Recently in Bright Young Collectors Category

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Edwin D. Rose of Cambridge, England, who collects natural history and natural philosophy:


LHL face shot 1.jpgWhere are you from / where do you live?


I am originally from Cardiff (Wales) and now live in Cambridge, UK.


What do you study at University?


I am currently a PhD student in the History and Philosophy of Science Department at the University of Cambridge. My research is on the relationship between natural history collections and libraries during the period between c.1740 and 1830. Before this, I completed an MPhil. in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, with a thesis looking at the botanical collections of Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), part of which has recently been published in The Journal of the History of Collections.


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


I collect natural history and natural philosophy books (a field which became known as ‘science’ by the late nineteenth century) which date from the late seventeenth century to the third quarter of the nineteenth century, although the majority of these date from the period between 1750 and 1820. My main interests are in natural history, in particular those books which relate to my research. A central line of my collecting relates to the provenance and the subject of a book, not necessarily its state of preservation or completeness. I have a particular interest in working copies of books owned by important natural historians and natural philosophers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Many of my books have distinct signs of being heavily used by former owners, resulting in many of them being in a fairly poor level of condition, especially as many of these are still held in their original publishers’ bindings.


How many books are in your collection?


I currently have 116 books in my collection.


DSC01326 (1).JPGWhat was the first book you bought for your collection?


The first book I purchased was the fifth and sixth volumes from a six volume set, R. Brookes, A New and Accurate System of Natural History (London, J. Newbery, 1763). These classify both fossils and plants and reflect the relative controversies the Linnaean system of naming and classifying nature awoke in Britain during the 1760s. These books contain a number of copper plates, including one which names a fossilised bone ‘Scrotum Humanum’, as a joke to mock Linnaean binomial naming practices.    



DSC01328.JPGHow about the most recent book?


My most recent book was a copy of George B. Emerson’s A Report on the Trees and Shrubs growing naturally n the Forests of Massachusetts (Boston, 1846) which comes from the library of the Prussian explorer and polymath Alexander Von Humboldt (1769-1859). This book was sent to Humboldt by Emerson and reflects a number of Humboldt’s main interests, such as Americana. However, Humboldt did not pay a huge amount of interest to this particular book, as evidenced by the leaves remaining uncut and it still being in its original paper covers. Following his death, Humboldt’s collection was sold at Sotheby, London, in 1865. During the sale a fire destroyed much of Humboldt’s collection. Sotheby issued a new Catalogue of the Remains of the Humboldt Library in 1871which contained only 574 items out of the original 11,164. This is one of the few surviving books from Humboldt’s collection and has traces of burning on many of the pages. It appears to have been given a new binding in the late nineteenth century, although the original covers have been retained which include the inscription. This copy can be found in the sale catalogue of Humboldt’s collection, listed as ‘2663 Emerson (G. B.) Report on the Trees and Shrubs of Massachusetts, author’s autograph inscription, royal 8vo. Boston 1846’.


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And your favourite book in your collection?


My favourite book is a relatively recent acquisition--an extensively annotated, interleaved copy of the third volume of Thomas Pennant’s British Zoology (1812).  This copy is Thomas Pennant’s son, David Pennant’s personal working copy, and many of the additions and annotations reflect revisions he was making to this work in order to prepare it for a new edition--which never appeared. This copy contains numerous letters which refer to specimens; newspaper cuttings on fish and reptiles; and notes, some of which are David Pennant’s field notes from when he was observing various fish in and around his local parish of Whitford, near Holywell, North Wales. This particular book is of central importance for my research (Pennant’s is one of the main collections I study) and this work gives an impression of how David Pennant was used his library in relation to his natural history collection.


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Best bargain you’ve found?


Probably my best bargain was an annotated and interleaved copy of Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum (London, 1856). I purchased this book for approximately £5. The annotator was John Grote (1813-66), Knightsbridge professor of moral Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. This was Grote’s working copy.


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How about The One that Got Away?


I once saw a signed presentation copy of Richard Owen’s Description of the skeleton of an extinct gigantic sloth (1842) for a very small amount of money. I left it and once I returned to buy it, it had already been sold.


What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?


Probably my annotated copy of Pennant’s British Zoology.


Who is your favourite bookseller / bookstore?


My favourite bookstore is David’s bookshop in Cambridge. They frequently have exceptional rarities turn up in the rare books room.  


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


I would collect natural history specimens -I have a particular interest in palaeontology and already have a small fossil collection. This is nicely complimented by the early natural history and geology books in my collection. 

 





























tomzille.jpgOur Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Tom Zille of Berlin, Germany who collects English and German interwar literature. Tom is a member of the Half-Crown Club of book collectors and has written about his collecting in The Book Collector and other places.


Where are you from / where do you live?


I was born in Leipzig (erstwhile printing and bookselling capital of Germany), but I now live in Berlin.


What do you study at University?


After training as a bookseller in Leipzig, I studied English and German Literature at Berlin and Cambridge. I am now reading for an M.A. in English Literatures at the Humboldt University of Berlin. Brexit permitting, I shall go back to Cambridge afterwards.


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


I collect English and German literature of the interwar years, mostly first editions. Theoretically, all books published between 1919 and 1939 are “eligible for inclusion.” The main criterion is that they be characteristic of their period, be it with regard to their design, literary style, or social and political aims. Many of the books are concerned with the wars, of course, either discussing the past one or in some ways anticipating the war to come. Over the years, the focus on Britain, the US, and Germany - which is dictated by my limited knowledge of languages - meant that I became increasingly interested in how books reflected the countries’ relations and their interest in each other. Carl-Erdmann Pückler’s Einflussreiche Engländer (‘Influential Englishmen’), published in 1938, is an interesting example of that kind, as is Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here, which tells the story of a fascist seizure of power in the US. The latter has a particularly striking dust jacket, which on the front, looming behind the title, sports a bright red image of the fasces. This is the kind of book I am always looking for, one that is intriguing not only for its design but also for its narrative.


Nonetheless, writers who consciously turned their backs on politics, carving out an aestheticist niche for themselves, are by no means less fascinating. Probably the most beautiful book in the collection is Stefan George’s Das Neue Reich (‘The New Realm’), a volume of poetry which was published in 1928. It is printed in a handsome yet eccentric type which the poet himself had designed, and which combines the best of its classical and medieval sources. While each of these books is a wholly characteristic example of what the collection contains, the next one might look completely different.


Perhaps motivated by certain developments within the interwar collection, I have more recently started to collect books that shed light on early Anglo-German literary relations, particularly in the eighteenth century. Most of these are German translations of English novels, but I am also looking for travel accounts and histories from that period.


2.JPGHow many books are in your collection?


The interwar collection comprises sixty books now, about two thirds of which are first editions. There are also several shelves of secondary literature on the subject. The 18th-century collection at the present time contains only a dozen volumes, but like the first one, it is growing increasingly fast.


What was the first book you bought for your collection?


Back in 2009, the first book was a first edition of Stefan Zweig’s Der Kampf mit dem Dämon, published in 1925 (the English translation, The Struggle with the Daimon, was published in 1930). It contains an interesting collection of essays on Hölderlin, Kleist, and Nietzsche, but it was also the first book I bought out of aesthetic and historical interest, rather than because I wanted to read it at that time. Its sober cover design and typography seemed so quintessentially modernist, and what is more, Zweig had dedicated his essays to Sigmund Freud. In a way, it set many of the parameters for the collection: I look for books that in some way epitomise developments of the period, I am still quite keen on nonfiction, and I generally try to get the first edition if I can.


How about the most recent book?


Most recently, I bought an early German translation of Sterne’s Sentimental Journey published in 1771. Sterne had an enormous influence on eighteenth-century German literature, which is why this is a particularly welcome addition to the collection.


And your favorite book in your collection?


I think my favourite one is Bruno Vogel’s Es lebe der Krieg! (‘Long Live the War!’), an early German anti-war book. I have a second edition copy published in 1925 which is quite rare, but I am still looking for an affordable first. The stories, which draw on Vogel’s own experience as a soldier, present the horrors of the war in an absolutely relentless manner, and so do the expressionist woodcuts by Rüdiger Berlit that were used to illustrate the text. Immediately after the book’s publication, Vogel became embroiled in a lawsuit, and the third and fourth editions came heavily censored. It is a privilege, therefore, to be able to read the book in its original form.


Best bargain you’ve found?


That would be my first edition of Wolfheinrich von der Mülbe’s Das Märchen vom Rasierzeug oder die Zauberlaterne, a minor fantasy classic first published in 1937. The story is a highly original parody of classic German fairy tales and the conventions of chivalric romance, with ironic references to the modern age interspersed throughout the text. First editions of this book are few and far between, and it took me several years to find one. I bought it online from someone who clearly didn’t know what they were selling.


How about The One that Got Away?


There have been many over the years. Most recently, a signed photography of Ivy Compton-Burnett was auctioned on Ebay, and I was too timid to offer an appropriate amount of money, not least because it was the first time I was interested in a picture. Doubtlessly, that one is going to haunt me for some time.


What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?


There isn’t really the one book I long for. First editions of A.J.A. Symons’s The Quest for Corvo (1934) or Compton-Burnett’s A House and Its Head (1935) with interesting inscriptions from the authors could send me into rapture. But the best finds are the ones you were never looking for.


Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?


I enjoy making discoveries, which is why an all too well-informed bookseller tends to spoil the hunt, not to mention the prices. My ideal bookshop is something halfway between Quaritch and Ebay. For instance, even though they have seen better times, I always stop by the shops on Charing Cross Road whenever I am in London.


Images Courtesy of Tom Zille, portrait of Tom copyright Renate von Mangoldt






















Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Wilder Wohns, who collects exploration and mountaineering in Asia:


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Where are you from / where do you live?


I grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and then lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts for four years during my undergraduate program at Harvard. Following graduation last spring, I now live and study in the “other” Cambridge (in the UK). I will be moving again to Oxford next year, where I will study as a Rhodes Scholar.


What do you study at University?


At Harvard, I majored in Human Evolutionary Biology with a minor in Computer Science. At the University of Cambridge, I am studying genetics as an MPhil student in Biological Anthropology. My dissertation focuses on the use of ancient DNA to study the people of medieval Cambridge, with special emphasis on better understanding the Black Death.


Please introduce us to your book collection. 


I’ve always been fascinated by remote places and particularly by the vast landscapes of Asia. My collection is mostly comprised of works on exploration and mountaineering in Asia, specifically in Siberia, Central Asia, the Himalayas, and Japan. I also have a collection of maps of these areas. Most of the books are from the 19th or early 20th centuries.


How many books are in your collection?


There are approximately 50 books and 10 maps in my collection.


What was the first book you bought for your collection?


The first book in my collection is a work called War Between Russia and Japan by Murat Halstead. This book is an account of the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905 by an American war correspondent. The work draws together many of the themes that interest me: interaction and conflict between cultures, the setting of Siberia, the Russian Far East, and Manchuria, and Japan’s evolving relationship with Asia and the West. The war was significant for many reasons, but particularly because it was the first time an Asian nation had defeated a major European empire. Halstead’s prejudices against the Japanese are evident in the text, so it is fascinating to examine how he responded to Japan’s victory.


How about the most recent book?


I most recently acquired an early edition of Through Siberia: The Land of the Future by Fridtjof Nansen. Nansen is a personal hero of mine: he was successful as an explorer, a humanitarian, and a scientist - he was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922 for his humanitarian efforts. In this work, he recounts his attempts to find a trade route from the Arctic Ocean to the interior of Siberia. He embarked on a journey by sea and land across the vast expanses of Russia, recounting his experiences, the land he traversed, and the peoples he met, in fascinating detail.


And your favorite book in your collection?


My favorite book in my collection is Blank on the Map by Eric Shipton. Alongside Bill Tilman, Shipton pioneered the “fast and light” approach to mountain travel in a time when mountaineering expeditions were run in the fashion of military campaigns. Shipton’s compact team traveled into extremely remote and difficult terrain in the Karakoram Mountains and mapped huge areas that were previously “Blank on the Map.” The work is a classic of the mountain travel genre and Shipton’s accounts are eminently readable. I love hiking and climbing in a fast and light fashion, so Shipton’s passion resonates with me.


Best bargain you’ve found?


