November 2016 Archives

In this, Mount Rushmore’s 75th anniversary year, an interesting auction lot has surfaced in London: a manuscript letter written by the South Dakota landmark’s sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, to his collaborator, Jesse Grove Tucker. The three-page letter, dated c. 1925-26, also contains a partial sketch showing only Washington’s rock face. The Rushmore project officially began in 1927, and was finally completed in 1941, shortly after Borglum’s death.

Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 9.04.42 PM.pngBorglum writes, “I’ve had a two hours talk with Norbeck, who you know is head of the Black Hills Park. I can’t tell you all we talked about but it amounts to this. He goes home as soon as congress adjourns and jumps at once in to the monument work= meantime I go to Texas on the fifteenth stopping in Raleigh: where you and I should have a talk= that talk should deal with the question - number of men, money necessary to start and possibly cut the Washington Head on shoulder of cliff this summer.” (You can read it in its entirety at Letters of Note.)

The provenance of this letter can be traced from the James S. Copley library to Florida collector Dan Brams, who purchased it at a book fair in New York in 2010. Later that year, he consigned it to auction, where it sold for $5,826 to UK dealer Paul Fraser, who, in turn, sold it, according to his blog post, “10 jaw-dropping objects sold by Paul Fraser Collectibles.”

Back at auction on December 1, Bloomsbury Auctions estimates it will bring £2,000-3,000 ($2,500-$3,700). 

                                                                                                                                                Image via Bloomsbury Auctions.

Wells_cover-min-300x389.pngAndrew Gulli, editor of Strand Magazine, has made it a personal mission of late to track down unpublished stories from famous writers and publish them for the first time in his magazine. Last year saw the first-ever publication of a Faulkner play and a Fitzgerald short story. This month’s issue of the Strand continues the tradition, featuring the first publication of “The Haunted Ceiling,” a short ghost story by H. G. Wells.

Gulli discovered the story in a significant archive of Wells’ work held at the University of Illinois. An assistant photocopied hundreds of Wells manuscripts, which Gulli combed through in an effort to find something new.

“Initially, from the titles of the manuscripts, I thought I happened upon lots of unpublished works, but those thousands of pages were narrowed down to this delightful story,” said Gulli in an interview with The Guardian.

Scholars have dated the story to sometime around the mid 1890s, when Wells, about 30 at the time, also wrote “The Red Room,” the most famous of his ghost stories.

Gulli continued, “The reason we released it now is to keep up the tradition of having ghost stories read during the cold months and during the holiday. There is something very cosy about it: the old house, the main characters playing chess and discussing this odd ceiling, but at the same time you have something very macabre and unsettling.”

Image via Strand Magazine.

The Dictionary of the Book copy.jpgMake room on the reference shelf. Sidney E. Berger’s newest book, The Dictionary of the Book: A Glossary for Book Collectors, Booksellers, Librarians, and Others (Rowman & Littlefield, $125) is a remarkably comprehensive volume of book terminology, beginning with ABA and ending with zinc cuts nearly three hundred pages later, plus related appendices and a foreword by Nicholas Basbanes, who calls Berger’s opus “a reference of first resort.”

Berger will be known to many of our readers. He was the director of the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum and, prior to that, the curator of printed books and then the curator of manuscripts at the American Antiquarian Society. He has taught rare books and librarianship courses at Simmons College and at the University of Urbana-Champaign. He did a seven-year stint as an antiquarian bookseller early in his career, and he even makes paper, casts type, and prints short texts at his Doe Press. His qualifications for this undertaking are irrefutable.

After perusing the book, I called Berger and asked about the impetus for this dictionary--46 years in the making--and how it differs from other sources like it. Here’s the transcript of our conversation:

RRB: What prompted you to write this book?

SB: I have been teaching the history of the book since 1971 and I’ve used all the editions of Carter’s textbook [ABC for Book Collectors], always knowing that there were terms that I would like to add to Carter. In fact, for every one of my classes--not just the history of the book but other book history classes--every time I taught, I would make a list of terms that I would like my students to know, many of which are in Carter, but many, many more of which were not. So my list grew from 500 to 600 to 700 to 800 words, and over the years, my list became much more germane to the rare book world than Carter’s.  
    Carter’s book is excellent for what it purports to be, but Carter left out a lot of things that he was not interested in. He was not interested in the book as a physical object so much. I mean there are some entries in there, but I have a huge amount of information about that, and my feeling is, if you’re selling these items, if you’re collecting them, if you’re a librarian dealing with them, you need a vocabulary that covers the territory, that describes the objects thoroughly and accurately. Other glossaries on the market--I’m going to say that generically--but I’m specifically referring to Carter, but there were other glossaries, and they had terms that were current at the time those glossaries were compiled, and words change meaning. New words are formed. For example: Internet bookselling. Carter didn’t have an entry on that because he couldn’t have, the Internet didn’t exist when he wrote his book. And that’s only one of hundreds of examples of things that other glossaries lack but which were in the current parlance of the trade--booksellers, book collectors, librarians, archivists, historians, and anybody interested in books as physical objects, as commodities to be bought and sold, as containers of information.
    Anybody who deals with books needs to know the full vocabulary of them so that they can, first of all, talk intelligibly and correctly about them, and second, so they can communicate with one another using like words. Carter was very good in his day, for his relatively narrow audience. I think my audience is broader than his. But it completely encompasses his audience, and the audience that he and the other writers of such glossaries had, I have always believed needed much more information than they provided. That’s why I’ve been thinking about this book since 1971. Little by little, I’ve been compiling my own list of terminology that I thought was essential for people working in the field. What I tried to do was to be as comprehensive as possible, to give the vocabulary of the book world to the widest range of people who need it. And for all the major and minor terminology, even the minor terminology is important if you have a phenomenon and you don’t know what to call it, then what do you call it? There’s a book that if you hold it face up right in front of you, you can read it, but if keep the spine to the left and flip the book top to bottom, you’re looking at another front cover. So you can read the book halfway through and that’s one text, and you flip it and read it again and it’s another text. Well, there is a word for that. Carter doesn’t have it. None of the other dictionaries on books has it. It’s called tête-bêche. It’s a term that exists. There’s lots of books out there that are tête-bêches. In fact, Saks Fifth Avenue catalogues come out as tête-bêches. I have a couple of them in my office. It goes back centuries. It’s a genre of book production. I’m using that as a single example.

RRB: What distinguishes your book from other reference books like it?

SB: My dictionary has over 1,300 terms in it. It’s about twice what Carter has. The other thing is, none of the other editions was extensively illustrated. Glaister’s Encyclopedia of the Book had some illustrations in it, but from my perspective, how do you explain certain things without showing them? The old cliché, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words,’ you know. I have 150 illustrations in my book. I think they are tremendously revelatory of the things that I’m writing about. They will reveal a huge amount of information.
    I don’t want to denigrate any other volume that’s out there that can help us in the book world talk about books as objects, but your readership really needs a solid, reliable text that gets the words right so that we’re all talking the same language and we’re using the language correctly. There is no volume out there now that does that, except mine, that I know of. There might be others out there, but I’ve done my research, I haven’t found any!

RRB: Tell me about your experience and history in the book world.

