Sunday, August 31, 2014

Links & Reviews

Apologies for the lack of links last week; here's a double bill to make up for it.

- A Washington Post video reporter, Lee Powell, spent two days with us at Rare Book School this summer, and he's now posted the resulting five-minute video feature.

- Two more Italian libraries, the Biblioteca del Seminario vescovile di Pontremoli and the Archivio storico della cattedrale di Massa, have announced that they are missing hundreds of incunabula and early printed books. You can download the full list here.

- More than 2.6 million public-domain images from books scanned by the Internet Archive have been uploaded to Flickr at Internet Archive Book Images. Kalev Leetaru, a Yahoo! Fellow in Residence at Georgetown, built a program to extract the images by looking at the areas original OCR programs had ignored and saving those areas as JPG files, according to a BBC report. The images include all relevant Internet Archive metadata and even surrounding text.

- In The Atlantic, Adrienne LaFrance reports on Paul Moran, who collected thousands of pieces of John Updike's trash from the street.

- The University of Rochester has acquired a collection of letters between Susan B. Anthony and fellow women's right activist Rachel Foster Avery.

- Robert Darnton has launched his long-projected website, A Literary Tour de France.

- The bicentenary of J. Sheridan Le Fanu's birthday was marked by articles in The Guardian and The Telegraph, as well as a Google Doodle in the UK.

- Rebecca Mead profiles Mary Beard in the New Yorker.

- Ian Kahn's 2012 ABAA oral history interview is now available on YouTube.

- Over at Notabilia, Steve Ferguson notes the reappearance of an historiated initial L from the 1543 edition of Vesalius in a 1555 edition of Livy.

- Now available in digital form, the second edition of Daniel Mosser's A Digital Catalogue of the pre-1500 Manuscripts and Incunables of the Canterbury Tales.

- Rick Anderson's Library Journal piece "Asserting Rights We Don't Have: Libraries and 'Permission to Publish'" is a must-read.

- At History Today, Patricia Fara writes about the scientific education of Mary Shelley.

- Pittsburgh-area libraries are being targeted by book thieves; thousands of dollars' worth of bestsellers have been stolen from the libraries and sold online. Police say they "hope to make an arrest soon."

- Sarah Werner explores "Pop Shakespeare's typography" at The Collation.

- A neat and amusing visualization from the Rylands Library: what Elizabeth Gaskell's inbox might have looked like in 1854, had she been using Microsoft Outlook.

- Patricia Crosby has pleaded not guilty to the theft of some $2,000 worth of books from the Owl's Neat Upholstery and Antique Store in Bennington, Vermont. Crosby turned the stole books over to police.

- A free, online, collaboratively-written American history textbook, The American Yawp, has now launched in beta version.

- There's a powerful Guardian editorial about the importance of public libraries (specifically in the UK, but the arguments are the same as for this side of the pond).

- The Library of Congress has acquired an iconic Civil War tintype of a Confederate soldier and his slave. The photograph was donated by Tom Liljenquist.

- From the Clog, a look at manuscript recipes for inks and colors in a copy of The excellency of the pen and pencil (1668).

- Tavistock Books has released a "Catalogue of Catalogues," which is well worth a thorough browse.

- A copy of "Action Comics No. 1" sold for $3.2 million on eBay this week, setting a record price for a comic book. More from the Washington Post.

- Houghton's Peter Accardo highlights Thomas Gray's interleaved and annotated copy of Linnaeus' Systema Naturae, which is frankly, nothing short of spectacular.

- Over at the Provenance Online Project they've got a mystery bookplate for us, featuring a squirrel and (probably) Hercules, and a look at how library catalogs can help us reconstruct the appearance of long-ago libraries.

- Rachel from The Book Trout recounts her time at CABS this summer.

- A Yale student has written a guest post for the Beinecke blog about the text font of the First Folio.

- Joanna Rotté recounts her visits to "Athenaeums of the Northeast" in the Broad Street Review.

- A study has found that people reading the same text on a Kindle had more trouble reconstructing the plot of the story chronologically than people who read the text in paper form.

- Jerry Morris tracks the Lydgate manuscript Boke of the Sege of Troy through Quaritch's catalogues and handlists (the manuscript is now at the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester).


- Ryan K. Smith's Robert Morris' Folly; review by Charles R. Morris in the WSJ.

- David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks; reviews by Pico Iyer in the NYTimes, Michiko Kakutani in the NYTimes.

- Brian Catlos' Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors; review by Nick Romeo in the CSM.

- Joshua Wolf Shenk's Powers of Two; review by Sarah Lewis in the NYTimes.

