Monday, October 14, 2019

Farewell, Grams

Ten years ago I said goodbye here to my grandfather, Jerry Brooks. It is with great sadness that I must do so now to his wife of more than fifty-two years, my Grams, Lena Jane Savory Brooks. The only things assuaging that sadness are that I know that she's no longer in pain, and that they are together again. She missed him terribly.

"Front and center on the double!" That sentence, delivered at great volume if need be, would bring us kids back to the house from wherever we'd gone off to, and quick. She was a constant presence in my life from the very beginning, and her home was always the center of our family's life. Holidays, weekends, summers, afternoons, snowy days, were likely to find some or all of us there: sledding down the hill across the road from the house; swimming in the pool in the backyard; using every couch cushion, blanket, and clothespin in the house to build elaborate forts taking up half the first floor; mucking about in the barnyard or the haymow or down by the creek. Countless ears of corn were cut off the cob for freezing, hundreds of dozens of Christmas cookies were made for the family and to be delivered round to the neighbors, and many oh many an Easter egg gained its color on her kitchen table. What stories that beautiful old table could tell. She could never quite get through her pre-holiday-dinner prayer ("Be present at our table, Lord / Be here and everywhere adored / Thy creatures bless and grant that we / May feast in paradise with thee. Bless this food to our use, and to His service. Amen") without a tear, and usually I couldn't either. One Thanksgiving right before we were supposed to eat, the electricity went off. Didn't stop us: we got out all the old oil lamps and some candles and kept right on going (thankfully the turkey was out of the oven).

After a brief stint as an FBI secretary in the 1950s (as the story goes, she and her sister threw a party, boys came, and they got fired!), she lived most of her life on the Brooks family farm, raising her kids and grandkids (and now great-grandkids), and sharing fully in the hard work of dairy farming. For many years she helped supervise elections at her polling station, and she would always leave in our mailbox on her way home a copy of the precinct results for me to run down and get in the morning (I caught the political bug early). She was long active at her church, and enjoyed being able to donate blood to the Red Cross when she could; I remember once sitting and waiting with her for a long while because her blood pressure was too high when we first got there, and instead of just giving up and going home, we sat and rested until it was low enough to make the donation.

She loved animals, from her many canine companions to the occasional cat, to orphaned lambs or wildlife she raised (I found in one of her diaries the other day an entry from when I was about two: "Jeremy and I found a baby woodchuck - gonna keep him!"). She felt sure that the family of a robin she once rescued came back and nested every year in her yard, and I've no doubt they did. She called me frequently to update me on the birds in her yard, at her feeder, or in her birdhouses, and I would call when I saw red-winged blackbirds or tree swallows or bluebirds in the spring to let her know that they were on their way back to her.

Grams was also the family medical advisor (though we generally left the tooth-pulling to Gramp). When I sledded into a burdock and got a bit in my eye, she just tossed me up on the kitchen table and pulled it out with tweezers. Her preferred medicine for just about anything that ailed you was a dab of Balsam of Myrrh, which stung like hell. Most of us considered that worse that whatever injury we'd acquired - I once caught my back going under a barbed wire fence and my cousin and spent a long while trying to hide the injury from her just to avoid the Balsam of Myrrh (she eventually saw the blood coming through my shirt and administered the treatment). Of course, Balsam of Myrrh works like a charm; none of us ever denied that, but boy did we try to avoid it. Whenever I was sick or had some ailment or another, she would call nearly every day to check and see how it was.

Occasionally (though not as often as we'd have liked) we could get her to play either her piano or her organ. "Redwing" was a perennial favorite, along with some hymns and Christmas carols. As we sat with Grams in the hospital on Thursday night, my aunt pulled up an audio file of "Redwing" on her phone and we played it for her; I've had the tune in my head since, and I'm perfectly happy to have it stay there awhile. We always got cheery renditions of "Happy Birthday" on the phone every year, and I will miss that terribly next January. When you were traveling, she wanted to be called when you got wherever you were going safely: I walked into the house tonight and totally lost it for a minute when I realized that my first thought had been that I needed to call her and let her know I was home, but not right then because "Wheel of Fortune" would be on.

I was able to make two visits home during her final illness over the last month, and got to hold her hand for much of Thursday, for which I will be forever grateful. She died as she lived, with her family at her side. On Friday, an absolutely pristine day, we had a pizza picnic and picked some of the delicious apples from the tree in her backyard, and all sat around telling stories of Gramp and Grams. They'd both have loved having us all there with them on such a beautiful fall day, enjoying the view down the flat and the colors on the hillside.

It's going to be hard without her. We will muddle through, I suppose, but it won't be the same. Love you Grams, always always.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Links & Auctions

- The University of Edinburgh's fundraising campaign to keep the Charles Lyell notebooks in the UK has been successful!

