Tuesday, October 26, 2010

450 Piece Illuminated Manuscript Page Puzzle

While the printed book seems to always be in peril in today's digital world, the printed Holiday Sales Catalog, if judged by the daily mail delivery seems to be expanding exponentially.  While the world is certainly at your fingertips via the Internet, I still secretly enjoy browsing my favorite catalogs as they arrive.  Mostly I enjoy the book and reading related catalogs (and King's Ranch, Gorsuch, Orvis, Woolrich, Cabelas),  I always quickly flip through Levengers Tools for Serious Readers. Today the Levenger's Holiday Sale Catalog arrived and after a 30 second browse, I found a new product that will be on my mind.  A holiday gift for a niece or nephew, a friend, myself, our house? 

Who wouldn't enjoy a 450 piece jig saw puzzle based on a Medieval Illuminated Manuscript in the collection of the Bodleian Library, depicting the life of Alexander the Great, ages 8 and up.  The age restriction seems to tip the balance in my favor as the niece and nephews are all under 5 at this point.  I need to think this through.  Maybe, just like hundreds of books, it will simply be filed in the "want list" in my mind for future reference, a spare $149, or a great sale!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sartre's Roads to Freedom Trilogy (now a quartet)

I collect a range of books concerning existentialism broadly defined, from Kierkegaard, the "father of existentialism," to Sartre and in between and beyond.  As a cultural phenomenon, existentialism feeds my natural dislike for dogmatism in any guise and my natural inclination to be a contrarian.  One of my favorite examples of the existential genre, in fiction,  is the Roads to Freedom trilogy (now a quartet) by Jean-Paul Sartre. 

I first read the Roads to Freedom sometime around 1983.  The novels, an extended investigation of the lives of an existential cadre of coming of age intellectuals, living in Paris during World War II, spoke to me on many levels.  Freedom is essential to a live life well-lived, life is messy, life doesn't come with an owner's manual or a warranty, life is an adventure, all seem to be what drew me to these novels.  I wasn't first introduced to existentialism via this series but after reading them I knew that they would someday be a foundation for my private library of great existentialist writings.  Since then, acquiring the first edition first printings of the Road to Freedom series was always on my general want list.  Today, while I own many classic books of existentialism and still many more page worn paperback editions, acquired during my college days,  I have accumulated a number of collectible firsts by Sartre (and Camus and others).

Sometime in 2009, I came upon an announcement for a new book, the previously unpublished fourth and final book in the Road to Freedom series.  I have the first three titles in the series and while I needed to learn more about this new title, I was certain I would like a first printing to add to my Sartre section.  From the product description I learned that this was an unfinished manuscript with two chapters published after Sartre's death by Gallimard in French along with an interview with Sartre and an essay by Simone de Beauvoir offering her recollections of Sartre's plan for this final book in the Roads to Freedom quartet.  I placed an order for the soon to be released Hardcover and Paperback edition, published by Continuum in late 2009. 

Immediately, I knew I would be annoyed by the publication plan based on the price of the hardcover but I placed the orders and awaited publication.  As I imagined, the publication of this fourth installment was a world class disappointment, a publication disappointment, not a content disappointment.

There are many reasons I acquire books but one reason is that I love to have the original book object to contemplate.  I waited around 20 years to pull the trigger and buy the First American Edition of the original trilogy, The Age of Reason, The Reprieve, and The Troubled Sleep, published by Alfred Knopf, Borzoi Books, 1947, 1947, 1951, translated by Eric Sutton (1st two) and Gerard Hopkins.  My editions are in Fine Condition with naturally yellowing pages and clean dust jackets with an illustration by Warren Chappelle.  The Knopf edition is a classic example of publishing aesthetics in the late 1940's and early 1950's.  The edition has a classic look and feel and whether shelved face out or spine out, the three books together are a proper trilogy and have an almost magnetic drawing power.  If you visit my library and see them, you just want to pick them up.  A fine set of books honoring one of my favorite authors.

