Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book Review: "BiblioTech"

John Palfrey's BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google (Basic Books, 2015) offers a timely and heartfelt examination of the library world as it is, as well as a series of steps he suggests will ensure that libraries will remain vital parts of the American community well into the future.

I wish one more word appeared in the subtitle: "Public." Because by and large the libraries Palfrey discusses in this book are the community-based public libraries that populate large cities and small towns throughout America, like the one I walked to many days after school (where I learned about the magical mysteries of interlibrary loan, where I first used the Internet, and where I came to appreciate the absolutely essential role that a good librarian can play in shaping lifelong habits and interests). These, it must be noted at the outset, are for the most part the libraries Palfrey refers to. At least, I hope they are, since at least some of his recommendations would be severely out of place if applied to most libraries at schools, colleges, and universities, not to mention independent research libraries, archives, and historical societies.

Such shorthanding can be partially understood if we take Palfrey at his word that this book is targeted not at librarians, but at "those who do not work in libraries and who should be taking a greater interest in the fate of these essential knowledge institutions on which we rely more than we seem to realize" (p. 17). I do wish, though, that he had explicitly made the point somewhere in the book, since I fear that Palfrey's message could be easily misapplied by well-meaning but unwise administrators or oversight boards, with potentially dramatic and drastic consequences for the types of libraries to which Palfrey's (over)generalizations simply aren't germane. The needs of the scholarly community at a major research university are vastly different from the needs of the patrons of the Jamaica Plan branch of the Boston Public Library; what is good medicine for the one might well poison the other, or vice versa. If Palfrey sees his prescriptions as universal (which I'm not suggesting he does, but wish that he'd made clear), then there are places where he's just flat-out gotten it wrong. So let's give him the benefit of the doubt, and from here on I will focus to the extent possible on his recommendations in the context of their application to public libraries—recognizing that there are vast differences between those as well.

Palfrey is correct to say that public libraries today will not be able to survive by coasting along on a wave of nostalgia, offering rooms full of Nora Roberts paperbacks, back issues of Popular Science, copies of the 1040 tax form, and a few computer terminals (my examples, not his). All those things can be had elsewhere, probably in more comfortable surroundings. He is also correct that increased regional cooperation, libraries as a "network of stewards" (p. 33), is going to be very important, as is an increased focus on providing digital access to books and other resources. It is true that librarians cannot simply throw up their hands and ignore the trends in publishing and book distribution, nor should they stand by silently (or even quietly) and allow a few powerful companies to come in and control the way people read, or the way libraries handle their own data.

He is also entirely right to call for increased funding, both from governments at every level and from private foundations, to support the important work that public libraries do, from providing a bridge across the "digital divide," offering spaces for civic engagement, educational services, community activities (but also for quiet contemplation), as well as (and still most importantly in my view) being access points for information. Obviously, too, innovative and imaginative programming for children and adults is a must.

Much of what Palfrey calls for is commonsensical and perfectly reasonable. As the founding director of the Digital Public Library of America, it makes sense that he mentions that organization's laudable mission every chance he gets (it's not the only thing he repeats several times throughout the book). He makes it difficult to argue with the idea that more R&D in libraries would be a good thing for the future of the library (it would!) and that librarians should be thinking creatively and frequently about how the ultimate mission of their institution can be pushed forward.

But there are some areas where I take strong issue with Palfrey. He writes, "Libraries must continue to make the shift toward the digital and away from print. The shift should not be overnight, but it should be made steadily and with great care. Libraries can and should de-accession physical materials much more aggressively than they do today, especially to save space and money when these materials are redundant with other local collections or digital forms of access to them. The public will have to accept slower delivery times for print-related materials to come back from efficient shared storage facilities" (p. 219). This blithe dismissal of concerns, "the public will have to accept," comes just a few pages after Palfrey notes that "the browsing experience is one of the most magical childhood memories for many people" (p. 207). This experience he doesn't dismiss so casually, though he suggests that "experimentation in digital browsing could eliminate the problem of reduced serendipity with the removal of physical stacks" (p. 215). That doesn't fly with me. I find virtual browsing to be an exceedingly poor replacement for shelf-browsing. You can't pick up that book on the next shelf that might be relevant in order to check the table of contents or the index ... and if you do think a nearby book might be needed, you'll have to order it up, then wait a day or more for it to be retrieved from wherever it's been stowed. Don't get me wrong, in certain cases offsite storage makes sense, but replacing open stacks with virtual browsing is by no means an acceptable substitution, nor should it be one that is turned to without a deep understanding of how it will change the library experience.

