Thursday, June 30, 2011

Of Hillmans, Ramblers and auto history

Ah, summertime and the open road -- A time to pile the kids into the car and head out for big adventures. Americans still travel by automobile today but not like we did in the 1950s, when gasoline was 30 cents a gallon or less.

America’s love affair with the automobile stretches farther back than the ‘50s, though. We’ve been wheeling it around town and across the country for generations. And so, in this season of the Great Summer Vacation, we present a tribute to that ubiquitous mode of transportation with an eclectic assembly of automobile ephemera in the collection of rare and unusual items at Lighthouse Books, ABAA.

This is clearly a transportation enthusiast’s dream. Here are sales pieces, brochures and other ephemera from the 1950s and earlier. There is a decided Anglophile bent to the collection. Along with the Chryslers and Plymouths and Fords and Nash Ramblers is the Hillman, a British car that was manufactured from 1907. Chrysler took over the company in 1967 and continued the Hillman brand for nine years. You can still find Hillmans among car collections, even in the United States.

In this collection, too, are early Rolls-Royces, Maxwells, and Duesenbergs. The Duesenberg was a luxury car manufactured in the Teens, Twenties and Thirties. It was the fastest car available in America and it was also the most expensive, qualities which led to the development of the slang phrase,"It's a Duesy!"

There’s more automobile history here, too. The collection is a veritable automobile museum in paper. Take the 1936 LaFayette, for example. Once a luxury marquee, LaFayette by ’36 was a low-priced sedan made by the Nash Motors, which had acquired the company in 1924 and converted its plant to produce Ajax cars (Ajax – now there’s another name you don’t hear often associated with cars).

Perhaps the most unusual item in the collection is material about the Crosley FarmOroad, a vehicle that was designed for multiple purposes. It could be used on the farm like a tractor for plowing, mowing, and cultivation. It could be used like a truck for towing and hauling. And when the day's work was done, it could be used on the road to take the family to town. “Twice the work of a work horse,” says the sales brochure, “Twice the speed of a race horse.” Hmmm. For some reason the idea never caught on.

And finally, there’s even a July 1934 edition of the Automobile Trade Journal with a humorous illustration by Charles Hargens, who painted covers for Colliers, The Saturday Evening Post, Farm Journal, Country Gentleman, Boy’s Life and a magazine called The Open Road for Boys.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Love those hot Southern biscuits!

While we were in Atlanta for the book fair recently mentioned on this site, the subject turned, as it often does, to food. It came to light, in the course of our conversation, that a friend, Cynthia Graubart, has a new book out called Southern Biscuits.

Ours is an antiquarian shop, devoted mostly to older volumes of an historical or scholarly nature, and our articles generally reflect this emphasis.  In Southern Biscuits, though, we have a delicious choice of topic related to another specialty of ours, Southern Literature and Americana. After all, what is Southern literature but a discussion of Southern culture? And what is Southern culture without Southern biscuits?

Southern Biscuits is no ordinary cookbook, something that becomes obvious from even a quick glance at the cover's photograph of a delectable-looking stack of biscuits, unadorned and waiting. Thumb through the pages, and you soon realize that this is a glamor biscuit photo album; Rick McKee’s photographs are exquisite.  The volume includes a vast, scrumptious assortment of recipes, and includes a great number of helpful baking secrets.

Years ago, Cynthia was producer for the public television series New Southern Cooking with host Nathalie Dupree. Nathalie and Cynthia put this wonderful book together. Nathalie has written eleven cookbooks with emphasis on the American South, entertaining and basic cooking. She has also hosted television shows on The Food Network, The Learning Channel and PBS. Cynthia wrote The One-Armed Cook, which is described as the culinary version of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

Cynthia and Nathalie have been friends for years. Nathalie introduced Cynthia to her husband, Cliff, and stood up for her at their wedding in Rome. Cliff owns The Old New York Book Shop in Atlanta and is a fellow member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America.

Clearly, this isn’t an unbiased review. On the other hand, feast your eyes on the photos above and see if you don’t agree that this is a delicious volume, indeed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Carl Sandburg, working class reporter

Autobiography and novel of Carl Sandburg.
At an age when many men settle down to daily golf games or fishing trips in the golden haze of retirement, Carl Sandburg kept right on working. He started his novel, Remembrance Rock, a sweeping saga of the American experience from the landing at Plymouth Rock to the beginning of World War II, when he was sixty-five years old.

