February 2018 Archives

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Matt Bird, Special Collections Manager at Vigo County Public Library in Terre Haute, Indiana:



What is your role at your institution?


I am the Special Collections Manager at Vigo County Public Library in Terre Haute, Indiana--a position I have held since June of 2016. VCPL is an Indiana Class A public library serving a county population of 108,000. Terre Haute may sound familiar as it is the birthplace of the Coca-Cola bottle, Larry Bird’s collegiate basketball career, the brothers Theodore Dreiser and Paul Dresser and the title “Crossroads of America”--due to US 40 and US 41 intersecting!


My position entails duties I never dreamed of while completing my MLS. I manage a staffed department, so there are the standard personnel management duties I will not bore you with. My additional duties are far more interesting and varied. They include assessing rare materials and delegating repair to conservators we work with, public outreach via tours and artifact show-and-tells, donor relations, assisting others on the management team with tent pole initiatives, and maintaining an open dialogue with local government and non-profits. My department also serves as a depository for select government records and local newspapers on microfilm--historical and current--so there are database and equipment contracts to maintain.


How did you get started in rare books?


I attended a rural high school where I enrolled in vocational printing classes each year. The print shop took customer orders to make stationery, usually via offset presses but occasionally we would set type and print on a Heidelberg. The class was part of an Indiana vocational initiative at the time to develop trade skills in secondary education so that students would have a portfolio upon graduation. As I started college, I had already established a background in printing.


Then, as an English major, I started to collect first editions of assigned course texts and the interest continued to grow. Since I had collected comic books from the age of ten and obsessed over different printings, condition and preservation best practices, it was a natural transition.


I didn’t realize that the field of bibliography and book culture was always present until I finished my MLS and looked backwards. For instance, during an undergraduate summer course focusing on modern American literature, the class read Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I picked up a first edition from a local antiquarian book store. During class, as we discussed passages, I noticed that portions of the text from the assigned paperback were augmented, missing or replaced. When the professor realized I had a first edition he stopped class and committed to a quick collation as he explained Eggers was famous for adding and subtracting content in various editions.


Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?


I went to Indiana State University and majored in Printing Management for a short time before the degree program folded due to low demand. I switched to English. As I approached graduation, I found out that a fellow student was entering the MLS program at IU-Bloomington. I attended an event at the Lilly Library--“Treasures of the Lilly” I think--and after seeing firsts of Milton, Franklin, a Caxton Chaucer, First Folio, and the Gutenberg I was hooked. It felt like my experience from high school until that event, coupled with my collecting hobbies, led to the rare books specialization at IU. I enrolled in the MLS program.


Since I had a full-time job in cellular sales, I commuted on my days off from Terre Haute to Bloomington for the better part of three years to attend classes. I genuinely loved the experience. Part of that experience was the librarians at the Lilly. Their enthusiasm for the subject was contagious. For example, upon starting, I only knew of Joel Silver as my named advisor on a piece of paper, not for his body of work and importance to the field. We met to discuss the program and I asked if I could have a quick tour of the stacks. He postponed a meeting by ten minutes and gave me a quick tour. That gesture stuck with me as he took the time to accommodate a new graduate student even though the demand on his position and schedule was/is enormous. The passion the Lilly Library staff exhibit toward education within the field of rare books/materials is truly amazing. I still model my approach in teaching and talking about book history after Joel Silver, Erika Dowell, and Cherry Williams. The courses I took with them modeled knowledge, patience, and inclusion in teaching subject matter.


Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?


Taking courses at an institution like the Lilly Library allowed me to handle items such as a Dunlap Broadside, Thomas Jefferson’s first census, first editions of any novel I was assigned in undergrad, etc. The most memorable material I handled was in a manuscripts course, taught by Cherry Williams--now Director of Distinctive Collections at UC--Riverside. We were given a box each, told to look through the materials and give a report to the class at the end of an hour. My materials happened to be from the Kurt Vonnegut collection. In several folders were receipts and terms negotiated for payments/royalties from film studios for the rights to his works. I loved it because I worked for a number of years as a projectionist, cinema manager, and cinema marketing officer.


What do you personally collect?


Books about books. When I started the MLS program at IU, I started buying general interest books to read more about library history and book culture. Then I turned my eye toward rarer editions, everything from fine press books to first editions of novels featuring aspects of book culture. The comic books, movie posters, guitars, 35mm film prints and screen prints I collected beforehand were pieced apart and portions sold to finance my new collecting interest--and make room. I took Joel Silver’s Reference Sources for Rare Books course and I added his weekly lists to my purchasing agenda and started working through it. I am gleefully at the point now concerning volume that I am sometimes surprised I have certain titles. For instance, I had been saving to purchase the two-volume first edition of Holbrook Jackson’s Anatomy of Bibliomania only to run across it on one of my bookshelves and I have no recollection how I ended up with it. That feeling is disorienting and amazing at the same time.


What do you like to do outside of work?


I teach. I am lucky enough that the Honors College at Indiana State University allowed me join their ranks. I get to take subject matter I am passionate about, design courses and teach undergraduates of all levels. Two of my staple courses are on book culture--titled Clay to Kindle: A History of the Book--and on film--Summer of 1982: A Critical Look at the Greatest Summer of Cinema. It is a rare opportunity, which I am thankful to have, where I get to work in special collections in a public library and teach in academia. If any spare time pops up, I am hunting first editions or conducting market research for KJB Theaters, a local cinema chain headquartered in Terre Haute.


What excites you about rare book librarianship?


Opportunity. In a way, I think the shift in academia that started thirty years ago or so--to purge the humanities of printing history/context, the study of bibliography, and the importance of the physical book--left a void that is gradually being filled today, to the benefit of our current field of professionals. The public is interested in what we have to offer. You need look no further than a television show like Pawn Stars where you can see the number of segments featuring rare books and ephemera progressively increase season by season. The public loves interacting with history though many simply do not know where they can.


