01. WAD in doorway LfA.jpg

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.


14. Dwiggins Treasure Forest detail LfA.jpg

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: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/letterformarchive/w-a-dwiggins-a-life-in-design

Sylvia_Plath1.jpgA previously unknown series of letters that Sylvia Plath wrote toward the end of her life claim that her husband, poet Ted Hughes, beat her, leading to the miscarriage of her second child. The letters, which were offered for sale at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, have been taken off the market as a result of a legal dispute.

Plath wrote the letters to Dr. Ruth Barnhouse between 1960 and 1963 (the year she died). They were written after Plath found out about Hughes’s infidelity with their friend Assia Wevill, and are thought to be some of the only surviving uncensored documents about Plath’s last months. The most shocking passages in the letters accuse Hughes of domestic abuse.

The letters were part of an archive collected by Harriet Rosenstein several years after Plath died. Rosenstein was compiling material for a biography that was never finished.

Antiquarian bookseller Ken Lopez offered the archive for sale on behalf of Rosenstein, which in addition to the letters included some other Plath ephemera, for $875,000. The letters were taken off the market, however, after Smith College filed a lawsuit claiming that the letters belonged to the Ruth Barnhouse estate, which was bequeathed to the college after her death. Rosenstein, meanwhile, claims that the letters were given to her by Barnhouse almost 50 years ago.

Until the legal dispute is settled, the letters wait in limbo, with 20th century poetry scholars anxiously awaiting the opportunity to dig into the archive. Ted Hughes’s widow, meanwhile, has called the claims that he was abusive “absurd” and “shocking.”

[Image from Wikipedia]

9781452145402.jpgBibliophiles, grab a slip of paper and a mini pencil: the Library of Congress has traced the history of a much beloved piece of library furniture (and knowledge repository) in The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures (Chronicle Books, $35), published this week to coincide with National Library Week. Boasting a foreword by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, the handsomely illustrated hardcover is a paean to library technology, old and new.   
Certainly book lovers will be drawn to the imagery--more than two hundred full-color images of original cards, first editions book covers, and archival photos from the library’s collection. More than a few will feel sentimental for the standardized penmanship--aka, “Library Hand”--used to fill out cards until the linotype and the typewriter took over. Nostalgia aside, the images of the cards make a convincing argument for retention. All of the various marks and stamps, indicating name or location changes or reclassifications, can be read the way a book historian might read an antiquarian book’s preliminary pages, noting the various owners’ signatures, scripts, and dates, to uncover its provenance.  

Neat trivia turns up in the fine print. For example, who knew that J. Edgar Hoover had been a library clerk? He later wrote that his job “gave me an excellent foundation for my work in the FBI where it has been necessary to collate information and evidence.” Or, how about the fact that it was a female mathematician named Henriette D. Avram who “devised the first automated cataloging system in the world, known as Machine-Readable Cataloging (MARC)” in 1966 at the LOC. It’s still in use today. The book also aptly conveys the enormity (and occasional tedium) of the LOC cataloger’s task; library rumor had it that card-filing clerks who failed to meet quotas “dumped their cards down the elevator shafts.”

While the LOC “froze” its card catalog in 1980--meaning it no longer physically added cards to the wooden cabinets--the library continued to make and distribute cards to other libraries using the LOC system until 1997. Amazingly, the LOC did not, like its peers, ditch its hefty card catalog once it had become obsolete in the eyes of others. There is still data to be mined. As one of its librarians put it: “In short, the information contained in the Main Card Catalog--and not found anywhere else--continues to be needed in many instances for efficient access to the Library’s millions of pre-1968 volumes because much of the needed information on the cards did not make the transition to the online catalog.”    
Read the book’s introduction by Peter Devereaux here.

Image courtesy of Chronicle Books

Our series profiling rare book accounts on Instagram continues today with book collectors. (See Part 1 for library institutional accounts and Part 2 for personal accounts of librarians).

And so, in no particular order, here we go...

