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A breathtaking selection of the rarest American bibles went on exhibit last week at the New-York Historical Society. In God We Trust: Early Bible Printings from the David M. Rubenstein Americana Collection puts on public display, some for the first time, the most significant examples of early American religious texts.

Those who recall the 2013 sale of the “Bay Psalm Book,” the first book printed in colonial America, for $14.2 million, may remember that its buyer was collector and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein. Only eleven copies of the 1640 tome are known to exist, and his is the only one in private hands. (To read more about the Bay Psalm Book, see Joel Silver’s brief, excellent history here.)


In addition to that “holy grail,” many “firsts” abound here, such as the first American bible printed in a European language and the first bible translated by a woman. Here are a few more “firsts” highlighted in the exhibition:  

2a Eliot IL2018_107_2_title.jpgThe first Bible printed in America: John Eliot’s “Indian Bible,” Mamusse Wunneetupanatamwe Up-Biblum God. Cambridge, 1663 & 1661. David M. Rubenstein Americana Collection.

4a Carey Catholic IL2018_107_7_title.jpgThe first Catholic Bible printed in America: The Holy Bible, Translated from the Latin Vulgate. Printed by Carey, Stewart, and Co., printers. Philadelphia, 1790. David M. Rubenstein Americana Collection.

5 Biblia Hebraica IL2018_107_8a_p130v.jpgThe first Hebrew Bible printed in America: Biblia Hebraica. Printed by William Fry, printer; Thomas Dobson, publisher. Philadelphia, 1814. David M. Rubenstein Americana Collection.

“We are thrilled to display these outstanding examples of early American books, many never before seen by the public and all fruits of Mr. Rubenstein’s passion for collecting American history in the service of the public good,” commented Dr. Louise Mirrer, New-York Historical president and CEO, in a press release.

The exhibition will be on view through July 28.

Images courtesy of the N-YHS

A quiet sale week coming up:


On Thursday, April 25, ALDE sells the library of collector Guy Bigorie, in 250 lots. Estimates are mostly in the three- to low-four-figure range. Some expected highlights include Leconte de Lisle’s Les Érinnyes (1908), with original watercolors by Franz Kupka at €6,000-8,000, and a number of lots all estimated at €4,000-5,000: Chenier’s Les Bucoliques (1905) in a binding by Charles Meunier and with additions; a set of three Flaubert volumes bound by Georges Mercier (1892-1895); Gautier’s Mademoiselle de Maupin (1883) with original Paul-Albert Laurens watercolors and a Gautier autograph poem; Gautier’s La Chaîne d’or (1896) with original drawings and watercolors; mockups for an unfinished Pierre Louÿs work (~1903); Maupassant’s Contes choisis (1891-1892) with an added album of 25 original drawings; and Musset’s Les Nuits (1911) in a striking binding with additional material (pictured below).



Potter & Potter will sell The Magic Collection of Ray Goulet on Saturday, April 27, in 565 lots. The only known copy of a 1911 letterpress broadside advertising a Houdini show at the Southampton Hippodrome, inscribed by Houdini to his magician and collector John Mulholland, rates the top estimate at $15,000-25,000. The auction house notes that British law required that a show be staged before a live audience in order for it to be protected by copyright, and that this performance may have been put on for “an audience of one.” A copy of Harry Kellar’s A Magician’s Tour (1886), incribed by Kellar to magician Howard Thurston, is estimated at $2,500-3,500. Quite a few interesting lithographic posters, &c. in this sale, too.


Image credit: ALDE

We learned via the Exlibris list earlier this week that a Little Blue Books bibliography, in the making for more than fifteen years, has been published online by Jake Gibbs. Along the way, Gibbs amassed a collection of 20,000 Little Blue Books, according to the bibliography’s preface. He also examined collections at more than twenty college and university libraries.   

Screen Shot 2019-04-16 at 1.35.41 PM.pngAs some readers may recall, Steven Cox, the curator of special collections and university archives at Pittsburg State University (PSU) in Pittsburg, Kansas, where the Haldeman-Julius Collection is located, wrote a short history of the Little Blue Books in our summer 2018 issue. Like Cox, Gibbs was inspired by G. Thomas Tanselle to study this once ubiquitous series founded by Emanuel Haldeman-Julius.

Little Blue Books appeal to book collectors for many reasons, including affordability. Indeed, upon hearing of the new bibliography, Andy Foster, a California-based bookseller, replied to Gibbs, “Your work allows ordinary people with limited resources to enter the book collecting world on a solid footing, creating collections of lasting value.”

Other booksellers chimed in to applaud Gibbs’ work, calling it “fabulous” and “awesome.” Kevin Mac Donnell of Mac Donnell Rare Books wrote, “My five inches of Mark Twain LBBs (all different states, imprints, colors, etc.) has been more confounding than my three feet of Twain Tauchnitz publications. It will be fun to sit down with them and see if I had them all sorted out correctly over the years. Wading into a five inch stack of Twain LBBs in the past felt dangerous, but now I’ll have some bibliographic water-wings.”

Image via the Little Blue Books Bibliography site

batsford general.JPGThe small but interesting exhibition celebrating 175 years of the London publisher Batsford (now an imprint of Pavilion, based in nearby Bloomsbury) is fittingly being held in the capital’s Holborn area where Bradley Thomas Batsford first set up shop in 1843. The last of the 18th-century publisher-booksellers, Batsford initially concentrated on medical titles but quickly focused on art, architecture, fashion, and heritage. The exhibition--sadly, all displayed in glass cabinets--features a wide range of its highly illustrated titles including Architectural Works of Inigo Jones (1901) by Henry Tanner and Inigo Triggs, Cecil Beaton’s Scrapbook (1937) and Gertrude Stein’s memoir Wars I Have Seen (1945) as well as the iconic colorful artwork produced for the travel titles by Brian Cook, one of the Batsford family himself. There is also a copy of J.K. Colling’s English Medieval Foliage and Coloured Decoration (1874) on show, the first publication released under the Batsford imprint, plus more recent unusual titles including the guidebook London and the Single Girl by Betty James (1967) and The Cat-Lover’s Bedside Book edited by Grace Pond (1974). 


batsford beaton.JPGCurated by Frida Green, Vaughan Grylls, Helen Lewis, and Tina Persaud, Batsford: 175 Years of a Bloomsbury Publisher runs until June 28 at the Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre


Images: (Top) Installation view of the Batsford exhibition featuring Cook’s imaginary Scottish scene incorporating Eilean Donan Castle from the dust jacket of The Face of Scotland by Harry Batsford and Charles Fry, 1933; (Middle) Beaton’s Scrapbook (under glass). Courtesy of the author    



Here are the auctions I’ll be watching this week:


mexicanpoems.pngOn Tuesday, April 16, Printed & Manuscript Americana at Swann Galleries, in 356 lots. Among the expected highlights are a manuscript diary written by William Farrar Smith on the Whiting-Smith expedition from San Antonio to El Paso in 1849 ($30,000-40,000); the first edition of an early work by Mexican poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (Mexico City, 1677; pictured), also estimated at $30,000-40,000; a copy of a 1614 collection of sermons intended to be delivered in Nahuatl, the first complete copy at auction since the Thomas Phillipps copy was sold in 1986 ($20,000-30,000); and the first law book printed in the Americas (Mexico City, 1563), of which no copy has been recorded at auction for more than eighty years ($15,000-25,000). A lot of more than 340 early American almanacs from Jay Snider’s collection is estimated at $12,000-18,000; at the same estimate is a copy of the May 6, 1775 issue of the Virginia Gazette, featuring reports from Lexington and Concord, and a 1529 manuscript decree protecting the Mexican estates of Hernán Cortés.


Other very interesting lots from this sale include a broadside “extra” of the Detroit Daily Advertiser, printed at 9 a.m. on the morning of April 15, 1865 announcing the death of President Lincoln ($5,000-7,000); manuscript notes by a delegate to the Massachusetts ratifying convention of the Constitution ($2,000-3,000); and George Brinley’s copy of an 1820 Paris auction catalogue of books relating to North America ($2,000-3,000).


Doyle New York holds a sale of Rare Books, Autographs & Maps on Wednesday, April 17, in 352 lots. Autograph drafts of the epilogue to Hemingway’s The Dangerous Summer (1960) could sell for $30,000-60,000 (see Rebecca’s post from last week for more on these), and an imperfect copy of the first edition of Redouté’s Les Roses (1817-1824) is estimated at $30,000-50,000. A first edition of Jane Austen’s Emma in a contemporary binding rates a $30,000-40,000 estimate. A sub-section of this sale, books from the library of a Maine collector, will be highlighted in the next issue of Fine Books & Collections.


At PBA Galleries on Thursday, April 18, a Travel & Exploration - World History - Cartography sale, in 312 lots. A copy of the Paris Atlas Universel (1757-1758) is estimated at $15,000-25,000, while a copy of the 1621 Padua edition of Ptolemy’s Geografia, edited by Giovanni Antonio Magini, could fetch $8,000-12,000. A 1612 Ortelius miniature atlas in a contemporary vellum binding is estimated at $5,000-8,000. A group of seventeen photographs related to Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition rates a $3,000-5,000 estimate. Lots 277-312 are being sold without reserve.


Image courtesy of Swann Galleries

In the summer of 1960, Ernest Hemingway was in Madrid writing an epilogue to a series of articles he had completed for Life magazine on Antonio Ordonez and Luis Miguel Dominguin, the top matadors of the 1959 bullfighting season. The three-part series was titled “The Dangerous Summer” and published in September, 1960. He wrote the epilogue in order to bring “the careers of the two matadors up to date.” Less than a year later, Hemingway was dead.


Now three manuscript drafts of that epilogue are headed to auction in New York on April 17, billed as “the final published words of Hemingway,” according to the auctioneer. In book form, The Dangerous Summer appeared posthumously in 1985 and is considered Hemingway’s final book.

Hem mss.jpgThe manuscripts were last seen at auction in 1995, and to quote Doyle’s catalogue: “Such manuscripts are extremely rare at auction.” In this lot, estimated at $30,000-60,000, the winning bidder will nab not only the three drafts but a signed note recording translations, two telegrams, and the three original issues of Life magazine where “The Dangerous Summer” first ran.

Image courtesy of Doyle

A trio of sales I’ll be keeping an eye on this week:


On Wednesday, April 10, Dominic Winter Auctioneers holds a sale of Printed Books & Maps; Travel & Exploration; Geology & Charles Darwin, in 556 lots. A collection of letters from Charles Darwin to his land agent John Higgins rates the top estimate, at £15,000-20,000. Other interesting lots include a complete copy of the Encyclopaedia Londinensis (1810-1829) at £6,000-8,000; a 1636 Mercator Atlas Minor (£5,000-8,000); and a complete run of the Transactions of the Geological Society (1811-1856), estimated at £4,000-6,000. The top estimated fossil is a Tyrannosaurus vertebra, at £1,000-1,500.


Also at Dominic Winter, on Thursday, April 11, Vintage Cameras & Photographs; Autographs, Stamps & Ephemera; Bookbinding Equipment & Accessories, in 457 lots. The first seventy lots here include book presses, binding tools, bookcloth, and paper, some of which comes from the workshops of Derek Starkey and John Frederick Cuthbert MBE, the former senior conservator at the Guildhall Library. But it is the Cottingley Fairies photograph lots that are expected to draw the most attention at this sale. These include an original contact print of “Frances and the Fairy Ring” (£10,000-12,000; pictured) and a set of “copyright” prints of all five of the photographs made around 1920 (£10,000-15,000), all from the collection of Frances Wright’s daughter Christine Lynch. An original contact print of “The Fairy Bower” is estimated at £5,000-7,000, and one of “Fairy with a Posy” could fetch £3,000-5,000.



And on Friday, April 12 at ALDE in Paris, Atlas - Cartes - Livres de Voyages, in 217 lots. Estimated at €40,000-50,000 is a copy of David Roberts’ The Holy Land (1842-1849) in four volumes. Three lots are each estimated at €15,000-20,000: Jean Houël’s Voyage pittoresque des isles de Sicile, de Malte et de Lipari (1782-1787); Richard de Saint-Non’s Voyage pittoresque ou description des royaumes de Naples et de Sicile (1781-1786); and Jacques Le Hay’s Recueil de cent estampes représentant différentes Nations du Levant (1715).


Image credit: Dominic Winter Auctioneers

As we countdown to the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing this July, several libraries and museums are setting their sights on lunar topics.

Linda Hall.jpgThe Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Missouri, is first up with To the Moon: The Science of Apollo, which opened on March 28 and runs through August 30. Works by Galileo, Johannes Hevelius, Robert Hooke, Tobias Mayer, and others will be on view, including the fine paper copy of Sidereus Nuncius (Venice, 1620; pictured here courtesy of Linda Hall Library) as well as the pirated Frankfurt edition. NASA images, mission reports, technical reports, maps, and other material will round out the exhibition.

Houghton_4.pngThe Houghton Library at Harvard University just announced its exhibition, Small Steps, Giant Leaps: Apollo 11 at Fifty, which will be on view from April 29 to August 3. First editions of Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton will be displayed alongside space memorabilia from a private collection that includes artifacts like this silk American flag, carried by Neil Armstrong on the Apollo 11 mission, mounted on a special commemorative page signed by Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins in 1969 (Loan, private collection, courtesy of Houghton Library).
MET - Neil Armstrong 2 smaller.jpgLater in the season, on July 3, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York hosts Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography. Featuring 170 images, the exhibition will trace the progress of astronomical photography from newly discovered lunar daguerreotypes from the 1840s to photographs captured during lunar expeditions, such as Neil Armstrong’s photograph: Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. Walks on the Surface of the Moon, Apollo 11, July 16-24 1969 (pictured here courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2017).

NGA Moon.jpgThen, on July 14, National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. will unveil By the Light of the Silvery Moon: A Century of Lunar Photographs from the 1850s to Apollo, a select survey of lunar photographs from Warren de la Rue’s late 1850s glass stereograph of the full moon to Loewy et Puiseux’s 1899 photogravure, Photographie Lunaire Rayonnement de Tycho - Phase Croissante (pictured here courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon and Patrons’ Permanent Fund) to glass stereographs taken by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin showing close-up views of the lunar surface.

Another round of sales from the Aristophil collection this week at the French auction houses:


- First up, Écrits & Correspondances de Peintres at Aguttes on Monday, April 1, in 183 lots. Rating the top estimate is a February 1890 letter by Vincent van Gogh to art critic Albert Aurier (€80,000-100,000). Several illustrated letters by Matisse and Dali will be offered, as well as an important letter by Seurat (€25,000-30,000).


- At Artcurial on Tuesday, April 2, Écrits et Oeuvres d’Artistes du XVIe au XXe Siècle, comprising lots 260-434. An album of Eugène Delacroix’s pencil drawings from a trip to England in 1825 is the cornerstone of this sale, estimated at €150,000-200,000 (pictured). A notebook containing more than thirty sketches by Matisse, likely preparatory studies for his illustrations of Mallarme’s poems, is estimated at €60,000-80,000.


delacroix.png- Aguttes sells Poésie et Littérature des XIXe et XXe Siècles in 303 lots on Wednesday, April 3. An 1872 autograph poem by Rimbaud rates the top estimate at €150,000-200,000. The manuscript of Paul Éluard’s Les Jeux de la Poupée could fetch €100,000-15,000.


- At Ader on Thursday, April 4, Feuillets d’Histoire, in 203 lots. The manuscript of Jean-Paul Marat’s novel, Les Avantures du Jeune Conte Potowski, written around 1770 while Marat was in England, and not published until 1847, is estimated to sell for €150,000-200,000. Three letters from Napoleon to Josephine are each estimated at €100,000-120,000 (these are among the many Napoleon manuscripts on offer). A three-rotor Enigma machine could sell for €30,000-40,000.


- On Thursday, Aguttes sells historical manuscripts (Histoire, Grandes Figures Historiques), in 227 lots. Rating the top estimate is a 1585 letter from Henry of Navarre (later Henry IV) to Henry III of France, arguing about the king’s acceptance of the peace of Nemours (€20,000-30,000). A draft of Condorcet’s 1791 essay “Aux étrangers sur la Révolution françoise” is estimated at €10,000-15,000. A March 1790 letter by Marie Antoinette to the duc de Polignac could sell for €10,000-12,000.


- Rounding out the week at Aguttes on Friday, April 5, Histoire Postale | Guerre de 1870-1871, in 265 lots. The major lot in this one is a collection of fifteen letters sent out of Paris (some by balloon mail) in the diplomatic bags of the American ambassador, Elihu Washburne (€230,000-250,000). A Victor Hugo letter of October 17, 1870, sent to Eugène Rascol at the Courrier de l’Europe in London and published there, is estimated at €15,000-18,000.


On Thursday, April 4 at PBA Galleries, a 271-lot sale of Art & Illustration, Prints & Graphics, Illustrated Books, and Miscellanea, with the last group of lots sole without reserve. Expected to lead the way is a copy of Josef Albers’ Formulation: Articulation (1972), estimated at $10,000-15,000. Several 21st Editions and Arion Press titles are estimated at $3,000-5,000.


Arader Galleries holds their Spring Auction on Saturday, April 6, in 199 lots. A number of Audubon birds rate the top estimates; alongside them are an 1875 set of thirty-one George Catlin lithographs ($80,000-120,000); a copy of the first edition in French of Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia (1786), estimated at $40,000-50,000; and several early globes.


Image credit: Artcurial

Coming to auction next month is a perfect time capsule of a collection -- that of Ambassador Alexander Weddell and his wife, Virginia Chase Steedman Weddell. Avid collectors, the Weddells filled their Richmond, Virginia, home with fine art, furniture, antiquities, and rare books. The couple died in a train wreck in 1948, and their grand residence, known as Virginia House, became a museum, where their things were preserved and largely untouched. Now, the collection is being deaccessioned by the Virginia House Museum.

Duc Freeman's.jpgWhile there is much to please the eye in this collection, I was drawn to lot 100: a Louis XIV French gilt-tooled letter document box. Why? Because it is reputed to have been owned by Philippe, Duc d’Orléans (1674-1723), a passionate artist and art collector. He amassed more than five hundred paintings in his life, including that of Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Veronese, Rembrandt, and Rubens; some have called it the greatest private collection of Western art ever assembled. The collection stayed in the family until his great-grandson needed to raise funds during the French Revolution. For art lovers like the Weddells, it must have had potent association value. At auction on April 10, it is estimated to bring $1,000-1,500.

For more particulars about the rare books on offer -- tending toward French literature, e.g., a first edition of Gustav Flaubert’s Madame Bovary in a beautiful morocco binding and an inscribed presentation copy of Émile Zola’s Mes Haines -- read this piece in our spring auction guide.

For more information about the Weddells and their home, here’s the press release from Freeman’s.

Image courtesy of Freeman’s

Back in January, we told you about the Beinecke Library’s current exhibition, Bibliomania; or Book Madness: A Bibliographical Romance. Today we’re taking a closer look at one section of that exhibition, a collaborative project between the Beinecke and the Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin, and curated by Kathryn James, Early Modern and Osborn Curator at the Beinecke, and Aaron Pratt, Pforzheimer Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts at the Ransom Center. Collated & Perfect, an exhibit within an exhibit, takes its name from the phrase that actor and playbook collector John Philip Kemble inscribed into his books in the early nineteenth century. What, the curators ask, “does it mean to ‘collate’? What does it mean for a book to be ‘perfect?’”

A supplementary pamphlet (freely available online and as a downloadable PDF) provides an accessible overview of these bibliographical topics. James undertakes a description of collation from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries and examines the “ways in which collation was defined and used to stabilize an English textual heritage framed by an originating loss.” Charlton Hinman, who invented a mechanical collator in order to compare copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio (and publish an “ideal” facsimile), is one of her five main examples. Pratt then takes on the idea of “Perfect,” describing Kemble’s habit of aggressively trimming and rehousing his playbooks in an attempt to enforce his idea of perfection, even discarding leaves he deemed unnecessary -- thus making it “imperfect” in the eyes of today’s collectors. Pratt also traces booksellers’ use of “perfect” in this context to the late sixteenth century and considers the history of “made-up” or “sophisticated” books.

In February, the Ransom Center held a related panel discussion between James, Pratt, and Megan Heffernan, assistant professor English at DePaul University. In his introduction, Pratt sets the tone, saying, “...What the books that survive today themselves make clear is that what has counted as a ‘perfect’ or ‘ideal’ copy of an old book, or the text it transmits, was far from stable, changing from one generation to the next, especially once elite collecting really ramped up in the nineteenth century. I think all of the speakers here today believe that tracking these changes is important if we want to develop robust narratives about literary and cultural history.” It’s now available to watch in full:


Yale’s exhibition closes on April 21, but the Ransom Center’s Stories to Tell exhibition will remain on view through August 11.

A very busy auction week coming up!


