The Beatrix Potter Society has been keeping tabs on all sorts of various Potter-related events as well as preparing for a springtime gathering in California. Here’s some of the highlights from its winter newsletter:                                                                                                                                                                               

squirrel nutkin.JPGThe Bookseller reported in December that a first-edition of Potter’s long-forgotten and recently published The Tale of Kitty in Boots, with illustrations by Quentin Blake, was auctioned at the “First Editions Re-covered” sale, fetching nearly $14,000. The event raised funds for Blake’s House of Illustration, a public art gallery in London. The two-hour event raised approximately $180,000. 

In 2016, the Royal Mint struck a series of coins commemorating the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth, and plans to add new coins to the series in 2018. This year Mrs. Tittlemouse, the Tailor of Gloucester, Flopsy Bunny, and a new version of Peter Rabbit will appear on the 50-pence coins. The proclamation announcing the series appeared in the December 15 edition of the Edinburgh Gazette.

The United Kingdom’s National Trust celebrated 50 years of its Working Holiday program--an initiative aimed at encouraging participants to help care for and restore Britain’s beautiful coastlines, homes, and gardens--by planting 4,000 saplings near Moss Eccles Tarn in Cumbria’s Lake District. Stocked with water lilies and various fish, Potter once owned this charming fishing spot and donated it to the National Trust upon her death. Volunteers helped clear non-native plants to make room for the new trees--native oak, birch, and hazel.

Finally, the next meeting of the Potter Society will take place March 23-25 in San Diego, California. Among other activities--British afternoon tea on Saturday, for example--author Marta McDowell and librarian Connie Rye Neumann will share new research on the surprisingly parallel lives of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Potter.  

                                                                                                                                                                       Spring can’t get here soon enough. 

                                                                                                                                                                  Image via Wikimedia Commons

Paging the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union ... Coming up for auction on January 27 at Case Antiques in Knoxville, Tennessee, is George Washington’s signed copy (and bearing his armorial bookplate) of The Massachusetts Magazine: or Monthly Museum of Knowledge and Rational Entertainment, volume 1, published by Isaiah Thomas and Ebenezer T. Andrews of Boston in 1789.

GW SB #1.jpgWhy page the Ladies? Well, they did pay nearly $10 million for Washington’s annotated copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights in 2012. Washington-owned and signed books are coveted items. Also in 2012, Heritage Auctions sold his signed (and bookplated) copy of A View of the History of Great-Britain (1782) for just over $100,000. In 2013, seven books from the first president’s library sold at Sotheby’s for a total of $1.2 million, some signed, some only with bookplate.

Aside from the autograph and bookplate, what makes the volume now headed to auction so special is trifold, said John Case, president of Case Antiques. First, this copy has associative value, as it was later owned by Chief Justice John Marshall. “Marshall and Washington were close friends,” Case said, citing another lot in the auction, a letter from Washington to Marshall that demonstrates this relationship. Second, Marshall’s descendant, Lewis Minor Coleman, Jr., noted the book’s provenance on the front endpaper (pictured below)--and this too is a selling point because it records the fact that the book resided in both Washington’s and Marshall’s library. And third, according to Case: “A remaining desirable factor is the subject matter of the book, as it is contemporary to the time of Washington by a well known publisher and patriot, Isaiah Thomas, on subjects including the 1789 inauguration of President Washington.”

GW 2.jpgThe auction estimate for this volume is a conservative--or should we say federalist?--$28,000-32,000. Several other lots related to John Marshall will also be offered at the sale.

Images courtesy of Case Antiques

200px-Eyesofthedragon.jpgGerald Winters, a rare book dealer and major collector of Stephen King material, recently opened a rare book shop specializing in Stephen King in downtown Bangor, Maine. Every book dealer’s nightmare came true for Winters early Tuesday morning when a water main broke, flooding the basement of his shop with chest-high water. Winters had recently moved much of his stock into the basement while he re-organized his shop. Among the numerous losses were the original typed manuscripts for seven of King’s works, including Dolan’s Cadillac, Maximum Overdrive, and The Eyes of the Dragon.

In total, Winters estimates he lost about 2,000 items, including first and limited editions of King’s books, galleys, signed copies, and various ephemera. Only about 10% of his stock remained unaffected. Winters had been using his store as showcase as well for his extensive personal collection of King material and numerous items on display were from his own library. As a result, the flood also had a devastating impact on a collection that had taken him two decades to build.

