Sunday, April 28, 2013

Links & Reviews

- Over at The Collation, Sarah Werner rounds up all the available online facsimiles of the First Folio (there are eight, by her count).

- A fire at the National Library of Wales this week led to water damage throughout the part of the building where the fire occurred (which houses office space and new acquisitions, not the bulk of the library's collections).

- In an Italian court this week, Marino Massimo de Caro and thirteen others were indicted for criminal conspiracy and will go to trial in early June (this is on top of the previously-handed-down sentence of seven years in prison for theft).

- Micah Vandegrift explores the DPLA and what it may mean in the long run for libraries.

- I mentioned the recent recovery of a bunch of books stolen from the Lambeth Palace library two weeks ago; new on that front is a BBC Magazine story on the case with some new and interesting details. The employee/thief is described as a "low-level employee" and that he had defaced many of the stolen books to remove provenance markings, suggesting that he probably intended to try and sell them (some of the stolen books have not been recovered, and may have been sold).

- On the occasion of the anniversary of her birthday, Gary Kelly proposes that we might think of Mary Wollstonecraft as the "first modern woman."

- Adam Hooks at Anchora profiles the leaf book A Noble Fragment.

- From Tablet, a profile of historian and book/document thief Zosa Szajkowski.

- From The Bibliophile's Lair, Rick Ring notes his recent acquisition of a cuneiform tablet (an itty-bitty one!) for the collections at Trinity's Watkinson Library.

- At Selling Enlightenment, the first major article drawing on the big French Book Trade in the Enlightenment project: Mark Curran's "Beyond the Forbidden Best-Sellers of Revolutionary France," which looks quite interesting indeed.

- In The New Yorker, Sally McGrane highlights a recent article in the German newspaper Die Zeit, a diary of the "Hitler Diaries" hoax by one of the editors of Stern at the time of the diaries debacle.


- Mary Roach's Gulp; review by Jon Ronson in the NYTimes.

- Nathaniel Philbrick's Bunker Hill; review by Walter Isaacson in the WaPo.

- Michael Pollan's Cooked; review by Bee Wilson in the NYTimes.

- Denise Kiernan's The Girls of Atomic City; review by Scott Martelle in the WaPo.

- Elizabeth Strout's The Burgess Boys; review by Sylvia Brownrigg in the NYTimes.

- The Selected Letters of Willa Cather; review by Tom Perrota in the NYTimes.

An MP's Account of the Ireland Forgeries

I recently stumbled across another example of a contemporary diary account of the William Henry Ireland Shakespeare forgeries (previous installments: William GodwinGeorge CanningJohn Quincy Adams, Joseph Farington), this one coming from MP Charles Abbot, later Lord Colchester (The Diary and Correspondence of Charles Abbot, Lord Colchester, Speaker of the House of Commons 1802-1817, ed. Charles, Lord Colchester. London: John Murray, 1861).

22 January 1796: Went to Mr. Ireland's, in Norfolk Street in the Strand, by appointment of Sir Philip Gibbes, to meet the Portuguese Ambassabor D'Almeida, and see the newly produced manuscripts of Shakspeare. We saw the MS. play of Lear, and an entire new play of Vortigern and Rowena. Also his profession of faith, letters, to and from him, accounts, receipts, and deeds, &c., innumerable; besides his supposed library of books, to the number of seventy volumes at least, such as Spenser, and various chronicles and pamphlets of the time he lived in, interspersed with his marginal observations. A love-letter to his mistress, Ann Hathaway, whom he afterwards married, and a lock of his hair enclosed. Sir Isaac Heard, who was present, and had often seen these articles before, was firmly persuaded of their authenticity. I am not; doubtless the number of pieces produced makes the supposition of a forgery more difficult; but my opinion, as far as any can be formed on such an inspection, and hearing the accompanying narrative, is against their authenticity: 1. Because there is no great variety of Shakspeare's MSS. extant by which the authenticity of this specimen of handwriting can be judged of. 2. Because the paper appears to be artificially stained or darkened; and especially upon the printed books in those places only where the handwriting is inserted. 3. Because I do not think any of the compositions which I saw surpass the merit of many daily imitations in the newspapers. 4. Because if the internal evidence fails, or is inconclusive, the external evidence is of all others the most suspicious, and nearly destructive of their being true originals; for Ireland refuses to say where or from whom he procured them, and even denies that he knows it; they being delivered, as he says, by his son to him, and received by his son from some gentleman who will not suffer himself to be named. His story is even further the more suspicious, because Shakspeare's reputation has now for so many years been celebrated, and yet no one fair or entire copy of any one of his numerous plays has ever been found; and here is only one a whole fair copy of the long play of Lear, but two new entire plays, also pretended to be entirely in his handwriting, whose titles never before were known, viz. Vortigern and Rowena, and King Henry II. It is to be noted also, that a deed of trust from Shakespeare to Hemmings, the player, speaks of a play entitled Henry III., but even that deed does not mention Henry II.

