Saturday, March 31, 2012

This Week's Acquisitions

Another crop of interesting review copies this week:

- Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China by Paul French (Penguin, 2012). Publisher.

- The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012). Publisher.

- The Kings' Mistresses: The Liberated Lives of Marie Mancini, Princess Colonna, and Her Sister Hortense, Duchess Mazarin by Elizabeth C. Goldsmith (PublicAffairs, 2012). Publisher.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Review: "In the Words of Women"

Co-edited by Louise V. North, Janet M. Wedge, and Landa M. Freeman, In the Words of Women: The Revolutionary War and the Birth of the Nation, 1765-1799 (Lexington Books, 2011) is a useful compendium of extracts from the diaries, letters, poetry, and other sources (published and unpublished) of women from the Revolutionary period. The editors have dug deeply, so an impressive number of women are represented: those few that immediately come to mind are here, of course (Abigail Smith Adams and her sisters, Baroness von Riedesel, Lucy Flucker Knox, Mercy Otis Warren, Elizabeth Drinker, &c.) but we also meet Grace Growden Galloway, Sarah Kast McGinn, Mary Cary Ambler, Janet Schaw and a whole host of others (for a total of 124 different women).

The volume is separated into three sections: in the first, we're taken from the mid-1760s through the end of the Revolutionary War, roughly chronologically but from a variety of perspectives; the second takes a thematic approach, examining aspects of women's daily lives during the period (health, marriage, other domestic affairs, travel); finally, in the third section the chronological overview returns for period covering the end of the Revolution through the end of the century (though it's notable that the debate over the Constitution is barely mentioned at all).

Within each chapter, short excerpts from the individual women are separated by editorial remarks setting the scene or introducing the writer. These provide useful context, and are quite good, although a few unfortunate typographical errors have crept in. The editors have laid out fairly transparently the editorial conventions they've followed, both in a general note and in specific instances within the text; while by necessity the writings are often heavily excerpted, at least the editors have provided good source notes so that interested readers can locate the original source. The footnotes are extensive and the bibliography is well worth a perusal as well.

This volume, which adds a number of important voices to our understanding of the Revolutionary period, should find a wide audience. While anyone might quibble with specific editorial decisions, the project is an admirable one, and the editors have carried it off very well indeed.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Book Review: "The Social Conquest of Earth"

I've been a fan of E.O. Wilson's books for quite a few years now, so when I read in last November's Atlantic ("E.O. Wilson's Theory of Everything," by Howard French) about the book Wilson has said might just be his last, I could hardly wait for it. The Social Conquest of Earth (W.W. Norton, 2012) hits shelves in early April, and like many of Wilson's books, it's sure to provoke argument, controversy, and debate. Wilson pulls no punches and leaves no sacred cows grazing; this is a man sure of his conclusions.

Howard French's Atlantic article does a good job summarizing Wilson's main theory as laid out in The Social Conquest of Earth: that sociality among animal species evolved not because of the theory generally accepted for the last half-century or so, known as "kin-selection theory" (that is, that cooperation between species members arises because of close genetic connection between group members) but rather that eusocial behaviors have (only very rarely) emerged in animal species as a result of an evolutionary process.

Wilson also examines the development of kin selection theory and how his views on it have evolved over the years as new evidence has come to light. With the arrival of the theory of multilevel natural selection as a more general theory, and with the breakdown of kin selection theory's basic principles, he argues that it is time for evolutionary biology to leave the idea of kin selection behind entirely. I'm sure that it won't go without a fight, as it still has a wide variety of proponents in the field, but it will sure be a fascinating process to watch (and just speaking intuitively, since I don't know the technical literature very well at all, it seems to me that Wilson probably has the better of the argument).

The process toward sociality as laid out by Wilson consists of five distinct stages, the final two of which have been reached only in certain insects like honeybees and army ants (group formation; "occurrence of a minimum and necessary combination of preadaptive traits in the groups, causing the groups to be tightly formed"; "appearance of mutations that prescribe the persistence of the group"; group-level selection by environmental forces; and changes in the life cycle based on group-level selection, sometimes leading to the development of a superorganism). A key step along the path to sociality, Wilson argues, was the creation of a defensible nest.

