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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year (Really)!


I don't know what the booksellers Billings, Harbourne & Co of San Francisco had in mind back in 1883 when they issued this solemn New Year's greeting. Could they have found a more unhappy looking figure to represent their wishes for a Happy New Year?


The reverse side offers a poem, which may help explain the forlorn look on the young woman's face. Apparently she is separated from her loved one and his words express a longing to see her on New Year's Day.


K. Van Tassell is credited as the artist, but I can't find anything about an artist with this name. L. Prang & Co. of Boston is the publisher of this card in 1883, and there is a lot of information available about this prolific chromolithographer. A German immigrant to Boston circa 1850, Louis Prang became a popular printer of collectible trade cards.

The Philadelphia Print Shop offers prints of Prang's work as well as a brief biography of his life. At this site, I learned that Prang, as his business grew, began offering color copies of famous paintings and published the magazine, Prang's Chromo: A Journal of Popular Art. I wonder if this trade card depiction of a young Fraulein is from a well-known painting (not to me, obviously)?

The booksellers Billings, Harbourne & Co., for reasons forever lost to history, chose this forlorn young, lovesick lady to greet their customers with good wishes for the new year ahead (1884?). Well more than a century later, this curious bookseller wishes you all a very happy and prosperous 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bookseller Sleuths, Fast and Loose


This recent addition to my collection is a publicity photo from the 1939 movie, Fast and Loose, a B movie at best that depicts a rare bookseller and his wife sleuthing around a crime scene involving a murdered bookseller and rare books theft. This particular photo was actually run in an Argentine newspaper, but I'd bet the same photo was used anywhere the film needed promotion. And from reviews I've read, it needed a lot of promotion.

The film Fast and Loose was the second in a series of three films inspired by the book Fast Company, by Harry Kurnitz (Dodd, Mead, 1938). My copy below is a second printing of the first Pocket Books edition in 1943. Marco Page was the pseudonym Kurnitz used.


Both the book and film have slipped into obscurity. I can't find a copy of the film anywhere to buy or rent, but if you'd like a first edition of Fast Company, which spawned the film series, there are actually a few copies to be had. But be prepared to spend around $500 and up. Apparently, the original book is at least valuable to collectors of biblio mysteries.

Interestingly, each film in this series had a different pair of actors in the lead roles of Joel and Garda Sloane (Glass in the book). The first film in the series took the book's title and starred Melvyn Douglas and Florence Rice in 1938. Two follow-ups were made in 1939, with Kurnitz writing the screenplays. In addition to Fast and Loose, which starred Robert Montgomery (pictured in the publicity photo) and Rosalind Russell, the finale in this trio was titled Fast and Furious, with Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern as Joel and Garda.

FYI... Robert Montgomery, who is pictured on the right in the publicity photo, was the father of Elizabeth Montgomery, best remembered for her role as Samantha Stevens in the 1960s sitcom Bewitched.

For more information on Kurnitz, his book Fast Company, and the Fast film series, MysteryFile.com is an excellent resource as well as this Turner Classic Movies site.

Here is the original trailer for Fast and Loose, which includes the scene that generated the still shot for my publicity photo:



There are trailers for the other two installments of this series, but I thought it best to not get too fast and loose with embedding YouTube videos in this post. If anyone really wants more punishment, you can find it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa Redux: Dutton's Christmas Handbill

Tonight, boys and girls around the world eagerly await Santa Claus and the gifts he will bring on his magical journey.

Accordingly, I thought I'd visit the ephemera of Christmas past with a link to my post last year about this turn of the century (ca. 1900) handbill.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas books from Amarillo, Texas

Just in time for Christmas, the Amarillo Book Shop catalog showed up in my mailbox today. But unless I can time-travel, I won't be getting what I'd like to have out of this catalog for Christmas Day.

This catalog is from 1927 and features Ernest Hemingway's latest collection of short stories, Men Without Women, for $2.00. Back here in 2009, that same book in as fine condition as the Amarillo Book Shop had it would be in the neighborhood of $10,000. That's a nice neighborhood!

Page 8 offers a related vignette and refers the reader to page 16 to see the listing for the book.