In the year that Winters had been in business in Bangor as a recent transplant from Thailand, Winters had come to public attention for the creativity of the window display in his shop Gerald Winters & Son. Winters installed an interpretation of a scene from It where Pennywise the clown can be seen in a storm drain. Winters had purchased an actual storm drain from Bangor Public Works that was the exact make and model of the storm drain on Jackson Street, Bangor, which had inspired King when he was writing It.  Winters combined the storm drain in his window display with an abandoned bike, a bloody boot, and scary arms protruding from the drain.

More about the flood, including images, can be found in an article from the Bangor Daily News.

Image of the cover of The Eyes of the Dragon from Wikipedia

When Caleb Carr’s historical thriller, The Alienist, was published in 1994, it quickly became one of my favorite contemporary novels. Set on the dark, gritty streets of fin-de-siècle New York, the novel follows a group of amateur detectives, led by forensic psychiatrist (or, “alienist”) Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, as they search for a serial killer. It has, inevitably, been compared to the Sherlock Holmes books.

It seemed certain that The Alienist would be adapted to the big screen. According to the New York Times, “movie rights were sold for half a million dollars before the book was even published.” But it’s a dense book with many characters, and no producer could get it right. “It’s been 25 years of battling against really bad interpretations of this book,” Carr told the New York Times.

Alienist.jpgUntil now. On January 22, when the TNT network debuts a ten-episode series that takes the book from beginning to end, starring Daniel Brühl as Kreizler; Luke Evans as newspaper reporter John Moore; and Dakota Fanning as NYPD secretary Sara Howard (pictured above). The Times reported that it is the “most expensive series in TNT’s history,” which appears to have paid off. The Hollywood Reporter reviewed the first episodes, calling them “full of solid performances and gorgeous, creepy visuals.” Watch the official trailer here.

The good news continues. While Carr followed up with a sequel, The Angel of Darkness, in 1997, and has written several other books since, he hasn’t returned to the world of Dr. Kreizler and his crime-fighting cohorts. That changes this fall, when a new novel, The Alienist at Armageddon, is scheduled to arrive.

If you’re just getting caught up on Carr, a TNT tie-in paperback was just published by Random House that has a pretty cool cover (pictured below).

9780525510277 copy.jpgImages via IMDB and Penguin Random House

Freeman’s auction house in Philadelphia hosts a sale of Books, Maps & Manuscripts on Wednesday, January 17, in 345 lots. An ex-library copy of an 1856 elephant folio publication containing chromolithographs of Tsar Alexander II’s coronation, Description du Sacre et du couronnement de leurs majestes imperiales Alexandre II et l’Imperatrice Marie Alexandrovna, rates the joint highest estimate, at $25,000-40,000 (a copy in better condition sold at Christie’s in 2009 for £58,850).

                                                                                                                                                                  Also estimated at $25,000-40,000 is an engraved map of the Chesapeake, the second state of this chart from John and William Norman’s American Pilot. A 1789 George Washington letter to Edward Rutledge about Washington’s appointment of Edward’s brother John as a Supreme Court justice, is estimated at $20,000-30,000.

Cutbush book

An important piece of American publishing history (pictured) will be on the block at Freeman’s: a manuscript subscription book for James Cutbush’s The American Artist’s Manual (Philadelphia, 1814). The volume records some 796 names, including Thomas Jefferson, Rembrandt Peale, and Alexander Wilson. It is estimated at $3,000-5,000.

                                                                                                                                                                  Sotheby’s London hosts an auction titled Of Royal and Noble Descent on Wednesday (January 17) in 254 lots, featuring “fascinating heirlooms from aristocratic international families as well as objects related to noble and historical figures.”

                                                                                                                                                                      At Sotheby’s New York it is Americana Week, including a sale devoted to Fine Printed and Manuscripts Americana, Including Cartography on Wednesday, in 175 lots. A very nice copy of Ezekiel Russell’s Salem broadside of the Declaration of Independence, printed by order of the Council of the Commonwealth, is estimated at $1,000,000-1,500,000. Just twenty copies of this printing are known.

