Furthermore, the grants in publishing program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund, announced its fifth annual shortlist for an award called The Alice. Created by Joan K. Davidson in honor of Alice M. Kaplan, this award honors books that fuse scholarly value with high production values. The jury includes illustrator R.O. Blechman, gallerist Paula Cooper, publisher David Godine, and director of the Yale University Art Gallery, Jock Reynolds. One of the jurists commented, “Our hope is that the Alice will buttress the kind of slow reading movement that can encourage readers to recognize and cherish the undying qualities of the well-made book: beyond ideas, its shape and heft, the aptness of its paper and typography and design, and the special sense of intimacy it affords--and will help to keep such books coming in the years ahead.”

The winner receives $25,000. Additionally, this year Furthermore announced that each of the short-listed books would walk away with $5,000 apiece. Prizes will be announced on October 9, and a ceremony at the Strand Book Store will follow in November.

robertchanlercover.jpgThis year’s shortlist consists of four titles:

Robert Winthrop Chanler: Discovering the Fantastic edited by Gina Wouters and Andrea Gollin. In association with the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Miami FL. Published by The Monacelli Press.

Charles Percier: Architecture and Design in an Age of Revolutions
edited by Jean-Philippe Garric. Co-published by the Bard Graduate Center Gallery, Château de Fontainebleau, Réunion des musées nationaux--Grand Palais, and Yale University Press.

Conflicts of Interest: Art and War in Modern Japan
by Philip K. Hu and Rhiannon Paget. Co-published by the Saint Louis Art Museum and the University of Washington Press.

Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952-1965
by Melissa Rachleff. Co-published by the Grey Art Gallery and DelMonico Books--Prestel.

Last year, Kentucky by Design: The Decorative Arts and American Culture won; in 2015, David Campany’s The Open Road: Photography & The American Road Trip earned the top spot. Read more about Joan Davidson and the Alice Award here.

Image via the Monacelli Press

jane stack.jpgWe’ve written about First Editions Clubs for hypermodern collectors (e.g. in Brooklyn, and in Raleigh, NC), but here’s a plot twist: a subscription service geared toward readers with a serious case of bibliophilia. Page 1 Books, a family-run book selection service, offers a 3-, 6-, or 12-month subscription called “For the Booknerd” featuring our favorite category: books about books. So what’s inside each hand-picked package? “I like to provide a combination of what I call new hits and deep cuts,” said founder Brandy O’Briant. “There is a variety of titles from classics like 84 Charing Cross Road to more recent like The Book of Speculation, and everything in between.”   

O’Briant, who currently works from Evanston, Illinois, calls her business Page 1 Books in “homage” to the independent bookstore she visited as a child in Corpus Christi, Texas. She said she hopes to have a storefront location one day. As a passionate and cross-genre reader, O’Briant would often be asked for recommendations. That sparked the idea for Page 1. “The concept for Page 1 was to combine that warm, friendly, feeling of an indie bookstore with a proprietor whose recommendations you trust with the convenience of a regular delivery personalized to your tastes. We like to say, ‘You are more than an algorithm,’” she said.  

packaging.jpgWorried about having to return a book? Don’t be. O’Briant explained, “We don’t ever expect anyone to send a book back. If they dislike it, or already have read it, we ask they pass it along and we will send a replacement ASAP. We think sharing books is good karma!”

Page 1 offers several other genre subscriptions as well. Check them out at https://page1books.com/collections/all.

Images courtesy of Page 1 Books


                                                                                                                                                                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

Guest post by Catherine Batac Walder

JamesStanierClarke-Watercolor.jpgThe Mysterious Miss Austen exhibition at the Discovery Centre in Winchester, Hampshire, ran from May 13-July 24 and brought together visitors from all over who loved Jane Austen’s prose but have always been curious about her physical appearance. As the curators of the exhibit said, this is the first time that five known (if still debated) portraits of Jane Austen were ever in one place, and it’s probably the only time that this will ever happen as they have been loaned from private collections here and abroad. I joined the others who, after seeing the portraits, felt that the mystery only deepened. Who is Jane Austen? Why do we like her so much? Would we like her less had we read the bulk of her letters that were destroyed by her sister Cassandra and contained her sometimes forthright comments on neighbors or family members?

