Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Auction Report: Recent Highlights

- On 24 March, PBA Galleries sold Property of a Gentleman: Modern Literature, in 279 lots. Of those, just 176 lots sold, with the high price going to an inscribed first issue of Of Mice and Men, for $3,000.

- Also on 24 March, Bloomsbury London sold books in Food & Allied Subjects, including the Cookery Library of the late Alan Davidson, Country Pursuits and Natural History, in 469 lots. The top seller was a set of Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, in the original 24 parts, which made £7,000.

- This morning, 29 March, Bonhams London sold Paper & Portraits: The Roy Davids Collection II, in 503 lots. The only known John Keats letter to Fanny Brawne in private hands sold for £96,000, while a Walter Ralegh letter to Bess of Hardwick made £36,000. A James Joyce letter describing his difficulties publishing Ulysses sold for £33,600.

[Update: The Keats letter was purchased by the City of London Corporation and will be displayed at Keats House in Hampstead.]

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book Review: "Guilt by Association"

Marcia Clark is best known for being the lead prosecutor on the O.J. Simpson case, but with the publication of Guilt by Association (Mulholland Books, 2011), she can now add "crime novelist" to her resume.

The book's a bit like reading a "Law & Order" episode (or, if you prefer, insert your favored crime procedural show title there), but as someone who very much enjoys "Law & Order" episodes, there's nothing wrong with that. It's a fast-paced, character-driven romp in which district attorney Rachel Knight, assisted by friends in high places (and low), tries to solve a high-profile rape case while simultaneously working to exonerate a colleague found dead in, shall we say, less-than-desirable circumstances. Naturally she's been explicitly warned to leave the latter case alone, so of course there's a good measure of rule-bending going on through much of the book.

A solid first effort by Clark, which held my interest and offered a handy few hours of escape on a quiet spring Sunday.

Links & Reviews

- In the LATimes, a fascinating essay by Tony DiTerlizzi on a planned edition of The Hobbit that was to be illustrated by Maurice Sendak (but which never happened).

- Over at Mercurius Politicus, Nick has pulled together a great list of digital and digitized resources useful for studying the 17th-century English book trade.

- From James Warner at McSweeney's, "The Future of Books."

- Stephen Prothero has a WSJ essay on the Jefferson Bible and what it says about Jefferson's faith (and America's).

- Robert Louis Stevenson's "lost" first novel, "The Hair Trunk," has been "finished" by French scholar Michel Le Bris, and will be published next month in French.

- From Res Obscura, playing cards of the South Sea Bubble period.

- William Wordsworth's home at Allan Bank in Cumbria was partially destroyed by fire this week.

- In the Boston Globe today, a long profile of art book dealer Elmar Seibel, owner of Boston's Ars Libri bookshop. Well worth a read.

- Another installment in the NYTimes series on digital humanities, this one on teaching with digital tools.

- From Past is Present, an example of an advice book bound in unused sheets from Fanny Hill.

- Robert Darnton writes in Library Journal about the input of public librarians in the discussions over a Digital Public Library of America.


- Edward Lengel's Inventing George Washington; review by Michiko Kakutani in the NYTimes.

- Laura Snyder's The Philosophical Breakfast Club; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- Edward Dolnick's The Clockwork Universe; review by Anne Finkbeiner in the NYTimes.

- David Goldfield's America Aflame; review by Andrew Delbanco in the NYTimes.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Book Review: "The Weird Sisters"

Eleanor Brown's debut novel The Weird Sisters (Amy Einhorn Books, 2011) makes for a most enjoyable read. The titular sisters are the three daughters of a Shakespeare scholar—thus their names: Rosalind (Rose), Bianca (Bean) and Cordelia (Cordy)—and we meet them all as they are headed home. Their mother is ailing, but each of the sisters has met with a bump in the road as well, and the only place to go is back to Barnwell, the rural college town of their youth.

The book is narrated in first person plural, as if by all three sisters at once. This put me off a bit at the beginning, in the same way that Wolf Hall did, but once I got used to the style all was smooth sailing. The sisters, each with her own problems and concerns to deal with, must come to grips with their mother's illness, their father's near-inscrutability (it's a rare event when something other than a Shakespeare quotation crosses his lips), and decide whether Barnwell is truly the place for her.

Brown has seeded the book with some absolutely fantastic lines; I lost track of how many times I laughed out loud. The different dynamics she's built up—between the sisters themselves, between the sisters and their parents, the sisters and the men in their lives—all were cooked to perfection. And there is much here for any reader to delight in, from the examination of the sisters' different reading styles to the small-town library one of them rediscovers (and of course, the Shakespeare quotations).

