Friday, May 30, 2008

Quick Trip

I'm off to alma mater this morning to give an afternoon talk on Union's first library collection (which was the subject of the thesis I finished last winter). Back tonight, and will resume regular posting then or tomorrow.

Bus reading: Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild (not yet started), John P. Marquand's The Late George Apley (in process, but better read while sitting in the Public Garden), and a pile of articles from recent New Yorker and Smithsonian issues. [Update: Oh, and at least one of the five back issues of American Historical Review that are cluttering up my 'to read' shelf].

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Greatly Exaggerated, &c.

David Mehegan points out this report from Bowker, which projects that "U.S. title output in 2007 increased slightly to 276,649 new titles and editions, up from the 274,416 that were published in 2006." If print-on-demand books are factored in, the total number of 2007 titles is 411,422 (the Bowker report calls the rising number of new p-o-d books "staggering", but they are careful to note that they'll be tracking trends in this area carefully "in order to get a sense of whether this is a sustainable trend or a one-year spike.") Prior to this year, p-o-d titles have been included in the overall statistics; from now on they will be measured separately.

"The big winners last year were once again Fiction and Literature. There were 50,071 new fiction titles introduced in the U.S. last year, up 17% from 2006, and the number of new titles in the category in 2007 was almost twice what it was as recently as 2002. Similarly, there was an 19% rise in new literature books last year, to 9,796, which followed a 31% increase in new literature titles in 2006. ... [J]uvenile title output, which makes up more than one out of every 10 new books introduced into the U.S. market, was down again slightly last year and has now seen steady erosion in each of the last three years since its Harry Potter-influenced peak in 2004."

"The number of new business titles fell to 7,651 in 2007, down 12% from 2006, and the number of new sociology/economics books dropped to 24,596, an 11% decline from the prior year. ... [T]here were also slight dips in the Religion (down 5% in 2007) and History (down 3%) categories, both of which had experienced double-digit increases in 2006.

I'd be interested to see breakdowns within the print-on-demand category; the report simply describes these titles as "reprints of public domain titles and other short-run books." My guess is that these are mostly fiction as well, but some data on that might be enlightening. Also, I can't say I'm particularly surprised at the downticks in those particular non-fiction categories: business, sociology, and economics texts seems good candidates for non-traditional publishing methods, and after the large increases for history and religion in '06 a slight correction was probably in order.

But overall, as Mehegan points out, "Kindle has a long way to go to put the printed book out of business." The state of the codex is strong.

Another Rowling Teaser

The Courier Mail reports today that J.K. Rowling has penned another not-for-publication item: a "Harry Potter prequel" of about 800 words, written on thirteen index cards a large "story card". Sotheby's will sell the item on 10 June (with no reserve); proceeds will go to English PEN, a charity promoting literacy, and to Dyslexia Action.

Rowling "is determined the latest instalment will not be developed further. She says at the end of the story, written on both sides of an A5 storycard: 'From the prequel I am not working on - but that was fun!'"

Other writers, including Sebastian Faulks, Nick Hornby and Tom Stoppard have also donated items for the auction.

I guess I'm glad that she's doing these things for charity, but I do think it's pretty rotten that she won't allow them to be shared.

[Update: The Potter prequel is on one card, not thirteen (thirteen authors total have donated the cards.]

[Further update: More here].

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

On the End of Microsoft Live Search Books

LISNews points out Nate Anderson's post at ars technica about the end of the Microsoft Live Search Books project, which I discussed last week. Anderson includes comments from Internet Archive head Brewster Kahle, whose organization received significant funding and support from Microsoft. Kahle said he's "disappointed," but he thanked Microsoft for getting the ball rolling and for agreeing to let libraries "keep the equipment that they funded. This is extremely important because it can allow those of us in the public sphere to leverage what they helped build. Keeping the public domain materials public domain is where we all wanted to be. Getting a books scanning process in place is also a major accomplishment."

Anderson adds that Kahle is "a firm believer in the idea that corporations should not be the entities we trust to provide access to important cultural data stores. If people think that corporations are the right way to access the history of human discourse, Kahle says they're in for 'a series of very rude shocks.'"

In an OCA announcement, Kahle notes "Funding for the time being is secure, but going forward we will need to replace the Microsoft funding. Microsoft has always encourage[d] the Open Content Alliance to work in parallel in case this day arrived. Lets work together, quickly, to build on the existing momentum. All ideas welcome."

Hope springs eternal, I suppose - I'd like to share Kahle's optimism that full funding (from whatever sources) will be obtained, and quickly, in order to keep up the current pace of digitization.

More on Renehan

I've come across a bit more information on the Renehan thefts which I posted about yesterday. I mentioned then that one of the charges against Renehan was for possessing a forged document: that was "a letter purportedly signed by his predecessor [at the Theodore Roosevelt Association], John Gable, transferring ownership of the letter [that from TR discussing his son's death] to Renehan," according to an earlier Newsday article by Bill Bleyer.

Also, Renehan's legal team appears to be trying to muddy the waters by bringing up a 15-year old embezzlement case against another former head of the TRA which was kept quiet by the organization. Along with the bipolar argument, a very interesting strategy ... but this seems to have absolutely nothing to do with the current case.

Book Review: "A Voyage Long and Strange"

Reclaiming the historical muckraker mantle he donned in Confederates in the Attic, Tony Horwitz goes a little further back in time in his latest book, A Voyage Long and Strange (Holt). After coming to the realization - during a visit to the underwhelming pebble that is Plymouth Rock - that he didn't know much about what happened on the American continents between 1492 and 1620 ("This wasn't a gap in my education; it was a chasm", he writes), Horwitz decides to both brush up on his history and explore how the historical landscapes compare with their contemporary counterparts.

To that end, he sets off on wild journeys in the footsteps of the early explorers: Newfoundland with the Vikings, the Southwest's "pueblo country" with Coronado, the swamps and river valleys of the Southeast with De Soto, the Florida coast with a bunch of French Huguenots in the 1560s, and the Jamestown region with Captain John Smith (among others). Alternating brief historical essays with accounts of his own travels, Horwitz offers a rollicking (if slightly selective) tour of the American backcountry (it was all backcountry then, and some parts still are). He comes away from it all with a new perspective on the early explorers, lauding (?) the Spaniards for a "tenacity that bordered on derangement," (p. 192) and noting his newfound amazement not that so many Europeans died in trying to scratch a foothold in the Americas, but that any lived at all.

One of the most fascinating parts of the book to me was Horwitz' painstaking research into the native cultures of the areas tromped through by the European invaders - not only through historical records, but also by going to the areas today (including Zuni territory in New Mexico and Pamunkey lands in Virginia) and meeting with current members of the native groups. It's easy to come away from the European travel accounts without a good (or complete) sense of who they were meeting, interacting with (and, usually, not treating very well at all).

As usual, Horwitz meets a long list of strange folks along the way; those characters make his books what they are, and those he meets during the course of these travels are quite a bunch. The book's worth reading just for them.

Throughout the book, Horwitz asks how it is American memory has chosen to prioritize the Pilgrims. In the final paragraphs, after musing about tourist traps and historical memory, he concludes "The past was a consumable, subject to the national preference for familiar products. And history, in America, is a dish best served plain. The first course could include a dollop of Indian in 1492, but not Spanish spice or French sauce or too much Indian corn. Nothing too filling or fancy ahead of the turkey and pumpkin pie, just the way Grandma used to cook it."

