Thursday, October 30, 2008

Judges Declines to Increase Terms for Transy Four

In February, a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the goons who stole rare books from the Transylvania University (and assaulted the rare books librarian there) - we know them as the Transy Four - should have had some time added to their sentences since the trial court failed to factor certain elements of the crime into its sentence. They sent the case back to the trial judge, Jennifer Coffman, for further consideration.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports this afternoon that Coffman has chosen to ignore the judgment of the Court of Appeals, saying "she would have imposed the same sentence even if she had considered the tougher sentencing guidelines."

Not exactly a surprise, but considering the original appeal was launched by the Four themselves in a bid to get less jail time, an additional bit would have been awfully appropriate.

Unpublished Poe Manuscript Surfaces

A recently-discovered Poe manuscript poem will be sold at Bloomsbury New York's 10 December sale of Important Books and Manuscripts, according to an auction house press release. An early version of Poe's poem "The Sleeper," this unpublished variant is titled "Irene," and is believed to be the "earliest extant version of a poem that Poe considered even better than 'The Raven.'"

Bloomsbury's press release goes on to note "The poem is an extraordinary discovery and contains ... one long stanza and other textual variants not found in the published versions. The provenance of this poem is impeccable and truly extraordinary."Poe copied this poem into the autograph album of a "Richmond belle," in 1830. [Kind of a creepy poem for that particular purpose, but hey, it's Poe].

The poem will go on the block with an estimate of $100,000-200,000. The Bloomsbury catalog with further details is not yet online, but I'll post a link to that when it's available.

Archimedes Palimpsest Dataset Released

The team working on the Archimedes Palimpsest has released a massive dataset, "weaving registered images in many wavebands of light with XML transcriptions of the Archimedes and Hyperides texts that are spatially mapped to those images." There's a full introduction to the digital project here (with video). Without a user interface it's a little tricky to navigate at the moment, but the group has made the image files and data available for anyone to work with through a Creative Commons license, so hopefully some enterprising soul will build a handy browse function.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Google, Publishers Reach Agreement

More than three years of litigation ended yesterday when Google, the Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers announced they had reached a settlement over the Google Books Project. According to Publishers Weekly, "As part of the $125 million settlement, Google will pay $45 million to settle the class action lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild. Authors whose books have already been scanned will receive at least $60 per work. Another $34.5 million will go toward the creation of a Book Rights Registry that will be responsible for building a database of rightsholders information and for disbursing all money generated through the use of books in Google Products and Services. (The remaining $45.5 million will go to legal and attorney fees)."

Lots of bits and pieces to digest here, but fundamentally the settlement seems to have hit the right notes. A book copyright registry is a very important step forward.

Approval of the settlement by a federal judge isn't expected before the middle of 2009.

Quite a few links about this story to pass along: Publishers Weekly, New York Times, The Guardian,, Off the Shelf, Dan Cohen, settlement text and Authors Guild press releases, Google Books settlement page, Association of American Publishers settlement page, Settlement FAQ (surprisingly detailed).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Update: Beard Fired from ALPLM Post

After yesterday's news of his three shoplifting arrests, Richard Beard has been sacked from his position as head of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Chicago Sun-Times reports tonight. The Tribune has more, noting that Beard was notified of his firing over the phone.

"Jan Grimes, director of the Historic Preservation Agency, will run the Lincoln museum and library temporarily. In addition, former Historic Preservation Director Robert Coomer will fill in for Beard at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, the not-for-profit group that raises money to support the library."

Scott Lodges Legal Complaint Against Durham

Well here's a twist I didn't see coming: just days after the First Folio was returned to the UK, Raymond Scott (who took the stolen book to D.C. this summer) has filed suit to have the book returned to him. After filing the claim yesterday, Scott attempted to serve the papers on Durham vice-chancellor Christopher Higgins in person; Higgins was not available (check out the picture of Scott making his trek to the campus).

Scott told the Northern Echo "I want recovery of what I refer to as the Cuban copy of Mr Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies London 1623, delivered by me to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC. It is claimed by Durham University to be their copy, which was stolen in 1998. Experts appointed by me require access to the book to compare and contrast the Cuban with known records of the Durham copy. This is something we have been denied and this is the first stage in attempting to get the book returned to me. I am confident that there are sufficient differences in the two books so that, on the balance of probabilities, it will be decided that the book is not the one that was stolen in 1998."

Durham University officials said that the paperwork regarding Scott's legal claim had not yet been received as of last night, and that they would deal with any such documents in the appropriate manner. Once the legal papers are received, Higgins would have two weeks to respond. Durham police told reporters "As far as we are concerned, the folio believed to have been stolen from Durham University ten years ago was brought from America to the North-East at the weekend. It remains under lock and key and continues to be the subject of a criminal investigation."


[h/t Shelf:Life]

Monday, October 27, 2008

Copy of Rare Emerson Broadside Found

In their latest catalog, M & S Rare Books of Providence, RI have a remarkable item: one of just (now) five known copies of a broadsheet edition on satin of Ralph Waldo Emerson's first separate work, his "Letter to the Second Church and Society" (1832). The other copies are at Harvard's Houghton Library (on deposit for the R.W. Emerson Memorial Association), the University of Florida, First and Second Church Unitarian-Universalist in Boston, and the Boston Athenaeum.

M & S' description of the broadside notes "Perhaps the Boston Athenaeum copy was in the trade prior to 1954 [when it was given to the library], but ours might be the only copy ever offered for sale." Three hundred copies of a pamphlet version of this letter were printed (of which just a handful survive), but it is not known how many copies of this broadside edition ever existed. The quote Emerson bibliographer Joel Myerson from his bibliographic entry on the U of FL's copy (from the Parkman Dexter Howe collection): "presumably the broadsides were printed and sent with the compliments of the printer, and were few in number."

Stephen H. Wakeman, a legendary collector of 19th century American writers, said of this text (which he had in pamphlet form) "In some respects, it is the most important document [Emerson] ever penned, it being the parting of the ways, - his valedictory - to his congregation on deciding to relinquish the Ministry and devote himself to other pursuits. It transcends all of his other writings in personal interest, and its extreme rarity makes it one of the most desirable items in this collection."

Not surprisingly, the price tag matches the extreme scarcity of the piece: $75,000. And yet, for what this is, even that seems a bargain.

