Friday, December 23, 2011

Aaand now for the real holiday post!

I kind of tried to avoid talking about the holidays in our last entry, gentle readers. But by now, we are too close to Christmas for me to evade it. Let's start this week's entry with one of the coolest Affordable and Interesting items in the store right now:



For only $12.50, you can obtain this classic 1950s photo album cover! There is script in the background spelling out names from "Lee" to "Marilyn" to "Beverly", and as you can see, the graphics recall 1950s tropes from malt shops to radio technology. If you're hard up for a gift that would suit someone who was around in the 1950s, then might I suggest that you locate a bunch of their life photos and then enclose them in this amazing album cover? A homemade book or scrapbook: now that would be a pretty amazingly thoughtful gift.

Since it's the holidays, I'll give you another Affordable and Interesting option:



Tis the season for ornaments. And these are such perfect ornaments that I just had to post about them! They're tiny, antique Russian dolls that we're selling for only $3.00 apiece. We've got a whole box of them: you could put hooks on them and hang them from a tree, or you could arrange them on a mantel.

But now that I've posted two Affordable and Interesting things, you're probably jonesing for this week's Collector's Item. And I am happy to oblige!



Beautifully painted on a piece of wood, this $350.00 image is about a foot high. The background color is a really pretty deep gold, and I love the way it's painted, though I'm not sure what it portrays. Obviously it shows a woman in the street holding an apple, and there's Garden of Eden imagery every which way! But I really wonder what else the painter intended. This was apparently created in 2003 by an artist named Sasha Williams; I thought about trying to find the artist, but the closest result on Google was for a painter who created this blog (click here), and the art looks very different. So by purchasing this piece, you gain both beauty and mystery.

But I heard somewhere that we're a bookstore. And you know what my Favorite thing is? Books! Such as:



At $5.00, this is a typically awesome book from the O'Gara and Wilson inventory. Who doesn't love books for holiday gifts? We've got gifts in all shapes and sizes, but books are the greatest. And this Benjamin Franklin book in particular includes a wonderful Christmas quote:

"How many observe Christ's birthday; how few His precepts! O 'tis easier to keep a Holiday, than Commandments!"

Truer words were never spoken. I hope everyone is keeping faith and honor this holiday season, whether you observe Christmas or some other holiday or none at all. Stay warm and enjoy, gentle readers. We'll talk more in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Incipient midwinter holidays, but I refuse to celebrate yet ... mostly.

Midwinter holidays are on the horizon, and with them all the crass commercialism you could possibly expect! I guess I should be more excited about crass commercialism given that I am currently writing a blog post for a retail establishment, but I always feel somewhat resistant. So I won't mention midwinter holidays. Much. Yet.

Our last dragon-shaped brass candle-holder was sold in record time, but we've got more where that came from! For Collectors:



Lovely, right? And in fact, this is a two-candleholder set! Here are both of them together, lit by an excessively bright light:



Normally their shininess is more muted, as per the first picture. But the bright light in the second picture shows us every tiny and detailed scale! If you missed the first dragon candleholder, then these can be yours for $135.00. They might also make lovely romantic lighting for your holiday dinner. Wait, I said I wouldn't talk overmuch about the holidays.

Okay, you know what's not about the holidays? These Affordable and Interesting antique 1920s-1930s chapbooks from the "Chicago Tribune":



At first I was somewhat puzzled by these little pamphlets, and thought they might be a magazine-ish thing like I highlighted in our last blog entry. But then I read inside the front cover of one, and lo, all my questions were answered!

The first Linebook was published in 1924 and since then it has become a yearly event, looked forward to by a steadily increasing number of people whose mornings would not be complete without reading the famous Richard Henry Little's "A Line o' Type or Two" in the "Chicago Tribune". The gay and impish tone of the column, made up of unregenerate laughter at the foibles of men, acid thrust at their follies, philosophy masked in humor, and the steady reminder that few things are to be taken seriously, pervades these small anthologies.

