The Salon International du Livre Rare in Paris this Weekend

**This story first ran on the Fine Books & Collections Blog on April 13th.

Paris, tu es ma gaieté, Paris…
Spring in Paris–is there anything better? Doubtful. The icing on the cake? Today through April 15, the Grand Palais hosts the Salon International du Livre Rare et de l’Objet d’Art. This year the Salon is backed by France’s UNESCO commission and presented by president Emmanuel Macron. (To be determined whether he is greeted by hecklers as he was at February’s Agricultural Fair.) **Update: It appears Macron skipped the show.** The Salon has grown in scope and attendance over the past few years, and 20,000 visitors are expected to stroll the temple to Beaux-Arts architecture at the corners of General Eisenhower and Winston Churchill Avenues.

 

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This year’s special guests include the Institute for Contemporary Publishing Archives(IMEC) and the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts (CNAM). IMEC specalizies in preserving archival collections at various publishing houses, while CNAM is a doctoral-degree granting program founded in the throes of the French Revolution. Both will be exhibiting materials culled from their respective archives.

 
Among the fifty participants at this year’s salon is Solstices (16 rue Pestalozzi, Paris), a rare books dealer specializing in architecture, political posters, Russian art, and surrealism. And Laurent Coulet will be showing a major Proust find.

 
Museum exhibitions, paper-making demonstrations, and book signings round out this delightful cabinet of curiosities, and with a ten-euro entry fee, the Salon is well worth the price of admission. (Bouquinistes, students, Friends of the Louvre, and LILA booksellers are admitted free.) Bonne foire to all!


Image: Salon catalogue via le Syndicat national de la Librairie Ancienne et Moderne (SLAM)

Darn it! 83,500 Vintage Sewing Pattern Illustrations Available Online

Have you ever flipped through a fashion magazine from days of yore and wished you could rock a psychedelic two-dimensional paper dress circa 1967 or slip into a Mod mini by Mary Quant? Well, now you can–but first, better dust off that sewing machine.

 
Until now, vintage sewing patterns have been available at various web sites across the internet, but Vintage Patterns Wiki is probably one of the largest collections out there, with over 83,000 downloadable, free, out-of-print sewing pattern illustrations. However, the actual patterns themselves aren’t always free: though a few are available on the wiki, Vintage Patterns mostly links to affiliate sellers.

 
Organized by decade, designer, and garment, patterns date from the 1920s through 1992. There’s even a collection of patterns inspired by Hollywood stars–Olivia de Haviland’s jumpsuits  look particularly on trend for spring 2018. With a little elbow grease and attention to detail, you’ll have a bespoke piece that stands the test of time. Besides, sewing is great for the psyche: as Margaret Atwood wrote in Alias Grace, “I am certain that a Sewing Machine would relieve as much human suffering as a hundred Lunatic Asylums, and possibly a good deal more.”

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Beautiful Birds at Bonhams this Spring

Spring announces itself in many ways. In the book world, vernal book fairs and auctions tempts the frozen bibliophile our from hibernation with new treasures waiting to be explored. Bonhams welcomes the new season with a May 30 auction entitled, Wassenaar Zoo: a Dutch Private Library.
Comprised of 2,400 mostly ornithological volumes, the collection was assembled in the 1950s to accompany exhibitions at Holland’s now-defunct Wassenaar Zoo. The auction will include a near-complete run of folios by naturalist John Gould, works by French ornithologist François Levaillant and by Daniel Elliot, co-founder of the American Museum of Natural History. Their beautiful illustrations of pheasants, finches, and falcons fuse a delicate balance between art and scientific inquiry and remain highly coveted by collectors.

Representing the biggest names in 19th century natural history documentation, highlights from this collection went on display in New York earlier this month and are currently on view in Hong Kong. Another viewing will be held in London from May 23 through the 29th.
Interested parties may flock to the Bonhams book department at books@bonhams.com.

Image: Superb Fairywren The Birds of Australia. London, Printed by R. and J. E. Taylor; pub. by the author,[1840]-48. Plate 18 by John Gould. Courtesy of Biodiversity Library and Smithsonian.

