“Palpable history”, says Sir David Attenborough. We are at the annual Antiquarian Booksellers Association Rare Books Fair, and he is describing the pleasure of holding an incunable – a book printed in the fifteenth century, in the first few decades after the printing press was invented.
The Telegraph: "Collectors' demand for rare, first-edition Ian Fleming books has spiked in recent weeks ahead of the release of the 24th James Bond film, Spectre. New Bond films never fail to spark fresh interest in Fleming's books and James Bond memorabilia. And the value of some of the most sought-after pieces has risen steadily. Rare-book seller Peter Harrington said Ian Fleming's books had been consistently strong sellers over the past 50 years, but became even more sought-after when new films were released."
"A signed copy of Charles Dickens' novel A Tale of Two Cities bearing a personal inscription to fellow author George Eliot has gone on sale for £275,000. Dated December 1859, the dedication expresses "high admiration and regard" for Eliot - real name Mary Ann Evans. It is being sold by rare book dealer Peter Harrington and is currently on show at its central London bookshop. If it reaches its asking price, the book will be among the most expensive Dickens works ever purchased." Read the whole story on BBC News.
"Last week a group of Melbourne bibliophiles were treated to a delightful talk by preeminent bookman Nicolas Barker, editor of The Book Collector since 1965, and whose bibliography records an impressive 1,000+ entries. Barker examined twenty or so works from Special Collections and talked to the salient points of each book. This post highlights three of the selected items that had multiple signs of ownership, all of which caught Barker's eye."
George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler, both ABAA members and ILAB affiliates, have now published a study about their extensive researches: In Shakespeare's Beehive: An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light, they conclude that the annotations in their copy of Baret's Alvearie purchased on eBay belong to William Shakespeare. Using example after example, the authors demonstrate how closely the annotations and Baret's text are tied to Shakespeare's own work. The annotator, while not once leaving his name on a page, nevertheless leaves behind an astonishing personal trail of fingerprints. This great discovery hit the news last week. A press review:
"It's a cliché, but it's true: Things aren't the same as they used to be. Over the last twenty-five years, we've transformed the way that we buy books and build our collections, and most of the familiar bookshops, old and new, have disappeared. There aren't nearly as many local places to browse and buy books as there once were, but there are more books available to buy than ever, and great collections are still being formed. But collectors and booksellers have lost something along the way, and it's important to recognize that just as Frank Bruni's favorite restaurants offer something that he can't get anywhere else, this is what the book market, at its best, used to do, and still sometimes does." A thoughtful article about rare book dealers and collectors by Joel Silver for Fine Books & Collections. Read it!
And indeed it was fun last week at the Chelsea Book Fair. Over eighty exhibitors, fabulous books, huge attendance figures, smiling faces all round and very healthy sales. Slight disappointment that the record sales of the first day didn't quite carry through to the Saturday – but a large sale or two made or not made, reported or not reported, can (as always) so easily distort the picture. Still pondering over whether one figure in a crabbed hand read £1,500 or £7,500 (only the lower figure included in the totals). But make no mistake, this was a hugely successful fair – well advertised, excellent press coverage, outstanding sales for some exhibitors. Leo Cadogan and his team, supported to the hilt by Marianne Harwood, the rest of the ABA staff, and exclamation! pr are to be thoroughly congratulated – all the more so as Leo had a fraught week trying to get back from storm-tossed New York in time for the opening.
One of my principles in gathering books is to read a book perhaps in a paperback edition and having 'assessed' it, either put it back into stock, keep it on my shelves, ﬁnd a hardback edition to replace it, or, ultimate accolade, ﬁnd a ﬁrst or ﬁne edition. [André Gide summed it up when he said "Book collectors do not buy books to read - they buy books because they have read them]. Some twenty-ﬁve years ago in the Carnegie Bookshop in New York Dave Kirschenbaum showed us the ﬁnest pair of "Jungle Books" any of us had ever seen. Having bought them I said to my father - "You know where those are going don't you? Home beside All The Mowgli Stories." - And here is an interesting thing that serves to counter those who ask "Why spend money on a ﬁrst edition when it is available in paperback?" When I sat down to read, in the original 19th century edition, the stories I knew almost by heart, they were suddenly given a fresh ﬂavour - the ﬂavour of 19th century India and the British Raj, simply through reading them in the original edition.
In August of 1809, a boy was born in Lincolnshire, England, who would go on to become one of Britain's best loved poets. This boy was talented as a writer early on, and together with two of his brothers published a local book of poetry by the time he had turned 17. His family grew up rather close, and though he enrolled in Trinity College, Cambridge in 1827, he was forced to drop out before getting his degree and return home when his father passed away four years later. Do you know who it is yet? Some of you may have guessed, given the title quote of this blog. Once dropping out of Cambridge, Alfred Tennyson spent the next few years of his life taking care of his family. His second book of poetry, published in 1833, was met with quite a large amount of criticism from readers – despite it having the masterpiece "The Lady of Shalott" in it! Unfortunately Tennyson was not able to take the criticism in stride, and was put off of publishing again for a decade. Though not much time was spent above on detailing Tennyson's rather homely and happy childhood, it should be noted, due to the fact that it helped inspire much of his creative writing, that within this decade he experienced quite a few hardships – his close friend (and soon to be brother-in-law) Arthur Hallam died suddenly. Not only did his death shake the core of the family, but they then moved to Essex where they lost a large portion of their fortune in a bad investment. Tennyson moved to London, and lived modestly while continuing to write poetry.
"In just over a month, Budapest will welcome you in beautiful summerly autumn colors. The bridges over the Danube will glow in darker but vividly warm colors, walks in the Castle District, on the cobbled streets of Buda are the most pleasant at the end of September. The still warmish evenings in the uniquely restored but still romantically dilapidated ruin pub, Ankert, guarantees merriment. The autumn delicacies and delicate horses can give you a kind of entertainment in the Lázár Equestrian Park that you have never experienced before. And finally, cruising on the waves of the our treasure-river, the Danube, will soothe all turbulences of the soul while good company and the pleasures of the table will make you feel at home in Budapest."
If there's one thing you can guarantee it's that the minute you think you're being smart is the minute before you meet someone much smarter. One of the reasons I love my job so very, very much is that my minutes of being smart never last long enough to knock my self image out of whack. If I'm not meeting a customer whose breadth of knowledge and devotion has the least admirable parts of me reaching for a pitchfork and a torch then it's one of my colleagues who is making me wish I could eat their head and consume their wisdom entire.