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

On Monday, October 15, there were some notable books and manuscripts at the Sotheby’s New York auction of Gallison Hall: The James F. Scott Collection. In fact, it was a copy of the rare first edition of Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia which garnered the top price of the sale at $300,000 (this copy was previously sold at Sotheby’s as part of the James S. Copley library in 2010 for $254,500). Also selling well were a copy of the 1814 edition of Lewis & Clark’s History of the Expedition ($75,000) and an 1826 Thomas Jefferson letter to Robert Mills about a plan for a monument to George Washington ($43,750).


swann.pngSwann Galleries sold Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books, including Phillippine Imprints, on Tuesday, October 16, in 276 lots. The top lot was a copy of a 1488 Strassburg edition of Mandeville’s history of the world, the seventh printed edition in German: it sold for $106,250 over estimates of just $8,000-12,000. A 1734 navigation manual printed in Manila fetched $55,000 (pictured). At $45,000 were a 1494 Zaragoza edition of Boccaccio’s De claris mulieribus in Spanish, as well as a 1668 Paris edition of Fontaine’s Fables.


Chiswick Auctions sold Travel, Natural History, Sporting & Sciences on Wednesday, October 17, in 289 lots.


On Thursday, October 18, PBA Galleries will sell Modern Literature & Poetry with Books in All Fields, in 558 lots. Among the expected top lots are the Black Sun Press edition of Hart Crane’s The Bridge ($30,000-50,000); a first issue of Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, with the dust jacket ($15,000-25,000); and a set of unbound sheets of Lovecraft’s The Shunned House ($7,000-10,000).


Potter & Potter sells Houdiniana on Saturday, October 20, in 438 lots. This sale includes the Houdini collection of John Bushey, as well as additional magic-related books, props, &c.


Image credit: Swann Galleries

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Jessica Jordan of Palo Alto, California, who recently won the second annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize for women collectors aged 30 and younger.


Jessica_Jordan_Picture.JPG1. Where are you from / where do you live?


I am originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, and I currently live in Palo Alto, California.


2. What do you study at University?


In college I was a triple major in English, Theater, and Classical Civilization. After graduating (Wesleyan, Class of 2013), I worked a little bit in publishing and little bit in bookstores before applying to graduate school. I am now a PhD candidate in literature at Stanford University.


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


This is a surprisingly hard question to answer! Thinking about it has made me realize I have a number of micro-collections in my library. Having run the gamut of book careers - each providing ample opportunity for nearly unrestricted book acquisition - I have a little bit of all kinds of things. I am always excited when I find interesting editions of books I’ve done academic work on, and working at a bookstore in the literary-rich greater Boston area allowed me to grow a fairly substantial collection of signed contemporary literature. My most cohesive areas of collecting are probably works related to artists Leo and Diane Dillon and editions of Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales From Shakespeare.


4. How many books are in your collection?


I have right about 100 items in my Leo and Diane Dillon collection and 25 editions of Tales of Shakespeare.


5. What was the first book you bought for your collection?


I don’t actually remember. My fascination with the Dillons began when I was very young, looking at their artwork on the covers of Wisechild by Monica Furlong and Sabriel by Garth Nix. It was only when I got older that I started learning more about them and began seeking out their work intentionally. My childhood copies are still part of my collection.


Examining different editions of Tales of Shakespeare began as a final project for a class. I wanted to examine how the Lambs’ preface - which emphasizes that Tales should not replace reading the original Shakespearean plays and suggests the prosification might be particularly helpful for young girls - moved through time. Tales of Shakespeare has never been out of print for over two hundred years! I already had a few copies I had picked up because I thought the idea of rewriting Shakespeare was so odd, and have since added to my collection whenever I run across a copy.


6. How about the most recent book?


One of the fun things about collecting the work of Leo and Diane Dillon is that there is no bibliography to work from. They’ve illustrated everything from picture books to record sleeves to science fiction magazines - and there’s no list, as far as I’ve been able to find. It turns collecting into a process of discovery. In the late 1950s and early 1960s Leo Dillon was an illustrator for Galaxy Science Fiction, but there is no list of issues that contain his work. The magazines themselves aren’t that hard to find online - but you have to physically flip through them one at a time to see if there is any Dillon art in them, and finding them in person is more unusual! I just found seven issues at a book sale with art by Leo Dillon I’d never seen before - March 1957, August 1957, September 1957, October 1957, August 1959, October 1959, and February 1960. A real goldmine! The careers of Leo and Diane Dillon have spanned over fifty years, so it’s really interesting to look at that early work.