@therarebookhunter (M. Daniel; Tennessee)


@bookhawk (Corey Swartsel; California)


@theperfumeofbooks (Australia)


@annielauriesbooks (Laurie Baker; California)

annielaurie.jpg@michelesgp (Michele Rodda; Singapore)




@dark_occult_books (England)




@butterfliesofzembla (Sara Gran; California) (Check out Sara’s interview with us back in 2013).

butterfliesofzembla.jpg(A special thanks to Diane Dias DeFazio, a previous entry in our Bright Young Librarians series and an avid Instagram user, for her help in compiling this post).

Guest Post by Catherine Batac Walder

                                                                                                                                                             The event with Dame Hilary Mantel and renowned historian and broadcaster, Professor Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch, at the Oxford Literary Festival on April 1 was probably one of the most enriching conversations I’ve heard in my nine years of attending the festival. The pair discussed their different perspectives on the sixteenth-century lawyer and statesman Thomas Cromwell. Mantel is working on volume III of her Cromwell trilogy. MacCulloch is writing an historical biography on Cromwell--he said he admires the man: “my book covers up to 1532 when he hasn’t killed anybody yet.” There is a huge archive on the controversial historical figure and to have these two experts give us a glimpse of their research and writing processes was like listening to a private chat that wasn’t short of a steady flow of ideas.

                     Walder Oxford Lit Fest 2017 1.JPG                                                                                                                                      
I specifically enjoyed their exchange about the challenges of going through Tudor correspondence wherein it wasn’t a practice for the authors of the letters to write the year so it could be confusing for scholars. Mantel talked about how she recently came across a letter that was written at midnight and that she could just sense the weariness of the writer. These documents are fascinating as they are a testimony to the circumstances and the urgency in which these letters were written (or in relation to the study of Cromwell, how leaders overworked their employees). An archive is obviously an in-tray, but MacCulloch noted that you would at least expect there was an out-tray kept as well, drafts of outgoing correspondence, but there was none. He surmised that in 1540, the household, warned of their master’s arrest, sat up all night burning the out-tray, as it was much less easy to be convicted on the contents of your in-tray than what you write to others (not that it had saved Cromwell’s life).


Walder Oxford Lit Fest 2017 2.JPG                                                                                                                                                            
I applaud Mantel’s comments on her stance as an historical novelist, commenting on the practice of affixing a bibliography to a work of fiction: “[I]n my view [it] is a complete misdirection of the reader and misdirection of what research is. Research is not taking bits out of one text to put into another text ... You have legitimacy, you have the authority of the imagination.” She urged her contemporaries not to spend their lives apologizing, cringing because “you think you are some inferior form of historian. The trades are complementary but they are different.” I believe these comments may also apply to other authors who don’t want their works labeled (e.g., as scifi or fantasy, for fear of not being taken seriously) when dragons or witches give the game away.

                                                                                                                                                    There was a space of three years between Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, both of which won Mantel the Booker Prize. It’s been five years since the last book, and her reading from the upcoming The Mirror and the Light, enthralled the audience and gave us our Cromwell fix, at least for the time being.

                                                                                                                                                              --Catherine Batac Walder is a freelance writer living in England. She blogs at The Gaslight House.

                                                                                                                                                                   Images, above: Hilary Mantel signing books at the Oxford Literary Festival; below: the festival marquee outside the Sheldonian Theatre. Credit: Catherine Batac Walder

Monypenny Hours.jpg

The Monypenny Hours (Use of Paris) in Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on parchment France, Paris, c.1490. Credit: Les Enluminures. 


Aimlessly strolling through Paris in springtime may be a rite of passage for star-crossed lovers, but tomorrow rare books and manusripts dealer Les Enluminures invites walkers to promenade with purpose on Saturday, April 8 at 10:00 a.m., to examine the origins of the book trade when medieval booksellers, binders, and illuminators plied their trade in the heart of the city. Advance registration is essential, so call +33(0)1 42 60 15 58 or email info@lesenluminures.com tout de suite if you’re interested.

