August 2017 Archives

Mexico Modern at UT Austin

                                                                                               mexico_modern_4_x_6_72_dpi.jpgModernism in Mexico got its start around 1910, fueled by insurrection and civil war that fell along both geographical and economic battle lines. By 1920, artists, journalists, and gallery owners began an exciting exchange of ideals and aesthetics with their counterparts in the United States, ushering in two decades of a dynamic cultural exchange.                                                              

On September 11, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin, is unveiling a new exhibit dedicated to this transfer of ideas entitled, Mexico Modern: Art, Commerce, and Cultural Exchange 1920-1945. Over two hundred items pulled from the Ransom Center archives highlight the importance of this border-crossing cultural transfer where indigenous traditions fused with modern sensibilities, proving that art and ideals know no boundries, especially political ones.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Also available will be copies of the book Mexico Modern, published in conjunction with the Museum of the City of New York which includes essays by the show’s curators and examines leading figures in this artistic and cultural movement.


Mexico Modern: Art, Commerce, and Cultural Exchange 1920-1945 is on display through January 1, 2018. Admission is free.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   We at FB&C hope our readers in Harvey’s path are safe and dry. If you’re looking for ways to help, The New York Times ran this article on how to donate to Harvey victims while avoiding scammers.  

Hemingway - mockup(3).jpg“[E]very once in a while, an unknown cache of letters or an unknown manuscript will turn up in a basement, attic, or estate sale.” That sentence, from a new novel called The Hemingway Files (Blank Slate Press, $15.95), seems written with me in mind. Of course, it wasn’t, but those who enjoy a good biblio-yarn will be as pleased as I was to read a story that takes the ‘manuscript hunting’ trope into new territory. To summarize without spoiling: an English professor receives a mysterious package from a former student, Jack Springs, that contains a manuscript describing his post-grad teaching gig in Japan. Turns out Springs was hand-picked for the position by Professor Goto, an enigmatic man with deep pockets and a penchant for collecting “literary objects and artifacts,” especially signed first editions, inscribed editions, and one particular trove of material legendarily lost in Paris in 1922. But suspicions arise on both sides and culminate in a natural disaster, the Kobe earthquake of 1995.

The author, H.K. Bush, knows whereof he speaks: Bush is a professor of English at Saint Louis University and formerly senior fellow at the Waseda Institute of Advanced Study in Tokyo. He has published several works of scholarly non-fiction on American authors. This is his first novel, though you wouldn’t know it; The Hemingway Files is well plotted and engagingly written. A sinister undercurrent runs through it--manifest not only in the brawny henchmen that appear on doorsteps but in the psychological abuse Springs endures as a perpetual outsider.

The multi-layered tale plays out in letters and manuscripts, and sometimes in shared passages from favorite books. Brimming with literary trivia, it will surely delight those who believe that “anything can be anywhere,” as Zach Jenks once said.      

Image courtesy of the author

Endpaper Renaissance

Endpaper art is enjoying a renaissance of sorts. Back in 2012, Rebecca Barry profiled British professional marbler Jemma Lewis here on the FB blog, and after our recent story in the fall print issue about the revival of endpapers, we thought it was time to check back in with Lewis and see what she’s been up to. We also heard from Julie Farquhar, the production manager at the Folio Society who produced the 2017 limited edition of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories and which feature Lewis’ endpapers, seen below.


You’ve been credited with being at the vanguard of a rekindled love of marbled, handmade endpapers. What drew you to this profession?

                                                                                                                                                   Lewis: I studied Textile Art at Norwich school of Art & Design and have always had a love for color, surface pattern, and design. My progression to becoming a paper marbler was actually via local bookbinders where I worked for several years in the offices, before going to train with the lady who supplied us with marbled paper.


How do you approach a book project? Is there a desire to match the marbling in some way with the text?

                                                                                                                                                  Lewis: We love to take our inspiration from the book itself, whether that be the title, the illustrations, or a design that ties in with how the book is being bound. In the instance of The Call of the Cthulhu, the purple and green spots were inspired by the two-tone iridescent book cloth used in the casing. Coming up with bespoke designs is one of my favorite parts of the marbling process.


Why do you think there’s a renewed fascination with endpaper decoration?

                                                                                                                                                      Lewis: In the 18th century, marbled papers were the endpaper of choice for beautiful fine bindings. The use of marbled papers has once again seen a resurgence as people appreciate the craftsmanship involved and the many wonderful variations marbling can offer. Marbling is a heritage craft, but the designs and color-ways are no longer restricted to the traditional designs and darker palettes. We use bright base papers, metallic paints, and a contemporary palette.