A delightful novel of family, love, and choices. Or perhaps Shakespeare himself described the novel best, in a (slightly-ripped-from-context-but-appropriate) line from Two Gentlemen of Verona: The Weird Sisters is "a deep story of a deeper love."

This Week's Acquisitions

- The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League in the Era of European Colonization by Daniel K. Richter (University of North Carolina Press, 1992). Raven.

- The Well-Made Book: Essays & Lectures by Daniel Berkeley Updike (Mark Batty, Publisher, 2002). Harvard Bookstore.

- Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures by Walter Moers (Overlook, 2007). Harvard Bookstore.

- Guilt by Association by Marcia Clark (Mulholland Books, 2011). Publisher.

- Being or Nothingness by Joe K (Privately printed, 2007). ABE.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Few More Google Books Links

Mainly by way of update to yesterday's links, some additional resources:

- From Jennifer Howard, a Chronicle report on how research libraries are viewing Judge Chin's decision.

- Also from the Chronicle, a Q&A with Pamela Samuelson, copyright expert.

- A handy flowchart on the case, from the Library Copyright Alliance.

- Robert Darnton's NYTimes op/ed, "A Digital Library Better than Google's."

- Statement from the Library Copyright Alliance.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Federal judge Denny Chin yesterday rejected the proposed Google Books Settlement, calling it "not fair, adequate and reasonable." Read the ruling [PDF], or start with a roundup of some coverage:

- Begin with Jennifer Howard's report in the Chronicle: "Judge Rejects Settlement in Google Books Case, Saying It Goes Too Far."

- Miguel Helft writes it up for the NYTimes: "Judge Rejects Google's Deal to Digitize Books."

- Andrew Albanese and Jim Milliot have a Publishers Weekly report, "Google Settlement is Rejected."

- Don't miss James Grimmelmann's take at The Laboratorium, "Inside Judge Chin's Opinion."

- Kenneth Crews of the Columbia University Copyright Advisory Office offers a good summary: "Google Books: Copyright Settlement Rejected" [h/t @JenHoward]

- Also see Carolyn Kellogg's post at Jacket Copy.

More news links here. It'll be interesting to see whether the parties take Judge Chin's advice and try to reconfigure the settlement as opt-in rather than opt-out, and whether the ruling will lead to louder calls for Congress to get its act together and deal with orphan works and other legal issues involved here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Book Review: "The Psychopath Test"

Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry (Riverhead, 2011) is a sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, but always thought-provoking look at psychology and psychopathy in all its aspects: history, treatment, diagnosis, you name it. If you listen to "This American Life" you might remember a segment Ronson did recently on meeting "Tony," an inmate at Broadmoor who claimed to have faked madness to get committed but found it must harder to convince doctors he was sane when he realized he wanted to get out; that segment is given in its full form here, but Ronson goes much beyond Tony's story.

Through meetings with psychopathy researchers past and present, skeptics of current diagnoses and treatments for psychopathy (including leaders of the Scientologist movement), Ronson digs deeply into the field, even going so far as to learn from a prominent researcher how to diagnose psychopaths on his own (a "power," he quickly discovers, that leads to some pretty disturbing thoughts and discoveries about himself).

Ronson's got a knack for finding fascinating interview subjects, from a retired CEO who enjoyed firing people and populates his home with statues of predatory animals, to criminal profilers and unorthodox (to put it mildly) researchers, to the editors of the DSM, he includes discussions with a wide range of folks running the whole gamut of viewpoints on current psychopathy.

From the first chapter (which involves Ronson's investigation into a bizarre hoax) to the last pages (where he muses on the possible over-diagnosis and over-medication of children), The Psychopath Test is engaging and certainly worth a read as he considers the important questions of just what madness is, and who gets to decide?

Auction Report: Upcoming

Largely a calendar of things to keep an eye on, with some highlights noted:

- On 24 March, PBA Galleries sells Property of a Gentleman: Modern Literature, in 279 lots.

- Swann will sell Printed and Manuscript Americana on 31 March, in 362 lots. Highlights include an archive of 16 documents by and related to Jonathan Edwards (est. $10,000-15,000) and a copy of Judah Monis' 1735 Hebrew grammar with early ownership notes (est. $15,000-25,000). Quite a few other pieces with interesting provenance here as well.

- Christie's London hosts a Travel, Science and Natural History sale on 6 April, in 213 lots. Some really interesting globes, orreries and other scientific instruments here, including a ~1690 French microscope. Several important printed books will also be sold, including a copy of Jacques Le Hay's work on Turkish dress (est. £6,000-8,000); Maarten Houttuyn's 1791-95 treatise on woods (est. £3,000-4,000); and Lyell's Principles of Geology, est. £3,000-5,000.

