Recently in In The News Category

The year-end fundraiser to keep Booklyn in Brooklyn is nearing its final days. Founded in 1999, the non-profit artists and bookmakers association has promoted, documented, and distributed artists’ books to the general public and educational institutions, dedicated to education through the exhibition and distribution of art books and prints. (For a thorough examination, read A.N. Devers’ piece about the non-profit here, from our Spring 2015 issue.) 

Having long ago grown out of its 600-square-foot studio in Greenpoint, the organization has been on the hunt for a new home, and was recently invited to take up residence at ArtBuilt Brooklyn, a 50,000-square-foot art community at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. There, Booklyn will have a production studio, art gallery, event space, and an office to continue producing artists’ books.



To make the move, Booklyn went to its loyal fans on Kickstarter, where its current fundraiser is $2,219 shy of meeting its $15,000 goal. To entice backers, the Booklyn team just added new rewards, like Scream at the Librarian, a hand-screenprinted, hand-bound, signed, limited-edition art book by Joel Rane and illustrated by Raymond Pettibon and Christin Sullivan, available for a donation of $800. Isabella Kirkland’s Taxa, six archival digital prints based on the artist’s oil paintings of birds and still lifes recalling 17th- century Dutch masters is available in a suite of six, along with a project monograph, for $3,000.



                                                                                                                                                                        See all the goodies and help keep Booklyn ring in 2018 in Brooklyn here.

                                                                                                                                                                    Images courtesy of Booklyn

“I don’t think of myself as a completist, although I certainly have many thousands of Doyle things,” said collector Dan Posnansky in Nick Basbanes’ book hunting guide, Among the Gently Mad. Still, Posnansky spent over sixty years sleuthing out book stores and estate sales in search of materials relating to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) and his literary detective, Sherlock Holmes. By his own account, Posnansky estimated he was in possession of roughy ten thousand volumes of all things Sherlockian.

On December 19, most of that collection is heading to auction at Calabasas-based Profiles in History and is billed as the largest single Sherlock Holmes collection to go to market. Photographs, letters, pamphlets, advertisements, commemorative objects and more will all be available at the no-reserve sale.

Perhaps the most exciting high points includes the collection of pirated editions from the late 19th century--books printed in the United States that flouted nascent and inconsistent copyright laws. At the time, American copyright stretched for 28 years with possible renewal for another 28, while English copyright extended for the life of the author plus fifty years. This loophole placed Doyle’s work in the American public domain, meaning publishers could print his books without paying him any royalties. Over the course of his collecting career, Posnansky identified no less than one hundred publishing pirateers, mostly based in New York and Chicago, and his quest yielded a trove of over 1,200 pirate editions.

Of those pirated editions, one stands out: a signed copy of The Sign of the Four. This particular volume was owned by Eugene Field, a Chicago poet, bibliophile, and surprisingly, an outspoken critic of pirated editions. Yet, during Doyle’s 1894 visit to Chicago, Field had the chutzpah to present his own pirated book to the author for an inscription. Recognizing the unauthorized volume for what it was, Doyle nevertheless obliged with an abrasive ditty:


This bloody pirate stole my sloop
And holds her in his wicked ward.
Lord send that walking on my poop
I see him kick at my main-yard.


Doyle also included a crude illustration of a flag bearing a skull and crossbones with a noose around the name of the publisher. “I spent thirty years tracking it [the book] down before I was finally able to buy it,” Posnansky said in Among the Gently Mad. “He [Doyle] wrote a lot of letters about piracy, but this is the only documented instance of where he made his feelings known in the copy of a pirated book. And the thing that makes it really beautiful is that it is written in one of the most egregious examples of piracies you can find of his work.”

Fellow Sherlockian Glen Miranker wrote a reminiscence in the auction catalog about seeking out the addresses of long gone New York pirateers. “Armed with photocopies and notes, we’d go on foot or by taxi to address after address (fortified by food from Katz’s Deli on Houston Street)....Spending time with a gifted collector can rub off. I call it the Posnansky Effect.”

More information about the auction can be found here

                                                                                                                                                                                Images courtesy of Profiles in History

Eagle-eyed readers may recall our story back in April about a Kickstarter-funded biography on William Addison Dwiggins, that twentieth-century book designer who coined the term “graphic design” back in the 1920s.                                                                                                                                                                   

The inaugural project for Letterform Archive ultimately received $171,574, sailing past its fundraising goal of $50,000. As of November 21, the book was in its final proofing stage and will be on the press before the year is out. Proofing the book is no small task: over 1,000 images pepper the book, but author-designer Bruce Kennett and his team are dedicated to “producing a printed image that comes as close as the real thing,” with a secondary goal of setting a new bar for subsequent Archive publications.


                                                                                                                                                                                       W.A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design focuses on Dwiggins’ contributions to graphic design while also exploring his mastery of seemingly disparate art forms--in addition to designing roughly 300 book covers for publisher Alfred A. Knopf and creating Electra and Caledonia, two widely used typefaces, Dwiggins was a puppet master. His collection of marionettes--along with Dwiggins-designed books, broadsides, and furniture--were donated to the Boston Public Library in 1967 and represent his zealous attention to detail while crafting whimsical wooden playthings.

Of the 1,059 backers, a lucky few pledged enough to earn a deluxe edition of the biography, bound with a leather spine and gold foil-stamped lettering by master calligrapher Richard Lipton. Order fulfillment of the regular edition is slated for early January, which may disappoint backers who hoped to have their copy in time for the holidays, but fear not, Kennett and the Letterform Archive team are sure you will find the results worth the wait.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Image courtesy of the Letterform Archive

Lincoln Letter and Mallet Go to Auction

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With the holiday season comes the winter auctions, and Christie’s December 5 books and manuscripts sale in New York is full of exquisite stocking stuffers for the collectors on your list. Among the items up for bid is a letter written in 1858 by Abraham Lincoln, at the time the Republican candidate for the United States Senate. Lincoln composed the letter in preparation for seven forthcoming debates with Democratic incumbent Stephen Douglas. (In 1858, senators were elected by state legislatures and these debates helped sway the Illinois General Assembly.) Addressed to fellow attorney Henry Asbury,
the letter outlines how Lincoln intended to debate whether a territory had the right to exclude slavery even in the wake of the Dred Scott v. Sandford Supreme Court case stating that Congress did not have the authority to prohibit slavery in U.S. territories. 

A recent convert to the Republican party after the collapse of the Whigs, Asbury had previously written to Lincoln on July 28 with suggestions for the second of seven debates with Douglas. “Do not let him [Douglas] dodge here,” exhorted Douglas. Lincoln’s response, dated July 31, agrees with Asbury’s tactic to force Douglas to clarify his position on slavery, which in turn alienated Douglas from southern voters.

Though Lincoln lost his senate bid, the debates catapulted him into the national political consciousness. The resulting splintering of the Democratic Party gave Lincoln the necessary majority votes to become America’s sixteenth president in 1860.

Pre-sale estimates on this document fall between $500,000-700,000.

Offered in the same auction: a wooden bench mallet bearing the initials “A.L.” that is believed to be the earliest artifact belonging to Lincoln in a private collection. Fashioned from a broken rail-splitting maul, Lincoln used the mallet when he lived in Pigeon Creek, Indiana, from 1816 through 1830. The maul is crafted from a cherry wood burl with a hickory handle. The mallet came into possession of Lincoln’s Pigeon Creek neighbor, Barnabas Carter, Jr. in 1829 or 1830, and has remained in the family until now. Pre-sale estimates range from $300,000-500,000.Lincoln_mallet_v1.jpg

Images courtesy of Christie’s

If your travels take you to Massachusetts now through the new year, be sure to add the Concord Museum to your itinerary and check out the 22nd annual Family Trees: A Celebration of Children’s Literature. Thirty-seven decorated trees fill the museum, each inspired by classic and contemporary children’s literature.


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Moving Books Press founder and children’s book author D. B. Johnson is serving as this year’s honorary chairperson. Johnson’s first book, Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, was inspired by fellow Concord resident Henry David Thoreau.

Family Trees is an all-volunteer effort and routinely attracts families from throughout the Boston area. Admission is $8 for children over five, $10 for adults. Additional programming includes crafts, photos with Santa, and readalouds with D. B. Johnson and Dragons Love Tacos author Adam Rubin. Full details may be found here.

Image courtesy of the Concord Museum

Kitchen Work

Perhaps you already kicked off the holiday season with an impressive Halloween yard display. Others of you may consider Thanksgiving the traditional start to a seemingly never-ending buffet of open houses and cocktail parties. With that in mind, I humbly submit a little literary hors d’oeuvre: the Fall 2017 edition of Kitchen Work, a new, print-only quarterly journal focusing on what and how we eat and drink.                                                                                                             

Dedicated to exploring the various nooks and crannies of kitchens big and small, Kitchen Work is the brainchild of Michael Strauss, owner of the Heirloom Cafe in San-Francisco.

The journal accepts submissions from “anyone and everyone,” with the caveat that the stories focus on some aspect of eating or drinking. The latest issue’s theme is how automation influences--for better or worse--how we cook and how we eat. Contributors include New York Times writer Daniel Duane’s musings on ambitous Christmas cookbooks, Nebraska-based chef Nick Strawhecker’s post-9/11 Thanksgiving meal in Cortona, Italy, legendary wine merchant Neil Rosenthal’s account of his relationship with an eccentric French winemaker, and even a solder’s return to Vietnam, this time on a culinary expedition.

The 90-page volume is a charming, frothy delight, begging to be read while standing anxiously in the kitchen this Thanksgiving wondering if you’ve overcooked your holiday bird. Sheathed in cherry-red wrappers, Kitchen Work would also make a lovely holiday present for the bookish gastronome in your life. At twelve dollars apiece, you may even be tempted to give one to yourself.

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In January, bookseller Bernard Rosenthal passed away in Oakland, California, at the age of 96. Rosenthal was born in Munich in 1920 into a family of booksellers known throughout the industry as the “Rosenthal Dynasty.” Part of the massive exodus of Jewish antiquarian booksellers from Germany during the Nazi regime--the “gentle invaders” as Rosenthal called them--he ended up in New York, where he set up shop in the 1950s. Rosenthal eventually moved to Berkeley, where he focused on medieval manuscripts and early printed books. (For more on Rosenthal and fellow emigré booksellers of the early 20th century, read Nick Basbanes’ chapter “Hunters and Gatherers” in Patience & Fortitude.) Rosenthal’s catalogs became the stuff of legend in the antiquarian world, in which he described easily overlooked details and craftsmanship that only came to light after careful examination of the item at hand. “We have committed the cardinal sin of the bookseller: we have READ most of these books...which has, however, brought some surprising results,” Rosenthal wrote in one of his early catalogs.

Now, in memoriam to Rosenthal and his life’s work, California-based booksellers Nick Aretakis, Ian Jackson, and Ben Kinmont have recently announced the publication of a new biography. Entitled Bernard M. Rosenthal (Berkeley: The Wednesday Table), the book examines Rosenthal’s contributions to the antiquarian bookselling trade. Written by fellow bookseller and longtime friend Ian Jackson, the bibliography traces Rosenthal’s life and career, while also highlighting the bookseller’s ability to thrive in a notoriously difficult and expensive industry. 

Hand-stitched in printed dark-gray wrappers, printed on letterpress by Richard Seibert, and issued in a limited-edition run of 400 numbered copies, the folio-sized book is available for $60. Contact Nick Aretakis at, Ian Jackson at, or Ben Kinmont at to order. Required reading for antiquarian booksellers and historians alike.


Three Women Playing Instruments, by Katsushika Ōi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

                                                                                                                                                                                                  A few months ago, a curator at the Honolulu Museum of Art stumbled upon a rare 19th-century manual on Japanese art that he didn’t even know existed in the museum archives. Stephen Salel had been searching for materials for an exhibition devoted to female Japanese manga artists. Recognized today as a subgenre of graphic novels, manga as an artform dates to the nineteenth century, and Salel was looking specifically for work created by Katsushika Oi (1800-1866), considered by many experts to be the first female manga artist. If the name sounds familiar, that’s probably because she was the daughter of Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), whose 1823 woodblock print, The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, has been reproduced countless times around the world.

Finding illustrations by the younger Katsushika proved challenging for Salel, yet he was relentless in his pursuit. Her work is at the Tokyo National Museum and at the Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art, but he wanted to confirm whether the Honolulu Museum had any material lurking in its archives. “I felt very confident that I could find one of her books in our own collection,” said Salel recently.

Salel scoured the Honolulu Museum of Art’s holdings until he came across the Illustrated Handbook for Daily Life for Women, published in 1847--the missing link for his show. The publication date and accompanying illustrations led Salel to conclude that this was an example by his elusive artist. “It was one of those times I felt like I might have made the right career choice,” he said.

The book was acquired by the museum in 2003 as part of the 20,000 piece Richard Lane Collection, which includes Japanese, Chinese, and Korean prints, books, and paintings from the Edo Period (1615-1868). 

Salel’s manga exhibition is slated for 2021--plenty of time to continue sleuthing for more forgotten treasures.

Fittingly, a new exhibition on witchcraft opens today at Cornell University. Pulled from the university’s Witchcraft Collection, The World Bewitch’d spans five hundred years of witch-related material: trial documents, religious texts, spells, and even confessions explore a group of people, often women, marginalized and ostracized from society, with the core of the material hailing from Germany and France. The highlight of the show includes the first book on witchcraft ever printed, as well as handwritten transcripts from European witchcraft trials. Throughout history, witches were often portrayed as either ugly old hags or as alluring seductresses, and the show explores how that view has changed--or not--with the passage of time. 



                                                                                                                                                              “This collection has profound repercussions on today’s world, where persecution of the defenseless is alive and well,” said exhibition co-curator Anne Kenney. The collection was once part of the personal archives of Cornell co-founder Andrew Dickson White and is believed to be one of the largest collections on witchcraft in North America.

                                                                                                                                                    The opening reception is today from 4:00-5:30 at the Kroch Library on level 2B. The World Bewitch’d will remain on display through August 31, 2018.

                                                                                                                                                           Image: “The Witches,” by Hans Baldung (1510). Woodcut. Public Domain, courtsey of the Met Museum.


                                                                                                                                             Massachusetts has an over two-hundred-year connection with the Rainbow State. Back in the early 1800s, missionaries sailed from Boston to Hawai’i, determined to convert the locals and also to bring the wonders of print to those distant shores. Along with religious fervor, the missionaries also brought a second-hand printing press, kickstarting an impressive outpouring of printed material in Hawai’i.

On November 9, Skinner’s Auctioneers and Appraisers welcomes the public to its Boston Gallery at 63 Park Plaza to learn more about the Bay State’s early involvement in Hawaiian printing. Elizabeth Watts Pope, curator at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, will be on hand to discuss Hawaii’s printed history and share items from the AAS’s collection of over two hundred books, pamphlets, bibliographies, newspapers, and engravings written in Hawaiian and other Polynesian languages. A highlight of the collection includes an 1838 copperplate engraving of Holden, Massachusetts, done by a self-taught Hawaiian engineer who never left his island home. Watts will discuss these and other items, why missionaries excised the letters ‘B’ and ‘D’ from the Hawaiian language, and how one of the strongest collections of early Hawaiian printed material wound up in Worcester.

For more information and to RSVP/Register: Skinner Auctioneers & Appraisers

                                                                                                                                                  Image credit: Na Mokpunia o Hawaii Nei. Courtsey AAS. 

Left Bank Books is Back, Online

logostacked.png                                                                                                                                             Left Bank Books is back, but without the brick and mortar setup. Erik DuRon and artist Jess Kuronen recently relaunched the Greenwich Village book hub as an online shop with a curated inventory of vintage, collectible and rare materials. Both worked briefly at the old Left Bank Books before it shuttered in 2016. They kindly answered a few questions recently about the relaunch and what it’s been like to transition to a digital bookstore.                                                                                                                             

Best of luck to the latest incarnation of Left Bank Books--be sure to visit their website here!

                                                                                                                                                                         What made you decide to relaunch online?

Mostly it was a pragmatic decision. We just don’t have the resources yet to open as a brick-and-mortar shop, whereas a website was a scale we could work within creatively at relatively low cost. That said, we want to make the most of it. It’s been an interesting experiment, trying to recreate the experience of browsing in a well-appointed used bookshop. Obviously the tactile element is just irreproducible, but hopefully the moment of serendipity when you discover something really cool you didn’t know you were looking for but then just have to have is there.



What kind of books do you specialize in?

Broadly speaking, books in literature and the arts - antiquarian, modern and contemporary. Jess is an artist and I’m a writer and we’re both interested in process. Our inventory reflects that and is geared towards people in creative professions, for whom books are a resource, personally and professionally. The old Left Bank was very much a hybrid used-and-rare bookshop and we want to maintain that, but for all the well-known reasons the sad reality is there’s just less of a viable space these days for the kind of general used bookshop I grew up frequenting in the city. Still, it’s important to us to be accessible to people who maybe don’t necessarily identify themselves as rare book collectors, in terms of price, but also in terms of selection, and how we present our books. Hopefully the material is fresh, in that it’s not what you expect to find in a rare bookseller’s catalog, or we have something new and insightful to say about it. We want our books to bypass the rational mind that says I don’t have room for one more book and speak directly to your reptilian brain.

How’s business been since the relaunch?

I won’t lie, it’s been slow. When the old shop closed in spring 2016 there was a big outpouring of grief and frustration in the neighborhood, so we were pleased when we announced the relaunch at the show of love we got. But at any given point in the day fewer people are likely to “stop by” a website to see what’s new, and of course you miss the crucial element of handselling that takes place in-person in a real environment. We’ve tried to recreate that online, and do a lot of individualized outreach and personal attention to our customers, but there’s no substitute for street level contact in a neighborhood like the Village, with all its characters and denizens.

You’ve been selling books for two decades, were you ever involved with the old LBB?

Yes, both Jess and I each worked at the old Left Bank for a year, under its third and final owner. I had been working independently from home while attending grad school, after having recently left Bauman Rare Books, where I had been a manager and worked for 14 years. Left Bank had been in existence by that point for 24 years, first as Book Leaves on W. 4th St. under its original owner, then as Left Bank on 8th Avenue under its second owner. It had always struggled, but the city was a kinder if not gentler place then and it managed to get by. By the time we got there, though, the challenges were many. In a sense we were brought in to help with a turnaround, and things were improving, but in the end we ran out of time. That’s why we want to be deliberate now that we’ve revived things under our own steam, and try to get it right. It may be next to impossible, but we want to give it a shot because we think a good used and rare bookshop has an important role to play in the cultural life of a city.

What else should our readers know?

Until we can scrape together financing for an open shop, we’re planning to do pop-ups, bookfairs, digital catalogs, Instagram, etc. People should visit us for updates and keep a lookout.

au revoir.JPGIn 2013, Au revoir là-haut (éditions Albin Michel) by Pierre Lamaitre appeared in French bookstores, a sweeping epic chronicling the lives of two surviving combattants of World War I that enthralled readers and critics alike. The book sold 490,000 copies in 2013, earning Lemaitre the prestigious Prix Goncourt and the Prix Femina. In 2015, it was turned into a graphic novel. (Non-French speakers interested in discovering the book will find it translated as The Great Swindle.) On October 25, the film version hits French theaters. If it’s anything like the book, it’ll be worth seeking out.                                              

Known primarily for his thrillers, Lemaitre took a vastly different literary approach with Au revoir là-haut, choosing instead to examine life in the wake of war while also exploring the sometimes inexplicable bonds of friendship forged during traumatizing events. The story centers around Albert and Edouard, two poilus--the informal term for World War I infantrymen--who soon discover that postwar France can offer nothing to soothe veterans returning from the battlefields with unimaginable physical and emotional traumas. Rejected and excluded by the country they put their lives on the line to save, the unlikely duo turn their bitterness into an audacious scam that exacts sweet, cynical revenge on the country they sacrificed so much to protect.   

                                                                                                                                                                                 “I tried to serve as a sincere and honest intermediary between my contemporaries and those I describe in the book,” Lemaitre said during a 2013 interview with RTL. L’Express book reviewer François Busnel called it a “major existential work, a somber and burning requiem that serves up splendidly effective writing like a punch straight in the face.”                                                                       
The film’s producer Albert Dupontel was a huge fan of the book and envisioned this project along the lines of “a well-executed HBO movie.” (In fact, the $22-million dollar budget for Dupontel’s movie cost roughly the same as the pilot episode of Martin Scorsese’s Boardwalk Empire.) 

Though the trailer is not subtitled, it is a tantalizing morsel for what is sure to be a monumental film. A fascinating exploration of a tumultuous moment in history, Au revoir là-haut may very well hit the literary jackpot of being a success both in print and on screen.

The Center for Book Arts (CBA) opens its latest exhibit this evening dedicated to the work of British artist and CBA faculty fellow Mark Cockram. Beyond the Rules includes examples of Cockram’s creative bookbinding and book artistry. His multi-dimensional, multi-textual book sculptures reflect Cockram’s all-encompasing fascination with the book as art object.


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“I work with the book,” Cockram said. “Within the book, an infinitely complex array of materials and techniques come together and combine with a history as rich and diverse as we who create and use it. I often refer to the book in its totality as Alchemy.” Adept at working with traditional bookbinding methods, Cockram will often modify or develop new techniques as each project unfolds, depending on how he feels the text would best be served by a particular binding. Recent work has led him to create art with “up-cycled,” or creatively repurposed materials. 

Though the exhibit itself only encompasses six books, each reveals Cockram’s careful consideration of both the textual elements and authorial intent. The eclectic list includes an art book inspired by The Divine Comedy, an homage to artist Joseph Cornell, and a reinterpretation of The Four Gospels.