Two portraits were loaned from the National Portrait Gallery in London: the hollow cut silhouette by an unknown artist (ca. 1810-15) and the pencil and watercolor sketch of Jane by Cassandra (ca. 1810). The latter is what we believe Jane would have looked like, but it never always seemed to be enough, as though we would like for this single woman whose intellect and wit we greatly admire to look different, perhaps to be more glamorous and more worldly.

But there was a glamorous Jane, depicted in one of the lesser known portraits of her, a watercolor painting by James Stanier Clarke (pictured above), one of her admirers and librarian to the Prince Regent. The picture was a totally different representation of Jane compared to her sister’s sketch. But Clarke’s painting was of Jane’s visit to Carlton House, the London home of the Prince Regent, therefore Jane would have worn her best clothes. There was some convincing scientific evidence that Clarke’s painting is indeed of Jane Austen, based on examination of the portrait that the face showed pigmentation related to her fatal illness, Addison’s disease. She was probably ill around the time of that visit, yet we also saw a fashionable Jane; from the few facts known about her, it does seem that she was a woman who treated herself to nice things once in a while. Take that silk pelisse coat, one of a handful of items that survived and could be traced directly back to her. The pelisse also gives us an approximation of how tall she might have been (5’6” to 5’8”) and what her shoe size was (UK 4 to 6). Around 80 items were included in the exhibit, including the manuscript of an alternative ending to her final novel, Persuasion, in her own hand, and a volume of teenage writings that she herself entitled “Volume the Second.”

Walder Jane Austen house in Winchester.JPGThe Mysterious Miss Austen ran alongside another exhibit on the ground floor of the Discovery Centre called Jane’s Winchester: Malady and Medicine, which explored her arrival in Winchester in 1817 to receive treatment for her illness and painted a vivid picture of the city in that fateful year. Jane died in Winchester 200 years ago, and she was buried in Winchester Cathedral.

--Catherine Batac Walder is a writer who lives in the UK. She has contributed several posts from abroad over the years, most recently “Sitting with Jane: Celebrating Jane Austen’s Life in Hampshire.” Find her at: http://gaslighthouse.blogspot.com.

Images: (Above) Watercolor by James Stanier Clarke, thought to be of Jane Austen, c. 1816, via JASNA; (Below) The house where Jane Austen died in Winchester, credit: Catherine Batac Walder.


                                                                                                                                                                            Fans of 90s-era alternative rock will rejoice at a new autobiography by the band Garbage. Published by Akashic Books earlier this month, This Is the Noise That Keeps Me Awake was co-authored by the band’s original four members--Shirley Manson, Butch Vig, Duke Erikson, and Steve Marker--along with journalist Jason Cohen, who first profiled the group for Rolling Stone on the eve of their debut album’s release in 1995. The helfy folio-sized photo-montage retrospective was three years in the making.                                                                                                                                                                                             While chronicling the band’s meteoric rise to fame, This Is the Noise That Keeps Me Awake also includes cocktail recipes, favorite songs, surprising personal anecdotes, and every gig Garbage ever played. An examination of the drastic changes within the music industry over the past two decades is unexpectedly engaging and offers a nuanced insider’s perspective on the turn to digital music consumption.



                                                                                                                                                                                   The trade edition hardcover is impressive; matte art paper tinted hot pink on the edges and would delight any Garbage fan, but for the truly devoted with $125 to burn, Akashic is offering a limited edition version housed in a clamshell box accompanied by a vinyl record that includes six live, previously unreleased recordings of Garbage hits like “Beloved Freak” and “Cup of Coffee.”


Formed in Madison, Wisconsin, Garbage’s debut eponymous album sold four million copies worldwide and went double platinum in the United States. Lead vocalist Shirley Manson came to epitomize the alt-rock angry feminist movement of the 1990s, and remains a beacon for a new generation of performers and listeners.  


Band memorabilia is still doing brisk business, too: an autographed VHS (yes, you read that right) tape cover is currently available at Hollywood Memorabilia for $272.99.


