Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Scott's Statements to Police Revealed

Dispatches from yesterday's resumption of the Raymond Scott trial focus on statements Scott made to police following his arrest.

The Independent reports that Scott told detectives he believes that "experts" are attempting to frame him for the theft of the Durham First Folio: "I am not saying that the experts are lying or that they are being deceptive but it rather looks as if their brief has been to compare the Cuban copy* with known records of the Durham copy and look for similarities. It is all a very cosy world. It is sort of like a conspiracy; they are ganging up against me."

Scott also reportedly asked detectives "Do you seriously think I'm going to walk into the foremost Shakespeare library in the world and using my own name and address, with my fingerprints all over it, hand them a copy knowing and believing that it's got a doubtful provenance? A book worth millions - that I'm going to walk into such a place with such a book and ask to see the head librarian? There is no way if I had any knowledge that this was the Durham folio or a stolen copy that I would walk into the Folger Library, show the book to the head librarian and then leave all my bank details, my own name and address and show them my British passport. To suggest I would do that; it is tantamount to walking into the Louvre in Paris with the Mona Lisa under my arm, ten years after it had been stolen."

Intriguingly, the report also includes the line "Scott has now accepted that the book he handed to the Folger staff was the stolen Durham folio."

There's another report today in the Durham Times (which continues to describe the Folio incorrectly as a manuscript). This one focuses on the £90,000 in credit card debt Scott had racked up prior to his appearance at the Folger in July 2008.

Estimates now have the trial lasting through next week.

* Scott has maintained that the copy of the Folio he took to the Folger for authentication had been found in Cuba.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Skipwith Book

You may remember that in one of my posts from Charlottesville (this one) I noted that I'd come across a book with a very interesting provenance during one of the bookshop jaunts (in this case, to Franklin Gilliam Rare Books on South Street). Well, the book arrived in the mail today, so I can finally write about it in more detail.

The book itself I can't say much about yet since I've not read it, but it is I Says, Says I; a novel, by Thinks-I-To-Myself (i.e. Edward Nares). This is the first American edition, published at Boston by Bradford & Read and Philadelphia by Anthony Finley [printed at Boston by Munroe & Francis], dated 17 October 1812 (the first edition was published at London, also in 1812). A light penciled note on the title page appears to read "Trash, Trash" (which may be an indication of the quality of the text - you can judge for yourself if you wish, since Google Books has scanned this edition).

No, the interesting thing about this book is the signature(s) on the title page (pictured at left, full-size version here). The upper signature reads "Jean Skipwith / Prestwould", and the other (in red ink faded to a very bright pink) "Lionel Skipwith - 1895."

I've written about Lady Jean Skipwith (1748-1826) before (here), after I finished adding her library to LibraryThing. She was the most voracious female book collector in early America; her library included a vast number of novels and other literary writings (I suspect she had a fair majority of all English novels written by women during her lifetime; check out her author cloud). In her will she left 200 volumes each to her daughter-in-law Sarah Nivison Skipwith (wife of her son Humberston) and her two daughters Helen and Selena.

Sarah Nivison Skipwith having died before her mother-in-law, the books meant for her were apparently given to her widower, Jean's son Humberston Skipwith (1791-1862). From there this novel likely passed to Humberston's son Grey (1840-1895), and from him to his son Lionel (1882-1918); the date of Lionel's signature coincides with the year of his father's death.

So this book has quite a story (to me, an irresistible one, in fact), and that's why it's now on my shelves.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Auction Report: Arcana Collection

Christie's London will be auctioning the first part of what they're calling "the most valuable collection of illuminated manuscripts ever offered at auction" on 7 July. The first 48 lots from the Arcana Collection, comprising illuminated manuscripts and incunabula, are estimated to fetch £11-16 million. The collector has been identified as Ladislaus von Hoffmann, a Washington financier who is on the board of trustees at the Morgan Library & Museum (among other organizations), and founded the Arcana Foundation, Inc.

A neat thing about this sale is that Christie's has included short audio clips from experts about selected lots; you can find these underneath the images in the lot descriptions.

You know it's an important sale when a Nuremberg Chronicle (in Latin) is among the ten lots with the lowest expected estimates; it's listed at £28,000-35,000. Another copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle, this one a German copy with rich contemporary illuminations and binding, is estimated at £120,000-160,000.

I'll preview a few of the items from this sale, but the one that really excites me is Lot 5, Jean Grolier's copy of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (Aldus Manutius: Venice, 1499). It's in a Gommar Estienne binding done for Grolier (c. 1552-1555), and post-Grolier owners include Alexandre Albert François, Prince de Bournonville; the great English bibliophile George John, 2nd Earl Spencer; and the John Rylands Library in Manchester (with Spencer's collection; it was deaccessioned and sold at Sotheby's, 1988).

Interestingly, Grolier owned at least five copies of the Hypnerotomachia, including one other bound by Estienne. Thomas Frognall Dibdin wrote about this copy in his work on Earl Spencer's collection, calling it "the most perfect specimen of the press of Aldus. ... Everything in it conspires to charm the tasteful collector [and to] delight and gratify the judgment of the Virtuoso. ... The present copy ... is perhaps unrivalled for its size and beauty." This beautiful book, with a most fascinating pedigree, is estimated to sell for £220,000-260,000.

The lot which rates the top estimate is the Abbey Bible, a fabulously-illuminated manuscript on vellum (Bologna, 1260s) produced for use in a Dominican convent. It's estimated at £2.5-3.5 million. Another top lot is expected to be a book of hours/psalter produced for Elizabeth de Bohun (England, 14th century) and later owned by members of the Astor family. Its estimate is £2-3 million.

Among the other important illuminated manuscripts are the Cauchon Hours, made in the mid-15th century for a noble family of Rheims. This is estimated at £800,000-1,200,000. A book of hours produced for François I (1539-40) by the Master of François de Rohan rates an estimate of £300,000-500,000.

Incunabula include the first edition in Italian of Pliny's Historia naturalis (Venice, 1476), with illuminations; Adrianus Brielis' edition of Hieronymus' Epistolae (Mainz: Peter Schoeffer, 7 September 1470), printed on vellum, with contemporary Schoeffer-workshop decoration. This has passed through the libraries of Sir Thomas Phillipps and Countess Doheny. It's estimated at £800,000-1,200,000. A copy of the first Italian illustrated version of Boccaccio's Decameron, bound with Masuccio's Novellino (both 1492), is estimated at £220,000-280,000. Another Boccaccio work, De claris mulieribus (1473), one of the first works printed at Ulm (and the first illustrated book published there), is expected to sell for £250,000-350,000.

