Et Cetera

The idea of the beach read encapsulates how most people seem to regard reading in the 21st century: a solitary activity, preferably performed in a comfortable place, and accompanied by an alcoholic beverage. Modern readers display their bona fides on Instagram with stylish photos of reading nooks and “still life”-type imagery featuring books (or, I'm sad to note, Kindles and iPads) and beverages of choice (most often, cups of coffee or glasses of wine). There's even a curious trend of people posting pictures of themselves reading alone in bars, sending a slightly odd mixed-message: are they in search of company, or advertising the fact that they are above the need for company? Whatever the motivation for sharing these photos, they all reflect the dominant view of reading as a virtuous, solitary, and slightly hedonistic act. However, this was not always the case. Rare bookseller Ernest Hilbert (of Bauman Rare Books) recently reviewed The Social Life of Books: Reading Together in the 18th Century Home by Abigail Williams for the Washington Post. Williams explores the “heyday of communal reading,” 18th-Century England, and details how rising literacy gave birth to a trend for reading aloud as a social activity. In fact, social commentators like Joseph Addison campaigned that reading should move from the private to the public sphere to improve education. Other factors like poor light and failing eyesight created a need for books for be read aloud — witness Jo reading to... [more]

Pioneering screenwriter Anita Loos was born on April 26, 1889. After learning her trade acting and writing one-act plays for her father's somewhat-disreputable theater troupe, Loos began submitting unsolicited scripts to film companies. D.W. Griffith directed The New York Hat, a film based on her screenplay, starring Mary Pickford and Lionel Barrymore in 1912. In 1915 Loos became the first “staff writer” for a film production company, when she signed on with Griffith's studio. She wrote hundreds of scripts during the silent era of cinema, most of which went unproduced, but the films that were made were noted for their wit and humor — all the more remarkable for being silent! Her collaboration with director (and future husband John Emerson) began by working on several romantic comedies which made Douglas Fairbanks a star. In later years, many of the scripts that carried both of their names would be primarily Loos' work, however. It was often convenient, in the Hollywood system of the 1930s and '40s, to have a male co-writer, as some directors were unwilling or uncomfortable discussing the script with a woman. During a period of infatuation with H.L. Mencken (who apparantly had a thing for blondes) Loos wrote a series of stories about a chorus girl on the lookout for a rich paramour, the Lorelei Lee stories. These were such a hit for Harper's Bazaar that they soon became a novel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1925) which became a runaway bestseller. A broadway adaptation foll... [more]

Millions of people who have joined, or watched, the recent protests across the country, beginning with the March for Women, have been struck by the diversity of signs in the crowd. Princess Leia as political crusader, puns riffing on the latest social media meme, diagrams of ovaries, statements of solidarity with Muslim refugees – all have been present, in endless variety. Surprisingly, perhaps, it was not always so. Many libraries and museums collect historical protest signs, and the study of these signs reveals many changes over the years — not only in the issues directly addressed by the signs themselves, but in evolving styles of communication, and the influence of the broader cultural environment. It might seem surprising that some libraries, committed to the preservation of literature and the written word, also collect protest signs. If the effort of prose is to persuade, then such signs (as well as pin-back buttons and bumper stickers) are the epitome of concise communication. The simplest signs simply state an opinion, while others make more of an effort to change the reader's mind, to use a turn of phrase to catch attention (and converts). And some signs – often those that reveal the most about their society – make more complex use of text and image, playing the part of a hand-held, sturdier version of a propaganda poster. We could trace the origins of hand-carried political signs to the Roman era if not earlier, but for the purposes of this blog we will exam... [more]

For those of you unfamiliar with Shirley Jackson's work, consider yourself warned of potential SPOILERS right now and exit out of this page. Preferably to pick up one of her books and see for yourself. I still remember the first Shirley Jackson piece I ever read. Like most American high-school teenagers, it was one of her short stories. A terrifying and eye-opening piece entitled The Lottery. To this day, I think it is one of the most horrifying works I've ever read (and this coming from an avid Agatha Christie fan). A work that reveals a callous and mindless side of human nature – just following the herd mentality, even if it involves killing your own mother – what wouldn't be creepy about that? The Lottery has always stuck with me, and also have the other stories by Jackson that I have read since. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a fan favorite for a reason! So here's to the real question… what had this seemingly average American housewife done to become the architect of such frightening tales? Well… let's take a look! The Lottery, or, The Adventures of James Harris NY: Farrar, Straus and Company, 1949. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. Very good/Very good plus. First edition, first printing, with the stylized FS logo on the copyright page. 8vo. Gray cloth with red spine titles. Light sunning of the cloth; trace of soil; light offset staining in the gutter at the beginning and end from the binding adhesive; else a very good copy. In a later state dustwr... [more]

ABAA member Tom Nealon (Pazzo Books) specializes in early printed books and cookbooks, and has drawn on his knowledge of these areas to write a book on the history of food and its vital influence on the course of human history, Food Fights and Culture Wars: A Secret History of Taste. In this brief introduction, Tom Nealon explains what drew him to early cookbooks and food is connected with arcane secrets and the spread of the Enlightenment. As fond as I am of eating, from the beginning it was the lies and artifice of food that grabbed me. About ten years ago, I had the idea to try to cook every food mentioned in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales (c. 1390). I think it arose from my interest in the scurrilous cook Roger, who would drain gravy out of pies to sell in the lucrative second-hand gravy market, but also that I had ended a run of bad restaurant jobs to open my used bookshop in Boston, Massachusetts, and I wanted to splice these two lives together. One of the first dishes that I cooked in preparation for my project was a thirteenth-century recipe for chicken, that was first taken off the bone, the bone cleaned and boiled, and, finally, the chicken rewrapped around the bone and fried in place to achieve chicken disguised to look like chicken. I've long had a dilettante's interest in the food of the Late Middle Ages – that is, from around 1300 to 1500. The food of these times is so foreign to our own: turtledoves, mutton, flagons of mead, and pork fat, which seems... [more]

