We Are Chapter 47. Woo-hoo!

It was such an honor and a pleasant surprise for Ron and me when we learned we were featured in Rebecca Rego Barry’s recently published book, Rare Books Uncovered – True Stories of Fantastic Finds in Unlikely Places.

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Rebecca interviewed a wide range of booksellers and collectors to ferret out book scouting stories involving serendipity, hard work and sometimes pure good luck — and the result is this entertaining and educational read published by Voyageur Press.  With a foreword by Nicholas A. Basbanes, any book lover will want to add it to their library.

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Rebecca interviewed me last year when I shared with her a few of our true book scouting tales. So much has happened over the past year that Rebecca’s work on this book was pushed to the recesses of my mind.  Also, I know there are many booksellers out there with interesting stories to share about their adventures on the book hunting trail, so I knew she would have plenty of material to sift through.

Thus I was blown away when I learned that we are Chapter 47!!

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Rebecca Rego Barry is the Editor of Fine Books & Collections Magazine, the most beautiful and informative magazine available on book collecting.  She is a talented writer and I hope this book is a huge success for her.  She has been doing a number of book signings on the east coast, including a recent one at the famous Grolier Club in New York City.

Read more about Rebecca and order the book on her website HERE.  You can get a signed copy too!

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Because we have so much to celebrate in 2016, we’d like to invite you to celebrate with us.  Visit Old Scrolls Book Shop online and take 20% off any book order there during the month of February 2016.  Just use the coupon code celebrate2016 at check-out and the 20% deduction will be activated.

If you need any assistance, just give us a call at 585-355-6971.

 

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Minsky’s Magnificent Catalog

20140814_193724_resizedWhat could be more awe-inspiring to a lover of fine bindings than a magnificently produced book filled with eye-popping images and meticulous descriptions of beautiful books from America’s past? 

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Yesterday we received our long-anticipated signed limited edition of American Trade Bindings with Native American Themes 1875-1933.  Richard Minsky has done it again, turning out another gorgeous catalog of American Trade Bindings.  All imaging, page design and binding artfully done by his skillful hands and his great eye for detail.

Every nuance about this book is beautiful, from the nubby texture of the green cloth on the dust jacket…

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to the beveled edge around the design insert on the red cloth cover

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and the beautiful gilt page edges…

20140814_195802_resizedThe images leap from the page with a three-dimensional quality.

20140814_194511_resized  Descriptions of the bindings include intricate details, explaining how certain effects were achieved by the artists.   Fascinating histories of the book artists lend importance to each example of their work, especially as some of these artists were Native Americans.

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All of the books featured in this catalog were collected by Richard Minsky for his Native American Theme Exhibition held earlier this year at his gallery near Hudson, NY, and the end result is this beautiful production which has been years in the making.  You may remember that I did a blog on this Exhibition back in early April of this year.

Richard Minsky is a scholar of book binding, a book artist and founder of the Center for Book Arts in New York City.  He is also a warm, generous and witty man who is passionate about beautiful books and his work.  To learn more about Minsky, his book art, and his magnificent catalogs on decorated American trade bindings, click here.

We were most astounded and honored to be mentioned in his preface… 

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and continue to be grateful that he has brought so much attention to the beautiful bindings of an American publishing era that should never be forgotten. 

This catalog, along with his others, will remain treasured through the ages.

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If you are interested in decorated American trade bindings being offered for sale here at Old Scrolls Book Shop, click HERE.

The History Behind the Fourth of July

Happy 4th of July! I apologize for not posting for awhile, but aside from being engaged in spring clean-up activities here at Old Scrolls Book Shop, I’ve been busy fighting a war.   I’ve just finished reading Kenneth Robert’s 836-page epic of America’s War of Independence, Oliver Wiswell.   It had me hooked from page one.

Oliver Wiswell, by Kenneth Roberts (1st Trade Edition, Doubleday Doran, NY, 1940)

Oliver Wiswell, by Kenneth Roberts (1st Trade Edition, Doubleday Doran, NY, 1940)

Independence Day seems a great time to write about author Kenneth Roberts, who is most famous for his splendid historical novels covering early American history, particularly the Revolutionary war era.

