Sunday, August 31, 2008

Book Review: "Supreme Courtship"

Christopher Buckley's newest political satire, Supreme Courtship, will be released next week, and if you're a political junkie who needs a quick break from the real-life drama (and who, at this point in the campaign, doesn't?), it will make for a fine fall read. Buckley, with his usual talent at making the all-too-possible seem absurd and the all-too-absurd seem possible, uses Supreme Courtship to tackle some of the most bizarre elements of our political system: Supreme Court appointments, the increasingly-blurred line between politics and entertainment, the constitutional amendment process, and the question of presidential term limits.

While the satire here is a little more overt than in some of Buckley's earlier works (Thank You For Smoking, Boomsday), it's still plenty amusing. His characters are straight out of central casting, even if their real-life counterparts are, in some cases, rather obvious (and all the funnier for it).

Humorous, witty, and with just a hint of bitterness (as all good satire must have).

Links & Reviews

- The Washington Post's Book World section this week includes a preview of forthcoming fall books, including new bios of Andrew Jackson, John Muir, and Samuel Johnson, a history of Champlain's voyages by David Hackett Fischer, &c.

- August's Biblio Unbound is out, and includes a feature on the McSweeney's phenomenon, among other things.

- Apropos of my post earlier this week, Nick Basbanes forwarded this really interesting Poe essay on anastatic printing, which appeared in the Broadway Journal in 1845.

- J.L. Bell, continuing in his role as History Mythbuster, tackles the bizarre and inaccurate essay about the signers of the Declaration of Independence usually titled "The Price They Paid." His first post points out all the rebuttals that have been made to this piece over the years, and his second examines the origins of the essay. A third, just out as I'm writing, asks who really paid the biggest price.

- Laura's discovered some fascinating backstory to an imprint she discovered in one of the miniature books she discussed last week: "Printed for Tho. Boreman, Bookseller, near the two giants in Guildhall, London. 1741." Neat story, which just goes to show all the fun little corners of book history out there to delve into.

- Brendan at points out the Brookline Booksmith archive of objects found in books.


- At Salon, Laura Miller reviews Ian McNeely and Lisa Wolverton's Reinventing Knowledge: From Alexandria to the Internet.

- In the Boston Globe, Kevin O'Kelly reviews Edward Dolnick's The Forger's Spell.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Book Review: "The Count of Concord"

Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford (1753-1814) is one of those historical figures whose life just seems to demand a novel - or, rather, one whose biography could just as easily function as one. Spy, turncoat, soldier, reformer, scientist, man-about-Europe ... you name it, Thompson tried it (or, say some, slept with it). In his new book The Count of Concord (Dalkey Archive, 2008), Nicholas Delbanco attempts to capture the man's life in a fictional way, when I think perhaps non-fiction might have proven more effective. Sometimes a man's life is too strange to fashion a story from.

For all the adventures, there is little drama in this book, which vaguely chronicles Thompson's wanderings from court to court, his various loves and losses (the one coming hot on the heels of the other) and his wide-ranging intellectual pursuits. This is decidedly not a page-turner, but since I don't think Delbanco intended it as one, I cannot complain too loudly on that score.

What I must complain about, though, is the dreaded narrative frame, which in this case takes the form of a modern-day Rumford descendant, Sally ... which is also the name of Thompson's first wife and his (only legitimate) daughter. Narrator-Sally jumps in periodically to offer overtly pedantic reflections on her ancestor and trite musings from her own life which do little more than interrupt the (already torpid) flow of the main narrative.

This book made me want to read a biography of Rumford (there are several, I find). But I don't think I'll feel the urge to read it again.

Wesley Brother's Diary Shorthand Broken

I could have sworn I blogged this already, but apparently I just did it in my head. Hate when that happens. Anyway.

Via Shelf:Life, the Liverpool Daily Post reported this week that the diary written by Charles Wesley has been fully 'decoded' for the first time. Wesley, along with his brother John, was a major figure in the founding the Methodist church, and his diary (which extends to more than 1,000 manuscript pages with entries dating from 1736 through 1756) reveals much about Charles' views on theological and personal matters.

The new transcription of Wesley's manuscript has been made by Professor Kenneth Newport of Liverpool Hope University, and it took nearly a decade of work. The original diary is held at the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester.

Of Wesley's shorthand system, using occasionally throughout the diary, Newport told the paper: "The code is abbreviated severely, sometimes to just one letter, vowels are omitted and it’s literally a string of consonants without breaks in parts. He often runs whole sentences into one and writes phonetically, not how words are spelt. I kept finding 'hr' and it took ages to uncover this meant 'holy writ'."

Newport plans to publish the full version of Wesley's diary, as well as several thousand previously unpublished poems and hymns written by Wesley.

Here's a BBC video report on the Wesley diary which shows images of the shorthand.

This Week's Acquisitions

A stop on the Brattle on Tuesday afternoon and a mosey through Harvard Square today (hitting Harvard Bookstore and Raven) after a haircut resulted in most of this week's arrivals:

- The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren by Jonathan Lopez (Harcourt, 2008). Brattle.

- Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley (Twelve, 2008). Brattle.

Milton: Poet, Pamphleteer, and Patriot by Anna Beer (Bloomsbury Press, 2008). Brattle.

The Enemy Within: 2,000 Years of Witch-hunting in the Western World by John Demos (Viking, 2008). Viking.

Julie, or the New Heloise: Letters of Two Lovers Who Live in a Small Town at the Foot of the Alps by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (University Press of New England , 1997). Raven.

The Correspondence of John Cotton; edited by Sargent Bush, Jr. (University of North Carolina Press, 2001). Raven.

- Collected Stories by Roald Dahl (Everyman's Library, 2006). Raven.

The Commonwealth of Oceana and A System of Politics by James Harrington (Cambridge University Press, 1992). Raven.

Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England by William H. Sherman (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008). Raven.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Book Review: "The Whiskey Rebels"

David Liss, whose earlier historical fiction trio (A Conspiracy of Paper, The Coffee Trader, A Spectacle of Corruption) I enjoyed very much, has lived up to expectations with his newest offering, The Whiskey Rebels (forthcoming from Random House). Unlike his earlier novels, this one is set in the United States, during the tumultuous early years of the Republic, but like the others The Whiskey Rebels hones right in on political, economic and social conflicts of the day to great effect. I know of no other writer - living or dead, of fiction or history - who can write so clearly and eloquently about difficult financial machinations and make them seem exciting.