I also recently found a fourth edition (in two volumes) of Tales From Shakespeare, from 1822. William Blake did the engravings for the first edition in 1807, and they were still using the same plates fifteen years later, which is pretty cool. The plates are unsigned, so many people don’t realize that Blake did the illustrations.


7. And your favorite book in your collection?


I actually got the chance to meet Diane Dillon last summer at the Eric Carle Museum in Massachusetts. I was able to speak with her and get her to sign a few things, including her recent picture book, I Can Do Anything! Don’t Tell Me I Can’t (her first book since Leo’s death in 2012). That was a really special experience.


8. Best bargain you’ve found?


I found a Dutch religious text from 1681 - De Waere Kercke Triumpherende Over De Valsche - last summer at a yard sale. It was in a box with some early twentieth century books; I think they were five for a dollar. I picked up a few things that looked interesting, not paying too close attention. I was studying for my qualifying exam, so this was mostly a short sojourn to take a break from my work. I didn’t realize what it was until a few hours later, when I was airing the books out (I think they had been in someone’s basement for a while). It had been rebound in cheap, unmarked black boards - I think everyone just assumed it was an old (but not that old!) Bible.


Is it cheating that that’s not a Leo and Diane Dillon book? I also once found a copy copy of Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears signed by them for .75.


9. How about The One that Got Away?


A few years ago, when it was revealed that J.K. Rowling wrote The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, I happened to find out the news pretty early, before a lot of people had heard about it. I did some quick online ordering and I have a first American edition of the book, but I didn’t think to do a search for the UK edition. If I had, I could have gotten a first edition - perhaps even a signed copy, there were a few floating around - for list price. About twelve hours later I realized what I had done, but it was too late.


No Leo and Diane Dillon books or unusual editions of Tales of Shakespeare have ever escaped my grasp. Since my book collecting happens in the relatively low-rent spaces of thrift stores and library book sales, I don’t usually second-guess my impulse to buy.


10. What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?


I don’t think I have a Holy Grail. Maybe that’s a good thing - once you’d found it, everything else might seem a bit anticlimactic.


11. Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?


I have two favorite bookstores - McKay’s Used Books and CDs, which is my local book haunt in Knoxville, and Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I used to work.


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


I can’t really imagine a scenario in which I didn’t collect books, but probably ephemera - old letters and things.

[Image provided by Jessica Jordan]


A few times a year, we take stock of the most recent books about books that have come across our desk (here’s our spring 2018 list, and a mini summer list too). Here’s what we have for fall: six titles ranging from scholarly to humorous, heavier on non-fiction, and all solid recommendations.

Invention copy.jpgThe Invention of Rare Books: Private Interest and Public Memory, 1600-1840 (Cambridge University Press) by David McKitterick will surely be of interest to FB&C readers, particularly those with an interest in book history. This is a comprehensive and erudite look at how rarity has been defined and measured; McKitterick explores the physical characteristics of “rare” books, the role of private libraries, and the development and significance of bibliographical literature, e.g., trade catalogues and Dibdin’s guides. As noted in the prologue, “The invention of rare books means the selection, creation and development of particular kinds of cultural memory.”

Diary.jpgThe Diary of a Bookseller (Melville House) by Shaun Bythell, owner of The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland, is a smart, often very funny, account of a year in the life of a bookshop--and I do mean account: how many customers came into the shop, how much money he took in. Those who regularly haunt used bookstores won’t bat an eye at Bythell’s cantankerousness as he deals with flaky staff members and leaky windows and will be chuffed (this is the UK, after all) when he spots a book signed by Sir Walter Scott at the bottom of a box he had forgotten about. Wigtown, a remote village that has become an international “book town,” is also in the spotlight here, and this book would make an absolutely perfect travel companion for a literary pilgrimage. (We hear the book might become a movie, too.) 

In Search.jpgIn Search of Lost Books: The Forgotten Stories of Eight Mythical Volumes (Pushkin Press) by Georgio van Straten is a captivating little book in which the author recounts his search for books and manuscripts that did exist, or may have existed, of which “with one exception, I have not been able to read,” he writes. From a missing manuscript of a novel by Romano Bilenchi to 130 pages of Sylvia Plath’s unfinished novel that “disappeared,” the chapters are both sad and hopeful. Regarding Walter Benjamin’s lost work, he writes: “There might still be some forgotten, yellowing papers in a wardrobe or an old chest in the attic of a house in Portbou...”

