September 2018 Archives


If there’s anything new to learn from Characters, a series of personality portraits written by the ancient Greek Theophrastus (c. 371 - c. 287 BC), it is that gluttons, chatterboxes, drunks, idiots, and others are not unique to any time or place in human history.  This robust little volume of character sketches has been widely published and translated since its first appearance twenty-three centuries ago--Jean de la Bruyère’s Les Caractères (1688), Character Writings of the Seventeenth Century (1891) and the Loeb Classical Library’s edition are a few that come to mind--but each translation is an interpretative undertaking, meaning there is always a renewed need for fresh viewpoints.


On October 1, Characters will be once again published in English, this time by Callaway Arts & Entertainment. Translated by Pamela Mensch with vibrant pen-and-ink illustrations by acclaimed caricature artist André Carrillo, this edition includes insightful annotations by Bard College classics professor and Guggenheim recipient James Romm.

Part the enduring appeal of Characters is that bad behavior, however caustic, is, whether we like it or not, universal; who doesn’t know a busybody who “stands up and promises what he can’t deliver,” a slovenly fellow “afflicted with dull-white eczema and black fingernails, go[ing] about saying that these illnesses are hereditary,” and the friend of scoundrels who “fraternizes with men who have been defeated in court and convicted in public trials; he assumes that if he’s friendly with them, he’ll become more worldly and formidable.”


“These are flesh-and-blood people, with very familiar flaws and foibles,” Romm explained. “They remind us that ancient Greeks were actual human beings, not marble busts. The past no longer feels like a foreign country. It’s a true gift to be able to ‘feel’ the reality of the classical world.” As Romm points out in his introduction, some previous translators could not square with the lack of judgement in Theophrastus’s sketches and inserted their own. This edition strips away those addendums, allowing the original descriptions to be read on their own merit.


And yet, English-speakers don’t suffer for lack options: Penguin released a paperback version as recently as 2015, so why a new translation now? “There’s a very practical reason,” Romm said. “The Greek text of Characters is rather messy, with lots of sentences in dispute (or simply unintelligible) due to copyists’ errors in the transmission process. Only a few years ago, a new edition of the Greek text by James Diggle sorted out many of these problems. This new English version by Pamela Mensch takes advantage of that cleaned-up Greek text.”


Contemporary readers may be familiar with Theophrastus’s exhaustive Inquiry into Plants and Causes of Plants. However, Characters reveals more of the author’s natural verve and wit, which has led some scholars to dispute whether Theophrastus deserves the attribution. “The contrast between Characters and the botanical works is indeed sharp,” Romm said. “Assuming Theophrastus wrote both, he seems to have wanted to take an occasional break from science to compose light satire, and perhaps, like all good teachers, sought a way to bring some levity to his ‘classroom’ -- in his case, the Lyceum, founded by Aristotle.”


We may see a bit of ourselves, our friends, and our political leaders in these portraits, but how might have an ancient Athenian reacted? After all, these were sketches based on actual people Theophrastus encountered on a daily basis. Romm believes the Greeks would have taken it in stride-- “With a laugh and a nod of recognition, and probably a bit of embarrassment!”

Society needs writers who document human behavior, even if that behavior never seems to change. But those records needn’t always be gloomy. “Thucydides famously wrote that human nature is constant over time, so that the deeds he recorded in the Peloponnesian War would be seen again,” Romm said. “In his case, that’s a tragic message, since he mostly records atrocities. Theophrastus supplies the comic side of the same equation.”   

Theophrastus’ Characters: An Ancient Take on Bad Behavior, by James Romm, André Carrilho, and Pamela Mensch. Callaway Arts and Entertainment; $24.95, 119 pages.

On Her Own in the Room

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When Elizabeth Crawford became a rare book dealer, setting up her first stand at a monthly fair in London in 1984, she was not the only woman in the room, but she was, she recalls, “on her own in the room” -- women booksellers were, and still are, often accompanied by their spouses or partners in bookselling.
She took up the rare book business in part because of her interest in women writers, women’s history, and in part because of the flexible schedule it provided her. She had young children at home and could still make a business out of her interest in the the lives and work of women, a subject that had been completely ignored in her studies in history and politics at Exeter University. The book trade afforded her access to her curiosity, provided her the opporutnity to research what she loved, and allowed her flexible hours she set herself, and she would take her children to book fairs when necessary.


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In her 34 years as a bookseller since Crawford published her first catalogue, which was called, “Admirable Novels By Intelligent Englishwomen,” Crawford has issued a tremendous and celebration-worthy 197 catalogues devoted to what is not a niche subject but treated like one in the book trade -- the lives, work, and contributions of women.
Her rare book trade also led her to a robust career as an independent scholar, particularly of suffrage. Her latest book is Art and Suffrage: a biographical dictionary of suffrage artists. Over email she shared a brief recollection of getting started:
   “My work as an independent scholar around the women’s suffrage movement and women’s lives in the 19th and 20th century stemmed directly from my ‘trade’ in second-hand books by and about women. From the outset these were the books I sold, inspired, to some degree by, for fiction, Nicola Beauman, A Very Great Profession, and, for non-fiction, Janet Horowitz Murray, Strong-minded Women: and other lost voices from 19th-century England. I had read both not long before the idea came to me of taking a stand at a Bloomsbury book fair and was enthused with the idea of finding copies of the original editions of the books these authors mentioned. Although I have a university degree in history and politics ‘women’, as such, were never discussed in the courses I followed back in the 1960s and ‘women’s studies’ had barely entered the curriculum when I became a bookseller in 1984 - so I was venturing into terra incognita.”

Exploring terra incognita was a smart career move for Elizabeth Crawford and her work as a bookwoman is a benefit not only to the trade, but to our history. Reflecting on her duel-armed business, she added, “There is no doubt that I have benefitted greatly from the opportunity to study so much material relating to the suffrage movement at first hand, from series of bound volumes of suffrage newspapers to suffragette cups and saucers, and that my book business has fuelled my parallel career as an historian. As one makes no money writing books, it is just as well I have my book and ephemera business in order to buy me the time to research and write. And, conversely, I hope that my reputation as an historian gives reassurance to customers buying my catalogued suffrage material.”


Images courtesy of Elizabeth Crawford


Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Whitney Buccicone, Special Collections Cataloging Librarian at the University of Washington in Seattle.

85A_7761.jpgWhat is your role at your institution?