Lincoln Museum Director Arrested for Shoplifting

Richard Beard, 61, the director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL, has been placed on paid administrative leave after news of three shoplifting arrests came to light late in August. Beard is charged with the theft of $300 worth of neckties from a White Oaks mall Macy's in February of 2007, plus the thefts of box sets of "Seinfeld" DVDs from Target in November 2007 and "House" DVDs from the same Target store in August of this year.

Beard has not yet been charged for the November thefts, but his trial for the August thefts is scheduled for 26 November. The earlier theft from Macy's resulted in Beard's receiving "court supervision" and a $200 fine.

Before becoming director of the ALPLM in late 2006, Beard worked at the New-York Historical Society and the Atlanta History Center.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Auction Report: Upcoming

A few book auctions are on the horizon:

- On 28 October, Swann Galleries will sell the Magic Collection of a Gentleman (300 lots).

- Bloomsbury NY will sell Russian Literature and Art (251 lots) on 29 October; Natural History, including the Trust of Lyman Abbott Collection (135 lots) on 11 November (this includes a first octavo of Audubon's Birds); and the Jay T. Snider Collection, featuring the History of Philadelphia and Important Americana (375 lots) on 19 November.

- Bloomsbury London will sell Important Manuscripts, Printed Books, & Original Artwork (251 lots) on 30 October.

- PBA Galleries will sell Americana, Travel & Exploration, and Maps on 6 November (373 lots) and the Medical and Science Library of Gerald I. Sugarman, M.D. (228 lots) on 20 November.

- Sotheby's London will hold a sale entitled Greece and the Levant: A Private Library (234 lots) on the morning of 13 November and a second sale, Natural History, Travel, Atlases & Maps (319 lots) on the afternoon and evening of the same day.

- Christie's London will hold a sale of Valuable Manuscripts and Printed Books (169 lots) on 12 November (lots of illuminated manuscripts in this one, very impressive) and a sale of Fine Books & Printed Manuscripts, Including Modern First Editions (331 lots) on 13 November.

- Skinner's Boston sale of books will be held on 15 November, but the catalog is not yet online.

Links & Reviews

Yesterday morning I presented a paper at the fall meeting of the New England Historical Association, as did J.L. Bell of Boston 1775 and several other friends and colleagues. Mine was an offshoot of the paper I worked on a year or so ago, about the provenance of several extant copies of John Eliot's Indian Bible. The conference was fun, and the papers I got to hear were excellent. I would have liked to hear more papers, but unfortunately was able to listen to just those on my panel and John's, since there were only two sessions with lots of simultaneous panels.

- Over at Boston 1775, a look at the early answers to the question of just what it is that the "V.P. does every day."

- If you haven't already made it a regular stop, Ed & Edgar should be added to your daily rotation. Ed's been and will continue to be very busy documenting his travels with Poe and his advocacy for Philadelphia's Poe Primacy. Also on the Poe front, Rick Ring pointed out that some Poe manuscripts sold at auction this week.

- Book Patrol passes along an essay by publisher David Godine on his principles of publishing.

- Playwright Alan Bennett has donated his archive to the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.


- In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda reviews Timothy Ryback's Hitler's Private Library.

- Michael Kenney reviews Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates for the Boston Globe. Heller McAlpin reviews Vowell's book for the Christian Science Monitor.

- The two recent books about Han van Meegeren (The Forger's Spell and The Man Who Made Vermeers) are reviewed by Peter Schjeldahl in the New Yorker.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Book Review: "Once Again to Zelda"

Marlene Wagman-Geller's Once Again to Zelda: The Stories Behind Literature's Most Intriguing Dedications (Perigree/Penguin, 2008) is a series of forty-nine short essays (most under five pages or so) providing "the rest of the story" about modern book dedications (I say modern because she begins with Mary Shelley's dedication in Frankenstein, and only the first seven of the essays pertain to books published in the 19th century, while nine cover books published in the first few years of the current century).

It's an interesting concept, but since this is obviously a selection of dedications, it's easy to quibble with the choices the author chose. Many of those covered are hardly intriguing in any meaningful sense of the term (some are, but the vast majority of dedications to spouses and lovers are fairly conventional, even if the relationships themselves might have been anything but).

While this book could have stood for another round of editing, for very quick, rather formulaic introductions to various works of literature and those to whom they're dedicated, it will do fine (particularly if your interests run to modern literature). If you are expecting more, you may be disappointed.

This Week's Acquisitions

Just a few new arrivals this week:

- Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire (Harper Paperbacks, 2006). Brookline Booksmith. Since Maguire's new one about the Lion looks good, I thought I'd better catch up.

Mirth of a Nation: The Best Contemporary Humor; edited by Michael J. Rosen (Harper, 2000). Harvard Bookstore.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation. Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson (Candlewick Press, 2008). Harvard Bookstore. I've been looking forward to this one since reading the first volume earlier this year.

Book Review: "City of Saints and Madmen"

City of Saints and Madmen is Jeff VanderMeer's collection of novellas, essays, faux-bibliographies, and other miscellanea pertaining to the fantastical and bizarre city of Ambergris. Like no other city, real or imagined, Ambergris is a strange place, where mysterious mushroom-people lurk in the dark corners, where King Squid hold positions of great importance and composers' deaths lead to civil unrest.

This is a somewhat top-heavy collection of writings, with three longer novellas at the front followed by a case study (of a troubled author who's come to think the fictional city he created might actually be real) and a lengthy appendix of detritus (in the best sense of the word): letters, pamphlets, short stories, glossaries, and other pieces. It's a difficult book to get a reading rhythm going in, as it moves along rather in fits and starts. VanderMeer's writings are, at times, utterly enthralling, although at other times I found the prose plodding and rather dull.