                                                                                                                                              Farquhar: Endpapers present a good opportunity for additional embellishment or illustration--a double page spread at the very start and end of the book which would otherwise be plain. They can be used to create a mood or a feeling for the entire book, be more specific to the text, or just be purely decorative and enhance the appeal of the overall book design.

                                                                                                                                                       I think people love marbled endpapers as it is all part of the current appeal for the hand-crafted way of producing beautiful bespoke items on a small scale. The colors and patterns feel quite different to conventionally printed endpapers.


Some endpapers are bolder and more expressive than the book jackets--why do you suppose that is?

                                                                                                                                                           Lewis: I think there is something very exciting about opening up what appears to be a fairly plain book and seeing colored marbled endpapers on the inside!

                                                                                                                                            Farquhar: I agree with Jemma. If you are binding with a certain type of cloth or leather and you want to show the natural texture or weave of the cloth or grain of the leather, then your binding design may be quite simple. Or, perhaps the content of the book may merit a simple, classic, perhaps typographic binding design. The endpapers at the very start and end of the book present a great opportunity for embellishment or convey a certain mood and atmosphere while providing an unexpected wow factor.


Check out the fall 2017 print issue of Fine Books & Collections Magazine for more on the endpaper renaissance, including a conversation with geometric endpaper enthusiast (and New Yorker illustrator) Bob Staake

For those wanting to channel Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, here’s your chance to do it and raise much-needed funds for Chawton House, the manor house inherited by Austen’s brother. In what amounts to a wet T-shirt contest, (male) participants can don a frilly white shirt, get soaked, and ... smolder. Don’t forget to upload the image to social media and tag it #TheDarcyLook. The campaign is raising awareness for Chawton House, which is facing a budget shortfall of 65% in 2018.

House option 3 copy.jpgOur winter issue includes an article on Chawton House Library, a world-renowned research center for women’s writing. The property also contains Austen family heirlooms and has become a tourist attraction. Jane did not live in the ‘Great House,’ at Chawton but in a cottage on the estate (now Jane Austen’s House Museum). But next year’s dire funding projections have required the launch of a large-scale fundraising campaign that aims to “secure the future of this important historic and literary landmark.”

According to the fundraising website, “The reimagining of Jane’s ‘Great House’ into a more recognised, commercially viable destination will help secure the house, the wider estate, and also our unique collection of early women’s writing and books we know Jane Austen read in her brother’s library.”

At a time when Austen is as popular as ever, it’s a wonder that an appeal is necessary at all, but with tight budgets on culture all around, it’s clearly up to those of us who treasure history and literature to step in. Jane Austen campus, anyone!? 

Image courtesy of Chawton House Library

The HBO series Game of Thrones has fixated audiences for seven seasons by dangling the proposition of who will claim the Iron Throne. Will the Night King prevail and leave Westeros in ruins? With so many questions and fan theories percolating in the blogosphere, the folks at Texas A&M University may have answers stored in their archives. 




Game of Thrones is based on the fantasy series A Song of Fire and Ice, written by George R.R. Martin, whose collection of papers, handwritten notes, manuscripts, and other documents are housed at A&M’s Cushing Library. The author first visited the university in the 1970s as a participant of AggieCon, the school’s annual student-run science-fiction and fantasy convention. Martin remembered the school’s appreciation for sci-fi in1993 when he chose the Cushing Library’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Collection as the repository for his personal collection of letters and other material. “When I was drowning in papers here, I thought of putting it all on deposit in a library somewhere. I remembered Texas A&M and the great facilities you have there,” said Martin in 1993 to the Texas A&M Today. (See the newspaper’s 2013 Q&A with Martin here.)

University Chancellor John Sharp recently encouraged students, faculty, and the general public to scour the Martin archives for clues as to how the series will end.
                                                                                                                                                                 “The papers and handwritten notes by George R.R. Martin possibly could contain clues about upcoming storylines, and anyone is welcome to search for themselves,” Chancellor Sharp said. “Whether you’re developing fan theories or just want to take the opportunity to see Martin’s fantasy writing in its rawest form, A&M’s library staff is happy to show off a true treasure of modern literature.”

The library also put together this video about Martin’s collection where Chancellor Sharp speaks with Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Collection curator Jeremy Brett about the collection’s contents. 