The pamphlet also asserts that they always went quickly out of print due to demand, and remained treasured possessions of those who purchased them. This may or may not be true, but I can attest that they are definitely really cool, if only for the covers:



This one too!



They are even cool on the inside, notwithstanding the fact that ... as it turns out ... I couldn't get away from the holidays even here:



That's an image from the inside of one pamphlet. Here's the text, retyped for your reading convenience:

Christmas Suggestions For the man who hasn't got a shirt: A shirt. For a man who wants an automobile: An automobile. For the girl who wants a skunk skin coat: A skunk skin coat. For a lady who wants a new set of false teeth: A new set of false teeth. For a boy who wants a fine set of skates: A fine set of skates. For a young man who wants a saxophone: A swift kick in the pants.

We sell Linebooks at prices ranging from $4.50 to a bit over $20.00. I won't comment about what kind of gift they would make.

Finally, this week's Favorite cannot possibly have anything to do with midwinter holidays:



Anansi is an African folk hero: a spider, clever and sly, who is always getting into hijinx and tricking the other jungle animals. If you Google for Anansi then you'll come up with tons of websites devoted to his adorable and brilliant exploits. This 1954 book is an especially great Anansi item, however. Firstly, because it's got neat illustrations:



Secondly, because it belonged to the pioneering African-American sociologist St. Clair Drake! Drake was a force to be reckoned with; he developed some of America's first African-American Studies departments, and was an advisor to the first prime minister of Ghana. Also, he wrote an awful lot. Drake's name is written on the inside front cover of this little Anansi book, and you can purchase it for $20.00.

See? No midwinter holidays when I covered Anansi. Our next blog post will have to be all about midwinter holidays, I suppose. But I guess it's okay if it's only one entry! Stay warm, gentle readers ....

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving is upon us! Let's talk America.

It's Thanksgiving time! Thanksgiving, the most all-American of American holidays. We put a pilgrim hat on our resident waxwork monk, as he labors away upon some manuscripts:



And this week's Affordable and Interesting item features what is perhaps the most hilarious pilgrim picture I've ever seen:



The pilgrim on the cover of this 1931 pamphlet appears quite startled. But he's not as startled as the publisher must have been when he saw the pamphlet cover ... complete with that "Ovember" typo. (Presumably, it was supposed to be November, but maybe I'm wrong about that.) This appears to be one copy of the small magazine "Friendly Chat", which was composed mainly of jokes and ads. Here's a sample page:



Don't you want a skimming machine? Not to mention new window casements. But the skimming machine is way more exciting, if you ask me. (Skimming machines back then were designed to separate cream from milk; you can learn more about that whole process by clicking here. Today, skimming machines are unfortunately associated with credit card fraud, but let's not discuss that.)

The text is very small in the scanned image I'm showing you, so I'll transcribe some of it for ya. There's a great joke on that page. It goes like this:

The president of the local gas company was making a stirring address. "Think of the good the gas company has done," he cried. "If I were permitted a pun, I should say, 'Honor the Light Brigade.'" And a customer immediately shouted, "Oh, what a charge they made!"

Teehee. Don't you want lots of 1931 jokes and ads? Yours for $4.00.

Since Thanskgiving is all about American history, I decided that my Favorite item this week ought to highlight an all-American art movement:



As it happens, I myself grew up in New York in the stomping grounds of the good old Hudson River School. The website for the Metropolitan Museum of Art has this to say about the School:

The Hudson River School was America's first true artistic fraternity. Its name was coined to identify a group of New York City-based landscape painters that emerged about 1850 under the influence of the English √©migr√© Thomas Cole (1801–1848) and flourished until about the time of the Centennial. Because of the inspiration exerted by his work, Cole is usually regarded as the "father" or "founder" of the school, though he himself played no special organizational or fostering role except that he was the teacher of Frederic Edwin Church (1826–1900). Along with Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902), Church was the most successful painter of the school until its decline.

