August 2016 Archives

If there’s any one book about books that I always keep within reach, it’s John Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors. For about twenty years, my go-to reference has been the seventh edition (1995), edited and revised by Nicolas Barker. But now the time has come--not for deaccessioning, mind you, but for shelf rearrangement--because Oak Knoll Press has just released the ninth edition of this classic, with a completely revised text and a sleek design.   

ABC Collectors copy.jpgInformative and wry, Carter’s definitions have helped readers demystify bookseller and auction catalogues since the book’s original publication in 1952. (And, it should be noted, ABC hasn’t been out of print since.) Words I have looked up over the years include doublure, fly-leaf, half bound, roan, and vellum, among others. This is the “jargon,” of the antiquarian book trade, as Carter calls it, and in order to collect intelligently, a guidebook of this kind is required reading.

Where the new edition, edited by Barker and Simran Thadani, sets itself apart from its antecedents, apart from the brighter, glossier paper, is in the addition of dozens of new terms and the incorporation of illustrations. An increase in graphic arts and printing terminology is most apparent, though my personal favorites among the added terminology (at least from the 7th to the 9th edition) are: bisquing, book-worms, Dibdin, red rot, and sammelband. I wished I had been able to look up binder’s dummy when I wrote this blog post last month, as I might have better described this book fair find as a salesman’s sample. In this context, blad (book layout and design) might be a useful inclusion at some point.

The line drawings and color photographs are a terrific complement to the text. After all, we may review the definition of dentelle--“A binder’s term (from the French = lace) meaning a border with a lacy pattern on the inner edge, usually gilt”--but seeing a fine example up-close is clearly beneficial.

In petty grievances, I take exception to how the term blurb is assigned to what (in my book publishing experience) I have always called flap copy, i.e., a summary of the book’s merits, often written by an editorial assistant, that appears on the dust jacket flaps; and blurbs are the laudatory quotes on a book’s front or back cover, which is distinct from blurb as Carter defines it for collectors. But debating these finer points is part of the fun of delving into a book filled with bibliographical terminology “unintelligible to the layman.”

                                                                                                                                                                                 In short, this new edition is an essential upgrade for those already familiar with their ABC, and an utter necessity for newbies. 

                                                                                                                                         Image: Courtesy of Oak Knoll Press.

coversofrobbinsbooks.jpgAbandoned Bookshop, an imprint of British publisher Canelo, is actively seeking any heirs of Clifton Robbins, a “Golden Age” detective fiction writer. The publisher, who has begun reprinting Robbins’ mysteries as eBooks, is saving the royalties from Robbins’ book sales to distribute to an heir.

If one shows up.  

And so far no one has made the claim.

Clifton Robbins published nine mystery novels between 1931 and 1940. Five of those novels feature Clay Harrison, a London barrister turned amateur detective. The Harrison novels, while long out of print, remain under copyright. After a lengthy, and thus far fruitless search to find any heirs to the Harrison estate, Abandoned Bookshop is now re-publishing the Harrison novels in eBook form. They will be setting aside royalties until someone comes forward.

“Our royalties are more substantial than most ... [they] will be there waiting if someone comes forward, and it will go on accruing if they don’t,” said Michael Bhaskar, co-founder of Canelo, in a statement. “As a publisher, we respect copyright and we want to do everything we can to find these people. Hopefully we’ll see someone come forward and say ‘this was my great-uncle’ or something.”

Clifton Robbins died in 1964 (or maybe it was 1944, the record is unclear), although he ceased his literary output much earlier, in 1940, at the outbreak of WWII.

Hardcopies of Robbins’ mysteries are somewhat scarce online, with copies averaging in the mid $40s for sale.

If you think you might be an heir to the Robbins estate (or have any leads), drop Canelo a line at


first-1.jpgAll this year, Shakespeare’s First Folio has been touring the U.S. Various venues--museums, universities, public libraries, historical societies, and even a theater--have pulled out all the stops to spotlight the celebrated collection of the Bard’s plays published in 1623. Organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library, this traveling exhibition has been quite the undertaking, all in an effort to spread the word about one of the world’s most influential books and to allow more people to behold a treasure not often seen outside of the Folger’s vault. As the Folger’s registrar and exhibitions manager Sloane Whidden told us just prior to the launch of First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare, “A personal encounter with the First Folio is very meaningful.”

If you’re pining for your own personal encounter, here are the tour locations and dates still to come:

Through Aug 31:  University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO
Through Sept 21: Boise State University, Boise, ID
Aug 29 - Sept 25: The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, IA
Aug 30 - Sept 25: University of Delaware, Newark, DE
Sept 1 - 29: University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV
Sept 2 - 25: University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Sept 7 - 30: Wyoming State Museum, Cheyenne, WY
Oct 1 - 30: Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, AL
Oct 1 - 26: University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Oct 3 - 26: University of Minnesota Duluth, Duluth, MN
Oct 3 - 31: Drew University and The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Madison, NJ
Oct 7 - 31: Gallaudet University, Washington, DC
Oct 8 - 31: Salt Lake City Public Library, Salt Lake City, UT
Nov 1 - Dec 4: St. John’s College, Annapolis, MD
Nov 3 - Dec 11: University of Wisconsin - Madison, Madison, WI
Nov 5 - Dec 11: Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Nov 8 - Dec 5: Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PA
Nov 10 - Dec 10: Frazier History Museum, University of Louisville, and Louisville Free Public Library,  Louisville, KY
Nov 10 - Jan 8, 2017: The Parthenon, Nashville, TN
                                                                                                                                                      Image Courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library.


                                                                                                                                               During the depths of winter six months ago, Schubertiade Music & Arts co-founders Gabe Boyers and Drew Massey debuted a preview version of their web-based cataloging software at the California Antiquarian Book Fair. On August 15, the software dubbed Collectival became available to antiquarian dealers with the goal of streamlining running a rare books shop from anywhere in the world.

The Newton, Massachusetts-based startup grew out of the growing needs of Schubertiade, a shop specializing in rare music and visual arts rarities. “As technology in other commerce domains gets better all the time, the tools for dealers of rare material such as art, antiques, and books has failed to keep pace with innovative business solutions we are seeing in these other sectors.” said Massey earlier this month. Massey, who holds a doctorate from Harvard in historical musicology, wrote the code, while Boyers, a classically trained violinist, devised the various outward-facing features, like credit-card payments and ease-of-use functionality.

Boyers and Massey say that Collectival is the world’s first completely cloud-based solution for dealers interested in managing inventory on multiple channels while working from a centralized catalog. Schubertiade is entirely run on Collectival, and in addition, the software has processed sales for private beta users worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Last year the entrepreneurs executed a sale taking place in their Newton shop while they were touring Big Sur ahead of the California Antiquarian Book Fair.

