Monthly Archives: March 2015

Evolution of the Paperback

boni2 Continuing the Irish theme this month, we came across this book by Francis Hackett—The Story of the Irish Nation. It is a lovely book of stories of a storied land with wonderful illustrations. Not as in depth as some histories, but easily read and very informative.

But this is a situation in which the book itself is even more interesting that the content. This is a Boni Book, which was one of the precursors to the mass market paperback. Albert Boni and Horace Liveright formed B&L Books (which would eventually become Random House). They separated after only a year, and Albert began his “Little Leather Library” in 1920. The books were more a novelty than serious publications.

End papers.

His brother, Charles Boni began printing paperback books by himself in 1929 under the imprint Charles Boni Paper Books. (Reminiscences of a Cowboy by Frank Harris, Rare Book Room F596.H31). They featured wraparound covers with artwork by Rockwell Kent. And there were ornate end papers front and back. They sold by subscription at $5.00 a year for one book a month, or for 50 cents each in stores.

Title page.

Title page.

By 1930, the books became “Bonibooks” and the title pages changed to include both brothers, Albert and Charles Boni, with the date 1930, as in our featured book. These are not the quick and cheap paperbacks that began in 1939 with Pocket Books, but well-made and designed, with good paper and binding. They correspond more to what we today call trade paperbacks.

(The drawings in this book are by Harald Toksvig, not Rockwell Kent. Hackett’s wife’s name was Signe Toksvig, by the way.)

The Common Chord

It’s March, and our thoughts turn to things Irish. Well, some of them anyway. And Ireland is well represented in the Galvin Rare Book Room. From Behan to Yeats and rebels to kings, there’s a

Frank O'Connor

Frank O’Connor

bit of everything here.

One name that might not be as familiar to some is Frank O’Connor. He was born Michael Francis O’Donovan in 1903 to an alcoholic father and an abusive mother. At 15 he joined the Irish Republican Army and served in combat during the Irish War for Independence. He also joined the Anti-Treaty IRA during the Irish Civil War, working in a small propaganda unit in Cork City. Between 1922 and 1923 O’Connor was imprisoned in Cork City Gaol, where he studied languages, read, and wrote.

After his release, he took many jobs including a teacher of Irish, theatre director, and librarian. He began to move in literary circles where he came to know most of the including Yeats. In 1935 he joined the board of directors of the Abbey Theater (started by Yeats and other members of the Irish National Theatre Society) and in 1937 became its managing director. He spent most of the 1950’s teaching in the United States where his stories were quite popular.

Probably best known for his varied and comprehensive short stories but he is also known for his work as a literary critic, essayist, travel writer, translator, and biographer. He was also a novelist, poet and dramatist. Many of his writings were based on his own life experiences and wrote about his early years in An Only Child. Since 2000, The Munster Literature Centre in O’Connor’s hometown of Cork has run a festival dedicated to the short story form in O’Connor’s

The Common Chord

The Common Chord

name. The Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award is awarded to the best short fiction collection published in English anywhere in the world in the year preceding the festival.

The Rare Book Room’s volume is called, The Common Chord: stories and tales of Ireland, and is signed by the author. The description on the inside cover says: “The ‘common chord’ of the title is sex—but its treatment, while running a very wide range, never includes the suggestive or the obscene.” And through it all runs the lilt of Irish humor and wisdom.

The Ides of March

The Ides of March

The ides of March or March 15th was a day of religious celebrations in ancient Rome and notoriously the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar.

In our Rare Book Room we have a copy of Thornton Wilder’s The Ides of March, a novel about Caesar told through imaginary letters and documents cleverly revealing what Caesar the man may have been like. This copy is part of The William Dew Gresham Collection. Mr. Gresham collected signed copies of great books. This copy is signed by Mr. Wilder to Mr. Gresham in 1951.

The Ides of March was published in 1948, ten years after Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, Our Town. (His The Skin of Our Teeth won the 1943 Pulitzer.) He wrote seven novels, including The Bridge of San Luis Rey which won the Pulitzer in 1928. His play The Matchmaker ran on Broadway for 486 performances from 1955-1957. It may be more familiar as it’s musical adaptation, Hello Dolly!

IMG_1004 Wilder was enormously successful in many different genres including translation, acting, opera librettos, lecturing, teaching, and film (he wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1943 psycho-thriller, Shadow of a Doubt.) His many honors include the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the National Book Committee’s Medal for Literature. On April 7, 1997, what would have been his 100th birthday, the US Postal Service unveiled the Thornton Wilder 32 cent stamp.


March: Book One

March: Book One

Selma, Alabama is much in the news lately–first with the Academy Award nominated film, and then with the many observances of the 50th anniversary of the heroic march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

One of the many heroes of that day was John Robert Lewis. Born in Troy, Alabama, to sharecropper parents, Lewis attended the American Baptist Theological Seminary and at Fisk University both in Nashville, Tennessee, where he became a leader in the Nashville sit-ins. He became dedicated to the discipline of non-violence which he still practices today. The sit-ins were responsible for desegregating the lunch counters in downtown Nashville.

He also participated in Freedom Rides sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality or CORE,

John Lewis

John Lewis

led by James Farmer and ultimately became a national leader in the struggle for civil rights and respect for human dignity. He became the youngest of the Big Six civil rights leaders and the chairman of the SNCC (Student Nonviolent

Coordinating Committee). While he was chairman, the SNCC opened Freedom Schools,

launched the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and organized the voter registration efforts that led to the pivotal Selma to Montgomery marches. Lewis still bears the scars of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

John Lewis is currently the U. S. Representative from Georgia’s 5th district, an office he has held march2since 1987.

In our Special Collections, we have a copy of March, a graphic novel Mr. Lewis shares his memories of his early life and philosophy. The book is signed by Mr. Lewis, the author and the illustrator.