Game of Thrones airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO. The season seven finale is August 27. 

As America once again turns toward its fraught history and confronts questions of inequality and racial injustice, I have been thinking about what role the rare book world plays in building and understanding history and what opportunities the rare book world has missed. These books are knowledge banks, and there is a supply line from rare book collectors directly to libraries, archives, universities, museums, and other institutions, but rare book collecting and dealing is still predominantly a white and male field, which means that the perspective of what is and isn’t collectible is determined by an audience with typically similar interests, and therefore historically undervalues contributions by women and people of color.

                                                                                                                                                                         If the rare book world doesn’t look forward, then it is only nostalgizing the past. I know from my own visits to book fairs, that the rare book world needs to be more diverse, and more socially responsible, and that, in turn, will expand and grow readership and business across all subject areas of collecting--this is a moment for collectors and institutions to ask what gaps in their own collections could be broadened. With that in mind, I thought I’d take the time to list a few socially minded book companies that are have a widened eye for a broader and more inclusive and therefore accurate look at American and world history and social movements. There’s Lorne Bair Books, which specifically focuses on the art and history of social movements; Garrett Scott, Bookseller, who trades in uncommon ephemera and printed material; Division Leap, which focuses on small and indie press books, often punk and fringe; and Libriquarian, focusing on books about revolutionary, many with a focus on Latin America.

                                                                                                                                                                            This is just a short quick start, but over the coming months, I will be looking for more socially minded booksellers and adding them to my personal shopping list. Additionally, the ABAA has launched a new initiative to encourage women in the bookselling field to come together and discuss ways of opening up the field to more women and to attract more collectors as well. 

A trove of T.S. Eliot presentation copies, photographs, and ephemera goes to auction next month at Heritage Auctions, some sourced directly from the attic of the author’s family. James Gannon, director of rare books at Heritage Auctions, uncovered the items during a recent thrilling visit.    

Eliot Album copy.jpg“I had one of those incredible experiences of going through the attic with Eliot’s great-niece Priscilla Talcott Spahn (née Priscilla Stearns Talcott), who is the last living relative to have known and had a personal relationship with T.S. Eliot,” said Gannon. “We looked through a lot of boxes of art and photographs in the attic, and books, and found one of the photo albums that is offered in this auction, among other things.”

The photo album contains 169 candid shots of young T.S. and his family at home in Missouri and on vacation in various locations. Almost all are mounted in the album and captioned. According to the auction catalogue, “It is unlikely that these photos have appeared in print anywhere.” The bidding starts at $500.

On that same visit, Eliot’s relatives showed Gannon another treasure: a small square of linen featuring the embroidered image of a playful kitty cat made by none other than T.S. himself--when he was six. The unique item was also consigned to auction and is estimated to reach $1,000+.  

Bidding opens online this Friday and concludes in a live auction in Dallas (and online) on September 14.

Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Bowdoin’s Book Week

Next week, Bates College graduate Nick Basbanes ‘65 revisits his old Maine stomping grounds to give a talk exploring the impact of paper on books and culture. Though not speaking at his alma mater, Basbanes will be 22 miles down the road, at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Entitled, “On Materiality: A Cultural Consideration of Paper and the Book,” the talk will use material gathered for Basbanes’ 2013 book, On Paper: The Everything of Its 2000-Year Historyone of three finalists for the 2014 Carnegie Medal for Excellence. Expect a spirited commentary on the book as a material object, with particular emphasis on the 2000-year run of paper.



This free talk is in advance of Bowdoin’s fall 2017 exhibition, “Bound and Determined: The Remarkable Physical History of the Book.”                                    

                                                                                                                                                 Find Basbanes at the podium on Wednesday, August 30, at 4:30 p.m. in the Visual Arts Center at Kresge Auditorium. The talk will be followed by a reception on the second floor gallery of the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library. Can’t make it to Maine? The event will be live streamed at the following link:

Stick around Brunswick through Thursday, August 31, when Bowdoin will host another paper-specific talk called, “Appreciating Paper: Art’s Best Supporting Actor.” Ruth Fine, former curator of special projects at the National Gallery of Art and Marjorie Shelley from the Metropolitan Museum of Art will explain how historic European artists chose their papers as well as the genesis of the importance of “works on paper.” This free talk will be held in the Kresge Auditorium at 4:30 p.m.