I am the Special Collections Cataloging Librarian at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle. I am responsible for cataloging all the amazing materials, both print and archival, that are housed in UW’s Special Collections. I also create and modify authority records and subject headings for NACO and SACO. Beyond that, I do my best to help diminish backlogs, document procedures, and make sure workflows are efficient.


How did you get started in rare books?

I began as a page at the Lilly Library (Indiana University Libraries rare books and special collections library) when I was 20 and a junior at Indiana University. Pages retrieve materials from the Lilly’s closed stacks for patron and staff use then reshelf them after (along with other duties). My first boss there called me “the Robot” because I never misshelved a book and understood the Library of Congress classification system quickly. I continued doing well enough that I eventually was convinced by my boss at the time to go to library school.  I began cataloging during that time and was hired in a full-time temporary cataloger position after graduation. From there, I was promoted to permanent paraprofessional positions and worked there for almost 9.5 years before coming to UW in a librarian position.


Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?

I received both my MLS and Master’s in Arts Administration from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.


Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

I have too many favorites to name but the most recent is a commonplace book purchased by our Curator of History of Science and Medicine, Lisa Oberg. The original book was a text on chemistry (First lines of the practice of physic, for the use of students in the University of Edinburgh by William Cullen, M.D., printed in 1777). That text was annotated by someone previously before a ship’s doctor from the British Navy pasted articles about agriculture and gardening from magazines and included his own annotations about those throughout. Before all of that though, the book was unbound and newspaper from France was used to reinforce the spine of each gathering. The book was then rebound. What makes this my favorite item is just the obvious impact that owners on their books. That’s what has always excited me about working in special collections -- we preserve and provide access to humans’ impacts on books and vice versa.


What do you personally collect?

In regards to books, I collect sci-fi/fantasy and poetry written by women of color. I also have a robust comic book collection where I focus on comics from the early 1990s as well as a vinyl collection that highlights all my favorite artists from my childhood.


What do you like to do outside of work?

I love to thrift shop to find art, jewelry, and old ceramics to plant succulents in. I garden (which is rather difficult in Seattle), knit, and read.


What excites you about rare book librarianship?

Collaborating with my colleagues -- whether that is a curator here at UW or with another cataloger at a different institution. The more we share knowledge, the better we serve our users by creating accurate and detailed catalog records, finding aids, and exhibits. I see so much of that at conferences, on Twitter, and other places -- I am grateful to be surrounded by colleagues who want to share knowledge freely and warmly, not horde it away.


Thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship?

Being an older “Bright Young” librarian, I am excited about the colleagues I see coming up after me. I trained multiple catalogers who are now off doing amazing work across the country and that makes me feel that the future of our field is in great hands. I’m happy to be working alongside them and hope to continue to collaborate with them.


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

We have so many great collections at UW Special Collections. Our Jewish Archives has oral histories from Holocaust survivors and preserving that history of a marginalized community is very important to our mission here. We also have some amazing ephemera: butcher knives from the local butchers union; scientific instruments going back to the early 19th century in our History of Science and Medicine collection; and some of the earliest maps detailing the Washington Territory.


Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

 In fall 2019, our exhibit will be “The Seattle General Strike and Centralia Tragedy of 1919: the legacy of the Industrial Workers of the World in the Pacific Northwest” curated by Conor Casey, our Labor Archivist. Our Labor Archives is a wonderful resource for those researching the labor movement and other social justice issues and this exhibit will focus on a transformative time for the labor movement in the PNW.

Photo Credit: Sung Park Photography

Next week the eclectic collection of the late Robin Williams and his wife, Marsha, goes to auction in New York. The offerings range from artworks by Banksy (five of them!) to film props; fancy watches to toy figurines. And, like fellow actors Charlton Heston and Sylvester Stallone, Williams accumulated a handful of rare books, too. Fifteen are included in this sale, some with neat backstories.  

Godot.pngThe most poignant might be the lot containing three first editions (the true first from Paris, a first UK, and a first American) of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, estimated at $1,500-2,500). In 1988, Williams starred in a production of the play at Lincoln Center, alongside Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham, directed by Mike Nichols. According to the auction house, “It was this role that helped expose Williams’ performative breadth and established his place as a serious actor capable of moving beyond the comedic and into more dramatic roles.”

Stanis.pngAlong the same lines is this inscribed, presentation copy of Konstantin Stanislavski’s 1936 book, An Actor Prepares, bound in half purple morocco over floral cloth boards. It is estimated at $2,000-3,000.

Tenny.pngCould it be that this collection of illustrations from Tennyson’s Idylls was a keepsake from his Dead Poets Society days? This “book” is really an album containing eight illuminated vellum leaves, c. 1862. According to the catalogue, “A note accompanying the volume suggests that these leaves were used for making color-lithograph plates, and that they were later mounted and bound into this album, which was then presented to Tennyson as a memento.” It is estimated at $4,000-6,000. (Of related interest: Williams’ own Dead Poets Society vest!)

Walden.pngNo, there’s no Whitman (“O Captain! My Captain!”) here for DPS fans, but there is a first edition of Walden. As the Sotheby’s cataloguer reminds us, “In Dead Poet[s] Society (Touchstone, 1989), Thoreau was one of the writers that Williams’ character, Mr. Keating, quoted to his students as he inspired them to lead lives marked by individualism and self-reliance, tenets at the heart of the transcendentalist movement.” The volume shows some wear. Its estimate is $10,000-15,000.

Twain Inscript.pngIt’s no surprise to find Mark Twain among Williams’ special books, and here is a pirated Canadian edition of his Sketches with a fantastic contemporary inscription on the endpaper that reads, “This book was published in 1880--one year before entered so it says--see title page--It means that the thieves never entered it at all does it not?” Under that, in Twain’s own hand, is an addendum: “Pirate edition, I suppose. Mark Twain.” It is estimated at $2,000-3,000. The next lot is 25-volume autograph edition of Twain’s works, bound in maroon morocco, and estimated at $3,000-5,000.

Moby.pngAnd then there’s the Arion Press edition of Moby-Dick (1979), with woodcuts by Barry Moser, printed on handmade paper. The San Francisco-based Arion Press sets the standard for fine press books in America, and this folio is estimated at $6,000-8,000. According to Sotheby’s, “Robin and Marsha were avid supporters of the Arion Press and Grabhorn Institute.”

But that’s not all -- the remainder include a first edition Oxford English Dictionary, a W. Heath Robinson-illustrated Shakespeare, and the 1847 edition of Euclid’s works.   