There is so much opportunity in the various fields within rare book culture that librarians can shoot for the moon as long as they let their passion drive them. Whether it is engaging and communicating with potential donors to plan collection expansion, podcasting, public information sessions, representing the field to local schools, etc. you can completely forge the career you want. While I certainly have personal bias toward physical collections, digital consortiums and repositories are fantastic tools for cementing purpose and relevance to communicate the value of our profession. Changing from niche to normal is within our grasp because of this opportunity but we have to pay for it with ingenuity and sweat equity due to budget fluctuations and cuts. In an ideal world, the money would pour in, but instead we have to create and adapt.


Thoughts on the future of special collections / rare book librarianship, especially in public library settings?


There is certainly a place for special collections/rare book librarianship in public libraries. The key to sustainability in our area is being proactive. As libraries face continued budget cuts and the conversation inevitably turns to local need and the economy, public librarians working within special collections need to forge as many connections within the community as possible to make it harder for boards and administration to justify offloading collections to historical societies and universities--or flat out selling them.


A proactive stance is where librarians engage the community by visiting classrooms, giving tours and lectures to community groups about specialized holdings, and educating the public about the value of primary resources. Interpersonal engagement and positive attitudes are key components. The more local connections cemented, the harder it is to remove special collections in lieu of something like a community daycare center. Public libraries need to look for public outreach personnel who have interpersonal skills, just like sales people, to sell the value of collections and the institution to the larger community. If public outreach is not at the forefront, then special collections in many public libraries will be cut.


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


Absolutely! We have several and I am always finding something new. We have a fascinating collection of rare materials donated in the early 1900s by a wealthy bibliophile/Alpine climbing enthusiast--Henry Fairbanks Montagnier--with family ties to Terre Haute. Montagnier donated a collection of rare books and maps in the areas of literature, history, and Americana.


We also have the papers of Jane Dabney Shackelford, a local teacher known for writing one of the first children’s books featuring African American characters in positive portrayals. In the Jane Dabney Shackelford collection, we have several rare first editions of novels by Zora Neale Hurston--inscribed by the author, all with dust jackets intact. It was by happy circumstance that our NEA Big Read selection last year was Their Eyes Were Watching God. My department curated an exhibit with the incredibly scarce first edition of Eyes as the centerpiece.


And last but not least, we have materials from the early 1900s when famous landscape architect George Kessler created a plan for Terre Haute to have an “emerald necklace” of green spaces and parks. Unfortunately, only a portion of the plan became realized, but it is fascinating to see what could have been.


Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?


We are finishing prep on an exhibit detailing the history of brewing in Terre Haute. While Terre Haute is undoubtedly more famous as the birthplace of the Coca-Cola bottle, the city pins other feathers to its cap thanks to a rich brewing history. Local breweries pioneered the twist--off bottle cap and first implemented bottling dates. In 1935, Terre Haute boasted the largest brewery bottling line in America at the Terre Haute Brewing Co. And of course, the famous Champagne Velvet--the pilsner with the “million dollar flavor”--was created and brewed in Terre Haute.


Image courtesy of Matt Bird

Having shaken the dust of Stuttgart from our proverbial shoes, this week Marcia and I packed up our Volvo with stock, and set off for Dunkirk, the ferry to Dover, and eventually the PBFA Cambridge book fair


This is one of our favourite fairs of the year. Cambridge is a beautiful city, full of excellent restaurants, the occasional college, and my cousins. The fair is ably run by Phil and Sarah from the Haunted Bookshop, a lovely children’s bookshop in the centre of town. Having set out our wares, we made our way to G David, the city’s other antiquarian bookshop (just over the Square from the Haunted Bookshop). The evening before the fair opens, there is traditionally a “bit of a do” in David’s antiquarian room. This year, they outdid themselves with the catering -- including the first time I have ever seen a “sausage tree.”


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The next day, the fair began in earnest. There were some lovely exhibits this year, and the Guildhall looked at its finest. It was good to catch up with some of my old colleagues from the UK. I spent quite a while chatting to Graham York from Honiton. Graham and Jan always have interesting stock, and this year was no exception. Nestling amongst the books was a lovely antique microscope.


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I was persuaded to purchase a couple of Russian prints from David Maynard, which will no doubt appear in Maastricht next month. David also had a fabulous Salvador Dali item, Dix Recettes d’ Immortalite. Although incomplete, this lovely items still contains a number of pop ups and etchings by Dali, including four signed by him. A large and impressive piece.


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Back on the Haunted Bookshop stand, I was shown a beautiful large plate of the East Window of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge by Joshua Kirby Baldry. Executed in 1809, the colours are as fresh today as they ever were.   


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My own favourite item from this year’s fair, was offered by John Underwood. He had a beautiful collection of hand-painted wooden soldiers, by E.V. Howell. Painted in 1929, these were created as small samples for larger museum exhibition items. Against all probability, John found another dealer at the fair who had a collection of original paintings of these same figures, which the artist had created in preparation. Naturally he acquired those pretty quickly!


And so the fair ended. Being polite, we paused to thank our hosts and the PBFA for organising the event, and we set off again for the continent. Our next stop is the SELAC fair (Salon Européen du livre ancien et de la gravure de Colmar) on the 3rd and 4th of March. Hopefully we shall see some of our new, and old, friends there. 


colmar fair.jpg--Marc Harrison and his wife Marcia run Harrison-Hiett Rare Books in The Netherlands. Images courtesy of the author.

Not quite as many sales this week as things gear up for Rare Book Week New York, but I’ll have my eyes on a trio of very different auctions:

                                                                                                                                                                                            On Wednesday, February 28, Edinburgh auction house Lyon & Turnbull hosts Illustrated & Animated: The Collections of John Burningham & John Blundall, in 232 lots. John Burningham is well known as an illustrator and poster designer: he won the Kate Greenaway Medal in 1963 and 1970, and was a 2012 finalist for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. The sale includes original art from many of his books, as well as a number of pieces of furniture and other decorative items from his collection. Burningham’s original design for the endpapers of his first book for children, Borka: The Adventures of a Goose with No Feathers (pictured) is estimated at £3,000-5,000.



