Sunday, August 26, 2012

Links & Reviews

- CSPAN-3 will air a 30-minute show on the American Antiquarian Society this weekend. A short teaser video is available here.

- From the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections Blog, a report on how their experiences with microfilming have shaped their digitization strategy.

- A historical library in the Libyan city of Zliten was destroyed this weekend by extremists, according to media reports.

- Erin Blake is seeking a catchall term for ... well, I'll let her explain it: "I really wish there were an easily-understood format-neutral phrase for what might be called the “study of technologies for the creation and circulation of objects bearing intentional marks for the purposes of interpersonal communication." The query has prompted some good responses on ExLibris and on Erin's blog post.

- Mike Widener has another excellent post on provenance and the importance of sharing knowledge and experience. And from Princeton, Steve Ferguson notes an 1826 French prize binding.

- From Lew at Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie, some great examples of early American printed book labels.

- Jennifer Howard posted her second and third reports from her Rare Book School time this summer: "Digital Materiality, or learning to love our machines" and "CSI: Rare Book School".

- Lisa Jardine will head University College London's Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in the Humanities.

- Many early publications of the Rhode Island Historical Society are now available online via the HathiTrust.

- James Capobianco posted a fascinating conundrum this week: can you solve this mystery?

- Jefferson sketches a pasta mold. Yep.

- An extremely cool project: somebody took the manuscript images posted to Flickr by the Walters Art Museum and transformed them using the Internet Archive's BookReader interface. Browse 'em. A fantastic example of how Creative Commons use licenses enable great things to happen. [h/t @wynkenhimself]

- Joseph Esposito's "E-books and the personal library" is worth a read.

- Margaret Mitchell's estate has donated a 50% share of the trademark and literary rights to Gone with the Wind to the archdiocese of Atlanta.

- McSweeney's is having a sale, and it's a good one, too.

- Over on the Fine Books Blog, Nate Pedersen's started interviewing bibliomystery authors. His first subject is Carolyn Hart.


- Ross King's Leonardo and the Last Supper; review by Mark Hudson in the Telegraph.

- Andrew Robinson's Cracking the Egyptian Code; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

This Week's Acquisitions

New this week:

- John Quincy Adams by Harlow Giles Unger (Da Capo Press, 2012). Publisher.

- A Gathering of Saints: A True Story of Money, Murder and Deceit by Robert Lindsey (Simon & Schuster, 1988). ABE.

- The Parties Versus the People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans by Mickey Edwards (Yale University Press, 2012). Amazon.

- Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall by Sir Thomas Browne (NYRB Classics, 2012). Amazon.

- H. P. Lovecraft: Tales (Library of America, 2005). Amazon.

- Legal Education in Colonial New York by Paul M. Hamlin (New York University Law Quarterly Review, 1939). Amazon (used).

- McSweeney's Issue 22; edited by Dave Eggers (McSweeney's, 2007). Publisher sale.

- McSweeney's Issue 41; edited by Dave Eggers (McSweeney's, 2012). Publisher sale.

- More Baths Less Talking: Notes from the Reading Life of a Celebrated Author Locked in Battle with Football, Family, and Time Itself by Nick Hornby (Believer Books, 2012). Publisher sale.

- Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences by Lawrence Weschler (McSweeney's, 2006). Publisher sale.

- Mort by Terry Pratchett (HarperTorch, 2001). Green Hand.

- Sourcery by Terry Pratchett (HarperTorch, 2001). Green Hand.

- Lovecraft's Library: A Catalogue (Revised and Enlarged) by S. T. Joshi (Hippocampus Press, 2002). Green Hand.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Book Review: "The Mansion of Happiness"

Jill Lepore's The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death (Knopf, 2012) is, mostly, a collection of her articles from The New Yorker in recent years, loosely grouped together under the broad themes of life and death. As Lepore notes in the preface, a "history of life and death ... could include just about anything" (xi), so with a few bits of transition text thrown in to tie the different articles together, she's got herself a book.

Lepore's introduction, "The Mansion of Happiness" (originally published in 2007) is about Milton Bradley's Checkered Game of Life, invented in 1860. As in most of the other chapters, Lepore uses some small thing as a touchstone and then ranges far afield: here, for example, she uses Bradley's game to discuss the history of "moral" board games, Bradley's biography, the afterlife of Life the game, &c. And she lays the groundwork for the rest of the book, which is mapped out roughly chronologically based on the "stages of life."

