Coming to auction next month is a perfect time capsule of a collection -- that of Ambassador Alexander Weddell and his wife, Virginia Chase Steedman Weddell. Avid collectors, the Weddells filled their Richmond, Virginia, home with fine art, furniture, antiquities, and rare books. The couple died in a train wreck in 1948, and their grand residence, known as Virginia House, became a museum, where their things were preserved and largely untouched. Now, the collection is being deaccessioned by the Virginia House Museum.

Duc Freeman's.jpgWhile there is much to please the eye in this collection, I was drawn to lot 100: a Louis XIV French gilt-tooled letter document box. Why? Because it is reputed to have been owned by Philippe, Duc d’Orléans (1674-1723), a passionate artist and art collector. He amassed more than five hundred paintings in his life, including that of Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Veronese, Rembrandt, and Rubens; some have called it the greatest private collection of Western art ever assembled. The collection stayed in the family until his great-grandson needed to raise funds during the French Revolution. For art lovers like the Weddells, it must have had potent association value. At auction on April 10, it is estimated to bring $1,000-1,500.

For more particulars about the rare books on offer -- tending toward French literature, e.g., a first edition of Gustav Flaubert’s Madame Bovary in a beautiful morocco binding and an inscribed presentation copy of Émile Zola’s Mes Haines -- read this piece in our spring auction guide.

For more information about the Weddells and their home, here’s the press release from Freeman’s.

Image courtesy of Freeman’s

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Alesha Shumar of the University of Tennessee - Knoxville.

Alesha-Head-shots-2015-2.jpgWhat is your role at your institution?

Assistant Head and University Archivist of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collection and University Archives at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.


How did you get started in special collections?

My first introduction into special collections was in my undergraduate as a history major. I used a couple different manuscript collections in my research. I enjoyed it so much that I started as a student worker within my special collections throughout the rest of my undergrad career before going on to grad school. 


Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?

University of Pittsburgh, School of Library and Information Science.


Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

This is always a tough question because I have so many favorites. What I have enjoyed most recently is showing our students all of the wonderful primary resources that are available to them for their research. It is really wonderful to see their eyes light up when they are handling some of the historical materials for the first time.  


What do you personally collect?

Historic maps of different places I’ve traveled.


What do you like to do outside of work?

Living so close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I like to be outdoors hiking, biking and also paddle boarding on the Tennessee River.


What excites you about special collections librarianship?

Every day is different. I am constantly amazed with the diversity of collections and resources that I get to handle, process and teach with on a daily basis.


Thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship?

I feel that the future of special collections librarianship is bright. We have a library school at the University of Tennessee and the interest has tripled in the number of students wanting to work in special collections or complete a practicum with our department. We have has numerous student workers go on to get their masters and become archivists and special collections curators at institutions across the country. 


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

An interesting and unusual area of research at the University of Tennessee is in the field of Forensic Anthropology. We house the papers of Dr. William M. Bass III. Dr. Bass  is a well-known forensic anthropologist focused on human osteology and human decomposition made famous for creating the Anthropology Research Facility, colloquially known as the Body Farm. The research conducted at the Body Farm is world renowned and has forever change the study of Forensic Anthropology. His research papers, which cover Dr. Bass’ more than 60 years as a professor and researcher, include personal and professional correspondence, publications and material related to the creation of the Body Farm.   


Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

We are currently preparing to celebrate the University of Tennessee Knoxville 225th Anniversary. We are completely revamping the timeline on the university website, rolling out a brand new university focused digital encyclopedia named Volopedia after our mascot the Tennessee Volunteer. We also have events and exhibits planned throughout the year to celebrate the history and legacy of the University of Tennessee.  

[Photo credit: UT Libraries]


Back in January, we told you about the Beinecke Library’s current exhibition, Bibliomania; or Book Madness: A Bibliographical Romance. Today we’re taking a closer look at one section of that exhibition, a collaborative project between the Beinecke and the Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin, and curated by Kathryn James, Early Modern and Osborn Curator at the Beinecke, and Aaron Pratt, Pforzheimer Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts at the Ransom Center. Collated & Perfect, an exhibit within an exhibit, takes its name from the phrase that actor and playbook collector John Philip Kemble inscribed into his books in the early nineteenth century. What, the curators ask, “does it mean to ‘collate’? What does it mean for a book to be ‘perfect?’”

