Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Concerns over Church Library Deaccessions

Some recent articles have brought the issue of church library deaccessions back to the surface (after the discussions last fall of the Truro sale things went quiet for a bit). Writing in the Church Times, ("The C of E is losing its own history") Jonathan Clark argues that recent sales of books and manuscripts from churches are a major and troubling symptom of the decline of the Church of England:

"Unremarked, Anglican institutions are selling the contents of their ancient libraries. A search on shows a swath of volumes for sale from cathedral libraries: Bangor, Canterbury, Ely, Lincoln, Llandaff, Lichfield, Exeter, St Asaph, Wells. Even at Oxford, Pusey House, established as a think tank with a scholarly as well as a pastoral remit, in 2005 sold much of the ancient contents of its library for the years before the Tractarians. A friend, viewing this sale at Christie’s, and appalled at the rows of venerable volumes, described it as 'like a scene from the dissolution of the monasteries'. Yet that, in present-day form, is too close to the truth.

One can imagine it. Accountants add up the retail value of the collections, calculate the number of borrowers or readers, and advise that there is no option but liquidation. Senior clergy, who no longer read the books, are all too happy to accept expert advice. The auction houses promise a professional service, and the best prices (which are not always realised). The Charity Commissioners make no complaint. There is little publicity.

Such sales are more than minor inevitabilities: together, they become a historical phenomenon. They signify the Church of England losing the argument, and turning away from an attempt to sustain a heavyweight historical rationale for itself. One wonders whether the libraries of most Anglican clerics now consist not of formidable works of scholarship, but of paperbacks from the 1970s, already disintegrating."

David Shaw comments on Ex-Libris that "many of the cases reported are simply housekeeping operations. It is in no way true that the cathedral libraries listed have been sold (as opposed to disposal of some items)." Shaw adds that at Canterbury, for example, some modern duplicates and out-of-scope items have been sold in recent years, but not the whole library.

It's important not to be alarmist about all this. All libraries must weed their collections. I don't know enough about the non-Truro cases listed here to make much comment on them, but I do think it's important to be cautious before leaping to unfounded conclusions (just because there's a listing on ABE doesn't mean that the entire library is being sold off piecemeal).

Recent Catalogues

- I got a chance to browse through Stuart Bennett's fiftieth catalogue: Unique? A Catalogue of Apparently Unrecorded or Unlocated English and American Books, Pamphlets and Broadsides printed between 1670 and 1851. Some really interest offerings, including the 'lost' first edition of Ann Fisher's An Accurate New Spelling Dictionary (1772) and some neat little chapbooks.

- Helen R. Kahn's Catalogue 73: Voyages and Travels is now available for browsing.

- Margolis & Moss offer a catalogue of 19th-century American imprints: "266 books, pamphlets and ephemeral items, published in the United States during the 19th century. An eclectic mix, the annotated catalog includes works on physical culture, letter-writing, school texts, theater, photography, literature, children's books, history, politics, etiquette, economics, theology, book-keeping, travel, the conduct of life, and much more." Free to interested librarians; drop them an email.

- The good folks at Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts announced a text-only Civil War list yesterday [PDF].

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bloomsbury Pulls Book Over Citation Snafu

Over at the Guardian book blog, Claire Armitstead reports on one of those cringe-worthy moments: British publisher Bloomsbury has recalled a printing of Veronica Buckley's Madame de Maintenon (scheduled for release on 5 May) because it contained two citations from Le Journal Secret de Louis XIV, a putative diary of the Sun King "reconstructed" (read "created") in 1998 by French author Francois Bluche.

Armitstead writes "The first inklings that all was not quite right came when a distinguished biographer declined to review it for us on the grounds that it was 'not up to the high standards I impose on books I review.' Shortly afterwards an erratum slip arrived, to which I paid little attention until it was followed by a fretful email saying that the book was going to be recalled and republished later in the summer. This piqued my interest: after all, what mistake could be so terrible that it warranted pulping a whole edition? It wasn't as if anyone involved with Louis XIV was in a position to sue for libel."

Citing a fake diary, that's what mistake.

After what I'm guessing will be quite a few close reads, the book is now due for release in a few months.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Stolen Maps Database Launched

The Missing and Stolen Maps Database, supported by the International Antiquarian Mapsellers Association (IAMA) is now live. First announced back in February, the database was designed by a large group of librarians, map collectors, dealers, and others. It is "free of charge, fully searchable, international in scope, and accessible using individual usernames and passwords." Registration is required to post information about a missing map, but not to search or browse the database.

I strongly urge librarians at institutions where maps have been reported missing to add information about them to this database. It can only function successfully if it is populated, and I think I join all those involved with its creation in hoping that it realize its potential.

I've added a link to the sidebar.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lepore on the Founders' Faiths

In the 14 April New Yorker, Jill Lepore offers a review essay examining several recent books on the faith(s) of the founding fathers, including Martha Nussbaum's Liberty of Conscience, Garry Wills' Head and Heart: American Christianity, Frank Lambert's Religion in American Politics: A Short History, Forrest Church's So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle Over Church and State, and Steven Waldman's Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America.

The entire essay is both timely and very much worth reading, so I won't summarize it here, but I do want to note Lepore's very apt (if a bit succinct) formulation about the religious tendencies of a few of the major founders: "They approached religion in more or less the same way they approached everything else that interested them: Franklin invented his own; Washington proved diplomatic; Adams grumbled about it; Jefferson could not stop tinkering with it; and Madison defended, as a natural right, the free exercise of it."

Book Review: "The Monk"

First published in 1796 (after being written over a ten-week period by 20-year old Matthew Lewis), The Monk is one of the most gripping 18th-century novels I've ever read. Taking the Gothic narrative devices introduced by Horace Walpole and Ann Radcliffe and stretching them to their most graphic and horrifying extremes, Lewis' book is a ghastly tale featuring fallen priests (and their subsequent depravity) mistaken identities, uncanny predictions, bloody riots, violent plots and subplots aplenty, a fair helping of ghosts, and even the devil himself. Even today some of its language would be considered fairly extreme - in its own day it was, as Coleridge wrote, a book "which, if a parent saw it in the hands of a son or daughter, he might reasonably turn pale."

Fascinatingly digressive (several long stories, usually having something to do with ghosts but having to do only tangentially with the main plot, are recounted in the middle) and at times quite funny (when it's not being wincingly disturbing), The Monk is not quite like anything else I've ever read. Some elements of it have reappeared in countless Gothic stories since, but its preeminence in the field deserves wider acknowledgment.

I read the Oxford World's Classics edition, which was perfectly acceptable except for the fact that while certain passages were glossed with asterisks, there were no notes or annotations to be found anywhere in the volume: an unfortunate omission indeed from a fascinating volume.

Book Review: "The Purpose of the Past"

This volume, The Purpose of the Past: Reflections of the Uses of History (Penguin, 2008) collects twenty-one of Gordon S. Wood's essay-length book reviews, written over the past two and a half decades for the New York Review of Books, The New Republic, The Atlantic and other publications. With these essays Wood, one of America's most critically-acclaimed academic historians, offers little less than a thorough review of recent historical scholarship, with enhancements in the form of a thoughtful introduction and short afterwords appended to each essay.

