Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Art Garfunkel and Reading

This is just too precious to pass up.  While visiting the blog,  Marginal Revolution today, a pointer to a site which lists all the books Art Garfunkel has read since 1968 caught my eye. Definitely worth a visit to browse through the 1084 books.  I'm not a huge fan of Art Garfunkel's music even when he was partnered with Paul Simon, but I sure would love a chance to consult with him on the acquisition of all the first edition, first printing, English, of his reading list for his home library and legacy!   A lifetime reading list offers amazing insight into anyone's mind, brain and soul.

First two on the list, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Confessions, followed by Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving.

Last two on the list from 2009, Giambattista Vico, New Science and Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Book related gift find, Wizard of Oz puzzle

From the Gump's Holiday catalog a lovely wooden puzzle of illustrations from the First Edition of The Wizard of Oz.  A great gift idea for the young one who loves all things Oz. 

Rekindle fond memories of the classic children’s tale while assembling illustrations from the 1899 first edition. Crafted in maple-veneer plywood with archival paper and inks, the 245 pieces include numerous "whimsy" shapes, including Toto and the Tin Man.
  • 9 1/4"W x 12 1/2"H

  • Made in the USA

  • Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Boston Book Fair Finds-3 Sun, Moon, and Stars

    One find at the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair was simply to much fun to pass up, and I did try!  While I didn't buy the copy I viewed at the show, I was unable to purge the "want" from the impulse-buy center of my brain.  Shortly a fine copy of Sun, Moon and Stars:  Astronomy for Beginners, by Agnes Giberne, with a Preface by Reverend Charles Pritchard (Professor of Astronomy, Oxford), published by Seeley Jackson and Halliday, Fleet Street, London, 1882, will be shelved in my library.   The book was first published by Seeley in 1879 and this 1882 edition is noted as the Eighth Thousand, which may mean the second printing, it may mean the 8th printing, or it may have some other meaning that I will need to figure out over time.  While the copy I viewed at the book fair was lovely, it was an edition released in 1898 and priced high, I felt. 

    I had images lined up to share but once I ordered my copy, the images on the listing page went away.  For now I'll share the booksellers description of the copy on order.  "Simple and lovely introduction to Astronomy filled with and inspired by Spiritual Reflections. 'to look upward through Nature unto Nature's God.'  Illustrated with some beautiful Colour Paintings. 296 Pages + publishers Adverts.  Olive Green Cloth Cover with bright gilt titles and sun and moon on spine.  Front is similar but with planets & Galaxies as well and a picture of a shooting star.  Frontis is a Colour Painting of Donati's Comet. 1858."

    While browsing the various listings of the numerous editions currently for sale and searching for backup information for this post, a few fun facts popped out.  24,000 copies of this title were sold between 1879 and 1899.  Editions continued to appear through 1910 and the title was considered one of the best selling titles of the late 19th century.  The author was an amateur astronomer and was a founding member of the British Astronomical Association.

    Donati's Comet, 1858

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Three recent novels--Ancient Greece

    I've just finished reading three novels set in the ancient world of Greece and legendary Troy.  These recently published titles, two by first time authors and one by a veteran were enjoyable and worthy additions to my ever expanding collection of historical fiction.  The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason, Ransom by David Malouf and The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon are fine examples of the genre.  All three are short novels with unique perspectives, crisp writing and themes that continue to resonate in my mind. 

    Zachary Mason's, The Lost Books of the Odyssey pays homage to the Homeric epic tale of the long and wild trek home to Ithaca faced by Odysseus and his crew, by offering 44 imagined endings and stories long lost.  The book is gripping from the first to last page and a novel I didn't want to ever end. 

    Not only a fabulous read but also a a future "collectible".  The Farrar, Strauss and Giroux edition is actually a second edition.  The first edition was released by Starcherone Books of Buffalo, New York in 2008 as the winning submission in a competition for new authors.  That led to Mason being a finalist the New York Library Young Lions Fiction  award  in 2009, interest from major publishers and the new edition from Farrar.  I just ordered one of three copies of the Starcherone Books edition I found for sale.

