October 2016 Archives

Some of you may recall the emotional story reported a few years back about how Rufus McDonald, a Chicago construction worker, saved a trunkful of historical documents from the attic of a house that was about to be razed. The documents, long thought lost, belonged to Richard T. Greener, Harvard’s first African-American graduate, and incidentally, the father of the Morgan Library’s first librarian, Belle da Costa Greene.

                                                                                                                                                                     After selling two of the documents to the University of South Carolina, where Greener was the first African-American faculty member, for a hefty $52,000, McDonald tried to sell Greener’s Harvard diploma to Harvard, which resulted in a major misunderstanding and lots of headlines. The diploma finally went to public auction at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in August of 2014, where it sold for $12,500 to an unidentified buyer who then sold or gifted it to Harvard.


10324158_view 04_04.jpgAfter that sale, I interviewed McDonald for a chapter in my book, Rare Books Uncovered. “I was very disappointed,” he told me. He also said he intended to keep the remaining documents that he had discovered, but it appears he has changed his mind because a lot containing five Greener documents and one book is slated for auction later this week at Leslie Hindman. They include: a certificate honoring Greener as a member of the Society of the Sons of New York; a Russian document (Greener had been a US Commerical Agent with the Foreign Service); a certificate of membership in the American Missionary Association; a document acknowledging his donation to the Grant National Monument Association; an honorary membership certificate from the Pioneer Sunday School Association; and a copy of Autographs of Freedom (1853), a gift book that contains Frederick Douglass’ novella, The Heroic Slave. All told, the auctioneer hopes it will bring in $6,000-8,000.


Screen Shot 2016-10-31 at 1.00.20 PM.pngImages via Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

We round out this week’s review of choice items available at the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair and the Boston Book Show with a peek at a very special edition of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with illustrations by Barry Moser. At the ABAA fair, Boomerang Booksellers of Northampton, Massachusetts, is presenting a first edition, first printing of the Pennyroyal Press edition of the book, which includes sixty-two wood engravings of, among others, political figures from the Reagan administration. Published in 1985, various political personalities from that era pepper the book, most notably with First Lady Nancy Reagan as the Wicked Witch of the West and her husband providing inspiration for the Wizard. Moser’s own daughters modeled for Glinda the Good Witch. (One wonders which political figures would appear if the book were illustrated in the midst of our current election cycle.)


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                                                                                                                                                                  Oz fans may recall the 2006 exhibition celebrating what would have been the 150th birthday of L. Frank Baum at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. The installation explored the various representations of one of literature’s most beloved stories and its inhabitants, as well as the multitude of artistic shapes the book has taken since its initial publication in 1900. Moser’s illustrations for this book were a central part of that discussion.

                                                                                                                                                              A first edition, first printing of the Pennyroyal Press publication of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, with illustrations by Barry Moser, will be available at Booth 303 for the bewitching price of $57.50.

                                                                                                                                                              Images Courtesy of the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair.

Our preview week for this weekend’s Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair continues today with several Japanese items from Boston Book Company:


1) Shinpan Ehon Don Kihoute, illustrated and signed artist Keisuke Serizawa. This large color stencil printed “ehon” of Don Quixote was published in 1976 and is today considered a masterpiece of Japanese livre d’artiste book production. Thirty-one full-page illustrations. 1 of only 185 copies. $4500.

2) A turned wooden pagoda shaped container with a printed Dharani Buddhist charm inside.  The charm, part of the Hyakumantô [One Million Pagodas] devotional project, is considered one of the first examples of printing that can be accurately dated. Japanese Empress Shôtoku called for the Hyakumantô to commence in 764 AD, with the entire project completed six years later. $22,500.


3) Kamisaka Sekka’s Momoyogusa, printed in 1909-10, with 60 double-page color-printed woodblocks printed and overprinted using opaque and metallic inks to create a particular surface. The work is considered one of the finest Japanese design books of all time and this copy is an early impression with wood grain showing in many of the prints.  $38,500.

Images Courtesy of the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair.

