The Fascinating Life of Shel Silverstein

April 20th, 2015

The rare works of Shel SilversteinSheldon Alan “Shel” Silverstein was a poet, cartoonist, and author of children’s books that won the hearts of America with his endlessly playful imagination. From the poignant life lessons of The Giving Tree to the amusing, yet philosophical poems of Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein’s books create a fun world in which children can laugh at and learn about themselves. And yet, outside of his writing, Shel Silverstein lived a very interesting, often difficult life.

Born and raised in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago, Silverstein graduated from Roosevelt High School and enrolled in University of Illinois, but was soon expelled. He then was accepted into the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, but did not attend for very long before he was drafted into the United States Army, where he served in Japan and Korea. Silverstein’s first published work was in the student newspaper at Roosevelt University, where he studied after leaving the Art Institute. In the army in 1955, his cartoons were published in Pacific Stars and Stripes. In his biography, Silverstein said that his time at university was wasted and that it could have been better spent traveling the world and meeting others.

After returning from service, Shel Silverstein began selling hot dogs at ballparks in Chicago while submitting his cartoons to magazines and other publications. His work at that time appeared in Look, Sports Illustrated, and This Week. By 1957, Silverstein was appointed the leading cartoonist in Playboy, during a time when the magazine was also publishing fiction by Bernard Malamud and Kurt Vonnegut. Shel’s career with Playboy led him all around the world to meet with various fascinating individuals and create an illustrated journal about his encounters. Some of the locations he recorded include a nudist colony in New Jersey, the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco, Mexico, Spain, London, Paris, and parts of Africa.

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein Rare and Signed

The Signed First Edition of Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein eventually tried his hand at writing children’s books after being nudged by his editor at Harper & Row, Ursula Nordstrom. His biggest seller in the 1970s was The Giving Tree, a book about a tree and how a man uses it throughout his life, from enjoying it’s fruit and shade to using its stump as a resting spot when he grows old. Others enjoyed quirkier books such as A Giraffe and a Half, a hilarious, illustrated story about what happens to a boy’s giraffe when he stretches it another half. When asked about his books in an interview with Publishers Weekly in 1975, Silverstein says this:

I would hope that people, no matter what age, would find something to identify with in my books, pick up one and experience a personal sense of discovery. That’s great. I think that if you’re a creative person, you should just go about your business, do your work and not care about how it’s received. I never read reviews because if you believe the good ones you have to believe the bad ones too. Not that I don’t care about success, I do, but only because it lets me do what I want.

Many of Silverstein’s first poems for children actually appeared in Playboy. Later, however, Shel was writing whole poetry books, such as Where the Sidewalk Ends. Within the anthology, Silverstein touches on the every day realities of children in fun ways, such as feeling to sick for school until you discover that it’s actually Saturday or erasing a friend with a magic eraser because she didn’t believe the eraser was magic.

The poems, ranging from serious to silly, from philosophical to ridiculous, allow the reader or listener – the rhyme and rhythm of these nonsensical poems makes them perfect for reading aloud – to discover Silverstein’s greatest gift: his ability to understand the fears and wishes and silliness of children.

The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein Signed and Rare

The Signed First Edition of The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein

Beyond just understanding of the world of childhood, Shel Silverstein offered valuable life lessons to children that warmed the hearts of adults as well. In The Missing Piece, a circle with a missing piece from it travels on and on looking for its missing piece. But when the circle finally finds its missing part, it feels sad rather than fulfilled, and realizes that it enjoyed the search for its missing piece more than when that search was over. The book was an instant success for around the world, so much that Silverstein published a sequel, The Missing Piece Meets the Big O.  Available signed in its first edition, The Missing Piece Meets the Big O tells the story of the missing piece waiting for someone to come along and take it somewhere, and instead finds solace in its relationship with the Big O.

Shel Silverstein lost his first wife and only daughter separately to illness. Yet despite his own misfortunes, he was able to spread love, silliness, and adventure through his writing. You can honor the rare gift that was Shel Silverstein’s legacy by purchasing any of the signed first editions of Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Giraffe and a Half, and The Missing Piece Meets the Big O.

