Sunday, July 31, 2011

Belated Links & Reviews

Apologies for the radio silence this week; all my energies were devoted to my Rare Book School class, which was very useful and great fun. If you ever get a chance to take one of Heather Wolfe's paleography classes or seminars, do it. She's a fantastic teacher, and did a really amazing job with the class. We learned a great deal, and were able to get in some very good practice on both reading and even writing in secretary hand. I'll need to keep practicing, but thankfully the resource list Heather provided (along with a few of my own little projects) will keep me well supplied with materials to transcribe!

Being in Charlottesville this summer and seeing once again all the work, love, and energy that goes into making Rare Book School the incomparable place that it is was an amazing experience. It's a privilege and an honor to be able to assist in making it all come together! Now that the summer sessions are over, I'm looking forward to spending some time in my new city now, and getting back to all the projects I haven't done much with since early June. Oh, and my books still want organizing on the shelves, too ...

First, though, some links and reviews from this week. I apologize if I missed any good links that people sent around on Twitter; several days this week I had to declare Twitter-amnesty since there simply wasn't time to catch up with it all.

- The July Common-place is now out, with a good selection of articles as always.

- As expected, more shoes have begun to drop in the Barry Landau documents theft case, with evidence suggesting that he may have also taken documents from the National Archives, Connecticut Historical Society, and Vassar College, and that his accomplice may have flushed documents down the toilet before being arrested at the Maryland Historical Society.

- From Echoes from the Vault, a new acquisition of a rare Esther Inglis miniscule manuscript is highlighted.

- The Deseret News reports on a cassette tape of Mark Hofmann selling one of his forgeries that has now been made public for the first time.

- The Tennessee state court of appeals has rejected Margaret Vance Smith's claim to Davy Crockett's marriage license, holding that there is no evidence that Knox County officials ever intended to discard the document.

Reviews

- James Grant's Mr. Speaker!; review by Norman Ornstein in the NYTimes.

- Anthony Amore and Tom Mashberg's Stealing Rembrandts; review by Chuck Leddy in the Boston Globe.

- Richard Mabey's Weeds; review by Elizabeth Royte in the NYTimes.

- The new University of Nebraska edition of Audubon's 1826 journal; review by Anthony Doerr in the Boston Globe.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Links & Reviews

Short version this week as I transition into Rare Book School student mode; I'm taking Heather Wolfe's English Paleography 1500-1750 class starting tomorrow!

- In today's Boston Globe, an interview with Bob Darnton about his vision for the Digital Public Library of America.

- An atlas stolen from the Swedish National Library in 2004 has been located in a New York collection.

- I haven't gotten a chance to watch it yet, but I pass along a short interview with book collector Stephen Orgel on the value of annotated books.

- Over at Book Patrol, a look at various iterations/versions of Arcimbolodo's "Librarian."

- A new, updated version of At the Circulating Library: Victorian Fiction 1837-1901 has been released. Be sure to read the coverage note.

Reviews

- Gordon Wood's The Idea of America; review by David Hackett Fischer in the NYTimes.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Information on Gilkey Sought

From John Waite, ABAA Security Committee Chair

Open Letter to Dealers in the Collectibles Trades:

Earlier this month convicted fraudster and thief John Charles Gilkey of California was arrested for a parole violation stemming from a series of incidents in San Francisco late last year. Now that he has been re-apprehended, he will be brought up again on charges either later this month or next in San Francisco.

A career criminal, Mr. Gilkey has a long record of defrauding rare book and autograph dealers and dealers in other collectibles, with the use of stolen credit card numbers or with bad checks. His first arrest goes back more than a decade to the 1990s when he was brought up on charges for passing bad checks. He was arrested and jailed for credit card fraud in 2003, then released on parole less than two years later. In autumn 2010 he was arrested again after threatening to burn down a San Francisco print gallery after the manager declined a sale. Mr. Gilkey posted a bail bond for $75,000.00 and subsequently disappeared.

