Sunday, November 30, 2008

Book Review: "Uncollected Stories"

Iin 1982, Doubleday released an edition of Arthur Conan Doyle short stories collected by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green as The Unknown Conan Doyle: Collected Stories. These thirty-three pieces are a hodgepodge of Conan Doyle's writings, with the majority of them dating from the early years of his career. Some of them have been collected since in other compilation volumes, but others of them I read for the first time here. They range widely in tone, topic and genre, which makes this volume a good one for dipping into when in need of a quick Conan Doyle fix.

The stories are preceded by a lengthy introduction by the editors which provides the publication history of each (sometimes quite complicated) with additional commentary.

There's a little something for everyone here, from tales of the dusty outback to very funny satires, cases of mistaken identity, and counterfactual histories.

MA Laws to be Digitized

From the latest issue of College & Research Libraries News comes word that the the State Library of Massachusetts and the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston will join forces to scan more than 250,000 pages of Massachusetts session laws from 1620 to the present. Scanning will be done at the BPL's Northeast Regional Scanning Center. The project, sponsored by the Sloan Foundation and the Boston Library Consortium, will get underway this fall.

Book Review: "Spook"

After taking on dead bodies in Stiff, Mary Roach 'tackles the afterlife' in Spook (2005). From reincarnation to séances, ectoplasm to ghostly possession of spell-checkers, Roach visits, researches and often skewers those connected with research into just what it is that happens to us when we die.

I didn't laugh out loud quite as often while reading this as I did with the earlier book, but there were definitely some very humorous moments (usually when Roach expresses her skepticism of the people she's consorting with, many of whom seem a bit, eh, off). Her footnoted asides are also a source of continuing amusement.

Whether it's weighing dying bodies to determine the weight of the soul, or locking people in boxes and exposing them to electromagnetic fields in order to bring on a ghost, Roach's travels and researches make for great stories, and she recounts them well. A good read.

This Week's Acquisitions

Two new items this week:

- The Early American Table: Food and Society in the New World by Trudy Eden (Northern IL University Press, 2008). NIU Press.

Making Headlines: The American Revolution As Seen Through the British Press by Troy Bickham (Northern IL University Press, 2008). NIU Press.

Links & Reviews

- Two upcoming auction catalogues are now online: Bloomsbury New York's 10 December sale of Important Books, Manuscripts, Literature and Americana (in Flash, very snazzy), plus Sotheby's Fine Books and Manuscripts sale for 11 December. These are both going to be really interesting sales to watch: I'll post some highlights from each soon. The Bloomsbury sale, remember, is where we'll see that unpublished Poe manuscript.

- An update in the Rolland Comstock case: the murdered book collector's ex-wife wants the wrongful death suit filed against her by Comstock's daughter delayed until criminal charges are filed. Greene County Chief Deputy Jim Arnott said prosecutors "have at least one suspect in the case, but are still fine-tuning a final report." A motion hearing related to the civil suit is scheduled for 8 January 2009.

- In the NYTimes, Laura Miller has a nice essay on the culling of one's personal library.

- Everyone's already commented on the heavy and expensive new book on Michelangelo's life and work, which weighs 62 pounds and costs $100,000.

- Twenty Penguin authors have shared the lists of the books they plan to give as holiday gifts and the ones they hope to receive. Interesting selections. Authors include Nathaniel Philbrick, Geraldine Brooks, Jasper Fforde, and Khaled Hosseini. [h/t Jacket Copy]

- From the Times Archives Blog, the hilarious "20 Things to do with a Haggis."

- Rob Lopresti, who we all remember for his role in breaking open the Brubaker case, has copies of a list of the 800 books Brubaker stole from libraries across the west. Librarians can request copies of the list by sending a request on library letterhead to Lopresti's attention at Wilson Library, Western Washington University; Bellingham, WA 98225-9103. Please include a self-addressed envelope and postage for 59 cents.

- Peter features the pirated Plath edition he found at the Boston Book Fair.

- Over at Historianness, Rebecca has uploaded the reading list for her course "Readings in North American History, 1500-1800." It's a whopper, but the selections are excellent.

- Chris has a very useful essay, "Researching Your Books: The Importance of Good Bibliographic Skill." Highly recommended.

- Paul Collins looks at some timely (and not-so-timely) book releases.

- The Toronto Centre for the Book is posting podcasts of lectures held there: so far these include Robert Gross on reading in the early republic, and Richard Landon on bibliography and humanities scholarship.

- Tim's seeking the ultimate LCSH insult.

- Rare Book Review notes that the Morgan Library will be displaying the manuscript copy of Milton's Paradise Lost through 4 January 2009.

- Laura's got some photos up of her adventures across the pond.

- The end-of-year list season is upon us. The Telegraph highlights biography and history; the NYTimes has Notable Children's Books plus the 100 Notable Books of 2008 (of which I have read exactly two). The Times has its Books of the Year 2008 list up.


- David Liss' The Whiskey Rebels is reviewed by Kevin Baker in the Washington Post.

- Virginia Heffernen reviews Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates in the NYTimes.

- Also in the Times, David Gates reviews Toni Morrison's new novel, A Mercy.

- Richard Cox comments on Lawrence Lessig's new book Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy.

- Rick Ring reviews Sheila Markham's A Book of Booksellers: Conversations with the Antiquarian Book Trade.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On Turkeys & Travel

If you've ever wondered how the turkey got its name, Larry Tise's "Why Is Our Thanksgiving Bird Called a Turkey?" is your recommended reading for today. Even if you haven't ever wondered, it's a fascinating story.

I'm headed off for a few days at home with family and food and all that good stuff, so I probably won't post very often (if at all) until Sunday. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

(P.S. My travel reading will consist of some random recent articles, plus Mary Roach's Spook and Susan Jacoby's The Age of American Unreason).

