Found: Thomas Becket’s Personal Psalter

Portrait of St. Thomas Becket, reassembled from fragments by Samuel Caldwell Jr in 1919. Becket Window 1 (n. VII) in the north aisle of the Trinity Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral.
Portrait of St. Thomas Becket, reassembled from fragments by Samuel Caldwell Jr in 1919. Becket Window 1 (n. VII) in the north aisle of the Trinity Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral.

In case you missed it, the big news in the rare book world that surfaced in early October was the discovery of Thomas Becket’s personal book of psalms in the Cambridge Library. The Guardian provided initial coverage of the discovery, which was announced by Cambridge historian Dr. Christopher de Hamel. (more…)

The Politics of Middle Earth

the politics of middle earth - a blog for #hobbitday at


I, unlike many self-proclaimed nerdy kids my age, didn’t properly get to meet and make friends with Bilbo, Frodo, and the gang until I was in college. Sure, sure, I’d gone to midnight premiers for the Lord of the Rings movies with gaggles of friends, but I didn’t dress up like Gandalf and I sure as heck didn’t know a single phrase in the Elven tongue. I thought Silmarillion was the type of metal from which Bilbo’s chain-mail shirt was made.

That changed in college, though. I went to a small women’s liberal arts school, where the month-long winter term was usually a way to get some of our required credits out of the way in the most ridiculous manner possible. Loads of my friends were off traveling to Mexico, Tunisia, or London. I would have been bummed about not going abroad, but the week we were to sign up for our January Term courses, a friend told me about two classes that totally out-shadowed all those exotic adventures: a music history course centered on The Beatles and a political science course lovingly named The Politics of Middle-Earth. (more…)

Rare Sylvia Plath Proof at Auction

Portrait by Sylvia Plath of her friend Arden Tapley.

By Rebecca Rego Barry

When offered Sylvia Plath’s first collection of poems, The Colossus, New Directions founder James Laughlin turned it down. The year was 1960, and London publisher William Heinemann was looking for an American publishing partner. They sent a typed proposal letter and a proof of The Colossus to four American publishers, among them New Directions, where editor Bob MacGregor subtly praised the book in a note to his boss, calling it “skillful,” particularly Plath’s poem for Leonard Baskin, “Sculptor.” But Laughlin decided to pass, scribbling on a slip of paper, “Nor for us, I’d say.”

Later this month, this mini archive including three pieces of publishers’ correspondence (one typed letter signed; one half typed, half manuscript note; and one brief manuscript note) accompanied by an uncorrected proof of The Colossus will go to auction at Freeman’s in Philadelphia on September 30. It is conservatively estimated at $1,000-1,500.


Beatrix Potter’s Forgotten Tale Published at Last

Quentin Blake illustrates Beatrix Potter book Kitty in Boots - and Fine Books Magazineby Barbara Basbanes Richter

Readers may recall a story that appeared here earlier this year heralding the rediscovery of a long-forgotten manuscript by Beatrix Potter. Penguin editor Jo Hanks unearthed the material while conducting research for a new addition to Emma Thompson’s revival of the series. “I found a reference to a letter from Beatrix to her publisher that referred to a story ‘about a well-behaved prime black Kitty cat, who leads rather a double life,’” Hanks recalled in an online discussion in January. Intrigued, Hanks searched among the author’s papers in the V&A Archive at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Tucked away were three handwritten manuscripts for The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots.

The manuscript had remained untouched for over a century, and in her notes Potter acknowledged that the text was incomplete. Hanks lightly edited the material, and the story was published by Frederick Warne (a subsidiary of Penguin) on September 6 to coincide with the sesquicentennial of Potter’s birth. Kitty-in-Boots is accompanied by a CD of the tale, read by actress Helen Mirren. (more…)

First Photographic Images of Yellowstone to be Auctioned on October 20th 2016

A correction: Mr. Peteen and PBA Galleries have let us know that the auction is on October 20th, 2016 – not September 20 as we first reported. This October 20th, San Francisco’s PBA Galleries will be auctioning off a book of rare William Henry Jackson images. The auction company will feature a bound volume of 76 “Albertypes” of Yellowstone National Park made from negatives produced by Jackson. What makes these images so remarkable, besides their quality, is their aforementioned rarity. … Continued