After a few months wait, the new edition to Roads of Freedom arrived and my fears were realized.  Continuum, an independent contemporary academic publisher, released Last Chance: Roads of Freedom IV  simultaneously in hardcover and paperback edition.  I had hoped that the hardcover release would be a throwback to the look and feel of the Knopf edition (or at least the Hamish First British Edition) but what arrived was, to my horror, a simple "library bound" hardcover edition in a larger trim size and a paperback with expected illustrated cover.  I am outraged.  I understand the economics of current scholarly and academic publishing and I too, published many books in simultaneous release with the economic expectation that the remaining 200 libraries around the world that still acquire new books would understand that the $95 price for the hardcover simply covered the expense to them if they acquired a paperback and had it rebound for library use.  A simple and seemingly minor service to the ever shrinking library marketplace and a real financial support to a book that may be projected to sell 5000 copies over the first three years of publication.   This is a standard approach to publishing for the scholarly and academic markets.

What it said to me was much more and while I was happy to be able to read more, new to me, Sartre, I was depressed about the condition of the book in contemporary society.  Continuum confirmed, with their approach to this title, that they were worried there was a very small market for new Sartre in English, that the market would be scholarly, and that the market did not care about the aesthetic of this in relation to the original English language publications.  I wonder how hard it would have been to at least, if nothing else, match the trim size of the new work with the original Knopf or Hamish editions?  I wonder why they didn't try to match the look and feel with a similar cover design and illustration that would hearken back to the era when the manuscript was written and the first three books were published?  I wonder why a growing publishing house didn't try harder.  Now, I have my beloved Knopf Edition of three, plus one, stamped hardcover and one illustrated paperback in larger format hidden from view.  For now, Sartre's Roads to Freedom remains face out on my shelves as a trilogy, with the fourth book spine out, in the back!

Enjoying Lynd Ward

Lynd Ward published six "picture books" and illustrated many more during the the 1920's and 30's.  His distinctive wooblock illustrations are mezmerising.  Every time I stumble upon one of Ward's books at a bookfair or store visit I page through and wonder why I haven't collected his six original publications and all the other books he illustrated.  That I haven't done so after 25 or so years of this internal debate remains a mystery to me. Now, Library of America has published all 6 novels in a new two volume deluxe boxed edition. This edition costs a little less than it would cost to acquire an original first edition which means all six for less than the price of one.  I imagine that adding this to my library will motivate me to start actually acquiring the originals. Sarah Boxer at Slate has published a nice review/article about Ward and the new Library of America edition entitled, Americas First Wordless Novelist, which is a wonderful introduction to Ward's publishing legacy.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Morgan Library and Museum Rennovations Complete

One of my favorite Private Libaries, and in this case the capitalization is appropriate. A day spent at the Morgan Library  (New York City) is a day to remember. A nice article on the unveiling of the rennovations to the original library can be found here

Weekend Book Review Strategy

There are many ways to sate an overly active appetite for books. Being connected to the www 24/7 via fiber optics, wifi, or cell phone, I can access thousands upon thousands of book related information centers. While I still enjoy a browsing visit to a local new, used or antiquarian bookstore, and always remain open to an impulse purchase or two, no store visit will quiet that voice in my head asking, "What am I missing?"

In order to maintain some sanity and to constantly measure my knowledge of books I check out a number of book review sections. A visit to Bookmark Magazine's weekly roundup of reviews published on the web is a great place to start a weekend cruise of reviews. While not complete and missing the often enjoyable Weekend Edition of the Financial Times, Bookmark does a nice job of listing all the revies appearing in a wide range of publications from the New York Times to Entertainment weekly. This weekend I enjoyed reviews of the two new biographical studies of Galileo, Galileo: Watcher of the Skies, by David Wootton, Yale University Press and Galileo, by John Heilbron, Oxford University Press,in the Finanical Times penned by James Wilsdon, director of science policy at the Royal Society and Letters from London and Europe (1925-30), by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, translated by JG Nichols, Alma Books RRP£14.99, 288 pages