The technology isn’t new, but applying it to the antiquarian book trade is, and Boyers and Massey are confident that Collectival will relieve dealers from mundane tasks like processing orders and organizing catalogs so that they can focus on other aspects of their businesses. “The trade in rare material is booming,” said Boyers. “So why should it take thirty minutes to process orders?” Dealers only need a smartphone now to stay on top of their inventory and sales. Boyers and Massey hope Collectival will simplify what has traditionally been a complex process while bringing the book trade into the digital age. It is a surprising convergence of two worlds that shows great promise.

Collectival is available for a flat subscription price of $249 per month, which includes unlimited item listings and transactions. Clients can also seamlessly merge their current website with one powered by Collectival. Soon, the company will be providing a free online service to collectors interested in organizing and sharing their collections with others. For further information, visit or email Drew Massey at

Aries-Cover.jpgIn the 1920s, Spencer Kellog Jr. operated the small but influential Aries Press in Eden, New York. The press attracted acclaim for producing books to a high artistic value and its publications were praised as much for ther aesthetics as their contents. The full story of the Aries Press has been told for the first time in a new publication from RIT Press, entitled “The Aries Press of Eden, New York.” The book was written by Richard Kegler, Director of the Wells College Book Arts Center and a letterpress printer with a long-standing interest in printing history. Copies are available for $49.95 online from the RIT press.  

We recently interviewed Bruce Austin, Director of the RIT Press, about the new publication over email. Austin is also an antiques dealer and an expert in the American Arts & Crafts Movement in Western New York.

Please introduce our readers to The Aries Press:

The Aries Press was a small, private press that operated from Eden, New York, a village that’s south of Buffalo in Erie County. Founded by Spencer Kellogg Jr., the son of an linseed oil merchant, the Press won immediate acclaim for its very first book: THE GHOST SHIP earned inclusion in the American Institute of Graphic Arts prestigious “Fifty Books Award of 1926.” Though it operated only briefly, 1925-1928, Aries’ influence was profound. Renowned type designer Frederic Goudy created a special font, printing of Aries’ work was done on the famous William Morris Kelmscott Albion Press, its compositors were were former Roycroft (East Aurora, NY) print shop employees and brothers, Emil Georg and Axel Sahlin, and illustrations for the Press were created by such artists as Rockwell Kent  and J.J. Lankes.


Spencer Kellog Jr, who founded The Aries Press, sounds like an interesting figure. Fill us in with his quick biography:

The wealthy son of the largest linseed milling center in the United States, Spencer Kellogg Jr.’s interests were more focused on matters of art than manufacturing. His education included Harvard University, the Art Students League (New York City) and the Buffalo School of Fine Arts. He operated the Aries Book Shop beginning in 1921, and was an active and visible presence in the Buffalo art world. Kellogg served as director of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, today known as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. In his foreword to THE ARIES PRESS OF EDEN, NEW YORK, Anthony Bannon (director of the Burchfield-Penney Art Center) wrote of Kellogg’s magnetic personality: “Wherever he went, people of like minds gathered. That he made art, one way or another, and through it created platforms for discourse is worthy of our attention.” A quirky character, Kellogg was a writer, photographer, patron of the arts and active proponent for the Buffalo Photo-Pictorialists.

How many books did The Aries Press produce in its existence?

Three or four, depending upon how generously one wishes to interpret “book”. Evelyn M. Watson’s NIAGARA (1925) is an 8 page title, 6” x 9”. The Award-winning title by Robert Middleton, THE GHOST SHIP (see above), runs 20 pages. Kellogg’s own THE OAK BY THE WATERS OF ROWAN (1927) is 28 pages. And the 1928 volume, VERSES by Gertrude Kellogg Clark runs 37 pages. BUT . . . Aries produced quite a few booklets and keepsakes, objects that today we’d call commissioned works for limited distribution.


What are the collecting high-points from The Aries Press?

Because of its limited lifespan and short runs, virtually any Aries product is collectable. While the story told in THE ARIES PRESS OF EDEN, NEW YORK is an interesting and engaging one, collectors will find the bibliography especially valuable as full details for each publication are presented (including, e.g., type, binding, paper, number of copies printed, etc.).

What caused the Press to cease operation?

The received history isn’t entirely definitive on this point. However, it’s safe to say that Mr. Kellogg’s changing art interests, where and to whom he wanted to express his patronage and the Depression probably all combined to lead to the Aries Press’s demise. Kellogg’s compositors, the Sahlin brothers, were quite clear on this point: they needed paying work and, at Aries, there just wasn’t enough of it.

What is the Press’ legacy today?

The Aries Press is an important chapter in the 20th century history of the private press movement and that informs and influences the art of fine printing and bookmaking. Its professional and artistic connections are deeply embedded in Western New York heritage and its contributions have global reach.

[Copies of The Aries Press are available for purchase from the RIT Press website]

 [Images from RIT Press]

Coming to auction next week in Edinburgh is a deluxe, large folio edition of Captain Cook’s Florilegium: A Selection of Engravings from the Drawings of Plants collected by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander on Captain Cook’s first Voyage to the Islands of the Pacific (The Lion and Unicorn Press, 1973).

205578.jpgAuctioneers Lyon & Turnbull explain the work’s importance, published more than two hundred years after Cook’s 1768-1771 expedition:

”...[I]ts publication reproduces for the first time some of the engraved plates of Australian plants made under the supervision of Sir Joseph Banks. Apart from a proof impression no prints were made from the plates selected here for publication, the original copper-engraved plates, the original drawings, the specimens used for the drawings and the proof impressions all being held by the British Museum. In the 1960s it was decided that the Royal College of Art should print a selection of the most beautiful plates. The superbly printed rich impressions in strong black ink make this one of the finest botanical books produced in the twentieth century.”

Only 10 copies like this exist, containing 42 plates, bound in green goatskin with gilt stamping and incorporating an actual botanical specimen (encapsulated in acrylic) from Botany Bay, Australia. This one is no. 8.  

The auction estimate is £8,000-10,000 ($10,600-13,200).

Image via Lyon & Turnbull.

On Saturday at the Olympic Games in Rio, Matthew Centrowitz Jr won the first American gold in the 1500m since 1908.  Centrowitz’s major accomplishment led me to wonder who was the last American to win that medal.  The answer to that bit of Olympic trivia, as it turns out, was Melvin W. Sheppard, a rough-and-ready Irish-American runner who grew up as a member of a street gang in late 19th century Philadelphia, before dominating middle distance running between 1908 and 1912. Sheppard won four Olympic gold medals spread across two Olympic Games.

Sport_Story_cover.gifSheppard, it turns out, later wrote an autobiography that was published in serial form in the magazine Sport Story, which had a 20 year run between 1923 and 1943. Copies are now scarce on the ground.  In fact, a search in all the usual places failed to reveal a single online copy of the May 6th, 1924 issue that includes the first installment in Sheppard’s autobiography, entitled Spiked Shoes and Cinder Paths.