In a sort of bibliophile’s trip down memory lane, the group--led by medieval book and manuscript expert Christopher de Hamel and Les Enluminures founder Sandra Hindman--will meet outside the west front of Notre-Dame, right where the outline of the medieval street rue Neuve Notre-Dame is marked in the ground. The starting point demarks where the city’s book trade began to blossom starting around 1200. Medieval tax records pinpoint the exact locations of bookish businesses such as those of thirteenth-century booksellers Emery d’Orléans and Nicholas Lombard. Further along, participants will see where the bookstand of husband-and wife duo Richard and Jeanne de Montbaston once stood. The couple copied and illuminated dozens of manuscripts, most notably the popular and controversial romances of the Roman de la Rose. (Jeanne’s illustrations of monks and nuns harvesting nut phalluses from trees and performing other erotic acts have long fascinated scholars and casual observers.) 

From the rue Neuve-Notre-Dame the group will cross the Petit Pont and head up the rue Saint-Jacques where booksellers Alain Spinefort and Claude Jaumar set up shop in the shadows of the now-demolished Dominican convent that lent its name to the street. A right turn onto the appropriately named rue de la Parcheminerie reveals the former residences of scribes and illuminators such as Ameline de Maffliers. A quick glance down the diminutive rue Boutebrie (originally rue Erembourg de Brie) where the work of illuminators such as Jean le Noir, Jean Pucelle, and Honoré no doubt influenced the temporary name change of the street to rue des Enluminures in the mid-1200s. Finally, the group will retrace its steps across the Ile de la Cité and head back to Les Enluminures at rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau where a light lunch will be served, and participants will be invited to examine (and purchase) original manuscripts created on those very streets centuries ago.

The promenade coincides with an an exhibition on display at Les Enluminures entitled Made in Paris: Spotlight on the Medieval Book Trade, open to the public from now until April 28. Capping something of a book-lover’s trifecta, the Salon International du Libre Rare & de l’Objet d’art unfurls at the Grand Palais this weekend as well. (Les Enluminures will be manning Stand C5 if you feel like saying bonjour.)

                                                                                                                                                             L’amour des livres anciens is most definitely in the air this spring in Paris.

DSC_2170.jpgOur Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Micaela Beigel, a sophmore at Goucher College near Baltimore and third place winner in the 2016 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest:

Where are you from / where do you live?

Originally, I am from Brooklyn in New York City. That is where I grew up, and it shaped my identity in a very impactful way. Now I live in Baltimore, where I attend school. However, when I started actively seeking the books in my collection I had been living in Israel for a year volunteering with a youth movement. I had been doing education for kids who are refugees, and I was thinking a lot about the history of my family when it all came together in a serendipitous turn of events to create my collection.

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

I am currently still an undergraduate in College. I am sophomore at Goucher College near Baltimore City. I am a peace studies major, with a minor in creative writing. I wanted something which would reflect my desire to take ownership over creating tangible solutions to various social conflicts in American society and peace studies has definitely been a good fit for that.

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

I collect books about Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. I was raised in a Jewish household, but I always really struggled to connect with Judaism through observational methods and thus have always been far more drawn to Judaism through its history and culture. While I was living abroad I started to uncover a whole section of Jewish history which is not really taught in mainstream Jewish education and I became intensely fascinated by narratives of Jews who resisted, in various ways, Nazi oppression during World War II.

Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 11.05.08 PM.pngHow many books are in your collection?

Right now I have about thirty books. I also keep a variety of films, art, and collectible objects in addition to the books. 

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

A Surplus of Memory: Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising by Yitzhak Zuckerman was the first book in my collection. I bought it when I was twelve. I’m 21 now, so that was almost ten years ago. Written by a leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the largest armed revolt led by Jews during The Holocaust, this is an extremely informative novel about the power of collective responsibility. Published upon Zuckerman’s death it gives truth to a legacy shrouded in shame, guilt, and pain for Jewish revolutionaries who survived to tell the tale of the uprising.

How about the most recent book?

