Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Collecting Jorge Luis Borges at the University of Virginia

    Sat, 24 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Jorge Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1899. Borges spent many of his early years abroad in Geneva, Switzerland and later in Spain, where he became acquainted with Western literary trends and the shift into the period that we now describe as "modernism." He returned to Buenos Aires in the early 1920s and published his first book, Fervor de Buenos Aires, in 1923. Read More
  • Celebrating Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott

    Fri, 23 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    "for what else is there but books, books and the sea, verandahs and the pages of the sea, to write of the wind and the memory of wind-whipped hair in the sun, the colour of fire!" -- Derek Walcott,  Collected Poems 1948-1984   Caribbean writer and Nobel Prize winner, Derek Walcott, was born on January 23, 1930 in Castries, St. Lucia in the West Indies. His father died in his early 30s, leaving Walcott’s mother, a teacher and lover of the arts, to raise him, his twin brother, Rodrick, and their sister, Pamela. Read More
  • Arthur Miller: International Playwright

    Thu, 22 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1983, Arthur Miller directed his masterpiece, Death of a Salesman, for an audience in China. At the time - in the midst of the Cold War - Communist China was viewed by many as an opposite cultural pole to the capitalist America dramatized in Miller’s famous tragedy. As a result, bringing to life the Brooklyn of the 1940s for a Chinese audience in the 80s was a momentous task for the performers. But, Miller was deliberate in shifting the focus from matters of national and cultural identity. On the first day of rehearsal, Miller said, "the first thing I want Read More
  • Ian Fleming, Real-Life Secret Agent and World War II Commando

    Wed, 21 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Before he was Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels, he was Commander Fleming, an intelligence officer in the Royal Navy and right-hand man to Admiral John Godfrey, Director of British Naval Intelligence. As such, Fleming was responsible for the creation of what came to be known as Assault Unit 30 (AU 30), a top-secret British commando unit specifically formed to gather intelligence. Fleming proposed the concept of AU 30 to Admiral Godfrey in a March 10, 1942 memo titled, "Proposal for Naval Intelligence Commando Unit." Read More
  • The History and Techniques of Marbled Paper

    Tue, 20 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The art of marbling paper is very, very old. Unfortunately, like many historical facts involving paper, no one is exactly sure how old it is. Paper doesn't tolerate the ravages of time like stone or metal. However, historians agree that the technique of marbling has been making paper exceptionally beautiful since 10th century Japan. Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: The Abbey Library of St. Gall

    Mon, 19 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In its most basic form, a library is just a collection. Traditionally, it’s a collection of books, but these days, people have music or movie libraries. The collection acts as a storehouse of information. As much as we like to think of a library as an unchanging thing in a changing world, they are just as susceptible to the influences of politics, money, and time. The Abbey Library of Saint Gall is a perfect microcosm of history as fact and the progression of time. Read More
  • 17 Essential (and Authentic) Winnie-the-Pooh Quotes

    Sun, 18 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Today we celebrate the life of A. A. Milne, beloved author and creator of Winnie-the-Pooh. Although renowned as a novelist and playwright during his own lifetime, his children's stories--inspired by his son, Christopher Robin--have become Milne's enduring legacy. Illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard, his story collections Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928)--not to mention his poetry collections When We Were Very Young (1924) and Now We Are Six (1927)--have become indispensable children's classics.  Read More
  • Undercover Art: Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Clandestine in Chile

    Sat, 17 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The late, great Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014) is best known for his fiction, flowing prose, and use of magical realism.  His non-fiction, though somewhat lesser-known, is just as important to his memory.  Take for example Clandestine in Chile (1986) – written from an eighteen hour interview with filmmaker Miguel Littin, who sneaked back into Chile after exile to expose the realities of the Pinochet dictatorship. In García Márquez's hands, the already thrilling true story becomes both electrifying and fraught with meaning. Read More
  • Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father and Publisher

    Fri, 16 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Benjamin Franklin founded the ideal of the American polymath. He was a statesman through and through, performing roles as theorist, diplomat, and governor; he was an inventor and famously dabbled in the nascent science of electricity. But the portrait of Ben Franklin the publisher is frequently forgotten or understated. His press eventually became the most successful in the Colonies, printing everything from hardcover volumes to almanacs, newspapers, pamphlets, and even lottery tickets. Read More
  • Eight Decades of the Randolph Caldecott Medal

    Thu, 15 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    For sixteen years, the illustrators of children’s books were neglected during awards season. Since 1922, the Newbery Medal had been awarded yearly to a work of distinguished children’s writing, but no such equivalent existed for illustrations in picture books. Not, that is, until 1938, whereupon a veritable dark age in the recognition of great illustrators was extinguished with the inception of the Caldecott Medal. Read More
  • Case Studies in Collecting: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