Much of The Social Conquest of Earth is given over to fascinating and sometimes quite technical accounts of how these processes developed in animal species, from certain types of shrimp to termites to leafcutter ants and aphids, and then how human societal development can be traced back to those same processes. "The key to the origin of the human condition is not to be found in our species exclusively, because the story did not start and end with humanity. The key,"Wilson argues, "is to be found in the evolution of social life in animals as a whole" (p. 109). As to why humans have emerged to be the dominant species they have, Wilson suggests it's simply because Homo sapiens is the only species to have made "every one of the required lucky turns": land-based existence, large body size, grasping hands, bipedal movement, meat-based diet, organized groups, control of fire, development of central campsite "nests," division of labor, &c.

The human brain, Wilson writes, "had to become highly intelligent and intensely social ... selfish at one time, selfless at another" (p. 17). He argues that humanity is faced with an unsolvable dilemma, rooted deeply in our evolutionary history: that because human beings are subject to both individual- and group-level impulses and urges at all times, we are literally at war with our selves. Altruism and group welfare are a part of us, but at the same time, so are selfish desires. The human species is, Wilson writes, "an evolutionary chimera, living on intelligence steered by the demands of animal instinct. This is the reason we are mindlessly destroying the biosphere and, with it, our own prospects for permanent existence" (p. 13).

Some of the consequences Wilson sees in the ever-present human struggle between individual- and group-level selection include intense inter-group competition; unstable group composition; "an unavoidable and perpetual war ... between honor, virtue, and duty ... and selfishness, cowardice, and hypocrisy"; "quick and expert reading of intention"; and, in fact, much of culture itself (p. 56). What humans create as art, religion and social behavior, Wilson maintains, springs from this tension between individual and group selection.

In the last hundred pages or so of The Social Conquest of Earth, Wilson turns to human culture. Drawing on his immensely broad knowledge of scholarship across an impressive variety of fields (from linguistics to history to religion to art and beyond), Wilson lays out the processes by which human beings came to develop what we know today as culture (from language to religion and beyond). He begins by bursting a bubble or two: "The explosion of innovations that lifted humanity to world dominance surely did not result from a single empowering mutation. Even less likely did it come as some mystic afflatus that descended upon our struggling forebears" (p. 225). Wilson uses the term "gene-culture coevolution" to describe the process by which cultural practices developed and were passed down through the "genetic predisposition of individuals to select and transmit through culture one out of multiple options possible" (p. 203). This idea, he writes, offers a way to connect the natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities; understanding how both genes and group selection dynamics have influenced and continue to influence cultural practices can help us as a species explain why we do some of the things we do. "The naturalistic understanding of morality does not lead to absolute precepts and sure judgments, but instead warns against basing them blindly on religious and ideological dogmas," Wilson writes (p. 252).

Indeed, Wilson's harshest criticism in the book is reserved not for those who continue to embrace kin selection theory, but for what he sees as "dogmatic ethics gone wrong for lack of knowledge" (p. 253). Two particular examples are bans on contraception and homphobia. The first, promulgated by Paul VI in 1968, fails to account for all the evidence that non-reproductive sexual activity plays key roles in human biology. And homophobia, Wilson writes, is just as wrong: homosexuality, a trait influenced by heredity, occurs too frequently to be due to genetic mutation, and it is widely accepted that "if a trait cannot be due solely to random mutations, and yet it lowers or eliminates reproduction in those who have it, then the trait must be favored by natural selection working on a target of some other kind. For example, a low dose of homosexual-tending genes may give competitive advantages to a practising heterosexual. Or, homosexuality may give advantages to the group by special talents, unusual qualities of personality, and the specialized roles and professions it generates. There is abundant evidence that such is the case in both preliterate and modern societies. Either way, societies are mistaken to disapprove of homosexuality because gays have different sexual preferences and reproduce less. Their presence instead should be valued for what they contribute constructively to human diversity. A society that condemns homosexuality harms itself" (p. 253-4).

Organized religion, Wilson argues here, is a simple expression of tribalism, with the "illogic" of religious belief not a weakness, but a strength, in that it serves to bind the group's members together to the exclusion of outsiders (unless they can be persuaded to join). Creation stories, genesis myths and even the "phantasmagoric elements" shared between the world's religions are all explainable as cultural relics (and/or as the result of hallucinogenic drugs; this, he suggests, is a much more plausible explanation for John's visions as recorded in the Book of Revelation than that any such thing actually happened).

