Sunday, May 31, 2009

Links & Reviews

- Over at Boston1775, John brings some much-needed historical perspective to question of whether life experiences influence Supreme Court justices. And earlier this week, John did some useful historical mythbusting, tracking a conflated quotation back to its roots.

- The $50,000 George Washington Prize, awarded to "the most important new book about America's founding era" went to Annette Gordon-Reed for The Hemingses of Monticello. As Neely Tucker writes in the Washington Post, this means Gordon-Reed has hit a "literary Triple Crown" - the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, and the Washington Prize.

- In the LATimes, Binnie Kirshenbaum both praises and laments the rise of spell-check.

- Cynthia Crossen and Helen Rogan offer up a summer reading list at the WSJ.

- In the Times Argus, a look at a previously unknown Ethan Allen letter set to go on the auction block at Christie's on 24 June (lot description). Estimates are that the missive will sell for as much as $70,000. The letter, written in 1787 to Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, outlines Allen's doubts about the future prospects of the United States unless a stronger government was put in place; Allen writes "Liberty is not, nor will not be by the bulk of the People, distinguished from licentiousness and any Government that allows such freakish liberties to its subjects cannot endure long." The letter has been in a private collection, and the paper suggests that it may have been in France.

- Carlos Ruiz Zafón has an essay in The Times about his book The Angel's Game, a sort of prequel to his The Shadow of the Wind (set to be released in the US in mid-June).


- In the Washington Post, Susan Jacoby's new book, Alger Hiss and the Battle for History, is reviewed by David Greenberg.

- The Last Dickens, by Matthew Pearl, is reviewed by Radika Jones in the NYTimes.

- Colin Tudge's The Link: Uncovering our Earliest Ancestor (about the fossil recently unveiled in NYC) is reviewed by Mike Pitts in the TLS.

- Edmund S. Morgan's new collection, American Heroes, is reviewed by Jonathan Yardley in the WaPo.

- Paradise Found: Nature in America at the Time of Discovery, by Steven Nicholls, is reviewed by Gregory McNamee in the WaPo and by Bill McKibben in the Boston Globe.

- Bernd Heinrich's new Summer World is reviewed by Elizabeth Royte in the NYTimes.

- Woodsburner, a new novel by John Pipkin, is reviewed in the CSM.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

This Week's Acquisitions

Here's what arrived this week:

- Liberty & the American Revolution: Selections from the Collection of Sid Lapidus, Class of 1959 - An Exhibition Catalogue (Princeton University Library, 2009). A spectacular compilation volume which I can't wait to dig into. Princeton Library.

Utopia by Thomas More (Cambridge University Press, 1999 printing). Raven.

- A History of Reading in the West; edited by Guglielmo Cavallo and Roger Chartier (University of Massachusetts Press, 2003). Raven.

- The Mapmakers by John Noble Wilford (Vintage Books, 2001). Raven.

- Trilobite: Eyewitness to Evolution by Richard Fortey (Vintage Books, 2001). Raven.

- Letter Perfect: The Marvelous History of Our Alphabet From A to Z by David Sacks (Broadway Books, 2004). Raven.

- The Founders and the Classics: Greece, Rome, and the American Enlightenment by Carl J. Richard (Harvard University Press, 1995). HUP Store.

- The Highly Civilized Man: Richard Burton and the Victorian World by Dane Kennedy (Harvard University Press, 2005). HUP Store.

- Galileo's Glassworks: The Telescope and the Mirror by Eileen Reeves (Harvard University Press, 2008). HUP Store.

- The Marks in the Fields: Essays on the Uses of Manuscripts; edited by Rodney G. Dennis with Elizabeth Falsey (Houghton Library, 1992). HUP Store.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Book Review: "Witchfinders"

In Witchfinders: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy (Harvard University Press, 2005), historian Malcolm Gaskill chronicles the largest single witch hunt in English history, which infected the East Anglia region from 1645 through the fall of 1647. Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne, who served as "witchfinders" during much of the outbreak, serve as Gaskill's focal points, although he is forced to depart from them often when they disappear from the archival record.

Given its subject matter, and the intensity of the witchcraft scare, I didn't think it possible that this book could be unabsorbing. But Gaskill has forced so much detail into the narrative that I had a hard time slogging through it (at least 250 people were accused of witchery, and I think Gaskill must mention just about all of them by name, rank, and background). While Witchfinders will surely become the authoritative text on the subject, and there is no question that anyone researching the East Anglia outbreak should examine it closely, as a text for the general reader it is perhaps a bit much.

The most interesting sections of the book were those where Gaskill examined the cultural background in which the witchcraft craze occurred - ongoing military, political, religious and social conflict throughout the period unsettled the towns and cities which saw witchcraft accusations, and local/hyper-local rivalries played the same role here that other scholars have documented at Salem and in other witchcraft outbreaks throughout history. Gaskill's treatment of the witchfinders' interrogation techniques and tactics (which in some sense brought about the end of the whole mess after a while) is also quite interesting.

The final chapters, about the ultimate downfall of the witchfinders' reputations and the long-term development of their reputations in historical and cultural memory, were riveting, and make the book worth reading in and of themselves. And Gaskill has documented his meticulous research in fifty pages of notes, which anyone interested in yet more detail could certainly plumb to great effect.

Well designed and well illustrated, this is on the whole a great feat of scholarship covering a lamentable period of human history.

John Quincy Adams + Twitter?

A student who visited the MHS recently commented that JQA's "line-a-day" diaries were pretty similar to Twitter posts. Not far off, we thought! More at The Beehive.

Lincoln Letter Returned

It is always somewhat intriguing to see which biblio-stories "hit the big time." This one certainly has, with stories this morning in the Boston Globe (via AP), New York Times, Washington Post, and on the front page of A Lincoln letter to his Treasury Secretary has been returned to the National Archives; it was removed from a volume of Treasury Department correspondence at least sixty years ago, and resurfaced in 2006 when it was sold to a private collector at auction.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Colophon Books Sale

The wonderful folks at Colophon Books have a new sale up, some 1250 books about books at 50% off. Start browsing here.

ABA Works to Undo Slade Thefts

The Antiquarian Booksellers Association has taken steps to recover items stolen from Sir Evelyn de Rothschild by former ABA president David Slade. Slade was sentenced to a 28-month prison term back in February for the admitted thefts of at least 71 rare books from Rothschild's library, which he then sold via the Dominic Winter auction house. Antiques Trade Gazette reports that 14 of the 71 items have been returned, and that the ABA has urged its member booksellers who purchased and resold the stolen items to recover them if possible.