Benoit B. Mandelbrot, Mathematician And Passionate Author

April 4th, 2015

Benoit B. Mandelbrot Rare BooksBenoit B. Mandelbrot was a mathematician who would completely change the way biologists view nature, the way financial advisors see patterns in markets, and eventually, the way computer animators design lively scenes in Pixar movies. But before his famous discovery of the Mandelbrot set in 1979, outlined in Fractals: Form, Chance, and Dimension, the mathematician was known for more or less shooting in the dark:

According to mathematics scientist Stephen Wolfram, the book was a ‘breakthrough’ for Mandelbrot, who until then would typically ‘apply fairly straightforward mathematics… to areas that had barely seen the light of serious mathematics before.’

So how did the “wandering scientist” become the “father of fractals”? Well, to start, Mandelbrot owed part of his success as a mathematician (and his life) to his parents, who emigrated with their son from Poland before the start of World War II. In Paris, at age 11, Mandelbrot was helped by Rabbi David Feuerwerker to continue his studies during a risky time. In one of his memoirs, Mandelbrot writes:

Our constant fear was that a sufficiently determined foe might report us to an authority and we would be sent to our deaths. This happened to a close friend from Paris, Zina Morhange, a physician in a nearby county seat. Simply to eliminate the competition, another physician denounced her… We escaped this fate. Who knows why?

Mandelbrot went on to achieve his masters in aeronautics at California Institute of Technology and his PhD degree in Mathematical Studies at the University of Paris.

Before coining the term “fractal,” Mandelbrot developed the “theory of roughness.” He began to examine “roughness” in the shapes of mountains, coastlines, and river basins, as well as the structures of plants, blood vessels, and lungs; and even in the clustering of galaxies. He felt that the very root of Geometry’s definition promised the truthful measurement of the untamed Earth. When Mandelbrot wrote The Fractal Geometry of Nature, a few of the mathematical objects he discussed had already been presented by past mathematicians. But unlike in Mandelbrot’s work, those objects were studied only as isolated curiosities with natural properties.

The Fractal of Geometry by Benoit Mandelbrot, Rare and Signed

The Fractal Geometry of Nature by Benoit Mandelbrot, Rare and Signed

The Fractal Geometry of Nature is praised for the author’s informal, yet passionate style of explaining his ideas, often with many illustrations. In his book, Mandelbrot writes, “Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line.” Mandelbrot’s language made his work attractive to those who were not specialists in his field. And later, the Mandelbrot set would improve the lives and work of those outside of his field as well, including financial and computer experts. As described on the website:

In The (Mis)Behavior of Markets, Mandelbrot joins with science journalist and former Wall Street Journal editor Richard L. Hudson to reveal what a fractal view of the world of finance looks like. The result is a revolutionary reevaluation of the standard tools and models of modern financial theory. Markets, we learn, are far riskier are far riskier than we have wanted to believe. From the gyrations of IBM’s stock price and the Dow, to cotton trading, and the dollar-Euro exchange rate– Mandelbrot shows that the world of finance can understand in more accurate, and volatile, terms than the tired theories of yesteryear.

The ability to simplify the complex has made Mandelbrot one of the century’s moth influential mathematicians. With The (Mis)Behavior of Markets, he puts the tools of higher mathematics into the hands of every person involved with markets, from financial to economists to 401(k) holders.

Mandelbrot was considered a maverick in the math, science, financial, and parts of the tech community. Other rare works of his include Computer Experiments with Fractional Gaussian Noises, Parts 1, 2, and 3 and Extended Abstracts: Fractal Aspects of Materials.

Influential and Innovative Writings by David Foster Wallace

March 30th, 2015

David Foster Wallace Essayist Novelist Rare BooksDavid Foster Wallace was born in Ithaca, New York in February of 1962 to parents Sally Foster and James Wallace. He spent his early childhood and adolescent years in Illinois and was regionally ranked as a junior tennis player in his teens. Wallace’s parents were both professors and when it came time to go to college, David attended his father’s alma mater, Amherst College, majoring in English and Philosophy. At college, Wallace took part in a slew of extra-curricular activities and was even known for having a nice singing voice. He went onto graduate summa cum laude, while his thesis in Philosophy won the Gail Kennedy Memorial Prize. His other honors thesis, for English, went on to be his first published book, The Broom of the System.

“There is no hatred in my love for you, only a sadness I feel all the more strongly for my inability to explain or describe it.” David Foster Wallace writes these words in The Broom of the System, his thesis turned novel about a 24-year-old woman’s life crises as a telephone switchboard operator. The author was also 24 when he published the book and at one point revealed in an interview that the story was semi-autobiographical, stemming from his experience of a mid-life crisis as he switched from math as a focus to literature and fiction. The New York Times describes the novel as “Daring, hilarious… a zany picaresque adventure of contemporary America run amok.”

