October 2017 Archives

Fittingly, a new exhibition on witchcraft opens today at Cornell University. Pulled from the university’s Witchcraft Collection, The World Bewitch’d spans five hundred years of witch-related material: trial documents, religious texts, spells, and even confessions explore a group of people, often women, marginalized and ostracized from society, with the core of the material hailing from Germany and France. The highlight of the show includes the first book on witchcraft ever printed, as well as handwritten transcripts from European witchcraft trials. Throughout history, witches were often portrayed as either ugly old hags or as alluring seductresses, and the show explores how that view has changed--or not--with the passage of time. 



                                                                                                                                                              “This collection has profound repercussions on today’s world, where persecution of the defenseless is alive and well,” said exhibition co-curator Anne Kenney. The collection was once part of the personal archives of Cornell co-founder Andrew Dickson White and is believed to be one of the largest collections on witchcraft in North America.

                                                                                                                                                    The opening reception is today from 4:00-5:30 at the Kroch Library on level 2B. The World Bewitch’d will remain on display through August 31, 2018.

                                                                                                                                                           Image: “The Witches,” by Hans Baldung (1510). Woodcut. Public Domain, courtsey of the Met Museum.

Guest post by Mark. S. Weiner, co-curator of the current Grolier Club exhibition, Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection.

                                                                                                                                                                                               Museums, libraries, and other cultural institutions today are making sophisticated use of video as a tool for public education. But how should those institutions use film when their subject is books? The answer isn’t obvious.

As a scholar and filmmaker, I recently had the pleasure of collaborating on a well-received exhibition for the Grolier Club with Mike Widener, the rare book librarian at Yale Law Library. Four years in the making, the exhibit was titled Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection (September 13-November 18, 2017), and it examined Yale’s unique collection of illustrated law books, which includes over fifteen hundred items, spanning eight centuries and six continents.

As a rare book librarian, Mike has robust public outreach goals. With that in mind, he and I decided that we would supplement our exhibit with a suite of films displayed on a kiosk in the exhibition gallery, as well as available online. Our conviction was that we could use the special aesthetic resources of film to highlight qualities about books that would be far more difficult to reveal through the text of exhibition labels alone.

Law 1.png“Law’s Picture Books” in the Grolier Club Exhibition Gallery, video kiosk indicated.

And therein lay a challenge!

On the face of it, books are about the least cinematic subject imaginable. For one thing, they don’t move--and the ability to depict motion over time lies at the heart of film as a medium. They also don’t emit much sound. It’s no surprise that in Hollywood, books are often important props. But how can they be the stars?

Our collaboration revealed some principles. They won’t be applicable to everyone, but they’ve come to be guiding principles for the production company that’s grown from our work together, Hidden Cabinet Films, which is dedicated especially to making films about books for the growing field of public humanities.

Law 2.png                           Depict books in their materiality, but with ideas in mind.

Books have a physical presence in human life. They are three-dimensional objects calling out to be touched and handled. Films about books should use the essential elements of cinematography to highlight these tactile qualities.

The use of shallow depth of field in still shots, for instance, can underscore how books reside in space. Likewise, close-ups and macrophotography can highlight a book’s details and imperfections--stressing the uniqueness of each volume--and they can point to its history of human use by showcasing scuffing and marginalia.

Law 3.pngThe use of a shallow depth of field renders the foreground subtly out of focus. From “A Philosophical Question”

Law 4.png                                           From “A Philosophical Question”

Yet films shouldn’t aestheticize books without cause. The depiction of physicality should be in the service of some argument about the book’s meaning or importance. In the case of law’s picture books, Mike and I sought to stress that the books we put on display were practical tools used by lawyers in the resolution of human conflicts. They possess a worldly particularity that stands in stark contrast to the abstraction of legal rules.

Films about books should be driven by ideas.

Set books in motion.

Law 5.png        A shot that opens with a satisfying crackle. From “A Philosophical Question.”

When possible, films about books should show books being opened and their pages turned. Doing so underscores another aspect of a book’s physicality, and it also indicates that books exist in time--and thus have a history.

One way to suggest that a book’s motion is motivated by an idea--and to give books an immediacy of presence--is to film them against a green screen for later compositing. The shot needs to be in close up, and it requires careful lighting, especially with older books whose fore edges are rough.

When capturing images of books in motion, films also should capture their sound. The sound a book makes may be subtle, but it’s essential to how human beings experience it. Failing to capture a book’s sound represents a major missed opportunity to use film’s special power as a medium.

Capture interiority.

At the same time, the absence of sound where expected can be used to suggest the kind of interior experience of aesthetic absorption that’s at the heart of reading.

Law 6.pngAn extended shot of a book dealer shaking his head as he flips through a book’s pages, set only to music. From “Love & Surprise.”

Show that books represent something larger than individual human beings.

Even something as small as a telling camera angle in a consciously composed shot can suggest how book collecting involves collectors in a field much bigger than themselves. Films about books should evoke reverence for the publishing tradition.

Law 7.png                                              From “Two Ways to Work”

Depict human relationships.

People not only interact with books, they interact with each other through books. Films about books should capture the various ways in which books form a third term in a relationship between two or more people.

Law 8.png                                                From “Love & Surprise”

Law 9.png                                                 From “Love & Surprise”

Use visual effects, but not for their own sake.

Films about books can use special visual effects to depict ideas, supplementing or replacing the use of talking heads. Visual effects shouldn’t be used simply for the sake of entertaining--instead, they should be motivated by and harmonious with the underlying argument of the film.

