January 2017 Archives

_93845366_355788a1-6606-40a2-978b-bc4d912c6870.jpgOver 350,000 documents related to the Georgian era held in the Royal Archives are scheduled for digitization. Some highlights have already been made available online, including a draft of an abdication letter written by George III at the end of the American Revolution. At the time, the king was in the midst of a wide-ranging political battle, derided around Britain as the “king who lost America.” George III strongly considered abdicating the throne to his eldest son and embarking on a self-appointed exile to Hanover. The letter, drafted in 1783, however, was never sent or formalized and George III continued on as king until his death in 1820.

Another highlight is a letter from a spy, codename “Aristarchus,” who wrote George III in 1781 regarding an elaborate plan to transfer 4,000,000 French Livres to London. Arisarchus also asks for payment for informing the king of a French plan to assissanate him while he was walking in the Queen’s Garden.

Documents and letters from George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte, are also part of the archive scheduled for digitization. A highlight already available is a letter from Queen Charlotte to Lady Charlotte Finch, wherein the queen enclosed a lock of Prince Albert’s hair.

Highlights from the collection will be featured in an upcoming BBC documentary, “George III: The Genius of the Mad King.”

The digitization efforts are part of the Georgian Papers Programme, a five-year, multi-institutional effort to expand access to the collection of Georgian papers held in the Royal Archives and Royal Library at Windsor. 

[Image supplied by the Royal Archives, copyright Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016]


Love looks not with the eyes ... but we do, which is why a new digital archive of 3,000 illustrations, taken from four different Victorian editions of Shakespeare’s Complete Works, is a dazzling resource. The Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive was created by Dr. Michael John Goodman, who single-handedly scanned each image as part of his PhD program at Cardiff University in Wales.

Bianca.jpgAbove: “Bianca and Lucentio” (Act III, The Taming of the Shrew), illustrated by H. C. Selous.

The archive is searchable by illustrator and by play, but Goodman also offers word clouds of thematic search terms (e.g., books, witches, skulls), which reveals the frequency of certain ideas and elements. “The database emphasizes that there really is a ‘Shakespeare Universe’ where different motifs, ideas, and themes recur,” Goodman told Cardiff News.

Macbeth.jpgAbove: Header (Act I, Macbeth), illustrated by John Gilbert.

Goodman isolated each image into a black-and-white downloadable file, but he also makes available the original source page. By design, all of the content is free to use, remix, and share through a Creative Commons license. According to Cardiff News, “This is a new kind of academic resource that will appeal as much to Shakespeare scholars and Victorianists as to artists, makers, and creators.”

Hamlet.jpgAbove: “This Same Skull, Sir, Was Yorick’s Skull” (Act V, Hamlet), illustrated by Kenny Meadows.

All images courtesy of Michael John Goodman, The Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive.

‘Tis the season for award ceremonies, and on Monday the American Library Association (ALA) announced the top books for children and young adults at its Midwinter Meeting, held this year in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Kelly Barnhill received the Newbery Medal (awarded for most outstanding contribution to children’s literature) for The Girl Who Drank the Moon, published by Algonquin Young Readers.


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                                                                                                                                                      Three authors were recognized with a Newbery Honor: Ashley Bryan for Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life (Atheneum Books for Young Readers); Adam Gidwitz for The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (Dutton); and Lauren Wolk for Wolf Hollow (Dutton).


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                                                                                                                                                                 The Caldecott Medal for most distinguished American picture book for children went to Javaka Steptoe for Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (Little Brown and Company).


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                                                                                                                                                                   The ALA named four Caldecott Honor Books: Leave Me Alone! written and illustrated by Vera Brosgol (Roaring Brook Press); Freedom in Congo Square, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Little Bee Books); Du Iz Tak? written and illustrated by Carson Ellis (Candlewick Press); and They All Saw a Cat, written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel (Chronicle Books.)


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                                                                                                                                                                  The Coretta Scott King Book Award goes to an African-American author and illustrator for outstanding contribution to children’s literature. This year’s award recognized March: Book Three by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Andrew Aydin (Top Shelf Productions). Javaka Steptoe also received the Coretta Scott King Illustrator award for Radiant Child.


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                                                                                                                                                               Several other prestigious awards were also announced--check out the complete list here. Winning books covered themes of overcoming adversity, breaking through barriers, and making a difference in the world. 

                                                                                                                                                                   Congratulations to all this year’s winners! 

                                                                                                                                                                      All images courtesy of ALA.org 

House_of_Mark_Twain.jpgAre you a writer in need of inspiration?  Looking for a quiet place to commune with the ghost of a literary giant? Or just need a break from the kids?

The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut, is debuting a new program tonight where you can sign up to spend three uninterrupted hours writing inside Mark Twain’s library. You, along with a handful of other writers, will have the library to yourself, outside of regular visiting hours, to drum up your inspiration. 

Twain lived in the lavish Victorian mansion between 1874 and 1903, where he used the library to entertain guests, hold family poetry recitals, and read out loud excerpts from his works. Twain’s actual writing, however, was conducted in his favorite place: the billiards room. There, Twain would spread out his manuscripts on the large billiards table while composing such classics as “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

Writing in Mark Twain’s library for three hours costs $50, but includes the perk of being able to tour the house on your own, after hours.

The idea of writing in Twain’s library has quickly found an enthusiastic audience.  At the time of writing this blog post, the program has already sold out through October, 2017.  Keep your eye on this page, however, in case more slots open up.

[Image from Wikipedia]

The Jay I. Kislak Foundation announced this week a major donation to the University of Miami and Miami Dade College. Split between the two institutions is a collection that “includes some of the most important original source materials related to the history of the early Americas,” according to a jointly issued press statement.

Screen Shot 2017-01-25 at 12.02.18 PM.pngPedro de Medina, L’Arte del Navegar...  (The Art of Sailing), 1554. First Italian edition of one of the earliest treatises on navigation and the first to provide reliable information on the navigation of American waters. The author discusses the use of basic navigation instruments and explains the use of maps and measurements of the sun and North Star to determine latitude. The book, describing early Spanish voyages of discovery, was widely influential during the 16th  century among mariners of Spain, England, France, Italy and Holland. In addition to its scientific and historic importance, this rare volume is one of the most beautiful books printed in 16th-century Europe. Gift to University of Miami, Courtesy of the Jay I. Kislak Foundation.