I like looking through these old book shop catalogs to see what was for sale and for how much. But what first caught my eye was the cover graphic, an illustration in red depicting a winter (Christmas) book shop scene, complete with a one-horse open sleigh. The illustrator is not credited other than by the initials M.D.


My ephemera collection includes prints and various formats of illustrations, such as this now, which depict old book shops and the bookselling trade. I am unfamiliar with this one, but I would like to know anything about this drawing and the artist. M.D. could be a local artist in the Amarillo area or this could be a reproduction from a book or other source. For now, it remains a mystery.


The history of the Amarillo Book Shop also remains a mystery. The details I have from the catalog's cover include the business name, the proprietor's name (Flo LaChapelle) and the location (103 Rule Building). The only history I can glean from the Internet so far is that the Rule Building was built in 1927, the same year indicated on the book shop's catalog.

So I wonder if the book shop got its start in a new building or if it had existed prior to the Rule Building opening its doors.

Either way, the stock market crash of 1929 was a just a few years ahead and would signal the beginning of the Great Depression. In the decade of difficult times that followed, I also wonder just how long the Amarillo Book Shop was able to make a go of it.

From the looks of this little catalog, they were well-stocked with a variety of books and probably feeling optimistic about their home in a brand new building. However long that lasted, they appear to have vanished without a trace, save for their December catalog of 1927.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

International bookseller labels from New York



Cataloging books the other day, I struggled through a few non-English titles, trying to translate French and German to English to see what exactly I was dealing with. To my surprise, both had their bookseller labels still affixed. I hadn't come across any of these ephemeral bits of the book trade in a while and was getting complacent about even looking for them in more recently published books such as those harboring these labels.

The two New York City booksellers, represented here by their inconspicuous labels, were anything but inconspicuous as long-established bookselling concerns with specialties in foreign language titles.

The Librairie de France closed its doors just a few months ago. With rent tripling to about a million dollars a year, they just couldn't stay open in their Rockefeller Center space, where they'd been for 74 years. The picture below, from the New York Daily News, shows the store and its owner, Emanuel Molho, whose father started the business in 1928.


But a visit to their Web site offers some solace to customers with the announcement that they will continue operating as a mail order business.

Stechert-Hafner has a longer history than its former neighbor above and, surprisingly so, there is scant biographical information online about the principals of this company.

They got started in New York City in 1872 as G.E. Stechert & Company. Stechert was joined later by Swiss immigrant, Alfred Hafner, who worked in various positions for the company before his name became a part of the firm's name.

A 1966 obituary in the New York Times indicates that Otto Hafner was the president of the company at the time of his death. The company is described as having offices in London, Paris, Stuttgart, Germany, and Bogota, Colombia. A large international bookselling firm, they imported and exported books in many parts of the world.

Countless references can be found on the science, technical, medical, and other nonfiction categories, in which Stechert-Hafner dealt, in languages from around the world.

Nine stories of inventory at their New York location were purchased by Richard Booth and moved to his Hay on Wye bookstore, a former castle. The date of the purchase is not indicated in the article at the link above, but Booth started his bookshop in the early 1960s. Perhaps with Hafner's death, the company's beginning of the end was at hand.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Longfellow's receipt

In 1880, the revered American poet and scholar, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), bought a book printed in Pennsylvania German from H.L. Fisher, a York, Pennsylvania lawyer and poet. Fisher evidently self-published the book and had pre-printed receipts ready for the sales.

I have in my collection the receipt he made out to Henry W. Longfellow for his purchase of a copy of 'S Alt Marik-Haus Mittes In D'r Schtadt, Un Die Alte Zeite, a centennial poem in Pennsylvania Dutch.


So what interest did Longfellow have in some obscure German language book from a Pennsylvania lawyer who liked to write? That was one question I had when trying to determine if this were really the same Longfellow (how many Henry W's could there be?).

I don't know of any specific interest in Fisher. That may be forever lost to history. But in researching Longfellow and Fisher and related people, places, and events, I discovered a bigger picture about Longfellow and his collecting and scholarly pursuits that puts his Pennyslvania German acquisition into a better perspective.