There is ample evidence that between last November and his arrest this month, John Charles Gilkey continued to defraud a number of dealers in collectibles, including a Maryland comic book dealer. San Francisco Police have asked members of the collectibles trade to please forward to them any new information concerning fraudulent activity by Mr. Gilkey. His new bail and eventual sentencing largely will be influenced by the number of new crimes that can proved he has committed since he skipped bail.

Mr. Gilkey is reported to have a storage unit containing rare books, autographs, prints, maps, stamps, comic books, Hollywood and film memorabilia, and coins. Many of these objects may have been obtained through fraud. However, police cannot obtain a search warrant of the storage unit until they provide a judge with a list of items that they are seeking. For that reason, it is imperative for dealers in all fields to come forward and provide police with information about any losses since the beginning of 2011, especially if John Charles Gilkey is known to have been the involved in the transaction. If the collectibles trades can provide police with a targeted list of stolen goods, then police will have a legal basis on which to execute a search warrant.

If you have information or questions, please contact:

Inspector Jeff Levin
SFPD Arson Unit
415-920-2944

If no answer, please leave a message.

Please re-post this letter to any applicable sites and forums.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Links & Reviews

- There's now an official Rare Book School page on Facebook, which I encourage all friends and fans of RBS to "like." Also, the NPR story on RBS aired this morning on "Weekend Edition Sunday," which is quite exciting.

- The second installment of the Boston Globe series on the history and future of reading is out today; this one focuses on the "transition" from paper to screen for some readers, and makes some interesting observations about people reading electronically and then buying hard copies, &c. Worth a read.

- Some more news has come out about historian Barry Landau's arrest at the Maryland Historical Society earlier this month. From the NYT, word that Landau and his accomplice visited the Historical Society of Pennsylvania seventeen times between December and May (staff there are carefully checking the materials they viewed), and from the WSJ the seeds of a defense (aka throw the accomplice under the bus: Landau's lawyer told the paper "He has no idea what, if anything, the person with him was doing"). Laughable. At this point so far as I can tell no bail has been set, and hopefully it'll stay that way.

- Mike Widener notes (and illustrates) a short piece in the Yale Alumni Magazine about a copy of Edward Coke's First Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England heavily annotated by a series of readers, including the author Samuel Butler.

- The Irish Times reports that an auction of the personal library of the late Dublin bookseller Fred Hanna could fetch up to 300,000 EUR when it's auctioned on Tuesday.

- The Guardian notes a free exhibition of Mervyn Peake's artwork at the British Library. Also in BL news, the library has launched a £9 million appeal to purchase the St. Cuthbert Gospel.

- Over at Anchora, a guest-post by Rachel Stevenson on an intentionally mutilated copy of The catalogue of honor (1610).

- Echoes from the Vault, the new rare books blog from the University of St. Andrews, has a great post on deciphering a "coded" poem pasted onto the front endleaf of a copy of Walter Ralegh's History of the World.

- J.L. Bell has the most well-thought-out thoughts I've seen on the news that the Old Corner Bookstore building in Boston (once the home of Ticknor & Fields), will be turned into a Chipotle restaurant.

- From the Book Bench, Jenny Hendrix suggests some "New Reads on Reading."

Review

- Richard White's Railroaded; review by Michael Kazin in the NYTimes.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Book Review: "First Light"

Strange happenings at an archaeological dig; family connections dredged up from the distant past; a full complement of oddball characters; mysterious convergences between past and present: this is the stuff of Peter Ackroyd's First Light (Grove, 1989).

The book operates on several different and not entirely equally successful levels. As a meditation on meta-connections between mythology and science, the cosmos, time, and humanity's place in the universe, I have to say I didn't really find it all that compelling. But as a sort of campy romp through rural England with strange characters and bizarre humor, I thought it worked quite well. Maybe not entirely what Ackroyd was going for, but it kept me reading.

This Week's Acquisition

Just one this week:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Auction Report: Sotheby's

Pretty much the only news out of today's English Literature, History, Children's Books and Illustration sale at Sotheby's London will focus around two lots:

The autograph draft manuscript of Jane Austen's unfinished novel The Watsons fetched an eye-popping £993,250 ($1.6m), over estimates of £200,000-300,000. This was the only substantial Austen manuscript still in private hands, but according to early media reports, the buyer today was "an institution." Presumably we'll find out fairly quickly where this will be ending up. [Update: The Bodleian Library was the buyer. See their press release.]