In “A Philosophical Question,” for instance, we show a hand digging into the text of a book with a shovel to reveal an image of Justitia underneath as a way to depict our argument that the western legal tradition contains ideas about visual culture that belie its surface focus on language.

Law 10.png                                          From “A Philosophical Question”

Tell stories, but resist journalistic treatment.  

Films about books should be humanistic documents in themselves. Rather than seeking to depict books in the spirit of journalistic documentaries, filmmakers should strive to have their work be placed alongside the books they depict as permanent companions in the interpretive tradition they initiate.

They should take as their model not journalism so much as literary criticism.

Law 11.png              Offering a strong interpretive frame, from “A Philosophical Question.”


                                                                                                                                             Massachusetts has an over two-hundred-year connection with the Rainbow State. Back in the early 1800s, missionaries sailed from Boston to Hawai’i, determined to convert the locals and also to bring the wonders of print to those distant shores. Along with religious fervor, the missionaries also brought a second-hand printing press, kickstarting an impressive outpouring of printed material in Hawai’i.

On November 9, Skinner’s Auctioneers and Appraisers welcomes the public to its Boston Gallery at 63 Park Plaza to learn more about the Bay State’s early involvement in Hawaiian printing. Elizabeth Watts Pope, curator at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, will be on hand to discuss Hawaii’s printed history and share items from the AAS’s collection of over two hundred books, pamphlets, bibliographies, newspapers, and engravings written in Hawaiian and other Polynesian languages. A highlight of the collection includes an 1838 copperplate engraving of Holden, Massachusetts, done by a self-taught Hawaiian engineer who never left his island home. Watts will discuss these and other items, why missionaries excised the letters ‘B’ and ‘D’ from the Hawaiian language, and how one of the strongest collections of early Hawaiian printed material wound up in Worcester.

For more information and to RSVP/Register: Skinner Auctioneers & Appraisers

                                                                                                                                                  Image credit: Na Mokpunia o Hawaii Nei. Courtsey AAS. 

Our London correspondent, A. N. Devers, sends this report from INK Fair London’s first two days:

A champagne and jazz soiree launched the second annual rare book and art fair, Ink Fair London, last night, a fair founded by Ines Berlin with thirty exhibitors hosting a crowd approaching 1,500 at Two Temple Place, a stunning Gothic mansion and former private home and office of William Waldorf Astor that is now run as The Bull Dog Trust, raising money as a private hire venue and distributing funds to various charities. The fair’s intimate and lavish environment provides a wonderful backdrop against which to feature international rare book dealers with an emphasis on exceptional antiquarian and rare books and art sourced from around the world. Pictured below is Kaitlyn Mellini of Worlds End Bookshop.
INK Fair copy.jpgI am launching my own business, The Second Shelf, as a “Fresh Face” of the fair, but I took a break from my stand to take in some of the incredible offerings of the other dealers.
massey.jpgMy neighbor at the fair, Laura Massey of Alembic Rare Books, who shares my particular interest in books by woman, and women in science in particular, has a rare biographical sketch of scientist Rosalind Franklin and showed off her “Stereoscopic Skin Clinic” from 1910 to many customers. (She is pictured at left doing just that.) Her neighbor, Beaux Books, the design-focused business owned by Clare Trimming, showed an original set drawing for Don Giovanni at the Met by Eugene Berman.
Across the room Carl Williams Rare Books offered the true first edition of Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit and rare James Joyce material.
A pop-up Obstetric Tables by George Spratt (pictured below) is in the center case at Deborah Coltham Rare Books. And her neighbor, Amanda Hall Rare Books, is featuring a breathtaking collection of 241 butterflies in a wooden collector’s cabinet.
Coltham.jpgInk London communications director, Leo Cadogan, has his own stand and is featuring a secret Jesuit manuscript that was continued after the Jesuits were suppressed in 1775 and poignantly documents the hope that they will return.
Otter Bookbinding demonstrated her exceptional skill making bookmarks and exhibited multicolored stenciled linocut decorative prints on unbound sheets circa 1800s by John and Jane Jeffries (pictured below).
Otter.jpgAntiquates Fine & Rare Books has writer and mathematician Ada Lovelace’s family copy of her father’s poems. And a bewitching manuscript too.

                                                                                                                                                                            On offer in the stand of Charlotte Du Rietz Rare Books is the rare first English edition of Rabindranath Tagore’s The Parrot’s Training (1918) (pictured below).

 IMG-1752 copy.jpg

Sophie Schneideman Rare Books & Prints spotlights a wonderful range of fine press and rare books including the exceedingly rare first edition of William Blake’s Book of Job from 1826.


Justin Croft Antiquarian Books is featuring his new catalogue of the French books of rare book dealer Martin Stone, who passed away last year, including Oscar Wilde’s Salome with illustrations by Rene Ben Susan. (More on that here.)
Business was brisk, books were slung, and many selfies were taken in the grand stairwell, and there is still a day to go!   

Photos credit: A.N. Devers

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Sherese Francis, of Queens, NYC, who collects literary material from southeast Queens and makes her collection available to others through the J. Expressions mobile library. Francis recently won an honorable mention for her collection in the Honey & Wax book collecting contest.
Where are you from / where do you live? 

I live in Hollis, Queens in New York City.

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

I created my own major at Baruch College, which is part of the City University of New York. It was a combined major of music and journalism/creative writing. I believe I called it Words and Music: From Songwriting to Journalism. I originally was interested in music journalism and possibly being a song lyricist. 