The best bargains I’ve found were at a flea market in Paris. I found Russian first editions concerning exploration in Siberia and Central Asia before the Bolshevik Revolution. Each book was only a few Euros!


How about The One that Got Away?


I was enthralled by a 100-year-old Japanese atlas in a secondhand book store in Kanazawa, Japan. I decided to think it over for a day, but when I returned it had already been sold.


What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?


There are many books I would love to have in my collection, but I have long been intrigued by the story of Ekai Kawaguchi, the first Japanese person to enter Tibet. Kawaguchi was a Buddhist monk who wanted to study Tibetan Buddhism in a time when Tibet was closed off to foreigners. I have been eagerly examining first editions of his book Three Years in Tibet. This book excites me because the story of exploration in Asia (and my collection) is dominated by Europeans, so I would greatly appreciate the perspective of a Japanese explorer.


Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?


My favorite bookstore is Henry Sotheran’s in London. The store has deeply knowledgeable staff who are always eager to help those who share a passion for antiquarian books and the incredible stories they contain.


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


I would collect Japanese woodblock prints. They are beautiful - strikingly rich in color and detail. Whether they depict sublime scenes from another age or historically significant battles and individuals, Japanese woodblock prints are endlessly fascinating.


Image Courtesy of Wilder Wohns.























q1.jpegOur Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Dr. John Sellars, of Oxfordshire, England. Sellars collects books relating to the history of philosophy, especially early printed editions of ancient philosophical texts. He has written about his collecting in The Book Collector and has organized two exhibitions of early printed books in Oxford. 


Where are you from / where do you live?


I was born in Surrey in the south of England and I currently live in Oxfordshire.


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


I studied Philosophy at university and I have been incredibly fortunate in never having had to stop. After ten years as a student culminating in a PhD I have held both research and teaching posts. For a number of years I was a lecturer in Philosophy but now have a research post, in London.


q3.jpegPlease introduce us to your book collection.  What areas do you collect in?


In the broadest terms I collect the history of philosophy, with a focus on early editions of ancient philosophical texts, the older the better. I have a particular interest in Stoicism so the Stoics Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius all feature prominently. I have close to 40 different editions and translations of Marcus’s Meditations, dating from 1559 to 2013. I also have early editions of Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, Cicero, and Diogenes Laertius. As well as these I have a few early editions of works by 16th, 17th, and 18th century philosophers (Descartes, Cudworth, Shaftesbury, Bayle, Diderot), and some modern firsts of 20th century philosophers. But for me the real, serious collection is comprised of 16th and 17th century editions of ancient philosophers. I also collect leaves from incunabula. I’m fascinated by the early history of printing but complete books from the 15th century are beyond my budget for the time being.


Among notable printers I have leaves by Nicolaus Jenson, Anton Koberger, Aldus Manutius, and Johann Froben; I have books by Henri Estienne, Christopher Plantin, the Elzevirs, and John Baskerville, as well as early productions by the university presses in Oxford and Cambridge.


How many books are in your collection?


In total I have just over 4000 books. I know this because I keep an electronic catalogue that I get printed from time to time. The bulk of these are philosophy books but most are modern academic books and only a fraction can count as part of my serious collection of early printed books. I would guess I have about 100 leather/vellum bound volumes printed before 1800. But the boundary between ‘serious collection’ and ‘working academic library’ has always felt quite blurred. For example I have a copy of Justus Lipsius’ Physiologia Stoicorum printed at the Plantin Press in 1604. Recently I wrote a journal article on Lipsius and spent a lot of time working with this book. I also have a first edition of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations (1953). I studied Wittgenstein when I was a student but it is highly unlikely I’ll ever write about him or teach him. So in a sense the modern hardback is part of the collection while the four hundred year old quarto is very much in my current working library.


q5.jpegWhat was the first book you bought for your collection?


The first major book I bought - the one that felt like the start of a serious collection - was a 1595 edition of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, bound in vellum. That was the first pre 1800 book I bought and the first one that cost significantly more than a typical academic book.


How about the most recent book? q6.jpeg


As it happens the most recent early printed book to arrive is also an edition of Epictetus, this time a far more modest volume printed in Oxford in 1680 containing Epictetus’ Handbook and the Characters of Theophrastus. It’s not an especially exciting book in itself but it was at a very good price and I like to buy early books printed in Oxford when I see them. Others that I have include Creech’s Lucretius (1695), Marcus Aurelius (1704), another Epictetus (1715), and Cicero’s De Officiis (1717) - all with the imprint ‘e Theatro Sheldoniano’.


q7.jpegAnd your favorite book in your collection?


That’s a very difficult question. One book that I am especially fond of and was perhaps my second serious purchase after the 1595 Epictetus is a 1605 folio of the complete works of Seneca, printed at the Plantin press and edited by Lipsius. In terms of its size, typography, and engravings - it has an amazing engraved title page - it is just a magnificent production. I’ve bought other books since that are perhaps equally grand but I do have a soft spot for this one. It was previously owned by the Seneca scholar L. D. Reynolds.


q8.jpegBest bargain you’ve found?


To be honest the majority of the books in my collection have been bargains, primarily out of financial necessity. Among early books, one that stood out at the time was a copy of Thomas Gataker’s second expanded edition of Marcus Aurelius (1697) that I found in Hay-on-Wye. It was in a hideous red library binding and priced at a nominal sum. I’ve since had it rebound in full leather. Even with the rebind it cost me a fraction of the price this book usually goes for. There’s just one small library stamp hinting at its former life. Quite separately I also came across a copy of Gataker’s earlier edition (1652) also in a library binding and now also rebound.


But there are other bargains that deserve a mention, such as a complete set of Adam and Tannery’s Oeuvres de Descartes (1897-1910) printed on hand or mould made paper (other copies I’ve seen are printed on flat machine made paper) that a library gave me for free as a bulky unwanted duplicate. I also once acquired a run of old issues of the philosophy journal Mind for free and among those was an issue containing Alan Turing’s famous paper on computer intelligence, which usually goes for a four figure sum. I sold it and bought two 16th century books with the proceeds. I also have a first edition of Quine’s Word and Object (1960) inscribed by Quine to Isaiah Berlin, which I bought for £1. There’s a similar inscribed copy for sale online for £1800/$2200.


How about The One that Got Away?


I once (and only once) bid on a book at auction. It was the first printed edition of Epictetus’ Discourses (1535), for sale at Sotheby’s. I could just about manage the guide price and bid in advance accordingly. In the end it went for over twice that. Not long after it appeared for sale at a dealer in London, the price doubled again. A month or two later I was it for sale with a dealer in California for more than twice again. By this point it was listed for almost ten times the amount of my pathetic bid. I shall probably never see another copy for sale again, and if I do I doubt I’ll be able to afford it.


What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?


I’m a big fan of Aldus Manutius, so anything printed by him. Not long ago I was really excited to get my first Aldine book, Cicero’s philosophical works printed in 1541 by his son Paulus Manutius. But really I’d like something by the man himself. Although not a philosophy book, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili would be pretty hard to beat but that’s never going to happen! Slightly more realistically, any complete 15th century book printed in Italy would be amazing to have.


Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?


Among serious shops and dealers, I’ve bought from Blackwell’s Rare Books, Maggs Brothers, and Unsworths. I also used to buy a lot from the Classics Bookshop (Oxford, then Burford, now moved again under changed ownership). These are all fine institutions but not the places to find bargains, precisely because they know what they are doing! My best buys have been in provincial bookshops and book fairs and of course online, in situations where the seller does not really know what they have. This is quite common with editions of Greek and Latin texts. I also enjoy the treasure hunting aspect of rummaging and finding things in unexpected places. So I don’t have one favorite source. My favorite bookstore is Librairie philosophique J. Vrin in Paris - new philosophy books in French, German, English, Italian, second hand books, antiquarian books, and a publishing house upstairs!


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


As a teenager I collected records. I could be tempted to collect classical music on vinyl, but with the books I simply don’t have the space for anything so bulky. That would be one option. I also have a very small collection of a dozen or so Greek and Roman coins. I would like to have more but given the choice I usually prefer to spend my limited budget on books instead. If I wasn’t buying books I could easily end up pursuing that further.


[Images provided by John Sellars]


[Suggestions for other collectors to profile in this series are always welcome. Get in touch here.]





























Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with James Freemantle, collector of Private Press books. James is a contributor to The Private Library, the journal of the Private Libraries Association, as well as Parenthesis and Matrix (Whittington Press), as well as being a member of the Oxford Guild of Printers and Double Crown Club, and proprietor of the recently established St James Park Press. James has been a Judge at the annual Fine Press Fair in Oxford, has written the exhibition catalogue entry for I.M. Imprimit for The Private Press Today exhibition at St. Brides, and runs a Twitter page on the Art of the Book.


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Where are you from / where do you live?


I was born and live in London, England, now near St James’s Park, having been brought up in the English countryside in Buckinghamshire.  


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


I studied English Literature with Film before moving on to a career in Law. I am now a Litigation Partner at a London law firm. 


jfreemantleco1.jpgPlease introduce us to your book collection. What areas do you collect in? 


Almost exclusively Private Press (Fine Press) books, although as an extension of this books and prints of typographic, artistic or bibliographic interest. This could be anything from a book such as A Specimen Book of Pattern Papers (1928) by the Curwen Press to large coloured linocuts by the artist Clifford Webb, to a leaf from an incunabula by William Caxton. As there have historically been a large number of private presses, however, I buy predominantly English presses of the twentieth century. 


From the earlier presses, I have a large amount of ephemera from the Daniel, Kelmscott and Doves Presses, which can sometimes be rarer than the books themselves and give enough of the feel of those presses to placate the desire for the books (although of course I wouldn’t turn down a complete collection of any of these). I actually buy ephemera and archival material for all the Presses I am interested in, for an insight into the history of their production.


For the Essex House, Ashendene, Eragny and Caradoc Presses, I buy the books too. For all of these, I tend towards copies printed on vellum, which are usually only printed in a handful of copies, or with some association to the printers, meaning copies inscribed by Hornby, Pissarro and others. For the Essex House Press, for example, I have a unique copy of the Essex House Song Book, bound by Charles McLeish (who worked at the Doves Bindery under Cobden Sanderson for many years) for C. R. Ashbee’s daughter, in which Ashbee has interleaved pages printed on vellum, paper as well as pages written and decorated in his own hand. 


From the next generation of Presses, I have an almost complete set of Golden Cockerel Press books, including (almost as an ephemeral item) a single volume of The Canterbury Tales, illustrated by Eric Gill, printed on vellum. The Golden Cockerel Press was my first serious foray into the private presses, and as such I located as much additional material as I could, including proofs, original designs, correspondence, prospectuses, catalogues, publisher’s files, engravings, binding blocks, copper plates and more. I am slightly more specific for the Gregynog Press, for which I only look for the special bindings by George Fisher, although these are exceedingly rare, as well as the prospectuses for the titles issued by the Press. Similarly, for the Hogarth Press, I only buy those editions that were hand-printed by Virginia Woolf. 


Of the more modern Presses, I buy books by Presses that are no longer printing, such as Gogmagog, Twelve by Eight, Workshop, and Locks Press, and from those still active, such as the Reading Room, Parvenu, Grapho Editions, I.M. Imprimit, Whittington, Fleece, Salvage and Incline Presses. It is usually easier to locate the ephemera and production material for these modern Presses, which can include related artistic material. For example, for Gogmagog and the Workshop Press, I have a number of original prints and paintings by the printers Morris Cox and Mark Arman, who ran those Presses, and by further example a vast number of broadsides from the Whittington Press.


Of the American Presses, I have dabbled with the Arion Press and Barbarian Press, usually because they have printings of wood-engravings which appeal. There are various other Presses that are represented within the collection, but not to the same degree as those mentioned. 

 


jfreemantleco3.jpgHow many books are in your collection?


I haven’t counted, but there must be over a thousand, not including bibliographic books that aren’t printed by any particular Press, which I try to keep to a minimum. Presses don’t generally print that many titles, as of course it is all done in limited editions and by hand, so one Press may only have half a dozen titles under their imprint, whilst the Golden Cockerel Press reached 214 titles. When I add archival material and ephemera to the number of books, there is possibly the same again in terms of floor space.

 

What was the first book you bought for your collection?


