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Author Archive: "Kirsten Berg"

A Flawed Diamond

There is a proverb that reads: "A diamond with a flaw is better than a common stone that is perfect." This 1595 printing of Giovanni Botero's Delle Relationi Universali is no common stone.

It contains a litany of faults: worming...

dampstaining...

underlining and notation.

Almost fully detached from its contemporary vellum binding ("contemporary" in rare book descriptions does not mean modern), this copy of Delle Relatione Universali affords a fine view of the sewn binding and bands.

Why is this book worthy of being called "a diamond with a flaw"? Delle Relatione Universali is a late-16th-century view of the Catholic church throughout the world, including "del Mondo Nuouo," the Americas, thus earning Botero a citation in Joseph Sabin's Dictionary of Books Relating to America.

Giovanni Botero was a Jesuit priest who was discharged from the order in 1580 because he had delivered a sermon that questioned the power of the Pope. In 1589 he wrote Delle Ragione di Stato (The Reason of State), which argues against ...


Physics, Mathematics, and Optics… Oh, My!

Don't judge this book by its cover. Between those old calf boards are pages with lovely wide margins, head-pieces, tail-pieces, and folding plates. It is a gorgeous example of 18th-century book craft.

It also holds the keys to the universe.

This is a first edition of Henry Pemberton's A View of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophy. Published in 1728, it was meant as an Everyman's version of the Principia. Pemberton had given Newton fodder for his rift with Leibnitz regarding the calculus, and Newton, recognizing an ally, offered his friendship. Pemberton, the editor of the third edition of the Principia, was a member of the Royal Society, as was Newton, who served 25 years as its president.

The Principia has its own fascinating publishing history. Samuel Pepys, who was everywhere and did everything in London at the time, gave consent for the book to be published on behalf of the Royal Society, but the Society had already blown its publishing budget on a book titled The History of Fish. Astronomer Edmund Halley ...


Old Peking / New Beijing

This unassuming volume, bound in red cloth, is a beautiful example of commercial book publishing in the '30s. It is, in modern marketing parlance, "value added." Outside of select university presses, they just don't make books like this anymore.

In Search of Old Peking by L. C. Arlington and William Lewisohn was published in 1935. The front paste down and free endpaper boasts a two-color map of "Tours in the City and Suburbs of Peking." The rear paste down and free endpaper house a three-color map of Peking that unfolds to an impressive 21 by 24 inches. The rear endpapers show a map of "The Peking Plain."

The text is accompanied by folding maps and plans, photographs, and a clever tissue overlay map illustrating the Legation Quarter in 1900, and again in 1935.

Now considered a destination and chic place to go to eat, this is the area where most foreign legations were situated between 1861 and 1959. In the foreword of In Search of Old Peking, the authors decry not just mindless vandalism ...


L’Art de la Cuisine Francaise

What's the hot bestseller this summer? Julia Child's fantastic memoir My Life in France and her classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which is so wildly popular right now that even if you work for the publisher, Knopf, you probably can't get your hands on a copy. 

Long, long ago, before the Food Network and over a hundred years before Julia Child attended her first class at Le Cordon Bleu, a young man named Marie-Antoine Carême became apprentice to a famous pâtissier in Paris. Having survived a childhood that might have been written by Dickens, Carême would rise to become one of the most influential chefs in culinary history.

This is the engraved title page to volume three of the five-volume work titled L'Art de la Cuisine Francaise au Dix-Neuvieme Siecle. It covers sauces — petites et grandes — and large pieces of meat — des grosses pieces de boucherie. Sounds better in French, doesn't it?

Carême was ambitious, a born showman, whose towering confections became de rigueur in society and caught the attention of Napoleon. The leaders of the day mixed food and politics freely, and Carême became ...


Gone in Three Weeks

If you subscribe to any of our Recently Arrived Used emails, you'll notice our lighthearted (but deadly serious) disclaimer at the header:

Please note that all books listed are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Popular and out-of-print titles, in particular, may disappear quickly!

"Quickly" in the rare book world usually means 3 months. If you're used to leisurely browsing our rare book offerings, you might want to step up the pace a bit. We've lowered the prices of our rare book inventory, and happy bibliophiles near and far agree: this is a good time to buy.

An excellent article by Stephen Gertz about the shifting sands of the rare book trade was posted in June on the Fine Books & Collections website. Gertz also posts on the excellent Book Patrol blog.