SB: I started working as a graduate student in the 1960s at the Center for Textual Studies at the University of Iowa. This was a national center devoted to editing, book history, textual scholarship, historical bibliography, descriptive bibliography, enumerative bibliography, and half of my PhD was in this field. The other half was medieval English literature, in which I studied the medieval book, the medieval manuscript, its manufacture, the making of the ink, the making of the parchment, the making of the quills, the transmission of texts from one generation to the other, and so on. From the sixties till today, I have been teaching courses in this, I have been writing articles about it, I’ve been giving lectures, I’ve read all of the literature, I know this field as well as just about anybody ... I’ve immersed my whole life in this stuff. I’ve written five books and about sixty articles about paper. I know more about paper than anybody needs to know! I come at this with expertise from many angles. I’ve made my own paper. I have cut my own punches, made my own matrices, cast printing type by hand. I have been a printer and studied fine press printing for many years, and I’ve been printing for fifty years. I’ve printed on thirty or forty handpresses over the decades. I come at this not just from having read about it, but having done it. The only thing I haven’t done is I haven’t made parchment. I haven’t killed a sheep--I’m a vegetarian, I won’t do that. It’s really clear that no other glossary or dictionary of this kind was compiled by somebody with the same kind of scholarly and hands-on immersion in the field as I have had.

RRB: How long did it take to compile this book?

SB: Forty-six years! I’m not kidding you. In graduate school, I took printing from Kim Merker. He was one of the great twentieth-century book designers and printers. We were working on old Washington presses, and since then, I’ve printed on Columbians and Albions and wooden handpresses and Acorn presses...I started learning about books from the ground up. I have my own press, by the way, the Doe Press. If you look an entries like makeready or tympan and frisket, or look at handpresses--I know the tools of the trade intimately. I’ve used them.
    I actually starting compiling the knowledge in about 1965. When I started teaching courses in the history of the book, I started making my list of terms. There was no book out there--I mean, Carter was available, but it was never enough--so I was always giving my students lists, starting with about 370-400 terms, and as the years went by, and I continued to teach these classes, more and more terms occurred to me. Little by little, my list kept growing, and the latest iteration of it was about 800-900 terms, and at that point, I said, I have the makings of a book.
    I think the book that I have produced should be the standard go-to Bible for anybody working in the book trade: collectors, booksellers, librarians, archivists, historians, artists, bookmakers, bookbinders, printers. Every term that I thought would be useful, I put in there. Every term is not going to be useful for everybody in the audience, but this is a broad audience ... I feel fairly proud of this, this is a lifetime achievement type of book. It comes from more than fifty years of immersing myself in the world of books.

RRB: You’re a collector, as well?

SB: Yes, my wife and I have a substantial collection of books: fine press, some rare books, particular private presses, and an enormous collection of books on the book arts. Of course, our paper collection* is the largest paper collection in the U.S. We just sold it to Texas A&M University. It had 21,400 sheets in it. The papers go back to 740 AD.

*You can read Nick Basbanes’ profile of Berger’s paper collection in the summer 2013 issue of FB&C.

Image Courtesy of Rowman & Littlefield.

Revisiting Raptis Rare Books

So pleased to see the new print edition of the Raptis Rare Books catalogue, in which Matthew and Adrienne Raptis announce they’ve moved from Brattleboro, Vermont, to a glittering new gallery on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, Florida. Raptis specializes in modern first editions, inscribed volumes, and “landmark books in all fields.” The firm last appeared on the blog when Nate Pedersen profiled Raptis in 2011 on the eve of the publication of their first catalogue.


The current full-color catalogue highlights an inventory of well-appointed high spots, such as a $150,000 presentation copy of James Joyce’s Ulysees in its original blue wrappers inscribed by the author, while children’s book collectors might be interested in a first edition near-fine set of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books for $16,000. A signed, limited edition of Winnie-the-Pooh with an original handwritten poem by Milne is available for $55,000.

Snow-weary Northerners now have another reason to visit Florida in winter--best wishes to Raptis in their new home. See the catalog for yourself here.

Roald Dahl died twenty-six years ago today. In this, his centennial year, books have been published, films released, and beer brewed in his (well-deserved) honor. Today, our correspondent in England brings us to Dahl’s Great Missenden, the village he called home and where he is buried. The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, which opened in 2005, celebrates his literary legacy.--Editor
                                                                                                                                                                                Guest Post by Catherine Batac Walder

                                                                                                                                                                           In Roald Dahl’s writing nook that’s preserved behind glass, we find ucky-mucky and strange things similar to what our grandparents might have possessed. There is what appears to be a cannonball that is in fact made from hundreds of silver foil chocolate wrappers, presumably Cadbury Dairy Milk, which he ate every day while working in London.
                                                                                                                                                                       No doubt Dahl loved his chocolate, and he devoted a chapter to it in The Roald Dahl Cookbook. In it he charted a ‘history of chocolate,’ seven glorious years that started from Crunchie in 1930 to Kit Kat in 1937 (as someone with Norwegian parentage, it would have been interesting to hear his thoughts on Kit Kat vs. Kvikk Lunsj). I overheard a young boy looking for “Dahl’s bone” and that would indeed sound gruesome if you didn’t know he meant a piece of Dahl’s femur bone, removed during one of his hip replacement operations, now a paperweight. Dahl also had a glass bottle containing shavings from his spine, from several operations on his back to ease wartime injury problems. These objects were once housed in Dahl’s writing hut at the bottom of his garden in Great Missenden. They were in the inner part of the hut where Dahl wrote his books, which was transferred to the nearby Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre a few years ago.
                                                                                                                                                                          IMG_4471.JPGWe didn’t go to museum when we first visited the village in 2011, and instead searched for Dahl’s home, Gypsy House, and the writing hut, which were understandably not open to the public. Months later, Dahl’s family’s appeal to raise £500,000 to save the hut (and a further £500,000 for the interactive exhibitions) in a recession-stricken England received a lot of criticism. The hut was built in the 1950s by Dahl’s friend Wally Saunders, who was also the inspiration for The BFG. Built only of a single layer of bricks and insulated by polystyrene blocks, it wasn’t made to last. Moving it would cost a lot of money--bear in mind that the hut was left untouched since Dahl’s death in 1990, so the objects there were probably damaged and crumbling. The project required for nearly 300 objects to be checked for bugs or mold and treated for damages. This wasn’t just packing an ordinary room, this was now a museum and conservators were needed to do the job. Hundreds of photographs and measurements were taken to keep a record, as in every paperclip and the hole it made pinning a photograph on the polystyrene, should go back to where it should be. Once packed, further treatment and freezing were required to keep away bugs. Old curled postcards and photographs were dry and brittle and thus needed to be softened carefully by re-humidifying them with damp air. Included in the move was real dust swept up from the hut floor and baked to kill any bugs, giving the place a “never cleaned” look. Only the contents were moved as the building itself was too big to house in the gallery. In a way, it was sad to think that the humble garden shed that served as a story factory, would just be left to rot.
                                                                                                                                                                     IMG_4561.JPGOther curiosities at the museum included pages from Dahl’s manuscripts. He mainly wrote by hand, and with a pencil. “There are six children in this book,” he wrote in an earlier draft of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There was something for film fans as well, such as Mr. Fox’s study, the original set from Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), and I only realized it then that details of Dahl’s writing hut were recreated in the film. At the entrance of the museum are the gates from Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), that is, smaller replica ones donated by Warner Bros., as the ones in the film were too large.
                                                                                                                                                                IMG_4433.JPGDahl’s 100th birthday was in September, and schools in England celebrated it by encouraging students to dress up as their favorite Dahl character. Recently, my daughter’s homework was to read Revolting Rhymes and create one to share with the class. There is a lot of Dahl being done at school so I thought it was time to go back to Great Missenden. Places of interests in the village include the library where Matilda read all those books, the petrol pumps in Danny the Champion of the World, and the Crown House which was the inspiration for the orphanage in The BFG. The Post Office that received hundreds of sacks of letters every year from fans all around the world still stands, and when Dahl was alive, the postman would deliver up to 4,000 letters every week to this house. In the village is also the Church of Peter and Paul, where Dahl is buried. His gravesite is marked by a tree surrounded by a memorial bench carrying the names of his children and stepchildren. There are BFG footprints from the bench to the grave. Carved into stone slabs around the bench are lines from The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me which could bring tears to anyone’s eyes:
                                                                                                                                                                   “We have tears in our eyes, as we wave our goodbyes, we so loved being with you, we three. So please now and then, come see us again, the Giraffe and the Pelly and me.”
                                                                                                                                                                    As we walked on that cold autumn day, I told my daughter that it was in this village that Roald Dahl lived for thirty-six years till his death, “just imagine him walking these paths all the time,” I said to her, “and shivering,” the freezing daughter added.
                                                                                                                                                                           If you’re visiting and have more time, go beyond and explore the countryside. Though admittedly, there was so much to see and do within the museum itself that it felt like a day wasn’t enough. Pre-booking a visit was advised. You book an hour slot although apparently you could turn up any time, and a wrist band would allow you to get in and out of the museum for the day (which isn’t ideal during school holidays when this small and popular museum really gets busy). We went during term time on a Sunday and it was fine. Parking in the village is very limited so visitors are advised to go by train.
                                                                                                                                                                        My favorite things at the museum were Dahl’s replica writing chair in which we sat and just wished that some of his magic would rub off on us. There was the rolled up paper underneath his writing board to keep it in place and the clothes brush he used to clean the board every day before he began writing. The brush is believed to have been from his Repton School days and had “R. DAHL” carved by hand on the back of it. I liked that he used nothing fancy to write and it reminded me that however intimidating he looked with his towering height and success, above all, he was a granddad and in BFG speak, just plain hopscotchy and fun.
                                                                                                                                                      --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,” “The Making of Harry Potter,” and “James Joyce’s ‘Years of Bloom’ in Trieste.” Find her at:

