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On February 28, highlights from Lisa Unger Baskin’s nearly 9,000-piece collection of rare books, ephemera, and other artifacts created and produced by women over the course of five hundred years went on display at Duke University, which acquired the collection in 2015 and incorporated it into its Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture at the David M. Rubenstein Library.


“The unifying thread is that women have always been productive and working people and this history essentially has been hidden,” Baskin said, who began building the collection in the 1960s and when, as she put it “there was little interest in the historical record of the achievements of women.” Her collection reveals the long hidden--but thoroughly essential--world of women’s work, of which the exhibition offers a tantalizing glimpse.

Baskin parchment.jpgAmong the items on display are a scribal parchment dated March 9, 1240 which documents the execution of a bequest for a home for repentant prostitutes in Pisa, Italy. An example of a book printed in 1745 by the widow of a successful Mexico City-based printer shows that women could work the presses just as well as men, while striking Art Nouveau bindings by Sarah Prideaux reveal that artist’s innate talent for the craft. (Prideaux did not become a professional bookbinder until her thirties.)

Prideaux.jpgThe show is open to the public at Duke through June 15 before heading to the Grolier Club, where it will be on display December 11, 2019 through February 8, 2020. Visitors need not be upset if they can’t make it to Durham or Manhattan in either of those time frames: the entire exhibition, including a video interview with Baskin, is available online.


Images: (Top) Grant of land in Pisa, Italy, to Frater Baldiccione, signed Ildenbrandinus de Navacchio, 9 March 1240, [Italy]: 9 March 1240, Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. (Bottom) Lefroy, Edward Cracroft, Echoes from Theocritus, and Other Sonnets, London: Elliot Stock, 1885, [Binding by Sarah Prideaux] Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

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

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

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

Though the barometer may suggest otherwise, one of the telltale signs of spring in New York is the annual arrival of Rare Book Week, going on now through March 12. Besides the various pearls for sale among the well-stocked stacks at the three book and ephemera fairs, holding court around Manhattan are a slew of shows and exhibitions dedicated to celebrating the people and things of the book world. One that serious bibliophiles should not miss is the Grolier Club’s exhibition of Pat Pistner’s miniature bindings and books, now on view in the second floor gallery.




The 275-item installation--a misleading number, given that some items, like the 42-volume set of Sherlock Holmes mysteries is counted as one piece--spans the history of texts written on a diminutive scale. A miniature Babylonian cuneiform tablet accounting “plucked” sheep dating from approximately 2340 BCE shares space with sumptuous illuminated Books of Hours and contemporary artists’ books by Timothy Ely and Nancy Gifford. From an archive that currently includes 4,000 items, the Naples, Florida-based bibliophile whittled down her selections to those she said best represented the considerable historical scope of her collection.

“Collecting is so personal,” Pistner told a group during a Wednesday lunchtime tour of the exhibition, which she led along with co-curator Jan Storm van Leeuwen. “Some people focus on one element, but I’ve chosen to take a much broader view, with the goal of collecting the best possible examples of miniature bindings from across history.”

Out of so many tiny treasures bound in gold, silver, and other precious elements, can Pistner possibly have a favorite? “I love all of them, but these are perhaps my most prized,” she said, gesturing to a case containing 16th-century miniatures from France and Italy. She graciously posed for a photograph holding up a liturgical miniature called the Enchiridion p[re] clare ecclesie Sarum, a 1528 tome hailing from the collection of Charles Louis de Bourbon, Duke of Parma. The text dates to the 16th century, but the binding was by Pierre Marcellin Lortic, a 19th-century binder.




Another, less dramatic (but no less significant) prize sits in a wall case in the hallway: a miniature printing of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Issued in 1862, the unassuming single-section pamphlet in tan paper is Lincoln’s preliminary proclamation freeing the slaves and the first printing in book form of the text. In a hurried effort to spread the word, 50,000 copies of this mini were distributed by Union soldiers to African Americans as they marched through the South. “Not many remain in existence,” Pistner explained. This one, like nearly every other item in the exhibition, is an exquisite example, all a reminder of the major role miniature books play in understanding the history of the written word.




“A Matter of Size,” is on view now through May 19. Free lunchtime exhibition tours led by the curator will be held on April 24 at 1 pm and May 18 at 3 pm. No reservations necessary. The accompanying 476-page, fully-illustrated catalogue ($95, Oak Knoll) is a meticulously compiled resource that covers the breadth of Pistner’s collection as well as its place in the bibliosphere. 


Images: Top two photos courtesy of the author; bottom, coutesy of Oak Knoll

George Ticknor (1791-1871) was a true Boston Brahmin ardently devoted to books and learning. The Harvard University professor of French and Spanish (who resigned in 1835 and was replaced by none other than Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) built a 14,000-volume personal library that rivaled institutional collections in Europe. Ticknor’s daughter, Anna Eliot (1823-1896) was also an intellectual and educator, founding the first correspondence school in the United States in 1873. Called the Society to Encourage Studies at Home, Eliot’s program was designed to provide access to quality, individualized education to motivated but underserved women across social strata. As scholars and collectors, father and daughter were fitting namesakes for the Ticknor Society and now for that organization’s inaugural George and Anna Ticknor Collecting Prize.

Here’s the details: Collections must be compiled, curated, and owned by the contestant, who must reside in one of the six New England states. Eligible collections may include books, manuscripts, and ephemera. Collections will be judged on their originality and creativity and not market value or size.

Applicants are asked to submit an essay of up to 1,500 words describing the inspiration behind the creation of the collection, as well as its history, current status, and anticipated direction. Images of one or more items in the collection and a bibliography of the collection are also requested.

The bibliography should include the author, title, place, publisher and date of publication, type of binding, condition, annotations on the importance of individual pieces, and why each item is in the collection.

One winner will receive a $1,000 prize and offered a complimentary one-year Ticknor Society membership.

The application deadline is April 15, 2019 and the winner will be notified on June 30. The prize will be awarded at the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair in November. 

Appy here:

Since the beginning of recorded time, humans have tried to communicate with each other, with varying degrees of success. Sometimes ideas get contorted or just plain lost in translation, but that doesn’t mean we stop trying. Opened last week at the University of Oxford’s Weston Library is an exhibition that examines just how stories in all genres are transmitted across cultures through words. Babel: Adventures in Translation uses spectacular specimens culled from the university’s massive collection of books, manuscripts, printed materials, and ephemera to make the case for breaking the language barrier.


Tolkein Notebook.JPG“Babel explores the tension between the age-old quest for a universal language, like Latin, Esperanto, or global English today, and the face that communities continue to nurture an dretan their own languages and dialects as part of their cultural identity,” explains exhibition co-curator and German literature professor Katrin Kohl. Further, she says that the exhibition “illuminates how translation builds bridges between languages and how the borderlands between languages can be fertile ground for resistance, comedy, and creativity.”

Among the items on display include a 3,500- year-old bowl discovered by archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos on the island of Crete. The piece is covered in what’s referred to as Linear A, a language used by the Minoans, as of yet, remains undeciphered. Linear B, a later form of the Minoan language, was deciphered in the 1950s, and though the languages bear some resemblance to each other, not enough examples of the older language exist to fully understand it.

Also part of the show is the Codex Mendoza, a manuscript compiled in 1541 and considered one of the Bodleian Library system’s most prized possessions. Using a combination of Mexica picture writing and the Mexica language, Nahuatl, and Spanish, the codex is meant as a roadmap to the newly acquired territories for Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain.

An unpublished notebook (pictured above) complied by a teenaged Tolkien is also part of the show and reveals the Lord of the Rings author’s lifelong obsession with invented languages. Dubbed “The Book of Foxrook,” the notebook reveals Tolkien’s early attempt at inventing an alphabet. Here he uses a mix of Esperanto and his own language he called the “Privata Kodo Skauta.”

As we hurtle full steam ahead into the 21st century when translation services are at the tips of our smartphones, is the act of translation obsolete? The show makes the case that it is not--that employing Google Translate to ask where the bathroom is in Swedish is a far cry from the creative, laborious task of rendering and interpreting an entire document into another language.

What about the future? How can contemporary societies warn future humans of potentially dangerous sites, like nuclear waste dumps, when it’s not clear that any of our current languages will exist? The question is explored here, as well as Brexit and the importance of language within a culture’s identity. Ultimately, Babel aims to both explore how translation transferred information in the past and how translation continues to mold our lives today.


Babel: Adventures in Translation is on view now through June 2.


Image: Tolkien’s Book of Foxrook. © The Tolkien Trust 1992, 2019.


We heard today the sad news that world-renowned fashion designer (and bibliophile) Karl Lagerfeld has died. It reminded me that back in 2011, I desperately wanted to profile the German-born Lagerfeld in our magazine, having been enticed by images of his 300,000-volume library like the one below, taken by Piotr Stoklosa. So I got in touch with a journalist friend, a bilingual American who had lived in Berlin for a while, which I thought might help in communicating with Lagerfeld’s assistants or handlers. Getting to him, however, turned out to be impossible. Images of his library are widely shared online, and they turn up year after year; it’s clear people really want to know more about this incredible collection, and how and why he filled his life with books. I suppose now it will be dismantled, sold at auction or through a bookseller--perhaps even his own bookshop, Librairie 7L, in Paris--which may be when it finally gets its close-up.

U1vXb1wTYw5LAEqw1CuP_karllagerfeldlibrary2.pngIn 2015, he said, “If you go to my house, I’ll have you walk around the books.” Indeed. A few more photos of Lagerfeld’s library -- yes, with books stacked sideways!-- can be viewed at My Modern Met.

Yale University is moving forward with a plan to renovate Bass Library after commencement this spring, but the renovation has irked members of the community because part of the project involves removing 84,000 of the library’s 145,000 volumes--a full 58%--and permanently housing them in nearby Sterling Memorial Library. 

University librarian Susan Gibbons has said in various interviews that the books are being moved to make more studying space available as the student body grows. “I don’t think that, as a result of this project, students are going to have less access to the books -- they’re all still here on-campus,” she said in an interview with NPR’s Frankie Graziano. “But, what they will have access to is more places to actually sit down amongst the books and do that studying.” Gibbons also said that the way students use Bass has changed with the times, citing a decrease in students checking out books for the sciences and math programs, but usage among Humanities majors has stayed the same. According to a recent Yale press release, borrowing among undergraduates has dropped from 40% of total circulation in 2008 to just 13% in 2018. Coupled with a growing student body, university administrators feel repurposing the stacks into seating would be a better use of the space.

