Sunday, October 28, 2007

Links & Reviews

- From BibliOdyssey, beautiful illuminations from Jan Długosz's Catalogus Archiepiscoporum Gnesnensium Vitae Episcoporum Cracoviensium (Catalogue of the Archbishops of Gniezno and Lives of the Bishops of Cracow), 1531-1535. The artist is Stanislaw Samostrzelnik.

- I've been meaning to include this one for a week or so now and keep forgetting: The Times' Ferdinand Mount comments on the Royal Academy of Art's current exhibit, "Making History: Antiquaries in Britain, 1707-2007" and the accompanying book. The show highlights the first three hundred years of the Royal Society of Antiquities; Mount calls it "full of charm," adding that "its catalogue burns with enthusiasm, more so than many a self-styled blockbuster that takes a period or style and smothers it in philistine commentary about the consumption patterns of a new leisured class."

- Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" is now available online in what can only be described as "extremely high definition," the BBC reports. The new 16-billion pixel image of the painting "will allow experts to examine details of the 15th century wall painting that they otherwise could not - including traces of drawings Leonardo put down before painting." I tested it out this morning, and although it does take some time to load, the clarity is remarkable.

- Paul Collins notes his article in the current New Scientist, "The Mutual Poisoning Society" [subscription required], about 19th-century food reformer Frederick Accum. Last weekend, Paul linked to Design Week's look at some renovations at the London Library.

- Michael Lieberman has a handy field guide to bookworms for us, courtesy of a 1951 Antiquarian Bookman chart.

- This year's Samuel Pepys Award, a biennial £2,000 prize from the Samuel Pepys Club "for a book that makes the greatest contribution to the understanding of Samuel Pepys, his times or his contemporaries" goes to John Adamson's The Noble Revolt: The Overthrow of Charles I. The Guardian reports notes that while Adamson's book doesn't even mention Pepys, award judges thought "the events described so influenced the environment in which he grew up, that the book greatly enhances our understanding of Samuel Pepys and his times."

- Jim Watts notes the sale of a 13th-century manuscript Qu'ran at Christie's last week; this copy is the earliest known complete, dated (1203) Qu'ran written in gold. It sold for $2.3 million, setting a new record for any Qu'ran - in fact any Islamic manuscript - at auction. Bidding was described as "fiercely competitive."

- John over at Hyde Collection Catablog liked this Thomas Rowlandson watercolor of a 19th-century book auction; it sold at Bloomsbury this week for $65,000, surpassing pre-sale estimates.

- Speaking of Bloomsbury, Rare Book Reviews reports that their next sale, on 31 October, will feature New Yorkiana. Highlights include a 1636 Dutch deed transferring land on Long Island to European possession, described as "one of the earliest colonial New York documents in private hands" (estimated to sell for up to $75,000).

- New blogs (to me, at least): Book Hunter's Holiday (by an online bookseller), and Now or Neverland (by author David King). Links have been added to the sidebar. (h/t to BiblioHistoria for the former)

Reviews:

- In the Boston Globe, H.W. Brands reviews Joe Ellis' newest, American Creation. Brands writes that Ellis "again strikes a balance between laudable achievement and blameworthy failure in America's founding." Calling Ellis "the reigning master of the episodic approach to history," Brands declares the author's style "discursively delightful," before noting that he could have pushed a bit further on the point that Ellis might have pursued further the point that "the Founders' very success tended to entrench their failures" (slavery, Indian policy).

- Ian Sansom writes for the The Guardian on Umberto Eco's Turning Back the Clock: Hot Wars and Media Populism (just out from Harcourt in the US). Sansom begins "Come, reader, the game's afoot: another collection of nimble, teasing, brilliant and infuriating little essays and essaylets" from Eco. I didn't read further, because my copy of Turning Back the Clock is sitting in the corner of my desk, waiting impatiently for me to finish my thesis chapter so I can jump in.

- Charles Nicholl's The Lodger is reviewed by James Shapiro in The Guardian. To summarize, "Part biography, part detective story, Nicholl's latest work is a triumph and ranks among the finest books ever written about Shakespeare's life."

- Over in The Telegraph, Jane Stevenson covers a new biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Andrew Lycett's Conan Doyle: The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes, and a collection of the man's letters edited by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower and Charles Foley (Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters). Stevensons calls Lycett's book "competent if a little colourless," but criticizes the editors of the collection for light-handedness: "The brief linking passages of A Life in Letters fill in all manner of factual minutiae, but fail to weigh the value of the author's words."

- In the LATimes, Nick Basbanes reviews The Journal of Dora Damage, a recent novel told from the perspective of a female Victorian bookbinder. Basbanes notes in his review that the author of this book, Belinda Starling, died just weeks after submitting the manuscript of this - her first book - for publication. He writes "Starling did an enormous amount of research for her debut effort, and it shows. More impressive, she did not let her material get in the way of telling a richly atmospheric story that is fresh, complex and credible; it is an accomplished work that augured good things for the author." (h/t fade theory)

- Woody Holton's Unruly Americans is reviewed by Chuck Leddy in the Christian Science Monitor; Leddy concludes "The author's irreverent approach to the Framers, backed by his breathtaking amount of scholarly research on the debt crisis of the 1780s, should provoke much-needed discussion among historians about the economic background of the Constitution." Another one just waiting for me at home, and this one I have to read soon because Holton's going to be giving a lunch talk in Boston sometime in the next week or two.

- In the California Literary Review, Brett Woods examines John Ferling's Almost a Miracle. He says the prose can be a bit much at times (he uses the word "gushy"), but that the "scholarship is solid and displays a noteworthy attention to detail."

- From the Harvard Book Review, Samuel Bjork tackles Jeb Rubenfeld's The Interpretation of Murder, which I enjoyed last fall. Bjork writes that Rubenfeld's greatest gift as a writer is his "ability to provide a firm historical foundation to an otherwise fictional work," but he doesn't seem to have enjoyed the book all that much.

3 comments:

Historia said...

Please excuse my ignorance, but what does h/t mean? Glad I could help.

Thanks

Historia

JBD said...

h/t = hat tip (aka thanks)

Rahul said...

Check out this site for Video Book Reviews on books related to History and Politics ..fiction etc