The collection was assembled over many decades by 94-year-old collector and philanthropist Jay Kislak, who is well known in the rare book world for his 2004 donation of more than 3,000 rare books, maps, manuscripts and objects to the Library of Congress and for his generous support of the Kislak Center for Special Collections at the University of Pennsylvania. He has also sustained the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest for several years.

This most recent gift of approximately 2,300 rare books, maps, manuscripts, pre-Columbian artifacts, and related material, with its particular focus on Florida, the Caribbean, exploration, navigation, and the early Americas, finds an ideal home in South Florida. Each school will receive a first edition of the famous 1493 letter of Christopher Columbus, in which his describes the New World, as well as a selection of rare and important items. As a whole, the collection is valued at $30 million. Working together, UM and MDC will collaborate on exhibitions, collections care, and outreach.

Screen Shot 2017-01-25 at 12.03.44 PM.pngColumbus Letter: Printed by Johann Bergmann von Olpe in Basle, Switzerland, 1494, this edition includes the first images of what Columbus believed to be islands in Asia. The first section of the book is an epic poem by Carlo Verardus praising Ferdinand’s expulsion of the Moors from Granada in 1492. The second part is Columbus’ famous letter, De insulis nuper in Mari Indico, with five woodcuts purporting to be the earliest pictures of the New World. Gift to Miami Dade College, Courtesy of the Jay I. Kislak Foundation.

Said Kislak, “I think this is an ideal partnership. We have the opportunity to combine the special resources of each institution and create exhibitions and programs that will be enjoyed by Miami-Dade residents and the millions of people who visit here from all over the world.” He added, “For 500 years, Florida has been a focal point of global exploration and cultural exchange. I’m thrilled that Miami’s top two institutions of higher education, along with the Library of Congress, will now be using our collections to reveal the fascinating and important role of our community in world history.”

aquila rose.jpgPenn Libraries at the University of Pennsylvania have acquired the only known copy of Benjamin Franklin’s first printing piece. The broadside, “The Elegy on the Death of Aquila Rose,” was printed by Franklin shortly after his arrival in Philadelphia in 1723. At the time, Franklin was still only a teenager.

                                                                                                                                                 Scholars know of approximately 900 works printed by Franklin. The Aquila Rose broadside was the last major piece to be discovered, making Penn Libraries’ acquisition particularly significant.

                                                                                                                                             “Many of these works, especially broadsides and small ephemeral pieces, exist in only one or two copies,” said Mitch Fraas, a Penn Libraries’ curator, in a press statement. “The Penn Libraries now hold more than a third of his print production, making our collection of Franklin’s printing among the most important in the world.”

                                                                                                                                            The broadside was written by the printer Samuel Keimer and concerns the recent death of Philadelphia poet and pressman Aquila Rose. This copy, the only known survivor, briefly appeared in the 1820s before disappearing again for almost two hundred years. The broadside was recently discovered by an antiquarian bookseller inside a 19th-century scrapbook (seen below).


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Penn Libraries now owns both the first and last works printed by Franklin.

                                                                                                                                                “As an institution founded by Franklin and dedicated to his passion for the widest possible dissemination of knowledge and the promotion of learning, the Penn Libraries is proud to carry the torch of his legacy, lighting pathways to the future by making Franklin’s work open and accessible to the wider world,” said Vice Provost and Director of Libraries H. Carton Rogers in a press statement.

                                                                                                                                                    The broadside is on display until February 10, along with the album in which it was found, on the first floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. A digitized copy of the broadside is already available online.

                                                                                                                                                  Images courtesy of Penn Libraries

A small but interesting archive of material relating to Alfred Lord Tennyson and Charles Dickens has turned up at London-based Chiswick Auctions, consigned by a distant relation of the Ellis family. The product of that family’s long-term association with the two authors, the collection contains correspondence, envelopes, clipped autographs, stereoscopic photographs, a rare program pamphlet (1868) produced for a series of Dickens’ “Farewell Readings,” and a pencil drawing of 48 Doughty Street by a member of the Tennyson family, inscribed: “Home of Charles Dickens.... from Wilderness Aug 3rd 1870,” among other notable pieces.

Lot 85. TENNYSON, Alfred Lord (1809-92) Charles DICKENS (1812-70). Collection, Archive (1) copy.jpgCharles Ellis was a wine merchant with literary aspirations. According to a footnote in The Letters of Alfred Lord Tennyson (1987), where an October 1853 letter from the author to Ellis is recorded, “For many years [Ellis] purveyed wines to Dickens, vastly more knowledgeable and discriminating than Tennyson, but, himself a poet (Richmond and Other Poems, 1845), he seems ... to have presented them to Tennyson, perhaps annually, as a sort of oblation.” Indeed another letter from Tennyson, written in 1866, thanks Ellis “for your Christmas gift of choice wines.”

Lot 85. TENNYSON, Alfred Lord (1809-92) Charles DICKENS (1812-70). Collection, Archive (3) copy.jpgThe personal and longstanding connection between the correspondents may well be enough to encourage bidders toward the £4,000-6,000 ($5,000-7,400) estimate on Wednesday.

Lot 85. TENNYSON, Alfred Lord (1809-92) Charles DICKENS (1812-70). Collection, Archive (2) copy.jpgImages courtesy of Chiswick Auctions.

