Sunday, November 23, 2014

Links & Reviews

Another excellent Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair was held last weekend; it was great to see so many good friends there and in Providence! Apologies if I've missed anything big in this roundup; I confess I was unable to pay quite as much attention to Twitter and other news during the fair.

- Rebecca Rego Barry has a good Fair rundown.

- Princeton alumnus William Scheide died on 14 November at the age of 100. See the Princeton obituary for a full run-down of Scheide's important philanthropy to his alma mater and elsewhere.

- The Museé des Lettres et Manuscrits in Paris, along with an associated institute and Aristophil, a company run by the museum's founder, Gérard Lhéritier, were reportedly raided by anti-fraud police on 18 November. It seems the company, which raised funds for the purchase of rare books and manuscripts, may have been involved in a massive Ponzi scheme. More on come on this front, I'm sure!

- The New York City Bar Association is set to auction off its rare books in a series of three auctions at Doyle New York. The first sale will be held tomorrow. The New York Law Journal also ran a piece on the upcoming sales, featuring some pretty shocking comments from Association staff and criticism from members.

- Bookseller Rick Gekoski's Guardian column "I quit: why I won't be finishing my history of the book" made the rounds this week. He's either completely missed the boat or is simply running in the wrong circles if he really believes his own statement: "I know of almost no creative writer or passionate reader who has the slightest interest in the history of the book." And as a bookseller, how on earth could he be "not particularly interested in the book as object"? Clearly he wasn't the right author for this book in the first place, and frankly I'm glad he's let it go.

- There's a story at Quartz by Daniel Hernandez about a Mark Twain-related plagiarism contretemps. See Kevin Mac Donnell's original review of the book in question. A co-author and editor of the book have issued a quite unsatisfying response.

- From Atlas Obscura, Secret Libraries of Paris.

- Scribner's is relaunching an e-magazine, Scribner Magazine.

- Amazon and Hachette have resolved their contract dispute, apparently leaving nobody very happy.

- A post from the Chicago SCRC blog highlights the Argos Lectionary, known as the "Gangster Bible" because Al Capone's gang reportedly swore their oaths over the book.

- Publisher David Godine is profiled in the Boston Globe.

- Over at AbeBooks, Beth Carswell has a feature article on Vesalius' Fabrica.

- The University of Michigan has claimed exemption from state public records laws, arguing that its employees do not have to keep official correspondence.

- Barbara Basbanes Richter has a short synopsis of the new Folger exhibit, "Decoding the Renaissance: 500 Years of Codes and Ciphers."

- James Atlas comments on the massive biography, and having received several 500+-page biographical tomes this month alone, I certainly get what he's saying!

- The winners of the 2014 National Book Awards were announced this week.

- A previously unknown Dylan Thomas notebook will be offered at Sotheby's London on 9 December.

- Amazon beat out Bowker and others for the rights to administer the .book domain name.

- Modern Notions has a short piece (with lots of good pictures) on Eric Kwakkel and his work on medieval doodles.


- Ezra Greenspan's William Wells Brown; review by Nell Irvin Painter in the NYTimes.

- Kirstin Downey's Isabella: The Warrior Queen; review by Richard L. Kagan in the WaPo.

- Pamela Smith Hill's Pioneer Girl; review by Lane Brown in the CSM.

- James McPherson's Embattled Rebel; review by Steven Hahn in the NYTimes.

- Mike Pitts' Digging for Richard III; review by Nick Romeo in the CSM.

- Jenny Uglow's In These Times; review by Peter Stothard in the TLS.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Links & Reviews

- On my way to Boston this week for the 38th Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair (look for me at the Rare Book School table) I'll be stopping off in Providence to give a talk, "Ownership Marks in Early American Books: Outliers & Oddities" as part of the Rhode Island Center for the Book's 2014 program, "Mine! Ownership Marks from Curses to Bookplates." See the full schedule of events and exhibits here.

- Speaking of Boston, the ABAA blog has been running a great series of posts on the Boston Book Fair and the Boston book scene writ large. Rusty Mott offers up "Recollections of the Boston Book Fair, by a Lifer," Peter Stern covers "Characters in the [Boston] Rare Book Trade," and Joyce Kosofsky writes about changes to the Boston rare books scene since the Boston Book Fair began.

- Many congratulations to Steve Ferguson, who has been named the Acting Associate University Librarian for Rare Books & Special Collections at Princeton.

- Thought this might be coming: the Rosenbach Library has filed a lawsuit against the executors of Maurice Sendak's will, charging that they are failing to comply with his wishes in various respects. There are some real howlers here, like the executors refusing to turn over rare Beatrix Potter books because they are "children's books, not rare books," or works by William Blake.