Deluded we stand? Perhaps. But Horwitz' book offers a good route into the forgotten history of the first American centuries, and for that reason is highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Historian Pleads Guilty to Thefts from TRA

Wow, sometimes these things just seem to come out of nowhere. Travis comments on a Newsday AP story regarding historian Edward Renehan, Jr., 51, who pleaded guilty last Tuesday to interstate transportation of stolen property. Renehan admitted to stealing letters by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln from the Theodore Roosevelt Association (Oyster Bay, Long Island) while serving as acting director of the association between January 2006 and October 2007.

Renehan tried to sell the letters to a Manhattan gallery (Swann) for $97,000. His lawyer blames the thefts on a Renehan's recently-diagnosed bipolar disorder: "It's similar to getting drunk and doing something you wouldn't do if you were thinking straight," Peter Brill told the press. Brill says Renehan will ask to be spared jail time; he faces up to 30 months in prison plus a $250,000 fine and restitution. Sentencing is set for 21 August.

The author of six books, including The Lion's Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and his Family in Peace and War and the recent Commodore: The Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, Renehan reportedly apologized during the plea hearing.

But that's not the end of the story. Writing for Newsday yesterday, Bill Bleyer adds "Besides four letters previously publicized, the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch recovered two books and a letter by Roosevelt that had been consigned to auction houses by Renehan and sold." Renehan's attorney admits the letter was stolen, but claims the books were Renehan's. AND "In a separate case in Nassau County, Renehan has been charged with stealing from the association's Muttontown office a letter by Roosevelt about the death of his son Quentin in World War I. He was also charged with possessing a forged document designed to cover up the theft. When Renehan consigned it to Swann, the auction house raised questions that led to the investigations." He's due back in Nassau County court on 13 July, and Brill told Bleyer he expects that a plea will be agreed upon in the state case as well.

Nassau County DA's spokesman Eric Phillips told the paper 'We are requiring him to plead guilty to the top charge,' grand larceny in the third degree, which is punishable by up to 7 years. 'He would be sentenced federally before he receives his state sentence.'"

Travis writes of the bipolar defense: "As a justification for a single theft, that seems to me only moderately believable. As a justification for multiple thefts and the subsequent attempts to sell the stolen items at a gallery, it seems particularly flimsy. We’ll see how far the defense takes this line."

I agree, especially if the pattern seems to be as long as it is starting to appear. Bizarre, and disturbing.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Samuel Roth's Library

Yesterday I completed the cataloging of the personal library of Samuel Roth (1893-1974), a controversial publisher (most descriptions of him use the term "smut peddler" and "copyright pirate"), writer and bookseller. This was quite a departure from the Mathers, who wouldn't have been caught dead with the sort of books Roth kept around (and, if they could have, probably would have had the man ridden out of town on a rail, if not worse).

The library, along with Roth's personal papers and other archival materials, was recently acquired by Columbia University, Roth's alma mater.

Andersen Association Copy Found

Among the books available at next month's London Antiquarian Book Fair will be an interesting copy of Charles Dickens' Pictures from Italy (second edition, 1846). This one is inscribed by Dickens on the half-title: "Hans Christian Andersen / From His friend and admirer / Charles Dickens / London Jul. 1847." It was one of twelve presentation copies given to Andersen by Dickens during the Dane's first trip to England in 1847.*

Its current seller, David Brass, says of the book "This is the greatest Dickens discovery since I’ve been in the rare book business, over 40 years. It is a legendary literary artefact. I feel like Indiana Jones. It’s like finding the Lost Ark but without the curse, aggravation and people trying to kill you."

The Dickens-Andersen connection prompted The Times' Dalya Alberge to write a short piece (basically lifting from Brass' excellent description of the book) on the relationship between the two authors, which soured after Andersen came to visit the Dickens family at Gad's Hill in 1857 ... and stayed for five weeks! "Dickens dropped polite hints that he should leave, but they were, perhaps, too subtle. After he finally left, Dickens wrote on the mirror in the guestroom: 'Hans Andersen slept in this room for five weeks — which seemed to the family AGES!'" Dickens' daughter recalled that their houseguest "was a bony bore, and stayed on and on."

Brass' price tag: $150,000 - but for this copy of this book, with such an excellent story, the sky's the limit.

*Brass details the fates of the twelve presentation copies: "Four were bequeathed to the Royal Library, Copenhagen, and seven were later sent to auction. Of those seven auctioned copies, only five have been accounted for: at Dickens' House, London; the Free Library in Philadelphia; a copy ultimately presented in 1956 to the Andersen Museum, Odense; the Webster. Currie copy; and that at Sotheby's sale LN8412, lot 111. Only nine of the twelve copies are thus recorded. The copy under notice is one of the three 'lost' copies."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Links & Reviews

- In The Chronicle Review, Thomas Bartlett explores the ongoing controversy over the Gospel of Judas, which was released last year to much fanfare. I guess I've missed most of the kerfluffle that's gone on since the original publication of the National Geographic translation, so this is a good way to catch up.

- Over at BookN3rd, Laura has a must-read post on gender and the rare book world, where she comments on the role of men and women in the biblio-community. Also quite a few excellent links.

- I watched a "Nova" episode ("Lord of the Ants") yesterday profiling one of my favorite authors ever, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson. If you have a chance to see this show, do watch.

- Michael at Book Patrol notes that the Morgan Library will be displaying its three copies of the Gutenberg Bible simultaneously, through 28 September.

- Everyone else who blogs about books has already mentioned Robert Darnton's NYRB essay in the current issue; I hadn't yet simply because I haven't had a chance to read the whole thing. I will, and I think I'll have more to say about it once I have - I'm not sure I entirely agree with him so far.

- Travis posts another comment-rant he received recently, this one from a friend of the Brubakers.

- The folks at Houghton report that they've acquired a copy of the anonymous 1821 translation of Faust which some believe was translated by Coleridge.

- J.L. Bell had a useful Google Books moment the other day, discovering some mentions of Bartholomew Broaders, who played a bit-part in the Boston Massacre.

- BibliOdyssey's got a great miscellany up this week: images include Sri Lankan fish from an 1834 monograph, some drawings by Cruikshank and some early political cartoons, and a couple amazing Swammerdam engravings.

- The AP's Justin Pope interviews James Cuno, author of the forthcoming ("already controversial") book Who Owns Antiquity? Museums and the Battle for Our Ancient Heritage. One I'll have to read, sounds like.


- This was the week for reviews of Simon Winchester's new book, The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom (HarperCollins). Here are a few: Washington Post, Boston Globe, Salon, The Inquirer.

- Alberto Manguel's The Library at Night was reviewed by Philip Hensher for The Telegraph. My review is forthcoming, I'm (finally!) reading the book now.

- Rick Ring reviews Richard Wendorf's beautifully-designed and excellently-written America's Membership Libraries.

- In the TLS, James Gould reviews Built by Animals: The Natural History of Animal Architecture.

Suspected Book Thief On the Lam

The BBC reports that William Simon Jacques, 39, suspected of stealing books from the Royal Horticultural Society's building in Vincent Square, London, has gone missing after being released on bail.

"The items taken include 13 volumes of a rare collection on the camellia flower, valued at about £50,000, plus several other highly-prized 19th century books."

Jacques was arrested on 2 April after an investigation revealed he had been signing into the library with a false library card giving his name as "Mr. Santoro."

Photograph here.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Book Review: "The Black Tower"

Louis Bayard's new work, The Black Tower (William Morrow, forthcoming) is a riveting and masterful work of historical and literary fiction. Drawing on the legends of the "lost king of France" (Louis XVI's son Louis-Charles, who "died" in prison in 1795), Bayard lays the groundwork for a delicious complex story involving returning royalty, mistaken identities, the power of memory, and some good old-fashioned detective work (or, I guess I should say, new-fashioned detective work).

