Sunday, June 30, 2013

Links & Reviews

Apologies for the radio silence and the once-again epic roundup post of links and reviews. I've been down the delightful Rare Book School rabbit-hole for the last couple weeks, far too busy to manage to keep up with things here. But I've been saving up links and here they all are, before Google Reader goes away:

- Petrina Jackson from UVA Special Collections posted on their blog about the Rare Book School season there, which is great fun. (And yes, you can even see the back of my head in the final picture).

- Something not to be missed: Leah Price's essay "Books on Books," at the great site Public Books.

- New from Meredith Neuman at Clark University, Sermon Notebooks Online.

- Library and Archives Canada purchased the Sherbrooke Collection of War of 1812 documents at auction in London for $573,000.

- A new study suggests that the Voynich Manuscript may actually contain meaningful text, but skeptics remain unconvinced.

- Jerry Morris has posted about the process of cataloging (and recataloging) the library of James Boswell (on LibraryThing).

- Jennifer Lowe pointed out this week some new information on the de Caro thefts in Italy: recent police raids on bookshops in Florence, Rome, Milan, and Turin resulted in the recovery of more stolen books.

- A proof copy of the first bifolium from the Kelmscott Chaucer was up for grabs last week at PBA Galleries, but went unsold.

- Hathi Trust and the DPLA have announced a partnership, which will make some 3.5 million public-domain books available through the DPLA site.

- A Sternean mystery (the date of the original publication of the first volumes of Tristram Shandyhas been solved at last.

- The BL acquired several lots at the sale of the Mendham Collection.

- Yale's recent acquisition of the Anthony Taussig collection of legal books and manuscripts is highlighted in the NYTimes.

- New work on William Henry Ireland? Yes, please! Heather Wolfe and Arnold Hunt report on Shakespeare's personal library as curated by Ireland in his forgeries.

- In the LATimes Jacket Copy blog, Hector Tobar reports on Matthew Haley's recent comments about the state of the book trade in the digital age.

- Founders Online launched earlier this month, and there was a report on this in the Washington Post. J.L. Bell has a quick note on this here, including fears for the long-term health of the NHPRC.

- A copy of the first newspaper printing of the Declaration of Independence sold this week at Robert Siegel Auction Galleries for $632,500, the largest sum ever paid for a historic newspaper. More on this here. The buyer was David Rubenstein.

- German authorities have recovered more than 15,000 books stolen from libraries (including the Bad Arolsen library) by a former official in the Hessian Ministry of Science. Some 2,000 books remain to be returned to their owners.

- On the Princeton Graphic Arts blog, Julie Mellby gives some love to the twenty-one artists who designed engravings for Baskerville's 1773 edition of Orlando Furioso.

- Nate Pedersen interviewed Joseph Felcone about his Printing in New Jersey 1754-1800: A Descriptive Bibliography.

- The National Archives will open a new David M. Rubenstein Gallery and Visitor Orientation Plaza this fall.

- Starting on 15 July, Guernsey's will be holding a seven-day sale of the Harrisburg Collection, some 8,000 items purchased by a former mayor with an eye toward creating a number of museums around the city.

- Ralph Gardner recently visited the Grolier Club and wrote about his trip in the WSJ.

- Four volumes of a copy of Don Quixote once owned by Thomas Jefferson failed to sell this week at a Virginia auction.

- All the libraries and museums in the United States, mapped. [h/t Tom Scheinfeldt]

- From the BBC Magazine, a report on early fashionista Mattheus Schwarz.

- Several books were reported stolen from Wentworth & Leggett Rare Books in North Carolina. See the full list and full contact information here.

- Peter Steinberg writes on the MHS' Beehive blog about some great detective work he's been doing to identify and reconnect pamphlets removed from Harbottle Dorr's newspaper volumes.

- Over at Booktryst, Stephen Gertz highlights a nice association copy of Common Sense which sold for $545,000 at a Sotheby's auction earlier this month. More on the sale over at Jacket Copy. At the same sale, seven books from George Washington's library fetched $1.2 million.

- The John Carter Brown Library is making its own publications freely available online.

- There's a really excellent guest post at The Collation about an annotated copy of The Roaring Girl.

- Also at The Collation, Erin Blake offers up part two of her series on proof prints.

- I was very pleased to see J.L. Bell's excellent response piece Paul Revere and the Sociologists.

- Another installment in the Anchora series on leaf books, this one focusing on a particularly annotated leaf from the Coverdale Bible.

- From the Appendix blog, a look at a 1680 sex manual that even made Pepys blush.

- Turkish media reports indicate several smugglers have been detained in Ankara with manuscripts stolen from Syrian repositories and illegally removed from the country to be sold on the black market.

- James Schmidt comments on Anthony Pagden's The Enlightnment and Why It Still Matters.

- Book collector Tom Johnson is profiled in the Springfield, MO News-Leader. Johnson's library, accumulated over three generations, is now the heart of the nonprofit Johnson Library and Museum, affiliated with Missouri State University.

- From the Houghton Library blog, Leslie Morris reports on the return of a volume from the library of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, gone missing from the Widener stacks at some point.