If you’ve got your hands on a copy of our just-released fall issue, you’ll note Catherine Batac Walder’s article on Harry Potter’s twentieth anniversary and Bloomsbury’s new ‘House-specific’ anniversary editions of the book that started it all, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Walder interviewed illustrator Levi Pinfold about his inspiration and his artistic process. We’re sharing here more from that interview.

CBW: How are these Harry Potter illustrations different/similar to the work that you usually do?

LP: Normally I don’t work in line, so it was a pleasure to use some ink for a change.

CBW: Related to question 1, did you look at existing illustrations or did you try not to?

LP: I tried to stay away from existing material during the time I worked on the pictures. I found myself looking more to Albrecht Dürer etchings and other work from Renaissance artists for inspiration. I’ve since allowed myself to leaf through Jim Kay’s amazing work on the major illustrated editions, though.

harry 3d visual_Revised (1) copy.jpgCBW: What difficulties had you encountered in finishing the drawings?

LP: Man’s greatest enemy...time!

CBW: Did you read all the HP books before you got the job/were you a fan? Did you have to know the books very well for this job?

LP: I had read and enjoyed them beforehand, yes. I had also listened to the audiobooks some years ago whilst working. It was fantastic to re-familiarize myself with the books for the job. It definitely didn’t feel like work!

CBW: What kind of research did you do before starting with the drawings? Any fascinating facts about coat of arms that you could share?

LP: The crests are based around traditional heraldic symbolism. Each element has a house specific meaning. For instance--a crescent moon means glory and splendor for Slytherin, or a beehive meaning hard work and industry for Hufflepuff. There are some great resources worth investigating on the Internet, if you like that sort of thing.

CBW: I know that as an artist you cannot really measure the time you work on an illustration as it depends on inspiration, but could you give an idea roughly how long it took to illustrate a cover, to redo it, etc.? What was your working day like?

LP: I was working under a tight deadline with the covers, so the days were long; anywhere between 10 and 18 hours. Most of the work took place at night because it was midsummer here in Australia and the days were just too hot! Generally each cover took around 3 days. Lots of variations and mistakes.

CBW: Would this be the most fun job you’ve ever had? I read your comment about it being a responsibility, will it be one of the hardest jobs as well?

LP: It was about as fun as illustration gets! The audiobooks were playing in the background and it was fascinating to immerse myself in the world and mythology. However, I have never worked on something with such a massive readership, so I have to admit that I found myself prey to a general hum of anxiety throughout the project.

CBW: I understand you also did the illustrations featured in the pages of the books?

LP: I did indeed. Inside and out. The house founders were particularly fun.

CBW: Will you be doing some more work for Harry Potter?

LP: Nothing at the moment, but I would certainly be keen for more.

CBW: How did you get the job and how has it changed your life/career so far?

LP: A combination of factors led to me getting the job, there are lots of people working behind the scenes. I still don’t quite know how the decision was made. My agent, the art director and the rest of the team at Bloomsbury all had something to do with it. Other than that, pure luck!

Image courtesy of Bloomsbury


                                                                                                                                               In 2011, French comic book artist Bastien Vivès wrote Polina, a graphic novel about a young Russian girl whose dreams of becoming a ballerina bring to her to the celebrated choreographer Professor Bojinksy. His tyrannical ways take Polina to the top of her profession, but not without consequences. Vivès’s exploration of finding a balance between self-sacrifice and self-awareness for the sake of art was well-received in Europe, and has been adapted into a feature film starring Academy-Award winning actress Juliette Binoche and Mariinsky Theather-based Russian ballerina Anastasia Shevtsova



                                                                                                                                                      Screened at the 2016 Venice Film Festival, Polina makes its North American debut in New York on Friday, August 25 at the Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinema, followed by a national roll-out in September.                                                                                                                                                            

Directed by Valérie Müller and French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj, Polina was shot on location in Russia, France, and Belgium. If the trailer is any indication, Polina will be an exquisite, tantalizing glipmse into the demanding world of professional dance. 

Polina. Running time: 112 minutes. Not rated. In Russian and French with English subtitles.

This year marks the 350th anniversary of the publication of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. The sixteenth-century Buckinghamshire house where he completed the epic poem is now a museum known as Milton’s Cottage, which debuts today an exhibition titled Paradise Lost & the Private Presses. Curated by James Freemantle, who collects private press books (see his Bright Young Collector profile), the exhibition focuses on editions of Paradise Lost from the likes of Doves Press, Golden Cockerel Press, and Arion Press, among others.

