Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Elizabeth Call, special collections outreach librarian at the University of Rochester.


byl liz call.jpgWhat is your role at your institution?

 

I am the special collections outreach librarian for Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation (RBSCP), River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester. In this position I lead the public facing activities of RBSCP, and as such work closely and collaborate with my colleagues in RBSCP and throughout the libraries in planning and coordinating teaching, exhibits, public programming, and social media.

 

How did you get started in rare books?

 

With zero direction! While I did do a rare books and special collections librarianship concentration at library school, I started my career at a business library. Quickly realizing that was not for me, I went to work at a public library where I was an young adult librarian. It was in this role where I discovered my passion for outreach. However the job had a very long, unsustainable commute -- I lived at one end of Brooklyn and the job was on the other side of Queens. So when I saw a job posting for a reference librarian at the Brooklyn Historical Society I jumped on it -- that was the beginning.

 

Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree? (If not answered in previous question)

 

I received my MSLIS at the Manhattan campus of the Palmer School of Library Information & Science School, Long Island University and my MA in Public History & Archives from New York University.

 

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

 

This response is dated even as I am typing it since every special collection I look at changes the way I view the world in some way. Recently my day was made when preparing for a class next week that will be looking at various materials we have on reproductive history. One item I will be pulling for the students to work with is a journal called the Journal of Contraception. We have issues from 1936 and 1937.

 

What do you personally collect?


I do not have the attention span (or money) to be a true collector, as I fall in love with most things I see.

 

What do you like to do outside of work?

 

I love spending time with my husband, Jesse, and our two daughters, Sadie and Beatrice. I also love to run, spin, take bootcamp-type group fitness classes, go to diners, go to estate sales, and now with my purchase of an old home, outfitting and caring for a home built in 1908.

 

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

 

The ample opportunities and ever-evolving ways to make connections between many audiences and the collections. My passion lies in getting the books and manuscript boxes off the shelves and from behind exhibit cases into people’s ungloved (albeit clean) hands.

 

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

 

Special Collections will continue moving away from the dusty treasure room from days of old to centers of innovation, inclusivity, and functional use. Even in the 13 or so years since I started in special collections librarianship the profession seems to have opened up in so many exciting ways, and will only continue to do so.

 

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

 

Probably the hardest question of the bunch! There are so many great collections.

 

From the papers and library from the founder of American anthropology, Henry Lewis Morgan, to the political papers of Mary Anne Krupsak, back to the Isaac and Amy Post papers, the creators of the Spiritualist movement, to one of the largest personal collections of Henry David Thoreau, like the city of Rochester itself, the collections here go deep and document the rich and problematic history of the United States.

 

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

 

YES! 2018 marks the 200th Anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ birth. Opening on his celebrated birthday, February 14, 2018 and running through October 6, 2018, Rochester’s Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass’s World: Understanding the Man and His Legacy, showcases many aspects of Douglass’s life and legacy as reflected through archival material including letters, published materials, maps, photographs, newspapers, and ephemera. This exhibit is part of the year-long celebration of Frederick Douglass in the city of Rochester.


[Photo submitted by Liz Call]



Anywhere-That-Is-Wild.jpgJust a few weeks ago, the Yosemite Conservancy released a new book titled Anywhere That is Wild: John Muir’s First Walk to Yosemite. Drawn to both its subject (Muir and, more broadly, American nature writing) and its beautiful design, I picked up a copy. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book is edited by Peter and Donna Thomas, names I recognized from the book art world. We did a feature story on them back in 2011. So I reached out to the couple to find out more--and I caught them just in time, as they are about to embark on a six-week tour of libraries in the Southeast, where they will teach book arts classes and exhibit at the FL Antiquarian Book Fair (April 20-22). Peter graciously answered my questions.  

RRB: How did you become involved in the making of Anywhere That is Wild?

PT: In 2005, Donna, an avid hiker and backpacker, was inspired by the urban myth that John Muir would just grab a few bags of tea and a loaf of French bread, throw a coat over his shoulder, step out his front door and walk to Yosemite. She wondered if she could walk from Santa Cruz to Yosemite, like John Muir would have done. After a little research she learned that Muir had walked to Yosemite in 1868, but could not find anyone who knew exactly where he had walked. In fact, as far as Donna could tell, no one had ever re-walked the route of John Muir’s trip to Yosemite. The possibility of being the first to do it began a yearlong historical treasure hunt, as Donna and I searched for facts and clues that would help us recreate the story of the trip and follow Muir’s footsteps across California. (See: muirrambleroute.com)

Six months into our research, we had gathered enough information to determine his actual route. But by 2006 Muir’s little dirt roads were paved roads, busy city streets and highways, definitely not the ideal trip for walking. But by that time we were committed to the idea, even if it meant walking on roads. Undeterred, Donna told me, “We will just make the best of it, take our time, go slowly, use our own ‘John Muir eyes’ to see California and nature the way he would have done.”