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                                                                                                                                                                               As a professional bookbinder, artist, and teacher, Cockram’s work has been displayed at the National Art Library at London’s V&A Museum, the Library of Congress, the British Library, the Grolier Club, and in private collections worldwide. Beyond the Rules, however, is Cockram’s first solo show in the United States.

Beyond the Rules is on display at the Center for Book Arts through December 16. 


                                                                                                                                                                   Also happening this weekend in Cambridge, Massachusetts: Nick Basbanes presents his observations from working with primary source material at the Longfellow House for his forthcoming dual biography entitled Cross of Snow: The Love Story and Lasting Legacy of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  A cake reception will precede the lecture at 2 p.m, which will be held at the Sherrill Library at Lesley University on 89 Brattle Street in Cambridge. The lecture is free to the public. 

                                                                                                                                                                          Images: Inferno Limbo and Dewilde Lysistrata. Credit: Abby Schoolman

Sylvia Plath Symposium at Grolier Club

Letters_of_Sylvia_Plath_Harpers_2017.JPGOn October 12 the Grolier Club in Manhattan will host a symposium dedicated to Sylvia Plath. Moderated by collector Judith Raymo, the panel will consist of various Plath experts: Smith College Associate Director of Special Collections Karen V. Kukil; The Letters of Sylvia Plath co-editor Peter K. Steinberg; and CUNY Graduate Center Fellow Heather Clark, who will discuss, in part, the joys and challenges of editing Sylvia Plath’s letters. The two-hour talk coincides with the Grolier Club’s “‘This is the light of the mind’: Selections from the Sylvia Plath collection of Judith Raymo” exhibition currently on display through November 4.

A catalogue of the Raymo collection, published by Oak Knoll, will also be available for purchase. The current issue of Fine Books includes a feature on Plath by Steinberg.

The event is free, but reservations are requested. Non-members may RSVP to Maev Brennan at (212) 838-6690 or

                                                                                                                                                                                           Image courtesy of HarperCollins


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Paris remains a beacon of culture and sophistication and a week spent promenading along the city’s quais and quaint streets was balm for the soul. Among the many familiar sights were the bouquinistes, those riverside booksellers whose forest green stalls have been a fixture by the Seine since at least the 18th century. The tradition of traveling bookselling in Paris goes back even further; known as “libraries forain,” wandering booksellers plied their trade as early as the 1550s when they were accused of distributing Protestant propaganda during the Wars of Religion. Open-air bookstalls were banned in 1649, and meandering booksellers were chased out of the city by Louis V during the 1720s. The ill-fated Louis XVI tolerated their return in the 1750s, and by the time Napoleon I took power, the bouquinistes had reestablished their territory along the riverbank, where they’ve remained a fixture ever since.

Today, bouquinistes must follow regulations regarding stall size and pay an annual fee to sell books, and, until recently, business has been brisk; collectively, over 240 bouquinistes cram 300,000 books into 900 stalls along nearly two miles of Seine waterfront, creating the largest open-air bookstore in the world. UNESCO even named the Seine riverbank a world heritage site in 2011.

Yet, the bouquinistes as we know them are in danger of turning into little more than trinket shops with matching roofs. According to an article published this summer by La Depeche, bouquinistes are increasingly feeling the pressure to sell cheap souvenirs rather than rare books. “We can’t count on books anymore,” said one bookseller in the article, whose stall overflowed with keychains, bottle openers, and postcards. Bouquinistes aren’t prohibited from selling trinkets; current regulations permit one out of every four stalls to sell items other than books. Indeed, many of the stalls on my recent visit overflowed with plastic curios, while books were hidden from sight.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                       Some sellers feel this is a bad omen, that souvenir sellers are diminishing the long and storied history associated with the trade. 

“We are calling on those who love Paris across the globe, those who love to stroll along the Seine, who want to preserve this unique cultural patrimony which we hold dear,” said David Noesk, a bouquiniste who recently started a petition aimed at doubling down on souvenir peddlers. “These souvenir merchants distort the objective which is at the very origin of our creation and the charm of our Parisian quays,” Noesk wrote on the petition website. So far, 12,000 people have signed the petition, 3,000 shy of the 15,000 goal, at which time the petition will be delivered to the mayor of Paris, Anne Hildago. Stay tuned for what happens next to the booksellers of the Seine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Photo credit: Paris, Bouquinistes sur le quai de Tournelle, by E. Galien Laloue. Public Domain. 


                                                                                                                                                                                                          For roughly one hundred years, from the mid-1800s through the 1950s, luxurious ocean liners lured travelers to exotic locales, themselves floating masterpieces of sophistication and the latest technological innovations. Now through October 9, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts is hosting an exhibition exploring the beautiful nautical heritage of these grande dames: Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed, and Style, co-organized with London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

The exhibition is a logical choice for the PEM; founded in 1799 by sea captains and merchant traders, PEM has been actively collecting art and design related to ocean liners since at least 1870, while the V&A, originally known as the South Kensington Museum, has been actively collecting ship models and technology patents since the 1800s in order to give British commerce a leg up on the competition.

Ocean liners were intricately constructed pieces of culture -- in the appearance of their design, the elegance of their engineering and the division of their social space -- and each with its own distinct personality. Drawing from international institutions and private collections, the exhibition brings together nearly 200 works including paintings, sculpture, models, furniture, lighting, wall panels, textiles, fashion, photographs, posters, and film. Travelers expected sophistication and style, and everything from the advertising posters to flatware was expressly designed to reflect that aspiration, lending each vessel distinct personalities. Like vintage airline posters, ocean liner advertisements are often sought by collectors for their idealized and majestic renderings of farway places.

                                                                                                                                                                                                     Photo via Boston Public Library


This year marks seventy years since The Folio Society began publishing beautiful editions of global literary classics. To mark the occasion, the publishing house is offering a showstopping selection of titles in its fall catalog--Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, a two-volume set of The Little Prince, and other great books. In addition, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is hosting an exhibition entitled The Artful Book, featuring illustrated books, bindings, and original artwork from the Folio Society’s vast archives. Highlights include commissions from illustrators like Quentin Blake, Sara Ogilvie, Kate Baylay, Neil Packer, and many others.

Folio Society’s Editorial Director Tom Walker recently spoke about the milestone year, how they put together this recent catalog, and how he hopes Folio Society will continue to honor the company creed of producing books “in a form worthy of their contents.”

BBR: This year marks the 70th anniversary of Folio Society. What influenced the selections in the fall catalog? How did you decide what made the cut? What was the theme, if any, for the fall titles?

TW: These are all significant works which had the potential to become exquisite reading editions. How the cut is finally made is a long process which starts life around two years prior to publication. The selection is a combination of constantly reading in new and classic areas; understanding what our readers want, and indeed asking them directly about our ideas; curating these ideas against our backlist and then discussing what a Folio edition might bring to the work, whether that be a new introduction, commissioned artwork, a new picture selection, or simply a perfect work of material production. The labour of a book, or a catalogue, can be quite hotly contested amongst us at Folio, but my ultimate guide is that we must be genuinely excited by the prospect - it is only then that we can engage with our customers reader-to-reader, as it were, and create something which is truly exciting for us both.

Subjective judgement also comes into it, I must admit: from The Little Prince to The Spy who Came in from the Cold, these are indeed some of my favorite books. The overarching criterion though is that we at Folio are excited by the process of transformation. We have, for example, published Great Expectations a number of times in our history, but this is almost the most thrilling book of the catalogue for me because we were able to make those tiny, multiple judgements in areas like typography or cloth pattern or paper choice - and we have been able to create a completely new, modern edition which is still deeply respectful of the heritage of the great work. We treat each book we work on with the same level of individual attention to detail, and this I think is Folio’s most significant contribution over the years - its unique ability to add depth and texture to a reading experience.

BBR: The Little Prince two-volume set is magnificent, and follows on the heels of the Morgan’s exhibition in 2014. Could you talk about the process of reintroducing this book to a new generation of readers? What makes this translation different from previous iterations? Also, the illustrations seem to pop more than in previous editions--could you talk a little about what went into that production process?

TW:  It’s a book I’ve wanted to publish since I started at Folio a decade ago. I was adamant that the only way we would publish a Folio edition was if we could create something absolutely worthy of the text. For Saint-Exupéry’s illustrations I knew that we would be able to reproduce them to the very highest standards, but it took a lot of research at the British Library comparing various early editions, to find the best versions to work from. Our production team then spent days working on them to ensure the colour and integrity is of a quality not seen since its first publication in 1943.


Whilst researching the various editions, we wrote to the Morgan Library and Museum in New York for advice as to which versions to use, and it was then that I realised we had a whole new opportunity. As you mention, the Morgan inherited Saint-Exupéry’s early sketches in watercolor, which he worked on in New York during the war, but which were never published in the final version of his text. I went to view these in New York last year, and the curator there who created the Saint-Exupéry exhibition on 2014 is very much a fellow fan of his work, and was so generous with her knowledge that it felt only right that she should pen the commentary volume. She also lent to me a mid-century French edition of the work, with a stunning binding by designer Paul Bonet, which we ended up replicating on one of the volumes. The final element I wanted to be sure of was the introduction, and frankly there could be no finer author for this than Stacy Schiff, who quite apart from being Saint-Exupéry’s biographer, is a superb writer. The final version is, I hope, made by devotees for devotees - and it is one I personally am very proud of.

BBR: The LP commentary was written by Christine Nelson, who curated the 2014 LP exhibition, and she discusses preliminary and revised sketches and scenes for the book. What do you hope readers learn from this volume?

TW: There is much to be learnt on every page of this volume, but I think what has stayed with me most is the complexity of thought which Saint-Exupéry was obviously undertaking, in order to create a work which ended up so elementally simple. That seems to me almost the definition of greatness in the literary sphere, that the artist is able to bring this multitude into a series of resonant symbols which he has created - in this case, both in words and image.

BBR: What is it about this visitor from Asteroid B612 that remains relevant and captures our imagination?

TW: The Little Prince is one of the most elusive, untouchable characters in literature. His own history is only ever alluded to with such a lightness of touch that he feels as fragile a presence as the author himself. I suppose because of that we readers will always try to fill the vacuum, to take Marvel’s line, and impose whatever meanings we need to upon him. It is particularly tempting now to think of the work as an allegory for innocence and experience, and for the voice of compassion and of the meek to be heard in a brutal and often nonsensical world. Whenever we do that though, I have the feeling that the Little Prince himself is resisting such an imposition.

This must in part be due to the beautiful marriage of text and illustrations, which I am of course particularly alive to. The final pages in particular, where Saint-Exupéry strips his artwork down to two lines to represent a vast expanse of desert, are hauntingly good and keep one’s imagination completely engaged without imposing meaning. What storytelling!

BBR: What else would you like FB&C readers to know about the 70th anniversary of Folio Society? How else are you marking the occasion? 

TW: We ran a huge poll last year to decide the two books - one fiction and one non-fiction -- which our longstanding readers would most like to see as Folio editions. These will be announced very soon. They are both magisterial works and we are delighted to be publishing them.

We are also very proud to have a display specifically on Folio’s history at the world’s leading museum of design, the V&A in London -- I urge you to go if you are able.

As part of the selection of materials for the display I spent a lot of time rummaging in our archives, and came across one particular document which I found a very fitting way to think about our anniversary year. It was in fact our founding document, the paper on which Charles Ede drafted the proposal for The Folio Society in 1946/7. He writes of Folio as being ‘a sort of provide books at a reasonable price whose content will be of lasting value, and whose format will be equal to the best production of modern private presses.’ The fact that we believe in and uphold these values as much today as in 1947 is, I think, the finest possible way to celebrate our seventieth.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Catalan painter, sculptor, and ceramicist Joan Miró (1893-1983) is perhaps best known for his Surrealist sculptures and activity with the anarchic Dada art movement. After his first major museum retrospective at New York’s MOMA in 1941, Miró was catapulted into the art world stratosphere, ending up on many contemporary art collectors’ wishlists. In the past decade, Miro’s art has consistently broken new ground at auction, as evidenced by the $37 million paid for his 1927 “Peinture (Etoile Bleue)” at Sotheby’s in London in 2012. As of 2015, more than seventeen Miró artworks had sold for more than $10 million each at auction.                                                                                                                                                                                 
In 1958, the artist spoke to Parisian critic Yvon Taillandier about his life and work, and that conversation was published in a French limited edition of seventy-five copies in 1964. Now, Princeton Architectural Press is releasing a new English translation of the book on October 10. The updated volume includes Taillander’s original introduction and a new preface by Miró scholar and NYU professor Robert Lubar. The appendix contains the full original French text.  

The English text reads smoothly, if some sections of Miró’s musings are hard to follow for those unfamiliar with Surrealism: “ become truly a man, it’s necessary to become detached from one’s false self. In my case, I must stop being Miró, that is, a Spanish painter belonging to a society limited by frontiers, by social and bureaucratic conventions. In other words, we must move toward anonymity.” The sections where Miró talks about inspiration and his work process, however, are fascinating and insightful.
                                                                                                                                       Complete with ten color illustrations, this eighty-page volume is a tiny treasure trove of firsthand insight into Miró’s process and provides a tantalizing window into the experience and purpose of creating art.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Joan Miró: I Work Like a Gardener, by Joan Miró, Yvon Taillandier, Robert Lubar; Princeton Architectural Press, $19.95, 80 pages, available October 10, 2017. 

A couple years ago, I was sitting at my desk in a rented space of the Brooklyn-based literary magazine, A Public Space, edited by former Paris Review editor Brigid Hughes, where I had once worked as an assistant editor, but had since become a tenant as a freelance writer in need of a desk, when I overheard plans for their forthcoming issue focused on forgotten writers who happened to be women. I became intrigued by one of Hughes’s rediscovered authors, her memoir plucked on the $1 bookshelf at Housing Works in New York City, a woman named Bette Howland, who had published a memoir and two collections of stories, won a MacArthur Genius grant, was a friend and part-time lover of Saul Bellow, and wondered, like Hughes did, why I had never heard of her. I ended up writing a short piece for Lit Hub about A Public Space’s efforts to find and published work by her--and I ended up buying all her first editions online, most for only a few dollars.

                                                                                                                                                                         This is a far too regular a rhetorical question I end up asking silently about women writers who produced serious and accomplished work during their lives, before fading quite quickly from the spotlight, from cultural conversation. And it is a similar problem in rare books, something I saw simultaneously as I started writing for Fine Books and attending rare book fairs, at one of which I bought a first edition Joan Didion for no more than $20, and then checked the price of her neighbor on the bookshelf, Cormac McCarthy, and couldn’t believe it was over five or six hundred. It didn’t bother me that the McCarthy was so expensive. It bothered me that Didion was so cheap. I also observed that the majority of book buyers were men, and majority of sellers were men, and started to realize that that is a part of the problem in terms of getting women the proper respect in their distinguished lives and afterlives if it is primarily men deciding the market and the value.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Since around this time I started to dream up a business focused on books by women, and am now dipping my toe in the rare book trade for the first time with a small selection of books by and about women. The business is called The Second Shelf, after an excellent essay by Meg Wolitzer in the New York Times Book Review--I wrote to her and she gave me permission to use the title for my small venture. I hope to encourage women to buy more first editions and rare books, and also to help find and give occassion to celebrate the best women writers, and the forgotten women writers, including the Bette Howlands who should not be written out of literary history so easily.

                                                                                                                                                                                           It is common knowledge in the publishing world that women buy and read more books. It’s also common knowledge that men don’t tend to read books by women. The market for books by women must include far more women collectors, in order for their books and legacies to share space on the top shelf.

                                                                                                                                                                                 I’ll be sharing some offerings from booksellers exhibiting at the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair tomorrow highlighting some underappreciated and important women writers in the spirit of The Second Shelf. 

Politics and Politeness in Early America

Does it seem like everyone in politics has forgotten the Golden Rule? You know, treat others the way you’d like to be treated? The lack of decorum hasn’t gone unnoticed, and to that end, the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, is hosting author Steven C. Bullock on September 26 to discuss how early American leaders like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin believed in the importance of maintaining civility in public discourse, and why it seems so challenging for today’s politicians to embrace a similar position. Entitled Politeness and Public Life in Early America and Today, Bullock’s talk will draw on material gathered for his book on the same topic, Tea Sets and Tyranny (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), in which he suggests that self-moderation and refinement were critical in the fight to overthrow British rule.                                                                                                                                                                                           


                                                                                                                                                                               Bullock is a history professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and author of two previous books on early American politics. Copies of Tea Sets and Tyranny will be available during Bullock’s talk for purchase.
                                                                                                                                                                              Politeness and Public Life in Early America and Today takes place on Tuesday, September 26 at 7 p.m. at the American Antiquarian Society at Antiquarian Hall on 185 Salisbury Street in Worcester, MA. The talk is open to the public. For more information, contact the AAS at 508-755-5221.

The HBO series Game of Thrones has fixated audiences for seven seasons by dangling the proposition of who will claim the Iron Throne. Will the Night King prevail and leave Westeros in ruins? With so many questions and fan theories percolating in the blogosphere, the folks at Texas A&M University may have answers stored in their archives. 




Game of Thrones is based on the fantasy series A Song of Fire and Ice, written by George R.R. Martin, whose collection of papers, handwritten notes, manuscripts, and other documents are housed at A&M’s Cushing Library. The author first visited the university in the 1970s as a participant of AggieCon, the school’s annual student-run science-fiction and fantasy convention. Martin remembered the school’s appreciation for sci-fi in1993 when he chose the Cushing Library’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Collection as the repository for his personal collection of letters and other material. “When I was drowning in papers here, I thought of putting it all on deposit in a library somewhere. I remembered Texas A&M and the great facilities you have there,” said Martin in 1993 to the Texas A&M Today. (See the newspaper’s 2013 Q&A with Martin here.)

University Chancellor John Sharp recently encouraged students, faculty, and the general public to scour the Martin archives for clues as to how the series will end.
                                                                                                                                                                 “The papers and handwritten notes by George R.R. Martin possibly could contain clues about upcoming storylines, and anyone is welcome to search for themselves,” Chancellor Sharp said. “Whether you’re developing fan theories or just want to take the opportunity to see Martin’s fantasy writing in its rawest form, A&M’s library staff is happy to show off a true treasure of modern literature.”

The library also put together this video about Martin’s collection where Chancellor Sharp speaks with Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Collection curator Jeremy Brett about the collection’s contents. 


Game of Thrones airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO. The season seven finale is August 27. 

Some Farm: E.B. White’s Maine Home for Sale

The house that inspired E.B. White’s classic children’s book Charlotte’s Web is for sale. Including a circa 1795 farmhouse and 40+ acres of farmland nestled on Allen Cove in Blue Hill Bay with views of Acadia National Park, the property is listed with Downeast Properties for $3.7 million. White’s story of how a spider named Charlotte convinced a farmer to save the Wilbur the pig from the dinner table was published in 1952, earning a Newbery Honor in 1953 and named the top-selling paperback of all time by Publishers Weekly in 2000.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

E.B. and Katherine White purchased the farm in 1933. Town & Country and New England Today both recently ran extensive pieces on the property, the current owners, and the history of the place. 


                                                                                                                                               White adored the farm and lived there until his death in 1985. The current owners, Robert and Mary Gallant, purchased the property from the White family and have scrupulously maintained the farm for the past thirty years; in fact, the rope swing that makes a cameo in Charlotte’s Web still hangs in the barn doorway. The wooden desk, workbench, and wastepaper basket are still in the boathouse where White composed his stories.

Serious inquirers are invited to contact Martha Dischinger at Downeast Properties in Blue Hill, Maine, at 207-266-5058 or by email at


                                                                                                                                                                Illustrator Barney Tobey’s illustrations for the classic children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! The Magical Car (Random House, 1968) have recently been acquired by the New-York Historical Society. Twenty-nine original preparatory pieces are currently on display alongside page proofs from the book. Tobey illustrated the emerging reader’s version adapted by Al Perkins. (John Burningham illustrated the original edition published in 1964.)

Born and raised in the City That Never Sleeps, Tobey (1909-1989) illustrated dozens of children’s books and cartoons for a range of outlets: 1,200 covers for The New Yorker alone, as well as covers and illustrations for Collier’s Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, and Variety. His artwork was also exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Grolier Club, and other New York-based institutions.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! was the only children’s book written by James Bond creator Ian Fleming. In it, inventor Caractacus Potts renovates an old car that soon begins acting independent of its drivers, and hilarity ensues. Roald Dahl wrote a screenplay based on the book, which was turned into a film in 1968.

“We are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. David M. Tobey for donating his father’s vibrant and enchanting illustrations to our collection,” said N-YHS president Louise Mirrer. “Our visitors are in for a treat this summer as they follow along with the Pott family and their magical tour on their fantastical adventure.”

                                                                                                                                                    Like summer, this show is fleeting; the donated watercolors and page proofs from the 1968 edition of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! are on display through August 30. Gallery hours and more information at New-York Historical Society.

                                                                                                                                                        Image: Barney Tobey (1906-1989). Study for pp. 16-17 of Ian Fleming’s Story of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! The Magical Car, 1968. Watercolor, gouache, and black ink on Bainbridge board. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David M. Tobey, 2015.40.83.9

The third International Bookbinding Competition, hosted by Designer Bookbinders and Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries, recognized top contemporary bookbinders from around the globe at a ceremony on July 17 at the Weston Library in Oxford. This year’s theme was “Myths, Heroes & Legends,” and drew participants from over thirty countries.



First prize of approximately $13,000 (£10,000) went to Germany’s Andrea Odametey for a tissue-paper binding entitled “Daedalus and Icarus” that resembles burnt wings. The piece is now part of the Bodleain’s permanent collections.