You can learn a little more about the school by clicking here -- or you can learn a lot if you purchase this beautiful thick tome for $75.00. It's long and detailed. Plus, it's full of both art history and lovely color reproductions of Hudson River School paintings. Here's an incredible sunset painting by Frederic Church:



And a pretty sun-dappled tree by Albert Bierstadt:



Now, if you want a later American artist, we can look at this week's Collector's Item:



This is a truly exquisite 1910 compilation of antique classical tales retold by Nathaniel Hawthorne -- another all-American historic figure: the 1800s author of the famous novel The Scarlet Letter. In this book, Hawthorne is not just retelling classical tales; he also frames them in an all-American context. Here's the first couple sentences from his introduction to the tale of the mythological gorgon:

Beneath the porch of the country-seat called Tanglewood, one fine autumnal morning, was assembled a merry party of little folks, with a tall youth in the midst of them. They had planned a nutting expedition, and were impatiently waiting for the mists to roll up the hill-slopes, and for the sun to pour the warmth of the Indian summer over the fields and pastures, and into the nooks of the many-colored woods.

According to Hawthorne, these kids are running about telling each other these stories while on their nutting expeditions! So charming! Almost as charming as the gorgeous pictures by Maxfield Parrish, who was the most popular American illustrator of the early 1900s. Here's how Parrish illustrated the tale of a man sowing dragon's teeth in the earth:



Those dragon's teeth took root and grew into soldiers ... or so they say.

This book is not just gorgeous; it's also in pristine condition. Notice that the pages are what we in the book trade call "uncut":



When books emerge from the printer, the pages look like that -- but the pages are usually cut before the book is sold. In older books, they were sometimes sold with "uncut" pages, and the new owners could (carefully!) cut the pages themselves. A book with uncut pages has, accordingly, been subjected to extremely light usage. We're charging $350.00 for this beautiful 1910 book, and we can show you how to cut the pages at home if that's what you want to do!

Enjoy Thanksgiving, gentle readers! I am personally very grateful for this wonderful bookstore, my brilliant coworkers, and my gentleman boss. And I'm grateful to you for reading. Take care and we'll talk in a couple weeks.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sports! And also culture! And antique art!

I usually write about art and literature as much as I can, here at the O'Gara and Wilson store blog. I don't typically write about sports, because I am a nerdy little bookworm who doesn't get enough fresh air. And indeed, I'll tell you all about some beautiful artistic antiques in a moment. But first, I have to say, sometimes we receive a sporty item that is too perfect to resist. Like this week's Favorite:



It's a 1959 pennant for the Chicago White Sox -- the South Side's own baseball team! As Doug, the owner of our lovely bookstore, tells me: "On the North Side they have the Cubs ... Here on the South Side, we have a team that's actually won the World Series since the Wright Brothers!"

South Side pride, my friends. Yes, the Sox won the World Series in epic fashion in 2005. But this pennant is from '59, when they won the American League title with a roster that included many future Hall of Famers, only to be defeated by the Dodgers in the Series. Own this little piece of our South Side history for $35.00.

Fishing is also a sport! And it is highlighted by this week's Affordable and Interesting item, a book that's also from the 1950s:



The Coit Fishing Pole Club released this book, which is as sporty and all-American as it could be. Founder Frank Coit is pictured on the back, with his picture-perfect 1950s kids and their fishing gear:



When this book was published, you could have joined the Coit Club yourself! With this very membership card:



Those cards probably aren't available anymore. Still, this book is an incredibly charming period piece. It includes all kinds of advice about hunting and camping and fishing, plus engravings of various fish, and stories from the greats such as Mickey Mantle and Ty Cobb. (Even a nerdling like me knows about Mickey Mantle!) All this for $9.00.