- Swann also has a Fine Books and Manuscripts sale on 7 April, in 136 lots. The top lot here is expected to be a deluxe copy of the Golden Cockerel Press Gospels, one of twelve copies printed on vellum and this copy inscribed by Eric Gill to Virginia Woolf. It's estimated at $60,000-75,000.

- Heritage Auctions (which is now holding weekly online book auctions) will hold their first New York rare books sale on 7-9 April. It will include artwork from the Garth Williams estate, the Victor Gulotta collection of Charles Dickens materials, a 16th-century illuminated Book of Hours, a first edition Book of Mormon, and a Kelmscott Chaucer, among other interesting lots.

- On 11 April, Sotheby's New York will sell Original Illustration Art from the Collections of Kendra and Allan Daniel, in 193 lots. The top-estimated lot is Jessie Willcox Smith's "How Doth the Little Busy Bee," which could sell for $200,000-300,000. Illustrations by Arthur Rackham, Beatrix Potter, and Edmund Dulac also feature prominently.

- Also on 11 April, Swann sells Early Printed Books, including Armenian Books, in 273 lots. The top-rated lot is a 1621 Armenian manuscript of the Gospels, which is estimated at $18,000-20,000.

- Bloomsbury London will hold a Bibliophile Sale on 14 April, in 384 lots.

- Doyle New York will sell Books, Photographs and Prints on 20 April. Watch for my preview of this sale in the Spring Fine Books & Collections.

Links & Reviews

- Some really fantastic offerings this week from the American Antiquarian Society. They launched a brand-new Illustrated Inventory of Paul Revere's Works (see their blog post about the inventory here), which is remarkable for its scope and ease of use (also, it's beautiful). And they've been promoting their great Adopt-A-Book event for this year. The catalog of potential adoptions includes something for everyone; I even found a pair of early newspapers from a town right near where I grew up, and adopted them.

- The University of Michigan Special Collections library is offering some 300 lots of duplicate and other materials by closed-bid sale. Bids are due by 5 p.m. on 25 March, so browse away!

- CHNM's Scripto crowdsourced-transcription project has launched, with the Papers of the War Department. I've applied for an account and look forward to trying out this transcription method.

- At Inside Higher Ed, Serena Golden interviews Ann Blair about her book Too Much to Know.

- Rick Ring notes the copy of Memoir of the Northern Kingdom at Trinity's Watkinson Library. I'm beginning to think I might need to do a little census of copies of this pamphlet, see if any out there have interesting marginalia or provenance.

- Linda Holmes' NPR essay "In Praise of Cultural Omnivores" is well worth a read.

- The Andrew W. Mellon foundation has awarded a $48,500 grant for a redesign of the English Short-Title Catalog.

- Artist and illustrator Barry Moser is profiled in today's Boston Globe.


- James Gleick's The Information; review by Geoffrey Nunberg in the NYTimes.

- Harlow Giles Unger's American Tempest; review by Chuck Leddy in the Boston Globe.

- John Stubbs' Reprobates; review by Nicola Shulman in the Telegraph.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

This Week's Acquisitions

Wow, quite a few this week. A trip to the Brattle last Saturday for review copies, combined with visits to the closing Borders store on Boylston Street, some gift cards at B&N, and the arrival of a few review copies led to:

- Searching for Utopia: The History of an Idea by Gregory Claeys (Thames & Hudson, 2011). Brattle.

- Culture and Liberty in the Age of the American Revolution by Michal Jan Rozbicki (University of Virginia Press, 2011). Brattle.

- John Adams: Revolutionary Writings, 1755-1775; edited by Gordon Wood (Library of America, 2011). Brattle.

- John Adams: Revolutionary Writings 1775-1783; edited by Gordon Wood (Library of America, 2011). Brattle.

- Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright by Mark Rose (Harvard University Press, 1993). Brattle.

- Atlantic Families: Lives and Letters in the Later Eighteenth Century by Sarah Pearsall (OUP, 2011). Brattle.

- The Country Printer by Milton Wheaton Hamilton (Ira J. Friedman, Inc., 1964). Brattle.

- The Dewey Decimal System by Nathan Larson (Akashic Books, 2011). Brattle.

- Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt (Dial Press, 2011). Brattle.

- The Alice Behind Wonderland by Simon Winchester (OUP, 2011). B&N.

- The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (Random House, 2011). B&N.

- Stealing the Mystic Lamb: The True Story of the World's Most Coveted Masterpiece by Noah Charney (PublicAffairs, 2010). Borders.

