contact us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right.

Los Angeles, CA

The Art of Reading and Everything At Hand to Make It More Enjoyable --

     Highly-desirable vintage and modern books,accessories and art


a selection of the very best vintage books & authors

Filtering by Category: vintage history book

On Annie S. Peck, Pioneering Feminist Mountaineer/Author, 1913



Hassan Cigatette Trading card showing Annie Sm... Let's now raise a toast to Annie S. Peck, author/photographer, world-traveler, and the climber of many mountains , all accomplished in the early 1900s.  She was a trail-blazing feminist, and adventuress.

Just below is her book: The South American Tour, published in 1916 (revised from a 1913 first edition). It is a detailed travel guide to well-known and un-known South America, including The Panama Canal (prior to its opening), and such cities as Lima, La Paz, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Rio. Peck traveled by sail, rail steamer, and one would guess, some times,  by foot and by horseback.

The Well-Traveled Suffragette

And in between her various stops along her South American route, Peck climbed mountains, including, in 1908, the North Peak of Peru's Mt. Huascaran (21,812 feet, some 1400 feet higher than Mt. McKinley). At that time, "greater than any man in American has yet (1916) achieved."

Climbing & Touring  South America, 1900s

In her travel guide, Peck not only described the countryside, but also offered a sampling of hotels in each city. She noted a stay at the luxe Hotel Plaza in Buenos Aires, would run $4.40/day (the lowest price). "The Plaza, under the management of the world famed Ritz Carlton people, is naturally the grand affair that one would expect, the pompous, uniformed British attendants easily leading one within to fancy himself in London"...

Peck's book is yet another wonderful example of the surprises you can find inside the covers  of a well-traveled, 100-year-old book. Here, the history of the author seems equally, if not more,  important than the book's contents. Reading Peck's biography, you can learn about how she planted a flag calling for Women's Right to Vote on a Peru mountain-top. And how she climbed in pants, at a time, when women wearing pants was a great scandal. Some times, Peck wore a disguise as a man, but only when it was the only way to climb with others.  Peck wrote deftly about all of her experiences and often with a wry sense of humor. Her book offered readers a rare view of South America, from the ground-up.

Fold-out map of South America

Though denied entrance to Brown University, because she was a woman, Peck persevered in her classical studies and Greek education in Rhode Island, in Michigan and in Europe. Her background helped her write knowledgeably about the countries she toured and the mountains she conquered.

For all of her accomplishments, Peru awarded her a gold medal and a cigarette company created a trading card for her. But today, she is largely unknown. Found books, like this, can rectify that.

The South American Tour, A Descriptive Guide by Annie S. Peck. George H. Doran Co., 1916.  398 pages, with fold-out map.

The Castro Conundrum: Who Wants This Book?



Every once in a while (or maybe even more than that), I come across an interesting vintage book, which I am compelled to buy, not always knowing why. This small volume, Fidel Castro's History Will Absolve Me!, is an example. Portrait of a Revolutionary

Published by Lyle Stuart in 1961, at 79 pages long, it is a quick read if you are interested in the volatile history of Cuba and its longtime leader, the controversial Fidel Castro. The contents of this book consist entirely of Castro's five-hour-long speech to the court, when on trial, in 1953, for leading an unsuccessful uprising against General Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar. The speech (which I have not read in entirety), is, a first glance, complex, rich in historic detail, and even somewhat professorial in tone.

In his foreword,Robert Taber describes a meeting with Castro in 1957, where Castro described "the little book" he had written in 1953, during months of solitary confinement in jail, before his trial. Under close guard in prison, he wrote the text in lime juice, invisible, between the lines of ordinary letters in his possession.

"You would be surprised," Castro said, "how much trouble it was. I could write for only twenty minutes or so each evening at sunset, when the sun slanted across the paper in such a way as to make the letters visible, glistening on the paper." Castro's motivation, Taber writes, was to preserve the history of the  defense  he "delivered entirely ad lib and without the benefit even of notes." 

As Taber writes, acting as his own attorney, Fidel Castro not only held the courtroom spellbound, but  the book arose out of  "Fidel's own ingenuity and gift of total recall," supplemented (of course) by the records of shorthand reporters present at the trial.

The book ends with Castro's memorable summation: "...I do not fear prison,  just as I do not fear the fury of the miserable tyrant who snuffed life out of 70 brothers of mine. Sentence me. I don't mind. History will absolve me."

Therein resides my conundrum. I now own an important book on Cuba, potentially of interest to researchers and historians. But I can't sell it.  I'm reticent,  given both the subject and the subject matter.
Perhaps, down the road, time will change public opinion, and I can then put it up for sale. But, for now, the slim little volume sits on the shelf, biding its time, in a sort of literary confinement.