Although Muir was a prolific writer, he never published a complete account of this 1868 journey, and the diary for his 1868 trip has been lost, so the details of the trip have faded time. To find Muir’s exact route we had to recreate the story of his trip. We found fourteen sources--articles, books, and letters--where John Muir wrote about the trip. Each was written for a different reason and so described the trip from a different perspective. For example, in the magazine article titled “Rambles of a Botanist” Muir focused on the flora, while in his book, The Yosemite, Muir was concerned with the landscape. This gave us a rough outline of the trip, but the details were all confused. We figured the only chance we had of understanding the whole story would be to combine all the accounts into a single narrative. Using Muir’s own words culled from those articles and letters, we compiled a new first-person narrative of the trip. And this story became the text in Anywhere That Is Wild: John Muir’s First Walk to Yosemite.

The spring of 2018 marks the 150th Anniversary of John Muir’s historic walk from San Francisco to Yosemite. To celebrate the Yosemite Conservancy decided to publish the text we had written.

The title was chosen, quoting the words of the renowned conservationist, author, and founder of the Sierra Club, when he got off a ship in San Francisco and asked for the quickest way out of town. “Where do you want to go?” he was asked, to which Muir replied, “Anywhere that is wild.”

RRB: Does Muir pop up in your book art as well?

PT: The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee is working on compiling a bibliography of our work, which should be complete later this year. It lists 160 editioned books and over 300 one of a kind. A quick search finds more than a dozen titles listing Muir as author and many for reflect his influences on our lives.

In 1868 John Muir was just another of the many thousands of hopeful immigrants and curious visitors who have arrived in California hoping to make their fortune or have the opportunity to see the natural wonders of the state. Today he is internationally recognized as founder of the Sierra Club, the man who talked President Roosevelt into making Yosemite a National Park and the father of the environmental and conservation move- ments. He is also the man on the California quarter and he is there for a good reason. Like Washington and Lincoln, he is a hero. He shows us what one person can do, and why it is important to do what you feel called to. We feel called to make books, and make them with the same passion Muir had for writing about his love of nature.

RRB: What else are you up to?

PT: We are flying to Knoxville [this week], where our truck and trailer have been parked since October. We will be spending the next 1.5 months visiting libraries and book arts classes in Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina, as part of our 40 years of making books celebration. There will be shows of our work at UCF and Emory, and we will give presentations for them. We will also have a booth at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. We will leave the truck and trailer in North Carolina and fly home for the summer, returning East when schools start up again in the fall.

RRB: What will you be exhibiting/presenting at the FL Antiquarian Book Fair?

PT: We will have all our books still in print on display. Many people have looked at images of them on the internet and this will be a chance to see them in person, to view, hold, and even buy one.

Image courtesy of the Yosemite Conservancy

On Tuesday, April 10, University Archives sells Autographed Documents, Manuscripts, Photos, Books & Relics, in 254 lots. A 1726 Mohawk land deed signed by Hendrick Theyanoguin and eight additional Mohawk leaders is estimated at $25,000-30,000, as is a signed copy of Thomas Jefferson’s 1821 letter to Dr. Samuel Brown at Transylvania University in which Jefferson argues against recent tariffs placed on imported books. A July 1861 letter from General Robert Anderson immediately following the first Battle of Bull Run could fetch $10,000-12,000. The letterbook of Revolutionary War commissary Minne Voorhees is estimated at $12,000-14,000. Also up for grabs is a piece of a mahogany bed presented to John Quincy Adams during his service as minister to England ($1,000-1,200) and a data recorder from NASA’s Apollo program ($500-600).

  

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Dominic Winter sells Printed Books, Maps & Documents on Wednesday, April 11, in 586 lots. Benjamin Franklin’s Experiments and Observations on Electricity (London, 1769; pictured), is estimated at £5,000-8,000, while a copy of the c.1690 second edition of John Seller’s pocket celestial atlas could sell for £4,000-6,000. The sale includes a selection of bookbinding equipment, tools, and reference books (lots 421-450), and lots 500-586 are group lots, some of which have a great deal of potential.