John Michael Blundall (1937-2014) collected puppets from around the world during a long career as a producer of puppet theater; Lyon & Turnbull offers a selection. The top-estimated lot of the sale is a puppet sculpted by Blundall himself: Parker from the 1960s series “Thunderbirds” (£5,000-7,000), while a large archive of Blundall’s designs for puppets and stage sets could fetch £3,000-5,000. Among the other items from Blundall’s collection are a number of surviving marionettes from the famed Clowes-Tiller family troupe (Lots 110-131); the rest of the family’s marionettes are now part of the collections of the V&A.

                                                                                                                                                                               The following day, March 1, Swann Galleries sells Vintage Posters, in 551 lots. A set of Alphonse Mucha’s “The Seasons” (1896) is estimated at $40,000-60,000, while a three-poster series of Mont Blanc designed by Georges Dorval could sell for $8,000-12,000. A wide range of travel, advertising, and propaganda posters on offer in this one.

                                                                                                                                                                                        On Saturday, March 3, Potter & Potter (Chicago) sells The Magic Collection of John Daniel, in 491 lots. Daniel, the 1969 “Stage Magician of the Year” and recipient of The Magic Castle’s 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award, collected a broad range of magic memorabilia, from posters and stage props to costumes, books, and ephemera. Lots 252 to 343 comprise much of the collection of illusionist The Great Virgil, purchased en bloc by Daniel. If you’ve ever wanted a collapsing red silk top hat, or a talking skull, now’s your chance!

                                                                                                                                                                                           Image credit: Lyon & Turnbull

Jane Austen’s novels criticizing sentimentalism, the British landed gentry, and women’s dependence on marriage have remained in print continuously since 1832, when the publisher Richard Bentley purchased the copyrights of all six of Austen’s works. For the past 186 years those stories have thrilled readers around the globe. Now comes a picture-book biography for children attempting to piece together Austen’s rise to fame.

9781627796439 copy.jpgBrave Jane Austen: Reader, Writer, Author, Rebel (Holt, $17.99, 48 pages) explores Austen’s modest upbringing and how she quietly forged a career as an author at a time when most women aspired to fortuitous marriages to secure their economic status.

Though little is actually known about Austen’s childhood since she kept no journal or diary, author Lisa Plisco admirably examines just how Austen developed her plucky wit and delightfully biting sense of irony. (Spoiler: Austen read a lot of books.) Illustrator Jen Corace’s vibrant mixed-media illustrations show a rosy-cheeked Austen, likely an homage to the portrait of Austen completed in 1810 by her sister, Cassandra.

Have a future wordsmith on your hands? Give her this beguiling introduction to a great woman of letters.

                                                                                                                                                                                           Image courtesy of Holt Books for Young Readers

Opening this weekend at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., is an exhibition titled Beyond Words: Book Illustration in the Age of Shakespeare. Curated by Caroline Duroselle-Melish, it includes more than eighty rare books and prints from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century and features woodcuts, engravings, and etchings, some even in color. According to a press release, “The books and prints are from England and a number of European nations, bringing to life the circulation of ideas--both verbal and visual--in Shakespeare’s day.” Here’s a sneak peek at some of the extraordinary illustrations on display:

smPinder_152966 copy.jpgHand-colored images of urine flasks from a 1506 medical guide, meant to diagnose illnesses based on different colors.

smLutherSermon_009416 copy.jpgThe title page of a sermon by Martin Luther printed in Wittenberg in 1522, packed with images of animals, people, and a printing press.

smAbbaGregory_152797 copy.jpgAn intriguing 1691 portrait of an Ethiopian abbot, a rare image of an African scholar of the time.

Beyond Words remains on view through June 3. You can also follow on social media via the hashtag #FolgerBeyond.

Images courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

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A project has launched to census the current locations of all surviving extant copies of Edward Curtis’s multi-volume masterpiece The North American Indian. The Curtis Census, conceived and maintained by Seattle photographer and researcher Tim Greyhavens, officially launched in November, 2017, with a website that includes a comprehensive, real-time inventory of all census data collected to date.

There is no definitive answer yet about how many sets of The North American Indian were officially printed. In the rare instances where a complete set comes up to auction, it can command over $1m. (For more about Curtis and his legacy, see our 2011 feature).

Mr. Greyhavens of the Curtis Census answered a few questions for us over email earlier this week:

What interests you about Curtis and his work?  

Edward Curtis was a phenomenon. He was born into a family of meager means, had no more than an eighth-grade education, and had very little training in photography. Yet he created one of the most beautiful and famous publications of all time--The North American Indian. While the twenty volumes and portfolios are filled with stunning images, the accompanying texts are equally as important. Curtis recorded dozens of interviews with tribal leaders, detailed family histories, language vocabularies, descriptions of ceremonies and dances, and many other important depictions of Indian life at the start of the 20th century. Today it’s recognized that his work is filled with cultural biases and prejudices, but as a record of its time it is beyond comparison.  

What inspired you to start this census?  

I write about the intersections between photography and philanthropy, including who funds individual photographers. Edward Curtis received more money for his North American Indian project than any other photographer before or since--the equivalent in today’s dollars of at least $20 million. With that money he created one of the most beautiful publications of the 20th century, and yet there has been no conclusive answer about exactly how many sets of the books were published. He planned an edition of 500 sets (of 20 volumes and portfolios each), but due to their high cost and the prolonged publication cycle it’s likely that no more than 300 sets were printed. Given the books’ fame and value, it seemed to me that with today’s technology we should be able to come up with a more precise answer to the relatively simple question of how many were published.   

Are you a Curtis collector yourself?  

I’m primarily a book collector, with a focus on mid-20th-century photographers. While I certainly admire all of Curtis’s books, with their current value I’m content to let others have the responsibility for caring for them.

(If you are interested in helping with the Curtis Census, Tim is looking for volunteers. You can contact him here).

In 1921, T.S. Eliot took leave from his banking job and went to the seaside town of Margate in Kent, England. It was meant to be a period of convalescence, but Eliot spent his time working on what would become his most famous work, a long poem called The Waste Land. “On Margate Sands./I can connect/Nothing with nothing,” he wrote. It was published a year later and has inspired countless writers and artists ever since.