                                                                                                                                     Inspired by broken Greek pottery and a Japanese technique of applying precious metals to enhance repairs, “The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite” by British bookbinder Rachel Ward-Sale took second place and a roughly $7,700 (£6,000) prize. This piece will go to the Getty Collection at Wormsley Park in Buckinghamshire, England.                                                                                                                   

The two top prizes are sponsored by Getty Images co-founder Mark Getty in memory of his father, collector and bookbinding advocate, Sir Paul Getty. (A full list of prizewinners may be found here.)  

A display showcasing both the prizewinners and participants remains on display until August 20th at the Weston Library. In total, seventy-four designer bindings, including the twenty-eight prize-winners, highlight the creativity and diversity of the world’s artisan bookbinders. 

                                                                                                                                  “Throughout the ages, every culture has created myths and legends that recount the great deeds of its heroes,” said competition organizer Jeanette Koch. “This year’s entries reflect a remarkable range of styles, materials and approaches to great classics of world literature, as well as modern texts. The imagination in form and structure, and the variety of materials used will capture the attention of audiences of all ages and display the wonderful and intricate art and craft of a unique handmade book.”

Can’t make it to the Weston Library to see the bindings? Heroic Works will be traveling to the Library of Birmingham from August 23 to September 28; the St. Bride Foundation in London from October 2-14, while the prize winners and American bindings head stateside to Boston’s North Bennet Street School from November 2 to December 22.

A full color catalogue, Heroic Works, is available online for £30 from or

                                                                                                                                                                       Images courtesy of the BL.

The Godmersham Lost Sheep Society (GLOSS) is on the hunt for wayward books out on the lamb that once belonged to Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen Knight and has put out the call for help.


First, the facts: Edward inherited three estates from his adoptive parents, Thomas and Catherine Knight: Godmersham Park in Kent, Chawton House, and Steventon, both in the English coastal town of Hampshire. A catalogue Edward prepared in 1818 lists over 1250 volumes for Godmersham alone. Jane frequently consulted these books, and to recover them could potentially provide new insight into the Pride and Prejudice author’s research methods and inspiration.

Most of the Godmersham books were sold in the years following Jane and Edward’s death, but the ones that remained were embellished with one of three bookplates inserted by Edward’s grandson, Montagu George Knight.

“Please help us return these books to the fold,” implored GLOSS board member Deb Barnum in a recent posting on the EX-LIBRIS listserv. What should you look for if you think you’ve come across a stray? Montagu Knight commissioned three bookplates from artist Charles Sherborn in 1900. All three bear an image of Saint Peter, referred to in the image as Saint Pierre, and include Knight’s full name and the year of creation. (Photos of the bookplates may be found here.)

If you happen upon such a volume, GLOSS would very much like to hear about it. The search has already yielded positive results and some books have been donated to Chawton House Library, which does not have funding to make acquisitions but happily accepts verified donations.

Got a tip? Contact Deb Barnum at or (802) 343-2294

sheep image: stock photo public domain


                                                                                                                                                                                                     Yesterday marked twenty years since J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first published, and with 450 million books sold worldwide, “Pottermania” shows no signs of abating; the British Library is hosting a “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” in October, publisher Bloomsbury books issued a celebratory party pack filled with games, puzzles, and books, and the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) just launched a digital collection highlighting the historical and scientific connections behind many of the elements in the series.

Entitled “How to Pass Your O.W.L’s at Hogwarts: A Prep Course,” the digial exhibition examines forty of the nearly 33,000 rare books and manuscripts housed at the NYAM and their connection to the Harry Potter books. Rare books curator Anne Garner said the show is a natural fit. “The genesis of the show was finding a way to attract more kids to the library,” she said. “When visitors come to the rare book room, they often say it looks like Hogwarts, and when we realized the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter was coming up, mounting this show made even more sense.”                                                       

                                                                                                                                                                                               Rowling’s background in the classics provided much grist for her books, where spells and creatures often have Latin roots--and the NYAM’s show illustrates where she pulled from history. Organized thematically by seven courses taught throughout the Harry Potter series, the collection appears like a fictional study guide to assist would-be wizards in their studies.                                                                

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Take the section entitled Herbology, for example: “Some plants are good for spells and not for others,” explained Garner. “In Book Two [The Chamber of Secrets] Harry goes to a class where the teacher is instructing how to repot mandrakes. Mandrake roots look eerily human, and in the fifteenth century, there was a superstition that if you pulled a mandrake root out of the ground, it would scream.” An incunable on display from 1499 called Hortus sanitus (Garden of Health) exhorts would-be botanists to use a dog and earmuffs to pull mandrakes out of the ground. “Harry’s professor tells his students to wear earmuffs when they’re pulling out mandrakes. Clearly, Rowling was familiar with these ancient treatises and incorporated them into her books.”

The Serpent of Slytherin also has roots in medieval lore. “The word basilisk comes from the Greek word basiliskos -- little king--and the ancients believed it was a mythical snake with a head in the shape of a crown, whose mere gaze could kill,” said Garner. Rowling’s basilisk in The Chamber of Secrets is also a monstrous beast with killer eyes owned by the villainous Slytherin.

Even Nicholas Flamel, a pivotal character in the first book, is based on an actual person. “Flamel appears in Book One as a 600-year-old alchemist and is credited with discovering and making the philosopher’s stone, the pinnacle of chemical achievement that led to eternal life,” said Garner. “In fact, the actual Flamel wasn’t an alchemist, but a fourteenth-century French bookseller and scribe who married well.” Seventeenth century booksellers revived Flamel as an expert in the hermetic arts--a popular topic at the time-- and the NYAM’s display includes a text on hieroglyphics attributed to Flamel, but was likely fabricated by the author, William Salmon, to generate reader interest.                                                                                                                                                                                

The images are accessible online only, but the library does welcome vistors by appointment. “Filmmakers, genaolgy researchers, even cookbook writers visit our collections because we house centuries of documentation relating to how humans view and care for their bodies through history,” Garner said. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                 The New York Academy of Medicine is located at 1216 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street New York, NY. View the Harry Potter-themed online collection here



Image credits: The New York Academy of Medicine. 

Earlier this week, the Concord Museum in Massachusetts received a daguerreotype of Sophia Thoreau (1819-1876), younger sister of American essayist and naturalist Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). The timing is fortuitous; July 12 marks the bicentennial of the birth of the author of Walden and Civil Disobedience.


SophiaThoreau_2-daguerreotype Concord Museum.jpg   

“It is remarkable that her [Sophia’s] image should come to the Concord Museum, since all the great Thoreau objects in our collection came through her hands,” said museum curator David Wood. Numbering 250 artifacts, including Thoreau’s writing desk, snowshoes, textiles, and books, the Concord Museum boasts the largest collection of objects related to Concord’s native son. Thoreau’s journals and manuscripts are at New York’s Morgan Library. 

Thoreau’s fame came posthumously, largely due to the efforts of Sophia, who served as her brother’s literary executor until her own death. She shepherded Henry’s journals to Harrison Blake, an admirer and disciple of Thoreau who edited the material for publication.


                                                                                                                                               The Sophia daguerreotype is a gift from the Geneva Frost Estate in Maine, and the acquisition is so new that Concord Museum is still researching the portrait and how it ended up in Maine in the first place.                                                                                                                                      

The Concord Museum recently collaborated with the Morgan Library on a comprehensive exhibition dedicated to Henry Thoreau entitled This Ever New Self: Thoreau and His Journal, currently on display in Manhattan. The show travels to Concord in September, where the portrait will be displayed alongside Henry’s quill pen, which is inscribed with a handwriiten note by Sophia, “The pen that brother Henry last wrote with.” This Ever New Self  will be on display in Conord until January 2018. 


Image: (top) Unknown, Portrait of Sophia Thoreau. Used with permission from the Concord Museum; (middle) Benjamin D. Maxham (1821-1889), Henry David Thoreau, 1856, daguerreotype. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.



The Beatrix Potter Society hosted a three-day symposium this past weekend at Connecticut College dedicated to discussing various Potter archives and biographies in an overall appreciation of the creator of beloved classics like The Tale of Peter Rabbit and The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck. Connecticut College’s Betsy Bray and Kathy Cole coordinated the event, which was two years in the making. Most participants hailed from libraries and institutions across the United States and Great Britain, though the group maintains a robust membership in Japan, where Peter Rabbit and a taste for British wit are hugely popular. 

The symposium kicked things off Friday with an opening reception at the Shain Library. Honorary Chair Linda Lear welcomed participants to her alma mater and to the Linda Lear Center for Special Collections and Archives, which opened in 2008 and now houses her research collection on Beatrix Potter.

Last year marked the 150th anniversary of Potter’s birth, and with it came a flurry of academic and commercial publications, inspiring a spirited examination on Saturday (moderated by Lear) devoted to the many biographies of Potter and their virtues. Incidentally, Lear is the author of Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature (2007) which was reissued last year in time for Potter’s sesquicentennial.

Fellow Connecticut College alumnus and University of Delaware Senior Research Fellow Mark Samuels Lasner was one of the weekend’s featured speakers and discussed the corpus of Potter bibliographies. Lasner recently donated his own 9,500-volume collection of British literature and art from 1850 through 1900 to the University of Delaware.

Collector Selwyn Goodacre also spoke at the symposium. A retired physician, Goodacre collects American “unauthorized editions” of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and has every printing of the book, which numbers over 150. Goodacre is a regular at these events: he’s attended every biennial conference in England since the society’s inception in 1980 and has spoken at four of them.

Beatrix Potter Society Chairperson Rowena Godfrey talked about Potter’s continued relevance in 2017. “[Potter] was a fascinating, complicated, and contradictory person, and those qualities appeal to casual readers, serious collectors, and professional archivists. Her books remain immensely profitable, so she remains in the public eye, and her archives continue to foster rich study. Her life and her work offers so much to so many people, and oddly enough, the one person who would hate this would be Potter herself.” Perhaps some part of her would appreciate so many people dedicated to the curatorship and protection of her work and bequests.

                                                                                                                                                                                       Image: The Tailor Mouse, 1902, by Beatrix Potter. (Public Domain)

If you were online over the weekend, perhaps you noticed the Google Doodle dedicated to Josephine Baker, whose 111th birthday would have been on June 3rd. (Baker died in 1975 in Paris of a cerebral hemmorhage.) 



                                                                                                                                                                       The American dancer who went to Paris at age nineteen and quickly epitomized the glitz and glamour of the Roaring Twenties is now the subject of a recently released graphic novel biography.


Written by French author-illustrator duo José-Luis Bocquet and Catel Muller, Josephine Baker (SelfMadeHero; $22.95) explores Baker’s rise to fame as one of the first black entertainers to grace the world stage.


Illustrations by Catel Muller. Reproduced with permission from SelfMadeHero                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Despite her fame and becoming one of the highest-paid stage performers of the era, Baker experienced racism daily, and offstage joined the French Resistance (Baker was the first American woman to be buried in France with military honors) as well as the Civil Rights movement, championing unity and tolerance for all.


Illustrations by Catel Muller. Reproduced with permission from SelfMadeHero                                                         

At a hefty 568 pages, no stone goes unturned in this biographic treatment, which also includes the stories of the twelve adopted children Baker called her “rainbow tribe” and fifty-five mini biographies of the men and women in Baker’s life. Catel Muller’s sinewy illustrations evoke a swinging, graceful exuberance, the whole a revealing portrait of a woman who refused to live life in the shadows.                          


Josephine Baker, by José-Luis Bocquet, illustrated by Catel Muller, SelfMadeHero; $22.95, 568 pages. 

Manhattan-based Symphony Space is welcoming summer with its annual Bloomsday performance dedicated to celebrating James Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses.

For the uninitiated, Bloomsday refers to the date--June 16--during which the events of Ulysses take place and the day is observed worldwide with readings and celebrations.  

As in years past, Symphony Space’s Bloomsday event features authors, actors, and self-proclaimed “Joyceans” who will perform readings from sections of the book considered to be the most heretical, sexual, and political--in other words, the very elements that got Ulysses declared obscene in the United States from 1922 until 1933, during which time the U.S. Postal service seized and burned nearly 500 copies of the book. Federal Judge Judge Woolsey finally lifted the ban in 1933, saying that “The words which are criticized as dirty are old Saxon words known to almost all men, and I venture, to many women....If one does not wish to assoicate with such folks as Joyce describes, that is one’s own choice.”

                                                                                                                                                                       Presented in collaboration with the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and co-produced with the Irish Arts Center, this year’s Bloomsday on Broadway is hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon and stars Criminal Minds actress Kirsten Vangsness, Malachy McCourt, Valorie Curry, and others.



Malachy McCourt. Reproduced with permission from Symphony Space

Considered to be one of the most challenging books for even the most dedicated Jocyeans to read cover to cover, Bloomsday on Broadway is partnering with the Leonard Lopate Show Book Club to bring in experts and authors to help audience members unlock Joyce’s wit and wisdom--attendees are invited to join the Facebook Group to participate in the discussion before and after the performance.

“Bloomsday on Broadway XXXVI: One Book Called Ulysses” takes place on Friday, June 16 at 7 p.m. at the Peter Jay Sharpe Theater at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th Street in New York. General admission tickets cost $26.

                                                                                                                                                                 For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit


Gabriel García Márquez working on “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” Photograph by Guillermo Angulo
Image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center


Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, and the Harry Ransom Center (HRC) at the University of Texas at Austin is marking the day by releasing an online collection documenting the creation of the novel that catapulted Márquez onto the world stage.                                                     

This digital launch is part of a larger project funded by a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources to digitize more than 24,000 images from the Márquez archive, which is slated to be completed by December 2017.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

The acquisition of the Colombian-born author’s collection from the Márquez family in 2014 complements the HRC’s vast literary archives of fellow authors like James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and Jorge Luis Borges. Students in the Latin American Studies program will no doubt benefit from studying Márquez’s trove of manuscripts, notebooks, correspondence, photo albums, and writing implements, like the two Smith Corona typewriters and five Apple computers Márquez kept and worked on throughout his career.

On May 24, the HRC hosted a Facebook Live discussion where José Montelongo of UT’s Benson Latin American Collection and Alvaro Santana-Acuña, a Ransom Center fellow and assistant professor of sociology at Whitman College led a lively conversation in Spanish and English about Márquez and his book. (See the discussion here.)

Interestingly, Márquez destroyed his working papers for Solitude (the HRC does have galleys as well as the last typescript version of the novel), while the trove that remains reveals a perfectionist at his craft. Santana-Acuña, author of the forthcoming book, Ascent to Glory: The Transformation of ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ Into a Global Classic (Columbia University Press), explained what awaits scholars who examine the remaining drafts. “He was a hardworking writer. He reviewed texts again and again until he made sure that the language was simple and effective.” No small feat for a book whose plot covered seven generations and treated magic and mythology as reality, in the process creating what is widely considered the seminal work of magical realism.



Gabriel García Márquez’s annotated typescript of “Love in the Time of Cholera.” Image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center

The novel would eventually become known as one of the most influential books of the twentieth century, garnering Márquez the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, yet it was not an immediate smash hit, at least among critics. “The book was an unexpected success, but critics were baffled back in 1967,” explained Santana-Acuña. “It was anachronistic and traditionalist; a return to old-fashioned storytelling at a time when the novel form was said to be in crisis.”

Crisis or no, when it comes to Solitude, Márquez put it best: “There is always something left to love.”

Massive Freud Collection for Sale


Bronze relief portrait medallion. 1906. 60 mm diameter.


The 19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop recently announced the sale of a massive 750-piece collection dedicated to the life and works of the father of modern psychology and psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. 

The collection includes a comprehensive representation of Freud’s published works from the 1880s to the 1940s. Freud was is one of the field’s most prolific authors, and many of the books in this collection are in their original printed wrappers. A run of 22 rare offprints--galley proofs, presentation and association copies--is believed to be the largest such collection in private hands.

Also among the items are etchings, lithographs, bronze medallions, and photographs of Freud, many of which are signed by the doctor. In addition to manuscripts, correpondance, and psychoanalytic journals, are nearly 80 books that Freud had donated to the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society, remarkable because the Nazis dissolved the society and destroyed the library in 1938. This cache was secretly saved. 

                                                                                                                                                                          Believed to be one of the most thorough private collections on Freud, the entire collection is being offered for $350,000. For a detailed inventory, contact Stephan Lowentheil at 19th Century Rare Book and Photograph shop at


In response to California’s recently passed autograph law, Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation filed a First Amendment lawsuit in the Northern District of U.S. District Court in California on behalf of Bay Area bookstore Book Passage and its co-owner, Bill Petrocelli, seeking a repeal of a law they consider unconstitutional.

The complaint, Passage v. Becerra, alleges that Assembly Bill 1570  makes it illegal for Book Passage to host author talks and signing events. According to section 1739.7 of the law, anyone selling an autographed book worth more than five dollars must provide a “certificate of authenticity,” which must include a description of the book, the signatory’s identity, the identity of any third parties witnessing the autograph, date of sale, insurance information, and other such details. A copy of these records must be maintained by the seller for seven years. Violating these requirements subjects a seller to huge fines: “a civil penalty in an amount equal to 10 times actual damages, plus court costs, reasonable attorney’s fees, interest, and expert witness fees, if applicable, incurred by the consumer in the action. The court, in its discretion, may award additional damages based on the egregiousness of the dealer’s conduct.” (California Civil Code § 1739.7(g))

The law went into effect on January 1.

Book Passage alleges AB-1570 is a violation of the First Amendment because of the undue burden it creates on the bookseller to both disseminate books, autographed or otherwise, and burdens protected speech.The lawsuit also claims that AB-1570 irrationally exempts pawn shops and online retailers from the law but not brick-and-mortar storefronts. “The new restrictions were held out as a means to protect consumers, but the Legislature exempted precisely those transactions -- internet and pawn shop transactions -- where consumer vulnerability is highest,” said PLF Senior Attorney Joshua Thompson.

Petrocelli says Book Passage hosts over 700 author events a year and that this new provision to the autograph law will create a “massive bureaucratic nightmare,” severely hampering his ability to continue hosting author talks at his three stores.

Pacific Legal Foundation is representing Book Passage pro bono in the lawsuit. “With the passage of AB-1570, California lawmakers have threatened the vitality of bookstores and the hosting of author events, and in so doing, dealt a major blow to free speech,” said PLF Attorney Anastasia Boden.

A spokesperson for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said they are reviewing the complaint.

                                                                                                                                                                                                   Speaking on behalf of the ABAA regarding any legal action, Executive Director Susan Benne said: “We fully understand and share the frustrations and problems AB-1570 has caused since its passage. The ABAA has chosen to pursue a legislative solution by collaborating with California lawmakers to amend the legislation to protect our members, rather than suing the state of California to overturn it in court. A protracted lawsuit would be costly, could take years to resolve, and risks a judgement adverse to our interests.”

                                                                                                                                                                                  See the complaint here.


Image copyright 2012 the Balbusso sisters. Reproduced with permission from the Folio Society.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

                                                                                                                                                                                      Motherhood takes on a whole new meaning in The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s dystopian tale of a fundamentalist theocracy. The award-winning bestseller was recently adapted into a television series airing on Hulu to much fanfare--to get up to speed, read Emily Nussbaum’s excellent analysis of the series and how the show’s creators adapted Atwood’s critique of Reagan-era sexual politics for a contemporary audience. The takeaway: it’s different, but rendered totally relevant to 2017, and a quick internet search yields all sorts of fascinating (if chilling) comparisons between the show, the state of feminism, the environment, and our current political climate. (Be on the lookout in episode one for a cameo by Atwood, who plays one of the women indoctrinating Offred, played by Elizabeth Moss.)

Before binge-watching the show, consider picking up the Folio Society’s 2012 edition of the book. Complete with a new introduction by the author, this incarnation includes illustrations by Italian sister-artists Anna and Elena Balbusso, whose painterly creations are often heavy with iconography and symbolism, and their work here is no different. “For a long time we hoped for a book like this [The Handmaid’s Tale] and we loved the challenge,” the Balbussos said. “The theme of a woman’s body appealed to our sensibility.” The sisters strike a decidedly futurist note with images full of bold, fascist-era strokes of red, white, and black.

Watch the show. Read the book. Discuss. If the whole enterprise starts to feel too grim, chin up: “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.”

Hulu streams new episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale Wednesdays. 


The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, illustrated by the Balbusso sisters; Folio Society, $74.95, 366 pages. Image Courtesy of the Folio Society.

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The Key in the Hand, Japan Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2015. Image courtesy of Galerie Templon. 

                                                                                                                                            The Galerie Templon in Paris is hosting an exhibition dedicated to Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota from May 20 through July 22, 2017. The performance and installation artist is known for her room-filling pieces that are at once monumental yet incredibly intricate, as if a giant spider has enveloped everything in its path in skeins of thread. Indeed, Shiota signature is quite literally tying various components of her work--often mundane items like keys, shoes, and dresses--together with red woven wool yarns, spinning intricate, ghostly webs beckoning for inspection and introspection. Shiota’s pieces are art as theater--viewers become participants in the installations, themselves springboards for meditations on the constant tension between life and death. She has said in interviews that most of her work focuses on “the memory of absent things” and that rooms can possess memory of those no longer with us, recalling, in a way, the cognitive realism of Proust and his madeline in À La Recherche du Temps Perdu.

Entitled, Destination, Shiota’s current exhibition employs empty boats as an attempt to explore life’s journeys, dreams, and how modern lifestyles have pushed humankind towards the unknown at an ever increasing pace. The show follows a theme Shiota explored at her other recent installation at the chic Parisian department store Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche, where she suspended a fleet of spectral wooden boats like a massive chandelier over the store using 300,000 yards of woven white thread. (Check out the opening night here )

Shiota revisits the boat theme in Destination, where a fleet of eleven-foot boats surround a sixteen-foot vessel, the ensemble caught in a red sea of red yarn. “I have been using boats [in my artwork] since my exhibition at the Japan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015,” explained Shiota, who, like many artists, uses boats as symbols of travel and finding one’s destination, though there is a slightly dark element to all this. If viewing the boats from below, as in the Bon Marché exhibit, the viewer becomes a drowning victim looking up at the hulls. Here, red yarn ensnares the boats, possibly preventing these vessels from arriving at their final destination. None of Shiota’s boats carry passengers but perhaps, as the artist suggests, they carry spirits and memories of the dead.

