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The story of Takaya Lone Wolf

In our latest podcast, we interview Cheryl Alexander who is a conservation photographer based in Victoria, British Columbia, and the author of a book called Takaya Lone Wolf. Beginning in 2014, she photographed the unusual phenomenon of a lone wolf that lived on a cluster of small islands about 1.5km off the coast of Victoria on Vancouver Island.

Cheryl’s book, filled with stunning photography, explains and documents the remarkable life of this solitary wolf, which lived so close to a city of 300,000 people.

Find copies of Takaya Lone Wolf

Watch Cheryl’s documentary on CBC Gem

The most desirable rare book of 2020 – A Wonderful Time by Slim Aarons

The most desirable rare book of 2020 is pure escapism. A Wonderful Time by Slim Aarons is an out-of-print photo-book from 1974 that revealed the sumptuous lifestyles of America’s elite society in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Before 2020, it was possible to purchase copies for less than $200. This year, copies have been selling for thousands of dollars via AbeBooks.

Aarons (1916-2006) specialized in photographing America’s socialites and jet-setters decades before we discovered the Kardashians. His photographs showed beautiful people in beautiful places having a wonderful time. Stunning mansions with unbelievable views, swimming pools with the bluest water, hunting lodges, and parties were all recorded by Aarons and his camera.

A Wonderful Time: An Intimate Portrait of the Good Life is an 190-page folio edition filled with images of America’s wealthiest families such as the Fords, Vanderbilts and Rockefellers. They are shown in Bermuda, the Caribbean, Acapulco, Aspen, and on ranches and private estates across the United States.

Aarons (1916-2006) gained access to high society through his photo assignments for Town & Country, Harper’s Bazaar, Life, Vogue, Travel & Leisure, and other publications. He also photographed business moguls, actors, royalty, and politicians as they relaxed on ski slopes and their yachts. Cecil Beaton, Barry Goldwater, TS Eliot, Burl Ives, and Truman Capote are among the celebrities displayed in photographs in the book.

In January 2020, a customer bought a copy of A Wonderful Time, without a dust jacket, for $130 on AbeBooks. That was a bargain. By July, a copy with a dust jacket sold for $2,000. By August, demand peaked when signed a copy sold for $5,000.  Copies have sold at an average price of $2,250 in 2020. Only a couple of copies are still available.

Aarons didn’t just influence the rare book world in 2020. In May, French fashion brand Maje launched a line of clothing using Aarons’ poolside images.

In October, a Palm Springs home designed by legendary architect Richard Neutra went on the market for $25 million. The ‘Kaufmann Desert House’ is famous for its swimming pool with mountain views, which was featured in Aarons’ 1970 image Poolside Gossip.

In the year of staying at home, A Wonderful Time by Slim Aarons has clearly found a generation of admirers who crave sitting beside the perfect swimming pool while sipping the perfect martini.

DreamHaven Books – Minneapolis’ haven for sci-fi, fantasy & horror

DreamHaven Books: selling books since 1977

We’d like to tell you about a little bookshop in Minneapolis with a big heart. DreamHaven Books specializes in new and used science fiction, fantasy, horror, film books, comics, and graphic novels, and it’s been serving customers since 1977.

Last week, owner Greg Ketter and an employee were attacked and robbed as they closed up the bookstore. Greg lost his wallet and the day’s cash. Both were beaten and bruised, and they were probably thinking that 2020 just couldn’t get much worse.

Well, they breed tough booksellers in Minnesota and DreamHaven Books didn’t miss a beat.

“We’re healing up just fine,” said Greg. “I don’t heal as quickly as I did when I was young but things look pretty good.”

We’d like to lend a little support by telling you a bit more about this bookshop.

Firstly, you will find DreamHaven at 2301 E. 38th St. Minneapolis, MN 55407. They are open Monday through Saturday, 12 noon to 6pm.

Secondly, they offer an eclectic selection of books, ranging from scarce vintage paperbacks to some highly collectible horror and fantasy books, and signed limited editions.

