Did you know?  Check our Rare Books Page

The Travel Writing of Henry James

By Connie Diamond. Apr 29, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literary travel

On a recent trip to Italy, I had two tools at my disposal: a GPS and a guide book. Given the complexity of the network of roads and the simplicity of the road construction—often nothing more than ruts worn into gravel clinging precariously to hillsides—the GPS often failed me utterly. The guidebook, on the other hand, helped me navigate hill towns, wine cellars and even menus with amazing precision. It led me to all the destinations and experiences I had imagined before I left for Tuscany.

Navigating, however, is different from transporting. It is travel writing that allows us to venture vicariously from home sans GPS or guidebook. Henry James (1843-1916), the American-born British writer, brought his considerable talent to bear on the travel writing genre, capturing the geography, architecture and culture of the places he visited and, from the 21st Century perspective, allowing us to time-travel, as well.

     
Read more...


Sharing the Nobel Prize in Literature

By Audrey Golden. Apr 28, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

While Nobel Prizes in the sciences often are shared, the Nobel Prize in Literature has only been shared on four occasions over the last century. And we’re willing to bet that the eight writers who have shared the Nobel Prize are not authors with whom you’re particularly familiar. Why, then, did these novelists end up sharing the award? There are a few different ideas floating around as to why the Nobel Prize in Literature is rarely divided between two writers. Let’s take a look at the four instances in which the Nobel Prize in Literature has been shared.

     
Read more...


Ten Pounds for Paradise Lost?

By Brian Hoey. Apr 27, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Literature, Art

Art and commerce have always intersected in uncomfortable ways. The difficulty of correctly appraising the quality of a work of art in the moment combined with the near-impossibility of putting a dollar value on the types of things that art provides have led to a strange patchwork of financial realities for artists and writers throughout history, from the patronage system of the Renaissance to the writerly financial refuge of the modern university creative writing department. In all this time there have been some particularly notable failures at correctly giving a work its monetary value. Just ask John Milton.

     
Read more...


A Reading Guide to Daniel Defoe

By Adrienne Rivera. Apr 26, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Movie Tie-Ins

Daniel Defoe was born Daniel Foe around the year 1660, and to say his childhood was harrowing is an understatment. Before he was ten years old, Defoe survived the Great Plague of London; his home survived the Great Fire of London; and he survived an attack from the Dutch. As an adult, Defoe was at one time a secret agent and was the collector for taxes on glass bottles at another point. He spent time in debtor's prison, the pillory, and was eventually jailed again for his political writings. Throughout his prolific career, he wrote upwards of five hundred political pamphlets as well as dozens of essays, poems, works of nonfiction, and novels. His writing topics were varied and included politics, marriage, the supernatural, piracy, religion, and psychology. Though he was successful in each genre he attempted, Defoe is most well known for his fiction. In fact, he is considered one of the fathers of the English novel with Robinson Crusoe often argued to be the first English novel. Anyone looking to read more of Defoe would do well to turn their attention to the following titles:

     
Read more...


Important Elements of Provenance in Rare Book Collecting

By Nick Ostdick. Apr 25, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Book Collecting

Condition. Binding. Completeness. These are all relatively easy to understand concepts in the rare book world when judging the value of a piece. But what about provenance? What is provenance? Why is it so important? Why does it impact the value of a book in such a significant way? These are the questions rare book enthusiasts need to ask as they come across rare or unique volumes where the term provenance is bandied about as a crucial indicator as to why a book is valued in such a way. And confusing though it can be, once understood, provenance adds an interesting layer of complexity to a volume’s value and place in the rare book landscape.

     
Read more...


How to Prevent and Reverse Foxing in Rare Books

By Kristin Masters. Apr 23, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Book Collecting, Book Care

There is never a wrong time to think about the effects of moisture and humidity on rare books. Just as too much sun can damage your rare books, so can too much moisture. And we'’re not just talking about direct moisture, such as liquid spills. The relative humidity of the air is also a concern. Excess humidity (usually relative humidity above 75%) can encourage the growth of fungi and mildew, which can lead to foxing. If foxing occurs, what are the best ways to reverse it? Better yet, how can you prevent foxing in your rare books?