Longfellow's ability in the ancient classics, while studying at Bowdoin College in the 1820s, led the trustees to establish a new chair of Modern Languages and offer the position to Longfellow. But first, he was instructed to study in Europe to prepare himself in the langauge and culture of France, Spain, and Italy.

Before setting sail, he met with George Ticknor in Boston. Ticknor's strong recommendation that the young graduate include Germany in his itinerary sowed the seeds of Longfellow's lifelong interest in Germany and its literature.

Longfellow returned after a few years to Bowdoin College to teach and later was offered a similar position at Harvard on the condition that he travel again to Europe, at his own expense, and attain more expertise in the German language.

His love and scholarly pursuits of German were lifelong and just a few years before his death, the receipt above indicates that he was still reading and studying German. I don't know the extent of his interest in Pennsylvania German or if it were something he aspired to late in life. But he knew enough to select a title from Fisher, "whose admirable contributions to Pennsylvania-German literature easily place him among the most gifted and fertile writers in the dialect." That attribute to Fisher is from a 1902 Pennsylvania-German Society publication article, Metrical Translations from the German and English Classics and from the Irish and Scotch Dialects into Pennsylvania German, by Thomas C. Zimmerman.

I consulted two biographies of Longfellow to learn more about him and attempt to find any connection he had to Pennsylvania German literature: New Light on Longfellow, with Special Reference to His Relations to Germany, by James Taft Hatfield (Houghton Mifflin, 1933) and Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life, by Charles Calhoun (Beacon Press, 2004).

I wound up reading both and recommend them, as well as Harvard's Houghton Library site, Public Poet, Private Man: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at 200 for anyone interested in his life. There's a lot more to the man than Hiawatha and other anthologized relics from an immense, albeit faded (in popularity), American literary legacy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Russian Bookmark

I found a bookmark the other day, which I can't read, in a book that I also can't read. Both are in Russian language, printed with the Cyrillic alphabet.

I took a semester of Russian in the early to mid 1990s, thinking it might come in handy with my writing/editing work at NASA. It didn't.

Some of our astronauts, civil service personnel, and contractors were taking courses in Russian and traveling to Russia for work with the International Space Station. It couldn't hurt in that environment to have some knowledge of the language and culture of our Russian counterparts, right?

Well, Russian for me was a "painful" language to learn, so yeah, it did "hurt." I was also taking Spanish just because I liked the language, excelled at it in grade school and later grades, and I wanted to get reacquainted with it.

Spanish was a cake walk. Russian was an ordeal. About all I remember is a chunk of the Cyrillic alphabet and some of the sounds associated with individual symbols. Maybe enough to do some transliteration with the help of my Russian language books and the Internet. Conjugating verbs? No recuerdo nada en Ruso. But I don't have the time to spend translating this, or attempting to. Maybe some day.

Anyway, the bookmark is still pretty cool looking. Pretty unique, too, for my collection. And the book has interesting looking foldout maps. Maybe I'll stick it on ebay for a buck and say if you can read it, you can have it cheap. Unless it turns out to be some rare first edition, in which case it will stay with my bookmark. But how would I know?

Maybe I better get that Russian language book out...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Iceland bookseller and literary postal history

A bookseller from Iceland more than fifty years ago created this bit of ephemera with a double-biblio angle for my collection--books and philately (bibliophemera and bibliophilately).


This is an interesting postcard from the Icelandic bookseller Snaebjorn Jonsson & Co., The English Bookshop, in Reykjavik. They sent this postcard to Scott Publications, Inc., a publisher of stamp catalogs and other publications pertaining to stamp collecting (I used to get their catalogs when I was a kid).


Of interest is the identification of a bookseller in Iceland and the Icelandic history depicted on the stamps used to mail the postcard. The history deals specifically with antiquarian books and manuscripts.

The two stamps on the postcard are from a 1953 set of five issued to commemorate Iceland's literary heritage.

I've been researching these stamps and the literature depicted on them for the better part of this year. The leads have been hard to come by, but just as I had pieced together the start of this post, I discovered Leona Rostenberg's research.