FullSizeRender copy.jpgAs stated in the introduction to the 80-page illustrated exhibition catalogue: “The aim of this exhibition is to show a selection of fine printing produced during the twentieth century ... through the choicest private press editions of Milton’s Paradise Lost.”

In addition to the books on display, broadsides specially commissioned for the exhibition will be on show from Nomad Letterpress and The Salvage Press, as well as artwork by Florian Bertmer. The exhibition also features ephemeral items, such as vellum printed leaves, trial pages, prospectuses, and original artwork.

FullSizeRender 1 copy.jpgIn the catalogue’s Curator’s Note, Freemantle explained his reason for undertaking such an exhibition: “My own interest in Paradise Lost began at school, whilst studying Books I and II as part of my English Literature A-levels. We were using an edition edited by John Broadbent (Cambridge Milton Series for Schools and Colleges) and the cover featured an illustration by William Blake. The image fascinated and stayed with me, as did the story and the imagery it evoked, and in the years following I began to collect antiquarian illustrated copies of Paradise Lost. I had never heard of the Golden Cockerel Press before, nor the Doves Press, but on discovering their editions of the poem I was transported into the world of private press printing and it has become a passion ever since. It is therefore a pleasure to be combining these two passions, Paradise Lost and private presses, into one exhibition.”

Both the exhibition and the limited edition catalogue were sponsored by Maggs Bros. and Bonhams.

The exhibition remains on view through September 30.

Images: Renderings from the exhibition catalogue, courtesy of James Freemantle.

Golden Books Shine at UCLA

pp.JPGMost children and adults of a certain age in this country have read The Poky Little Puppy, Scruffy the Tugboat, The Shy Little Kitten, or one of the many dozens of other titles that make up the popular Little Golden Books series. Founded in 1942, the Golden Books series has featured beloved authors like Margaret Wise Brown, Janette Sebring Lowrey, and illustrators like Richard Scarry and Garth Williams, and today continues to publish enjoyable and affordable books for young readers.

Now through October 15, UCLA Library Special Collections is hosting an exhibit celebrating seventy-five years of Golden Books. The show highlights the twelve original titles Golden Books published, which, in the throes of World War II, collectively sold 1.5 million copies within the first five months of publication.

A selection of Little Golden Books like The Three Little Kittens and The Little Red Hen are on display in a variety of formats and sizes. The pieces hail from UCLA’s Children’s Book Collection which focuses primarily on English and American children’s publications before 1840 as well as runs of Newbery and Caldecott medal winners.

                                                                                                                                                                      The exhibit is free to the public. Contact the UCLA special collections library at (310) 825-4988 for more information.

While many of us are not quite ready for summer to end, here’s the good news: the autumn issue of Fine Books & Collections mails this week. In it you will find a feature on photobook collecting (hence Richard Avedon on the cover, pictured below), as well as articles about Sylvia Plath, Henry D. Thoreau, Chawton House Library, and Harry Potter’s 20th anniversary. Plus our usual columns, auction reports, and our (free) fall auction guide.  

FBC2017autumn-cover.jpgAnd, with fall in mind, check out “Heirloom Fruit, Vintage Books” about Colorado apple orchardists and how they use antiquarian books. 

Trump’s Summer Reading

“I cannot live without books,” Thomas Jefferson famously declared, whose library at Monticello (now at the Libary of Congress) is an enduring testament to one of America’s best-read presidents.

For the past few decades, right around this time, presidents taking a few days of well-earned respite have released their summer reading lists. Former president Obama famously shared his copious and wide-ranging selections  and was often photographed at independent bookstores like Bunch of Grapes on Martha’s Vineyard carefully choosing from among the stacks.

Back in 2006, George W. Bush read for pleasure all year, having made a New Year’s resolution to read one book a week, which eventually led to a spirited reading duel with Karl Rove to see who could rack up the most reads.  Rove barely squeezed out a victory, with 110 books to Bush’s 95. During his summer vacation at his home in Crawford, Texas, Bush was spotted reading The Stranger by Albert Camus between ranch-related duties.

An avowed anti-intellectual, president Nixon proclaimed in his farewell speech to the nation that, “As you know, I kind of like to read books. I am not educated, but I do read books.” Tolstoy was a favorite author.

Lincoln often quoted Shakespeare in his personal correspondence and among friends, showing a preference for Macbeth. He also enjoyed reading and writing poetry--the Gettysburg Address contains many poetic elements no doubt pulled from his reading. 

