by Kirsten Berg, December 15, 2010 1:56 PM
"It was a wife's duty to be interested in whatever interested her husband, whether it was politics, books, or a particular dish for dinner."
— Eleanor Roosevelt
At first glance, our signed copies of Irma Rombauer's classic The Joy of Cooking 1943 Edition and Eleanor Roosevelt's This Is My Story appear to be completely unrelated. What relation does a cookbook have to a first lady, and what does a legendary world figure have to do with a St. Louis housewife?
Nothing at all, and yet —
Eleanor Roosevelt and Irma Rombauer were two of the most influential women in America in the 20th century. Eleanor Roosevelt was the niece of Theodore Roosevelt, the wife of FDR, and a force unto herself; Irma Rombauer published a little book called Joy of Cooking. Though they never met each other, their life spans overlapped and they experienced the same significant events and cultural changes; Rombauer died on October 14, 1962, and Eleanor Roosevelt passed away only weeks later, on November 7.
Neither woman was a great cook.* The Joy of Cooking is a purely democratic cookbook, replete with recipes easily mastered by any person who has to get dinner on the table. The story of its birth and subsequent editions is told by Anne Mendelson in Stand Facing the Stove. Rombauer paid $3,000 in 1931 to have The Joy of Cooking printed. Today it is one of the few perennial titles in the genre. I can say from experience that if you follow the instructions for the Brownies Cockaigne, the recipe will never let you down.
Eleanor Roosevelt had Mrs. Henrietta Nesbitt as housekeeper during the FDR administration — even if Mrs. Roosevelt had loved to cook, when would she have had the time? Read a few pages of Blanche Cook's biographies and you'll be exhausted by Eleanor's itinerary. In 1943, the year our signed copy of The Joy of Cooking was published, she hosted Mme. Chiang Kai-shek at the White House and then toured the South Pacific for five weeks to visit hospitals and meet the troops. And this was after surviving Alexander Woollcott's stay at the White House in 1942.
These two successful, atypical women were alike in many ways, and yet were worlds apart from each other. Irma Rombauer didn't set out to conquer American cuisine with her cookbook, but she was ambitious, and The Joy of Cooking has been a companion in our kitchens, as her biographer Anne Mendelson writes:
...from the Great Depression to the Ford Administration, a lawless mélange of blueprints for progress, nostalgic hankerings, gourmet cults, timesaving expedients, media-inspired fads, and unexpected rebellions.
Eleanor Roosevelt might have welcomed a few hours of quiet domesticity in front of a stove, but she had a country to help run. What kept her out of the kitchen? The ideas of progress and equality. She might have been her husband's legs, but she had a mind of her own. During FDR's administration, she hosted 348 press conferences. These were open to women journalists only. Eleanor Roosevelt believed that women should be encouraged to "think in a broader spectrum, one that was outside of their overwhelming domestic lifestyle."
Irma Rombauer would have agreed.
Do you enjoy good food writing? Here are three of the most delicious:
÷ ÷ ÷
* Eleanor Roosevelt's Pink Clouds on Angel Food Cake
1 cup cake flour (you cannot substitute) Sift before measuring.
1 1/4 cups egg whites (10 or 12 eggs)
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon almond flavoring
1/4 teaspoon salt
Angel Food Cake
Sift flour at least 2 times and set aside.
Beat egg whites with beater until foamy.
Add cream of tartar and 1 cup of sugar gradually to the egg whites (you are not using the flour yet). Continue beating until egg whites stand up in peaks.
Add almond flavoring. Sift remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with salt and add flour and very gradually fold into egg whites
Bake in tube pan in 375 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes.
Whipped Cream and Strawberries (Pink Clouds)
1 pint strawberries
1/2 pint heavy cream, whipped
1/2 cup sugar
Crush berries with sugar. Let stand 30 minutes.
Carefully fold berries into whipped cream.
Spoon on top of Angel Food
by Kirsten Berg, November 3, 2010 9:11 AM
[Editor's note: Titles mentioned in the post below are linked specifically to the copy from the Anne Rice collection. They are denoted by an image of Anne Rice (as shown at right) and the words "From the Library of Anne Rice."
If that copy has sold out, you will most likely be presented with other in-stock copies of the same title (i.e., not from the Anne Rice collection). In some cases, such as rare books, her copy may be the only one in stock, so if the title has sold, availability will show as "out of stock."
And don't forget, you can browse the entire collection here.