The late Ms. Rostenberg, a well-known rare book dealer and stamp collector via her passion for books, wrote in 1978 an article for the American Philatelic Society titled, Bibliately ...a new philatelic word, for a new scholarly philatelic topical, the history of books on postage stamps. That article was reprinted in book form, a copy of which I now have.




The coined term bibliately seems to have given way later to bibliophilately (which I prefer), or maybe I should say "amended by.' Larry T. Nix offers on his excellent site some distinction between the two terms.

By whatever name, for collectors of this topical, Rostenberg's book is an indispensable resource and reference guide. Her research, once I discovered it, addressed most of my questions pertaining to the two stamps on the postcard and others in the set I learned of later. Quoting from her article on Icelandic stamps:
During the thirteenth century Iceland's Bishop Brand compiled a paraphrase of the historical books of the Bible which was completed through Exodus Stiorn, one leaf of which is reproduced on a one-krone Icelandic stamp.
That one-krone (Kr.), or króna, stamp is the one on the left on the postcard.


The two stamps on the postcard are from a set of five issued in 1953 (Scott 278-288) to commemorate Iceland's literary heritage.

Photo from Jay Smith & Associates


The two stamps depicting an open book, the 10 Aur. (Aurar) in black and the 1.75 Kr. in blue, depict the manuscript of an early law book. As for the 10 Kr. and 70 Aur. stamps, the leads grow cold. They depict Medieval manuscripts, perhaps a representative depiction of the Icelandic eddas and sagas rather than any particular manuscript.

Back to the bookseller who started all this... Snaebjorn Jonsson was a writer, publisher, and bookseller, whose English Bookshop is referenced in the return address on the postcard above.

From a Time Magazine issue of December 6, 1926, I learn that Editor could also be added to Jonsson's resume. He is referenced as having edited the first first Year Book of Iceland. The writer of the Time article seems equally taken with Jonsson's physical attributes as with his wordsmithing abilities, describing him as follows: "...a blond, curly-haired, strapping, virile, industrious Icelandic clerk and translator to the Danish Ministry of Industries."

I can't speak to the "strapping, virile" qualities, but "industrious" is quite evident from the pieces of business history that fall into place researching this man. In 1927, following up on his editing work of the Year Book, he wrote the Primer of Modern Icelandic. He became a publisher (Snaebjorn Jonsson & Co.) and branched off into bookselling, with The English Book Shop.

So this postcard proved to be a nice little piece of ephemera that offers a bit of insight into the literary, philatelic, and bookselling history of Iceland.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Baltimore Printing History: "The Printing Office"




Here’s an interesting printer’s receipt I bought recently from an Austin dealer because the word “Books” appeared in the upper, left corner of the paper. It probably refers to blank books, but I liked the look of it enough to buy it anyway.

This paper predates the Civil War and given Baltimore’s rich colonial and Revolutionary history, I thought there could be a connection to some interesting history beyond the date on the paper. I think I may have been rewarded for my reasoning.

I find nothing of historical significance about the printing transaction indicated—payment received from a Mr. Francis V. Moale, an estate trustee, for 25 handbills. But the building where “The Printing Office” was headquartered is the portal for a look back into not only Baltimore’s history, but American Revolutionary history.

The Sun Iron Building, where the printer was located, was built in 1851 and was one of the first iron-frame buildings in the city and served as a model for other buildings. Sadly, it was destroyed in the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904.

But the site where it was built had also once been the address of a printer named William Goddard, who, coincidentally (or not), called his business The Printing-Office (with a hyphen). He started the business in 1773 in the house that once occupied the same lot where the Sun Iron Building later stood with its Printing Office.

A year later, his sister Katherine Goddard would join him in the business, where William had also begun publishing two Baltimore newspapers--the Maryland Journal and the Baltimore Advertiser. There are many links to pages about Katherine Goddard, but I chose the one above because it's the only one I found that has an image of her. Christopher T. George provides a more detailed account of her life at http://www.baltimoremd.com/monuments/goddard.html.

