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Exploring Americana: Georg Rapp, Peter Kaufmann, and the Harmony Society

By Kristin Masters. Jan 31, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, American Literature, History

On February 15, 1805, Georg Rapp and his followers formally established the Harmony Society in the United States. With roots in Germany, the religious group eventually came to dominate the economy of Pittsburgh and the Ohio River Valley. The Harmony Society's long history also intersects with those of Peter Kaufmann and Robert Owen.


The Literary Legacy of Randolph Caldecott

By Lauren Corba. Jan 30, 2014. 4:30 PM.

Topics: Caldecott Medal, Children's Books

One of the greatest English illustrators of the 19th century, Randolph Caldecott was born on March 22, 1846, in Chester, England. He was the third child of John and Mary Caldecott and took an interest in drawing animals at a young age. He finished school by age 15 and started working for Whitchurch & Ellesmere Bank. In his free time between clients, he would ride his horse along the countryside. These rides would spark a newfound interest in hunting, which would influence his nature drawings. Illustrated London News (1861) was the first to publish one of Caldecott’s sketches. He depicted a fire at the Queen Railway Hotel both with words and an illustration.


The Iconic and Groundbreaking Photography of Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley

By Kristin Masters. Jan 29, 2014. 1:43 PM.

Topics: Caldecott Medal, Children's Books, History

"Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated., When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind." -Wilson Bentley (1925)


The First Caldecott Winner, Animals of the Bible

By Lauren Corba. Jan 28, 2014. 5:33 PM.

Topics: Caldecott Medal, Children's Books

The first book chosen for the Caldecott Medal as the “most distinguished picture book for children” is titled Animals of the Bible, introduction by Helen Dean Fish, illustrated by Dorothy Lathrop.

Helen Dean Fish was born on February 7, 1889 in Hempstead, Long Island, New York. She attended Wesley College, where she graduated in 1912. After graduation, she taught at a private school for girls in Asheville, North Carolina. She continued her graduate studies at Radcliffe College to study playwriting. She was hired by Fredrick A. Stoke’s publishing company in 1917, where she would work at for the rest of her life. Fish started out as a manuscript reader, however, several years later she was made the company’s first children’s book editor. Some of her greatest accomplishments include editing Story of Doctor Dolittle (Hugh Lofting, 1920), When the Root Children Wake Up (Sybille von Olfer, 1906), and mentoring Loris Lenski—author of Strawberry Girl (1945) and awarded the Newbery Medal in 1946.


Congratulations to This Year's Newbery and Caldecott Winners!

By Kristin Masters. Jan 27, 2014. 3:34 PM.

Topics: Caldecott Medal, Children's Books, Newbery Award

Today at a convention in Philadelphia, the American Library Association announced the winners of the Newbery Medal and Caldecott Medal. Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery for a second time, while Brian Floca took home this year's Caldecott. 


Who Really Inspired Lewis Carroll's 'Alice' Characters?

By Kristin Masters. Jan 27, 2014. 1:25 PM.

Topics: Children's Books

Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, always denied that the characters in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871) were based on real people. But the author traveled in relatively tight social and academic circles; he likely obscured his inspirations both for his own sake and for the sake of his associates. Dodgson's first tale of Alice was actually a yarn he spun for three little girls and later wrote down. The original story clearly contained harmless inside jokes that gently poked fun at people in the girls' lives. Dodgson's stories are much more personal than he let on, and scholars still speculate about the real people and events that may have inspired him.


Virginia Woolf's Literary Legacy

By Carrie Scott. Jan 24, 2014. 8:34 PM.

Topics: Legendary Authors

"Books are the mirror of the soul."  -Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf, born Adeline Virginia Woolf on January 25, 1882, ended her prolific life on March 28, 1941 by filling her overcoat pockets with rocks and drowning herself in the current of the River Ouse near her home at the age of 59. She's remembered for having brilliantly mastered the art of writing in essays, novels, and letters. Woolf was also a passionate literary critic and an avid diarist. 


Edith Wharton, Legendary American Author and Designer

By Anne Cullison. Jan 22, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Pulitzer Prize, American Literature

Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, Edith Warton was born on January 24, 1862 into the family of George Frederic Jones and Lucretia Stevens Rhinelander in New York City. Her family was incredibly wealthy and was said to have been the family upon which the phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” originated. As a result of this wealth, Wharton enjoyed a privileged upbringing and traveled extensively throughout Europe a member of Society at every turn, this led to a writing style which through its use of dramatic irony was supremely critical of the upper class and its way of life.


Lord Byron, Hero of the Romantics--and the Greeks

By Andrea Koczela. Jan 20, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book History

“That man of loneliness and mystery,
Scarce seen to smile, and seldom heard to sigh”
-The Corsair


Celebrated English poet and leader of the Romantic movement, George Gordon Byron, is as well known for his personal life as for his poetry Byron famously embodied the Romantic hero, and influenced countless other writers including Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Emily Brontë, and Alexander Pushkin.


