A World of Bibliophile Bookbinding
A recent issue of Wayne Homren’s weekly electronic newsletter, The E-Sylum, featured a link on making marbled paper to “a fascinating old video that's worth watching all the way through”. An internet search will reveal a myriad of similar videos, many of which are captivating time bandits.
Wayne’s article brought to mind two gatherings of book people in Southern California that your editor attended years ago. The main attraction at both was Kerstin Tini Miura, a highly talented bookbinder and maker of marbled paper. One of the appearances took place around the time that her beautiful book, My World of Bibliophile Binding, was published by the University of California Press at Berkeley in 1984. It is a handsomely produced, slipcased folio with numerous text figures, complemented by well over 100 color plates depicting her remarkable bindings. For me, it was the stunning examples of decorative paper depicted in a number of the illustrations that made me buy the book on the spot. They still move me. Published at, I believe, $95.00, several copies of the book were recently available on the internet at prices mostly ranging from $125 up.
Information about Miura and samples of her work can be accessed at: tinimiurabookbinding.com. Presently, a new work showcasing Miura’s stunning craftsmanship is nearing completion. I visited Tini’s atelier recently in Long Beach, California, where her husband Einen proudly showed me page proofs of the upcoming Japanese edition. An English edition will be published soon thereafter. The Miuras reside in Japan but spend several months in Long Beach to escape the heat and humidity of Japanese summers. They made the trip home in mid-October, taking with them two unbound examples, one on untrimmed paper, of the catalogue of my numismatic reference library. These were sent to me by the printer for a final look-through before sending the books to be bound.
Next spring, I look forward to visiting Long Beach and taking home both books, one bound in morocco, the other still unbound but housed in a matching protective case. Long Beach never fails to bring back pleasant memories, from visiting the Pike amusement park as a boy and young man (riding the Cyclone Racer, a vintage wooden roller coaster built out on pilings over the water, was always a highlight) to pilgrimages several times a year to Bertrand Smith’s aptly-named Acres of Books (where I would usually leave with an armful of desirable numismatic volumes).
Next year another pleasant memory, this one enduring, will be added to the roster and an upcoming issue of the Bookseller will perhaps depict the results.
Upcoming Kolbe & Fanning Activities
New York Book Auction: The RBW Library
January 9, 2016 at 12:30 EST
Kolbe & Fanning are pleased to announce that our 2016 New York Book Auction will feature the celebrated RBW Library and other properties. Focusing on Roman Republican coinage, the RBW Library includes both the essential standard works on the subject as well as many rarely seen and little-known publications. RBW’s collections of antiquarian books, auction catalogues and numismatic offprints add to the utility and comprehensiveness of the library, which had become famous among his fellow collectors. The sale also includes a fine selection of works on other ancient coins, medieval and modern foreign coins, and U.S. numismatics. Over 450 lots are included in the sale, which will be posted on the K&F website and mailed to current customers in the next few weeks. The sale will take place on Saturday, January 9, 2016, beginning at 12:30 p.m. eastern time, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan in conjunction with the 2016 New York International Numismatic Convention. More information will be available in the near future.
An Early Call for 2016 ANA Numismatic Literature Displays
Kolbe & Fanning is pleased to announce that that we will sponsor a prize for the best numismatic literature exhibit at next year’s ANA summer convention. The 2016 World's Fair of Money will be held in Anaheim, California, August 9–13 at the Anaheim Convention Center.
A $250 credit for books available for direct sale at our website will be awarded to the winner of the best exhibit in American Numismatic Association Exhibit Class 17: Numismatic Literature, Aaron Feldman Memorial. Printed and manuscript (published or unpublished) literature dealing with any numismatic subject. Additionally, other numismatic literature exhibitors will each be awarded a similar $100 credit.
Details about exhibiting should soon be available at the ANA website: www.money.org.
A display from the 2015 ANA.
Photo by Wayne Homren, E-Sylum, August 23, 2015
Congratulations to the New ANA Library Manager
The American Numismatic Association’s gain is a real loss to American numismatic bibliophiles. David Sklow’s appointment as manager of the ANA Library comes as no surprise to those familiar with David’s longtime interest in the association and its history. The cessation of his activities as a dealer in rare and out of print numismatic literature over the years, however, is a high price to bear.
Your editor opened his first offices in the stately, if inauspiciously located, Santora Building in Santa Ana, California in the late 1970s, at the same time that David was stationed at Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino, California. David began making the trek to Santa Ana (an hour away from San Bernardino) on a regular basis, never failing to bring with him a supply of delicious jelly donuts. Soon, other delectables purchased at their cost began arriving as well. David, as part of his Air Force duties, regularly traveled to exotic locales. From Australia came huge blocks of wonderful butter and cheese, from Hong Kong David bought a high end stereo receiver and speakers for the office. A carved wood business placard came from another remote part of the world. Always, book talk was a staple of our visits. I miss the donuts (no books were damaged in their consumption) but will always value the enduring friendships formed during this exciting time in my career.