Gibbons acknowledged the enduring importance of books, especially in a library. Yale’s plan for the library going forward includes, as Gibbons said in the press release, “maintaining a more dynamic, up-to-date collection in Bass that will evolve with the addition of new courses and encourage students’ engagement with print books.” That engagement includes what she called a “renewed focus” on books by Yale faculty. “The collection will be smaller, but more vital and relevant.”


Opened in 1971, the Bass Library last underwent a $50 million interior renovation in 2007. 


Some Yale students aren’t having it. Humanities and philosophy major Leland Strange is leading what he’s dubbed a “browse-in,” a mass check-out of books from Bass to protest the move. Fellow students worry that a denuded Bass will resemble an airport terminal rather than a library. Other students fretted that the whole point of a library is to have access to materials, whether they’re on regular rotation or have never been checked out. 

Despite students’ efforts, Yale appears poised to move ahead with the renovation, which is expected to be completed by October 1, with a “soft roll-out” planned for late August.

The Huntington Library in San Marino, California, announced last week a batch of acquisitions at its Library Collectors’ Council meeting. Among the treasures is the Shrewsbury Miniature Prayer Book, dating from 1590, with its black silk velvet cover and gold champlevé decorative embellishment. (Champlevé is a type of enamelwork in which hollows in a metal surface are filled with colored enameled glass.) It is “as much an art object as a manuscript,” according to a Huntington statement.

shrewsbury-prayer-book-cover.jpg“The gleaming heraldic device on the front and back covers tells us that this riveting little volume was produced for Gilbert and Mary Talbot, the 7th Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury,” said Vanessa Wilkie, William A. Moffett Curator of Medieval Manuscripts and British History at the Huntington. “The couple was a fixture in the Elizabethan and Jacobean courts, and their careers and scandalous reputations are well documented.”

shrewsbury-prayer-book.jpgWhat this fine binding contains is also intriguing: a twenty-six-page crypto-Catholic manuscript of prayers, created at a time when England’s accepted religious doctrine was Protestantism. Those who continued to worship as Catholics did so at their own peril.

“This book, although less than four inches in length, offers vital opportunities for studying the history of the book as an object, the crypto-Catholic lives of one of the most well-documented Elizabethan families, and the relationship between printed and manuscript prayer books during the Reformation,” said Wilkie.

Images: Crypto-Catholic Shrewsbury miniature prayer book (c. 1590) manuscript in ink on parchment. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Ralph Sipper Books_picasso pic.jpg “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” (Pablo Picasso, Time magazine, October 4, 1976)

The Picasso being offered for sale at Ralph Sipper’s booth (#304) during the 52nd California International Antiquarian Book Fair next week may be one of the more reasonably priced pieces to hit the market in recent years. It’s an original six-color crayon drawing by Pablo Picasso being offered for $40,000. But the provenance is priceless.

Pablo and Pablo.JPGThe image of a grinning lion, rendered in Picasso’s inimitable style, graces the back of an oversize postcard measuring 4.75” by 6.5.” Sent from Cannes, France, Picasso mailed the card to Connecticut, where Pablo Frasconi, the six-year-old son of woodcut artist and book illustrator Antonio Frasconi, was the intended recipient. 

Signed simply, “Para mi Amigo, Pablito 5/11/58, Picasso,” the card was a thank you note for a gift of the boy’s own sketchings sent to the famous artist earlier that year.

“Unfortunately, the detail of what we sent Picasso was not recorded as far as I know,” said Frasconi. “I know it included Antonio’s artwork too, and a letter to Pablo.”

In adulthood, Frasconi followed in his father’s creative footsteps, taking up the video camera rather than the engraver’s burin. “As a young man, I remember seeing the film of Picasso painting on glass, and reading the David Douglas Duncan book Picasso’s Picassos,” explained Frasconi. “All of this resonated when I watched the films of [non-narrative filmmaker] Stan Brakhage at MOMA in 1971. I immediately decided to study film with him. Brakhage had that same innocent and introspective eye that I detected and admired in Picasso, and, at times, emulate in my own work.”

Indeed, as an 18-time grant recipient from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Film Institute, many of Frasconi’s films have focused on the lives of artists, starting with his own father. Other notable films include “The Light at Walden,” and “The Survival of a Small City.” He is currently a professor at the University of Southern California.


pablo verso.JPG  

Images, from top: Pablo Picasso postcard, used with permission from Ralph Sipper Books. Photograph, front and verso: “Pablo and his greatest possession,” taken December 1959 by Leona Pierce. Used with permission from Pablo Frasconi. 


Everywhere you look there seems to be some product inspired by a unicorn: purple frappuccinos, table lamps, there’s even a shop (in Brooklyn, naturally,) that specializes in unicorn horns proudly crafted in the USA. Privately held companies valued at over a billion dollars are known as “unicorns” to represent the statistical rarity of such entities. (Airbnb and SpaceX are two examples.) Yet, despite what seems to be rampant unicorn fever, it’s nothing new; the ancient Indus carved unicorns onto seals, and the beasts appear in the Physiologus, an ancient Greek bestiary, which ascribes curative powers to unicorn horns. By the Middle Ages, unicorns came to symbolize the life and trials of Jesus Christ.


livre d'heure yolande.JPGFar from the playful, purple-and-pink hued creature we often think of today, historical unicorns were squat, compact, notoriously ferocious creatures that could only be captured by virgins. Unicorn horns were believed to be powerful aphrodisiacs as well as effective teeth whiteners, leading to the robust sale of ground-up narwhal horns passed off as genuine unicorn. Wealthy families and merchants often commissioned unicorn images for their coats of arms and emblems to suggest magnificence and power.


david 1.JPGNow, Magical Unicorns, the latest exhibition on view at the Musée Cluny in Paris offers a comprehensive look at how unicorns have been depicted over the past 500 years. Engravings, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, and other items illustrate the allegorical significance of these mythical beasts and humankind’s enduring fascination with them.

The highlight of the show is a set of six tapestries entitled The Lady and the Unicorn, part of the Cluny’s permanent collection. Woven around 1500, the tapestries are believed to have been designed by Jean Bourdichon, offical court painter to four French Kings and the illuminator responsible for the sumptuous Book of Hours created for Queen Anne of Brittany. Showcased in a dimly-lit rotunda to preserve the fabrics, the scarlet 12-feet by 9-feet silk and wool tapestries are complex visual meditations on the meaning of life, filled with allegorical iconography.

To quote Sebastian from Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “Now I will believe that there are unicorns.”

Magical Unicorns runs now through February 25. 


Images (Top) Aquamanile : Licorne Alliage cuivreux, vers 1400 Cl. 2136 © RMN-Grand Palais (musée de Cluny - musée national du Moyen-Âge) / G. Blot. (Middle) Livre d’heures dit de Yolande d’Aragon: «la Vierge Marie et la chasse à la licorne» Enluminure sur parchemin, vers 1460 - 1470 Ms 22 (Rés. ms 2) © Bibliothèque Méjanes, Aix-en-Provence. (Bottom) Graduel de Sainte-Rictrude de Marchiennes: «David menacé par le lion et la licorne» Parchemin, 1548 ms 112, fol. 88 Bibliothèque municipale de Douai, © IRHT-CNRS. Reproduced with permission from the Musee Cluny. 

The Bodleian Library in Oxford announced earlier this week its acquisition of a rare, fifteenth-century French Gothic coffer, or book chest, once used for the transportation of books. According to the Bodleian, only about 100 such book coffers are extant, and this is the first of its kind to enter the library’s collection. It is also the centerpiece of a new exhibit at the Bodleian’s Weston Library called Thinking Inside the Box: Carrying Books Across Cultures.

18C02557 copy.jpgThe book chest is made of wood, covered in leather, lined with red canvas, and reinforced with iron fittings, hinges, and a lock. As you can see in the above image, the coffer’s inside lid contains a colorful woodcut print dating to c.1491 depicting “God the Father in Majesty.”

What the coffer held is unknown, although, according to experts, it is believed to have secured religious or devotional texts, perhaps with accompanying relics, such as a rosary.

Dr. Christopher Fletcher, Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian Libraries, said, “The Bodleian collects books and manuscripts but also objects which helps us to understand the history and culture of the book - how they were kept, used, moved and understood. The coffer is a remarkable item which is both utilitarian and devotional and preserves an exceptionally rare woodcut in its original context. Among other things, it shows us that our preoccupation with carrying information around with us in mobile devices - including texts and images - is nothing new.’

The exhibition, which features a selection of boxes, bags, and satchels designed to carry books, remains on view through February 17. If you can’t make it to Oxford, a 3D model and photos of the coffer can be seen on the University of Oxford’s Cabinet website.

Image: Courtesy of Bodleian Libraries

For thirty-five years, New York’s Westsider Rare & Used Books has held court at 2246 Broadway (between 80th and 81st Streets), but increased pressure from larger stores--there’s a Barnes & Noble on W. 82nd and the recently resurrected Shakespeare & Co. is at W. 69th and 70th--e-retail, and rising operating costs led owners Dorian Thornley and Bryan Gonzalez to announce that they will be closing their doors in February. (Westsider Records, also owned by Thornley and Gonzalez, will remain open.)

When pressed what it would take to keep the store open, Thornley replied--perhaps in a moment of exasperation--$50,000.                                                                                                                                                                 

Longtime friend Bobby Panza heard Thornley and set up a GoFundMe campaign, which, since launching on January 15, has already raised nearly $25,000.                                                                                                                           

“Of course we’d like to keep Westsider open,” explained Gonzalez early Thursday morning. “Dorian and I purchased the shop seventeen years ago from the previous owners, and we were employees here before that. But the book market has changed, and even though we do have loyal customers, the cost of doing business here in Manhattan is getting too expensive.” Indeed, empty storefronts seem to dot this stretch of the Upper West Side with greater regularity, part of a larger trend confirmed by a recent Douglas Elliman survey finding that 20 percent of the city’s retail space is vacant. (See the New York Times’ recent infographic documenting the commercial blight sweeping Manhattan in “This Space Available.”)

Westsider is something of a local landmark and recalls the halcyon days of used bookstores in Manhattan. The shop even had cameos in Woody Allen’s Fading Gigolo and Todd Haynes’s Wonderstruck. “It’s one of the last remnants of the West Side as it used to be,” wrote GoFundMe supporter Daniel Okrent. “I actually shop here,” added Westsider regular Maggie McComas. “Last week [I] bought a biography of Wendy Wasserstein and one of Deborah Tannen’s books.”

And if the fundraising campaign succeeds? “We’re not sure how far $50,000 will take us--we haven’t really sat down and crunched the numbers,” said Gonzalez. If Westsider does in fact close, however, expect a fire sale of current stock.

Aside from skyrocketing costs of doing business in Manhattan, Gonzalez pointed to readers’ changing habits, too. “When you get on the subway, everyone’s reading--they’re just doing it on a Kindle.”