    Ransom by David Malouf, considered by many Australia's greatest living writer, is a powerful novel.  The ransom of the title is that offered by Troy's King Priam to Greece's champion Achilles for the return of Priam's son, champion of Troy, Hector, killed by Achilles in single combat.  The death of Hector by Achilles and his desecration of Hector's body for days after, is one of the most horrific episodes of the Trojan War.  By focusing on the ransom, perhaps a first such in the ancient world, Malouf explores the horrors of war from a most unique viewpoint.  I'm not familiar with Malouf and now, after Ransom, I look forward to reading more of his work.

    The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon was a must read for me.  Any author willing to tackle the relationship of Aristotle and Alexander the Great wins attention and priority status on my reading list.  While I enjoyed the read, I have mixed feelings about the novel.  As a novel, the writing was polished, brisk, and entertaining.  As an exploration of the relationship between Aristotle and his most famous student, Alexander the Great, I was not thrilled.  Yes, the theme of moderation was clearly present but the sexual beast, Aristotle and the sociopath young Alexander was a bit overdone.  Probably the easiest of the three to read but the one that I found most difficult to completely embrace.


    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    2010 National Book Awards

    The recipients of 2010 National Book Awards were announced last night in New York City. 

    The winners are:

    Fiction:  Jaimy Gordon, Lord of Misrule, McPherson and Company

    Non Fiction:  Patti Smith, Just Kids, Ecco

    Poetry:  Terrance Hayes, Lighthead, Penguin

    Young People's Literature:  Kathyrn Erskine, Mockingnbird. Philomel Books

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Boston Book Fair Finds 2 -The Comic History of Rome

    Browsing the booths at an antiquarian book fair is all about being in the moment.  Many of the books on display are truly rare, museum quality artifacts and priced accordingly.  The majority of books and ephemera on display are collectible (for the right collector) and mostly priced within reason and common budgets.  I doubt there are many instances where a buyer discovers a must own rare book and immediately whips out the checkbook and writes a $10,000 check.  Could happen buy very unlikely.  More likely is the curious lover of books discovering a minor rarity in the $50 to $200 range and making an impulse purchase.  Since I am not eager to spend on the spot, I simply enjoy browsing and discovering something new.

    From the Posner Library Digital Copy, Carnegie Mellon University

    My second find at the recent Boston Fair was The Comic History of Rome and The Comic History of England (2 Volumes), Bradbury and Edwards, London.  This three volume set, bound in brown cloth with very faded spines, was reasonably priced at $500.  I was drawn to The Comic History of Rome due to my love of all things ancient Rome and I immediately recognized the illustration style from the 19th century.  Quickly realizing that these books were associated with Punch, the British magazine of humor and satire (1841-2002, rip), I jotted down the titles, author (Gilbert Abbott A Beckett) and illustrator (John Leech) plus a note inside the front cover in pencil, "Taylor only 10 complete sets."  A new discovery and a set of books to investigate, possibly a "must have."

    I've done some research and know now, that these were extremely popular 19th century books, reprinted many times.  John Leech, the illustrator is famous for his work with Punch and as the illustrator of Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, 1843.  I've written the bookseller who displayed the copies I viewed at the show to find out whether they are true first editions or later reprints, I didn't note the publication dates while browsing.  There are a number of complete sets available for purchase, many more than 10.  A true first edition would be nice to own and it will take some time to figure out who actually is selling a true first and with prices ranging from $200 to $2,000 I will take my time. The hunt is on.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    A new release for the Jazz/Blues book collection

    From the Wall Street Journal a nice review of the just released Hi-De-Ho: The Life of Cab Calloway by Alyn Shipton, Oxford University Press. Noted as being the first published biography of the great band leader, scat singer and all around character. Certainly a good addition to any jazz/blues book collection.

    The Man Who Taught America to Scat a review by Will Friedwald author of A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Boston Book Fair Finds 1- The Political History of the Devil

    I visited the 34th Annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair Saturday. In between attending the two Saturday talks, and  visiting every booth in the exhibit hall, I came away with a few new serious "wants" both for my library and for my mind.