Palfrey's cliché-laden references to the book as physical object rubbed me the wrong way too, though that happens with every author who insists on referring to library stacks on nearly every reference as "dimly lit," or "musty." If your library's stacks smell musty, there is something seriously wrong; this is not to be celebrated!

This all seems like a lot of criticism (and it is) but I am genuinely glad that Palfrey wrote this book, and I firmly agree with much of what he says: cooperation, innovation, the adoption of new technologies: these are all important parts of ensuring that libraries have a vibrant future, as are finding new sources for investment in library technologies and infrastructure. We may differ on the details as well as on the extent to which his recommendations apply, but this is certainly a book which deserves a broad audience and one which will, I hope, lead to significant discussions both within the library community and between librarians and those who support (in several different senses of the word) the work they do.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Links & Reviews

- The Jewish Theological Seminary is selling a Gutenberg Bible fragment from its collections: the complete Book of Esther (in eight leaves) will go on the block at Christie's on 19 June, with an estimate of $500,000-700,000. The JTS will also sell thirteen other early printed texts, in preparation for the temporary closure of the library.

- There is a report in The Guardian today about a major conference scheduled for 26 June at the British Library: The Written Heritage of Mankind in Peril: Theft, Retrieval, Sale, and Restitution of rare books, maps, and manuscripts.

- Sebastian Stockman, writing in the Boston Globe, recaps the Radcliffe Institute's recent "University as Collector" conference. Even better, videos from the conference are now available here.

- Andrea Mays talked to NPR this week about her new book The Millionaire and the Bard, about Folger's Foliomania.

- Over at Echoes from the Vault, a great story about the identification of incunabula leaves used as endpapers.

- More than 100 past Rare Book School lectures (going back to a Graham Pollard talk in 1973) are now available on the RBS website.

- From the Harvard Gazette, "Robert Darnton closes the book." See also the full text of Darnton's remarks at a farewell celebration.

- Nina Schneider writes on the Clark Library's blog about the opportunity staff there are taking to reorganize their fine press collection, as they prepare for a building retrofit.

- From the Essex Centre for Bibliographical History, "Twitter, the book historian's friend."

- The Kaiser Library in Kathmandu was badly damaged in the recent earthquakes.

- From the HRC newsletter, a peek inside the processing of the Gabriel Garcia Márquez archive.

- In an effort to break open the case, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has offered a $100,000 reward for the return of a bronze eagle finial stolen along with major works of art during the 1990 heist (this is in addition to the $5 million reward offered for all of the stolen art).

- A copy of the 1611 "Great She Bible" has been identified in St Mary's Parish Church in Gisburn, Lancashire.

- Historian Joseph Ellis is featured in the NYTimes' "By the Book" column.

- Historian Peter Gay died this week at the age of 91. Read the NYTimes obituary.


- The new BBC adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell; review by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst in the Telegraph.

- Three recent books on the Battle of Waterloo; review by Gerard DeGroot in the WaPo.

- John Hemming's Naturalists in Paradise; review by Mark J. Plotkin in the WaPo.

- Andrea Mays' The Millionaire and the Bard; review by Howard Schneider in the WSJ.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Links & Reviews

- Rebecca Rego Barry has a bit more about the apparent theft of materials from the NYPL. Mitch Fraas has posted some court filings from the case and linked to the NYPL Bulletin issue from 1930 announcing the library's acquisition of the Franklin Work Book.

- The Gospels of Queen Theutberga of Lorraine, a ninth-century manuscript described as "pristine," will be sold at Christie's London on 15 July, estimated at £1.5 million. It was sold from the Beck Collection at Sotheby's in 1997 for around £1 million and has been in a private collection since then.

- The University of Pennsylvania has acquired a copy of what is believed to be the last full-length book printed by Benjamin Franklin, Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg's Petit Code de la raison humaine (printed at Passy in 1782).

- History of Humanities, a new journal, will be published by the University of Chicago Press beginning next spring.

- The British Library has launched a new guide to its collection of American newspapers.