Of course, this all leads up to what our current president reads for pleasure. When asked in March by television host Tucker Carlson what he likes to read, president Trump responded, among other things, that “I love to read. Actually, I’m looking at a book--I’m reading a book-I’m trying to get started.” Trump went on to say that he doesn’t read much because he’s always facing global emergencies. Yet, a profile in the Washington Post from July 2016 highlighted a presidential candidate who didn’t read, and didn’t much care for it--“I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.” 

USA Today recently reported that Trump will not be releasing a reading list for his current seventeen-day vacation at one of his New Jersey golf clubs because he’s too busy for such pursuits. 

So, what’s the point here? Trump’s reading habits don’t place him among the top ten in the pantheon of presidential readers. Does a president’s reading habits impact whether he will effectively govern?

It’s a safe assumption that a wide-ranging and prolific reader will have a greater breadth of knowledge for any subject at hand, whether that’s policy making or political ideology.

To wit, last summer, the Vineyard Gazette hosted a roundtable with presidential scholars David McCullough and Evan Thomas just after the Republican National Convention. “The idea that the party of Abraham Lincoln has nominated this totally unhinged man, Donald Trump: Unacceptable, unqualified and uninterested in knowing more than he already knows, which is virtually nothing. I find that one of the most maddening qualities about the man,” said McCullough. “When he was asked if he’d ever read a book about the presidency, or a presidential biography, he said no. And he didn’t seem the least bit bothered by that, or understand why he would be asked that question.” Thomas offered that a president who reads is “reminded that however bad things seem now, they were pretty bad in other times.” 

Lifting the veil on a president’s personal reading habits is humanizing as well--we, the public, get a better sense of who the leader of the free world is, and perhaps even share in the joys of having read the same books. It’s not often the average American can look to a president and share something in common.

Trump doesn’t read, which speaks volumes.

Looking forward to the fall season, there are several major exhibitions of books and art to put on your schedule. We list notable current and forthcoming exhibitions in our online calendar, but here are six not to miss.

Garrick_016304 copy.jpgPainting Shakespeare
Through Feb. 11, 2018, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. presents twenty-one paintings from its collection, all with interesting tales to tell, like the one recently found at an estate sale that had been part of the famous Boydell Shakespeare Gallery.

Eloise’s Hometown
Whether or not you stay at the Plaza, if you’re in Manhattan before Oct. 9, check out Eloise at the Museum, an exhibit at the New-York Historical Society that focuses on the ever-charming collaboration between Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight.

Sex & Drugs at Harvard
Altered States: Sex, Drugs, and Transcendence in the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library, on view at the Houghton Library from Sept. 5 - Dec. 16, focuses on eight main topics: opium, cocaine, hallucinogens, marijuana, sex, social protest, underground comix, and ephemera.

FSA Photography
Through Nov. 26, the Netson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, spotlights the photography of Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Marion Post Wolcott, and other Depression-era photographers in Dignity vs. Despair.

Takamiya’s Manuscripts
From Sept. 1 - Dec. 9, Yale will showcase “the most impressive collection of medieval English manuscripts in private hands,” on view in the U.S. for the first time in Making the English Book: The Takamiya Deposit at the Beinecke Library.

The Written Word
The Reformation: From the Word to the World, an exhibition marking the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s “95 theses,” opens at the Huntington Library & Museum on Oct. 28.

Image: David Garrick Leaning on a Bust of Shakespeare, after 1769, currently on exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Unknown British painter after Thomas Gainsborough, oil on canvas, Folger FPb27. Purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Folger, 1926.

IY915-164.jpgThe Miniature Book Society (MBS) Grand Conclave pops up in a different city every year. This year, its 35th, finds familiar book fair ground: Oakland, California. From Friday, August 11, through Monday, August 14, bibliophiles with a penchant for tiny tomes will congregate at the Oakland Marriott City Center for meetings, workshops, book swaps, and a book fair (open to the public on Sunday from 11-4). John Howell for Books will be bringing between 300 and 400 miniature books to the fair, including a limited edition 3-volume boxed set of Charles Dickens miniatures from Black Cat Press (pictured here at left).

Jill Timm of Mystical Places Press will present her limited edition “Color Craze” miniature flag book and “Color Accord” miniature accordion folded book (pictured below). With a nod to the adult coloring book fad, each book contains actual hand-colored pages.    

caspreadwc2.jpgOn Saturday, from 2-4 p.m., PBA Galleries will host a special reception and preview for Conclave attendees of its upcoming August 24 auction of “Miniature Books: The Library of a Gentleman Collector.”  

