Archive for the ‘Field Trips’ Category


NY Book Fair

   Posted by: rring

book fair1Every April the ABAA (Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America) and the ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers) sponsors an international antiquarian book fair in New York, at the Park Ave Armory. The other big fairs of the year are in Boston (November) and California (February), alternating years in Los Angeles & San Francisco.

I always come to New York, but this may be the last year that the show is at the Armory, which would be a great shame (they are planning to go up-market and attract folks that can pay a lot more than book dealers to use the space). I usually just come for a day, but this trip I was able to stay for 3 days, and so, I thought a report might be fun.

Some 200 dealers from all over the world place the most interesting items in their stock in booths that measure about 10 x 10 feet … tens of millions of dollars worth of antiquarian material in one big room for four days. It’s a great place to build relationships and buy amazing things for your collection.

The dealers hail from many US states as well as the U.K., Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Russia, Japan, Australia and Argentina.

There are a cluster of dealers from the UK from whom I love to buy–they have an eye that I agree with, and generally I agree with their pricing! This year was no different, and I will discuss specific acquisitions in later posts. Justin Croft, whom I met perhaps 10 years ago when I was buying for another institution, always has more than enough items to tempt–especially French and English manuscript material. Simon Beattie is another whom I met a decade or more ago, when he was with Quaritch, I think, and I was so impressed when he set up on his own–both because I know how brave that move is (I tried my hand at bookselling for a couple of years), and because his catalogues were just so freaking cool. The design actually made the items more attractive–one wanted to buy them just to reward Simon for the effort! And although I generally don’t acquire Russian materials (one of his specialties), he often has a quirky rare item that fits with what I am looking for at the time (more to follow!).

Susanne Shulz-Falster and Deborah Coltham are two other U.K. dealers with whom I enjoy working. Always charming and enthusiastic (as are Simon and Justin), Susanne has fabulous books related to printing history, but it is often the quirky side items that attract me (again, more to follow). Deborah often comes up with great stuff on the history of medicine (including quackery).

That’s enough for now–back to the fair!


God & Evil in the Watkinson

   Posted by: rring

Enfield HS classOn Friday morning we hosted a group of high school seniors from Enfield, some from an English class but most from a philosophy course taught by Kelly Mazzone (nee O’Connor), who took an M.A. from Trinity in History in 2007 (under direction of the late Jack Chatfield).

The students have been studying excerpts from Genesis, the works of St. Anselm, St. Tomas Aquinas, William Paley and Blaise Pascal, as well as passages from Milton and Dante. They seemed pretty excited and engaged when I laid out for them our editions of Paradise Lost (in ten books, 1668, and in twelve books, 1678, including a copy formerly owned by John Eliot), and several edition s of the Inferno.

Also of interest to them were our original leaf (and newly acquired facsimile of) the Gutenberg Bible, the first volumes of two of the major polyglot Bibles–Paris (1645) and London (1657)–and the 1611 first edition of the “King James Version,” not to mention two of our beautiful books of hours, and (in answer to, “what is your oldest book”?), our cuneiform tablet.

I think a few bibliophiles were born that morning–or at least, definitley quickened!



   Posted by: rring

papermania1This morning a student and I visited Papermania in downtown Hartford–I’ve been meaning to go for years, and I definitely am glad I went. Well over 100 dealers “from Florida to Canada” (but mainly from the northeast) brought a great array of STUFF to the fair–lots of ephemera of course, and books, but also posters, postcards, photos, and all manner of artifacts from scientific instruments to pop culture bobbles and doodads…I especially liked a little stamping kit for creating musical scores.

My student bought one small thing for himself, and I bought several things for the library, and made a good many connections. Of particular interest is a collection and archive (3 boxes) related to the Boston scholar-printer Daniel Berkeley Updike, of the Merrymount Press, which will be delivered to the library soon; also a series of historical fiction for juveniles, and another batch of 19th century American almanacs for our growing collection.


One of the items I wanted to buy but didn’t (we’ll see!) was a large broadside of recipes, printed in Hartford and hand-colored:




Class visit to a private collection

   Posted by: rring

During the 1st summer session (June/July) I am teaching AMST 851, a graduate course on “the world of rare books.” I have nine (9) students in all–four from American Studies, four from English, and one auditor from Simmons College’s LIS program.

Len1A few of us were privileged to visit the home of one of our Trustees, who collects Americana before 1840. He laid out a table of some of his favorites and went around, book by book, telling each item’s story. He also told us how he began collecting as a child–first with coins and stamps, then on to books beginning in his teens.

The one item that sticks out in my mind was a little (but important) rare tract by Samuel Penhallow (1665-1726), published in Boston in 1726: The History of the Wars of New England with the Eastern Indians.  This copy was annotated with commentary by someone who knew a veteran of the wars–in some cases correcting the text. The Watkinson has a 19th-century reprint of this work, but not the original, and certainly not such an amazing copy!

Len4In all the collection comprises over 600 items, which are neatly  shelved in several rooms.


Road Trip of the Book!

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Sally Dickinson, Associate Curator]

I was invited to go on a field trip to New York with the Book History class at Trinity.  It was a beautiful fall day and proved to be inspirational in more ways than just a walk down Madison Avenue.  Our first stop was The Center for Book Arts.  It was a great opportunity for me to make contact with an organization that fosters creative work in making and reinterpreting the book.  I chatted with book artist Roni Gross as the class arrived and quickly looked at a collection of broadsides on poetry that was produced at the Center.  From my perspective as a curator and book arts devotee, it was extremely helpful to see historical presses and to participate in a printing exercise that Roni deftly guided us through.  She gave an overview of the history of printing before we dove into composing our names from monotypes for a group broadside.  We all got to pull a couple of prints from 2 working vandercooks, a type of press favored by artistic printers today.

Next stop was one of my favorite places in the city—The Morgan Library at the corner of 36th and Madison.  When I want to see how things should be done in a rare book library, I often look to the Morgan as an example.  “Money is no object” seems to be their motto, which works for uncompromising displays of cultural artifacts and a world-renowned collection of rare books and manuscripts.  Several years ago the brownstone mansion had been renovated and expanded with a stunning modern addition.  It’s important to have low light levels on paper artifacts and to support the bindings of fragile books.  The architecture supported these requirements in an elegant way.  The modern, plexiglass display cases at the Morgan had hidden lighting inside a metal frame that made the books & manuscripts a focal point.   I was an architect in my former life and sometimes I find myself looking at the design of the cases more than the treasures inside!  The highlight of the visit was a seminar with curator Roger Wieck, who showed the class some of the remarkable medieval Books of Hours from the library’s collection.  I was also impressed by our students’ ability to interpret, under Wieck’s guidance, the text and images of the 15th century manuscripts.