A supplementary pamphlet (freely available online and as a downloadable PDF) provides an accessible overview of these bibliographical topics. James undertakes a description of collation from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries and examines the “ways in which collation was defined and used to stabilize an English textual heritage framed by an originating loss.” Charlton Hinman, who invented a mechanical collator in order to compare copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio (and publish an “ideal” facsimile), is one of her five main examples. Pratt then takes on the idea of “Perfect,” describing Kemble’s habit of aggressively trimming and rehousing his playbooks in an attempt to enforce his idea of perfection, even discarding leaves he deemed unnecessary -- thus making it “imperfect” in the eyes of today’s collectors. Pratt also traces booksellers’ use of “perfect” in this context to the late sixteenth century and considers the history of “made-up” or “sophisticated” books.

In February, the Ransom Center held a related panel discussion between James, Pratt, and Megan Heffernan, assistant professor English at DePaul University. In his introduction, Pratt sets the tone, saying, “...What the books that survive today themselves make clear is that what has counted as a ‘perfect’ or ‘ideal’ copy of an old book, or the text it transmits, was far from stable, changing from one generation to the next, especially once elite collecting really ramped up in the nineteenth century. I think all of the speakers here today believe that tracking these changes is important if we want to develop robust narratives about literary and cultural history.” It’s now available to watch in full:


Yale’s exhibition closes on April 21, but the Ransom Center’s Stories to Tell exhibition will remain on view through August 11.

A very busy auction week coming up!


On Tuesday, March 26, Koller Auctions in Zurich will sell 274 lots of books, and an additional 63 lots of manuscripts & autographs. Among the former, a 1726 French-Latin edition of Maria Sibylla Merian’s work on the insects of Suriname, bound with a 1730 edition of her book on European insects is expected to lead the way, estimated at about $60,000-90,000. An illuminated Franciscan Book of Hours from around 1460 rates the top estimate among the manuscripts, at $70,000-90,000.


Bonhams London will sell Fine Books, Manuscripts, Atlases & Historical Photographs on Wednesday, March 27, in 263 lots. Highlights are expected to include the manuscript marriage contract between Edward III and Philippa of Hainault (£100,000-150,000); an Alan Turing letter to Lionel March about linear and group algebras (£40,000-60,000); and a first impression of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, this copy once owned by J.K. Rowling’s literary agent (£40,000-60,000). Other lots of note: 175 pages of the manuscript of Wodehouse’s Psmith Journalist (£20,000-30,000) and a presentation sample of penicillin given by Alexander Fleming to Miss Inger Knop (£6,000-8,000; pictured below).

fleming.pngAlso on Wednesday, Autographed Documents, Manuscripts, Photos, Books & Relics at University Archives, in 276 lots. A January 1801 letter from Thomas Jefferson to his assistant overseer at Monticello rates the top estimate, at $35,000-45,000. A lengthy Davy Crockett letter from May 1830 is estimated at $30,000-35,000, as is a letter from Jefferson Davis accepting his selection as provisional president of the Confederate States.


Four sales to watch on Thursday, March 28:


- Printed & Manuscript African-Americana at Swann Galleries, in 405 lots. A collection of correspondence to John Augustine Washington III relating to Mount Vernon and other Washington estates is expected to sell for $20,000-30,000. Benjamin Banneker’s 1796 almanac could fetch $15,000-25,000, while a first edition of Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects (1773) is estimated at $15,000-20,000.


- At Chiswick Auctions, 246 lots of Books & Illustrated Art, including Cartoons.


- Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper at Forum Auctions, in 365 lots. A large-paper copy of the 1669 Amsterdam edition of Athanasius Kircher’s Ars Magna Sciendi in an absolutely stunning contemporary presentation binding to Jesuit leader Giovanni Paolo Oliva is estimated at £20,000-30,000. At the same estimate range are a first edition of Stendhal’s La Chartreuse de Parme and a mid-1620s manuscript volume of chess problems by Gioachino Greco.


