Bowdoin’s Book Week

Next week, Bates College graduate Nick Basbanes ‘65 revisits his old Maine stomping grounds to give a talk exploring the impact of paper on books and culture. Though not speaking at his alma mater, Basbanes will be 22 miles down the road, at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Entitled, “On Materiality: A Cultural Consideration of Paper and the Book,” the talk will use material gathered for Basbanes’ 2013 book, On Paper: The Everything of Its 2000-Year Historyone of three finalists for the 2014 Carnegie Medal for Excellence. Expect a spirited commentary on the book as a material object, with particular emphasis on the 2000-year run of paper.



This free talk is in advance of Bowdoin’s fall 2017 exhibition, “Bound and Determined: The Remarkable Physical History of the Book.”                                    

                                                                                                                                                 Find Basbanes at the podium on Wednesday, August 30, at 4:30 p.m. in the Visual Arts Center at Kresge Auditorium. The talk will be followed by a reception on the second floor gallery of the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library. Can’t make it to Maine? The event will be live streamed at the following link:

Stick around Brunswick through Thursday, August 31, when Bowdoin will host another paper-specific talk called, “Appreciating Paper: Art’s Best Supporting Actor.” Ruth Fine, former curator of special projects at the National Gallery of Art and Marjorie Shelley from the Metropolitan Museum of Art will explain how historic European artists chose their papers as well as the genesis of the importance of “works on paper.” This free talk will be held in the Kresge Auditorium at 4:30 p.m.

If you’ve got your hands on a copy of our just-released fall issue, you’ll note Catherine Batac Walder’s article on Harry Potter’s twentieth anniversary and Bloomsbury’s new ‘House-specific’ anniversary editions of the book that started it all, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Walder interviewed illustrator Levi Pinfold about his inspiration and his artistic process. We’re sharing here more from that interview.

CBW: How are these Harry Potter illustrations different/similar to the work that you usually do?

LP: Normally I don’t work in line, so it was a pleasure to use some ink for a change.

CBW: Related to question 1, did you look at existing illustrations or did you try not to?

LP: I tried to stay away from existing material during the time I worked on the pictures. I found myself looking more to Albrecht Dürer etchings and other work from Renaissance artists for inspiration. I’ve since allowed myself to leaf through Jim Kay’s amazing work on the major illustrated editions, though.

harry 3d visual_Revised (1) copy.jpgCBW: What difficulties had you encountered in finishing the drawings?

LP: Man’s greatest enemy...time!

CBW: Did you read all the HP books before you got the job/were you a fan? Did you have to know the books very well for this job?

LP: I had read and enjoyed them beforehand, yes. I had also listened to the audiobooks some years ago whilst working. It was fantastic to re-familiarize myself with the books for the job. It definitely didn’t feel like work!

CBW: What kind of research did you do before starting with the drawings? Any fascinating facts about coat of arms that you could share?

LP: The crests are based around traditional heraldic symbolism. Each element has a house specific meaning. For instance--a crescent moon means glory and splendor for Slytherin, or a beehive meaning hard work and industry for Hufflepuff. There are some great resources worth investigating on the Internet, if you like that sort of thing.

CBW: I know that as an artist you cannot really measure the time you work on an illustration as it depends on inspiration, but could you give an idea roughly how long it took to illustrate a cover, to redo it, etc.? What was your working day like?

LP: I was working under a tight deadline with the covers, so the days were long; anywhere between 10 and 18 hours. Most of the work took place at night because it was midsummer here in Australia and the days were just too hot! Generally each cover took around 3 days. Lots of variations and mistakes.

CBW: Would this be the most fun job you’ve ever had? I read your comment about it being a responsibility, will it be one of the hardest jobs as well?

LP: It was about as fun as illustration gets! The audiobooks were playing in the background and it was fascinating to immerse myself in the world and mythology. However, I have never worked on something with such a massive readership, so I have to admit that I found myself prey to a general hum of anxiety throughout the project.

CBW: I understand you also did the illustrations featured in the pages of the books?

LP: I did indeed. Inside and out. The house founders were particularly fun.

CBW: Will you be doing some more work for Harry Potter?

LP: Nothing at the moment, but I would certainly be keen for more.

CBW: How did you get the job and how has it changed your life/career so far?

LP: A combination of factors led to me getting the job, there are lots of people working behind the scenes. I still don’t quite know how the decision was made. My agent, the art director and the rest of the team at Bloomsbury all had something to do with it. Other than that, pure luck!

Image courtesy of Bloomsbury


                                                                                                                                               In 2011, French comic book artist Bastien Vivès wrote Polina, a graphic novel about a young Russian girl whose dreams of becoming a ballerina bring to her to the celebrated choreographer Professor Bojinksy. His tyrannical ways take Polina to the top of her profession, but not without consequences. Vivès’s exploration of finding a balance between self-sacrifice and self-awareness for the sake of art was well-received in Europe, and has been adapted into a feature film starring Academy-Award winning actress Juliette Binoche and Mariinsky Theather-based Russian ballerina Anastasia Shevtsova



                                                                                                                                                      Screened at the 2016 Venice Film Festival, Polina makes its North American debut in New York on Friday, August 25 at the Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinema, followed by a national roll-out in September.                                                                                                                                                            

Directed by Valérie Müller and French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj, Polina was shot on location in Russia, France, and Belgium. If the trailer is any indication, Polina will be an exquisite, tantalizing glipmse into the demanding world of professional dance. 

