May 2016 Archives

alices-adventures-in-wonderland-first-edition-1865.jpgOne of the great rarities of 19th century literature - a true first edition of “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll - will be up for auction at Christie’s in New York City on June 16. The book--one of only 23 known copies--is expected to fetch between $2m and $3m.

Two thousand copies of the first edition of “Alice in Wonderland” were printed by Macmillan in 1865, with 50 advance copies sent to Carroll to give away as he wished. Shortly after their arrival, however, Carroll heard from the book’s illustrator, John Tenniel, that he was “entirely dissatisfied with the printing of the pictures.” Carroll recalled the print run and asked for the advance copies he’d distributed to be returned to him. Mostly they were, and the vast majority of the print run was scrapped for waste paper.

But at least 23 copies survived, with a lingering possibility that other copies might surface over time. Of the known copies, eighteen are owned by institutions and five by private individuals. 

The copy at auction was given by Carroll to his Oxford colleague George William Kitchin, who passed it on to his daughter Alexandra. She, in turn, sold the book at auction in 1925 to the Pforzheimer library. The book has since passed through multiple hands. Its current owner is Jon Lindseth, a Carroll scholar and bibliographer. To read more about Lindseth and this book, go here.  

[Image from Christie’s]

MANHATTAN, May 24--The Bonnie J. Sacerdote Lecture Hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was the setting for a daylong symposium dedicated to exploring the history, design, and manufacture of late 19th to early 20th century American publishers’ book covers, as well as bookbinders’ influence on decorative bookbinding and other artistic movements. Over 125 collectors, curators, librarians, binders, and preservationists also gathered to celebrate the recent acquisition of American decorated publishers’ bindings by the Met’s Watson Library.


Book cover design by Alice Cordelia Morse. Written by Paul Leicester Ford -, Public Domain,


After an introduction by the Met’s head preservation librarian Mindell Dubansky, Richard Minsky took the podium. The Center for Book Arts founder offered compelling evidence for how American book designers such as Alice Cordelia Morse and Amy Richards formed the vanguard of major artistic movements like Art Deco and Surrealism. Senior book conservator at the Northeast Document Conservation Center Todd Pattison explored the role of women in book production and the industrialization of 19th Century American publishers’ bindings. Met curators, including Dubansky and Holly Phillips, spoke about the museum’s vast collections dedicated to decorative bookbindings. Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen discussed the influence of stained glass window design on decorative book cover creators.

Women played a huge, if often overlooked role, in the creation of books, and the symposium’s speakers highlighted women’s achievements in nearly every presentation. During the late 1800s, many women were employed in binderies; folding, sewing, trimming, and stitching books in factories in Philadelphia, Hartford, and New York City. A smaller group of women, such as Alice C. Morse, Sarah Wyman Whitman, and Margaret Armstrong, were primarily responsible for producing beautiful decorative bindings, and maintained successful careers in an ever-evolving industry. Their selection of color palettes, design, and style contributed to the growing field of decorative arts and led the way for future generations of artists.

A closing reception in the Watson library, where original botany watercolors by Margaret Armstrong were on display, put the finishing touches on an illuminating event.

golden goose archive.jpgThe literary archive of the Golden Goose Press of Sausalito, California, will be up for auction at Christie’s on June 16. Neal Cassady’s “Joan Anderson letter” to Jack Kerouac was discovered in that archive, which we reported on last week. The Joan Anderson letter will be sold separately in the same auction.

The Golden Goose archive contains nearly 200 letters, pamphlets, pieces of ephemera, and related material from the heyday of the press during the 1950s and 1960s. The estimate on the archive is $10,000-15,000.

Richard Wirtz Emerson and Frederick Eckman founded the Golden Goose Press in Columbus, Ohio, in the late 1940s before relocating to Sausalito in the 1950s. There the press attracted contributions from many prominent mid-century poets, including William Carlos Williams, E.E. Cummings, Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Penn Warren, and Ezra Pound.

The press’s archive, which has never been properly examined by scholars, contains material related to 70 different poets, members of the Beats, the San Francisco Renaissance, and the Black Mountain writers. Its auction presents an incredibly unique opportunity for collectors and academics interested in twentieth-century poetry.