Friday, October 15, 2010

Collecting The Broadway Travellers

The Broadway Travellers is a book series published by George Routledge & Sons, London, between 1926 and 1937.  The Series, edited by Sir E. Denison Ross and Eileen Power, included 26 titles (a number were simultaneously published by Robert McBride, New York and Harper Brother, New York under the series name, The Argonauts Series and The Broadway Travellers respectively).  Five additional works were planned for publication but were never realized.

The great age of travel and exploration from the 14th century to the 19th generated numerous travellers’ records as well as records and experiences of the traders of the great Silk Road.  The Broadway Travellers made available editions of these classic works of that great age of travel and exploration. These editions of classic translations, often the first english translation, were edited and sometimes abridged from the original edition.  Neither poses a problem as the first English translations, even in 1926 were out of the finanical reach of interested readers and the new editions were targeted to the reader of the day (are still relevant today). 

My first introduction to the Series came with the acquistion of The Travels of an Alchemist:  The Journey of the Taoist Ch’ang Ch’un from China to the Hindukush at the Summons of Chingiz Khan.  Translated, with an Introduction, by Arthur Waley.  [The Taoist doctor left some of the most faithful and vivid pictures ever drawn of nature and society between the Aral and the Yellow Sea.]  {Published by George Routledge & Sons, 1931, Broadway House, Carter Lane, London. With 1 map.} 

This is a fascinating read and while available now via Print on Demand or Google Books, reading this edition just seems to connect the timelessness of the content with the importance of keeping this content alive.   While I acquired this for my collection of books about alchemy, I became so intrigued by the series that I am have put together a complete list of the titles published in the series. Perhaps you too will find a must have.

Motivating Young Readers with ADHD to love Reading

Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson novels for young readers and a champion for introducing children to the wonders of ancient Greek Gods, suggests 4 ways to get kids reading. I agree with all 4 of his suggestions buy especially with these 2. Model Reading at Home and Match your children with the right books. Recent research suggests that the best way to insure a child's intellectual development is to surround them with books at home. Yes, every child should have access to a home library. My personal approach would be to have books specifically for the kids but also a "Secret Shelf" where books that are intended for a more mature reader live which is pointed too as a reward for becoming a serious reader. That's how my Dad convinced me to read....he kept his Plato, Aristotle, Shakespare and his University of Chicago core curriculum readers off limits. Books I could only access "when older and wiser."

Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series is certainly a fine place to start.
Percy Jackson

A graphic novel (comicbook)approach to the Greek Gods is being created and published now. I have the first two in the Series and can't wait for the rest.



Upcoming Book Acutions Fall 2010

From the Wall Street Journal this morning, a quick take on upcoming books auctions. If the WSJ pays attention there must be money in those old books! And if anyone is feeling generous, today, I'd love the either of these, noted in the article. "Mary Shelley provides gothic horror with a three-volume, first edition of her "Frankenstein" (1818). This tale is considered the first work of science fiction in English literature (estimate: £60,000-£80,000). In this genre is also a first edition of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" (1897), the world's most famous vampire story, (estimate: £8,000-£12,000)."

Adam and Charles Black Colour Books

Just arrived for my collection, The A & C Black Colour Books: A Collector's Guide and Bibliogrpahy 1900-1930, by Colin Inman, Werner Shaw Limited, London, 1990. Adding this to my private library because I love the A & C Charles Black color books, I need this reference for my rare book and private library consulting activities, and I am hoping to evolve my skills to be able to create similar reference works for on-line publishing and this is a great model to follow.