By understanding that the struggle inherent in multilevel selection "is the fountainhead of the humanities," Wilson writes, we can better explain our cultural artifacts, and perhaps even rise above what they have wrought in today's society. In the final chapter, "A New Enlightenment," Wilson calls for humanity to overcome the cultural shackles that bind us into tribes and come together as a species, before it is too late, to preserve the planet, the only one we're ever going to be able to live on. The processes of human-wrought climate change and the "obliteration" of Earth's biodiversity must be arrested, Wilson urges, and in order to make that possible:

"It will be useful in taking a second look at science and religion to understand the true nature of the search for objective truth. Science is not just another enterprise like medicine or enginerering or theology. It is the wellspring of all the knowledge we have of the real world that can be tested and fitted to preexisting knowledge. It is the arsenal of technologies and inferential mathematics needed to distinguish the true from the false. It formulates the principles and formulas that tie all this knowledge together. Science belongs to everybody. Its constituent parts can be challenged by anybody in the world who has sufficient information to do so. It is not just 'another way of knowing' as often claimed, making it coequal with religious faith. The conflict between scientific knowledge and the teachings of organized religions is irreconciable. The chasm will continue to widen and cause no end of trouble as long as religious leaders go on making unsupportable claims about supernatural causes of reality" (p. 295).

It's not too late for humanity, Wilson concludes, ever optimistic, but to save our planet, and ourselves, will require a tremendous amount of effort and a recalibration of humanity's priorities on a grand scale. We must, he argues, rely on "an ethic of simple decency to one another, the unrelenting application of reason, and acceptance of what we truly are" (p. 297).

I can't say that I entirely share Wilson's faith in humanity. While I certainly find his theory as outlined here quite compelling, I also happen to share his belief in rational, science-based thinking, and too many people out in the world don't (witness the state of American politics today, where denial of science-based realism is worn as a badge of honor by the leading members of a major political party). I fear that it will take a catastrophic event of, dare I say, Biblical proportions, to bring many people around to the view that comes so naturally to Wilson and, likely, to many of those who read his works.

Wilson's writing draws the reader in quickly: here's a representative quotation from near the beginning of the book: "Humanity today is like a walking dreamer, caught between the fantasies of sleep and the chaos of the real world. The mind seeks but cannot find the precise place and hour. We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology. We thrash about. We are terribly confused by the mere fact of our existence, and a danger to ourselves and to the rest of life" (p. 7). He's able to summarize very technical scientific processes and make them understandable to those of us not so well-versed in such things, and while sometimes it's handy to have a dictionary about (a few of the new words I jotted down as I read: vicariant, anastomosed), that makes reading books like this all the more enjoyable.

A challenging, deeply meaningful and extremely important book, sure to provoke much argument from many different corners, The Social Conquest of Earth is the sort of book that doesn't come around very often at all. Anyone with an interest in the consilience between intellectual disciplines and/or in the roots of human culture generally should read it, and I hope the conversations it sparks will be sustained and fruitful.

Links & Reviews

- In the Wall Street Journal this week, Joel Henning reports on a recent visit to the Folger Shakespeare Library, in "Shakespeare in the Digital Age."

- The Houghton Library blog highlighted recently-digitized items, including George Eliot manuscript notes, transcriptions of John Keats letters, a George Washington letter to Sally Fairfax, &c.

- Brown University announced this week that Tom Horrocks will be Director of Special Collections and the John Hay Library starting in July. Tremendously exciting news for Tom, and for Brown - but I know he'll be missed at Houghton!

- I'll have a preview shortly, but in the meantime, just a note that Christie's will be selling the library of Kenneth Nebenzahl on 10 April.

- Colin Dickey has an essay, "Living in the Margins," in the new Lapham's Quarterly.

- A new exhibit at Harvard's Countway Medical Library, "Owners and Donors: Building the Rare Book Collection at the Countway Library of Medicine," will be on display through December.

- Over at the Library History Buff blog, Larry Nix notes a 1900 letter written by a Harvard student working at the Boston Athenaeum; in the letter the student notes that he'd just been trying to catch three sparrows that had gotten into the Athenaeum's reading room.

- At The Collation, Roger L. Easton, Jr. guest-posts on some high-tech investigations into a possible Shakespeare signature on the title page of William Lambarde's
Archaionomia (1598). I'll look forward to seeing what comes of this!

- Also from The Collation, Heather Wolfe reports on another manuscript reunion, this time of a Walter Raleigh letter.

- The "Bright Young Things" series continues at the Fine Books Blog, as Nate Pedersen interviews Josh Niesse of Underground Books.

- From the Harvard Magazine, a report on the discovery of the papers of Richard Greener, the first black graduate of Harvard College and the father of Belle da Costa Greene. Several institutions are now vying to acquire Greener's papers.


- G. Thomas Tanselle's Book Jackets: Their History, Form, and Use; review by Rebecca Rego Barry at the Fine Books Blog.

