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

Another round of major sales this week:

  

At Sotheby’s London on Monday and Tuesday, July 9-10, English Literature, History, Science, Children’s Books and Illustrations, in 322 lots. Highlights include an autograph leaf from Darwin’s Origin (£120,000-180,000) and a number of other Darwin manuscripts, several E. H. Shepard ink drawings, including the original map of the Hundred Acre Wood (£100,000-150,000), a copy of the 1916 proclamation of independence of the Irish Republic (£60,000-80,000), and Charles I’s copy of the Faerie Queen (£30,000-50,000).

  

Also on Tuesday at Sotheby’s London, Part VIII of The Library of an English Bibliophile, in 247 lots. Lewis Carroll’s annotated copy of the suppressed “sixtieth thousand” printing of Through the Looking Glass is estimated at £30,000-50,000. Two presentation copies of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, one to Darryl Zanuck (producer of the film adaptation) and one to Steinbeck’s sister, are each estimated at £20,000-30,000. A number of other important association and presentation copies are on offer in this sale.

  

Tuesday will also see the sale of Western and Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures at Dreweatts in London. One reader already pointed our attention to the interesting lot 62 depicting a doctor and two amputees, illuminated manuscript on parchment, c. 1410. The estimate is £5,000-7,000.

  

On Tuesday and Wednesday at Forum Auctions, The Rothamsted Collection: Rarities from the Lawes Agricultural Library. The first 259 lots, to be sold on Tuesday, include a copy of the first printed book on agriculture, Petrus de Crescentiis’ Ruralia commoda (1471), estimated at £60,000-80,000. Leonard Digges’ A Prognostication everlastinge of righte good effecte (1576), containing the first translation into English of Copernicus’ work, could sell for £15,000-20,000. Lots to be sold on Wednesday include a great deal of material in the three-to-four-figure range, so if you’ve any interest in agricultural books, this catalogue will be worth a browse.

  

Polyglot copy.jpg 

Christie’s London sells Valuable Books and Manuscripts on Wednesday, July 11, in 393 lots. A copy of the Plantin Polyglot Bible, one of thirteen printed on vellum for King Philip II of Spain, rates the top estimate, at £400,000-600,000 (pictured). Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s Les Liliacées (1802-1816), the first of his major botanical works, could sell for £350,000-500,000. A mid-15th-century Middle English manuscript of John Lydgate’s The Fall of Princes once owned by Mary Sidney is estimated at £250,000-350,000. I could go on at great length about any number of the lots in this sale, but on we go ...

  

Returning to Forum Auctions for Thursday, July 12, they offer Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper, in 225 lots. A few of the expected highlights include a presentation copy of Charles Babbage’s The Influence of Signs in Mathematical Reasoning (1826), inscribed by Babbage to Thomas Stevenson Davies, secretary of the Royal Astronomical Society (£10,000-15,000); a blue-paper copy of the first Italian translation of Euclid’s Elements (Urbino, 1575), also estimated at £10,000-15,000; and a 1636 copy of Gerard’s Herball, with contemporary hand-coloring (£6,000-8,000).

  

Also on Thursday, PBA Galleries sells Fine Americana - Travel & Exploration - World History - Cartography, in 703 lots. A 1779 edition of Great-Britain’s Coasting Pilot is estimated at $5,000-8,000, as is a copy of a 1792 two-volume work featuring the first French edition of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. A long letter describing the 1871 Chicago Fire could sell for $4,000-6,000. Lots 610-703 are being sold without reserve.

  

Finally, there will be two sales at Chiswick Auctions on Thursday: Autographs & Memorabilia, in 235 lots, and The Library of Giancarlo Beltrame Part III and other Fine Antiquarian Books, in 362 lots. The first sale includes a Horatio Nelson letter to William Hamilton, the English ambassador to Naples (£4,000-6,000), and a Joseph Banks letter concerning the importation of botanical specimens (£2,000-3,000). Highlights from the second sale are expected to include a copy of the 1859 first edition of Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of the Rubáiyát (£15,000-20,000), a set of David Copperfield in the original parts (£5,000-8,000), and the Roderick Terry copy of Thomas Gray’s Elegy Wrote in a Country Church Yard, bound by Riviere (£5,000-8,000).

