Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy birthday, Rudyard Kipling

It is the birthday of English writer Rudyard Kipling (1865), who was the first English-language writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. He is remembered for his exceptional narrative style in poems, short stories and novels. His most enduring work is set in India during the British occupation, and includes The Jungle Book (1894), Kim (1901), and Just So Stories (1902). Best remembered poems include Mandalay (1890), Gunga Din (1890), The White Man's Burden (1899), and If– (1910). What's your favorite Rudyard Kipling work?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy birthday, philosopher Mortimer Adler

It is the birthday of writer and philosopher Mortimer Adler (1902), whose bestselling guide How to Read a Book (1940) gave advice to average readers on understanding great literature and books of any genre. Adler said the the best way to understand the Great Ideas in civilization was to read the Great Books. Adler served on the Board of Editors at Encyclopaedia Britannica, and through Britannica, published a 54-volume Great Books of the Western World series, including the works of Homer, Plato and other ancient writers; also Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Swift, right on down to Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Darwin, Marx, Tolstoy, and Freud.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Happy birthday, chemist Louis Pasteur

It is the birthday of French chemist Louis Pasteur (1822), who is considered the father of microbiology for his research into the causes and prevention of diseases. His method of heating milk to kill the bacteria in it became known as pasteurization. He developed innoculations for anthrax and rabies. Three of his five children died of typhoid, leading him to seek cures for infectious diseases.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy birthday, Arnold Mendelssohn

It is the birthday of German composer Arnold Ludwig Mendelssohn (1855), whose Uncle Felix was much more well known and revered as a musician but who was, nevertheless, no slouch as a composer himself. Here is the first movement of a piece for two violins and piano. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy birthday, Thomas Becket

It is the birthday of English clergyman Thomas Becket (1118), who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162, fought with King Henry II over the government's intrusion into the church, and was ultimately murdered in 1170 by four knights as he prayed at Canterbury Cathedral. Pope Alexander III canonized Becket in 1173. The assassins were excommunicated, hid out for a time, then went to Rome to seek forgiveness. Pope Alexander sent them to fight in the Crusades for 14 years. A pilgrimage on the way to Becket's shrine at Canterbury is the backdrop for Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote a play about Becket and Henry II, Becket (1884). T.S. Eliot wrote a verse drama, Murder in the Cathedral (1935).

Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy birthday, Harvey Firestone

Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone.
It is the birthday of businessman Harvey Firestone (1868), who transformed himself from youthful farm boy to a wealthy industrialist. While working as a sales manager for a rubber-tired buggy company he realized the potential for rubber tires. He founded Firestone Tire and Rubber Company and the business grew rapidly with the expansion of the automobile industry. Firestone became great friends with automaker Henry Ford and inventor Thomas Edison. They loved nature, and for nine years they took summer camping trips together, by automobile, of course. Firestone produced with Samuel Crowther a book about his business, Men and Rubber: The Story of Business (1926).  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy birthday, children's writer Eve Bunting

It is the birthday of prolific children's writer Eve Bunting (1928), whose 250 titles offer such diverse subjects as Irish tales, homelessness and race riots. Her first book, Two Giants (1971), tells the story of an Irish giant, Finn McCool, who outsmarts an evil Scottish giant, Culcullan. Another popular title, Fly Away Home (1991), deals with a man and his son who live in an airport. In Smoky Night (1994), set against the backdrop of a Los Angeles race riot, two people who dislike each other work together to find their missing cats.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Happy birthday, Archduke Franz Ferdinand

It is the birthday of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1863), whose assassination in Sarajevo in 1914 started World War I. Gavrilo Princip, 19, a Bosnian Serb, was convicted as the assassin. He was a Yugoslav nationalist associated with the Young Bosnia revolutionary movement bent on the unification of all Yugoslavs and freedom from Austria. Though his compatriots had been trying to kill the archduke, Princip's act was spur-of-the-moment, an opportunity presented by a sudden change in the archduke's itinerary and a momentary traffic jam across from a cafe where Princip was sitting.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Happy birthday, conductor Arthur Fiedler

It is the birthday of legendary orchestra conductor Arthur Fiedler (1894), who led the Boston Pops Orchestra for 50 years and made it one of the best known in the nation, with a repertoire of light classical pieces, Broadway show tunes, movie soundtracks, and even some rock 'n roll and disco. Under Fiedler, the Boston Pops recorded more than any other orchestra in the world. In honor of the season, we share with you today A Christmas Festival by the Boston Pops, conducted by Arthur Fiedler.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Happy birthday, Jane Austen

