Sunday, January 27, 2013

Major New Theft Case in Canada

A new theft case has made the news: the CBC reported this week that the Fall River, Nova Scotia home of John Mark Tillmann, 51, contained more than 1,300 books, documents and other artifacts believed stolen from multiple collections. After a traffic stop back in June in which stolen documents (including a James Wolfe letter from the collections of Dalhousie University) were found in Tillmann's car, police searched his house and found the additional materials.

An RCMP investigator told the CBC "We believe that items such as books, documents, paintings, antiques were stolen from private collectors around Atlantic Canada, also from local universities, museums and even the legislature."

Tillmann has so far been charged with four counts of unlawful possession of materials worth more than $5,000:

- the 1758 James Wolfe letter from Dalhousie University

- two 19th-century marriage records from the Nova Scotia Provincial Archives

- four books from Mount St. Vincent University (these reportedly include a first edition of Darwin's The Origin of Species stolen from the university before 2009

- an 1819 painting from the collections of the Provincial Building Legislative Library

Nova Scotia police say they've been in contact with authorities in Newfoundland and with the FBI as they work to track down stolen items. News reports suggest that the thefts may have taken place over more than two decades. Police displayed some of the recovered items this week: video here. Dalhousie University archivists said this week that the Wolfe letter had been damaged by tearing off a section of the page which would have contained a library stamp.

Another item recovered is a piece of sheet music from the collections of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland believed stolen for "family reasons" (it was connected to the Tilman family). Joan Ritcey, head of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies, said she recalled Tillmann's visit to the archive.

Tillmann's rap sheet includes fifteen convictions for such deeds as extortion, assault, and fraud. He was already due in court next month on additional charges of assault, forcible confinement, and uttering threats. In a report published Friday, it was revealed that in a parole hearing several years ago, Tillmann admitted that he frequently bought and resold stolen goods.

The RCMP are requesting the public's help in identifying the owners of some of the recovered items, and reportedly will be adding images of the materials here.

Tillmann currently remains in custody, with a bail hearing set for 27 February. Prosecutors oppose Tillmann's release.

Links & Reviews

- New and interesting: Letterpress Commons, a community-based website designed as an "up-to-date manual" of letterpress techniques and information. And from Enlightenment scholar James Schmidt, Persistent Enlightenment. I've added sidebar links to both.

- At Contents Magazine, a must-read interview with the founders of The Appendix, which I certainly encourage all readers of this blog to be paying attention to.

- From the Royal Society's blog, a post on recent discoveries about their copy of Boyle's Sceptical Chymist, made because a scholar (Greg Girolami at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) is working on a census of extant copies of the book. As I've written before, I am a huge fan of book censuses in general, and encourage anyone who gets the opportunity to participate in them to do so!

- Over at Biblioguerilla, a book with Erasmus' name burned out wherever it occurred, "according to the prescriptions of the Expurgatory Index," and a fantastically-titled 1791 booksellers' catalog.

- This week's court of appeals decision on recess appointments [PDF] makes for fascinating reading for anyone interested in arcane-but-important constitutional provisions. Over at Boston 1775, J.L. Bell has begun a series on the origins of the recess appointment power: here and here. NB: Jay Wexler's recent book The Odd Clauses also has a useful primer on recess appointments.

- The "Identifying the Unidentified" series continues over at Past is Present.

- From Kevin Smith at Duke, some notes on the key importance of the Wiley v. Kirtsaeng case now under consideration at the Supreme Court.

- PBA Galleries, the San Francisco-based auction house, is now under the ownership of Sharon L. Gee.

- In today's New York Times, Steve Lohr profiles some of the "big data" projects being carried out by Matthew Jockers and others in "Dickens, Austen and Twain, Through a Digital Lens."

- Georgia governor Nathan Deal's proposed budget contains $4.3 million to keep the Georgia Archives open and restore five jobs cut last fall. A task force charged with developing a plan to transfer management of the Archives from the Georgia Secretary of State's office to the University of Georgia held its first meeting this month.

- Meanwhile, north of the border in South Carolina, genealogists and historians are concerned that a long string of budget cuts at the Department of Archives and History is having severe consequences for access to archival research material.