Interested in contributing? Click here.

Ah, January: that month touted as the time to refresh everything from one’s diet and wellness to home decor. Why not apply the same mentality to your daily Insta scroll with some new bibliocentric feeds.


Special collections libraries, rare booksellers and collectors have embraced Instagram as an ideal platform to virtually share their treasures with the world. Fellow FB&C writer Nate Pedersen wrote the inaugural “rare Books on Instagram” post back in 2016, profiling institutional accounts like those of the British Library (@britishlibrary), the American Antiquarian Society (@americanantiquarian), and others. Follow-up posts looked at librarian accounts and collector feeds. Keeping with that theme, below, in no particular order, are ten noteworthy institutional Instagram accounts that excel at showcasing rare books, manuscripts, and other works on paper.                                


Don’t have an Instagram account? No problem: All of these accounts are freely accessible to anyone with an internet connection.                                                                                                                                  

La Bibliothèque nationale France (@labnf)



The Barr Smith Library at the University of Adelaide (@uofaspecialcollections)



The New York Public Library (@nypl)



Musée de Cluny (@museecluny



The Harry Ransom Center (@ransomcenter



The Emily Dickinson Museum (



The Printing Museum (@theprintingmuseum)



The HuntingtonLibrary (@thehuntingtonlibrary)



The Johns Hopkins University (@jhuspecialcollections)


The Alaska Digital Newspaper Project (@alaskahistoricalnewspapers)


US Freedom Pavilion The Boeing Center.jpg


New Orleans has a rich literary history--William Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson, Walker Percy, and many others called the Big Easy home or featured it in their work. And now, the city’s National World War II Museum offers veterans a haven for their stories of war and sacrifice.

Over two decades ago, authors and historians Stephen Ambrose and Nick Muller originally envisioned a museum in recognition of New Orleans-based manufacturer Andrew Higgins, whose landing craft, vehicle, personnel (LCVP) boats ferried platoons onto the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. The D-Day Museum opened in 2000 but by 2003 had outgrown its original scope, when it was redesignated the official National World War II Museum by Congress. (Note: As an independent non-profit, the museum is unaffected by the current government shutdown.) Today, the six-acre campus sprawls across the city’s Historic Warehouse District and offers sweeping immersive and interactive displays exploring WWII and its aftermath.

And the museum isn’t done growing: by January 2020, the Liberation Pavilion will open to the public: a three-story building encompassing a second-floor library with space for 22,000 volumes.

“Currently, we’ve got approximately 10,000 written and oral histories from WWII veterans that will be housed in the new library,” said Toni Kiser, the museum’s assistant director for collections management. “Some of these histories were originally collected by Ambrose for his books like Band of Brothers and D-Day, while others arrived as part of larger acquisitions.” The testimonials vary by length and scope. Some veterans put pen to paper when the war was still fresh in their minds and had their memoirs printed, bound, and even distributed. Others are more modest and informal, spanning a few pages at best.


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Some of the memoirs exist only as oral histories committed to film--Ambrose conducted many such interviews for his books, for example. Conversely, some recorded narratives have lost their original visual or aural component. “Interestingly, Ambrose would use the same tape to record his interviews--after transcribing each interview, he would record over the old interview with a new one,” explained Kiser. “Other, older oral histories came to us on VHS. The museum is having them digitized and transcribed so that anyone who comes in can access them.”

Kiser hopes that these memoirs will help future generations to understand this war once open to the public. Though non-lending, the library will be open to scholars and other visitors. “We’re getting to the point where most of the veterans from WWII have passed away. And each story is a unique wartime experience. These memoirs will serve as a beacon for future generations as a reminder of what these brave men fought for and what the war meant for America.”


Images: Courtesy of the National WWII Museum

For 2019: The 42-line Calendar

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New year, new calendar! Sure, we could easily continue plugging events into our smartphones, but where’s the fun in that? Especially when so many stunning desk calendars exist.


One particular beauty that might interest FB&C readers is E. M. Ginger’s annual labor of love, the 42-line calendar. Each iteration showcases digitized images culled from rare books, manuscripts, and photographs, all scrupulously rendered to permit deep contemplation while penning in daily activities. These calendars serve as a sort of calling card for Ginger and her company, 42-line, which specializes in hi-resolution digital photography services for libraries, institutions, and book collectors.


Ginger’s name may be familiar; she was the founding editor of Adobe creator John Warnock’s Octavo Editions, where she developed and directed the publication of rare books like Shakespeare’s Poems and Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius. The great difference between Octavo’s digital editions and e-books comes down to the reproducion values. Through a book published by Octavo, anyone, anywhere with access to a computer could interact with literary treasures otherwise inaccessible to the general public. (More to come on Ginger in a story for the forthcoming print issue.) 42-line builds off of Ginger’s experience at Octavo, but for a more select clientele.


Back to the calendar. During a visit to her Oakland, California, studio, Ginger said she picks themes for her calendars based on what catches her interest at the moment. This year, she plucked images from the University of San Francisco’s Gleeson LIbrary. January opens with a detailed linocut of the Golden Gate Bridge by Mallette Dean, followed by engravings by Gerard de Jode and Albrecht Durer.


The 42-line calendar is $20 and may be purchased here.

Eloise Went to Bonhams and Fetched $100,000

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Among the items up for auction during Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts Sale on December 5 was an original oil portrait of classic children’s book character Eloise. The painting, which hung in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel (where Eloise made all sorts of mischief in her “pink pink pink” room), was originally a birthday gift from illustrator Hilary Knight to the book’s author, Kay Thompson. This particular portrait had a series of its own adventures before finding its way to Bonhams where it fetched $100,000.

After receiving the gift from Knight in 1956, Thompson appeared on CBS’s Person to Person along with the portrait, after which she lent the piece to the Plaza Hotel. The 59-by-42-inch painting remained in the hotel lobby for four years, until the evening of the Junior League Ball on November 23,1960. When, it is presumed, out-of-control New York debutantes pulled an Eloise-like prank of their own and purloined the portrait. Such was the scandal that even Walter Cronkite announced, “Eloise kidnapped!” on the evening news. Though devastating for Knight, the publicity dedicated to the heist was impressive.

As the story goes, the painting turned up in a dumpster a few years later having only sustained minor damage but missing its frame. By then Knight had already replaced the portrait with another one which can still be seen in the Plaza lobby. In Sam Irvin’s 2010 biography, Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise, Knight was asked why he never had the original rehung. “It’s a little embarrassing,” Knight said. “Because the thieves were after the frame, not my artwork. And frankly, I made the first portrait for Kay, never imagining it would be on permanent display at the Plaza. I never really liked it--I did it in a rush--so I was not unhappy when it disappeared.” (There was even unsubstantiated speculation that perhaps Thompson had orchestrated the painting’s disappearance to generate publicity for the book.) After recovering the painting, Knight rolled it up and stashed it away in his closet, where it remained, forgotten, for fifty years, until he and New York Historical Society curator Jane Curley found it for that museum’s 2017 exhibition dedicated to Eloise. 

The portrait was sold along with a photograph of Evelyn Rudie, a child actress who portrayed Eloise on a 1956 episode of Playhouse 90.


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Images reproduced with permission from Bonhams

Today, the country’s oldest and largest bibliophilic society, the New York-based Grolier Club, will unveil the fruits of a three-and-a-half-year, $5-million renovation of the organization’s entire first floor and exhibition hall with, appropriately, a show highlighting the club’s Francophile roots. French Book Arts: Manuscripts, Books, Bindings, Prints, and Documents, 12th-21st Century includes nearly one hundred items pulled from the Grolier’s rich trove of French books and illuminated manuscripts. Also in the show are six items that once hailed from the collection of the “Prince of Bibliophiles” and club namesake, Jean Grolier (1489-1565).



The exhibition and accompanying book were curated and written by Grolier Club member George Fletcher. A member since 1973, Fletcher’s lifelong love of books led him to the Morgan Library as the Astor Curator of printed books and bindings, followed by a position as director of special collections at the NYPL. In 2013, Fletcher was bestowed with the title of Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. “As the inaugural exhibition in our new gallery, this is the first that presents a survey of so many areas of French bibliophilia, going back to illuminated manuscripts to contemporary livres d’artistes,” Fletcher explained during a press tour. Expect to see sumptuous illuminated Books of Hours, miniatures by Boyvin, a letter by a distraught Thomas Jefferson to a French bookseller concerning a shipment of waterlogged books, and decorative bindings hailing from the 14th to the 21st centuries.

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As to the renovation: it’s a complete overhaul. Previously, the first floor exhibition hall was awash in mauve-toned walls, light wood flooring, and track lighting (see below). Standard-issue glass cases lined the walls while the back of the hall was dominated by a faux-Palladian window, also mauve. The upper balcony, where many of the Grolier Club’s treasures are stored, was flanked by white solid-wood railings. With a client portfolio that includes renovations at places like the New England Conservatory of Music and Boston Symphony Hall, Ann Beha Associates of Boston took up the challenge to update the aesthetics of the space while also addressing conservation issues, lighting, ventilation, and sound systems.


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“The Grolier Club put together a nine-member design team task force, and together we examined various issues while also keeping in mind the club’s history and stewardship of collections,” explained Ann Beha at the press preview. “Part of the preparation included hopping in a van and visiting other institutions throughout New York that had also recently undergone renovations, such as the Brooklyn Museum and the Cooper-Hewitt.” Staying true to the Grolier Club’s roots was essential. “The Club prides itself on welcoming the public to free exhibitions and various programs, and this renovation took that into consideration. This design incorporates heritage and technology, welcomes new visitors and promotes scholarship and engagement,” Beha said.


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Now, the exhibition hall features custom-built Goppion glass cases lit by LED bulbs, a properly balanced ventilation system, and mahogany-stained floors and wall panels. Gone is the mauve Palladian faux paneling in favor of a multi-paneled video wall, and the wood paneling on the upper balcony has been replaced with glass, allowing visitors on the ground level to fully appreciate the impressive surroundings. Plus, the Grolier’s 60th Street townhouse is handicapped accessible. The hall feels more open and inviting, yet still suffused with the tradition and history of the space. In short: Beha seems to have hit a home run.


1832_01_1.jpegThe club invited members earlier this week to tour the hall before it opens to the public as well as to listen to a lecture given on Wednesday night by Carla Hayden, the current Librarian of Congress.

1832_02_1.jpegJust as Jean Grolier was known to share his library and its treasures with friends, the public is welcome to revel in the richness of human ingenuity and talent and the newly redesigned hall, too. As an added incentive, Mr. Fletcher will be offering free lunchtime tours of the exhibition today, December 19, and February 1, all from 1-2 p.m. No reservations needed. 


