November 2018 Archives

“If we didn’t already have libraries, they would now have to be invented. They are the keys to American success in fully exploiting the information highways of the future,” wrote James H. Billington in the winter 1994 issue of Media Strategies Journal. At the time, the thirteenth Librarian of Congress was reminding a nation enthralled with the nascence of the internet that libraries would be as important as ever in the electronic age, as preservation repositories, testing grounds for experiments in digitization, and strongholds where anyone could freely access humankind’s various written efforts.

Billington wasn’t just offering his opinion; he was engaged in what would become a battle to preserve the mission of the Library of Congress (LOC).

In 1995, a report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) suggested, in an effort to streamline operations at the LOC, that the library’s $350 million annual operating budget be slashed to practically nothing and turn its focus to “increasing revenue” (whatever that means) rather than building and sustaining the country’s knowledge hub. Luckily, Congress committee members charged with reviewing the document rejected the plan. As Billington noted in Patience & Fortitude (Basbanes, 2001), the attempt to undermine the LOC’s mission was hardly noticed by the national media. “The Messiah could make a personal appearance in the main reading room, and the chances are fifty-fifty that it would get any attention from the press,” he said. But the GAO’s report, if acted upon, would have had serious consequences for the future of America’s library, and Billington “went after it tooth and nail....because it was a cautionary issue of no small significance.”

Indeed, what was at stake, as the career humanist realized, was whether the world’s largest library--charged with, as he put it, “stockpiling information”--could continue to ensure that anyone could browse the LOC’s unique treasures.


And yet, Billington did not shy away from the new digital medium. In fact, he embraced what this technology could offer. During his tenure from 1987 to 2015, Billington oversaw great change at the LOC, ushering in dozens of free digital initiatives like the online American culture resource for K-12 education now known as the National Digital Library;, a free portal to U.S. federal legislative information; National Jukebox, which provides free access to over 10,000 out-of-print music and spoken word recordings; and a digital talking books app. He also established programs like the National Book Festival and the Veterans History Project.

And though cost-cutting was often on the wish-list of many political agendas, over the years, Billington raised over half a billion dollars to supplement Congressional financial support no matter who was in office.

Billington faced the future of book culture with steely-eyed awareness and an understanding that far surpassed many contemporaries. He welcomed the Internet age as a liberation of physical books from the cumbersome task of storing facts and figures. “With the move to electronic formats, what I believe you will now see is that books containing data will be online, and the serious kind of traditional literature that has always been in book form will continue to appear in book form. The book, in my view, will be freed from a very heavy burden that it has to bear all these years,” he explained in Patience & Fortitude. “It will be allowed to flourish anew.”

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Samuel V. Lemley of Charlottesville, Virginia, winner of the 2018 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest:

Lemley 2.pngWhere are you from / where do you live?

I grew up in Northern California but currently live in Charlottesville, where I am a PhD candidate in English at the University of Virginia. 
What did you study as an undergraduate?

I studied English literature at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (where I worked as an awed and eager assistant in the Rare Book Collection); earned a masters degree in library science at the Palmer School in New York City; and now study, teach, and write about early modern English literature, seventeenth-century antiquarianism, bibliography, and Renaissance science, among other things. 

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

I’ve figured the collection as a bibliographic genealogy, or ‘biblio-genealogy’: it tells the story of my Sicilian ancestry and heritage in the form of books printed in Sicily during the years for which genealogical records of my ancestors survive. The chronological limits of my collection (1704 to 1893) reflect this: Gabriele Militello, my earliest documented ancestor, was born in Bivona in 1704; my great-grandfather, Pietro Marchese, an emigrant to the United States in the aftermath of World War I, was born in Pollina in 1893. These are the genetic bookends of my Sicilian family tree and the figurative bookends of the collection.

My collection is also cast as a supplement to a genealogical history compiled and written over several decades by my grandfather, Vincent J. Militello, and finished last year. His research and mind guide my acquisitive habit and inspire the collection’s form. I am trying to acquire one item (book, manuscript, or pamphlet) for each of my documented Sicilian ancestors by direct lineal descent, printed or made in Sicily during the decade of their birth. 

How many books are in your collection?

The unusual criteria I use in selecting books and the relative scarcity of Sicilian imprints mean that it’s slow growing. Somehow, though, I’ve managed to assemble about fifty items, various in genre and format (manuscripts, pamphlets, ephemera, and books) over the last few years. 

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

A vellum-bound and fittingly flyspecked treatise on the plague, Relazione istorica della peste (Palermo, 1743). I found it at the ‘shadow fair’ in New York City, I think in 2014. 
How about the most recent book?

I just bought a preternaturally unspoiled copy of an important nineteenth-century bibliography of Siciliana, Alessio Narbone’s Bibliografia Sicola Sistematica (Palermo, 1850-55). The book is uncut in pale yellow paper wrappers, and some of its volumes are tied together with what appears to be nineteenth-century twine. Evidently it was never read. It’s a useful book (it lists thousands of texts printed in Sicily or on Sicilian subjects, so I’d have cause to cite it), but I probably won’t use it--a digital facsimile online suits and lets me keep my copy safe and unsullied on its shelf.  

And your favorite book in your collection?

It changes. Right now, I’m enamored of one book that describes the path of a large comet that appeared above Europe in July, 1819. It’s by Sicilian astronomer Niccoló Cacciatore, who is famed for encrypting his name in the stars: in an 1814 star catalog, Cacciatore assigned the vaguely Slavic-sounding names Sualocin and Rotanev to Alpha and Beta Delphini, two binary stars in the Delphinus constellation. It took astronomers nearly forty-five years to decipher Cacciatore’s onomastic conceit: Cacciatore’s name, Latinized to ‘Nicolaus Venator’ and reversed, yields Sualocin Rotanev. I like the book for its author’s tongue-in-cheek professionalism, but also because it illustrates the importance of Palermo’s Royal Observatory in nineteenth-century astronomy--it was there, for example, that Giuseppe Piazzi discovered the dwarf planet Ceres in 1802. 
Best bargain you’ve found?

For its age and rarity, my first Sicilian book (Relazione istorica della peste, Palermo, 1743) was enticingly priced--somewhere well below $100, if I remember correctly. That book convinced me that collecting Sicilian imprints could be done affordably. But my most exciting purchase came during a recent trip to Palermo’s mercato delle pulci--a row of garage-like shopfronts just north of the city’s Norman palace. Amidst an assortment of knickknacks and kitsch, I found an unbound sheaf of four folded sheets bearing a manuscript homily in Italian. After glancing through it and discovering that it was a Christmas sermon written by a Sicilian priest sometime in the nineteenth century (I think circa 1830), I offered the shop’s owner a wadded ten Euro note and left to decipher the manuscript’s contents over dinner in a nearby trattoria. Hauntingly, the text of the sermon is apparently unrecorded elsewhere--it carries a scribal record of a voice that echoes still across two centuries or more. Beyond its intrinsic value and interest, though, the manuscript carries personal associations that will remain forever bound in with my collection: that same morning I had met with cousins at their home in the northern Sicilian countryside and visited the room in which my great-grandfather had died. Near the end of his life, he returned to his hometown, leaving family and America behind to die on his mother’s land, south of Cefalù. All that for 10 Euros. 