- Carol Berkin talked to John Fea about her new book The Bill of Rights.

- The collection of Japanese internment camp artifacts recently pulled from auction have been acquired by the Japanese American National Museum in LA.

- The Obama Presidential Library will be located in Chicago.

- A new online database of the library of Robert Hooke has launched.

- Writing in the Washington Post, Hillary Kelly argues for a return to the serialization of novels.

- Scholars at the Mark Twain Papers project have identified a number of news stories written by Twain during his early journalistic career.

- Five volumes of manuscripts from the Paston Family correspondence have been digitized and are now available online.

- In The Guardian, David Shariatmadari offers "a history of cartography in 12 amazing maps."

- A signed first edition of One Hundred Years of Solitude stolen from a display case at a Bogota book fair was recovered after a week.

- In an editorial, the New York Times has called for needed funding increases for the city's public libraries.

- Cambridge University has acquired two books from the library of historian Edward Gibbon, and Liam Sims has written a thorough account of these new acquisitions as well as the rest of Gibbons' library.

- The Library Company of Philadelphia has joined the Provenance Online Project.

- Tracey Kry writes about some of the legal manuscripts in the AAS collections.

- Excerpts from John Palfrey's new book BiblioTech have been posted on Medium as "The Future of the Stacks." On LibraryCity, David Rothman has a long post on Palfrey's book at the DPLA.

- OPenn has launched, with the entire Schoenberg Collection and other digitized Penn manuscripts available for viewing/downloading/&c.

- A new book claims that Jane Austen's character Mr. Darcy was based on the real-life John Parker, the first Earl of Morley.

- Wired notes the launch of a new online viewer for the US Geological Survey's topographic maps.

- A collection of books, broadsides, and pamphlets associated with Ireland, from the collection of collector Tony Sweeney, will be sold at auction in Dublin on 12 May. See the catalog. Sweeney had tried to collect "the best possible copy of every book or pamphlet that could be shown to have a connection to Ireland before 1700."

- Illinois State University has acquired a collection of material related to animal trainer and circus owner Clyde Beatty. The collection was compiled by Dave and Mary Jane Price over some six decades.


- The 2015 CODEX Book Fair and Symposium; review by Gregory Eow.

- Rosa Salzburg's Ephemeral City: Cheap Print and Urban Culture in Renaissance Venice; review by Alexander S. Wilkinson at Reviews in History.

- David McCullough's The Wright Brothers; reviews by Daniel Okrent and Janet Maslin in the NYTimes, Reeve Lindbergh in the WaPo.

- Charlotte Gordon's Romantic Outlaws; review by Cristina Nehring in the NYTimes.

- Joseph Ellis' The Quartet; review by R.B. Bernstein in the NYTimes.

- Cokie Roberts' Capital Dames; review by Elaine Showalter in the WaPo.

- Thomas Kunkel's Man in Profile; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- Phyllis Lee Levin's The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams; review by Glenn Altschuler in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

- Hugh Aldersey-Williams' The Adventures of Sir Thomas Browne in the 21st Century; review by Noel Malcolm in The Telegraph.

- Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes; review by Marie Rutkoski in the NYTimes.

- Abigail Swingen's Competing Visions of Empire; review by Jessica Parr at The Junto.

- Bruce Holsinger's The Invention of Fire; reviews by Amy Gwiazdowski at The Book Report and Patrick Anderson in the WaPo.

- Matthew Pearl's The Last Bookaneer; review by Rebecca Rego Barry at Fine Books Blog.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Links & Reviews

- Going to have to dig into this one and try to find some more information: there are reports in the New York Daily News and the Wall Street Journal that federal authorities are looking into the theft of seven rare books and a Benjamin Franklin manuscript from the New York Public Library. According to the report, Margaret Tanchuk took the books to Doyle auction house for appraisal last May and Doyle contacted the library after noting library markings; she maintains that she is the legal owner after finding the materials when cleaning out her late father's jewelry store. The Franklin manuscript, known as "Work Book No. 2" and containing the accounts of the Franklin & Hall partnership from 1759 through 1766, is believed to have been stolen sometime between 1988 and 1991. According to a newspaper clipping [found via Google Books] the manuscript turned up in 1924 in an attic in Mount Holly, N.J. There is a photocopy [noted as "from the original at the New York Public Library"] in the David Hall Papers at the American Philosophical Society. [Update: adding a link to this article from 7 April, which comes at this case from the opposite side.]

