Did you know?  Check our Rare Books Page

A Vincent Van Gogh Book Spotlight: Lust for Life

By Audrey Golden. Apr 30, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Biographies, Art

Vincent Van Gogh lived a short life and committed suicide when he was only 37 years old. For many painters, writers, and collectors, Van Gogh’s story is an interesting one, often shrouded in mystique due to the artist’s own struggles with mental health issues and psychic instability. After his death, when Van Gogh’s paintings finally received the acclaim that they never did in his lifetime, public interest also grew surrounding the artist’s life story. Rumors circulated about his madness and his creative genius. In the 1920s, a young Irving Stone (born Irving Tennenbaum) traveled with his then-wife Lona Mosk to Paris, where he began investigating Van Gogh’s life and works. Stone’s research led to the critically acclaimed biography Lust for Life (1934).

     
Read more...


What is the History of the ISBN?

By Audrey Golden. Apr 28, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Book Collecting

If you’ve ever purchased a new book from a bookstore, a secondhand book, or a textbook for a course, you’ve most likely held a book that has an ISBN number. Sometimes college and university faculty will emphasize the need to buy a book for a course with a specific ISBN number to ensure that everyone has the same edition. You might even have entered an ISBN number if you’ve gone onto a publisher’s website with the intention of identifying or ordering a book. Anyone who has ever had to use an ISBN number already knows, most likely, that these numbers can have 10 digits or 13 digits. Even though many of us have identified a book by its ISBN number in some fashion, it’s rare to take a step back and to think about the purpose and history of the ISBN number. We want to tell you more about the history of the ISBN and why these numbers can be extremely helpful to book collectors.

     
Read more...


Tennessee Williams and the Catastrophe of Success

By Neely Simpson. Apr 26, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Drama

The Glass Menagerie narrowly avoided complete disaster when it premiered in Chicago in 1944 with the inebriated Laurette Taylor in the crucial role of overbearing matriarch, Amanda Wingfield. Taylor was found drunk in the alley behind the theater an hour and a half before the opening curtain. Somehow, despite needing to vomit in a bucket backstage between scenes, she managed to pull off a performance still considered legendary. It was this performance on which hung the destiny of one of America's greatest playwrights: Tennessee Williams.

     
Read more...


Questions to Ask When Visiting a Special Collections Library

By Audrey Golden. Apr 25, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Libraries & Special Collections, Libraries

Whenever you are in search of a particular rare book that you know a special collections library owns, or when you are seeking out information about a specific author and are hoping to find something exciting and new in that author’s papers, you’ll need to be prepared. Some special collections libraries require you to get permission in advance of your visit to conduct research in a particular writer’s papers (or in the special collections library more generally). Sometimes, especially if a library has recently acquired a collection, it won’t yet be open to researchers. You could really find yourself in a bind if you travel to visit an archive only to learn that you can’t access the materials within it. To prepare for a visit to a special collections library, we have some key questions you should consider before you go and while you’re there.

     
Read more...


James Patterson: Master of the Thriller

By Adrienne Rivera. Apr 22, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Movie Tie-Ins, Mystery, Suspense & Crime

For fans of mystery and thriller novels, there is perhaps no bigger name than James Patterson. With over 147 books under his belt, Patterson is often considered the most prolific writer working in the field. Since the publication of his first novel in 1976, The Thomas Berryman Number, Patterson has produced a steady stream of mysteries and thrillers popular with both adults and young adults alike, While Patterson has come under fire for his extensive collaboration with co-writers, a practice which many suspect has not called for Patterson to do much of the writing, he has maintained a presence on the New York Times Best Seller list for years, with numerous books topping the charts. From his Alex Cross series to the Women's Murder Club series, his thrillers have made him a must-read author for decades. Even non-readers likely have a familiarity to his work due to numerous television and film adaptation based on his novels. Let's take a closer look at some of the best novels by this author and philanthropist for those wishing to add to their collection or break into this massive body of work for the first time.

     
Read more...


Caldecott Winning Illustrators Series: Maurice Sendak

Every year the Caldecott Medal is awarded to the illustrator of a children's book that represents the best and most innovative work being done in the field. Critically acclaimed and—more importantly—beloved by children, these books often go on to hold important places on the shelves of libraries and families for years. Even so, it is fair to say that while many of the books achieve a notable status and have great staying power, it isn't often that the illustrators themselves become household names. However, there are a few exceptions. Join us as we take a look at the winner of the 1964 Caldecott Medal: the legendary Maurice Sendak.

     
Read more...


Philip Roth, Philip K. Dick, and the Man in the High Castle

By Audrey Golden. Apr 19, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, American Literature

What would our world look like if the Axis powers had won World War II? How would our daily lives have been transformed if the United States had been sympathetic to Nazi Germany? Posing “what if” questions about World War II and its aftermath has been popular among some of America’s most widely read authors. Notably, both Philip K. Dick and Philip Roth have imagined alternate histories in which Nazi Germany won the war. While the series The Man in the High Castle takes its title and storyline directly from Dick’s novel of the same name, we’d like to explore the literary precursors to the show and to consider the ways in which writers wield great power in the writing (and rewriting) of our histories.

