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Rare Books and the Rare Book Trade
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Americana

Collecting - “He was America”: Carl Sandburg

Published on 26 May 2018
Admitting this is probably one of those phenomenally bad ideas I continuously have despite how much older I get, but I am one of those wicked people who pretended to know, well … something about this American literary star for many years. People would mention his name and I would be all, "Oh yes, Carl Sandburg, wow … it went for how much? Woah!" While casually hoping the conversation would change because as far as I knew I could not remember reading anything by this author and continually neglected to read up on him when I got to a quiet corner away from prying eyes. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I know it is a shocker but I am not omniscient (though I'm sure it seems that way most of the time. Eh-hem). So now, just in case any of you out there are like me and think you can continue fooling people into thinking you know about this magnificent man … think again!
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Americana

Collecting Rare Books and First Editions - Thomas Paine

January 29 is the birthday of early American political activist Thomas Paine (1737), whose pamphlet Common Sense (1776) credited with inspiring American colonists to embrace the idea of independence from Great Britain. The American Revolution had already started but the work served to spur volunteers for the Continental Army. It was widely distributed throughout the colonies, read aloud in taverns, and unabashedly pirated. Some scholars say it was the first American bestseller.
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Americana

Collecting Rare Books and First Editions - C. Perry Snell, Snell Isle's Visionary

In the 1920s, dreamers and schemers descended on the Sunshine State bent on making a fortune in the burgeoning real estate market. In the earliest days of the Florida Land Boom, it seemed that one had but to imagine great wealth for it to be so. Parcels were bought and sold, sometimes within hours, at huge profits. The real estate bubble didn't last long - a scant five years or so - and when the end came some would-be real estate tycoons were stuck with land bought at inflated prices and no money. But there were developers who, though they had prospered during the boom, were cautious and had not been caught up in the buying frenzy. C. Perry Snell, for instance, had been in St. Petersburg for a couple of decades before the hubbub began. He had successfully developed residential projects that eventually became known as Old Northeast. He owned land bought many years before that he had not yet developed.
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Americana

How to Identify Rare Books and First Editions - Surrender the Ship?

How to identify a rare book? "I got stumped last week, trying to catalog a book I'd recently purchased. It was the first full length biography of the American naval hero James Lawrence, and it was supposed to be 244 pages long. However, my copy seemed complete at page 240, which ended with the word "finis." I must've spent an hour pouring through my reference books trying to reconcile the discrepancy. I had a dim recollection of the pagination issue being explained to me by the gentleman from whom I'd purchased the book. But I couldn't remember the details, and I couldn't piece it together from the bibliographies ..."
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Americana

John Steinbeck and the Nixon Novel that Never Was

Today we celebrate the birthday of legendary author John Steinbeck. Born on February 27, 1902 in Salinas, California, Steinbeck would become one of American's most notable authors. Steinbeck established himself as an author in an era when accomplished authors held considerable clout. Thus he one day found himself in a unique position: he held the upcoming United States presidential election in his hands.
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Americana

Collecting Rare Books and First Editions - Bread & Roses: The Strike That Changed Everything

Needless to say, few strikes in American history have generated as much literature, music or folklore as did Lawrence. Given our interest in the art and literature of social movements, we're unavoidably drawn to this material, as are our customers – it tends to come and go with some regularity. Here are a few recent acquisitions that are still with us, each interesting for its own reasons.
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Americana

The American Gift Book

In France the first gift book may have been ALMANACH DES MUSES, first published in 1765. This format was copied in Germany in 1770 with the publication of MUSEN-ALMANACH. In the 1790s some anthologies appeared in England that were clearly intended to be given as gifts, like ANGELICA'S LADIES LIBRARY, OR PARENTS AND GUARDIANS PRESENT (1794), which was followed by THE ANNUAL ANTHOLOGY (1799, 1800), edited by Robert Southey, and including twenty-seven poems and epigrams by Coleridge, plus contributions by Charles Lamb and Southey himself. A third volume was planned, but never appeared. These proto-gift books did not start a trend, and I know of no similar anthologies published in England during the next two decades. In the early years of the nineteenth century in Germany, some gift books (taschenbuch) were being issued in glazed paper boards, and in 1822 Rudolph Ackerman used those as his model when he published the first English gift book, the FORGET ME NOT, which he would publish without interruption for the next twenty-five years. Gift books like Ackerman's, which were issued year after year, became known as gift annuals, literary annuals, or simply "annuals." Since not all "annuals" were exclusively literary in their content, I will use the term "gift annual" to describe them as a subset of the broader family of gift books.
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From the Vault