Happily, for folks less interested in finding or collecting old magazines, the Sheppard autobiography was digitized and is accessible online here.  If you’re interested in Olympic competition in the early 20th century, when American Olympians traveled to London via ocean liner for the 1908 games, an episode, by the way, that included javelin throwers practicing their sport on the sharks that approached the ship, it’s fascinating reading.

And for the collectors out there, it’s a scarce piece of “Olympiciana” to keep an eye on for your collections.

Blockbuster.jpgFor fans of detective fiction, Antipodean literature, book history, nineteenth-century theater, or all of the above, Lucy Sussex’s new book, Blockbuster!: Fergus Hume & The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (Text Publishing, $16.95), is an exemplar of cogent scholarship, engagingly presented. Sussex weaves together the biography of aspiring playwright Fergus Hume (1859-1932), with the publishing history of the bestselling detective novel of the 1800s, and her own quest to discover how and why Hume fell into obscurity.

The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886) is, surely, less known to modern readers than its competition in the same burgeoning crime fiction genre, Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet (1887). But Hansom Cab was by far more popular with Victorians, selling out its first printing (probably 5,000) within days. Reprints and theater adaptations followed. And while Hume did not get rich (he sold his copyright), he did move to London to enjoy the literary life.

Sussex delves into the various aspects of this novel’s sometimes murky history, from its composition and numerous rejections to its eventual publication, marketing, and sales. She considers the people involved, from the author to his collaborators and financiers to the first readers (and later, the collectors*). And she convincingly argues that this “cheap, Victorian paperback,” set in Melbourne and afflicted by “cultural cringe,” was a global phenomenon. In doing so, she revives the book and Hume--not by placing it on a pedestal, but by restoring it to our literary and cultural frame of reference.     

Having not read the mystery at the center of Sussex’s study, nor indeed any of Hume’s total 140 novels, is no impediment to the thorough enjoyment of this book. But, for those of you who are intrigued, a new edition of Hansom Cab is also available.  

*Now about those collectors: “The first Melbourne edition of Hume’s book is an ultimate collectable for detective-fiction buffs,” Sussex writes. Indeed only four copies of that first printing survive, and in one delicious chapter we hear about a lucky scout who uncovered one in a box lot of books from a local auction house a decade ago. Sussex goes on to discuss a later Hume novel, Professor Brankel’s Secret, which features an obsessive bibliomaniac, as well as her own experiences attending the 2012 ANZAAB antiquarian book fair.

Author and children’s picture book historian Leonard Marcus recently curated an exhibition at the Pratt Institute’s Manhattan Gallery that celebrates the art of children’s literature as well as the influence two major New York institutions have had on the creation of picture books over the past eight decades. Marcus also curated the New York Public Library’s The ABC of It in 2014, which explored why children’s picture books matter.

The current show features books and original artwork created by alumni and faculty from both the Pratt Institute and the Bank Street College of Education. The Odyssey: A Pop-Up Book (Sterling, 2011)  illustrated by Pratt graduate and paper engineer Sam Ita, and The Noisy Book (1939) by Bank Street Writer’s Lab member Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner (and Pratt alumnus) Leonard Weisgard are just two of the seventy books, manuscripts, and illustrations dating from the 1930s through today that demonstrate the literature of children’s picture books and the dedication of those who create them.


Margaret Wise Brown. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

                                                                                                                                                               As an interactive component, Pratt commissioned an art student to create a children’s reading room dubbed the Noisy Room, where young visitors may relax and read copies of the books on display. An adjoining pop-up shop offers books for purchase as well.

“The Picture Book Reimagined: The Children’s Book Legacy of Pratt Institute and Bank Street College of Education” runs now through Sept. 15.
FREE admission
Pratt Manhattan Gallery, 144 W. 14th St., 2nd Fl.

Head shot Emily Dourish.jpgOur Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Dr. Emily Dourish, Deputy Head of Rare Books at Cambridge University Library.

What is your role at your institution?

I am Deputy Head of Rare Books at Cambridge University Library, working with a team of three professional curators and four reading room superintendents; I’ve been at the UL for 12 years. I also worked for nearly ten years as Joint Exhibitions Officer, working with colleagues from across the Library to co-ordinate and curate our programme of major public exhibitions.

How did you get started in rare books?

My first encounter with early books came as an undergraduate studying History at Cambridge. At that time the Rare Books department was housed in the Anderson Room, our most traditionally historic-looking reading room (now the Music department) and on the open shelves was a set of the Acta Sanctorum, beginning in 1643; they’re bound in vellum-covered wooden boards. I didn’t really need to use them for my studies but they just looked so tempting! A book that was on a different scale to anything I’d used before, and several hundred years older; I wanted to know more about why someone would use this and not a modern edition of the text.

A couple of years later while I was studying for my PhD my college, Jesus, employed postgrads in the Old Library undertaking some very basic restoration work on the early collections; handling these books was a great privilege and encouraged me to feel that these books were for everyone, not only the senior academics who were publishing on them. My first library role was creating collection-level descriptions at the Mander and Mitchenson Theatre archive, and after working there for a year a post came up at the UL so I moved back.

Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?

I studied part-time for the University College London MA in Library and Information Studies while working at the UL. It was a great opportunity to formalise the things I had been learning on the job and included historical bibliography sessions in the National Art Library at the V&A; such a beautiful place to work, though walking through the gift shop every week was dangerously tempting! My dissertation gave recommendations to make possible the cataloguing of the Old Library at Jesus College, to give back something to the place where my interest really took off.  I’ve also been fortunate to attend Nicholas Pickwoad’s remarkable course on bindings at the London Rare Books School.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

This is such a difficult question! I’ve been lucky to pass some of the most amazing books to our readers, and to show visitors some of our greatest treasures and my favourite item changes from week to week. An incunable prayer book with annotations by a sixteenth-century nun, or a miniature library printed for children around 1800, or a set of almanacs belonging to an 18th-century bishop with his notes of medical recipes and his marriage to his wife have all gripped me over recent months. One that I’m really looking forward to doing some more work on is a Greek volume of Luther printed in Basel in 1567, in a somewhat damaged binding; both its boards are detached and the manuscript pastedowns are no longer pasted down , but this means we can see the sheets of an early printed volume that are hiding within the paper boards. I haven’t yet identified exactly what that early printed book is, and it will be one of those really enjoyable bits of librarian detective work to discover it. It amazes me that there are so many things still to be found in the books in this library, which have been in our collections for hundreds of years.

What do you personally collect?