- Book Patrol notes the Morgan Library's publication of a new facsimile edition of the Van Damme Hours.

- At Medieval Fragments, David Ganz remembers master palaeographer Malcolm Parkes.


- Nat Philbrick's Bunker Hill and Richard Beeman's Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor; review by Joyce Chaplin in the NYTimes.

- Neil Gaiman's Ocean at the End of the Lane; review by Benjamin Percy in the NYTimes.

- Colum McCann's TransAtlantic; review by Erica Wagner in the NYTimes.

- Paul Collins' Duel with the Devil; review by Mark Schone in the LATimes.

- Joseph Ellis' Revolutionary Summer; reviews by Andrew Cayton in the NYTimes and Kirk Davis Swinehart in the WSJ.

- Travis McDade's Thieves of Book Row; review by Carolyn Kellogg in the LATimes.

- J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fall of Arthur; review by Andrew O'Hehir in the NYTimes.

- Allen Guelzo's Gettysburg; reviews by David Blight in the NYTimes and Ernest Furgurson in the WaPo.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Links & Reviews

Apologies for the rather lengthy post this week: I've been on the road just a bit (New York last weekend for some family time, then to Boston for a couple days, then to New York for Book Expo America (on which there is a good writeup in the NYTimes), and now in Charlottesville to kick off the Rare Book School season) so I've fallen quite behind and had accumulated lots of things to pass along. So here they all are!

- The Law Society of England and Wales is moving ahead with the sale of selected items from the Mendham Collection, which will occur (barring any last-minute action) on 5 June at Sotheby's (see the catalog). This has sparked quite a discussion about the legal, moral, and ethical implications of the Society's decision, including calls for a boycott of the sale. Watch this space for more on this as events progress this week.

- A volunteer at the Buffalo History Museum, Daniel J. Witek, 50, has been charged with the theft of letters and postcards from the Aaron Conger Goodyear collection. Witek, using the alias "Walter Payne," tried to sell the documents to Lion Heart Autographs of New York City, but Lion Heart president David Lowenherz contacted the museum. As a volunteer, BHM officials say, Witek used the name "Daniel Mountbatten-Witek." So far mail fraud is the only charge filed against Witek, but more to come on this one, I'm sure.

- The head of Library and Archives Canada resigned in mid-May over improper use of government funds, and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries has called on the prime minister to consult with the library and archives community about filling the vacancy.

- The Baltimore Sun reported this week on the gradual return of the documents stolen from various archives by Barry Landau and his accomplice. So far only about twenty percent of the recovered materials have been returned.

- Quite an interesting resolution to a longstanding standoff over one of the original copies of the Bill of Rights: the New York Public Library and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have agreed to share custody of the document for the next hundred years, at which time the settlement will be reexamined. The copy may be that which originally was sent to Pennsylvania (this is unclear); it has been at NYPL since 1896.

- Over on the Cardiff University rare books blog, a guide to manicules found in their collections.

- From Sarah Werner at The Collation: an excellent look at oddities in digital surrogates (and other topics).

- There's a good report on the PEN charity auction in the Telegraph; this saw a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone annotated by J.K. Rowling sell for a record £150,000.

- Molly Schwartzburg posted a very interesting account of 18th-19th century cicada emergences as documented in 1824 by "J.S."

- The NYRB looks back on fifty years of book advertisements in its pages. At BEA this week I picked up a copy of the facsimile edition of the first NYRB issue they'd printed up for the anniversary, which makes for a very neat browse.

- Stephen Brumwell has been awarded the 2013 George Washington Book Prize for his forthcoming book George Washington: First Warrior.

- Two men have been sentenced in Denmark for the theft of more than 1,000 World War II documents from the Danish National Archives between 2009 and this year. The pair received jail terms of 24 and 21 months. Some documents were reportedly sold before they could be recovered.

- The great printer/designer Kim Merker died on 28 April; an obituary ran in the New York Times this week.

- From the new Mapping Books blog (link added on the sidebar), Mitch Fraas explores from a wide-angle view some of the things he's found in examining the "unique at Penn" ESTC books, and takes a look at the geographical distribution of the first edition of Whitman's Leaves of Grass.

- Vince Golden writes on the AAS blog about the recent acquisition of a volume of the National Magazine, purchased in honor of Marcus McCorison.

- The June AE Monthly is up; it includes an interview with Joel Silver, the new director of the Lilly Library.

- At the Public Domain Review, Christine Jones explores the early English translations of Charles Perrault's fairy tales.

- Heather Cole offered up a post on the anthropodermic binding at Houghton Library.

- John Van Horne, director of the Library Company of Philadelphia, has announced that he will retire in May 2014.

- From Erin Blake, the first in a series of posts about proof prints, covering trial proofs and progress proofs.

- Speaking at the Hay Festival of Literature, Matthew Haley of Bonhams told his audience that the loss of secondhand bookshops is a dangerous trend, but that "book towns" stand a real chance of successfully navigating the current rough waters.

- Jerry Morris at My Sentimental Library has posted some images and thoughts on the possibility that a book in his library may have belonged to John Hancock. We've emailed extensively about this and frankly I'm just not sure, but it makes for quite a good mystery!