That last is courtesy of François-Eugène Vidocq, the real-life crook-turned-cop who initiated the establishment of the 'police de sûreté' during the Napoleonic period and went on to influence Poe's Inspector C. Auguste Dupin. Bayard's Vidocq is an investigative mastermind, and even if he remains a bit undercooked here, he's still one of the most fascinating characters I've read in a long time. He's accompanied in his investigations by the pathetic but well-meaning quasi-doctor Hector Carpentier, who is drawn (unwillingly) into the grand intrigue when his name is found on the body of a murdered man.

I won't give away the plot, but will note that it twists and turns right to the very last page. Just when you think you've got it figured out, Bayard throws over another curveball (always making them just believable enough to steer clear of overkill). He's written some very fun characters and spun a good yarn with this book. Oh, and his chapter titles ("In Which a Corpus Is Exhumed," The Reeducation of a Parrot," "Foiled Hopes") are wonderfully effective; I had to remember to go back at the end of some chapters and make the connection, but found myself chuckling out loud when I did.

Highly recommended.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Microsoft Curtails Book-Scanning Project

Microsoft's Live Search Books project is being ended, according to a post on the Live Search blog. The site will be removed next week, and Microsoft's book-scanning projects with libraries and publishers will be ending (or, as they put it, "winding down"). Some other highlights from the announcement:

- "Given the evolution of the Web and our strategy, we believe the next generation of search is about the development of an underlying, sustainable business model for the search engine, consumer, and content partner." (Translation: we weren't making any money).

- "With Live Search Books and Live Search Academic, we digitized 750,000 books and indexed 80 million journal articles. Based on our experience, we foresee that the best way for a search engine to make book content available will be by crawling content repositories created by book publishers and libraries." (Translation: Libraries and/or publishers are better prepared and equipped to digitize books than Microsoft is. An entirely fair and valid point point).

- "With our investments, the technology to create these repositories is now available at lower costs for those with the commercial interest or public mandate to digitize book content. ... As we wind down Live Search Books, we are reaching out to participating publishers and libraries. We are encouraging libraries to build on the platform we developed with Kirtas, the Internet Archive, CCS, and others to create digital archives available to library users and search engines." (Another very fair point - the Internet Archive is doing a fine job of providing digital content with superb metadata; providing the resources to libraries to let them get their books into the system, and then making that content searchable in useful ways, is key).

- "We will continue to track the evolution of the industry and evaluate future opportunities." (Translation: If we can figure out a way to make money on this, we'll be back).

- "We are ... removing our contractual restrictions placed on the digitized library content and making the scanning equipment available to our digitization partners and libraries to continue digitization programs." (Excellent. This is good to know, and a classy thing to do).

As I said not too long ago, I've long thought Microsoft's program was the weakest of the three big projects; hopefully this will get more institutions moving toward the Internet Archive and shake things up a bit in the digitization world.

[h/t LIS News]

New Horowitz Shop in East Hampton

The East Hampton Star reports today that the Glenn Horowitz empire is expanding slightly, with the addition of a second branch of John McWhinnie @ Glenn Horowitz Bookseller opening at 38 Newtown Lane in East Hampton. In a short profile (punnily headlined "Little Shop of Horowitz"), Baylis Greene notes "The new shop will be many things: a sister store to Glenn Horowitz Bookseller at 87 Newtown Lane, an extension of a business on 64th Street in New York called John McWhinnie @ Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, and an expression of the personal tastes of Mr. McWhinnie, an art and rare books dealer who has a house in Northwest Woods."

McWhinnie: "This shop is so small, it’s meant to be a jewel box, a showroom, a display space. There will be 50 books, maximum. I’m a minimalist by training, if not by inclination. One of my overriding concerns here is that it look spare and clean. One thing I’ve always noticed is that the more books there are, the more people miss things."

Horowitz and McWhinnie are also profiled in this month's FB & C.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

One More Auction Note

I knew I was missing one yesterday! Rare Books Review caught it, though. A first edition copy (12 July 1493) of the Nuremburg Chronicle in Latin (Liber Chronicarum) sold at Ketterer Kunst in Hamburg this week for $170,400. This copy was colored throughout by Johannes Cincinnius (c. 1485-1555).

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Auction Report: Sotheby's

Some highlights from today's Sotheby's Paris sale, as promised:

- Several pre-Revolutionary Robespierre manuscripts sold for 72,250 EUR, better than doubling the estimate.

- An 1851 Flaubert manuscript made 89,050 EUR, while one by Gerard de Nerval fetched 120,250 EUR.

- As expected, the André Breton manuscripts were the high spots: his Manifeste du Surréalisme went for 1.9 million EUR (doubling the high estimate), while Poisson Soluble fetched 917,000 EUR (tripling its estimate). Others also sold well; another three broke 100,000 EUR. [Update on the Bretons: the Guardian reports that the total price for the nine Breton manuscripts was €3.6m (£2.9m), and that a "bidding war" broke our over the collection. "The nine manuscripts were eventually acquired by Gérard Lhéritier, a noted collector and the founder of the Museum of Letters and Manuscripts in Paris, assuaging fears the collection would be split up and sold separately."]

NB: The copy of Breton's Surrealist Manifesto sold today is the only known complete copy.

Auction Report: Upcoming

There are a number of noteworthy book auctions coming in the next few weeks. Here's a sampling:

- Today, 21 May (in fact, as I'm writing), Sotheby's Paris will auction Books, Manuscripts and Photographs, including nine manuscripts by Andre Breton from the Simone Collinet collection. This sale features 169 lots. Since results are coming in now, I'll post highlights from this one later today (I'd intended to write this post yesterday but got sidetracked).

- Christie's London has a Valuable Manuscripts and Printed Books sale on 4 June, which includes 369 lots. They'll be selling copies of Shakespeare's First, Second and Fourth Folios. The first is estimated at $585,600-780,800, which (as Brian notes) seems a bit low. But this copy does have a few faults (it's a bit made up, with a few pages in facsimile and some repairs made, and it's in a 19th century binding). Still, I think it'll probably go higher than the estimate. Other goodies from this sale include some interesting H.G. Wells items, a desk owned by Dickens ($97,600-156,160), an unrecorded copy of the second edition of Copernicus' De revolutionibus ($58,560-78,080), and a first edition of Darwin's On the Origin of Species ($68,320 - $87,840).

- Swann Galleries (NY) will sell Printed & Manuscript Americana on 5 June. Interesting items here include a copy of the Aitken Bible, the first English Bible printed in America ($30,000-40,000); a 1781 collection of American state constitutions which was issued to the Foreign Affairs Office (the precursor to the State Department) ($5,000-7,500); one of an unknown number of the Stone broadside edition of the Declaration of Independence printed on paper (1823) with wonderful provenance ($150,000-200,000); a copy of the first American edition (1777) of Milton's Paradise Lost ($1,000-1,500); a forged death warrant from the Salem Witch Trials ($200-300); a copy of the first published English edition of Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia ($25,000-35,000); a report of the committee charged with creating the first Library of Congress in 1801 ($800-1,200); a 1667 Dutch account of the loss of New Amsterdam to the English ($1,000-1,500); and a bookplate engraved by Paul Revere for Boston merchant (and ne'er-do-well) Perez Morton ($1,500-2,500).

