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Catalogue Review: Librairie Metamorphoses

“Pure praises do not provide a comfortable existence; it is necessary to add something solid, and the best way to praise is to praise with cash-in-hand.” (Molière, The Middle Class Gentleman, Act I) 

meta.JPGThe second catalogue to appear from Librairie Métamorphoses is a tour de force. No surprise, considering that the Parisian firm was founded by Michel Scognamillo, former librarian and confidante to French collector Pierre Bergé, the lifelong business and romantic partner of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. 

Before we talk about the contents, let’s look at the front matter. Smartly sheathed in a matte black binding and illustrated with a black-on-red silkscreen self portrait of Marcel Duchamp (#21 in the catalogue; price available on request), this volume is dedicated to Cédric Herrou, the 39-year-old olive farmer who ferried dozens of asylm seekers through France via what has been dubbed the French Underground Railroad. It is a fitting tribute, considering the contents of the catalogue are dedicated to the ideals of equality and freedom of expression.

So, what’s inside? Where to start? With the selection of material dedicated to poet Guillaume Apollinaire? Or the handwritten sheet music by George Bizet (€15,000)? Correspondence from George Sand to her dear friend Gustave Flaubert (€12,000) is marvelous, too, but perhaps the pièce de résistance is a 1671 edition of Molière’s The Middle Class Gentleman (Le Bourgeois gentilhomme), printed at the playwright’s expense and bound in its original vellum.

This particular volume is exceptional as a masterpiece of French literature and as a turning point in the editorial emancipation of Molière, who had personally financed the publication of his play Tartuffe in 1669. With The Middle Class Gentleman, Molière declined to transfer his rights to a bookseller after the play became successful, as he had done with Tartuffe. Now, the playwright retained all legal rights and profits for himself. And yet the haste with which this edition was printed is evident: typographical errors, erratic punctuation, and sloppy copy calibration abound, but these characteristics only add, according to the catalogue, “a certain charm” to the volume and to its rarity. Price available upon request.


There’s no website for Librairie Métamorphoses, but interested parties can visit the shop at 17 rue Jacob in the 6th arrondisement in Paris, call 33 06 13 92 76, or email at

More treasures fill this beguiling catalogue, while the bibliographical notes are reason enough to seek it out. If only I had more than “pure praises” for Libraries Métamorphoses, but for now it will have to do.



Turn to any page of the recently published, two-volume, folio-size Catalog of the Cotsen Children’s Library: The Nineteenth Century  -- say, page 24 of volume II -- and the bibliographical detail accompanying each entry and illustration are case studies in thoroughness. In my case, page 24 reveals a charming, full-page, illustration of Theodore Léfèvre’s Bébé saurait bientôt lire (approx. 1880), a hand-colored wood engraving frontispiece for an elementary reader.

This project didn’t come together overnight; for over twenty years, a team of dedicated librarians and staff at the Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton University have been fastidiously compiling a complete catalogue of that library’s research material. To put it mildly, this has been no small undertaking. Out of the nearly 100,000 items donated by Princeton alumnus (‘50) and Neutrogena executive Lloyd Cotsen, 23,000 non-circulating items spanning the 15th through the 20th century and written in thirty languages will ultimately be included in the multi-volume compendium.

Included in the Nineteenth Century are descriptions of 6,370 children’s books in the library’s holdings and 270 full-color illustrations. Titles were selected for this publication based on their illustrations or their representation of a particular style or development. As the focus is on the 19th century, work by well-known illustrators like Charles Perrault and Kate Greenaway figure prominently, as do examples of then-revolutionary printing and illustrating techniques.

These lavender, gilt-stamped cloth volumes are arranged alphabetically, with each entry given meticulous bibliographic detail. The pair is being sold through Oak Knoll Press for $250. Nineteenth Century joins the Cotsen’s earlier two-volume catalogue, published in 2000 and 2003, chronicling the library’s 20th-century holdings. A final, two-volume project is in the works that will examine the Cotsen’s children’s books dating from the 1400s through 1801.

Among some of the treasures in the Cotsen’s holdings include picture letters by Beatrix Potter, incunables, drawings by Edward Lear, and even an early-Coptic schoolbook. Though the Cotsen collection is non-circulating, the library hosts an array of impressive virtual exhibitions using its holdings. 


Images courtesy of Oak Knoll

Regular readers of Fine Books, in print and online, need no introduction to A.N. Devers, who not only writes for us but, in having recently launched her own rare book business, has also been featured as a Bright Young Bookseller. The Second Shelf focuses on “rare books, modern first editions, and rediscovered work by and about women writers.”

43184097_344543259445971_5108191311656124416_n.jpgThe Second Shelf has just released its first catalogue, which is unlike any rare book catalogue any of us has ever seen. For a few years in an earlier iteration of this blog, I wrote weekly catalogue reviews, but that sputtered out as I saw the same format, and sometimes the same books, over and over again. What makes The Second Shelf: A Quarterly of Rare Books stick out -- and makes it worthy of reviving the Friday catalogue review -- is its unique design: part catalogue, and part literary magazine.   

The literary components include pieces of writing about women by women, including essays by TJ Jarrett on Gwendolyn Brooks and Nell Stevens on Elizabeth Gaskell, the latter illustrated with lush photography by Jo Emmerson. There’s also an original poem by Ariana Reines, commissioned by The Second Shelf to address one of the catalogue’s highlights: Sylvia Plath’s tartan plaid skirt (price £12,500; $16,350).

As a catalogue, here are some of the offerings that caught my eye: a Robert Indiana lithograph of a costume design for Gertrude Stein (£800; $1,050). There’s a set of super charming hand-painted folk art dominoes dating to 1901 (£800; $1,050). There are some excellent editions of Austen, Bronte, and Du Maurier, as well. And, in addition to the tartan skirt and some other Plath memorabilia, there’s a privately printed, spiral-bound book from 1989 called Last Encounters (£575; $750), written by Plath’s neighbor Trevor Thomas Bedford, and which portrayed Ted Hughes in a bad light. Hughes took Bedford to court and attempted to have all copies of the book destroyed. Plath’s brown sleeveless dress, priced at £2,600 ($3,400), has already sold, according to Devers.

Speaking of what has sold so far, Devers has placed some Miriam Tlali editions in a library, as well as an edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. “My favorite thing in the catalogue is a Boots’ library copy of Patricia Highsmith, which we hung by a noose and the noose is included, and it sold!” There has also been interest in a collection of eleven Yayoi Kusama first editions.

The catalogue hasn’t been fully distributed yet--it’s still landing in mailboxes around the world. Devers printed 2,000 copies, of which half are spoken for in sales of single issues and subscriptions. A free trade list without the essays and features can be obtained by signing up for the Second Shelf newsletter, said Devers.

Devers, who was featured in Vanity Fair this week, is also founding a shop in London at 14 Smiths Court. She expects to open in mid-November.

Photo by Rebecca Rego Barry

New Jersey-based antiquarian bookseller Between the Covers (BTC) Rare Books recently published a full-color catalogue devoted to women. Seventy items items by, for, and about the fairer sex include paintings, pottery, books, and manuscripts hailing from around the globe and across time.

One of the high spots includes a letter written and signed by Helen Keller (1880-1968) when she was seven years old. Believed to be one her earliest missives, this one was composed only two months after she began instruction with Anne Sullivan (1866-1936) the woman who would become her lifelong instructor and friend. Writing to her cousin Anna Turner, Keller is describing a train trip she recently took to Huntsville, Alabama. Keller made rapid progress under Sullivan’s careful tutelage; according to Michael Anagnos, director of the Perkins Institute for the Blind during Keller’s lifetime, she had already mastered 450 words “which she could use correctly and spell with perfect accuracy” after only four months spent working with Sullivan.


                                                                                                                                                         Keller’s handwriting is remarkably neat, legible, and reflects her early writing style of omitting articles and using the word “did” in past tense constructions. Keller made tremendous gains in communication and graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904--the first blind-deaf person to receive a Bachelor of Arts--and eventually authored twelve books, including her autobiography, The Story of My Life.

Throughout her life, Keller championed for the blind and the unfortunate, and served as a beacon of hope to those facing overwhelming odds, believing, as she put it, that “although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

Accompanied by a cabinet card of Keller as well as twenty other members of her family, this piece of history is available for $28,000. Contact Between the Covers for more information.

Photo of Helen Keller with Anne Sullivan on vacation in Brewster, Massachusetts in 1888 credit: Part of the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, via Wikimedia Commons.

Bonhams will hold its Fine Books and Manuscripts sale in London on Wednesday March 1st, and as usual, the accompanying full-color catalog brims with well-appointed material sure to pique the interest of a range of collectors. The theme for the March auction appears to be exploration and scholarly inquiry, with particular emphasis on science, technology, and literature through the ages.

Political documents pepper the catalog as well, such as a 1797 Letters Patent signed by President John Adams confirming the appointment of Thomas Bulkeley as the United States Consul for the port of Lisbon. Included in the lot is a letter rebuking any conflict of interest; Bulkeley sought no monetary favors in the deal because, “he possesses a very large independent fortune.” Estimated bids at $2492.20.

Arguably the highlight of the catalog is the collection of a deceased, unnamed French bibliophile comprising of fantasy and scientific literature from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. The collector assembled his material over the past thirty years, focusing initially on the recent history of aviation and then moving into the annals of the past. Bonhams has arranged this section of the catalog into two sections: one dedicated to the philosophers and scientists whose heavenly observations informed their work, and the second explores the challenges of human flight.

Among the high spots in the deceased French bibliophile’s trove include a first edition, two-volume set of Jonathan Swift’s Travels into Several Remote Nations of the Lemuel Gulliver, commonly referred to as Gulliver’s Travels, estimated at twenty-five thousand dollars. A 1634 first edition of Johannes Kepler’s A Dream: or, a Posthumous Work of Lunar Astronomy is also estimated at twenty-five thousand dollars.

Whether flights of fancy or grounded in scientific principles, the material in the forthcoming Bonhams sale has a common goal of making sense of the world beneath our feet and the universe above. The catalog is also available online for further browsing. 

Revisiting Raptis Rare Books

So pleased to see the new print edition of the Raptis Rare Books catalogue, in which Matthew and Adrienne Raptis announce they’ve moved from Brattleboro, Vermont, to a glittering new gallery on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, Florida. Raptis specializes in modern first editions, inscribed volumes, and “landmark books in all fields.” The firm last appeared on the blog when Nate Pedersen profiled Raptis in 2011 on the eve of the publication of their first catalogue.


The current full-color catalogue highlights an inventory of well-appointed high spots, such as a $150,000 presentation copy of James Joyce’s Ulysees in its original blue wrappers inscribed by the author, while children’s book collectors might be interested in a first edition near-fine set of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books for $16,000. A signed, limited edition of Winnie-the-Pooh with an original handwritten poem by Milne is available for $55,000.

Snow-weary Northerners now have another reason to visit Florida in winter--best wishes to Raptis in their new home. See the catalog for yourself here.

French antiquarian bookseller Jean-Baptiste de Proyart recently published Catalogue Huit, a sumptuous compendium of illuminated manuscripts and rare books being offered for sale. This is the eighth catalogue de Proyart has released since setting up his own boutique, currently nestled on rue Fresnel in Paris’ tony sixteenth arrondissement, a stone’s throw from the Trocadero and the Palais du Chaillot. Prior to “sailing his own ship,” as he puts it, de Proyart cut his teeth in Sotheby’s London book department and provided expertise during the monumental, 12,000-volume, six-part sale of the collection of legendary bookseller Pierre Berès in 2005 and 2006.


catalog 8.JPG

                                                                                                                                                   Specializing in antiquarian rarities and beauties, de Proyart’s catalogues are vast archives of information, testaments to rigorous scholarship of the material at hand. Catalogue Huit, like the rest of de Proyart’s catalogues, are not merely filled with pretty pictures and hefty price tags; they are filled with history and provenance details that together provide an intimate examination of the world of antiquarian books while also reconstructing the world of the past as codified on paper. Turning to nearly any page reveals unique books with stellar provenance.

A 1531 Book of Hours illustrated by Geoffory Tory is, as de Proyart writes, a “masterpiece of French Renaissance illumination.” Bound in gold-tooled moroccan leather, the item illustrates why Tory’s contributions to the world of illuminated manuscripts are so coveted by collectors. This particular copy belonged to Louis Joinville (1773-1849), a bureaucrat during the French Revolution and later deputy to statesman and poet Pierre Daru. (Price available upon request.)

An oversize choir book (or graduel) dating from around 1450 includes songs chanted at daily mass. Finely painted letters in blue, red, green, and gold leaf, accompanied by miniature unicorns, dragons, and stags throughout the manuscript suggest that all the decorations were completed in one workshop. This particular Graduel is believed to have been created south of Cologne and once belonged to the prince of Oettingen-Wallerstein, a collector of European history. Bound in fifteenth-century vellum with illuminated illustration throughout, this Graduel is being offered for 380,000 euros.

Another exciting piece is the first appearance of François Marie Arouet (a.k.a. Voltaire) in print, a seven-page ode written while Voltaire was still a student at Louis le Grand. This early piece demonstrates the future philosopher’s brilliance at written discourse, and this Imitation de l’Ode du R. Père du Jay sur Sainte Genevieve is surprising, given Voltaire’s future views on religion. (Voltaire later repudiated claims that he was the author of the work. In a letter written in 1766, he quipped that if Saint-Genevieve, the patron and of Paris believed to save the city from Atilla the Hun, ever returned to earth, “she would be quite bitter” towards him.) This rare publication, of which only five copies exist in French institutions and none are known to be in American universities or libraries, is available for 15,000 euros.

For the francophile with deep pockets or big dreams, Catalogue Huit is hard to beat. Though not quite the same as a physical copy, a PDF of the catalogue may be downloaded here.

                                                                                                                                                          Image Courtesy of the bookseller.

The Alchemy of Book Art: 8 Works by Tim Ely

Master bookbinder Tim Ely’s elaborate art books are sophisticated otherworldly mash-ups of landscapes, diagrams, and architecture meant to inspire and provoke. The Snohomish, Washington native has been making books for almost his entire life, finding inspiration on heaven and in earth, fusing science and art with paper and ink. Contemporary art bookbinding specialist Abby Schoolman Books recently prepared a catalog of eight of his art books entitled Timothy C. Ely 8 Books.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Cover for Bones of the Book. Photo courtsey of Abby Schoolman Books.

                                                                                                                                                                   If the name sounds familiar, that’s because Ely pops up frequently here on the FB&C blog, and he was featured in the winter 2011 print issue, as well. His mastery of bookbinding techniques coupled with artistic innovation follow in the footsteps of monastic illuminators and bookbinders, continuing the long legacy of book arts. “Beyond deep reading, I have found that the best way to become informed about an event or gather a bit of enlightenment is to make an expressive book,” Ely says in the catalog. 

Close-up of Ely’s binding technique. Photo courtesy of Abby Schoolman Books.

Some of the books are biographical, such as Bones of the Book ($100,000), in which Ely examines when his parents met at a paper mill, and how this serendipitous association of people and paper somehow led the artist to a lifelong fascination with the art of the book. “Bones of the Book reflects my identity as a maker of things, bones as structural supports, and how that metaphor maps itself onto the cultural object/artifact of the book,” Ely writes. Other creations are more speculative, ruminations on mechanical worlds in outer space, the transmission of thought, and the alchemy of creating spellbinding objects. No matter how you look at them, each is a multidimensional, multisensory work of art.