I actually discovered Private Press books because I was interested in Milton’s Paradise Lost, having studied it at school. We were given a school copy of the book with an illustration by William Blake on the cover, and that image (and indeed that book) has never been forgotten. I took an interest in the publishing history of Paradise Lost, which was first printed in 1667, and bought early editions, including those illustrated by John Martin, Fuseli and others. Whilst I was reading around the subject, I found and bought copies of the Golden Cockerel Press as well as Doves Press editions of Paradise Lost. Both are extraordinarily attractive printings, and immediately introduced me to what a Private Press could offer. My first most memorable and serious purchase, however, was an English first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses (John Lane, Bodley Head, 1936), which I bought almost entirely on account of it being in a slipcase covered in Paul Nash patterned paper, with an Eric Gill designed bow on the front, bound in vellum, limited to 100 copies and signed by Joyce. These sort of elements are more synonymous with a Private Press book, than a commercial edition. It is still the most expensive single book I have ever bought, from a Sotheby’s auction. I exchanged it probably a year after buying it, for an Ashendene Press book printed on vellum and a group of Hogarth Press hand-printed books. 

 

How about the most recent book?


Books are being added regularly, so most recently, aside from books by those Presses already mentioned, I have bought books from the Fanfrolico, Seven Acres, Simon King, and Kit Kat Presses, as well as Rampant Lions Press books illustrated by J. G. Lubbock.


jfreemantleco2.jpgAnd your favourite book in your collection?


Every Press brings something different. As much as the art of the book is important, so too is the story behind it. Being handmade books, there is usually a single or small number of creative minds behind the book and you can usually get a sense of this when you see the output of each different Press. In that sense, no single Press is alike. Books from the Golden Cockerel Press, for instance, are very different from those printed by the Caradoc Press. 


My favourite book would therefore have to incorporate great artistic and typographic design, coupled with an interesting story, as well as being a desirable rarity. I could therefore mention, for its typographic elegance and fantastic Gwen Raverat engravings, the Japanese Vellum printed Daphnis and Chloe (1931) from the Ashendene Press, of which only around ten exist due to the remainder of the printed sheets being destroyed due to problems with the printing, for which I wrote an article on this for The Private Library; or indeed the Book of Job, printed on vellum with hand-illuminated initials and illustrations, from the Caradoc Press, of which only seven are reported to have been completed, but this may be as much because I am also writing a book on the history of that Press at the moment. 


Best bargain you’ve found?


I have always been impressed by the generosity of printers to literally give away things they may print by hand. So many of the Presses that are still active are this generous, so in the sense of the best bargain, anything like this would be top of the list. 


If I were to name something I have found and bought, one that springs to mind would be a copy of The Praise and Happinesse of the Countrie-Life (1938) from the Gregynog Press. It is one of the specially bound copies, of which there are only twenty, and I found it on eBay. The seller had not known it was one of the specials, so it was not expensive. The reason it sticks in the mind though, is because, so I am told by the expert on these matters David Lewis, the original subscriber (private presses often had subscribers for their publications) was a Senator David Aiken Reed (born in Pittsburgh, 1880 - 1953), and his collection of special Gregynog bindings had been consigned to the Princeton Library, but at the time they were shipped, this and one other title were seemingly never received. It turned up, again unmarked as a special copy, at an auction in Philadelphia decades later, where the eBay seller had bought it in a box of books unknowingly and sold it on through the internet. Knowing it was one of the specials, I bought it. 


How about The One that Got Away?


I will always feel like I have missed out on great private press books. There are three moments that particularly stick in my mind though. The first is the time that two large collections of Ashendene Press books were being sold, one by a dealer and another through an auction abroad. At the time the dealer had them, I wasn’t really looking to buy Ashendene Press books, despite her showing them to me before she had even issued the catalogue when I could have cherry-picked any titles I wanted (they all sold almost immediately), and even when I was buying them, I missed a great auction sale and only found out about it when the auction catalogue showed up for sale on the internet days after the event. There are so many titles I would have liked to have from both the dealer and auction. The second is another auction, during which I was so preoccupied with a high-ticket item that I was bidding on (and never won), I completely overlooked some original correspondence from C. R. Ashbee of the Essex House Press where he writes about the setting up of the Press. When it is a unique item like this, you know it is very unlikely you will see it again in your lifetime. The last is a final auction offering, being an almost complete collection of Whittington Press books. There were literally hundreds of books in one Lot and it went for relatively little money. I never knew about the sale, but if I had at the time, I would have gone for it. For the most part, however, I am usually quite bold with my purchases and would rather regret buying a book, than regret having turned it down.


What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?


There are three titles that I would really consider top of my list. The first is the Song of Songs (1902) from the Ashendene Press. All forty copies are hand-illuminated by Florence Kingsford and printed on vellum. The second and third would be considered the black tulips of the private press world, being Whym Chow (1914) from the Eragny Press, printed in twenty-seven copies and the one title from the Press that never appears, and the suppressed illustrated edition of the Lovers Song Book from the Gregynog Press, printed in only nine copies with wood-engravings by Blair Hughes Stanton that were considered too risqué at the time, so was only published in 1933 without the illustrations. 


Who is your favourite bookseller / bookstore?


Private Press books are sold through shops, dealers by appointment only, auction house and online. It is therefore necessary to look everywhere. Those I go through regularly include:- shops: Collinge & Clarke, Claude Cox Rare Books, Sophie Schneideman, Blackwells Rare Books, Tindley and Everett; dealers: Barrie Marks, Michael Taylor, Colin Franklin; auction houses: Sothebys, Christies, Bonhams, Bloomsbury; internet: eBay, Abebooks; but there are numerous others that I look to, including Vincent Barlow, Julian Smith at Clarendon Books, Besleys, Peter Ellis, Peter Nicholls at Boxwood, Bayntuns, Peter Harrington, Woodbine, Wykeham, Colin Page et al. and in America there are plenty, including Veatchs, Bromers, Oak Knoll, John Windle and others. 


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


I would have to say prints and artwork, as I almost do already given the large amount of wood-engravings, linocuts, etchings, paintings and other prints I have by artists connected with the private presses, and some unconnected. 






























Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Laura Hartmann, who recently won second prize at the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest. Laura collects books about the Spanish Civil War.

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Where are you from / where do you live?

 

I live in Washington, D.C., and where I’m from is a bit of tricky question to answer. My father was a U.S. foreign service officer - a diplomat - who was stationed in Latin America for most of his career. I was born in the Dominican Republic, and moved around the States a lot when our family finally came home. I’ve lived longest in various towns in Virginia, and so I proudly call myself an (adopted) Virginian.


What do you study at University?

 

For my undergraduate degree, I studied Latin American and Spanish literature at St. Louis University’s Madrid campus in Spain, where I became interested in the Spanish Civil War. I continued that interest through two M.A. programs - one in English literature and the second in Spanish and Latin American theatre - and into my English Ph.D. program at Northeastern University, in Boston. I’m currently writing my dissertation on foreign women writers and photographers and the Spanish Civil War.


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

 

I collect books about the Spanish Civil War. As I accumulated my books, I sought to provide contextualizing academic scholarship as well as comparative, primary accounts of the Spanish Civil War across several genres. I have a special interest in Spanish Civil War books by and about women. The focus on foreign women in all their roles (as poets, as journalists, as photographers, as administrators, as nurses) is unique as most approaches would keep these testimonies separate. The main drive behind the collection is to preserve materials that would otherwise be destroyed or forgotten, and to create and curate a collection of Spanish Civil War materials from unexpected, non-traditional lines of inquiry such as visual studies or women’s studies.

 

In my collection, many of the materials from women are the original editions, because these books went through only one printing. If I wanted a copy of the novel or memoir, there was only one copy to acquire. Over the years, I adjusted the purpose of my collection to reflect various neglected strands of Spanish Civil War studies that suited my academic interests: writing by women, visual studies (such as posters, photographs, and propaganda), and eyewitness life writing more generally.

 

Recently, I’ve become interested in Spanish Civil War ephemera - like pamphlets published in the 1930s - contemporary interpretations of the war, like an historical/military board game entitled España 1936 that my father bought me for a Christmas present one year.


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How many books are in your collection?

 

166 items, including the pamphlets - and it’s growing all the time!

 

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

 

I can’t quite remember the first book. It was probably Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell or A Concise History of the Spanish Civil War by Paul Preston, for the summer class I was taking on the history and literature of the Spanish Civil War, purchased used at the campus bookstore. I know I still have those copies.

 

I do remember being an undergraduate in Madrid and seeking out Aránzazu Usandizaga’s critical work Escritoras al frente: Intelectuales extranjeras en la Guerra Civil (Writers to the Front: Foreign Intellectuals in the Civil War). I knew that it would be difficult to find materials about foreign women writers in the Spanish Civil War at all, because these writers were barely featured in most academic articles or books that I could find.

 

From that experience, I knew I should make a special effort while actually in Spain to track down books by and about these women. So, on my travels through Spain, I got in the habit of going into any bookshops I saw and asking the bookseller for their section on the Spanish Civil War.


How about the most recent book?

 

Earlier this year, University of Ottawa Press put out two recently recovered works about the Spanish Civil War by two Canadian writers - This Time a Better Earth by Ted Allan (ed. Bart Vautour) and Hugh Garner’s Best Stories by Hugh Garner (ed. Emily Robins Sharpe). I purchased these two books in addition to The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade: Americans in the Spanish Civil War by Peter Carroll.

 

And your favorite book in your collection?

 

Oh, I have many favorites! One that stands out is Women’s Voices from the Spanish Civil War, an anthology of autobiographical accounts and excerpts edited by Sally Alexander and Jim Fyrth. When I bought it used, it was the most money I had spent on a book - about $65, I think. It’s recently been republished in paperback at a more affordable graduate student price. For me, purchasing this book meant that I was serious about studying the Spanish Civil War and women’s writing...serious enough to need this book on hand instead of repeatedly checking out the library copy, serious enough to not go to the movies for a couple of months to afford it. And I love the movies.

 

Another favorite, because of its rarity, is my original 1937 copy of Death in the Making, without a dust jacket. This is Robert Capa’s tribute to Gerda Taro, a photographer killed during the Spanish Civil War. Capa is one of the twentieth century’s great war photographers; this volume of Capa and Taro photographs had one printing. This photo-book is the most valuable item in my collection. It’s such a heartfelt tribute to Taro and to the cause of the Spanish Republic.


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Best bargain you’ve found?

 

While it’s not quite a bargain since I did spend a good chunk of change, I acquired 70+ items from a rare bookseller on Amazon by reaching out to her directly and wanting to purchase all of her Spanish Civil War materials if she’d negotiate on the price. Part of that acquisition were 43 original pamphlets from 1936-1940, all dealing with Spanish Civil War. Primarily targeted at American audiences, these pamphlets are in English and cover a wide range of topics related to the war - from the Italian involvement in Spain to American nurses’ accounts of their volunteer work in the war.

 

These pamphlets (and the rest of the volumes) were collected by the late Sanford Soren, who donated his Spanish Civil War collection of pamphlets and books to his local library of Willingboro, New Jersey. I do not know much more about Soren or why he collected these materials. A brief search of open Internet sources revealed that Soren was an attorney and died at the age of 40 in 1972. The bookseller had bought Soren’s collection at an auction, after the Willingboro Public Library discarded it en masse. Although the bookseller had sold some individual items, I managed to buy the collection more or less intact.

 

After a week of negotiating and arranging delivery, the collection arrived! The bookseller told me that she felt sorry for Soren, having so carefully acquired and maintained this collection to have it unceremoniously shrugged off, and that she knew I’d honor him by taking good care of it and appreciating it...which was how she convinced herself to reduce the price for me. It felt like a coup to discover so many original items from the early-to-mid twentieth century in such great condition, and I’m glad I was bold enough to reach out to negotiate.


How about The One that Got Away?

 

I must have pushed such a painful occurrence out of my memory, as nothing comes directly to mind!

 

Because I’m not really concerned with acquiring specific objects or editions (and because the Spanish Civil War tends to be less in demand than other topics), books tend to stay put for me.

 

That being said, in Madrid there was a vendor who would sell reprints of old posters and photographs from the 1930s-50s of Spain, especially of the civil war. He never sold in the same place, and I only came across him twice. The first time, he had a black and white reprint of a militiawoman that I loved on sight - her hair was askew and she had her rifle on her shoulder with a devil-may-care confidence - but I didn’t have the cash on hand to buy it from him. The next time I saw the vendor, some months later, he told me he had sold out of that reprint and it would be awhile before he made more. And I didn’t see him, or that particular photograph, again.