On Tuesday, March 26, Koller Auctions in Zurich will sell 274 lots of books, and an additional 63 lots of manuscripts & autographs. Among the former, a 1726 French-Latin edition of Maria Sibylla Merian’s work on the insects of Suriname, bound with a 1730 edition of her book on European insects is expected to lead the way, estimated at about $60,000-90,000. An illuminated Franciscan Book of Hours from around 1460 rates the top estimate among the manuscripts, at $70,000-90,000.


Bonhams London will sell Fine Books, Manuscripts, Atlases & Historical Photographs on Wednesday, March 27, in 263 lots. Highlights are expected to include the manuscript marriage contract between Edward III and Philippa of Hainault (£100,000-150,000); an Alan Turing letter to Lionel March about linear and group algebras (£40,000-60,000); and a first impression of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, this copy once owned by J.K. Rowling’s literary agent (£40,000-60,000). Other lots of note: 175 pages of the manuscript of Wodehouse’s Psmith Journalist (£20,000-30,000) and a presentation sample of penicillin given by Alexander Fleming to Miss Inger Knop (£6,000-8,000; pictured below).

fleming.pngAlso on Wednesday, Autographed Documents, Manuscripts, Photos, Books & Relics at University Archives, in 276 lots. A January 1801 letter from Thomas Jefferson to his assistant overseer at Monticello rates the top estimate, at $35,000-45,000. A lengthy Davy Crockett letter from May 1830 is estimated at $30,000-35,000, as is a letter from Jefferson Davis accepting his selection as provisional president of the Confederate States.


Four sales to watch on Thursday, March 28:


- Printed & Manuscript African-Americana at Swann Galleries, in 405 lots. A collection of correspondence to John Augustine Washington III relating to Mount Vernon and other Washington estates is expected to sell for $20,000-30,000. Benjamin Banneker’s 1796 almanac could fetch $15,000-25,000, while a first edition of Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects (1773) is estimated at $15,000-20,000.


- At Chiswick Auctions, 246 lots of Books & Illustrated Art, including Cartoons.


- Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper at Forum Auctions, in 365 lots. A large-paper copy of the 1669 Amsterdam edition of Athanasius Kircher’s Ars Magna Sciendi in an absolutely stunning contemporary presentation binding to Jesuit leader Giovanni Paolo Oliva is estimated at £20,000-30,000. At the same estimate range are a first edition of Stendhal’s La Chartreuse de Parme and a mid-1620s manuscript volume of chess problems by Gioachino Greco.


- Kestenbaum & Company sell Fine Judaica: Printed Books, Manuscripts & Maps, in 190 lots. The 1469-72 Rome edition of Nachmanides’ commentary on the Pentateuch, described by Moses Marx as the first printed Hebrew book, is expected to sell for $200,000-250,000. A complete copy of the 1490 Naples edition of Nachmanides’ treatise on the afterlife Sha’ar HaGemul and a late thirteenth-century manuscript prayer book for Passover are each estimated at $80,000-100,000. Many other important manuscripts and early printed books here.


Finally, Addison & Sarova will sell 352 lots of Rare Books & Manuscripts in All Fields on Friday, March 30.


Image credit: Bonhams

Want a little perspective on how artists and scientists have turned their ideas into three-dimensional graphic form over the last 500 years? Thinking 3D: From Leonardo to the Present, an exhibition that opens today at the Bodleian Libraries, aims to provide it, showcasing books, manuscripts, drawings, and prints that illustrate the challenge of communicating three dimensions on two-dimensional media. According to a press release, “Thinking 3D shows how technological advances, from the invention of the printing press and new illustration techniques to photography, stereoscopy and 3D modeling, have allowed authors and artists to share their ideas with the world.”

We asked the exhibitions co-curators, Daryl Green, librarian at Magdalen College, Oxford, and Dr. Laura Moretti, senior lecturer in art history at the University of St. Andrews, to tell us more about this exciting fusion of art and science.

Thinking3D+Max+Bruckner+polyhedral+models copy.jpgTell us about the idea behind this exhibition? Did it originate in wanting to celebrate Leonardo da Vinci’s quincentennial?

Leonardo wasn’t the initial protagonist of Thinking 3D, but he certainly anchored our exhibition at the Bodleian from a very early stage. Thinking 3D is a research project which we established which looks at the history and development of communicating three-dimensional observations and concepts. Understanding how Leonardo perceived and transmitted the three-dimensional world is the seed from which Thinking 3D has grown. Leonardo’s work will be the opening protagonist of the exhibition at the Weston Library, considering his ways of observing, analysing and communicating on paper the reality around him. However, aside from one contribution, Leonardo’s work wouldn’t be seen by a printing press until the 17th century.

The Bodleian exhibition, Thinking 3D: From Leonardo to the Present, is the hub which provides context to a pan-Oxford project will then look at the influence the rise and development of three-dimensionality on artists, mathematicians, draughtsmen, and designers over the last 500 years, via partner exhibitions, talks, symposia and conferences. Categories such as geometry, mathematics, architecture, astronomy, and natural and physical sciences will constitute the themes of the satellite exhibitions and public events.

Thinking+3D+Leonardo+arm+sketch+credit+Royal+Collection+Trust copy.jpgWhat is the Codescope, and what role does it play in the exhibition?

The Codescope is a cutting-edge tool to explore one of Leonardo’s most concise notebooks, the Codex Leicester, now owned by Bill Gates. You can see him talking about it here. The Bodliean exhibition is the first time in the UK that the Codescope will be publicly available, complementing loans from Leonardo’s notebooks to the exhibition held by the Royal Collections and the British Library. It, like the physical notebook sheets, show how complex Leonardo’s thinking was in grappling with issues of three dimensionality, and how his ideas, if published, would have changed scientific thinking from the late 15th century.

Thinking+3D+colloseum copy.jpgDo you have a favorite piece in the exhibition? Tell us about it.

Laura: my favorite piece is Serlio’s Third Book on Architecture (1544 edition). We show in the case his representation of the Colosseum in Rome (pictured above). What I find particular brilliant here is the way in which Serlio and the publisher Francesco Marcolini managed to put on the surface of two pages such great level of detail and information about this extremely complex building. I trained as an architectural historian, and Serlio’s books on architecture were revolutionary for the discipline. I have been studying them through my entire career as a scholar, and seeing one of them out there is great.

Daryl: It’s hard to choose, but the book which embodies Thinking 3D the most is probably Kepler’s Mysterium Cosmographicum. In grappling with understanding the relational distance between heavenly bodies, Kepler applied the five platonic solids and their relationship to each other to explain what his calculations found. The illustration that he devised has been seen regularly and is a fantastic example of applying the geometrical lens to the wider world. However, for this exhibition we also wanted to see if we could actually bring Kepler’s model to life. With the help of a local company, Thinksee3D, we did!



In addition to those pictured here, highlights of the exhibition include extraordinary anatomical books that used flaps and pop-up features to educate people about the human body; illustrations of the moon that Galileo produced based on his first observations of the lunar surface through a telescope in 1609; and the first geological map of Mars produced from data from NASA’s Mariner 9 mission in 1971-72. Thinking 3D is on view through February 9, 2020.

Images: (Top) Max Brückner’s polyhedral models in the book Polygons and Polyhedra: Theory and History (Vielecke und Vielflache: Theorie und Geschichte) by Max Brückner, 1900. Image credit: Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. (Middle) Leonardo da Vinci’s sketch of an arm, from the working notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, now in the Royal Collection. Image credit: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019. (Bottom) Sebastiano Serlio’s magnum opus was a seven-volume series on the theory and history of architecture. Here, in his Third Book (1544), we see dissections of the Colosseum in Rome, a two-page spread depicting a full floor-plan, perspective drawings, and face-on illustrations. Image credit: Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

There are few authors more revered among bibliophiles than Jorge Luis Borges, poet, philosopher, and director of the Biblioteca Nacional de la Republica Argentina. So when a Borges manuscript appears at auction, we take note. On March 27, Bonhams in London will offer this three-page autograph manuscript signed of Borges’ prologue to the Spanish translation of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles (Ediciones Minotauro, 1955). Yes, Borges devotees will have to bid it out against Bradbury buffs for this piece of literary history, in which Borges writes: “What has this man from Illinois created - I ask myself, closing the pages of his book - that his episodes of the conquest of another planet fill me with such terror and solitude?”

Borges 1 copy.jpgThe manuscript comes to auction from the family of Ediciones Minotauro publisher Francisco (Paco) Porrua. In this case, Porrua was also the book’s pseudonymous translator. It is estimated to realize £6,000-8,000 ($7,900-11,000).

Image courtesy of Bonhams

Four sales to watch this week:


On Tuesday, March 19, Chiswick Auctions holds a Photographica sale, in 180 lots all by the same avant-garde photographer: Francis Joseph Bruguière (1879-1945). 


At ALDE in Paris on Wednesday, March 20, Éditions Originales du XIXe au XXie Siècle, in 298 lots. Among the top-estimated lots are first editions of Stendhal’s La Chartreuse de Parme (€30,000-40,000) and Le Rouge et le Noir (€20,000-30,000); a twenty-volume edition of Balzac’s works, bound by Victor Champs (€10,000-12,000); and a five-volume set of Poe’s works (Paris, 1856-1865), translated by Baudelaire (€3,000-4,000).


Swann Galleries sells 256 lots of Autographs on Thursday, March 21. Expected to lead the way at $20,000-30,000 is a May 1776 letter from Joseph Brant (Thayeadanegea), written to an unknown correspondent from Falmouth as Brant prepared to return to America after being in London. Other interesting lots include a 1950-1956 guestbook from New York’s Luchow Restaurant ($8,000-12,000); and six letters from Princess Diana to editor Elizabeth Tilberis ($5,000-7,000).


Cohen.jpgAlso on Thursday, PBA Galleries holds a Fine Literature sale, in 366 lots. A presentation copy of Leonard Cohen’s first book, Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956) rates the top estimate, at $8,000-12,000 (pictured above). A first edition of A Wrinkle in Time, with the first state dust jacket (1962), could sell for $3,000-5,000, and a collection of sixty-eight typed poems by George Sterling is estimated at $2,000-3,000. A copy of the first American edition of A Study in Scarlet (ex-library in a modern fine binding) could also sell for $2,000-3,000.


Image credit: PBA Galleries

In case you missed it on CBS Sunday Morning earlier this week, Kentucky’s Larkspur Press was profiled, showing owner Gray Zeitz lovingly making books by hand on a 1915 hand-press. Larkspur prints and binds editions of 300-500, some for famous KY authors like Wendell Berry and Bobbie Ann Mason.  

As reported this morning by Shelf Awareness, soon after the segment aired Frankfort’s Capital Gallery of Contemporary Art, run by artist Ellen Glasgow, was inundated with orders, posting on Facebook: “Folks! We are overwhelmed with the response to the CBS Sunday Morning story! At this time we do not have an online shop... BUT if you call (502) 223-2649 and leave a message, Ellen will get you taken care of!!” Another bookseller, Kelly Estep of Carmichael’s Bookstores in Louisville also reported having received 200 orders for Larkspur Press books after the CBS piece ran.

What heartening news for private presses around the country! Plus a nice s/o to the American Academy of Bookbinding in Telluride, Colorado. Watch here:

A busy week coming up in the salerooms:


Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 4.55.52 PM.pngToday at Bonhams New York, 405 lots from the Medical & Scientific Library of W. Bruce Fye. I’ll have more on this sale in the next print issue, but some expected highlights include an important association copy of the first edition of Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica (1543), from the library of Augsburg physician Achilles Pirmin Gasser ($300,000-500,000); a second edition of Vesalius (1555), estimated at $30,000-40,000; and a first issue of Hooke’s Micrographia ($30,000-40,000). More from Rebecca’s post last week.


The second part of Fye’s library, consisting of 749 lots, will be sold in an online auction starting on Tuesday, March 12 and extending through March 21.


Bonhams New York will also hold a sale of Extraordinary Books and Manuscripts on Tuesday. A huge range of fascinating lots in this one, from the Estelle Doheny copy of Leaves of Grass, which is signed by Whitman and was used as his working copy ($200,000-300,000) to an Apple-1 motherboard ($100,000-150,000). Isaac Newton’s copy of John Greaves’ Pyramidographia (1646) could sell for $50,000-70,000, while a collection of Harper Lee drawings and letters is estimated at $20,000-30,000. There are any number of lots in this sale that I would be very unsurprised to see far exceed expectations, so it will be fascinating to see what happens.


Doyle New York’s online sale of Travel & Sport in India from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson (336 lots) ends on Wednesday, March 14, as does Bonhams’ online auction of Treasures from the Eric C. Caren Collection (266 lots).


On Friday, March 15, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers sells a portion of the Adventure & Exploration Library of Steve Fossett, in 296 lots. A copy of the first London edition of Lewis & Clark’s Travels (1814) is estimated at $6,000-8,000, and a first edition of James Bruce’s Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile (1790), could sell for $3,000-5,000.


Image credit: Bonhams

As readers of this blog will recall, antiquarian medical books are a particular interest of mine, so it was great fun to browse the catalogue of Bonhams’ upcoming auction of the medical and scientific library of Dr. W. Bruce Fye. (I also listened to an engaging lecture Fye gave last year in which he talks at length about book collecting and bibliomania. He donated about 15,000 volumes to the Mayo Clinic, and still has thousands left to divest.) Next week’s sale will offer up 351 items; there are too many superlatives to feature fully -- Darwin, Descartes, Curie, Cushing, Hooke, Nightingale, Pasteur, Rush -- so I have limited myself to just eight highlights.

Bigelow.pngThe name Henry Bigelow may not ring a bell, and yet, he was the first to describe the use of ether anesthesia in this original Boston Medical and Surgical Journal article “Insensibility During Surgical Operations Produced by Inhalation” (1846). It is estimated at $4,000-6,000.

Gray.pngHenry Gray, on the other hand, is a household name, as in Gray’s Anatomy. What we have here is a c. 1850s letter by Gray asking about a medical course he wished to take. The estimate is $1,000-1,500.

Hope.pngBecause it showcases the beauty of nineteenth-century illustrated medical books, here is a first edition of James Hope’s Principles and Illustrations of Morbid Anatomy (1834), with 260 hand-colored images. It is estimated at $2,000-3,000.

Jenner.pngConsidering the recent measles outbreaks, it seems a good time to recall early vaccination proponent Edward Jenner and his 1798 classic, An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae... which is estimated at $20,000-30,000. The sale also includes a Jenner manuscript letter.

Screen Shot 2019-03-07 at 9.55.50 AM.pngThere are three lots related to Joseph Lister in the sale. His “Observations on Ligature on the Antiseptic System,” published in the Lancet in 1869, speaks to his pioneering ideas about the application of germ theory to surgery. (A recent biography asserts that Lister “transformed surgery from a butchering art to a modern science.”) It is estimated at $1,500-2,500.

Vesalius.jpgIt would be negligent to skip the high point of the sale: a first edition, association copy of Andreas Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica... (1543). To read more about it, click here. It is estimated at $300,000-500,000.

Screen Shot 2019-03-07 at 10.05.25 AM.pngThe William Osler first editions, presentation copies, and letters caught my attention because, in our current issue, IU Lilly Library’s Joel Silver provides a wonderful Osler overview. This lot, a book titled The Old Humanities and the New Science (1920), is particularly eye-catching, as it pictures Osler examining the 1538 edition of Vesalius’s Epitome. It is estimated at $3,000-4,000.

Baskin.pngIn more modern offerings, don’t miss Leonard Baskin’s stunning folio of illustrations, Ars Anatomica: A Medical Fantasia (1972), estimated at $600-800.

Images via Bonhams

A busier week coming up in the auction world:


On Tuesday, March 5, Rossini auctions the first sale of books from the collection of Guy Gaulard, in 229 lots.


Heritage Auctions will hold a Rare Books Signature Auction in New York on Wednesday, March 6, including the first selection of books from the Otto Penzler Collection of Mystery Fiction. A copy of the first book edition of The Federalist, with both volumes in original boards, has a reserve of $75,000, as does a cow sculpture designed and painted by Maurice Sendak. Among the Penzler items expected to sell well are first editions of Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest and The Maltese Falcon, and Donald Yates’ copies of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely.


Also on Wednesday, Printed Books, Maps & Documents at Dominic Winter Auctioneers, in 500 lots. Lots 45-117 comprise the first part of the Ladwell Collection of Fine Bird Books.


M39143-1_2.jpgSwann Galleries sells Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books in New York on Thursday, 7 March, in 274 lots. Sale title notwithstanding, three manuscripts rate the top estimates: a sixteenth-century prayer book with thirty-five miniatures and bound around 1800 in the style of Edwards of Halifax could fetch $20,000-30,000, while a mid-fifteenth century Book of Hours, Use of Rome, on vellum, is estimated at $15,000-20,000. A Dutch Book of Hours, Use of Utrecht, also from the middle part of the fifteenth century, could sell for $8,000-12,000. A copy of the first Ibarra edition of Don Quixote (1780, pictured above), rates the same estimate; it was once in the Kansas City Public Library.


At PBA Galleries on Thursday, Fine Books: A Biblio-Medley for All Tastes, in 515 lots. Beginning with lot 322 the remainder of the sale is unreserved. The top-estimated lot, returning to the saleroom after first being offered last September, is a copy of Herbert Childs’ biography of American physicist Ernest Orlando Lawrence, An American Genius (1968). Inscribed by the author and signed by more than forty scientists (among them ten Nobel laureates) and Lawrence family members, the volume is now estimated at $8,000-12,000. A large-paper copy of Sauvan’s Picturesque Tour of the Seine (1821), could sell for $4,000-6,000. A printed Quran with hand-painted illuminations is also estimated at $4,000-6,000, as is a copy of the scare Arion Press issue of John Ashbery’s Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1984).


Image credit: Swann Auction Galleries

Part II of the sale of world traveler, adventurer, and book collector Steve Fossett’s library gets underway in Chicago on March 15. A peruse through the catalogue makes clear just how many volumes in the “Adventure & Exploration” genre sport dazzling decorative cloth bindings. Let’s take a look at ten that truly stand out.

Lot 2.jpgFirst edition of Lecornu’s La Navigation Aérienne (Paris, 1903) in publisher’s decorated green cloth. Estimated at $250-350.

Lot 31.jpgFirst edition of Burton’s Two Trips to Gorilla Land and the Cataracts of the Congo (London, 1876) in original publisher’s green gilt cloth. Estimated at $1,500-2,000.

Lot 38.jpgFirst edition, presentation copy, of From Cape to Cairo. The First Traverse of Africa from South to North (London, 1900) in original publisher’s pictorial mustard cloth. Estimated at $600-800.

Lot 52.jpgFirst edition of Frank Oates’ Matabele Land and the Victoria Falls (London, 1881) in publisher’s pictorial olive green cloth. Estimated at $600-800.

Lot 59.jpgFirst edition of Twixt Sirdar & Menelik. An Account of a Year’s Expedition from Zeila to Cairo through Unknown Abyssinia (London & New York, 1901) in publisher’s decorated tan gilt cloth. Estimated at $300-400.

Lot 84.jpgFirst edition of John James Wild’s At Anchor (London 1878). Intriguingly, the original publisher’s pictorial green gilt cloth has been retained through rebacking and recornering in matching morocco. Estimated at $400-600.

Lot 104.jpgFirst edition of Under the Northern Lights (London, 1876) in publisher’s pictorial green gilt cloth. Estimated at $800-1,200.

Lot 109.jpgReprint edition of Nansen’s famous “Farthest North.” Being the Record of a Voyage of Exploration of the Ship “Fram”... (London, 1898) in original publisher’s decorated green cloth. Estimated at $100-200.
Lot 155.jpgFirst edition, presentation copy, of The Voyage of the ‘Scotia.’ Being the Record of a Voyage of Exploration in the Antarctic Seas (Edinburgh, 1906) in original publisher’s pictorial gray cloth. I especially like how the art on some of these covers carries over onto the spine. Estimated at $1,000-1,500.

Lot 220.jpgFirst trade edition of Across East African Glaciers. An Account of the First Ascent of Kilimanjaro (London, 1891) in original publisher’s decorated green gilt cloth. Estimated at $1,000-1,500.

Images courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers

A trio of sale to watch this week:


Chiswick Auctions holds an Ornithology, Zoology & Voyages sale on Wednesday, February 27, in 345 lots. This auction includes a number of original paintings, sculptures, &c., but among the books are manuscripts are the expanded second edition of the great sea atlas Le Neptune Oriental (£10,000-15,000); a 1756 edition of the English Pilot (£4,000-6,000); Shelley’s Monograph of the Nectariniidae, or Family of Sun-birds (£4,000-6,000); and an 1838 whaling log from the brig William, out of Fall River, MA (£3,000-4,000; pictured below).


whaling.png Also on Wednesday, University Archives will sell Autographed Documents, Manuscripts, Books & Relics, in 266 lots. Headlining this auction is a complete set of autographs of the signers of the U.S. Constitution ($60,000-70,000). Other highlights are expected to include a collection of nearly fifty playbills, nine of which feature John Wilkes Booth ($30,000-35,000); a 1781 George Washington-signed letter about prisoner exchanges ($35,000-40,000); a 1779 Benjamin Franklin letter about outfitting Lafayette’s troops ($30,000-35,000); and an apparently unpublished Alexander Hamilton letter alluding to the compromise which led to the formation of Washington, D.C. (also $30,000-35,000). The latter two items are both noted as being from an extra-illustrated copy of a history of New York City.


