Book of the Week — The Pit and the Pendulum


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Very suddenly there came back to my soul motion and sound — the tumultuous motion of the heart, and, in my ears, the sound of its beating. Then a pause in which all is blank. Then again sound, and motion, and touch — a tingling sensation pervading my frame. Then the mere consciousness of existence, without thought — a condition which lasted long. Then, very suddenly, thought, and shuddering terror, and earnest endeavor to comprehend my true state. Then a strong desire to lapse into insensibility. Then a rushing revival of soul and a successful effort to move.

The Pit and the Pendulum
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
New York: South Street Seaport Museum, 1991
PS2618 P5 1991

Wood engravings by John DePol. Edition of 150 copies, signed by the artist.



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“No single man makes history. History cannot be seen, just as one cannot see grass growing. Wars and revolutions, kings and Robespierres, are history’s organic agents, its yeast. But revolutions are made by fanatical men of action with one-track mind, geniuses in their ability to confine themselves to a limited field. They overturn the old order in a few hours or days, the whole upheaval takes a few weeks or at most years, but the fanatical spirit that inspired the upheavals is worshiped for decades thereafter, for centuries.” — Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago

Борис Пастернаk
Париж, 1959

Doctor Zhivago
Boris Pasternak
Paris: Société d’édition et d’ímpression mondiale, 1959
PG3476 P27 D6 1959b

Just because its not a “first edition” and just because its “only a paperback” doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a great story. We present the following case in point:

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960) was a Soviet Russian poet, novelist, and literary translator. In Russia, his first book of poems, My Sister, Life, is considered one of the most influential collections published in the Russian language. However, outside of Russia, Pasternak is best known for his 1957 novel, Doctor Zhivago. Critically depicting life between the Russian Revolution of 1905 and WWI, the manuscript was originally smuggled to Milan and published in 1957 by Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. The novel quickly rose to fame and by 1958 Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Although Pasternak was forced to decline the prize by the Soviet government, Doctor Zhivago continued to be mass-produced outside the Soviet Union and throughout the non-Communist world.

In April 2014, the United States Central Intelligence Agency released dozens of declassified documents confirming that it had covertly distributed thousands copies of the original Russian-language edition of Doctor Zhivago to Soviet tourists in Western Europe and also funded the publication of a miniature, lightweight paperback edition that could be easily mailed or concealed in a jacket pocket. The front cover and the binding identify the book in Russian; the back of the book states that it was printed in France.

~~Contributed by Lyuba Basin and Luise Poulton

Book of the Week — Queen Moo’s Talisman


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When grief shall rend thy heart, seek thine own soul;
Shut out life’s din, and find that sacred goal.

Queen Moo’s Talisman: The Fall of the Maya Empire
Alice Dixon Le Plongeon (1851-1910)
New York: Peter Eckler, Publisher, 1902
First edition

Alice Dixon Le Plongeon was an English photographer, amateur archaeologist, traveler, and author. She was the daughter of Henry Dixon, a copperplate printer and photographer.

She travelled with her husband, Augustus Le Plongeon, to Mexico in 1873. They were early excavators of the ancient Mayan sites of Chichén Itzá and Uxmal.

While studying the artifacts at Chichén Itzá, the Le Plongeon’s pieced together a narrative of Queen Moo (the Mayan word for “macaw”), an ancient Mayan ruler, and her brother and consort Prince Chaacmol (“powerful warrior”). In November 1875, they unearthed a large statue and other artifacts near the Platform of the Eagles and Jaguars at Chichén Itzá, including a piece of jadeite that Augustus had set in a gold brooch. Alice wore the talisman for the rest of her life.

A talisman I give thee — jadeite green,
‘Twill ever lend thee intuition keen,
Its wearer may with love herself surround,
For with attractive force it doth abound.
Would one deceive, and traitor prove to thee,
His mind with this thou wilt quite plainly see.
Thro’ centuries this talisman can bind
Two souls — desiring this, the way thou ‘lt find.
But keep it sacredly for thee alone;
If thou lose this a foe will seize thy throne.