    Wed, 14 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    How much do you know about Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame? It’s considered a seminal text of Gothic fiction, a style that’s often characterized by settings in looming castles with dark passageways, and general elements of the macabre or supernatural. Yet the Gothic isn’t a genre of literature unto itself, but rather a style that can make its way into various literary forms. For Hugo, the Gothic tradition provided him with a way to conjure the medieval period in France in the early 19th century. Given that the term "Gothic" initially referred to a mode of Read More
  • The Power of Language: Emile Zola and the Dreyfus Affair

    Tue, 13 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    "No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world," Robin Williams's character, Mr. Keating asserts in the film "Dead Poets Society." Mr. Keating could have used French writer Emile Zola and the letter he wrote to a Paris newspaper in January 1898 to illustrate his point. Simply titled "J'Accuse" ("I accuse!"), Zola's letter shone a light on the injustice and antisemitism of 19th century France. So powerful was the document that it ultimately led to the exoneration of an innocent man and the passing of a French law separating church and state. Read More
  • Albert Schweitzer's Nobel-Worthy Reverence for Life

    Mon, 12 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    It has been suggested that Alfred Nobel created the peace prize in his will to assuage his guilt at the destruction and harm caused by his own inventions (dynamite among them). It is perhaps fitting, then, that in 1952 the prize was awarded to a man whose medical work in an African mission transcended guilt about colonialism to yield a legacy of saved lives, as well as a globally-praised philosophy. Read More
  • The Global Appeal of Haruki Murakami

    Sun, 11 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Haruki Murakami is one of contemporary literature’s true international stars. American readers, not known for their fondness of translations, cannot get enough of the Japanese writer's work. One of his most recent books, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, was released in August 2014 and topped The New York Times bestseller list, selling one million copies in Japan alone. He is also immensely popular in his native Japan, and cannot jog in his suburban Tokyo neighborhood without being recognized, a distinction he has called burdensome.  Read More
  • Charles Perrault: French Aristocrat and... Mother Goose!

    Sat, 10 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    You might think you’ve never heard of Charles Perrault, a French aristocrat who lived 1628 to 1703, but you definitely know his work.  A little volume written for his children and published near the end of his life has dwarfed his other contributions to history and made him famous under another name: Mother Goose. Read More
  • Ten Interesting Facts About Jack London

    Fri, 09 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Jack London's characteristically raw, edgy writing influenced and inspired such literary giants as Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, George Orwell and Upton Sinclair. He was also one of the first writers to gain fame and wealth from his fiction. However, London's short life was one marked by poverty and struggle from beginning to end. Here are 10 interesting facts about this often abrasive American author: Read More
  • Rare Collection of Early Dust Jackets Available for Purchase

    Fri, 09 Jan 2015 01:52:00 Permalink
    Books Tell You Why is pleased to announce the upcoming offer of a significant collection of 19th-century books in dust jacket, featuring a number of scarce and rare items, including several one-of-a-kind copies. While subject to adjustment, preliminary estimates of the collection's value range from $300,000 to $500,000. The collection spans the 19th century, with a heavy concentration in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s. It includes fiction, biographies, travel journals and guides, natural history, and more. Read More
  • A Night with Teju Cole and Salman Rushdie

    Thu, 08 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In December, at The Symphony Space in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, professional actors dramatized the work of two famous authors. Before the performance, the writers personally introduced their work to the audience. These authors were Teju Cole, author of the 2011 PEN/Hemingway winner, Open City, and Salman Rushdie, writer of The Satanic Verses and the classic novel Midnight’s Children. Read More
  • Karel Čapek: Sci-fi Genius, Nazi Nemesis & Creator of the Word "Robot"

    Wed, 07 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    When recollecting writers who utilized the science fiction genre as a means for political and social commentary, Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, and Isaac Asimov often come to mind. But in the early part of the 20th century, a young writer named Karel Čapek also used sci-fi to expertly grapple with topics like totalitarianism and control, challenging the harsh Nazi rule in his native Eastern European homeland. Credited with inventing the term “robot,” Čapek’s life and work provide an interesting study for many reasons. Not only did he greatly influence the science fiction genre, but he also played an integral part in Read More
  • Re-Writing War: Famous Literature About Modern Warfare

    Tue, 06 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The twentieth century witnessed more than its fair share of war. Indeed, most of our conceptions of modern warfare began with World War I in the early twentieth century, and our views have grown and shifted with the onset of World War II, the violence that took place throughout the Cold War, and the most recent face of war in the Middle East. For many of the writers who chronicled wartime in the twentieth century, they did so with first-hand experience. What can literature tell us about modern warfare and the traumas that soldiers face at home and abroad? Read More
  • Caring for Handwritten Documents

