Posts Tagged ‘rare books’
October 19, 2016 | by Alex Cocotas
Sven owns thirty thousand cookbooks. Why does Sven own thirty thousand cookbooks? He could not tell you.
He will tell you that he likes to cook, that he can taste a recipe by reading it, that he likes going to flea markets, that he started buying cookbooks when he was twenty-two, but nothing he tells you will really explain how he came to own thirty thousand of them. He is a collector, and that’s all you can say. If you are also a collector, this impulse needs no further explanation. If you are not a collector, you sit with Sven for three hours trying to tease out the secret of this impulse in vain. I am not a collector. Read More »
February 23, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- A decade before Virginia Woolf and her calls for a room of one’s own, there was Lola Ridge, a poet whose 1919 presentation “Women and Creative Will” was a watershed moment for feminism: “ ‘They say there never has been, there is not, and there never will be a really great woman artist,’ Ridge begins her speech, fifty-two years before Linda Nochlin asked, ‘Why have there been no great women artists?’ … She sees that ‘the [male] artist is naturally predatory. His soul sits like a patient spider, throwing out infinite antennae, clutching and drawing within,’ and writes that he allows women in the salons solely for his own stimulation.”
- I like to keep all my rare books in my car, for ease of access and transport. I see the error of my ways now. Lawrence Van De Carr, a rare books dealer, had his van stolen with some $350,000 in merchandise in it. “One suspect has been arrested, he said, but his van filled with novels penned by Faulkner, Hemingway and Cormac McCarthy, among other famous authors, has not been found … Joshua Anderson, thirty, went to Moe’s Books in Berkeley shortly after the bookseller association sent out an alert. He and an alleged accomplice had four books, valued around $14,000, that they were trying to sell, said John Wong, manager at the store … The men said they got the valuable volumes from a deceased uncle, but Anthony, one of Wong’s employees, wasn’t buying it … When officers arrived, one of the men escaped through a back door, but Anderson ran out through the front, where he was caught and arrested, Wong said.”
- America’s secret societies have been occultist, dubiously charitable, and occasionally outright supremacist—but they came with some truly bizarre art, as demonstrated in the new book As Above, So Below: Art of the American Fraternal Society, 1850–1930: “As fraternal associations grew in the U.S. in the late 1800s, they looked to Etruscan, ancient Greek and Egyptian, Gothic, Moorish and so-called Oriental sources for themes and influences (echoing that era’s popular fascination with the ‘exotic’), which were reflected in their rituals, costumes and objects, and even in the fantasy architecture of some of their assembly halls.”
- Tough guys are changing, and Deadpool, for all its schlocky vulgarity, is proof: unlike the taciturn screen idols of yore, its hero is free to run his mouth. “The contours of Deadpool’s drama—maturing in love while maturing in allegiance—nudge against those of the classic Hollywood wartime loners exemplified by Bogart … Reynolds is no Bogart (who is?), but, in any case, the very nature of flamboyant sarcasm has changed—and, at least in one way, for the better. In Bogart’s time, the tough guy was epigrammatic, speaking in terse and tight-lipped aphorisms, leaving florid verbosity to the (usually affected, often European) villains. One great thing that hip-hop has done, over the past thirty or thirty-five years, is to create a bridge between intricate verbal intelligence and masculine strength, or, to put it differently, to make poetry streetwise and unleash it from its old-fashioned stereotype as feminine or effete. Pop-culture tough guys can be fast talkers now.”
- Today in subversive skeleton keys: The artist Jordan Seiler makes chunky metal rods that you can use to access the advertisements hidden behind Plexiglas all over the city. His Public Ad Campaign urges people to find and replace every ad they come across—a kind of perfect counter effort against those who seek to plaster every public surface labeled POST NO BILLS with as many handbills as possible. “Seiler’s work seeks to remind you that if you live in a major city, your eyes are currency. Agencies are constantly coming up with new ways to turn public spaces into ads. This is what the Public Ad Campaign hopes to fight. Seiler wants to distribute his keys as widely as possible to everyday people so they can help quiet the unavoidable ads into a dull roar.”
February 1, 2016 | by Sadie Stein
February 1, 2016 | by William Corbett
Last September, Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library opened “The Book Undone: Thirty Years of Granary Books,” an exhibition celebrating Columbia’s purchase of the Granary Books archive. “It’s difficult to fully describe the range and impact of Steve Clay’s Granary Books,” wrote Mark Dimunation, chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress. “Beginning in 1985 he has concocted a mix of poets, artists, printers and craftspeople whose work defines an era and fundamentally shapes our understanding of the artists’ book.”
Granary Books began in Minneapolis, but when Clay first visited New York in 1986, he was quick to see an opportunity. “I came to do a one-week summer class in Columbia’s Rare Book School,” he remembered when we spoke in his Manhattan loft, “my first time in New York. Just coming to the city, getting off the bus at Port Authority, that was it.” Three years later, Clay arrived in New York to stay. After looking for a space on the Lower East Side and Soho to start a bookstore, he joined forces with the poet and bookseller David Abel. I asked him to talk about those first years of Granary Books.