- Duke University has acquired the truly amazing collection of books and other materials related to women's history (broadly defined) assembled by Lisa Unger Baskin over more than four decades.

- Erik Kwakkel has a fascinating post up about rare medieval name tags, kept in the archives of a Leiden orphanage.

- A collection of Herman Hesse manuscripts will be sold at auction in May by Ketterer Kunst Hamburg.

- Laura Aydelotte writes about a William Henry Ireland "Shakespeare" signature in a quarto Hamlet.

- Nora Krug reports on the ongoing publishing juggernaut that the annotated autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder has become.

- A book stolen from a private library in Rome last year has been located at a Buenos Aires bookstore after it was listed for sale online, according to Italian media reports. The reports do not indicate whether other books from the same theft were also found.

- Indiana may build a $25 million state archives building in downtown Indianapolis.

- The NYTimes covers a recent report by public library officials in New York City warning of a "staggering infrastructure crisis" in the branch library facilities.

- The ABAA blog reports that three items were discovered missing after the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. If you have any information, please contact ABAA Security Chair Garrett Scott.

- The Harvard Gazette reports on several events leading up to the centennial of Harvard's Widener Library, coming up this June.

- The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum has acquired a large collection of the papers of Arthur C. Clarke.

- Missed this last week: the NYTimes obituary of T. H. Tsien, who died on 9 April at the age of 105, is very much worth a read.

- In TNR, William Giraldi writes on "Why we need physical books."


- Bruce Holsinger's The Invention of Fire; review by Rebecca Rego Barry at the Fine Books Blog.

- Michael Pye's The Edge of the World; review by Michael Dirda in the Washington Post.

- Charlotte Gordon's Romantic Outlaws; review by Anna Russell in the WSJ (there's also a Q&A with the author).

- Alberto Manguel's Curiosity; review by Iain Reid in the Globe and Mail.

- John Palfrey's Biblio Tech; review by Carlos Lozada in the Washington Post.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Links & Reviews

Apologies for not getting a post up last week; as usual the New York Book Fair weekend proved too busy to get much written. It was lovely to see many friends at the book fair(s), and if you have a chance to get to the Grolier Club for the absolutely excellent Aldus show before it comes down on 25 April, do go and see it.

- Rebecca Rego Barry has a rundown of the book fairs at the Fine Books Blog, while Greg Gibson at Bookman's Log writes about the "dueling" shadow shows (I went to both, and must say the venue for the Getman show was a real winner; it made browsing the booths much more pleasant).

- At The Collation, Sarah Werner takes a look at the use of printed cancel slips as a method of correcting printing mistakes.

- Entrepreneur John Rogers, who bought up the photo archives of several major American, Australian, and New Zealand newspapers (in exchange for money and digital copies of the photos) reportedly faces up to a dozen lawsuits and his business has been raided by the FBI, Brian Lamber reports for MinnPost.

- More on that unpublished Jupiter Hammon poem from the N-YHS blog.

- An exhibition at the Library of Congress on early American printing opens on 4 June and will run until 2 January 2016. The show features two copies of the 1640 Bay Psalm Book, among other treasures.

- There's an update from the CBC about the aftermath of the disastrous fire at Moscow's INION in January. Library staff and volunteers are still packing and removing damaged books from the site.

- Jennifer Schuessler reports for the NYTimes on the possible shutdown of the Dictionary of American Regional English due to funding shortfalls. More from the Boston Globe.

- Work by UVA profs Chad Wellmon and Brad Pasanek to create a "digital network of print materials created during the Enlightenment" is highlighted in UVA Today.

- The Royal Archives is digitizing some 350,000 pages from the private papers of George III.

- Also from Jennifer Schuessler, a report on Terry Alford's new biography of John Wilkes Booth, Fortune's Fool (OUP), and Alford's work with amateur Booth researchers.

- The manuscript of Don McLean's "American Pie" sold for $1.2 million at Christie's on 7 April.

- Erik Kwakkel has a new piece on how people sent short messages to each other in earlier centuries: "Texting in Medieval Times."

- The Outer Banks Sentinel reports on some new research which suggests that the Roanoke colonists may well have relocated to Hatteras Island (as has been long thought).