I remember also, in a conversation with Mr. Malone, hearing him instance the following circumstances to prove the imposture:—1. That Lord Southampton's handwriting, produced by Ireland, is quite unlike all the specimens in the British Museum. 2. That Hampton Court, called Hamtown by Queen Elizabeth, in a supposed letter under her hand, never was so called without the addition of "Court" in her time. 3. That the words "derangement" and "acceded to" are modernisms, and unknown in Shakespeare's time, &c., &c.

If the whole be a forgery, as I think it must be,—at least till these two new plays are submitted to the public eye and judgment, for their contents to be ascertained and appreciated,—it is certainly a very elaborate forgery, and an unprecedented attempt to impose on the literary judgment of the public. Chatterton's were comparatively few and soon detected.

2 April 1796: I dined at Montagu's, and went afterwards with him to the representation of Vortigern, a pretended play of Shakspeare, but in truth a miserable cento and parody, patched up principally from Macbeth, with a character of Queen Katherine, and a scene or two imitated from As You Like It. Nothing for which an original character or idea might not be found in Shakspeare, and nothing not expressed in the worst taste. The play was heard with patience into the third act, then it was laughed at, and hissed and laughed at to the end, and then not suffered to be given out again.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Links & Reviews

Well that was one heck of a week, to put it politely. I'm relieved that it's over, and so very glad (and proud) that the city I know and love has shown such resilience and defiance in the face of Monday's tragedy. All credit to the those who gave of themselves this week, from the medical personnel to the tremendously efficient law enforcement officials to the responsible reporters who kept us up to speed all week long. My thoughts are with all those who lost loved ones this week and all those still recovering, and I look forward to walking down Boylston Street again soon.

- Some big news from the the Philadelphia library world this week: the Rosenbach Museum and Library and the Free Library of Philadelphia announced on Wednesday that they intend to merge and form The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation. The Pew Charitable Trust will be providing some of the funding for the merger. Peter Dobrin reported on this for the Inquirer as well.

- From the Fine Books Blog "Bright Young Things" series, an excellent interview with Joe Fay, the manager of the rare books department for Heritage Auctions in Texas.

- At Public Domain Review, Marri Lynn writes on Vesalius' use of metaphor in his De humani corporis fabrica. And don't forget to support PDR before 1 May (I have done so, and hope others will too).

- Over at The Junto, Michael Hattem reflects on the year he worked on the Benjamin Franklin papers project at Yale.

- Whitney Trettien has a fascinating guest post at The Collation this week, on a particularly interesting interleaved Book of Common Prayer.

- At the Princeton Graphic Acts blog, Julie Mellby posts about an 1813 Old Bailey trial for book theft.

- A copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer was appraised on the Cincinnati "Antiques Roadshow" episode recently, and William and Sylvia Peterson, authors of the Kelmscott Chaucer census, would like to contact the owner so that they can document the copy.

- From Tablet, Batya Ungar-Sargon profiles the Voynich Manuscript and the quest to decipher it.

- And now for something completely ridiculous: CNBC's show "Treasure Detectives" aired a clip of "art forgery expert" Curtis Dowling on the supposedly widespread practice of forgers "faking" old books (including references to using walnut oil to fake smells and handling patterns, as well as something about painting bindings). At Bibliodeviant, Adrian Harrington's Jonathan Kearns calls this segment what it is: utter nonsense. Read the whole thing.


- Clive James' new review of Dante's Divine Comedy; review by Joseph Luzzi in the NYTimes.

- Megan Marshall's Margaret Fuller; review by Kathryn Harrison in the NYTimes.

- Philip Gura's Truth's Ragged Edge; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Links & Reviews

- Your must-read of the week is Eric Naiman's "When Dickens met Dostoesvky" in the TLS, an absolutely riveting account of what appears to be a long-running, complex and widespread series of academic hoaxes (the fruits of which have ended up in several major Charles Dickens biographies, among other publications).

- The Chicago Tribune reported on Tuesday that the city's Field Museum is mulling the sale of its rare book collection, after a "committee of scientists and executives tasked with evaluating the museum's financial situation suggested in a report to the president" that the books "could fetch up to $50 million." The Museum has since 1970 been home to what is often called the finest copy in existence of Audubon's Birds of America, among other rarities.

- Stephen Enniss has been named the new director of the Harry Ransom Center, and will succeed Thomas Staley at the end of August. Enniss is currently head librarian at the Folger, and was previously at Emory.

