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Rare Books and the Rare Book Trade

From the Vault

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Die Unsterblichkeit der Sterne – Francisco de Goya, Walter Benjamin, Václav Havel

Blank, specialist in 18th to 20th century literature and philosophy, reconstructed Kafka's library which was given as a present to the city of Prague by the Porsche AG in the year 2002. His other life long passion was Walter Benjamin. After the Kafka project Blank reconstructed Benjamin's library. He compiled all the books Benjamin had owned before his library was lost during the Nazi regime. Blank's catalogue "In Walter Benjamins Bibliothek. Dokumentation einer verlorenen Bibliothek" was published in 2006. Now the books most important to Walter Benjamin, and some of the most rare and beautiful ones, are exhibited at the Centre for Persecuted Art in Solingen. A model of the memorial at Port Bou, where Benjamin took his life after his failed escape from the Nazis, is also shown.
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Collecting Rare Books and First Editions - Ambrose Bierce

24th June is the birthday of writer Ambrose Bierce (1842), who is best remembered for his short story, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1891), a riveting tale about a Southern planter who is executed for conspiring to destroy a railroad bridge during the Civil War. The story's structure is unusual because a long period of time from the protagonist's point of view passes in an instant. It has been adapted numerous times for radio, television, and the movies. Bierce was a columnist for Hearst's San Francisco Examiner and is credited with foiling an attempt by the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads to get a bill through Congress excusing their $130 million loan from the federal government to build the First Transcontinental Railroad. Bierce is said to have mysteriously disappeared while he was with Pancho Villa's army during the Mexican Revolution.
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The Art of American Book Covers - A Previously Unknown Amy M. Sacker Cover

One exciting find was Amy M. Sacker's design on Sweet Peggy by Linnie S. Harris [Little, Brown & Company, 1904]. Like many of their rebound books, the replacement endpapers are acidic, have turned brown and are disintegrating, but this does not affect the cover art. Considering the amount of use this volume must have had, the design remains bright on the cover and spine, with just a few smudges that can be cleaned. What's exciting about it? It's not just that it's a good cover design by an important artist, and one that adopts Thomas Watson Ball's style of clouds. This is a rare book.
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Veronese, His Legacy, Among 17th Century Book Publishers, Art Collectors, & Printmakers

This essay is an immersive, illustrated review of the spectacular Veronese show at the Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida (2012-13); but it also educates readers on Veronese's legacy in the 17th century among book publishers, printmakers, and (mostly) Stuart art connoisseurs. Drawing upon an extended Gallery of Images (21 images, including some fine installation shots, all with extended caption notes by the author), the essay demonstrates the fabled invention, wit, and clever humor of this "Happiest of Painters", as Henry James wrote of Veronese. The essay gives special prominence to the currency of Veronese in the 17th-century book culture and print culture (Images 6,7,14). The author's dedicatees are three prominent book specialists: Robert J. Barry, Jr.; John T. Shawcross; and Peter A. Tasch.
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A World Much Changed - Laurence Worms in Conversation with Jim Hinck and Anne Marie Wall

Time now to go and have tea with some booksellers. Anne Marie Wall and Jim Hinck (Hinck & Wall) are booksellers specialising in garden history and landscape architecture, early horticulture, and architecture and town-planning in general. Americans both, they have settled in Cambridge after a spell in Paris (where they retain a pied-à-terre). It's an absorbing story. They realised, much earlier than most of us, that with the advent of the internet, the book-trade's traditional staples – the good, solid and essential books on any subject that everyone needs – were about to become a rapidly diminishing asset. As Jim puts it in a thoughtful recent post on his viaLibrian blog (required reading), "the pool of findable books exploded". Their customers, often in American institutional libraries, were no longer going to want books they could find anywhere at the click of a mouse. The correct deduction was made that they would continue to want the rare and the unique, and that American holdings would generally be weakest in early non-English language material. To Europe they came to find just that material.
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