÷ ÷ ÷
Association Copy: This term, often scoffed at by laymen, is applied to a copy which once belonged to, or was annotated by, the author; which once belonged to someone connected with the author or someone of interest in his own right; or again, and perhaps most interestingly, belonged to someone peculiarly associated with its contents.
—John Carter, ABC for Book Collectors
The only way to improve on the news that Anne Rice has sold much of her personal library to Powell's is to report that she wrote in many of them and also affixed handwritten library markings to the spines of almost half of the books.
She signed her books, dated them, listed her address in them, jotted down weather conditions, and even noted where she bought them. She underlined, drew fluttering wings of parentheses down pages, placed removable colored tabs along fore edges complete with notes, and sometimes even left her own prose on the front free endpaper. Books that she used for research bear witness to serendipitous discoveries and moments of inspiration.
In the world of rare books, these are called association copies, and of the many thousands of books from her library that we will ultimately offer for sale, some stand out as exceptional.
The History of Lace is a title that is readily found in the U.K., but is less common here in the States. The copy from Ms. Rice's library was used in her research. It belonged to her when she lived in San Francisco, and part of the inscription reads, "Only the best lace for the vampires."
Frank Miller's Sin City: Hell and Back is also annotated. On the title page Ms. Rice recorded both her impression (liked it!) and remarks on a possible meeting with Miller. Rather than write across the artwork in the book, she used removable tabs to mark particular dialogue and images. If you're a fan of these two authors, then treat yourself to this unique copy.
It should come as no surprise that one of the authors most associated with New Orleans had A History of Louisiana by Alcee Fortier in her collection. This four-volume set was published in 1904. Though not signed or annotated by Ms. Rice, the books boast her library labels on the spines. Truly scarce, American Book Prices Current shows that 2001 was the last time a set has come up for auction.
If only she had written in her copy of New Moon.
Few personal collections have both breadth and depth. These books have been a joy to work with, not just because of their august provenance, but because they range from works on the origins of language to the meaning of faith to multiple copies of Wuthering Heights. Ms. Rice is a reader, and some of us here at Powell's are falling more and more in love with these books — and their former owner — every day.
by Kirsten Berg, September 22, 2010 4:12 PM
Celebrate Banned Books Week (www.bannedbooksweek.org/
September 25?October 2
Jacob Boehme (1575?1624) isn't an author who immediately comes to mind when discussing banned or prohibited books. Known somewhat fondly as "the presumptuous shoemaker," he was a business owner and family man in the town of Gorlitz, Germany.
He was also a Christian mystic. Remembered today for Mysterium Magnum and a handful of other works, his first mystical experience is described in the Schaff Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge:
A ray of sunshine, reflected off of a metal dish in his workshop, seemed to infuse such spiritual light into his soul that the inner mysteries of things were laid open to his sight. He went out into the fields to seek the revelation of God's will in earnest prayer, and found his peace and joy only grow the deeper.
His first work, Aurora oder die Morgenrote im Aufgany, circulated among his friends in manuscript form. While some praised him for his message, the town's pastor, Gregorius Richter, "at once began a fanatical war upon the presumptuous shoemaker, and urged the local magistrate to suppress him, lest the wrath of God should fall upon the town."
The wrath of God did not fall on the town of Gorlitz. But Pastor Richter did make Boehme promise not to write any more books — a reasonably humane outcome, given the political and religious climate. Years passed, but Boehme could not keep from writing down his thoughts regarding religion, and eventually these new writings began to be read by his friends. This time Boehme had to get out of Gorlitz.
The 16th and 17th centuries in Europe were precipitous times, especially for anyone who had ideas about religion that differed from prescribed thought. Boehme was in good company — Luther, Calvin, and King Henry VIII all challenged the authority of the Catholic Church in the 1500s, albeit each for his own reasons. The Thirty Years' War ravaged Germany from the late 1500s into the next century; it was a war of religion mixed with politics.
Unlike other free thinkers of his time, Boehme did not use that most effective instrument of rebellion: the printing press. His works did not appear in print until years after his death; the earliest printing of Aurora listed in Worldcat is dated 1634. (That copy is held by the British Library.) Like Shakespeare, Boehme's writings are available to us now because his friends and followers had his writings typeset and printed.
I don't know if his works ever made the master list of books banned by the Catholic Church — the Index Librorum Prohibitorum — but I'm certain that Boehme's name was well known at the Vatican. Throughout history, books (and sometimes their authors) have been burned. While the American Library Association honors titles that have been challenged during Banned Books Week, remember that those titles are available at libraries and discriminating books stores all 52 weeks of the year. Take a moment, also, to give thanks for the most important invention in the history of ideas — the printing press.