I am currently a freelance writer, author, blogger, workshop facilitator, and literary curator. I know that a lot! Haha! My blog is Futuristically Ancient, which is an afrofuturism-inspired blog, exploring the arts and cultures of the African Diaspora through that lens. I recently published my first chapbook of poetry called Lucy’s Bone Scrolls and I facilitate workshops throughout the city. And of course, I run my J. Expressions popup bookshop/mobile library project.

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

My book collection, which is the J. Expressions mobile library, is books and other literary materials from authors and writers who either currently live or use to live in Southeast Queens, NYC area, where I was raised and live now. I have fiction, poetry, non-fiction, zines, letterpress, and handmade books in the collection. 

How many books are in your collection? 

I have 24 “official” books (which includes zines and a magazine) and about 15 of my own handmade books. 

What was the first book you bought for your collection? 

I’ve had some of the books before I officially started the collection. I believe the first book I bought that is in the collection is artist Danny Simmons’ book of poetry and art called, “I Dreamed My People Were Calling But I Couldn’t Find My Way Home.”

How about the most recent book? 

The most recent is Cheryl Boyce Taylor’s collection of poetry, “Arrival.”

And your favorite book in your collection? 

I would say my favorites are Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie’s two books, “Dear Continuum” and “Karma’s Footsteps” because she inspires me as a fellow poet and writer.

Best bargain you’ve found? 

When I found out that my friend and artist Damali Abrams had her own poetry book and zine, and she kindly donated them to me to add to my collection.
How about The One that Got Away? 

I had wanted to get a copy of Desiree C. Bailey’s chapbook In Dirt or Saltwater, which was published by O’Clock Press, but by the time I got around to being able to purchase it, it was already sold out. That was a bummer. 

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection? 

The Holy Grail for my collection would be for me to have an official organization and space to house and showcase this collection in my neighborhood, and use it as a launching pad to grow the community here in Southeast Queens. Places like the Schomburg Center inspire me because it’s a library and cultural center where you can learn so much about black history through the diaspora and history of the Harlem neighborhood. I want something similar for my community. 

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore? 

Sadly there’s not any bookstores in my local community and few in the borough of Queens. There use to be a Barnes and Noble that I would go to in Forest Hills but that closed. So, I travel to various bookstores throughout the city. I would say a couple of my favorites are Bluestockings in the Lower East Side and Sisters Uptown Bookstore in Washington Heights. I like grassroots, community-centered spaces like these and they inspire me to possibly one day create my own. 

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

Since I love music, especially older music styles, like funk music, I would probably start a record album collection. I love the artistry on a lot of the older album covers and as a writer who does ekphrastic writing (writing inspired by visual art and objects), they would be inspiring to have around. 

Images courtesy of Sherese Francis

Bookseller Martin Stone, regarded as one of the best book hunters (and guitar players) in modern memory, died nearly a year ago now, but his legend clearly lives on.

                                                                                                                                                              Last week, Booktryst announced its publication of a fine press festschrift, The Remarkable Martin Stone, published in an edition of 150 with contributions from the likes of Iain Sinclair, Marianne Faithful, and Sylvia Beach Whitman. It is being sold by subscription, to ship in December, and expected to sell out.   

And now, debuting tonight at Ink Fair London is a catalogue of Stone’s French books, 1873-1925 (download the PDF here) offered by UK bookseller Justin Croft. Unlike most book scouts, Stone kept a large stock of books and never offered them on the Internet; much of what he left is, therefore, fresh to the market, unseen since who knows when.  

According to Croft, “These books are the fruit of several decades of Martin Stone’s book hunting through the bookshops, markets, bookfairs and basements of Paris and beyond.”

Needless to say, the books are gorgeous. Here are a few of my favorites:

5822a.jpgA first edition of Edmond Haraucourt’s L’Effort. La Madone. L’Antéchrist. L’Immortalité. La Fin du monde (Paris, 1894). Copy #118 of 180 on papier velin, with elaborate decorative borders and red silk endpapers. Notes the catalogue: “An elaborate bibliophilic project direct by Octave Uzanne in iconic symbolist style: a collection of four stories, each with a different illustrative scheme.” £2,200 ($2,920)

5929.jpgA first edition of Jean Rameau’s first collection, Poèmes fantasques (Paris, 1883), illustrated by A. Gambard. One of 100 copies on japon and signed. £500 ($665).

6164.jpgEdgar Allan Poe’s Une Descente dans le maelstrom, illustrated by Marc Roux (Paris, 1920). An unnumbered copy, one of 450, illustrated with woodcuts printed in color. The endpaper bears an inscription by the artist. £200 ($265)

Images courtesy of Justin Croft Antiquarian Books

Left Bank Books is Back, Online

logostacked.png                                                                                                                                             Left Bank Books is back, but without the brick and mortar setup. Erik DuRon and artist Jess Kuronen recently relaunched the Greenwich Village book hub as an online shop with a curated inventory of vintage, collectible and rare materials. Both worked briefly at the old Left Bank Books before it shuttered in 2016. They kindly answered a few questions recently about the relaunch and what it’s been like to transition to a digital bookstore.                                                                                                                             

Best of luck to the latest incarnation of Left Bank Books--be sure to visit their website here!

                                                                                                                                                                         What made you decide to relaunch online?