The rest of the book proceeds apace. Lepore's style sometimes feels a bit scattershot and rambling, but I say that in the nicest possible way. It's fascinating to see how she makes connections and draws comparisons across time, space, and subject matter - it's rather fun to see where she's going to take you next. From breastfeeding to Stuart Little to Sylvester Graham to eugenics to parenting magazines to Karen Ann Quinlan, Lepore writes comfortably and with her characteristic wit.

E.B. White is a favorite of Lepore's (as he is a favorite of mine), and he, like a few other names and topics, figures in more than a few of the chapters. The section of the book I enjoyed most, though (as I did the article on which it was based) was "The Children's Room," about NYPL children's librarian Anne Carroll Moore and her opposition to White's Stuart Little. This essay alone would make the book worth reading.

I was a bit surprised that the book's notes don't include citations to the original publications of these pieces; that's covered, it seems, by a blanket note on the copyright page: "Portions of this book originally appeared in The New Yorker." But I will say that I was very glad to see the endnotes at all, since they wouldn't have been made available in the original publications.

As she said at the outset, this book "could include just about anything," and it does. It's not, really, a "history of life and death," but as a collection of essays broadly related to those topics, it works very nicely indeed.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Links & Reviews

- Travis McDade has posted on the OUP blog about the Girolamini library thefts and about the many new difficulties (thankfully!) facing insider thieves.

- Mark Dimunation talked to NPR this week about the Library of Congress' "Books That Shaped America" exhibit.

- The Harry Ransom Center's Kraus map collection is now available online. Also see the press release.

- Two interesting card-catalog-related posts this week: Goran Proot introduces us to the Folger's Chronological Card Catalog of Continental Books, and Jackie Penny memorializes the AAS card catalog cabinets, recently removed from the reading room (a great example of "gone but not forgotten!").

- Matt Kirschenbaum has posted an update on his "Track Changes" book project.

- Over on the Princeton Notabilia blog, Stephen Ferguson profiles the first map showing only New Jersey, published in 1784.

- Albert and Ruth Parr have donated their rare book collection of some 350 titles (valued at $300K+) to Oregon State University.

- Mills Kelly's "Teaching students to lie: historical method through hoaxes" is a great read.

- Rebecca Stott talked to the NYTimes' John Williams this about her new book, Darwin's Ghosts.

- Booktryst highlights a particular gorgeous example of Doves Bindery work.

- Brooke Palmieri and others circulated this interview with Peter Stallybrass, which is very much worth watching.

- Ira Glass is this week's "By the Book" subject.

- Over on the MHS blog, Nancy Heywood offers a glimpse at Harbottle Dorr, Jr., whose important annotated newspapers offer a unique perspective on Revolutionary Boston.


- Charles Rosen's Freedom and the Arts; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- Gyorgy Moldova's Ballpoint; review by Peter Pesic in the WSJ.

This Week's Acquisitions

New this week:

- Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet (Overlook, 2012). Amazon.

- The Key by Simon Toyne (William Morrow, 2012). Amazon.

- Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofman Case by Richard E. Turley (University of Illinois Press, 1992). William & Nina Matheson Books.

- The Firm of Charles Ottley, Landon, & Co. Footnote to An Enquiry by John Carter and Graham Pollard (London & New York, 1948). William & Nina Matheson Books.

- A Suppressed Critique of Wise's Swinburne Transactions. Addendum to An Enquiry by James T. Bratcher and Lyle H. Kendall, Jr. (HRC, 1970). William & Nina Matheson Books.

- Book History (Volumes 11-12). By exchange with James P. S. Ascher.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

BSC President on Library and Archives Canada Cuts

Janet Friskney, president of the Biblographical Society of Canada, has published a letter she sent on behalf of the Society to members of Canada's parliament about the impact of past and potential cuts to the budget of Library and Archives Canada. Read the whole thing.

Book Review: "Imported Eighteenth-Century Law Treatises in American Libraries, 1700-1799"

Herbert Alan Johnson's 1978 book Imported Eighteenth-Century Law Treatises in American Libraries, 1700-1799 (University of Tennessee Press) attempts to answer a very limited number of questions: what law books, published abroad between 1700 and 1799, were American lawyers likely to own? The book was designed, Johnson writes, "to identify those law treatises which had the greatest currency in the American colonies and states, with a view toward the eventual preparation of a microform publication of the most common titles" (xi).