Timothy C. Ely 8 Books is available through Amazon. Contact Abby Schoolman Books for further information.

Catalogue Review: Lorne Bair, One Hundred Recent Arrivals

What I have at hand is not one of Lorne Bair’s “major” catalogues (one of which we reviewed in 2011), but it is a handy printed catalogue containing 100 new acquisitions, some of which he may have already sold at the California fair, and some of which he is likely to have for this weekend’s fair in Washington D.C. and next weekend’s Florida Antiquarian Book Fair in St. Petersburg. 

But a small catalogue makes a big splash when it is filled, as this one is, with so many good-looking books. Bair, as some may know, specializes in the history, art, and literature of American social movements. His offerings are often visually striking, and sometimes bizarre (in a good way). This catalogue features modern literature, he explains in a brief introduction, from a major collection of 19th- and 20th-century American literature. And while he calls it, “100 Books You’ve Totally Heard Of,” some aren’t seen terribly often, e.g. a first edition of Mary Poppins, in the pretty pictorial jacket in near fine condition ($950), or the American edition of E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, in its scarce, text-heavy dustwrapper ($2000), or William Carlos Williams’ five-volume poem, Paterson, in near fine condition with original jackets ($1,750), or the American edition of John Dos Passos’ first book, One Man’s Initiation, in dust jacket ($1,500). 

There are also firsts from the standards: Faulkner, Hemingway, Hammett, Kerouac, O’Connor, Steinbeck, and Twain. Modern firsts collectors, take note.

I’d be insanely happy to have the first edition of Tim O’Brien’s If I Die in a Combat Zone, with a bookplate signed by the author inserted ($1,200). The book is near fine, the jacket is near fine, the signature is clear, and it is the work of a brilliant writer. I’m sure others out there might feel the same way about the 1954 Grove Press first English edition of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, the “best copy we have seen,” writes the bookseller ($3,750). If so, you know where to find it. 

Catalogue Review: Buddenbrooks Rare Books and Manuscripts

I don’t know how it has happened, but I’ve never had the opportunity to visit Buddenbrooks Rare Books (in Boston) or even to peruse one of their catalogues -- until now. I’ve been flipping through catalogue 159 all week, each time finding something incredible.

As any follower of this blog will know, I zero in on Thoreau in any catalogue, and here I found an autograph manuscript fragment, containing approximately 143 words in Thoreau’s hand of an article he was writing for the Atlantic Monthly ($10,500). The content relates to his “first sight of Katadn” in Maine. Buddenbrooks also features a fine Hemingway autograph letter ($9,500) on the same page, but for me, there’s no contest.

In fine bindings, two offerings gave me pause. One is a black morocco binding by Paul Bonet, gilt tooled in high Art Deco fashion--and picturing what looks like an upside-down Empire State Building made of multi-colored onlays on the spine ($24,500). The other is a set of Milne’s four “Pooh” books, all first editions, bound by Bayntun-Riviere in fine full gilt decorated morocco ($17,500).

I also love the original painting by Edward J. Detmold for the cover art to The Peacock Book ($2,450). Quite a desirable piece for collectors of the popular illustrator.

In this catalogue there is no theme necessarily, but Bruddenbooks does have a nice selection of collectible bibles, including the 1634 English Bible in period calf ($2,250), the Ballantyne Press’ Three-Decker in deluxe hand-tooled morocco bindings ($795), an extensively illustrated Victorian American Bible ($950), and Dore’s super folio, deluxe, two-volume Bible c. 1875 ($4,950).

I know where I’m going to go next time I’m in Boston!
Catalogue Review: Bauman Rare Books, Holiday 2012

The thing about a Bauman Rare Books catalogue is that it makes you want to settle into a comfy chair with a hot toddy, fireside, before turning the cover. It is an experience to be savored. The catalogue is thick, shiny, colorful, and has gilded lettering; in other words, it evokes luxury, much like Bauman’s brick-and-mortar galleries in New York City, Las Vegas, and Philadelphia.

The holiday catalogue under review here has high spots--a hand-colored Nuremberg Chronicle, anyone?--in every category. And all of the books are so very pristine, as if they were published yesterday.

I was particularly smitten by a set of two Walt Whitman books, an author’s edition of Leaves of Grass and a first edition, second printing of Two Rivulets ($20,000). What’s interesting about these otherwise mundane (but collectible) nineteenth-century books is that they are accompanied by two autograph letters signed by Whitman from 1881 to the owner of these books, discussing their purchase direct from the poet. Whitman sent the books even though he had not yet received the money order!

Another fabulous find is a first edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter in original cloth, with a 1848 Port of Salem customs inspection receipt signed by the author tipped in ($18,000). Hawthorne was surveyor of the Salem Custom House for a time, and the novel’s introductory essay, “The Custom-House,” is based on that experience, which makes this copy very special indeed.

A second, thinner Bauman catalogue titled 130 Great Gifts offers lighter fare for the giving season. I’d love for someone to give me, for example, the first edition of Miracle on 34th Street in the sweet, pictorial cloth and jacket ($1,100). Another bit of Christmas synergy: the 1965 first edition of A Charlie Brown Christmas, adapted from the classic TV special ($850).

I come away feeling that Bauman has everything. And if they don’t, they can get it. You can read more about David and Natalie Bauman, the husband-and-wife team that has run the business for nearly 40 years, in this recently posted (and well illustrated) article.
img76_5.jpgOak Knoll Books of New Castle, Delaware, has just issued its 300th catalogue, a feat that certainly deserves some attention. As readers of this blog will know, Oak Knoll is both an antiquarian bookseller and a press devoted to the books about books genre. It was started by Bob Fleck in 1976 and has been continuously publishing catalogues of books old & new since then.

This catalogue offers a wealth of options -- the table of contents alone tempts any collector: bookbinding, book collecting, bookselling, publishing history, book illustration, cartography, book and graphic design, private and fine press, papermaking, printing history, reference and bibliography, type specimens, and writing and calligraphy. And the very first item in the catalogue, a beautifully illustrated broadside calendar by the bookbinding and stationery company Middleton & Dawson of Quebec, 1873, is a fine example of the treasures within ($750).

An interest in the good doctor Rosenbach? There’s a privately printed Christmas book, The All-Embracing Doctor Franklin, from 1932 that looks lovely ($700), as well as FB&C columnist Joel Silver’s recently published book, Dr. Rosenbach and Mr. Lilly: Book Collecting in a Golden Age ($49.95).

When I was a graduate student there was nothing I would have liked more than my very own copy of the four-volume History of Book Publishing in the United States by John Tebbel. Oak Knoll has a presentation copy for $550. Now I think David Pearson’s Books As History: The Importance of Books Beyond Their Texts ($29.95) should be required reading.

I am fascinated by the limited edition of Rudolph Ruzicka’s wood-engravings done for the Carteret Book Club of Newark, New Jersey, 1917 ($1,750). I’d love to have a close look at that one. There’s also a commendable section on Dard Hunter, with limited editions from his Mountain House Press.

Nearly 300 items in this 300th catalogue, so take a look. You can download the PDF here.

See also our review of Oak Knoll’s catalogue #296 and our Bright Young Things interview with Bob’s son, Rob Fleck.
Catalogue Review: Raptis Rare Books, #3

Screen shot 2012-11-08 at 5.09.10 PM.pngAlmost exactly one year ago I reviewed Raptis Rare Books’ catalogue #1. It has been my pleasure over this past week to page through their newest release, #3. What I liked then, I still like; i.e., Raptis offers a range of amazing books, but I most enjoy the focus given to the fine books not often seen.

The inscribed first edition of Zora Neale Hurston’s Jonah’s Gourd Vine fits into that category ($6,000). What an amazing original jacket, too! Or a signed first American edition of Jose Saramago’s The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis ($1,500). Or a signed first edition of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Angels in America by Tony Kushner ($3,750). Or a signed first edition of Tracy Kidder’s The Soul of a New Machine ($400).

Then there are the heavy hitters, like an inscribed first edition of The Catcher in the Rye ($200,000). As the catalogue notes, it is “one of the true rarities of twentieth-century American literature.” A near fine first edition of The Hobbit in a near fine dust jacket is further enhanced by its “brilliant custom full morocco box, with the front panel mimicking the frontispiece” ($50,000). A first edition of Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust, signed by the author, in the rare dust jacket ($38,500) comes just before its prettier sister, Helena--also a signed first edition and inscribed to fellow novelist J.F. Powers ($2,500).  

There are great galleys to be had in this catalogue, too, including an uncorrected proof of The World According to Garp, signed by the author ($2,250); a signed uncorrected British proof of Nadine Gordimer’s The Conservationist ($1,250); and a collection of eleven signed, uncorrected proofs of Steven Millhauser’s books ($3,500).

James Bond collectors should take note of an entire Fleming section. Plus, sets of fine bindings, some sci-fi, economics, and poetry. One last pick: how about an association copy of Daniel J. Boorstin’s The Discoverers, signed to Caspar Weinberger and bearing his bookplate ($450) -- that’s the Librarian of Congress to the Secretary of Defense. Pretty neat.

The catalogue can be downloaded here.

See also Raptis Rare Books in our Bright Young Things series.
Catalogue Review: Honey & Wax No. 1

honeyandwax.jpgIn his 84th “Moral Letter”, the philosopher Seneca wrote to his friend Lucilius one of the earliest, most in-depth descriptions of why we should use books as bees use flowers:

We should imitate the bees, as they say, which wander and pluck suitable flowers to make honey, then carry whatever, they arrange and distribute through the honeycomb...[W]e should imitate these bees and also separate whatever we have collected from different readings (for things that are separated are preserved better), then to combine with the care and ability of our mind having been applied these various offerings into one flavor, so that even now if it is apparent from where it was acquired, yet it is apparent that it is something other than from where it came.

For Seneca it was all a question of putting good reading to good use, literally extracting nourishing ideas from books that he read and copying them into a notebook. He recognized that we are a sum of parts, and attempted to read books in a way that would formally recognize the influential hodge-podge, the “many plots in one.” He wanted to read viscerally, he wanted to feel like he was taking something of the book with him, digesting it. Invoking the labors of the bee was one simple, elegant shorthand for invoking the complex art of remembering.

Nearly 2,000 years later, it’s wonderful to see Heather O’Donnell continuing the tradition and invoking the bee in bold from cover to cover of Honey & Wax Bookseller’s Catalogue Number 1. The selection of 80 “books with a social life and a secret past” are books that have already been used by bees. Highlights include a copy of Marianne Moore’s Tell Me, Tell Me with an off-the-cuff poem inscribed by the author to a friend and Frank O’Hara’s copy of Locus Solus I. Social life can span decades as with Graham Greene’s marked up copy of the letters of George Elliot. Speaking of nourishing the mind: there are guaranteed recipes for sweet honey across the centuries: Shakespeare, Milton, Johnson. Finally, a personal favorite showcases famous bibliophiles: Katherine Burton and Louise S.G. Perry’s Bibliolatrous Series of 8 short biographies on book lovers from de Bury to Folger.

Catalogue Honey & Wax No. 1 is a wonderful contribution to the latter-day history of bee-like reading for two reasons: the scholarship behind the books for sale, and the self-awareness of the whole thing. O’Donnell writes that nowadays, books offer us a choice, the choice “to give each other something lasting, rather than simply clicking ‘share’.” The catalogue descriptions tell us how to use books, as gifts, as notepads, as relics. We may not know what a social history of Twitter will look like, but for those who make the choice to commit to “books with no downloadable equivalent” there is a more certain future. We know what these books look and feel like. The future’s a beautiful thing.
Catalogue Review: Kaaterskill Books, No. 15

Kaaterskill Pic.pngKaaterskill Books of East Jewett, NY, has the distinction of being my local rare book dealer--I mean local in the rural sense; it’s probably about twenty miles from my home, still I’m pleased to know that rare books are out here in the wild. The ABAA bookshop, run by Joan and Charles Kutcher, offers a wide range of books, but the focus of its fifteenth catalogue is one of its specialties, Americana.

Here’s an interesting title to consider: Facts Regarding the Disinfecting Powers of Chlorine ... printed in Schenectady in 1832, as the Asiatic Cholera was spreading in New York ($150). Another: The Action, Therapeutic Value and Use of the Carlsbad Sprudel Salt (Powder Form) and its Relation to the Carlsbad Thermal Water from 1891 ($150).

In the interesting-to-look at category: I’d love to frame the United States Historical and Statistical Index broadside on offer, “Exhibiting a Comprehensive Arrangement of Prominent Statistical Facts, as Appertaining to each Particular State: Also of the General Government of the United States, from the Administration of Washington, inclusive, to the present date, June, 1839” ($1,500). Or peruse the souvenir album showing twenty-five albertypes of Brooklyn at the turn of the century ($175). There’s also a handsome hand-colored steel engraving, American Seaman’s Friend Society Membership Certificate, c. 1844-1848 ($1,000).

Fast forward out of the nineteenth century and find a typed advance copy of Harold L. Ickes’ 1939 speech, “Columnists and Calumnists,” ($150) or a first edition of Allen Ginsburg’s groovy broadside from 1967, “Who Be Kind To,” illustrated by Wes Wilson ($275).  

Mexico, the Panama Canal, slavery, and the Mississippi River feature prominently as subjects in this 154-item catalogue. Read deeply, there is so much to take in! Download the PDF here.
Catalogue Review: Extant Americana, #1

Screen shot 2012-09-13 at 2.13.24 PM.pngIf this is catalogue #1 from the New York City-based Extant Americana, our eyeglasses might be knocked off by forthcoming catalogues. There is so much visual punch on these pages, beginning with the cover illustration of a signed gelatin silver print of Fort Peck Dam by Margaret Bourke-White ($15,000).

How about a piece of watercolor folk-art depicting a black Union soldier holding some playing cards ($1,250). From the same period, a set of “extremely rare” hand-colored prints by Currier and Ives bound into a salesman’s sample book, c. 1863 ($10,000). The prints are Civil War scenes, such as the bombardment of Fort Sumter and combat between the Monitor and the Merrimac. They show some foxing, but the colors are amazing.

The red-tinted tintype of a fireman and his dog is a fascinating piece ($2,250), as is (for all the wrong reasons) a real-photo postcard of the public lynching of John Heath in 1885 ($2,250). The rare German Army recruiting poster titled “Und Du?” by Ludwig Hohlwein is another striking image ($6,000).

Bright Buffalo Bill posters and circus posters, advertising broadsides, Civil War medical photos, and election ephemera are also offered throughout, not to mention important letters, presidential autographs, and cool things like an 1872 Skull & Bones Society gold lapel pin (in a group with a yearbook and additional cartes de visit; $2,750).

Nearing the end of this jam-packed catalogue, you’ll find an original ink drawing by New Yorker artist Saul Steinberg that has never before been offered ($30,000) as well as a “women’s rights” toy figurine depicting a crude caricature version of Sojourner Truth that is quite incredible to see ($10,000).

But’s there more, so much more! You can download the full catalogue here:

Catalogue Review: Mac Donnell Rare Books, #50

If I didn’t know that Mac Donnell Rare Books is based in Austin, Texas, I might have guessed New England after surveying catalogue #50. The ABAA bookseller specializes in literary first editions, and its recent list is full of Massachusetts Transcendentalists and Romantics -- Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, and Herman Melville.