I'm thrilled to announce the winners of this year's National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest: 1st Place: Luke Kelly. Harvard Unversity. “A Collection of Eugene Walter, King of the Monkeys” 2nd Place: Megan Jones. University of Kansas. "The Life and Times of Sacco and Vanzetti" 3rd Place: Micaela Beigel. Goucher College. “Once We Were Dreamers: A Collection of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust” Essay award: Samantha Flitter. Princeton University. “The Sand and the Sea: An Age of Sail Library in Rural New Mexico” The judges were impressed with the stories and thought that went into assembling these collections and wish to thank all who participated. The Awards Ceremony will take place at the Library of Congress on October 14th at 5:30pm. Our featured speaker is Toni Tipton-Martin. The event is free and open to public. Thanks to all who entered. [more]

Personal confession: normally I am a proponent of all types of blogging. Though I believe the (not-so-old) adage “Don't believe everything you read on the internet,” I also find the internet to be a most useful place for information. Some of it genuine… some of it not quite so genuine… some of it kind, some of it negative. In any case, the internet is a fount of information. And I do use it – boy, do I use it! However, that being said, there is one thing that I cannot make up my mind on how I feel about it. The internet is partially responsible (in my own humble opinion) for making one particular genre of published book not quite as popular anymore. Travel Writing. Nowadays, just about anyone can and does post just about anything they want online. They went on a hike with their girlfriend and found a killer “secret” camping spot? Let's tell the entire online world! (Not so “secret” anymore – so much for skinny dipping!) Did you travel to Versailles with your parents and take pictures of every single item of gold you saw? Post them to Facebook! Gone are the old days where someone went on adventures that others might never experience and went home to write colorful and descriptive tales about their travels. Travel writing had to be good enough, exciting enough and gripping enough to spend money to publish it – it had to appeal to the masses. Now don't get me wrong – I love to travel and always want to write about my “adventures” – but I would rathe... [more]

If someone says “Children's Books” to you, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Picture books? Perhaps here is the better question… what author first comes to mind? I would venture to bet that at least 90% of you come up with the same name. However, did you know that the name you come up with is not his true name? (Probably most of you do, since you are members of the book world or bibliophiles and would know something like that… but humor me!) Theodor Seuss Geisel was born on March 2nd, 1904 to a German family in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father ran a family-owned brewery in Massachusetts (well, until the Prohibition did away with that). Geisel went to school in Massachusetts until he went to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, graduating in 1925. During his time at Dartmouth, Geisel first showed skill and interest in humorous literature as rose to the role of editor-in-chief of the literary magazine the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern before graduating. Unfortunately, one college incident threatened to end his early literary career – when Geisel was caught drinking gin (the Prohibition was in effect) in his dorm room with some of his friends. In punishment for this crime, Geisel was forced to resign from his position at the magazine. In order to continue publishing his work at the Jack-O-Lantern, Geisel began writing under the pen name “Seuss”, his middle name. The beginning of Dr. Seuss was underway. Once graduating from Dartmouth, Geisel began his... [more]

When visiting New York for the annual Antiquarian Book Fair, many attendees spend the entirety of their time within a fairly narrow geographic radius of the fair itself. That's understandable -- the Upper East Side has much to recommend it, and for convenience to the fair, it can't be beat. But New York City is a rich tapestry, and bookish pleasures abound throughout. Why not let the fair serve as an opportunity to grab a cab or hail an Uber and explore further afield? For sheer literary density, New York's crown jewel has to be the downtown neighborhood of Greenwich (that's "grennitch") Village. Universally referred to by natives simply as "The Village, this historic district is bounded by 14th Street on the north, Houston Street on the south, 3rd Avenue in the east, and the Hudson River to the west. Originally a bucolic out-of-town escape destination for disease-beset 18th- and 19th-century New Yorkers, the area retained its post-colonial flavor even as the city, marching ever northward, expanded around it. The Village's smaller scale, tree-lined streets, pocket parks, off-the-grid layout, and Bohemian sensibility has long attracted literary types, among them W. H. Auden, Willa Cather, Kahlil Gibran, Allen Ginsberg, Henry James, Jack Kerouac, Emma Lazarus, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Eugene O'Neill, Edgar Allen Poe, Dylan Thomas, Mark Twain, Thomas Wolfe, and many more. The area was the cradle of the "golden age" of New York literary society (dates vary, but broadly from the 1... [more]

Since 1975 the William Reese Company has served a large international clientele of collectors and private and public institutions in the acquisition of rare books and manuscripts and in collection development. With a catalogue inventory of over forty thousand items and a general inventory of over sixty-five thousand items, we are among the leading specialists in the fields of Americana and world travel, and maintain a large and eclectic inventory of literary first editions and antiquarian books of the 18th through 21st centuries. Our offices are located in downtown New Haven, Connecticut and are open by appointment only. The William Reese Company is seeking to add a new team member to its Americana Department. This person needs to be detail oriented, personable and outgoing, and willing and able to lift reasonably large boxes of books. A foundational knowledge of American history is a must, as is a basic grounding in bibliographical knowledge. Previous experience in antiquarian book selling or library work is preferred but not essential. Excellent communication skills, both oral and written, are necessary, as is proficiency in the use of databases. The job description includes a range of the many tasks required in running a large rare book business, but primary duties are cataloguing and researching new inventory; working with customers and selling books in person, on the phone, and by catalogue or internet listing; maintaining inventory control; and possible travel to attend... [more]