I would love to collect incunabula but the budget sadly does not permit! I have a slowly growing collection of early language phrasebooks for travellers; it is fascinating to see what was considered important to be able to say. I also have a number of early children’s books, which I share with my own children.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I sing with several choirs, primarily unaccompanied music; I love the complete focus it requires. It’s impossible to think about anything else while you’re singing, which is a valuable space in a sometimes over-busy world. I also have two young daughters who take up the remainder of my time! The younger one is just beginning to read, and sitting listening to her make her way through a story book is an enormous pleasure.

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

Having the chance to work with such fantastic books and to share them with other people. Finding out something new every day in books that might be hundreds of years old. The satisfaction of creating a really good catalogue record!

I really do love this job and the variety it offers. One of the best parts is public outreach work with schools and community groups, and seeing a child understand that yes, that is Darwin’s own handwriting, or yes, that book was printed five hundred years ago, and yes, you can touch it (and no you don’t need white gloves!).  You can see a light go on inside their head and perhaps an interest sparked that might stay with them and bring them back in future years to find out more.

I also really want to get other students to have that same experience I had, of understanding that special collections are for them too. We’re working closely with our academic colleagues to bring undergraduates into the reading room early in their university careers so they will want to come back and use our books more often, and it’s great when we see a student who has chosen to write their dissertation on one of our volumes.

I love that our readers are so excited about their work; walking through the reading room and looking over people’s shoulders to find out what they’re looking at, they are always happy to share their discoveries or the little details of what they are investigating.

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

In times of limited budgets we all have to prove our worth to our institutions, and while special collections by their nature are perhaps better protected than other areas we are all increasingly involved in new ways to promote and enhance our collections. The creation of online resources like the Cambridge Digital Library enables us all to share what we have with users around the world, giving access to these often fragile artefacts in a way that wouldn’t have been possible a few decades ago. This kind of resource offers much greater value to the user than a simple Google Books scan, and I think a lot more attention will be given to how to increase these digital collections and their usage.

Other forms of new media are making engagement possible with a much wider range of non-traditional groups; Colour our Collections was a brilliant project to catch a trend and bring library collections to the public in a new way. While our books, manuscripts and archives may mostly be physically contained within our libraries, we can take them out digitally to meet people where they are rather than needing them to come to us.

There’s so much great work going on around the world in large and small collections, and I’d love to see even more co-operation and collaboration with other librarians. As a profession we’re already good at helping each other and sharing ideas; it’s a collaborative rather than competitive field and I’m proud to be a part of that. Within the UL we are breaking down some of the barriers between the various special collections and seeing rare books and manuscripts as part of the same broader Library so that we are more flexible in our promotion and use of the collections. I see the future for large collections like ours as adopting the approach of smaller libraries, where we are not narrow experts in one area but able to offer guidance in many; our readers are the real experts in the material they study and we can learn so much from them.

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

We are currently actively creating a new collection of ephemeral material relating to the EU referendum vote (‘Brexit’). A century ago University Librarian Francis Jenkinson wrote an article and letters to contacts worldwide asking them to send the Library examples of any ephemeral material relating to the First World War, noting that it was intended ‘For the historian of the future’. This formed a remarkable and unique resource for scholars of the early twentieth century. We hope that the Brexit collection will form a similar resource for the events around the vote and the political times of the early twenty-first century. If any of your readers has material that could be contributed, we’d be very grateful to receive it.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

We’re celebrating our 600th birthday this year with two major exhibitions. The first, Lines of thought, looks at six themes in which we have outstanding holdings and makes them accessible to a wider audience; having Newton’s annotated Principia alongside the Gutenberg Bible, the Codex Bezae and Darwin’s manuscript sketches for Origin of Species is pretty exciting! This exhibition runs until the end of September. After that comes Curious objects, a display of some of the more intriguing non-book items in our collections which tells the story of how they came to be in the Library over the last 600 years. We’ve also created an interactive book app for iPad to mark this anniversary with six Cambridge specialists discussing six of the greatest treasures of our collections; it can be downloaded free from the app store.


71801926.jpgComing to auction later this week is a neat little relic of President Abraham Lincoln’s life--or more accurately, his death. The fragment of wallpaper was removed from the back bedroom of the rowhouse across the street from Ford’s Theatre where Lincoln breathed his last, and laid into a book called Words of Lincoln (1895) with the note, “Taken from the all of the room in which Lincoln died. 516 10th St. Washington D.C.”

The book’s author, Osborn H. Oldroyd (1842-1930), was a Civil War sergeant and a famous collector of Lincoln memorabilia; a biography of him published in 1927 is subtitled Founder and Collector of Lincoln Mementos. Oldroyd amassed a large collection of Lincolniana, first displayed at Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois, but relocated to the Petersen House, aka the house where Lincoln died, in 1893. He and his family bunked there too.  

The auctioneers, Addison & Sarova of Macon, Georgia, estimate the wallpaper snippet will sell for $2,000-3,000.

Incidentally, the University of Chicago houses a substantial Lincoln-Oldroyd collection. You can read more about Oldroyd and the Petersen House here.

Image courtesy of Addison & Sarova.

In 1964, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson visited Ernest Hemingway’s last home in Ketchum, Idaho, where the novelist had shot himself three years earlier. Thompson was working on an essay, titled “What Lured Hemmingway to Ketchum,” investigating the draw of Idaho on Hemingway toward the end of his life. The young Thompson, however, “got caught up in the moment” according to his widow, Anita Thompson, and stole a set of elk antlers that hung over Hemingway’s front door.

It was a decision that Thompson would later regret. Anita said that he was “very embarrassed” by his actions. The two made some tentative plans to quietly return the antlers, but never quite got around to it. In the meantime, the antlers hung for 53 years in Thompson’s garage at his home in Woody Creek, Colorado.

Fast forward to 2016, with Thompson himself dead for the past eleven years from a self-inflicted gun wound. Anita Thompson decided this past week to finally return the elk antlers to the Hemingway home. Anita got in touch with the Hemingway family, then delivered the antlers back to the Hemingway home in Ketchum, which is now owned by The Nature Conservancy. The Hemingway family had “heard rumors” about the antlers’ disappearance and were pleased to have them back.

An Instagram photo from The Aspen Times in Ketchum shows the happy reunion:

isbn9780340822784.jpgDavid Mitchell’s 2004 novel, Cloud Atlas, skyrocketed here in the states after the film adaptation starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry was released in 2012. Now it’s making headlines again. A British professor has uncovered multiple textual differences between the UK edition, published by Sceptre, and the US edition, published by Modern Library.

In “You have to keep track of your changes,” an article published on the Open Library of Humanities last week, Martin Paul Eve of Birkbeck, University of London, begins with a discussion of textual permanence in the digital age, citing recent Amazon e-book issues. He goes on:

“Similarly, a comparison of the North-American digital edition of David Mitchell’s genre- and time- hopping novel, Cloud Atlas (2004), with the UK version conjures forth a fresh set of anxieties about literary production. For it quickly emerges that the texts are very different and that readers of Cloud Atlas based in the US are likely to encounter a novel that stands starkly apart from that bearing the same title in the UK.”