At the very least, every page of this book is imaginative and intriguing. VanderMeer has written into being a richly-textured place that makes for fascinating reading, even if it doesn't exactly lend itself well to thoughts of vacationing there.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Durham's First Folio Returned to UK

The Shakespeare First Folio stolen from Durham University in 1998 and found last July when Raymond Scott took it to the Folger for authentication, is back home in Durham, British media report. The book was flown to England this morning, where university librarians and police detectives were waiting to receive it. Police detective Mick Callan told reporters "The book will now be held in secure and controlled conditions while our inquiries into this matter continue." Scott remains free on bail.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

On Leo Lemay

J.A. Leo Lemay, Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Professor of English at the University of Delaware, died on 15 October. He was 73. Lemay was a versatile author, whose books included Robert Bolling Woos Anne Miller, The American Dream of Captain John Smith, Did Pocahontas Save Captain John Smith?, "New England's Annoyances": America's First Folk Song, A Calendar of American Poetry in the Colonial Newspapers and Magazines and in the Major English Magazines Through 1765, Men of Letters in Colonial Maryland, and the first three of a projected seven volumes of a literary biography of Benjamin Franklin (the third volume of which was published earlier this month). He also edited the Library of America's great two-volume collection of Franklin's writings.

Even beyond the books, Lemay's Franklin website is well known as a tremendously useful resource about Franklin's life.

Lemay was a key figure in the development of the field of early American studies, and was very much involved with the creation of the excellent journal Early American Literature and the formation of the Society of Early Americanists.

The SEA has set up a page of testimonials by way of memorial to Professor Lemay, and the University of Delaware also has posted a memorial page.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Czar's Book Returned to Russia

An 1889 book from the library of Czar Alexander III has been returned to Russia after it appeared on a U.S. auction site, according to Russian media reports. The book - a catalog of the art collections in the Imperial Hermitage - went missing from the Gatchinsky Palace Museum during WWII. A ceremony was held today at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, where the Ambassador presented the book to Russian officials.

Ousted BPL Head Albany-Bound

Former Boston Public Library director Bernie Margolis has been appointed New York's state librarian, the Boston Globe reports today. Margolis was confirmed yesterday by the State Board of Regents.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Some New Historical Libraries

I've added some new Legacy Libraries to the list over the past couple of weeks, as we move forward with plans to really kick off a major new effort:

- Henry Lee (1691-1747), a Virginia planter. Henry was the brother of Virginia governor Thomas Lee (of Stratford) and the grandfather of Revolutionary War general "Light-Horse Harry" Lee. His wife, Mary Bland, was the daughter of Richard Bland and Elizabeth Randolph (a great-aunt of Thomas Jefferson). His small library is known from an inventory included with his will.

- Lady Jean Skipwith, (1748-1826), the most prolific female book collector in colonial Virginia (and quite possibly in all of America). The self-educated daughter of Hugh Miller and Jane Bolling Miller, Lady Jean married Sir Peyton Skipwith at age forty, but outlived him by more than two decades. Her comparatively large collection includes many novels, including important works of gothic literature. She also collected heavily in the areas of travel and history. Her collection is held partly by descendants, with significant portions at the Skipwith plantation, Prestwould, and at the College of William and Mary.

- Hans Peter Gyllembourg Koch (1844-1918), a Danish emigrant to America and collector of books pertaining to the American West and exploration. Koch was a founder of Bozeman, MT's first public library, and was active in the formation of Montana Historical Society and Montana State University.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Book Review: "Dry Storeroom No. 1"

I would not have expected any book titled Dry Storeroom No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum (Knopf, 2008) to send me into contortions of laughter. Maybe that's why I enjoyed it so well. In this volume, retired paleontologist (aka Tribolite Man) Richard Fortey takes us on an across-the-centuries, behind-the-galleries tour of London's Natural History Museum in a way that only a true insider could do. Fortey's affection and respect for the institution where he spent his career are in evidence from the first page to the last, but those feelings are, thankfully, augmented by a healthy scientific skepticism of the "official history" and a twinkly-eyed admiration for a good bit of gossip.

The reader first accompanies Fortey on a ramble through the museum's back channels, where we visit the various scientific departments and learn something of not only their functions but also of those who have performed the functions over the decades, true characters most. Fortey is almost never at a loss for an amusing aside about one famed scientist or another, from the fellow who catalogued bits of used string (by size, of course) and kept them in file boxes around his office to the curator who nearly bowled over the Director and King George VI while running to a water fountain in order to quench a burning pan of sausages he'd been clandestinely cooking over his bunsen burner. A riff on scientists who seemed to bear uncanny resemblances to their chosen subjects of study had me in stitches, as did several of Fortey's paragraph-ending one-liners and picture captions.

Fortey displays a remarkable ease with his subjects, writing as lucidly about his trilobites as about birds, minerals, skeletons, museum administration, and literature (he compares the Museum itself to Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast, for example, and draws ably on other great literary figures from Poe to Dryden to T. S. Eliot).

For all its humor, Fortey's book is also a paean to the value of scientific research and museum scholarship, which he sees slipping away in these days of branding, financial strife and obsession with bells and whistles rather than the hard slog of careful research. He's quite right to sound that alarm, of course, and I hope his clarion call is heard loud and clear by those with the power to do something about it.

Every institution of a certain age has its share of past (and usually current) characters; and each one deserves a book like this to share them with the rest of us.

Book Review: "The Pale Blue Eye"

Louis Bayard's The Pale Blue Eye (HarperCollins, 2006) is a detective story much like Poe's own, but instead of being authored by Poe, this one features him as a major character. Cadets are being murdered at West Point, and their fellow-cadet Poe joins forces with a washed-up (but quite skilled) old constable (that would be one Gus Landor) brought in by Point commanders to solve the case before more cadets meet an early and quite grisly end.

Bayard's grasp of language, expertly displayed in Mr. Timothy and in his more recent The Black Tower, is put to excellent use here as well; he captures mid-19th century lingo quite nicely. The characters, while a bit boilerplate at times, are mostly well-drawn and believable. Bayard tries perhaps a bit too hard with his portrayal of Poe, which I found a bit too 'deep' at times.

The plot carries the characters along very well, with enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing until the last pages. One of my criteria for declaring a mystery story good is if I haven't figured out the ending before I get there, and I wasn't even close with this one. Another of those criteria is that I don't roll my eyes at the final, unexpected plot twist, and I didn't have cause to do that this time either (the last twist of the knife is just too sad for any such response).

A good read. Poe would be proud.

Links & Reviews

This was a busy week, both for me and for biblio-news.

- This week marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of Noah Webster, which was celebrated with a symposium at Yale.