    Mon, 05 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Handwritten documents belong to a special part of a branch of print-collecting called ephemera. The Ephemera Society of the United Kingdom defines such artifacts as "the minor transient documents of everyday life." Ephemera encompass everything from leaflets to tickets to trading cards. There is a particular challenge in the preservation of ephemera, as ephemera are not made to last beyond their brief application. This often means that the materials used are less durable than those of a typical book. Thus, there is a gleeful rebellion in the act of preserving ephemera. While the documents were intended to be discarded, as Read More
  • An Interview with NCBCC Winner Katya Soll

    Sun, 04 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Katya Soll is a doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas. She won first prize in the 2014 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest with her essay, "Dictatorship, Recovery, and Innovation: Contemporary Theater of the Southern Cone." She has amassed an impressive collection of playbooks, programs, and performance tickets that document her immersion into a remarkable theatrical culture. Her scholarship illuminates a quintessential example of how a people reckon with a difficult history through art and creativity. We were lucky enough to get the chance to interview her about her work and collection. Read More
  • 10 Surprising Facts about Umberto Eco: Comic Books, Crime, & Trumpets

    Sat, 03 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1980, at age 48, Umberto Eco made his debut as a novelist with The Name of the Rose (originally in Italian Il nome della rosa) and has been a literary and philosophical juggernaut ever since.  In addition to his impressive publishing rap sheet, Eco also had a successful academic career in the fields of literature, semiotics, medieval history, and quite a few others. Given that he curated a 2009 exhibition at the Louvre in Paris on the essential nature of lists, we honor this great thinker today with one of our own. Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: The Beinecke Library at Yale

    Fri, 02 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Many major universities maintain a special collections library, either for areas of department expertise or to preserve older books from overuse. However, not all of them are as beautiful as the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. Thanks to the iconic glass tower of books at the center of the Beinecke, the library is well-known around the world in pictures. It also has a fascinating history and a very noteworthy collection. Read More
  • A Brief History of Poetry

    Thu, 01 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Unlike other literary forms that we can date to precise texts and time periods, it’s a challenge to pinpoint the earliest work of poetry. In one form or another, poetry has been around for thousands of years. However, we might think of the epic poem as the first instance of poetry, appearing as early as the 20th century B.C. Jumping hundreds of years ahead, we might turn, then, to the sonnet form and its early appearance in the 13th century. Before moving into more modern poetic forms, it’s important to consider Restoration poetry of the 17th century and the satirical Read More
  • Top Ten Blog Posts of 2014

    Wed, 31 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    2014 was a great year for blogis librorum. We'd like to thank all of you who came along for the ride - we're so grateful for our loyal readership! Thanks to all of you who read, subscribed, and commented on our blog. Your participation reminds us of why we do what we do. In case you missed anything, we've compiled our ten most popular blog posts of 2014. Take a moment to explore our list, then tell us your favorite or what should have made the cut. Happy New Year! Read More
  • The Bloomsbury Group: Its Influence on the 20th Century and Beyond

    Tue, 30 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    What did a handful of writers, artists, critics, and an economist have in common at the beginning of the 20th century?  Living in a similar area of London, certainly. But it was a shared vision of life in all its creative, aesthetic, and intellectual glory that drew the Bloomsbury Group together.   The collective influence of the Bloomsbury Group in the artistic and literary communities of the era should not be downplayed.  Despite an oft-changing membership list and much political upheaval in the world around them, the group existed over several decades and still casts its shadow on us today. Read More
  • A Brief History of Serial Fiction

    Mon, 29 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    In Rob Reiner’s 1987 cult classic The Princess Bride (based on William Goldman's 1973 book of the same name), the story begins with a grandfather’s proclamation to his ailing grandson that “back in (his) day, television was called books.” While the old man’s dictum may be an overly bold one, it’s certainly true that books used to be a lot more like television. Indeed, the serialized format that modern television viewers have come to love-hate began nearly a century before the TV’s inception with the rise of serialized novels. Read More
  • The Challenge and Reward of Collecting Rudyard Kipling

    Sun, 28 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Upon receipt of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907, Rudyard Kipling was described as a “world-famous” author. Indeed, Kipling is rightly considered the author of the British Empire, expertly detailing the 19th and 20th century British imperial experience. His writing holds a significant place in the English Canon, both for its breadth as well as for its content, and limited editions of his short stories and poetry prove true treasures for the Kipling collector. Read More
  • Jerome Kern: Colossus of Musical Theater and Rare Books

    Sat, 27 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    American composer, Jerome Kern, was a colossus of twentieth century musical theater with a career spanning over forty years. His success in theater and film provided him the means to amass an equally remarkable rare books collection. Born in New York City on January 27, 1885, Kern was the composer of such iconic songs as, "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Long Ago (and Far Away)." An avid reader, Kern's love of books left its greatest mark on his career through the musical for which he is best known, Show Boat. An admirer of Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Edna Ferber, Read More
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