    One new obsession is acquiring a fine edition of Daniel DeFoe, The Political History of the Devil (in full, the title reads, The political history of the Devil, as well ancient as modern: in two parts. Part I. Containing a state of the Devil’s circumstances, and the various Turns of his Affairs, from his expulsion out of Heaven, to the creation of man; with Remarks on the several Mistakes concerning the Reason and Manner of his Fall. Also his Proceedings with Mankind ever since Adam, to the first planting of the Christian Religion in the World. Part II. Containing his more private conduct, down to the present times His Government, his Appearances, his Manner of Working, and the Tools he works with.

    In a later edition, the following was added to the title: Bad as he is, the Devil may be abus’d, Be falsly charg’d, and causelessly accus’d, When Men, unwilling to be blam’d alone, Shift off those Crimes on Him which are their Own).  This added detail suggests the tenor of the work; the Devil returns and discovers that Man does all manner of nasty and blames him!  The nerve.

    Defoe, better known for his tale of Robinson Crusoe or the story of Moll Flanders, ranks high on my short list of satirists with the necessary skill to pen a "political history" of the Devil.  I want to read this book for the giggles but after browsing through the first edition, published 1726, printed for T. Warner at the Black-Boy in Pater-Noster-Row, London, I either need to save enough to buy that copy or find another that has the same feel. 

    The copy on display and for sale was bound in contemporary (late 19th century) Moroccan leather with all gilt edging, the pages showed some slight foxing.  A true first edition almost 300 year's old and relatively affordable at $1250.  The only other copy I've found for sale is an edition published in 1840, a single volume (X) separated from a complete works of Defoe, series.  Leather bound with gilt edges as well, for $150.  Very tempting but I'd probably need to acquire the rest of the volumes in that series and there are probably twenty or more volumes.  These are the only two copies I can find for sale and I'm not going to spend any money on an ebook or print on demand edition.  I'd rather wait to acquire a special edition, the political history of the Devil must wait.

    I am very surprised and a little saddened by the obscene lack of nice editions of the Defoe titles mentioned here.  Certainly an opportunity for a fresh Penguin Classics hardcover treatment or an enterprising young publishing house looking to be noticed.

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    The Book Nobody Read

    Will this be "the blog nobody read?"   Did this pop into my mind because it may well be the case that no one will ever read this or is this thought simply a pointer to a cherished book in my library?  I believe the latter. 

    In The Book Nobody Read, Owen Gingerich, senior astronomer emeritus at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and research professor of astronomy and the history of science at Harvard University, details his investigation of Arthur Koestler's claim in The Sleepwalkers, that no one read Copernicus's landmark book, De revolutionibus (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) when published in 1543. 

    Today, we may (or may not) recall from school, that Nicolaus Copernicus is revered as the man who once and for all proved that the earth revolves around the sun.  This, the heliocentric model, was at odds with earlier and "Vatican approved" theories arguing that the earth is stable and the sun and the heavens revolve around the earth. 

    While the initial publication of De revolutionibus did not generate much "official" attention, in 1616 during the Vatican's investigation into the heresy of Galileo, the book was censored and the original banned.  Copernicus remained on the List of Prohibited Books until 1835 even though his heliocentric theory was long since, universally accepted.   This revolution in understanding was so important in the history of science and ideas, that many a thinker has claimed to ignite their own Copernican revolution.  Very few since, have earned such acclaim.  On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres is a book that changed the world.
    I'll never own and probably will never be able to even browse a copy of the first or second edition of De Revolutionibus, but I will always enjoy Gingerich's story.  The Book Nobody Read is a chronicle and popularization of Gingerich's search, over 30 years, and study of the 600 existing copies of the first and second edition of Copernicus.  His study resulted in the publication of An Annotated Census of Copernicus' De Revolutionibus, Brill, Leiden, 2002,  402 pages.  It may be safe to say that very few if any actually read that book! For anyone who loves early printed books the opportunity to visit, handle and study all the surviving copies is as unlikely a life-goal as there could be.  Being resourced and able to visit/study every existing copy of Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, would be my quest. 

    The Book Nobody Read details the story of a "book census."  With easy access to WorldCat it is possible to discover how many copies of an early printed book (or any book) exist in cataloged book collections.  Private holdings are often hidden, but auction records and careful searches of the rare book trade can be studied to determine how many copies of a given work exist outside of cataloged library holdings.  A statistical book census is valuable for collectors and scholars.  Visiting and reviewing all known copies, more of a dream, or a life pursuit for well-funded scholar.