Johnson has here collected the titles (and, where possible, edition information) of books from twenty-two American libraries (from John Adams to Jasper Yeates), coming up with 212 titles held in at least one of the libraries. For those he notes which library or libraries held the titles. In an appendix he sorts the titles by category and by the number of libraries which held them. A second appendix prints sections of a few of the library inventories used, although frustratingly for those interested in libraries generally, Johnson sometimes only prints the sections of inventories pertaining to law books (but without noting when he's done so, which is annoying).

Overall, a useful starting point for something like that, but thankfully with today's more robust tools and resources, similar studies in the future have the potential to be significantly more broad, deep, and useful.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Links & Reviews

Apologies for another delayed links & reviews.

- After appearing in the International Herald Tribune earlier in the week, Elisabetta Povoledo's piece on the Girolamini Library thefts and the Galileo forgeries was published in the NYTimes on Saturday. Some important new details here on the case.

- Leah Price offers a history of the "death of the book" trope in "Dead Again."

- Over at The Collation, Sarah Werner posts a primer on deciphering signature marks, drawing on R.A. Sayce's article and offering some great Folger examples. Meanwhile, Heather Wolfe examines early modern jokes.

- The Library Company of Philadelphia has acquired Peter Collinson's copy of William Maitland's History of London.

- Andrew Albanese at Publisher's Weekly published an update last week on the Authors Guild v. HathiTrust and Authors Guild v. Google cases, both of which could go to trial as early as this fall.

- From New York magazine, "Dead Books Club," a history of pulping.

- The Beinecke Library at Yale has acquired additional Ezra Pound manuscripts, mostly from his time at St. Elizabeth's Hospital (1945-1958).

- In a happy result for scholarship and good sense, publishing house Thomas Nelson has pulled pseudo-historian David Barton's The Jefferson Lies after a strong NPR takedown of the book. Less happily, Barton says he's found another publisher willing to print the book. For more on this, see Tim Murphy's Mother Jones piece on Barton.

- Trevor Owens poses "The Key Questions of Cultural Heritage Crowdsourcing Projects" [h/t @foundhistory]

- From Brooke at 8vo, comparing the current "debate" over who invented the internet with the longstanding arguments over who exactly first developed moveable-type printing.

- On the occasion of an NYRB Classics edition of two of his works, Thomas Browne is profiled in the NYTimes.

- Manuscript corrections and additions in a copy of the Aldine De Aetna at Cambridge University have been identified as those of the author, Pietro Bembo. The copy was formerly in the library of Stanley Morison.

- The NYTimes covers Larry McMurtry's "Last Book Sale," held last week in Archer City. More from the San Antonio Times.

- Via Boston 1775: Princeton's Sid Lapidus '59 Collection on Library and the American Revolution, consisting of 179 books, pamphlets, and prints, is now online.

- Laura Massey at The Cataloguer's Desk asks "Do Misprints or Typos Make a Book Valuable?"

- Want to make your syllabus into a format folding exercise? Sarah Werner shows you how.

- Errol Morris' two-part series on fonts and our perceptions of them is worth a read. It starts here.


- Alexander Tsesis' For Liberty and Equality; review by Jack Rakove in TNR.

- Jill Lepore's The Mansion of Happiness; review by Dani Shapiro in the NYTimes.

- Debates in the Digital Humanities; review by Jennifer Howard in the TLS.

- Ann Durkin Keating's Rising Up from Indian Country; review by Lee Sandlin in the WSJ.

- Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Prisoner of Heaven; review by Yvonne Zipp in the WaPo.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

This Week's Acquisition

Just one arrival this week:

- The Innocent by Taylor Stevens (Broadway, 2012). Publisher.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Links & Reviews

- Another $150,000 grant from Caleb Loring, Jr. will fund a second phase of the Boston Athenaeum's project to catalog, conserve, and digitize its Confederate imprints collection.

- In a Collation post, Sarah Werner offers a Q&A with Goran Proot, the new Curator of Rare Books at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Sarah also posted the August crocodile this week.

- Collen O'Connor's article in the Denver Post "E-reader generation gets a kick out of hunt for rare, unusual volumes" annoyed me on several levels (it's not just young people using e-readers, for one). But, as a piece to highlight the importance of regional book fairs, I'll take it.

- Houghton Library has acquired the newspaper Trotsky was reading when he was mortally wounded by an ice-pick-wielding attacker.

- Over at the Financial Times, Peter Temple highlights map and atlas sales.

- Some additional coverage over the ongoing saga of the possible breakup of the Mendham Collection by the Law Society: Diarmaid MacCulloch has weighed in, calling the proposed sale "vandalism."