The report adds "In their turn, Dominic Winter have consulted counsel, and while the case remains too complex at present to offer a black-and-white resolution, they wrote in mid-May to all purchasers, pointing out that while they take every precaution regarding title – all vendors must sign up to this effect – they do not guarantee lots. In this instance, they say that they too have been victims of the deceit and their advice to clients is that any claims should be made against David Slade."

[h/t Shelf:Life]

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reading Archives Ends its Run

Richard Cox, who has kept us informed about all things archival for the past several years at Reading Archives, is hanging up his hat. While I understand his reasons, I must say I will miss his posts a great deal - he's thoughtful, sane, and informative, a rare combination of traits (although our little corner of the blog-world has more than its share of writers who share them) . The biblioblogosphere and the archival community need more like Cox, and I hope he'll stay active in both for many years to come.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Last Week's Acquisitions

Here's what arrived last week:

- American Heroes: Profiles of Men and Women Who Shaped Early America by Edmund S. Morgan (W.W. Norton, 2009). Publisher.

The Tainted Muse: Prejudice and Presumption in Shakespeare and His Time by Robert Brustein (Yale University Press, 2009). Publisher.

Auction Report: Upcoming

- Christie's London will sell Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts on 1 June. Highlights from the 294 lots include two original Hogarth prints once owned by Charles Dickens (£20,000-30,000); a first edition of A Christmas Carol (£14,000-16,000); piles of other Dickens works, and a few other things here and there.

- Also at Christie's London, on 3 June, Valuable Printed Books and Manuscripts, in 280 lots. The high spot is expected to be Thomas and William Daniell's six-volume plate book Oriental Scenery (1795-180[8]), which is estimated at £200,000-300,000. This is the only complete set to be offered at auction in thirty years. A 14th-century illuminated Bible is also expected to do well (£180,000-250,000). Four Blaeu continental maps could fetch £50,000-80,000

- Sotheby's New York will sell Fine Books and Manuscripts on 9 June. Highlights from the 107 lots include a Shakespeare Fourth Folio ($150,000-200,000); a collection of early American almanacs which contains one of three known copies of Poor Richard's Almanack for 1733, the first ($100,000-150,000); a first edition of the report of Lewis & Clark's travels ($80,000-120,000); and A. Edward Newton's copy of Walton's Compleat Angler ($75,000-100,000).

Links & Reviews

Back from my trip, and now have some links and things to pass along:

- There is some updated information on the state of things in Cologne, where the municipal archives building collapsed on 3 March. It seems that a "substantial part" of the records have been recovered through various emergency conservation measures.

- The Avicenna text stolen from a museum in Hamadan, Iran, has been recovered on Sunday. "No details about the robbery or the perpetrators was released."

- Finally reading the writing on the wall (as Tim notes), OCLC has officially withdrawn their proposed records use policy.

- Word last week that Google has capitulated and will allow "some libraries a degree of oversight over the prices Google could charge for its vast digital library ... Only the institutions that lend books to Google for scanning - now 21 libraries in the United States - would be allowed to object to pricing." The ALA says this doesn't go far enough, arguing that any library should be able to protest the fees.

- A fascinating story from England, where a marine chronometer assigned to HMS Erebus, one of the ill-fated ships sent to the far north of Canada with Sir John Franklin (the other was HMS Terror), has been discovered. The chronometer somehow made its way back to Britain, but horologists and officials at the National Maritime Museum are at a complete loss to explain how.

- Travis McDade is back, with an excellent article in Maine Antique Digest about the Augsburger Geschlechterbuch, which a federal judge recently ruled should be returned to Germany. It has been in the U.S. since the end of WWII.


- Iain Pears' Stone's Fall is reviewed by Jack Kerridge in the Telegraph.

- In the Boston Globe, Michael Kenney reviews John Ross' War on the Run, a look at Robert Rogers' military career.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Busy Week, and Away for a Bit

Sorry for the radio silence this week, it's been a pretty intense few days. The MHS annual meeting was Wednesday evening, so I was much occupied with that, and yesterday I gave my third conference paper in three months (a hat trick I will not be repeating anytime soon). I spoke at one of the the Society of Early Americanists panels at the American Literature Association convention in Boston (about the Libraries of Early America project). Later in the afternoon the SEA group came over to MHS for a tour and a look at some of the highlights from our collections, which was great fun. But all those things combined made for some long days.

And now I'm homeward bound for a quick trip to see family. I'll be back with acquisitions, links & reviews, and other assorted goodies, next week.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

eBay Forger Pleads Guilty

Given the evidence against him this cannot possibly come as a surprise. Forrest Smith III, the 47-year old Reading, PA man who was indicted back in late January on charges of forging authors' signatures in books and selling them on eBay, has entered a guilty plea. Pennsylvania news outlets are reporting tonight that Smith pled to three counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud, and faces "a maximum sentence of 80 years in prison, a $1 million fine, and restitution when he's sentenced in September."

Prosecutors found evidence that Smith was buying the books on one eBay account, stamping them with custom-made signature stamps, and then selling them as signed through a different account. How on earth he did this for six years without his buyers realizing the "signatures" they were getting had been stamped is totally beyond me. Smith is believed to have conned at least 1,000 people, and made more than $300,000 in the process.

[Update: The Philadelphia Inquirer has more.]

John Witherspoon's Library

I'm delighted to report that I've completed the entering of John Witherspoon's library (well, the remaining portion of it, anyway) into LibraryThing as a Library of Early America collection. I worked with staff from the Princeton University Rare Books & Special Collections on this project, as that's where the books are.

A great number of Witherspoon's titles are pamphlets bound into volumes; I've made a list of those here in case anyone wants to browse. More than half of Witherspoon's titles were religious in nature (536 of 933; by contrast, just 130 titles related to politics and government). You can see how Witherspoon's collection stacks up against the other LEA libraries by clicking here (by person) or here (by book).

Witherspoon biography here. If you know of any of his books not at Princeton, please shoot me an email so I can add them to his LT collection.