    My interest in Copernicus and the publication of De revolutionibus found some satisfaction in owning and reading The Book Nobody Read.  It is a treasure in my private library.  For a collector of all things Copernicus, The Book Nobody Read is a resource for further collecting.  At the least, a collector would own the actual Ginergrich census and a first edition first printing of Koestler's The Sleepwalkers.  And to the collector willing to spend serious money, congratulations and please invite me to your library so that I could actually view a copy of De revolutionibus, a book that was in fact, read and a book that changed the world.

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Veterans Day, November 11, 2010

    Every November 11, we remember and honor all of the Veterans who have served and currently serve their country.  On November 11, 1918 the Allies and Germany signed an agreement ending hostilities on the western front at eleven o'clock in the morning—the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" ending World War I.  The war to end all wars it wasn't really but the signing of the armistice ended the war and set the stage for future wars.  Today is not a celebration of War but rather a celebration of the sacrifices and glories of the men and woman everywhere who march into harms way past and present.  While we honor the memories of warriors past and warriors present we should remember that our future ought to be a future of peace.

    Instead of noting a favorite book on War, I'd rather suggest that everyone consider reading an essay published in 1795, Toward Perpetual Peace, a fairly short essay by the great German Philosopher, Immanuel Kant, my philosophical hero! The essay was motivated by the signing of the Treaty of Basel in March of 1795 between Prussia and revolutionary France.  A treaty as well, that established a basis for future war. 

    Kant's political philosophy is scattered among his writings yet his belief that reason will lead a constant progression towards a cosmopolitan world where states arise from a warlike state of nature to a state of perpetual peace still seems a worthy goal and a possible future.  While the essay itself is short and may be enjoyed without reading Kant's foundational philosophical works, it is better to acquire the essay as part of The Cambridge Editions of the Works of Immanuel Kant In Translation, General Editors Paul Guyer and Allan W. Wood, in the volume entitled Practical Philosophy, Edited by Mary J. Gregor.  After reading the essay on perpetual peace I'm certain you will feel the need to read the rest of Kant's writings on practical philosophy.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    This Recording a fine blog with a section on books

    Sometime last year, I stumbled upon, This Recording, a blog, because they had a posting on True Blood, the HBO Sookie Stackhouse Vampire Series, and I was wondering what the "cool kids" were thinking about True Blood early on.  I'm a fan of True Blood, the HBO Series but I have not read the novels. I do have a small collection of favorite Vampire novels that I will write about someday, just not including those. The writers at This Recording knew of the books and were fans of the show, with reservations.  I was quickly drawn into other posts on This Recording and I decided to follow them and see where they took me.  Before long, I was mostly interested in their posts about Books and not their seemingly endless fascination with all things Mad Men.

    I enjoy visiting This Recording especially on days when a new book posting appears.  Today, I read the posting by Alex Carnevale, Editor, concerning the newly released letters of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.  I'm not a huge fan of either and probably won't acquire a copy of the letters, but I certainly enjoyed the review by Carnevale and I tend to agree with the overall tenor of the review, that both Ginsberg and Kerouac were fatally flawed as writers and probably as humans. 

    Here is the beginning of This Recording post: it is worth reading in full and it is worth paying attention to This Recording in general.

    The Jew & The Goy

    As for all your latest Mayan discoveries and poems, I want to hear every word of it if you want to transmit, or tell when we meet, but don't expect me to get excited by anything anymore.

    The cultish obsession over Jack Kerouac, and to a lesser extent, Allen Ginsberg, has always been somewhat repulsive to me. Along with their revolting friend William Burroughs, the two shared an undeniable talent for writing, however unshapen and maladrous it was at times. Although Burroughs was the most talented of the three, they all wrote important but flawed works that undeniably captivated a great number of people.

    The recently releasedletters of Kerouac and Ginsberg, edited in a spare and mysterious fashion by Bill Morgan and David Stanford, only reinforce this view. For many writers, the details of their biographies end up overshadowing the work itself. Since the work of Jack Kerouac consisted of a lengthy exaggeration of his real life that cast it in a more appealing light, this was never much of a problem. The fact that he ignored his biological daughter and every wife he had, drank himself to death, and was largely detested by many of the people he considered his friends moves out of focus...."