Polina. Running time: 112 minutes. Not rated. In Russian and French with English subtitles.

This year marks the 350th anniversary of the publication of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. The sixteenth-century Buckinghamshire house where he completed the epic poem is now a museum known as Milton’s Cottage, which debuts today an exhibition titled Paradise Lost & the Private Presses. Curated by James Freemantle, who collects private press books (see his Bright Young Collector profile), the exhibition focuses on editions of Paradise Lost from the likes of Doves Press, Golden Cockerel Press, and Arion Press, among others.

FullSizeRender copy.jpgAs stated in the introduction to the 80-page illustrated exhibition catalogue: “The aim of this exhibition is to show a selection of fine printing produced during the twentieth century ... through the choicest private press editions of Milton’s Paradise Lost.”

In addition to the books on display, broadsides specially commissioned for the exhibition will be on show from Nomad Letterpress and The Salvage Press, as well as artwork by Florian Bertmer. The exhibition also features ephemeral items, such as vellum printed leaves, trial pages, prospectuses, and original artwork.

FullSizeRender 1 copy.jpgIn the catalogue’s Curator’s Note, Freemantle explained his reason for undertaking such an exhibition: “My own interest in Paradise Lost began at school, whilst studying Books I and II as part of my English Literature A-levels. We were using an edition edited by John Broadbent (Cambridge Milton Series for Schools and Colleges) and the cover featured an illustration by William Blake. The image fascinated and stayed with me, as did the story and the imagery it evoked, and in the years following I began to collect antiquarian illustrated copies of Paradise Lost. I had never heard of the Golden Cockerel Press before, nor the Doves Press, but on discovering their editions of the poem I was transported into the world of private press printing and it has become a passion ever since. It is therefore a pleasure to be combining these two passions, Paradise Lost and private presses, into one exhibition.”

Both the exhibition and the limited edition catalogue were sponsored by Maggs Bros. and Bonhams.

The exhibition remains on view through September 30.

Images: Renderings from the exhibition catalogue, courtesy of James Freemantle.

Golden Books Shine at UCLA

pp.JPGMost children and adults of a certain age in this country have read The Poky Little Puppy, Scruffy the Tugboat, The Shy Little Kitten, or one of the many dozens of other titles that make up the popular Little Golden Books series. Founded in 1942, the Golden Books series has featured beloved authors like Margaret Wise Brown, Janette Sebring Lowrey, and illustrators like Richard Scarry and Garth Williams, and today continues to publish enjoyable and affordable books for young readers.

Now through October 15, UCLA Library Special Collections is hosting an exhibit celebrating seventy-five years of Golden Books. The show highlights the twelve original titles Golden Books published, which, in the throes of World War II, collectively sold 1.5 million copies within the first five months of publication.

A selection of Little Golden Books like The Three Little Kittens and The Little Red Hen are on display in a variety of formats and sizes. The pieces hail from UCLA’s Children’s Book Collection which focuses primarily on English and American children’s publications before 1840 as well as runs of Newbery and Caldecott medal winners.

                                                                                                                                                                      The exhibit is free to the public. Contact the UCLA special collections library at (310) 825-4988 for more information.

While many of us are not quite ready for summer to end, here’s the good news: the autumn issue of Fine Books & Collections mails this week. In it you will find a feature on photobook collecting (hence Richard Avedon on the cover, pictured below), as well as articles about Sylvia Plath, Henry D. Thoreau, Chawton House Library, and Harry Potter’s 20th anniversary. Plus our usual columns, auction reports, and our (free) fall auction guide.  

FBC2017autumn-cover.jpgAnd, with fall in mind, check out “Heirloom Fruit, Vintage Books” about Colorado apple orchardists and how they use antiquarian books. 

Trump’s Summer Reading

“I cannot live without books,” Thomas Jefferson famously declared, whose library at Monticello (now at the Libary of Congress) is an enduring testament to one of America’s best-read presidents.

For the past few decades, right around this time, presidents taking a few days of well-earned respite have released their summer reading lists. Former president Obama famously shared his copious and wide-ranging selections  and was often photographed at independent bookstores like Bunch of Grapes on Martha’s Vineyard carefully choosing from among the stacks.

Back in 2006, George W. Bush read for pleasure all year, having made a New Year’s resolution to read one book a week, which eventually led to a spirited reading duel with Karl Rove to see who could rack up the most reads.  Rove barely squeezed out a victory, with 110 books to Bush’s 95. During his summer vacation at his home in Crawford, Texas, Bush was spotted reading The Stranger by Albert Camus between ranch-related duties.