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Kenneth Roberts, photo from the back panel of dust jacket on his book “Boone Island.”

History is most often written by the winners; therefore we usually don’t get “the rest of the story.”

Oliver Wiswell is a thoroughly researched and well-written historical novel, telling the story of America’s war for independence from a different side– the Colonial Loyalist’s point of view.

Covering the eight years of grueling societal division and conflict, Roberts brings to light events and issues that were never exposed in your average American History class. All your standard heroes, like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and others are here seen as the imperfect, three-dimensional characters they actually were. Important battles are set forth as they actually happened – often won by the Loyalist side, and yet lost by retreating British generals who had no interest in victory.

Map on front endpapers of "Oliver Wiswell"

Map on front endpapers of “Oliver Wiswell”

This was truly America’s first civil war, dividing families, friends and neighbors in a great clash between those who believed they should avoid the bloodshed and suffering of a war with Great Britain and those who wanted to engage in war at any cost to gain complete independence. Both sides were patriots who loved their country, with different ideas on the best course to follow for the future of the colonies. It was not a matter that was put up to a vote. Well respected citizens and educated people were driven out of their homes if they were believed to be Loyalists; tarred and feathered, tortured or sent into hiding by mob rule. Families, homes, farms and businesses were destroyed –neighbor against neighbor.

Rear endpapers, "Oliver Wiswell"

Rear endpapers, “Oliver Wiswell”

Not without humor, Roberts succeeds in exposing the absurdities of war, and the follies of the military leadership and troops on both the British and Colonial side. He also conveys the resilience and strength of civilian men and women who, caught in the circumstances of war through no fault of their own, suffered great loss and hardship. His well-drawn characters are appealing and his scenes descriptive as he takes us from Boston to New York to England, France, and back to the colonies as his main character, Olive Wiswell, struggles to preserve his American homeland in the best way he knows how.

To experience this time in our history from the Revolutionist side, read Kenneth Roberts’ Arundel (1929) – the American Revolution through the Battle of Quebec and Rabble in Arms (1933), where he presents the conflict from the viewpoint of the Colonial rebels who are fighting against all odds to halt the advancing British invasion. The struggles of soldiers and civilians alike are vividly brought to life, amidst the miseries of war when food and supplies are scarce because of human greed and faulty links in the chain of command.

Arundel, by Kenneth Roberts (Doubleday Doran, 1933)

Arundel, by Kenneth Roberts (Doubleday Doran, 1933)

Rabble in Arms, by Kenneth Roberts (Later printing - Doubleday Doran, NY, 1943).

Rabble in Arms, by Kenneth Roberts (Later printing – Doubleday Doran, NY, 1943).

All of these books are compelling reads and make for a thorough education on America’s beginnings.

The great thing about an intensely researched and well-written historical novel is this; as you become involved with the characters, you absorb the facts of history in a way that never happens when reading a textbook, and hear the story as it can never be told in a book without characters. You experience life as it happened for people of the time, in detail.   As history unfolds in this compelling way, it stimulates a hunger for further reading and research.

I came late to appreciating the writing of Kenneth Roberts. Now I know why his books have quickly left our shelves, year after year.  He was a great novelist of America’s historic past, and wrote his novels with the same dispassionate truthfulness that made him a great journalist for The Boston Post and The Saturday Evening Post in the early twentieth century.

*Key historical novels by Roberts and their topics include:

Arundel (1929) – The American Revolution through the Battle of Quebec
The Lively Lady (1931) – War of 1812
Rabble in Arms (1933) – Sequel to Arundel; the American Revolution through the Battles of Saratoga
Captain Caution (1934) – War of 1812
Northwest Passage (1937) – French and Indian War and the Carver expedition
Oliver Wiswell (1940) – The American Revolution from a Loyalist’s perspective, from the Siege of Boston to the United Empire Loyalists
Lydia Bailey (1947) – The Haitian Revolution and the First Barbary War
Boon Island (1955) – 1710 shipwreck on Boon Island, Maine

In 1957, two months before his death, Roberts received a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation “for his historical novels which have long contributed to the creation of greater interest in our early American history.”  He died, aged 71, in Kennebunkport.