The book’s July 4 release coincided with band’s latest tour, crisscrossing North America along with 80s punk favorite, Blondie. The book and the tour prove that you’re never too old to keep on rockin’.


This Is the Noise That Keeps Me Awake, by Garbage and Jason Cohen; Akashic Books, $39.95, 208 pages.

                                                                                                                                                           Photo credit: Autumn de Wilde. Reproduced with permission from Akashic Books.

9780544866461_lres copy.jpgDid I choose this book by its cover? Yes and no. It would be more fair to say that I chose to read this novel because of a fascinating short essay by the author published last month wherein she talks about the dust jacket art and her quest to determine what type of manuscript (language, century of origin) is featured in its design. But it is a pretty cover--and one that, along with its title, The Weight of Ink, beckons bibliophiles.

Weighing in at 560 pages, Rachel Kadish’s absorbing new novel, published in June by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is what we would today call a #longread. There are two main narratives that parallel each other: both set in London, one in the early twenty-first century, the other during the 1660s. It begins with historian Helen Watt’s holy grail tale: a telephone call from a former student describing a cache of old books and manuscripts discovered during a home renovation. Professor Watt’s initial doubts about the find are quickly dispelled by the sight of seventeenth-century documents written in Hebrew and Portuguese. She enlists the help of a young American graduate student and sets to work on the mystery under the staircase.

Enter Ester Velasquez, an orphan from Amsterdam who became that most unlikely of creatures in early modern England: an educated woman, and beyond that even, a scribe for a prominent rabbi in London. Reading philosophy, writing letters, and fetching books from the bindery or booksellers’ stalls, Ester hones her intellect and, consequently, flirts with danger. “Something had sprung alive in her these years--slowly at first, then more powerfully with every passing day. Surely the rabbi must know it? Something had seized her. The city, its books.”   

We know the feeling!

Librarians might gripe at how they are portrayed--playing favorites, wearing ‘archival’ gloves, and confiscating pencils. That aside, Kadish’s cast is bold and complex, particularly the seventeenth-century characters, and she successfully immerses her readers into their lives. As bibliofiction goes, where lingering over marbled paper and leather bindings is always welcome, The Weight of Ink is top-tier.   

Image courtesy of HMH.

New Jersey-based antiquarian bookseller Between the Covers (BTC) Rare Books recently published a full-color catalogue devoted to women. Seventy items items by, for, and about the fairer sex include paintings, pottery, books, and manuscripts hailing from around the globe and across time.

One of the high spots includes a letter written and signed by Helen Keller (1880-1968) when she was seven years old. Believed to be one her earliest missives, this one was composed only two months after she began instruction with Anne Sullivan (1866-1936) the woman who would become her lifelong instructor and friend. Writing to her cousin Anna Turner, Keller is describing a train trip she recently took to Huntsville, Alabama. Keller made rapid progress under Sullivan’s careful tutelage; according to Michael Anagnos, director of the Perkins Institute for the Blind during Keller’s lifetime, she had already mastered 450 words “which she could use correctly and spell with perfect accuracy” after only four months spent working with Sullivan.


                                                                                                                                                         Keller’s handwriting is remarkably neat, legible, and reflects her early writing style of omitting articles and using the word “did” in past tense constructions. Keller made tremendous gains in communication and graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904--the first blind-deaf person to receive a Bachelor of Arts--and eventually authored twelve books, including her autobiography, The Story of My Life.

Throughout her life, Keller championed for the blind and the unfortunate, and served as a beacon of hope to those facing overwhelming odds, believing, as she put it, that “although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

Accompanied by a cabinet card of Keller as well as twenty other members of her family, this piece of history is available for $28,000. Contact Between the Covers for more information.

Photo of Helen Keller with Anne Sullivan on vacation in Brewster, Massachusetts in 1888 credit: Part of the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, via Wikimedia Commons.