World’s Largest William Blake Gallery to Open in San Francisco

John Windle Antiquarian Bookseller announces the grand opening of The William Blake Gallery, a new exhibition space in San Francisco dedicated to works created by the massively influential 19th century poet, artist, and engraver. The gallery is the largest of its kind devoted solely to the artist, as well as the largest collection in the world of pieces by Blake available for purchase. Widely considered to be one of the greatest contributors to the Western world of literature and art, … Continued

For Sale: Scrap of Wallpaper from Room Where Lincoln Died

Image courtesy of Addison & Sarova.
Image courtesy of Addison & Sarova.

Coming to auction later this week is a neat little relic of President Abraham Lincoln’s life–or more accurately, his death. The fragment of wallpaper was removed from the back bedroom of the rowhouse across the street from Ford’s Theatre where Lincoln breathed his last, and laid into a book called Words of Lincoln (1895) with the note, “Taken from the all of the room in which Lincoln died. 516 10th St. Washington D.C.”

The book’s author, Osborn H. Oldroyd (1842-1930), was a Civil War sergeant and a famous collector of Lincoln memorabilia; a biography of him published in 1927 is subtitled Founder and Collector of Lincoln Mementos. Oldroyd amassed a large collection of Lincolniana, first displayed at Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois, but relocated to the Petersen House, aka the house where Lincoln died, in 1893. He and his family bunked there too.

The auctioneers, Addison & Sarova of Macon, Georgia, estimate the wallpaper snippet will sell for $2,000-3,000.

Incidentally, the University of Chicago houses a substantial Lincoln-Oldroyd collection. You can read more about Oldroyd and the Petersen House here.


Browse related collectible books:

Abraham Lincoln – Books & Ephemera

Copies of “Words of Lincoln” by Oldroyd

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Literary Posters at Auction

by Rebecca Rego Barry

Alongside an array of vintage war, travel, and political posters on offer at Swann Galleries this week, a few gems that feature literary magazines caught my eye. I dare say these posters, particularly those that headline a coveted author, might be “gateway” buys that introduce book collectors to the poster market. If nothing else, they will enhance a wall and complement a full bookcase.

literary posters on - from fine books & collections

Rudyard Kipling and Anthony Hope collectors might take special notice of this McClure’s poster from August 1895. The estimate is $400-600.

literary poster for The Bookman - Rare Finds from Fine Books Magazine &

Perhaps a favorite for this readership, this advertising poster for The Bookman, Christmas 1895, depicts a Benjamin Franklinesque character perusing a bookshop. The estimate is $400-600.

literary poster - Fine Books Magazine &

According to Swann, this poster for the March 1907 issue of Scribner’s magazine is rarely seen at auction. It portrays a fashionable female reader with her Scribner’s magazine in hand. The estimate is $2,500-3,500.

literary poster - Rare Finds from Fine Books Magazine &

This Paris Review poster from 1983 was designed by conceptual artist Sol LeWitt. It is signed and numbered by the artist, 75/100. The estimate is $700-1,000.

Posters as Ephemera

Posters: Rare Book Room on Biblio

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Exhibition at The Met to Focus on Fragonard, Famed Master Draftsman of the 18th Century

Jean Honoré Fragonard (French, 1732-1806)—one of the most forward-looking and inventive artists of the 18th century—was equally skilled in painting, drawing, and etching. Yet, unlike many old masters for whom drawing was a preparatory tool, Fragonard explored the potential of chalk, ink, and wash to create sheets that were works of art in their own right. As displays of virtuosity and an imaginative spirit, his drawings were highly prized from his own day to the present, and New York has … Continued

Four Unknown Beatrix Potter Illustrations Found in England

By Nate Pedersen, Fine Books & Collections

Four previously unknown Beatrix Potter illustrations were found tucked away in the library at Melford Hall, a Tudor mansion and National Trust property in Suffolk, England.

The drawings focus on interior and exterior scenes of Melford Hall itself, which was frequently visited by Potter between 1899 and 1938 when her cousin Ethel Leech lived there with her husband and three children. (more…)