Strange Happenings at the Boston Public Library
Row 14B, Bay 3, Shelf 2
AND NOW A MOLD OUTBREAK
Readers of The Asylum, quarterly journal of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society, may recall an article in the January-March 2015 issue recounting a “Large-Paper Attinelli Sighting in Boston” on April 25th, 2014 by David Fanning, George Kolbe, and Joel Orosz. The account relates that Susan Glover, Keeper of Special Collections at the Boston Public Library (hereafter BPL) had kindly shown us the only known documented example of one of “Ten copies printed on large tinted paper” of E.J. Attinelli’s 1876 landmark American numismatic bibliography, Numisgraphics.
Little did we know at the time but within a few fortnights it became apparent to some people at BPL that a valuable print was missing, namely Albrecht Dürer's Adam and Eve, a comparable example of which sold at Christie's in 2013 for $662,500. Additionally, a Rembrandt sketch valued at $30,000 was nowhere to be found. The game was afoot.
In a plot twist worthy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, said prints were finally located on June 4th of this year, a day after Amy Ryan, president of BPL, had tendered her resignation. Had Ryan postponed her resignation by a day she might have retained her job. Or not. Concerns had been aroused by the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the prints and other unusual occurrences in recent years. Indeed, preceding Ms. Ryan’s resignation, our host on April 25th of last year, longtime librarian Susan L. Glover, had been placed on administrative leave almost exactly one year later, on April 20th, 2015. Were the Dürer and Rembrandt prints purloined or were they simply misfiled amongst an extensive collection of prints?
The denouement on June 4th provides little clarity. Hiding in plain sight, the two prints were discovered just 80 feet away from the place they should have been, hidden among other material in Row 14B, Bay 3, Shelf 2. Conservation Officer Lauren Schott discovered them while conducting another search. Neither Amy Ryan nor Susan Glover have returned to their posts at the library, although David Leonard, interim president of the library said in September that the Police and the Library’s investigation is now closed: “Thank you to all of the officials who have assisted in this investigation. The Boston Public Library is making steady progress on our Print Department inventory, and we have implemented additional security procedures to ensure the protection of our collections… We're currently focused on moving the institution forward, and preparing for additional collection inventory work in the coming months." It is worth noting that there have been recent stories about valuable books being given away by BPL and the possible disappearance years ago of gold coins originally placed in the cornerstone of the main branch building.
And now, a significant mold outbreak has forced BPL to close its Rare Books Department for up to ten weeks after staff in mid-September found fuzzy white spores on a reference book and, among multiple sightings, on a medieval manuscript and other treasures amongst the 500,000 rare books and 1 million manuscripts in the collection.
One wonders if the large paper Attinelli has been spared depredation. Had Messrs. Fanning, Kolbe, and Orosz been aware of things to come, they might have entertained thoughts of “protective custody.” Originally, an appeal to Bookseller readers to subscribe to an Attinelli preservation/restoration fund was envisioned; the BPL large paper example is in dire need of it. For now, that will have to wait. Perhaps we will cajole you in a future issue.
Reminiscences of a Numismatic Bookseller: 2
By George Kolbe
Originally published in The Asylum, April–June 2013, Quarterly Journal of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society (coinbooks.org)
A man of many talents, Charles M. Johnson (January 8, 1908–February 3, 1979), was born and raised in Butte, Montana and received a law degree from the University of Montana. Johnson relocated to Long Beach, California, where he became a longtime resident and worked in the legal department of an oil firm located there. Following retirement he entered the building construction business. In 1961 he was elected an ANA governor and served four consecutive terms. In 1963, after having supervised the highly successful publication of the 1959–1960 four-volume series of Selections from the Numismatist, Johnson was appointed chairman of a committee to develop plans for constructing a headquarters building for the American Numismatic Association. Three and a half years later, ground was broken for the Colorado Springs headquarters structure. In his obituary, appearing in the April 1979 issue of The Numismatist, Glenn Smedley termed Johnson “Mr. ANA Headquarters” and observed of his devotion to the American Numismatic Association that “There are many whose names are better known (Charlie was modest and quiet). But I’d be hard put to name any member of the last half century who contributed as much toward the Association’s advancement.”