This is where the history gets real interesting. By 1775, Katherine's name began appearing in the paper as Publisher and Editor. While not a first in the Colonies, it was unusual. She quickly gained a solid reputation in the printing business and that year was also named Postmaster of Baltimore. That was unusual and likely is the first appointment in the colonies of a woman to that position.

She began publishing news of events leading to the war for American independence. In 1777, she published the first printing of the Declaration of Independence that included the signers' names.

Certain radical groups, chief among them the Whig Club, tried to censure what she printed, such as criticism of General Washington several years into the war. She fought back for the freedom of speech and the press.

She continued in her roles as publisher, editor and postmaster well into the 1780s, when she was unfairly, it would seem, relieved of her postmaster duties and had a falling out with her brother, after which she left the newspaper business William started.

But that wasn't the end of her entrepreneurial endeavors. She continued on as a publisher and published her own almanac, which competed with that of her brother's. She also opened and operated a bookstore in Baltimore until 1802 when she retired from business altogether. She died in 1816 at the age of 78, having lived an eventful life in which she engaged the causes of independence, freedom of the press, and even women's rights.

So can I connect my 1851 Printing Office receipt to a colonial printing office that evolved with a fledgling young nation’s struggle to turn its declaration for independence into the realization of a truly independent country?

On July 3, 1887, the New York Times published a brief article that confirms my assumptions about the connection between the Goddard's The Printing-Office and the Sun Iron Building's The Printing Office more than 75 years later. I found the article here in the archives.

What I haven't discovered yet is if, after William Goddard sold or closed the business in the 1790s, the business continued on in the new century under the same name, ultimately moving into the new Sun Iron Building in 1851. Or, perhaps, the proprietors of the reincarnated The Printing Office had a good sense of the history that preceded it on that site and paid homage to the Goddards by reviving the name of their business. The search continues...




A Civil War veteran's letter to a bookseller

This is about a letter about a book. A very important book to the letter writer.

A few years ago, I purchased a letter written in 1922 by an old Civil War soldier--a veteran of the Confederacy living in Austin, Texas at the Home for Confederate Veterans. The envelope bears the Confederate insignia flag and address of the home. The letter was addressed to a Mr. J.J. Wolfe of Houston, whom I have presumed to be a bookseller.



I wrote about this in another blog a few years back and now it seems more fitting that it be posted here, especially if my assumption about Wolfe's occupation is right. For the sake of this post, let's say I'm correct and Wolfe was a Houston bookseller in the 1920s. But even if I'm not correct, the letter is still about a book. So either way, we have a bibliophemera connection.

The writer of the letter--the old Rebel vet--thought Mr. Wolfe might be able to help him momentarily escape his "prison" (he states he is an "inmate of the Home") and "rent" him a book about his homeland--Davidson County, Tennessee. It's a poignant letter from an old man at the end of his life, who appears to want to see his boyhood home one more time, if only through the pages of a book.




John L. Young is the Confederate veteran. His brief bio is found here at the Texas State Cemetery site. From it, we learn Mr. Young's age, 84, at the time he wrote the letter. We also learn that he was from Nashville and that he was listed as a deserter during the Civil War. Apparently, he signed up for 12 months and was taken prisoner, but was released after he'd been in service for 12 months, so he decided he'd had enough. Assuming his obligation was over, and presumably having no more use for the war, he tried to get on with his life.

He's unaccounted for between 1862 and 1877. Maybe he was on the run. But he showed up in Texas about 1878 and worked as a farmer, presumably until he went to the Confederate Home. He signed his name Dr. John L. Young, but it's unclear why he did so. By all accounts he was a farmer, but he did board with two doctors late in life, until he went into the "Home." Perhaps Dr. became a sort of nickname or maybe he thought it give him more credibility in a world where he might not have had very much status.

His life long ago shaped by the events of the War Between the States, Young still seemed to retain a nostalgic sense of place for his boyhood years in Tennessee. By the time he finds himself in the Confederate Home in Austin, Texas, and writing this letter as an old man, his financial situation is pretty dire and he could not afford a copy of the Davidson County book from another correspondent--a Mr. A.W. Mountcastle of Lenoir City, Tennessee. I don't know if Mountcastle was a bookseller, but he was a friend to all Confederate veterans according to his profile on this Tennessee genealogy site.

