Category Archives: Uncategorized

To Neverland… and Beyond!

“Life is a long lesson in humility.”

Would you imagine that the person who wrote this somewhat jarring quote above also once wrote,

“‘Wendy,’ Peter Pan continued in a voice that no woman has ever yet been able to resist, ‘Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.’”?

Well you might be surprised to find out that indeed it was the very same author. J.M. Barrie was a man of many talents (not least of which being so obviously a feminist before his time)!

neverland1

James Matthew Barrie was born on May 9th, 1860, the ninth of ten children born to Margaret Ogilvy and David Barrie, a weaver in Kirriemuir, Scotland. James had a happy childhood until he was 6, when his elder brother died in a skating accident just before his 14th birthday. His mother was confined to her bedroom for months on end, ill with grief. Barrie tried to cheer her up by dressing in David’s clothes and walking around as him. Though by doing so he scared his mother out of her wits, their relationship was eventually strengthened by it. For the next couple years, before James was sent away to school, he and his mother shared a love of literature – reading aloud works like Pilgrim’s Progress, Robinson Crusoe, and poems by Walter Scott. 

Throughout his youth Barrie remained a voracious reader – and even formed a drama group with his friends during his teenage years. He left school wanting to become an author, and despite pressure from his family to join the religious order, he was able to attend university and study literature! After graduating the University of Edinburgh he worked for over a year as a journalist at the Nottingham Journal, and then returned home to his mother in Kirriemuir and began writing her childhood stories into a series eventually named “Thrums”. The editor of the St. James’s Gazette in London liked the series so much that he commissioned and published these stories. Though now not Barrie’s most popular work, these stories made him a well-known figure in the literary world and allowed him to begin writing plays – as he wanted.

barrie5Barrie wrote several successful plays (and a couple flukes), but his third script brought him into contact with a young actress of the day – Mary Ansell – who would later, in 1894, become Barrie’s wife. For their union Barrie gifted Mary a St. Bernard puppy – who would become the inspiration for “Nana” in later years. They settled in London but kept a country home in Farnham, Surrey. In 1897 Barrie became acquainted with a nearby family – the Llewelyn Davies family.  Barrie spent most of his free time with the family – and despite this relationship being depicted in movies and tv these days, it was a bit different than we see! Barrie met the family when the father Arthur was still alive, and was there for the five sons through the death of their father and eventually their mother, prematurely. Around this time Barrie unfortunately found his 10-year marriage falling apart. Amid rumors that their marriage was never consummated, Barrie’s wife took a lover twenty years her junior – Gilbert Cannan – an acquaintance of Barrie’s through theatrical politics. Barrie and Ansell’s marriage ended in divorce, though Barrie continued to support Mary throughout her subsequent marriage to Cannan and for the rest of her life. 

barrie2Inspired largely by the stories he told to the Llewelyn Davies family, Barrie began to formulate a story of a boy who wouldn’t grow up, who flew around and had adventures. Not unlike Charles Dodgson’s Alice a century before, Barrie began to write his story into a play and once debuted in 1904, the play Peter Pan; or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up was an immediate success. George Bernard Shaw said of the performance, “ostensibly a holiday entertainment for children, but really a play for grown-up people” – a wonderful description of the meanings and metaphors found in Peter Pan. Though children may see the adventure story on the outside, the adults in the audience could see what was really at play (pun intended) – Barrie’s social commentary on the adult’s fear of time and growing old and losing their childish innocence and fun, to name just a few.

After Sylvia’s death in  1910, she named Barrie as co-guardian of the boys, along with her mother. Barrie remained close to the boys all their lives (though tragically two of the elder sons died young and Barrie seemed to suffer the trauma of losing a child). In 1911 Barrie wrote the novel Peter and Wendy as a follow up to the play, and in 1929 he donated all the proceeds from Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London – which the hospital still holds to this day. 

barrie3

Barrie continued to write several plays until his death in 1937 – though to hear the names of them, you wouldn’t think to associate them with the author of Peter Pan! Titles like Pantaloon (1905), Half an Hour (1913), A Kiss for Cinderella (1916), Shakespeare’s Legacy (1916), Mary Rose (1920), Cricket (1926), and The Boy David (1936) are some of the few that stand out, but are among dozens. He passed away in 1937 at the age of 77 from pneumonia in a London nursing home.

