Friday, February 21, 2014

Everybody's Library in Malta

Here's one of the smallest pieces of paper in my collection from one of the smallest countries in the world--a cash sale receipt from Malta

In Valletta, the capital city of this densely populated Mediterranean country south of Sicily, is (or was) Everybody's Library at 35 Archbishop Street. An apparent sale is recorded on the front side, while the reverse seems to have some tax-related notation.

Did the customer buy a Penguin paperback or a book about the penguin? And would "-12-8" be a date? The answers to those questions don't exist. And maybe the book shop doesn't either. Judge for yourself in the photos and link further down.

Measuring 3.5 X 4 inches, this receipt, which appears to be at least 60 or 70 years old, is the only paper remnant of this book shop I can find on the Internet. In fact, the only other indication of its existence can be found in several photographs. The first two below are courtesy of Gulja Holland, an artist and photographer who posted these photos on and granted permission to post them here.

These images appear to represent two entrances (front and rear) or an old location and new location for the book shop. Since these images were first discovered, I have found others on to give different perspectives on this establishment, one which shows displays in the storefront windows, though there's not a book in sight. New and different business, old sign? Regardless, the images are interesting. See them HERE.

And for some perspective on Malta's location, see the map below. The red circle in the larger inset map shows Malta's location below the boot of Italy and Sicily. The country directly south of Malta is Libya.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Books of the Southwest: J.F. Collins of Santa Fe

Books of the Southwest is the title of a 1920s-era catalog from bookseller J.F. Collins of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Given its brevity and size, it's not so much a catalog as it is an advertising brochure for some of the store's stock in the genre of Southwestern literature.

Authors Charles F. Lummis, Mary Austin, Will James, and Charles A. Siringo jump out at me, as I've had their books in stock at various times.
This 6 X 6.5-inch folded paper is printed on half of one side (the "front") and entirely on the other side (the inside pages). More than 60 titles are listed and one book is featured with a description: Old Santa Fe, by Ralph Emerson Twitchell.

Twitchell also has the highest-priced book listed in Collins' catalog--Leading Facts of New Mexico, 5 Volumes, for $100, a good amount of money for the times. If you wanted to buy the set today, Xochi's Bookstore & Gallery in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico appears to have the only copy advertised online, and at the appreciable sum of $850.

Most books in the Collins catalog are priced around a few dollars, but a few had hefty price tags for the 1920s. In addition to Twitchell's set, there was also Spanish Mission Churches of New Mexico, by L. Bradford Prince for $25. You can still find a few copies today in the relatively reasonable price range of $50 to $100. 

Researching Collins and his book shop did not yield much information about the bookseller and his longevity in the business. I did find the labels below at Seven Roads Gallery, always a good source of images advertising booksellers from around the US and beyond.

The most revealing bit of information about the business I could find, other than the catalog itself, is a Christmas-time newspaper ad from the Santa Fe New Mexican, December 13, 1926. It provides more information about the business and inventory beyond books they carried.

On a somewhat related note, the Austin Book, Paper & Photo Show, presented by the Texas Booksellers Association, is this coming weekend (January 11-12, 2014). Texana and Western Americana books and materials are prominent at this show each year. Some of the titles in Collins' stock nearly a hundred years ago will no doubt be available this weekend from various dealers in Austin, albeit at much higher prices than Collins could have dreamed of getting for them!

Friday, November 8, 2013

An author's letter to Jacqueline Kennedy

In May of 1961, British journalist and author, George Bilainkin, sent an inscribed copy of his 1947 book, Second Diary of a Diplomatic Correspondent to the new First Lady of the United States, Jacqueline Kennedy. 

He also included a typed, signed letter on his letterhead and indicated a few pages of interest to the First Lady and perhaps the new President, whom he had known and met with on several occasions in 1945 at the close of World War II.

The book and letter were sent to Mrs. Kennedy in advance of an upcoming trip to London, in which the author hoped to meet with both, or at least the First Lady, and revisit a few sites pertinent to his meetings, as a journalist, with a young Jack Kennedy in 1945. He also knew the President’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., when he was the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Bilainkin also expresses his wish to take Mrs. Kennedy to lunch and, as if that weren't enough, further requests she bring photos of herself, her husband, and his parents!

The Kennedys, on their first trip overseas, while in the White House, went to Paris, Vienna, and London. They were in London June 4-5, 1961 and it seems all but impossible that they had the time or desire to meet with a journalist whom the President had crossed paths with in 1945. Certainly, it was never a consideration.
For the First Lady of the United States of America, from an old admirer and all-weather friend of the Kennedy clan.
George Bilainkin  May 1961

It is unknown, though, if Jacqueline Kennedy actually received this book, looked through it, and showed the author’s marked passages to the President (pages noted under the inscription above and in the Index). 