÷ ÷ ÷
What is the most banned/burned book today? Titles from the Harry Potter series by J. K.
by Kirsten Berg, August 11, 2010 2:00 PM
"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul." So begins one of the most notorious novels of the 20th century: Nabokov's Lolita
. More literary than erotic, it was first published in an edition of 5,000 copies by the Olympia Press in Paris in 1955. (Not surprisingly, the Olympia Press was the successor of the Obelisk Press, the first publisher of Henry Miller.)
Edmund Wilson, the leading critic of his time and a friend of Nabokov's, called the book "repulsive." Graham Greene read the Olympia Press edition and listed Lolita as one of the three best books of the year in an article in the London Times. As Erica Jong wrote in a 1988 New York Times article about Lolita: "Graham Greene saw literature and language where others had seen only perversion and pornography."
Nabokov finished the manuscript of Lolita in the spring of 1954, in Ashland, Oregon, where he and his wife were spending time butterfly hunting. An accomplished lepidopterist, the genus Nabokovia is named after him in honor of his contributions to entomology. G. P. Putnam's Sons did publish the book in America; perhaps the Graham Greene recommendation made them eager, even though it was widely thought that the publisher of Lolita would end up in court on obscenity charges.
"Publisher Z," writes Nabokov in the essay "On a Book Entitled Lolita," "said that if he printed Lolita, he and I would go to jail." He also writes:
No writer in a free country should be expected to bother about the exact demarcation between the sensuous and the sensual; this is preposterous; I can only admire but cannot emulate the accuracy of judgment of those who pose the fair young mammals photographed in magazines where the general neckline is just low enough to provoke a past master's chuckle and just high enough not to make a postmaster frown.
Jong reminds her NYT readers that in 1955, "Tropic of Cancer and Lady Chatterley's Lover could not be purchased at your local bookstore. A Stone for Danny Fisher by Harold Robbins was as close as we got to literary sex education."
Fifty-five years have passed since Lolita first seduced the reading public. The tale of the tragic passion that consumes Humbert Humbert continues to influence readers and writers around the globe. "Lolita is famous, not I," Nabokov supposedly said to an interviewer. What reader today does not know the name Vladimir Nabokov? Many fewer people know the real name of Nabokov's character Lolita. Fittingly, her name was Dolores, which is Spanish for pain.
by Kirsten Berg, June 30, 2010 3:51 PM
Who's afraid of Helmut Newton? I am. More specifically, I'm afraid that I'll have to lift or move our signed limited edition copy of Newton's Sumo
one more time. It weighs 66 pounds, and if I drop it on my foot I'll be in a cast for weeks.
So heavy and unwieldy that it shipped with a custom folding stand, Sumo is the kind of art object you either love, or hate. According to Taschen, the book's publisher, it was the most expensive book production of the 20th century.
Having escaped Germany in 1938, Helmut Newton forged a career in fashion photography that spanned over 30 years. (You can check out his biography on Vogue.com.) He was killed in 2004 when his car crashed into a wall of the famous Chateau Marmont in Beverly Hills, and his ashes are buried in Berlin, next to Marlene Dietrich.
As everyone knows, you can never be too thin or too rich. Though we have only one copy of the signed limited edition of Sumo, Powell's does stock the trade edition. It weighs in at a slim 15.7 pounds.
And many thanks to Matthew, Gary, and Michael Powell for helping me wrestle with the 66-pound copy of
by Kirsten Berg, June 3, 2010 4:39 PM
[Editor's Note: We'd like to thank all of our readers who took the time to comment on the rare books post Finis. We're pleased to share the news that Kirsten isn't leaving the Powell's blog, she's simply expanding her role outside of rare books. You'll find her posts covering book collecting, strange facts from the book world, and other interesting literary tidbits right here every month.
÷ ÷ ÷
Each summer when I was a kid our family vacations took us over the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. My father would always say, "Twenty men died building this bridge," as we were halfway across the 7,400 feet of roadway, a statement that never failed to terrify me.
The truth is that five men died building that bridge, which is probably a pretty good safety record for the size of the project. But I didn't know that then, and I didn't know of D. B. Steinman either, so I couldn't possibly know just how safe I was crossing one of his bridges.
Here in Portland, a city embarrassingly rich with bridges, our local D. B. Steinman creation is the beautiful St. Johns Bridge.