How about The One that Got Away?

I’ve somehow avoided that heartbreak.

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

Any illustrated book from the press of eighteenth-century Palermitan printer Angelo Felicella, or a copy of Giuseppe Piazzi’s pioneering star catalog, the Praecipuarum stellarum inerrantium (Palermo, 1803). 

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

The Bookery in Placerville, California was the bookstore of my childhood and so tenants my mind as a kind of Platonic ideal for ‘Bookstore.’ Thinking of it now conjures its shelves, scents, and staff, including a graying dog I’d sit beside while browsing for Redwall books, circa 1999. I revisit it whenever I’m back home in a sort of bookish pilgrimage. More recently, my favorite sellers work in the rarefied world of antiquarian books. W.P. Watson’s catalogs teem with remarkable things and bristle with Rick Watson’s incomparable erudition and expertise. I’ve been privileged to work for Watson at ABAA and ILAB fairs in New York, California, and London--I feel I’ve learned from the best. I also admire A.N. Devers, owner of The Second Shelf in London, from afar. She’s doing brilliant things to open up the often tweedy and very male world of antiquarian books to women sellers and collectors and seems to be the best kind of badass. I hope to meet her someday.

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


[Image credit: Dan Addison]

Another very crowded auction week:


On Monday, November 26, Ketterer Kunst held a sale of Rare Books in Hamburg. A German copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle in a mid-sixteenth-century binding sold for €147,600, and a Latin Book of Hours (use of Troyes) from around 1480 in a nineteenth-century find binding by Simier fetched €70,110.


Bonhams London sold Fine Books, Manuscripts, Atlases and Historical Photographs on Tuesday, November 27, in 216 lots. A Robert Schumann manuscript of his Fantasiestücke for piano led the sale, selling for £224,750. A copy of John Gould’s Monograph of the Trochilidae (1849-1861) made £47,500. A seventeenth-century Ethiopian manuscript in Ge’ez sold for £22,500.


warhol.pngWednesday, November 28, Binoche et Giquello sells Livres Anciens et Manuscrits, in 53 lots. A very rare copy of Étienne Dolet’s Le Second Enfer d’Estienne Dolet, natif d’Orléans (1544) is expected to lead the way, with estimates of €80,000-100,000. Chiswick Auctions holds an auction of Rare Books & Works on Paper in 338 lots: among those with high estimates are a presentation copy of Andy Warhol and Suzie Frankfort’s Wild Raspberries (1959), at £10,000-12,000 (pictured at left); and an incomplete copy of the Tyndale Bible, at £8,000-10,000.


Also on Wednesday, Rossini sells books, manuscripts, and autographs from the library of philosophy professor John Lefranc (1927-2015), in 211 lots. And at Christie’s London, Russian Literary First Editions & Manuscripts: Highlights from the R. Eden Martin Collection, in 228 lots. Rating the top estimate is Osip Emil’evich Mandel’shtam’s Kamen (1913), inscribed by the author to poet Viacheslav Ivanov (£60,000-90,000); just one other inscribed copy is known. A rare copy of Gogol’s Vechera na khutore bliz dikan’ki (1831-1832) is estimated at £50,000-70,000. I’ll have more on this sale in the next print issue.


On Thursday, November 29, Forum Auctions sells Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper, in 347 lots. A set of Buffon’s Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux (1770-1786) is estimated at £70,000-90,000, and a first edition of the King James Bible (“He” version) could fetch £30,000-40,000.


Also on Thursday, PBA Galleries sells The Craig Noble Collection of L. Frank Baum & the Wizard of Oz, in 257 lots. An inscribed copy of Baum’s Sam Steele’s Adventures in Panama (1907) is assigned the top estimate at $8,000-12,000.


Friday, November 30 sees a History of Science and Technology sale at Sotheby’s New York, in 109 lots. Richard Feynman’s Nobel Prize medal is expected to sell for as much as $800,000-1,200,000; his copy of Dirac’s Principles of Quantum Mechanics is another highlight. Several lots of Feynman manuscripts are also part of the sale. A bible signed and inscribed by Albert Einstein is estimated at £200,000-300,000, and a working-condition three-rotor Enigma machine could sell for £180,000-200,000.


Image credit: Chiswick Auctions

From time to time, we corral the latest books about books of interest to our readers. With the holidays on the horizon, we look at seven new books in this genre that are also gift books, or coffee table books, i.e., books you might wish to give or receive.  

Writer's Map.jpgThe Writer’s Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands (University of Chicago Press, $45) is a visual feast: 167 full-color illustrations of maps that have appeared in books or inspired books or were used while writing. From Jack Kerouac’s quick pencil sketch of his cross-country route chronicled in On the Road to E.H. Shepard’s hand-drawn map of Hundred Acre Wood (recently sold at auction) to the Hereford Mappa Mundi that inspired novelist David Mitchell, each short chapter, written by an author or an artist, offers an enchanting look at the world around us, and the worlds we imagine.

Living Maps.jpgRelatedly, Living Maps: An Atlas of Cities Personified (Chronicle Books, $35) is another bright, oversized book made for cartographic buffs. Artist Adam Dant playfully re-imagines twenty-eight cities of the world, e.g. London, Rome, Mumbai, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro, among others, in monochromatic (watercolor?) drawings made to look like a traveler’s collection of vacation snapshots. Each chapter also contains a color spread of cartographic images within “crumbly old books.” Very meta.  

Venice.pngIn Venice Illuminated: Power and Painting in Renaissance Manuscripts (Yale University Press, $70), Helena Katalin Szépe, an associate professor of art history in the School of Art and Art History at the University of South Florida, provides an extensive analysis of the small paintings within manuscripts, with particular attention to the history and culture of art patronage in Venice. For collectors in this area, this heavily illustrated book is indispensable.  

Screen Shot 2018-11-27 at 10.02.17 AM.pngPublished in conjunction with an exhibition now on view at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, Stones to Stains: The Drawings of Victor Hugo (Hammer Museum/Prestel Publishing, $50) is a fabulous collection of Hugo’s brooding works on paper. Best known as the author of the novel, Les Misérables (1862), it seems we hardly know Hugo as a visual artist; this book rectifies that. In addition to the inky, blotty drawings, there are also some of his cut-out silhouettes and one or two illustrated sketchbooks. A must for Hugo fans.

Frank Stella.jpgFrank Stella Unbound: Literature and Prinkmaking (Yale University Press, $35), published to coincide with a recent Princeton University Art Museum exhibition, is a vibrant volume dedicated to Stella’s literary-inspired prints made between 1984 and 1999, such as his series of 266 works in conversation with Moby-Dick and prints named after Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales. The exhibition is currently on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville.

Chicago.jpgCurrent or former Chicagoan? Chicago by the Book: 101 Publications That Shaped the City and Its Image (University of Chicago Press, $35), edited by the city’s bibliophilic Caxton Club, is a perfect gift. As one would expect from the Caxtonians, the production value is high -- the book is brimming with images of first editions and related illustrations, ephemera, and photography -- and the content is a delightful miscellany, from the Montgomery Ward catalogues to the Four American Books campaign to Gwendolyn Brooks and Saul Bellow.