 

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

 

I have a quick answer for this one! In the early 1990s, the Spanish Cultural Ministry put on an exhibition of Hungarian-born Kati Horna’s Spanish Civil War photography at the University of Salamanca. The exhibition book, Kati Horna: fotografías de la guerra civil española (1937-1938), is one of my most-sought after pieces. Very few copies of the exhibition book were made, and it is out of print. If you have it, I will snatch it from your hands and run away.


Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

 

Well, I love browsing the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America website and typing in “Spanish Civil War” to see what’s out there or what has been found. Whenever I travel to a new place, I try to search out the used bookstores, as I find that used and rare bookstores are such lovely idiosyncratic places for discovering treasures.

 

During my high school years in Williamsburg, VA, Mermaid Books on Prince George St. definitely encouraged my love for rare and unusual books. I also like to browse the site for Bolerium Books in San Francisco - “Fighting Commodity Fetishism with Commodity Fetishism” is one of their postcards they sent me with a book I bought.


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

 

I honestly don’t know. Books are fundamental to my being and how I interact with the world and with history.

 

I guess I would choose a similar historical genre of a daily object that people found fundamentally necessary for expressing their creativity and their engagement with the world - like antiquarian maps or Quaker spindles. 


(Nominations for Bright Young Collectors (including self-nominations) are welcome at nathan@finebooksmagazine.com)


Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Rose Berman, who recently won third prize at the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest. Rose collects Antoine de Saint Exupéry. 

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Where are you from / where do you live? 

I’m from Gaithersburg, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. I’m currently gearing up to move to France to teach English for a year.
 
What did you study at University? What do you do now for an occupation?
 
I studied history at the University of Chicago and wrote my bachelor’s thesis on the French memory of World War I during World War II. Though I will be teaching English to elementary-schoolers in Avignon this coming year, I am in the midst of switching paths to attend medical school.
 
Please introduce us to your book collection.  What areas do you collect in?

I collect books by and about the French author Antoine de Saint Exupéry (you may have read his most famous book, The Little Prince!). I also collect books about the airline he flew for, Aéropostale, and his fellow pilots. Most of my collection is in French, but I have a few of the English translations of his works. I especially value books with photographs and anecdotes I haven’t seen before.
 
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How many books are in your collection?

About 50 so far.

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

My first book was actually a present from my dad on my eleventh birthday--a copy of The Little Prince. From then on, I was hooked on Saint Exupéry; I think my first purchase was the English translation of Terre des hommes, which I got at Borders (may it rest in peace...).

How about the most recent book?

Saint Exupéry in America, 1942-1943 by Adele Breaux. It’s a memoir by a young teacher who tried to teach Saint Exupéry English during his brief stint in New York. I first read the book in the Library of Congress and have wanted it ever since for its amusing anecdotes...this summer I finally sprung for it.

And your favorite book in your collection?

I love my first edition of Pilote de guerre for its special story. The Nazis did not allow the book to be published in France during the war, so it was instead published in New York out of a respected French bookstore. When I learned this story from a biography, I tracked down the book on AbeBooks. It includes a carefully preserved erratum note in the front.

Best bargain you’ve found?

A lot of my books seem like they should be worth a lot more than I paid; the first edition Pilote de guerre was about $35. I was pleasantly surprised!

How about The One that Got Away?

It’s not a book, but a whole bookstore...during an exchange visit to France when I was 16, my host father took me to an aviation-themed used bookstore somewhere in Paris. I cleared out a whole shelf and found many of my most prized books. I want to go there again, but the Internet hasn’t helped and even my host father doesn’t remember the name of the place!

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

I would love to have a letter written by Saint-Ex or one of his friends (his manuscripts are mostly in libraries now). I’d also like to track down a copy of an extremely rare book, Chez les fils du désert, written by two Aéropostale pilots who were held prisoner in the Sahara.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?
  
I love the unique books and academic focus of the Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Hyde Park, Chicago. But I find most of the books for my collection online or in France.

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

In a fantasy world, antique airplanes! More realistically, fountain pens or tiny clocks.

(Nominations for Bright Young Collectors (including self-nominations) are welcome at nathan@finebooksmagazine.com)

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Anne Steptoe, who recently won the Essay Prize at the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest. Anne collects 20th century Southern literature:

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Where are you from and where do you live?

I grew up in the small town of Charles Town, WV. After a decade in the Northeast, I  returned to the South last year and now live in Durham, NC.
 
What do you study at University?

I was a Classics and English major as an undergraduate at Harvard, focusing on late Republican Latin literature’s influence on twentieth-century Southern literature. After graduation, I made the hard decision to veer away from academia to a career that would allow me to help shape the landscape of the modern South more actively. So, I went on to medical school at Brown University and am now enrolled in business school at Duke University.
 
Please introduce us to your book collection.  What areas do you collect in?

I started collecting twentieth-century Southern literature in college, as an extension of my academic research. I wrote my senior thesis on the Fugitive poets, and their work remains the cornerstone of my collection. I’ve always been inspired by the notion that a small, ragtag band of Vanderbilt scholars and were among the first to insist that Southern literature should not be a sentimental, apologist look at Southern history. This “small” effort would catalyze an entire generation and revitalize the literature of the South. I’ve expanded my collection over the years to reflect the catalyst moment the Fugitives represent. So I also collect many of the Fugitives’ contemporaries and successors, including William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Katherine Anne Porter, William Styron and their peers.
 
How many books are in your collection?

Approximately 110 first and early editions, with roughly a third dedicated from Southern literature and the remainder from other modern (mainly 20th century) American and British literature and poetry. I cannot pass up a classic book by an author I love when I come across it, and my collection is a reflection of that.

DukeLibrary_Display.jpgWhat was the first book you bought for your collection?

My first real find was a first edition of Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men - though it’s probably more accurate to say that the book found me. I was living in Boston at the time and got caught without an umbrella in a rainstorm. I happened to walk by a thrift store, and stepped inside for shelter. I was browsing the book section to pass the time when the book caught my attention. It stood out at first because it was older than everything else around it, and very quickly because it was a small piece of home transplanted far from the South. I knew I had to have it, even before I fully understood what I’d found. From there, I was hooking on the collecting experience.
 
How about the most recent book?

I recently purchased a signed first edition of Katherine Anne Porter’s translation of a French song-book. It’s something I might have passed up in my early years of collecting because, although it’s a rare edition, it’s not traditional literature. However, the longer I collect and grow to know these authors’ bodies of work, I learn details that endear me to these unusual finds. It turns out, for example, that Porter used the songbook project as a way to bridge a period of writers’ block, with some of her most successful work immediately following it. I’ll refrain from the cliché about books and their covers, but I think it applies.
 
And your favorite book in your collection?

One of my favorites has to be my copy of Allen Tate’s biography-novel of the Confederate general Stonewall Jackson. The novel itself struggles immaturely at achieving the Fugitive’s new complex, non-apologetic telling of Southern history and wasn’t a particularly successful effort. However, my copy belonged to the Southern publisher and thought leader, Louis Rubin.  Rubin served as a kind of adviser and compass to many of the authors in my collection, and having his copy of one of the earlier efforts at modern Southern literature is particularly special to me. But I’d be remiss not to mention my first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird - to every girl who grew up in the South and loved to read and write, that piece of history is like having a talisman on your bookshelf.
 
Best bargain you’ve found?

By monetary value, probably my copy of All the King’s Men. However, because I collect twentieth-century Southern literature, I’ve been fortunate to find many of my valuable pieces at thrift stores at bargain prices.
 
How about The One that Got Away?

I regret not purchasing more or the rest of Louis Rubin’s Fugitive collection when I ran into it at a used bookstore in New Orleans. I was a recent college graduate and reluctant to invest significant money in my new collecting hobby. But the decision haunted me so much that I went back to the bookstore on my next trip to New Orleans, only to find them vanished. Most recently, I was on vacation in Ireland and drove to a small town chasing down a relatively inexpensive copy of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury I’d seen online. I got there about five minutes after their closing time on the last day of my vacation - I guess I’ll just have to go back to Ireland now.
 
What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

I’m still a little bitter about my missed copy of The Sound and the Fury, as it’s my favorite Faulkner novel and, in my mind, the pinnacle of the Southern writing style for which the Fugitives advocated. I’ve also shamelessly neglected Carson McCullers in my collecting, though she’s one of my favorite Southern writers. But the real Holy Grail, from a personal collecting perspective, would have to be the first edition of the Fugitive magazine - the beginning of it all.
 
Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

A few favorite bookstores, for different reasons. For rare books and its sheer magnitude, I’ve always loved the Strand in New York. For keeping me in used paperbacks and continually reading, I’m grateful to the Harvard Book Store and the Brookline Booksmith in Boston, and Books for America in Washington DC. And I’d be a broke collector if it weren’t for the many small thrift stores and library sales I’ve visited over the years. There’s an extra thrill of finding and rescuing a first edition book among shelves of dingy mass market paperbacks that is hard to replicate even in the best used bookstore.
 
What would you collect if you didn’t collect books?

Art, especially late 19th century and early 20th century painting (I have a soft spot for the Pre-Ralphelite art since reading associated writers’ work). Or perhaps Roman and Greek artifacts, if I had an unlimited budget and there weren’t complicated ethics around collecting those items.
 
Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Micah McCrotty of Knoxville, Tennessee:

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Where do you live?

I have lived in the great city of Knoxville, Tennessee for 10 years.

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

I studied counseling, theology, and literature while in college at Johnson University.  Now I manage a long term living facility for adults with mental disabilities.  I hope to eventually return to school to study either theology or literature. 

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

My collection focuses on ephemera and first editions of southern American authors and poets, primarily the first half of the 20th century.  Because these authors are relatively recent and common, I often find them at local thrift shops.  I love the writings of Flannery O’Connor, James Agee, Alex Haley, Robert Penn Warren, James Dickey, some of the Fugitive poets, other southern themed poetry from small presses or university presses, and of course Faulkner.  I collect other writers as well who are more current, including Cormac McCarthy, Walker Percy, Shelby Foote, and Charles Frazier.  

I often try to read critical works as well and so my collection also includes a large amount of authorial studies.  Reading in this way has been a major help in realizing direction for the collection as a whole. Before my interest became honed to southern writers, I sought after the great modern American writers in first edition, and so I still hope to finish my Hemingway and Steinbeck collection.
 
How many books are in your collection?

It varies depending on trading and a continual need to free up bookshelf space, but currently I have about 200 in the southern lit collection with 9 various ephemera pieces.  My entire first edition collection totals near 375.

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

I tried to read through Hemingway’s works in order of publication while in college.  I came across a hardback of ‘Islands in the Stream’ at a local thrift shop and I learned later that it was in fact a first edition. That sparked my interest in serious collecting.  The first piece I bought intentionally for the southern lit collection was a signed copy of ‘A Place To Come To,’ which now I have realize is very common, but at the time I thought I had discovered a national treasure.

How about the most recent book?

This week I found a signed numbered pre-released copy of ‘A Place To Come To,’ still in the original box, at a very reasonable price.  Three weeks ago I purchased an uncorrected proof with some minor pencil notations and corrections of Carlos Baker’s biography of Hemingway (only chapter 8) which eventually became ‘Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story.’  Before that document, I added a signed Reynolds Price book called ‘Love and Work’ to the collection.

And your favorite book in your collection?

My parents gave me a fine copy of ‘The Nick Adams Stories’ when I first began collecting and it has remained special to me.  The fly fishing and nature descriptions which highlight the book were some of my first favorite short stories and I find myself rereading them every few years. 
 
Best bargain you’ve found?

Just like any rare book collector, I hold a hope of finding a rare book at a used bookstore which has been mislabeled.  I once found a first edition of Flannery O’Connor’s ‘The Violent Bear it Away’ in Good + condition for $8 in a store which has a reputation for being thoroughly picked through by collectors.  It was a very beautiful copy which I later traded for my copy of ‘Death in the Afternoon.’  I also purchased a signed ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ for $6 at another local used bookstore.  I could hardly believe my luck.  

How about The One that Got Away?