Inauguration Day, 1861

No matter how you feel about today’s inauguration, take heart and consider the first swearing-in ceremony of America’s sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln. On March 4, 1861, the country was a scant six weeks from entering the Civil War, seven states had already seceded from the Union, and rumors of plots to assassinate Lincoln were already swirling in the air. In addition to taking the helm of an ideologically divided country, Lincoln was the first president to be photographed at his inauguration.                                         

One image that survives the day is a salt-print photograph attributed to Alexander Gardner (1821-1882), a photographer in Mathew Brady’s Washington studio who would later earn fame for his photo-documentation of the bloddy battlegrounds of the Civil War. Gardner’s image of Lincoln taking the oath of office was made into an engraving published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and circulated throughout the country. The black and white photograph shows Lincoln on the steps of the Capitol, a tall, dark speck standing above a crowd of 25,000 attendees. Scaffolding in the background reveals that the Capitol was still undergoing construction.                                                                                                           

Only three known copies of the photograph remain in existence: one is stored at the Library of Congress, another at the Smithsonian Institution, and a third was recently acquired at auction by Bowdoin College. The image has significant connections to the state of Maine; vice-president Hannibal Hamlin was a native of Paris, Maine, and longtime resident Winslow Homer was also in attendance, whose double-page engraving of the inauguration appeared in Harper’s Bazaar (Frank Lee’s competitor) later that year. Bowdoin College Museum of Art unveiled its acquisition to the public on January 12 alongside its copy of the Homer engraving.                                                                                                                                                                                                Lincoln-nauguration-photo.jpg                                              

 Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1861, salt print, by Alexander Gardner, American 1821-1882. Courtesy Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

Lincoln called for unity that day, hoping to keep war at bay. “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be by the better angels of our nature.”

Our Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Leo Cadogan, proprietor of Leo Cadogan Rare Books in London.

IMG-20161231-WA0032 (1).jpgHow did you get started in rare books?

My first sustained encounter with rare books was straight after my final exams at university, when I had a library job that included wiping the dust off rows and rows of seventeenth-century volumes - which I enjoyed doing! I liked looking at the volumes (I was probably not the most efficient cleaner). I really got started with an interview at Quaritch, in 1997, at the end of the summer after university. It was arranged for me by a family friend. I was at that point selling leather jackets in Camden Market in London. I think it gave me an edge in the interview to be able to say that not only did I like books (in common with many other people) but I was used to selling things.

When did you open Leo Cadogan Rare Books and what do you specialize in?

I opened Leo Cadogan Rare Books in late 2007. I specialize in cultural and intellectual history from the Renaissance period up to about 1800. I offer books, manuscripts, prints and ephemera illustrative of the life, studies and interests of people of these times. I always look out for the unusual and passionately want to engage people with these old cultures. Early books have to stand side-by-side at book fairs with items that have a lot more obvious cultural impact (say a first edition in dustwrapper of your favourite novel) and I relish the challenge. I began Leo Cadogan Rare Books working mainly in legal history. Legal history is a subject that, following an MA in Renaissance Studies that I took time out of the book trade to do, I subsequently undertook graduate work in. As a bookseller, showing the life in the dry and scholastic subject of Early Modern law was a good way to begin my business - both because there were institutions collecting it and because the working outlook (finding interest in things that immediately seem culturally foreign to many of us) set me up well. Nowadays I look in several other areas besides law and my material is increasingly visual (although to some extent it has always been).

What do you love about the book trade?

We are so lucky to get to handle the materials we do. It is also a trade where people celebrate when you do something ambitious and one that admires care and the development of expertise. Colleagues are tolerant and generous, with their time, favours, and sometimes their prices. With our customers as well, the trade at its best inhabits a unique, serious but friendly space.

Describe a typical day for you:

An ideal day involves making an early start on cataloguing some interesting items, catching the post and email as they arrive, perhaps in the afternoon getting down to the libraries (particularly London Library, British Library, also Warburg Institute) for research, finishing off descriptions in the evening. But there’s plenty else going on - admin, some auctions, travel, book fairs in London, the US, and Europe, and a demanding toddler.

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

Maybe it’s the copy of the first humanist Latin collected works of Aristotle (1496) that, so I discovered, had belonged to a famous Renaissance cardinal, book-collector, and patron of philosophers called Domenico Grimani. Visually and in its contents, this Aristotle is a really impressive book, and this copy had a very appropriate and evocative original ownership which was shown by a large painted armorial. But there was more to find out. Part of Grimani’s library had been destroyed in a fire in the seventeenth century but another section was put on the market in Rome in 1546. My copy was part of that latter hoard because it was subsequently acquired, probably in a Roman bookshop in the 1560s by a Croatian/Slovenian theology student in Rome called Antun Vramec. He was later to write an important vernacular chronicle printed in Ljubljana in 1578. What a chance that a book should - randomly - have not one but two important Renaissance owners, both in the city of Rome. Vramec disposed of the copy in the city before he left, for Zagreb; after other owners it ended up in an ecclesiastical library in Rome. By around the end of the seventeenth century the copy acquired a typical Italian vellum library binding, but a section of discolouration on the first page showed how the front cover of an earlier binding had broken. The book sums up to me how much interesting history and archaeology there can be in rare books.

What do you personally collect?

I make little starts to collections. I sometimes buy ‘beyond speculatively’, things that appeal to me for reasons sometimes not immediately explicable, and where I certainly don’t know where they are going to fit, or indeed whether they will stay private possessions or become (or stay) part of the stock. It can be a good exploratory process. Sometimes I find an interesting theme doing this, and I then discover other people are also interested in it - and buying that material can then become a straightforward, and rewarding part of my business. I do also occasionally buy old Spanish prints for my spouse, who is an Early Modern art historian.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Reading, general cultural consumption, consumption of food, travel, family life.

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

We’re at an interesting time. For different reasons, in the cultural spheres there’s an explosion of interest in external engagement - engagement with people outside of academic or professional siloes - and there’s also an explosion of interest, in academic worlds and society more widely, in material and visual artefacts, and broadly in ‘stuff’. Although it may not be the actual cause of these changes, this is an environment where social media has a strong and positive role to play. The book trade can and does take part vigorously in this broadening world. This is all good, and there is a lot of young interest in the book trade, which is great. On the other hand, I hear concerns about the trading volume - the amount of new cash coming into the book trade as compared to earlier times. I am involved in an interesting new outreach project - I co-organize a new high-end books and arts fair in London in the autumn, called INK (or Inkfair London). Last year was its inaugural, and we had encouraging results. Helping run INK certainly keeps me focused on and inquisitive about the wider environment we are working in.