- On 11 June, Bonhams New York will hold a sale of Fine Books and Manuscripts, consisting of 480 lots. Christina Geiger writes of the sale: "Printed highlights include works by Bligh, Roberts, Audubon, a first edition Wealth of Nations, and a fine run of Dard Hunter. Noteworthy manuscripts include a Darwin draft leaf on 'sexual selection', a fine collection of signed literary photographs, an autograph receipt signed by Raphael for work on Vatican frescoes, Junipero Serra on the establishment of Mission San Juan Capistrano, and property from the estate of General Hap Arnold including his copy of the "Ship of State" broadside signed by Churchill and FDR, and a dinner menu from the Potsdam Conference signed by Churchill, Stalin, Truman and others."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Darwin Census Underway

Among the many interesting tidbits in this month's Fine Books & Collections is a notice that the Darwin Online folks have undertaken a census of all extant copies of the first edition of On the Origin of Species. "The Origin was first published in 1859. The publisher, John Murray, recorded a first printing of 1,250 copies. It went on sale to the trade on 24 November, and sold out the same day. Today, many copies of the 1st edition are in public and academic libraries, but many are also in private hands or in the trade. It is the objective of this census to record as many copies as possible regardless of their current status, and to provide a mechanism for keeping track of registered copies in the future."

The Census Guide [PDF] is available for download and can be returned by fax to the census-takers. So if your library, bookshop, collection, &c. contains a copy of the first edition, please do consider filling out the census.

More Theft Updates

Travis had a two important theft-case updates yesterday:

- Lester Weber's motion to suppress statements was denied. As it should have been. So this one moves forward.

- On the Brubaker front, Travis notes that James Brubaker's trial date has now been moved back to 15 July, to coincide with that of his wife Caroline (arraigned last week). Travis adds "That’s nice. Maybe they can get adjoining cells."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fallon Slapped on Wrist for Archives Theft

Oliver Fallon, who pleaded guilty last month to thefts from the Scottish Catholic Archive in Edinburgh, has been sentenced to 300 hours of community service and ordered to pay a fine of £16,000. The fine was apparently calculated by (almost) combining the estimated repair costs of £5,000 to the value of the stolen documents which have not been returned, some £12,000.

The Edinburgh News reports that Fallon "has been released from jail in England for similar crimes." The Glasgow Daily Record adds that when he heard the sentence, Fallon "smiled and looked relieved." And who wouldn't?

Meanwhile, in the wake of Fallon's thefts, the Scottish Catholic Archive has made a preliminary agreement to loan the oldest materials in their collection to Aberdeen University for safekeeping and transfer the remainder of the archive to Glasgow, a plan which has drawn opposition from some quarters but which seems eminently reasonable to me considering that the documents are clearly not secure where they are.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Book Review: "Quiet, Please"

I first got to know Scott Douglas through his McSweeney's column, "Dispatches from a Public Librarian," of which I have become a devoted fan; when I heard he had a book coming out I knew it would be a must-read. Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian (DaCapo, 2008) is an insightful, blunt and provocative look at public libraries and librarianship from the inside out. Douglas, who's only in his early 30s if that, writes with a bitterness beyond his years, but thankfully it's that sort of witty bitterness that's tempered by his knowledge that what he's doing really does matter to the people who use his library (even if it's just to sleep in the bathroom).

Covering issues as wide-ranging as library school, food in the library, computer use, patrons (children, teens, homeless people, the handicapped, the elderly and just about every other demographic group gets sliced and diced here at some point) and his colleagues, Douglas offers a series of anecdotes - some depressing, some uplifting - about life as a public servant. The freewheeling narrative is broken up by sidebars of exposition on various matters related (or not) to libraries, as well as to footnotes (usually humorous) explaining or qualifying statements made in the text.*

Douglas gives us reason to doubt the complete accuracy of his stories: in one of the footnotes, on page 110, he writes "Things about the characters have been changed for their protection and to bring more humor to the story." He adds later "Everything in this book happened (though some in less exaggerated form)". Even if some of his stories about staff or patrons aren't entirely true, they might just as well be. And naturally he'd have had to disguise at least a few of the things he wrote about his colleagues, since I don't think they'd let him back in the building otherwise.

A fun read, but with a powerful punch lurking beneath the humor.

*I loved these.

Book Review: "Stiff"

In Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Mary Roach takes an unconventional look at a very unconventional topic, examining the uses (current and historical) of human bodies after death. From anatomical examination or plastic surgery practice to decomposition studies, impact testing, and even stranger practices (real, or apocryphal?), Roach deftly explores the issues that make people queasy about utilizing human cadavers or their components (and if you think we do strange things to dead bodies now ...).

This book could have been just a creepy flop, but Roach's trademark wit saves the day. It's still morbid and gory, and a few chapters induced a cringe or two, but it's awfully hard to cringe while laughing. Each area is thoughtful and fascinating, and Roach somehow manages to maintain a sense of reverence for her subjects (at least the dead ones).

Enjoyable and recommended.

Links & Reviews

- Over at Weekend Stubble, Paul Collins discovers an absolutely hilarious letter to the editor from 1922. Poor Mrs. Sackett.

- The Morgan Library has acquired Queen Claude of France's prayer book, 132-page manuscript volume containing illuminated religious scenes. The piece measures just 2.75 x 2 inches, and is one of a few surviving works illuminated by a master known only as the Master of Claude de France. The piece was donated by Elaine Rosenberg in memory of her husband Alexandre, a well-known New York art dealer who died in 1987.

- A brand-new book evaluation tool from Mutterings of a Mad Bookseller. Spend a little time with this one, it's worth it.

- Houghton Library's Modern Books & Manuscripts Collection has a new webpage, along with a blog to document new acquisitions.

- The Boston Globe's book blog, Off the Shelf, confirms a long-standing rumor: that historians Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore have collaborated to write a novel. Blindspot will be published in December by Random House's Spiegel & Grau imprint. "Set in Boston just before the War of Independence and purportedly penned by 'a Gentleman in Exile & a Lady in Disguise,' the story concerns the murder of a prominent revolutionary, a crime blamed on his slaves. A Scottish-born painter and an African-born physician set about finding the truth. We trust that they do." Oh boy.

- The Little Professor comments on the hazards of academic regalia. Fitting (no pun intended) advice for commencement season.

- From BibliOdyssey, images from an 1829 German surgical album.

- A rare Vinegar Bible with fascinating provenance is returning to Nova Scotia.

- In the NYTimes this week, Alberto Manguel had an essay on his library, housed in a retrofitted barn in the Loire valley. More correctly, the essay is about his libraries, as they have grown and evolved with him through time and space. Manguel is one of the world's finest writers about books and biblio-things, so this is not a piece to skip.

- Michael at Book Patrol points out The Book Bench, a new blog by the book-folks at the New Yorker. Link added.

- Over on the Guardian book blog, Mark SaFranko writes about reading Casanova's Memoirs. He calls the volumes "masterpieces of world literature, the paradigm for how an autobiography should be written, a match for Proust's great novel in breadth and scope, and, frankly, a book that was vastly more entertaining and readable."

- University of South Carolina library science professor Robert Williams and graduate student Mittie Kristina McLean have released "A Bibliographical Guide to a Chronological Record of Statistics of National Scope on Libraries in the United States, 1829-1900." Williams writes: "This guide begins with the first identified survey of libraries in 1829 and covers all known surveys or studies of national scope to 1899. It includes informaton on: survey date; compiler; purpose of the survey; library types included; list of all variables covered in the survey (e.g., number of volumes, name of librarian, place/city, volumes added annually, value of library, etc.); method of study or survey; completeness (when known); quality (when known) and where published (usually a US government agency but also in journals, etc. of the period). ... Library types covered in the surveys for this period include: social, private, subscription, public, academic, school, special, state/government, and others." A second part, for 1900-2000, is in process.