The most recent addition to my collection is Knight Without Fear and Beyond Reproach: The Life of George Maduro 1916-1945 by Kathleen Brandt-Carey. I bought this book at the Jewish Museum in Amsterdam. It is about a man named George Maduro who was a major figure in the Dutch resistance. I had never heard of him before finding this book. That is something I will really try to do. This is a story which deserves to be known, and I want to collect as many different voices as possible. The next book I will be adding to my collection is Justyna’s Narrative which is the incomplete autobiography of Gusta (Tova) Davidson Draenger, code-name Justyna, who was a resistance fighter in the Krakow Ghetto. This is very exciting for me, because I have been trying to track down the identity of this author for a few years.

Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 11.05.56 PM.pngAnd your favorite book in your collection?

Choosing a favorite really feels like choosing a favorite child, because I associate these books so strongly as being apart of one large family. If I was forced to choose two (which I know is still cheating) I would say it would be In the Days of Destruction and Revolt by Zivia Lubetkin and Spiritual Resistance: Art from the Concentration Camps 1940-1945. These two books are both so special to me. Zivia’s book is so deeply touching, and as a Jewish woman I really identify with her narrative of fear and courage during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Spiritual Resistance is just the most amazing, far reaching collection of art. A lot of the work available in the book does not exist anywhere else as they are drawn from museums and private collections all over the world. It brings together the voices of authors who otherwise may never have been known for their work.

Best bargain you’ve found?

A lot of my books were bargains, especially at the beginning of the collection process (there are exceptions of course). Most of these books are not, in general, highly sought after and non are particularly old. I would say that maybe the best bargain I ever got was when I got a lot of five books on ebay for about fifteen dollars. Almost all of them related to the collection and I felt very blessed by my luck.

How about The One that Got Away?

Last year i was able to travel to Amsterdam, and while I was there I had a lot of books I was interested in getting but for various reasons I really had to limit the amount of books I brought home. This was particularly sad for me because when I went to the Anne Frank house I had a very hard time deciding what book to bring home with me. In the store at the Anne Frank house they have so many interesting and beautiful copies of The Diary of Anne Frank and I wanted all of them. I ended up picking up a book titled Outside its War: Anne Frank and her World by Janny van der Molen which is a children’s illustrated version of Anne’s story. I chose that one because I wanted something new to add to the collection. But every book I left behind in that shop is really my “one that got away” at the moment.

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

My holy grail for the collection is a set of books, not just a single work. Ever since my collection began I have had a goal to collect every book written by a leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.  I have still not managed to complete this set. I hope to collect the remaining few books by the end of the year. Budget permitting, of course.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

I have two top picks. In America I would definitely go with Powell’s in Portland, Oregon. They have an amazing section on Jewish history. I was completely unprepared when I stopped in on a whim last year while I was visiting a friend in Portland. I actually had to buy another bag so I could get everything home with me. My other pick is Halper’s Books. This is an english language used bookstore in Tel Aviv. This bookstore is amazing, and 100% a must visit if you ever happen to be on, or around, Allenby Street in Tel Aviv.

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

Magnets. I actually do already collect magnets, and I really started because of my book collection. I bought a magnet for the collection and loved it so much that I started picking them up everywhere. Now it’s a bit of a tradition for me to pick up magnets whenever I am somewhere new, or to commemorate a special event in my life. I love my magnets very much. 

3c03954v.jpgOn Monday, April 3, the John Burroughs Association (JBA) held its 92nd Literary Awards Celebration at the Yale Club in New York City. This annual luncheon honors the legacy of literary naturalist John Burroughs by recognizing the best contemporary nature writing.

Joan Burroughs, the writer’s great-granddaughter and president of the JBA, presented the day’s first prize, the Nature Essay Award for outstanding natural history writing published in essay form, to Sean P. Smith for his “The Slow and Tender Death of Cockroaches,” published in the Fall 2016 issue of the Georgia Review.