Journeys with 'The Waste Land' at Turner Contemporary, photography Thierry Bal (12)(1) copy.jpgThe connection between Eliot’s poem and the art it inspired--and, indeed, the landscape at the root of it all--is explored in a new exhibition titled Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’ that opened earlier this month at Turner Contemporary in Margate. A group of locals who comprise the Waste Land Research Group curated the exhibition.

Journeys with 'The Waste Land' at Turner Contemporary, photography Thierry Bal (5)(1) copy.jpgSpotlighting the work of more than sixty artists, including Berenice Abbott, R. B. Kitaj, and Edward Hopper, the exhibition has been hailed as “a lively, imaginative and evocative show that by revelling (just as Eliot did) in the collage of our culture with its vast cast of characters, dense overlay of references and polyphony of voices, captures the atmosphere of the poem to which it pays visual tribute.”

Journeys with 'The Waste Land' at Turner Contemporary, photography Thierry Bal (3)(1) copy.jpgJourneys with ‘The Waste Land’ remains on view through May 7.  

Images of the exhibition’s installation. Credit: Thierry Bal.

A quick update on last week’s sales first: at Lyon & Turnbull, that album of early photographs of India sold for £40,000 (over the estimate of £5,000-8,000). At Swann Galleries, an 1873 album of photographs from an Army Corps of Engineers project in Louisiana fetched $93,750, over estimates of just $15,000-20,000.

                                                                                                                                                                  On Wednesday, February 21, University Archives sells Autographed Documents, Manuscripts, Books & Relics, in 248 lots. A map of Cuba consulted by President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, known as the “Victory map,” is estimated at $30,000-35,000, while an archive of letters and other documents written by Elizabeth Bacon Custer could sell for $20,000-25,000. A varied sale with a number of very interesting lots.

                                                                                                                                                                          PBA Galleries offers Fine Books, Science & Medicine, Art, Illustration & Children’s Literature on February 22, in 492 lots. The top estimate goes to Johann Friedrich Dieffenbach’s Surgical Observations on the Restoration of the Nose (1833) at $10,000-15,000. An inscribed first edition of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas is estimated at $1,000-1,500.

                                                                                                                                                                           Heritage Auctions in Dallas holds a pair of sales toward the end of the week:

                                                                                                                                                                                    - From February 22 to 24, a Comics and Comic Art Signature Auction, with 1,415 items up for grabs. An original Frank Frazetta painting, “Tree of Death” (1970), has a $300,000 reserve, while original cover art for Amazing Spider-Man No. 100 has a $190,000 current bid at time of writing. An issue of Batman No. 1 (pictured) currently stands at $160,000. 


batman.jpeg                                                                                                                                                                                     - On February 24, Heritage offers the second part of The David and Janice Frent Collection of Political & Presidential Americana, in 659 lots. As with the political memorabilia sale noted last week, this auction offers a very wide range of material types, and the catalog (like that for University Archives sale above) makes for an excellent browse. There are some neat campaign broadsides--including one for an 1864 Lincoln-Johnson meeting--and textiles, plus notable campaign items like a rebus-style stickpin for Winfield Scott Hancock and an exceedingly strange-looking 1912 Bull Moose/Elephant “fusion” button.

Award season continued its forward march this week with the announcement of the American Library Association’s (ALA) winners of the prestigious Newbery and Caldecott Awards on February 12. This year’s Newbery winner was Hello, Universe (Greenwillow Books, 320 pages) by Erin Entrada Kelly, while Matthew Cordell’s wordless picture book Wolf in the Snow (Feiwel and Friends, 48 pages) took home the Caldecott Medal.



Hello, Universe explores the complicated tween world unexpected friendships, bullying, and self-acceptance, told from the point of view of four protagonists. While there’s no dialogue in Wolf in the Snow, there’s plenty going on: a girl in a red parka discovers a lost wolf pup during a blizzard and helps it find its family. The tension and shifting dynamics between girl and wolf are rendered in deceptively simple pen-and-inks and watercolors. Both books explore what it’s like to be an outsider, and how doing the right thing can often mean have to face one’s fears as well.



Both awards recognize the year’s most outstanding contributions to American literature and picture book illustration for children, and though the ALA awards list has grown in recent years, the Caldecott and the Newbery remain the most noteworthy.

The awards were announced at the ALA’s annual midwinter meeting which was held in Denver, Colorado. The complete list of winners can be found at the ALA’s website here

                                                                                                                                                             Images courtesy of the publishers

Scout’s honor--here’s an exhibit to see: OK, I’ll Do It Myself: Narratives of Intrepid Women in the American Wilderness, Selections from the Caroline F. Schimmel Collection. A long-time book collector (and native New Yorker), Schimmel has spent decades collecting women’s wilderness experiences, from a bitter letter by Myra F. Eells, writing from the Oregon Territory in 1840, to Calamity Jane’s studio photograph, to an extra-illustrated first edition of Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine.

do-it-myself-exhibit.jpgIt’s a collection, Schimmel writes in the catalogue’s introduction, “assembled mostly before the internet ... through chance, through travel, and through the kindness of astute book dealers.” There was no bibliography to work from, and few collectors or booksellers were yet interested in the material when she began collecting. As she writes in the description of her copy of Harriet Martineau’s Retrospect of Western Travel (1838), “Harriet was one of the few ‘Lady Travelers’ whom book dealers had heard of when I started collecting in the 1970s.” That has changed, she said during a recent interview, with the rise of women’s history departments in universities. Prices have increased in relation, such that a collection of its size and depth would be difficult if not impossible to duplicate. Recalling the words of her husband, fellow collector Stuart Schimmel, she said you remember the items you didn’t buy and now it’s two digits more. “So at that point, your head explodes or you pivot and you go into a new field.”

Schimmel has fun with her item descriptions, which are sassier than what you find in run-of-the-mill exhibition catalogues, brimming with witty asides and personal anecdotes. As she writes in the entry for Juliette Gordon Low’s How Girls Can Help Their Country, Adapted from Agnes Baden-Powell and Sir Robert Baden-Powell’s Handbook (1917), “Long, long ago, during a rainstorm as I sat on the dirt in a pup-tent at Girl Scout summer camp in Philadelphia, I realized my own keenest desire while in the wilderness - was to not be there.”