- Kestenbaum & Company sell Fine Judaica: Printed Books, Manuscripts & Maps, in 190 lots. The 1469-72 Rome edition of Nachmanides’ commentary on the Pentateuch, described by Moses Marx as the first printed Hebrew book, is expected to sell for $200,000-250,000. A complete copy of the 1490 Naples edition of Nachmanides’ treatise on the afterlife Sha’ar HaGemul and a late thirteenth-century manuscript prayer book for Passover are each estimated at $80,000-100,000. Many other important manuscripts and early printed books here.


Finally, Addison & Sarova will sell 352 lots of Rare Books & Manuscripts in All Fields on Friday, March 30.


Image credit: Bonhams

On February 28, highlights from Lisa Unger Baskin’s nearly 9,000-piece collection of rare books, ephemera, and other artifacts created and produced by women over the course of five hundred years went on display at Duke University, which acquired the collection in 2015 and incorporated it into its Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture at the David M. Rubenstein Library.


“The unifying thread is that women have always been productive and working people and this history essentially has been hidden,” Baskin said, who began building the collection in the 1960s and when, as she put it “there was little interest in the historical record of the achievements of women.” Her collection reveals the long hidden--but thoroughly essential--world of women’s work, of which the exhibition offers a tantalizing glimpse.

Baskin parchment.jpgAmong the items on display are a scribal parchment dated March 9, 1240 which documents the execution of a bequest for a home for repentant prostitutes in Pisa, Italy. An example of a book printed in 1745 by the widow of a successful Mexico City-based printer shows that women could work the presses just as well as men, while striking Art Nouveau bindings by Sarah Prideaux reveal that artist’s innate talent for the craft. (Prideaux did not become a professional bookbinder until her thirties.)

Prideaux.jpgThe show is open to the public at Duke through June 15 before heading to the Grolier Club, where it will be on display December 11, 2019 through February 8, 2020. Visitors need not be upset if they can’t make it to Durham or Manhattan in either of those time frames: the entire exhibition, including a video interview with Baskin, is available online.


Images: (Top) Grant of land in Pisa, Italy, to Frater Baldiccione, signed Ildenbrandinus de Navacchio, 9 March 1240, [Italy]: 9 March 1240, Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. (Bottom) Lefroy, Edward Cracroft, Echoes from Theocritus, and Other Sonnets, London: Elliot Stock, 1885, [Binding by Sarah Prideaux] Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Want a little perspective on how artists and scientists have turned their ideas into three-dimensional graphic form over the last 500 years? Thinking 3D: From Leonardo to the Present, an exhibition that opens today at the Bodleian Libraries, aims to provide it, showcasing books, manuscripts, drawings, and prints that illustrate the challenge of communicating three dimensions on two-dimensional media. According to a press release, “Thinking 3D shows how technological advances, from the invention of the printing press and new illustration techniques to photography, stereoscopy and 3D modeling, have allowed authors and artists to share their ideas with the world.”

We asked the exhibitions co-curators, Daryl Green, librarian at Magdalen College, Oxford, and Dr. Laura Moretti, senior lecturer in art history at the University of St. Andrews, to tell us more about this exciting fusion of art and science.

Thinking3D+Max+Bruckner+polyhedral+models copy.jpgTell us about the idea behind this exhibition? Did it originate in wanting to celebrate Leonardo da Vinci’s quincentennial?

Leonardo wasn’t the initial protagonist of Thinking 3D, but he certainly anchored our exhibition at the Bodleian from a very early stage. Thinking 3D is a research project which we established which looks at the history and development of communicating three-dimensional observations and concepts. Understanding how Leonardo perceived and transmitted the three-dimensional world is the seed from which Thinking 3D has grown. Leonardo’s work will be the opening protagonist of the exhibition at the Weston Library, considering his ways of observing, analysing and communicating on paper the reality around him. However, aside from one contribution, Leonardo’s work wouldn’t be seen by a printing press until the 17th century.