9780812994711 copy.jpgEve’s discovery is quite significant for literary scholars and book historians as well as for casual readers who might enjoy the challenge of spotting the variants themselves. Collectors of Mitchell will also now be attuned to the variation. As Mitchell explained to Eve, the textual discrepancies are the result of mis-management between publishers--some substantial changes made by UK editors were never shared with stateside counterparts. That may mean the US edition is closer in content to Mitchell’s original manuscript.

Which version of the text then has priority, or is “definitive”? Mitchell told the Guardian, “ the case of Cloud Atlas, both work. Not that I have the faintest memory, after all these years, what the differences even are.”

Image at top: UK edition, via Sceptre.
Image at bottom: US edition, via Modern Library.

bad hat.JPG
Dust jacket for Madeline and the Bad Hat. photo credit: Wikimedia

The cosmos must be sending out veggie vibes to bibliophiles these days--after last week’s story on Bill Dailey’s collection of antiquarian vegetarian cookbooks comes another, slightly mischievous argument to go meat-free: on August 25 PBA Galleries in San Francisco will auction an original illustration from Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline and the Bad Hat. This charming signed ink and watercolor painting dates from 1956 and is the original illustration that Bemelmans reproduced for the third volume of his beloved Madeline series.

The illustration “He Built Himself a Guillotine ” depicts Madeline’s recently arrived neighbor Pepito--the “bad hat” of the tale--about to commit poultricide in the name of gastronomy. Pepito and his chef are preparing the family chickens for that day’s meal while Madeline and her friends tearfully witness the imminent carnage from their window perch next door. To put it bluntly, this kid is a total brat, and his shenanigans test the limits of Madeline’s patience. Pepito continues to torture helpless creatures until one of his plans backfires. While Pepito convalesces, Madeline convinces him to change course, and the reformed animal bully becomes a vegetarian. Some readers consider Madeline and the Bad Hat controversial--depictions of animal cruelty aren’t so hip these days--but like many bad boys before him, Pepito sees the error of his ways and vows to become a better person.

Lightly worn with evidence of prior framing, this lot is accompanied by a signed copy of the first trade edition of the book. Bids will open at $20,000.

For more information and to view images of the painting, visit


bad hat 2.JPG

Chicken for every pot. photo credit: BB Richter

File_001 (2).jpegOur Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Tom Kiser, proprietor of Vivarium Books in Saint Paul, Minnesota:

How did you get started in rare books?

I was 15 and a freshman in high school when I read The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, who incidentally died this year.  In fact, the English translation appeared the year I was born. On Nicollet Island in downtown Minneapolis, teachers at my Lasallian high school were introducing me to history, philosophy and theology, strange interests for a 15 year old but it probably kept me out of trouble. I can’t really explain but often attempt to try: Eco was a rare book collector, postmodernist and medievalist - a combination that I find original and interesting - and viewed books I think primarily as things that aid in the investigation of reality while at the same time sort of take on a life of their own. I like to interpret this life as residing in the mind, where they speak and interact with other books through the process of cognition. Like a scientist, I view the past as a guide in peeling back the layers of reality and books to me are primarily explorative aids with intrinsic appeal. When I step into the right library, it is as it was when Br. William of Baskerville and his novice Adso discovered the book labyrinth in the fictional Aedificium, or when Samwell Tarly is granted access to the maester’s library in Game of Thones. I get the feeling that it contains the answers, hidden away, that I need. Eco’s inspiration for this 14th century library was in fact the Fisher Rare Book Library in Toronto, a place I had a chance to visit years later while on a book buying trip. A search for a rare book is similar to a search for answers as we work our way through life from birth to death. Possessing a book is like possessing the knowledge it contains, and sometimes new knowledge is created between two or more books.

Completely unconscious of this, I did a BA-History in 2006 at a Benedictine university that is adjacent to a large monastic enclosure in a wooded area of central Minnesota. I chose this place in part because underground the university stores the world’s largest repository of medieval manuscript images and also contains a world-class rare book collection. I interned there vis-à-vis a Greco-Roman study abroad program where I worked my interest in things medieval, monastic and their intersection with books.  My big break came when I got a job as a cataloger and later a buyer for the world’s largest secondhand theological bookseller with a reputation for dealing in medieval studies. Back then, it was set in a beautiful old church in a river town nearby where I grew up. I can easily recall shivering in the dim lighting after closing, in the dark, wood creaking under my feet, smelling nearby bon fires, absorbing it all night after night. It was then that I noticed a knack for memorizing titles and authors and bindings. While I was working through a graduate degree in library science, I had exposure to some aspects of the trade (including rare books and rarer people), exposure I still use to provide myself with food, shelter, and a decent argument for my own existence.


When did you open Vivarium and what do you specialize in?


That’s a really pertinent question given where I am in the evolution of Vivarium. As an upstart, I used my background from school and work in a theological bookstore. It allowed me to deal with some authority in topics like church history, scholastic philosophy, patristics, and related fields like archaeology. My concentration has always been religious thought from the ancient to medieval period in academic, collectible and rare form, a broad niche closely related to my primary interest of monasticism and its role in the propagation of learning through the development of the codex. This gave my business a theme to draw inspiration from, allowed me to work with what I love, and, thanks to experience, a reliable financial situation was produced. Now I am concerned with expansion.

I opened my online-only shop in 2010 as an already eight-year veteran of poverty. I had a box of books from a friend (no joke) who normally steers people away from bookselling, no savings, a small family loan (too small) that funded my first buying trip to French Canada, and too much college debt, but I did have some relevant experience, connections, institutional access and a working business plan that only needed to be re-tooled about twenty times (I’m probably retooling it right now).  This lifted me out of poverty and into the middle class during the recession, although not nearly as quickly as I would have liked. It was worth it because I want to make a living leaving my mark on the world doing something I love. This also allows me to feel like I am discovering my limits and potential, which is priceless. Now that it’s getting somewhere, I’m looking at my next goal of diversifying outside of my niche. It helps that I value learning. I’ll rely on that and the valuable expertise of trusted people when expanding into the unknown, sort of the way explorers used to use local guides. I’ll never stop learning and exploring. Long term (subject to life’s twists and turns) I want to create a bookstore that is a refuge for seekers like myself, really all lovers of learning, on a scenic property that is open by appointment. In the spirit of the middle ages, I want to preserve and disseminate all sacred and natural arts and sciences while staying connected to my core competency. People can help simply by doing business with me, but especially by referrals to individuals or institutions looking to downsize or expand their book collections.