- Eliga Gould's Among the Powers of the Earth; review by William Anthony Hay in the WSJ.

- Guy Gugliotta's Freedom's Cap; review by Jonathan Yardley in the WaPo.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

This Week's Acquisitions

Two review copies arrived this week:

- Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (Henry Holt, 2012). The sequel to Wolf Hall.

- A Social History of Knowledge II: From the Encyclopaedia to Wikipedia by Peter Burke (Polity, 2012).

Friday, March 23, 2012

Book Review: "Voltaire's Calligrapher"

Pablo De Santis' Voltaire's Calligrapher (Harper Perennial, 2010) reminded me a bit of some of Voltaire's stories (which is, I hope, what De Santis intended). The title character, young Dalessius, tells the story of how he came to be employed by Voltaire - as calligrapher, but also charged with much graver tasks as the great philosophe faces off against the anti-Enlightenment forces strongly aligned against him.

De Santis' writing makes for good reading out loud, with its long, luscious descriptions of the calligrapher's craft, of bookstores and auctions, of strange characters who we may meet only briefly but whom I found myself thinking about long after I'd closed the book for the night. The plot meanders about, filled with twists and turns and dead ends, and the reader has no choice but to follow along, enjoying the journey.

A short book, at under 150 pages, but one which rewards a close, lingering read. There's a tremendous amount of material hidden in each careful word.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Links & Reviews

- Quite a sad end to the Raymond Scott case this week: the man sentenced to serve an eight-year prison term in relation to the theft of the Durham University First Folio was found dead in his cell on 14 March, having apparently committed suicide. Today's Sunday Sun prints what they say is Scott's final letter to the paper, dated 4 and 10 February, in which he admits that he's on suicide watch and writes "What a waste this all is. I'll not bounce back from this." Obituaries: The Telegraph.

- In case you didn't visit Google yesterday, check out the illuminated Google Doodle they deployed for St. Patrick's Day.

- More good stuff at American Circus (which if you're not reading, you should be), including a very interesting look at this year's SXSW conference.

- The Harvard Gazette highlights the early years of printing at Cambridge.

- A copy of the 1555 edition of Vesalius De Humani Corporis Fabrica, with Vesalius' own annotations for a possible later edition, has been identified.

- In the Oxford Times, Chris Koenig profiles 17th-century antiquarian John Aubrey.

- Jason Epstein's "Publishing: The Revolutionary Future" in the NYRB is entirely worth a read (I love the last paragraph).

- Israeli antiquities dealer Oded Golan was acquitted this week of charges that he'd forged historical artifacts, including the "James Ossuary."

- The SHARP-L discussion list celebrated its 20th birthday yesterday. The listserv's editor, Patrick Leary, reflects on the first two decades.

- I enjoyed Michael Dirda's "This Is a Column," in the new American Scholar.

- Zhenya Dzhavgova guest-posts on the Fine Books blog about "book scouting in Bulgaria."

- From Echoes from the Vault, a follow-up on a conundrum they posted back in January.

- Charles Dickens' house at Gad's Hill Place will open to visitors this summer.

- If you're headed for the ASECS 2012 conference this week, check out the list of digital humanities/book history topics.

- In the "You've Got Mail" series, a look inside the Universal Register Office.

- Peter Harrington partner Adam Douglas guest-posts at The Cataloguer's Desk to explain why the first English book was printed in Bruges. Nice post, with some fabulous illustrations.

- Sarah Werner posts at The Collation about printing with her students.

- Via Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie, word that the University of British Columbia has digitized their bookplate collection.


- Myra B. Young Armistead's Freedom's Gardener; reviewed by Andrea Wulf in the NYTimes.

- Gail Collins' William Henry Harrison; reviewed by Justin Moyer in the WaPo.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

This Week's Acquisitions

Review copies this week:

- Masters of the Planet: The Search for our Human Origins by Ian Tattersall (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). Publisher.

- The Book Lover by Marryan McFadden (Three Women Press, 2012). Publisher.

- The Social Conquest of Earth by E.O. Wilson (Liveright, 2012). Publisher.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Ireland Forgeries in Joseph Farington's Diary, Part III

NB: See Part I for an introduction to this series, and Part II for the continuation. Note that only the relevant sections from Farington's entries are included here.

Continuing with Joseph Farington's diary entries relating to the William Henry Ireland Shakespeare forgeries, we're now in the "critical period," the months leading up to and including the first (and only) performance of Ireland's "Shakespeare" drama, Vortigern: An Historical Tragedy, on 2 April.

