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
On Thursday, August 24th, PBA Galleries will offer more than 300 lots of fine miniature books from the library of an East Coast gentleman. Included are many fine individual volumes along with complete or nearly complete collections from some of the best known modern publishers of miniature books. A selection of antiquarian miniatures is included as well. Among the rarities are nine different versions of the Rosemary Press printings of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, many of which have never appeared at auction before; the 1828 OperaOmnia of Horace in microscopic 2.5-point type; a complete gathering of the REM Miniatures Dard Hunter books, a collection of 10 fine miniature artist’s books by Soraya Marcano, most issued in editions of less than 10 copies and rarely encountered; along with many other desirable volumes. Other highlights of the sale include substantial collections from the Black Cat Press, the Hillside Press, the Press of Ward Schori, REM Miniatures, Achille J. St. Onge, and collections of many other miniature book publishers. Many former holders of the record for the smallest printed book in the world are also represented along with a significant number of micro-miniatures, perfectly sized for the doll’s house library.
A miniature typographical wonder, the 1828 edition of the Opera Omnia of Horace, printed in Henri Didot’s microscopic 2.5-point type is considered by Spielmann “One of the typographical wonders and an unsurpassed feat as far as minuteness and beauty of type is concerned.” It is superbly bound by C. Hardy in full red morocco, elaborately stamped in gilt on spine and covers, gilt dentelles, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. (Estimate: $1,500-$2,500) [See image at left]
The rare Rosemary Press edition of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, was printed for the members of the Chile Club. Amongst the rarest of the many miniature Rubaiyats, it is one of nine different printings by the Rosemary press for various clubs and organizations offered in this auction, all are rare. It is housed in a custom book-shape box of full blue morocco and bound in a Chilean flag design. (Estimate: $1,000-$1,500)
Fine facsimile edition of the Carmina Sapphica by Horace originally printed at the 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
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
John C. Huckans Books. A very small selection of rare, scarce & unusual books in the areas of Americana, Literature, Latin Americana, Utopian Communities, Miscellanea offered for sale by John C. Huckans Books.
Religious Material Performs Well at Freeman's June 16th Sale
On Friday June 16th 2017, Freeman’s presented the Books & Manuscripts sale, whose catalogue included more than 350 lots spanning everything from sacred texts to autographed letters, and even photographs of the moon taken by the Surveyor probe. The sale achieved a 90% sell-through rate and totaled over $800,000.
The two top-selling lots of the day were both sacred texts. Lot 156, a Single leaf Hebrew Bible pericope, printed by Gutenberg in 1455, sold for $53,125. As the first major book produced using moveable type, the Gutenberg Bible remains one of the scarcest books conceivable. The next lot, a Portable Manuscript Latin Bible composed in 13th-century France (Lot 157) sold for $50,000. The historic significance of both of these texts extends beyond any religious affiliation.
There was a palpable excitement in the room when bidding for a lithograph of the interior of the Hebrew Synagogue of Charleston, South Carolina (Lot 212) skyrocketed, eventually selling for $25,000, one hundred times its initial estimate of $250-400. The building was destroyed by a fire in 1838 and was rebuilt several years later. One of the oldest Jewish congregations in the country, the synagogue is also the oldest in continuous use, since its founding in 1749. The lithograph was printed in Philadelphia, and shows the vaulted interior of the original structure, which is now known as the Congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim.
Another historical document from the south captured the attention of bidders that afternoon. A letter written by Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee (Lot 195) during the 1864 Second Battle of Deep Bottom, from his headquarters in Virginia, sold for ůmore
Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) occupies a lofty place in American cultural history. He spent two years in a cabin by Walden Pond and a single night in jail, and out of those experiences grew two of this country’s most influential works: his book Walden and the essay known as “Civil Disobedience.” But his lifelong journal—more voluminous by far than his published writings—reveals a fuller, more intimate picture of a man of wide-ranging interests and a profound commitment to living responsibly and passionately. Now, in a major new exhibition entitled This Ever New Self: Thoreau and His Journal opening June 2 at the Morgan Library & Museum, nearly one hundred items have been brought together in the most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to the author. Marking the 200th anniversary of his birth and organized in partnership with the Concord Museum in Thoreau’s hometown of Concord, Massachusetts, the show centers on the journal he kept throughout his life and its importance in understanding the essential Thoreau. More than twenty of Thoreau’s journal notebooks are shown along with letters and manuscripts, books from his library, pressed plants from his herbarium, and important personal artifacts. Also featured are the only two photographs for which he sat during his lifetime, shown together for the first time. [Benjamin D. Maxham (1821–1889), Henry D. Thoreau, Daguerreotype, Worcester, Massachusetts, June 18, 1856. Berg Collection, New York Public Library.] The exhibition runs through September 10. ůmore
Albany Book Fair Revived (submitted by Garry Austin)
Dear Friends & Colleagues:
It is my great pleasure to announce that the Albany Book Fair is back after a two year hiatus! The Albany Institute of History & Art is once again our sponsor and this year’s fair will be held November 26, 2017 at the Polish Community Center, 225 Washington Avenue Ext. Albany NY. The PCC is a well known destination and is home to a number of events, the DAR Antique Show; the Albany Stamp & Coin Show, the Train Show and a number of other well established and well attended fairs and shows. You'll find their exhibition space more akin to a hotel ballroom – carpeted, well-lit and without stairs or other impediments to hinder easy access. There is also a well regarded restaurant specializing in Polish cuisine but with a wide array of offerings. They offer a private lot with ample parking and an electronic marquis along the street that will annouce the fair weeks in advance.