- Over at Britannica Blog, Robert McHenry comments on "Whig History and Whig Biography," writing "Narrative history is almost inevitably whiggish to some degree. It’s not a matter of triumphalism or partisanship so much as the unavoidable consequence of the fact that the historian, whenever he is writing, occupies the unique present moment and is highly apt to pick out from the nearly infinite number of incidents and accidents of the past those that appear to bear a particular relevance to that present."


- In the Telegraph, Tim Blanning reviews David Andress' 1789: The Threshold of the Modern Age. Blanning: "Andress writes with verve, never allowing the pace to slacken, moving swiftly from one character or episode to another. The result is exciting, exhilarating even. Not one chapter fails to deliver sharp insights, illuminating details and entertaining anecdotes. What is not supplied is coherence. Sudden thematic, geographical and chronological shifts lead to a narrative disjunction that bewilders and then irritates. Nor is there any compensating conceptual framework. .... So, after more than 400 pages of scintillating images, one is left asking: 'Where is the big picture?'"

- Heather Cox Richardson reviews Walter McDougall's Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era, 1829-1877 in the Washington Post. She writes "Rather than a definitive history, Throes of Democracy is a rollicking trip through historical events aimed at waking readers to America's past self-deceptions and prodding them to be more self-critical today." She criticizes the book for ignoring a decade's worth of recent historical scholarship, but declares McDougall's "laudable exploration of the American characters."

- J.L. Bell read Mark Puls' new biography of Henry Knox, and I'm glad he did because now I don't have to. John rightly skewers the book for just a few of what I'm sure are a multitude of problems (if Puls' last book was any indication). He concludes "It’s a shame that the early part of Henry Knox’s life is poorly documented. I’d love to know more about his growing up, when and how he got out of Boston during the war, and how he jumped from being an unranked volunteer to commanding the Continental Artillery. But we don’t have definite answers. Most of Knox’s biographers have been popular writers, not scholars, and have filled in the gaps in the record with legends and speculation. This new book is part of that tradition."

Book Review: "The Art Thief"

Noah Charney, author of The Art Thief (Atria, 2007), is the founder of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art (ARCA), the first think tank focused on art crimes. This, his debut novel, is a light mystery in the vein of Pears' Jonathan Argyll series (but not quite as enjoyable as those). Charney's knowledge of art crime comes through clearly, but in the form of long expository passages in the middle of a novel, that knowledge is misplaced.

The book is filled with way too many characters, none of whom is granted sufficient room to develop. I didn't like - or dislike - a single person in the book, possibly because I had a hard time figuring out which goofy investigator was narrating at any given moment (and by the time I'd figured out where I was, Charney had whiplashed me off to someplace else). And the end leaves much to be desired.

Not particularly noteworthy or memorable.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

European Map Thief Sentenced in Denmark

Peter Joseph Bellwood, 56, was sentenced in Copenhagen this week to one year in prison (to be followed by five years' expulsion from Denmark) plus 324,000 kroner ($67,000). Bellwood cut eleven maps out of books belonging to the Danish Royal Library in 2001, and turned himself in after surveillance footage from the library was aired on the British television program "Crime Watch."

Bellwood confessed to the Royal Library thefts, and also to additional thefts committed at the National Library of Wales, for which he received a 4.5-year prison sentence in 2004. He'll begin his Danish sentence once he finishes his time in the British slammer.

The maps had been valued at 1 million kroner ($210,000) by Christie's, but the judge did not accept that valuation, nor the library's call for 4.2 million kroner in compensation for the damage done to the books by Bellwood. The maps, which were sold, have not been recovered.

Auction Report

- The collection of William McGonagall poems (he's the poet dubbed the world's worst) sold in Edinburgh yesterday for £6600. The lot included 35 broadside poems, some signed by McGonagall himself. Both buyer and seller remain anonymous.

- A 1954 letter by Albert Einstein in which the famed scientist disparages religious beliefs ("The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this") sold at Bloomsbury for a whopping £207,600 (with premiums), just about quadrupling the previous Einstein auction record. Presale estimates were £6,000-8,000. The buyer, according to media reports, is a private collector. Bloomsbury managing director Rupert Powell "said the atmosphere in the sale room went from excitement, to disappointment as various bidders dropped out, to disbelief at the rocketing price."

- Also in the Bloomsbury sale, a copy of Thomas Rowlandson's The World in Miniature (1817) better than doubled its estimates, selling for £12,500. A first edition of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) fetched £2,200, while a first of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone made £11,000. A rare second edition of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (1776) sold for £8,000. A first edition of the Nuremburg Chronicle (1493), with the plates colored, didn't quite make its estimate, but fetched £88,000. Last but certainly not least, a first edition of Vesalius' De humani corporis fabrica (1543) went for £120,000.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Disastrous Fire at Delft University

The Faculty of Architecture and surrounding buildings at Technical University Delft (Netherlands) have been destroyed by a massive fire. No one was injured, but a large number of rare books and maps are believed lost. MapHist curator Dr. Peter van der Krogt writes:

"The Faculty has (or must I sadly write: had) one of the most important libraries in the field of Architecture, with 40,000 books including several atlases (Blaeu, Braun & Hogenberg), and a map collection of 12,000 maps (topographical maps of the 19th century, soil maps, planning maps of the Noordoostpolder, Berlage's plans of the new parts of Amsterdam and The Hague, and the plans for the rebuilding of Rotterdam after WW II). The older maps (pre-1850) were stored in the University Library.

"The fate of the library is not known yet. The map curator, Addie Ritter, wrote that his depot is almost certainly destroyed, since it was in the part of the building that collapsed. The library, which was on the ground flour of a different wing of the building, is not accessible because the building is instable. It can take three to four weeks before it may be entered (the building of 14 [or 13] stories has to be demolished first). The older books were in a safe, but if that save[d] them is unknown (the fire lasted for about 24 hours)."

A report from the Chronicle of Higher Ed includes some horrifying video of the fire. Other reports note that some chairs on site for an exhibit were removed from the building unharmed, as were 80 architectural models. Touring the area, education minister Ronald Plasterk called the destruction of the building the "biggest disaster in the history of Dutch university education."

"Authorities believe the fire was started by a water leak in a coffee machine, which led to a short circuit."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gould Archive, Library Go to Stanford

The Stanford News Service reports that the papers and library of Stephen Jay Gould, the famed paleontologist and writer of fascinating essays on natural history, has been acquired by Stanford. The collection includes some 1,500 rare books on early paleontology, more than 8,000 volumes from Gould's working library, as much as 500 linear feet of documents, plus many artifacts and specimens

"So how did all the books, papers and artifacts from a scientist who spent his professional career at Harvard University end up at Stanford?

'Stanford was the only institution really prepared to make a commitment to digitize and cross-link all of Steve's work, and this is something that Steve wanted,' said [Gould's widow Rhonda] Shearer. 'Even though he called himself a Luddite and really had anxiety about technology, he saw that for ideas to compete, they really had to be out on the Internet.'

[Stanford librarian Michael] Keller said the plan is to digitize Gould's articles, as well as the sources from which he drew both inspiration and information, and cross-link the source materials to the endnotes and citations in his writing. The goal will be to make all of Gould's papers freely available over the Internet to anyone who wants to see them, whether schoolchildren or scholars."

The project is expected to take at least three years.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Another Brubaker Arraigned

The Great Falls Tribune reports today that another shoe has dropped in the James Brubaker case ... his wife Caroline Brubaker, 64, was arraigned yesterday in federal court "on charges of conspiracy to traffic in stolen property and possession and sale of stolen property."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Mathers are Finished!

I have at long last completed cataloging the known portions of the Mather Family Library at LibraryThing. This turned into one of those projects that once begun was rather more expansive than it first appeared, so it took longer than I expected to finish, but I think it came out well in the end.

