Monday, July 29, 2013

The Book Club of Detroit

Our event calendar began in May when Amy Elliott Bragg, local author and history lover, spoke about the Motor City before the motor. Bragg discussed the lives and works of Detroit’s early shakers and movers including Clarence Monroe Burton and historian Silas Farmer. Bragg’s energetic talk displayed several source books that inform her research including History of Detroit for Young People by Harriet Marsh and Florence Marsh, Early Days in Detroit by General Friend Palmer and History of Detroit and Wayne County and Early Michigan by Silas Farmer and republished by Gale Research Company. Bragg’s book, Hidden History of Detroit, makes Detroit history accessible and entertaining. Members filled a community room at the Traffic Jam Snug in Detroit and shared good food and conversation before and after Bragg’s talk.

Demonstrating our passion for books, manuscripts, and prints, members attended the launch of A Legacy of Armenian Treasures, the first book published about the Manoogian Museum collection. The book features over 150 pieces and essays by 9 scholars. Members browsed the museum displays, which contain the largest collection outside of Armenia of illuminated manuscripts, books, metalwork, and paintings. Members had opportunities to purchase the lovely and informative book at a special price and have the book signed by the authors and contributors in attendance. Member Alice Nigoghosian acted as consultant to this book.

Our traditional “book crawl” explored the fascinating trove of books at John K. King Bookstore in Detroit.  Members crawled four floors of 750,000 books, well organized by subject and author. After lunch, we visited the John King Rare Book Room where 30,000 rare books are cataloged and accessible via Internet. Tom Heitjan, Rare Book Room Manager, entranced us while he talked and showed us select rare items. His talk included showing us Detroit’s resident and business directories between 1880 and 1930. These historical records easily illustrated for us Detroit’s astronomical population growth over this period by the increase in pages and decrease in type font size used in the directories.

The club welcomed two new board members, Frank Castronova and Mary Clare Duran, and reelected Janet Whitson, Alice Nigoghosian, and Maurice Barrie. We thanked C. Hedger Breed and Blondell Doughty, who stepped down from the board, for their many contributions. We thanked Paula Jarvis who transitioned the editorial role for Speaking of Books, our club newsletter, to Beverly Ostrowiecki.

The American Book Collectors of Children's Books

Spring began with a visit to Bill Thomson’s Connecticut studio.  Thomson illustrated Karate Hour, Baseball Hour, and Building with Dad; Chalk and Fossil (due autumn 2013) are his own wordless picture books in a projected trilogy that will explore facets of the creative process.  He is Professor of Illustration at the University of Hartford’s Art School and has frequently been exhibited in The Society of Illustrators’ annual show.  Thomson’s fastidious artistic process results in 7-10,000 reference shots from live models, from which he then spends 70-100 hours painting each illustration.  He demonstrated how, dissatisfied with the backbone of a rubber dinosaur to be used in Chalk, he photographed a gangly adolescent neighbor’s bony spine, then digitally manipulated it to become the dinosaur’s back! 

We traveled to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Hadley, MA for the program, Remembering Maurice Sendak with Michael Patrick Hearn and Arthur Yorinks, celebrating what would have been Sendak’s 85th birthday.  Both men had been friends of Sendak’s, Hearn as an historian of children’s literature, Yorinks as associate artistic director of Sendak’s Night Kitchen: A National Children’s Theater.  As they reminisced about Sendak other legendary names were mentioned.  The presentation ended with an audio birthday card for Sendak, in the style of the Night Kitchen Radio Theater (founded by Yorinks), featuring characters from Sendak’s musical, “Really Rosie.”

We were later given a tour by Barbara Elleman of the  exhibition, The Caldecott Medal: 75 Years of Distinguished Illustration.  Elleman gave the reasoning for her choices representing the best in children’s illustration, given a limited amount of space.  She then introduced Lawrence Webster, author of Under the North Light: The Life and Work of Maud and Miska Petersham. Ms. Webster spoke about her parents’ friendship with the husband/wife team that twice won the Caldecott, illustrated with a slide show.

Justin Schiller and Dennis David joined us for lunch at The Society of Illustrators in Manhattan, then gave us a tour of Maurice Sendak: A Celebration of the Artist and His Work.  The exhibits— many previously unpublished—are from the personal collection of these children’s literature aficionados.  The depth and breadth of Sendak’s talent is represented by lithographs, etchings, drawings, watercolors, and other media used for Op-Ed illustrations, theatrical props, posters, magazine covers, bookplates, textiles, murals …even a small cow (Sendak insisted he was an artist for children) for the first Cow Parade in Manhattan in 2000.  Commercials made for Bell Atlantic ran on continuous loop in a small screening room.