The Sheffield Football Club archive sold for £881,250, within the estimate range. Preliminary reports do not identify the buyer.

Other prices: a collection of Benjamin Disraeli letters sold for £73,250, the James Joyce family passport made £61,250, and the first edition of Gulliver's Travels fetched £49,250. A first edition Jane Eyre sold for £27,500.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Review: "Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong"

Drawing on and expanding his previous works of what he terms "detective criticism," in Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong (Bloomsbury, 2008) Pierre Bayard reopens The Hound of the Baskervilles and suggests that by a rigorous applications of Holmes' own detecting methods, the murderer was likely not the man ultimately fingered by Holmes and Watson, but someone else entirely.

A creative idea, and some of Bayard's reasoning is fun to follow and interesting to read. He makes some interesting points about the timing of the publication of Hound and Conan Doyle's ambivalence about resurrecting Holmes (perhaps reading a bit too deeply into the author's psychological state while doing so), and muses on the power of fictional characters: can they at times "cross the gap," as it were, and become more than just words on a page? It's no accident, I expect, that the initial epigram is a quote from Jasper Fforde.

In offering a close reading of the Hound itself, Bayard relies too heavily on a French translation of the novel, in which the translator uses canine descriptors for Holmes (thus "his eyes shining brightly in the moonlight" from the original English becomes "his eyes gleamed like a wolf's" in the French translation). Thus, Bayard's use of the translation to make a point that Conan Doyle is connecting Holmes and the Hound doesn't quite hold up.

While Bayard's plausible case for a different killer with a carefully-honed agenda makes for provocative reading, it's no less circumstantial a case than Holmes' is against the canonical murderer. Nonetheless, if you like exploring alternative interpretations of literary events, this is a book worth picking up.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Multimillion Dollar Document Theft Foiled

Well-known presidential document and memorabilia collector Barry Landau and a 24-year-old accomplice, Jason Savedoff, are behind bars tonight after attempting to steal some sixty important historical documents from the Maryland Historical Society on Saturday.

The Baltimore Sun reports tonight that the pair spent much of the day on Saturday at the historical society, and caught the attention of staff near the end of the day, when Savedoff was observed placing a document into a portfolio and leaving the reading room. Staff retrieved Savedoff's locker key and discovered the documents inside the locker, then called the FBI (who are now investigating along with the Baltimore police).

Both men have been charged with one count of theft (of materials valued at more than $100,000); more charges may be forthcoming.

The paper reports that an initial hearing in the case is set for 11 August.

Good for the staff for being watchful on this; it's nice to see a theft nipped in the bud before it happens. If this guy's been to your library, you'd better check the items he called for and make sure they're still where they belong.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Book Review: "The Inner Life of Empires"

After reading several extremely complimentary reviews of Emma Rothschild's The Inner Life of Empires (Princeton University Press, 2011) I ordered up a copy and waited in anticipation for it to arrive so I could dig in. I enjoy very much the concept of microhistorical perspective, and Rothschild's effort, to focus on the far-flung brothers and sisters of a single family, the Scottish-born Johnstones, seemed likely to work well.

The Johnstones saw it all: four of the brothers ended up in the House of Commons, several traveled to various reaches of the empire (India, the Caribbean, North America), there were complicated inheritance suits and legal cases of grave import, and a not-insignificant body of correspondence both between the family and with their many acquaintances to draw on. Cameo appearances are made by a whole host of figures, everyone from James McPherson (of Ossian fame) to James Boswell, Alexander Wedderburn, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, Dave Hume, and many others.

Certain sections of this book were extremely well executed. Rothschild has clearly done her research, mining the archives for every scrap of evidence about the family and their activities, and documenting it well (the notes, which are lovely, take up 150 pages). What she has not done, however, is make the disparate parts of her story into a cohesive whole. Information is repeated (sometimes three or even four times), and the book is separated into short chunks of text which severely restrict the possibility of any narrative flow. The family's story, and how it fits into the larger cultural, political, and economical life of the period, gets lost amidst the repetition.

