Saturday, March 31, 2007

Saturday Musings-

"Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything." -Charles Kuralt

"No one can have a higher opinion of him than I have, and I think he's a dirty little beast." -W.S. Gilbert

"If computers get too powerful, we can organize them into a committee-that will do them in." -anonymous

"Criminal: A person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation." -Howard Scott

"Stoop and you'll be stepped on; stand tall and you'll be shot at." -Carlos A. Urbizo

"You can fool too many of the people too much of the time." -Jameas Thurber

"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example." -Mark Twain

"Rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read." -Frank Zappa

"Nobody can be exactly like me. Even I have trouble doing it." -Tallulah Bankhead

"You can go a long way with a smile. You can go a lot farther with a smile and a gun." -Al Capone

"When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.'" -Theodore Roosevelt

"Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong." -Oscar Wilde

"Conscience is the inner voice that warns us that someone might be looking." -H.L. Mencken

"The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made." -Jean Giraudoux

"Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Bill Watterson

"Calamities are of two kinds: misfortunes to ourselves, and good fortune to others." -Ambrose Bierce

"When you go into court you are putting your fate into the hands of twelve people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty." -Norm Corbsy

"Cats are smarter than dogs. You can't get eight cats to pull a sled through snow." -anonymous

"Football is a mistake. It combines the two worst elements of American life. Violence and committee meetings." -George Will

Friday, March 30, 2007

Judging a Book by Its Cover-

The release this week of the new dust jacket art for the seventh, and last, Harry Potter book illustrates, in a dramatic fashion, how the publishers view their different markets.

The English edition aimed at kids is dramatic and action-filled-

On the other hand, the English edition aimed at adults could be a Cold War spy thriller-

Meanwhile, the American edition seems to try to cut right down the middle and be a bit of both, but leaning heavily towards the kid's market-

It seems obvious that Bloomsbury, the English publisher, takes its' adult audience a bit more seriously than Scholastic, the American publisher. That's not a new story- the very first title in the series, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" had its' title changed by Scholastic to "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone", because
they thought nobody in America would buy a book with the word "Philosopher" in it.

I think I like the American cover best though. In the end, the English kid's cover is too silly, and the Engish adult cover is too chilly- so the American cover must be "just right"...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

American Furniture Anthology-

I'm happy to say that the new edition of the Chipstone Foundation's acclaimed anthology of American furniture essays is available-

"American Furniture 2006", edited by Luke Beckerdite, features articles on: Peter Scott, Cabinetmaker of Williamsburg; Robert and William Walker: Scottish Design and Colonial Virginia Furniture, 1730-1775; The Furniture of Fredericksburg, Virginia, 1740-1820; The Careers and Work of William and Washington Tuck; Thomas Constantine & Co.’s Furniture for the United States Capitol, 1818-1819; also book reviews.

Card covers. 8.5”x11”, 255 pages, color and b/w illustrations. New. [90225] $60.00

Monday, March 26, 2007

Monday, Monday-

A grey Monday morning here at Foggygates. Grey, misty Monday mornings make one reluctant to even leave the house. But as I sip my morning tea I'm reminded that some folk's Monday morning commutes are rougher than others-

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sunday Silliness...

Three lawyers and three accountants were traveling by train to a conference. At the station, the three accountants each bought tickets and watched as the three lawyers bought only a single ticket.

"How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?" asked an accountant.

"Watch and you shall see," answered one of the lawyers.

They all boarded the train. The accountants took their seats, but all three lawyers crammed into the tiny restroom and closed the door behind them.

Shortly after the train departed, the conductor came around collecting tickets. He knocked on the restroom door and said, "Ticket please."

The door opened just a crack, and a single arm appeared with a ticket in hand. The conductor took it and moved on.

The accountants saw this and agreed it was quite a clever idea.

So, after the conference they decided to copy the lawyers on the return trip and save some money. When they got to the station they bought a single ticket for the return trip. To their astonishment, the lawyers didn't buy any tickets at all.

"How are you going to travel without a ticket?", asked one perplexed accountant.

"Watch and you'll see," answered a lawyer.

When they boarded the train, the three accountants squeezed into a restroom, and the three lawyers squeezed into another one nearby.

The train departed. Shortly afterward, one of the lawyers left the restroom and walked over to the restroom where the accountants were hiding. He knocked on the door and said, "Ticket, please."