Putting what must have amounted to some very serious research to excellent use, Liss has woven a fascinating, brutal fictional narrative into a framework steadied by strong and accurate historical supports. By juxtaposing well-drawn characters of his own creation with aptly-portrayed figures from real life (Alexander Hamilton, William Duer, and others), he tells a good story without throwing the history to the dogs. This is historical fiction at its finest.

Beyond his detailed and lively portrayal of the financial schemes, Liss is also an excellent descriptive writer: his depiction of the nascent years of the American nation in all its dirty, tempestuous madness alone makes this book worth reading.

A fine story, very well told. Liss' winning streak continues unabated.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Early Facsimile Copy of Declaration Found

Document dealer Tom Lingenfelter of Doylestown, PA believes he has found an early facsimile copy of the Declaration of Independence, one of just two copies known to have been produced in 1846 by a short-lived reproduction process. In an 18 August press release, Lingenfelter really trumpets the document, which is known as an anastatic facsimile. A followup piece in the Intelligencer (PA) adds more about the creation: "In the process, the original was treated with an acid-based solution and a paper was pressed to it, causing some of the ink to transfer to the second sheet, which was used to create a plate and more facsimiles." Needless to say, this would not have been good for the original.

The other known anastatic copy of the Declaration is in the collections of the Independence National Historic Park in Philadelphia. "
The chief curator there, Karie Diethorn, said Lingenfelter's find corrected the Park's mistaken belief that the facsimiles were created in 1876 for the centennial - the correct year is 1846, he said - and revealed who made them." Lingenfelter claims this was a printer named Smith, who learned of the anastatic process in England and was given access to the original engrossed Declaration (that's the one on display at the National Archives). But Diethorn and others at Independence National Historic Park aren't convinced that the anastatic facsimile was made from the original Declaration; they think copies may have been made from the 1823 Stone broadside instead. Intuitively, this makes more sense, but I'd like to see the evidence.

Lingenfelter claims that the damage to the original engrossed Declaration came from the anastatic process, not from the process used by Stone or by subsequent light damage and other factors.

A perennial independent political candidate (he's currently running for Congress), Lingenfelter's interest in the anastatic facsimile is primarily monetary. He wants to sell it, and he thinks it's worth a heap of money. He calls the item "more important" than the Dunlap broadside copy (that's the one printed in Philadelphia on the night of 4 July for distribution throughout the states), but he badly overestimates the number of copies known (he says "reported 200+"; there are 25). [Update: Lingenfelter reports that he was using the "reported 200+" figure to refer to the number of copies produced - which is fair, if not entirely germane since most of them have disappeared]. Sotheby's and Christie's wouldn't comment on the item, but Lingenfelter's consultant (Bob Lucas from
Alderfer Auction Company) says "It should for all intents and purposes be worth more than the Dunlap copy" (a copy of which sold for $8.1 million in 2000). I don't think that's the case, and agree with Diethorn, who says "Tom Lingenfelter's opinion is Tom Lingenfelter's opinion and it has yet to be tested in the market." The Dunlap broadside's importance lies with its priority and its purpose.

Perhaps a better gauge for a the 'value' of this copy, its apparent rarity notwithstanding, is the Stone facsimile from 1823, a copy of which sold recently for $100,000. Given the rarity of the anastatic copy I would put a slightly higher estimate on it than that, but not that much higher. In the meantime, serious research would have to be undertaken to determine whether this copy was taken from the 1776 engrossed copy or from the Stone facsimile; if the latter, then all this discussion of value is pretty much a moot point.

An interesting find, at any rate, if perhaps not quite as important as it's portrayed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Joseph Priestley's Library

This morning I finished entering the library of Joseph Priestley into LibraryThing. Priestley, who wrote on just about every subject under the sun, had books on a very wide variety of topics (and in a shockingly wide range of languages) as well, so this was another fun collection to work with.

Priestley's library was sold by Philadelphia bookseller Thomas Dobson in 1816 (several years after Priestley's death in 1804), and I worked from Dobson's compilation of the collection, Catalogue of the Library of the late Dr. Joseph Priestley, containing Many scarce and valuable Books (Philadelphia: Thomas Dobson, 1816). Most of the listings were correct and adequate to allow for correct identification of the specific edition in Priestley's library; I have noted the places where this was not possible.

I've located only three volumes from Priestley's library which still exist, all at Harvard. Thomas Jefferson is known to have purchased three, although their identities are not known. Any information on other extant volumes would be much appreciated and I'll be happy to add it to the catalog (and of course, if other books are known, I'd like to know of those as well).

Not surprisingly, Priestley's friends in life (Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin) are his top sharers in books. But modern readers are right up there too, with LT-member meburste (who we know here as the blog-force behind The Little Professor) topping the list (she shares ten more works with Priestley than I do).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Links & Reviews

Sorry for the sparse posting lately; between the Olympics, the dog days of August, and trying to finish up Priestley's library, I've been distracted. Since all three of those things are just about behind us, I should be back in a more regular swing of things soon. In the meantime:

- In the Globe, a Q&A with Matthew Kneale.

- Laura notes a neat new miniature book webxibit at the Lilly Library.

- From the NYPL blog, Robert Armitage muses on Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, still my favorite of Doyle's works (I think I've read it at least twenty times).

- The Londonist profiles the physical structure of the British Library.

- Gavin Menzies' works and their implications are discussed in The Telegraph (via Cliopatria).

- Richard Cox treats the archival elements of one of the books on my 'to-read-soon' list (sigh), Susan Scott Parrish's American Curiosity.

- The NYTimes reports on an apparent string of thefts from Israeli music collections.

- At BibliOdyssey, some wonderful images of early microscopes.

- From the AP, a list of the notable books coming out this fall.

- In Slate, Robert Pinsky writes on the 400th anniversary of Milton's birth.

- The Guardian reports that some thus-far-unpublished Walter Scott pieces are to be released in published form for the first time, to some criticism.

- Brian Cassidy at Book Patrol points out this excellent and sensible post from the Digitalist about why reading from a screen doesn't necessarily mean the death of biblio-culture as we know it.

- I pass this along without comment.


- Brenda Wineapple's White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson is reviewed by William Pritchard in the Globe and by Miranda Seymour in the NYTimes.

- Christopher Buckley's new novel, Supreme Courtship, is reviewed by Lisa Zeidner in the Washington Post.

