If a play is performed and no audience is there to see it, did it happen? As we crest the season of summer theater and other types of outdoor performance art in the current era, that question becomes less a conundrum and more a fact of life. The summer blockbuster—the irresistible eye candy that has been a mainstay of the film industry for decades—is on hiatus. Without an audience, the arts wither. Books, however, only require an audience of one. We therefore present the premiere of a wide variety of performances from which to choose as a buffer against an artless summer.
For our latest e-catalogue, we have chosen to pull together examples of the ways in which we interact with books, toys, and games from the standpoint of touch. Early games, for instance, made use of texts—such as that which is based on Jules Verne’s Le Tour du Monde en 80 Jours, which brings the players into the text, traveling along with Phileas Phogg while learning world geography. Being able to manipulate characters in two dimensions as a story progresses is the premise behind pop-up and movable books, of which we have several choice examples. Above all, these books and objects remind us of the importance of play. Coming at a time when we are being asked to withhold the basic element of human touch, that level of interaction assumes even greater significance.
As booksellers, we have handled a plethora of books with wonderful association copies—and, indeed, we still do. In our latest offering of association copies and books and art inscribed by the artist, we now turn the spotlight onto those books and works on paper in which one can find a few choice connections. We offer, for instance, a copy of the Officina Bodoni’s Four Gospels in Italian, inscribed by Pope Paul VI to the mayor of Milan—a connection that becomes even more intriguing when one considers that prior to becoming Paul VI, Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini served as Archbishop of Milan for nearly a decade. Or consider the story behind the first type specimen to feature Bruce Rogers’s Centaur type, inscribed by BR to William Edwin Rudge, for whose imprint BR designed eighty publications.
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.
A compilation of new acquisitions, spanning our specialty areas.
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.