Even though the archaeological community was not receptive to the Le Plongeons’ theories about Queen Moo, Alice publisher her epic poem. In the introduction, the author discusses the connections, linguistic and cultural, her husband, made between the Maya empire, Egypt, India, Buddha, Brahma, the Ramayana, the Mediterranean, Africa, Greece, Peru, Siam; and the maypole dance — practiced in the Yucatan and the British Isles.

Referring to the Troano Codex and the Codex Cortesianus, he connected the word “CAN,” “the generic word for serpent,” found inscribed in ancient Yucatan ruins with the Khans of Asiatic nations. Dr. Plongeon interpreted inscriptions in both manuscripts as the story of a great flood caused by an earthquake, submerging a “great island in the Atlantic ocean,” suggesting that the Troano Codex dates the disappearance of the island 8,060 years before the writing of the manuscript. “Judging from Egyptian records, the cataclysms must have occurred between ten and eleven thousand years ago.”

The publisher’s prospectus described the work as “a dramatic…account of events which caused the dismemberment of the Maya empire, according to Maya [manuscripts], mural inscriptions and frescos at Chichén in Yucatan. Interesting data are also given concerning ancient rites and religious ideas of the Mayas, their belief in the immortality of the soul, its reincarnation in human form, and its power to manifest, while disembodied, to those in the flesh.”

At the back of the book is included several songs with music, words by Alice Le Plongeon and accompaniment by Ida Simmons.

Rare Books copy is inscribed by John O. Viking, a correspondent of Alice Le Plongeon’s, on the front free flyleaf, “From/John O. Viking/Ishpeming, Mich./April 30th 08/To Sister Benediction/ 8/28, 1950.”

An autographed letter from the author to Viking dated June 22nd in the original mailing envelope and regarding the purchasing of copies of Queen Moo, some Mayan vocabulary, and a few printer’s errors in her book, A Dream of Atlantis, mounted on front pastedown; a typed letter signed by the author to John O. Viking dated May 6th, 1908 regarding the possible publication of A Dream of Atlantis in the magazine The Word also laid in at rear; typed letter signed by an associate of the Theosophical Publishing Company of New York dated August 25th, 1910 addressed to Viking and informing him of Alice Le Plongeon’s death in original mailing envelope affixed to the rear pastedown.

John Olof Viking (b. 1874) was a Swedish-born writer who settled in Michigan with his family in 1882. He worked as a staff writer for the American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal. His articles also appeared in other publications, including Cloverland Magazine and Daily Mining Journal.  

Frontispiece of the author with tissue guard captioned in red. Further illustrated with thirteen black-and-white numbered drawings and three headpieces. Title-page printed in red and black. Bound in publisher’s gray cloth lettered in gilt on front board and spine. Top edge gilt.

Book of the Week — Ligeia: A Libretto


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Long years have passed,
my memory is feeble
through much suffering…
I cannot now bring
the details to mind…

Yet echoes…

Ligeia: A Libretto
Robert Creeley (19267-2005)
New York City: Granary Books, 1996
PS3505 R43 L454 1996

Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “Ligeia,” originally published in American Museum, 1838. Robert Creeley completed this operatic translation in summer 1992. Poe’s narrative informs Creeley’s vocabulary, rhythms and rhetorical emphasis, producing a new and unique work. It first appeared in TO magazine, Summer 1995.

Illustrations by Alex Katz. Designed and printed letterpress by Philip Gallo at The Hermetic Press. Paper is Somerset Wove. Typefaces are Trump Mediaeval Roman, Italic and Semi Bold, with Felix Titling, Delphin I and II, and Serpentine Oblique for display. Worm and mirror-image created using Freehand, Illustrator, and Photoshop. Bound by Jill Jevne.

Edition of one hundred and thirty-five copies, the first thirty-five of which are press numbered and hors commerce. Rare Books copy is no.l 43, signed by the author and illustrator.