- Also retiring is the chief librarian of the D.C. library system, Ginnie Cooper, profiled recently in the Washington Post.

- In a 1895 letter, Rudyard Kipling writes to an unknown correspondent that he may have "helped himself promiscuously" in drawing from other sources when he penned The Jungle Book.

- On the Houghton Library blog, a wonderful example of how collaborative scholarship is making some great things happen these days.

- The Junto folks have launched a podcast.

- From Nathan Raab at Forbes, a (very) brief survey of the history of the written word.

- The oldest known complete Torah scroll has been identified in the library of the University of Bologna; the twelfth-century manuscript had previously been miscataloged as dating from the seventeenth century.

- From the University of Glasgow rare books blog, a look at the use of false title pages in a 1670 octavo edition of Spinoza. And in other Spinoza-news, some good old-fashioned bibliographical detective work has resulted in the identification of Spinoza's printer.

- The Spring 2013 Common-place is out, and as usual is well worth a thorough read.

- Newly updated from the Society of Early Americanists: recent publications of interest to the field.

- I had a chance to read through the summer issue of the Journal of the Early Republic, and recommend it highly. Most of the articles draw on the A New Nation Votes project (AAS and Tufts), which is also a great way to wile away some time, I should note.

- At JCB Books Speak, Kenneth Ward reports on a very exciting new acquisition of a variant edition of Vetancurt's Arte de la lengua Mexicana (1673). There are some lingering mysteries around these two editions, so go check out the post and see if you can help!

- From Goran Proot at The Collation, a look at all ten Folger copies of the 1640 edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Duplicates? I think not!

- Over on The Appendix blog, a guest post from Ox and Pigeon editor Jason Curran.

- The Antiques Trade Digest reported recently on a few cases of the U.K. National Archives taking action to keep public records from being sold at auction.

- Felicity Henderson has a post on the Royal Society's blog about the group's early collections of curiosities.

- The John Rylands Library's Centre for Heritage Imaging and Collection Care will be digitizing the extensive archival collection of the papers of John Henry Cardinal Newman. They've started a blog to chronicle the project.

- On the OUP blog, Robert McNamee writes on the "marginalization" of Alexander Pope, both as a Catholic and for his physical deformity, and Pat Rogers offers up an essay on Pope's wordplay and writing technique.

- There's a short writeup in the Washington Post by Ron Charles on recent goings-on there, including an exhibit hall renovation and a particularly important copy of Shakespeare's works currently on display.

- From Princeton: the manuscript and annotated galleys of The Great Gatsby have been digitized.


- Victor S. Navasky's The Art of Controversy; review by Deborah Solomon in the NYTimes.

- Peter Carlson's Junius and Albert's Adventures in the Confederacy; review by Tony Horwitz in the WaPo.

- Allen Guelzo's Gettysburg; review by Thomas Donnelly in the WSJ.

- J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fall of Arthur; review by Elizabeth Hand in the LATimes.

- David Scott's Leviathan; review by Brendan Simms in the Telegraph.

- E.O. Wilson's Letters to a Young Scientist; review by Bill Streever in the NYTimes.

- Philip Gura's Truth's Ragged Edge; review by Michael Gorra in the WSJ.

- Charlie Lovett's The Bookman's Tale; review by Rebecca Rego Barry at Fine Books Blog.

- Khaled Hosseini's And the Mountains Echoed; review by Wendy Smith in the LATimes.

- Joel Harrington's The Faithful Executioner; review by Daniel Stashower in the WaPo.

Book Review: "The Bookman's Tale"

A book about antiquarian books and forgery, actually written by someone who knows about such things and can write about them coherently? Needless to say, I wasn't about to miss this one. Charlie Lovett's The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession (Viking, 2013) is just such a book, and it's also an engaging and enjoyable read.

Peter Bylerly is an American rare book dealer living in the English countryside, still recovering from the tragic death of his wife, Amanda. When, in leafing through a copy of Edmond Malone's Inquiry into the authenticity of certain miscellaneous papers... he stumbles upon a 19th-century watercolor of a woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Amanda, Peter feels compelled to learn more about the artist and his subject, and that leads him into quite a tangled web of forgery, deceit, and long-running family feuds (let us not speak of what he does with the watercolor; suffice it to say that it follows the long-running pattern in books of this type, with the protagonist taking an action which will make most biblio-folk cringe a bit).

Lovett intersperses Peter's narrative with flashbacks, both to ten years prior when Peter first got interested in rare books (and Amanda) during his college years, and to earlier scenes where the important rare book at the centerpiece of the plot passed from hand to hand through generations of readers (by means both fair and foul). It's filled with good details about Shakespeare scholarship, forgery, and the world of bookselling, and there's even a scene involving a Hinman Collator. (If there are other novels in which a collator is featured, I don't know of them but would very much like to, so please do let me know if you can think of any). 

Now, there are a few particularly amazing coincidences throughout the book, a detail is off here and there, I could have done without some or all of the trysting in the rare book room (really?!), and I figured out the final twist fairly early on. But on the whole, I actually quite liked this book, and recommend it highly.