At Bunch Auctions on Monday, July 23, Books & Works on Paper, in 269 lots. Top-estimated lots include an engraving of Marcantonio Raimondo’s “Massacre of the Innocents” from around 1515 ($5,000-7,000); some signed William Gibson volumes ($1,200-1,500); and a 1490 Augsberg edition of the sermons of Robertus Caracciolus ($800-1,000). A wide-ranging sale, with estimates mostly in the three-figure range.


On Tuesday, July 24, Doyle New York sells Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold “Jake” Johnson, in 344 lots (this is a timed, online-only sale). Highlights could include Richard (or Charles) Bowlker’s The Art of Angling Improved in All Its Parts ($700-1,000) and Eric Taverner’s Salmon Fishing (1931), estimated at $1,200-1,800. Lots 111-113 comprise three photograph albums of fishing trips taken by Zane Grey in the 1920s (each is estimated at $700-1,000).

Call Wild.jpg PBA Galleries sells Modern Literature on Thursday, July 26, in 563 lots. Seven lots share estimates of $3,000-5,000, including a first book printing of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a first edition of The Call of the Wild in a very well-preserved dust-jacket, a full set of the 63-volume James Joyce Archive, and an inscribed first edition of Catch-22. Lots 440-563 are being sold without reserve.


Finally, on Saturday, July 28, Potter and Potter Auctions holds a Fine Books & Manuscripts sale, in 619 lots. A copy of the Peter Force facsimile engraving of the Declaration of Independence is estimated at $15,000-20,000, while a 1917 “Destroy This Mad Brute” World War I enlistment poster could fetch $12,000-18,000. Other lots include a collection of Hugh Hefner’s correspondence with a high school friend ($10,000-20,000); Emil Orlik’s Aus Japan ($10,000-15,000); and a 1958 Fidel Castro letter to arms smuggler Pedro Luis ($8,000-12,000).


Image courtesy of PBA Galleries

Ada_Lovelace_portrait.jpgA rare copy of Ada Lovelace’s groundbreaking first computer program turned up at a regional auction house, Moore Allen & Innocent, in Glouchestershire, England, today and sold for £95,000 ($125,000) after an intial estimate of £5,000-6,000 was increased to £40,000-60,000.


Bound in burgundy leather with tooled and gilded “Lovelace” on cover, this copy of Sketch of The Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babage Esq. by L F Menabrea of Turin Officer of The Military Engineers, with notes by the translator, who is identified in a handwritten note as Lady Lovelace, also contains extensive reading notes on Lovelace on the flyleaf, and a typed memo attributing the notes to physician William King, a friend and advisor of hers, who published a paper called The Cooperator. (Lovelace also married a different man named William King, strangely enough.)


Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron and Annabella Milbanke, was born on Dec. 10, 1815, in London, England, and was taught math by her mother. Her mother also surrounded her with the best education and tutors and introduced her to scientist Mary Somerville. It was that introduction that led Lovelace to know the work of Charles Babbage at 17, soon after she made her society debut. He showed her a large brass calculator and she became obsessed with it. 


Not long after she translated Menabrea’s academic paper on Babbage’s analytical engine, she added a section that extended the length of the paper by three times. This section is simply titled, “Notes.” In “Section G” she published her algorithm, a method for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers with the engine, which would have worked had it been built. Additionally she mused about the role of computers in society, described how they would be faster than humans at computations, and dismissed the concept of artificial intelligence, explaining, “the Analytical Engine has no pretensions whatever to originate anything. It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform. It can follow analysis; but it has no power of anticipating any analytical relations or truths.” 


Lovelace died of uterine cancer at age 36. There is disagreement about the importance of her contribution to science and math, and whether or not her contribution can indeed be considered the first computer program or simply an enhancement to Babbage’s work. Recently, she was finally given an obituary by the New York Times in its record-redressing “Overlooked” women of history special section, along with Sylvia Plath and other female luminaries.