Back at Chiswick Auctions on Thursday, Autographs & Memorabilia, in 289 lots. Among the lots on Thursday are a large collection of letters by English, French, and Italian composers and musicians (£3,000-5,000); the training notebook of cosmonaut Vladimir Shatalov (£2,000-3,000); and a Vicksburg newspaper printed on wallpaper (£800-1,200). A great variety of lots in this one, making the catalogue well worth a browse, whatever your collecting interests.


Image courtesy of Chiswick Auctions

Seeing not one but two copies of the magnificent 1913 artist’s book, La Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France by Blaise Cendrars and Sonia Delaunay, surface at auction two weeks apart is surprising enough to warrant comment. Though Cendrars intended to publish 150 copies of this long, illustrated poem about his journey through Russia on the Trans-Siberian Express, only about sixty were ever completed, of which only a few are now held outside of an institution. Years can go by without a sighting.

But at Christie’s in Paris yesterday, a copy in “exceptional condition with extraordinary colors” and in the original hand-painted leather cover by Delaunay, once belonging to bibliophile and former banker Marc Litzler, sold for €237,500 ($270,000) against a pre-sale estimate of €150,000-200,000.

Lot 393-Delaunay.jpgIf you missed out on that one, another chance to own an original La Prose is coming up at Swann Galleries in New York on March 5. It is estimated rather conservatively at $70,000-100,000. Said the auctioneer, “...[I]t is widely considered one of the first and among the most important artist’s books of the 20th century.”

The auctions called to mind the 2017 article Nate Pedersen wrote for us about California book artist Kitty Maryatt and her quest to reproduce a limited edition of La Prose using the same letterpress and pochoir techniques employed in the original. Collaborating with Atelier Coloris, Maryatt completed the first batch in fall 2017; as October 28, 2018, she had “74 more copies to make.” You can follow her progress here, and she has also posted a census of the original edition.

In 2017, Maryatt told us, “The most rewarding aspect of this project is actually doing the pochoir studies myself, analyzing the unusual strokes that surely Sonia [Delaunay] asked the pocheurs to do. I had not learned the original techniques used in 1913 but ones modified over the years, so it has been an eye-opener to learn them.”

Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

After a fairly quiet week, we’re very much back to business on the auction front. Here are a few things I’ll be watching this week:


Alexander Historical Auctions holds its Winter Auction on Monday, February 18, in a whopping 1,120 lots. Among the manuscripts expected to sell well are a June 29, 1861 letter from Stonewall Jackson ($15,000-25,000); the signature of Declaration of Independence Signer Thomas Lynch, Jr., clipped from a volume of Swift ($10,000-15,000); and an Ernest Hemingway letter to an aspiring writer ($8,000-10,000).


At Toovey’s on Tuesday, February 19, Antiquarian and Collectors’ Books, in 212 lots. Toovey’s sells Maps and Prints on Wednesday, too, in a 165-lot sale.


berge.pngPierre Bergé & Associés sells the Bibliothèque d’un Amateur on Tuesday, in 129 lots. A 1523 Ovid in French (Paris: Philippe le Noir) with more than thirty woodcut illustrations rates the top estimate, at €35,000-45,000. A seventeenth-century manuscript prayer book made for Andrée de Vivonne, Duchesse de La Rochefoucauld could sell for €30,000-40,000 (pictured).


On Wednesday, Bibliothèque Marc Litzler at Christie’s Paris. The 248 lots include Matisse’s Jazz (Paris, 1947), estimated at €200,000-300,000; illustrations from the 1498 Nuremberg edition of Dürer’s Apocalypsis (€150,000-200,000); a manuscript book of hours from around 1480 (€60,000-80,000); and a second edition Vesalius (€50,000-70,000).


PBA Galleries holds a 431-lot sale of Rare Americana, Travel & Exploration, Hawaii, World History, and Cartography on Thursday, February 21. Rating the top estimate is a full set of the first two volumes of Alexander Campbell’s Millennial Harbinger (1830-1831), at $10,000-15,000. The third issue of William Stith’s history of Virginia (Williamsburg, [1753]), with the bookplate of British politician George Grenville, could fetch $6,000-9,000. A massive 1761 map of Europe with vignettes is estimated at $5,000-8,000. Finally, two Mexican Inquisitorial broadsides about forbidden books, one from 1781 and another from 1803, each are estimated at $3,000-5,000.


Last but not least, Aguttes in Paris sells Livres Anciens & Modernes, Manuscrits & Autographes on Friday, February 22, in 314 lots. A collection of forty-eight letters from artist Francis Picabia to Suzanne Roman is expected to sell for €30,000-40,000, while a bifolium from a seventeenth-century Italian manuscript maritime atlas of the Mediterranean could fetch €20,000-25,000. A Debussy music manuscript rates the same estimate.


Image credit: Pierre Bergé & Associés

Chances are you’ve heard the name Ansel Adams. What about Mary Austin? An upcoming auction lot reminded me that Adams’ first book of photography, titled Taos Pueblo, was published in a limited, Grabhorn Press edition in 1930. Adams supplied twelve photos, while Austin wrote the text. The copy for sale at Swann Auction Galleries next week, signed by both the author and the artist, is estimated to reach $30,000-45,000.

Austin Adams.jpgBut who was Austin? Swann describes her “a popular nature writer,” which is true, if understated. Mary Hunter Austin (1868-1934) traveled extensively in the Southwest and wrote about what she saw and experienced there. Her first book, published in 1903, was The Land of Little Rain, a nature classic in the same league as Thoreau’s Walden or Muir’s My First Summer in the Sierra. Austin’s evocative sketches of life in Death Valley and the Mojave Desert are mystical and life-affirming. Incredibly for the time, Austin often traveled alone through hostile environments to collect her stories, prompting Outside magazine to feature her recently in “Badass Women Chronicles.”  

Austin went on to write more than thirty books and hundreds of articles. As Adams wrote of her, “Seldom have I met and known anyone of such intellectual and spiritual power and discipline.” Still, she never quite cracked into the literary canon. The Land of Little Rain was reissued in 1920 and was notably included in the “Zamorano 80” list of distinguished California books in 1945. Five years after that, Ansel Adams published a photo-illustrated edition of Land, perhaps an homage to their first collaboration. Then Austin seems to drop off the radar for several decades.

51950.jpgA quick peruse of booksellers’ offerings online show copies of the collector-worthy first edition, bound in decorative gilt cloth (pictured above, courtesy of Ken Sanders Rare Books), in the $150-500 range, as well as the 1920 second edition in dust jacket for $175. Arader Galleries has a stunning extra-illustrated first edition for $35,000.

LandOfLittleRain copy.jpgCoincidentally, an audiobook of The Land of Little Rain was released earlier this month, read by Emmy Award winner Ellen Parker. (Full disclosure: it was produced by my husband, Brett Barry.) It is the first commercially available audio edition of Austin’s most famous work. There are also paperback editions now available from Modern Library, Penguin, and Dover, plus a 2014 coffee table edition with photos by Walter Feller.

It seems we -- readers, collectors, publishers -- are finally making shelf space for Mary Austin.

Images (Top) Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries; (Middle) Courtesy of Ken Sanders Rare Books; (Bottom) Courtesy of Silver Hollow Audio.

Last week, the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore put on display a little-known but extraordinary nineteenth-century prayer book woven entirely from silk on a Jacquard loom. In Woven Words: Decoding the Silk Book, visitors can get a close look at this unique objet d’art.

RS399725_PS1_92.123.26v-27r_Op_DD_AST-014777-ppt.jpg“It survives today as the only successful example of an entirely woven book, every line of text and saintly figure intricately created out of silk,” said Lynley Anne Herbert, Robert and Nancy Hall Associate Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts.

RS399694_PS1_83.736_Back_DD_AST-014779-ppt.jpgIt was Joseph Marie Jacquard of Lyon, France, who patented a weaving technique that revolutionized the textile industry with his mechanized loom. Jacquard’s innovation presaged the modern computer in its use of paper punch cards that could be programmed to allow complex patterns, like those seen in the Silk Book.

“What’s remarkable about the Silk Book is that, though it’s an object that is more than a century old, it has real connections to our modern-day life,” said Julia Marciari-Alexander, Andrea B. and John H. Laporte Director. “We hope that it will continue to inspire our visitors to think about other ways in which art and science converge in their lives.”

The Silk Book in on view through April 28.

Images courtesy of the Walters Art Museum

Bronte Parsonage (with Charlotte's Pine and Emily's Path to the Moors)_2017 copy.jpgAlthough the Rare Book Week West crowds have shifted north by now, opening this weekend at the Huntington Library in San Marino is an exhibition of seven recent paintings by contemporary British artist Celia Paul, one of which is bound to captivate the Brontëans among us. The Brontë Parsonage (with Charlotte’s Pine and Emily’s Path to the Moors) has its roots in Paul’s recollection of her childhood home near Brontë’s Parsonage. Hilton Als, prize-winning art critic and curator of this exhibition, speculates “that Paul might have seen parallels between the Brontë family and her own, many members of whom have been involved in the Church of England,” according to a statement released by the Huntington.

The exhibition, which remains on view through July 8, also showcases Paul’s light-filled seascapes and contemplative portraits of family members. Catherine Hess, chief curator of European art at the Huntington, said, “With Turner’s masterful brushwork and Constable’s sensitive treatment of light and climate as a backdrop here, our visitors can assess Celia Paul’s work within the context of British painting, while also appreciating the innovations and sensitive introspection of this 21st-century female painter.”

If you happen to be the Bay Area this weekend instead, check out our guide to exhibitions & events happening now through Monday.

Image: Celia Paul, The Brontë Parsonage (with Charlotte’s Pine and Emily’s Path to the Moors), 2017. Oil on canvas, 36 1/8 x 29 1/4 in. © Celia Paul. Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice.

A trio of sales I’ll be watching this week:


At Bonhams London on Wednesday, February 6, a Travel and Exploration sale, in 205 lots. Expected to lead the way is a sledge from the 1907-1909 British Antarctic Expedition (known as the “Nimrod Expedition”), estimated at £60,000-100,000. A first edition of David Roberts’ The Holy Land (1842-49), once owned and annotated by noted Blake collector Alice Grace Elizabeth Carthew, could fetch £25,000-35,000. Among the other top-estimated books is a set of the illustrations from Samuel Daniell’s Picturesque Illustration of the Scenery, Animals, and Native Inhabitants, of the Island of Ceylon (1808), at £10,000-15,000 (pictured below).


daniell.png Forum Auctions holds an online sale of Modern Literature & Illustrated Books on Thursday, February 7, in 268 lots. Prices are expected to mostly be in the three-figure range here, though a pair of Russian avant-garde titles from the 1910s and a copy of the final Harry Potter book, signed by J. K. Rowling, are all estimated at £1,000-1,500. There are many other lots of Russian literature and a few more Rowling-signed books, as well as a number of intriguing lots of small press material.


Finally, PBA Galleries will hold a sale in Oakland prior to the California International Antiquarian Book Fair: The Book Fair Century: One Hundred Fine Books - Plus Books Sold to Benefit the ABAA Benevolent Fund. Among the 75 lots sold for the ABAA Benevolent Fund are several Blake editions by Trianon Press (Lots 6-7); a first printing of Hawthorne’s Marble Faun ($200-300); and a portfolio of Whittington Press posters ($1,000-1,500). Other expected highlights include a copy of the first edition in English of Aristotle’s Politics (1598), estimated at $20,000-30,000; a first edition of Hobbes’ Leviathan ($15,000-25,000); an inscribed copy of Dashiell Hammett’s first book, Red Harvest ($15,000-20,000); and a small collection of material relating to Nabokov’s butterfly research ($10,000-15,000). Theodore Roosevelt’s copy of Mark Twain’s The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County is estimated at $4,000-6,000. A Thomas J. Wise forgery, sold with a copy of Wise’s Swinburne bibliography, could sell for $1,000-1,500. 


Image courtesy of Bonhams

At Doyle New York on Tuesday, January 29, an online sale of Americana from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson, in 312 lots. A wide range of material, including a copy of Henry Hind Youle’s Explorations in the Interior of the Labrador Peninsula, the Country of the Montagnais and Nasquapee Indians (1863) and a journal of an 1890 hunting trip to Colorado, illustrated with photographs (both, as of the time of writing, bid up to $1,200).


Also on Tuesday, Swann sells Fine Illustrated Books & Graphics, in 201 lots. Kandinsky’s Klänge (Munich, 1913) rates the top estimate, at $30,000-40,000. A set of Marie Laurencin’s illustrations for the Black Sun Press edition of Alice in Wonderland (1930), could sell for $15,000-25,000. A copy of the complete Nonesuch Dickens, with an original woodblock, is estimated at $5,000-7,500. Many lots from the Cheloniidae Press, as well, so the collector will want to keep an eye on those.


Dominic Winter Auctioneers sells Printed Books, Maps & Documents on Wednesday, January 30, in 578 lots. A collection twenty of rare Mauritius lithographs from the Souvenirs de Maurice series is estimated at £10,000-15,000, while a collection of correspondence between automobile pioneer Charles Stewart Rolls and photographer F. Howard Mercer could sell for £4,000-6,000.


cirque.png At Forum Auctions on Wednesday, a 568-lot sale of Private Press, Illustrated Books and Modern Editions. Sharing top pegging at £10,000-15,000 are an unsigned, out-of-series copy of Fernand Leger’s Cirque (1950; pictured); one of just twenty-five large paper copies of Oscar Wilde’s The Sphinx (1894), designed by Charles Ricketts; and a Jessie Marion King ink drawing on vellum, “The Lament,” (c.1890s).


Also on Wednesday, Bonhams London holds The Gentleman’s Library Sale, in 628 lots. Mostly furnishings, art, &c., but the catalogue is well worth a browse for the bibliophile.


On Thursday, January 30 at Lyon & Turnbull, Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps & Photography, in 470 lots. Among the top-estimated lots in this one are a special edition of Ian Fleming’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (£8,000-12,000) and a set of Captain Cook-related titles (£7,000-9,000).


Freeman’s sells Books, Maps & Manuscripts on Thursday, in 414 lots. A collection of 240 volumes relating to Jewish Displaced Persons in Europe in the years following the end of World War II is estimated at $100,000-150,000. A great mix of other material as well.


Rounding out the busy week of sales, Potter & Potter holds a Fine Books & Manuscripts sale on Saturday, February 2. The sale features a wide range of Chicago memorabilia, including a 1929 New York Central Lines railroad poster ($4,000-5,000). Several lots of Frank Lloyd Wright drawings and blueprints will be on the block, including a signed original floor plan for the Louis Frederick House ($6,000-8,000).


Image credit: Forum Auctions

This past weekend, Yale’s Beinecke Library opened an exhibit dear to the hearts of we gently mad. Even its title is a draw: Bibliomania; or Book Madness: A Bibliographical Romance, taken from Thomas Frognall Dibdin’s 1842 book on the topic. The exhibition is divided into four distinct parts, as it explores the relationships of readers, owners, authors, and collectors.

2. E. Libris T. Phillipps copy.jpgEvery Book in the World! tells the story of the legendary nineteenth-century bibliomaniac (emphasis on the maniac), Sir Thomas Phillipps, whose massive collection of manuscripts and early printed books numbered well over 100,000 items. Pictured above: “E Libris T. Phillipps, Aetatis suae 16, Dec. 10, 1808,” from Books, tracts, leaflets and broadsides printed by Sir Thomas Phillipps at his private press at Middle Hill. Courtesy of the Beinecke Library.

6. Hamlet copy.jpgCollated & Perfect, organized in conjunction with the Harry Ransom Center, at the University of Texas, Austin, explains the history of collation and the the quest to find a more perfect text -- including the work of Charlton Hinman, editor of the first folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays (1968) and inventor of the Hinman Collator. Pictured above: The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke by William Shakespeare (1604). Courtesy of the Beinecke Library.
5 Pillone fore-edge full copy.jpgHabits Ancient and Modern: Surface and Depth in the Pillone Library Volumes delves into a fascinating family library assembled in Italy in the sixteenth century, and the decision to have the fore-edges of many of their volumes painted by Cesare Vecellio, a distant cousin of Titian. Pictured above: Fore-edge paintings by Cesare Vellecio on volumes from the Pillone Library. Courtesy of the Beinecke Library.
7. Weimann Marbled Papers Silhouette copy.jpgThe Whole Art of Marbling offers a sampling of the Beinecke’s vast and beautiful collection of marbled papers to illuminate the art’s history, techniques, patterns, and practitioners. Pictured above: “Silhouette,” plate 22 in Marbled Papers by Christopher Weimann (1978). Courtesy of the Beinecke Library.

The exhibition is on view through April 21. Related events are listed here.

Quite a range of auctions this week to keep an eye on, including three sales on Tuesday, January 22:


At Bunch Auctions, a combined sale of Rare Books & Fine Prints and Native American Artifacts. A first edition of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, with a tipped-in Dickens letter to Ticknor & Fields and other extra material included, is expected to lead the way at $18,000-26,000. Also to be had are a first issue of Oliver Twist ($8,000-10,000) and a number of other important Dickens lots, as well as a 1681 William Penn indenture ($4,000-6,000).


Books and Manuscripts, in 216 lots, will be sold at Il Ponte in Milan. A few highlights are expected to include a copy of La Pérouse’s Voyage (1797) and a 1478 Venice edition of Pomponio Mela’s Cosmographia, both estimated at €6,000-9,000; a Hebrew book in a silver binding is estimated at €3,000-5,000, and a modern fascimile portolan chart (c.1960) based on a sixteenth-century Italian original could fetch €5,000-8,000.


Morton Subastas sells Mexican Historical Documents and Books, in 230 lots. George Wilkins Kendall’s 1851 work The War Between the United States and Mexico is estimated at $350,000-400,000. A reissue of the collection of lithographs published as México y sus Alrededores, originally published in 1855, could sell for as much as $150,000-200,000. Mateo Ximénez’s book of engravings depicting the life of Sebastián de Aparicio y del Prado (Rome, 1789) is estimated at $100,000-120,000, as is a copy of Lorenzana’s Historia de la Nueva España (Mexico City, 1770). An album containing photos and autographs of Mexican actresses of the early twentieth century is estimated at $50,000-60,000.


On Wednesday, January 23, University Archives sells Autographed Documents, Manuscripts, Photos & Books, in 260 lots. Handwritten and signed lyrics to Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” are estimated at $50,000-60,000, and a 1786 letter from John Paul Jones to Thomas Jefferson (as American minister to France) could sell for $24,000-26,000. What is described as the longest J.D. Salinger autograph letter ever offered at auction ($8,000-9,000) will also be up for grabs.


Also on Wednesday, Rare Books & Works on Paper at Chiswick Auctions, in 337 lots.


PBA Galleries sells a Mid-Winter Miscellany Part II, with Illustrated and Children’s Books, on Thursday, January 24. Prices are mostly expected to be in the three-figure range for this 377-lot sale, and lots from 249 through the end are being sold without reserve.


Rounding out the week’s sales is Thursday’s Fine Manuscript and Printed Americana auction at Sotheby’s New York. The 189-lot sale caps Americana Week at the auction house and contains a huge number of very impressive items. Rating the top presale estimate, at $800,000-1,200,000, is a copy of the extremely rare broadside announcing the American ratification of the Treaty of Paris, printed by John Dunlap at Annapolis in early 1784 (pictured). This is just one of two known copies featuring the embossed seal of the United States and signed by both the President and Secretary of Congress.


A copy of the 1823 Stone facsimile of the Declaration of Independence on vellum, inscribed by John Quincy Adams to Thomas Emory--then serving as the President of Maryland’s Governor’s Council--is described by Sotheby’s as the only known copy in private hands to have passed by descent from the original recipient; it is estimated at $600,000-800,000. A fascinating 1757 letter from George Washington to Virginia governor Robert Dinwiddie about the rights of British Americans could fetch $300,000-400,000, while a copy of the first book printing of the Declaration of Independence in a sammelband volume with other important Revolutionary War pamphlets is estimated at $300,000-500,000.