- In similar news, the judge's copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover, also made subject to an export bar, has been acquired by Bristol University after a successful fundraising effort.

- A new film about antiquarian bookselling, The Booksellers, will debut tomorrow at the New York Film Festival. More from LitHub.

- Beverly Rogers, who recently established a $5 million endowment for the rare books and special collections program at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, talked to UNLV news about some of the favorite books in her collection.

- Nicola Davis writes for the Guardian on some of the recent advances made in the painstaking process being deployed in an attempt to "read" the Herculaneum scrolls.

- October's Rare Book Monthly articles include a Susan Halas interview with bookseller Simon Beattie and Michael Stillman on "Collections Moving On, But Where To?"

- Princeton's exhibition Gutenberg & After includes a number of important and interesting online components.

- The HRC's permanent exhibition of the NiƩpce Heliograph has been updated with new introductory material, &c.

- Commonplace has relaunched at a new URL,

- Over at Sammelband, "Teaching in the Maker Studio."

- The ABAA passed along an alert for two seventeenth-century titles missing from a San Francisco building lobby.

- From Janalyn Martinez for the Grolier Club, "A Noble Fragment."

Upcoming Auctions

- Livres Rares et Manuscrits at Christie's Paris on 7 October.

- Rare Books, Maps, Manuscripts & Photography at Lyon & Turnbull on 9 October.

- Books and Documents of the History of Mexico at Morton Subastas on 9 October.

- Fine Literature at PBA Galleries on 10 October.

- Fine Books & Manuscripts at Swann Galleries on 10 October.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Links & Auctions

- More coverage of the Milton's Shakespeare discovery from the Guardian, the WaPo, the NYTimes, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Claire Bourne has a roundup of this and other media coverage on her blog, too, and FLP curator Caitlin Goodman offers a necessary corrective to (some of the) media coverage and notes that the First Folio at FLP has hardly "languished in obscurity."

- Over at Echoes from the Vault, "Mackintosh and Glengarry –  A Highland Provenance Adventure."

- At Medieval Manuscripts Provenance, Peter Kidd explores the manuscripts shown in the 1986 movie adaptation of "The Name of the Rose," and already has supplied some additional material.

- Oak Knoll is having a 50%-off sale on low-quantity titles from their backlist.

- Emily Perdue writes for the Cambridge University Special Collections blog about "A Surprising Find Among a Librarian's Letters."

- The BBC reported on the return of a curate's notebook to a New Forest church.

- A team from the University of Birmingham is seeking crowdsourced transcription help with the Estoria de Espanna, the first vernacular history of Spain.

- More too on the recent identification of a John Locke manuscript from the WaPo and the Guardian.

Upcoming Auctions

- Charles Dickens: The Lawrence Drizen Collection at Sotheby's London on 24 September.

- Books & Works on Paper at Chiswick Auctions on 25 September.

- Editions and Works on Paper at Forum Auctions on 25 September.

- Rare Golf Books, Art, and Memorabilia at PBA Galleries on 26 September.

- Printed & Manuscript Americana at Swann Galleries on 26 September.

- Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper at Forum Auctions on 26 September.

- Fall Auction at Arader Galleries on 28 September.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Links & Auctions

Another really excellent Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair last weekend! Up next are Rare Books LAX (5–6 October) and the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair (12–13 October), but my next fair will be Boston (15–17 November).

- From Sean Redmond for the NYPL blog, an important and useful post: "Historical Copyright Records and Transparency." See also Karl Bode's post for Vice about this project.

- Jason Scott-Warren proposes on the Cambridge Centre for Material Texts blog that the Free Library Philadelphia's copy of Shakespeare's First Folio may contain manuscript annotations by John Milton. He draws on recent analysis of the annotations by Claire M.L. Bourne in her article "Vide Supplementum: Early Modern Collation as Play-Reading in the First Folio," in Early Modern English Marginalia (Routledge, 2019). Claire has posted on this now, in "With(out) Milton: Dating the Annotations in the Free Library of Philadelphia's First Folio."

- The winners of the 2019 Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize have been announced, and they are typically impressive. Well done to all!

- Opening this week at the Boston Athenaeum, "Required Reading: Reimagining a Colonial Library."

- In the LA Review of Books, Seth Perlow asks "Who Gets Emily Dickinson?"

- The Junto has a Q&A with Joseph Adelman about his recent book Revolutionary Networks.

- Over at Echoes from the Vault, "Collecting, Curating, Assembling: New Approaches to the Archive in the Middle Ages."

- Rich Rennicks highlights Ben Kinmont's Antinomian Press on the ABAA blog.

- Rebecca Rego Barry notes on the FB&C blog that a funding drive is ongoing to keep a collection of Charles Lyell notebooks in the UK. More than £200,000 must still be raised before 15 October.

- From Stephen Grant at The Collation, "Emily Jordan Folger's Deltiological Profile."