Of the many books offered, two particular titles in this area interested me. First: Autograph Leaves of Our Country’s Authors, 1864, edited John Pendleton Kennedy and Alexander Bliss. Says the catalogue: “The best literary anthology ever published in the nineteenth century ... entirely lithographed, reproducing the original manuscripts of each contribution” ($850). Sounds like a book I’d cherish. Second: an 1839 first edition of Jones Very’s Essays and Poems, containing family inscriptions ($500).

On another note, Mac Donnell has “the rarest American edition of any Bronte sisters’ work, and here it its rarest format”: the first American edition of Anne Bronte’s 1848 double-decker, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, in original brown printed wrappers ($15,000). 

Two other non-book items manifest the nature of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literary fame and objectified authorship. A signed photograph of William Dean Howells, c. 1920, shows him posed with pen in one hand and glasses in the other, with an inkwell and manuscripts under his gaze ($500). An earlier photograph, c. 1880-1895, measuring 2” x 2”, of John Greenleaf Whittier is mounted under a piece of octagonal beveled glass with faux morocco backing ($75). Mac Donnell calls it “a charming relic and the only one of its kind that we have encountered.”

If these subjects are as appealing to you as they are to me, check out Mac Donnell’s inventory of more than 3,000 volumes online here:

Catalogue Review: Seth Kaller

GW_Cat_Cover.pngThis week I had the pleasure of reading Seth Kaller’s new catalogue, Washington, The Revolution, and the Founding. I say reading because this is very much a reading catalogue--full of histories, long excerpts from correspondence, and provenance details. This catalogue of highlights contains documents, newspapers, maps, books, and artwork that manifest the vibrancy of American history. Of course this is all par for the course for the NY-based Seth Kaller, who has acquired, appraised, and sold some of the most important historic documents.

The Declaration of Independence, for example. There are a couple listed here. A rare July 1776 broadside printed in Salem, MA (price on request) and two Stone-Force facsimile editions from 1833 (one unfolded, $45,000; one folded $38,000).

Some amazing letters are offered as well. One is signed by Washington imparting his plans to “execute an enterprise against Staten Island” ($27,500). Another letter, entirely in his hand, from 1780, seeks “an entire new plan” for the nascent nation ($300,000). His famous ‘Throne of Grace’ letter from early in his presidency ($315,000) is now back on the market, after its exhibition at the National Museum of American Jewish History.

The famous ‘Tombstone Edition’ of the Pennsylvania Journal for Oct. 31, 1765 complete with skull and crossbones at the top is an incredible sight ($75,000). It is one of many historic newspapers seen in the catalogue.

A letter from Martha Washington as first lady to her niece ($47,500) and a hand-painted ivory miniature of her by Louis Andre Fabre ($9,500) bring us beyond politics and the war.

And in books, John Hancock’s Psalm book, signed by him with an autograph inscription warning against stealing (this book, presumably) is shiver-inducing ($68,000). Richard Rush, son of Signer Benjamin Rush, extra-illustrated his copy of Washington in Domestic Life, filling it with autograph signed letters between Rush and Tobias Lear, Washington’s private secretary ($7,500).

And, forgive me, I could not help but love the July 3, 1776 receipt for Saltpeter ($2,750). The image of Mr. and Mrs. Adams singing about it in the movie-musical 1776 is too strong!
Catalogue Review: Bay Leaf Used & Rare Books, No. 3

I received last week a bookseller’s catalogue that made me stop and look. It’s a brown file folder, into which is tucked several different sheets and cards, of varying colors and sizes, advertising a collection of 194 items on radical politics, modern poetry, and punk rock. It’s more like a press kit than a catalogue, and it’s pretty cool.

Who produced this package with so much visual punch? Bay Leaf Used & Rare Books of Sand Lake, MI, a brick-and-mortar shop that stocks a large selection of books, posters, prints, and ephemera. They have produced two previous catalogues on different subjects. This one is titled Poets, Punks & Revolutionaries.

One 5 x 7 full-color postcard shows an original screen-print movie poster, c. 1980-82, from El Salvador. The catalogue copy on the recto tells us that the film is full of images from Revolutionary El Salvador ($300). Another smaller postcard with a picture of staple-bound typed manuscript turns out to hold, on its flip side, the catalogue copy for an original Grand Jury report detailing the Dec. 4, 1969 Chicago Police raid on a Black Panther home ($800).

A two-sided color sheet lists several items on anarchism, from Remembering American Anarchism: A Mural by Susan Greene, an oversized postcard featuring the image of Greene’s mural ($15) to a collection of twenty-nine scattered issues of Why? A Bulletin of Free Inquiry (later An Anarchist Bulletin) from 1942-1947 ($975).

In a stapled section titled Punks & Poets, you can find some really cool stuff, such as books and MusiCards signed by The Clash, a flyer from The Western Front Punk Festival in 1979, and an original wire photo of New York’s Hotel Chelsea in 1978.

I applaud Bay Leaf on their revolutionary design sense and high production value in creating this catalogue. It’s a slap of modernity to traditional catalogues and exceedingly appropriate to the content. It won’t provide the same experience to download the PDF (here), but you can peruse more of their offerings and enjoy the photography.
Catalogue Review: Voyager Press

Screen shot 2012-07-19 at 8.34.19 PM.pngI have had the pleasure of talking with Voyager’s president, Bernhard Lauser, at book fairs in California and New York. So when his new catalogue of manuscript Americana landed in my inbox (in PDF), I was glad to take a look. Lauser, a Vancouver-based bookseller, specializes in travel and exploration, and this catalogue manifests that with unique whaling, trading, and sailing items.

An 1860-1890 archive of mining deeds, gold bullion receipts, and camp photographs from Idaho is a compelling collection ($5,750). Another nugget (pun intended) is a set of two letters and an 50-page manuscript inquest related to an American consul’s death on his way to the Klondike Gold Fields in 1898 ($2,250).

I have always been taken by nineteenth-century herbaria/scrapbooks. Here we have one that belonged to Julia T. Buck, an Englishwoman who traveled far and wide collecting plant specimens between 1890-1893 ($975). On a related note, famous naturalist Louis Agassiz appears in a signed carte-de-visite from 1860 accompanied by a letter dated 1921 describing its provenance ($975).

The topic of war is explored through two Revolutionary War journals ($9,750), a rare New Jersey Gazette from August 1778 ($1,750), and an American Civil War “passport” signed by William H. Seward ($575). A 45-page manuscript account of the Austrian military campaign in Mexico in 1867 is a surprising find ($7,500).

Fellow travelers can visit Voyager here and request a catalogue.

Catalogue Review: Peter Harrington 84

Screen shot 2012-07-12 at 7.05.31 PM.pngPeter Harrington’s newest catalogue contains “Seventy-Five Fine Books,” some of which are the highest of high spots: a King James Bible (second folio edition) dating from 1611-1613 (£150,000), a Second Folio of Shakespeare (£385,000), and the editio princeps of the writings attributed to Homer (£175,000).

But my tastes are slightly less imposing. I’m fascinated by the first edition, book issue, of Street Life in London, “a work which pioneered the genre of photojournalism,” published in 1877-1878 (£15,000).  And, as for beauty, it would be hard to top the three-volume set of Malory’s King Arthur illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley (£45,000). The binding by Cedric Chivers is stunning; says the catalogue, “The romantic, lush watercolour illustrations on the covers and the illuminated lettering pieces on the spines perfectly complement Beardsley’s famous and masterly illustrations to this classic work.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise that, as a magazine editor, I find the 116-volume run of the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731-1814, uniformly bound in late 18th and early 19th calf with red morocco lettering pieces and marbled endpapers, awe-inspiring (£17,500). So notes the catalogue, “The periodical is inevitably rich in historical interest. Of particular note is an early printing of the American Declaration of Independence (vol. XLVI, August 1776) among much else on the American Revolution...”  

All this, and many others you would expect in a catalogue of this caliber: first editions of Hardy, Stoker, Dickens, Darwin, Wilde, Woolf, Eliot, Joyce, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Beatrix Potter. If you’ve never seen the original dust jacket for Lawrence’s The Rainbow (I hadn’t), here’s your chance. If you want to buy it, it will set you back £42,500.

This catalogue is not only beautiful but educational for the book collector, novice or expert. Download it here.

See also our review of Peter Harrington 75 and an interview with bookseller Pom Harrington.
Catalogue Review: Between the Covers, #176

As I considered catalogues to review today, I was thinking about a comment I read on Twitter yesterday. I’ve been following tweets from the 53rd Annual Preconference of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Sections of the Association of College and Research Libraries in San Diego, CA, this week. The three most prominent voices I’ve heard are Molly Schwartzburg @bibliomolly of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia; Ian Kahn @luxmentis of Lux Mentis Rare Books; and John Overholt @john_overholt of Harvard University Library. (The hashtag for the conference is: #rbms12)

Yesterday one of them remarked that booksellers’ catalogues have to be more varied to attract buyers, and he cited the most recent Between the Covers catalogue as an example. I checked my desk for the most recent BTC and found #176. I wanted to see for myself what the tweeter was referring to, and I did. BTC routinely produces excellent catalogues, and what they offer is variety: books, art, ephemera, manuscripts. From an illustrated broadside, “One Day Marriage Certificate” of Richard Brautigan ($3,500; sold) to original dust jacket art for Carl Van Vechten’s novel, Spider Boy ($12,500) to an uncorrected long galley of the first American edition of Sylvia Plath’s Crossing the Water ($2,000) to the more traditional first editions of modern literature. There are also fabulously fun ‘book’ finds like Confessions of a Lesbian Prostitute from 1965 ($225) and a first edition, limited issue, of Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love ($1,200).

Not only does this make for fun reading, but the bookseller reaches a wide audience of collectors, with a broad set of interests.

(Previously reviewed: BTC #169)

Catalogue Review: La fin des Livres?

Screen shot 2012-06-15 at 9.58.28 AM.pngIs this a catalogue review? Yes and no. But the list of ten books circulated this week by Justin Croft Antiquarian Books of Kent, England, deserves a closer look. I love the idea behind this list of books by the late nineteenth-century Parisian publisher Octave Uzanne, “a bibliophile who foresaw the potential of electronic publishing. But he also saw that printed books could survive in the coming era by becoming objects of desire.” So he created beautiful books with well-designed covers, color plates, embroidered silk jackets, ribbons, and thick paper; the material artifact spoke volumes.

Here Justin Croft has curated a collection of ten books, not only for the collector of Uzanne or fin-de-siecle Paris, but also for those of us interested in this ongoing ‘death of the book’ narrative -- it is one of the consuming narratives of the current media landscape, and yet, as these books remind us, it has a much longer history. Croft explores the topic not by subject matter, but by the materiality of the books’ production, which is a very cool concept.

To read these descriptions, it seems as if Uzanne’s books were often delicate, with heavy paper and silk chemises. La femme a Paris, from 1894, is seen here in its scarce original pictorial and embroidered silk chemise, for example (£500). A study of women in ‘nineties Paris, it contains twenty hard-colored engraved plates, plus other illustrations, on floral paper. A fine copy of Son Altesse la Femme, from 1885, likewise appears in its original blue paper chemise with broad silk ribbon ties (£800). La nouvelle bibliopolis, “a plea for a new bibliophily” from 1897, was another fragile production, and in this case, the former owner pasted the publisher’s gilt wrappers to heavy boards to preserve them (£1000).   

With only ten books, the list is short and sweet. Don’t miss it -- download it here
Catalogue Review: Tomberg Rare Books, #1

Screen shot 2012-06-07 at 8.28.18 PM.pngIt is always a pleasure to review a bookseller’s first catalogue, and this one, just issued by Tomberg Rare Books, is no different. The Connecticut-based bookseller specializes in little magazines, the mimeograph revolution, Beat poetry, artists’ books, art, and ephemera.

A selection of William Burroughs includes a signed catalogue from Atticus Books listing 360 items for sale with a foreword by Burroughs on “The Future of the Novel” ($400) and the very cool Burroughs cut-up of the Nov. 30, 1962 Time magazine cover ($400). That issue contained a negative review of Naked Lunch, and Burroughs lashed back with this “part parody and part critique.”

A complete set (four volumes) of City Lights Journal is a nice find ($120) for collectors of Burroughs, Ginsberg, Corso, Snyder, etc. Too much San Fran? The “overseas wing of the New York School” is represented in a complete set of Locus Solus ($320).

Here are some other names you’ll encounter in this stand-out debut catalogue: Timothy Leary, Bob Dylan, Ezra Pound, & Hunter Thompson.   

My favorite? The Complete Press Kit for ‘Fugs’ Cross Country Vietnam Protest Caravan -- actually, a two-page handbill -- but what a great piece ($450). And this one comes from the collection of Ralph J. Gleason, San Francisco Chronicle music editor & co-founder of Rolling Stone.

Check out the full catalogue in PDF here
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Catalogue Review: Sophie Schneideman Rare Books

Screen shot 2012-06-01 at 10.27.25 AM.pngThe latest catalogue from London dealer Sophie Schneideman is dedicated to the Ashendene Press. So we’re are talking about beautiful books -- fine paper, typography & bindings.

The books offered here were once a part of the collection of Clarence B. Hanson, a newspaperman from Birmingham, Alabama. Hanson, a Grolier Club member, was a major collector of private press books in the 1960s and 70s, acquiring Kelmscott, Doves, and Ashendene Presses. The former two were featured in another recent Schneideman catalogue, but here we concentrate on the latter. It includes every book and minor piece created by the Press except the tiny Dolls House Horace.

For bindings, my favorite is the one done by Stikeman & Co. for Ashendene’s first illustrated volume, The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales (£4,500). The blue morocco is set off by spaced gilt letters that seem to float like stars in a sky. The design is repeated on the back cover with gilt flowers.

For typography and page design, Ashendene’s Song of Songs is breathtaking (£45,000). Hand-pained by Florence Kingsford, this lushly illuminated volume is one of only forty copies, all on vellum.

The “masterpiece” of the Ashendene Press, Tutte le Opere di Dante Alighieri, is here in the original morocco-backed laminated oak boards, plaited leather and silver clasps, and plain paneled spine lettered in gilt (£45,000). It is, says the catalogue, the “rarest of the three magnum opi of the English Private Press movement.” A very handsome book.

In the ‘minor pieces,’ a beautiful Christmas greeting, publication announcements, specimen pages, and a wedding booklet printed by Hornby for his son’s wedding.

Be dazzled for yourself. Download the catalogue here.  
Catalogue Review: ZH Books, #2

ZH Cover.pngZhenya Dzhavgova, recently featured on our blog as a ‘Bright Young Thing,’ specializes in Eastern European literature and Slavic language material. She is based in California and released this second catalogue last month; it has been well received in the trade both for its content and its minimalist black-and-white design (appropriately evocative of the material).

ZH offers a fine selection of books on drama, linguistics, and literature, including the first Russian edition of Lolita ($2,800), as well as books of political interest. A 1949 history of the anti-Imperialism struggles of Indonesia, Vietnam, Burma, and the Philippines, published in Moscow, is a particularly interesting find ($80).

There is a first edition of Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov’s Muzhe ($3,000). Because Markov was banned and then assassinated in 1978, “first editions of his writings are virtually impossible to find.”

In children’s books, an edition of Hamlet translated by Boris Pasternak from 1956 and illustrated with in-line engravings ($90) is but one of several places where the Russian poet and novelist pops up in this catalogue. The “Reputed Feltrinelli First Russian Edition” of Doctor Zhivago from 1958 is here, too, with a description of its “exceedingly complicated” publishing history ($780).