Image credit: Sotheby’s

Woodstock50 Logo.jpgThis year marks the 50th anniversary of the music festival known simply as Woodstock. As just about everyone knows by now, the festival was not held in Woodstock, New York--although anyone who visits the town today would not be disappointed by the amount of tie-dye and goodwill to be found there--and neither will this 50th anniversary edition, opting instead for the larger space at Watkins Glen International Speedway. From August 16-18, the festival’s original producers are planning to bring both music and social activism to a new generation of concert-goers, the children, or more likely, the grandchildren, of original attendees. In a press release, Woodstock 1969’s co-producer and co-founder Michael Lang commented, “The original festival in ‘69 was a reaction by the youth of the time to the causes we felt compelled to fight for - civil rights, women’s rights, and the antiwar movement, and it gave way to our mission to share peace, love and music. Today, we’re experiencing similar disconnects in our country, and one thing we’ve learned is that music has the power to bring people together. So, it’s time to bring the Woodstock spirit back, get involved and make our voices heard.”

Freemans Woodstock.jpgApropos to all this, a vintage Woodstock poster--the iconic red poster featuring a stylized dove perched on the fretboard of a guitar--is headed to auction on January 31 in Philadelphia. Designed by Arnold Skolnick, the groovy poster advertises “3 Days of Peace & Music,” in White Lake, NY, and features the names of performers like The Who, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin. The estimate is $800-1,200.

As you can see above, Woodstock 50’s logo riffs on Skolnick’s dove, and indeed the organization tweeted last week, “The Bird of Peace is Back,” when it unveiled its plans.

Image (top) Courtesy of Woodstock Ventures; (middle) Courtesy of Freeman’s Auction

Opening later this week is an exhibition fraught with forgeries. That’s by design. It’s the collection of William Voelkle, the curator emeritus of Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts at the Morgan Library and Museum, who recently retired after fifty years with the august institution. (He also wrote a fabulous article for us last year on bejeweled bindings). For five decades, Voelkle has sought fake illuminated manuscript leaves and miniatures, particularly the work of the Spanish Forger, on whom he published a book in 1978.

The exhibition, titled Holy Hoaxes: A Beautiful Deception Celebrating William Voelkle’s Collecting, will premiere in New York on Thursday at Les Enluminures, a gallery that specializes in manuscripts founded by Sandra Hindman. “It’s with much pleasure that we mount this exhibition to celebrate William Voelkle’s collection,” said Hindman. “I myself have long worked on fakes, forgeries, and copyists of medieval manuscripts, and this occasion helps me acknowledge my debt to Bill’s groundbreaking work.”

The works on display include both items that were sold as “real” but later unmasked by Voelkle, and those sold as known fakes. Nothing on exhibit is for sale; it is purely a showcase of the collector’s passion and dedication to his subject of choice. Here are a few highlights:

Les Enluminures - St. Martha taming the Tarasque - Spanish Forger copy.jpg“St. Martha Taming the Tarasque,” one of the largest panel paintings by the Spanish Forger, was made to evoke the Renaissance but was really made in the early twentieth century and was acquired by Voelkle in 1974.

PR 3_Gehze Henetuch MS St George 018 copy.jpgA bogus illustration in a late seventeenth or early eighteenth-century Ethiopian codex, supplied by the Synkessar Miniature Forger.

PR 4_Chirst in Majesty Spanish copy.jpg“Christ in Majesty,” once believed to be a twelfth-century production, is actually a clever nineteenth-century forgery. It was withdrawn from a Christie’s auction in 1987.

Read more in this Q & A between Voelkle and Hindman published by Art & Object. The exhibit runs through February 2. Several special lectures are also planned; check here for details.

Images courtesy of Les Enluminures

On Tuesday, January 15, Heritage Auctions in Dallas will sell the John Silverstein Collection of African American Social History, in 383 lots. James Van Der Zee’s Eighteen Photographs (1974), a portfolio of photographs taken between 1905 and 1938, has an opening bid of $8,750. A collection of more than a hundred letters from Charles A. Hill to his wife Lydia relating to his Civil War service in the 1st Regiment Infantry, U.S. Colored Troops has a reserve of $7,500. A poster believed to be the first use of black panther imagery, issued for a voter drive in Lowndes County, Alabama and predating the formation of the Black Panther Party, is currently bid up to $4,200. A collection of forty-one issues of the National Anti-Slavery Standard has an opening bid of $2,000.


Kestenbaum & Company holds an online sale of Printed Books, Holy Land Maps, Posters & Jewish Graphic Art on Thurday, January 17. The 173 lots include a 1917 poster issued as part of a campaign in which Russian Jews were to be allowed to elect members of their own Congress ($4,000-6,000) and a 1929 poster for the second lottery held by OZET, the Society for Settling Toiling Jews on the Land ($3,000-5,000; pictured). A copy of the 1518 Basle edition of Trithemius’ Polygraphiae also rates a $3,000-5,000 estimate. At $2,000-3,000 we find a four-sheet copy of the Tabula Peutingeriana, showing the layout of the roads of the Roman Empire. A number of early printed books and a good selection of maps to be had in this sale.



Among the 484 lots in the Collection of Anne H. & Frederick Vogel III, to be sold at Sotheby’s New York on Saturday, Janaury 19 there are a few Audubon plates, including the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker ($50,000-80,000); the Fish Hawk (Osprey) at $30,000-50,000; and the Ruffed Grouse ($20,000-30,000), among others. A framed copy of the fourth state of John Smith’s map of New England is estimated at $20,000-30,000, as is a copy of the second edition of William Wood’s New England’s Prospect.


Image credit: Kestenbaum & Company

It’s not often that we hear breaking news about medieval manuscripts or, more especially, women’s role in manuscript production. But here we are! In a fascinating (and open-access) article published yesterday in the journal Science Advances, researchers have concluded that the rare blue pigment known as ultramarine, being present in the dental plaque of an 11th- or 12th-century nun’s skeleton unearthed in rural Germany, provides proof of women’s work on illuminated medieval manuscripts. Specifically, it is suggested, the women acted as painters and illuminators -- painting and licking the tip of the brush, according to Monica Tromp, study co-author and microbioarchaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

F2.large.jpgUltramarine, made from the lapis lazuli stone, is “rare and expensive as gold,” the researchers note in the article. “Within the context of medieval art, the application of highly pure ultramarine in illuminated works was restricted to luxury books of high value and importance, and only scribes and painters of exceptional skill would have been entrusted with its use.”

They go on to conclude, as summarized in the article’s abstract, that “The early use of this pigment by a religious woman challenges widespread assumptions about its limited availability in medieval Europe and the gendered production of illuminated texts.”

More on this story in the Atlantic, CNN, and the New York Times.

Image: Blue particles observed embedded within archaeological dental calculus. Credit: C. Warinner (A); M. Tromp and A. Radini (B to I).

The Winter Show, a fair dedicated to art, antiques, and design, returns to the Park Avenue Armory in New York City on January 18 for its 65th annual run. And this year, Nantucket, the tiny island known as much for its whaling history as for its upscale beaches, is a focal point. One of the fair highlights, for example, is this lithograph from 1881 by Beck & Pauli depicting a bird’s-eye view of Nantucket. It is being exhibited by the well known Philadelphia map and print dealer Graham Arader.

23 Arader Galleries_Birds Eye View of Nantucket copy.jpgThe offering is apropos to the Winter Show’s loan exhibition, Collecting Nantucket, Connecting the World, which celebrates 125 years of collecting by the Nantucket Historical Association (NHA). It will present an array of exceptional paintings, craft, and folk arts related to the beautiful summer vacation spot. On Saturday, January 19 at 2:00, the director of the NHA will speak to this in “Connecting the World: 125 Years of Collecting on Nantucket.” And, relatedly, Nathaniel Philbrick, author of the National Book Award-winning In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, will give a lecture on the enduring power of Moby-Dick on the fair’s final day, Sunday, January 27, at 2:00.

Image courtesy of Third Eye/The Winter Show

A return to action in the auction rooms this week, with two sales on Thursday, January 10:

quixote.pngForum Auctions holds an online sale of Books and Works on Paper, in 174 lots. A complete-to-date set of the definitive edition of the works of Voltaire (121 volumes published between 1969 and 2018) is estimated at £1,500-2,000, while a copy of the 38-volume Centenary Limited Edition of Churchill’s works could fetch £1,000-1,500. A collection of 155 vellum-bound (or at least vellum-spined) volumes is estimated at £600-800. Other items of interest here include a New Jersey manuscript receipt book from the 1820s (£200-300); a large collection of bookseller and auction catalogues (£200-300); and a collection of about 600 20th-century Portuguese bookplates (£200-300; one pictured). There are also several large lots of bibliographies and other bibliographical publications.


At PBA Galleries, Literature of the 19th & 20th Centuries, with the Glenn Todd Collection of Arion Press & Beat Literature, in 433 lots. The top-estimated lot is the Arion Press edition of W. B. Yeats’ Poems (1990), with an additional suite of six etchings by Richard Diebenkorn ($15,000-25,000). Glenn Todd’s copy of the Arion Press Moby-Dick (1979) is estimated at $10,000-15,000. The Arion Press edition of Brillat-Savarin’s The Physiology of Taste (1994) rates a $7,000-10,000 estimate.


Beyond the impressive Arion Press selection, expected highlights from this sale include a rebacked first printing of Tom Sawyer ($4,000-6,000); a signed first edition of John Williams’ Stoner ($2,000-3,000); a first edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin with a later laid-in inscription by Stowe ($2,000-3,000). A complete collection of Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series, with some related ephemera, is also estimated at $2,000-3,000. Lots 337-443 are being sold without reserve.


Image courtesy of Forum Auctions

What were some of the biggest stories in 2018? According to our stats, Fine Books readers love Lovecraft--no kidding--and Robin Williams. You’re also interested in cookbooks, illuminated manuscripts, and rare book theft. Missed out on these hot topics? Read on:

#1 H.P. Lovecraft’s Bible is For Sale
Lovecraft’s legions of fans bid his family’s 1881 bible up to (spoiler alert) $4,750.

Walden.png#2 Robin Williams’ Rare Books at Auction
Fifteen rare books that once belonged to the late, great actor went to auction, among them a first edition of Walden (pictured at left) and an Arion Press edition of Moby-Dick.

#3 New Culinary Bookshop to Open in Brooklyn
A.N. Devers broke the big news that Lizz Young was opening a new bookshop in Brooklyn devoted to “cooking, cocktails, and culture.”

#4 Where to See Illuminated Manuscripts
A round-up of major exhibitions of illuminated manuscripts last year.

#5 New Rare Books Heist Film
The book world was buzzing about American Animals, a film based on a real-life special collections robbery in 2004. (I liked it.)

Looking for more fine Fine Books stories? Check out 2017’s top ten.

Image courtesy of Sotheby’s

A new acquisition at Penn Libraries illustrates why bibliophiles love Tristram Shandy, even if they aren’t fans of author Laurence Sterne or eighteenth-century British fiction in general. Sterne had more than a passing interest in book production and design; every copy of the first edition of volume three of his most famous work, i.e. Tristram Shandy, includes a unique marbled leaf inserted within the printed text. As you can see in the picture below from a London edition in 1780, a blank with instructions to the bookbinder showed exactly where it should go. (The results vary, of course, which is why perusing copies of TS can be so fun.) 

Blank.pngWith the acquisition of the Geoffrey Day Collection, Penn Libraries reports that it “now houses the best collection of material relating to 18th century British novelist Laurence Sterne and his works in the western hemisphere.” According to a Penn Libraries statement, Day amassed an incredible collection that includes three copies of the rare York-printed first edition of volumes one and two of Tristram Shandy and the only known copy of a completely spurious edition of volume nine, published clandestinely in 1767.

This new collection also contains dozens of examples of the famous marbled leaf, of which Penn shared with us a few:

London .pngFrom Tristram Shandy, vol. 3, first edition, London, 1761.

Screen Shot 2018-12-27 at 11.54.14 AM.pngFrom Tristram Shandy, vol. 3, German edition (Hanau), 1776.

Vienna.pngFrom Tristram Shandy, vols. 3-4, Vienna, 1798.

Images courtesy of Penn Libraries

The sequel to the 1964 Mary Poppins film that fans have been waiting more than half a century for is finally here, debuting in theaters across the U.S. this week. (I’ve seen it; it’s fabulous.) Even better, it brings author P. L. Travers back into the spotlight. In a CBS Sunday Morning segment this past Sunday, the actress Emily Blunt, who portrays the spappy English nanny in Mary Poppins Returns, takes a trip to the New York Public Library to examine the first American edition of the novel, as well as some of Travers’ mementoes, including her typewriter, a doll, and her parrot-headed umbrella.

Mary Poppins Soth.jpgA first edition also came up for sale very recently. In an online sale of English literature and children’s books at Sotheby’s that closed on December 10, Travers’ Mary Poppins (1934) in its pictorial dust jacket sold for £2,750 ($3,450). Incidentally, a presentation first edition of the sequel, titled Mary Poppins Comes Back (not Mary Poppins Returns), published in 1935, sold for slightly less at £2,500 ($3,140). Travers inscriptions are quite rare.

Image courtesy of Sotheby’s

When Daniel Ryan was just a freshman at a Connecticut boarding school, his English teacher gave him a copy of A Christmas Carol as he headed home for the holidays. It was a gift that ignited not only an interest in Charles Dickens, but a desire to collect. Sixty-five years later, having assembled an extraordinary collection of Dickens’ books, manuscripts, and original art, Ryan is paying it forward by donating it to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Worcester, Massachusetts. The collection complements WPI’s Robert D. Fellman Dickens Collection.

Dickens WPI image.jpgJoel J. Brattin, professor of literature at WPI and noted Dickens scholar, said the gift, made jointly by Daniel Ryan and his wife, Alice, will be a transformative addition to WPI’s existing collection. For example, Ryan’s collection contains a significant amount of original art by the sixteen artists who illustrated Dickens’ first editions, and even some of the steel plates used to print those illustrations. “Secondly,” he added, “there are manuscripts, particularly letters written by Dickens to his family and friends, and a complete collection of letters written by all of those original illustrators. This is a collection that would probably be all but impossible to assemble today. It includes one letter from a recently discovered cache of letters that Dickens wrote pertaining to Urania Cottage, a home for the rehabilitation of former prostitutes that Dickens helped establish. Most extraordinary, the collection has two letters written to Dickens. These are extremely rare, since Dickens burned his collection of letters in 1860.”

After high school, Ryan attended Yale University and then spent his career in the oil industry. All the while, he was adding to his collection. When, a few years ago, he acquired an unusual document signed by all of Charles Dickens’ living children, his research led him to WPI, where he learned about the Fellman collection, which had been donated to the school in 1995. Fellman, like Ryan, had been inspired to collect after a fateful encounter with The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club as a teen.   

Dickens class 2.jpgWhen the Ryans visited WPI, they were struck not only by the Fellman collection, but by the way the university has incorporated the use of this special collection into its curriculum. Brattin teaches two seminars on Dickens’ works, during which his students take a hands-on approach to the rare material. In his fall 2018 course on A Christmas Carol, students examined a first edition (pictured above) while discussing the book’s history and reception. Brattin noted that Ryan was “glad to see that WPI is a hands-on kind of place, and that our students will have many opportunities to interact with and use the collection in classes, in project work, and, frankly, in ways that we probably can’t even begin to envision right now.” There’s an opportunity to serve an ever wider audience, which the university has already begun to do by digitizing Dickens’ novels in their original, serial editions through Project Boz.

The wealth of material that will housed at WPI thanks to the Ryan and Fellman collections opens up the possibility of other kinds of innovative educational, research, and outreach efforts, said Arthur Carlson, assistant director of archives and special collections in WPI’s George Gordon Library. “With the works themselves, the letters and manuscripts, the art, and other materials, there will be opportunities for deeper and more meaningful engagement in which students and scholars can explore not just the novels, but the social and personal contexts in which they were created, the community of people Dickens worked with, and the impact he had on so many people. It’s just fascinating to think about the number of facets that will be available through the study of this remarkable collection of material.”

A special exhibit with associated programming at WPI’s Gordon Library is planned to celebrate the Ryans’ gift in 2020, the 150th anniversary of Dickens’ death in 1870.

Images courtesy of WPI

As things settle down in the auction world over the holiday period, here’s a quick check on last week’s action and the few upcoming sales.


The Valuable Books and Manuscripts sale at Christie’s London last week realized a total of £3,879,250, with Adam Smith’s copy of his Wealth of Nations leading the way at £908,750.


I haven’t yet been able to find full results from the fourth sale of books from the library of Pierre Bergé, held on December 14, but media reports indicate that the copy of Proust’s Du côté de chez Swann, inscribed to Lucien Daudet, sold for 1.51 million Euros, setting a new auction record for a French book.


Looking ahead, Bonhams London sells Prints and Multiples on Tuesday, December 18, in 168 lots. Rating the top estimate, at £70,000-100,000, is Goya’s suite of eighty etchings “Los Desastres de la Guerra.” Goya’s eighteen-etching series “Los Proverbios” is estimated at £30,000-50,000, as are Andy Warhol’s 1983 screenprint of Ingrid Bergman, “The Nun” and Francis Bacon’s 1971 lithograph “Étude por una corrida.” An etched sheet of Rembrandt studies, including a self-portrait (pictured below), could fetch £15,000-25,000.


rembrandt.png Sotheby’s New York sells Important Judaica, including a Distinguished Private Collection, on Wednesday, December 19, in 226 lots. A seventeenth-century painting of worshippers at an Italian synagogue is estimated at $250,000-300,000, while the only known kabbalistic manuscript with autograph comments by Rabbi Jonathan Eibeschuetz could sell for $250,000-350,000. A thirteenth-century Torah scroll from Spain, believed to be the second oldest recorded Sephardic Torah scroll, is estimated at $200,000-300,000.


On Thursday, December 20, PBA Galleries holds a Mid-Winter Miscellany auction, in 381 lots. A real hodge-podge, and well worth a browse no matter what areas you collect. Lots 190 through 377 are being sold without reserve, too, so there may well be some bargains to be had.


Image credit: Bonhams

With a nod to our current issue’s cover picturing author/illustrator Eric Carle and celebrating the forthcoming fiftieth anniversary of one of his most famous children’s picture books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, it was welcome news to hear that collectors are on the same page. Last week at Swann Galleries, a hand-painted collage on board of the ravenous caterpillar, signed and framed, sold for $20,000, more than doubling the low estimate of $8,000. In recent years, a first edition of Caterpillar has sold in the range of $11,000-16,000.


748280_view 02_02.jpg      

Carle’s Caterpillar, first published in 1969, is also the subject of a current exhibition at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. It’s on view through March 24, 2019.


Image courtesy of Swann Galleries

Before we get to the very busy calendar of sales coming up this week, I must note a couple of the results from last week’s auction at Christie’s, which saw Einstein’s “God Letter” set a new auction record for an Einstein letter at $2,892,500, and a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone capture the auction record for Harry Potter at $162,500.


Here’s what I’ve got my eyes on this week:


Ader holds a sale of Lettres et Manuscrits Autographes on Monday and Tuesday, December 10-11, in 716 lots over the two days. Expected to lead the first day’s sale are a Gaspare Spontini musical manuscript (€15,000-20,000) and a Paul Verlaine manuscript poem (€8,000-10,000). The second day’s offerings include a number of Karl Marx letters which rate the top estimates of the day.


Bonhams London sells Entertainment Memorabilia on Tuesday, in 161 lots. Some of the printed and manuscript material on offer includes an Eric Clapton autograph copy of the first verse of the lyrics for “Layla” (£35,000-45,000) and a carbon copy of Ian Fleming’s second draft proposal for the first James Bond movie (£30,000-40,000).


Also on Tuesday, Artcurial holds a Books & Manuscripts sale, in 293 lots. A copy of Roberts’ Holy Land rates the top estimate, at €20,000-25,000. An illuminated Book of Hours, produced around 1500 for the use of Bourges, could fetch €12,000-15,000.

bears.pngDominic Winter Auctioneers will sell Printed Books & Maps; Children’s & Illustrated Books; 20th Century Literature on Wednesday, December 12, in 539 lots. The 1835 edition of William Curtis’ Flora Londinensis rates the top estimate, at £5,000-7,000. On Thursday, December 13, Dominic Winter holds a Modern Literature & First Editions sale, in 464 lots. Rating the top estimate there are a pair of very early teddy bears (pictured above), with the original owner’s copy of the book The Roosevelt Bears, Their Travels and Adventures (£7,000-10,000).


At Christie’s London on Wednesday, Valuable Books and Manuscripts, in 279 lots. Quite an array of excellent lots here! Adam Smith’s own copy of his Wealth of Nations, later owned by the great Smith collector Homer Vanderblue, is expected to sell for £500,000-800,000. A presentation copy of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, inscribed to his cousin Nanette Philips, is estimated at £150,000-250,000. Also on the block will be two manuscript sledging journals from the 1910-1913 British Antarctic Expedition by Tryggve Gran (£120,000-180,000); the 1488 editio princeps of Homer (£100,000-150,000); a first edition Hypnerotomachia (£80,000-120,000); and an extremely rare copy of the Qing “Blue Map” of the world (£50,000-80,000).