I hoped, quite honestly, for more from this book. The idea is a wonderful one, the Johnstone family works perfectly as a case study, and the information is there. Some additional attention from a skilled editor might have made it a great book. Instead, I'm sorry to say it was a disappointment.

John Quincy Adams and the Shakespeare Forgeries

NB - This post stems from an impromptu dinner conservation I had this week with some fellow Rare Book School students and staff members; I'd mentioned how when I come across published or manuscript diaries which cover 1795-1796 I like to spot-check and see if the writer mentions the William Henry Ireland Shakespeare forgeries (viz. George Canning, William Godwin). The next morning I started playing around in WorldCat to see what other diaries I ought to look at for this as I find them, and suddenly a thought popped into my head that I had never checked to see whether John Quincy Adams (who as a 28-year-old junior diplomat was in London for much of the relevant period) had anything to say on the topic. I thought he might, given his penchant for Shakespeare, but I was surprised (and delighted) by what I found.

In his diary for 19 November 1795, Adams writes "... Mr. Deas and Mr. Bayard called at about 12. Went with them and Mr. Vaughan to see Mr. Ireland [presumably William Henry's father Samuel], and saw several of his manuscripts which he assures have been lately discovered, and are original from the hand of Shakespear. They are deeds, billets, a love-letter to Anne Hatherrwaye with a lock of hair, designs done with a pen, a fair copy of Lear, three or four sheets of a Hamlet, and a Tragedy hitherto unknown of Vortigern and Rowena. The last we did not see, as unfortunately some company came, to which Mr. Ireland was obliged to attend, and we accordingly took our leave. The marks of authenticity born by the manuscripts are very considerable, but this matter will like to occasion as great a literary controversy as the supposed poems of Rowley, and those of Ossian have done. They will be published in the course of a few weeks; and the play of Vortigern is to appear upon the Drury Lane Stage. Sheridan has given five hundred pounds for it."

At a dinner party several nights later (22 November 1795), hosted by Sir John Sinclair, and attended by Sir John McPherson, Count Rumford, the agricultural writer Arthur Young, and others, Adams reported "The conversation was miscellaneous: philosophical, political, and literary. We had some bread made of 1/3 rice & 2/3 wheat, which I could not have distinguished from fine wheat bread; some water impregnated with fixed air, &c." Talk turned to the Ireland Shakespeare papers: "Sir John McPherson and Dr. Percy made a number of very sensible observations. They both declared their opinion that the manuscripts of Mr. Ireland were unquestionably genuine, but they both expressed an opinion as to the composition of the small papers, and particularly of that called the profession of faith, higher than I think they deserve."

Two days later, on 24 November 1795, Adams wrote home to his mother, and the letter is given over in substantial part to the Ireland papers. I'll quote from it at some length, since, well, I like it. After complaining of his loneliness in London, JQA writes:

"There are always however in these great Cities subjects of curiosity that become interesting to a transient traveller. Among those of the present day, are some manuscripts alledged to have been recently discovered, being originals from the hands of Shakespear. Among several others of trifling importance, there is a complete fair copy of the Tragedy of King Lear, three or four sheets being part of an Hamlet, and an whole Tragedy heretofore unknown, entitled Vortigern and Rowena.

You will suppose that I have enough of the Catholic superstition about me, to pay my devotions to such relics as these. They are in the possession of a private Gentleman by the name of Ireland, and with the introduction of a friend I have had an opportunity to see them all except the new play. That was not shewn us, whether owing to an interruption from company, or to some shyness in the proprietor, the play being still unacted and unpublished, I know not. It has however been purchased by the manager of Drury Lane Theatre {Mr Sheridan}, for five hundred pounds, and is to appear on that stage in the course of the present Season. It will soon be published likewise in print.

The reality of this discovery is however contested, and it may perhaps occasion a literary controversy, that will finally remain undecided like that which was raised by Chatterton. Among the numerous proofs of authenticity which accompany these papers, Mr. Ireland does not hesitate to affirm that the Vortigern will be ranked among the very best plays of the author, and Mr. Sheridan by adopting it on the Stage, seems in some degree to have pledg'd his great literary reputation on the point.

