Tom B&W.jpgOur Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Tom Lintern-Mole, proprietor of Antiquates Fine and Rare Books in Dorset, England:

How did you get started in rare books?

I started as a Saturday boy in my local second-hand bookshop in Dorset, on the south coast of England. After visiting it for three or four consecutive weeks the benevolent owner said that as I was spending about as much time there as he did, perhaps I’d like a job? I jumped at the chance; I’d always been bookish and the idea of receiving payment to be surrounded by them was a thrill. Of course the reality was that it was often hard physical work tempered with highlights: recommending books to language students, visiting the houses of people disposing of books, the ‘treasure hunting’ aspect of processing carfuls of new acquisitions and of course taking the best new acquisitions to a monthly London book fair - one that I still regularly attend to this day. That was in the early Noughties, which was I think a great time to get into the trade. There was still a shop or three selling books in nearly every town in Britain and the internet was just emerging as a great way to sell unusual books. I graduated to listing some of the stock for sale online, picking up the intricacies of book packaging, and dealing with the often unusual requests of customers in distant parts of the world along the way. Our books weren’t always rare - but many of them sold. Handling first editions of my favourite novels gave me the collecting habit - modern first editions by Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh and Siegfried Sassoon were my catnip. Working in the trade allowed me to build it up quite quickly.

When did you open Antiquates and what do you specialize in? 

My heady days as a part-time bookshop worker continued during the long vacations of my time at Oxford - until the shop bowed to the fate of many and closed after my first year. By this time my own collection had grown, and through haunting online auctions and city bookshops I was starting to acquire more expensive tastes - in fine leather bound volumes and original condition copies of important books (as an historian, an early Das Kapital in publisher’s bindings stands out in my memory) - and so the idea of setting up my own business during the summer of 2007, after my second year at university, seemed relatively sensible. With much practical assistance from my father, an accountant, and my mother, who packs our books and manages the shipping department better than I ever could, Antiquates was born in a spare bedroom. I still loved studying History, and after flirting with jobs in finance and law very nearly went on to apply for a Masters - but bookselling seemed just the right combination of exciting labour, detailed research and, to be perfectly honest, informed gambling. After coming down from Oxford in the summer of 2008 I was a full-time bookseller with my own business at 21. Looking back, especially at the wider economic situation around the world, I was lucky. Beneficial exchange rates and the availability of older books in Britain meant I sold and sold countless first edition copies of Dickens to destinations all over the world. Some of my early buys at auction were unwittingly good; I bought anything that I could see an angle on and learned along the way that the unusual - Hobbes translations of Homer and seventeenth-century English manuals for Nuns, as two examples - tended to sell more readily than the books that can always be found. This led to Antiquates specialising in early printed books, especially in English, and to establish a customer base in this field. This speciality remains a key focus of ours today - but we’ve added a few others, too: we now actively seek and market pre 1850 books by, for and about women and children, books with interesting provenances, library-history, and literary/social history in manuscript.

What do you love about the book trade?

The ability to buy, sell, and perhaps most importantly own - even for a short period - tremendously significant pieces of history and creative endeavour. The book as more than text continues to grow as a collecting trend, encouraging us dealers to look at the book as object, the book as art, and the book as historical record itself. If I’d have gone into the city then I wouldn’t have been in a position to discover, purchase and research books actually taken on first voyages, manuscript collections of little-known, yet sometimes rather good, amateur poets, or sammelbande of Restoration play books. I’d also have missed out on the tremendously collegiate nature of our trade. Despite the fierce competition to buy at opening nights of book-fairs, friendships endure the element of competition; I’m currently drafting a list of friends in the trade to invite to an Antiquates 10th anniversary party and becoming a little concerned about how large a venue might be necessary! In the UK we have even two booksellers associations - albeit with quite a bit of crossover - that allows us the indulgence of an annual cricket match.

