Tennessee Williams: No Refuge but Writing opens at the Morgan Library & Museum on February 2nd and completes its three and a half month run on May 13, 2018. The plays of Tennessee Williams (1911–1983) are intimate, confessional, and autobiographical. They are touchstones not only of American theatrical history but American literary history as well. During the period 1939 to 1957, Williams composed such masterpieces as The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, cementing his reputation as America’s most celebrated playwright. By 1955 he had earned two Pulitzer Prizes, three New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards, and a Tony. Williams embraced his celebrity even as he struggled in his private life with alcohol and drug addiction and a series of stormy relationships with lovers. Moreover, he was often at odds professionally with critics and censors concerned about ůmore
Swann Galleries will close the auction season with their popular sale of Illustration Art on Thursday, December 14. The house’s newest department specializes in original works of art intended for publication. This will be the largest selection of material they’ve offered to date, both by number of lots and overall value. The star of the sale is Georges Lepape’s ethereal portrait of Madame Condé Nast in a Fortuny gown against a dark sky. The watercolor painting with gold highlights, Après la Tempête, served as the cover of Vogue at the end of World War One. Lepape inscribed the work to its subject, and included symbolic details such as the tri-color pin on her lapel and dispersing storm clouds. The work carries an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000, and will be closely watched after the house set an auction record for the artist in September 2016.
A vibrant and charming portion of the sale is devoted to familiar protagonists in children’s literature. A large watercolor by Jerry Pinkney, the first African-American artist awarded the Caldecott Medal, features his recurring characters Brer Rabbit and Brer Bear in Further Tales of Uncle Remus, with a value of ůmore
Collection Management (submitted by Spencer W. Stuart)
Why? Collection management increases the value and enjoyment of one’s collection. Many collectors will tell you that their managed collections facilitate a deeper interaction with the individual parts, and addresses questions of value efficiently and cost effectively.
Who? The tasks associated with collection management can be performed by the collector, by a professional collection manager, or preferably a combination of both. At times the consultation of experts in a certain field is necessary to gather pertinent information in a timely manner.
What? Collection management results in the creation of volumes of text and photographic information about the individual elements of the collection. There are many methods one can use from physical paper files to computer based systems. Regardless of the method, in any inventory there are ůmore
One of the things I regret in my exile from Cuba is that I never got to see any of the wonderful little bookstores along Havana's twin bookseller rows of O'Reilly and Obispo Streets. As a nine-year old the experience would perhaps have been lost on me, but I would certainly recall it as the bibliophile I am today. I have a rare postcard photograph of Obispo Street as it appeared in the 1920s (see below), and in that narrow thoroughfare of glass-fronted stores I think I can make out one of these mysterious shops, though the overhanging placards – which throw large shadows over the street and give it the air of a Moorish bazaar – are unreadable in the evanescent light.
Along this street in 1940 the writer Thomas Merton hunted for books before his conversion to monasticism. In his diary he writes that he saw a secondhand bookstore and walked in, “asking not for St. John of the Cross, but for philosophy books.” There weren’t any, so he walked a little further, and the next store did have a couple of shelves of philosophy: “I had to climb a ladder to look at them. I shouldn't have been surprised to be confronted first of all by none other than Nietzche.” For the most part, he says, the shelves were full of Spanish and French nineteenth century liberals and radicals.
This would have been a treat to me, as these writers helped influence Jose Marti and his independence movement.
“The next place I went to,” Merton continues, “was Casa Belga, with its big stock of French and English books, and its specialty in pornography and little editions printed in Paris... Henry Miller, Rimbaud's A Season in Hell...and then things like the Philosophy of Nudism. The idea of a philosophy of nudism gave me a laugh somewhat in a quiet, scholarly way...”
Merton entices even while insulting my sense of Cuban identity (“I had forgotten that Cubans and other Latin Americans are suckers for all kinds of sex books” – as if we had cornered the market on pornography). He next describes a bookstore that looked like a bank and didn’t even have books on display on the counters: “Every book in the place was expensively bound and was locked in behind wired doors.”
He continues: “I had given up hunting for St. John of the Cross and was going up the street when I saw a huge place with a great big sign saying La Moderna Poesia (Modern Poetry) which rather astonished me: what a huge shiny bookstore it was. Only when I looked into the window I saw a lot of straw hats...It turns out La Moderna Poesia was a department store.”