- LT passed a major milestone this week; it now contains more individual records than the Library of Congress (some 32.2 million). Abby notes: "The fun of LibraryThing isn't just in the widely held books, it's in those that are shared by only 10 or 20 other members. It's easy to find someone who has read The Hobbit. Finding someone to discuss your more obscure books isn't quite so simple. But on LibraryThing, you can. There are 8 members who list The National Uncanny: Indian Ghosts and American Subjects—8 members who can find each other and have a common interest. The "long tail" of LibraryThing is long indeed."

- Speaking of LT, Tim delivered a keynote speech at the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) forum in Cincinnati on Friday. Some reaction at LITA Blog, Wake Up Little Susie, Library Geek Woes, AL's Inside Scoop, eclectic librarian).

- ALA announced this week that issues of American Libraries dating back to 2003 will now be freely available to all, and that non-ALA members will be able to subscribe to AL's weekly newsletter, "American Libraries Direct." Good news indeed.

- The Boston Globe reports on an auction today of a 1786 edition of Nicholas Pike's Arithmetic, plus a three-page letter by George Washington commending the work. Other materials to be sold today include Pike's journal.

- In the New Yorker, Louis Menand comments on text-messaging. He writes "The texting function of the cell phone ought to have been the special province of the kind of people who figure out how to use the television remote to turn on the toaster: it’s a huge amount of trouble relative to the results." It's true. Since I refuse to use abbreviations, it can take me eons to type a text message. Menand takes issue with linguist David Crystal's conclusions that texting isn't a serious threat to the language as we know it, but closes his own essay by saying "Once the numeric keypad is replaced by the QWERTY keyboard on most mobile messaging devices, and once the capacity of those devices increases, we are likely to see far fewer initialisms and pictograms. Discourse will migrate back up toward the level of e-mail."

- The Library of Congress has pulled out of the bidding process for the collections of the Lincoln Museum (Fort Wayne, IN). Several finalists are believed to remain, and a winner should be announced by the end of the year.

- Joyce passes along a dispatch from Maud Newton, who attended the celebration for the 80th anniversary of the Oxford English Dictionary. More on the celebrations here.

- And via fade theory, an interview with Alberto Manguel from a Turkish newspaper.

- Denning McTague was released from jail on 15 September, having served just over twelve months of a 15-month term.

- The BL announced a £500,000 purchase of the literary archive of Ted Hughes, in more than two hundred boxes. Cataloguers expect to have the collection available by the end of 2009.

- Via LISNews, word that some of the libraries involved with the Google Books Project are pooling their resources to create a backup digital library. "One of the most important functions of the project, say its leaders, ... is to create a stable backup of the digital books should Google go bankrupt or lose interest in the book-searching business." Not a bad plan by any means.

- For The Guardian, David Garnett asks "Which are the best books that never existed?" Be sure to read the comments as well, some of which are excellent.

- Paul Collins has discovered a Canadian book-town: Sidney, British Columbia (with eleven bookshops in a five-block area). Sounds awfully pleasant to me!

- Everybody and their brother has already blogged about it, so I'll just make a quick link to the Wired piece on Jay Walker's amazing personal library (which is absolutely amazing).

- Also in the New Yorker, Jill Lepore has a fascinating look at presidential campaign biographies, with a special focus on those written for Andrew Jackson (this was what prompted me to pick up that 1828 edition of Eaton's Memoirs of Andrew Jackson from the Brattle yesterday).


- The Little Professor reviews the premiere episode of NBC's new series "Crusoe." I didn't watch on Friday night, but the episode is on Hulu now, so I'll probably take a look at it soon. My expectations couldn't be much lower.

- Kathryn Shevelow reviews Lisa Jardine's new book, Going Dutch: How England Plundered Holland's Glory in the Washington Post.

- Also in the Post, Maureen Corrigan reviews Fernando Báez's A Universal History of the Destruction of Books and Larry McMurtry's Books. And boy does she take the pair of authors to task: these two books taken together, she writes, "deliver a one-two punch of New Age mysticism and cowboy cornpone that just about decks any viable defense of bibliophilia." The former she calls a "migraine-trigger," and of McMurtry, she says "For a guy who's made a tidy living by storytelling, he can barely be bothered to exhale a narrative: Chapters run three pages long -- or fewer -- and the plotline of his reminiscences about booksellers he's known and customers he's served simply evaporates like spittle on a hot coal."

- In the Boston Globe, Nigel Hamilton reviews Kathleen Burk's Old World, New World: Great Britain and America from the Beginning.

- At Reading Archives, Bernadette Callery reviews Christine Guth's Longfellow's Tattoos.

- The fourth volume of Arturo Perez-Reverte's Captain Alatriste series, The King's Gold, has now been published in English. Anna Mundow has a review in the Washington Post.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

This Week's Acquisitions

A few new titles this week (a couple of which I'll explain tomorrow):

- Champlain's Dream by David Hackett Fischer (Simon & Schuster, 2008). Simon & Schuster.

Memoirs of Andrew Jackson, Late Major-General and Commander in Chief of the Southern Division of the Army of the United States by John Henry Eaton (Boston: Charles Ewer, 1828). Brattle.

A World of Letters: Yale University Press, 1908-2008 by Nicholas A. Basbanes (Yale University Press, 2008). Brattle.

The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army by Paul Douglas Lockhart (Collins, 2008). Brattle.

Men of Letters in Colonial Maryland by J. A. Leo Lemay (University of Tennessee Press, 1972). Brattle.

Early American Literature and Culture: Essays Honoring Harrison T. Meserole; edited by Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola (University of Delaware Press, 1992). Brattle.

- The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century by John Brewer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997). Commonwealth.

- Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach (W.W. Norton, 2006). Commonwealth.

Seven XVIIIth Century Bibliographies by Iolo Aneurin Williams (Burt Franklin, 1968). Commonwealth.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Oak Knoll's Annual Fall Sale

I know, I know, I've been slacking around here. Too much time, too little to do, &c. I'll have more to say again soon.

In the meantime, Oak Knoll's got a great fall sale up today, with 547 titles available. If you buy 1-4 books, you'll get 20% off; for 5-25 books, the discount increases to 40%.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

National Book Award Finalists

The finalists for the 2008 National Book Awards have been announced. Winners will be named on 19 November.