David Herbert Donald Dies

Historian and biographer David Herbert Donald has died at 88 (Boston Globe). His Lincoln was a delight to read, and his prize-winning biography of Charles Sumner has been on my to-read list for a long time. I heard Donald speak at the MHS back in October 2006 (about his final project, a biography of John Quincy Adams); he had a wonderful way of connecting with his audience, and his voice was pure Mississippi, a delight to listen to. More thoughts on Donald's MHS connections over at The Beehive.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Avicenna Text Stolen in Iran

The Tehran Times reports that a rare copy of Avicenna's Canon of Medicine has been stolen from a display at the museum adjacent to the author's mausoleum in Hamedan, Iran. If I get any further information on the specific edition or circumstances I'll pass it along.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Book Review: "The Scarith of Scornello"

I do love a good hoax. And Ingrid Rowland's The Scarith of Scornello: A Tale of Renaissance Forgery (University of Chicago Press, 2004) is the story of a pretty good hoax. In 1634, 19-year old Curzio Inghirami, his younger sister and a servant, wandering the grounds of their rural Tuscan estate near the old city of Volterra, "stumbled upon" a strange ball of pitch, fabric and hair which when broken revealed several pieces of linen rag paper on which were written certain 'prophecies' penned by one Prospero of Fiesole (Prosperus Fesulanus). More of these strange capsules, which became known as scarith (based on one of the inscriptions), were soon found near the same location, and they purported to be a series of writings dating from the late Etruscan period, around the mid-60s B.C.

The Inghirami clan rallied around young Curzio, claiming and then defending the authenticity of the scarith and their inscriptions - which, if accurate, raised their region to a certain historical prominence. Curzio published a compilation of the contents of the scarith in a lavish book, Ethruscarum Antiquitatum Fragmenta (Florence, 1636), complete with a false 1637 Frankfurt imprint. The book, richly made and illustrated with numerous woodcuts, copper engravings, and folding charts, was a triumph of book production ... but its flashy contents failed to convince the critics.

Rowland inexplicably fails to mention one of the first criticisms, by Meric Casaubon in his 1638 book A treatise of use and custome, but she does examine the strong critiques leveled at Inghirami's work by Leone Allacci and others, in which it was pointed out that Curzio's philological and forensic skills weren't quite up to par: his "Etruscan" inscriptions read left to right, rather than the correct right to left, and his inscriptions were written on rag paper, rather than the linen cloth known to have been used in actual Etruscan writings. Curzio also has his writer complain about running out of paper at one point, when the inscription was found balled up within several layers of extra paper ... which of course was setting aside the larger issue of the fact that the inscriptions were later found to be printed on paper bearing the watermark of the state paper factory. It's a good thing Curzio didn't show off his scarith very often.

The criticisms of Inghirami's work by Allacci and various others, as well as defenses written by Curzio himself and a few of his friends, are well outlined, and Rowland does well at placing Curzio's work in the context of Italian regional political and religious jockeying of the seventeenth century, with the struggle over Galilean scientific theory never far from the fore and the various regions families competing for influence. The book is well illustrated, although the small format has resulted in the compression of Inghirami's detailed engravings to an unfortunate degree. Almost fifty pages of footnotes with translations and much additional content, plus a delightfully-detailed bibliography, are welcome additions indeed.

There are some really interesting aspects to this case which bear some similarities to a few other literary forgeries: the "important discovery" by a young man who later published his findings in a luxurious book reminded me of William Henry Ireland's Miscellaneous papers and legal instruments under the hand and seal of William Shakspeare (1796); the regional patriotism brings to mind the Ossian forgeries of William Macpherson, and Rowland herself draws parallels with Thomas Chatterton. The "d'oh moment" with the watermarks is similar to the Vrain-Denis Lucas forgeries, although those (for reasons entirely unclear) held up far longer than they should have.

A must-read for the forgery buff. Anybody up for translating and reprinting the canon of original works? That I'd like to see. In the meantime, if you have £2,500, you can have your own copy of Ethruscarum Antiquitatum Fragmenta, via Arthur Freeman Rare Books (their description of the book, I have to say, is an absolute delight).

Book Review: "The Dangerous World of Butterflies"

I picked up Peter Laufer's The Dangerous World of Butterflies (Lyons Press, 2009) this week when I found myself stranded without a book (a painful experience). Knowing something of Laufer's previous works (on illegal immigration, Americans in foreign prisons, and the Iraq War) I was intrigued that he would take up butterflies. Then I read the introduction, in which Laufer admits that the book came about because of a glib comment in answer to the perennial "what's your next book about?" question at every reading. To one such questioner, Laufer answered that because he'd been writing so long about tough issues, "my next book is going to be about butterflies and flowers." An American expat living on a butterfly reserva in Nicaragua emailed Laufer and suggested he take his own suggestion, and the rest, as they say, is history.

This book is very similar to Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief or Andrew Blechman's Pigeons, but with butterflies. Smugglers, thieves, collectors, scientists, detectives, breeders and artists all factor in as Laufer meets with and profiles various characters from around the world whose lives put them in contact with butterflies. It's fascinating to watch as Laufer becomes more keyed into the butterfly culture himself - even starting to toss around scientific jargon and finding himself seeing butterflies where before he wouldn't have given them a second glance.

While I think Laufer could have gone a bit more in-depth on some of the issues he tackles, and could have provided a bit more analysis in places, the book is a fine addition to this genre. I recommend it.

Links & Reviews

- New blogs added to the sidebar (and to my Google Reader): Travels in Hypercollecting, and the National Heritage Museum blog. I always appreciate knowing of new (or new to me) blogs - good stuff!

- In The Times, Nicholas Clee muses on the future of the book (or, more particularly, the shop trying to sell new books in an age of Amazon and discounters). He's unenthused by the new Espresso Book Machine at Blackwell's, calling it "an oversized photocopier with extra bits."

- Jessamyn West notes with great glee (rightly so) the news that Cornell has removed restrictions on its public doman reproductions. The full guidelines are here.

- Jim Watts passes along a really fascinating WSJ piece on digitizing ancient manuscripts.

- Another big biblio-news story out this week was word that journal mega-publisher Elsevir has admitted "a total of six publications between 2000 and 2005 that were sponsored by unnamed pharmaceutical companies and looked like peer reviewed medical journals, but did not disclose sponsorship." The Progressive Librarians Guild weighs in, saying in part "it is the responsibility of librarians and their organizations to expose the conspiracy between Merck and Elsevier to distort medical research and subvert the peer review process. If it is not the responsibility of information professionals, what does it mean to say that we are advocates for our user-communities?" They're absolutely right. [h/t Library Juice]

- Via Laura, a fantastic smackdown of Arianna Huffington at the Got Medieval blog. She's a bit confused about book history, it seems.