One of the threads running through these selections is Wood's discomfort with the intrusion of literary theory into historical writing. He declares bluntly that "the epistemological skepticism and blurring of genres that seem to have made sense for some literary scholars had devastating implications for historians .... The result of all this postmodern history, with its talk of 'deconstruction,' 'decentering,' 'textuality,' and 'essentialism,' has been to make academic history writing almost as esoteric and inward directed as the writing of literary scholars. This is too bad, since history is an endeavor that needs a wide readership to justify itself" (4-6).

I couldn't agree more with this view - I share Wood's intense dislike for historical writing so filled with jargony gobbledygook that whatever narrative might be lurking within is utterly obscured by language which means absolutely nothing to anyone not in tune with the babble of befuddling banality unleashed on society by the theoreticians. I also happen to agree with Wood on another of his major points (that history "may not teach us particular lessons, but it does tell us how we might live in the world", that a historical sense "will give us the best guide we'll ever have for groping our way into an unpredictable future").

Wood is nothing if not very a careful historian, and many of the reviews included here offer cautionary notes for would-be writers of history. He argues against the practice of offering exaggerated claims of how x influenced y ("in most cases tracing the source of broadly shared ideas is a fool's errand" - 29); urges historians to be conscious of - and quite wary of - inserting anachronism and/or presentism into their writing; and suggests that historical writing should be seen as less a vehicle for imparting lessons than the opportunity to explain, to tell a story.

There weren't all that many things said in Wood's reviews that I found myself in strong disagreement with, one important exception being his 1991 NYRB review of Simon Schama's Dead Certainties (Unwarranted Speculations). In this very non-traditional book, which the author himself described as something of an experiment, Schama inserted fictional musings and "novelistic devices" into his narrative: Wood was profoundly disturbed by this, and both in his review and in the afterword to it printed here decries the "devastating effects such a work by a distinguished historian could have on the conventions of the discipline" (109). Since I feel myself completely capable of distinguishing between fiction and non-fiction (and perhaps because I do like a bit of historical fiction if it's written well), I had no problem with Schama's experimentation in Dead Certainties, and wouldn't mind reading more of it (I do agree, however, with Wood's criticism about the book being classified as history by the Library of Congress and not fiction - that is problematic).

When my copy of The Purpose of the Past arrived, I immediately opened to the last review to see if it was the one I hoped it would be: Wood's 28 June 2007 NYRB review of two recent books (Lawrence Goldstone's Dark Bargain and Robin Einhorn's American Taxation, American Slavery). I had reviewed Goldstone's book almost a year earlier, and was pleased to see many of my own criticisms echoed by Wood (who offered what I think was a very fair and even-handed treatment of a truly misguided book). Goldstone's vituperative response to Wood's review is a prime example of how not to react to criticism: he suggests that Wood "dismisses" his work as that of an amateur, when (as Wood replied) Goldstone's lack of "academic appointment" has nothing whatever to do with the failings of Dark Bargain.

Writers and readers of American historical scholarship will find Wood's essays enlightening, clearly-written, and at time provocative. I recommend them highly.

Links & Reviews

- Ed Pollack has some Special Exhibition highlights up on his website, including some of the items he'll be bringing to the Boston Print Fair next weekend.

- Michael Lieberman notes that the McHenry Library at UC Santa Cruz will house an archive of Grateful Dead material. The library now has a webpage up for the archive, which includes "original documents, clippings, media, article and other publications about the Dead and its individual members, its tours and performances, productions, and business. Among the resources that will be invaluable for researchers are show files, programs, newsletters, posters, cover art, photographs, tickets and stickers. These artifacts document three decades of the band’s recordings and its performance of thousands of concerts. A collection of stage props, tour exhibit material, and, of course, tee-shirts gives dimension and visual impact to the collection." Processing is expected to take about two years.

- From BibliOdyssey, calligraphic portraits from the British Museum Prints Database. Peacay writes of trying to search for images in this style "The more esoteric and specific the style or theme, the harder it is to find desirable images, seems to me. More image captions and metadata please!"

- Congrats to PKS on his one-year blogiversary at Sylvia Plath Info.

- Writing for the AP, Natasha Robinson discusses the way fragile books are being scanned for Google Books; at the end, she includes comments from Brewster Kahle, founder of the open-source Internet Archive Text Archive.

- In the 1 May New York Review of Books, Garry Wills compares Lincoln's 1860 Cooper Union speech with Barack Obama's speech on race at the National Constitution Center earlier this year.

- J.L. Bell examines a 1741 set of informal rules for incoming Harvard freshmen, which are quite amusing. He also links to a lengthy discussion that's been going on over at The New Republic about the HBO "John Adams" mini-series.


- Peter Conrad reviews Alberto Manguel's The Library at Night in The Guardian.

- In the NYTimes, Joyce Hor-Chung Lau reviews Don Jordan and Michael Walsh's White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain's White Slaves in America. I haven't read too many other reviews of this one, but their thesis sounds rather contentious to me.

- For The Scotsman, Michael Pye reviews Lisa Jardine's Going Dutch: How England Plundered Holland's Glory. He didn't much care for this one.

- John Spurling reviews Arturo Perez-Reverte's most recent Captain Alatriste novel, The King's Gold.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Auction Report

- Christie's South Kensington had a Landmarks of Science and Medicine sale (5542) on 23 April. Rare Book Review notes that some of the lots were from the collection of Swedish collector Andras Gedeon. The high spot was a copy of Pierre Borel's 1655-56 treatise on telescopes and microscopes, which made almost $44,000. Works by Newton and Huygens also sold well. A 1974 offprint from IEEE Transactions on Communications, "A Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunications," signed by the authors (Cerf and Kahn), fetched $21,000: this article is considered the foundational text of the Internet.

- Earlier in the day (23 April) Christie's had a general Travel, Science & Natural History sale (5428). The top-selling printed item was a collection of 101 John Gould plates (mostly hummingbirds), which fetched just over $32,000. A set of James Cook's voyage accounts made $23,000.

Christie's has a new, Flash-based website, which is delightful when it works but a pain when it won't load on older computers.

- Swann Galleries held a Literature, Art and Illustrated books sale on 24 April, but nothing seemed to generate much interest. Their next book sale (Printed & Manuscript Americana) will be held on 5 June.

- Sotheby's London will hold a sale of Natural History, Travel, Atlases and Maps on 8 May.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Penalty Revoked for Indian National Library Employee

The Calcutta Telegraph reported yesterday that the "culture ministry has revoked the penalty of an official of the National Library who was caught smuggling out photocopies of rare books and periodicals in December 2005." The employee, Ashok Kumar Nath, an assistant library and information officer, was penalized by having his pay cut, but that sanction was recently and inexplicably revoked by higher-ups within the government.

"It is strange that the ministry wants to revoke the charges against him. This has never happened in the history of the National Library," said R. Ramachandran, the director-in-charge and principal library and information officer. The paper reports "Dark hints are being dropped that Nath has got away because he belongs to the CPM-backed National Library Employees’ Association."

I'm not entirely clear on why the culture ministry would interfere with what seems to be an administrative matter, but it certainly is curious.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Extra Links

It's getting down to crunch-time in the last couple weeks of grad school (but who's counting?), so I am afraid I must throw out some really interesting links with much less commentary for each than I'd really like to be able to provide. But oh, that glorious day is coming when the class-chains will be lifted from my shoulders and I'll be able to read guiltlessly, and blog guiltlessly, and, well, you get the idea.