     
Read more...


Ernest Hemingway's Feelings Toward F. Scott Fitzgerald

By Andrea Diamond. Apr 22, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors

If you’ve ever seen the movie Midnight in Paris then you are familiar with the rose colored glasses romanticists often wear when thinking of the past. In the film, writer Gill Pender (played by Owen Wilson), somehow manages to travel back in time to 1920s Paris and meet many of the greatest minds in literature, including Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In this particular movie, the two historical writers seem to be cordial, Fitzgerald is handsome and sociable while Hemingway is philosophical and intense. Though Midnight in Paris is immensely enjoyable, it may not be wholly accurate in it’s portrayal of the relationship between these two phenomenal writers. History would suggest that their relationship was much more complex.

     
Read more...


VLOG: How Is Vellum Made?

By Brian Hoey. Apr 21, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Fine Press, Book Making

Vellum, a fine parchment traditionally made from calf skins, was for many years the default material for use in printing important manuscripts or documents. Many of Gutenberg’s first Bibles, for instance, were printed on Vellum, as were many illuminated manuscripts from the Medieval Era. And, in fact, despite the decrease in the material’s prevalence over the centuries, all British Acts of Parliament are still printed and archived on vellum. Differentiated from other forms of parchment by the quality of the animal skin used (debate continues as to whether vellum must refer to parchment made from calf skins or if it is more broadly applicable to finer quality parchment), vellum is extremely labor-intensive to produce. The resulting product, however, is durable and high-qualitysuitable for printing a book of hours or a religious work.  To learn more about the process, check out the four videos below.

     
Read more...


The Bond Dossier: The Man With the Golden Gun

By Nick Ostdick. Apr 20, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: James Bond

All good things must come to an end. It’s a cliche, of course, but no truer sentiment can be applied to the string of critical and commercial successes Ian Fleming produced via his internationally loved British spy, James Bond. Fleming's run culminated with the publication of his 12th Bond novel, The Man with the Golden Gun. Released just eight months after Fleming’s death, The Man with the Golden Gun is something of a melancholic note for the series to end on, as Fleming’s health was failing throughout the composition of the novel.

While both critics and fans alike believe The Man with the Golden Gun was not quite as polished, detailed, or nuanced as Fleming’s 11 previous Bond novels, the book still holds an important place in the Bond canon as Fleming’s final entry in a world-renowned series that has continued to this day and spawned one of the most successful film franchises in cinematic history.

     
Read more...


Best Books on New Zealand

By Audrey Golden. Apr 19, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Literary travel

New Zealand writers largely emerged on the global scene in the mid-twentieth century (although writers from the country existed long before). Some critics cite the government’s decision in 1946 to establish a literary fund as one of the primary catalysts for publishing literature within the country, while others cite events such as the creation of a publishing house at the University of New Zealand.* That this country is a prominent space for literary production shouldn’t come as a surprise to most twenty-first century readers, many of whom are well-acquainted with the internationally renowned Auckland Writers Festival, which brings acclaimed writers and thinkers from the world over to the South Pacific each year. But what about writers from the country itself? We’d like to recommend a couple of books for your initial literary foray into this part of the world.

     
Read more...


Ezra Pound and Mentally Ill Writers

By Brian Hoey. Apr 18, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Literature

Of the great writers of the 20th century there were a tremendous number battling serious mental illness. Virginia Woolf struggled with bipolarity throughout her life, eventually killing herself in 1941; Hemingway was beset by a crippling depression that led to alcoholism and eventually suicide; Robert Lowell spent time in a mental hospital, as did Sylvia Plath and David Foster Wallace, both of whom famously committed suicide after producing works of monumental importance dealing with, among other things, the horrors of depression. As we go back further, we encounter the likes of Leo Tolstoy and Thomas Hardy. Everyone on this list is rightly idolized by modern writers and readers, but do we risk simultaneously idolizing the diseases that ultimately killed many of them?