Kafka.jpegSpeaking of lost books, Kafka’s Last Trial: The Case of a Literary Legacy (Norton) by Benjamin Balint takes on the case of Franz Kafka’s manuscripts--Kafka ordered them burned, but instead his friend Max Brod saved them and bequeathed them to his secretary, whose daughter hid them away for decades and then tried to auction them off. A controversial trial ensued. Balint does double duty as both court reporter and literary biographer.

In fiction, we have two suggestions:

OTTO_VOL2_large.jpgBibliomysteries: Volume Two (Pegasus Books) is, of course, a sequel to Otto Penzler’s first collection of such tales, and again he offers the crème de la crème of crime writers. Here we have Peter Lovesey writing about a box of Agatha Christie books that may be priceless, while Ian Rankin spins a yarn about a lost manuscript of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (more lost books!). 

Labyrinth.jpgThe Labyrinth of the Spirits (Harper) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón is the latest in his Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, after The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, and The Prisoner of Heaven. Full disclosure: I’m way behind in this series and have not yet read this one yet, so all I can say is Ruiz Zafón has well proven his skill at biblio-fiction. The series has been called “a colossal achievement” and “a grand epic.”

Images courtesy of the publishers

Last week saw the return of one of my favorite book fairs -- the annual Amsterdam book fair. This is hosted at the Marriott hotel, by the NVvA, which is the Netherlands branch of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. What better way to start the day than this view of the Reichsmuseum from my hotel room?

amsterdam morning copy.jpgAlthough a relatively small fair (there were 48 exhibitors this year) it is very friendly, and expertly managed by the fair team. The fair is just the right size to spend time at every booth, so you don’t feel that you have missed much. Naturally this leads to me spending far too much money! Every booth had brought their best to Amsterdam, my personal favorite being a huge copy of Oriental Field Sports by William Howitt, on sale at the Aix La Chapelle booth.

oriental field sports-1 copy.jpgOne of the nice touches at Amsterdam is that there is always an event for the exhibitors as part of the stall fee. This year we attended a party hosted by Antiquariaat Schierenberg at Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. Here is Jereon looking somewhat relieved the day after.

schierenberg copy.jpgThe following day saw a return to the fair, and more gazing enviously at other people’s stock, including these fine book boxes on Michael Solder’s stand. It is always good to see friendly faces and other associations attend the fair, and to see the beautiful objects they bring.

solder book copy.jpgSo we are all packed up, and back on the circuit for the next fair. For me this is the Bibliomania fair in Paris. Marcia is extremely worried that a five-day fair here gives me far too many purchasing opportunities. Wish me luck.

--Marc Harrison and his wife Marcia run Harrison-Hiett Rare Books in The Netherlands. Images courtesy of the author.

Postcard from Poetic San Francisco

Blue Angels Bridge.JPG


Last week brought approximately one million people to the Bay Area to celebrate America’s men and women in the Armed Forces at the 37th annual San Francisco Fleet Week. My father served two combat deployments as a naval officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CV-34) in the Tonkin Gulf in 1969 and 1970. For roughly the past decade, he and a group of fellow officers from the carrier known affectionately as The Mighty O have made the annual pilgrimage to the City by the Bay. This year the invitation extended to children and grandchildren, meaning nearly a dozen of us descended on the city to navigate cable cars, relentless hills, and the crowds at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Between watching the Blue Angels maneuver over San Francisco and meeting the elite search, rescue, and detection K-9 squads, there was some time to take in the city’s literary offerings as well, such as stopping by City Lights, the independent bookstore-publisher founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and professor Peter Martin.

After browsing the stacks of the beloved shop, we approached a young couple sitting on the sidewalk behind two well-used Smith-Corona typewriters. Their proposition was simple: for a modest fee, supply a topic and these street poets would compose a rhyme, right on the spot. Curious what a ten-dollar poem would yield, we agreed to the terms. The topic? An ode for my “effervescent” daughter. While the young man in the Yale sweatshirt typed away, his comely assistant paged through a well-worn paperback of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, copying words into a small notebook. “This is my vocabulary list for the day,” explained the UT Austin English literature major.