Describe a typical day for you:

I’ll be busy cataloguing and researching new acquisitions or preparing invoices if I’m in our newly opened shop, or viewing upcoming auction sales if I’m on the road. As much as I enjoy working in the shop, I’m very lucky to have a tremendous cataloguing, admin, accounting and dispatch team that has allowed me to view more sales than many individual booksellers manage. I try to spend a couple of days each week actively sourcing books, but the good ship Antiquates will still be listing books on our website and sending catalogues to our mailing list in my absence. Of course this level of organisation is abandoned totally when we’re preparing for a fair - all hands get involved in preparing displays, choosing stock, hefting books and finalising the details of our travel and accommodation needs!

Favorite rare book (or ephemera) that you’ve handled?

This has to be the manuscript travel journals and autobiography of a mid-nineteenth century journeyman bookbinder, socialist, and keen European traveller. It took me about a week in total to read and digest before even starting the technical cataloguing work. As the journals of an apprenticed craftsman and committed working-class trade-unionist, these were so much more interesting than the oft-found journals of young toffs carousing around tourist hotspots. ‘My’ bookbinder visited foreign colleagues, discussed working practices, sought tips on toolmakers and noted the best way to avoid the attentions of avaricious stewards and customs officers alike. He also carefully bound the journals in handsome red morocco, with countless examples of ephemera - tickets, passports, paperwork, trade cards and timetables. Needless to say they sold almost immediately - the best books have a habit of doing that.

What do you personally collect?

I managed to keep most of my modern literature collection, small and humble as it is, when starting the business - and that remains as a ‘time capsule’ collection neither added to nor detracted from. I also collect books and paper relating to my old college, Brasenose - the more ephemeral the better! Finally, in recent years I’ve started collecting nineteenth-century editions of James and John Stuart Mill owned by contemporaries - especially politicians. Those owned by radicals tend to be heavily thumbed and even annotated, but those immaculate, un-opened copies with a proud bookplate of an establishment figure please me just as much. It just seems so fitting that those in the latter group felt the need to own the works of a groundbreaking political philosophers, but didn’t deign to even cut the pages!

What do you like to do outside of work?

As you might have guessed from my previous answers, I’m keen on politics and cricket. If it wasn’t also my job, then attending every book fair I could get to would be a firm hobby of mine!

Thoughts on the present state and/or future of the rare book trade?

The trade itself is now, I think, more dynamic than I can remember. Great educational seminars like YABs mean a lot of us youngsters can benefit from the experience of our elders. The ABA is also very encouraging to us: in the past few years a real effort has been made to introduction internship programme, regular young booksellers get-togethers and networking events that is already showing tremendous results.

I’m very upbeat about the future of the trade. In part I have to be as I intend to be in the business for a lifetime, but I think the reality is that the increasing availability of texts - especially online - doesn’t really detract from the rare book trade. On the contrary, in fact, the internet and developing acquisitions policies means that more copy-specific information can be recorded, and thus what might appear to be a ‘duplicate’ may turn out to be a variant. This teaches us all more about the books we handle, and the history that they reveal. Just this morning, for example, I ‘discovered’ an additional section in our copy of a rare English seventeenth-century surveying book that I can quickly see is not commonly known recorded. That took a few minutes to work out; surveying institutional holdings like that would have taken days or weeks of effort only a couple of decades ago. 

From another perspective, I almost wonder whether the reduction in the number of general shops allows greater attention to be paid to those opportunities that remain. Sure, it might be easier to find a paperback copy of an obscure cookery book on one of the large online listing sites now, but because not everyone under the age of 25 is familiar with the notion of ‘browsing’, book-fairs are an often exciting novelty. I manage the annual Oxford Book Fair for the PBFA and have been thrilled to see a broadening demographic attending in the last couple of years.