Images, from top: Matisse in a Brugalla Binding Henry de Montherlant. Pasiphaé: Chant de Minos (les Crétois) Gravures originales by Henri Matisse Paris: Martin Fabiani, 1944; Homer. Opera (Greek). Two volumes Venice: Aldus Manutius, after 31 October 1504. Both Collection of The Grolier Club and reproduced with permssion; Grolier Club Exhibition Hall pre-renovation reproduced with permission of Grolier Club; Renovation rendering reproduced with permission of Ann Beha and Grolier Club. Images of renovated space, credit: Michael Moran.

A gentle reminder to all Ticknor Society members: next Tuesday, December 11 will be the annual Show and Tell meeting at 6 p.m. at Boston’s First Church at 66 Marlborough Street. The popular event serves as a venue for members to share their various and wide-ranging activities as collectors and conservators in the book world.

On the docket is an impressive list of participants. Beth Carroll-Horrocks, a Ticknor Society member and head of Special Collections at the State Library of Massachusetts, plans to discuss her latest pursuit: pin cushion postcards. These early 20th century creations feature a raised, padded pin cushion often shaped to match the subject of the postcard at hand--a heart for Valentine’s Day or a wreath for Christmas.

Meanwhile, Bromer Bookseller’s Philip C. Salmon will talk about his Seamus Heaney collection and how it has evolved into its present state. Society member Shannon Struble has a trove of Jane Eyre material to discuss, and in a nod to the festive time of the year, Thomas Harakal will give a talk on Charles Dalton’s “A Christmas Eve Family Story,” a volume designed by typographer Bruce Rogers and privately printed at Riverside Press in 1904 expressly for family members and friends. 


Book conservator Marie Oedel plans to share a trove of letters sent to her from a descendant of Anna Eliot Ticknor and the process of transcribing and conserving these delicate papers for future research opportunities. Finally, author and former professional ballerina Nancy Upper will talk about Diggins from many Ampersandhogs, a holiday keepsake published for members of the Typophiles club in 1936.

Comprised of book collectors, booksellers, librarians, historians, and the run-of-the-mill bibliophile, the Ticknor Society (named in honor of Boston-based academic and bibliophile George Ticknor) strives to promote the joy that books bring. The breadth of presentations next week ably adhere’s to the Ticknor motto of “suum cuique” (to each is own) and will be well worth the trek into Boston for those able to make it.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

See the whole science catalogue here.


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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




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




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




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




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

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


Images, from top:

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

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

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

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

Booksellers have always had to contend with warding off book thieves hungry for valuable volumes. As part of its ongoing efforts to deter book crime, Raptis Rare Books in Palm Beach, Florida, is employing a new piece of technology called synthetic DNA.

According to the product’s creator, UK-based SelectaDNA, so-called “synthetic DNA” can help fight inventory loss and theft and has been employed in casinos, hospitals, banks, museums, and other institutions worldwide for over a decade to identify and protect valuables. Earlier this month, Raptis became the first bookseller in the United States to incorporate synthetic DNA for authentication and inventory management.


Matthew Raptis.jpg


“Think of each unit of synthetic DNA as a high-tech fingerprint,” explained SelectaDNA vice president Joe Maltese. “Each application of Synthetic DNA generates a unique code, providing clients with the ability to identify and recover lost or stolen rare books. Raptis is using the technology to demonstrate their rare books have been authenticated and sold by them.”

For book collectors worried this serum might mar their treasures, fear not: the non-toxic, water-based serum is invisible to the naked eye. Applied to a book, the serum can last up to five years and has a lifespan of 4 to 6 weeks on skin--helpful to pinpoint a thief who has been inadvertently misted with a special spray, also sold as part of an alarm system by SelectaDNA. The company says their product reduces theft by 83 percent when incorporated into such an alarm system. If triggered by a burglar, the system releases a mist containing a unique DNA code and UV tracer. Shining an ultraviolet light on the suspect will reveal whether he or she purloined the goods in question. 

Raptis is using the DNA Asset Marking System which is applied to books with a special stamp; the images below show Raptis is using a stamp in the shape of an “R.” 


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“Raptis Rare Books takes extraordinary measures to ensure authenticity of its collection of literary treasures,” said Raptis founder Matthew Raptis. “The use of SelectaDNA is an excellent complement to our rigorous authentication protocols,” he continued. “It provides our clients with added confidence in purchasing these rare literary gems.”

Images, from top: Matthew Raptis, owner and founder of Raptis Rare Books, alongside Shakespeare’s Fourth Folio, valued at $100,000. Book marked with synthetic DNA solution without use of ultraviolet light. Book marked with synthetic DNA solution and fluorescing from use of ultraviolet light. Used with permission from SelectaDNA.

Could Macbeth be to Halloween what A Christmas Carol is to Noël? Based on the number performances starring the Thane of Cawdor this month, all signs seem to point to yes. Among the various renditions, Shakespeare’s tragedy exploring the darkest and bloodiest elements of human nature appears in wildly different venues on either ends of the country this month.




Starting October 20 and running through November 3, the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles opens its “immersive” production of Macbeth. Directed by former Royal Shakespeare Company member Kenn Sabberton, The Tragedie of Macbeth is set in a haunted house where audience members walk through the play as it is happening. The show starts in the Shakespeare Center’s parking garage, which stands in for the mysterious witches’ heath, then winds its way through the castle. Pared down to seventy minutes with nine actors playing everyone from Macbeth to Banquo, the intimate nature of the show limits fifty spectators per performance. 

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, catch a glimpse of Macbeth through the fog art installation currently set up at Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum. Fog x Macbeth takes place on Sunday, October 21 at 5 pm, and like the Shakespeare Center’s adaptation, it is an abridged portrayal. This show is part of a larger exhibition by Japanese fog artist Fujito Nakaya, whose five fog sculptures situated in and around Boston are helping celebrate the twenty-year anniversary of the Emerald Lake Conservancy, a group dedicated to conserving the area’s century-old park system created by Frederick Law Olmstead.




The Actor’s Shakespeare Project  (ASP), a Boston-based theater company whose mission is to share Shakespeare’s immortal words with contemporary audiences, uses an adaptation by playwright Migdalia Cruz, whose full play is on stage now through November 11 at Brookline’s United Parish.


Meanwhile, with jets of gray mist pulsing at various intervals as the backdrop, Sunday’s free presentation will take place on the lawn next to the arboreteum’s Hunnewell building. Audience members are welcome to bring lawn chairs or blankets and are encouraged to dress for the elements. 


And finally, Macbeth was recently staged at a place where both actors and audience members deeply related to the characters they portrayed: Twin Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla, Oregon. One of the actors portraying Macbeth is currently serving life in prison for murder. (Reporter Noelle Crombie at the Oregonian goes into great detail about the performance and the organizations that bring acting programs to inmates.)


“I have done the deed” takes on new meaning, doesn’t it? 


Photo credit: Nile Scott Shots

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the U.S. publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first in J.K. Rowling’s blockbuster fantasy series starring a young wizard and his friends. Today, the New-York Historical Society welcomes the British Library’s exhibition dedicated to exploring the magic and mythology at the core of the Potter books. Harry Potter: A History of Magic features manuscripts, magical objects, and other treasures hailing from the archives of the British Library, Scholastic (Harry Potter’s publisher), and the author herself. The New York show also features new items not on display in England, such as the pastel illustrations for the original editions of the book and costumes from the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.                                                                                                                                                                    

To get you started, here are top six must-see picks in the exhibition:


1. Jacob Meydenbach, [H]ortus Sanitatis. Mainz, 1491. © British Library Board

Before Wikipedia, there were encyclopedias. This one is the world’s first encyclopedias dedicated to natural history. Harry reads this to learn about growing mandrakes--a plant believed to possess magical healing powers. (The ancient Romans used it as an anesthetic.)


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2. Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook. Italy, ca. 1506-08 ©British Library Board


There’s plenty of stargazing in the Potter books, and museum curators included da Vinci’s notebook in the exhibit to inspire young astronomers and scientists of the future. 


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3. The Ripley Scroll, detail England, ca. 1570. General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University


This cryptic, twelve-foot alchemical roll decodes the elixir for eternal life and was the inspiration for the first book in the Potter series. One copy recently sold at auction for nearly $800,000.  


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4. Oracle bones. China. ca 1600-1046 BCE. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Give of A.W. Bahr, 1923.

The oldest artifact in the exhibition, these bones, believed by the ancient Chinese to be of dragon extraction, were used over 3,000 years ago to predict the future. 


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5. Robert John Thornton. The Temple of Flora. London, 1807. The LuEsther T. Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden. 


Mandrakes, mermaid’s wineglass, wolfsbane--all common plants found in any self-respecting medieval herbalist’s repertoir. Harry’s longtime sidekick Neville Longbottom is a star herbologist and would no doubt consult volumes like this. 


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6. Tombstone of Nicolas Flamel. Paris, 15th century © Paris, Musée de Cluny - Musée national du Moyen Âge. 


Nicholas Flamel was the fourteenth-century scribe and manuscript dealer who dedicated much of his life to decoding the Philosopher’s Stone. Though he didn’t find the secret recipe to eternal life, Flamel lived well into his eighties. He even designed his own tombstone that was originally housed in the church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie until it was destroyed in the French Revolution. 


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Harry Potter: A History of Magic runs now through January 27, 2019. Tickets and more information may be found here

Word from London: During the VIP Preview Day yesterday at Frieze Masters, Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books sold an extremely rare, imperial Book of Hours known as “The Wedding Hours” to a private collector for an estimated €3 million ($3.45 million). The Swiss bookseller called it “a highly important work of cultural heritage and is of exceptional historical and art-historical value.”

Hours_Sforza_Milan_1493_68-69_JudgementSolomon-Vesper.jpgThis manuscript on vellum was illuminated by the Master of Anna Sforza in Milan in 1493. It contains 235 leaves, with fifteen full-page miniatures, fourteen of which are accompanied by an elaborately decorated text-page with full, historiated borders. It was created as a wedding gift for Bianca Maria Sforza (1472-1510) upon her marriage to the Holy Roman Emperor elect, Maximilian I of Austria-Habsburg. According to the bookseller, “The book was commissioned by the noblewoman’s uncle, Ludovico ‘Il Moro’ Sforza and not only testifies to the high level of Renaissance art made for the Sforza family in Milan, but also shows how art was used to link social, religious, and political life. The famed marriage by proxy between the niece of the Duke of Milan and the Emperor’s son was celebrated with great pomp in Milan on the 30th of November 1493. The entire manuscript is lavishly illuminated with opulent Renaissance motifs in gold and saturated colours.”

Frieze Masters is happening now through Sunday.