The Bodleian exhibition, Thinking 3D: From Leonardo to the Present, is the hub which provides context to a pan-Oxford project will then look at the influence the rise and development of three-dimensionality on artists, mathematicians, draughtsmen, and designers over the last 500 years, via partner exhibitions, talks, symposia and conferences. Categories such as geometry, mathematics, architecture, astronomy, and natural and physical sciences will constitute the themes of the satellite exhibitions and public events.

Thinking+3D+Leonardo+arm+sketch+credit+Royal+Collection+Trust copy.jpgWhat is the Codescope, and what role does it play in the exhibition?

The Codescope is a cutting-edge tool to explore one of Leonardo’s most concise notebooks, the Codex Leicester, now owned by Bill Gates. You can see him talking about it here. The Bodliean exhibition is the first time in the UK that the Codescope will be publicly available, complementing loans from Leonardo’s notebooks to the exhibition held by the Royal Collections and the British Library. It, like the physical notebook sheets, show how complex Leonardo’s thinking was in grappling with issues of three dimensionality, and how his ideas, if published, would have changed scientific thinking from the late 15th century.

Thinking+3D+colloseum copy.jpgDo you have a favorite piece in the exhibition? Tell us about it.

Laura: my favorite piece is Serlio’s Third Book on Architecture (1544 edition). We show in the case his representation of the Colosseum in Rome (pictured above). What I find particular brilliant here is the way in which Serlio and the publisher Francesco Marcolini managed to put on the surface of two pages such great level of detail and information about this extremely complex building. I trained as an architectural historian, and Serlio’s books on architecture were revolutionary for the discipline. I have been studying them through my entire career as a scholar, and seeing one of them out there is great.

Daryl: It’s hard to choose, but the book which embodies Thinking 3D the most is probably Kepler’s Mysterium Cosmographicum. In grappling with understanding the relational distance between heavenly bodies, Kepler applied the five platonic solids and their relationship to each other to explain what his calculations found. The illustration that he devised has been seen regularly and is a fantastic example of applying the geometrical lens to the wider world. However, for this exhibition we also wanted to see if we could actually bring Kepler’s model to life. With the help of a local company, Thinksee3D, we did!



In addition to those pictured here, highlights of the exhibition include extraordinary anatomical books that used flaps and pop-up features to educate people about the human body; illustrations of the moon that Galileo produced based on his first observations of the lunar surface through a telescope in 1609; and the first geological map of Mars produced from data from NASA’s Mariner 9 mission in 1971-72. Thinking 3D is on view through February 9, 2020.

Images: (Top) Max Brückner’s polyhedral models in the book Polygons and Polyhedra: Theory and History (Vielecke und Vielflache: Theorie und Geschichte) by Max Brückner, 1900. Image credit: Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. (Middle) Leonardo da Vinci’s sketch of an arm, from the working notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, now in the Royal Collection. Image credit: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019. (Bottom) Sebastiano Serlio’s magnum opus was a seven-volume series on the theory and history of architecture. Here, in his Third Book (1544), we see dissections of the Colosseum in Rome, a two-page spread depicting a full floor-plan, perspective drawings, and face-on illustrations. Image credit: Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

Ferlinghetti.jpgLawrence Ferlinghetti, poet, publisher, activist, and painter will turn 100 on March 24. To celebrate that significant milestone in a long and varied life, Ferlinghetti’s famous San Francisco bookshop City Lights will be hosting a birthday party open to the public. 

Everyone is welcome at City Lights (261 Columbus Avenue) between 1:00 and 5:00 on Sunday, March 24, to honor the life of Ferlinghetti, who is perhaps best known for first publishing Alan Ginsburg’s classic Beat poem Howl in 1956. Ferlinghetti was subsequently arrested for that act, which in turn led to a lengthy trial around the First Amendment.

City Lights, which was co-founded by Ferlinghetti in 1953, will host a variety of Bay Area writers and artists at the birthday celebration who will read selections from Ferlinghetti’s poetry. Photos and video screenings from his life will also be on display during what the mayor of San Francisco has officially declared to be “Lawrence Ferlinghetti Day.” 