- Joyce Chaplin's Round About the Earth; review by Jeffrey Wassterstorm in the LA Review of Books.

- John W. O'Malley's Trent: What Happened at the Council; review by Michael Dirda in at Washington Post.

- Bram Stoker and the Stage, ed. Catherine Wynne; review by Tracy C. Davis in the TLS.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Auction Report: January Sales

A quick rundown of the January sales so far, and a look at what's coming up this week:

- PBA Galleries sold Architecture Books & Folios on 10 January, in 195 lots. Results are here. The top price, $8,400, went to a copy of Cornelius Gurlitt's Die Baukunst Konstantinopels (1912), a study of Istanbul architecture.

- Lyon & Turnbull held a Rare Books, Maps, Manuscripts & Photographs sale on 16 January, in 564 lots. Two lots fetched £7,500: an East India Company logbook of the Seaford (1703-1706), and another logbook, of HMS Kent (1800-1803).

- At Bloomsbury's Bibliophile Sale on 17 January, a partial set of Buffon's Histoire Naturelle (32 of 44 volumes) sold for £1,500.

- Swann held a Shelf Sale on 17 January. Ten volumes of reference books related to porcelain sold for $4,320.

- At Swann's 20th Century Illustration on 24 January, it was a set of 48 of Garth Williams/Rosemary Wells proof plates for the 50th Anniversary Edition of Charlotte's Web for the top price, at $28,800.

- Bloomsbury sold Antiquarian Books on 24 January, in 202 lots. Léon Bakst's Bakst: The Story of the Artist's Life (1923) came out on top at £7,000 (well above the £600-800 estimates).

- PBA Galleries sold Americana, Asian-American History, Travel, Maps & Views on 24 January, in 434 lots. Results are here. A copy of an early account of Frémont's expeditions (1847) fetched the highest price, at $14,400.

- Christie's sells Albrecht Durer Masterpieces from a Private Collection on 29 January, in 62 lots. A ~1501 St. Eustace rates the top estimate (so high that it's only available on request). Knight, Death and the Devil (1513) is estimated at $500,000-700,000, Melancholia I (1514) at $400,000-600,000, and St. Jerome in his Study (1514) at $300,000-500,000.

- Dominic Winter sells Printed Books, Maps & Ephemera on 30 January. A set of first impressions of each of the three Lord of the Rings books rates the top estimate, at £10,000-15,000.

- Bloomsbury sells Maps & Atlases, Drawings & Prints on 31 January, in 440 lots.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Links & Reviews

- Federal judge Royce Lamberth held the Russian government in contempt on Wednesday, ordering payment of a $50,000-per-day fine until a collection of books and manuscripts held in Russia is returned to a Brooklyn-based Jewish group. Lamberth ruled in 2010 that the library should be returned. The Justice Department opposed the contempt finding, and the Russian government denies the authority of the court in this matter.

- From Erin Blake at The Collation, "Myth-busting early modern book illustration, part one," drawing on recent work by Blair Hedges and others on what causes lines in engravings to become thinner and paler over time.

- New from the Institute of Historical Research at UCL, InScribe, a free online paleography course.

- Over at Past is Present, a new series on "Identifying the Unidentified" launched this week, with former AAS intern Lucia Ferguson beginning a discussion on newly-identified diarist Henry Martin.

- At American Book Collecting, a truly frightening post about the erasure of an ownership signature from an important association copy.

- Library and Archives Canada has acquired a copy of the first complete bible printed in Canada, an early 1830s edition published by John Henry White. The purchase was funded by the Friends of Library and Archives Canada.

- From the University of Glasgow library blog, a look at a few items from their special collections from the library of Richard Stonley, an Elizabethan official (whose main claim to fame is that his signature in a copy of Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis is the earliest-known signature in a Shakespeare work).

- The Library Copyright Alliance put out a paper this week responding to recent court rulings on fair use and other related copyright developments.

- Newly digitized by the New York Public Library, their Thomas Addis Emmet collection of Revolutionary-era American manuscripts.

- From the MIT Technology Review, "The Algorithms that Automatically Date Medieval Manuscripts."

