April 2016 Archives

Sex Sells: Top Out-of-Print Books in America

On April 26, Bookfinder.com released its 13th annual report of the 100 most coveted out-of-print books in the United States. The online book price comparison tool uses extensive search data to compile the list, and 2015 revealed some surprises. Notable absences from the lineup include The Jerusalem Bible, illustrated by Salvador Dali, and A Treasury of Great Recipes, by Vincent and Mary Price. These two titles had been regulars on the list, however, they are now back in print. “Both of these titles are proof that out-of-print does not mean out of mind,” said Bookfinder’s public relations specialist Scott Laming.



The Jerusalem Bible. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

                                                                                                                                                                               Sex, art, and guns remain popular topics, though the order of desirability has shifted. Madonna’s Sex was toppled from its number one perch last year, but it regained considerable ground. Read on to find out if her erotic biography is back on top, as well as what other books people wanted most in 2015. 

                                                                                                                                                                     Below are Bookfinder’s top ten: 

10. Mastering Atmosphere & Mood in Watercolor, by Joseph Zbukvic; International Artist Publishing, 2002. Collected as a coffee table book and also used an instructional guide.

9.  Halloween, by Curtis Richards; Bantam; New York, NY, 1979. Richards’ novelization of John Carpenter’s creepy motion picture.

8. Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual, by Bill Mollison; Island Press, 1990. Out of print since 1990 in the U.S., this book has been republished in Australia and remains the top resource for permaculture study.

7. The Vision and Beyond: Prophecies Fulfilled and Still to Come, by David R. Wilkerson; World Challenge Publications, 2003. Adamant that we are living in “the beginnings of sorrows,” Wilkerson illustrates how mankind is racing towards the end days.

6. Finding the Winning Edge, by Bill Walsh; Sports Pub, 1998. San Francisco 49ers 3-time Superbowl winning coach chronicles how he molded a struggling team into the stuff of legend.

5. Alla Prima: Everything I Know About Painting, by Richard Schmid; Stove Prairie Press, 1999. A comprehensive manual on oil painting by one of America’s greatest living realists.

4. Promise Me Tomorrow, by Nora Roberts; Pocket Books, 1984. Considered by fans to be Roberts’ worst book, this mass-market paperback remains highly coveted by collectors.

3. Unintended Consequences, by John Ross; Accurate Press, 1996. A novel on gun culture in the United States.

2. Rage, by Stephen King (as Richard Bachman); Signet, 1977. King’s first book published under his pseudonym.

1. Sex, by Madonna; Warner Books, 1992. This spiral-bound biography earned Madonna her nickname, “Queen of the Obscene.”



Sex. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

See the full list here.

lithographshirt.jpgIf you’ve always longed to have your favorite words draped around your body, your dream can now come true. A current Kickstarter campaign from the company Litographs, which has already attracted $56,000 in pledges, transforms your own writing or the text from your favorite novel into a personalized scarf or t-shirt. 

You start by choosing either an infinity scarf or a t-shirt. Next, you pick your text, either submitting your own or choosing from some 200 books in the company’s collection. If pursuing the former route, Litographs suggests sending in your own stories or poems, the words of a loved one or friend, or any piece of text in the public domain. (They also mention it would be possible to print the first 40,000 digits of the number pi). Then you customize your font. Options include Baskerville, Helvetica, Courier, or Snell Roundhand. Finally, you choose the font color and font size, ranging from 9 pt to 32 pt.

If you’d like a shirt or scarf printed with text in Litographs’ collection, you will need to pledge $30 to the campaign. Want to submit your own text? The pledge needs to come in at $40.  

Litographs had an original goal of attracting $15,000 in pledges. With two weeks still remaining in the campaign, however, the company has already tripled its pledge goal. 

Earlier this year, Richard J. Ring reacquainted bibliophiles with the writing of an exemplary American librarian in his book, Lawrence C. Wroth’s Notes for Bibliophiles in the New York Herald-Tribune, 1937-1947 (2016). Wroth not only served as librarian at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University from 1923 to 1957, but he was a serious scholar and author as well, focused primarily on colonial American printing. During this decade before and after World War II, Wroth accepted yet another assignment: he brought rare books and bibliography to the masses in a fortnightly column for a major city newspaper. In all, he wrote 237 columns.       