Images via Sotheby’s

A pretty full calendar of sales this week. Here are a few highlights:


On Tuesday, September 25 at Bonhams New York, Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, in 305 lots. A rare copy of Aurora Australis, the first book printed in Antarctica (“at the Sign of ‘The Penguins’”) during Shackleton’s 1908-1909 Nimrod expedition and bound in boards made from packing crates, is estimated at $70,000-100,000. The same estimate is given for a first edition of Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625-1626). A later manuscript copy of Don Alonso de Arellano’s 1565 account of an east-west crossing of the Pacific, from the library of Sir Thomas Phillipps, could fetch $50,000-80,000. A spectacular 1881 Mark Twain letter to aspiring author Bruce Munro about writing is estimated at $30,000-50,000. (More on the sale here in our autumn Auction Guide.)


University Archives sells Autographed Documents, Manuscripts, Books & Relics on Wednesday, September 26, in 288 lots. A 1784 letter from James Watt about the first grist mill to employ Watt’s steam engine could sell for $18,000-20,000, while an odd volume from Thomas Jefferson’s library, with his ownership marks, is estimated at $16,000-18,000. A 1790 document signed by Washington as president and also by Declaration signer William Ellery could fetch $12,000-14,000.


Forum Auctions in London will hold two sales this week: Editions and Works on Paper on Wednesday and Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper on Thursday--the latter offering the William Morris-owned quill pen highlighted on our blog earlier this month. 



On Thursday, September 27, Swann Galleries hosts a sale of Printed & Manuscript Americana, in 516 lots, with the Harold Holzer Collection of Lincolniana comprising the first 176 lots. A 1577 Mexico City imprint, the first edition of the first book of sermons in the Nahuatl language, is estimated at $30,000-40,000 (pictured above). A copy of the first number of Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis, printed at Fishkill, New York in early 1777, could fetch $25,000-35,000. A near-complete copy of the Aitken Bible is estimated at $20,000-30,000. (Again, more on the sale here.)


Also on Thursday, Freeman’s sells Books & Manuscripts, in 479 lots. Top lots are expected to include a twenty-four volume set of Voyages Pittoresques et Romantiques dans l’ancienne France (1820-1878), containing nearly 3,000 plates and estimated at $10,000-15,000, and an eighteenth-century composite atlas at the same estimate range. A copy of the octavo edition of Audubon’s Quadrupeds is estimated at $8,000-12,000.


Image credit: Swann Galleries

Having seen (and enjoyed) American Animals, a film about four college students attempting to steal a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America from a university library, and still pining to see The Bookshop, adapted from Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel about a widow who opens a bookshop in a coastal English town in 1959, I’m excited, if slightly worried, to hear about yet another book-themed blockbuster this year. After all, I can’t get to the theater that often!

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is based on the juicy 2008 book by celebrity biographer-turned-forger Lee Israel in which she describes how she falsified letters of famous authors for profit. It may feel a little ‘too close to home’ for the book dealers and collectors out there, but with Melissa McCarthy playing Lee ... it is apt to be fantastic. Take a look at the trailer:

Roald Dahl’s “Matilda” Turns 30



“So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea.” That quote and many others extolling the virtues of reading great books comes from Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Originally published on October 1, 1988, Dahl’s now-classic tale of a gifted girl cursed with horrible parents and a tyrannical headmistresses was an immediate success. Receiving the Children’s Book Award in 1989, becoming a major motion picture in 1996, and inspiring the 2010 musical adaptation, Matilda is perhaps Dahl’s best-selling book, with over 17 million copies in print.

Collectors should head to British rare bookseller Peter Harrington who is offering six first editions of Matilda. “In recent years, Matilda has become our top-selling book,” explained Peter Harrington’s son and current owner, Pom. “Matilda is a fabulous spirited girl and the book is loved by adults and children alike.”

Among the six copies offered for sale are two inscribed first editions, one being a presentation copy with, “To all the Briggs, with love, Roald. 9/4/88” at the front. Michael Briggs had operated on Dahl’s spine in 1978, after which the men became good friends. This copy is available for £4,000 ($5,300). The second inscribed copy, available for for £3,500 ($4,630) reads: “Camilla, love Roald Dahl.”


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Additionally, Penguin Random House will be releasing special editions of the book on October 4 with new cover images by the book’s original illustrator, Quentin Blake. Each of the three covers features a grown-up Matilda as an astrophysicist, a world traveler, and Chief Executive of the British Library. These 30th anniversary editions are available for pre-order starting at $17.99. 



Images: (Top and Middle) Courtesy of Peter Harrington; (Bottom) Courtesy of the British Library Shop.

SP Books, of Paris, has published this month a limited-edition reproduction of the original handwritten manuscript for The Picture of Dorian Gray. Oscar Wilde’s only novel, widely considered a Gothic classic, was first published in a censored version in Lippincott’s magazine in 1890, where it still attracted significant controversy. Wilde wrote a revised version for publication again the following year, removing some of the incisive content, but adding in an eloquent preface in defense of the role of art in society. That edition in turn became the standard text for all subsequent publications of the novel.

manuscrit-Dorian-Gray-oscar-wilde-1000px.jpgThe new edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray from SP Books is the first publication of the novel in its original, unedited form, in Wilde’s own autograph, inclusive of Wilde’s own struck-out paragraphs. The SP edition also includes a foreword from Wilde’s grandson, the scholar Merlin Holland.


le-portrait-de-dorian-gray.jpgThe book itself is presented in a limited, large format, luxury edition of 1,000 hand-numbered copies, with gilt-embossed slipcase and cover ornamentations. It is available for $250 from the publisher. (SP also produced a facsimile publication of the Frankenstein manuscript, which we covered earlier this year).


Images from the publisher

The Fine Art Print Fair, organized by International Fine Print Dealers Association, lands in New York just over a month from now, from October 24 (preview night) to October 28. As the largest fair dedicated to prints, it covers a lot of ground. From works by leading contemporary artists to the masterworks of the form, there will be a lot to see. Here’s a quick preview of Fine Books’ favorites.  

Emily Lombardo_Why Hide Them_Childs Gallery.jpgEmily Lombardo, Why hide them?, from The Caprichos, 2016. Etching and aquatint, 9 x 6 inches. Courtesy of Childs Gallery. 

Harland Miller_Armaggeddon_Galerie Maximillian copy.jpgHarland Miller, Armageddon: Is It Too Much To Ask?, 2017. Linocut,
70 1/4 x 47 1/4 in. Edition of 50. Courtesy of Galerie Maximillian.