Image courtesy of Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books

The Korean Cultural Center in New York is hosting an exhibition on typography now through September 10. In collaboration with New York-based nonprofit Stigma and Cognition, Found in Translation is a celebration of International Literacy Day (recognized this year on Saturday, September 8) while also exploring how literacy and meaning changes in translation.  


19 손바닥도 마주쳐야 소리가 난다 by Yang-Jang & Bazbon.jpg     
To examine various similarities and differences between Korean and Western cultures, the show looks at how language is used in both artistic and typographic endeavors. Show organizers paired nineteen Korean and nineteen Western artists to represent their take on a theme through typography, with the goal of highlighting common ground.

Each typographic artwork examines expressions regularly used in both cultures, highlighting that though the translation may not be literally identical, the meaning is generally the same. For example, Korean typeface studio Yang-Jang & Bazbon (양장점) and New York-based calligrapher Margaret Fu were paired up to explore the phrase, “It takes two to tango.” (손바닥도 마주쳐야 소리가 난다.) Yang-Jang & Bazbon’s work shows a close-up of two men in black suits shaking hands against a red background, the whole creating a very Big Brother, almost menacing vibe. Written in slashing Korean characters, the expression back translates into English as “It takes two hands to make a clap,” suggesting that cooperation helps get things done. Meanwhile, Fu’s artwork also shows two hands, though intertwined in a dance-like embrace, with flowing, graceful script spelling out the phrase. The American’s representation is a more literal take on the the expression.

19 It takes two to tango. by Margaret Fu.jpg

Additionally, a pair of artists was commissioned to create works inspired by “the progress for peace and harmony on the Korean peninsula.”

Found in Translation is at the Gallery Korea at the Korean Cultural Center New York (460 Park Ave at 57th St., NYC). The exhibition is on view through September 10.


Image credits: (Top) Yang-Jang & Bazbon; (Bottom) Margaret Fu

hemingwaycover22-e1533177520291.jpg“A Room on the Garden Side,” a short story originally written by Ernest Hemingway in 1956, has been published for the first time in this summer’s issue of Strand Magazine. The story, set in the Ritz Hotel in Paris at the end of WWII, “paints a vivid sketch of soldiers tired from war, yet hopeful for the future.” Hemingway scholar Kirk Curnutt contributed an afterward to the story, placing it in a larger context. (Curnutt’s afterward is also available online here).

Hemingway wrote a handful of similar stories around the same time, which he sent to his publisher Charles Scribner with a note that included the following, “I suppose they are a little shocking since they deal with irregular troops and combat and with people who actually kill people....Anyway you can always publish them after I’m dead.”

Strand Magazine acquired the rights to publish the story from the Hemingway Estate last October. While Hemingway scholars have known about “A Room on the Garden Side” for decades, Strand’s publication marks the first time it is available to a wider audience. Managing editor of the Strand, Andrew Gulli, said, “[The Estate has] steered away from commercializing anything unpublished,” in an interview with PBS. “They were very kind to give the story to the Strand because they understand we have a good track record of publishing unpublished works. They want to make sure that if something is released that it will honor the memory of Ernest Hemingway.”

The Strand is no stranger to releasing previously unpublished or lost material from a variety of 20th-century luminaries. (We’ve covered their publication of a Faulkner story here and a Fitzgerald story here).

Hemingway fans and collectors can order the 55th issue of Strand, inclusive of “A Room on the Garden Side,” from the magazine’s website.

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William Birch’s paint box, ca. 1780. Courtesy of the Philadelphia History Museum at the
Atwater Kent, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection.


Conjure an image of early America, and Federal-era architecture, bustling shipyards and streets, and bucolic farm scenes probably come to mind. Whether most of us realize it or not, much of how we view that era was created by William Birch (1755-1834), a London transplant whose work became synonymous with the time when a young nation was full of hope and optimism.


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William Birch. Portrait of George Washington, 1796. Enamel on copper. Philadelphia
Museum of Art. Gift of the McNeil Americana Collection.

Now through October 5, the Library Company of Philadelphia is showcasing Birch’s paintings, including never-displayed manuscripts, enamels, and other pieces illustrating Philadelphia during the nineteenth century when it was the capital of America.



William Birch, Second Street North from Market St. w[i]th Christ Church, (Philadelphia, W. Birch),1827-1828. Hand-colored engraving. Library Company of Philadelphia.

“The exhibition tells the story of Birch’s entire life from his early years in England to his death in Philadelphia,” explained the Library Company’s prints and photographs curator Sarah J. Weatherwax. “It also explores the influence Birch’s work had on Philadelphia iconography long after his death. While many people are aware of Birch’s views of Philadelphia, few know much about his work as an enamel painter or his aspiration of being a landscape architect, themes that are examined in the exhibition.”

Considered America’s first “coffee table book,” Birch’s now-iconic The City of Philadelphia (1800) showed a civilized city and helped bolster early national pride. It was also a commercial success. “The City of Philadelphia showed Philadelphia as the cultural, economic, and political capital of the newly formed United States,” Weatherwax said. “Here, between the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers was a city where important institutions flourished, where businesses prospered, and where the inhabitants carried out their activities of daily lives. The engravings are large, colorful (if you paid to have them hand-colored), and engaging.”

Meanwhile, Birch’s follow-up book, Country Seats, was less successful. “The views in Birch’s Country Seats are much smaller in size and appear rather lifeless,” explained Weatherwax. “Nor is there a built-in audience for scenes of a wealthy gentleman’s country estate in the same way that views of city’s street life would have. Also, Americans of the period tended to think of the countryside as the location for agricultural endeavors or other practical uses, not the rural retreats Birch portrayed.” Though Country Seats met a tepid response, Birch knew his work held importance beyond what his contemporaries thought. In his autobiography, Birch wrote that his book was “the only work of its kind yet published.” Little could he have realized the historical record his achievements would provide over two hundred years later.

Birch is considered to be one of the first commercially successful artists in America, and his work remains as relevant as ever, even if the places he painted are drastically changed. “Birch’s views of Philadelphia provide us with our most comprehensive documentation of an 18th century American city and continue to be the cornerstone of how we represent a late 18th century urban space,” said Weatherwax.

Approximately 100 items from the Library Company of Philadelphia’s collection are on display, including material loaned from other institutions and private collectors. Highlights include Birch’s private copy of the Country Seats with a notation stating, “intended to be continued but no encouragement,” two ceramic vases made by the Tucker Factory of Philadelphia decorated with views from Birch’s Country Seats, a watercolor sketch of Birch’s country estate, and a copper engraving plate used for City of Philadelphia.  

The Library Company’s director Michael Barsanti likened Birch’s portraits to America’s baby pictures, and that “they show the strength and promise of our country as it appeared in its earliest days. They also show what we looked like through the eyes of a new immigrant, who saw a contrast between its vitality and undeveloped natural beauty and the England he left behind.”


More information on the exhibition here


Planning a visit to Cambridge, MA, in the coming weeks? If so, be sure to check out an exhibition at Harvard’s Houghton Library addressing the very hot topics of immigration, DACA, asylum, and travel bans. Passports: Lives in Transit is in its final weeks, and library curators are inviting the public to examine passports, visas, and travel documents hailing from Harvard Library collections, as well as an installation of expired passports. Featured famous migrants include Leon Trotsky, George Balanchine, and others.


On August 10, the library is hosting a closing celebration from 4:30pm to 7pm. First up is a panel discussion and Q & A with speakers from Harvard’s Administrative Fellowship Program. Hosted by Anne-Marie Eze, Houghton’s director of scholarly and public programs, panel participants will discuss “Global Mobility: Identity, Migration, and Passports.” 

From 5:30pm to 7pm, visitors are invited to the Mama Africa Party in the Houghton Library’s Edison and Newman room. Billed as a “cross cultural celebration of humanity’s common roots,” live music will be performed by Afro-pop musician Albino Mbie, dancing performed by Angie Egea, and food provided by Suya Joint All African Cuisine.

Though free to the public, RSVPs are requested to ensure enough food and drink for all:


Image credits:
Albino Mbie/Courtesy of Shuhei Teshima.

Angie Egea/Courtesy of Carven Boursiquot

Shirley Graham Du Bois’ African Passports: Ghana, 1963 and Tanzania, 1972. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Papers of Shirley Graham Du Bois, 1865-1998, MC 476.

Readers of our sister site Art & Object may recall a story from January 2018 on the Parisian organization known as Atelier des Artistes en Exil (AA-E), an arts center that welcomes painters, poets, writers, and musicians chased from their homelands to its 10,000-square-foot space on rue des Poissonniers to practice their craft in peace. Since November 2017, over 200 exiles from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, and other wartorn countries have found artistic refuge at the organization founded by Judith Depaule and Ariel Cypel, a pair known for piloting engaged communal artistic spaces throughout Paris. Patrons are welcome to work in the studios, seek legal advice, or even take French lessons, all provided free of charge thanks to generous donations from benefactors around the world. 


On July 8, the AA-E wrapped up a free two-week festival dedicated to educating the neighborhood (the working-class 18th arrondissement) about the people who participate in AA-E programming by hosting a selection of workshops, demonstrations, and exhibitions while also saying “merci” to the locals who welcomed the AA-E in 2017.

Highlights included a solo concert by Samih Choukier, a musician and activist who left Syria for good in 2010 to be able to perform as he pleased while also protesting the Assad regime. Congolese writer and performer Perlige Sita-Kouikani staged a one-man show full of stories from his childhood, and Ukranian refugee and choreographer Cleve Nitoumbi performed a vibrant fusion of hip-hop and street jazz.



The catch? The festival was held not at AA-E headquarters, but in gardens and salons offered as impromptu performance space by residents of the 18th arrondissement. “It [the AA-E] suffers from a lack of visibility in the neighborhood,” explained festival organizer François Kalinowski in a recent interview with Le Monde, “We want to tell our neighbors that the Atelier des Artistes en Exil is here, in your neighborhood, with you!” Here’s hoping the festival helped bridge the divide and encouraged greater awareness and hospitality for the people finding solace and a creative outlet at the AA-E.


As always, the organization is looking for support and donations, detailed here.


Pictured: Sudanese refugee Mohamed Nour Wana. Image courtesy of Sébastien Jédor.

Bibliophile vases by Jane Mount, Chronicle Books.jpg

Though Chronicle Books has been publishing award-winning and distinctive titles since 1967, the San Francisco-based independent publishing house is currently celebrating 25 years of its popular gift-publishing program by launching new products, though not necessarily books, with the book-lover in mind.