- Applications for the 2009 New Scholars Program at the Bibliographical Society of America are due 31 July.

- In a series of posts [starting here] at Boston 1775 this week, author Ray Raphael and J.L. Bell examine the question of which individuals can most productively and usefully followed through the Revolutionary period. A good discussion, with some very interesting possibilities.

- Nick Basbanes weighs in on the USF Flap, saying in part "You know you're in trouble when you read a quote like this: 'Father Privett also questioned how many students visit the Rare Book Room.' When an administrator starts to justify his thinking by suggesting that special collections are a luxury that nobody is using, guess what, you're already on the slippery slope."

- Colin Nicolson's first volume of The Papers of Sir Francis Bernard, covering 1759-1763, will be officially launched on Thursday, 21 May at the Colonial Society of Massachusetts. [h/t Boston 1775]

- Rick Ring reprints a 1940 Lawrence Wroth review of T.J. Holmes' bibliography of the works of Cotton Mather (and of his earlier bibliography of Increase). Wroth: "It has been the intention of this review to imply that the Holmes bibliographies of Increase and Cotton Mather are not far from being the chief monuments of American bibliography. Perhaps it is better that the words should be said forthrightly. Our admiration for the knowledge, skill and noble industry of Mr. Holmes is unbounded." And the works have stood the test of time; I still use Holmes on a fairly regular basis.

- Paul Collins finds the collections of a recreated Victorian village, for sale online.

- In the NYTimes, Paul Dizikes has an essay about the 2001 return of a Darwin first edition to the BPL after 80 years.

- UMass Amherst will digitize some 100,00 items from its W.E.B. Du Bois collection thanks in part to a $200,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation. [h/t C&RL News]


- David O. Stewart's Impeached is reviewed by Bruce Kucklick in the WaPo.

In the Times, Phil Baker reviews Reif Larson's The Selected Words of T.S. Spivet.

- Michael Caines reviews a new historical novel, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, which takes as its main character Thomas Cromwell, sometime chief minister and fixer for Henry VIII.

- In the CSM, a Kevin Harnett reviews a new compilation volume of Edmund S. Morgan's works, American Heroes.

- One I missed last weekend: in the LATimes, Carmela Ciuraru reviews Iain Pears' Stone's Fall.

- In the WSJ, Charles Harrington Elster reviews John Sutherland's Curiosities of Literature, which sounds like it fails potential but it failed Mr. Elster's smell test for certain textual deficiencies (among them, he says, a "torrent of typos"): "Did some angry computer, intent on biblioclasm, assault the manuscript just before publication? This is one literary mystery, I suspect, that will never be solved."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

This Week's Acquisitions

Here's what arrived this week:

- The Dangerous World of Butterflies: The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists by Peter Laufer (Lyons Press, 2009). Barnes & Noble (I was stuck without a book, it was very bad).

Worlds Made by Words: Scholarship and Community in the Modern West by Anthony Grafton (Harvard Universith Press, 2009). Amazon.

The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen (Penguin, 2009). Amazon.

America's Membership Libraries; edited by Richard Wendorf (Oak Knoll, 2006). Boston Athenaeum.

Friday, May 15, 2009

CSI: Library Update

Well I honestly never thought I'd find the short-hand system used to write that diary. But I did. On Google Books. About thirty minutes ago. Story here.

CSI: Library

Over at The Beehive, I've got the first installment in what will be a series of posts looking into one of the coolest things (I think) in the MHS collections: a ciphered diary. Today, a look at its origins.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Deaccessioning, Redux

Since there has been some further discussion (as I'm sure there will continue to be) about USF and this issue of deaccessioning objects from rare book collections, some additional thoughts would seem to be in order. And no one need take my word for it, there's a whole corpus of articles about this question in the archival and library science literature if one feels to urge to dig deeper (I've even written a paper or two about this subject so I've probably got a bibliography or two kicking around).

Deaccessioning is indeed a perfectly legitimate thing to do, if done for the right reasons. It should always be done based on a coherent, written, formally-approved policy which clearly outlines any and all procedures to be used in the deaccessioning of objects (of any type) from an institutional collection. There are all sorts of things that come into play here: original wishes of the donor, method of disposition, approval by various oversight bodies, how any proceeds can be used, &c. &c. &c. Different institutions handle the various minutiae of these elements in different ways, and use varying criteria for determining what can or should be deaccessioned, when, and how. One of the key elements of any good deaccession policy is transparency: sufficient notice should be given to any and all interested parties regarding proposed deaccessions, and if items are ultimately sold, the preferred method should be public auction, with complete clarity to potential bidders about the origin of the item in question.

Generally accepted as legitimate reasons for deaccessioning items include: items out of scope of the collection (pianos at the Boston Public Library, for example); items which fit better with another institution's mission or existing collections; duplicate items; items given by a donor with the express condition that they may be sold; materials which the organization cannot afford to keep safely or insure - things like that. The library/museum community is almost universal (as it is about so few things), in condemning deaccessions made for the sole purpose of raising "quick cash." Unfortunately the rare book and art collections of colleges and universities (or other institutions) can seem like money trees to short-sighted administrators, who see dollar signs where others of us see treasures of a different sort.

In these trying times, I can understand (but still don't agree with) the idea that selling off parts of the collection could be of financial benefit. But the long-term harm caused by such actions - especially if done contrary to or without a formal deaccession policy in place - can be real, and lasting. Donors (past and potential), scholars, and public at large are important constituencies for colleges and universities to consider. Stephen Gertz writes "At this time the economy is far from ideal and the need to raise cash, and fast – whether as an individual or institution – is a prudent survival strategy in a time of sharp financial downturn." Raising cash fast is, indeed, what all of our institutions find ourselves needing to do right now ... but doing so by clandestinely auctioning off prize collections, carefully acquired over decades, seems a poor way to go about it. Why not instead highlight the collections - help your users and the public at large understand their value - their intrinsic value to scholarship, not the number of dollars they'll bring at auction.