Jim Dine_Blue Artist at the Bahnhof_Alan Cristea Gallery copy.jpgJim Dine, Blue Artist at the Bahnhof, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Alan Cristea Gallery.

Martin Schongauer_Two Shields Supported by a Wild Man_CG Boerner copy.jpgMartin Schongauer, Two Shields Supported by a Wild Man. Engaving, diameter 78 mm ( 3 1/16 inches). Bartsch 105; Lehrs and Hollstein 104. Courtesy of C.G. Boerner.

On Kawara_One Million Years_michele didier.jpegOn Kawara, One Million Years, 1999. Set of 2 volumes - 14.4 x 10.5 cm each volume - 2012 pages per volume - Total of 4024 pages
. Printed on Bible Veritable Ivory Paper 32. 
Cover: black leather over 400 gr cardboard
Silver / Gold embossing on front and spine. 
Limited edition of 60 numbered and signed copies (from 01/60 to 60/60), 500 numbered copies (from 061 to 560) and 10 artist’s proofs (from 561 to 570). 
Produced and published by Editions Micheline Szwajcer & Michèle Didier 
©1999 On Kawara and Editions Micheline Szwajcer & Michèle Didier.

Sean Flood_Shaftway III_Childs Gallery copy.jpgSean Flood, Shaftway - III, 2017. Drypoint and Monotype, 24 1/4 x 34 inches. Courtesy of Childs Gallery.

Tom_Hammick_IslandinMaine_Reductionwoodcut_Flowers copy.jpgTom Hammick, Island in Maine, 2017. Reduction woodcut. Courtesy of Flowers.


Coming up on Tuesday and Wednesday, September 18-19, at Sotheby’s London, The Erwin Tomash Library on the History of Computing, in 942 lots. I’ll have more on this sale in the next print issue, but an expected highlight is a presentation copy of Galileo’s Difesa (1607), inscribed by Galileo to Girolamo Cappello, a riformatore at Padua University. It is estimated at £300,000-400,000. A copy of the second issue of Galileo’s first published work, on the operation of the geometrical compass, rates an estimate of £60,000-80,000.


Quite a few other lots of interest in this sale, including Ada Lovelace’s translation of L. F. Menabrea’s report on a series of lectures delivered by Charles Babbage in Turin. From the library of the Lovelace family at Horsley Towers, it is estimated at £6,000-8,000. A 12th-century Arabic arithmetical manuscript (pictured below) by Mubashir Ibn Ahmad al-Razi could sell for £20,000-30,000. The Macclesfield copy of William Pratt’s Arithmeticall Jewell (1617) is estimated at £15,000-20,000.


On Thursday, September 20, PBA Galleries sells Rare Books & Manuscripts from the Library of James “Ted” Watkins, in 309 lots. A 1647 letter from Louise de Merillac de Gras to Vincent de Paul (both future saints), and a Sangorski & Sutcliffe illuminated manuscript of James Russell Lowell’s The Vision of Sir Launfal (1908) share the top estimate of $10,000-15,000. A copy of the Lakeside Press Moby Dick, signed by Kent on the title page with a pencil sketch of the whale-tail motif used on the covers of the volumes, could fetch $7,000-10,000. A partial set (14 of 25 volumes) of the 1957-67 Robert Speller & Sons edition of Hough’s American Woods is estimated at $2,000-3,000.


At Ader in Paris, also on Thursday, Livres de Photographies, in 289 lots. Top lots are expected to include Germaine Krull’s Métal (1928), estimated at €8,000-10,000; the first four numbers of the photographic quarterly Camera Work (1903), edited and published by Alfred Stieglitz (sold separately as lots 2-5); and a 1930 edition of Gérard de Nerval’s Le Valois with photographs by Germaine Krull (€3,500-4,500).


Image credit: Sotheby’s

Winnie-the-Pooh Wanders into the MFA Boston


A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh has never suffered for lack of exposure--far from it. Since the publication of Milne’s first children’s book starring a loveable, honey-hungry bear in 1926, Winnie-the-Pooh has been translated into fifty languages and been the subject of numerous films and exhibitions. Here’s one more to add to the list: on September 22, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston will present nearly 200 drawings, letters, photographs, and ephemera in a show entitled, Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic.

The exhibition originated in 2017 at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London where most of the items on display are part of that institution’s permanent collections. The show then made its way to the High Museum in Atlanta before setting up in Boston.

The goal of the show is to explore various relationships between a bear and a boy, the interplay between Milne’s text and the art of E.H. Shepard, and how classic children’s literature remains relevant in the 21st century.

Highlights include Shepard’s first character portraits of Winnie, Eeyore, Kanga, and other creatures of the Hundred Acre Wood, a 1926 handwritten letter from Milne to Shepard, and photos of Milne’s family.

The show is definitely geared towards children, and the MFA curators have installed various interactive elements, such as recreations of Pooh’s home and the childhood bedroom of Christopher Milne, the inspiration for Christopher Robin. Cuddle-worthy corners throughout the gallery invite children to read, draw, and even listen to a 1929 recording of Milne reading Winnie-the-Pooh aloud. Co-sponsored by Hood Milk, visitors who attend on opening day can enjoy games like a round of ring toss on the MFA’s Huntington Avenue lawn along with generous servings of cookies, milk, and Hoodsie cups. 

To paraphrase Pooh himself, you can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for this show. Check it out before it heads back to London.


Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic runs from September 22 through January 6, 2019 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. More information at


Images, from top: Winnie-the-Pooh first edition, 1926, published in London by Methuen & Co. Ltd; printed by Jarrold & Sons Ltd. “Pooh sitting on his branch ... beside him, ten pots of honey,” 1970, Ernest Howard Shepard.

IMG_9528 (1).jpgIn 2012 Fine Books interviewed Brooke Palmieri as a Bright Young Thing (renamed Bright Young Booksellers) and since then she has gone on to work for many rare book businesses, earned a PhD, and has just this week launched a unique rare books company. I decided to catch up with her and ask her to bring us up to date on all the bright young things she’s doing, and her responses offer an enriching and unique perspective on the art and practice of buying and selling rare books. Camp Books mailing list can be found here.


What is Camp Books and how did it come to fruition?

