Thursday, December 24, 2009

Blizzard bullseye and a Visit from St. Nicholas (1857)

We find ourselves in the great White North on Christmas Eve with a potential to get 20+ inches of snow in the form of a blizzard with 50+ mph wind gusts possible today and tomorrow. I guess we'll be burning those extra yuletide logs to stay warm.

With the white Christmas on my mind, I next thought of my semi-early (1857) copy of 'A Visit From St. Nicholas' by Clement Clarke Moore - by way of Henry Livingston Jr. This copy from Harper's Magazine was one of the original versions that gave an illustrated anotomical figure to jolly old St. Nick. For those that know it by its newer title, it is known as 'The Night Before Christmas'. This single poem was largely responsible for the conception of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today, including his physical appearance, the night of his visit, his mode of transportation, the number and names of his reindeer (sans Rudolph), and the tradition that he brings toys to children. Prior to the poem, American ideas about St. Nicholas and other Christmastide visitors varied considerably. The poem has influenced ideas about St. Nicholas and Santa Claus beyond the United States to the rest of the English-speaking world and beyond. I know I will be pulling my copy off the shelf, and reading it to my 9 mo. old to begin a hopefully long and well-celebrated tradition.

From our house to yours, we at Northwest Press Books wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe's 'Tamerlane' auctioned - $662,500

Edgar Allan Poe's first publication 'Tamerlane and other Poems' was auctioned last Friday for a record $662,500 by Christie's Auction House. Wow. One of 12 known copies in existance, a worn and stained one at that. But does it really matter?

Rare does not even express the scaracity of this work. The work is so rare that in some of the stories about the auction, a Christie's expert is quoted as referring to it as "the black tulip of U.S. literature." No more than 50 copies were printed in 1827; No copy was known until 1876, when one was found in the library of the British Museum, where it had been sent as part of a miscellaneous collection of American books in 1860 purchased from Henry Stevens of Vermont. A second copy was not found until 1890, in Boston.

The present copy was first discovered in 1926 or 1927, in the New York area, and is one of only a few copies that have been discovered outside of New England. It is one of a group of five or so copies which surfaced as a result of the popular article by Vincent Starrett, "Have You a Tamerlane in Your Attic," published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1925; and one of only seven surviving copies with both wrappers preserved... (most of this was taken from an NPR (gotta love em') article and the AP news release).

One of the biggest gripes I have spurred from this story came from news websurfing upon hearing of the auction. The gripe is most news agencies spelled his name wrong -throwing the 'e' instead of 'Allan'. The AP got it right - you could tell which news agencies actually proofread AP releases, as the header would read 'Edgar Allen Poe book sells for +$660,000', where the body (most likely swiped from the AP) spelled his name correctly throughout. Sad.

Time flies...

...when you have a baby. Hadley was born 3/18/09, and I am finally exhaling and getting back into the routine swing of things since her birth. Expect more posts in the coming days and months.

Also be sure to check out my ever-growing website,