Friday, March 23, 2007


Spring has finally come to Foggygates, and none too soon. Just one week ago we were having a St. Patrick's Day (weekend) blizzard, and yesterday the sun was out and it was in the 50s. I'm sure that we'll have the grill up and working within a few days, even if we have to shovel the last of the snow from the backyard to do it...

We've dispatched our new April catalog to the printer- look for it in the mail the week of April 2nd. It features our Big Spring Sale! The sale will include over 200 selected titles reduced in price (for a limited time) by as much as 60%!

This weekend we're putting the finishing touches on a new addition to our website- a bibliography of every book on furniture we've ever owned. This will join the two bibliographies we have up there now, on silver and mourning/gravestones.

Work on our new Books on Glass catalog continues, with a projected completion date of June. And I'm sure there are a few other interesting projects in the pipeline, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

New Book on Philadelphia Empire Furniture-

We've just recieved a great new book on Philadelphia Empire furniture!

"Philadelphia Empire Furniture" by John William Boor, with Allison, Jonathan, Christopher, & Peter Boor. Published by the University Press of New England: 2006.

“This volume looks closely for the first time at Philadelphia Empire furniture and the development of decorative arts in Philadelphia between 1800 and 1840. The authors explore Neo-Classicism, contemporary history of Philadelphia, the emergence of Greek-Revival architecture, and the cabinetmakers of Philadelphia Empire furniture.

"At the beginning of the 19th century Greek-inspired architecture gained popularity in Philadelphia and the city became known for its classically-inspired monumental buildings. Newly designed structures of ancient inspiration were decorated with classical furniture that became the prevailing style in private homes as well as public buildings. The arrival of immigrant craftsmen from Europe in the early 19th century and their subsequent collaboration with American furniture makers produced highly sophisticated Empire designs. Neither French nor English, the designs incorporated purely American elements and became known as American Empire. Nineteenth-century Philadelphia Empire craftsmen were particularly well-known for their extensive motif carving, which often has a fluid, three-dimensional character.

"‘Philadelphia Empire Furniture’ illustrates in color and describes in detail hundreds of Philadelphia decorative art forms from this period, including wood types, dimensions, and maker (if known). Chapters are dedicated to each of the following forms: card tables, platform pedestal tables, pier tables, worktables, sofas, chairs, sideboards, secretaries, chests, bedsteads, looking glasses, clocks, and other decorative elements.

A separate chapter is devoted to the previously unpublished sketchbook of accomplished craftsman Anthony G. Quervelle. Besides Quervelle, other talented and successful Philadelphia furniture makers included Michel Bouvier, Charles White, Cook & Parkin, and Joseph B. Barry, among several. This book provides historical data about their lives and careers. The furniture illustrated comes from various sources, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Atheneum of Philadelphia, the Winterthur Museum in Delaware, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The White House Historical Association, and from many private collections.”

Hardcover. 9.5”x12.5”, 596 pages, 495 color and 126 b/w illustrations, dj. New. [90232] $140.00

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Grave Matters-

The old saying is that you're not supposed to whistle in a graveyard, but the Book Elves were never ones for old sayings, even though whenever they whistle the Colonel Bogey March in unison every dog in the neighborhood starts howling.

They haven't been whistling in graveyards though, ever since last Halloween when they had a little too much hard cider and were using a shortcut through the town's 17th century burial ground, where old Len Anderson and his boy scout troop were waiting for them, hiding behind the gravestones with sheets and plastic pumpkins with those glowing red eyes...

But after they recovered from doing the 500-yard dash home in 17.6 seconds flat (and got even with Len at Christmas by putting live squirrels in his Christmas tree) they finished a new edition of our 'GRAVE MATTERS' newsletter, featuring recent acquisitions since our last GRAVE AFFAIR catalog. This issue includes books and other materials on mourning, graveyards, epitaphs and related subjects. We have printed copies available, or you can browse a fully-illustrated version on our website.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Monday, Monday-

It's Monday again, time to dust off the weekend cobwebs and get back to work. Of all the commuting days, Monday must be the worst. Here's an image from our "There's no way I'm carpooling with him, I think I'll just walk, thank you!" file-

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Beautiful Tool Book-

We just got a great new publisher's overstock title in on tools- "Tools. Rare and Ingenious. Celebrating the World’s Most Amazing Tools" by Sandor Nagyszalanczy was published in Newtown by The Taunton Press in 2004.

Over the centuries craftsmen have transformed inherently humble objects- drills, saws, planes and levels, into works of art. This beautiful book offers a breathtaking tour of antique tools that rarely leave the jealous hands of their owners. In more than 375 color photographs we see tools ranging from calipers in the shape of ballerinas to a drill shaped like a violin. The old, hand-polished woods gleam, the antique brass shines, and the dedication and imagination of hundreds of anonymous craftsmen from other times is evident on every page.

