Sunday, July 26, 2015

Links & Reviews

- An employee of the French National Library has been detained in connection to the theft of more than forty engravings from the Library's Richelieu-Louvois branch. Twenty maps were also reported missing from the same branch earlier in the summer. The missing engravings were reported and the "trail ultimately led to a Belgian bookseller who had purchased 20 engravings from a Dutch collector. In turn, that collector identified the employee who had sold him the works."

- A librarian at the library of the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts is accused of replacing some 140 paintings with his own forgeries. Xiao Yuan sold some of the paintings at auction between 2004 and 2011 for millions. He said he realized how rampant forgery and theft were at the library when he noticed that some of his own forgeries had been replaced by forgeries by others!

- A House committee chairman has proposed eliminating the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

- David Weinberger writes about the "library-shaped hold in the Internet" for the Boston Globe. Don't miss this one.

- The Lambeth Palace Library is working to document the provenance of the books once held in the Sion College Library (now in the Lambeth collections).

- From Erin Blake at The Collation, a look back at a preservation technology of the past: photostats.

- A 1,500-year-old scroll found at Ein Gedi has been "digitally unrolled," revealing the text within (from the book of Leviticus). More scrolls found at the same site may be deciphered next by the same team.

- NYPL post-doctoral fellow Mark Boonshoft writes about two recently-digitized business letterbooks from late 18th-century New York.

- What may be the oldest known Koranic fragments have been identified at the University of Birmingham: scholars think that the manuscript may "take us back to within a few years of the founding of Islam."

- NYU's Tamiment Library has acquired the editorial archives of The Nation.

- The National Library of Medicine has digitized more than 200 ESTC items from its holdings, and has announced a three-year partnership with the USTC to digitize the "rarest European materials" in the NLM's collections.

- George Mason University has launched a graduate certificate in Digital Public Humanities.

- Margaret K. Hofer has been named Vice President and Museum Director at the New-York Historical Society.

- Cambridge University has digitized several examples of early Chinese texts and printing for inclusion in the Cambridge Digital Library. One text included is a rare 17th-century example of color printing, considered so fragile that it has been completely unavailable for scholarly study.

- Over at Past is Present, Paul Erickson highlights a letter in the AAS collections from Moses Paul to Samson Occom.

- Yale's Beinecke Library is digitizing more than 2,000 videocassettes for preservation and cataloging.

- Amy Brunvand, a librarian at the University of Utah, has a piece in the new C&RL News, "Taking Paper Seriously: A Call for Format-Sensitive Collection Development." Very much worth a read.

- The University of Iowa Libraries are beginning to digitize items from their extensive collections of fan fiction.

Reviews

- Anthony Amore's The Art of the Con; review by Wendy Smith in the WaPo.

- Matthew Battles' Palimpsest; review by Mark Kingwell in the Globe and Mail.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Links & Reviews

- A bound copy of twenty issues of All the Year Round has been determined to be annotated by Charles Dickens himself, revealing the authorship of more than 2,500 contributions to the publication. Wilkie Collins expert Paul Lewis called the find "the Rosetta Stone of Victorian studies."

- Rachel Shteir writes about the reorganization/redecoration of the Strand Bookstore in New York in the New Yorker. I haven't seen the new layout yet, but it seems an unfortunate change.

- Karla Nielsen offers a rundown of what look at the papers of Harper Lee's literary agents, in the collections of Columbia's Rare Book & Manuscript Library, can tell us about the Go Set a Watchman story.

- The AAS has acquired an important July 1774 Boston broadside printed by loyalist printer Margaret Draper.

- The first section of Pierre Bergé's library will be sold at Hôtel Drouot in Paris on 11 December. Several additional sales will follow in 2016 and 2017.

- Carolyn Waters has been named the Head Librarian of the New York Society Library.

- David Bahr talked to Gordon Wood for the Weekly Standard about the two-volume collection of Revolutionary-era pamphlets he's recently edited for the Library of America.

- A new Woodberry Poetry Room podcast takes us deep into the Houghton Library stacks.

- A $1.25 million grant from the Mellon Foundation will fund "research, education and training at the intersections of digital humanities and African American studies at the University of Maryland."

- Simon Beattie's got quite an interesting puzzle: a 19th-century binder's stamp for an "American binding workshop" in Simferopol.

- New York's Rizzoli Bookstore will reopen at 1133 Broadway (at 26th Street) on 27 July.