It is the birthday of English writer Jane Austen (1775), who is remembered for Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1816), novels set among the landed gentry in late 18th- and early 19th-century England. She is among the most widely read authors in English literature, though during her lifetime she achieved only modest success. Publication of A Memoir of Jane Austen (1869) by her nephew James Edward Austen brought her wider recognition.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Happy birthday, Frank Sinatra

It is the birthday of Frank Sinatra (1915), one of the most notable entertainers of the 20th century. From humble beginnings as the child of Sicilian immigrants in Hoboken, New Jersey, he built a singing and film acting career that spanned more than 50 years. He was the first modern pop superstar, with recordings, film and television appearances as well as performances in nightclubs, concert halls and sports arenas. At 23, he made his first record, From the Bottom of My Heart, with the Harry James Orchestra. It was released in July 1939.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Happy birthday, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

It is the birthday of Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918), who won the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature for his body of work, including One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1963) and The Gulag Archipelago (1972). Both books, and much of his other work, take to task the repressive Soviet regime of the Cold War era and its forced labor camps. Solzhenitsyn's work was banned in the Soviet Union and he was expelled in 1974. He went to Germany, then Switzerland, before settling in the United States, where he became a harsh critic of western culture as well. After the USSR was dissolved, Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia. He died at age 89 in Moscow.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Melvil Dewey invented library system

New York State Library about 1900. Inset: Melvil Dewey, who served as its director.
It is the birthday of librarian Melvil Dewey (1851), who invented the Dewey Decimal system that libraries use to make their non-fiction books easy to find. He copyrighted it in 1876. Dewey also created vertical files, standardized size and shape of card catalogs and greatly improved the quality of the index cards used in them. He founded The Library Journal and served as chief librarian at Columbia University and as director of the New York State Library.

He was also a founder of the social and recreational Lake Placid Club in New York and was instrumental in bringing the Winter Olympics of 1932 to the region. In 1926, Dewey went to Lake Stearns, Florida, to establish a southern branch of the club, resulting in the renaming of the town to Lake Placid.

As a young man, Dewey advocated spelling reform. To that end he simplified his spelling of his own name, dropping the redundant letters from the common spelling. Briefly, he even changed his surname to Dui.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Happy birthday, storyteller Herbert Huncke

It is the birthday of Beat storyteller Herbert Huncke (1915), who was a denizen of New York's 42nd Street in the 1940s and was immortalized in William S. Burroughs' Junkie (1953), Jack Kerouac's On the Road (1957) and Desolation Angels (1965). His books include Huncke's Journal (1965), The Evening Sun Turned Crimson (1980), and Guilty of Everything (1990). Here are outtakes from a documentary by Italian filmmaker Francois Bernadi and a link to the completed documentary.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Happy birthday, Willa Cather

It is the birthday of writer Willa Cather (1873), who may be best known for her Prairie Trilogy — O Pioneers (1912), The Song of the Lark (1915), and My Antonia (1918), her stories of ordinary people of the Midwestern plains. Critics such as H.L. Mencken and Sinclair Lewis praised them, and readers loved them. Cather won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1923 for One of Ours (1922), the tale of a young man from a Midwestern farm who seeks purpose on the battlefield in France during World War I. Ernest Hemingway wasn't impressed with One of Ours. He snipped that the battle scenes clearly came from D.W. Griffith's 1915 silent epic Birth of a Nation.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Happy birthday, Col. John Mosby

It is the birthday of colorful Civil War figure John Singleton Mosby (1833), who commanded a Confederate unit in Virginia known as Mosby's Rangers, which gained a reputation for its lightning-fast raids and its ability to elude Union troops and disappear into the countryside among farmers and ranchers. Mosby became known as The Gray Ghost. After the war, Mosby worked in the presidential campaign of Ulysses S. Grant and served as U.S. consul to Hong Kong. In For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway called Mosby the best cavalry officer of the Civil War. Does anybody remember the TV show based on Mosby's exploits?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Happy birthday, Gen. George Custer

It is the birthday of General George A. Custer (1839), whose reputation as an aggressive and fearless military leader during the Civil War was overshadowed by his defeat and death at the hands of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876. Custer was a brash and colorful figure who cultivated publicity and dressed in flamboyant uniforms. Historians still debate the causes of Custer's Last Stand, but by all accounts Custer's troops were vastly outnumbered. Custer wrote about the Indian wars in My Life on the Plains (1874). After his death, Custer's  wife published several books about her husband, including Boots and Saddles, Life with General Custer in Dakota (1885), Tenting on the Plains (1887), and Following the Guidon (1891).