- The Life of Benjamin Franklin, Volume 3: Soldier, Scientist, and Politician, 1748-1757 by J. A. Leo Lemay (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008). Borders.

- Charlotte Temple (Norton Critical Editions) by Susanna Rowson; edited by Marion L. Rust (W.W. Norton, 2010). Borders.

- Codex 632: The Secret of Christopher Columbus by José Rodrigues Dos Santos (Harper, 2009). Borders.

- A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé (Europa, 2010). Borders.

- The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson (Riverhead, 2011). Publisher.

- Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell (Riverhead, 2011). Publisher.

- Notes on Postage Stamps by Eric Gill (Kat Ran Press, 2011). Publisher.

- Joseph Priestley, Grammarian: Late Modern English Normativism and Usage in a Sociohistorical Context by Robin Straaijer (LOT, 2011). Author.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book Review: Eric Gill's "Notes on Postage Stamps"

Last December I had the pleasure of hearing Michael Russem give a talk to the Ticknor Society on "Postage Stamps by Type Designers." Now Russem and Kat Ran Press have released Eric Gill's Notes on Postage Stamps, which includes Gill's short commentary on the subject (from the Eric Gill Archive, housed at UCLA's Clark Memorial Library), along with an essay by Russem on Gill's philatelic designs and fifty-six full-color illustrations of Gill's stamp designs and sketches (which are reproduced beautifully here).

Gill's no-holds-barred comments on stamp design and Russem's excellent synopsis of his work in the field are well worth a read; Gill felt that governments gave far too much weight to the "entirely sentimental views of philatelists and the general public," arguing that "Good lettering and figures and the simplest possible heraldic sign are sufficient for both beauty and nationality." As Russem notes, many of Gill's efforts at stamp design were not approved, and even those that were he often disliked in some way (of the George VI coronation stamp he wrote "Really the responsibility for the design is more the Post Office's than mine. I only drew the stuff as instructed").

A nicely-produced book on a fascinating aspect of typographical and philatelic history.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Book Review: "Pym"

Mat Johnson's Pym (Spiegel & Grau, 2011), a dark re-imagining of Poe's only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, makes for an engrossing, provocative, and thoroughly entertaining read.

Chris Jaynes, a recently-fired literature professor and collector of American slave narratives, sees his route back into the glow of the academic limelight when a book dealer sells him a manuscript written by Pym's traveling companion, Dirk Peters. Poe's story, he realizes, was no story, but only a lightly fictionalized account ... and Peters knew what happened next, after the bizarre ending in Poe's novel that has spawned endless speculation.

Persuaded by Peters' narrative, and determined to find the mysterious Tsalal recounted in Poe's novel and discover the truth behind the shrouded figure revealed at the end of the book, Jaynes recruits a motley (and all-black) crew, which comes to include his snack-cake and landscape-art loving best friend; his former girlfriend and her new husband; his cousin, a civil rights activist turned diver; and a pair of gay filmmakers. Ostensibly on an expedition to mine pack ice and turn it into bottled water, the band sets up camp in Antarctica, where an accidental discovery sets in motion a chain of events none of Jaynes never anticipated.

Johnson's work, besides being an often-hilarious action-packed romp, is also a biting satire on American race relations, a look into a scary near-future (made even scarier by the frightening events going on in the world at the moment), a meta-commentary on authorship and textual accuracy, and a pitch-perfect extension of Poe's novel. I very much enjoyed the many allusions to Poe's story (and I'm sure there were some I missed) and to its progeny by the likes of Verne and Lovecraft, as well as the explanatory footnotes and scholarly meditations on Poe's Pym.

A brilliant inversion of Poe's tale, which I can do nothing but recommend.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Links & Reviews

- Northeastern University is hosting book artist Deborah Davidson this week, and the Humanities Center has planned a series of events, including a bookmaking workshop, a gallery talk by Sven Birkets, and a panel discussion "Beyond the Pages: the Future of the Book." Info on all the events here.

- From the Harvard Gazette, a report on Hollywood's take on Arthur Crew Inman's 17-million word diary, held at the Houghton Library. The film, "Hypergraphia," will star John Hurt. [h/t John Overholt]

- The winners of the 2010 National Book Critics Circle awards were announced this week.

- News that the Smithsonian has begun conservation work on the Jefferson Bible, which will also be digitized. The conserved bible will go on display this fall.

- Over on the Fine Books Blog, Rebecca Rego Barry reviews the recent PRB&M list "Libraries - Librarians - Labors!"

- Launched this week: the fascinating What Middletown Read database, drawing on the lending records of the Muncie, IN Public Library from 1891-1902. I'm glad to see more projects like this emerging (like the New York Society Library's lending ledger) - it's good stuff!