Wroth Covers.jpgHere selected, compiled, and introduced by Ring, the head curator and librarian of the Watkinson Library at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, Wroth’s columns are organized into four categories: people, exhibitions, institutions, and publications. Many names and places will be familiar to bibliophiles, who will relish encountering those giants of book collecting through Wroth’s eyes. From Wilberforce Eames and Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach to the collections at the Clements Library and the Huntington Library, Wroth provides a survey of the book world that he knew and loved. Ring deserves many thanks for mining these columns and bringing them to light.

Of particular interest are Wroth’s columns on a “perfect” (imagined) exhibit on the tercentenary of printing in the U.S. in 1939 that would show off all the colonial “firsts,” and, relatedly, his article on the 1947 sale of a Bay Psalm Book wherein his laments its pretty new binding. Wroth edifies with a light hand and in such a way that might remind readers of the work of Joel Silver, director of the Lilly Library at Indiana University, who writes a column for Fine Books every quarter.
Ring’s new book is paperbound, 240 pages, and includes seven color illustrations and a full checklist of Wroth’s columns. It was designed by Scott Vile of the Ascensius Press and printed in an edition of 200 copies. The price is $40; interested readers may contact Richard Ring (richard.ring2 at gmail.com).

Image courtesy of Richard Ring. 

1150.jpgIn a story well known to American literature enthusiasts, Harper Lee accompanied her childhood friend Truman Capote to Kansas in the wake of a brutal quadruple murder in 1959. Capote would later publish the hugely popular “nonfiction novel” about the Clutter Family murders entitled In Cold Blood seven years later.

                                                                                                                                                              Capote brought Lee with to Kansas to help him interview the locals about the murders, although he later downplayed her contribution, referring to her instead as a “research assistant.” Lee, meanwhile, ramping up for the publication in 1960 of To Kill a Mockingbird, wrote her own article about the murders for Grapevine magazine, a periodical published for members of the FBI. Lee’s article, which was published unsigned, has been re-discovered by Lee biographer Charles J. Shields.

                                                                                                                                                                 Lee’s article appeared in the March, 1960 issue of Grapevine. While the article was unsigned, biographer Shields conducted some sleuthing and found evidence that he believes confirms Lee’s authorship.

                                                                                                                                                              Shields found mention in a column in the Kansas newspaper the Garden City Telegram from February, 1960 which read, “The story of the work of the FBI in general and KBI Agent Al Dewey in particular on the Clutter murders will appear in Grapevine, the FBI’s publication.”

                                                                                                                                                               “Nelle Harper Lee, young writer who came to Garden City with Truman Capote to gather material for a New Yorker magazine article on the Clutter case, wrote the piece. Miss Harper’s first novel is due for publication ... this spring and advance reports say it is bound to be a success.”

                                                                                                                                                               How right the columnist was.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Image from Garden City Telegram.

Sometime around 1886, Oscar Wilde was assigned to write a book review of Percy H. Fitzgerald’s book, The Book Fancier: or, The romance of book collecting, published that year by S. Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington in London and Scribner & Welford in New York. He was singularly unimpressed with the volume, calling it “a clumsy bit of journey man’s work, without grace or charm or delicacy of treatment. Even on ordinary matters of fact it is not reliable.”

Page 1 copy.jpgThe penciled notes Wilde left behind--unsigned and fragmentary--are critical of Fitzgerald’s style and his grasp of bibliography. Wilde was a bibliophile and a book collector, and his review reveals both his knowledge of the topic and his characteristic wit.

”. . . He talks of Grolier as a bookbinder; he is eloquent over a Shakespearian quarto of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ though there is no such book in existence; he tells that the fat edition of Paradise Lost is readily procurable in small folio, a statement wh. would amaze Mr. Quaritch; and informs us that Valdarfar edition of Boccaccio, a book published in 1471, was very scarce in the beginning of the 15h cent., a time when printing was not yet invented! As to his misprints these are innumerable. Correcting proofs may be an author’s purgatory, but it is not the less his duty, and like purgatory it has its uses.”

”. . . Bibliography is a charming science, but it requires [to be] charmingly treated, and we fear that Mr. P.F. promises none of the qualifications necessary for writing a book about books...”

Page 3 copy.jpgNext week, Wilde’s four-page manuscript of notes for the review will go to auction at Swann Galleries in New York. Considering that it will be coveted not only by Wilde aficionados, but by any of a number of determined collectors in the area called “books about books,” the auction estimate of $5,000-7,000 seems rather conservative.