Undeterred by his poor financial circumstances, Young hatches a creative scheme whereby he can still obtain a copy of the book. He must really want to see it. His words, from the letter above, follow (I've added only punctuation for legibility):
Confederate Home
Austin, Texas
Oct 18
Dear Mr. Wolfe,
I corresponded some time ago about the purchase of a book he [Mountcastle in Lenoir City, TN] had History of Davidson Co Tenn. I was born and raised in Nashville and wanted the book but felt I was not able to buy it. I am a veteran of the war between the states and an inmate of This Home supported by the state.
I wish to know if I can rent your book for one month. I propose to pay expressage both ways and promise and pledge to keep it absolutely clean and free from abuse. This will be a great favor to me. I will promise that no hands shall touch it but mine. Please write me in care of Confed Home.
Dr. John L. Young
Austin, Texas
P.S. Please write me if you are a Tennesseean and are you a civil war veteran? What part of Tennessee are you from?
JLY
Every time I read this letter, I wonder how Mr. Wolfe in Houston responded to the old man. Or did he bother to respond at all? Did Mr. Young get to read about his old homeland and see images that would enhance time travel back home through his aging memories?

What would a bookseller today do with such a request? Unless it was a collectible book of great value, I'm pretty sure I would send the old man the book with my compliments and tell him to enjoy it.

As for the book Mr. Young wanted, I searched books with Davidson County in the title, published prior to the letter's postmark of 1922, and found only one match: History of Davidson County, Tennessee, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men and Pioneers, by W.W. Clayton (Philadelphia, 1880).

Not long after purchasing that letter, I purchased a musty old book at an antique store in a small Texas town (Wallis): Civics: Texas and Federal, by Triplett and Hauslein; Rein & Sons (Houston, 1912). I bought it for an old document left between the pages long ago. It had more value to me than the neglected book that had archived it all these years. I had just about tossed it into the donation pile when I decided to thumb through its pages for any interesting old photographs. I was rewarded for my efforts. Many historical images from around the state of Texas began to appear, but one in particular caught my eye--the Home for Confederate Veterans in Austin, John L. Young's "prison" in his final years. And it does look kind of like a prison!




Thursday, October 29, 2009

Books and booze

A while back I wrote about a piece of advertising ephemera that used a bibliophile angle to sell a new 1934 Chevy: Advertising with bibliophiles. Below are more examples of Madison Avenue having tapped into the biblio vat for just the right image to sell a product. It's whisky rather than wheels this time.



Kentucky Tavern evidently has a certain quality comparable to rare volumes of books. Either that or its quality is quantifiable by a metric consisting of many books.

That's about it for this ad--the books are more or less a cheap prop. Plus, it looks like the two drinks are Manhattans (cherries being the clue). Any bibliophile worth his bitters could tell you that straight rye is the preferred elixir for that cocktail (even though I fudge a bit with Maker's Mark).

Hudson's Bay Blended Scotch Whisky, on the other hand, used in this next ad a set of what appears to be very old and valuable books and a clever play on words with the line, The spirit that's in these books... is in this bottle.



The antiquarian books are about the Hudson's Bay Company and the adventurous exploits of its men in the New World. Further, Hudson's Bay Blended Scotch Whisky makes the claim that it "descended from the whisky that was distilled for that intrepid company of adventurers who carved an empire out of a wilderness 300 years ago."

I don't know how you would substantiate that claim, but, personally, I think rare books of the Hudson's Bay vintage match up better with a single malt Scotch, not a blend.

Regardless, anytime I can find interesting ephemera, such as these ads, that use books to pitch the quality of a product, I'll... well, I'll drink to that!



Thursday, October 15, 2009

Barnes & Noble and the World's Fair 1939


The World's Fair was in New York, 1939-1940, and there were probably many companies who used that event in their advertising ephemera. Barnes & Noble was no exception.

Here is a piece of ephemera that appears to have been part of a World's Fair souvenir booklet of some sort. Perforated edges and a gummed back indicate it was part of a set of stamps. Thankfully, this little item survived the separation that usually damages such items.