Forged Documents Found in Britain's National Archives

Gregory Katz has a short piece up on the Smithsonian website about the discovery of forged WWII documents in the collections of Britain's National Archives. This story seems to have made very little splash in the American press, so I'm glad to know of it, even if rather belatedly.

The documents, which suggest (strongly) that the British government had a role in the assassination of Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler and had engaged in secret peace negotiations with Hitler, were used by author Martin Allen, who wrote at least three books which relied on the documents (Himmler's Secret War, The Hitler-Hess Deception, and Hidden Agenda: How the Duke of Windsor Betrayed the Allies). After journalists and historians questioned the authenticity of the pieces, Archives experts identified 29 forged documents, and Scotland Yard began a criminal investigation into the matter.

All was proceeding apace until May, when prosecutors announced that they had a suspect but were declining to file charges because the suspect was ill. Solicitor-general Vera Baird told an MP that the suspect was, in fact, Martin Allen, but that while the government had "sufficient evidence" for a conviction, "there were a number of public interest factors against a prosecution, which outweighed those in favor." Allen has not been charged, and maintains his innocence.

Scholars and a spokesman for the National Archives have argued that a trial, or at least a public report on the crime, is necessary.

Read the whole story, it's quite good.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Book Review: "Defying Empire"

In his new book Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York (Yale University Press), Thomas Truxes recounts a little-known but wonderfully complicated and dramatic aspect of the Seven Years' War: an illicit and illegal trade between American merchants and French colonial ports (mostly in the Caribbean). Vessels from many American ports were involved with the trade, Truxes writes, but he concentrates on New York for the purposes of this book, as that city was at the center of this fascinating web of trade.

In the early years of the war, Truxes argues, a combination of good rewards for informers and stiff penalties for those caught trading illegally failed to amount to much, since there was little enforcement mechanism in place and the New York political and commercial communities were so intertwined as to make any prosecutions unlikely. Through the summer of 1755, merchants blatantly continued trading runs to French settlements in Cape Breton; when that became untenable they switched to indirect trade, hauling supplies of produce and other goods to Dutch or Danish outposts in the Caribbean (St. Eustatius and Curaçao being the primary locations) which would later be shipped on to the French in exchange for sugar and other French products.

After passage of the Flour Act, which took effect in July 1757 and banned the export of foodstuffs from colonial ports, New York's merchants got tricky. They obtained customs permits for other ports along the eastern seaboard (preferably ones with amiable customs officials, like New London or Perth Amboy), checked in there, and then continued on to Monte Cristi, a Spanish (and, thus, neutral) port on Hispaniola just a few miles from French St. Domingue (Haiti). When the British government wised up to that, the shippers tried some even more devious tactics, like obtaining flags of truce (ostensibly to transport prisoners for exchange), or arranging for "collusive captures" (in which a friendly privateer would 'capture' a New York ship returning from a French port so that customs authorities couldn't seize the cargo).

By late 1759, British officials begin a crackdown on the illegal trade, ending the practice of granting flags of truce, interdicting American ships laden with French goods on their way out of port, and rounding up suspected French agents in American cities. By early 1762, military officials manage to stamp out the trade to a large extent, and New York's attorney general arranges for the arraignment of 18 merchants for violations of trade laws. He wins just one conviction though, and the sentences for that end up being sharply reduced on appeal. The merchants, and their crews, stick together, and manage to keep most of their cash.

Truxes writes scholarly history with a fine narrative flair, adding to the story some fascinating asides about the practice of flag-trucing: one lieutenant-governor of Pennsylvania, William Denny (who Truxes calls "a model for corrupt politicians everywhere"), took to selling these by the dozen, profiting hugely from the practice; in another case, a pair of captains who were supposed to have French prisoners to exchange couldn't find any, so they hired French-speaking impersonators instead). There is also a wonderful section about the treatment of George Spencer, an informer against several New York merchants who was nearly killed by a mob, jailed for more than a year, and then so badly outmaneuvered by the merchants and their witnesses in court that his reputation was damaged still further. (A few years later, in England, the tin-eared Spencer suggested that a tax on tea "will greatly appease the clamor of those people.") The characters Truxes introduces us to, from Spencer to the wily merchant Waddell Cunningham and the erstwhile prosecutor John Tabor Kempe, may not be household names, but that in some ways makes them much more interesting and enjoyable to read about.

In his final chapter, Truxes puts the crackdown on illegal trade into the context of the post-1763 "reforms" which precipitated the Revolutionary crisis, combining as they did British "disdain" with American "distrust" (a formulation I quite like). Following the text, Truxes provides a detailed chronology of the illegal trade, a useful dramatis personae, a glossary of terms and a chart of relevant statutes. The endnotes are quite nice, although a full bibliography would have been welcome.

There are minor errors (one unfortunate one comes in the very last line of the book, where Truxes says that Elbridge Gerry signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, of course, but refused to sign the final product), but they are of minimal impact. The book as a whole is a delight to read, and I would be most interested to see a larger study of other American ports and their role in defying the empire.

CSMonitor Turns 100

Happy centennial to the Christian Science Monitor, which debuted on this day back in 1908. They've got a nice package of centennial-related features, which begins here. There's also a photo gallery. CSM Librarian Leigh Montgomery wrote on Ex-Libris this morning, "Our library staff made use of a substantial amount of archival material to contribute to this section; I am most grateful that so many photos, objects, and pieces of information were catalogued and retained by the archivists and librarians of this organization and other institutions."

In other news, the Monitor recently announced that it will cease daily publication of its print newspaper in favor of a weekly print edition and a web-only daily. The changeover is scheduled for April 2009.

