Printing a Child’s World

From Alice in Wonderland’s 150th anniversary celebration to Mo Willems’ New York retrospective, children’s picture books and their creators are enjoying something of a moment in Manhattan’s cultural and literary circles. Now, the Met is hosting an installation of printed works celebrating the world of children as depicted on canvas and paper.

Through October 16, visitors to the show entitled “Printing a Child’s World” in the American Wing at the Met Fifth Avenue will be greeted by over two dozen works dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Rarely displayed children’s books, illustrations, and prints by artists such as Randolph Caldecott, George Bellows, Winslow Homer, and Thomas Nast explore how art and advertising at the turn of the last century became ever more focused on the experience of childhood. Then as now, idyllic scenes of children at play, rest, or reading were commercially successful and played with the heartstrings (and purse-strings) of viewers.

                                                                                                                                                                                 

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Cover image for The House That Jack Built. Image: Wikimedia Commons.


Highlights include nine original Caldecott watercolors for The House That Jack Built; Nast’s iconic, cherry-cheeked, jovial rendering of Santa Claus from A Visit from Saint Nicholas; and an illustration by Winslow Homer that appeared in an 1858 edition of Eventful History of Three Blind Mice. Writers and reformers of the time saw the world’s youth as the living embodiment of all that was new and modern during an era of sweeping social change, while working in mass-market mediums cemented the legacies of illustrators like Homer and Caldecott, whose art remains celebrated by collectors and artists today.

Material for the installation comes from the Met archives, the New-York Historical Society, and from a private collection.


“Printing a Child’s World” is on view at the Met through October 16. More information may be found here.

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Mattie Taormina, Director of Sutro Library in San Francisco, a branch of the California State Library.


Crop head shot.pngWhat is your role at your institution?


After ten years as the Head of Public Services and Processing Manuscript Librarian at Stanford University, I became the new director of the Sutro Library in March.  The Sutro Library is a branch of the California State Library and we hold the 90,000+ volumes amassed by famed book collector, Adolph Sutro. We are a small staff so I get to do a little bit of everything, from collection development to engaging with donors.  Since we are a public research library located on a vibrant California State University campus, I am especially excited to grow our outreach and instruction program to the faculty and students of San Francisco State University.


How did you get started in rare books?


I began working with rare books when I was an undergraduate studying at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Keble College, Oxford. Much of my coursework required me to use the book collections at the Bodleian Library, the Rhodes House, and the Oxford Student Union.  I vividly remember spending hours poring over the books in the Radcliffe Camera, inhaling their slightly spicy smell. When I joined the staff at Stanford, my interest was rekindled again thanks in large part to the Associate University Librarian for Special Collections, Roberto Trujillo, and the Rare Books Curator, John Mustain. Since I am an archivist by training, I think I’ll forever be a student of rare books.


Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?


I completed my BA in American History at the University of San Francisco.  After graduation, I pursued an MA in Public History (concentration in archives and manuscripts) from California State University Sacramento. I completed an MLIS from San Jose State University (concentration on archives and special collections) before that program went to an entirely online format. I also have taken some incredible classes at the California Rare Books School. 


Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?


I had so many favorite books when I worked at Stanford that it makes it hard to pick just one. A few that come to mind would be a 1737 universal etymological English dictionary owned by John Hancock when he was 11 years old and was signed by him three times.  Another is the Golden Cockerel Press’ Four Gospels. Only 12 were printed on vellum and Stanford’s vellum copy is number one.


I suppose the book I enjoyed sharing the most with students was a copy of the first draft of The Star Wars by George Lucas dated 1974. I am a big fan of the original Star Wars movies so having the opportunity to geek out with others over this screenplay was incredibly gratifying.  The 1974 story was very different from the one depicted in the final film and students always responded so positively to it. 


What do you personally collect?


Any collecting I do is curbed by the size of my house.  I do have a small collection pertaining to my travels. The collection started with the original suitcases my grandparents carried when they immigrated to the United States. Over the years, I have purchased something from each country I have visited, with recent objects coming from Cuba, Croatia and Greece.