In simple terms: Camp Books is my attempt at making a living by selling books. More expansively: I have worked with, around, and through books my whole life, and Camp Books is a way of drawing together all of the strands of that life and life’s worth of work into one place. 
Camp Books is a product of my sensitivity toward books as rich, complicated objects, and I draw from an old old profession--bookselling--in an attempt to enhance people’s awareness of and engagement with history in these terms. I don’t believe it’s possible to simply read a book: there’s always something much more transformative happening, an engagement with voices past and present. And equally I don’t believe it’s possible to simply sell a book: the materials that comprise the book, the hands that laboured to make it, and the ways in which it survives and moves across time all add to its meaning in a way that resists any kind of straightforward transaction. As someone who has worked with books as a librarian, researcher, teacher, bookseller, and above all, reader, publishing catalogues of books for sale is just a starting point for me to promote the many different kinds of interactions that it’s possible to have with a text. For that reason, I wanted to circulate something of a “manifesto” of my thinking behind the business before trying to make any money from it. 
I think you could--and should--take this approach towards any kind of heritage, but the name I chose matters: it’s Camp as in the way queer people are often described as behaving, it’s Camp as in “too much,” it’s Camp as in Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp” (1964):
55. Camp taste is, above all, a mode of enjoyment, of appreciation - not judgment. Camp is generous. It wants to enjoy. It only seems like malice, cynicism. (Or, if it is cynicism, it’s not a ruthless but a sweet cynicism.) Camp taste doesn’t propose that it is in bad taste to be serious; it doesn’t sneer at someone who succeeds in being seriously dramatic. What it does is to find the success in certain passionate failures.
56. Camp taste is a kind of love, love for human nature. It relishes, rather than judges, the little triumphs and awkward intensities of “character.” . . . Camp taste identifies with what it is enjoying. People who share this sensibility are not laughing at the thing they label as “a camp,” they’re enjoying it. Camp is a tender feeling.
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Camp Books’ specialty is--in other words--all things related to LGBTQ+ history, and all things I spy with my own queer eye and find to be camp. It’s a focus that allows me to span the centuries in exactly the way I like: gender nonconformity survives in so many printed books, the word queer is just about as old as moveable type, there are worlds of possibility to pursue. Although the history of queer people is shot through with so much brutality and oppression, and I am not afraid of handling these materials, in the end it was “Camp Books” because I do want to remind myself to balance the righteous anger I have with enjoyment, and tender feelings. As a writer and bookseller part of my ethic of preserving and selling works that are cites of activism--and are sometimes practically humming with the emotions of the people who’ve made them and the places they’ve been--is to try to catalogue in circulate them in ways that are nourishing. With Camp Books I want to support a sense of community as well as give people a sense of communing with the past.
You were featured as a Bright Young Thing in Fine Books in 2012. What have you been up to since that interview leading to the launch of Camp Books?
Working! For much of the time on a PhD in the History Department at University College London, “Compelling Reading: The Circulation of Quaker Texts 1650-1700,” which was a wonderful chance at digging really deep into the history of radical ideas, and understanding how minorities archive their experiences. The Quakers were shockingly persecuted in the early decades of their establishment, and they communally wrote, edited, funded, and circulated works describing their experiences of persecution as well as their ideas. They wrote about gender equality, abolition, and pacifism, and the legacy of their practices has survived for over three centuries and continued: the same committee that oversaw the publication of pacifist tracts in the 1660s oversaw the publication of pro-LGBT pamphlets in the 1960s. Incredible to write about, and incredible to teach to students, which I was able to do during my time at UCL both with undergraduates and masters, as wells as secondary school students through a charity called The Brilliant Club, which focuses on promoting access to higher education.
I was also fortunate enough to work for a few years at Treadwell’s Books in Bloomsbury. Its owner, Dr. Christina Oakley-Harrington, is an incredible source of kindness, knowledge, and mentorship. Christina has been running Treadwell’s for 13 years and it’s a site of pilgrimage. I can honestly say there was not a day I worked there that people didn’t come from far and wide with the explanation that Treadwell’s was a place they’d long dreamed of visiting. So it’s a magical place in that way, and in its specialty, which is books on witchcraft, the occult, folklore, and all things esoterica. I received an incredible education in secondhand and rare books printed in those fields. Misanthropic models of bookselling be damned: at Treadwell’s we warmly welcomed everyone no matter what, and I enjoyed working with my colleagues to maintain the bookshop as a hub of community, and learned the practicalities of what it means to be inclusive. 
As the editor of Printing History, a peer reviewed academic journal published by the American Printing History Association, what has been your favorite part of helming the publication? 
Printing History has been a wonderful exercise in collaboration--I’m not just a historian of collaborative printing practices, I really do it with Michael Russem and Katherine Ruffin and each contributor! I think my favorite element beyond working with a good group of people is the landscaping: Printing History is a platform for the latest scholarship to do with printing technology and that allows me the space to really change who can be represented in weighing in on that topic. Just as Camp Books is my personal effort to alter the way people read and collect, Printing History is a chance to let others do that through their writing and scholarship. We have had a wonderful array of contributions--on everything from the typography of ouija boards to the risograph studio run here in London by the OOMK collective--and have also implemented features like interviews and roundtable discussions to try to capture some of the knowledge and expertise of those who don’t want to write in the medium of the academic article. We use the publication to foster the community of members, which is worth joining if you’re interested in printing, publishing, or allied crafts.
Do you have a personal collection? What’s the last book you bought for it?
Friends’ books, these most recent two purchases I have bought also relating more broadly to my own ‘contemporary queer small press’, although were bought in multiple copies to give as gifts, so lovely are they: Metabolize, if Able, by Clay Ad,
The new artists’ edition of Two Augusts in a Row in a Row, by Shelley Marlow.
I’m working backward: My personal library has always been varied and I suppose someday I’ll be able to trace all of the branches back to a trunk and some roots...for now I just buy books that nourish my curiosity about whatever.
Images: (Top) Brooke Palmieri, credit: Fuchsia Voremberg; (Middle) A proof of Sontag’s 1964 essay collection Against Interpretation, containing “Notes on Camp,” courtesy of Brooke Palmieri; (Bottom) A photograph of drag queen Francis Renault, signed by her in 1930, courtesy of Brooke Palmieri.

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Rachel Cole, Public Services Librarian at Northwestern University’s Transportation Library in Evanston, Illinois.

Rachel Cole.jpgWhat is your role at your institution (and please introduce our readers to the Transportation Library at Northwestern)?

