Bright Young Collectors: Whitney Milam

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Whitney Milam, winner of the 2023 California Young Book Collector’s Award. An exhibition of the Whitney collection will be shown at the 55th California Book Fair, February 10 – 12 in Pasadena.

Where are you from / where do you live?

I’m a veteran, so I grew up in Germany, Idaho, Arizona, Alabama, and Japan—but I was born in Los Angeles, and I’ve lived in Los Angeles longer than anywhere else.

What did you study at University? What do you do for work now?

I was an English major at UCLA. Since then, I have worked at a film studio, several digital production companies, an international think tank, a political advocacy group, a climate change organization, a climate change group president, and the US Mission to the United Nations at the State Department. . I now work for a clean energy company.

Please let us know your book collection.

The collection I call “Dueling Public Narratives of Byron and Shelley” focuses on the life and afterlife of the Romantic poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, who were actually friends and fellow exiles. The conflicts surrounding each of them in life intensified after their deaths, just two years apart in 1822 and 1824, respectively. This was largely due to warnings from surviving friends and family members, in the 19th century the equivalent of celebrities. While researching the Romantics, I found that many of the original sources for both poets either referred to each other or were written in reaction to each other, from Harriet Beecher Stowe to stressing her arguments. Mrs. Byron is confirmed response to a memoir published by Byron’s Italian mistress, to Shelley’s sister-in-law who was gathering her approval. Shelley Memorials in response to the unauthorized memoirs of Shelley’s best friends. It is interesting to read these passages in conversation, and to read Byron and Shelley as examples of our modern ideas of celebrity. There were many connections between their public and private lives, many posthumous disputes about their personalities, and there were heated discussions about scandals- their shame, relationships with the people they are talking about. It is immediately clear, reading the books in this collection, why they remain objects of debate and interest two centuries later.

How many books are there in your collection?

There are now over 70 books in my Romantics collection, over 120 books in my rare and classic collection, and hundreds more in my library. I also have a few archival boxes filled with ephemera, including lots of old newspapers and vellum indentures.

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

The first classic book I bought related to the Romantics was a Victorian adaptation of Byron’s poems on a 2013 trip to London—a decade ago.

What about the latest book?

I just found the first memoir of Byron to be published posthumously, Thomas Medwin’s Journal of Lord Byron’s Conversations, Recorded During His Residence at Pisa. Published in 1824, it was rushed less than six months after Byron’s death—because, according to Medwin, he had heard of Byron’s warnings being destroyed and felt as his responsibility to compensate for the loss. Medwin was Shelley’s cousin, and a member of the Byron-Shelley group in Pisa, where he spent many hours talking with Byron. Edward Trelawny, another member of the Pisan circle whose memory is later Stories of Shelley, Byron, and the Author also in my collection, he wrote that he warned Byron: “You must know that Medwin is taking notes of your speech.” According to Trelawny, Byron replied: “There are so many lies about me that Medwin cannot believe.” However, for anyone who reads Byron’s letters and journals, the conversations recorded by Medwin they are completely reliable.

And your favorite book in your collection?

An impossible question! I think the most interesting book in my collection of Romantics might be Astarte: A Snippet of Truth About George Gordon Byron, Sixth Lord Byron, one of 191 copies printed privately by Byron’s grandson, Ralph Milbanke, Earl of Lovelace—the heir to Byron’s only legitimate child, Ada Lovelace. Lovelace confirmed her grandmother’s claims to Harriet Beecher Stowe about Byron’s sexual relationship with his sister Augusta (represented by the character Astarte in Byron’s poem. Manfred) with private family documents, including previously unpublished letters between Byron and his sister. It was a therapeutic or family research project for Lovelace, never intended for public use.

Best deal you’ve found?

I got a $5 first edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol in the actual sales bin at a used bookstore. I think it must have been under the radar for anyone but Wilde’s supporters, because he posted anonymously under his prisoner identification number, C.3.3. It’s not part of my Romantics collection (although Wilde wrote in the Romantics!), but it’s definitely the best book I’ve ever found.

What about the Fallen One?

An incredibly affordable first edition of three volumes of Glenarvon by Lady Caroline Lamb, the scandalous roman à clef is one of Byron’s most infamous lovers. I was surprised by the dollar at the last second. I think I screamed.

Which would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

My truest Holy Grail, copy of Frankenstein which Mary Shelley gave to Lord Byron, unfortunately sold many years ago at the price of the house. I dream of one day owning a copy of the organization from the Byron-Shelley circle. And a lot of interesting articles or articles about them were published in newspapers, magazines or magazines, so I’d love to track down some of them – it’s hard to find specific pieces of ephemera.

Who is the bookseller / bookstore?

I was lucky enough to meet the legendary George Whitman, owner of Shakespeare & Company in Paris, when I was twelve. I spent more than an hour in his shop, weighed down by thousands of old books I couldn’t afford, before he generously gave me—an 1899 edition of Rudyard Kipling. Barrack Room Ballads—because he said, he knew that I really like books. He invited me back when I was older as one of the ‘Tumbleweeds,’ aspiring writers and artists were allowed to live there for free in the beds tucked between the shelves around the store. I was saddened to hear of his passing ten years later, before I could make the trip back to Paris when I was older. I have fallen in love with many other bookstores around the world in the decades since, but nothing will match the magic of discovering Shakespeare & Company as a child, and the kindness of George Whitman to the little book girl.

What can you collect if you don’t collect books?

Coins! Like books, coins provide a tactile link to history, and to historical figures. I have been involved in collecting foreign and antique coins throughout my life, but sometimes: books are my true love, and my favorite antique coins are out of my budget. with. However, I would love to have a coin of Alexander the Great or Augustus.

Leave a Comment