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 9.18.11 PM.pngStill, she feels a kinship with the women who did ‘go West.’ She has amassed thousands of books, manuscripts, photographs, pamphlets, and ephemera, collecting the voices of colonizers, captives, and natives alike. Distilling that collection into an exhibition of 144 items was “agony,” she said. Her collection also includes related memorabilia, including Elizabeth (Libby) Custer’s two-piece mohair and cotton dress and Annie Oakley’s gloves. “You need shiny baubles, to catch the layperson’s eye, to engage them,” she said. Annie Oakley’s rifle is her holy grail; she’s been outbid at auction more than once, she said.

Putting her collection on exhibit now was the idea of Russell Martin, assistant dean for collections and director of the DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University, seconded by John Hoover, executive director of the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association at the University of Missouri. The exhibition opened at the St. Louis Mercantile Library last fall. It then traveled to SMU’s DeGolyer Library last Calamity Jane.jpgmonth, where it remains on view through March 29. In the fall of 2018, the exhibition reappears at the University of Pennsylvania, Schimmel’s alma mater and the owner of her “Women in the American Wilderness” fiction collection. These three venues combined equal about nine months of exposing her collection to light, Schimmel said, which is more than enough.

When initially contacted for an interview, Schimmel was driving around Dallas, hitting as many Half Price Books as she could in her rental car, still in search of women whose stories were forgotten. In the end, she purchased about one hundred books that day--“things I didn’t have,” she said. “So there’s still the unknown unknown out there.”

Images: (Top) Exhibition catalogue for OK, I’ll Do It Myself; (Middle) Annie Oakley’s gloves and related ephemera; (Bottom) Life and Adventures of Calamity Jane. By Herself (Livingston, MT, 1896), second edition, original pink wrapper, engraved portrait on front cover & studio photo by R. L. Kelly, signed by Calamity Jane in the plate. Courtesy of Caroline Schimmel.

KellsFol292rIncipJohn.jpgNew research into the world’s most famous medieval manuscript, the Book of Kells, has revealed a suprising new possibility: the manuscript may be two separate works, created a half century apart and later combined.

Dr. Bernard Meehan of Trinity College, Dublin, announced last week that detailed analysis of the text has uncovered evidence supporting a new hypothesis: St. John’s Gospel and the first few pages of St. Mark’s Gospel may have been created by an elderly scribe on Iona in the 8th century, while the rest of St. Mark’s Gosepl, as well as the Gospels of St. Luke and St. Matthew were created 50 years later in Kells.

Handwriting evidence suggests that the creator of the St. John’s Gospel likely learned his craft in the middle part of the 8th century, meaning he would have been quite old by the time the Gospel was written and illuminated at the end of the 700s. The monk’s handwriting abruptly ends at the conclusion of verse 26 in the 4th chapter of St. Mark. The monk may have been one of many in the monastery who died in a series of epidemics and Viking raids on the monastery in Iona that occured in short span of years between 795 and 805. By 807, the community had relocated to a safer position, rebuilding the Abbey of Kells in Ireland. It was there, surmises Meehan, that the remaining Gospels in the Book of Kells were written and illuminated several decades later.

[Image of the opening of the Gospel of St. John from The Book of Kells from Wikipedia]

February 16 marks the 150th anniversary of photographer Edward S. Curtis’ birth. Curtis, a middle-school dropout who died in relative obscurity, is best known now for his visionary (and budget-breaking) twenty-volume set of photographs and ethnographic descriptions called The North American Indian. Volume one appeared in 1907, with the support of Theodore Roosevelt and J. P. Morgan. (Read more about Curtis’ life in our 2011 feature.)

OasisInTheBadlands.jpgSupport for Curtis’ project waned as the project dragged on--the final volume was released in 1930--and he was largely forgotten until the 1970s when increased interest in Native Americans and fine art photography edged him back into the spotlight. With originals scarce and many negatives destroyed, Curtis became collectible. It was right around this time at Christopher Cardozo, in his twenties and doing a mixture of photography, ethnography, and musicology in Mexico, discovered Curtis. As he remembers it, someone mentioned the photographer to him, and he took off for a bookstore, traveling twenty miles. “I remember where the book was on the shelf ... that moment I saw my first Curtis photograph,” Cardozo said, adding that he soon went into debt buying vintage Curtis prints.

Cardozo was more than smitten and spent the subsequent 45 years buying and selling Curtis books, portfolios, and photogravures. His personal collection now numbers around 4,000 prints, and yes, he does own an original set of The North American Indian, which has been known to sell for $1 million+ at auction. His is a (deluxe) tissue paper set that he collected in parts over a 5-7-year period. “I really wanted an all-tissue set, because that’s what I love,” he said.

Then, about four years ago, he upped the ante and decided, in “a moment of temporary insanity,” to undertake a fine art republication of Curtis’ entire North American Indian. He said he had several clients over the years who wanted to own a vintage Curtis volume but could not afford it (they can run $10,000-50,000 each), and the only reprint that exists is a poor-quality academic facsimile from the seventies. So began a 35,000-hour project that culminated earlier this year in a contemporary copy of Curtis’ magnum opus that can be an “attractive alternative” for collectors and institutions. Each set contains 20 volumes, 20 portfolios, 2,234 photographic prints, 5,023 pages of text, and over 2.5 million words. (Here’s a short video on the production.)

Curtis Repub.jpgThere are two editions. The 150th Anniversary Custom Edition, which Cardozo believes is “the largest republication project in North American publishing history,” includes a full-size recreation of the original with photos printed “one sheet at a time,” and bound in gilt-decorated three-quarter leather. It sells for $28,500. The Complete Reference Edition is a less expensive reproduction featuring the same content and offered pre-sale for $5,200 until May 15, when the price increases to $6,500. For both editions, Cardozo and his team digitized and refined the original letterpress, which featured small and often degraded type. The reproduction is thus easier to read, while retaining the “essential character of the original,” according to the prospectus.