This is going to be a fascinating sale to watch as these amazing and unique items change hands. I'll be sure to have a report once the hammer comes down.

Later sales from the Arcana Collection will include Books and Manuscripts, and Old Master Prints.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Book Review: "The Fortune of War"

Patrick O'Brian's sixth Aubrey-Maturin novel, The Fortune of War, finds our heroes at sea when the War of 1812 breaks out, then captured when the Constitution bests the Java and taken to Boston to await a prisoner exchange. While O'Brian's descriptions of Boston leave much to be desired, his decision to bring Maturin front and center for this installment and flesh out some of his spycraft (as well as his relationship with Diana Villiers) is to be applauded.

As usual, an absorbing read, and O'Brian's meticulous research of the battles he portrays (including the capstone fight between the Chesapeake and the Shannon) is obvious.

Links & Reviews

- The good folks at Oak Knoll have started a blog: The Oak Knoll Biblio-Blog. I've added a link to the sidebar and subscribed via RSS.

- Looting at Iraq's important archaeological sites is an ongoing problem, the NYTimes reported yesterday - largely because the police force charged with protecting them has not been funded or staffed.

- The Grolier Club's fall exhibition will be "John Wiley & Sons: 200 Years of Publishing." The show will run from 15 September through 20 November, and will include rare and important editions published by the firm from its founding in 1807 through the present.

- The Detroit Institute of Arts is going to sell a flag recovered from the Little Bighorn battlefield at Sotheby's this fall; presale estimates suggest the guidon could fetch $2-5 million. The flag does not fall within the scope of the museum's collecting policies.

- Can't say I'm surprised to see this story reappearing ... but I said all I'll say about it two years ago.


- Leo Damrosch's Tocqueville in America; review by H.W. Brands in the WaPo.

- Andrew Graham-Dixon's Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane; review by Charles Saumarez Smith in the Telegraph.

- Andrew Pettegree's The Book in the Renaissance; review by Christopher Hawtree in the Independent.

- Hugh Trevor-Roper's History and the Enlightenment; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- James Shapiro's Contested Will; review by John Timpane in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

- Nathaniel Philbrick's The Last Stand; review by Roger McGrath in the WSJ.

- The new 56-volume edition of the works of Conan Doyle by Cambridge Scholars Publishing; review by Jonathan Barnes in the TLS.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

More News from the Scott Trial

The trial of Raymond Scott continued this week in Newcastle. Folger librarian Richard Kuhta testified about Scott's arrival at the library with the stolen folio, noting that the man's entrance was very much a memorable one: "He was dressed in tropical clothing; he had on a kind of oversized tee shirt with a very large fish on the front, lightweight slacks and loafers with no socks and a lot of jewellery - rings and bracelets.

"He apologised for his clothing and said if he'd had time he'd have worn a suit, but that he'd just flown in from Cuba, where he had a villa.

"He said he liked to fish there and that he was a person of independent means.

"He said he'd inherited his father's construction building supplies business and had sold it and as a result he was very comfortably off.

"He said he had something to show me."

That something was a First Folio, which Scott casually pulled out of a messenger bag. Kuhta told the court he "was startled by the way in which the book was being handled and by the sudden realisation that the man seemed to know it was a first edition." When Kuhta realized that Scott had brought in the stolen Durham University folio, he said, "My heart sank. It was a feeling of sadness to think we were dealing with stolen property. The collections are what we live for, preserving them, building them, making them accessible. It is an emotional thing in our world, the loss and recovery of this precious material."

The trial resumes on Tuesday, presumably with more witnesses for the prosecution.

This Week's Acquisitions

My box of books acquired while in Charlottesville (from Heartwood Books) arrived this week. It contained:

- Studies in Bibliography: Papers of the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, Volumes 22, 32, 51, 53, 54.

- Bermuda Today and Yesterday, 1503-1973 by Terry Tucker (Robert Hale Ltd., 1975).

- The Rise of Robert Dodsley: Creating the New Age of Print by Harry M. Solomon (Southern Illinois University Press, 1996).

- The Trial of Elizabeth Cree by Peter Ackroyd (Nan A. Talese, 1995).

- Reading in Tudor England by Eugene R. Kintgen (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996).

- The Earliest Irish and English Bookarts: Visual and Poetic Forms Before A.D. 1000 by Robert David Stevick (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994).

- The Illuminated Manuscript by Janet Backhouse (Phaidon, 1993).

- The John Dunlap Broadside: The First Printing of the Declaration of Independence by Frederick Richmond Goff (Library of Congress, 1976).

A couple other things also arrived:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Auction Report: Upcoming

- On 29 June, Bonhams will sell Printed Books, Maps and Photographs, including Selected Books from Oxfam, in 433 lots.

- On 6 July, Sotheby's London will sell Western Manuscripts and Miniatures, in 40 lots. The expected big attraction here is the Hours of Anne de Montmorency, a French illuminated manuscript from 1539. It's estimated at £300,000-500,000. A Hebrew Pentateuch from the 13th century has pre-sale estimates of £200,000-300,000.

- Quite possibly the most important sale of the summer will be held at Christie's London on 7 July. This is the first part of the Arcana Collection: Exceptional Illuminated Manuscripts and Incunabula. This sale will feature just 48 lots, but estimates suggest the sale could bring in something on the order of £11-16 million. Fully half of the lots have low-end estimates of £100,000 or more, and two lots may make more than £2 million (even before premiums). I'll be doing a complete preview of this auction as it approaches, so stay tuned for that.

- On 8 July, Bloomsbury London will sell Manuscripts, Literature and History, Children's and Illustrated Books, in 488 lots.

- On 15 July, Sotheby's London will sell English Literature, History, Children's Books and Illustrations, in 215 lots. The major lot is expected to be a copy of the first print appearance of "A Study in Scarlet," inscribed by Conan Doyle (one of two known inscribed copies). Estimates on that are £250,000-400,000.

- Also on 15 July at Sotheby's London, Books for Cooks, in 154 lots. The print version of this catalog is really very lovely - they've strategically scattered foodstains throughout.

Auction Report: Recent Highlights

I've gotten behind in auction results again, somehow - just can't quite keep up with them these days! A list of forthcoming sales to follow shortly.

- Bonhams New York sold Books and Manuscripts yesterday, in 519 lots. The big steal of the sale (as Rebecca has noted) had to be a copy of Dard Hunter's Papermaking by Hand in America in a beautiful binding, which was estimated at $5,000-8,000 and made a surprisingly low $874.