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

We’ve always got a few catalogues in the making. I try to ensure we issue two printed catalogues a year in addition to 8 or 10 pdf e-lists. Right now we’re focusing on a catalogue of books by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century authors, which should be issued in the next month or so.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I am very positive (indeed some might say a bit gushing) about book-fairs - so we do quite a few domestically each year, including the largest at Olympia and York. I’m just in the middle of cataloguing a few choice items for the Chelsea Book Fair - if you’re coming, please drop by and see us at stand 16!

Image Courtesy of Tom Lintern-Mole.

Bodleianalia.jpgIn the new book, Bodleianalia --one of the five titles we listed in our holiday gift guide this year--authors Claire Cock-Starkey and Violet Moller offer a volume chock-full of interesting tidbits about Britain’s oldest university library. Here are 5 facts to give you a flavor of the fun that awaits.

1. The chains were removed from the library’s books in 1757. “Nathaniel Bull, a blacksmith, unchained 1,448 volumes between 1760 and 1761 and for this was paid £3 0s 4d.”

2. Library users must take an ‘oath of fidelity,’ promising “not to remove from the Library, or to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document, or other object belonging to it...”

3. The Library bought its copy of the Gutenberg Bible in 1793 for £100 (1/5 of the library’s book budget that year).

4. It was the 13th librarian, E.W.B. Nicholson who introduced the “Phi” collection for obscene and libelous works, and getting access to it wasn’t easy: “By 1912 the system had been formalized to the extent that undergraduates had to secure written permission from a tutor in order to consult anything in the Phi collection and no boys (the young men employed to retrieve books) were allowed to fetch anything in the collection.”

5. The Bodleian has an exceptional collection of ... pins. Yes, mainly pins retrieved from manuscripts and books from the days before staples and paper clips. Its most distinguished pin, acquired in 2011, belonged to Jane Austen, who used it within her manuscript of “The Watsons.”

                                                                                                                                                                               Image Courtesy of University of Chicago Press.

Two of the most significant private collections of Chinese material are coming together to be sold at Sotheby’s in what is sure to be a landmark auction. “China in Print and Paper” includes the collections of Bernard Hanotiau in Belgium and Floyd Sully in Canada. The sale will be held at 1:00 p.m. on November 7 in London, preceded by public exhibition from November 3-6 as part of the annual Asian Art event at Sotheby’s.

Combined, the two collections demonstrate a rich history of cartography, exploration, trade and diplomacy between China and the West for over 500 years. The books, maps, photographs and works on paper reveal different perspectives on China, both from inhabitants of China and travelers passing through.

Lot 15 Martini Blaeu Atlas.jpg

Bernard Hanotiau’s library focuses on Western travelers in China and includes the the first edition of Marco Polo’s travels in French from 1556 (lot 146), the first European Atlas of China from 1655 (lot 15, pictured above), photographs by one of the first people to publish his photographs of the people and landscapes of China, John Thomson (lot 170), and photographs of Beijing taken in the 1870s by Thomas Child (lot 122, selection pictured below).

Lot 122, Thomas Child (i).jpg

Lot 212, Qianren Huang, The Blu Map.jpg

Floyd Sully’s collection focuses on depictions of China in maps and drawings. Much of his collection (lot 212 pictured above, lot 226 pictured below), includes rare maps, photographs, illustrated texts, drawings, and watercolors that were created in China. 

Lot 222, Shanxi Province.jpg

Images Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Some of you may recall the emotional story reported a few years back about how Rufus McDonald, a Chicago construction worker, saved a trunkful of historical documents from the attic of a house that was about to be razed. The documents, long thought lost, belonged to Richard T. Greener, Harvard’s first African-American graduate, and incidentally, the father of the Morgan Library’s first librarian, Belle da Costa Greene.

                                                                                                                                                                     After selling two of the documents to the University of South Carolina, where Greener was the first African-American faculty member, for a hefty $52,000, McDonald tried to sell Greener’s Harvard diploma to Harvard, which resulted in a major misunderstanding and lots of headlines. The diploma finally went to public auction at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in August of 2014, where it sold for $12,500 to an unidentified buyer who then sold or gifted it to Harvard.