The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace Rare First Edition Signed

Signed First Edition of The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace

The author tackles a similar existential crisis in his book, Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity:

Wallace and infinity: wonderful pairing! This is the most exquisitely (and hilariously) original science writing. Wallace embraces the incompatibility of mathematics and prose and makes art from it. And it’s a great story too. (James Gleick)

In Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity, the author compares the Mentally Ill Mathematician to the Mad Scientist and Tortured Artist archetypes. As many writers do, Wallace suffered his own mental and emotional ailments throughout his life. After David Foster Wallace’s suicide at age 46 in 2008, his father revealed that he had been struggling with depression for at least 20 years.

As a novelist and essayist, David Foster Wallace was known for his humor, intelligence, and unconventional style of letting a story unfold. In the transcripts of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, he tackles the raw topic of unconventional sexuality. The book won him the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, awarded to him by the editors of The Paris Review in the late 90s. Throughout the years leading up to 2009, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men has been adapted on the stage and in film, the latter starring Julianne Nicholson as Sara, the interviewer.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace Rare Signed First Edition

Signed First Edition of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace

Girl with Curious Hair, another beloved collection of Wallace’s, includes non-related short stories about various quirky characters grappling with modern-day struggles of the 1990s. Though the characters are meant to be fictional, many of them are based on real people, including Lyndon Johnson, David Letterman, and Alex Trebek. The collection altogether is said to be a work of metafiction and postmodernism, and is popular for its many contemporary topics such as drugs, punk rock, sex and sexuality, the media, politics, religion, and fame obsession.

Other available first edition works by David Foster Wallace include: Consider the Lobster: and Other Essays; Prize Stories 1989: The O. Henry Awards; The Missouri Review: Signifying Rappers, Volume XIII, Number 2, and McCain’s Promise: Aboard the Straight Talk Express with John McCain and a Whole Bunch of Actual Reporters, Thinking About Hope.

The Award-Winning Novels and Short Stories of Bernard Malamud

March 19th, 2015

Bernard Malamud Rare BooksBernard Malamud’s story began like many self-made persons in America during his era, as a child born to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Malamud came of age during the start of the Great Depression and attended Erasmus Hall High School, a popular public high school at the time while Brooklyn’s population was rapidly growing. It was in high school that young Bernard fell in love with film, particularly the comedies of Charlie Chaplin, and enjoyed relating various plots to his school friends.

As an ambitious high school graduate, Malamud worked for a year as a teacher-in-training, and then attended the City College of New York on a government loan. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1936 and a Masters degree from Columbia University in 1942 after writing a thesis on Thomas Hardy, a personal inspiration of his. Despite being raised Jewish, Malamud identified as an agnostic humanist. His work in writing carried similar themes as Thomas Hardy, though set in a different time period. While themes in Hardy’s novels involved the struggles between social classes living in Victorian England, Malamud focused on social issues of his day, including the conflict between bourgeois and artistic values.

Philip Roth once described Bernard Malamud as “a man of stern morality, [driven by] the need to consider long and seriously every demand of an overtaxed, overtaxing conscience torturously exacerbated by the pathos of human need unabated.”

The Natural by Bernard Malamud Signed Rare First Edition

Signed First Edition of The Natural by Bernard Malamud

Malamud’s writing career took off slowly, as he was often the harshest critic of his own work. He wrote his first novel in 1948, titled The Light Sleeper, but later burned the entire manuscript. Thus his first published novel came four years later, in 1952, and is remembered today as his most symbolic work. The Natural was based off the bizarre shooting and eventual comeback of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball player, Eddie Waitkus. The novel tells the story of a fictional baseball player, Roy Hobbs, who is considered a baseball prodigy playing for the made-up team, the New York Knights. After Hobbs is shot, his health suffers even as he returns to play baseball and in the end is faced with a difficult decision of whether or not to throw the game for a substantial bribe. Available in its signed, first edition copy, The Natural is modeled off the story of The Fisher King, where Roy Hobbs plays the role of the flawed but heroic knight.