The short-listed titles are:

The Lazarus Project, Alexander Hemon
Telex from Cuba, Rachel Kushner
Shadow Country, Peter Mattheissen
Home, Marilynne Robinson
The End, Salvatore Scibona

This Republic of Suffering, Drew Gilpin Faust
The Hemingses of Monticello, Annette Gordon-Reed
The Dark Side, Jane Mayer
Final Salute, Jim Sheeler
The Suicide Index, Jane Wickersham

Watching the Spring Festival, Frank Bidart
Fire to Fire, Mark Doty
Creatures of a Day, Reginald Gibbons
Without Saying, Richard Howard
Blood Dazzler, Patricia Smith

Young Peoples' Lit
Chains, Laurie Halse Anderson
The Underneath, Kathi Appelt
What I Saw and How I Lied, Judy Blundell
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, Emily Lockhart
The Spectacular Now, Tim Tharp

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nope, Not Harvard's Champlain Map

By way of update to yesterday's story, Harvard officials have determined that the 1612 Champlain map scheduled for sale at Sotheby's is not the one missing from their collections. Canwest News Service reports a statement from Harvard spokesperson Beth Brainard saying that curators "have found enough discrepancies to believe that the one for sale is not the one missing from Harvard."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stolen Harvard Map at Sotheby's?

A rare 1612 Champlain map of Canada scheduled to be sold at Sotheby's next month may be the copy missing from Harvard's library, according to news reports. The map, titled "Carte Geographiqve de la Novvelle Franse faictte par le Sievr de Champlain ...," "was the first published map to show Montreal, Lake Champlain and the Great Lakes as a chain of connected waterways." Sotheby's calls it "perhaps the most important single map in the history of Canada." The auction house estimate on the map stands at 30,000-40,000 GBP.

Harvard's copy of the map was discovered missing during the aftermath of the Smiley thefts, and is included in an August 2006 list of missing maps. Smiley did not admit to taking this particular map, but as we know that doesn't necessarily mean he didn't do so. Harvard curators are "comparing the Sotheby's map to a digital image of Houghton's missing map," said a university spokesperson, adding "we may need to send someone to London, to look at the map."

Sotheby's says the map was checked against a database of lost and stolen art before being accepted for sale. Tony Campbell adds "Clearly Sotheby's are unaware of the efforts made to identify and then publicise the maps found missing in those collections visited by Smiley, information brought together by John Woram into a single database. That the large number of those maps still unaccounted for are not also included in the new database, specifically for maps, set up by IAMA, is not for want of urging by Joel Kovarsky, who manages that vital tool in the fight against thefts."

We should know soon enough whether or not this is Harvard's map, provided that they actually do have good digital images of their copy. So, as they say, stay tuned.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Book Review: "Ravens in Winter"

Bernd Heinrich's first book-length investigation into raven behavior, Ravens in Winter (1989) offers an in-depth look not only at a specific scientific question, but also at the process by which wildlife biologists go about answering such questions. Heinrich's curiosity is piqued when he witnesses ravens apparently calling in other, unrelated crowds to feed with them on carcasses. Since this behavior seems to run contrary to 'common sense' (which would mean keeping the food to oneself) and to known behavior among other corvids (jays and crows are not known to recruit), Heinrich sought to find out what he was seeing and why it was happening.

More than five years in the field and countless experiments later, Heinrich thinks he has an answer, the evidence and results for which are laid out in Ravens in Winter. Heinrich also published his findings in a scientific journal, but we lay readers should thank him for sharing them with us in book form (I, for one, am not a casual reader of Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology). By expanding his process, observations and results into a narrative, Heinrich offers a fascinating window into the scientific process, while telling a good story at the same time.

Heinrich's approach to scientific research is somewhat unconventional and extremely personal. He estimates that he hauled several tons of meat into the Maine woods to provide bait for the ravens, for example, and his accounts of nearly freezing to death in the tops of spruce trees where he sat morning after morning waiting for the ravens to come so that he could document the direction they flew in from were painful to read. But he persevered, and after several years had developed a workable model which answered his original question.

If you've ever watched some jays, or a group of crows, you know how fascinatingly bizarre corvid behavior can be. Ravens in Winter is the story of what one very ambitious and interested biologist did to satisfy his curiosity about one aspect of the lives of these intriguing birds.

Links & Reviews

- The Boston Globe has a profile of Jeff Mayersohn, the new owner of Harvard Bookstore.

- Emory University has acquired the papers of journalist and biography Marshall Frady, purchasing the archive for $10,000 (a price called "ridiculously low" by Emory's library director). The papers went to auction after being seized from Frady's widow by the IRS. The only other bidder was Frady's alma mater, Furman University.

- This week's issue of The Onion (a reprint of their issue from 6 October 1783), is very amusing. [h/t Steamboats]

- BibliOdyssey has images of alchemical laboratories.

- Back in March I noted an effort to get Moby-Dick declared the "official book" of Massachusetts, which I thought then was a little ridiculous. Well, of course the legislature doesn't have anything better to do, so they've continued to discuss the issue. On Thursday the state House passed a bill that would make the novel the state's official "epic novel," rather than "official book," after objections were raised by legislators from Salem and Concord. The representative from Concord, in fact, said of the Moby-Dick plan "I am appalled! What about Louisa May Alcott? What about Hawthorne? How am I going to face my constituents?" Alright guys, now get back to work.

- From the Poe Wars: Ed commented this week on Poe's death-day (7 October) and on a new bicentennial Poe exhibit at the Philadelphia Free Library.

- Laura has started her book history courses, and offers a web-tutorial on imposition.

- The Unshelved folks have some new "Library" gear.

- Various parties involved with the potential sale of rare books from the Cardiff library system have found "a way forward," the BBC reports. Representatives from the "Cardiff council, Cardiff University, the National Library of Wales and Glamorgan Record Office" had what is being described as a "positive meeting" this week and said in a joint statement that they had "agreed that they would work together to identify which items from the collection should be recommended to be retained in Wales." More discussions are planned.

- Sarah Vowell was on NPR this week to discuss The Wordy Shipmates.

- In the October/November Policy Review, Peter Berkowitz comments on the contemporary relevance of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan. [h/t Cliopatria]

- Paul Collins notes his New Scientist article on octagonal houses.