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Happy birthday, Thomas Carlyle

It is the birthday of Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle (1795), who is best known for his three-volume work, The French Revolution: A History (1837), a sweeping history of the revolution from 1789 to 1795. It is considered to be one of the most authoritative accounts of the earliest part of the revolution. Carlyle wrote it because his friend, British philosopher John Stuart Mill, was too busy. Mill had a contract to produce the book but was immersed in other projects so he suggested that Carlyle write it. Carlyle actually wrote the first volume of the book twice. He had sent his only manuscript to Mill but Mill's maid mistakenly burned it. So, Carlyle rewrote it, producing a book that he said came "direct and flamingly from the heart."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Happy birthday, artist Gilbert Stuart

It is the birthday of portrait artist Gilbert Stuart (1755), who is remembered for his remarkable portraits of George Washington and scores of other prominent people in early America. He was prolific, painting more than 1,100 portraits but was inflicted with depression and often bedridden for weeks. He was known for refusing to finish works with which he had become bored. Although well paid for his services, apparently he didn't manage his money well and often was close to bankruptcy. Along with John Singleton Copley, and Benjamin West, with whom he studied, Stuart is considered among the best early American portraitists.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Happy birthday, Georges-Pierre Seurat

It is the birthday of French painter Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859), whose development of the technique of pointillism (in which dots of pure color are presented in patterns to form an image) led to Neo-impressionism and modern art. His most famous painting was a two-year project that was titled A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1886). The work inspired the 1984 Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical Sunday in the Park with George, which won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Seurat died at the age of 31.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Happy birthday, Mark Twain

Not only is it Small Business Saturday, but it is also the birthday of writer and humorist Mark Twain (1835), whose real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens. William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway considered him the father of American literature. His Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) is hailed as the epitome of the Great American Novel. Twain was born when Halley's Comet was appearing. He predicted he'd go out with the comet as well. He did—the day after the comet's return.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy birthday, Madeleine L'Engle

It is the birthday of children's writer Madeleine L'Engle (1918), who is best remembered for her science fiction novel A Wrinkle in Time (1962), a Newbery Medal winner. The story dealt with a young teenaged girl and the disappearance of her scientist father. L'Engle wrote four sequels to it as well, including A Wind in the Door (1973), A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978), Many Waters (1986), and An Acceptable Time (1986). The idea for A Wrinkle in Time came to L'Engle on a 10-week cross-country camping trip. The book was rejected by more than 30 publishers before it was accepted.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On Thanksgiving, a tale of turkeys

As we gather among family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with the traditional feast whose centerpiece is most often the magnificent roasted or baked turkey, it is fitting to pause a moment to consider the man who some historians say gave us the turkey dinner.

His name is William Strickland, and he gained reputation and wealth as a navigator for the Venetian explorer Sebastian Cabot, who hired himself out to the Spanish and English crowns in the 16th century to explore faraway lands. It is said that on a voyage to America in 1526 – nearly a century before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock – William Strickland, shrewd trader that he apparently was, acquired six turkeys from Native Americans and took them back to England, where they were then unknown. 

Evidently the birds acquired quite a following. In a country where grouse, pheasant, partridge, ducks, geese and quail were the holiday game birds of choice, turkeys soon became quite popular. Strickland is said to have made a fortune in his trips to the New World, at least some of it through trading in turkeys.

So when the Pilgrims had what tradition (if not all scholars) consider the first Thanksgiving dinner in America nearly 100 years later, it is likely that they were already familiar with the gobbler with all that delicious white meat. It was an English tradition that had its origins in America.

That clever fellow Strickland, newly wealthy and able to buy a fine Yorkshire manor house in 1542 and get himself elected to Parliament, asked for and received permission from the Queen to include a turkey in his family crest. What's more, the little church near his Boynton Hall home sports numerous turkey decorations, somehow, we think, influenced by Strickland. And Boynton Hall is still in the hands of descendants. Incidentally, there is some reason to believe that Strickland may be our ancestor as well, but so far as we know we have no claim on the estate that turkeys built.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Happy birthday, writer James Agee

It is the birthday of writer James Agee (1909), whose autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family (1957), won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1958. Agee was a journalist, film critic, screenwriter, and poet. He and photographer Walker Evans spent two months at the height of the Great Depression during the summer of 1936 among sharecroppers in Alabama to do an article for Fortune magazine but editors decided not to run it. Agee and Evans turned their work into the book, Let us now Praise Famous Men. It contained 31 of Evans photographs. Agee died in 1955 at age 45 from a heart attack in a taxi on the way to a doctor's appointment. His publisher released A Death in the Family as a way to help support his widow and children.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy birthday, artist George Segal