What do you like to do outside of work?


The lines between my personal and work interests are blurred as I turned my love of cultural heritage into a livelihood. When I am not sitting at work, I can be found visiting a museum, attending a concert or play, or frequenting one of the many outstanding restaurants found in the Bay Area.  


I have a bad case of wanderlust so traveling is very important to me. Regardless of where my journeys take me, I always visit libraries, archives and museums.  


What excites you about rare book librarianship?


When one hears of preserving born digital content, one naturally thinks of archival materials but technology is changing our rare book access and preservation habits as well. I am intrigued by the challenges I see with some of the new Artists Books being produced that use both analog and technological formats to create a sensory experience.  The ones I have seen pose some very unique preservation challenges for rare book librarians: how do we preserve the born-digital content so that it is accessible for future readers while still allowing the artist’s vision of that experience to occur in the manner in which they designed it?  


Thoughts on the future of special collections / rare book librarianship?


I think the part that excites me most about working in special collections and archives today is as a profession, we are looking at our communities’ current social and civil changes and inviting the community to collaborate with us on collections.  Examples of this change can be found in University of Riverside’s University Archivist, Bergis Jules, who is collaborating with community organizers and individuals throughout the United States involved in the Black Lives Matter movement.  The special collections librarians at UCLA are another example: they are soliciting 1980s era punk music materials from the Los Angeles community. 


These initiatives allow for more holistic and inclusive records to be developed, diversifying traditional collection development policies to not only include the voices in power, but those that are historically marginalized as well.  Having the community and other information professionals work alongside curators will broaden the voices found in our holdings for future generations to research, contemplate, and enjoy. 


Any unusual or interesting collection at your library you’d like to draw our attention to?


One of the more unique parts of the Sutro Library is our Mexicana collection consisting of forty to fifty thousand books, pamphlets, broadsides, and manuscripts on Mexican culture, religion, and politics from 1540 to 1889.  Sutro acquired the collection from famed bookseller, Francisco Abadiano in 1889.  Included in this purchase was a sizeable portion of the Colegio Imperal de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco library--the first academic library of the New World. In fact, the Mexicana collection includes the first legal code printed in the Americas. 


Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?


We will have a new exhibit called Into the West that will open in time for the new academic year in August. The exhibit will feature our holdings on Western European travel and exploration of the West from the 1500s-1800s. It will include Adolph Sutro’s scrapbook from when he visited Mexico, various maps and atlases, and other illustrated books on travel.



Since it is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, we will end the year by mounting an exhibit of the Shakespeareana parts of Sutro’s collection. On display will be our original first thru fourth Folios and other content related to contemporaries of the Bard.

























Coming to auction in London on July 6 is this vellum register apparently made for Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1454-1486. The volume contains a Sarum calendar, Gospel extracts, and lists of churches, chapels, and religious houses in the diocese of Canterbury, as well as other administrativia (yes, in Latin). It is embellished by one large illuminated initial and smaller red and blue penwork initials, some incorporating drawings of monks’ heads. Numerous 16th- and 17th-century inscriptions and doodles cover blank spaces in the manner of an autograph album.

Canterbury.pngSotheby’s, which will offer the register alongside 70 other medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, calls it “A remarkable witness to the administration of Canterbury Cathedral, England’s most important medieval religious foundation.” The estimate is £5,000-7,000 ($7,200-10,000).

Image via Sotheby’s.

Prinicipia-title.pngA first edition of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica, often shortened to “Principia,” will be sold at auction by Christie’s on July 12. The book was part of the collection of Giancarlo Beltrame, who amassed a very impressive scientific books collection, the first half of which will be sold next month, the second half following on November 30. The estimate is £200,000-300,000 ($268,200-402,300).


First published in 1687, Newton’s Principia revolutionized science with mathematical descriptions of the universal physical laws of gravitation and motion, the basis for the motion of bodies in unresisting space (the law of inertia), the motion of fluids, the effect of friction on bodies moving through fluids, and the law of universal gravitation. The Principia was published by Joseph Streater for the Royal Society in London at the expense of Edmond Halley, and distributed to various booksellers by Newton and Halley.