The library contains copies of books owned by several members of the Mather family, from patriarch Richard to Increase and Cotton (at left), their cousins and nephews, sons, daughters and grandsons (the notorious Boston loyalist minister Mather Byles) and several other relations. The books are now widely scattered, although the majority of them are currently housed at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA. The MHS and BPL also hold portions of the collection.

Many if not most of the books contain ownership inscriptions, which are noted for those where either the old bibliography (from 1910) or the current library records contain them. The copies at MHS have been examined personally and verified, but the others I haven't physically looked at yet.

Not surprisingly, the Mathers don't share many titles with modern readers (or at least LT-users, I'm sure there's somebody out there with a few obscure 17th century religious pamphlets). Those they do share are ones you might expect: Machiavelli's The Prince, Thomas Browne's Religio Medici, Ovid, Descartes, Plutarch, &c. No Shakespeare for this lot, of course.

This is the first time (so far as I know) that the entire known collection of the Mathers (there may be a few more scattered titles out there - if anyone knows of such, please let me know) has been compiled in one place: the 1910 bibliography did not include a large portion of those held at AAS; those are included here, and all records have been updated to the extent possible.

An interesting look, I think, at the bookshelves of the most important early New England divines.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Authorities Say Comstock Case (Almost) Closed

The investigation into the murder of book collector Rolland Comstock last July may finally be winding up, the Springfield News-Leader (MO) reported over the weekend: "Chief Deputy Jim Arnott said Friday that most of the evidence sent for testing has come back and detectives have narrowed in on 'one or more suspects.'

'We have received several items of forensic evidence that have helped us go in a specific direction,' he said. 'We have narrowed our focus on the investigation and we are proceeding forward. ... We do feel that we're headed the right way ... We believe we have a motive and some physical evidence.'"

The length of the investigation has been largely due to lab-testing of evidence, Arnott said.

Television station KY3 adds that "charges could be filed within a month."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Book Review: "The Monsters of Templeton"

Lauren Groff's debut novel The Monsters of Templeton (Hyperion, 2008) is a remarkable book, which I would definitely put in my top five for 2008 thus far. Deftly weaving history and literary references with other, less conventional elements (cryptozoology, genealogy, &c.), Groff has crafted a refreshingly original work.

Wilhelmina (Willie) Upton, 28, our main character and sometime narrator, returns to her hometown of Templeton, NY (a scarcely disguised Cooperstown, using the name for the village that James Fenimore Cooper used in his own Leatherstocking tales for the town founded by his father), disgraced and confused. Her mother doesn't help things along by revealing that her unknown father was in fact a Templeton man rather than the California hippie Willie had always been led to believe ... and not only was he a Templeton man, but a descendant of the Templeton man, town founder Marmaduke Temple himself (making Willie a direct Temple descendant thrice over, for reasons better explained by reading the book).

Willie has a rough time settling back into Templeton life: renewing acquaintances, living with her mother, dealing with the issues she left behind. But she dives into the quest for her father, gorging on archival research [why, by the way, does every book which features library research have to include a theft?! It's quite disturbing] and reading the Temple canon in search of clues. The clues she finds in letters, diaries and other writings are included in the book, as are first-person narratives from some of the historical characters she comes across. These add much to the novel, and I quite enjoyed them. Oh, and there's a dead lake monster, too.

I think I was particularly taken with the novel because I happen to know Cooperstown quite well; I grew up near there, camped on the shores of the lake quite often and spent several summers working in the print shop at the Farmer's Museum. So I understood the references to the town and its tensions in a way that people unconnected with the place might not do (not that it would necessarily detract from anyone else's reading of the book, I just think it enhanced mine a bit).

One (of the two!) reviews of Monsters in the NYTimes called the work overambitious. Tosh. What are debut novels for if not to be ambitious? All credit to Lauren Groff for writing an ambitious book; it's a fine effort, and I'll very much look forward to the next one.

Links & Reviews

Apologies for the lateness of this post: this morning was so beautiful that I spent it outside doing a little birding rather than catching up on my link-gathering. One of my favorite spots, Jamaica Plain's Arnold Arboretum, was mobbed by Mother's Day crowds enjoying the Lilac Festival, so I went to a new (to me) spot, the park-like and wonderful Forest Hills Cemetery. In just under four hours of birding I had fifty-three species, including a gorgeous Cape May warbler, a life bird for me. Quite a delightful way to spend a few hours.

- In today's NYTimes, Virginia Heffernan has an essay on Oxford University Press' decision not to print a new edition of the OED (the Dictionary will be updated online, as it has been in recent years).

- A reminder from NPR giving another good reason to collect books instead of, oh, antique ammunition.

- The Washington Post reported this week on a study by WI-based Renaissance Learning exploring childrens' reading habits. Some very interesting findings, actually. The top-five books for first-graders through high-schoolers are here - the number of "classics" is quite surprising, and heartening.

- From BibliOdyssey, images from Ole Worm's Danicorum Monumentorum (1643), a book on Scandinavian rune stones.

- LIS News has been providing dispatches from Schenectady, where plans to renovate the main branch of the public library called for complete closure of the building for 10-12 months. Plans have now been put on hold, the Daily Gazette reports, so that additional bids can be obtained.

- Paul Collins notes a possible "lost book" reported in a letter to The Guardian: a 1934 Nigel Dennis novel titled Chalk and Cheese, the entire run of which the letter-writers believes to have been destroyed in an air raid. Not quite so, according to WorldCat: the New York Public Library holds a copy of the book (which was published under the pseudonym Richard Vaughan). If their cataloging is correct, then, Chalk and Cheese: A Co-educational School Novel is not lost, just quite rare indeed.

- K.G. Schneider at Free Range Librarian has a thoughtful post on tagging, which bounces off Tim's earlier post "The Long Tail of Ann Coulter" (funny, I would have thought forked tail, but long'll work). Both of them discuss why tagging-in-library-catalogs hasn't really taken off all that well, with the exception of LibraryThing for Libraries, which provides LT-user tags to library catalogs. They're both right: I would be quite unlikely to tag things in a library catalog (and don't on Amazon), whereas if I'm putting something in my own library for my own purposes, I will tag it. Which is why offering LT-tags to libraries makes sense - even if the tags might not be exactly those the library's own users would add, at least they are (for the most part) considered and useful (rather than Amazon's silliness).

- Travis updates us on the Transy Four: "Warren Lipka has been transferred from his old Kentucky home to the federal correctional institute in Elkton, Ohio. His boy Spence Reinhard is now at the FCI in Fort Dix, New Jersey. Charles Allen and Eric Borsuk remain in Kentucky, but at different prisons." Travis also points out some feedback to Paul Constant's book thief story: a book thief writing in to explain why he does what he does.

- The ALA's list of most-challenged books for 2007 is out, topped once again by And Tango Makes Three. But there is some good news: "Overall, the number of reported library challenges dropped from 546 in 2006 to 420 last year, well below the mid-1990s, when complaints topped 750."

- Also via LISNews, word that the Internet Archive "successfully fought a secret government Patriot Act order for records about one of its patrons and won the right to make the order public." More from the Washington Post.


- Cokie Roberts' new book, Ladies of Liberty, receives a glowing review by Charlotte Hays in the Washington Post. I can't ethically review this one myself (my name appears in the acknowledgments) but I am certainly looking forward to reading it.

- In Salon, Louis Bayard reviews Tony Horwitz's A Journey Long and Strange.

- For the New Yorker, Jill Lepore reviews several new technological histories.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Book Review: "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"

I've long intended to read Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and finally did so over the past few days using the Oxford World's Classics edition (containing the original John Tenniel illustrations). Carroll's story, bizarre as it is, remains witty and nonsensical (just as it was intended to be).