I’m the Public Services Librarian for Northwestern University’s Transportation Library. We’re the largest transportation information research center in the United States, and among the largest in the world: we work with transportation information on local, national, and international scales, with a community of users from across the nation and worldwide. Our primary constituents are the students and faculty of the university’s Transportation Center, so the vast majority of our collections comprise technical resources related to current transportation research in support of their work. There’s a lot of fascinating research happening here that is helping to shape the future of mobility and of cities - I regularly get to do instruction, research consultations, and reference support on topics like autonomous vehicles, shared mobility, active transportation, electric vehicles, and infrastructure. It’s an area of personal interest to me, so I feel lucky to get to do this work alongside working with our rare materials, which I get really excited about. Special collections are a smaller and relatively recent area of collection development in the scope of the history of the transportation library, started under our current director Roberto Sarmiento. Many were acquired from donors who have contributed personal collections, though we do seek out materials for purchase with a very specific focus - a particular interest of mine for collection development is catalogs from bicycle manufacturers in Chicago during the manufacturing boom of the 1890s. Other collections focus on the passenger ephemera that’s produced for travel: things like timetables for railroads, passenger steamships, transit operators, and airlines; mid-century menus from airlines, cruise ships, and railroads. We also have a small collection of rare books, and, even after being at Northwestern for two and a half years, I’m still surprised at what I find sometimes when I’m browsing our general collections.


How did you get started in rare books?

My first library job was at the Newberry Library as a library assistant in the General Reading Room. Although I spent a lot of time in libraries in my youth and as a history undergraduate, special collections weren’t something I had been introduced to prior to working there. The lack of exposure in my early life (I would have loved to know about rare books!) is something that continues to inform my interest in making special collections accessible to the general public. At the Newberry I, of course, fell in love with rare books librarianship immediately. In addition to the thrill of working with the Newberry’s collections, I was lucky to be part of a really amazing group of library assistants in the GRR who would later go on to become amazing librarians, and I will always remember that experience fondly.


Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?

I earned my MLIS from Dominican University, while working full-time at the Newberry Library and then at the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries of the Art Institute of Chicago. I gained such valuable experience from the work I did at both libraries, under supportive and encouraging managers who pushed me to pursue my interests and gave me time during the workday to do so. For example, in addition to my usual duties as Circulation Manager at the Ryerson, I was given the space to write articles about items in the collection, develop reading room exhibits, and take reference shifts while still in library school.


Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

I have many from among the Transportation Library’s collections, but an 1898 Crawford Manufacturing Company brochure titled “The Modern Spinning Wheel,” which promoted the increased mobility afforded to women by the bicycle is a favorite. Also related to bicycles is a magazine titled “The Wheel World.” Published in London in the 1880s, it documented bicycle and tricycle social culture of the time through articles, illustrations, inside stories, and songs. Also, I still remember the feeling from my early days at the Newberry, over a decade ago, pulling a photo of Eugene Debs from a box - he had autographed it, and the feeling of handling something that this storied labor leader had handled was very powerful. It’s something I find a lot of joy in witnessing when helping students connect with physical materials. But my favorite items are dwarfed by favorite experiences. One of the most memorable was connecting an undergraduate with a physical copy of a 1980s transit map he had seen many times online. His emotion upon seeing the map - one might call it awe (“can I touch it?” he asked) - was really moving, as was his decision, after graduating, to donate a personal collection of transit ephemera to the library.


What do you personally collect?

My personal collection goes back to one of my earliest memories, visiting a travel agency in my hometown of Bartlett, Illinois with my grandmother, and seeing the travel posters of faraway destinations on the wood-paneled walls. The adventure and excitement they promised stayed with me, and my collection of travel ephemera - really, from my own travels - stems directly from that; getting to work with special collections related to travel and transportation at work is something I feel extraordinarily lucky to do.


What do you like to do outside of work?

As you may have guessed from earlier answers, I love to travel: favorite trips have been a solo trip on the Trans-Siberian Railroad from Beijing to St. Petersburg several years back, and to the Algarve, Portugal with my husband last year. Now that we have a 3-year-old son, travel means something new altogether, introducing him to new places and experiences - whether taking him to Yosemite, a day trip to our favorite destination of the Indiana Dunes, or exploring neighborhood parks in our new city of Evanston. I also enjoy architecture, running, skiing, kayaking (we are lucky to have a boathouse with rentals at Northwestern), baking, and seeing friends.


What excites you about rare book librarianship?

I get excited about engagement with and democratization of materials, on a broad scale that appeals not only to the scholars who have traditionally been the users of special collections and rare books, but that also reaches the general public in real and relatable ways. That’s my goal for the Transportation Library’s Instagram account (@transportationlibrary), where I post materials from our collections. In addition to choosing visually interesting items, I include a bit of context about each: followers can choose to scroll through our account and admire the images on their own, or they can pause to read a bit of history about each one. We often get comments on posts to the effect of “I learn so much from your account!” and these are my favorites. I love that our followers come from a range of backgrounds, from high school students to academics. I feel similarly about our online exhibits, which are designed to connect our collections with a broad range of interested people from the general public. In addition to users engaging with these materials online, which I think we’ve been very effective in doing, another end goal is bringing users in to the library to have the experience of interacting with these collections in person. In my two and a half years with the Transportation Library, I’ve curated three online exhibits: Bicycles on Paper, Lovers of the Open Road and the Flying Wheel, and On Board with Design.


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

The things that I mentioned in my previous answer - reaching a broad community of users and making our collections accessible - are not just things I get excited about, but also, I think, the future of special collections and rare book librarianship. This includes presenting our institutions as places where all users are welcome, inviting use of our collections, and meeting our users outside of the library: in the classroom, via social media, through online exhibits, and the like. Focusing on building collections from and about underrepresented groups is also essential as we work towards the goal of connecting with patrons in relatable and meaningful ways: to tell the stories of groups whose voices have not been at the front historically, and to work towards collections where those voices are represented.


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

I’d like to draw attention to them all, because I think they’re all so interesting - choosing one is difficult. Earlier this year, we finished processing the John A. Swider Timetable Collection, which consists of bus and rail timetables dating from 1880 to 2006, including several that promote travel to World’s Fairs. Timetables are such fascinating documents - not just for things like transportation schedules, passenger policies, and maps, but also for the promise they offered for the excitement of travel. I love the ways in which they advertise destinations both near and far, and often employ beautiful imagery to do so. The same can be said for our all of our timetables, including a large collection of airline timetables representing countries from all around the world, donated by Northwestern alum and noted anthropologist George M. Foster.


Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

Together with colleagues from the Herskovits Library of African Studies, our neighbor here at Northwestern University Libraries, I’m working on Independence in the Air: African Aviation in the 1960s. In researching this exhibition, I was surprised at how quickly many newly independent nations established national airlines in the years directly following their independence - often, the same year or year after. The online exhibit focuses on timetables and other passenger ephemera as well as annual reports from those airlines, to look at how they served as symbols of national identity and modernity as their fleets carried their new flags within their borders and around the world. I am really excited to share this exhibit, and hope you’ll look out for it later this fall.