- For the CSM, Erik Spanberg talked with Joseph Ellis about his new book The Quartet.

- An exhibition on the Book of Common Prayer has opened at Drew University.

- The text is behind a paywall, but Haaretz reports that German police have confiscated Franz Kafka and Max Brod manuscripts believed to have been smuggled out of Israel.

Reviews

- Hugh Aldersey-Williams' In Search of Sir Thomas Browne; review by Jim Holt in the NYTimes.

- Stephen Jarvis' Death and Mr. Pickwick; review by Michael Upchurch in the NYTimes.

- John Leigh's Touché: The Duel in Literature; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- Paul Slack's The Invention of Improvement; review by Alexandra Walsham in the TLS.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Links & Reviews

- According to a Daily Sabah report, two manuscripts stolen from a library in Turkey in 2000 were returned after a doctoral student determined that the manuscripts had made their way to the Schoenberg collection at Penn.

- In The Atlantic, Henry Grabar covers the Smithsonian's use of 3-d printing technology to replicate artifacts.

- The New York Public Library has posted an update on the status of the Rose Main Reading Room: continuing asbestos removal and work on the reading room ceiling will keep the room closed until early 2017. They say they hope to be able to open the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room by the fall of 2016.

- From Eric Kwakkel, an overview of medieval book-theft-prevention techniques.

- A copy of the 1599 Oxford edition of Richard de Bury's Philobiblon will go on the block Tuesday at Sotheby's London. Presale estimates are £5,000–7,000.

- Over at the New Yorker's Culture Desk, Brown professor Elias Muhanna writes about "Hacking the Humanities."

- The New Mexico Commission of Public Records has issued a "warning" that the sale of state public records online is illegal, though they say they know of no recent cases of such sales.

- A German court has ruled that the descendants of Joseph Goebbels are to be paid royalties for quotations from Goebbels' diaries published in a biography by Peter Longerich. The publishers say they will appeal the ruling.

- MHS Librarian Peter Drummey is profiled by Bloomberg News' Tom Moroney.

- John Fea talks to Carla Mulford about her new book Benjamin Franklin and the Ends of Empire.

- Simon Beattie highlights the first edition of the first library classification system published in Russia, devised for the Imperial Public Library in St. Petersburg and published in 1809.

- It's a little simplistic, but Michael Rosenwald has a piece in the Washington Post about the "prints to digital" shift in public libraries.

- Andrew Albanese, writing for Publishers Weekly, asks whether the nomination of the next Librarian of Congress could spark a political battle.

- E.B. White's Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan have been released as e-books by HarperCollins, and the publisher has launched a trailer for the e-version of Charlotte's Web. It's a cute trailer, mostly, though I was struck by the taglines at the end: "A timeless classic for the digital generation" and "Rediscover the magic with your kids." The trailer rather undercuts that second message, showing a young girl sitting alone (well, nearly; her dog is present) on her bed, staring at her tablet, while her mom stands silently in the doorway before walking away with a smile on her face. I'm not sure why this bothered me as much as it did: maybe it's just because I grew up hearing and then reading Charlotte's Web myself (and later reading it out loud to two cousins over a vacation week), but I found that shot profoundly sad: go, read with her, mom! (Not to mention the fact that I've always found the book itself perfectly magical enough, without any bells or whistles.)
.
- As a good antidote to the above, may I suggest Meghan Cox Gurdon's "The Great Gift of Reading Aloud"?

Reviews

- Leona Francombe's The Sage of Waterloo; review by Laline Paull in the NYTimes.

- Hugh Aldersey-Williams' In Search of Sir Thomas Browne; review by Spencer Lenfield in Slate.

- Noah Charney's The Art of Forgery; review by Adrian Higgins in the WaPo.

- Natasha Pulley's The Watchmaker of Filigree Street; review by Amal El-Mohtar in the LATimes.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Links & Reviews

- The British Library's conference "The Written Heritage of Mankind in Peril" conference was held last week in London. The Economist's Prospero columnist has a recap, and Emily Sharpe reported on the conference for The Art Newspaper. I hope that audio or video of the conference will be posted.

- Meanwhile, ILAB president Norbert Donhofer has put his conference talk online.

- The Economist piece referenced above includes an interesting tidbit: the purchaser of the Gutenberg Bible fragment sold at auction in June was Stephan Lowentheil of The 19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop.

