BiblioWorks needs your help!

  BiblioWorks believes that healthy communities require healthy minds, and so does! That’s why we founded Biblio Charitable Works in 2005 and have been helping to support BiblioWorks in their building of libraries, supplying books and training librarians in the poorest communities of Bolivia ever since. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, they also need support from donors like you. To date, 12 libraries have been built in rural Bolivia. BiblioWorks trains librarians to run the libraries, which are embraced as … Continued

Condolence Letter from President Johnson to Coretta Scott King Heads to Auction

Quinn’s Auction Galleries is offering a signed condolence letter from President Lyndon B. Johnson to Coretta Scott King after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  The letter – an enormously important document in the history of the Civil Rights movement – is dated April 5, 1968, the day after Martin Luther King was shot in Memphis: Dear Mrs. King:     My thoughts have been with you and your children throughout this long and anguished day.    Tonight, Mrs. … Continued

Philadelphia Goes ‘Wilde’ with New Exhibit, Opera

Oscar Wilde, photographic print on card mount: albumen. (Wikipedia)

Philadelphia has a case of Wilde fever. In late January, the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia opened its latest exhibition displaying newly discovered works by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900). The Center for Performing Arts is hosting the East Coast premiere of “Oscar,” an opera chronicling Wilde’s scandalous love affair with Lord Alfred Douglas and the ruinous trial and incarceration that followed. The big question is, what do these events have to do with Philadelphia? As it turns out, a lot. Exhibit curators Mark Samuels Lasner and Dr. Margaret Stetz spoke with me earlier this week about how their show demonstrates a history of a long-lasting relationship between Oscar Wilde and Philadelphia.

Over fifty pieces make up the Rosenbach’s show, including materials from two lectures the Irish writer gave in Philadelphia in 1882. Stetz explained that when she and Lasner learned that “Oscar” was opening in town, they felt it was an excellent time to showcase Wilde’s Philadelphia connections. “The exhibit examines Wilde’s two visits to Philadelphia in 1882, his lectures, his relationships with Philadelphians, and his visits with Walt Whitman,” Stetz said. Wilde’s visits to the City of Brotherly Love also led to a meeting with publisher J.M Stoddart, who eventually published his novella “The Picture of Dorian Gray” in 1891. The show also explores how Philadelphia based writers, composers, artists and especially collectors have dedicated themselves to Wilde and his work. (more…)

The Devil’s Bible

Sometimes the devil is in the details, but he’s not hiding from anyone at the National Library of Sweden. Visitors can catch a full view of Satan by examining the 13th-century Codex Gigas–“Giant Codex”–the largest extant medieval manuscript in the world, clocking in at over three feet long and weighing 165 pounds. (It takes two people to lift the thing.) Along with a complete Latin translation of the Bible, the Codex Gigas includes five shorter texts discussing exorcisms, magic potions, … Continued

Charles Perrault’s Modern Views, 300 Years Later

Chatbotté by Perrault
Chat botté de Charles Perrault

If Charles Perrault (1628-1703) hadn’t been forced into early retirement, the world might never have had Mother Goose, Puss in Boots, Sleeping Beauty, and other memorable fairytale characters. For most of his life, Perrault worked in government service under the protection of Louis XIV’s finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert. His reputation as a writer grew throughout his career, and in 1671 he was elected to the Académie Française, France’s leading literary institution. He wrote odes and speeches praising King Louis XIV for his artistic patronage and promoted the importance of literature and art in a civilized society.

In a 1687 dialogue called Parallèles des anciens et des modernes (Parallels between the Ancients and the Moderns) Perrault lambasts ancient writers like Homer and Aristotle as childish and barbaric, and lauds humanity’s progress. This piece was actually part of a much larger debate on scholarship and literary criticism between Perrault and other members of the Académie, polarizing the group and shocking the academic community. Hostilities raged until 1694 when Perrault publicly reconciled with Nicolas Boileau, the leader of the Ancients faction. (more…)

Tomi Ungerer Retrospective at NYC’s Drawing Center

Tomi Ungerer, Untitled, 1961
Tomi Ungerer, Untitled, 1961 (drawing for The Three Robbers). Collage of cut paper, gouache, and marker on paper, 11 3/4 x 9 1/4 inches. Image courtesy of the Children’s Literature Research Collection, Free Library of Philadelphia.