- Julia Keller's Chicago Tribune essay on the future of the book has been getting much and well-deserved attention - it's a funny and provocative piece, and comes as close to a bulls-eye about this oft-discussed question as anything I've read recently.

- The BPL's Norman Leventhal Map Center has unveiled a redesign of its website, which is quite nice.

- For reasons entirely passing understanding, the New York Times devoted a rather excessive number of column-inches to this story, about an "anomaly" (read: "ghost") which appeared on the security tapes from the New Paltz Public Library one night last October. See the video here, complete with what looks to me very much like an out-of-focus spider.

- Toronto's Globe and Mail has been running a series of interesting essays highlighting the "Fifty Greatest Books." This week's installment, by Jonathan Swift biographer Victoria Glendenning, covers Gulliver's Travels. It doesn't take much to make a good case for Gulliver's importance, but Glendenning does that one better and makes a great one. "Swift, his rage and despair barely controlled by his art, exposes what we humans do, and what we are like. Even though some of the political and doctrinal references were designed to be decoded by his contemporaries, the implications are disturbingly universal. Swift demonstrates the ludicrousness of conflict by substituting everyday issues — like the bitter dissension in Lilliput between the wearers of high heels and the wearers of low heels, and the war between Lilliput and Blefescu, costing thousands of innocent lives, about whether boiled eggs should be opened at the little end or at the big end." I think I shall reread the book this summer - it's been a couple of years, and if there's ever a book that warrants frequent rereadings, it is this one.

- Some interesting goodies from the most recent TLS: Margaret Drabble reviews Frances Wilson's The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth, while Jonathan Bate examines a recent collection of the works of Shakespeare contemporary Thomas Middleton. I hadn't heard of Middleton: Bate describes him as particularly adept at "more-than-Shakespeareanly inventive bawdy wordplay," among other things. Also from the TLS, a review of Richard Fortey's Dry Store Room No. 1, a behind-the-scenes look at a career in the [London] Natural History Museum.

- GalleyCat notes the ongoing struggle to save Edith Wharton's Lenox, MA home, The Mount, from foreclosure. The foundation in charge of the house is trying to raise $3 million by Thursday, which seems like a fairly tall order.

- Garrett at Bibliophagist offers up some delightful musings on booksellers' catalogs, writing "My aim here isn’t to give an exhaustive review of each catalogue but rather to try to start to figure out what pushes a catalogue out of the realm of simple commercial utility into the realm of quasi-literature. Perhaps the interesting catalogue sits somewhere in the intersection of curious material pointed up by obvious learning and a certain restrained enthusiasm. (Is an interesting title in a catalogue still interesting if you are not shown why it is of interest?) A brief explanation of the merits of a late 18th c. chapbook edition of Tom Jones is a tonic to the implicit rhodomontade of glossy auction or high-spot catalogues." [NB: I had to look up rhodomontade: the OED says "A vainglorious brag or boast; an extravagantly boastful or arrogant saying or speech; an arrogant act."]

- Travis provides some totally surprising (but noteworthy nonetheless) new facts from the James Brubaker case: he went around ripping off libraries because he needed some cash. Travis adds that Brubaker's trial date is set for 10 June.

- The University of Iowa's Digital Library Web now contains more than 100,000 items.

- Apropos of the above, NPR's "All Things Considered" ran a segment this week discussing libraries and their non-Google, non-Microsoft digitization efforts.

- J.L. Bell was on the radio this week discussing "John Adams" the mini-series. Listen here.

- The Guardian ran a lengthy article yesterday on "academic search engines," which I highly recommend. The list of links at the bottom is awfully handy as well.

- Mars Hill College (NC) has received a donated copy of a 1686 edition of Martin Luther's translation of the Bible into German.

Book Review: "Once Upon a Time in the North"

Philip Pullman's latest short story is Once Upon a Time in the North, sort of a prequel to the His Dark Materials trilogy in that it relates the story of the fateful first meeting between Texan aeronaut Lee Scoresby and armored bear-warrior Iorek Byrnison. I preferred this one to Lyra's Oxford, the other 'companion volume' - this one had more oomph and, well, I was rather more partial to the characters.

That said, this has all the limitations of a short story. I found myself wanting more character development, more plot, &c. For what's here, though, Pullman's done a good job.

The small volume is nicely designed, with appropriately-murky engravings by John Lawrence. A must-read for the HDM completist or die-hard Scoresby fans, but probably not a requirement for others.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Auction Report: PBA

PBA Galleries held a sale of Americana, Travel & Exploration, Cartography and Natural History books on 17 April (last Thursday). I paid more attention to this sale than I do to most since I actually had a bid in on something (the first time I've ever bid in a live auction, and successfully too!), but I've neglected to report back on the results. Better late than never, right?

The sale's high spot was an 1877 photographic panorama of San Francisco published by Edward Muybridge; it made $51,000 with premiums. A copy of the government-printed report of Zebulon Pike's expedition to the southwest (181) fetched $21,600. A first edition of William Bligh's Voyage to the South Sea (1792) and an 1846 Mitchell map of Texas and the West sold for $11,400 apiece.

Beyond these, there were some impressive bargains to be had at this sale, with many items selling well below expected prices or in the lower range of their estimates.

Nabokov's Last Novel to be Published

Vladimir Nabokov's son will not destroy his father's last, unpublished novel (The Original of Laura), The Guardian reports today. Dmitri Nabokov told the German magazine Der Spiegel that he decided to publish the book after his father appeared to him in a vision: "I'm a loyal son and thought long and seriously about it, then my father appeared before me and said, with an ironic grin, 'You're stuck in a right old mess - just go ahead and publish!'"

Publishing details to be announced.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Book Review(s): "Bizarre Books" and "Scouts in Bondage"

I don't usually write joint book reviews, but since Russell Ash and Brian Lake's Bizarre Books: A Compendium of Classic Oddities and Michael Bell's Scouts in Bondage and Other Violations of Literary Propriety cover much the same ground, it seemed only appropriate to write just one review rather than two. Both books provide a sampling of book titles/cover/authors which are innocent enough, but which have either fallen prey to changes in word usage over time, ("entendres that have double'd over the years", as Bell puts it) or simply serve to amuse and puzzle.

Ash and Lake's book is the larger of the two; it contains several chapters of subject-oriented titles complemented by the occasional black-and-white image or excerpt. Bell's sample size is smaller, but the book is hardbound and contains lovely full-color illustrations of the book covers in question (many of the titles are also to be found in Bizarre Books).

Interestingly, the LC classifies Bell's book in PN (Wit and Humor), while Ash and Lake's is shelved in Z (Books on Books). Both are quite funny and well worth a good browse-through.

On Patriots' Day

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Concord Hymn," sung on 4 July 1837 at a ceremony marking the dedication of the memorial Obelisk at Concord. Saturday was the 233d anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, which we celebrate in Massachusetts today as Patriots' Day.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Book Review: "Lincoln and Douglas"

I have a sneaking suspicion that we're going to be seeing a sharp increase in the already-astronomical number of books about various aspects of Abraham Lincoln's life over the next year or so as we approach the bicentennial of his birth. Authors will almost certainly continue to leave no Lincoln stone unturned (rail unsplit?) as they work over old ground and/or attempt to tread new paths.