This book is a hardcover. 9.5”x10”, 210 pages, packed with color illustrations, dj. New. Published for $37.00.

Available for a very limited time for $20.00

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Keep Digging!

This classic letter has been around the internet for a few years so some of you may have read it already, but I always get a chuckle out of it.

- - -

Smithsonian Institute
207 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20078

Dear Mr. Williams:

Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labeled "93211-D, layer seven, next to the clothesline post...Hominid skull."

We have given this specimen a careful and detailed examination, and regret to inform you that we disagree with your theory that it represents conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man in Charleston County two million years ago.

Rather, it appears that what you have found is the head of a Barbie doll, of the variety that one of our staff, who has small children, believes to be "Malibu Barbie."

It is evident that you have given a great deal of thought to the analysis of this specimen, and you may be quite certain that those of us who are familiar with your prior work in the field were loathe to come to contradiction with your findings. However, we do feel that there are a number of physical attributes of the specimen which might have tipped you off to its modern origin:

1. The material is molded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are typically fossilized bone.

2. The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic centimeters, well below the threshold of even the earliest identified proto-homonids.

3. The dentition pattern evident on the skull is more consistent with the common domesticated dog than it is with the ravenous man-eating Pliocene clams you speculate roamed the wetlands during that time.

This latter finding is certainly one of the most intriguing hypotheses you have submitted in your history with this institution, but the evidence seems to weigh rather heavily against it. Without going into too much detail, let us say that:

A. The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a dog has chewed on.

B. Clams don't have teeth.

It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we must deny your request to have the specimen carbon-dated. This is partially due to the heavy load our lab must bear in its normal operation, and partly due to carbon-dating's notorious inaccuracy in fossils of recent geologic record. To the best of our knowledge, no Barbie dolls were produced prior to 1956 AD, and carbon-dating is likely to produce wildly inaccurate results.

Sadly, we must also deny your request that we approach the National Science Foundation Phylogeny Department with the concept of assigning your specimen the scientific name Australopithecus spiff-arino.

Speaking personally, I, for one, fought tenaciously for the acceptance of your proposed taxonomy, but was ultimately voted down because the species name you selected was hyphenated, and didn't really sound like it might be Latin.

However, we gladly accept your generous donation of this fascinating specimen to the museum. While it is undoubtedly not a Hominid fossil, it is, nonetheless, yet another riveting example of the great body of work you seem to accumulate here so effortlessly. You should know that our Director has reserved a special shelf in his own office for the display of the specimens you have previously submitted to the Institution, and the entire staff speculates daily on what you will happen upon next in your digs at the site you have discovered in your Newport back yard.

We eagerly anticipate your trip to our nation's capital that you proposed in your last letter, and several of us are pressing the Director to pay for it. We are particularly interested in hearing you expand on your theories surrounding the trans-positating fillifitation of ferrous ions in a structural matrix that makes the excellent juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex femur you recently discovered take on the deceptive appearance of a rusty 9-mm Sears Craftsman automotive crescent wrench.

Yours in Science,

Harvey Rowe
Chief Curator- Antiquities

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Drama in a Print-

We had a copy of Phillip Barraud's 1782 book "A New Book of Single Cyphers, Comprising Six Hundred Invented and Engraved by Ph. D. Barraud" in our March catalog. We sold the book, but I wanted to share one of the engraved frontispiece plates at the front-

I just love dramatic copper-plate engravings like this.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Odd Jobs-

It's Monday, everyone's least-favorite day of the week. But today we have an illustration for the pleasure of our office-bound comrades showing that, no matter how bad your job is, there are people out there who have it worse. You could, for instance, have been a model in the Middle Ages...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Winter Loses Its Grip-

Somebody stole an hour's worth of sleep from me last night, but that's ok, because I was about done with Winter anyway. I'm not big into wintertime sports, and I very much do not ski. My one experience skiing was about 20 years ago when a "friend" who was also a ski instructor decided that the quickest way to teach me was to strap a pair of skis on my feet, drag me to the top of a local mountain only slightly smaller than the Matterhorn, point me down over the edge of a 80-degree downhill slope and push me off.

Well, perhaps I exaggerate a bit. But I'm no fan of heights, and it looked to me as if we were high enough up to be in danger of getting whacked by a passing Space Shuttle. And then there was my question of "once you get going, how do you stop?" to which my helpful friend replied that usually you hit something.