An avowed anti-intellectual, president Nixon proclaimed in his farewell speech to the nation that, “As you know, I kind of like to read books. I am not educated, but I do read books.” Tolstoy was a favorite author.

Lincoln often quoted Shakespeare in his personal correspondence and among friends, showing a preference for Macbeth. He also enjoyed reading and writing poetry--the Gettysburg Address contains many poetic elements no doubt pulled from his reading. 

Of course, this all leads up to what our current president reads for pleasure. When asked in March by television host Tucker Carlson what he likes to read, president Trump responded, among other things, that “I love to read. Actually, I’m looking at a book--I’m reading a book-I’m trying to get started.” Trump went on to say that he doesn’t read much because he’s always facing global emergencies. Yet, a profile in the Washington Post from July 2016 highlighted a presidential candidate who didn’t read, and didn’t much care for it--“I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.” 

USA Today recently reported that Trump will not be releasing a reading list for his current seventeen-day vacation at one of his New Jersey golf clubs because he’s too busy for such pursuits. 

So, what’s the point here? Trump’s reading habits don’t place him among the top ten in the pantheon of presidential readers. Does a president’s reading habits impact whether he will effectively govern?

It’s a safe assumption that a wide-ranging and prolific reader will have a greater breadth of knowledge for any subject at hand, whether that’s policy making or political ideology.

To wit, last summer, the Vineyard Gazette hosted a roundtable with presidential scholars David McCullough and Evan Thomas just after the Republican National Convention. “The idea that the party of Abraham Lincoln has nominated this totally unhinged man, Donald Trump: Unacceptable, unqualified and uninterested in knowing more than he already knows, which is virtually nothing. I find that one of the most maddening qualities about the man,” said McCullough. “When he was asked if he’d ever read a book about the presidency, or a presidential biography, he said no. And he didn’t seem the least bit bothered by that, or understand why he would be asked that question.” Thomas offered that a president who reads is “reminded that however bad things seem now, they were pretty bad in other times.” 

Lifting the veil on a president’s personal reading habits is humanizing as well--we, the public, get a better sense of who the leader of the free world is, and perhaps even share in the joys of having read the same books. It’s not often the average American can look to a president and share something in common.

Trump doesn’t read, which speaks volumes.

Looking forward to the fall season, there are several major exhibitions of books and art to put on your schedule. We list notable current and forthcoming exhibitions in our online calendar, but here are six not to miss.

Garrick_016304 copy.jpgPainting Shakespeare
Through Feb. 11, 2018, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. presents twenty-one paintings from its collection, all with interesting tales to tell, like the one recently found at an estate sale that had been part of the famous Boydell Shakespeare Gallery.

Eloise’s Hometown
Whether or not you stay at the Plaza, if you’re in Manhattan before Oct. 9, check out Eloise at the Museum, an exhibit at the New-York Historical Society that focuses on the ever-charming collaboration between Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight.

Sex & Drugs at Harvard
Altered States: Sex, Drugs, and Transcendence in the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library, on view at the Houghton Library from Sept. 5 - Dec. 16, focuses on eight main topics: opium, cocaine, hallucinogens, marijuana, sex, social protest, underground comix, and ephemera.

FSA Photography
Through Nov. 26, the Netson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, spotlights the photography of Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Marion Post Wolcott, and other Depression-era photographers in Dignity vs. Despair.

Takamiya’s Manuscripts
From Sept. 1 - Dec. 9, Yale will showcase “the most impressive collection of medieval English manuscripts in private hands,” on view in the U.S. for the first time in Making the English Book: The Takamiya Deposit at the Beinecke Library.

The Written Word
The Reformation: From the Word to the World, an exhibition marking the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s “95 theses,” opens at the Huntington Library & Museum on Oct. 28.

Image: David Garrick Leaning on a Bust of Shakespeare, after 1769, currently on exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Unknown British painter after Thomas Gainsborough, oil on canvas, Folger FPb27. Purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Folger, 1926.

IY915-164.jpgThe Miniature Book Society (MBS) Grand Conclave pops up in a different city every year. This year, its 35th, finds familiar book fair ground: Oakland, California. From Friday, August 11, through Monday, August 14, bibliophiles with a penchant for tiny tomes will congregate at the Oakland Marriott City Center for meetings, workshops, book swaps, and a book fair (open to the public on Sunday from 11-4). John Howell for Books will be bringing between 300 and 400 miniature books to the fair, including a limited edition 3-volume boxed set of Charles Dickens miniatures from Black Cat Press (pictured here at left).

Jill Timm of Mystical Places Press will present her limited edition “Color Craze” miniature flag book and “Color Accord” miniature accordion folded book (pictured below). With a nod to the adult coloring book fad, each book contains actual hand-colored pages.    

caspreadwc2.jpgOn Saturday, from 2-4 p.m., PBA Galleries will host a special reception and preview for Conclave attendees of its upcoming August 24 auction of “Miniature Books: The Library of a Gentleman Collector.”  

Images courtesy of Jill Timm and John Howell for Books

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

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