Rethinking the Enlightenment

Think of the French Enlightenment, and who comes to mind? Probably Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu and their impressive achievements like Candide, the Encyclopedie, and The Spirit of Laws, works that spurred the intellectual and philosophical movement of eighteenth-century Europe. Though the Enlightenment is often considered a male-dominated endeavor, French women played important roles, too.

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Think of the French Enlightenment, and who comes to mind? Probably Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu and their impressive achievements like Candide, the Encyclopedie, and The Spirit of Laws, works that spurred the intellectual and philosophical movement of eighteenth-century Europe. Though the Enlightenment is often considered a male-dominated endeavor, French women played important roles, too. Elite, educated women often held salons–forums hosted in private homes where spirited debate on topics from education to politics accompanied sumptuous meals. (This is France, after all.) Women held court in these salons, selecting topics, curating the guest list, and using the venue to seal their social status. One of the more famous Parisian salonnières was Catherine de Vivonne, marquise de Rambouillet, who ran a salon at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, the first of its kind and which likely inspired Molière’s scathing one-act satire les Précieuses ridicules.
Other women went a step beyond hosting salons and picked up the plume for themselves. Madame de La Fayette, a regular at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, wrote the first French historical novel called La Princesse de Clèves (1678), while the correspondence of the marquise de Sevigné is widely celebrated for its verve and historical significance.
Today, Houghton Library at Harvard University is hosting a symposium on these and other ladies of the Enlightenment called, appropriately, “Rethinking Enlightenment: Forgotten Women Writers of Eighteenth-Century France.” Members of Harvard’s Department of Romance Languages and Literature as well as guest professors from the Universite de Lille and Wellesley College will discuss the works of women who participated in the Enlightenment “but were excluded from its history until recently.” The discussion accompanies an exhibition on view through April 28th, “Rethinking Enlightenment,” curated by Harvard senior and forum participant Caleb Shelbourne, who assisted professor Christie McDonald with research for her forthcoming two-volume work Femme, Littérature. Une histoire culturelle (Paris: Gallimard, 2019). The symposium comes two days after International Francophonie Day, an annual event celebrated by 220 million French-speakers on five continents.

Release The Kraken! A NYABF Preview

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Those feeling a bit windswept by the weather these days may do well to head over to the NYABF at the Park Avenue Armory and peek into Abby Schoolman’s exhibit at booth A32, where she’s highlighting some exciting contemporary art books and bindings. In addition to her stable of works by the likes of Mark Cockram and Tim Ely, Schoolman is introducing her latest Instagram  find,The Kraken by thirty-year-old Spanish paper artist Carla Busquets.

 
This one-of-a-kind book includes eight original drawings rendered in black ink on four folios mounted on five wooden dowels.The piano hinge structure is based on innovations by book artist Hedi Kyle and the piece is signed by the artist on the back of the last leaf.

 
“I mostly work with paper,” Busquet explains in Schoolman’s catalog. “I love the versatility of the material, how easy it is to manipulate and also the skill required to turn it into delicate work.” She also looks to the natural world for inspiration, and in The Kraken, Busquet looked to the massive, fearsome sea creature of the deep that was believed to capsize seagoing vessels since the time of Odysseus. In this rendering, the kraken’s massive tentacles churn the black waves, ominously approaching a doomed schooner.

 
Formerly a conservator in the UK, Canada, and Spain, Busquets opened her own studio, la Frivé, last year where she hosts workshops for paper artists of all ages in addition to practicing her craft.

 
Bonus: this kraken won’t swamp your book-buying budget, nicely priced at $500.

If you’ve got time and energy to spare after rummaging through the NYABF’s wares, head down to Pier 36 where the annual Art on Paper show focuses on contemporary art.

photo credit: Abby Schoolman

This story first appeared on the Fine Books & Collections Blog on March 9th, 2018

Quick Picks, Nor’Easter Edition

You can be excused for feeling a little apocalyptic if you happen to live on the East Coast, but once you’ve got the lights and heat back on, consider picking up one of the following books for you or the kids–they are all a welcome salve for these windswept times and reminders that love and compassion come in all shapes and sizes.

