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Emile Zola's Twenty-Novel Experiment

By Matt Reimann. Mar 31, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Literature

It’s exciting to read a series of books. Nothing beats the feeling of finishing a great book and diving enthusiastically into its sequel. Beyond entertainment and intellectual nourishment, reading a series is also a point of pride. To finish an entire trilogy, or a five-book or seven-book anthology is a feat of discipline worthy of admiration. Yet as far as book series go, not many can beat Emile Zola’s naturalist collection Les Rougon-Macquart, an ambitious literary cycle made up of twenty separate books.


Four of the Earliest (and Most Remarkable) Publisher's Dust Jackets

By Andrea Koczela. Mar 30, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Dust Jackets

The subject of early dust jackets has been somewhat neglected in bookish circles. After all, how can plain (and often tattered) paper compete with a beautiful binding beneath? Yet early dust jackets have an important place in book history, one full of uncertainty and mystery. Initially, dust jackets were intended to be disposable and thus, most were discarded and destroyed. Few early examples now remain and no one knows with any certainty when dust jackets were first produced by publishers. Moreover, even in cases where early examples have survived, many later disappeared again and remain lost to this day. Below, we detail four of the earliest (and most remarkable) publisher's dust jackets.


Andrew Lang: Rooted in Children's Books, Fairies, and Anthropology

By Brian Hoey. Mar 29, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books

Given that he is hardly a household name these days, it is easy to say that 19th Century Scottish historian, writer, and intellectual Andrew Lang deserves more recognition for his contributions to modern scholarship. Were it simply for the fact that the man’s Curriculum Vitae is stunningly long and varied, it might not seem like such a tragedy that Lang hasn’t even a Facebook fan-page to his name. The fact of the matter, however, is that without Lang’s influence, lasting damage might have been done to the field of anthropology.


Ian Fleming and the Thunderball Court Case

By Neely Simpson. Mar 28, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: James Bond, Movie Tie-Ins

Ian Fleming began writing the ninth James Bond novel, Thunderball, in January of 1961 from his Jamaican home, Goldeneye Estate. His health was failing due to heart disease, and he was feeling burned out on Bond. So, for inspiration, he turned to a James Bond screenplay he'd worked on in 1958 in collaboration with Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, and Ivar Bryce. When Thunderball was published in March of 1961, Fleming failed to credit his collaborators for the part they'd played in the creation of the novel and found himself at the center of a SMERSH-sized lawsuit for plagiarism.


Literature and Dictatorship in the Dominican Republic

By Audrey Golden. Mar 27, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Book History, History

What can fiction teach us about political resistance during times of tyranny? While the twentieth century alone has borne witness to acts of terror and dictatorship across the globe, numerous writers have addressed the violence that took place at mid-century in the Dominican Republic. From 1930 to 1961, the country struggled under the dictatorship of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina, often referred to simply as “El Jefe.”


Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie has been a prolific writer of fiction and poetry for more than twenty years. His works have won numerous awards and have been translated for non-English speaking readers across the world. You may know him as a famous Native American author, but what else should you know about Sherman Alexie? In addition to the fact that he has recently published works of both fiction and poetry (don’t miss Blasphemy or What I’ve Stolen, What I’ve Earned), here are some more facts you may not have known about Sherman Alexie.


Small Publishers - Champions of Classic, Strange, and Fine Press Books

By Ben Keefe. Mar 25, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Fine Press, Book Making, Learn About Books

Think of your favorite bookstore. Most likely there’s a section in the store labeled “New Releases.” Here you can find titles from authors that any casual reader will recognize: James Patterson, Stephen King, Janet Evanovich. These books are produced and promoted by their publishing companies which are, especially in the case of those three, very recognizable. However, there is a sea of smaller publishers whose books are worthy of the same limelight. These lesser-known companies produce beautifully bound books, forgotten gems and off-the-beaten-path novels. Here is a selection of small publishers that care passionately about books and often express that love in unique and interesting ways.


Flannery O’Connor and the Civil Rights South

By Audrey Golden. Mar 23, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, American Literature, Biographies

By all accounts, Flannery O’Connor didn’t have much of an activist voice in the American Civil Rights Movement despite her role as a prominent Southern novelist and short-story writer. How, then, might we read her works in a 21st-century context? Should we believe the gossip—that she didn’t have much good to say about broadening the country’s conception of equality—even though she appeared to be in favor of integration in her fiction? Many scholars have debated O’Connor’s position with regard to the racial justice, but how should we ultimately remember the author who died just a month after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 went into effect?