     
Read more...


Franklin Library Editions: Ideal for Book Collectors?

By Kristin Masters. Apr 16, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Book Collecting, Modern First Editions

The Franklin Library, affiliated with the Franklin Mint, produced classic books, designed especially for collectors. Many of these publications have become more scarce over the years, but they've remained perennial favorites among many collectors. Why are Franklin Library editions so sought after? What should you know if you're hoping to collect Franklin Library editions?

     
Read more...


Salman Rushdie's Novels on Film

By Audrey Golden. Apr 15, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literature, Movie Tie-Ins

Readers of Salman Rushdie’s novels know that he has been a prolific writer over the last few decades. Not only have his books received heaps of international critical acclaim, but they have also been loved by readers across the globe. So here’s where we have to tell you that the title of this article is a bit of a misnomer: only one of Rushdie’s novels has ever been adapted for the silver screen. In all these years, Rushdie’s works simply have not been remade as feature films. And it took more than 30 years for his novel, Midnight’s Children (1981), to reach the cinema. When we learned that Midnight’s Children was to become a film directed by Deepa Mehta, we were excited! But at the same time, we wondered: how might anyone turn a novel so immersed in the magical realism tradition into a work of cinema?

     
Read more...


Collecting Striking Editions of the Rubaiyat

By Matt Reimann. Apr 14, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Book Collecting

I bought my edition of the Rubaiyat from a secondhand bookstore. I can’t tell exactly how old it is; it doesn’t include a date. It was printed by Concord Books, Inc., a publisher whose fate I’ve yet been able to discern. But the volume itself is attractive: a faithful representation of the same Persian poem that captivated Victorian readers some 150 years ago. That is, it’s exquisitely translated, and comes with joyous, beautiful illustrations to boot.

     
Read more...


Collecting Nobel Laureates: Gabriel García Márquez and Octavio Paz

When one thinks of the great literary minds to come out of Latin America, Gabriel García Márquez and Octavio Paz often top the list. Indeed, both Gabo and Paz have had a significant impact on the world of Latin American letters and politics. Likewise, each man won a Nobel Prize in Literature. If you are collecting Nobel laureates, especially Nobel laureates from Latin America, these two authors must be included. Read on for collecting points and ideas for the Gabriel García Márquez and Octavio Paz enthusiast.

     
Read more...


Esther Forbes: First Female Member of the American Antiquarian Society

By Leah Dobrinska. Apr 12, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History

Historian and writer Esther Forbes had a knack for bringing the life and experiences of the past to present-day readers through the pages of her books. Most well known for her books, Paul Revere and the World He Lived In (1942) and Johnny Tremain (1943), Forbes’ writing garnered her attention from the outset. Her first published novel, O Genteel Lady!  was selected as the second book for the Book of the Month Club, ensuring her book was sold to a wide readership. In a review in The Independent, O Genteel Lady! was described as “A distinguished first novel, written with ease and a mastery of technique unusual in a young writer." Indeed, Forbes was a master of her craft, and to this day remains one of the premier contributors to historical and historical fiction writing.

     
Read more...


Bird & Bull: A Fine History of a Fine Press

By Adrienne Rivera. Apr 11, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Fine Press, Book Collecting

In 1958, Henry Morris, inspired by piece of medieval paper he'd recently acquired and a new hobby of paper making, founded Bird & Bull Press. Bird & Bull Press published over seventy-five beautiful books, each printed on paper handmade by Morris himself or carefully selected and imported. Bird & Bull publications were printed by letterpress from metal type, creating books that not only serve as a lovely example of the skill and artistry that goes into bookmaking, typography, and paper making, but as a means of preserving a history and tradition that otherwise may have been lost.

     
Read more...


Multilingual Literature of Singapore

By Audrey Golden. Apr 8, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Literary travel

Have you read any literature from Singapore lately? This city-state is located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, and it has long been along various trade routes throughout Southeast Asia. As a result of its geographic location, as well as its status as a British colony through much of the nineteenth century and into the first half of the twentieth century, Singapore has attracted immigrants from across the region. Indeed, there are four national languages in Singapore, including English, Malay, Mandarin (Chinese), and Tamil. Given the wide range of national languages in the region, the literary history of Singapore is also a multilingual one. We thought we’d suggest some texts you might read to familiarize yourself with this multilingual region of the world.

