The Wonder Of the Computer

As I sit staring at my screen, it occurred to me how for granted I take the advent of the computer in my life. Up until the late 90s, I didn’t own a computer. I couldn’t type, still can’t, but I fake it. I don’t understand how a computer works, could never write whatever it … Read more

John Martin’s Book, The Child’s Magazine

Typical cover of a John Martin’s Book.

When I go through the piles of vintage children’s magazines I’ve collected over the years, one thing strikes me. Kids don’t read this kind of stuff anymore. They probably don’t read at all, but the historical and classic tilt to the John Martin’s Book, The Child’s Magazine, may be over the heads of most children today. I realize we are supposed to be more educated, technically advanced, better off than back in 1912 when this man began his publishing, but as far as what kids were expected to know, expected to learn, expected to memorize in the past, education has been dumbed down, or in nicer vocabulary, simplified.

Up until I just googled him, I knew very little about the man behind these extraordinary publications. I knew his real name wasn’t John Martin, although I could never imagine such an interesting one as Morgan van Roorbach Shepard. His life reads like an adventure story, or a tale from Dickens. He was born in Brooklyn, and  grew up on a plantation. Right here, the story seems implausible. For some reason, he decided to retain the last name of the either a ‘colony’ of people  named Martin, or bunches of birds–wiki doesn’t explain. Devastated by his mother’s death when he was nine, he was shunted off to boarding schools. According to wikipedia, he was often bullied, but considering the new popularity of that word, I have my doubts as to what that means. I also don’t know what, if anything, suffering in boarding school like most kids who attend, did to form his character. He told a tale of being a revolutionary in some South American country, was fired as a conductor on a San francisco  trolly car for giving free rides to children and specific adults, and began his own greeting card company in a building destroyed by the famous 1906 earthquake, in which he was injured. Supposedly it was during his convalescence he began writing stories and poems for children, which after several years became long illustrated letters to thousands of kids, and in 1912 became the magazine.

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“Salvaging” Prints From Books

Janet Laura Scott book illustration hopefully still intact in a book somewhere.

Lately, on etsy I’ve noticed a ridiculous amount of sellers of vintage materials claiming they are ‘salvaging” the beautiful plates from children’s and illustrated books and magazines. And I know that many pieces are in terrible condition, books falling apart, missing pages, written on, cracked boards, colored in black and white line drawings, scissored magazine pages . . .  There is definitely a certain percentage of books out there that can be torn asunder and sold for x amount of dollars. But the shear volume of these plates lead me to the conclusion that books etc., on the borderline or in perfectly fine condition, are being pulled apart just for the plates within. And that is an unacceptable practice. At least for me.

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The Old Book Shop

Sometimes the urge comes on me, and I desperately need to be among old volumes. The scent of fine aged paper, unopened boxes of new acquisitions, rows of superior bindings and dust jackets, ordinary reading copies that will be passed along to some other biblio, is essential to my mental health.  The spot I rush … Read more

When Is It OK To Remove Illustration Plates From Books?

If it were up to me, probably never. No, that’s not true, I’ve taken some Anne Anderson Mother Goose illustrations and framed them. The book was missing half of the other plates, and  already damaged. So, if the book is damaged, is it OK to remove plates? And how damaged is damaged enough? And once … Read more

A Need for Neon!

I have long wanted to have a neon sign created for my bookstore.  I envisioned a “moving sign” that would have glowing pages flipping in jerky stop motion, something unique and artistic to draw the eye to our store.  I called around to several neon sign designers, and my dream was promptly smashed to smithereens … Read more