10324158_view 04_04.jpgAfter that sale, I interviewed McDonald for a chapter in my book, Rare Books Uncovered. “I was very disappointed,” he told me. He also said he intended to keep the remaining documents that he had discovered, but it appears he has changed his mind because a lot containing five Greener documents and one book is slated for auction later this week at Leslie Hindman. They include: a certificate honoring Greener as a member of the Society of the Sons of New York; a Russian document (Greener had been a US Commerical Agent with the Foreign Service); a certificate of membership in the American Missionary Association; a document acknowledging his donation to the Grant National Monument Association; an honorary membership certificate from the Pioneer Sunday School Association; and a copy of Autographs of Freedom (1853), a gift book that contains Frederick Douglass’ novella, The Heroic Slave. All told, the auctioneer hopes it will bring in $6,000-8,000.


Screen Shot 2016-10-31 at 1.00.20 PM.pngImages via Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

We round out this week’s review of choice items available at the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair and the Boston Book Show with a peek at a very special edition of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with illustrations by Barry Moser. At the ABAA fair, Boomerang Booksellers of Northampton, Massachusetts, is presenting a first edition, first printing of the Pennyroyal Press edition of the book, which includes sixty-two wood engravings of, among others, political figures from the Reagan administration. Published in 1985, various political personalities from that era pepper the book, most notably with First Lady Nancy Reagan as the Wicked Witch of the West and her husband providing inspiration for the Wizard. Moser’s own daughters modeled for Glinda the Good Witch. (One wonders which political figures would appear if the book were illustrated in the midst of our current election cycle.)


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                                                                                                                                                                  Oz fans may recall the 2006 exhibition celebrating what would have been the 150th birthday of L. Frank Baum at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. The installation explored the various representations of one of literature’s most beloved stories and its inhabitants, as well as the multitude of artistic shapes the book has taken since its initial publication in 1900. Moser’s illustrations for this book were a central part of that discussion.

                                                                                                                                                              A first edition, first printing of the Pennyroyal Press publication of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, with illustrations by Barry Moser, will be available at Booth 303 for the bewitching price of $57.50.

                                                                                                                                                              Images Courtesy of the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair.

Our preview week for this weekend’s Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair continues today with several Japanese items from Boston Book Company:


1) Shinpan Ehon Don Kihoute, illustrated and signed artist Keisuke Serizawa. This large color stencil printed “ehon” of Don Quixote was published in 1976 and is today considered a masterpiece of Japanese livre d’artiste book production. Thirty-one full-page illustrations. 1 of only 185 copies. $4500.

2) A turned wooden pagoda shaped container with a printed Dharani Buddhist charm inside.  The charm, part of the Hyakumantô [One Million Pagodas] devotional project, is considered one of the first examples of printing that can be accurately dated. Japanese Empress Shôtoku called for the Hyakumantô to commence in 764 AD, with the entire project completed six years later. $22,500.


3) Kamisaka Sekka’s Momoyogusa, printed in 1909-10, with 60 double-page color-printed woodblocks printed and overprinted using opaque and metallic inks to create a particular surface. The work is considered one of the finest Japanese design books of all time and this copy is an early impression with wood grain showing in many of the prints.  $38,500.

Images Courtesy of the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair.

If you’ve been following along on the blog this week, we’ve been previewing items on offer in Boston this weekend. Today we focus on the Boston Book, Print & Ephemera Show, which will take place on Saturday from 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. at the Back Bay Events Center (within walking distance of the ABAA fair at Hynes Auditorium). Presenting a diverse cache of antiquarian books and ephemera, a “satellite show” can be a picker’s paradise. Here are three interesting finds proffered this year:  

8590-2 Three Cross Country Auto Trips.jpgA photograph album documenting three cross-county automobile trips through the United States and Canada, 1930-[1933]. Comprising more than 275 mounted photographs, this album highlights a vast expanse, from big cities to national parks and all the tourist sites in between, plus early cars, roads, and campsites. Offered by Read ‘Em Again Books of Montclair, Virginia, for $2,000.