Allen C. Guelzo's Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America (Simon & Schuster) takes a narrow look at the seven debates waged between Lincoln and incumbent Stephan A. Douglas during the senatorial contest of 1858. Guelzo argues, quite fairly, that the debates were largely responsible for Lincoln's elevation onto the national stage which resulted in the delivery of his famous Cooper Union speech in early 1860 and allowed him to be seen as a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination that year.

The book is focused, providing just barely enough background information on the issues, the run-up to the campaign and even the non-debate portion of the contest. Guelzo hones in on each debate with an examination of the setting, the various arguments made and the perceptions left by Lincoln and Douglas. It's a well-written and well-researched book with fine footnotes and a good historiographical wrap-up.

Book Review: "Extra Nutty"

Three volumes of Ted L. Nancy letters may be just one too many. While the content of Extra Nutty: Even More Letters from a Nut remained amusing, I didn't laugh nearly as much at these as I did at the letters in the first and second collections. I should probably have allowed more time to elapse between readings, maybe my feelings are the simple result of a slight Nut overdose.

Jerry Seinfeld (the assumed author of these books) provides the "backword" to this one, in which he writes his own Nancyesque letter to Mr. Nancy.

Links & Reviews

- Tim notes two LT PALINET Podcasts from this week: Part one; Part two.

- Paul Collins has taken up Caleb Crain's 2006 challenge to find an earlier usage of the phrase "Mad--mad, I tell you!" than James Herne's 1879 play "Within an Inch of His Life." Paul discovered the phrase used in Caroline Hyde Butler Laing's 1855 novel The Old Farm House. Good find! Caleb comments here.

- Getting very meta here, but Laura at bookn3rd had a good links post this week; I recommend them all. In another post she mentioned a great piece from Deeplinking that I had saved up for today: "Glosses through the Ages," with some excellent images of marginalia. It also includes some interesting links to new sorts of online marginalia-makers that I hadn't seen before.

- Jim Watts reports that a Torah scroll was stolen from a Kenosha, WI synagogue recently, just before the Passover holiday. A neighboring synagogue loaned another Torah so that services could proceed as scheduled.

- Over at the Guardian book blog, Claire Armitstead asks "are there 'historic' moments that a bookish fly on the wall could actually see?"


- Richard O'Mara reviews The Archimedes Codex in The Christian Science Monitor.

- Ralph Luker points out some good recent reviews on a number of topics, including Rick Brookhiser's NYT review of Steven Waldman's Founding Faith.

- Linc Chafee was on NPR's "Fresh Air" this week to discuss his new book, Against the Tide.

- Scott Douglas, author of the delightful McSweeneys feature "Dispatches from a Public Librarian" and of the new memoir Quiet Please, did a Q&A this week with PopMatters. He's also been blogging at Speak Quietly. And there's a Stuart Kelly review of Quiet Please in today's Scotsman.

- Richard Cox comments on Jeannette Bastian and Donna Webber's new SAA publication: Archival Internships: A Guide for Faculty, Supervisors, and Students. He notes the tension between practical training and theoretical education, which is at the heart of archival (and library) education.

- Danny Heitman's new book about an episode in Audubon's life, A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House, is reviewed by Ed Cullen.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Google is Funny Sometimes

Once in a while I take a look through this blog's stats to see how people were routed here. Sometimes the Google searches are just too funny (or strange) not to share. Here are a few:

- pigeon control leslie wilson
- what do you call a long sentence
- butter knife angled
- jay is dead
- mega uglow
- mr wordsworth, on the other hand
- johns hopkins university 1879 discovery for mcdonalds (Yahoo)

My favorite recent searches though have been all sorts of derivations of "What sports do wizards play besides Quidditch?" and "What songs do wizards use to celebrate birthdays?" These are two of the "essay questions" in Amazon's Beedle the Bard contest - I'm not sure whether people came here looking for answers, but if so I suspect they were pretty disappointed. Sorry guys, you're on your own for those!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Any Info Wanted on 1907 Theft

Well, the theft may have occurred more than a century ago, but it's still unsolved. Barbara Schmidt posted the following to ExLibris this afternoon:

"On July 11, 1907 a briefcase/suitcase was stolen in Grand Central Station in New York from Albert Bigelow Paine, the author of MARK TWAIN: A BIOGRAPHY. Scholars believe the briefcase contained the bulk of an autobiographical manuscript of Orion Clemens, the brother of Mark Twain.

In spite of offers of a reward at the time and even an appeal in 1940 from Bernard DeVoto, then editor of the Mark Twain Papers, the lost manuscript has never been recovered. I have written a short article about the lost manuscript and am posting the information to this list in hopes that some archivist or collector may have come across information that would lead to the recovery of the manuscript if it has, in fact, survived."

Schmidt's article, "The Lost Autobiography of Orion Clemens," can be found here, along with her contact information. If anyone out there knows something about this manuscript, I of course encourage you to be in touch with Barbara Schmidt. You could help solve a mystery.

viaLibri Grows

With the addition of several new search sources, has laid claim to the title of "the world's largest internet marketplace for old and rare books. ... Searches performed on viaLibri will now reach the combined inventories of over 20,000 online booksellers with combined inventories of over 150 million books. The most significant increase in this number comes from newly enabled access to used and collectible book listings from five different Amazon sites. Books from the American, Canadian, British, French and German versions of Amazon are all now included in viaLibri search results."

Founder Jim Hinck says of the additions "From the beginning, our goal has been to make viaLibri the most comprehensive internet resource for anyone searching for old and rare books. With the addition of these four new sites we are confident that we have achieved that goal. The collectors who use us regularly should be pleased to see their nets now cast even further across the internet. But even those who are just looking for a reasonable copy of an out-of-print book will find that viaLibri now gives them the most comprehensive results available on the internet. Or anywhere else for that matter."

I've begun using viaLibri regularly now instead of AddAll, and these improvements can only serve to make an excellent site even better. Releases Author Pages

OCLC's public portal,, now includes a beta version of WorldCat Indentities - basically a WorldCat-centric version of LT's author pages, but with some interesting features tacked on: I really like the publication timelines and the "related identities" (through which one of the WorldCat bloggers suggests a new game, "Six Degrees of Francis Bacon"). Here's a sample Identity page, for your reference. Another nifty tool!

Bien Aubudons to be Displayed

The Connecticut Post reports that a copy of Julius Bien's 1860 rare chromolithograph double-elephant edition of Audubon's Birds of America will be on display at the Pequot Library in Fairfield, CT.

Bien got only about a quarter of the way through his edition (just 105 plates) before the Civil War forced an end to the project. Most of the prints were sold off unbound; the Pequot's copy is all the rarer for having its plates (65) bound into a volume.

The exhibit will open tomorrow with a talk at 7:30 p.m. by Joel Oppenheimer on "Audubon's life, the different editions of Birds of America, and how the evolution of printing techniques influenced his art."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Extra Links

- C18-L has released Selected Readings 97, a selective bibliography of recent works on the long eighteenth century. The list is particularly (and blessedly) strong in biblio-things, so I encourage you to read through at least that section (I've taken down a whole bunch of the citations which I look forward to enjoying at the earliest opportunity).

- A new issue of The Bonefolder is now available here - useful articles on bookbinding and book-artistry.