Out — out are the lights — out all!
And over each quivering form,
The curtain, a funeral pall,
Comes down with the rush of a storm,
And the angels, all pallid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy, “Man,”
and its hero the Conqueror Worm.

Like gold to airy thinness beat


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“Our two souls, therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.”
— John Donne, from “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”

John Donne: a fragment
Robin Price
Los Angeles: Robin Price, Publisher, 1993
N7433.4 P753 J6 1993

Letterpress from handset Deepdene italic and Garmond in copper and black. Fern illustration from polymer plate. Multi-color monoprint on Penshurst handmade paper from the Barcham Green mill, wrapped around two-ply museum board. Accordion-fold structure. Edition of thirty-five copies.

Book of the Week — Ada’s Echo


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“The valleys filled with silicon and I was forced to learn a new language. Now I speak in bits and bytes. Strings of zeros and ones. I navigate a new topography.” –Kelly Wellman

“Imagination…is that which penetrates into the unseen worlds around us, the worlds of Science. It is that which feels & discovers what is, the real which we see not, which exists not for our senses.” — Ada Lovelace in a letter to Charles Babbage

Ada’s Echo
Kelly Wellman
California: this is my body press, 2001
N7433.4 W448 A32 2001

Countess Ada Lovelace (1815–1852), a British mathematician and musician, was the first computer programmer. In 1833, Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron (who abandoned her as a child), befriended Charles Babbage (1791–1871), the designer of the Difference Engine, considered by many to be the first computer. Babbage died before completing the machine. The Difference Engine was designed to run on punch cards like those used at the time to run Jacquard looms.

Lovelace helped Babbage refine and direct his ideas, editing, footnoting and often correcting his work. Her writings are considered among the earliest texts on modern computer programming. Lovelace and Babbage carried on a lifelong correspondence. Babbage called her “The Enchantress of Numbers.” Lovelace’s friend, Florence Nightingale, explained her prowess in mathematics as “vitality of the brain.”

Pages are inkjet printed and composed of layered sheets. Translucent paper forms the top and main text page through which the secondary text and shadowy images are seen. By layering the pages, progress is depicted as a process of accrual, in which many hands and voices contribute over time.

The modified accordion binding was produced by weaving pages together through grommetted corners (at both the head and foot) with plastic paper strips. Pages are punched with different configurations of holes to recall punch cards. Plasticized paper over board covers are also punched.

Handwritten text excerpted from Ada Lovelace’s letters to Charles Babbage. Typewritten text by Kelly Whitman. Issued in handmade box. Rare Books copy is no. 7 in an open edition, signed by the author.

We recommend — Book as Archive & Enclosure


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“…the continued existence of these birds in the form of skins, specimens and eggs at museums worldwide is perhaps indicative of a human tendency to preserve remains rather than…to protect life. I also considered that both impulses are as much a part of contemporary endeavor as statistic gathering.”

Extinct Extant
Alicia Bailey
Aurora, CO: Ravenpress, 2013
N7433.4 B265 E98 2013

From the artist’s statement: “Photographs of birds digitally printed, envelopes are hand printed, labels and spine text laser etched. Book based on an enhanced accordion binding structure designed by Hedi Kyle.” Issued in a drop-spine box with paper title label attached to the top and colophon attached to the bottom inside. Envelopes are attached to an accordion spine, forming eight leaves. The first envelope contains the preface and bibliographic information. The remaining seven envelopes contain single folios printed with information about an extinct species of bird, with a photograph of a specimen of that species laid in. A cropped image of each species is collaged to the back of each envelope. The name of each species is laser etched to the spine and back side of each envelope. Each envelope is a repurposed commercial negative envelope. Edition of eighteen copies plus two artist’s proofs, signed and numbered by the artist. Rare Books copy is no. 13.

Book as Archive & Enclosure
Alicia Bailey

Cosponsored by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers and the Book Arts Program

October 26 & 27
Friday & Saturday, 10:00 – 5:00
Book Arts Studio, J. Willard Marriott Library

$185, register here

Alicia Bailey has developed various ways of adapting traditional binding and structures to create books designed to hold dimensional objects. In this workshop, participants create two books to showcase and house both dimensional objects and flat artifacts. With great flexibility at the spine and sturdy, rigid pages, these books work well when handled or displayed as traditional book forms or as sculptural objects. Bring personal images and artifacts to build enclosures that are sculptural narratives or archives of memory.

