Welcome to our latest Fresh Sheet in 2014. This issue contains some unusual & interesting items from a few recent collections that include Nineteenth century literature; artist's books; books about books; and a few miscellaneous items. We continue to catalogue this material on a regular basis, so please don't forget that you can sign up for individual 'fresh sheets' in specific categories here. By doing so, you'll receive an email directly when we list new arrivals in your specific area of choice, almost always with an image or two.
All orders will be shipped within 24 hours, and can be shipped any way you require (FedEx, UPS, USPS, etc). As always, items will be extremely well-packed, and regular media mail shipping & insurance is free.
Thank you for looking, and best wishes,
Wessel & Lieberman Booksellers
View our latest Fresh Sheet
By Shakespeare's time the writing, printing, and selling of broadsides was so widespread that the Bard could satirize the custom in the character of Autolycus, the roguish ballad monger and petty thief in A Winter's Tale. Benedick, the "confirmed bachelor" in Much Ado About Nothing, swearing that he will never fall in love, authorizes his male friends to "pick out mine eyes with a ballad-maker's pen and hang me up at the door of a brothel-house," that is, to make him into a broadside, if he breaks his vow. After the abolition of the Star Chamber in 1641, when registering printed matter ceased to be closely scrutinized, broadsides spread like wildfire throughout England. By the beginning of the nineteenth century a virtual industry had sprung up around their creation and distribution.
The Seven Dials district of London, romanticized by John Gay in The Beggar's Opera, became home to the free-lance poets, job printers, and ballad-sellers engaged in the trade. Printers John Pitts and James Catnach competed for the surprisingly lucrative market for topical songs. After a particularly gruesome murder, the street poets would set the gory details to verse, the printers would rush the verse into print without much consideration for accuracy or layout, and the resulting broadsides would be issued by the thousands--and sometimes tens or even hundreds of thousands. According to the scholar Leslie Shepard, "A street hawker could live for four to six weeks off an important murder." Catnach once printed five hundred thousand copies of a ballad in eight days! Four or five million broadsides were sold annually in England's capital in the early 1800s.
Of course, the size and content of broadsides diverged widely from the original music lyrics and long strips. The Declaration of Independence is a broadside, as is the Mormon declaration of independence of the 1850s and the similar Irish declaration that started the Easter Rising in 1916. Their size ranges from postcard to poster. Following tradition, however, the content of modern broadsides still tends towards poetry and politics. The medium is well-suited to quick reading in a public place.
The revival of interest in fine press printing in the early twentieth century led to a broadside renaissance, reinforced by the political activism of the 1960s and beyond. Now galleries sponsor exhibitions of contemporary broadsides, prizes are offered in contests, and book artists have lent their expertise to further enhance the genre. It is now common to find recently printed broadsides with very sophisticated illustrations, innovative typography, handmade paper, mixed media, and literary texts. A single sheet that once sold for a penny now sometimes commands over a hundred dollars.
After five hundred years in existence, the broadside has gone upscale.
To browse our large selection of broadsides please click here
One of the most beautiful books ever printed, the so-called Kelmscott Chaucer, designed by Morris and illustrated by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones, runs to 556 pages 11 x 17 inches in size. The typeface and luxuriant page borders render the Middle English text virtually unreadable. Without crossing the boundary into the realm of artist's book, Morris's creation nevertheless achieves the enviable status of book as art.
How the press came to America is almost as interesting as the works printed on it. Fearing that the seven-foot-tall machine would be taken out of service and placed in a museum, the eminent American type designer Frederic Goudy bought it and had it shipped to New York in 1924. Thereafter, the press played a central role in the renaissance of fine printing in America.
From Goudy the Albion went to Spencer Kellogg, Jr., founder of the Aries Press. From 1932 to 1941 it was owned by Melbert B. Cary, director of the Continental Type Founders Association and proprietor of the Press of the Woolly Whale. On this press Cary fabricated one of the great hoaxes of the modern book business, The Missing Gutenberg Woodblocks, some of the illustrations of which were designed by Fritz Kredel, whom Cary had helped to escape from Nazi Germany.
In 1960 the fine press printing couple J. Ben and Elizabeth Lieberman acquired the machine, which they used in the operation of their Herity Press. To Americanize the British press the Liebermans had a small model of the Liberty Bell mounted on top. It was their son, a law professor at New York University, who offered the Albion for the most recent sale after he realized that it was too physically demanding for him to operate.
The winning bid at the December 6 auction--$233,000--came from the Rochester Institute of Technology's Cary Graphic Arts Collection, endowed by the same Melbert Cary who had bought the press eighty years earlier. And Goudy's hope that the press will remain in use will be fulfilled by the new owner, which offers an extensive program in printing technology and history. The Cary Collection also features many Kelmscott Press volumes, as well as the archives of the Press of the Woolly Whale. (Cary's extensive collection of playing cards went to the Beinecke Library at Yale, thanks to his widow, born Mary Flagler, a Standard Oil heiress.)
Unlike the Bay Psalm Book, which fell short of pre-auction estimates, Improved Albion #6551 brought far more than the predicted $150,000 to the seller. And also unlike the Bay Psalm Book, which will be displayed in a very expensive vitrine in some lucky library, the Albion will continue to serve the function for which it was intended: the back-breaking work of fine hand printing.
When I began my own academic study of Kerouac in the mid-1980s, I did it because I thought he was an interesting writer--perhaps not a novelist of the first rank, but someone worthy of serious scholarly attention. Like many other members of my generation, I had first read Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, LeRoi Jones and Lawrence Ferlinghetti in college in the late 1960s. I had no idea then or when I began my academic study whether interest in these writers would persist. In fact, as the field of "Beat Studies" took shape around the turn of the millennium, I became convinced that they were already passť.
A Poet's Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov
Hardcover. $44.95 Click here to order.