The Riverby Awards, so named after Burroughs’ Hudson River estate, praise “exceptional non-fiction natural history books for young readers.” This year’s winners were: Circle, written and illustrated by Jeannie Baker; Crow Smarts by Pamela S. Turner with photographs by Andy Comins and illustrated by Guido de Filippo; Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd and illustrated by Abigail Halpin; The Great White Shark Scientists by Sy Montgomery and photographs by Keith Ellenbogen; ¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! written and illustrated by Lulu Delacre; One North Star by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Beckie Prange and Betsy Bowen; and Plants Can’t Sit Still by Rebecca Hirsch and illustrated by Mia Posada.

21853663.jpgThis year’s John Burroughs Medal for “Distinguished Natural History Writing in Book Form” went to Martin Marten by Brian Doyle, a coming-of-age novel about the relationship between a boy and a pine marten. It was only the second work of fiction to be awarded the medal in its ninety-year history. Finalists included Coyote Settles the South, John Lane; The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, J. Drew Lanham; Coast Range: a Collection from the Pacific Edge, Nick Neely, and Mythical River: Chasing the Mirage of the New Water in the American Southwest, Melissa L. Sevigny.

A book signing followed the ceremony, and attendees received a “swag bag” containing many of the award winners. The JBA hosts this event on the first Monday in April every year.
Image at top: “The Last Photograph of John Burroughs,” c. 1921, by Charles F. Lummis. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. At bottom: Via Goodreads.

LMM_signed_photo.jpgA house in Norval, Ontario, where novelist L. M. Montgomery lived between 1926 and 1935 is set to become a museum. The L. M. Montgomery Heritage Society, armed with two $100,000 donations from private citizens, purchased the home from a pair of Presbyterian churches.

Montgomery and family moved into the house in 1926, which was given to her husband as part of a benefits package for accepting a position as a Presbyterian minister with the nearby church. The two were quickly elevated into community leadership roles, which they enjoyed.

While the beloved author is most closely associated with Prince Edward Island, she lived in Norval during a largely happy time in her life. The Anne of Green Gables series was selling well and she was earning good royalties. Her husband had found a successful position after struggling for several years. And her two sons were young and healthy.

After her husband retired in 1935, the Montgomery clan relocated to a large house in Toronto.

[Photo from Wikipedia]

ab10cccaffe8b6577a8fbf82f605f5f8.jpgStrange Bird: The Albatross Press and the Third Reich by Michele K. Troy (Yale University Press, $40), tells the astonishing and largely forgotten story of a publisher of uniform English translations in the 1930s that managed to elbow out the market leader, the German firm, Tauchnitz, and keep Nazi censorship officials at bay while it promoted edgy, modern Anglo-American literature. In this way, authors such as James Joyce, Sinclair Lewis, and Aldous Huxley acted as surprising “silent ambassadors” to German readers from 1932 to 1939. How? In short, the Reich desperately needed the foreign currency the publisher produced and was willing to look the other way, at least for a while. As Troy puts it, English-language books circulating in Germany were “less culturally troublesome than they were economically useful.”  

In design, content, and marketing approach, Albatross preceded Allen Lane’s Penguin Books by a few years. Albatross went after not only the tourist buyers but the continental readers who could read English, and Germany in particular was “a nation of book buyers.” The Albatross Press was based there, but it was funded by English/Jewish money, and it kept an editorial office in Paris--the labyrinthine structure helped to conceal its doings, according to Troy. Whether its output could be labeled propaganda is certainly one of the themes at play; as the German Foreign Office itself declared in 1941: “Propaganda sold is better than propaganda given.” Before the war made printing and publishing impossible, Albatross had distributed five hundred titles in color-coded paperbacks across Europe.

Strange Bird is intensely researched and eminently readable--there’s even a harrowing escape story at its center. The lingering mystery regarding its principal, German-born Englishman John Holroyd-Reece, who may have been a spy, adds an element of intrigue as well. Troy’s book is heartily recommended for anyone with an interest in publishing history, World War II, or modern Anglo-American literature.   

                                                                                                                                                                     Image via Yale University Press

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