Tomi Ungerer is one of those multi-talented artists who, while known to many, is never quite known for the same thing. To some, he is a graphic artist whose commercial art for newspapers and magazines in the 1950s-60s was fresh and thought-provoking, while others appreciate the erotic drawings that raised quite a stir upon publication. For most, however, Ungerer’s fame is greatest as a children’s book author-illustrator. In The Three Robbers (1961), Moon Man (1966), The Beast of Monsieur Racine (1971), and many others, he was chipping away at a new kind of children’s literature, something more imaginative and less conventional, that influenced the likes of Maurice Sendak and Shel Silverstein. “No one, I dare say, no one was as original. Tomi influenced everybody,” said Sendak. (more…)

Coffin of Miguel de Cervantes Possibly Found

Miguel de Cervantes, image credit Wikipedia

One of literature’s great burial mysteries may have been solved this past weekend when archaeologists searching for the remains of Miguel de Cervantes – the author of Don Quixote – uncovered a casket with the author’s initials.

The casket was discovered inside an alcove in the crypt at the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians in Madrid.

“Remains of caskets were found, wood, rocks, some bone fragments, and indeed one of the fragments of a board of one of the caskets had the letters ‘M.C.’ formed in tacks,” said forensic anthropologist Francisco Etxeberria at a news conference on Monday. (more…)

Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest–

TSL_S_03-thumb-500x548-8011Since 1883, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island has set the standard for pirate tales, igniting a passion that has endured ever since. The morally ambiguous Long John Silver, the fearsome ship The Jolly Roger, even Davy Jones’s locker have entered our collective imaginations. The swashbuckling adventure was originally published with illustrations by N.C. Wyeth, and those images of bloodthirsty pirates seeking booty are forever intertwined with Stevenson’s story.

As iconic as those images are, The Folio Society felt it was time to give the book an update, and with an eye to exquisite craftsmanship and design, the London-based publishing house has just released a sumptuous collector’s edition of Treasure Island. Introduced by British children’s book author Michael Morpurgo, this version includes new illustrations by Virginia native Sterling Hundley. From his studio outside Richmond, Hundley spoke with me about the challenges of tackling a project where an illustrator’s work is so associated with a particular book. (more…)

100 Treasures of The Rare Book Reserve at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Catalog cover for Éloge de la rareté
Catalog cover for Éloge de la rareté: Cent trésors de la Réserve des livres

If anyone really needs an excuse to go to Paris, here’s one for you, bibliophiles: through January 31, The Bibliothèque Nationale de France is hosting an exhibition showcasing one hundred of its treasures. The world’s oldest national library is also one of the largest, with fourteen million items in its repository.  Designating the most exceptional would be Sisyphean. Instead, curator Jean-Marc Chatelain limited his scope to the 11,000 materials that entered the Rare Book Reserve between 1994 to 2014. (In 1995, the BnF opened its massive Mitterrand location in the 13th arrondissement with 248 miles of storage space, giving the acquisitions department room to feather the nest.) (more…)

Dominic Winter to Auction Previously Unknown C.S. Lewis Letter About Joy

  Dominic Winter Auctioneers in Gloucestershire will auction off a delightful, previously unknown C.S. Lewis letter about his interpretation of joy. The letter, discovered tucked into a used book, reveals the author’s view of the emotion: “…real joy… jumps under one’s ribs and makes one forget meals and keeps one (delightedly) sleepless o’nights.” The letter, addressed to an unidentified “Mrs Willis,” was written in August of 1945. The auctioneers have not been able to find out any further information about … Continued