Images: Dahl’s writing hut behind glass; A list of words kept with the first draft manuscript for The BFG; Dahl’s grave. Credit: Catherine Batac Walder.

519xtekiaKL.jpgThe Thanksgiving meal coming up on Thursday is on the minds of many Americans this week. While most dinner tables will feature a roasted turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, a reprint of Salvador Dali’s surrealist cookbook, Les Diners de Gala, out this week from Taschen, might inspire some more creative additions to the T-day meals. Thousand year old eggs? Conger eel of the rising sun? Frog pasties?  

Any takers?

Dali’s cookbook, compiled with his wife Gala, was first published in 1973 with predictably strange photographs and illustrations depicting the lavish food creations. The book went on to become a collector’s item, located at a lonely intersection between culinary and art collections.  (The book also became a “must-have” for enthusiasts of unusual books). First editions typically attract a few hundred dollars on the marketplace today and only 400 copies or so are thought to have survived.

This year the German publisher Taschen picked up the copyright for the book, hoping to “bring it to today’s kitchens” with a lovely reprint of the original edition. 

“You’ll see looking through it how much of a cultural artifact it is,” said a Taschen representative in a statement to The Guardian. “Recipes from top chefs at French restaurants that are still pumping and serving today, beautiful artworks that were made explicitly for the book, and recipes that people will enjoy simply by reading or [if they are game!] challenge them in the kitchen.”

Dali included a warning to would be consumers, however, in his introduction: “If you are a disciple of one of those calorie-counters who turn the joys of eating into a form of punishment, close this book at once; it is too lively, too aggressive, and far too impertinent for you.”

Les Diners de Gala releases in America on Thursday the 24th, just in time for your last minute Thanksgiving preparations.

Image Courtesy of Taschen.

On December 5, one of the world’s best private collections of English Bibles will hit the auction block at Sotheby’s New York. It is the collection of Dr. Charles Caldwell Ryrie, described by the auction house as a “renowned theologian and the editor of a bestselling study Bible.” Ryrie’s collection is comprehensive--including papyrus fragments, illuminated manuscripts, and two leaves from the Gutenberg Bible, alongside many early printed editions. Highlighted here are six of the very rarest in the collection, each of which is estimated to realize six figures.
                                                                                                                                                                     8.pngLot 8: An Italian manuscript Bible, dated 1273, with numerous historiated and decorated initials throughout and bound in 15th-century brown leather with original brass bosses. The estimate is $150,000-250,000.
                                                                                                                                                                       9.pngLot 9: The Wycliffite New Testament, manuscript, early 15th-century, with marginal corrections in a contemporary hand. “Possession of a Wycliffite Bible in the 15th century could lead to accusations of heresy, and imprisonment, so they very rarely have early marks of ownership,” according to Sotheby’s. Bound in modern white pigskin. The estimate is $500,000-800,000.
                                                                                                                                                                          44.pngLot 44: The 1530 Tyndale Pentateuch--“one of the great rarities of the English Bible.” This is the only copy in private hands and the only copy to appear at auction in more than 100 years, according to Sotheby’s. The estimate is $300,000-500,000.
                                                                                                                                                                    46.pngLot 46: Coverdale Bible in English, printed c. 1535-36. “First edition of the whole Bible in English, and one of the most complete copies to appear at auction in over twenty years.” The estimate is $150,000-250,000.
                                                                                                                                                                     86.pngLot 86: The 1611 King James Bible. This copy originally belonged to a “close confidant” of King James I. It is bound in contemporary London calf over boards. The estimate is $400,000-600,000.
                                                                                                                                                                  140.pngLot 140: Eliot’s ‘Indian Bible’--the first Bible printed in America, it was translated by Eliot for the Natick-Algonquin Native Americans of Massachusetts and printed in Cambridge, MA, in 1663. The estimate is $175,000-250,000.
                                                                                                                                                                                  Images via Sotheby’s.

Lot 152 a.jpg

                                                                                                                                                                          Forty-nine original printing blocks for the first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (London: R. Clay, Son, and Taylor for Macmillan and Co., 1865), and for the first edition of Through the Looking-Glass, and what Alice found there (London: R. Clay, Son, and Taylor for Macmillan and Co., 1871). Image courtesy of Christie’s.

John Tenniel judged the images produced from electrotype printing plates of his illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to be so poorly rendered that he convinced the book’s author, Lewis Carroll, to recall entire first edition. Carroll’s diary entry for July 20, 1865 states as much: “Called on [publisher] Macmillan, and showed him Tenniel’s letter about the fairy-tale -- he is entirely dissatisfied with the printing of the pictures, and I suppose we shall have to do it all again.” (R.L. Green, ed., The Diaries (London: 1953), p.234). As a result, only twenty copies of that first edition are known to remain in existence, making it something of a black tulip among collectors. Now, the original printing blocks are heading to auction on December 1 at Christie’s London with pre-sale estimates of $43,000-56,000.

Of the forty-nine copper-plated lead printing blocks, thirty-eight were created for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), and eleven for the first edition of Through Looking Glass (1871). The plates last appeared at auction at Christie’s in November 2001, when they sold for £30,550 ($43,259) from the estate of Donald William Barber, a former employee of R. Clay, Son, and Taylor, the printers who handled the second first published edition after The Clarendon Press production was deemed unacceptable. 

In 1865, electrotyping was a relatively new method of duplicating printing forms--the process had only been invented twenty-seven years earlier--but had already become the new standard for creating exact copies of a master image. Electrotype blocks are created by pressing a waxy mold into an original piece of type (or illustrated block), after which the mold is dusted with graphite and bathed in a copper-sulfite solution. An electric charge is applied, and the chemical reaction creates a copper wall on the mold. Once removed from the mold, the copper block is ready to be pressed into service. The process yields long-lasting, reusable plates suitable for large print runs. (The Met filmed an informative video explaining the process.)

Tenniel’s exacting standards were finally met, and in a November 1865 journal entry Carroll enthused that the new impression was “far superior to the old, and in fact a perfect piece of artistic printing.” (R.L. Green, ed., op. cit., p. 236). See the difference between the suppressed first edition and fine press reprints here

Our Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Arthur Fournier, proprietor of Arthur Fournier, Fine and Rare, in Brooklyn, New York.