I have not been near a ski slope since. My wife used to cross-country ski, and if we had had snow for more than a few weeks this year I might have tried it. Maybe next year. But downhill skiing, no way. While I was frantically tobaggoning down that slope on my keister those many years ago, I thought I saw Death ski past me, and I know he's still out there on a slope someplace, lurking...

Friday, March 09, 2007

A Poetic Silkworm?

We have an interesting 18th century silk-related title in our current catalog-

"The Silkworm: A Poem. In Two Books. Written by Marcus Hieronymus Vida, and translated into English Verse by the Reverend Samuel Pullein, of Trinity College, Dublin" Published in Dublin; printed by S. Powell, for the author: 1750.

This is quite a remarkable piece of poetry- both the original and the translation. Marcus Hieronymus Vida [1470-1566] of Cremona was a gifted poet who was patronized by the Pope and did quite a remarkable job of, as Pullein notes, making a detailed poem about the raising of silk worms interesting.

Pullein [b.1713] was himself no slouch, and won the Royal Dublin Society’s Madden Prize for this work. In the same year that he published this poem, Pullein wrote an essay to promote the culture of silkworms in Ireland, and several years later he wrote his influential book “The culture of silk, or an Essay on Its Rational Practice and Improvement for the Use of the American Colonies”.

The engraved frontispiece shows the interior of a silkworm room-

The engraving has many interesting details, including the trays on which mulberry leaves and stems are kept-

The fancy ceiling with medallions-

And a Classical doorway; we can also see potted plants in the yard ourside-

The Classical theme continues as the worms are tended by several women in robes vaguely resembling those of ancient Greece-

This is a hardcover. 6.25”x10”, x, 141 pages, engraved frontispiece; with the final errata and “Observations” sheet, which is often lacking. Newly rebound in green “silked” cloth with paper spine label; new endpapers; title page repaired at the top, not affecting the text; text with light toning and a few spots, but overall nice. [30745] $500.00

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Our New March Catalog-

It’s going to be Saint Patrick’s Day soon, and since it involves food and beer, it’s one of the Book Elves favorite holidays. They’ve always thrown a big party to celebrate, but after last year’s “mishap”, and the ensuing court costs, they decided to do a dry run a few weeks ahead of time this year.

Now here’s the thing- it’s never a good idea to pair the phrases “Book Elves’ party preparations” and “30,000 gallons of green, vegetable-based food coloring”, especially if you live within a quarter mile of the Connecticut River...

But before the squadron of helicopters from the EPA Rapid Response SWAT Team descended and started fingerprinting everyone, the Book Elves finished this new catalog of books-

"RECENT ACQUISITIONS for March, 2007" is now available on our website or in printed format. It features 201 books and catalogs on furniture, silver, ceramics, glass, textiles, art, architecture and related fields, with highlights including-

-A nice 1782 book of decorative cyphers for silversmiths & engravers.

-Several important 19th century color books by George Field.

-A lovely Victorian facsimile of a 1677 London Merchant directory.

-A 1698 catalog of ancient Egyptian amulets.

-A 1750 poem about raising silkworms, with a marvelous engraved frontispiece.

-An important 1837 book of designs for gate houses and lodges, owned by a founder of
the Boston Society of Arts & Crafts (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's nephew!).

-An uncommon 1862 collection of Renaissance silver designs.

-A fascinating and detailed 1840s survey of trades and manufactures in Britain.

-and much, much more!

Request a printed copy, or browse the catalog on our website.

- - -

This month's catalog also has a special feature on fakes, forgeries and frauds, a topic which has always fascinated me.

- - -

We’ve finally begun to get some Winter weather here at Foggygates, with several snow storms in the last three weeks. As soon as it gets cold enough for the local bears to start hibernating, we put bird feeders out in the side yard and by the back deck. (We know it’s time to take them away in the Spring when we find one of the pole feeders flattened and ripped up by the bear, but that’s another story).

At this time of year we have a huge crowd of birds at the feeders, from early in the morning until dusk. But the three pairs of cardinals, several woodpeckers, bunches of wrens, finches, doves and other assorted little birds (plus half a dozen fat squirrels) are now being joined on a regular basis by a young red-tailed hawk. He first showed up a week or so ago, sitting in the tall tree behind the carriage house, and has lately taken to sitting on the railing of the deck, or in the small fruit tree we hang the feeders on just beside it. I am afraid he may not be here for the seeds...