Please contact us for an information sheet that will explain set-up, show times, booth sizes and fees. Move-in should be hassle-free with easy access to exhibition space from the private parking lot. There will be porters available for your use and a show equipment provider will make available both counter and wall display cases and pegboard units on a rental basis. We will provide you with a price sheet directly from them. The Albany Community has always embraced the book fair in the past and we expect solid support this year.
Once again we will be well represented as an underwriter of WAMC Radio, the NPR organ that blankets the entire Hudson Valley, the Capital District, the Southern Adirondacks, Western Massachusetts and Vermont. Print ads will appear in the Albany area newspapers. We will maintain both an Albany Book Fair website and a Facebook Page. We will try to honor any reasonable request to make this show a more pleasurable experience for you and are available for your questions at our shop at (802) 464-8438, or you may e-mail us at any time at email@example.com. Visit the show website at www.albanybookandpaperfair.com. We look forward to seeing you in Albany in November.
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 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
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
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 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
The day after the California primary the television news organizations lost little time analyzing the results. My personal bias, shared by many others, is of someone who being unable to support either major party candidate, will be going the third party route for the fourth consecutive election cycle. My respect for Bernie Sanders, even though I disagreed with him on several issues, is now moot. So it might well be 1856 all over again, but more on that later.
Honest television news coverage is hard to come by, but I find the PBS News Hour the least objectionable of the lot – no pharmaceutical ads or breathless celebration of pop culture personalities is a pretty good competitive advantage. Having said that, I was quite surprised (well, not really) by the list of guest analysts Judy Woodruff had on the News Hour the day after the primary. The three she invited to analyze Mrs. Clinton's big win in California and consequent locking up of the Democrat nomination, took turns gushing, giggling and swooning over the prospect of a ůmore
A friend in Germany has been a bit dazed and confused by the American presidential campaign and wondered if I, as an American, might be able to explain the Trump phenomenon. I can't, but here goes anyway...
The front-runners of the two major political parties would head my short list for a Who's Who of weird participants in the 2016 Flying Political Circus. Mr. Trump has no trouble coming up with endlessly reported soundbites that make a lot of people cringe, seems hell-bent on establishing himself as the Andrew Dice Clay of American politics, and then compounds the felony by having a lousy interior decorator. ůmore
Not too long ago I caught a PBS broadcast of a production of one of the grandest of French operas, Hector Berlioz's “Les Troyens”. Berlioz himself wrote the libretto based on the Aeneid, a sort of Roman-centered epic poem that Virgil concocted from various sources, including a rip-roaring tale by a blind poet named Homer who may or may not have been blind or who may or may not have even existed. Either way it doesn't much matter because the story is a good one.
The first two acts of the opera center around Cassandra, the daughter of Priam who had received the gift of prophecy and then, according to which story you believe, was cursed by Apollo when she refused his attentions which turned out to be more than Platonic. The curse ran something like this – she could predict, prophesy, rant and otherwise warn about all sorts of bad things to come until she was blue in the face, but no matter what she might say no one would believe her. But that was only the half of it – for her troubles she would be insulted, branded as a liar, a mad woman or all three.
In one of her delusions she thought there was something fishy and not quite right about the gigantic wooden horse that the Greeks had wheeled up in front of the gates of the city. Right off she smelled a rat (or maybe it was the fish) and set out with an axe and a torch to destroy the thing along with any cargo that might be in the hold. ůmore