1.JPGThe C programming language booklet, 1975. The C programming language was first published internally at Bell Labs. “It is the most significant programming language today, that directly or indirectly contributes to most all computer software products that we use today, such as your iPhone, your Windows operational system, the list goes on and on,” said bookseller Hai Nguyen. Offered by Cultural Heritage Books of Waltham, Massachusetts, for $9,000.

Melville 1.JPGHere we have Herman Melville’s first two books, Typee and Omoo, in the rare first British editions, beautifully bound by Sangorski & Sutcliffe in matching early leather bindings and slipcases. “A very attractive set.” Offered by Different Drummer Books of Niantic, Connecticut, for $3,750.      

Images Courtesy of the Boston Book, Print & Ephemera Show.

Today’s highlight is a souvenir program and scorecard from the 1915 World Series played between the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies. This copy was printed for the Boston games, played at Braves Field (home today of Nickerson Field on the campus of Boston College). The scorecard preserves the completed score for Game 3, won with a final score of 2-1 by the Red Sox. The Sox would go on to win the series in five games. Several future Hall of Famers played in the series, including Babe Ruth in his first World Series appearance, as well as Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper, and Grover Cleveland Alexander.

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Brattle Book Shop, of Boston, will be offering the program and scorecard for $5,000 at the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair.

Images Courtesy of the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair.

All this week on the blog we’ll be highlighting items on offer at the upcoming Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, which runs Friday-Sunday, or at the Boston Book, Print & Ephemera Fair, a Saturday-only show.                                                                                                                                                 Today, Harry Potter is in the spotlight. At the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, California bookseller John Windle will offer this original watercolor illustration of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry by artist Cliff Wright, made for the British edition of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998). The price is $50,000.
40BIABF_Hogwarts illustration from British Edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets_.jpgWhile in Boston this week, don’t forget to check out Beyond Words, a major, multi-venue exhibition celebrating manuscript culture.

                                                                                                                                                              Image Courtesy of the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair.

On Wednesday, September 28 the Austin Book Arts Center (ABAC) celebrated its first year of operation with printing demonstrations, music, champagne, cupcakes, and a silent auction which raised roughly $4,000 which will enable workshops and outreach programs to inspire a new generation of book artisans.

Founded in 2015, the ABAC picked up the mantle of the Austin Book Workers group, an organization created in 1986 that met itinerantly at school auditoriums, libraries and even private homes to make books. The Austin Book Workers merged with the ABAC in 2013, and spent the next two years raising funds and securing a permanent home for the city’s book arts program. Steering the ABAC are Amanda Stevenson, formerly of New York City’s Center for Book Arts, and Mary Baughman, a book conservator at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Now located at 2832 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the ABAC has been able to install larger pieces of equipment like letterpresses and other bookmaking materials to further the group’s vision of “advancing the book as a vital contemporary art form, [to] preserve the traditional and robust crafts related to making books, and [to] engage the community in creative, interpretative, and educational experiences, including the improvement of literacy for people of all ages.”

Workshops include creating letterpress business cards, an introduction to do-it-yourself publishing, mixing methyl cellulose to create colorful endpapers, and even hosts a happy hour bookbinding class to help k-12 teachers set up their own bookbinding classroom projects. Costs range from $45 to $270 per workshop, and ABAC members enjoy a 10% discount off tuition. (Annual memberships start at $40 for students, $50 per individual, and include access to the studio during open hours.) Class sizes are kept small to ensure individual attention and instruction.

Happy Birthday, ABAC; you’ve joined a small but robust group of nonprofits throughout the country dedicated to providing hands-on programs that foster creativity and encourage self-expression through the creation of books. Here’s to many more years illuminating the way. 


Image Courtesy of ABAC.

Auction Guide