- Library History Seminar XIII will be held at Simmons College from 31 July–2 August. Ann Blair and David Weinberger are the keynote speakers, and there are a great number of fascinating talks on tap. I'm particularly sorry to miss the "New Approaches to the History of Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Libraries" panel, featuring presentations by Kyle Roberts, Cheryl Knott, David J. Gary, and Mitch Fraas.

- The NYTimes has added another wrinkle to the saga of this new Harper Lee novel: Serge Kovaleski and Alexandra Alter report that the manuscript was found in 2011, not just last fall as has been previously reported.

- Tim Sherrat has posted his keynote address delivered this week at DH2015, "Unremembering the forgotten."

- Many thanks to Steve Ferguson for pointing out that Nicolas Barker's Foxcroft Lecture about forgeries, delivered May 2014 at the State Library of Victoria, is available to view online.

- Lynne Farrington has a great post up at Unique at Penn, "Return of the Prodigal Book."

- Rebecca Rego Barry reports from the Library of Congress on the current exhibition of early American printing, which includes (through the end of August only) not one by two copies of the Bay Psalm Book.

- Nicola Davis reports for the Guardian on the newspaper digitization efforts at the BL's Boston Spa facility, near Leeds, as well as other advanced preservation and digitization work.

- Atlas Obscura's Andy Wright talked to yours truly for a profile of Rare Book School this week.

- Speaking of RBS, a 2012 piece on the Hinman Collator which accompanied a NYTimes article on the school made the rounds this week, and I can't remember seeing it at the time.

- The HRC announced an open-access policy this week, and simultaneously launched Project REVEAL, an effort to digitize and make available 25 major manuscript collections. More than 22,000 images are now posted and ready for use.

- Audrie Schell, a conservator at McMaster University, is profiled by Kate Taylor in the Globe and Mail. The piece focuses on Schell's work on a manuscript book of hours.

- It probably goes without saying that I am very much in favor of projects like this: new online descriptions of the early catalogues of Lambeth Palace Library (for the period 1610–1785) are being prepared and posted.

- UNC Chapel Hill has received a $986,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation to digitize rare audio, video and motion picture films from the Southern Folklife Collection.

- Scott Sherman, writing in the New York Daily News, asks just what became of the $100 million gift made to the NYPL by Stephen Schwarzman in 2008.

- Mike Cummings writes for YaleNews about Audubon's Birds of America, focusing on Yale's two copies of the elephant folio and the Audubon manuscripts at the Beinecke.

- Ending a lengthy and dare I say Kafka-esque legal battle, an Israeli court has ruled that a collection of Franz Kafka's manuscripts rightly belong to the National Library in Jerusalem and has ordered that they be transferred to the library.

- Bruce McKinney writes in the July Rare Book Monthly about trends in the book-collecting world, concluding "for the collectible book field to prosper we'll need to restore collecting a middle class prerogative," blaming current tax policies (and, I must add, the burden of student loan debt) for a decrease in the number of young, active collectors.

Reviews

- Helen Castor's Joan of Arc: A History; review by Amanda Foreman in the NYTimes.

- Kathleen DuVal's Independence Lost; review by Woody Holton in the NYTimes.

- Joseph Ellis' The Quartet; reviews by Michiko Kakutani in the NYTimes and David O. Stewart in the WaPo.

- Philip and Carol Zaleskis' The Fellowship; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- Sally Harvey's Domesday; review by Alex Burghart in the TLS.

- David Sehat's The Jefferson Rule and Andrew Burstein's Democracy's Muse; review by Fergus Bordewich in the WSJ.

- Michael Blanding's The Map Thief; review by Jim Glanville in the Roanoke Times.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Links & Reviews

- The BPL has released the results of a year-long external review of the library's Print Collection by Simmons College professor Martha Mahard. Mahard has now been tasked with conducting an item-by-item inventory of the department. The full report is available here (below the press release text).

- The Criminal podcast this week ("Ex Libris") features booksellers John Crichton, Ken Sanders, and Garrett Scott, talking about the John Charles Gilkey book thefts and Allison Hoover Bartlett's The Man Who Loved Books Too Much. Scott describes the ongoing Gilkey saga as "a low-level brush fire that's never going away," and the podcaster reveals that Gilkey was only recently arrested again on charges related to passing bad checks.

- Big, and excellent news from the American Antiquarian Society: they are no longer requiring permission or licensing agreements before images from their collections can be published. See their Obtaining Digital Images page for the new policy.