“We wanted something that we felt would be respectful to Curtis,” Cardozo said. “I didn’t wanted to publish something where the sequencing or the text was changed. We knew people would prefer that.”     

The guiding mantra of this project was supplied by Curtis himself, who once wrote, “It’s such a big dream, I can’t see it all.” But he eventually did--and now so has Cardozo.

To further celebrate Curtis’ 150th, several exhibitions and lectures are planned this year.
Images: (Top) “Oasis in the Badlands,” 1905, by Edward S. Curtis, courtesy of Christopher Cardozo Fine Art;  (Middle) The Custom Edition of Cardozo’s reproduction, courtesy of Christopher Cardozo Fine Art.

This week’s big auction day is Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, which sees a quartet of sales:

                                                                                                                                                       - At Dominic Winter Auctioneers in Cirencester, Unreserved Printed Books including books from The Alan & Joan Tucker, in 181 lots. This is the first of several sales of books (these mostly poetry) from the collection of Alan & Joan Tucker, who ran a bookselling business in Stroud from 1962 until Alan’s death in 2017.

                                                                                                                                                    - Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps & Photographs at Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh, in 547 lots. Pascal Coste’s Monuments Modernes de la Perse (Paris, 1871), being sold by the Newbattle Abbey College Trust, is estimated at £5,000-7,000, and a large set of more than 125 early photographs of India could fetch £5,000-8,000. An (incomplete) Bible printed at Edinburgh in 1764 in a spectacular herringbone binding with a leather traveling case rates at £600-800 estimate. A large number of lots will be of interest to the George Mackay Brown collector.

                                                                                                                                               - In Paris, Binoche et Giquello offers the Collection d’un Bibliophile: Livres & Manuscrits Précieux, 1478-1977, in 166 lots. A 1543 Paris edition of Livy, with a binding by the binder Nicolas Fery in Rome, is estimated at €100,000-150,000. A number of other extremely attractive bindings and early printed books in this one.

                                                                                                                                               - Rounding out Wednesday’s sales is an auction of Libri, Manoscritti e Autografi at Pandolfini in Florence, in 144 lots. A 1579 Ortelius atlas published by the Plantins gets the top pre-sale estimate, at €20,000-25,000. A complete set of the Encyclopédie (35 volumes) could sell for €15,000-20,000. For the bibliographer, a second edition of Konrad Gessner’s Bibliotheca instituta et collecta (1583) rates €800-900.

                                                                                                                                                           On Thursday, February 15, Swann Galleries sells Icons & Images: Photographs & Photobooks, in 322 lots. A silver print of Lewis Hine’s “Mechanic at Steam Pump in Eclectric Power House” from approximately 1921 is estimated at $70,000-100,000. Many other Hine photographs are also included in this sale. Among the Ansel Adams photographs offered is “Georgia O’Keeffe and Orville Cox,” estimated at $18,000-22,000 (pictured).



                                                                                                                                                           Much more (and I do mean much more) than books are included in the 310 lots which comprise the Political Memorabilia including the Daniel Schofield Collection sale at Eldred’s in East Dennis, Massachusetts on Friday, February 16. Pins, coins, signs, photographs, postcards, &c. &c. Among the printed items are some notable early American imprints, including Ebenezer Pemberton’s 1710 election sermon, missing its title page ($700-1,000) and Samuel Danforth’s 1714 election sermon ($100-150), as well as a wide selection of political pamphlets, broadsides, and election tickets.

                                                                                                                                                                    Image credit: Swann Galleries

Ok, Philadelphia Eagles fans may think nothing can top their team’s proud designation as Super Bowl champions, but we’ve got something for bookish folks that’s sure to please.


giltypleasures-exhibit-17.jpg                                                                                                                                                                    On January 29, the Library Company of Philadelphia opened its latest exhibition to the public on sharing special collections in a digital world. Entitled #GiltyPleasures--a play on the word for gold-covered binding and illumination--the show is the logical extension of a social media initiative launched two years ago by Concetta Barbera and Arielle Middleman, the Library Company’s digital outreach librarians. Almost daily, devoted Instagram followers find postings ranging from century playing cards, watercolors, photographs, and recently, a slightly doctored WWI recruitment poster showing--what else--a bald eagle trouncing a black-feathered foe sporting Patriots insignia on its chest.                                                                                                   
“We wanted to share our passion for the Library Company’s collections with the online community,” Barbera and Middleman said. “We also wanted to introduce new and whimsical ways to engage with special collections. However, no virtual environment can fully mimic the experience of seeing and interacting with these materials in person, and we hope that #GiltyPleasures fills that gap.”                                                                                                                
Billed as the library’s “greatest hits,” #GiltyPleasures hopes to inspire visitors while celebrating the qualities of this institution founded by Benjamin Franklin back in 1731. Bonus: This week the Library Company is participating in #ColorOurCollections, a weeklong social media coloring festival where institutions share free coloring content with their social media followers, so break out a fresh box of crayons! 

#GiltyPleasures runs through April 6 and can also be viewed here

We’re focusing on California this week on the blog in the run-up to the California Antiquarian Book Fair in Pasadena. Today, we’re profiling Suntup Editions, a new fine press publisher in Southern California owned by Paul Suntup. Mr. Suntup answered our questions over email:

a_DSC_6338.jpgWhen did you start Suntup Editions?

It was toward the end of 2016, and things got kicked into gear around the beginning of 2017.

What do you specialize in?

I don’t really have a specific genre specialty, although I do have an affinity toward the works of Stephen King because I have been a fan for 30 years now. In a broader sense, I specialize in publishing finely crafted limited edition books and art prints. My books are printed letterpress, and I utilize some of the finest bookmaking materials to craft the editions. 