Libraries and Special Collections: An Interview with Cristina Favretto

Cristina Favretto has served as a special collections librarian at a number of institutions throughout her career. She is currently the Head of Special Collections at the University of Miami; her previous positions include: Director of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture at Duke University, Curator of Rare Books at UCLA, and Head of Special Collections at San Diego State University. Cristina's goal as a librarian is to build excellent, meaningful collections that are open and significant to the public. She has generously shared her collecting experiences with us in the following interview:


LGBT Activism in the San Francisco Poetry Scene

By Audrey Golden. Mar 21, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, Poetry, Book History

San Francisco has a long history of activism, and in many ways the city has served as a literal and metaphorical center of postwar LGBT rights struggles. Yet the Bay Area also has an important reputation as the heart of modern and contemporary poetry. Kenneth Rexroth is credited with starting the San Francisco Renaissance in the 1940s, and he famously organized one of the first modern poetry festivals at the Lucien Labaudt Gallery in San Francisco around the same time. Shortly thereafter, Lawrence Ferlinghetti moved to the city and opened City Lights Bookstore in 1953. The now-famous shop went on to publish—and continues to do so—some of the most famous works of contemporary American literature.


From Homer to Borges: A List of Blind Writers

By Matt Reimann. Mar 20, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors

If there’s one thing an author might fear losing, it’s her eyesight. How can a writer continue to work having lost the faculty to see the sliding of the pen or the movement of letters across the screen? Reading, too, becomes a struggle, forcing the author to depend on books being read aloud or to learn a tactile writing system like Braille. For some legendary authors like James Joyce, loss of sight is a terrible obstacle, while for others it’s a changing force, one that ultimately becomes integral to the work and creativity of the author.


A Recent History of Children's Literature in America

By Katie Behrens. Mar 19, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Book History

The genre of children’s literature really must be considered a recent invention, for it's only in the past 300 years that childhood has been set apart as an influential time in human development. For most of human history, children were treated as small adults. Like a snowball rolling downhill, children's literature started slowly and built itself into the multi-million dollar market we know today.


James Joyce on Henrik Ibsen: When Genius Recognizes Genius

By Brian Hoey. Mar 18, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Drama

In 1901, a young James Joyce was rapidly approaching the end of his studies at Trinity College, Dublin. A quick glance at the legendary author’s corpus, and it is easy enough to discern what he must have studied at school. Traces of St Augustine can be identified throughout his beloved bildungsroman A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), just as a familiarity with Homeric epics must have been a necessity for his great undertaking, Ulysses (1922). These pieces were no doubt common to the reading lists of many of that era’s scholars. Where Joyce’s education may have departed slightly from the norm, however, was in his decision to study the Dano-Norwegian language. While Dano-Norwegian might not have the pedigree of Latin or Greek, or the immediately associated classics of most romance languages, it had one significant draw for the young James Joyce: Henrik Ibsen.


Sex, Trash, and Eminem: Five Interesting Facts About John Updike

By Brian Hoey. Mar 16, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

Throughout the canon of twentieth century American literature, there is no author whose greatness is as hotly contested as that of John Updike. While his skill as a prose stylist is almost universally acknowledged, a dozen critics will give a dozen different viewpoints on whether beautiful prose is enough for a literary work and whether said prose is really all Updike gave his readers. Regardless of whether Updike is, as Harold Bloom asserts, “a minor novelist with a major style,” or, as Philip Roth contends, the 20th Century’s Nathanial Hawthorne, the prolific writer’s impact on American letters is wide-reaching and palpable. Here are five interesting facts about one of the last century’s most vital writers.


Libraries and Special Collections: The Chester Beatty Library

You may be surprised to learn that one of the most premiere collections of ancient books, scrolls, and manuscripts from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East is located in Dublin, Ireland. I happened to stumble upon the incredible wealth of the Chester Beatty Library by accident when traveling, and it remains one of the best museum experiences of my life. Tucked away in Dublin Castle, this is one stop not to be missed by any bibliophile.


Caring for Rare Books Bound in Vellum

By Matt Reimann. Mar 14, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Book Care, Learn About Books

Vellum is a printing material which was used as early as 2000 BC. It frequently appears in old, rare books as well as maps, deeds, and other important documents. It is valued for its distinct feel and assumed nobility. Gutenberg printed bibles with it; the Declaration of Independence is written on it; and the UK still prints its Acts of Parliament on vellum for archival purposes. Read on for a brief history of vellum and some insight into vellum preservation best practices.


A Glossary of Book Terms Part II: The Art of the Book

By Katie Behrens. Mar 13, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Learn About Books

The vocabulary of the rare book world can be daunting, especially for new collectors. In this series of blog posts, we attempt to explain and illustrate some of the basic terminology. Our last post focused on the anatomy of a book; here we turn our attention to printmaking and decorative features. 


A Writer with a Gun: Ambrose Bierce and American Short Stories

By Ben Keefe. Mar 12, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, American Literature

Ambrose Bierce caused quite a ruckus as a writer. Public opinion surrounding the man can be summed up in one fact: he carried a gun to ward off detractors. Bierce was sarcastic, brutally tasteless and very good at not making friends. He was also a fantastic wordsmith. For being such a divisive public figure, he backed it up with a commitment to his craft. His extensive repertoire covered all facets of prose from journalism to poetry and most famously, short stories. Bierce’s trailblazing life would end under mysterious circumstances in Mexico. To this day no one knows exactly how Bierce died, but his life is a story worth telling.