In the late 1960s, I belonged to a number of Southern California coin clubs and, by the late 1970s, began manning bourse tables at major coin shows in Los Angeles. Charles Johnson and I probably met a number of times during this period but I do not recall exactly when or where. In early 1979 I was invited to visit his home to discuss the sale of his numismatic library. On a cool but sunny day I traveled from nearby Mission Viejo to an older residential area in Long Beach. I was greeted at the door, came inside to meet Mrs. Johnson, then we walked to the back yard where a structure had been added abutting the garage. The library! The ambience was modest; the aroma of old books intoxicating.
Johnson's numismatic library was unusual in more than one respect. While it covered the numismatic spectrum, it was limited to numismatic works written in English. Charles was a practical man. Classic American numismatic books and periodicals were fairly comprehensive yet his holdings of earlier key American auction sale catalogues were sketchy. Having said that, it was a wonderful library, generally in nice condition. Virtually all volumes featured the Johnson bookplate, invariably accompanied by his name and address ink stamp on the endsheets and elsewhere, including the gutter margin of page 50 or page 100 depending on the length of the relevant volume. It was but a slight detraction, then and now, esthetics having been substantially counterbalanced by provenance.
After several hours were spent viewing the library and jotting down values, I made an offer to purchase the library and it was promptly accepted. We agreed to finalize the details in a few days and I was soon back on the freeway to Mission Viejo, with visions of rare numismatic books dancing in my head. After a few days I had not heard from Charles and I gave him a call. It was then that I learned from Mrs. Johnson that he had died later in the day that we met. I believe that she and I discussed the library that day but I decided that it would be appropriate to wait for the family to contact me.
Time went by and I received a call from Douglas Saville of Spink Ltd. to say that he was traveling from London to Long Beach to view the Johnson library. Bad news; not all bad as it turned out. One of Johnson’s sons had attended my first public auction, held on June 9th and 10th, 1979 at the Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. Douglas Saville had also attended the sale and had purchased a number of works on ancient and foreign numismatics. Johnson fils approached Saville following the sale and late in the year, Douglas arrived in Long Beach. After considerable negotiation, he purchased the ancient and foreign component of the library. I was then contacted around December 1979 or early January 1980 about the American part of the library.
Charles Johnson’s son in real life was proprietor of a used car emporium. I was no match for him. While the ancient and foreign portion of the library was impressive, from my viewpoint something over half of the overall value was still present. Yet I ended up paying an amount equal to what I had agreed to earlier for the entire library! A few days later I drove a truck to Long Beach and produced several hundred $100 bills in exchange for the library. I had managed to come up with part of the amount but my brother had graciously agreed to lend me the remainder.
Gulp! I had paid far more for Charles M. Johnson’s American numismatic library than was warranted by prevailing prices. But there was a new spirit in the air! Serious numismatists from all over the country were clamoring for classic numismatic works. Prices were marked up substantially yet the books flew out the door. Within a month I had repaid my brother. It was the start of a new market, one that culminated in the June 1981 Lee-Champa-Essex Institute auction which set new records for desirable numismatic works across the board. Years later, the topic of the loan came up with my brother and I mentioned that I had added ten $100 bills to the 250 that I had returned to him in a plain envelope. He was surprised. He had never opened the envelope before it went back into his safety deposit box.
The Johnson library was the third substantial numismatic library that I had the good fortune to buy during the 1977–1980 period. Perhaps a future article will discuss acquisition of the Floyd Hazelwood and Bill Castenholz libraries in 1977 and 1978. Both were notable though the Johnson library was the most important library that I ever acquired in terms of the impact that it had in the acceleration of interest in classic American numismatic works.
A few additional aspects of the purchase may prove of interest. A large cardboard box of miscellaneous Stack’s auction sales had been found at the last minute in the Johnson garage and was included in the deal. What a mixed blessing they were! Most of the library had already been unpacked and arranged on shelves in our 1100 square foot office in Mission Viejo. Then, while lifting the cardboard carton containing the Stack’s catalogues, the bottom of the box collapsed and, instantly, thousands of silverfish scurried across the warehouse floor in search of sustenance and darkness. It required several visits over several months by the friendly local pest control company before they were finally vanquished.
The plan expressed at the time was to drive later on the day of the transaction to Jonathans in Inglewood, California, the premier purveyor of gold bullion coins at the time, to trade cash for Krugerrands. Gold bullion was approaching its zenith and I have wondered, after the gold market crashed and since, if the plan was actually implemented and, if so, what happened to the gold disks involved.
A few days after acquiring the library, a telephone caller inquired about an original edition of A.W. Browning’s rare 1925 work on quarter dollars. Yes, we just happened to have one in stock. After taking it off the shelf and looking at it briefly I was able to confirm that, yes, it was complete and in nice condition. Anxious to generate sales, a price was soon agreed to and upon looking at it more closely after the call I discovered that it was a presentation copy, signed by the author and inscribed to B. Max Mehl! I was a bit more careful after that.