If you’ve been following along on the blog this week, we’ve been previewing items on offer in Boston this weekend. Today we focus on the Boston Book, Print & Ephemera Show, which will take place on Saturday from 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. at the Back Bay Events Center (within walking distance of the ABAA fair at Hynes Auditorium). Presenting a diverse cache of antiquarian books and ephemera, a “satellite show” can be a picker’s paradise. Here are three interesting finds proffered this year:  

8590-2 Three Cross Country Auto Trips.jpgA photograph album documenting three cross-county automobile trips through the United States and Canada, 1930-[1933]. Comprising more than 275 mounted photographs, this album highlights a vast expanse, from big cities to national parks and all the tourist sites in between, plus early cars, roads, and campsites. Offered by Read ‘Em Again Books of Montclair, Virginia, for $2,000.

1.JPGThe C programming language booklet, 1975. The C programming language was first published internally at Bell Labs. “It is the most significant programming language today, that directly or indirectly contributes to most all computer software products that we use today, such as your iPhone, your Windows operational system, the list goes on and on,” said bookseller Hai Nguyen. Offered by Cultural Heritage Books of Waltham, Massachusetts, for $9,000.

Melville 1.JPGHere we have Herman Melville’s first two books, Typee and Omoo, in the rare first British editions, beautifully bound by Sangorski & Sutcliffe in matching early leather bindings and slipcases. “A very attractive set.” Offered by Different Drummer Books of Niantic, Connecticut, for $3,750.      

Images Courtesy of the Boston Book, Print & Ephemera Show.

Today’s highlight is a souvenir program and scorecard from the 1915 World Series played between the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies. This copy was printed for the Boston games, played at Braves Field (home today of Nickerson Field on the campus of Boston College). The scorecard preserves the completed score for Game 3, won with a final score of 2-1 by the Red Sox. The Sox would go on to win the series in five games. Several future Hall of Famers played in the series, including Babe Ruth in his first World Series appearance, as well as Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper, and Grover Cleveland Alexander.

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Brattle Book Shop, of Boston, will be offering the program and scorecard for $5,000 at the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair.

Images Courtesy of the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair.

All this week on the blog we’ll be highlighting items on offer at the upcoming Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, which runs Friday-Sunday, or at the Boston Book, Print & Ephemera Fair, a Saturday-only show.                                                                                                                                                 Today, Harry Potter is in the spotlight. At the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, California bookseller John Windle will offer this original watercolor illustration of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry by artist Cliff Wright, made for the British edition of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998). The price is $50,000.
40BIABF_Hogwarts illustration from British Edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets_.jpgWhile in Boston this week, don’t forget to check out Beyond Words, a major, multi-venue exhibition celebrating manuscript culture.

                                                                                                                                                              Image Courtesy of the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair.

On Wednesday, September 28 the Austin Book Arts Center (ABAC) celebrated its first year of operation with printing demonstrations, music, champagne, cupcakes, and a silent auction which raised roughly $4,000 which will enable workshops and outreach programs to inspire a new generation of book artisans.

Founded in 2015, the ABAC picked up the mantle of the Austin Book Workers group, an organization created in 1986 that met itinerantly at school auditoriums, libraries and even private homes to make books. The Austin Book Workers merged with the ABAC in 2013, and spent the next two years raising funds and securing a permanent home for the city’s book arts program. Steering the ABAC are Amanda Stevenson, formerly of New York City’s Center for Book Arts, and Mary Baughman, a book conservator at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Now located at 2832 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the ABAC has been able to install larger pieces of equipment like letterpresses and other bookmaking materials to further the group’s vision of “advancing the book as a vital contemporary art form, [to] preserve the traditional and robust crafts related to making books, and [to] engage the community in creative, interpretative, and educational experiences, including the improvement of literacy for people of all ages.”

Workshops include creating letterpress business cards, an introduction to do-it-yourself publishing, mixing methyl cellulose to create colorful endpapers, and even hosts a happy hour bookbinding class to help k-12 teachers set up their own bookbinding classroom projects. Costs range from $45 to $270 per workshop, and ABAC members enjoy a 10% discount off tuition. (Annual memberships start at $40 for students, $50 per individual, and include access to the studio during open hours.) Class sizes are kept small to ensure individual attention and instruction.

Happy Birthday, ABAC; you’ve joined a small but robust group of nonprofits throughout the country dedicated to providing hands-on programs that foster creativity and encourage self-expression through the creation of books. Here’s to many more years illuminating the way. 


Image Courtesy of ABAC.