*taken from Wikipedia

Collectible first editions of Kenneth Roberts works are almost always available here at Old Scrolls Book Shop.

 

Discovering the Essays of Robert Louis Stevenson

Last week I stumbled into the pleasure of reading the essays of Robert Louis Stevenson when I took this little book from our shelves…

Essays by Robert Louis Stevenson, (NY:Charles Scribner's Sons, 1918) Introduction by William Lyon Phelps

Essays by Robert Louis Stevenson, (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1918) Introduction by William Lyon Phelps

I had always associated Robert Louis Stevenson with his famous novels: Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or his poems in Child’s Garden of Verses.  I was unfamiliar with his beautifully written and thought-provoking essays.

There are twenty-four essays in this little volume.  A particular favorite is “Aes Triplex” (Latin, meaning: triple brass; a strong defense) which is about death, but actually more about living life fully.  It should leave any reader with the courage and desire to live with gusto, even though “…after a certain distance, every step we take in life we find the ice growing thinner below our feet, and all around and behind us we see our contemporaries going through.” 

There are essays in literary criticism, including revealing, well-written words on the lives and works of Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau and Samuel Pepys.

“Talks and Talkers” is his delightful piece on the art of conversation (pretty much a lost art now, wouldn’t you say?).  Stevenson himself was known to be a great talker, a master of conversation, and in his time good conversation was one of the highest forms of pleasure known to cultivated men and women.  He gives concrete examples and suggestions for creating enjoyable conversation.

In “Crabbed Age and Youth,” he rebukes our tendency to pinch pennies, fret about our future, and put off fine experiences for our old age, when reaching old age is far from certain.  A quote from this essay sums it up nicely:

“We sail in leaky bottoms and on great and perilous waters; and to take a cue from the dolorous old naval ballad, we have heard the mermaids singing, and know that we shall never see dry land any more.  Old and young, we are all on our last cruise.  If there is a fill of tobacco among the crew, for God’s sake pass it round, and let us have a pipe before we go!”

In my opinion he has much to say to today’s society, considering how we fuss over everything we eat, drink or breathe and divert much of our resources into insurance against every possible unforeseen calamity, illness and our uncertain old age.

A painting of Robert Louis Stevenson, pacing in his dining room, by John Singer Sargent

A painting of Robert Louis Stevenson, pacing in his dining room, by John Singer Sargent

Stevenson himself suffered from tuberculosis from his childhood on; yet, he managed to live vibrantly, travel extensively, and write beautifully up until the moment of his death. He lived as he wrote for us to live.

Portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson, by John Singer Sargent

Portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson, by John Singer Sargent

He visited and lived in the United States – including a three-week honeymoon with his American wife Fanny Osbourne at an abandoned silver mine in Napa Valley, California, which resulted in The Silverado Squatters (1883).

He spent the winter of 1887-88 in the Adirondacks of New York, at a “cure cottage” which still exists as the Robert Louis Stevenson Cottage and Museum at Saranac Lake.

In 1890 Stevenson purchased about 400 acres of land in Upolu, an island in Samoa, and after expending a great amount of work clearing his land and building a house, he established a home for he and his wife there, and became very involved with the community of Samoans.

Robert Louis Stevenson with King Kalakaua in his boathouse - Samoa (unknown photographer)

Robert Louis Stevenson with King Kalakaua in his boathouse – Samoa (unknown photographer)

Born on November 13, 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland, he died suddenly of a stroke on December 3, 1894 at the age of 44 at his home on Samoa.  He was buried there at the top of Mount Vaea, overlooking the sea.

The tomb of Robert Louis Stevenson - Mount Vaea, Samoa

The tomb of Robert Louis Stevenson – Mount Vaea, Samoa

The Robert Louis Stevenson Museum in Apia, Samoa is housed in his beautifully restored estate.