Swann Galleries sells Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books on Thursday, December 13, in 385 lots. A 1593 Cornelis De Jode polar-projection world map is expected the lead the sale at $15,000-20,000. A copy of the third octavo edition of Audubon’s Birds and the royal octavo Quadrupeds could fetch $20,000-30,000, and a chart of the mid-Atlantic coast from Des Barres’ Atlantic Neptune (1780) is estimated at $18,000-22,000.


Also on Thursday, PBA Galleries holds a sale of Americana, Travel & Exploration, Hunting & Sporting, World History, and Cartography, in 573 lots, and Sotheby’s New York sells Fine Autograph Letters and Manuscripts from a Distinguished Private Collection: Part II | Music, Americana, English and Continental Literature, in 152 lots. A few of the many potential highlights from this sale include a collection of fourteen Giuseppe Verdi letters to impresario Alessandro Lanari ($100,000-150,000); a “lost” 1810 Beethoven letter to a friend asking for a boot-black recipe ($50,000-80,000); and a 1755 Benjamin Franklin letter to his friend James Wright about the Braddock expedition ($30,000-40,000).


Rounding out the week, Sotheby’s Paris will sell books from the library of Pierre Bergé on Friday, December 14.


Image courtesy of Dominic Winter Auctioneers

The British Library recently opened an exhibition with super meow-power: Cats on the Page, on view through March 17, presents an array of books, manuscripts, and artwork that features felines.

“Cats have inspired our imagination and creativity for many years--long before their days of dominance on the internet,” Alison Bailey, lead curator of the exhibition, commented in a press release. “By bringing cats we know and love together with new ones from unexpected sources, Cats on the Page showcases the light-hearted side of the British Library’s world-class collections through a selection of just some of the hundreds of paws prowling the pages of its books and manuscripts.”

Here are five of those cool cats:

theprettyplayfultortoiseshellcatlondon1817cthebritishlibraryboard1 copy.jpgThe Pretty Playful Tortoise Shell Cat, London, 1817 (c) The British Library Board

tabbypolkabypbucalossi1865cthebritishlibraryboard copy.jpgTabby Polka by P- Bucalossi, 1865 (c) The British Library Board

pussysbreakfasttimelondonernestnister1892cthebritishlibraryboard copy.jpgPussy’s Breakfast Time, London, Ernest Nister, 1892 (c) The British Library Board
jelliclecatsillustrationaxelschefflerpublishedinoldpossumsbookofpracticalcatsctseliotcfaberfaber copy.jpgJellicle Cats illustration (c) Axel Scheffler published in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (c) T. S. Eliot and Faber & Faber

kitty-in-boots-frederick-warne-and-co-2016-original-copyright-in-illustrations--quentin-blake-2016 copy.jpgKitty in Boots (c) Frederick Warne and co 2016, original copyright in illustrations (c) Quentin Blake, 2016

Floyd-Vinland.JPGMuch like the Voynich Manuscript, the purportedly fifteenth-century Vinland Map continues to be a subject of study and debate in the rare book world. Earlier this year, the map underwent multispectral imaging at Yale University (its owner) and was the focus of an exhibition called Science, Myth, and Mystery: The Vinland Map Saga at the Mystic Seaport Museum. Now, Scottish researcher John Paul Floyd has published a book, A Sorry Saga, that offers tantalizing new details about the role theft and forgery played in the map’s history. We asked him about it.  

Briefly describe the Vinland Map for our readers.


It’s a medieval-style map of the world, which depicts North America as an island named Vinland. When Yale University announced the map’s existence in a 1965 book, it created a sensation. Experts claimed that the map had been drawn around 1440: over fifty years before Columbus set sail. Latin inscriptions on the parchment linked the map to Norse explorations made around the year 1000 (voyages already known to scholars from ancient Icelandic records). The Yale book sparked a heated debate over who deserved the credit for “discovering” America, and the map’s authenticity was challenged. The verdict of scientific tests of the ink in 1974 seemed damning: Yale had to concede that the map might be a forgery. But in the 1980s other scientists, using different techniques, called the earlier results into question, and in 1996 a second edition of the Yale book hit the press. Other studies followed, reaffirming forgery, and the debate grew very confused.
Why did you find its story so appealing? And how long have you been researching it?


Back in 2011 I came across a 1971 book of conference proceedings which caught my attention and led me to investigate further. I read about how the map had emerged onto the antiquarian bookselling scene in 1957, in association with two genuine medieval manuscripts: the “Tartar Relation” of C. de Bridia (an unknown friar), and a fragment of the Speculum historiale of Vincent of Beauvais. Clearly these two manuscripts must have had some prior history, whether the Vinland Map was authentic or not: yet in 2011 their pre-1957 provenance was as much shrouded in mystery as the map itself. So I began a casual search for “C. de Bridia” online. Within a few hours I came across a Spanish exhibition catalogue from 1893, proving that both documents had formerly belonged to Zaragoza Cathedral Library (significantly, the catalogue description makes no mention of a map). That evening, so far as I could tell, I was the only person in the world who knew about this connection. It was an exciting moment!
Book and manuscript theft, particularly from the Zaragoza Cathedral Library in the 1950s, plays a larger role in all this than previously thought. Can you tell us a bit about that?


The reason the Zaragoza connection is so important is that the man who “found” the Vinland Map -- an Italian book dealer by the name of Enzo Ferrajoli -- was convicted of stealing books and manuscripts from Zaragoza Cathedral Library. The Vinland Map can’t be traced beyond Ferrajoli’s ownership (perhaps for good reason), but the manuscripts associated with the map came from that library. The Zaragoza affair is one of the great forgotten scandals of twentieth-century bookselling; hundreds of valuable stolen items were smuggled from Spain and found their way into institutional collections (not all of which, sad to say, acted with propriety at the time). The Vinland Map story cannot be properly understood without a proper understanding of this context.
Was untangling that part of the story the impetus for your book?


Yes, in part. There is no detailed narrative in English of the Zaragoza affair, so I’ve done my best to remedy the situation using archival documentation as well as published sources. I’m not in any sense a manuscript scholar, but I have been able to identify for the first time the Zaragozan provenance of a number of items in present-day collections. However, my main aim in writing was to vindicate one of the main persons suspected of forging the map (the cartographer Father Josef Fischer), and to present a new, compelling argument against its authenticity. I believe the creator of the Vinland Map made a fatal blunder, in copying details from an eighteenth-century engraving by Vincenzio Formaleoni (1752-1797). The mapmaker’s dependence upon Formaleoni is, to my mind, very obvious; interested readers can look at the images in my book, and decide for themselves. It is a simple, basic discovery; one which decisively settles the forgery issue without the need for scientific analysis -- yet it somehow escaped the experts for half a century!
Regarding the multispectral imaging and analysis by Yale earlier this year: what did that contribute to the saga of the Vinland Map?


I’m impressed by the thoroughness of the Yale scientific team’s investigation, and look forward to the final publication of their research. There was an interesting preliminary presentation at a recent symposium on the map, which can be found on YouTube. I shall have to revise the scientific chapter of my book to take account of the new studies, but there’s one finding in particular that I am very pleased about. In my book, I discussed a puzzling inscription on the back of the map at some length, and concluded that it was half-fake and half-genuine. When a slide appeared on the screen at the symposium substantiating my prediction, I pretty much leapt in the air.
Tell us about yourself: an independent historian? collector?


I am 49, from Glasgow, Scotland. I have a science degree (metallurgy), although I’ve never really used it. I’ve been known to buy and sell the occasional rare book, and I enjoy investigating historical mysteries, but I am a total amateur in the fields of cartography and manuscript studies. To steal the title of Betty MacDonald’s comic memoir, I like to think of my first book as evidence that “Anybody can do Anything.”

Image courtesy of John Paul Floyd

Here are the sales I’ll be watching this week:


On Tuesday, December 4, Sotheby’s London holds a sale of Music, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts, and Continental Books, in 323 lots. A copy of the 1535 Nuremberg edition of Witelo’s treatise on perspective, Id est de natura, in a contemporary roll-tooled binding, is expected to fetch £60,000-80,000. Two miniatures by the Master of the Houghton Miniatures, “King David in Penitence” and “The Coronation of the Virgin” are each estimated at £50,000-70,000, as are manuscripts by Brahms and Schubert. A manuscript book of hours, use of Sarum, produced in the southern Netherlands around the 1470s and later in the Rothschild library, is estimated at £40,000-60,000.


Also on Tuesday, Christie’s New York will sell Albert Einstein’s “God Letter,” estimated at $1-1.5 million, as well as Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts Including Americana, in 222 lots. A copy of the Stone Declaration of Independence facsimile on parchment rates the high estimate there, at $600,000-800,000. An original 1976 watercolor drawing by Maurice Sendak, “A Wild Thing Christmas,” could fetch $300,000-400,000. A Latin Nuremberg Chronicle with early hand-coloring and illumination is estimated at $250,000-300,000. Many, many more high spots to watch in this sale, too.


And one more on Tuesday: Western and Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures at Bloomsbury Auctions.


At Bonhams New York on Wednesday, December 5, Fine Books and Manuscripts including the World of Hilary Knight, in 303 lots. The original Park Plaza Hotel portrait of Eloise (pictured below) is estimated at $100,000-150,000, as is Glenn Gould’s annotated copy of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. A great deal here for any Hilary Knight collector. Later at Bonhams, History of Science and Technology, including Space History, in 658 lots. Highlights are expected to include a working Apple-1 computer ($250,000-350,000), an Albert Einstein manuscript ($150,000-200,000); and a collection of Kurt Gödel correspondence sent to Dr. Martin Davis ($40,000-60,000).


eloise.pngUniversity Archives sells Rare Autographs, Books, and Relics on Wednesday, in 283 lots. A flag believed to have been flying on JFK’s limousine at the time of the president’s assassination is estimated at $60,000-80,000, while a Junipero Serra manuscript about the San Gabriel mission in California could fetch $40,000-45,000.


On Thursday, December 6, Swann Galleries sells Illustration Art, in 284 lots. Norman Rockwell’s “The Pharmacist,” for the March 18, 1939 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, could sell for $70,000-100,000. Much of interest here for those with an interest in Ludwig Bemelmans, Maurice Sendak, and others.


Finally, on Friday, Books, Maps & Manuscripts are on tap at Stockholms Auktionsverk.


Image credit: Bonhams

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


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


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

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


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


Images courtesy of Sotheby’s

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


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


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


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


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


Image credit: Arcturial

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Bromer Gallery

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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



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


Image credit: Skinner, Inc.

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


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


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


Images credit: A. N. Devers

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

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

M37910-1_1 copy.jpgImages courtesy of Swann Galleries

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



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


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


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


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


Image credit: Dominic Winter Auctioneers

There seems no better time than the eve of Halloween to feature the artwork of Charles Addams, the American illustrator whose penchant for the macabre gave us The Addams Family, as well as many wonderfully dark New Yorker cartoons. Besides, one of his most interesting pieces is headed to auction in two weeks.

DDD.jpgOn November 13, Doyle will offer the original drawing for the dust jacket of Addams’ Dear Dead Days: A Family Album, published in 1959, that indeed features the famous family, each of whom appears to be contemplating their demise. The ink and gouache on board is signed and further inscribed “For Margie & Alex with affection - Chas Addams, New York 1959”--“Alex” being Alexander King, author and mid-century media personality, from whose estate this drawing derives.

The estimate is $20,000-30,000.

Image courtesy of Doyle

Another very busy week in the book-auction world:


PIASA in Paris will hold a two-day sale of modern books from the library of François Mitterand, with lots 1-334 sold on Monday and lots 335-683 on Tuesday. The sale includes a good number of signed and inscribed copies, as well as many volumes bound by Mitterand’s wife Danielle. Mitterand often noted on a small inserted slip of paper where and when he acquired each book, and the price he paid.


Also ending on Tuesday, October 30, Doyle New York’s online sale of Travel Literature and Sporting Books from the Library of Arnold ‘Jake’ Johnson, in 272 lots.


Sotheby’s online single-item sale of a poster for the 1932 film The Mummy, starring Boris Karloff, ends on Wednesday, October 31. The starting bid is $950,000.



Leslie Hindman Auctioneers sells The Adventure & Exploration Library of Steve Fossett, Part I on Wednesday, in 215 lots. A copy of the rare variant of Aurora Australis, signed by Shackleton, could sell for $60,000-80,000. An unrecorded issue on vellum of Humboldt and Bonpland’s Vues des Cordillères (1810) is estimated at $30,000-40,000. For the travel/exploration collector, certainly a sale to which attention should be paid. (More on that sale in our fall auction guide.)


Autographed Documents, Manuscripts, Photos, Books & Relics are the order of the day on Wednesday at University Archives, in 283 lots. A manuscript of Bob Dylan’s lyrics for “The Times They Are A-Changin’” is estimated at $50,000-60,000, while a rosary once owned by JFK could fetch $20,000-24,000.


On Thursday, PBA Galleries sells The Joel Harris Collection of Original Illustration Art and Illustrated Books (with additions), in 360 lots. Among the examples of original illustration art on offer are Kam Mak’s oil painting used for the cover of Katherine Kirkpatrick’s Keeping the Good Light ($3,000-5,000).


Addison & Sarova holds a sale of Rare Books & the Harrison Forman Archive on Saturday, November 3, in 367 lots. A first edition of Donne’s Pseudo-Martyr (1610) is estimated at $12,000-18,000. A 1590 copy of Spenser’s Faerie Queene which once belonged to scholar H. W. Garrod (whose research concluded that it had been inscribed by Spenser’s wife) could sell for $10,000-15,000. Lots 306-367 include material from the collection of reporter and photographer Harrison Forman (1904-1978), including photographs of Tibet and Mongolia, film reels, notebooks, &c.


Image credit: Sotheby’s

This past weekend the British Library opened a major, “once-in-a-generation” exhibition, the largest ever on the history, literature, and culture of Anglo-Saxon England, according to a press release from the BL. “From stunning illuminated manuscripts to the earliest surviving will of an English woman, Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War will highlight the key role manuscripts played in the transmission of ideas, religion, literature and artistic influences throughout England and across political and geographical boundaries, as well as the sophisticated skill and craftsmanship of the artwork produced at this time.”

The show defies the very idea of “high points,” but here’s a look at six stunning manuscripts you can see in London now through February 19, 2019.  

codex-amiatinus-biblioteca-medicea-laurenziana copy.jpgThe Codex Amiatinus is the earliest surviving complete Bible in Latin, made at the monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow in the northeast of England in the early 8th century and taken to Italy in 716 as a gift for the Pope. It will be returning to England for the first time in more than 1,300 years, on loan from the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence. Credit: Sam Lane Photography

beowulf-british-library-board copy.jpgThe British Library’s unique manuscript of “Beowulf.” It is one of four manuscripts of Old English poetry on exhibit, along with the Vercelli Book, the Exeter Book, and the Junius Manuscript. Credit: British Library Board

domesday-national-archives copy.jpgOn loan from The National Archives is the Domesday Book, the most famous book in English history and the earliest surviving public record. Credit: The National Archives

lindisfarne-gospels.jpgThe Lindisfarne Gospels, pictured here, is one of several outstanding illuminated and decorated manuscripts on display, alongside the St. Augustine Gospels, the Book of Durrow, and the Echternach Gospels. Credit: British Library Board

st-cuthbert-gospel.jpgThe oldest intact European book with its original binding is the St. Cuthbert Gospel, made at the monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow in the northeast of England in the early 8th century; it was acquired by the British Library in 2012. Credit: Sam Lane Photography

vespasian-psalter copy.jpgThe Vespasian Psalter includes the oldest translation of part of the Bible into English and depicts two musicians playing similar instruments. Credit: British Library Board

Quite a busy auction week coming up:


On Tuesday, October 23, Mexico City auction house Morton Subastas sells Libros y Documentos: Colección de un Bibliófilo, in 261 lots. Brasseur and Waldeck’s Monuments Anciens du Mexique Palenque et Autres Ruines de l’Ancienne Civilisation du Mexique (1866) rates the top estimate, at 500,000-800,000 pesos (roughly $26,000-41,000). A 1585 Mexico City imprint, Estatutos Generales de Barcelona, could fetch 300,000-400,000 pesos ($16,000-21,000).


Also on Tuesday, Lettres et Manuscrits Autographes at Ader in Paris, in 453 lots. A George Sand manuscript is estimated at €12,000-15,000.



There are some books and manuscripts among the 255 lots in the Arts of the Islamic World sale at Sotheby’s London on Wednesday, October 24. A thirteenth-century two-volume copy of Ibn Sinna (Avicenna)’s Canon of Medicine is estimated at £80,000-120,000, while a volume of surgeon Ibn al-Quff’s commentary on the Canon, also from the thirteenth century, could fetch £70,000-90,000. A manuscript of two astronomical works collected together and copied around 1295 is estimated at £50,000-70,000 (pictured above).


Bonhams Edinburgh hosts the Sporting Sale on Wednesday, in 391 lots. There are some books on angling and so forth at the start of the sale.


Swann Galleries sells Rare & Important Travel Posters on Thursday, October 25, in 232 lots. Emil Cardinaux’s St. Moritz (1918) could fetch $15,000-20,000, and sharing estimates of $12,000-18,000 are Burkhard Mangold’s Winter in Davos (1914) and Philip Zec’s striking By Night Train to Scotland (1932).


Forum Auctions has an online sale of Books and Works on Paper on Thursday, in 126 lots. Lots 1-70 come from the collection of the late Sol Rabb, and lots 115-126 are from the collection of James Stevens Cox, F.S.A.


Finally, and also on Thursday, Heritage Auctions sells Historical Manuscripts, in 301 lots. An Abraham Lincoln letter to George McClellan of October 29, 1862, just a week before McClellan’s sacking, has a $60,000 reserve. A large Civil War archive of Massachusetts cavalryman William B. Arnold has a $14,000 reserve.


Image credit: Sotheby’s

On Monday, October 15, there were some notable books and manuscripts at the Sotheby’s New York auction of Gallison Hall: The James F. Scott Collection. In fact, it was a copy of the rare first edition of Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia which garnered the top price of the sale at $300,000 (this copy was previously sold at Sotheby’s as part of the James S. Copley library in 2010 for $254,500). Also selling well were a copy of the 1814 edition of Lewis & Clark’s History of the Expedition ($75,000) and an 1826 Thomas Jefferson letter to Robert Mills about a plan for a monument to George Washington ($43,750).


swann.pngSwann Galleries sold Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books, including Phillippine Imprints, on Tuesday, October 16, in 276 lots. The top lot was a copy of a 1488 Strassburg edition of Mandeville’s history of the world, the seventh printed edition in German: it sold for $106,250 over estimates of just $8,000-12,000. A 1734 navigation manual printed in Manila fetched $55,000 (pictured). At $45,000 were a 1494 Zaragoza edition of Boccaccio’s De claris mulieribus in Spanish, as well as a 1668 Paris edition of Fontaine’s Fables.


Chiswick Auctions sold Travel, Natural History, Sporting & Sciences on Wednesday, October 17, in 289 lots.


On Thursday, October 18, PBA Galleries will sell Modern Literature & Poetry with Books in All Fields, in 558 lots. Among the expected top lots are the Black Sun Press edition of Hart Crane’s The Bridge ($30,000-50,000); a first issue of Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, with the dust jacket ($15,000-25,000); and a set of unbound sheets of Lovecraft’s The Shunned House ($7,000-10,000).


Potter & Potter sells Houdiniana on Saturday, October 20, in 438 lots. This sale includes the Houdini collection of John Bushey, as well as additional magic-related books, props, &c.


Image credit: Swann Galleries

At the end of October, the University of London will host a one-day symposium called Women and the Book, noting that this year, the University of London celebrates the 150th anniversary of women’s first access to university education in Britain with the intake of eight women at Queen Mary College.


Tiffany poster.jpgDespite the fact that men have been granted far more access to education than women over the centuries, and have consequently dominated the world of books, women have been writing for at least over 1,000 years, and have been book owners, readers, and publishers since at least the Middle Ages. Therefore the symposium aims to explore the interaction of women and books in Britain from the Middle Ages to the present, from the time that the book left the printing house: as collectors, owners, readers, and mediators, whether curatorial (librarians) or literary (adapting and translating for new audiences). It aims to enable connections across time and across types of engagement with the book, in discussions covering book, literary, and cultural history.


Guest speakers include Dr. Katie Halsey from University of Stirling, who will be speaking about women reading Jane Austen. Dr. David Pearson from University of London will discuss the women book owners of the seventeenth century. It’s worth sharing that Pearson keeps an open source list-in-progress of notable book owners in the seventeenth century, a superb resource for research in the history of the book and for building an understanding of who was buying and reading books in Britain. 


