Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Rare Book Cafe: Owen Felix of Tipperary, Ireland

A extraordinary thing happened on a recent Saturday that demonstrates just how modern technology has brought the world a lot closer. Carrie Carnes of Old Tampa Book Company had been scheduled to be the special guest on Rare Book Cafe, the new Blab TV live streaming program about antiquarian books, hosted by Steven Eisenstein and co-hosted by Thorne Donnelley.

Unfortunately, Carrie's computer wouldn't cooperate and she was never able to join the program. However, as fate would have it, an extraordinary gentleman did join the program and proceeded to conduct an amazing guided tour of his home in Tipperary, Ireland. His name is Owen Felix O'Neill, and he is an authority on early English Bibles, the owner of a most unusual collection of rare books, pamphlets, historical documents, and original prints, and, apparently, a reluctant bookseller, who by his own admission refuses to part with 90 per cent of his collection.

Felix also is a consummate host, whose tour of his 200-year-old home on the Rare Book Cafe is pure delight for the book lover. You can watch a replay of the program above. As technical difficulties were the order of the day, Felix joined the program earlier but could not be heard until about 15:58. For a little more than 40 minutes after that, Felix narrated and bantered with Steven and Thorne as he showed such treasures as a William Tyndale New Testament of 1526, a Shakespeare first folio, and Christopher Columbus' personal copy of the 1488 Travels to the Orient by John Mandeville. It was mesmerizing, each new item more astounding than the previous one.

Felix is a well known and respected book dealer in Ireland and the UK, and was called in to appraise the library collection at All Hallows College in Dublin as the 172-year-old institution prepared to sell some of its holdings to forestall closing last year. Felix discovered that several volumes had gone missing as had a collection of letters Jackie Kennedy wrote over a 15-year period to a priest friend who served at the college. Felix discovered that the plundering of valuable books at the school had gone on for years.

Felix also showed his 1877 copies of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, Abraham Lincoln's 1861 speech when he won the presidential election, Thomas Jefferson's signed passport,  original hand-painted sketches from one of Capt. James Cook's tours of the Pacific Ocean in the 1760s and 1770s, and "the oldest bottle of Irish whiskey in the world."

What a delight! The visit was comfortable and most entertaining, and Felix promised to revisit Rare Book Cafe again. We can't wait.

Friday, September 25, 2015

SunLit Festival receives Best of the Bay Award

Michael Slicker and T. Allan Smith display Best of the Bay Award from Creative Loafing.
A new festival for book lovers launched last March in the week before the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair, and we were proud to be part of it. The first annual SunLit Festival began on Saturday, March 7 and culminated with the book fair the following weekend. It was fourteen events in nine days, all celebrating the written word.

On Wednesday this week, Creative Loafing, the magazine-style weekly newspaper that covers the arts, entertainment, dining, and politics in the Tampa Bay area, presented an award to SunLit Festival in its annual Best of the Bay Awards. SunLit Festival was proclaimed the Best New Fest for Bookworms, an entirely appropriate title certain to be worn with pride.

The first SunLit Festival featured such diverse activities as honoring the Poet Laureate of St. Petersburg, live literary combat, a tribute to the writing talents of Dave and Iola Brubeck, a focus on reading to infants, a celebration of the 100th anniversary of St. Petersburg's library, dramatic readings of local writers' works, a pub crawl with literature, an examination of how childhood reading shapes our lives, the opening night of the first season of the St. Petersburg Shakespeare Festival, a night hike in the woods with poetry, a celebration of Jack Kerouac, a Passover cookoff, word games with libations, and, of course, the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair.

It was the work of many individuals and organizations, who came together in the common cause of celebrating literature to produce an exciting series that drew attention to each of their efforts. It was a great surprise when Creative Loafing sent word that it was honoring SunLit Festival, and it was a great tribute to the efforts of so many people. It was all under the able guidance of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance.

The future of SunLit Festival looks very bright, indeed, with planning now under way for the second annual edition. The Florida Antiquarian Book Fair invites book lovers from all over to come to St. Petersburg for SunLit Festival and the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair.

Below: A recording of a live streaming session from the night of the Best of the Bay Awards. For live streaming about the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair and things to see and do in the Tampa Bay area during these events, follow @FLBookFairPhoto on Twitter and Periscope. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Rare Book Cafe: How Thorne became a book dealer

Here's the latest episode of Rare Book Cafe, the world's first and only Blab TV show about antiquarian books. It was broadcast live today on blab.im at 2:30 p.m. EDT. In it, bookseller Thorne Donnelley, who owns Liberty Books in West Palm Beach and is an exhibitor at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair, tells about his beginnings in the antiquarian book business.

This show has several new features, including a short segment with Edie Eisenstein, who loves miniature books and talks lovingly about them in this episode. Look for Edie to return as a regular feature in future episodes. Host Steven Eisenstein also introduced another new feature, Hidden Treasures, in which guests will be asked to discuss special volumes from their collections. Steve asks himself and others questions in another new feature called The Third Degree, an homage to the classic technique cops used to interrogate bad guys in old detective novels. Several visitors dropped in to ask questions about their own collections.

The Rare Book Cafe is sponsored by the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair and appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Check the Scheduled list in blab.com for times and dates. Subscribe to the program so you won't miss anything.

You can watch the replay of Rare Book Cafe above, or on blab.im if you want to see the comments from the audience shown in text on the side.

If you have thoughts or comments about Rare Book Cafe, please send an email. We'd love to hear from you.