The Robert Louis Stevenson Museum in Apia, Samoa

The Robert Louis Stevenson Museum in Apia, Samoa

Stevenson was a great admirer of the style of such writers as Lamb, Hazlitt, Defoe and Hawthorne.  He had a reputation for being a meticulous writer; revising, polishing, rewriting until totally satisfied with his work.  He never settled for mediocrity; he always put forth his best.  As a fiction writer, as a travel writer, his work has withstood the vagaries of critics and the literary marketplace–and the test of time.

As an essayist, Stevenson is first class.

Juliette Kinzie’s Wau-Bun – The Early Day in the Northwest

I have just finished reading a book which has captivated me for many successive evenings.  Now that I have closed the final chapter, I feel like I’ve said goodbye to a most interesting friend!

The book is one I picked up in the Chicago area this summer (quite appropriately, as the book is very much about the early settlement of Chicago and the regions surrounding it.)  Wau-Bun, The Early Day in the Northwest, by Mrs. John H. Kinzie, is an historical autobiography that was first published by Derby and Jackson, New York, 1856.  It has been republished multiple times since, by  J. B. Lippincott  (1873),  Rand McNally (1901),The Caxton Club  (1901), George Banta (1930), Lakeside Press (1932),  National Society of Colonial Dames in Wisconsin (1948), and others.

Here’s a link to a photo and description of the first edition (Derby and Jackson, NY, 1856) on University of Wisconsin’s Digital Collections, (PBO – Publisher’s Bindings Online ).

The Rand McNally edition (1901) is an attractive decorated American trade binding, done in green cloth boards with a  brown and black illustrated background of high-rise Chicago buildings, with tee-pees and a canoe on a river in the foreground on the cover, and a small decoration on the spine.

 Here’s our 1930 Edition (George Banta Publishing Company, Menasha, WI), in its original dustjacket:

Wau-Bun - The Early Day In the Northwest, by Juliette M. Kinzie (Menasha, WI: 1930, George Banta Publishing Co.

Wau-Bun – The Early Day In the Northwest, by Juliette M. Kinzie (Menasha, WI: 1930, George Banta Publishing Co.)

 The endearing thing about this copy is its provenance;

Inscription inside our copy of Wau-Bun

Inscription inside our copy of Wau-Bun

This copy actually belonged to the Indian Agency House in  Portage, Wisconsin, about which the author wrote in the book and where she lived.   The Indian Agency House was built by the U.S. government for John Kinzie in 1832.  Kinzie was the Indian Agent to the Ho-Chunk Nation (Winnebago), and he and his wife, Juliette Magill Kinzie, lived at the portage from 1832-1834.

          Image of the map printed on the front fixed endaper:

Map of the areas of Wisconsin and upper Illinois covered in Wau-Bun

Map of the areas of Wisconsin and upper Illinois covered in Wau-Bun

This edition was published in 1930 to support the effort to preserve the Agency House:

From the front panel of the dust jacket of "Wau-Bun" (George Banta Publishing Co., 1930)

From the front of the dust jacket of “Wau-Bun” (George Banta Publishing Co., 1930)

Apparently it was a successful effort, as it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and still stands today with guided tours available during summer months for a nominal fee.

 This edition also has an Introduction and is edited with notes by Louise Phelps Kellogg, which contain some corrections and additional information.

 Juliette Magill was a well-educated young woman from Connecticut when she met the dashing young John Kinsey in Boston, Massachusetts, whom she fell in love with and married in 1830.   She moved with him to Detroit and then Fort Winnebago, a new trading post at the crucial portage between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers.  At the time, it was the western-most outpost of the American frontier forts, where her husband was an Indian sub-agent to the Ho-Chunk nation (Winnebago).

John H. Kinzie, a portrait from "Wau-Bun"

John H. Kinzie, a portrait from “Wau-Bun”

 Juliette M. Kinzie wrote with clarity, compassion, and intelligence.  Her narrative about the times in which they lived is beautifully written, with fascinating details on what it was like to travel, communicate and subsist on the early Western frontier.   Her experiences with the Black Hawk War and the Sauk War are recounted, and details of the Chicago Massacre (Battle at Fort Dearborn) are covered as they were related to her by members of her husband’s family who lived in Chicago at the time it occurred.  Wau-Bun was not her first published work.  In 1844 Juliette Kinzie published Narrative of the Massacre at Chicago, August 15, 1812, and of Some Preceding Events, anonymously.  Kinzie acknowledged authorship soon after publication.