- Phil Collins has donated his collection of artifacts related to the Alamo and the Texas Revolution to the state of Texas.

- Both the Warburg Institute and the University of London claimed success after a judge handed down a decision in the dispute between the two sides. More from the Warburg Institute here.

- Some excellent news from New York: next year the Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair ("The Shadow Show") will take place on Friday 10 April at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, 869 Lexington Avenue at 66th St, New York (right across the street from the Armory show).

- The University of Chicago has received a $250,000 gift from Roger and Julie Baskes to enhance online catalog records.

- The Getty Research Institute has acquired a number of unpublished Joseph Cornell letters.

- Staff at the Imperial War Museum are pushing back against the planned closure of the museum's library.

- The Boston Athenaeum is digitizing its collection of Boston city directories from 1789 through 1900.

- The Ashmolean Museum is planning to reconstruct William Blake's studio as part of an upcoming exhibit on the artist.

- Richard Adams talked to the Telegraph about his writing, to mark the publication of a new edition of Watership Down.

- Over at Printeresting, a look at the Museum of Printing and Graphic Communication in Lyon.

- Bruce Holsinger writes for Humanities about the writing of historical fiction.

- The Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from the Conan Doyle estate, with the effect that Sherlock Holmes stories published before 1923 are determined to be in the public domain in the United States.

- Heritage Auctions is selling the archive of American Heritage Publishing.

- David Whitesell has compiled a few highlights from the new acquisitions to the McGregor Library this year.


- Bradford Morrow's The Forgers and Charlie Lovett's First Impressions; review by Rebecca Rego Barry at Fine Books Blog. The Forgers is also reviewed by Colin Dwyer for WSHU.

- Richard Norton Smith's On His Own Terms; review by David Nasaw in the WaPo.

- Jenny Uglow's In These Times; review by Nicholas Shakespeare in the Telegraph.

- Robert Darnton's Censors at Work; review by Alberto Manguel in the NYTimes.

- C.D. Rose's The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- E.O. Wilson's The Meaning of Human Existence; review by Danny Heitman in the CSM.

- E.O. Wilson's A Window on Eternity; review by Jonathan Weiner in the NYTimes.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Links & Reviews

- Sarah Werner and Matthew Kirschenbaum have written a piece for this year's edition of Book History: "Digital Scholarship and Digital Studies: The State of the Discipline."

- The AAS has acquired two photos of 19th-century printers posing with their tools.

- Nick Basbanes' piece on Rare Book School for the NEH's magazine, Humanities, is now online.

- Sotheby's has been sued by a consignor for an attribution: the seller argues that if the auction house had attributed the painting to Caravaggio rather than to a follower, the auction price would have been far higher.

- A fragmentary typescript of an unpublished memoir written by Simon & Schuster co-founder Richard Simon is currently listed in a bookseller's catalog for $5,000.

- UVA Today takes a look at the Book Traces project.

- Over at the Provenance Online Project, a few nifty GIF animations from old books.

- Eric Kwakkel found a fantastic example of a scribe putting some defects in his parchment to good use. And he writes about how, in certain cases, the destruction of medieval books actually served to lead to their survival.

- I'm not a big fan of the trend of historical institutions "updating their brands" by changing their names, but there's a report on the phenomenon in the NYTimes.

- The Fine Books Blog collects the links to Terry Belanger's recaps of the Case Western special collections symposium.

- Douglas Greenberg's essay on Michael Kammen in the LARB is highly recommended.


- Edward J. Larson's The Return of George Washington, 1783-1789; review by David Waldstreicher in the NYTimes.

- Francois Furstenberg's When the United States Spoke French; review by Hank H. Cox in the WaPo.

- Harold Holzer's Lincoln and the Power of the Press; review by David S. Reynolds in the NYTimes.

- Andrew McConnell Stott's The Poet and the Vampyre; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- Armand Marie Leroi's The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science; review by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein in the NYTimes.

Book Reviews: "Gutenberg's Apprentice" and "First Impressions"

A couple new biblio-novels have made appearances recently:

Alix Christie's Gutenberg's Apprentice (HarperCollins) is a fictionalized account of the Gutenberg workshop in Mainz during the production of the 42-line Bible. The story is told from the perspective of the eponymous apprentice, Peter Schoeffer, and Christie has at least to a significant degree tried to get the details right. She hasn't always succeeded, alas, and the actual plot of the novel is pretty lackluster, but Christie's writing is lovely and makes this historical reconstruction entirely worth a read. The contextualization of Gutenberg's (and Fust and Schoeffer's) work within the political and religious upheaval of 1450s Mainz alone would recommend it to anyone interested in the period.

