As Bill Butts says, “It is all about education.”  The educated collector is the savvy collector. Each year reference works, how-tos, exhibition catalogs, bibliographies, and memoirs useful to collectors are published. Unfortunately, they receive little attention in the media.  Bill takes the time to review 3 to 6 books in every issue of Manuscripts to give you a headstart in your collcting journey.

The current review is from the Spring 2020 issue of Manuscripts. 

A Worthy Sequel and The First of Its Kind – William Butts

GRAFFAGNINO, J. Kevin, AUSTIN, Terese M., and QUASHNIE, Sara (editors). Americana is a Creed: Notable Twentieth-Century Collectors, Dealers, and Curators. Ann Arbor: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, 2019. 4to. Hardbound. xiv, 405pp. Frontispiece, numerous illustrations. $100-on-up library donation.

JOHNSON, Kevin R. The Celluloid Paper Trail: Identification and Description of Twentieth Century Film Scripts. New Castle: Oak Knoll Press, 2019. 4to. Hardbound. 232pp. Frontispiece, numerous illustrations. $65.00.

A Worthy Sequel

It seems that the wish I expressed in my review of The Pioneer Americanists: Early Collectors, Dealers, and Bibliographers in the Summer 2018 issue (“Fingers crossed that Graffagnino is paving the way for a sequel volume down the road”) has come true: Americana is a Creed: Notable Twentieth-Century Collectors, Dealers, and Curators is a big, beefy book as sprawling and exciting as its subject and a cracker jack follow-up to its big, beefy precursor.  In typically forward-thinking fashion, the editors “want to make clear that we do not regard either of these books as definitive studies.”

They continue,” Our goal with both projects has been to make a worthwhile contribution to the history of Americana and to provide an evocative introduction to the outstanding men and women in the Clements Library’s area of specialization. We hope that readers who find something of interest in these two volumes will visit the Clements and our peer institutions around the country for additional research, since our individual and collective holdings are rich in primary source material on all aspects of Americana as vocation and evocation alike.”

Nothing like a shout out for this outstanding library and its compadres such as the Lilly Library, Newberry Library and others. I’m pleased that they anticipate “the next volume in this series” – necessarily a century down the road!

As in The Pioneer Americanists, Clements Library director Kevin Graffagnino (now enjoying well-earned retirement) provides a meaty, enjoyable introduction that ably carries the reader through the dramatic changes the 20th century brought to the field of Americana. The major collectors and their interests changed with the new century, new collecting fields such as African American history were established, great institutional collections came into their own, a new breed of dealers came about – and then again after World War Two major shifts came about and the process repeated itself…. [click below for complete review]

First of its Kind

A first-of-its-kind always excites and fuels speculation. Whenever a collecting field about which little is written becomes the subject of a bibliography or collector’s guide, expectation rise: Will a stampede of new collectors enter the fold and drive up prices? If written by a collector, will the book cause a price spike and the author be priced out of his or her own field? If written by a dealer, will it prove a boon to business? Or will the book be appreciated by devotees and ignored by all others, causing little effect on the market? Most likely something in the middle will occur: The niche field will become better understood, some dealers may pay closer attention to it, more collectors will pursue it and more examples may enter the market perhaps at more robust prices.

Kevin Johnson’s The Celluloid Paper Trail: Identification and Description of Twentieth Century Film Scripts is just such a case. Neither bibliography nor collector’s guide, it is a well-illustrated description of the many forms a film script may take and “a means for catalogers in my shop to be able to write a description properly, and with a well-defined style…..” Because digital technology has pretty much made the film script obsolete, “this volume focuses exclusively on the 20th century, and more specifically the 1920s to the late 1980s….” This Baltimore dealer, founder of Royal Books and “cinephile to the core,” shows some serious cinematic chops here in taking a collecting field only vaguely understood by most and presenting its intricacies in this clear, well-written guide….

For the complete review of these two special books, click here.

Content in this issue of Manuscripts includes:  Lisa Fagin Davis’ article, What will it take to Solve the Voynich Manuscript?;  Chris Dahl’s, Thomas Jefferson and the Mystery of the Arabic Document; and Kevin Segall’s Collecting Conversation with David Elkouby, owner of The Hollywood Show. Get all articles, books reviews, advertising and messages from the society by becoming a member now!  Membership includes access to the digital archive in the Members Only section.