It is the birthday of artist George Segal (1924), who is remembered for his plaster cast sculptures that became part of the Pop Art movement in the 1960s. Segal made the casts from gauze strips saturated with plaster used for making orthopedic casts. His sculptures were stark white at first but later he painted them in monochrome colors or had them cast in bronze, as with Depression Bread Line (1999).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy birthday, composer Virgil Thomson

It is the birthday of composer Virgil Thomson (1896), who won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for music, the only such award ever presented. Thomson received the award for his film score for Louisiana Story, a 1948 documentary directed by Robert J. Flaherty, who produced the first commercially successful documentary, Nanook of the North (1922). Thomson borrowed themes from Cajun folk music for part of the Louisiana Story score. Here is a selection of Thomson's Acadian Songs and Dances.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Happy birthday, 1920s star Ruth Etting

It is the birthday of 1920s singer and actress Ruth Etting (1897), who was known as America's sweetheart of song. At 17, she left her small Nebraska hometown to study art in Chicago. She designed costumes at a nightclub there and then sang and danced in the chorus, and eventually became the featured vocalist. She married a gangster named Moe the Gimp, who managed her career and got her a recording contract at Columbia. Her Broadway debut was in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1927. She appeared in Hollywood movies in the 1930s. Doris Day, Jimmy Cagney and Cameron Mitchell made the 1955 film Love Me or Leave Me based on her life.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Happy birthday, George Eliot

It is the birthday of Victorian writer Mary Anne Evans (1819), who used the pseudonym George Eliot so her work would be taken seriously, though she subsequently publicly revealed her use of a pen name. Some critics consider her novel Middlemarch (1871) the greatest in the English language. She wrote only seven novels, including Adam Bebe (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Romola (1863), Felix Holt, the Radical (1866), and Daniel Deronda (1876). She also wrote numerous poetry volumes, and essays on contemporary country life.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Happy birthday, Isaac Bashevis Singer

It is the birthday of writer Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902), who won the Nobel Prize for Literature and was a leading figure in Yiddish literature. He wrote the short story Yentl, which was adapted as a 1983 film starring Barbra Streisand. His first work to gain wide attention was the short story Gimpel the Fool, which Saul Bellow translated in to English in 1953. Singer wrote 18 novels, including Enemies, a Love Story (1972), which was adapted for film in 1989.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Happy birthday, Selma Lagerlof

It is the birthday of Swedish author Selma Lagerlof (1858), who was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. She is remembered for her charming children's book The Wonderful World of Nils (1906) and for popular debut novel The Saga of Gosta Berling (1891). She also wrote the political novel The Miracles of Antichrist (1897) after a trip to Sicily and the epic Jerusalem (1901), about the American Colony that was established in Jerusalem in 1881 by a Christian utopian society and later joined by Swedish Christians.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Happy birthday, Billy Sunday

It is the birthday of baseball-star-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday (1862), who parlayed his celebrity as a major league base-stealer into a two-decade career as a fiery conservative preacher who could draw thousands to his revivals in the days before electronic sound systems. In his day, he was the most popular preacher in America, and friends with rich and famous people. He is credited with helping to set the national mood for passage of the Eighteenth Amendment and Prohibition in 1919. Even after Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Sunday continued to preach conservative philosophy, as he does in this video of a 1929 speech.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Happy birthday, Louis-Jacques Daguerre

An image of Louis-Jacques Daguerre using his photography method.
It is the birthday of French artist Louis-Jacques Daguerre (1781), who is credited with creating the first practical photography method. Daguerre's images were exposed on metal plates that required chemical processing. Daguerre didn't patent his process in France. Instead, he gave the process to the French government to be given to the public. In exchange, he received a pension for the rest of his life. Daguerre also was famous for creating theatrical dioramas in Paris, and for painting and printmaking.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Happy birthday, blues composer W.C. Handy

It is the birthday of influential blues composer W.C. Handy (1873), who is remembered as the Father of the Blues and transforming the regional style into a national music genre. He borrowed from folk music of black musicians along the Mississippi River from the Delta to Memphis and St. Louis, capturing the subtle nuances of the performers. Among his compositions are Memphis Blues (1914), St. Louis Blues (1914), Beale Street Blues (1916), Old Miss Rag (1918), and Yellow Dog Blues (1919). Here is a playlist of Handy's music.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Happy birthday, Gerhart Hauptmann