- The much-damaged copy of the Book of Mormon stolen from Helen Schlie of Mesa, AZ by Jay Michael Linford earlier this year and later recovered was returned to Schlie this week.


- Peter Ackroyd's Foundation; review by Walter Olson in the NYTimes.

- Ross King's Leonardo and the Last Supper; review by Michael S. Roth in the WaPo.

- Simon Garfield's On the Map; review by David L. Ulin in the LATimes.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Book Review: "The Notorious Elizabeth Tuttle"

Ava Chamberlain's The Notorious Elizabeth Tuttle: Marriage, Murder, and Madness in the Family of Jonathan Edwards (NYU Press, 2012) is an excellent example of just how interesting and worthwhile a microhistorical study can be if done well. Far too many books like this are either full of rampant and unjustified speculation or just pile tangential discussion atop tangential discussion for several hundred pages. Chamberlain's book suffers from neither of those faults, I'm very pleased to say.

Chamberlain's subject is the woman who has been described as the "crazy grandmother" of Jonathan Edwards, Elizabeth Tuttle (the first wife of Edwards' grandfather Richard). Concluding that the traditional interpretation of Tuttle was at the very least overly simplistic if not simply untrue, Chamberlain went in search of her side of the story, so to speak. The result is both a compelling exploration of the Edwards-Tuttle family story, and a deeply interesting look at the historio-genealogical treatment of Elizabeth Tuttle.

Elizabeth Tuttle's life works beautifully as Chamberlain's springboard to discuss a whole range of topics, from migration patterns to colonial laws on marriage, divorce and mental illness, to uses of the "insanity defense" in criminal trials (one of Tuttle's brothers killed one of her sisters, and another sister killed her own son - events which had no small impact on the family). Richard Edwards' petitions for divorce are carefully analyzed, but Chamberlain goes further in a successful attempt to read between the lines and understand how the same sequence of events might have been seen from Elizabeth Tuttle's perspective (noting, for example, that Richard Edwards had prior to the divorce been implicated in a case of fornication with Mary Talcott, the woman who would become his second wife).

By examining the entire two decades of the Edwards-Tuttle marriage, Chamberlain is able to contextualize the final breakdown of the union in a much clearer way, and offers a much more coherent and more complete picture of the relationship than previous studies have done. And the final chapters, which explore how genealogists and biographers of Jonathan Edwards have treated Elizabeth Tuttle (at first ignoring the issue, either implicitly or explicitly declaring that she had died rather than been divorced from Edwards' grandfather and then adopting the "crazy grandmother" motif found in the modern Edwards biographical studies) are masterfully done.

One aspect of this whole story that was completely and utterly new to me was that the Edwards family was held up as a particularly "good" line during the period of the eugenics movement, with Elizabeth Tuttle deployed by anti-eugenicists as a personification of the "misguided aims and potentially tragic consequences of eugenic legislation" (p. 182). The addition of this curious and quite fascinating element is yet another reason to like this already thoroughly worthwhile book.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Links & Reviews

- Via the ILAB Blog, a list of books believed stolen from the library of the Abbey of Montecassino by de Caro and/or his associates. They include at least six incunables, some of them Aldine imprints, and several early Galileo editions, among others.

- Over on the Appendix blog, a food and drug miscellany.

- At 8vo, Brooke tries out tapestry with "Don Saltero's Coffeehouse: Or a Secret History of the Museum."

- From Mills Kelly, "Back of the Book History," on physical data in books, with some analysis of what library circulation records might be able to tell us.

- Sarah Werner has posted her talk from this year's MLA, "Make Your Own Luck," at Wynken de Worde.

- The Bodleian Library is looking to raise £2.2 million to fund the purchase of an archive of material related to early photographer William Henry Fox Talbot.


- Jared Diamond's The World Until Yesterday; reviews by David Brooks in the NYTimes and David Ulin in the LATimes.

- James O'Brien's The Scientific Sherlock Holmes and Maria Konnikova's Mastermind; review by Matthew Hutson in the WSJ.

- Antonio Forcellino's Raphael; review by James Hall in the TLS.