“For decades, Chronicle Books has been challenging and changing publishing expectations,” said Chronicle Books publisher Christine Carswell in a company press release. “We’ve expanded the definition of what it means to be a publisher by bringing the enduring magic of books into new and surprising formats. And we’ve expanded the landscape of where publishers sell by going beyond bookstores to so many other places where readers and gift-givers shop.” Online, yes, but also airports, grocery stores, and even gas stations are points-of-sale for last-minute shoppers and folks who simply want to check off everything on their list in a single store.

Bestsellers have included ArtBox Frida Kahlo, the Gold Standard Noteblock, and the 52 Deck series, while Chronicle’s editors have relished at being free to explore “unique, powerful ways to present visual artists’ books.”

This year, the company is expanding its profile to include a new line of toys, games, and accessories. Among the bookish gifts in Chronicle’s catalog include the Magic Library ($12.95), a Jacob’s Ladder that resembles a stack of books, and ceramic “Bibliophile” vases created by Jane Mount ($19.95, pictured above). The brightly colored book-shaped vessels covered with literary quotes on the back are charming catch-alls for flowers, writing utensils, or, if it’s my house, candy. Any of these clever, reasonably priced offerings will warm your favorite bibliophile’s heart any time of year. 


Image courtesy of Chronicle

July 4, 1776 Document Heads to Auction

67-5-1-Aaron_Wood_July_4_1776_w_CU copy.jpg

Just in time for Independence Day, Yonkers, New York-based auction house Cohasco is offering a piece of history dating from the early days of the founding of the United States. “According to the Library of Congress, about seventeen documents exist with dates of July 4, 1776, most relating to or signed by George Washington,” said Cohasco owner Bob Snyder. “We have what we believe is one of the earliest known documents of the modern United States [dated July 4, 1776] that names a specific African-American.” Perhaps of equal interest is that the item offers a glimpse of race relations in the United States over two hundred years ago.                                                                                                                

In something of an ironic coincidence that this arrest warrant bears the same official date Americans celebrate independence, a man named Cuffee Dole is accused of stealing “one Eight Dollar Bill of the Continental Emission” on March 31, 1776, from a soldier near George Washington’s Cambridge headquarters. Ultimately, the paper trail runs cold as to what happened next in the case of Cuffee Dole, but historians believe the charges were dropped.

Who then, was Cuffee Dole? Here is where the story gets interesting. Born free in Boston in 1739, Dole was sold into slavery as a three-year-old by his nurse for $40 to Captain Dole of Gerogetown. Dole lived with the captain and his family until his early twenties. Then, according to local lore, Dole’s duplicitous nurse felt remorse and summoned Dole to her deathbed where she confessed to selling him into slavery as a child. Dole bought his freedom in 1772 and he lived thereafter as a free man, working on farms and performing other work in and around Boston. Dole even enlisted for two tours of duty with the Continental Army. After the war, Dole purchased twelve acres of land in Georgetown, MA, for $650, where he lived until his death in 1816. In his will, Dole requested that he be given a decent burial, but the local deacons were divided on whether he should be buried in the church graveyard next to white congregants. The deacons agreed that Dole’s remains could be interred at the church where he had prayed daily for years, but on the condition that his stone be set in the back of the graveyard. Today the stone bears an epitaph that reads, in part, White man turn not away in disgust. Thou art my brother, 
like me akin to earth and worms.”

The warrant, signed by Justice of the Peace Aaron Wood, is in good condition with some staining and edge chipping. Price estimates are available from Cohasco upon request.

Now through July 24, this and over 400 other items are up for auction. Cohasco doesn’t accept online budding, so interested parties must either call in their bids 1-914-476-8500 or email


Image courtesy of Cohasco



Readers may recall a story posted back in December about the Albertine Prize, an annual award co-presented by jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy that recognizes American readers’ favorite contemporary French fiction translated into English. The reading public was invited to vote at Albertine’s website, and pretty much stuff the ballot box with their favorites.

This year’s five nominees included:


Incest by Christine Angot, trans. by Tess Lewis, Archipelago Books
Compass by Mathias Enard, trans. by Charlotte Mandel, New Directions
The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis, trans. by Michael Lucey, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux
Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou, trans. by Helen Stevenson, The New Press
Not One Day by Anne Garréta, trans. by Emma Ramadan, Deep Vellum

Interest in the prize was drummed up on April 10 when LitHub’s editor-in-chief Jonny Diamond, The New Yorker’s H.C. Wilentz, Albertine’s director Tom Roberge, and others shared their favorites.

The winner of the $10,000 prize was finally revealed to a packed house on Wednesday, June 6, with French literary critic and la Grande Librarie host François Busnel and translator Lydia Davis. The grand prize went to Anne Garréta’s Not One Day (Deep Vellum, 2017) translated by Emma Ramadan. Garréta’s twelve vignettes exploring memory and desire was originally published as Pas Un Jour in 2002 (éditions Grasset) and awarded the prestigious Prix Medicis. The winnings are split between author and translator and assure the book greater exposure to an English-speaking audience. Congratulations to the winners!


Photo courtesy of the French Embassy of New York



A recent trip to the Worcester Art Museum (WAM) to inspect, among other items, a panel painting newly attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, revealed a curatorial trend of removing informational wall panels and captions. This captionless experiment was being played out in the museum’s Renaissance and Old Masters galleries.

“The Museum is working on alternative design approaches that encourage new ways for visitors to interact with and participate in daily uses of the gallery,” reads the WAM website. In Worcester’s Renaissance gallery, informative text has been replaced by interactive iPads and laminated guides stored in hanging bins around the room.

As a museum-goer accustomed to informative text, the absence was jarring--is the portrait on the wall a Vermeer or a Rembrandt? To answer that required firing up the communal electronic device or hoping the plastic info sheets weren’t missing. The experience brought up the question of whether or not informative captions distract from artistic enjoyment and contemplation.

                                                                                                                                    Captions have become something of a controversial topic in the museum world, for reasons ranging from misleading facts to funding concerns to pleasing everyone in an age of political correctness. In a 2015 ArtNews article, WAM director Matthias Waschek expressed great pleasure at removing “that damn piece of paper,” referring to wall labels, allowing works of art to speak for themselves. Yet for those without a degree in art history, properly constructed captions provide welcome nuance and context.

“I guess I’m old fashioned,” said Brazilian art historian, curator, and collector Pedro Corrêa do Lago recently when asked about his preference for informative captions. Corrêa do Lago has amassed over 100,000 autographs, manuscripts, and other handwritten items that span nearly a millennium and which are now subject of a new exhibition at the Morgan Library. The Magic of Handwriting: The Pedro Correa do Lago Collection showcases 140 jewels from his archives that bear the signatures and handwriting by a who’s who of the world’s creators, performers, and thinkers. (See Nick Basbanes’s forthcoming profile on Corrêa do Lago in the next issue of FB&C.)

Corrêa do Lago wanted viewers to enjoy the exhibition at hand while also understanding the rationale behind the inclusion of each piece. How then, to tie together material hailing from six distinct disciplines in the Morgan’s intimate Engelhard Gallery? To do this, he turned to Brazilian husband-and-wife team Daniela Thomas and Felipe Tassara, the duo responsible for designing the Rio 2016 Olympic Opening Ceremony. At the Morgan, Thomas and Tassara organized the items like rows of cream-white Greek stele; each autograph sheet is raised at an angle, as if on a writing desk, protected only by a thin film of plexiglass, while large-font informative text greets the viewer at eye level. The result is a wholly immersive and informative experience.

“The text is critical,” explained Thomas. “It explains why Pedro selected these specific pieces, and how the power of handwriting can connect us to great people.”


Unaccompanied by captions, however, a letter bearing the thumbprint signature of physicist Stephen Hawking or other slips of paper become no more than marks on a page.




Images: (Top) Entry to Morgan Exhibit. (Bottom) A row of autographed pages. Credit: Barbara Basbanes Richter 

roth_goodbyecolumbus_030786-01 copy.jpgLast week we lost Tom Wolfe, this week another literary lion, Philip Roth, leaves us. There are, of course, glowing obituaries aplenty to remind us of all the great and good novels Roth wrote. I, however, am reminded about all the books he collected, and which will now, upon his passing, make their way to the Newark Public Library (NPL) in Newark, New Jersey, his hometown and longtime muse. In our spring 2017 issue, we reported on Roth’s plan to donate his personal library of about 3,500 volumes to the NPL upon his death. (His literary papers are deposited at the Library of Congress.) Roth announced the bequest in late 2016. The library honored his gift with the creation of the Philip Roth Lecture Series, with author Zadie Smith as the inaugural speaker.   

In a statement issued yesterday, the NPL shared this: “Philip Roth’s passing is a painful loss to the Newark Public Library, to the city of Newark, and to the world of literature.”

But his legacy--local, national, international, literary, political--is secure. And I look forward to Roth’s library having a second life in a public space, where aspiring writers may find inspiration among his marginalia-filled books.  

Image: First edition of Goodbye, Columbus (1959) courtesy of Ken Lopez Bookseller.

Women in a Golden Age of Artists’ Books

Though artists’ books can arguably trace their origins back to medieval volumes like the Trѐs Riches Heures, contemporary artists’ books tend to reference William Blake as the forerunner to the genre. And since then, the field has produced masters like Dieter Roth, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, and others who transform books into art objects.                                                                                               

The 1970s and 80s are considered by many experts as the golden age of offset printed artists’ books, and though it was a field mostly dominated by men, women were making their mark, too. A roundtable discussion being held at New York’s Center for Book Arts on Tuesday May 22 will explore the work of those women creators of offset printed artists’ books, the challenges they faced, and what they hope the future holds for the next generation of printmakers. Participants include Cynthia Marsh, founder of Tennessee’s Goldsmith Press; Rebecca Michaels, a photography professor at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia; and Philadelphia-based book artist, printmaker, and professor Patty Smith.       