With the ridiculous and improbable characters he's famous for, Carroll manages to tell a good yarn, even if things are never exactly as they seem. I was actually surprised at how similar the Disney version of Alice's adventures are to their source materials: while the two books are combined into one film and the events are taken out of sequence, most of the scenes were portrayed with quite reasonable accuracy.

Fun reads, so long as you can find it within you to suspend your sense of normal.

Free at Last!

As of 5:30 p.m. yesterday afternoon, I'm finally done with my Simmons degrees ... I've spent a long three years in the dual-masters history and library science program, but I have at last reached the end of the road.

The last few weeks have been quite busy (hence the less-frequent posts here lately), and the next few may be as well as I readjust to non-class-based life again and get caught up on the projects that I'd been putting off until I was finished with classes. But I'm very much looking forward to being able to spend some more time reading, and writing, and enjoying the springtime that seems to be flying by much too fast for my liking.

I'll have more ruminations on library school once a little time has passed; I consciously avoided discussing that topic here very often while I was still in the program, but am looking forward to offering some thoughts about the current state of library education both in general and at Simmons in particular.

For the moment, however, I'm just happy to be done. I'm going to go read something entirely non-school related, and feel utterly guiltless about it (I've been reading all along, of course, but I've felt at least slightly guilty about it until now).

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Auction Report: Sotheby's

Sotheby's London held a sale of Natural History, Travels, Atlases and Maps today in London; the sale total was 1.375 million GBP ($2.66 million). Full results here. Highlights included:

- Zaehnsdorf-bound copy of John Gould's Birds of Great Britain (1862-1873), which sold for 43,700 GBP

- First edition of Albertus Seba's Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio (1734-1765), a four-volume catalogue of one of the great cabinets of natural curiosities (and a great tourist attraction in its day). Sold for 84,500 GBP.

- A 1628 world map by Cornelis Danckerts the Elder and Melchior Tavernier, of which only a "four or five" copies survive, sold for 62,900 GBP (smashing its estimates). A 1513 Waldseemüller map also sold well, fetching 48,500 GBP.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Yale to Digitize Books with Microsoft

The Yale University Library has inked a deal with Microsoft to digitize 100,000 books from Yale's collections this year, according to a report in the library newsletter. "The initial selection criteria for books chosen will be those in English, published before 1923, and thus part of the public domain and free from copyright restrictions. Yale and Microsoft will work together to identify which of the approximately 13 million volumes held by Yale's 22 libraries will be digitized. Currently, selected books will be in the subject areas of Art and Art History, History, Religion, and Travel. Most are coming from Sterling Memorial Library, Mudd Library, and the Library Shelving Facility as well as from the British Art Center library."

This provides an opportunity to link to a little class project I did this term: a comparative examination of the three major book-scanning sites (Google Books, Microsoft Live Search Books and the Internet Archive's Text Archive). It's written as a class tutorial, so it's quite basic, but it's something.

I'm always surprised when libraries sign on with Microsoft given the low comparative searchability and accessibility that they offer compared to the other two: to me Microsoft's product is clearly the weakest of the three (the lack of an advanced search feature alone is enough to keep me away from it in all but the most dire of circumstances).

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Audubon Exhibits in MA, SC

- The Art Room of the New Bedford (MA) Public Library reopens today after a five-year hiatus, SouthCoastToday reports. Among the pieces to be displayed is a full set of Aubudon's Birds of America, donated to the library in 1866 by whaling merchant James Arnold. "The library will hold its grand re-opening of the Art Room on June 12 from 5 to 9 p.m. as part of an AHA! Night in the city. The Art Room will be open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 1 to 5 p.m., Thursdays from 1 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m."

- The Upcountry History Museum in Greenville, SC has opened a new exhibit, "South Carolina Naturalists: Audubon in Context." The show runs through 24 September, and includes the University of South Carolina's copy of the Birds as well as works by other early naturalists working in the region. Museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 1-5 p.m.; closed Monday. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and students, $3 for children ages 4-12. Children under 4 years old are free.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Collection of Rare Cook Materials to be Sold

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a collection of James Cook materials (books, maps, portraits, manuscripts, &c.) will be sold this month "in a fixed-price sale organised by Hordern House, the rare books specialist." The 133-item collection has been accumulated "over the past 15 years by an American investment consultant, Robert Parks."

Highlights include a 1772 manuscript letter by Cook requesting the return of one of his sailors who had been press-ganged by the East India Company, and one of two surviving copies of the "Banks Map," the first to show the entire continent of Australia. "Other oddities in Mr Parks's collection include a print of Cook watching a boxing match in Hawaii; another print shows what is believed to be the first image of a surfer in western art. There are scientific treaties examining Cook's successful prevention of scurvy and an extremely rare book of Hawaiian and Tahitian fabrics that had been collected by Cook and his men on the Resolution."

The Hordern House catalogue will be available later this month for A$45.

Location of Mitchell Papers Still Unknown

Back in February I posted about the settlement of a lengthy legal battle over a collection of Margaret Mitchell papers. I noted then that the court documents did not reveal the ultimate disposition of the documents, adding "Presumably we'll find out sooner or later where they've ended up, but it is strange (and not particularly helpful for research purposes) that the sides are being so secretive about it."

The AP ran a followup piece yesterday, reporting only that the cat is not yet out of the bag.

On Sir Thomas Phillipps

David McKie has a short profile of the obsessive collector Sir Thomas Phillipps in today's Guardian.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Links & Reviews

- ILAB has made the 8th edition of John Carter's ABC for Book Collectors is available online in PDF form here.

- The BBC reports today that Vivaldi's long-lost opera "Argippo," which debuted in Prague back in 1730, has been performed for the first time in 278 years after "most of the score was discovered in Germany by a young Czech musician [Ondrej Macek] who completed the missing parts."

- A new exhibition at the University of Virginia, ""The Monster Among Us: 'Frankenstein' from Mary Shelley to Mel Brooks.", "documents various reactions to Mary Shelley's story: not only printed editions in cloth and paper, but also Frankenstein comic books, Frankenstein movies (and stills and posters), Frankenstein masks and clothing, Frankenstein dishware – even Frankenstein breakfast cereal. The exhibition explores how the monster has interacted with American culture over the past century and more." The show was curated by UVa student Shannon Gorman and coordinated through Terry Belanger's Rare Book School.

- LIS News noted that Encylopaedia Britannica is offering free access to certain bloggers; I've signed up and received my subscription, so look for more links to EB articles in upcoming posts.

- Laura found several interesting book-related films over at the Internet Archive. Check them out.

- Ian notes a new exhibit at the National Library of Medicine of materials from the library's "Bathtub Collection" (materials found in the old bindings when rare books in the library were conserved"). Some fascinating discoveries.

- The Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin has acquired an eight-volume Plantin Polyglot bible (1568-1572), which contains "parallel texts in Hebrew, Greek, Syriac and Aramaic with translations and commentary in Latin." [h/t RBN]

- J.L. Bell does some mythbusting about Washington's first inauguration - turns out that whole "so help me God" ad-lib addition to the oath probably didn't happen. He also passes along this Times-Union article about conservation efforts at the New York State Archives (to repair some of the damage caused by the catastrophic 1911 fire).

- The Scotsman reported this week that "A selection of poems by the man hailed as the world's worst poet are set to fetch up to £6500 when they go under the hammer. Edinburgh-born William Topaz McGonagall has been mocked more than any other bard for his unintentionally humorous writing. Thirty-five of his original poems are to be sold at the Lyon and Turnbull auction house in the Capital next month." [Update: Paul Collins has more, including a link to the online database of McGonagall's poems and a sampler.]