A sneak peek in our archives

Article

The Art of Book Cataloguing - British Bottoms

The differences between paper and digital catalogs are obvious, but some of the results of those differences continue to surprise me. For example, in the old days orders from my paper catalogs would dribble in over a period of weeks. I used to mail them all first class, in three staggered mailings, hoping to achieve some kind of evenness in delivery, but customers were always complaining that their catalogs arrived late, and demanding exclusive previews. Others, more laid back, would wait for moments of leisure to read their catalogs, and some overworked acquisitions librarians required days or weeks to claw through the pile of incoming mail to discover where my list of treasures was buried. Digital catalogs, on the other hand, play out in an eyeblink. Everyone gets their catalog announcement via a Mail Chimp email blast within the same hour or so. Those who are highly motivated know that they must read it and respond immediately. Consequently, most of the orders arrive by email within the first few hours of the catalog's life. Maritime List 238 was posted Sunday night. By Wednesday even the laid back orders had arrived.
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Article

New York Slate: A Bob Dylan Forgery (Why to be careful when buying at auction)

In one of the latest blog entries of Peter Harrington Rare Books (UK), Rachel Chanter describes the dangers of buying at auction. "This cautionary tale shows how far forgers will go to defraud dealers and avid collectors, and how they can sometimes exploit an auction house's less-than-rigorous approach to research. Fortunately, we were able to discover the spurious nature of this artwork, subjecting it to the same level of scrutiny as we do all the items we acquire, which is why we are able to assure customers of the legitimacy of everything we sell. "
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Article

Collecting Rare Books and First Editions - Reference Book of the Day: Erya

The Erya (or Erh Ya) - the name means "approaching what is correct, proper, refined," though it's sometimes translated as The Ready Guide - is the oldest dictionary of the Chinese language. The author is a mystery, and the traditional attribution to the Duke of Chou isn't taken seriously. The date, too, is a puzzler, though "scholars generally agree that it was written by Confucian scholars sometime between the Spring and Autumn period and early Han Dynasty (8th through 2nd centuries B.C.)" (Xue, p. 152). The third century BCE is a pretty good guess.
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Article

The new Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp – “The Book is Central”

On 30 September 2016, one of the most treasured places for printing history and the history of the book re-opened after extensive renovations, the new Plantin-Moretus Museum. Various festivities accompanied the opening on three consecutive days and invited the public to take part in the fascinating history of the museum.
The new museum takes the visitor on a unique journey of the life and legacy of the publisher Christoffel Plantin and his inlaws Moretus whose achievements had put Antwerp on the map. The biggest authors and scientists of their time found their way to Antwerp's Vrijdagmarkt and Plantin was able to spread their ideas throughout the world.
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Article

Into the South Sea – The first “Bibliophile Evening” held at Dr. Paul Kainbacher Rare Books in Baden (Vienna)

On Saturday, November 8th, the Austrian antiquarian bookseller Dr. Paul Kainbacher had invited collectors and colleagues to his antiquarian bookshop in Baden (next to Vienna), Elisabethstrasse 33. The shop was the perfect location for the "Bibliophile Evening" which was dedicated to The Exploration of the South Sea. The bookshop welcomed numerous guests, among them collectors and book lovers from Germany, Austria and Finland as well as scientists and explorers from various university departments. They all had come to see the most beautiful books and to listen to highly interesting lectures by European experts of the South Sea such as Prof. Hermann Mückler (Vienna University) and Ms. Anke Oberlies (German James Cook Society). See the pictures!
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