- Joan Acocella reviews Ingrid Rowland's Giordano Bruno: Philosopher/Heretic for the New Yorker.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

This Week's Acquisitions

Just one new one this week, a review copy of the new Modern Library edition of Milton's Paradise Lost, edited by William Kerrigan, John Rumrich, and Stephen M. Fallon.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Other MHS In More $$ Trouble

Sad story in the Globe today about the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, which remains on shaky financial ground and has now "'frozen' its accounts and will not pay creditors until an independent adviser completes a review of the organization's finances." The board of trustees has sent letters requesting "creditors to consider forgiving the group's debts and writing them off as charitable contributions."

The Horticultural Society famously sold off much of its rare book collection in 2002 for $5.45 million; the chairman of the board suggested yesterday that more of the Society's books may be deaccessioned to get them out of this particular jam. I hope it doesn't come to that, but things really don't sound good.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New Blog on the Block

Jerry Morris (moibibliomaniac on LT) has started a blog, Last Views of Shakespeare, to highlight his soon-to-be-deaccessioned collection of Shakespeariana. This already includes a couple of really nifty items, including a copy of the first American edition of Shakespeare's works, and there are certainly more to come. I've added a link on the sidebar, and encourage everyone to stop by often.

Jerry also tuned me into Douglas Adams' Forgeries Bibliography today, which is excellent (and makes for quite a wish list). I've added a link to that as well.

More Reasons to Lament Library Loss

In recent days, some more information has come to light which makes the dismemberment of Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s personal library all the more unfortunate.

In the Globe today there's a brief paragraph (last item here) on one of the few items from the collection that John Wronoski (of Lame Duck Books in Cambridge) kept and now has for sale: "It's a collection of inaugural addresses by presidents from George Washington to John F. Kennedy. The book is inscribed: 'For Arthur Schlesinger jr. - The President was going to give you this for Christmas - Please accept it now from me - With my deepest appreciation for your devotion to Jack - and all our shining memories of him.' It's signed 'Jackie' and dated 'December 1963.'"

And, as Robert Schlesinger wrote this week, the recent OSS declassifications reveal that Schlesinger was, at least nominally, a WWII spy. Pretty cool. No word on if he hung out will Julia Child while she was working on developing shark repellent.

Book Note: "The Wordy Shipmates"

Ethical considerations (I'm in the acknowledgments and even make a brief and amusing cameo appearance in the text) bar me from offering an official review of Sarah Vowell's forthcoming book The Wordy Shipmates (due in October from Riverhead). So I'll just say that if you like Sarah Vowell's work, or are interested in an amusing take on Puritan culture with a generous helping of snarkiness, make sure to pick this one up.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Approved Forgeries

The only biblio-story making any waves at all today is this one, a Gawker report that a U.S. publisher (thus far unidentified) posted an ad on the LA Craigslist site seeking "ghost-signers" - fourteen people to sign "copies of a newly released book on behalf of the authors. You will need to be able to copy the look and style of both author's [sic] signatures." They'll pay $25 per 200 books signed.

Ian says "It used to be that you could at least count on publisher's signed copies to be legit...oh well." He also notes that the Guardian picked up the story. Richard Davies at Reading Copy adds "That’s a nice, easy life for those two authors - no aching wrists or mindnumbing boredom of signing book after book after book. On the secondhand and rare book market, any book advertised as signed by the author but in fact signed by someone else is basically fraud. I’m sure buyers and booksellers will not be happy about this development."

It's not basically fraud, it is fraud. Or sanctioned forgery, as Michael Lieberman so nicely puts it.

Joyce coins a new term for this "practice": crapple tunnel syndrome. I like it.

Currently the website of the ad agency whose phone number was listed on the posting and the blog of said agency's leader, Nance Rosen, are not functioning. The ad itself is still live, here. The phone number for "details" is (310) 837-0513 - if anybody's reading in the LA area (or not) and wants to give them a call (I just tried, no answer), try to find out what the authors' names are. A prize to the first person who makes the discovery.

[Update: The Exile Bibliophile has some news; he got through to someone: "I just got a very tired young lady on the phone and asked about the position. She said, 'It was a mistake. A big misunderstanding. That project is not going forward.' She said the ad was, or should be, taken down already. I asked which authors it was for, and she said she was not privileged to give out that information. I asked which publisher and got the same answer only more curt." Good sleuthing!]

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Making Captcha Technology Productive

Shelf:Life caught this story from last Thursday's Times - Captcha technology (where you have to type in a garbled word in order to post a comment or register on a given website) is being used to assist in OCR: " Instead of displaying a random collection of letters and numbers, the newly designed Captchas present the user with a word from an old manuscript [by which they don't actually mean manuscript, but rather printed document, like a book or newspaper] that a computer, somewhere, is having trouble deciphering."

Luis von Ahn, a 29-year old Carnegie Mellon prof, devised the original Captcha system eight years ago, and plans to officially roll out the new version next month (some 45,000 sites are using it already). The words being recognized are fed back to the the Internet Archive, but von Ahn says other digitization projects could also use this system.

How it works: "When three people type in the same word, the system deduces that this must be the one displayed on the manuscript, and relays this to the computer which has been stumped by the mystery word." Perfect? Certainly not, but I bet it's not too far off (von Ahn says ReCaptcha has proven 99% accurate, compared with about 80% for traditional OCR methods). Given the potential, it seems this effort should be strongly encourages. von Ahn: "About 60 million Captchas are solved around the world every day - each taking roughly ten seconds. Individually that's not a lot of time, but in aggregate these puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make more use of this effort?"

I like it. Gold star.

[Update: Clearly I didn't read the Globe closely enough this Sunday. Matthew Battles has a piece in the "Ideas" section about this very topic, which is also well worth reading. Thanks to PKS for tipping me off.]

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Links & Reviews

- Paul Collins notes his new New Scientist article [subscription required, sadly] on the "Edison Test," a 1920s attempt to use standardized testing as a basis for employment. You can take the full test (slightly modified) here.

- Earlier this month I passed along the news that the Guernsey Memorial Library director had gotten herself into some hot water over improper use of library funds. LIS News has some more on that, with one attendee at a recent library board meeting describing the situation as featuring "an angry mob."

- Some movement this week in the Rivero map theft case; an El Pais article (in Spanish) reports that two other men are believed to have been involved in the thefts from Spain, as well as other thefts from libraries around South America. These are Buenos Aires bookstore owner Daniel Guido Pastore and Uruguayan Washington Luis Pereira. Tony Campbell found an earlier article from El Pais with further details.