But it is intriguing to ponder that this book could have been in the possession of one or both for a time. They left no writing of ownership or annotation behind to confirm that. The book eventually found its way into a Washington, D.C. estate and later into the second-hand market, letter intact.

On its own merit, this book is an interesting history from a diplomatic correspondent’s point-of-view at the end of World War II. His intimate portraits of heads of state he met, such as Tito, de Gaulle, Churchill, and diplomats such as the aforementioned Kennedy, fill the pages of this follow-up to his 1940 published diary.

But it's the inscription and letter to First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, and the speculation that she or President Kennedy kept this on the White House bookshelves for awhile, that makes this particular copy even more interesting.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Houston Book Fair at the Museum of Printing History

Here's the most recent addition to my collection of bookish ephemera, an ad mailer for the 11th Annual Houston Book Fair at the Museum of Printing History, Saturday, November 9, 2013.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The International Miniature Book Society

Regarding a recent acquisition of ephemera collected and preserved by the Rasmussens of California, here is another sampling of what that sight-unseen purchase contained.

This is the very first issue of the Newsletter of the IMBS, published by the International Miniature Book Society in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, August 1984. It was edited by Dr. Martin Žnideršič and designed by Kazimir Rapoša. The editor starts the newsletter with the following:
Dear Lovers of miniature books, In front of you is the newsletter of the new international organisation which wants to bring together the interests of lovers of miniature books from all over the world. 
The stated goal is for a quarterly issue for the months of August, November, February, and May. The editor states that this first issue is an experimental one and that the final shape of the newsletter, with member collaboration, will gradually become clear. 

For anyone interested in miniature books, I have scanned the contents of this newsletter and presented the pages below (page 1 is above). Click on a page for an enlarged view. 

Articles include the following: First International Exhibition of Miniature Books in Ljubljana, Bibliography of Miniature Books, How the Symbol of the International Miniature Book Society Originated, Miniature Books in America, The Greatest Miniature Book Artist (Károly Andruskó), and In the Olympic Year, Three Olympic Miniature Books.  

Back on the first page, the concluding paragraph states:  
With the first number of our newsletter we are enclosing some information about the kind of plans we have for the society's future work. 
The first of those enclosures (below) is a single paper, folded, and printed on both sides with information about the IMBS, its founding, its aims, and a brief membership application section.

The other enclosure is a five-page list (List No. 1), folded catalog-style, of miniature books available for sale through the International Miniature Book Society (see below). The books are listed by country--Yugoslavia, Eastern Germany, and Hungary.

And there you have it--the complete inaugural package from the fledgling IMBS to members and prospective members. The society does not appear to exist today in its original form. The complete lack of information available on the current status of the society supports that assumption. The latest reference I can find is from 2004--The Distinguished Book Award from the International Miniature Book Society.

The Miniature Book Society, on its About MBS page, offers, perhaps, a clue to the demise of the IMBS. It indicates that it (the MBS) began in 1983 in the United States and now enjoys a worldwide membership. So, possibly, the IMBS was eventually folded into the MBS, as the need or interest in a segregated international society eventually gave way to an all-encompassing organization.

If my assumption of the IMBS' demise is inaccurate  I'm sure I will be corrected sooner or later. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Naples Library bookplate

This copy of Ship of the Line, by C.S. Forester contains a Naples Library bookplate that triggered an instant memory of being on a ship in Naples, Italy about this time last year (see A Napoli Bookseller's Postcard).

Now, which Naples was this library in? I knew it wasn't in Italy, given the English printing on the label, but how many towns in the US are named Naples?

Naples, Florida seemed the most likely choice, but as I looked through the book for clues, I found a sticker on the endpapers in the back of the book that stated this book came from Naples, Maine.

I've been to Maine a number of times, but never heard of a town named after Old Napoli. If you hug the coast in your Maine travels, you'll miss Naples. Although inland about 30 miles or so northwest of Portland, it does boast of a waterfront location--freshwater instead of salt water like its namesake in the Mediterranean. Naples, Maine is a resort town on Long Lake.

From the library's Facebook page, below is a photo of the library from which the Forester volume got kicked out. Looks like an inviting place to read or browse for books.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Michigan and the Cleveland Era - Why was this book written?

This is the book in question: Michigan and the Cleveland Era, edited by Earl D. Babst and Lewis G. Bander Velde (University of Michigan Press, 1948). The title page adds a subtitle, which offers a clue to the answer to the question in the title of this post: Sketches of University of Michigan Staff Members and Alumni Who Served the Cleveland Administrations 1885-89, 1893-97.

At first glance, though, no question arises as to why the book was written. But just inside the front cover, a printed answer is provided anyway on a 5 X 7-inch card from the Michigan Historical Collections, University of Michigan.

This card was previously featured in another post I wrote about three years ago on ephemera concerning rare books and collections at the University of Michigan. I came across this card again and thought it deserved its own post because it's a bit unusual.