The big seller at Bonhams was Robert John Thornton's New Illustration of the Sexual System of Carolus von Linnaeus Comprehending... the Temple of Flora, or Garden of Nature (1799-1807), which made $85,400.

Another expected top seller, a first edition Book of Mormon, did not sell.

- Bloomsbury New York sold Travel Books, Autographs, and Literature yesterday, in 581 lots. The results have not yet been posted on the website.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jacques Guilty

The BBC is reporting that William Jacques has been found guilty of the theft of Ambroise Verschaffelt's Nouvelle Iconographie des Camellias (1849-1860), a set totaling 13 volumes and worth £40,000-50,000, from the library of the Royal Horticultural Society in London. Sentencing will be held on 20 July.

Auction Report: Christie's

The Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts, Including Americana sale at Christie's New York this morning brought in $3,342,438. Many of the expected high spots didn't sell, but the 1823 Stone engraving of the Declaration of Independence on parchment did well, making $302,500. The Einstein speech manuscript carried the day, though, fetching $578,500 (well over the $250,000-350,000 estimate).

A first edition of Nicolai Ivanovitch Lobatchevskii's O nachalakh geometrii (1829-1830) made $134,500 (not quite reaching the estimate). A presentation copy of Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! fetched $86,500. A first edition of Darwin's Origin (1859) sold for $52,500. The unfolded copy of the 1833 Declaration engraving made for Peter Force's American Archives brought $23,750.

And that 1787 Ethan Allen letter to Crevecoeur? It still didn't find a buyer.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Auction Report: Sotheby's

The Sotheby's New York Books and Manuscripts sale, held 18 June, brought in $2,350,314. Full results are here. The expected top seller was John Lennon's manuscript of "A Day in the Life" (1967), which did even better than expected, making $1,202,500. The next priciest lot was a collection of about forty Magritte letters and postcards, which sold for $218,500. A copy of Petrus Scriverius' Principes Hollandiae (1650) made $116,500.

The 1591 first edition in English of Orlando Furioso (est. $100,000-150,000) did not sell.

Jury Gets Jacques Case

The jury has begun deliberations in the William Jacques theft trial. They had not reached a verdict by end of business on Monday and will resume on Tuesday morning.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Report from the Field: RBS Days 10-15

[Note: For previous installments, go here and work backward.]

Wow, I didn't realize I'd missed an entire week of updates on RBS, but that just goes to show you what a busy time it's been! Busy, and incredibly fulfilling. I'll do a full recap of the week in this post, so please pardon its length.

On Monday morning the students, staff and faculty met for breakfast, and then separated into their class groups for the first sessions. I led the papermaking class across to their classroom in Jefferson Hall and made sure John and Tim had everything they needed, then worked on other projects around the RBS suite in the morning. After lunch I got my orientation to special collections handling so that I could work with those materials, and helped out with a show-and-tell session of atlases for Alice Hudson's Introduction to Printed Maps class.

During the afternoon we got things ready for the Monday evening lecture, by UVa professor David Vander Meulen (also a student this week in the papermaking class). He spoke on "Bibliographical Analysis in the 'Digital Age'," an entirely appropriate topic for the week. He discussed various opportunities that computers as tools offer to traditional bibliographic of printed books, but also noted that "a shadow is growing," as libraries seek to decrease print holdings and the major digitization outfits are not concerned with capturing the elements or metadata bibliographers need in order to conduct effective analysis. It was a good talk, and I know it got people thinking carefully about these issues, as they turned up in conversations throughout the week.

On Tuesday morning I helped John and Tim with their special collections session, which was a great treat - John had pulled some excellent examples of interesting papers and books about the history of papermaking to show to the students, and told some great stories about Dard Hunter and other well-known papermakers of the past. During the afternoon we worked on putting some things away from the Monday classes, and then had the weekly movie night (instructional film first, then a feature). I watched a Dutch movie on hand bookbinding first (in another room we showed one on paper-marbling), then everyone converged for a viewing of "Desk Set," which is always fun to watch.

Wednesday was quite a long day: it started early with some setup for the history of bookbinding and papermaking classes, after which I had a couple periods of free time, which I used for some stacks research on the Bermuda project. At lunchtime Michael Suarez and I had a nice chat about life plans and projects and all those various things, and then I took some reference materials over to the papermaking class for their very fascinating watermark identification exercise (each student was given a couple paper samples and asked to determine the location and approximate time period of manufacture). They certainly seemed to enjoy the hunt!

In the afternoon on Wednesday I cleaned up the printing press and its associated parts after the maps class did their printing demonstration, and then assisted with setup for the evening talk by Dr James Goode, "Three Centuries of the American Bookplate." This was an illustrated discussion of American bookplate design, featuring examples from Goode's own collection (part of which is currently on display at UVa). I joined Goode, some faculty members and other RBS staff for dinner after the talk, where we continued our discussions of bookplates, collecting, and other topics of interest.

Thursday morning I spent working with the RBS course archives, and then going to special collections to snap some pictures of the bookbinding class at their show-and-tell session, which featured a whole series of absolutely lovely and historic bindings from the university's collections. I spent the afternoon reshelving books in the basement stacks, which was great fun for me since I got to enjoy the bindings as I put them away. Once we finished up with classes a few of us went over to Heartwood Books and raided their books on books section thoroughly - when you're in town, a visit to this shop is highly recommeded.

Friday was a reasonably quiet day: in the morning I worked more on the course archives project, then we met as a staff at lunchtime to talk about how the week had gone (very well, we all agreed!). In the afternoon a couple of us worked some more on reshelving, then got things set up for the final reception before heading over to our classrooms to hand out the course evaluations and see the students off to the party, which makes a very nice capstone to the week. Once all was cleaned up in the RBS rooms the staff spent a lovely evening enjoying food, games and a little downtime.

Yesterday morning I met up with Endrina Tay from Monticello for breakfast, and we talked Libraries of Early America business for a while (and I enjoyed some very nice ham biscuits). Then the RBS staff spent the afternoon clearing out this week's classrooms and putting the materials away, which went extremely smoothly; there are only a few things left to finish reshelving this week. Once we'd gotten to a stopping point we brainstormed ideas for a while, which was very productive and led to some really interesting conversations. In the evening I went with Richard Noble, James Ascher and Donna Sy to the South Street Brewery for supper, where I finally got my pulled pork sandwich for this trip and we discussed weighty matters of great significance (well, occasionally anyway).

