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…)
By Rebecca Rego Barry
An archive of approximately ninety letters written by Civil War solider John W. Grosh and by members of his family, has surfaced at a San Francisco auction house.
Grosh, a Pennsylvanian, enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 and died two years later while a prisoner of war in Virginia. As described by PBA Galleries, which will auction the lot of letters on October 20, the archive covers Grosh’s camp life in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Tennessee “with much detail on barracks life, the drudgery and disease, the food, vermin, and other afflictions, the money used by the troops, excursions into towns, with occasional action, and a few false alarms.”
Here is Grosh writing to his mother in 1862: “I suppose you have heard all about the great battle of ‘Chaplin Heights,’ and I need not therefore attempt a description. Well, I was in it and came out safe again, but 24 of our company were not so fortunate. One was killed on the spot and the rest wounded… We fought about 3 hours, the bullets whizzing past our ears faster than we could count them. We suffered much for want of water there was not a drop to be had, the rebels had it all in their possession. Our artillery had not as much as to swab the cannon and one of our gunners had both his hands blown off while loading…” (more…)
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…)
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.
by 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…)
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
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.
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