[Image from Christie’s]

The auction of the collection of Marcel Proust’s great-grandniece, Patricia Mante-Proust, is, to quote Sotheby’s, “a real literary event,” and that’s not publicity blather. Going to auction at Sotheby’s Paris on May 31 is an exceptional archive of very personal material, including family photos and love letters to and from Proust, heretofore censored by the family. More than 120 items (lots 116-241) will be offered.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 2.19.42 PM.pngThe one that caught my eye, perhaps because of the scrawled writing across its title page, is this first edition of Du côté de chez Swann (Paris, 1913), inscribed to his American friend Walter Van Rensselaer Berry. The lengthy French inscription, written in July 1916 not long after they met, runs on three pages including the title page as seen here. It reads, in part, “Sir, you probably think, as I do, that the wisest, most poetic and best people are not those who put all their poetry, goodness and knowledge into their work, but those who, with a skilful and prodigal hand, also put a little into their lives.” The estimate is €20,000-30,000 ($22,698-34,047).

The two became friends--Berry had several literary friends, particularly Edith Wharton and Henry James--when Berry sent Proust a fine, eighteenth-century volume in an armorial binding earlier that year. Proust writes about the volume in a June 1916 letter to his lover, Lucien Daudet, and that letter will be offered in the same sale next week, lot 208. It is estimated at €12,000-15,000 ($13,619-17,024).

To read more about this sale, go here.

Image via Sotheby’s.

bonhamsmarx.jpgOn June 15, Bonhams in London will offer at auction a very rare presentation copy of Karl Marx’s hugely influential economic work Das Kapital. The copy, inscribed by Marx to his then friend Johann Georg Eccarius, is expected to fetch £80,000-120,000 ($120,000-170,000).

The first edition of Das Kapital, published in 1867, was the only edition released during Marx’s life. He inscribed this copy to his friend, Eccarius, who he described as one of his “oldest friends and adherents.” Eccarius was a German tailor and a member of the Communist Party predecessor The League of the Just.

The two friends would eventually have a serious falling out over political differences, leading to allegations from Marx that Eccarius was a paid police informant. Marx would later write of Eccarius as a “scoundrel, pure and simple.” 

Nevertheless, the well-used Eccarius copy of Das Kapital remained in the hands of the family for the next 149 years until descendants decided to auction the book this year.

Bonhams reports that only two other presentation copies of the book have been previously auctioned.

[Photo from Bonhams]

We’re jumping on the Hamilton bandwagon and highlighting three historical documents related to the Founding-Father-turned-Broadway-star that will be among the incredible selection of Americana going to auction this week at Sotheby’s New York.

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 9.59.29 PM.pngOne: A two-page printed Treasury Department circular dated July 20, 1792 and signed “A. Hamilton” (as first Secretary of the Treasury). The estimate is $4,000-7,000.

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 9.51.41 PM.pngTwo: Another printed Treasury Department circular, this one dated August 6, 1792, also signed “A. Hamilton.” The estimate is $4,000-7,000.

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 9.58.38 PM.pngThree: A disbound copy of Hamilton’s 1797 pamphlet, Observations on Certain Documents..., reprinted in 1800 by his enemies because he confided marital infidelity in its pages. The estimate is $2,000-3,000.

For more highlights from this sale, check out the full press release.

Last year, the world celebrated 150 consecutive years of Alice in Wonderland in print with seminars, conferences, readings and film screenings. 2016 has another tantalizing event on the horizon: At high noon on June 16, in a stand-alone sale at Christie’s New York, an extremely rare first edition copy of Lewis Carroll’s landmark publication will be on the auction block, still in its original red cloth binding and with unparalleled provenance. Sometimes referred to as the “Suppressed Alice,” the first edition was published on July 4, 1865, only to be withdrawn by Carroll days later because the book’s illustrator, John Tenniel, had declared the quality of the printed illustrations subpar. All 2,000 copies were recalled, though Carroll retained 50 advance copies in his possession.