On 23 June the ABCs broke new ground with a joint field trip with the New England chapter of the American Printing History Association to explore the riches of the Watkinson Library in Hartford, now part of Trinity College. Our gracious host, Rick Ring, had put several choice items on display for us, took us on a tour of the stacks, and even printed a keepsake for us. Rick expressed the hope of making the Watkinson a more visible and active participant in the book world and offered to host more such forays.

The Manuscript Society

The Manuscript Society continues its interesting schedule of activities and publications. The Spring issue of our quarterly journal Manuscripts featured an article by the editors of the Documentary History of the First Federal Congress, 1789-1791. Bickford et al. outlined the contents of the 20 volumes already published and for the final two volumes planned for the next few years. The remarkable project gathering and publishing all surviving manuscripts of the FFC’s original legislation as well as written records of the Congressional proceedings, personal correspondence and diaries of the legislators, and news reports about the FFC is being published by the Johns Hopkins U. Press. The FFC article is typical of the unique content of our journal which has been under the astute hand of Editor David Chesnutt for over 30 years. Samples of  past issues of the journal are available (click on “Publications”). Besides original articles Manuscripts features book reviews and auction results.

 MS members also receive the quarterly News, either hard copy or electronically, filled with current news not only of the Society, but of reports of personalities and events in the world of manuscripts and books. The News Editor Patricia K. Vaccaro, also edits an e-digest of events, book publications, current archival exhibits, etc. The monthly e-digest is available without charge to those interested, by sending an e mail to with the subject line, “sign me up for the Digest”.

Activities are planned across the country for the coming months. In Philadelphia, a summer meeting held at Restaurant Estia featured members presenting treasures from their collections as well as anecdotes about collecting and current archival shows of interest.  A similar gathering is planned for Saturday December 7 in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. For the greater New York City area a meeting is in the planning stages for late September/ early October. Anyone in either city interested should contact Past President Barton Smith at

On Saturday, July 20, members of the Los Angeles chapter of the Manuscript Society visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, to view the exhibition "The Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln." Twenty-five renowned Lincoln collectors and DreamWorks Studios contributed 250 objects, including President Lincoln’s famous stovepipe hat, a bloodied pillow from the night he died, a Lincoln-signed Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment, and sets from DreamWorks’ “Lincoln” Movie.  Louise Taper, one of the contributors, served as docent for the group.

At the Fall meeting of the MS Board of Trustees to be held in Los Angeles, a symposium open to the public will be offered on Sunday November 17. There will be several speakers discussing the basics of manuscript collecting including care of the collection, and its eventual disposal, among other topics. Details will appear soon on the MS web site. The LA contact is MS President Beverly Hill,  

The MS Annual meeting was in May in Santa Fe NM. The arrangements committee, Steve Barnett, Gary Hendershott, Alfred Lemmon, Brian Murphy and Barton Smith set up the ambitious schedule. The result was 4 days of thrilling lectures, rare archives and art, fine food, and gorgeous weather, The number of memorable speakers was noteworthy. At the Palace of the Governors/New Mexico History Museum we toured the collection of Santos, religious folk art, in a setting some might call a New World Sistine Chapel, guided by Dr. Ross Frank whose father amassed much of the collection before selling it to the museum. Later Dr Frank presented an illustrated lecture on his current interest, Plains Indian Ledger Art. There were also lectures by Alfred Lemmon on the “…Daily Life of a Spanish Colonial Document” and Dr. Dennis Reinhartz on “17th and 18th Century Maps of the Greater Southwest”. In the Museum’s Library, Archivist Tomas Jaehn presented a letter of William Bonney (“Billy the Kid”) to General Lew Wallace, then Governor of New Mexico, and autograph field notes of anthropologist Adolph Bandelier’s research on the Aztec culture. In the print shop, master printer Tom Leech gave a lecture/ demonstration of the history of The Palace Press (established in 1834).

The Museum Hill collections gave an introduction to Native American culture and arts, which made the next day’s visit to the San Idefonso Pueblo particularly meaningful. There, Barbara Gonzales, great grand daughter of the legendary potter Maria Martinez, proved that the family, specifically Barbara and her son Cavan, uphold the family tradition of world class art. Finally mention must be made of historian Alan Carr who gave a spell binding talk at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Bradbury Museum, and to  Nancy Bartlitt, author (with Everett Rogers) of Silent Voices of World War II...” who spoke at our closing dinner. Next year will find us in Pittsburgh May 21-25 following the trail of Lewis and Clark and Frick and Carnegie.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rowfant Club News

FABS in Cleveland, June 11-15, 2014

The Rowfant Club of Cleveland is pleased to host the 2014 FABS Book Tour & Symposium, sponsored by The Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies, June 11-15.  These annual book tours sponsored by FABS have become must attend events for many on their social calendars.  What bibliophile would pass up the opportunity to explore a city’s unique book culture, meeting fellow collectors, dealers and book professionals along the way?  For this year’s tour the venerable Rowfant Club (founded 1892), plays host as you and your friends explore Cleveland’s celebrated book culture.