The original Vivarium was a Roman villa turned monastery in the dark ages. There, monks consolidated and copied endangered books from around the dying Roman Empire as it was being subjected to repeated invasions. In this way they left their small mark on the course of humanity. Later monks became copyists on a massive scale, playing the important social role of preserving and disseminating knowledge. They helped to stabilize the intellectual crisis caused by the invasions and brought light to darkness. Once again, the liberal arts that were a hallmark of ancient learning were taught to groups, only this time in monastic schools at places like Fulda, Bobbio and Corbie. Were it not for these events, ancient thought may not have survived the turbulent Middle Ages, allowing it to develop into our modern reality. I think that concept of preservation on its head is in conformity with the ethos of booksellers today. So here I am. I strive to be conscientious and very careful with the patrimony associated with books I source from institutions and private individuals. Occasionally I save books and entire collections (once an ethnic heritage situation) from peril. Right now I am relocating a small library to the Italian town of Norcia, where it will be used in an institute that works on dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. I only wish I could be there for it all.

What do you love about the book trade?

I like that it exists. I like that it allows me to share my interests with the world. I am glad to be a part of a trade that has survived, and even thrived in some places despite Amazon and its warehouses, print-on-demand, mass digitization and the various alliances of these forces.  I like that it’s survived itself, to be honest, with an enormous amount of credit due to organizations like the ABAA, ILAB, IOBA, and inclusive, non-competitive learning environments like CABS, YABS, and Rare Book School that have all been around for years. Interestingly, I’ve noticed supply and demand being generated by skilled dealers and skilled collectors coming together. I also like small business and think it has an important role to play in the economy.

Describe a typical day for you:

I need to be in more than one place at a given time. Shipping and cataloging are supposed to be the most regular, but I’m often forced to hold off on cataloging and then binge on it. I’m involved in 4-5 book buying projects remotely at any given time. Now that the foundational 10,000 books have been sourced, bought, catalogued and mostly paid for I am finding time for development. I hang out at my local coffee shop and do social media, work on catalogues, reach out to other booksellers, watch auctions, look for ways to expand my selection, dwell on cataloging rare books, and lately work on Vivarium’s non-existing website. I have found ways to not have to do all of this myself but in reality I’m always behind. I do spend time daydreaming about building a space for my store and how my books would be arranged. I almost think it would be easier designing and building than searching for the perfect pre-existing space.

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

Easy. I held a stunning illuminated medieval manuscript in folio, MS Bergendal 1, by Bernardo Gui (the Dominican Inquisitor embellished in Eco’s The Name of the Rose) located at the Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies at Toronto. This copy was presented by Gui himself to his ally Pope John XXII in the late 1320s.  The primary illumination on the first leaf depicts Gui handing the book to the pope who at that time was in Avignon. As far as commercial handling, it would be something I just acquired: the best book on medieval Christian ritual, the Rationale Divinorum Officiorum written by Durandus, written before 1286. It is a Giunta imprint from 1551 which belonged to a famous 20th century German scholar of liturgy. I have the book this liturgist wrote in my personal library so that provenance is significant to me. There are also collections. Earlier this year Vivarium handled a gorgeous leather collection of Migne’s Patrologia Latina and Graeca numbering almost 400 volumes. This was sourced in Quebec. Earlier I mentioned the collection headed for Norcia.

What do you personally collect?

Monasticism, bibliography/history of the book, medieval studies (philosophy, science, theology etc.), Aristotle, liturgical books, Crusades, Middle East, Byzantium, Eastern Christianity (lately Syriac), Roman Catholicism, paganism, librariana, medieval manuscript facsimiles, -- sort of a mirror image of my store but not nearly as scholarly. Most of it was formed with credit I had from my previous employer. If I were to pick a serious area to move forward with it would be monasticism, but I’ve been selling what I find.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Nature, swimming, music, learning (lately astronomy), photography, road trips, coffee shops, craft beer (IPA), snowboarding, concerts, bonfires, and thinking. I like the idea of writing (ha).

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

On the trade: I am impressed with the ABAA and ILAB and hope to apply when I’m ready. CABS was great. I have to give an internet high-five to the IOBA for connecting me with a lot of relevant information that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. Many of those members are all over this trade and work very hard.

On books: I think books are superior to digital in almost every way and I say that as a digital native. I totally understand not everybody thinks that and particular circumstances vary, but it’s indisputable that in digital times print can feel luxurious. As for me, I have grown as a person from good libraries and bookstores as cultural centers in a way that I am not able to do digitally. There is something about being able to physically maneuver about a library or collection with the ability to see and touch everything that I hope we don’t lose sight of. These experiences add zest to my life and improve me as an individual. Also there is collecting. For those who are into it, books provide the insight we need about topics we care deeply about while simultaneously they act to express who we are and what is important to us. When I visit someone’s home or office, the first thing I do is look at the bookshelf to see if I can gain an impression of what they like. Bonus points are always allotted for nice editions, signed copies, etc. If we need to express ourselves with material possessions, I think books are a very good option.

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

I recently put out a comprehensive catalogue I personally liked entitled Byzantine Art: Origins to Aftermath. It can be found here. I am now putting one together on late medieval and Renaissance art, and I wholeheartedly intend to do my first rare and antiquarian after that, being hyper-aware of what they say about good intentions. In the meantime I encourage people to follow Vivarium Books on Facebook. As far as fairs, I haven’t made it out yet because my goals have been elsewhere, but recently I did make a return to the International Medieval Congress (there is a book fair attached) where I found new friends, rekindled old relationships, met in person with individuals who I have helped remotely, and in general just scoped out the scene. It was fun to attend to attend as a drifter with no work to do and to write off all the expenses while supporting a great organization. I hope to do recon at other events and look forward to meeting other booksellers.


I can’t put my finger on why, but I like “thumb bible” as a bibliographic term. Which is why I was delighted to see a selection of them slated for auction next week at PBA Galleries.

What is a thumb bible? In short, it is a condensed version of the bible, printed in a miniature format (less than 3”), popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The phrase may derive from a French edition, Bible du Petit Poucet, published c. 1800. Typically thumb bibles feature some illustration, however crude, as they were made to appeal to children.

Proffered within a collection of 500 miniature books from the Lilliput Oval Saloon of Tokyo, here are a few neat examples of thumb bibles:

66.jpgLot 66: A bible in English, printed in London in 1775 and bound in period full calf. This copy retains twelve of the original fourteen plates. The estimate is $600-900.

69.jpgLot 69: A 256-page miniature bible printed in London in 1780 and bound in period olive green morocco, complete with all fourteen engraved plates. The estimate is $1,000-1,500.

73.jpgLot 73: This thumb bible, printed in Coventry c. 1795 and bound in period full sheep, is “scarce,” according to PBA. The estimate is $700-1,000.  