Images courtesy of Jill Timm and John Howell for Books

Some Farm: E.B. White’s Maine Home for Sale

The house that inspired E.B. White’s classic children’s book Charlotte’s Web is for sale. Including a circa 1795 farmhouse and 40+ acres of farmland nestled on Allen Cove in Blue Hill Bay with views of Acadia National Park, the property is listed with Downeast Properties for $3.7 million. White’s story of how a spider named Charlotte convinced a farmer to save the Wilbur the pig from the dinner table was published in 1952, earning a Newbery Honor in 1953 and named the top-selling paperback of all time by Publishers Weekly in 2000.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

E.B. and Katherine White purchased the farm in 1933. Town & Country and New England Today both recently ran extensive pieces on the property, the current owners, and the history of the place. 


                                                                                                                                               White adored the farm and lived there until his death in 1985. The current owners, Robert and Mary Gallant, purchased the property from the White family and have scrupulously maintained the farm for the past thirty years; in fact, the rope swing that makes a cameo in Charlotte’s Web still hangs in the barn doorway. The wooden desk, workbench, and wastepaper basket are still in the boathouse where White composed his stories.

Serious inquirers are invited to contact Martha Dischinger at Downeast Properties in Blue Hill, Maine, at 207-266-5058 or by email at

Cultural Moments Cover 500.jpegGlad tidings from London, Ontario, where Bright Young Booksellers Vanessa Brown and Jason Dickson have just published London: 150 Cultural Moments (Biblioasis, $22.95 CAD). From the first map ever made of their little city, to pop culture, art, literature, theatre, film, and music, the book celebrates the interesting and unexpected in this lively locale.   

Brown & Dickson plan to celebrate with a launch party in their shop on Thursday, August 10 from 7-9 p.m.

                                                                                                                                             Image courtesy of Brown & Dickson

From noon July 31 through noon August 1, the Mystic Seaport Maritime Museum in Mystic, CT, held its 32nd annual Moby-Dick reading marathon. Visitors were invited aboard the ninteenth-century whaleship (and now teaching vessel) Charles W. Morgan and read Herman Melville’s (1819-1891) nautical adventure.                                                                                                                                                         

The nonstop reading of all 133 chapters commemorated Melville’s 198th birthday. Originally published in 1851, Moby-Dick sank commercially during the author’s lifetime and went out of print in 1891. The book was revived in the twentieth century as an example of “The Great American Novel,” helped in no small part by writers like William Faulkner, who wished he had written it, and Hemingway who said he was still trying to “beat” Melville at the writing game. 



Nearly forty participants read from their own copy of Moby-Dick, ranging from dog-eared, yellowed paperbacks to fancy commemorative hardcovers. The honor of reading the opening lines of “Call me Ishmael” went to an actor portraying Melville, who recited chapter one from memory. Chelmsford, Massachusetts, resident Nikki Richardson read read chapter two, The Carpet Bag, “one of the shortest chapters,” she said. Many readers came and went during the 24-hour reading, while sixteen reserved lodgings below deck in the Morgan’s forecastle.


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Readers came to remember Melville, to enjoy time on the water, and to honor family. “I read because literature was part of my double major,” explained Richardson. “Also, I am the daughter of a submariner who installed a love of the ocean and its tales in his children. I particularly love whaling stories and this is one of the greatest, incorporating fictionalized details of the story of the whale that rammed and sank the Essex.”                                                                                                                                               

Some readers had participated in marathon reading sessions at other New England ports like New Bedford and on Nantucket. “It’s an addictive experience to be among people with a singular love for literature,” said Richardson. “People come back again and again.”

Participants received a commemorative bookmark handset and printed on a nineteenth-century press located at Mystic.


Images (top): Herman Melville (Public domain); (middle) Nikki Richardson reading chapter 2 of Moby Dick. Credit: Elissa Bass.

Furthermore, the grants in publishing program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund, announced its fifth annual shortlist for an award called The Alice. Created by Joan K. Davidson in honor of Alice M. Kaplan, this award honors books that fuse scholarly value with high production values. The jury includes illustrator R.O. Blechman, gallerist Paula Cooper, publisher David Godine, and director of the Yale University Art Gallery, Jock Reynolds. One of the jurists commented, “Our hope is that the Alice will buttress the kind of slow reading movement that can encourage readers to recognize and cherish the undying qualities of the well-made book: beyond ideas, its shape and heft, the aptness of its paper and typography and design, and the special sense of intimacy it affords--and will help to keep such books coming in the years ahead.”