I'm not sure what sports are popular in India. Yoga? Well, anyway, we don't have anything sporty from India right now, but we do have an unbelievably gorgeous Collector's Item:



This is a large and beautiful antique teakwood screen, circa 1920, with some of the loveliest carving I've seen. I focused on one section so you could see that it's beautiful close up, not just far away:



I am in awe of the patience and discipline of the crafters who made this screen. Can you imagine how long it took to hand-carve all those little flowers? If this screen were in my apartment, then I would almost be afraid to touch it -- though Doug tells me it's rather sturdy. For $450.00, you could have this screen to decorate your own space. I will try not to perish of envy!

And if you don't have $450.00, then you could always get these miniature, low-cost screens:



Here's a pretty red case that contains six miniature screens -- all of which are tiny replicas of big Japanese painted room-screens. You could use these little screens to section off your desk, set up a dollhouse, or look lovely on a mantelpiece. And all together, the whole case comes to only $15.00!

Well, gentle readers, I suppose I didn't stick to sports very well during this blog post. I loved the screens too much! If you can figure out a way to combine sports and antique screens, let me know. And aside from that, we'll talk again in two weeks.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween: I can't stop loving it.

Every year I talk way too much about Halloween. This year is no exception. This week's Affordable and Interesting item is Exhibit A:



Vampires! Or vampyres, as the case may be. We have plenty of vampire-related paraphernalia at the store, and this is one of the cheaper items, at a mere $9.50. This book is composed of both brilliance and kitsch: the cover is a bit puffy, and that blue eye you see shimmers in the most unearthly way. Within, we discover many an image of vampires through the ages, plus exciting visual tricks such as this:



Watch that picture of a man in the lower right corner. Watch it ... watch it ... and as we tilt the book to a new angle, see that he becomes:



... a wolf! Haha! Beware! While some people believe that vampires and werewolves are forever opposed, others believe that vampires are werewolves: they can turn into wolves. But that's not all. The book also has other tricks up its sleeve. Note how the left edge of those pages are folded over in a narrow strip. The strip bears the images of other animals that vampires can turn into -- from spiders to bats. When I unfold the strip, I discover:



... a pop-out butterfly! It seems that in some traditions vampires can also be butterflies. I will never look at local fauna the same way again.

Awesome as that book is, it is not my Favorite thing this week. No, my favorite is more elegantly creepy:



Creepy ... and beautiful! It is a candle-holder to end all candle-holders. For only $25.00 you can carry the most Gothic, elegant light source that could ever be imagined. Picture yourself, holding this candle-holder before an old dim mirror. The flame flickers. A vampyre launches itself from the shadows. Briefly panicked, you turn and thrust the candle in its face! There is a flash; the vampyre shrieks and collapses into a pile of ash. Fire is their weakness, you see. So this candle-holder could save your life!

Okay, I'm trying not to let Halloween colonize this whole entry. And there is something else really cool in the store these days ... a Collector's Item that would be especially perfect for someone who collects perfume:



It seems that New York's exquisite, world-famous Metropolitan Museum of Art decided to collate all the art that had to do with perfumes ... and then make a lovely book about them. But there is so much more to this than just a book. You see, it also comes with:



... a legion of scented oils! For $40.00, you can purchase these pretty vials of scented oil, ranging from orange-flavor to various spices ... and also you will get a lushly illustrated book to go with them. The whole is tied with a green silk ribbon, and unfolds into this picturesque tableau:



I am nearly apoplectic from wanting this book so much. I love the Metropolitan Museum, I love scents, I love art. Who could ask for anything more? Seriously, gentle readers. Who?

Well, Halloween will be over by the next time I write. So this is Lydia, signing off. My costume this year is a fallen angel. But sometimes I think I should just bite the bullet and be a vampyre.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ready for Halloween? Us too.

Halloween is, hands down, my favorite holiday of the year. I love it more than I can possibly express to you. You may recall that we have a waxwork monk here at the bookstore, name of Jerome. Jerome also loves Halloween, and this year he's decided to go as the Grim Reaper:



See that scythe leaning beside Jerome? I don't know where it came from, but it's a nasty piece of work. I'm hoping that if anyone tries to rob the store, they'll either run screaming when they realize that we're guarded by Death himself ... or they'll trip on that scythe, cut themselves accidentally and get tetanus. We don't get robbers much here at O'Gara and Wilson, but it kinda makes me wish we did.

