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Austin Abbey Rare Books – About Us

I have always been fascinated with the power of illustration and how greatly illustration and book design can affect a reader's perception of a story or narrative. That fascination has developed over time to include how illustration and design are used on Publisher's Bindings; how the private press movement of the Fin de Siècle (late 19th/early 20th century) altered book design and illustration to fit their ideal of the "perfect book"; and how the art and design of fine bindings can contribute to a reader's enjoyment of the text and the desire to collect.

Austin Abbey Rare Books is named for Edwin Austin Abbey, an American and British (naturalized) illustrator, muralist and painter, whose work was informed by William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Austin Abbey's work reached the pinnacle of popularity during the last third of the 19th century. He was not only a gifted illustrator, but also a gifted book cover designer whose designs for Selections from the Poetry of Robert Herrick (Harper, 1882); Land of the Midnight Sun (Harper, 1882) and Sketching Rambles in Holland (Harper, 1885) had an early and long ranging influence on the Art Nouveau movement. As Abbey's work inspired many illustrators of the fin de siècle and generations of collectors that followed, I thought it appropriate that his name and cover designs grace my business.

My passion for early American history started with childhood stories of the founding fathers and progressed through college, where I indulged my passion by taking classes on many aspects of the American revolutionary period. My love of Americana was born about 20 years ago, the first time I held and then quickly purchased the first American edition of John Adams' Defence of the Constitutions (Hall and Sellers, 1787). I was absolutely transported by holding and reading the words of my favorite founding father and have collected and studied the bibliography of this period since.

I made the switch from collector to bookseller under the tutelage of both an experienced ABAA bookseller and the retired owner of one of the mid-Atlantic's primary auction houses, followed by attendance at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar. As a former research scientist and later, a technical writer/editor for the NIH, I apply all the research skills I have honed in over 25 years in the biological sciences to my work as a bookseller.

My approach in elucidating the background of each book and manuscript is based on a scientific methodology. I observe each book or manuscript as an individual, and write a clear concise description of what I find.  If there is more to a book or manuscript that meets the eye, I will use every tool I know to plumb its depths, as it were, and find its true story.  My promise to you is to provide well researched and clearly written catalog descriptions and to scrupulously follow the professional and ethical standards that I have been taught.

Adrienne Kitts (Proprietor)



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