Charlie Lovett has followed his The Bookman's Tale with First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen (Viking). Aside from the primal screams I must force myself to swallow every time an otherwise-sympathetic character in one of these novels steals a rare book or manuscript (surely, dear authors, there must be other ways to accomplish these things!) I quite liked this book as a biblio-mystery: it's got good characters, a quasi-believable plot, and a reasonable mystery with a healthy number of red herrings swimming around for good measure, even if the whole thing does follow a fairly obvious formula. I'm sure there's lots more fan service to Janeites in here than I caught, but the biblio-bits are quite nicely handled.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Links & Reviews

- There's a new Harvard Library policy governing access to digital reproductions of public domain works, and it's a good 'un. In part: "Harvard Library asserts no copyright over digital reproductions of works in its collections which are in the public domain, where those digital reproductions are made openly available on Harvard Library websites."

- Terry Belanger is doing the book world a great service by posting a series of dispatches from last week's National Colloquium on Library Special Collections ("Acknowledging the Past, Forging the Future") on ExLibris. See Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V (so far; more to come).

- ILAB has released a list of books believed stolen from the Cappuccini Library in Florence.

- The AAS has announced a conference and workshop, The Digital Antiquarian, to be held at the end of May and first week in June, 2015.

- The Thoreau Institute has purchased the Thoreau collection of bookseller Kevin Mac Donnell.

- Nate Pedersen talked to author Christine Jackson about her 2013 book John James LaForest Audubon: An English Perspective for the FB&C blog.

- A notebook from the 1910–1913 Scott expedition, containing notes by scientist George Murray Levick about photographs taken in 1911, was found last summer at the site of Scott's Terra Nova base camp.

- Over at I Love Typography, "The First Female Typographer."

- The New Haven Register profiles the team working on preserving and digitizing Yale's collection of papyri.

- The Soldiers National Museum in Gettysburg will close in November, and its collection of Civil War artifacts and other materials will be sold at auction.

- Eric Kwakkel has collected some excellent images of various ways parchment "goes bad," to complement equally excellent explanatory text.

- Brandon Butler writes about the new round of GSU copyright litigation in "Transformative Teaching after GSU."

- Ben Breen has a blog post at The Paris Review about his experience at RBS this summer.

- A deal was reached this week that will keep a Barnes & Noble open in the Bronx for at least the next two years.

- The Guardian highlights the new Cambridge University Library exhibition Private Lives of Print.

- Simon Beattie highlights a German pamphlet from 1930 advertising a "bibliotour" to the northeastern United States.

- Caroline Duroselle-Melish has been named the Andrew W. Mellow Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Sean Quimby has been appointed Director of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) at Columbia University.


- Jill Lepore's The Secret History of Wonder Woman; reviews by Etelka Lehoczky for NPR, Dwight Garner in the NYTimes, Carol Tavris in the WSJ, and Laura Hudson in the LATimes.

- Charlie Lovett's First Impressions; review by B.L. Clark at The Exile Bibliophile.

- Lucy Worsley's The Art of the English Murder; review by Sara Paretsky in the NYTimes.

- Laura Auricchio's The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered; review by Jonathan Yardley in the WaPo.

- Roger Clarke's Ghosts: A Natural History; review by Patrick McGrath in the NYTimes.

- Peter Wright's The Copyright Wars; review by Louis Menand in The New Yorker.

- Mark Hallett's Reynolds: Portraiture in Action; review by Norma Clarke in the TLS.

- Andrew McConnell Stott's The Poet and the Vampyre; review by Maxwell Carter in the NYTimes.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Links & Reviews

- Erik Kwakkel and Giulio Menna have launched a new website, Quill: Books Before Print.

- Philip Palmer writes on the Clark Library blog (The Clog) about manuscript captions added to early woodcuts and engravings.

- The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has partially reversed the GSU e-reserves decision handed down in May 2012. Jen Howard has a thorough report in the Chronicle. The appeals court found that the lower court judge had incorrectly weighed the four factors used to gauge fair use and returned the case for further examination. More on this decision from Kevin Smith.

- The Friends of Bangor Public Library have recognized collectibles dealer Paul Zebiak for his role in returning stolen posters and photographs to the library. Insider thief Russell Graves is serving a six-month jail sentence for the thefts.

- A new open-access journal of special collections, The Reading Room, launched this week.

- There's a report in the NYTimes about 14th-century birch-bark documents found in mud near Novgorod. More than a thousand such documents have been uncovered so far.