Georgia.jpgFinally, Georgia: A Cultural Journey Through the Wardrop Collection (Bodleian Library/University of Chicago Press, $70) by Nikoloz Aleksidze narrates a history of Georgian literature and culture through the items of the extraordinary Wardrop collection: manuscripts, royal charters, correspondence, and notebooks (at the Bodleian Library). Lavishly illustrated, with a place-marker ribbon, too.

Images courtesy of individual publishers

One of the nicest fairs in the cycle of our year, is the Chelsea book fair. This is managed by Graham York, on behalf of the ABA, and is held in Chelsea Old Town Hall. This is a beautiful venue, with tapestries and paintings from English history adorning the walls, and oozing with that easy charm that this part of London does so well. We were all slightly less “easy” this year, as the town hall has just been fully refurbished. It looks beautiful, but we were slightly nervous about damaging the paintwork!




We arrived on the 1st November, and soon had our stand set up and prepared. This year, we focussed on showing more art and posters, which made for a rather complex arrangement of frames to display them. Nevertheless, Marcia and I managed it, and were able to look round and see what everyone else had provided. 


Chelsea is run by the ABA, so naturally, we expect a high standard of material from all of the exhibitors. This time, I thought I would focus a little on the “non-book” items that crop up at an ABA fair! It goes without saying, that alongside these items were many many, many wonderful books, maps, prints and other paper collectables. 




First stop was to Graham York. With his wife Jan, he runs a lovely bookshop in Honiton in Devon. Part of their offering this year was a lovely microscope (in its case), a selection of miniature books and a very nice Italian atlas. 




Next door to them, was the irrepressible Christopher Saunders, the ABA’s Cricket specialist. Naturally, he offered many cricket books this year, but he also displayed this bat, signed by 27 of the players involved with a 1926 tour of the Australian Cricket team to England. A snip at only £450 for a whole wedge of cricketing history. 




I think the strangest item for sale at the fair, was a whole tray of (hopefully unused) glass eyes. Presumably intended for the doctor to choose the perfect match to a patient’s other eye, this rather macabre, but nevertheless fascinating collection was certainly eye-catching (sorry). 


As ever, it was great to catch up with friends, colleagues and relatives whilst in London. A great end to the year’s season in the UK, although we still have the Mechelen fair to go in Belgium; hope to see some of you there. 


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


Who among us hasn’t heard of Pippi Longstocking, a nine-year-old Swedish orphan of prodigious strength and fortitude whose adventures result in all sorts of well-intentioned mischief and fun? Unfortunately for English readers, translations of Astrid Lindgren’s (1907-2002) Pippi Longstocking series read a bit clumsily, but the protagonist still charms with steadfast outspokenness against bullies of all sorts. No matter what, Pippi and other characters from Lindgren’s vast cast of characters are always resolutely on the side of children.

Now comes a film biopic that traces Lindgren’s formative years as a clever girl with a gift for storytelling but whose childhood is cut abruptly short by an unplanned pregnancy. Becoming Astrid, directed and co-written by Pernille Fischer Christensen (A Soap; Someone You Love) offers a captivating examination of the events of Lindgren’s childhood that fueled Lindgren’s eventual rise to fame. Starring a masterful Alba August as the young Astrid, the 123-minute film is a nuanced look at a girl who must grow up all too soon and face life as an unwed mother largely on her own. Though Lindgren’s situation is as old as human history, how she deals with it is mesmerizing.

And yet, as good as Becoming Astrid is, it leaves much on the table. After refusing to marry the older newspaper editor who impregnated her, Lindgren heads to Stockholm where she learns stenography while waiting to give birth. The baby boy is sent to a foster mother in Denmark while she finds her footing and regains her family’s acceptance.

And then the film ends. Concluding director’s notes say that Lindgren eventually married her work supervisor, Sture Lindgren, and went on to write the books that made her an international sensation. It’s a pity the film ends where it does because it leaves so many questions left unanswered, such as: When did Lindgren transition from oral storytelling to putting pen to paper? How did she land her first book deal? Additionally, the film suggests nothing of Lindgren’s lifelong devotion to fighting for various causes like banning seal hunting, ending child pornography, and championing equality for the downtrodden and forgotten.

Becoming Astrid offers a tantalizing glimpse of an inspirational woman and provides, in part, an explanation for why Lindgren’s stories are full of abandoned, parentless children. And though the film is not a full biographic treatment, it is still very much  worth watching as it ignites a desire to know more about the subject. In fact, a recently published biography by Jens Anderson entitled Astrid Lindgren: The Woman Behind Pippi Longstocking (Yale University Press) fills in those gaps.

In the final analysis, like her characters, Lindgren was a child forced to take care of herself but didn’t have the right tools to do so. She made mistakes, learned from them, and despite it all, grew up strong, which is certainly what we all hope for our children.

Becoming Astrid opens in New York today at the Film Forum, to be followed by a national roll out. Watch the trailer here.
Image courtesy of Music Box Films

We recently interviewed Marko Matijašević, founder and creative director of Amaranthine Books, a new publisher of high-quality, illustrated limited editions of classics, based in Croatia. We talked about the origin of the company, their first publication (a beautiful dual edition of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) and what’s next for them.


Please introduce our readers to Amaranthine Books:

Amaranthine Books started as an idea to create beautifully designed and illustrated special editions of the famous classics. It was officially founded in 2015, but I’ve worked on it for two years prior to that, developing the vision and the philosophy, as well as working on the first title. I knew I wanted to focus on books that are deemed classics, because I wanted to give those literary works the form that they deserve. I am a book collector myself, so this line of work was a win-win for me :) Also, my prior work experience in advertising, gave me a lot of know-how with various print forms, as well as contacts with the best illustrators and print shops in Croatia.

