Books and Maps

A big thanks to TBTP follower Maria W. for sending me the link to the wonderful video below from the British Library Learning series on Vimeo. What could be better than antiquarian books and maps together.

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Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

This wonderful volume is the 1934 Limited Editions Club re-issue of Erewhon by the English Novelist Samuel Butler, with a special introduction by Aldous Huxley, and illustrated with 10 color lithographs and reproductions of 30 line drawings by American artist Rockwell Kent. The edition of 1500 copies was hand-set in Garamond types and designed and printed by Elmer Adler at the Pynson Printers’ shop in New York. The binding is full silk, printed with a design by Rockwell Kent, and the edition is signed by the artist.

Erewhon, a Utopian narrative set in a fictional country and intended as a satire on Victorian British society, was originally published anonymously in 1872 by  Nicholas Trübner in London. It was quite popular in its day, went through many editions in the 20th century, although no one seems to be reading it these days.

I’ve long been a fan of Rockwell Kent the prolific illustrator of books, but he only illustrated two Limited Editions Club publications, Erewhon and Leaves of Grass in 1929. An avid voyager and adventurer, Kent’s illustrations for Erewhon were produced during a time when he lived above the Arctic Circle in the tiny fishing settlement of Illorsuit, Greenland.


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This Side of Paradise


Scribner has just issued a set of new,elegant editions of F.Scott Fitzgerald novels. The series of five “collectible” hardcover editions feature new dust jacket designs. The titles include The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night, The Beautiful and Damned, The Last Tycoon, and This Side of Paradise, which also happens to be celebrating its centennial this year. This Side of Paradise Fitzgerald’s first novel, written when he was only twenty-three. While not a financial success, the book did earn some positive reviews. Even H.L. Mencken called it the “best American novel that I have seen of late.” Still, The Great Gatsby, published five years later, is widely considered the author’s masterpiece. A  graphic novel adaptation of Gatsby is also being released, with an introduction by Blake Hazard, Fitzgerald’s great-granddaughter.

The publisher is celebrating the re-issues with a contest offering prizes that include a set of the new editions, original art work, and other Fitzgerald memorabilia. You can read all about the novels and enter the to win books right here.




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You have to see this place

Two years ago, former journalist David F. Gallagher launched a clever Kickstarter project that was recently completed and posted online. He solicited backers to designate a geographic location anywhere in the world by address or latitude/longitude and promised to send them a photograph that he had taken closest to the spot. The finished project resulted in a digital exhibition that you can view here. This seems like a great project for other photographers to emulate.

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The Misery of Manila Folders


Theodore Roethke

I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
Neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paper weight,
All the misery of manilla folders and mucilage,
Desolation in immaculate public places,
Lonely reception room, lavatory, switchboard,
The unalterable pathos of basin and pitcher,
Ritual of multigraph, paper-clip, comma,
Endless duplicaton of lives and objects.
And I have seen dust from the walls of institutions,
Finer than flour, alive, more dangerous than silica,
Sift, almost invisible, through long afternoons of tedium,
Dropping a fine film on nails and delicate eyebrows,
Glazing the pale hair, the duplicate grey standard faces.

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Magical Mystery Tour

Vanity Fair magazine commissioned the marvelous video below guaranteed to warm the heart of any Beatles fan. It’s a 12 minute tour around the world using Google Maps, highlighting locations mentioned in the Beatles lyrics, from Liverpool to the Black Mountain Hills of Dakota to Moscow. It may contain some cringe-worthy inaccuracies, but Beatles lovers won’t mind much.

The video starts out exactly where you would expect it to, in Liverpool with a tour of Penny Lane, Strawberry Field, and the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. It travels up to Scotland, down to London for a variety of locations, number one being Abbey Road studios.

It jets to India, where we get to see the remains of the ashram in Rishikesh, now lovingly adorned with all sorts of Beatles fan art, and over to America. All in all, the total miles on this Magical Mystery Tour add up to 25,510, and all using Google.

So, if you can overlook the geographical goofs, it’s a 12 minutes well spent.

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An American Tale

Jamaican-born author Claudia Rankine is the author of Citizen: An American Lyric. It was named one of the best books of the year in 2014 by numerous media outlets, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, National Public Radio, and Publisher’s Weekly. The book lays bare moments of racism that often surface in everyday encounters. It combines poetry with commentary, visual art, quotations from artists and critics, slogans, and scripts for films. In the video below, Rankine reads an excerpt from the powerful book-length poem.

Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, published by Graywolf Press in 2014, is the first work of poetry to become a New York Times bestseller for multiple weeks on the paperback nonfiction list. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry. It is a touchstone for talking candidly about racism. Through a series of vignettes, the book recounts everyday moments of racism.

To learn about using Citizen: An American Lyric check out this resource on the publisher’s website.


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How Books Have Helped

Washington D.C. is blessed with an abundance of excellent bookstores. One of my favorites has long been the wonderful Second Story Books in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Now they have partnered with the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress on a project to create a crowdsourced online archive on how books have helped people cope during these plague times. You can check it out and participate by visiting the Second Story Books website.



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A Declaration of Independence

Back in 1971 the computer was barely understood by the average person and the concept of an ebook didn’t yet exist, but when Michael Stern Hart, a technologist and futurist, was given access to the Xerox Sigma V mainframe at the University of Illinois that changed forever. Hart was inspired by a free printed copy of the Declaration of Independence he had recently picked-up and decided to type the text into the computer.

In an interview in 2002 he explained:

We were just coming up on the American Bicentennial and they put faux parchment historical documents in with the groceries. So, as I fumbled through my backpack for something to eat, I found the US Declaration of Independence and had a lightbulb moment.

Hart completed the groundbreaking project on July 4, 1971, and made the file available to other users of the computer network, with an annotation that it was free to use and distribute. This was the unintended beginning of the beloved  Project Gutenberg, the first project to make books freely available in digital format.

For the next two decades, Hart created nearly all of the Project Gutenberg ebooks himself. By 1993 there were just 100 books in the Project Gutenberg. Today the catalog offers over 50,000 titles, all input by volunteers and free to use. The first ebook in the world –  The Declaration of Independence – Project Gutenberg’s ebook #1,  is still available for download right now:

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Memorable Opening Lines

F Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ First Edition, published in 1925

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)

I lost an arm on my last trip home.
— Octavia Butler, Kindred (1979)

Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair.
— Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly (1977)

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.
— Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination.
— Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.
— Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.
— Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (1963)

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
— J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”; but that ain’t no matter.
— Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

Gabriel García Márquez. One Hundred Years of Solitude


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