Thirty rooms have been reserved for us at the historic Glidden House, a former “robber baron” mansion, turned full-service boutique hotel, located in the heart of Cleveland’s cultural district known as University Circle.   With its legendary hospitality and charm, this hotel will serve us well as base camp during our bibliophilic adventure.

We begin our adventure by exploring the many special collections and rare book libraries found within a short distance of our hotel.  The hunt for rare books will be an easy one, as area museums and universities welcome FABS members to tour their renowned collections.  Lovers of art books will delight in visiting the IngallsLibrary at the Cleveland Museum of Art.  With over 450,000 art books, it is the third largest art research collection in the country.  Rare botanical books are on display in the recently renovated rare book room at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens Library.  Historical maps and manuscripts await us in The Western Reserve Historical SocietyLibrary.  Important books in science, medicine and technology are to be found in the Kelvin Smith Library of Case Western Reserve University.

Further afield, but well worth the trek, will be an excursion to the Oberlin College Library.  Situated in the small town of Oberlin about 45 minutes west of Cleveland, this historic liberal arts college is home to one of the finest undergraduate libraries in the country.  We will need the better part of a day to explore the many special collections in the History of the Book, Art & Architecture, Music, Religion, Philosophy, as well as more esoteric subjects such as Oberliniana.

Along our bibliophilic journey, we have amble opportunity to indulge in the many culinary delights Cleveland has to offer.  Join us, when the Rowfant Club opens its doors (and library) as they host us for dinner and a lecture in their “bookish” club house.  Fine food, fine books, and fine talks define this active book club which has been meeting thrice weekly for many decades. Our dinner speaker is a name well known in our book community, Paul Ruxin.  Paul has presented numerous talks on the book and the various ways that books and book collecting delight and inspire us.  Tour participants will also have the opportunity to view some of Cleveland’s finest private collections as collectors share their book collections with us.  In addition, plan to visit an exquisite antiquarian bookshop and also what is claimed to be the world’s largest used bookshop.

We hope our announcement has awakened the book adventurer in you.  Whether this is your very first FABS tour or whether you are a tour veteran, FABS Cleveland 2014 promises to be a bibliophilic adventure not to be missed.  We suggest you save the date as the event is limited to fifty attendees.  A day-by-day itinerary, costs and reservation information are forthcoming in the next FABS newsletter.

Please address your tour questions to Terry Shockey ( and use FABS’14 in your email subject line.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Book Club of Washington


The Book Club of Washington (BCW) is into our fourth decade of operation.  Founded in 1982, we continue to provide programs and publications in support of the bibliophilic community in Washington State.

Spring 2013 saw the awards and celebration of the University of Puget Sound Book Collecting Contest, sponsored by the Book Club of Washington and managed by the Collins Memorial Library.  This regular contest has resulted in fascinating student collections and nominees to the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest.

A summer highlight for our members was a weekend in Portland, Oregon.  Jointly sponsored with the FABS-member Himes & Duniway Society, we shared dinner with their members; toured the collection of Jack Walsdorf, an Officer of the William Morris Society; and visited the Oregon Historical Society.  On our return from Portland to Seattle we were able to stop and enjoy the early 20th-Century book collection of at the home of a BCW member who lives along the road between Portland and Seattle.  Summer activity also included an enjoyable tour of rare and antiquarian bookshops in the Pioneer Square area of Seattle. 

The Book Club of Washington publishes a twice-yearly Journal of book-related essays.  The contents of the Spring 2013 issue and back issues can be found on the website, .  The Fall 2013 issue will be published in October with articles about Edward Fitzgerald; “faux” books; the Corn Palace; a local suffragist’s inscription in a book; and the mystery behind a fine-printed, never-mailed 1929 invitation to help create a club for Seattle book collectors.

A new publication is in the early planning stages – the first in a Chapbook Series.  Inspired by the University of Washington Chapbook Series from the 1920s and published using fine press and book arts techniques, the first chapbook will be published in 2014.

The major event of the Fall is the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair on October 12-13, 2013.  This popular and engaging book fair is a time when BCW members gather informally to share stories, recent purchases, and to see book dealer friends.  We will have a booth at the book fair to discuss the BCW and answer questions.  December is the time of our annual Holiday Dinner and Silent Auction.  This joyous celebration of the Book Club of Washington also has an auction with books and other treasures to be bid on by attendees.

Events and activities are published on the Book Club of Washington website, and FABS members are welcome to participate.  If you are in the Seattle area and would like to contact us, our email address is