Thursday, 4 February 1796. "Lysons called on me. He has seen the part of the Play of Vortigern appropriated to Mrs. Siddons1, and says it is contemptible. Association Reeves is a believer."

Monday, 15 February 1796. "Humphry also came. He dined lately in company with Sheridan & J. Richardson. Speaking of Irelands Manuscript play of Vortigern, Richardson jokingly said to Sheridan, 'perhaps you think is as good as Shakespeare.' The fact is Sheridan does not think so highly of Shakespeare as people in general do."

Tuesday, 16 February 1796. "Lord Salisbury has refused to licence Irelands Play of Vortigern."2

Wednesday, 17 February 1796. At a dinner at Malone's house, attended by Mr. Kemble3: "Kemble mentioned that the Lord Chamberlain has expunged several passages in Irelands play of Vortigern. Kemble thinks contempibly of it."

Monday, 29 February 1796. "Malone shewed me an answer to Irelands attack on him for delay; this answer is to be inserted in the Gentlemans Magazine."4

Tuesday, 29 March 1796. "Westall called this evening to offer me a place in a Box on Saturday to see Irelands play of Vortigern."

Thursday, 31 March 1796. "Malone called early this morning, & left for me his book on Irelands forged papers, which was published this morning."5

Friday, 1 April 1796. "Humphry told me that Wyatt a nephew of James Wyatt He dined in company with yesterday, and heard him strongly support the authenticity of Irelands manuscripts and assert the futility of Malones book."

Saturday, 2 April 1796. "Dined at the Academy. Irelands play I went to with Westall, Hoppner & Lawrence. Lord Berwick, Mr Clarke his Tutor, Honble. Mr. Tufton, Revd. Dr. Grant, Dance, Porden & Braine in our Box.

Prologue spoken at 35 minutes past 6: Play over at 10 — A Strong party was evidently made to support it, which clapped without opposition frequently through near 3 Acts, when some ridiculous passages caused a laugh, which infected the House during the remainder of the performance, mixed with groans. Kemble requested the audience to hear the play out abt. the end of the 4th. act and prevailed. The Epilogue was spoken by Mr. Jordan who skipped over some lines which claimed the play as Shakespeares. Barrymore attempted to give the Play out for Monday next but was hooted off the stage. Kemble then came on & after some time was permitted to say that the 'School for Scandal would be given', which the House approved of by clapping.

Sturt, of Dorsetshire, was in a Stage Box drunk, & exposed himself indecently to support the Play, and when one of the stage attendants attempted to take up the green cloth, He Sturt seized him roughly by the head. He was slightly pelted with oranges.

Ireland, His wife, son, & a daughter, Pratt (Courtney Melmouth) & two others were in the Center Box, at the Head of the Pitt. Ireland occasionally clapped, but towards the end of the 4th. act He came into the front row, and for a little time leant his head on his arm, and then went out of the Box and behind the scenes."

Sunday, 3 April 1796. "Malone I called on this morning. Harding at breakfast with him. He was at the Play last night in a private Box, and when it was over the Duke of Leeds took him, Sir George Beaumont & Kemble home to supper, where they staid till 3 o'clock. — The Play house he said contained an audience that amounted to £800.

500 copies of Malones Book are sold already. Steevens & Sir Wm. Musgrave wrote notes of approbation to it to Malone, which He read to us.

The scurrilous advertisements & hand bills published by Ireland against Malone makes him desirous that somebody should publish an acct. of Irelands progress through life that his character may be fully known."

Tuesday, 30 June 1796. "Malone I called on. ... Douglas, a Clergyman & some others are supposed to have a concern in fabricating the 'Ireland manuscripts'."

Wednesday, 6 July 1796. "[T.] Taylor met S. Ireland the other day, who mentioning his Son frequently, always called him Sam, though his name is given out in the publication to be William Henry. Ireland said Sam had left his House without notice, & had imposed upon him throughout the whole of the Shakespearian manuscript business."

Wednesday, 11 July 1796. "Westall called on me this evening. Young Ireland now declares Himself to be the Author of the Shakespearian forgeries. Old Ireland abuses his Son & says He has not half sense enough, but that he stole or procured them somewhere."

And that's the end of this volume of Farington's diary; once I've had a look at the others we'll see if he adds further commentary, perhaps around the time of Samuel Ireland's death in 1800 or in 1805, when William Henry Ireland published his Confessions.