Tell us about The Covers Collection, featuring the Stephen King prints:

This was an offshoot of a project I was working on where I was rebinding first edition copies of some of King’s novels. For one of the editions, I decided to include a small giclée print of the cover art, signed by the original artist. Then that started me thinking, wouldn’t it be nice to make a larger print of other titles, and issue them as a limited run signed the the artists. I began to get in touch with as many of the cover artists as I could find, and this has now evolved to where I have more than 30 covers in the series and around 20 artists involved. These are published in a limited run of 50 prints per size, and there are two sizes. They are beautiful giclée prints, printed on 300gsm cotton paper, and presented in a way we haven’t really seen before, because it has none of the cover text, and these were scanned from the original art.


portfolios_both.jpgTell us as well about the limited edition of The Eyes of the Dragon:

This was my first publication. It is an art portfolio featuring the illustrations that appeared in the Viking trade edition of The Eyes of The Dragon by Stephen King, and illustrated by David Palladini. I discovered that David lives about 15 miles from me, so I met up with him and proposed the idea of doing an art portfolio of his work from the novel. There had not been a portfolio of this work previously. The edition was published on July 7th, 2017.

There are two editions, a lettered and a numbered, both signed by the artist. The lettered illustrations are giclée prints on Somerset paper, and the text pages of the portfolio are printed letterpress by Norman Clayton of Classic Letterpress in Ojai, California. It also included a hand-pulled photogravure print which was made by Jon Goodman at his studio in Florence, Massachusetts, and is signed by the artist. The numbered edition text pages are also printed letterpress, and both editions are housed in a custom clamshell box covered in cloth.

What’s coming up next for Suntup?

Well, a project that I had been working on for almost a year has finally come to fruition. I will be publishing a signed limited edition of the novel Misery, by Stephen King. This is the first time since the trade publication that a limited edition is being released. It has been a dream project for me. When I first had the idea, it seemed like an impossible goal, but I went after it, and am very pleased to say that Stephen King signed off on it. The editions are scheduled for publication in August of this year.

There are three states: An Artist Gift edition, a Numbered edition, and a Lettered edition. The Artist Gift is signed by Rick Berry who is creating eight new illustrations, and it has a jacket with wrap-around cover art by Rick Berry, only on the Gift edition. The Numbered & Lettered are signed by both Stephen King and Rick Berry. They are printed letterpress, with the Lettered on Arches moldmade wove paper, and the Numbered on Crane’s Lettra.

We did something unique with the cover on the Lettered edition. The title is made using original glass Royal typewriter keys that are inset into the cover. It is handbound in full leather by Peter Geraty and Praxis Bindery in Easthampton, Massachusetts. The edition includes an original frontispiece print pulled from a wood engraving by illustrator and designer Barry Moser. Interiors are designed by Jerry Kelly.

After this, I have some other exciting limited edition book projects in the pipeline, and I would also like to put out some editions of poetry.


Where can our readers learn more about your future releases?

At https://suntup.press, or on these social media platforms:

FACEBOOK: https://Facebook.com/SuntupEditions 
TWITTER: https://Twitter.com/SuntupEditions 
INSTAGRAM: https://Instagram.com/SuntupEditions

Images courtesy of Paul Suntup

The 51st California International Antiquarian Book Fair comes to life in Pasadena this Friday. To mark the bicentennial of Frankenstein, the fair’s featured exhibit is a celebration of Mary Shelley’s ‘monsterpiece,’ from first editions to comics to vintage movie posters, with selections from the University of California at Riverside Library, Occidental College Library, the Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library, and local book artists on display.

Riverside.paperback1-1 copy.jpgOn Saturday, two related talks are scheduled. At 1:00, Sidney E. Berger, professor of library and information science at Simmons College and the library school at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will present Frankenstein in the Popular Imagination. At 3:00, there will be a panel discussion titled It’s Alive: How Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Changed the World. It will be moderated by Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan and include David J. Skal, author of The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror; Sara Jane Karloff, the daughter of the original movie monster Frankenstein, Boris Karloff; and literary scholar Miranda Butler, UC Riverside.  

Harrington.jpgOf course, if you’re interested in buying some Frankensteiniana, there’s sure to be much on offer, including a spectacular collection of 21 letters by Mary Shelley to various persons, including two to Edward Trelawny and one to her step-sister Claire Clairmont, from bookseller Peter Harrington (£125,000); the first one-volume edition of Frankenstein (1831), bound as issued with the first part of Schiller’s The Ghost-Seer from Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers ($3,300); and a 1829 Theatre Royal playbill for the performance of “the popular Romance of Presumption or, The Fate of Frankenstein” from bookseller Simon Beattie ($300).

Images: (Top) Paperback editions of Frankenstein with expressive cover art will be on display in the special exhibit, courtesy of UC Riverside Library; (Middle) Mary Shelley letters archive, courtesy of Peter Harrington.

One of the reasons my wife and I chose to move to The Netherlands was so that we could easily travel to more of the many European book fairs and have bibliographic adventures. Last weekend we did just this -- flying from Amsterdam to visit the 57th Stuttgart Antiquarian book fair, organized by the VDA (the German national bookseller association, which is a member of ILAB). We were also looking forward to the short trek to Ludwigsburg to visit the wonderful shadow fair in the Musikhalle (pictured below).

ludwigsburg above copy.jpgBeginning in Ludwigsburg, we were pleased to immediately bump into our old friends Ralf and Susanne Lorych from Berlin. They were offering their usual fascinating range of books in English, French, and German, and I was able to add a nice little pamphlet on Belgium to my stock.
colonialwaren copy.jpgAnother great find at Ludwigsburg was the stand of Kunsthandel Brugsch und Lehmanns Colonialwaren, also from Berlin. They had a wonderful and eclectic display of curiosa and grotesques (pictured above). From shrunken heads (which they assured me were not real) to iconography, globes, and gothic artworks. The overall effect was that of entering a fascinating Dickensian grotto. We were very pleased to persuade them to sign up the for PBFA London Antiquarian Book Fair. This is the premier book fair that we manage in May. Very exciting, as we now know that our visitors to that event can look forward to the spectacle.

luther copy.jpgThe highlight of the trip for me was being able to examine (but sadly not afford at €450,000) a lengthy handwritten letter by Martin Luther written in 1543, and offered by Kotte Autographs of Rosshaupten (pictured above). Although I dislike the antisemitic diatribe of the letter, one couldn’t help but be awed in the face of a manuscript by a man who had such an impact on world history. Published in the same year as Luther’s letter, Kotte also offered a beautiful first edition of De humani corporis at €950,000 (pictured below).

vesalius copy.jpgAccompanied by my friends Kurt Salchli and Horst Kloever, book specialists from the online auction Catawiki, Marcia and I moved on to visit the “official fair” at Stuttgart and were soon surrounded by another profusion of beautiful objects.