Crusoe Collection to Emory

Robert and Miriam Lovett have donated their Robinson Crusoe collection to the Manuscript Archives and Rare Book Library at Emory University, the student newspaper reports. The Lovetts spent a quarter century gathering the 699 editions of Daniel Defoe's classic work, and the collection includes not only a first edition but several other rare editions (in some cases, the Lovett copy may be unique).

Plans are in the works to digitize the entire collection, and Emory classes are scheduled to use the books beginning next semester.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Book Review: "Declaring Independence"

If there's a Declaration of Independence buff on your holiday shopping list, you might consider a beautiful new book from the University of Virginia Press. Declaring Independence: The Origin and Influence of America's Founding Document (2008), features a selection of excellent full-color images from the Albert H. Small Declaration of Independence Collection at UVa's library, a quartet of essays by notable Declaration scholars, and biographical sketches of the signers.

Edited by Christian Y. Dupont and Peter S. Onuf (who wrote the introduction), the book includes a preface by David McCullough and a short epilogue by retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor. In the essays Pauline Maier and Robert M.S. McDonald examine the question of the Declaration's authorship, Robert G. Parkinson takes a close look at the bill of indictments against the King (the 'meat and potatoes' of the document), and David Armitage discusses the role of the Declaration in subsequent struggles for independence across the world.

The essays are mostly distillations of larger works (Maier's American Scripture; McDonald's articles "Thomas Jefferson's Changing Reputation as Author of the Declaration of Independence" and "Thomas Jefferson and Historical Self-Construction: The Earth Belongs to the Living?"; Armitage's The Declaration of Independence: A Global History), and they serve as decent short introductions to the relevant questions and (hopefully) as a gateway into those more detailed studies. The highlight of Declaring Independence is the gallery of images, which include some of the very rare printings of the Declaration from the period immediately following its adoption as well as some of the elaborate decorative engravings done during later periods.

Exquisitely designed and produced, this book should serve as a long-lasting catalogue of a fascinating collection of Declaration materials.

Book Review: "Champlain's Dream"

David Hackett Fischer's latest great thick book is Champlain's Dream (Simon & Schuster, 2008), not only a full-scale biography of French explorer and colonial advocate Samuel de Champlain but also a detailed history of the first few decades of French settlement in North America, and even quite a bit more besides.

In the first 530 pages of this book, Fischer tells us Champlain's story from beginning to end, starting with a fascinating chapter on his natal region in the middle part of France's west coast during the mid-sixteenth century and proceeding through Champlain's long life as a tireless promoter of French activities in North America. There is much here that I didn't know of Champlain before, including that he made a semi-surreptitious trip to New Spain (1599-1601), that he explored the waters of midcoast Maine as far south as today's Bath (1605), and that he made twenty-seven Atlantic crossings in thirty-seven years (unlike our friend Hakluyt, England's tireless promoter of colonialism, Champlain actually practiced what he preached - no offense intended to Mr. Hakluyt of course).

Fischer is kind to Champlain, but it almost seems like it would be a stretch not to be. The man worked tirelessly to promote French expansionism, but he also worked at very turn to foster and maintain good relations with the Indian tribes of the St. Lawrence valley and beyond (he railed against mistreatment of the native peoples by his fellow European, French or otherwise, and while he did make war against hostile tribes, Fischer argues he did so at the behest of his allies in the interest of bringing about a wider peace - a policy which was quite successful for several decades). Unlike so many colonialists of the period, Champlain diligently studied what had been done before and sought to correct his predecessors' mistakes, so his colonies typically did not suffer the kinds of catastrophic collapses and high mortality rates experienced at other early settlements.

Champlain's political and business dealings in France are also covered in a detailed but integrated fashion, as Fischer guides the reader through the difficult and tumultuous waters of France under Henry IV, Marie de Medici, and Louis XIII. Every time poor Champlain got things going right in Canada, he'd get back to France and find everything on its head - and yet somehow he always managed to set it all to rights again. By the end of his life, a major population explosion had begun in Canada as more families began to emigrate to the settlements and begin to create a culture there.

As is his wont (see his earlier book Albion's Seed), Fischer supplies a chapter on Canadian folkways, examining the dialects, architectures and other aspects of early Québécois and Acadian cultures based on the French regional origins of their residents.

Following the main narrative Fischer has tacked on a whole bunch of interesting bits, all printed in very tiny type. A thirty-five page historiographical essay examines the ups and downs (and now ups again) of Champlain's reputation as recorded by historians (American, European and Canadian), while shorter essays examine certain unresolved questions about Champlain's life and works, including his birthdate, the accuracy of some of his writings, &c.). Finally, other appendices provide useful background, including a chronology of Champlain's travels, short sketches of his superiors and an examination of the Indian nations he dealt with, plus data on the ships, guns, terms of measurement, money and calendars mentioned in the text. And then there are the 110 pages of densely-packed notes, followed by the forty-plus page bibliography, rich with interesting goodies. If it weren't so interesting, it might all seem a bit much - but it works.

A fine book, and almost certainly the biography of Champlain at least for our lifetimes.

Book Review: "Master and Commander"

After enjoying Patrick O'Brian's biography of Joseph Banks this summer, I decided it was time to give his Aubrey-Maturin series another try. The last time I started Master and Commander (probably in middle school), I never got into it and didn't get past the second or third chapter before I gave up. I enjoyed it much more this time around, but I don't think it transformed me into an obsessive O'Brian fan (maybe the next one will).

The book's detailed depiction of Napoleonic naval life is nicely done, and its characters are interesting and memorable. There were moments where I was completely riveted to the text, and when I laughed out loud at some of the shipboard antics. But there were also some stretches where I wished something, anything, would happen (to be fair, I suppose naval life must have had those stretches too). A bit more background would have been useful as well, just by way of setting the stage.