Images courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries.


                                                                                                                                                              The 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare is tomorrow, and institutions around the globe have been preparing for the day with countless celebrations. And here’s another way to savor the day: Les Enluminures, an international antiquarian bookseller dedicated to medieval and Renaissance-era manuscripts and miniatures, is offering a selection of posy rings in a nod to the Bard.

Sometimes spelled posie or posey (deriving from the French word for poetry, poésie), these gold rings were popular lover’s gifts throughout France and England from the 12th through the 18th century. The bands were engraved on the inside with short inscriptions, usually expressing love, affection, or friendship. Many examples were written in French, then as now, the language of love. Some inscriptions were so popular that goldsmiths kept reference books full of stock quotations.

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 9.01.08 AM.png“A Loving Wife During Life,” England, mid-18th century. Gold. $7,000. Courtesy of Les Enluminures.

                                                                                                                                                                    The posy rings at Les Enluminures date from the 17th to the 18th century and are inscribed in English, with phrases such as “I like my Choice,” “As God decreed, so we agreed,” and “In my sight is my delight.” One of the more fashionable inscriptions (though not currently available through les Enluminures) was, “Love me and Leave me Not,” a sentiment engraved on a band given by Nerissa to Gratiano in the Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare’s characters often exchanged rings: the quote in this piece’s title is from Richard III (i 2), where the king woos the widowed Lady Anne. (Richard killed her husband, and this hasty courtship is a brilliant example of the king’s mastery of manipulation.) 

Les Enluminures gold posy rings are available for $5,000 to $7,500. See more here, or stop by their booth at the Salon International du Livre Rare if you happen to be in Paris this weekend. Further examples of posy rings may be found at the Ashmolean Museum and at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

1772.jpgThe Book of Margery Kempe, (between 1436 and 1438), is currently on display along with Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love (1373) at the Wellcome Collection in London. The two medieval manuscripts are particularly notable for their female authorship. Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich are two of the earliest women writers in English.

The Book of Margery Kempe, widely considered the first autobiography in English, was dictated to a scribe by Kempe who, after birthing 14 children, became a pilgrim, traveling far from her Norfolk home to visit Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela.

Julian of Norwich wrote Revelations of Divine Love in 1373 in the wake of spiritual epiphinanies while serving as an anchorite.  Revelations includes the oft-repeated line, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Both manuscripts are extremely rare -- The Book of Margery Kempe only existing in one copy thought lost for four hundred years before an accidental discovery in a British country house brought it back into the light.

In an interesting aside, Margery Kempe met Julian of Norwich while Julian was entombed as an anchorite, seeking advice on her own visions of God. Despite this historical meeting, their manuscripts were only brought together for display for the first time at the new exhibition from Wellcome Collection. The manuscripts are on loan from the British Library.

The Wellcome Collection exhibition, entitled This is a Voice, explores the human voice in its myriad forms and will continue through the end of July.

[Image from the British Library]

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts (Simon & Schuster, $26) by former Newsweek foreign correspondent Joshua Hammer is the engrossing story of Abdel Kader Haidara, an archivist and historian who helped recreate Timbuktu’s historic manuscript libraries in the 1980s, 90s, and 2000s, and then risked everything to rescue them from Islamic militants bent on destruction.  
                                                                                                                                                    the-bad-ass-librarians-of-timbuktu-9781476777405_hr.jpgBy 2012, 45 libraries existed in the city, holding 377,000 manuscripts, all of which needed to be saved from the looting that Haidara was sure would ensue after al Qaeda seized the city that spring. Volunteers met under cover of darkness to pack the volumes in footlockers. “One prize was a tiny, irregularly shaped folio that glittered with illuminated blue Arabic letters and droplets of gold--a single page from the twelfth-century Koran written on the parchment of a fish...,” writes Hammer. For two hours each night, they packed books into chests with padlocks, “wrapped them in blankets and loaded them onto mule carts,” after which they would be transported to dozens of safe houses. From there, trusted couriers smuggled the manuscripts out of Timbuktu to Bamako, Mali’s capital--through dangerous jihadist checkpoints every day for months.                                                                                                                                                        To call this book a page-turner is to diminish it; the suspense that Hammer creates is vital, but it’s his shrewd reporting on cultural terrorism--and those who fought against it--that makes The Bad-Ass Librarians so important. No book lover should miss it.
                                                                                                                                         Further reading: The Wall Street Journal published a mini-excerpt from the book and American Libraries posted an interview with the author.