- Everett Wilkie sent word to the Ex-Libris list of a rather remarkable replevin case in Pennsylvania, where the state has seized a volume of Eastern State Penitentiary prison records (covering the period 1839-1850) from book dealer Edward Marshall. Marshall had purchased the volume from Freeman's auction house in 1999, beating out bidders from the Penitentiary (which closed in 1970 but is now operated as a historic site). Staff there say that the earlier and later record books are in the collections of the state archives, and that Marshall's volume, having once belonged to the state, remains a state record. Marshall maintains that the book should not have been seized without a warrant and that there is no evidence that it was stolen. I'll keep an eye on this one, since it could make for a very interesting case.

- Ian offers up some good book curses, and he's also got some dispatches from the Seattle Book Fair.

- Melanie Battoe, the director of the Guernsey Memorial Library in Norwich, NY (who found herself in some serious hot water this summer after a state audit revealed more than $15,000 worth of improper purchases with library funds) has resigned. Battoe's resignation will take effect 30 November, until which time Battoe will remain on paid administrative leave.


- Simon Schama has another book out. The American Future: A History is reviewed by Raymond Seitz for The Telegraph. The book accompanies Schama's new BBC series about America, and Seitz sees the book more of a performance piece than series history: "One glides through this book because Schama undeniably writes with colour and verve, but he also leaves the impression that he wishes to be the Pavarotti of historians, when in fact he seems more like the Barry Manilow ('You don't love me half as much as I do'). There is some excellent history here, but it struggles to escape from the stylistic vanity."

- Evelyn Lord's The Hell-Fire Clubs: Sex, Satanism and Secret Societies is reviewed by Malcolm Gaskill for The Telegraph and in an uncredited short review for The Scotsman.

- For The Telegraph, Jonathan Keates reviews Tim Birkhead's The Wisdom of Birds, a history of British ornithology and birding.

- John Demos' The Enemy Within is reviewed by Germaine Greer in the NYTimes. She's not a fan.

- Marc Lambert reviews Richard Holmes' The Age of Wonder for The Scotsman. Holmes also talks to Guy Dammann for The Guardian Online.

- The Economist contains an unsigned review of Timothy Ryback's Hitler's Private Library.

This Week's Acquisitions

A few things arrived this week: some review copies, an Amazon order, plus a book or two from the Cambridge shops since I made the rounds there last night before the Sarah Vowell reading.

- The Shipwreck That Saved Jamestown: The Sea Venture Castaways and the Fate of America by Lorri Glover and Daniel Blake Smith (Henry Holt, 2008). Henry Holt.

- Once Again to Zelda: The Stories Behind Literature's Most Intriguing Dedications by Marlene Wagman-Geller (Perigree, 2008). Bantam.

The Mind of a Patriot: Patrick Henry and the World of Ideas by Kevin J. Hayes (University of Virginia Press, 2008). Amazon.

An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue by Francis Hutcheson (Liberty Fund, 2008). Liberty Fund (this is a revised edition of their earlier version of this work, so they sent it to their standing order customers for free).

City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer (Bantam, 2006). Amazon.

- A Concise History of Ornithology by Michael Walters (Yale University Press, 2005). Harvard Bookstore.

Leon Battista Alberti: Master Builder of the Italian Renaissance by Anthony Grafton (Harvard University Press, 2002). Raven.

- The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell (Riverhead, 2008). Borders. A non-ARC copy, now inscribed by the author.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Raymond Scott Speaks Again

Accused First Folio thief Raymond Scott is giving interviews again, for the first time since late July. He tells the Journal Live that he wants his day in court to clear his name. Scott still hasn't been officially charged with anything related to the theft or possession of Durham University's First Folio, which was recovered this summer after Scott brought it to the Folger Shakespeare Library for authentication.

Scott now says that the Cuban family who supposedly owned the Folio (and gave it to him to take to Washington for study) has had the book in their possession since 1877. For the first time that I've seen in print, First Folio census-taker Dr. Anthony James West weighs in, saying "When the Folger Library got in touch with me the information they sent was highly supportive of the fact that it was the Durham copy, but not proof. I looked at the Durham copy in 1994, four years before it was stolen. When it was stolen, I wrote to Durham University with a description of their copy. When the disputed copy turned up at the Folger library in Washington, they used my consensus [presumably census] to try to identify it. From what the Folger Library have told me, I’m getting more and more close to the conviction that it may be the Durham copy."

Police say the investigation into the theft is still ongoing.

Interestingly, the article continues to misstate the approximate value of the First Folio at £15m (this copy is probably worth less than a tenth of that at this point).

Thursday, October 09, 2008

New Common-place Out

A special all-politics issue of Common-place is out for October. Wonderful stuff, as always.

First-hand Account of (Some) McCarty Thefts

Before Joshua McCarty stole from the Hayes Presidential Center, he stole maps from Ted Canaday's gallery in Harrisburg, PA. He tried to sell some of those maps to George Ritzlin, the owner of Antique Maps & Prints in Evanston, IL. Ritzlin has written a synopsis of his dealings with McCarty, which Tony Campbell has posted here. Recommended reading.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Stolen Books Recovered in Toronto

Several books stolen from the Antiquariat Burgverlag shop in Vienna back in October 2007 have been found in Toronto, the Globe and Mail reports. Two male suspects were questioned last week after they attempted to sell the stolen books to D & E Lake. The suspects emailed the Lakes last month offering four books for sale; the Lakes called authorities and arranged a sting operation. On 2 October, police captured one suspect at the Lakes' shop; the other suspect was apprehended later. "Neil Madill, an investigator on the case described the two would-be sellers, who he refused to name, as 'incredibly naive' and 'stooges' and also heretofore unknown to police. In fact, it's possible, 'pending further investigation with the German [presumably he means Austrian] police,' that neither one will face criminal charges."

Several of the other works stolen from the Vienna shop were recovered earlier in Europe, and the trial of the alleged thief, Helge Braun, began this week in Vienna.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Book Review: "The Hobbit"

I couldn't remember how long it'd been since I last reread The Hobbit in its entirety, so I picked up one of my copies the other day and dived back into Middle Earth. The book is much as I remembered it from my previous reads, although I had quite forgotten how often narrator-Tolkien jumps into the narrative, as if he really were telling the story out loud before bedtime ("now you can understand why ...", "I wish I had time to tell you even a few of the tales or one or two of the songs that they heard in that house, " &c.). I think those asides add something to the tale, creating a subtle intimacy between author and reader that is very rarely carried off so well.