- Anne Trubek writes on the Economist's Prospero blog about the Bronte family copy of Audubon's Birds of America, now in the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

- Mills Kelly's Lying About the Past course, which caused such a ruckus this spring, was profiled/reviewed in the THE by Jon Marcus.

- Writing in Slate, Jacob Silverman asks if the online literary world isn't just a little too chummy. Ron Charles responds.

- In China Daily, book restorers at Nanjing University are profiled.

- Five years on, the murder of book collector Rolland Comstock remains technically unsolved. The local sheriff said this week that the case is still open and they still hope to be able to bring charges.

- On the SHARP blog, Edmund G C King reports on a recent seminar presentation by David Finkelstein, "Assessing Don McKenzie's Legacy in the Digital Age: A Case Study."

- Launched this week, Scripto, an open-source system for crowd-sourced transcriptions.

- J.L. Bell notes an article in Colonial Williamsburg, "The Use of Myth in History."

- The Harvard metaLAB released a video animation this week highlighting the spread of print by displaying the publication dates of books in Harvard's libraries.

- The CBC reported this week on Library and Archives Canada's preparations to move into a new facility next year.

- In the You've Got Mail installment this week: a letter from libettist Lorenzo Da Ponte to Anthony Panizzi about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (drawn from an autograph album compiled by Charles Sumner).

- Craig Mod has posted a Readlist on the Future of Books & Publishing which is well worth exploring. [h/t @B00KE]

- In case you missed, a Periodic Table of Typefaces debuted this week; it's meant to promote the paperback release of Simon Garfield's Just My Type.

- The August AE Monthly includes pieces by Michael Stillman on the recovery of an atlas stolen from the Royal Library of Sweden; Bruce McKinney on the upcoming auction at Leslie Hindman, and Susan Netzorg Halas on what she calls the "booksellers' lifestyle" (featuring Portland's own Ian Kahn).

- There's a new Common-place up, here. A series of articles on the War of 1812 bicentennial are included.


- Jacques Bonnet's Phantoms on the Bookshelves; review by Rebecca Rego Barry at the Fine Books Blog.

- Jonathan Gottschall's The Storytelling Animal; review by David Eagleman in the NYTimes.

- Ken Perenyi's Caveat Emptor; review by Jonathan Lopez in the WSJ.

- Richard Slotkin's The Long Road to Antietam; review by John Swansburg in the Slate Book Review.

- Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Prisoner of Heaven; review by Yvonne Zipp in the WaPo.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Book Review: "The Library of Richard Porson"

I'm always fascinated to see how editors compile, structure, and present personal library catalogs, so I'm quite pleased to have a chance to read and examine UCLA Librarian Emeritus P. G. Naiditch's The Library of Richard Porson (XLibris, 2011). Porson (1759-1808) was an important British classical scholar who published editions of Aeschylus and Euripides; his impressive library has proved quite fruitful for a full bibliographical study.

Naiditch writes in an opening note that he was intrigued by three questions: "What books and pamphlets did Richard Porson own? From whom did he acquire these materials? What has become of his holdings?" The book tackles each, in minute detail.

Following a short note and acknowledgements comes a 128-page Prolegomena, consisting of thirty-eight short sections followed by forty-two pages of endnotes and and an index to the entire Prolegomena. The sections include an introduction which examines the fates of libraries of other British classical scholars (Routh, Bywater, Gow, Housman, Bentley, Gibbon); a biographical note on Porson; a note on the size of his library; charts on the development of the library by year and by auction where Porson purchased books (based on Naiditch's analysis of auction catalogs and sale records), &c. Several sections analyze the 1809 sale of a portion of Porson's library, noting prices paid, lists of active bidders, identification (or attempts at identification) of the 116 bidders at the sale.

Naiditch even attempts to document how Porson might have arranged his books (though nothing on the point is known), notes books one might expect to find in Porson's collection which he doesn't seem to have owned, and documents Porson's ill-treatment of his own books and those he borrowed from others (as well as himself—Naiditch includes several contemporary descriptions: "he evidently had been rolling in the kennel"; "the greatest sloven ever"). Naiditch takes Porson's comment that he had "more bad copies of good books than any private gentlemen in England" as evidence that Porson could "affect indifference and even hostility to bibliophily" (lxvii). Other sections analyze Porson's marginal notations and his habit of annotating books and manuscripts he didn't own; the final sections examine Porson's Greek and Roman scripts.