Image via Simon & Schuster.

Last month, I had the pleasure of receiving a personal tour of an exhibition at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia with curator David Whitesell. The exhibition, entitled “Fearsome Ink: The English Gothic Novel to 1830” will be on display through May 28th.

Below is a video of my exhibition tour with David Whitesell, created with my iPhone:

If you enjoyed the video tour, also be sure to check out our visit to the Innerpeffray Library in Perthshire, Scotland, last year.

Coming to auction this week at Freeman’s in Philadelphia is this colorful embroidered map of Washington, D.C. created by teenager Susanna Wilkinson Atkinson in 1807.


Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 9.51.43 PM.pngUsing silk thread, watercolor, and ink, the fourteen-year-old needle-pointer from Alexandria, Virginia, followed a plan of the city drawn by Pierre Charles L’Enfant and Andrew Ellicott and published by James Thackara and John Vallance in 1792. (Seen below courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

LOC Map.jpgAccording to the auctioneer, this is the fourth-known ‘Plan of the City of Washington’ embroidery. The others are held by Dumbarton House (The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America), Winterthur Museum, and Colonial Williamsburg. Will George Washington University, home to Albert H. Small’s amazing Washingtoniana collection, be the next? The auction estimate is $15,000-25,000.

                                                                                                                                                          Top image via Freeman’s.

After centuries of revolution and unrest, you could say that the French know a little something about protesting. Employees of virtually every sector have spent some time picketing unacceptable changes in business policy--metro conductors, nurses, and now, middle-school classics professors. Last year, the French Ministry of Education released plans to overhaul the nationwide academic system. The “réforme du collège” or “middle school reform” has met with intense resistance among teachers, parents, unions, and politicians. One of the proposed changes includes the removal of compulsory ancient Greek and Latin from the middle school curriculum, to be replaced by sprinkling French language classes with the “fundamental elements that Greek and Latin bring to the French language,” whatever that means. Full-credit language classes were reduced to electives taught one-hour-per week, but the outcry was so intense that the Ministry added an hour.



Dismayed, frustrated, but certainly not hopeless, a group of teachers nicknamed “The Immortals,” reacted with a certain elan that only the French could pull off. In August of last year they created a parody calendar called “The Calendar of the Immortals,” in which classicists portray Zeus, Hermes, Hera, and other Olympian gods. So far, it sounds tame enough, but it gets subversive once you start reading. Each month is accompanied by a parody of an “EPI,” basically the French version of our Standards of Learning. (Zeus’s dictum is unprintable here.) Needless to say, the calendar caught people’s attention. Available for purchase online, the teachers expected modest sales, and were happily surprised when over 400 calendars were bought by loyal supporters. In an article published by the French daily newspaper Le Figaro, one Immortal responded to suggestions that Greek and Latin are dusty and useless with, “We aren’t grumpy old dinosaurs. We are just classics professors...Greek and Latin will never die.” The reform puts the entire academic system in jeopardy, the Immortals claim, by robbing children of the opportunity to immerse themselves in the fundamentals of Western literature and analytic thought. Indeed, how does a student approach Dante’s Divine Comedy without first understanding the poetry of Virgil? Or Jean Anouilh’s Antigone (1944) without reading Sophocles’ (500 B.C) tragedy by the same name? 

                                                                                                                                                           As a former middle school French and Latin teacher, this revolt warms my heart. These teachers haven’t given up on the hoi polloi just yet.

                                                                                                                                                               (A hearty merci beaucoup to bibliophile Jean-Paul Fontaine for sharing this story on Facebook. To see it in French, click here.)

clareportrait.jpgOur Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Clare Trimming, proprietor of Beaux Books in Hampshire, England:


How did you get started in rare books?


My secondary school had a tradition of releasing us from the classroom for a couple of weeks work experience. The careers’ advisor suggested I channel my love of books into a placement at the local library but that didn’t sound quite exciting enough. Luckily my uncle, John Collins, worked at Maggs and he put me in touch with, what was then, Bloomsbury Book Auctions. I spent a fortnight there and caught the bug. That was in 1994 and I’m still here.