  

Thursday, April 12 sees two sales: Printed & Manuscript Americana at Swann Galleries, in 323 lots, and Rare Golf Books & Memorabilia From the Collection of John Burns and the Library of Ron Muszalski, with additions at PBA Galleries, in 431 lots. Top lots at Swann could include the copy of Paine’s American Crisis (highlighted in a previous post), a copy of the Nauvoo Neighbor Extra broadside of June 30, 1844 which contains the first official account of the killing of Joseph Smith, and a 1566 Mexican imprint (all three estimated at $50,000-75,000). A volume of business records from a Mexican silver mine covering the years 1576-77 could sell for $25,000-35,000, while a copy of the unauthorized second edition of the “Reynolds Pamphlet” rates a $10,000-15,000 estimate.

  

At PBA Galleries, the signed, limited first edition of Down the Fairway: The Golf Life and Play of Robert T. Jones, Jr. is expected to lead the way, at $10,000-15,000. A number of other lots will be of much interest to the Bobby Jones collector. A copy of the 1566 issue of the acts of the Scottish parliament which contains the first mention of golf in print (in a 1457 law to discourage it) is estimated at $1,500-2,000.

  

Photo credit: Dominic Winter Auctioneers

In 1932 the famed art historian Kenneth Clark, the director of the National Gallery in London, and his wife Jane Clark, commissioned Bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant to produce a 148-plate dinner service for his personal household. They were not specific about what the theme or subject the plates should be, and Bell and Grant decided together upon representing famous women through the ages from England and from across the globe, with both London stage actresses Ellen Terry and Sarah Siddons, to more farflung historical women like the Queen of Sheba and Sappho. Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell’s portraits are included in the plates, as was one man (lucky fellow) artist Duncan Grant. The artists traveled to Stoke-on-Trent and toured pottery factories, selecitng Wedgwood creamware blanks that have a homespun quality resembling the plain arts-and-crafts styling of the Omega Workshop artists.

  

Plates.jpgThe plates were a part of the private estate of the Clarks, and then were inherited by Clark’s second wife, who then left them to her daughter, who years later sold them at an auction in Hamburg. The auction house closed and records weren’t available, and the plates disappeared from view. The plates were known for decades only from a photograph of the Clark’s dinner table. 

  

Through a lucky series of events involving the clearance and sale of a flat in London, the plates were discovered again by Dr. Robert Thomas, the founder of Piano Nobile, who only saw a glance of a few and didn’t at first realize what he was looking at. It was only later when a purchaser of the flat and its contents decided to sell the plates that Thomas realized what he had first spied. 

  

The bold and provocative feminist aspect of the plates, and the fact that it precedes Judith Chicago’s similarly themed dinner service, “The Dinner Party,” has only just become recent news. Matthew Travers, a director at London’s Piano Nobile gallery, told Artnet, “All of the women they depicted did something interesting and powerful, and often were quite scandalous--the Bloomsburys might have said ‘liberated’--in the way they lived their private lives, and often did not conform to the patriarchies they were living in.”

  

“This is the holy grail of Bloomsbury ceramics because it was lost for a generation,” said Thomas, who acquired them and is hoping the plates will go to Charleston, the estate of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Until that happens, they are on view through April 28. 

  

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Speaking of which, this watercolor plate design (above) for Bell’s Charlotte Brontë plate, 1932, sold last year at Forum Auctions for £8,125 ($10,480).

  

Images: (Top) Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, The Famous Women Dinner Service, 1932-34. Courtesy of Piano Nobile; (Bottom) Courtesy of Forum Auctions.

Have you ever flipped through a fashion magazine from days of yore and wished you could rock a psychedelic two-dimensional paper dress circa 1967 or slip into a Mod mini by Mary Quant? Well, now you can--but first, better dust off that sewing machine.

  


bathing suit.JPGUntil now, vintage sewing pattern covers have been available at various websites across the internet, but Vintage Patterns Wiki has just released over 83,000 downloadable, free, out-of-print sewing pattern illustrations, giving these unconventional “works on paper” a push into the world of Open Source. However, the actual patterns themselves aren’t always free: though a few are available on the wiki, Vintage Patterns mostly links to affiliate sellers. 