There are three talks on the early modern period, including a talk about early modern women’s texts by Marie-Louise Coolahan and Mark Empey, a talk on embroidered bookbindings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by Gilly Wraight, and one by Stephanie Fell titled “Women’s Hidden Work: Innovative and Creative Descriptive Practices for the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection at the Rubenstein Library, Duke University.” Fell will be discussing the work of catalogers at Duke to create access to topics of scholarly interest - like women and provenance or women printers.


There are three talks themed on the idea of “Women Striking Out” with Stephanie Meek on the censuring of the woman reader, Karin Winslow, who will speak aobut Bella da Costa Greene, and Alicia Carroll on women and the collection of herbal texts in the twentieth century. 


Sara Charles will speak about Medieval readership of a text from a thirteenth-century priory, and Sophie Defrance will speak about girls’ use of libraries at the beginning of the twentieth century.


There is also tea. Of course. The symposium will be held on October 26, from 9:30 am-6:45 pm, Court Room, First Floor, Senate House, University of London. And tickets can be booked online.

Sotheby’s Paris sells the seventh part of the R. & B. L. Library on Tuesday, October 9: First Editions, Reviews, Autograph Letters, and Manuscripts, in 313 lots. One of the very rare 1869 copies of Isidore Lucien Ducasse’s Les chants de Maldoror is estimated at €100,000-150,000, while six Mallarmé poems in manuscript could fetch €80,000-120,000. An 1891 letter from Rimbaud to his sister Isabelle is estimated at €80,000-100,000. A number of other Rimbaud and Mallarmé manuscripts also rate high estimates.


On Wednesday, October 10, Chiswick Auctions holds a sale of Autographs & Memorabilia, in 314 lots. Among the expected top lots are a December 1948 letter by Wallis Simpson (£5,000-7,000); a letter from Lord Nelson to Sir William Hamilton (£4,000-6,000); an original typed indictment from the Nuremberg Trials (£3,000-4,000); and a Charles Darwin letter to his cousin (£3,000-4,000).



At PBA Galleries on Thursday, October 11, PBA Galleries sells Rare Golf Books & Memorabilia, in 234 lots. The rare 1891 Duffers’ Golf Club Papers, in original wrappers, is estimated at $20,000-25,000. An 1873 volume of “golfing verse,” Blackheath Golfing Lays, could sell for $10,000-15,000. Also on offer is the only known copy of the program for the 1910 U.S. Amateur Championship ($7,000-10,000), and a wooden measuring device from the Manchester Golf Club (also $7,000-10,000; pictured above).


Image credit: PBA Galleries

Lyon & Turnbull sells Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps & Photographs on Tuesday, October 2, in 419 lots. A complete copy of Baschieri and Gazzadi’s Zoologia Morale (1843-1846; pictured below) is estimated at £5,000-7,000, while a 1565 Venice edition of Mattioli’s Commentarii could fetch £4,000-6,000. At the same estimate is a special copy of J.K. Rowling’s Tales of Beedle the Bard, inscribed by Rowling.



At Dominic Winter Auctioneers on Wednesday, October 3, Printed Books, Maps & Prints, in 536 lots. Saint-Non’s Voyage Pittoresque de Naples et de Sicile (1781-1786), nearly complete, could sell for £5,000-8,000. An album containing forty-three caricatures by Cruikshank, Gillray, Rowlandson and others is estimated at £3,000-5,000. Some other notable lots include a collection of about 150 “Baxter prints” (£600-900), and a copy of the marvelous 1900 satirical political caricature map “John Bull And His Friends” (£2,000-3,000).


There are a few books among the 309 lots in Creating a Stage: The Collection of Marsha and Robin Williams, to be sold at Sotheby’s New York on Thursday, October 4. See Rebecca’s post from last week for an overview.


Also on Thursday, PBA Galleries sells Americana - Travel & Exploration - World History - Cartography, in 517 lots. Note that lots 365-517 are being sold without reserve. A mixed set of the octavo edition of Audubon’s Birds of America rates the top estimate, at $30,000-50,000. A copy of the first octavo edition of McKenney & Hall’s History of the Indian Tribes of North America is estimated at $10,000-15,000. A couple other interesting lots include a manuscript volume of Gold Rush-era songs and an 1852 Gold Rush diary (both estimated at $3,000-5,000).


And Saturday sees a special, inaugural auction of Music & Dance: Rare Scores, Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters, Signed Photographs, Prints and Drawings hosted by antiquarian booksellers J & J Lubrano.


Image credit: Lyon & Turnbull

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images via Sotheby’s

Roald Dahl’s “Matilda” Turns 30



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

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

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


unnamed (1).png  

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



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

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


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


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


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


Image credit: Sotheby’s

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

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

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

Image via Forum Auctions

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


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


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


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


Lots 367-607 are being sold without reserve.


Image credit: PBA Galleries

The books-to-film genre amps up its bookishness with “The Bookshop,” a new drama directed by Isabel Coixet and starring Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, and Patricia Clarkson. Based on Penelope Fitzgerald’s slim but affecting 1978 novel, the film is a period piece set in a small, coastal English town in 1959. A young widow named Florence Green decides to open a bookshop there, much to the consternation (and later condemnation) of residents.

Florence Green .jpg“This quiet woman, in a quiet village, in very quiet post-war England, is a call to everyone to grow up and claim responsibility for making life better for us all. This is an allegory for the underdog before there was someone there to root for them or make them believe in themselves,” the director commented in a release.

Brundish.jpgGreen comes to understand that this town may not be ready for a cultural awakening. One of her only allies, it seems, is Mr. Brundish, a reclusive bibliophile.

Of special note is the attention to detail in bookshop scenery. A New York Post article from last week reveals how the director “found tons of vintage rare books” to use in the film. For example, she needed 250 copies of the first edition of Lolita. Fascinating!

Having just read and enjoyed Fitzgerald’s novel first the first time earlier this year, I’m on the lookout for showtimes near me (it is now playing in NYC & LA, and wider distribution begins on August 31). Until then, the trailer must suffice:

Images: (Top) Florence Green, played by Emily Mortimer; (Bottom) Mr. Brundish, played by Bill Nighy. Courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment.

Here’s what’s coming up this week on the auction front:


Forum Auctions holds an online sale on Tuesday, August 28, of the second part of A Bibliophile’s Bibliographic Library, in 376 lots; the books are available for viewing in Rome. Much will be of interest here to the Italian-reading bibliographer, bookseller, or book historian, and the starting prices are mostly in the two-three-figure range, so bargains may be quite possible.



On Thursday and Friday, August 30 and 31, Keys Fine Art Auctioneers holds a two-day sale of Books & Ephemera, in 1309 lots. Among the top-estimated lots are a 1532 edition of Durer’s Institutiones Geometricae, with the final leaves supplied in manuscript fascimile (£1,800-2,200); a copy of the second issue of Darwin’s Descent of Man (£1,500-2,000); Bowen’s Atlas Anglicanus with the prospectus laid in (£1,500-2,000); and the first issue of The Beano Book (£1,200-1,500; pictured).


Image credit: Keys Fine Art Auctioneers

Lovecraft’s legions of fans may be interested to hear that his family’s 1881 bible, which contains his birth record and his parents’ certificate of marriage, is currently on offer at Heritage Auctions. The now tatty leatherbound bible was gifted to his mother, “Miss S. Susie Phillips. From her Mother. March 22nd, 1889.” As is typical with family bibles of this era, decorative leaves offer places to record marriages, births, and deaths. In this one, someone, presumably his mother or father, penned: “Howard Phillips Lovecraft born Aug. 20th, 1890. Providence, R. I., 94 Angell Street.” A later inscription, in a different hand, notes the deaths of both Sarah and H.P.

Bible 2 copy.jpgLovecraft’s fame as a writer of short stories in the horror and fantasy genres was, sadly, posthumous. (He died in 1937.) Today, he is beloved by fans, including Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King, and collectors--in 2016, a typewritten manuscript of a story he is believed to have ghostwritten for Harry Houdini sold for $33,600.

Bible 1 copy.jpgThe bidding for the bible opened at $500, and will continue online until the live auction of rare books on September 13 in Dallas.

Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Chiswick Auctions holds their Summer Books sale on Tuesday, August 22, in 192 lots. Some interesting lots of bibliographical texts in this one (lots 20-38), as well as a first edition of Watership Down inscribed by Richard Adams to his friend Randall Thornton (£800-1,200) and a ready-made collection of forty-one Tauchnitz editions of Wodehouse novels (£300-400).


Also on Tuesday, University Archives sells Autographed Documents, Manuscripts, Books & Relics, in 298 lots. A July 1863 Abraham Lincoln letter to Freedmen’s Inquiry Commissioner Robert Dale Owen is estimated at $50,000-60,000, while a fragment from the shirt Lincoln was wearing when he was assassinated could sell for $25,000-30,000. A life-size wax mold of Albert Einstein’s head, signed by Einstein, is estimated at $15,000-20,000.


PBA Galleries sells Americana & the Mexican-American War - Travel & Exploration - Cartography on Wednesday, August 23, in 739 lots (with lots 563-739 being sold without reserve). The 1866-1868 diary of a mining engineer in Montana rates the top estimate, at $6,000-9,000. A very large world map printed on cloth, used to advertise revival meetings around the turn of the twentieth century, is estimated at $3,000-5,000. At the same estimate, and being sold separately, are two photographic order books from the San Francisco firm R. J. Waters & Co., offering photographic prints of sailing ships and of the city of San Francisco.


thurston.png Last but certainly not least, Potter & Potter holds their Summer Magic Auction on Friday, August 25, in 467 lots. Among the expected highlights are a three-sheet color lithographic poster from 1916 for Thurston the Great Magician ($15,000-25,000; pictured). A metal kettle designed to allow the magician to pour any of four drinks could sell for $10,000-15,000, and at the same estimate is Isaac de Caus’ 1659 treatise New and Rare Inventions of Water-Works. Many books, tricks, scrapbooks, &c.


Image credit: Potter & Potter

Love language and wordplay, puns and palindromes (you know, those words and phrases that read the same backwards and forwards)? Well, you’re not alone. Following a popular 2015 short film called A Man, A Plan, A Palindrome, documentary filmmakers Vince Clemente and Adam Cornelius decided to continue following--and filming--the world’s greatest palindrome writers. Today they launched an Indiegogo campaign to finance the final phases of post-production of a feature-length documentary titled The Palindromists.

Starring New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz, children’s author/illustrator Jon Agee, entertainer Weird Al Yankovic, and actress and author Danica McKellar, The Palindromists delves into “the history of palindromes while following the world’s greatest palindromists as they prepare for the 2017 World Palindrome Championship.” You can preview the trailer here:

Say the filmmakers, “With the necessary funds, this film will find its rightful place on the shelf next to the other great ‘geek’ documentaries of the past 20 years.”

Doyle will hold an online-only sale of Hunting Books from the Collection of Arnold “Jake” Johnson on Tuesday, August 14, in 215 lots. John Cyril Francis’ Three Months’ Leave in Somali Land (1895), a privately-printed edition issued after the author’s death, is estimated at $1,000-1,500, as is another privately-printed account of a hunt in Alaska in 1930 by Harold Keith. As of Sunday afternoon, a book estimated at just $80-120 was leading the sale: Henry Job’s The Shadow of the Jaguar (1983), noted in the lot description as being a possibly unique copy, had been bid up to $3,200.


On Wednesday, August 15, Dominic Winter Auctioneers will sell Printed Books, Maps & Documents, in 335 lots. Very much a mixed bag here, with most lots estimated in the double or low-triple digits. Lots 148-165 comprise bookbinding tools and equipment, and lots 254-335 are “quantity” lots, where it looks like some good bargains might be lurking.



Addison & Sarova sells Rare Books & Ephemera on Saturday, August 18, in 422 lots. Some hefty shelf lots are expected to lead the way, including a 247-volume lot of theological works from the sixteenth-eighteenth centuries ($3,500-5,000). Among the single-lot items are a copy of the 1524 Aldine Odyssey ($1,200-1,800; pictured above).


Photo credit: Addison & Sarova

Best known for his novels like Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut also created visual art, mainly in the form of drawings and prints, as early as 1969. He made sculptures too, though they are “rare” on the market, according to Case Antiques, who sold this c. 1980 aluminum piece, titled “Wasp Waist,” at auction in Tennessee last month for $5,040. Signed and numbered 6/9, the aluminum silhouette is clearly reminiscent of his famous felt-tipped drawings.

WaspWaist 2.jpgAs Peter Reed wrote of ‘Vonnegut as artist’ in 1999: “His fiction struggles to cope with a world of tragi-comic disparities, a universe that defies causality, whose absurdity lends the fantastic equal plausibility with the mundane. Much the same outlook pervades the graphic artworks that have increasingly occupied Vonnegut in recent years.”

Image courtesy of Case Antiques

On Thursday, August 9, PBA Galleries holds a 613-lot sale comprising Fine & Rare Books (lots 1-184); Books in Early Jackets - The Bret Sharp Collection (lots 185-385); Art & Illustration, Children’s Books (lots 386-457); Asian & Asian-American Art & Illustration (lots 458-534); the final section (lots 535-613) are being sold without reserve.


Osvald Sirén’s four-volume work Chinese Sculpture from the Fifth to the Fourteenth Century (1925) is estimated at $10,000-15,000. An interesting copy of Leaves of Grass, believed to be an undated printing issued in 1896 with an unrecorded publisher’s dust jacket, could fetch $7,000-10,000. At the same estimate is an 1819 topographical and statistical account of Nuremberg, Neues Taschenbuch Von Nürnberg in original dust-jackets and cardboard slipcases.


A very rare copy of the “joint-stock novel” An Object of Pity, created by Robert Louis Stevenson, his family members, and visitors in Samoa in 1892 and privately printed at Sydney (but with a false Amsterdam imprint), is estimated at $5,000-8,000. This copy is from the Stevenson family library, and contains a list of the authors and notations by Stevenson’s stepson and collaborator Lloyd Osbourne. The bookplate is signed by Stevenson’s stepdaughter, Isobel Osbourne Strong. Also included is the response, Objects of Pity, written by Mr. Haggard, the British Land Commissioner and the “hero” of the original work.

birds.pngAn early printing of F. O. Morris’s A Natural History of the Nests and Eggs of British Birds, published in 1864 and featuring early plates by Arthur Rackham, very scarce in the printed jackets, could sell for $4,000-6,000 (pictured).


Also among the lots are a collection of printed invoices and receipts to bookbinder William J. Roy of Lancaster, Pennsylvania from around 1897-1908 ($300-500); a first edition of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring ($300-500).


Image credit: PBA Galleries

Late last week the UK’s Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, Michael Ellis, announced a temporary export ban on a study table once owned by Charles Dickens. The round mahogany table with a revolving drum top covered in green leather was made around 1835 and was used by the famous author for most of his career, according to the Minister’s office, “first in his London home at Devonshire Terrace; then his offices on Wellington Street where he published Household Words and All the Year Round; and finally in his library at Gad’s Hill Place in Higham, Kent.” It remained in the possession of Sir Henry Fielding Dickens’ descendants until its recent sale at Christie’s London for £65,000 ($87,000). Presumably the winning bidder wished to ‘take it home,’ as it were, prompting Ellis to issue the export ban.

Dickens Table.jpgEllis commented in a press release, “As one of Britain’s most famous novelists, it is only right for there to be great expectations on us to protect Dickens’ study table for the benefit of the nation.”

A decision regarding the buyer’s export license has been deferred until October 26, giving UK institutions a chance to raise £67,600, the amount needed to keep the table in the country. Readers may recall a similar snafu with some Jane Austen jewelry years ago, which was resolved when an anonymous benefactor stepped forward with £100,000, thus keeping Austen’s turquoise and gold ring out of the hands of American singer Kelly Clarkson. (It is now in the collection of the Jane Austen House Museum.)

The pending sale of Dickens’ table also calls to mind several writers’ desks that have gone to auction in recent years--one of which was owned by Dickens and was “saved for the nation” with a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. 

Image: Courtesy of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport

Not a particularly busy auction week, but much to look at if posters or comics are of interest!


On August 1, Swann Galleries sells Vintage Posters, in 608 lots. A group of four Art Nouveau decorative panels by Alphonse Mucha, representing the times of the day, rates the top estimate at $40,000-60,000. Leoneto Cappiello’s 1911 Carnaval poster (pictured) could fetch $20,000-30,000, while a 30 x 20-inch copy of the (now) iconic “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster from 1939 is estimated at $12,000-18,000.


carnaval.png Heritage Auctions holds a Comics, Comic Art & Animation Art Signature Sale in Dallas, August 2-4, with a whopping 4,675 items offered. Expected highlights include an original 1972 Frank Frazetta painting which was used for a 1974 reissue of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Escape on Venus (with a reserve of $500,000); a copy of The Incredible Hulk #1 (Marvel, 1962); and original cover art for Amazing Spider Man #55 (Marvel, 1967).


Image credit: Swann Galleries

At Bunch Auctions on Monday, July 23, Books & Works on Paper, in 269 lots. Top-estimated lots include an engraving of Marcantonio Raimondo’s “Massacre of the Innocents” from around 1515 ($5,000-7,000); some signed William Gibson volumes ($1,200-1,500); and a 1490 Augsberg edition of the sermons of Robertus Caracciolus ($800-1,000). A wide-ranging sale, with estimates mostly in the three-figure range.


On Tuesday, July 24, Doyle New York sells Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold “Jake” Johnson, in 344 lots (this is a timed, online-only sale). Highlights could include Richard (or Charles) Bowlker’s The Art of Angling Improved in All Its Parts ($700-1,000) and Eric Taverner’s Salmon Fishing (1931), estimated at $1,200-1,800. Lots 111-113 comprise three photograph albums of fishing trips taken by Zane Grey in the 1920s (each is estimated at $700-1,000).

Call Wild.jpg PBA Galleries sells Modern Literature on Thursday, July 26, in 563 lots. Seven lots share estimates of $3,000-5,000, including a first book printing of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a first edition of The Call of the Wild in a very well-preserved dust-jacket, a full set of the 63-volume James Joyce Archive, and an inscribed first edition of Catch-22. Lots 440-563 are being sold without reserve.


Finally, on Saturday, July 28, Potter and Potter Auctions holds a Fine Books & Manuscripts sale, in 619 lots. A copy of the Peter Force facsimile engraving of the Declaration of Independence is estimated at $15,000-20,000, while a 1917 “Destroy This Mad Brute” World War I enlistment poster could fetch $12,000-18,000. Other lots include a collection of Hugh Hefner’s correspondence with a high school friend ($10,000-20,000); Emil Orlik’s Aus Japan ($10,000-15,000); and a 1958 Fidel Castro letter to arms smuggler Pedro Luis ($8,000-12,000).


Image courtesy of PBA Galleries

Ada_Lovelace_portrait.jpgA rare copy of Ada Lovelace’s groundbreaking first computer program turned up at a regional auction house, Moore Allen & Innocent, in Glouchestershire, England, today and sold for £95,000 ($125,000) after an intial estimate of £5,000-6,000 was increased to £40,000-60,000.


Bound in burgundy leather with tooled and gilded “Lovelace” on cover, this copy of Sketch of The Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babage Esq. by L F Menabrea of Turin Officer of The Military Engineers, with notes by the translator, who is identified in a handwritten note as Lady Lovelace, also contains extensive reading notes on Lovelace on the flyleaf, and a typed memo attributing the notes to physician William King, a friend and advisor of hers, who published a paper called The Cooperator. (Lovelace also married a different man named William King, strangely enough.)


Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron and Annabella Milbanke, was born on Dec. 10, 1815, in London, England, and was taught math by her mother. Her mother also surrounded her with the best education and tutors and introduced her to scientist Mary Somerville. It was that introduction that led Lovelace to know the work of Charles Babbage at 17, soon after she made her society debut. He showed her a large brass calculator and she became obsessed with it. 


Not long after she translated Menabrea’s academic paper on Babbage’s analytical engine, she added a section that extended the length of the paper by three times. This section is simply titled, “Notes.” In “Section G” she published her algorithm, a method for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers with the engine, which would have worked had it been built. Additionally she mused about the role of computers in society, described how they would be faster than humans at computations, and dismissed the concept of artificial intelligence, explaining, “the Analytical Engine has no pretensions whatever to originate anything. It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform. It can follow analysis; but it has no power of anticipating any analytical relations or truths.” 


Lovelace died of uterine cancer at age 36. There is disagreement about the importance of her contribution to science and math, and whether or not her contribution can indeed be considered the first computer program or simply an enhancement to Babbage’s work. Recently, she was finally given an obituary by the New York Times in its record-redressing “Overlooked” women of history special section, along with Sylvia Plath and other female luminaries.


Image via Wikimedia

Coming up next month at Swann Galleries is a selection of vintage posters -- political, circus, travel -- but the one that caught my eye is “Librairie Romantique,” pictured below.

