Thursday, September 18, 2008

Another Museum Trip!

In a recent entry I wrote about the wonder and joy of the National Museum of American Illustration. While I do, indeed, love the American illustrators at the beginning of the 20th Century, my first love is for the British illustration art of the same period: Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham and Kay Nielsen.

There was a renewal of interest in fairies and fairy tales at this time, and the artwork that this interest spawned is unparalleled. Not to mention that the Western world was completely intrigued and influenced by the Far East, which had its own wonderful impact on the illustration that was created at this time.

In England, galleries were showing artwork by the Robinson brothers, Rackham, Dulac, etc… to accompany the lavish and sumptuously produced limited edition gift books such as Dulac’s Arabian Nights, Rackham’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens and one of the most popular and ardently sought after, Kay Nielsen’s East of the Sun West of the Moon. In Australia the popularity of Ida Rentoul Outhwaite and Harold Gaze were on the rise. In America, the Oz books were still popular and much great artistry was put into illustrating Baum’s tales.

Now, it is a rare occasion that one can go to a museum and see artwork by all of these people in one place. Fortunately for lovers of illustration and children’s books, there exists a wonderful place to visit, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst MA, on the campus of Hampshire College (which happens to by my alma mater).

Now through October 27th, there is an amazing exhibit which features the artwork of the artists mentioned above. Flights into Fantasy: The Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection of Children’s Illustration. The exhibit is not limited to British illustrators, however, nor strictly to fairies and fairy tale art, for this is also magnificent artwork by Ludwig Bemelmans and William Pene Du Bois, John R. Neill and Rose O’Neil. Margaret Tarrant and Hilda Cowham.

This exhibit was important for me because I learned about new artists that I had never known about, as well as books by illustrators with whom I am familiar but did not know the books.

Seeing the artwork in person is a completely different experience than seeing it in a book. No matter how good the reproduction of a particular piece is, there is still something lost, whether it be the rich colors or minute lines, or simply the difference in size between the plate and the original.

To learn more about the museum and the exhibit please visit the website:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Collecting Books in Hard Times

Gas prices being what they are, the housing slump, uncertainty of the future and the admittance that we are indeed in the midst of a recession, many people are cutting back on activities which are considered a luxury. Collecting books is a luxury; however, many collectors find creative ways to continue their collecting endeavors without having to file bankruptcy. Here are a few ways in which I (and others), am able to keep their collection growing despite the lack of extra expendable dollars.

Decrease spending in other areas:

While I don’t suggest going without meals just so one can buy a high spot, some collectors choose to decrease the number of times per month they would eat out, squirreling away the amount they would have spent on a dinner and putting it in a book fund. If one were to log every dollar they spend for a whole month, it will become apparent very quickly, where it is that they can cut costs. Few stops at big chain coffee retailers, fewer movies in the theater, buying clothes at Target rather than Bloomingdales (okay that was from my personal list), etc…

Go for the less expensive titles in your field of collecting:

When times are good, most collectors concentrate on tracking down those rare, and often expensive, titles, their Holy Grails, so to speak. When times are not so good, we suggest hunting down those titles which you’ve been overlooking because your eyes have been on the big prizes. Your collection will grow and you just might find some real gems that will give you just as much pleasure.

For instance, if you collect Caldecott Medal winners, you might want to consider seeking out the Honor books as well. Many of the honor books are as good (if not better, in some cases) than the Medal books and more often than not, they carry less weighty price tags.

We might also suggest going for more recent titles. For the most part, books published within the last twenty years won’t break the bank. And, buying them now might mean their value will increase in the future.


Concentrate on those high-spots and buy nothing else:

Like a lot of collectors, I tend to buy just about anything in my areas of interest that really appeals to me. But, when something irresistible comes along, I might not have the money required to purchase it. So another method which requires some will power and self control is really holding out for the best copy of the best book and foregoing those titles which have some interest to you but you may be able to find another copy. So save your money for those books that you absolutely, positively won’t find again anytime soon.

Installment plans:

Most booksellers realize that not everyone has unlimited funds with which to buy books. If you have a good relationship with one or more booksellers, it doesn’t hurt to ask if you can pay for a book over time. Of course, I wouldn’t suggest stretching out the process for more than six months, and even that’s a little long, but if you’re sure you can meet the monthly amount, it’s a good way to get a really choice book without having to use a high interest credit card.

Go to book fairs:

Yes, you will have to use gas to get there, but it just might be worth it in the long run. A book fair will usually have dealers from different regions and states, places that might not be on your regular path. Also, many of the booksellers who exhibit at book fairs don’t have open shops or offer appointments to view their stock, and some don’t list their stock online. It’s a great way to see books you might have never known about and form relationships with dealers that you might not have met otherwise. Not to mention that many dealers will often give better prices to customers they see in person. (However, it’s not always polite to ask for a discount, it’s usually best for a dealer to offer one unless you already have an established relationship. Also, when asking for a discount, be reasonable—asking for more than 10% is rather insulting). The stock at book fairs is generally fresh, being offered for sale for the first time by the dealers. Lastly, you will get to handle the books before purchasing them, and really that makes the experience of buying truly satisfying.

Go to every bookstore, even if they don’t specialize in your field of interest:

This is a good way to get good deals on books. For example: A few summers ago I was in Maine on a book-buying trip. While en route to another book store, I happened to see a shop specializing in Military books. While I do nothing with military books (unless they are military themed children’s books), I thought I’d give it a shot. It just happened that the owner had just bought an entire library of military books, and mixed in with it were about ten children’s books that he had to take as part of the collection. He didn’t have a customer for the books and they didn’t fit in with his specialization so he gave me a killer deal on the whole lot. So, don’t overlook any bookseller, they just might have something for you.

Be creative about it. If you love collecting and just can’t stop, you’ll be sure to find a way to do it. The above methods are a good place to start. If you have anecdotes or other methods, I’d love to hear about them!