And today I fly home - it's hard to believe how fast the last two weeks have flown by! As I told the rest of the staff on Friday I can't remember another experience that has made me at once so exhausted and so energized. Rare Book School is a very special place, where people from all points on the bibliophilic continuum can meet and learn from each other, where an amazing teaching collection is used to great effect, where a truly awe-inspiring staff manages to pull off the tricky proposition of five concurrent classes in five different locations, all requiring materials and support. It's impressed me, it's inspired me, it's invigorated me - and I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm not alone in that.

Let me just make a quick plug (in case these posts haven't persuaded you already): COME to Rare Book School. And from me, a huge thank-you to the wonderful staff, who welcomed me so warmly and were so incredibly patient as I learned the ropes, and to the William Reese Company, the sponsor of my fellowship this summer. It's been one of the most enlightening and enjoyable experiences of my life, and I leave Charlottesville already looking forward to my next visit.

Links & Reviews

- On 30 June at Brandeis, the New England Archivists are offering a summer program, "The Worth of a Book: A Look at Rare-Book Selection and Appraisal," featuring Ken Gloss, Jay Satterfield, and Maris Humphreys.

- From BibliOdyssey, a printer's handbook.

- Doug Stewart was on "All Things Considered" this week to discuss The Boy Who Would be Shakespeare.

- Google will scan 400,000 out-of-copyright books from the national library of Austria.

- More on James Goode's bookplate exhibit from the UVa magazine.

- The Boise Art Museum has an Audubon exhibit up through 29 August.

- There's a virtual tour of Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill. [h/t The Bunburyist]

- Very exciting to see that the first AAS bicentennial publication is out: it's the diary of one of their early librarians, Christopher Columbus Baldwin. Available from AAS or Oak Knoll.

- In the Guardian, Lisa Jardine writes on the current exhibit at the National Gallery, "Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries."

- From last weekend's NYTimes, a piece on Jefferson's wine-tours in Europe.

- The entire archive of Royal Society publications is currently free for access through 30 July - some 68,000 articles! [h/t @BibliOdyssey]

- Also from the Guardian, a quiz on bookshops in literature.

Book Review

- Nick Bunker's Making Haste from Babylon; review by Russell Short in The Scotsman.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Updates from the Scott Trial

Lots of media attention for the Raymond Scott trial, which has featured the first public display of the Durham First Folio (as evidence) since it was stolen in 1998. Prosecutors maintain that Scott "damaged, brutalised, and mutilated" the book (removing the binding, the frontispiece, and the final page) in an attempt to disfigure it enough that experts wouldn't be able to identify it. They suggest that Scott stole the book and stashed it in his mother's house for a decade, but after accruing rather serious credit card debts hatched a plan to sell the volume.

According to media reports, prosecutors have presented evidence that Scott (now 53), his Cuban girlfriend, and retired Cuban Army commandant Deni Mareno Leon planned to split profits from the sale of the stolen book. And some new details have emerged about Scott's sudden visit to the Folger in 2008 - "Claiming to be a multimillionaire who had inherited a construction business from his father, he told the center's experts that the book had been handed to him by the family of a former major in the Cuban army. Unable to travel to America themselves, the dead major's children simply wanted the folio authenticated. In an attempt to prove his fabulous wealth, Scott handed over a $3,000 donation to the library, gave its shocked director two bow ties and bought the staff a large cake, said prosecutor Robert Smith QC."

Once Folger staff had told him that he had a Folio, Scott allegedly "offered $10,000 (£6,750) a year in perpetuity to the library from the proceeds" of the sale. When expert Stephen Massey had concluded that the Folio was the copy stolen from Durham, Scott apparently offered him a cut of the profits in exchange for his silence.

The trial continues, and is now estimated to last around four weeks.

And then there are the newspaper reports which continue to refer to the Folio as a "manuscript." Sigh.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Auction Report: Copley Sale at Sotheby's

Today at Sotheby's New York the second round of sales from the James S. Copley library was held. The main sale, Arts & Sciences, Including the Mark Twain Collection, made $2,210,816. A Fitzgerald autograph quotation made $98,500, and the expected top seller did perform well: Twain's "A Family Sketch" sold for $242,500.

The single-lot sale, featuring a 1776 Salem broadside printing of the Declaration of Independence (est. $600,000-800,000), didn't quite manage the low estimate; it sold for $572,500.

Auction Report: Sotheby's Milan

Yesterday's sale at Sotheby's Milan sale featured a few lots of books, beginning with Lot 173. The expected top seller, a 1478 Aritmetica de Treviso (est. 50,000-70,000 Euros), did even better than estimated, making 240,750 Euros. Full results here.

And this afternoon, don't forget, the second big round of Copley sales at Sotheby's New York (previewed here).

Scott Trial Opens

The other British book thief trial we've all been waiting for began yesterday in Newcastle: Raymond Scott arrived at Crown Court in a limo, wearing "a tan pinstripe suit, Panama hat, white snakeskin loafers, and his trademark Cartier watch, Rolex bracelet, Versace ring and £300 prescription Tiffany sunglasses" (Metro). He flashed the victory sign at reporters as he entered the courtroom.

Scott has denied the charges (theft, handling stolen goods, and removing criminal property) that he stole the Durham University First Folio in 1998. The book resurfaced in July 2008, when Scott took it to the Folger for authentication and experts identified it as the stolen volume.

This trial could last several weeks.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jacques Had "Shopping List," Trial Reveals

British media outlets are reporting that prosecutors have presented some damning evidence during the opening hours of the trial of William Jacques: "When he was arrested police found a 'thief's shopping list' of more than 70 rare titles from the [Royal Horticultural Society's] library, complete with their shelf references, what condition they were in, and their values on the American market, the jury heard." The list was described as "neatly itemised on several pieces of A4 paper."

Prosecutor Gino Connor said of the list "What was of interest as far as the document was concerned is that the books were listed in sequential order as to where they would be found in the library, which tends to suggest that was a great deal of prior planning as far as this was concerned."

The Daily Mail reports that eight additional titles on the "shopping list" were missing from the library's shelves, although it's not clear whether they've also been stolen (by Jacques or anyone else).

Connor added of the thefts "This was ... a systematic, carefully planned theft, committed by a man who knew precisely what he was doing. He had been an undergraduate at Cambridge when he was younger, he had been a member of the British Library and the London Library in the past, and he had an interest in rare and valuable books. He wasn't a shoplifter in WHSmith."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Jacques Jury Picked, Trial Underway

A jury has been sworn in for the trial of William Simon Jacques, who stands accused of stealing Ambroise Verschaffelt's Nouvelle Iconographie des Camellias (1849-1860), a set totaling 13 volumes and worth £40,000-50,000, from the library of the Royal Horticultural Society in London.