Image credit: Matthew Zhang

A quill pen that belonged to the Victorian artist and publisher William Morris is headed to auction at Forum Auctions in London on September 27. The antique writing instrument resides in a wooden frame alongside a metal plate that reads: “This pen belonged to William Morris.” A label on the back indicates that the pen passed to Emery Walker, a printer and engraver who worked with Morris at the Kelmscott Press, and thence to John Drinkwater, whose ‘critical study’ of Morris was published in 1912.

Morris Pen.jpgIt’s an understatement to say that Morris looms large in the world of book collecting, which is why the auction estimate of £300-500 ($400-660) seems rather conservative. As Reynolds Price once said to Nicholas Basbanes about his association copy of Paradise Lost, “I was touching the hand that touched the hand that touched the Hand,” it is this direct association with Morris, the visionary of the Arts and Crafts movement, that would compel a devout collector to bid on this piece of realia. 

The lot includes two other pens owned by Drinkwater, as well as a copy of his book on Morris.

Image via Forum Auctions

On Wednesday, September 12, Dominic Winter Auctioneers holds a thirtieth-anniversary sale of Fine Books & Manuscripts, in 180 lots. The top-estimated lot at £20,000-30,000 is a set of the first state of John Lenthall’s engraved playing cards featuring a map of England, from around 1717 (pictured below). The set includes 49 of the 52 cards; no other set with as many cards is known. A set of Roberts’ The Holy Land could fetch £15,000-25,000, while the first six volumes of Bloch’s Ichthyologie is estimated at £12,000-15,000. An interesting C.S. Lewis letter to a group of schoolchildren could sell for £3,000-5,000, and a lovely embroidered binding on a 1637 Bible is estimated at £2,000-3,000.

lenthall.pngHeritage Auctions holds a Rare Books & Maps Signature Auction on Thursday, September 13, in 342 lots. A rare 1799 reissue of the 1787 New York edition of The Federalist has a $35,000 reserve. (More on that, including comments from collector Michael Zinman, here in our autumn auction guide.) A run of The Strand Magazine featuring all of the Sherlock Holmes stories published there has a $33,000 reserve. Also on the block are an eleven-volume set of Audubon’s Birds and Quadrupeds, several Borges manuscripts (lots 45024-45027), a number of Dickens books in parts as well as several books from Dickens’ library, and a Bible from the family of H.P. Lovecraft.


Also on Thursday: rare books and manuscripts at Waverly Rare Books in Falls Church, VIrginia, including early printed books, fine bindings, autographs, Americana, and more.


Image credit: Dominic Winter Auctioneers

Over 100 rare book, photo, print, and ephemera dealers will fill the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, this weekend and transform the space into a celebration of art and the written word with a series of events and 50,000 of their most favorite finds of the season. This year, the fair commissioned artist and animator Nicole Antebi of Hudson Valley Motion Graphics to highlight the book fair and the unique opportunity it provides to find and build meaningful collections. Take a look:


Cultivating great collections one object at a time from on Vimeo.


Looking forward to seeing you at the fair! 



Jennifer Morla is a legend in her own time: for forty years, her shadow has loomed over the world of graphic design. Earning over 300 accolades like the Cooper Hewitt award, the AIGA medal, and the Smithsonian Design Museum National Award, Morla’s work has graced publicity campaigns for some of the world’s best-known brands like Levi’s, Design Within Reach, Swatch, and Nordstrom. The Library of Congress and MOMA have her pieces in their permanent collections, and when she’s not running her eponymous design firm, Morla is teaching design at the California College of the Arts.


Now, Morla is the subject of a forthcoming biography being published by Letterform Archive. Entitled, fittingly, Morla: Design, the Kickstarter-funded project explores Morla’s career, her creative process, design philosophy, and also offers behind-the-scenes stories about various high profile projects. Staying true to Morla’s contemporary and lively aesthetic, the book features neon bookmark ribbons, metallic inks throughout, and a vegan leather case, itself a design triumph. Letterform’s all-or-nothing Kickstarter campaign ends Saturday, September 8, though it has already surpassed its $50,000 goal. Donations in all amounts are still very much welcome, but those willing to pledge $125 and up will receive a copy of the book. 


Morla graciously answered a few questions recently about the book, the importance of listening to clients, and whether words remain as important as art in our increasingly image-saturated world.


1. Your book is the second book to be published by Letterform Archive, following on the heels of W.A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design. How did your project come about?


It seemed like the appropriate time for me to discuss my design approach and identify the issues that I consider when formulating my design process. Letterform Archive showed an immediate interest in publishing my monograph and has been a true partner in bringing this book to print.


2. You founded Morla Design in 1984. What drew you to this field? 


My aunt was an editor at Condé Nast in the 60s and would occasionally cast my sister and myself in photoshoots when we were young. By the time I was 10 years old, I already had been exposed to the workings of a magazine and an in-house “art department.” Another great influence was visiting MOMA’s design wing as a child and seeing chairs, posters and books displayed in a museum.  Those events, coupled with my ability to draw, solidified my decision to become a designer.


3. What is it like to know your work will exist in perpetuity in institutions like the LIbrary of Congress and is considered a touchstone of American design?


It is very, very humbling. I consider myself so very fortunate to have had clients who have collaborated with me in defining communication goals without defining the solution.


4. Was yours an artistic household? Growing up in Manhattan, I imagine you took great advantage of your surroundings. What were (or remain) your New York design influences? 


My mother was an art history major and would take us to museums often when we were young. One of my favorites was the Guggenheim, an architectural icon, so very different from any other museum in the city. I was in love with the building, and what nine year old doesn’t love skipping down a six story ramp? Another big influence was The New York Times. Type, illustrations, fashion, a magazine, and those wonderful, full page Ohrbach’s ads! In 1970, the Vietnam War was raging and political images proliferated all around the city: in the media, on construction barricades, in subway ads. Push Pin’s posters, an Evergreen magazine cover by Paul Davis of Che Guevara, the musical “Hair,” all had a profound influence on me understanding the power of design in its many forms.    




5. Your first job out of college was at San Francisco’s local PBS station, followed by a move to run the art department for Levi Strauss. What was that leap like? Was it challenging going from a nonprofit to a commercial entity?