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Pompeii at risk again

    While Mt. Vesuvius is still, buildings are collapsing in Pompeii.  Just yesterday the House of the Gladiator collapsed and while reports suggest some frescoes are salvageable, the house is in ruins.  The culprit today is not Mt. Vesuvius but the mis-management of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Calls are being made for Pompeii management to be turned over to a private corporation instead of the always adventurous, volcanic and often incompetent Italian Government.

    A crisis in Pompeii is an opportunity to revisit a book in my library worthy or being in every library with an interest in Pompeii, public, private, university, or specialist.  Books about Pompeii are popular for a range of book collectors and it is safe to say that a library without a book about Pompeii is a library in need of a book about Pompeii.  If you are interested in Pompeii, there is no better place to start a book collection than with Houses and Monuments of Pompeii:  The Works of Fausto and Felice Niccolini, edited by Roberto Cassanelli, Pier Luigi Ciepparelli, Enrico Colle, and Massimiliano David, with an Introduction by Stefano de Caro and translated from the Italian by Thomas M. Hartmann, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002.  I examined the Italian Edition during a visit to the Museum shop at Herculaneum in 2002 and was thrilled to see the Getty translation would soon be available.

    This large format publication offers a scholarly yet gentle introduction to the history of Pompeii with an emphasis on the publications, artists and archeologists who created the early visual records of the ruins and established a scientifically motivated approach to studying, mapping and chronicling the ruins and on the impact those attempts had on the study of ancient Roman culture, on the evolving pursuit of archeology as a science and on interior design and modern culture generally.  The illustrations are simply fabulous and it is a fascinating "fun-fact" that the original work of the Niccolini's was the first publication in Italy that used the chromolithograph method, fairly new at the time, and represented the state of the art in color printing.  What I truly love about this book is that the illustrations suggest not only the grandeur of the ruins as we see them now, but the rich colors that once decorated the exteriors and interiors.  While contemporary neo-classical architecture relies on white marble exteriors, the ancients used color to decorate building exteriors, and with this book, you will experience Pompeii as it looked before the eruption.  I remain amazed every time I browse through and study the illustrations.

    Today I am saddened to think that the "Fresco Portraying the Famous Brawl Between the Pompeians and the Nucerians in the Amphitheater Discovered in the House of the Gladiator Actius Anicetus"  may well be destroyed forever.  I can't reproduce the image from the book here, but do get a copy and turn to page 101!

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Deckle Edge Paper

    While looking up the ISBN of a recently acquired book, Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, newly translated by Richard Prevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, Pantheon, 2010, I noticed something new on Amazon, a helpful educational feature associated with the book, itself, the definition of "Deckle Edge Paper." 

    I will never claim to understand the database foundations in Amazon World, but with this title, the database publishes the fact (or is it a feature) that the book is Deckle Edge. The title line from Amazon is Dr. Zhivago [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover].  I didn't notice that characteristic either at the bookstore or when I pulled up the book on Amazon until I noticed in an information box under the basic book a helpful definition of deckle edge paper from Amazon:

    This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
    You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. 

    Well, okay and of course!  I think it is a great new feature of Amazon.  A little book education goes a long way.  Are you willing to pay a premium for deckle edge?  I wonder if book collectors will add a new sub-definition to the basic disorder of mind.....A Collection of Machine Made Books with Deckle Edge?  Could happen but better the basic education of book terms is a good in itself.

    I'm certainly happy to have the new translation for a multitude of reasons that illustrate the level of addiction to book collecting manifest in me:  I loved the original novel in translation, I love the movie, I collect banned books, this an example of Banned Books Soviet Style, I figure that having a first printing of this translation will be good once I acquire the first printing of the 1958 translation, I've been thinking about re-reading Dr. Zhivago for the past couple of years, I enjoy fiction, Russian style, I'm crazy.

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    About my Profile Image

    Book collecting, at least in my case, is varied in direction, focus, obsession, level of scholarship and result.  A defining element of my character is my love of research, pure and simple.  Unfortunately, book collecting is one area where the infinity of pathways that arise when researching ensures that I will never know everything I want or should know.  When systematic analysis and research fails, you just have to sometimes rely on pure, simple, dumb luck.

