Monday, May 07, 2007

Now That's a Strange Bookmark

The Scotsman reports today on the upcoming sale of artist Robert Lenkiewicz's library. Lenkiewicz, who died in 2002, was a prodigious collector of books on "philosophy, witchcraft, superstition and the occult." The major witchcraft books were sold back in 2003, but some 12,000 additional texts will be sold on 9-10 May at Edinburgh's Lyon & Turnbull auction house.

In cataloging the collection for Lyon & Trumbull, their books department discovered a few, eh, oddities among the books. The Scotsman article leads this way: "When Alex Dove opened the 16th-century book on witchcraft, something black and scaly fell out into her hands. Dove, who works in the books department at auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull, was horrified when she realised it was the body of a frog, wizened by time and pressed flat between the pages." [Note: If that line doesn't become the premise of a new 'literary thriller' novel within five years I'll be very surprised].

But the reptiles didn't end there: "By the time the Lyon & Turnbull team had finished cataloguing the books, they had unearthed a frog, two toads and a lizard." The library, described by one cataloguer as a "rabbit warren," had also at one point contained the embalmed body of one of the collector's friends and at least one other human skeleton.

The collection is estimated at £150,000-200,000, but perhaps the collector's own wishes would have been more appropriate: he desired that "his library, artefacts and unsold paintings would be kept together and made into a museum and research resource." Unfortunately the £40 "legacy" he left behind "(in a saucepan)", says the paper, wasn't enough to cover the £2 million debt he had amassed along with the book collection.

By the way, having just finished my preservation class, I should note that frogs - even dried ones - should not in any circumstances be used as bookmarks. Bad for the paper.