Destination also suggests that, in this age of hyper-fast everything, perhaps we’re getting tangled in the process, forgetting what harbor we’re actually navigating towards, and that maybe we should all just slow down a little bit and enjoy the ride. “Though we may not know where we are heading, we can never stop,” Shiota said. “Life is a journey of uncertainty and wonder, and the boats symbolize our dreams and hopes.”



Image courtesy of Galerie Templon. 


Studio photo of Peter O’Toole in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia. Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.


The Harry Ransom Center (HRC) at the University of Texas at Austin recently announced its acquisition of the archives of Peter O’Toole (1932-2013), the legendary British-Irish actor who began his career as a promising drama student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in the 1950s. His Academy-Award-nominated turn as T.E. Lawrence--whose archives are also at HRC--in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962) catapulted O’Toole into the spotlight. (See the 60-second O’Toole montage HRC put together celebrating the acquisition here.)

Having the Lawrence and O’Toole archives in the same place offers rich opportunity for studying and comparing the two collections. “A nearly endless amount of research can come out of the collections of T.E. Lawrence and Peter O’Toole individually, but one of the particularly interesting stories is seeing how T. E. Lawrence the person began documenting his own life, and how that story grew into the legend he’s become,” said Eric Colleary, the HRC’s Cline Curator of Theatre and Performing Arts.

The creation of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the inspiration for the 1962 film, is “as much a part of the Lawrence legend as his time in the Middle East,” said Colleary. Lawrence lost the first draft at a train station in 1919, so he began rewriting the story from memory. This handwritten second draft, the earliest existing draft of what would become Seven Pillars of Wisdom, is part of the HRC archives. (Finding Aid for the Lawrence Collection:



Unidentified photographer. T. E. Lawrence. Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.

                                                                                                                                                    Now, the addition of the O’Toole papers extends the Lawrence-O’Toole connection. A trove of press materials, photographs from the shooting of Lawrence of Arabia, and fan letters all demonstrate that this was a seminal role for O’Toole.                                                              

“O’Toole’s script for Lawrence of Arabia is here, but like many British actors of his generation, the script is mostly clean,” explained Colleary. “O’Toole was publicly critical of the American method style of acting, where scripts are often heavily marked with gesture, movement, and character motivation.”

The O’Toole collection reveals the actor’s talent as a writer, though Colleary isn’t surprised by that. “He had an incredible gift for the English language, and a style and wit that you can see in candid interviews. His archive includes unproduced screenplay adaptations of Uncle Vanya and Juno written by O’Toole himself, along with notes on drama and acting.” Interestingly enough, O’Toole once considered becoming a college educator in the United States, but rather than focus on acting, he envisioned a course dedicated to his beloved Shakespeare.

Like the Lawrence archives, O’Toole’s collection is deeply personal. “Peter O’Toole was a very private person who nearly always turned down interview requests from biographers. Speculation led to wild stories about O’Toole’s life and escapades - some true, some pure fiction. His archive reveals a much more complex person. Like Lawrence, his papers reveal the man behind the legend.”



Peter O’Toole. Unidentified photographer. Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.

Soaring High with Vintage Airline Posters


In the summer 2015 issue of Fine Books & Collections, Martha Steger wrote about the glory days of travel posters and how the field has opened up to collectors in recent years. (Read the full article here.) As Richard Davies at writes in his primer on collecting vintage airline posters, “You could ... collect by era, destination, artist, or style. There are lots of routes to go.”

For those of you feeling the pull of vintage airline posters, AbeBooks has pulled together a series from the glamorous days of air flight--i.e., 1940 to 1984--being offered by various booksellers on its site.

The usual book collecting points apply to posters, but below are a few in particular to keep in mind:

1. Posters were not mass-produced and were generally printed in a single run. Most were tossed after a few months, so scarcity can drive up demand, with prices ranging from $100 online to $162,500--the record Swann Galleries set for a travel poster three years ago. Which leads to:
2. Condition, condition, condition. If you’re interested in a particular poster, find out if it was ever tacked on a wall--are there holes in the paper? Water stains? Sunning? Dirt? Even if a poster is rare, you may be able to negotiate a better price if the poster needs restoration.
3. Love the posters but want to stick to a theme? Consider collecting by airline or by geographical region, and go from there. If you’re thinking of building your collection around a particular artist, like Donald Brun, Franz Fiebiger, or Gert Sellheim, know that it may be harder to authenticate their work--illustrators rarely signed posters.

                                                                                                                                                          To help your collection soar, consider reading Fly Now!: The Poster Collection of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, chapter 2 in the scholarly Poetics of the Poster: The Rhetoric of Image-Text by David Scott, and the gorgeous Airline Visual Identity by Callisto Publishers.

Check out ABE’s catalog of vintage airline posters here:



Images used with permission from AbeBooks. 


A screenshot of the AAS Adopt-a-Book online catalog. Credit: BBRichter

                                                                                                                                                                  On April 6th in Worcester, Massachusetts, the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) announced that its tenth annual Adopt-a-Book fundraiser hit its goal of raising $10,000. In years past, donations went towards acquisition support, but this year the AAS decided to use the funds to co-curate an exhibition dubbed Radiant with Color and Art, slated for December 2017 to be held at the Grolier Club in New York.

The exhibition will be an exploration and celebration of the work of children’s book publisher McLoughlin Brothers, which operated in New York between 1828 and 1920 and pioneered the use of color printing technology with chromolithographs and photo engravings while also introducing Americans to illustrators like Thomas Nast, Palmer Cox, and Ida Wox. The AAS is home to 1,700 unique pieces of McLoughlin Brothers, and 150 games, books, toys, prints, and watercolors from its archives in support of the show, and the fundraiser helped defray some of the costs associated with packaging and shipping the delicate items.

The Adopt-a-Book event listed items up for “adoption,” that is, books and other materials slated for the Grolier exhibition that needed help getting to New York. AAS curators had fun creating witty donation captions--the catalog entry for The Prodigal Son (Henry Dulyken, McLoughlin Bros., 1882) includes the heading, “He just wants to go home!” Each catalog entry was accompanied by a short explanation of the item up for adoption and why it was selected for the show. Suggested donations started at $50 to over $200 per piece. The hard work paid off: every item slated for adoption found a home, and will be traveling to New York in the fall.

If you missed the event, don’t fret: the AAS Adopt-a-Book fundraiser would greatly appreciate funds for packing tape, bubble wrap, and book cradles. See the online catalog here:


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William Addison Dwiggins, ca. 1941. Photograph by Robert Yarnall Richie.
Collection of the Boston Public Library.                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Thank twentieth-century American polymath William Addison Dwiggins (1880-1956) for coining the term “graphic design” back in 1922 which he used to describe his contributions in the fields of book design, typography, lettering, and even puppetry, and the term has stuck to the profession ever since. Now, San-Francisco-based nonprofit Letterform Archive and author-designer Bruce Kennett have put the final touches on a forthcoming biography of Dwiggins and his career. This book is the first of many projected design-focused publications for Letterform which hopes such endeavors will help promote the history and beauty of letterforms in graphic design. To fund publication, Letterform launched a Kickstarter campaign on March 27, 2017, and within two days had surpassed its $50,000 goal, though fundraising continues in order to raise further awareness about Dwiggins and his work.        


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W. A. Dwiggins, detail. (Boston: W. A. Dwiggins and L. B Siegfried, 1919). Collection of Letterform Archive.

                                                                                                                                                    W.A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design focuses on Dwiggins’ contributions to graphic design while also exploring his mastery of seemingly disparate art forms--in addition to designing roughly 300 book covers for publisher Alfred A. Knopf and creating Electra and Caledonia, two widely used typefaces, Dwiggins was a puppet master. His collection of marionettes--along with Dwiggins-designed books, broadsides, and furniture--were donated to the Boston Public Library in 1967 and represent his zealous attention to detail while crafting whimsical wooden playthings.



Bruce Kennett. Used with permission from Letterform Archives.                                                                                                                                     

Surprisingly, despite his wide-ranging influence that continues to resonate in the graphic design community, Dwiggins has not been the subject of a comprehensive biographical treatment until now. Good things take time: in an effort to remedy the omission, Kennett has spent decades studying Dwiggins, and in his treatment explores the success of a designer in both the artistic and commercial fields of printmaking and design who didn’t sacrifice his unique aesthetic.


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W. A. Dwiggins, detail of stencil illustration from H. G. Wells, The Treasure of
the Forest (New York: Press of the Woolly Whale, 1936). Collection of Letterform Archive.

The Kickstarter campaign ends on April 28, and like most publicly funded endeavors, there’s swag involved: backers at the $25 level or more receive goodies ranging from Dwiggins-designed postcards, a commercial license for digital versions of Electra fonts, while $95 gets you a copy of the book. High rollers ($5,000 and up) can expect a book, Linotype slugs used to print the letterpress portfolio, and a private dinner at Letterform’s San Francisco headquarters (transportation not included).

Learn more at:

‘Tis the season for award ceremonies, and on Monday the American Library Association (ALA) announced the top books for children and young adults at its Midwinter Meeting, held this year in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Kelly Barnhill received the Newbery Medal (awarded for most outstanding contribution to children’s literature) for The Girl Who Drank the Moon, published by Algonquin Young Readers.


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                                                                                                                                                      Three authors were recognized with a Newbery Honor: Ashley Bryan for Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life (Atheneum Books for Young Readers); Adam Gidwitz for The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (Dutton); and Lauren Wolk for Wolf Hollow (Dutton).


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                                                                                                                                                                 The Caldecott Medal for most distinguished American picture book for children went to Javaka Steptoe for Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (Little Brown and Company).


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                                                                                                                                                                   The ALA named four Caldecott Honor Books: Leave Me Alone! written and illustrated by Vera Brosgol (Roaring Brook Press); Freedom in Congo Square, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Little Bee Books); Du Iz Tak? written and illustrated by Carson Ellis (Candlewick Press); and They All Saw a Cat, written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel (Chronicle Books.)


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                                                                                                                                                                  The Coretta Scott King Book Award goes to an African-American author and illustrator for outstanding contribution to children’s literature. This year’s award recognized March: Book Three by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Andrew Aydin (Top Shelf Productions). Javaka Steptoe also received the Coretta Scott King Illustrator award for Radiant Child.


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                                                                                                                                                               Several other prestigious awards were also announced--check out the complete list here. Winning books covered themes of overcoming adversity, breaking through barriers, and making a difference in the world. 

                                                                                                                                                                   Congratulations to all this year’s winners! 

                                                                                                                                                                      All images courtesy of 

Inauguration Day, 1861

No matter how you feel about today’s inauguration, take heart and consider the first swearing-in ceremony of America’s sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln. On March 4, 1861, the country was a scant six weeks from entering the Civil War, seven states had already seceded from the Union, and rumors of plots to assassinate Lincoln were already swirling in the air. In addition to taking the helm of an ideologically divided country, Lincoln was the first president to be photographed at his inauguration.                                         

One image that survives the day is a salt-print photograph attributed to Alexander Gardner (1821-1882), a photographer in Mathew Brady’s Washington studio who would later earn fame for his photo-documentation of the bloddy battlegrounds of the Civil War. Gardner’s image of Lincoln taking the oath of office was made into an engraving published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and circulated throughout the country. The black and white photograph shows Lincoln on the steps of the Capitol, a tall, dark speck standing above a crowd of 25,000 attendees. Scaffolding in the background reveals that the Capitol was still undergoing construction.                                                                                                           

Only three known copies of the photograph remain in existence: one is stored at the Library of Congress, another at the Smithsonian Institution, and a third was recently acquired at auction by Bowdoin College. The image has significant connections to the state of Maine; vice-president Hannibal Hamlin was a native of Paris, Maine, and longtime resident Winslow Homer was also in attendance, whose double-page engraving of the inauguration appeared in Harper’s Bazaar (Frank Lee’s competitor) later that year. Bowdoin College Museum of Art unveiled its acquisition to the public on January 12 alongside its copy of the Homer engraving.                                                                                                                                                                                                Lincoln-nauguration-photo.jpg                                              

 Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1861, salt print, by Alexander Gardner, American 1821-1882. Courtesy Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

Lincoln called for unity that day, hoping to keep war at bay. “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be by the better angels of our nature.”

On the first of the year, AB-1570 Collectibles: Sale of Autographed Memorabilia went into effect in the state of California, requiring all dealers of any autographed material worth more than five dollars to fill out a certificate of authenticity (COA) specifying date of sale, the dealer’s name and street address, and the name and address of the person from whom the autographed item was acquired if the item was not signed in the presence of a dealer. While AB-1570’s goals are to prevent the distribution of forged autographs, many booksellers feel they’ve been swept up by a vague law with onerous requirements and that portions constitute an invasion of privacy, citing possible violations of California’s Reader Privacy Act of 2011. 

AB-1570 is an updated version of a law passed in 1992 that applied to sports memorabilia in an effort to stem the tide of a multi-billion dollar forgery industry. Sponsored by former Assemblywoman Ling-Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar), the bill received vocal support from actor Mark Hamill, better known to fans as Luke Skywalker of the “Star Wars” films. Hamill had become increasingly frustrated with seeing movie memorabilia for sale with his faked signature.

Now, any autographed item sold for five dollars or more, including books, is subject to the law.

Though Chang later wrote on her Facebook page that booksellers were not the intended targets of the law, she was voted out of office in November, and it’s unclear who will take up her cause. 


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Above: A screenshot image of part of Chang’s Facebook letter stating AB-1570 doesn’t mean to target booksellers. (image: Barbara Richter) 

“We don’t tolerate fake signatures,” said California-based bookseller John Howell. “Booksellers don’t want forgeries undermining the market. AB-1570 is not needed for us to continue practices already in place that keep fake signatures off the market.” Booksellers registered as members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America are bound by ethics regulations to offer full refunds to dissatisfied customers no matter what state they work in.

California resident and bookseller Brad Johnson is circulating a petition on to repeal AB-1570. “The unknowns concerning the law are forcing many booksellers to proceed with an abundance of caution, which generally translates into a decision to no longer offer autographed materials to consumers in California,” Johnson said.

Indeed, some booksellers, like Malcolm Kottler of Scientia Books in Massachusetts, have withdrawn from the 50th annual California International Antiquarian Book Fair in February. California Book Fair Committee Chair Michael Hackenberg said that his team has notified all exhibitors with the text of the law and suggested best practices in dealing with it. They are also providing generic COAs for dealers selling signed materials and will post public signage of the law.                                                          

Kottler signed up for the fair the week after the bill was signed into law, then spent the next three months deciding whether he should stay. “I decided to withdraw from the book fair after I examined the list of items I had at the 2016 fair, and 75 percent was autographed material. I would have brought similar items this year,” Kottler explained. Though he could have easily replaced his wares with non-autographed items, Kottler felt the swap wouldn’t justify the trip. Still, “I don’t need a repeal of the law,” he continued. “If the Legislature removes the COA requirement of providing names and addresses of sources, I could live with the rest of it. To me, it’s more of an inconvenience.”

The state has not provided guidelines on how it plans to enforce the law, yet those caught violating AB-1570 are subject to “civil penalties equaling 10 times the actual damages incurred.”

“There is considerable confusion as to who the law applies to, whether it is retroactive, and so forth,” Johnson continued. He also said that California booksellers who initiated the repeal petition are in conversation with “key” members of the California Senate and Assembly.

For the moment, out-of-state booksellers are interpreting the law in two ways: Connecticut-based Easton Press deals largely in signed, limited-edition items and will no longer ship books to California, asserting prohibitive COA costs. Kottler, however, is not sure whether the law applies to out-of-state dealers. “I believe I am not bound by AB-1570 if I send a purchased, signed copy from Massachusetts to California, but the law is unclear,” he said.

Susan Benne of the ABAA says her organization hopes members will educate themselves on the new regulations. “Our goal is to inform our members that this new law is on the books in California, and to make sure they understand how it may impact their businesses,” she said. (The ABAA does not provide legal counsel; members are encouraged to seek out California legal representation to understand how the law applies.) “In terms of protecting the consumer, we don’t oppose the rationale behind the law, but the way it was written impinges on the privacy of booksellers. And the requirements may be unnecessarily onerous for small businesses.”

Supporters of repealing or amending AB-1570 are encouraged to sign the online petition and write to California legislators explaining why they feel law needs to be changed.


Coconut cake at the Emily Dickinson Museum. Photo Credit: Nicholas A. Basbanes 


On Saturday December 10 the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, celebrated what would have been its namesake’s 186th birthday with cake, guided tours, and of course, poetry readings. Last year the museum welcomed visitors to partake in crowdsourced poetry creation and to tour the recently completed renovation of Dickinson’s bedroom.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Roughly 260 visitors braved bitter temperatures to attend this year’s bash, which coincided with the restoration of the property’s conservatory. Built by the Dickinson patriarch Edward in 1855, the tiny, south-facing, six-foot by 17-foot glass-enclosed greenhouse served as a year-round link to the natural world so beloved by Emily, where she tended to nearly two dozen native and exotic plants like orchids, ferns, carnations, and gardenias.                       

Dickinson’s interest in plants was far from casual; consider her Herbarium, a collection of over 400 plants she collected, pressed, and identified by their Latin names while a precocious fourteen-year old student at Amherst Academy. A facsimile of the impressive volume is at the museum, while Harvard’s Houghton Library houses the original. (The entire book has been digitized and is accessible online.) 

The conservatory was dismantled in 1916, but many of the original building materials remained on the property, undisturbed, for one hundred years. Now, the museum plans to use those existing pieces to rebuild the greenhouse as accurately as possible, as well as replant the various flowers that both inspired the poet and, as she grew more reclusive, served as her representatives to the outside world.

“The restoration of the conservatory is still a work in progress,” said Brooke Steinhauser, the museum’s program director. “We’ve got another month before completion--but there’s a roof and a floor, and already you get a feel for the size of the space and how important this room was to this poet who was a gardener at heart.”

Throughout the afternoon, volunteers invited children and adults to fill miniature pots with marigold or foxglove seeds from the garden. At 2:30 p.m. sharp a crowd assembled on the main floor around a table supporting two massive coconut cakes prepared according to a recipe sent to the poet by a woman known as Mrs. Carmichael. (Find the recipe here and in Emily Dickinson: Profile of the Poet as a Cook.) Taste-testers agreed that the confection was appropriately sweet and dense--a pleasing remedy to wintery doldrums and a lovely tribute to a woman who distilled “amazing sense From Ordinary Meanings.”



The poet’s bedroom reproduced to appear as it did when Dickinson inhabited it. Photo: Nicholas A. Basbanes


The Emily Dickinson Museum closes later this month for the rest of the winter and will reopen in March. 

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Entrance to Emberley exhibition. Image reproduced with permission from Worcester Art Museum. 

A comprehensive exhibition for award-winning children’s picture book author and illustrator Ed Emberley opened November 16 at the Worcester Art Museum (WAM) in Massachusetts that examines Emberley’s enduring 60-year influence on budding artists and authors.

Over 100 artworks from Emberley’s own archive are on display--woodblocks, hand-drawn mock-ups, even a 90” by 30” print of Paul Bunyan--along with another 100 books written and illustrated by the prolific author. 

The career of the 85-year old Massachusetts native began in 1962 when The Wing on a Flea: A Book About Shapes made that year’s New York Times top-10 list of illustrated books. Since then, Emberley has create books stylistically diverse and endlessly creative, with some seeing greater commercial success than others, and many achieving beloved, almost cult-like following. For example, the 1975 out-of-print The Wizard of Op remains a coveted item by collectors, available online at a base price of $50 in acceptable condition. Prices rise to over $200 for copies in mint condition.

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Paul Bunyan’s Bunk House with plenty of space to cozy up and read. Reproduced with permission from Worcester Art Museum. 

Why host a retrospective now? Guest curator and fellow artist Caleb Neelon collaborated on a book about Emberley in 2014 with designer Todd Oldham (Ed Emberley/AMMO Books) and has been nursing the idea for a full-scale examination since then. “Putting together a show has been in the back of my mind since our book came out, and it turned out Adam Rozan [Director of Audience Engagement at WAM] and I were on the same page,” Neelon said.

“Emberley’s books stand the test of time in that they teach you something--whether you’re the kid or the grownup with the kid, you learn how to draw a simple lion or something else, and you feel good because you did it, and you can do it again, returning to that good feeling,” Neelon continued. “Ed’s whole goal is to get kids to look at something and say, ‘I can do that!’ When children turn seven or eight, some start to feel self-conscious about their drawing abilities and many stop drawing. These books take kids through that awkward stage and lets them have fun while they’re at it.”

“We hope our visitors will appreciate that Ed Emberley is an artist that must be seen and shown in art museums,” reiterated WAM’s Rozan. “His is the work that will be viewed in institutions now and in the future. Emberley’s work reminds us to innovate, dream, and wonder about the importance of the visual image and its relationship to the written word.”

WAM’s associate curator Katrina Stacy sees Emberley’s work as emblematic of a story with deep intergenerational Massachusetts roots, “and surprisingly, has never been the focus of a museum retrospective.” To ensure people of all ages can fully appreciate the breadth of the show, the curators included elements like easy-to-read labels and plenty of areas to rest, read, play, and of course, draw. WAM will be hosting regular drop-in workshops during the exhibition where visitors of all ages can try their hand at Emberley’s own artistic techniques. (See website for details on dates and times.)

“There are a lot of sad moods flying around our world right now,” concluded Neelon. “This is a good show to see if you are feeling low and need a lift.”