Tolkien's gifts with language and phrases are well-known, of course, but I recognized them more clearly this time than I have before. His descriptions of the spiders' lair in Mirkwood, "like a patch of midnight that had never been cleared away" and of Smaug when Bilbo first makes the dragon's acquaintance are unforgettable. And if Gollum fails to give you a chill, check your pulse. His warm humor (oh, the laments about pocket handkerchiefs!) and sense of drama, too, are what make this book the classic it is.

Thorin's deathbed speech to Bilbo about the nature of war remained so seared into my memory that I when I reached it I could almost recite the whole thing from memory, but still felt myself tearing up at the end.

A wonderful book, no matter how many times you've read it. And perhaps one of the only cases where the movie does its source justice (and, I've just discovered, you can watch the whole thing on YouTube, which is awfully exciting).

Book Review: "The Raven King"

Matthias Corvinus isn't a name that conjures up much of an association for me; in fact, before I picked up Marcus Tanner's The Raven King: Matthias Corvinus and the Fate of his Lost Library (Yale, 2008) I confess I'd never heard of the man. But as king of Hungary from 1458-1490, Matthias accumulated the second-greatest collection of books in Renaissance Europe (the Vatican library claimed the top spot), a collection of such importance that it is included in UNESCO's "Memory of the World" list of important libraries and archives. Just 216 volumes known to be from the Corvinian Library exist today (of what is estimated to have been a collection of c. 2,000 volumes), mostly in Hungarian, Italian and Austrian institutions. Marcus Tanner's book tells Matthias' story, and with it the tale of his library and its contents across the centuries.

Much of this book is a straight-up biography of Matthias, focusing on his political, military, social and intellectual lives. Tanner recreates the tumultuousness of renaissance Hungary with its ethnic, religious and cultural tensions, caught as it was between western Europe, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire. While the library gets an occasional mention during the main body of the text, the books play second fiddle to Matthias until the king's death, when - in the final chapters - Tanner returns to the library. Only then do we learn in any detail about the major subjects covered by the books, where they were created and how, and where they found themselves after Matthias' death. It is this story which was why I picked up the book, and I wish Tanner had told it in more detail.

What Tanner does give us about the library is fascinating, as is his brief tour of other fifteenth century collections. And he cannot be blamed for delving so deeply into Matthias' biography, because it is quite interesting in its own right. Political and military historians will read this book for those details, and enjoy it. I read it wanting to know about the books, and came away feeling mostly, but not entirely, satisfied.

An appendix lists the known Corvinian titles and their current whereabouts, and the notes and bibliography are quite nice.

Book Review: "The Philosopher's Apprentice"

After reading a few less than positive reviews of James Morrow's The Philosopher's Apprentice (William Morrow, 2008) I was a little leery of reading it; I really enjoyed Morrow's previous book (The Last Witchfinder) and didn't want my opinion of him to change. It's true that The Philosopher's Apprentice doesn't rise to the same level as Witchfinder, but I found it a good read just the same. The satire is a bit more rock-to-the-skull obvious this time around, and the plot gets a little bit absurd as the book progresses, but the issues are relevant and, dare I say, timely.

In the opening pages, Mason Ambrose, a would-be philosophy Ph.D. who finds his academic ambitions suddenly consumed in an entirely-self-inflicted conflagration, is offered a job he can't refuse: well-paid tutor to the only child of a reclusive geneticist living on a remote island in the Florida Keys. But, of course, Isla de Sangre isn't what it seems. There's some creepy stuff going on down there, and Mason soon finds out he's not the only tutor on the island, nor is his student the only child. Things just get creepier from there, as Ambrose works to give his strangely-begotten pupil a moral foundation and to discover just what the heck is going on around him.

Steeped in (perhaps even bloated with) philosophical and literary references (at least some of which whooshed over my head like one of Isla de Sangre's flying iguanas), Morrow's book tackles many questions of contemporary ethics, from the origins of life to the whole means justifying ends dilemma. As I said, Morrow doesn't go in for thin veils, so if you're looking for subtle, look elsewhere. But for a fairly amusing and incredibly disturbing book, it suffices.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

This Week's Acquisitions

This might be a record. No new arrivals for a second week in a row.

Off to pick apples today, but I have some reviews to write up when I return so expect those later tonight or tomorrow.

Lorello Sentenced

When it rains, it pours. Daniel Lorello, former employee at the New York State Archives who entered a guilty plea back in August for the theft and sale of items from the State Library, received his sentence on Thursday.

The Schenectady Gazette reports that he'll serve 2-6 years in prison (sort of a wide range there, isn't it?) plus pay "$129,500 in restitution, to be divided among people who unknowingly bought stolen property from him and later returned it to the state. He must also forfeit his personal collection of historic artifacts and documents, valued at approximately $80,000, to the New York State Library and Archives."

That last provision is a new one to me - I can't recall a time when a defendant was required to give up his entire collection (obtained legally). This must have been part of the plea deal, or a voluntary step taken by Lorello.

The state attorney general's office says that more than 1,600 items stolen by Lorello have been returned to the library.

State Education Commissioner Richard Mills said in a statement: "Access to the historical collections of the nation is a fundamental right in our democracy. When someone steals from those collections, we are all harmed. Fortunately, most of the items stolen by Mr. Lorello have now been recovered." After receiving his sentence, Lorello apologized for his crimes before being led from the courtroom in handcuffs.

Links & Reviews

- After a theft at his bookstore this week, Scott Brown comments on thefts from libraries and bookstores in general. I admire him for his resolution to "stay focused on the honest folks, while keeping in mind that there are people who will steal me blind if given the chance," but I'm afraid it's not enough. Scott adds "Like many shopkeepers, a lot of librarians feel under pressure to improve security. But I think we have to be cognizant that many efforts to deter theft also deter legitimate visitors. The safest store or library is one that allows no one inside."

While I deplore thefts from bookstores just as strongly as I do those from libraries, they are two very different things. Librarians have a mandate, a responsibility, to make the books and manuscripts in our care available to not only today's researchers, but to tomorrow's as well. If any theft-prevention measures deter legitimate visitors, that's their problem. I've been to no library (or bookstore, for that matter) where security measures are anything but understandable and minimally burdensome (and we've seen too many examples lately where the security was far, far, far too lax).