Einstein would later describe the work as “The greatest intellectual stride that it has ever been granted to any man to make.”


The Beltrame copy also has an interesting provenance, having belonged to the Victorian historian and philosopher Thomas Carlyle and to the American banker and amateur astronomer Gustavus Wynne Cook.


[Title page image from Wikipedia]





Within the next week subscribers will receive our summer issue featuring “Biblio 360,” our annual listing of book clubs & societies, classes & workshops, events & exhibits of interest to book collectors. Until then, we wanted to call attention to some upcoming summer events in case you want to “book” your trip now!

Tennessee Antiquarian Book Fair: A book fair with Southern flair held July 8-10 on the campus of the University of the South in Sewanee, TN. “Book prices ranging from $10 to $50,000 are sure to pique the interest of the leisure reader as well as the most avid collector.” The cost is $10 for weekend admission; $15 for Friday preview plus weekend admission, all refundable with purchase of books.

PulpFest 2016: A convention, a fair, and an auction for collectors of vintage popular fiction, comics, westerns, and related materials, with particular attention this year to the 120th anniversary of the debut of the first pulp magazine, The Argosy. Happening in Columbus, Ohio, from July 21-24. The cost is $10-$40 depending on length of visit.  

Newberry Book Fair.jpgNewberry Book Fair: “Chicago’s favorite used-book binge,” held this year July 28-31. Browse 120,000+ books in 70 categories--sounds like a fantastic scouting opportunity. Free.

Rocky Mountain Book and Paper Fair: The 32nd annual Rocky Mountain offers “books and maps ... cultural oddities and whimsical finds” on August 5-6 in Denver, Colorado. This year’s exhibitors include Back of Beyond, Rulon-Miller Books, Ken Sanders Rare Books, and many more. The cost is $7 per day, $12 for both days, less if purchased in advance. 

Miniature Book Society Conclave: The Dallas/McKinney area of Texas hosts the 2016 annual gathering of miniature book enthusiasts, August 5-8. You must register for programs and trips ($275 per person, by July 7), but the Sunday book fair, with a “robust number of high-profile vendors,” is open to the public from 11:00-4:00 at no cost.

Image: The 2014 Newberry Book Fair.

A Bibliophile in the Nursery

Late June is always hectic around here: Half-days at school throw off daily routines, and packing my daughter for camp is often a multi-day, multi-sensory experience that fails to disappoint. And this year, we’ve also decided to update our woefully inadequate home office. Demolition and construction are slated to take place over the summer while the house is empty, which meant completely emptying the workroom of its contents.

Disassembling the 19th-century partner desk was easy enough--they certainly don’t make beasts like this handmade 36-inch oak escritoire anymore--but taking the bookshelves apart and removing their load was, as perhaps you readers can imagine, no simple manoeuver.

My current bookshelves are simple, sturdy, pre-fab birch planks, and though they’ve served faithfully for many years, I need more room. A common complaint I heard from my parents growing up, I face the same need for greater shelf space.

Now, those pre-fab stacks crowd a small antechamber on our second level, reshelved. I’m surrounded by books on every floor.

Home sweet home.


Construction offers a rare opportunity to cull, to deacquisition books deemed no longer fit for duty, or that would find better use elsewhere, on someone else’s bookshelf. Unlike my father, whose archive spans decades, my collection is more modest in size and scope, but still impressive enough to give the uninitiated pause when they first visit. (To see what it’s like parting with truly amazing books, read my father’s ode to packing up his library in the spring issue of Fine Books and Collections.)

The beginning stages of deaccession are the hardest, but once a rhythm is established, I dare say a certain ruthlessness prevails. Mass-market paperbacks are an easy toss--though I’m still on the lookout for my dog-eared, highlighted-to-hell Hachette softcover edition of To Kill a Mockingbird, especially now that it’s no longer in production.