- The University of Edinburgh's Centre for the Book has posted a series of short instructional videos about book history, including films on bibliographic format, watermarks, and collation statements.

- The president of the ALA has called on President Obama to nominate a librarian to head the Library of Congress.

- For the first time since 2008, the New York Public Library will receive an increase in city funding for fiscal year 2015.

- The DPLA has received $3.4 million from the Sloan and Knight Foundations to open new service hubs and promote continued expansion.

- Speaking of the NYPL, Scott Sherman has a piece in the Chronicle drawn from his new book about the NYPL, Patience and Fortitude.

- From Bloomberg, "Discovering Harvard's Hidden Treasures," a short video about the Houghton Library and some of the fantastic things in its collections.

- Jay Moschella writes for the BPL's Collections of Distinctions blog about a volume of manuscripts in the library's collections which may be from the library of England's first printer, William Caxton.

- Oxford's Somerville College is crowdfunding the conservation of John Stuart Mill's personal library.

- Emily Levine has a piece in the LA Review of Books, "The Afterlife of a Manuscript."

- German publisher Tredition has released an open-access handbook, Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies: An Introduction.

- AAS Curator of Newspapers Vince Golden talked to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette for their "Sunday Sit-Down" interview.

- The Freedmen's Bureau Project seeks to make 1.5 million documents from the Freedmen's Bureau archives available and searchable online by the end of 2016.

- A set of Chipotle's Cultivating Thought series of short texts by famous authors on the restaurant's paper cups and bags has been donated to Yale's Beinecke Library.

- A copy of the Tyndale New Testament (1537) will be sold at Sotheby's on 15 July; the current owner purchased the volume in 1966 for 25 shillings.

- Andrea Mays talked at the D.C. bookstore Politics and Prose about her book The Millionaire and the Bard last week. Listen here.

- From Ken Kalfus for the New Yorker, "A Book Buyer's Lament."

- Sarah Werner announces at Wynken de Worde that she's left the Folger to work on her Handbook for Studying Early Printed Books, 1450–1800 and developing an open-access website to accompany the book.

- A preprint of Zachary Lesser and Peter Stallybrass' essay "Shakespeare Between Pamphlet and Book" is now available via academia.edu (click "Download" at the upper right).

- Over on the Royal Society's blog The Repository, Fiona Keates highlights Benjamin Franklin's "magic squares" in the Society's collections.

- The University of Iowa has received nearly 18,000 science fiction books from a Sioux Falls collector.

- From Madison Johnson at The New Republic, an interview with photographer Yuri Dojc about his Last Folio project.

- At FiveThirtyEight, David Goldenberg writes about his attempt to get information from the ALA about their statistics on attempts to ban books, which raises good and important questions about how the ALA presents these issues.

- A new website, Transcribing Early American Manuscript Sermons, launched this week.

- Roger Wieck has been named head of the Morgan Library & Musem's Department of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts.

- Jennifer Maloney writes in the WSJ about the new fonts both Amazon and Google are pushing for their e-reading devices.

- Noah Charney talked to Dave Davies of "Fresh Air" about his new book The Art of Forgery.

Reviews

- The Morgan Library & Museum's new exhibition, "Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland"; review by Randy Kennedy in the NYTimes.

- Thomas Kunkel's Man in Profile; review by John Williams in the NYTimes.

- Stephen Jarvis' Death and Mr. Pickwick; review by Wendy Smith in the WaPo.

- Elif Shafak's The Architect's Apprentice; review by Bruce Holsinger in the WaPo.

- Hugh Aldersey-Williams' In Search of Sir Thomas Browne; review by Jeffrey Collins in the WSJ.

- Alberto Manguel's Curiosity; review by Duncan White in the Telegraph.

- Scott Sherman's Patience and Fortitude; review by Maureen Corrigan for "Fresh Air."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

An Interesting Preface from 1763

I ran across this interesting preface last week and thought it worth sharing here, given the focus on matters bibliographical. The text appears on pages v–xvi of the satirical novel Memoirs of the Life and Adventures of Tsonnonthouan, a King of the Indian Nation called Roundheads. Extracted from Original Papers and Archives. London: Printed for the Editor, and Sold by J. Knox, at the Three Poets, in the Strand, 1763. My transcription is from the 1974 Garland reprint. The book was published prior to the release of volumes 7–9 of Tristram Shandy, and has been attributed to Charles Johnstone or, more frequently, to Archibald Campbell:


From A Catalogue of Books, Ancient and Modern (Edinburgh, 1793), p. 193.