- Ammon Shea's Bad English; review by Stan Carey at Sentence first.

- Kevin Birmingham's The Most Dangerous Book; review by Rachel Shteir in the NYTimes.

- Karen Abbott's Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy; review by Alice Fahs in the LATimes.

- David Bromwich's The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke; review by Daniel McCarthy in the NYTimes.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Review: "Collegiate Republic"

Margaret Sumner's Collegiate Republic: Cultivating an Ideal Society in Early America (UVA Press, 2014) is a new and important book, which should find a wide audience among those interested in American higher education during the early national period. Drawing on a very impressive range of archival collections and a broad base of secondary research, Sumner moves beyond the single-institution-model, arguing that those who established and promoted the post-Revolutionary colleges saw them as an "essential resource for the nation - a model world that reminded it of the need for collective harmony" (p. 4). The colleges were "idealized as peaceful spaces where young minds were being molded and shaped for the future and where the powers of good and evil would not be allowed to 'wage' their 'strife'" (p. 4).

In "Cultivating the College World," her first chapter, Sumner profiles Washington College president George Baxter, highlighting one of his multiple fundraising trips to the east for the purpose of soliciting money for the young institution. Baxter provides a useful springboard for a discussion of how college trustees, presidents, and faculty members working together sought to create collegiate communities, and explores to some degree the contributions (whether in the form of land, cash, books, scientific instruments, &c.) required by the early national colleges. I was hopeful that she would treat here the trend of subscription-based college establishments (a important factor in the foundation of Union College, among others), since that doesn't seem to have been much examined in any depth anywhere, but nonetheless the chapter provides a very good cross-regional study.

The second chapter, "Organizing the College World," is centered on the families of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, arguing for the importance of "coeducational sociability" as a key component of college life. The role of faculty members and their families as surrogate parents and siblings to the college boys (often to the extent that living quarters were very close, if not actually shared) is explored thoroughly, with a wide range of useful examples. The idea of shared spaces extends into Sumner's third chapter, "Building the College World," with Franklin College providing the focal point. Here Sumner reaches a bit further, bringing in an argument about the role of colleges in several social reform movements (temperance and colonization).

"Working in the College World," Sumner's fourth chapter, she explores the changing notion of academic pursuit as a new kind of labor, and the idea of the need to balance mental and physical exertions. I was very glad to see that she included the most notable example of this that I knew of: Union's president Eliphalet Nott encouraging professor Isaac Jackson to spend time gardening (Jackson's efforts remain a vital and beautiful component of Union's campus to this day). Sumner's case here as elsewhere also encompasses the key role played by women in this context, with excellent examples in the form of Louisa Payson, Margaret Junkin Preston, and others.

Finally, in "Leaving the College World," Sumner highlights the experiences of John Russwurm, the first black graduate of Bowdoin College, and Jenny, a slave owned by the daughter of a Washington College trustee. While both stories make for interesting examples, and several other cases of poor white servants are included as well, I felt here that Sumner drew a few two many sweeping generalizations based on isolated data points, and this seemed to me the least successful chapter. Given Russwurm's circumstances, it would have been worthwhile, perhaps, to spend some time exploring (as is done just briefly earlier in the book) the long-lasting ties between college leaders and their students, as well as between students themselves, as they leave the college community to make their way in the wider world.

I'm quibbling, mildly, and there are a few very minor typographical errors ("principals" for "principles" at several points being the most noticeable), but overall the book is nicely done. This period remains a vastly understudied time in nearly every respect: there is very little good, broad-based literature about the courses of study at these colleges, their libraries, their cultures, &c. Sumner's contribution to this field is to be applauded, and I do hope that it will spur additional study and exploration. The importance of the post-Revolutionary colleges in the history of the early republic cannot be understated, and I hope we'll see more good studies like this.

Book Review: "The Map Thief"

I think I have managed to keep a pretty close eye on the media coverage of the E. Forbes Smiley map thefts, his ensuing plea deal and sentencing process, as well as the long aftermath. I even wrote a paper in grad school about the newspaper coverage of the thefts. So I was pleasantly delighted to read Michael Blanding's The Map Thief (Gotham Books, 2014) and find that there was much to the story that hadn't previously made its way into the news in any major way.

Blanding's book, like Miles Harvey's The Island of Lost Maps, probably ought to be required reading for anyone responsible for the cataloging, supervision, curation, collection, purchase, or sale of maps (or even rare printed materials and archives broadly conceived). It tells the story of Smiley's thefts and the ensuing legal wrangling, but Blanding also very carefully treats another important aspect of Smiley's life: his involvement with the interior Maine town of Sebec, which didn't tend to come up much when Smiley was in the news, but which had a major impact on his life and dealings.

