Controversial California Autograph Law Amended

Change is in the air in California.
Readers of this blog may recall California’s passage of AB-1570 Collectibles: Sale of Autographed Memorabilia, which went into effect in January 2017. That law required all dealers of any autographed material worth more than five dollars to fill out a certificate of authenticity (COA) specifying date of sale, the dealer’s name and street address, and the name and address of the person from whom the autographed item was acquired if the item was not signed in the presence of a dealer. AB-1570’s goals were to prevent the distribution of forged autographs, but many booksellers felt they were swept up by a vague law with onerous requirements. Still others felt that portions of the law constituted an invasion of privacy, citing possible violations of California’s Reader Privacy Act of 2011.
Co-sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 13, 2017, AB 228 amends the previous legislation to better address the needs of booksellers in California.
The new law excludes all books, manuscripts, correspondence, and any ephemera unrelated to sports or entertainment media from the “autographed collectibles” regulation set forth in AB-1570. Rather than provide a Certificate of Authenticity–a lengthy document requiring sellers to disclose where autographed items were purchased that many booksellers found onerous–dealers of autographed collectibles may provide an “Express Warranty” incorporated in an invoice instead. Additionally, civil penalties for failing to comply with the law have been lowered as well.
“We are thrilled,” said Susan Benne, ABAA’s executive director. “The amended law removes the unintended consequences of the previous law, while providing the protections to the consumers it was intended to. We thank the lawmakers, booksellers, organizations, and professionals who supported the effort and made this happen.” Joining the ABAA lobbying group were many ABAA members liks Brad and Jen Johnson and Laurelle Swann, as well as organizations like the Grolier Club, the Manuscript Society, and the Professional Autograph Dealers Association.
The 200 dealers descending on Pasadena for the California International Antiquarian Book Fair next month will no doubt be pleased with the changes.

Albertine Prize Needs Your Help!

Calling all American Francophiles: the Albertine Prize needs your vote! Organized by the Fifth Avenue bookstore, Albertine, and co-presented by jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels  and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the award recognizes American readers’ favorite French-language fiction titles translated into English and distributed in the U.S. within the preceding calendar year.

This year’s nominees are winnowed to five titles covering a range of perspectives and narrative styles; UCLA professor Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses (Petit Piment, 2015) follows a Congoloese boy who escapes a terrifying orphanage and is raised by thieves in Pointe-Noire, and Christine Angot’s controversial story about molestation, Incest (Inceste, 1999) also makes the shortlist.

The Albertine Prize selection committee includes author and translator Lydia Davis, French literary critic and La Grande Librairie host François Busnel, and the staff at the Albertine bookstore in New York City.

Not sure which book to vote for? Albertine will host a springtime Book Battle, where five critics and professors will defend their favorite title.
Anyone can vote, just follow the link here. Ballots close May 1, 2018, with an awards ceremony on June 6. The winner will receive a $10,000 prize, to be split between author and translator. Bonne lecture!  

“Home” for the Holidays

For many of us, the next few weeks will be a flurry of holiday parties, last-minute gift runs, and the chance to see family and friends. In a bid to remember why we go through so much trouble to be with loved ones this time of year, consider picking up the third literary anthology in the Freeman’s collection entitled Home (Grove, $16). Thirty-seven writers from around the world focused on the idea of home, each bringing a new perspective and interpretation.

In the narrative nonfiction piece “Vacationland,” author Kerri Arsenault returns to her hometown of Mexico, Maine, which sits on the banks of the Androscoggin River. Now a derelict relic of a bygone era, the townspeople’s former prosperity came from toiling in the paper mill in nearby Rumford. “That’s money coming out of those smokestacks,” Arsenault’s father used to say, but there was plenty else coming out of those stacks, too–dioxin, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, and other by-products of contemporary mass-produced papermaking, slowly poisoning the surrounding environment and its inhabitants. (Read “At the Crossroads” in On Paper for a look inside the modern commercial papermaking experience.)

Read more about the idea of home over at the Fine Books Blog.

Kickstarter-Funded Biography of W.A. Dwiggins Heading to the Presses

Eagle-eyed readers may recall our story back in April about a Kickstarter-funded biography on William Addison Dwiggins, that twentieth-century book designer who coined the term “graphic design” back in the 1920s.

The inaugural project for Letterform Archive ultimately received $171,574, sailing past its fundraising goal of $50,000. As of November 21, the book was in its final proofing stage and will be on the press before the year is out. Proofing the book is no small task: over 1,000 images pepper the book, but author-designer Bruce Kennett and his team are dedicated to “producing a printed image that comes as close as the real thing,” with a secondary goal of setting a new bar for subsequent Archive publications.

Read all about the swag awaiting patient backers at the Fine Books Blog.

 

National Book Award Winners 2017

Happy after-Thanksgiving! Looking for something to read? Why not choose from the recently minted National Book Award winners. Jesmyn Ward took home the ficion award for Sing, Unburied, Sing (Scribner/Simon & Schuster). This is the second time Ward’s writing has been recognzied by the National Book Foundation; her Salvage the Bones won in 2011. Sing, Unburied, Sing explores the life if a young boy raised by his grandparents in Mississippi and how he navigates the gritty path into adulthood. Read about all the winners at the Fine Books Blog.

Volume Brings Online Publishing to Art Book World

Digital publishing has made enormous strides in recent years, upending the traditional book industry while also democratizing the process of book creation. According to an Amazon representative interviewed by New York Times reporter Alexandra Alter, nearly one third of all bestselling e-books on Amazon are self-published (though what “bestselling” means these days is nebulous and doesn’t necessarily translate into authors striking it rich).

In any event, the digital medium is here and has forever changed the way readers consume books. Until now, the domain of art books has remained relatively unscathed by the revolution. That appears to be changing: London-based startup Volume recently partnered up with independent UK publisher Thames & Hudson to create the first online publishing platform for high-quality illustrated physical books. Volume’s co-founder, Lucas Dietrich, is also the international editorial director at Thames & Hudson. Read more at the Fine Books Blog

Boston Rare Book Week Preview: Blake Etchings

The Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair opened Friday, the perfect prompt to preview one of the show’s incredible highlights, courtesy of John Windle: two original etchings from William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and a single relief etching of the poem “Holy Thursday.”

First, a little background: In the 1780s, Blake revived the art of manuscript illumination, believing, in part, that the Industrial Revolution had degraded an art form into nothing more than a simple commodity. In response, Blake and his wife Catherine painstakingly printed, bound, and hand colored each book he produced. Few originals survive–only nine copies of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell are known to exist, for example. Slightly more endure–forty, to be precise–of Songs of Innocence, the first of Blake’s illuminated works and is a celebration of youthful innocence.  Find out more, and how much these treasures cost, at the Fine Books Blog.