Thursday, May 17, 2007

Links & Reviews

- Over at Upward Departure, Travis has some discussion of a 1977 theft - unsuccessfully prosecuted - from the Ohio Historical Society.

- LibraryThing has rolled out the first full live iteration of LibraryThing for Libraries, at the Danbury Library in CT. This integrates LT user data (other editions, similar books, and tags) into the library's OPAC. I haven't played around with it too much yet, and there are certainly still some kinks to work out (it only recognizes books with ISBNs so far, for example) but I think it's got excellent potential.

- Forrest at FoggyGates points us to an op/ed column in today's NYTimes by Judith Pascoe on the death of Dr. John K. Lattimer, a urologist as well as a collector and documenter of the macabre. I know Lattimer as the author of the very interesting book Lincoln and Kennedy: Medical and Ballistic Comparisons of Their Assassinations (it also contains much information on the attempted murder of William Seward, which is why I originally had call to use it). Pascoe's essay, however, concerns Lattimer's ownership of a certain, eh, urethral portion of Napoleon's anatomy.

What is purported to be the emperor's penis was - apparently surreptitiously - removed by the priest who administered last rites to the dying exile; before Lattimer, it was owned by Philadelphia bookseller A.S.W. Rosenbach, who had it displayed at the Museum of French Art in New York. Pascoe's argument runs that the organ "should be allowed to go home and rejoin the rest of his captivating body." How Lattimer's estate will dispose of the collection (which also includes, as Pascoe notes, Lincoln's bloodied shirt collar) is unclear at this time.

- As fade theory notes, Colophon Book Shop (Exeter, NH) is having a 50% off sale on a wide variety of books on books, now through 15 June. I'll warn you though, it's a dangerous thing to start going through their lists ... believe me, I've done it. In fact Christine's email to me when I placed my order read in part "How'd you do that that fast? We're stunned and impressed." What can I say, I'm a sucker for sales - especially good ones.

- I usually wait for the Perez-Reverte mysteries to appear in paperback so I haven't gotten his newest Captain Alatriste adventure, The Sun Over Breda. Kai Maristed has a review in the LATimes.

- Richard Cox comments on Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters by Elizabeth Brown Pryor (just out from Viking). He writes: "Obviously, I read the book because of the emphasis on Lee’s letters, but I also found Pryor making an effort to provide a balanced and critical review of Lee’s life and activities that moves us past the stereotypes and impressions of the resident of Arlington and the Confederacy’s military leader. Pryor minces no words in portraying Lee’s attitudes about slavery, for example, or about his doubts and struggles about his personal religious views."

- Back on 2 May I wrote about a new book which purports to identify Jack the Ripper. Matthew Sturgis reviews The Fox and the Flies: The World of Joseph Silver, Racketeer and Psychopath in The Telegraph. Of author Charles van Onselen's work, Sturgis concludes "It is a triumph of research and persistence. And, indeed, the most entertaining part of the book is the epilogue detailing how the archival detective-work unfolded." But, Sturgis says, van Onselen's contention that Silver was Jack the Ripper isn't quite sufficiently justified by the available evidence: "quite why Silver abandoned his serial-killing spree to devote himself to a life of petty larceny and organised prostitution remains rather hazy. It is all pretty tenuous stuff."

- In The Guardian, David McKie confesses to an obsession with trying to read the titles of books in the backgrounds of newspaper photographs: "Whenever I see such pictures I have an uncontrollable urge to seize the nearest magnifying glass and try to decipher the titles."

- From the same paper, a short profile of the Darwin Correspondence Project, which now contains the full text of more than 5,000 letters to or from Darwin up to 1865 (more than 9,000 more will be added in future).

- At Fine Books Blog, Scott notes the upcoming appearance at auction of a first edition of H.A. Rey's Curious George. The book, which is expected to fetch more than $10,000, will be sold 12 July at PBA Galleries; it's believed to be the first such copy on the market in more than a decade.

- Via Rare Book News, word that Princeton has acquired the papers of British literary critic Sir Frank Kermode; the National Library of Scotland has begun a $3.6 million project to digitize its holdings, which comprise more than 1 million books from the rare book collection alone; and the New Hampshire Institute of Art has received more than 2,000 rare early photography books from the collection of John Teti.