ICON-01-1-150x150.pngIf you’re anywhere near London this weekend, you won’t want to miss a new fair bringing together rare books and art in the heart of the city.  INK LDN, held at 2 Temple Place in a grandiose Gothic mansion on London’s Embankment, starts with a champagne reception on October 20 at 5:00 p.m, with general opening times on October 21 (11:00 - 7:00) and October 22 (11:00 - 5:00). Twenty-six European and American dealers will be exhibiting.

Ines Bellin, creator of the Fair, took a few minutes away from her last-minute preparations to answer a few questions we had over e-mail:

Please introduce us to INK LDN:

I strongly believe that fairs will be a vital part in the future of the antiquarian book market as well as the art market. It is something dealers prepare for with secret, fresh material, collectors put money aside and institutions plan their budgets for. There is a sense of hunt in these events, and also celebration. The size of a fair can determine our perception and receptiveness for new information. Keeping INK LDN small and accessible, with the right mix of exhibitors allows new visitors a true insight into the art market and nurture current relationships.

INK LDN is very much a combination of friends we admire and respect highly, a stunning location in central London and lots of hard work. We believe that if you come to our fair and buy a £500 or £20.000 or £1.4 million book you should do that in stunning surroundings with a glass of Champagne.

Despite all the changes in the relationship between the UK and the world, especially Europe, London will remain the most important hub for collectors and sellers alike. 

I’m trying to make the dealers more accessible and personable. We do lose that sometimes when companies, profiles and price tags grow. Very often you will find that behind an amazingly rare and expensive book is a dealer that is still as fascinated and excited as any bibliophile and would love to talk about his or her material. 

INK LDN isn’t a new idea by the way. During my initial talks with London based book dealers I learned that there had been talks about an autumn fair for several decades. Autumn has always been a slightly emptier calendar for most dealers.

The concept, which will evolve over the years, is to bring together books and other related forms of art, together. 

How many exhibitors will be participating?

We have 26 dealers from 7 countries this year, we could have had a few more but we limited ourselves to the last remaining topics we really wanted to have. It was a selective process and we are very happy with the type and range of objects now. Special thanks goes to Iris Antique Globes & Maps as they added their stunning globes to our range.

All exhibitors of our debut fair have first rights to participate again before we allow anyone else in. This is a “thank you” from us to those who have agreed, signed and paid to participate while INK LDN was no more than a crazy idea in my head. 

What are some exhibitor highlights?

Once more, Iris Globes brings a pair of library globes by Blaeu! A dedication copy of Hubble’s Law first print by Sophia Rare Books, an Aldus Hypnerotomachia Poliphili shown by Fabrizio Govi and a couple of Book of Hours from Forum Auctions. Also, I’m very much looking forward to Laura Massey’s (Alembic Rare Books) instruments and compasses. 

Tell us about the Fresh Faces section of the Fair:

Originally INK LDN was discussed among young and new book dealers, during a time many posts in larger antiquarian book houses where being filled with young bright minds and even more young dealers set up on their own. There is so much fresh talent out there that will BE the antiquarian and art market in the next couple of years I just wanted to give them a boost. 

It takes time, material and catalogues to be eligible to join ILAB LILA as well as annual fees. Our current Fresh Faces pay a very low price for a stand and we offer them 10 free hours of our Concierge service. Allowing them to have lunch, a break or even go out with a customer while our concierges take care of their booths. This includes even a packing service if they have to leave early.

On the other hand, visitors can get to know new dealers they might not have heard of (yet!).

Tell us about the venue for INK LDN:

Ah, all praise goes to Nicholas McBurney from Heywood Hill. He mentioned it to me as a potential venue and set up an initial meeting. The Bulldog Trust, who manages 2 Temple, has been amazing. The Gothic and Victorian inspired architecture has more history than one would suspect. The library alone, with its secret door and hidden little spaces. It’s truly one of London secret venues you rarely get a chance to see. 

Where can our readers learn more?

Our site, which is constantly tweaked and updated www.inkfair.london, we are also strong believers in social media and all links and handles can be found on our site.

Image Courtesy of INK LDN.

It would be difficult to contrive a more felicitous title for the Fine Books readership than N. John Hall’s recently published Bibliophilia: An Epistolary Novel of One Man’s Obsession with Book Collecting (David R. Godine, softcover with flaps, $18.95). The novel follows the daily exploits of New Yorker Larry Dickerson, who takes up book collecting late in life. Readers of Hall’s 2011 novel, Correspondence, will recall Larry as the retired bank clerk who bumbled into the world of rare books and manuscripts after inheriting a trove of letters from his ancestor to various important Victorian authors. In Bibliophilia, the same likable if unpolished character again faces a steep learning curve.