- Susan Rennie's Jamieson's Dictionary of Scots; review by Robert Crawford in the TLS.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Book Review: "The Barbarous Years"

The latest volume in Bernard Bailyn's cycle of books on the peopling of British North America is The Barbarous Years: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675 (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012). The timeframe in the subtitle proves important: some reviewers have questioned why Bailyn doesn't use this book to discuss French Canada or Spanish Florida, but those areas weren't British-controlled during the period covered here. The British settlements in the Caribbean also aren't considered, though they are often mentioned in the context of the mainland settlements.

The book opens with a short introduction to the project in general, in which Bailyn lays out what quickly becomes a major theme of the book: that the experiences of European settlers in mainland North America "were not mainly of triumph but of confusion, failure, violence, and the loss of civility as they tried to normalize abnormal situations and to recapture lost worlds, in the process tearing apart the normalities of the people whose world they had invaded" (xv). There follows a fascinating chapter on the native inhabitants of eastern North America in the years leading up to European settlement of the area, highlighting their vastly different cultures and lifestyles and the ways in which these were disrupted by the arrival of Europeans with their unquenchable desire for furs and with their virulent diseases.

Three sections on the major areas of European colonization are at the core of the book: Virginia and the Chesapeake region, the Dutch and Swedish settlements in what is now New York and along the Delaware River, and the Pilgrim/Puritan colonies in New England. For each, Bailyn focuses on the tenuous nature of the settlements: the mismanagement and demographic troubles that very nearly put a quick end to the Virginia endeavors, the religious and bureaucratic wrangling over the Chesapeake, the squabbly nature of the Dutch commercial outposts in New Amsterdam. He does a fine job of describing the interesting Swedish and Finnish settlements along the Delaware, first taken over by the Dutch and then reverting to English control in the 1660s.

It is the New England section, of course, where Bailyn is most at home and comfortable, and this section of the book is chock full of fascinating details (even more full than the other sections). He analyzes the origins of settlers in various towns, explores the trend of reverse migration back to England in the years following the fall of Charles I, and delves deeply into the great conflicts at the heart of early New England: how to divide up the land, how to establish new towns, how to deal with religious and political controversy, how to live a goodly and godly life. He delves deeply into the antinomian controversy, and explores the many criticisms of the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies leveled by those who fell afoul of their civil and religious leaders. All the while Bailyn stresses the difficulties, the stresses, the conflict points that made life for the early generations of Europeans in America no cakewalk, and which destroyed the cultures of the region's prior inhabitants through brutal conflict.

As other reviews have pointed out, Bailyn doesn't do as much as he might have with the interactions (both peaceful and armed) between the Europeans and the American Indians, particularly in the sections on the Dutch-controlled region and New England. And while the practice of forcibly importing African slaves is mentioned (at 174-177; 242-243; 257-259; 508-510, for example), there are perhaps additional sources Bailyn might have drawn on to bring the experience(s) of the few thousand Africans brought to North America during this period more to the fore (likewise with the enslavement of Indians at various points, which is mentioned only in passing).

I don't normally read reviews of books prior to writing my own, but I made an exception in this case and looked at a couple. I found much of Charles C. Mann's critique in the New York Times to be fair (he mentions the lack of attention to enslaved Africans and the Indian conflicts), but must take issue with his statement that Bailyn "appears to give some credence to John Smith's story about Pocahontas saving his life, for instance, though most anthropologists dismiss it out of hand."  Here's Bailyn on this point: "... Smith recorded the story of his captivity at first briefly and with little drama (he 'procured his owne liberty'), then elaborated it in retelling, finally embellished it as an elaborate ceremony centered on the tale of how Pocahontas 'the King's dearest daughter' (who was eleven at the time) 'got his head in her armes, and laid her owne upon his to save him from death'" (58). I don't see this as giving credence to the story at all, merely pointing out how Smith's telling of it changed over time.

A thoroughly interesting and important book on the subject; not without faults, certainly, but filled with intriguing characters whose stories Bailyn has told clearly, well, and in the service of his larger study.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Links & Reviews

Happening recently:

- Matthew Haley has been appointed head of Books, Maps, and Manuscripts for the UK wing of Bonhams, after four years in New York as a specialist in fine books for the auction house (during which time he also launched the annual Space History Sale for Bonhams). Congratulations to Matthew on this appointment!

