market has become. Some of our sales have had bidders from over 30 countries and over half of our bidders are now based outside of the UK, which means that we are reaching more and more private buyers directly, regardless of where they are in the world.



Any upcoming auctions you’d like to draw our attention to?

Absolutely! Our next auction is the much-anticipated second part of The Library of the Late Hugh Selbourne, M.D., on 8 March. Dr. Selbourne was a remarkable collector - he collected everything from early medical books to modern firsts, but all with a careful and discerning eye, so his library is like a sweetshop for bibliophiles. This second part will include a first edition of Darwin’s The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle and a minute book of a real life radical Pickwick Club.

     We also have a fantastic various owner sale coming up on 16 March, which has some beautiful (and wonderfully curious) designer bindings from the collection of the late Denis Collins as well as a beautifully illustrated copy of Gould’s Birds of Great Britain, a wonderful John Speed atlas and J.W. Waterhouse’s copies of Tennyson and Shelley, which he used to make preliminary sketches for some of his most famous paintings.

     There’s also something amazing tucked away in the safe for our June sale - but I couldn’t possibly tell you what that is. Yet.


While many collectors and booksellers are flocking to California over the next couple of weeks, others are making their way to Florida, for the Miami Map Fair and/or the Palm Beach Jewelry, Art & Antique Show.

Rau-Palm Beach.jpgThe Palm Beach show is now a seven-day event, featuring more than 170 international exhibitors. Book and manuscript dealers include Daniel Crouch Rare Books, Lion Heart Autographs (they will present a marriage document signed by Napoleon and Josephine), and M.S. Rau of New Orleans, which will showcase some fine presidential material, including this John Quincy Adams land certificate, priced at $8,850, as well as strands of George Washington’s hair and JFK assassination court case files.  

Image Courtesy of the Palm Beach Jewelry, Art & Antique Show.

WycollerRuins.jpgThe ruin of Wycoller Hall in Lancashire may soon lose its funding. Faced with significant budget cuts, Lancashire County Council is considering a proposal to stop maintence on the ruins and remove ranger service patrols in the area. An online petition to reconsider this plan has attracted 6,300 signatures out of a goal of 7,500 supporters.

     Originally constructed in the 16th century, Wycoller Hall reached its heyday in the 18th century as a family seat for the Cunliffe family.  Bad debts, gambling problems, and a succession of owners who died without issue, however, set the gears in motion for a slow and steady decline. By the early 19th century the hall was abandoned, with significant chunks of his stonework hauled off to aid in other local construction projects.  Picturesque ruins, however, remained to inspire the Bronte sisters who frequently visited Wycoller village in the mid 19th century, located across the moors from their home in Haworth, West Yorkshire.

     Charlotte Bronte immortalized Wycoller Hall as Ferndean Manor, one of the properties owned by Mr. Rochester, in Jane Eyre. After a fire destroys Thornfield Hall, Mr. Rochester’s primary residence, Mr. Rochester relocates to Ferndean Manor:1280px-Wycoller_Hall_1650.jpg

     “The manor-house of Ferndean was a building of considerable antiquity, moderate size, and no architectural pretensions, deep buried in a wood. I had heard of it before. Mr Rochester often spoke of it, and sometimes went there. He would have let the house, but could find no tenant, in consequence of its ineligible and insalubrious site. Ferndean then remained uninhabited and unfurnished with the exception of some two or three rooms fitted up for the accommodation of the squire when he went there in the season to shoot.”

     Although a ruin today, Wycoller Hall is a heritage listed building.  Concerned citizens are worried that removing Council maintenance of the property will leave it vulnerable to vandalism. The petition campaign to preserve the property is being conducted by Friends of Wycoller.

[Images from Wikipedia]

Without+Type+poster.jpgShould you find yourself in the Bay Area this month--say, attending the 2016 San Francisco Antiquarian Book Fair (or the Superbowl?!), take the time to check out a major new exhibit at the San Francisco Center for the Book. Opened on January 22 in collaboration with Letterform Archive, “Without Type: The Dynamism of Handmade Letters,” showcases the art of making letters by hand and features the work of calligraphers, type designers, and illustrators such as Jessica Hische, El Lissitzky, Eric Carle, and William Addison Dwiggins.

     Hische, whose work we’ve been watching for the past several years (Penguin Drop Caps, “Love” Stamp, Penguin Classics), designed the cover for the exhibition catalogue as well as a limited edition poster (pictured here).

     The exhibit runs through April 3.

Auction Guide