Dodgson, Charles Lutwidge (‘Lewis Carroll’), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. London: [The Clarendon Press for] Macmillan, 1865. 42 wood-engraved illustrations by the Dalziel brothers after John Tenniel. Original publisher’s red cloth decorated in gilt, original endpapers with Burn bindery ticket on rear pastedown. Estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000. Credit: Christie’s Images LTD.

As a result, surviving copies are rare. “With only twenty-two extant copies, this first edition is rarer than Shakespeare’s First Folio,” said Jon A. Lindseth, the book’s current owner. “Of these, sixteen are held by institutions, and six remain in private hands. Of the editions held privately, two are in their original cloth--always my objective as a collector--with one of these described as heavily worn.” Lindseth, a passionate collector of Lewis Carroll for over a quarter century and general editor of the recently published three-volume Alice in a World of Wonderlands: The Translations of Lewis Carroll’s Masterpiece (Oak Knoll Press), acquired his copy in 1997 from legendary television and film producer Bill Self (1921-2010). Prior to Self, it was owned by Chicago book collector Harriet Borland (1905-1997), financier-turned-bibliophile Carl H. Pforzheimer (1879-1957), Carroll’s child friend Alexandra Kitchin (1864-1925), and her father George Kitchin (1827-1912), Carroll’s Oxford colleague who acquired the book from the author.



One of the images Tenniel declared entirely dissatistactory, leading to the recall of the entire first edition. Credit: Christie’s Images LTD.

“No other copy in this condition, with this provenance, exists in private hands,” Lindseth said. “Today, all significant Lewis Carroll collections are held by private institutions. The lack of Lewis Carroll collections in Great Britain led me to gift my own collection to the British Library.” Since the British Library already has a copy of the 1865 Alice, Lindseth is putting his edition up for sale.

Pre-sale estimates for the 1865 Alice in Wonderland are $2,000,000-3,000,000. Christie’s will host this sale on Thursday, June 16 at noon, at Rockefeller Plaza. For more information, visit

Litersf1$kerouac-and-cassady.jpgNeal Cassady’s hugely influential 1950 letter to Jack Kerouac - called “The Joan Anderson Letter” - will be a leading lot in the June 16 auction at Christie’s. 

The 13,000-word stream-of-consciousness letter was penned to Kerouac while Cassady was on a three-day Benzedrine high. Amongst other topics, Cassady ruminates on his chaotic love affairs, particularly with a woman named Joan Anderson who he visited in a hospital after a failed suicide attempt. Cassady’s spontaneous prose was nothing less than a revelation to Kerouac, who, after reading it, trashed his early drafts of “On the Road” and started over with what would become his trademark style.

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

Long thought lost, the Joan Anderson letter resurfaced in 2012 in the files of the Golden Goose Press after following a circuitous route to arrive there in the first place. A planned auction of the letter was set at Profiles in History in 2014 (which we wrote about on this blog), but was later canceled when both the Cassady and the Kerouac estates filed claims of ownership for the letter.

Almost two years later, the letter is with Christie’s. It remains unclear - at time of writing - which person, or what estate, is now offering the letter for auction. 

Neal Cassady material is virtually unprecedented on the rare book market. The estimate for the letter, a shot in the dark, is $400,000-600,000.

Only a fragment of the letter has ever been published. 

This auction will be one to watch.

[Image from Wikipedia]

787px-Caveat_Emptor_2005-08-11.jpgWord reached us that Caveat Emptor, the largest used and rare bookstore in southern Indiana, will close in August unless an interested buyer steps forward.   

Caveat Emptor, located in downtown Bloomington, has been in business since 1971, and its owner, Janis Starcs, is looking forward to retirement. That said, they’re hopeful that someone will take over the shop and its stock of 50,000 books. John McGuigan, the store’s Internet sales manager, told us: “After 45 years, it is time to let a younger and more vigorous owner, perhaps someone with a different vision, take over. We hope that Caveat Emptor will not have to close its doors.” He added that they “have had several interested buyers and are entertaining offers ... In the worst case, if no offers pan out, we would bow out at the end of August. But a university town like Bloomington needs a good used book store, so we’re optimistic about the future of Caveat Emptor.

Any interested parties should contact or call (812) 332-9995.