The Life of Science Library

While researching books about alchemy at the Boston Athaneaum, I discovered a wonderful short introduction to the history of alchmey published in 1949, The Alchemists, Founders of Modern Chemistry , by Frank Sherwood Taylor, H. Schuman (New York). The publisher, Henry Schuman, was a world famous antiquarian specializing in collecting and selling books on the history of medicine (and science). The Taylor introduction to Alchemy was the 9th title in the Schuman sponsored series, The Life of Science Library. From my experience as a Cognitive Science publisher with MIT Press, I was familiar with the importance many members of the scientific community placed on acquiring antiquarian and rare copies of books on the history of science and I always enjoyed visitng the antiquarian dealers who would display thier books the major scientific conference.

While I was focused on Alchemy research that day, I did immediatley read the list of the previous 8 titles in the series. Wow, what an interesting launch of a Series, including a biogrpahy of Santiago Ramon y Cajal, the founder of modern neuroscience. I made note of the Cajal title and decided to further investigate the Life of Science Library. Since then I discovered I owned a book from the Series and have acquired a couple of more (out of topical interest but also to understand the publishing of the Series over time) and I've created a bibliography of the books published in the Series from 1947-1965. If I was still a science publisher I'd be reserching the copyright for each title and putting a few back in print.

A warning to anyone interested in acquiring titles in the Life of Science Library: MANY OF THE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE VIA PRINT ON DEMAND PUBLISHING. While the individual titles are difficult to find as First Edition in Good to Fine Condition, they are availbale and the POD versions are generally more expensive and DO NOT INCLUDE THE ILLUSTRATIONS. Beware of the advantages and disadvantages of "new publication" vs. searching for and finding a First Edition.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Collecting Casanova

I'll never be awarded a prize for healthy living but while I was a Freshman in college, I decided to make aerobic exercise a daily part of my life. Over the years I've jogged, swam, rode a stationary bike and currently, use an elliptical trainer. During my 10 year, or so, tenure of riding a stationary bike, I took advantage of the 40 minutes a day to read some very long books including, Casanova's Memoirs, the Arthur Machen translation, slightly revised and edited by Fredrick A. Blossom and illustrated by Rockwell Kent. I read approximately 20 pages per day. I enjoyed every session for over 160 days, which, if I exclude weekends and holidays, took plus or minus one year to complete. During that time I truly looked forward to reading even though I never looked forward to my exercise routine.

Reading Casanova was a must. I didn't first learn of Casanova via Henry Miller's The Books In My Life, but I did commit to reading Casanova in pursuit of the books that so impacted Miller's intellectual and artistic development. The translation I read was a used three volume Dover paperback edition published in 1961 acquired at the now closed, Avenue Vico Hugo bookstore on Newbury Street in Boston. The Dover edition was based on the 1932 Albert and Charles Boni edition. That edition was based on the 1925 privately printed Aventuros edition with illustrations by Rockwell Kent. The Machen translation, completed in the late 1800's was the basis for most editions of Casanova until the 1961 complete translation by William Trask published by Harcourt, Brace and World. I am lucky to own both the hardcover Trask edition and the wonderful paperback edition released in 1997 by Johns Hopkins University Press (worth it just to have the 6 volume spine illustration visible on my shelves). I've been tempted by the Aventuros edition and other privately printed editions and expect that over time, my Casanova collection will include a number of editions. In a future post I will write about my FAVORITE edition of Casanova. The Franco Maria Ricci, Casanova (Histoire de ma vie): I. La Monaca di Guido Crepax - II. Bettina e La fuga dai Piombi di Beppe Madaudo.

If you are looking for a great place to start, due treat yourself to at least Volumes 1&2 of the Trask paperback.

Collecting Casanova is not easy. It is difficult to locate complete editions of the 1961 Trask edition and it is often confusing to figure out which privately printed edition is worth the effort. However, if you get hooked on Casanova, there is another way to add to your collecting, contemporary biographies and novels based on Casanova's life. A few of my favorites follow.