When I shall have seen or read the Vortigern, I shall feel myself better qualified to form an opinion upon this great question than I am at present. The internal marks of authenticity born by the papers are great and numerous. Mr. Ireland told us indeed that no single person that had seen the papers entertained the smallest doubt of their being genuine, but this assurance did not entirely remove mine. The internal evidence is indeed {so} very strong in their favour that it becomes a little suspicious from its minuteness. For instance, at the end of the Lear, is written "The end of my Tragedy of King Lear. William Shakspeare. Does not such a minute look a little as if it was made on purpose to answer a question very natural now, but which the author probably never foresaw? Yet at the time of this supposed discovery other examples of the author’s hand-writing were extant, and they compare perfectly well with these. The play differs in almost every line from the copies hitherto known in print, and improves upon them.

Among the loose papers are a short Letter from Queen Elizabeth to Shakespear commanding him to play before her on a certain day. A copy of a letter from him to Lord Southampton and his answer: a deed from him to a man by the name of Ireland, or rather a Will, giving him several of his plays and a sum of money, in consideration of his having saved his life from drowning in the Thames a Love Letter to Anna Hatherrewaye with a lock of hair: engagements with several of the players who performed at his Theatre, and receipts from them, with several designs drawn with a pen &c. All these are to be published, and will make their appearance within a few weeks.

You have long known my partiality for the Swan of Avon, and will not be surprized to find me entering seriously into a question like this. Nor will you think it ridiculous. "Not to admire" the maxim of Horace and of Pope as procuring the only means of human happiness, has indeed more and more of my assent, the longer I live upon earth. I find the enthusiasm of youth rapidly subsiding [this from a man not yet thirty], and scarce any thing new or old that now meets my observation, has the power to excite a strong sensation. I have not yet however lost my attachment to poetical beauty, and still recognize with delight the flashes of original genius. Shakespear therefore retains almost unimpaired his empire over my mind, and shares largely of that gratitude which I think due to the memory of every man, whose labours contribute to enliven the dulness of human existence."

Abigail received the letter in March 1796, and recounts its contents at some length in a letter to her husband (then finishing out his second term as vice-president), noting "You know how passionately fond our Son has ever been of that great master of humane nature, he may truly be said to have inherited this from his parents." After going on to repeat much of the contents of the Ireland papers and JQA's reaction to them, she concludes "I may as well quit here or go on to transcribe his whole Letter, not a syllable of which is uninteresting, he complains of the craveing void of solitude even in the city of London, I can easily enter into his Sensations. and most redily believe him."

Apparently becoming intrigued by the story of Vortigern and Rowena (glad I'm not the only one who gets sucked into projects like this), Abigail did a little reading, which she describes in a letter to John of 15 April 1796: "From the posthumous play of Shakspear which our son mentions under the title of vortigern and Rowena, I have been led to Serch the English History for an account of them; I find the most particular and accurate in Rapins History ..." [read about Vortigern in John Adams' copy of Rapin here]. John's reply, on 24 April, reports "I have recd in your favour of 15. an entertaining Account of Vortigern and Rowena" (the next sentence reads "Our Waggon is mired, to the Axletree in a Bog, and unable to advance or retreat.").

Meanwhile, back in London, what's happening with John Quincy Adams? He had a fairly busy winter and early spring (between his diplomatic business, his courtship of Louisa Catherine Johnson, and his endless self-criticism), but he did find time to attend the theatre fairly often, especially for Shakespeare productions. On 23 December 1795 he saw a production of Macbeth at Drury Lane, describing it this way: "Evening at Drury Lane. Macbeth Palmer. Lady Macbeth Mrs Siddons. Palmer not equal to the part. Mrs Siddons excellent with the sleeping scene. Wroughton's Macduff detestable. The play performed almost wholly as it is printed. Only a few scenes left out. And some songs introduced for the Witches."

JQA's diary entries for January-March 1796 are uncharacteristically succinct, and he does not mention reading either the published version of the Shakespeare papers or any of the immediate responses to them which appeared throughout the winter. But on 24 April 1796 he again writes home to Abigail:

"The famous Shakespeare manuscripts about which I wrote you soon after my arrival here, are now generally considered as mere forgeries. The play of Vortigern was once performed, and fairly laughed off the stage.