- Some 450 artifacts made by Japanese-Americans in WWII internment camps (and later given to a historian writing about the art created in the camps) were withdrawn from a New Jersey auction this week following online protests and threats of legal action.

- Ralph Blumenthal reports on the Stanford Literary Lab's Mapping Emotions in Victorian London project.

- Book collector and Melbourne barrister John Emmerson has bequeathed his library to the State Library of Victoria. The collection, numbering more than 5,000 volumes, includes a number of important English imprints from the Civil War period, books from Charles I's personal library, &c. The bequest also funds fellowships for visiting scholars to work with the collection. [h/t Anthony Tedeschi]

- Literary Hub has launched.

- In the THE, Christopher Bigsby writes on the changing nature(s) of libraries.

- From the WSJ, a report by Steven Rosenbush, "In This Digital Age, Book Collecting is Still Going Strong."

- At Inside Adams, Julie Miller writes on Jefferson's manuscript chart on the appearances of fruits and vegetables in the markets of Washington, D.C. (compiled while Jefferson was president).

- On the JHI blog, Maryan Patton writes on "The Early History of Arabic Printing in Europe."

- A key Alan Turing notebook was sold at Bonhams New York on 13 April for $1,025,000.

- The current Houghton Library exhibition, Starry Messengers: Signs and Science from the Skies, closes on 2 May. As a sneek peek, they've posted a short video conversation between curator John Overholt, Sara Schechner (Curator of Harvard's Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments) and Owen Gingerich.

- There's an excerpt from Alex Johnson's new book Improbable Libraries online at the Guardian.

- Johnson's Dictionary is highlighted on the John J. Burns Library's Blog.

- More than a hundred professors at the University of Oregon have called on the university administration to reinstate archivist James Fox, who was placed on administrative leave following the release of confidential university data to a professor.

- Abbie Weinberg writes at The Collation about the sorts of bibliographical thread-pulling expeditions that provide hours of entertainment for those of us who enjoy such things (and utter, hair-pulling-worthy frustration for others, I'm sure!).

- Over at The New Antiquarian, John Waite profiles a rare edition of The New England Primer, one printed during the 1780s which contains a portrait of Washington possibly engraved by Paul Revere.

- Sarah Henary profiles the legacy of Anthony Trollope at The Millions.

- Writing for the Guardian, Calum Marsh asks "Can you really make a living by selling used books on Amazon for a penny?"


- Mary Pilon's The Monopolists; review by Sarah Wise in the Telegraph.

- Deborah Cadbury's Princes at War; review by Philip Ziegler in the Telegraph.

- Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed; review by Choire Sicha in the NYTimes.

- Cassandra Good's Founding Friendships; review by Tom Cutterham at The Junto.

- Robert Bevan reviews the new Weston Library in Architects Journal.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Links & Reviews

- Italian authorities said this week that some books seized from the library of former Italian senator Marcello Dell'Utri (now in prison for ties to organized crime) had been "removed from" from public and ecclesiastical libraries across Italy. The NYTimes piece on this is currently headlined "Politician's Books Came from Libraries Across Italy, Police Say." (Presumably some of the books might have been legitimately deaccessioned). Appended at the bottom is the following correction:

- The GAO has issued a 130-page report on the Library of Congress' IT strategies, and the title itself is pretty telling: "Strong Leadership Needed to Address Serious Information Technology Management Weaknesses." The Washington Post ran a long piece on the report by Peggy McGlone, in which top management at the library comes in for very strong criticism. An NYTimes editorial yesterday concludes that "Congress ... has been far too lax over the years in reviewing [Librarian of Congress James] Billington's leadership because of his status as a capital fixture. Lawmakers must hold him to his latest promises and much more if the institution is not to slip further behind in a world where smartly managed information should be the basic stuff of a library."

- Princeton has acquired the personal library of philosopher Jacques Derrida; many of the 13,800 volumes reportedly contain significant marginalia and insertions.

- Anthony Grafton's March talk at the New York Society Library, "Books & Barrels: Readers and Reading in Colonial America," is now available on YouTube.

- Yale's Beinecke Library has purchased the Meserve-Kunhardt Collection of Lincoln material, including thousands of photographs, some 600 volumes from Lincoln's Springfield library, and much more.