D. B. Steinman grew up in lower Manhattan; his Builders of the Bridge is about the Brooklyn Bridge and the Roeblings. We're lucky enough to have several of Steinman's bridge titles in stock right now, including the kids' book Famous Bridges of the World and his technical treatise The Wichert Truss.
Bridges have inspired some fabulous writing. The third edition of The Portland Bridge Book included new poetry and lyrics. Steinman wrote poetry about bridges and others have written poems about the bridges he built, but I have to say I prefer the poetic beauty of his bridges to his written poetry.
Will you be in Portland on August 8? That's the date of the 2010 Portland Bridge Pedal ? the event that allows cyclists to ride over (almost) all of Portland's bridges, including the Fremont suspension bridge. If you can't be here for the ride, you can still see some great Portland views from the Hawthorne Bridge in this video about a local bridge tender ? one of the loneliest guys in town.
Portland is so well known for books, bikes, bridges, and beer that it's almost surprising the Bridge Pedal isn't just a giant pub crawl in disguise, with stops at the City of Books and Powell's on Hawthorne to indulge in some inspired book purchases while in the company of thousands of other Portland enthusiasts…
Thank you, D. B. Steinman, for your books and for your
by Kirsten Berg, May 5, 2010 1:07 PM
"One's life is more formed, I sometimes think, by books than by human beings; it is out of books one learns about love and pain at second hand."
—Graham Greene, Travels with My Aunt
I've been thinking about the great reading experiences I've enjoyed in the last few months. What makes a reader? Is it the ability to sit quietly and fall completely into a narrative? Is it the genuine enthusiasm that we feel when we hand a book to a friend and say, "You've got to read this!"?
What makes a book collector? Love of the reading experience, love of a particular author, love of a single title? A bit of madness can't hurt. Surely the answer has more to do with emotions — desire, yearning, delight — one usually associates with sex or food. It is not a surfeit of money or shelf space that compels us.
I've been thinking also of the generation growing up with eBooks, with the Kindle and iPhone and online gaming and the social network of Facebook. Most likely, most will grow to find real friends beyond the portal of computer screens and text messages; how many will discover the book?
There have been many memorable partings in history and in literature. Some were melodramatic, some overwrought, and a precious few that were perfect. This is my last bi-weekly posting on the subject of rare books for the "pages" of Powells.com. Thanks for reading.
by Kirsten Berg, April 21, 2010 12:11 PM
Whether you view Sir Aurel Stein
as a tomb raider
or as the savior of precious cultural objects might depend on whether you are Chinese or British. An impartial observer might merely wonder: Sir Aurel Who?
Sir Aurel Stein was born in Hungary in 1862 and later became a British citizen. He was a linguist, explorer, archaeologist, and scholar. Many of the artifacts he collected are in the British Museum and the Bodleian Library at Oxford holds his papers. Stein traveled many thousands of miles through the Middle East and Asia along the ancient trade route known as the Silk Road. He "discovered" the caves at Dunhuang and he brought the Diamond Sutra, the oldest known complete printed text, out of Asia in 1907.
He died in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1943 at the age of 83.
To understand his place in the panorama of Asian studies, Buddhist literature, art history, and linguistics is not an easy task. He played a part in the "Great Game" of exploration and geopolitics, as did the famous explorers Francis Younghusband and Sven Hedin. He lived the kind of life of study and travel that was probably only possible during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was monumental.
It is only fitting that one of the most impressive sets we have right now is Stein's Detailed Report of Explorations in Westernmost China. Consisting of four folio volumes and a map portfolio bound in silk, the books are housed in a custom folding case that, when laid out flat, is a map of the Silk Road.
Whether or not this fabulous production of Stein's work appeals to you might depend upon whether you are Chinese or British. Or English-speaking: the text throughout is printed in Chinese.
by Kirsten Berg, April 7, 2010 3:55 PM
It's not such a reach, really, to move from this:
into a discussion of rare books, especially if the theme of the discussion is "Publishers That Don't Fit."
Publishers, just like car manufacturers or clothing designers, all have their niche. They know what their customers want. Yet here are a few examples of (mostly) famous books that make the biblio-geek pause, just for a moment, to consider their histories.
First, A Confederacy of Dunces. Published by Louisiana State University Press in 1980, the story of author John Kennedy Toole is well-known to book collectors. Unable to get his book accepted for publication, he killed himself, and his mother found the manuscript with his belongings after his death. She brought the manuscript to the attention of author Walker Percy, and LSU Press became Toole's publisher.
Better known for books such as Agrarianism & Reconstruction Politics or regional history titles, A Confederacy of Dunces is one of the three Pulitzer Prize winning titles published by LSU Press.