- From Early Modern Bibliography online, some good links and discussion of the proposed Digital Public Library of America.

- Over at the Foxhill Review, another look at the travesty that is Kessinger.

- Swann Galleries report on their sale of African-Americana this week: the top lot was an archive of the papers of educator Charles Harris Wesley, which made $43,500.

- A previously unknown copy of Blake's Poetical Sketches will be sold at Bonhams on 22 April.

- Well here's an interesting one: an investment fund claims to have been conned into buying rare books and portraits. Seems like sort of a complex story, which I'll have to dig into a bit, but among the defendants in the lawsuit are "Lou Weinstein, Heritage Book Shop, Krown & Spellman Booksellers, Michael Sharpe Rare & Antiquarian Books, W.P. Watson Antiquarian Books, and 19th Century Rare Book and Photograph Shop."

- The Boston Globe has cut two book reviewers.

- Rick Gekoski bids a fond farewell to the second-hand bookshop.

- Lisa Krieger reviews the new "American Enlightenment" exhibit now display at Stanford.


- Maya Jasanoff's Liberty's Exiles; review by Pauline Maier in the Washington Post.

- James Nelson's With Fire and Sword; review by Chris Patsilelis in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

- Mat Johnson's Pym; review by Michael Dirda in the Washington Post.

- Richard Francis' Paradise Unachieved; review by Elaine Showalter in Literary Review.

- Rebecca Hunt's Mr. Chartwell; review by Tadzio Koelb in the NYTimes.

- Dale Peterson's The Moral Lives of Animals; review by Stephen Budiansky in the WSJ.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book Review: "One of Our Thursdays is Missing"

It's difficult to believe that it's been nearly four years since Jasper Fforde's last Thursday Next book, but the sixth installment in the series, One of Our Thursdays is Missing has arrived at last (from Hodder & Stoughton in the UK and Viking in the US).

As always, this volume is somewhat hard to summarize, especially for readers who might be unfamiliar with the plot and characters (if talking dodos, footnoterphones, cross-genre wars and Jurisfiction don't ring any bells, please see The Eyre Affair). I won't give you the plot, because you need to read it yourself. But I will note that the book is as full of biblio-punnery, allusions, name-dropping and imaginative ramblings as its predecessors, with the addition of much ebook angst added to the mix this time.

It's always a fun trip to dive into the BookWorld - just watch out for the eraserheads!

This Week's Acquisitions

- Giordano Bruno: Philosopher / Heretic by Ingrid D. Rowland (University of Chicago Press, 2009). Amazon.

- The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World by Edward Dolnick (Harper, 2011). Amazon.

- Pym by Mat Johnson (Spiegel & Grau, 2011). Amazon.

- The Books of King Henry VIII and his Wives by James P. Carley (British Library, 2005). MFA Bookstore.

- Joel Barlow: American Citizen in a Revolutionary World by Richard Buel, Jr. (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011). Publisher.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Survey Concerning Authors' Libraries

Posted on behalf of Richard Oram of the Harry Ransom Center and Joseph Nicholson of Louisiana State University:

As part of an effort to gather data about British and American writers' private libraries for a handbook/reference work, we have created a short survey regarding such holdings in repositories in the U.S., the U.K., and elsewhere. Though the survey's principal objective is to locate the private libraries of British and American writers and collect information about their size and scope, it also requests data about the arrangement, shelving, and use of writers' private libraries in libraries and repositories, as well as citations to scholarly literature about them. A link to the online survey, which is administered through Survey Monkey, appears below.

Your cooperation in completing the survey is immensely appreciated. Though the scholarly significance of the private libraries of writers is widely recognized today, basic information about their location, size, and contents remains elusive. The information you provide could help bring these often hidden collections to light, making them more available for scholarship and study.

Survey link:


I hope all those with applicable libraries in their collections will respond to the survey; it's an important project!

Manguel to Deliver Rosenbach Lectures

Alberto Manguel will deliver the 2011 Rosenbach Lectures at the University of Pennsylvania. The schedule is as follows:
  • Monday, 21 March: "The Reader as Traveller"
  • Tuesday, 22 March: "The Reader in the Ivory Tower"
  • Thursday, 24 March: "The Reader as Bookworm"
All three talks begin at 5:30 p.m. The Monday and Tuesday lectures will be held at Claudia Cohen Hall (249 South 36th Street), Room G-17. The Thursday lecture will be held in the Class of '55 Conference Room (Room 241) of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library (3420 Walnut Street).