- The Fortsas project got some very nice attention from De Papieren Man, a lovely Dutch blog which I've added to the sidebar.

- Houghton Library has acquired some very interesting manuscript library catalogs: "one, a list of books purchased for the Reading Society, Benevolent Society, and Sunday School of Bury, Lancashire from 1806-1826, and the second, the catalogue of the Dundas family’s private library at Melville Castle near Edinburgh, compiled in 1862." Very cool.

- J.L. Bell has an excellent survey of Thomas Jefferson resources online.

- My article "Enlarging the Bibliosphere: Using LibraryThing to Promote Book History" is in the next issue of Aus dem Antiquariat (you'll know it when you see it, it's the only article in English). The text isn't online, so far as I can tell.

- Richard Cox, back from vacation, has some thoughts on three new books about collecting (loosely defined): McMurty's, Israel's, and William Davies King's Collections of Nothing.

- Writing for Britannica Blog, Robert McHenry comments on Oliver Wendell Holmes' 1858 musings on youth and activity.

- Over at Ed and Edgar, Ed's been posting on "The Raven" all week, so read back through and enjoy the wide selection of posts. My favorite was the first post, featuring a reading of the poem by the great Basil Rathbone.


- In Salon, Louis Bayard reviews Lee Israel's Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Jonathan Lopez' The Man Who Made Vermeers.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

This Week's Acquisitions

Mostly well-behaved again this week.

- The Journal and Letters of Philip Vickers Fithian, 1773-1774: A Plantation Tutor of the Old Dominion (Colonial Williamsburg Press, 1965). Commonwealth Books

Travels in North America, in the years 1780, 1781, and 1782 by François Jean, Marquis de Chastellux (University of North Carolina Press, 1963). Commonwealth Books

- Becoming America: The Revolution Before 1776 by Jon Butler (Harvard University Press, 2001). Commonwealth Books

- The Whiskey Rebels: A Novel by David Liss (Random House, forthcoming). Random House (for LT's Early Reviewers)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Book Review: "English in Print"

I didn't get a chance to see the joint exhibition between the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and the Yale's Elizabethan Club held at the Grolier Club this summer, but I did snag a copy of the catalog, English in Print from Caxton to Shakespeare to Milton. Valerie Hotchkiss and Fred C. Robinson's exquisite book is as good a surrogate as we're likely to get, and is a fine work in its own right; a forty-page introduction offers a detailed look at most aspects of English printing from its inception through the middle decades of the seventeenth century, and the richly-illustrated catalog portion includes notable information about the books on display.

Chapters within the catalog focus on the very early years of English printing, grammars and dictionaries, regulation and censorship, the printing of translations, plays in print, and the production of books (printing, design, illustration, binding, &c.). Hotchkiss and Robinson focus on the utilitarian nature of English printing, characterizing the period under discussion as of "modest beginnings and slow progress." That may be true, but its importance cannot (and isn't) understated.

A good addition to the shelves of any printophile.

Book Review: "The Great Stink"

I hope no reader would pick up Clare Clark's The Great Stink and expect sweetness and light. You'll get none of it. This is a well-written descent into the very depths of depravity, even if it's sometimes too heavy on the gory details (this is not a book to be read during mealtimes).

Combining a murder mystery with a Dickensian (the adjective if overused, but when the shoe fits, it must be worn) legal wrangle, Clark writes as crisply and vividly about the intricate details of London's early Victorian sewer development and the associated bureaucratic nightmares as she does about the intimate and disturbing aspects of her characters' lives (her main character, William May, is a Crimean War vet manifesting very severe symptoms of what would probably be diagnosed now as PTSD).

While somewhat predictable in terms of plot, Clark's writing style makes this very much worth a read. But don't say I didn't warn you - this is not for the queasy. Several times I had to put it away for a day or two in favor of something more pleasant. But when I finished it, I was glad to have done so.

On Knol

Scott Brown points out Knol, a Google project (at least partially in answer to Wikipedia) which went live in beta last month. Scott compares the articles on book collecting (Knol, Wikipedia), noting that when he visited the site, the book collecting article was featured on the front page. He writes "I don't know if that is a sign that Google recognized me (a creepy notion), or just luck." I hope it's the latter, because when I visited the featured 'knol' was "Jaw Fractures."

I did a little exploration of Knol this morning as well, and found many articles which, while "signed," were either wildly partisan or just not particularly useful. Compare, for example, the 'knol' on John Adams; here's the Wikipedia version. I'll take the latter, I think, as a better starting point for research.

So far Knol seems very health/medicine-oriented, but presumably it will expand. It'll be interesting to see if they really do try to compete with Wikipedia, or branch off a bit and try to do something slightly different. So far, I'm not all that impressed.

Sixth Potter Flick Delayed

Warner Brothers will not release the sixth Harry Potter movie, "Half-Blood Prince" on 21 November as scheduled; it will now premiere in July 2009. Studio execs said they wanted a summer blockbuster, and blamed the writers' strike for "impacting other films." The HP movie is ready to go; WB head Alan Horn told the press "I've seen the movie. It is fabulous. We would have been perfectly able to have it out in November."

But they want to squeeze every last drop from the HP cash cow.

Amy Ryan Offered BPL Prez Job

Hennepin County Library head Amy Ryan has been offered the presidency of the Boston Public Library, the Globe reports today. Ryan was the unanimous choice of the BPL's trustees, who interviewed her (and three other candidates) publicly yesterday. BPL officials announced their decision last night, and Ryan's acceptance is expected today.

As the Globe had reported previously, "The other finalists were former state Senate president Thomas F. Birmingham, former Greenwich, Conn., library director Mario M. Gonzalez, and California state librarian Susan Hildreth."

Anybody want to help pitch in for a flak jacket? She might need one. Or some teflon body armor. I wish her all the best of luck, and I'm glad the trustees took the librarian route here rather than the "managerial." Now we'll have to wait and see what happens.

[Update: Here's a press release from the BPL on Ryan's appointment].

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cats in the Print Shop

Otago University's Special Collections librarian, Donald Kerr, posted a fascinating query to Ex-Libris a few months ago, and I was delighted to see that the story got some press in New Zealand this week with a story in the Otago Daily Times. On f.250 of the library's copy of Astesanus de Asts Summa de casibus conscientiae (Strassburg: Johann Mentelin, 1472/3), Kerr discovered three feline footprints in ink, and asked other holders of the book to check their copies to see if further footprints were evident.