    In May of 2009, after a 25 year run, I left my last publishing gig to pursue something else with my life and mind.  My initial intent was to figure out a way to carve out a space for myself in the general area of rare book collecting, turning a passion into a profession as the saying goes.  I established some general parameters and started developing a plan.  Where else to start but choosing a name for my new business.  I have always been a reader and book buyer but it only became more a disorder of mind when I began a continuing interest in the books and writing of Henry Miller.  I was introduced to Miller via The Tropic Of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn (a subject of future posts).  After reading both, I started to delve more deeply into Miller's oeuvre and next read The Books In My Life (New Directions, New York, 1952).  This is a book that changed my life or at least acted as the gateway drug for my enduring book addiction.

    Miller's memoir of the books in his life reinforced my opinion that what we read, along with what else we experience, determines who we are as a truly unique person.  It also provided me a fresh list of books I must read and eventually acquire for my private library.  The first book on my new reading list was Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel.  How Rabelais had never been on my radar after years of first rate liberal arts education remains a grand mystery.  Years later all I have to do is think "Rabelais" and I start to laugh at myself and the world, "Live Happy" is a great life motto!  If I was going to build a future around books, book collecting and private libraries, The Books In My Life would be the name for my business and Rabelais would be the little voice in my head reminding me to have fun with it.

    Once the name was set, I needed to find an image to define the look, feel and secret ethos for my new future.  Choosing the image seemed a daunting task at the time.  A picture of my library?  The cover image from Miller's The Books In My Life?  A custom image created specifically for me?  As my thinking evolved and while looking at my bookshelves, I realized that the image was right there, I'll simply take a photo of the spine illustration of the 5 volume Limited Edition Club edition of Gargantua and Pantagruel.  The Limited Edition Club edition, published in 1936, designed by D.W. Dwiggins, the master book designer, type designer, and revered book man of 20th century American publishing, especially in New England, was a perfect choice.  Not only would I use a photo of the spines as my image, I would acquire the font, Electra, designed by Dwiggins especially for this edition, as the font for everything I write about my business.  A perfect coordination, a business name, an image, a font, all with special meaning to me and all with special meaning, or at worst, specialist meaning in the world of great authors, book collecting and reading.  I used this image for my initial business cards and letter head:

    Not a great image but it had the special elements I wanted.  I was ready to move along and ordered business cards.

    A few months later, armed with business cards and a few ideas, I prepared to attend the 33rd Annual Boston International Antiquarian (ABAA) Book Fair, a very important event for me and my evolving ideas concerning my future.  I had not attended the Boston Fair for perhaps 10 years because of conflicts with various scholarly conferences I attended for my publishing work.  With the beginnings of an idea, a passion for book collecting and a willingness to start somewhere, my wife, Anne and I, headed into Boston where I expected to basically "work the floor" at the show, introduce myself to the esteemed book dealers, and start to test my ideas of how to join the battle.

    My one concrete goal was to meet certain dealers who were active in book blogging and the still newish, social media world of Twitter and Facebook.  Number 1on that list was  Lux Mentis of Portland, Maine, to meet Ian Kahn the proprietor and active rare book blogger.  After visiting the first row of the exhibit hall, Anne and I turned corner and found ourselves at the Lux Mentis booth.  Anne, without knowing my goals, started looking around without pressure, while I was trying to survey the books, determine how I would start a conversation with Mr. Kahn, and feeling a wee bit overwhelmed by how unprepared I really was to just jump into this madness.  Within a few minutes, Anne exclaimed, "Oh, my God, Tom look at this!"  And what was I too see but the image of my treasured Rabelais spine.  Yes, the actual printer's proof of the spine illustration, prepared for the Limited Edition Club edition of Gargantua and Pantagruel hanging on the wall of the booth, behind glass in a simple plastic frame, I believe the asking price was $525.  While my heart began to race with excitement,  Anne's excitement caught the attention of Ian Kahn and he quickly pounced, ready to make a sale. 