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

I have two little lists that I hope to publish soon. One is on science and medicine, and the other contains ephemeral items from the incunable and post-incunable periods. I am doing the Oakland book fair in February, the New York book fair in March, and straight after New York, am co-exhibiting with other dealers from Britain’s Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association, at an important antiques fair in London. Looking ahead, I have fairs at London Olympia at the end of May, and two more in London at the end of October/beginning of November (INK and the Chelsea Antiquarian Book Fair). There may be more events, and I have various further plans for catalogues. I am busy!

[Image copyright Claudio Corivetti]

Three times a year, book collectors gather to attend major antiquarian book fairs in the U.S.--this year they will be held in the San Francisco Bay Area of California in February, New York City in March, and Boston in November. To facilitate and encourage participation, Fine Books pulls together information about the book fairs, auctions, exhibitions, and more available to those who would like to join in the fun during each Rare Book Week.

Screen Shot 2017-01-17 at 7.59.11 PM.pngWithout further ado, we present this year’s edition of Rare Book Week West, which runs (roughly) February 5-12. Here you’ll find information about the upcoming California International Antiquarian Book Fair, the CODEX book fair and symposium, a special PBA Galleries auction, and a dozen exhibitions and events (e.g., receptions, classes, open houses) of related bibliophilic interest, plus a few suggestions for “bookish browsing” while in the Bay Area. From the American Bookbinders Museum to the William Blake Gallery, whether your interest is in private press or Chinese book design or Alice in Wonderland, if you’re headed to Cali for the book fair(s), be sure to check out our guide.


The United States Mint will release the first ever Lady Liberty coin featuring an African American woman in 2017. The 24-karat, 1-ounce coin will go on sale April 6 with a $100 face value. The actual sale price of the coin, however, will be far in excess of the $100 as gold is currently valued at over $1,000/ounce.

The African American Lady Liberty coin will be the first in a series, which will feature ethnically diverse women. An Asian, Hispanic, and Indian Lady Liberty coin are all in the works, with plans for new Lady Liberty coins to be released at two-year intervals. The goal is “to reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States,” said the US Mint in a statement.

The mint will produce 100,000 of the African American Lady Liberty coins. For those who can’t afford the price tag, the mint will also produce 100,000 “medals,” silver reproductions of the Lady Liberty image that will sell for around $40 to $50.

Image from the United States Mint

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we’re sharing one of the images from our current issue’s feature story about a collection of printed material related to the Vietnam War. This is King’s February 1967 anti-war speech, “The Casualties of the War in Vietnam,” signed by King.

Martin Luther King signed speech Casualties of The War #2 300 dpi copy.jpgAs the Los Angeles Times reports today, it was fifty years ago this month that King turned his attention to Vietnam, after reading a 28-page essay documenting the use of napalm. “King began agitating against the Vietnam War, a lesser-remembered chapter of his career in which the preacher once again launched an unpopular battle against the prevailing opinions of the establishment, the broader public and even some allies.”

In another Vietnam-related speech, given in New York just two months after “Casualties,” King said, “If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read ‘Vietnam.’” That sentiment certainly harmonizes with the point of view of former Marine and novelist Karl Marlantes, who wrote a piece for the New York Times just last week titled “Vietnam: The War That Killed Trust.”

Image Courtesy of Stuart Lutz Historic Documents, Inc.

On the first of the year, AB-1570 Collectibles: Sale of Autographed Memorabilia went into effect in the state of California, requiring all dealers of any autographed material worth more than five dollars to fill out a certificate of authenticity (COA) specifying date of sale, the dealer’s name and street address, and the name and address of the person from whom the autographed item was acquired if the item was not signed in the presence of a dealer. While AB-1570’s goals are to prevent the distribution of forged autographs, many booksellers feel they’ve been swept up by a vague law with onerous requirements and that portions constitute an invasion of privacy, citing possible violations of California’s Reader Privacy Act of 2011. 

AB-1570 is an updated version of a law passed in 1992 that applied to sports memorabilia in an effort to stem the tide of a multi-billion dollar forgery industry. Sponsored by former Assemblywoman Ling-Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar), the bill received vocal support from actor Mark Hamill, better known to fans as Luke Skywalker of the “Star Wars” films. Hamill had become increasingly frustrated with seeing movie memorabilia for sale with his faked signature.

Now, any autographed item sold for five dollars or more, including books, is subject to the law.

Though Chang later wrote on her Facebook page that booksellers were not the intended targets of the law, she was voted out of office in November, and it’s unclear who will take up her cause. 


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Above: A screenshot image of part of Chang’s Facebook letter stating AB-1570 doesn’t mean to target booksellers. (image: Barbara Richter) 

“We don’t tolerate fake signatures,” said California-based bookseller John Howell. “Booksellers don’t want forgeries undermining the market. AB-1570 is not needed for us to continue practices already in place that keep fake signatures off the market.” Booksellers registered as members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America are bound by ethics regulations to offer full refunds to dissatisfied customers no matter what state they work in.

California resident and bookseller Brad Johnson is circulating a petition on Change.org to repeal AB-1570. “The unknowns concerning the law are forcing many booksellers to proceed with an abundance of caution, which generally translates into a decision to no longer offer autographed materials to consumers in California,” Johnson said.

Indeed, some booksellers, like Malcolm Kottler of Scientia Books in Massachusetts, have withdrawn from the 50th annual California International Antiquarian Book Fair in February. California Book Fair Committee Chair Michael Hackenberg said that his team has notified all exhibitors with the text of the law and suggested best practices in dealing with it. They are also providing generic COAs for dealers selling signed materials and will post public signage of the law.                                                          

Kottler signed up for the fair the week after the bill was signed into law, then spent the next three months deciding whether he should stay. “I decided to withdraw from the book fair after I examined the list of items I had at the 2016 fair, and 75 percent was autographed material. I would have brought similar items this year,” Kottler explained. Though he could have easily replaced his wares with non-autographed items, Kottler felt the swap wouldn’t justify the trip. Still, “I don’t need a repeal of the law,” he continued. “If the Legislature removes the COA requirement of providing names and addresses of sources, I could live with the rest of it. To me, it’s more of an inconvenience.”