Bibliophilia.pngWe jump right into the action on the very first page when Larry emails a friend at Christie’s auction house to announce, “I am going to become a rare book collector.” He begins by making all the rookie mistakes, like buying American first editions of Trollope instead of English first editions, all of which will tickle readers who have even a little collecting experience. As another Christie’s contact warns Larry, “...just because a book is old doesn’t mean it’s worth anything.”  

Larry puzzles over bibliographies and inscribed editions, keeping meticulous track of purchases made and prices paid and conveying the information via email to a coterie of correspondents, all fellow bibliophiles--some fictional, some real-life book folk, including NYPL curator Isaac Gewirtz and collector Mark Samuels Lasner. Larry sets out to collect Victorians and then dabbles in authors associated with the New Yorker magazine. Being a newbie, some of his missteps will come back to haunt him.  

Bibliophilia is zippy, a consequence of its epistolary form, and amusing. It’s clear that the author is among the ‘gently mad’ himself, as his prose clearly demonstrates his knowledge of the subject. (And, on that note, we’ll be profiling Hall in an upcoming issue’s “How I Got Started.”) 

                                                                                                                                                                                        Image via David R. Godine, Publisher.


A Kickstarter campaign launched today for a new facsimile edition of the first modern-day artist’s book.

Italian artist Fortunato Depero’s 1927 monograph, Depero Futurista (“Depero the Futurist”), regarded as a landmark in the field, was first published in Milan by Dinamo-Azari. Depero intended the book to showcase his work-to-date in 1927. The book includes paintings, sculptures, textile and architectural designs, theater and advertising work, wordplays, manifestoes, and reviews of Depero’s works in multiple languages. Depero Futurista was bound together by two large industrial aluminum bolts, allowing the pages to be removed for display, or rearranged as the reader preferred.  The bolts led to the nickname, “The Bolted Book.”

“The Bolted Book” was supposedly issued in an edition of 1,000, however the actual number of copies produced in 1927 is not certain. The copy used for this facsimile edition is No. 843, signed by Depero on page two.

The new facsimile edition will be accompanied by a special Reader’s Guide companion volume, inclusive of scholarly essays and other unpublished material from the Depero archive at the Mart. 

The Center for Italian Modern Art in New York, the Mart, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto, Italy, and Designers & Books are all collaborating to publish the new edition.

If you pledge $119 to the Kickstarter campaign during its first two days (October 18th and October 19th), you will receive the facsimile edition plus the Reader’s Companion at 20% off the regular price.

Image Courtesy of Designers & Books.

Kentucky by Design copy.jpgThe Furthermore organization announced this year’s winner of the Alice Award, Kentucky by Design: The Decorative Arts and American Culture, published for the Frazier History Museum by the University Press of Kentucky. The volume--and the current exhibition it is associated with--celebrates the 80th anniversary of the Federal Art Project’s Index of American Design, a WPA program in which hundreds of artists documented nineteenth-century American material culture in watercolor renderings.   

The Alice Award is an annual $25,000 prize for illustrated books, particularly volumes that present scholarly research and vivid imagery in a way that celebrates the art of the book. Candidates are selected from a pool of previous Furthermore grant recipients. Shortlisted this year: African Art in the Barnes Foundation: The Triumph of L’Art nègre and the Harlem Renaissance (Barnes Foundation); Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now (Hammer Museum and Menil Collection); Making it Modern: The Folk Art Collection of Elie and Viola Nadelman (New-York Historical Society); and A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG, London).

To read more about Furthermore grants in publishing, a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund, and the Alice Award, revisit our profile of Furthermore’s founder and president Joan K. Davidson or check out our post about last year’s winner.
                                                                                                                                                            Image Courtesy of the University Press of Kentucky.

Lewis Carroll Notebook Goes to Auction

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Lewis Carroll fans, take note: on October 20, Sotheby’s London will be auctioning a brown exercise notebook that provides an unexpected glimpse at the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author’s network of confidantes towards the end of his life.