Hatry of Heidelberg had a lovely display of books on swimming, including De arte gymnastica libris sex, from 1587 at €1,400. They also had some beautiful children’s pop up items.

tenschert hours copy.jpgBibermuhle of Ramsen, had a wonderful collection of incunabula and Books of Hours, including that of Jean Troussier at €880,000, and I had to spend a while gazing at the illuminations on this stand (pictured above).

After a brief interlude plotting ways of gaining more exhibitors for the Amsterdam book fair with Laurens Hesselink from Asher/Forum Rare Books in ‘t Goy (near Utrecht), and catching up with Robert Frew from London, we continued our tour of the fair.

There seemed to be many excellent collections of art and lithographs this year, and one of my favorites was that of Kunstkabinett Strehler of Sindeltingen, who as well as an excellent collection of signed works by Picasso and Chagall, had a beautiful display of Maria Sibylla Merian whose botanical illustrations are as fresh as they were in 1679.

My last dash round included a much closer look at the fabulous Japanese and Chinese material of Hans-Martin Schmitz and his wife, who had traveled from Koln. I think there is something about the ‘last chance saloon’ feeling of the final half an hour of any fair. The clock is ticking and I am always tempted into purchasing a large number of pieces...

And so ended our foray into Germany. We returned arms (and luggage) full, back to the Netherlands, where poor Marcia will now have to catalogue our purchases and prepare for the next adventure. Cambridge here we come in two weeks’ time.

--Marc Harrison and his wife Marcia run Harrison-Hiett Rare Books in The Netherlands. Images courtesy of the author.

On Wednesday, February 7, Bonhams London hosts a Travel & Exploration sale, in 149 lots. A painting (one of many in this sale) rates the top estimate: Daniel Thomas Egerton’s “Vera Cruz, and the Castle of San Juan D’Ulloa” at £200,000-300,000. An album of 108 photographs collected by Arthur Frederick Pope during an 1866-70 world tour is estimated at £20,000-30,000. A domino set reputed to have gone to the Antarctic with Shackleton could fetch £600-800. Lots 137-143 include several of Herbert George Ponting’s photographs from the 1910-11 British Antarctic Expedition (Lot 140 pictured).



                                                                                                                                                           In Boston on Friday, February 9, Skinner, Inc. sells the Collection of Avis & Eugene Robinson, 300 lots of Africana and African-Americana. In an introduction to the sale catalog, Eugene Robinson, the longtime Washington Post reporter, notes that this collection developed over time, “as a weekend pastime became a mission to collect and preserve this overlooked history.” Among the printed and manuscript materials are a framed issue of The North Star for April 28, 1848 ($8,000-12,000), a manuscript map on goatskin of Tionesta Township, PA ($4,000-6,000), an 1801 New York bill of lading for a slave ship ($700-900), and an archive of manuscripts and photographs related to Rhode Island’s DeWolf family ($500-700). Many photographs and realia will also be offered.

                                                                                                                                               Two sales will be held in Pasadena to coincide with this weekend’s California International Antiquarian Book Fair, both on Sunday, February 11:

PBA Galleries sells Rare Books & Manuscripts in 222 lots beginning at 8 a.m. PST, with lots 114-222 being sold to benefit the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Benevolent Fund. The top lot in this sale is expected to be an early- to mid-17th-century alchemical illustrated manuscript, Coronatio Naturae (“The Crowning of Nature”), with 67 illustrations and a later partial English translation. The only copy in private hands, it is estimated at $100,000-150,000. A first edition of Gulliver’s Travels in a Riviere & Son binding could fetch $30,000-50,000, the same estimate given to a 17th-century manuscript book of horoscopes. A large archive from the family of President John Tyler could sell for $20,000-30,000. Other items of note include a copy of Barack Obama’s fifth-grade yearbook, inscribed by him to a friend ($8,000-12,000), and some 350 sheets of gold leaf from the Roycroft Bindery ($4,000-6,000).

                                                                                                                                                              Following the PBA sale on Sunday, Bonhams sells Fine Books and Manuscripts in 272 lots, beginning at 10:30 a.m. PST. Again it’s not a book which rates the top estimate: a rare three-rotor Enigma Machine takes that honor, at $70,000-90,000. A short Walt Whitman manuscript containig the poet’s thoughts on death could sell for $20,000-30,000. A collection of Ray Bradbury works, most inscribed first editions, is estimated at $15,000-20,000 (there are a number of other Bradbury lots on offer), while a first edition of David Roberts’s The Holy Land could fetch $15,000-25,000. An Isaac Newton autograph manuscript containing quotes from Eunapius and Procopius, used by Newton in his works on prophecy, is estimated at $12,000-18,000. A manuscript leaf from an early draft of Thoreau’s A Week Along the Concord and Merrimack Rivers receives the same estimate. Perhaps of interest to readers of this blog are several of Dard Hunter’s works on papermaking (lots 231-234).

                                                                                                                                                           Image credit: Bonhams

This is not a drill. Repeat this is not a drill. Sylvia Plath’s typewriter--the one she used to write The Bell Jar (1963) in spring-summer 1961--is going to auction in London on March 21. It is estimated to reach £40,000-60,000 ($57,000-$85,000).

Plath's Hermes 3000 Typewriter copy.jpgPlath purchased the classic mint green Hermes 3000 in Boston in 1959. After her death in 1963, the typewriter stayed in the family and will now be sold by her daughter, Frieda Hughes, in a sale titled “Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes; The Property of Frieda Hughes.” Highlights are listed here.

Incidentally, Larry McMurtry prefers the same Swiss-made model, as he mentioned during his Oscar acceptance speech in 2006.

Image courtesy of Bonhams

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