From A Catalogue of the Curious and Extensive Library of the late James Bindley, Esq., F.S.A. (1818), p. 74.

Preface:

[v] The Bookseller having insisted on his prerogative of writing the Title-Page, I wish he had also written the Preface; it would have saved me a task I am by no means fond of. In justice he ought to have done it, for his Title-Page hath rendered a Preface necessary. But he must be excused, on this account; a Preface is always supposed to have some relation to the work it ushers into the world; now a bookseller having commonly as great an aversion as reading the trash he sells to his customers, as a physician has at taking the trash he prescribes to his patients, it is not to be expected a man should write about that which he knows nothing of. This, I can safely say, is the case with my bookseller; I can aver he has not as yet read a sentence of the following work, and in all probability never will. But it [vi] is quite otherwise with the title, as it is by the merits of that alone he thinks he sells the book; and indeed he is in the right to think so, for he seldom knows any thing more of the matter. I have heard a bookseller say he had purchased a pamphlet for half a guinea, tho' he knew not what the pamphlet contained, but he was sure he had made a good bargain, for the title page alone was worth double the money. Indeed it is no wonder that booksellers are the best judges and authors of title-pages in the world, the whole force of their genius, and bent of their study, being directed to nothing else, except, sometimes, a few strictures on the paper, print, and binding; and when a man applies himself entirely to one science, he must necessarily excell in it. For this reason I submitted every thing respecting the title-page to the bookseller; indeed he made enquiries about nothing else, excepting the price. When I first carried him the following sheets in manuscript, he asked me what title I proposed? I made answer, The Life and Adventures of Tsonnonthouan, a Roundheaded Indian. He objected to this as too simple; we must call it Memoirs, said he, for that word implies something of secrecy, and the [vii] publick is always glad of being let into a secret. This being assented to, he next hinted that the hero ought to be dignified with some pompous appellation; I proposed that of Chief of the Roundheads, though not strictly and historically true. The sagacious bookseller was not altogether pleased with this; he said, it referred to something outlandish, and besides, we had but a slender idea of such an office in this country. I was very sensible of the solidity of this objection, so left the matter entirely to himself. Upon which he immediately dubbed Tsonnonthouan King; a name, which notwithstanding some late incidents, has still some regard paid to it, amongst us. It was in vain for me to object that such an office was entirely unknown among the Indians, and that Tsonnonthouan himself had no manner of pretensions to it; he stopt my mouth, by telling me, that an English reader would have a much great curiosity about the adventures of a crowned head, than a private person; and that he would now naturally expect a great deal of court-scandal, and secret history. I submitted, thinking it needless to tell him that the work itself would utterly disappoint all such expectations, for, as I ob- [viii] served before, a bookseller never looks father than the title-page.

We had next a small difference about what is called the running title, which, tho' in the body of the book, the bookseller reckoned was within his province, and under his jurisdiction. I must confess, from long habit, I have contracted a sort of fondness for the very name of Tsonnonthouan; I therefore moved that my favourite word should be on the top of every page. But the wise bookseller was entirely of a contrary opinion. Notwithstanding, said he, we have now a very saleable title, yet, for for all that, we cannot ensure the sale; now, if we have a running title, we can never alter the title-page; whereas, if we have not, and we find it does not sell under this title, it is only printing another half sheet, and giving it what other title we please, so that at last it must certainly go off: we may even call it, added he, A Continuation of the Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy. I submitted to superior judgment in this as well as the former article; but I think it my duty, at the same time, to acquaint the publick with the snare that is [l]aid for them, and that if they do not take off this impression under its present [ix] title, which, however, I would advise them by all means to do, they may some time hence find themselves lulled asleep with the first and second volumes of the grave and solemn Tsonnonthouan, when they expect to be tickled to death with the seventh and eighth volumes of the witty and facetious Tristram Shandy.