Mostly it was a pragmatic decision. We just don’t have the resources yet to open as a brick-and-mortar shop, whereas a website was a scale we could work within creatively at relatively low cost. That said, we want to make the most of it. It’s been an interesting experiment, trying to recreate the experience of browsing in a well-appointed used bookshop. Obviously the tactile element is just irreproducible, but hopefully the moment of serendipity when you discover something really cool you didn’t know you were looking for but then just have to have is there.



What kind of books do you specialize in?

Broadly speaking, books in literature and the arts - antiquarian, modern and contemporary. Jess is an artist and I’m a writer and we’re both interested in process. Our inventory reflects that and is geared towards people in creative professions, for whom books are a resource, personally and professionally. The old Left Bank was very much a hybrid used-and-rare bookshop and we want to maintain that, but for all the well-known reasons the sad reality is there’s just less of a viable space these days for the kind of general used bookshop I grew up frequenting in the city. Still, it’s important to us to be accessible to people who maybe don’t necessarily identify themselves as rare book collectors, in terms of price, but also in terms of selection, and how we present our books. Hopefully the material is fresh, in that it’s not what you expect to find in a rare bookseller’s catalog, or we have something new and insightful to say about it. We want our books to bypass the rational mind that says I don’t have room for one more book and speak directly to your reptilian brain.

How’s business been since the relaunch?

I won’t lie, it’s been slow. When the old shop closed in spring 2016 there was a big outpouring of grief and frustration in the neighborhood, so we were pleased when we announced the relaunch at the show of love we got. But at any given point in the day fewer people are likely to “stop by” a website to see what’s new, and of course you miss the crucial element of handselling that takes place in-person in a real environment. We’ve tried to recreate that online, and do a lot of individualized outreach and personal attention to our customers, but there’s no substitute for street level contact in a neighborhood like the Village, with all its characters and denizens.

You’ve been selling books for two decades, were you ever involved with the old LBB?

Yes, both Jess and I each worked at the old Left Bank for a year, under its third and final owner. I had been working independently from home while attending grad school, after having recently left Bauman Rare Books, where I had been a manager and worked for 14 years. Left Bank had been in existence by that point for 24 years, first as Book Leaves on W. 4th St. under its original owner, then as Left Bank on 8th Avenue under its second owner. It had always struggled, but the city was a kinder if not gentler place then and it managed to get by. By the time we got there, though, the challenges were many. In a sense we were brought in to help with a turnaround, and things were improving, but in the end we ran out of time. That’s why we want to be deliberate now that we’ve revived things under our own steam, and try to get it right. It may be next to impossible, but we want to give it a shot because we think a good used and rare bookshop has an important role to play in the cultural life of a city.

What else should our readers know?

Until we can scrape together financing for an open shop, we’re planning to do pop-ups, bookfairs, digital catalogs, Instagram, etc. People should visit us for updates and keep a lookout.

“A rather scarce little book, in fine condition with the map,” was how Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then governor of New York, described--and inscribed on the book’s pastedown--his first edition of William H. Colyer’s Sketches of the North River (1838), alongside his name and “Executive Mansion, 1930.”

FDR-book-intro.jpgAccording to its seller, the Raab Collection in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, the slim volume derives from the gubernatorial library of FDR, governor of New York from 1929 until he won the US presidential election in 1932. It is an uncommon book, made more uncommon by its provenance: “This is our first time offering a book from FDR’s personal library in many years.” It is priced at $4,000.

FDR famously hailed from Hyde Park, New York, where his presidential library and museum is now located. He was also a voracious collector. According to the FDR Library, “From an early age he gathered large collections of stamps, ship models, rare books, prints, coins, and drawings. By the time of his election as President, he had amassed one of the nation’s finest collections of naval art and impressive collections of Hudson River Valley art and historical prints.”

Looks like this is one that got away!  

Image courtesy of Raab Collection

au revoir.JPGIn 2013, Au revoir là-haut (éditions Albin Michel) by Pierre Lamaitre appeared in French bookstores, a sweeping epic chronicling the lives of two surviving combattants of World War I that enthralled readers and critics alike. The book sold 490,000 copies in 2013, earning Lemaitre the prestigious Prix Goncourt and the Prix Femina. In 2015, it was turned into a graphic novel. (Non-French speakers interested in discovering the book will find it translated as The Great Swindle.) On October 25, the film version hits French theaters. If it’s anything like the book, it’ll be worth seeking out.                                              

Known primarily for his thrillers, Lemaitre took a vastly different literary approach with Au revoir là-haut, choosing instead to examine life in the wake of war while also exploring the sometimes inexplicable bonds of friendship forged during traumatizing events. The story centers around Albert and Edouard, two poilus--the informal term for World War I infantrymen--who soon discover that postwar France can offer nothing to soothe veterans returning from the battlefields with unimaginable physical and emotional traumas. Rejected and excluded by the country they put their lives on the line to save, the unlikely duo turn their bitterness into an audacious scam that exacts sweet, cynical revenge on the country they sacrificed so much to protect.   

                                                                                                                                                                                 “I tried to serve as a sincere and honest intermediary between my contemporaries and those I describe in the book,” Lemaitre said during a 2013 interview with RTL. L’Express book reviewer François Busnel called it a “major existential work, a somber and burning requiem that serves up splendidly effective writing like a punch straight in the face.”                                                                       
The film’s producer Albert Dupontel was a huge fan of the book and envisioned this project along the lines of “a well-executed HBO movie.” (In fact, the $22-million dollar budget for Dupontel’s movie cost roughly the same as the pilot episode of Martin Scorsese’s Boardwalk Empire.) 

