By Barbara Basbanes Richter No matter how you feel about today’s inauguration, take heart and consider the first swearing-in ceremony of America’s sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln. On March 4, 1861, the country was a scant six weeks from entering the Civil War, seven states had already seceded from the Union, and rumors of plots to assassinate Lincoln were already swirling in the air. In addition to taking the helm of an ideologically divided country, Lincoln was the first president to … Continued
by Rebecca Rego Barry A small but interesting archive of material relating to Alfred Lord Tennyson and Charles Dickens has turned up at London-based Chiswick Auctions, consigned by a distant relation of the Ellis family. The product of that family’s long-term association with the two authors, the collection contains correspondence, envelopes, clipped autographs, stereoscopic photographs, a rare program pamphlet (1868) produced for a series of Dickens’ “Farewell Readings,” and a pencil drawing of 48 Doughty Street by a member of … Continued
One of the best parts of older books, in my opinion, has always been the possibility of finding things wedged in between the pages: sometimes used as an impromptu bookmark, some stuffed there to hide, some shuffled in by accident. There’s just something a little bit magical about it. I was recently rearranging my bookshelves (alphabetically by author of course, which had fallen to disarray since our big move), when I happened across a call to arms from my best … Continued
Guyanese author E.R. Braithwaite has passed away at the venerable age of 104. Braithwaite is best known for his award-winning novel To Sir, With Love. This autobiographical tale tells of his time as a schoolteacher in the East End of London. The book was made into a film starring Sidney Poitier and the singer Lulu. His writings mostly dealt with the difficulties of being a black man with a classical education in a world full of discrimination. Braithwaite joined the … Continued
By Nate Pedersen Sir Edward Cazalet, the step-grandson of prolific British author P. G. Wodehouse, has loaned Wodehouse’s personal archive to the British Library. For the first time ever, the Wodehouse archive is now available for public viewing. Cazalet actively collected the Wodehouse material ever since PGW died in 1975. The archive spans over a century of material, from 1900 until 2005, and includes manuscript drafts and notebooks related to Wodehouse’s fiction and nonfiction. Also included are material related to … Continued
By Rebecca Rego Barry As literary artifacts go, this one evokes childlike delight: an ivory cup-and-ball toy that once belonged to Jane Austen is headed to auction at Sotheby’s London on December 13, where bids are expected in the £20,000-30,000 ($25,000-37,000) range. The game, also known as bilbocatch, was a popular pastime for the Austen family. As Jane herself wrote to her sister in October of 1808: “We do not want for amusement: bilbocatch, at which George is indefatigable; … Continued
By Barbara Basbanes Richter The mantra for major exhibitions of 2016 seems to be, “go big or go home:” there’s Boston’s Beyond Words multi-venue extravaganza, the Getty’s impressive Alchemy of Color installation, and in 2017, look to the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C., which will showcase nearly one-hundred drawings, posters, paintings, and prints spanning the career of French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). Toulouse-Lautrec Illustrates the Belle Époque is the first solo staging in the United States of Lautrec’s art … Continued
by Rebecca Rego Barry
Five months before John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, he penned a letter to J. D. Burch, the son of a Maryland innkeeper, regarding something he left behind with a stagecoach driver. Booth is cryptic about what exactly the item is, writing, “You know what I had to take from my carpet-bag. It’s not worth more than $15, but I will give him $20 rather than lose it, as it has saved my life two or three times.” (more…)
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