The Fixer, a fictional novel that channeled deeper into the author’s familial roots, tells the tale of a Jewish handyman wrongfully imprisoned during the anti-Semitic regime of tsarist Russia. First published in 1966, the book was praised for its fashionable prose. Elizabeth Harding wrote in Vogue that the novel is “[b]rilliant and harrowing… Historical reality combined with fictional skill and beauty of a high order make [it] a novel of startling importance.” Available in its signed, first edition, The Fixer won both the National Book Award for Fiction and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  

The Magic Barrel by Bernard Malamud Inscribed Rare First Edition

Inscribed First Edition of The Magic Barrel by Bernard Malamud

Malamud’s other award-winning book, The Magic Barrel, was his first collection of short stories. Most of the collection’s stories depict the search for hope and meaning in various desperately poor urban settings. Several of the stories involve the cooperation of two antagonists, whether it is a landlord and tenant or a matchmaker and daughter, learning from each other’s anguish. Famous stories within the collection include “The Last Mohican,” “Angel Levine,” “The First Seven Years,” and “The Mourners.” Available in its inscribed, first edition, The Magic Barrel went on to win the National Book Award.

The Prize-Winning Literature of V.S. Naipaul

March 11th, 2015

V.S. Naipaul Rare BooksSir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, also known as V.S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad in the early 1930s. Naipaul’s father had emigrated from India with his grandparents in the 1880s, who sought work as indentured servants in Trinidad’s sugar plantations. Three years before Naipaul’s birth, his father began contributing to the Trinidad Guardian as an English-language journalist and joined the staff as Chaguanas correspondent in 1932, the year of Naipaul’s birth.  Naipaul’s father’s work and reverence for writers became the spark for his own aspirations as a writer later in life. When he was only 7 years old, Naipaul’s family moved to England and Naipaul himself would later enroll in Oxford for higher education.

In 1954, V.S. Naipaul moved to London and began his career as a presenter on a BBC weekly program called Caribbean Voices. During his time there, he wrote “Bogart,” his first story of Miguel Street that was inspired by a neighbor he knew as a child in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Feeling inspired, Naipaul finished the collection of stories that became Miguel Street in only five weeks. Though the stories were received well by many, his publisher Andre Deutsch, who also published books by famous authors such as Jack Kerouac and Philip Roth, did not think Miguel Street would be profitable for Naipaul, who was still unknown as an author. Deustch encouraged the writer to create a novel, and without enthusiasm Naipaul quickly wrote The Mystic Masseur in 1955. The novel is about a frustrated India-born writer living in an idealized colonial Trinidad, where cultural accomplishment is at the forefront of society. The writer rises from his impoverished background to become a successful politician due to his mystic talent to cure illnesses.

After completing the novel, Naipaul went home to Trinidad for two months, staying with his family. He came back with plans for writing The Suffrage of Elvira, described as a comic novella with slapstick humor surrounding a local election in Trinidad, creating a satire of the democratic process. After the book was published, Naipaul would hand-write his reviews to his mother in Trinidad. One by the New Yorker wrote, “V.S. Naipaul is a young writer who contrives to blend Oxford wit with home-grown rambunctiousness and not to do harm to either.” The New York Review of Books would later review The Suffrage of Elvira in 2001 and describe Naipaul as “ a master of modern English prose.”

V.S. Naipaul Rare First Edition The Mystic Masseur

First Edition of The Mystic Masseur by V.S. Naipaul, Signed

Meanwhile, with the help of his publisher Andre Deutsch, Naipaul’s collection of stories Miguel Street went on to win the Somerset Maugham Award, while his novel The Mystic Masseur was awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.

In early 1962, Naipaul made his first visit to the land of his ancestors, India. During his time there, the author for the first time felt faceless, unable to identify with a special ethnic group as he had in England and Trinidad. He was also distraught by the evasive Indian attitude toward poverty and suffering. When Naipaul wrote An Area of Darkness: An Experience of India, it was more of an effort to understand India than it was documentation of his time there. The New York Review of Books wrote about the book in 2001:

V.S. Naipaul An Area of Darkness Rare Signed First Edition

An Area of Darkness: An Experience of India by V.S. Naipaul, Signed

The world Naipaul sees is of course no void at all: it is a world dense with physical and social phenomena, brutally alive with the complications and contradictions of actual human endeavour… This world of Naipaul’s is in fact charged with what can only be described as a romantic view of reality, an almost unbearable tension between the idea and the physical fact…

Available in its first edition and signed by the author, An Area of Darkness: An Experience of India would go on to win the Booker Prize in 1971 and eventually the 2001 Nobel Prize in Literature. Other of Naipaul’s worldly novels and stories are available in their first edition, signed or inscribed by the author, including North of South: An African Journey, A Bend in the River, A House for Mr. Biswas, In A Free State, A Way In The World, and Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples.