Published in 1967 by Arkham House, this is collection of fantasy stories

They offer an extensive selection of horror and weird fiction published by Arkham House. Arkham will always be famous for printing the work of H.P. Lovecraft – the king of weird fiction. Memorable bindings and limited print runs mean that books from this publisher are loved by collectors of supernatural fiction.

Browse DreamHaven’s Arkham House books

There’s a handful of books by Alan Dean Foster, who is well known for his fantasy and science fiction, and novelizations of film scripts. He’s written books for the Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien, and Transformers universes.

Browse DreamHaven’s Alan Dean Foster books

William Boyd was one of the first Western adventure TV stars

DreamHaven’s Hopalong Cassidy books caught our eye. They’re Doubleday Western editions with Louis L’Amour writing as by Tex Burns. William Boyd is pictured on the cover. Boyd famously played Cassidy in the long-running NBC TV show.

Browse DreamHaven’s Hopalong Cassidy books

DreamHaven also offers a wide selection of books published by Subterranean Press, who are at the forefront of collectible editions in the horror, suspense, science fiction, and dark fantasy genres. Subterranean Press – also referred to as simply SubPress – has published hundreds of books, as well as a quarterly magazine called Subterranean Magazine, featuring short stories from some of today’s most popular genre authors. Subterranean’s luxuriously bound limited editions, signed, lettered and numbered editions, and unique trade editions are highly desirable.

Browse DreamHaven’s Subterranean books

American poet Louise Glück wins 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature

Nobel Prize winner Louise Glück has released a dozen collections of poetry

Today, we have a good reason to talk about poetry. Louise Glück (pronounced Glick) has won the 2020 Nobel prize for literature. She is the first American woman to win since Toni Morrison in 1993. The 77-year-old writer has already won a Pulitzer, a National Book Award and numerous other prizes.

Her writing often covers children and families, and new interpretations of classical myths. Glück was America’s poet laureate from 2003 to 2004, and she is currently an adjunct professor and writer in residence at Yale University.
Find copies of her books

Spend the night in Gladstone’s Library

This is the UK’s only residential library, Gladstone’s Library in Flintshire near Chester. Yes, you can spend the night in this building. We speak to warden and director Peter Francis about the history of this remarkable institution in our latest podcast.

Gustave Dore’s London

In 1869 a journalist called Blanchard Jerrold joined forces with the famous French artist Gustave Doré to create an illustrated record of London.

Night and day, this duo explored the city, going from poverty-stricken slums to royal palaces. The book, first published in parts, was called London: A Pilgrimage, and it contained 180 wood engravings. Published in 1872, it was slammed by critics for focusing on the worst aspects of London and for factual inaccuracies but Doré illustrations were stunning and it became a bestseller.

Today a first edition of Doré’s London costs thousands while a later edition costs hundreds, but modern reprints can be found for under $30.

Arsons, forgeries & poker: how Johnny Jenkins blazed a trail through antiquarian bookselling

In the latest AbeBooks podcast, we interview bookseller and author Michael Vinson about his new book, which describes the life and misadventures of Texas rare book dealer Johnny Jenkins during the 1970s and 1980s.

Surrounded by gambling debts and with the authorities breathing down his neck over two suspicious fires, Jenkins was found dead in a river in 1989 from a gunshot wound to the head. His death shocked the world of antiquarian bookselling.

Vinson’s book is called Bluffing Texas Style: The Arsons, Forgeries, and High-Stakes Poker Capers of Rare Book Dealer Johnny Jenkins.

Jenkins had turned antiquarian bookselling on its head in 1975 when he purchased a huge selection of Americana from Eberstadt & Sons for $2 million. He also became a media hero after working with the FBI to recover stolen materials, which then helped him win membership to the ABAA (Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America). His books were displayed at rare book fairs around the world, and he sold books and ephemera to some of Texas’ richest and most powerful people.

And yet Jenkins sold stolen goods and forgeries, he may also have forged objects himself, he sold complete materials and then delivered incomplete copies to customers, and – at the time of his death – he was about to be accused of arson in relation to suspicious fires at his business locations.