The important article of the title, both standing and running, being thus settled, we had afterwards a third and more violent dispute about the price. He asked me what price I intended to set upon it? I answered, half-a-crown a volume sewed. That can never be, said he, there are only eight or nine sheets in each volume; whereas, by all the rules of bookselling, there ought to be, at least, ten or eleven sheets; in short, I cannot, in conscience, sell it for more than two shillings a volume. I told him, that was too little, considering this book was every way an original, and had cost me a great deal of pains and trouble, having been almost my whole life-time in planning it, and having spent many years in executing this small part of it. All stuff! mere stuff! said the bookseller, do you think we regard a work's being an original? or that your having been at great pains, or spent much time, in in- [x] venting and composing it, will compensate for its wanting the proper number of sheets required in the trade? In answer to this, I observed, that there was much more sold matter, and real reading in each volume, than in most half-crown, or even three shilling books that were now published. I grant it, returned he, but that is the very thing I find fault with; however, you are not so much to blame as your printer, who must either be a fool, or know nothing of his business; in short, there is as much letter-press here, so a bookseller, it seems, calls matter, as, if it had been properly managed, would have made four of Tristram Shandy's volumes: had I the printing of it, what with contracting the page, and putting distances between the lines, I should have sold it among the trade, with more credit for eight shillings, than I now can for four. Besides, continued he, by this foolish manner of printing your Tsonnonthouan, you have lost a fine opportunity of being witty, as well as of encreasing your profits. I own, I never read the book, but I have been told, by very good judges, that a great deal of Tristram Shandy's wit consists in the distance between his lines, in the shortness of his chapters and para- [xi] graphs, in the great number of his breaks and dashes, in his blank leaves, and even in misreckoning his pages; and, had you used these methods, they would have likewise swelled your book to its proper size; but, as the matter now stands, I tell you again, my conscience, as a bookseller, will not suffer me to take more than four shillings for each volume. Finding that the tenderness of the bookseller's conscience was here like to be prejudicial to my interest, I was obliged to use my authority as an editor, and tell him, he might sell it for six pence, if he pleased, but that he should account to me, at the rate of five shillings for every copy he disposed of; at the same time, in order to sweeten this peremptory intimation, I promised him, that if it ever came to a second edition, I should remove all the scruples of his conscience, and encrease the size and wit of the performance; which latter I feared was most necessary, by putting what distances between the lines he pleased, by splitting the chapters and paragraphs as he thought proper; and, lastly, by inserting as many breaks and dashes, and leaving as many blank pages as he should advise. Upon hearing this, he consented, [xii] though with infinite reluctances, to sell at a crown.

In justice to my bookseller, I could not help premising these things. If there is any merit in the title page, it is entirely his; he being the author of every thing there, except the Greek motto. But, if there are any demerits in the book itself, or in its price, the blame must entirely fall upon me; for, of the first, he is entirely ignorant; and the latter, the reader may see, was much against his inclination, and, indeed, hath done violence to his conscience. However, it may be seen from hence, that, according to a bookseller, the merit of a book consists altogether in its title; and its value solely depends on the quantity of paper that is blotted. I wish this opinion may not prevail among other others of men, as well as booksellers.

The once celebrated name of Tristram Shandy having been accidentally mentioned, an observation occurs, which I cannot help making. What a memento mori ought the fate of this author be to all those who may hereafter possess the approbation of the publick, and how unstable a thing is any literary fame, which has not stood the test of a century? And yet [xiii] after all, the profound quiet and sleep which this writer at present enjoyeth, is as hard to be accounted for as that violent tempest and hurricane, drawing almost every thing within its vortex, which he raised in the republick of letters at his first appearance. Speaking impartially, his two last volumes are perhaps as injuriously neglected, as his first were injudiciously exalted. A true wit and original fancy, joined with a pure and elegant stile, he has unfortunately debased with a perpetual affectation, an irksome ostentation, and often an important straining at wit; which must be disgustful to every reader of taste, and must have been so to himself, if ever he gave his rapsodies a perusal at a cool moment. The publick is said to be ever impartial, and perhaps, even in this case, they have been so on the whole. Yet one would rather rise up gradually to a solid and lasting reputation, like the spreading oak, than sprout up suddenly, and send forth the fairest flowers and blossoms, like a perennial plant, and, when the season is over, wither as suddenly, and be trodden under foot.

Whenever an author speaks seriously of himself, he always does it with a bad grace. It is therefore with reluctance I [xiv] add, that if I have not been able to reach all the excellencies of this truly ingenious author, whom, by the by, I never proposed to imitate, this work, having been planned, and indeed begun, long before his was heard of; yet I have at least avoided his above-mentioned capital fault. There is not, I will venture to say, in the following sheets, the smallest affectation or ostentation of wit; if there is any wit, the reader is left to find it out; this is always an author's best policy, for a reader is much better pleased with the wit he discovers himself, than with that which is pointed out to him; he gives himself credit for it, and he is grateful on that account to the author, often imputing wit to him where he never intended it, and which he never thought of.