Despite an initial urge to purge, bibliophilia got the better of me, and most books are back on the shelves where they originated. I rediscovered some lost treasures throughout the process: A 1970 publication of Squirrels of North America by Dorcas MacClintock left me scratching my head until I discovered the author was a fellow Smith grad. Stamped a “regional discard” by the Central Massachusetts Regional Library System, Squirrels retains its due date envelope and cards pasted to the back flyleaf, and was last borrowed from the Upton Public Library in June 1995. My nature-loving daughter adores the charming renderings of marmots and prairie dogs, and now claims the book as her own.

My sweetest find was Bibliophile in the Nursery: A Bookman’s Treasure of Collectors’ Lore on Old and Rare Children’s Books. This “profusely illustrated” first-edition is rich in advice for collectors of children’s books; a delightful mix of historical essays, lists, and biographical notation, with entries by such authorities as folklorists Iona and Peter Opie; collector Elisabeth Ball, whose donations are now found in the Morgan Library, the Lilly Library, and the Free Library; and Houghton Library’s librarian emeritus W.H. Bond.

The empty office is a refreshing palate cleanser, but I’m already looking forward to fall and to filling the new shelves with old favorites.

Georgios_Jakobides_Girl_reading_c1882.jpg

By Georgios Jakobides - Bonhams London, 20 May 2008, lot 22, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17863841

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with James Freemantle, collector of Private Press books. James is a contributor to The Private Library, the journal of the Private Libraries Association, as well as Parenthesis and Matrix (Whittington Press), as well as being a member of the Oxford Guild of Printers and Double Crown Club, and proprietor of the recently established St James Park Press. James has been a Judge at the annual Fine Press Fair in Oxford, has written the exhibition catalogue entry for I.M. Imprimit for The Private Press Today exhibition at St. Brides, and runs a Twitter page on the Art of the Book.


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Where are you from / where do you live?


I was born and live in London, England, now near St James’s Park, having been brought up in the English countryside in Buckinghamshire.  


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


I studied English Literature with Film before moving on to a career in Law. I am now a Litigation Partner at a London law firm. 


jfreemantleco1.jpgPlease introduce us to your book collection. What areas do you collect in? 


Almost exclusively Private Press (Fine Press) books, although as an extension of this books and prints of typographic, artistic or bibliographic interest. This could be anything from a book such as A Specimen Book of Pattern Papers (1928) by the Curwen Press to large coloured linocuts by the artist Clifford Webb, to a leaf from an incunabula by William Caxton. As there have historically been a large number of private presses, however, I buy predominantly English presses of the twentieth century. 


From the earlier presses, I have a large amount of ephemera from the Daniel, Kelmscott and Doves Presses, which can sometimes be rarer than the books themselves and give enough of the feel of those presses to placate the desire for the books (although of course I wouldn’t turn down a complete collection of any of these). I actually buy ephemera and archival material for all the Presses I am interested in, for an insight into the history of their production.


For the Essex House, Ashendene, Eragny and Caradoc Presses, I buy the books too. For all of these, I tend towards copies printed on vellum, which are usually only printed in a handful of copies, or with some association to the printers, meaning copies inscribed by Hornby, Pissarro and others. For the Essex House Press, for example, I have a unique copy of the Essex House Song Book, bound by Charles McLeish (who worked at the Doves Bindery under Cobden Sanderson for many years) for C. R. Ashbee’s daughter, in which Ashbee has interleaved pages printed on vellum, paper as well as pages written and decorated in his own hand. 


From the next generation of Presses, I have an almost complete set of Golden Cockerel Press books, including (almost as an ephemeral item) a single volume of The Canterbury Tales, illustrated by Eric Gill, printed on vellum. The Golden Cockerel Press was my first serious foray into the private presses, and as such I located as much additional material as I could, including proofs, original designs, correspondence, prospectuses, catalogues, publisher’s files, engravings, binding blocks, copper plates and more. I am slightly more specific for the Gregynog Press, for which I only look for the special bindings by George Fisher, although these are exceedingly rare, as well as the prospectuses for the titles issued by the Press. Similarly, for the Hogarth Press, I only buy those editions that were hand-printed by Virginia Woolf. 