Ever the flamboyant personality, Jenkins also played professional poker in Las Vegas but accumulated huge debts as his gambling spiraled out of control. Although short in height, Jenkins was a larger than life character, who loved to be the center of attention.

Find copies of Bluffing Texas Style: The Arsons, Forgeries, and High-Stakes Poker Capers of Rare Book Dealer Johnny Jenkins.

Author Michael Vinson examines the life and death of rare bookseller Johnny Jenkins

Italy in Bocca – how rare cookbooks with cardboard covers inspired a food film

Roberto Serrini, an editor and filmmaker, and Peter Boggia, a motorcycle mechanic, are two friends from Queens with a shared love of books and food, particularly authentic Italian cuisine.

Inspired by a series of rare cardboard-bound, handwritten cookbooks published in 1976 by a small Italian publisher called Edizone Il Vespro, Roberto and Peter have made a short documentary film called Italy in Bocca.

Roberto Serrini (left) and Peter Boggia (Pic: italyinbocca.com)

The ‘In Bocca’ series of cookbooks explores 20 different regions of Italy (Roma in Bocca, Veneto in Bocca, Umbria in Bocca etc) through authentic recipes, and also poetry, art, and history. Filled with eye-catching illustrations that vary in style, these are scarce books with less than 50 copies available on AbeBooks.

The day before the Covid-19 lockdown began in New York, Roberto and Peter decided to have a “last supper” and cook four recipes from the books. Using minimal video equipment, simple, quality ingredients, and their raw passion for food, the two friends created a lively short nfilm that celebrates the cookbooks and Italian cuisine.

We tracked down Peter and Roberto as the Covid-19 lockdown continued, and asked some questions about the cookbooks, their documentary and the joy of Italian cooking.

AbeBooks: Tell us about the books. Where did you first see them? What are they like?

Peter: “It goes back pretty far. A friend’s father and his grandfather were avid readers and collectors of books and comics. His grandfather went to Italy regularly and had a few of these cookbooks, and we, as teenagers, were paid to clean and organize all these books. We stumbled upon the cookbooks and we both fell in love with them. They jump out at you. They weren’t my books but I never forgot them. Over the years, I built my business and lived in various places, and I sometimes thought ‘where are those books?’ I couldn’t even remember the name of the series. I started hunting around the Internet and found they were called the In Bocca series and I started buying them up. Once I got one or two, I fell in love with them again and I only recently completed the set. It took a long time. Roberto and I did a trip to Italy where we really bonded as friends and afterwards I gave him one of the books as a thank you. The Roma book, which is where his family is from.”

AbeBooks: The art work is eye-catching, not typical 1970s style. They look a little like a graphic novel?

Roberto: “This Roma book blew my mind right off the top. The cover was a full illustration, from hand-painted transfers, and the pages were from recycled rough oatmeal. There were a lot of bright colors from different regional artists and different themes from food to politics, history and poetry. They really do capture your imagination unlike any other cookbook I have seen. They transcend food and go into the culture of Italy. You get a sense of the country and the people, and their love for the land. They just kind of attack you with these wild illustrations and colors.”

Peter: “The outside is cardboard but inside the illustrations are extremely vibrant. The illustrations are quirky and strange, and have a bit of meaning to them. Sometimes they are just having fun with you – Mount Vesuvius blowing up with pasta sauce or the Coliseum overflowing with Carbonara.”

Striking illustrations on cardboard covers

AbeBooks: And the cardboard covers. Are they are fragile?

Roberto: “Yes, that makes them cool. They are made from a material you really don’t want to make a cookbook with. They are delicate and easily bend at the corners. They almost have an organic lifespan, which I think is beautiful when you are talking about food and culture.”

AbeBooks: Which recipes did you decide to cook?

Peter: “That was a hard decision. There were so many weird quirky dishes. We had to reel it in a bit with our decision-making. I made Milanese. We both have a minor obsession about that dish, and have crawled around Milan looking for the best ones.”