I was once offered to buy a Flannery O’Connor galley proof for a price that, at the time, seemed far too much for me to spend.  It was one of those situations where I had to make a decision without research or price comparing and so I passed.  After I returned home I looked up similar items online and realized the amazing opportunity I had just waved away then immediately reached out to the seller in email.  I received an email back after two weeks of waiting which informed me that he had sold it minutes after I walked away!  
 
What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

This is a difficult question.  My favorite of Faulkner’s works is ‘Light in August’ so a signed Fine/Fine copy would certainly be a treasure.  I would argue it as one of the greatest American novels, and the artwork on the dust jacket is very striking.  Shelby Foote called it Faulkner’s “greatest novel as novel,” and I would agree. I haven’t yet made the plunge into Twain, but there are certainly several books among his canon that I foresee hunting for a lifetime.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

Knoxville does not have a stand alone rare book store and so I have to travel or shop online for anything specific.  Nashville’s Yeoman’s in the Fork is a fun gallery for anyone passing through the area and I sometimes call them if I have a question.  I have also made friends at conventions who sell online without a storefront and I contact them with inquiries. 

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

Split cane fly rods have a long history with their own celebrities and dignitaries.  I think it would be interesting to collect and preserve some of the work of those master craftsmen.
Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Dr. Patrick Hansma in Michigan:

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Where are you from / where do you live?

I live near Detroit, MI

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

My undergraduate degree is in biomedical science.  After getting my bachelors degree I went on to medical school.  Now I’m a pathologist.

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

My library is fairly diverse but the core of my collecting falls into two categories: 1) autopsy/forensic pathology and 2) Bibles/Biblical studies.  I’ve been collecting autopsy books for a while now but I only recently started on Bibles.  Though I own some very nice copies of the Bible in English--such as Brown’s Self-Interpreting Bible (2 vol, 1815) and Scott’s Bible (6 vol, 1823)--which are currently are among my best holdings, I intend to develop it more toward’s the Bible in its original languages.  But I just started this collection--so we’ll see where it ends up.
As for autopsies, I’ve been at it for years.  I bet I probably have the most definitive collection of antiquarian books on autopsy methods in private hands.  I have nearly all the major titles and most of the minutiae.  Please don’t think that I’m bragging though--anyone can develop a definitive library.  Just pick your topic and start searching.  It’s amazing what you might find.  In my field I have very little competition.  It’s an uncommon thing to collect.  Which is fine by me, that keeps the prices low.  Most of them were published in the late 19th/early 20th centuries.  So most are cloth bindings, now ex libris from institutions, often stained from being in hospital pathology departments, etc. etc..  Most people collecting in medicine go for much earlier, leather bound high points, with beautiful anatomic or surgical plates.  And I don’t blame them.   My collection is very esoteric and few would enjoy it the way I do.

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I also have smaller subsets of collecting interests, including other areas of pathology, other medical topics, anatomy, astronomy, Edgar Allan Poe, Dante Alighieri, and some others.  But autopsies and Bibles take priority.  They represent my career and my faith.

How many books are in your collection?

My wife and I both are book lovers (she’s interested in typography and design).  Our combined library is probably about 900 volumes.  But the antiquarian books make up perhaps a third of that total.

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

I’m really not sure. Possibly Wistar’s System of Anatomy, 2 vol, 7th ed, 1839.

How about the most recent book?

In my pathology collection that would be Les Adelson’s Pathology of Homicide, 1974.  In my Biblical studies collection it is A Dictionary of the Holy Bible, 3 vol, London, 1759.  I’m very excited about that one as it demands some research.  It was published anonymously but I’ve been finding things that hint that John Brown may have been involved with that set.  I own Brown’s Bible (1815), Dictionary (1816), and Concordance (1812).  So if Brown can be linked to the 1759 set, I would be pretty thrilled.

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And your favorite book in your collection?

Not possible to pick just one because my collecting is so divided now.  Some of my favorites include Gaub’s Institutiones Pathologiae medicinalis (editio altera, 1763), Hektoen’s Post-Mortem Technique (1894; my copy was owned by Frank Burr Mallory--another famous pathologist who also wrote a book on autopsy procedure), Grabe’s Vetus Testamentum (4 vol bound in 2, vellum, 1730; it’s the Old Testament in Greek transcribed from Codex Alexandrinus), and Bibliorum Sacrorum Concordantia (1685, wood boards, metal clasps and straps intact).

Best bargain you’ve found?

Probably Horner’s Lessons in Practical Anatomy, for the Use of Dissectors, 1st ed, 1823, full leather, near fine.  It’s the first edition of Horner’s first work and it’s not merely a textbook of descriptive anatomy, it is an instruction manual for medical students in the cadaver lab on how to perform the dissection and what to observe.  I wanted it because it contrasts nicely with my autopsy books since it details an entirely different manner of human dissection.  I think I paid $18 for it.

How about The One that Got Away?

There have been too many of those to count.  But a recent one was a 17th century copy of Fernel that sold on ebay for pocket change.  I missed it.  I was furious.

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

In pathology, probably Benivieni’s 1507 De abditis nonnullis ac mirandis morborum et sanationum causis. It is considered the first book to advocate for the use of the autopsy.  They don’t come around very often and command five figure price tags.  I’ll never own one.  I do own a nice leather bound facsimile though, so that will have to do.  For my Bible collection, any 16th century copy of the Old or New Testament (Erasmus, perhaps?)  with a chain still attached to the binding would be a definite high!  But those also command top dollar.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

The internet.  My autopsy collection is so esoteric that there are no dealers who specialize in it--even among those who deal specifically in medicine.  I once asked the folks at Jeremy Norman’s History of Science if they could help me find a particular book I had been searching for for years (it was written by a very famous 19th century physician who has three medical conditions named after him!).  Their response was basically “never heard of it--but good luck.”  So I have had to act as my own agent.  That meant countless hours on the internet searching in multiple languages to find some of the rarest (because the most neglected) titles.  These books are often quite hard to find--there’s just not much of a market.

That said, there are a few brick and mortar shops I do like (all in Michigan).  Shaw’s Books, Archives Books, Credo Books and Redux Books, just to name a few.

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

Probably guitars.  I like Rickenbacker and Gibson.

Nominations for Bright Young Collectors (including self-nominations) are welcome at nathan@finebooksmagazine.com

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Gregory Freeman of Surrey, British Columbia who collects the English Reformation.

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Where are you from / where do you live? 

Surrey, British Columbia.

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

I entered the book trade at 19 and have been in the business over ten years as a bookstore employee, working for a number of booksellers in that time as cataloguer. Never attended post-secondary. As a self-taught antiquarian I visit rare books libraries (most of them belong to universities) to engage in my hobby -- searching through early printed books for marginalia as I’ve taught myself in English palaeography. I’ve made some fascinating discoveries over the years. But I haven’t bothered to take any courses; Latin would be my first choice.

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

English Reformation period in history, biography, theology, literature, history of the English language, reflecting my own heritage and religion. I also go back to the Anglo-Saxons (as did the Tudors and Victorians) for a better cultural and lingual understanding. Dictionaries--especially the Oxford English Dictionary of which I have the first edition--is another aspect to my collection, with subsidiary publications and a subsection of philologist-theologian Richard Chenevix Trench. Besides printed books (and books-about-books), I also collect handwritten documents of the 13th-19th centuries to indulge in my palaeographical interest. Provenance to a few of my books include the first Duke of Northumberland, Lord Rosebery, and Canadian prime ministers Sir Charles Tupper and Sir John A Macdonald. 

How many books are in your collection? 

About 450 antiquarian books, leaves, and pamphlets; 60 manuscripts on paper and parchment dating back to circa 1270; plus another couple hundred books post-1900.

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

Reading early 20th-century literature at the age of 16-17 sparked the latent antiquarian in me; in senior high school I was already buying cheap Victorian books and sometimes brought them to class. These led to earlier and earlier books, until at the age of 22 in 2007, I acquired my first 16th-17th-century items, A Continuation of Morning-Exercise Questions and Cases of Conscience (1683), followed by Paraphrasis In Psalmos Davidivos (1590), The Gunpowder-Treason (1679), St. Germain’s classic legal text The Dialogue in English (1593), that’s when my serious collecting began. 

How about the most recent book? 

A first edition of bishop John Jewel’s famous Defence of the Apologie for the Churche of Englande (1567), with intriguing marginalia possibly belonging to Stephen Batman the contemporary Elizabethan theologian. 

And your favorite book in your collection? 

A small quarto Bishops Bible printed by Jugge in 1577, bound with The Whole Booke of Psalmes printed by Daye in 1576. It’s bound in early tooled leather over wooden boards, with late Mediaeval MS vellum binder’s waste in gothic lettering (probably cut from a disused breviary) inserted at the front hinge. The Mediaeval fragment is such a splendid commentary on the period : a banned religious service book scrapped for use as binding reinforcement in a Protestant English bible.

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Best bargain you’ve found?

It’s difficult to say which is best, but among them have been a 1561 exemplification document on vellum with Elizabeth I’s great wax seal appended; a near fine copy of John Knox’s Historie of the Reformation of the Church of Scotland (1644); plus the 1577 Bishops Bible above. Also, Herbert Coleridge’s A Glossarial Index (1859), annotated in pen by Frederick J. Furnivall, that I bought online for $40--Coleridge and Furnivall were the two earliest editors of what became the OED.

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How about the One that Got Away?

I try to forget them as best I can. Normally when something sells I consider it fate and move on. I can scarcely afford these things anyhow being a bookstore employee. I’m grateful for what I’ve got. 

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

A 14th-15th-century Wycliffe Bible; a Mediaeval copy of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History ; any book with a previously-unknown Mediaeval music manuscript used as endleaves in the binding. Perhaps a lost copy of Tyndale’s first edition New Testament.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore? 

J. King in Canada has been my favourite for a long time, with Purpora and MacLeod’s Books in Vancouver, plus a number of other Canadian booksellers more recently whom I’ve met at book fairs, such as Bison Books. 

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

I happen to collect music (on CD) composed in England between the 12th-18th centuries, so perhaps if I didn’t collect books and documents my mania would be focused on period musical instruments such as organs, viols, lutes, sackbutts, etc. Religious relics of the Middle Ages would also be fun.
Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Leif Norman of Winnipeg, who collects chemistry and photographic books, as well as books about the history of Winnipeg:

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Where are you from / where do you live?

I grew up in St James and moved to downtown Winnipeg as soon as I was 19.

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

I initially wanted to be a High School Music Teacher, then a Chemistry Teacher, and so I got a 4 year Chemistry degree from the U of W. When I discovered that teaching was akin to babysitting I chose not to get the Education Degree, and because my serious hobby of photography was getting good results I became a photographer. I make all my money with my camera; but I don’t do weddings.

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

I collect 19th century Chemistry texts, anything to do with the History of Winnipeg, including old postcards and matchbooks. I also have a large collection of Photographic books from before the 1950’s because they include the chemical recipes for mixing developers and making your own films.

How many books are in your collection?

There are about 100 books I keep behind glass in a 1930’s cabinet.

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What was the first book you bought for your collection?

The first book I bought which made me think I was actually being an active collector was John William Draper’s 1851 Textbook on Chemistry for Schools and Colleges. Each chapter is a lecture covering very basic Scientific ideas. Anyone can understand it.

How about the most recent book?

The most recent book I bought was “The Growing World, or The Progress of Civilization” from 1885. It is a hodge podge of long and short writings about Astronomy, Exploring in Africa, French Shepherds wearing stilts and much much more. It’s like a Victorian bathroom reader and includes gorgeous illustrations.

And your favorite book in your collection?

My favourite book is the 1st Edition Focal Encyclopedia of Photography from 1956.
It is comically huge with nearly 1300 pages; making it 4 inches thick. I bought it in Toronto and was reading on the VIA rail train back to Winnipeg and everyone was staring incredulously at me with this enormous book.

Best bargain you’ve found?

The best bargain might be a tract by Guy Debord called “Society of the Spectacle” from 1970 Detroit. I have a very small collection of Situationist books and I found this one jammed in a discount box for $5. There is one listed on Biblio for $300 CDN right now.

How about The One that Got Away?

The book that got away would be the one hiding in a corner I never looked in. My girlfriend and I drive to Toronto or Victoria every year and stop in as many vintage, thrift, junk stores along the way searching for treasures, but it’s tiring and I get sloppy. One can only imagine the yard sale that had wonderful things that we never stopped at. Sigh...