Nonetheless, this volume provides a good, strong opening to the series with an introduction of the characters, particularly the earthy Aubrey and the cerebral, contemplative Maturin. A pity to lose one of the other more interesting folks right at the beginning of the series, but presumably others will take his place.

I can see why these volumes are well-loved by so many, and I will look forward to the second, after a short shore leave.

Links & Reviews

- From BibliOdyssey, a very cool collection of board game images.

- Bookseller Steven Schuyler has an excellent dispatch from the Boston Book Fair over at

- Polish archaeologists have identified the remains of Nicholas Copernicus, partially based on a DNA comparison of bones buried in Frombork Cathedral with hairs taken from a book from Copernicus' collection now at Uppsala University.

- In the Boston Globe, Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow writes on the current debate over whether the Internet is having a "narrowing effect" on scholarly research.

- The BL's Sloane Printed Books catalogue is now (partially) online - basically a Legacy Library done differently. You can't browse? What madness is this?

- Philly's mayor is trying to close 11 branch libraries, and yesterday people took to the streets in protest.

- Richard Cox has an excellent and very timely short essay on books and their future.

- Ian used the new online doohickey Typealyzer to test out a few book-blogs, including this one.

- Friday was Voltaire's birthday, and the NYPL's Jessica Pigza marked the day with a relevant post.

- From Paul Collins, some very cool botanical sample books, a pointer to his Slate piece on mailmen who don't deliver the goods, and a note that his forthcoming book, The Book of William: How Shakespeare's First Folio Conquered the World, is now available for preorder on Amazon. It's set for release in July.

- For the WSJ, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim lists a few rare books on early America.

- The OCLC Wars continue, and Jessamyn points out a very good rundown of the case over at Stefano's Linotype.

- Nina Burleigh was on NPR this week talking about her book on biblical forgeries, Unholy Business.


- In the NYTimes, Steve Jones reviews Bert Hölldobler and E. O. Wilson's new book, The Superorganism.

- In the Washington Post, David Brown has a review and discussion of John Hessler's The Naming of America.

- In the NYRB, Tim Flannery reviews Richard Fortey's Dry Storeroom No. 1. [not full-text online]

Saturday, November 22, 2008

This Week's Acquisitions

Just a few new arrivals this week:

- The Historians’ Paradox: The Study of History in Our Time by Peter Charles Hoffer (NYU Press, 2008). NYU Press.

The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed (W.W. Norton, 2008). B&

Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam by Gordon M. Goldstein (Times Books, 2008). Henry Holt.

The Bible and the People by Lori Anne Ferrell (Yale University Press, 2008). Yale.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Millionaire Accused of Mutilating Books

Lots of coverage about this already but I'll toss in my two cents. Multi-millionaire London book collector Farhad Hakimzadeh has been arrested after it was discovered that he defaced more than 150 books at several British libraries, including the BL and the Bodleian. Hakimzadeh is accused of chopping out plates, maps and illustrations to "improve his personal collection." "He pleaded guilty to ten counts of theft from the British Library and four from the Bodleian relating to books worth £140,000, with 20 offences taken into account," the Daily Mail reports. Hakimzadeh was supposed to be sentenced today, but AFP is reporting that the heading has been postponed until 16 January 2009.

British Library officials discovered the first evidence of defacement in June 2006, and were able to cull patron use records and determine the culprit. Some of the stolen items were discovered in Hakimzadeh's house.

Beyond the guilty plea, the BL is pursuing a civil suit against Hakimzadeh for the vandalism, which occurred mainly in books relating to "Western explorers in Mesopotamia, Persia and the Mogul empire."

Dr. Kristian Jensen, the BL's head of collections, didn't pull any punches, saying of the thefts "These are historic objects which have been damaged forever. You cannot undo what he has done and it has compromised a piece of historical evidence which charts the early engagement of Europeans with what we now know as the Middle East and China. It makes me extremely angry. This is someone who is extremely rich who has damaged and destroyed something that belongs to everybody." [Not that it would have been any more excusable if he'd been poor, but you get the idea]. There's an audio interview with Jensen online here. The Guardian has more coverage, plus a selection of the books damaged.

Ian asks "Is it 'better' that he was doing this for some personal/misplaced intent to 'improve' his personal collection vs. doing it to sell on the secondary market? The psychology is definitely different." I don't think there is a better when it comes to book crime. There's never a good reason.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hemings Book Wins National Book Award

Congratulations to Annette Gordon-Reed, whose The Hemingses of Monticello won the National Book Award for non-fiction, it was announced last night. This one is on my short list of books to read this month, and I'm delighted that it won.

Other winners:

- Peter Matthiessen won the fiction prize for his book Shadow Country.

- Mark Doty's Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems won the poetry award.

- In the young people's literature category, Judy Blundell won for What I Saw and How I Lied.

Full coverage from Motoko Rich at the NYTimes.

[Late Update: GalleyCat has posted an interview with Gordon-Reed. And here's a short YouTube clip of Gordon-Reed talking about the book.]

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

May We Catalog Your Books?

Tim reports that LT's first-ever flash-mob cataloging party, at St. John's Church in Beverly, MA, went swimmingly. I'm delighted to hear it, and was really sorry that I couldn't make it up there for that one since I was busy with book fair business here in Boston. But, this is just the beginning. As Tim says in his post, LT is anxious to organize more of these, and I would be very keen on organizing a similar event for a Legacy Library.

There are any number of house museums, historical societies, and other similar organizations out there that may have great book collections, but lack the resources to create/maintain an online catalog of their holdings. LT works really well for that, and clearly there are plenty of willing volunteers. So, if you've got a collection that we could help with, shoot me an email and I'll see if we can pull something together. Or if you know of a place that might be a good candidate, let me know that too and I'll make contact.