KAHBAHBLOOM: The Art and Storytelling of Ed Emberley runs through April 9, 2017 at the Worcester Art Museum 55 Sailsbury Street, Worcester, MA 01609


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                                                                                                                                                                          Forty-nine original printing blocks for the first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (London: R. Clay, Son, and Taylor for Macmillan and Co., 1865), and for the first edition of Through the Looking-Glass, and what Alice found there (London: R. Clay, Son, and Taylor for Macmillan and Co., 1871). Image courtesy of Christie’s.

John Tenniel judged the images produced from electrotype printing plates of his illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to be so poorly rendered that he convinced the book’s author, Lewis Carroll, to recall entire first edition. Carroll’s diary entry for July 20, 1865 states as much: “Called on [publisher] Macmillan, and showed him Tenniel’s letter about the fairy-tale -- he is entirely dissatisfied with the printing of the pictures, and I suppose we shall have to do it all again.” (R.L. Green, ed., The Diaries (London: 1953), p.234). As a result, only twenty copies of that first edition are known to remain in existence, making it something of a black tulip among collectors. Now, the original printing blocks are heading to auction on December 1 at Christie’s London with pre-sale estimates of $43,000-56,000.

Of the forty-nine copper-plated lead printing blocks, thirty-eight were created for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), and eleven for the first edition of Through Looking Glass (1871). The plates last appeared at auction at Christie’s in November 2001, when they sold for £30,550 ($43,259) from the estate of Donald William Barber, a former employee of R. Clay, Son, and Taylor, the printers who handled the second first published edition after The Clarendon Press production was deemed unacceptable. 

In 1865, electrotyping was a relatively new method of duplicating printing forms--the process had only been invented twenty-seven years earlier--but had already become the new standard for creating exact copies of a master image. Electrotype blocks are created by pressing a waxy mold into an original piece of type (or illustrated block), after which the mold is dusted with graphite and bathed in a copper-sulfite solution. An electric charge is applied, and the chemical reaction creates a copper wall on the mold. Once removed from the mold, the copper block is ready to be pressed into service. The process yields long-lasting, reusable plates suitable for large print runs. (The Met filmed an informative video explaining the process.)

Tenniel’s exacting standards were finally met, and in a November 1865 journal entry Carroll enthused that the new impression was “far superior to the old, and in fact a perfect piece of artistic printing.” (R.L. Green, ed., op. cit., p. 236). See the difference between the suppressed first edition and fine press reprints here

While the Boston area gears up for an ambitious, multi-venue examination of illuminated manuscripts and early printed books with the Beyond Words exhibition, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is hosting two overlapping shows: one dedicated to medieval illumination, and a second focusing on the chemical legacy of alchemy. The Alchemy of Color in Medieval Manuscripts explores the creation of various vivid pigments traditionally used in medieval manuscript painting. Gold, for example, was used for its incorruptibility--that is, it doesn’t tarnish or oxidize with time--and was employed to convey great spiritual importance. Verdigris, on the other hand, was infamous for its destructive, reactive properties. Produced by corroding copper strips with vinegar, the mixture yielded a greenish-blue hue that varied depending on the initial chemical ratios. Meanwhile, The Art of Alchemy explores the influence the practice had on artistic expression in sculpture, glassmaking, and manuscript illumination. 


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                                                                                                                                                              Saint Mark, about 1325-1345. Tempera colors and gold leaf on parchment. Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

                                                                                                                                                            Now through February 2017, the Getty’s concurrent exhibitions examine the origins of alchemy--from Greco-Egyptian antiquity through its transformation into chemical study--as well as alchemist’s integral role in medieval illumination and how these “ancestors of modern chemistry” endeavored to do more than just transmute lead into gold. Without alchemists, many of the brilliant hues we associate with illumination would be less radiant. Though alchemists were largely dismissed as crackpots during the Renaissance, recent studies have shown that their work in chemical compounding influenced the work of Sir Isaac Newton and Robert Boyle. 

The exhibitions draw from the Getty’s archives at the Research Institute and Museum, and while exploring the importance of The Great Art in medieval society, The Alchemy of Color in Medieval Manuscripts also explores that era’s shifting perceptions and interpretations of art and science.

As further proof that medieval alchemy lives on in today’s artistic world, the Getty invited Tim Ely, an alchemist of our own time, to host a two-day workshop examining the materials and methods necessary to produce contemporary manuscript illumination. Artist and historian Sylvana Barrett will host gold-leaf demonstrations at the museum through January. Other demonstrations include a culinary workshop highlighting the connections between food, color, and science, and Derek Jarman’s avant-garde production Blue (1993) will be screened this evening on the Garden Terrace, with sweeping vistas of Los Angeles serving as the film’s inky backdrop.

The Alchemy of Color in Medieval Manuscripts runs through Jaunary 1, 2017 at the Getty Center and the Art of Alchemy is on view at the Getty Research Institute through February 12, 2017. More information may be found at

On Wednesday, September 28 the Austin Book Arts Center (ABAC) celebrated its first year of operation with printing demonstrations, music, champagne, cupcakes, and a silent auction which raised roughly $4,000 which will enable workshops and outreach programs to inspire a new generation of book artisans.

Founded in 2015, the ABAC picked up the mantle of the Austin Book Workers group, an organization created in 1986 that met itinerantly at school auditoriums, libraries and even private homes to make books. The Austin Book Workers merged with the ABAC in 2013, and spent the next two years raising funds and securing a permanent home for the city’s book arts program. Steering the ABAC are Amanda Stevenson, formerly of New York City’s Center for Book Arts, and Mary Baughman, a book conservator at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Now located at 2832 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the ABAC has been able to install larger pieces of equipment like letterpresses and other bookmaking materials to further the group’s vision of “advancing the book as a vital contemporary art form, [to] preserve the traditional and robust crafts related to making books, and [to] engage the community in creative, interpretative, and educational experiences, including the improvement of literacy for people of all ages.”

Workshops include creating letterpress business cards, an introduction to do-it-yourself publishing, mixing methyl cellulose to create colorful endpapers, and even hosts a happy hour bookbinding class to help k-12 teachers set up their own bookbinding classroom projects. Costs range from $45 to $270 per workshop, and ABAC members enjoy a 10% discount off tuition. (Annual memberships start at $40 for students, $50 per individual, and include access to the studio during open hours.) Class sizes are kept small to ensure individual attention and instruction.

Happy Birthday, ABAC; you’ve joined a small but robust group of nonprofits throughout the country dedicated to providing hands-on programs that foster creativity and encourage self-expression through the creation of books. Here’s to many more years illuminating the way. 


Image Courtesy of ABAC.

Lewis Carroll Notebook Goes to Auction

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Lewis Carroll fans, take note: on October 20, Sotheby’s London will be auctioning a brown exercise notebook that provides an unexpected glimpse at the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author’s network of confidantes towards the end of his life.

As part of the Library of the English Bibliophile auction series, Carroll’s notebook last appeared on the block in 1946, when it was purchased by a private collector at Manhattan’s Parke-Bernet Galleries.                                                                                                                       

Parke-Bernet became part of the Sotheby’s empire in 1964.      

                                                                                                                                                Sotheby’s representatives declined to comment on the notebook’s current owner, saying only that the book hails from a private collection.

Dating from the summer of 1889, the 40-page notebook is significant because it includes Carroll’s handwritten list of 121 intended recipients of The Nursery Alice, an 1890 adaptation of Alice for the diaper set. 

The Nursery Alice was published 25 years after Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and remarkably, both titles have remained in print to this day. (Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.)

Carroll’s purple-ink notations reveal a detailed hierarchy of gift recipients; Carroll’s sisters top the list, while Mrs. Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the inspiration for the Alice books, appears at number 34. Carroll also highlighted which friends he wished to recive special copies bound in white morocco leather. (Though similarly bound presentation copies were made for other Carroll works, none were ever produced for The Nursery Alice.) Alice Hargreaves was slated to receive one such volume, but not John Tenniel, who illustrated both works.

Pre-sale estimates place The Nursery Alice 40-page exercise notebook, with one page of algebra questions (in black ink and not in Carroll’s handwriting) and 18 pages presenting 121 names and addresses, in purple ink with original paper wrappers and collector’s chemise and red morocco pull-off box, at £25,000-35,000 ($33,000-46,000).


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Pages from Lewis Carroll’s notebook. Images Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Curated Lists of Collectibles Now on AbeBooks, a subsidiary of, launched a new search element to its website earlier this week. Dubbed Collections, this section focuses on antiquarian books, prints, and ephemera. What makes this different from the rest of AbeBooks is the interface. 

                                                                                                                   abecollections.JPGFamous for helping people find specific, obscure but often necessary books, the newest component to AbeBooks addresses the way people shop for everything nowadays: the Collections platform is organized thematically, mimicking a Pinterest board with its visual bookmarks.

                                                                                                                                                                   Unlike traditional functions on AbeBooks, users won’t be typing in the name of a specific title; the Collections section is geared towards potential customers who have a general idea of what they like, and by browsing thematically will develop a more nuanced appreciation for their likes and dislikes.

                                                                                                                                                               “Anyone who enjoys hunting through used bookstores, antique shops and art galleries for obscure treasures will relish Collections,” said Arkady Vitrouk, CEO of AbeBooks. “Collections allows sellers to define the topics and offer an innovative discovery experience.”

                                                                                                                                                                                  Though online shopping will never quite be the same as browsing the dusty stacks of a bookstore--though brick-and-mortar shops were organized thematically--there was always an element of serendipity, difficult to replicate in the digital world. Still, this is stack-browsing in the digital era, and Collections is the latest foray into the tech sphere for antiquarians. (To wit, see last month’s story about Collectival’s game-changing software for book dealers. )


md6667734861.jpg“Collections” are created when sellers upload items to AbeBooks and curate each one into a list. Customers can then browse lists--some extending into thousands of items--and as they click through, the website’s software updates its personalized recommendations. In addition, AbeBooks’ editors highlight particularly noteworthy lists for their breadth and beauty.

Current “curators” include the usual suspects--New York’s Strand Bookstore, Powell’s Books in Portland, Royal Books from Baltimore, Hennessey + Ingalls from Los Angeles--as well as smaller, more specialized shops like Hungarian seller Földvári Books and Dutch seller Librarium of The Hague. Donald A. Heald hosts “Pocket Maps,” one of which is seen here.

Have you visited the Collections marketplace on yet? Tweet us your experiences @finebooks.

                                                                                                                                                      Images Courtesy of

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Dust jacket for Madeline and the Bad Hat. photo credit: Wikimedia

The cosmos must be sending out veggie vibes to bibliophiles these days--after last week’s story on Bill Dailey’s collection of antiquarian vegetarian cookbooks comes another, slightly mischievous argument to go meat-free: on August 25 PBA Galleries in San Francisco will auction an original illustration from Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline and the Bad Hat. This charming signed ink and watercolor painting dates from 1956 and is the original illustration that Bemelmans reproduced for the third volume of his beloved Madeline series.

The illustration “He Built Himself a Guillotine ” depicts Madeline’s recently arrived neighbor Pepito--the “bad hat” of the tale--about to commit poultricide in the name of gastronomy. Pepito and his chef are preparing the family chickens for that day’s meal while Madeline and her friends tearfully witness the imminent carnage from their window perch next door. To put it bluntly, this kid is a total brat, and his shenanigans test the limits of Madeline’s patience. Pepito continues to torture helpless creatures until one of his plans backfires. While Pepito convalesces, Madeline convinces him to change course, and the reformed animal bully becomes a vegetarian. Some readers consider Madeline and the Bad Hat controversial--depictions of animal cruelty aren’t so hip these days--but like many bad boys before him, Pepito sees the error of his ways and vows to become a better person.

Lightly worn with evidence of prior framing, this lot is accompanied by a signed copy of the first trade edition of the book. Bids will open at $20,000.

For more information and to view images of the painting, visit


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Chicken for every pot. photo credit: BB Richter

The Summer of Hamilton

Has the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Hamilton reached its zenith? After a twelve-month run that grossed $90 million dollars in ticket sales, the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, made his final appearance onstage in June. Now, doorbuster ticket prices are dipping below $500 per seat. Still, if that’s too rich for your blood, check out the New-York Historical Society’s museum-wide celebration of America’s first Secretary of the Treasury and his influence shaping the U.S. government.

Replicas of the dueling pistols used by Hamilton and Burr on view at the New-York Historical Society, on loan from the JPMorgan Chase Historical Collection. Photo credit: New-York Historical Society, Courtesy of the JPMorgan Chase Historical Collection.

The Summer of Hamilton exhibit includes some of the items from the museum’s 2015 installation that also showcased the life and times of Alexander Hamilton, but there are new items as well: Life-size bronze statues depicting Hamilton and Burr in their deadly duel; Hamilton’s 1797 gift of a tall case clock to the Bank of New York; and his writing desk, on loan from the Museum of the City of New York.

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Alexander Hamilton to Elizabeth Schuyler, October 5, 1780 (The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GL C00773) Photo Credit: New-York Historical Society

In addition, the NYHS will display nine documents written by Hamilton, including his touching love letter to fiancée Elizabeth Schuyler; his infamous letter to mistress Maria Reynolds; and his proposal for the federal government that he presented at the Constitutional Convention.


In a letter (also on display) where Hamilton supports Thomas Jefferson over Aaron Burr as president, his complaints sound remarkably prescient when read against the backdrop of today’s riotous political bickering: “In a choice of Evils let them take the least--Jefferson is in every view less dangerous than Burr.”

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Kim Crowley, Alexander Hamilton, bronze, 2004, New-York Historical Society (photo: Don Pollard)

And back by popular demand, the NYHS will recreate the infamous Hamilton-Burr duel on Sunday, August 7 with actors from American Historical Theatre.

                                                                                                                                               Visit The New-York Historical Society’s website for a complete list of programming and hours.

Or Else: Cautionary Tales for Children

The Rare Book Room in Philadelphia’s Free Library is running an exhibition on children’s books where “happily ever after” is not always the end goal. “Or Else: Cautionary Tales for Children” examines 250 years of the evolution of danger and morality in children’s literature, exploring early Calvinist beliefs on moralism and later works that provide room for humor and laughter in tandem with moral guidance.

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                                                                                                                                                         The show starts with material from the 18th century because until then “children read the same books as adults,” said curator Caitlin Goodman. The show’s inflection point--when books started to be written exclusively for the education of children--comes with Henrich Hoffmann’s gruesome Struwwlpeter (Slovenly Peter). “Hoffmann’s book was a different species of cautionary tale because it was didactic and entertaining,” said Goodman. Hoffmann’s stories were meant to frighten children into behaving, and paved the way for modern classics like Where the Wild Things Are and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. “Though Slovenly Peter demonstrates a turning point in children’s literature, it’s still a far cry from Maurice Sendak’s Pierre. Most of the kids in the Slovenly Peter series die.” (In Sendak’s dark classic, Pierre is swallowed by a lion because he “doesn’t care,” but is rescued.) 

Over 100 items from the Free Library and the Rosenbach collections are on display, including Isaac Watts’ Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language For the Use of Children, William Blake’s radical poems on childhood (which were never intended for children in the first place), Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Tomi Ungerer’s The Three Robbers.

A reading nook set up especially for young visitors also doubles as a board game area, with a duplicate of a Victorian-era morality race game called “The Mansion of Bliss.” It is similar to “Shoots and Ladders,” except that the goal is to get to heaven, and the game is hard to win. “No one has succesfully played through during the exhibition,” Goodman said. “People get frustrated and think the game is unfair, but our modern standards of fairness are very different from Victorian beliefs.” The reading corner is also stocked with modern favorites, like Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. “These books are extremely popular, yet manage to be instructive,” Goodman explained, and they continue the tradition of cautionary tales into the 21st century.



“The Mansion of Bliss: A New Game for the Amusement of Youth.”  1822. Reproduced with permission from the Free Library.


The Rare Book Department is open from 9am to 5pm Monday through Saturday. “Or Else: Cautionary Tales for Children” is on display through July 23. If you can’t make it to Philadelphia before the show closes, all of the materials in the exhibition have been scanned and may be viewed here. For more information, visit


Printing a Child’s World

From Alice in Wonderland’s 150th anniversary celebration to Mo Willems’ New York retrospective, children’s picture books and their creators are enjoying something of a moment in Manhattan’s cultural and literary circles. Now, the Met is hosting an installation of printed works celebrating the world of children as depicted on canvas and paper.

Through October 16, visitors to the show entitled “Printing a Child’s World” in the American Wing at the Met Fifth Avenue will be greeted by over two dozen works dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Rarely displayed children’s books, illustrations, and prints by artists such as Randolph Caldecott, George Bellows, Winslow Homer, and Thomas Nast explore how art and advertising at the turn of the last century became ever more focused on the experience of childhood. Then as now, idyllic scenes of children at play, rest, or reading were commercially successful and played with the heartstrings (and purse-strings) of viewers.



Cover image for The House That Jack Built. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Highlights include nine original Caldecott watercolors for The House That Jack Built; Nast’s iconic, cherry-cheeked, jovial rendering of Santa Claus from A Visit from Saint Nicholas; and an illustration by Winslow Homer that appeared in an 1858 edition of Eventful History of Three Blind Mice. Writers and reformers of the time saw the world’s youth as the living embodiment of all that was new and modern during an era of sweeping social change, while working in mass-market mediums cemented the legacies of illustrators like Homer and Caldecott, whose art remains celebrated by collectors and artists today.

Material for the installation comes from the Met archives, the New-York Historical Society, and from a private collection.

“Printing a Child’s World” is on view at the Met through October 16. More information may be found here.

Babar Comes to Houghton Library

Harvard’s Houghton Library recently acquired the complete archive of Jean de Brunhoff’s preparatory materials for his 1934 alphabet book, ABC de Babar. Over one hundred sketches, hand-colored proofs, and other items were gifted to the library by Laurent de Brunhoff and Laurent’s wife, Phyllis Rose.

Jean de Brunhoff published the first Babar book in 1931, and by his death in 1937 wrote and illustrated seven stories about Babar, the orphan elephant who eventually becomes king of the pachyderms. In 1945, Laurent de Brunhoff, Jean’s oldest son, resumed the Babar series, and has written and illustrated more than thirty additional titles.

“The ABC de Babar was the fourth book of Jean’s series and differed from its predecessors in that it did not tell a story but was an alphabet book,” explained Hope Mayo, the Houghton Library’s curator of printing and graphic arts. “It’s charming, and it suits the Houghton very well, because the collection demonstrates how a commercially successful children’s book was produced in the 1930s,” she continued.

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How good is your French? Can you spot all 28 words that start with “T”? Original art work by Jean de Brunhoff for ABC de Babar (MS Typ 1186, Houghton Library, Harvard University).

Now through August 31, eighteen of the items donated by the couple will be on display in the Amy Lowell Room. “This selection of sketches and proofs from the preparatory stages demonstrates the sequence of creating a children’s book,” said Mayo. An original drawing by Laurent de Brunhoff and commissioned by the Houghton is also on display, with Babar walking up the library steps with his abcedaire in hand.


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Babar Brings His ABC to Houghton Library. Original watercolor and gouache drawing by Laurent de Brunhoff (TypDr 2070.B240.16b, Houghton Library, Harvard University)


The ABC de Babar used characters and settings from de Brunhoff’s earlier books to illustrate each letter of the alphabet. For example, a page for the letter “T” (pictured at top) shows Babar and his family sitting on a terrasse, drinking tea, and enjoying a view of the Tour Eiffel and tulips. On this page alone are 28 words in French that begin with the letter “T,” a tour de force that further demonstrates why Babar has remained a global icon for eight decades.

                                                                                                                                                           Babar Comes to the Houghton runs from June 9 through August 31 in the Amy Lowell Room at Harvard University’s Houghton Library.

The Carnavalet museum, the archaeological crypt located under the parvis of Nôtre-Dame, and the Petit Palais are just three of the 14 institutions that comprise the municipal museums of Paris. Together, the consortium (also known as Paris Musées) welcomed over 3 million visitors in 2015. In that same period, 9.3 million people visited the Louvre. In a bid to generate greater interest and public awareness in the city’s museums, Paris Musées recently launched a website where nearly 200,000 images from the various instutions are accessible online. As part of the kick-off, Paris Musées curators teamed up with ten well-known Instagramers--artists, photographers, fashion bloggers, and comedians--to reinterpret ten different works of art found in the municipal collections.

Instagram artists like @audrey.pirault and @rafaelmantesso selected paintings and photographs and gave them a funky, chic overhaul in tune with the social media generation. For example, an oil painting of the illustrious Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) by Georges Clairin (1843-1919) shows the comédienne draped luxuriously over a satiny divan. Instagrammer @miss_etc remade the portrait into a sumptuous selfie, showing the artist lounging on a beige sofa in pricey sneakers and flowy gown, holding her iPhone just right to capture the moment.


Georges CLAIRIN (1843-1919). Portrait de Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923). 1876. Musée des Beaux Arts de la Ville de Paris, Petit Palais. ©Petit Palais.


The Instagram exhibition is targeting a specific audience: People who do not go to museums. By inviting social-media darlings (each with hundreds of thousands of followers) to reimagine classic works of art, Paris Musées is battling the perception that museums are stuffy, irrelevant, out-of-touch cabinets of curiosity, and are in fact culturally relevant and hip.


Portrait de Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) reinterpreted by @miss_etc. Reproduced with permission from Paris Musées.


The Instagram exhibition is being held at the Gare Saint-Lazare. While a train station seems an odd choice for an art installation, the goal is to promote the city’s museums to the greater, non-museum-going public, and thousands of commuters hustle through the massive station daily. Passers-by will also be invited to propose their own remakes and share them online using the #ParallèleParisMusées hashtag, the whole endeavor highlighting how technology can bridge the gap between art and audience.

