Because author collecting is an intimate activity, acquiring autograph material deepens one’s understanding of the object of one’s collecting interest. Through these bits of preserved handwriting, we catch flashes of personality, possibly glean an overlooked biographical tidbit, or take pleasure in seeing the evolution of a piece of writing. In the spirit of opening up these potential vistas into an author’s mind, we offer a selection of autograph material, whether in manuscript form or inscriptions within books; and running the gamut from Elmer Adler discussing the foundation of Casa del Libro just before leaving for Puerto Rico, to Walt Whitman arranging the London sale of copies in sheets of his Complete Poems and Prose.
While there are certainly many booksellers who make history a specific area of specialization, that has never been our focus. And yet, here we stand on the cusp of launching an e-catalogue on the subject of history. We have come to find out that one can find oneself on the road to acquiring books and other material with historical content without being completely conscious of it. Some items, of course, are more obvious: an original painting of the Atlantic Charter and the Four Freedoms—executed the year before Norman Rockwell indelibly imprinted it upon the national consciousness—is not only thematically forthright, but also imposing in terms of sheer size. Some are less so, such as Gaylord Schanilec’s subtle tribute to the High Bridge in St. Paul, which uses images and newspaper accounts to tell the story of a bridge and its impact on the community from its construction in the 19th century to its demolition in 1985.
Given the amount of time we have been able to devote to outdoor activity lately, we thought it fitting we should honor those who make springtime really sing, literally and figuratively. One could, for instance, delve into the increasingly popular activity of birdwatching via an album of 19th-century Japanese brush paintings documenting fifty-six common species—from songbirds to waterfowl. And at ground-level, fish and reptiles are represented, including in a finely printed edition of Thoreau's Of Woodland Pools, Spring-Holes & Ditches, bound by Mark Esser in a design that evokes the world that is hidden just below the surface of the titular locales.
Above all, springtime reminds us that we live in a cyclical world—one where the mechanics of recurrence governs the marking of time. The flowers and trees now bursting into bloom aren’t beholden to the calendar, emerging only when conditions favor it—reminding us of Emerson’s observation that we would do well to “adopt the pace of nature” because “her secret is patience.”
As part of the pantheon of foundational narratives to which we regularly turn for inspiration and guidance, fables and fairy tales often overlap with myths and legends. Indeed, they arise from the same wellspring of oral literature that dates back to antiquity. However, whereas myths and legends frequently convey cultural touchstones, such as origin stories, fables and fairy tales use timeless and imaginary worlds to demonstrate that our actions have consequences.
Considering the importance placed upon our interactions with the world and the notion of personal responsibility that should guide those interactions, we hope this selection proves timely. After all, the German fabulist Wilhelm Hey composed a series of these stories to occupy his children while they were quarantined with the measles.
Those of us who are inclined toward bibliophilia inevitably get asked what book they would want to have with them if stranded on a desert island. It is, in essence, a roundabout way of asking a bookish person which of the many books they’ve read would remain enjoyable if it was the only thing to read for an indeterminate period of time. Faced now with the prospect of a mountain of free time surrounded by walls of books, the imagination scrambles for the exit, and suddenly, the idea of being stranded on a desert island begins to sound appealing.
It is perhaps not surprising that one of the first destinations to which the fictive mind ventured was a desert island—the most famous example of which is Robinson Crusoe. DeFoe's immortal creation, himself a composite of numerous popular shipwreck narratives, spawned its very own species of literature—the Robinsonade. And, like Crusoe, whether we find ourselves transported to the Moon or Mars, Wonderland or Oz, we will leave the experience transformed in some way.
Under normal circumstances, the life of a bookseller can be described as peripatetic. Members of our peculiar metier find ourselves in constant motion—whether to attend an auction, a book fair, a conference, or simply to scour the countryside in search of the next, elusive find.
After nearly two months of lockdown, we therefore find ourselves filled with wanderlust; and to exorcise this, we present the first of two lists on the theme of travel. This first installment consists of works dealing with what one might call “real” travel—from travel narratives featuring original drawings, to lavishly illustrated brochures for luxury automobiles from a bygone era. It is a road that will take us as far as Australia, where we can read about how Helen Keller “felt like Cinderella” after a birthday fête held in her honor during a state visit; it will whisk us to Macchu Picchu through dramatic photographs found in a handsome Limited Editions Club publication; and we will wind up at a murder mystery weekend in upstate New York, accompanied by Edward Gorey’s fittingly sinister images.