Of the more modern Presses, I buy books by Presses that are no longer printing, such as Gogmagog, Twelve by Eight, Workshop, and Locks Press, and from those still active, such as the Reading Room, Parvenu, Grapho Editions, I.M. Imprimit, Whittington, Fleece, Salvage and Incline Presses. It is usually easier to locate the ephemera and production material for these modern Presses, which can include related artistic material. For example, for Gogmagog and the Workshop Press, I have a number of original prints and paintings by the printers Morris Cox and Mark Arman, who ran those Presses, and by further example a vast number of broadsides from the Whittington Press.


Of the American Presses, I have dabbled with the Arion Press and Barbarian Press, usually because they have printings of wood-engravings which appeal. There are various other Presses that are represented within the collection, but not to the same degree as those mentioned. 

 


jfreemantleco3.jpgHow many books are in your collection?


I haven’t counted, but there must be over a thousand, not including bibliographic books that aren’t printed by any particular Press, which I try to keep to a minimum. Presses don’t generally print that many titles, as of course it is all done in limited editions and by hand, so one Press may only have half a dozen titles under their imprint, whilst the Golden Cockerel Press reached 214 titles. When I add archival material and ephemera to the number of books, there is possibly the same again in terms of floor space.

 

What was the first book you bought for your collection?


I actually discovered Private Press books because I was interested in Milton’s Paradise Lost, having studied it at school. We were given a school copy of the book with an illustration by William Blake on the cover, and that image (and indeed that book) has never been forgotten. I took an interest in the publishing history of Paradise Lost, which was first printed in 1667, and bought early editions, including those illustrated by John Martin, Fuseli and others. Whilst I was reading around the subject, I found and bought copies of the Golden Cockerel Press as well as Doves Press editions of Paradise Lost. Both are extraordinarily attractive printings, and immediately introduced me to what a Private Press could offer. My first most memorable and serious purchase, however, was an English first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses (John Lane, Bodley Head, 1936), which I bought almost entirely on account of it being in a slipcase covered in Paul Nash patterned paper, with an Eric Gill designed bow on the front, bound in vellum, limited to 100 copies and signed by Joyce. These sort of elements are more synonymous with a Private Press book, than a commercial edition. It is still the most expensive single book I have ever bought, from a Sotheby’s auction. I exchanged it probably a year after buying it, for an Ashendene Press book printed on vellum and a group of Hogarth Press hand-printed books. 

 

How about the most recent book?


Books are being added regularly, so most recently, aside from books by those Presses already mentioned, I have bought books from the Fanfrolico, Seven Acres, Simon King, and Kit Kat Presses, as well as Rampant Lions Press books illustrated by J. G. Lubbock.


jfreemantleco2.jpgAnd your favourite book in your collection?


Every Press brings something different. As much as the art of the book is important, so too is the story behind it. Being handmade books, there is usually a single or small number of creative minds behind the book and you can usually get a sense of this when you see the output of each different Press. In that sense, no single Press is alike. Books from the Golden Cockerel Press, for instance, are very different from those printed by the Caradoc Press. 


My favourite book would therefore have to incorporate great artistic and typographic design, coupled with an interesting story, as well as being a desirable rarity. I could therefore mention, for its typographic elegance and fantastic Gwen Raverat engravings, the Japanese Vellum printed Daphnis and Chloe (1931) from the Ashendene Press, of which only around ten exist due to the remainder of the printed sheets being destroyed due to problems with the printing, for which I wrote an article on this for The Private Library; or indeed the Book of Job, printed on vellum with hand-illuminated initials and illustrations, from the Caradoc Press, of which only seven are reported to have been completed, but this may be as much because I am also writing a book on the history of that Press at the moment. 


Best bargain you’ve found?