The Satirical Works of Kurt Vonnegut

February 23rd, 2015

Kurt Vonnegut Rare BooksKurt Vonnegut was an author who found humorous and imaginative ways to write about disconcerting realities that face us every day, from the plagues of war to the looming presence of technology. In his first novel, Player Piano, Vonnegut brings the two themes together in the setting ten years after a third world war, a time in which most American workers are replaced by automated machines. Player Piano is filled with irony, allusions to Marxist theory, and fears of a future dystopia laid out by other science fiction novelists of the period.

I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center. (Player Piano, 1952)

Described as a pacifist intellectual, Kurt Vonnegut was well loved for exhibiting through satire, gallow humor, and science fiction his humanist beliefs and counterculture ideals that arose from his time spent as a prisoner of war in World War II. As a POW, Vonnegut was held in Dresden in a building the Germans referred to as, Schlachthof Fünf , which translates to “Slaughterhouse Five,” the title of Vonnegut’s most famous novel:

Slaughterhouse-Five, perhaps Vonnegut’s most powerful novel, presents two characters who can see beneath the surface to the tragic realities of human history but make no attempt to bring about change… The central event is the destruction of Dresden by bombs and fire storm – a catastrophe that Vonnegut himself witnessed as a prisoner of war.

Kurt Vonnegut did indeed witness the horrible attack on Dresden, the aftermath of which he described as “utter destruction” to a defenseless city. He survived the attack with other POWs because they were locked in the underground meat locker that was Slaughterhouse Five. After the destruction, he and other POWs were ordered by the German guards to break into basements and bomb shelters to gather bodies for a massive burial. Though Vonnegut explained, “There were too many corpses to bury. So instead the Germans sent in troops with flamethrowers. All these civilians’ remains were burned to ashes,” (Brinkley, Douglas. Rolling Stone, 2006).

Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse Five First Edition Rare Book

Slaughter House Five by Kurt Vonnegut, First Edition, Signed

Though the novel Slaughterhouse-Five­ is only semi-autobiographical, it brings to light many of the real tragedies prisoners of war and their families face during and after battle, tragedies actually lived by the author, in a style that engages readers in brilliantly poignant ways.

Kurt Vonnegut knows all the tricks of the writing game. So he has not even tried to describe the bombing. Instead he has written around it in a highly imaginative, often funny, nearly psychedelic story. The story is sandwiched between an autobiographical introduction and epilogue.

Kurt Vonnegut God Bless You Mr. Rosewater First Edition Rare Book

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut, First Edition, Signed

Though not autobiographical, Vonnegut’s novel God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater satirically remarks on social issues of the time. In the story, billionaire Eliot Rosewater, a name thought to be created out of those of T.S. Eliot, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Barry Goldwater, develops a social conscience and travels across America visiting poor populations of small towns before landing in Rosewater, Indiana. The book critiques majorly critiques the presence of money and the American Dream as a dehumanizing force in the country. His fifth novel and comic masterpiece, Conrad Aiken describes Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater as “a brilliantly funny satire on almost everything.”

Other available first edition, inscribed copies of Kurt Vonnegut’s works include his anthology, Tomorrow the Stars, his novels Hocus Pocus, Breakfast of Champions, The Sirens of Titan, and his collection of short masterpieces, Welcome to the Monkey House.

The Famous Works of James Joyce

February 10th, 2015

James Joyce Ulysses Rare Books

“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”

Those words were famously written by one of the most influential writers in the 20th century, James Joyce. The quote comes from Joyce’s work Ulysses, an epic novel that was originally published in parts throughout continuous issues of magazine The Little Review in 1918. The publication series was halted after the Nausicaä episode of Ulysses was published, due to the graphic sexual nature of one of the scenes. As everyone knows, Joyce’s novel follows the epic of the The Odyssey, and that particular scene parallels Homeric themes of marriage, girlish desires, and male satisfaction that occur when Odysseus washes up on the shore of Phaeacia, where Princess Nausicaä tends to his laundry and embraces him in other ways.