It is the birthday of German playwright, poet and novelist Gerhart Hauptmann (1862), who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1912. He is remembered for his vivid depiction of human suffering. His characters were victims of social forces beyond their control. He wrote After Dawn (1889), The Weavers (1892), and The Sunken Bell (1896). He is considered the top German dramatist of the early 20th century.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Happy birthday, Claude Monet

It is the birthday of French painter Claude Monet (1840), who is credited as the founder of the French impressionist painting movement. Here is an amazing multi-part BBC mini-series called The Impressionists. It begins with Monet. It is long but worth watching.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Happy birthday, Robert Louis Stevenson

It is the birthday of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson (1850), who taught us the ways of pirates seeking buried treasure on tropical islands in novels such as Treasure Island (1883) and Kidnapped (1886). We learned that pirate stories required having peg-legged sailors with parrots on their shoulders, treasure maps with X marking the spot where the treasure was buried, and the guilty verdict among pirates marked with the dreaded Black Spot. Stevenson's works were adapted for movies many times. Here is a delicious rendition of Long John Silver (1954), a sequel to Treasure Island.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Happy birthday, Auguste Rodin

It is the birthday of French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840), who is regarded as a modern-day Michelangelo, though he was both revered and reviled during his lifetime. His sensuous bronze and marble figures are considered some of the greatest in the history of sculpture, and he is one of the most widely known sculptors outside of art circles. Here is a remarkable documentary based on The Kiss, Rodin's still-controversial sculpture, that gives insight into the artist and his work.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank you, veterans!

Veterans Day 2013. Here is a photo of Marines raising an American flag on Iwo Jima during World War II. (There was a Navy corpsman helping, too.) If you're a veteran, in which branch did you serve?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Rare Book Moment: How to sell your books

Here's the first in a series in which we offer advice on how to go about selling your books. Mike suggests in this segment that it's a good idea to find out what you have before deciding where to go with them. Please leave your questions or comments below. You can see more Rare Book Moment episodes in the column at left or on our YouTube channel.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Albert Camus won 1957 Nobel Prize

It is the birthday of French writer Albert Camus (1913), recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. His absurdist themed books include The Outsider (1942), The Plague (1947), The Fall (1956), A Happy Death (1971), and The First Man (1995). Here is a British radio discussion of his life and work.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Happy birthday, author James Jones

It is the birthday of writer James Jones (1921), who is remembered for his World War II trilogy From Here to Eternity (1951), The Thin Red Line (1962), and Whistle (1978), which was published after his death. He also wrote Some Came Running (1957), The Pistol (1959), Go to the Widow-Maker (1967), The Ice-Cream Headache and Other Stories (1968), The Merry Month of May (1971), A Touch of Danger (1973), Viet Journal (1974), and WWII (1975). Here is an amazing 1967 documentary about Jones by Canadian filmmaker Allan King and his editor Peter Moseley.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Happy birthday, Eugene V. Debs

It is the birthday of Socialist activist Eugene V. Debs (1855), who ran unsuccessfully for President five times as the leader of the Socialist Party. In 1905, he helped organize the Industrial Workers of the World, the labor union bent on abolishing capitalism and wage labor. The radical group known as the Wobblies attracted anarchists and socialists as well as women, African Americans, Asians and immigrants at a time when those groups were not embraced by other labor movements. Here is a reenactment of a 1918 antiwar speech given by Debs for which he was imprisoned.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Happy birthday, humorist Will Rogers

It is the birthday of humorist Will Rogers (1879), whose folksy commentary poked fun at government programs, politicians, and public figures of the 1920s and 1930s. He was beloved because he didn't offend but gently needled all sorts of institutions. "I am not member of an organized political party," he said. "I'm a Democrat." Rogers performed on stage in the Ziegfeld Follies, appeared in 71 movies and wrote more than 4,000 syndicated newspaper columns. He was one of the most well-known celebrities of his era.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Happy birthday, Daniel Boone

It is the birthday of pioneer and folk hero Daniel Boone (1734), who may be better known for the myths and legends of his life than for the actual facts. Boone explored the territory that became Kentucky and established a village there called Boonesborough. He opened up the region to European migration, much to the consternation of the resident Shawnee tribe. His exploits are chronicled in numerous books. Two of the earliest are an autobiography, The Adventures of Daniel Boone (1784), published by John Filson, and The Adventures of Col. Daniel Boone (1793).