AF IMG_9574.jpgHow did you get started in rare books?

I’ve been interested in the ephemeral traces of alternative and outsider cultures ever since I learned about dada and surrealist pamphlets through Reinhold Heller’s undergraduate art history courses at the University of Chicago. The typography, the humor -- it just struck a chord. At that age, though, I was too intimidated to ask a librarian or faculty member to show me an original. But I would sometimes lurk just outside the door of Regenstein Special Collections and try to catch a glimpse of what was going on inside.

Another developmental landmark for me was working at the Hyde Park Art Center, when the institution was sort of in-between directors and I proudly served as the “exhibits coordinator” for its 5307 S. Hyde Park Blvd. location in the mid-1990s (I was basically a glorified art handler and office assistant to Jaqueline Terassa, Eva Olson, and, later, Chuck Thurow.) One day, I found a neglected trove of Hairy Who ephemera stuffed in a broom closet. It pretty much blew my mind. Eva Olson set aside the best items for HPAC’s archives and said I could organize a sale of the duplicates, which we did. It was so cool. At that time I was also scouring the Canal Street flea markets, South Side thrift shops, and estate sales for hip-hop and jazz LPs, books, photographs, and ephemera. I’d sometimes find copies of the Seed, or Nation of Islam or SDS material alongside the occasional Sun Ra or Art Ensemble record. This was before eBay went mainstream, so being a ‘picker’ felt like panning for gold. My interest in underground materials sort of snowballed from there. 

It wasn’t until I moved to New York in 2001 and began working in the bookstore at Neue Galerie under Faith Pleasanton and Bruno Kreusch that I actually handled rare books, per se. When the shop first opened, there was a small locked case reserved for valuable, out-of-print books. Most of them had been sourced from Wittenborn. Faith trusted me to organize the shelves on one of my first days there and I remember handling a copy of Malevitch’s Die Gegenstandslose Welt with great reverence. We also had an original Die Träumenden Knaben by Kokoschka. It was electrifying.

After a few challenging years trying to find my way in mainstream retail bookstores and the publishing industry, Peter Bernett (of F.A. Bernett Books) and I were introduced through mutual friends. I think it was the summer of 2007. I was delighted when he told me about his business and I probably expressed my enthusiasm for what seemed like the coolest job in the world. We got to know each other over drinks and dinners when he would visit New York from time to time. On the day after Obama was elected President, as I recall vividly, Peter rang me up and offered me a job. Just a few days later I got on the train and made it up the coast in time to work his booth at the 2008 Boston Antiquarian Book Fair, as a kind of trial run. By February of 2009 I had packed my kit, moved to Boston, and joined his firm. I was there as a full-time staff member for almost five years.  Peter and Larry Malam patiently taught me how to catalog, buy, and sell books. For that I am deeply grateful. It was an extremely fun and rewarding place to work and, overall, an incredible experience. 

Funnily enough, the first time I ever actually set foot inside of Regenstein Special Collections was on a sales appointment for Bernett.

When did you open Fournier Fine & Rare and what do you specialize in?

In the fall of 2013, the woman in my life told me she’d be leaving Boston to start her MFA in fiction that following year. We chose to stay together, and I left Bernett to make that possible. While she was doing research in the Middle East that winter, I travelled a bit and used some of the money I’d saved to acquire stock, a lot of it related to protest movements or underground music. My first solo rare book show was Printed Matter’s L.A. Art Book Fair in January 2014. It was a reasonable success, and it showed me a way forward. My partner started her MFA in New York in September of 2014, so we moved into an apartment in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, where I started my company. We’ve been there ever since.

Fournier Fine & Rare sells books, serials, photographs, manuscripts, and archives in all fields and genres. I specialize in primary source materials related to the transformative cultural movements of the 20th century, modern conflicts, disruptive technologies, music and the visual arts. My clients include libraries, museums and private individuals.

Recent highlights have included complete-run punk fanzines from New York, Los Angeles, London, and Paris. Hip-hop music, dance, and visual culture are very important for me. I’ve also handled pamphlets and magazines from Mujahedin groups in Central Asia, dating to time of the war against the Soviets. Right now, the print history of networked computing is a big topic of interest. And fashion, film, food, and design round out the list.

Tell us about your work as an agent for the placement of archives:

At Bernett I developed a fondness for cataloging large collections and major archives. It’s hard work, but I find it deeply satisfying when a significant site of cultural production can be preserved intact, rather than splintered into pieces via the auction market. Often, the whole can be greater than the sum of it’s parts. Over the past two years I’ve had the good fortune to work on projects concerning the archives of Arthur Russell, Ilhan Mimaroglu, Bill Adler, Janette Beckman, and Michael Holman, and several others.

Printed Matter’s Art Book Fairs in New York and Los Angeles have also been majorly important for me in this respect. Jordan Nassar and Shannon Michael Cane have totally re-imagined what it means to put on a book fair and they deserve tremendous recognition from the rare book trade. I feel privileged to take part in the NY and LA Art Book Fairs, so I try to represent as well as I can, every time. Sometimes that means selling rare books and ephemera, but on occasion, I get to curate special exhibitions related to archives and collections. 

My favorite exhibition projects so far have been with Maury Stein and Larry Miller, to showcase the Blueprint for Counter Education in the boiler room at PS1 in Autumn 2015, and the massive installation we mounted for the L.A. Art Book Fair in February 2016, to shine a light on Brian and Nikki Tucker’s monumental L.A. hardcore archives, and their underground publishing projects as FER YOUz.

What do you love about the book trade?

My practice is probably as mutant you can get and still call yourself a ‘rare book dealer,’ but I love the centuries-old chain of tradition and evolution the book trade encompasses. Bookselling can be an exquisite aperture into any topic of personal interest, and I’ve used it as a lens to learn more about some pretty amazing people and places. If that gets to continue for a few more decades, I’ll be a happy man.

Describe a typical day for you:

Right now I work at home, so it’s up early and triage the email before breakfast. Followed by cataloging books or project work on archives until I break for lunch and an afternoon walk. Then there’s unstructured time to pack orders, meet with clients, scout catalogs, or do research until dinner. I usually try to reserve my evenings for time with family and friends. Though sometimes there’s an email to write or a deadline to meet and you carve out an hour or two before bed.

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

There have been so many. I love having handled Man Ray’s 1929 for example. Also, complete runs of certain fanzines, like New York NOSlash, and Sluggo. But if I had to pick just one for the purposes of this article, it would be the notebooks of Arthur Russell, with some of his original manuscript lyrics for the track known as That’s Us / Wild Combination. He worked it out visually, as a kind of word collage, in this careful handwriting. Anyone who loves his music will understand how special that is. The great thing is that entire archive is now at New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, where it belongs to the people of the five boroughs, and soon will be accessible to researchers from around the world.

What do you personally collect?

I only really collect on a topic when I’m trying to understand something and I need to live with it for a while. Right now that includes French graphzines from the 1970s and 1980s, like Bruno Richard (ESDS), Bazooka, and Ti5. I have a growing stash of materials from the Parisian post-68 / proto-punk gray area between underground comics, bande dessinée, and fanzines. I’m also a huge fan of Shūji Terayama, and will probably buy whatever I don’t already own of his book works from the 1960s-1980s - Japanese readers of Fine Books & Collections, please quote me! Eventually, however, it will all get sold as stock and I’ll move on to something else...

What do you like to do outside of work?

I’m a music and art nerd. So I enjoy record shopping, going to concerts, museums, gallery exhibitions, and seeing movies. But making elaborate dinners with people I love is probably my favorite thing. Walking and cycling around Brooklyn and the greener places outside of the city. Taking the Amtrak back to New England to see friends in Cambridge and Vermont, or flying home to the Twin Cities to see my family and the people I grew up with. Flea markets still rate, but that’s probably work related, somehow.

