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Author Archive: "Kirsten Berg"

Forgers, Fakes, and F**k-ups

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.


Collectible vs. Rare… with Trivia!

Quite often at cocktail parties or in the first-class cabins of transatlantic flights I find myself engaged in conversations about rare books. The general belief is that if a book is old it must then be rare. Without going into a lecture on sociolinguistics, it has to be admitted that "old" is relative, and that the term "rare" is too often thrown about carelessly in the world of collectible books.

Books can be collectible without being rare. These would be titles or authors that have resonance with the collector. Fight Club and first editions or signed editions from the Twilight saga are examples of collectible books.

Other books have moved beyond the collectible category and are truly rare. The three-volume first edition of Pride and Prejudice is a great example. It's a classic case of supply vs. demand. The first edition is desirable and scarce. Mathematically expressed, the formula looks like this: D + S = $.

Collectible, rare, and scarce books are just like cars, only with fewer moving parts. By that I mean that much of the same criteria are used to assess them. Physical condition ...


Unknown Mongolia

In 1910 an Englishman named Douglas Carruthers began a 5,000 mile journey that crossed Siberia and Asia. His goal was to see Dzungaria, the ancient Mongol kingdom. He published his account of the expedition, Unknown Mongolia, in 1913. It is just the type of early 20th century travel literature that I love. Its value is scholarly, the narrative is entertaining, and the author's photos accompanying the text are both beautiful and plentiful.

Carruthers and his companions traveled by "tarantass, canoe, boat, and raft, by ass, ox, camel, and pack-pony." Reindeer were also ridden, though by the locals rather than by those in Carruthers's caravan. Their supplies — they carried over 300 pounds of flour with them and shot game along the way — were transported by 20 horses.


Once Upon a Time… (Plus, Trivia!)

Before Obama wrote Dreams from My Father...

Before George x 2...

Before THE blue dress...

Before the Gipper...

Before 444 days in captivity...

Before Ford pardoned Nixon...

Before Marilyn sang "Happy Birthday"...

Before the scariest two weeks in October...

Before any of this happened, there was a Senator from Massachusetts.


Bare-chested Bodhisattva

My brother gave Barnes & Noble gift cards to my parents this Christmas, and my mother is enthralled by the Kindle, so I've been shopping around for a new family. I'd like my new family to be financially secure, broad-minded, and happy. They should also be here in Oregon, because I don't want to have to get a new driver's license photo taken.

Focusing on these criteria, I think I've found my new family in the pages of the book This Very Place the Lotus Paradise.


Who’s Afraid of Anna Karenina?

The first translator of Anna Karenina into English, Nathan Haskell Dole, was raised in a strict Puritan home in Massachusetts. In his introduction to the 1886 edition, he claims that "the teaching of the story cannot fail to be considered in the highest degree moral and stimulating." Perhaps he was hoping that his literary friends in Boston wouldn't be shocked at his translating a novel that contained multiple adulterous liaisons and a suicide.

What was "moral and stimulating" in 1886 is today "a sexy and engrossing read," according to Oprah's Book Club. Anna herself is described as "the book's namesake and the woman we've all been waiting to meet," which makes her sound as though she's about to step out onto the talk show stage. Oprah picked Anna Karenina for her book club in 2004 and the title vaulted to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, 127 years after its publication in Russia.


Come to Scratch

There is a particular marriage between writers and the sport of boxing. A. J. Liebling, in the introduction to The Sweet Science, states that " a boxer, like a writer, must stand alone ." A simple truth, simply stated.

By his own admission Liebling boxed

...just enough to show I knew what was all about it, as the boys say. I went shorter rounds every time. The last was in about 1946, and the fellow I was working with said he could not knock me out unless I consented to rounds longer than nine seconds.

It's tempting to fill this space with quotes from The Sweet Science for three reasons. First, Liebling's writing is a joy and interminably quotable. Second, I have at my desk and am reading from the first edition copy.

The third reason to quote Liebling at length is because he is much more qualified than I to introduce Continue »


The Magic of Ahmet Ertuğ

If stunning photography and stylish book design rock your world, you probably already own a selection of Taschen publications. Taschen is bold, brassy, and very, very German.

In Istanbul, three thousand miles from Taschen's home turf, the house of Ertuğ and Kocabiyik has produced some of the most beautiful large format, limited edition photography books in the world.

Specializing in books on Byzantine and Ottoman art and architecture, the large format photography of Ahmet Ertuğ is nothing less than delectable.

It's almost silly to put my photos of his photos in this post; my camera is a Sony Sure Shot with 3.2 megapixels. Ertuğ shoots with an 8 x 10 inch, large format camera. His photos can be viewed online.

Currently, we have three of his books in stock. In Pursuit of Excellence: Worlds of Art from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts was published in 1993. His ode to the principal mosque in Istanbul, Hagia Sophia: A Vision of Empires, was published in 1997. ...


A Collector Like No Other

On the evening of March 18, 1986, I jumped into bed pulling the covers over my stark naked body, shotgun on my chest.

So begins Roger Wendlick's newly published Shotgun On My Chest: Memoirs of a Lewis and Clark Book Collector. If you've never read and enjoyed a collector's reminiscences before, this could be the place to start, for Mr. Wendlick is a collector like no other. His methods and madness will make sense if you have known true passion, single-minded determination, or the angst of having multiple credit cards in your name.

Mr. Wendlick, a construction worker, musician, and traveler, inherited a souvenir plate from the 1905 Lewis and Clark World's Fair that had belonged to his grandmother. A work-related injury and plenty of work-related stress had him thinking that he needed a hobby. Perhaps collecting? It wasn't long before his World's Fair collection reached world-class proportions.

Then he discovered books, book dealers, and bibliomania. He bought the Reuben Thwaites eight-volume set of The Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark ...


Elizabeth Hamilton 1758-1816

Elizabeth Hamilton's early years read like a Brontë novel: the death of the father leaves his three young children at the mercy of distant relatives. The siblings are separated from each other and raised apart, and the cherished brother ships off to India with the British Army. In her adulthood Elizabeth served as a governess to a noble family and in 1806 she wrote Letters on the Formation of the Religious and the Moral Principle to the Daughter of a Nobleman, which probably reads very differently from Jane Eyre.

Best known for Letters on the Elementary Principles of Education, published in 1801, she is most likely remembered today as an educationalist — if she is remembered at all. (While she is nicely represented in the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) with a full two columns, she is followed by Emma Hamilton, who can claim over six and a half pages.)

And that's a shame, because in between publishing such early nineteenth-century pieces as Memoirs of Modern Philosophers, and My Ain Fireside, she wrote


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