Magical Unicorns at Musée Cluny: Centuries of Fascination

 

Everywhere you look there seems to be some product inspired by a unicorn: purple frappuccinos, table lamps, there’s even a shop (in Brooklyn, naturally,) that specializes in unicorn horns proudly crafted in the USA. Privately held companies valued at over a billion dollars are known as “unicorns” to represent the statistical rarity of such entities. (Airbnb and SpaceX are two examples.) Yet, despite what seems to be rampant unicorn fever, it’s nothing new; the ancient Indus carved unicorns onto seals, and the beasts appear in the Physiologus, an ancient Greek bestiary, which ascribes curative powers to unicorn horns. By the Middle Ages, unicorns came to symbolize the life and trials of Jesus Christ.

 

Far from the playful, purple-and-pink hued creature we often think of today, historical unicorns were squat, compact, notoriously ferocious creatures that could only be captured by virgins. Unicorn horns were believed to be powerful aphrodisiacs as well as effective teeth whiteners, leading to the robust sale of ground-up narwhal horns passed off as genuine unicorn. Wealthy families and merchants often commissioned unicorn images for their coats of arms and emblems to suggest magnificence and power.

 

Now, Magical Unicorns, the latest exhibition on view at the Musée Cluny in Paris offers a comprehensive look at how unicorns have been depicted over the past 500 years. Engravings, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, and other items illustrate the allegorical significance of these mythical beasts and humankind’s enduring fascination with them.
The highlight of the show is a set of six tapestries entitled The Lady and the Unicorn, part of the Cluny’s permanent collection. Woven around 1500, the tapestries are believed to have been designed by Jean Bourdichon, offical court painter to four French Kings and the illuminator responsible for the sumptuous Book of Hours created for Queen Anne of Brittany. Showcased in a dimly-lit rotunda to preserve the fabrics, the scarlet 12-feet by 9-feet silk and wool tapestries are complex visual meditations on the meaning of life, filled with allegorical iconography.
To quote Sebastian from Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “Now I will believe that there are unicorns.”
Magical Unicorns runs now through February 25.


Images (Top) Aquamanile : Licorne Alliage cuivreux, vers 1400 Cl. 2136 © RMN-Grand Palais (musée de Cluny – musée national du Moyen-Âge) / G. Blot. (Middle) Livre d’heures dit de Yolande d’Aragon: «la Vierge Marie et la chasse à la licorne» Enluminure sur parchemin, vers 1460 – 1470 Ms 22 (Rés. ms 2) © Bibliothèque Méjanes, Aix-en-Provence. (Bottom) Graduel de Sainte-Rictrude de Marchiennes: «David menacé par le lion et la licorne» Parchemin, 1548 ms 112, fol. 88 Bibliothèque municipale de Douai, © IRHT-CNRS. Reproduced with permission from the Musee Cluny.

Westsider Rare Books to Close After 35 Years Unless a GoFundMe Campaign Comes Through – The Fine Books Blog

Source: Westsider Rare Books to Close After 35 Years Unless a GoFundMe Campaign Comes Through – The Fine Books Blog

An American Master: Ursula Le Guin

It’s been almost exactly one year since her death, but Ursula Le Guin remains a literary powerhouse. Check out Elisa Shoenberger’s look at the enduring influence of an American master over at the Book and Paper Fair Blog: https://bit.ly/2RtVzBc

 

The Holiday Round-Up: Books for All!

The #Holiday Round-Up: Books for All! Our top picks for the #bibliophiles in your life. @foliosociety @nancyrosep @hudsontalbott
@puffinbooks #puffinplated @PeachtreePub @bethanwoolvin @simonschuster

Yes, ’tis the season for frantic holiday shopping, unless you’re one of the rarefied people who check everyone off your list during those Christmas in July sales. If you’re more of a last-minute shopper, there’s still time to ace your gift-giving game this holiday season with a carefully selected title or two.  Below, our top picks for the bibliophile in your life. Get ’em while the gettin’s good!

The Folio Society Black Beauty cover shot

Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell, illustrations by Annette Hamley-Jenkins; Folio Society, $53.95, 224 pages.

Originally published in 1877, Sewell’s bestselling tale championing fair treatment for working horses in Victorian-era England gets the sumptuous Folio treatment with lush, full color illustrations by Annette Hamley-Jenkins and an introduction by War Horse author Sir Michael Morpurgo. This edition of Black Beauty comes in a handsome blue slipcase printed with horses galloping across in silhouette. This is the gift that keeps on giving: a timeless story, beautifully presented.

Please note: Folio Society’s order deadlines to make Christmas delivery are December 8 for standard shipping and December 14 for express.

(Images copyright 2018 Annette Hamley-Jenkins and reproduced with permission from Folio Society. )

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Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol: The Classic Novel with Recipes for Your Holiday Menu by: Giada de Laurentis, Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, and Trisha Yearwood; Puffin Plated, $25.00, 168 pages.