Though the trailer is not subtitled, it is a tantalizing morsel for what is sure to be a monumental film. A fascinating exploration of a tumultuous moment in history, Au revoir là-haut may very well hit the literary jackpot of being a success both in print and on screen.

Long before Salem’s notorious witch trials in 1692, England experienced its own witchcraft scandal. In 1622, English literary translator Edward Fairfax (c.1580-c.1635) brought to trial six local women following the unexplained and strange illnesses of his three daughters who “spoke of visions and named names” before the youngest died in October 1621. Fairfax wrote up his case in a manuscript titled A Discourse of Witchcrafte as it was Acted in the Family of Mr. Edward Fairfax of Fuistone.    

Witch.jpeg“I present the Xtian Reader a narration of Witchcraft of which I am a Woeful Witness, & so I can best report it, read this without vindicatory passion, & in reading let thy descretion proceed thy judgement.”

A copy of the accusatory manuscript made by eighteenth-century painter and antiquarian Thomas Beckwith will be on exhibit and for sale at INK Fair London next week, offered by Tom Lintern-Mole of Antiquates Fine & Rare Books. It is priced at £7,500 ($10,000). The perfect Halloween treat, you say?  
Fairfax’s legal case (and a second) ultimately collapsed. His manuscript was published under the title Daemonologia in 1882.

Image courtesy of Antiquates.

For the first time, English students at Southeastern University (SEU) in Lakeland, Florida, have the opportunity to examine various editions and manuscripts while reading and analyzing John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost by John Milton (1608-1694). English professor Cameron McNabb, happens to be a collector of rare and antiquarian manuscripts, and this semester has opened her personal Milton archives to students to provide fresh context and nuance to Milton’s desire to “justify the ways of God to men.”                                                                     
Professor McNabb spoke with us recently about catching the collecting bug, why Milton has remained a formidable influence in her life and work, and what she hopes her students will learn from working with primary sources.                                          
I understand Milton was your first love--discovered while you were an undergraduate English student at the University of Maryland. Could you talk about what you find so compelling about him and his work? 
                                                                                                                                                                    I actually first encountered Milton in high school. I read Paradise Lost “for fun” and I was hooked. I was already interested in Christian theology, but I had not encountered a writer who was willing to ask the tough questions like Milton was. He introduced me to questions I didn’t even know I should be asking, and he did so in the most beautiful poetry I had ever read. He has been the most formative thinker and writer in my own life and faith.                                                                                                              
What would you say is the highlight of your Milton collection? 
                                                                                                                                                                 My 1738 edition of Paradise Lost was my first purchase, and it is still the highlight to me, even though I now have older and rarer editions. I bought it from G. David’s while studying one summer in Cambridge during grad school. My program provided tuition and accommodations, as well as breakfast and dinner, so I had only brought along enough money for several weeks’ worth of lunches and a little spending money for the weekends. On my second or third day in Cambridge, I found G. David’s and the 1738 edition. I bought it immediately, spending almost all of my summer’s lunch money on it. I skipped lunches for the rest of the term, but Milton was definitely worth it.   
                                                                                                                                                                                Is this the first time students are working with rare books in your classes? If not, what has been student reaction to this kind of work? 
                                                                                                                                                                This is the first time students are getting such a hands-on experience with my books. In previous classes, I’ve brought some items in and used them as examples of printing conventions or book history, and students have always been really drawn to looking at authentic examples. I find that what they’re learning is much more meaningful to them when they can see real examples. Students this semester are very excited to get to work with so many items from my collection. For example, in some of our classes so far, I’ve handed out copies of engravings by Gustave Doré for us to discuss, but I remind them that they will be working with an actual edition of Doré’s Paradise Lost as well!                                                                                                                                                                            
What is the culminating activity for the class? What are the students expected to learn at the end of reading Paradise Lost
Paradise_Lost_13.jpg                                                                                                                                                                                   One of the things I stress with my students is that there are many ways to approach and respond to any text, and the way my Milton class is structured highlights that approach well. Over the course of the semester, we are analyzing not only the text of the poem but also visual representations of it (such as by Doré and William Blake), musical adaptions of it (such as Haydn’s “The Creation”), and the textual and production histories of it (such as those found in my collection). Each of these approaches allows for students to explore the poem through a new lens. Students will be writing short essays on each of the facets I just mentioned, and then they will produce a final essay that combines all of these lenses and produces an original argument about the poem. In particular, there hasn’t been much scholarly interest in the 18th-century editions of Milton, which my collection contains and which are part of the poem’s tradition that extends to the visual and musical artists discussed, so I hope my students’ analyses will begin to fill in a gap in the scholarship. 
                                                                                                                                                                       Image: illustration by Gustave Doré, via Wikimedia Commons

IMG_2609 2.JPGFor the past year and a half I have lived in Hampstead, a village in North London rich in literary history. My local pub, the King William IV has plastered its walls with large framed portraits of living and dead writers and artists it claims as local, from current resident John Le Carré to Agatha Christie, from T. S. Eliot to Katherine Mansfield, all who supposedly for one reason of the other, can be tied to the area. I chose my Hampstead remembering a short visit years ago, when I was touring literary houses all over London, where I had wandered up from the overground train station into Daunt Books, walked into John Keats’s house on Valentine’s Day, and then up Hampstead Heath, London’s wild, uncultivated park, and into the Vale of Health, where I was bombarded by blue plaques denoting the literary houses of D. H. Lawrence and of Rabindranath Tagore, the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