Ten minutes later, our creation was complete; a poem composed in sprung rhythm--a dynamic form similar to free verse--entitled, “For all the Bubbles in the World,” a celebration of my vivacious, free-spirited child. A few spelling mistakes add to its charm. 


bubbles 1.jpg 

What drew these two to the field of itinerant poetry? “We love sharing our love of poetry with the world,” said the young bard as she closed her book. True to the nature of their profession, the traveling minstrels would soon be packing up and heading to another city--they had recently spent a few weeks at Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA--where they would continue to spread good vibes via inspired verse.

As ever, San Francisco remains a most welcoming place for all walks of life.


Images, from top: SAN FRANCISCO (Oct. 5, 2018) The U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, flies over the Golden Gate Bridge during San Francisco Fleet Week (SFFW) 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas Burgains/Released). Middle and bottom: Photos of itinerant poets and resulting poem by the author. 

At the end of October, the University of London will host a one-day symposium called Women and the Book, noting that this year, the University of London celebrates the 150th anniversary of women’s first access to university education in Britain with the intake of eight women at Queen Mary College.


Tiffany poster.jpgDespite the fact that men have been granted far more access to education than women over the centuries, and have consequently dominated the world of books, women have been writing for at least over 1,000 years, and have been book owners, readers, and publishers since at least the Middle Ages. Therefore the symposium aims to explore the interaction of women and books in Britain from the Middle Ages to the present, from the time that the book left the printing house: as collectors, owners, readers, and mediators, whether curatorial (librarians) or literary (adapting and translating for new audiences). It aims to enable connections across time and across types of engagement with the book, in discussions covering book, literary, and cultural history.


Guest speakers include Dr. Katie Halsey from University of Stirling, who will be speaking about women reading Jane Austen. Dr. David Pearson from University of London will discuss the women book owners of the seventeenth century. It’s worth sharing that Pearson keeps an open source list-in-progress of notable book owners in the seventeenth century, a superb resource for research in the history of the book and for building an understanding of who was buying and reading books in Britain. 


There are three talks on the early modern period, including a talk about early modern women’s texts by Marie-Louise Coolahan and Mark Empey, a talk on embroidered bookbindings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by Gilly Wraight, and one by Stephanie Fell titled “Women’s Hidden Work: Innovative and Creative Descriptive Practices for the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection at the Rubenstein Library, Duke University.” Fell will be discussing the work of catalogers at Duke to create access to topics of scholarly interest - like women and provenance or women printers.


There are three talks themed on the idea of “Women Striking Out” with Stephanie Meek on the censuring of the woman reader, Karin Winslow, who will speak aobut Bella da Costa Greene, and Alicia Carroll on women and the collection of herbal texts in the twentieth century. 


Sara Charles will speak about Medieval readership of a text from a thirteenth-century priory, and Sophie Defrance will speak about girls’ use of libraries at the beginning of the twentieth century.


There is also tea. Of course. The symposium will be held on October 26, from 9:30 am-6:45 pm, Court Room, First Floor, Senate House, University of London. And tickets can be booked online.

Mara FBC 2.jpgOur Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Mara Goldwyn of Berlin:


Where are you from / where do you live?


West Philadelphia born and raised, I now live in the Kreuzberg 36 neighborhood of the former West Berlin. I’ve been here for the past thirteen years via New York City, Santa Fe, NM, and Madrid, Spain.


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


I like to think of myself as a free-library-haunting punk-auto-didact, but the truth is I have a few completed and almost-completed degrees under my belt: A BA in Spanish literature and Latin American studies, a MA in American Studies from the Freie Universität Berlin, an Associate’s in accessories design and millinery from FIT-NYC, and a certificate from the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS). Occupation-wise I am a creative researcher, artist and writer.


Please introduce us to your book collection. What areas do you collect in? (And please introduce to your occasional selling practices here as well).


My collection is more a practice than a clearly definable thing; I consider it more something I do as an artist than something I have, if that makes sense.


It was conceived late one summer night here in Kreuzberg while the Euro-hordes outside my window were caterwauling and clinking beer bottles. All I wanted was a silent room to read and think at night, with no social pressures to drink, smoke or share my thoughts with anyone. This eventually morphed into a cross-section of ideas, research methods, physical collections and artworks that I call The Night Library.


The mission of The Night Library is to “rewild knowledge acquisition,” and with that in mind I’ve set up various art installations--and produced accompanying ‘zines and poetic catalogs--utilizing the collection and giving people a space in which to be alone and distraction-free with the reading material. The hope is that they take the chance to contemplate that, while there is obvious censorship in totalitarian regimes, we in the so-called free world also need to contend with the self-editing and self-policing that comes with living so much of our lives on the internet. [Some of my work can be explored via The Night Library website.]