I had not an opportunity to judge of it myself as I could not attend on the Evening of its first and only performance, but the opinion of all those who heard it appears to be unanimous, that it is not only an imposture but a very awkward and clumsy one. Volumes have been written & published on the subject, and men of all sorts take now a pride in girding[?] at the poor proprietor of the manuscripts."

So where was JQA on the night of 2 April 1796 that he "could not attend" the only performance of Ireland's play? His diary tells us: "Evening at Mr. Johnson's." So he missed Vortigern for a date (at least he didn't take Louisa to the play, since things did get a bit rowdy as the audience turned). Two days later, he had his final sitting with John Singleton Copley for the portrait at the top of the post (which he called "a good picture").

It's fascinating, these little rabbit-holes one falls into without really meaning to. Here's a young guy, off in London, writing home to mom about curious manuscripts he's seen, Abigail Adams going off to the shelves to read more about the play's subject, and passing that along to her husband (who happens to be the vice president). Ah, what fun!

Auction Report: Recent Sales

Some pretty big sellers this week as the Arcana Collection sales finish up and Sotheby's sells some impressive manuscripts.

- Sotheby's London's 5 July Western Manuscripts and Miniatures sale saw 115 of 129 lots sell, for a total of £2,500,925. The surprise top seller was a tenth-century manuscript from Tours, which spent some time in the library of Sir Thomas Phillipps; it had been estimated at £40,000-60,000, but sold for £313,250. The eleventh-century Tours missal fetched £133,250. Full results here.

- The third selection of the Arcana Collection, sold at Christie's London on 6 July. Of the 29 lots, 25 sold, for a total of £6,107,500. The Imhof Prayerbook was the top lot (as expected), fetching £1,609,250. The Galeazzo Maria Sforza Book of Hours also did well, making £1,217,250.

- Full results for Bloomsbury's Bibliophile sale (7 July) are here.

Links & Reviews

- A 12th-century manuscript known at the Codex Calixtinus has been stolen from the library of the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela.

- Anne Bradstreet's manuscript of "Meditations Divine and Morall" has been digitized and is now available for viewing, thanks to a partnership between the Stevens Memorial Library and Harvard University.

- In the Boston Globe, the first of a three-part series on the history and future of reading, by Jane Brox.

- The Folger's current exhibit was reviewed this week in the NYTimes, by Edward Rothstein.

- Carol Fitzgerald has donated her impressive collection of regional series Americana to the Library of Congress.

- Word this week that the British Museum may close the Paul Hamlyn Library.

- July's Fine Books Notes is up, featuring Jonathan Shipley's piece on Curtis' North American Indian, and Ian McKay's auction writeups.

- John Overholt reports that the papers from Houghton's 2009 Samuel Johnson conference will be released in book form in August.

- Humanities Magazine has a piece by Thomas Fulton, "John Milton and the Culture of Print," highlighting a new Rutgers exhibition of Milton material.

- From BibliOdyssey, J.F. Naumann's 1818 engravings of bird eggs.

- Michael Sims talked to NPR's Maureen Corrigan about his new book The Story of Charlotte's Web; great interview about a book I truly enjoyed.

- Before this week's SHARP conference in DC, there'll be a discussion at the Library of Congress this coming Wednesday on The French Book Trade in the Enlightenment project, which I'm quite excited about. If you go to the discussion, please keep me posted (and/or tweet the proceedings for the rest of us!).

Reviews

- Stephen Foster's A Private Empire and Emma Rothschild's The Inner Lives of Empire; review by John Mackenzie in the Scotsman.

- Simon Winchester's Atlantic; review by Christopher Hirst in the Independent.

- John Julius Norwich's Absolute Monarchs; review by Bill Keller in the NYTimes.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

This Week's Acquisitions

I picked up a few novels at Heartwood this week to read before bed, and I am totally delighted by the new Folger catalog.