The state has not provided guidelines on how it plans to enforce the law, yet those caught violating AB-1570 are subject to “civil penalties equaling 10 times the actual damages incurred.”

“There is considerable confusion as to who the law applies to, whether it is retroactive, and so forth,” Johnson continued. He also said that California booksellers who initiated the repeal petition are in conversation with “key” members of the California Senate and Assembly.

For the moment, out-of-state booksellers are interpreting the law in two ways: Connecticut-based Easton Press deals largely in signed, limited-edition items and will no longer ship books to California, asserting prohibitive COA costs. Kottler, however, is not sure whether the law applies to out-of-state dealers. “I believe I am not bound by AB-1570 if I send a purchased, signed copy from Massachusetts to California, but the law is unclear,” he said.

Susan Benne of the ABAA says her organization hopes members will educate themselves on the new regulations. “Our goal is to inform our members that this new law is on the books in California, and to make sure they understand how it may impact their businesses,” she said. (The ABAA does not provide legal counsel; members are encouraged to seek out California legal representation to understand how the law applies.) “In terms of protecting the consumer, we don’t oppose the rationale behind the law, but the way it was written impinges on the privacy of booksellers. And the requirements may be unnecessarily onerous for small businesses.”

Supporters of repealing or amending AB-1570 are encouraged to sign the online petition and write to California legislators explaining why they feel law needs to be changed.

Last year we checked in with consumate reader Linda Aragoni of the Great Penformances blog for her appraisal of the bestseller list from a century ago. This year, we continue the tradition, finding out about the books that topped the list in 1916.  For reference, here are the 1916 bestsellers according to Publishers Weekly:

  1. Seventeen by Booth Tarkington
  2. When a Man’s a Man by Harold Bell Wright
  3. Just David by Eleanor H. Porter
  4. Mr. Britling Sees It Through by H. G. Wells
  5. Life and Gabriella by Ellen Glasgow
  6. The Real Adventure by Henry Kitchell Webster
  7. Bars of Iron by Ethel M. Dell
  8. Nan of Music Mountain by Frank H. Spearman
  9. Dear Enemy by Jean Webster
  10. The Heart of Rachael by Kathleen Norris

And now onto our conversation with Linda:
realadventurecover.jpgWhat was your favorite book from 1916?

My favorite novel of the 1916 bestsellers is The Real Adventure by Henry Kitchell Webster, a prolific author of the first third of the 20th century whose name is virtually unknown today. 

Part of the pleasure of the novel is the engaging line drawings by R(aymond) M(oreau) Crosby that illustrated the original text.

The novel is the story of young working class woman whose suffragette mother taught her to want to be more than just a housewife, but who never saw to it that Rose had any training to do anything else. 

Rose bumps into a millionaire lawyer on a tram and within weeks is married into Chicago’s social elite. 

Rose wants to be more than just Roddy’s sex partner and hostess. She wants to have his respect and friendship. 

When her ludicrous efforts to be Roddy’s pal fail, Rose runs away--only a few blocks but to the wrong side of Chicago--and takes the only job open to girls with morals but no skills: She becomes a chorus girl. 

Rose eventually comes home, but her life and Roddy’s change a great deal before then.

Do you think modern audiences would enjoy any of the 1916 bestsellers?

Certainly. Good writing endures.

For readers who are at least equally interested in how ideas are expressed as the ideas themselves, I would recommend Life and Gabriella by Ellen Glasgow. It is better written than The Real Adventure, but its plot is less original. 

For readers interested in 20th century history and human psychology, I’d recommend Mr. Britling Sees It Through by H. G. Wells. 

The novel is about a writer who prior to the autumn of 1914 couldn’t believe the German people wanted war. Mr. Britling (a inadequately disguised representative of Wells himself) changes his opinions when the war affects him personally. 

Dear Enemy by Daddy Long-Legs author Jean Webster is a light, comfy, romantic novel that I’m sure many people other than myself would enjoy reading while recovering from a bad cold.

Would you add any of the 1916 bestsellers to your permanent library? 

I definitely will add The Real Adventure. It’s readily available in paperback, including in a Scholar’s Choice Edition.

Any other comments about the 1916 bestsellers?

Today most of the 1916 bestselling novels are interesting as historical odd bits rather than as literature. The fact that eight of the 10 authors on the list are Americans is itself an historical oddity. The Brits were busy fighting a war: The English publishing industry nearly stopped because of the lack of men to run the presses.  

Anything you’re looking forward to for the 1917 list?

If you’d asked what I was most looking forward to in 2017, I’d have said finishing my self-appointed project of reading and reviewing the bestsellers of 1900 to 1969.

However, since your question is about the 1917 bestseller list, I’ll be coy. 

I’ve read and reviewed all the 1917 novels already. Those reviews will start appearing at GreatPenformances in late February.

[Image from Goodreads.com]

At the New York Antiquarian Book Fair last year, a dealer in historic document quietly told me that he had purchased an Alexander Hamilton manuscript intending to make a quick sale to a client involved in the Broadway show who had been waiting for just such an item to become available.

Clearly the market for Hamilton material has experienced a seismic shift in the past couple of years, due in very large part to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical. Or, as Nathan Raab of the Raab Collection wrote in Forbes last month, “The interest in Hamilton had already begun to grow after 2005 and publication of Ron Chernow’s biography, Alexander Hamilton. By the time Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical hit Broadway, we were already well on our way to Hamilton fever. And then the temperature spiked.” Pieces that used to sell for $2,000-4,000 are now selling for $12,000-15,000, he added, and the supply is drying up.