The gist of Gertz's article is that "it's time for the mid to high-end material to meet their market-maker, the public." Bloomsbury Auctions was one of the first in the trade to shift their normal business practices. They held a "no reserve" sale on June 30, and the public responded by opening their ...


Bibliophily

The love of books. Many of us suffer from it, revel in it, and occasionally let it run wild. What better place to enjoy this malady than Powell's? Here are three highlights from our rare book selection that might otherwise be overlooked: great deals for the history lover, collector of bindings, or modern-art enthusiast.

Official Army Register for January 1870
This Army register has been rebound in a period-appropriate blue cloth. Collectors might overlook it unless they ask themselves: who was in the Army in the early 1870s? These records contain the roster of the 7th Regiment of Cavalry.

He Kaine Diatheke
Can't read Greek? This beautiful book can be enjoyed for its binding alone. It is beautifully bound in morocco, stamped in blind and gilt, with two working clasps. It is of a quality that, when found, is seldom affordable for bibliophiles who haven't yet struck it rich.

Roy Lichtenstein, Signed
Roy Lichtenstein remains one of the top names in 20th-century art. Our copy has been ...


Bright Angel

At the Bright Angel Lodge at the head of the Bright Angel Trail on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, there is a statue honoring a burro named Brighty. The free-spirited animal was a Park Service mascot, and he lived in the Canyon for almost 30 years.

Author Marguerite Henry read about the famous burro in an old copy of Sunset magazine. Brighty had so much personality that he was a natural subject for her. Her story of his life, Brighty of the Grand Canyon, is charmingly illustrated by Wesley Dennis.

A book about a burro? If you're familiar with Marguerite Henry's animal stories, then you know this is a good read. It's not just an animal story, either. Theodore Roosevelt makes an appearance, a suspension bridge (the Bright Angel Suspension Bridge across the Colorado River) is built, a murder mystery is solved, and by the end of the story you've learned a bit about American history and the natural history of the Grand Canyon, ...


The Only Constant Is Change

This set weighs almost 21 pounds. The ornately tooled leather bindings stand 15 inches high. The steel engravings are fabulously rich, even after 130 years. What were they thinking, those late Victorians who produced this edition of The New Gallery of British Art?

Art education for the children must have been on their minds. The people who had the money to spend on this set most likely lived in a house large enough to have a library; these are not studio apartment or loft-sized books. The text accompanying the engravings is mostly composed of light, easy-to-understand art criticism focusing on composition. There are no Post-Modern Expressionist puzzles here.

"British Art," of course, means the Royal Academy of Arts. Academy members are diligently represented in these volumes, which include engravings after Gainsborough, Reynolds, and Landseer. The Royal Academy has dominated the British art world since its inception in 1768. Here's a look at the annual Exhibition at the Royal Academy in the early 1800s.

This set might have also ...


Hardboiled World

The novels of one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, W. R. Burnett, are now out of print. Never heard of him, you say? Have you ever seen High Sierra with Humphrey Bogart? The Great Escape with Steve McQueen? The Asphalt Jungle? The 1932 film Scarface?

The Asphalt Jungle

Sure, the novel Great Escape was written by Paul Brickhill, but Burnett wrote the screenplay. Burnett's filmography at IMDB spans 50 years. He was twice nominated for an Academy Award and he won an O. Henry Memorial Award in 1930.

Whitney and William

What I love the most about our first edition copy of The Asphalt Jungle is this back panel photo, with the caption "W. R. Burnett and Mrs. Burnett." He is looking thoughtful, holding a pair of glasses in one hand while a cigarette burns in the other; she is dressed for horseback. ...


Orthography

As schoolchildren, we first encounter him — Mr. Webster and his dictionary. Those fourth grade spelling tests terrified me. But Noah Webster meant no harm when he published A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language in 1806. He just wanted all of America to spell correctly. This mattered so much to him that in 1828 he published An American Dictionary of the English Language. A person might think that Dr. Johnson's dictionary was good enough. But that was English, and Mr. Webster was thoroughly American.

And so he took it upon himself to revise the King James Version of the Bible.

new testament

This is the title page of Webster's New Testament in the Common Version, with Amendments of the Language, published in 1839. Bibles were commonly used in schools and homes to teach children how to read, and Mr. Webster saw that the inconsistencies in spelling and the obsolescence of many of the words in the King James Version could be detrimental to the language skills ...


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