Sunday, February 24, 2013

Links & Reviews

Apologies for the somewhat abbreviated post: I've been busily preparing for this week's trip to Savannah for the Society of Early Americanists meeting, so I'm sure I missed a few stories as they whizzed by. If you're coming to the meeting or are in Savannah I hope I'll see you there (and if anyone has recommendations for restaurants or bookstores in the city, I'll be more than happy to receive them!)

- At ProfHacker this week, professor Jonathan Sterne discussed his and his partner's winter break project: organizing their library. This was particularly timely since I've been doing the same thing lately (I'll have more to say about it once I finally finish, which actually does seem like it may be a possibility at some point in the reasonably near future). It's quite a job, that's for sure!

- On Friday the White House announced a new policy with the goal of providing open access to federally-funded research. Link roundup here.

- The shortlist for the Oddest Book Title of the Year was announced this week. See them and vote here.

- Over at The Collation, Goran Proot analyzes a rare Dutch auction advertisement in the Folger's collections.

- The Justice Department has declined to weigh in on the GSU e-reserves case (that sound you hear is a deep sigh of relief from those on the good side of this appeal).


- Bernard Bailyn's The Barbarous Years; review by Alan Taylor in TNR.

- John Darwin's Unfinished Empire; review by Alex von Tunzelman in the NYTimes.

- Ellen Gruber Garvey's Writing with Scissors; review by Christopher Benfey in the NYRB.

- Ernest Freeberg's Age of Edison; review by Wendy Smith in the LATimes.

- Jim Crace's Harvest; review by Sam Leith in the TLS.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Links & Reviews

I went down to Longfellow Books on Friday afternoon just to say hi to the staff and buy some books. The store was buzzing and I was amazed at how much progress had been made in just a couple days to get things back up and running. The booksellers were exhausted, but said all the support and energy from the community was keeping them going. The Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance has launched a three-pronged effort to help with recovery, and if you want to buy a few books from Longfellow you can order through their website or by phone.

- A new blog you should be following: Function Follows Form, by David J. Gary, who's been doing great work on Rufus King's library and other book history-related things. Some of the early posts take a close look at some aspects of King's library space, the travels of the library over the years, &c.

- The Private Libraries in Renaissance England database hosted by the Folger Library is newly updated and enlarged with material from the forthcoming eighth volume in the printed series.

- Over at The Cataloguer's Desk, looking back on forty-five years of Peter Harrington catalogues.

- A great new acquisition at Princeton highlighted in their Rare Books blog: a 1785 East India Company tea catalogue.

- Winterthur has acquired the John and Carolyn Grossman collection of printed ephemera, comprising some 250,000 items. The collection had been on deposit at Winterthur since 2008.

- David Levy has some interesting new information on a chess manuscript once believed to be in the hand of Oliver Goldsmith.

- Also from Princeton's Notabilia blog, the printed book label of the Wisbech Literary Society, and the very lovely 1694 printed book label of Margaret Harrington.

- On the JCB Books blog, a great new acquisition of a 1609 Mexican imprint with a gorgeous binding, one of the earliest woodcut illustrations produced in North America, and a neat overall story.

- A typewritten Gandhi letter sold for £115,000 at an auction in Shropshire this week.

- An interesting discovery this week pointed out by Book Patrol: Northern Kentucky University is selling off a collection of rare books appraised at $24,000 on the auction site GovDeals.

- In the NYTimes' Disunion blog, Louis Masur explores the reception of Les Miserables during the American Civil War.

- The AAUP has filed an amicus brief in the GSU e-reserves case, siding with the publishers.

- Oxford and Cambridge have launched a joint fundraising campaign to purchase a portion of the Hebrew manuscript trove from the Cairo Genizah. The 1,700 manuscript fragments in the "Lewis-Gibson" collection are currently held by Westminster College, and may be sold off and dispersed if the Oxbridge effort proves unsuccessful.

- Over at The Junto, Sara Georgini interviews Thomas Lannon, an NYPL curator who's worked on the Emmet Collection.


- Todd Andrlik's Reporting the Revolutionary War; review by Michael Hattem at The Junto.

- John Burt's Lincoln's Tragic Pragmatism; reviews by Steven B. Smith in the NYTimes and Michael Dirda in the Washington Post.

- Paula Byrne's The Real Jane Austen; review by Maxwell Carter in the NYTimes.

- Daniel Stashower's The Hour of Peril; review by Del Quentin Wilber in the Washington Post.