Screen Shot 2017-01-10 at 8.28.43 PM.pngWell, until next week. On January 18, Sotheby’s New York will offer an unprecedented collection of Hamilton letters and manuscripts that has remained in the family for two hundred years (it was consigned by sixth-generation descendants and had been “stored in a trunk in the family basement,” reports the New York Times). There are incredible documents, such as Hamilton’s appointment to his position as Washington’s aide-de-camp (estimated at $150,000-200,000; pictured above), love letters exchanged between Hamilton and his wife, and a previously unrecorded autograph draft of his “Pacificus” essay No. VI.

Unquestionably, it will be the auction of the season, and for those in New York, take the opportunity to check out the pre-auction exhibition at Sotheby’s created by David Korins, set designer of Hamilton. In the video below, he shares his enthusiasm for the project--and for the documents.

Image courtesy of Sotheby’s. P.S. Today is Hamilton’s 260th birthday!

RTEmagicC_2_IfZ_MK_Editionsbaende_stehend_01.jpg.jpgOn Hitler’s suicide in 1945, the rights to his autobiography, Mein Kampf, were transferred to the state of Bavaria who refused to release another German edition of the notorious work. Seventy years passed, and by German law, the copyright for the book went into the public domain on January 1, 2016. The Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ), concerned about the potential for an unannotated edition of the autobiography to appear after the copyright expired, decided to release a two-volume annotated version of the work in January of last year. The IfZ has now revealed that the book sold 85,000 copies in Germany last year, making it one of the year’s bestsellers.

”...[T]he debate about Hitler’s world view and his approach to propaganda offered a chance to look at the causes and consequences of totalitarian ideologies, at a time in which authoritarian political views and rightwing slogans are gaining ground,” said Andreas Wirsching, the director of the IfZ in an interview with The Guardian.

From the time Mein Kampf was published in 1925 until the end of WWII, approximately 12.4m copies of the book were published. When Nazism was at its height, a copy of Mein Kampf was gifted by the state to every newlywed couple in the country.

English and French editions of the annotated edition are in the works.

[Image from the IfZ]

Snowy Day.jpgGood news for philatelists with bibliophilic tendencies or bibliophiles with philatelic tendencies: The USPS reports that it will issue literary-themed stamps in the coming year. The first is a set of four Forever stamps celebrating the Caldecott-winning children’s classic, The Snowy Day (1962). Written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats, whose centennial was celebrated last year, The Snowy Day was one of the first major picturebooks to feature an African-American child.

A campaign has long been afoot to put Keats’ groundbreaking character on a stamp. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York advocated for it last March, saying, “Ezra Jack Keats showed us that art can be a powerful form of expression and through his picture books he motivated a generation of children to develop an appreciation for literature.”

Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamps (seen above) with Keats’ original art.

The USPS will also release this new stamp in celebration of the bicentennial of Henry David Thoreau--who famously wrote in Walden, “For my part, I could easily do without the post-office.”

Screen Shot 2017-01-08 at 9.42.35 PM.pngAn earlier stamp of Thoreau was issued in 1967 (price 5 cents) with artwork by Leonard Baskin. Art director Greg Breeding designed the 2017 Thoreau stamp with original art by Sam Weber, who used the 1856 Maxham daguerreotype of Thoreau as a starting point; his take on the naturalist is decidedly warmer than Baskin’s.   

Weber’s painting of Flannery O’Connor graced the 2015 stamp honoring her.

Images via USPS.

karate cover.JPG

Cover for Kobudo kenpo, karate katsuyo zukai setsumei goshin-jutsu (1952). Reproduced with permission from the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection, the University of Hawaii at Manoa Library.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Hawaii is home to one of the largest and most robust karate centers in the United States, mostly due to Okinawans who immigrated to the islands in the early 1900s. Karate was practiced in Asia as early as the 1400s, and over the centuries evolved into the art of punching, kicking, and grappling as it is recognized today. As a result, Hawaii has been a hot-spot training ground for practitioners (called karatekas) for over a century. Senseis (teachers) past and present have authored hundreds of pamphlets and books to ensure proper technique and form. Now, much of that written history is preserved in the University of Hawaii’s Karate Museum Collection.



Interior image from Kobudo kenpo, karate katsuyo zukai setsumei goshin-jutsu (1952). Reproduced with permission from the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection, the University of Hawaii at Manoa Library.                                                                                               

Hawaii-based karate historian Charles Goodin accumulated the roughly 700 items that make up the bulk of the collection, including ephemeral material like tournament programs, fliers, and posters. “Those items tend to be easily lost and forgotten,” says University of Hawaii curator Tokiko Bazzell. “They provide a chronological story of karate’s development, as well as the names of participants and officials associated with Hawaii’s karate community.” Goodin donated his collection to the University of Hawaii in 2008, where the majority of items are accessible to the general public. The 260 rarest items are stored in the Asia Locked Press Special Collection Room. Though these fragile pieces are available by appointment only, many have been digitized and can be viewed through UH’s digital depository site, eVols

Historians and curiosity-seekers routinely make exciting discoveries digging through the archives. Bazzell recalls one instance when a Canadian researcher contacted her about a book entitled She mao he hun xing quan (Snake, Cat, Crane: Mixed Form Styles of Karate) believed to have been written in the 1950s by a great-uncle, Liang Yongheng. “This fellow came to the Asia Collection to verify whether his hunch was correct. Indeed, it was--the family had lost its copy of the book in the Chinese Cultural Revolution. I was so moved to see how happy he was to have “met” his great-uncle’s book. We never know what kind of discoveries can be made through collections like this.”


snake cat crane.JPG

She mao he hun xing quan (Snake, Cat, Crane: Mixed Form Styles of Karate) by Liang Yongheng. Reproduced with permission from the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection, the University of Hawaii at Manoa Library. 

Karate continues to flourish in Hawaii and is an integral part of the community. “It is a unique cultural legacy of Okinawa, brought here by the earliest immigrants,” says Goodin. “In fact, pre-war Hawaii was one of the first places where karate was propagated outside of Okinawa, and today Hawaii remains an important center for karate. It’s a more than a martial art; karate is sport, recreation, and a timeless cultural treasure.”

jsylvestre.jpgOur Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Jay Sylvestre, Special Collections Librarian at the Otto G. Richter Library at the University of Miami.