    The show had just opened, it was preview night, I don't ever like to tip my hand when negotiating for a book purchase (or anything else for that matter) and there I find myself, sharing in Anne's excitement yet horrified that Mr. Kahn was closing us on a sale.  I initially tried to calm the situation and establish some type of control.  Not that I didn't want the image, I was just not ready to make a snap decision.  I don't do snap decisions unless they come from the natural instinct of flight or fight.  Anne kept encouraging me to buy, Ian kept encouraging Anne, I kept stuttering, trying to gain control.  Finally, I was able to start a proper introduction and show Ian my business card with that iconic image.  At that point he realized that this sale would be one of his easiest at the show.  We chatted, he gave me some quick insight into the business and before long, we gave him a check for the image.  A one of a kind piece of book history is now safely stored in the private library of Anne and Tom Stone and the Dwiggins designed illustration sets the tone for my blog, consulting practice and dream to successfully grow, The Books In My Life.

    Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel, To My Readers:

    Dear Friends and readers who may scan these tomes,
    Lay by all sense of prejudiced objection,
    My pages bring no virus or infection
    Across the thresholds of your virtuous homes.
    True they can teach you only scant perfection
    Save laughter's joys-though I confess I find
    No theme more welcome to my heart and mind,
    As I observe your melancholy fears,
    Your gib-cat airs, you saturnine dejection....
    Better to write of laughter than of tears,
    For Laughter is the essence of mankind.



    In Honor of Election Day 2010

    On this midterm election day, 2010, my thoughts are difficult to focus. I've done my civic duty and voted, even though I am sceptical concerning the value of any one individual vote and the rationality of actually bothering to spend time educating myself and going to vote,  the free rider problem and  collective action being what they are.  I voted and now I await the close of the polls, the results, the spin and some fine Chivas Regal.  An election day tradition. 

    Problem is that I can't really accomplish much until the polls close.  What better way to retain some level of productivity then to write about two authors who contributed histories of elections past that I believe belong in any private library with a political interest, Theodore H. White and Hunter S. Thompson.  I admit to not owning even reading copies today because the books that follow are perpetually on my want list and I just want, the first edition first printing.  The ideas and the experience of reading White and Thompson are now part of my soul, the objects will someday be part of my collection.

    Theodore H. White (1915-1986) born in Boston, graduated from Harvard in 1938 and was hired to be an East Asia correspondent for Time magazine based in China.  He quit that posting after an argument with Henry Luce in 1945 but published a controversial and insightful history of China during World War II era and the associated American China Policy of that period, Thunder Out Of China.

    This first book led to a distinguished career and a Pulitzer Prize in 1962 for his landmark, The Making of the President 1960, the first in a series including, The Making of the President, 1964, The Making of the President 1968, and the Making of the President 1972.  These are without a doubt, the books that early in my education, impacted my study of the American electoral "great game."  White's combination of journalistic reporting of events as they happen, along with a keen eye for the history being made with those events, results in a combination of political reporting and historical insight unmatched since.  Each book in the Making of the Presidents series is valuable to read for anyone seriously interested in the American practice of politics, especially Presidential politics.  All title in this series were originally published by Atheneum, New York and are more difficult to find than expected! As I started to think about White and The Making of the President I noticed that Harper Perennial has just completed a re-release of all four titles in paperback.  If you haven't read these get them now and start!

    The Making of the President 1960 (Harper Perennial Political Classics)

    The Making of the President 1964

    The Making of the President 1968

    The Making of the President 1972

    While I consider White's, The Making of the President, the gold standard for contemporary reporting on Presidential elections, Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 72 (Straight Arrow Books, San Francisco, 1973) reminds us that politics, as practiced in the good old USA is most often a pure and simple comedy.  Coverage of the 2010 Midterm elections has provided much entertainment and associated madness and reinforces my sadness that no one has taken the banner from Hunter S. Thompson to further the gonzo journalism he pioneered.  In the age of Twitter and Facebook I simply long for the courage and insanity that Hunter S. brought to American political reporting.  Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, 1972, along with Thompson's other classics, (Hell's Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas......) provide a counterweight to the self-importance of our political class.  Unlike, White's, The Making of the President, acquiring a first edition of Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 72, is a much more serious investment.  Luckily many reasonably priced paperbacks are still in print.