I would like to make Amaranthine Books into an international publishing company that will keep its focus on creating special editions. These special editions should not only accompany the reading experience, but enhance it with numerous details and even hidden easter eggs. More importantly, I want to focus on quality so these books can last. After all, books we love to read are a reflection of us, so when we are gone, they can speak a lot about our character and beliefs. And that is what Amaranthine Books stands for -- books that you’ll buy for yourself, but leave to those who come after you.
That is also why I chose the name Amaranthine -- besides the usual meaning, it also means ‘unfading; everlasting’. It also represents the pink-red colour that can be found in our logo. Logo itself has letters ‘a’ and ‘b’ placed in the shape of an almost completed infinity sign. The goal was to say “yeah, nothing really last forever... but in a world where everything passes in an instant, some things should last.”
We were very impressed with the alternate Jekyll and Hyde editions you produced for the Robert Louis Stevenson classic. Tell us more about that process. What drew you to that story in particular?  Where did the inspiration come from to produce the two editions?
We made two editions because it seemed like an interesting idea to get people to choose which edition draws them more, while also leaving an option to choose both. Surprisingly, a lot of people went for both editions, even though the content is the same, but having them both next to each other makes each edition stand out even more.
When we started working on the Jekyll & Hyde, I knew I didn’t want to just make some hardcover edition with a few pretty illustration. The goal was to enhance the reading experience, so it was imperative to not only read and analyse the book, but also the conditions in which it was written. That is why each illustration is double-sided, showing key plot points from two opposite angles, further emphasising the duality of Jekyll and Hyde. The covers and slipcase carry the same idea.
Furthermore, I found out that RLS wrote it (twice!) in six days while under the influence of (medically) prescribed cocaine. This served as an inspiration for another easter egg, especially since Jekyll transformed with a chemical compound of his own making, so endpapers feature one formula over and over again -- the chemical formula of cocaine (explained in detail in the book’s afterword). Another easter egg is hidden inside the slipcase, while the third one is on one of the illustrations where Jekyll sits in front of the fireplace -- there are two paintings above the fireplace and one of them feature the portrait of the writer.
There are even more subtle details in the book and the goal was to make all those things work in unison to enhance the experience for the reader. When that much thought and work goes into a book, it is a special joy when we receive emails from our customers saying they found something or just to tell us how much they enjoyed it. It really helps to stay motivated and work even harder when we see other people get excited about it as much as we do :)
We understand that your edition of Jekyll and Hyde recently won an international award. Is that right?
In 2016 our partners from Cerovski Print Boutique (they’ve done all the printing work on Jekyll & Hyde and will produce Dracula for us as well) took the Hyde Edition to DScoop Conference (by Hewlett-Packard) in Tel Aviv. There it won the Inkspiration award in the Best in Publishing category. Funny enough, this was even before we started the large scale production and sale of Jekyll & Hyde, so to receive an international recognition at such an early stage showed us that we were on the right track and that we should keep moving forward.
What can you reveal to our readers about the forthcoming Amaranthine Dracula?
Dracula is currently in development, almost all illustrations are completed (there will be 16 of them inside throughout the book, illustration major plot points) and we are currently testing the materials. This is a very important step, because the goal is to make the book sensitive to light, just like Dracula was (it is a common misconception that the sunlight kills him, but it just weakens him, as many of your readers surely know). Using the phosphorescent ink on the covers and illustrations, parts of it will soak the light and emit it in low ambient light (and darkness). The book will be made of high-quality materials and will feature numerous other details as well.
We have already received recognition with the concept for this title -- the UniCredit Bank holds an annual competition in Croatia where it offers partial funding for especially innovative and interesting projects, and this year, Amaranthine Books was one of the winners with Dracula.
Do you have any other publications planned at the moment?
We would like to do more titles in the near future, but our focus is currently on finishing Dracula. Our aim is to publish at least two new titles in 2019, but it is still undetermined which ones. Ideally, we will continue scaling the production so that we can publish at least six titles per year.
Where can our readers go to learn more about Amaranthine Books and to order copies?
Currently, the best way to do it is to visit our website ( There are numerous high-resolution photos of the books, as well as the webshop where the books can be ordered. It is important to note that we ship worldwide for free. Even better, we ship exclusively with DHL, so our books reach out customers’ bookshelves in 3-5 working days tops!

Images provided by Marko Matijašević

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) wasn’t your average Nobel Prize winner. He bucked the image of the introverted, socially awkward scientist who prefers the lab to people. He cracked safes for fun. He played the bongos. He performed in Brazilian Carnival festivals. With the help of Ralph Leighton, he wrote bestselling memoirs with jaunty titles such as Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, and What Do You Care What Other People Think?


Lot 100 Crop.jpgFans of the late, beloved American physicist have seen pitifully few items of his come to auction because he donated his archives to Caltech. But as it turns out, he did not give the university everything. 


On November 30 in New York, Sotheby’s will auction several items that Feynman kept for himself--including a book that directly led to the work that won him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1965 (which is also in the sale, with an estimate of $800,000-1,200,000). 

9886 Lot 100 copy 2.jpgFeynman considered the English theoretical physicist Paul Dirac his hero. Included in the sale is Feynman’s 1935 copy of Dirac’s The Principles of Quantum Mechanics, which seems to have received between his senior year in high school and his freshman year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Laden with Feynman’s handwritten diagrams, formulas, and other marginal notes, the book gives a snapshot of a young genius’s brain taking shape and readying to rise to the challenge of its final line: “It seems that some essentially new physical ideas are here needed.” A tantalizing Feynman annotation appears in a section on the polarization of photons: “Analyze this some day.”


The auction estimate is $5,000-7,000. 


Images courtesy of Sotheby’s

Waylaid by the weather, I had only one day to browse both Boston fairs this year. It’s an impossible task, but still, I saw many amazing books, manuscripts, and objects.

Sandburg.jpgThe Boston Book Print and Ephemera Show (aka the Satellite Show) was bustling on Saturday morning. I stopped to chat with Phil Mosher and Sue Bishop of Mosher Books. In addition to a lovely selection of decorated publishers’ bindings, one of their highlights was a Carl Sandburg collection, which included his typewriter, as well as 12 boxes of archives, 57 letters, 42 inscribed books, and much else. The collection, being sold en bloc on behalf of an institution, was built over thirty years by his friend and collaborator, Helen Champlain, a New York City bookseller.

I made two purchases at the fair, the one most of interest to readers here might be a salesman’s sample of an 1872 book titled Lights and Shadows of New York Life. Here’s the thing: it reminded me very strongly of another sample book (or dummy) that I bought in NY two years ago: a historical treatment of NYC, bound in burgundy cloth with a decorative gilt cover design, and empty subscription pages bound in at the back. Except I knew that it was neither the same title nor the same author. (I wrote about that original find here.) Published by the National Publishing Company, this “new” sample book precedes the other by more than twenty years, and yet in content and illustration it is notably similar--a tour of Manhattan, especially the seedier parts, with crisp engravings of people and buildings. I think a thorough collation is in order. These two books are spiritual siblings, or cousins at the very least.

The other buy was a scarce Susan Sontag title. Both purchases were from Books End; I shopped there several times when I lived in Syracuse and picked up an inscribed Tobias Wolff first edition (with a fabulous Fred Marcellino dust jacket) there a few years back.

46486309_497409507410467_4834215674261798912_n.jpgMy husband, who often tags along on my book fair jaunts and has become a collector in the past decade, also made two purchases, including an unknown (to us) edition of Henry Beston’s Firelight Fairy Book from 1919, both from Maine’s Lippincott Books.

What else? I noted a few first editions of Rex Stout novels, on my mind of late as I just edited a feature about him for our spring issue.

After lunch, it was off to the ABAA Fair for the afternoon.

One of the first booths I ambled into, lured by the Anne Sexton first editions on display, was that of Jett Whitehead, whose specialty is poetry. There I met (in person) Peter K. Steinberg, editor of the two-volume Letters of Sylvia Plath, who wrote a feature about Plath for us last fall. Peter was there signing copies of his books; he also gave a talk on Sunday, which I was sorry to miss. He persuaded me to visit the Jonkers Rare Books booth to stand in awe of Plath’s own proof of The Bell Jar, in which she made textual corrections and signed her name/address to the title page. It was priced at $200,000.    

Watches.jpgThe booth shared by Ian Kahn/Lux Mentis and Brian Cassidy was brimming with unique books and objects, like a mid-twentieth-century salesman’s sample book of 700+ watch faces (pictured above, courtesy of Brian Cassidy).