There was a conference here in Berlin a while back called “Former West,” and that’s a good description of things that seem to catch my eye: items from the Cold War era that nevertheless frustrate Cold War or binary East-West thinking. Fifteen years outside of the States and thirteen in its capitalist showpiece in Europe, West Berlin, have brought me to a more acute recognition of the extent to which I was brought up in a very specific ideology. That is, I’ve begun to recognize that “our” side has propaganda, too.


It’s fascinating to me how as the “winners” of the Cold War we expect the former East to be so self-analytical and to somehow articulate a teleological narrative of oppression that tells us a story we want to hear ...  that after years of being deprived of bananas, Bruce and blue jeans they were suddenly inspired to be free and tear down the Wall themselves, or something. Yet as Westerners we are excused from any type of self-reflection or summing-up of our own world view. For me, the Night Library has become my chance to see my American, capitalist heritage from the outside. It has become the working-through of my own taboos, the things I for some reason think I shouldn’t be reading--let alone owning.


As for the actual items in the collection, I’ve acquired them during my travels in the Americas, Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia over the past ten years or so. They include: apocalyptic ephemera from Evangelicals and Jehovah’s Witnesses; hypnosis and mind time travel manuals; New Age, self-help, cult, occult and UFO literature; implicitly colonialist tourist guides and ethnographies; promotional literature from fossil-fuel extraction interests in the developing world; sundry reprehensible kitsch, conspiracy theory and pseudoscience. Then there’s the stuff from the ex-Eastern Bloc that the locals are mostly carelessly casting off: old GDR text books, ethno-fairy tales from the non-Russian peoples of the Soviet sphere and keepsakes from various international Communist meetups; Russian and Bulgarian children’s books about outer space and DIY-science magazines; East and West German books, comics, records and movies about American cowboys and especially Indians. Finally, I also have small collections of pre-war German cigarette-card books, American 80’s stationary and greeting cards, Mexican pornographic comics, Melodiya albums (the state-owned record label of the USSR) from Soviet Central Asia especially Uzbekistan and psychedelic fabrics from Azerbaijan.


While I’m sure this all sounds eclectic even given my explanation about Former West, I also always find a sort of dream logic that holds it all together. For example my first “intuitive” sub-collection to go with my “Night Library Rare Concentration Room” installation was entitled “Time Lasso.”


As my collection has been crystallizing, I’ve occasionally offered books for sale, too.


How many books are in your collection?


It’s more than books. We’re talking music, ephemera, postcards and all sorts of printed matter (even on fabric); let’s say I have about 300 items.


What was the first book you bought for your collection?


Didn’t buy but picked up ... a series of illustrated Christian fundamentalist Chick cartoon tracts about the satanic dangers of Halloween.


How about the most recent book?


I found a school notebook on a recent trip to Szczecin, Poland, a city on the border with Germany. It has a thumbs-down smiley-face meme on the cover that says “Keep Calm and Learn Niemiecki.” “Niemiecki” is the Polish word for German. The image pretty much sums up the Polish-German relationship at the moment, with the Poles considering German language skills a sort of necessary evil. 


And your favorite item in your collection?


It’s a tie between a Bulgarian flyer I got handed in Sofia with the Hare Krishna Mantra in Cyrillic; Suve tagasitoomine - Põhja-Ameerika indiaanlaste muinasjutte, a tiny 1986 Estonian children’s book illustrated by Tiiu Allikvee and designed by Silvi Liiva with fairy tales from Native American groups located in regions at the same latitude as Estonia; and a 1987 West German souvenir tote bag from Berlin’s 750th anniversary that is printed with an image of the Radio Tower--the West’s answer to East Berlin’s TV Tower--with an actual working FM radio built into it.


Best bargain you’ve found?


I’m not sure if it would be considered a bargain anymore, but I felt it was at the time: A 1981 first edition of The Computer Speaks: God’s Message to the World, by Rashad Khalifa. In it Khalifa had used computers to do a numerological analysis of the Quran and had discovered a mathematical code involving the number 19. (He was assassinated after a fatwa in 1990.)


How about The One that Got Away?


I am haunted by a bright-green hammered-tin advertisement hanging on the side of a newsstand in Kunming, China, that the nice local students showing us around translated to say “10,000 insects.” I should have risked the 10 minutes of looking like a crazy foreigner to have just bought that thing.