Organized by decade, designer, and garment, patterns date from the 1920s through 1992. There’s even a collection of patterns inspired by Hollywood stars--Olivia de Havilland’s jumpsuits look particularly on trend for spring 2018. With a little elbow grease and attention to detail, you’ll have a bespoke piece that stands the test of time. Besides, sewing is great for the psyche: as Margaret Atwood wrote in Alias Grace, “I am certain that a Sewing Machine would relieve as much human suffering as a hundred Lunatic Asylums, and possibly a good deal more.”

  

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Images via Vintage Patterns Wiki

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Ryan M. Place of Detroit, Michigan:


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Where are you from / where do you live?


I’m from Detroit’s Southwest side and currently live in Detroit, Michigan.


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


At Eastern Michigan University, I studied Cinema and Philosophy. After graduating in 2009, I started working in the entertainment industry. I also run some festivals and events, do some book research and a variety of consulting. My current big focus is the Detroit Festival of Books, which I created and am the event chairman for. I also write every single day.


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


The Place Collection is wide-ranging, however, the core is comprised of Counterculture/Sixties, Incunabula, Occult, Classics, Exotic/Unusual, Obscure Dictionaries and Illuminated Manuscripts.


How many books are in your collection?


There are approximately 2,000 volumes in my collection. Over half of them are in boxes because I don’t have the requisite display space. My goal is to one day build a home library with in-built bookcases, sliding ladders, big globes, expensive scotch, the whole meshuggeneh.


What was the first book you bought for your collection?


Been collecting since I was five. Not sure what my first book was but I really enjoy the ‘Tao Te Ching’, the 1989 Gia-Fu Feng version. The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.


How about the most recent book?


One of the more recent acquisitions was ‘Opus Sadicum’ (1889). It’s the first English edition of Justine and has a beautifully engraved frontispiece. It was published by Isidore Liseux in Paris. I won it via online auction, it came from the Netherlands. God bless the Dutch!


And your favorite book in your collection?


Selecting favorites is always tough. One of the rarest and personal favorite books in my collection is the advance readers copy of ‘The Rose of Paracelsus: On Secrets & Sacraments’ by William Leonard Pickard. Leonard is a brilliant human and wrote this fantastic otherworldly book in prison. I helped do some research for the book. The ARC is only one of 7 in existence.


Best bargain you’ve found?


Bargains abound! Book sales are your oysters, you just have to pry them open, do some digging. I was driving down a barren stretch of road once in semi-fog near the city of Romulus, Michigan when I saw a crudely hand-drawn sign on somebody’s lawn saying booksale inside. The lady inside says “They’re in the basement. Be careful down there. You’ll need this,” she hands me a big Maglite flashlight. The basement had no lights but was full of hundreds of boxes books. Hundreds. Untouched for decades. Treasure awaiting a plucky unearther. Not a single other person was around, which was eerie. I ended up finding an early 18th century French Astronomers manual. She only charged me $5.00 for it but it turned out to be worth hundreds.


How about The One that Got Away?


The One that Got Away = Aristotle’s ‘De Natura Animalium’ (1513) and St. Augustine’s ‘The Citie of God’ (1610) both together for under $5,000, which was a steal. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. Now I just slap my forehead and say ‘Doh!’


What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?


Holy Grail for my collection right now would be ‘Motor City Madam’ (1964) hardcover with the dust jacket. It’s the memoir of Detroit prostitute Rocking Chair Helen McGowan. You can find hardcovers here and there but rarely with an intact and near mint condition DJ. I’m also looking for a rare board game, ‘The Phantom of the Opera Mystery Game’ (1963) it’s muy difficult to find in good condition. If you know where I can get one, hook a brotha up!


Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?


Favorite bookseller is Mr. John King who runs John K. King Used & Rare Books in Detroit. His store is on all the lists of the world’s best bookstores and when you visit his main 3-level store and Rare Book Building behind the main store, you’ll know why. Every bookworm must make a pilgrimage to John King Books at least once or twice or thrice.


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



I also collect vinyl records, vintage board games, movies, personal ephemera. And from my bank, I’m forced to collect overdraft receipts and stern lectures on the manifold virtues of prudent spending. To them I always say, I collect books baby, not cash. One day I’ll collect both.


[Image provided by Ryan M. Place]


(Suggestions or nominations for future entries in the Bright Young Collectors series are welcome at nathan@finebooksmagazine.com)





























After the joy of the Colmar fair, it was time that we prepared our new stock and set off for the Maastricht Antiquarian Book & Print (MABP) fair. Maastricht is in the very south of the Netherlands, in South Limburg, a thin strand between Germany and Belgium. The MABP is a lovely little fair. In St Jan’s church, in the centre of the old town, overlooking the market square. 

