Sunday, June 17, 2012

Links & Reviews

- Yesterday marked the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Roxburghe Club, the world's oldest bibliophilic society. Books from the Roxburghe sale and a copy of the auction catalog are on display at Harvard's Houghton Library through the end of August.

- A Jen Howard query this week (which I think I missed originally since I was in the Rare Book School  zone) led to the creation of a Zotero group on "reading about reading," which has led to the creation of quite a useful list of articles and books.

- The inaugural prize for the most outstanding project submitted by an RBS-UVA fellow was awarded recently to Emma Whittington for textual criticism of Jorge Luis Borges' writings. [h/t Tess Goodman]

- Over at The Collation, Heather Wolfe reports on a very neat project she's been working on, to identify and track pew occupants in St. Margaret's Church, Westminister based on a manuscript "pew plan" in the Folger collections.

- The Manchester Central Library is accused of "cultural vandalism on an industrial scale," as staff are being asked to remove hundreds of thousands of books from the library's collections during a renovation. Managers maintain that no "valuable stock" will be lost, but the head of libraries' statement about that is a bit troubling: "The library has recorded use of material since opening in 1934 and it has become clear that a large number of items which had been added through time have never been used. Recent changes in technology have also ensured that many items are now available electronically." Those arguing against the weeding say that some collections at risk include "rare and in some cases unique books and periodicals, such as collections by Manchester poets and other local material which could be invaluable to future researchers and is available nowhere else."

- Jennifer Lowe continues to keep us updated on the Girolamini thefts, which seem to get more and more complicated. Two more conspirators were arrested, more books were recovered, and reports emerged that the plan may have been a very long time in the making.

- News broke this week that also seems to have something to do with at least some of the same people involved with the Girolamini thefts: several copies of Galileo's Sidereus nuncius have been revealed as recent forgeries. I haven't seen mainstream media pick up on this yet, and the ExLibris-L web archive interface doesn't seem to be working so I can't easily link, hence the longer excerpts here. [Update: The archive seems to be up again now; the thread begins here]. Nick Wilding  made the original post, noting that he and Paul Needham "undertook a thorough reexamination of the evidence after noticing a series of otherwise inexplicable coincides between the 'New York' Sidereus Nuncius, authenticated and analysed in Galileo’s O, ed. Horst Bredekamp (Akademie Verlag, Berlin, 2011) and a copy offered by Sotheby’s New York in 2005. Parallels were also apparent between these and two copies of Galileo’s Le Operazioni del Compasso Geometrico e Militare (first edition Padua, 1606) identified as forgeries [by Owen Gingerich] in a private study at the Library of Congress undertaken by Frank Mowery in 2005. Other forged titles have also been detected. ... The New York Sidereus Nuncius purports to contain an autograph inscription by Galileo, five bistre sketches in place of the usual lunar etchings and the library stamp of Federico Cesi. Several other examples of this fake stamp have been detected in circulation on genuine books: all Cesi stamps on the market since 2005 should be diligently examined." Owen Gingerich replied to a query on the thread about the nature of the forgeries: "These are the most sophisticated forgeries we have ever seen, of the entire books, including handmade paper imitating the original watermarks. The printing is made from plates so the letterpress shows indentation. Included are very convincing manuscript annotations."

Wilding added: "We currently think the binding and other texts bound in with the forged texts to be genuine, of the paper we are unsure, but the printing process itself seems to be photomechanical, probably photopolymer plates with some digital editing and based on several copies, chosen to create the impression of proof copies in some examples. Library stamps, marginalia/inscriptions and illustrations added by hand, binding immaculate." Following additional queries came this from Wilding: "The bindings of two of the copies of Le Operazioni del Compasso Geometrico e Militare, both bound without other works, were found by Frank Mowery to be recent, though carefully disguised to look original. The Sotheby's Sidereus Nuncius, which was described in their catalogue as being authentic "without the 5 text engravings BUT these supplied in facsimile printed directly on the original leaves" (current whereabouts unknown), was bound before a 1671 Orazion funeral per la more del sereniss. Ferdinando II, "recased into a contemporary gilt-panelled red morocco binding, red edges; some rubbing" (Sotheby's NY, 30th November 2005, lot 44). The New York Sidereus Nuncius is described and photographed in Galileo's O. Despite now knowing that the copy is fake, it has not yet been possible to identify signs of tampering, other than those described by Owen Gingerich. Reexamination of the copy will, we hope, allow us to understand the forger's techniques."

Paul Needham added a response later in the week: "I would like to add a clarification to Nicholas Wilding’s personal Exlibris post from yesterday, 11 June 2012, which summarized our joint studies of a dubious copy of Galileo’s Sidereus nuncius, Venice, 1610. I have communicated our results to my German colleagues in the production of the monograph to which Wilding refers: Galileo’s O (2 volumes, Berlin, 2011), Horst Bredekamp, Irene Brueckle, and Oliver Hahn. We have planned for additional materials testing to be carried out on this copy in Berlin, in the near future, including, in particular, detailed ink analysis in comparison with a control copy or copies. This will add significant information to the problem, and I emphasize that the results of these tests will be made fully available to all. I should also add that I was the author of volume II of Galileo’s O, under the title Galileo Makes a Book. It follows that if Wilding and I are right about this copy in 2012, I was wrong in 2011. I do not want readers to imagine that I am discreetly trying to finesse this inconvenient consequence."

More on this as it comes out, certainly.

- The Folger Shakespeare Library launched a Bindings Images Database this week. It includes more than 3,000 images of 1,000+ bindings.

- A mutilated first edition Book of Mormon stolen from an Arizona bookshop has been recovered, and a man named Jay Linford was arrested for the theft. Following the theft on 28 May, Linford contacted a Dallas book dealer and arranged for the sale of two leaves for $7,500.

- The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (BSB) announced this week that during a project to catalog the library's Greek manuscripts from the library of Johann Jakob Fugger, "philologist Marina Molin Pradel was able to identify numerous passages from the original Greek version of the homilies on the Psalms by Origen (185-253/4 A.D.), which were previously unknown." The digitized manuscript can be viewed here. Making the announcement on ExLibris-L, Bettina Wagner writes "This discovery underlines the necessity of and the wealth of new insights made possible by this laborious and thorough examination of the original volumes."


- Rebecca Stott's Darwin's Ghosts; review by Sinclair McKay in the Telegraph.

- Peter Pagnamenta's Prairie Fever; review by Scott Martelle in the WaPo.

- June Schlueter's The Album Amicorum and the London of Shakespeare's Time; review by Adam Smyth in the TLS.

- Glyn Parry's The Arch-Conjuror of England; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

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