- Travis recommends (and highly, too), Jason Shiga's graphic novel Bookhunter.

- Rare Book Review reports that a complete set of John Gould's books of bird illustrations sold for $2.4 million at Christie's on 30 April as part of the Foljambe Collection. Quite a few other notable examples of illustrated books and early printing.

- The Legacy Libraries VSL debut garnered another very nice mention, in the LATimes book-blog Jacket Copy.


- Chuck Leddy reviews The Man Who Made Lists for the Boston Globe.

- Tony Horwitz's new book, A Voyage Long and Strange is reviewed this weekend by Andrew Ferguson for the NYTimes, Nina Burleigh for the Washington Post, and Roland Merullo for the Boston Globe.

- In the NYTimes, Laura Miller reviews Christopher Benfey's A Summer of Hummingbirds: Love, Art, and Scandal in the Intersecting Worlds of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Johnson Heade. Sounds like a rather strange book, although Miller writes that it is "very pleasant to float alongside so curious and playful a writer as he drifts from one anecdote or observation to the next."

- Leo Hollis' The Phoenix: St. Paul's Cathedral and the Making of Modern London is reviewed by Roderick Graham for The Scotsman. This will be published on this side of the pond as London Rising: The Men Who Made Modern London by Walker & Company later this month.

Friday, May 02, 2008

LOC's Jefferson Exhibit Now Online

The Library of Congress' new Thomas Jefferson library exhibit is now available online (in an abbreviated but interactive form). It provides a good brief overview of the reconstitution project and offers a selection of digitized books from the collection which are available for browsing. I hope there would be a few more of these, but I really like that they've highlighted Jefferson's use of the Baconian classification system for his library.

Until I can get to DC and see the "real thing," the online version will suffice - I'm delighted that they've done it, and I think it's a very adequate introduction to the library and its contents.

[NB: Once classes (finally) end next week and I've finished up some final work on the Mather Library I'm going back to Jefferson's LT library to make some further enhancements there. So be on the lookout for those.]

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Top 106 Unread Books on LibraryThing

Abby blogged yesterday about a new LibraryThing meme that's been making the rounds: The Top 106 Unread Books on LT. "People are going through the top 106 books tagged "unread" on LT, and then marking which ones they've read, which they read for school, which they started but didn't finish, which are on their to read list, which they loathed, which they read more than once..." I usually don't do these things, but it's LT ...

As per None of This Matters: "The rules: bold the books you have read, italicize books you’ve started but not finished, strike the books you read but hated (likely for school), add an asterisk* to books you’ve read more than once, and underline those you own but still haven’t read yourself." (I've changed the last one to a number sign# because I retained the hyperlinks and I didn't think the underlining would show up - so titles with an # in front are those I own but haven't read).

NB: The numbers following each title are the number of times the book has been tagged "unread" / the total number of LT users with the book.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (236/9041)
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (211/8954)
One hundred years of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (183/11973)
Crime and punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (176/10687)
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (162/12137)
Catch-22 a novel by Joseph Heller (158/10886)
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien (155/8789)
*Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra (152/6654)
#The Odyssey by Homer (136/10954)
The brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (136/7174)
#Ulysses by James Joyce (135/6255)
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (132/6267)
War and peace by Leo Tolstoy (132/5953)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (124/13765)
*A tale of two cities by Charles Dickens (124/7460)
*The name of the rose by Umberto Eco (120/7706)
*Moby Dick by Herman Melville (119/7719)
#The Iliad by Homer (117/8723)
Emma by Jane Austen (117/8949)
Vanity fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (115/3827)
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (114/7115)
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (110/4806)
The Canterbury tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (108/6165)
Pride and prejudice by Jane Austen (108/18293)
The historian : a novel by Elizabeth Kostova (108/6447)
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (106/8595)
The kite runner by Khaled Hosseini (106/13572)
The time traveler's wife by Audrey Niffenegger (105/11414)
Life of Pi : a novel by Yann Martel (105/12692)
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies by Jared Diamond (104/7493)
Atlas shrugged by Ayn Rand (102/5984)
Foucault's pendulum by Umberto Eco (101/5616)
*Dracula by Bram Stoker (100/6873)
The grapes of wrath by John Steinbeck (99/7812)
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius by Dave Eggers (97/6451)
Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (97/9127)
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (97/5565)
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books by Azar Nafisi (96/4404)
Middlemarch by George Eliot (96/4159)
Sense and sensibility by Jane Austen (96/8591)
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (95/5167)
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (94/11617)
The sound and the fury by William Faulkner (94/5043)
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (93/12421)
*Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle I) by Neal Stephenson (92/3525)
#American gods : a novel by Neil Gaiman (92/10319)
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (91/8871)
#The poisonwood Bible : a novel by Barbara Kingsolver (91/7461)
Wicked by Gregory Maguire (90/8905)
A portrait of the artist as a young man by James Joyce (89/6646)
The picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (89/7165)
Dune by Frank Herbert (89/9222)
The satanic verses by Salman Rushdie (88/3251)
*Gulliver's travels by Jonathan Swift (88/4857)
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (88/5360)
The three musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (87/4127)
The corrections by Jonathan Franzen (84/5066)
The inferno by Dante Alighieri (84/5873)
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (83/4378)
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (83/5795)
To the lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (83/4608)
A clockwork orange by Anthony Burgess (83/6754)
Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (83/4735)
The amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay : a novel by Michael Chabon (83/5956)
Persuasion by Jane Austen (82/6479)
One flew over the cuckoo's nest by Ken Kesey (82/5908)
*The scarlet letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (82/7746)
#Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (82/4437)
Anansi boys : a novel by Neil Gaiman (81/6534)
The once and future king by T. H. White (81/4293)
Atonement: A Novel by Ian McEwan (80/6966)
The god of small things by Arundhati Roy (80/5509)
A short history of nearly everything by Bill Bryson (79/6266)
Oryx and Crake : a novel by Margaret Atwood (78/3976)
Dubliners by James Joyce (78/5530)
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (78/5385)
Angela's ashes : a memoir by Frank McCourt (77/6349)
Beloved : a novel by Toni Morrison (77/5523) - I think I read this, but I'm not sure
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed by Jared Diamond (76/3822)
The hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo (75/2520)
In cold blood by Truman Capote (75/5473)
Lady Chatterley's lover by D.H. Lawrence (73/3169)
A confederacy of dunces by John Kennedy Toole (73/6061)
*Les misérables by Victor Hugo (73/4694)
*Watership Down by Richard Adams (72/6255)
The prince by Niccolo Machiavelli (72/6363)
The amber spyglass by Philip Pullman (72/6645)
Beowulf : a new verse translation by Anonymous (72/6350)
A farewell to arms by Ernest Hemingway (71/5122)
Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance : by Robert M. Pirsig (71/5554)
#The Aeneid by Virgil (71/5057)
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (69/4625)
Sons and lovers by D.H. Lawrence (69/2563)
The personal history of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (69/4311)
The road by Cormac McCarthy (67/5099)
Possession : a romance by A.S. Byatt (67/4128)
#The history of Tom Jones, a foundling by Henry Fielding (67/2131)
The book thief by Markus Zusak (67/3554)
Gravity's rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (66/3261)
The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (66/3046)
Tender is the night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (66/3131)
Candide, or, Optimism by Voltaire (65/5083)
Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro (65/4317)
The plague by Albert Camus (65/4610)
Jude the obscure by Thomas Hardy (65/2944)
Cold mountain by Charles Frazier (64/4160)