Austin Abbey Rare Books Booth mecca for Decorative Cloth and Victoriana Collectors at the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair 2017

I’ll have to admit, like many other booksellers, we were a little worried about the impact that the change of venue and change of date would have on the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair (WABF).  Changes of date at the New York International Book Fair caused a ripple effect down the east coast that would result in many fairs changing their dates, and some having to change their venues when new dates were not available at their usual venue.  This was the case for the WABF, which had for 40 years been at Rosslyn’s Holiday Inn convention facilities, and was moved to the ballroom of the historic landmark Sphinx Club on K Street in Washington DC — a wonderful Art Deco pastiche of Islamic architecture.  Although there were a few hiccups with the new venue, Beth Campbell, the show’s promoter, did a wonderful job dealing with any issues that arose, and got the show off to a smooth start.  Through her efforts, I think there were more visitors this year than there was last year.

Pfeiffer and wave

Our booth had great attendance, and I was able to discuss 19th C. and early 20th C. book arts to my heart’s content with the many collectors and librarians that stopped by.

I had a wonderful discussion with Bill Peterson, the author of The Beautiful Poster Lady: A Life of Ethel Reed, about art, Ethel Reed and the Kelmscott Chaucer:

Bill Peterson and Carzou

And a delightful discussion of 19th C. pirated book art with Marianna Marstell and Amanda Zimmerman of the Library of Congress‘ Rare Book Division:

With Loc

All in all, a fantastic show that I am looking forward to exhibiting at in 2018!

Behind the Headlines: Austin Abbey Rare Books’ Role in the Discovery of an Important Suffrage Archive

On March 29th, the New York Times announced in their online edition, the discovery of an important suffrage archive that includes letters and ephemera collected over the course of many years by Isabella Beecher Hooker, a little known and heretofore unsung hero of the early suffrage movement. The archive contains letters from Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone and many other suffrage luminaries in addition to rare manuscripts, signed suffrage petitions, pamphlets, newspapers, leaflets, circulars, flyers and broadsides.  Bob Seymour of The Colebrook Book Barn and myself  (Adrienne Horowitz Kitts of Austin Abbey Rare Books) sold the archive to The University of Rochester’s Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation on behalf of our clients, George and Libbie Merrow.  The University of Rochester’s article regarding the archive includes more detail.

Here is an image of me just after I had finished assembling the Isabella Beecher Hooker Archive in acid-free boxes, and was preparing for the trip with Bob to Rochester, NY to  present the archive to the University of Rochester last December:

AARB and IBH Archive

The New York  Times article and the subsequent  University of Rochester announcement was the culmination of over a year’s worth of work we put into the archive —  and it all started with a simple wooden crate.

After a call at the home of our clients, George and Libbie Merrow, Bob and I came away with books we had purchased and a slatted wooden crate crammed with a packed jumble of dirty paper our clients asked us to evaluate.

Since George Merrow’s family had founded the Merrow Sewing Machine Company, we initially thought that the box might contain company letters and records. I took the box home with me, and on a bright October morning, I found instead that the box contained American history.  As the papers in the box were all covered in thick dust and mouse droppings, I began by carefully dusting each and every piece of paper (a massive job since the box contained many hundreds of thickly stacked letters, newspapers, leaflets, etc.), and taking note of what each paper or letter contained.

About an hour and a half into my work, I picked up a letter with strong, bold handwriting, turned it over, and saw the signature: “Susan B. Anthony”.  I can’t really explain the thrill of being able to hold a letter that had been held more than a hundred years before by the great suffrage leader. This was a woman whose work ultimately allowed  me to follow two career paths that until not too long ago were pursued almost entirely by men — that of a research scientist and that of rare book dealer.

After sitting down and reading the letter thoroughly, I went back to dusting more letters and papers.  After a few more minutes I saw that strong handwriting again — and thought to myself, “No way, really?” I unfolded the letter, and again, Miss Anthony’s bold signature was affixed to the end of it.  Then I stopped dusting and just started looking for that now familiar hand, and quickly found four more letters!  Once my initial excitement of the find had calmed somewhat, I called Bob, my friend and collaborator, and then Paul, my husband.

After spending a year organizing, researching and documenting all the material, I had a 47 page catalog to show for my efforts.  All of my research lead to the conclusion that we had discovered an important suffrage archive that identified Isabella Beecher Hooker as a major force in the suffrage movement and a central point of communication between its many strong personalities. In addition, the archive shows in great detail  the techniques used by the early suffragists to forward their cause.  Many of these techniques would be passed down to another generation of suffragists who would later take the banner and ultimately win suffrage.

Once the research and cataloging was complete, Bob and I met with the Merrows and explained to them that we felt the archive should be kept as a whole since the value of the archive in its entirety both to themselves and to the history of the women’s movement was much greater than the sum of its parts.  The Merrows enthusiastically agreed, and we soon identified the University of Rochester’s Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation as a good home for the archive because of their rich suffrage resources, their existing Isabella Beecher Hooker archive, and their commitment to providing public access to their resources and promoting suffrage research.