Carol

Is there any better combination than a good book and a good meal? Perhaps a frothy brew, but I digress. Puffin Plated, a new endeavor launched this fall by Penguin Random House, recently released A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, unabridged and accompanied by mouth-watering photographs (by Tisha Cherry and Vega Hernando) of fruitcakes, gingerbread, and other holiday treats.  Delectable recipes come courtesy of culinary giants like Ina Garten and Martha Stewart. (Looking for a non-denominational gift? Pride and Prejudice also got the Puffin Plated treatment and is filled with sugary sweet confections.)

 

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(Images reproduced with permission from Penguin Random House.)

Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art, by Hudson Talbott; Nancy Paulsen Books, 32 pages, ages 4-7.

Picturing America cover

“The painter of American scenery has, indeed, privileges superior to any other. All nature here is new to art,” wrote Thomas Cole (1801-1848), the father of the Hudson River School of painting and the patriarch of the young country’s first art movement. Here, author-illustrator Hudson Talbott introduces readers to a man who was at once an immigrant, an artist, and an environmentalist by weaving elements from some of Cole’s most iconic paintings into the book. A perfect gift for budding naturalists with an artistic streak.

 

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(Images copyright 2018 Hudson Talbott and reproduced with permission from Penguin Random House.)

Hansel & Gretel, by Bethan Woolvin; Peachtree Publishers, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 4-8.

hansel

Bethan Woollvin is back with another twisted fairy tale. Now, the author of Little Red and Rapunzel has concocted a revision of the Grimm brother’s classic story of two siblings forced to outsmart a cannibalistic old witch. As in her previous adaptations, Woollvin’s Hansel & Gretel takes a surprise turn, with Hansel and Gretel as sassy brats and the witch (named Willow) cast in a more benevolent role. To be enjoyed fireside with a heaping plateful of tasty gingerbread cookies.

 

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(Images copyright 2018 Bethan Woollvin. Reproduced with permission from Peachtree Publishers.)

All is Merry and Bright, by Jeffrey Burton, illustrated by Don Clark; Little Simon, $24.99, 26 pages, ages 0-4.

merry

Get the littlest revelers into the holiday spirit by offering them this oversize board book by Jeffrey Burton and Don Clark. The retro volume, complete with sparkly foil and embossing on every page is a joyous celebration of Christmas. Sensory overload in the best sense awaits the tiny tots who find this book tucked under their tree this year.

 

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(Text copyright 2018 Jeffrey Burton. Illustrations copyright 2018 Don Clark. Reproduced with permission from Simon & Schuster.)

Biopic on Pippi Longstocking Creator in Theaters Now

Astrid Lindgren gets the silver screen treatment in a new film that explores a child forced to grow up all too soon.

Pippi.PNG

  Who among us hasn’t heard of Pippi Longstocking, a nine-year-old Swedish orphan of prodigious strength and fortitude whose adventures result in all sorts of well-intentioned mischief and fun? Unfortunately for English readers, translations of Astrid Lindgren’s (1907-2002) Pippi Longstocking series read a bit clumsily, but the protagonist still charms with steadfast outspokenness against bullies of all sorts. No matter what, Pippi and other characters from Lindgren’s vast cast of characters are always resolutely on the side of children.

 


Now comes a film biopic that traces Lindgren’s formative years as a clever girl with a gift for storytelling but whose childhood is cut abruptly short by an unplanned pregnancy. Becoming Astrid, directed and co-written by Pernille Fischer Christensen (A Soap; Someone You Love) offers a captivating examination of the events of Lindgren’s childhood that fueled Lindgren’s eventual rise to fame. Starring a masterful Alba August as the young Astrid, the 123-minute film is a nuanced look at a girl who must grow up all too soon and face life as an unwed mother largely on her own. Though Lindgren’s situation is as old as human history, how she deals with it is mesmerizing.


And yet, as good as Becoming Astrid is, it leaves much on the table. After refusing to marry the older newspaper editor who impregnated her, Lindgren heads to Stockholm where she learns stenography while waiting to give birth. The baby boy is sent to a foster mother in Denmark while she finds her footing and regains her family’s acceptance.


And then the film ends. Concluding director’s notes say that Lindgren eventually married her work supervisor, Sture Lindgren, and went on to write the books that made her an international sensation. It’s a pity the film ends where it does because it leaves so many questions left unanswered, such as: When did Lindgren transition from oral storytelling to putting pen to paper? How did she land her first book deal? Additionally, the film suggests nothing of Lindgren’s lifelong devotion to fighting for various causes like banning seal hunting, ending child pornography, and championing equality for the downtrodden and forgotten.


Becoming Astrid offers a tantalizing glimpse of an inspirational woman and provides, in part, an explanation for why Lindgren’s stories are full of abandoned, parentless children. And though the film is not a full biographic treatment, it is still very much  worth watching as it ignites a desire to know more about the subject. In fact, a recently published biography by Jens Anderson entitled Astrid Lindgren: The Woman Behind Pippi Longstocking (Yale University Press) fills in those gaps.