   

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There was a wealth of fabulous items at the fair, on entering the church, one of the first things I saw (it was hard not to) was a large lithograph by Picasso, “Femme au corsage à fleurs” offered by De Vries & De Vries. Produced in 1957, it is simple yet striking.  

   

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Equally striking, but in a very different way, was on the stand of Paul Bremmers. The theme of the Maastricht fair this year was cartography, and if you are going to have a map, then one of those on Paul Bremmers’ stand would certainly fit the bill. At 2.4 metres by 1.7 metres the Nova Tabula Dioeceseos Traiectinae (Nieuwe Kaart van den Lande van Utrecht) is a lot of map!  

   

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At the end of the second evening, the hall was slightly rearranged, and we gathered together to have an excellent meal, put on by the fair organisers. The English contingent, including our colleagues from Graham York Books, in Honiton and Marrin’s Bookshop in Folkestone, joined us at the table, if only to keep Marcia under control! 

   

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Of course, whilst in Maastricht, it was essential to go and visit The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF). Naturally, the emphasis here is on art and antiques--the entrance and corridors are fabulous themselves. Japanese suits of armour guide you down the corridors to the exhibits. On our way around we managed to sniff out a few of our colleagues offering books and maps. At the Bernard Shapero stand, I was very excited to see a set of the Andy Warhol Shoes. I have seen the book of these, but never the full sized lithographs.

   

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It was good to see some of the new-comers to TEFAF, such as Librairie Camille Sourget who were exhibiting for the first time. Something to aspire to one day! Finally, we went off to find our friends at Daniel Crouch Rare Books who had a fabulous display of globes and maps.

   

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After all of this excitement, we retreated to our apartment, and packed up for the long (long) drive to Sweden for the Stockholm ILAB fair, where we shall next report from. 

   

--Marc Harrison and his wife Marcia run Harrison-Hiett Rare Books in The Netherlands. Images courtesy of the author. 

Three auctions I’ll be watching this week:

  

At Dorotheum in Vienna on April 4, a sale of Antique Scientific Instruments, Globes and Cameras, in 636 lots. A c.1500 sundial known as a “navicula de Venetiis,” or “little ship of Venice,” and a c.1400 brass astrolabe quadrant rate the joint top opening price, at €10,000. An armillary sphere from around 1840, identified as probably the work of Charles Dien in Paris, starts at €2,400. Among the globes, a celestial example from Vienna, c.1845, has an opening price of €1,500.

  

The following day, PBA Galleries holds a sale of Fine & Rare Books, in 459 lots. At $5,000-8,000, the top-estimated lot is Coleridge’s Christabel, Kubla Khan, The Pains of Sleep (London: John Murray, 1816). A copy of the 1534 Aldine Tacitus could fetch $3,000-5,000. An elaborately-bound copy of William Blake’s (not that William Blake) 1670 charity publication The Ladies Charity School-house Roll of Highgate is estimated at $1,500-2,000. For the printing historian, there’s a copy of the 1650 publication arguing that Johann Mentelin should be credited as the developer of printing rather than Gutenberg ($1,000-1,500). Lots 355 to 459 are being sold without reserve.

  

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Finally, on April 7, Potter & Potter sells Entertainment Memorabilia, in 856 lots. An unrestored poster for Casablanca (1942; pictured) opens at $20,000 and is estimated at $40,000-60,000. Also on the block are Greta Garbo’s monogrammed mink coat ($9,000-12,000), Cole Porter’s backgammon set ($4,000-8,000). A few books are include, among them a copy of the Southern Treasury of Life and Literature inscribed by Margaret Mitchell to producer David Selznick $3,500-4,500).

  

Image courtesy of Potter & Potter

Beautiful Birds at Bonhams this Spring

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Spring announces itself in many ways. In the book world, vernal book fairs and auctions tempts the frozen bibliophile our from hibernation with new treasures waiting to be explored. Bonhams welcomes the new season with a May 30 auction entitled Wassenaar Zoo: a Dutch Private Library.