The sky's the limit!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Oh no!

This is very, very sad news. I share Ian's words of optimism, but I too will miss the paper copy. Deep sigh.

Auction Report: Skinner

I didn't make it over there this year, but Skinner's annual Fine Books and Manuscripts sale was held this past Sunday, 15 November. Some highlights:

- A broadside copy of Thomas Jefferson's first inaugural address, printed on silk, sold for $3,851; it was estimated at $600-900.

- The big sellers were two Aubrey Beardsley original illustrations for Oscar Wilde's Salome (1894); one sold for $142,200, and the other for $213,300. Both were estimated at $15,000-20,000. [Update: The higher-selling lot set a new record price for a Beardsley illustration.]

- An ex-lib copy of Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio (1845) made $88,875, not quite meeting its estimate.

- Among the (many) Audubon offerings, the Great Horned Owl was the highest-selling single illustration, making $17,775. A complete first octavo set of the Birds sold for $50,363.

Google Deal Gets Tenative OK

The AP is reporting that federal judge John Sprizzo has given initial approval to the proposed Google/publishers deal. A final hearing is scheduled for June.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Q&A with Lepore and Kamensky

In the Globe today, Samuel Jacobs has a short q&a with historians Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore, whose jointly-written novel Blindspot will be released in December. Since I haven't read the book yet, I will refrain from any comment on it whatsoever ... for the moment.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

This Week's Acquisitions

A few things from a Harvard Square trip last Sunday, plus some copies which arrived this week:

- Sir Joshua Reynolds: The Painter in Society by Richard Wendorf (Harvard University Press, 1998). Raven.

Folded Selves: Colonial New England Writing in the World System by Michelle Burnham (Dartmouth College Press, 2007). Raven.

The Odyssey by Homer (Everyman's Library, 1992). Raven.

Under the Molehill: An Elizabethan Spy Story by John Bossy (Yale University Press, 2001). Raven.

The Gentle Puritan: A Life of Ezra Stiles 1727-1795 by Edmund S. Morgan (W.W. Norton, 1983). Raven.

Post Captain by Patrick O'Brian (W.W. Norton, 1990). Harvard Bookstore.

Soul Made Flesh: The Discovery of the Brain and How It Changed the World by Carl Zimmer (Heineman, 2004). Harvard Bookstore.

Declaring Independence: The Origin and Influence of America's Founding Document; edited by Christian Y. Dupont and Peter S. Onuf (University of Virginia Press, 2008). UVa Press.

Portrait of a Patriot: The Major Political And Legal Papers of Josiah Quincy Junior; edited by Daniel R. Coquillette and Neil Longley York (Colonial Society of MA, 2005). Book cart.

Nathan Hale: The Life and Death of America's First Spy by M. William Phelps (St. Martin's Press, 2008). St. Martin's Press.

Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of Improvement by Alan Houston (Yale University Press, 2008). Yale University Press.

Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York by Thomas M. Truxes (Yale University Press, 2008). Yale University Press.

View from the Floor: Boston Book Fair

Another excellent biblio-weekend in Boston. The 32d annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair attracted a very decent crowd on all three days, and there certainly seemed to be a fair bit of buying going on. I was there for most of the evening on Friday, then through the afternoon on Saturday and again for a couple hours today. The aisles seemed healthily full most of the time, and I heard less dealer-grumbling than usual about the traffic volume.

There were 139 exhibitors this time, about twenty more than usual. That allowed for a wider range of books and dealers; it was nice to see some new and different faces this year along with the old standbys. The offerings were rich and varied, and included some real gems: a Shakespeare Second Folio, some excellent natural history books, a few good maps, a gorgeous copy of John Josselyn's New-England's Rarities, and the usual amazing examples of early Americana from Bill Reese. Those who like the more modern things had lots to choose from as well, (or so I hear).

I didn't buy anything this year, although Ian has a really spectacular first edition of Bibliomania that I'm going to save up my pennies for, and I heard about a nice copy of William Henry Ireland's Confessions (not at the fair) that I have to follow up on.

It was, as always, great to see friends, teachers, and dealers who I only get to see a couple times a year at most, and to make some new connections for next year. All told, a very good weekend, even if a very tiring one.

Links & Reviews

- I'll have a full report from the Boston Book Fair later today, with pictures if I can get my camera to cooperate this time. In the meantime, Ian's sent in several dispatches from the floor already. Also on deck is my post of this week's acquisitions; it's been a busy few days and I haven't gotten them cataloged yet.

- Raymond Scott's in trouble again, and is set to go on trial for the theft of two books worth £50.99 from a Waterstone's bookshop in Gateshead, England. "Appearing at Gateshead Magistrates’ Court on October 30, Mr Scott pleaded not guilty to a single charge of theft on September 25, and the case was adjourned," the Northern Echo reports. Scott was arrested again on 10 November in connection with a "separate alleged theft from a store in Newcastle." (That's just four days after he was arrested for a second time in relation to the Durham Shakespeare Folio). But Scott's not going quietly. The Journal Live reports that Scott staged a one-man protest this week outside the Durham University library, where he held a sign which read "Free the Cuban copy" (he maintains that the Folio he took to the Folger this summer came from Cuba).

- From BibliOdyssey, fish!

- The Ransom Center has acquired a substantial new collection of Ezra Pound materials, including "more than 700 letters, some photographs, a scrapbook and two chess sets." The items come from the collection of Marcella Spann Booth, who was Pound's secretary for a time. They'll be available to researchers next spring.

- Ed welcomes Boston to the Poe Wars.

- Here's an Ottawa Citizen article about the sale of that Champlain map on Thursday.

- Can people out-Google Google? I guess we'll find out. Color me skeptical (for the moment).