I'd like to respond briefly to another couple of points Gertz makes about the decisions taken by President Privett at USF. The first. Gertz writes: "Let’s be honest. The decision making process at any institution can be a long, drawn out, grueling and exhausting ordeal. The financial peril USF faced must have been acute. Had Privett taken the issue to committee for discussion, they’d likely still be discussing, arguing, protesting, revolting six months from now." In fact that's exactly what should have happened. I know of at least one institution which, for any deaccession, mandates that the governing board vote to approve the deaccession at two consecutive quarterly board meetings. Deliberation and contemplation are good things when it comes to decisions like this - hasty actions, no matter what the justification - are not.

Gertz's concluding point gets to what seems to lie at the heart of this, and what is a major difference between librarians/archivists/curators - we who see ourselves as custodians of rare books, manuscripts and other materials, ensuring their availability for the scholars of today and tomorrow - and others (be they collectors, dealers, auctioneers, whatever). Gertz: "The items from USF’s Gleeson Library were sold at auction. To the public. To be recirculated to private collectors. In other words, out of the confines of an institution and back out into the light of day to be dearly appreciated by a real, live, passionate person, not a cold abstract like 'the public.'" This argument, which seems to suggest that materials in institutional collections are unappreciated or unavailable, is, frankly, absurd. Is not a rare book, manuscript, or piece of artwork more likely to be widely used, studied, viewed, yes, even appreciated, in an institution than if it's in someone's private collection? Perhaps that private collector will make his or her holdings known, and invite people in to see/consult/appreciate them. But perhaps not. Absolutely, libraries need to do a better job of letting people know what they have and how their resources can be used, but making these items and collections available is what we do - it's why people like me come to work in the morning, why we write and talk and think about the collections in our care and delight in seeing the work that scholars make of them.

Anyway, that's a whole different debate, really, of which deaccessioning is just a tiny part. What is clear from what we know so far about what's happening at USF is that it is being done either contrary to or in the absence of a formal deaccessioning policy, and that's very much a problem. I have no problem with formal deaccessioning carried our properly and for legitimate reasons. This, it seems to me, fails to pass on every one of those counts.

Death Blow to OCLC's Proposed Policy?

Big story #2 this week: the International Consortium of Library Consortia (ICOLC) has issued a statement strongly opposing the changed records use policy proposed by OCLC late last year. Tim has a very perceptive commentary and reaction post to this, so I won't duplicate here what he's already said, since I entirely agree with him. I will, however, quote from his concluding paragraph:

" ... libraries should embrace 'radical openness,' a commitment to sharing what they know freely, something that looks less radical in light of the library's historic dedication to the free exchange of information. Selling other people's library records isn't a real threat, but, if it were, the answer would be more openness, not less. When you sell tickets, you get scalpers. But nobody makes money selling passes to Central Park. (A few people make money walking dogs around it. Most just enjoy the free grass and sunshine.) And in a world that's looking less and less friendly to the long-term success of libraries, an unwavering commitment to sharing and openness may well be libraries' saving grace."

I think this is a discussion that librarians should engage with and participate in (and some are, in the comments to Tim's post, and elsewhere). As we move forward, open access and shared data are going to be even more important as they already are, and coming down on the wrong side of this issue may be a very serious mistake. (To be fair, I think most libraries do recognize this, and are doing the best they can with what they have to work with).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Selling off Rare Books to Pay the Bills?

There are a whole bunch of big biblio-stories all hitting the news at the same time. The first is a huge scandal brewing out at the University of San Francisco, where the student newspaper reported on 30 April that university administrators were "sifting through a range of university assets and compiling a list of items that may be expendable in an economic emergency." The 'assets' on that list supposedly included rare books from the university's Gleeson Library, and possibly artwork from USF's collections.

Word out today, via Terry Belanger on Ex-Libris (I'll link as soon as it's up in the list archives [update: here's the whole thing]), is that contrary to the university president's statements to the student newspaper ("We are not selling anything right now"), sales have in fact already begun. President Rev. Stephen Privett "recently stripped from the Timken-Zinkann Collection, an early founding core collection of the Library, a series of original woodcuts and engravings - mostly iconic images of Catholic and Christian tradition - by leading Renaissance artist and author, Albrecht Dürer, in effect destroying the integrity of the collection. Together with an early, original Rembrandt etching, the Dürer prints were anonymously offered for sale at auction Tuesday morning, 11 May, at Bonhams, despite a valiant last-minute effort on the part of faculty and library supporters to persuade Privett to suspend the sale."

The sales results from that auction are here, and show a Dürer "St. Jerome in his Study" (an absolutely wonderful piece of artwork) selling for just over $67,000. Terry's correspondent writes "In a down market, only the Rembrandt and a few of the Dürers sold." Specifically of the St. Jerome print: "St. Jerome is the patron saint of librarians whose feast day is September 30th. Traditionally, every September his engraving was exhibited in the Gleeson Library to bring blessings and protection to the Library itself, to the librarians who selflessly work there, and to all those who research and patronize it. Whose or what image will now bless and protect USF's Gleeson Library? Perhaps, come next September, some one will hang black mourning cloth where once the image of St. Jerome was displayed."

History professor Martin Claussen is leading the charge against sales from the university's collections, telling the student paper "Selling parts of the library collection in order to pay current costs is like burning the furniture to keep warm." He disagrees with Privett's statements that any proceeds from sales would go to the rare book room: "Selling items in the Rare Book Room to pay for renovations that would keep them safe? That logic sounds odd." Terry's source adds "Once collections are compromised and books, manuscripts, artworks, ephemera and related items have been cannibalized from them, for what pupose will the Rare Book Room be renovated?"

President Privett has reportedly agreed to meet the campus community tomorrow to discuss the situation, so perhaps we will learn more after that meeting. Any way you look at it, this is a nasty business, from the very idea of selling materials to pay the bills (like $67,000 is going to solve all the university's problems) to the secrecy involved here. As I've said many times before, deaccessioning - legitimate deaccessioning - is a necessary part of an institution's business, but doing so in this form and fashion is completely beyond the pale. Not only is selling off prize items from the collections just cutting off your nose to spite your face, it's also an incredibly short-sighted way to deal with financial difficulties.

I'm sure this is not the last we're going to hear of this story. I'll update things whenever I can.

[Update: A response, from Stephen Gertz at Book Patrol. My reaction].