I have always been impressed by the generosity of printers to literally give away things they may print by hand. So many of the Presses that are still active are this generous, so in the sense of the best bargain, anything like this would be top of the list. 


If I were to name something I have found and bought, one that springs to mind would be a copy of The Praise and Happinesse of the Countrie-Life (1938) from the Gregynog Press. It is one of the specially bound copies, of which there are only twenty, and I found it on eBay. The seller had not known it was one of the specials, so it was not expensive. The reason it sticks in the mind though, is because, so I am told by the expert on these matters David Lewis, the original subscriber (private presses often had subscribers for their publications) was a Senator David Aiken Reed (born in Pittsburgh, 1880 - 1953), and his collection of special Gregynog bindings had been consigned to the Princeton Library, but at the time they were shipped, this and one other title were seemingly never received. It turned up, again unmarked as a special copy, at an auction in Philadelphia decades later, where the eBay seller had bought it in a box of books unknowingly and sold it on through the internet. Knowing it was one of the specials, I bought it. 


How about The One that Got Away?


I will always feel like I have missed out on great private press books. There are three moments that particularly stick in my mind though. The first is the time that two large collections of Ashendene Press books were being sold, one by a dealer and another through an auction abroad. At the time the dealer had them, I wasn’t really looking to buy Ashendene Press books, despite her showing them to me before she had even issued the catalogue when I could have cherry-picked any titles I wanted (they all sold almost immediately), and even when I was buying them, I missed a great auction sale and only found out about it when the auction catalogue showed up for sale on the internet days after the event. There are so many titles I would have liked to have from both the dealer and auction. The second is another auction, during which I was so preoccupied with a high-ticket item that I was bidding on (and never won), I completely overlooked some original correspondence from C. R. Ashbee of the Essex House Press where he writes about the setting up of the Press. When it is a unique item like this, you know it is very unlikely you will see it again in your lifetime. The last is a final auction offering, being an almost complete collection of Whittington Press books. There were literally hundreds of books in one Lot and it went for relatively little money. I never knew about the sale, but if I had at the time, I would have gone for it. For the most part, however, I am usually quite bold with my purchases and would rather regret buying a book, than regret having turned it down.


What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?


There are three titles that I would really consider top of my list. The first is the Song of Songs (1902) from the Ashendene Press. All forty copies are hand-illuminated by Florence Kingsford and printed on vellum. The second and third would be considered the black tulips of the private press world, being Whym Chow (1914) from the Eragny Press, printed in twenty-seven copies and the one title from the Press that never appears, and the suppressed illustrated edition of the Lovers Song Book from the Gregynog Press, printed in only nine copies with wood-engravings by Blair Hughes Stanton that were considered too risqué at the time, so was only published in 1933 without the illustrations. 


Who is your favourite bookseller / bookstore?


Private Press books are sold through shops, dealers by appointment only, auction house and online. It is therefore necessary to look everywhere. Those I go through regularly include:- shops: Collinge & Clarke, Claude Cox Rare Books, Sophie Schneideman, Blackwells Rare Books, Tindley and Everett; dealers: Barrie Marks, Michael Taylor, Colin Franklin; auction houses: Sothebys, Christies, Bonhams, Bloomsbury; internet: eBay, Abebooks; but there are numerous others that I look to, including Vincent Barlow, Julian Smith at Clarendon Books, Besleys, Peter Ellis, Peter Nicholls at Boxwood, Bayntuns, Peter Harrington, Woodbine, Wykeham, Colin Page et al. and in America there are plenty, including Veatchs, Bromers, Oak Knoll, John Windle and others. 


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


I would have to say prints and artwork, as I almost do already given the large amount of wood-engravings, linocuts, etchings, paintings and other prints I have by artists connected with the private presses, and some unconnected. 






