                                                                                                                                                                                          Last week I invited the women of London’s rare book trade to Hampstead for a tour similar to the one I initially made on accident. We saw many writers’ houses, including that of Wilkie Collins, H. G. Wells, Katherine Mansfield, and Daphne du Maurier’s Cannon Hall, before we enjoyed an evening in good company. There are many lesser known writers without plaques in Hampstead, something I learned from publisher Nicola Beauman, who spoke at length at my local bookstore about dozens of women of Hampstead who had produced compelling novels, like May Sinclair and Amber Reeves and Elizabeth Jenkins, many out-of-print, several who she had brought back into print herself. It was a beautiful, romantic night, but on our tour, I wish I had been able to point out to the women I was hosting some of these under-recognized writers’ houses too. I wished they also had blue plaques. Perhaps next year I can host an Overlooked Women Writers of Hampstead tour -- and perhaps someday their books will be coveted and collected and they, too, will have blue plaques.

                                                                                                                                                                                Image: Women in the rare book trade gaze up at Daphne du Maurier’s Canon House. It sold for £28 million pounds in 2015. Courtesy of A.N. Devers.


                                                                                                                                                                            Readers may recall our story back in March highlighing the TEFAF Maastricht art and antiquarian fair. Next week TEFAF lands in Manhattan, where it will hold court at the Park Avenue Armory from October 28 through November 1 and welcome nearly one hundred dealers from around the world. Held three times a year in North America and in Europe, TEFAF is widely considered one of the world’s premier art and antiques fair, offering museum-quality pieces to the general public.                                          

                                                                                                                                                                              Among the dealers at this year’s show include Heribert Tenschert, a Switzerland-based German bookseller who, in his words, specializes in “the finest manuscripts and printed books available in the book market.” For the past 40 years, Tenschert has easily met that challenge--his catalogues themselves are collectable in their own right and sell for hundreds of dollars. The former professor of Romance Languages marks this milestone year with a particularly fetching two-volume catalogue entitled Paris mon Amour featuring “25 important illuminated manuscripts made in Paris between 1380 and 1460,” to be followed next year by another two-volume catalogue highlighting 35 books from 1460 through 1540. Tenschert’s stall at TEFAF will be almost entirely devoted to illuminated manuscripts, showcasing over fifty Books of Hours, including the 530-page illuminated Hours of Jacquette de Luxembourg and the Hours of Catherine of Aragon, whose gold leaf borders and 60 full-page miniatures is considered one of the most exquisite examples of its era.

                                                                                                                                                                            In 1997, Nick Basbanes visited Tenschert’s converted 18th-century mill picturesquely located on the banks of the Biber (a tributary of the Rhine) near Basel while researching his 2001 book, Patience & Fortitude: A Roving Chronicle of Book People, Book Places, and Book Culture. Though he grosses eight-figure sales annually, Tenschert’s clients number in the double digits--his offerings are reserved for the wealthiest people in the world. “I like to sell to private individuals because then I can buy them back at some point in the future,” Tenschert explains in Basbanes’ chapter entitled “Hunters and Gatherers.” He goes on to explain how he acquires his treasures, prices them, and whether super-selective collectors are endangered. It seems safe to say that in the seventeen years since Patience & Fortitude was published that business remains good. See for yourself at Stand 23 at TEFAF.                                                                                                                                                                                 Head over to our just-launched sister site Art & Object for more on illuminated manuscripts, including my story that ran last year in Fine Books about the Boston area’s ambitious multi-venue project dedicated to these beautiful books.                                                                        

Image credit: Heribert Tenschert Paris mon amour. 

Johnson-Back Up Our Americans Now poster #1 300 dpi copy.jpgIn terms of the Vietnam War, what’s past is definitely present. Not only has the monumental, 18-hour Ken Burns documentary been airing on PBS these past few weeks, but the New-York Historical Society has just opened its expansive new exhibit, The Vietnam War: 1945-1975. As our readers will recall, we published a feature story on Vietnam collector Stuart Lutz in our winter issue. Lutz, both a collector and a dealer in historical documents, loaned about thirty items to the N-YHS exhibit. He will also be holding a live webinar on October 24 about Vietnam War artifacts, like the vintage LBJ poster pictured here, through the Appraisers Association. “Lutz will discuss various Vietnam War collecting categories, what is rare and what is not, pricing, important items, and much more.” Details can be found here.   

Image: Vintage LBJ poster, courtesy of Stuart Lutz Historic Documents.

Mex News.jpgThe St. Louis Mercantile Library at UMSL opened earlier this week an exhibit devoted to historic newspapers. Headlines of History: Historic Newspapers of St. Louis and the World Through the Centuries at the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association is the third in a planned tetralogy of exhibitions building to the 175th anniversary of the St. Louis Mercantile Library, a membership library that is, according to its website, “the oldest library west of the Mississippi.”  

The library’s special collections contain more than one hundred historical newspaper titles and include the newspaper and printing morgue of the St. Louis Globe Democrat. This exhibition focuses on the library’s important newspaper holdings and features such items as the first known issue of the Missouri Gazette, the oldest newspaper printed west of the Mississippi, and an issue of the Pennsylvania Ledger from July 13, 1776 marking the first printing of the Declaration of Independence in a newspaper.

A national symposium tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, titled “From Franklin to Pulitzer; Pioneer Newspapers and News Pioneers,” will complement the exhibition, which runs through September 2019.

