On Collecting Books

Why is it that we love tales of book heists? Two new films set in the world of rare books, both crime thrillers, are coming in 2018. The first trailer for "Can You Ever Forgive Me?", based on Lee Israel's career as a forger of literary letters was released this week, and the trailer for "American Animals" based on a 2004 robbery of the Special Collections Library of Transylvania University, in Lexington, Kentucky has been playing for a short time. The proximity of these two films may simply be coincidence, but the source material for these tales -- magazine articles about book thieves and true-crime accounts of heists succesful and unsuccessful -- are abundant. Perhaps it's simply an extension of the idea that everyone has a book in them -- which makes so many people think they could be an author "if they had the time" -- that draws people to these stories? Or, perhaps it's the popular "cash in the attic" idea that makes people think they might already possess some valuable books, and they can relate better to stories about book thefts than to thefts of say, gold bullion, plutonium, or casino profits? Articles declaring that rare books are the hot collector's item of the moment, or claiming that certain categories of books are somehow recession proof, do nothing to disabuse people of this notion. (For the record, the ABAA cautions against viewing rare books as financial investments, and encourages collectors to focus instead on their interests.) It's not news to book collecto... [more]

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Rare Book News

By Rich Rennicks

Our monthly roundup of the stories bibliophiles are reading, sharing, and discussing. Kenneth Karmiole Establishes Research Fellowship at UCSB ABAA_member Kenneth Karmiole has established the Kenneth Karmiole Endowed Research Fellowship, which will support scholars working with primary resource materials and rare books in the University of California Santa Barbara Library. How a rare Revolutionary War-era document ended up in Utah “Who knows what's in anybody's garage, right?” Read more... 2018 Pulitzer Prizes Andrew Sean Greer won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel Less; Caroline Fraser won the Biography Price for her biography of Laura Ingalls WIlder, Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder; and Frank Bidart won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his volume of Collected Poems, Half-light. Read about all the winners here... Police Recover "Potentially Stolen" Rare Books Here's a minor literary mystery that some book collectors might be able to help the Welsh police with. During a separate investigation, police found an old suitcase containing some "potentially rare" Victorian books and jewelry. The books, including a Bible and a copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, were dedicated to a "Mary Elizabeth Taylor" and carried dates between 1892 and 1894. Anyone with any insight into the rightful owner should contact North Wales Police. Bromer Booksellers Temporarily Relocates If you are book-hunting in Boston, be advised that ABAA-member B... [more]

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Books of the Week

By Rich Rennicks

A selection of rare books and print ephemera newly listed or catalogued by members of the ABAA. The Sun Also Rises (First Edition) by Ernest Hemingway New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1926. First edition, first issue of the first printing, with the misprint ("stoppped") on page 181 line 26. Octavo, original black cloth. In good condition with some rubbing to the extremities, name to the endpaper. The Sun Also Rises was published by Scribner's in 1926, and a year later in the United Kingdom by Jonathan Cape under the title Fiesta. Though it initially received mixed reviews, it is now "recognized as Hemingway's greatest work" (Meyers, 1985). The fictional plot depicts a love story between war-wounded and impotent Jake Barnes and the promiscuous divorcée Lady Brett Ashley, but the novel is a roman à clef; the characters are based on real people and the action is based on real events. Hemingway proposes that the "Lost Generation," considered to have been decadent, dissolute and irretrievably damaged by World War I, was resilient and strong. Naturally, themes of love, death, renewal in nature, and the nature of masculinity are heavily investigated. For example, the characters engage in bull-fighting, which is presented as an idealized drama: The matador faces death and, in so doing, creates a moment of existential nothingness, broken when he vanquishes the possibility of death by killing the bull (Stoltzfus, 2005). The Sun Also Rises is seen as an iconic modernist novel for fu... [more]