Juliette M. Kinzie, a portrait from "Wau-Bun"

Juliette M. Kinzie, a portrait from “Wau-Bun”

 She was a game young woman who enjoyed being on the frontier, sometimes covering over 60 miles a day on horseback as they journeyed between posts, sleeping outdoors or in makeshift shelters or as welcome guests at isolated homesteads.  They routinely dealt with blizzards, mud, storms, mosquitoes and summer heat, and the diverse cultures and idiosyncrasies of an assortment of Native American tribes.  She possessed a positive attitude and a subtle sense of humor, along with insight and compassion into the culture of the Native American people and their plight as white settlers encroached on their homeland.  Her writing style is honest and as readable as if it were written yesterday.

 For anyone interested in the history of the Great Lakes area, early American travel, fur trading, American Indian wars, and frontier forts (including Ft. Mackinac, Ft. Winnebago, and Ft. Dearborn),  this book is not to be missed.

An image of  Chicago in 1831 from "Wau-Bun"

An image of Chicago in 1831 from “Wau-Bun”

 In addition to her non-fiction work, Kinzie published one novel Walter Ogilby (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1869), and it must be exceedingly scarce, as I have not been able to locate a single copy for sale.

A few interesting footnotes: 

According to Wikipedia, Juliette M. Kinzie died at age 64 while vacationing in Amagansett, New York, Long Island, in 1870, after a druggist accidentally substituted morphine for quinine.  (How ironic, after a life of constant danger and close calls in Indian wars and hazardous frontier travel that she should be snuffed out by a pharmacist’s error in Eastern “civilization.”)

 Juliette Kinzie’s granddaughter was Juliette Gordon Low, who founded Girl Scouting in America in 1912.

A Book for Garden Lovers

I haven’t written in awhile, because we have been spending a lot of time outdoors!

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We have had capricious weather this Spring in the Finger Lakes region – and have had to cover our plants numerous times to protect them from hail, wind and late frost.  Nevertheless, we have been toiling away on our gardens for the past month, with the aid of inspiration from some lovely gardening books which are available to inspire you as well.

Here’s what we accomplished:

We planted a new hedge…

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…renovated our perennial gardens, which had become quite thick and needed dividing, digging and mulching…

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We found a Rabbit’s nest while we were digging and weeding.  Can you see the baby bunny in the photo below?

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Don’t worry — we only disturbed them to take a photo.  They are all safe and happy in their park-like grounds!

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We planted greens, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant in our kitchen garden, alongside our perennial herbs such as sage, mint, creeping thyme and chives.

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 20130519_180718Now all we need is some sun and warmth to help our plants (and us!) thrive.

And here’s the lovely book on garden design which I must share with you, because I found it inspiring.  It is one of the more beautiful and useful books on garden style, with real practical information and attainable ideas, always taking into account the texture, foliage and pattern of the garden.

On Garden Style, by Bunny Williams with Nancy Drew (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1998)

On Garden Style, by Bunny Williams with Nancy Drew (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1998)

It shows you how to make something beautiful out of what you have been given.   And it makes you want to plant trees!

Photo of birch-lined pathway, from "On Garden Style"

Photo of birch-lined pathway, from “On Garden Style”

A kitchen garden, from "On Garden Style"

A kitchen garden, from “On Garden Style”

Old louvered doors and columns screen a parking area from the garden

Old louvered doors and columns screen a parking area from the garden

You can view all of our available books on gardening HERE.

 I hope you are having a happy Spring, and that your weather is warm and beautiful for Memorial Day.  Check back with us soon – as we are planning our next book scouting adventure, and we want you to come along and enjoy it with us!

Architecture Worthy of Life

At the end of my last post I mentioned I would cover another favorite book on  how architecture lost its magic, and how that magic can be recaptured.   This book contains a bibliography at its end listing ten pages of excellent books, most of which are related to the design of harmonious, living architecture.  The list would be a great starting point for anyone interested in starting a book collection on this subject.