- Tulane University recently posted an update on the state of post-Katrina recovery at their Howard-Tilton Memorial Library.

- The Open Content Alliance is seeking an Executive Director. [h/t Dan Cohen]

- More than 1,000 Passover haggadahs from the collections of the Chabad-Lubavitch Library in New York are now available online, according to a press release. [h/t RBN]

- Travis has the latest Lester Weber update. Sometimes I have a hard time believing this case is for real, but I guess truth really is stranger than fiction.

- David McCullough and "John Adams" director Tom Hooper were on NPR for a 40-minute interview this week.

- Michael Lieberman has an essay on technology in the book trade. Worth reading, and on target.

- Rare Book Review reports "
A mid-15th century Book of Hours set a Dutch record when it sold for €316.051 (estimate €40.000-80.000) at a Van Gendt Book Auctions in the Netherlands."

- From BibliOdyssey, images from the Chronicles of Saxony (1492).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More on Fallon Thefts

The Scotsman has a more complete report today on the case of Oliver Fallon. It's a bit overwritten (first paragraph: "The documents, stained with the patina of time, evoked incense, candlewax and monks in dark cowels. Sitting on a table at the Scottish Catholic Archives was the forgotten history of the Catholic Church, as well as a pay-day for an opportunistic thief.") but it does provide some good background on the case and some more cautionary tales for librarians and archivists (who shouldn't need any more, for goodness' sake!).

"After requesting access to a range of documents, which were then brought into the reading room, Fallon ripped out pages and hid documents inside his notebook, which he then smuggled out at the end of the day.

As the reading room did not have a member of staff present, the thefts went unnoticed until Fallon admitted the crime to police, after they discovered documents from other archives at his home in London."

... did not have a member of staff present? Seriously? I understand understaffing all too well, but c'mon, leaving people totally unsupervised in a reading room? That's just asking for trouble.

"Once he was caught, Fallon sent a letter apologising and returned £14,325 worth of records. But the damaged documents needed almost £5,000 worth of repairs, while 132 documents were still missing. These are worth £12,000.

His solicitor, John Mulholland, said his client disputed the value of the theft, but admitted Fallon was already serving time in England for similar offences."

The English thefts seem not to have made much of a splash over there, but I'm still hoping to get some details on those.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Thief Pleads Guilty in Scottish Archive Case

Another thief, this one from across the pond. The BBC reports today that Oliver Fallon, 40, pleaded guilty this week to stealing nearly 300 items (worth £26,400) from the Scottish Catholic Archives in Edinburgh. Fallon reportedly gained access to the materials by telling staff at the facility that he was a post-graduate student.

Fallon, who is from London, made five trips to the Scottish Catholic Archives in July of 2006. Archivists there "only realised he had stolen from them when Fallon was arrested for a similar crime in London and told police he had done the same in Edinburgh."

Sentencing is scheduled for next month. More on the earlier case if I can find it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bentham Mythbusting

In the April 2008 NEA Newsletter, Professor John Thelin's keynote address from the October 2007 NEA meeting is reprinted. Toward the end of his talk, he comments on his "Ideal Professor", saying "My candidate is Jeremy Bentham, famous as a 19th century philosopher who also taught at the University of London. Bentham left a generous part of his estate to the university with the condition that for perpetuity he be allowed to attend university faculty meetings. To this day, his embalmed body housed in a glass case is wheeled into meeting. And the faculty minutes always note that 'Professor Bentham did not vote or speak' ...."

Cute story, but not, as they say, entirely accurate. I knew that Bentham's preserved (not embalmed) corpse was still around, but I hadn't heard the faculty meeting part before, so I moseyed over to the University College of London's Bentham Project page to see what I could find. They write: "At the end of the South Cloisters of the main building of UCL stands a wooden cabinet, which has been a source of curiosity and perplexity to visitors. The cabinet contains Bentham's preserved skeleton, dressed in his own clothes, and surmounted by a wax head (image here). Bentham requested that his body be preserved in this way in his will made shortly before his death on 6 June 1832. The cabinet was moved to UCL in 1850.

"Not surprisingly, this peculiar relic has given rise to numerous legends and anecdotes. One of the most commonly recounted is that the Auto-Icon regularly attends meetings of the College Council, and that it is solemnly wheeled into the Council Room to take its place among the present-day members. Its presence, it is claimed, is always recorded in the minutes with the words Jeremy Bentham - present but not voting. Another version of the story asserts that the Auto-Icon does vote, but only on occasions when the votes of the other Council members are equally split. In these cases the Auto-Icon invariably votes for the motion."

There is, however, a grain of truth to the rumor, as least if one of the UCL department webpages is to be believed: "At the centenary and sesquicentenary of the college, he was brought out to the College Committee meeting. He sat at one end of the table, the Provost at the other, and the minutes record 'Jeremiah Bentham, present but not voting'." So not every faculty meeting, but on special occasions, apparently Mr. Bentham has been known to make an appearance.

Further reading:
- The excerpt from Bentham's will where he suggests the rather unconventional arrangement for his remains.

- C.F.A. Marmoy, "The 'Auto-Icon of Jeremy Bentham at University College, London." Medical History, April 1958; 77-86.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Links & Reviews

- Rob Lopresti has a second post at Criminal Brief on his first-hand experiences in the Brubaker case (also see his first post here). In this one, Lopresti describes reactions to the thefts: his own, the media's, and others'.

- PC World has an article on the new technologies being deployed as part of the new LOC Experience program at the Library of Congress (which includes the TJ Library project I wrote about on Friday - happy 265th birthday to TJ, by the way!). The first of several online exhibits, Exploring the Early Americas, is now online, and very impressive. Jefferson's should be up shortly, with any luck at all. Also see Michael's Book Patrol post on this topic.

- Laura adds "book nerd" to Wired's new "Geekster Handbook." She also commented this week on Maria Sibylla Merian, a fascinating early naturalist and illustrator. Kim Todd's biography of Merian, Chrysalis (2007) is on my 'to-read' shelf; it seems like a good summer book.

- From BibliOdyssey, botanical images from Nicolai Joseph Jacquin's Fragmenta Botanica (1809).

- McIntyre & Moore, long a Davis Square feature, has now relocated to 1971 Mass Ave in Porter Square, as the Boston Globe reports today.

- J.L. Bell comments on Martin Br├╝ckner’s excellent Common-place article, The Material Map: Lewis Evans and cartographic consumer culture, 1750-1775.

- Over at Bookshop Blog, Pazzo Books' Tom Nealon offers a paean to ex-library books. It includes a sonnet. He's right, sometimes these can be great diamonds in the rough. Sometimes.

- On NPR, Cokie Roberts discusses her new book, Ladies of Liberty. We'll host Ms. Roberts for a brown-bag lunch and book-signing at the MHS on Thursday, 24 April.

- Much discussion of Rachel Donadio's essay about "literary dealbreakers" (that is, those books which, if a potential mate confessed to enjoying them, would put the kibosh on that relationship). See her Paper Cuts post (and associated comments) and further thoughts at GalleyCat.


- In The Telegraph, Jenny Uglow reviews two new books about flower collecting: John and Mary Gribbin's Flower Hunters and Andrea Wulf's The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession. Both sound quite good.

- Michael Kenney reviews Gary Nash and Graham Russell Gao Hodges' Friends of Liberty, which he calls "absorbing."