Sandburg was already remarkably accomplished; he had received Pulitzer Prizes both for his book of poetry, Cornhuskers, and for his biography, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years. Remembrance Rock was published when he was seventy. (A third Pulitzer, for another poetry book, Compete Poems, would come three years later.) He had worked all his life and he wasn't about to stop.

A signed and numbered first edition of Sandburg’s Remembrance Rock is in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA, along with a signed first edition of Sandburg’s autobiography, Always the Young Strangers. The autobiography was published when Sandburg was seventy-five.

Carl Sandburg
Sandburg worked hard all his life. He was the son of Swedish immigrants, who instilled in him an Old World work ethic. His father worked as a blacksmith’s assistant on the railroad. After graduating from the eighth grade, Sandburg quit school to help support the family. He held an array of jobs in his early years, driving a milk wagon, harvesting ice, threshing wheat and shining shoes in the Union Hotel in his hometown, Galesburg, Illinois. With his working class sensibilities, it is small wonder he became involved in Socialist politics in college.

Eventually he came to be a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, where he covered labor union news and wrote editorials and features. Playwright Robert Sherwood, a colleague and drinking buddy, said later, “Carl Sandburg is one of our great natural resources and I am proud to have walked with him, no matter how many years it may have taken off my life.”

Publisher Alfred Harcourt, founder of Harcourt, Brace and Company, knew Sandburg as a friend for forty years. He encouraged Sandburg to write the Lincoln biography. The project, however, was to have been a 400-page “Boy’s life of Lincoln” for teens, not the four volumes it eventually became. After it was published, Sandburg noted that, “It is probably the only book ever written by a man whose father couldn't write his name, about a man whose mother couldn't write hers.”

Signed and numbered first edition of Remembrance Rock.
Richard Finnegan, who was editor and publisher of the Chicago Times and later a top executive of the Chicago Sun-Times, described Sandburg as a reporter first and foremost, and a man who understood the working class because he was part of it.

In a tribute years Finnegan wrote regarding Sandburg, he shares a story of Sandburg in the early to mid-1930s, during the Great Depression.  Sandburg had joined lunching group of doctors, lawyers, merchants and bankers, artists and writers, and even a priest and a rabbi. The conversation came around to the millions of people out of work. Somebody suggested that most of them didn’t want to work—they were the new leisure class, someone said.

“Suddenly Carl Sandburg let out a series of those great braying hee-haws of his,” Finnegan wrote,  “ Ten million bums!’ he roared. ‘Yes, they're just ten million good for nothing lazy bums.’ Then, Sandburg began giving case histories: of a fellow he met in Duluth; of the guy coming out of Roswell, New Mexico, on a day coach; the Connecticut Yankee family, husband and wife and two teen-age daughters — all of the women posing as men” to obtain jobs.

“Carl had been bumping into the people—on the breadlines, on the roads, on the town. And now, as a reporter, he was reporting. Yes, Carl's a poet and a historian. Yes, he's a philosopher. Yes, he plays at the guitar and tries his best at singing—those old ballads and cowboy songs. But first he's a reporter. A reporter, yes. His Lincoln is reporting. He was right at Lincoln's heels, up and down and across the prairies. His War Years is reporting. And so is Remembrance Rock.”

And so, too, is his autobiography, Always the Young Strangers, which covers those first tough 20 years with the mastery and vivid imagery, of those other works. A reporter, yes. And a man of the working class.

Monday, June 20, 2011

How to tell if a book is valuable

A book's value depends on several factors, including its condition, its edition, the paper it's printed on and much more.

Part of what we were doing at the recent Georgia Antiquarian Book Fair was evaluating old books that people brought in for appraisal.

It’s always interesting to see what kinds of books have stirred people’s curiosity. Whether they’re bringing in heirlooms that have been passed down from generation to generation or they’re just cleaning out Aunt Martha’s attic, there’s bound to be a pleasant surprise or two.

At the Georgia fair, someone brought in a 1608 Bible. That’s quite a find. Another had a signed, limited edition volume printed on vellum with illustrations by the early 20th century French illustrator Edmund Dulac. There was also a fellow who had a half dozen late 19th century books on the Civil War.

Unfortunately, not everything that someone dusts off and brings in is terribly valuable. Some may have more sentimental value than monetary value. If you’re not had any training in evaluating books, it can be tricky to tell which is which.