At the 2015 New York Antiquarian Book Fair, I was brought up short by the sight of a tatty composition book displayed under glass in Brian Cassidy’s booth. It was, he confirmed, one of Joe Gould’s notebooks. It seemed more than serendipitous to me, as I had just finished reading a galley of Man in Profile, the 2015 biography of longtime New Yorker writer, Joseph Mitchell, whose lengthy articles, “Professor Sea Gull” (1943) and “Joe Gould’s Secret” (1964) had made the Greenwich Village Bohemian scribbler famous--or infamous. Both articles attempted to get to the bottom of this question: did a manuscript of Gould’s ten-million-word “Oral History of Our Time” truly exist?

9781101947586 copy.jpgA few months after the book fair, Harvard historian Jill Lepore published in the New Yorker an excerpt of her work, “Joe Gould’s Teeth,” about her quest for the voluminous “Oral History.” It felt to me as if Thomas Kunkel’s biography of Mitchell and Lepore’s recent research on Gould had summoned that dime-store notebook out of the past, out of thin air, though probably more likely out of an attic. Many have sought Gould’s manuscript(s) over the years, and most have given up. (The Fales Library at NYU houses a set of his diaries.)

Lepore’s book on the subject, also titled Joe Gould’s Teeth, was published last month (Knopf, $24.95). It’s a fascinating read that brings readers into the archives to hunt for clues about Gould’s personal history, his literary comrades (Ezra Pound, E. E. Cummings, William Carlos Williams), his obsession with an African-American sculptor named Augusta Savage, and his death, in a mental hospital, in 1957.  

The topic may be too quirky for some, but as she did in Book of Ages, her biography of Jane Franklin, Lepore takes a forgotten character and uses her impeccable research skills to debunk myths and reveal a clearer picture of the past. Her narrative voice is chatty--pulling us aside, leaning in, and telling us her “Holy Grail” story, a form familiar to many collectors, and much beloved. 

                                                                                                                                                                     Image courtesy of Knopf.

Novelist Dan Brown, known for his runaway bestseller The Da Vinci Code (2003), has donated €300,000 ($338,000) to the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, aka The Ritman Library, in Amsterdam. The money will be used to digitize the library’s core collection of about 4,600 early printed books (pre-1900) and about 300 older manuscripts. Once they are digitized, the collections will be freely available online on the library’s website. The Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds also contributed €15,000 to the project.


The Ritman Library was founded by Dutch businessman and book collector Joost Ritman in 1984. The library specializes in hermeticism, as well as the related fields of Rosicrucianism, alchemy, gnosis, esotericism, and Kabbalah and is widely considered one of the finest collections of its type in existence.  


Brown visited the Ritman Library several times while conducting researching his novels The Lost Symbol and Inferno. Brown “considers it a great honor to play a role in this important preservation initiative that will make these texts available to the public.”  


The author announced his involvement in a YouTube video (in which he appears from behind a revolving door in his personal library):






Mosher.jpgJust a few weeks ago I was delighted to hear that collector and bookseller Philip R. Bishop renovated and relaunched a website devoted to the work of American private press pioneer Thomas Bird Mosher (1852-1923) of Portland, Maine. As Bishop writes of him, “Mosher’s contributions to the private press movement in the United States rank him high as a major exponent and promoter of the British Pre-Raphaelites, Aesthetes, and Victorians to his fellow Americans.” This comprehensive website complements Bishop’s bio-bibliography, Thomas Bird Mosher: Pirate Press of Publishers (Oak Knoll Press, 1998).  

Bishop picked up his first Mosher Press book--Richard Jefferies’ The Story of My Heart--in the mid-1980s, I learned when I interviewed him for my book, Rare Books Uncovered. He was first captivated by the content but also impressed by the aesthetics of the book itself. Thus began Bishop’s collecting journey; his Mosher Press collection is now, far and away, the best and most extensive of its kind and includes books from Mosher’s personal library, Mosher-printed books in fine bindings, inscribed and association copies of Mosher books, manuscripts, ephemera, and more.

                                                                                                                                                              Currently, three highlights from Bishop’s collection are on view in New Members Collect at the Grolier Club through July 30.

Image: Advertising Diptych for The Mosher Books. Courtesy of Mosher Books.

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