What is your role at your institution?

My proper title is Special Collections Librarian in Special Collections at the University of Miami; however, I function as the Rare Book Librarian. On any given day, I’m responsible for leading class sessions using select collection materials, processing acquisitions, coordinating cataloging priorities with our Rare Books Cataloger, and conducting outreach activities. I spend time each day looking for items to share on social media, primarily Instagram as @um_spec_coll, with local followers, #librariesofinstagram, and anyone else interested in special collections materials. The community on Instagram has been a great way to share our collections, connect with other libraries and librarians, generate new ideas for hashtag challenges (November featured #rainbowsinthelibrary), and interact with potential users and donors.

How did you get started in rare books?

I spent nearly a decade around rare books as a contract archivist. A few of my early contracts gave me exposure to rare book handling, collecting, and cataloging. I had the opportunity during an early internship to help catalog and even acquire a few rare books, but although rare books were always related to my work when I was an archivist, they were never the focus. My focus shifted to rare books when I started working at UM in 2014. Under the mentorship of Cristina Favretto, Head of Special Collections, and with the help of my colleagues in the department and in cataloging, I’ve had an intense ongoing instruction in rare books librarianship. I’m really enjoying working with rare books, especially since I attended Rare Book School at the University of Virginia this past summer, where I learned about publisher’s bindings. We covered so much in one week at RBS that I’m still processing everything I learned.

Where did you earn your degree?

I earned an M.A. in Public History from Temple University with a specialization in archives. The archives sequence was taught by Martin Levitt at the American Philosophical Society. It was this sequence that sparked my career in special collections.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

I am a bit of a birder and love bird-related puns (especially on Instagram), so I suppose it’s only natural that my favorite item is an 1809 edition, 4-volume, heavily grangerized/extra illustrated edition of Thomas Bewick’s The History of British Birds. This particular set has original drawings of each bird to match Bewick’s descriptions and engravings and contains full sets of feathers for each bird Bewick described. Each set of feathers is labeled by location and function, with some sets recording the hunter and site of each bird’s untimely demise. All of the feathers were collected between 1809-1811, and all still bear their original luster. The highlights of this collection are lustrous peacock feathers, still shiny and bright. Pages facing the feathers all bear marks of ghosting and oil transfer. It’s an incredible set to show to students for the feather collection, provenance marks, book history, and preservation. Perhaps my favorite parts of the set are the unfinished drawings and leftover feathers. Clearly a previous owner was not done with their work on this book.

What do you personally collect?

I have a very small and slowly growing collection of artists’ books. I am especially interested in papercraft - pop-ups and papercutting, in particular. I also have a collection of bobbleheads. As an undergraduate history major, I came across a bobblehead figure of George Washington. I’ve since added several other historical figures, professional athletes, movie and cartoon characters, and school mascots. One of my favorite bobbleheads is the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolf, which Library Dean Steve Rollins gave to me as a parting gift when I left Alaska to come to UM in 2014. I spotted the bobblehead in his office on my first day of work and asked where I could get one. After 2 years of unsuccessful searching, the Dean generously gave me his on my last day.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Inspired by my work with our artists’ books collection, I’ve taken up papercraft. I’ve made some fairly intricate paper-based Halloween costumes over the last two years (low polygon masks of a pink elephant last year with an articulated trunk and a duck mask for this year’s Dark Wing Duck costume), and I’ve recently started making pop-up cards for friends and family. I also like to find new and unusual craft beers to try; Florida is full of unique ingredients and people, which make this activity quite rewarding. I’m also fond of making desserts, primarily cookies and ice cream, and finding new foods to sample. Finally, beyond spending time with friends, my wife and I also really love the outdoors. When we lived in Alaska, we used to go hiking, kayaking, and whale watching, and we even learned to dog sled and ice skate. Since moving to Florida, we’ve started to enjoy kayaking, bird watching, looking for manatees, and occasionally go snorkeling.

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

Sharing. My day isn’t complete until I talk about, post, or show a book to a student or colleague. I never tire of showing or being shown something new. I’m always learning new things about our collections and librarianship. I try always to convey what I’ve learned and what I know to students and visitors. There is nothing quite like the look on students’ faces when I hand them a book from the 14th century and assure them that they can not only touch, but also hold and look through it.

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

Special collections and libraries in general are extremely vital. As a profession, we are facing a crucial moment to affirm our commitment to inclusivity, accessibility, and freedom of information. I am thrilled to see so many conversations taking place about the role of the library being beyond a neutral space for sharing ideas but rather as a space for education, justice, community, and advancing change. The continued focus on connecting and documenting the histories of underrepresented groups and engaging with students, faculty, and our communities give me hope that special collections can be a partner in positive change.

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

When Allison Jai O’Dell was featured in 2014, she mentioned two of the collections that had become some of my personal favorites: the Jackie Gleason Collection on the occult and paranormal, and our zine collections. The books collected by Gleason represent the comedian’s serious interest in the unseen world. Our zine collections include a range of materials, from early 20th century science fiction zines to student-created works inspired by visits to Special Collections. We’ve also begun collecting education and socially conscious board games. Inspired by “What Shall I Be?,” a 1966 career game for girls that features a flight attendant in a Pan Am uniform (UM also has the Pan Am Airlines collection), we’ve expanded our collection to include games that critically examine race, gender, sexuality, and class. Our current UGrow graduate fellow recently put together a fantastic exhibit for our reading room using the games collection. We also selected several of our games to play during International Games Day in November. Students and faculty were amazed at the topics covered by the games. Woman and Man: The Classic Confrontation from 1971 engaged players and generated productive conversation about gender equality and sexism and the game’s attempt to educate players.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

We have a few exhibits coming up in 2017. The first exhibit, “We Were Pioneers: University of Miami’s African-American Students, Faculty, and Administrators in the 60s and 70s,” will share the history of integration at the University of Miami. Our University Archives, Special Collections, and History Department faculty have been working with the Black Alumni Society’s First Black Graduates Project to curate the exhibit.