Art, inaccessible? Not in Paris.

Check out the Paris Musées Instagram account at

                                                                                                                                                               The Instagram art will be on view at the Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris through July 31. More information is available here.

MANHATTAN, May 24--The Bonnie J. Sacerdote Lecture Hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was the setting for a daylong symposium dedicated to exploring the history, design, and manufacture of late 19th to early 20th century American publishers’ book covers, as well as bookbinders’ influence on decorative bookbinding and other artistic movements. Over 125 collectors, curators, librarians, binders, and preservationists also gathered to celebrate the recent acquisition of American decorated publishers’ bindings by the Met’s Watson Library.


Book cover design by Alice Cordelia Morse. Written by Paul Leicester Ford -, Public Domain,


After an introduction by the Met’s head preservation librarian Mindell Dubansky, Richard Minsky took the podium. The Center for Book Arts founder offered compelling evidence for how American book designers such as Alice Cordelia Morse and Amy Richards formed the vanguard of major artistic movements like Art Deco and Surrealism. Senior book conservator at the Northeast Document Conservation Center Todd Pattison explored the role of women in book production and the industrialization of 19th Century American publishers’ bindings. Met curators, including Dubansky and Holly Phillips, spoke about the museum’s vast collections dedicated to decorative bookbindings. Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen discussed the influence of stained glass window design on decorative book cover creators.

Women played a huge, if often overlooked role, in the creation of books, and the symposium’s speakers highlighted women’s achievements in nearly every presentation. During the late 1800s, many women were employed in binderies; folding, sewing, trimming, and stitching books in factories in Philadelphia, Hartford, and New York City. A smaller group of women, such as Alice C. Morse, Sarah Wyman Whitman, and Margaret Armstrong, were primarily responsible for producing beautiful decorative bindings, and maintained successful careers in an ever-evolving industry. Their selection of color palettes, design, and style contributed to the growing field of decorative arts and led the way for future generations of artists.

A closing reception in the Watson library, where original botany watercolors by Margaret Armstrong were on display, put the finishing touches on an illuminating event.

Last year, the world celebrated 150 consecutive years of Alice in Wonderland in print with seminars, conferences, readings and film screenings. 2016 has another tantalizing event on the horizon: At high noon on June 16, in a stand-alone sale at Christie’s New York, an extremely rare first edition copy of Lewis Carroll’s landmark publication will be on the auction block, still in its original red cloth binding and with unparalleled provenance. Sometimes referred to as the “Suppressed Alice,” the first edition was published on July 4, 1865, only to be withdrawn by Carroll days later because the book’s illustrator, John Tenniel, had declared the quality of the printed illustrations subpar. All 2,000 copies were recalled, though Carroll retained 50 advance copies in his possession.


Dodgson, Charles Lutwidge (‘Lewis Carroll’), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. London: [The Clarendon Press for] Macmillan, 1865. 42 wood-engraved illustrations by the Dalziel brothers after John Tenniel. Original publisher’s red cloth decorated in gilt, original endpapers with Burn bindery ticket on rear pastedown. Estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000. Credit: Christie’s Images LTD.

As a result, surviving copies are rare. “With only twenty-two extant copies, this first edition is rarer than Shakespeare’s First Folio,” said Jon A. Lindseth, the book’s current owner. “Of these, sixteen are held by institutions, and six remain in private hands. Of the editions held privately, two are in their original cloth--always my objective as a collector--with one of these described as heavily worn.” Lindseth, a passionate collector of Lewis Carroll for over a quarter century and general editor of the recently published three-volume Alice in a World of Wonderlands: The Translations of Lewis Carroll’s Masterpiece (Oak Knoll Press), acquired his copy in 1997 from legendary television and film producer Bill Self (1921-2010). Prior to Self, it was owned by Chicago book collector Harriet Borland (1905-1997), financier-turned-bibliophile Carl H. Pforzheimer (1879-1957), Carroll’s child friend Alexandra Kitchin (1864-1925), and her father George Kitchin (1827-1912), Carroll’s Oxford colleague who acquired the book from the author.



One of the images Tenniel declared entirely dissatistactory, leading to the recall of the entire first edition. Credit: Christie’s Images LTD.

“No other copy in this condition, with this provenance, exists in private hands,” Lindseth said. “Today, all significant Lewis Carroll collections are held by private institutions. The lack of Lewis Carroll collections in Great Britain led me to gift my own collection to the British Library.” Since the British Library already has a copy of the 1865 Alice, Lindseth is putting his edition up for sale.

Pre-sale estimates for the 1865 Alice in Wonderland are $2,000,000-3,000,000. Christie’s will host this sale on Thursday, June 16 at noon, at Rockefeller Plaza. For more information, visit

The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide

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Devil’s Claw ©2016 Paul Mirocha. Reproduced with permission from University of Arizona Press.


This year the National Park Service turns 100, and while plenty of new books on the topic clamor for attention, one standout will surely interest readers of this blog. The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide, published by the University of Arizona Press takes an innovative approach to natural history by combining words and image in a most striking way. A delightful hybrid of scientific exploration and creative writing, the book is a unique match for the desert topography, which is itself a study in paradoxes: Encompassing over 120,000 miles between Arizona and Mexico, North America’s hottest region is also the world’s “lushest” desert, and claims five distinct seasons, allowing for a surprising array of life.

To capture the biodiversity of the desert, editors Eric Magrane and Christopher Cokinos included material from fifty writers and poets based in the American West. The writers and their styles are just as varied as the plants and animals discussed: Alison Hawthorne Deming’s odes to the Saguaro cactus, “What the Desert is Thinking” and “Questions for a Saguaro,” mimic the long arms of the desert’s keystone flora, while Wendy Burk’s spare, methodical composition matches its subject, the desert tortoise. These, and other entries represent a sampling of what the editors charmingly coined a “literary biomimicry.” Plenty of creatures are included whose names alone demand further inspection, such as the desert globemallow, the fairy duster, and the Arizona walkingstick. Sketches by award-winning illustrator Paul Mirocha are crisp, bright, and lively. (Readers may recognize Mirocha’s handiwork; he has illustrated over 20 children’s books and pop-ups, including Barbara Kingsolver’s Small Wonder.)

Each creative contribution is accompanied by the subject’s physical description and habitat, and these scientific entries are entertaining as well: the desert tortoise is called “the Oreo of the desert” for their prevalence on predator menus, and inebriated young men are frequent victims of rattlesnake bites. The diversity of the text and the species of the Sonoran offer up a rich resource that celebrates the beauty of this extraordinary biome.


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Cactus Wren ©2016 Paul Mirocha, reproduced with permission from University of Arizona Press

The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide, edited by Eric Magrane and Christopher Cokinos with illustrations by Paul Mirocha; University of Arizona Press, $19.95, 216 pages, 2016.

If the 1984 Academy-Award winning film Amadeus is to be believed, Italian court composer Antonio Salieri (1750-1825) played bitter rival to petulant boy-genius Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791), so consumed by jealousy that he even conspired to poison the young prodigy. In reality, the men were more than cordial--Salieri tutored Mozart’s son in piano, and surviving letters between the two suggest a professional working relationship. Now, curators at the Czech Museum of Music in Prague have unearthed a composition set to music by Salieri and Mozart in honor of a mutually beloved singer.


Posthumous painting by Barbara Krafft in 1819. Source: Wikimedia Commons

                                                                                                                                                         Entitled Per la Ricuperata Salute di Offelia, the libretto was written in 1785 by Viennese court poet Lorenzo da Ponte and set to music by Salieri and Mozart for Nancy Storace (1765-1818), a popular British operatic soprano living in Vienna. All three composers admired the diva, who, in addition to appearing in twenty operas, premiered as Offelia in Salieri’s La Grotta di Trofinia and as Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. Unfortunately, a voice ailment sidelined the prima donna for months. Salieri, Mozart, and da Ponte crafted this jaunty cantata in celebration of her return to the stage. The score itself includes da Ponte’s pseudonym, Coretti; the year of publication, the name of the printer, Joseph von Kurzböck, and the first letters of each composer’s last name.

Portrait of Salieri by Joseph Willibrord Mähler. Source: Wikimedia Commons

After 1785, the libretto was only mentioned again in Austrian musician Ludwig Ritter von Köchel’s chronological catalog of Mozart’s music, but that the work had been lost to time. The Museum of Music acquired the libretto in the 1950s as ‘confiscated property,’ but the piece wasn’t catalogued until 1976. At the time, museum curators were unable to determine the authenticity of the famous authors, and so it was classified in the museum’s records using only the letters M, S, and C as the creators. In 2015, the music librarian re-cataloged the libretto collection and was able to authenticate Salieri and Mozart as the co- authors. The composition was performed by harpsichoridst Lukas Vendl for the first time in at least 200 years at a recent press conference at the museum, which can be heard here.

                                                                                                                                                        That’s quite an impressive paper trail.

Sci-Fi Epic DUNE Turns 50

An early cover of Frank Herbert’s epic intergalactic adventure. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Before Star Wars, there was Dune. (Certainly, before Dune there was The Blazing World, a 1666 utopian romance by British aristocrat Margaret Cavendish, but let’s stick to the 20th century.) It’s all part of the science-fiction genre, and readers have long been enthralled with what author Isaac Asimov coined in 1953 as “that branch of literature which is concerned with the impact of scientific advance upon human beings.”

Frank Herbert’s Dune particularly reshaped the world of modern science fiction. This epic tale of a warring feudal society in search of a precious natural resource called spice melange, set 21,000 years in the future on a faraway sandworm-infested planet, addresses, among other things, how man-made technology affects our surrounding ecology. The book was groundbreaking, and in addition to becoming the bestselling science fiction novel ever, Dune is also credited with laying the groundwork for the Earth Day movement. The book eventually won the inaugural Nebula award as well as a Hugo, and remains in the public eye with numerous sequels, movies, and other associated tie-ins.

Marking the fiftieth anniversary of Dune’s publication, the Pollak Library at California State University, Fullerton, which acquired the Dune manuscripts in the 1960s (as well as Herbert’s articles, correspondence, and research materials), is exploring the book’s contribution to popular science fiction with a speaker series called Dune: From Print to Cinema and Beyond.” Through November 6, Fullerton faculty and guest speakers will discuss the book’s legacy and how its political and environmental messages remains relevant.

Fans looking for some spice of own might consider the Folio Society’s recently published $125 commemorative edition of the book, with illustrations by Brooklyn-based artist Sam Weber. Weber, you may recall, was commissioned by the United States Post Office to create stamps honoring the life and work of American writer Flannery O’Connor. The artist’s 11 haunting photorealistic oil on board portraits of futuristic men and women are far from being cheesy throwbacks and evoke people whose dark struggles aren’t all that different from our own. The Washington Post’s longtime Book World editor (and Pulitzer Prize winner) Michael Dirda wrote the book’s new introduction, calling it “more than a futuristic swashbuckler or a science-fiction ‘coming-of-age’ novel....It is a serious moral fable about the unforeseen consequences of the choices we make.”

Sam Weber’s Sandworm from Dune. Reproduced with permission from The Folio Society.

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Dedicated to rare books and manuscripts, Yale University’s Beinecke Library also houses a massive collection of videocassettes and is currently in the process of digitizing the tapes to preserve them and make them accessible online. Library preservationists are currently working with decades-old recordings of “Sesame Street” from the archives of screenwriter and song writer Tony Geiss (1924-2011).

AnAmericanTailPoster.jpgGeiss spent a lifetime creating programming for children. He co-wrote the animated feature films “An American Tail” and “The Land Before Time” and spent almost 40 years writing for public television’s “Sesame Street,” where he created characters like the Muppet Monsters, Abby Cadabby, and the Honkers. Geiss’ work earned him 22 Emmys, and the adoration of children worldwide. 

Digitizing videocassettes has become a priority for the University, which has nearly 2,000 cassettes in various formats, including VHS, U-matic, Betacam, and 8mm. Cassettes degrade over time, according to Frank Clifford, the library’s video digitization project manager, “It’s a matter of time before a lot of these tapes are not going to be playable at all,” he said in a press release. Another challenge is maintaining the equipment necessary to play these tapes, which also break down. One digitized, the material will be easier to maintain, even if the videos are no longer accessible in their original form.

Since starting the digitization process in January, Clifford has digitized over 600 tapes. Of the archives containing videocassettes, Geiss’ is one of the largest, followed closely by poet Ira Cohen’s papers and the archive of Nobel Prize-winning poet Joseph Brodsky. 

Image: “An AmericanTail” Poster via Wikipedia.

That Great Book Which is Ever Before Our Eyes

After ten years of hurtling through space, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft approached Pluto and its moons this week, sending home stunning photographs of the icy dwarf planet. Over the next six months the vessel will continue accumulating data that astronomers hope will reveal some of the secrets concealed by this rocky world at the limits of our solar system. Before the spacecraft began its 3 billion-mile trek in January 2006, NASA scientists maintained that this mission - the exploration of the Kuiper Belt (the farthest, oldest portion of the solar system where Pluto resides) - as the highest priority in space travel.

IImage of Pluto from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, taken on July 13, 2015 when the spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. The bright feature in the bottom portion of the planet has been coined “the heart”.
Image Credit: NASA/APL/SwRI

Much what we knew about Pluto (and hundreds of asteroids) is due to Clyde Tombaugh. As a 24 year-old at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, the farmer-turned-astronomer discovered Pluto in 1930 and sparked what could be considered the modern push to planetary exploration. Tombaugh spent his entire life gazing towards the heavens, and built over thirty telescopes to better understand the cosmos. (His first telescope, a store-bought Sears model, proved insufficient rather quickly.) He died in 1997, just shy of his 91st birthday. Tombaugh was the first American to discover a planet in our solar system, and was honored for his work by becoming the first person whose remains, included in the New Horizons craft, were launched into the stars beyond our corner of the universe. After getting a close-up look at Pluto, he will continue charting new worlds beyond our galactic neighborhood.

Clyde Tombaugh: Discoverer of Pluto (1906-1997) Image Credit: NASA

Book Smell for the 21st Century

Ask an antiquarian book collector what a room full of books smells like, and responses will probably include the familiar scents of glue, ink, various types of paper, even mold. “Old Book Smell” even attracted the attention of The Smithsonian Magazine, which ran a story on its blog in 2013 exploring the chemical breakdown of a book’s odeur. (Scientists behind the study deduced that old books emit a “combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness.” 

E-books can’t compete with that unmistakable aromatic, but technology has advanced to the point where new digital books can be infused with scent. Think of the Smell-O-Vision, (a 1960 invention intended to perfume movie theaters) but on a mobile device.  Last year, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup Vapor Communications announced the creation of the oPhone, an app capable of emitting scent that corresponds to digitally written material. Here’s how it works: type an oNote using email or SMS. When the message shows up in the oNotes app, a scent wafts from a Bluetooth-enabled oPhone, which looks like two miniature steel chimneys affixed atop a white and stainless-steel platter. Now that same technology, generally called oMedia, exists for a range of products - oSongs, oClothing, and oBooks made with ‘scent-tagged’ images. 

Right now, there’s only one oBook, a collaborative effort with Melcher Media called Goldilocks and the Three Bears: The Smelly Version. Infused with fruit scents, Goldilocks is designed to encourage children to select healthy snacks like apricots and oranges. 

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image courtesy of Vapor Communications 

None of the various oMedia products are available in stores yet, and attempts to download the oNotes app from the company website were unsuccessful. However, on Saturday, April 18, curious parties can test the Goldilocks oBook at Museum of the Moving Image in New York, where it’s part of an installation called Sensory Stories: An Exhibition of New Narrative Experiences.  Another olfactory exhibit, Memory | Witness of the Unimaginable, opens today at Le Laboratoire in Cambridge, MA. Created by music composer Dániel Péter Biró, master perfumer Christophe Laudamiel, and oMedia creators David Edwards and Rachel Field, installations examine how the combination of scent and sound can transform a sensory experience.

At this rate, oMedia is eerily close to fulfilling Anne of Green Gable’s author L.M. Montgomery’s desire: “I wish we could see perfumes as well as smell them. I’m sure they would be very beautiful.” 

Sensory Stories: An Exhibition of New Narrative Experiences runs from April 18 through July 26 at the Museum of the Moving Image 36-01 35 Ave, Astoria, NY 11106 718 777 6888. More information is at: 

Memory | Witness of the Unimaginable is at Le Laboratoire Cambridge from April 18 through August 26. 650 East Kendall St. Cambridge, MA 02142 Tel: 617-945-7515!exhibitions/c5jx

McEwanI_Uncat_3_001_300dpi copy.jpegIan McEwan’s first draft of “On Chesil Beach.” Courtesy of Harry Ransom Center.

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin purchased the archive of British novelist Ian McEwan for $2m last week. The archive includes early drafts of his classic novels, unfinished or abandoned stories, letters to McEwan from other literary luminaries like Philip Roth and Salman Rushdie, and 17 years of e-mail correspondence.

Stephen Enniss, Director of the Harry Ransom Center said the “acquisition represents a rare opportunity to share the work of a living, internationally-acclaimed author whose works are of strong interest to readers everywhere.”

McEwan said of the value of the archive, “The writer tends to forget rapidly the routes he or she discarded along the way. Sometimes the path towards a finished novel takes surprising twists. It’s rarely an even development. For example, my novel Atonement started out as a science fiction story set two or three centuries into future.”

McEwan continued, “I was recently awarded the (Oxford) Bodleian medal. After accepting it, I was shown some of the items in their extensive historical archives. It was deeply moving, to hold in my hand a notebook of the 17-year-old Jane Austen. And then, to turn the pages of Kafka’s first draft of Metamorphosis. An archive takes you right to the heart of the literary creation; it makes for an emotional connection that anyone who loves literature will understand. The experience is almost sensual. Beyond that, of course, critical and biographical work on writers is completely dependent on the resources of a world-class archive collection like the Ransom Centre.”
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On Sunday Keno Auctions in New York City sold an important piece of early Americana for a startling $912,500. The document, entitled Letter from the Twelve United States Colonies by their Delegates in Congress to the Inhabitants of Great Britain, was a final plea from the Continental Congress to avoid an armed uprising. The document - long thought lost - invited fierce competition from two phone bidders who quickly blew through its $100,000 - $400,000 estimate. The winning bid came from a private collector via manuscripts specialist Seth Kaller. The final price, at $912,500, took the prize for highest price paid during Americana Week 2014 in New York City.

The letter itself was written by the jurist Robert R. Livingston (of Declaration of Independence fame) in 1775 and was printed in July of that year. This draft of the document offers an invaluable perspective into the final printed document as it includes excised paragraphs and marginal notes. Until the discovery of this letter, only the final printed document was known to scholars.

The letter was found in July of this year by Emilie Gruchow, an archivist with the Morris-Jumel Mansion in Manhattan. (The mansion served as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War). Gruchow found the letter in a folder of 18th century doctor’s bills tucked away in the drawer of a desk in the mansion’s attic. After its discovery and verification, the Morris-Jumel Mansion decided to sell the letter to raise funds for the long-term survival of the museum.

With a winning bid just shy of $1m, the Museum’s nest-egg received an impressive boost.

A Very Gorey Halloween

Halloween is still two weeks away, yet goblins, witches and faux headstones already claim valuable lawn space across the country. While the kids celebrate with silly tricks and sticky treats, why not indulge grown-ups this season with work by the marvelously gloomy Edward Gorey.

Located in the Flatiron neighborhood in Manhattan, B&B Rare Books is featuring three Gorey first editions; The Doubtful Guest, ($275) The Blue Aspic ($150) and The Loathsome Couple($100).  All three are in fine to very good condition and none will break the bank. 


Although these books aren’t for the faint of heart - unwelcome visitors, death and destruction feature prominently throughout - perhaps the most ghoulish tale is The Loathsome Couple.  It is considered a cult classic among Gorey collectors and tells such a shocking story that even the author acknowledged it as his most appalling. The murderous husband and wife couple is based on a real duo that perpetrated the chilling Moors Murders in England in the 1960’s.  Unlike in most Gorey tales, the characters in this book are caught and suitably punished. 

Another way to celebrate Halloween would be to visit the Gorey House in Yarmouth Port on Cape Cod. Since the author’s death in 2000, the home has been converted into a delightfully unique museum that chronicles the life, work and charitable endeavors of the master of macabre. 


The Gorey House hasn’t planned anything special for Halloween this year. (The House co-hosted a Dracula Blood Drive with the Cape Cod Hospital in 2006, but hasn’t since then.) It is currently exhibiting original artwork from The Vinegar Works, Three Volumes of Moral Instruction.

Currently featured in the gift shop is a toy theater based on Gorey’s drawings and sets for his award-winning Broadway production of Dracula. It retails at a reasonable $25.00.

Sadly, Ombledroom, the twenty-eight pound white cat who ruled the House and delighted visitors for twelve years, passed away last summer at the age of twelve. Visitors can pay tribute at to the feline’s final resting place, which is situated under a Southern magnolia tree on a patch of lawn by the house.   Happy Haunting!


 If you saw the Fine Books Facebook page on Monday you may have been enticed to guess who will grace the magazine’s summer cover.  A hint to seek out that day’s Google Doodle (see below) would have led you to Maurice Sendak, arguably the twentieth century’s preeminent illustrator of children’s books.   Google created the Doodle because Sendak would have celebrated his 85th birthday on Monday.  (Sendak died last May.)

 Leonard Marcus, a leading authority on children’s books and illustrations, has written a story for the summer issue discussing Sendak and his work. Marcus is also the author of Show me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter (Candlewick 2012) and recently edited a catalogue in conjunction with an exhibition of over 200 of Sendak’s previously unpublished art and sponsored by the New York Society of Illustrators.