Abbey.jpgPersonally I find literary realia/relics very cool, and Ken Sanders Rare Books delivered that with Edward Abbey’s National Park Service shirt and hat.

Raven.jpgAnother item that couldn’t be passed by without a closer look was an 1875 folio containing Manet’s illustrations for Mallarmé’s translation of Poe’s The Raven, offered by Benjamin Spademan Rare Books. The image of the raven was absolutely striking; it is also “very rare in its original vellum wrappers,” according to the bookseller. Its price was $100,000.

Scientia Books was offering a few nineteenth-century medical books that I covet, which were, alas, not in my budget this year. I made one small purchase from Simon Beattie: his recently published translation of Gottfried Benn’s Morgue. The poems are dark but quite beautiful. Beattie, who was sharing a very busy stand with Honey & Wax Booksellers, was heartily congratulated by many for his role in the recent booksellers’ boycott.

One final observation: the Boston fair hosts “Cultural Row,” a series of booths near the bar at the back of the fair for institutions, clubs, and schools, including the American Antiquarian Society, the Ticknor Society, and Rare Book School, among others, to share information with collectors. Why doesn’t the New York fair do this? Lack of space? It seems to me a very worthwhile thing.   

Images courtesy of Brett Barry unless otherwise noted

A quieter, mostly Paris-based auction calendar this week:


Arcturial sells Sciences: From Galileo to Marie Curie from the Aristophil collections on Monday, November 19. Lots 681 through 690 comprise some amazing Emilie du Chatelet manuscripts, including her translation of Newton (€150,000-250,000; pictured below). (More on that sale here.)


On Tuesday, November 20, Sotheby’s Paris holds a sale of Livres Rares et Manuscrits, in 188 lots. A copy of Antoine Mizauld’s Memorabilium utiliu[m] (1566), a collection of Latin aphorisms, extensively annotated by Ambrose Paré, is estimated at €60,000-80,000. A heavily-corrected manuscript of one chapter from Voltaire’s Histoire de l’établissement du christianisme could sell for €50,000-70,000. A February 28, 1850 Gogol letter to diplomat Alexander Bulgakov is estimated at €50,000-70,000; only three Gogol letters have appeared at auction in the last four decades.


At Christie’s Paris on Wednesday, November 21, Books and Manuscripts, in 134 lots. A copy of Apollinaire’s first book, L’Enchanter pourrissant (1909), one of 25 copies on Japanese paper, is estimated at €30,000-50,000. Rimbaud’s Une Saison en Enfer (1873) in a lovely binding by Rose Adler, could fetch €25,000-35,000.


On Thursday, Madrid’s El Remate Subastas hosts “Antique Books, Manuscripts, Prints, Engravings, Maps & Collecting on Paper,” and over the weekend, Cordier Auctions in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has a Book, Ephemera, and Curio Auction worth watching. 


Image credit: Arcturial

Another tale from the underbelly of the book world sees the light of day. On Monday, November 19, at 4pm, French auction house Artcurial will be hosting a sale of science material being dispersed from Aristophil, a fund ostensibly founded in 1990 by French insurance salesman-turned-manuscript dealer Gérard Lhéritier to invest in rare books and manuscripts. Aristophil closed shop in 2014 after authorities discovered evidence that Lhéritier was running a Ponzi scheme that fleeced 18,000 investors of roughly one billion dollars. (Esquire ran this fascinating in-depth piece on the man, his career, and how the plan unraveled.) Lhéritier was indicted for fraud and money laundering, among other charges, and awaits a court date. Now the treasures of Aristophil are being auctioned off. 


Next week’s sale is the thirteenth of the Aristophil archives (apparantly, worries that these items are co-owned by investors in a hedge fund are no longer so burdensome), and the first to tackle the fund’s scientific materials. Items on the block are nothing short of breathtaking: a 1610 copy of Galileo’s Sidereus nuncius (est. $18,000 to $30,000), a first edition of Darwin’s Origin of the Species (est. $15,000 to $28,000), and even mathematician Charles de Bovelles’ 1510 Géométrie en francoys, of which only three other copies of this edition are known to exist, with pre-sale estimates ranging upwards of $55,000.

Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Emilie du Châtelet, René Descartes, the A-listers of the scientific community are all well represented here and will no doubt make for an interesting auction. 

See the whole science catalogue here.


Image: Sidereus nuncius, by Galileo Galelei, 1610. Reproduced with permission of Artcurial. 

For the first time, one of England’s most famous libraries offers a peek into its restricted “Phi” collection, i.e. books once labeled “obscene” or “improper” and kept from public view. The Story of Phi: Restricted Books, which opened today at the Bodleian’s Weston Library, “explores changing ideas about sexuality and censorship,” according to a press release issued by the library.

Among the 3,000+ volumes in the “Phi” collection are a signed first edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a first edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Pop-Up Kama Sutra, Madonna’s book, Sex, and The Joy of Sex: A Gourmet Guide to Lovemaking by Alex Comfort, with illustrations by Chris Foss. They were, until recently, shackled by their shelfmark Φ (the Greek letter Phi), a designation launched in 1882 by Victorian librarians to safeguard material deemed immoral for students to peruse (at least without a professor’s letter of support).  

Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, commented,”This display puts the spotlight on the fascinating but little-known Phi collection. It shows the varied and sometimes surprising functions that libraries perform in order to preserve culturally important works for the nation and reveals how librarians have navigated the tension between making materials available for scholarly research while also protecting readers and books.”

The exhibition was curated by Jennifer Ingleheart, professor of Latin at the University of Durham. It runs through January 13.


Image: The frontispiece of The Love Books of Ovid (London, The Bodley Head, 1925), translated from Latin to English by James Lewis May and illustrated by Jean de Bosschère. This illustrated volume of Ovid’s erotic poems was assigned to the Phi collection due to its illustrations while unillustrated versions of the same book were freely available on the Bodleian’s open shelves. Credit: Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford/ Reproduced with the kind permission of Alain Bilot.

Our Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Annie Rowlenson, a bookseller with Simon Beattie (himself a former entry in the series) in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, England. Annie and Simon will have a booth at the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair this weekend.

AnnieR.jpgHow did you get started in rare books?


I’m a product of the ‘get them while they’re young’ approach.  As an undergrad at the University of Virginia I took a first-year seminar taught by the director of the Rare Book School on the history of books.  A couple years later RBS kindly took me on as an office assistant and summer staff member.  From there, I developed an interest in the book as an object and ended up getting an MA with a concentration in bibliography and textual studies, followed by an MLIS at the Palmer School.


What is your role at Simon Beattie?


My official title is bookseller, but I suppose ‘apprentice’ would be just as apt; we’re participating in the ABA Educational Trust’s apprenticeship scheme, which has proven to be a fantastic support as I enter the trade.


What do you love about the book trade?


The book community--it really is a 21st-century Republic of Letters.  I like how places like book fairs, the York Antiquarian Book Seminar, and RBS create spaces where dealers, librarians, collectors, and others can come together on the same footing to exchange interests and support each other’s endeavours.  


I also love seeing new things entering the market that might have been overlooked in decades past.  We’re slowly but surely moving towards a place of equal representation.