The lectures are free and open to the public; an RSVP is requested but not required. Background and contact information here.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Links & Reviews

Apologies for the slightly belated links & reviews this week. Without further ado:

- The March Fine Books Notes is up, with many goodies as always. You can also follow @finebooks on Twitter now, for up-to-the-minute FB&C news and info.

- Sam Anderson's essay "'What I Really Want is Someone Rolling Around in the Text'" in the NYT Magazine has some interesting things to say about marginalia in the electronic age, and I really like his final lines: "What I really want is someone rolling around in the text. I want noticing. I want, in short, marginalia, everywhere, all the time. Suddenly that seems deliriously possible."

- Albert H. Small has given a large collection of material relating to the history of Washington, D.C. to George Washington University, as well as funds for the construction of a museum.

- Rebecca Rego Barry notes on the FB&C blog a "sleeper auction" in Kansas City, where the collection of Eugene DeGruson was sold on 26 February. A Walt Whitman manuscript poem sold for $55,500.

- Ralph Gardner profiles Bauman Rare Books in the WSJ.

- The Bridwell Library at SMU has acquired a collection of 115 catechisms dating from 1493 to 1830, including 19 unique copies. The collection was put together by Bruce McKittrick Rare Books.

- Ron Chernow's Washington has won the New-York Historical Society's American History Book Prize.

- The finalists for this year's George Washington Book Prize were announced last week by Washington College: they are Pauline Maier's Ratification; Jack Rakove's Revolutionaries; and Alan Taylor's The Civil War of 1812. The winner will be announced on 25 May.

- AbeBooks Europe has acquired ZVAB.

- I had somehow missed the news that ABC will be airing a pilot for a show which features Poe as a detective in pre-Civil War Boston (as well as the "BOSTON?!" backlash from Poe-ites elsewhere). Paul Lewis makes the Hub's case in a Boston Globe essay.

- In the March Perspectives on History, Anthony Grafton writes on culturnomics and new trends in digital historical scholarship. Very much worth a read.

- A new exhibition at Old Palace at the Minster in York focuses on the lost library of Alcuin of York, a famed 8th-century scholar.

- Jennifer Howard reports on new methods and models for university presses (based on a new AAUP report). Howard also filed a story this week on how the Borders bankruptcy may affect university presses.

- An update to the Private Library's post on auction catalogs and bibliographies.

- A census of Kelmscott Chaucers put together by William S. and Sylvia Holton Peterson is now available from Oak Knoll Press.


- The Caxton Club's new volume of essays about association copies, Other People's Books; review by Rebecca Rego Barry in Fine Books Notes.

- Dan Cohen's talk at last week's Digital Public Library of America planning meeting, on "what scholars want" from the DPLA.

- Douglas Waller's Wild Bill Donovan; review by Louis Menand in the New Yorker.

- Over at Res Obscura, a defaced (or, more accurately, de-arsed) 1710 herbal and its author, William Salmon.

- Edward Dolnick's The Clockwork Universe and Laura Snyder's The Philosophical Breakfast Club; review by Alan Hirshfeld in the WSJ. Snyder's book is also reviewed by Alexander Fabri for The Daily Beast.

- Imogen Robertson's Instruments of Darkness; review by Jason Goodwin in the NYTimes.

- Rebecca Hunt's Mr. Chartwell; review by Ron Charles in the WaPo.

- Julia Miller's Books Will Speak Plain; review by Chela Metzger in The Bonefolder.

- Maya Jasanoff's Liberty's Exiles; reviewed by Linda Colley in the Guardian;

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Book Review: "The Tragedy of Arthur"

Arthur Phillips' The Tragedy of Arthur (forthcoming from Random House) includes the text of a newly rediscovered Shakespeare play. Or it doesn't. Either way, it's a delightful examination of books and forgeries and Shakespeare scholarship, wrapped up in a meta-narrative and tied with a bow.

Phillips' father (also Arthur) is a Shakespeare fanatic, a gene which passed not to Phillips himself but to his twin sister Dana, whose relationships with her brother, father, the Bard, and others form a major part of the story here. The elder Arthur was also a forger, whose exploits landed him in prison over and over again. When he reveals to Arthur fils, our narrator, that he's got a quarto edition of an unknown Shakespeare play stashed in a safety deposit box, and that he wants Phillips to edit an edition of it, this book is born.

The Tragedy of Arthur (the book beside me as I type) consists of Phillip's narrative introduction to the play, in the form of a memoir interspersed with short summaries of the play's plot. Included also are a selection of correspondence between Phillips and his editors at Random House, as well as letters from the various scholars brought in to authenticate The Tragedy of Arthur (the play, by Shakespeare), which takes up about the final third of the book (and is accompanied by Phillips' notes).