Bill Clinton dubbed Sendak “The King of Dreams” when he awarded him the National Medal of Art in 1996.  The Brooklyn native wrote and illustrated close to 100 titles, including perhaps most notably Where the Wild Things Are. He was awarded a Caldecott Medal and the Hans Christian Andersen Award, among many others throughout his sixty-year career. 

Children of all ages can cite their favorite book. Mine is Dear Mili, an unpublished Wilhelm Grimm tale rediscovered in 1983 and published with Sendak’s illustrations in 1988.  The images of death and miracles are wild - abnormally vivid forests, little girls with very large feet, and psychedelic landscapes. I remember reading it as a child, and while the story itself frightened me, I could not stop gazing at those wonderful images and following Mili on her unflinching quest.  In Show me a Story! Marcus asks Sendak about Mili. His response illustrates his complete understanding of children: “...she has the same kind of trudging, hard-working quality that I love in children. They’re trudging children; they go and do what they must do.”

A little Father’s Day tribute regarding Dear Mili: as a prized possession, I have a poster for the book, signed by Sendak, that my father stood in a long line to get at an ABA Convention the year of publication. It’s the only time he ever queued up at any book convention to get a poster signed. And since Sendak was only autographing one poster per customer, my doting dad got right back in line and procured another so that my sister and I might each have one.   

1922 - Gatsby, Newbery and Melcher

The release of a new film adaptation of Fitzgerald’s classic novel has reignited a mania for all things Gatsby. And why not? The story illustrates a prosperous, glamorous, yet sometimes garish, period in American society. On Monday Rebecca wrote about a new edition of Fitzgerald’s first eight short stories.   Today, we look at the creation of the first award for children’s literature, which was the same year in which Fitzgerald set The Great Gatbsy. 

While Fitzgerald described the cosmopolitan world of flapper culture set to decadent jazz music, American publisher and renowned admirer of children’s books Frederic Melcher commissioned the first Newbery Medal. Melcher named the award after the eighteenth-century British bookseller and printer Jon Newbery because he is regarded as the first dedicated printer and publisher of children’s literature.  

Newbery felt that making beautiful and accessible books for children was essential to their development. When he published Pretty Poems for Children Three Feet High he added the following inscription: “To all those who are good this book is dedicated by their best friend.”[1]

The first Newbery medal winner went to a non-fiction history book called The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon (Liveright). In the 1920’s this book was considered the authoritative children’s resource on 5,000 years of history.  


Like The Great Gatsby, the Newbery Award is a uniquely American institution, since only authors contributing to American children’s literature and published in the United States by an American publisher are considered for the prize.

Source: Hazard, Paul. Books, Children & Men. (M. Mitchell, Trans.).Boston: The Horn Book Co., 1944. 


If you’re in London, you have until 13th January to see some of the materials making up the Women’s Liberation Music Archive at Space Station 65. Luckily, since May 2011 the archive itself has been completely available online, a DIY initiative built from scans and stories, some of them contributed via e-mail. 

Started by Deborah Withers and Frankie Green in October 2010, the archive is organised alphabetically by band name, with songs, lyric sheets, photos, posters, ephemera, and recollections about each in its place in the music scene of the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s and 80s UK. It’s a good example of multi-media collecting, since it includes audio and video files which have been uploaded to digital formats, and the world of posters, photos, and other press clippings that any comprehensive music archive draws to itself. Most importantly, it’s a great example of an emergent archive at its best: continuously growing and actively filling a gap in the existing historical record. As the founders write:

“Fusing music with politics to develop and express feminist ideas, women musicians and bands were a major part of the WLM [Women’s Liberation Movement]. However, there is scant permanent record of their ground-breaking activity during this era, much of which is not widely known about. Many groups never made recordings and operated outside the commercial, mainstream or alternative circuits - or indeed were oppositional to them. They were self-funded and worked on a shoestring and thus unable to create lasting material. Despite being a vital and integral part of the movement, they are often omitted from or marginalised by media reportage and feminist histories.”

The Women’s Liberation Music Archive emphasizes one of the great services the internet allows collectors to provide: free and comprehensive access to collections which otherwise might not survive by their own means. There are at least two kinds of materials that make up collections: works that are self-evidently collectible like fine press books, and those works for whom it takes an outcry or two to bring to our notice. Since many of the bands and their associated paper-and-song trails archived here were created in opposition to commercial culture, it’s hard to imagine their place in an archive by their own means. It’s emerging archives like this that turn historical deficits into surpluses, and that’s important work in any field.

Image Credit: From the Women’s Liberation Music Archive, under C for Clapperclaw.

A semi-regular series profiling new archives.

jc_peckham_peace_wall_003_0.jpgThis past August marked the anniversary of the London riots, the anniversary of a terrible time that saw pockets of the city razed, pillaged and plundered for reasons that still have not been adequately identified.

In the South-East district of Peckham, the damage was devastating and iconic: images of a flaming double-decker bus on the local high street became emblems of the destruction the rest of the city had sustained. 

The worst in a few brought out the best in the rest of communities all over London: the streets were cleaned, the broken glass and skeletal remains of burned out cars were cleared away early in early the morning after the riots, a massive effort organized almost entirely over Twitter. In Peckham, the boarded-up windows of a looted Poundland (the UK equivalent of a Dollar Store), went a step beyond utility: they became a public archive. Members of the local theatre, the Peckham Shed, started to stick post-it notes on the boards, decorating what they called the ‘Why We Love Peckham Wall’:

There was so much fear, anger and distress in the area in the aftermath of the rioting that we wanted to do something to remind people that lots of people really care about Peckham; that there are incredibly talented young people here and a vibrant and proud community which wants to come together to try to address the problems here. (Source)
Neighbors and passersby joined in, and soon the covered wall was featured as a zoomable, interactive images on The BBC: “Peckham isHome”; “CHANGE!”; “I feel at home here”; “PECKHAM LIVES”, and “I love Peckham”.

Luckily, the Peckham Shed also had it in mind to preserve the testimonies of locals with more than images - and thus an archive of just about the most ephemeral materials you can think of, Post-It Notes, was born.

Last month in remembrance of the riots the boards containing the post-its were exhibited outside the library in an area known as the Peckham Space.  And now, the Peckham Peace Wall has been installed, according to the Creative Review, it is based on 4,000 originals that have been digitally hand-traced and added to tiles for permanent display, designed by the local creative collective Garudio Studiage.

jc_peckham_peace_wall_009_0.jpgArchives are awfully elastic things: it’s great that something like the Peckham Peace Wall, an archive from the ashes, serves all three purposes of serious commemoration, positive reinforcement, and the literal preservation of local color and local involvement. Let’s hope to see more like it. 

English: Great Seal of the State of Georgia

English: Great Seal of the State of Georgia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a press release issued last Thursday, 13 September, Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced that the state archives would close due to budget cuts. “After November 1st, the public will only be allowed to access the building by appointment; however, the number of appointments could be limited based on the schedule of the remaining employees.” As of yesterday, 7 of the 10 staff members were given notice that they would lose their jobs at that time.

The Friends of Georgia’s Archives and History are the best resource for updates but also the central HQ for activism & elegance on the subject. Their ‘ACTION ALERT’  for advocating on behalf of archival access makes a clear case against Kemp’s decision. Conveniently, ironically, we can organize the three main points of the Action Alert under Georgia’s State Motto:

  1. WISDOM: Access to records now avoids even more expensive legal fees later.  It upsets the due process of law, since easy access to the documents held in the archive are a basic component of land claims, boundary disputes, utility right-of-way, claims against state agencies. On top of that the Secretary of State himself has noted that even limited access to the archives will still cost millions a year to rent.
  2. JUSTICE: According to State Law (Georgia Records Act, Title 50 Chapter 18 Article 4 section 70(b), whew) it is a legal right for individuals to have access to public records. Restricting hours to appointment only is completely “contrary to the practice of government transparency”.
  3. MODERATION: The Secretary was required to decrease his annual spending by 3%. That 3% is the entirety of the Archives budget rather than a combination of cuts. There are many gruesome ways of visualizing this kind of economics: lopping off limbs rather than trimming the fat is one of them.

There has been an outcry from archivists and librarians from blog to shining blog, and the American Libraries Association has issued a press release condemning the closure:

“The Georgia Archives is a treasure trove of unique documents and official records. As one of the original 13 colonies, Georgia has a rich and colorful history. Events of historic importance continue to occur. The State of Georgia established the Archives to preserve the history of Georgia, and access to that resource is vitally important to the future of Georgia and its citizens.”

There is a large spectrum of scholars who suffer from such a drastic action: historians of the South from Professor James C. Cobb of the University of Georgia, to local genealogy researches, historical re-enactment societies, and families interested in their own history. And lest we forget, 21 September is the Civil War Sesquicetennial.

Archives are an important component of civic life, counting forward from the records of Colonial American days which enrich our understanding of the past, to the present need for easy access to legal documents, court rulings, marriage certificates, mortgages and deeds. Between the two, this archive is in constant use.

The outer limits of the need for access to are no less vital. Rachel Maddow recently reported, for instance, on Jeff Thigpen’s use of local archives in Greensboro, North Carolina to challenge potentially fraudulent signatures filed by banks and mortgage companies and used to take away homes from families during the housing crisis. Thigpen: “Public recording offices are part of our democracy in rule of law and the laws that govern them need to be respected”. These are exactly the same documents that closing the Georgia archives would place under lock and key. Each document has a role to play in local culture and local administration, and in the extreme case of Greensboro and many other counties across the United States, in preserving local dignity.

Georgia would be the first state to close its archives, but seen in a more threatening light, it would be the first state to set the precedent that it is okay to close the archives, to deny citizens access to historical and legal documents. For this reason a petition at to the Governor of the state has collected over 13,000 signatures so far, and you can add yours here. You can also contact the Governor by e-mail.

UPDATE (20 September 2012):

The Clayton News Daily has reported that Governor Deal announced Wednesday evening that the archives would remain open for now, without providing further details as to how. The news was a surprise to protestors who had confronted the Governor with a print-out of the 13,000 strong petition against closure, as well as the Secretary of State himself:

Making a promise to keep the archives open is different from actually fulfilling that promise, however. Kemp said the funding issue still has to be addressed. He added the governor did not tell him about his pledge before it was made. Kemp’s office oversees the archives operations.

“If he funds it to keep it open, that’d be great,” said Kemp.

The secretary explained Deal would have to “tell me we weren’t going to have to come up with a $733,000 cut” in order to fulfill the promise to keep the archives’ doors open.

Nothing has been guaranteed. Watch this space for more information.

Earlier this week Michael Moynihan ran an article in Tablet Magazine that exposed several glaring problems in a new book by Johan Leher: Imagine: How Creativity Works.

The author had completely made up six quotes and attributed them to Bob Dylan, for example, regarding his song lyrics:
Bob-Dylan-jpg(The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan indeed, via Buzzfeed)

The media-driven outrage that erupted shortly after the article was published, whether or not commensurate with the crime, resulted in Lehrer’s resignation from his post at The New Yorker and a letter of apology: “When Mr. Moynihan followed up, I continued to lie, and say things I should not have said”.

What happened next is something which I think has a long history in the making of rare books: Lehrer’s publishers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, began posting ads telling booksellers to stop selling copies of Imagine and to return them to the publisher, full shipping costs covered. Today they updated the message to include individual readers who own the book. Imagine is the latest among books whose errors have lead to scandal, recall, or destruction: for the most extreme cases, just look at the history of errata in the Bible. On the one hand Lehrer is going to have trouble moving forward in his career, but on the other hand surviving copies of his book will only gain rarity with age now that they’ve joined the ranks of recalled books like A Million Little Pieces and How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life.

It’s true that putting your money on preserving these books, each of which were bestsellers, is a long-term game with many hits and misses, the certainty of which may not even be confirmed in our lifetime. How Opal Mehta Got Kissed... is on both available for around a dollar on, but also safely preserved in at least one special collections library. The coin is in the air and will probably be suspended there for at least a few decades.

The added benefit of this final frontier of collecting, which I’ll call biblio-prognosticating to add a little pomp to what is otherwise the bookish equivalent of ambulance chasing, is that it’s cheap. Unlike tried-and-true incunabula, Kelmscott Press, or even to an increasing extent punk fanzines, you can start a collection of books inflated by hype and scandal on a relatively small budget.

I would be surprised if the instincts of the book collector didn’t lead him or her to do just that every now and then. According to twitter, I’m not half-wrong. As lovers of books our instincts are sharpened, primed even, for opportunities like this:
twitter-1.jpgIt’s not a bad choice: especially given what a landmark the Harry Potter Series is in the history of publishing, both in the sheer numbers of production, but also the uniquely high level of security surrounding the publication and sale of each installment (you can find an excellent chapter about the amazing lengths Bloomsbury went to, including GPS tracking devices and on-call militia to take down stolen vans of Book 7 of Harry Potter before his official release in Ted Striphas’ Late of Print).

twitter-2.jpgAgain, a smart move given the author’s legacy and the general greatness of the work.

All of this begs the question: Which contemporary books do you buy in hopes that they’ll obtain value later? Post your answers in the contents!

Readers may recall our spring column on Kim Rhode, a 33-year-old Olympian with a penchant for children’s books. The California native won a gold medal in skeet shooting at the London Olympics this past weekend, becoming the first US athlete to medal in five consecutive Olympic games.

Her passion for sport is akin to her passion for books. She told us, “I’ll definitely continue collecting until the day I die. I think books are becoming obsolete, so I see what I’m doing as preserving history, the heritage of parents reading to their kids. I don’t see myself ever getting bored. Collecting is something that’s constantly changing. I’m always updating and growing and getting better.”

We wonder if Rhode has had a chance to go hunting for her ‘holy grail,’ a first edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit in dust jacket, while she’s been in London.
In March, London Metropolitan University’s Board of Governors announced plans to find a new sponsor for The Women’s Library. In real terms this threatens the UNESCO-recognized collection, the largest to document women’s history in Europe, with all but closure. If new space isn’t found for the collection of over 60,000 printed works (not to mention hundreds of discrete archives, ephemera, posters, journals, and objects), opening hours will be reduced to one day a week by December 2012, making it difficult for locals to access the collections, and nearly impossible for anybody else. In historic terms this takes on a greater quality of horror: the library was founded in 1926 from a converted pub in Westminster, that is, we’re talking about closing the library women could go two years before Virginia Woolf ever thought to demand A Room of One’s Own. 

Funny enough, it was rejection from a library that provoked Woolf to write in the first place: “Never will I wake those echoes, never will I ask for that hospitality again, I vowed as I descended the steps in anger.” Imagine the angry look on her face, unforgiving and ultimately iconic, distilled into the pages of A Room of One’s Own. How do we relate to that anger today?

There are several ways: the petition in protest of such an upheaval to the Library has reached over 11,000 signatures already: you can sign it here. If you are a UK resident you can lobby your local MP to take action here. Finally, there is a campaign website that accepts testimonies about the library here . In other words the bad has brought out the good, and praise for the library has poured in from all sides, which has sparked a large-scale consideration of what it means to have a space uniquely dedicated to Women’s history: from UNISON to The Guardian, from historians historians to lesbians, and even Private Eye has covered the endangered library...twice. What is the measure of a library’s cultural impact? One non-theoretical answer lies in who it incites to action, and it is a credit to the Women’s Library that the public outcry has been so strong, the testimonies across Facebook so numerous. Indy Bhullar, Information Librarian at the Women’s Library, put it best when I asked the question many others have been answering: what does the library mean to you?

“The Library means a good deal of things to me and perhaps the best way of focusing a response would be within the 3 goals of the Save The Women’s Library campaign, thus: The collection which holds so much history and through which so many stories can be revealed, with narratives interweaving and adjoining constantly (many of which are still yet to be uncovered or re-read) but all of which reflect the lives of a plethora of women and organisations and which are still relevant to so many people.  I love that it is still a growing collection and continues to reflect new ideas and perspectives, so we’ve room on our shelves for boxes of zines as well as suffrage banners or a first edition of Adam Bede. The building which arose like an anti-phoenix (that is out of flood-water rather than fire...) and was purpose-built to house the materials which we have but also enabled the expansion of the Library, enabling us to attract and host other groups, organisations, events and exhibitions and which has given the Library more than just a room of its own; The staff who are all committed to seeing this unique institution flourish through the expertise and knowledge that they’ve amassed over the years and who have helped develop and operate a world class institution.  They are also to be commended for putting up with my woeful sense of humour.”

The cornerstone of the collection is the archives of the Fawcett Society, dating back to 1866. This is the group currently campaigning hardest for women, especially women affected by austerity measures in the UK; this is the group who has made claims based on the latest budget figures that the path to gender equality is moving in reverse. So the irony that closing the Women’s Library threatens access to Fawcett’s history as far back as the bluestockings can’t only be symbolic. 


Nor is the damage done distantly historic: this isn’t just Virginia Woolf who’s fuming all over again, because this decision disrupts the Library’s endeavours to archive the experience of women in the 21st century, including personal blogs, DIY publishing, and zines. The Women’s Library is so committed to the idea of the active, living archive, that it documents its new materials as they are catalogued and digitized and keeps up a robust rotation of exhibitions free to the public (the latest is “All Work and Low Pay: The Story of Women and Work”), as well as online exhibitions for events passed. It’s this level of energy that makes the thought of slowing the momentum the Library maintains five days a week down to one day a week all the more painful, and the need to act all the more vital.

Keep up with the Campaign to Save the Women’s Library through its blog (, or twitter account (!/SaveTWL).

Image sources courtesy of the Women’s Library Online Archive, “We Will Have It!” and “Protest and Survive!” Badge

FBC2012spring-cover.jpegEither there’s a stunned silence in the book world, or word hasn’t gotten round yet: Larry McMurtry has announced that a public auction will be held August 10 and 11 at his colossal bookstore in Archer City, Texas. Three hundred and fifty thousand books will be sold after a week of previews in-store. Thus the great ‘book town’ will shrink, just a bit. But, as is pointed out on the Booked Up website, “We are not closing. We will continue to operate Booked Up in Building 1 with 150,000 books.”

Coming off our spring cover story about McMurtry, we are as surprised as anyone. Inviting book buyers to “experience Texas in August,” McMurtry offers this eloquent rationale for the forthcoming divestiture:

The several hundred thousand books that we are putting in play constitute a kind of anthology of American bookshops past. In our forty-one years as booksellers we have bought twenty six bookshops and some two hundred personal libraries, some humble, some grand.

So why push them out?

Because we believe that in the book world migration is healthy: old pages await new eyes. Yesterday in Lubbock, Texas I found a copy of Sons and Lovers in the oil-cloth Modern Library with my bookplate in it. Twenty eight thousand volumes have my bookplate in them;  they reside in my big house in Archer City, and yet this one strayed. How it got to Lubbock I’ll likely never know. It’s home again now; but three hundred and fifty thousand of it’s cousins will be flooding into the great river of books that delights and refreshes. Good reading and good luck!
The Index on Censorship has announced that in celebration of their 40th Anniversary, their complete back catalog will be free and available to download for the next 40 days - now with 20 days to go.

For 40 years the Index has provided a platform for those whose freedom of expression has been threatened. The publication combines the eloquence of prominent writers (Harold Pinter, Salman Rushdie, Milan Kundera) with active campaigning against free speech abuse.

The Index is also an amazing resource for collectors, chronicling banned books the world over: in the June 1972 issue there is news of 40 titles and 6 periodicals banned in Greece, such as Brecht’s “Life of Galileo”, printed alongside newspaper clippings in which the government denies such a ‘black list’; a year later an article lists hundreds of books banned in Czechoslovakia; in the 90s the lists shift focus to South America, and the Middle East, for instance in Mohammed Abd al-Jubar’s “Iraq: More Books Banned than Read” (April 1991). Sometimes the articles focus on censorship policy, sometimes they catalogue the specific books themselves, and sometimes they will focus on a single text, the strangest example coming from 1975, The White Book by Yugoslavian journalist Milivoje Pavlovic, consisting of 305 blank pages. “The author has announced that his ‘work’ is none other than an ‘open, innocent book, silent before the flood of devalued words.’” It was printed in small numbers, a “bibliophile edition” and, perhaps, the sassiest artist’s book to challenge the Yugoslavian government yet.

Listing endangered books is only one of the functions of the Index: sometimes it is the primary publisher of works. As a publisher of dissent, it holds a crucial place in completing the historical record. For instance, there is a poem by Saeed Soltampour published in 1982 that he had only recited in public: “On this shore of fear”, a memorial to the poet and playwright executed only the previous year, and reminder of why the work of the Index is so important:
I chose defiance
The way of those poets of the past
The way of Eshghi, the way of Farrokhi.
So hear my voice
As it sings in the slaughter-house.

In the 1984 issue - was such an iconic year for free speech activists met with hysteria? resignation? a grim “I told you so”? - there is the first publication of Samuel Beckett’s short play “Catastrophe”, performed two years earlier in solidarity with Vaclav Havel. Immediately after comes Havel’s response: “Mistake”, the first work he wrote after his release from prison in 1983, published for the first time.

Not only are literary relations spread out across cultures in the pages of the Index, but across time, showing something of a selected reception history of English classcis. In the same 1984 issue, Milan Simecka (an amazing, often overlooked writer of the Velvet Revolution) writes “A Czech Winston Smith” : an autobiographical comparison between his own experiences and those of the protagonist of Orwell’s 1984, where the writing on the wall for Simecka in the build up to his imprisonment matches Orwell nearly scene for scene: “The similarity with our everyday life comes as a physical shock, neither pleasant nor amusing.”

The “inconspicuous red Penguin paperback” where Simecka comes to this conclusion has further significance in textual history: it is the copy given to him by his wife, Eva, who would produce the first Czech translation of the work. All within the space of one issue, there is a cultural context for the books we read, re-read, and collect, books that have meant different things to different people, in different degrees of distress.