On March 11th, the ABAA Women's Initiative hosted a panel discussion on Collecting and Women during the New York Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory. Elizabeth Denlinger, Sarah Gordon, and Molly Schwartzburg discussed topics relating to representations of women in collections, women as collectors, and women-focused institutions as Nina Musinsky moderated. More than 100 men and women booksellers, librarians, and enthusiasts attended. If you missed it, we have a recording below. Since 2016, we have held networking receptions for women in conjunction with book fairs, and honored Carol Sandberg — a longtime bookseller who has championed women in the trade. This panel is our first foray into programming and we are thrilled to have so many of you here. Please do leave your business cards or add your name to our mailing list so we can keep you informed about events and ideas. We would like to thank and acknowledge the people who have worked on this project: Claudia Strauss-Schulson — the Initiative's chairwoman — Heather O'Donnell, Rebecca Romney, Kim Schwenk, Kait Manning, Cokie Anderson, Susan Hirsch, Laurelle Swan, Joyce Kosofsky, and Mary Gilliam. We would also like to thank Jennifer Johnson and Sunday Steinkirchener for their help in organizing events. We also want to recognize the many people who have shared their stories, put forth ideas, and voiced support publically and privately for this important work. Subscribe below to receive alerts and information ab... [more]

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First State Notes

By John Schulman

What's the difference between a first edition, first printing, first issue, and first state? Pay attention, there will be a quiz! Sometimes the most simple questions have the most complicated answers. Does God exist? What is love? Who wrote Shakespeare's plays? And what IS the difference between a first edition, a first printing, a first issue, and a first state? If you already know the difference, scroll to the bottom of this blog and take a quiz to test your knowledge of the first state or issue points for various famous works. For those of you still curious about our convoluted answer, we have thankfully secured permission from Terry Belanger, one of the greatest scholars of bibliography and printing history, to quote his definitions of these terms from the Bibliographical Society of America website. Thanks also to bookseller Cynthia Gibson for showing us Terry's work. Edition Terry Belanger: “Publishers tend to use the word rather loosely, but edition has a precise bibliographical meaning. An edition of a book is all copies printed at one or later times from the same setting of type. Within an edition, all copies printed at any one time are called an impression. A number of impressions from the same setting of type may be produced over a period of many years, but they are all part of the same edition, because the type itself is identical in each of these impressions.” Not only do publishers use the term loosely (by this, Terry means that publishers sometimes indicate ... [more]

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Valentines to the Trenches

By Sandra Stelts

During this month of February, in the second year of observing the centennial of World War I, it is particularly gladdening to know that during the cold winter of the final year of brutal fighting, there were brave, bare-bottomed Cupids who delivered valentines to our soldiers in the trenches. In The Eberly Family Special Collections Library at the Penn State Libraries there is a series of broadsides that were produced for the American Fund for French Wounded, which was founded in 1915 by American women living abroad to purchase medical supplies and provide relief to wounded soldiers in France during World War I. As the war dragged on, the group expanded to help rebuild French homes and buy supplies. The examples shown here were all produced for the Indianapolis Branch under the title French Relief Fund, and they depict scenes from the home front and the battlefront, accompanied by humorous poems. American watercolorist Mrs. Mamie Bybee Milliken originated the idea of these comic valentines with patriotic themes. (Girls were also a popular theme, of course.) Indiana authors and artists like William Gaar cooperated in the project, and Milliken was able to have the broadsides ready for families and sweethearts to send off to the boys “over there” for February 14, 1918. They were issued as a portfolio set of twelve. (Penn State owns only ten. A complete set can be found at the Indiana Historical Society.) The broadside “My Special Delivery” (above), illustrated by Americ... [more]

In the spring of 2016, I set up a Facebook group called 'We Love Endpapers'. My idea behind it was to create a forum where like-minded people—booksellers, librarians, collectors, book designers—could share, or just drool over, pictures of particularly unusual or beautifully patterned endpapers as and when they came across them. I have always enjoyed the surprise of discovering a hidden gem of an endpaper when opening a book, and thought there may well be others out there who might like to join me in such a group. Sure enough, there are now over 2000 members, and I regularly get people coming up to me at book fairs thanking me for setting it up and saying how much they enjoy it! One thing I have realised since setting up the group is how confusing the terminology of decorated paper can be. With that in mind, here's a brief outline of the kinds of decorated papers you might come across when looking at books from the hand-press period. Many of the examples below have been taken from posts in the We Love Endpapers group (which, I should say, features books from all periods, including modern publications); I hope fellow group members don't mind if I share them here. Marbled Paper The technique of marbling paper was developed in Asia (the oldest examples, from Japan, have been dated to the 12th century) before travelling west, to Persia, Turkey, and Europe. The decoration is achieved not directly onto the sheet of paper itself, but on a liquid called the marbling 'size' ('a glu... [more]