- For the Washington Post, Roger Atwood reviews two recent books on looting and forgery: Sharon Waxman's Loot and Nina Burleigh's Unholy Business.

- Glenn Speer reviews Annette Gordon-Reed's The Hemingses of Monticello in the LATimes.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Boston Throws Its Hat into Poe Ring

Was I wrong? Will Boston become the latest combatant in the Poe Wars? If this article in today's Globe is any indication, Ed might have some more competition!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Auction Report: Recent Sales

Today's big story will be the sale of the 1612 Champlain map at Sotheby's: it made £157,250, better than tripling its estimate. This is the one, you'll recall, that turned out not to be Harvard's copy.

Some other highlights from the recent sales:

- At the Swann sale on 11 November, an illuminated book of hours (c. 1450-1500) sold for $15,600. A fifteen century Latin manuscript list of historical figures made $14,400 (it was estimated at $800-1,200, so I wonder if this is an error). A Darwin first of Origin, in not-very-good condition, made $21,600, and a fourth edition of Vesalius' De humani corporis went for $15,600.

- At Bloomsbury London's 30 October sale, a Shakespeare Second Folio made £75,000. A John Harrison pamphlet from 1765 relating to the longitude question made £20,000. A signed association copy of the first edition of Darwin's Expression of the Emotions made £17,000, better than doubling its estimate.

- At Bloomsbury New York's 11 November sale, just 75 of 135 lots sold. The Audubon octavo failed to sell. A third octavo edition made $17,000. The first edition of Lear's Parrots made $85,000. A second issue of Wilson's American Ornithology, with Bonaparte's additions, went for $14,000. And the Orchid Album made $19,500.

- Sotheby's Greece and the Levant sale on 13 November, an 1813 panorama of Constantinople sold for £23,750. A first edition of Bory de Saint-Vincent's Expédition Scientifique de Morée (1832-6) made £56,450. The Duchesse de Berry's copy of Choiseul-Gouffier's Voyage Pittoresque de la Grèce (1782-1822) fetched £106,850. Dupre's Voyage (1825) made £103,250. At the Natural History, Travel, Atlases & Maps sale, David Roberts' The Holy Land (1842-45) sold for £78,050 (and see the Champlain map mentioned at the top).

- Christie's Valuable Manusripts and Printed Books Sale on 12 November saw some biggies: the San Sisto Choirbooks sold for £657,250, and a Blaeu atlas made £169,250.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Longitude Essay a Satire?

In the new TLS Pat Rogers has a fascinating essay, "Longitude Forged," about a 1714 pamphlet by Jeremy Thacker, "The longitudes examin’d. Beginning with a short epistle to the longitudinarians, and Ending with the Description of a smart, pretty machine Of my Own, Which I am (almost) sure will do for the Longitude, and procure me the Twenty Thousand Pounds" (London : printed for J. Roberts, at the Oxford-Arms in Warwick-Lane, [1714]).

This pamphlet, a proposal to win Parliament's £20,000 prize for a successful method to determine longitude at sea, has been taken at face value by historians of the longitude prize, including Dava Sobel (the author of the excellent Longitude). Rogers argues that "Thacker" isn't real, and that the pamphlet is a satire, probably composed by one of the Scriblerians, Dr. John Arbuthnot. Rogers has discovered some key stylistic similarities between the Thacker piece and other Scriblerian essays, and also notes a connection with our old friend Edmund Curll, whose "name appears at the head of four booksellers in a press advertisement on November 9, 1714; and the last leaf of the pamphlet displays announcements for two of his characteristic works on impotence."

I'll look forward to seeing the responses to this piece, and I recommend a full read of it - literary detective work at its best.

Monday, November 10, 2008

More Historical Libraries

I've added a trio of new Early American Libraries to LibraryThing recently:

- Mary Hartford (c. 1792-1872), a free black woman who spent much of her life employed in the household(s) of Rev. Jeremy Belknap and his daughters. Hartford's small library (just six books, mostly religious tracts) was inventoried around 1825 (the inventory survives in the Jeremy Belknap papers at MHS).

- James Murray (1713-1781) and his wife Mary, a Boston loyalist merchant couple who moved to Halifax at the start of the American Revolution. They made a manuscript catalog of their library in 1766, which is in the James Murray papers at MHS. This catalog is notable for its inclusion of marks signifying which books belonged to Mary.

- Cuthbert Ogle (d. 1755), an English musician who moved to Williamsburg, VA in the early part of 1755, advertised that he would be teaching music, and then dropped dead within a month. His collection is one of the few colonial libraries to include specific references to musical works. The library was inventoried at his death by fellow musician Peter Pelham, and several later articles were written about his books. Plus I just kind of like the name.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Links & Reviews

Another big week for book news:

- More fallout from the Google settlement: Harvard libraries have decided, settlement notwithstanding, that Google will still not be allowed to scan their in-copyright books. Their concerns center around questions of how accessible the texts will be and what that access will cost. Harvard's news office said the university would re-evaluate its position over time. Google will still be able to scan out-of-copyright texts at Harvard. Seth Finkelstein comments on the agreement in The Guardian, Carolyn Kelly has more reaction at Jacket Copy, and Charlie at offers a settlement primer.

- J.L. Bell has an excellent post about further discoveries of factual inaccuracies in HBO's "John Adams" series and the problems they cause. I have to admit, even though I have the DVDs, after Adamspalooza this spring, I'm still Adams'ed out. Maybe this winter I'll finally ease my way back in and watch the series.

- The Houghton Library has received a Masonic membership certificate signed by Prince Hall, an early leader of Boston's African-American community and a founder of black Freemasonry.

