Category Archives: Books

My new Books the Founders Read post on Blackstone

“In America the law is king.”
–Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

My new Books the Founders Read post on the Bauman Rare Books blog is about William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, the most important and widely-read law book in 18th-century America.

Blackstone-tp

John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Dickinson, John Jay, John Marshall, and other Founders read the work and cited it frequently in their writings.

Blackstone-first-American

You can read my Blackstone post here. If you’re interested in reading my other blog posts for Bauman Rare Books, there are links in the sidebar to the right.

“In no country perhaps in the world is the law so general a study… I have been told by an eminent bookseller that in no branch of his business, after tracts of popular devotion, were so many books as those on the law exported to the plantations. The colonists have now fallen into the way of printing them for their own use. I hear that they have sold nearly as many of Blackstone’s Commentaries in America as in England… This study renders men acute, inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in defense, full of resources. In other countries, the people, more simple, and of a less mercurial cast, judge of an ill principle in government only by an actual grievance; here they anticipate the evil, and judge of the pressure of the grievance by the badness of the principle. They augur misgovernment at a distance; and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.”
–Edmund Burke’s 1775 speech on conciliation with the American colonies

Books the Founders Read, my new series for the Bauman Rare Books blog

I’ve started a new series, Books the Founders Read, on the Bauman Rare Books blog. I’ll be highlighting books that the Founding Fathers read, owned, wrote about, and were influenced by. My first post is about Algernon Sidney’s 1698 Discourses Concerning Government, a work that was particularly significant to Thomas Jefferson, who cited it as an important influence on the Declaration of Independence and praised it in his letters.

sidney

Sidney was executed for treason in 1683, accused of involvement in the Rye House Plot against Charles II. Two witnesses were needed to convict someone of treason, but there was only a single witness, so the prosecution used Sidney’s unpublished manuscript of Discourses as the second witness, and the judge famously ruled “scribere est agere”—to write is to act.

You can read the entire post here.

My new posts on the Bauman Rare Books blog

I haven’t been blogging here because I’ve been busy writing holiday season posts for the Bauman Rare Books blog:

Giving and Collecting Rare Books on Economics, featuring books by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, John Maynard Keynes, and Milton Friedman, as well as books on finance and the stock market.

Wealth of Nations

Giving and Collecting Rare Books by 20th-Century Leaders, featuring books and autographs by civil and human rights leaders (Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Eleanor Roosevelt), World War II leaders (Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower), and modern leaders (John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Barack Obama).

King Stride

Giving and Collecting Rare Children’s Books–19th Century, featuring books by Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Carlo Collodi, and Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Huck new

Giving and Collecting Rare Children’s Books–20th Century,
featuring books by L. Frank Baum, Beatrix Potter, Kenneth Grahame, A.A. Milne, E.B. White, C.S. Lewis, Crockett Johnson, Dr. Seuss, Kay Thompson, Michael Bond, Roald Dahl, and Maurice Sendak.

charlotte's web

My Banned Books Week post for the Bauman Rare Books blog

We Read Banned Books is my latest post for the Bauman Rare Books blog, featuring the stories of six important books: Joyce’s Ulysses, Galileo’s Dialogo, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Nabokov’s Lolita.

Read it here: http://www.baumanrarebooks.com/blog/read-banned-books/

Ulysses

 

 

 

 

 

Edward de Grazia, the lawyer who fought book censorship & wrote Girls Lean Back Everywhere

In a 2008 post about Banned Books Week, I recommended an excellent 1992 book about literary censorship and obscenity prosecutions in the United States, Edward de Grazia’s Girls Lean Back Everywhere: The Law of Obscenity and the Assault on Genius. He was a lawyer who fought the censorship of books in a number of prominent cases in the 1960s.

Girls Lean Back Everywhere

This morning I learned that Edward de Grazia has died at the age of 86. Here’s his obituary from the New York Times.

Here’s an excerpt from my original post about his book:

The title is taken from a quote by Jane Heap, who (with Margaret Anderson) was prosecuted in 1920 for publishing episodes from James Joyce’s Ulysses in their magazine, The Little Review:

Mr. Joyce was not teaching early Egyptian perversions nor inventing new ones. Girls lean back everywhere, showing lace and silk stockings; wear low-cut sleeveless blouses, breathless bathing suits; men think thoughts and have emotions about these things everywhere–seldom as delicately and imaginatively as Mr. Bloom–and no one is corrupted.

This work describes in detail the publishing histories and obscenity trials of the most controversial books of the 20th century, including Joyce’s Ulysses, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, and Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, as well as later trials involving the monologues of Lenny Bruce, the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe, and the lyrics of 2 Live Crew.

What makes this work particularly entertaining are the extensive quotes from the authors and publishers involved. As de Grazia notes in his introduction:

I wanted to find out, and describe, how the persons who were most immediately affected by literary censorship–authors and publishers–responded to and felt about it, and to present their reactions as much as possible in words of their own. I also wanted to say what I could about the nature of the legal and constitutional process that has framed the struggle against censorship in our country….

The Great Gatsby was published 88 years ago today but won’t enter the public domain until 2021

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was published 88 years ago today, on April 10, 1925.

Gatsby

However, this work won’t enter the public domain in the U.S. until January 1, 2021. That’s because the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act extended the copyright term to 95 years after publication for books published between 1923 and 1962 (if published with a copyright notice and if the copyright was renewed). Copyright law is ridiculously complicated, so right now the only works you can be sure are in the public domain in the U.S. are those published before 1923. So This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned are in the public domain, but The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night are not. This 2011 Duke University Libraries post summarizes the Fitzgerald copyright situation.

Books published today enter the public domain 70 years after the death of the author. Here are some links for more information about our crazy and complicated copyright system:

News about The Mirage paperback, the Queen Anne Book Company, and Clarion West

  • Matt Ruff‘s latest novel, The Mirage, will be published in trade paperback on February 12, 2013. (The hardcover and ebook editions were published in February 2012.) Matt will be doing some readings/signings in Seattle and Portland over the next few weeks.

mirageps

  • Queen Anne Books, the beloved independent bookstore that closed on Halloween, will soon be reincarnated in the same location as the Queen Anne Book Company. The new store, with new owner/managers and some of the booksellers from the old store, will hold its grand opening on March 1st. You can follow the Queen Anne Book Company on Twitter @queenannebookco or on Facebook.
  • March 1st is the deadline to apply to the Clarion and Clarion West writers workshops for science fiction and fantasy. The instructors this year include Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Hand, Kelly Link, Samuel R. Delany, Joe Hill, Nalo Hopkinson, and Karen Joy Fowler (see my previous blog post for the complete list and more information). Clarion West has just announced that Margo Lanagan will be teaching instead of Justina Robson.
  • Clarion West is offering a series of special one-day workshops in Seattle from February to May, taught by Molly Gloss, John Crowley, Mary Rosenblum, and Daryl Gregory. Each workshop is limited to only 14 students, so don’t wait to sign up.

UPDATE, 2/26/13: For more information about the Queen Anne Book Company’s grand-opening weekend (March 1st to 3rd) and their “Authors in the House” events, see this article from the Queen Anne View blog.