Poe Event Recap

Last night's Ticknor Society event with Poe scholar Rob Velella was great fun - Rob's a very engaging speaker, and provided a fascinating look into the 19th-century publishing world and Poe's place within that rapidly-changing system. Turnout was excellent, and announcements were made about the upcoming Poe exhibit at the BPL as well as the Boston iteration of the Great Poe Debate, to be held in December (Paul Lewis, who'll be Boston's "man in the ring" for that event, said with the home-court advantage, we're sure to have an edge over Philly and Baltimore).

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

OH Woman Stole 1,200+ Prints

Shannon Timura, 39, of Strongsville, OH, has been "accused of stealing about $50,000 in antique prints last year from her employer and selling some of them on the Internet." Police say they found some 1,200 prints in Timura's home and have returned them to the owner, Scott Francis. Timura's online name (apparently on the site Etsy) was "wednesdaysluck" - that account lists 197 prints sold, among them fashion plates, octavo Audubons, botanicals, and maps. Timura was also selling the broken bindings of the books the prints are taken from, possibly adding another nasty element to all this: book-breaking.

Looks like Wednesday's luck ran out. She's been indicted on three counts of theft.

Stolen Books Alert

This came across the Ex-Libris list overnight:

"The following two titles were stolen from our stand at the Royal National Hotel on Sunday afternoon, we would be most grateful to hear if they should turn up on the market:

** 1) TAYLOR, Jeremy. 1649; An answer to a letter...original sin, *lacking the first leaf, blank but for signature, given by Sir Edmund Gosse to the Episcopal library of Connor and Down, * 1656, first editions, *calf, gilt, by de Coverly*

2) FLEMING, Ian. Thunderball. Cape, 1961 1st Ed. Fine copy in DW with small patch of foxing to fore-edge. (Identifiable by a mark to a particular page).

**Not sure what Jeremy Taylor would have to say about the theft, let alone being being taken alongside something as decadent as Bond!


Tom Lintern-Mole - Antiquates Ltd"

If you have any information about these books, please get in touch with Tom Lintern-Mole; I'm sure he'll appreciate it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Souter on Reading

On 9 March, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences hosted a panel discussion at George Washington University on "The Public Good: The Humanities in a Civil Society." The video of the entire event is available here, and the whole thing is well worth watching, but I wanted to mention two of Souter's answers to questions from the audience (these begin at around 1:25:00 in the video). In the first, he suggests that those concerned with expanding the reach of humanities in America today might do well to reach out to underprivileged communities and immigrant groups:

"I went to high school with a kid, who had arrived in the United States as a d.p. [displaced person] after World War Two, and in his reminiscence a few years ago, he was telling me about some of the people, in a town in New Hampshire, who most influenced him. And curiously enough, the first example he gave me was the example of the parents of his and later one of my schoolmates, who gave him a couple of very good novels to read, in English. That's a start. There are two intersecting constituencies which can be zeroed in on by people who are concerned about humanities education and humanities influence. And the further virtue that I think there may be in zeroing in on those constituencies is, that where the humanities really makes a difference, at least as I have seen it in my life, is not in the great moment of epiphany, but in the habit of mind that it inculcates. And if you want to form habits of mind, you form them, or at least your best bet to form them, is when the minds are young."

In the second answer I want to pinpoint, Souter responds to a question asking him to define his phrase "habit of mind" more clearly, and to distinguish them from "habits of heart." Souter: "Well I used the phrase 'habits of mind', so I'll step up to the plate on that. Again, it is not a term that I came here with a definition to throw out, but I can't help but begin the answer to your question with a recollection of some remarks I heard years ago from Howard Mumford Jones. And he basically took the view that most Harvard students are illiterate and committed to remaining illiterate. And he was sort of gently berating his audience about the way they spent their time. As I recall he sort of tried to analyze a day down in which there might be, I don't know, eighteen minutes free. And Jones said 'What should you do in the eighteen minutes?' And there was a pause, and he said 'You could READ A BOOK!' One of the habits of mind is as basic and simple as that, to find a book such a familiar thing, that if there is a moment, one can open it.

A second habit of mind, follows from opening enough of those books. It teaches a lesson which was emphasized over and over again by one of America's greatest judges, Learned Hand. It was the lesson which he said if he could have his way, he would have engraved over the door of every schoolhouse, every statehouse, every courthouse in the United States. And they were the words of Oliver Cromwell, which he used in a disputation with some of the Scottish Presbyterians. His words, in Greek, were, 'Consider that ye may be wrong.' One of the habits of mind, which characterizes the liberal arts, is that consideration. ... The habit of mind that opens the book, is sooner or later the mind that will learn Cromwell's lesson. One is a physical habit, and the other is a habit of judgment which is likely to follow from it."

All good lessons, I think, and well put.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Links & Reviews

- New blogs, via Laura and Ian: The Private Library and Bibliopole. Both are excellent. I've added links on the sidebar.

- Registration is now open for the Houghton Library's Johnson at 300 symposium, to be held 27-29 August. I must remember to register, this is not a conference to miss!

- Abby was off to the London Book Fair recently to speak at a panel on books and marketing in an online world.

- From BibliOdyssey, natural history images.

- In the Globe today, news that UMass Dartmouth's Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture has digitized 84,000 pages of the Diário de Notícias (1919-1973), called "the most important Portuguese newspaper ever published in the United States." The archive is freely available here.

- Famed book collector Daniel Volkmann died on 27 April. Obituary.

- Ian's got a very good post on the wide range of ways bibliophiles are connecting these days.

- Chinese and other media outlets have been profiling Du Weisheng, a conservator at the National Library in Beijing.

- Another posthumous Tolkien book was released this week. Christopher Tolkien comments on the work in The Guardian.

- Rick Ring found a neat little law book in the PPL's collections this week. And Rick's got a post unveiling a new print serial publication, Occasional Nuggets. I've subscribed - you should too!

- Two books, one from Shelley's library and one from Byron's, were recently found in a French trash can. They've now been acquired by London dealer Peter Harrington.

- David Weinberger comments on a forthcoming search engine, WolframAlpha. [h/t Tim]

- Rory Litwin notes that some podcasts from the recent MIT Media in Transition conference are now posted.

- In the Boston Globe, Irene Sage covers what certainly seems to be a fascinating new book by a local author (Reif Larson's The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet). I've ordered a copy.

