Et Cetera

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]

image description

First Folio on Tour

By Rich Rennicks

Some of the most-expensive books in the world are going on tour. The Folger Shakespeare Library is sending several First Folios to partner institutions around the country -- one in each state -- so people can view the famous books upclose and personal. WIlliam Shakespeare's First Folio is a remarkable thing. Compiled just seven years after the great man died, the Folio (so-called because of how the book was printed — “When two leaves (four pages when printed on both sides) were printed on a sheet so that it could be folded once, collated with other folded sheets and bound, the format of the volume was a folio." — from the ABAA Glossary of Book Terms) was created by two actors who knew Shakespeare and would have had access to original drafts (referred to be the delicious term “foul papers” as they would have presumably been covered in handwritten edits, notes, and all manner of marginalia, rather than pristine, printed texts), transcripts prepared for the actors, or official prompt books from the original productions. If not for this book, those various copies would have likely been scattered and lost, and more of Shakespeare's plays could have been lost to time. For such a famous and influential book, there are few copies left in existence. Perhaps 750 copies were printed in 1623. Only 233 are known to exist today. The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, is home to an unrivaled collection of Shakespeariana, including 82 of the surviving First Folios. Comed... [more]

image description

New Rare Book Catalogs

By Rich Rennicks

For some, September is the busiest time of the year, with children heading back to school, the pressure mounting at work to hit end-of-year targets, and the holiday season lurking just around the corner. For others, it's the last hurrah of balmy summer days and outdoor pursuits before the cold of winter descends. For booksellers, it's a time of quickening; new students are dropping in to check out the books, serious readers are stocking up on books for winter's long nights, and publishers release new books by their heavy hitters to build buzz before the holidays (spurring a surge of interest in their backlist and early works). Collectors of rare books are more likely to curl up with a stack of rare book catalogs rather than the latest best-seller, and ABAA members have a plethora of varied and interesting catalogs to tempt and beguile... Athena Rare Books gets philosophical with List 17, featuring works by Rene Descartes, David Hume & Arthur Schopenhauer. Be it known that the latest catalog of books, art and ephemera relating to labor history, radicalism, and social movements from Lorne Bair Rare Books is now on-line. Bauman Rare Books unleash trio of new catalogs: Nobel Prize Winners Economics Signed Letters Between the Covers Rare Books, Inc. exhibit their latest Photography Catalog (#201). Bolerium Books seek to influence the next generation with a catalog of Children's Books (Bolerium Style): Children's books with an emphasis on social movements along with China, Tibet an... [more]

Let's start with all the other book news that's been overshadowed by the publication of the "new" Harper Lee book this week. Charles Dickens' Notes Solve Mystery of Unidentified Victorian Authors Hailed as a discovery that could "solve some of the biggest mysteries of Victorian literature," the news that a book collector has found Charles Dickens personal copies of his magazine "All the Year Round" was revealed over the weekend. The magazine famously published anonymous pieces -- providing academics with decades of fun and publication trying to identify the true authors -- but Dickens' personal copies contain annotations that reveal the authorship of each article. Among the work identified are new pieces by Lewis Carroll, Elizabeth Gaskell, Wilkie Collins, and Eliza Linton. Read more... ALL THE YEAR ROUND. A Weekly Journal. No. 83. Saturday, November 24, 1860. By Charles Dickens (Editor.) London:. 1860.. 8vo. 9-1/2" x 6-1/4". 1st printing. Pp (145) - 168. Text double column. Advert for 'Great Expectations' to p. 168.. Printed self wrappers, nested (not sewn). "Price 2d". Age-toning. A VG+ copy. (Offered by Tavistock Books) Malala Yousafzai Champions Books Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai called on world leaders to emphasize education over conflict in a recent speech. “I am here as the voice of children, as the voice of over 60 million girls who have been stopped from getting their education,” Yousafzai said. Being young and tech savvy, Yousafzai launched the hash... [more]