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

The Holy Grail for me would be an original Pencil of Nature by Fox Talbot, or something by the French Chemist Lavoisier.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

My favourite book store in Winnipeg is Bison Books. They have great stuff, and appreciate ephemera and the old stuff like I do. In Toronto I always go to The Monkey’s Paw and Balfour Books, and in Victoria BC, Russell Books is an endless bunch of fun.

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

If I didn’t collect books, I would collect mid-century teak furniture, vintage film cameras and Victorian carte de visites, ugly coffee mugs and bizarre vinyls records. Wait, I already do that. I might collect vintage mopeds and scooters if I had all the money and space I wanted.

Nominations for entries in our Bright Young Collectors series can be sent to nathan@finebooksmagazine.com

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Madison Rootenberg of Durham, North Carolina, who collects unicorn books.


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Where are you from / where do you live?

Born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and currently living in Durham, NC.

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

I went to Emerson College for Writing, Literature and Publishing and I am currently the Assistant Youth, Family and Camp Director at the Levin Jewish Community Center in Durham-Chapel Hill.
 
Please introduce us to your book collection.  What areas do you collect in? 

When I was 5 years old I was in London with my grandparents for a book fair, and they had asked me what I wanted to start collecting. I found a sticker on the side of a building as we were leaving saying, “Save the Unicorns” and decided the only way to do that was to collect all of the books on them ever written!

How many books are in your collection? 

Oh goodness, over 100, I’ve lost count.

What was the first book you bought for your collection? 

I believe it was an Animal Encyclopedia from the 1400’s that had a section on unicorns.

How about the most recent book? 

A collection of hand-painted pages from children’s books that all contain a unicorn. 

And your favorite book in your collection? 

A miniature book that is less than an inch big!

How about the One that Got Away? 

Still looking for a manuscript of “The Last Unicorn.” I have it on both VHS and DVD though. 

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection? 

Supposedly the British Library recently found a cook book from medieval times containing a section on how to cook a unicorn. This proves they were real, right?!

Who is your favorite bookseller? 

My dad and grandparents of course! B & L Rootenberg Rare Books and Manuscripts.

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

If I had the space, dogs! Every pitbull on the street or in a pound. Hopefully I’ll have a farm one day and can start rescuing more. 

Thanks to Madison for participating in our series.  Nominations for Bright Young Collectors (including self-nominations) are welcome at nathan@finebooksmagazine.com
Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Nathan Moore of Eugene, Oregon, who collects books on labor and occupational songs:

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Where are you from / where do you live?

I grew up outside of Portland, Oregon.  In 1998, I moved to Eugene, Oregon, to attend the University of Oregon.   

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

I earned an M.A. from the Folklore Program at the University of Oregon.  My research focused on the musical traditions of the American labor movement.  The title of my terminal project was More Than A Labor Singer: Converging Traditions in the Harry S. Stamper, Jr. Papers, and it involved archiving and analyzing the recorded and written works of the late Harry S. Stamper, Jr., a folksinger and longshoreman from Charleston, Oregon.  I currently work as an independent folklorist, a bookstore clerk, and a musician with Low Tide Drifters, a folk music band.    

Please introduce us to your book collection.  What areas do you collect in?
I collect books on labor and occupational songs.  Specifically, I collect rare songbooks, many of which were printed by labor unions, political organizations, or independent publishers.  I also collect related academic and popular books on labor songs and other forms of working-class cultural expression.  My good friend Mark Ross, a noted folksinger and book collector, helped me get started by introducing me to musicians, folklorists, and others who published books on labor and occupational music.  In graduate school, James Fox, Head of Special Collections & University Archives, and Nathan Georgitis of the Randall V. Mills Archives of Northwest Folklore taught me how to preserve my rare song books. 

How many books are in your collection?  

I have about twenty songbooks, and at least a dozen of them are rare.  I have another 25 or so books on the subject of labor songs and occupational traditions.  

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What was the first book you bought for your collection?

The first book that I consciously bought for my collection was the 2005 centenary edition of The Little Red Songbook, the famous the songbook that the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have been publishing since 1909.  The IWW was a labor union founded in 1905 that produced hundreds of songs, many of which have become folk music standards or have been recorded by popular artists.  For anyone interested in IWW songs, the noted folklorist Archie Green wrote extensively on the subject.  In 2007, he edited The Big Red Songbook, a detailed collection of IWW songs, which I highly recommend.

How about the most recent book?

I just bought a nice second printing of Starlight on the Rails & Other Songs by U. Utah Phillips.  Phillips was a well-known folksinger and activist who wrote songs about the labor movement, trains, and the American West, as well as many other subjects.  I purchased the book from Ken Saunders Rare Books, an antiquarian bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah.  

And your favorite book in your collection?

It’s definitely hard to choose a favorite, but it’s probably my IWW song book from 1945.  It’s the twenty-eighth edition and is the oldest song book  in my collection.  I’d love to get some older ones, though!  

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 Best bargain you’ve found?

I just found a nice copy of Joe Glazer and Edith Fowke’s Songs of Work and Freedom.  It was only a couple of bucks, so that was exciting.  To be honest, I’m always looking for a deal.  That’s part of the fun.  Anyone can go online and find a book that they want for a lot of money, but I like searching the thrift stores and used book stores for a bargain and a treasure!  
How about The One that Got Away?

I try not to dwell on those.   

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?
I would absolutely love a copy of “Coal Dust on the Fiddle” by George Korson.  Korson was a pioneering occupational folklorist who documented the songs and stories of coal miners, especially in Pennsylvania.  He was also one of the first American folklorists to illustrate how immigrant traditions influence occupational folklore in the United States.     

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

Right now, I work at Tsunami Books in Eugene, Oregon.  I find great titles there every day!  I recently found a very unique book called “Men and Machines: A Story about Longshoring on the West Coast Waterfront.”  It’s a photographic essay about the technological changes that occurred on the waterfront in the last half of the twentieth century.    

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

Well, I actually do have a number of other collections.  I collect LPs (work/labor music, folk and country, blues, and old punk records).  I also have an extensive CD and cassette collection.  Oddly enough, I also have a growing science fiction book collection as well.      

Thanks to Nathan Moore for participating in our series.  Nominations for Bright Young Collectors (including self-nominations) are welcome at nathan@finebooksmagazine.com

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Sophie Ridley of Shropshire, collector of books on crafts and school education.

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Where are you from / where do you live? 

I’m a country girl through and through having been brought up in rural north Shropshire, close to the Welsh border.

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

I studied Archaeology and Anthropology at Oxford University. Having graduated over the summer I am now aiming at a career in museums. To this end, I am building up as much voluntary curatorial experience as possible at local museums.

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

My collection covers the topic of crafts and their introduction to school education from the 1870s to the 1930s. It traces the transitional period from the highly restrictive education system of ‘the three Rs’ to one which recognised that a more varied education with practical elements was highly beneficial to children’s learning. As such, I have books that were produced as educational treatises, those that aim to inspire and inform teachers, and others that were to be used by children themselves. I am also beginning to include recent books which trace the increasing resurgence of such themes in today’s schools. These form their own contextualising section in the broad collection.

How many books are in your collection?

At present my collection stands at 32, but of course there are a number I am ever on the lookout for.

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

I hardly know, as I never set out to collect. Rather, the early development of my collection came about during my A-levels where in free periods I would head into town to my local British Red Cross charity shop. They have an interesting selection of older books that are restocked on a rolling basis. I would buy books on any topic that caught my fancy and from this the theme of crafts emerged. It was the chance find of a copy of the first three volumes in Holman’s series of 6 volumes ‘The Book of School Handwork’ that introduced the educational element and really added direction to the crafts theme which came to dominate and ultimately form my collection.

How about the most recent book?

I have just got round to treating myself with my winnings from the Colin Franklin Book Collecting Prize. The book is a first edition of William Morris’ ‘The Decorative Arts, Their Relation to Modern Life and Progress: An Address Delivered before the Trades’ Guild of Learning’. Morris was such an influential figure, both in promoting the value of craftsmanship and also with his socialist views that work should be satisfying. As such this book is highly pertinent to my collection. There is a further significance in that I spent three months this summer doing research work at Kelmscott Manor, his summer home. I am very glad to finally be able to nestle Morris’ influential text amongst my other books.

And your favorite book in your collection?

As is perhaps common, I have no single favourite. Indeed, the book I would like to highlight here is far less directly relevant to the theme of my collection than many of the others. Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Golden Age’ captures a broad change in public attitude towards children, embracing their imaginative creativity. My copy, a first edition published in 1895, came at the cusp of the changes in education that my collection traces. The elevated value of crafts and social reform that Morris and his contemporaries set in motion at last began to seep into school education. Teachers began to recognise the benefit of practical ‘handwork’ even in subjects like history, geography and mathematics.

Best bargain you’ve found?

I like to think that all of my books have been relative bargains. The topic area is not one that is commonly collected and most of my finds have been from the fringe stalls at antiques fairs, from charity shops and on occasion even a car-boot sale.

How about The One that Got Away?

To my shame, this missed opportunity was entirely my own doing. At a local antiques fair I came across a lovely copy of Tom Stephenson’s ‘The Countryside Companion’ which has a good section on rural crafts. Despite the very reasonable price of £2 I walked away, convinced it was one in a bundle that I was awaiting delivery of. Unfortunately I was mistaken and I haven’t come across it since, but will certainly snap it up when I do.

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

This would have to be a copy of Edward Combes’ ‘On the Value of Technical Training, and the Teaching of Drawing and Handwork in Public Schools’. Published in 1889 as a paper in the September edition of the Journal of the Franklin Institute, it is not something that I have found to be readily available, even on the internet. This early work is heavily referenced in a number of texts already in my collection and I would dearly love to see what Combes says for himself, never mind find a copy for myself.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

As mentioned above, my collection was never set out to be such, and the topic area is quite an overlooked one. Therefore, I have no particular go-to bookshop or seller. Rather, I will still return to the Oswestry British Red Cross shop to browse and for the most part allow my collection to grow slowly through chance finds in unexpected places. It certainly makes each addition more exciting than if I have trawled for it on the internet, although on occasion this has proved necessary.

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

If I didn’t collect books I would collect items made from bone. Whilst on an archaeological excavation I had the chance to make some replica artefacts out of bone. I developed a love for the material. This led me to choose Anglo-Saxon bone combs as the subject for my dissertation. These days, unfortunately, there is a rather negative view of bone objects - a feeling that it is a little macabre as a material. I think that this is a great shame as bone has been used by mankind from the earliest times as a key resource, only overtaken with the rise of plastics. A collection of bone objects would be a reminder of the great history of use, but also would be an array of items pleasing both through the craftsmanship displayed and the inherent material properties.  

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Andrew Ferguson in Virginia who collects science fiction author R. A. Lafferty.

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Where are you from / where do you live?

From the Triangle area of NC; live in Charlottesville, VA.

What do you study at University?

I’m getting my PhD in English at the University of Virginia; I’ve previously studied Liberal Arts at St. John’s College (Annapolis); English at the University of Tulsa; and Science Fiction at the University of Liverpool.

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

I collect the works of the science fiction author R.A. Lafferty. While he was quite popular in the 1960s and ’70s, he slid into obscurity in the decades that followed, and many of his works exist only in very small print runs from very small presses. In addition to works that are solely his, I try to collect every appearance of his work in anthologies and the like, in all their different instances, including the works in translation--he has a particularly large and active fanbase in Japan, and translators there have been kind enough to send me several volumes.

How many books are in your collection?

At present, about 230 separate items. I have a long, long way to go.

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

A print-on-demand edition of his best short-story collection, Nine Hundred Grandmothers. Oddly, in recent years even that POD edition has become sought-after, because Lafferty’s estate pulled all publication agreements prior to selling his literary rights to the Locus Foundation. The only book currently in print is his remarkable novel Okla Hannali, available from the University of Oklahoma Press.

How about the most recent book?

I just picked up the first appearance of his horror story “Berryhill,” which was in the semipro magazine Whispers, edited by Stuart David Schiff. As a special bonus, I was able to purchase it from Mr. Schiff himself, at the recent World Fantasy Convention where he was a Guest of Honor.

And your favorite book in your collection?

