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What is Leap Year For?

By Matt Reimann. Feb 29, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: History

The earth does not share our same affection for round numbers or simple math. Instead, our blue planet travels around the sun at a rate of one revolution about every 365.25 days. It’s this extra sliver of a day, a length of nearly six hours, that has to be compensated for. And that’s why this year, 2016, will contain this extra day, February 29.


Sir John Tenniel: Illustrator of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

By Connie Diamond. Feb 28, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Illustrators

Those of us who love books tend to do so on many different levels. We love how they look and want to be surrounded by them—their spines neatly lined up on bookshelves or spiral stacked next to our favorite chair. We love how they feel—the leather-covered or dust-jacketed weight of them in our hands. We love how they sound—the crack of the binding and the rustling as we turn the first pages. But mostly, we love the experience of being transported by them.


Collecting Graphic Novels

By Audrey Golden. Feb 27, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Illustrators, Book Collecting, Literature

Graphic novels haven’t always held an esteemed spot on collectors’ shelves. While earlier incarnations of the graphic novel (i.e., comic books) have indeed been objects heavily and preciously collected, the rise of the graphic novel is assumed to be, for many readers, a relatively new phenomenon. Yet many graphic novels (and other works by their authors) are quite collectible. If you’re thinking about starting a new type of collection, delving into the history of this genre might be for you.


How Evelyn Waugh Tried to Save P.G. Wodehouse's Reputation

By Brian Hoey. Feb 26, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Biographies

Writers are often the best champions of other writers. In the early days of the last century, it was Nobel laureate George Bernard Shaw who helped cement Henrik Ibsen’s reputation in the English-speaking world. Years later, Pulitzer Prize winner Walker Percy would play a crucial role in arranging the posthumous publication of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces (1980) after a manuscript thereof was sent to him by Toole’s mother. That Bernard Shaw and Walker Percy were, by then, quite prominent in their own rights was of course a huge help to their causes, as seems so often to be the case.That’s why it’s rather lucky for P.G. Wodehouse that his mantle was taken up by none other than Evelyn Waugh. 


How To Beat the Bookworm in 2019

By Abigail Wheetley. Feb 25, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Book Care

What is a bookworm, anyway? Is it the baby of a beetle? A living creature that loves books? A larvae placed there by a moth? Why do we care, again?

If you're interested in learning more about how to identify and beat the bookworm in order to keep your books and collection safe, you're in the right place. Read on for our best bookworm-busting strategies.


The Fascinating World of Children's Book Collecting

By Abigail Wheetley. Feb 24, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Children's Books

Book collecting can be a complex and varied activity, hobby, or profession. First editions, rare editions, signed editions, provenance...these are all areas in which one needs to be educated. But what if you want to collect, but don’t necessarily want to take a master’s course to do it? Even better, what if you just want to collect what you love, and love what you collect? One possible solution is to become a collector of children’s books.


We Still Have Much to Learn from W.E.B. Du Bois

By Matt Reimann. Feb 23, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, Literature

The life of W.E.B. Du Bois occupies a remarkable span. He was born in Massachusetts in 1868 to a nation in the middle of its very reconstruction. He took up the mantel of the previous generation of great African-American thinkers, like Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass, who themselves escaped bondage. But even with emancipation, America’s work was, and still is, not nearly over. But thanks to the life and work of W.E.B. Du Bois, the United States, and the world, are a little more humane.


Recent Literature of the Iraq War

By Audrey Golden. Feb 22, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Awarded Books, Literature, Book History

Over the last century, war literature has become a popular genre for readers in many parts of the world. Whether you were assigned Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) on a literature syllabus dealing with World War I, or if you picked up a copy of Michael Herr’s Dispatches (1977) to learn more about the war in Vietnam, you’re likely acquainted with fiction and creative nonfiction that interrogates and remakes wartime experiences. But one area of war literature that isn’t so commonly read or taught is fiction from the recent Iraq War. If you’d like to think more about the relationship among novels, memoirs, and the so-called war on terror, where should you begin? We’d like to recommend a handful of books that hail both from American authors and from Iraqi writers translated from the original Arabic.


By the Bay: A Literary Tour of San Francisco

By Nick Ostdick. Feb 21, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Literary travel

The San Francisco Bay Area is something of a puzzle. It’s a massive, sprawling metropolitan center whose topography and landscape is as varied as its residents. Rugged, broken hills give way to sweeping shorelines and sand dunes just as quickly as Silicon Valley life butts up against hipsters and hippies clinging to scraps of a Bohemian lifestyle first introduced by the Beat Generation of the 1950s.


Libraries and Special Collections: Visiting the Biblioteca de Montserrat

By Audrey Golden. Feb 20, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Libraries & Special Collections

If you have an academic interest in historical archives or merely a personal passion for learning more about the origins of literary culture, there are many libraries both in the United States and abroad that are likely to pique your interest. One of the most interesting libraries that you are likely to encounter is one set high above the city of Barcelona in the mountain of Montserrat. Indeed, the Abbey of Montserrat, located in Catalonia, Spain, contains a library founded in the 11th century. And if you make plans ahead of time, you can visit the collections, including various manuscript works from the last several centuries.