- And one more mention of Nicholson Baker: his rather unconventional new book, Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization is reviewed by Louis Menand in The New Yorker. I very nearly fell off my chair laughing at the first line of Menand's review: "Nicholson Baker is a little bit of a Martian, and this is what gives his books their curious appeal."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Books in Boston

I spent the afternoon at Boston's World Trade Center for the MARIAB Fair, part of the Boston Antiques Weekend. It was nice to see old friends, make some new ones and enjoy a few hours of good books. Thankfully the weather forecasters were proven very wrong indeed and the predicted deluge failed to materialize.

Ian's booth was impressive as always, and his worthy assistant was happy to show me his favorite selections from their stock. I caught up with Joyce there as well, so we had a brief book-bloggers reunion before I resumed my browsing-round.

Lots of goodies, and a fair bit of temptation, but I behaved myself today. I also forgot that I had my camera in my bag, which was awfully silly of me. It was a nice setup this year - there was even carpet on the floor!

If you missed today's events, there's still time - the fair is open tomorrow from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Auction Report: Bloomsbury

I almost forgot to note the results of Bloomsbury NY's 9 April American Civil War sale. Hammer prices are listed here, in a really nice new printable summary which shows the title of each lot, the estimates, and the realized price not including premium (now if it would only link to the detailed descriptions ...).

The top seller was, as expected, the Alexander Gardner photograph album, which fetched $130,000 (the low end of its estimate). Some other notable results:

- A large chromolithographed poster advertising a stage performance of Uncle Tom's Cabin from around the 1890s sold for $9000, more than twice its estimate.

- The 1861 facsimile broadside of South Carolina's act of secession made $42,000, well over the expected $30,000.

- Convention delegate Lyman Gibbons' copy of the final Confederate Constitution sold for $50,000 (just into the low end of its estimate range).

- A letter from Lafayette C. Baker to historian Benton Lossing enclosing photographs of four men wanted in connection with the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln (with the photographs) made $12,000, beating its $3,000 high estimate handily.

Friday, April 11, 2008

On Criticism

I'm currently reading Matthew Lewis' 1794 novel The Monk, one of the most popular of the early gothic novels (and by far the most scandalous). I'll have a full review up when I finish it, but did want to post an interesting excerpt (from Chapter 2 of Volume II) regarding authorship and literary criticism.

In the scene, the Marquis de las Cisternas discovers his young page, Theodore, hard at work writing poetry. Upon reading the lad's verses, the Marquis opines:

"... I was going to say, that you cannot employ your time worse than in making verses. An Author, whether good or bad, or between both, is an Animal whom every body is privileged to attack; For though All are not able to write books, all conceive themselves able to judge them. A bad composition carries with it its own punishment, contempt and ridicule. A good one excites envy, and entails upon its Author a thousand mortifications. He finds himself assailed by partial and ill-humoured Criticism: One Man finds fault with the plan, Another with the style, a Third with the precept, which it strives to inculcate; and they who cannot succeed in finding fault with the Book, employ themselves in stigmatizing its Author. They maliciously rake out from obscurity every little circumstance, which may throw ridicule upon his private character or conduct, and aim at wounding the Man, since They cannot hurt the Writer. In short to enter the lists of literature is wilfully to expose yourself to the arrows of neglect, ridicule, envy, and disappointment. Whether you write well or ill, be assured that you will not escape from blame; Indeed this circumstance contains a young Author's chief consolation: He remembers that Lope de Vega and Calderona had unjust and envious Critics, and He modestly conceives himself to be exactly in their predicament. But I am conscious, that all these sage observations are thrown away upon you. Authorship is a mania to conquer which no reasons are sufficiently strong; and you might as easily persuade me not to love, as I persuade you not to write. However, if you cannot help being occasionally seized with a poetical paroxysm, take at least the precaution of communicating your verses to none but those whose partiality for you secures their approbation."

Rosenbachs Recognized

The Jewish Exponent reports today that the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission recently unveiled a historic marker at 2008-2010 Delancey Place in Philadelphia, once the home of famed bookman A.S.W. Rosenbach and now the site of the Rosenbach Library & Museum.

The marker reads: "Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach (1876-1952). Among America's most influential rare book dealers, he helped build many of the nation's great libraries. He and his brother Philip established the Rosenbach Museum & Library to share their personal collection with the public. They lived on this block from 1926 to 1952."

LC Reconstitutes TJ's Library

Today's Washington Post contains a report by Amy Orndorff on a brand-new display of Thomas Jefferson's library which is set to open tomorrow at the Library of Congress. Led by Mark Dimunation, chief of the LC's Rare Books and Special Collections Division, a team has been working diligently for several years to collect copies of all the titles Jefferson donated to the Library in 1815 (which his LT catalog seeks to replicate as well).

More than two-thirds of the original Jefferson books were lost in the fire of 1851, so Dimunation and his associates have been primarily seeking out replacement copies. "Re-creating such a famous library is a book collector's dream, Dimunation said, and it has not been easy. The search took Dimunation and his staff near and far, from their own stacks to the basements of French booksellers as they hunted down the same editions and obscure pamphlets from the early 1800s. 'We have dealt with the dealers from both coasts and everything in between,' Dimunation said with a resigned laugh. 'I am still waiting for my pamphlet on brewing beer.'"

The search hasn't been easy or cheap: "They have made use of a $1 million endowment and have spent from $100 to $17,000 on a single volume," Orndorff reports. Even with all that, some 300 volumes remain elusive: "In some cases, no identical copies exist, and there is insufficient information to determine every book he owned. Some titles aren't on the market for any price."

Another fascinating fact about the new exhibit: the LC "has replicated not only Jefferson's collection but also the manner in which he displayed it. He arranged his bookshelves in a conch shell pattern, so that a person could walk into the middle and be surrounded by books."

I can tell I'm going to have to plan a DC trip to see this display, it sounds utterly wonderful.

There will be a digital component to the new exhibit: I'll add the link to that as soon as it's available (hopefully tomorrow).

[Update: LC's Matt Raymond has an LC-Blog post on TJ's library, which includes a long and excellent story on the reconstitution project from the in-house newspaper. Read the whole thing.]

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Book Review: "Gods of Aberdeen"

Micah Nathan's 2005 debut novel, Gods of Aberdeen (Simon & Schuster) is one of many recent books seeking to slot itself into the 'literary thriller' genre. It may not be perfect, but it's better than most of the others.

Set on and near the rural Connecticut campus of Aberdeen College, this novel tells the rather improbable tale of Eric Dunne's extremely unconventional experiences as a college freshman. Eric Dunne, a 16-year old, orphaned, Latin prodigy from the slums of New Jersey catches the attention of famed Aberdeen scholar William Cade, who arranges for Eric to join his research team - other current and former students who live at Cade's home and work on translations, research and composition for his magna opus, some sort of massive history of the Middle Ages. But that project isn't the only thing Cade's assistants are up to ... led by the enigmatic Arthur Fitch, the boys are on the trail of the Philosopher's Stone and the immortality it will bring. You know that can't possibly end well.

If that sounds a little silly, it is. But Nathan manages to keep the book flowing, and while the flawless retrospective memory seemed a bit much (Eric is remembering the events years later, but somehow manages to recall everything in mind-boggling specificity) and the ending left something to be desired, I enjoyed Gods of Aberdeen for its examination (however far-fetched) of life at a small college, its depiction of the dangers of taking oneself too seriously, and its well-paced narrative.