If this area of collecting is of interest, request a catalogue directly from ZH via email:
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Catalogue Review: Jeff Weber Rare Books, No. 168

California bookseller Jeff Weber is known to many as an expert on fore-edge painting, but his 12,000-book stock also covers bibliography, California, medicine, natural history, science & technology. His latest catalogue contains the library of Dr. Harry Friedman, a neurosurgeon and collector of military history. The offerings are extensive -- 281 items, ranging from $10 reprints to a 1555 second edition of De Humani Corporis for $95,000.

I like medical books as an area of collecting. Pick a malady, any area of medicine, or a particular doctor, and a collection can be created that spans centuries, languages, and formats. For Dr. Friedman, head injuries are of particular interest. For example, Dr. Harlow’s Case of Recovery from the Passage of an Iron Bar Through the Head...from 1850 ($750).

Bridging both his interest in neurology and the military, he also has several Army/Navy manuals pertaining to his subjects of interest, such as Manual of Neuro-Surgery from the U.S. Army, 1919 ($75). The rare first edition of the first American book on naval medicine is offered here: Edward Cutbush’s Observations on the Means of Preserving the Health of Soldiers and Sailors...from 1808 ($4,000).

The works of Dominique Jean Larrey and Harvey Cushing are well represented in the collection, and, as for a surprise, how about Frederick Law Olmstead (designer of Central Park) compiling a book titled Hospital Transports: A Memoir of the Embarkation of the Sick and Wounded from the Peninsula of Virginia in the Summer of 1862 ($395).

For printed catalogues, contact the bookseller at his website: Mail-order clients get priority of selection.
Catalogue Review: Steve Finer Rare Books, #197

Steve Finer of Greenfield, Massachusetts, issues your traditional antiquarian booksellers’ catalogue: a solid selection of books described in clear and witty prose, preceded by a personable letter. He calls the topics here his “predictable line of attack” -- i.e., agriculture, beverages, culinary history, domestic economy, and women.

The section of beer books is strong. One unique, ephemeral item caught my attention -- a “Receipt for making Doct. Cronk’s Beer” circa 1850-60. Finer calls the handbill “evidently unknown & unrecorded” ($150). In addition to menus and antiquarian cookbooks, he also offers several manuscript recipe books from the mid-to-late nineteenth century, ranging in price from $100-$250. Mock pigeon, anyone?

In domestic economy, we have all manner of good housekeeping advice. Catherine E. Beecher (Harriet’s sister) gave us Letters to Persons Who Are Engaged in Domestic Service in 1842, and Finer has the first edition ($100).

In the field of women’s books, Sarah Josepha Hale (The Lecturess: Or Woman’s Sphere; $100), Catherine Maria Sedgwick (The Poor Rich Man, and the Rich Poor Man, $35), and Lucy Larcom (Similitudes From the Ocean and the Prairie; $250) stand out.

And in the category of ‘subject headings I’ve never seen in booksellers’ catalogues: Barbed Wire. A truly interesting find here, Memorial of Philip Louis Moen, who was the head of Washburn & Moen, America’s chief manufacturer of barbed wire ($50).

Contact Steve Finer by email or phone, and stay tuned for his next catalogue, Books about Books and Printing History. Or see him in Boston next weekend at the Boston Book, Paper, & Photo Expo, sponsored by the Massachusetts and Rhode Island Antiquarian Booksellers.

Catalogue Review: Jonathan A. Hill, #201

‘Tis the season to review the newest catalogue from New York City-based bookseller, Jonathan A. Hill. His spring catalogue celebrates (Mostly) British Agriculture and Husbandry of the 18th Century, i.e. (mostly) farming books in beautiful leather bindings. The books offered here, the catalogue notes, were “patiently gathered by a New York City collector...over a twenty-year period...[who] was fastidious about condition...”

A peruse through the color-illustrated catalogue supports that statement. Take, for example, item #44, William Marshall’s Review of The Landscape, a Didactic Poem...from 1795, bound in contemporary cat’s paw calf with ornamental gilt on the spine and red morocco under the lettering -- a beauty of a book ($1,250). Samuel Copeland’s Agriculture Ancient and Modern..., published in 1866 and bound in the original publisher’s blind- and gilt-stamped green cloth bindings is a really handsome 8-volume set of books ($950). Another fine set, bound in half russia and marbled boards, contains most of agricultural reformer Arthur Young’s works in 19 volumes ($5,000). The catalogue has many editions of Young’s work, including a presentation copy of Political Arithmetic ($2,500), an uncut copy of the best edition of Travels during the Years 1787, 1788, and 1789 ($950), his most influential pamphlet, The Example of France, from 1793 ($1,250).

From this side of the pond, there are George Washington’s letters on agriculture, in a collected edition printed in Alexandria in 1803 ($950) and Charles Varlo’s A New System of Husbandry, a substantial text about American crops and farm animals, published in Philadelphia in 1785 ($1,500).

A perfect collection of books for an English country house -- or someone who pines for one. Some of these books can be viewed online at Jonathan A. Hill’s website, not yet the whole catalogue, but previous catalogues are listed there as well. 
Catalogue Review: Jason Dickson Antiquarian Books, Spring 2012

Screen shot 2012-03-30 at 9.29.55 AM.pngWith Canada on my mind this week, I turn to the spring catalogue of the young, Ontario-based bookseller, Jason Dickson. Turns out the timing couldn’t be better -- fishing season opens Sunday in New York, and Dickson offers here a selection of antiquarian books on fishing. William Scrope’s Days and Nights Salmon Fishing in The Tweed, published by John Murray in 1843, is highly regarded by anglers ($1,800). Jean Cussac’s Pisciceptologie, ou L’Art de la Peche, an illustrated book on fishing, is lovely in a bright red half-leather binding ($700). There’s also Fly-Fishing in Salt and Fresh Water, London, 1851, in its original green cloth ($950).  

Continuing the aquatic theme, Dickson has an 1897 London edition of The Buccaneers and Marooners of America by Alexandre Olivier Exquemelin, edited by Howard Pyle ($30). The pictorial cover is classic.

Beautiful, sharp pictorial covers also can be found on the first American edition of G.A. Henty’s A Jacobite Exile ($75), a second edition of Peter Bisset’s The Book of Water Gardening ($50), and a first edition of Cy Warman’s Weiga of Temagami and Other Indian Tales ($25).

Written in a straightforward style and accompanied by color images, Dickson’s catalogue is a grab bag that is great fun to rummage through -- from John Dryden to John Irving; A 1660 first edition of A Discourse and Defense of Arms and Armory ($400) to The Cook and Housewife’s Manual from Edinburgh, 1833 ($100); to bee-keeping and millinery.

Visit his shop in Bracebridge, Ontario, or online at
Catalogue Review: William Reese, Bulletin 25

Screen shot 2012-03-15 at 10.15.39 PM.pngWilliam Reese of New Haven, CT, hardly needs an introduction to seasoned book collectors, but for those new to the hobby, his company offers the cream of the crop in Americana and Literature. Catalogues are generally thick, beautifully illustrated, and full of amazing books and documents. The bulletin under review (issued between larger catalogues) is his most recent, and it is devoted to broadsides.

Broadsides, generally speaking, are one-sided printed sheets. They offer a street-level view of history; these were the flyers and posters pinned and posted around town, advertising sales or announcing wars. There are 32 items offered here--from an extremely rare 1778 broadside, Address to The Congress..., printed in Hartford, CT ($50,000) to an unrecorded, possibly first printed New York City liquor license c. 1702-1714 ($850). There are playbill broadsides, advertisements, addresses, and official government messages.

A 11” x 8” broadside from 1809 lists “Rules to be attended to during the Vaccination” for those considering a small pox inoculation ($1,250). I like the N.B. at the bottom, “Save the scab for examination.” A slave sale broadside from 1859 lists twenty-four slaves by name and age up for sale in Alabama ($6,000). Three-year-old Sarah and seventy-four-year-old Wallis among the “land, negroes, and perishable property” to sell “to the highest bidder.”

There are broadsides here for collectors of African-Americana, Native Americana, theater history, Revolutionary War, the South, French and Indian War, Quakerism, abolition, political history, California...The list is long because this short bulletin has exquisite examples from several major collecting categories, and yet it also prompts us to think about the many varied paths in collecting--the mark of a great catalogue.

See for yourself, by downloading it here.  
Catalogue Review: Eureka Books, #28

Eureka Books.pngThis is the first catalogue I’ve seen from Eureka Books, though not its first, and certainly not the first from bookseller P. Scott Brown, known to many of you as the former editor of FB&C and currently the co-proprietor of “one of the last classic antiquarian bookstores on the West Coast” (in Eureka, CA).

Having acquired a large private collection (fifty file boxes) of Isaac Asimov, Eureka Books has been listing his science fiction firsts (and more) since late January. There are numerous signed and inscribed books, as well as association copies.

In this beautifully illustrated color catalogue of highlights, it’s interesting (and instructive) to see several editions of one title, showing a range of rarity, condition, and value. Take, for example, Asimov’s The Robots of Dawn. Here listed is a first limited edition from Phantasia Press, lettered issue, one of 35 copies signed by Asimov and bound in full leather ($1,850). Or, you could choose that first limited edition, one of 650 signed and numbered copies, in a fine dust jacket ($250). Or, perhaps the 1983 Doubleday first edition, inscribed by the author and in a fine dust jacket ($300). Lastly, that same edition with a jacket showing slightly more wear and a different inscription ($175). We could do this same exercise with Robots and Empire, Pebble in the Sky, I, Robot, and Nightfall.

Other fun finds in this catalogue: Isaac Asimov’s How Is Paper Made? co-authored by Elizabeth Kaplan and published in 1993 ($25). Asimov’s Realm of Algebra, published in 1964, in which “the good doctor explains algebra to smart kids” ($125). And Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare, a first edition in two volumes in NF dust jackets and slipcase ($200).

Enjoy a PDF or fully illustrated web version by clicking here:
Catalogue Review: Jarndyce, The Library of a Dickensian
Written by Ian McKay*

197.jpgWe are going to see and hear a lot of Charles Dickens in this bicentenary year, and on February 7, London booksellers, Jarndyce issued what they describe as “The Dickens Catalogue of the Year.”
    Containing amongst its 136 items, inscribed and other first or significant editions, letters and manuscript material, prints that once hung on the staircase wall at Gad’s Hill, and assembled by one private collector, this, say Jarndyce, will be the finest collection to be offered in the year in this 200th anniversary year.
    Among those inscribed copies is the 1839 first of Nicholas Nickleby that he gave to the artist Sir David Wilkie, godfather to his close friend and fellow writer, Wilkie Collins.
    Containing a long letter in which Wilkie describes a party that Dickens gave to celebrate the book’s publication, this copy in a presentation binding of dark green morocco gilt bears the bookplates of two well known Dickens collectors, the Comte Alain de Suzannet and William E. Self, and was was part of the latter’s 2008-09, Christie’s New York sales.
    This inscribed Nicholas Nickleby is now priced at £120,000, while a copy of that great rarity, a true 1861, three vol. first of Great Expectations in the original purple cloth and gilt lettered spines, is priced at £50,000.
    An annotated copy of Mrs Gamp, a collection passages condensed from Martin Chuzzlewit that Dickens used on an American reading tour is priced at £85,000. Printed by Ticknor & Fields of Boston, it was presented to and inscribed for H. M.Ticknor on the very last night of the tour in April 1868. This too is an ex-Comte Alain de Suzannet/Self item.
    An 1850 first of David Copperfield inscribed by Dickens to his actor friend John Harley is priced at £120,000 in its period binding of half calf and marbled boards, while manuscript material includes a leaf bearing a section copied eight years later from the book and sent to Edmund Yates, possibly for sale in aid of charity. The latter, featuring an incident from David’s engagement to his child-bride, Dora, is priced at £28,000.
    Among the three original portraits of the writer in the sale is a pencil sketch of of the young Dickens seated in a chair, c.1838, by his friend and early collaborator, George Cruikshank, priced at £18,0000.
    If you wish to see this catalogue, it is available from the bookseller for £20, £30 overseas. You can also view a turn-page version online.

*First published in the UK weekly, Antiques Trade Gazette. Reprinted by permission and with our thanks. 
Catalogue Review: Aleph-Bet Books, #100

Screen shot 2012-02-16 at 10.49.27 PM.pngEarlier this week Scholastic’s Parent & Child Magazine ranked the “100 Greatest Books for Kids.” How and why? You can read about their methodology here, but in essence, they winnowed down a selection of five hundred considering “literary and/or illustration excellence, popularity, and longevity or innovative freshness.”

As I happened to be perusing the newest catalogue from Aleph-Bet Books of Pound Ridge, NY, a long-time specialist in fine children’s and illustrated books, it was interesting to note the overlap.

For example, No. 1 on Scholastic’s list is Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. It should come as no surprise to see this book in the top spot, and it was one of the most collectible children’s books. Aleph-Bet has an inscribed first edition ($28,500). No. 17 on the Scholastic list is Dorothy’s Kunhardt’s Pat the Bunny, still a favorite seventy-two years after publication. Aleph-Bet has a fine copy in the publisher’s box from 1940 ($5,000). No. 20 on the Scholastic list is Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. Aleph-Bet has a signed first edition with an original poem by Silverstein on the endpapers ($2,500). You see what I’m getting at here!

But the other great thing about this catalogue is the extensive variety. So while the high spots are here, there are also some wonderful surprises. I, for one, was glad to see Elizabeth Coatsworth’s Night and the Cat, this copy with laid-in handwritten note from the author to a fan ($950). I enjoyed being introduced to a Bauhaus children’s book, Mein Vogel Paradies by Carl Ernst Hinkefuss, published in Berlin in 1929. A limited and signed copy with incredible modernist illustrations ($12,000).  And the limited edition copy of Gertrude Stein’s The World is Round signed by both the author and Clement Hurd, the illustrator, is also a treat ($1,800).

With 600 items to see in this 100th catalogue, all in full-color, you are bound to miss something great. So go back and look again:
Catalogue Review: ReadInk Books, No. 3

Cat 3 cover for website.jpgYou can be sure that ReadInk of Los Angeles will be exhibiting at next week’s California International Antiquarian Book Fair in nearby Pasadena. Whether or not you can make it there, you can peruse their latest catalogue -- an exceedingly clever booklet arranged in an ABC format, e.g. A is for Appel, a “hardboiled writer”; B is for Booze; C is for Cowboys.

I, for one, like the W section, with one book falling under each journalistic query, Who, What, When, Where, and Why. What Actors Eat -- When They Eat, a compilation of recipes from the radio and screen actors of the 1930s looks like a hoot ($125). In the Zs, a second printing of Stefan Zweig’s The Tide of Fortune caught my eye ($200). Zweig is, as the catalogue states, “in perhaps permanent eclipse” as a writer, but he was also a major music collector.

One of the great treasures buried in this visually interesting catalogue is a VG+ first edition of Nancy Mitford’s Wigs on the Green, which so distressed her family that she barred reprints until after death ($4,000). So states our friendly bookseller here in the catalogue: “I actually don’t expect to ever see another copy after I sell this one to you, but such is the lot of the dedicated bookseller.” This book, by the by, is under S for Sisters; another Mitford gem, a near fine first of Jessica Mitford’s The American Way of Death, is filed under F for Funeral ($50).