To the author of (arguably) the most beloved children’s story of all time (that wasn’t really intended for children), we have one thing to say to you on your birthday…

we hope that second star to the right is everything you imagined for all of us! 

Share

The Statute of Anne, and Other Copyright Tales

As antiquarian booksellers we all know what the copyright of a title is. We know where to find it, how to interpret it and what it means. But do we know how it came into being? I would venture to guess that more than a few of us are in the dark about how copyright laws came into existence to begin with! Today we would like to particularly focus on the Statute of Anne – otherwise known as the Copyright Act of 1710, which went into effect 308 years ago today – and how it drastically changed how copyright law worked in Great Britain, naming the author, rather than the publisher, as the holder of the copyright!

The crest of the Stationers Company in Great Britain.

The crest of the Stationers Company in Great Britain.

Prior to 1710, the law in effect in Great Britain was the Licensing of the Press Act 1662. Following the spread of the printing press brought over to the UK by William Caxton in 1476 (a prior blog on which you can read here), publishing and printing was widespread and copyright virtually nonexistent. The Licensing of the Press Act was enforced by a highly regarded guild of printers – the Stationers’ Company – who were given the “exclusive power to print and responsibility to censor literary works”. The censorship was thoroughly hated and disputed often, leading to public protests throughout Great Britain. As the Act needed to be renewed every two years to remain valid, authors and smaller printers protested its renewal repeatedly. Finally their efforts paid off in 1694, when Parliament refused to renew the Licensing Act, acknowledging that the ability of only a select few to print the works of an entire country had led to an unhealthy monopoly in the printing business.

After the dissolution of the Copyright Act, authors were finally able to join the fray - standing up beside the stationers/publishers petitioning Parliament for a new system. Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe were two of the most notable authors of the time calling for new licensing (in particular calling for authors to have power over their own work). In 1705 Defoe wrote that without current licensing, “One Man Studies Seven Year, to bring a finish’d Peice into the World, and a Pyrate Printer, Reprints his Copy immediately, and Sells it for a quarter of the Price … these things call for an Act of Parliament”. Suddenly the lobbyists saw an opportunity – rather than lobbying because they were losing out on profit due to lack of licensing, they chose to lobby for the authors instead – their “hearts-of-gold” (we use this term loosely) winning out in the end. They argued for licensing to be reinstated, but with reference to authors – to guarantee them an income – and arguing that without the ability to make a profit from their work, “learned men will be wholly discouraged from propagating the most useful Parts of Knowledge and Literature” (stationer John Howe, 1706).

With the sudden support of authors and other “learned men”, stationers had bigger and better forces and petitioned Parliament in both 1707 and 1709 to write a bill providing copyright to authors (and the publisher they are able to use, obviously). Parliament finally took note and, whatever the motivations of the passage, a bill was finally passed on April 5th, 1710, and is known as the Statute of Anne due to its being passed during Queen Anne’s reign. It consisted of 11 main sections, and its most important and obvious part was the right to copy, “to have sole control over the printing and reprinting of books”, [with no provision to benefit the owner of this right after the sale. Problematic]. The right would “automatically be given to the author as soon as it was published, although they had the ability to license these rights to another person or company.”

Anne

Though the Statute of Anne was by no means perfect, and lawsuits arose after copyrights expired and other booksellers began printing works that had been copyrighted but not re-upped… yaddah, yaddah – it was absolutely the first time that the treatment of authors by printers was recognized and the first step toward a more public law - pressing for less monopoly on printing and therefore, simultaneously, easier spread of the written word.

 

Share

Celebrating Women Authors on Maya Angelou’s Birthday

We recently saw an interesting article online, detailing the “Best Female Authors” of all time. On this, what would be Dr. Maya Angelou’s 90th birthday, we would like to channel her inner strength and power as a leading poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist and honor some of the most famous female authors of all time.

maya1

Top Twenty-Five Female Authors of All Time in One Sentence or Less

Followed by the First Sentence or So Found about these Powerful Ladies on the Internet (A Rather Fascinating Social Experiment, No?)

(Obviously Debatable, but these names are based on Book Sales and those found to be Classics Today)

Jane Austen:an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which interpret, critique and comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century.”

Virginia Woolf:an English writer, who is considered one of the foremost modernist authors of the 20th century and a pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device.”

Charlotte Bronte:is one of the most famous Victorian women writers, only two of her poems are widely read today, and these are not her best or most interesting poems.”