This book made me smile. I love the playfulness of the concept and the different levels of meta- that Phillips is able to pull in, as well as the commentary on how we view Shakespeare and his works.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

This Week's Acquisitions

Lots of different things this week, including a whole bunch from the Liberty Fund sale (which was good enough to prompt me to finish off my collection of their Natural Law and Enlightenment Classics series):

- Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution, 1787-1788; by John Bach McMaster and Frederick Stone (Liberty Fund, 2011). Publisher.

- A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14.23 : "Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full" by Pierre Bayle (Liberty Fund, 2005). Publisher.

- Vindiciae Gallicae and Other Writings on the French Revolution by Sir James Mackintosh (Liberty Fund, 2006). Publisher.

- Commentary on the Law of Prize and Booty by Hugo Grotius (Liberty Fund, 2006). Publisher.

- The Rights of War and Peace by Hugo Grotius (Liberty Fund, 2005). Publisher.

- The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks: Or, An Inquiry into the Circumstances Which Give Rise to Influence and Authority, in the Different Members of Society by John Millar (Liberty Fund, 2006). Publisher.

- Essays on Principles of Morality and Natural Religion by Henry Home, Lord Kames (Liberty Fund, 2005). Publisher.

- A Treatise of the Laws of Nature by Richard Cumberland (Liberty Fund, 2005). Publisher.

- The Influence of D.F. McKenzie; edited by Alistair McCleery and Benjamin A. Brabon (Merchiston Publishing/Scottish Centre for the Book, 2010). Publisher.

- The Book in Germany; edited by Mary C. Fischer and William A. Kelly (Merchiston Publishing/Scottish Centre for the Book, 2010). Publisher.

- One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde (Hodder & Stoughton, 2011). Amazon UK.

- The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry (Penguin, 2010). Borders.

- McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales; edited by Michael Chabon (Vintage, 2003). Borders.

- McSweeney's Issue 30; edited by Dave Eggers (McSweeney's, 2009). Borders.

Report from SEA: Day 3

Our meeting has, sadly, come to a close - it's all over but the packing now, and the flight back to Boston in the morning. Hard to believe it's gone by so quickly!

This morning I attended the session "Fictions of Belonging: Revising Collectivity in Early American Literature," which featured some theory-heavy discussions about aesthetics and literary allegories. I confess that much of that went over my head, but the papers included some really fascinating leads to books, like early American huckster-criminal Stephen Burroughs' memoirs (among others).

It was a beautiful morning so I took the second panel session today and had a short walk around the city, stopping in at Book Trader, one of the large used-book shops here in town.

The afternoon panels were really an amazing capstone to the conference. The author colloquium with Annette Gordon-Reed included some great responses to her work by the panelists, and Gordon-Reed's own comments were most enlightening. She noted how Jefferson's own record-keeping enabled her to learn much about the Hemings family and their doings, and made the really excellent point that with the reinterpretation of Monticello "as a plantation rather than just a house with a lot of cool gadgets in it" will begin to change the general view of Jefferson and give people a more complete view of the man and his world. Also, she argued, between her work and the Monticello changes, historians won't have any option to ignore slavery as an aspect of Jefferson's life anymore: they will have to grapple with it, whether they like it or not.

Last but not least, the final panel of the conference was "What is the Future of the History of the Book?" Patricia Roylance discussed her work on literary anachronisms in the early republic, discussing the reprints of John Winthrop's journals in the early 19th century and their use by Hawthorne in constructing his short essay "Mrs. Hutchinson." Jonathan Senchyne's talk was "Is There Paper in our Future? Material Textuality and Early Print Nationalism," in which he made some really good points about nostalgia for paper, using as examples some writings from the early national period and brought up the audible gasp at the "Why Books?" conference last fall when someone mentioned the arrival of digital childrens' books. And Jordan Stein in "Can We Have Sex in the Archives?" talked about some notable aspects of the study of sexuality and the limitations posed by current archival methodologies, &c. Paul Erickson gave a very lively response, which sparked an even more lively discussion about the various topics brought up during the panel. The discussion raised some excellent questions and issues, while also tying together many threads that had been teased out earlier in the week's sessions.

It was very heartening to see the #sea11 Twitterstream pick up steam over the course of the week, and I know those of us who were tweeting the conference were delighted to be able to show how Twitter can be useful for conferences like this.

As we all depart Philadelphia and head homeward, I'm sure that the conversations begun here will continue (both online and off); I know I look forward to strengthening ties made this week.

Finally, today's big news was that the next SEA biennial meeting, in 2013, will be held in Savannah (very exciting for me, since it's another place I've never managed to visit). I'll be there!