Other institutions have reported some inky smudges and even fingerprints in their copies, but so far, no other cat prints have been reported.

Dr Kerr said his theory was Mentelin, who could produce 300 hand-printed sheets a day, laid his pages on benches or table tops to dry, where his cat had walked on one or more. 'Mentelin has been described as a 'careless printer' - perhaps this is why. But finding the cat prints does present a homely image of the printery.'"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Clemens Letter Missing from Denver

The following was posted on Ex-Libris and I repost it in its entirety here:


The following letter was discovered to be missing opening night of the Denver Fair, Friday, August 1, 2008. Any information regarding its whereabouts will be much appreciated.

CLEMENS, SAMUEL. Two page A.L.S. in pencil to "Dear Captain" and signed "Saml. L. Clemens & wife." Buffalo: September 26, 1871.

8vo, 38 lines, approx. 160 words, on recto and verso of a single sheet, previous folds else very good.

An early letter by Clemens, unpublished and apparently unknown to Clemens scholarship (although listed in the Mark Twain Papers at Berkeley from our catalogue description), written to the Captain of a steamboat Mr. & Mrs. Clemens had just disembarked, regretting that they will not be able to attend "the gathering of the pilgrims."

In part: "We have packed up everything but ourselves, to move to Hartford, & shall pack ourselves aboard the train within the hour . If I am not there when you beat to quarters, you will know that circumstances. have got the advantage of me. In which case I shall at least be present in spirit & make a mute speech well packed with cordial good wishes for the long life & happiness of all that stand where they could hear if the silent syllables were voiced."

Any information, contact Rob Rulon-Miller.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Good News for Justice

Yesterday I noted the Zollman indictment; Travis has some excellent followup on that today, reporting: "The case has been assigned to Judge Jennifer Coffman, a former librarian and the judge in the Transy Four case. The case is being prosecuted by David Marye, the prosecutor in the Transy Four case."

This is super news, since we know from that prior case that both Marye and Coffman are extremely serious about prosecuting bibliocrimes. Travis advises Zollman "plead guilty as soon as possible." I suppose if I were advising Zollman, I'd say that too. But I'm not, so I'd like to see this case go to trial and Zollman get the maximum possible penalty.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fortsas Lives!

The day has finally dawned. Today, 10 August, marks the 168th anniversary of the 'Fortsas Sale', the greatest bibliohoax ever perpetrated (and one which is in no danger of losing that honor, I think). On this day in 1840, bibliophiles from across Europe descended in droves on the small town of Binche, Belgium, where they hoped to snap up some of the rarest printed rarities imaginable. But they'd been had, and how!

To mark the occasion, I've brought le Comte de Fortsas and his books back to life through the magic that is LibraryThing. There's a short biographical sketch and introduction to the collection here, or you can go directly to the books by browsing le Comte's catalogue (sorting by the 'entry date' column will allow you to browse in numerical order, starting with Entry 3; if you read the intro you'll quickly learn why 1 and 2 are missing*). In the catalogue descriptions I've included both the original French text from the original printed Catalogue and English translations of the notes (modified from earlier English reprints).**

Capping off the Fortsas data-dump are transcriptions/translations of various documents associated with the hoax (more of these to come), and an annotated bibliography of all things Fortsas (to which I welcome additions; please send along any interesting Fortsas items or mentions you happen to run across).

This has been great fun to work on, and I look forward to adding more transcriptions and materials as I can.

* It should sort like this automatically, but I've found it doesn't sometimes. If it looks wrong, just click on the "Entry Date" column header and it'll correct itself.

**Don't be alarmed that a couple of the books are shared with others - those other copies are, you may rest assured, different and less desirable editions.

Links & Reviews

- An indictment this week in the Zollman case: on Thursday, a federal grand jury in Lexington, KY indicted Eugene Zollman on two counts of stealing objects of cultural heritage. Zollman, a Jefferson Davis collector, is accused of snatching more than $15,000 worth of Davis materials from Transylvania University in 1994. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in jail. Zollman's lawyer said arraignment is scheduled for 13 August.

- Orwell is blogging. Ian has more, with links.

- The Boston Globe offers a "Reader's Guide to Literary Boston" today, which isn't really that at all, just a map with snippet-quotations from literature plunked down at various points. How one can make a map like this and not include a quote from The Late George Apley is completely beyond me.

- Also in the Globe, an editorial on the selection process for the new president of the BPL, which has resembled the veep searches in its secrecy. On Thursday, we're told, the finalists (who they are and how many there will be remains unannounced) will meet with the library's trustees, who apparently are expected to make a decision that day or the next, though, the editorial says, "deliberations could be extended. It's an option they should consider, because overnight is not enough time for a thoughtful review, and could fuel suspicion that the choice for president already had been made." A fair point, that. The first public interview meeting, says the BPL's website, will begin at 8 a.m. on Thursday 14 August in the McKim Building Orientation room.

- Paul Collins has two goodies for us this week: in Slate, he writes on strange travel guides (and blogs on that here), and he also notes a new book about giant vegetables.

- Ian finds a very cool criminal broadside.

- NPR's Melissa Block has a wonderful character study of E.B. White's Charlotte A. Cavatica.

- Joyce discovered (and raves about) EverNote, a browser-based or downloadable web-clipping program. I've started using the web version; it's handy.

- Travis comments on the Delaney 'sentence,' and coins a new motto for English justice: "England: where truth is not an absolute defence, but heroin addiction is." Heh. Travis also predicts Brubaker's sentence (still set for 15 September, as far as I know), saying it's likely to be anything from 15-21 months in jail.

- The Beijing opening ceremonies on Friday night were truly a sight for printophilic eyes: not only did a large LED scroll play a key role in the festivities, but one segment of the show included a marvelously complex display of Chinese movable type. Like Ian, I assumed throughout that some sort of pneumatics were being used to create the effect; when people jumped out at the end, everyone in the room gasped. It was incredibly impressive. Ian notes an interview with director Zhang Yimou where he said that the performers in that display had been practicing eight hours a day for four months (longer days recently), and that they'd never pulled it off perfectly until the ceremony itself. Wow. Laura noticed this too, and has some more excellent links for this week.

- A fun hodge-podge from BibliOdyssey.

- Ian Rankin has an essay in The Scotsman on the importance and relevance of James Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. This is one of those classics that I've really been meaning to read; I'll have to start moving it up the list.