- A 31-year-old Bethesda, MD woman, Christina Wimmel, pleaded guilty to the theft of rare books worth more than $30,000 from her neighbor, collector-dealer Julia Jordan. Wimmel was sentenced to probation and the payment of restitution.

- The shortlist for this year's National Book Awards were announced this week.

- Curators at the Huntington Library have found amongst their uncataloged books two sections of the Yongle Encyclopedia (~1562), called the largest book ever printed in China.

- Toni Morrison's papers have been acquired by Princeton University.

- Jeff Peachey writes about the new Mark Landis documentary "Art and Craft" from a conservators' perspective.

- In Lapham's Quarterly, Colin Dickey reconsiders Virginia Woolf's novel Orlando.

- For Ada Lovelace Day this week, Sarah Werner highlighted an exercise she's used with her students to find early women printers in the book trade records. Joe Adelman posed a question about the integration of women printers into the history of early American printing at The Junto.

- The University of South Carolina has acquired the literary archive of Elmore Leonard.

- In the NYRB, Robert A. Schneider, editor of the AHR, replies to Robert Darnton's most recent NYRB essay, and Darnton responds: Overpriced Scholarship: An Exchange.

- Sam Roberts profiles Richard Norton Smith about Smith's new biography of Nelson Rockefeller.

- McSweeney's founder Dave Eggers announced this week that he is transitioning McSweeney's into a non-profit organization.


- Steven Pinker's The Sense of Style; review by Charles McGrath in the NYTimes.

- Cary Elwes' As You Wish; review by Alexandra Mullen in the WSJ.

- Jonathan Darman's Landslide; review by Sean Wilentz in the NYTimes.

- A trio of new books on reading in the digital age; review by Jennifer Howard in the TLS.

- Zephyr Teachout's Corruption in America; review by Thomas Frank in the NYTimes.

- Richard Norton Smith's On His Own Terms; review by Robert K. Landers in the WSJ.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Links & Reviews

- Emory University has acquired an important archive of Flanner O'Connor materials.

- A number of early Buddhist manuscripts, some dating to the sixth century, have reportedly been destroyed in floods in India.

- Sarah Werner writes on the Collation blog about the question of capturing bookseller and librarian notes in catalog records. And Erin Blake notes a new Hamnet URL and some nifty new search filters.

- The Bodleian Library has been successful in its bid to purchase the William Henry Fox Talbot archive of early photographs, as well as the photographer's diaries and letters. A 2017 exhibition is planned.

- The JHU student paper covers the exhibition of the Arthur and Janet Freeman Bibliotheca Fictiva Collection at Peabody Library (through February).

- D.H. Lawrence's manuscript of his short story "Her Turn" has been acquired by Harvard's Houghton Library.

- Manuscript Road Trip visits Virginia this week, and features a few of RBS's teaching manuscripts.

- Speaking of RBS, most scholarship applications are due this week, so don't forget to submit your applications!

- Eric Kwakkel explores the imagery of medieval desktops and highlights book clasps. He's also interviewed for an Independent article about early manuscript doodles.

- Yale conservators are working on the 7,000-item papryus collection, preparing the material for long-term access and use.

- Bob McCamant reported on this year's Oak Knoll Fest for the Fine Press Book Association blog: Day 1, Days 2/3.

- A copy of a 1916 silent film starring William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes has been found in a French film archive.

- A new database of British slave ownership is now available from UCL.

- The Economist has a long article on the future of the book, "From Papyrus to Pixels." Choose the magazine ("scroll") format for minimal obnoxiousness.

- Graham Bowley reports for the NYTimes on antiquities being damaged and/or lost in Iraq and Syria.

- The Paul Revere House has acquired a 1775 letter from Paul to Rachel Revere, previously conserved at NEDCC.

- Katherine Seelye reports for the NYTimes on the new Poe statue in Boston.

- Nine newly-digitized Civil War manuscript collections are now available from the Massachusetts Historical Society.

- Sara Georgini writes for The Junto on some early American diplomatic ciphers.


- Edward Baptist's The Half Has Never Been Told; reviews by Eric Foner and Felicia R. Lee in the NYTimes. 

- E.O. Wilson's The Meaning of Human Existence; review by Dwight Garner in the NYTimes.

- Peter Baldwin's The Copyright Wars; review at LISNews.

- Laura Auricchio's The Marquis; review by Frederick Brown in the WSJ.

- Stephen Pinker's The Sense of Style; review by Jacob Silverman in the CSM.

- Robin Varnum's Álvar Núnez Cabeza de Vaca: American Trailblazer; review by Marie Arana in the WaPo.

- James McPherson's Embattled Rebel; review by Ryan Cole in the WSJ.