But so many things are Affordable and Interesting at this here bookstore, I can't imagine why anyone would steal anything! Like this:



"Watchmen" is a classic graphic novel, famous in its genre. It features a cast of aging and disillusioned heroes who grapple with madness, mortality and other all-too-human concerns as they are called upon to save the world one more time. It's known for being gritty and cynical ... for example, this character:



... is shown in the above picture with his desk covered by little commercial action figures of himself. "Watchmen" was inevitably made into a movie, and I recently saw it on an excellent list of 10 disturbingly brilliant graphic novels. Buy it from us for $12.50.



I'm glad we got another week of warm days -- although I said in our last blog entry that I was scared I wouldn't get to go to the Dunes, it was warm enough this past weekend that I frolicked on the beach. But soon enough I'll be needing this week's Collector's Item!



Want to grind ice the old-fashioned way? Thanks to our unique bookstore, you can have that experience. You can make snow-cones powered only by the strength of your arms! You can't have our action figure of Mr. Bill, though. We're having too much fun putting him in dangerous situations around the store. Look how he clings to the side of the ice grinder, desperately trying to save himself from its teeth!



"Run!" I can imagine Mr. Bill telling us. "Save yourself!" Poor Mr. Bill. You could relieve his peril by purchasing the antique ice grinder for $60.00. I'll tell him you're coming, and he'll be so grateful. Until we put him in another awful situation ....

I think my next blog theme should be "blackmailing readers into saving Mr. Bill by purchasing our wares". Hmm .... The possibilities abound! Come back in two weeks and you'll see just how much they abound.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Oh, the saucy Roaring Twenties!

Today when I came in, Doug showed me this week's Favorite right away, and included free commentary: "Look at where that gentleman is putting his hand! That's why they called 'em the Roaring Twenties."



Oh, we can be saucy at O'Gara and Wilson, yes we can! Especially when we look at Chicago's history, which is about as saucy as it gets. Along with the above slim volume on the history of Chicago's music, we have received a number of issues of "Chicago History" magazine:



The above issue's cover features one of those beautiful old posters for the South Shore Line and the Indiana Dunes .... I was meaning to try and get out to see the Indiana Dunes before the last heat of summer vanished, but then the last heat of summer vanished. (Is it just me, or was the change of seasons particularly abrupt this year?) We have an assortment of other "Chicago History" issues from decades as diverse as the 1970s and the ... um ... early 2000s (was last decade the new "oughts"?). Each issue (and the music book) costs $7.50. If you have a Chicago history fan in your life (and if you're reading this blog then you almost certainly do!), one of these would make such a thoughtful gift.

Of course, the Chicago music history book could also go to a music-lover. As could this week's Affordable and Interesting items:



Here at ye olde bookstore, we often trade in antique objects that are not books, including old vinyl records. Since we don't know anything about records, we sell them for $3.00 apiece and rarely attempt to ascertain their true value. We just pulled in a new batch ... and while I'm not the most educated music fan, even I recognize names like Eric Clapton and Three Dog Night. Also, I know a ridiculously awesome 1970s collage when I see one. Way to go, Iron Butterfly!

Jon Arnold, a store regular who likes to tease me by pretending to be scoundrel competing in an Indiana Jones-style arms race for magical antiquities, had lots of fun sorting our records. He also told me the origins of the band name for Three Dog Night -- apparently, the band is from Australia, where nights can be cold; on cold nights, many people bring their dogs to sleep in bed with them. Thus, a very cold night is a three-dog night. Here are a couple great album covers from those guys:



Someone's been looking at too many melting clocks ....



Gotta love those decorated capitals.