Librairie Romantique.jpgDesigned by Eugene Grasset in 1887, the poster advertises a series of books on the history of romanticism. The blank space in the lower left would have held the table of contents for that particular volume. As Swann’s cataloguer notes, “The image itself is an homage to Gothic romance, featuring a young woman, clad in 1830s attire, sitting on a pile of old books, a skull at her feet, absorbed in her reading. In the background, the gothic façade of Notre Dame (perhaps a tribute to Victor Hugo) glows in the twilight.”

The poster’s estimate is $700-1,000.

Image courtesy of Swann Galleries

A calmer auction calendar this week, which will give us a chance to look back at some of the remarkable results from last week’s sales.


On Wednesday, July 18, Bonhams London sells Entertainment Memorabilia, in 299 lots. One of just two known copies of a Czech poster for the 1933 movie King Kong rates the top estimate, at £50,000-70,000. Other printed and manuscript items expected to do well are a poster for a November 2, 1964 Beatles concert at King’s Hall in Belfast (£25,000-28,000, pictured); and a birthday card to Pattie Boyd hand-drawn by John Lennon (£8,000-12,000). Lots 172-232 comprise the Mark Jay Collection of Punk Memorabilia, and lots 259-299 focus on the Beatles.



Skinner, Inc. sells Early English Books: A Single Owner Sale on Friday, July 20, in 198 lots. The Roderick Terry copy of the Shakespeare Fourth Folio (1685), in a Riviere binding, is estimated at $65,000-80,000. A 1556 English edition of More’s Utopia could fetch $40,000-60,000, while the first appearance of Galileo’s works in English is estimated at $35,000-50,000. An incomplete copy of the 1495 Wynken de Worde edition of Higden’s Polychronicon, the first at auction since 1976 according to the catalogue, could sell for $40,000-50,000. Anyone with an interest in early English printing will want to give this sale a close look.


Last week’s Sotheby’s sale realized £4,167,764, with the Darwin manuscript leaves and several E. H. Shepard drawings selling particularly well (the Origin leaf made £490,000, and the map of the Hundred Acre Wood sold for £430,000, a new auction record for a book illustration). Darwin and Shepard combined for the top nine lots of the sale, totaling more than £2 million. The copy of Spenser’s Faerie Queen with Charles I provenance sold for £106,250. Several lots sold by the descendants of Sir Charles Lyell also brought high prices: an album of scientific letters reached £93,750 over estimates of just £5,000-7,000, while a presentation copy of Lyell’s Principles of Geology to his father-in-law sold for £50,000 (est. £3,000-5,000). Lyell’s own well-worn copy of the first volume of Principles fetched £40,000 over estimates of just £700-1,000.


The Christie’s sale on Wednesday made a total of £6,200,375, with the Plantin Polyglot Bible leading the way at £488,750. The Fall of Princes manuscript sold for £392,750, and a 1482 Venice edition of Euclid fetched £284,750.


Image credit: Bonhams

Sometimes a book is as much about its provenance as the item itself. For example, this eighteenth-century encyclopedia of China, finely illustrated by the Osaka artist Tachibana Morikuni owes much of its interest to the fact that it came from the collection of James E. Fagan.

Fagan1.jpgFagan (1926-2011) was an American collector with a special interest in the introduction of Western culture and technology to Japan’s closed Edo-era society (1603-1868), also known as the Tokugawa period. He studied Japanese language and history at Stanford University, and served as a US Naval officer in the Pacific theatre. He then lived and worked in Japan as an attorney in the 1950s and 1960s.

During this time, Fagan assembled and researched his collection of rare Edo-era
woodblock and manuscript maps, prints and books not available outside Japan. Highlights include Nagasaki-e (showing the Japanese fascination with the Dutch East
Indies (VOC) outpost at Deshima island), early Rangaku examinations of Western
science and languages, the evolution of Japanese cartographic knowledge, and the
study of English and Russian military might and technology. Imaginative illustrations
and maps, from Japanese castaways reporting back to the Japanese Court, also provide a glimpse of how the Western world appeared to the first Japanese to circumnavigate the globe. The collection demonstrates Japan’s keen curiosity about the Western world during its long isolationist period, and the artful way the Japanese perspective captures the impact of European contact.

Morokoshi kinmo zui, illustrated by Tachibana Morikuni and published in Japan in 1719, is a good example of Fagan’s interests. It is an extensive encyclopedia on China, profusely illustrated with depictions of Chinese customs, astronomy, maps, landscapes, architecture, mythology, martial arts, weaponry, farming practices, flora & fauna. In fact, all that you would expect from an encyclopedia. In 15 volumes, it is printed from woodblocks, and comes with the original blue paper covers and title slips (under later yellow covers).

Fagan2.jpgTachibana Morikuni, from Osaka, was a leading eighteenth-century painter, illustrator, and writer, and he was a master of both Kano and Tosa styles. A student of
Tsuruzawa Tanzan, Morikuni lived and worked in Osaka. His major illustrated books
include Ehon Koji-dan (1714), Morokoshi Kimmo-zui (the work listed here)
(1719), Ehon shaho-bukuro (1720), Gaten tsuko (1727), Honcho gaen (1729), Utai
gashi (1732), Ehon oshukubai (1740) and Unpitsu soga (1749).

This work has recently been consigned to the Catawiki “Old & Rare” auction, and will be available for bids through approx. 8 p.m. (Central European Time) on Friday, July 13.

Images courtesy of Catawiki

Another round of major sales this week:


At Sotheby’s London on Monday and Tuesday, July 9-10, English Literature, History, Science, Children’s Books and Illustrations, in 322 lots. Highlights include an autograph leaf from Darwin’s Origin (£120,000-180,000) and a number of other Darwin manuscripts, several E. H. Shepard ink drawings, including the original map of the Hundred Acre Wood (£100,000-150,000), a copy of the 1916 proclamation of independence of the Irish Republic (£60,000-80,000), and Charles I’s copy of the Faerie Queen (£30,000-50,000).


Also on Tuesday at Sotheby’s London, Part VIII of The Library of an English Bibliophile, in 247 lots. Lewis Carroll’s annotated copy of the suppressed “sixtieth thousand” printing of Through the Looking Glass is estimated at £30,000-50,000. Two presentation copies of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, one to Darryl Zanuck (producer of the film adaptation) and one to Steinbeck’s sister, are each estimated at £20,000-30,000. A number of other important association and presentation copies are on offer in this sale.


Tuesday will also see the sale of Western and Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures at Dreweatts in London. One reader already pointed our attention to the interesting lot 62 depicting a doctor and two amputees, illuminated manuscript on parchment, c. 1410. The estimate is £5,000-7,000.


On Tuesday and Wednesday at Forum Auctions, The Rothamsted Collection: Rarities from the Lawes Agricultural Library. The first 259 lots, to be sold on Tuesday, include a copy of the first printed book on agriculture, Petrus de Crescentiis’ Ruralia commoda (1471), estimated at £60,000-80,000. Leonard Digges’ A Prognostication everlastinge of righte good effecte (1576), containing the first translation into English of Copernicus’ work, could sell for £15,000-20,000. Lots to be sold on Wednesday include a great deal of material in the three-to-four-figure range, so if you’ve any interest in agricultural books, this catalogue will be worth a browse.


Polyglot copy.jpg 

Christie’s London sells Valuable Books and Manuscripts on Wednesday, July 11, in 393 lots. A copy of the Plantin Polyglot Bible, one of thirteen printed on vellum for King Philip II of Spain, rates the top estimate, at £400,000-600,000 (pictured). Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s Les Liliacées (1802-1816), the first of his major botanical works, could sell for £350,000-500,000. A mid-15th-century Middle English manuscript of John Lydgate’s The Fall of Princes once owned by Mary Sidney is estimated at £250,000-350,000. I could go on at great length about any number of the lots in this sale, but on we go ...


Returning to Forum Auctions for Thursday, July 12, they offer Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper, in 225 lots. A few of the expected highlights include a presentation copy of Charles Babbage’s The Influence of Signs in Mathematical Reasoning (1826), inscribed by Babbage to Thomas Stevenson Davies, secretary of the Royal Astronomical Society (£10,000-15,000); a blue-paper copy of the first Italian translation of Euclid’s Elements (Urbino, 1575), also estimated at £10,000-15,000; and a 1636 copy of Gerard’s Herball, with contemporary hand-coloring (£6,000-8,000).


Also on Thursday, PBA Galleries sells Fine Americana - Travel & Exploration - World History - Cartography, in 703 lots. A 1779 edition of Great-Britain’s Coasting Pilot is estimated at $5,000-8,000, as is a copy of a 1792 two-volume work featuring the first French edition of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. A long letter describing the 1871 Chicago Fire could sell for $4,000-6,000. Lots 610-703 are being sold without reserve.


Finally, there will be two sales at Chiswick Auctions on Thursday: Autographs & Memorabilia, in 235 lots, and The Library of Giancarlo Beltrame Part III and other Fine Antiquarian Books, in 362 lots. The first sale includes a Horatio Nelson letter to William Hamilton, the English ambassador to Naples (£4,000-6,000), and a Joseph Banks letter concerning the importation of botanical specimens (£2,000-3,000). Highlights from the second sale are expected to include a copy of the 1859 first edition of Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of the Rubáiyát (£15,000-20,000), a set of David Copperfield in the original parts (£5,000-8,000), and the Roderick Terry copy of Thomas Gray’s Elegy Wrote in a Country Church Yard, bound by Riviere (£5,000-8,000).


Image credit: Christie’s

Enid Marx working on flower and shell designs c1946.jpg

Enid Marx working on flower and shell designs c. 1946. Courtesy of the House of Illustration.


I first came across Enid Marx’s work because of a fondness for the King Penguin titles, a series of pocket-sized books that was published by Penguin between 1939 and 1959 on a variety of subjects. Many of the titles have decorated jackets and endpapers, and one of the first that caught my eye was Marx’s cover for Some British Moths. Her designs for the King Penguins are on display amongst the designs for prints, books, London Transport posters, and fabrics in a career-spanning exhibition of her work, Enid Marx: Print, Pattern and Popular Art, at London’s House of Illustration


Cover for Some British Moths, King Penguin © Estate of Enid Marx.jpg

Cover for Some British Moths, King Penguin © Estate of Enid Marx  


It turns out that Some British Moths was the first of five covers Marx designed for the series, after complaining to the series editor about the quality of the covers that preceded hers. Since moving to London, it’s more obvious to me what an impact Marx and her group of friends from The Royal College of Art (where she was not allowed to graduate for being too “modern”) including Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden, and Barbara Hepworth had on British design. Her birds and flowers and striking geometric designs are still commonly referenced on pillows and home designs in big box stores, and her printed paper can be bought by the sheet for gift wrap. I can recognize a print inspired by Enid Marx now from a mile away.


Marx used traditional hand-carved woodblock techniques to print on paper and fabric, and volunteered to design textiles for the wartime Utility Furniture Scheme, creating joyful, affordable printed fabric for the home to those returning from war. And she was first ever female engraver to be awarded the title of Royal Designer for Industry.


Pattern - 'Municipal' patter paper for the Little Gallery, from wood engraving, c1930 © Estate of Enid Marx.jpg

‘Municipal’ pattern paper for the Little Gallery, from wood engraving, c. 1930 © Estate of Enid Marx.


But she still remains a rather obscure name, overshadowed in her afterlife by her contemporaries. The House of Illustrations retrospective presents a strong argument for her place in history, highlighting her impressive and meticulous contributions to design and presenting her design aesthetic as responsible for setting the tone for mid-20th-century design. 


Enid Marx: Print, Pattern and Popular Art is on view at The House of Illustration until September 23.

Rare books and jewelry are a perfect pair, and a new, collaborative exhibition launched by UK rare book dealer Peter Harrington and jewelry designer Theo Fennell puts them together splendidly. The exhibition features rare first editions from Harrington’s stock, such as Goldfinger, The Secret Garden, The Arabian Nights, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and The Complete Pooh Series, alongside stunning, handcrafted rings and brooches. Here are a few examples:

Oz.pngA first edition of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by Frank L. Baum (£775) shown with the Emerald City Ring by Theo Fennell.

Fleming skulls.pngThis first edition of Goldfinger by Ian Fleming (1959) is the seventh book in the James Bond series (£2,000) and is shown with four 18ct yellow gold skull rings by Theo Fennell.
Milne.pngFirst editions of The Complete Pooh Series by A.A. Milne of all four Pooh books (1924-8) are shown with some pieces from the Bee Collection by Theo Fennell. Only 5,175 copies of the first book When We Were Very Young were published so the Series is rare (£3,750).

Fennell commented in a press release: “I have really enjoyed this collaboration with Peter Harrington as it has allowed me to indulge in one of my greatest passions and a source of endless inspiration, books. Harrington’s always have such an eclectic selection that it is one of my dream places to gather ideas. I believe that, as well as being original and beautifully made, jewellery should be thoughtful, sentimental and provocative.”

The exhibition is on until July 12 at Theo Fennell gallery, 169 Fulham Road, London.

Images courtesy of Theo Fennell

There may be just one major auction on the calendar for this week, but it’s quite a sale. Sotheby’s London offers Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts and Continental and Russian Books on Tuesday, July 3, in 188 lots.


The Breviary of Marie, Duchess of Bar (1344-1404), written and illuminated around 1360, rates the top estimate in the sale, at £500,000-700,000. Marie was the daughter of Bonne of Luxembourg and King John II of France and the sister of King Charles V of France and John, Duke of Berry (known for the Très Riches Heures). The breviary includes several full-page miniatures depicting Marie in prayer, and the Sotheby’s catalogue suggests that it was likely commissioned by her father in the years prior to her marriage. The manuscript previously sold at Sotheby’s in 1932 for £450.


A manuscript containing the first forty-four homilies of St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel of Matthew, identified through paleographical analysis as being written in Constantinople in the late ninth century, could sell for £200,000-300,000, while a mid-thirteenth-century Paris Bible illuminated in the style of the Leber Group rates an estimate of £80,000-120,000. A ten-volume, uncut set of the work known in English as Complete Heraldry of the Noble Families of the Russian Empire, from the Year 1797, published at St. Petersburg from 1798 through 1840, is estimated at £50,000-70,000.


blockbook.pngMost the lots in this sale are worth noting, but just a few other examples will have to suffice: the 1491 Vicenza second edition of Euclid’s Elementa Geometriae could fetch £40,000-60,000, while a single leaf from a fifteenth-century block book printed in the Netherlands (pictured) is estimated at £15,000-20,000. A copy of the first translation of Seneca into Castilian (Seville, 1491), in a contemporary binding of blind-stamped half calf over wooden boards, is also rated at £15,000-20,000.


Image credit: Sotheby’s

Would Honest Abe approve? At Julien’s Auctions in Las Vegas on June 23, a selection of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia was sold to benefit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, which has been in a tight spot since its 2007 purchase of the Barry and Louise Taper Collection of presidential relics. According to Smithsonian, to avoid selling the Lincoln artifacts, the foundation that runs the library approved the sale of some Monroe prints and objects also acquired in that 2007 purchase, including a terra cotta bust of poet Carl Sandburg once owned by Monroe (estimated at $20,000-30,000, but didn’t sell) and one of her little black dresses (estimated at $40,000-60,000, and sold for $50,000).

Screen Shot 2018-06-28 at 2.13.05 PM.pngDuring the same sale, Julien’s offered three Monroe-owned books, including E.M. Halliday’s The Ignorant Armies (1960) and A View of the Nation, An Anthology, 1955-1959 (1960), each of which realized $576. But a third book, Monroe’s prayer book for Jewish worship (pictured above), with the cover stamped “Marilyn Monroe Miller,” made $16,000.  

That last lot reminded me of a book offered at Doyle in 2017: her “somewhat worn” personal copy of The Form of Daily Prayers, According to the custom of the German and Polish Jews (1922). That one, however, estimated at $4,000-6,000, failed to sell.

Image courtesy of Julien’s

A new exhibition at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper, features the exquisite life-size trompe l’œil paper fashions of Belgian designer Isabelle de Borchgrave. The exhibition actually encompasses four distinct collections of hers: Papiers à la Mode (Paper in Fashion) looks at three hundred years of fashion history from Elizabeth I to Coco Chanel; The World of Mariano Fortuny focuses on twentieth-century Venice; Splendor of the Medici accents ceremonial dress in the streets of Florence; and Les Ballets Russes pays tribute to Sergei Diaghilev and his ballet company. Pictured below are a few highlights. 

SL-3-2018-1-41_Cosimo-I-de-Medici_7905 copy.jpgPhoto: Andreas von Einsiedel; Isabelle de Borchgrave, Cosimo I de’ Medici, 2007, based on a portrait by Ludovico Cardi in the collection of the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence.

SL-3-2018-1-45_Lorenzo-il-Magnifico_7895 copy.jpgPhoto: Andreas von Einsiedel; Isabelle de Borchgrave, Lorenzo il Magnifico, 2007, based on the painting Journey of the Magi by Benozzo Gozzoli in the Medici Chapel in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence.

SL-3-2018-1-52_Flora_7900 copy.jpgPhoto: Andreas von Einsiedel; Isabelle de Borchgrave, Flora, 2006, based on the ca. 1481-82 painting La Primavera by Sandro Botticelli in the collection of the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Photo: Andreas von Einsiedel

You can also watch the artist at work here:

After quite a flurry of auctions last week, a quieter period this time round.


On Wednesday, June 27, Dorotheum in Vienna holds a sale of Books and Decorative Prints, in 497 lots. One major lot to keep an eye on in this one: a 1592 Plantin edition of Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, with a starting price of €50,000.


Also on Wednesday, Libros Antiguos y Contemporáneos de la Colección de un Bibliófilo at Morton Subastas, in 260 lots. Rating the top estimate, $130,000-150,000, is Don Antonio Del Rio’s Description of the Ruins of an Ancient City Discovered Near Palenque (1822). Athanasis Kircher’s Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae (Rome, 1646) is estimated at $125,000-140,000. García de Orta’s Aromatum, et Simplicium Aliquot Medicamentorum apud Indos Nascentium Historia (Antwerp, 1574) could fetch $60,000-80,000, while a Limited Editions Club copy of Octavio Paz’s Sight and Touch is estimated at $50,000-60,000.

256092_0.jpgPBA Galleries sells Art & Illustration, with Asian & Asian-American Material on Thursday, June 28, in 364 lots. Sharing the highest estimate at $15,000-25,000 are Osvald Sirén’s four-volume treatise Chinese Sculpture from the Fifth to the Fourteenth Century (1925) and a sixteen-volume set of Toyo Bijutsu Taikwan (“The Collection of the Eastern Arts”), published in Tokyo in 1919 (pictured). Lots 263-321 comprise the Richard Harris Smith Collection of Asian-American Literature and Illustration, while lots 322-364 are being sold without reserve.


Image credit: PBA Galleries

Initially released to theaters last year, Pressing On: The Letterpress Film becomes available on DVD & VOD today. Pressing On is a feature-length documentary that begins with a simple question: “Why hasn’t letterpress died?”

PressingOn_DigitalPoster_ExclusiveSmall copy.jpgPressing On is artfully composed and includes some great interviews with ‘old-timers’ and the new generation of printers that is benefiting from their knowledge and putting it to work. It is reminiscent of the 2009 film Typeface, which focused its attention on the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum (whose director, Jim Moran, is also interviewed in Pressing On). Pressing On is broader in scope -- spotlighting, for example, the Platen Press Museum in Zion, Illinois, and Nashville’s Hatch Show Print -- yet shares the sensibilities and sympathies of Typeface, and, well, letterpress lovers everywhere.

See for yourself by watching this trailer:

Pressing On: The Letterpress Film - Trailer #2 - Exclusive VOD from LetterpressFilm on Vimeo.

Image courtesy of Bayonet Media

very busy auction week coming up.


First, a quick survey of the five Aristophil sales this week: on Monday, June 18, Aguttes sells Beaux-arts, œuvres et correspondances, in 324 lots. Highlights are expected to include an illustrated Van Gogh letter (€250,000-300,000) and a second Van Gogh letter at the same estimated price, and Henri Matisse’s 1947 Jazz (€100,000-150,000). Tuesday sees two sales of nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature, at Drouot (96 lots) and Aguttes (116 lots). In the first, a collection of Paul Éluard’s letters to his first wife could sell for €300,000-400,000, and the manuscript for Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s Maudits Soupirs pour une autre Fois (pictured below) is estimated at €250,000-300,000. At Aguttes, the top-estimated lot is a manuscript of Victor Segalen’s Stèles (€100,000-120,000).

celine.pngTwo music sales on Wednesday, June 20: Musique, de Jean-Sébastien Bach à Boulez at Ader (151 lots) and Musique, de Lully à Stravinsky at Aguttes (176 lots). At Ader, anticipated highlights include a manuscript fragment of a Bach cantata and a complete Beethoven signed manuscript (both estimated at €150,000-200,000). In the final sale of the week, a Mozart youth serenade manuscript could sell for €120,000-150,000.


