Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2019 Issue

What Type of Books Does Gwyneth Paltrow collect?


An example of what can be done with book jackets (from Juniper Books' Facebook page).

In a time when the role of books in society is in a state of flux, it is always reassuring to learn that a celebrated, well-known person is a book collector. What could be better than a famous actress, superbly talented, beautiful, and a household name, a star many times over? Such describes Gwyneth Paltrow, extraordinary actress, book collector. However, she is not your traditional book collector and this may make some uncomfortable. She is more of a sort of collector we have seen develop in this century, focused on aspects of books other than edition, age, rarity, or any of those factors that usually lead book collectors to pay crazy amounts of money for a particular copy.


We learned about Ms. Paltrow's collecting courtesy of Town & Country magazine. They did not interview the collector herself, but rather, her curator, Thatcher Wine. Mr. Wine founded Juniper Books in 2001. It's not a typical book store. Instead, it offers all sorts of services to collectors beyond simply selling books. They will provide specialty covers or jackets to suit your taste, perhaps following a color or fabric scheme. They specialize in helping form collections, but not so much finding first editions as in finding books that fit a collector's personality. For example, rather than building a collection around a specific author or subject, they build one that describes who the collector is. There is no expectation that the owner will ever actually read the books, but perhaps one could say if they did decide to read some books, these would be ones they would likely select. As Wine told Town & Country, "they are a reflection of where you’ve been and where you want to go."


While choosing books by color or for specialty dust jackets may seem odd, people choose other features of their homes based on look, such as paint, cabinets, rugs. Why not their books? As Thatcher Wine explains, "someone can have the complete works of Jane Austen, but in a certain Pantone chip color that matches the rest of the room or with a custom image...Why settle for books that a publisher designed?"


So, what sort of a collection did Wine develop for Gwyneth Paltrow? He explains that when she moved into her home a few years ago, she discovered she needed another 500 or 600 books to fill her shelves. Wine looked at her existing collection and determined her interests were focused on art, fashion, culture, photography and architecture. She also wanted books her children would like, so some children's classics they might want to read as they grow older were included. For the family room, he integrated books into her collection that "felt very light, inviting, and easy to grab off the shelves." For the dining room, he selected "a more rigid color palette of black, white and gray," since that is a room in which they are less likely to be pulling books off the shelves to read.


Looking at books this way is not without controversy, even derision. It can be seen as an offshoot of "books by the foot," something which Juniper also offers. That is where someone orders ten feet of red books and five feet of blue books to fill their shelves. They have no idea what books they are getting nor do they care. They will never be read or even opened. The owner simply wants to see red and blue on the shelves. It can make people who see books as fountains of knowledge and wisdom cringe. Similarly, there is the current fashionable style of putting books on the shelves backwards, that is, with their fore-edges exposed rather than their spines. Obviously, these won't be read since you can't even tell what is the title of any book.


But, is it really fair to criticize the use of books this way because it ignores what many of us think is the purpose of books? Is this really a new phenomenon, or a new iteration of something that goes back almost as far as books themselves? Some early collectors commissioned magnificent bindings for their books. Jean Grolier, the 16th century collector for whom America's oldest and largest bibliophile society is named, is not renowned for his selection of the texts he collected. It's for his beautiful bindings. The fine press movement is not noted for its extraordinary texts either, but for beautiful books. Collectors are not paying $50,000 or more for a Kelmscott Chaucer because William Morris' edition of Canterbury Tales is easier to understand than other editions. It is just as incomprehensible to English-speaking readers as a $10 used copy. What, exactly, is the difference? While Gwyneth Paltrow may make her selections for different reasons than I would, she is still a book collector, and I'll bet her shelves look nicer than mine, and nicer than they would if lined with electronic readers and tablet computers. And, what's more, she just may turn her children into book readers along the way.

Posted On: 2019-10-01 15:42
User Name: rtreed

There used to be a café attached to the Museum of Sex here in NYC. It was lined with books, all of which were given plain brown dust-jackets — a gimmick, but an effective one. On any given day, about a quarter of the people there were reading from the library. There were mysteries, and gardening books, but most of the books were about sex, a pretty fascinating topic, which many people are remarkably ignorant about.
My point is that switching up the dust-jackets and covers can enhance, or obscure, meanings and purposes of a book.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>The Passion of American Collectors: Property of Barbara and Ira Lipman<br>Highly Important Printed and Manuscript Americana<br>April 13, 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> The first book-form printing of the Declaration of Independence. $250,000 to $350,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> (Paine, Thomas) <i>The American Crisis. Number I.</i> "These are the times that try men's souls." $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> First printing of the Treaty of Paris, with distinguished contemporary provenance. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>The Passion of American Collectors: Property of Barbara and Ira Lipman<br>Highly Important Printed and Manuscript Americana<br>April 13, 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> Washington, George. Letter signed as first President-Elect. Washington prepares to embark "again on the ocean of publick affairs." $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> (Hamilton, Alexander). Manuscript document. The launch of one of the most consequential careers in American public life. $180,000 to $250,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> (Lexington & Concord). <i>A Bloody Butchery, by the British Troops…</i> $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> (Yorktown Campaign—Jean-Nicolas Desandrouins). A Yorktown Campaign map from the personal archive of the Comte de Rochambeau. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Lyscosthenes, Conrad. <i>Prodigiorum ac ostentorum chronicon,</i> Basilea: Henricus Petrus, c. 1557, first edition, folio. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Collection of Ethiopic Religious Texts, in Ge'ez , illuminated manuscripts on vellum, c. 1700-20th c. (5 pcs.) $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Augustinus, Aurelius Sanctus.<br><i>De Civitate Dei,</i> Venice: Bonetus Locatellus per Octavianus Scotus, 9 Febbraio, 1486, 4to. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Choiseul-Gouffier, Marie Gabriel Comte de. <i>Voyage Pittoresque de la Grece,</i> Paris, J.J. Blaise, 1782-1809-1822, first edition. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Rufinus, Tyrannius (c. 345-411). <i>Expositio in symbolum apostolorum,</i> [Cologne, Ulrich Zel, c. 1472], first edition. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Magnus, Albertus. <i>Summa de eucharistiae sacramento,</i> Ulm: Johann Zainer, 1474. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Strabo. <i>Rerum geographicarum libri septemdecim. A Guilielmo Xylandro Augstano magna cura recogniti…,</i> Basel, Henricpetri, (August 1571). $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Riou, Stephen (1720-1780). <i>The Grecian Orders of Architecture. Delineated and Explained from the Antiquities of Athens,</i> London, 1768. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Mair, Paul Hektor. <i>Geschlechter Buch...der...Statt Augspurg,</i> Frankfurt am Maim, Sigmund Feyerabend, 1580. $1,800 to $2,500.
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    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Polybius (c. 200-118 B.C.). <i>Historiarum libri priores quinque,</i> Basel: Johann Herwagen, 1549. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Bellori, Giovanni Pietro. <i>Columna Antoniniana Marci Aurelii Antonini Augusti rebus gestis insignis Germanis simul...,</i> Rome, [1672]. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> <i>Ecclesiasticae Historiae, Eusebii Pamphili...Eiusdem de vita Constantini...Socratis...,</i> Paris, Robert Estienne, 1544. $800 to $1,200.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
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