This is a fun catalogue, full of neat mid-twentieth-century books usually in dust jackets, that veers (or leers) toward the underbelly of literature -- where D is for Deranged with 1947’s If a Man Be Mad ($250) and Q is for Queer with 1964’s My Son, The Daughter ($50).

Browse it all here, or see them in Pasadena next week!
Catalogue Review: The Collective, Seven Booksellers of Uncommon Ability and Perception to be Found in San Francisco and Pasadena

Screen shot 2012-01-27 at 9.00.43 AM.pngFor this week’s catalogue review, something a little different as we lead into the California book fair(s). The slim but beautifully designed list provides a sampling of offerings from seven ABAA booksellers: Book Hunter’s Holiday, The Book Shop LLC, Lux Mentis Booksellers, Ken Sanders Rare Books, Anthology Rare Books, B&B Rare Books, and Tavistock Books. To give a fair representation of its contents, I’ve chosen one favorite (not at all easy) from each bookseller to highlight here.

Book Hunter’s Holiday has a rare engraved miniature broadside of the Emancipation Proclamation from 1864 with an early occurrence of Lincoln’s image ($5,000). According to the bookseller, Chris Lowenstein, this miniature is held only by the Library of Congress, and she found no record of any previous availability at auction.

From The Book Shop LLC, I was smitten by their excellent copy of On Sunset Highways: A Book of Motor Rambles in California by Thomas D. Murphy ($750). In its original blue cloth trade binding featuring Art Nouveau designs stamped in gilt, green, and orange -- not only a beauty of a publishers’ binding from the period, but with the dust jacket to boot. 

Lux Mentis, Booksellers, will have Russell Maret’s newest limited edition, Specimens of Diverse Characters, in which “sixteen complete alphabets are displayed; one of which, Iohann Titling, has been cut, fit , and case in foundry metal specially for the edition at the Dale Guild Type Foundry.

Having published an article about Lynd Ward in our current issue, I was excited to see an inscribed first edition of Mad Man’s Drum: A Novel in Woodcuts ($450) in Ken Sanders’ section of the catalogue. However, I couldn’t pull my attention from another of his selections: a collection of 21 “mechanical brides” carte de visites by Edward Bateman ($300). Just so cool.

Anthology Rare Books has John Muir’s copy of Richard Jefferies’ Red Deer ($1,500). A second edition bound in purple cloth with 17 relief half-tone illustrations, all VG, but it is Muir’s bold signature on the flyleaf that will draw visitors to their booth, particularly in San Francisco!

From B&B Rare Books, you could have fine editions of Austen, Scott, or Yeats. Me, I’m partial to the Wharton -- a first edition in its jacket, limited to 130 copies, of Twelve Poems from 1926 ($15,000). This one is a presentation copy to Wharton’s friend and fellow writer, Edward Marsh.

Last but not least, Tavistock Books will have Dickens on hand to be sure. But I quite enjoyed looking at the 1904 framed studio photography of Clara Barton that they have ($3,750). It is signed and inscribed by the famous American nurse.       

What a wonderful idea to pool the talent (and the stock) of these booksellers for a collective catalogue. See for yourself: Download it here from Book Hunter’s Holiday’s website, and check them all out in person in at the SF fair & the CA fair in Pasadena next month.

Catalogue Review: Justin Croft, French Books & Manuscripts

croft000.jpgIt’s always a pleasure to peruse booksellers’ catalogues, even more so when each page offers something unexpected, as happens in English bookseller Justin Croft’s newest selection. He offers here fine manuscripts, printed books, antiquarian music, even a collection of 3,800 French devotional cards (£1,500). Francophile or not, each of the 81 items listed in this nearly octavo-sized, color-printed catalogue is worth a long look.

In manuscripts, a collection of 125 patriotic post- Revolutionary songs made more interesting by the light green/brown wash applied to the text by a censor (£1,500). The wash has now faded so that none of the censored text is obscured. Or, if you’re in the market for something more romantic (Valentine’s Day is approaching), perhaps a book of engraved love songs and epigrams, compiled by a young woman circa 1784 and bound in tooled red morocco (£2,500). A reading diary of a “voracious female reader” in Restoration Versailles, circa 1820-1822, would surely be of great interest to institutions (or private collectors) with collections devoted to the history of the book (£1,100). It appears she loved Sir Walter Scott.

As for modern books, if you truly want to know what Fitzgerald & friends were drinking in Paris, Jean Lupoiu’s Cocktails, a classic guide from 1938, is a good bet (£400). This one is number 16 of 100, with a presentation inscription in Lupoiu’s hand. A first edition, inscribed, of Jean Lacassagne’s slang dictionary, L’Argot du “Milieu,” has a striking cover design shown in beautiful detail on page 61 (£400).

In earl(ier) printed books, “a famous bibliographical eccentricity:” Le Livre a La Mode, printed in green ink throughout, Paris, 1759 (£350). The author, Caraccioli, suggested that ink color ought to be chosen based on the book’s subject matter. Sounds like a great addition to a collection on graphic design.  

This, and so much more--eighteenth-century medical bills, a Nazi’s prison notebook, a major collection of French fairy tales -- so go and enjoy:;jsessionid=8A0D5A1C2680515D85D811A95EF33526
Catalogue Review: The Lawbook Exchange

While not properly a catalogue (though they do impressive printed catalogues), this special list issued this past week by the Lawbook Exchange in anticipation of the upcoming New York Bibliography Week Booksellers Showcase prodded me to scan their offerings. Of course any collector with an interest in the law probably already knows the New Jersey-based antiquarian bookseller and publisher, and if they don’t, they should!

From a Magna Carta--printed in 1576 and containing extensive contemporary annotations ($6,500) to a rare British novella, A Railway Accident, published in 1855, that features a trial for negligence ($650), the Lawbook Exchange covers its ground well.

In this list, there is a sampling of legal commonplace books, manuscript notebooks, and printed books. You need not be a legal eagle to be wowed by a signed association copy of Clarence Darrow’s The Story of My Life, with candid tipped-in photographs ($1,500) or to appreciate British caricaturist George Cruikshank’s own copy of the rare Reflections on the Causes of Unhappy Marriages, and on Various Subjects Therewith Connected...printed in 1805 ($2,000).

Expected to fare well in NYC? Perhaps the 1859 Compilation of the Laws of the State of New York; Also, Of the Ordinances, Resolutions, And Orders Established by the Mayor, Aldermen, And Commonalty of the City of New York, In Common Council Convened, Relating to the Fire Department of the City of New York, From 1812 to 1860 in elaborately tooled morocco bearing the gilt arms of New York City ($750) or the printed trial proceedings of The American Print Works vs. Cornelius W. Lawrence from 1852, relating to a major fire in lower Manhattan on Dec. 16, 1835 ($650).

Don’t object! Proceed: 
Catalogue Review: L.W. Currey, List #14

Today I’m taking a journey to the center of a genre I know little about ... science fiction. But the twenty-page Occasional List #14 offered by L.W. Currey of Elizabethtown, NY, is a pleasure to read nevertheless. The descriptions are straightforward, the color photography is well done, and there are 197 interesting and oddball books to enjoy.

Of course there are first editions of the ABCs of science fiction and fantasy: Asimov, Bradbury & Clarke, in addition to Pynchon, Tolkien, and Wells. Huxley, another big name in this area, is represented with a first edition of Brave New World in a fine, bright jacket ($6,500). And the cult-collectible H.P. Lovecraft (see here and here) is represented by a first edition of The Outsider and Others ($7,500).

The “painted” publishers binding of the first British edition of Jules Verne’s The Master of the World ($4,500) is quite lovely, while the pictorial jacket featuring a smoking skeleton on Philip Wylie’s The Murderer Invisible from 1931 seems more indicative of the genre ($2,250).

Some other titles of interest--for their names alone!--Willard Rich’s Brain-Waves and Death from 1940, in which a scientist is killed in an experiment studying electroencephalography ($1,500); A. Merritt’s Burn Witch Burn!, a “weird little mystery novel of witchcraft and deadly little dolls” ($1,750); and Reginald Glossop’s The Orphan of Space: A Tale of Downfall, a 1926 novel that mixes science fiction with mysticism in a future war setting ($1,500).

Browse the entire list online and check around Currey’s website. While he is an expert in the SF/fantasy genre, he stocks a much broader array of popular fiction and literary firsts. 
Catalogue Review: Ken Sanders Rare Books, Holiday Catalogue, #43

Sanders.pngLocated as they are in Salt Lake City, it’s no wonder that Ken Sanders is a primary resource of antiquarian books related to the West, Utah, and Mormonism. And those areas are well represented in this newest catalogue, with second, third, and fifth editions of the Book of Mormon (all at $40,000 or above), as well as a Brigham Young signature ($3,000), and other related items.

But it is some of the other categories that elicited by interest. Wordless novels, for example. I find that an intriguing area, perhaps because as our winter issue goes to press with an article about Lynd Ward, it’s at the forefront of my mind. And here he turns up on page 30 of Sanders’ catalogue--a limited edition of Ward’s first novel in woodcuts, Gods’ Man, published a year after its original publication in 1929. Signed by the author ($1,500). Another of Ward’s wordless novels, Mad Man’s Dreams, is also here in a very good first edition inscribed by Ward ($450), as well as two books from the 1930s with Ward illustrations.
Catalogue Review: Pickering & Chatto #787

P&C.pngThe newest catalogue from longtime London booksellers (established 1820) Pickering & Chatto is titled Women in Literature and Society. There are many books and ephemera dealing with the suffrage/suffragette movement, prostitution, ideal feminine beauty and health, and the like. It’s fascinating material, the more so because there is such breadth and depth in the catalogue. There are unusual pieces on every page, and first-class descriptions to help draw out their unique stories.

One example is the 1854 memoir of Marie Lafarge, Heures de Prison (£385). LaFarge was convicted in 1840 of poisoning her husband with arsenic, and this is the story of her eleven years in jail. Says the catalogue: “The Lafarge case became a cause celebre is France, with many prominent figures, including George Sand, arguing publicly that the conviction was based on insufficient evidence.” Indeed, in 1978, Lafarge was vindicated when it was revealed that the husband actually died of typhoid fever.
Catalogue Review: Richardson Books, #47

Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury writers are consistent favorites for readers and collectors, so it seems Jon and Margaret Richardson of York, Maine, made quite a wise decision when they focused their bookselling business on that eminent group (read more about them here). In this catalogue #47, we are treated to 168 items from the likes of the Woolfs, Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry, Lytton Strachey, Vita Sackville-West, and E. M. Forster. The Hogarth Press also looms large, of course, and the very first listing in the catalogue shows fourteen first editions by the Hogarth Press, ranging in price from $175 for The Moment to $1,900 for Jacob’s Room. A selection of Leonard and Virginia’s limited, hand-printed books are also available.

An “exceeding rare book” by Leonard Woolf, The Wise Virgins: A Story of Words, Opinions And A Few Emotions is here ($7,500), and the catalogue further entices with the booksellers’ comment that is this “only the second copy we have had in 25 years.” Plus, it has the added association value of having belonged to Sydney Waterlow, a former suitor of Virginia’s.
There are times when booksellers’ catalogues are more like limited editions, and such is the case with Glenn Horowitz’s new catalogue, Virginia Woolf: The Flight of Time. And with good reason--this beautiful new catalogue chronicles the superb collection of William B. Beekman that is being offered en bloc for $4.5 million. An exhibition of the collection goes up tomorrow at the Forbes Galleries in New York City and will remain there open to the public until January 14.

The breadth of the collection is certain to appeal to Woolf enthusiasts. Beekman built this collection over forty years, and the highlights include an early, apparently unpublished photograph of thirteen-year-old Virginia, many of her letters, two unpublished poems by Vita Sackville-West written for Woolf (“Your darkened windowns numb my darkened heart” is intriguing...), plus inscribed editions of the books she wrote and published and books from her own library. Vanessa Bell’s preliminary sketch for the 1930 limited edition of Woolf’s On Being Ill, is particularly interesting to see, as is the dedication copy of The Village in the Jungle, from Leonard to Virginia.

The 134-page catalogue was printed in a limited trade edition of 500, featuring photography by David Levinthal. Twenty-five deluxe editions are specially slipcased with a signed print by David Levinthal. Levinthal’s prints are delightful historical tableaux. For example, a setting of doll furniture with the Complete Catalogue of the Hogarth Press or Woolf’s passport photograph against a black background with a old-fashioned camera in the distance.
Catalogue Review: Cohen & Taliaferro, #2

For this week’s review, a look at a catalogue of antique maps and atlases. Cohen & Taliaferro is a New York City-based dealer under Richard B. Arkway, Inc. This catalogue shows a fine selection of beautiful and interesting cartography, from Munster and Mercator, Blaeu to Benzoni.
Since I am far from an expert on maps, I was glad to see something familiar. Last year, our Fine Maps columnist Jeffrey Murray wrote about The Atlantic Neptune, a monumental marine atlas created by J. F. W. Des Barres, a forward-thinking surveyor. Featured in this catalogue is “A View of Boston Taken on the Road to Dorchester” [From the Atlantic Neptune] ($22,500), as well as another Des Barres creation, an untitled map of Long Island Sound from 1781 ($8,500).
Catalogue Review: Raptis Rare Books, #1

Raptis-Cover.pngMatthew Raptis is a congenial young bookseller in Brattleboro, Vermont. I had the pleasure of meeting him last year at a book fair. From his age and his casual personality, you might not guess that his stock is exceptional high points of modern literature. Some examples: a $550,000 Great Gatsby (inscribed, in the elusive jacket); a $45,000 signed first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; a $27,500 Catcher in the Rye, in an unrestored fine dust jacket; and a $25,000 signed first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird in a very good dust jacket.

With full color illustrations and clear descriptions, this first catalogue is delight to look at. There are 77 pages, brimming with books, so this review is just the tip of the iceberg. I enjoyed seeing some out-of-the-box titles like Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia ($1,500) and Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers ($1,250). A first edition of Gregory Maguire’s 1995 book, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, is signed with a line from the novel and a drawing of a witch ($650). Very cool!

The signed first edition of John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman ($950) is tempting (because I love that novel) even if the jacket on the signed first edition of The Magus is prettier ($2,000). A signed first edition of Stephen King’s The Shining would be a neat acquisition ($3,000).  

A complete set of Dick Francis--forty volumes, all signed--is impressive ($19,500), but for me not quite as enticing as the John Updike collection of first editions of each of the four Rabbit books ($2,750).

In the second half of the catalogue, there are sections on literature and children’s books--neat to see a signed first edition of The Outsiders there ($3,250)--as well as photography, and a non-fiction section with many modern economic and political titles. I couldn’t do it justice by naming a few here. Take a look for yourself -- there is so much to see! Download it here: 
Catalogue Review: Lowry-James, #7

When I think of Lowry-James, I think of flowers. That may sound odd, but it’s because when I visit them at book fairs, their both is filled with beautiful prints of flowers and fauna. And at one fair last year, Priscilla Lowry-Gregor showed me a manuscript herbarium that was so sweet, it made me wish I collected in that area (and perhaps I will one day!).

As you might imagine, Lowry-James of Whidbey Island, Washington, established in 1986, specializes in natural history books, but also cartography, literary women, and British culture. This fourteen-page catalogue is devoted to wood engravers and wood engravings.