My favorite book is a two-volume set of Samuel Pepys’ diary from Lafferty’s personal library, processed in his own idiosyncratic way: he would tape contact paper along the spine and rewrite the title and author in large block letters. After his death, his library was dismantled and sold piecemeal; anybody with information about any of these books is encouraged to pass it on to the good folks at http://www.ralafferty.org/library/.

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Best bargain you’ve found?

At present prices, likely my copy of Lafferty’s novel Archipelago, which was written in the late Fifties then recast a number of times over the decades until finally getting published in 1979 by Rick Norwood’s Manuscript Press, which was founded to get unpublished works by major authors into print. I picked up my copy for maybe $35 a decade back; it’s difficult to find one much under $200 today.

How about The One that Got Away?

No single one more than any other, though many of the small-press Lafferty publications that I have as signed, numbered copies were also issued as lettered, leather-bound presentation copies; I’ve had the opportunity to acquire several of these, but never quite yet the resources. 

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

The Holy Grail would be a manuscript for one of his many unpublished works--at last count 13 novels and 40 short stories. I’ve read the copies of all of these that are held in his University of Tulsa archive, but the actual typed drafts for most of them are still extent, though not likely to change hands any time soon.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

I’m a sucker for any bookstore with yard after yard of groaning shelves, but a particular favorite is Reed Books and Museum of Fond Memories in downtown Birmingham, AL. It’s packed to the rafters with books, of course, but also with a dizzying accretion of memorabilia, so that every surface offers a potential plunge into nostalgic reverie.

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

I already have tens of thousands of hours of live concert recordings, but that’s a pretty inexpensive collection, requiring only the cost of hard drive space. So if it weren’t for books, I’d probably throw my resources into collecting videogames, especially on cartridge.


Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Aarom Renolt Von Hemmersbach, a tattoo artist in Canada who collects Aldines:

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Where do you live?

I live in Winnipeg, Canada.

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

I studied History in University and am planning on returning to get my masters in the classics. I have been tattooing for 14 years and have had my own shop for the past 8 years now, which has given me the freedom to travel and seek out new additions to my collection.

Please introduce us to your book collection.  In what areas do you collect? 

I collect mostly early printed works, incunabula and 16th century books. However, my main focus is on editions from the Aldine Press.

And do you have a tattoo related to your book collection?

As a matter of fact.. I do!

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How many books do you have in your collection?

I have about 250 books that are pre 17th century, and another 400 or so that are from before the 19th century, mostly in the categories of history, the occult, early science and classics. The jewels of my collection are the 34 Aldines, which I enjoy collecting the most.

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

The first book I bought was a 1683 copy of Muret’s Funeral Rites. I remember being so fascinated that one could just simply purchase something so old and beautiful...something that I assumed should be in a special archive or museum. I knew in that moment I wanted to protect these treasures, and be their temporary custodian. The funny thing is, I had planned on buying the book for a friend for his birthday, and I ended up keeping it for myself! I think I ended up buying him a coffee mug instead. Selfish, I know!

How about the most recent book?

The most recent book I bought was a 1516 Aldine copy of Lodovico printed a year after the death of Aldus Manutius. It has beautiful rubricated initials throughout the volume, I was excited beyond belief when it came to me!

And your favorite book in your collection?

I’d be truly hard pressed to choose which book in my collection is my favorite..but if I had to choose, I’d say my Aldine copy of Macrobius. I love the world map inside as well as the incredible perspectives the book contains of such an ancient era. It also has sentimental value to me as it lead me to a fantastic friendship abroad.

Best bargain you’ve found?

The best bargain I found was a copy of George Burchett’s Memoirs of a Tattooist. He was as old school as one could get, and a forefather in my industry. I found the book at a flea market, perfect condition with dust jacket, underneath an old fedora hat. I was more than happy to pay the two dollars the seller was asking for it.

How about The One that Got Away?

A while back I had the chance to bid on an Aldine Odyssey from 1517, but i was travelling at the time and the hotel Wifi was unreliable to say the least. That one got away due to a technical malfunction, incredibly frustrating!

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

I would love to get, (and I seem like a broken record) an Aldine Dante’s Inferno, 1515, I’d also love to have a work from Sweinheim and Pannartz one day..but the holy grail for me would be a copy of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili 1499, although I might have a heart attack on the spot if that ever happened!

What are your favorite bookstores / booksellers?

So many to name, but I really like Forum Antiquariaat in Netherlands, Aimee at Bison Books in Canada, MacLeod’s Books in Vancouver, Schilb Antiquarian Rare Books, Powell’s in Portland USA, Pirages Fine Books is great out that way as well...so many to mention!

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

I’d probably collect suits of armor or ancient greek pottery or something..something ancient that would make my friends yawn with boredom like they do now!




Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Hazel Wilkinson of Cambridge and London:

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Where are you from and where do you live?

I am from Surrey originally, and I now live in Cambridge and London.

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

My first degree was in English at Oxford University; I then did a Masters in Renaissance Literature at York, before doing a PhD in English at University College London. My PhD was awarded in September 2014, and I’m now a research fellow at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, where I am working on my first book, and teaching undergraduate English.

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

I collect books of poetry, from Spenser (1552-1599) to Tennyson (1809-1892). Since I was an undergraduate I’ve enjoyed buying attractive or unusual books, when I’ve been able to find them for affordable prices. When I was at university I would often go to a second hand bookshop and see if I could find a nice old copy of the poet I was studying that week. Owning a big nineteenth-century volume of Keats made me feel much more intelligent than reading the standard scholarly paperback.  I never thought of myself as a book collector until entering the Anthony Davis Book Collecting competition. I didn’t expect to win, as I hadn’t assembled my collection particularly deliberately, or spent much money on any of the books. When I thought about the books that I own, I realised that there was a coherent theme running through them, even if I didn’t plan it. They are all editions of canonical poets, published after the author’s lifetime. I am interested in how each generation reinterprets the literary past. So, for example, I have a copy of Spenser from 1758 which is illustrated in a Classical style, and a copy of Spenser from 1908 which contains Art Deco illustrations. It’s interesting to see how Spenser was repackaged and reimagined. Similarly, I have a big, leatherbound Byron from the 1860s, and a Penguin paperback Byron from the 1950s. These books say a lot about how fashions and reading habits changed over the course of a century. A lot of the books in the collection are prize copies, with school book plates. I have a copy of Thomas Gray which was presented to a student leaving Eton, which is quite expected, since Gray wrote about Eton. I also have a Wordsworth which was given as a Botany prize at a Diocesan Training College in nineteenth-century Bristol. I found this provenance really surprising, and incongruous, and it got me thinking about the way books are sometimes produced and kept as trophies, and aren’t necessarily read. That will certainly sound familiar to many book collectors, I expect.

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How many books are in your collection?

30-40. Me and my partner, Will, often buy books together, and since we have similar interests there are quite a few jointly owned items, so the collection doesn’t have clear boundaries. 

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

I’m not entirely sure, as I never thought of myself as buying “for a collection”. However, I won an essay prize when I was an undergraduate and was given £30 in book tokens. I used these at Blackwell’s in Oxford to buy an edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost with Gustav Dore’s illustrations. The book is hughe--nearly a metre high. This might not be the first book in the collection that I bought, but it is the most memorable. 

How about the most recent book?

Will and I went to Alton for a literature conference earlier this year, and we bought an illustrated nineteenth-century copy of Edward Young’s poems, and a copy of Tennyson’s In Memoriam bound in leather. We often end up in book shops when visiting a new place.  

And your favorite book in your collection?

Probably my 1758 edition of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, because it is the oldest book I own. It is also one of the only books that I tracked down and purchased on the internet. I don’t do this too often as I like finding things unexpectedly in bookshops. However, my PhD thesis was on eighteenth-century editions of Spenser, so I thought it would be great to own one of them. Doing a PhD on book history also got me more interested in collecting books, and in thinking more about the ones I already own. I kept an eye on eBay and ABE for months, and finally managed to find a 2 volume illustrated Faerie Queene from 1758 for only £40. It’s not in very good condition, but that didn’t matter to me as I was interested in studying its paper, type, and illustrations.

Best bargain you’ve found?

A huge nineteenth-century edition of Byron’s complete poems and plays, containing illustrations, notes, introductions, and even facsimiles of Byron’s handwriting. It’s a big, heavy volume, with an embossed leather spine, marbled covers, and gilt page edges, and it was only £12.50 in Blackwell’s in Oxford. I think this is because it isn’t a particularly “important” edition, in terms of being a first or early edition, or having a notable editor etc. Later editions of authors are exactly what I find interesting, which is very lucky when it comes to buying books!

How about the One that Got Away?

Since I tend to just by books as and when I find them in bookshops, there’s not been anything that really got away. 

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

The 1751 edition of Spenser, illustrated by William Kent. It’s my favourite eighteenth-century edition of Spenser, but I’m sure I’ll never be able to afford a copy. It was a luxury, high end edition in its day, and it still is now.

What is your favorite bookstore?

I like the Oxfam charity shops in Oxford, and the second hand department in Heffers in Cambridge. 

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

I don’t think I would collect anything. I’m not really a collecting type. My book collection has arisen out of my studies rather than out of a desire to collect something.
Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Kayleigh Betterton of Islington, England:

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Where are you from and where do you live now?

I grew up in a small town in rural Northamptonshire but moved to London six years ago to study English Literature at Queen Mary University; I currently live in Islington.

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

At university I studied English Literature but whilst I was there I interned at Bloomsbury Auction house. This role involved working with first editions as a junior cataloguer and then authenticating and valuing these items ready for auction. It was during my time at Bloomsbury that I began to extend my book collection. However upon completion of my degree I left Bloomsbury to train as a secondary school English teacher and have now moved on to teach A-level English at a sixth form college in South London. Unable to leave Academia behind however, I’m also studying on the Victorian Studies MA course at Birkbeck College.

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

My collection consists mostly of works by Oscar Wilde or books which are associated with the Aestheticism and Decadence movements. I tend to collect first editions, such as Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, however I’ve recently become interested in privately printed editions and have one of the limited copies of ‘The Portrait of Mr. W.H.’ which was a published in 1904, as well as a privately printed copy of ‘Vera; Or, The Nihilists’ from 1902. My latest desire is to collect the thirteen volumes of the quarterly periodical ‘The Yellow Book’, of which Beardsley was the Art Director. But so far I only have the two.

How many books are in your collection?

In terms of late Victorian works, I probably have in the region of 30 books now and yet I’m on to my fifth floor-to-ceiling bookcase of modern texts. I’m dreading the day when I have to move out of my third-floor flat and carry them all down two flights of stairs!

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

The first book I bought for my collection was purchased unintentionally. It was the first edition of ‘De Profundis’; Wilde’s letter, written during his imprisonment in Reading Gaol, to Lord Alfred Douglas. I was on the lookout for ‘Dorian Gray’ and had been scouring Auction House catalogues for the novel but kept getting distracted by other books in the meantime. Walking through the auction room at Bloomsbury one day, I saw ‘De Profundis’ come up for sale and on a whim, bid for it.

How about the most recent book?

The most recent addition to my collection is the 1912 Bodley Head edition of ‘Salome’, featuring Beardsley’s illustrations. Although it isn’t the purple-wrappered 1893 edition, Beardsley’s illustrations presented too much of a temptation. Although I am currently on the lookout for the 1907 edition with the previously suppressed peacock-feather cover illustration, in gilt.

And your favorite book in your collection?

It has to be ‘Dorian Gray’, and not because it’s my favourite novel, but because of the thrill of the chase and the amount of time it took for me to locate and buy a copy. I waited for two years for the right copy to come up at auction!

I know this must sound sacrilegious to come book collectors but I now use my copy of ‘Dorian Gray’ as a teaching aid. For A-level English Literature, students must be aware of the significance of contextual factors in the production and reception of texts and so to be granted access to the first and early editions of texts they’re studying, or from the era they’re researching, is invaluable. Therefore I deliver lectures and workshops using my collection to give students a real hands-on, materialism-focused approach to analysing texts; I teach them how to ‘read’ books as physical objects and then allow them to interact with the collection themselves.

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Best bargain you’ve found?

The first volume of The Yellow Book that I purchased was from a university library sale. I wandered past the sale table and couldn’t help but notice Aubrey Beardsley’s distinct illustrations on the cover. Despite its location it was in remarkably good condition and I picked it up for about £5.