  

Image credit: Christie’s

Buyers_2_-_1.jpgA major used book sale is happening this weekend in Newtown, CT, at the 43rd annual C.H Booth Book Sale taking place at the Reed Intermediate School on 3 Trades Lane from July 7-11.


Organized and hosted by the Friends of the C.H. Booth Library, all proceeds from the sale go towards enhancing the library’s current collections, support library services, and fund various adult and children’s literacy programs.


Collectors of Beat Generation writers would do well to to set their alarms for opening day: This year’s sale includes a selection of first editions by authors like William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac, many of which hail from the estate of a local book collector. A very good copy of Kerouac’s 1965 semi-autobiographical Desolation Angels can be had for $75, while a good signed first edition, first printing of Burroughs’ The Ticket that Exploded is available for $500.


Francophiles might be tempted by a 13-volume set of J.J. Rousseau’s Works, translated in English and published in 1767. The entire lot is priced at $1,000.


The sale also includes an assortment of 19th-century calendar books, signed children’s books by the likes of Tasha Tudor and Steven Kellogg, puzzles, and other board games. Students might even find a couple of textbooks for the fall.


In short, the C.H. Booth Friends Sale has something for nearly everyone and at prices that can’t be beat.

  

Numbered admission tickets become available on July 7 at 7am. There is a $5 admission fee on Saturday only. Get there early--we hear the line forms quickly. 


Further questions, including driving directions and parking, can be answered at the Friends FAQ page. Happy Hunting! 

  

Image via C.H. Booth Book Sale

Enid Marx working on flower and shell designs c1946.jpg

Enid Marx working on flower and shell designs c. 1946. Courtesy of the House of Illustration.

  

I first came across Enid Marx’s work because of a fondness for the King Penguin titles, a series of pocket-sized books that was published by Penguin between 1939 and 1959 on a variety of subjects. Many of the titles have decorated jackets and endpapers, and one of the first that caught my eye was Marx’s cover for Some British Moths. Her designs for the King Penguins are on display amongst the designs for prints, books, London Transport posters, and fabrics in a career-spanning exhibition of her work, Enid Marx: Print, Pattern and Popular Art, at London’s House of Illustration

  

Cover for Some British Moths, King Penguin © Estate of Enid Marx.jpg

Cover for Some British Moths, King Penguin © Estate of Enid Marx  

  

It turns out that Some British Moths was the first of five covers Marx designed for the series, after complaining to the series editor about the quality of the covers that preceded hers. Since moving to London, it’s more obvious to me what an impact Marx and her group of friends from The Royal College of Art (where she was not allowed to graduate for being too “modern”) including Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden, and Barbara Hepworth had on British design. Her birds and flowers and striking geometric designs are still commonly referenced on pillows and home designs in big box stores, and her printed paper can be bought by the sheet for gift wrap. I can recognize a print inspired by Enid Marx now from a mile away.

  

Marx used traditional hand-carved woodblock techniques to print on paper and fabric, and volunteered to design textiles for the wartime Utility Furniture Scheme, creating joyful, affordable printed fabric for the home to those returning from war. And she was first ever female engraver to be awarded the title of Royal Designer for Industry.

  

Pattern - 'Municipal' patter paper for the Little Gallery, from wood engraving, c1930 © Estate of Enid Marx.jpg

‘Municipal’ pattern paper for the Little Gallery, from wood engraving, c. 1930 © Estate of Enid Marx.

  

But she still remains a rather obscure name, overshadowed in her afterlife by her contemporaries. The House of Illustrations retrospective presents a strong argument for her place in history, highlighting her impressive and meticulous contributions to design and presenting her design aesthetic as responsible for setting the tone for mid-20th-century design. 

  

Enid Marx: Print, Pattern and Popular Art is on view at The House of Illustration until September 23.

Rare books and jewelry are a perfect pair, and a new, collaborative exhibition launched by UK rare book dealer Peter Harrington and jewelry designer Theo Fennell puts them together splendidly. The exhibition features rare first editions from Harrington’s stock, such as Goldfinger, The Secret Garden, The Arabian Nights, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and The Complete Pooh Series, alongside stunning, handcrafted rings and brooches. Here are a few examples:

Oz.pngA first edition of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by Frank L. Baum (£775) shown with the Emerald City Ring by Theo Fennell.

