Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Why Footwear is an Important Choice at Museums...

Three 17th-18th century Qing Dynasty vases, among the best-known artifacts at the Fitzwilliam Museum, were smashed into many very, very small pieces last Wednesday when a visitor tripped over his shoelace at the top of a staircase and fell against the table on which the vases have been sitting for the past 40 years. Fitzwilliam Museum officials said that the vases will be repaired. They did not say that in future all visitors will be issued a pair of loafers. Perhaps the Japanese practice of taking off one's shoes completely when entering a house would be a good idea, though not for those of us who usually walk around with holes in our socks...

Monday, January 30, 2006

Cat Naps

Pyewackett the Cataloging Cat takes a
well-deserved nap "on the job"

One more day to go in January, and then we only have four weeks to go 'till (almost) Spring! Can you tell I'm not a big fan of Winter? Sure, it can snow a lot in March, but it melts quickly and we rarely get those -10 days that you see in December, January and February. So, realizing that we are rapidly running out of Winter, we figured it was high time to get our Winter Catalog done and in the mail, and it will be going into the mail next week. If you want a copy and are not sure you're on our mailing list, just send us an email.

And after winter comes... Spring! Here at Foggygates we have room for a large vegetable and herb garden, so we've been signing up for seed catalogs and the first one just arrived, from a place called Horizon Herbs. They have not two or three or four, but a dozen varities of sage -I love growing sage. Time to oil the rototiller...

Jimmy Carter -Cabinetmaker? Now you can own a 6-foot tall cabinet made from antique persimmon wood crafted by former President Jimmy Carter, up for bid as part of a benefit auction at the Carter Center. The auction ends February 4th.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

"The Sort of Books Fine People Pay Ten Guineas For"

It's a sad fact that many of the artists and designers of former centuries whom we admire today were not so well-received in their own time. And let's face it- many of them were curmudgeons, eccentrics, slightly batty, or just plain nasty individuals. One cannot say that any of those describes the Regency-era furniture designer Thomas Hope exactly, though the introduction to his 1807 "Hints on Household Furniture" was a politically-slanted polemic that strayed so far from the topic of furniture that some editors have not bothered to include it in their reprints of the important work. Still, Hope's designs exerted great influence on his fellow designers and he is widely credited with popularizing the Empire/Regency style in England.

Today I was transcribing an 1807 review of the book which appeared in an English periodical, and if the reviewer is any indication, some Englishmen were taken into this neo-classic future kicking and screaming.

He begins-

"What should we say of a young nobleman who has studied and travelled, and drawn and modelled, for many years, in order to acquire and describe a collection of classical wigs, spencers, boots and pantaloons? And what better are Mr. Hope’s stools, fire-screens, candlesticks, and dressing-glasses? There is in England, we believe, a pretty general contempt for those who are habitually and seriously occupied about such paltry and fantastical luxuries; and at such a moment as the present, we confess we are not a little proud of this Roman spirit, which leaves the study of those effeminate elegancies to slaves and foreigners, and holds it beneath the dignity of a free man to be eminently skilled in the decoration of couches and the mounting of chandeliers".

But then the reviewer stops beating around the bush and says what he really thinks of the book-

"We do not know that we have ever met with any thing, out of a newspaper, so exquisitely bombastic, pedantic, and trashy, as the composition of this colossal volume. The Introduction, which covers near twenty of these vast pages, is, upon the whole, the most elaborate and highly finished part of the volume; and really deserves some commemoration for the preeminence of its solemn foppery...As the great price of the volume puts it out of the reach of ordinary readers, we shall make a few extracts, -just to let them see what sort of books fine people pay ten guineas for".

My my.

We are going to be publishing an inexpensive chapbook reprint of this period review, which we're hoping furniture lovers will find interesting. Let us know if you are interested.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Mozart Music Sale

It's Mozart's birthday, and not just any birthday, but the Big 2-5-0. I was disappointed to see that no networks are showing the movie "Amadeus" tonight. Sure, it's bad history, but it's a good movie, and you'd think someone would be running it. We don't have any books on Mozart, but if you see anything on our Music, Theatre & Dance pages we will offer a 25% discount on them today through Sunday, to celebrate.

It also seems appropriate to take a moment to quote The Immortal Bard (Tom Leher)-

"It is a sobering thought to realize that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for eight years".

Thursday, January 26, 2006


It has been pointed out to me that I should explain the name "Foggygates". The town we live in (Hatfield, just north of Northampton) is in a big bend of the Connecticut River- if the trees and houses on Main Street were not there, you could see the river from our backyard, out across the farmer’s fields. I’ve often said we should name this place Foggygates because almost every morning the fog from the river comes in over the fields, through the patch of woods out back and into the yard. In the Summer it’s cool, but in the middle of the winter that chilly morning fog gets old pretty fast...

The silent winter fog steals in,
River’s breath, the color of gin;
Creeping, peeking,
Oozing, sneaking,
Stealing through the iron branches;
Icy water drip drip drip.

The barn was there,
And now it’s gone;
Smothered, swallowed, by the gauze.
Silvery, silken puffs just linger;
Cottony death,
with ice-cold fingers.

Now up above
The sun cracks through,
Shooting golden, molten hues
Cotton ghosts dissolve and flee,
Barn and tree and I are free
To see the last cold fingers die.

While overhead
the first hawks fly.

Still, even in the dead of Winter, which is where we are right now, there are signs of Spring. It has gotten dark noticeably later the past week or two, and outside the kitchen windows there are swelling buds on the Japanese maples. Can the 4th of July really be all that far away? I suppose it’s time to start planning the garden.

Fun things about bookselling

One of the things that makes being a bookseller fascinating is the unexpected links you find when cataloging books. I'm cataloging auction catalogs this week, for our next edition of "Going Once, Going Twice...", and with single-owner sales I usually Google the collector, if I don't already recognize the name, to see if there is any interesting information about them. Today I was cataloging the collection of Myron C. Taylor, a nice two-part sale of fantastic English and Continental furniture and accesories. I'd never heard of him (how fleeting, fame...). Turns out he was not only the Chairman and CEO of US Steel in the 1930s (hey, lots of high-rollers in industry had their collections auctioned), but he was also the American envoy to the Vatican from 1939 to 1950, during which time he apparently made an attempt to warn the Pope of what America knew about the Holocaust. Who knew...

I spent part of this afternoon a few miles from here at the Whately Antiquarian Book Center on Rte 5. They are having their twice-a-year Sale, where all the booksellers mark their books down 20-50%. If you are in the Northampton/Amherst area for the next week or so, it's worth checking out. The sale runs through next weekend.

This picture comes from our former digs in Cambridge, but Freckles still helps me with the cataloging on a daily basis. She is so helpful.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Well, welcome to this new venture for Joslin Hall Rare Books. We will be using this space to keep our friends and customers updated on what's going on on a daily basis, share some of the interesting stories of the book business that you might find interesting but that we don't have space to put into our catalogs, share news from the art & antiques world that you might have missed, and well... I dunno, we'll see how it goes.

We may even have a special sale or two, just for Foggygates readers.

Stay tuned!