Legendary Author Harper Lee Dies at Age 89

By Nick Ostdick. Feb 19, 2016. 12:00 PM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literature

Legendary author Harper Lee passed away today at the age of 89. She leaves behind a legacy that has reverberated through the international literary community since the publication of her landmark novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, in 1960. The novel was an instant sensation worldwide and earned Lee a number of prestigious accolades, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961.


Alan Paton and Anti-Apartheid Writers

By Brian Hoey. Feb 19, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History

"If you wrote a novel in South Africa which didn't concern the central issues, it wouldn't be worth publishing.” – Alan Paton

It’s frequently said that history is written by the winners. When it comes to some of the great humanitarian causes of the last century, it often seems that the winners write most of the great literature, as well. In the case of the American Civil Rights Movement, for instance, the American canon was able to embrace such monumental works as Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940), James Baldwin’s Go Tell it on the Mountain (1953), and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952). So too has the tradition of anti-apartheid writing in South Africa yielded not just powerful political statements, but some of the era’s most enduring pieces of writing. This powerful vein of protest literature gave the world Nobel Prize-winners J.M. Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer. It gave us Zakes Mda and Lewis Nkosi. And, crucially, it gave us Alan Paton.


The Trials of Oscar Wilde

By Brian Hoey. Feb 18, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Drama

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” Oscar Wilde

At the outset, the proceedings that led to Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment for sodomy read much like his plays. Four days after the successful London premier of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), arguably the absolute pinnacle of 19th century comedic farce, John Douglas, the 9th Marquess of Queensberry (creator of a set of eponymous, wildly circulated boxing rules), left a calling card at Wilde’s club. It read: “For Oscar Wilde, posing as somdomite" [sic].


Welcome, Mr. Bond: Five Facts About Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale

By Nick Ostdick. Feb 17, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, James Bond

It’s February 1952 and aspiring novelist Ian Fleming sits at a desk in his Jamaican, beachfront bungalow with a head full of ideas for a spy novel about gambling, espionage, and international intrigue. The writing comes easy, a little in the morning and a little in the evening, and in less than a month Fleming completes a draft of a novel that would launch a multimedia empire audiences worldwide have adored for more than 50 years.


Top Ten Collectible Presidential Books

By Abigail Wheetley. Feb 16, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, History

Presidents define our eras, lead our lawmakers, and create moments in history that will live for generations. To own a small piece of that legacysomething written about, written by, or signed by one of these iconic figuresis to own a piece of history. This is a list of the top ten presidential collectibles, chosen for their provenance, condition, but most importantly, for the history they represent.


More Than Just Cheesesteaks: Five Famous Philadelphia Writers

By Nick Ostdick. Feb 15, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Literary travel

Philadelphia is one of those great American cities that suffers from a watered-down public perception of its identity. The City of Brotherly Love. The Epicenter of the American Revolution. The cheesesteak. These are things with which Philadelphia is most closely associated.

While certainly true enough associations, Philadelphia has and has always had a grand literary tradition – a vibrant, diverse landscape of writers, poets, playwrights, and literati who made great strides in innovating language, form, style, aesthetics, and narrative.      

20 of the Most Romantic Quotes in All of Literature

By Adrienne Rivera. Feb 14, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Rare Book Gift Ideas

Valentine's Day has a long and storied history. It was originally a celebration of the martyrdom of Saint Valentine, a Christian priest of Rome. St. Valentine was imprisoned and beheaded for marrying soldiers despite being forbidden to do so and for preaching his faith which was against Roman law.

February 14 did not become associated with romance until the Middle Ages. And sometime in the 18th century, it became customary to give flowers, candies, and cards. While today Valentine's Day is symbolized by hearts, cupids, and a score of other glittery commercialized items, at it's core, Valentine's Day is all about love. The following are 20 of the most romantic quotes in literature to help you get into the heart of the holiday.


Scheuchzer and the History of the Biblical Encyclopedia

By Kristin Masters. Feb 13, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Book Collecting

"How is it possible to understand the whole universe? All the books that are made treat only some of the imaginable topics. What could we read that would treat absolutely everything?" 

So wrote François de Grenaille, author of Theatre de l'universe, published in 1643. Scholars had expressed similar consternation for a full century. With the advent of the printing press, the sheer volume of books reached what many scholars considered crisis levelsthey were simply unable to keep up with so much new information. 


A Brief Guide to the Works of Judy Blume

By Adrienne Rivera. Feb 12, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Awarded Books

Judy Blume has an influence all her own. Throughout her career, she has written books for children, young adults, and adult readers. Blume is known for her frank depictions of issues facing children and teenagers. As a result, in the 1980s an organized effort was made to ban her books from libraries and schools. Inspired by the objections against so many of her books, Blume became an advocate for intellectual freedom and serves on the board for the National Coalition Against Censorship.

Because of her dedication to the real issues facing young people, Blume is beloved by readers of all ages. Perhaps the most telling of her impact on children's and young adult literature is the fact that each year she receives thousands of letters from young readers detailing their own life experiences and sharing with her how her books have helped them through. Whether you're new to Judy Blume's work or looking to collect some old favorites, don't miss these titles.