Describe a typical day for you:


I’m not sure there is a typical day for a bookseller.  Collating and cataloguing new acquisitions always take up a bit of my time, as do book fairs and visiting customers.  I’m slowly becoming more Photoshop-literate and really enjoy helping Simon put together catalogues.  The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that I’ve helped match the right book to the right customer or collection.


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


I’ll always have a soft spot for anything in the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction at the University of Virginia.


What do you personally collect?


I’ve collected editions of Wuthering Heights since doing my undergrad thesis.  It’s very much in the same vein as the Jane Eyre collection at the Rare Book School--i.e., it aims to show how materiality affects and effects the meaning of a text over time.  I buy everything from early editions and translations to more recent stage adaptations, pocket editions issued to soldiers in WWII, erotic spin-offs (‘Wuthering Nights’, anyone?), and everything in between.  I like the messiness of it; there’s something really satisfying about seeing a ratty Harlequin-esque paperback from the 80’s on the same shelf as one finely bound in morocco.  Each one has something different to say.


What do you like to do outside of work?


I’m in the middle of trying to coerce my husband into doing another road trip to Wales.  Last time we stumbled upon some castle ruins and I got to have an Ann Radcliffe moment.


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


So long as there are booksellers selling material that they are passionate and knowledgeable about, I don’t see it ever changing for the worse.  It’s definitely becoming more female and tattooed, which can only be a good thing.


Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?


Our next fair is the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, Nov. 16-18.  If you plan on attending, please stop by booth #226 and say hello!  We’d love to share our books with you.

[Image provided by Annie Rowlenson]

Many in the rare book world will recognize the name Bromer Booksellers. The Boston-based antiquarian book shop founded by Anne and David Bromer fifty years ago specializes in miniature books, fine bindings, book arts, and illustrated books. Earlier this month, the Bromers marked the shop’s anniversary with the launch of an artsy offshoot called the Bromer Gallery. Located at 607 Boylston Street, the gallery operates in conjunction with the book shop and will feature “original art, edition prints, and related material, executed by artists whose work is centered upon the idea of the book as art,” according to a press release. The inaugural show, on view through January 15, is Goldman and Lee: Shadow and Color, featuring the artwork of artists Jane Goldman and Jim Lee.

postcard_front copy.jpgGoldman, a watercolorist and printmaker, may be known to travelers to the area for the sea life mosaics she designed for Logan Airport. Currently on view at the Bromer Gallery is her Audubon Suite, a series of prints that incorporates plates from Audubon’s iconic Birds of America. The series contains fourteen prints: eight screen prints and six hand-painted pigment prints created by a process that mirrors the way Audubon himself made his prints. As a whole, the series documents a year’s worth of seasons, and each print features an Audubon bird with flora from that season. In a video interview prepared by Bromer Gallery, Goldman calls the work an homage to Audubon, her “favorite artist.”

The exhibit also showcases the work of Jim Lee, a woodcut artist and the proprietor of Blue Moon Press, whose work also focuses on nature, particularly the landscapes of Ireland, New England, and Maritime Canada. In another video interview, Lee discusses his artistic process and talks about how he tries to use “the intersection of type and image as a continuation of the act of drawing” in his bookwork.  

If you’re in Boston this week for Rare Book Week, be sure to check out the Bromers’ new art exhibition space.

Image courtesy of Bromer Gallery

Quite a lineup of auctions this week to keep an eye on.


On Monday, November 12, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers sells The Fine Cartographic and Printed Americana Collection of Evelyn and Eric Newman, in 120 lots. Thomas Jeffreys’ 1776 American Atlas rates the top estimate at $60,000-80,000. (More on this sale here in our fall Auction Guide.)


Also at Leslie Hindman, on Tuesday, November 13, Fine Books and Manuscripts, in 331 lots. An Abraham Lincoln letter of September 23, 1864, requesting the resignation of his Postmaster General, Montgomery Blair, could fetch $30,000-50,000. A presentation copy of Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan, inscribed by Wilde to his friend George Alexander, is estimated at $12,000-18,000. 


At Sotheby’s London on Tuesday, Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History, in 275 lots. Heading up this sale is an unpublished manuscript from 1512 containing accounts various of early European explorations of the Americas (£350,000-450,000). A colored Latin copy of the five-volume Braun & Hogenberg Civitates Orbis Terrarum is estimated at £100,000-150,000.


Doyle New York sells Rare Books, Autographs & Maps on Tuesday, in 462 lots. A fifteenth-century book of hours in Catalan is estimated at $40,000-60,000. Among the lots estimated at $20,000-30,000 are Charles Addams’ original drawing for the dust jacket of Dear Dead Days (1959), a graphite portrait of Almustafa, the prophet, by Kahlil Gibran, and a copy of the first octavo edition of Audubon’s Birds.


Rounding out the Tuesday sales is Swann Galleries’ auction of 19th & 20th Century Literature, in 291 lots. A first edition of Hemingway’s first book, Three Stories & Ten Poems (1923), from the collection of Al Hirschfeld, is expected to lead the way at $18,000-25,000. A copy of the 1845 edition of Poe’s Tales could fetch $15,000-20,000.


On Thursday, November 15, the eleventh sale of material from the Aristophil collection happens at Ader in Paris, comprising nineteenth- and twentieth-century illustrated books, manuscripts, and autographs, in 225 lots. Heading up this sale is the manuscript of Flaubert’s Les Mémoires d’un Fou (1838), estimated at €300,000-350,000. André Gide’s manuscript of Les Caves du Vatican could sell for €100,000-150,000.

That same day, Kestenbaum & Co. will offer 130 books from the legendary Valmadonna Trust Library, plus Hebrew Printing in America: The Complete Collection formed by the late Yosef Goldman. 


Also on Thursday, PBA Galleries sells Fine & Rare Books, in 230 lots. Édouard Traviès’ Les Oiseaux les plus remarquables par leurs formes et leurs couleurs (1857) and an early octavo set of Audubon’s Birds are both estimated at $20,000-30,000.

On Friday, Cowan’s in Cincinnati hosts an American History sale with over 200 lots of early photographs, documents, manuscripts, broadsides, and more. A daguerreotype of Sam Houston, estimated at $10,000-20,000 is one of the highlights.



Rounding out the very busy week is Skinner’s biannual Fine Books & Manuscripts sale during “Rare Book Week Boston” on Sunday, November 18. The 354 lots this year include a new-to-market first issue of Poe’s Tales in paper wrappers ($60,000-80,000, pictured above), a first edition Book of Mormon ($45,000-55,000), a number of Audubon plates, and some very interesting Arabic and Persian manuscripts.


Image credit: Skinner, Inc.

The antiquarian book world lost a giant in June when longtime bookseller Bill Reese passed away at the age of 62 after a battle with prostate cancer. His hope was to see the Reese Company continue to build on his forty years in the business, and now, the New Haven-based business is ready to do just that: last week the William Reese Company announced the imminent return of bookseller Nick Aretakis to run its Americana department. Aretakis spent fourteen years as a Reese associate before heading to his native California to set up his own shop. 