It measures 1.5 by 2 inches. Printed on this stamp is VISIT OUR STORE in large type. In smaller type below, almost as an afterthought, is the rest of the message... While in New York for the World's Fair.

Barnes & Noble already had a long history in New York by 1939. The bookseller with the slogan, America's Book Center, had its genesis in two different cities, actually, with different family booksellers. But the two families did not merge their businesses as the name might imply.

The Barnes family bookselling business originated in Wheaton, Illinois in 1873 and by 1894 was selling only school books. By 1917, William Barnes, son of the founder, sold his interest and moved to New York, where he acquired an interest in an established educational bookselling firm, Noble & Noble. He partnered with G. Clifford Noble, who had been in the book business with two partnerships previously--Hinds & Noble and Noble & Noble. After Barnes joined the latter, the bookstore was soon renamed to Barnes & Noble.

This partnership lasted until 1929, when Noble left, but the name stayed. Barnes & Noble's name recognition by that time must have been too significant to toy with. The Barnes family kept control of the company until 1969, when John Barnes died and it passed into other hands.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October Book Mark from Ted's Book Shop in Kansas City

On the first day of October, here's a book mark for the new month... 1950 that is. It comes from Ted's Book Shop in Kansas City.

Designed for the season, it features an open book next to a Jack O'Lantern, an apple, and a dark house with a leafless tree silhouetted in the background. You instantly think Halloween and pumpkins and haunted houses. And, of course, a good book is appropriate anywhere.

If you were looking for something to read on a chilly October night in Kansas City that year, Ted had some suggestions for you. The front of the book mark lists seven titles with brief descriptions. No authors are indicated, but everybody's reading them.


The flip side of the book mark displays a calendar and a list of new and recommended books--titles with authors such as Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki and Hemingway's Across the River and Into the Trees. A couple of Whodunits round at the reading recommendations.

The Hemingway book, in fine condition fresh off the press, cost $3 in 1950. Today, you could get three- to four-hundred times that amount for the book, the trick being to find a first printing in Fine condition. But what a treat that would be!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Books in the news, 1799

In the early days of the United States, one of the most prominent booksellers in the state of Connecticut had to be Hudson & Goodwin of Hartford.

I assume this because of their ability to run a full-page ad on the front page of the Connecticut Courant announcing new books recently added to their stock. It helped that they also owned and published the Connecticut Courant.

The edition I have here was published Monday, December 9, 1799 and displays a full-page list of new stock:
Hudson & Goodwin, Have for sale at their Store opposite the North Meeting-House, Hartford, the following BOOKS, which they have lately received from London, Dublin, and elsewhere--VIZ.
There must be several hundred books listed by the following subjects: Divinity and Ecclesiastical History; Law; Medicine; Biography, History, Voyages and Travels; Novels Poetry, Arts and Sciences; Languages and School Books; and Miscellanies.


Taking a back seat, or second page, to the front page news about a bunch of new books is none other than President John Adams and a speech he gave to Congress. Also something about Napoleon retreating from Syria, according to letters from Sir Sidney Smith to Lord Nelson.




Napoleon's retreat was reported on page 4. But on this day, books took center stage, page 1. I'm sure that wasn't the first nor the last time that would happen either. When Hudson & Goodwin had a bunch of books fresh off the boat to sell, well, they owned the local newspaper so why not get the word out. Those other newsmakers would still be around the next day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Geo. E. Littlefield - Boston book dealer, 1894


Here is an ad cover from 1894 advertising the business of rare book dealer George Emery Littlefield of Boston. Littlefield lived from 1844 to 1915 and, in addition to selling rare books, he published many catalogues of rare Americana and genealogy. He also published in 1900 a volume of bookseller history, Early Booksellers of Boston 1642-1711. There is surprisingly little else on Littlefield that turns up on the Internet, especially considering that two book were written about him, neither of which I can find: An Old Boston Bookseller: George E. Littlefield as I Knew Him, by Frank Jones Wilder and George Emery Littlefield, A.B., by John Woodbury.