As part of the Library of the English Bibliophile auction series, Carroll’s notebook last appeared on the block in 1946, when it was purchased by a private collector at Manhattan’s Parke-Bernet Galleries.                                                                                                                       

Parke-Bernet became part of the Sotheby’s empire in 1964.      

                                                                                                                                                Sotheby’s representatives declined to comment on the notebook’s current owner, saying only that the book hails from a private collection.

Dating from the summer of 1889, the 40-page notebook is significant because it includes Carroll’s handwritten list of 121 intended recipients of The Nursery Alice, an 1890 adaptation of Alice for the diaper set. 

The Nursery Alice was published 25 years after Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and remarkably, both titles have remained in print to this day. (Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.)

Carroll’s purple-ink notations reveal a detailed hierarchy of gift recipients; Carroll’s sisters top the list, while Mrs. Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the inspiration for the Alice books, appears at number 34. Carroll also highlighted which friends he wished to recive special copies bound in white morocco leather. (Though similarly bound presentation copies were made for other Carroll works, none were ever produced for The Nursery Alice.) Alice Hargreaves was slated to receive one such volume, but not John Tenniel, who illustrated both works.

Pre-sale estimates place The Nursery Alice 40-page exercise notebook, with one page of algebra questions (in black ink and not in Carroll’s handwriting) and 18 pages presenting 121 names and addresses, in purple ink with original paper wrappers and collector’s chemise and red morocco pull-off box, at £25,000-35,000 ($33,000-46,000).


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Pages from Lewis Carroll’s notebook. Images Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

1916_08_TSE_Bosham.jpgBritish publisher Faber & Faber, in conjunction with the estate of T. S. Eliot, has debuted a new website devoted to the late poet: tseliot.com. The site features a virtual treasure trove of unseen, never published, and very rare Eliot material, including poetry, letters, essays, and photographs.

Faber & Faber plans to continue to add to the website over time, eventually making all of Eliot’s correspondence freely available. The site also includes such rarities as the first and last issue of The Criterion, the journal that Eliot founded in 1922 and edited until it closed down in 1939.

“It’s been a long time in the planning,” said Faber press director Henry Volans in a press statement with The Guardian. “My view is that publishers have engaged with the web a bit as a marketing platform, not taking advantage of its full potential, and this is a step closer [to that] ... It’s a companion to Eliot himself, more than to the books, and I love the idea that it will appeal to students as well as to general readers.”

The site will also serve as a gateway for writers to apply for a residency at Eliot’s childhood house in Massachusetts, which the T. S. Eliot Foundation acquired last year with plans to renovate into a writers residency.

For this blogger, the deceptively simple interface on the site quickly led me down a variety of fascinating rabbit holes. I particularly enjoyed reading through some of Eliot’s letters and scrolling through the pages of photographs, which are set to displaly like a Pinterest board. It’s an engaging, enriching website and I look forward to seeing what else is added over time (and if this same model is applied by others).

Image Courtesy of tseliot.com.

An archive of approximately ninety letters written by Civil War solider John W. Grosh and by members of his family, has surfaced at a San Francisco auction house.

202545_0.jpgGrosh, a Pennsylvanian, enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 and died two years later while a prisoner of war in Virginia. As described by PBA Galleries, which will auction the lot of letters on October 20, the archive covers Grosh’s camp life in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Tennessee “with much detail on barracks life, the drudgery and disease, the food, vermin, and other afflictions, the money used by the troops, excursions into towns, with occasional action, and a few false alarms.”  

Here is Grosh writing to his mother in 1862: “I suppose you have heard all about the great battle of ‘Chaplin Heights,’ and I need not therefore attempt a description. Well, I was in it and came out safe again, but 24 of our company were not so fortunate. One was killed on the spot and the rest wounded... We fought about 3 hours, the bullets whizzing past our ears faster than we could count them. We suffered much for want of water there was not a drop to be had, the rebels had it all in their possession. Our artillery had not as much as to swab the cannon and one of our gunners had both his hands blown off while loading...”

In 1863, a friend wrote to Grosh’s family conveying the news of the boy’s death, but that turned out to be incorrect. He had been shot, captured, and retained. As he explained to his mother, “I was wounded in the head at Chicamauga on the 20th of September and subsequently taken prisoner... My wound is not of a dangerous or even painful nature the ball having merely cut the scalp to the bone, knocking me senseless for a few moments... I have been treated as well as a prisoner as [one] can expect... I have no idea how long I shall be held prisoner...” It mattered not; he died one month later.