When did you open Beaux Books and what do you specialize in?


I spent several years working in London, including six years at Sims Reed. During this time I developed my knowledge and love of rare art and design books. When I had my first child the need to be closer to home and work more flexible hours spurred me on to take the plunge and start my own business. In 2012 Beaux Books was born. The company specialises in fine and rare books on art, design, fashion and photography. The majority of our stock is 20th century and we sell around the world. Many of our clients are art and antique dealers, and designers.


What do you love about the book trade?

I love the fact that every day is different. I love the books. And I love the interesting people that I meet - collectors and dealers. I met my husband, Nick Trimming (part of Daniel Crouch Rare Books), at a dealer’s party.


Describe a typical day for you:


I start the day dealing with emails and any orders that have come in overnight. I usually have a few books that I need to source for clients and I check any upcoming auctions. I’ll then catalogue and photograph any new stock. I’m currently working on a catalogue of Bruce Weber material so I’m spending time researching that. I try to fit in regular trips to London to see other dealers and catch-up with current exhibitions. In between all this there’s the school run and trips to the park. Bookselling is a great job to fit in around the children.

Favourite rare book (or ephemera) that you’ve handled?


At Sims Reed I handled some amazing objects. Highlights included an archive of original William Morris wallpaper samples and a complete set of Gazette de Bon Ton.

I’m not at that level yet with Beaux Books but David Hicks’s books from the 1960s encapsulate the kind of books I love to sell - good-looking books, striking dust jackets and stylish design by an iconic designer. And my customers love them too.


What do you personally collect?

I have a soft spot for the work of Cecil Beaton and his set. I have just bought a copy of Rex Whistler’s own bookplate which is now hanging on my office wall. I’ve also recently been reading Patti Smith’s memoirs and poetry. Her voice is so powerful and evocative of the creative scene in 1970s New York. I’ve started to collect some of her works.


What do you like to do outside of work?

As a family we like exploring and going on mini adventures. Nick is an excellent cook so food and entertaining is a big part of our weekends. And it goes without saying - reading.


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


I am optimistic for the future of the trade. The internet has changed the way we deal in books but for me these changes have been advantageous. I can buy a book from Paris and then sell it to a customer in New York without leaving the office. Yes, it’s not as much fun as before but it’s efficient and fits well around my schedule.

In the past few years I have seen people who started in the business at the same time as me setting up on their own and trying new and positive approaches to bookselling. The emphasis is moving from the generalist to the specialist. The good booksellers are those with an intensive knowledge of their subject coupled with a head for business.

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?


Beaux Books will be exhibiting at the Olympia Antiquarian Book Fair for the first time in May. We will be launching “the WEBER list” there, a comprehensive catalogue of books produced by and about the American fashion photographer, Bruce Weber. Do come and say “hi”.


032701.jpgAmong the medieval manuscripts and fine bindings on offer at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair last weekend, a very modern collection attracted notice: an archive of early McSweeney’s books, magazines, photographs, artifacts, props, and ephemera, focused primarily on the company’s first retail storefront called “Store” in Brooklyn, c. 1999-2003. The San Francisco-based McSweeney’s is the immensely successful literary outfit founded in 1998 by Dave Eggers which now includes several magazines, a book publishing arm, and national 826 tutoring centers.

“[Store] began as, and remained, as much an installation art project as a retail shop and had a built-in performance space for readings and musical concerts and other events: David Byrne played there; Zadie Smith read there ... It developed a house band--One Ring Zero--and a house artist, Marcel Dzama, and it became a hangout for writers and artists from the area,” writes bookseller Ken Lopez in a brochure for the archive, which is priced at $30,000. “As they did with books and literary journals, Dave Eggers and the others involved with the store played with the concept of a retail establishment, so that context became content,” Lopez commented earlier this week. “Aside from the publications, this was version 1.0 of McSweeney’s in the public sphere.”

The original Store closed in 2003--making way for the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. storefront, which also houses the 826NYC chapter. The archive that Lopez is selling was assembled by a McSweeney’s insider and chronicles those early days with photographs, copies of the journals signed by contributors, signed proofs, dust jacket variants, and ephemera such as retail signs, stickers, and shopping bags. Among those featured within: Jonathan Lethem, Ricky Moody, George Saunders, David Foster Wallace, A.M. Homes, Nick Hornby, and many more.