When I bought this cover, I knew I would learn more about Littlefield by consulting my copy of Yankee Bookseller (Houghton Mifflin, 1937), the Charles E. Goodspeed bookseller autobiography. Goodspeed was a later contemporary of Littlefield, having entered the Boston bookselling scene in 1894, the year of the Littlefield cover shown above. I remembered reading something about Littlefield in Yankee Bookseller. I'll let Mr. Goodspeed describe his colleague from his chapter Old Time Bookmen:
My relations with the Boston booksellers were from the start, as they always have been, most cordial. Prominent among them was George E. Littlefield, at the time dean of the Boston secondhand booktrade. Mr. Littlefield was a Harvard graduate and had a decide bent toward historical research. He specialized in Americana, particularly in genealogy. I found him a good friend, always most helpful... Cornhill, a short street descending the lower slope of Beacon Hill easterly from Scollay Square, was at the time of which I write, even as it is now, distinguished by the old book shops on either side. The aspect of Littlefield's establishment at No. 67 was rather unattractive. Its walls were lined by shelves built to the ceiling. These and a central stack contained a miscellaneous lot of books in which the proprietor appeared to take little interest. His desk, surrounded by rows of Americana and buttressed by dusty piles of pamphlets, was on a raised platform in the rear. Here he sat and wrote or entertained his cronies who, although not numerous, included mot of the Boston collectors of the time. He was brusque in manner and intolerant of casual visitors.

Littlefield's shop on Cornhill. Perhaps that is him standing in the doorway with a customer or employee.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Books in Israel

A couple of items from the Middle East today...

I recently acquired a box of bookseller catalogs from around the world and found one from Jerusalem that ties in with another piece of ephemera from Israel acquired in a separate lot.

The bookseller's catalog is from Ludwig Mayer of Jerusalem. The catalog is titled Export List No. 16. Its size caught my eye first, the unusual dimensions of 8.5 by 13 inches. All titles advertised are for Hebrew language books unless indicated otherwise, but the listings in this catalog are described in English.

The book shop that Mayer started in 1908 still exists and has been in the same location since 1935. According to the shop's Web site, Mayer Books (Jerusalem) Ltd (its full name today) is the oldest book shop in Jerusalem. Their specialty is in academic publications with a special attention to the humanities. They stock books in Hebrew, English, German, and French.

The second piece, from about the same period, is a 1965 postal cover advertising the Jerusalem International Book Fair.



One of the largest in the world, the book fair started in 1963 and is held biennially. This 1965 cover advertises only the second occurrence of the book fair. As stated on their Web site (link above), the fair draws over 1200 publishers from more that 40 countries who display more than 100,000 books in different languages.

A key event at each fair is the awarding of the coveted Jerusalem Prize, to a writer "whose work best expresses and promotes the idea of the freedom of the individual in society." Five writers who have received this award have also received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The 24th Jerusalem International Book Fair was held earlier this year and the 2009 recipient of the Jerusalem Prize is Haruki Murakami.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Park Avenue Book Store Calendar, 1984


Here's a curious pairing of bookmark to book: A Park Avenue Book Store calendar found in Houston: Land of the Big Rich, by George Fuermann (Doubleday, 1951).

At first glance, you'd think the book about the big rich in Houston was marked by a transparent red calendar for a bookstore in the Big Apple: Land of Some Really Big Rich. But this Park Avenue is found in Rochester, New York, not NYC.


The calendar is circa 1983/1984, the two years printed on it. Tracking that 25-year-old clue, about all I can find presently is a mention from Peggy Rosenthal in the acknowledgments for her book Words & Values: "Herb Leventer, whose Park Avenue Book Store has become a sort of personal research center for Rochester's many writers and avid readers..."

So the bookstore with the big-city name appears to have been a literary hangout for its city. And it likely went the way of so many other once-viable book places. I had hoped to find it still thriving as an independent centerpiece of Rochester's literary community. They're a dying breed. Even in the land of the big rich.

But wait... Rochester's bookstore community appears to be alive and well. Read about it here. Aside from the big chain store, there are a fair number of smaller independents staking their claim for the readership of Rochester. I'd call that the Big Enrich.

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