Image via Wikimedia


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


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

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

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


Image credits:
Albino Mbie/Courtesy of Shuhei Teshima.

Angie Egea/Courtesy of Carven Boursiquot

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

Capitol Hill Books in Washington DC, owned and operated by retired rear admiral Morton “Jim” Toole since 1995, was purchased recently by long-time employees of the store. Under Toole’s ownership, the store became a community gem and attracted bibliophiles from around the world. The four new owners, Aaron Beckwith (a recent profile in our Bright Young Booksellers series), Matt Wixon, Kyle Burk, and Shantanu Malkar have vowed to “preserve the fiercely independent spirit of the bookstore and ensure it maintains its place as a literary hub of the community.” 

Beckwith will step into the role of general manager, with plans to expand the store hours, increase its selection of rare books, and host more author events. Toole, meanwhile, will continue to work at the store and offer support and advice to the new owners.

“Old sailors never die; they just fade away,” said Toole in an interview with Medium. “And youth will be served.”

“Jim has shown me the ropes of the book trade for the past 13 years and provided me with detailed accounts of history’s great naval battles, both of which I’m sure will be of paramount importance as I take the helm of this store,” said Beckwith, in the same interview.

The sale was finalized July 12.

Coming up next month at Swann Galleries is a selection of vintage posters -- political, circus, travel -- but the one that caught my eye is “Librairie Romantique,” pictured below.

Librairie Romantique.jpgDesigned by Eugene Grasset in 1887, the poster advertises a series of books on the history of romanticism. The blank space in the lower left would have held the table of contents for that particular volume. As Swann’s cataloguer notes, “The image itself is an homage to Gothic romance, featuring a young woman, clad in 1830s attire, sitting on a pile of old books, a skull at her feet, absorbed in her reading. In the background, the gothic façade of Notre Dame (perhaps a tribute to Victor Hugo) glows in the twilight.”

The poster’s estimate is $700-1,000.

Image courtesy of Swann Galleries

A calmer auction calendar this week, which will give us a chance to look back at some of the remarkable results from last week’s sales.


On Wednesday, July 18, Bonhams London sells Entertainment Memorabilia, in 299 lots. One of just two known copies of a Czech poster for the 1933 movie King Kong rates the top estimate, at £50,000-70,000. Other printed and manuscript items expected to do well are a poster for a November 2, 1964 Beatles concert at King’s Hall in Belfast (£25,000-28,000, pictured); and a birthday card to Pattie Boyd hand-drawn by John Lennon (£8,000-12,000). Lots 172-232 comprise the Mark Jay Collection of Punk Memorabilia, and lots 259-299 focus on the Beatles.



Skinner, Inc. sells Early English Books: A Single Owner Sale on Friday, July 20, in 198 lots. The Roderick Terry copy of the Shakespeare Fourth Folio (1685), in a Riviere binding, is estimated at $65,000-80,000. A 1556 English edition of More’s Utopia could fetch $40,000-60,000, while the first appearance of Galileo’s works in English is estimated at $35,000-50,000. An incomplete copy of the 1495 Wynken de Worde edition of Higden’s Polychronicon, the first at auction since 1976 according to the catalogue, could sell for $40,000-50,000. Anyone with an interest in early English printing will want to give this sale a close look.


Last week’s Sotheby’s sale realized £4,167,764, with the Darwin manuscript leaves and several E. H. Shepard drawings selling particularly well (the Origin leaf made £490,000, and the map of the Hundred Acre Wood sold for £430,000, a new auction record for a book illustration). Darwin and Shepard combined for the top nine lots of the sale, totaling more than £2 million. The copy of Spenser’s Faerie Queen with Charles I provenance sold for £106,250. Several lots sold by the descendants of Sir Charles Lyell also brought high prices: an album of scientific letters reached £93,750 over estimates of just £5,000-7,000, while a presentation copy of Lyell’s Principles of Geology to his father-in-law sold for £50,000 (est. £3,000-5,000). Lyell’s own well-worn copy of the first volume of Principles fetched £40,000 over estimates of just £700-1,000.


