The book that ate my brain

As an avid reader, I noticed that in the acknowledgments, authors almost always thanked their long-suffering family members. I routinely wrote articles and blogged, so I really wondered just how bad could it be? Now I know.

I had great hopes that I could juggle studio work while finishing the upcoming horse color book, and still continue to post to the blog. Obviously that has not been happening! Over the last few months, my world has narrowed down to just the one thing: the book. I do not multitask well at all because I tend to lose myself in whatever project is in front of me, but I must admit that preparing a book has taken that obsessive focus to a new level. I am fortunate that those around me have been very patient with my partial presence; some part of me is always working on the book.

I am getting closer to completion, although I suspect that what looks like the end is just the beginning as I begin to deal with the actual publication. Towards that end, I have begun assembling the necessary photographs and illustrations. Just a few weeks ago, I made a trip to the National Sporting Library in Virginia in hopes of securing better digitized images from some old stud books. It was one of the few equine libraries I had not yet seen, so I was excited about the prospect. The building, pictured above, is in the style of an old coach house, and contains over 17,000 volumes dating as far back as the 16th century. I went with some specific goals, so I only had the chance to skim the surface of what was available there.

Civil War Horse, bronze by Tessa Pullan (1996).

The sculpture, which stands just a short way from the spot where the Battle of Middleburg (part of the Gettysburg Campaign) was fought, commemorates the more than 1.5 million horses and mules that died in the Civil War.

There were restrictions on taking photos in the upper levels of the library due to some of the artwork on loan, which was a shame. The interior is lovely, and gives the impression that you are visiting the personal library of some nineteenth-century Virginia gentleman.

But this is where I spent most of my time: the basement. Over the years I’ve learned that the really useful stuff is usually in the basement. This one was far, far nicer than most. The moving shelves in the picture hold most of the stud books in the collection. To get to the necessary aisle, the handles are turned and each case slides along a track to open a path. If only I had something like this in my house! (Lacking such fancy solutions, I have relied on the Kindle to make space for more books.)

I intended to get better copies of images that I already had, but I made a few finds while I was there. One of the best was a handful of images of the famed, but sadly extinct, Hanoverian Creams. This one came from a 1909 book on horse breeds. There is a great deal of mystery surrounding the actual color of the Creams, so finding a handful of images was an unexpected bonus.

Pistachio, one of the last living Hanoverian Creams

So progress continues on the book, albeit slower than I would like. I had hoped to have copies in time for the Bring Out Your Chinas Convention, but I have other projects that have to be done for that event (including the presentation there) that are going to require that I set the book aside for a bit, so I suspect that is not going to happen. My next big make-or-break deadline will be BreyerFest. I am much more optimistic about making that one.

In the meantime, I fear this blog may still be more sporadic than usual. I have gone ahead and set up the blog for the book, but it is only a placeholder at this point. It should go live once the book is well and truly off to the printers. That’s also when I should return to the studio, and pictures of shiny ponies will once again appear here.


9 Responses to The book that ate my brain

  1. Anonymous April 14, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    Is there any possibility of there being a digital color version of the photos that you are using in your book? If I remember correctly the photographs will be in black and white. I would like to see the colors themselves and a digital file of the photos would keep costs down. ~Ann

  2. Cynthia April 14, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    I hear you about the e-reader… I have a Nook, and it’s been nice to clear some of the old paperbacks off my shelf. I’ve bought some replacements, for a few that are out-of-print, I’m doing the scanning/OCR/drop into Sigil for epub.

    I’m also in the camp of not only being interested in a paper copy, but *ALSO* interested in a digital copy, say a nice epub that could be read on computer for color, and also on an ereader for content.

    There’s free software out there for making epubs out of XHTML files! Just saying…

  3. Cynthia April 14, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    P.s. Love the look of that library! I’ve never seen anything like those movable shelves before!

    What a nice place to go do research in!

  4. BAK April 14, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    Hi! Do we know each other?

  5. Heather April 14, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    Leslie…what a wonderful Library to visit…course, it’s for your book, however it would be fun just to check out equine libraries.

    The W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library at Cal Poly Pomona, CA
    is moving into new quarters in
    the Cal Poly Pomona University Library (the main library)…. should reopen sometime in the Fall.
    That could almost be a road trip during BOYCC 2013 !!!!

    Looking forward to your presentation at BOYCC in May, you always stump me with your research, you find such gems!!!
    ~Heather Wells

  6. Lesli Kathman April 14, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

    Hi Barb! Good to see you here, and yes we know one another. I wish I could have seen you last year in Kentucky, but I ran out of time – which is usually what happens there. 🙂

    About e-books, I am going to look into that. I have a little more problem with issuing a digital version of the photos separately, only in that I am unsure if photographers (all of whom have been very generous about allowing me to use their pictures) will allow it. Right now I am maintaining the book in two forms – color and b/w – in the hopes that someday the first will be workable.

    And Heather, is the Kellogg Library where the Arabian Horse Trust went? I was there once, and it was an amazing place (larger even than the National Sporting Library), but I understand it closed when the Arabian industry crashed. I thought that part of that collection was the Kellogg one, but maybe I am thinking of the Brown collection? Either way, I’d LOVE to see it some day.

  7. Heather April 15, 2011 at 12:02 am #

    I’m not sure if the Kellogg Collection acquired the Arabian
    Horse Trust….I can ask around to my Arabian horse owner friends to see if it happened…they would be more in-the-know than myself. I saw parts of it, saddles, bridles and photos, when it was in the Old Stable area but the housing was not the best, so I am really glad that Cal Poly is housing this Collection as it should, a true treasure.

    I am so volunteering when they open again…I do book presevation/conservation work and perhaps they can find a spot for me to help out.

    ~Heather W.

  8. BAK April 19, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

    Hi Lesli,
    So sorry, I didn’t see any name on the blog until after I posted my inane “comment”! I need to email you… and yep, I’m sorry we missed you, too… it was a very busy time at KHP! Godspeed with your project!

  9. Lesli Kathman April 19, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

    No problem, Barb! I figured you didn’t see the name over to the side (it’s really TINY in this layout, but I’m not sure how to fix that).

    I’ve been thinking of you as I assembled all this Hanoverian Cream information. There is a LOT out there, if you look at older texts, particularly German ones. It will all be in the book, but the most credible authors describe them as golden-eyed, or as having light walnut eyes – not blue or green or pink. (The absolute least credible reporters said pink.) I suspect that they may have been pearls, especially the later ones. (The early ones were most certain a mixed bag of genes!)

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