- The Maine Antique Digest posted an editorial this week on the (currently-postponed) planned sale of highlights from the Edward Payson Vining collection by Gordon College. The college has reportedly requested an opinion from the state attorney general's office on the legality of any sale.

- A collection of manuscripts from the Syriac Orthodox Mar Matti Monastery in northern Iraq was saved from ISIS militants and is currently being housed in an apartment in Dohuk, according to an AP report.

- The NYPL broke ground this week on the expansion of underground storage space beneath Bryant Park.

- More than 15,000 new maps have been added to the David Rumsey Map Collection, bringing the total number of digitized maps on the site to 58,078.

- The ABAA blog reports that a cache of documents and other items relating to work on the Statue of Liberty were in Baltimore in late December. See their post for full information on the stolen materials.

- The Library of Congress has acquired some 540 Civil War stereographs from the Robert G. Stanford Collection.

- J.L. Bell notes the important discovery of a new poem by enslaved poet Jupiter Hammon. I agree with him that the full text will be very important in determining how the poem is read.

- Scholars working with the Black Book of Carmarthen have identified via ultraviolet light two erased portrait sketches, marginalia, and a "hitherto unknown Welsh poem."

- An odd volume of a 1543 Cicero set, with the badge of Elizabeth I on the boards, will be sold at Swann this week, estimated at $8,000-12,000.

- There's a Q&A with Hilary Mantel in the WaPo about upcoming stage and screen adaptations of Wolf Hall (the Masterpiece series begins airing tonight on PBS).

- Over at Manutius in Manchester, an account of a short-term fellowship at Harvard to examine books printed on parchment.

- Two archivists at the University of Oregon have been removed from their positions after turning over confidential university records to a professor.

- There's a piece in the Dallas Morning News about the construction of a 77-car underground garage at the estate of Harlan Crow, near Dallas. Crow told the paper that the garage will accommodate visitors to his library who would otherwise need to park on the street.

- Collector Reid Moon's exhibition of rare Bibles is now open in Provo, Utah.


- Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed; reviews by Janet Maslin in the NYTimes and Astra Taylor in the LATimes.

- Matthew Denison's Behind the Mask and Robert Sackville-West's The Disinherited; review by Amber K. Regis in the TLS.

- Massimo Bucciantini's Galileo's Telescope; review by Mark Archer in the WSJ.

- Abigail Swingen's Competing Visions of Empire; review by Donald MacRaild in the THE.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Links & Reviews

- Rich Rennicks previews the New York Antiquarian Book Fair for the ABAA blog.

- Charles Dickens' desk from Gad's Hill Place has been purchased by the Charles Dickens Museum in London with a grant of more than £780,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

- Writing for the JHI Blog, Devani Singh reviews and comments on a current exhibition at the Cambridge University Libraries, Private Lives of Print.

- The University of Rochester Libraries have joined HathiTrust.

- New Folger Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints is introduced via a Q&A over at The Collation.

- Greece has criticized the British Museum for refusing UNESCO mediation over the Elgin Marbles.

- A copy of Robert Boyle's Sceptical Chymist sold at Bonham's this week for £362,500 (over estimates of £50,000-75,000.

- A new interactive literary map of Edinburgh will launch this week.

- The Library History Round Table has launched a blog.

- Eric Kwakkel posted about dirty medieval books this week.

- The University of Chicago Library News highlights a recent project to conserve a 16th-century Byzantine binding (part of the Edgar J. Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, currently being digitized).

- Peter Steinberg has posted about a recent research trip to the Lilly Library, where he's working on Sylvia Plath materials.

- Meredith Mann posts on the NYPL's holdings of material related to Madame du Châtelet.

- In the WSJ, Alexander McCall Smith writes on "The Secret of the Jane Austen Industry."


- Robert Middlekauff's Washington's Revolution; review by Richard Brookhiser in the NYTimes.

- Lothar Müller's White Magic and G. Thomas Tanselle's Portraits and Reviews; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- Robert Douglas-Fairhurst's The Story of Alice; review by A.S. Byatt in the Spectator.

- Matthew Carr's Sherman's Ghosts; review by James McPherson in the NYTimes.

- Alex Johnson's Improbable Libraries; review by J.C. Gabel in the LATimes.

- Laura J. Snyder's Eye of the Beholder; review by Jonathan Lopez in the WSJ.