Poetry: All in the Family for Stephen Vincent Benét

By Neely Simpson. Mar 11, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Pulitzer Prize

Poetry seems to have been woven into the DNA of Stephen Vincent Benét. Born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on July 22, 1898, Benét was the youngest child of Colonel James Walker Benét and Frances Neill Rose Benét. Both of the elder Benéts were avid readers with a keen appreciation for poetry. Frances Benét herself wrote poetry, and Stephen said of his father, "[he] was interested in everything from Byzantine Emperors to the development of heavy ordnance and was the finest critic of poetry I have ever known."


Sir Thomas Malory: Arbiter of English Mythology?

By Brian Hoey. Mar 10, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Science Fiction

It seems a bit odd that J.R.R. Tolkien, in The Lord of the Rings (1954, '54, '55) and The Hobbit (1937), sought to craft a distinctly English mythology, when by all accounts such a thing already existed. The stories that comprise the King Arthur legend have circulated in France and England since the Middle Ages. Films that depict mythic tropes likes the sword in the stone and the famed round table run the gamut of decades and genres. As such, they've generated classics of children’s cinema (1963's "The Sword in the Stone") and absurdist comedy (1975's "Monty Python and the Holy Grail") alike. And yet, little is known about the man who first put these myths to paper in English: Sir Thomas Malory.


Join Us at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair!

By Andrea Koczela. Mar 9, 2015. 11:30 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Book News

There are just a few days left before the 34th annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair--and we at Books Tell You Why are looking forward to more than just the sunshine. It's the oldest book fair in the Southeastern United States, and it never fails to provide fascinating books and literary conversation. If you find yourself in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area between March 13-15, be sure to stop by. We'll even provide you with free tickets.


Douglas Adams: Turning Science Fiction into Comedy

By Katie Behrens. Mar 9, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Science Fiction

It’s a well-told story: a man is hitchhiking his way across Europe, has a few too many pints at the pub, lies down in a field, looks up at the stars, and thinks, “Hey, someone should write a guide to hitchhiking across space!” The British writer Douglas Adams (1952-2001) admitted that he’d told the story so many times, he wasn’t completely sure which parts were true and which were embellished. 


James Bond and the Recusant Catholic Connection

By Brian Hoey. Mar 8, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: James Bond

On the occasion of its release in 2012, the James Bond film, Skyfall made quite an impression. Not only did it accomplish the sizable feat of breaking new thematic and emotional ground in a series that stretches back more than five decades, but it also managed to subtly reveal new information about James Bond’s notoriously obscure background.


A Collection of Bookish Humor

By Matt Reimann. Mar 7, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

In need of a laugh today? You're in luck--we've compiled a list of some of our favorite literary jokes and puns. Peruse witticisms by such greats as Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and even Flannery O'Connor. We hope that you'll be amused by our selection of literary humor and then, perhaps, share your own favorites in the comments below. Enjoy!


Bret Easton Ellis and the Darker Side of Literary Fiction

By Katie Behrens. Mar 6, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Horror, Literature, Biographies, Movie Tie-Ins

There are writers who revel in the sophisticated circles of the literary world – attending parties in New York, rubbing elbows with publishers, blurbing the books of debut authors. And then there are writers like Bret Easton Ellis who could not care less. Ellis has come to be known as a sort of “bad boy” of literary fiction. His novels are dark, disturbing, and populated by characters filled with malaise.


Case Studies in Collecting: Louisa May Alcott

By Audrey Golden. Mar 5, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Book Collecting, Dust Jackets

For many readers, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women was a powerful novel. Despite the fact that most of her works were published nearly 150 years ago, they feel strikingly modern and relevant. Whether you’re interested in collecting early dust-jacketed editions of some of Alcott’s most famous novels or rare literary magazines containing contributions from the writer, you may not need to look too far.


A Brief History of Book Auctions

By Matt Reimann. Mar 4, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Book History, History

While the book has been around for millennia, the practice of selling them at auction is relatively new. By most accounts, the first book auctions occurred in the Low Countries in the late sixteenth century. To understand why the rise of the book auction happened at this time, it is essential to remember that the printing press was invented the century before. While the onset of book auctions saw its fair share of detractors, the practice has continued through today.


Announcing a New Internship Opportunity

By Andrea Koczela. Mar 3, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Book News

Announcing an exciting opportunity for college students and recent graduates: Books Tell You Why is accepting applications for a social media and marketing internship! Our program will provide hands on training with cutting edge software as well as experience with social media, marketing, and rare books. Best of all, it's remote.


Libraries and Special Collections: The Old Library & The Book of Kells

By Katie Behrens. Mar 2, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book History, Libraries & Special Collections

Today’s featured library is both one of the world’s most beautiful libraries and the permanent location of a very noteworthy book: the Book of Kells. This 1,200 year old collection of Christian Gospels is famous for its intricate and sometimes puzzling illustrations. Distinctly Irish in design and amazingly preserved, the Book of Kells is held and displayed at the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin.


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About this blog

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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