- The Globe Theatre will receive a massive collection of Shakespeare texts (including copies of the first, second, third and fourth folios) from the collection of John Wolfson. [h/t RBN]

- Laura's working on a project about medieval bestiaries, which promises to be fascinating!

- The Little Professor has some "proposed descriptions for used books, with translations." Quite good. My favorite might be "Gently used: for target practice, but my aim is really quite poor."

- As the debate over OCLC's new user policies grows, Tim's posted a comparison chart showing how the policy has changed from its first iteration to its current form.

- More on Edwardian martial arts from Paul Collins.

- At Inside Higher Ed, Scott McLemee asks a group of "academics, editors, and public intellectuals," what one book they would suggest the president-elect read before inauguration day (some of the responses were submitted before Tuesday so both McCain and Obama are included). The results are here. [h/t Paper Cuts]

- Ed's got a Poe cryptogram for you to test your skills on this week.

- From BibliOdyssey, moths.


- Ira Stoll's Samuel Adams: A Life is reviewed by Jonathan Karl in the Wall Street Journal. In the same paper, Aram Bakshian reviews Paul Lockhart's The Drillmaster of Valley Forge and Seth Lipsky reviews Matthew Goodman's The Sun and the Moon.

- Gordon Campbell and Thomas Corns' new biography John Milton: Life, Work, and Thought is reviewed in The Telegraph.

- John Demos' The Enemy Within is reviewed by Germaine Greer in The Scotsman.

- Hugh Eakin reviews Sharon Waxman's Loot: The Battle Over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World in the NYTimes.

- In the Washington Post, Stephen Prothero reviews Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates, Tony Horwitz reviews David Hackett Fischer's Champlain's Dream, and Dennis Drabelle reviews Donald Worster's A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Next Weekend in Boston

Boston's big biblio-weekend is coming up fast. Are you ready?

- The 32d annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair at the Hynes Convention Center opens on Friday and runs through Sunday afternoon (5-9 on Friday, 12-7 on Saturday, 12-5 on Sunday). They've got a record number of dealers from around the world, plus some scheduled activities. I'll be there Friday evening, most of Saturday and probably at least a little bit of Sunday as well.

- The Boston Book, Print & Ephemera Show runs from 9-4 on Saturday at Boston's Park Plaza Castle. The place to be on Saturday morning before the ABAA show opens.

- Skinner's sale of Fine Books & Manuscripts begins at 11 a.m. on Sunday, and as usual will include some fascinating lots (and lots of Audubons).

- And, if you're outside of Boston and need something to do, or are book-faired out, LibraryThing's hosting a flash-mob cataloging party at St. John's Episcopal Church in Beverly MA starting around 10 on Saturday morning. This promises to be a great time; I'm very sorry I won't be able to make it up there.

This Week's Acquisitions

Nothing new this week. I'm trying to be good. This is me being good.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Auction Report: Upcoming

Skinner's 15 November Fine Books & Manuscripts catalog is now online, here. The sale will include a first octavo edition of Audubon's Birds of America, a copy of Catlin's Indian Portfolio, and many other interesting things.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Scott Re-arrested in Folio Theft

The Telegraph is reporting today that Raymond Scott, the British book dealer connected with the theft and return of the Durham University First Folio, has been arrested again. Durham police told the paper "A 51-year-old man at the centre of the inquiry into the stolen Shakespeare folio was re-arrested today. The move follows the discovery of new evidence by detectives involved in the case. The man was taken to Durham City police station where he is likely to be questioned throughout the day."

Scott's next court appearance is still scheduled for 11 November.

More soon.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Musings

[I'll be back to books tomorrow, I promise. Indulge me one personal note, if you will.]

You'd have thought the Red Sox had won another World Series, or New Year's Eve had come early through some strange fluke of the calendar. At 11 p.m. last night, I opened my apartment's windows to take in the sounds of firecrackers, car horns, cheering and whistling from around the neighborhood. Local t.v. showed a crowd of people making their way into Copley Square and from there to Christian Science Plaza, where many jumped into the reflecting pool and splashed around. But the happy throngs weren't just celebrating in Boston. Similar spontaneous public demonstrations sprang up in cities and towns not just across the country, but around the world, at all times of day and night.

And they weren't just celebrating a sports win, or a calendrical anomaly. They were cheering an event that just a few short months ago seemed unlikely, if not impossible. Barack Obama's decisive win, cemented as it was by the votes of a remarkably broad and deep coalition of voters from every region of the country, was a victory not only for Obama and his supporters, but for all the people of the world who understand that America can be, once again, a source of inspiration and positive leadership.

Over the course of the day yesterday, as I read some of the anecdotes that people were posting about their voting experiences - like this one - as I finally allowed myself to think that the polls might actually be right (they were, on average, very accurate this time), I knew things were looking good. But I also remember all too well the dashed euphoria of the last two presidential election nights, and I wasn't about to give my exuberance free rein. I knew I'd be twitchy for a while longer.

Last night was simply amazing; it's hard to even put it into words. I clapped and jumped around a bit when Ohio was called, and then, knowing what that meant (that McCain's path to potential victory had narrowed to the point of nothingness), I sat and cried for a while as the impact of what we had been able to do began to sink in. There are moments in your life that even as you live them you know you'll remember forever. Most of them, unfortunately, are bad moments. Last night's was one of the rare good moments, and I will treasure it always.

But, as Obama likes to say, we have more work to do. In fact our work hasn't even started. We now - all of us, whether we supported Obama before yesterday or not - must stand with him to change the country and change the world. He's not going to be able to do it himself; he'll need every single one of us at his back. I hope that unlike our current president he will ask for our help, and ask for it in meaningful ways. The way forward is not smooth, or easy, or painless. But we can get there, together. For now, let us just enjoy the moment awhile longer. It's been a long time coming, and boy does it feel good.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Closed for Election Day

No biblio-posts today. We're having an election. Go and vote. Please and thank you.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Book Review: "The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: The Kingdom on the Waves"

M.T. Anderson's second volume of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, The Kingdom on the Waves, is now out from Candlewick Press. It's another beautifully-designed volume and an excellent companion to the first (my review of which is here).