The trial began this morning at 10:30 local time, at Southwark Crown Court.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Report from the Field: RBS Days 7-9

[Note: For previous installments, go here and work backward.]

Let's see, I left off last on Friday morning, just before the last day of class. During the morning sessions we went over the practice we'd done on Thursday afternoon to hone our format-detection and collation skills, and David then spent some time going through various forms of bibliographic descriptions to show that they'll (quite naturally) vary widely depending on the purpose of the description (auction catalog, library record, bibliographic treatment of a printer or author, &c.).

During the lunch hour on Friday the staff met to get the game plan for the next week's session, and then the classes met for their final period, to finish up the discussion of bibliographic descriptions. One of the (many) really interesting things David noted in these lectures was that bibliographers have not ever quite managed to follow a good pattern when emerges: if a bibliographic essay or guidebook appears that is regarded as very useful, nobody continues it by using the model for another location or time period. This, he suggested (and I thoroughly agree) hampers the furtherance of scholarship, and bibliographers should be more attuned to what's working for others and put it to use in their own work.

Following the final class session we filled out the course evaluations, which are an important part of the RBS structure: they're posted online following the class for prospective students to consult in choosing their classes. Once those were done and returned, the group returned to the RBS pressroom for the final reception, a chance to continue conversations begun earlier in the week and (in the case of my classmates at least, promises to be in touch when we're in each others' respective cities so that we can see their institutions). There was also much buying of mugs, publications and other RBS goodies.

On Friday evening the staff got together for a dinner party, which featured a bibliographic murder mystery (which, as it turned out, was rather complicated to plan from scratch in less than a week, but was quite entertaining - no other crowd would have been so amused by the scenario, I suspect, but some folks really took the ball and ran with it, which made for a very entertaining and enjoyable evening). And there was food - a great deal of food, all delicious. A lovely way to end the week, and getting to spend it with such an energetic and dynamic group was really delightful.

There was no time to waste, though, and by noon on Saturday we had all returned to RBS to finish returning materials from last week's classes and get things going for the classes that begin this morning. The class I'm "following" this week (making sure everything's where it needs to be, basically) is John Bidwell and Tim Barrett's "History of European and American Papermaking," which features some hands-on papermaking workshops and lots of great samples of paper to look at. We spent some of the day preparing to move things over to that classroom, but were deterred from that by a massive thunderstorm (which made rolling carts full of paper samples and books outside not a very good idea at all).

We turned instead to pulling some of the hundreds (quite literally) of binding examples that will be shown in "Introduction to the History of Bookbinding" this week - those students are in for some very serious "shock and awe" with all the amazing bindings they're going to get a chance to see this week. We worked on that and pulling for other courses until a halt was called for our dinner break; joined by the faculty members who were present and finalizing preparation for their classes, we had a very relaxing and pleasant supper, followed by some of Vince Golden's famous and amazing card tricks.

Yesterday morning was spent in pulling the rest of the materials for this week's classes, and then getting all the materials moved over to the classrooms and ready to go. Once the faculty members for my classes arrived I met with them and made sure they had everything they needed and were all set to go, and we collected the rest of their materials and got them over to the classroom. Prep-work continued until just before 5, and then we welcomed the new group of students, with a reception and remarks by Michael Suarez. Following that we finished up the last few elements of setup, including the classroom for a new RBS class, "Born Digital Materials: Theory and Practice" (which looks, at the moment, a bit like a Home for Aged Computers; those students are also in for a big treat this week; the class sounds completely and totally fascinating).

All that setup (especially in a swelteringly hot day) made for a pretty exhausting Sunday, but once again it was invigorating too, and at the end of the day it really felt like we'd gotten something major accomplished. Things kick off in about an hour as classes begin, so I'm off to help make sure everything's still where it needs to be!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Links & Reviews

- Bookseller Lorne Blair recently wrote a letter to ABE about the lack of a data filter on their want list feature, and Ian's posted the note. I could not agree more. It used to be that the want emails I got would contain interesting and useful listings. Now a fair majority of them tell me I can get a POD reprint, which I generally don't want (and certainly not for the ridiculous prices people charge for them). I hope the ABE folks will take the steps Blair suggests - it would be an easy thing to do, and make the want list feature much more useful again.

- Well, it had to happen - on Friday Travis McDade and I were talking about how (blessedly) quiet it's been lately on the book theft front; word now that a New York man has entered a not guilty plea to charges that he stole more than fifty books from the collection of the late Carter Burden while working for Burden's widow. Timothy Smith maintains that Mrs. Burden had been unable to sell the books and had placed them in the basement of the building, "discarded as not valuable." So, another one to watch!

- Cambridge University has received a £1.5 million donation to digitize rare books and manuscripts on religion and science.

- An update on the Dictionary of American Regional English from the WSJ; the final volume (covering Slab-Z) is due to appear next year.

- From the NYTimes yesterday, word that the British Museum is collaborating with Wikipedia to ensure that the museum's collections are well covered by their wikipedia pages.

- Over at the Book Bench, word of a new book about the writing habits of writers. Certainly has the potential to be fascinating.

- There's been an interesting exchange on SHARP-L about the teaching of bibliography; Eleanor Shevlin weighs in with her thoughts at EMOB.

- We'll soon be able to use iBooks on our iPhones, according to Apple. I don't know that I necessarily will, but it is nice to have the option.

- The Library Juice Press 2010 catalog is out (here). As usual, some important new titles to watch for and read.


- Nathaniel Philbrick's The Last Stand and S.C. Gwynne's Empire of the Summer Moon; review by Bruce Barcott in the NYTimes.

- Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; review by Mark Henderson in the Times.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Report from the Field: RBS Days 4-6

[Note: For the first installment, see this post.]

The quick pace and great content of RBS continues - in this post I'll cover the goings-on for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and then will add later dispatches as time permits.

Tuesday morning's class sessions were on illustration during the hand-press period, so we got to examine examples of various types of relief (woodcut, metalcut, wood-engraving) and intaglio (engraving, etching, mezzotint, &c.) illustration processes, and at how illustrations could be integrated into the book. As usual, the scope of the RBS teaching collection continued to astound - one of the items on display was a German Nuremberg Chronicle, with which we could compare some loose leaves from a copy in Latin to see the differences in layout and design.