The photo below is of the trade paperback edition.  It is available in hardcover; a first edition in a dust jacket in collectible condition generally lists for around $60-$70 (The Old Way of Seeing, Jonathan Hale (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994).

The Old Way of Seeing, by Jonathan Hale

“There was a time in our past when one could walk down any street and be surrounded by harmonious buildings.  Such a street wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t necessarily even pretty, but it was alive.  The old buildings smiled, while our new buildings are faceless.  The old buildings sang, while the buildings of our age have no music in them.”

Hale uses Newburyport, Massachusetts (1860’s view)  as an example of an old streetscape that is alive.  The town’s commercial center burned to the ground in 1811, and was rebuilt all at one time.  The buildings use the same proportioning system and materials, yet each one is different.

Newburyport, Massachusetts

 

Through contrast, imperfection, light and shadow, the old way of seeing imparts a bit of mystery to a town or village, enticing one to explore what might be around the next corner or beyond a doorway.

The difference between our age and the past is in our way of seeing.  Everywhere in the buildings of the past is relationship among parts: contrast, tension, balance.  Compare the buildings of today we see no such patterns.  We see fragmentation, mismatched systems, uncertainty.  This disintegration tends to produce not ugliness so much as dullness, and an impression of unreality.”

Bank (circa 1850) in Aurora, New York

Bank building in Aurora, NY (circa 1850)

Post Office in Aurora, NY (circa 1975)

If a building makes us light up, it is not because we see order, any row of file cabinets is ordered.  What we recognize and love is the same kind of pattern we see in every face, the pattern of our life form.  The same principles apply to buildings that apply to mollusks, birds, or trees.  Architecture is the play of patterns derived from nature and ourselves.”

A colonial home that smiles…

Nathan Winslow House, Brewster, MA (1738)

And a few neo-colonial versions minus the happy look…

Hale discusses the importance of regulating lines, pattern, light and shade, and the shapes and patterns of nature which hold a visceral appeal for us as human beings.

A portion of the book discusses the “Golden Section,”  the proportions of which are commonly contained in nature, and are underlying in many ancient buildings and monuments.

The logarithmic spiral of the Golden Section. Each dimension is 1.618 times the next smaller dimension.

The author discusses the work of some modern architects who were on the right track, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, whose work subordinated intellect to intuition, and used pattern, natural forms and continuity.

All man-made things are worthy of life.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

Interior of the Zimmerman House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

We live in dull, denatured places because we have accepted them.  We have ceased using our intuition about what we like, what makes us happy, in architecture and design.

Add this book to your library if you are interested in regaining the subtle mystery and beauty of “the old way of seeing” which is latent in all of us.

Tribute to Henry B. Aul (1897 – 2011)

You may remember that back in November of 2010 I wrote about landscape architect and author Henry B. Aul  in a segment called Books on Beautiful Outdoor Rooms.

From "How to Beautify and Improve Your Home Ground" by Henry B. Aul

This morning I received word that Henry Aul passed away at the age of 104  yesterday, September 25, 2011 in an e-mail from Ernest G. Shaffer, who was a long-time friend to Henry.   He gave me permission to share his letter with my readers:

Earlier this evening I came across an item you wrote on your store’s blog last Nov. It was about finding a book by Henry B. Aul called “How To beautify and Improve Your Home Ground.” Since you wrote so enthusiastically about the book and its author, I thought I would email you something about him.
I knew Henry Aul for many, many years and was with him on many occasions over the years between 1968 and the present. He was married to my mother’s cousin. As you noted he was not only a garden editor and writer, he was also a landscape architect trained at Penn State University. In addition to his newspaper work which he continued at the “Trib” until it folded and then carried on for a few years at the New York Daily News, he did landscape design for private clients. He also for a number of years designed the annual Jackson and Perkins display gardens at the New York Flower Show.
 Henry retired in 1968 and he and his wife moved to Pennsylvania of which they were both natives. They lived first in Hershey and then, after 1982, in a retirement community outside of Lancaster. Henry died at the retirement community earlier today at the age of 104. He lived independently in a cottage at the retirement community until about four years ago and was in fairly good health–especially mentally–until shortly before his death.
In addition to the three books you mentioned, Henry also wrote “How To Plant Your Home Ground” published by Sheridan House in 1953.
I am certain Henry would have been gratified to learn that articles of his on garden design were still being found useful 60 years after their publication.
Ernest G. Shaffer
I’m thankful to Ernest for this update on Henry Aul, whose books helped inspire Ron and I to build a beautiful reading garden and terrace off the south side of our home.
It’s wonderful to think that Aul’s landscaping genius will live on through his books, continuing to inspire others in years to come.
I will think of him whenever I enter our garden.