                                                                                                                                                                  A very rare copy (in fact, the only known ever to appear at auction) of a 1784 congressional committee report proposing a plan (by Thomas Jefferson) for the government of American territories could fetch $250,000-350,000. The sheet contains marginal notations probably by Jefferson’s fellow committee member David Howell, a delegate from Rhode Island. In the report, Jefferson proposes the abolition of slavery in the new territories as of the year 1800, a provision removed at the insistence of the South Carolina and Georgia delegations. Most of Jefferson’s names for the states-to-be (Sylvania, Michigania, Cherronesus, Assenisipia, Metropotamia, Illinoia, Saratoga, Washington, Polypotamia, and Pelisipia) included in this report also went unrealized.

                                                                                                                                                                The sale is strong in views of the American West, including a copy of Ferdinand Hayden and Thomas Moran’s The Yellowstone National Park (Boston: L. Prang and Company, 1876), a marvelous chromolithographic publication. This copy once belonged to collected Peter D. Peterson (1859-1933), and is estimated at $250,000-350,000.

                                                                                                                                                                         Among the many maps is a manuscript “Plan of the Road from Boston to Penobscott Bay” on vellum, created in 1765 by surveyor Francis Miller for Sir Francis Bernard, governor of Massachusetts and passed by descent through the Bernard family. The catalog copy describes this as one of “the earliest American road maps,” and it is estimated at $120,000-150,000.

                                                                                                                                                                            The Sotheby’s sale also includes an octavo edition of Aududon’s Birds of America ($35,000-45,000) and a 1584 New Testament interleaved and annotated by early Cambridge, MA minister Peter Bulkeley ($30,000-40,000).

                                                                                                                                                                      The rest of Sotheby’s Americana Week sales include about a dozen plates from Audubon’s Birds of America, including the Meadow Lark ($18,000-24,000) and the Purple Heron ($12,000-18,000).

                                                                                                                                                                        Rounding out the week--and perhaps your best chance for a bargain--is the Books and Ephemera sale at National Book Auctions on January 20 (298 lots). An interesting mixed bag of things to be had in this one.

                                                                                                                                                                        Image credit: Freeman’s

Change is in the air in California.

Readers of this blog may recall California’s passage of AB-1570 Collectibles: Sale of Autographed Memorabilia, which went into effect in January 2017. That law required all dealers of any autographed material worth more than five dollars to fill out a certificate of authenticity (COA) specifying date of sale, the dealer’s name and street address, and the name and address of the person from whom the autographed item was acquired if the item was not signed in the presence of a dealer. AB-1570’s goals were to prevent the distribution of forged autographs, but many booksellers felt they were swept up by a vague law with onerous requirements. Still others felt that portions of the law constituted an invasion of privacy, citing possible violations of California’s Reader Privacy Act of 2011.

Co-sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 13, 2017, AB 228 amends the previous legislation to better address the needs of booksellers in California.

The new law excludes all books, manuscripts, correspondence, and any ephemera unrelated to sports or entertainment media from the “autographed collectibles” regulation set forth in AB-1570. Rather than provide a Certificate of Authenticity--a lengthy document requiring sellers to disclose where autographed items were purchased that many booksellers found onerous--dealers of autographed collectibles may provide an “Express Warranty” incorporated in an invoice instead. Additionally, civil penalties for failing to comply with the law have been lowered as well.

“We are thrilled,” said Susan Benne, ABAA’s executive director. “The amended law removes the unintended consequences of the previous law, while providing the protections to the consumers it was intended to. We thank the lawmakers, booksellers, organizations, and professionals who supported the effort and made this happen.” Joining the ABAA lobbying group were many ABAA members liks Brad and Jen Johnson and Laurelle Swann, as well as organizations like the Grolier Club, the Manuscript Society, and the Professional Autograph Dealers Association.

The 200 dealers descending on Pasadena for the California International Antiquarian Book Fair next month will no doubt be pleased with the changes. 

This may be the year of Emily Brontë--her bicentenary, that is, with a major exhibition opening at the Brontë Parsonage Museum on February 1--but Forum Auctions has me dreaming about her brother Branwell. At its forthcoming January 25 sale, Forum is offering Branwell’s own copy of The Odyssey (Pope’s translation, c. 1840). The title page bears an ink inscription: “To P.B.B. from his dear friend J.B.L.” P.B.B. being Patrick Branwell Brontë and J.B.L. thought to be his friend, Joseph Bentley Leyland.