202546_0.jpgThe letters in this archive span 1858-1868. Besides the soldier, correspondents include his mother, his siblings, a cousin, and a few others.

When asked to elaborate on the archive’s provenance, Shannon Kennedy of PBA Galleries commented, “The archive descended in the family and was consigned by an estate broker who is representing the family.”

This lot is unique in that each of the handwritten letters has been scanned, and a typed transcript has been made--a flash drive and a binder containing them is included--making it presumably more desirable for institutions without the resources for such an undertaking. The archive is expected to reach $15,000-25,000.

                                                                                                                                              Images Courtesy of PBA Galleries.

silkroadledgernli.JPGLast month, the National Library of Israel acquired an extremely rare collection of manuscripts related to the once thriving Jewish community along the Silk Road. The library has begun digitizing the manuscripts, and has just published a first glimpse of them online.

The unique collection consists of 250 pages of manuscripts from the 11th through the 13th centuries and comprises some of the only material about the Jewish Silk Road culture to survive in the historical record. The newly acquired material will significantly expand the NLI’s existing holdings from the Afghan Genizha discovery of 2013, when thousands of Jewish manuscript fragments were found hidden in caves in Afghanistan.

Part of the newly found material survived from a Jewish merchant family, the Abu Netzers, who lived and traded in the city of Bamiyan, a former commercial center on the Silk Road in Afghanistan. Twenty-seven pages of a merchant’s account book survive, along with legal documents, liturgy, poetry, an historical chronicle, and Biblical passages.

Another part of the new collection relates to the early 13th century, providing insight into the Islamic culture in the remote region before the arrival of the Mongol hordes in 1221.

The collection, written in Persian, Arabic, Aramaic, and Judeo-Persian, will continue to be digitized and made freely available online.

Image Courtesy of the National Library of Israel


Earlier this year, retired lawyer, former editor, and first-rate bibliophile Brian Harris published a paean to his library. Prompted by a home relocation, Harris writes, “...I found myself faced with the almost unbearable problem of forcing a quart of books into a pint of shelf space.” We’ve all been there.  

Cover.jpgCompelled to cull his shelves, Harris wrote Missing Books: A Wander Through One Man’s Library to honor his life as a reader. Broken up into brief sections and chapters, the volume offers a thoughtful ramble through the books that have been meaningful in the author’s life, from Shakespeare to David Cornwall and everything in between. Traveling these literary bylaws with Harris is an exceedingly pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Recommendations for worthwhile reading abound; Harris will have you reaching for John Stuart Mill, or perhaps the 1932 novel, Cold Comfort Farm, if that’s more to your taste.     

Harris blogs about public affairs and literature from his base in the English midlands. In addition to the books he has published related to the practice of law, he has written two books about Rudyard Kipling, who he describes in Missing Books as “one of our finest short story writers.”

                                                                                                                                                             Image Courtesy of Brian Harris.

Here in the Northeast, fall trumpets its arrival with crisp weather and fairs of all sorts. Outdoorsy bibliophiles with a yen for leaf peeping should mark their calendars for the Pioneer Valley Book and Ephemera Fair, making its twelfth annual appearance on October 16 from 10am to 4pm at the Smith Vocational and Agricultural School in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Sponsored by Southern New England Antiquarian Booksellers, the show welcomes booksellers throughout New England, as well as a few representatives from California, New Jersey, and Ohio. An examination of the exhibitor list reveals the richness of the Pioneer Valley book community: over a dozen bookshops dot the landscape, from the quaint town of Whately to the bustling, bucolic metropolis of Northampton.

On the of Fair’s exhibitors includes Periodyssey proprietor Rich West who specializes in “significant and unusual American paper,” such as historical prints, broadsides, and caricatures. “I’ve had great success during the pre-buy and some years have sold as much as I’ve ever sold at any fair,” said West recently. “Sometimes people have to be shooed out at closing, but it’s a very convivial show. The dealers all know one another and know most of the regulars who come through the doors.” Out-of-state day-trippers hunting for dusty treasure are most welcome, too.