The biggest difference was design budget. Although my meager salary was the same for both positions, the Levi’s creative budget allowed me the opportunity to produce big ideas. At the PBS station, the creative budgets were so tight that I hand-cut rubylith [masking film] to save money. I handled every project from beginning to end: photography, lettering, illustration and animation. At Levi’s, I was able to hire great photographers, print thousands of posters, and create high end brochures using every specialty printing technique. Both jobs were extremely informative and gave me the confidence to open my design studio at 28 years old.


6. I’m going to ask you a question you’ve probably been asked hundreds of times: what makes good design? Does good design change with the times, or are their classic elements that never go out of style?


Great design is, quite simple, innovation that reflects the spirit of an era and becomes a classic because of its timeless appeal.


7. How has your design aesthetic evolved, if at all, over the course of your career?


Although I can see some influence of a certain time period in my work, I have always maintained that design should be appropriate to the problem rather than a stylistic conceit.  I hope the work shown in the book is a testament to that belief.




8. It seems our society is moving away from verbal communication towards more visual marketing and communication. Has this trend changed how you work? Or do words remain as relevant as ever?


As designers, we often underestimate the impact we have on the world at large, and how our visual vocabulary is influenced by political, social and cultural events. I created Designisms, a listing of my observations and reflections on design and designing. Specific to your question, a designism: Words are as important as images and images can be more powerful than words.


9. How do you approach a project? What’s your process?


I always start with sketching. Many sketches. The final sketches identify the solution, including typeface considerations, color, illustrative style and final form. I often consider whether the solution can be accomplished with just type.


10. Have you ever worked on a project that didn’t turn out as expected, for better or for worse? 


Oh yes, I believe in allowing the process to help define the solution. And accidents are an important part of the process. Only the creator can identify when an accident, something you did not expect, adds an informative detail to the solution.


11.  Are you a collector? If so, what do you collect. And why?


Not a collector at all, I am a minimalist. But I do love to read and read about 50 books a year. I guess I collect books.


12.  What are your favorite books?


I especially like fiction and my list of favorites is vast: Orlando by Virginia Woolf, the way she shocks the reader with the unexpected, to John Updike’s uber-realistic Rabbit series. From contemporary novelists like Jenny Egan to Flaubert’s classic, Madame Bovary. When my girls were in eighth grade, I read what they were reading and I got to fall in love again with Huckleberry Finn and Pride and Prejudice. Current favorite authors beside Egan are George Saunders, Don DeLillo, Ian McEwan, Zadie Smith and for a chuckle, David Sedaris.


13. Could you talk a little about the design process for Morla: Design. It is encased in vegan white leather with a vacuum-formed cover. What do you hope the design of your book will convey to readers?


That design is not only about two dimensional space, that form can surprise and generate curiosity. I relish experimenting with materials; the vacuum-formed and debossed covers both are seductive and amplify the pattern cover art. Fluorescent inks act as chapter dividers and bring attention to the section of the book I dedicated to my best loved typefaces and characters. I utilized many of my favorite printing and binding techniques in designing the book: Fluorescent and metallic inks are used to identify my essays, vellum sheets with white ink display my “designisms”, full bleed images throughout showcase projects and the ribbon markers allow the reader to mark favorite images. The book itself is a tactile and visually rich object.


14. In addition to running Morla Design, you teach at California College of the Arts. What are some of the most common questions you receive from students about making a living as a designer?


I believe that a good designer is a great listener, and if you carefully, the client nearly always gives you the solution to the problem.


Images courtesy of Letterform Archive, an online price comparison tool for books, has released an annual list of its most searched for out-of-print books for the past 14 years. The 2017 list was just unveiled, and this year’s winner for “most sought after book” was... Arranged Marriage by Chita Banerjee Divakaruni. (Notably, for the first time since I’ve been covering the annual Bookfinder report, Sex by Madonna was knocked out of the top ten).

Arranged Marriage by Divakaruni is a collection of short stories about arranged marriage that was first published in 1996. Divakaruni, an Indian-American author and poet, is probably best known to American readers for her novel The Mistress of Spices (1997). The stories may have found a new readership owing to the current debates over women’s rights in India as well as immigration to the United States (some stories in the collection deal with the cultural impact of Indian arranged marriages coupled with American immigration). Divakaruni wasn’t the only Indian-American author on the top ten list; in spot number 6 was The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri. It was a surprise to me to find that title out of print owing to the continued popularity of its Pulitzer Prize winning author. 

A few other personal surprises from the list included Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (number 2), You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers (number 3), and Gun with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem (number 7). 

The number 10 spot went to a beloved book for some Fine Books & Collections readers: Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman, about Fadiman’s love of books and reading, along with reminiscences of her familial literary petigree.

Director Frederick Wiseman’s 2017 documentary on the New York Public Library, Ex Libris, premieres tonight at 10:00 p.m. on PBS.

Copyright The New York Public Library (1) copy.jpgFeaturing Patti Smith, Richard Dawkins, and Elvis Costello, as well as librarians, library staffers, and patrons young and old, the documentary covers (or makes a valiant effort at covering) the breadth and depth of the NYPL’s ninety-two branches in just over two hours. One reviewer called it “The Best Thing to Happen to Libraries Since the Dewey Decimal System.” Watch a two-minute preview here.

Best teaser: “Andy Warhol stole lots of stuff from us.”

Image courtesy of the NYPL via PBS

A quiet auction week, with just one sale to preview:


On Thursday, September 6, PBA Galleries sells Literature with Books in All Fields, in 607 lots. The top-estimated lot is a copy of Herbert Childs’ biography of American physicist Ernest Orlando Lawrence, An American Genius (1968). Inscribed by the author and signed by more than forty scientists (among them ten Nobel laureates) and Lawrence family members, the volume is estimated at $10,000-15,000.


An early American edition of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, with the publisher’s printed dust-jacket, is estimated at $3,000-5,000, while an inscribed first edition of Stephen King’s Carrie could fetch $1,500-2,000. The rare final section of Richard Wright’s autobiography, Black Boy, is estimated at $1,000-1,500, as is the first printing of Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock” (in Miscellaneous Poems and Translations). The original typescript of Lawrence Block’s Ariel, with the author’s set of galley proofs, rates the same estimate; there are two other Block manuscripts and typescripts on offer as well.


A first edition of Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (1912) is estimated at $600-900, and an inscribed copy of Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea (1968) is rated at $400-600. 


Lots 367-607 are being sold without reserve.


Image credit: PBA Galleries

Auction Guide