A Trip Around the World with Jerome Weidman

I love well-written travel narratives from the past, and this summer I picked up two books by Jerome Weidman which I relished reading and thought I would share them with you.   Jerome Weidman was an American playwright, novelist, and travel writer, born in New York City (1913-1998).   He won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1960 through his collaboration with George Abbott on a book for the musical Fiorello! with music by Jerry Bock, and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.

"Letter of Credit" by Jerome Weidman - NY: Simon & Schuster, 1940

I found his travel book Letter of Credit  (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1940) to be engaging reading, particularly because his round- the-world journey took place just as World War II was about to break out.  A month before he sailed from New York, Adolf Hitler marched into Czechoslovakia.

He set out on this trip despite warnings from family and friends that it was not a good time to be traveling the globe.   The Germans were making their moves everywhere.  But Weisman was a young man, free of any ties that bind, and had socked money away and looked forward to the trip for years; he was not about to be dissuaded.  It was now or never.   So he boarded an ocean liner bound for Plymouth, England.  He spent weeks in London, then moved on to Edinburgh, Scotland and then to Paris and Marseilles; from there, aboard vessels large and small he traveled to Port Said, Egypt, and sailed through the Suez Canal; his travels encompassed Arabia, India, Ceylon, Penang, Singapore, Java, Australia, New Zealand, the Fiji Islands, Hawaii and home to the California coast.

Each chapter heading is the date and place where he used his “Letter of Credit” to withdraw more cash to continue his journey.  Example:  “July 30, 1939 – National Bank of India, Ltd., Aden, Arabia – $30.00 – Thirty Dollars.”   (It’s amazing how far thirty dollars would take you in those days).

In some ways Weidman is an early version of Bill Bryson as a travel writer; he’s not afraid to tell you of his misadventures, fears and foibles, and he sees wry humor in odd situations.  He is an astute observer of his fellow travelers, and also gives us a real idea of what it feels like to be a lone traveler on a long journey in those days before cell phones and the internet.

He spoke of the importance of letters from loved ones waiting  for you in a distant port, of homesickness, and the particular joy of meeting up with a friend after weeks or months of traveling alone.

“The next best thing to coming home is coming to a place where someone you know is waiting to meet you.  The tight, painful excitement that grips you when the train rolls you for the first time into the station of a foreign city, the tingle of uncontrollable anticipation, very often liberally tinged with fright, that assails you when your ship docks at a new and exotic port, is lacking when you know a friend or a relative is on hand to meet you.” 

In Ceylon he meets Daphne Charger, a vivacious young woman photographer who sweeps him into a perilous whirlwind of adventure.

“She owned a movie camera, a large and expensive wardrobe, a captivating face that caused you to wonder wistfully why it could not have belonged to a person with at least a modicum of common sense.  And she had the endurance of a dray horse.  She had been away from England for three months when I met her in Ceylon.  During that time she had apparently subsisted entirely on a diet of vitamin tablets.  There was not an ounce of fat on her figure, a rational thought in her head, or an inhibition in her system.  Cool, slender, beautiful, and thoroughly composed at all times, she nevertheless had the unsettling ability to throw a room into a turmoil of nervous excitement by entering it and ordering a drink.  She was a blonde.”

At one point she lures him into a jungle area infested by roguish monkeys where she takes much pleasure in snapping pictures while he is under attack.

It is a chronicle of a trip in perilous times that is informative, but also one that will make you empathize, chuckle, and even roll with laughter.  It is  humorous, poignant and entertaining…a joy to read.