Agatha Christie:Lady Mallowan, DBE was an English writer. She is known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, particularly those revolving around her fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.”

Mary Shelley:an English novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818).”

maya 2

Louisa May Alcott:was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania on November 29, 1832. She and her sisters Anna, Elizabeth, and [Abba] May were educated by their father, teacher/philosopher A. Bronson Alcott, and raised on the practical Christianity of their mother, Abigail May.”

J.K. Rowling:is the creator of the Harry Potter fantasy series, one of the most popular book and film franchises in history.”

George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans):was an English novelist, poet, journalist, translator and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era.”

Emily Dickinson:is one of America’s greatest and most original poets of all time.”

Sylvia Plath:was one of the most dynamic and admired poets of the 20th century.”

Toni Morrison:American writer noted for her examination of black experience (particularly black female experience) within the black community.”

Margaret Atwood:is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, inventor, and environmental activist.”

maya4

Elizabeth Gaskell:often referred to as Mrs Gaskell, was an English novelist, biographer, and short story writer.”

Willa Cather:established a reputation for giving breath to the landscape of her fiction.”

Dorothy Parker:was an American poet, writer, critic, and satirist, best known for her wit, wisecracks and eye for 20th-century urban foibles.”

Gertrude Stein:was an American author and poet best known for her modernist writings, extensive art collecting and literary salon in 1920s Paris.”

Ursula Le Guin: an “immensely popular author who brought literary depth and a tough-minded feminist sensibility to science fiction and fantasy with books like ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’” 

Isabel Allende:s a Chilean-American writer. Allende, whose works sometimes contain aspects of the genre of “magical realism,” is famous for novels such as The House of the Spirits (La casa de los espíritus, 1982) and City of the Beasts (La ciudad de las bestias, 2002), which have been commercially successful.”

Edna St. Vincent Millay:received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923, the third woman to win the award for poetry, and was also known for her feminist activism.”

Mary Wollstonecraft: “an English writer and passionate advocate of educational and social equality for women.”

maya3

Alice Walker:is a Pulitzer Prize-winning, African-American novelist and poet most famous for authoring ‘The Color Purple.’”

Maya Angelou:an impactful civil rights leader who collaborated with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X during the Civil Rights movement. “

Judy Blume:spent her childhood in Elizabeth, NJ, making up stories inside her head. She has spent her adult years in many places, doing the same thing, only now she writes her stories down on paper.”

Betty Friedan: “a leading figure in the women’s movement in the United States, her 1963 book The Feminine Mystique is often credited with sparking the second wave of American feminism in the 20th century.”

Thank you to these powerful, courageous and wonderful writers for their influence on female empowerment!

maya5

Share

Oops, Jim Kay Did it Again! A Briefing on the Sacramento Book Fair

by Vic Zoschak Jr.

IMG_4104

Jim Kay did it again!  “What?”, you ask?  Nothing less than host the umpteenth million [or so it seems] successful Sacramento  book fair!  Seriously, in one iteration or another, I’ve been attending this book fair since the mid-1980s.  For northern California bibliophiles especially, it’s a local gem.  Jim [pun intended] resurrected the fair a decade or so ago when it, like many other regional book fairs, was falling prey to the spread of internet book-buying.  Under Jim’s guidance, it’s now a vibrant local fair that consistently draws a good crowd, not to mention, exhibitors, who hail from as far away as Seattle, LA, and Salt Lake City.

IMG_4103This particular fair was also memorable for another reason…  it was the first ever for my new assistant, Samm Fricke.  Samm came on board last Wednesday.  Yes, you read that right, she’d only been in my employ for 2 days before I whisked her off to help me man the Tavistock Books’ booth.  She did great!  And the good ship Tavistock…?  The buying was great*; sales, not so much.  But that said, unless someone buys out your booth, there’s always room for improvement, isn’t there?

Finally, one attractive aspect of this fair that it shares with others-  interaction with colleagues.  The Friday night dinner has become tradition, and this year was no different.  That night, eight of us gathered at a local restaurant, Roxie, to dine, converse & just generally relax after a long day of set-up.  For me, this is one of the allures that keeps me coming back… the camaraderie shared at that Friday night dinner.   As they used to say in that one commercial, “priceless”.

CBB3A882-9EA4-417B-BA8A-8C6C27D6BB17

See you in September.