But if I have shunned one rock Mr. S. has split upon, I have not been able to avoid another, not owing to design indeed, as seems to have been his case, but owing to my own particular situation and disposition; I mean the presumption of publishing an imperfect work to the world, and perhaps, the still great presumption of hoping the publick may expect a continuation of it. I do not intend it as a praise, when I say, that the following sheets, tho' the [xv] consequence of a design conceived in early youth, have been as many years in executing under my hands, as they would probably have been weeks under those of a bookseller's labourer; in short, I found, before I could compleat my design, at the rate I went on, more years would elapse than I could expect to live. Whether it shall ever be compleated, is left to time and chance; but if in the mean time any Grubstreet continuator should undertake it, he will find hints in the first chapter, to which he is heartily welcome, and if he does, I sincerely wish him all the success he may deserve.

However, one thing, I think, I may venture to add; if this work is to be deemed altogether a fiction and romance, yet, as appears from the very first chapter, a regular plan is laid down, which cannot be departed from, and consequently it must as last come to an end, and was never intended to be an everlasting work like that of Tristram Shandy, and no design was entertained of writing as long as the author could preserve his credit with the publick, or secure its attention. But as to the real scope or moral of this performance, I beg to be excused from saying any thing, imitating herein the exam- [xvi] ple of the Indians, who, though full well acquainted with the nature of Tsonnonthouan's flight from the tree, and ascension to the country of souls; yet said nothing to him about it, and left him to find out the secret himself. Yet so far I will take upon me to say, that whatever prejudiced and interested persons may think of it, it is such as a philosopher, a man of virtue, and one who is a friend to, as well as lover of his species, may boldly, and without a blush, avow.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Links & Reviews

I'm more likely than usual to have missed relevant links this week, since I had the great pleasure of taking a Rare Book School course (The History of European & American Papermaking, taught by Tim Barrett and John Bidwell), and was thus paying less attention than usual to whatever was crossing the transom. So feel free to send along anything I missed and I'll be sure to add it next week. The course was absolutely fantastic!

- David Leonard, the director of administration and technology at the Boston Public Library, was named interim BPL president this week. Board member John T. Hailer was chosen as the new chair of the library's board. Author Dennis Lehane also submitted his resignation from the BPL board this week.

- Rebecca Rego Barry has a piece in the Guardian this week about the planned sale of Edwin Booth's copy of the Second Folio at Sotheby's on Friday. The volume was consigned by the Manhattan's Players Club, but failed to find a buyer.

- At the same sale, which realized more than $3.5 million, the Gutenberg Bible fragment sold by the Jewish Theological Seminary did better than anticipated, fetching $970,000, and a copy of Virgil signed by Declaration of Independence signer Thomas Lynch, Jr. sold for $43,750.

- The WSJ ran a piece on the "value" of a Gutenberg Bible, a complete copy of which hasn't been to auction since 1978.

- Two books stolen from the National Library of Sweden by a senior librarian there in the 1990s were repatriated this week at a ceremony in Manhattan. Both had been acquired by New York booksellers between 1999 and 2001 from the German auction house Ketterer Kunst; one had been sold on to Cornell University. The library maintains a list of the books still missing. The librarian, Anders Burius, committed suicide in 2004 after confessing to the thefts.

- From Yale, a more detailed story on the recent hyperspectral analysis of the 1491 Martellus map.

- The debate over the play Double Falsehood continues, with a new linguistic study outlined in a New Yorker blog post by Alastair Gee. The study, based on the use of particular "function words," finds that Shakespeare and John Fletcher's linguistic fingerprints predominate in the play's text.

- From Eric Kwakkel, "Medieval Letter-People."

- New to me: the Library of Virginia has launched a crowdsourced transcription project, allowing folks to work on small segments of the library's collections.

- The University of Michigan has digitized a collection of more than 2,000 political posters.

Reviews

- Robert Hutchinson's The Audacious Crimes of Colonel Blood; review by Jessie Childs in the TLS.

- Deborah Lutz's The Brontë Cabinet; review by Claudia Fitzherbert in the Telegraph.