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

Rupture and continuity. It’s such a great moment to be trading in the sum total of human knowledge, culture, and self expression that got put down on paper during the last 500 years of the print era. The whole sweep of it, from highbrow to lowbrow. It isn’t the easiest way to turn a dollar, but if that’s all I cared about I’d probably be in the real estate business. And if I were any good at it, I’d probably be blowing most of my earnings on books and underground magazines. So I consider myself lucky.

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

An updated list will be available on my website when this article goes to print. My next show will probably be the 2017 LA Art Book Fair, unless I opt to do a pop up salon, like the Salon Society events Fabiola Alondra organized in Brooklyn Heights last year. The quasi-public, quasi-private invitational sale is becoming a nice part of the New York book selling ecosystem, and I hope the trend continues. There are also a few great archives I’m working on that I can’t tell you about yet, but that’s going to be a big part of my winter and spring...

Image credit: Janette Beckman, New York, 2015.

Five months before John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, he penned a letter to J. D. Burch, the son of a Maryland innkeeper, regarding something he left behind with a stagecoach driver. Booth is cryptic about what exactly the item is, writing, “You know what I had to take from my carpet-bag. It’s not worth more than $15, but I will give him $20 rather than lose it, as it has saved my life two or three times.”
                                                                                                                                                      1154310_a2.jpgHe never uses the word “gun” in the letter, which heads to auction in New York next week, but it is widely believed that Booth was referring to his prized Derringer. He was, at the time, touring Southern states in the guise of a real estate investor, though possibly also scouting out escape routes for his planned kidnapping and/or assassination of the president.
                                                                                                                                             Booth concludes the letter by instructing Burch to recover the item and either send it directly to him or give it to their mutual “friend,” on Fayette St. in Baltimore, i.e. Samuel Arnold (later convicted as a Booth conspirator).  
                                                                                                                                                 1154310.jpgWas he alluding to his gun, and if so, was it the gun? We may never be certain.

                                                                                                                                                                      According to the auctioneer, “The letter was reportedly hidden behind a brick in the hearth of the innkeeper’s family home for decades and is a rare survival. Most recipients of Booth’s late letters destroyed them to avoid the repercussions of association with his dastardly plot.” The letter’s contents were known from a transcription made by Lincoln scholar David Rankin Barbee and published in 1997. The original, however, remained in the family.
                                                                                                                                           Doyle expects the letter to bring $50,000-80,000.
                                                                                                                                              Images Courtesy of Doyle.

chessboardheritage.jpegThe chessboard used in what was arguably the most important chess match of the 20th century will be sold at auction by Heritage on November 17-19. The opening bid is $75,000, with a reserve of $150,000.

In 1972, Bobby Fischer (USA) and Boris Spassky (USSR) descended on Reykjavik, Iceland for the World Chess Championship. With the world watching and the Cold War looming large in the background, Fischer and Spassky played 21 games. The championship was won 12 1/2 to 8 1/2 by Fischer.  It was the first time ever that a natural born American had won the World Chess Championship and ended a 24-year Soviet domination of the game.

“The 1972 World Chess Championship remains to this day the most studied and celebrated series in the history of the game,” said Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Auctions at Heritage in a press statement. “It’s revered both for the elite level of play and for the geopolitical USA vs. USSR climate in which it lived and breathed.” 

Both players signed the board at the end of the championship.

Image Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

We received two letters--within the same week!--asking for recommendations from fellow bibliophiles for book cataloguing software. So we asked around. The folks here at Fine Books have several methods: Jeremy Dibbell has been using LibraryThing for ten years; Nate Pedersen recommends the versatility of Google Sheets; and Barbara Basbanes Richter suggests Collectival, a recently launched program created by antiquarian booksellers. Our “Fine Maps” columnist, Jeffrey Murray, uses EndNote. He told me, “It allows me to attach pdf, jpg, audio and video copies (up to 45 per record) of my books and articles on the history of cartography. My database currently holds about 4,500 references, of which about eighty percent have an attachment. All the fields can be customized and the search function will search not only each record, but the attachments as well.”
    We also circulated the question to our Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Here’s what we heard:


  • None, just type up in a Word doc in the same way (I presume) dealers prepare catalogues. Then print a hard copy every so often. --John Sellars @DrJSellars
  • I use lite version. --Mirco @mircomorello
  • Excel. --Ellen Firsching Brown
  • I use the iPhone app CLZ books which I am very happy with. I would like to find an app to document information about the on-line vendors from which I purchased the books--shipping range, quality of packaging, and accuracy in describing and grading the books would be useful. --Catherine Conroy Doll
  • I am on the verge of committing to Book Collector 9.1 at [See screenshot below.]--Stephen W. Seale, Jr.

browse-layouts-2.jpgA quick Google search also brought up this survey, published in 2014, “7 Apps for Cataloguing Your Home Library,” which might prove useful to those of you on the hunt for a good system.

Finding the right software or app is clearly an important decision, and one that collectors--at least the ones we polled--feel very differently about. Some say that having both a desktop and a smartphone version that can be synced is essential. Customizable fields are also key. One thing is certain, as our publisher Webb Howell pointed out, “When someone starts cataloguing their stuff, they really have transcended into a collector.”

                                                                                                                                                 Image via

La Belle Époque of Toulouse-Lautrec

chat noir.JPG

Le Chat Noir. By Théophile Steinlen - Van Gogh Museum, Public Domain,                                                            

The mantra for major exhibitions of 2016 seems to be, “go big or go home:” there’s Boston’s Beyond Words multi-venue extravaganza, the Getty’s impressive Alchemy of Color installation, and in 2017, look to the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C., which will showcase nearly one-hundred drawings, posters, paintings, and prints spanning the career of French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). 

Toulouse-Lautrec Illustrates the Belle Époque is the first solo staging in the United States of Lautrec’s art in eighty years. The exhibition made its debut in June at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), whose curators collaborated with their counterparts at the Phillips to celebrate Lautrec’s innovative work in the field of printmaking and his unique look at Paris’s artistic community at the dawn of the 20th century. The show moves to D.C. in February, where it will be on view until April 2017. The Phillips and the MMFA have four Lautrec works on paper in each of their collections; a private, unnamed collector is loaning the lion’s share of the exhibition material. 

Aristocrats, actors, dancers, and prostitutes were regular subjects for Lautrec, and his theatrical, subversive work is instantly recognizable. Commissioned projects allowed the artist to actually make a living at his chosen profession, unlike many of his contemporaries. Plenty of us can probably recall a Lautrec print or two tacked onto a college dorm room wall, and Parisians in the 1890s snapped up his creations, too.

Yale University Press published the accompanying catalog, Toulouse-Lautrec Illustrates the Belle-Époque. Edited by senior collections curator at the MMFA, Hilliard T. Goldfarb, the exhibition companion includes a chronology of Lautrec’s vibrant and decadent life as well as in-depth analysis of the material on display.

                                                                                                                                                                   In addition to the artist’s most recognizable works like the “Divan Japonais” (1893) advertisement and the iconic “Moulin Rouge” (1891) poster, the show includes rare working lithographic proofs like an olive green brush and spatter trial proof lithograph for a poster mocking German corruption, the “Babylone d’Allemagne” (1894).

                                                                                                                                                                       Lautrec’s work heralded the arrival of a chaotic, modern age, and the man is himself considered one of Paris’s great fin de siècle personalities who chronicled the dirt, grime, and joy of everyday life in the City of Lights.


More information about the upcoming exhibition may be found here.

JE First Page (1).jpgThe handwritten manuscript of Charlotte Brontë’s novel, Jane Eyre, will be reproduced in a limited facsimile edition for the first time next month. The Paris-based independent publisher Éditions des Saints Pères, which specializes in facsimiles of literary manuscripts, will issue one thousand hand-numbered copies of the new edition, which is based on the fair copy that Brontë delivered to her publisher in 1847 and is now held by the British Library.