- The Bookseller has launched a public vote for the "Oddest of Odd" titles, offering a choice between thirty years' worth of strange book titles. The winner will be announced on 5 September. I have to say I'm pretty taken with the first award-winner, 1978's Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice.

- LISNews points out "100 Places to Connect to Other Bibliophiles Online". My list would have been different, but this isn't a bad selection.

- AHA Today highlights MHS' Thomas Jefferson Electronic Archive.


- Renee Weingarten's Germaine de Staël and Benjamin Constant is reviewed by Frances Wilson in The Telegraph.

- Ingrid Rowland's new biography Giordano Bruno: Philosopher Heretic is reviewed by Marc Kaufman in the Washington Post.

- Peter Martin's Samuel Johnson is reviewed by Dominic Sandbrook in The Telegraph.

- Ophelia Field's The Kit-Kat Club is reviewed by Allan Massie in The Scotsman. This book has gotten really impressive coverage in the British press.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Dabney Carr's Library

One of Thomas Jefferson's best friends during the early part of his life was Dabney Carr (1743-1773), who grew up near Jefferson, attended school with him, and even went on to marry Jefferson's youngest sister Martha in 1765. Carr died at age 30, at the start of what almost certainly would have been a distinguished political/legal career.

I've used a small portion of this week to catalog Carr's library into LT, drawing from the inventory of Carr's estate taken at the time of his death. It's an interesting little collection, very indicative of what a young, educated, legal-minded Virginian would have had on his bookshelves in the middle of the eighteenth century.

This Week's Acquisitions

A more restrained week for me. Received:

Catalogue d'une très riche mais peu nombreuse collection de livres provenant de la bibliothèque de feu M le comte J N A de Fortsas. Paris: Éditions des Cendres, 2005 (Oak Knoll). More on this tomorrow.

A Facsimile Reproduction of a Unique Catalogue of Laurence Sterne's Library. New York: Edgar H. Wells, Inc., 1930 (ABE - Books on High, Columbus OH).

Friday, August 08, 2008

Archaeologists Discover Shakespeare Theatre

Museum of London archaeologists believe they've found the site of The Theatre, where some of Shakespeare's first plays (Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, &c.) are said to have debuted. The Theatre's timbers were used in 1599 to construct the more famous Globe, but the "original footings or groundwork of the octagonal Shoreditch venue" have now been discovered "- ironically on a site being prepared for the construction of a new theatre."

Current plans call for preservation of the site: "
Jeff Kelly, chairman of the Tower Theatre Company, which is building the new theatre on the site, added: 'The discovery that we shall be building a 21st century playhouse where Shakespeare played and where some of Shakespeare's plays must first have been performed is a huge inspiration.'"

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Lorello Pleads

Everybody remembers Daniel Lorello, right? He's the former NYS Archives employee accused of stealing documents from the State Library and selling them on eBay. Yesterday he entered a guilty plea to a single count of second degree grand larceny, even though the AG's office maintains that he stole more than 1,600 individual items (at least those are the ones they've recovered) over a period of eleven years.

Lorello will be sentenced on 1 October; he faces a 2-6 year prison term plus a $73,000 restitution bill and a $56,000 "confession of judgment", payable to the Department of Education. As Travis says, "we'll see" how those sentences shake out.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Book Review: "The Road to Monticello"

Kevin Hayes, one of America's preeminent writers on literary culture and books, has done himself proud with The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson (Oxford University Press, 2008). Modeled on John Livingston Lowes' classic examination of Coleridge, The Road to Xanadu, Hayes' study focuses on a close examination of what "Thomas Jefferson read and what he wrote to show how the written word shaped his life."

This is the most comprehensive account by far of Thomas Jefferson's literary life, encompassing his habits as a reader, a collector, an acquirer, a disseminator, a promoter and a writer of books and other printed materials throughout his long and productive life. It goes light-years beyond William Peden's 1942 dissertation "Thomas Jefferson as Book Collector" (a very fine treatment in its own right), to place Jefferson's involvement with print culture into the context of his political, social and family life.

In his typical way, Hayes has combined copious research with an approachable and readable prose style which makes this book both eminently accessible and highly enjoyable. The chapters are short (~15 pages apiece), well paced and distinct, and the endnotes thorough and well-documented (don't ask how many articles I've added to my "get" list). Hayes' close analysis of Jefferson's written productions (his travel writings, his letters, his religious musings and common-place books, among others) are careful and uncolored by judgment, and his discussions of Jefferson's books and the important role they played in his life are second to none.

An unparalleled study, one which will stand the tests of time and then some. On a scale of one to ten, this is a twelve.

Book Review: "Dark Matter"

In Philip Kerr's Dark Matter, you'll find Isaac Newton as you never knew him before. As a Sherlock Holmes-esque figure (with his trusty Watson by his side in the person of his erstwhile assistant Christopher Ellis), Newton undertakes the investigation of several mysterious murders in the Tower Mint, in the course of which he managers to uncover a deep-rooted, nefarious plot which threatens to upend the British government and put an end to Dr. Newton himself.

Though it is generally well written, I found Dark Matter a bit silly. Between the crime-solving Newton and the rather hackneyed side-plot of cryptographic clues to the "lost treasure of the Templars," I had to roll my eyes a few times in order to get through the book. Good diversionary reading, but nothing particularly special.

Controversy at Indian National Library Over "Missing" Books

On 4 August, the Times of India reported that an audit of the Indian National Library in Kolkata (Calcutta) had revealed that up to 40% of books and documents were "reportedly not found" when called for. These items included "books, manuscripts and letters associated with Rabindranath Tagore, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee and Sarojini Naidu." The report also claimed that the "register containing records of the library's Rare Books Division itself is untraceable."

The following day, another report (also in the Times) quoted R Ramachandran, director-in-charge of the National Library as saying: "No such documents relating to Rabindranath Tagore, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee and Sarojini Naidu are missing or stolen from the library. The rare books division of the library maintains catalogues of its holdings, which is the necessary record of the collection. No departure has been found between the records and actual collection."

Ramachandran's statement 'clarifies' the library's "not found" policy: "'Not found' books do not mean that books are stolen or missing. Some books are misplaced while some other are unfit for use. So these books could not be issued to readers when requisitions are placed. It is also to be noted that in big libraries 'not found' is not an uncommon phenomenon."