“I am eternally grateful that in the summer of 2000 Bill Reese offered me the opportunity to become an associate at the William Reese Company,” Aretakis said recently. “Over the next fourteen years, I learned from Bill every day. I am proud of the business I built over the past four and a half years [in California], and during that time I learned new skills as I developed a business on my own. I bring these skills, as well as all that I learned from Bill Reese, with me as I return to the Reese Company.”

Aretakis’s official start date was November 1, and he will be manning the Reese booth at the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair November 16-18.

“I am excited to be part of the team that will guide the William Reese Company into the future,” Aretakis said, “and continuing on in Bill’s tradition and adapting to the ever-changing environment of antiquarian bookselling.”

Meanwhile, longtime Reese associates Teri Osborn (a FB&CBright Young Bookseller” in 2011) and James McBride (a 2017 BYB) recently launched McBride Rare Books, also in New Haven. 

“This certainly is an interesting and exciting time for us,” said McBride and Osborn. “Together, we have a combined experience of nearly two decades in rare books, including academia, librarianship, and the trade. With McBride Rare Books, we look forward to continuing our roles as trusted and valuable members of the antiquarian book trade, working closely with our clients and colleagues.” As they did at Reese, the pair plan to continue focusing on Americana and are making their inaugural appearance as freshly minted bookstore owners at the Boston Book, Print, and Ephemera show on November 17. “It’s a consistently great fair, and we’re very much looking forward to exhibiting.” And though McBride and Osborn have chosen to hang their shingle in New Haven for now, they plan to move to New York City in spring 2019. 

As for thoughts concerning Aretakis’s move to Reese: “Nick will be a much-needed steady hand at the tiller,” team McBride said, “and we have no doubt that he will carry the business forward in the finest traditions of the firm.”


Many heartfelt congratulations to all in what appears to be a bright new chapter in the field of antiquarian bookselling.


Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 1.43.45 PM.pngThe highly collectible books of the beloved 20th-century British publisher Victor Gollancz are best and easily spotted by their distinctive bright yellow jackets and unusual use of fonts, which saved him the cost of commissioning cover art, but I learned recently at the ABA’s Chelsea Book Fair that for a short while before Gollancz introduced the yellow jackets, he commissioned 18 pictorial jackets from E. McKnight Kauffer in 1928, many of which were on sale at Chelsea from BAS Ltd, run by Ali & Giles Bird. 


Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 1.43.58 PM.png The jackets are incredibly scarce, distinctive, and highly stylized and reminiscent of Russian contructivism. BAS Ltd. acquired the covers and have made good marriages, tracking down exceptional copies of the first edition books, including a Robert Frost association copy of John Cournos’ Babel


Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 1.44.10 PM.png


Images credit: A. N. Devers

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Michelle Porter, who recently won Honorable Mention in the 2018 Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize for women thirty and under. 

Porter_headshot.jpegWhere are you from / where do you live?

I was born overseas to an American military family, so whenever I want to impress people, I tell them I’m from Europe! I currently live in Rapid City, South Dakota, which has been home for most of my life.


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

I have one degree in library science and am pursuing my second, with a minor in nonprofit management. I work in the library of private liberal arts institution, John Witherspoon College.


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

My collection comprises first editions (with dust jackets) of Broadway musical libretti. If possible, they are also first printings. I focus on what is termed the Golden Age of Broadway, 1930 - 1970. Once upon a time, these volumes were printed in hardcover by publishers such as Random House. A lot of the items in my collection are book club editions from the now defunct Fireside Theatre Book Club. I also have several regular first editions which are much rarer. Over time, the collection has expanded to include autobiographies of the playwrights, lyricists, and composers behind the libretti.


The color and beauty of vintage dust jackets, the feel of brittle pages, the evocative stills from original productions, the scent of ink and paper that have pressed each other passionately for 75 years--all these incubated the collecting germ in me. I have not yet reached the status of a “professional” collector, but even entry-level collecting is important and honorable. I realize that I am investing, not spending. I am just the current caretaker, preserver, and archivist of these volumes.


The storylines in these musicals are charming. But they are deceptively so. When I took off my modern rectangle rims and looked through some mid-century tortoise-shell frames, I was absolutely stunned. Social commentary runs rampant behind the quaint plots. Broadway, at that time, could be more risqué than Hollywood because the entertainment was limited to a fixed geographic location rather than being simultaneously screened nationwide. Whether subversive scripts indirectly mocked the status quo or waged outright war, reading them today gives a true impression of the mores of those times better than any sociology intensive ever can.


DJBrigadoon.jpgHow many books are in your collection?

I have 45 hardcovers, eight biographies, three paperback acting editions, one theatrical company script, and one souvenir program from a pre-Broadway production. Of course, the number is still increasing. Lately, I’m feeling the pull to bring first editions of non-musical plays into the fold.


What was the first book you bought for your collection?

The first book was Six Plays by Rodgers and Hammerstein, number 200 in the Modern Library series. I thought I would be satisfied with that one volume. Had I known what was about to be unleashed... I would have bought it anyway!


How about the most recent book?

My latest purchase is a first edition of Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon. It is the first and only copy I discovered which has the impossible-to-find dust jacket extant.


And your favorite book in your collection?

Seriously? I can’t, I just can’t. Okay, maybe I can. The first British edition of My Fair Lady. It is illustrated with Cecil Beaton’s original costume sketches. My copy came from England and had the faint scent of roses. Could it get any more perfect?


Best bargain you’ve found?

A DBS (Drama Book Shop) first edition of Michael Stewart and Bob Merrill’s darkly beautiful Carnival! I snagged it for under $100, and have not seen another copy on the market since.


How about The One that Got Away?

Make that “the many.” There was an incredibly rare theatre company script of Lil’ Abner. The price was not exorbitant, but I decided to wait. Next, a copy of On Clear Day You Can See Forever that was reasonable in condition and price, but ditto. My biggest tragedies are theatre scripts of Gigi and Stop the World--I Want to Get Off. That’s when I learned about the dark side of eBay bidding wars. I’ll stop here because this is getting depressing.


What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

Honestly, it would be a first edition of Bye Bye Birdie. There are a handful of copies on the market, but all are priced in the thousands.

What is your favorite bookstore?

One of the first shops I purchased from was ReadInk in Los Angeles. Although the transaction was completely online, it left me feeling like had gotten the most attentive, respectful face-to-face service. I return to ReadInk whenever they have a libretto or biography I’m looking for.


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

Probably books? All kidding aside, it would be something delicate and girly like vintage jewelry or music boxes.

[Photo credits: Michelle Porter]

Coming to auction next week is a first edition of Jack London’s The Sea-Wolf, published in 1904. What makes this copy so coveted--the estimate is $4,000-6,000--is its “extraordinarily rare dust jacket, previously known only by rumor if at all, with just one other copy thought to exist ... an astonishing survival,” according to the Swann Galleries cataloguer. Be it fragmentary, toned, and brittle, still the paper dust jacket remains, covering a handsome pictorial binding.

M37910-1_2a copy.jpgThe Sea-Wolf is an adventure novel very much in the vein of London’s previous hit, The Call of the Wild. The story’s antagonist is ship captain Wolf Larsen; it’s worth noting that London’s nickname was “Wolf,” and his mansion was called “Wolf House.”

