Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Newberry Library Book Fair

It was a beautiful day today. The sun was shining, the temperature was, well, temperate, neither too hot nor too chilly. It was the sort of day when one should be outside playing. But, for many, including myself, the joys of perfect summer weather had to give way to the joys of the final, half-price, day of the annual Newberry Library Book Fair.

I fortified myself with a good breakfast, put a few cloth bags and a shopping cart in the car, along with the printed catalog of my collection (in order to avoid the danger of buying a book I already own, a happenstance that is not unknown!), and headed to the north side to join the line of anxious bibliophiles waiting for the doors to open. Now, it's not really necessary to get there 45 minutes before the start, but there is something rather cozy about hanging out in front of the Library with other readers, exchanging stories of great finds, commiserating with one another on the lack of bookshelf space, discussing the best strategies for book hunting, etc.

As is my custom, I headed first to Room 3, where one finds collectible books, as well as art, architecture, photography, Chicagoana and cookbooks. I made quite a haul there, with one book accounting for nearly one-third of what I bought in that room (you pay for books in that room separately).

54. It is Parodies on Walt Whitman, edited by Christopher Morley, and I found it as I was getting ready to check out. I picked it up, and started laughing right then and there! Some rather well-known names have pieces in this volume, including G.K. Chesterton and Ezra Pound. Quite a number are from British and British Commonwealth authors and journals such as Punch, which leads to poems about Oxford and punting and dons, and things like:


1. "To the Leaden Leaves they Turned"

Behold I am not one that troubles the Permanent Head or the
The regulations never apologize, neither do I apologize:
I find letters dropped on my desk and each one minuted by the
Chief Clerk,
And I leave them alone, knowing that if I do others will come and
go forever.
When the proofs and the figures were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams to add, divide, and
assemble them,
How soon unaccountably I became sick.
Behold I am one that goes out for a walk and smokes.


There are parodies that capture Whitman's homoeroticism, poems about opera and cricket and Joseph Smith and the Spanish-American War. Israel Zangwill is represented by A Song of Advertisements and John Reed (of Ten Days that Shook the World) has


Wash! Flung to the four winds of Manhatta,
I, Walt Whitman, see this.
The simple, democratic wash of my
camerados ---
Italianos, Muscovites, and even Americanos ---
Undershirts, underdrawers, kimonos, socks, bedclothes, pajamas;
PInk, red, green, of various tints, shades and colors;
Some with holes in them, some without holes in them;
Tattered, faded, patched, the Female's equally with the Male's I sing.

This is one funny book.

Okay, I got a bit carried away there! I meant to just list what I bought, but I couldn't resist telling more about that one.

I also found:

Jammin' at the Margins: jazz and the American cinema, by Krin Gabbard

The Journal of Major George Washington: An Account of His First Official Mission, Made as Emissary from the Governor of Virginia to the Commandant of the French Forces on the Ohio, Oct. 1753-Jan. 1754 (a facsimile)

The complete guide to Boston's Freedom Trail, which will come in handy on my trip there in August

Venice Botteghe: Antiques, Bijouterie, Coffee, Cakes, Carpet, Glass... A Handbook for the Self-Assured Shopper, which I hope will come in handy in the not-too-distant future!

Iain Pears' The Titian Committee

Shylock: a Legend and its Legacy

Fay Weldon's Letters to Alice on first reading Jane Austen

Reading Zen in the Rocks: the Japanese dry landscape garden

Talking Mysteries: conversations with Tony Hillerman (which includes a Jim Chee short story)

Unlawful Occasions, a Henry Cecil book that I don't already have!

Boccacio's The Elegy of Lady Fiammetta

The Story of Kormak, translated by William Morris and published by the William Morris Society, with plates of Morris' manuscript

The Narrowing Stream, by John Mortimer

Lincoln esteemed Washington, a collection of Lincoln's known references to the first President, by Edmond Meany

Women Chefs: a collection of portraits and recipes from California's culinary pioneers (including my sister!)

Smart collecting : acquisitions 1990-2004 : celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago (this is one of my favorite local museums)

The delightfully illustrated The zoo of Zeus: a handbook of mythological beasts and creatures, by Bernarda Bryson

John Betjeman's Ghastly Good Taste

Disbound and Dispersed: the Leaf Book considered, by Christopher de Hamel. This was a marvelous exhibition, and I was sad that I could not afford the exhibition catalogue. I could today!

Bella Chagall's First Encounter. This includes Burning Lights, which I already have, but has additional material.

Cynthia Saltzman's Portrait of Dr. Gachet: the story of a Van Gogh masterpiece

Culinary Herbs and Condiments, by Maud Grieve

The Art of the Cocktail: 100 classic cocktail recipes (which has gorgeous color photographs)

and last, but certainly not least, "Dear Julia--"; letters from Martha Freeman Esmond to her friend Julia Boyd, of New York, in the days--"When Chicago was young"

I also picked up a couple of books for my sisters: Zydeco, by Ben Sandmel with photographs by Rick Olivier, and Great Buildings of San Francisco: a Photographic Guide, by Robert C. Bernhardi. Both excellent books which I wouldn't mind having myself, should either turn out to be already owned by the intended recipient.

A good time was had by all.


  1. Quite a haul! Sounds fabulous, esp. the Walt Whitman parodies!

  2. Wow! It sounds like you had a great time. Enjoy all your books!

  3. this sounds like a great ! I was looking for an alternative online bookfair company in Virginia and was told during one of our library meetings Bookworm Central is the best when it comes to the services they offer. When I called to inquire, I was greeted warmly and had all of my questions answered by a well informed staff member. Setting up the online bookfair was easy and we had great success. I can’t wait to do my first onsite bookfair with them in the fall.