Fittingly, one the items West is highlighting this election year includes a pair of campaign prints from 1844 by Nathaniel Currier. The Grand National Democratic Banner depicts James K. Polk and George M. Dallas, while the Grand National Whig Banner features Henry Clay and Theodore Frelinghuysen. In that hotly contested political battle, underdog Polk defeated Clay by 65 electoral votes in an election that hinged on slavery expansion and the annexation of Texas. (Bonus fact: this was the last presidential election to be held on different days in different states.) The pair, listed in very good condition, are available for $1,200. 



Grand National Whig Banner (N. Currier, NY: 1844). Photo Credit: Rich West.

                                                                                                                                                                             Admission to The Pioneer Valley Book Fair is six dollars and sandwiches will be provided by Amherst’s Black Sheep Deli, an institution that itself merits a visit to the area.

                                                                                                                                                                     More information (including a discount coupon) may be found at pioneervalleybookfair.com

Thomas-becket-window.jpgIn case you missed it, the big news in the rare book world that surfaced last weekend was the discovery of Thomas Becket’s personal book of psalms in the Cambridge Library. The Guardian provided initial coverage of the discovery, which was announced by Cambridge historian Dr. Christopher de Hamel.

Dr. de Hamel, after an intriguing conversation with a fellow historian, consulted an entry from the Sacrists’ Roll of Canterbury Cathedral that described in detail a book of psalms in a jewelled binding preserved as a relic of Thomas Becket at the saint’s shrine in the Cathedral. The entry, dated from 1321, implied that Becket’s personal Psalter had been preserved after his death at the hands of four knights in the same cathedral in 1170. (“Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?”)  After reading the entry, Dr. de Hamel realized he had seen a book of psalms that exactly fit that description in the holdings of Cambridge’s Parker Library.

Dr. de Hamel also cited as evidence the fact that Becket’s stained glass window in Canterbury Cathedral shows the saint holding a similar Psalter. 

Becket’s shrine in Canterbury was eventually destroyed, but Dr. de Hamel believes the Psalter was saved from the destruction and, one way or another, eventually absorbed into the collections of the Parker Library at Cambridge. A 16th century note included with the Psalter indicates the book belonged to Becket, but previous historians have dismissed the claim as false as the Psalter was not included on a period inventory of Becket’s books.

Dr. de Hamel argues, however, that a link had not been previously established between the Sacrists’ Roll entry from 1321 and the Cambridge copy of the book of psalms.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

sigridspinnox-1.jpgThis past weekend, the Plantin-Moretus Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage site, reopened in Antwerp, Belgium. Once home to sixteenth-century printers, Christopher Plantin and his son-in-law Jan Moretus, the museum has welcomed visitors since the late nineteenth century, when descendant Edward Moretus sold the building and its contents to the city. Its recent renovation seeks to invigorate interest in Plantin and his famous print-works with “cinematic interventions, soundscapes, and hands-on activities.”

Biblia-regia_-vol.-I_-p.-2-3-B-65.jpgBibliophiles need not despair over these newfangled additions. As noted in a press release, “Digital media will be present, but will play a subordinate role: the book is central ... Our goal in this authentic, UNESCO-protected setting is to bring to life the activities of the home and workshops. The visitor takes a time machine to the 16th century, meets Plantin as a family man, manager, printer, humanist and visionary publisher and experiences how a world-class entrepreneur developed his business.”

letterkasten.jpgBorn in France and trained as a bookbinder, Plantin emigrated to Belgium around 1550 and founded a publishing house that would remain in the family for nine generations. Plantin’s outfit was the largest in Western Europe and helped to define Antwerp as a city of printers and a center for cultural production. Famous books printed by the Plantin Press include Biblia Regia (aka, the Plantin Polyglot, 1569-1572), and Ortelius’ comprehensive atlas, Theatrum orbis terrarum (first, 1570).

Images: Top: Museum interior, (c) Sigrid Spinnox. Middle: Biblia regia, de Koningsbijbel (c) Plantin-Moretusmuseum. Bottom: Museum Plantin-Moretus lettercases, (c) Joris Luyten.

Two weeks ago I posted our first installment about rare books on Instagram.  I mentioned that round two would cover “booksellers and collectors,” however I neglected a very important part of the Instagram universe: librarians with their own Instagram accounts, separate from their institutions. (A fact politely pointed out by Diane Dias DeFazio, herself a previous entry in our Bright Young Booksellers series and an avid Instagram user). Since then, we’ve received numerous recommendations for both librarians and booksellers / collectors, so I’ll be splitting the recommendations into two more posts.  Today’s post will feature those Librarians of Instagram; booksellers and collectors to follow another week.

