“The War of the Worlds” Illustrations at Auction

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Henrique Alvim Corrêa

An incredible collection of pen-and-ink illustrations for the 1906 edition of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds is now on auction in Beverly Hills.

Brazilian artist Henrique Alvim Corrêa, whose imagination was spurred after reading a French edition of the science fiction classic, produced some sketches of tripod aliens and death rays and brought them to Wells in London. Wells was so pleased with them (and so dissatisfied by the earlier illustrations commissioned for the 1898 first book form), he asked Corrêa to illustrate a 500-copy, limited edition published by L’Vandamme in Brussels. (more…)

Vanessa Bell’s Hogarth Press Designs on Exhibit

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The National Museum of Women in the Arts, located in Washington, D.C., opened an exhibit of Vanessa Bell’s book design on May 11 (runs through November 13). Bell, a member of the celebrated Bloomsbury Group, designed graphic dust jackets and illustrations for the Hogarth Press, a publishing house co-founded by her sister, novelist Virginia Woolf. Enjoy this sampling of the exhibit’s highlights:

Vanessa Bell (1879–1961) was an English painter, designer, and important member of the Bloomsbury group, a cluster of culturally influential figures in early 20th-century London. Throughout her career, she designed many book jackets and illustrations for Hogarth Press, a British publishing house founded by Bell’s sister, author Virginia Woolf, and Leonard Woolf. This exhibition showcases several examples of Bell’s exquisite, yet simple, designs. – National Museum of Women in the Arts


One voice is all it takes…

…and sometimes, it’s the wrong voice. In this local case, it took only one very vocal complaint from Lisa Baldwin, a former school board member and parent, to interrupt the 10th grade honors English class at Reynold’s High School from reading The Kite Runner. “This is the first documented parent objection to this text,” said Susanne Swanger, Buncombe County Schools’ associate superintendent. The book was temporarily pulled from the curriculum a week ago after Baldwin’s complaint claiming the book’s elements … Continued

Scholars Discover Lost Twain Writings

Articles written by Mark Twain when he was a 29-year-old reporter for the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Nevada, have been uncovered by scholars at the University of California, Berkley. Twain was stationed for a year in San Francisco where his job was to write a daily 2,000-word “letter” about San Franciscan life to the readers of the Territorial Enterprise. His colorful and amusing anecdotes – already illustrative of his later hallmarked style – offer an intriguing insight into a … Continued

“Prufrock” at 100

T.S. Eliot

This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” the starting gun for Modernist poetry, according to some critics. Harvard University (Eliot’s alma mater) is celebrating with an exhibit of the poem’s various forms at the Houghton Library through June 27. Various manuscript and typescript reproductions are displayed alongside multiple printings, from its debut in the June 1915 issue of Poetry magazine to the first edition in book form, Prufrock and Other Observations (1917). (more…)

A Brief History of the Dust Jacket

As most collectors are aware, a dust jacket in fine condition can greatly enhance the value of a book. Indeed, for modern first editions, a book without the dust jacket will sell for only a fraction of the price. Once intended to be temporary and disposable protection for beautifully bound books, dust jackets have become–in some ways–more valuable than the books they protect. How and when did this change occur? Prior to the 1820s, most books were issued as unbound … Continued

Biblio Booksellers: Enter to win a scholarship to the 2015 Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar!

Attention Biblio Booksellers! Biblio is pleased to offer a scholarship to the 2015 Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar. Over the past years, we’ve been able to share this scholarship opportunity with wonderful bookshops like Black Paw Books, Renaissance Books, Charity Bookstall, Act 2 Books, and Grateful Dead Books. Named in honor of a community leader who was instrumental in helping us open the first public library in Bolivia, the Don Dario Scholarship is provided annually to one bookseller in recognition of their … Continued

Alan Turing’s Wartime Composition Book Heads to Auction

A young Alan M. Turing

Bonham’s offered British codebreaker Alan Turing’s composition book at auction on April 13th. The previously unknown wartime manuscript, consisting of 56 pages of mathematical and logical notes from Turing, is likely the only extensive manuscript by Turing in existence. An extreme rarity as such, Bonham’s did not release an official estimate for the lot. [Note: the manuscript went for over $1 million to an anonymous bidder (link)] (more…)

Charles Dickens Desk Purchased for Public Display

Charles Dicken's writing desk


The desk of Charles Dickens–where he wrote Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood–was purchased by the Charles Dickens Museum in London. The desk is now on permanent public display at the museum.

Dickens used the desk at his last home, Gad’s Hill Place in Kent. His desk and its accompanying chair passed down through several generations of Dickens descendants before it was sold to a private collector at a charity auction in 2004. The desk has always been in private hands, however a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund allowed the Charles Dickens Museum to purchase the desk for £780,000 ($1.15 million).

“We are delighted to have been able to acquire Charles Dickens’ iconic writing desk and chair for permanent display in his study at 48 Doughty Street,” said Robert Moye, director of the Charles Dickens Museum in London.

“They hold a unique place in our literary heritage and, as we embark on our exhibition exploring The Mystery of Edwin Drood, it is timely that the desk he used when writing his final novel has been secured for the benefit of all our visitors.”

[Image from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.]

Browse related collectible books:

First Editions of books by Charles Dickens

Rare Dickensiana

Reprinted with permission from Fine Books & Collections, Nate Pedersen author

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Self-Sanitizing Books in the Digital Era

Français: Pape Clément IV (Fresque de la Tour Ferrande à Pernesles Fontaine, Vaucluse, France) Photo credit: Wikipedia.
Français: Pape Clément IV (Fresque de la Tour Ferrande à Pernesles Fontaine, Vaucluse, France) Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Thomas Bowdler is alive and well, residing comfortably in tablets and e-readers across the globe.

For as long as people have been writing, there have been groups dedicated to keeping words and phrases away from the public. English physician Thomas Bowdler began his crusade to expurgate objectionable verses from both Shakespeare and Gibbon in the 1800s, but he wasn’t the first to impose his views of good taste on others–church censorship goes back centuries, such as when Pope Clement IV ordered the Jews of Aragon to submit all written work to Dominican censors prior to dissemination in the thirteenth century.

Today, the internet is full of filters and other mechanisms to block content. It’s not news that China employs such filters on its ISPs–insiders call it “The Great Firewall”–it’s more startling when expurgation happens on home turf, where freedom of speech supposedly reigns. In 2011, English professor Alan Gribben sanitized a new edition of Huckleberry Finn, replacing the pejorative term for a black man–which appears over 200 times in the book–with “slave,” rationalizing tampering with Twain’s classic in his introduction as as way to “spare the reader from a racial slur that never seems to lose its vitriol.” (more…)