IMG_4105* watch for our New Acquisitions list…  lots of interesting material will be coming your way!

Share

How Will Today’s Vernal Equinox Affect Your (Book-Buying) Life?

By Margueritte Peterson

equinox4

Like most women, I’ve been called many things in my (relatively short) lifetime. Diva, Brat, Goddess Divine (just kidding… though I may have to hint that one to people as clearly that one I deserve)… you name it, we are called it. What’s the one name I’ve been called (derogatorily, of course) that I have not minded, you might ask?

… Witch!

Now, I am not a witch (though I do know the entire dialogue to Hocus Pocus – doesn’t that matter to the universe?!?), but I am a firm believer that there are occasionally forces at play that affect our lives and we don’t even realize that they are happening! Why do you think you get the urge to purge your belongings in the spring? Or why crave comfort food in the winter, even if you live in a year-round warm area? Equinoxes! Full moons! Changes in the tides! But today we are here to discuss the equinoxes. There are two throughout the year (and two solstices), and as today is the vernal equinox, I’d like to talk about how it will affect your life… and your book buying, of course!

So first things first, what exactly is the vernal equinox? Well, it is one of the two days of the year when the sun in rotation is directly above the equator. In the northern hemisphere, the vernal equinox is the beginning of the Earth’s northern hemisphere tilting toward the sun – marking longer days and shorter evenings, unlike the winters’ short days and long periods of darkness.

equinox6The vernal equinox has been celebrated for centuries – Ancient Egyptians built the Great Sphinx so that it faces exactly the rising sun on the vernal equinox, and pagans (or ancient Anglo-Saxons, if we’re being politically correct) celebrated the Germanic Goddess Eostre (or Ostara) – the Teutonic goddess of spring and dawn, a symbol of fertility whose sacred spirit animal was – you may have guessed it – a fertile bunny rabbit! The symbol of an egg wasn’t far away – eggs are a (pretty obvious) ancient symbol of rebirth. Christianity adopted the holiday for their own celebration of Easter, the rebirth of Jesus Christ. As is obvious from all of these examples, it is a day that celebrates the coming of spring – of greenery, harvest, enjoyment and abundance!

Other than Christmas craziness, most stores (not just bookstores, but the whole gamut) experience a lull in sales in the winter months. There is less time during the daylight to shop, less motivation to do so, and less activity. The vernal equinox marks the beginning of a season of enjoyment, of hatching new plans and dreams, of taking time for yourself, of sloughing off the bad and creating new space in your mind for the things you enjoy! And if that happens to be an antiquarian title or two…

Well, you’ll find no objections here!

So enjoy today – listen to the birds chirping, bask in some sunshine, and know that you can treat yourself to whatever you like! You’ve spent the winter working and saving (hopefully), now don’t forget to live a little. Book-wise, of course!

book

 

Share

Happy Birthday, Gabriel García Márquez!

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 8.11.03 PM

After his death in April 2014, the President of Colombia called this author “the greatest Colombian that ever lived.” Let’s find out why!

Author Gabriel García Márquez was born on March 6th, 1927 in the small Colombian town of Aracataca. His father, a pharmacist, and his mother left him to be raised by his maternal grandparents, before coming back to Aracataca for Gabriel and his brother when he was almost 10 years old. His maternal grandparents, his grandfather in terms of his liberal political beliefs and his grandmother’s belief in the supernatural, were very influential in Márquez’s upbringing, and so was, surprisingly, his parents romance before marriage. His father was not the ideal choice in his mother’s list of suitors, and yet he spent quite a bit of energy romancing her (window violinists, love letters, the whole nine yards) and eventually won both her and her family over. This story Gabriel would eventually, much later, adopt for his novel Love in the Time of Cholera. 

But, I get ahead of myself. First things first! After being reconciled with his parents at age 10 and moving to Sucre, Márquez became a shy and serious teenager, often found writing humorous poetry, to the delight of his family and friends! Though he was not very athletic as a child, after attending high school at Colegio jesuita San José he was awarded a scholarship to study in Bogotá. After graduating in 1947, Márquez stayed living in Bogotá to study law. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 8.05.52 PMHowever, Márquez’s passion lay in writing, despite continuing his law studies in order to please his father. That did not stop him from publishing his work, however. Having published poems throughout high school in his school journals and papers, La tercera resignación was his first published work as an adult, which appeared in the 13th of September, 1947 edition of the newspaper El Espectador. Coincidentally and luckily for Márquez,the assassination of Gaitán, in 1948 led his school to be closed indefinitely. Márquez began working as a reporter at El Universal and eventually moved on to write for El Heraldo. 