And so, here we go!

@book_historia (Allie Newman, Assistant Librarian at the Royal Scottish Museum)


@thedamlibrarian (Rachael DiEleuterio, Librarian and Archivist at the Delaware Art Museum)

IGR6.jpg@t0mmy2times (Assistant Archivist at the Moravian Archives)

IGR7.jpg@rarebkcat (Rare Books Cataloger at American Antiquarian Society)

IGR8.jpg@archibrarian (Librarian with The New York Society Library )

IGR9.jpg@kpeck1916 (Library Assistant at Huntington Library)

IGR11.jpg@cnlibrarian (Christine Nelsen, Drue Heinz Curator at The Morgan)

IGR14.jpg@temptabundus (Librarian with The British Library)


@futitivepigments (An Information Custodian)

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@pleasant_peasants (A Folger Library Librarian)

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Did we miss your favorite?  Drop me a line at nathan@finebooksmagazine.com or on Twitter @nate_pedersen

Guest Post by Catherine Batac Walder

                                                                                                                                                                     Walder_James Joyce 4.JPGI first heard of James Joyce’s connection with Trieste more than a decade ago during a visit to the Dublin Writers Museum when I saw his piano on display, one he had bought in Trieste, a reflection of his priorities at a time when he and his family were living on a very small income. The 22-year-old Joyce arrived in Trieste in 1904, with Nora Barnacle, whom he had met only a few months earlier and who would become his wife in 1931. The story goes that the two moved there after hearing of a teaching post for Joyce which became unavailable once they arrived. Once in Trieste, Joyce left Nora in the gardens outside the train station to find an accommodation for the night but he was caught up in a brawl with drunken English sailors in a bar and was arrested. He was released a few hours later with the help of the English consul and rejoined Nora in the square outside the station. Joyce went to live in Trieste for a number of years and did a good amount of work, completing Dubliners and starting work on Ulysses. Both his children were born there.

                                                                                                                                                                                   Joyce’s years in Trieste were not all rosy. He was forced to change houses a number of times--take a James Joyce walking tour and you will see the buildings where he had resided as well as the cafes and taverns where he loved to drink, which obviously didn’t help in his health problems. His job as an English teacher at the Berlitz School paid little, so he had to take on other jobs to supplement his earnings. He tried his hand as a bank clerk, an opera singer, and a tweed merchant, and involved a group of Triestine investors in his unsuccessful attempt to run the first cinema in Dublin.


Walder_James Joyce 1.JPG                                                                                                                                                                                 Two hours by train from Venice, Trieste is quieter, and a beauty all its own and even then was a hub for artists and philosophers, notably Joyce and his friend Italo Svevo who is regarded as one of Joyce’s inspirations for Leopold Bloom, the protagonist in Ulysses. During Joyce’s time, Trieste was a center of European cosmopolitanism and there Joyce came into contact with characters, cultures, languages and religions far different from those to his native Dublin. In Trieste he associated with Jewish Triestines, feeding his knowledge of Irredentism and rekindling his own political biases. It is curious that Joyce left Trieste for good after the First World War, when the city became a part of Italy. Traveling to Trieste and walking its streets, visiting the James Joyce Museum, and doing further reading about the time he spent there gives one a glimpse, if not a complete understanding, of some of the influences in his literary works and how he came of age in this city.

                                                                                                                                                                               At Via Roma 16 is a statue of Joyce by the Trieste-born sculptor Nino Spagnoli. It was erected on the bridge in 2004 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Joyce’s arrival there. On the ground by the statue is a plaque that partly reads “...la mia anima è a Trieste ...” my soul is in Trieste, from his letter to Nora dated October 27, 1909. For my part there was no epiphany; I only needed cups of gelato at the Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia overlooking the Adriatic to understand why he chose to live there as a young man and why his soul is in Trieste.

                                                                                                                                                                        --Catherine Batac Walder is a writer who lives in the UK. She has contributed several posts from abroad over the years, including “Sherlock Holmes in Switzerland” and “The Making of Harry Potter.”

                                                                                                                                                                                   Images: Joyce statue at Via Roma 16; The James Joyce Museum in Trieste, Italy. Credit: Catherine Batac Walder.

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