Alicia Bailey is a studio artist working across multiple disciplines. She has focused on book arts, box constructions and assemblage since the mid-nineties, producing artists’ books, sculptural books and limited-edition books that incorporate a broad range of methods and materials. She is particularly interested in box and bookworks that include elements beyond surface printed images and text; that move beyond traditional book forms and embrace presentation flexibility, innovative page folding tactics, rigid-page construction and use of alternative materials. Her work has been featured in dozens of solo and group exhibits throughout the world and is held in numerous public, private, and special collections. An archive of her work in the book arts is under development at Penrose Special Collections, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado.

Rare Books is pleased to support the Book Arts Program with its collections.

Animal Mineral vegetable Book #1
Alicia Bailey
Aurora, CO: A. Bailey, 2013
N7433.4 B22 A7 2013

Made with mica, copper foil, thread, tyvek with surface applied color, seed fluff, moths and butterflies.

Wildflower Identification
Alicia Bailey
Aurora, CO: Alicia Baileyu, 2013
N7433.4 B22 W5 2013

Texts from the handwritten notes of Ruth Wheeler. Photographs scanned from 1946 originals taken by Ruth Wheeler. Color reproductions from flower guide published in 1916 by Chester A. Reed.

— Photographs by Scott Beadles

Book of the Week — The Riding to Lithend


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We have laid low to earth a mighty chief:
We have laboured harder than on greater deeds,
And maybe won remembrance by the deeds
Of Gunnar when no deed of ours should live;
For this defence of his shall outlast kingdoms
And gather him fame till there are no more men.

The Riding to Lithend
Gordon Bottomley (1874-1948)
Flansham, Sussex: Pear Tree Press, 1909
First edition
PR6003 O67 R5 1909

Gordon Bottomley was influenced by Pre-Raphaelites such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Morris. Like Morris’s work, Bottomley’s draws on medieval sensibilities. His poetry is driven by a strong command of meter and atmospheric imagery. Like many of the Pre-Raphaelites, Bottomley was a pastoralist, anxious about the Industrial Revolution and the havoc it continued to wreak on the English environment and social equity. Bottomley was known for his verse plays, such as Midsummer Eve and The Riding to Lithend. While he enjoyed some success, his work, like that of many Georgian poets and artists, lost favor after the madness of The Great War. The world no longer swayed to the rhythm of a single heroic death.

James J. Guthrie (1874-1952), a Scotsman raised in London, and, like Bottomley, inspired by William Morris, founded Pear Tree Press in 1899 while he was living at Pear Tree Cottage in Ingrave, Essex, England. Guthrie moved the press to Shorne in Kent, then Harting in Sussex, before settling at Flansham, near Bognor Regis, Sussex in 1907. The first book issued by his Pear Tree Press was Some Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, 1901. Guthrie set type, printed and made drawings and wood engravings for the press. Guthrie made the drawings for The Riding to Lithen, but the book was printed by Arthur Knowles Sabin (1879-1959), also a poet. The same year he printed this book, Sabin took up a post as Keeper at the Victoria and Albert Museum and established his own press.

Presentation copy from Sybil Waller to “Mrs. Fowler.” Sybil Waller was the daughter of Pickford Waller (1849-1930), a bookplate artist and an illustrator for Pear Tree Press. Our copy has the bookplate of Alfred Fowler, author of a publication on bookplates. Fowler’s bookplate here does not appear to be one of Pickford Waller’s. Quarter tan linen over brown paper boards, printed paper label on front cover. Edition of one hundred and twenty copies.

Gentle Readers


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Open Book is moving to a new venue with a new look. University of Utah campus marketing says so. Our faithful followers will be moved seamlessly and effortlessly from our current home to our new home. Our IT angels say so.