                                                                                                                                                       Image via Bloomingpedia.

Frédéric_Dard_(1992)_by_Erling_Mandelmann.jpgOne of the twentieth century’s bestselling crime novelists also happens to be someone you’ve probably never heard of: Frédéric Dard. Despite selling a staggering 200 million copies of his novels in his native France, Dard was never widely translated into English. The author died in 2000, with 300 books published, but not a single English language edition still in print.

All of that is about to change.

Pushkin Press is translating a whole slough of Dard’s novels into English under its Vertigo Crime imprint for an ambitious release schedule beginning this summer with “Bird in a Cage.” (August release date in the US; earlier in Britain). The psychological thriller is summarized by Vertigo as follows, “30-year-old Albert returns to Paris after six years away, during which time his mother has passed away, to find himself entangled in a complicated case centred around a woman he met at a restaurant whose husband’s body appears in her lounge, but then disappears almost inexplicably.”

As for the author himself, Frédéric Dard led a complicated life. Born in 1921, Dard became a close friend of Georges Simenon, whose Maigret series of detective novels became a hit in 1960s Britain. Dard also wrote under at least seventeen pseudonyms, making an official tally of his published titles difficult to obtain. His personal history was marred with an attempted suicide and the successful kidnapping and ransoming of his daughter from his second marriage. He died in Switzerland in 2000.

“Bird in a Cage” will be quickly followed by “The Wicked Go to Hell,” and “Crush” this fall. Described as “novels of the night,” Vertigo hopes the books will be devoured by the same crowds of readers that made “Gone Girl,” and “Girl on a Train” runaway bestsellers.


The National Park Service officially turns 100 this summer, and the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, is marking the occasion with two consecutive exhibitions drawn from its collection of rare books, manuscripts, photographs, and ephemera. The first, Geographies of Wonder: Origin Stories of America’s National Parks, 1872-1933, opened this past weekend. From an album of early photos documenting Yellowstone National Park at its beginnings to the many brochures, postcards, and guidebooks produced in the early twentieth century to entice tourists, the exhibition highlights early Euro-American encounters with the landscape and examines the consequences of our actions. Below are a few highlights now on view:


jorgensen-cover_500.jpgSunset magazine; May 1904 issue cover, painted by Chris Jorgensen. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

tenting-tonight_500.jpgMary Roberts Rinehart, Tenting Tonight, cover, 1916. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

glacier-national-park_500.jpgGreat Northern Railway, Glacier National Park Invites You, 1925. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Geographies of Wonder will remain up through September 3. Part II, Geographies of Wonder: Evolution of the National Park Idea, 1933-2016, will open on October 22.

I’m not a cat person--if my parents’ calico could talk, she’d readily testify to all the ways me and my basset hounds have made her miserable over the past decade. Still, I’d be foolish to ignore that books and cats are a winning combination. Librarian Jan Louch (with Lisa Rogak) explores that special bond in her new book The True Tails of Baker and Taylor: The Library Cats Who Left Their Pawprints on a Small Town...and the World.


Baker & Taylor want you to use the library. © Baker & Taylor LLC. Reproduced with permission from St. Martin’s Press

In an era before the morass of social media made Grumpy Cat and other creatures international celebrities, there were Baker and Taylor. Bags, posters, and other freebies from the eponymous library distributor became cult items at library conferences (like the BEA taking place in Chicago this week), and remain fan favorites today, as their namesake company continues to use their likeness on promotional items.

Louch’s memoir explains how she and fellow librarians at her sleepy public library in Minden, Nevada, initially adopted a cat to tackle a mouse infestation. When a representative from  Baker & Taylor learned the cat was named for their company, a companion was shrewdly purchased for the library. In return, the creatures posed for company advertising, resulting in a wildly successful marketing campaign that remains a cultural touchstone for librarians across the country. Posters and other items routinely pop up on eBay and other auction sites for around $30.


9. baker taylor first poster.jpg

The inaugural members of Douglas County Public Library’s Feline Literati section in their first poster for Baker & Taylor. ©Baker & Taylor LLC. reproduced with permission from St. Martin’s Press.