The panel will be moderated by the Met’s associate chief librarian of the Watson Library, Tony White, whose exhibition, Production, not Reproduction: a Chronological History of Offset Printed Artists’ Books, appeared at Yale in 2006 and at the Center for Book Arts in 2007.                                                                  


Diane Dias De Fazio, a public services librarian at the NYPL and one of our featured librarians in the “Bright Young Librarians” series, has been instrumental in organizing the event. “The work of Smith, Marsh, and Michaels was featured in both iterations of that exhibition. White also served as guest editor for Volume 25 of the Journal of Artists’ Books,” Dias De Fazio said in an email recently.                                                                               

“I interviewed all three women ten years ago when I was creating a genealogy of offset printers for Volume #25 of the Journal of Artists Books,” explained White. “I learned about where they discovered printing, who they studied with, and who they taught. There are a number of male offset printers who have received more recognition, but who came a generation or so later. With so many women book artists’ and printers, I want to make sure their stories are heard, especially in the contemporary book production environment.”                                                                                                                         

Though Tuesday’s panel of participants is far from complete, White believes that the women sharing their stories are representative of the experiences others have had.                                                        

“In a way, I am returning to a project I started in 2007 to gather and publish the interviews of offset printers,” explained White. “The focus of the program is on women who played important, foundational roles in the field of high speed rotary offset printing. “It is a highly technical and demanding printing process--much less forgiving that letterpress.”                                                    

“Women in a Golden Age of Artists’ Books” happens on Tuesday, May 22 at the Center for Book Arts (28 West 27th St, 3rd floor) from 6:30-7:45. RSVP to this event at

It’s been a busy year for Peter Rabbit, Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail; Sony Picture’s feature-film adaptation based on Beatrix Potter’s stories has grossed over $300 million in ticket sales worldwide since its February box office debut. And it’s not the only Potter-related event this spring: an exhibit in England showcases the more feminist side of the author, while an auction of recently discovered letters proves once again the boundless interest in the lady of the Lake District. 




Now through October 28, the Lake District’s Hawkshead Gallery is celebrating 100 years of female suffrage in the United Kingdom with an exhibition highlighting Potter’s original artwork, handwritten letters, and other personal items in The Right Sort of Woman. The show’s title comes from a letter Potter wrote to the Times in 1916 in which she extols the importance of employing women on farms. Though perhaps lesser-known today for her abilities as a successful businesswoman than for her beloved children’s books, various letters on display show her financial acumen had a decidedly feminist streak. One of Potter’s shepherds recalls how she never paid him directly, bringing his weekly wages to his wife instead.


Potter paraphernalia continues to do well at auction, too; five previously unknown letters written during World War II reveal the author’s frustration at a recent potato harvest and the perils of soil exhaustion in the face of widespread famine. The letters were consigned to Dawsons of Maidenhead and sold to a London-based buyer on February 28 for approximately $16,000.


That’ll buy a lot of lettuce.  


Image via Wikimedia

New for Spring from Folio Society

Vicki Traino, PR director for The Folio Society, made the transatlantic voyage from London to Manhattan last month, only to be greeted by a winter nor’easter rather than springtime blossoms. No matter, Traino was in town to talk about forthcoming publications from Folio, a welcome harbinger of a warmer season.

“Our spring lineup touches on themes of exploration and adventure, with a good dash of whimsy as well,” Traino explained. Indeed, the London-based publisher’s spring offerings include Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard, Niall Ferguson’s Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, and a fresh translation of Japanese folk and fairy tales.

Matthiessen’s 320-page opus won two National Book Awards--one in 1979 for Contemporary Thought, and the nonfiction prize in 1980 in its paperback form. The wilderness traveler, naturalist, co-founder of The Paris Review, and former CIA agent chronicles his quest through the Himalayas for the elusive snow leopard. “Our edition is gorgeous,” said Traino, and it’s hard to disagree--the spot-varnished cloth hardcover conceals printed map endpapers and twenty pages of color plates, including dozens of previously unpublished photographs taken during the Tibetan trek.

Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World doesn’t shy away from making a statement--Ferguson’s sweeping account the British Empire’s ushering in of the modern era was a lightning rod for controversy when it was first published in 2002, and the 2018 reissue won’t easily fade into the background, either; the Union Jack-red cloth cover is stamped with a hand-glued printed letterpress front-board by British printmaker Peter Chasseaud.




A collection of 170 Japanese tales dating back a millenium reveals mythical and mortal characters whose battles with jealousy, greed, and love won’t be all that unfamiliar to readers in 2018. This smart introduction to Japanese culture includes a preface by translator Royall Tyler, but the text is nearly eclipsed by Yuko Shimizu’s (no relation to the Hello Kitty creator) sparkling illustrations. Four double-page spreads, seven color illustrations, and integrated black-and-white sketches offer vivid contemporary interpretations that seamlessly harmonize with the stories. Bonus: the slipcase has a circular cut-out revealing a silver moon on the book’s cover. (Be on the lookout for a Q&A with Shimizu in a few weeks!) 

If these titles aren’t enough, don’t fret: summer’s catalog will be on its way soon.

Behind the Bookshelves: The Podcast

The folks at AbeBooks have decided to throw their hats into the podcast ring; as of March 20, “Behind the Bookshelves” explores book culture in bite-size portions. So far, the first five episodes examined the Penguin paperback reading revolution, the story behind Alcoholics Anonymous’s bestselling Big Book, a literary tour of Oxford, the meteoric popularity and subsequent controversy surrounding the 1979 publication of Masquerade, and the globetrotting adventures of Mark Twain. Hosted by AbeBooks publicity director Richard Davies, each seven- to ten-minute show opens with the satisfying clack of a typewriter before launching into the story at hand.

“It’s experimental at the moment,” said Davies. “But we hope the podcast will appeal to readers and collectors, and anyone who loves a good story.” Davies plans to attend next month’s the ABA’s Rare Book Fair in Battersea where he anticipates sleuthing down at least a few stories for future episodes.

Listen or download “Behind the Bookshelves” at the links below, and let the Abe team know what you’d like to hear about next! 

Google Play:
Basic RSS:

Have you ever flipped through a fashion magazine from days of yore and wished you could rock a psychedelic two-dimensional paper dress circa 1967 or slip into a Mod mini by Mary Quant? Well, now you can--but first, better dust off that sewing machine.


bathing suit.JPGUntil now, vintage sewing pattern covers have been available at various websites across the internet, but Vintage Patterns Wiki has just released over 83,000 downloadable, free, out-of-print sewing pattern illustrations, giving these unconventional “works on paper” a push into the world of Open Source. However, the actual patterns themselves aren’t always free: though a few are available on the wiki, Vintage Patterns mostly links to affiliate sellers. 

Organized by decade, designer, and garment, patterns date from the 1920s through 1992. There’s even a collection of patterns inspired by Hollywood stars--Olivia de Havilland’s jumpsuits look particularly on trend for spring 2018. With a little elbow grease and attention to detail, you’ll have a bespoke piece that stands the test of time. Besides, sewing is great for the psyche: as Margaret Atwood wrote in Alias Grace, “I am certain that a Sewing Machine would relieve as much human suffering as a hundred Lunatic Asylums, and possibly a good deal more.”



Images via Vintage Patterns Wiki

Beautiful Birds at Bonhams this Spring



Spring announces itself in many ways. In the book world, vernal book fairs and auctions tempts the frozen bibliophile our from hibernation with new treasures waiting to be explored. Bonhams welcomes the new season with a May 30 auction entitled Wassenaar Zoo: a Dutch Private Library.

Comprised of 2,400 mostly ornithological volumes, the collection was assembled in the 1950s to accompany exhibitions at Holland’s now-defunct Wassenaar Zoo. The auction will include a near-complete run of folios by naturalist John Gould, works by French ornithologist François Levaillant and by Daniel Elliot, co-founder of the American Museum of Natural History. Their beautiful illustrations of pheasants, finches, and falcons fuse a delicate balance between art and scientific inquiry and remain highly coveted by collectors. 


Representing the biggest names in 19th-century natural history documentation, highlights from this collection went on display in New York earlier this month and are currently on view in Hong Kong. Another viewing will be held in London from May 23-29.

Image: Superb Fairywren The birds of Australia. London, Printed by R. and J. E. Taylor; pub. by the author,[1840]-48. Plate 18 by John Gould. Courtesy of Biodiversity Library and Smithsonian. 

Rethinking the Enlightenment

Thumbnail image for image001.jpgThink of the French Enlightenment, and who comes to mind? Probably Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu and their impressive achievements like Candide, the Encyclopedie, and The Spirit of Laws, works that spurred the intellectual and philosophical movement of eighteenth-century Europe. Though the Enlightenment is often considered a male-dominated endeavor, French women played important roles, too. Elite, educated women often held salons--forums hosted in private homes where spirited debate on topics from education to politics accompanied sumptuous meals. (This is France, after all.) Women held court in these salons, selecting topics, curating the guest list, and using the venue to seal their social status. One of the more famous Parisian salonnières was Catherine de Vivonne, marquise de Rambouillet, who ran a salon at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, the first of its kind and which likely inspired Molière’s scathing one-act satire les Précieuses ridicules

Other women went a step beyond hosting salons and picked up the plume for themselves. Madame de La Fayette, a regular at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, wrote the first French historical novel called La Princesse de Clèves (1678), while the correspondence of the marquise de Sevigné is widely celebrated for its verve and historical significance.

Today, Houghton Library at Harvard University is hosting a symposium on these and other ladies of the Enlightenment called, appropriately, “Rethinking Enlightenment: Forgotten Women Writers of Eighteenth-Century France.” Members of Harvard’s Department of Romance Languages and Literature as well as guest professors from the Universite de Lille and Wellesley College will discuss the works of women who participated in the Enlightenment “but were excluded from its history until recently.” The discussion accompanies an exhibition on view through April 28, Rethinking Enlightenment, curated by Harvard senior and forum participant Caleb Shelbourne, who assisted professor Christie McDonald with research for her forthcoming two-volume work, Femme, Littérature. Une histoire culturelle (Paris: Gallimard, 2019). The symposium comes two days after International Francophonie Day, an annual event celebrated by 220 million French speakers on five continents.  

Award season continued its forward march this week with the announcement of the American Library Association’s (ALA) winners of the prestigious Newbery and Caldecott Awards on February 12. This year’s Newbery winner was Hello, Universe (Greenwillow Books, 320 pages) by Erin Entrada Kelly, while Matthew Cordell’s wordless picture book Wolf in the Snow (Feiwel and Friends, 48 pages) took home the Caldecott Medal.



Hello, Universe explores the complicated tween world unexpected friendships, bullying, and self-acceptance, told from the point of view of four protagonists. While there’s no dialogue in Wolf in the Snow, there’s plenty going on: a girl in a red parka discovers a lost wolf pup during a blizzard and helps it find its family. The tension and shifting dynamics between girl and wolf are rendered in deceptively simple pen-and-inks and watercolors. Both books explore what it’s like to be an outsider, and how doing the right thing can often mean have to face one’s fears as well.



Both awards recognize the year’s most outstanding contributions to American literature and picture book illustration for children, and though the ALA awards list has grown in recent years, the Caldecott and the Newbery remain the most noteworthy.