And as a final note, can I just say that I love this image from a collection called Top Of The Rocks?



Makes me think sentimentally of my childhood favorite film, "Yellow Submarine". It truly does.

Finally, I would like to meet the collector who would collect this week's Collector's Item:



You may wonder what it is! Well might you ask. It is a picture of an African woman, made entirely from the wings of moths and butterflies. As a vegan who is opposed to animal cruelty, I want to be more horrified than I am ... this piece is so beautiful that I'm drawn to it anyway, somewhat to my shame. $40.00, and perfect for your favorite lepidopterist.

Oh, but I'm ashamed! Shame drives me from this blog, verily. I'll catch you again soon, gentle readers. In the meantime, please consider eating some tofu for me. It would make me feel so much better.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Beautiful bindings, whatever that means to you

I am so sorry for being absent so long, gentle readers. I had some illness to contend with, but now all is well! I can go back to showing you many pictures and idiosyncratically ranting.

So I'll start with the least idiosyncratic thing I want to show you this week, just to get it out of the way ... though maybe I should save it for last, because it's still wonderful. Actually, even though it's arguably not-so-idiosyncratic, I think it's my Favorite item in the lineup:



I recently realized that there are actually some people who do not know that we here at O'Gara & Wilson have a whole section for Lovely Victorian Bindings. These are well-preserved antique books that are still, quite obviously, beautifully made. For example, the above compendium of Milton's poetry. I tried scanning the cover so that I could show you a close-up, and while the color is a little washed-out, the scan came out pretty well!:



The book includes "Paradise Lost", "Paradise Regained", and many other fine classic poems. You -- yes you -- could own this beautiful thing for $20, and don't try to pretend you aren't tempted.

On the Affordable and Interesting end of the spectrum, we have some random 1970s "National Lampoons":





This iconic "college humor" magazine was begun in 1970 and experienced the most success is that decade, although it continued publication through the 1990s, and its immensely popular brand name has been bought and sold and bandied about by many salespeople in various genres. I do believe that the classic 1978 frat film "Animal House" was associated with the "National Lampoon", for example -- and "Animal House" was the first anyone ever heard of toga parties, so its cultural influence must be undeniable, right? Wikipedia gives us a gigantic list of the anthologies, spinoffs and so on, which includes not just "The Best of National Lampoon" but also "The Breast of National Lampoon". Tasteless? Maybe, which is why you can buy antique issues from us at a mere $2 apiece. In their own way, they too are beautifully bound, with 1970s humor illustrations such as the above!

Comics, on the other hand, are never tasteless. You can tell, because collectors never collect anything tasteless, and this week's Collector's Item is as comicky as it gets:



"Dick Tracy", that fearless old standby of a noir detective, has had many years of fame ... and many artists. Here we have a 60-year compilation that was curated by some recent artists, Collins and Locher, who were sure to pick their favorite strips of all time. That may not sound so special, but what's cool about this book is that it's one of only 1000 copies that were signed by both artist and writer. So for $75, you get not just their chosen favorites but their magic touch!

I always liked "Dick Tracy". As a youngling I found a number of compilations and clips, from which I learned to draw femme fatales in snaky black gowns. Ah, childhood. But I am of course not the only Tracy fan. Indeed, the artist who drew another famous cartoon, "Lil Abner", created a satirical version of Dick Tracy within his own cartoon whose name was Fearless Fosdick. Fosdick had a career almost as long as Tracy's, because he had enduring popularity within the world of "Lil Abner". You can even find buttons featuring Fearless Fosdick right now, should you be so inclined.

And, if all you really want is to read old Dick Tracy panels, I found a blogger who's scanned a ton of them -- and some other contemporary comics besides. Enjoy! Remember, if you become a fan, we've got the ultimate fan book right here at O'Gara and Wilson ....

Was that idiosyncratic enough for you, readers? I'll have to hope so. Au revoir ... and I'll try to keep up the weirdness in two weeks, as per usual.