In the final analysis, like her characters, Lindgren was a child forced to take care of herself but didn’t have the right tools to do so. She made mistakes, learned from them, and despite it all, grew up strong, which is certainly what we all hope for our children.


Becoming Astrid opened in New York on November 23rd at the Film Forum  followed by a national roll out. Watch the trailer here.   Image courtesy of Music Box Films

Children’s Books that Explore the Worlds Around Us

Worlds collide in this trio of exciting new children’s books that explore realms near and far and that are sure to entertain any intrepid adventurers. 

A Story Like the Wind, by Gill Lewis, illustrated by Jo Weaver; Eerdmans, $16.00, 80 pages, ages 9 and up.

Anyone who can get through this book without tearing up must have a heart of stone. Award-winning author Gill Lewis’s tale of channeling hope despite facing an uncertain future starts in a rudderless boat bobbing about in a vast ocean carrying refugees away from war. As the situation seems to take a turn for the worse, the passengers begin to talk about the lives they left behind. Young Rami only had time to grab his violin before fleeing and shares a musical story about a white stallion unwilling to bend to an evil overlord. The creature pays a heavy price for its actions, but in turn inspires hope that the struggle is worth the pain. Kate Greenaway award finalist Jo Weaver’s inky-toned illustrations are an evocative and powerful match for the stirring prose. A beautiful and heart-wrenching celebration of love, kindness, and freedom for all. 

The King of Nothing, by Guridi, translated from Spanish by Saul Endor; The New York Review of Children’s Books; $16.95, 32 pages, ages 2-6.

Originally published in 2013 in Spanish, the English translation of Guridi’s book offers a wry look at different ways of welding power.  Here, we meet Mimo the First as he rules over his domain of nothingness–perfectly outlined by dash marks throughout the book–and maintains law and order with unprecedented tenacity. All is right until one day when Mimo is confronted by something and goes on the offensive to eradicate this unwelcome interloper. But this intruder is stubborn, too, and the little king is faced with some unpleasant choices. Will there be war or compromise? 

A caveat, please: parents will make this book immensely more enjoyable if they can refrain from political commentary while reading with their children. To be sure, for some adults, the temptation to editorialize does exist here. Instead, delight in this absurd and whimsical examination of the power of the human imagination and leave politics out of it. 

Image reproduced with permission of NYRCB. copyright 2013 Guridi.

Image reproduced with permission of NYRCB. copyright 2013 Guridi.

The Boy Who Went to Mars, by Simon James; Candlewick Press, $17.99, 32 pages, ages 2-6.

Award-winning children’s book creator Simon James is back with a story reveling in the joys of active imaginations. Young Stanley is taken by surprise when his mother leaves on an overnight work trip and decides that he, too, must take a trip. Except that Stanley flies off to Mars, and his spaceship returns to Earth carrying a slightly petulant little martian. And this extra-terrestrial doesn’t like to play by earthling rules: no hand washing, no vegetables, and certainly no tooth brushing. An altercation between the martian and a playmate leads to an emotional internal reckoning, leaving the boy/martian to figure out how to make things right. James’s pen and watercolor illustrations capture both the boundless pleasures of imaginative play and the unequivocal love of strong family bonds. 

Change Comes to New Haven’s Antiquarian Book Scene

 

“I am eternally grateful that in the summer of 2000 Bill Reese offered me the opportunity to become an associate at the William Reese Company,” Aretakis said recently. “Over the next fourteen years, I learned from Bill every day. I am proud of the business I built over the past four and a half years [in California], and during that time I learned new skills as I developed a business on my own. I bring these skills, as well as all that I learned from Bill Reese, with me as I return to the Reese Company.”
Aretakis’s official start date was November 1, and he will be manning the Reese booth at the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair November 16-18.
“I am excited to be part of the team that will guide the William Reese Company into the future,” Aretakis said, “and continuing on in Bill’s tradition and adapting to the ever-changing environment of antiquarian bookselling.”
Meanwhile, longtime Reese associates Teri Osborn (a FB&C “Bright Young Bookseller” in 2011) and James McBride (a 2017 BYB) recently launched McBride Rare Books, also in New Haven.
“This certainly is an interesting and exciting time for us,” said McBride and Osborn. “Together, we have a combined experience of nearly two decades in rare books, including academia, librarianship, and the trade. With McBride Rare Books, we look forward to continuing our roles as trusted and valuable members of the antiquarian book trade, working closely with our clients and colleagues.” As they did at Reese, the pair plan to continue focusing on Americana and are making their inaugural appearance as freshly minted bookstore owners at the Boston Book, Print, and Ephemera show on November 17. “It’s a consistently great fair, and we’re very much looking forward to exhibiting.” And though McBride and Osborn have chosen to hang their shingle in New Haven for now, they plan to move to New York City in spring 2019.
As for thoughts concerning Aretakis’s move to Reese: “Nick will be a much-needed steady hand at the tiller,” team McBride said, “and we have no doubt that he will carry the business forward in the finest traditions of the firm.”

 

Many heartfelt congratulations to all in what appears to be a bright new chapter in the field of antiquarian bookselling.