Márquez’s literary skills were honed in the 1950s, when he became part of a group of journalists and authors known as the Barranquilla Group – the Bloomsbury group of Bogotá, if you will. He became enthralled by the works of contemporary authors like Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner – and authors who mixed the every day with the extraordinary, like Franz Kafka. Throughout this time, Márquez continued working as a journalist, honing his literary skills. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 8.06.50 PM

In 1955, Márquez’s first novella Leaf Storm, was published after seven years of trying to find a publisher – somewhat shocking, considering the group he was a part of in Barranquilla. Later on, Márquez would remember Leaf Storm as his favorite of his works – insisting that it was his most spontaneous and most sincere work. It follows both a child and woman’s point of view of death in stream of consciousness style.

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 7.54.19 PMIn 1967 Márquez finished 18 months of daily writing to publish his most critically successful work, and the one he would win the Nobel Prize for years later – One Hundred Years of Solitude. After achieving international fame for said work, Márquez spent the following years traveling the globe with his family, acting as a negotiation liaison for several political situations, and writing other works such as Autumn of the Patriarch, The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother, Chronicle of a Death Foretold (see our holding, a 1st Italian edition, here) and Love in the Time of Cholera. All of his works held a kind of “magical realism” – origins that one can trace back to his upbringing with his realistic grandfather and supernatural-believing grandmother. 

By 2005, Márquez was publishing significantly less, though still admitting to writing all the time. After suffering from lymphatic cancer (but going into remission), a few years later it was announced that he was suffering from dementia. In April 2014 he passed away from pneumonia in Mexico City – and his loss was felt by the entire world. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 8.06.07 PM

Share

2018 is Not a Leap Year. That Being Said… Get ready for 2020!

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 2.59.27 PM

Sometimes, children ask ridiculous questions. I think everyone here has probably rolled their eyes at a bright and inquisitive child at least once, while answering questions like “Why is the sky blue?” or “Why do we have to wear pants?” (The latter of which I am still not sure of a legitimate answer to.) 

But there are a couple basic life questions that a child could ask me… and I would be unable to answer scientifically. Hence this blog. I would like to use this time to answer a question I have had since childhood and never bothered to truly research… until now. 

What is leap year and why on earth (pun intended) does it need to happen? And in that same vein… why did February get jipped at only 28 days (most of the time)? Ahh. All in good time, folks. All in good time. 

Leap year is defined as a calendar year with a single extra day in the mix, making a year of 366 days instead of 365. It is added to keep the calendar year synched up with the astronomical or seasonal year. What does that mean, exactly? Well, one full day on earth is the planet spinning around on its axis once. A year is how long it takes the earth to orbit the sun exactly once. Now the problem lies here – the earth actually orbits the sun 365.25 times – an “astronomical year.” Quite obviously, the .25 years accumulate and voilà! The stars threaten to drift out of sync with our calendar, so every four years we have one extra day laying around. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 2.58.27 PM

So how did we figure this all out? Ancient Egyptians actually discovered that it was 365.25 days by seeing the Sirius star drift out of sync first. However, much later (in 46 B.C.) Julius Caesar (with the help of an astronomer) discovered the same, and created the Julian Calendar with the leap year added. Today, a revised version of the Julian calendar called the Gregorian calendar (for Pope Gregory) is in use – leap years still hold true. However, every year that is divisible by 100 (1700, 1800 and 1900) will NOT be a leap year, even though they normally should be. Then again, every year divisible by 400 WILL be a leap year, even though it is also divisible by 100. Like the year 2000, which was a leap year, despite being divisible by 100. 

You still with me? (Good, because I almost lost me there for a second.)

So all of this science behind us, we now know WHY we use leap years – so that we stay in sync with the stars! But why February? Well, it actually used to be that August had 28 days! But when Julius Caesar created the Julian calendar, he wanted his name month (Caesar Augustus) to be the full 31 days… so had it switched to February! 

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 2.57.54 PM

Now if only we could figure out why we still need to deal with daylight savings… 

(Stay tuned for THAT blog coming to a computer screen near you this November.) 

Share