Lopez views the archive as complementary to the “official” archive purchased by the Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin back in 2013, as it zeroes in on an early part of McSweeney’s history. He said, “It fills in and documents a seminal operation/activity of McSweeney’s that is very much under-documented so far, and at some risk of being virtually “lost” to history--even in this Internet-saturated age: if you try to Google the first Brooklyn store you get very little information--an occasional article in the Times or someone’s blog post, but mostly the links are to the later stores and activities. But the first Store was, in effect, the testing grounds for McSweeney’s public face, and it contributed a number of the seminal ideas that have since flourished and defined McSweeney’s to the world.”

                                                                                                                                                             The question is, where will this unique trove of literary history be preserved: Brooklyn, San Francisco, Austin?     

                                                                                                                                                                 Image courtesy of Ken Lopez.

Shakespear_2.jpgWhile we’ve been busy covering the New York Antiquarian Fair and Rare Book Week NYC this past week, some major news surfaced from across the pond. A previously unknown First Folio was found at Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute off the Scottish coast.

The First Folio was found in the library at Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute, the ancestral home of the Stuarts of Bute. The find was confirmed as genuine by Professor Emma Smith of Oxford University.

The find brings the worldwide census of First Folios to 234 from an estimated 750 copies published in 1623, seven years after the author’s death.

The Mount Stuart copy’s provenance includes Isaac Reed, a well-known literary editor in London in the 18th century. A letter from Reed indicates that he purchased the Folio in 1786, keeping it until his death in 1807. Soon after, the book was sold to a “JW” for £38. (The last First Folio to appear at public auction sold for £2.8m in 2006). Sometime between 1807 and 1896 the Folio was acquired by someone in the Stuart family as the book next appears in a catalogue of the Mount Stuart library produced in 1896. The Folio was then forgotten about for many years, not appearing in the 1906 census of First Folios conducted by Sidney Lee.

Researchers at Mount Stuart House discovered the Folio while conducting research on the books held in the library. Adam Ellis-Jones, director of the Mount Stuart House Trust, said the identification of this original First Folio was “genuinely astonishing” in an interview with the BBC.  Ellis-Jones continued, “We knew that we had special things here, but we keep discovering how special - because it’s never been researched and never been in the public eye.”

Our interest is piqued by the “abundance of mysteries” that still remain at the library and we look forward to hearing more as research continues.

[Image from Mount Stuart]

The 56th annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair took place this weekend. It was, as always, a spectacular and dizzying experience trying to “see it all.” Any list of highlights in bound to be subjective, but here’s a short list of interesting sights:

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 9.02.28 AM.pngThe Book of the Hamburgs. This is L. Frank Baum’s first book -- and it’s a treatise on chicken breeding! Published in 1886, fourteen years before The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it is Baum’s “first and rarest book,” according to the bookseller, New York City’s own Books of Wonder. The price was $45,000.


Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 9.26.03 AM.pngHere was a book after my own heart: A first edition of The Body Snatcher [1895] by Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s a grisly tale about an anatomist and his need for fresh cadavers, presented in an elegant violet binding. I spotted it front and center in the booth of Maine booksellers Sumner & Stillman. The price was $1,650.

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 9.05.33 AM.pngWhen I asked David Lilburne at Antipodean Books about his fair favorite (outside of his own stand, of course), he directed me to Jonathan A. Hill, who was offering this breathtaking sample-book of decorative face powder wrappers and envelopes, assembled in Kyoto in 1815. The price was $3,500. Coincidentally, Hill recently released its first all-Japanese catalogue: Japanese Books, Manuscripts & Scrolls. Antipodean, by the by, had a super charming nineteenth-century book of dried sea mosses, hand-made by one Anna Bigelow.

Having posed the same question to historic documents guru Stuart Lutz, I was sent across the aisle to Daniel Crouch Rare Books, where a framed wall map of the world from 1604 enticed passersby. A cartographic masterpiece, it was priced at $975,000.   

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 9.23.38 AM.pngKubik Fine Books of Dayton, Ohio, deserves credit for reaching out to younger/newbie collectors with a shelf of $50 volumes, a stack of vinyl, and a pile of vintage comics. Gone With The Wind fans could have glimpsed a treasure in the booth of Jeffrey Marks: a volume signed by the entire motion picture cast (price: $85,000). Priscilla Juvelis showcased a beautiful artist’s book by Barry McCallion of John Williams’ novel, Stoner, bound in soft yellow suede (seen here, price: $2,750).