The winner receives $25,000. Additionally, this year Furthermore announced that each of the short-listed books would walk away with $5,000 apiece. Prizes will be announced on October 9, and a ceremony at the Strand Book Store will follow in November.

robertchanlercover.jpgThis year’s shortlist consists of four titles:

Robert Winthrop Chanler: Discovering the Fantastic edited by Gina Wouters and Andrea Gollin. In association with the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Miami FL. Published by The Monacelli Press.

Charles Percier: Architecture and Design in an Age of Revolutions
edited by Jean-Philippe Garric. Co-published by the Bard Graduate Center Gallery, Château de Fontainebleau, Réunion des musées nationaux--Grand Palais, and Yale University Press.

Conflicts of Interest: Art and War in Modern Japan
by Philip K. Hu and Rhiannon Paget. Co-published by the Saint Louis Art Museum and the University of Washington Press.

Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952-1965
by Melissa Rachleff. Co-published by the Grey Art Gallery and DelMonico Books--Prestel.

Last year, Kentucky by Design: The Decorative Arts and American Culture won; in 2015, David Campany’s The Open Road: Photography & The American Road Trip earned the top spot. Read more about Joan Davidson and the Alice Award here.

Image via the Monacelli Press

jane stack.jpgWe’ve written about First Editions Clubs for hypermodern collectors (e.g. in Brooklyn, and in Raleigh, NC), but here’s a plot twist: a subscription service geared toward readers with a serious case of bibliophilia. Page 1 Books, a family-run book selection service, offers a 3-, 6-, or 12-month subscription called “For the Booknerd” featuring our favorite category: books about books. So what’s inside each hand-picked package? “I like to provide a combination of what I call new hits and deep cuts,” said founder Brandy O’Briant. “There is a variety of titles from classics like 84 Charing Cross Road to more recent like The Book of Speculation, and everything in between.”   

O’Briant, who currently works from Evanston, Illinois, calls her business Page 1 Books in “homage” to the independent bookstore she visited as a child in Corpus Christi, Texas. She said she hopes to have a storefront location one day. As a passionate and cross-genre reader, O’Briant would often be asked for recommendations. That sparked the idea for Page 1. “The concept for Page 1 was to combine that warm, friendly, feeling of an indie bookstore with a proprietor whose recommendations you trust with the convenience of a regular delivery personalized to your tastes. We like to say, ‘You are more than an algorithm,’” she said.  

packaging.jpgWorried about having to return a book? Don’t be. O’Briant explained, “We don’t ever expect anyone to send a book back. If they dislike it, or already have read it, we ask they pass it along and we will send a replacement ASAP. We think sharing books is good karma!”

Page 1 offers several other genre subscriptions as well. Check them out at

Images courtesy of Page 1 Books


                                                                                                                                                                Illustrator Barney Tobey’s illustrations for the classic children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! The Magical Car (Random House, 1968) have recently been acquired by the New-York Historical Society. Twenty-nine original preparatory pieces are currently on display alongside page proofs from the book. Tobey illustrated the emerging reader’s version adapted by Al Perkins. (John Burningham illustrated the original edition published in 1964.)

Born and raised in the City That Never Sleeps, Tobey (1909-1989) illustrated dozens of children’s books and cartoons for a range of outlets: 1,200 covers for The New Yorker alone, as well as covers and illustrations for Collier’s Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, and Variety. His artwork was also exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Grolier Club, and other New York-based institutions.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! was the only children’s book written by James Bond creator Ian Fleming. In it, inventor Caractacus Potts renovates an old car that soon begins acting independent of its drivers, and hilarity ensues. Roald Dahl wrote a screenplay based on the book, which was turned into a film in 1968.

“We are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. David M. Tobey for donating his father’s vibrant and enchanting illustrations to our collection,” said N-YHS president Louise Mirrer. “Our visitors are in for a treat this summer as they follow along with the Pott family and their magical tour on their fantastical adventure.”

                                                                                                                                                    Like summer, this show is fleeting; the donated watercolors and page proofs from the 1968 edition of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! are on display through August 30. Gallery hours and more information at New-York Historical Society.

                                                                                                                                                        Image: Barney Tobey (1906-1989). Study for pp. 16-17 of Ian Fleming’s Story of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! The Magical Car, 1968. Watercolor, gouache, and black ink on Bainbridge board. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David M. Tobey, 2015.40.83.9

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