1: Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) was to have played the role of Rowena, but she backed out shortly before the play's debut. Her understudy, Jane Powell, went on in her stead. In a March 1796 letter to Hester Thrale Piozzi, Siddons expresssed her doubts about the script's authenticity: "All sensible persons are convinced that 'Vortigern' is a most audacious imposter. If he be not, I can only say that Shakespeare's writings are more unequal than those of any other man."
2: Presumably James Cecil (1748-1823), Marquess of Salisbury, in his capacity as Lord Chamberlain.
3: John Philip Kemble (1757-1823), manager of the Drury Lane Theatre and the actor who played Vortigern.
4: This seems to be the statement printed in the February issue of The Gentleman's Magazine, pp. 92-93 (available via Google Books here). The periodical contained many pieces on the forgeries and the books/pamphlets they spawned throughout the year.
5: Malone's An Inquiry into the Authenticity of Certain Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments, Published Dec. 24, 1795, and Attributed to Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth, and Henry, Earl of Southampton (London, 1796). Available via Google Books here.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Book Review: "How Books Came to America"

As you might imagine, when I saw a publication notice for John Hruschka's How Books Came to America: The Rise of the American Book Trade (Penn State University Press, 2012), I was quite excited. A monograph on the early American book trade? Yes, please!

Unfortunately, that's not really what this book is. As Hruschka notes in his preface, he began the project that became this book as a "professional biography of Frederick Leypoldt" (xiii), a noted 19th-century bookseller/publisher and the founder of key American publishing trade publications, including Publishers' Weekly and Library Journal. And from about seventy pages in, that's fundamentally how it ended up. And that's a good thing. Leypoldt's story is fascinating, and Hruschka tells it well, from its roots in the early 19th century German vision of transplanting their style of publishing and bookselling to America through to the present, as the descendants of Leypoldt's companies struggle to make their way in the ever-more-rapidly-changing world.

Hruschka's account of Leypoldt's bookselling, publishing, and editing ventures, and his quest to bring some semblance of order to the chaotic American book trade, is entirely worth reading. While Leypoldt's "successes" ended up relying on others (Henry Holt and R.R. Bowker among them) to bring them to eventual fruition, his efforts are certainly worthy of notice.

The first six chapters, in which Hruschka seems to attempt to make the title fit the book, I had a bit more trouble with. These are, largely, recapitulations of prior works which have considered the origins and growth of the book trade industries in America: the first HBA volume, Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt's The Book in America, William Charvat's Literary Publishing in America, 1790-1850, and Robert Cazden's A Social History of the German Book Trade in America to the Civil War most particularly. While I see Hruschka's point in including these early chapters (to provide background to the Leypoldt chapters by explaining the always-fragmented, even haphazard development of the book trades in America), they seem not to fit with the rest of the book ... which in turn doesn't really fit with the title.

There are some minor errors which I hope can be corrected in later versions of the book: the author of "What is the History of Books?" is Robert Darnton, not Roger (xi), while the Mayflower passenger was Priscilla Mullins, not Rogers (77). It is an over-simplification to say that "A printed book is one of many identical copies" (5) - this is, of course, demonstrably not true for the hand-press period.

While I wish that Hruschka and his publisher had come up with a more accurate title for this book, I finished it very glad that I'd kept reading. The later chapters on Leypoldt and his ventures are very well done, and I certainly recommend them without reservation.

Links & Reviews

- From the Baltimore Sun, which has been doing an exemplary job of covering the Barry Landau theft case, word that NARA investigators now believe Landau sold more stolen documents, and that they're now working with dealers to recover the materials. Paul Brachfeld, the NARA IG, told the paper that he expects new evidence against Landau to be introduced at Landau's sentencing hearing in May.

- A major acquisition for the Beinecke Library, announced this week: Yale will be the new home of the Thomas Thistlewood papers, more than 90 volumes of diaries and notebooks kept by Thistlewood about his Jamaica plantation, his reading, and his personal life.

- Garrett Scott recounts a recent book-scouting trip through the South, at Bibliophagist.

- Bethany Nowviskie has posted the text of her code4lib keynote, "Lazy Consensus."

- An English Civil War broadside "wanted poster" for the man later crowned as Charles II was sold at auction last week for £33,000; the auction house had estimated it at just £750-£1,000.

- Over on the SHARP blog, Edmund G.C. King recaps a recent David Finkelstein lecture, "Assessing Don McKenzie's Legacy in the Digital Age."

- Several folks passed along "keep reading and carry a towel," from the xoom blog. Well worth a read.