- RBM is looking for a reviews editor: applications are due before 30 November.


- Joseph Adelman's Revolutionary Networks; review by Jordan E. Taylor at The Junto.

Upcoming Auctions

- The Air and Space Sale at Bonhams New York on 17 September.

- Cartography – Americana – Exploration – Voyages: The Warren Heckrotte and Margaret Gee Collection (with additions) at PBA Galleries on 19 September.

- The Collection of Victor Niederhoffer: Books and Autographs and Books, Maps & Manuscripts at Freeman's on 19 September.

- The David and Janice Frent Collection of Presidential & Political Americana, Part VI at Heritage Auctions on 21–22 September.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Links & Reviews

- Paula Reed Ward has an update on the legal wrangling in the case of thefts from Pittsburgh's Carnegie Library, which continues.

- Manuscript Road Trip goes to the lab this week, with "You Can't Argue with Science!"

- From Megan Constantinou for the Grolier Club blog, a note on an ownership inscription by the English Renaissance post Rachel Jevon in one of their books.

- Jim Hinck asks "Do Book Collectors Need Rules?" on the Vialibri blog.

- Laura Maiklem talks about her new book Mudlarking to Richard Lea for the Guardian.

- The ABAA passes along a theft report of books stolen from Roanoke, VA.

- The winners of the 2019 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest have been announced. Many congratulations to the winners!

- Roadtrippers visits the Book Club of California.

- Over on the BL Medieval Manuscripts blog, "Tweet, tweet," about avian debates in manuscripts.

- Alex Johnson offers some "Podcasts for Bibliophiles" on the FB&C blog - I would add Brattlecast and Behind the Bookshelves, at least. The latter had a great interview with Lisa Fagin Davis about the Voynich Manuscript recently which I recommend highly.


- Leah Price's What We Talk About When We Talk About Books; reviews by Jennifer Szalai in the NYTimes and Dan Chiasson in the New Yorker.

- Jon Day's Homing; review by Helen Macdonald in the TLS.

Upcoming Auctions

- The Maurice Car Collection of Arts and Sciences Featuring Rare Books and Manuscripts at Heritage Auctions on 4 September.

- Books and Works on Paper at Forum Auctions (online) on 5 September.

- Rare Books & Manuscripts at PBA Galleries on 5 September.

- Rare Books Signature Auction Featuring The Otto Penzler Collection of Mystery Fiction, Part II at Heritage Auctions on 5 September.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Links, Reviews & Auctions

- Don't forget to buy your tickets for the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, 7–8 September. The preview (10 a.m.–noon on Saturday) benefits Rare Book School's Scholarship Fund.

- Lisa Fagin Davis writes about the fascination with the Voynich Manuscript in the Washington Post.

- AOTUS David Ferriero talked to the Washington City Paper about the National Archives' recent moves toward digital-only records.

- New from Oak Knoll Books, Frank Romano's History of Desktop Publishing (hardcover $75, paperback $37.50).

- "Note-worthy connections: antique shorthand in Carolingian books" over on the BL Medieval Manuscripts blog.

- On the LC Blog, a post about the recent conservation and digitization of the Gandhara Scroll. See also a longer version on their 4 Corners of the World Blog.


- Laura Maiklem's Mudlarking; review by Frances Wilson in the Guardian.

- Michael Dirda reviews recent books on books in the WaPo.

Upcoming Auctions

- Americana, Travel, Cartography, the Mexican War - with Material from the Warren Heckrotte Collection at PBA Galleries on 22 August.

- Advertising & Americana, the Collection of Mary Wells at Leland Little Auctions on 23 August.

- Historical Documents, Autographs & Books Including a Large Science Collection at University Archives on 28 August.

- Maps & Atlases at Forum Auctions (online) on 29 August.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Links & Auctions

- Less than a month now until the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, which will feature more than 110 dealers this year plus a full weekend of exhibitions, seminars, &c. Very much looking forward to it!

- From the Swann Galleries blog, "What—exactly—is the Swann Shelf Sale?" (It's coming up on 22 August).

- Another "Missing in Transit" alert from the ABAA - if you can help, please do!

- Israel's national library has opened another tranche of Kafka's papers recently returned from Germany.

- Jamie Quatro writes for the New Yorker on "The Hidden Life of a Forgotten Sixteenth-Century Female Poet."

- A.N. Devers' The Second Shelf is highlighted in a piece by Mareesa Nicosia for Barron's.

Upcoming Auctions

- Angling & Miscellaneous Books from the Library of Arnold "Jake" Johnson (online) at Doyle New York, ending on 13 August.

- The Glynn and Suzanne Crain Science Fiction Collection at Heritage Auctions on 13–14 August.

- Printed Books, Maps & Documents at Dominic Winter Auctioneers on 14 August.

- Rare Books and Ephemera at Addison & Sarova on 17 August.