2017 Book Fair Schedule

Visit Austin Abbey Rare Books at the following fairs during the spring and fall of 2017:

The 5th Annual Virginia Antiquarian Book Fair. The fair will be held on Friday, April 7 from 1pm to 7pm, and Saturday, April 8 from 9:30am to 2pm at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond Virginia.  See more details on the VABF Facebook Page. 

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The 42nd annual Washington Antiquarian Book Fair. The fair will be held on Friday, April 28th  from 4pm to 8pm, and Saturday, April 29th from  10am to 4pm at The Sphinx Club,  its new location in Downtown DC. Austin Abbey Rare Books will be in Booth #36.

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The 4th annual Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair. The fair will be held on Friday, September 8th between 5 and 9pm; Saturday, September 9th between 11am and 7pm; and Sunday September 10th between 11am and 5pm at the Brooklyn Expo Center.  We will post more information about the fair as it becomes available.

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The 6th annual Boston Book Print and Ephemera Fair. The Fair will be held Saturday, November 11, 2017 between 8am and 4pm at the Back Bay Events Center. We will post more information about the fair as it becomes available.

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2017 New York City Book and Ephemera Fair

Dear Friends,
Ah, Manhattan in the spring! Truly a wonderful place to be during New York City’s Rare Book Week while Austin Abbey Rare Books exhibited at the New York City Book and Ephemera Fair. I thoroughly enjoyed Eric Holzenburg’s fantastic exhibition at The Grolier Club, For Art’s Sake: The Aesthetic Movement in Print & Beyond, which explored the important role of print media in the development and spread of Aesthetic ideals in applied art — including book design. Although the exhibition closed on March 11th, you can still see gorgeous examples of books and decorative objects inspired by the Aesthetic Movement in the exhibition catalogue, a hard cover graced with a reproduction of Helena de Kay Gilder’s magnificent binding design for The New Day (1876).

Austin Abbey Rare Books spent most of Thursday, March 9th setting up for The New York City Book and Ephemera Fair. Our treat for a job well done was an evening visit to the opening of the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. We spent a lovely evening there visiting with friends and purchasing a book or two.  Early Friday, we were up with the dawn, so we could arrive at the fair well in time for the 8am opening, but it made for a long day, as the fair ran until 7pm.  Adrienne in booth

Adrienne Kitts, owner of Austin Abbey Rare Books, before the start of the New York City Book and Ephemera Fair

We were very fortunate to enjoy a central location at the fair, affording us some great neighbors, including Bob Seymour of the Colebrook Book Barn, who had a presentation copy of a Leon Trotsky book that sold even before I had a chance to take a look at it!  Our other close neighbor, John Leger, of Le Bookiniste, who like myself, has a fetish for the perfect copy, had a wonderfully artistic display of books ranging from art to espionage.  During the half hour before the fair started, a line began to form, and when 8am hit and the fair opened, there was an excited rush of collectors, ABAA dealers and international dealers into the fair.  The fair was pretty busy for most of the morning, and then settled into a steady stream of visitors during the afternoon.  We had a marvelous time chatting with our visitors about the publisher’s decorated cloth bindings and rare Americana we had on display —  a truly wonderful day.

2016 Book Fair Year in Review

Dear Friends,
It has been a whirlwind year for us here at Austin Abbey Rare Books. To start the 2016 book fair season we exhibited at the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair last March, followed by the Richmond Antiquarian Book Fair in April. Following a summer processing acquisitions, we started the fall book fair season at the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair in September.Photo of booth

Adrienne Kitts, owner of Austin Abbey Rare Books and her husband and partner, Paul at the Austin Abbey Rare Books booth during the 2016 Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair.

Our booth at Brooklyn received many favorable comments, including a lovely notice in the Fine Books & Collections Blog, where we  where we were mentioned as having an “outstanding visual display of decorated gilt bindings”.  A few weeks later we were at The Boston Book, Print and Ephemera Fair , a place where passion for decorative cloth in America runs strong thanks to the central role Boston institutions and publishing houses played in fostering book design during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  We finished out the year at the lovely and intimate Northampton Book and Book Arts Fair in Early December.

Austin Abbey Rare Books Featured on the WABF Blog

Beth Campbell, Chief Curator of the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair (WABF), asked me to write a blog about how I made the transition from collector to bookseller.  The blog is called “Making the Leap into Bookselling“. Writing this blog reminded me once again about how fortunate I am to be in this business – the wonderful camaraderie among booksellers, the excitement of the hunt, and the pleasure of researching new finds.

The book cover featured on my WABF blog post is the extremely scarce famed cover design of Helena de Kay Gilder for The New Day: A Poem in Songs and Sonnets by Richard Watson Gilder. New York: Scribner, Armstrong and Company, 1876.  Find other books from the Austin  Abbey Rare Books Aesthetic Movement collection on our website.