- Houghton Library has acquired one of just three known copies of Thomas Spence's 1775 work The Grand Repository of the English Language, and this one has notable provenance: it bears the ownership notations of a British officer stationed at Fort George (ME) during the later years of the Revolutionary War.

- In the Chronicle this week, Jennifer Howard reported that Google seems to be scaling back scanning at libraries, though it's not entirely clear whether this means anything other than that they've picked the low-hanging fruit at those institutions.

- Rick Ring notes a very cool new acquisition at Trinity: a copy of Thomas Nuttall's Manual of Ornithology, with notes and annotations by Philadelphia naturalist Vincent Barnard. This reminds me of the copy of Bewick's Birds I saw for sale once which had been used as a field guide (and which I'm still regretting that I didn't buy).

- Writing at the Morgan Library blog, Carolyn Vega reveals how librarians there worked to date a Sir Philip Sidney letter to Christopher Plantin based in part on the books he mentions.

- In the new Humanities magazine, Meredith Hindley writes about Gouverneur Morris' European travels in the 1790s.

- Author T.C. Boyle's papers have been acquired by the Harry Ransom Center.

- From Houghton's "You've Got Mail" series, a letter from Harry Elkins Widener from March 1912 to his friend Luther Livingston. In the letter Widener reports that he'll be returning to America on the Titanic, and reports on his book-collecting activities.

- The "Bright Young Things" series at the Fine Books Blog continues: Nate Pedersen interviews Kara McLaughlin of Little Sages this week.


- Julia Flynn Siler's Lost Kingdom; review by Malia Boyd in the NYTimes.

- G. Thomas Tanselle's The Book Jacket; review by Pradeep Sebastian in The Hindu.

- Diana Preston's The Dark Defile; review by David Isby in the WaPo.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Auction Report: March Sales

First, a rundown of the sales so far this month:

Bloomsbury sold Continental & English Literature & History and Modern First Editions on 1 March, in 443 lots. Admiral Sir Sidney Smith's copy of a 1746 French book containing plans of Mediterranean forts was the top seller, reaching £5,200.

PBA Galleries sold Golf Books and Memorabilia on 1 March, in 339 lots. Prizes realized are here.

At Swann on 1 March, Printed & Manuscript African Americana, in 534 lots. An 1834 Philadelphia Bible used as a "slave Bible" at a plantation belonging to the Munday family of Essex County, VA sold for $27,600. The original tally from the Senate's roll call vote on the 1964 Civil Rights Act fetched $22,800. A first edition copy of Ida Wells Barnett's A Red Record (1895) sold for $25,200. The Brinley copy of Phillis Wheatley's Poems on various subjects (1773) found a buyer at $26,400; another copy, with interesting New England provenance, wasn't sold.

And now, upcoming sales:

- Swann will sell the second selection from the Eric C. Caren collection on 15 March, in 374 lots. The expected high seller is the original manuscript indictment of a Salem "witch," Margaret Scott (one of the last executed), which is estimated at $25,000-35,000. An example of the bookplate Paul Revere engraved for Isaiah Thomas will also be on offer (est. $1,000-1,500).

- There's a Bibliophile Sale at Bloomsbury on 15 March, in 387 lots.

- Also on 15 March, PBA Galleries sells Fine Literature & Fine Books in All Fields, in 446 lots. A set of twelve photographs of Charles Bukowski rate the highest estimate, at $12,000-18,000. A very rare copy of H.G. Wells' first book, The First Men in the Moon, could fetch $10,000-15,000.

- Bloomsbury sells Travel, Natural History, Sport & Science on 21 March, in 444 lots. A nice copy of the South Polar Times (1907-1914) takes the top estimate, £12,000-18,000.

- Christie's will sell Fine Printed Books on 21 March, in 103 lots. A unique, extra-illustrated copy of Man Ray's Les main libres (1937) is estimated at £20,000-30,000.

- Bonhams holds a Books, Maps & Manuscripts sale on 27 March, in 222 lots. The bookplate collection of Arthur W. Dorling is among the lots, rating a £4,000-6,000 estimate. A copy of Fermat's Varia opera mathematica is estimated at £12,000-15,000. Lots 151-155 are a series of important ~1765 manuscript maps of Massachusetts roads [which should be sold together, he grouses grumpily]. Churchill's presentation copy to Neville Chamberlain of Marlborough: His Life and Times (1933-1938) is estimated at £40,000-60,000.

- At Sotheby's Paris on 28 March, Livres illustrés Modernes de la Bibliothèque R. & B.L., in 190 lots. Henri Matisse's Jazz (1947) rates the top estimate, at 150,000-200,000 EUR.