Branwell.jpgBranwell has long been considered “the failure of the family,” although last year (his bicentenary) there was a push to “tone down the Branwell bashing.” He had his flaws and addictions, but, like his sisters, he also had a brilliant mind and a particular talent for art. He is responsible for the only surviving group portrait of his three more famous sisters.       

Branwell 2.jpgIn addition to the inscription noted above, the association copy on offer at Forum also contains an original pen and black ink portrait study on the front pastedown, and a further small portrait sketch on the rear pastedown that bears some similarity to Branwell’s portrait of his friend James Fletcher.

The auction estimate of £600-800 ($792-1,056) seems quite affordable for the legion of Brontë buffs out there.

Images courtesy of Forum Auctions

For the past two years, we have checked in with consumate reader Linda Aragoni of the Great Penformances blog for her appraisal of the bestseller list from a century ago. (See 2015 and 2016 respectively). This year we continue the tradition, finding out about the books that topped the list in 1917.  Here are the 1917 bestsellers according to Publishers Weekly:

  1. Mr. Britling Sees It Through by H. G. Wells
  2. The Light in the Clearing by Irving Bacheller
  3. The Red Planet by William J. Locke
  4. The Road to Understanding by Eleanor H. Porter
  5. Wildfire by Zane Grey
  6. Christine by Alice Cholmondeley
  7. In the Wilderness by Robert S. Hichens
  8. His Family by Ernest Poole
  9. The Definite Object by Jeffrey Farnol
  10. The Hundredth Chance by Ethel M. Dell

What was your favorite book of 1917?

I don’t think I have a favorite, but I do have one that I stretched my understanding of people more than the others: In the Wilderness by Robert Hichens. It’s what I’d call a spiritual autobiography although it’s not about “church religion.”

The main character, Dion Leith, was passionately in love with a woman who, though trained as a singer, believed her vocation lay in a religious order. She accepts Dion under the influence of a powerful sermon on the virtues of marriage. Both Dion and Rosamund think their spouse’s role is to make them happy, which is not a recipe for a happy marriage. When their son is accidentally shot while hunting with Dion -- an outing Rosamund herself had engineered -- Rosamund literally locks Dion out. He goes as far from Rosamund’s Gothic cathedral religion as he can get.

Hichens doesn’t try to force a happy ending, as a lesser writer might. He settles for a hopeful ending, which is all that’s reasonable given the personalities of the marital partners. 

Do you think modern audience would enjoy in particular any of the 1917 bestsellers?
The Red Planet by William J. Locke is probably the most accessible of my picks of the 1917 bestsellers. Although presented as a memoir, it’s really a cozy British mystery. 

The sleuth is a paraplegic who lost his legs in a shell blast in the Boer War, which makes him seem like an old duffer to the local young people, who call him “Uncle.” 

Like Miss Marple, Duncan Meredyth listens to village gossip, observes who is with whom, and puts two and two together.  But unlike Miss Marple, Duncan can be morose and dogmatic depending on how much his injuries are bothering him that day. 

HisFamily.JPGWould you add any of the 1917 bestsellers to your permanent library?

I think I might add Ernest Poole’s novel, His Family, which won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1918.  It’s not as weighty as In the Wilderness nor as light as The Red Planet

Even though it’s set in New York City, His Family reminds me of Trollope’s Barsetshire novels in the way the events of the novel are isolated from world-changing events outside a very small subset of society. His Family’s characters are so ordinary, readers can’t help feeling they are real people.

What was your least favorite novel from 1917?

Probably my least favorite was The Hundredth Chance by Ethel M. Dell. It wasn’t awful, but it was so awfully like every other novel about a marriage of convenience.

Any other comments about the 1917 bestsellers?

Although armies were dug into trenches along miles of Western Europe, the war didn’t feature prominently in any of the 1917 bestsellers with one notable exception: the novel Christine by Alice Cholmondeley (pen name of Elizabeth von Arnim).  

Although the author’s introduction and a publisher’s note try to pass the work off as letters from Cholmondeley’s daughter, the letters are a total fabrication, anti-German propaganda. The work is a lousy novel, but a very instructive study in persuasion. 

Any book you are looking forward to reading in the 1918 list?