Though Ulysses remains a staple in literature from the modernist, avant-garde period, it was not the first, nor the last of Joyce’s greatest works. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man preceded the epic and was known as Joyce’s “coming-of-age” novel. Employing techniques such as stream-of-consciousness and interior monologue, Joyce takes us through the story of Stephen Dedalus as he grows throughout his childhood and adolescence into a highly self-conscious artist.

It is in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man that Joyce writes, “Art is the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an esthetic end.”

James Joyce Ulysses Rare First Edition

The Rare First Edition of Ulysses by James Joyce

James Joyce was born in Dublin in winter of 1882, into a lower-middle class family. His family was often burdened with financial struggles and his father’s addiction to alcohol; but despite this, young James Joyce was a brilliant student that excelled in his studies. Anyone who has read Joyce’s literature knows that it most often contains stories taking place in Dublin, with characters that contain many qualities with family members, friends, and acquaintances from his own life.

“For myself, I always write about Dublin,” said Joyce, shortly after publishing his epic novel Ulysses, “because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all cities of the world. In particular is contained the universal.”

James Joyce W B Yeats The Dublin Book of Irish Verse First Edition Rare Book

First Edition of The Dublin Book of Irish Verse, with 3 Early Poems by James Joyce

Some of Joyce’s most celebrated depictions of “the heart of Dublin” come from his collection of short stories, Dubliners, as well as much of his poetry. Edited by John Cooke, The Dublin Book of Irish Verse contains 3 of James Joyce’s early poems and a selection of pieces by W. B. Yeats, another famous Irish poet of the time period. Bound in its original green cloth, the first edition of The Dublin Book of Irish Verse is preserved in near fine condition with only the lightest of rubbing.

Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s Finest 20th Century Architect

January 30th, 2015

Frank Lloyd Wright architect rare books

Considered one of the greatest American architects of all time, Frank Lloyd Wright believed that structures should be designed in harmony with humanity and its environment. He coined this philosophy “organic architecture,”
and it would eventually become what distinguished his innovative work. The best example of this philosophy is the Fallingwater house he designed in 1935 and built partly over a waterfall in rural Pennsylvania. It is Wright’s most famous structure, and many still rate it as the best work of American architecture.

Frank Lloyd Wright was strongly opinionated and his work captured the attention of many during his lifetime. In an autographed letter that
he wrote to his friend and architectural critic, Lewis Mumford, he said:

The Guggenheim has asked me for a recommendation for the new work she wants to do and I gave my best – but wrote her what I thought of her thesis. You know what I must think about that.

Three years later, in 1943, Wright would accept the contract to build the Guggenheim under the wish of Hilla Rebay, the curator, to design “a temple of spirit, a monument!”

Frank Lloyd Wright An American Architecture First Edition Rare Book

Rare First Edition of An American Architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright

In 1926, Wright designed Graycliff, an estate on a high cliff overlooking Lake Erie, for Isabelle R. Martin and her husband, industrialist Darwin Martin. The estate was nearly demolished in 1997 by a developer who wished to build condominiums, but the public saved it from demise and it still exists today in its restored condition. Another framed rare letter sent to Isabelle R. Martin by Frank Lloyd Wright is available as well, printed with Graycliff’s address and written on Wright’s Taliesin letterhead.

You can learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright’s life work and philosophies by reading the inscribed first edition of his book, An American Architecture. Wright inscribes the book to his granddaughter, Anne Baxter, a well-known American actress. Frank maintained a loving relationship with his granddaughter throughout his life, as evidenced in a playful, rare letter to her in which he wrote that she ought to come see him and his wife in their new playhouse.

The Life and Works of Honoré de Balzac

January 27th, 2015

Honore de Balzac Complete Works

Known for his magnum opus, The Human Comedy, Honoré de Balzac was one of those natural born talents that constantly went against the mold. As a child, his headstrong personality caused him much frustration as he navigated his way through grammar school. Shortly after graduation, Balzac took an apprenticeship in a law office but soon deemed the whole study of law to be inhumane and commonplace, causing him to pursue other career paths.

Before establishing his legacy as a writer, Honoré de Balzac attempted become a businessman, publisher, printer, critic, and even politician. After failing at all other occupations, Balzac delved into reflection on his life’s frustrations and challenges, the end result of which was The Human Comedy.