The most unusual item at the fair was a late 13th-century bronze bell from Southwest France, offered by Thomas Heneage, London, although Anna Pavlova’s pointe shoe ($25,000) from Schubertiade Music & Arts of Newton, Massachusetts, took a close second.


The eyes have it: Guercino (artist); Gatti, Oliviero (engraver). Sereniss. Mantuae Duci Ferdinando Gonzaghae DD. Jo. Franciscus Barberius Centen. Inventor.



Guercino (artist); Gatti, Oliviero (engraver). Sereniss. Mantuae Duci Ferdinando Gonzaghae DD. Jo. Franciscus Barberius Centen. Inventor.

                                                                                                                                                                   Be sure to visit stall A33 and welcome Honey & Wax Booksellers to its first New York Antiquarian Book Fair. Founded in 2011 by former Bauman Rare Books employee Heather O’Donnell, the shop specializes in great literature, rare first printings, curious editions, and, as O’Donnell puts it, “books with no downloadable equivalent.”


Among her wares, O’Donnell is highlighting books dedicated to education, including one of the earliest Italian pattern books by self-taught painter Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, better known as Guercino. A 17th-century drawing manual (pictured above) showcases his luminous and lively style, and instructs readers to concentrate on one feature at a time--eyes, hands, then, eventually, full portraits. Honey & Wax is offering this single-broadsheet volume comprising of twenty-two numbered copper-engraved plates bound in full contemporary vellum for $4,800.



Urania’s Mirror, or, A View of the Heavens; WITH: A Familiar Treatise on Astronomy, Explaining the General Phenomena of the Celestial Bodies . . . Written Expressly to Accompany Urania’s Mirror.



                                                                                                                                                               Another instruction guide is inspired by the luminous heavens. Rather than a simple guide to the skies, O’Donnell is offering a complete, second-edition, 32-card set of Urania’s Mirror. These charming, hand-colored cards illustrate the constellations, where pinholes denote the stars’ locations. Images are based on those found in Alexander Jamieson’s Celestial Atlas (1822). To see the formations of the constellations, viewers held the cards in front of candles or lamps to see the shape the stars would make in the night sky.  Few of these sets remain intact, and this one, which includes an astronomical table and textual explanations, can light up your corner of the sky for $6,200.

26238-1.jpgAmong the highlights at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair this weekend is a complete three-volume set of “History of the Indian Tribes of North America,” by Thomas McKenney and James Hall, one of the undisputed high points of Americana collecting. The set, offered for sale by Donald A. Heald for $170,000, is inclusive of a fourth volume containing the original front and rear wrappers from each of the original 20 parts. 

The first edition of “one of the most costly and important [works] ever published on the American Indians” (Field), includes 120 beautifully hand-colored lithographic plates, considered to be some of the best examples of the lithographic arts produced in the 19th century. The book was published in Philadelphia by Edward C. Biddle, etc., between 1837 and 1844.

The book was a passion project from Thomas McKenney, a director of the Office of26238-12.jpg Indian Affairs, and James Hall, a journalist and lawyer, who hoped to preserve an accurate visual record of rapidly vanishing Native culture. The color plate portraits include many famous chiefs of the early 19th century, such as Sequoyah and Red Jacket, who were painted by Charles Bird King from life in his Washington studio.

At time of publication, “History of the Indian Tribes of North America” was the most elaborate plate book produced in the United States.

26238-8.jpgThis copy, with a morocco binding over period cloth, is particularly special for including the rare original wraps in a fourth volume. In his description of the book, Heald mentions that “copies with their original wrappers are of the utmost scarcity and seldom found.”

Donald Heald can be found in both C1 at the fair.



If you can crack the seven silver locks on this incredibly beautiful red morocco binding, a seventeenth-century manuscript on heraldry will be revealed.

5416a.jpgTitled ‘The Baronage of England since the Norman Conquest...’, the manuscript on parchment was made in England in 1627. It contains 20 large painted royal arms and 810 small painted arms, all in gold and colors, with captions in a neat English hand.  

5416c.jpgBookseller Justin Croft will be showcasing this book at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, which opens tomorrow evening. The price is $15,000.