- Italo Calvino's The Complete Cosmicomics; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- Colm Toíbín's Nora Webster; review by Darin Strauss in the LATimes.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Links & Reviews

- The DPLA has received a $999,485 grant from the IMLS to fund an expansion of the DPLA's service hubs network.

- Mozart's manuscript score of his Piano Sonata in A has been found at the National Szechenyi Library in Budapest.

- Martha Carlin writes in the TLS about a ~1643 manuscript description of Southwark which mentions Shakespeare and his contemporaries having carved their names into the panelled walls of the Tabard Inn.

- The Telegraph reports on the restoration of Mrs. Gaskell's house and gardens.

- Over at Aeon, David Armitage and Jo Guldi ask "how did history abdicate its role of inspiring the longer view?"

- A new exhibition has launched at Harvard's Houghton Library, "InsideOUT: Contemporary Bindings of Private Press Books."

- From Amanda French, "On some books in Edna St. Vincent Millay's library."

- Historian James McPherson talks books for the NYT's "By the Books" feature.

- The winners of the 2014 National Collegiate Book-Collecting Contest have been announced.

- An IMLS grant will fund the digitization of nearly 200 rare volumes from the Clark Art Institute's Julius S. Held Collection of Rare Books.

- Steve Moyer has a piece in the current issue of Humanities about artist John Gould and Ralph Nicholson Ellis, Jr., whose efforts to collect Gould's works nearly bankrupted him.

- The Boston Globe highlights the coming installation of a Poe statue in Boston, and BU professor Paul Lewis' long push to get the city to recognize Poe as a native son.

- Speaking of Poe, Susan Jaffe Tane spoke to FB&C about her collection of Poe, some of which is currently on display at the Grolier Club.

- A collection of Ray Bradbury's books, art, ephemera, &c. made $493,408 at auction last week.

- Arion Press, for their one-hundredth publication, will produce a new fine-press edition of Whitman's Leaves of Grass.

- News in June, but new to me: Bowdoin College has acquired a 328-volume collection of Sarah Wyman Whitman bindings, donated by collector Jean Paul Michaud.

- The NYT Arts Beat blog reported that some reviewers received copies of an ARC of Anthony Horowitz's new book Moriarty containing authorial back-and-forth with copy editors.

- The Royal College of Physicians will host a 2016 exhibition titled "Scholar, courtier, magician: the lost library of John Dee."

- Hannah Bailey guest-posts at The Junto about the importance of French archives for early American historians.

- Three 17th-century Japanese scrolls are now available digitally through the Princeton University Digital Library.

- First Folio thief Raymond Scott is back in the news after the prison where he committed suicide has come under scrutiny for not providing better mental health care. More coverage from the BBC and ChronicleLive.

- Also at The Junto, Sara Georgini provides an inside look at the process that goes into creating the Adams Papers editorial project volumes.

- From Jim Ambuske at the Scholars' Lab blog, "Visualizing Early America through MapScholar and Beyond."

- Author James Patterson plans to donate £130,000 to more than 70 independent bookshops across the UK. The funds will be used to promote programs designed to "inspire children to become lifelong readers."

- From Rare Books Digest, "Rare, Signed and Forged," in which the author lays out some suggested criteria for buying (or selling) signed books.


- Michael Farquhar's Secret Lives of the Tsars; review by Hank Cox in the WaPo.

- Ellen T. Harris' George Friedrich Handel: A Life with Friends; review by Weston Williams in the CSM.

- S.C. Gwynne's Rebel Yell; review by Allen Guelzo in the WSJ.

- Robert Darnton's Censors at Work; review by Felipe Fernández-Armesto in the WSJ.

Book Review: "The Forgers"

Bradford Morrow's The Forgers (forthcoming from Mysterious Press) was a must-read for me, given my particular interests in both bibliomysteries and literary forgery. Plus, it got blurbed by both Joyce Carol Oates and Nick Basbanes, and that can't possibly be a very common combination.

Morrow's time as a book dealer and collector serves him well here; it always helps, when writing about the rare book trade, to know what you're talking about, and by and large Morrow ably captures the atmospherics of the trade ... including some of its darker aspects.

"They never found his hands." With that first line Morrow draws the reader into a tale of brutal murder, blackmail, forgery, and psychological terror, about which I'll spoil no more than that. This suspenseful tale, told by the classic unreliable narrator, makes for a thoroughly enjoyable and pleasantly creepy read.

It's not a perfect book: some early foreshadowing sort of gives the game away, a few of the characters don't feel quite fleshed out, and there are a few slow spots pacing-wise. But no matter - it's quite a good book and I'll recommend it without reservation.