One of the great novelists of all literature… Balzac’s genius consists of his dynamic, unflagging, creative vigour; his superabundant imagination… his masterly portrayal of passions and his grasp of such widely differing subjects.

In his early literary career, Balzac was known for collaborating with other writers over the course of writing nine novels and several short stories, all of which he published under pseudonyms. When the author finally had the idea to create an enormous series of books that would offer a wide spectrum of all aspects of society, it is said that he ran into his sister’s apartment shouting, “I am about to become a genius!”

Honoré de Balzac The Human Comedy Rare Complete Works

The Rare Works of Honore de Balzac, The Human Comedy

The Human Comedy was the first time Honoré de Balzac published under his actual name, and the total collection would become the lifetime achievement for which he was best known. Bound in full blue leather, the complete work consists of 91 finished stories, novels, and essays, and 46 unfinished works.

Balzac was inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy as he wrote The Human Comedy, but still wrote the work in the style of a realist novelist. As such, many other famous authors have based their own work off of The Human Comedy, some of which include Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Émile Zola, Karl Marx, and many more.

Honore de Balzac The Human Comedy Rare Works

The Human Comedy by Honoré de Balzac


Top 5 Rare Holiday Books

December 19th, 2014

1. The Christmas Books by Charles Dickens

First Edition set of Dickens' Christmas Books

First Edition set of Dickens’ Christmas Books

The only reason to shout “Bah! Humbug!” at this collection is when you’re trying to decide which book to read first! The entire first edition set of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Books include A Christmas Carol (first issue), The Chimes, The Battle of Life, Cricket on the Hearth, and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain. Generally considered the “Bible of Christmas,” A Christmas Carol tells the heartwarming story of bitter, penny-pinching Scrooge as he travels through time with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come, renewing his faith in the spirit of the holiday along the way. These famous novellas by Dickens make for a fantastic celebration of both the English language and the holiday season.

2. How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

First Edition of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr. Seuss

First Edition of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss

Another non-believer redeemed in the end, the Grinch is easily the best Christmas villain since Scrooge. Surprisingly, Theodore Seuss Geisel revealed that he wrote the book because he identified with its main character:

I was brushing my teeth on the morning of the 26th of last December [said Seuss] when I noted a very Grinch-ish countenance in the mirror. It was Seuss! So I wrote a story about my sour friend, the Grinch, to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost.

Who would have thought that the lively Dr. Seuss could be considered a Grinch? But we suppose all authors relate to their characters somehow. Choose a holiday book the whole family will treasure with the very rare first edition of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

3. A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz

First Edition of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" by Charles Shulz

First Edition of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by Charles Shulz

The best holiday books are those that we grew up reading, such is A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz. Similar to the anti-Christmas villains in the previously mentioned books, the story starts out with Charlie Brown in a not-so-joyful mood. Of course, we all relate to the holiday blues that Charlie feels in lieu of the over-commercialization of Christmas, and find our hearts warmed as the young boy’s friends come together to revive his little tree in the end. Signed by Charles Schulz, this very special first edition of A Charlie Brown Christmas is easily a top 5 pick for rare holiday books.

4. Poems by Clement C. Moore 

First Edition of "Poems" by Clement C. Moore

First Edition of “Poems” by Clement C. Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house

            Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

In the beautifully bound first edition of Poems by Clement C. Moore lies the famous holiday poem, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” This rare book was the first appearance of Moore’s poem, which was originally titled, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” The author originally wrote the poem in 1822 for his children, after a snowy winter’s day during which he went sleigh shopping. Moore did not claim authorship of the poem for over 20 years, and instead published it anonymously. Moore’s reason for this was that he was a professor and intellectual, and did not want the unscholarly poem attached to his name. Today, the famous poem is what Clement C. Moore is most remembered by, and it serves as a holiday classic for children and poetry lovers across the world.

5. A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas

First Edition of "A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas

First Edition of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas

One of the most popular works of acclaimed poet, Dylan Thomas, A Child’s Christmas in Wales evokes all of the emotional nostalgia many of us feel about experiencing Christmas as a child. The prose was originally written for BBC radio and recorded by Thomas in the early 1950s. Within the verses, Thomas describes a simpler time when the snow of the holidays seemed much brighter and more exciting. The story has since been adapted into theatrical, film, and animated versions. Inspiring laughter and idyllic memories of Christmas by all who know it, the first edition of book is a wonderful fit for our list of top 5 rare holiday books.