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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and he is an authority on early English Bibles, the owner of a most unusual collection of rare books, pamphlets, historical documents, and original prints, and, apparently, a reluctant bookseller, who by his own admission refuses to part with 90 per cent of his collection.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.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Rare Book Cafe: Auto books for the grand prix?

Interesting discussion the other day on Rare Book Cafe. Everybody knows the Firestone Grand Prix will be two weeks earlier next year, coinciding with the weekend of the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. That, of course, will make securing hotel rooms a challenge. (Best to book your rooms early.)

But Thorne Donnelley, who by now is a regular guest on Rare Book Cafe, had another take on the race car event. The town will be full of automobile enthusiasts. Why not capitalize on that, was Thorne's reasoning. Booksellers ought to make sure they plenty of such books in their inventory.

We think that's a great idea, and we encourage booksellers to put automotive books, particularly those great big pretty coffee table books with gorgeous photography that will have you drooling over Lamborghinis and Ferraris, near the top of their priority list if they can.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Rare Book Cafe: People drop by with questions

This new platform indelicately called Blab is an interesting experiment. Because it's still in beta, many things are still being developed. Case in point: The text message feature that allows people who are not onscreen in this conversation platform to participate by sending comments to others watching as well as to those onscreen. If you haven't experienced it yet, go to Blab and search for Rare Book Cafe. Mark it on your calendar and plan to join us so you can get the full effect.

If you want to just sample it, there's an embedded version above in this entry. The drawback is that folks who are developing Blab haven't included the comments yet. There's just the video. This one has Miami Beach bookseller Steven Eisenstein, West Palm Beach bookseller Thorne Donnelley and me talking to various visitors, whom you can meet onscreen. However, there were other visitors who chose not to be onscreen. They made comments in the text message feature but since it's not included in the embedded version you can't see it here.

One way you can see the text message comments  in the replay is to log into Blab the navigate to Replays and search for Rare Book Cafe. What you'll find there is the closest thing to the live version, complete with comments. Unfortunately, the comments don't scroll in synch with the audio, so you have to guess what comments went with what conversation onscreen.

If this sounds like a lot of complaining, it isn't meant to. This is a pretty nifty free platform for us to carry on an ongoing conversation about antiquarian books and related materials, and we aim to make use of it every chance we get. We're grateful to the folks at Blab who have created it and continue to improve it.

An interesting thing happened with this, our second official episode of Rare Book Cafe. Some people dropped by unexpectedly with questions about antiquarian books. It was delightful, and interesting. It was just the thing we hoped would happen. Some said they were just randomly poking around Blab and happened our session. We think that's terrific! Our purpose here is to increase the knowledge and awareness of rare books, maps, prints, and related ephemera. We're glad people are interested.

If we impart some information that helps people develop a passion for this subject, that is, in our view, beneficial to the antiquarian book business in general.

So, if you're reading this, you probably have a similar passion (or you've wandered far, far away from our original objective online today). Either way, we hope you'll tune into Rare Book Cafe and we hope you'll tell others. Most of all, we hope you'll join in the conversation. Our next LIVE session is on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

TO GET ON BLAB: It's easy to sign onto Blab. It works best if you have a Twitter account. (In fact, we're not sure, but it might be the only way you can sign in now.) On your up-to-date Firefox browser or your Google Chrome browser, sign into Twitter. Using another tab, go to Blab and sign in using your Twitter account. Blab will bring in your Twitter profile information and you'll be set to go. Search for Rare Book Cafe and you'll find us, in a past session, in a current session (if it's the right time) or in a future session. If you find a future session, subscribe to it and you'll get notices about changes or more sessions. Right now, we're planning to be on Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. The  shows will last about an hour.
– T. Allan Smith,
official photographer and Internet guy,
Florida Antiquarian Book Fair 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Tampa Bay author's article features the book fair

Tampa Bay mystery writer Carol J. Perry’s article about this year’s Florida Antiquarian Book Fair just came out in Kings River Life Magazine. Evidently Carol spent her time at the book fair hunting down vintage mysteries, and found some remarkable ones for her effort.

Carol’s article reveals everything from a stack of 1960s Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines marked at $10 each to a 1936 first edition of Graham Greene’s This Gun For Hire at $3,000. There were numerous examples of mystery books priced between those two extremes with familiar names like John D. MacDonald, Ellery Queen, Raymond Chandler, Stephen King, and Franklin W. Dixon. She even tells of a Florida mystery by Alfred Payson Terhune, who was better known for his Lad, A Dog and other books about collies. The book: a 1929 first edition of The Secret of Sea-Dream House. Price: $400.

The article is vividly illustrated with a photograph of Sonny Ideker's alcove, which featured many beautiful leather-bound volumes, and with closeups of many of the books discussed.

Kings River Life Magazine is an online publication that covers the San Joaquin Valley in California. In addition to local features, the magazine also includes a mystery fiction section that highlights author interviews and short stories.

Carol J. Perry’s Witch City Mysteries, a juvenile mystery series, are published by Kensington Publishing Corp. Her books include Look Both Ways, Tails, You Lose, and Caught Dead Handed.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Rare Book Cafe: If you missed it LIVE, watch it now

On Wednesday, September 2, we launched the first live streaming session of Rare Book Cafe, our new community for discussion of antiquarian books, maps, prints, ephemera and more. It's an informal gathering and we were pleased that people could stop by and say hello.

Blab is a new platform, so new that it isn't really even fully developed yet. Clearly, though, it has a lot of advantage over other streaming platforms and we're delighted to have the opportunity to use it. One of the things we like about it, despite the glitches that you'll see as the video progresses, is that is really is accessible. It's pretty easy to use. That's why we think as people discover it, they'll want to use it.

A note about the glitches: Madlyn Blom appears upside down in the video. We do not know what the issue is that has caused that. We hope to find out and correct it. The Blab format does not allow the text comments to be included in the replay so we encourage you to see the live version if you can.

People who love antiquarian books are going to find a lot of value in visiting Rare Book Cafe. We hope you'll join us. Right now we're planning to have sessions on Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 2:30 p.m., following Steven Eisenstein's Buck on the Bookshelf, which is broadcast on wdbfradio.com from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Steven will be one of our hosts for the live Rare Book Cafe session.

Thank you to the participants today, Thorne Donnelley, owner of Liberty Books, LLC FABA in Palm Beach, Steven Eisenstein, owner of A-Book-A-Brac Books in Miami Beach, Libby Ware, owner of Toadlily Books in Atlanta and president of the Georgia Antiquarian Booksellers Association, and Madlyn Blom, owner of Old Bag Lady Books in Sun City Center, Florida.  Also, thank you to those who listened or watched from the sidelines. We appreciate your interest and support.

We're remaining flexible about when to schedule the live sessions. Of course, we'd appreciate your thoughts and ideas about Rare Book Cafe, what you'd like to see, when you'd like to see it, and who you'd like to talk to in the antiquarian book trade. Comment below or send an email to floridabookfair2@gmail.com.