- Jim Crace's The Harvest; review by David Ulin in the LATimes.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Auction Report: February

- PBA Galleries sold Angling/Sports & Pastimes/Natural History books on 7 February. Results are here. The top lot was an archive of letters to and from Randolph Huntington, the man who introduced Arabian horse breeding to the United States. The 1,000+ letters fetched $18,000.

- Bloomsbury held a Bibliophile Sale on 14 February; results are here.

- Skinner, Inc. had a Discovery Sale: Books and Manuscripts on 14 February. Results are here. An extensive collection of New England ephemera did unexpectedly well, fetching $11,000 on a $300-500 estimate (somebody found something delicious in there!).

- Bonhams sells Fine Books & Manuscripts on 17 February, in 300 lots. A copy of Bien's Audubon, missing two of the plates, is estimated at $80,000-120,000.

- PBA Galleries will sell Rare Books & Manuscripts on 18 February, in 225 lots. A collection of all sixteen printings of the first edition of the Alcoholic Anonymous Big Book rates a $200,000-300,000 estimate, while a first issue King James Bible is estimated at $100,000-150,000.

- At Bonhams on 18 February, Printed Books and Maps, in 436 lots.

- Bloomsbury will sell the Beatrix Potter Collection of Mark Ottignon on 27 February, in 307 lots.

- Also at Bloomsbury, on 28 February, Literature, Manuscripts & Modern First Editions, in 386 lots. Includes a collection of Hester Thrale Piozzi letters, among other items of interest.

- On 28 February at PBA Galleries, Rare Golf Books, Clubs & Memorabilia from the collection of Georgia Dyer Burnett, in 391 lots.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Links & Reviews

We got about 32 inches of snow here in Portland yesterday, and the snowbanks and drifts around the neighborhood are very impressive indeed. Thankfully the snow stayed fluffy and light, and though the wind gusts got pretty nasty for a few hours, the power stayed on, so it's been an enjoyable storm in this neck of the woods. Between bouts of shoveling and walking around to take pictures yesterday I got a another chunk of the book-reorganization accomplished, too.

- Unfortunately the storm proved particularly nasty for Longfellow Books downtown, where a burst pipe caused the sprinkler system to go off and led to widespread damage in the shop. They're closed until further notice. Stay tuned for ways to help as we get more information, or watch the shop's Facebook page.

-  From Public Domain Review, Martin Spevack introduces Isaac D'Israeli's Curiosities of Literature.

- Over at The Collation, part two of Erin Blake's series on myth-busting early modern book illustration, this time considering how many impressions one might get from an engraved copper plate.

- Jennifer Howard reported this week on upcoming appeals in the GSU e-reserves case, including concerns that the Department of Justice may get involved.

- Garrett Scott at Bibliophagist has a great post this week on how researching a particular book or pamphlet can often prove to add much to its value.

- Eugene Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People" was damaged by a vandal this week at a museum in Lens, France. The woman who defaced the painting was detained and conservators indicated that the graffito could probably be "easily cleaned."

- From the Houghton blog, a look at some books from Herman Melville's library newly acquired for Harvard's collections.

- Maine State Archivist David Cheever is considering the pursuit of legal action against an auctioneer trying to sell what purports to be an original order for a military draft in Maine's 1st congressional district, signed in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln. More on this as events warrant.

- At The Appendix, an interview with author Adam Hochschild.

- Quite an amazing story of a publisher suing a librarian for saying negative things about the publisher's product. Jessamyn West as a full roundup of links and coverage. Another report in The Chronicle.

- In the TLS, Sarah Knight and Mary Ann Lund explore how the now-confirmed remains of Richard III compare to traditional literary and historical descriptions of the monarch.

- A new online exhibition from the Library Company of Philadelphia: Black Founders: The Free Black Community in the Early Republic.

- The British Library has purchased approximately 100 diaries and some 900 letters of Sir Alec Guinness.


- The Forgotten Writings of Bram Stoker; review by Michael Dirda in the Washington Post.

- Ad Stijnman's Engraving and Etching, 1400-2000; review by Elizabeth Upper in Apollo.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Call for Assistance: Tabulae Rudolphinae Census

The following announcement was posted on Ex-Libris this week and is reposted here with permission. I hope anyone with access to the book will respond to the query (as you all now, I'm a big fan of book censuses and love to help out with them in any way possible).

"My name is Stefano Gattei and I teach history and philosophy of science at the IMT Institute for Advanced Studies, Lucca, Italy.