On Tuesday afternoon right after lunch we had the great fun of getting to print on RBS's replica colonial common press, testing our inking skills and paper alignment. Our finished product is currently hanging on lines all over the RBS pressroom, waiting for the ink to dry. I'll share some images soon. And for our final session on Tuesday we got our first dip into imposition and format, the most complicated part of the course. Thankfully we were in good hands, as David Whitesell explained it much better than anyone else I've ever heard.

In the evening on Tuesdays RBS hosts a movie night, and we watched a very interesting and well-made short documentary on the Lindisfarne Gospels.

Wednesday morning's two class sessions were on bookbindings, and (not to sound like a broken record) the selection and range of materials available for display and teaching examples continued to amaze). Calf, goat, sheep, vellum, cloth, wood; plain, blind-stamped, gilt-stamped, gauffered edges, sprinkled edges, marbled edges; books in sheets, books sans spines so we could see the binding structure ... simply impressive.

The sessions on Wednesday afternoon we spent delving into the foreign language of bibliographical notation, and once again David showed just how important it is to have a good teacher for this stuff. It's tough going, and there are all sorts of little traps and pitfalls (and it really is a little bit like learning a new language). But we made it, and in a final late-evening session we got to practice our method and see how it was working by testing our skills on a selection of books. The room during that two hours was just about totally silent, except for the riffle of pages and the occasional "aha!" It made for a long day, but it was well worth it for what I got out of it.

Between our afternoon and evening sessions we had the first RBS forum, featuring Dan Raff from Penn talking about the Google Books Settlement and what it means for book folks. Ironically, the discussion was held literally ten feet away from the large room where the books sent from UVa for scanning are staged for shipment.

Yesterday's morning sessions were on provenance, and what that can tell us about books. David first discussed an element of provenance that I think falls out of most discussions - that is, the physical transformation of a book over time as it's used by various owners, and what those changes do to the book (rebindings, rebackings, trimming, wear and marks of use, staining, &c.). Then we got into the marks themselves: ownership inscriptions, book labels/stamps/plates/brands, institutional markings, bookseller notations, armorial bindings, auction catalog evidence, all that fun stuff. Because of my own personal interests this was one of my favorite parts of the course, and not surprisingly it was of as high a caliber as the rest of the week has been.

In the afternoon yesterday we split into groups, each going to Special Collections for a bindings and provenance display (more fascinating examples of fine bindings and cool provenance from the period), and then at the next period to the classroom for a bit more practice with collation and format, which we'll be discussing later today.

Last evening we went downtown for Bookseller night - we actually only managed one shop visit since we stayed there longer than expected: Franklin Gilliam Rare Books (which not only provided lots of neat books to look at, but also some really tasty ham biscuits). I found a particularly fascinating look book provenance-wise (more about which later if I decide I must have it). After that visit we headed for the other shops, but it was too late in the evening for them, so that'll be the next trip downtown. We headed out for supper instead, and enjoyed a lovely meal at Tastings, which I understand is sort of the unofficial RBS restaurant. That reputation is certainly well-earned; I had a very delicious duck breast with cherry sauce, and spent the evening in delightfully bibliophilic conversation.

Today (hard to believe) we'll have the last of our class sessions, followed by the RBS reception and then a staff gathering which promises all sorts of bibliographic hilarity. And then we start all over tomorrow to prepare for next week's classes!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Auction Report: Recent Highlights

Before I head off for another day of RBS-fun, here are some recent prices realized from the various auctions over the past week (which I previewed here):

- The 2 June Christie's sale of Valuable Manuscripts and Printed Books made £1,612,100, with 70 of the 90 lots selling. The top sellers were the manuscript on vellum of The Book of John Mandeville (£289,250); a very interesting Tudor-period manuscript tract on humanistic topics (£121,250, over estimates of just £25,000-35,000); Georg Braun's Civitates orbis terrarum (1618-1625), which made £97,250 (also beating estimates); and the copy of Darwin's Origin owned by Darwin bibliographer R.B. Freeman (£91,250). The Boccaccio made £58,850.

- The first round of Forbes' Churchill collection sales was also held 2 June, and made £577,062. Just 84 of the 144 lots sold. The highest price went for a very rare copy of Churchill's For Free Trade (1906) in the original binding, which made £39,650.

- At the 7 June Christie's sale of Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts, the total was £681,500, with 266 of 354 lots sold. Kepler's Harmonices mundi libri V (1619) claimed the top spot, selling for £30,000. The 58-volume collection of c. 350 pamphlets, with 50 of the volumes uniformly bound, brought in £22,500.

- The 8-9 June Sotheby's sale of the Collection of Patricia Kluge brought in a whopping $15,158,176, but the numbers were with the furniture and artworks, not the books. The highest-selling book lot was a collection of Twain's works, which made $27,500. Full results here.

- Sotheby's London's 9 June sale of Music and Continental Books and Manuscripts on 9 June made £776,288. Full results here. The Bach manuscript beat out Schubert, making £70,850; the Franz Schubert autograph manuscript fetched £54,050; the 1821 Beethoven letter sold for £33,650.

Book Review: "The Lexicographer's Dilemma"

As I was reading Jack Lynch's The Lexicographer's Dilemma: The Evolution of 'Proper' English, from Shakespeare to South Park (Walker & Company, 2009) I couldn't help but think of how much it reminded me of James Shapiro's Contested Will. An eminent scholar in the field, taking as his subject a controversy that manages to get lots of people all riled up, offering a series of vignettes centered around the topic that focus on interesting characters, &c. &c., you get the idea.

Instead of Delia Bacon and Sigmund Freud duking it out over who was (or wasn't) Shakespeare, here we have Joseph Priestley, Noah Webster, Strunk & White, George Carlin and others going to the lists in the battle over "good English." Lynch offers here a brief history of prescriptivism in English, in the process managing to bust some myths about when and why it started. By examining a series of battles in this linguistic cold war (the kerfuffle over Webster's Third, for example, and the strangely cyclical series of grammatical fatwas against the split infinitive), Lynch captures the flavor of the debate very well, and his notes provide much further reading for anyone interested in dipping down further.