The Christie’s sale on Wednesday made a total of £6,200,375, with the Plantin Polyglot Bible leading the way at £488,750. The Fall of Princes manuscript sold for £392,750, and a 1482 Venice edition of Euclid fetched £284,750.


Image credit: Bonhams

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


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

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



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


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


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

I had mixed emotions as I attended the official press event for the opening of the new Baseball Americana exhibit at the Library of Congress last month.


Photo Jun 27, 10 43 02 AM.jpgI’m pretty sick of Major League Baseball. I gave up my Baltimore Orioles season ticket plan two years ago -- not just because they’re inept but because it’s too painful for me to watch professional baseball at large. The O’s batters and those of seemingly every other team are instructed to just close their eyes and swing for the fences and, if that doesn’t work, to close their eyes tighter. Manufactured runs are extinct species. Halley’s Comet passes by more often than a team demonstrates solid fundamentals.


On the other hand, the Library of Congress is my favorite place on Earth. Anything that the LOC hosts is something I want to see and something I want to support.


Photo Jun 27, 10 40 58 AM (2).jpgI viewed the exhibit after the opening speeches and struggled to connect to it emotionally, the way I would have as a younger man. I felt slight hints of my old love as I watched video of Hank Aaron, the real baseball homerun king, hit homers at the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium -- just as I witnessed there in real life as a kid. Hearing Vin Scully’s voice brought me back to all the nights I secretly stayed up late listening to AM radio stations beam through the skies the maestro’s gift for painting pictures with words. I stood awestruck at the part of the exhibit dedicated to Jackie Robinson, a true American hero who like Aaron after him endured more than any man should just to be able to play a game.


I exited the exhibit and headed to view others feeling unable to rekindle my old love for the game. 


My brain, though, kept replaying some of Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden’s words from earlier in the day. She said that one of her hopes for the Baseball Americana exhibit was that it would make the Library more open and accessible to a new audience -- an audience that she hoped would go on to become active users of the Library. She spoke of the exhibit’s potential for building bridges.


Photo Jun 27, 10 57 40 AM.jpgMy blood started pumping as her words sped faster and faster and I perused my old favorites and new exhibits. Hayden’s hope is mine, too. I said hello for at least the tenth time to the Thomas Jefferson library of books that’s adjacent to America’s pastime. Maybe baseball fans heading in or out of Baseball Americana will get hooked on regular ol’ Americana, I thought. I checked out a special summer exhibit about Alexander Hamilton. I got tears in my eyes when I read the actual goodbye letter he wrote to his wife Elizabeth before his fatal duel (pictured above).


I glanced at the breathtaking Jefferson Reading Room, where I’ve spent countless hours researching the American Revolution and other subjects. I thought of the Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room that also feels like a second home to me.


I remembered the day so many years ago when I stumbled into the Library on a tour to see something else and heard a tour guide explain that I could use the Library myself. I thought that you had to be a member of Congress or an official student to use its resources. I promptly obtained my library card and dove in to topics for magazine articles, blog posts and future book projects. I spent a few weeks enhancing my family genealogy research and learning more about the life and times of my ancestors in France, Canada, and Minnesota. I read newspapers that they may have once held in their hands.


A lot of people fail to realize that they, too, can actually use the Library of Congress -- that it’s not just a giant building for tourists to meander: It’s a wildly exciting, mind-opening, life-affirming place. If Baseball Americana can attract legions of new visitors and give them the chance to cross Hayden’s bridges and inspire them to become active users and fans of the Library of Congress -- then by all means, buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack!


