Hope and Endurance

Monday April 22, 2024

Hope and Endurance


It’s April.  The days are getting longer.  Here in California the trees and flowering plants are sending forth rivers of pollen which irritate those of us with allergies, but they more than make up for this by their lovely blossoms and fresh greenery.

For bibliophiles around...

Announcing: Arion Press Classics

Tuesday January 16, 2024

Arion Press Classics, 1975-2018


Swan’s Fine Books is proud to announce the offering of Arion Press publications from the retired publisher’s personal stock, beginning February 2024:  these are pristine copies, in their original wrapping.

We are working directly with Arion Press founder Andrew Hoyem and his wife Diana Ketcham to represent titles...

Joy Amidst the Everyday...

Thursday December 14, 2023

Joy Amidst the Everyday Clamor


Our postal worker is taking time off for the holidays, but assured me I would be in good hands.
The temporary postal worker just walked into my shop – he entered, stopped dead in his tracks with packages slipping to the floor – and said...

Rest in Peace, Cormac McCarthy

Friday June 16, 2023

Cormac McCarthy
1933 - 2023

A Giant Among Modern Authors

The literary world was rocked this past Tuesday with the news of the passing of Cormac McCarthy.  The New York Times printed a lengthy obituary.  Literary journals spread the news far and wide.  Booksellers everywhere shared stories with each other...

The Great Bukowski

Thursday May 11, 2023

So when does a Fine Press specialist start carrying Bukowski?

Why, when she is offered a collection of his first editions, many with his original artwork.


A collector contacted me recently, saying he was ready to begin selling his Bukowski collection.  Sigh, I thought to myself.  Poetry?  Sure, I....

And in the blink of an eye….

Monday September 19, 2022

Firsts London was over.  Four days in the Saatchi Gallery, surrounded by incredible books and incredible booksellers. 

I had intended (what is that old saying about the road to Hell???) to write a longer blog entry on Firsts London.  Which clearly did not happen.  Suffice it to say that –...

Congress….no, not the United States Congress but…

Tuesday September 13, 2022

A congregation, a gathering, a multiplicity, a grouping, a plurality of…

...antiquarian booksellers, from all over the world, whose national associations each belong to ILAB – the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.

A conference, in which we visit museums and private collections.  We eat and we drink.  We renew acquaintances...

Queen Elizabeth II...

Thursday September 8, 2022

“Have you heard the news?  The Queen has died….”

I paused, midway to having my martini glass raised to my lips.  An unexpected and overwhelming sense of loss washed over me.

The Queen is dead.

Being an American, while I have a great deal of respect for the institution of...

The London Journey Begins...

Tuesday September 6, 2022

I landed in London today after a 10-hour flight from San Francisco.

It’s probably been – my goodness, at least fifteen years since my last visit, if not twenty.  So much water has gone under the proverbial bridge in those years.  It was time for me to return.

I love...

The Joy of the Hunt for…

Tuesday June 28, 2022

Ask almost any bookseller, and they will tell you that one of the biggest thrills in bookselling is...

…hunting for a rare book.

Not necessarily a particular rare book, but keeping one’s eyes open for the unusual, the heretofore-unseen, the (perhaps?) last remaining copy of…well, just about anything.

During my...

Boston in the rain...

Monday June 27, 2022

Boston.  In the rain. 

The few side alleyways still paved only with old cobblestones glisten with the wet, inviting the unwary traveler to a tumble or two.  It’s no wonder that eighteenth-century ladies needed pattens to negotiate these streets in their thin silk shoes…

But there is nothing like walking...

Today I Flew 3000 Miles...

Tuesday June 21, 2022

Today I flew 3000 miles.  From Oakland to Phoenix.  From Phoenix to Nashville.  From Nashville to Boston.

I’m exhausted.

But before I allow myself to rest, I must capture the first few fleeting moments of thought upon arrival.

Thoughts tumbling through my brain, cascading, one on top of the other...

Heroism During the Time of War

Saturday June 11, 2022

While any war is a terrible thing, often at such times heroism shines through - such was the case with Ernie Pyle.

Ernest Taylor Pyle (1900-1945) covered WWII often telling stories about "ordinary American soldiers". Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1944, he was killed by enemy fire during the...

New York, New York

Saturday April 30, 2022

One bookseller’s three days in The Big Apple during the ABAA New York Antiquarian Book Fair

It had been years – decades? – since I was last in New York City.  And then only because a February blizzard stranded me there after a business meeting, with no flights out for...

Allow us to introduce...