How about the One that Got Away?

Three months after ‘Dorian Gray’ was published by Ward, Lock & Co in 1891, the publishers issued a large-paper deluxe edition of the novel which was signed by Wilde on the limitation page. Only 250 copies of this edition were published.

Throughout my time at Bloomsbury, I only came across two editions of ‘Dorian Gray’, one was a copy of the 1890 Lippincott’s magazine where the story first appeared but the other was one of these deluxe editions. Now whilst it may be inaccurate to say this was the ‘One that got away’ (as I would never have been able to afford the deluxe edition in a million years), I still feel as though I let it slip through my fingers, as there hasn’t been a deluxe edition come up at auction now for some time.

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

I think my above response probably answers this one!

Who is your favourite bookseller / bookstore?

I’m more than likely biased when I say Bloomsbury, having worked there, but I still appear to have sourced most of my collection from the auction house. But if we’re talking about bookstores in general then I love the second hand book store on Church Street in Stoke Newington. They permanently have jazz playing in the background and their literary criticism section always seems to have what I’m looking for.

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

Is it cheating if I say bookplates? I know the damage that can be inflicted on the price of a book with an ill-placed bookplate belonging to an unidentifiable owner, and yet I still adore them. I’ve yet to go so far as to collect them by themselves... I still much prefer them to be stuck inside a book!
Our new Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Audrey Golden of Charlottesville, Virginia:

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

I collect books by Pablo Neruda.  A large part of the collection came from my travels to Chile and Argentina (including visits to Neruda’s three homes), where I discovered many first editions of Neruda’s works. 

Where are you from?

I’m currently in Charlottesville, VA, where I just completed my Ph.D. at the University of Virginia.  I went to college in Connecticut at Wesleyan University, and I’ve now been in the south for quite awhile.  Before moving to Virginia to study English literature, I graduated from law school at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC.

What did you study at University?

My academic experience has been quite varied, but my doctoral work has brought together many of my interests.  I studied film at Wesleyan, where I became interested in issues of human rights and documentary filmmaking.  At the same time, I took a number of Russian literature classes that introduced me to the ways literature can depict political struggle.  I became particularly interested in international human rights law while in law school at Wake Forest, which played a major role in my doctoral work on contemporary Anglophone literature, human rights, and restorative justice.

How many books are in your collection?

Currently, I have 121 books and pieces of ephemera from 22 different countries. I’ve added a few since finding out I placed in the contest, but I’m still ravenously hunting for an early Japanese translation of one of Neruda’s works.  I spent time in Kyoto this summer and visited many antiquarian bookshops, but I couldn’t find any Neruda.

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

The first Neruda book I bought was a used copy of the bilingual Cien Sonetos de Amor (100 Love Sonnets) published by University of Texas Press.  I bought it in high school after memorizing Sonnet XV for a Spanish class, and I loved the earthiness of his language. 

How about the most recent book?

I most recently found--by a sheer stroke of luck--a 1982 Farsi edition of Heights of Macchu Picchu published by an Iranian Press (in exile).

And your favorite book in your collection?

One of my favorites is Antologia, an anthology published by Editorial Nascimento with an introduction by Federico Garcia Lorca.  It has a magnificent woodcut of a ship figurehead on the cover (just like the many Neruda collected in his Isla Negra home).  I found it at a wonderful book market in Santiago, Chile.

Best bargain you’ve found?

Polemica: Neruda al Desnudo.  This is a rare hand-stapled pamphlet from the 1970s, printed in Santiago.  I found it tucked inside a Spanish dictionary at a bookstore in Pittsburgh, and I bought it for $1.

How about the One that Got Away?

I’ve actually finally come into possession of this one.  While in South America, I had my eye on a copy of Cantos de Neruda, printed in Lima, Peru in 1943.  It has magnificent red-ink woodcuts that accompany some of Neruda’s WWII-era poems.  When I tried to buy it, it had been sold.  I ended up finding another copy of it at Thomas Goldwasser’s rare books shop in San Francisco.  I used the money I won from the contest at the University of Virginia to buy the book, and I’m so thrilled to have it in my collection.

What would you consider the Holy Grail for your collection?

The absolute holy grail is an original edition of España en el Corazón. This true first edition was printed near Gerona, by Republican soldiers in the Spanish Civil War, on a press with found and recycled materials.  If I never have one of these in the collection, however, the next “holy grail” item would definitely be the first edition of Residencia en la Tierra, published by Editorial Nascimento in 1933.  Each of these first editions was printed in green ink (Neruda’s signature color) with Neruda’s inscription in each.  I actually held one of these at Librería Helena de Buenos Aires, an amazing bookstore in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

What is your favorite bookshop?

What a dangerous question!  I have so many favorites.  I think Jeff Maser’s book warehouse in Berkeley is phenomenal, and I had such an amazing time looking through his treasure trove of modern and contemporary poetry.  Librería Alberto Casares in Buenos Aires, Argentina is like a bookstore from a dream with its wooden ladders and shelves filled from floor to ceiling.  I could also spend all day (and nearly did) in Collectors Treasury in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

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

Like Neruda’s homes, my house is filled with various folk art collections from my travels, including matryoshka dolls from Eastern Europe, Southeast Asian shadow puppets, and masks from Guatemala, Japan, and Russia.


Today marks the start of a new occasional series on the FB&C blog called Bright Young Collectors, where we will profile the next generation of book collectors.  The series accompanies our Bright Young Booksellers and Bright Young Librarians series, which remain ongoing. We begin today with Robert Thake in Mosta, Malta:

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Where do you live?

Mosta, Malta.

What did you study at University?

During my years at university I first read for a bachelor of laws degree and subsequently read for a doctor of laws degree, both at the University of Malta.

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

My collection is composed of antiquarian books on Malta and as a consequence, rather than by intention, on the Order of St John, who occupied the island between the years 1530-1798.  Though the two subjects are often considered to be synonymous I keep them as far apart from one another as they were in reality.  My collection is primarily intended to celebrate the literary achievements of numerous unsung Maltese authors whose unwavering desire for both intellectual and actual freedom from oppression gave Malta an identity when the rest of the world believed it to have none.  

How many books are in your collection?

In all I have around a hundred antiquarian volumes.  This does not include contemporary publications of which I have a separate collection of a few hundred volumes.  

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

Leggi e Costituzioni Prammaticali (1724) affectionately known as the Codice de Vilhena, after Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena, who commissioned the publication.  This is the first printed codification of laws to govern the island.  Although the book’s imprint states that the book was printed in Malta in 1724 this is in fact false.  The book could not have been printed in Malta since, following a spat with the local diocese and the inquisitor in the 17th century, the only press the island had was closed down and Malta was, as a consequence, plunged into darkness for a century.  The book was in fact published in Naples with a print run of a mere 230 copies.  It contains a beautiful engraving of Grand Master Vilhena executed by Pietro Paulo Troisi, a renowned Maltese silversmith and engraver.  This particular copy belonged to Fra Giuseppe Zammit, the surgeon general during Vilhena’s magistracy.

How about the most recent book?

Il Vangelo di nostro Signore Gesù Cristo secondo San Giovanni, the first translation of a biblical text into Maltese, translated by Giuseppe Cannolo and printed in London in 1822.

How about The One that Got Away?

So far I can genuinely say that no book I set my heart on has gotten away.  This may have something to do with the overzealous manner in which I pursue books I want.  On one particular occasion I flew to Paris just a few hours after having found out that a very special book had just surfaced there.   In truth there was no reason why the book couldn’t be shipped overnight to me but I felt I needed to chauffeur it home.  It takes all sorts.

What would you consider the Holy Grail for your collection?

Statuta Ordinis Domus Hospitalis Hierusalem (Rome, 1556).  Although this work is one of the few books in my collection not written by a Maltese and which holds a greater affinity to the Order of St John than to Malta, this book is one of the jewels in my collection.  This book contains the first set of statutes belonging to the Order of St John following their expulsion from Rhodes in 1522 and their resettlement on Malta in 1530.  These statutes pre-date the Ottoman siege of Malta by nine years and were compiled ten years before the foundation stone of the Maltese capital city, Valletta, was laid. The work was printed by Antonio Blado (1490-1567) who was also printer of the first edition of the ‘Index Librorum Prohibitorum’ as well as of Machiavelli’s ‘Il Principe’ and ‘Discorsi’.  This exquisite work, still bound in 16th century vellum, contains an engraved title page depicting the cross of the Order in red ink applied in stencil at the time of printing and also contains large historiated capitals throughout. 

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

I have bought books from all over the world and have had the pleasure of visiting countless bookshops and of having met many booksellers so it is difficult to say.  The bookseller who immediately comes to mind is Bégonia Le Bail.  My favourite bookshop would have to be Librairie Bertran in Rouen.  Though I never actually bought anything from this shop, its internal and external décor, coupled with the fact that it is strategically positioned behind the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen make it, in my opinion, the ideal bookshop.

What about your favorite book-related experience?

In 2010 I was alerted to the appearance of an especially important publication, the highly seditious Mustafà Bassà di Rodi schiavo in Malta (Naples, 1751).  I had been interested in this book since I had first heard of it and was eager to acquire it.  The bookseller who brought it to my attention, a French-Algerian gentleman, told me that I could collect it at the 2010 edition of the Salon du livre ancien de Paris.  Though initially deterred by the fact that I’d be sitting for my law finals just 10 days or so later, this apprehension only lasted a few seconds and I proceeded to book my tickets to Paris.

I was the fourth person to enter the fair - the three before me being members of the press.  I rushed to the stand, bought the book, did a couple of rounds, and ran back to my hotel room as if I had stolen it.  That night I was meant to be flying back to Malta but little did I know that Mother Nature had other plans.  While browsing through the BBC website I came across a rather inconvenient article, the headline of which read ‘Airspace over Charles de Gaulle airport closed’. After almost breaking the F5 key on my keyboard the headline refused to go away and instead now read ‘Airspace over Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports closed’.  Ordinarily I wouldn’t mind being trapped in Paris, however, with finals now mere days away, an indefinite holiday was not quite on.  A friend of mine at the airline told me that the cause was an ash cloud caused by an uncooperative volcano in Iceland and that there was no telling how long Parisian airspace would be closed for.  He suggested that I make a dash to Marseille as the ash cloud had apparently not reached there yet.  I left for Marseille first thing the next morning only to discover that the ash cloud had beaten me to it.  I’d have seen the funny side had I not been carrying a valuable, fragile book in my backpack.  Subsequent advice suggested that I go further south still - to Rome.  My thirst for adventure (read: crippling fear of failing exams) was overwhelming, and before long I had in my hand a train ticket to Rome.  After a picturesque train-ride through the Alps, a night in Nice, a brief stay in Monte Carlo, and an eight hour trip along the western coast of Italy, I finally arrived in Rome and then Malta, with the book still intact.  I’ve never been happier while placing a book on the shelf for the first time.

And your favorite book in your collection?

For a number of reasons, my favourite book is the one I bought in Paris, Mustafà Bassà di Rodi schiavo in Malta.  Apart from taking it on a weird sort of honeymoon just a day or so after having bought it, I also wrote a history about its publication, circulation and prohibition.  This wonderful publication was composed in the months following the bloody massacre of the slaves in Malta in July 1749.  Since it saw the light in Naples in 1751, the book was the source of much speculation and controversy.  The book was printed under the name ‘Michele Acciard’ but had been widely attributed to the Maltese priest, Francesco Agius de Soldanis, on the strength of various contemporary documents suggesting his authorship. When the book was first conceived it was intended to recount the failed uprising of the slaves, however, following alleged manipulation of the manuscript, the book was printed not as a mere history book, but rather as a work of significant political importance, due to the numerous subversive statements which had been added.  The author challenged the legitimacy of the Order’s occupation of the Maltese islands and instigated the Maltese to rise up in arms against their rulers.  As a result, the book was mercilessly scoured from the Maltese islands and beyond by the Grand Master, causing the book to almost disappear entirely.

Have you ever published anything yourself?

Yes.  I have written a number of papers of the history of various prohibited and anonymous books in my collection and last year I wrote my first monograph on the history of Mustafà Bassà di Rodi schiavo mentioned above.  I am currently composing my second monograph. 

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

I’d probably collect Maltese ephemera or eighteenth century French political caricatures. 

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