Lynch's point is that these battles over "proper" English have been going on for centuries, and thought they are certainly heating up again in the electronic age as new abbreviations (see "cu l8r") and new forms of writing and speaking continue to come into play, Lynch maintains that this is nothing new (and if you've ever tried to read early manuscripts you'll certainly agree). People have always used the language the way it suits them, and chances are they probably always will.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Report from the Field: RBS Days 1-3

As I've mentioned, I'm at the University of Virginia this week for Rare Book School - it's a pretty intense experience all around (hence this being the first chance I've had to sit down and try to write a little about the first couple of days), but a really fascinating one, and while exhausting, it's been great fun so far and I anticipate more great fun for the next week and a half.

I arrived on Saturday afternoon, and jumped right into the fray, helping this week's staff prepare for the first summer session. The teaching collection is really a sight to behold, and watching the exceptional staff get everything prepared and placed in the classrooms was a very impressive thing - not to mention the well-oiled machine that they are in making sure everyone and everything are precisely where they need to be at exactly the right time. I'm very glad I had the chance to see the operation in action, because it definitely gives an important perspective on just how everything works (and goes to show just how amazing the staff is, and what big shoes I have to next week when I'm on duty for the next round of classes!).

Sunday afternoon saw us finishing up the last few preparations for the week's classes and getting ready for the students' arrival in the evening. That went off without a hitch (again, thanks to the superb coordination and organization that the staff manage), and we were welcomed officially to the RBS summer season by Director Michael Suarez, who spoke in the University's lovely McGregor Room. He stressed the importance of the RBS community both as a group of individuals (students from all aspects of the biblio-world) and as ambassadors to the world at large, giving a rousing welcome that I know was appreciated by all.

Today was the first day of classes - I'm taking Printed Books to 1800 with David Whitesell, and in our four sessions today (each 1.5 hours long) we had two great crash courses: the morning we spent on paper, discussing its manufacture and identification, laid v. wove paper, watermarks, &c. &c. In the afternoon we turned to typography: the design and creation of type in its various forms, how those changed over time, how it's discussed bibliographically, you name it. It was a wonderful introduction to the topics, and the really superlative teaching collection that RBS has accumulated over the years just made our discussions all the more amazing. Paper and type molds, a watermark example from the press of Wynken de Worde (printed on the first paper manufactured in England), typographical oddities and example sheets for practicing measurement and description, leaves to show ink halation ... you name it - if it was discussed, we got to see and hold an example. Where else could you do that?

Tonight's main event after class was a riveting talk by John Kristensen of Firefly Press in Allston (which I'm ashamed to say I've never visited, but must now make a point to do), "The Heavyweight Bout: Linotype vs. Monotype. The Two Dominant Technologies of Hot-Metal Typesetting Square Off." This (obviously) made for the perfect capstone to an afternoon of talking about typography, as John gave us capsule histories of the linotype and monotype technologies, including some video of each in action, taken in his shop (he has both machines, and uses them). He outlined the pros and cons of each technology, and happily answered many questions after his talk by those of us in the room. Great fun, and a really energetic way to end the day!

Back to it tomorrow - in the afternoon, we'll be printing! I've been snapping some photos and will do so again over the next few days, so stay tuned for those.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Links & Reviews

- Michael Taylor at the LSU Special Collections blog has the story of a fascinating biblio-character with a great name: Bindon Blood.

- The archive of Bletchley Park, comprising millions of documents, is to be digitized and made available online. [h/t @bookn3rd]

- Forbes editor Tom Post got a tour of the Folger Shakespeare Library's vault, and blogs about it.

- New blog of note (and link added to the sidebar): Res Obscura, which is pretty new but already has some really neat posts up, including one about one of my favorite guys, George Psalmanazar. [h/t Nick]

- Laurel Thacher Ulrich spoke in Utah recently on the importance of historic preservation.

- The National Gallery of Art has a new web exhibit, "Announcing the Text: Development of the Title Page, 1470-1900."

- From BibliOdyssey, butterflies!

- Tarquin Tar has found a new collecting focus: Salem printers Samuel and Ebenezer Hall.

- Ian offers up a sampling of book curses.

- The NYTimes ran a piece this week on a dispute over the ownership of Gregor Mendel's writings on pea plant genetics.

- Larry Nix notes that the Lusitania was carrying an order of books for the Library of Congress when it was sunk: check out the invoice.

- LISNews passes along this post which suggests that an impending Facebook Q&A service is "the death of library reference." I'll believe it when I see it. They said the same thing about the Internet. But the larger point, that libraries need to be continuously thinking about what they're doing, is a good one.

- In The Telegraph, a profile of the process by which Belgian publisher Paul van den Heuvel got permission to visit the Vatican Secret Archives to create his coffee-table book The Vatican Secret Archives.

- The National Cathedral may sell parts of its rare book collection, due to staffing cuts. Talks are underway with the Folger about a possible transfer.

- Over at Paper Cuts, some "stray questions" for Nicholas Carr, about his new book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains

- The Getty Museum has been sued by the Armenian Church, which is demanding the return of pages from a 1256 Bible. The pages are alleged to have been removed following an authentication of the book as complete in the late 1940s. The Getty acquired the leaves in 1994 from a private collector, but maintains that their provenance is clear. They claim that in a 1943 article, these canon tables were noted as belonging to an American family at that time.

- A forensic astronomer claims to have explicated some references in Whitman's poem "Year of Meteors." [h/t @thelitdetective]

- From the Deccan Herald, a summary of recently-published books about books. [h/t @briancassidy]


- Jack Rakove's Revolutionaries; review by Dwight Garner in the NYTimes.

- Ellen Horan's 31 Bond Street: review by Emma Hagestadt in The Independent.

- Gary Nash's The Liberty Bell: review by T. Rees Shapiro in the WaPo.

- Peter Carey's Parrot and Olivier in America: review by Kevin Grauke in the Philly Inquirer.

- Allan Massie's The Royal Stuarts: review by Ian Mortimer in the Telegraph.

- Nicholas Carr's The Shallows: reviews by Jonah Lehrer in the NYTimes; Wen Stephenson in the Boston Globe; John Horgan in the WSJ.

- Nathaniel Philbrick's The Last Stand: review by Brian Hall in the WaPo.

- James Shapiro's Contested Will: review by Lloyd Rose in the WaPo.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

This Week's Acquisitions

Here's what came this week:

- The Reavers by George MacDonald Fraser (Knopf, 2008). Harvard Bookstore.

The Chess Machine by Robert Löhr (Penguin, 2007). Harvard Bookstore.

The Montefeltro Conspiracy: A Renaissance Mystery Decoded by Marcello Simonetta (Doubleday, 2008). Harvard Bookstore.

The American Plutarch: Jeremy Belknap and the Historian's Dialogue with the Past by Russell M. Lawson (Praeger, 1998). Amazon (used).