Ever had trouble with your car? Then you might have had an encounter with Chilton, the publishers of a fantastically long lived and successful car repair series. With titles such as Auto Repair Manual 1970 to 1977 on their roster, they somehow managed to be the first to publish one of the biggest science fiction titles known on this planet.
Another famous first is the Naval Institute Press printing of The Hunt for Red October. Back in 1984, when the first copies were printed, the paper used was clay coated, as was usual for Naval Institute Press titles. Clay-coated paper is heavy, and perfectly suited to printing detailed schematics such as the workings of a super secret nuclear submarine, or perhaps this:
An obscure example of a weird publisher mash-up is the 1883 printing of The Story of Nell Gwyn. Nell was one of the many mistresses of Charles II, loved by the king and the public for her wit and earthy charm. Who published this tale of Restoration politics and sex? John Wiley, the home to technical titles such as Principles of Pavement Design and the Encyclopedia of Minerals.
A new kind of library: the New York Times Dining section this week says that Zengo, at 40th Street & Third Avenue, has a tequila library. Anyone know what this is? Bottles or
by Kirsten Berg, March 24, 2010 1:45 PM
A recent New York Times story
about a freshman at Drew University caught my attention. He allegedly stole autographed letters from the university library and then sold several of them:
Mr. Scott pilfered the letters while working part time at the university archives, the prosecutors said. He sold some of them for thousands of dollars, and left others sitting in a dresser drawer, where F.B.I. agents found them after executing a search warrant of his dorm room on Saturday.
Those silly freshmen — always leaving the evidence in their dorm rooms.
Stories of stolen books and documents, as well as forgeries or fakes, are a fascinating subgenre of the history of bookselling. While Mr. Scott might never have a book written about his truncated crime spree, certain others in the world of books and maps have risen to dubious heights as thieves and forgers and have inspired some very good books.
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is the story of John Gilkey, a prolific thief of rare books who kept the books he stole rather than selling them. A financial fraud as well as a self-indulgent lover of fine volumes, he spent 18 months in San Quentin prison. While some of the books he stole were recovered, others are still missing. An excellent account from the perspective of the rare book industry was written by Ken Sanders, the former security lead for the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America.
Ego, money, and murder figure in the story of Mark Hofmann. Raised as a Mormon in Salt Lake City, he became one of the world's most accomplished forgers. Specializing in documents pertaining to the Mormon Church, he created documents in his basement and sold many directly to the Church. Robert Lindsey's book about Hofmann and his crimes, A Gathering of Saints begins with the discovery of a forged Emily Dickenson letter and ends in murder. Hofmann is currently serving a life sentence at the Utah State Prison.
Gilbert Bland was a very successful map dealer. His story, told in The Island of Lost Maps, is a tale of thievery on a grand scale. He used fake credentials to gain access to some of the most important rare book and map collections in the country, such as Baltimore's Peabody Library and the Regenstein Library in Chicago. He stole from special collections rooms that had been designed specifically with security in mind. He stole maps under the watchful eyes of librarians.
Bland sliced maps out of their book bindings with a razor blade, as did E. Forbes Smiley, a map dealer and convicted thief who has 97 map thefts to his name.
According to an accounting released by the federal prosecutor, Mr. Smiley acknowledged taking 34 maps from the Boston Public Library, 32 from the New York Public Library, 11 from Sterling Memorial Library at Yale, 9 from Beinecke Library at Yale, 8 from Houghton Library at Harvard, 2 from the Newberry Library in Chicago and 1 from the British Library.
Sentenced to three and a half years in prison, he was released on January 15, 2010.
Faked and stolen goods have been a part of the book trade forever. The Shakespeare fakes of William Henry Ireland appeared in 1795, Hitler's diaries were published by the West German news magazine Stern in 1983, and the fake diary of Jack the Ripper made it to press in 1993. Thefts from libraries continue even as rules restricting access to collections are made more and more stringent. And in 2009 the rare book dealer David Slade, past president of the Antiquarian Bookseller's Association, was sentenced to prison for the theft of multiple rare books from the Rothschild family.
Our own Library of Congress has had its collections plundered. In 1998 James Gilreath was sentenced for stealing rare books from the Library; he was caught when he tried to sell several to a rare book dealer in Boston. But rare books are hard to fence and the thieves are often caught when they try to turn their take into hard cash. It is perhaps a sign of the times that the latest notable theft at the Library of Congress had nothing at all to do with books