- At PBA Galleries on 29 March, Americana, Travel & Exploration, and Cartography. Catalog not yet online.

This Week's Acquisitions

Here's what arrived this week:

- Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots by William Wallace Cook (Tin House Books, 2011). Amazon.

- Anatomy of Murder by Imogen Robertson (Pamela Dorman Books, 2012). Amazon.

- Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik (Del Rey, 2012). Publisher.

- The Yard by Alex Grecian (Putnam, 2012). Publisher.

- Sacrilege by S.J. Parris (Doubleday, 2012). Publisher.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Auction Report: February Catchup

I just realized I'd forgotten to look back over February's auction results, and I still have March's to preview. Sorry for the delays.

- The top seller at the 2 February Bloomsbury Bibliophile Sale was a rare copy of The Court & Kitchin of Elizabeth, Commonly called Joan Cromwel (London: 1664), which sold for £2600. Results summary here.

- Results for PBA Galleries' Rare Books & Manuscripts sale on 6 February are here. A collection of fifteen Yousuf Karsh photographs was the top lot, at $39,000. A copy of Ansel Adams' Portfolio Four also did well, making $24,000, while a copy of Du Halde's Description geographique, historique, chronologique, politique et physique de l'empire de la Chine (1735) fetched $22,800.

- The Heritage Auctions Rare Books sale on 8 February brought in a total of $760,049. Full results are here. The top seller was a copy of Hemingway's first book, Three Stories & Ten Poems (Paris, 1923) which sold for $81,250.

- Results of the Property from Serendipity Books auction at Bonhams on 12 February are here. James Joyce's Gas from a Burner was the top lot, at $17,500.

- The prices realized at the PBA Galleries Americana and Cartography sale on 16 February are here.

- Bloomsbury sold the Horological Library of Charles Allix on 22 February. John Harrison was the belle of this particular ball: the last sixteen lots (123-138) were Harrison-related materials, and every one of them did better than expected (some of them did much better than estimated).

- Swann Galleries sold Private Press & Illustrated Books on 23 February. The Kelmscott Chaucer was, as anticipated, the top let, selling for $52,800.

March results so far and a preview for the rest of the month is coming this weekend.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Links & Reviews

- In today's NYTimes, a profile of Brewster Kahle's physical counterpart to the Internet Archive.

- Over at The Collation, Sarah Werner follows up with her post on printers' errors with a post on how printers corrected their errors.

- Mike Widener reports that the new issue of Law Library Journal is a tribute to the late Morris L. Cohen, and all of the articles are available for download.

- In today's Sacramento Bee, a look at McSweeney's and how it's found a comfortable niche in today's literary world.

- A new Tumblr is up, devoted to errata lists. Courtesy of @BLClark.

- The Authors Guild and other plaintiffs suing HathiTrust over mass-digitization projects have asked the judge to make a ruling on the defendants' fair use claims. See the AG press release here.

- From The Cataloguer's Desk, a look at executioner James Berry's memoir (naturally, titled
My Experiences As An Executioner). They've also posted a very cool contest: identify all the authors featured on their new catalogue, and explain why one of them is the "odd one out." Prize is a £50 gift certificate. My submission was off by one author, so it's up to someone else now!

- Via Biblioguerilla, a 19th-century "recipe book" for decorated papers.

- The March AE Monthly is out, and there's a new interim issue of Common-place.


- The Morgan Library's new exhibit, In the Company of Animals; reviewed by Edward Rothstein in the NYTimes.

- Kwasi Karteng's Ghosts of Empire; review by Isaac Chotiner in the NYTimes.

- Jonathan Sarna's When General Grant Expelled the Jews; review by Harold Holzer in the WaPo.

- Natalie Dykstra's Clover Adams; review by Brenda Wineaaple in the NYTimes.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

This Week's Acquisitions

Here's what arrived this week:

Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik (Del Rey, 2009). Amazon.

- A Social History of Knowledge: From Gutenberg to Diderot by Peter Burke (Polity, 2000). Amazon.

- The Perfect Visit by Stuart Bennett (Longbourn Press, 2011). Amazon.

- Libraries and the Enlightenment by Wayne Bivens-Tatum (Library Juice Press, 2012). Publisher.

- A Catalogue of the Libraries of Sir Thomas Browne and Dr. Edward Browne, His Son: A Facsimile Reproduction With an Introduction, Notes and Index by Jeremiah S. Finch (Brill, 1986). ABE.

- A 1725 Rotterdam edition of Telemaque, signed several times by William Orde. eBay.