Open Book is the first blog to be continually produced on behalf of the Marriott Library. Open Book began in a shy and quiet way as Rare Books News in April 2011. In August 2013 we gained the sponsorship of the library, which meant no more ads. Yay.

On Monday, October 1st, we officially join the Marriott Blog and its various constituents from throughout the library. Good company, indeed.

We will look like this.

Find more about Rare Books.

Explore Open Book archive.



Banned! — Ten Years of Uzbekistan


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“We started a purge of our books. Nanny carried out pail after pailful of ashes. We burnt Radek’s ‘Portraits and Pamphlets,’ Friedland and Slutsky’s ‘History of Western Europe,’ Bukharin’s ‘Political Economy.’ My mother implored me so anxiously to get rid of Kautsky’s ‘History of Modern Socialism’ as well, that I gave in. Day by day the ‘Index’ grew longer, and the scale of our auto-da-fe grander. In the end we even had to burn Stalin’s ‘On the Opposition.’ Under the new dispensation this too had become illegal.” — Evgenia Ginzburg, as quoted in Ten Years of Uzbekistan

Ten Years of Uzbekistan
Ken Campbell (b. 1939) and David King (b. 1943)
London: K. Campbell, 1994
N7433.4 C36 T45 1994 oversize

Artist’s statement: “‘Ten Years of Uzbekistan’ is a collaboration with the photographer David King. During research for his archive on Soviet Art, King discovered a copy of a book designed by Alexander Rodchenko, who had been driven to obliterate, with ink and paint, the names and faces of those in that book who had fallen from the favour of and been destroyed by Stalin. While writing the text King discovered their names and, where possible, their fates. Ten portraits, nine altered by Rodchenko and the tenth of Stalin as an endpaper to Rodchenko’s book, were enlarged and layered over each other in a process of mutual silencing. I surrounded each of the marred faces with a printed frame that reflected both the page margins and, I hoped, the frame of a Russian ikon. This framing device is echoed in the preserving of photographs of the beloved and the dead. The frames were made from thin zinc plate glued to wooden mounts. During the violence of the printing process the zinc started to buckle and shift. The buckling gave strange printing effects. The movement was stopped by firing staples from a gun into the zinc. This produced odd images from the staples: chromosomic; buglike; giving hints of the buttoning of the lip. The same frame, but well ordered, was used to surround the texts of the introduction.

This work stands as witness to the victims of censorship, and to the shame of self-censorship as a strategy of survival. In Russia it is said ‘here we die for it’; meaning poetry.

Printed by polychrome letterpress using woodletter numerals and Monotype Bodoni type. Bound in black cloth in a black cloth slipcase.”

Edition of forty-five copies.

Review: “We find our way into the book rather slowly. The first pages are all-but blank, dominated by rich colours (notably a beautiful, deep but somehow acidic purple), mottled and marbled with others, as if corroded or polluted, each page dominated by broad, flat frame, which simply emphasises the emptiness of what is surrounded; it’s a little like being confronted with a precious silver photo-frame, still testifying to the preciousness of an image which has long since faded into blankness. Even the title, when we eventually reach it, is hard to read, printed in almost the same colour as the background, and partially obliterated by dark rectangles, like the stickers sometimes used by censors; we can just read the impression, coming through from the next page, of the ominous phrase ‘Here we die for it’. As yet, we have no way of making sense of what is, in fact, a sardonic Russian comment on the dangers of poetry.

… Often, in the book, the obscured head is printed with a biographical note, detailing the individual’s accomplishments and fate; sometimes the sense of loss is compounded by the blankness of the entry ‘Exact Fate Unknown’. Sometimes we begin to suspect that the same head has appeared more then once, with different names. Karimov’s blacked-out face creates a black hole so profound that we feel almost anything could be projected onto it, and this begins to emerge as the dominant theme of the whole publication – the one photo has appeared as a symbol of all that is good, and then becomes the repository (with equal lack of justice) of all that is unforgivable.” — Charles Hall, Art Review, London, 1994