- Another don't-miss: Sarah Werner's post at The Collation this week on mourning pages and what they can show us.

- A trove of books and other items stolen from the Lambeth Palace library prior to 1975 have been recovered; the thief, apparently repentant, left along with his will a sealed letter containing a confession and instructions on how the books could be retrieved. The article identifies the thief only as "an individual who had once been associated with the library."

- As part of their illustrations series, Echoes from the Vault explores the amazing images in Athansius Kircher's Musurgia Universalis (1650 edition).

- The "Roman de Gillion de Trazegnies," a 15th-century Flemish illuminated manuscript purchased by the Getty Museum in December for £3.8 million, has been placed under an export embargo by the British government so that authorities can attempt to raise funds to keep the manuscript in the UK.

- A collection of 28 letters from J.D. Salinger to the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York and its leaders between 1967 and 2006 have been donated by the center to the Morgan Library.

- Over on the Tavistock Books blog, a profile of Shakespeare scholar (and prankster) George Steevens.

- The Princeton Graphic Arts blog posted this week that Henry Morris has announced that the most recent Bird & Bull Press publication, Busby's Street Scenes, will be the last.

- Classicist Giovanna Ceserani's Mapping the Grand Tour project is highlighted by James Kierstead in the Stanford Report.

- John Overholt passed along on Twitter this week a really remarkable "correction" which appears in the 13 April issue of The Lancet. It concerns the journal's treatment of John Snow, of cholera map fame, in both their 1858 obituary and an 1855 editorial, of which: "The Editor would also like to add that comments such as 'In riding his hobby very hard, he has fallen down through a gully-hole and has never since been able to get out again' and 'Has he any facts to show in proof? No!', published in an Editorial on Dr Snow's theories in 1855, were perhaps somewhat overly negative in tone."

- The BBC is going to adapt Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell as a miniseries. Dave Itzkoff's NYT ArtsBeat post on this contains the wonderful line "No casting was immediately announced for Jonathan Strange, Mr. Norrell or the footnotes ...".

- Amanda Katz has a playful takeoff on André Aciman's new novel Harvard Square, imagining the novels named for other squares in the Boston area.


- Rick Gekoski's Lost, Stolen or Shredded; review by Stuart Kelly in The Scotsman.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Bay Psalm Book Sale Date Set

Sotheby's announced this morning that they will sell the Old South Church Bay Psalm Book on 26 November in New York. They've placed an estimate of $15-30 million on the volume.

The Bay Psalm Book will be displayed at Sotheby's New York from 12-14 April before being exhibited around the country in the coming months. From 18 November through the sale it will again be on display in New York. The press release indicates that a schedule will soon be posted at

The church membership voted in December to sell the book, one of two copies still in its possession (of an original five which came to the church through the bequest of Rev. Thomas Prince).

For more on the extant Bay Psalm Book copies, see my November post: The Bay Psalm Book of 1640: Where Are They Now?

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Links & Reviews

- A new version of the Atlas of Early Printing was released this week, and is well worth spending some time with. Quite a useful resource and teaching tool.

- Writing in Latham's Quarterly, Paul Collins explores, well, "Monkey Business."

- From Echoes from the Vault, a few fakes and forgeries from the special collections at the University of St. Andrews.

- The Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog celebrated its fifth birthday this week. Many congratulations to all involved, particularly Mike Widener, and here's to many more years!

- Another of my favorite blogs also had a birthday this week: Caleb Crain marked the tenth anniversary of Steamboats are Ruining Everything by relaunching with a fresh new look: well done!

- Reported stolen from Peter Harrington, The Federalist in original boards. See the full description.

- Travis McDade writes on the OUP Blog about the professionalization of book theft rings, noting that the involvement of someone specifically to remove library markings is usually a good indicator that a theft scheme has "gone pro".

- Over at the Royal Society's The Repository blog, Felicity Harrington muses on reading Hooke's Micrographia, then and now.

- A "former bookstore owner" from Cambridge, MA (whose identity I imagine will be easily determined by many readers of this blog) has reported that someone's been breaking into her house and stealing poetry books.

- In a delightful essay at the Public Domain Review, Patricia Fara explores the iconography of Joseph Banks. And by the way, the PDR is raising funds to keep their project going, and if you can give, I encourage you to do so (I have).

- As the Digital Public Library of America prepares for its launch event on 18-19 April at the Boston Public Library, Robert Darnton provides some background and future plans for the project in an NYRB essay. A good overview look at the project, as is Tim Carmody's Verge piece on the DPLA.

- Mills Kelly's "Lying About the Past" course has been deep-sixed. Mill posted about this on his blog this week, and Dan Berrett at The Chronicle followed up.