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy birthday, Stephen Crane

It is the birthday of writer Stephen Crane (1871), who is best remembered for his Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage (1895), a detailed account of a young Union deserter, which Crane wrote having had no actual battle experience. Crane had a long-term relationship with Cora Taylor, a Jacksonville, Florida, brothel owner, who became a writer and war correspondent. Crane wrote The Open Boat, a short story describing his ordeal in a lifeboat after his Cuba-bound ship sank off the coast of Florida.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy birthday, painter Jan Vermeer

It is birthday of Dutch painter Jan Vermeer (1632), who was moderately successful in his lifetime but gained much wider following in the 19th century and today is considered one of the great Dutch painters. His portraits and everyday Dutch life exhibit precise detail and lavish color. Scholars suggest that he used a camera obscura to achieve his unique effect. One of his most famous images is Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy birthday, Christopher Columbus

It is the birthday of explorer Christopher Columbus (1451), who is credited with opening up the Americas to European colonization. Here is a short video from Biography about him.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Happy birthday, Fanny Brice

It is the birthday of actress/singer Fanny Brice (1891), who is remembered as a star of Broadway, film and radio, where her comedy series The Baby Snooks Show began in 1944, though she had performed the character in vaudeville since 1912 and on the radio for Flo Zigfield in the 1930s. Barbra Streisand portrayed Brice in the 1964 Broadway show Funny Girl. Biographies about Brice include Funny Woman (1992) and Fanny Brice: The Original Funny Girl (1993). Here she is performing a song from the film Everybody Sing (1938). Below is a recording of The Baby Snooks Show.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Evelyn Waugh wrote Brideshead Revisited

It is the birthday of English writer Evelyn Waugh (1903), who is remembered for the satires Decline and Fall (1928) and A Handful of Dust (1934) and the novel Brideshead Revisited (1945), an examination of the phenomenon of God's grace. He was known as the nastiest-tempered man in England, a label that seems entirely appropriate in this 1953 BBC interview.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Rare Book Moment 16: Advice for collectors

Here's the 16th edition of Michael Slicker's Rare Book Moment, in which Mike offers advice for anyone building a book collection. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Happy birthday, poet John Keats

It is the birthday of English Romantic poet John Keats (1795), whose immense talent places him as a peer of the most beloved English poets, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Keats died of TB in Rome at age 25. Here is a reading of Keats' famous Ode to a Grecian Urn by English book editor Hedley Grenfell-Banks.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Happy birthday, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

It is the birthday of Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821), who is remembered for his novels and short stories exploring human relationships during the spiritual, social and political upheaval of 19th century Russia. His most important works include Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1869), and The Brothers Karamazov (1880).

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Happy birthday, Doris Lessing

It is the birthday of British writer Doris Lessing (1919), who is remembered for her five-novel sequence Children of Violence (1952-1969) and her five-novel sci-fi sequence Canopus in Argos: Archives (1979-1983). Her first book, The Grass is Singing (1950) deals with race relations in South Africa. In 2007, when she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature at the age of 88, she was a bit blasé about all the fuss.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Happy birthday, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

It is the birthday of English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772), who wrote his famous Kubla Khan (1816) after waking up from an opium-induced dream. Scholars say Coleridge was influenced by material he had been reading about the Chinese emperor and by William Bartram's Travels (1791), in which Bartram describes Florida's Blue Sink, Manatee Spring and Salt Springs Run. It is not clear what influenced folk singer David Olney to record this recitation of Kubla Khan and put it on YouTube but it's worth watching. Enjoy!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Rare Book Moment 15: Is this valuable?

Here is the 15th edition of Michael Slicker's Rare Book Moment, in which Mike discusses Shakespeare's many reprints and how to tell the good ones. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Happy birthday, composer Herbert Howells

It is the birthday of English composer Herbert Howells (1892), who is best known for his music for the Anglican church. In 1935, Howells' son died from polio when he was nine years old, and Howells grieved for him the rest of his life. Howells was asked to write a composition for a memorial service for John F. Kennedy. The result, Take Him, Earth, for Cherishing (1963) links the loss of the American President with Howell's loss of his son.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Happy birthday, Oscar Wilde, Eugene O'Neill