Co-author Lisa Rogak was kicking around ideas for a new project about two years ago, and the story of these felines was catnip to her: “I had always known of the Baker and Taylor cats because I’ve been in publishing for so long,” Rogak said earlier this week. “Honestly, I would have thought that a book already existed because they were so famous back in the day, but no book [existed]. I then tracked down Jan Louch, the librarian who cared for them. She emailed me back and after a brief phone conversation I hopped on a plane a week later.”
                                                                                                                                                            Alongside the cats’ rise to fame, the book chronicles the rapid growth in Douglas County, where the population grew over 600% from the 1960s to the early 80s, which meant more library patrons, but not necessarily increased funding. The True Tails of Baker and Taylor also explores Louch’s own bibliocentric childhood, where she spent endless days with a book in one hand and an animal in the other. This ode to feline companionship confirms what librarians and literary-minded folk have known for ages: books are better with cats.

                                                                                                                                                            The True Tails of Baker and Taylor: The Library Cats Who Left Their Pawprints on a Small Town...and the World, by Jan Louch with Lisa Rogak; St. Martin’s Press, $25.99, hardcover, 274 pages. May 2016.


As part of the ongoing Shakespeare commemorations this year marking the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death, Transport for London has teamed up with Shakespeare’s Globe to create a special map of the London Underground. 

All 367 stations across the Underground - as well as the 14 Underground Lines - have had their usual names replaced with characters from Shakespeare’s plays in a special edition map. Instead of taking the Northern or the Bakerloo Lines, you can jump on board the Villains or Heroines Lines instead.

Station names along the way have had their names changed to match the theme of the line. So, the Central Line, which on the Shakespeare map is called the Lovers Line, has stations such as Hortensio and Juliet. Meanwhile, the Jubilee Line, labeled the Fathers and Kings Line, has stops at King Lear and Shylock.

“To think about navigating the plays in the same way we think about getting around the Underground reminds us that as complex as they are, the works of Shakespeare are entirely accessible to everyone,” said Farah Karim-Cooper, head of research at Shakespeare’s Globe, in an interview with The Independent.

Maps are available for £3.99 in a regular tube map edition or £15 for a special art print.

You had me at the subtitle.
                                                                                                                                                             the-vanishing-velazquez-9781476762159_hr.jpgArt historian Laura Cumming’s new book, The Vanishing Velázquez: A 19th-Century Bookseller’s Obsession with a Lost Masterpiece (Scribner, $28), is the astonishing true story of an English bookseller whose purchase of a painting of Charles I at a liquidation auction changed the course of his life. It was 1845 when John Snare bid £8 for a painting supposed by the auctioneer to be a Van Dyck, but Snare had his own opinion: he thought the Spanish artist Diego Velázquez might have painted it during Charles’ clandestine trip to Spain in 1623 when the proposed marriage between (then prince) Charles and Maria Anna, daughter of Philip III of Spain, was under negotiation.


It was the nineteenth-century equivalent of today’s barn or attic find (or the Rembrandt dislodged from a NJ basement recently), and years of research and legal issues ensued as Snare attempted to prove the Velázquez provenance. Snare’s enthusiasm ultimately veered into mania, causing him to lose his livelihood and very likely his family. He left them behind when he emigrated to New York City where he would continue exhibiting and promoting his “Velázquez” for decades.
                                                                                                                                                            The mystery at the book’s core hooks the reader early on--is it real or isn’t it? Was Snare clever or deluded? Cumming’s thorough research and passion for the subject shines through her engaging prose, making The Vanishing Velázquez a riveting read for any book or art lover.
                                                                                                                                                        Image via Simon & Schuster/Scribner.

Apple_Lisa.jpgAn enterprising fifteen year old--who built a collection of vintage Mac computers with money he saved from mowing lawns--is set to display his collection at a planned technology museum in Maine.

In just six years, and with limited means at his disposal, Alex Jason managed to collect 200 Apple computers, many of which are on display at the moment in his parents’ basement.

The collection highpoint is a very rare Apple I, from 1976, which is still functioning. Fewer than 70 Apple Is are thought to still exist. One sold for over $900,000 in 2014 at a Bonhams auction.