Image: Mexican News, engraving by Alfred Jones, after Richard Caton Woodville. New York, 1853. Courtesy of St. Louis Mercantile Library.

Spirits at Stowe House

If you’re looking for a literary take on Halloween, check out the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford this month, which will be hosting an after-hours ghost tour while discussing 19th-century Spiritualism.



                                                                                                                                                                                                Hailing from a famously religious family, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and fervent abolitionist was also a devotée of séances and occasional forays into Spiritualism--a religious movement that maintained that the deceased could communicate with the living through spirit guides. Stowe’s own husband, theology professor Calvin Stowe even wrote about seeing fairies and demons appearing at his bedside in the middle of the night. 

In addition to offering an interactive tour of the Stowe house, the Victorian Cottage where Stowe lived for over two decades is now a National Historic Landmark.

“Spirits at Stowe” takes place on several dates in October; $18 per person, $12 for Stowe Center members.

                                                                                                                                                          Image: “Frederick Hill Meserve’s Historical Portraits, ca. 1850-1915 (MS Am 2242), Houghton Library, Harvard University.” Photographer unidentified [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

England’s Lake District is a well-known spot for biblio-tourism. Against a backdrop of beautiful scenery, poetic souls revel in the words of Wordsworth. But, as Craig Manor Hotel reminds us with this awesome infographic, there are more “Lakeland scribes” to enjoy in this literary landscape.


Lit-Lakes-V5 copy.jpgImage courtesy of Craig Manor Hotel

The Center for Book Arts (CBA) opens its latest exhibit this evening dedicated to the work of British artist and CBA faculty fellow Mark Cockram. Beyond the Rules includes examples of Cockram’s creative bookbinding and book artistry. His multi-dimensional, multi-textual book sculptures reflect Cockram’s all-encompasing fascination with the book as art object.


Cockram Inferno Limbo.jpg

“I work with the book,” Cockram said. “Within the book, an infinitely complex array of materials and techniques come together and combine with a history as rich and diverse as we who create and use it. I often refer to the book in its totality as Alchemy.” Adept at working with traditional bookbinding methods, Cockram will often modify or develop new techniques as each project unfolds, depending on how he feels the text would best be served by a particular binding. Recent work has led him to create art with “up-cycled,” or creatively repurposed materials. 

Though the exhibit itself only encompasses six books, each reveals Cockram’s careful consideration of both the textual elements and authorial intent. The eclectic list includes an art book inspired by The Divine Comedy, an homage to artist Joseph Cornell, and a reinterpretation of The Four Gospels.


Dewilde Lysistrata binding.jpg

                                                                                                                                                                               As a professional bookbinder, artist, and teacher, Cockram’s work has been displayed at the National Art Library at London’s V&A Museum, the Library of Congress, the British Library, the Grolier Club, and in private collections worldwide. Beyond the Rules, however, is Cockram’s first solo show in the United States.

Beyond the Rules is on display at the Center for Book Arts through December 16. 


                                                                                                                                                                   Also happening this weekend in Cambridge, Massachusetts: Nick Basbanes presents his observations from working with primary source material at the Longfellow House for his forthcoming dual biography entitled Cross of Snow: The Love Story and Lasting Legacy of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  A cake reception will precede the lecture at 2 p.m, which will be held at the Sherrill Library at Lesley University on 89 Brattle Street in Cambridge. The lecture is free to the public. 

                                                                                                                                                                          Images: Inferno Limbo and Dewilde Lysistrata. Credit: Abby Schoolman

Considering the Nobel Bump

KazuoIshiguro_TheRemainsOfTheDay.jpgWhen I moved to London a year and a half ago, I determined that I would enjoy the novelty of being able to bet on the Nobel Prize for Literature. It has always been one of my favorite times on the literary calendar -- the season is changing to autumn, and there is a fresh bite to the air, and it feels hopeful that people are betting on literature and watching it as if it were a sporting event. It seems so unlikely to me, as an American, that there is any kind of way to bet on books besides to take a risk and buy and read them.

                                                                                                                                                                            So last year I ran two miles in the rain after dropping off my son at nursery to a Ladbrokes betting site and risked everything on the odds-on favorite, Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o. I would have bet on several more people, but there was trouble processing my payment and the betting closed. I lost; Bob Dylan won. I didn’t feel bad about spending money on a form of frivolity even after losing, I continued to feel a form of glee that such a thing could be done. I also had heard Dylan was a contender for years, and had even considered him in my early choices. 

                                                                                                                                                                             I had very little time this week to consider my betting, and like last year I barely made it to the betting parlour on time after bringing my son to school. I bet a spread of authors after reading a few predictions and decided that Margaret Atwood would be my favorite, followed by Thiong’o again, Korean poet Ko Un, and Spain’s Javier Marias. I also thought about Kazuo Ishiguro, but he hadn’t been given a chance in the press, and he seemed too young to me to be a likely contender. Ishiguro is one of my favorite writers. Remains of the Day is one of my favorite contemporary novels, it also happens to have been inspired by a song by Tom Waits, one of my favorite singers. And though I lost today, I was thrilled for the news. 