The Many Homes of Ernest Hemingway

By Audrey Golden. Feb 11, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

What would it look like to take a trek across the country (and outside the country, too) to visit all of the homes and favorite haunts of Ernest Hemingway? The novelist and short-story writer made his homes in seemingly disparate parts of the United States and the Caribbean, not to mention the years he spent living abroad as an expatriate in Paris, France. We’re intrigued by the varied climates that captured the writer’s interest, particularly in relation to his relatively domestic beginnings in Oak Park, Illinois. So, if you were going to take a tour through Hemingway’s life, what homes would need to make your list?


Collecting Nobel Laureates: Mommsen, Eucken, & Heyse

By Leah Dobrinska. Feb 10, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

Collecting the works of Nobel Prize in Literature winners is a great way to focus one’s collection. Nobel laureates are the best-of-the-best, so a collection full of their works is one way to guarantee exceptional titles. Today, we’d like to focus on information about the work of three German-language Nobel Prize in Literature winners from the early part of the twentieth century: Theodor Mommsen, Rudolf Christoph Eucken, and Paul Johann Ludwig von Heyse. For more about our previous Nobel laureate spotlights, see the end of the post.


Libraries and Special Collections: Visiting Libraries in Austria

Libraries provide an extraordinary window into the world. Indeed, for collectors and book enthusiasts, few pleasures equal a visit to a well-curated library. When planning a trip, it only makes sense to include famous (or not so famous) libraries on your itinerary.

Recently, a friend of Books Tell You Why and an avid book collector did just that. While traveling to Austria, he visited the libraries of five Austrian monasteries and was kind enough to detail his experiences for us to share. Whether you plan to visit Austria or simply enjoy great libraries, we are confident you will find his notes of interest.


Johann Jakob Scheuchzer, Unwitting Namesake of a Giant Salamander

By Kristin Masters. Feb 8, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Book History

By the time Johann Jakob Scheuchzer published the first volume of his momentous Physica Sacra in 1731, he was already a renowned scientist. Like many scholars of his age, Scheuchzer did not limit himself to only one field. Well versed in astronomy, he depicted one of the earliest known accounts of the Perseid meteor shower in 1709. That same year, Scheuchzer also published Herbarium Diluvianum ("Herbarium of the Deluge"), an exhaustive botanical reference consulted long into the following century. A colleague of Sir Isaac Newton and other luminaries of the early modern era, Scheuchzer is unfortunately often remembered not for his expansive body of work, but for his most famous mistake. 


Four Things You Probably Didn't Know About Charles Dickens

As one of the world’s first celebrity authors, much is known about Charles Dickens. He was an active public figure, one who liked walking about London, appearing in the press, and traveling and performing his works around the world. Even someone who hasn’t read Dickens will know something about his squalid childhood or his noble politics. But what about those facts and details that slip by the typical biography?


Are You Ready for the 2016 California Antiquarian Book Fair?

By Andrea Koczela. Feb 5, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Book News

If you are near Pasadena next weekend (February 12th-14th), we would like to invite you to the 49th California Antiquarian Book Fair! Sign up here for your complimentary tickets, and then join us to experience some remarkable books.


Robert Coover and the Great American Novel You've Never Heard Of

By Matt Reimann. Feb 4, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, American Literature

Many great artists live rather modest, obscure lives. Of course there are those individuals, the Casanovas, the Byrons, and the Goethes of the world, who write interesting books and are interesting when written about. But this is not so much the case with Robert Coover, who turns 84 today. Prolific, soft-spoken, and wise, the author taught electronic writing at Brown University for years. No, Coover has not earned the publicity of his equals, such as Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, and Thomas Pynchon. But to his readers, Coover has left behind a trove of books that are as vital and boisterous as any voice in American letters today.


Top Ten James A. Michener Books

By Abigail Wheetley. Feb 3, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History

James A. Michener is well known for his historical fiction, in-depth research, and lengthy volumes. His books are strong narratives that take an intimate look at the human experience through the lens of historical events and times now past. They will also make long layovers, lazy beach weekends, and stretches of time disappear in a sea of historical fascination. These are ten of his biggest and best books of all time.      

Playing with Time on Groundhog Day

By Matt Reimann. Feb 2, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History

In the 1993 film Groundhog Day, the protagonist finds himself doomed to live the same day over and over again. Ever since, people have associated this Pennsylvania-German tradition with a time warp, or “time loop,” as it’s often called. Intended to mark the halfway point of winter, Groundhog Day has come to take on a second identity. So this Groundhog Day, we take time to consider the many great books that have a way of playing with time.


Who Is the Real Robinson Crusoe?

By Nick Ostdick. Feb 1, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Book History

With any truly great novel, the questions are usually the same. Where did the story come from? What inspired it? Were the characters or plot based on real-life elements? But these tried-and-true questions might mean a little more when asked about Daniel Defoe’s 1719 debut novel Robinson Crusoe, a book literary scholars the world over regard as one of the first realistic fiction novels and one that helped popularize the form we still crave today.


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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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