Another collection highlight the Apple Lisa 2/5 (pictured), named for Steve Jobs’ daughter, a Powerbook 100, considered to be the first modern laptop, and Cursor III, the first prototype of a mouse.

Alex’s first major coup in building his collection was acquiring a lot of 50 Apple computers for $2,000.

Alex’s father, Bill, is leading an effort in Maine to convert a Carnegie Library into the Maine Technology Museum, which would open in January 2017. In addition to housing Alex’s Apple collection, the musuem would host a variety of interactive exhibits about engineering, renewable energy, space exploration, virtual reality, and, of course, computers. 

In the meantime, you can view Alex’s collection, on display in his parents’ basement, in this YouTube video:

[Image of an Apple Lisa from Wikipedia]

Emile Stange painted this Hudson River scene c. 1892, but it was his friend, writer Stephen Crane, who later captioned it, “The Sense of A City is War.”
Crane.jpgCrane lived in New York City from 1894 to 1897. He had established himself as an author with Maggie: A Girl of the Streets in 1893, and The Red Badge of Courage followed in 1895. His circle of friends at the time included Stange as well as another artist, Corwin Linson. It was Linson who recalled this 5 1/2” x 8 3/4” oil on canvas in his memoir, My Stephen Crane: “Stange had given me a small sketch of a great white cruiser at anchor in the North River against the line of city towers. Steve at once entitled it ‘The Sense of A City is War.’”

The painting is inscribed by the artist at bottom right, “To my friend Linson 1894, Emile Stange 1892.” In another hand (presumably Linson’s) in the lower left is Crane’s title.   

Swann Galleries will offer this painting at auction on May 18. The estimate is $1,000-1,500. Will it be an art (Stange) collector or a book (Crane) collector who covets it most?

Image via Swann Auction Galleries.

Recently we heard about the newly launched Collectors Café, branded as a “global lifestyle brand for collectors and the collectibles industry.” Through its website, social media, and a TV series hosted by Larry King, his wife Shawn, and Mykalai Kontilai, Collectors Café is trying to appeal to a mass audience of collectors.

The Collectors Café website (still in Beta) contains a collector shop offering a selection of collectibles, all sold with “Authentiguard” consumer protection. Though not yet fully operational, it appears that the website will also anchor “CollectorBook” (like Facebook for collectors) and “Collectortube” (Youtube for collectors). Until then, Collectors Café has uploaded a handful of videos to its Youtube channel. Some are longer interviews between Larry King and a celebrity collector while others are two-minute programs designed for the nonspecialist on topics ranging from Superbowl rings to Elvis memorabilia to Teddy bears. Earlier this week, they even got into the rare book game by posting about first editions and “The Hobbit.” See for yourself:


713854.jpgAnne Frank’s personal copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, bearing the ownership signatures of Anne and her sister Margot, will be on the auction block today at Swann Galleries. The otherwise unremarkable 1925 German edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Aus Grimms Märchen) is expected to fetch $20,000-30,000.

   When the Frank family fled their Amsterdam apartment for the secret annex on Prinsengacht street, the book was left behind. The book found its way into a secondhand bookshop where a Dutch couple purchased the book shortly after the conclusion of the war. 

   In 1977, the children of the Dutch couple discovered Anne’s signature in the book and wrote a letter to Otto Frank, Anne’s father, and the only family member who survived the Holocaust. Otto wrote a moving letter in response, expressing his desire that the family keep the book for their own children. That letter will be sold alongside the copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales at auction.

   Anne Frank material is, of course, exceedingly scarce on the ground. A set of letters between Anne and Margot Frank and their American penpals was sold at auction by Swann in 1988 for $165,000.

   Other auction highlights include a portrait of Einstein bearing his signature and an unsigned manuscript from Oscar Wilde. The Wilde manuscript consists of notes for a pending, book review of a book on book collecting entitled The Book Fancier. Wilde wasn’t impressed.