Merton is silent after that, so we do not know whether he found St. John in La Moderna Poesia. But in 1984 I had the good fortune to find ůmore
Quill & Brush. A large selection of important literature and modern first editions.
R & A Petrilla Books. Recent catalogues available for browsing in PDF format. New items in various fields are added to listings each week. To view, please visit our website.
John C. Huckans Books. A small selection of rare, scarce & unusual books and pamphlets in the areas of Americana, Spanish History, Travel, Polar Regions, Middle East, English & American Literature, Latin Americana, Utopian Communities, Miscellanea. Open by appointment: (315) 655-9654.
Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts. A large stock of early books and manuscripts pertaining to Europe and the Americas. Located in The Arsenal (Bldg.4), at 2375 Bridge St., Philadelphia, PA. Open by appointment: (888) 960-7562.
Hobart Book Village. A small, but vital book town nestled in the northern Catskill village of Hobart (NY). Five independent booksellers, an art gallery, fine restaurants and coffee shops make this a favored destination for weekenders and day-trippers. More info: (607) 538-9080 or email@example.com.
It has been said that no single person is more responsible for Christmas as we know it than Charles Dickens (1812–1870). In 1843 he published A Christmas Carol and the story and cast of characters—from Ebenezer Scrooge to Tiny Tim—immediately became part of holiday lore. Even today, almost 175 years after the debut of the book, it is unusual for a year to go by without a new stage or screen adaptation. Beginning November 3, the Morgan Library & Museum explores the genesis, composition, publication, and contemporary reception of this beloved classic in a new exhibition entitled Charles Dickens and the Spirit of Christmas. On view through January 14, 2018, the show demonstrates how the enormous popularity of A Christmas Carol catapulted Dickens out of his study into international stardom, launching a career of public dramatic readings that the author heartily embraced. The exhibition gathers together for the first time the Morgan’s treasured, original manuscript of A Christmas Carol and the manuscripts of the four other Christmas books Dickens wrote in the years following. Complementing these works are a selection of illustrations by Dickens’s artistic collaborators, photographs, letters, tickets and printed announcements for his public performances, and even the writing desk used by the author.
Christmas was Charles Dickens’s favorite holiday. Each year he celebrated exuberantly, entertaining family and friends with theatrical performances, dinners, dances, and games. For him, Christmas was a time for storytelling—particularly ghost stories—and each of his tales is based on an implicit belief in the supernatural and emphasizes the moral benefits of imagination and memory. As the author moved from his writing desk to the stage for public readings, A Christmas Carol became the most popular story in his repertoire and strongly influenced his decision to devote a considerable amount of his prodigious energy to theatrical performance up until ůmore
Same goes for any war. When Gilbert a'Beckett was writing his comic histories (England, Rome, etc.) one has to wonder what was going through his mind. In a comic history of anything, most writers and readers understand it involves a lot of selective historical amnesia, mood-altering tricks and other forms of cover-up. But passage of time softens a lot of things – we remember getting mail from Hastings (Sussex) years ago, with part of the postmark reading “Hastings – popular with tourists since 1066”. Although I could imagine a'Beckett writing that, I doubt if he would have wanted to handle the circumstances surrounding the death of Edward II (father of the great Edward III) whose general ineptitude and poor judgment, unduly influenced by his preoccupation and infatuation with Hugh Despenser (the younger), ultimately led to his execution. In those days ůmore
If life did not imitate art, where would we be? Eyeless in Gaza, like Milton’s Samson. But art affords us limitless life, raining and reigning amongst the thorns and roses. Since I was a child I have loved Italian opera. I was fortunate that besides the Kennebunkport Playhouse – where I grew up on Tallulah Bankhead, Estelle Winwood, Edward Everett Horton, Wilfrid Hyde-White and others of my pre-teen vintage – we had the Arundel Opera Theater, a semi-professional outfit that put on such schmaltzy shows as Blossom Time, Song of Norway, The Vagabond King, Desert Song, Rose Marie, and The Student Prince. As a child I fell in love of course with all the heroines and some of the chorus girls – I remember asking my mother, when I was about ten, how old you had to be to get married; and when I was sixteen I sent a love sonnet to Tallulah Bankhead which, fifty years my senior, she somehow managed to ignore. The opera company also did two or three Gilbert and Sullivan shows each season, and by the time I went away to school I knew all of the patter songs by heart. Or, at least, the words. In my youth I had not yet learned that in order to perform those songs you really have to be able to sing. ůmore
Pierpont Morgan, the founding benefactor of the Morgan Library & Museum, was drawn to the beauty of gems. He acquired and later gave away large collections of valuable stones, including the legendary Star Sapphire of India to New York’s American Museum of Natural History. He also became fascinated with medieval manuscripts bound in jewel-adorned covers. Magnificent Gems: Medieval Treasure Bindings brings together for the first time the Morgan’s finest examples of these extraordinary works. During the Middle Ages, treasure bindings were considered extreme luxuries, replete with symbolism. On a spiritual level they were valued because their preciousness both venerated and embellished the sacred texts held within. But the bindings were also meaningful on a more material level, as the sapphires, diamonds, emeralds, pearls, and garnets from which they were made served as evidence of their owner’s wealth and status.