Fleming skulls.pngThis first edition of Goldfinger by Ian Fleming (1959) is the seventh book in the James Bond series (£2,000) and is shown with four 18ct yellow gold skull rings by Theo Fennell.
 
Milne.pngFirst editions of The Complete Pooh Series by A.A. Milne of all four Pooh books (1924-8) are shown with some pieces from the Bee Collection by Theo Fennell. Only 5,175 copies of the first book When We Were Very Young were published so the Series is rare (£3,750).

Fennell commented in a press release: “I have really enjoyed this collaboration with Peter Harrington as it has allowed me to indulge in one of my greatest passions and a source of endless inspiration, books. Harrington’s always have such an eclectic selection that it is one of my dream places to gather ideas. I believe that, as well as being original and beautifully made, jewellery should be thoughtful, sentimental and provocative.”

The exhibition is on until July 12 at Theo Fennell gallery, 169 Fulham Road, London.

Images courtesy of Theo Fennell

There may be just one major auction on the calendar for this week, but it’s quite a sale. Sotheby’s London offers Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts and Continental and Russian Books on Tuesday, July 3, in 188 lots.

  

The Breviary of Marie, Duchess of Bar (1344-1404), written and illuminated around 1360, rates the top estimate in the sale, at £500,000-700,000. Marie was the daughter of Bonne of Luxembourg and King John II of France and the sister of King Charles V of France and John, Duke of Berry (known for the Très Riches Heures). The breviary includes several full-page miniatures depicting Marie in prayer, and the Sotheby’s catalogue suggests that it was likely commissioned by her father in the years prior to her marriage. The manuscript previously sold at Sotheby’s in 1932 for £450.

  

A manuscript containing the first forty-four homilies of St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel of Matthew, identified through paleographical analysis as being written in Constantinople in the late ninth century, could sell for £200,000-300,000, while a mid-thirteenth-century Paris Bible illuminated in the style of the Leber Group rates an estimate of £80,000-120,000. A ten-volume, uncut set of the work known in English as Complete Heraldry of the Noble Families of the Russian Empire, from the Year 1797, published at St. Petersburg from 1798 through 1840, is estimated at £50,000-70,000.

  

blockbook.pngMost the lots in this sale are worth noting, but just a few other examples will have to suffice: the 1491 Vicenza second edition of Euclid’s Elementa Geometriae could fetch £40,000-60,000, while a single leaf from a fifteenth-century block book printed in the Netherlands (pictured) is estimated at £15,000-20,000. A copy of the first translation of Seneca into Castilian (Seville, 1491), in a contemporary binding of blind-stamped half calf over wooden boards, is also rated at £15,000-20,000.

  

Image credit: Sotheby’s

Bibliophile vases by Jane Mount, Chronicle Books.jpg


Though Chronicle Books has been publishing award-winning and distinctive titles since 1967, the San Francisco-based independent publishing house is currently celebrating 25 years of its popular gift-publishing program by launching new products, though not necessarily books, with the book-lover in mind.


“For decades, Chronicle Books has been challenging and changing publishing expectations,” said Chronicle Books publisher Christine Carswell in a company press release. “We’ve expanded the definition of what it means to be a publisher by bringing the enduring magic of books into new and surprising formats. And we’ve expanded the landscape of where publishers sell by going beyond bookstores to so many other places where readers and gift-givers shop.” Online, yes, but also airports, grocery stores, and even gas stations are points-of-sale for last-minute shoppers and folks who simply want to check off everything on their list in a single store.


Bestsellers have included ArtBox Frida Kahlo, the Gold Standard Noteblock, and the 52 Deck series, while Chronicle’s editors have relished at being free to explore “unique, powerful ways to present visual artists’ books.”


This year, the company is expanding its profile to include a new line of toys, games, and accessories. Among the bookish gifts in Chronicle’s catalog include the Magic Library ($12.95), a Jacob’s Ladder that resembles a stack of books, and ceramic “Bibliophile” vases created by Jane Mount ($19.95, pictured above). The brightly colored book-shaped vessels covered with literary quotes on the back are charming catch-alls for flowers, writing utensils, or, if it’s my house, candy. Any of these clever, reasonably priced offerings will warm your favorite bibliophile’s heart any time of year. 