M37910-1_1 copy.jpgImages courtesy of Swann Galleries

Dominic Winter Auctioneers will sell Printed Books, Maps & Documents on Wednesday, November 7, in 582 lots. A first edition of de Bergamo’s De claribus mulieribus (1497), described as “one of the finest and most beautiful early Italian illustrated books and the first to attempt life-like portraits,” is estimated at £7,000-10,000. A collection of more than 370 Chinese botanical watercolors from around 1700 (one pictured below) could sell for £5,000-8,000. A rare proof copy of Thomas Bradshaw’s Views in Mauritius, from the library of the first British governor of the island, is estimated at £3,000-5,000.



Christie’s online sale On the Shoulders of Giants: Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Hawking, ends on Thursday, November 8. All 52 lots in this sale are quite extraordinary, from an inscribed photostatic copy of Stephen Hawking’s dissertation (£100,000-150,000) to a Newton manuscript of extracts from an alchemical work (£80,000-100,000). The top-estimated Darwin lot is an 1876 letter to Henry Nottidge Moseley in which Darwin defends the idea of evolution by natural selection.


Also on Thursday, Swann Galleries holds an Autographs sale, in 374 lots. An August 1861 Robert E. Lee letter to a field colonel in the Kanawha Valley (in what is now West Virginia) is estimated at $15,000-25,000. A letter written by Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State to the Governor of Maryland about the Genêt affair could sell for $10,000-20,000. A pencil sketch by JFK on Senate stationery showing his World War II boat PT-109 is estimated at $5,000-7,500.


A third sale on Thursday is the Food and Drink auction at PBA Galleries, in 373 lots. Rating the top estimate there at $8,000-12,000 is Abby Fisher’s What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking (1881), the second published cookbook written by an African-American woman. A copy of the first Creole cookbook, The Creole Cookery Book (1885), could fetch $5,000-8,000 (a second copy, rebound, rates the same estimate).


Finally, the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society holds another of its auctions of rare and used books on Friday, November 11. See the full PDF catalog.


Image credit: Dominic Winter Auctioneers


Last week, the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts welcomed Our Voice: Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards, a traveling exhibition organized by the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) and the American Library Association’s Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table. The exhibition is the first to commemorate the Coretta Scott King Award (CSK) since its inception in 1974.




Established to “affirm new talent and to offer visibility and excellent in writing and illustration,” the Coretta Scott King (CSK) Award has become one of the most prestigious annual recognitions bestowed by the ALA, on par with the ALA’s annual Caldecott award.




Of the 108 books that have been graced by a CSK, one hundred of them are represented in Our Voice, including the work of artist George Ford, who received the first award for his acrylic illustrations in Ray Charles (1973) , written by Sharon Bell Mathis, who also took home that year’s inaugural author’s prize. “Although the award was a recognition of artistic excellence, I was most proud of the fact that it was a reward specifically intended as a source of inspiration and encouragement to African American children,” Ford said recently about the experience.




Several artists have won the award multiple times: Jerry Pinkney, for example, is a ten-time CSK award recipient, while Ashley Bryan and Bryan Collier have each won nine CSKs for their work. Additional artists represented in the retrospective are a veritable who’s-who of children’s picture book illustration: Brian Pinkney, James E. Ransome, Leo and Diane Dillon, Javaka Steptoe, Kadir Nelson and many others.




Recognizing the transformative power of pictures and text, the CSK award highlights how powerful imagery enriches a narrative while also serving to uplift and encourage young readers that all voices have a place at the table. The art that accompanies these stories is a beacon in what is often a dark and scary world. Sometimes the creators of these works are persecuted, but that doesn’t stop them; award recipient Peter Magubane’s book Black Child (1983) was banned in his home country of South Africa, for example. But, as he put it, “the only way to show the world was through pictures.”

Our Voice: Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards
is on view through January 27, 2019 at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.


Images, from top:

George Ford, Illustration for Ray Charles by Sharon Bell Mathis (Lee & Low Books). Courtesy of NCCIL. © 1973 George Ford.

Nancy Devard, Illustration for The Secret Olivia Told Me by N. Joy (Just Us Books, Inc.). Courtesy of NCCIL. ©2007 Nancy Devard.

Kadir Nelson, Illustration for Neslon Mandela (HarperCollins). Courtesy of NCCIL. © 2013 Kadir Nelson.

Floyd Cooper, Illustration for The Blacker the Berry by Joyce Carol Thomas (HarperCollins). Courtesy of NCCIL. © 2008 Floyd Cooper.

After a busy fair in Amsterdam, there was just time to repack my stock and change my socks before heading off to Paris for the autumn edition of Bibliomania. This is a large event held in the Espace Champerret. Conveniently located just on the peripherique, we checked our bags into our apartment and went to set up.

BiblioP1.pngThis is a long fair. Starting on a Tuesday morning, and with traders coming into the fair to buy during set up, the fair continues until Sunday evening. Fortunately, we had decided to share a stand, so we could each take a little time off to enjoy Paris.

The fair is also large. Spread across two large halls, there are over 100 dealers, many with sizeable stands. The range of stock was particularly varied. Some tables were flowing with magazines and newspapers. Others had art prints, posters, and photobooks. Others again had traditional “book stands” with old, rare, and scarce texts. Almost everyone had a selection of erotica. I felt that we were missing out with our innocent Anglo-Saxon stock. What was almost universal, was the dominance of the French text. Not surprising, given that this is a French fair I guess.

Picture2.pngWhilst we were at the fair, we were approached by a team creating a video about the booksellers at the fair, and asked to appear. Naturally, we said oui and once ‘miked up’ we talked about English bookselling in Europe (well how we do it anyway). Of course, their main interest was Brexit, and they seemed quite disappointed that I didn’t know what is going to happen.

BiblioP3.pngOnce of the great things about a French fair is the laid-back approach to selling, and the importance of lunch! Each day, at around 1pm, several tables were pushed out of the way (along with any customers who happened to be standing there) and a spread was laid out by some of the exhibitors. This was proper “fine dining” with tablecloths and napkins, bread, cheese, grapes, dessert, a variety of wines, soup, casserole, etc. For the next hour or so, the booths looked after themselves, whilst the exhibitors relaxed in between the stands. The occasional customer continued to forage for books without interrupting the proceedings.

BiblioP4.pngIn the evenings, there were further drinks and entertainments. One of the parties I was involved in was at the Catawiki stand, which held a drinks reception for sellers. Catawiki also held a special auction of French items belonging to exhibitors, and held a raffle, where three lucky winners could obtain a Jules Verne Hetzel first edition. Very nice! This certainly generated a good crowd, and kept Kurt and Frederic busy for the evening.

BiblioP5.pngDrawing the raffle was the magnificent Erika, who is the ever-calm fair manager. She managed to keep control of over 100 exhibitors, deal with the cars in and out, and keep everyone happy for six days--no mean feat. On top of that, she kept her sense of humour through it all.

BiblioP6.pngAll in all, Bibliomania is definitely on the recommended list. Friendly, enjoyable, and very different from most of the other fairs we do. We made several new friends and customers, and look forward to coming back here again.

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

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