Opening September 8, 2017, Magnificent Gems features such masterpieces as the Lindau Gospels (ca. 875), arguably the finest surviving Carolingian treasure binding. [illustrated at the right] Also on display is the thirteenth-century Berthold Sacramentary, the most luxurious German manuscript of its time. In total, nine jeweled medieval works are presented, along with a number of Renaissance illuminated manuscripts and printed books in which artists elaborately depict “imagined” gems. On view through January 7, 2018, the exhibition is installed in the Morgan’s intimate Clare Eddy Thaw Gallery, ůmore
The U.S. Election of 2016 was a game-changer for all sorts of reasons. To say the populist revolt came as a surprise to party regulars across the political spectrum is an obvious understatement, but the resulting emotional meltdown by people still in shock over the shifting loyalty and unexpected response of traditional working class voters (many of whom had supported Democrats since the Great Depression of the 1930s), only shows that it pays to do your homework. People who follow this column will recall that in July of 2016 we explained some of the reasons why Trump would perform bigly¹ in the 2016 general election. What follows is some observation and analysis that may contribute towards an understanding of recent trends. Or maybe not. ůmore
We've attended the Cooperstown Antiquarian Book Fair many times over the years – primarily to promote Book Source Magazine, organize book-signings for BSM writers, scout for books for ourselves, catch up with old friends, and to simply hang out for a day or so in one of the most interesting and attractive villages in the region. It's also close by.
Not having participated in a book fair (as a bookseller) for many years, I wasn't sure how to prepare, since I hadn't personally experienced the change brought about by the public's paradigm shift in buying habits. But thanks to some good advice from an old friend and colleague, we sold more than at any book fair we'd previously participated in, even though we brought a small fraction of what we would have done in the past. Almost everything that could be searched for (and found) on a smart phone was left behind in Cazenovia, much to the visible frustration of browsers with iPhones in hand. Mostly ůmore
Early Printed, Medical, Scientific, & Travel Books
Swann Auction Galleries’ auction of Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books on Tuesday, October 17 revealed serious interest from bibliophiles, exceeding the sale’s high estimate and earning more than half a million dollars. In a focused offering with just more than 300 lots, 92% of works found buyers, with particularly active bidding for Bibles, incunabula, and early manuscript material. The top lot of the sale was Lo libre del regiment dels princeps, Barcelona, 1480, a Catalan-language guide for princes by Aegidius Romanus, which sold for $50,000, above a high estimate of $15,000, a record for the work. The book, translated from the original Latin by Arnau Stranyol, is especially noteworthy as Catalan-language incunabula appear so infrequently at auction, and this appears to be the fourth work ever published in that language. Another highlight was the first edition in the original Greek of Herodotus’s Libri novem, an Aldine imprint published in 1502, which doubled its high estimate to sell for $30,000.
Each of the 16 works in a dedicated section of Incunabula sold. Beyond the top lot, highlights included the second edition of Nicolaus Panormitanus de Tudeschis’s Lectura super V libris Decretalium, Basel, 1477, reaching $8,125, and Saint Hieronymus’s Epistolae, Venice, 1488, bound in a leaf from a manuscript choir book ($7,000).
All but one of the 35 offered Bibles found buyers, led by the first edition of the Bishop’s Bible, 1568, the most lavishly illustrated bible in English; the book replaced the Great Bible for church use, and in the sale nearly doubled its high estimate to sell to a collector for $5,980. Psalterium Romanum…, 1576, a sammelband in handsome contemporary binding executed for a nun, also contains a ritual for baptisms and exorcisms, 1581, reached $2,000. One of the few twentieth-century works in the sale was the 1913-14 Insel-Verlag limited-edition facsimile of the Gutenberg Bible in full, exuberant color on vellum, which sold for $7,000.