The BBC has more, including comments from an unnamed official in the Comptroller and Auditor General's office who said "We have found readers complaining that they cannot get most of the rare books and manuscripts they like to read for research purposes." Ramachandran further rebutted the charges, saying that when the CAG team came to the library, "we gave them all co-operation but some of our staff were on leave and we could not provide all documents. We can provide them now." He said the library has set up a five-member panel to examine the allegations levelled in the CAG report, and blamed staff shortages for the library's inability to properly account for all items all the time (it has been 11 years, he said, since a complete inventory of the national library's collections has been conducted).

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Only the Good, &c.

Simmons College, the library community, and the world at large have lost a man who epitomized the phrase "a scholar and a gentleman". Allen Smith - who was, among other things, a longtime professor in the Simmons library school, a well-known farrier, and a reference expert par excellence - died on Saturday 2 August following a shockingly brief illness.

In an email sent this afternoon, Simmons president Helen Drinan writes "In his life at Simmons, Allen’s contributions were many and his dedication was great. Allen joined the GSLIS faculty in 1978, served as Associate Dean from 2006 to 2007, and was recognized just this past spring for 30 years of service to the College. He lectured in reference, humanities, oral history, and computer programming, and was devoted to those he taught. An integral part of Simmons, he was fondly considered by many 'the parliamentarian of the GSLIS faculty.' One faculty member remembers him by saying 'He loved Robert’s Rules.' Allen was also a member of the Simmons Breakfast Club for the past 15 years, a group who had early morning coffee together in the College Center. Allen was highly accomplished professionally, having earned his Masters at the University of Denver and his Ph.D. at the Institute of Dialect and Folklife Studies, University of Leeds, England. He lectured at the College of Librarianship in Aberystwyth, Wales, for nearly ten years prior to his time at Simmons. His publications include Directory of oral history collections (1988) and Catalogue of pre-revival Appalachian dulcimers (1983), as well as serving as column editor of 'Guide to the Professional Literature' in The Journal of Academic Librarianship."

I only had the opportunity to take one class with Allen at Simmons, but boy what a class it was! His Reference section was regarded as the toughest, but also the most interesting and worthwhile. I can personally testify that it was all of those things (the sixty-page syllabus was enough to scare off more than a few potential students every term). He knew reference materials inside out, backwards, and upside down, and he loved sharing his knowledge about books, databases, and other sources - I think he really enjoyed watching over the course of every term as his students discovered just how many sources are out there, the different ways to use them, and as they slowly come to grasp the all-important lesson that there will always be new sources out there that you didn't know about. Like me, he enjoyed watching the progression of reference sources through history; one of the papers I wrote for him was about lexicographical histories, and it is no exaggeration to say that receiving words of praise from him for that paper was one of the highlights of my Simmons career (because I knew that if Allen liked it, it must have been up to snuff).

Allen was a fan of Webster's Second (the second edition of Webster's New International Dictionary, published in 1934), bow ties, motorcycles, and sailing. He abhorred exclamation points (one quote I have written in my notes from his class reads "If you were born before 1960, you have three exclamation points to use in your life; if born after 1960, you have six, because of inflation").

That's one of a great many pithy and memorable quotes from Allen Smith, every one of which was good advice. For reference services, he liked to say, "it all comes down to 'be nice to people.'" And it does. On librarianship: "The best part of being a librarian is, everything counts. The more you know, the better you're going to be." And I will never forget his take on management: "get to know everyone, make sure they know what they're doing, make sure you're doing what you should be doing, ... and get everyone bagels now and then. They'll appreciate it."

Perhaps Allen's favorite and most oft-used reference-exhortation, though, was "Make it smoke." He (strongly) encouraged his students to test out the databases or reference books we were examining by trying to answer tough questions in new and different ways, by stretching the capabilities of the indexes and search tools to their very limits. So, in Allen's honor, go out and make it smoke (I'd use an exclamation point there, but I'm all out).

The world of reference has lost a giant.

[A farrier friend of Allen's has posted reminscences here. Details on memorial services are not yet available].

British Electrician "Sentenced" for Map Thefts

Tony Campbell reports on MapHist that Richard Delaney, 37, of Birmingham, England has been sentenced to a term of one year in prison (which has been suspended for 18 months) for the thefts of "about £89,000" worth of rare books and maps from the Birmingham University Library.

The thefts - which apparently occurred while Delaney was doing electrical work at the University - were discovered in February when police searched Delaney's home after he tried to use a gas card he'd been given by a former boss (who'd fired Delaney after he refused to return a work van). Delaney told police "he had access to the special collections room of the university library where he was carrying out electrical work. He claimed he had taken the maps from books out of interest intending to read them and return the items. ... He said he had not initially realised the value of the maps and books although he did realise later and was going to sell them."

The judge told Delaney yesterday "You committed an offence where items of considerable value were stolen and I think you knew they were items of significant value," and yet he still accepted Delaney's defence (financial pressures due to drug problems, naturally) and suspended the sentence. Apparently the fact that Delaney hadn't actually gotten around to selling the items helped him out in this instance.

All of the items were recovered. And Delaney's wrist is perfectly fine.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Obits of Note

Yesterday's NYTimes included an obituary of Pierre Berès, which describes him as "the king of French booksellers, recounts some famous incidents from Berès' long career (including one in which he "advertised in his own catalog some choice specimens that happened to belong to a competitor. When a client expressed interest, Mr. Berès told him to wait while he fetched the required volumes from his warehouse. Instead he raced to his competitor’s shop, bought the books and resold them.") and adds some fascinating personal details ("Wrapped in a red shawl, often with a Siamese cat perched on one shoulder, he would turn up at magnificent chateaus, talk his way inside and emerge with treasure.").

And today's Times features a massive obit for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who died in Moscow yesterday at 89.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Book Review: "The Fortsas Bibliohoax"

[I'll have much more to say about the Fortsas Hoax at the end of the week as the anniversary approaches again (hint hint), but in the meantime ...]

Walter Klinefelter's The Fortsas Bibliohoax was first printed in 1941 for the Carteret Book Club, and revised and expanded in 1986 by the Press of Ward Schori in a lovely edition of 378 copies. It includes a translated, annotated version of the original Fortsas catalogue from 1840, plus introductory and concluding essays by Klinefelter and a bibliographical discussion of the Fortsas publications by Weber DeVore.

This is by far the best examination and discussion of the Fortsas Hoax in English, and is a must-read for any students of this, one of the greatest literary practical jokes of all time.

