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Just In – World War Two Posters

January 14th, 2009  |  by  |  published in Uncategorized


We just acquired 50 or more World War II posters. What's a little sexist stereotyping if it was good for the war effort? Stop in and take a look. Priced from $15.

Botanical Atrocities

December 6th, 2008  |  by  |  published in Uncategorized


So once again, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society is teetering on the brink and has turned to selling off rare books to make ends meet (or more accurately, pay their **creditors** 30 cents on the dollar).

On December 11, at Sotheby's, at least six rare botanicals will be going on the block. This deaccessioning has been done quietly, but these six lots have Mass Hort bookplates. Nicholas Basbanes' article on a previous gutting of the MHS library (still touted on its website as "renowned for its collection of books related to early agriculture, horticulture, and landscape design.") can be read here.

**Thanks, Wystan**

How Cool Is Blogging

July 2nd, 2008  |  by  |  published in Uncategorized

All the big ad agencies are developing blog strategies for their clients. Apparently, if your product hasn't been mentioned in a blog, you're on the road to bankruptcy.

Yesterday, my wife and I received FIVE – count 'em, 5 – green boxes with odd labels. Actually, two were addressed to Fine Books contributors, two to my wife, and one for me. In each box we found a small bottle of Hendrick's gin, a cucumber, and a card with a web address.

Originally, we only opened the ones addressed to us, but once we realized gin – our alcoholic beverage of choice (I've had two today – it was a rough day) – was enclosed, we purloined all five. I'm sure the other Fine Books folks probably didn't want theirs, but I'm not about to ask.

It turned out to be a promotion from Hendrick's, one of our top three gins. Amy and I prefer Beefeater, which I know is a cliche, but it's also the best gin for martinis. Hendrick's is probably our second favorite. (Is anyone from Beefeater reading this – we can be bribed. Really. We once knew an employee of the firm that represented Beefeater, and we really enjoyed the relationship.)

I'm not sure what we were supposed to do with the cucumber. The cocktail recipe Hendrick's provided called for gin (which they kindly sent), mint, soda, ice, and a bit of sugar – ingredients that cost me close to $5. It was a nice cocktail. The recipe didn't include a cucumber, so I sliced one thin and floated it in the drinks.

What does this have to do with book collecting? We're featuring early cocktail books in the next issue.

Bombs away.

Rare Alcohol Novel – 1907

May 7th, 2008  |  by  |  published in Uncategorized

Caine, Hall. Drink: A Love Story On A Great Question.

New York: D. Appleton, 1907. First edition (?). 91 pages.

Good in irregularly faded wrappers and a chipped spine. Discard stamp on title page. No other library markings. Fragile condition. A rare novel about alcoholism. OCLC records fewer than 10 copies of this edition. COPAC records one copy of a 1907 London edition and two entries for a 1908 London edition, each with one holding.

This moralistic tale of the evils of drink is followed by a report on the depravity of "underground London," "sinful New York" (with a subsection on white women in Chinatown), a temperance lecture by Rev. T. DeWitt Talmidge, and a list of Keeley Institutes. Keeley Institutes were a predecessor to the AA movement and sought to treat alcoholics with the Keeley Cure, injections of a substance of unknown composition.

Caine was one of the best-selling authors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was also Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s secretary for a time. The Library of Congress records a microfilm copy of an 1895 edition (a date given on the copyright page of this copy, along with the 1907 date), but no physical copies are recorded. A 1901 biography of Caine (Hall Caine by Charles Kenyon) states, "Mr. Caine has the intention of dealing with the drink question in a novel…yet he has been unable to see his way to treat it in a work of fiction." It’s possible that the 1895 copyright refers to the section on New York vice, which was prepared for a newspaper.

We believe this to be the first edition of the book or the first American edition, assuming the lone 1907 COPAC record for a London edition is correct.


The Times They Are A Changin’

November 2nd, 2007  |  by  |  published in Uncategorized

I've read a lot of manuscripts in the last few years and I've started to notice certain words, phrases, and stylistic types that are quite fashionable right now. One that seems to turn up in virtually every unsolicited submission is "famously," as in "Lane famously shunned war yarns."

Surely you know which Lane we're talking about here, since he was famous for his stand on war books. No? Well the author was referring to Allan Lane. Many readers of this blog my recognize the name, but for those who don't Lane founded Penguin Books. Now Penguin Books, I'd say, is famous. But is Lane? He's influential, yes. Pioneering, yes. Prominent, yes. But truly famous? Not quite. So "famously" is inaccurately used in this context. In fact, it means nearly the opposite – it indicates a very specialized kind of knowledge that insiders know. If he were, in fact, famous, you wouldn't need to say it. No one ever writes, "George Washington, famously the first president of the United States…."

The people who write for Fine Books are influenced by writing elsewhere, and "famously" is a very popular word in contemporary journalism. It happens that Philip Corbett, the New York Times' language editor, – the guy who oversees the way loaded words and serial commas are used in the newspaper – is answering reader questions online this week. I thought I'd mention my pet peeve about "famously"–which appeared five times in the paper the day I asked the question–and he answered that it's on the list for reduced use. You'll have to scroll down a ways to get to it my question and answer, or simply search for "famously" when you get there.

I find discussions about words and their use and meaning to be very interesting. Now that I have to see so many words into print, I find I've become less dogmatic about it. It's tremendously difficult to get everything right all the time, and sometimes there's being right and being dead right. Some writers sound great until you start enforcing all the rules, and by the time you're done, all the life has gone out of the prose. So we do our best, knowing there's always another issue. And, even though I am now famously on record as opposing the word famously, it happens that I let "famously" slip into our November/December issue.

Wells, Wells, Wells

October 31st, 2007  |  by  |  published in Uncategorized

Via Paul Collins' Weekend Stubble blog, a link (which doesn't work, Paul….) to an online project collecting cover images of HG Wells' War of the Worlds. Here's a (currently) working link to the gallery. At left, an Irish edition.

My Famous Pets

October 23rd, 2007  |  by  |  published in Uncategorized

Completely Off Topic: A few months ago, Organic Gardening magazine sent a photographer  to take photos of my wife (the gardener in the family) and our four hens. The November issue of the magazine just arrived and our girls were very happy to see themselves in print. Here they are admiring their picture.