- The silly biblio-news of the week award goes to the "health and safety" officials at the Bodleian Library, who have banned the use of stepladders (making certain books inaccessible to students). [h/t Ian]


- In the Washington Post, Louis Bayard reviews Jonathan Bate's new biography of Shakespeare, Soul of the Age

- In April's William & Mary Quarterly, Edward Countryman reviews Annette Gordon-Reed's The Hemingses of Monticello [PDF].

- Ron Charles reviews The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet for the WaPo.

- In the NYTimes, Iliya Troyanov's The Collector of Worlds (a novel about Sir Richard Francis Burton) is reviewed by Ben Macintyre.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Book Review: "Journey to Mauritius"

Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre is best known for his romantic novel Paul et Virginie (1787), but his 1773 epistolary account of the 28 months he spent on Mauritius (which led him to set his later novel there) has been re-translated by Jason Wilson and issued as Journey to Mauritius (Interlink Books, 2003).

Wilson's forty-four page introduction to Saint-Pierre's life and works is somewhat unevenly written, but provides important context. The work itself consists of a series of letters and short essays covering Saint-Pierre's travels to and from Mauritius and his time on the island itself. Topics of particular focus include geography, natural history and observations on geology, agriculture, botany and zoology; remarks on commerce and colonialism, and a stinging indictment of plantation culture and chattel slavery (which might have been even more powerful had the author expressed even an ounce of reticence at using two slaves to carry the two hundred pounds of gear he required for his various jaunts around Mauritius).

The account itself is fascinating, and Bernardin's consciousness of his own educational shortcomings is refreshing: several times he drops discussions after admitting that he knows nothing more about the topic. Wilson has at times added annotations to expand on Saint-Pierre's comments - more of these would have been quite useful in identifying other plant and animal species mentioned in the text.

In this re-translation of the text, Wilson has incorporated additions Saint-Pierre planned to incorporate in a second edition of his narrative, to have been published in the late 1790s (but which never saw print). These additions should, in my view, have been handled differently, by setting them off from the original text somehow. Also, Wilson's various excisions from the text, including much technical detail, don't necessarily improve the narrative (I found a sampling of letters from the original 1775 English translation by John Parish both more readable and complete).

Recent Print Articles

A few articles I've read in print recently:

- Elspeth Jajdelska, "Pepys in the History of Reading." The Historical Journal 50:3 (September 2007), pp. 549-569. Provides a nice, synthesizing overview of book history research and the debate over historical reading practices. Jajdelska examines Pepys' reading practice through four lenses: intensive v. extensive reading, oral v. silent reading, public v. private reading, and utilitarian v. recreational reading. A fine piece, very nicely written.

- Marcus McCorison, "Kenneth G. Leach." Obituary in Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 118:1 (2008), pp. 25-36. A poignant and personal tribute to a great bookman (by another).

- Bryan Waterman, "Elizabeth Whitman’ s Disappearance and Her 'Disappointment.'" William & Mary Quarterly Third Series 66:2 (April 2009), pp. 325-364.

This Week's Acquisitions

Nothing new this week.

Friday, May 08, 2009

New Word from Dr. J.

Today's word in the Dr. Johnson's Dictionary blog is jobbernowl:

"JOBBERNO’WL. n.s. [most probably from jobbe, Flemish, dull,
and nowl, [p]nowl, Saxon, a head.] Loggerhead; blockhead.
And like the world, men’s jobbernowls
Turn round upon their ears, the poles. Hudibras, p. iii."

I am determined to use this in conversation today.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Book Review: "The Glass of Time"

Michael Cox's The Glass of Time (Norton, 2008) is the sequel to The Meaning of Night (2006), which I greatly enjoyed. Twenty years on from the events recounted there, Glass continues the story of the disputed Duport Succession, weaving family lines together with generous helpings of deception, blackmail, and the plucking of heartstrings.

Cox deploys the same framing device as in Meaning of Night, presenting the book as an edited production of J.J. Antrobus, Professor of Post-Authentic Victorian Fiction at the University of Cambridge. He was more sparing with the explanatory footnotes this time around, though (much to my dismay, since I think they're great).

I felt like the characters were more developed in this book, and while there were the usual Victorian-fiction "aha" moments and implausibly neat resolutions, those are to be expected. This book had a definite Wilkie Collins vibe about it, in a good way.

Since the world lost Mr. Cox earlier this year, we readers will, most unfortunately, be deprived of the further adventures of Professor Antrobus in the Duport family's tangled web. But we can be glad of what we have, and enjoy these two fine productions.

Ancient Papyrus Text Seized in Israel

The BBC is reporting that Israeli authorities have seized what appears to be a very early papyrus document "from two Palestinian men in a sting operation at a Jerusalem hotel, police said. The two could face several years in jail." Israel claims all archaeological discoveries as state property.

Written in ancient Hebrew similar to the script seen in the Dead Sea Scrolls, this small document (6 by 6 inches) is described as "a legal instruction, transferring a widow's property to her late husband's brother. ... Unusually, the first line of the document indicates a precise date, the [Israeli Antiquities Authority] said - 'Year 4 [AD] to the destruction of Israel', which could indicate either AD74, when Jerusalem's Second Temple was destroyed, or AD139, the date of a Jewish revolt violently put down by Rome."

The document is currently undergoing lab tests for authentication purposes.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Ticknor Society Event: Poe & Publishing

The Ticknor Society* will host a talk by independent Poe scholar Rob Velella (of Poe Calendar fame) at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, 12 May at the Boston Public Library. Velella's talk will focus on Poe's relationship with the American publishing industry.

Questions, answers, and refreshments will follow the talk. Hope to see you there!

* The Ticknor Society is a great Boston-based bibliophilic organization, which you should certainly join if you're not already a member (hint: if you join soon, you can come to the annual meeting on 2 June and hear a talk by Robert Darnton).

Monday, May 04, 2009

Library Groups Weigh in on Google Settlement

As expected, the ALA, ACRL and ARL filed an amicus brief in the Google Books Settlement on Monday. The organizations did not come out in opposition, but asked the court to monitor the settlement in the long term and warned that aspects of the deal "could compromise fundamental library values such as equity of access to information, patron privacy, and intellectual freedom" if not closely watched.

You can read the full brief here [PDF].

Check out The Beehive!

I'm pleased to announce the launch of the official MHS blog, The Beehive. We went live late Friday afternoon with the first few posts. This'll be a collaborative effort between me and some colleagues, and will feature MHS news, historical notes, discussion posts, announcements and all that good stuff. I'm excited about the project, and always appreciate any suggestions, comments, &c. So stop on by, add the RSS feed to your reader, and enjoy!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Links & Reviews

- Laura's posted some great pictures of her recent trip to Egypt. Even more here.