Opening tomorrow at the Getty Research Institute galleries in Los Angeles is a major exhibit, Cave Temples Of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art On China’s Silk Road. Organized in collaboration with the Dunhuang Academy and the Dunhuang Foundation, the show will feature rare objects found at the famous Mogao cave site and full-scale replicas of three cave temples. The Magao caves, along the ancient Silk Road, date from the 4th to 14th centuries. The items on exhibit, including 43 manuscripts, paintings on silk, embroideries, sketches, and ritual diagrams, have traveled from museums and libraries around the world.

Diamond Sutra.jpgOne exhibit highlight, especially for readers of this blog, is the Diamond Sutra, the world’s oldest dated complete printed book, according to The Getty. The Diamond Sutra is a sacred Mahayana Buddhist text that dates to the year 868 CE. It was unearthed in Cave 17, also known as the Library Cave, where some 40,000 objects, sealed up for a millennium, were discovered in the early twentieth century. The book is on loan from the British Library for a rare stateside visit.

Susan Whitfield, the director of the International Dunhuang Project, will present a related lecture, The Diamond Sutra: A Story of Printing, Piety, and Preservation on the Silk Road, on June 5. The exhibit will remain up through September 4.

Image: Diamond Sutra, 868 CE, ink on paper. London, British Library, Or.8210/P.2. Copyright © The British Library Board.

blackwells tolkien map2.jpgA map of Middle Earth annotated by J. R. R. Tolkien has been acquired by the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, where it will join the largest collection of Tolkien material in the world.

Last fall, we reported on a surprise discovery of an annotated map of Middle Earth that Tolkien created in preparation for a 1970 edition of The Lord of the Rings. That map, found tucked away in a copy of the novel owned by illustrator Pauline Bayes (who created the now iconic map for the same 1970 Allen & Unwin edition), was discoverd by Blackwell’s in Oxford.  The bookshop priced the map at £60,000.

The Bodleian purchased the map with friends of the library funds as well as grants from the V&A Purchase Fund.

“This particular map provides a glimpse into the creative process that produced some of the first images of Middle-earth, with which so many of us are now familiar. We’re delighted to have been able to acquire this map and it’s particularly appropriate that we are keeping it in Oxford,” said Chris Fletcher, keeper of special collections at the Bodleian in an interview with The Guardian.

“Tolkien spent almost the whole of his adult life in the city and was clearly thinking about its geographical significance as he composed elements of the map. It would have been disappointing had it disappeared into a private collection or gone abroad.”

New and Notable Books

Below, we offer two titles sure to put a little spring in your step. Each focuses on British ladies of letters--the Brontë sisters, and Agatha Christie.
The Brontë Cabinet, by Deborah Lutz; W.W. Norton & Co, $16.95, 352 pages, paperback, May 2016.



                                                                                                                                                                        Whole libraries could easily be filled with the books devoted to studying the lives and legacy of the Brontës, and Deborah Lutz makes a compelling addition to the canon of literary criticism. In The Brontë Cabinet, the Long Island University professor examines nine artifacts from the Haworth home where Charlotte, Emily, and Anne lived and wrote. “Even ordinary objects can carry us to other times and places,” Lutz declares, describing the deep spiritual meaning Victorians imbued into everyday objects, which they believed to recall the essence and physical presence of their owners. Studying the materiality of authors has become something of a trend in literary criticism, and Lutz does not disappoint, examining household objects to trace the Brontë sisters’ lives and their literary inspirations. By unearthing playthings, books and momentos, Lutz creates a vivid portrait of the Brontë sisters and 19th century England.
Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie, by Anne Martinetti and Guillaume Lebeau; SelfMadeHero, $19.95, 128 pages, paperback, May 2016.

In honor of the spring cover story on Agatha Christie in Fine Books & Collections, here’s a graphic novel that follows the life of the Queen of Whodunnit from her childhood in Torquay, England, through her long and exciting career. Christie’s personal life was frequently as intriguing as the stories she wrote, filled with tales of daring and adventure. Though an Anglophone undertaking, this volume is a thoroughly Gallic production: Co-authored by French crime novel editor Anne Martinetti and biographer Guillaume Lebeau and accompanied by Alexandre Franc’s appropriately mischievous and suspenseful art, Agatha is as engaging as any of the Dame’s classic capers.



Auction Guide