A popular section of early manuscript material was led by De claustro animae, a fourteenth-century manuscript in Latin on vellum by Hugo de Folieto, in which he uses the cloister as a metaphor for the soul ($28,750). A vellum leaf from a glossed Psalter in Latin, written in France in the twelfth century, nearly doubled its high estimate to reach $3,000. A beautifully illuminated French vellum bifolium from the calendar of a Book of Hours showing the months of January and June, executed in the later fifteenth century, sold for $5,250.
Medical highlights included Monstrorum historia, a 1642 collection of descriptions of monsters and medical mysteries, with more than 450 woodcut illustrations. The work was compiled by Ulisse Aldrovandi and published posthumously in Bologna ($7,000). Also of note was the first American edition of Nicholas Culpeper’s The London Dispensatory, 1720, the first herbal, pharmacopoeia and medical book published in colonial America, which sold for $11,250.
Tobias Abeloff, Specialist of Early Printed Books at Swann Galleries, noted that “There was unexpected interest in unusual items, such as a scarce 1691 edition of Officium defunctorum, or the Latin Office of the Dead, converted by an eighteenth-century owner into a bizarre personal scrapbook,” which reached $2,375, above an estimate of $100 to $200. All prices include buyer's premium The next auction of Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books at Swann Galleries will be held in Spring 2018.
Pre-Fire Chicago Map by J.T. Palmatary Sells for Nearly $200,000 at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers' September 13 Auction
Palmatary's birds-eye view (Chicago: Braunhold & Sonne, 1857) sold for $198,600 against a pre-sale estimate of $20,000 - $30,000. The example offered by Leslie Hindman Auctioneers was the only known obtainable copy of the map in private hands. Having sold to a collector in Chicago, it remains in private hands. “As the map is one of only four known copies, we're thrilled that it sold to a Chicago area collector,” said Gretchen Hause, Director of Fine Books and Manuscripts at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.
Palmatary is known for his aerial views of cities. The birds-eye view of Chicago was completed just one year after the Illinois Central Railroad was built, which appears in the foreground of the map. Another notable feature is an area called “The Sands,” visible in the lower right-hand corner. Notorious in its time, the area was known for having a high concentration of brothels, gambling dens, saloons and inexpensive motels. In 1871, during the Great Chicago Fire, the Sands became a point of refuge for displaced Chicagoans. Palmatary detailed notable places in the city, as depicted on the map via a lower margin legend. The view includes street names, homes, churches and points of industrial interest.
"The market remains strong for rare material in excellent condition. Both of these things contributed to the high price realized for Palmatary's Chicago map," said Hause. ůmore
Remember Peanutgate? Didn't think so, because I just made it up. At any rate, back in 2012 the grandson of a former president and one-time peanut farmer caused a bit of a ruckus by tracking down the source of a secretly recorded video of a meeting between Mitt Romney with some Florida campaign contributors in which Romney made some candid remarks about the 47% who were unlikely to support him in any case. James Carter arranged to have the 'hacked' video leaked to Mother Jones magazine and according to CNN on February 21, 2013 . . . ůmore
As we have established the book business is always at heart a “Treasure Hunt”. It's axiomatic that experience will bring success if paired with hard work and a little luck. Remarkably the luck factor tends to increase in direct proportion to the amount of hard work spent, but that's another story. At the annual week-long Colorado Antiquarian Books Seminar (CABS), held each Summer in Colorado Springs, the faculty, all dedicated antiquarian booksellers themselves, advise students to “Look At The Book”! That mantra is repeated ad infinitum throughout the week, yet it is the essential kernel from which all evaluation proceeds. Great advice even for those of us who have been engaged in this business for years. Careful examination of the book speaks volumes, (sorry), in identifying the specifics of the item. Edition, age, in some cases scarcity, provenance, printer, binding designer, watermarks, limitation, importance and value can be largely determined by that initial observation…but sometimes pieces just speak to you.