- An interesting story in the Picayune Item about the annual display of the only known final copy of the Confederate Constitution, held at the University of Georgia in Athens on 27 April.

- J.L. Bell notes an upcoming conference at the University of Maine, Orono: "Loyalism and the Revolutionary Atlantic World." The conference will be held on 4-7 June; registration deadline is 15 May.

- Rory Litwin attended a recent MIT conference on Media in Transition and posted some thoughts.

- Here's a rundown of some of the projected funding cuts for ARL libraries this year. Not good.

- Seventeenth-Century News, a scholarly review journal, is now online.

- There's a new site "devoted to the history, identification and collecting of the various 3½ × 5 inch volumes published by Emanuel Haldeman-Julius (and his son) via Appeal to Reason, Appeal Publishing Company, Haldeman-Julius Company, Haldeman-Julius Publications, and The Little Blue Book Company." Lots of information there!

- A new book suggests that the five "Jack the Ripper" murders may have been committed by several different people, linked together by journalists "into one sensational killing spree to sell newspapers." "In Jack the Ripper: Case Closed Dr [Andrew] Cook draws on the testimony of various medical experts and policemen involved with the case who suspected that 'Jack the Ripper' did not kill all the victims, let alone the six other women murdered in Whitechapel who are sometimes credited to him." In the Times Archive Blog, Rose Wild plots the murders on a Google map, with links to the original Times reports of them.


- Paul Collins notes the first review of his forthcoming The Book of William is out, in Kirkus Reviews. Excerpts are up on the book's Amazon page.

Book Review: "Eiffel's Tower"

Jill Jonnes' new book is Eiffel's Tower: And the World's Fair Where Buffalo Bill Beguiled Paris, the Artists Quarreled, and Thomas Edison Became a Count (Viking, 2009). It tackles each of those elements in alternating and intersecting narratives, not breaking significant new scholarly ground but telling a fascinating story about the 1889 Paris World's Fair and its characters. One of those characters was Eiffel's Tower, the iconic behemoth now instantly recognizable to us as the very symbol of Paris. Its design, construction, use and fate are the framework of Jonnes' book, but I liked the way she was able to weave in the human characters of the fair (from Annie Oakley to the Shah of Persia to James Gordon Bennett, Jr.), documenting their interactions with the Tower and with each other.

Perhaps the most enlightening sections of the book for me where those in which Jonnes highlighted the great challenges which accompanied the construction of the Tower, from the debate over its design (many thought it hideous) to the technological difficulties involved (including how to create functioning elevators) and to the businesses it would house (numerous restaurants, plus a satellite office of Le Figaro which published a special edition De la Tour during the Fair).

Quite a pleasant read, well enhanced with many photographs (interspersed throughout the book rather than plunked in a center section) and with reasonable source notes, even if these are not indicated in the text as they should be.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Book Review: "McSweeney's, Vol. 21"

McSweeney's 21 is a collection of short stories by the likes of Chloe Hooper, Joyce Carol Oates, Roddy Doyle, Miranda July and others. The stories are separated by quite amusing Ted L. Nancy-like "Letters to Ray," actual fan mail received by Ray Charles.

The design of this volume is fairly conventional, although according to the editor's note there are actually eight variant cover designs, and "the front cover includes a little flap that can be opened out across the exposed page-edges, allowing for an unending panorama, a revelatory 360-degree immersion into a packed and pointy world." Prior to each story, an artist (Robert Goodin, Leif Parsons, Nate Beaty, Matt Rota) offers a nine-panel graphic representation of the piece.

As I felt after reading McSweeney's 14, I enjoyed some of these more than others, but all were well written. Most managed to have a slightly creepy aspect to them, from a computer salesman's spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to impersonate a doctor, to Oates' take on Mark Twain's famous Angelfish Club and Roddy Doyle's psychotic nanny. The Ray Letters were a welcome break in between the fictional pieces, I found.

Book Review: "The Sun and the Moon"

I love a good hoax, and Matthew Goodman's The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York (Basic Books, 2008) tells the story of a few of them. Central to Goodman's work is the famous Great Moon Hoax, perpetrated by the editors of the New York Sun in the late summer of 1835, but some of Barnum's best humbugs are detailed here, along with a couple by our good buddy Mr. Poe.

Goodman summarizes the hoaxes, profiles the hoaxers, and limns the receptions of and reactions to the hoaxes as they played out over the short and long terms. The book also examines the always-interesting world of 19th-century urban newspaper journalism, with its nasty editorial rivalries, occasionally questionable editorial and business practices, and fascinating characters.

Recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in the history of journalism, or who enjoys a good old-fashioned prank.

Auction Report: Recent Highlights & Upcoming

- At a Keys auction in London this week, a first edition of Darwin's Origin of Species sold for £35,000, to book dealer Hamish Riley-Smith. A signed 1868 photo of Darwin fetched a whopping £22,000, well over its estimate.

- Bloomsbury London held a huge Literature, Manuscripts and Modern Firsts sale on 23 April (1472 lots).

- On 7 May, Sotheby's London will sell Natural History, Travels, Atlases and Maps (253 lots).

- On 14 May, Bloomsbury London will sell Books and Manuscripts from the library of the late Harry and Virginia Walton (822 lots). A first edition of Catesby and an impressive collection of maps of the Arabian world are among the highlights.

This Week's Acquisitions

Most of these were yesterday's Buy Indie Day purchases:

- H. M. S. Surprise by Patrick O'Brian (W. W. Norton, 1990). Booksmith.

The Paradise of All These Parts: A Natural History of Boston by John Hanson Mitchell (Beacon Press, 2008). Booksmith.

- The Aeneid by Virgil (trans. Robert Fagles) (Viking, 2006). Booksmith.

The Glass of Time: The Secret Life of Miss Esperanza Gorst by Michael Cox (W. W. Norton, 2008). Border's.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Go Buy a Book!

I'm reminded that it's Buy Indie Day. The rules are simple: "buy one book—paperback, hardcover, audiobook, whatever you want!—at an independent bookstore near you."

I think I'll head to Brookline Booksmith after work and play along. If you don't know where your nearest indie shop is, find it here.