Thursday, February 6, 2014

Book Club of Detroit

Our summer event featured a presentation by Joan Knoertzer and Twyla Racz on miniature books. Tiny in format, these books pack volumes of text and illustrations that can boggle the mind with their compactness and detail. Knoertzer has about 4500 miniatures in her collection. She especially likes poetry and prayer books. Racz specializes in miniatures about Christmas and cats.

The Detroit Public Library Friends Foundation invited BCD members to its annual Mary Adelaide Hester Lecture in September. The discussion of notable items from the Detroit Public Library Special Collections featured a display of nearly 30 treasures of cultural, historical, social, and literary significance. Mark Bowden, special collections coordinator, showcased the items including George Washington’s diary (1789-1790) and the Belle Isle deed and wampum belt. The Washington diary records his travel events to the “western post” of Detroit. Belle Isle was purchased from the Ottawa Indians in 1769 for 7 barrels of rum, 3 rolls of tobacco, and 3 pounds of vermillion. This wampum belt illustrates fine craftsmanship with its beads and geometric pattern. A wampum belt is a traditional Native American artifact that marks an exchange or agreement.

We sponsored a November gathering entitled “The Potpourri of a Collector with an Obsessive Will.” This eventide event was held at the lovely and book filled home of Joel and Judith Adelman. Judy presented the inside view of her life-long odyssey of collecting, and now disbursing, illustrations for children’s, botanical and hand colored publications; old periodicals; and WWII artifacts and ephemera. Members were thoroughly delighted in viewing the rich cross-section of the Adelman collection that included illustrations by Rackham and Crane and children’s books signed by Sendak and Feiffer. Judy’s instructional talk, and Joel’s Seneca-like commentary and humorous asides, enabled the club to share in the angsts and paeans of their collecting travels, and now, disbursing labors. Judy had about 16,000 books in her collection before she began her disposition program. After sales by Heritage Auction, Dallas Texas, and donations to libraries, she has about 10,000 remaining.

Gathering for our Christmas dinner, we celebrated our friendship and books! Dr. Raffaele De Benedictis, Associate Professor of Italian at Wayne State University, spoke on the importance of Italy to the West. The Quarto String Quartet, including Cathy Compton, a BCD and Detroit Symphony Orchestra member, played while we browsed about 30 books, donated by members, in our silent auction. Friendly yet competitive bidding made the evening lively. Some newer members resolved to improve their bidding skills for next year. Books that drew attention included Raggedy Ann in the Magic Book, 1st printing with dust jacket, 1939; Art Work of Lake Huron Shore published in twelve parts by W.H. Parish Publishing, 1894; and Diego Rivera: Mural Painting by Antonio Rodriguez, 1991.

The club welcomed its new President, Frank Castronova. He brings experiences honed by various editorial roles at Gale Research, serving several Detroit-area nonprofit organizations, and being a trustee at Ferndale Public Library. We thanked Robert K. Jones for his tireless efforts and numerous contributions, especially his leadership in driving an active and purposeful board and his memorable bookmarks.

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