If you are curious about a book you have, you’re in luck. We’re giving a free lecture soon on how to tell if a book might be valuable. We’ll talk about the factors that go into establishing a book’s value, including quality of paper, condition of the book, the importance of dust jackets on fiction volumes, the importance of first editions versus later ones and more. We’ll also discuss copper and steel engravings in older books, what makes one more valuable than the other, and we’ll have examples of each to help you identify them.

You’re welcome to bring your own books for evaluation, but please limit the number of items you bring to no more than five.

The lecture will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 30, at the Baywood Club House, 596 Baywood Drive North, in Dunedin. That’s on the East side of Alternate U.S. 19, South of Curlew Road. For those with local knowledge, it’s behind the Walgreens and the Wells Fargo Bank (which was formerly the Wachovia Bank). Got it? If not, there is a map accompanying this article.

We think it’ll be an interesting time and we hope you can make it.

If you want more information or want to call to reserve your seat, please call (727) 738-8090.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Did he choose the lady or the tiger?

Not long ago we featured a late-19th century travel pamphlet for the Bahamas that told of the quaint life in Nassau and of the colorful inhabitants of those islands.

In those days, you took a steamship from New York or Savannah, and you might make a stop off in Jacksonville to pick up or discharge passengers, before arriving in that lush island paradise for an extended stay at the luxurious Royal Victoria Hotel.

Frank R. Stockton
The pamphlet was printed by the steamship company in an effort to encourage more travel to the islands -— and thus, bring in more business for the steamship company. The piece contained an article by Frank R. Stockton that had first appeared in Scribner’s Monthly in November 1877, and that had been republished clearly because it lent an air of authority in what otherwise was a biased effort to induce travelers to visit the islands.

We noted that Stockton was a prolific writer who was known for, among other things, his Lewis Carroll-style children’s stories that gained considerable attention during his lifetime. Stockton also wrote many short stories. We made a passing reference to one of them, “The Lady, or the Tiger,” which was published in 1882. That story is the title tale in a volume of Stockton’s short stories that is in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA.

Stockton showed early promise as a writer, winning a writing contest in high school. Stockton’s father, however, a prominent Methodist minster who was himself known for writing on religious subjects, did not want his son to be a writer. Frank acceded to his father’s wishes. Instead, he became a highly skilled wood engraver and worked with his younger brother John, who became a steel engraver. They opened a print shop in New York City.

After his father’s death, an eye infection ended his career as an engraver. To support his family, he turned to freelance writing; his wife, Mary Ann, took dictation. It was not long before Stockton became widely published.

The major character of His first novel, Rudder Grange, was based on a 14-year-old girl from an orphanage the family hired as a maid. She was an odd girl with the peculiar habit of reading horror stories aloud to herself in the kitchen. Stockton imagined her as the maid for a couple who lived on a canal boat. The stories were first published as magazine articles and attracted so much attention that they were republished as a book.

His next novel was The Casting Away of Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine, the tale of two proper New England ladies who are shipwrecked on a remote island with a man. The ladies were based on two women Stockton knew.

“The Lady or the Tiger” was originally written to be read before a literary society to which Stockton belonged. It concerns a hapless young man who had the misfortune to fall in love with the king’s daughter. He continued the affair even after the king forbid the romance. In this land, the king had an interesting way of dealing with scofflaws. There was no trial. Instead, the accused would be taken to a public arena. There were two doors leading to the arena. Behind one door was a woman who had been chosen by the king to be married to the accused. (It didn’t seem to matter if the accused was already married.) Behind the other door was a hungry tiger. If the accused chose the first door, he was innoncent. If he chose the second door, he was guilty. Simple as that.

In Stockton’s story, the princess signals to the young man which door to choose but Stockton never reveals which door it is. The cliffhanger ending caused quite a stir in the literary society. Later it was published in a magazine, where it continued to be vigorously discussed. And even today, the debate goes on. Did the princess send her lover to the arms of another or to certain death?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Philip Wylie: curmudgeon, fisherman

When author Philip Wylie wasn’t enraging the American political Right or the political Left with books and articles critical of most of the sacred cows in society, he was fishing — and writing about fishing.

Philip Wylie
Wylie, whose scathing indictment of motherhood in America, A Generation of Vipers (1942) earned him the enmity of millions, also delighted millions more with the stories of fictional deep sea fishermen Captain Crunch Adams and his comical first mate, Desperate Smith. The adventures of Crunch and Des, published in Saturday Evening Post were must-reads for generations of real-life sportsmen and armchair adventurers alike.

The stories were collected into books, seven in all, and published in the 1940s and 1950s. Two of those books The Best of Crunch and Des (1954) and Treasure Cruise and other Stories (1956) are in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. A third Wylie saltwater fishing book, Denizens of the Deep (1953) also is part of the collection.