Some 35 years ago, Charles Bukowski wrote, “Fante was my god”—and with those four words, he brought John Fante and his great books back out of near-obscurity. The quote is from the preface Bukowski wrote for the 1980 Black Sparrow Press reissue of Fante's 1939 novel Ask the Dust, his semi-autobiographical masterpiece of loneliness and Los Angeles, optimism and passion in the face of destitution and abandon. Bukowski's work owed a debt to Fante, but in bringing Fante back and—with the help of Black Sparrow's John Martin—getting Fante's work back into print, Bukowski gave a generous gift to the literary world at large. Fante died just three years after his return to the limelight, but thanks to Buk, many of Fante's works—including five novels and a short fiction collection (as well as five posthumously released books of fiction and two books of letters)—remain in print today. Ask the Dust (Inscribed First Edition) by John Fante NY: Stackpole. (1939). The second book in his semi-autobiographical "Bandini quartet," based on the author's life and experiences in Depression-era Los Angeles. Made into a film in 2006 by Robert Towne, who reportedly called it the best novel ever written about Los Angeles. The film starred Colin Farrell, Selma Hayek and Donald Sutherland. Inscribed by Fante in the year of publication to the collector (and bibliographer of Christopher Morley) Henry Tatnall Brown, Jr., "with the hope that he likes my book," and dated November 14, 1939, appar... [more]

A first edition of a favorite author is a sure-fire great gift. Even better would be one signed by the author! You'll find a great many first editions and signed books in our literature category, from award-winning classics to contemporary authors. Here are a few examples to what your appetite. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986. First edition. Hardcover. Fine/Near fine. Signed by the author on the title page. 1986, First Edition. Fine in a Near Fine dust jacket that shows the slightest hint of fading along the spine. Original jacket price present. A tight, clean and sparkling copy of Atwood's classic dystopian novel. (Offered by Caliban Books) Search for more books by Margaret Atwood... Men Without Women (First Edition) by Ernest Hemingway New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1927 First edition, first printing, in the first issue jacket with no quotes printed to orange lines on front panel of dust jacket. Publisher's smooth black cloth with gold paper labels stamped in black, top edge stained orange, fore edge untrimmed, yellow endpapers printed with three darker yellow bands and the silhouette of the bull in a circle, in the original unclipped dust jacket. A very good copy with some light soiling to boards, faint toning to page edges, text block otherwise very tight and clean in a sturdy binding; dust jacket in two pieces with split along spine panel, evenly toned with some wear to extremities and chipping to spine ends. Overall, a bright ex... [more]

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Literary Los Angeles

By Brad Johnson

Literary Los Angeles: A Legacy as Diverse as the City Itself The Hollywood sign looms large over Los Angeles. However, despite its close association with the motion picture industry, the enduring promise and dark undercurrents of America's first postmodern city are best understood through its prose and poetry. This literary legacy will be on display in February when the world's leading antiquarian booksellers gather in Los Angeles for the 43rd ILAB Congress, which will lead into the 51st California International Antiquarian Book Fair in Pasadena. The following list of 20 defining works of Los Angeles literature is presented in anticipation of these prestigious events: Reminiscences of a Ranger: Early Times in Southern California (1881) by Major Horace Bell Horace Bell (1830-1918) was an incendiary attorney who was fond of the seamier side of life. This true account of his service with the Los Angeles Rangers, a sort of border police, rivals any dime-store western. The first book printed and bound in Los Angeles, it is particularly scarce because the type from the first half of the book was reportedly cannibalized for use in the second. Ramona (1884) by Helen Hunt Jackson Despite its romantic excess, Ramona is perhaps the most significant Southern California novel. In much the same way that Uncle Tom's Cabin helped to arouse public sentiment against slavery, the abuse of California Indians depicted in Ramona brought about reforms in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. At the same ti... [more]