Often there is just something about an obscure book or piece of ephemera that gnaws at you. It demands more attention and I find myself setting them aside for further review. Recently as I was working through a box of miscellaneous old paper, largely publishing house advertisements for forthcoming books all from the 1890s to the 1920s I saw a small bifolium – a bifolium is a sheet of paper or parchment with writing or printing on the recto and verso of a folded sheet, creating four leaves or pages. There was no indication of ůmore
In Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit, Tom Pinch goes to Salisbury to meet Mr. Pecksniff’s new pupil, and with time to spare he roams the streets:
But what were even gold and silver to the bookshops, whence a pleasant smell of paper freshly pressed came issuing forth….That whiff of Russian leather, too, and rows and rows of volumes, neatly ranged within: what happiness did they suggest! And in the window were the spic-and-span new works from London…. What a heart-breaking shop it was.
Mr. Meador in these pages has already taken up my theme with poignant elegance – nay, eloquence; but here I offer just a few nostalgic notes. When I was young and twenty – like A.E. Housman – there was a used/rare/books and china shop here in Kennebunkport – The Old Eagle Bookshop— under the hand of Copelin Day, whose vintage 1770’s house has alas been re-vintaged. Mr. Day had a prodigious limp and was a curmudgeon of magnitude, but each day, weather notwithstanding, ůmore
The Victorian period, especially in England, was a hotbed for architectural follies. In an article on Victorian follies in the July 2003 issue of The Antiquer, Adele Kenny notes several definitions, including the Oxford English Dictionary’s kindly and understated — “a popular name for any costly structure considered to have shown folly in the builder.” Chambers goes a bit further with “a great useless structure, or one left unfinished, having begun without a reckoning of the cost” and the Oxford Companion to Gardens, in case we still don’t get it, says architectural follies are “characterized by a certain excess in terms of eccentricity, cost or conspicuous inutility.” I think the two words “conspicuous inutility” sum it up best, but say what you will a lot of us love them all the same.
Architectural follies began to appear in England during the 18th century but it wasn’t until the early industrial period of the 19th century that wealthy new owners of landed estates were able to indulge their fantasies on a grand scale. ůmore
The literature of the Nakba (expulsion and dispossession of the Palestinian people, starting on or about May 15, 1948) is vast. There are many published personal narratives such as Sari Nusseibeh’s Once Upon a Country (NY, Farrar, Straus, 2007) and Karl Sabbagh’s Palestine, A Personal History (NY, Grove Press, 2007), unsparing historical accounts such as Israeli historian Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford, OneWorld, 2006), and countless books and essays focusing on various aspects of the struggle. There is even a significant sub-genre of literature ůmore
As far as I know, I am one of only two members of the Johnson Society of Australia who are booksellers. I strongly suspect that I am the only one who has ever felt ambivalent, even fraudulent, about his membership. Although I am not, I think, an unclubable man, when I attended my first (and only) meeting of the society, held in the elegant upstairs chambers of Bell's Hotel in South Melbourne, I skulked in the background, feeling like an interloper, an impostor. I was the Great Sham of Literature. Why? For one thing, at the time I had not read more than odd fragments of Dr. Johnson's writings. For another, a lot of what I had read fairly made my blood boil. And yet, and yet. Something about the man, while it repelled me, also attracted me, fascinated me, sucked me in. Enough, clearly, to make me want to join the club, pay my dues and turn up at the meeting. Not as a saboteur or as a heckler but in good faith. Even so, at that Johnson Society meeting ůmore
Laugh about it, shout about it When you've got to choose Every way you look at this you lose...
I think our presidential elections have become perpetual reality television for all sorts of reasons – for one thing it gives steady jobs to political reporters and a lot of advertising dollars for people in the television news business. We might hope it will be over and done with come November 8th, but I suspect this is the nightmare that won't go away. My pretty safe prediction is that barely six months into 2017 t.v. 'news reporters' with little else to do will be stirring up speculation about likely candidates for 2020 and start the cycle all over again. I placed 'news reporters' in single quotes because by now it must be fairly obvious that journalists have all but given up their traditional role of being disinterested professionals and have become enthusiastic and unashamed curators of the news. ůmore
Events of late have made me wonder if Darwin got it only half right. I don't quarrel with the theory proposed in On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871), that modern man evolved from earlier primates and the earlier primates from mammals, that in all probability, evolved from even more primitive life forms. Even though I don't pretend to be anything close to a biologist, it all seems to make a lot of sense. Some of us agree with Darwin's theories, some not. Some people argue the subject heatedly, while others simply agree to disagree. That is what civilized people (i.e. those who have evolved intellectually and morally) do. What uncivilized people do is kill others who do not believe as they do. ůmore