Octavian and his tutor, Dr. Trefusis, having escaped dire circumstances at the end of the last volume, find themselves out of the frying pan and into the fire in the opening chapters of this one as they seek to survive in a Boston under siege from continental troops. When Octavian learns of Virginia governor Lord Dunmore's proclamation offering freedom to slaves who will join the King's army, he and Trefusis make their way south so that the slave can become the soldier.

Much of this volume is written as Octavian's diary during his time with Dunmore's Royal Ethiopian Regiment, and it is as powerful and moving an account of that bold experiment as any I've read. While Anderson takes some minor chronological liberties, and obviously uses speculation to flesh out the details of the narrative, he hews very close to the historical record while still offering a fascinating story.

Literary historical fiction at its very best. Highly recommended.

Book Review: "Son of a Witch"

The second volume in Gregory Maguire's Wicked Years series is Son of a Witch, which picks up where Wicked left off and follows the continuing exploits of the residents of Oz, including Glinda, Liir (the eponymous son of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West), the Scarecrow, and others.

I enjoyed Son of a Witch slightly more than I did Wicked, but like the earlier book it's not one I'll feel compelled to read again. Maguire tries diligently to build up his characters, but most of them fall completely flat. Far too much of this book seems to be spent having characters wander around Oz willy-nilly (making the map at the front a very necessary thing).

I'll read A Lion Among Men (the third volume, just out), but I'm going to keep my expectations low.

Links & Reviews

- The New York Times runs an excellent profile of college rare book libraries and their increasing integration with undergraduate curricula (a victory of sorts for those of us who recognize the importance of hands-on experience).

- Ed's got a great calendar outlining some of the many events coming up in Philly for the bicentennial year. It's going to be quite a time down there!

- The copy of Audubon's Birds of America belonging to the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick has returned to Fredericton after a lengthy conservation project (the first preservation assessment was made almost thirty years ago!). The work was carried out at Ottawa's Canadian Conservation Institute.

- Laura's written the best post I've seen on the discovery of a pottery shard containing what may be the earliest example of Hebrew script.

- Some more feedback on the Google/publishers agreement: at The Millions, C. Max Magee examines the implications for libraries and readers, Carolyn Kellogg does the same for publishers and others at Jacket Copy, and Chris O'Brien of the San Jose Mercury News touches base with Brewster Kahle (who's not a fan of the settlement). Fundamentally I agree with Kahle's criticisms and vision, but without a pretty hefty infusion of cash, it seems a tall order.

- In the TLS, Lynda Pratt has an essay on a new edition of Frankenstein which examines the authorship process and the role of Percy Shelley in the work's creation. Jennifer Howard has a similar piece in the Chronicle of Higher Ed.

- At Paper Cuts, David Kelly has some choice excerpts from John Hodgman's new book, More Information Than You Require. Some more Hodgman here from an appearance on NPR.

- David Mehegan has a short Q&A with John Demos about his The Enemy Within.

- Britannica Blog's been running a fascinating series on haunted libraries. The post covering the Northeast is here.


- Stéphane Audeguy's The Only Son, a novel about Rousseau's brother François, is reviewed by Judith Warner in the NYTimes.

- Max Boot reviews David Hackett Fischer's Champlain's Dream, also in the NYTimes. There's a bit too much fawning for my taste, but Boot certainly liked the book.

- I'm going to have to mention new Lincoln books sparingly since they'll overwhelm us all otherwise, but Harold's Holzer's Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter, 1860-1861 is reviewed by Chandra Manning for the Washington Post.

- Three new Andrew Jackson-centered books are reviewed by Douglas Brinkley for the Washington Post.

- Gordon Wood reviews Annette Gordon-Reed's The Hemingses of Monticello in The New Republic.

- Erika Schickel reviews Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates for the LATimes.

- In The Telegraph, Noel Malcolm reviews Ruth Richardson's The Making of Mr. Gray's Anatomy.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

This Week's Acquisitions

Some temptations this week: Commonwealth had some goodies, the University of Chicago Press had a ridiculously good sale, and I had a B&N coupon. Sigh.

- The Earl of Chesterfield's Letters to His Son (Tudor, 1937). Commonwealth.

Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian (W.W. Norton, 1990). Commonwealth. I've decided to have another go at this series, which I couldn't get into on my last attempt.

The Lost World & The Poison Belt by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Chronicle Books, 1989). Commonwealth. Two of my favorite Conan Doyle works, in an edition I've been after for a while.

The Unknown Conan Doyle, Uncollected Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Doubleday, 1982). Commonwealth.

White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives; edited by Paul Baepler (U. of Chicago Press, 1999). U. of Chicago Press.

Alchemy Tried in the Fire: Starkey, Boyle, and the Fate of Helmontian Chymistry by William R. Newman and Lawrence M. Principe (U. of Chicago Press, 2002). U. of Chicago Press.

Curiosity: A Cultural History of Early Modern Inquiry by Barbara M. Benedict (U. of Chicago Press, 2002). U. of Chicago Press.

The Man Who Flattened the Earth: Maupertuis and the Sciences in the Enlightenment by Mary Terrall (U. of Chicago Press, 2002). U. of Chicago Press.

Commentaries on the Laws of England, A Facsimile of the First Edition (4v.) by William Blackstone (U. of Chicago Press, 2002). U. of Chicago Press.

A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire (Wm. Morrow, 2008). Barnes & Noble.