Rare book company Type Punch Matrix has acquired the majority of books from the estate of Amy Winehouse and has curated a display of highlights for exhibition at the 62nd Annual New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, which will be held April 21-24 at the Park Avenue Armory.
Winehouse’s collection reflects the smaller and more intimate details of her life: not just the talent or the drama, but her humor, ferocity, mischievousness, and vulnerability. It showcases the life of a great artist through her interactions with another artistic medium: books. Winehouse was a reader; both she and her family commented on it over the years in interviews (“I never travel without a good book,” the singer once said). When her estate appeared at auction, among the dresses, purses, audio equipment, and CDs was also her library. “Looking the books over, you could easily recognize the teenager who loved Salinger,” noted Type Punch Matrix co-founder Brian Cassidy, “but also the nerd who collected graphic novels, the budding vocalist studying multiple Frank Sinatra biographies, and the touring musician just looking for a good read to pass the time on the road.”
The books came up as individual lots, so it was a fight to keep her library together. “We had to compete to reverse the natural consequence of the auction, the breaking apart of her library,” remarked Type Punch Matrix co-founder Rebecca Romney. “This was a collection that deserved, as much as possible, to stay together. Not only because they spoke biographically about Winehouse’s life, but also because they spoke to her work as an artist and as a writer.”
Among the books are well-read favorites (like Jackie Collins) and gifts from friends (such as a photobook inscribed by Dave LaChapelle, who directed her music video “Tears Dry on Their Own”). Winehouse’s annotated copy of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, in which she starred for a school production, shows the 1960s roots of a music and style that would go on to deeply influence her, especially on BACK TO BLACK. Fragments of lyrics to an unfinished song are written into a copy of Allen Ginsberg’s HOWL; her beloved grandmother’s email is penned on a bookmark; the guestlist for a party is written on the last page of a book; in another, there is an ownership stamp of one of the hospitals where Winehouse was once admitted. Cassidy commented, “The collection offers an intimate, tender, and revealing look into the intersection of the public and private lives of one of the most indelible musical artists of the 21st century.”
The collection will be offered en bloc at the fair in Type Punch Matrix’s booth A35. More than 50 books will be on display from a larger collection of over 220, with the exhibition grouped into four stages: “Beginnings,” “Favorites,” “Career,” and “Fame.”
“Books are not static objects in our lives,” observed Romney. “We acquire them, we read them, and perhaps we write in or otherwise mark them – but they, in turn, leave their own marks on us.”