A Lakeside Press prospectus featuring wood engravings by Rockwell Kent to announce the publication of “Four American Books:” Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Tales by Edgar Allan Poe, Two Years before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana, Jr., and Walden by Henry David Thoreau ($245). It would be an excellent acquisition of any number of collectors--publishing historians, Lakeside Press aficionados, completists for any of the authors, etc.

Three artists in particular loom large. There is quite a selection of Paul Landacre engravings, including the evocative Sapling Slim and Shadow Naked ($950) and many California landscapes, such as Hills and the Sea … Malibu Coast ($950) and Monterey Hills ($950). Winslow Homer is also well represented here with his Harper’s Weekly Civil War scenes. His drawings from the battlefield were engraved in boxwood for the magazine’s illustrations. William Nicholson’s ‘alphabets and sports’ round out the catalogue, with color-printed lithographs (originally rendered as woodcuts) such as W is for Waitress ($325) and November: Boxing ($350).

Check out all these beauties by clicking here.

p.s. Lowry-James also makes homemade candles during the holiday season. A great gift idea.
Catalogue Review: Jo Ann Reisler, #87

From first sight of the cover, showing an original Margaret Tarrant watercolor of fairies ($10,000), it was impossible not to be bewitched by this delightful catalogue by Jo Ann Reisler. A fine mix of children’s books and illustrated books, from old favorites to surprising finds, that manifest the good eye and decades of experience from this bookseller.

When we hear children’s books, many of us tend to think first editions or signed editions of Seuss or Sendak, and while that kind of material is here, it’s interesting to see books like Afternoon Tea, published in Boston in 1891. It’s a book of eight black-and-white mounted photographs showing two children going through the afternoon tea ritual ($400).
Catalogue Review: The Veatchs Arts of the Book, #70

Easy as ABC? Not so! This catalogue, dedicated to ornamental alphabets, is the latest from the Veatchs Arts of the Book in Northhampton, Massachusetts. Bob and Lynne Veatch have been in business since 1975, specializing in book arts, illustrated books, fine printing, and graphic design.

Gehenna Press, Cheloniidae Press, and Parrot Press are well represented among the 87 items in the catalogue. You could easily be charmed by a set of nineteenth-century pen-and-ink drawings on Crane’s paper depicting a young woman supported by a letter of the alphabet in a natural landscape ($2,500) or Geoffrey Chaucer’s A.B.C. called La Priere de Nostre Dame from the Grabhorn-Hoyem Press, 1967 ($75).

Suzanne Moore’s A Christmas ABCXY&Z, a 32-page accordion-style book calligraphed in water colors and illuminated in silver and gold, would be a beautiful holiday gift ($700).

The Album Calligraphique, containing twelve original alphabets hand painted in colors, metallics, and gold sounds absolutely stunning ($18,000). I felt a small disappointment in not seeing an image of it on the page, but when I flipped to the back cover, was glad of the surprise of seeing a few examples printed there.

This catalogue is well laid out in black and white on smooth paper, with a few tantalizing color images printed on the inside covers. Contact them for a copy, or grab the PDF here.
Catalogue Review: Schubertiade Music, Fall 2011

Music collecting made a splash earlier this year when the Lehman collection of musical manuscripts went up for sale (for more on this, see our coverage in our fall issue). There are several dealers that focus on this area, Schubertiade of Allston, Massachusetts, is one with an impressive stock of music, dance, and opera material.

In Schubertiade’s fall catalogue, you will find autograph musical quotations, albums, photographs, first editions, manuscripts, even portrait medals. From a striking mezzotint of Arcangelo Corelli ($600) to an ultra rare Jimi Hendrix-signed Bob Dylan album ($12,500), the names you will find within are as varied as the formats.

Some names appear a number of times. Josephine Baker, for example, is here in a beautiful piece of French sheet music from 1930 ($50), as well as a caricature drawing of her by Raoul Cabrol ($1200). Martha Graham is also well represented with several photographs, including a signed and dated print of the one perhaps best known to the world -- “Letter to the World” ($6,000).

Collectors should take note that there are a few non-musical items, so if music isn’t your thing, it’s still worth a peruse. There’s a solid section of film photography, as well as a literature section featuring Twain and Dickens first editions and an Updike letter.

Music to your ears? The entire catalogue is here:
Catalogue Review: Lorne Bair, #13

LorneBair.pngLorne Bair Rare Books of Winchester, VA, offers here 159 items relating to radical politics and American social movements from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Just reading that had me rubbing my hands together in excitement of what I was about to see: Anarchism, Crime, Revolution (Mexican & Russian), Radical Fiction, Socialism, Utopia, and so much more. The catalogue is beautiful too--eye-popping cover (pun intended), fine glossy pages, nice images, and descriptions that educate and entertain.

One bright poster caught my eye in the early pages. It’s a scarce offset litho designed by Milton Glaser to promote David Loeb Weiss’ 1968 documentary, No Vietnamese Ever Called Me N--er ($850). There are several books and ephemera in the African American subject. Another interesting offset litho broadside shows a gruesome graphic from the 1968 Detroit race riots and is titled Being a cop is more than just a gig ($150).
Catalogue Review: Page Books, #47

Page Books of Hillsboro, Ohio, specializes in fine children’s and illustrated books. So a look through its recent catalogue is a bright, fun, memory-triggering experience. What struck me first about this catalogue is that it isn’t full of the same-old favorites -- e.g., there is Clement Hurd (illus.), but it is his woodcut-illustrated Wildfire, not Goodnight Moon ($45); there are lesser-known Steig volumes, such as Yellow & Pink ($60) and Roland the Minstrel Pig ($150).  

Even those of us who know Sendak primarily for Where The Wild Things Are will see a handful of other interesting titles of his. One that caught my eye is A Hole is To Dig, written by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Sendak in 1952 ($350). In our fall issue of FB&C, which went to the printer today, we have a lengthy profile of author-illustrator Jules Feiffer, who named this particular Sendak title as a turning point in his career.

Another highlight of the side selection here are six volumes in the Doctor Doolittle series by Hugh Lofting, 1920-1928. All in beautiful pictorial cloth with intricate design, they range from $85-$125. Pop-Ups are well represented, some printed in London, even a couple from Moscow. About ten titles illustrated by Tasha Tudor are also here, including the interestingly titled Edgar Allan Crow from 1953 ($350).

And one can’t but smile over the Go-To-Sleep Book of 1936 ($45). “Lovely soft pictures of animals yawning or sleeping.” Hmm. What does it say about us in 2011 that our “version” of this title includes an expletive? And will it be collectible one day?!

See Page’s #47 here:
Catalogue Review: Up-Country Letters, #16

Well, Dear Reader, if you’re a frequent follower of this blog, you will understand that I could not pass up the opportunity to review a catalogue titled Transcendentalism. Thoreau and Emerson being longtime favorites (and in that order). Coincidentally, I am just finishing Eden’s Outcasts, the 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner about Louisa May Alcott and her father. So when Up-Country Letters Fine and Rare Books of Gardnerville, Nevada, sent this catalogue to my inbox, ‘twas fate.

Oh to have the four-volume facsimile of the Transcendentalists’ magazine, The Dial, together with two additional volumes of George W. Cooke’s Historical and Biographical Introduction to The Dial ($200)! Another intriguing find is a typed letter signed by Julian Hawthorne, Nathaniel’s son, from 1901 ($90). That alone is mildly interesting, but the content is fantastic. In it, Julian is promoting P.F. Collier’s “World’s Greatest Literature” series, precursor to the Harvard Classics. Several autographs letters of Rev. Theodore Parker are here, of particular interest one written to Emerson introducing a minister ($900).
Catalogue Review: David M. Lesser, Fine Antiquarian Books, #119

David Lesser’s catalogue is titled Rare Americana, and the subtitle is: a catalogue of significant and unusual imprints relating to America. True, true. Though if he had wanted to, he could have used a more sensational lede like: Murder! Slavery! Adultery! Disease! For the titles that popped out at me were of indelicate (and thus very interesting) subject matter.

In “murder” we have several highlights. A rare 1846 book printed in Kentucky on the Life and Trial of Dr. Abner Baker, who murdered his brother-in-law, whom Baker believed was having an affair with his “nymphomaniac” wife ($750). A little-known racial crime has its day in court with a good+ 1806 edition of Report of the Trial of Dominic Daley and James Halligan, convicted of murdering a young man and throwing him into the Chicopee River ($600). The two were exonerated 178 years later by Gov. Dukakis, who believed them victims of anti-Irish bias. An 1801 Report of the Trial of Jason Fairbanks...for the Murder of Elizabeth Fales is another in this grouping, and there are yet more ($175).
Catalogue Review: Callahan & Co., #220

Callahan & Co. of Peterborough, New Hampshire, specializes in books on hunting, angling, and natural history, so if you don’t collect in those areas, you might not think there’s anything for you here -- but you may be wrong. Hemingway collectors will find a gem or two, e.g., Farrington’s Atlantic Game Fishing from 1939 ($95). A second edition, but it contains a six-page introduction by Hemingway. How about collecting the Roosevelt family? A first printing book of Trailing the Great Panda (1929) by Teddy Roosevelt Jr., signed by brother and co-author Kermit Roosevelt, is an account of their hunting expedition in China ($50). The Yacht Racing Log published by the Derrydale Press is an interesting find for boating collectors ($750). It’s a very good copy of a scarce Derrydale title.

Another Derrydale find is Burton Spiller’s Thoroughbred from 1936 ($45). The copy at Callahan’s is unique -- it seems to be a printer’s or proofreader’s copy; it contains none of the usual illustrations, is bound in stiff blue paper covers, and has pencil markings through the text, such as those printers might make when checking pages.

A collection of reproductions of sixty-nine drypoints by Roland Clark--Roland Cark’s Etchings--features wild fowl and game bird scenes ($400). This copy contains an original pencil signed etching as frontispiece and was published in Derrydale, NY, in 1938.  

For those who read or collect naturalists or conservationist writers, there’s a nice copy in green cloth of John Burroughs’ Locusts and Wild Honey from 1900 ($12).

Explore the great outdoors--and a little bit more--in this catalogue. Check them out at Abebooks.
Catalogue Review: Howard S. Mott, #260

It must be said that I have a soft spot for Howard S. Mott Inc. When I met Donald (Rusty) Mott at the 2010 NY Antiquarian Book Fair, I spied a first edition of Walden in his booth, and we got to talking Thoreau, one of my favorite topics. At the 2011 NYABF, my husband secretly visited Rusty’s booth and--my birthday being just two weeks later--picked up something truly surprising for me.

So, biased though I may be, it is easy to see from catalogue #260--the company’s 75th anniversary catalogue, I might add--that Rusty Mott of Sheffield, Massachusetts, is one of best booksellers out there. This catalogue is text-heavy, showing off Mott’s vast knowledge of his books but also his delight in the material. There are several interesting broadsides, particularly having to do with bookselling/printing. One is an unrecorded 1747 advertisement broadside, sold by Peter Griffin, “Map & Printseller at the three Crowns & Dial next the Globe Tavern Fleet Street” ($1,350). Another is an appeal from James Swan, printer, after his “dreadful fire” in 1807 ($350), and still another from Thomas Reeves and Son, suppliers of paper, pencils, crayons, etc., circa 1784-1789 ($500).

One of several major manuscript prizes is a Mexican War diary by West Point graduate Lt. Rankin Dilworth ($9,500). The 94-page original manuscript diary describes his trip down the Mississippi and on to Monterrey, where he encountered intense assault and was mortally wounded. Another interesting manuscript item is an illustrated log of eighteen months on board the Royal Navy Ship, H.M.S. Constance ($9,500).

An anonymous sketchbook “in an accomplished hand” of watercolors, pencil drawings, and photographs from the French Quarter of New Orleans seems destined to find a home quickly ($1,650).

A small section on China seems a smart addition to the catalogue, considering the strength in that market. It also speaks to the breadth of this catalogue. One needs to read through five times to take it all in. To do that, you’ll have to email them for a digital or print catalogue. Visit their ABAA page for more information.

Catalogue Review: Peter L. Masi, #213

Masi-Catalogue.jpgPeter L. Masi is a bookseller out of western Massachusetts, a member of Massachusetts and Rhode Island Antiquarian Booksellers and The Ephemera Society, and a generalist with a broad selection at affordable prices. He calls his most recent catalogue a “basic mixed bag,” which is always fun to rummage through.

As he points out on his blog, his stock is “primarily American, primarily non-fiction.” Here he has more on textiles than usual, due to a deaccession from the American Textile History Museum. The rest runs the gamut from advertising to Yale University. And speaking of Yale, he seems to have a fair amount of college and university-related material, especially from New England schools.

In the books about books category, I was excited to see a New York Public Library commonplace book--published for its “Literary Lions” in 1990--with the bookplate of Annie Dillard. Surely a bargain at $25. For library lovers, he also has a 1905 leaflet, A Village Library, from the Brimfield, MA, public library for $15.

In regional books, he has both Massachusetts Beautiful ($25) Connecticut Beautiful ($20), written and illustrated by the famous artist/furniture maker/antiques expert/collector Wallace Nutting. The contain photos and drawings of scenery and homes in the area.

A neat find resides in his medicine section -- a stapled booklet from 1969 called Narcotics: the Communist Drug Offensive. It’s a ten-page article from American Opinion magazine (John Birch Society) that links drug proliferation to a Communist plot ($10).

Few items are priced over $100, which means you can browse AND buy from this catalogue. Always a good thing.
Catalogue Review: Priscilla Juvelis, #53 Contemporary Book Arts

P-J-catalogue53.pngPriscilla Juvelis of Kennebunkport, Maine, specializes in literary first editions, especially women authors; nineteenth- and twentieth-century reform movements, especially suffrage and temperance; and contemporary book arts. She has her hand on the pulse of contemporary book art and stocks the work of the finest artists and private presses, such as Donald Glaister, Julie Chen/Flying Fish Press, and Walter Hamady/Perishable Press.

Indeed all three can be found on the pages of her short but incredibly sweet new catalogue. From Glaister, she has an artist’s book, one of ten copies, of A Few Questions, among others ($3,500). From Chen’s Flying Fish Press and Barbara Tetenbaum’s Triangular Press (a collaboration), a brand new artist’s book in a modified flag book structure, one of one hundred copies, titled Glimpse ($975). And from Perishable Press, a scarce 1964 title, The Disillusioned Solipsist, written, printed, and published by Hamady ($2,650). There are also several books from Cheloniidae Press (now Press of the Sea Turtle).

Book art is, more so than other areas of book collecting, about subjective tastes. What appeals to the heart or the eye, rather than one more title from a specific author or genre. For me, Bad Girls, a 2011 unique artists’ book by Mary McCarthy and Shirley Veenema, is one such piece ($6,000). It is made up of six “dos-a-dos” titles--Seductress, Promiscuous Actress, Rich Man’s Mistress, Miser, Mass Murderer, and Robber Plunderer--in which a saint is produced twice, first as a “bad girl” and then as a converted saint.

The other that draws my attention is Remember the Ladies, a 2008 artist’s book in a custom box, one of ten copies, by Sande Wascher-James ($1,200). The image of Abigail Adams sitting on Liberty Lawn fabric of red roses with the hand-printed admonition to her husband, John, “Remember the Ladies...” has a traditional look to it, and yet contains layers of meaning. Inside, the pages contain postage stamps of famous American women, such as Georgia O’Keefe, Margaret Mitchell, and Eleanor Roosevelt, that have been digitally printed onto fabric in a collage with text, ribbon, lace, and other fabrics. I love the idea and the execution. When stood on its “spine,” it is truly a compelling book object (you must see the catalogue picture to understand how it works).

