The Biblio File Hosted by Nigel Beale
Twenty - forty minute interviews with accomplished authors, publishers, biblio people, conducted by an excitable bibliophile.

What’s the dif­fer­ence between a First Edi­tion, a Fine Press Edi­tion and an Artists’ Book? Joshua and Phyl­lis Heller work with me to help define the bound­ar­ies. 

The two of them estab­lished Joshua Heller Rare Books, Inc. in Wash­ing­ton DC, in 1985. The com­pany spe­cial­izes in “con­tem­por­ary fine print­ing and beau­ti­fully illus­trated books, the Private Press Move­ment, mod­ern fine bind­ings, and books about books. [Their] much admired cata­logues, illus­trated in full color, are dis­trib­uted to a national and inter­na­tional list of cli­ents.”

Joshua has lec­tured widely in the United States and Canada on the art of the book. He helped organ­ize the Art of the Con­tem­por­ary Book Con­fer­ence at Ohio State Uni­ver­sity in 1991, and has: con­trib­uted art­icles on the Private Press Move­ment to journ­als such as Fine Print and Imprint; and cur­ated exhib­i­tions of South African botan­ical artist Elise Bod­ley, both for the Smith­so­nian Museum of Nat­ural His­tory and the Audu­bon Soci­ety; he also pro­posed the first Wash­ing­ton Artists’ Book Fair – now a bien­nial event; and organ­ized the first ever exhib­i­tion of fine mod­ern bind­ings at the Corcoran Museum of Art in Wash­ing­ton DC in 2003.

I met the Hellers at their home in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. recently. Please listen here to our conversation

(* The Fisher Lib­rary referred to by Josh is loc­ated at the Uni­ver­sity of Toronto. Here’s the link)

Direct download: Joshua_Heller_Boost.mp3
Category:Bookseller Interview -- posted at: 6:56pm EDT

John Bid­well is Astor Cur­ator of Prin­ted Books and Bind­ings at thePier­pont Mor­gan Lib­rary, before which he was Cur­ator of Graphic Arts in the Prin­ceton Uni­ver­sity Lib­rary. He has writ­ten extens­ively on the his­tory of paper­mak­ing in Eng­land and America. 

The Prin­ted Books and Bind­ings col­lec­tion at the Mor­gan con­tains works span­ning West­ern book pro­duc­tion from the earli­est prin­ted eph­em­era to import­ant first edi­tions from the twen­ti­eth cen­tury. Hold­ings encom­pass a large num­ber of high points in the his­tory of print­ing, often exem­pli­fied by a lone sur­viv­ing copy or a copy that is per­fect in every way. Areas of strength include incun­ables, early children’s books, fine bind­ings, and illus­trated books. 

Yolande de Sois­sons in Prayer
“Psalter-Hours of Yolande de Sois­sons”
France, Ami­ens, ca. 1280–90
MS M.729, fol. 232v
Pur­chased by J. P. Mor­gan, Jr., 1927

The col­lec­tion is foun­ded upon acquis­i­tions of Pier­pont Mor­gan, who sought to estab­lish in the United States a lib­rary worthy of the great European col­lec­tions. Among the high­lights are three Guten­berg Bibles, works by Lord Byron, Charles Dick­ens, Edgar Allan Poe, John Ruskin, Mark Twain, Her­man Melville, and Wil­liam Mor­ris, and clas­sic early children’s books. The Carter Bur­den Col­lec­tion of Amer­ican Lit­er­at­ure, a major 1998 gift, strengthens the Morgan’s twentieth-century hold­ings with authors such as Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Vladi­mir Nabokov, Ger­trude Stein, and Ten­nessee Williams. 

I talk here with John Bid­well about the col­lec­tion, what it con­tains, how it was acquired.

 Copy­right © 2009 by Nigel Beale.

Direct download: John_Bidwell_Morgan.mp3
Category:Librarian Interview -- posted at: 8:13pm EDT

Charles H. Cameron as King Lear (1872) / print by A.L. Coburn, ca. 1915, Photo by

Julia Margaret Cameron

Shakespeare wrote Hamlet before James l came to the throne. Events in the play reflect many of the real world concerns that  Englishmen had about being ruled by a foreigner. At the play’s end, Denmark’s line of  rulers is extinguished, and a foreigner (Fortinbras) takes the throne.  James was married to Anna of Denmark, some feared that if he were to attempt a military takeover,  he might call on the forces of his brother in law Christian IV of Denmark.

King Lear was written after James’s succession. At the start of the play Lear is firmly established as king of a united Britain. This reflected James’s wish to be ruler of a fully united kingdom. In fact he approached Parliament, without success, in 1607 in hopes of securing a closer political union.

The names of the Dukes in King Lear are taken from real life. James had recently made his sons Henry and Charles the Dukes of Cornwall and Albany respectively. In the play Albany is an honest man who realises too late the evil doings of his relatives. Once aware, he works to restore natural order. At the end,  hope for the monarchy rests with him,  Albany from Scotland, who is free to reunite the fractured kingdom. In this he represents what James wanted to achieve with his succession.

Listen here as Prof. Joseph Khoury, from St. Francis Xavier University, and I discuss the themes of succession and the divine right of kings  in Hamlet and King Lear.

Direct download: Khoury_Lear_Hamlet_800910_01.mp3
Category:Shakespeare -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Crime novelist Denise Mina is the author of a trilogy of novels set in Glasgow: Garnethill (1998), which won the Crime Writers’ Association John Creasey Memorial Dagger; Exile (2000); and Resolution (2001).  
Sanctum (2002), is the story of a forensic psychiatrist, convicted of killing a serial killer. The Field of Blood (2005) is the first in a new series, the second in the series, The Dead Hour, was published in 2006, and the third, Slip of the Knife, in 2007.
Mina also writes short stories, one of which, ‘Helena and the Babies’ from Fresh Blood 3 (1999), won the Crime Writers’ Association Macallan Short Story Dagger. Two short stories and a play, Hurtle (2003), have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Her latest play is Ida Tamson. Her lastest novel is Still Midnight (2009).

We met recently in Ottawa where Mina was the international guest of honour at Bloody Words, Canada’s national mystery conference. Our conversation cuts a wide swath across the socio-political  (alcoholism, the accurate depiction of mental illness, the courage of the mentally ill) the psychoanalytic (detective stories as re-enactments of the primal act) and the technical (cozy endings, realistic puzzles); please listen here:

Direct download: Denise_Mina.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 1:01pm EDT