The 824-page manuscript, seen until now by very few, showcases Brontë’s “elegant handwriting and thoughtful edits,” according to the publisher. “The fair copy is neat, with most notable revisions and corrections centred around her portrayal of Jane’s encounters with Mr Rochester.”

Screen Shot 2016-11-09 at 11.30.57 AM.pngIllustrated with etchings by Edmund Garrett and presented in a deluxe slipcase, this new edition is certainly aimed at the collector market--its pre-order price is £229 ($284).

Images Courtesy of Éditions des Saints Pères.

q1.jpegOur Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Dr. John Sellars, of Oxfordshire, England. Sellars collects books relating to the history of philosophy, especially early printed editions of ancient philosophical texts. He has written about his collecting in The Book Collector and has organized two exhibitions of early printed books in Oxford. 

Where are you from / where do you live?

I was born in Surrey in the south of England and I currently live in Oxfordshire.

What did you study at University? What do you do now for an occupation?

I studied Philosophy at university and I have been incredibly fortunate in never having had to stop. After ten years as a student culminating in a PhD I have held both research and teaching posts. For a number of years I was a lecturer in Philosophy but now have a research post, in London.

q3.jpegPlease introduce us to your book collection.  What areas do you collect in?

In the broadest terms I collect the history of philosophy, with a focus on early editions of ancient philosophical texts, the older the better. I have a particular interest in Stoicism so the Stoics Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius all feature prominently. I have close to 40 different editions and translations of Marcus’s Meditations, dating from 1559 to 2013. I also have early editions of Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, Cicero, and Diogenes Laertius. As well as these I have a few early editions of works by 16th, 17th, and 18th century philosophers (Descartes, Cudworth, Shaftesbury, Bayle, Diderot), and some modern firsts of 20th century philosophers. But for me the real, serious collection is comprised of 16th and 17th century editions of ancient philosophers. I also collect leaves from incunabula. I’m fascinated by the early history of printing but complete books from the 15th century are beyond my budget for the time being.

Among notable printers I have leaves by Nicolaus Jenson, Anton Koberger, Aldus Manutius, and Johann Froben; I have books by Henri Estienne, Christopher Plantin, the Elzevirs, and John Baskerville, as well as early productions by the university presses in Oxford and Cambridge.

How many books are in your collection?

In total I have just over 4000 books. I know this because I keep an electronic catalogue that I get printed from time to time. The bulk of these are philosophy books but most are modern academic books and only a fraction can count as part of my serious collection of early printed books. I would guess I have about 100 leather/vellum bound volumes printed before 1800. But the boundary between ‘serious collection’ and ‘working academic library’ has always felt quite blurred. For example I have a copy of Justus Lipsius’ Physiologia Stoicorum printed at the Plantin Press in 1604. Recently I wrote a journal article on Lipsius and spent a lot of time working with this book. I also have a first edition of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations (1953). I studied Wittgenstein when I was a student but it is highly unlikely I’ll ever write about him or teach him. So in a sense the modern hardback is part of the collection while the four hundred year old quarto is very much in my current working library.

q5.jpegWhat was the first book you bought for your collection?

The first major book I bought - the one that felt like the start of a serious collection - was a 1595 edition of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, bound in vellum. That was the first pre 1800 book I bought and the first one that cost significantly more than a typical academic book.

How about the most recent book? q6.jpeg

As it happens the most recent early printed book to arrive is also an edition of Epictetus, this time a far more modest volume printed in Oxford in 1680 containing Epictetus’ Handbook and the Characters of Theophrastus. It’s not an especially exciting book in itself but it was at a very good price and I like to buy early books printed in Oxford when I see them. Others that I have include Creech’s Lucretius (1695), Marcus Aurelius (1704), another Epictetus (1715), and Cicero’s De Officiis (1717) - all with the imprint ‘e Theatro Sheldoniano’.

q7.jpegAnd your favorite book in your collection?

That’s a very difficult question. One book that I am especially fond of and was perhaps my second serious purchase after the 1595 Epictetus is a 1605 folio of the complete works of Seneca, printed at the Plantin press and edited by Lipsius. In terms of its size, typography, and engravings - it has an amazing engraved title page - it is just a magnificent production. I’ve bought other books since that are perhaps equally grand but I do have a soft spot for this one. It was previously owned by the Seneca scholar L. D. Reynolds.

q8.jpegBest bargain you’ve found?

To be honest the majority of the books in my collection have been bargains, primarily out of financial necessity. Among early books, one that stood out at the time was a copy of Thomas Gataker’s second expanded edition of Marcus Aurelius (1697) that I found in Hay-on-Wye. It was in a hideous red library binding and priced at a nominal sum. I’ve since had it rebound in full leather. Even with the rebind it cost me a fraction of the price this book usually goes for. There’s just one small library stamp hinting at its former life. Quite separately I also came across a copy of Gataker’s earlier edition (1652) also in a library binding and now also rebound.

But there are other bargains that deserve a mention, such as a complete set of Adam and Tannery’s Oeuvres de Descartes (1897-1910) printed on hand or mould made paper (other copies I’ve seen are printed on flat machine made paper) that a library gave me for free as a bulky unwanted duplicate. I also once acquired a run of old issues of the philosophy journal Mind for free and among those was an issue containing Alan Turing’s famous paper on computer intelligence, which usually goes for a four figure sum. I sold it and bought two 16th century books with the proceeds. I also have a first edition of Quine’s Word and Object (1960) inscribed by Quine to Isaiah Berlin, which I bought for £1. There’s a similar inscribed copy for sale online for £1800/$2200.

How about The One that Got Away?

I once (and only once) bid on a book at auction. It was the first printed edition of Epictetus’ Discourses (1535), for sale at Sotheby’s. I could just about manage the guide price and bid in advance accordingly. In the end it went for over twice that. Not long after it appeared for sale at a dealer in London, the price doubled again. A month or two later I was it for sale with a dealer in California for more than twice again. By this point it was listed for almost ten times the amount of my pathetic bid. I shall probably never see another copy for sale again, and if I do I doubt I’ll be able to afford it.

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

I’m a big fan of Aldus Manutius, so anything printed by him. Not long ago I was really excited to get my first Aldine book, Cicero’s philosophical works printed in 1541 by his son Paulus Manutius. But really I’d like something by the man himself. Although not a philosophy book, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili would be pretty hard to beat but that’s never going to happen! Slightly more realistically, any complete 15th century book printed in Italy would be amazing to have.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

Among serious shops and dealers, I’ve bought from Blackwell’s Rare Books, Maggs Brothers, and Unsworths. I also used to buy a lot from the Classics Bookshop (Oxford, then Burford, now moved again under changed ownership). These are all fine institutions but not the places to find bargains, precisely because they know what they are doing! My best buys have been in provincial bookshops and book fairs and of course online, in situations where the seller does not really know what they have. This is quite common with editions of Greek and Latin texts. I also enjoy the treasure hunting aspect of rummaging and finding things in unexpected places. So I don’t have one favorite source. My favorite bookstore is Librairie philosophique J. Vrin in Paris - new philosophy books in French, German, English, Italian, second hand books, antiquarian books, and a publishing house upstairs!

What would you collect if you didn’t collect books?

As a teenager I collected records. I could be tempted to collect classical music on vinyl, but with the books I simply don’t have the space for anything so bulky. That would be one option. I also have a very small collection of a dozen or so Greek and Roman coins. I would like to have more but given the choice I usually prefer to spend my limited budget on books instead. If I wasn’t buying books I could easily end up pursuing that further.