I’ve actually already read and reviewed all the 1918 bestsellers at GreatPenformances already (I’m now reviewing bestselling novels of 1970 through 1999). 

Instead of saying what I’m looking forward to, I’ll just say that the 1918 bestseller list houses several novels about The Great War that ended that year. Readers of the Fine Books & Collections blog may be interested in looking at novels about that world-changing conflict.

[Image of the first edition of His Family from Wikipedia]

Avast ye! The North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) announced a major find last week: fragments of paper from the wreckage of Queen Anne’s Revenge, the flagship of the notorious pirate Blackbeard.

5 QAR1445.019 pg186 Composite_wm.jpgDuring conservation work on the ship’s artifacts, sixteen tiny scraps of paper were discovered “in a mass of wet sludge removed from the chamber for a breech-loading cannon.” Working with specialists from the department’s Division of Archives and Records and the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, the DNCR lab conservators carefully removed the fragments and noticed that some contained still legible printed text. According to a press release, “The challenge then became not just to conserve the paper fragments, but also to identify where they were from.”

Incredibly, after several months of research, they now have an answer. The fragments derive from a 1712 first edition of Captain Edward Cooke’s A Voyage to the South Sea, and Round the World, Perform’d in the Years 1708, 1709, 1710 and 1711. Well, shiver me timbers!

6 QAR1445.021 Pg178 Composite_wm.jpg“This unique find from the wreckage of Queen Anne’s Revenge provides archaeological evidence for books carried on ships in the early 18th century, and adds to our knowledge of the history of Blackbeard’s flagship and those who sailed her. The historical record has several references to books aboard vessels in Blackbeard’s fleet, but provides no specific titles; this find is the first archaeological evidence for their presence on QAR.”

Images courtesy of the North Carolina DNCR

A fairly quiet auction week coming up, but here are some of the things I’ll be keeping an eye on:

                                                                                                                                                                                        PBA Galleries holds a sale of Fine Literature & Fine Books, Poetry from the Collection of Larry Rafferty, and Miniature Books on Thursday January 11, in a whopping 721 lots. 

                                                                                                                                                                                         Among the top-estimated lots are a first-edition set of Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire ($12,000-18,000); a 1687 edition of Don Quixote ($8,000-12,000), six lots (152-157) containing plays from the 1632 Second Folio edition of Shakespeare, a first edition of Thoreau’s Walden ($5,000-8,000), and the Kelmscott Press edition of William Morris’s The Wood Beyond the World ($4,000-6,000).

                                                                                                                                                                                                Larry Rafferty is the founder of Berkeley’s hit & run press, and his collection of poetry includes many signed or inscribed copies of works by important nineteenth- and twentieth-century poets, from John Ashbery to Oscar Wilde. A first edition of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land ($5,000-8,000) and a signed copy of Elizabeth Bishop’s North & South (also estimated at $5,000-8,000) top the presale estimates, but there is much here for the poetry collector. Lots that caught my eye included the publisher’s long galleys for Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Starting from San Francisco” ($400-600), and one lot containing four books, five letters, and an eighteen-page autograph manuscript by Uruguayan poet Jules Superveille (also $400-600).

                                                                                                                                                                                        A whole bunch to choose from for the miniature book collector (Lots 561-675): group lots of books from the Black Cat Press, Dawson’s Book Shop, the Hillside Press, the Kitemaug Press, the Press of Ward Schori, and from Achille St. Onge, among others, plus a lot of seven nineteenth-century American thumb Bibles* ($200-300).


                                                                                                                                                                                                     Lots 637 to 721 are being sold without reserve with bids starting at $10: these include a number of interesting miniature books and reference works relating to miniature books, group lots of Book Club of California publications, and several lots of books published by Arkham House.

                                                                                                                                                                                                 On Friday, January 12, the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society holds its first of six auctions this year of donated rare and out-of-print books, in 433 lots. The catalogue is available as a PDF file. Much local history and genealogy on offer, as well as a hefty number of hymnals and religious texts, but also such potential items of interest as the first twenty-one volumes of the Yale University Press edition of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin (Lot 25). Anyone with an interest in Pennsylvania history, Mennonite religious texts and hymnals, &c. may want to have a look through the catalogue for this sale; judging by past prices realized, it may be possible to snag a bargain or two.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    *More on “thumb bibles.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                Image credit: PBA Galleries.

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