The second Jerome Weidman book I  read was Traveler’s Cheque (Doubleday, 1954), which is actually a collection of great travel writing from the past, being excerpts from the work of Charles Dickens, Sir Richard F. Burton,  W. Somerset Maugham, Alexander Woolcott, and other great writers and travelers.

Traveler's Cheque - Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1954

Each is selected and introduced in an entertaining and informative manner by Weidman.  This book definitely inspires further reading of some of these authors’ timeless works and sent me off in search of more books by these fabulous writers.

Weidman wrote fourteen novels including I Can Get It for You Wholesale, which was also produced as a Broadway play that marked the debut of 19-year-old Barbara Streisand, and resulted in her being nominated for a Tony Award.  He also wrote for film and television and many of his short stories were published in The New Yorker and Harper’s Magazine.   A bibliography of Weidman’s work is available here on Wikipedia.

If you are interested in owning a copy of Letter of Credit or Traveler’s Cheque, we currently have one copy of each available at Old Scrolls Book Shop!

Massachusetts – book hunting heaven!

It’s hard to beat Massachusetts for great used & rare book hunting.  Some of the beautiful books we found today…

Decorated American Trade Bindings - all First Editions

A sampling of the literature we were delighted to find in clean dust jackets, some signed!

A sampling of the literature we were delighted to find in clean dust jackets, some signed!

AND HERE IS HOW WE FOUND THEM…

We began our morning in Northampton, Massachusetts at The Old Book Store at 32 Masonic Street.

Henry Walz, Proprietor of The Old Book Store (est. 1958) - 32 Masonic St., Northampton, MA

We purchased some hard-to-find books here — a shop with well organized books, nicely shelved for easy viewing and prices are reasonable. An interesting book shop — well worth a stop.

Our second stop in Northampton was at Gabriel Books at 21 Market Street.  Lots of books, shelved and stacked on the floor. We found a few gems here…plenty of antiquarian and scholarly titles, and a case of first edition literature.

Gabriel Books - 21 Market St., Northampton, MA

Just a few doors down we climbed upstairs to the book shop of Lucy Wolff at Metropolitan Books & Records.  She was having a sale and her prices were more than fair.  We found some excellent titles at 50% off – including an M.F.K. Fisher first edition.

Lucy Wolff

Lucy Wolff, owner of Metropolitan Books & Records - 9-3/4 Market St., Northampton, MA

We then headed a bit north to Hadley, Massachusetts to visit Troubadour Books and Grey Matter Books, which have combined forces in one very large building.

Troubadour Books - 47 East Street, Hadley, MA

Grey Matter Books - 47 East St., Hadley, MA

They have a beautiful setting amongst great old trees near the old water tower in Hadley.  Inside are seemingly endless cases of great books — desirable titles in nice clean condition, well displayed for easy viewing.  We had a ball here, and were still picking out books on our way out the door.

Bob Willig (Troubadour Books) and Sam Burton (Grey Matter)

Read about Bob and Sam’s unique book partnership HERE.

On the road again (same day!) we went to another of our favorite hunting grounds at the Whately Antiquarian Book Center.

Whately Antiquarian Book Center - 13 State Road (Rte. 5), Whately, MA

This shop contains many thousands of books on display from multiple book dealers.  You can find just about anything you are after here, including quality collectible books and unusual, hard to find titles.

Ted Sargent - he made our day!

Ted Sargent was in charge while we were visiting, and he was great to us!  Very helpful, and willing to let us browse a bit beyond closing time.  Ted is a retired professor and an author, his most well-known title being Legion of Night: The Underwing Moths, University of Mass. Press, 1976.   Read more about his books HERE.

All that book hunting made us HUNGRY.  We got the word from a helpful front desk clerk in Greenfield that we should go back down the road to South Deerfield to eat at Wolfie’s.  And were we glad we did!

Terrific homemade food, cozy atmosphere, superb seafood!  If only I’d save room for their strawberry shortcake )-:

I worked off some of that great dinner with a swim.   I’ll wrap this up for now so we can get some rest for tomorrow, when you can follow us to New Hampshire!

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