Wylie was a remarkably prolific writer who published mostly from the late 1920s through the 1950s. He was everywhere: you could read him in books and magazine articles, see his work in movies and on television. He also wrote radio programs and syndicated newspaper columns.

A1930 novel, Gladiator, concerns a scientist whose research develops a serum that gives superhuman abilities to his son, who dies disillusioned and frustrated from living in a world that encourages mediocrity. The story is said by some to be the inspiration for Superman, though the creators of Superman have never acknowledged the connection. He wrote a screenplay adaptation for H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. A Redbook article he wrote was the basis of the musical Springtime in the Rockies (1942).

His novel, The Disappearance (1951), examined what would happen if suddenly the male and female populations of the world disappeared from each other’s presence. The men’s world was a social disaster but functioned mechanically. The women’s world fails materially because they can’t operate the machinery to keep it running, a notion that even in the 1950s drew criticism.

It was A Generation of Vipers, though, that drew the greatest cries of protest from American readers. In it he called the American mother the “great emasculator.” He continued: “She smokes thirty cigarettes a day, chews gum, and consumes tons of bonbons and petits fours … She plays bridge with the stupid voracity of a hammerhead shark, which cannot see what it is trying to gobble but never stops snapping its jaws and roiling the waves with its tail.”

The book became something of a sacred gospel among the youth of the 1960s, whose distain for the conventions of American life seemed to match Wylie’s outlook. Ever the equal opportunity curmudgeon, Wylie published a scathing attack on liberalism and the counterculture with the 1971 book, Sons and Daughters of Mom. He died the same year.

Like Ozymandias, much of what Wylie wrote has sunk beneath the sands of time, entirely forgotten, or merely a footnote to history. More enduring are his Crunch and Des stories. In the 1950s, they spawned a 1955 NBC television show starring Forrest Tucker. Filmed in Bermuda, it was set in the Bahamas. In Wylie’s stories, though, Captain Crunch is based in Key West. Crunch Adams is an ex-prize fighter. The stories are deft character studies of the people who charter The Poseidon.  The two, along with Adams’ wife, Sari, contend with all manner of personalities and are drawn into all sorts of delightful adventures.

Wiley, along with novelist Ernest Hemingway and dress shop entrepreneur Michael Lerner, was one of the early officers of the International Game Fishing Association, the keeper of world records in sport fishing. As late as 1990, his daughter, behavioral biologist Karen Wylie Pryor, published a collection of his fishing stories.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

See you at Georgia Antiquarian Book Fair

Antique map of Georgia doesn't show Atlanta or the Creek village that was there before Atlanta. Click to enlarge

We’re off to Atlanta for the Georgia Antiquarian Book Fair!  The book fair is actually in the Cobb County Civic Center in Marietta, a little bit north of downtown. The show runs two days, Saturday and Sunday, and is one of our favorite.

Among other volumes, we're taking leatherbound
books, Southern writers and Civil War books.
This is the first time the book fair has been in the Cobb County Civic Center, so it will be an interesting new venue for us. Most recently, it was held at a Holiday Inn in Decatur, in conjunction with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Decatur Book Festival.

It’ll be great to see old friends like Dennis Melhouse of First Folio, Cliff Graubart of Old New York Book Shop and Tom Dorn, of Thomas Dorn Bookseller. In fact, if you look at the list of exhibitors, you’ll see a lot of our friends who are usually part of the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair in St. Petersburg every March.

We’re taking a van full of choice selections for the Atlanta fair. Leatherbound books are immensely popular in Atlanta and we’ll have plenty of choices.  Southern writers are another favorite, so we’ll have a selection of those as well.  Of course, we always take Civil War books. As you might expect, the Civil War is a very popular subject there.

Civil War buffs will be right at home at this book fair. The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History will present an exhibit that includes Civil War sheet music, letters, diaries and other ephemera, as well as books of the era.

It is fitting that we feature a map of Georgia as we prepare for our trip. It is not a map we’d advise anyone using to get there, however. It’s a bit dated, most probably from the early 19th century. The map has no legend or date, so we must use our powers of deduction instead.

Such 18th century cities as New Orleans, Mobile, Pensacola and Natchez are clearly shown, as is St. Marys, which was established in 1792 but incorporated in 1802. Elberton, which was founded in 1803, also is shown.