Buzz Aldrin, Authorial Astronaut

By Jennifer Michelle. Jan 18, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, Science

Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr. was born January 20, 1930 to a career military man and his wife Marion. Nicknamed “Buzz” when his sister called him “buzzer” instead of “brother,” he served in combat during the Korean War as an Air Force fighter pilot and went on to become the second human to walk on the surface of the moon.


Celebrating Intrepid Journalist Sebastian Junger

By Dawn Morgan. Jan 16, 2014. 10:00 AM.

Best selling author and award winning journalist and documentarian Sebastian Junger was born January 17, 1962 in Belmont, Massachusetts and is a graduate of Wesleyan University. He has covered the world's worst humanitarian crises and conflicts for Vanity Fair and ABC News, and his work has been published in Harper’s, the New York Times Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Outside, Men’s Journal, and more.


Maurice Herzog's Ascent to Best Seller in 28,545 Feet

By Anne Cullison. Jan 14, 2014. 8:00 AM.

Topics: Biographies

When you think of a great read, you probably don't think about mountaineering, but Maurice Herzog’s account of his climb of Annapurna, the world’s tenth highest peak, is acclaimed as one of the best sports books ever written. It's also the bestselling mountaineering book ever written and figures prominently into many a sports- or mountaineering-focused collection.


Anchee Min's Journey from Communist China to Bestselling Authorship

By Lauren Corba. Jan 13, 2014. 3:00 PM.

Born on January 14, 1957, Anchee Min was raised in Shanghai, China, learning how to write “Long live Chairman Mao” before writing her own name. Growing up believing in power of Communism and Mao, she was torn at a young age, being forced to testify against one of her beloved school teachers for her reconnaissance. She excelled in school, especially writing. However, at the age of seventeen, she was sent away to work in a labor camp. This camp not only damaged her physically—injuring her spinal cord severely—she was brutally impaired mentally as well; restricting her ability to read, write, and dress the way she wanted. Feeling as if she was to be trapped there forever, she was finally released when she was discovered by talent scouts while working in a cotton field. The talent agents were looking to create a propaganda film for Madame Mao and Min was selected due to her “proletarian” appearance.

However, before the film was finished, Chairman Mao passed away and his wife, Jiang Qing was blamed for the uprisings that followed and was arrested and sentenced to death. Min’s association to the Mao organization through the film labeled her as an outcast from society and she was bullied and forced to mentally reform herself to think along the same lines as the rest of society.


Hugh Lofting: Into the Minds of Animals

By Kristin Wood. Jan 13, 2014. 8:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books

No childhood could be complete without a good helping of talking animals, whether they appear in books, TV shows, movies, or theater productions. While chatty squirrels and dogs are the norm in today's children's stories, one trailblazer stands out from the past: Hugh Lofting, the imaginative mind behind Doctor Doolittle. In his classic works, the titular character is a doctor who exclusively treats animals after discovering his unique ability to communicate with them. The stories began as children's books, but they have been repeatedly adapted for screen, stage, and radio.


Hendrik Willem van Loon: An Imaginative Look at History

By Kristin Wood. Jan 12, 2014. 10:13 AM.

Hendrik Willem van Loon had a distinct ability to take dry, historical facts, and make them come alive for his young readers. He published over 50 works in his lifetime, most of it nonfiction targeted at children and young adults. He also illustrated many of his works himself. Van Loon was awarded the first Newbery Medal in December of 1922.


The Dichotomy: Amanda Cross and Carolyn Heilbrun

By Jennifer Michelle. Jan 11, 2014. 8:00 AM.

Carolyn Gold Heilbrun was an English professor at Columbia University, the author of fourteen mystery novels written under the pseudonym Amanda Cross, and a mother of three successful children. On October 9, 2003, she finished her morning routine of reading and writing, took a walk around Central Park with a close friend, and sent a series of emails to colleagues. Then she ingested an overdose of pills and covered her head with a plastic bag until she died.


Art, Science, and the Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault

By Jennifer Michelle. Jan 10, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books

Charles Perrault (January 12, 1628 – May 16, 1703) was the most influential Frenchman you’ve never heard of. As secretary to Jean Baptiste Colbert, Louis the Great’s Minister of Finance, Perrault was responsible for matters of French arts and sciences for over twenty years. He used his influence to achieve both personal and nationalistic goals, eventually laying the foundation for an entire genre of literature.


Are You Rolling On the Floor Yet?

By Kristin Masters. Jan 8, 2014. 6:04 PM.

As we welcome 2014, we're also looking back at 2013. Thanks to you, it's been a terrific year here on our blog, over on Google+, and on our Facebook page! Here's a look back at some of the most popular Facebook posts of 2013. 