5416b.jpgImages courtesy of Justin Croft.

lovecraftheritageletters.jpegTen autograph letters from H. P. Lovecraft to Frederic Jay Pabody will be up for auction on April 6th at Heritage as part of the fesitivites during Rare Book Week NYC. The lot, which totals forty-six pages, opens at $10,000.

Lovecraft, an avid correspondent, wrote these lengthy handwritten letters full of publishing advice to his young fan, Frederic Jay Pabody, in the 1930s. Highlights of the letters include comments on fellow writers R. H. Barlow, Adolphe de Castro, Robert E. Howard, insights into “good” vs “bad” marriages, the nature of weird fiction, and Lovecraft’s own hatred of typewriters. A particular highlight is a 1936 letter that includes a hand draw map of Kusha, a mythic land associated with Atlantis.

Parts of two of the letters appeared in the multi-volume “The Selected Letters of H. P. Lovecraft” edited by August Derleth and published between 1965 and 1976.  The majority of the contents in the ten Pabody letters remain, however, unpublished.

The New York Antiquarian Book Fair opens on Thursday, and today we’re highlighting one fantastic item that will be offered there, courtesy of British bookseller Simon Beattie. This unique collection of press cuttings and other printed ephemera dated 1885-1914 relates to Oscar Wilde, primarily to his 1895 criminal trial for gross indecency.  

Wilde.jpegCompiled by photographer Frederick H. Evans, who shared common literary acquaintances with Wilde, the brown cloth scrapbook contains 24 neatly mounted items with a frontispiece fashioned from Toulouse-Lautrec’s 1895 portrait of Wilde. Another 33 loose items detail the sensationalism of Wilde’s trials--from allegations about his private life to his prosecution and subsequent imprisonment. “The assiduousness with which these cuttings have been preserved certainly suggests a deep personal interest in the case,” writes Beattie.

The price is $5,000.

All this week we’ll be showcasing Rare Book Week book fairs and auctions. Click here to check out more highlights from the New York book fairs, or here for our Rare Book Week guide to related auctions, exhibits & events.                                                                                                                                                                             Image: Courtesy of Simon Beattie.

The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide

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Devil’s Claw ©2016 Paul Mirocha. Reproduced with permission from University of Arizona Press.


This year the National Park Service turns 100, and while plenty of new books on the topic clamor for attention, one standout will surely interest readers of this blog. The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide, published by the University of Arizona Press takes an innovative approach to natural history by combining words and image in a most striking way. A delightful hybrid of scientific exploration and creative writing, the book is a unique match for the desert topography, which is itself a study in paradoxes: Encompassing over 120,000 miles between Arizona and Mexico, North America’s hottest region is also the world’s “lushest” desert, and claims five distinct seasons, allowing for a surprising array of life.

To capture the biodiversity of the desert, editors Eric Magrane and Christopher Cokinos included material from fifty writers and poets based in the American West. The writers and their styles are just as varied as the plants and animals discussed: Alison Hawthorne Deming’s odes to the Saguaro cactus, “What the Desert is Thinking” and “Questions for a Saguaro,” mimic the long arms of the desert’s keystone flora, while Wendy Burk’s spare, methodical composition matches its subject, the desert tortoise. These, and other entries represent a sampling of what the editors charmingly coined a “literary biomimicry.” Plenty of creatures are included whose names alone demand further inspection, such as the desert globemallow, the fairy duster, and the Arizona walkingstick. Sketches by award-winning illustrator Paul Mirocha are crisp, bright, and lively. (Readers may recognize Mirocha’s handiwork; he has illustrated over 20 children’s books and pop-ups, including Barbara Kingsolver’s Small Wonder.)

Each creative contribution is accompanied by the subject’s physical description and habitat, and these scientific entries are entertaining as well: the desert tortoise is called “the Oreo of the desert” for their prevalence on predator menus, and inebriated young men are frequent victims of rattlesnake bites. The diversity of the text and the species of the Sonoran offer up a rich resource that celebrates the beauty of this extraordinary biome.


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Cactus Wren ©2016 Paul Mirocha, reproduced with permission from University of Arizona Press

The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide, edited by Eric Magrane and Christopher Cokinos with illustrations by Paul Mirocha; University of Arizona Press, $19.95, 216 pages, 2016.

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