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In 1981, in a small Northern California town, a group of like-minded feminists opened a community library. They wanted a place to read and write, to discuss books, and above all, they wanted “a library you can eat in. And thus The Sitting Room was born, and lives, and celebrated its 37th birthday this past Sunday, June 3.

Eminent Woolfian and Professor Emerita at Sonoma State University, J. J. Wilson is one of The Sitting Room’s founders and perhaps its luckiest member, as she lives (six months out of the year) in the library itself. Each room houses a different collection of women’s literature and art: e.g. the Poetry Room, the Writing Room, the Art hallway, and the Woolf Wall which graces the living room / workshop area. These collections are curated and organized by a dedicated volunteer, keeping the library’s offerings up-to-date and somewhat organized.

Books, tea, snacks and workshops

At The Sitting Room, there are books to borrow and books to read while sitting in an overstuffed armchair. Tea and snacks are freely available. Students and professors from nearby Sonoma State University use the library’s resources for research and discovery, community members pop by to read and think, and local writers hold workshops and readings.

J. J. Wilson calls The Sitting Room “an enactment of Woolf’s vision, but not an altar to her.” More than a room of one’s own, The Sitting Room is a library for everyone inspired by the values of feminism, conversation, and friendship. Its guiding spirits include not just Woolf, but also Tillie Olsen, Zora Neale Hurston, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, and Meridel Le Sueur. The Woolf-inspired art of Suzanne Bellamy and other feminist artists creates a rich visual tapestry for the library.

Access the online catalog and more

To access books from this utopian, grassroots, feminist, long-lived, and beloved library, visit the library’s online catalog.

And look for more on J. J. Wilson, The Sitting Room, and the history of the International Virginia Woolf Society in an upcoming issue of the Virginia Woolf Miscellany with the theme “Collecting Woolf.” Meanwhile, see the call for papers below.

Call for papers
Collecting Virginia Woolf: A Special Themed Issue of the Virginia Woolf Miscellany

Who collects Virginia Woolf and Hogarth Press books? When did the demand for and economic value of Woolf’s and the Hogarth Press’s books begin in the antiquarian book trade? Are Woolf and Hogarth Press books more or less desirable than other modernist first editions? What are the emotional, haptic, and educational values of early Woolf and Hogarth Press editions for scholars, students, and common readers? What do the book collections of Virginia and Leonard Woolf tell us about their lives as readers and writers?

In addition to more formal academic essays, this upcoming issue of the Miscellany (in collaboration with Blogging Woolf ) will also feature a special section called “Our Bookshelves, Ourselves.” Our book collections tell stories about our reading lives and also about our lives in the larger community of Woolf’s readers and scholars. In fact, a history of our bookshelves might begin to tell a history of the International Virginia Woolf Society itself. If you are a “common book collector,” and your books tell a story about your immersion in Woolf or Hogarth Press studies, tell us about it. If you have interesting strategies or stories about acquiring collectible editions of Woolf and Hogarth Press books on a budget, let us know!

Send submissions of 2,500 words for longer essays and 500 words for “Our Bookshelves” by Sept. 30, 2018, to Catherine Hollis via hollisc@berkeley.edu

[1] June Farver, “2% Milk is the New Half and Half,” The Sitting Room Past, Present and Future (2012)

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Collecting books was the topic of the “Book Collectors and the Book Trade” panel at the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf Conference in Reading, England, in June. So it’s no wonder my mind clicked into gear when I received an email full of Woolf treats from fellow Woolf hunter, book collector, and seller Jon S. Richardson.

June conference panelists included Leslie Arthur of the William Reese Company in Connecticut on “Bibliographers, Booksellers, and Collectors of the Hogarth Press,” Catherine Hollis of U.C. Berkeley on “The Common Reader and the Book Collector,” and Stephen Barkway of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain on “Hogarth Press Books,” the story of his personal collection.

Attached to Richardson’s email was the September 2017 list of volumes he has for sale, which include some by or about Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, other Bloomsbury writers, and the extended Stephen clan.

What’s on the list

There are 70 items offered on the current list. Here are just a few:

  • Woolf, Virginia. MRS. DALLOWAY, New York, Harcourt, [1931], 296 pp., 6th impression of the first American edition in deep orange cloth with spine label, VG+ with a pristine spine label, Kirkpatrick A9b, this copy with the exceedingly rare Bell jacket in yellow/black/ cream design, being the 1931 issue of the jacket (with a blurb on To The Lighthouse on rear inner flap), jacket is VG+ with trivial loss to spine ends and two tiny areas of abrasion on spine, price of $2.50 on flap, but no sunning, front inner flap has blurb on Mrs. Dalloway with N.Y. Times review quotation, prior owners’ signatures on flysheet, a most handsome copy of this Bell artwork which is identical to the first edition. $785
  • Quentin Bell & Virginia Nicholson. CHARLESTON-A BLOOMSBURY HOUSE AND GARDEN, New York, Holt, 1997, first American edition, oblong quarto, fine with near fine dust jacket,152 pp., profusely illustrated in color, a room-by-room excursion through this home so central to Bloomsbury outside London. $55
  • Sackville-West, V. CHALLENGE, New York, George H. Doran, [1923], the third impression in RED CLOTH, lettered in black on spine and on upper board, see notes to Cross A9b, VG, 297 pp., dedicated to Violet Trefusis in the Romany dialect they shared, a scarce appearance of this book suppressed in England by Lady Sackville who feared the disclosure of VS-W’s relationship with Violet Trefusis, number of copies unknown. $95
  • [Bell, Grant, Woolf & Bloomsbury] A complete run of THE CHARLESTON NEWSLETTER, Issues Nos. 1-24 (1982-89) + index (all published); published by the Charleston Trust, Richmond, Surrey, edited by Hugh Lee, wrappers, VG, s contained in two volume custom green bindings supplied by Charleston at the time – these bindings are unusual in using a string technique which allows removal but also allows volumes to open nearly flat for ease of copying; an amazing work of scholarship starting with the formation of the Trust to save Charleston, many contributions by Quentin Bell and other Bloomsbury people then alive, many issues have color plates of Bloomsbury art by Bell & Grant especially Charleston and other rooms decorated by them; great sequence of articles on Bloomsbury bookplates with copies, the breadth of the topics is vast, ultimately succeeded by The Charleston Magazine in 1990; scarce in the complete set and an essential Bloomsbury reference source as much of this material (from original Bloomsbury members then still alive) exists only here. $485

Background on the Woolf hunters

According to “Woolf Hunters,” a 2010 article in the Harvard Magazine, Richardson founders Jon and harbor books screenshotMargaret Richardson have made hunting down the works of Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group their mission since opening York Harbor Books in Maine more than 20 years ago.

To receive your own list, contact Jon S. Richardson Rare Books at yorkharborbooks@aol.com.

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