Friday, June 5, 2015

LIBC news, just in!

LIBC celebrated its 48th year at the group’s annual Milleridge Inn luncheon. Members enjoyed the afternoon in this storied Long Island Inn that began as a two-room house with a central fireplace in 1672.  Guest speaker, Cynthia Shor, Executive Director of Walt Whitman Birthplace (WWB), spoke about the recent acquisition of the Whitman Family Bible.
Walt Whitman gave the Bible to his sister as a Christmas present in 1878. Inside, he had written the dates of the family’s births, marriages, and deaths up to that date. The Bible is a large nineteenth century presentation copy.  Pasted on the gilt tooled brown morocco leather cover is a narrow strip of leather with M.E. Van Nostrand stamped in gilt. On a white strip of paper pasted on the front free endpaper, Whitman wrote: “Mary Elizabeth Van Nostrand from her brother, Walt Whitman, Christmas 1879-79. Directly below is a smaller slip containing five lines of verse from Beyond, a popular poem by Mrs. J.E. Akers.  Other artifacts including letters, documents, and manuscripts are housed in the Library of Congress.

For the holiday season, return guest Joe Rainone, an expert on the history of American fiction, presented an impressive array of “Special Issues” printed by early American newspapers and magazines for Christmas and New Year’s Day.

By 1841 wood engravings had come into use, freeing the newspaper industry from the high production costs of single copper plate engraving-- making more illustrations possible. During the next two decades American publishing saw the advent of the first comic book-produced by Wilson & Company as an Extra for their Brother Jonathan paper. [Brother Jonathan was a symbol for the United States; later replaced by Uncle Sam.] By 1842 they had topped their standard paper with a special edition elephant-size format.  Brother Jonathan’s 1844 Christmas & New Years Great Pictorial Double contained over 100 engravings. 

In 1857, The Constellation came out with the blanket size paper, making it the largest paper ever published.  In 1858 The Wide West published a San Francisco Holiday Issue.

Unwieldy and spectacular, these newspapers survive on the original rag paper, allowing us to imagine the thrill of receiving a monster-size holiday issue  folded in the mail to spread out across a large table (or floor!) and relish.  The special issues contained humor, fashion, news, ads and a variety of illustrations. It is our good fortune that a few individuals succeeded in saving and preserving (intentionally or unintentionally) these examples of our American newspaper heritage.

Mr. Rainone also brought us examples of his later magazine collection that included copies of the original Life magazine (1883-1933), home to Norman Rockwell, Maxwell Parrish, Coles Phillips, and Charles Dana Gibson’s Gibson Girls.

In January we shared some of our new acquisitions, as well as favorite old ones.  The variety of LIBC’s interests made for a heady mix--beginning with an oversized, limited edition on Japanese paper in French with drawings by French artist Loch of La Geole de Reading or The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde.  [The complete poem without illustrations is available in English on the Gutenberg Project web site:].

A rare bound edition of the 3 monthly journals written by Charles Darwin recording his voyage on the Beagle in 1955 that was found by chance in a book stall in England, by Darwin collector and expert—John Woram. Originally published in three installments in the John Murray Colonial Home Series and titled “Journal of Researches into the Geology and Natural History of the Voyage of the Beagle” this privately owned copy precedes Murray’s publication of the work as a book.  In 1907, about twenty-five years after Darwin’s death the journals were published in America and renamed Voyage of the Beagle.

To acknowledge the  thaw in diplomatic relations  between Cuba and the United States, Mike Marel shared a collection of Cuban imprints printed in Havana in 1891, Cuba En 1925- a homemade album of collectors cards , and a copy of Geografica y Ministrative de la isla de Cuba.
Members also shared Fifth Avenue Old and New 1824-1924, History of Women published in 1939 addressing the roles women played in American society and the clothes they wore; a 1991 book, Holocaust: the Good Old Days :As Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders; One Hundred Famous Children’s Books--the oversized heavily illustrated catalogue from the current Grolier Club exhibit; a printing plate for Rolls Royce stock certificate;  the Neue Galerie’s catalog of “Degenerate Art:  The attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany 1937.; an unusual auction catalog of Marilyn Monroe’s Estate  published by Julien’s Auctions in December 2015—including personal affects and correspondence, and rare photographs; a cookbook by the manufacturers of Granite Ironware and one from Hellman & Company for recipes using mayonnaise, a rare copy of DeWitt’s #1 Handbook baseball guide published in 1978 ; an 1877 Pussy cats book, a refurbished copy of Mother; a pristine 1981 First Edition of Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak; a 1911 copy of Katherine Lee Bates’s America the Beautiful and Other Poems with a book plate by Ainslee Hewett. 

In March, former NYC bookstore owner turned dealer, Mel Cohen brought a formidable and varied selection of books, newspapers, and pamphlets from his New York City collection.  According to his neatly cataloged EXCEL records, the collection numbers more than 2,000 items and encompasses all things New York including—The Brooklyn Dodgers, the NYC Police Gazette, Ebbet’s Field, Ellis Island, The Statue of Liberty, Vaudeville, the history of the Shubert Theatre, and Broadway. Mr. Cohen decided against bringing his 500 to 1,000 postcards of the city.