New Castle (NH) Historical Society Burgled

Persons unknown broke into the New Castle Historical Society (NH) over the weekend, according to media reports. Police chief James Murray told the press "The building was forcibly entered. We're not sure exactly when, but think it must have been within the last couple of days." He called the robbery "an incident of tragic proportions to the people of the Historical Society and the town."

Society president Rodney Rowland is compiling a list of the stolen items. He said "Basically, they took any three-dimensional object they could carry away." Boxes of historic maps and postcards are believed to have been among the items stolen, as well as artifacts from the historic Wentworth Hotel and from New Castle's Fort Stark.

The robbers left some fairly evident traces of themselves behind: Rowland told the media "they bled all over the place. There's blood in every exhibit case, on the windowsill and residue in the bathroom. A lot of our original postcards have drops of blood on them."

A full list of the stolen items will be released as soon as possible, and Crime Stoppers has issued at $2,000 reward for any information related to the thefts.

RIF Funding Eliminated Under Bush Budget

LISNews reports that Bush's proposed 2009 budget eliminates all federal funding for RIF (Reading is Fundamental), the childrens' literacy program that's been around since 1966 and has been funded without interruption since 1975. "According to RIF CEO/president Carol Rasco, if Bush’s budget is approved, 4.6 million children will not receive 16 million free books in 2009."

Not surprisingly, RIF's advocacy campaign for restoring federal funds has met with much success: many senators and reps from both parties have already signed on to letters (House, Senate) to the Appropriations committees urging that $26 million in federal funding be allocated.

Now, I'm a fiscal conservative, and I'm all about eliminating wasteful or unnecessary government spending. But RIF certainly doesn't fall under either of those two categories in my book (no pun intended). Want some pork? Here's some for starters.

I remember the RIF program very fondly from my elementary school days (I was pretty biblio-acquisitive then too - I know you're all shocked to hear that); getting a free book was about the coolest thing imaginable. My classmates and I looked forward to the occasions when we got to troop to the library and choose a book from the RIF-racks, and I recall it always being an extremely tough decision (I was probably always the last one still standing there with two books in my hands trying desperately to decide between them). Picking a book was very rarely the end, though: it was usually the case that the author had written other books, and once the original RIF-choice had been devoured it was back to the library to find the rest.

Of course this is all about priorities. And of course I - as a bibliophile, advocate of reading and particularly an advocate of children reading - am going to support funding for RIF, and libraries, &c. To me, it's a no-brainer.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Mid-Week Links

My inbox runneth over.

- First, happy 175th birthday to the Peterborough (NH) Town Library, which was founded on 9 April 1833 and claims the honor of being the oldest free public library in the world. Some background here. [h/t LISNews]

- Amazon has begun a contest to show off its purchase of J.K. Rowling's Tales of Beedle the Bard. Entrants are asked to "creatively answer" (in 100 words or less) one of three questions: "What songs do wizards use to celebrate birthdays?; What sports do wizards play besides Quidditch?; What have you learned from the Harry Potter series that you use in everyday life?" Entry form, rules, &c. here. I still think there should be a trade edition, this all is getting a bit silly.

- J.L. Bell is examining that age-old question: how did the words "The British are coming?" ever get put into Paul Revere's mouth? See his first and second posts on the subject. John's one of the best historical mythbusters out there, and his work is always worth a read.

- Deeplinking has some samples from John Adams' marginalia, including some of my favorites.

- BibliOdyssey offers up a wonderful selection of printers' ornaments this week, along with a concise and interesting commentary on the use of such devices.

- Don't miss Kristin Ogden's Kenyon Review blog piece, "Antiquarian Book-Collector Wanna-be." [h/t Book Patrol]

- The Morris Library at Southern Illinois University Carbondale has received a copy of Phillis Wheatley's 1773 book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. The book was donated by John LaPine, owner of Printers Row Fine & Rare Books in Chicago and SIUC alumnus. [h/t RBN]

- April's edition of Common-place is now available, and looks to be as excellent as ever.

- Scriptorium: Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts Online, has launched. This site "will comprise full digital facsimiles of at least twenty late medieval and early modern manuscript miscellanies and commonplace books, along with descriptions, transcriptions and bibliographical information; a set of research and teaching resources for students and scholars working on manuscript studies; and an enhanced version of English Handwriting: An Online Course, our interactive palaeography tool."

- The Telegraph reports that the only known copy of William Caxton's "Sarum Missal" (1487) (ESTC S93678) has been purchased by the National Trust "at a cost of almost £500,000". The book will be displayed at Lyme Park beginning next spring. "It is a mystery how many copies were printed but the National Trust's volume, bought from the Legh family of Lyme Park, Cheshire - who have owned it since at least 1508 - still has 243 of the original 266 pages."

Schlesinger's Library Update

Just a quick (and sad) note to provide an update on the library of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (first post here). I've been in touch with both Professor Nasaw who arranged for the collection to go to CUNY and with the acquisitions librarian for the Graduate College there. Both inform me that no inventory was made of the collection before it was broken up. The books that are being acquired by the various CUNY libraries will contain no public note to say that they came from Schlesinger's collection.

I wish we'd been able to catch this before it happened. This one will haunt me.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Awards and Fellowships

Hot on the heels of yesterday's Pulitzer announcement, some more exciting news:

- University of Richmond historian Woody Holton has landed a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for research on his current book project: Abigail Adams, Entrepreneur. The full list of 2008 Guggenheim fellows is here. Also see this press release. Holton's article on this topic in the recent WMQ is fascinating, and I'm really looking forward to his continued work on the topic.

- The Organization of American Historians awarded their 2008 book prizes at the annual meeting in New York last weekend; I haven't been able to find a full list, but Marcus Rediker's The Slave Ship: A Human History won the Merle Curti Award, given to the "best book in social, intellectual, and/or cultural history." Well-deserved.

Dispatches from New York

Once again I didn't make it down to NYC for the big ABAA book fair and all the associated hoopla, but our faithful correspondents from the field have been reporting in:

- Scott Brown has some stories from last week's Dickens sale at Christie's, which sounds like it was great fun.

- Ian from Lux Mentis, Lux Orbis (who has got to win the award for Most Bookseller Miles logged of late) sent several posts from New York: Set-up, Day One, Day Two, an only-in-NYC cab story, and tales from the Armory show. I'm looking forward to Ian's always-wonderful booth at this weekend's MARIAB fair in Boston, and he's doing a seminar at 2:30 on Sunday that I might just have to make it over there for as well.

Pulitzers Announced

In case you missed it, the 2008 Pulitzer-winners were announced yesterday. C. Max Magee has as good a write-up as any over at The Millions.

Winners for books were: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (Fiction); What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 by Daniel Walker Howe (History); Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and her Father by John Matteson (Biography); The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 by Saul Friedlander (General Nonfiction); August: Osage Country by Tracy Letts (Drama); there were two prizes for Poetry, one to Robert Hass for Time and Materials and the other to Philip Schulz for Failure.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Lopresti on Brubaker Thefts

Rob Lopresti, the government information library at Western Washington University responsible for cracking the Brubaker case, has a first-hand account of the events leading up to Brubaker's arrest in a post at Criminal Brief. It includes photos of some of the books mutilated by Brubaker, and Lopresti notes that their investigation revealed that at least 648 maps, charts, illustrations &c. from 105 volumes had been snatched.