                                                                                                                                                                              I have worked at several bookstores over the years, and watched with fascination what happens when an author dies, or an author wins a major award. There is an immediate interest and refocusing on the writer’s work and a sales bump. And now that I am a new to the trade as a rare book dealer, I wonder how the Nobel impacts sales of first editions. I have most of Ishiguro’s firsts, plucked over the years from used bookstores, and I know there is a healthy price at book fairs put on firsts of Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go -- he is already popularly collected. It may seem cynical to care about the price of modern first editions, but I see it as establishing and investing in the idea of an author’s having value in a world that makes very little room for the importance of writing. Today, signed first editions available online of Remains of the Day range from $200-600. I suspect by the end of the week that range will have doubled, and copies will be scarce for a while.


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Images: (Top) Remains of the Day first edition via Wikipedia; (Bottom) Kazuo Ishiguro and A.N. Devers at a book signing. Courtesy of A.N. Devers.

On August 10, 1928, H. K. Beazley wrote a check to author D. H. Lawrence for a total of £5.2.0 (five pounds and two shillings). According to Edinburgh auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull, the check “was used to purchase three copies of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.” At the time, two booksellers, Richard Aldington and S.S. Kotelinansky, were “taking care” of the “British stash” of the recently published novel, which had been spurned by UK booksellers due to the book’s erotic content. In order to get a copy, it seems a reader would have to send an order to its publisher, Pino Orioli in Florence, who would forward the check to Lawrence in Switzerland, who would then direct one of the two booksellers to actually dispatch the order. On August 17, 1928, Lawrence asked Aldington to post three copies to H. K. Beazley, 19 Churton St., Victoria S.W. (Beazley must have been quite the reader or collector; he regularly listed his “Books Wanted” in the Bookseller and the Publishers’ Circular in the early twentieth century.) Some confusion ensued about the check--how could it not?--but Lawrence did sign it, and it was paid into his account on August 21. We assume Beazley got his books.

223038.jpgA pretty piece of ephemera with Lawrence’s signature and some interesting publishing history too, the check heads to auction on October 11, estimated at £800-1,200 ($1,060-$1,325).

Image courtesy of Lyon & Turnbull

Our Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Colleen Barrett of Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts Company.

Colleen Barrett PRBM.jpgHow did you get started in rare books?

When asked what I want to be when I grow up, my standard answer has always been “happy.” As a junior at Purdue University, I realized that while I really enjoyed being an English major I still had no idea what I wanted to do professionally. Later that semester, my book history class took a field trip to the Lilly Library at Indiana University. While handling their Shakespeare first folio, it dawned on me that I could actually get paid to work with this sort of stuff, so I promptly decided to become a rare book librarian. Following my MLS at Indiana, I catalogued the Clara Peck collection at Transylvania University before Cynthy and David asked if I would like to join PRB&M. My academic advisor Joel Silver once told me you don’t know anything before you’ve handled 3000 books, so I decided joining a firm that specializes in early books of Europe and the Americas was a great way to quickly handle and learn about a massive variety of texts, even if it wasn’t a traditional library setting.

What is your role at PRBM?

I am one of three cataloguers on staff. Since we’re a relatively small company, this means I am involved in most aspects of the business, from helping with appraisal prep work to buying flowers for our open houses, in addition to actually cataloging things for sale.

What do you love about the book trade?

For me, there’s an inherent romance in being able to handle things *first.* When I worked as a library cataloger I was lucky enough to be one of the first few people to handle a book (following acquisition of course), but here I get to start at almost if not the very beginning of the process.

Furthermore I am continually impressed by the friendliness and passion of other booksellers. I have yet to meet someone who is not excited by what he, she, or they is doing, which is not something I can say for most professions.

Being allowed to drink coffee with the books or take them home occasionally also rocks.  

Describe a typical day for you:

While no day here is typical, mine usually starts with our shared email, where I might find an order to process, inquiry for photographs of a specific book, or even questions about shipment methods to other countries. Once these tasks are finished I often spend the rest of my time cataloging new material for sale, answering phone inquiries, working on various collection maintenance projects, or playing with our shopcat Blake.

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

Anything Audubon. There’s something so fascinating about the intersection of research, artwork, and pure joy of discovery represented in his works, and every time I look at them I notice something new to love. I’m fortunate enough to have worked with his materials at all of my workplaces in various ways, and even catalogued some of his items at both Transy and PRB&M. We currently have a copy of the third octavo edition at the shop, so I feel quite fortunate to be able to pick one up to look through every now and again during breaks.

What do you personally collect?

I mostly collect books about books with a specific focus on bookseller/collector/librarian memoirs, but I also own numerous contemporary sci-fi fantasy of the steampunk, time travel, or alternate city variety and nicer gift editions of Tolkien and Gaiman’s works. I always plan to (eventually) read whatever I buy, so I tend to think of my purchases as more of a research collection than a pristine gathering of important works.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Cook! Since I subscribed to a CSA vegetable share this summer, I have spent most evenings trying out new recipes for things like bottle gourd curry or bitter melon potatoes. Otherwise I am a fan of pretending to reduce my TBR pile, going to concerts, and celebrating random holidays -- my two current favorites being IPA Day and Independent Bookstore Day. I also really enjoy attending meetings of the Philobiblon Club (the book collecting club here in Philadelphia).

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

It really is an exciting time to be here! There will always be the need for independent, intelligent, and creative people to make a living, and I cannot think of another profession better suited to this than antiquarian bookselling. I have no doubt the trade will continue to grow and flourish in interesting and unexpected ways. It’s such a treat to see so many inventive booksellers coming up with new collecting areas and ways to think about traditional collecting fields these past few years.  

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

We’ll be at the California Book Fair in February, and we’re constantly updating the newest arrivals section of our website, which can be found here.

Auction Guide