[Images provided by John Sellars]

[Suggestions for other collectors to profile in this series are always welcome. Get in touch here.]

pierrebergebooks_1.jpgA meticulous travel diary kept by French novelist Gustave Flaubert while on a walking tour in Brittany in 1848 is among the highlights of an auction this afternoon at Sotheby’s in Paris. The handwritten diary, full of notes, scratched out sections, and ink blotting, is expected to fetch upwards of $650,000. Flaubert experts consider the diary to offer unique insight into Flaubert’s writing process, which he typically found arduous.

The travel diary was co-written with Flaubert’s friend Maxime Du Camp while walking in Brittany under the idea that Flaubert would write the odd-number chapters while Du Camp would write the even-number chapters. The 277 page manuscript, however, was never published.

Today’s sale is the second part of the library of French industrialist Pierre Bergé’ this installment focusing on European literature in 376 lots. Other highlights include first or rare editions by Goethe, the Marquis de Sade, Wordsworth, Hans Christian Andersen, Balzac, Dumas, Sand, Keats, Marx, Pushkin, Schopenhauer, Shelley, Stendhal, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, and Wilde.

[Image from Sotheby’s]

Coming to auction later this week is a first American edition of Gaston Leroux’s novel, The Phantom of the Opera, that is very likely unique, said John D. Larson of Swann Galleries.  

Phantom.jpgPublished in 1911 by Bobbs-Merrill Company in New York, Phantom is one of those modern first editions that is nearly impossible to find in its dust jacket (of which there are two variants). Last November, Swann Galleries sold the first jacketed example to appear at auction for a record-breaking $35,000.

Larson, who worked on that sale, was therefore very surprised when another Phantom first in its jacket surfaced again a few months ago. A consignor brought it to Swann having done some research of his own; his copy, he revealed, lacks the $1.25 price on the spine. “We’ve never seen another copy without the price on the spine panel,” said Larson.   

At the suggestion that this jacket was some kind of publisher’s trial, Larson said he didn’t think that was likely. As the Phantom catalogue copy explains, “The true first, as here, was issued without a printed price thus allowing bookstores to assign their own price (beyond the suggested retail price).”

Estimated at $25,000-35,000--on par with last year’s copy only because this one is a bit chipped--this unique jacket is sure to draw attention from collectors of modern firsts. Its sale will benefit the FOS arts foundation.

Image Courtesy of Swann Galleries.

While the Boston area gears up for an ambitious, multi-venue examination of illuminated manuscripts and early printed books with the Beyond Words exhibition, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is hosting two overlapping shows: one dedicated to medieval illumination, and a second focusing on the chemical legacy of alchemy. The Alchemy of Color in Medieval Manuscripts explores the creation of various vivid pigments traditionally used in medieval manuscript painting. Gold, for example, was used for its incorruptibility--that is, it doesn’t tarnish or oxidize with time--and was employed to convey great spiritual importance. Verdigris, on the other hand, was infamous for its destructive, reactive properties. Produced by corroding copper strips with vinegar, the mixture yielded a greenish-blue hue that varied depending on the initial chemical ratios. Meanwhile, The Art of Alchemy explores the influence the practice had on artistic expression in sculpture, glassmaking, and manuscript illumination. 


saint mark.jpg

                                                                                                                                                              Saint Mark, about 1325-1345. Tempera colors and gold leaf on parchment. Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

                                                                                                                                                            Now through February 2017, the Getty’s concurrent exhibitions examine the origins of alchemy--from Greco-Egyptian antiquity through its transformation into chemical study--as well as alchemist’s integral role in medieval illumination and how these “ancestors of modern chemistry” endeavored to do more than just transmute lead into gold. Without alchemists, many of the brilliant hues we associate with illumination would be less radiant. Though alchemists were largely dismissed as crackpots during the Renaissance, recent studies have shown that their work in chemical compounding influenced the work of Sir Isaac Newton and Robert Boyle. 

The exhibitions draw from the Getty’s archives at the Research Institute and Museum, and while exploring the importance of The Great Art in medieval society, The Alchemy of Color in Medieval Manuscripts also explores that era’s shifting perceptions and interpretations of art and science.

As further proof that medieval alchemy lives on in today’s artistic world, the Getty invited Tim Ely, an alchemist of our own time, to host a two-day workshop examining the materials and methods necessary to produce contemporary manuscript illumination. Artist and historian Sylvana Barrett will host gold-leaf demonstrations at the museum through January. Other demonstrations include a culinary workshop highlighting the connections between food, color, and science, and Derek Jarman’s avant-garde production Blue (1993) will be screened this evening on the Garden Terrace, with sweeping vistas of Los Angeles serving as the film’s inky backdrop.

The Alchemy of Color in Medieval Manuscripts runs through Jaunary 1, 2017 at the Getty Center and the Art of Alchemy is on view at the Getty Research Institute through February 12, 2017. More information may be found at

Tom B&W.jpgOur Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Tom Lintern-Mole, proprietor of Antiquates Fine and Rare Books in Dorset, England:

How did you get started in rare books?

I started as a Saturday boy in my local second-hand bookshop in Dorset, on the south coast of England. After visiting it for three or four consecutive weeks the benevolent owner said that as I was spending about as much time there as he did, perhaps I’d like a job? I jumped at the chance; I’d always been bookish and the idea of receiving payment to be surrounded by them was a thrill. Of course the reality was that it was often hard physical work tempered with highlights: recommending books to language students, visiting the houses of people disposing of books, the ‘treasure hunting’ aspect of processing carfuls of new acquisitions and of course taking the best new acquisitions to a monthly London book fair - one that I still regularly attend to this day. That was in the early Noughties, which was I think a great time to get into the trade. There was still a shop or three selling books in nearly every town in Britain and the internet was just emerging as a great way to sell unusual books. I graduated to listing some of the stock for sale online, picking up the intricacies of book packaging, and dealing with the often unusual requests of customers in distant parts of the world along the way. Our books weren’t always rare - but many of them sold. Handling first editions of my favourite novels gave me the collecting habit - modern first editions by Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh and Siegfried Sassoon were my catnip. Working in the trade allowed me to build it up quite quickly.

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

My heady days as a part-time bookshop worker continued during the long vacations of my time at Oxford - until the shop bowed to the fate of many and closed after my first year. By this time my own collection had grown, and through haunting online auctions and city bookshops I was starting to acquire more expensive tastes - in fine leather bound volumes and original condition copies of important books (as an historian, an early Das Kapital in publisher’s bindings stands out in my memory) - and so the idea of setting up my own business during the summer of 2007, after my second year at university, seemed relatively sensible. With much practical assistance from my father, an accountant, and my mother, who packs our books and manages the shipping department better than I ever could, Antiquates was born in a spare bedroom. I still loved studying History, and after flirting with jobs in finance and law very nearly went on to apply for a Masters - but bookselling seemed just the right combination of exciting labour, detailed research and, to be perfectly honest, informed gambling. After coming down from Oxford in the summer of 2008 I was a full-time bookseller with my own business at 21. Looking back, especially at the wider economic situation around the world, I was lucky. Beneficial exchange rates and the availability of older books in Britain meant I sold and sold countless first edition copies of Dickens to destinations all over the world. Some of my early buys at auction were unwittingly good; I bought anything that I could see an angle on and learned along the way that the unusual - Hobbes translations of Homer and seventeenth-century English manuals for Nuns, as two examples - tended to sell more readily than the books that can always be found. This led to Antiquates specialising in early printed books, especially in English, and to establish a customer base in this field. This speciality remains a key focus of ours today - but we’ve added a few others, too: we now actively seek and market pre 1850 books by, for and about women and children, books with interesting provenances, library-history, and literary/social history in manuscript.

What do you love about the book trade?