- From the American Birding Association blog, a report that a pair of ornithologists are attempting to use descriptions and drawings by William Bartram and other 18th-century birders to identify a previously-discounted species, the painted vulture.


- Monte Reel's Between Man and Beast; review by David Quammen in the NYTimes.

- Mary Roach's Gulp; review by Janet Maslin in the NYTimes.

- Joyce Carol Oates' The Accursed; review by Wendy Smith in the LATimes.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Auction Preview: April

Coming up in April:

- Christie's New York sells the first part of the Collection of Arthur & Charlotte Vershbow on 10 April, in 352 lots. Watch the new FB&C for my full preview of this sale, which contains some really, truly, amazing books and be will fascinating to watch.

- Also on 10 April, Christie's New York sells Dr. Francis Crick's "secret of life" letter to his son, which is estimated to fetch $1-2 million.

- On 11 April at PBA Galleries, South Sea: The Library of Dr. Richard Topel, Part I, in 365 lots. A first edition of Vancouver's Voyage of Discovery could sell for $25,000-35,000.

- Also on 11 April, at Bloomsbury, 169 lots of Books on Horology, Science, and Medicine.

- At Swann on 11 April, Fine Books Including Incunabula and Writing Manuals, in 148 lots. A Noble Fragment Gutenberg leaf is estimated at $40,000-50,000, while a first edition of Audubon's Quadrupeds could fetch $250,000-350,000. What is being described as the only presentation copy of Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield is estimated at $6,000-9,000. Lots of fascinating things in this one.

- Swann sells Printed & Manuscripts Americana on 16 April, including items from Peter Scanlan's Theodore Roosevelt collection, in 434 lots. Little bit of everything here!

- Bloomsbury holds a Bibliophile Sale on 18 April, in 655 lots.

- Christie's London will sell Travel, Science, and Natural History items on 24 London, in 267 lots. A manuscript speech by Wilbur Wright is estimated at £50,000-80,000.

- PBA Galleries will sell Travel & Exploration, Cartography & Americana from the Library of Glen McLaughlin (with additions) on 25 April. No online catalog for that one yet.

- Christie's Paris holds a sale of Importants Lives Anciens, Livres d'artistes et Manuscrits on 29 April, in 243 lots. Some important manuscript material here by Balzac, Proust, and Hugo.

- At Sotheby's Paris on 29-30 April, the first part of the Bibliothèque des ducs de Luynes, Château de Dampierre, in 364 lots. A grand folio volume with Blondel watercolors produced to mark the wedding of the dauphin in 1745 is estimated at 200,000-300,00 Euros.

Auction Recap: March

- On 11 March, ALDE sold the Bibliothèque du Chateau de La Plagne, in 331 lots. Results are here.

- PBA Galleries sold Fine Literature, Children's Books, &c. on 14 March, in 621 lots (results). The Hemingway family photo album sold for $10,800. The first printing of Tender is the Night with later jacket didn't sell.

- Bloomsbury held a Bibliophile sale on 14 March, in 579 lots. Results are here.

- Bonhams sold Books, Maps, Manuscripts & Historical Photographs on 19 March, in 235 lots; results here. A very neat collection of albumen prints by early photographer Lady Clementina Hawarden sold for £115,250. A magnificently-bound manuscript recipe book from the library of the first Earl of Yarmouth fetched £42,050.

- Also at Bonhams on 20 March was the The Xi'an Incident: The Papers of Hyland "Bud" Lyon sale, in just eight lots. With premiums the lots brought in a total of $2,710,125.

- The Christie's London sale of The Library of a Spanish Bibliophile on 20 March brought in £624,775, with a first edition of Juan de Arfe's Quilatador de la plata, oro y piedras selling for £40,000.

- Bloomsbury sold Travel, Topographical, Sporting and Natural History Books, Maps, Prints and Photographs on 21 March, in 366 lots. Results here.

- Results for PBA's sale of Rare Americana and African American History on 28 March are here. A broadside lithograph for the Overland Mail Company fetched $18,000, and a single volume from the first octavo edition of Audubon's Birds sold for $12,000.

Monday, April 01, 2013

This year, the truth wins ...

Most years I think up something silly to post on April Fool's Day. But this year I realized that nothing I was going to come up with would beat this actual news report, from Buffalo NY's WGRZ:

History Mystery: Rare Book on Slavery Found in WNY Home.

Honestly, I don't even know where to start.

Previous 4/1 fun:

2009: Find Suggests a Real "Gulliver"
2010: Known Shakespeare Forger Doubted "Double Falshood"
2011: Scholar Discovers Lost Longfellow Translation
2012: Book Review: "Mimes in Vichy France"