You can find the Okefenokee Swamp, the vast wetland that straddles the Florida-Georgia border. It’s drawn in the right place but it’s labeled Ouaquaphenogaw, presumably a phonetic spelling from a cartographer who couldn’t hear very well. It makes “Okefenokee” clearly a marked improvement. In the Hitchiti language, the name was okifano:ki,  which was also probably a phonetic spelling by Europeans.

The city of Atlanta, settled in the 1820s is not shown, however. Nor is Peachtree Creek or the Chattahoochee River or Standing Peachtree, the Creek Indian village that was once close to where downtown Atlanta is today.

The borders for Georgia were a lot different in those days. On the north is “Tennessee” and on the west is the Mississippi River. A border between Georgia and West Florida is shown but it, too, stretches all the way to the mighty Mississippi, and includes “N Orleans” and Mobile.

If you’re in Atlanta this weekend, we hope you'll stop by to see us, and the map, at the Georgia Antiquarian Book Fair.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Visit our new YouTube Channel

Please visit our new Lighthouse Books, ABAA Channel on YouTube. You'll find a collection of favorite videos from around the country that will be of interest to people who love antiquarian books.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Clarence B. Moore's archaeological legacy

Clarence B. Moore will probably always be both vilified and praised among modern day Florida archaeologists. Some say he destroyed valuable mounds containing information about early inhabitants of the peninsula. Others, however, point to the wealth of information about the early inhabitants of the peninsula that he left to be studied.

Clarence B. Moore
For all the concerns some scientists have about the perhaps slipshod methods of Moore and his contemporaries in excavating shell middens, there is no denying that Moore preserved a treasure trove of artifacts that provide significant insight into the lives of those early people.

Much of what he uncovered is chronicled in volumes like Certain Aboriginal Remains of the Northwest Florida Coast, a copy of which is in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. It was published in 1902.

Moore always wanted to be an archaeologist. Unfortunately for him, he was born into a wealthy family. His father was the head of a successful paper company in Wilmington, Delaware. He was educated in France and Switzerland. He graduated from Harvard in 1873. He spent the next five years traveling the world, a young man fascinated by everything, especially archaeology and with the means to travel and learn.

But all that changed in 1878, when his father died and he was expected to take over the paper company. He spent more than a decade running the company and did it quite well, accumulating personal wealth as well as supporting the family.

In the late 1880s, at the age of 40 and with a fortune sufficient to pursue his passion, he left the paper company to others to operate and began to study archaeological sites in the southern United States. He did so for the next 30 years.

Steamship Gopher
Moore had the means to outfit a flatbottomed steamboat called the Gopher, which he used to travel rivers and streams along the Gulf coast during the fall, winter and spring. He spent summers at home in Philadelphia, writing reports for the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

Moore was an early photography enthusiast as well. Accordingly, his book is filled with photographs of the artifacts he recovered from the middens he explored. Each is carefully catalogued and recorded.

During the summer, while Moore was writing in Philadelphia, his pilot would explore rivers and visit landowners to arrange for permission to dig in their shell middens and sand burial mounds the following winter.

Moore was one of the first archaeologists to explore Florida archaeological sites. His methods might leave some modern archaeologists aghast but he nevertheless provided information that surely would have been lost as later roadbuilders leveled middens to create roadbeds crisscrossing Florida. He is said to have died in St. Petersburg in 1936.

Our specialties

Our specialties include Floridiana (Florida History, Florida Authors, Florida Related Ephemera), American History, Literature of the South, Military History (including, but not limited to, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Korean War), Children’s Literature, Maps, Leather Bindings and Rare & Unusual items.

We also have a wide variety of general stock, including a large Landscape/Gardening section, a great selection of Christian/Church History/Bible Study titles, Beat Literature, and much more. Please browse our extensive category list.

Appraisal service

Michael F. Slicker, is one of about 450 qualified members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, Inc., and its affiliate the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.

Condition of the book, demand for it and history of comparable sales are among the factors considered in evaluating the value of a book. Other factors may apply as well.

Please contact us for more information regarding our certified appraisal services. We encourage you to visit our website, Lighthouse Books, ABAA

Florida Antiquarian Book Fair

Michael Slicker was the founding president of the Florida Antiquarian Booksellers Association and has served as chairman of its annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair since its inception.

The 36th annual book fair is set for April 21-23, 2017 at The Coliseum in St. Petersburg.

The fair is the oldest and largest antiquarian book fair in the Southeast. Learn more about the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair and the Florida Antiquarian Booksellers Association.

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