     
Read more...


First Books vs. First Editions: The Difference and Significance

By Nick Ostdick. Apr 7, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Book Collecting, Modern First Editions

Everyone thinks they understand the value of a first edition. The first printing of a book automatically makes it rare, right? Because X or Y novel is a first run, it’s immediately valuable and worthy of collecting, yes? While this is certainly the case with a number of books throughout the literary landscape, first editions are not necessarily sought after by collectors just because they’re the first run. In fact, when you think about it, every book ever published has a first edition printing, but some were not lucky enough to see a second or third.

One factor that truly makes a book rare, valuable, and the apple of a collector’s eye is the combination of a first edition and a first bookthat is, the first printing of an author’s first novel, usually an author of great regard or with a long, profound literary career. These literary Easter eggs are usually printed in small quantitiesremember: we’re talking about first novels from predominantly debut authorsand are often hardcover and ornate or individualized in cover design as subsequent printings tend to reduce artistic quality for mass reproduction. By the time these authors publish their second, third, or fourth books, first print runs usually increase based on demand, which makes the first editions of these first novels even more rare and valuable.

     
Read more...


Famous Writers and Their Famous Spouses

By Adrienne Rivera. Apr 6, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Poetry, Literature

Creativity attracts creativity. It's true: creative minds often gravitate to one another. Perhaps this is why it is not uncommon to see couples formed after two people come together in a shared desire to create something meaningful, important, and lasting. Here's a list of famous and creative writers whose relationships with their spouses were forged by a mutual love of everything from aviation to photography.

     
Read more...


Collecting Nobel Laureates: Miguel Angel Asturias & Pablo Neruda

By Leah Dobrinska. Apr 5, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Nobel Prize Winners

Recently, we began spotlighting Nobel Prize in Literature winners from Latin America. Today, we’d like to highlight a couple more of our favorites. Read on for general information, ideas, and collecting points on Miguel Angel Asturias and Pablo Neruda, winners of the Prize at a time in history when the world as a whole was waking up to the amazing works and writers emerging from Latin America.

For more information on our previous Latin American Nobel laureate spotlights featuring Gabriela Mistral and Mario Vargas Llosa, please see the end of this post. 

     
Read more...


George MacDonald: Master of Fantasy & Religious Thought

By Matt Reimann. Apr 4, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books

For a while in the West it’s been somewhat difficult for Christian intellectuals to be taken seriously. Though not exactly extinct (Marilynne Robinson comes to mind), religious writers are hard to find, and they are often dogged by the presumption that to be credible you must be secular. Even Christian writers of generations past, like G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis, felt and battled this anxiety. But for these thinkers, the Scottish author and minister George MacDonald presented an enduring model for being both an intellectual and a person of faith.

     
Read more...


Writers of Ghazals and Persian Poetry

By Audrey Golden. Apr 1, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Literature

What is a ghazal, and who writes them? In short, it’s a poem that is typically composed of anywhere between five and fifteen couplets that are, according to the American Academy of Poets, “structurally, thematically, and emotionally autonomous.” Traditionally, the first couplet of a ghazal will introduce a scheme, which subsequent couplets will pick up. The final couplet of a ghazal usually will refer to the poet and sometimes even includes his or her name. It’s a poetic form that began in what we now call the Middle East in the seventh century, and it was popularized in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries by Rumi and Hafiz, two internationally renowned Persian poets. Since its introduction, it is a form that has been employed by poets in a variety of language and for varying uses. Today, we’d like to think a bit more about the ghazal’s origins and its contemporary appearances.

     
Read more...


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.

Get blog notifications per email:

Download the James Bond Dossier

Recent Posts

Book Glossary
Get your free Guide to Book Care

Blog Archive

> see older posts
A Guide to Historic Libraries Part I