James_Baldwin_in_his_house_in_Saint-Paul_de_Vence.JPGThe Provencal house of James Baldwin, the African American novelist and essayist who died in 1987, has been purchased by a real estate development company with plans to convert the house into luxury condos. The company has already demolished two wings of the 17th-century house, which had become dilapidated in recent years. American novelist Shannon Cain, based in Paris, has launched a last-ditch fight to save the house and realize Baldwin’s original hope of turning the house into a writers’ colony.

Baldwin, who spent his formative years in Harlem, emigrated to France when he was 24 years old to flee American prejudice against African Americans and gays. After initially living in Paris and immersing himself in Left Bank culture, Baldwin purchased his home in the Provencal village Saint-Paul-de-Vence in 1970. For the next 17 years, until his death at 63 from stomach cancer, Baldwin was a beloved member of the local community. Baldwin also entertained many famous African American authors and artists at his house, including Miles Davis, Nina Simone, and Ray Charles.

After Baldwin’s death in 1987, a dispute over the ownership of the house resulted in a loss for the Baldwin estate and the house has since been sold three times including most recently by the real estate company with redevelopment plans.

When Shannon Cain learned about the intentions for the Baldwin house, she launched a campaign to preserve it. She squatted in the house for 10 days in an attempt to prevent further demolition. Cain also launched a campaign website where she states, “the plan is the same as it’s been from the outset - to work with the ministry of culture to seize the house on the grounds that historic preservation laws were violated, and if that plan fails to raise the money to purchase the house from the developer.”

The Baldwin estate has successfully prevented Cain from using Baldwin’s name in her campaign, which she has instead labeled “His House in Provence.”

[Image of Baldwin in his Saint-Paul-de-Vence from Wikipedia]

Last week the Library of Congress announced its full slate of authors confirmed for this year’s National Book Festival on September 24. They include:

LOC2016 copy 7.jpg“Civil rights legend and graphic novelist Rep. John Lewis, NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Caldecott Award-winning artist and writer Jerry Pinkney, renowned documentarian Ken Burns, New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin, rising star Yaa Gyasi, bestselling thriller writer Harlan Coben, Mexican novelist Álvaro Enrigue, historian Candice Millard, best-selling novelist Kristin Hannah, New Yorker cultural critic Adam Gopnik, Moroccan-born novelist Laila Lalami and two-time Newbery Medal winner Lois Lowry.”

Oh, and Stephen King will open the main stage in a ticketed event to honor his lifelong promotion of literacy. Check out the festival’s website for a full schedule of events.

This year’s poster, pictured here, has also been released. It was designed by award-winning Japanese illustrator Yuko Shimizu.                                                                                                                                                       Image: Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Eat Your Vegetables, Antiquarian-Style

In more civilized times, proponents of a meatless regime adhered to the “Pythagorean diet” championed by that Greek sixth century B.C. philosopher, who, in addition to figuring out the square of the hypotenuse, believed that all living beings had souls, and it was wrong to eat them. Pythagoras wasn’t big on beans, either, convinced that legumes were created from the same material as humans.

                                                                                                                                                                         And since ancient times, people have codified both what to eat and why in cookbooks, pamphlets, and treatises. Now, visitors to the Lilly Library at Indiana University, Bloomington, may examine the fascinating and sometimes eccentric printed history of vegetarianism in the exhibition Eat Your Vegetables! Five Centuries of Vegetarianism and the Printed Word. While surveying the history of the movement, the show also celebrates the meatless ethos in print from the sixteenth century through the 1960s.



Reproduced with permission of the Lilly Library. Photo Credit: Zachary T. Downey


Head librarian Joel Silver curated the exhibit, drawing primarily from the collection of antiquarian bookseller (and Indiana native) William Dailey. “The university acquired Bill’s material a few years ago--we’re still working on a full-scale catalog--but in the meantime we wanted to do an exhibition of a selection of pieces from his collection, which is close to 1,000 unique items,” Silver said.

                                                                                                                                                                “I started collecting in 1970,” Dailey explained. “I made 1967 the cutoff date for my collection because that was the year I stopped eating meat. I loved that there wasn’t a lot of competition for this kind of material, and I think the scope of my collection is pretty rare in the book world.” Though a pescatarian these days, Dailey remains well known in antiquarian book circles for his no-meat lifestyle, and at one point his car could be identified on the road by the vanity plate “LEGUME.” Dailey’s material complements the library’s already formidable gastronomic collection, assembled largely by Hoosier benefactors Dr. and Mrs. John Talbot Gernon.



Reproduced with permission of the Lilly Library. Photo Credit: Zachary T. Downey

Vegetarianism has had a long cultural, historical, and literary influence. “Frankenstein was a vegetarian,” Silver reminded me, and many writers like Mary Shelley, Franz Kafka, and George Bernard Shaw abstained from meat.



Reproduced with permission from the Lilly Library. Photo Credit: Zachary T. Downey

One of the show’s high spots includes a printed first edition of the earliest published treatise on vegetarianism, De Abstinentia ab esu Animalium, Libri Quatuor (On Abstinence from Animal Food), by Porphyry (234-305). The show also highlights material by American vegetarians and food reformers like Upton Sinclair, whose papers are housed at the Lilly, John Harvey Kellogg, and Sylvester Graham.

                                                                                                                                                                          Silver, a lifelong vegetarian himself, noted the health benefits of a life without meat: “Sinclair experimented with many diets and lived to be ninety years old, and Kellogg lived to be ninety-one. They must have been on to something.”

Eat Your Vegetables! Five Centuries of Vegetarianism and the Printed Word runs from now until September 10 at the Lilly Library at Indiana University. More information may be found at




800px-Operation_Teapot_-_MET_(Military_Effects_Test).jpgAn exhibit on the Nuclear Age at the Mansfield Library at the University of Montana received an unexpected windfall when a forgotten box full of Cold War biscuits and candies was discovered during renovations.

“We’ve been planning this exhibit for over a year, and then to find out that there was this sort of bonanza of Cold War materials hidden in Aber Hall was absolutely perfect!” said librarian Susanne Caro in a press statement.

The Cold War foodstuffs were commonly stored in personal fallout shelters around the country and were expected to have a shelf life of approximately five years. The box of material found at the library, therefore, should have expired sometime around 1967. Library staff took a bite anyway, reporting that a Cold War biscuit tasted “like a stale graham cracker with a hint of vanilla in it. It could be far worse.”

The foodstuffs will go on display with a variety of books, ephemera, and other materials related to the nuclear war scares in the early 1960s.

The exhibit, entitled Duck and Cover! Fact and Fiction of the Nuclear Age, is viewable on the main floor of the Mansfield Library at the University of Montana in Missoula.

[Image from the exhibit]

Guest Post by Anthony Tedeschi

                                                                                                                                                From July 22-24, bibliophiles from across Australasia (and likely further afield) descended on the city of Melbourne, Australia, for the 44th ANZAAB Antiquarian Book Fair. As has been the case since 2012, the fair came hot on the heels of Melbourne Rare Book Week, which saw 45 free events held in libraries and other institutions across the city.