Casanova in Bolzano
Casanova in Bohemia
Casanova in Love
Casanova The Man Who Really Loved Woman

Casanova: Actor, Lover, Priest, Spy

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Passion for Taschen

I find Taschen one of the most intriguing publishing houses active today. Celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, Taschen continues to publish a wide range of titles, still, I imagine, funded by their creative fetish for publishing various strains of erotica. A fine business model especially considering the strong economics of the pornography industry in film, the web and video. Taschen's motto is one to celebrate, "don't underestimate or bore your audience."

The Taschen catalog covers architecture, art, classics, design, film, lifestyle/travel, limited editions, photography, pop culture, and sexy books. The Taschen books I most love are from the art, classics, and limited editions programs. I must admit that when the elephant folio catalog arrives I do check out the pop culture and sexy book offerings....who wouldn't?

My suggestion to any book lover or collector is to keep an eye out for the next Taschen gem and to periodically see if what you crave is ready to own.

I'll post on Taschen books I love, want or simply admire.  Perhaps you too, shall discover "a passion for Taschen."

Soon to be released and hopefully in my library is Prisse d’Avennes, Arab Art

Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson wins 2010 Man Booker Prize

The 2010 Man Booker Prize for fiction is Howard Jacobson for his novel, Finkler Question.

I'm not certain that I will always post about prize winners but is seems a necessary component of blogging about books. The Man Booker Prize culminates after a carefully orchestrated build-up with a long-list announcement, a short-list announcement leading to the winning novel. The Man Booker Prize does generate significant publicity for the long and short listed authors and for the winner, about $75,000, and endless positive reinforcement of a writing career. As is generally the case with the Man Booker, another year and another set of titles that I don't feel connected with at all.

I may read Finkler Question as it is a humorous serious novel and I do love serious seasoned with comedy.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

An Ottoman Traveller: Selections from the Book of Travels of Evliya Çelebi

I've been mildly obsessed with the history of the Ottoman empire since 1994 and my first trip to Istanbul. As a part of my collection, books about the Ottoman empire are few and far between. Sure, a few Pamuk, a wonderful evolving series of novels by Jenny White, the Kamil Pasha novels, and general histories of Turkey from Roman times to the present. However, specifically Ottoman originated and focused is more difficult to find. Once I find a potential acquisition I start to debate the merits of acquiring just "a copy" versus searching for a rare, collectible and more expensive edition. Does reading a POD somehow cheapen the intellectual experience? Yeah, I have to admit that POD titles annoy me more than inspire me. Modern scholarship is coming to the rescue. Shortly to be available in the US (books are on the slow boat from the UK now) is

A Turkish Pepys
Review by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Published: The Financial Times,October 9 2010 09:21 | Last updated: October 9 2010 09:26

An Ottoman Traveller: Selections from the Book of Travels of Evliya Çelebi, Edited by Robert Dankoff and Sooyong Kim, Eland, 496 pages

"If you can imagine a writer who is a combination of Samuel Pepys, Falstaff and the 18th-century courtier Prince de Ligne writing in the Islamic world of the Ottoman empire at its height, then you will approach the fascinating talent of Evliya Çelebi. He was a contemporary of Pepys and while that irrepressible diarist was caressing his mistresses and compiling the admiralty accounts in Charles II’s London, Çelebi was travelling and writing on places, ideas, food, religion, war and even sexual mores in the greatest empire of the world...."

Search Amazon.com for Kamil Pasha
Istanbul: Memories and the City

The Books In My Life Blog

I'm going to be posting about books. Rare books, collectible books, obscure books, illustrated books, books about books, book I love, books I own, and books I want. I suffer from a mild case of bibliomania-Level 1 hoarder is all I rate. If I had unlimited resources I’d surely rise to a more dangerous level, but I try, within reason to constantly add to my private library and various book collections. My library is not complete in any area, is not packed with high spots but to me, it is a wonderful and growing collection. With my postings I hope to share with you a love of reading, a love of books and a love of knowledge.