[Update: here's the "more to say" I promised - 10 August].

Links & Reviews

- In the NYTimes, Caroline Winter (substituting for Bill Safire) discusses the history of the capital I as an English pronoun. I disagree with her proposal (simply because it's silly and not necessary) but the historical background is interesting.

- Des Moines police detective Ronald Foster has been named the Des Moines Rotary Club's Police Officer of the Year. What's the relevance to us? Foster assisted in the Blumberg investigation a few years ago.

- I've added a link to the Brattle Book Blog.

- More commentary on the Amazon/ABE deal has continued to come through - I've been updating my original post on the topic here.

- Jeanne found a handy Interactive Copyright Slider for American works. I like it, and I've added a link to the sidebar.

- When I was younger, the Guernsey Memorial Library in Norwich, NY, was the "big library" we went to occasionally. Now its director is in some seriously hot water after an audit revealed some suspicious expense claims. Among other problems: "The director authorized and processed transactions with little or no oversight by the board, resulting in numerous questionable expenditures, including more than $2,100 on travel, more than $1,500 on restaurants, more than $3,000 on food and beverages, nearly $800 on gifts, more than $2,300 on other unsupported purchases from online book vendors, discount stores and grocery stores, and $2,500 to a vendor for a theatrical performance." Yikes. [h/t LISNews]

- Tech Digest notes the BL's really nifty Turning the Pages digitization project.

- From NPR's "Living on Earth," a segment on the po'ouli, a little Hawaiian bird which went from discovery to extinction in just three decades. There's also a book on the subject, here.

- From BibliOdyssey, satirical maps from World War I.

- Travis comments on the Codex Sinaiticus digitization project in the context of the theft of that document.

- Via LISNews, a neat digital map of early modern London.

- John Bell points out some upcoming Revolutionary War reenactments in the Boston area. The Continental and British encampments will be held on different weekends to prevent incidents.

- Parisian bookman Simon Berès died on Monday, Scott Brown reports at Fine Books Blog. Berès' collection sold at auction in June 2006 for more than $17 million, and he earned much acclaim for donating a rare Stendhal manuscript to the French nation rather than putting it on the block.

- A house fire destroyed more then 30,000 books - many of them rare - from the collection of Barry Cavanaugh of Plumstead, PA. The blaze consumed the 1740 farmstead and most of its contents, according to media reports. No one was physically hurt. More at Book Patrol.

- Over at Paper Cuts, a(nother) debate over the Dewey Decimal System.


- In the NYTimes, Nicholson Baker reviews Ammon Shea's Reading the OED, which he describes as "the 'Super Size Me' of lexicography," and Thomas Mallon reviews Lee Israel's Can You Ever Forgive Me?

- In the Telegraph, Allan Massie reviews The Magnificent Monarch: Charles II and the Ceremonies of Power by Anna Keay, and Freya Johnson reviews Ophelia Field's The Kit-Cat Club: Friends Who Imagined a Nation.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

This Week's Acquisitions

New month, new feature (shamelessly appropriated from The Little Professor). Each Saturday (or so) I'll note which books have arrived this week. Now, since I don't really have room for any more books, and because I really shouldn't be spending any money on them, this list really ought to be tiny every week. This week (naturally) is an exception, because I found a few very interesting things (and because the Brattle had to go and put out new review copies). I'll add the sources as well, where I can remember them.

- Can You Ever Forgive Me? Memoirs of a Literary Forger by Lee Israel, 2008. (Simon & Schuster)
- The Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets ..., by Samuel Johnson; four volumes, 1790-1791. (Boston Book Annex)
- The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended by Isaac Newton, 1988 facsimile of the 1728 edition. (Commonwealth Books)
The University of Virginia Library, 1825-1950: Story of a Jeffersonian Foundation by Harry Clemons, 1972. (Commonwealth Books)
- The Great Stink by Clare Clark, 2006. (Brookline Booksmith)
- The Black Death: A Personal History by John Hatcher, 2008. (Brattle)
- Origins: Selected Letters of Charles Darwin, 1822-1859. Anniversary edition; edited by Frederick Burkhardt. Revised edition, 2008. (Brattle)
Evolution: Selected Letters of Charles Darwin 1860-1870; edited by Frederick Burkhardt, Samantha Evans and Alison Pearn, 2008. (Brattle)
- Germaine de Staël and Benjamin Constant: A Dual Biography by Renee Winegarten, 2008. (Brattle)
Boston Printers, Publishers, and Booksellers: 1640-1800 by Benjamin Franklin V, 1980. (Brattle)
The Plot Against Pepys by James Long and Ben Long, 2008. (Brattle)
The Muse of the Revolution: The Secret Pen of Mercy Otis Warren and the Founding of a Nation by Nancy Rubin Stuart, 2008. (Brattle)
- Collections of Nothing by William Davies King, 2008. (Brattle)
- Painter in a Savage Land: The Strange Saga of the First European Artist in North America by Miles Harvey, 2008. (Brattle)
The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century by Edward Dolnick, 2008. (Brattle)
- Les Avantures de Telemaque, fils d'Ulysse, printed at Ulm, 1769 (in French with German notes and additions) I haven't written much about my Telemachus collection here, but I've got nearly thirty different editions of this satirical novel, of which this is the most recently acquired. It's a lovely edition, with many illustrations and a delightful folding map of Telemachus' travels (eBay)

Friday, August 01, 2008

Amazon Acquires ABE

Big news - and I mean big news from the biblio-world this morning as Amazon announces its acquisition of AbeBooks. Tim's got the scoop on what this means for LibraryThing (in which AbeBooks holds a 40% stake). The short version of said scoop, thankfully, is "virtually nothing." There's also an LT Talk post here.

More as it comes.

[I'm going to add updates to this as necessary. Check out this post from former Abe COO Boris Wertz, who's very excited about the deal. Booksellers, however, don't seem to be quite as enthused.

More: Here's the take over at Bookfinder (also an AbeBooks company). And here's a rather strange piece from TechCrunch on the Shelfari/LibraryThing aspects of this deal.

AbeBooks' own take, from Reading Copy, is here. Richard Davies writes, in part, "We’re exceptionally excited about working with Amazon - AbeBooks has been very successful over the years but we know Amazon is the world leader in ecommerce and they can help us in many ways. They are going to help our booksellers sell more books and they are going to help improve the experience of buying books for our customers."

Michael Lieberman has more on the pros and cons now.]