Among the many reasons we'll be sorry to see the end of Mad Men is the bravura way the writers have woven literary references into the show. Characters have been seen reading books that were popular at the time as well as obscure volumes that explored themes they would have found very meaningful at the time. We went back through the DVD box-sets, and noted the major titles featured and a few of the more interesting minor ones. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand Way back in season one, Rand's objectivism was established as an influence on Don's character: driven, selfish, and ambitious. The book was recommended to Don by Bert Cooper, and from Don's confident and egotistical pitch to a client in episode eight, he appears to have taken it to heart. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner After bedding Joy in season two, Don sees her reading The Sound and the Fury. He asks if it's good, and she answers that she enjoyed their romp, but the book is only OK. The allusion to this chronicle of a dysfunctional old Southern family dealing with financial and social ruin is obvious. The Agony and the Ecstacy by Irving Stone Used as a rather heavy religious metaphor to underline how Peggy is changing her life in the second season. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon While Betty's father lives with the Drapers after his dementia becomes acute, Sally reads this from the Decline and Fall every night. The repeated allegory is a little heavy handed. The Spy Who C... [more]

“Nothing is more important to medical science & no part of medical education in this part of the country is obtained with so much difficulty” as the study of anatomy with the use of cadavers. So wrote Dr. Nathan Smith to New Hampshire Governor John Langdon in June 1806. One of the leading medical practitioners and educators of early 19th century America, Smith founded or helped establish four schools of medicine in New England, including those at Dartmouth, Yale, Bowdoin, and the University of Vermont. In the United States, cadavers for anatomy classes were difficult to come by – legally – until at least the 1830s. Anatomical dissection of the human body was viewed with deep suspicion, if not revulsion, especially in New England's clergy-dominated culture. In the early decades of the Republic, traffic in human remains remained largely an underground enterprise involving physicians and body snatchers (or “resurrectionists,” as they were known). Exceptions to the rule might be made, usually in the case of executed criminals whose bodies might be either sold by a creditor or released by the state – which provides the context of Smith's letter. The Nathan Smith letter, page 1 Several weeks before Smith wrote to the Governor, a New Hampshire man named Josiah Burnham had been sentenced to death for the brutal murders of two others. During his sixty-plus years of life, Burnham had worked variously as a whaler, a successful surveyor, and a landowner before becoming invo... [more]

It is circa 1788. An American lawyer, Archippus Seele (1765–1789) of Easton, Massachusetts, is apparently in a grumpy mood. The reasons could be many. Some in the community accused Archie's father, a sawyer, of employing the imps of Satan to keep things running. That could make you unhappy. If Archippus had been a precog perhaps he had a freak when he intuited his mother would become a distant ancestor to the creator of Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs. Basically, and to the point, Archippus doesn't like women. We know this because he left behind a strange manuscript we've given a caption title of The Discription {sic} of the Female Sect. – A Woman Is As Full Of Failings As A Spider's Nest of Eggs. Why Did Esquire Seele write this manuscript and for whom? We may not ever know, but we surmise it was written in jest and we speculate his “essay” was shared in an exclusively male social sphere. Archippus thinks women are “deceitful crickets.” And he's not shy to elaborate: When a man is married, he had better be in a small cottage or cave in peace than in the statelyest palace in the world with one of these spendthrifts & diabolical conceited deceitful crickets which are much more destructive than the devouringst beast upon Earth {etc.}. Of course, this 18th Century-Man-About-Massachusetts wouldn't be a true misogynist unless being the son of the sawyer he pulled out this old saw against women: Among all the observation concerning women I have considered and observed that... [more]

ILAB is coordinating a series of Pop-Up Book Fairs across the world for UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day on April 23, 2015. The two organizations have created an offiial partnership for the event and ILAB is asking as many members as possible to organize and attend as many pop-up fairs as possible. Former President of the ABA Laurence Worms describes the envisioned pop-ups: “Some booksellers, some books, some tables and a big sign. Just liaise with ILAB on the publicity. No-one has to travel far or be away from base for too long. They can last all day or just an hour or two. Imagination and invention are the only limitations.” For more information, contact ILAB Committee Member Sally Burdon. Bridwell Library is pleased to announce the opening of two exhibitions on site and online this fall. "Welcome Additions" highlights fifty rare books, manuscripts, broadsides, prints, and letters that were acquired by Bridwell Library Special Collections between 2008 and 2014. It is open through December 12th. "Missionary Presses" highlights Bibles and other religious texts in indigenous languages published by missionary presses in the nineteenth century. It is open through December 5th. The digital exhibitions will continue to remain accessible after the exhibitions in the library have closed. Bernard Quaritch Ltd recently published a new book by Arthur Freeman entitled Bibliotheca Fictiva. It is an inventory of books and manuscripts relating to literary forgery. Click here for mor... [more]