It is the birthday of Irish playwright Oscar Wilde (1854) and Irish American playwright Eugene O'Neill (1888). Wilde wrote poems, short stories, and one novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). His best known play is The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), a witty satire of Victorian England. O'Neill wrote poetry, newspaper stories, and some of the most enduring plays in literature, including The Emperor Jones (1920), Beyond the Horizon (1920), Anna Christie (1922), Desire Under the Elms (1924), Strange Interlude (1928) Mourning Becomes Electra (1931), Ah, Wilderness! (1933), The Iceman Cometh (1946), A Moon for the Misbegotten, and Long Day's Journey into Night (1956). He won three Pulitzer prizes (1920, 1922, and 1928) and, in 1936, the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Happy birthday, Godfather Mario Puzo

It is the birthday of writer Mario Puzo (1920), whose best known work is The Godfather (1969), the sweeping saga of a New York crime family. It was the basis of the 1972 film on which Puzo collaborated with director Francis Ford Coppola. Puzo won Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay for Godfather movies in 1972 and 1974. In this video, Puzo and Coppola discuss the making of the movie from Puzo's work.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Happy birthday, screen legend Lillian Gish

It is the birthday of legendary actress Lillian Gish (1893), who is remembered for her roles in The Birth of a Nation (1915), Intolerance (1916), Broken Blossoms (1919), Way Down East (1920), Orphans of the Storm (1921), The Wind (1928), Duel in the Sun (1946), and Night of the Hunter (1955). At the age of 93, she appeared in her last film, The Whales of August (1987), with Bette Davis and Vincent Price. Her autobiographies include The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me (1969), Dorothy and Lillian Gish (1973), and An Actor's Life For Me (1987).

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Happy birthday, pulp writer Lester Dent

It is the birthday of writer Lester Dent (1904), who is remembered as the creator of Doc Savage, an iconic adventure hero of the 1930s and 1940s. Savage was a multi-talented physician and scientist who possessed near-superhuman abilities. Dent was the principal writer for the series and wrote 43 of the original 67 Doc Savage pulp novels. Though they were hugely successful, Dent took a disparaging view of his work, saying he was "churning out reams and reams of sellable crap." Dent also found success as a mystery and western writer.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Happy birthday, Elmore Leonard

It is the birthday of popular crime fiction writer Elmore Leonard (1925), who is remembered for such works as Hombre (1961), Mr. Majestyk (1974), Get Shorty (1990), Rum Punch (1992), and Out of Sight (1998). Leonard died in August. Here is an interview with him on writing at the 2008 F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference at Montgomery College in Maryland.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Happy birthday, composer Giuseppe Verdi

It is the 200th birthday of Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813), who is remembered for the music found in his famous operas like Rigoletto (1851), La Traviata (1853), Aida (1871), and Otello (1887). He is considered one of the most important composers of the 19th century. Here is a selection of amazing pieces by Verdi. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Rare Book Moment 14: Terms of the trade

Here is the latest installment of Michael Slicker's Rare Book Moment. In this one, Mike talks about the origin of various terms used in the book trade. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

We're getting a new paint job! Like it?

We're getting spruced up. That's Byron Johnson of Painting Plus, Inc. giving us a brand new look, which is a whole lot like the old look, only spiffier. Byron comes highly recommended, and we're quite pleased with the results. Let us know what you think.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Happy birthday, writer Thomas Keneally

It is the birthday of Australian writer Thomas Keneally (1935), who won the British Booker Prize for his novel Schindler's Ark (1982), based on the work of German industrialist Oskar Schindler saving the lives of 1,200 Jews from extermination during World War II. The book was adapted as Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993), which was named best picture and received six other Oscars. Holocaust survivor Poldek Pfefferberg, who was saved by Schindler, inspired Keneally to write the book.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Happy birthday, Stetson Kennedy

It is the birthday of writer, folklorist, and human rights activist Stetson Kennedy (1916), who exposed of the secrets of the Ku Klux Klan in his book I Rode With the Ku Klux Klan (1954). He traveled with Zora Neale Hurston gathering oral history in turpentine camps, and he supervised the editing of the WPA Guide to Florida: the Southernmost State (1939). His first book, Palmetto Country (1942), used material from the WPA days.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Happy birthday, reporter Damon Runyon

It is the birthday of legendary newspaperman Damon Runyon (1880), who is remembered for the quirky characters who populated his numerous short stories, and for the characters' colorful ways of talking. As a reporter, he covered baseball, Broadway, and Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1933 inauguration. Two of his short stories became the 1950 Broadway play, and later movie, Guys and Dolls. Twenty of his short stories were adapted for film, including Lady for a Day (1933), Little Miss Marker (1934), The Lemon Drop Kid (1934 and 1951), A Slight Case of Murder (1938), and The Big Street (1942).