- Foliomania! Stories Behind Shakespeare's Most Important Book; edited by Owen Williams (Folger Shakespeare Library, 2011). Folger Bookstore (via Sim Thadani)

- A Sentimental Journey by Laurence Sterne (Everyman's Library, 1960). Heartwood Books.

- Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: Reopening the Case of the Hound of the Baskervilles by Pierre Bayard (Bloomsbury, 2008). Heartwood Books.

- First Light by Peter Ackroyd (Grove Press, 1989). Heartwood Books.

- Chatterton by Peter Ackroyd (Grove Press, 1988). Heartwood Books.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Book Thief Warning

From ABAA Security Chair John Waite:

"Please be aware that convicted fraudster and thief John Gilkey is operating once again, likely out of northern California. A comic book dealer in New York state is his latest victim. Besides defrauding book dealers, Gilkey has also left his dubious mark in the print, stamp, and comics trades. He was arrested late last year in San Francisco following a parole violation, but was released after he (or someone) posted $75,000.00 bail. He then disappeared, but is active once again. He is a serious criminal who continually looks for new opportunities and deceptions. An investigation by the SFPD is ongoing; there is an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Please do your friends the favor of re-posting this note to any and all lists of allied trades and organizations. Thank you very much."

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Auction Preview: July Sales

A fairly quiet month for auctions, July, but here's what's due to come up on the block:

- Sotheby's London will sell Western Manuscripts and Miniatures on 5 July, in 129 lots. The top-estimated lot is an eleventh-century missal from Tours, which could fetch £80,000-100,000.

- The third selection of the Arcana Collection will be sold at Christie's London on 6 July, in 29 lots. Fully half the lots have estimates of £100,000 or more, with the top lot being the Imhof Prayerbook, a truly spectacular illuminated manuscript from 1511 (estimated at £1.5-2 million). An impressive array of books of hours will also be on offer.

- Bloomsbury London holds a Bibliophile Sale on 7 July, in 408 lots. A good number of Lewis Carroll items will start off the sale.

- On 14 July Sotheby's London will sell a selection of English Literature, History, Children's Books and Illustration, in 159 lots. An archive of documents from the Sheffield Football Club (considered the originator of modern soccer rules) is estimated at £800,000-1,200,000, while an autograph draft manuscript of Jane Austen's unfinished novel The Watsons could fetch £200,000-300,000. A first edition of Wuthering Heights rates a £90,000-130,000 estimate. James Joyce's family passport from WWI could sell for £50,000-70,000, while a first edition of Gulliver's Travels rates a £40,000-50,000 estimate.

- Also on 14 July, PBA Galleries sells Americana, Travel & Natural History, and Cartography with material from the Calvin P. Otto Collection, in 358 lots. The top estimate goes to a copy of The Latter Day Saints' Selection of Hymns (1861), at $20,000-30,000. An archive of China trade letters and documents is estimated at $12,000-18,000.

- Bloomsbury London has a sale of books, maps, prints and philately relating to Travel, Natural History & Sport on 14 July, in a whopping 707 lots.

Book Review: "The Map of Time"

FĂ©lix Palma's The Map of Time (Atria, 2011), the Spanish author's English-language debut, is quite a curious book. Told in three separate but connected novellas, populated by an extensive cast of characters historical (H.G. Wells, Bram Stoker, Jack the Ripper) and fictional, the book features time travel, meta-narrative, steampunk, and a rip-roaring, fast-paced romp through the streets of Victorian London.

While there were elements of the book that I didn't enjoy particularly well (some of the dialogue seemed unnaturally expository, there were a few moments where I questioned the continuity of the narrative and the apparent disappearance of certain interesting plot threads, and the narrator got overly intrusive at a few points), on the whole it made for a delightful read; Palma's complicated universe (which in some sections very closely resembles that described in The Time Traveler's Wife) kept me guessing from first to last.

There are, it would seem, two more installments to come, so we may have another chance to drop into the mysterious and fascinating world Palma has brought to life here.

Links & Reviews

- During the first RBS session in June a Virginia Public Radio reporter visited and recorded a feature about the school and its people. The seven-minute segment is now available online (mp3).