Go ahead, download catalogue 53 and take a look. 
Catalogue Review: Bromer Booksellers, No. 136

catalogs_136.jpgThis catalogue from Bromer Booksellers of Boston, Massachusetts, is subtitled “211 Items Under $2,011.” It’s an eclectic mix of books, photography, artwork, and ephemera, and is strong in science fi and dystopian literature. Indeed the first entry of the catalogue is a newly published edition of Aun Aprendo: A Comprehensive Bibliography of the Writings of Aldous Leonard Huxley compiled by David J. Bromer. The deluxe limited edition is $350, while the trade edition from Oak Knoll is $125. This complements several entries of Huxley material near the middle of the catalogue -- such as a presentation copy of Texts and Pretexts from 1935, inscribed to Anita Loos ($500). Isaac Asimov also makes a few appearances, notably a presentation copy of his first book, Pebble in the Sky ($1,000).

As any good New England bookseller should, Bromer has a good selection of Robert Frost -- pamphlets, first editions, a photograph of him c. 1950 (for $250), and a presentation copy of A Further Range ($850). Edward Gorey also has more entries than most, and one of the more interesting is a program and ticket for the 1995 Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, featuring Gorey’s illustrations and signed by him ($250). A book collector’s collectible if ever there was one!

Miniatures are another specialty of the shop. A rare 1844 miniature of the sermon The Marriage Ring; or The Mysteriousness and Duties of Marriage for $500 is a highlight. Some juveniles, including an 1830 Punch and Judy for $1,500, round out this fine selection of books.

It would be great to see the press photo of Hemingway with Fidel Castro c. 1960 that Bromer is offering for $250, or one of the Barry Moser etchings or drawings (his original pencil drawing of Truman Capote is $850), but sadly no interior photos in this catalogue. Their addition of an index is meritorious, however, and reminds me that I ought to mention the good amount of fine press that is here, as well.

Catalogue Review: Ken Lopez, No. 155

Lopez-Proof.pngThe newest catalogue from Ken Lopez, a bookseller in Hadley, Massachusetts, has a very distinct focus: uncorrected proofs & advance copies. In his introduction (which is well worth a read), he writes, “Combining their historical scarcity, and likely future scarcity, with the textual variations that are often found -- and which, by definition, represent a state of the text closer to the author’s original manuscript -- the value in collecting proof copies becomes, we think, self-evident.”

Even titles so new as Delillo’s Love-Lies-Bleeding from 2005 is collectible in this format; a signed uncorrected proof  is $300. Same for the advance reading copy of the first British edition of Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo from 2008 -- it’s $2,500. Ditto on the signed advance uncorrected reader’s proof of Dave Eggers’ 2000 memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius for $300. (I worked at Simon & Schuster when this was published. Why didn’t I save mine?!)

The big names of modern literature are here, and the offerings are impressive. Bellow (several, including a signed and hand-corrected ring-bound galley of Herzog for $9,500); Capote (advance reading copy of In Cold Blood for $750); Burroughs (rare uncorrected proof of Dead Fingers Talk for $1,500); Carver (several, including uncorrected proof of Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? with a laid in autograph note for $6,500); Ford (several, including an advance copy of the first British edition of Independence Day for $1,000); Garcia Marquez (uncorrected “pad-bound” proof of One Hundred Years of Solitude for $7,500); Irving (signed advance reading copy of The World According to Garp for $850); Proulx (several, including an uncorrected proof of The Shipping News inscribed by the author for $500); Updike (several, including an inscribed uncorrected proof of Bech is Back for $275) ; and D. F. Wallace (several, including a signed advance reading copy of Infinite Jest for $1,000).

Lopez gives an education in the variation of proofs, as well. For Pynchon’s title, Mason and Dixon, Lopez has an uncorrected proof copy in plain blue wrappers for $3,500, another uncorrected “blue proof” with two dummy dust jackets wrapped around it for $4,000, and the advance reading copy in beige wrapper for $250 (which was actually one of two separate issues of beige proofs, the catalogue informs us).

J.K. Rowling collectors will surely be interested is what is called “perhaps the rarest set of Harry Potter items possible” -- that is, the uncorrected proof copies of the first three Potter books -- for $27,500.

Lopez makes an excellent case for the collectibility of proofs!
Catalogue Review: Charles B. Wood, Bookseller, No. 150

Charles B. Wood III is an antiquarian bookseller in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who stocks an eclectic selection -- from architecture to book about books to trade and commercial ephemera. In this catalogue #150: Rare Books and Manuscripts, the browser will be consistently surprised. I was. Every page I flipped offered something new, different, “intrinsically interesting,” and illustrated with full-page colorful, glossy images too.

I run the risk of filling this review with item after item that caught my eye. I’ll try to contain myself. Let’s start with one of the many pieces of trade/commercial art. A huge Victorian scrapbook containing forty-nine mounted chromolithographs created as advertisements or shop displays for various companies in the U.K. ($6,500). The compiler was surely “on the inside of the color lithography business.” Other interesting commercial items include a restored folio broadside featuring Waltham copper weather vanes, circa 1875-1885 ($2,500) and a Victorian house furnishing catalogue for the Simmons Hardware Co. of St. Louis, Missouri ($1,000). 

There are several sample and pattern books from various trades. The Lowell Textile School pattern book from 1895 is a unique manuscript work book kept by a student ($950). It contains notes, fabric samples, dyed cotton threads, and is lovely. An 1874 printed type specimen book for Farmer, Little & Co. is complete and rare (not in OCLC, notes the catalogue) for $2,250. A large sample book containing 257 mounted and identified samples of dyed wool, swatches of felt, and woven fabrics with penciled notes by its creator, a New Hampshire dyer, is very cool ($1,750). That’s something you just don’t see often or ever.

In the ‘books about books’ or printing arts category, Wood has several rarities. A first edition of the first printer’s manual, printed in 1818 by C.S. Van Winkle is so neat ($13,5000) as is a first edition of Edward Walker’s The art of book-binding, its rise and progress; including a descriptive account of the New York Book-Bindery ($1,750). I’d love to peruse that one.

Two other superlatives that need to be mentioned -- the publisher’s dummy of Henry Whittemore and Edward Bierstadt’s Homes of the representative men of America, with the title partly in manuscript ($13,500); and a set of ten original blueprints for the lighting scheme of Lincoln Center ($4,000).   

Thank you Charles B. Wood for making this catalogue review so exciting! A treasure on every page.
Catalogue Review: Sumner & Stillman, No. 146

I love nineteenth-century fiction, and I love decorated publishers’ bindings -- put them together and that makes me a bibliophile who loves Sumner & Stillman, ABAA member located in Yarmouth, Maine. When I attend book fairs, I always stop by their booth. This particular catalogue is author-specific, offering the John Davies collection of first editions of Mark Twain.

Some the items highlighted by S&S are a first edition of Twain’s first book, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, with a card signed by Twain tipped it ($19,500); a rare Canadian copy of The Prince and the Pauper in its original wrapper from a Toronto bookseller ($13,500); and an inscribed copy of The Innocents Abroad ($8,750).

Who knew Tom Sawyer was first published in the UK?! The true first edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published six months before the American edition ($37,500). Says the catalogue, “This has become one of the tough cornerstones of a Mark Twain collection...” So here’s your chance!

For Twain collectors (either beginning or nearing completion), this catalogue’s well-written text and solid photo insert will surely guide you toward interesting finds. Zane Grey’s copy of Twain’s controversial Christian Science ($575) is one such gem. Or Editorial Wild Oats in original red decorated cloth with dust jacket ($1,750). One of two Library of Congress deposit copies of Twain’s Is Shakespeare Dead? is also here. Perhaps the LOC wants it back for $4,950?

So if you’re in Maine and you like Twain, you know what to do. For other nineteenth-century authors, illustrators, and editions, saunter around the S&S website.

Catalogue Review: Matthew David Jones, catalogue #1

Just a few weeks ago, I couldn’t resist reviewing a bookseller’s very first catalogue, and I’m happy to report (for the sake of the industry) that I get to do the same thing this week. Matthew David Jones is a bookseller in the San Francisco area who specializes in Greek and Latin classics and scholarly editions. He came to bookselling after several years in numismatics, and--full disclosure--he has written a few articles for FB&C over the past year. He just published his first catalogue, a glossy black-and-white booklet with fifty-four items to offer.

Aldine.jpgThe 8vo edition of the complete works of Catullus, Tibullus and Propertius published by Baskerville in 1772 in its original full vellum binding is a neat find ($595), as is the six-volume uniform set in full sprinkled calf of Plutarch’s Lives, printed for Lackington, Allen & Co. in 1803 ($475), and an Estienne edition of Diogenes Laertius ($2,395). A 1572 printing (third) of Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita, printed by Paulus Manutius, is in very good condition, even if rebound in maroon calf ($2,750). He also has a 1514 Aldine edition of Valerius Maximus in early vellum (seen here, $6,750). Who doesn’t want an Aldine?

Philosophy, history, grammars; Aristotle, Hegel, Justinus. This is the specialty Jones has selected. But not all are Greco-Roman tomes, there is a selection of books on books from Basbanes and Dibdin and more than a handful of modern firsts that bear mentioning. A lot containing two Fran Lebowitz editions--Social Studies and Metropolitan Life--is interesting because the are, notes the catalogue, “a little smoky smelling” ($95). Since Lebowitz is “a notably staunch advocate of smoker’s rights,” it’s interesting to muse on whether the smoky smell somehow enhances these books! Jones also has a signed edition of William Burroughs’ Junkie from 1966 ($750) in the original green printed wrappers that shout “Olympia Press,” and a signed first of Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun ($50).

Check out the catalogue online or email for a printed catalgoue.

Catalogue Review: Ten Pound Island Book Co., List 202

toc.jpgA timely catalogue review, as Ten Pound of Gloucester, Massachusetts, just released this “maritime list” last week, and of course, with the unofficial start to summer behind us, aren’t we all thinking about ‘maritime’ things? Ten Pound gives us 124 to consider here, in range of prices and formats.

There are beautiful color plates in Clifford W. Ashley’s The Yankee Whaler ($250). Published in a limited edition of 1,625 copies, the catalogue calls it “one of the key books on American whaling.” Another classic first edition listed here is William M. Davis’ Nimrod of the Sea; Or, The American Whaleman ($200).

When the catalogue hails an item as “gruesome and spectacular,” you know you need to take a closer look. Mutiny and Murder by Charles Gibbs (a.k.a.”Gibbs the Pirate”) was published in Providence in 1831 ($750). In it, Gibbs confesses to killing nearly 400 people. A scarce title, this one is complete but lacks its blue wrappers.

The main topics at hand are whaling, scrimshaw, sailing, Navy, pirates, shipwrecks, and merchant ships -- with charming titles like Ocean Melodies ($75), Sea Diseases ($75), and Sea Yarns ($150). There is a selection of ephemera, including a replica of Drake’s “plate of brass,” mounted on fabric and backed with masonite ($25), and some fabulous manuscript items, such as the 450-page log of the H.M.S. Star ($1,250) and a large original plan in ink for Vanderbilt’s yacht, Alva ($250).

The book cover that Ten Pound is using for its catalogue cover is #124 on the list -- believed to be a true first of Rosalind Amelia Young’s Mutiny of the Bounty and Story of Pitcairn Island from 1894 (125).

Download the entire list here. Then, hit the beach!
Catalogue Review: Blackwell’s Rare Books: Catalogue B167

Blackwell’s of Oxford, England, is a very well known bookshop that stocks 200,000 new titles, as well as having a large secondhand section, and a rare books department. It is located opposite the Bodleian Library. For those of you, like me, who are quite desperate to visit but must be satisfied for now with catalogues, fear not. Blackwell’s produces the quintessential antiquarian book catalogue--one hundred pages showing a wide variety of antiquarian, modern, and private press books in a range of prices, with exceptional descriptions and enticing images that pepper the text.

In the first section of the catalogue, an extra-illustrated first edition of Ann Radcliffe’s popular gothic novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho: A Romance (£2,500), jumped off the page. The four-volume set from 1794 has some minor issues, but the small engravings of castles and landscape gardens  are “rather endearing,” notes the catalogue.

In the second section of the catalogue--modern first editions and illustrated books--D.H. Lawrence, Ian McEwan, Somerset Maugham, and Iris Murdoch are dominating names in limited editions, first editions, and signed editions. I’m partial to Julia Margaret Cameron’s Victorian Photographs of Famous Men & Fair Women (£800), which was printed by the Hogarth Press in 1926 and has an introduction by Virginia Woolf.

The third section contains a wonderful selection of private presses, from Golden Cockerel to Gregynog, Nonesuch to Old Stile. Swinburne’s Dead Love and Other Inedited Pieces (£250), published by the Mosher Press in Portland, ME, in 1901 looks lovely. As does Loyd Haberly’s Poems (£200), printed by Seven Acres Press in 1930. Haberly was a poet, a professor of English, a university dean, and a collector of books about book arts.

When I reached the end of the catalogue, a beautiful woodcut prompted me to turn back to item #100, one of the catalogue’s big-ticket books. Passio domini nostri Jesu Christi... (£10,000), printed in Strasbourg in 1507, with woodcuts by Urs Graf. Aside from its beauty, the catalogue notes that this book is “covered in binder’s waste wrappers, a middle eleventh century manuscript on vellum, written in a later Caroline minuscule bookhand...” What a treasure!

To find your own treasure, download this entire catalogue by clicking here
Catalogue Review: John Howell for Books, #1

Screen shot 2011-05-20 at 8.24.23 AM.pngI couldn’t pass up the opportunity to review a bookseller’s very first catalogue. John Howell, newly minted ABAA member, recently published Catalogue 1, containing 113 items issued by the Book Club of California. The Book Club of CA, as he notes in the catalogue, was founded in 1912 by a group of San Francisco bibliophiles.

His selection runs the gamut from the Club’s first publication, Robert Ernest Cowan’s A Bibliography of the History of California and the Pacific West, 1510-1906, published in 1914 ($450) to the latest project, not even available until June, Peter Hanff’s Cyclone on the Prairies: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Arts and Crafts in Publishing in Chicago, 1900, designed and printed by Peter Koch ($375).

The Club’s 1925 edition of De Bury’s Philobiblon--said to be the first book about book collecting--is tempting. This one is No. 204 out of 250, printed at the Grabhorn Press. In good condition for $150, you wouldn’t feel too bad about reading it before shelving. Same goes for Christopher Skelton’s The Engraved Bookplates of Eric Gill, 1908-1940 ($75).

Another cool title here: The Diary of Patrick Breen, Recounting the Ordeal of the Donner Party snowbound in the Sierra 1846-1747 ($250). It was printed in an edition of 300 by the Club in 1946.

Howell’s thirty-nine-page color catalogue is available in PDF format. It is pleasantly designed and clearly written. It’s no wonder -- according to the catalogue, Howell is an old hand at catalogues, having worked on them for eight years at Jeff Weber Rare Books prior to striking out for himself in the business.