The Catalogue itself contains 1935 entries, which include author, title, edition where known, format, publication information, &c. Where possible, Naiditch has included information on any pre-Porson owners, how Porson obtained the book and (if known) what he paid, notes on who purchased the book at the sale of Porson's library, any later owners, and the current location of the book if known. He's packed a whole lot into each entry, and they can be fairly tricky to puzzle out, although with enough attention it can be done.

But the catalog isn't the end of it. Naiditch has added seven different indexes: of pre-Porson owners of Porson's books, of the known sources from which Porson obtained his books (tracking them back to the numbered entries in the Catalogue); a concordance of the sale of Porson's books with the numbered Catalogue entries; a concordance of the buyers at the sale of Porson's books with the numbered Catalogue entries; ditto of later owners and present locations of Porson's books; and finally a general index.

As one would expect with a volume of this detail, just a few typographical errors have crept into the text, and at various points some brackets (< and >) appear where they don't appear to be intended. Some judicious use of bold text might have made for a slightly clearer presentation in the Catalogue section, but as I note above the entries become clear enough after just a bit of concentration.

Obviously a labor of love, this volume is a remarkable achievement, and will certainly add much to future studies of Porson's scholarship. As an exercise in library reconstruction too it provides a very useful template and example, particularly in the processes and techniques used to gather the data. While each of these projects is very much its own animal, based on the sources, disposition, and ultimate fate of the library in question, Naiditch's effort here is well worth a thorough exploration.

This Week's Acquisitions

The other Boston books have now arrived, rounding out that trip.

From Publisher:

Future Perfect by Steven Johnson (Riverhead, 2012).

From Amazon (used):

Anatomy of an Auction: Rare Books at Ruxley Lodge, 1919 by Arthur Freeman and Janet Ing Freeman (The Book Collector, 1990).

From Raven:

- Caribbean Exchanges: Slavery and the Transformation of English Society, 1640-1700 by Susan Dwyer Amussen (UNC Press, 2007).

- Aldus & His Dream Book by Helen Barolini (Italica Press, 2008).

- 1812: War with America by Jon Latimer (HUP, 2010).

- The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States by Gordon S. Wood (Penguin, 2011).

- Fissures in the Rock: New England in the Seventeenth Century by Richard Archer (UNH Press, 2001).

- The American Manufactory: Art, Labor, and the World of Things in the Early Republic by Laura Rigal (Princeton University Press, 2001).

- Prints for Books: Book Illustration in France, 1760-1800 by Antony Griffiths (British Library, 2004).

- The Atlantic World and Virginia, 1550-1624; edited by Peter C. Mancall (UNC Press, 2007).

- The Papers of William Thornton, Volume I: 1781-1802; edited by C. M. Harris (University Press of Virginia, 1995).

- Letterbook of Greg & Cunningham, 1756-57: Merchants of New York and Belfast; edited by Thomas M. Truxes (British Academy, 2001).

- The Fable of the Bees by Bernard Mandeville (Liberty Fund, 1988).

From Commonwealth Books:

- Biography of a Colonial Town: Hamilton, Bermuda, 1790-1897 by Jean de Chantal Kennedy (Bermuda Book Stores, 1963).

- Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul by John Barry (Viking, 2012).

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Auction Report: August Preview

August is traditionally a slow auction month; here's what's coming to the block.

- Today at PBA Galleries, Fine Press, Illustrated Books and Miscellanea: The Library of Byron L. Niskian, with additions, in 309 lots. Two lots share the top estimate of $4,000-6,000: a plate from Audubon's Birds of America, the Common Raven, and Bengston and Ruscha's Business Cards (1968).

- Leslie Hindman Auctioneers sells Fine Books and Manuscripts on 8 August, in 448 lots. A proof copy of Audubon's Great Blue Heron is estimated at $80,000-120,000, and there's lots more Audubon and Catesby illustrations to be had. A third edition of Newton's Principia is estimated at $15,000-25,000. This sale offers quite a wide range of material, and the catalog is well worth a browse.

- The big event this month may well be The Last Book Sale, at Larry McMurtry's Booked Up in Archer City, TX on 10-11 August.

- On 16 August at PBA Galleries, Fine Golf Books & Memorabilia, in 403 lots. The top estimate goes to a copy of George Fullerton Carnegie's Golfiana (1842), at $25,000-35,000.

- Also on 16 August, Bloomsbury holds a Bibliophile Sale, in 476 lots.

- No preview yet available for the Fine Literature, Cookery & Gastronomy, Bibliography, Books in All Fields sale at PBA on 30 August.