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First up is National Book Critics Circle Award winner Louise Erdrich’s latest offering, Future Home of the Living God (Harper, $28.99), where evolution seems to be coming to a standstill: animals stop reproducing while others revert back to prehistoric proportions and children are born with disturbing abnormalities, leading to an increasingly fascist government regime where pregnant women are incarcerated. This is bad news for four-months-pregnant Cedar, the adopted daughter of loving parents and the protagonist of this cautionary tale. Cedar decides its time to meet her Ojibwe birth parents in Northern Minnesota, where she reconnects with her spiritual side. Told in diary form by Cedar, Future Home of the Living God touches on prescient, lightening-rod themes of reproductive rights, faith, and environmental disorder with equal parts verve and candor. Newbies to sci-fi would do well to start here.

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Meanwhile, offer the kids have something far less dystopian in nature, like Paul Griffin’s Saving Marty (Dial Books, $16.99). Here, lonely Lorenzo is looking for a friend, and finds one in Marty, a pig that thinks it’s a dog. Instant friendship ensues, and when Marty grows into a robust 350-pound porker, Lorenzo is ready and willing to do anything to save his best friend from being shipped away. Middle-grade fans of Griffin’s When Friendship Followed Me Home will find similar themes of compassion and friendship in Saving Marty.

Another book of porcine proportions is The True Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig by Steve Jenkins, Derek Walter, and Caprice Cane (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $17.99), which shares the real-life story of Esther and her owners. In 2012, Steve and Derek adopted Esther and welcomed her to their animal sanctuary. Much like Marty in the previous book, Esther was destined for corpulent greatness–eventually tipping the scales at over 600 pounds. But Esther’s size was no match for Steve and Derek’s love and patience–rather than give Esther away, they moved to a country farm in 2014, founding the Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary where they continue to care for all sorts of creatures. Young readers will snort with joy watching Esther grow from a tiny piglet into a massive pink hog. Corri Doerrfield’s lively illustrations are sweet and perfectly in tune with the text.

The 2018 NGC Bocas Lit Festival Coming to the Caribbean in April

Need a literary justification to visit the Caribbean this spring? Consider the NGC Bocas Lit Festival, taking place in downtown Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago. Billed as the region’s premier literature festival, the Lit Fest is devoted to developing and promoting Caribbean authors by hosting five lively days of author panels, workshops, film screenings, and performances. Held at the National Library and Old Fire Station, the festival will run from April 25-29 and is free to the public.
In addition, NGC organizers will be announcing the 2018 prizes for Caribbean literature on April 28. Launched in 2011, these annual awards recognize the previous year’s most notable additions to the Caribbean canon. Last year’s winners included Jamaican poet Safiya Sinclair’s Cannibal (University of Nebraska Press), Augustown by Kei Miller (Weidenfeld and Nicolson) took home the top prize for fiction, and Virtual Glimpses into the Past/A Walk Back in Time: Snapshots of the History of Trinidad and Tobago by Angelo Bissessarsingh (Queen Bishop Publishing) won for best non-fiction work.

The overall winner receives an award of $10,000, while category winners each receive a cash prize of $3,000. Eligible submissions must have been first published in English in 2017 and written by a single living author who either holds Caribbean citizenship or was born in the Caribbean. (Though Francophone authors hailing from Haiti, Guadeloupe, and Martinique aren’t necessarily eligible unless they write in English, their work can be considered for the Prix littéraire des Caraϊbes et du Tout-Monde and the other prestigious French awards like the Prix Goncourt.)
The NGC Lit Fest goals are to both celebrate the Caribbean’s literary achievements while also maintaining the region’s literacy rates, which hover around 97 to 99 percent of the overall population. Haiti remains the exception, where the literacy rate is near 60 percent, despite a rich two-hundred-year history of producing talented writers like Toussaint LouvertureJean Price-Mars, Dany LaferriereJacques Roumain, and Marie-Celie Agnant.

 

Need another reason to book a flight? Check out this interview  with Trinidad and Tobago native Tracey Baptiste, author of The Jumbies YA series. She spoke with my daughter, Abgail, in late January about Caribbean folklore and how it inspires her books.

 

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(photo: Barbara Basbanes Richter)
This story first appeared on the Fine Books & Collections blog on Friday, March 2, 2018.