Saturday May 29, 2021

Please allow us to introduce you to.....

Philip Chatfield, Sculptor


One of the great joys of selling books online is the new friends one makes from around the world.

Several months ago an inquiry arrived in my email inbox regarding a prospectus we had listed online which, we were careful to...

Announcing...our new location!

Saturday April 3, 2021

Announcing...our new location!

Swan's Fine Books has relocated to the
Ygnacio Adobe

As many of you know, when we closed our shop on Locust Street last May, we had planned to move into the vintage Railroad Station near to Broadway Plaza.

However, as the old saying goes, the only constant is...

California Young Book Collector's Prize

Thursday November 12, 2020


Sponsored by the Northern & Southern California Chapters of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America


Most great collectors started when they were young, and most great collections started with a passion for a particular object or subject.  When these objects are books and manuscripts, the collectors are called bibliophiles, or lovers of the book. 


Oscar Wilde

Tuesday July 21, 2020

Oscar Wilde...A Man Who Lived Life
on His Own Terms

How complicated we all are.  Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (1854-1900) loved poetry and art, and lived his life to the fullest in pursuit of such.  While most of us remember Wilde today for his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (published...

Bibliophilic Humor

Thursday April 23, 2020

Bibliophilic Humor!

During these very strange and difficult times, it's more important than ever for the bibliophilic community to reach out and support each other; the above picture came to us through the hands of several friends, but I've been told the credit goes to "the clever librarians at UC...

The Prototype Press

Sunday August 18, 2019

Who Says Young People Don't Love Books?

by Liz McCall

Meet Mark Sarigianis, Oakland-based printer and publisher of fine press editions at The Prototype Press.  We first became aware of The Prototype Press through the acquisition of two lovely books, An Ocean Between Us and Me, Myself, and the Monkeyface...

Emily Hahn

Sunday June 23, 2019

What Do Seduction and a Children's Book on China Have in Common?

by Liz McCall

Answer:  they were both written by Emily Hahn (1905-1997), a woman of independent spirit who led an unconventional life full of extensive travels which inspired her life-long career as an author.  She attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where...

Rare Book School

Sunday June 23, 2019

Rare Book School, One Woman’s Experience

By:  Laurelle Swan

“You really need to go”, he said over a glass of wine.  “You really NEED to take this course.  Now”.

It was February, and I was speaking with one of the staff of Rare Book School (Virginia) during a short break...

The Beat Poets

Monday April 29, 2019

And the Beat Goes On. . .

by Liz McCall

 This year marked the one hundredth birthday of Bay Area poet and proprietor of City Lights bookstore Lawrence Ferlinghetti; a prominent writer during the San Francisco Renaissance, Ferlinghetti also worked to publish and promote the work of the Beat poets...

The Studio of Nothing Else

Sunday March 3, 2019

Art Between the Covers

by Liz McCall

 The artist’s book has faced many evolving definitions over time, but at its core is the question What is a book?  Often sculptural, the artist’s book is a unique way of presenting information, and can take the form of a traditional case-bound (‘hardback’)...

Dmitry Sayenko

Sunday December 2, 2018

Meet Dmitry Sayenko

by Cassie Dowd

Our favourite contemporary Russian book artist!

 There are many Russian fairy tales that begin with three brothers set upon a task. Often the youngest brother, being the most naive and pure of heart, is the hero who rises from the challenges of the journey. In...

The Allen Press

Sunday March 11, 2018

The Allen Press

by Cassie Dowd

 Swan’s Fine Books has been fortunate to acquire recently a small collection of books published by the inimitable Allen Press. Herewith a few thoughts on the Press by our redoubtable cataloguer, Cassie Dowd.


A fine press book should be simple. Its overall composition building...

The Whittington Press

Tuesday January 23, 2018

Matrix & Double Dagger

by John Randle (Publisher, The Whittington Press)

Matrix is known throughout the Bibliophile world for its quality and presentation of printing and illustration arts.  John Randle, publisher and owner of the Whittington Press, shares some thoughts regarding how it got its start.

The seeds of Matrix were...

A Dark and Stormy Night

Sunday December 17, 2017

A Wink to All Those Nights...
The Dark and Stormy Kind, in Particular

In literature, the kiss of death for a piece of writing can be anything from poor grammar to overuse of cliches. Today, we would like to focus on one cliche that everyone here knows, that will make many...

Arthur Rimbaud

Sunday October 22, 2017

A Season in Hell


Arthur Rimbaud, a young French poet in the second half of the 19th century, is known as one of the "grandfathers" of Surrealism, and yet - we don't hear about him often enough. Today we would like to highlight this very singular literary mind and bring attention...