Roberto: “We did four dishes – Vitello tonnato, which is thinly sliced veal with a tuna sauce, which if it doesn’t sound good to you, you’re wrong because it’s amazing.  Rigatoni with a chicken liver sauce, which both of us raised an eyebrow to. It sounded funky but turned out to be amazing too. We then did a classic Suppli, that’s rice balls, or Arancini. Peter helmed that dish and slayed it. We’ve made that dish several times since and you can see my body has changed since discovering this recipe. The final one was the Milanese chop. It’s a comfort food and if you do it right and use the right amount of butter, which is the size of small baby actually, it comes out like everything that is good in the world.”

There’s a graphic novel quality to the illustrations (Pic: italyinbocca.com)

AbeBooks: What did you learn by cooking the recipes?

Peter: “Roberto and I are close friends and have traveled a lot together. We share the same passions. We wanted to prove that we could try and make these dishes. I had never really made risotto, and it came out nicely. I just went for it and I had Roberto to keep me in check. It’s all in the ingredients. We’ve talked about it multiple times. We are not cooks, we are home cooks but we have taste. We came to realize the ingredients should be the best ingredients.”

AbeBooks: So the lockdown started and you spent your time editing the film?

Roberto: “I’m an editor and mostly direct commercials. We made this film just because I happened to have a camera with me. We didn’t have a reason or point. As we were putting together the footage, all this horrible news from coming from Italy. It was the beginning of the pandemic and they were getting hit harder than anywhere else. It affected how the film turned out. We wanted people to remember all the great things about Italy and realize that they are suffering and need help.”

Handwritten recipes of regional dishes (Pic: italyinbocca.com)

AbeBooks: What are you going to do with the film?

Roberto: “It has become clear that this could easily become an on-going project. We’ve had chefs calling and it has touched a lot of people. We weren’t expecting that, but we made it with love and it’s a really authentic piece of material. We can see it being a series, there are 20 books and 20 regions. We are now talking to various people to develop it into a bigger project.”

AbeBooks: Should the In Bocca cookbooks be republished?

Roberto: “We hope so. The day after we released the film, the daughter of the man who started Il Vespro, the original publishing company, called us. She was on the phone telling us about how this was her father’s biggest project and something he really cared about. She hadn’t heard about the books for 30 years and then all of sudden these two kids from New York made this video. She said the handwriting in the book was her aunt’s. It blew my mind. So yes, I can see these books being republished, hopefully in the same format because the cardboard covers are so unique. People love cookbooks, they are the closest thing we have to spell books in the real world.”

Learn more about the In Bocca film, the cookbooks, and Peter and Roberto, at their website.

Find copies of the In Bocca cookbooks.

Women in Work: Lisa Unger Baskin’s Collection

Virginia Woolf’s writing desk
Photo: Annie Schlecter

Collector, bookseller and activist Lisa Unger Baskin amassed a vast collection of books, printed material and other objects dedicated to showing women in work over the centuries.

It features more than 11,000 rare books, and thousands of manuscripts, journals, ephemera, and artifacts, including Virginia Woolf’s writing desk.

In 2015, Lisa placed her collection with Duke University’s Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture in the Rubenstein Library.

From December 11 until February 8 2020, highlights from Lisa’s collection are being featured in an exhibition at the Grolier Club in Manhattan.  The Grolier is society for bibliophiles founded in 1884.

The Grolier exhibition, Five Hundred Years of Women’s Work: The Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, will provide a glimpse into this collector’s mission to uncover and recognize the contribution of women in work. Visitors will see items from a collection that took 45 years to build.

In our podcast interview, Lisa describes how she put the collection together, why she decided to place the collection with Duke, and how humble objects can shed light on the role of women in work and society.

A cabinet card sold by Sojourner Truth to support her work, 1864
Photo: Duke/Rubenstein Library
First book on obstetrics by a woman, French midwife Louise Bourgeois, 1642 Photo: Duke/Rubenstein Library