If you call yourself a bibliophile then you have no doubt owned, consulted, or yearned for a bibliography on more than one occasion. These endlessly helpful reference books are the product of dedicated people who do the yeoman’s work of researching authors, genres, and subjects of every kind, so that we don’t have to, while still allowing us to all bask in the glow of their accumulated knowledge. For that we owe them many, many thanks. In that spirit, we point out that the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers is preparing to name the winner of its 16th Annual Breslauer Prize for Bibliography. The list of submissions is long and varied and bound to included more than one worthy title, but as Sean Connery has taught us: “There can be only one!” Each week from now until the winner is announced ILAB will feature a different book on its website. The first title can be found here and for the full Breslauer Prize Press Release click this link. All hail the bibliographer!

As the roaming gangs of reporters, videographers, bloggers, and other media mavens have already made abundantly clear, Larry McMurtry held a two-day book auction – maybe more accurately, he held an event – in order to clear three of the four buildings in Archer City, Texas that he has packed full of the carefully selected better used and medium rare books that he has amassed in over a half century of bookscouting. Read the rest of this entry »

The Transit of Venus in Philadelphia 1769

An illustration from the first volume of the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, showing the path of the Transit of Venus as observed in Philadelphia in 1769.

One of the disad-vantages of having a quarter of a million books for sale is that sometimes it is easy to forget what you have, even with a database to help you. This morning Ken [BTC’s cataloguer Ken Giese, who works on archives and pre-20th Century material for us] walked into my office and said, “So, this Transit of Venus…” Having just had my first jolt of caffeine, and having spent the weekend trying to get at least one of my children the least bit excited about witnessing a celestial event that will not occur again in their lifetimes, I immediately jumped in, “Corey [BTC’s photographer, Corey Bechelli, with whom I share an office] and I were just talking about it. We might go up to the roof around 6pm. We figure we’ll have an excellent view from there and I brought in binoculars to make one of those safe viewing thingies [caffeine apparently not doing much for my vocabulary of astronomical instruments just yet].” (BTC’s flat-top roof was featured in a previous blog post)

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While we often think our new catalogs are newsworthy, this time around so does The New York Times. Today they are running an article on an 1870s photo album that we are offering in conjunction with Ian Brabner showing the family of President Obama’s ancestors. Of particular interest is a photo of his Great-Great-Great Aunt Anna Wolfley, who bears a striking resemblance to our current President. We are offering the album in our latest African-Americana catalog, and Ian will be showing it at this year’s New York Book Fair. We hope to see many of you there.

Just in case you hadn’t noticed, our very own Ashley Wildes is currently featured on the Fine Books Blog in the latest installment of their Bright Young Things series. These interviews with young booksellers spotlight many of the best and brightest of the next generation. And maybe what’s most encouraging, their enthusiastic attitude toward bookselling in what some doomsayers are calling the end days. It’s a great series that comes highly recommended and not just because it features our very own punk rock cataloger.

As personal papers and archival collections are increasingly sought after by librarians and collectors, we have accordingly been conducting a fair bit of original cataloguing of various special collections materials in order to keep up with the demand. I’ve thus become better at identifying and describing the papers and ephemera of obscure authors and artists, and even a few famous punk rockers unknown only to me; but every now and then I am confronted with anonymous or original materials of considerable interest which I cannot identify, despite my best efforts. Here for example is a hand-painted illustration from the 1930s signed “AM”:

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Oscar Reads a Book

Oscar Reads Too - the cover of our Catalog 116, by Tom Bloom

What would a blog be without some opinions on the Academy Awards? Everywhere you look online and in print you’ll find plenty of comments on the recent ceremony and validity of the winners. And there has been a lot of worry that this annual media event, which once captured huge ratings, is becoming marginalized (bad news for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which does valuable archival and preservation work, and relies on the Oscars to raise most of their budget). But if the Academy had only looked to books this year, some of their problems might have been solved.
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If people looked through my room they’d find various boxes and shelves representing 25 years of accumulation. In one corner of my childhood bedroom sits a giant bag full of Star Wars figurines accompanied by a lone Millennium Falcon toy. That bag contains 11-year-old me’s, (and 25-year-old me’s  – who am I kidding) prized possessions: all of the ’95 Hasbro Power of the Force Princess Leia action figures, unopened. Next to that are three milk crates full of vinyl records, within are all of my Clash first pressings, which I started collecting as a kid after my mom gave me her copy of Combat Rock. Gathered in a nearby bookshelf are my Sylvia Plath first editions. Read the rest of this entry »

Every Island Fled Away by John SanfordWhile browsing through Ralph Sipper‘s booth at this past weekend’s Los Angeles Antiquarian Book Fair, I came upon an interesting copy of book that at first seemed a little out of place at the fair: John Sanford’s Every Island Fled Away. It’s a 1964 novel that, these days, is typically a $30 – $40 book in collectible condition, and not that much more when signed or inscribed. Usually the booths at the three fairs sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (there’s also a New York show in April and a Boston show in November) are full of the best antiquarian books for sale in the country and the world (read highest quality, and consequently highest priced). Dealers usually trot out their top material, and Ralph’s booth was full of many stunning copies of notable literary first editions. Some of them, like his beautiful copy of William Faulkner’s first novel, Soldiers’ Pay, are genuinely rare in such condition. By comparison, the John Sanford book seemed to be a grade schooler lost at the senior prom. Read the rest of this entry »

Today I indulged myself by cataloging some old science-fiction pulps of which we have a few. I am by no means a hardcore sci-fi fan (Dr. Who excluded), but old pulps never cease to capture my attention, particularly those with wonderfully outlandish covers. Today I worked through a run of Wonder Stories published by Hugo Gernsback, for whom the Hugo Award is named. While typically the biggest attraction would be the eye-popping covers by Frank R. Paul, what gave me pause was an original letter from superfan Jack Darrow dated 1931 that was laid in to a copy of the Wonder Stories in which it appeared in print. Read the rest of this entry »


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