Report from SEA: Day 2

[For my summary of Thursday's events, go here]

I'm still a day behind, but I figure better slightly late than slightly more late, right?

For yesterday morning's first session I resorted to a coin toss, which resulted in my attending "Transatlantic Borrowings, American Adaptations." All three papers were fascinating: Ed Larkin urged historians to stop creating a bifurcation between Copley's paintings done in America and those done in England, urging us to see his loyalism not as an either/or proposition and arguing that he still considered himself "Anglo-American" no matter which side of the Atlantic he was on. Ezra Tawil discussed Noah Webster's use of Samuel Johnson's works in his own lexicographical pursuits (quoting David Simpson on the point that it was easier to declare independence from George III than from Samuel Johnson). And Sarah Rivett spoke on Jefferson's interest in native linguistics, putting that into the context of European efforts to discover "pure language."

The second session, "The Transatlantic Literary Marketplace," focused on mostly 19th-century authors: Washington Irving and the complicated publication history of The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., James K. Paulding's humorous responses to snide English travel accounts of America, and some fascinating paratextual elements in John Neal's novels.

I got a real treat for the afternoon: the great folks at Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts treated me to lunch and the grand tour of their beautiful space at the Arsenal. We had a wonderful meal and a great chat about all sorts of bibliophilic things, and then I had a chance to browse their stacks and find some goodies.

My favorite find was a little Congressional report into the 1825 Library of Congress fire, which features the following exchange between a congressman (probably Edward Everett) and George Watterston, the librarian of Congress:

Question: What was the appearance of the Library Room on your first entering it, after the alarm of fire, on the evening of the 22d inst?

Answer: The Library Room appeared as usual, with the exception of the fire, which was burning out of the western gallery. ...

There is almost no better way to spend an afternoon than in the company of good books and the people who love them. And Cynthy, David, Zoe, Cynthia and the rest of the gang at PRBM, they love their books (and it shows). I look forward to my next visit already!

Last evening's plenary session at the American Philosophical Society went very well, with some really interesting discussions about the planning processes behind some recent Franklin exhibits, Franklin's role in public life, and Franklin in public memory. The very entertaining and enlightening dinner which followed proved an excellent capstone to the evening.

The conference Twitterstream is humming along nicely, so if you want to follow along, do check that out - it's been neat to see others signing up and signing on to Twitter over the course of the conference and joining in the conversation.

I almost can't believe it's the last day already - many more good panels on tap (speaking of which, I'd better finish this up so I can grab some breakfast before they start).

Friday, March 04, 2011

Report from SEA: Day 1

As I mentioned, I'm in Philadelphia this week for the Society of Early Americanists meeting, which is going excellently so far! I got into town Wednesday afternoon and spent a few hours at City Hall in a fruitless search for a couple probate files (more about which when I can write about that experience without saying things I shouldn't), then SEA kicked things off with a walking tour of Ben Franklin's Philadelphia and the evening's opening reception.

Yesterday we had panel sessions through the day: in the morning I attended "Preserving History in the New Nation," with great papers by Alea Henle, Whitney Martinko and Simon Gilhooley. Whitney discussed how some early promoters and settlers of the Ohio Valley region incorporated native mounds and features into their town designs and publicized them as "American antiquities." Alea looked at the preservation of Revolution-era papers and other materials in the early republic, noting the oft-used phrase "rescuing from oblivion" and delving into just what that meant.

The second panel session of the morning was "Early American Sentimentalism and Religion," which featured papers by Laura Stevens on James Walcot's The New Pilgrim's Progress, or, the Pious Indian Convert (which I'm going to have to read, since on Googling it I discovered that Walcot mentions Bermuda early in the book, in the context of the "Indian college" that was proposed for the island), Meredith Neuman on mediocre sentimentalist verse, and Abram Van Engen on the religious influences in William Hill Brown's The Power of Sympathy. Lawrence Zellner capped off the panel with a discussion of religious enthusiasm in Harret Beecher Stowe's historical novels.

In the afternoon the roundtable discussion on early American libraries that I organized for the conference was held; while there were six of us with lots to say and we went over time a bit, all the papers seemed well received and we got some good questions at the end (which prompted some excellent followup conversations throughout the evening).

Following the panel discussions we decamped for twin receptions at the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, where we got short introductions to the collections at each place, plus time to chat and socialize with the group. Because SEA is such a diverse bunch (book historians, literature folks, art historians, you name it!) it's a really excellent conference for cross-pollination and discussions across/among disciplines, as well as in-depth conversations over dinners and walks.

And now, off to the Friday panels, plus a visit to my friends at PRB&M before the evening's plenary sessions at the American Philosophical Society.