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 3.00.24 PM.pngUnfortunately, I was only able to attend the fair this year and so arrived in Australia on the final day of Rare Book Week. I did, however, manage to view the After Shakespeare exhibition in the University of Melbourne’s Baillieu Library, which brought together books, objects, and ephemera from the university and State Library of Victoria collections, as well as the collections of various Melbourne theatre companies, and the State Library of Victoria’s exhibitions on the 1916 Easter Rising and the works of the artist William Strutt (1825-1915). I was especially delighted, though, to have arrived in time to attend a fascinating talk on the private collection of Kerry Stokes, the collector who purchased the exquisite Rothschild Prayerbook from Christie’s, New York, in 2014. The talk was led by Erica Persak, who manages the Stokes collection, and Emeritus Professor Margaret Manion AO, who has studied many of Stokes’ medieval manuscripts and advises on acquisitions. Some of his recent purchases were on display in the Baillieu Library; the highlight being the 11-metre long Cronica cronicarum scroll printed on vellum in Paris by Jacques Ferrebouc in 1521.

The fair opened with a very convivial reception hosted by the Baillieu Library after which the doors to Wilson Hall were opened and the fair officially got underway. In all, thirty-one dealers from Australia, the US, and the UK exhibited. Like many fairs, there was something for everyone, books, photographs, manuscript material and prints, with items ranging from $10 to over $100,000. Indeed Douglas Stewart Fine Books took the prize for most expensive item: a very good run of early issues of Australia’s first newspaper, the Sydney Gazette & New South Wales Advertiser, spanning the years 1803 to 1828 and priced at AUD $575,000.

Craddock-shelves copy.jpgKay Craddock Antiquarian Booksellers, a Melbourne institution in business for over 50 years now, offered a fine selection of private press books, including a number of works by one of Australia’s most experimental presses: the Wayzgoose Press of Katoomba, New South Wales. Along with standard-sized monographs and broadsides (the latter priced at under AUD $1,000 each), two of the press’ most ambitious works of creative typography were available: Dada Kämpfen un Leben und Tod (AUD $12,000) and The Terrific Days of Summer (AUD $5,000), both printed in large concertina format measuring 26’ and 38’, respectively, when unfolded!

Burdon-ChineseMS.jpgMoving to books of a much more manageable format, Sally Burdon’s Asia Bookroom exhibited a wide variety of Japanese and Chinese works from fine calligraphic manuscripts to printed ephemera. Highlights for me were an album of fifty-one watercolors of Chinese life and customs, ca. 1920 (AUD $6,750) and an 1892 volume of color woodblock prints by artists from the Kyoto School (AUD $250). Asian material was on offer by Ursus Books, too, but the standout items for me were an exceptional copy of Trois dialogues de l’exercise de sauter et voltiger en l’air, Arcangelo Tuccaro’s illustrated work on acrobatics published in 1599 (USD $25,000) and the 1825 first edition of William Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job (USD $85,000).  

Cummins-Phillips copy.jpgBooks and manuscripts on voyaging and exploration are always highlights of the Melbourne fair. This year was no exception. Mark Tewfik of James Cummins, for example, showed me a beautifully hand-colored first edition of The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay published in 1789 (AUD $67,500). In the next stall Hordern House offered a nice copy of the 1799 English edition of La Pérouse’s Voyage autour du monde (AUD $22,500) and the first German account of Cook’s first voyage published in 1772, which includes the earliest printed illustration of a Polynesian artifact in the form of a Māori kuru or earring (AUD $38,500). One stall further, Maggs Bros. included amongst its printed books a ca. 1790 wood and bone compass, sundial, and geographical clock with place names from Cook’s third voyage (AUD $4,373). At Berkelouw Books, any collector interested in the first book printed in Antarctica, the Aurora Australis, but whose pockets may not have been deep enough for an original, could have picked up a very good facsimile edition for AUD $1,000.

Stopping by the fair on the final day to say a few farewells, more than one dealer commented on what a congenial and successful time it had been. While I did not make any purchases for myself I did acquire two items for my employer, the National Library of New Zealand, namely the large concertina books printed by the Wayzgoose Press. Perhaps my decision was influenced by seeing the 1521 Cronica scroll earlier in the day.

Here’s looking forward to Melbourne 2017.

Anthony Tedeschi is Curator Rare Books & Fine Printing at the Alexander Turnbull Library, part of the National Library of New Zealand. He was profiled in our ‘Bright Young Librarians’ series in 2013.

Image: Melbourne Antiquarian Book Fair, 2016, credit: Anna Welch; Book images, credit: Anthony Tedeschi.

twelveagainstthegods.jpgElon Musk, the billionaire Silicon Valley “it boy” of the moment who founded Paypal and Tesla, recommended an obscure, out of print history book in an interview on Thursday with Bloomberg. That book, Twelve Against the Gods: The Story of Adventure by William Bolitho, quickly sold out on and At the time of writing, it is also attracting bids in excess of $100 on eBay.

Twelve Against the Gods is a series of sketches of the lives of twelve historical figures including Alexander the Great, Casanova, Napoleon, and Woodrow Wilson. Its description states that it is “intended to elucidate history somewhat, more to illustrate it, to honour without hypocrisy the deeds of men and women whose destiny was larger, if not deeper than our own.” It was published in 1929.

The book was written by William Bolitho who was born in 1890, fighting in, and barely surviving, WWI. After the war, Bolitho became a foreign correspondent for The Guardian, working in Paris where he met Ernest Hemmingway. Bolitho was also good friends with Noel Coward, who dedicated his play Post Morterm to him. Bolito died at an early age in 1930 from peritonitis.

Alongside an array of vintage war, travel, and political posters on offer at Swann Galleries this week, a few gems that feature literary magazines caught my eye. I dare say these posters, particularly those that headline a coveted author, might be “gateway” buys that introduce book collectors to the poster market. If nothing else, they will enhance a wall and complement a full bookcase.

719173.jpgRudyard Kipling and Anthony Hope collectors might take special notice of this McClure’s poster from August 1895. The estimate is $400-600.

719174.jpgPerhaps a favorite for this readership, this advertising poster for The Bookman, Christmas 1895, depicts a Benjamin Franklinesque character perusing a bookshop. The estimate is $400-600.  

719860.jpgAccording to Swann, this poster for the March 1907 issue of Scribner’s magazine is rarely seen at auction. It portrays a fashionable female reader with her Scribner’s magazine in hand. The estimate is $2,500-3,500.

718716.jpgThis Paris Review poster from 1983 was designed by conceptual artist Sol LeWitt. It is signed and numbered by the artist, 75/100. The estimate is $700-1,000.

Auction Guide