- Robert and Michelle Wilhelm have donated their collection of books relating to Greek and Roman history, language and literature to St. Michael's College, the Burlington Free Press reports. The 4,000 books were appraised at $207,000.

- The Mississippi Museum of Art's fall exhibit is "John James Audubon: American Artist and Naturalist." The exhibit will run through 4 January 2009, and includes sixty-four images from the Birds of America, plus "rare books, photographs, and other personal items belonging to the artist" from the collections of the Audubon Museum in Henderson, KY.

- Over at the Huntington Library, the exhibit is "Darwin's Garden: An Evolutionary Adventure," which was first showed at the New York Botanical Garden. The show runs there through 5 January.

- More on the Poe Wars from Ed, who's really looking forward to the Great Poe Debate coming up in January.

- Paul Collins points out some of the excellent Palin-linguistics humor which appeared this week. And Michael has a pretty amusing rare book joke.

- The ex-wife of murdered book collector Rolland Comstock wants the civil suit for wrongful death against her dismissed. A report in the Springfield News-Leader notes: "In documents filed with the Greene County Circuit Court on Thursday, Alberta Comstock claims a wrongful death suit filed against her in July lacks sufficient facts for the case to be considered." Another motion requests that Faith Stocker (Comstock's daughter, who filed the wrongful death suit), file a "more detailed pleading." Attorneys for Stocker and Alberta Comstock will argue their case before a court in the weeks to come. Police investigators also say that their investigation into Comstock's murder is "nearing finality."

- Ian at Lux Mentis, Lux Orbis has a great literary poem, "The Book of my Enemy Has Been Remaindered".

Book Reviews

- Eric Foner reviews Annette Gordon-Reed's The Hemingses of Monticello for the NYTimes.

- Rick Ring reviews Donald C. O'Brien's Amos Doolittle: Engraver of the Early Republic at Notes for Bibliophiles (it will also appear in College & Research Libraries).

- For The Scotsman, Andrew Crumey reviews Richard Holmes' The Age of Wonder.

- Andrew McKie reviews Neal Stephenson's Anathem for The Telegraph.

- Justin Marozzi's The Man Who Invented History: Travels with Herodotus is reviewed by Allan Massie in The Scotsman.

Indictment Filed in Hayes Library Thefts

Federal indictments have been filed against Joshua McCarty, 31, and Zachary Scranton, 21, for the theft of the Freeman and Maxwell Codes from the Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, OH. Now the case heads to a grand jury, unless a plea deal is struck before things get that far.

No word on whether the third participant, 19-year old Angela Bays, was also indicted.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Auction Report: Sotheby's

Sotheby's London held the twelfth sale of books from the Earl of Macclesfield's library this morning. This sale, Continental Books and Manuscripts, consisted of 532 lots, and the total realized was a very respectable 1,851,672 GBP. The results list is here.

The big kahunas from this sale were:

- A first edition of Robert Gaguin's Les Grandes Chroniques (1514), printed on vellum with fourteen illuminated woodcut illustrations. This copy, one of three known on vellum, was from the collection of Nicolas-Joseph Foucault. It sold for 109,250 GBP.

- The first issue of Aldus' edition of Theocritus (1495/6) in a c. 1570 amazingly ornate French binding, from the Laubespine-Villeroy Library. This was estimated at 30,000-40,000 GBP, but it made a whopping 163,250 GBP.

Harvard Book Store Under New Ownership

One of best independent bookstores in the Boston area (or, I would venture to say, anywhere), Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, has been purchased by Jeff Mayersohn and his wife, Linda Seamonson. Shelf Awareness reports that "Frank Kramer, who has owned the business, founded by his father in 1932, for 46 years, will act as a consultant, and Carole Horne continues as general manager."

Mayersohn, a tech-company exec, says he's been a customer at Harvard Book Store for more than thirty years, and added in a statement "I'm overwhelmed and elated by this opportunity. My wife and I have wanted to own a bookstore for many years--I never imagined that it could be Harvard Book Store." Kramer said of the purchase "Jeff is both a book lover and a businessman who has a tangible affection for Harvard Book Store. When I met him, I liked him immediately. And when I found out that he and his family plan their vacations around the locations of great independent bookstores, I liked him even more."

All the best of luck to Jeff and Linda as they jump into this new venture. I think I speak for all of HBS' customers and friends when I express me sincere hope that it stays around for many, many years.

Eggers on Reading

For Esquire, Dave Eggers comments on the future of reading, especially reading by young people. He writes "When we assume, as most adults do, that kids are less literate, less interested in books, than ever before, it involves a willful kind of ignorance, and it imperils how we educate young people."

He adds: "The primary problem is that we look for gloomy statistics. Last year the National Endowment for the Arts issued a study that proclaimed that leisure reading was down overall, especially among the young. The study was much talked about, and again, much accepted. But soon a group of educators began to question the methods of the study, and the parsing of the results. Now, thankfully, the study is taken with a grain of salt.

I'll always oppose any statistical extrapolations that summarize the intellectual disposition of an entire generation. These 'it's worse now than before' studies are always framed to imply that the teens' parents, at the same age, read more. And that their grandparents, well, they read their asses off. But this is simply not true. Far more Americans are educated now than they were 100 years ago, and infinitely more go to college. As a result, there is now a pool of potential readers that is far larger than it was a century ago."

Eggers is right, of course, and his conclusion is spot on: "Books, inherently, require faith. Faith in an author that he or she will reward the many hours you'll spend in those pages, faith that a good story will be told, a lesson will be learned, a light will be shone upon a dim corner of the world. If you're reading this magazine, with its vast and rich history of literary achievement, you're alive to the pleasures of reading--for school or for no good reason at all. Now you have to give teenagers the benefit of the doubt, that they know what you know, that they do read and will read, that they will keep books alive, as alive as ever--that they will continue to pull the books from the shelves and add to those shelves books of their own."

I've said it here before, and I'll probably say it again: awaken people to reading, and they will read. Don't shove it down their throats, just make it available. Don't discourage anyone from reading anything they choose. Hand-wringing and lamentation rarely helps anything, but gentle encouragement and hard work usually work pretty well.