On July 10, the cable network TNT premiered “Will,” an exuberant new drama series based on the undocumented early life of William Shakespeare. Here’s the Bard before he became famous; aged 25, married with three children, and about to leave Stratford (alone) to see if he can make it as a writer in the big city. He quickly falls in with theater owner James Burbage, his son, actor Richard Burbage, and playwright Christopher Marlowe. Plus, this being a twenty-first-century drama, the young, beautiful, and educated Alice Burbage, is also a central player.             

TNT-Will.jpgThe series has been billed as a “punk-rock” Shakespeare, mainly because of its soundtrack and some cross-over costuming, e.g. Will embarks for London to the tune of The Clash’s “London Calling,” and the audience at Burbage’s theater sports multi-colored mohawks. If not entirely apt, it’s an amusing conceit. As the show’s creator, Craig Pearce, explained to the New York Times last month, “[Theatre] wasn’t this polite thing ... It was 3,000 people crammed into these wooden structures. They were fighting and they were drinking and they were eating.”

The entire season is already available for binge-watching, and episode three holds some noteworthy moments for book-lovers. One is set in an underground Catholic publishing outfit run by the Jesuit missionary Robert Southwell--likely a distant relation of Shakespeare’s, although in “Will,” the two are made to be close cousins. Southwell shows Will his printing press calling it a “modern marvel.” Another scene, set in St. Paul’s Churchyard, where Will and Alice are browsing new books for sale, was tantalizing, though short--and underscoring it with Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” was tepid at best.

Still the series is great fun to watch. Shakespeare in a poetry slam? Kit Marlowe, a hedonist with writer’s block? Alice Burbage as co-author of “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”? It’s a brave new world in made-for-TV Shakespeare.    

To hear more about “Will” from the producers of the show from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s “Shakespeare Unlimited” podcast, listen in here.

Image from “Will” via TNT.

This past Tuesday, May 18, the London rare booksellers Maggs Bros. Ltd.--“antiquarian booksellers by appointment to the Queen”--launched its second exhibition to mark the opening of a new store after its recent relocation to 48 Bedford Square from its 80-year-long home 50 Berkeley Square.


To a bustling crowd of bibliophiles and collectors, Managing Director Ed Maggs briskly handed out white wine and led newcomers over to a simple and unusual untitled original pen and ink drawing by Evelyn Waugh, that he then declared the inspiration for the entire exhibition.



Signed and dated 1929, the illustration depicts a hotel lounge of assorted denizens: a reader, a waiter, a cephalopod in a fish tank, and a bare-bottomed statue being prickled by a cactus--Maggs noted it is a possible unused illustration for Waugh’s novel Vile Bodies.

In his introductory remarks, Maggs said of picture, “This [exhibition] began with this drawing. I am a dealer not a collector and I am seldom consumed by envy of others’ books and objects. I sold this drawing 25 years ago and Mark Everett bought it from under my nose last year. I was fuming. I was incandescent with jealousy. I, of course, would have probably sold it to him, but I would have had it for a few minutes. It is a tremendous thing.”

                                                                                                                                                       The drawing, Maggs explained, led to the idea of bringing together as much original artwork and printed material featuring the graphic art of Evelyn Waugh as possible, as Waugh was an avid bibliophile. He was addicted to fine editions, planned and released special and limited editions of his own books, and put incredible thought and design into his books’ designs.


Running through July 28, 2017, the exhibition features what is thought to be the first such exhibition devoted to Waugh’s ambitions as an artist--his work often uniquely combining an unfashionable Victorian aesthetic with that of the Jazz Age, and includes the dust jacket design from Scoop, a manuscript of Vile Bodies, a painting of Napoleon by the artist “Bruno Hat,” an invented persona that tricked many in British high society and was partly concocted by Waugh, and drawings by Waugh done for his college magazines including a series illustrating the “Seven Deadly Sins”--his entry for No. 1 being “The intolerable wickedness of him who drinks alone.” 

                                                                                                                                          Images: Evelyn Waugh, Untitled, pen and ink drawing, 1929; Vile Bodies dust jacket, 1930. Courtesy of Maggs.

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 www.bodleianshop.co.uk or www.designerbookbinders.org.uk.

                                                                                                                                                                       Images courtesy of the BL.

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