- In the San Diego Reader, Jeannine Schinto has a retrospective on the four sales Sotheby's sales of the James S. Copley library, summing it up quite well: "[Bidders] paid big money for a few choice items, underpaid for others, and sat on their hands for far too much of the rest."

- Don't miss Monica Porter's Telegraph piece "'84 Charing Cross Road' Revisited" - it's well worth a read.

- After a week of testimony and deliberation, a civil jury determined that Alberta Comstock, the ex-wife of murdered book collector Rolland Comstock, was responsible for his death. They awarded $125,000 to Faith Stocker, the daughter of Alberta Comstock who had brought the civil suit. The criminal investigation continues.

- From McSweeney's this week, Ben Shattuck reports in from a Civil War reenactment.

- Paul Collins tweets of the January 2012 reissue of Thomas Browne's Religio Medici and Urne-Burial by New York Review Books, edited by Stephen Greenblatt and Ramie Targoff.

- PW highlighted the Book Inscription Project (which seems less active than it might be, but is still quite interesting).

- California book dealer Michael Hollander, contacted by a Hawaiian man offering to sell rare books, ended up assisting in the arrest of the man and the return of the books to the library of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, from which the 23-year-old had stolen them.

- Molly Peacock previews her new book The Paper Garden (on botanical collage-maker Mary Granville Delany), in The Telegraph.

- The Lehman Collection of music manuscripts, currently on deposit at the Morgan Library, is up for sale, NPR reports.

- John Overholt alerted me to a newly-cataloged collection at Houghton, researcher Hans Kasten's collection of records and documents related to the case of Johann Georg Heinrich Tinius (1764-1846), a Prussian bibliophile convicted of murder in 1813.

- The July AE Monthly is out; it includes news that the reclusive half-sister of William Andrews Clark, Jr. (Huguette Marcelle Clark) left funds at her death to turn her Santa Barbara, CA mansion into a museum for her art and rare book collections.

Reviews

- Thomas Schaeper's Edward Bancroft; review by Jack Rakove in TNR.

- Amanda Foreman's A World on Fire; review by Geoffrey Wheatcroft in the NYTimes. Foreman also has an essay in the WSJ, "Turning Messy History Into a Tale."

Saturday, July 02, 2011

This Week's Acquisitions

- Taylor: A Brief History of a Short Street by John K. Jones (Ascenius Press, 2004). Longfellow Books.

- McSweeney's Issue 37; edited by Dave Eggers (McSweeney's, 2011). Longfellow Books.

- Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (Viking, 2011). Amazon.

And the flipbacks, some sent by the publisher and some ordered via Amazon UK:

- Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis (Hodder & Stoughton, 2011). Publisher.

- The Other Hand by Chris Cleave (Hodder & Stoughton, 2011). Publisher.

- Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (Hodder & Stoughton, 2011). Amazon UK.

- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré (Hodder & Stoughton, 2011). Amazon UK.

- The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg (Hodder & Stoughton, 2011). Amazon UK.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Book Review: "The Other Hand"

I read Chris Cleave's The Other Hand (published in the US as Little Bee) in Hodder & Stoughton's new flipback edition (2011). I'd saved it up to read while traveling, since I wanted to try out the format for reading in airports and on the plane, and I found the small size and light weight incredibly handy for that purpose. When I finished this book I switched over to a (fairly hefty) trade paperback book, and was really astounded at how bulky it seemed. So, chalk that up to a win for the format; they seem like a really good way for travelers to haul around a few full-length books very easily.

But, on to The Other Hand. Told from the alternating perspectives of a young Nigerian refugee in England (Little Bee) and Sarah Summers, an English magazine editor, the novel is the story of how the two women's lives converge, at particularly difficult times, with life-altering consequences.

Cleave's writing is very clear, and he's managed to create two memorable female narrators, each with a very separate voice and point of view. There were a few laugh-out-loud moments (at the antics of Sarah's young son, who insists on dressing as Batman, and at various points where Little Bee, seeing English culture from an outsider's perspective, offers some bitingly trenchant comments on what she observes), but on the whole the novel is one of those where it's difficult to see how things could possibly turn out well in the end.

Deeply moving as a story, and also an important book for the light it sheds on the treatment of political refugees in today's society.