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In the News

"The Federalist" and Other Firsts at Heritage's Rare Books Auction in NYC

Dallas, Texas - A rare copy of The Federalist: A Collection of Essays, Written... read more

Time-Capsule Collection from the Virginia House Museum Comes to Freeman's

Philadelphia - Declared by the National Register of Historic Places to be “a noteworthy... read more

Waverly's Feb. 28 Auction Spotlights Presidential Material & First Editions

Falls Church, Virginia - A letter written by Abraham Lincoln in the early days... read more

Boston Athenaeum Announces Expansion

Boston—The Boston Athenæum, a distinguished and vibrant independent library and cultural institution, announces its... read more

NY International Antiquarian Book Fair Returns to Park Avenue Armory March 7-10

New York—The beloved New York International Antiquarian Book Fair (NYIABF) produced by Sanford L.... read more

Littmann Collection of German Expressionism & Avant-Garde at Swann March 5

New York-Swann Galleries’ March 5 auction boasts property from the Ismar Littmann Family Collection,... read more

"Lacock Abbey: Birthplace of Photography on Paper" Opens March 2

New York - Photography on paper was born in 1839 in England at Lacock... read more

The Morgan Announces the Restoration of J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library

New York-The Morgan Library & Museum announced today the exterior restoration of J. Pierpont... read more

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Fine Books Review

By Association

In his essay, Stephen Enniss tells us the bittersweet tale of poet Ted Hughes’ shabby Shakespeare in the Emory University collection. Hughes read and re-read his Complete Works, wooing Sylvia Plath with passages by heart. The volume, a 1923 reprint, is a “seemingly unremarkable book,” according to Enniss, but, “It seemed an ideal book to demonstrate how a past association, and the lingering marks of ownership it contains, can elevate the ordinary into something quite special.” The fact that this tattered volume could be considered a “prop in their later domestic tragedy,” as Enniss put it, presents superb evidence not only for its singular importance in studying Hughes, Plath, or British literary history, but for the importance of studying provenance and book ownership.

Henry David Thoreau gave this copy of his book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, to Walt Whitman one day in 1856. Whitman used the front flyleaf to document their meeting. Courtesy of The Library of Congress.

Mark Dimunation’s relevatory essay, “Whitman and Thoreau Meet in Brooklyn,” is something of a double essay, recounting how the two greats exchanged copies of their books and how they annotated them (Thoreau sparingly, Whitman lavishly). Whitman took the opportunity to document his meeting with Thoreau on the front flyleaf, writing, “We had two hours talk and walk—I liked him well … He was full of animation.” The story of how the books met again on the shelves of the Library of Congress is bibliographically breathtaking.

The introduction by preeminent bibliography scholar G. Thomas Tanselle provides the kind of essay on these books that has been lacking, demolishing the idea that an interest in association copies is “ludicrous sentimentality” and expounding upon the notion that books are cultural artifacts that offer us a window to history. Other People’s Books seems destined to be one of those books that astute bibliophiles will acquire for their collections, and those who do not will regret it years hence. With an edition of just one thousand copies, that’s entirely plausible.

According to its website, this is the sixty-sixth book published by the Caxton Club, a group of about 350 members who meet twice monthly for bookish events. A gala book launch is planned for March 18, followed by a symposium at the Newberry Library on March 19 that features three guest speakers: Heather Jackson, professor of English and author of Marginalia; Tom Congalton, proprietor of Between the Covers in Gloucester, New Jersey; and David Pearson, director of libraries, archives and Guildhall Art Gallery in London.

Rebecca Rego Barry is the editor of this magazine.
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