  

Image courtesy of Chronicle

Would Honest Abe approve? At Julien’s Auctions in Las Vegas on June 23, a selection of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia was sold to benefit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, which has been in a tight spot since its 2007 purchase of the Barry and Louise Taper Collection of presidential relics. According to Smithsonian, to avoid selling the Lincoln artifacts, the foundation that runs the library approved the sale of some Monroe prints and objects also acquired in that 2007 purchase, including a terra cotta bust of poet Carl Sandburg once owned by Monroe (estimated at $20,000-30,000, but didn’t sell) and one of her little black dresses (estimated at $40,000-60,000, and sold for $50,000).

Screen Shot 2018-06-28 at 2.13.05 PM.pngDuring the same sale, Julien’s offered three Monroe-owned books, including E.M. Halliday’s The Ignorant Armies (1960) and A View of the Nation, An Anthology, 1955-1959 (1960), each of which realized $576. But a third book, Monroe’s prayer book for Jewish worship (pictured above), with the cover stamped “Marilyn Monroe Miller,” made $16,000.  

That last lot reminded me of a book offered at Doyle in 2017: her “somewhat worn” personal copy of The Form of Daily Prayers, According to the custom of the German and Polish Jews (1922). That one, however, estimated at $4,000-6,000, failed to sell.

Image courtesy of Julien’s

Fore-edge collectors out there, take note: Japanese publisher PIE International recently released an art book celebrating the Fin-de-Siècle movement complete with a double fore-edge. While the fore-edge is printed, rather than painted, it may perhaps be the first widely distributed title with a double fore-edge of any kind. Entitled The Art of Decadence: European Fantasy Art of the Fin-de-Siècle, the book includes 370 art works from the 19th century through to Surrealism, all in a compelling book design by Reiko Harajo.


Each chapter of The Art of Decadence groups together stylistically similar movements: the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in England, Symbolism in France, Germany, and Belgium; Wiener Secession in Austria; Art Nouveau and Art Deco, etc. The theme of the femme fatale is also explored in the book, tracing related artworks through representations of Sirens, mermaids, witches, and so on.


Of course some collectors may be interested in The Art of Decadence exclusively because of the beauty of its double fore-edge, which is indeed quite striking, displaying a floral theme when the pages are fanned in one direction and a skeleton theme when fanned the other way.


Check out this video to see the double fore-edge, as well as an overview of the book itself:


 



Many thanks to Jeff Wall from Volumes of Distinction for alerting us to this publication.

A new exhibition at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper, features the exquisite life-size trompe l’œil paper fashions of Belgian designer Isabelle de Borchgrave. The exhibition actually encompasses four distinct collections of hers: Papiers à la Mode (Paper in Fashion) looks at three hundred years of fashion history from Elizabeth I to Coco Chanel; The World of Mariano Fortuny focuses on twentieth-century Venice; Splendor of the Medici accents ceremonial dress in the streets of Florence; and Les Ballets Russes pays tribute to Sergei Diaghilev and his ballet company. Pictured below are a few highlights. 

SL-3-2018-1-41_Cosimo-I-de-Medici_7905 copy.jpgPhoto: Andreas von Einsiedel; Isabelle de Borchgrave, Cosimo I de’ Medici, 2007, based on a portrait by Ludovico Cardi in the collection of the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence.

SL-3-2018-1-45_Lorenzo-il-Magnifico_7895 copy.jpgPhoto: Andreas von Einsiedel; Isabelle de Borchgrave, Lorenzo il Magnifico, 2007, based on the painting Journey of the Magi by Benozzo Gozzoli in the Medici Chapel in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence.

SL-3-2018-1-52_Flora_7900 copy.jpgPhoto: Andreas von Einsiedel; Isabelle de Borchgrave, Flora, 2006, based on the ca. 1481-82 painting La Primavera by Sandro Botticelli in the collection of the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Photo: Andreas von Einsiedel

You can also watch the artist at work here:

Auction Guide