A prolific collector, Mr. Cohen also picked up several notable 1919 mid-week pictorials printed in The New York Times—price:  10 cents. Two examples were “Armistice Day in Washington” and “Versailles”.

Mr. Cohen’s reach extends to books on sewers, cemeteries, 1st issue postal stamps, steamship landing, railway tables, guides to lodgings and boarding houses, a 1952 Hastings House hardcover entitled As You Pass By containing photos and hand drawn street maps for the traveler, and a one-of-a-kind MOMA catalog with a metal cover crafted in Sweden for the museum’s 1960 groundbreaking exhibit: “The Machine”.
Copies of Ballantine’s Manuals, The Index to The Illustrations in the Manuals of the Corporation of the City of New York, and Living Lens, a 2007 collection of Photographs of Jewish Life from the Pages of the Foreward edited by Alan Newhouse with an introduction by Pete Hamill are among of Mr. Cohen’s favorites.
Members brought their own NYC finds including an 1832 copy of Historic Tales of Older Time containing marginalia from 1835 and clippings of the great fire that destroyed so many Manhattan buildings ---with copper engravings, and a copy of Vernon Howe Bailey’s 1939 Magic City: Intimate Sketches of New York, and an 1865 copy of The Rogues and Rogueries of New York, published by J.C. Haney & Co..

The Week of the Book, celebrated across Long Island at the end of March culminated in 2-day Festival of the Book sponsored by the Antiquarian Book Dealers Association of Long Island. The fair featured   bookbinding demonstrations by club president Paul Belard, children’s story time, and a silent auction.

April ‘s meeting was a highlight of our months together—gathering in the Special Collections Department of Long Island University Post,  where member and Acting Director of Special Collections Jarron Jewel showed books and archival materials across collections including new purchases and samples from renowned Egyptologist Bob Brier’s archive; a letter written and signed by W.B. Yeats; newly acquired French and Irish literature of the 19th and 20th centuries; inscribed first edition copies of books by Long Island University Post authors; a first edition comic book of presidents in the Theodore Roosevelt collection; signed limited edition plays by Eugene O’Neill and the latest additions to the extensive American Juvenile Collection of children’s literature printed in North America from 1910 to 1960 that includes some earlier examples as well. [Please note that a guide to the archival holdings can be found at:]. Among the treasures to be found there are: George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett theatre programs; World War ll movie posters; illuminated manuscripts, exact facsimiles,  and oversized rare books that showcase the works of such diverse luminaries as Josef Albers, Georges Braque, Albrecht Durer, and Umberto Eco.

In May:  Myron Swank led us through an informal, instructive showing of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy in a variety of translations with and without illustrations. The peripatetic Dante Alighieri was 35 years old when he began the cantos. Exiled by the Black Guelfs in 1302 the poet wrote this magnum opus while living in various cities throughout Europe, until he settled in Ravenna in 1317, where he finished the Divine Comedy shortly before his death in 1321. Highlights included: volumes with illustrations by Botticelli, Blake, George Grosz (1932), Umberto Homero, and a modern German softcover edition with illustrations by Salvador Dali; translations by Dorothy Sayers, Charles Eliot Norton (1891), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, and a black& white graphic novel by Seymour Ghwast (2010). Myron’s  talk reminded us of how often book collecting leads to learning a great deal about things that one never professed any interest in---as Dante’s Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso  lead Myron to study astronomy and the G-d centered music of the spheres—the magic of the solar system. [For those who cannot resist, the complete English translation by the Reverend H.F. Carey with illustrations by Gustave Dore can be downloaded on line at Project Guttenberg].


In December, a laudatory piece on LIBC President Paul Belard’s book restoring business appeared in the Act II section of Long Island’s Newsday.  In the article Paul relates the satisfaction that his avocation brings--enthusing over the contact it has brought him over the years with people in all fields of endeavor including Bob Brier, world-renowned Egyptologist.  Mr. Brier first approached him with a repair project on a work of comparatively minor significance. Over time Brier came to trust Paul as a craftsman and an artist.  Currently he is working on a rare 1757 book containing yellowed maps and engravings of Egypt and Nubia.

A shorter piece about Mr. Belard also appeared in the Half Hollow Hills edition of The Long Islander in November, highlighting his book on the 19th and 20th century artist and newspaper illustrator, Vernon Howe Bailey.   Vernon Howe Bailey’s America by Paul Belard is currently available on

All eyes were on the future book collectors of our community during   Paul Belard’s May visit to a Northport Public School Library--where he instructed a group of 4th graders in the art of book repair

View the local television broadcast on the Web at:

Last Word:
Among the ideas floated at our meetings this year is this:  Consider the books that found you and changed in some small or perhaps significant way your views about any number of things.  For Mr. Sywak, it was a work by late esteemed economist Richard Heilbroner, thrust into his hands by a stranger.

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