The awards were announced at the ALA’s annual midwinter meeting which was held in Denver, Colorado. The complete list of winners can be found at the ALA’s website here

                                                                                                                                                             Images courtesy of the publishers

Ok, Philadelphia Eagles fans may think nothing can top their team’s proud designation as Super Bowl champions, but we’ve got something for bookish folks that’s sure to please.


giltypleasures-exhibit-17.jpg                                                                                                                                                                    On January 29, the Library Company of Philadelphia opened its latest exhibition to the public on sharing special collections in a digital world. Entitled #GiltyPleasures--a play on the word for gold-covered binding and illumination--the show is the logical extension of a social media initiative launched two years ago by Concetta Barbera and Arielle Middleman, the Library Company’s digital outreach librarians. Almost daily, devoted Instagram followers find postings ranging from century playing cards, watercolors, photographs, and recently, a slightly doctored WWI recruitment poster showing--what else--a bald eagle trouncing a black-feathered foe sporting Patriots insignia on its chest.                                                                                                   
“We wanted to share our passion for the Library Company’s collections with the online community,” Barbera and Middleman said. “We also wanted to introduce new and whimsical ways to engage with special collections. However, no virtual environment can fully mimic the experience of seeing and interacting with these materials in person, and we hope that #GiltyPleasures fills that gap.”                                                                                                                
Billed as the library’s “greatest hits,” #GiltyPleasures hopes to inspire visitors while celebrating the qualities of this institution founded by Benjamin Franklin back in 1731. Bonus: This week the Library Company is participating in #ColorOurCollections, a weeklong social media coloring festival where institutions share free coloring content with their social media followers, so break out a fresh box of crayons! 

#GiltyPleasures runs through April 6 and can also be viewed here

Shakespeare copy.jpgAbove: The first recorded purchase of Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, less than two months after it was entered in the Stationers’ Register. Richard Stonley, a government accountant, spent 12 pence on two books, Venus and Adonis and John Eliot’s The Survey, or Topographical Description of France, in addition to 10 shillings on food and 3 shillings, 12 pence on clothes.

Since 1997, UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register has raised awareness of the state of preservation of civilization’s documentary heritage by nominating a series of books or other documents that speak to our common history. Looting, war, illegal trading, and general lack of interest stirred UNESCO members to establish an annual list of documents that have national or global social relevance. The first inductees into the program included the Archangel Gospel of 1092, a collection of Mexican Codices, and a Holy Koran, and since then the register has grown to include the Magna Carta and the Gutenberg Bible. This international initiative calls for the preservation or, in some cases, the reconstitution of a country’s documentary heritage -- creating a sense of permanence for these materials in an increasingly impermanent (read: digital) world.

This year, 90 documents relating to William Shakespeare’s life have been added to the register, mostly dealing with his baptism, burial, property records, and business transactions. Six of those documents hail from the Folger Shakespeare Library collection -- the only American institution included -- while the remaining 84 documents are in the United Kingdom’s Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the National Archives, Worcestershire Archives and Archaeology Service, the College of Arms, the British Library, and London Metropolitan Archives.

The Shakespeare documents are accessible to anyone with internet access: they’ve all been scanned and uploaded to an online repository called “Shakespeare Documented,” launched on the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death in 2016. With (appropriately) 400 items in its holdings, the site bills itself as “the largest and most authoritative resource for learning about primary sources that document the life and career of William Shakespeare.” This comprehensive portrait of the playwright offers hundreds of print and manuscript documents for in-depth examination, including contemporary accounts (and gossip), anthologies, literary criticism and diary entries--all providing testimony to how Shakespeare became a household name.

“The fact that these resources -- supplied by a number of institutions -- have been digitized and are widely available means that a vital part of the documentary record is able to speak to us from centuries past. If libraries are diary of humankind, this group of documents represents one of that story’s most exciting chapters,” said Folger Shakespeare Library Director Michael Witmore.

In an age where longevity of e-data is of increasing concern, to quote the Bard himself, “What’s past is prologue” (The Tempest, Act 2, Scene I). In other words, we cannot forget history’s lessons, or we are forever doomed to repeat them, and UNESCO’s initiative is a positive step in the right direction.

Credit: Richard Stonley. Diary labelled “KK.” Manuscript, May 1593 to May 1594. Folger Shakespeare Library.

The Beatrix Potter Society has been keeping tabs on all sorts of various Potter-related events as well as preparing for a springtime gathering in California. Here’s some of the highlights from its winter newsletter:                                                                                                                                                                               

squirrel nutkin.JPGThe Bookseller reported in December that a first-edition of Potter’s long-forgotten and recently published The Tale of Kitty in Boots, with illustrations by Quentin Blake, was auctioned at the “First Editions Re-covered” sale, fetching nearly $14,000. The event raised funds for Blake’s House of Illustration, a public art gallery in London. The two-hour event raised approximately $180,000. 

In 2016, the Royal Mint struck a series of coins commemorating the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth, and plans to add new coins to the series in 2018. This year Mrs. Tittlemouse, the Tailor of Gloucester, Flopsy Bunny, and a new version of Peter Rabbit will appear on the 50-pence coins. The proclamation announcing the series appeared in the December 15 edition of the Edinburgh Gazette.

The United Kingdom’s National Trust celebrated 50 years of its Working Holiday program--an initiative aimed at encouraging participants to help care for and restore Britain’s beautiful coastlines, homes, and gardens--by planting 4,000 saplings near Moss Eccles Tarn in Cumbria’s Lake District. Stocked with water lilies and various fish, Potter once owned this charming fishing spot and donated it to the National Trust upon her death. Volunteers helped clear non-native plants to make room for the new trees--native oak, birch, and hazel.

Finally, the next meeting of the Potter Society will take place March 23-25 in San Diego, California. Among other activities--British afternoon tea on Saturday, for example--author Marta McDowell and librarian Connie Rye Neumann will share new research on the surprisingly parallel lives of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Potter.  

                                                                                                                                                                       Spring can’t get here soon enough. 

                                                                                                                                                                  Image via Wikimedia Commons

Change is in the air in California.

Readers of this blog may recall California’s passage of AB-1570 Collectibles: Sale of Autographed Memorabilia, which went into effect in January 2017. That law required 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. AB-1570’s goals were to prevent the distribution of forged autographs, but many booksellers felt they were swept up by a vague law with onerous requirements. Still others felt that portions of the law constituted an invasion of privacy, citing possible violations of California’s Reader Privacy Act of 2011.

Co-sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 13, 2017, AB 228 amends the previous legislation to better address the needs of booksellers in California.

The new law excludes all books, manuscripts, correspondence, and any ephemera unrelated to sports or entertainment media from the “autographed collectibles” regulation set forth in AB-1570. Rather than provide a Certificate of Authenticity--a lengthy document requiring sellers to disclose where autographed items were purchased that many booksellers found onerous--dealers of autographed collectibles may provide an “Express Warranty” incorporated in an invoice instead. Additionally, civil penalties for failing to comply with the law have been lowered as well.

“We are thrilled,” said Susan Benne, ABAA’s executive director. “The amended law removes the unintended consequences of the previous law, while providing the protections to the consumers it was intended to. We thank the lawmakers, booksellers, organizations, and professionals who supported the effort and made this happen.” Joining the ABAA lobbying group were many ABAA members liks Brad and Jen Johnson and Laurelle Swann, as well as organizations like the Grolier Club, the Manuscript Society, and the Professional Autograph Dealers Association.

The 200 dealers descending on Pasadena for the California International Antiquarian Book Fair next month will no doubt be pleased with the changes. 

Albertine Prize Needs Your Help!

Calling all American Francophiles: the Albertine Prize needs your vote! Organized by the Fifth Avenue bookstore, Albertine, and co-presented by jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels  and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the award recognizes American readers’ favorite French-language fiction titles translated into English and distributed in the U.S. within the preceding calendar year.                                                                                                                     

Albertine  copy.jpgThis year’s nominees are winnowed to five titles covering a range of perspectives and narrative styles; UCLA professor Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses (Petit Piment, 2015) follows a Congoloese boy who escapes a terrifying orphanage and is raised by thieves in Pointe-Noire, and Christine Angot’s controversial story about molestation, Incest (Inceste, 1999) also makes the shortlist. 

                                                                                                                                                                The Albertine Prize selection committee includes author and translator Lydia Davis, French literary critic and La Grande Librairie host François Busnel, and the staff at the Albertine bookstore in New York City. 

                                                                                                                                                               Not sure which book to vote for? Albertine will host a springtime Book Battle, where five critics and professors will defend their favorite title.

Anyone can vote, just follow the link here. Ballots close May 1, 2018, with an awards ceremony on June 6. The winner will receive a $10,000 prize, to be split between author and translator. Bonne lecture! 

                                                                                                                                                           Image credit: Joe David

There’s change afoot along Boston’s historic Freedom Trail. Activists have launched a campaign on to convert the Old Corner Bookstore (OCB) into a museum reflecting the city’s literary history.

Constructed in 1718 on the site of Puritan dissident Anne Hutchinson’s cottage at the corner of Washington and School Streets, Boston’s oldest commercial building was saved from demolition in 1960 by its current owner, Historic Boston, Inc.,which has leased out the space since 2011 to raise money for the organization’s various preservation endeavors such as the Everett Square Theater and the Malcolm X house. The OCB’s current tenant is a Chipotle Mexican Grill--not quite a bastion of literature and the impetus behind this current petition.

Sstarting in the 1840s, the OCB was the home of Ticknor & Fields, an American publisher perhaps best known for publishing H.D. Thoreau’s Walden and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, as well as work by Julia Ward Howe and Henry Longfellow.

The entire area surrounding the OCB was a hub of literary activity in the early 19th century: 180 magazines were published in the area known as “Publisher’s Row,” like the short-lived Pioneer that first ran Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” in January 1843. The Atlantic Monthly, launched in 1857 still exists today, and first published Longfellow’s now-famous poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride” in 1861. The OCB was the center of Boston’s literary community and, for a time, the country.

Though Chipotle’s current lease runs through 2020 and will likely be extended through 2025, the petition’s creators suggest that the non-profit develop a “workable plan that will support both Historic Boston Inc. and the broader goals of the project,” but the nonprofit has not been responsive to such a request.

The OCB Petition Project was co-authored by a veritable “who’s who” in the field of American letters: Boston College English professor Paul Lewis; Beacon Press director Helene Atwan; Ticknor Society president Michael Barton; American Literature Association executive director Alfred Bendixen; Notre Dame English professor Sandra Gustafson; The Dante Club author Matthew Pearl, and many others.

As of pub date, the group has 452 of 500 requested signatures. Read more about the cause here

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 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

Lincoln_autograph letter.jpg

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.


RLNDragonsTacos (2) adj b.jpg                                                                                                                               

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.

Rosenthal picture 1.jpg                                                                                                                                   

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.


Cockram Inferno Limbo.jpg

“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.


Dewilde Lysistrata binding.jpg

                                                                                                                                                                               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.

05_Chiharu Shiota, The Key in the Hand_2015-photo_SunhiMang.jpg

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

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