Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2004 Issue

Mark Burstein & Alice: a World of the Mind

Collectors

The Bursteins: Pere, fils, et pètit-fils


By Bruce McKinney

About the time Arlo Guthrie was recording “Alice’s Restaurant,” Mark Burstein was honing his writing skills on his college senior thesis, writing about what would become his life’s passion – Lewis Carroll of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass fame. It is a passion he shares with his father, Sandor, a prolific collector generally and a very determined collector specifically of Carroll for many years. These days, Mark, the fiftyish father of a two-year-old, tends the private garden that is the world of Alice, alive and well these many years since Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, writing under the penname Lewis Carroll, first created the book which lives on today as an industry that, like tin soldiers, marches across the intellectual landscape producing websites, auction events, conferences, magazines, books and arguments.

For the Burstein family it started innocently enough. We find, in an oft-told story, that the senior Burstein was introduced to Alice around 1928 by a kindergarten teacher who was appearing in a play as the White Rabbit. Because truth is stranger than most (but not this) fiction, an article in the San Francisco Examiner in the late 1970s brought the kindergarten teacher, then in her eighties, back to the surface when she read an account of Dr. Burstein’s imbroglio with Alice and identified herself as the inspiratrix of this passion play now in full bloom.

Like many serious conditions, the gestation period was long so it wasn’t until the first symptoms were evident in the son that the father developed the full-blown disease. Hence it was, in the otherwise bland 1970s, the disease came to blossom. If the son’s case is acute, the father’s case is chronic. For Mark this passion has been transforming. His home, his collections, and his avocation come together in the clear and precise focus— Lewis Carroll—and it makes for an interesting life.

Sandor, a collector of many things, took to collecting Carroll seriously more than 30 years ago. His interest would lead, in time, to his becoming president of The Lewis Carroll Society of North America (LCSNA – pronounced lasagna?), which is not to be confused with The Lewis Carroll Society of Canada which has not, and perhaps never will be, anything but physically connected to the United States—if only by a common boundary 3,000 measly miles long. These are two separate and distinct places with associations as different as ducks and dodos and let there be no doubt about it! The U.K., Japan, Australia and New Zealand have also raised the Alice flag, and the word is around that entire portion of the middle east, Africa and South America remain up for grabs. We digress.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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