Lopresti notes that he believes Brubaker managed to get himself locked into the library overnight, before the facility improved security to prevent that from occurring. He also includes some fascinating and frankly incredibly depressing details about how hard it was to get the feds involved with the case, even though it was clear that Brubaker had been selling stolen property and transporting it across state lines.

He promises more, too, so stayed tuned.

Auction Report: Bloomsbury

The results are in from Bloomsbury's Saturday sale of Important Books and Manuscripts. Ninety of 150 lots sold; those did not include the three major items mentioned here.

Fetching $50,000, the high spot of the sale was a 1762 Bible bound by or for James Edwards of Halifax in blue morocco with exquisite neo-classical decoration. The Bible is "extra-illustrated with two engraved titles and 209 plates (29 double-page) by B. Picart and G. Hoet from Pierre de Hondt's Figures de la Bible (Amsterdam, 1728)."

The runner-up, at $46,000, was a first octavo edition (1840-1844) of Audubon's Birds of America.

Full list.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Links & Reviews

This was a good week for links.

- In the most recent Audubon magazine, there's an "Archives" piece republished from the November 1988 issue: it's an essay by Frank Graham, Jr. called "Of Dreams and Dread," about the surreal nature of the fog along the coast of Maine. Having experienced this fog during my family's regular week there each July, I knew exactly what Graham meant when he writes "... in what it clothes, and in what it reveals, fog transforms our world, gilds it in gray, makes the poet in each of us wonder again at the variety of masks that nature puts on and off to enchant us." A delightful piece.

- I missed posting this on the appropriate day, but a commenter points out in my review of At Midnight on the Thirty-First of March that the Internet Archive has made a 31 March 1943 Author's Playhouse radio adaptation of the work available in mp3 format.

- Leon Voet's two-volume The Golden Compasses: A History and Evolution of the Printing and Publishing Activities of the Officina Plantiniana at Antwerp (1967) is now online, hosted by the DBNL.

- Martin has a post on the SI blog about the completion of Smithson's library at LT.

- Penn State has acquired the "Charles L. Blockson Collection of African-Americana and the African Diaspora, an important assemblage of some 10,000 volumes relating to African-American, African, Latin American and Caribbean history and culture." The collection will open to the public on 18 April. This is Blockson's second major donation: his Afro-American History Collection was given to Temple in 1984.

- Travis notes that Jay Miller is due for release on 21 October. Sigh. He also notes that Lester Weber has filed a "motion to suppress statements" regarding the confession he made. Shocking.

- NPR hosted a discussion this week with Michael Farquhar, author of the new book A Treasury of Foolishly Forgotten Americans (Penguin).

- In the NYTimes this week, Susan Dominus commented on the dangers ebook readers pose to that time-honored subway tradition of checking out what your commute-neighbors are reading. [h/t LISNews]

- The Bodleian Library at Oxford, the Folger Shakespeare Library in DC, the Maryland Institute of Technology in the Humanities, the British Library, the Huntington Library, and the Scottish National Library are partnering to mount a digital library of all 75 pre-1641 quarto editions of Shakespeare online. Dan Cohen notes that the MITH is looking for a full-time programmer to work on the project.

- On the Guardian book blog, Shirley Dent comments on links between graphs and novels, saying in part "Change is the engine of both the modern graph and the modern novel. The graph and the novel are modern narrative forms, almost inconceivable before the industrial revolution and age of enlightenment had brought about a shift in our relationship with time and history. Put simply, in the 18th century, the world and history stopped being things that happened to us or around us: we become agents in our own history."

- Also the Guardian, Carol Rumens declares Oliver Wendell Holmes' "Dorothy Q" the "Poem of the Week," and writes of its author "Perhaps Browning is the English poet to whom he comes closest in style, though Wendell Holmes has a lighter touch, if less originality. American poetry, through Whitman, Pound, and others, would take a very different route into the twentieth century. But it's still possible to savour the fresh, natural, unpretentious quality in the diction, and sensibility, of the doctor-poet. I first met him in Richard Ellmann's New Oxford Book of American Verse (1976), and I've always intended to get to know him better. Perhaps the 200th anniversary of his birth next year will prompt some timely re-issue?"

I walk by the portrait referenced "Dorothy Q" almost every day; it hangs in a second-floor hallway at the MHS.


- In this week's TLS, Ferdinand Mount has a lengthy review essay of the aptronymic John Styles' The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England.

- Alberto Manguel's The Library at Night is reviewed by Michael Dirda in the Washington Post and by Richard Cox at Reading Archives. This one's up next for me, as soon as I finish some class projects.

- Elizabeth Hand reviews James Morrow's The Philosopher's Apprentice in the Washington Post.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Hemingway, F. Scott, and Smithson

I've posted over at the LibraryThing blog to announce the completion of three more Legacy Libraries: Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Smithson. Hemingway's is the largest Legacy collection so far (7,411 books, entered by several users in just three months).

I worked on the Smithson collection, which was great fun, and have also still been busy adding bits to John Adams' library. More transcriptions of JA's marginalia and author notes are still to come; I think they make fascinating additions to the collection, and I'm very happy that we're able to highlight the author mentions and make the transcriptions available.

I'm going to spend the next little while finishing up the Mather Family library, since that's been languishing a bit. Then onto the next!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Scotland's First Book on Display

Today marks the 500th anniversary of Scottish printing, and the National Library is showing off one of its greatest treasures for the occasion: the only known copy of the earliest dated book printed in Scotland.

The colophon to John Lydgate's poem known as the Complaint of the Black Knight reads "[Impre[n]tit in the south gait of Edinburgh : Be Walter chepman and Androw myllar, the fourth day of ap[r]il the yhere of god .M.CCCCC. and viii. yheris]" ... that is "Printed in the South Gate of Edinburgh: by Walter Chepman and Andrew Myllar, 4 April 1508." You can virtually-page through the Complaint here (images and transcriptions).

Lydgate's poem is bound together with the eight other known Chepman/Myllar books as well as two items by other printers.

A good introduction to the NLS' "First Scottish Books" project is here.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Lincoln Letter Breaks $3M at Sotheby's

[Update: The AP is reporting that the price paid for the Lincoln letter is "a record for a Lincoln manuscript, as well as for any presidential and American manuscript."]

The results from this morning's Presidential and Other American Manuscripts sale at Sotheby's New York are available here. As expected, the 1864 Lincoln letter responding to a childrens' petition calling on him to end slavery did particularly well: it sold for $3,401,000 with premium.

Other highlights: A Lincoln signature on one of four leaves disbound from an autograph album signed by dignitaries after the Gettysburg address sold for $937,000. This is the only known Lincoln signature from the day he delivered the Gettysburg Address. Only one other item made more than $100,000: an 1863 Lincoln letter to Asst. Secretary of War Peter Watson ($121,000).

The surprise of the sale (to me, at least) was the next-highest item: a 1924 Calvin Coolidge letter written to a Boston friend about his views on presidential duties. That beat its $15-20K estimate by a fair margin, selling for $85,000.

A Thomas Jefferson letter from 1790, expected to fetch $200,000-300,000, failed to sell.