Following this exhibit will be a look at the environment in Florida and the Caribbean. Our exhibit will be paired with the National Parks Service “Piecing Together a Changing Planet” travelling exhibit and will feature the natural environment, built environment, and destroyed environment. Climate change and sea level rise are essential areas of study at the University of Miami and southern Florida. Special Collections is working to document the work of scientists and activists to address and raise awareness of sea level rise and climate change. This exhibit will help establish the library as a resource and place of discussion for these issues. I’m looking forward to curating the environmental exhibit with partners in the library, school, and community.

Finally, Special Collections will be moving into a new space in late 2017. To celebrate the move we are planning a spectacular inaugural exhibit. Stay tuned, we have big plans for this year!

Image Courtesy of Jay Sylvestre.

Which of our blog posts elicited the most attention last year? Let’s recap:

#1 Found: Lovecraft-Houdini Manuscript
When a 31-page typescript of “The Cancer of Superstition” turned up in a “now-defunct magic shop,” H. P. Lovecraft’s followers went wild with excitement. Update: It sold at auction for $33,600.  

Lovecraft.jpg#2 New California Law Will Make Signed Books & Art Harder to Sell
Scott Brown, proprietor of Eureka Books in Eureka, California, was leading the charge to amend a new state law that requires all autographed material sold for more than $5 to be accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Update: The law went into effect on Sunday, and Brown is still appealing.

#3 The Book That Inspired Umberto Eco
When Eco died last February, we revisited an interview Nick Basbanes did with him in 1995 when they discussed the soiled sixteenth-century tome that inspired The Name of the Rose.

#4 Software and Apps for Cataloguing Your Book Collection
How do you catalog your books? We asked around and received many replies. Update: Be sure to read the comments too!

#5 Rare Books on Instagram
Crossing social media platforms, we surveyed institutional Instagram accounts that showcase their marvelous special collections.

#6 Beatrix Potter’s Forgotten Tale Published at Last
The recently rediscovered “Kitty-in-Boots” was published by Frederick Warne (a subsidiary of Penguin) on September 6 to coincide with the sesquicentennial of Potter’s birth.

#7 The New ABC for Book Collectors
Oak Knoll Press released the ninth edition of this classic book for book collectors, with a revised text, sleek new design, and illustrations.

#8 New Agatha Christie Stamps Feature Clues
A mysterious set of stamps issued by the Royal Mail in celebration of the author’s 126th birthday pleased Christie fans.

Lot-415-E-Simms-Campbell-Night-Club-Map-Harlem copy.jpg#9 A Map of Harlem’s Speakeasies and Nightclubs at Auction
The original artwork for E. Simms Campbell’s 1932 Night-Club Map of Harlem went to auction at Swann Galleries on March 31. Update: Yale’s Beinecke Library acquired it for $100,000.

 #10 Rare Books of Instagram (Part 2)
This time we surveyed librarians with their own Instagram accounts. Update: Part 3 and possibly 4 are in the works, focused on booksellers and collectors.

Want more top stories? See: 2015, 2014, 2013.

Images: (Above) Courtesy of Potter & Potter Auctions; (Below) Courtesy of Swann Galleries.

A_Portrait_of_the_Artist_as_a_Young_Man.jpgTo commemorate the 100th anniversary of the publication of James Joyce’s first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, University College Dublin has brought together literary academics, computer scientists, and actors to create a digital multimedia edition of the novel.

Included on the website is a map of all the locations that Stephen Dedalus, protagonist of the novel, travels around Dublin.

“It is on Google Maps so if you want to travel around all the locations it will show you where Stephen lived, walked around or was educated and how it is in parallel to Joyce’s own journey,” said Gerardine Meaney, a professor of cultural theory at University College Dublin in a press statement.

“You can see from the interactive map that Stephen’s Dublin and Joyce’s Dublin are very close to each other. It was a struggle finding the old haunts of Dedalus. We even found the location of cottages mentioned in the novel near the river Tolka which are now under water.”

Also included on the website is a free audiobook of the novel, recorded by father and son acting duo Barry and Sam McGovern and a free eBook with critical commentary. (You may recognize Barry McGovern from A Game of Thrones). The younger McGovern voices Stephen as a young man, while the elder McGovern voices Stephen when he is older.

The influential novel was first published in 1916 in New York by BW Huebsch.

[Image from Wikipedia]

Over the holiday week, I took a trip to Corning, New York, home of the Corning Museum of Glass. My primary intention was to see the collection of antique microscopes on exhibit (and featured in our fall 2016 issue). Revealing the Invisible: The History of Glass and the Microscope, on display in the museum’s Rakow Research Library, looks at the scientists and artists who developed and refined microscopy between the 1600s and the late 1800s. It is a neat exhibition that spotlights the ingenuity of these pioneers, and it remains up through March 19.

RSCN2164 copy.jpgIt was another exhibition, however, that really surprised me. Fragile Legacy: The Marine Invertebrate Glass Models of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, unfortunately soon to close, explores the artistry and business of the German father and son who crafted astonishing glass models of sea creatures in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. From their initial drawings, based on illustrated books or preserved specimens, to their glass creations, to the printed catalogue used to sell their models to universities and museums, the exhibition peeks into a wondrous world. The examples on exhibit belong to Cornell University, which ordered 570 models in 1885.

DSCN2161 copy.jpgIf you can’t make it to Corning this week--the exhibition closes on January 8--marine filmmaker David Brown made a thirty-minute, award-winnning documentary about the Cornell Blaschka collection and how the models might now provide perspective on biodiversity and climate change.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Images: (Above) Blaschka Nr. 573, Octopus salutii (1885). Photo credit: C. Barry; (Below) Catalogue of Glass Models of Invertebrate Animals (Rochester, New York, 1878). This catalogue featured 630 Blaschka models, with prices ranging from twenty cents to seven dollars. Photo credit: C. Barry.

Auction Guide