Comprised of 2,400 mostly ornithological volumes, the collection was assembled in the 1950s to accompany exhibitions at Holland’s now-defunct Wassenaar Zoo. The auction will include a near-complete run of folios by naturalist John Gould, works by French ornithologist François Levaillant and by Daniel Elliot, co-founder of the American Museum of Natural History. Their beautiful illustrations of pheasants, finches, and falcons fuse a delicate balance between art and scientific inquiry and remain highly coveted by collectors. 

  

Representing the biggest names in 19th-century natural history documentation, highlights from this collection went on display in New York earlier this month and are currently on view in Hong Kong. Another viewing will be held in London from May 23-29.


Image: Superb Fairywren The birds of Australia. London, Printed by R. and J. E. Taylor; pub. by the author,[1840]-48. Plate 18 by John Gould. Courtesy of Biodiversity Library and Smithsonian. 

Guest post by Catherine Batac Walder

Walder picture book-making March 2018 3.JPGThese last few years, the Story Museum in Oxford has hosted some events for children at the Oxford Literary Festival. In 2016, we went to an event there with author, illustrator, and current children’s laureate Lauren Child, and in 2017 met Fairytale Hairdresser series author Abie Longstaff. This year, there were a few events at the museum that I wanted to go to (including one with How to Train your Dragon creator Cressida Cowell) but alas, time didn’t allow it. One thing that I was keen from the start, though, was “How to Create a Picture Book,” with award-winning author and illustrator Claire Alexander. The two-hour event was geared towards children 8+. My daughter just turned seven but as this was right up her alley, and after asking her if she wanted to go, I signed her up.

The event took place in the Long Room of the Story Museum, the children sat around tables at the front while we accompanying adults watched from the back. I felt like a stage mother but I was giddy about my daughter attending her first writing workshop, where else but in historic Oxford, where a lot of characters in children’s books that we now love came to life. The museum itself, formerly a huge Royal Mail depot, felt so magical that it could be a part of Lyra’s fictional Oxford. It snowed all day on that Saturday, but it wasn’t freezing enough for the snow to settle (the first time in my 10 years of attending the festival that it ever snowed), as though encouraging the children to create their own Narnia, a world imagined by another beloved author in this very city.

Claire Alexander started the workshop by reading one of the books that she had illustrated as an example. And then she showed some of her drafts/sketches, giving tips like how she would look up pictures on the internet to base a scene on. She showed examples of a few techniques that illustrators use such as double page spreads, vignettes, and single page layouts. As someone with an interest to write for children, I found the event equally interesting and noted many useful information such as when doing a spread, you have to be sure that you don’t put a text or an important character in the “gutter” (middle of the spread). She also gave examples on how to show feelings and emotions in one’s illustrations, that is, to use close ups or to draw the character small in a big world in order to create feelings of loneliness or distance.

Using Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem “The Land of Nod,” Alexander guided the children in telling a simple story over 16 pages or eight spreads to create a mini book. Stevenson’s poem worked so well for this purpose as it has 16 lines. I liked how Alexander helped the children by showing how she’d draw a particular scene and I just knew later that my daughter watched, observed, and listened to everything when she even recapped Alexander’s technique at starting a drawing: “It looks like a stick figure at first, and she draws really lightly, but this time she doesn’t, so we can all see the drawing,” she told me. Alexander walked around the room constantly to look at the children’s works-in-progress, supervised them and praised their work. The children participated in the discussions on how to illustrate scenes and some of them drew their ideas on the flipchart in front of the group.

Alexander signed books at the end of the session. She graciously doodled a cat in my daughter’s sketch notebook after I told her how much the little girl loves her cat drawings. She drew Millie from Millie Shares and said she hadn’t drawn Millie in a while. How special that Millie in the book is alive in my daughter’s notebook, saying hello to her (in photo).

Walder picture book-making March 2018 2.JPGAlexander teaches writing and illustration of picture books. She won the 2013 Paterson Prize for continued excellence for Back to Front and Upside Down and is also author of Monkey and the Little OneThe Best Bit of Daddy’s Day, and Lucy and the Bully.

The Story Museum in Pembroke Street, Oxford, is a work in progress. Future events include “Fairytales for Grownups” and “How to write for children,” in addition to exhibitions and installations that run all year-round; It’s Always Tea Time, focused on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, opens tomorrow.

--Catherine Batac Walder is a writer who lives in the UK. She has contributed several posts from abroad over the years, including her post on seeing Hilary Mantel at the 2017 Oxford Literary Festival and Orhan Pamuk in 2014. Find her at: http://gaslighthouse.blogspot.com.

Images credit: Catherine Batac Walder

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