What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?


When I read this question, I think of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” with the father-son team of Sean Connery and Harrison Ford. In the movie the former has been obsessively searching for the Holy Grail his whole life, and when he and Indiana come upon it--though there are a lot of other tacky, bejeweled options--it turns out the authentic Grail is just a peasant’s wooden cup.


I don’t have one item that is the end-all be-all for the collection; I think I would’ve gone for one of the kitschy knock-off grails anyway. In general I find a bit patriarchal the compulsive and competitive pursuit of the Rare, not to mention the ecstatic finish that comes with getting that ONE THING that no one else has. What do I want the Holy Grail for? It’s more about the journey.


Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?


I’m a big admirer of my fellow CABS ‘14 alum Nelson Harst and his Antifurniture collection, which I have watched from afar blossoming from a card table of books and ephemera in downtown NYC to a small empire of design items and actual furniture.

I also have a special place in my heart for my friend Molly Russakoff of Molly’s Books and Records in the Italian Market in Philadelphia. There the good stuff is actually on the shelves!


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


Probably obsolete print-technology gadgets like Xerox machines, label-makers and electric typewriters.


Image credit: Maxfield Gassmann

We were saddened to learn last week of the death of Jay Kislak, an extraordinary collector and a generous philanthropist to several libraries, including the Library of Congress and the Kislak Center for Special Collections at the University of Pennsylvania. He also provided the financial backing for the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest. Kislak was 96.


“Although Jay Kislak often stayed out of the spotlight, his generosity could not keep him there. Whether making a $150 million contribution to the Library of Congress or supporting a fledging book collecting contest for young people, he did much to keep books in the public eye,” said Webb Howell, publisher of Fine Books. “He embodied both scholarship and leadership in the world of books.”

Kislak cover.jpgKislak’s gift to the Library of Congress was the subject of a 2008 cover story in Fine Books. The collection of rare books, manuscripts, maps, and artifacts focuses on the Americas and includes 4,000 items spanning three millennia; it was largely built between the 1960s and the 1990s. At the time, he told us, “I’m just interested in studying an area of history that happens to have been neglected, and the books are the things to tell the story.”

Well into his nineties, the New Jersey-born real estate mogul was active in collecting and in contributing to collections. Just last year, his foundation made a donation to the University of Miami and Miami Dade College that included 2,300 rare books, maps, manuscripts, pre-Columbian artifacts, and related material, with its particular focus on Florida, the Caribbean, exploration, navigation, and the early Americas. Each school received a first edition of the famous 1493 letter of Christopher Columbus, in which he describes the New World, as well as a selection of rare and important items. As a whole, the collection was valued at $30 million.

“Like the treasures he collected, Jay was one of a kind. The Kislak Center at the University of Miami Libraries is his legacy and a lasting tribute to his love for our community,” University of Miami President Julio Frenk told the Miami Herald.

Sotheby’s Paris sells the seventh part of the R. & B. L. Library on Tuesday, October 9: First Editions, Reviews, Autograph Letters, and Manuscripts, in 313 lots. One of the very rare 1869 copies of Isidore Lucien Ducasse’s Les chants de Maldoror is estimated at €100,000-150,000, while six Mallarmé poems in manuscript could fetch €80,000-120,000. An 1891 letter from Rimbaud to his sister Isabelle is estimated at €80,000-100,000. A number of other Rimbaud and Mallarmé manuscripts also rate high estimates.


On Wednesday, October 10, Chiswick Auctions holds a sale of Autographs & Memorabilia, in 314 lots. Among the expected top lots are a December 1948 letter by Wallis Simpson (£5,000-7,000); a letter from Lord Nelson to Sir William Hamilton (£4,000-6,000); an original typed indictment from the Nuremberg Trials (£3,000-4,000); and a Charles Darwin letter to his cousin (£3,000-4,000).



At PBA Galleries on Thursday, October 11, PBA Galleries sells Rare Golf Books & Memorabilia, in 234 lots. The rare 1891 Duffers’ Golf Club Papers, in original wrappers, is estimated at $20,000-25,000. An 1873 volume of “golfing verse,” Blackheath Golfing Lays, could sell for $10,000-15,000. Also on offer is the only known copy of the program for the 1910 U.S. Amateur Championship ($7,000-10,000), and a wooden measuring device from the Manchester Golf Club (also $7,000-10,000; pictured above).


Image credit: PBA Galleries

Auction Guide