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Happy birthday, novelist Thomas Wolfe

It is the birthday of writer Thomas Wolfe (1900), who is remembered for his autobiographical novel Look Homeward, Angel (1929), based on his childhood and teen years in Asheville, North Carolina. It describes his family and friends, guests at his mother's boarding house, and other residents of the town. It was originally 1,100 pages long, and was trimmed to publishable length by Scribner's famous book editor Maxwell Perkins. The book caused such an uproar in Asheville that Wolfe moved away and didn't return for eight years.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Happy birthday, novelist Graham Greene

It is the birthday of English writer Graham Green (1904), who is remembered for such popular novels as The Confidential Agent  (1939), The Third Man (1949), The Quiet American (1956), Our Man in Havana (1958), and The Human Factor (1978). He also wrote novels with Catholic religious themes such as Brighton Rock (1938), The Power and the Glory (1940), The Heart of the Matter (1948), and The End of the Affair (1951). Several of his works were adapted for film. He also wrote plays and short stories.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Happy birthday, novelist Faith Baldwin

It is the birthday of writer Faith Baldwin (1893), whose popular romance novels appealed to housewives and working girls, and made her one of the best paid women writers in the country in the 1930s. She made more than $315,000 in 1936, when three books were published and four others were adapted for film. She wrote more than 100 novels, most of which gave middle-class women a glimpse into the lives of the wealthy.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Happy birthday, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel

It is the birthday of writer Elie Wiesel (1928), who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his political activism and his writing about his experiences in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Wiesel's book Night (1960) is a sparse account of his experience at Auschwitz and Buchenwald with his father. It is part of a trilogy, which also includes Dawn (1961) and Day (1962), that chronicle Wiesel's life and state of mind during and after the Holocaust. He has written 57 books.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Happy birthday, poet James Edwin Campbell

It is the birthday of black poet James Edwin Campbell (1867), whose best-known work is Echoes from the Cabin and Elsewhere (1895), a poetry collection thought to be among the finest of 19th century dialect poems. Campbell's work was first published in Chicago daily newspapers and later collected into books. Though he was celebrated for the vernacular language used in his work, he also published a collection of standard English poems, Driftings and Gleanings (1887).

Friday, September 27, 2013

We'll see you at the Georgia Book Fair

We'll be at the Georgia Fine and Collectible Book Fair on Saturday and Sunday. If you're in the area, come by to say hello. We'd love to see you. Click on the link above for all the details.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Happy birthday, poet T.S. Eliot

It is the birthday of poet T.S. Eliot (1888), who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948 for his outstanding contribution to modern poetry. Among his best known poems are The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915), The Waste Land (1922), The Hollow Men (1925), Ash Wednesday (1930), and Four Quartets (1945). He also wrote seven plays, the most popular of which was Murder in the Cathedral (1935), about the assassination of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Happy birthday, William Faulkner

It is the birthday of writer William Faulkner (1897), who won the Nobel Prize for Literature (1949), and the Pulitzer Prize twice (1955 for A Fable and 1963 for The Reivers). Perhaps Faulkner's most celebrated novel is The Sound and the Fury (1929), the story of the decline of a formerly aristocratic Mississippi family. Though it wasn't immediately successful, it gained attention after publication of his sensationalist novel Sanctuary (1931). The Sound and the Fury is considered one of the best English language novels of the 20th century.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Happy birthday, F. Scott Fitzgerald

It is the birthday of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896), whose most famous novel, The Great Gatsby (1925), was not a great success when it was published but is now considered one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. Fitzgerald's visits to parties at opulent estates on Long Island shortly after the success of his first book, This Side of Paradise (1920), inspired Gatsby, a tale of Jazz Age decadence.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy birthday, playwright Euripides

It is the birthday of Ancient Greek playwright Euripides (c. 480-406 BC), who is credited with developing some conventions that remain in modern theater, including tragedy, comedy and the depiction of the hero as an ordinary person. He is remembered for his tragedy Medea (431 BC), a gripping story of betrayal and revenge. Euripides also wrote the drama Electra (c. 420), and tragedies The Trojan Women (415) and Orestes (408).

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Happy birthday, sci-fi writer H.G. Wells

It is the birthday of English writer H.G. Wells (1866), who wrote the enduring science fiction novels The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898), which hadn't received much attention until the American actor/director Orson Welles produced a radio adaptation of it in 1938 and caused widespread panic among listeners who thought they were being invaded by space creatures. After that, sales of Wells' book increased dramatically.

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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