Nearby institutions will also be hosting related events. Here is a complete calendar:

Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s 100th birthday party: 1-5 p.m. March 24. City Lights, 261 Columbus Ave., S.F.

“Little Boy” book release party: 7 p.m. March 21. Free. City Lights, 261 Columbus Ave., S.F.

“Ferlinghetti in Photographs”: On view March 1-28. Free. Canessa Gallery, 708 Montgomery St., S.F.

“Lawrence Ferlinghetti: A Life in Poetry”: A documentary by Giada Diano, plus fine-press limited letterpress Ferlinghetti books produced by Arion Press on view March 24. Free. Canessa Gallery, 708 Montgomery St., S.F.

“Lawrence Ferlinghetti: 100 Years Without a Net”: A solo show of his paintings on view March 2-April 7. Free. Rena Branstein Gallery, 1275 Minnesota St., S.F.

A celebration of Ferlinghetti’s life: Featuring Aggie Falk, Jack Hirschman, Devorah Major, Alejandro Murgia, Dean Rader, Kim Shuck and others. 1 p.m. March 17. Free. San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin St., S.F.

“Ferlinghetti”: A documentary by Chris Felver. 1:30-3:30 p.m. March 23. $13. Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., S.F.

[Image from Wikipedia. Photo taken by voxtheory]

There are few authors more revered among bibliophiles than Jorge Luis Borges, poet, philosopher, and director of the Biblioteca Nacional de la Republica Argentina. So when a Borges manuscript appears at auction, we take note. On March 27, Bonhams in London will offer this three-page autograph manuscript signed of Borges’ prologue to the Spanish translation of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles (Ediciones Minotauro, 1955). Yes, Borges devotees will have to bid it out against Bradbury buffs for this piece of literary history, in which Borges writes: “What has this man from Illinois created - I ask myself, closing the pages of his book - that his episodes of the conquest of another planet fill me with such terror and solitude?”

Borges 1 copy.jpgThe manuscript comes to auction from the family of Ediciones Minotauro publisher Francisco (Paco) Porrua. In this case, Porrua was also the book’s pseudonymous translator. It is estimated to realize £6,000-8,000 ($7,900-11,000).

Image courtesy of Bonhams

Four sales to watch this week:


On Tuesday, March 19, Chiswick Auctions holds a Photographica sale, in 180 lots all by the same avant-garde photographer: Francis Joseph Bruguière (1879-1945). 


At ALDE in Paris on Wednesday, March 20, Éditions Originales du XIXe au XXie Siècle, in 298 lots. Among the top-estimated lots are first editions of Stendhal’s La Chartreuse de Parme (€30,000-40,000) and Le Rouge et le Noir (€20,000-30,000); a twenty-volume edition of Balzac’s works, bound by Victor Champs (€10,000-12,000); and a five-volume set of Poe’s works (Paris, 1856-1865), translated by Baudelaire (€3,000-4,000).


Swann Galleries sells 256 lots of Autographs on Thursday, March 21. Expected to lead the way at $20,000-30,000 is a May 1776 letter from Joseph Brant (Thayeadanegea), written to an unknown correspondent from Falmouth as Brant prepared to return to America after being in London. Other interesting lots include a 1950-1956 guestbook from New York’s Luchow Restaurant ($8,000-12,000); and six letters from Princess Diana to editor Elizabeth Tilberis ($5,000-7,000).


Cohen.jpgAlso on Thursday, PBA Galleries holds a Fine Literature sale, in 366 lots. A presentation copy of Leonard Cohen’s first book, Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956) rates the top estimate, at $8,000-12,000 (pictured above). A first edition of A Wrinkle in Time, with the first state dust jacket (1962), could sell for $3,000-5,000, and a collection of sixty-eight typed poems by George Sterling is estimated at $2,000-3,000. A copy of the first American edition of A Study in Scarlet (ex-library in a modern fine binding) could also sell for $2,000-3,000.


Image credit: PBA Galleries



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

Auction Guide