The ability to buy, sell, and perhaps most importantly own - even for a short period - tremendously significant pieces of history and creative endeavour. The book as more than text continues to grow as a collecting trend, encouraging us dealers to look at the book as object, the book as art, and the book as historical record itself. If I’d have gone into the city then I wouldn’t have been in a position to discover, purchase and research books actually taken on first voyages, manuscript collections of little-known, yet sometimes rather good, amateur poets, or sammelbande of Restoration play books. I’d also have missed out on the tremendously collegiate nature of our trade. Despite the fierce competition to buy at opening nights of book-fairs, friendships endure the element of competition; I’m currently drafting a list of friends in the trade to invite to an Antiquates 10th anniversary party and becoming a little concerned about how large a venue might be necessary! In the UK we have even two booksellers associations - albeit with quite a bit of crossover - that allows us the indulgence of an annual cricket match.

Describe a typical day for you:

I’ll be busy cataloguing and researching new acquisitions or preparing invoices if I’m in our newly opened shop, or viewing upcoming auction sales if I’m on the road. As much as I enjoy working in the shop, I’m very lucky to have a tremendous cataloguing, admin, accounting and dispatch team that has allowed me to view more sales than many individual booksellers manage. I try to spend a couple of days each week actively sourcing books, but the good ship Antiquates will still be listing books on our website and sending catalogues to our mailing list in my absence. Of course this level of organisation is abandoned totally when we’re preparing for a fair - all hands get involved in preparing displays, choosing stock, hefting books and finalising the details of our travel and accommodation needs!

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

This has to be the manuscript travel journals and autobiography of a mid-nineteenth century journeyman bookbinder, socialist, and keen European traveller. It took me about a week in total to read and digest before even starting the technical cataloguing work. As the journals of an apprenticed craftsman and committed working-class trade-unionist, these were so much more interesting than the oft-found journals of young toffs carousing around tourist hotspots. ‘My’ bookbinder visited foreign colleagues, discussed working practices, sought tips on toolmakers and noted the best way to avoid the attentions of avaricious stewards and customs officers alike. He also carefully bound the journals in handsome red morocco, with countless examples of ephemera - tickets, passports, paperwork, trade cards and timetables. Needless to say they sold almost immediately - the best books have a habit of doing that.

What do you personally collect?

I managed to keep most of my modern literature collection, small and humble as it is, when starting the business - and that remains as a ‘time capsule’ collection neither added to nor detracted from. I also collect books and paper relating to my old college, Brasenose - the more ephemeral the better! Finally, in recent years I’ve started collecting nineteenth-century editions of James and John Stuart Mill owned by contemporaries - especially politicians. Those owned by radicals tend to be heavily thumbed and even annotated, but those immaculate, un-opened copies with a proud bookplate of an establishment figure please me just as much. It just seems so fitting that those in the latter group felt the need to own the works of a groundbreaking political philosophers, but didn’t deign to even cut the pages!

What do you like to do outside of work?

As you might have guessed from my previous answers, I’m keen on politics and cricket. If it wasn’t also my job, then attending every book fair I could get to would be a firm hobby of mine!

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

The trade itself is now, I think, more dynamic than I can remember. Great educational seminars like YABs mean a lot of us youngsters can benefit from the experience of our elders. The ABA is also very encouraging to us: in the past few years a real effort has been made to introduction internship programme, regular young booksellers get-togethers and networking events that is already showing tremendous results.

I’m very upbeat about the future of the trade. In part I have to be as I intend to be in the business for a lifetime, but I think the reality is that the increasing availability of texts - especially online - doesn’t really detract from the rare book trade. On the contrary, in fact, the internet and developing acquisitions policies means that more copy-specific information can be recorded, and thus what might appear to be a ‘duplicate’ may turn out to be a variant. This teaches us all more about the books we handle, and the history that they reveal. Just this morning, for example, I ‘discovered’ an additional section in our copy of a rare English seventeenth-century surveying book that I can quickly see is not commonly known recorded. That took a few minutes to work out; surveying institutional holdings like that would have taken days or weeks of effort only a couple of decades ago. 

From another perspective, I almost wonder whether the reduction in the number of general shops allows greater attention to be paid to those opportunities that remain. Sure, it might be easier to find a paperback copy of an obscure cookery book on one of the large online listing sites now, but because not everyone under the age of 25 is familiar with the notion of ‘browsing’, book-fairs are an often exciting novelty. I manage the annual Oxford Book Fair for the PBFA and have been thrilled to see a broadening demographic attending in the last couple of years.

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

We’ve always got a few catalogues in the making. I try to ensure we issue two printed catalogues a year in addition to 8 or 10 pdf e-lists. Right now we’re focusing on a catalogue of books by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century authors, which should be issued in the next month or so.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I am very positive (indeed some might say a bit gushing) about book-fairs - so we do quite a few domestically each year, including the largest at Olympia and York. I’m just in the middle of cataloguing a few choice items for the Chelsea Book Fair - if you’re coming, please drop by and see us at stand 16!

Image Courtesy of Tom Lintern-Mole.

Bodleianalia.jpgIn the new book, Bodleianalia --one of the five titles we listed in our holiday gift guide this year--authors Claire Cock-Starkey and Violet Moller offer a volume chock-full of interesting tidbits about Britain’s oldest university library. Here are 5 facts to give you a flavor of the fun that awaits.

1. The chains were removed from the library’s books in 1757. “Nathaniel Bull, a blacksmith, unchained 1,448 volumes between 1760 and 1761 and for this was paid £3 0s 4d.”

2. Library users must take an ‘oath of fidelity,’ promising “not to remove from the Library, or to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document, or other object belonging to it...”

3. The Library bought its copy of the Gutenberg Bible in 1793 for £100 (1/5 of the library’s book budget that year).

4. It was the 13th librarian, E.W.B. Nicholson who introduced the “Phi” collection for obscene and libelous works, and getting access to it wasn’t easy: “By 1912 the system had been formalized to the extent that undergraduates had to secure written permission from a tutor in order to consult anything in the Phi collection and no boys (the young men employed to retrieve books) were allowed to fetch anything in the collection.”

5. The Bodleian has an exceptional collection of ... pins. Yes, mainly pins retrieved from manuscripts and books from the days before staples and paper clips. Its most distinguished pin, acquired in 2011, belonged to Jane Austen, who used it within her manuscript of “The Watsons.”

                                                                                                                                                                               Image Courtesy of University of Chicago Press.

Two of the most significant private collections of Chinese material are coming together to be sold at Sotheby’s in what is sure to be a landmark auction. “China in Print and Paper” includes the collections of Bernard Hanotiau in Belgium and Floyd Sully in Canada. The sale will be held at 1:00 p.m. on November 7 in London, preceded by public exhibition from November 3-6 as part of the annual Asian Art event at Sotheby’s.

Combined, the two collections demonstrate a rich history of cartography, exploration, trade and diplomacy between China and the West for over 500 years. The books, maps, photographs and works on paper reveal different perspectives on China, both from inhabitants of China and travelers passing through.

Lot 15 Martini Blaeu Atlas.jpg

Bernard Hanotiau’s library focuses on Western travelers in China and includes the the first edition of Marco Polo’s travels in French from 1556 (lot 146), the first European Atlas of China from 1655 (lot 15, pictured above), photographs by one of the first people to publish his photographs of the people and landscapes of China, John Thomson (lot 170), and photographs of Beijing taken in the 1870s by Thomas Child (lot 122, selection pictured below).

Lot 122, Thomas Child (i).jpg

Lot 212, Qianren Huang, The Blu Map.jpg

Floyd Sully’s collection focuses on depictions of China in maps and drawings. Much of his collection (lot 212 pictured above, lot 226 pictured below), includes rare maps, photographs, illustrated texts, drawings, and watercolors that were created in China. 

Lot 222, Shanxi Province.jpg

Images Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Auction Guide