Some would argue that censorship almost guarantees the survival of a book at this point, so often has it proven the case for prohibited books over the past 500 years. Fear of loss has certainly contributed to what we find worthy of preservation: from Petrarch’s Sonnets and Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, to James Joyce’s Ulysses, and on and on. The Index contributes much to that lineage: as a publisher of the unpublished, and as an index of books banned, burned, and begging to be saved, it’s one of the most haunting bibliographies of the late 20th century.

If you haven’t had the chance yet, now’s the time to see The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which just won the Oscar for Best Animated Short.

In an e-newsletter received last week, the Boston Athenaeum announced a spectacular $2 million gift from “Anne and David Bromer to create the Anne C. and David J. Bromer Fund at the Boston Athenaeum.” The Bromers, who have owned and operated Bromer Booksellers in Boston for decades, are longtime supporters of the Athenaeum. In the e-newsletter, Athenaeum director and librarian Paula D. Matthews wrote, “Their love, nurtured since their student days, has included a wide-eyed appreciation of the joys of books as physical objects and a deep empathy for the sensuous beauty books possess at their finest.”

The Bromers’ donation will also support the Bromer Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Athenaeum. Stanley Ellis Cushing, the current curator who has been at the Athenaeum for 41 years, is appointed to fill this role.

Wrote Matthews, “Thus the gift and the appointment represent a true confluence of sympathies: for the book as a magical thing, with inks, textures, bindings, materials, and physical dimensions as well as words and pictures.”

FB&C is saddened to learn of the accidental death of rare books and art dealer John McWhinnie, aged 43. McWhinnie managed Glenn Horowitz’s East Hampton bookstore for eight years before opening his own stores with Horowitz as a partner in 2005. The East Hampton Patch and The Gallerist have more details on this tragedy. A longer piece published before his death about his incredible and all-too-short career is here.
How familiar are you with the literature of Christmas?

Below are snippets from five Christmas “classics.” Can you identify the book or short story from which each is excerpted? Can you identify each work’s author? What about each work’s original date of publication?

Answers will be found at the end of this post. Have a safe and joyous holiday!

The Challenge:

(a) “Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant,
Around the whole room, and he took every present!
Pop guns! And bicycles! Roller skates! Drums!
Checkerboards! Tricycles! Popcorn! And plums!”

(b) “[T]he butler brought in a huge silver vessel of rare and curious workmanship, which he placed before the Squire. Its appearance was hailed with acclamation; being the Wassail Bowl, so renowned in Christmas festivity. The contents had been prepared by the Squire himself; for it was a beverage in the skilful mixture of which he particularly prided himself, alleging that it was too abstruse and complex for the comprehension of an ordinary servant. It was a potation, indeed, that might well make the heart of a toper leap within him; being composed of the richest and raciest wines, highly spiced and sweetened, with roasted apples bobbing about the surface.”
Tradition has it that eighty-six years ago today, on 28 November 1925, 78-year-old fiddler Uncle Jimmy Thompson went into the 5th-floor radio studio of the National Life & Accident Insurance Company in Nashville, TN, to help launch a new radio program, the WSM Barn Dance. (The station’s call letters, WSM, were an acronym of the insurance company’s logo, “We Shield Millions.”)

Other acts followed in short order: George D. Wilkerson & His Fruit Jar Drinkers ... Dr. Humphrey Bate & His Possum Hunters ... the Binkley Brothers’ Dixie Clodhoppers. But it was not until a couple of years had passed that this radio show got the name by which it is known today.

On 27 December 1927, the WSM Barn Dance followed a radio program devoted to classical music. To contrast this program with what was to follow, WSM program director and announcer George D. “Judge” Hay told his listeners that [f]or the past hour, we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera. From now on, we will present the ‘Grand Ole Opry.’

Thus was born one of America’s most iconic cultural institutions.
Two hundred years ago today, on 30 October 1811, the London publisher Thomas Egerton released to the public a three-decker which, its title page noted, had been authored “By a Lady.” The novel, originally titled Elinor and Marianne, had been penned while its author was but a lass. (Actually, the book’s author had penned an even earlier novel, but that novel would not see publication in its author’s lifetime.)

Our three-decker, which cost its anonymous author over a third of her annual income to publish, sold out its initial print run (750 copies) within 19 months, giving the author a modest return of about 30% on her original investment. (The author’s brother, who acted as her literary agent, had no small part in the success of our author’s debut novel, as well as in the success of her subsequent publications.)
Judith Krug founded Banned Books Week in 1982 to honor and promote Americans’ right to read whatever we choose, a right guaranteed by the First Amendment. (For an alternative view of Banned Books Week, click here.)

But why set aside the last week of September for this purpose? Was it to honor the Bill of Rights, proposed to “the Legislatures of the several States” by the First Federal Congress on September 25, 1789? (A resolution urging ratification of such a proposal had been passed on March 4, 1789, although only ten of the original twelve amendments were eventually ratified by the states.)

Krug was a very smart woman. While I can offer no proof whatsoever, I like to think she might also have had something else in mind--for the last week of September is also the week that America’s very first multi-page newspaper was published ...

... and banned.

ABAA security chair John Waite has forwarded this Gilkey update/request from Inspector Jeff Levin of the SFPD. Please feel free to forward and/or repost.

Earlier this month convicted fraudster and thief John Charles Gilkey of California was arrested for a parole violation stemming from a series of incidents in San Francisco late last year. Now that he has been re-apprehended, he will be brought up again on charges either later this month or next in San Francisco.

A career criminal, Mr. Gilkey has a long record of defrauding rare book and autograph dealers and dealers in other collectibles, with the use of stolen credit card numbers or with bad checks. His first arrest goes back more than a decade to the 1990s when he was brought up on charges for passing bad checks. He was arrested and jailed for credit card fraud in 2003, then released on parole less than two years later. In autumn 2010 he was arrested again after threatening to burn down a San Francisco print gallery after the manager declined a sale. Mr. Gilkey posted a bail bond for $75,000.00 and subsequently disappeared.

There is ample evidence that between last November and his arrest this month, John Charles Gilkey continued to defraud a number of dealers in collectibles, including a Maryland comic book dealer. San Francisco Police have asked members of the collectibles trade to please forward to them any new information concerning fraudulent activity by Mr. Gilkey. His new bail and eventual sentencing largely will be influenced by the number of new crimes that can proved he has committed since he skipped bail.

Mr. Gilkey is reported to have a storage unit containing rare books, autographs, prints, maps, stamps, comic books, Hollywood and film memorabilia, and coins. Many of these objects may have been obtained through fraud. However, police cannot obtain a search warrant of the storage unit until they provide a judge with a list of items that they are seeking. For that reason, it is imperative for dealers in all fields to come forward and provide police with information about any losses since the beginning of 2011, especially if John Charles Gilkey is known to have been the involved in the transaction. If the collectibles trades can provide police with a targeted list of stolen goods, then police will have a legal basis on which to execute a search warrant. 

If you have information or questions, please contact:

Inspector Jeff Levin

SFPD Arson Unit


If no answer, please leave a message.

For those of you who have been reading our summer issue, you might be as surprised as I was to learn about a folk artist named Clementine Hunter. This story actually started out as a bookish travel piece about Melrose Plantation in Louisiana, once home to an interesting woman named Cammie Henry, who turned it into a colony for writers and artists, creating her own little Southern Renaissance. But we couldn’t help but feel that Hunter, a field hand and plantation cook who was encouraged to put paint on canvas by some of the visiting artists (and whose work is now quite collectible), was a bigger part of the picture.

Coincidentally, just as we were finishing up this article, Hunter, who died in 1988, was making national news. A longtime FBI investigation finally reached its inevitable denouement when a Mr. William Toye of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was formally convicted of forging Hunter paintings. He had been connected to Hunter forgeries since the 1970s.  

The other interesting tidbit we learned was that Clementine Hunter co-authored a cookbook, Melrose Plantation Cookbook, published in 1956. Although it looks like a decent amount (nineteen, according to OCLC) of research libraries have a copy, it is exceedingly scarce to buy. I see only two available online right now. It is a cookbook with a longer story to tell than most others. 

Related articles
There was news last week that a “lost” Leonardo has been identified in an American collection and will go on exhibit this November at the National Gallery in London. One of only fifteen surviving oil paintings by Da Vinci, the re-discovered Salvator Mundi is a half-length figure of Christ that was painted around 1500. The painting was presumed destroyed, until a buyer with a great eye acquired it from an estate in 2005. It was then brought to New York art historian and dealer Robert Simon, and after a lengthy conservation treatment, several scholars concluded that it is indeed the lost Salvator Mundi.

artdetectivecover.jpgI found this bit of news wonderfully coincidental, as I have just finished reading The Art Detective: Adventures of an Antiques Roadshow Appraiser by Philip Mould (the paperback came out this past spring). Mould has a thoroughly enjoyable voice, and he wins over his readers time and again with tales of a forged Norman Rockwell, a Rembrandt in disguise, and a long-lost Gainsborough that he found misidentified at a Los Angeles auction. The zeal of collector Earle Newton--who hoarded an immense collection of masters in a Vermont church that Mould was called in to catalogue--is something we all recognize.

I learned much from this book about the process of “overpainting”--in which a later artist actually paints over the piece at hand to hide wear and tear, to remove offensive items, or merely to freshen it up--and how important and effective conservation treatments can be in finding the masterpiece underneath. Not to mention superb research skills, such as those employed by Mould and his colleague Bendor Grosvenor as they pieced together the amazing provenance of a Queen Elizabeth I portrait.

After all--as I myself have learned with my own minor (but thrilling) art “discovery” last year--art collectors aren’t so different from book collectors. We’re all in it for the chase, and we all love making a discovery. 
Late last year I posted a brief warning that infamous book thief John Gilkey was again active. ABAA Security Chair John Waite just circulated this update on Gilkey:

Please be aware that convicted fraudster and thief John Gilkey is operating once again, likely out of northern California.  A comic book dealer in New York state is his latest victim.  Besides defrauding book dealers, Gilkey has also left his dubious mark in the print, stamp, and comics trades.  He was arrested late last year in San Francisco following a parole violation, but was released after he (or someone) posted $75,000.00 bail.  He then disappeared, but is active once again. He is a serious criminal who continually looks for new opportunities and deceptions.  An investigation by the SFPD is ongoing; there is an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

A comment left for the post linked above by Peter of First Used Books in Vancouver suggests Gilkey may also be working in consort with a couple of other men in Canada. 

Be on the lookout for this man:


In addition to occasionally posting here for FB&C, I recently assumed the editorship of The Standard, the online newsletter of The Independent Online Booksellers Association (IOBA). I am pleased to announce that the first issue in more than two years has recently been posted, along with a revamped design:

New issues will appear quarterly. Though primarily aimed at booksellers, likely to be much there of interest to other readers of FB&C as well. Hope you’ll drop by. And those interested in being notified via email when new issues are published can sign up here. RSS is also available.
Illustrated First Edition of Mark Twain Abroad.JPGLambuth University, a small liberal arts college located between Memphis and Nashville, is closing after several years of economic struggle. Without much notice, the 168-year-old school is auctioning off its property this weekend in preparation for its closure. Stevens Auction Company of Mississippi will conduct the auction in the Wilder Student Union Building (705 Lambuth Boulevard in Jackson, TN) on Saturday. Alas, no Internet bidding is available, but telephone and absentee bids will be accepted.

Several treasures will be on the block, including a first edition of Mark Twain’s Abroad (seen here at left) and about a thousand other books; artwork, including a piece attributed to Samuel Halpert; an 1832 bronze bell; several pianos, antique bookcases and furniture; Persian rugs; an entire collection of vintage wedding dresses; and a map of Tennessee that dates to 1796.

To read more about this sale, see the university’s press release. The Antique Trader also has more information & images from the auction.

Good news from the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries this week: Donnie Curtis, Head of Special Collections, has announced that Special Collections will not be closing, as recommended in the university’s proposed budget cuts announced earlier this year.

Kathlin Ray, Interim Dean of Libraries, said in a statement to the Friends of the Library: “On March 7 the university announced proposed budget cuts of $26 million, and a further $13.8 on April 4 to address a potential budget reduction of $59 million by July 2012 as required by Nevada Governor Sandoval. These cuts are campuswide. While initial recommendations included Special Collections, the library provided an alternative plan to meet the budget reductions. Therefore, Special Collections has been removed from the list of closures, and we are hard at work on a long-term plan to ensure its continuing health and vitality. As we move forward, we welcome your continuing contributions of historically significant Nevada materials and support for fundraising initiatives.”

Has it really been ten years since Nicholson Baker shook up the cozy world inhabited by librarians and conservators with publication of Double Fold, his National Book Critics Circle Award-winning examination of the way materials on paper--most notably newspapers--were being displaced by surrogate copies in other, more easily stored media? Not only has it been a decade since Baker made the word “microfilm” a synonym for “leprosy”--and not undeserved, I should add--it has been an eventful decade in the book world to boot, as our own Rebecca Rego Barry reminds us in a splendid overview of Double Fold and its continuing impact. It is featured in the current issue of The Millions, the superb--dare we say indispensable?--online magazine offering comprehensive coverage of books and the arts. Here’s a link. Nice going, Rebecca, very well done.

Sad news today in the antiquarian book world. Peter B. Howard of Serendipity Books has died. I was lucky enough to meet him, however briefly, at the California book fair in San Francisco this past February. In tribute, I am posting an essay Nicholas Basbanes wrote for this blog in August of last year, when a number of booksellers banded together to pay tribute to Howard, who had been ill for some time.

For the last couple of weeks, the Booktryst blog has been running a series of moving tributes to a legendary California bookseller under the collective heading, “A Wake for the Still Alive: Peter B. Howard.” People who either don’t know Peter or who have never been to Serendipity Books might reasonably regard this as audacious at best, but since everything about Peter is completely honest and candid, it is very much in character. For a case in point, just take a look at his no-nonsense website. “If you’re in Berkeley, California, feel free to come in and browse,” he writes. “We are usually friendly.”

It is no secret in the book world that Peter has been gravely ill for some time now. Indeed, the details of his illness were reported several months ago in several media outlets, one of which used the occasion to speculate on the future of his extraordinary bookstore. Always open and always willing to share his considered impressions on just about anything--I have never met a more forthcoming or more unassuming person in my life, and that is something to say for a person who has spent more than forty years as a professional journalist--Peter readily acknowledged the nature of his illness with the reporter, and offered the additional assessment that he was custodian of the “greatest bookstore in the world,” and used a descriptive adjective for emphasis to make his point--as only he can do...

...For myself, I am eternally grateful to Peter for being there twenty years ago when we met for the first time to talk about a range of matters. I had no earthly idea before we met how knowledgeable he would be about everyone and everything in the book world, or the depth, for that matter, of his piercing intellect. Especially memorable was his willingness to respond, on the record, to every reasonable question I put to him, regardless of the potential fallout. I can’t imagine writing A Gentle Madness without the benefit of his many insights, and when it came time to include a section on scholarly booksellers in Patience & Fortitude, he was the first person I chose to profile. All I can say, Peter, is thank you for sharing your wisdom with me, thank you for your friendship, and thank you for being such a remarkable bookman. You are truly one of a kind. -- Nicholas Basbanes
Rest easy, Washington -- one of our favorite bookstores has been saved. Politics & Prose owners Barbara Meade and David Cohen announced today that they have selected a pair of journalists and politicos as the new owners: Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine, who met while they were reporters with the Washington Post, expect to close the deal in about 45 days.

“Graham and Muscatine have the passion and wisdom to further strengthen Politics & Prose as a community institution that disseminates ideas and stands as a respected and revered public space,” Meade and Cohen said in a statement released on the Politics & Prose Web site. “We are confident that they have the wherewithal and vision to sustain Politics & Prose for many years.” 

The new owners agreed.

“We understand that Politics and Prose is much more than a bookstore,” Graham told store staff, according to a Washington Post report. “It is an integral part of the Washington community, a community that Lissa and I have served for much of our careers already as journalists, authors and, in Lissa’s case, a senior government staff member. It is a very special culture here, a culture we want to see survive.”

Book lovers across the District couldn’t agree more.
Earlier this week the University of Nevada, Reno proposed $26 million in budget cuts, reductions that would lead to closure of some programs and departments including the Special Collections Department of the University Libraries. The university’s press release of March 7, announcing the proposed cuts in response to a budget shortfall projected to be as high as $59 million by July 2012, is available in a story from the Reno Gazette-Journal

A university spokesperson confirmed on March 10 that if the budget proposal moves forward following the university’s academic planning process, closure of Special Collections would be implemented in fiscal year 2012. The closure would also affect the University Archives, which is part of the same department. Staff positions in Special Collections would be eliminated. Existing collections would be maintained, with materials retrieved on an as-needed basis by other library staff. Digital resources would remain online.

The University of Nevada, Reno Special Collections holdings include more than 20,000 books and 200,000 photographs. 
Graphic designer John Bonadies has teamed up with programmer Jeff Adams to develop LetterMpress, a letterpress app for the iPad. The virtual letterpress will allow users to drag and drop their type, lock it into place, ink it, and ultimately print the design. (As a demo, Bonadies set “Fine Books” for us.) The virtual print shop will come into being through high-res photos and scans of type and impressions. Currently in development, the project is raising funds for acquiring type and creating images through Kickstarter, a fundraising platform that enables individual pledges of support for as little as $1.

Bonadies, who is based in Champaign, Illinois, is also establishing a complementary real-world letterpress co-op, Living Letter Press, which will house the physical type collection that the iPad app offers virtually. In a phone interview, Bonadies told me that he surveyed interest in letterpress among the 400-500 members of Champaign-Urbana Design Org (CUDO) and received an enthusiastic response. For more information, see the project description on Kickstarter.

In case you missed the news today, AbeBooks Europe GmbH, the German subsidiary of the Amazon-owned Abebooks, announced today that it has purchased, the online marketplace of German rare antiquarian books with over 3,000 professional antiquarians in 27 countries that offers customers an inventory of over 35 million used, antiquarian, and out-of-print books in many languages (i.e, its biggest German competitor). From the release: “With its great selection of rare and antiquarian books, is an excellent complement to AbeBooks’ German used and antiquarian books offering,” said Hannes Blum, CEO of AbeBooks. “We are looking forward to working with to make sure our customers can find and buy any book provided by and AbeBooks sellers fast and conveniently.”

One bookseller already lamented the merger. Bruce Tober, of Books at Star Dot Star in the UK, wrote to a listserv this morning, “Choosebooks/ZVAB has just announced it’s been bought by ABE. Initially - according to their announcement - all looks well. No one will notice any changes almost at all. Choosebooks will close down but will remain, etc. But we all know what problems and changes such takeovers really mean in the not so long run.”
Today George Washington University announced a gift of $5 million and a collection related to the history of Washington, D.C. Small’s collection includes seven hundred rare documents, maps, drawings, and ephemera; a 1790 George Washington letter that outlines the ten square-mile area that would become the capital is one of the many high points. The 85-year-old Small told the Washington Post that he has been building this collection for more than fifty years.

As the university’s press release points out, Small is no stranger to collecting or philanthropy:

Mr. Small’s donation to George Washington University builds on a long and distinguished personal history of preserving and sharing America’s heritage. In 2005, he donated the earliest known image of the White House--a watercolor done in 1801 by J. Benford--to the White House, where it now hangs. The University of Virginia was the recipient in 2004 of Mr. Small’s remarkable collection on the Declaration of Independence, where it is housed in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. 

More at the Washington Post.

bostonlinotype.jpgCall it bittersweet, if you like, but the sale next week of the entire contents of the City of Boston’s Graphic Arts Printing Plant at 174 North St., is yet another passing of the torch, and proof positive that the times surely-are-a-changing. Some 175 lots will be hammered down, according to Stanley J. Paine, the auctioneer retained by the city to clear out every vestige of a printing operation that closed last year after 78 years of service, and everything, in his words, is not only old, but downright antediluvian. “We’re selling the room,” he told the Boston Globe. “It’s all antique. All of it. Everything has its own particulars and story.”

Letter Press.JPGAnyone want a Vandercook Letter Press? Or a Linotype Model 31 Typesetting Machine (there are two of them)? A Heidelberg Sheet-Fed Printing Press? A Miehle Vertical Letter Press? Saddle stitchers, folders, paper cutters, collators? Drawer after drawer filled with wonderful metal type? A Super Portland Paper Punching machine? Some splendid oak filing cabinets from the 1930s and ’40s? The sale will start at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 24, on-site, and for those who can’t make it, bids can be submitted online via Bidspotter, where a complete list and description of the lots--with photos--is listed. (Bids, in fact, are already being accepted.) I am particularly charmed, I must say, by Lot 154, pictured here at right, identified only as Antique Letter Press S/N 28546. I don’t have room in my cellar--and I don’t imagine my wife would be much too pleased in any case--but I sure am tempted.

800px-PowellsBookstore.jpgBad news today out of Portland. Powell’s Books has cut 31 jobs, citing the need to scale back in the face of slow sales. The Portland Mercury has posted the full text of the press release, along with the following: “DON’T DIE, POWELLS! DON’T DIE! (please).”

Just about two years ago, the store shelved its plans for expansion.
Archivist of the United States David Ferriero announced today that Thomas Lowry, a long-time researcher and Lincoln expert, confessed to altering a Lincoln document owned by the Archives. According to the press release, about a dozen years ago, Lowry brought in a fountain pen containing pigment-based ink and changed the year on a presidential pardon from 1864 to 1865. “Lowry was then able to claim that this pardon was of significant historical relevance because it could be considered one of, if not the final official act by President Lincoln before his assassination.”

Close up of the Lincoln pardon for Patrick Murphy, a Civil War soldier in the Union Army, showing the
date change. Records of the Judge Advocate General (Army) National Archives.

Conservators at the National Archives will now assess whether the original date can be restored.

Auction Guide