 I am currently working on a census of all existing copies of Johannes Kepler's Tabulae Rudolphinae, 1627. The first edition of this book presents components in 3 different states, which can be recognized by a few characteristics of the first few pages. My census aims at providing a precise descriptions of each copy, and therefore reconstruct the book's complex publication history.

In order to do that, I need answers to a list of 10 questions, which take just a few minutes to reply. My census will be published in a forthcoming book of mine on Johannes Kepler's Tabulae Rudolphinae (published by Oxford University Press/)/ and will describe all available copies in public libraries. I have already seen a number of copies in private collections, but I know there are several more, either in private hands or on the antiquarian book market.

I would ask all members to let me know if they have copies of Kepler's book, and possibly help me get in touch with private collectors who bought them in the past. Of course, individual owners are free to indicate whether they want to be explicitly mentioned in my census or else prefer to be kept anonymous."

Please contact Stefano Gattei at if you can assist with this important work.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Links & Reviews

I've been reorganizing my books this weekend, after finding myself terribly frustrated when I couldn't immediately find a volume I wanted. Lots of moving and re-ordering and getting distracted by things I'd forgotten I had (and thus, great fun!).

- Two new arrests in the de Caro thefts: Bologna-based bookbinder has been arrested, charged with obscuring ownership marks in the books stolen from the Girolamini library. A man who acted as go-between for the thieves and the buyers of stolen books was also arrested.

- From Garrett Scott at Bibliophagist, a great ~1880 broadside from a Croyden flat earth group offering a £1,000 prize for anyone who could offer a "public and practical defence" of Newton's theory of gravity.

- The Boston Public Library has received an anonymous $500,000 gift to fund cataloging and conservation of its rare book collection.

- In the Chronicle this week, Geoffrey Nunberg looks back at the Radcliffe Take Note conference last November.

- Early this week some incredibly disturbing reports emerged from the Malian city of Timbuktu, where thousands of Arabic manuscripts were believed destroyed when retreating Islamist militants set fire to the Ahmed Baba library. As the week went on, the news improved: although the library building was damaged, the vast majority of the manuscripts seem to have been saved. More reports: Time, Simon Tanner, The Atlantic, The New Yorker.

- From Eleanor Shevlin at EMOB, "Digital Tools: Image Matching within Printed Materials."

- Kathryn Gucer guest-posts at The Collation on the Folger Library's impressive collection of mazarinades.

- Norman Foster's plans for the NYPL central branch got panned by Michael Kimmelman in the NYTimes this week.

- Over at Sarah's Books, a visit to an (unnamed) used bookstore where she found some great books and listened to the clerk's "familiar tales of woe."

- The Litchfield, CT Historical Society has launched a fantastic new database of those who attended Tapping Reeve's law school and Sarah Pierce's female academy.

- The Vatican Apostolic Library has uploaded the first 256 manuscripts of some 80,000 they plan to eventually digitize.

- Rhode Island marks 350 years of its colonial charter this year. A new website includes some interesting contextual essays.

- Emma Rothschild's book The Inner Life of Empires now has a very nice online complement, with maps, glossaries, notes and more.

- Alexis Madrigal writes in The Atlantic on Defoe's plague writings as a way to help us understand new media (newspapers were the "next big thing" right then).

- In Latham's Quarterly, Laurent Merceron writes on ergot poisoning.

- The Folger's Heather Wolfe, in New Zealand to teach at Dunedin Rare Book Summer School, spoke to Radio New Zealand about paleography. Listen here.

- A German auction house posted images of a poisons cabinet disguised as a book, which sold for 5,200 Euros.

- Via the new Slate history blog, the N-YHS looks back at the time when a committee tried to persuade the Society to back a move to change the country's name.

- Michael Dirda has posted his final American Scholar column (sadly).

- By far the most chuckled-about phrase in the bibliotwitterverse this week appeared in Jeffrey Rotter's Atlantic Cities post on data visualization in 19th-century census charts (which is quite interesting). The following sentence caused more than a few of us to think "say what, now?" when we read it: "While researching the spread of Chinatowns in New York City, he discovered a trove of maps and charts in a musty backroom of the Library of Congress web site" [italics are mine].


- Michael Dean's I, Hogarth; review by Andrea Wulf in the NYTimes.

- Christoph Irmscher's Louis Agassiz; review by Rebecca Stott in the NYTimes.

- Susan Brigden's Thomas Wyatt; review by Alastair Fowler in the TLS.

- Roseanne Montillo's The Lady and Her Monsters; review by Deborah Blum in the NYTimes.

- Jenny Uglow's The Pinecone; review by Megan Marshall in the NYTimes.