Simone de Beauvoir, Feminist and Philosopher

By Andrea Koczela. Jan 8, 2014. 8:00 AM.

Simone-Lucie-Ernestine-Marie de Beauvoir is remembered as an eminent French philosopher, writer, and feminist. She is best known for her books, She Came to Stay (1943), The Second Sex (1949), and The Mandarins (1954). Beauvoir is also famous for her lifelong relationship with legendary dramatist Jean-Paul Sartre.


Terry Brooks, Epic Fantasy Author

By Anne Cullison. Jan 7, 2014. 8:00 AM.

Topics: Science Fiction

Terence Dean Brooks, better known as Terry, was born on January 8, 1944 in the rural Midwestern town of Sterling, Illinois. It was in this rural town that Brooks spent much of his formative years. Without much else to do, he spent the majority of his time relaxing in Sinnissippi Park and day dreaming up the stories that would one day make him a bestselling author. This park would eventually become the setting for his Word & Void trilogy.


EL Doctorow, the National Treasure of American Letters

By Dawn Morgan. Jan 6, 2014. 6:33 PM.

American writer EL Doctorow was born on January 6, 1931 and passed away on July 21, 2015. He has been called a master of historical fiction, and is a rarity in the modern literary world for also being a commercial success. 

Doctorow was born in New York to Russian American parents, attended public high school. He then studied philosophy at Kenyon College, where he studied under writer and critic John Crowe Ransom. 


Bringing the Novel Alive: Dennis Wheatley

By Lauren Corba. Jan 6, 2014. 8:30 AM.

Topics: James Bond

How often does a wine merchant become a bestselling author and thwart one of world history's most notorious villains? Such was the unlikely career of Dennis Wheatley, the author who dazzled readers with thrilling tales of intrigue. He would later use those same magnificent storytelling skills to weave a plot even Hitler couldn't ignore. 


Zora Neale Hurston: Ahead of Her Time

By Jennifer Michelle. Jan 5, 2014. 4:00 PM.

More than fifty years after her death, the world is finally catching up with Zora Neale Hurston. The independent and engaging African-American feminist was born on January 7, 1891 and grew up in the small African-American community of Eatonville, Florida. She was not exposed to the inequities of racism in the South as a child, or limited by the expectations of black literary movements in the 1920s as a young woman. Hurston wrote her novels, folklore, short stories, and essays not as a crusading pioneer, but as an anthropologist, an intellectual, and a lover.


How Does One Collect the Books of a Great Collector Like Umberto Eco?

By Kristin Masters. Jan 5, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Umberto Eco, Book Collecting

Born on January 5, 1932 in Alessandria, Italy, Umberto Eco is one of the world's most prolific legendary authors. His family name is supposedly an acronym for Ex caelis oblatus ("A gift from heaven,") and was given to Eco's foundling grandfather by a city official. Eco's father was one of thirteen children. He urged his son to pursue a career in law: stable, lucrative, and prestigious. But Eco had other ideas. His career has led him to philosophy, semiotics, and literature. 

Eco is a collector of books himself, and he's built an enviable personal library of over 50,000 books. His philosophy of collecting is, however, a bit different than that of most rare book collectors. Eco views his library as a tool for research and information, and he values it not for the books he's already read, but for those that he has not yet read. To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Beinecke Library, he delivered an excellent lecture on the library as a model for culture at Yale University this past fall. 


How Well Do You Really Know Grimm's Fairy Tales?

By Carrie Scott. Jan 4, 2014. 9:59 PM.

On January 4, 1785, Jacob Grimm was born in Hesse-Kassel. Though he was both a mythologist and a philologist, he's remembered best as one half of the Brothers Grimm. The brothers traveled around collecting and recording folktales, which have been translated countless times and adapted into some of today's most beloved children's stories. But these adaptations often bear little resemblance to their roots, which are, indeed, quite grim (pun entirely intended...) These tales express fundamental ideas and reactions to the human experience, including hopes and joys, fears and sorrows, cruelty and harshness often censured by parents of today’s children.


Isaac Asimov, Legendary Author of Science Fiction

By Kristin Masters. Jan 2, 2014. 10:04 AM.

Topics: Science, Science Fiction

Isaac Asimov, legendary author of science fiction, celebrated his birthday on January 2. Born Isaak Yudovich Osimov in Petrovichi, Russia around January 2, 1920, Asimov immigrated to Brooklyn, New York with his family. Asimov would always retain a strong New York accent, a feature just as distinctive as his legendary mutton chops. The author is less well known for his flying phobia and using the nom de plume Paul French. 


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How can I identify a first edition? Where do I learn about caring for books? How should I start collecting? Hear from librarians about amazing collections, learn about historic bindings or printing techniques, get to know other collectors. Whether you are just starting or looking for expert advice, chances are, you'll find something of interest on blogis librorum.

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