Looks like a good number of University of Michigan alumni and faculty members served in numerous capacities during the Cleveland era. That may or may not be of interest to many, but the publisher found it interesting enough at the time to print this history. And beyond the extraordinary contributions of alumni to that period of history, a bigger statement was made about the value of higher education in general and justification for its continued development and support.

What I found interesting was the publisher's printed response to a question that may not have ever been asked. Actually, it seems a quick-start device for introducing the book to a reader who has barely gotten past the front cover. The University of Michigan Press may have even considered it a bit of a promotional piece for the university and its libraries' archives. 

A few pages in, the authors expand on the condensed intro rather profusely with 21 pages of their own making. Add a brief Foreword by university president Alexander G. Ruthven and any question about the book's existence is adequately addressed.

I've never seen a piece such as this, accompanying a book to offer a brief explanation of why that book was written. Certainly, the University of Michigan had bragging rights to this topic and was proud of its history. Perhaps it's wasn't terribly uncommon back when, just uncommon now to find the printed piece. Placed loosely inside the cover, most were probably lost over time. This one survived with the book to brag another day, some 65 years later.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Handlist of Miniature Books from Kitemaug Press

I recently acquired a box of ephemera related to books and booksellers--mostly catalogs and mostly addressed to either Lucille Rasmussen, W.E.H. Rasmussen, or both. More on them in a moment.

Apart from the bulk of nondescript, stapled sheets of cheap paper passing as catalogs of books for sale, are a handful of interesting pieces, such as this one from Kitemaug Press in Spartanburg, South Carolina--their Handlist of Miniature Books in Print.

A folded 6 X 7-inch paper becomes a printed brochure or prospectus or bibliography. It's actually a bit of all three with a promotional card inside for their 1982 offering, A Book of Many Things.

The Kitemaug Press was started by Frank J. Anderson during his tenure as librarian at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where his papers are archived. As the biographical note from the preceding link states, Anderson developed an interest in printing, publishing, and miniature books while serving as librarian at Wofford College from 1966-1984. His interest in these book arts, as well as the history of printing, continued into his retirement. Collections of his work with the Kitemaug Press can be found in various institutions such as the library system at Syracuse University. Kitemaug Press publications are collectible and can be found through rare and collectible booksellers at organizations such as the ABAA.

As for the Rasmussens, from whose collection the above item came, they appear to have been ardent bibliophiles who were involved not only with collecting, but also printing, binding, and publishing. The catalogs addressed to them attest to their interest in various genres of books, from literature to books about books. A catalog from Kitemaug Press definitely would have been of interest to them. From the scant bit of information about them online, W.E.H. Rasmussen's name is most often associated with the Rasmussen Press while Lucille Rasmussen's name is connected with the Dragon Bindery in Orange, California. Some of their printing and binding work turns up in university library collections. I will be featuring more ephemera in the near future pertaining to this creative couple. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bookmark for a Puerto Rican Book Fair, 1955

This bookmark was created for the 1955 Book Fair, or Feria del Libro, in Puerto Rico. Just shy of five inches in length, it's made of plastic and the print announces the date and place of the fair: Allen Esq.,San Jose-San Juan. The book fair ran for nearly a week that year--October 21-27

San Jose refers to Plaza de San Jose, one of several plazas in San Juan, which I believe is an old section of San Juan still popular with the arts community.

Libreria Campos was a San Juan publisher and bookseller for whom I can find publications dating from the 1930s to 1950s. They must have either sponsored or hosted the 1955 fair. Their history before and after the date range above is unknown to me.

"Allen Esq" offers a clue to the history of the fair also, but I can't, as yet, connect it to anything specific.

So, for now, this little bookmark is the only relic I can find online of that book fair nearly 60 years ago in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wide Awake with D. Lothrop & Co.

Here is a Victorian trade card that promotes both the offerings of a publisher and bookseller that stocks those products for his customers.

The colorful lithograph that graces the front of the card promotes D. Lothrop & Co.'s Wide Awake series with a subscription rate discount, as well as the single issue price. Similar information is offered at the bottom of the card for another children's periodical, Baby-Land.  The publisher's popular illustrated books and a free bookcase also get a mention squeezed in at the bottom of the card, with details on the reverse side.

Those details on the reverse side follow the stamp of a local bookseller who has those items in stock or can get them for you from the publisher. The bookseller who issued this card to store patrons was D.F. Wallace of Cortland, New York, about 30 miles south of Syracuse. More on him and Cortland history in the 1870s to 1880s here.

On Christmas Eve, 2011, I blogged about another D. Lothrop piece--a postal ad cover for their Wide Awake Pleasure Book and a child's scrawl addressed to St. Nicholas on the reverse side, perhaps in an attempt to get the book advertised for Christmas. 

The Thoughts of Bibliomaven blog has much more on Daniel Lothrop, his company's books, and associated ephemera, including a near-identical trade card like the one I've posted here. 


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