Photo Jun 27, 10 46 19 AM (2).jpgImages credit: Chris Lancette


743px-Portrait_of_a_Man,_Said_to_be_Christopher_Columbus.jpgAn extremely rare 1493 letter from Christopher Columbus to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain was returned last month to Spain after the United States Justice Department uncovered a clever bit of forgery. The letter, in which Columbus described his first impressions of the Americas, was formally returned to Spain in a June repatriation ceremony. The letter was stolen sometime before November of 2005 from the National Library of Catalonia in Barcelona and replaced with a near-perfect fake. The original was subsequently sold for $1 million by two Italian rare book dealers in late 2005.

A seven-year investigation by Homeland Security and the US Attorney in Delaware, operating on a public tip, successfully tracked the letter to a private collector who agreed to surrender possession of the letter after “extensive negotiations.” Experts subsequently deemed the letter, “beyond all doubt,” to be the original. The thief replaced the original letter with an extremely convincing fake, a fact uncovered after experts subsquently visited the National Library of Catalonia to examine the letter in its possession. The letter was then returned to Spain in the June repatriation ceremony, held at the residence of the Spanish ambassador.

U.S. Attorney David C. Weiss said in a prepared statement, “The recovery of this Plannck II Columbus Letter on behalf of the Spanish government exemplifies not only the significance of federal agency partnerships in these complicated investigations, but the close coordination that exists between American and foreign law enforcement agencies.  We are truly honored to return this historically important document back to Spain - its rightful owner.”

More details are available in an official US Attorney press release here.

[Image from Wikipedia]

Sometimes a book is as much about its provenance as the item itself. For example, this eighteenth-century encyclopedia of China, finely illustrated by the Osaka artist Tachibana Morikuni owes much of its interest to the fact that it came from the collection of James E. Fagan.

Fagan1.jpgFagan (1926-2011) was an American collector with a special interest in the introduction of Western culture and technology to Japan’s closed Edo-era society (1603-1868), also known as the Tokugawa period. He studied Japanese language and history at Stanford University, and served as a US Naval officer in the Pacific theatre. He then lived and worked in Japan as an attorney in the 1950s and 1960s.

During this time, Fagan assembled and researched his collection of rare Edo-era
woodblock and manuscript maps, prints and books not available outside Japan. Highlights include Nagasaki-e (showing the Japanese fascination with the Dutch East
Indies (VOC) outpost at Deshima island), early Rangaku examinations of Western
science and languages, the evolution of Japanese cartographic knowledge, and the
study of English and Russian military might and technology. Imaginative illustrations
and maps, from Japanese castaways reporting back to the Japanese Court, also provide a glimpse of how the Western world appeared to the first Japanese to circumnavigate the globe. The collection demonstrates Japan’s keen curiosity about the Western world during its long isolationist period, and the artful way the Japanese perspective captures the impact of European contact.

Morokoshi kinmo zui, illustrated by Tachibana Morikuni and published in Japan in 1719, is a good example of Fagan’s interests. It is an extensive encyclopedia on China, profusely illustrated with depictions of Chinese customs, astronomy, maps, landscapes, architecture, mythology, martial arts, weaponry, farming practices, flora & fauna. In fact, all that you would expect from an encyclopedia. In 15 volumes, it is printed from woodblocks, and comes with the original blue paper covers and title slips (under later yellow covers).

Fagan2.jpgTachibana Morikuni, from Osaka, was a leading eighteenth-century painter, illustrator, and writer, and he was a master of both Kano and Tosa styles. A student of
Tsuruzawa Tanzan, Morikuni lived and worked in Osaka. His major illustrated books
include Ehon Koji-dan (1714), Morokoshi Kimmo-zui (the work listed here)
(1719), Ehon shaho-bukuro (1720), Gaten tsuko (1727), Honcho gaen (1729), Utai
gashi (1732), Ehon oshukubai (1740) and Unpitsu soga (1749).

This work has recently been consigned to the Catawiki “Old & Rare” auction, and will be available for bids through approx. 8 p.m. (Central European Time) on Friday, July 13.

Images courtesy of Catawiki

Auction Guide