- Bookseller Ken Karmiole has established a $100,000 endowment at UCLA to fund archival studies and lectures in the field.

- From the Rare Book Cataloging at Penn, blog, a student worker's perspective on jumping into the world of cataloging.

- The AE Monthly for January is up: it includes Michael Stillman's annual look at the top 500 auction items for 2012, a discussion of the recent Graham Arader sale and a piece on the Old South Bay Psalm Book decision by Bruce McKinney, among other articles.

- Reporting for the WSJ this week, Barry Newman explores the market for authors' archives, highlighting bookseller Ken Lopez and the recent acquisition by Yale of the papers of N. Scott Momaday.

- The British tabloid The Sunday Sun reports that authorities will hold an inquest into the apparent suicide of book thief Raymond Scott.


- G. Thomas Tanselle's Book-Jackets: Their History, Form, and Use; review by Robin at Bookride.

- John Glassie's A Man of Misconceptions; review by Jad Abumrad in the NYTimes. Reviewed jointly with Lawrence M. Principe's The Secrets of Alchemy and John Freely's Before Galileo by Laura J. Snyder in the WSJ.

- Bernard Bailyn's The Barbarous Years; review by Charles C. Mann in the NYTimes.

- Simon Garfield's On the Map; review by Simon Winchester in the WaPo.

- Stephane Gerson's Nostradamus; review by Joshua Blu Buhs in the WaPo.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Literary Anniversaries 2013

Like last year, I'll highlight a few of the notable anniversaries coming up in 2013:

50 years ago (1963):
- Yann Martel born, 25 June.
- Robert Frost dies, 29 January.
- Sylvia Plath dies, 11 February.
- William Carlos Williams dies, 4 March.
- Aldous Huxley dies, 22 November.
- C.S. Lewis dies, 22 November.
- Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar published.
- Thomas Pynchon's V. published.
- Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle published.

100 years ago (1913):
- Robertson Davies born, 28 August.
- Albert Camus born, 7 November.
- Willa Cather's O Pioneers! published.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Poison Belt published.
- D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers published.
- George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion published.

150 years ago (1863):
- Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch born, 24 November.
- George Santayana born, 16 December.
- Jacob Grimm dies, 20 September.
- Frances Trollope dies, 6 October.
- William Makepeace Thackeray dies, 24 December.
- George Eliot's Romola published.
- Edward Everett Hale's The Man Without a Country published.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Tales of a Wayside Inn published.

200 years ago (1813):
- Otto Ludwig born, 12 February.
- Søren Kierkegaard born, 5 May.
- Christoph Martin Wieland dies, 20 January.
- J. Hector St. John de Crèvecouer dies, 12 November.
- Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice published, 28 January.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley's Queen Mab published.

250 years ago (1763):
William Cobbett born, 9 March.
- Louis Racine dies, 29 January.
- William Shenstone dies, 11 February.
- George Psalmanazar dies, 3 May.
- James Boswell meets Samuel Johnson, 16 May.
- Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's Letters published.

300 years ago (1713):
- Abbé Raynal born, 12 April.
- Denis Diderot born, 15 October.
- Laurence Sterne born, 24 November.
- Joseph Addison's Cato debuts.

350 years ago (1663):
Cotton Mather born, 12 February.
- Francis Atterbury born, 6 March.
- William Bradford (printer) born, 20 March.

400 years ago (1613):
- François de la Rochefoucauld born, 15 September.
- Thomas Bodley dies, 28 January.
- Shakespeare (and Fletcher's?) Henry VIII debuts (at one performance of which the Globe burns).

450 years ago (1563):
Michael Drayton born.
- Jodocus Hondius born, 14 October.
- John Bale dies, November.
- Foxe's Book of Martyrs published in English by John Day.

500 years ago (1513):
- Jacques Amyot born, 30 October.
- Robert Fabyan dies.

550 years ago (1463):
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola born, 24 February.
- Lorenzo de' Medici born, 4 August.
- Flavio Biondo dies, 4 June.

650 years ago (1363):
- Christine de Pizan born (approximate).

700 years ago (1313):
- Giovanni Boccaccio born, 16 June (uncertain).

What'd I miss? Let me know!