     
Read more...


A Tribute to John Updike

By Kristin Masters. Apr 18, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Book Collecting, Literature

Best known for the Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom series, John Updike published in a variety of genres beyond fiction, including poetry, literary criticism, short stories, and even children's books.

     
Read more...


Rare Books By Women Writers

By Audrey Golden. Apr 15, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Collecting guide

A large majority of books collected are not books by women writers. But right here, right now, you can help to change that! While book collecting historically has been a pastime, passion, and even mania inhabited largely by men for so many problematic reasons, many women collectors and women writers are helping to shape a shift. More women should collect, and more people in general should collect rare books by women writers. While there are so many novelists, poets, and short story writers to choose from, we want to offer you a broad sampling of some of the rare books by women writers that you, too, could be collecting.

     
Read more...


Fowl Play with Eoin Colfer

By Lauren Corba. Apr 14, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Science Fiction

Eoin Colfer, writer of various children’s novels, is most acclaimed for his thrilling adventure series, Artemis Fowl. Beloved by readers and collectors alike, these books have become modern classics. But Colfer has also written a number of other notable children's books. 

     
Read more...


Collecting Interesting Editions of the Work of Leo and Diane Dillon

Leo and Diane Dillon are world-class illustrators, Caldecott Award winners, and a formidable team. The couple met at the Parsons School of Design in New York where both were students. Leo came upon a still life of an Eames chair displayed among student work at a school exhibition. He was struck by it, and set out to find who had done the work. That person—whom he assumed was a “he”—was, in fact, Diane Sorber. The two entered in to a sort of rivalry, trying to place higher than each other at competitive art shows. In the end, they married and joined creative forces.

     
Read more...


The History and Importance of Women's Literature

By Adrienne Rivera. Apr 12, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History

Women's literature has often been defined by publishers as a category of writing done by women. Though obviously this is true, many scholars find such a definition reductive. What makes the history of women's writing so interesting is that in many ways it is a new area of study. The tradition of women writing has been much ignored due to the inferior position women have held in male-dominated societies. It is still not unheard of to see literature classes or anthologies in which women are greatly outnumbered by male writers or even entirely absent. The onus of women's literature, then, is to categorize and create an area of study for a group of people marginalized by history and to explore through their writing their lives as they were while occupying such a unique sociopolitical space within their culture.

     
Read more...


Top Books by State: Iowa

By Adrienne Rivera. Apr 8, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Awarded Books, Movie Tie-Ins, Literary travel

Next up on our trip through America by book is the state of Iowa. The Hawkeye state is known for football, farmland, andin election yearsfor the caucus. While there are metropolitan centers in Iowa like Des Moines, the Quad Cities area, and Iowa Citythe latter of which is known as a literary hub due to the Iowa Writers Workshop, one of the most prestigious writing programs in the countrymuch of Iowa is rural farmland. While much of Iowa used to be covered in prairies, an emphasis on an agriculture-based economy decimated much of the original landscape. In recent years, there has been an attempt to reclaim some of the lost prairie ground and to provide a safe space for the return of native flora and fauna. Whether city or small town, farmland or prairie, Iowa is a beautiful state well worth visiting, either in person or in books. Let's take a look at some of the best books set in and inspired by Iowa.

     
Read more...


Seattle's Rare Book Scene

By Audrey Golden. Apr 7, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Literary travel, travel guides

Whenever we’re traveling for business or pleasure, we make sure to carve out a few hours—or more!—to visit local rare bookstores. When it comes to a stop in Seattle, there are some fantastic shops that specialize in a range of rare books and ephemera. While Seattle is often remembered as a city that introduced the rest of the country (and the globe) to grunge music and the sounds of bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam, it’s also a city with a rich cultural and literary history. The rare book scene in Seattle should interest both casual and serious collectors alike.

     
Read more...


Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Political and Familial Influences

By Kristin Masters. Apr 6, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Nobel Prize Winners, Book News

Today we celebrate the birthday of legendary author Gabriel García Márquez, affectionately known as "Gabo." Born on March 6, 1928, García Márquez would live through one of the most violent periods in Colombian history. Steeped in the stories of his grandparents, García Márquez wove Colombia's history into magical tales of war, love, and survival.

     
Read more...


Lost Mary Shelley Manuscript Unearthed

By Brian Hoey. Apr 1, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Horror, Rare Books

For years, Mary Shelley was sadly overlooked as a writer. Though she created one of the most iconic monsters in literature in her novel Frankenstein (1818), for more than century after her death she was often thought of as a one hit wonder. Or she was thought of as Mary Wollstonecraft’s daughter, or philosopher William Godwin’s daughter, or Percy Shelley’s wife and literary executor. That is, when she was thought of at all.

     
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