With prices affordable to most, Howell’s books should appeal to any collector with an eye for California, Western books, printing arts, or fine press. Congratulations to him on such a strong start!
Catalogue Review: Cattermole Books, No. 49

Children’s books are and always will be collectible because, in so many cases, people have fond memories of a particular title from their youth, and so they chase it. There are several booksellers dedicated solely to this area, and one whose catalogue I recently received is Cattermole Books of Newbury, OH. They offer a trip down Memory Lane for readers, and--perhaps best of all--they make them accessible and affordable to all levels of collectors.  

This is an important point. I have often wondered how a collection “starts.” Do you begin with one high-end book that kick-starts a collection and then surround it with other (less expensive) items from the same author or genre? Or, do you start with a $10 item you picked up somewhere and keeping building until one day you reach the $1000 items? For many folks, the answer is likely the latter. Which is why Cattermole’s catalogue is wonderful, with books ranging from $8 to the mid hundreds, it makes book collecting possible for new, young, savvy collectors.

Cattermole has titles from the standard children’s favorites: Bemelmans, Carroll, Dahl, Grimm, Lionni, Lobel, McCloskey, Sendak, and Steig. This catalogue showcases a collection of William Mayne, called by the cataloguer, “the best English writer of the 20th century.” Debatable, I say. But a copy of the first edition of his 1973 story, The Jersey Shore ($45)--not debatable. There are many more Maynes, most in the $20-$40 range.

It is surprising to see names like Baskin, Asimov, Gaiman, Daniel Pinkwater, Mario Puzo, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Vonnegut show up in this catalogue, but they do. Some are cross-over authors, some have surprising little children’s books up their sleeves. A few Philip Pullman titles, including a first signed copy of The Scarecrow and His Servant ($75), will draw collectors. H.A. Rey’s The Stars (also $75), with its rare original dust jacket that unfolds to double size and contains a map of the constellations, sounds quite enticing.

It’s nice to see some surprises in this catalogue, even more so when they aren’t terribly out of reach.
Catalogue Review: Oak Knoll Books: 296, Books about Books, Bibliography, and Non Books about Books

img70_5.jpgIf you know only one name in the books-about-books world, it’s Oak Knoll. The first bookseller catalogues I ever requested and received were Oak Knoll catalogues, a dozen or so years ago. I was just then becoming interested in publishing history, buying a few publishers’ histories here and there, when I found out about Oak Knoll. They stock books on printing, binding, illustration, papermaking, bookplates, type specimens, bookselling, etc. Then and now, it is the bookseller for the book collector’s reference shelf.

The newest catalogue pointed out to me what is missing from my own shelves. Let’s start with Dibdin’s The Bibliomania; or Book-Madness; a Bibliographical Romance ($350). A later edition of the classic, but so says the catalogue, “The best edition to buy for those who want to read the full text of this book.” Yes, please.

Book Collecting, A Modern Guide from 1977 ($100) looks interesting. It contains twelve essays by well-known book people. This one was owned by contributor Susan Otis Thompson, and many of the chapters have been signed or inscribed by the other essayists.

How I would have loved to get my hands on this four-volume set of Tebbel’s History of Book Publishing in the United States ($550) when I was in grad school. Still would, in fact. It could use some updating as a reference, but there is lots of history here.

The type specimen books also caught my eye, particularly the Specimen Book of Nineteenth-Century Printing Types, Borders, Ornaments & Cuts In The Collection of Bowne & Co., Stationers ($125). Bowne & Co. is a gem of a letterpress printer in downtown Manhattan. This book, published in 1985, is limited to 300 copies.  

Any collector or bibliophile would do well to have the History of the Book in America series published by Cambridge University Press (and later by UNC Press) between 2000-2010. Oak Knoll has volume one: The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World ($100). Luckily I already have that one.

Oak Knoll also has generous handfuls of private press books, by Bird & Bull, Limited Editions Club, Derrydale Press, and others.

So if these appeal to your collecting interests, take a look at Oak Knoll’s catalogues (antiquarian or publishing) online or visit their shop in New Castle, Delaware. 
Catalogue Review: Between the Covers, #169

BTC Cover.pngBetween the Covers of Gloucester City, New Jersey, is one of the most successful antiquarian booksellers. They have a 15,000-square-foot warehouse of treasures--which I cannot wait to see one day--an absurdly wonderful website, and an extraordinary staff. They also create dynamic, colorful catalogues with the best book images around. I got this spring catalogue just prior to the NYABF three weeks ago.  

Two items jumped out at me right away -- a first edition of Robert Benchley’s No Poems or Around the World Backwards and Sideways (1932) that is inscribed by the author, who signed himself “Bobby” ($950). As the catalogue copy noted, “The intimacy of the inscription is telling; we’ve never before seen Benchley inscribe a book as ‘Bobby.’” The other item--on the very same page--is a copy of Henry Beston’s The Outermost House inscribed by the author with an eight-page letter to a Mrs. Sweeman enclosed ($5,000). I am a huge fan of Beston’s nature writing, and I was thrilled to actually hold this book at the fair in New York and chat with BTC’s Dan Gregory about it.

BTC has a particularly strong selection of galleys or proofs. The four Thomas Pynchons they have from the collection of Pynchon’s editor Ray Roberts are neat, especially the publisher’s dummy of Mason & Dixon ($3,500). It’s actually an unprinted text block with a provisional dustwrapper affixed to the pastedowns. There’s also a galley proof of Hemingway’s Moveable Feast ($4,500) and an uncorrected proof of Brendan Behan’s Confessions of an Irish Rebel ($225).

Other surprises that poke out -- the Harvard Class Album of 1932 featuring James Agee ($750), a film corporation stock book associated with producer Harry Aiken ($3,500), and promotional ephemera for Maurice Sendak’s I Saw Esau ($350).

But even all this is just the tip of the iceberg at BTC. A new catalogue appeared just days ago -- Archives & Manuscripts, No. 4. All catalogues can be viewed online or in PDF. In print if you request it. You can also visit them at the Bookshop in Old New Castle, in Delaware, where BTC and three other booksellers have partnered in an open shop.
Catalogue Review: Whitmore Rare Books # 2

cat_1_356.jpgWhen I visited the Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair two weeks ago (recap here), I met young bookseller Daniel Whitmore of Whitmore Rare Books, Pasadena, CA. I was glad to see his very elegantly produced color catalogue in an age when many booksellers have done away with printed catalogues altogether. It’s slim and bright, with great images and clear descriptions.

Lest I be accused of judging a catalogue by its cover, I’ll tell you some of the items that caught my eye on the inside. He has several ultra modern first editions, such as Cameron Crowe’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High ($200), an inscribed first of The Hunt for Red October ($750), a signed first of Stephen King’s Carrie ($2,450), and an inscribed first of The Color Purple ($925). He also has some science fiction from Asimov, Clarke, and Robert A. Heinlein.

Whitmore has a nice mix of books--a literary generalist, so to speak--and I found myself pleasantly surprised by the intermingling of signed Cormac McCarthys with first editions of Mark Twain and Samuel Butler. He has several titles that were later made into films, a first edition of Gone With the Wind ($2,750) prominent among them.

It seems that every bookseller in California has at least some Bukowski on hand, and Whitmore is no exception. Except that he has something very a la mode. Bukowski’s “Fax Poem” -- a poem sent by Buk to John Martin, publisher of Black Sparrow Press, in 1994, just before Bukowski’s death. It is one of ten copies that Martin made, numbered and initialed; this is #4/10. It is listed at $950.

If his catalogue is any indication, we’ll be seeing much more of Daniel Whitmore in the future. Download his first two catalogues here.

Catalogue Review: Brian Cassidy, No. 5

Screen shot 2011-04-15 at 8.35.43 AM.pngAfter a brief break for the NYABF coverage, I’m back to Catalogue Reviews on Fridays. This week, a catalogue I picked up at the NYABF. For those of you who don’t know Brian Cassidy (here he is in the Washington Post last fall), he’s a young bookseller who has carved out a niche in pop culture, poetry, the avant-garde, little magazines and small presses, and “outsider books of all kinds.” He gravitates toward items that are “intrinsically fascinating,” which means that a look through his catalogue is sure to surprise (and sometimes shock!).

In this catalogue, for example, you run the gamet from five transcripts of spiritualist medium messages from sessions held in Brooklyn, NY, in 1904-1905, during which the medium channeled Disraeli ($375) to the first visitors guide to Disneyland printed in 1955 ($125). A mimeographed flier for a Columbia University sit-in in 1969 is another intriguing find ($125). A “special galley” of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest signed by Wallace will surely find an owner quickly ($750).

For modern poetry collectors--particularly The Beats and the New York School--Cassidy has many items of interest in this catalogue, and many with great associations. Michael Palmer to Diana Di Prima; Adrienne Rich to Louise Bogan and May Swenson; Theodore Roethke to his wife; Charles Bernstein to Ray Di Palma. The highpoint here may be a copy of Charles Bukowski’s If We Take with a  long inscription and illustration by Buk to Harold Norse. Cassidy calls it “one of the closest Bukowski associations we’ve seen” ($5,000).

At the NYABF, Jeremy Dibbell pointed out one of Cassidy’s curiosities to me: a beautiful manuscript that very skillfully recreates two seventeenth-century Puritan tracts. Produced in the mid nineteenth century for an unknown purpose and bound in a leather journal, Cassidy describes it as “bibliographic trompe-l’oeil.” It’s very cool to see ($2,000).

Kurt Cobain and Neil Armstrong as bedfellows? Yes, in Brian Cassidy’s No. 5. Download the PDF here.
Catalogue Review: Ars Libri 158

158a.jpgSince 1976, Ars Libri of Boston has built up an incredible stock of rare and out-of-print art books, including topics related to art history, architecture, archaeology, photography, and the decorative arts. Its newest catalogue, #158: 33 books from a private collection is but one small, select sampling.

Two unrecorded advertising papillons (posters) for a German Dada exhibit are here ($9,500) -- excellent examples of the focus on modern art and the avant garde for which Ars Libri is known by collectors. There’s also a fine first edition of L’amour fou by Andre Breton with photographs by Brassai and Cartier-Bresson, published in Paris in 1937 ($950).

Several Max Ernst items are likely to draw attention. The catalogue calls the rare original limited edition of Les malheurs des immortals by Paul Eluard and Max Ernst, “one of Ernst’s greatest achievements in collage and book illustration” ($7,500). Cubist Fernand Leger is also represented with three editions for which he provided illustration.

A complete run of Wendingen, an art and architecture journal published from 1918-1931, housed in six fitted clamshell cases ($30,000) brings this slim and colorful catalogue to a powerful close.

Download a PDF of the catalogue here, or contact Ars Libri for a print version.

Catalogue Review: Peter Harrington 75

75.jpgOne of FB&C’s contributors sent Peter Harrington’s most recent catalogue to me this week with a ringing endorsement. Many of you will recognize the name of this London rare books firm and bindery, which has been in business since 1969. Catalogue 75 runs 117 pages, showing 75 lots of manuscripts, incunabula, and first editions, in a glossy paperbound format. Indeed it is better looking than most publishers’ paperbound books.

A first edition of Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy... (1621) is one of the first items in the catalogue that slows my flipping. The popular title is in handsome sprinkled calf with an ownership inscription of civic leader W. Whiteway from the year following publication (£32,500).

Just a few pages later my flipping hits a dead stop. This time caused by a manuscript record kept by Rev. H. S. Cotton of the convict executions at Newgate prison in 1812. An amazing piece of history, macabre and illicit, almost the basis for a good screenplay (£5,000). Take a look at some interior pages on Harrington’s website.

The spread showing a first edition of Gray’s Anatomy, twice presented to eminent doctors (£12,500), shows off the solid design of this catalogue. The images are attractive, and the well-written descriptions lengthy enough to give rich details.

There are so many high points here that a peruse feels luxurious. A Cromwell document with his autograph, the Doves Press Bible of 1903-1905 together with a specimen page from the press, a full set of the 1797 (third edition) Encyclopedia Britannica bound in diced russia, the first edition in English of Nostradamus’ True Prophecies, Mary Wollstonecraft’s major work uncut in original blue boards, and many others. The 1759 first edition of Candide offered near the end of the catalogue is bound in the most gorgeous mottled calf with gilt decoration on the spine (£60,000). See it here.
To download a PDF version or view the catalogue, click here.

My thanks to Peter K. Steinberg for bringing this to my attention. 
Catalogue Review: Philadelphia Rare Book & Manuscripts Company

Well here it my second week of weekly catalogue reviews and already I’m struggling to decide what constitutes a catalogue versus a “list,” and if it really matters in this forum. I’m leaning toward the idea that any grouping of titles presented to potential buyers that is outstanding--whether for its design or content--is fair game. What caught my eye this week was the six-page list circulated by David Szewczyk & Cynthia Davis Buffington, proprietors of PRB&M, titled Libraries -- Librarians -- Labors!

What a fantastic topic. The selection is encompassing and, dare I add, whimsical, making it all the more enjoyable. How about a report from 1826 written by the architect of the Capitol building Charles Bulfinch on fire-proofing the library room ($40). A limited edition of T. S. Eliot’s 1952 address to the London Library wherein he expressed his belief that “The great private libraries have had their day, and are gone” ($60). A printed edition of a speech on Northwest history given by the man who would become the first librarian of the Newberry Library ($70). The presentation copy of the printed “Dedicatory Exercises” of the Washburn Memorial Library in Livermore, Maine from 1885 sounds like a gem ($150).

Another thing to like about this list is the prices. They range from $12.50 for the Society for the History of Belgian Protestantism that includes a duplicate handwritten letter from the Society’s agent to the librarian of the NJ Historical Society, to $1,675 for librarian Charles Nice Davies’ own first edition of John Jewel’s A Defence of the Apologie of the Churche of Englande...(1567). The rest fall between the two, making these titles within the grasp of most collectors. It reminds me that PRB&M did an “under $500” case at last year’s New York Antiquarian Book Fair, primarily to entice younger and new collectors. It’s admirable, and lists like this make one optimistic for the future of book collecting.

Introducing a new series of weekly bookseller catalogue reviews, in which we briefly review one outstanding new catalogue, to be posted on Fridays. This week we take a look at Simon Beattie’s Short List 3. Beattie has been in business for himself for just over a year, specializing in “European cultural (and cross-cultural) history,” and more particularly “Germany, Russia, music, language.”

beattie005.jpgThe oversized format caught my attention right away--more newspaper than glossy magazine--and the opening spread of black text is very appealing to the eye. Beattie tells us that the twenty-five pieces in the catalogue “are united in the desire to create, be it to inform, to entertain, or to incite.” This includes the work of a Chechen jihadist and a Nantucket Quaker, among others.

The interior of the catalogue is striking (almost disarming at first), with colorful images and texts running at odd angles. It moves chronologically from 1785’s copy of Restif de la Bretonne’s utopian novel, Les Veillees du Marais (£1250), to 1974’s samizdat Russian translation of Nik Cohn’s history of pop music (£2750). Images are accompanied by brief listings, and one pages to the back to see the full descriptions and prices. Goethe’s Ossian (£3500) is one of the jewels of the list. It was privately printed by a 23-year-old Goethe. The first Russian edition of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper (£3500) is rather amazing as well; Beattie notes that only one other copy could be found outside Russia, and that at the Library of Congress.  

Overall, it’s an exciting selection of material, presented in a novel way. Download it, or contact Beattie for a paper copy.

Take a look at our Catalogues Received for the month of March to see what else is out there in bookseller catalogues right now. If you are a dealer, and you are not already sending a catalogue to our attention, please see the directions on this page.

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