WWI Literature, continued

Sunday August 20, 2017

Literature of the First World War,
Part II

Last month, we began a journey into the much respected and revered literature of the First World War. Whether it was written during the war, directly after its ending, or twenty years later, literature of this time holds a universality that makes...

WWI Literature

Sunday July 9, 2017

Literature of the First World War,
Part I

In one year the world will mark its 100 year anniversary from the end of The Great War. The First World War captivated the attention of people all over the world for many reasons, as did the literature which sprang from the...

Eric Gill

Sunday May 14, 2017

Eric Gill's Unceasing Creativity

The name Eric Gill can be a controversial subject for bibliophiles and artists to speak on. Certainly Gill's life is something of the extraordinary - an intense study of multiple art forms, excelling at each, a full workload and recognized talent in his day, and even...

William Shakespeare - continued

Tuesday April 11, 2017

A Salute to the Master of Iambic Pentameter... William Shakespeare!

Though Shakespeare's works are notoriously difficult to date, scholarly studies show that his works Titus Andronicus, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew and The Two Gentlemen of Verona were works of Shakespeare's earliest portfolio and possibly influenced by...

William Shakespeare

Sunday March 19, 2017

A Salute to the Master of Iambic Pentameter... William Shakespeare!


 Shakespeare is a household name in almost every country around the world. Why? His work is some of the best examples of Elizabethan writing that have been preserved through the years. However, his life has become something of a....

Book Fairs

Sunday January 29, 2017

To Book Fair, or Not to Book Fair...That's Not a Question!

The upcoming California book fairs are a great place to hunt for treasures, learn about the antiquarian book trade, and find like-minded folk who love what you love... books! However, going to the fairs can be a daunting endeavor...

Design Bindings

Monday October 10, 2016

Designer Bindings

As countless collectors know, there are many different kinds of bindings in the book world. At times, the sheer number of binding styles and types can be almost overwhelming… is it leather, or some other kind of animal skin? Was type of cloth is that? Being able to...

TE Lawrence

Sunday August 14, 2016

Lawrence of Arabia – the Legend of T.E. Lawrence

Many of us know so little about this very complicated man.  For most of us, all we know is what was presented to us in the four-hour cinematic epic that hit the big screen in 1962, starring Peter O’Toole.  The dashing...

Victorian Literature

Sunday June 12, 2016

Everything you thought you knew about Victorians...

When you hear about "The Victorians" - what do you think of? Long white dresses, prim and proper etiquette... children held in esteem as angels? There was, of course, much emphasis on what was proper and improper, but there was also a....

Artist Books

Sunday February 21, 2016

To Artist Book, or Not to Artist Book...That is the Question!

The term Artist Book is indeed a controversial one when it comes to defining what exactly falls into this strange space between a book and a work of art. All over the internet you will different definitions. They all...

Fine Press Books

Monday January 25, 2016

Fine Press Books & the History of the Fine Press Movement

We recently were fortunate to acquire a large collection of fine press books, and in talking with some of our customers about them, I realized how few people are aware of these lovely books living in our midst. Therefore...

Alice in Wonderland

Thursday August 20, 2015

Happy Birthday, dear Alice

It has been 150 years since Alice in Wonderland was introduced to the world

An immediate success upon publication in November of 1865, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, remain enduring favourites today.

Why do the Alice stories continue to fascinate, generation after...

Carrie Carlton

Thursday January 1, 2015

Please meet Ms. Carrie Carlton, a/k/a “Topsy Turvy” 

Or, how I stumbled across an almost-forgotten author

Recently at an auction, we purchased a box of books – there were one or two titles that were familiar, so we took a chance and bid $50 for the box, desperately hoping we...

Open One Year!

Saturday October 18, 2014

And What a (First) Year It's Been!

My apologies to all for not having sent out a newsletter for – well, about a year now.  Yikes.  Keeping the shop open and looking great, evaluating and buying books, arranging and holding our evening discussion groups, beginning the Book Club (only classics...

John Donne

Thursday September 26, 2013

Across Time and Space...

“No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine:  if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy...


Sunday September 1, 2013

Antiquarian Book Seminar

Proprietor attends CABS - WOW!

Some of you who visited the shop during the first week of August may have noticed something missing - your proprietor, Laurelle Swan.  She was attending "CABS" - the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar.

The Seminar was taught by a faculty consisting of...