Also on Tuesday, Lyon & Turnbull sells Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps & Photographs, in 432 lots. Richard Bowdler Sharpe’s monograph on birds of paradise rates the top estimate, at £15,000-18,000. Quite a few other interesting lots of ornithology and natural history more broadly. 


On Wednesday at Bonhams London, Fine Books, Manuscripts, Atlases & Historical Photographs, in 296 lots. Henry Popple’s twenty-sheet engraved map of North America could fetch £30,000-50,000, a notebook containing drafts of several Edward Thomas poems is estimated at £30,000-40,000, and a particularly fine copy of the first impression of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone rates a £25,000-35,000 estimate.


Dominic Winter Auctioneers sells Printed Books, Maps & Documents on Wednesday, in 535 lots. Items to watch include Bloch’s Ichthyologie (the first six parts bound in three volumes), estimated at £15,000-20,000, and an album containing 216 Hogarth etchings and engravings (£5,000-7,000).


A third sale on Wednesday is University Archives’ auction of Autographed Documents, Manuscripts, Books & Relics, in 266 lots. As usual with these sales, a fascinating array of notable things, but a large archive from Disraeli’s secretary Algernon Turnor is estimated at $40,000-50,000, and a ledger containing records of mail sent and received from Fort Bridger in 1860-1861 could sell for $30,000-40,000.


On Thursday, Swann Galleries sells Revolutionary & Presidential Americana from the Collection of William Wheeler III, in 229 lots. This catalog is definitely worth a browse for anyone with an interest in the field. Potential top lots include a May 3, 1776 pay order to express rider Jonathan Park and a Thomas Jefferson letter as Secretary of State to the governor of Maryland relating to the Genét affair (both estimated at $20,000-30,000), and a February 26, 1780 letter from George Washington to Nathanael Greene ($15,000-25,000).


Finally, also on Thursday, Dominic Winter Auctioneers holds a Modern Literature & First Editions sale, in 366 lots. This sale includes a number of children’s, fine press, and illustrated books, as well as toys, games, and film posters. A first issue of Casino Royale is estimated at £10,000-15,000, and a near-complete run of Matrix could fetch £2,000-3,000.


Image credit: Drouot

At auction in New York earlier today, the Portland Audubon -- the double-elephant folio of Audubon’s Birds of America once owned by the dukes of Portland -- sold for $9.65 million.

Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 1.31.19 PM.pngOne of only thirteen copies left in private hands, the Portland Audubon was last seen at auction in 2012, when it sold just shy of $8 million. Because of its vibrant illustrations and full morocco binding, it is considered “undoubtedly among the very finest” copies of Audubon’s masterpiece, according to Christie’s. The bidding today started at $6 million and proceeded cautiously to $8.3 million, selling with premium for a total of $9.65 million. Thus is does not break the record for Birds of America, still held by the Hesketh copy sold in December 2010 for the equivalent of $11.5 million.

-To read more about how the proceeds of this sale will be used:

-To read more about John James Audubon’s personal history:

-To read more about the birds featured within:

Image courtesy of Christie’s

A big week in the book-auction world, with a set of Birds of America on the block this Thursday.


At Bonhams New York on Tuesday, June 12, Fine Books and Manuscripts, in 287 lots. Top-estimated lots include an autograph manuscript of Beethoven’s “Emperor Concerto” ($250,000-350,000); a c.1489 Basel edition of Aesop, the first printed in Switzerland ($60,000-80,000); a first edition of Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum ($50,000-80,000); and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, extracted from the First Folio ($50,000-80,000). Audubon’s autograph manuscript of the description of the Crested Titmouse for his Ornithological Biography is estimated at $10,000-15,000.


PBA Galleries sells 205 lots of Rare Books & Manuscripts on Thursday, June 14. Among the expected highlights are a signed copy of the 1972 George Allen & Unwin edition of The Lord of the Rings ($8,000-12,000); the 1858 volume of The Zoologist containing the second printing of Darwin and Wallace’s first papers on natural selection ($8,000-12,000); and a complete set of Dickens’ Christmas Books, all first editions ($7,000-10,000).


Christie’s New York will sell The Portland Audubon on Thursday, June 14, at 2 p.m. This is a truly great copy of Birds of America, being sold by the Knobloch Family Foundation; it last sold at Christie’s on January 10, 2012, for $7,922,500. It is estimated at $8-12 million this time around. For the many Audubonophiles out there (myself included), this will be the one to watch this week. Following the Audubon set are 212 additional lots of Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts, Including Americana, and there are definitely some great lots in this part of the sale as well: a 1468 illuminated portolan atlas on vellum ($1.2-1.8 million), a first edition of Audubon’s Quadrupeds ($200,000-300,000), one of just six known proof copies on wove paper of the Stone facsimile of the Declaration of Independence ($200,000-300,000), and a Shakespeare Second Folio ($150,000-200,000). There’s also a copy of the first issue of MacWorld, signed by Jobs and Wozniak ($40,000-60,000).


Image credit: Christie’s

angel3.jpgWhen Barbara Slate was breaking new ground as a woman writing and illustrating comic books she wasn’t aware she should be saving the associated drafts and paperwork that went into creating her work. Then she met Center for Book Arts founder and distinguished book artist Richard Minsky, and he encouraged her to save everything. Now he is releasing a catalogue in preparation for the sale of the archive of her work, a project 30 years in the making that documents a crucial and often overlooked history in comic books -- the work of women artists in mainstream comics and the history of girl readership.

Minsky said of Slate’s relevance, “From her creation of Ms. Liz, the liberated woman character who first appeared on greeting cards in 1976, to her recent political cartoons on social media, Barbara Slate has been in the forefront of communicating strong role models to girls and women of all ages.”
Now, because of careful stewardship, Slate’s archive takes up 35 cubic feet of space, includes copies of her published comic books and work including scripts, layouts, editorial comments, drafts, revisions, original art, press clippings, ephemera, and digital materials. It also includes many unpublished works, screenplays, and commissioned projects, and even a pair of roller skates.
Before Slate’s groundbreaking Angel Love, a comic that ran in DC Comics from 1986-87, comics marketed for teen girls and women were focused on traditional values and aspirational lives like Betty and Veronica, which Slate also wrote and drew, and superheroes like Batgirl and Wonder Woman.
But Slate’s Angel Love was an unusual comic; it was, she explained, “full of drugs, sex, and rock and roll. When it came on the scene there was nothing like it that dealt with things going on for real in girls lives.” Unlike Betty and Veronica, Angel Love didn’t avoid sex, tragedy, abuse, difficult family relationships, divorce, or other challenges facing young women growing up. The series was the first by a mainstream comics publisher to tackle these topics, and, as a result, Slate’s work faced both condemnation and critical acclaim, and was labeled for mature readers without the Comics Code Authority Seal. One of the results of Angel Love was honest fan mail from teens telling her that it had made a difference in their lives, that she represented their lives, and that they’d found an honest storyteller in her, and therefore a friend -- this fan mail is a part of the archive.
Even a quick scroll through Minsky’s preview of Slate’s archive demonstrates what a significant piece of comics history Slate’s work represents, particularly since Slate worked both in alternative and mainstream comics. She drew traditional characters as well as girls and women who represented women that hadn’t been seen in comic books before -- a refreshing addition when so many women featured in comic books are a kind of dreamgirl stereotype and the representation of a male comic book artist’s fantasy. 
A limited edition of the Barbara Slate catalogue is available for pre-order. And those lucky enough to live in New York and want to learn how to make graphic novels can take her course at Cooper Union this June. 
Image courtesy of Barbara Slate

Readers of our summer issue were treated to a history of the Little Blue Books, written by Steven Cox, the curator of special collections and university archives at Pittsburg State University (PSU) in Pittsburg, Kansas. A full-length biography of the Little Blue Books’ complicated creator, Emanuel Haldeman-Julius, was also published this spring. And now, in a bid to keep the momentum going into the series’ one hundredth anniversary in 2019, PSU has put out a call for papers for a two-day symposium called The Little Blue Books at 100: Haldeman-Julius’s Revolutionary Publishing Venture. It is scheduled for March 29-30, 2019.

Little Blue Books.jpgHaldeman-Julius, long a proponent of socialism and free thought, took over the nation’s largest socialist newspaper, The Appeal, in March 1919. Soon thereafter he began publishing inexpensive and immensely popular little books on a variety of topics.

As Cox explained in a recent email, “During the course of his career, which spanned over thirty years, Haldeman-Julius printed and sold an estimated 500,000,000+ Little Blue Books, with over 2,000 different titles..... Haldeman-Julius, with help from his wife Marcet, revolutionized, if not created, mass-market publishing, making his products affordable to all. He also pushed the boundaries of publishing norms by being one of the earliest publishers to publish sexual education information. He popularized the self-help/improvement book, and was among the earliest to decry racial segregation and was the first to publish African-American literature anthologies.” 

PSU invites proposals for individual papers (including undergraduate and graduate-level papers) that explore the phenomenon of the Little Blue Books, and Emanuel Haldeman-Julius. These topics include, but are not limited to:

    •    Emanuel Haldeman-Julius
    •    Marcet Haldeman-Julius
    •    Haldeman-Julius’s Publishing and Marketing Measures
    •    The Socialist Press of Girard, Kansas
    •    Little Blue Books as Textbooks
    •    The Writers of the Little Blue Books
    •    Series found within the Little Blue Books
    •    The Legacy of the Little Blue Books
    •    Publishing Aspects of the Little Blue Books
    •    Little Blue Books as Literature
    •    Little Blue Books: Socialist Literature or Open-Minded/Free-Thinking Literature?
For more  information, visit:

Image courtesy of PSU

An upcoming auction in New York on June 5 has an incredible selection of original book cover art -- eleven by my count, an unusually large number to be offered at once, and a few superlative pieces to boot. Highlights include Russell Tandy’s watercolor and gouache on board for the beloved Nancy Drew title, The Secret in the Old Attic (1944), several Edward Gorey watercolor illustrations, and some neat pulp cover art, including one by “King of Paperbacks” James Avati.

Nancy.jpgRussell Tandy’s illustration, “The Secret in the Old Attic,” for the book of the same name by Carolyn Keene, published as Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #21 (1944). Estimate $15,000-25,000.

Gorey Origins.jpgEdward Gorey’s “Origins of the Medieval World,” watercolor and ink illustration study for the cover of the book of the same name by William Carroll Bark (1960). Estimate $2,500-3,000.

Gorey SNow copy.jpgAnother of Gorey’s watercolor and ink illustrations -- “The Masters,” for the cover of a book of the same name by C. P. Snow (1951). Estimate $2,500-3,500.

Avati c.jpgAccording to Swann, this is the “King of Paperback’s First Published Cover:” James Avati’s “A Southern White Girl gets the Shock of her Life,” an oil on board used for the cover illustration for The Other Room by Worth Tuttle Hedden (1949). Estimate $5,000-7,500.

Barr Sharp.jpgKen Barr’s gouache on board used as the cover illustration for The Sharpshooter #6: Muzzle Blast by Bruno Rossi (1974). Estimate $500-700.

Eastman 1 .jpgNorm Eastman’s oil on board, “See How they Run,” used for the cover of a Pocket Books publication in 1970. Estimate $400-600.

Peyton copy.jpgAnd another from Eastman: “A Nice Girl from Peyton Place,” gouache and tempera on board, used as the cover illustration for the book of the same name by Roger Fuller (1970). Estimate $400-600.

Tombstone copy.jpgMorton Engle’s oil on board, “The most dangerous man that ever rode into Tombstone,” used as the cover illustration for Powder Burn by Bradford Scott (1957). Estimate $800-1,200.

Summer copy.jpgDarrell Greene’s oil and gouache on board, “A Summer Place,” used as the cover illustration for the Cardinal Giant edition of the book by Sloan Wilson (1959). Estimate $2,000-3,000.

Gorey sketch.jpgEdward Gorey’s ink sketch for the cover illustration of Stendhal: On Love (1957). Estimate $1,200-1,800.

Gorey Goth copy.jpgAnd one more from Gorey: Pen, ink, and marker cover design with transparency overlays for Ladies of the Gothics: Tales of Romance and Terror By the Gentle Sex... (1975). Estimate $5,000-7,500.

Images courtesy of Swann Galleries

On Tuesday, May 29, Christie’s Paris sells Livres rare et manuscrits in 95 lots. An impressive set of the Description de l’Egypte (1809-[1830]) from the library of Jean-Marie Dubois-Aymé, a contributor to the work, is estimated at €300,000-500,000. Maxime Du Camp’s photographic book Égypte, Nubie, Palestine et Syrie (1852) could sell for €250,000-350,000, and a Debussy music manuscript rates a €120,000-180,000 estimate.


Bonhams London sells Wassenaar Zoo: A Dutch Private Library on Wednesday, May 30, in 234 lots. Expected highlights include John Gould’s Birds of Australia (£100,000-150,000) and his Mammals of Australia (£50,000-70,000), Edward Lear’s Illustrations of the Family of Psitticidae (£40,000-60,000), and Daniel Giraud Elliot’s A Monograph of the Phasanidae (£35,000-45,000). Watch a future issue of Fine Books & Collections for more on this sale.


Modern First Editions, Illustrated Books & Limited Editions are the order of the day at Chiswick Auctions on Wednesday, in 226 lots. A first edition of Hemingway’s In Our Time (1924) is estimated at £15,000-18,000, with a first edition, first printing of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1901; pictured) rates the second-highest estimate, £12,000-15,000. Some interesting editions of classic fiction, &c. available in this sale.

peter.pngOn Thursday, May 31, PBA Galleries holds a sale of Americana with Manuscript Material, Travel & Exploration, and Cartography, in 438 lots. A copy on “superfine royal paper” of the first collected edition of The Federalist (New York, 1788) is estimated at $80,000-120,000, while an early copy of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn later owned by Sir Hugh Walpole could sell for $15,000-25,000.


Skinner begins an online sale of Fine Books & Manuscripts on May 31, which runs until June 8. The two lots with the highest starting bids ($25,000) are an 1858 oversized map of the Mississippi River, and the May 9, 1754 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette, which featured the first appearance of Franklin’s “Join or Die” cartoon.


Image courtesy of Chiswick Auctions

Swann Galleries offers 19th & 20th Century Literature on Tuesday, May 15, in 310 lots. The top-estimated lot is a copy of Ernest Hemingway’s first book, Three Stories & Ten Poems (Paris: Contact, 1923), printed in just 300 copies ($20,000-30,000). A set of three first printed editions of Emily Dickinson’s poems could sell for $10,000 to $15,000. A copy of the first printed edition of Anne Frank’s diary (Amsterdam, 1947) in the third-issue dust jacket is estimated at $7,000-10,000. Also included are unbound long galley proofs for Philip K. Dick’s VALIS ($4,000-6,000) and Charles Dickens’ Bleak House in original monthly parts ($2,000-3,000).


At Toovey’s in West Sussex on Tuesday, Antiquarian & Collectors’ Books, in 354 lots. Luigi Mayer’s folio volume with aquatint plates Views in the Ottoman Empire (London, 1803), rebound, is estimated at £1,000-1,500. Mathias Koops’ Historical Account of the Substances which Have Been Used to Describe Events, and to Convey Ideas from the earliest Date to the Invention of Paper (London, 1800), printed on straw paper, could sell for £300-500. A number of lots in this sale are from the collection at West Horsley Place, the historic house inherited by Bamber Gascoigne in 2014.


Rounding out the trio of Tuesday sales, Sotheby’s London offers Travel, Atlases, Maps and Natural History Including the Library of Colin and Joan Deacon, in 419 lots. A set of eleven works by John Gould, in forty-three volumes in near-uniform green morocco bindings, could sell for £700,000-900,000. A volume containing a complete set of the Indian Tracts of Bartholomé de las Casas, in contemporary limp vellum binding with manuscript annotations and ownership notes recording that the volume belonged to Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (1539-1616), early historian of Peru, is estimated at £100,000-150,000. Fifteen albumen photographs of Mecca from the 1880s could fetch £80,000-120,000. A copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle rates a £25,000-35,000 estimate, and a copy of Audubon’s “Carolina Parrot” plate is estimated at £20,000-30,000.


Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 7.53.14 AM.pngOn Wednesday, May 16, Dominic Winter Auctioneers sells Printed Books, Maps & Documents, in 578 lots. Among the top-expected lots are John Speed’s 1676 A new and accurat map of the world (£5,000-8,000); a 1698 second edition of John Ogilby’s Britannia (£3,000-5,000); and James Bruce’s Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile (£1,500-2,000). If your library needs a set of steps, there’s a Victorian gothic oak set available, from Exeter College, Oxford (pictured right; £300-500).


PBA Galleries offers a Spring Miscellany on Thursday, May 17, in 455 lots. The highest estimate, $6,000-9,000, goes to a copy of Jean Charlot’s Picture Book (1933), this is one of five special sets containing progressive proofs for the 32 lithographs. (If this sounds familiar, it’s because it was offered last month with a higher estimate.) Lots 199-380 are being sold without reserve and lots 381-455 are shelf lots, also sold without reserve. Many lots related to Merle Armitage, John Henry Nash, and the Grabhorn Press will go under the hammer.


Image via Dominic Winter Auctioneers

In 1870, the eccentric American transportation entrepreneur George Francis Train took a trip around the world in eighty travel days (with a two-month stopover in Paris), so when Jules Verne published his bestselling Around the World in Eighty Days in 1873, Train was quick to claim, “Verne stole my thunder. I’m Phileas Fogg.” Ever the competitor--and self-publicist--Train undertook a total of three trips around the world, each time attempting to beat the record. His final trip clocked in at sixty days.

JC_TrainPassport_18.jpgNo doubt he was a well-traveled man, and here’s one of his passports to prove it. Train’s 1857 passport is one of many such documents that went on exhibit last month in Passports: Lives in Transit at Harvard’s Houghton Library. Issued to Train by the American Delegation in Great Britain, but written in French, which was at the time the language of international relations, this passport records his jaunts to Tuscany, Florence, and the Papal States. (This was long before he ran for president, published an obscene newsletter, or bankrolled Susan B. Anthony.)  

JC_TrainPassport_06.jpgCurated by Lucas Mertehikian and Rodrigo Del Rio, the exhibition also follows the paper trails of other nineteenth- and twentieth-century travelers, émigrés, and refugees like Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, physicist Gertrude Neumark Rothschild, and author/activist Shirley Graham Du Bois, and calls attention to larger geopolitical issues.  

“I realized the weight of what we were doing when we first opened George Train’s passport,” commented Del Rio. “This 19th-century American businessman claimed to be the inspiration for Around the World in Eighty Days. He basically could travel anywhere he wanted. Differently from the case of Leon Trotsky, who was continuously fleeing, or W.E.B. and Shirley Du Bois, who renounced their American citizenship due to pressure from the government, finally finding home in their ancestral Africa. Freedom of movement was thus unevenly distributed. The cosmopolitan desire of making the whole world your home was a dream only some people could have.”

The exhibition remains on view through August 18.

Images: Houghton Library, MS Am 2763 (12). Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Tomorrow the Philadelphia Museum of Art opens its new exhibition, Biting Wit and Brazen Folly: British Satirical Prints, 1780s-1830s. Sixty prints showcasing the brilliance of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century graphic satire, especially the work of George Cruikshank, James Gillray, William Heath, and Thomas Rowlandson, will be on display. Organized thematically, the exhibition considers how these caricaturists portrayed the art and fashion of their day. Of particular interest to me is the section devoted to prints of medical subjects, including, for example, Thomas Rowlandson’s The Hypochondriac (1788), a dark depiction of mental illness. According to the exhibition’s description online, “The preoccupation with disease was an inevitable subject for artists, as illness was prevalent in a modernizing London where medical procedures were still primitive and people were understandably skeptical of the state of knowledge and skill of medical practitioners.” Here are three examples that catch the eye and send a chill up the spine:

Rowlandson.jpgThe Amputation, 1785, by Thomas Rowlandson. Hand-colored etching and aquatint, published in London, England. Purchased by the Philadelphia Museum of Art with the SmithKline Beckman (later the SmithKline Beechman) Corporation Fund, 1982.

Heath.jpgA Little Rheum-Atick, 1828, by William Heath. Hand-colored etching, published by Thomas McLean, on 26 Haymarket Street, London, England. Purchased by the Philadelphia Museum of Art with the SmithKline Beckman (later SmithKline Beecham) Fund for the Ars Medica Collection, 1968.

Gout GIllray.jpgThe Gout, 1799, by James Gillray. Hand-colored etching (soft-ground), published by H. Humphrey, 27 St. James’s Street, London. Purchased by the Philadelphia Museum of Art with the SmithKline Beckman Corporation Fund, 1949.

The exhibition will be on view through August 22.

Auction Guide