We found 636 Broadway, doing it together with no formal plan. On the tenth floor you could display books, artist’s books, that you couldn’t on the ground floor. I lived there on the couch for months, took showers at David’s on Thompson Street. Milk carton on the window ledge. No kitchen. David knew a lot of people, perfect for a shy guy like me. Dick Higgins of Something Else Press came into the store and so did the poet Jerome Rothenberg, who became and remains essential to Granary. We put on a retrospective show of Something Else Books. Higgins gave me great advice on how to deal with the projects people who came to the store suggested—You’re going to have to find a really nice way to say no.Read More »
September 3, 2015 | by Sasha Abramsky
In his ninety-three years, Chimen Abramsky amassed a vast collection of socialist literature and Jewish history. Here, his grandson Sasha explores some of the rarities.
Much later in his life, Chimen turned his eye to cataloging his library. It was a task he stubbornly refused to finish, despite having cataloged many of the world’s most important Judaica libraries for Sotheby’s, despite having even compiled a catalog of catalogs that he would occasionally show to fellow bibliographers. “It takes the magic out of it. It becomes a thing to sell, not a real collection. Once you catalogue the book, it becomes a dead object almost,” was how the rare-books dealer Christopher Edwards, who knew Chimen decades later, interpreted this reluctance. Chimen loved being courted by would-be buyers; adored being taken out to restaurants and clubs, such as the Garrick in central London, where dealers could flatter him by talking about the importance of his collection. But when push came to shove, he did not want to admit that, apart from a few missing pieces (he bemoaned the fact that he did not have any original issues of Marx’s newspaper the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, published in Cologne during the revolutionary year of 1848 and into 1849), his collection—his life’s project—was complete. Even when his insurance agent, Will Burns, repeatedly wrote him letters requesting that he provide a catalog of his library, Chimen managed to find one excuse after another. He was too busy; he was traveling; he was ill; he would do it next month. “I had hoped to do it during the summer vacation,” he informed Burns in late October 1981, “but unfortunately, as Miriam had an accident in Israel, I was unable to do so. I hope to complete it towards the end of January.” He did not, and Burns wrote him several more letters on the matter before eventually giving up. The collection remained insured only as general contents; had disaster struck and the House of Books burned to the ground, Chimen would have found, to his horror, that his inability to provide a catalog was a costly oversight.
What Chimen did do, though, was pen a series of memoranda about how he had acquired some of his rarest prizes. He wrote, for example, about how, in the early 1950s, he had managed to buy William Morris’s complete collection of the Socialist League’s journal, The Commonweal, along with the wooden box, with a rexine cover dyed blue and lined with a white feltlike material, that Morris himself had constructed to house a 1539 Bible, and in which, ultimately, he kept his copies of the revolutionary newspaper. The pages of the publication—its words printed in double columns originally on a monthly basis, then later weekly, from 1886 until 1895, and filled with the revolutionary musings of Morris, Marx’s daughter Eleanor, and other radical luminaries of the late-Victorian years—had passed from Morris to his close friend, the typographer Emery Walker; from Walker to his daughter; and from her to a poet named Norman Hidden. Chimen eventually bought it from Hidden for £50. And there they stayed, in their Bible box, high on a wooden shelf in the upstairs hallway at 5 Hillway, for more than half a century. Read More »
May 18, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Dag Solstad will appear at our Norwegian-American Literary Festival this week—isn’t it time you get to know him? “A literary provocateur and a national icon, an experimental writer who is also a favorite with the country’s top comedians, Dag Solstad’s belated international breakthrough is in curious contrast to his position in his native country. Only three of his books have been translated into English (a fourth is on its way), but in Norway, Solstad has, at least since the mid 80s, been held up as a paragon of literary merit, his style a kind of gold standard of prose fiction.”
- Columbia students believe that Ovid’s Metamorphoses should come with trigger warnings—the myths of Persephone and Daphne, after all, include rape. “But the core [curriculum] is not a form of therapy; it’s a form of exposure to diverse ideas, and it should not have the aim of making people feel ‘safe.’ In fact, that’s precisely the opposite of its aim.”
- Rare book experts are assembling a kind of scholarly justice league to stop the theft and vandalism of historic books worldwide. “Lawyers and librarians, booksellers and auctioneers will descend on the British Library next month for a major conference whose title—‘The Written Heritage of Mankind in Peril’—conveys the seriousness of the problem.”
- Émilie Du Châtelet, a seventeenth-century scholar of Newton, religion, science, and mathematics, earned plaudits from Kant and had a very visible relationship with Voltaire—but today no one reads her. “It is possible to major in philosophy without hearing anything about the historical contributions of women philosophers. The canon remains dominated by white males—the discipline that some say still hews to the myth that genius is tied to gender.”
- How to turn fifty if you’re Rob Pruitt: have a barbecue, just like everyone else. But your barbecue will be art. “Pruitt has been able to embrace a peculiar irony that is omnipresent in the art world today: the paradox of a crass, hypervalued luxury market for the world’s super rich, wedded to a left-leaning ideology that sees art as a public good for the common folk … In this curious art world of limousine liberalism, Mr. Pruitt is happy to play chauffeur, more interested in reflecting modern culture than critiquing it.”