The Principles of Natural and Politic Law by Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui (Liberty Fund, 2006). Publisher.

Logic, Metaphysics, and the Natural Sociability of Mankind by Francis Hutcheson (Liberty Fund, 2006). Publisher.

The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy by George Turnbull (Liberty Fund, 2005). Publisher.

- Inquire Within: A Social History of the Providence Athenaeum since 1753 by Jane Lancaster (Providence Athenaeum, 2003). Colophon Books.

- A Genius for Letters: Booksellers and Bookselling from the 16th to the 20th Century; edited by Robin Myers and Michael Harris (Oak Knoll, 1995). Colophon Books.

Virginia Bound

I'm off to Virginia this morning (see this post for more info on the trip), so I'll be flying from Boston to Philadelphia and then on to Charlottesville (hopefully dodging the thunderstorms). The books that are coming with me for these two weeks are:

Patrick O'Brian, The Fortune of War; Lynn Nicholas, The Rape of Europa; Peter Carey, Parrot & Olivier in America; Jack Lynch, The Lexicographer's Dilemma; Lev Grossman, The Magicians; and Michael Kranish, Flight from Monticello.

Realistically, I probably won't get through all those, but better too many than too few (a conclusion with which my shoulders will likely find much to disagree).

The usual weekend posts are set to run, and I hope to chime in as time permits with observations from the field.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Book Review: "Prospero's America"

Walter W. Woodward's Prospero's America: John Winthrop, Jr., Alchemy, and the Creation of New England Culture, 1606-1676 (UNC Press, 2010) is a captivating and necessary new study of John Winthrop, Jr. - skilled political leader, well-regarded alchemist, entrepreneur, and advocate of toleration in religion. This excellent reinterpretation of Winthrop's pursuits, placing his life and activities in an Atlantic and European context, will serve (one hopes) to continue the trend of reshaping the conventional understanding of early New England culture (religious, economic, scientific, and political).

The first chapters of Woodward's book are focused on Winthrop's important role as the leading alchemical practitioner in New England, and the strong communication networks he developed with other adepts in Britain and Europe. This emphasis makes clear, as Woodward notes, "the importance of pan-European and transatlantic scientific alliances on New England colonization" (p. 3). By building and maintaining these connections, "Winthrop sought to use alchemy as a means of helping achieve the pansophic reformation of New England and the world while establishing the Puritan colonies on a sound and sustainable economic footing." As "the first effort to locate New England alchemical study within its broader cultural context" (p. 9), this book makes clear the depth and breadth of alchemical knowledge, study, and application in colonial New England, much of which was known to and facilitated by Winthrop himself.

Woodward is careful to note that the alchemical practices undertaken by Winthrop and other elite New Englanders (and their counterparts across the Atlantic) were not the "turn lead into gold" stories that alchemists have been caricatured into, but were rather "pursued for simultaneously practical, economically productive, and godly ends" (i.e. medical efforts, mineralogical studies, &c.).

In the next chapters, Woodward examines Winthrop's plans for an "alchemical plantation," a sort of New England home base from which various experiments and economic undertakings could be managed and organized. This plan was made more complicated by the tenuous relations between the English settlers and the native peoples of the region, a subject which allows Woodward to explore Winthrop's style of diplomacy, and some of the differences in approach between him and his father (which were evident in a great range of topics).

The sixth chapter is given over to a detailed study of Winthrop's broad medical practice: Woodward estimates that he treated at least half of the population of colonial Connecticut, others wrote from throughout the English colonies and Britain for suggested treatments, and many traveled to New London for personal care. Woodward attributes Winthrop's successes to his elite status in the community, his good bedside manner, and his charitable practices (he does not appear to have asked for payment from those for whom it would have been a hardship). And again here, Winthrop built up a strong network of those practicing alchemical (as opposed to herbal) medicine in early New England.

Winthrop's cultural status and alchemical knowledge also played a key role, Woodward argues, in the way Connecticut handled witchcraft accusations and trials in the seventeenth century. Once Winthrop began taking part in the trials, almost no witches were found guilty or executed (with the exception of a period when Winthrop was away from the colony), and were instead reintegrated into the community or strongly urged to leave the area. With their knowledge of the occult, Winthop and his allies (such as Gershom Bulkeley) were able to reshape the legal understanding of spectral evidence and admissible proofs of witchcraft to such a degree that prosecutions became nearly impossible. As Woodward puts it, "In Connecticut, the decisive shift in witchcraft prosecution came, not from Puritan positivists rejecting magic, but from alchemical philosophers who believed that the practice of witchcraft by ordinary people was overstated, overprosecuted, and overfeared" (p. 251).

In the final chapter, Woodward examines Winthrop's role as the first colonial member of the Royal Society, his correspondence with the Society's members, and the ways in which this network enabled Winthrop to keep and groom ties between himself and powerful people at the court of Charles II, whose support he needed for the continued political security of Connecticut. Winthrop's exemplary diplomatic skills were also on display here: while the Royal Society was constantly badgering him to write a natural history of the New England region (which Winthrop feared would encourage the court to exert more political and/or economic authority over the area), he kicked the can down the road by sending accounts of astronomical observations, samples of natural curiosities from the colonies (including a hummingbird nest with eggs, a bow and arrows, a deformed deer head, various grains, nuts, and rocks), and always promised more later. I quite liked Woodward's summation of this strategy (which Winthrop also used in various political arenas): "expressing the desire to comply, explaining the inability to comply, citing the possibility of future compliance, and providing an alternative to show loyalty without compliance" (p. 297).

All in all, this is both an enjoyable and enlightening book about a fascinating historical figure and his role in many of the important events of the seventeenth century. While I would have appreciated a full bibliography, the footnotes are at least very thorough, and will be fruitful ground for future studies of the various elements of Woodward's work.

Full Disclosure: The author of this book had a fellowship at the institution where I work (before I worked here), and acknowledges this in the book.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

New "Fine Books Notes"

The June "Fine Books Notes" is now available: it includes a 1996 Nick Basbanes interview with A.S. Byatt (to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Possession), Jeffrey S. Murray on the great mapmaker J.F.W. Des Barres, John Windle's review of Rick Gekoski's Outside of a Dog, &c.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

June AE Monthly Out

The June issue of AE Monthly has arrived - it features an interview with Frank Benevento, whose map collection sold at Sotheby's last month (my report on the sale), a preview of the 7 July Illuminated Manuscripts sale at Christie's, &c.