Many of the major players in the case spoke to Blanding directly, including former NYPL maps curator Alice Hudson, and the Curator of the Leventhal Map Center at the BPL, Ronald Grim. Many current and former map dealers also spoke to Blanding, as did a whole slew of Smiley's personal friends, as well as Smiley himself (for a brief period). But even with Smiley's perspective, this book in no way turns into a remotely sympathetic portrait (for which see The Man Who Loved Books Too Much). Blanding treats Smiley's crimes with the seriousness they deserve, and makes quite clear the continued concerns among curators at several institutions that prosecutors were too quick to accept a plea deal and did not take seriously enough the post-plea revelations that Smiley had not admitted to all of the thefts.

The book manages to tell a complex story in an extremely readable way, and includes a fair amount of background material on the cartographic history of the maps themselves, the map trade, and how Smiley's actions changed the broader community. Recommended without reservation.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Links & Reviews

- Ten years after fire destroyed the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, Germany, the library's copy of Copernicus' De revolutionibus, thought destroyed, has been found amongst the many books still being restored, a process which is expected to continue for another 15 years.

- The Smithsonian Institution has launched a crowdsourced transcription interface, to allow volunteers to help transcribe Civil War diaries, field notebooks, and more. There's a short report in the NYTimes.

- The Folger Library has announced that all images in its Digital Image Collection (currently nearly 80,000 items) are now eligible for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Fantastic news!

- Martin Kemp writes on the threats facing the Warburg Institute Library in the Royal Academy Magazine. More coverage on this front from The Guardian.

- UVA Special Collections has acquired a copy of the rare Tolkien publication Songs for the Philologists.

- Many maps stolen by Peter Bellwood from the National Library of Wales remain missing, Wales Online reports.

- On the Provenance Online Project blog, a look at inscriptions partially trimmed off during rebinding.

- It's all pigeons this week over at Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie.

- New (to me, anyway): the Centre for the Study of the Book at Oxford is now posting podcasts of its discussion series.

- Ravi Somaiya profiles Harper's Magazine publisher John R. MacArthur.

- Emory University has launched Readux, a collection of digitized books from their libraries.

- Joshua Holm reviews and recommends Meredith McGill's article "Copyright and Intellectual Property: The State of the Discipline" in Book History 15.

- Michael Blanding talked to David Holahan from the Hartford Courant about his book The Map Thief.

- Anna Da Silva writes about a spat between Anthony Panizzi and the Royal Society for the Society's Repository blog.

- Maurice Sedgwick writes in The Guardian about "What makes Gormenghast a masterpiece?"

- A book cull at the Boston Public Library has hit the news with a report in the Boston Globe. Administrators are, reportedly, "disposing" of 180,000 "little-used volumes" based on circulation statistics.

- Nalo Hopkinson, a professor of Creative Writing at UC Riverside, has posted about concerns over the future of the university's famed science fiction collection.


- Adrian Goldsworthy's Augustus; review by Nicholas Shakespeare in The Telegraph.

- Hampton Sides' In the Kingdom of Ice; review by Robert R. Harris in the NYTimes.

- Peter Snow's When Britain Burned the White House; review by Jonathan Yardley in the WaPo.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Links & Reviews

- ILAB has issued an official letter of protest to the Italian Ministries of Culture and Justice over their investigations into de Caro's thefts from the Girolamini and other libraries. This follows the arrest of Danish bookseller Christian Westergaard over books matching titles stolen from the libraries (but all recovered and in German police custody since 2012) and the cancellation of a Bloomsbury/Philobiblon auction in Rome on suspicion that books scheduled to be sold there might have been stolen (none proved to have been removed from libraries). The full letter is very much worth a read.

- Over at The Collation, Goran Proot explores the use of "vv" for "w" in 17th-century title pages.

- Lisa Fagin Davis reports on manuscripts in Alabama and Georgia, and comments on the recent discovery that the now-broken Beauvais Missal was once in the possession of William Randolph Hearst.

- Another bookstore I've always wanted to visit is closing, I'm very sorry to say: Seattle's Wessel & Lieberman is shutting its doors soon.

- A library card signed by Elvis Presley when he was in seventh grade is going up for auction later this month at Graceland.

- Judge Richard Posner, ordering the Conan Doyle estate to pay Leslie Klinger's legal fees, slammed as extortion the practice of certain literary estates charging license fees.

- British Airways is planning to add audio versions of eleven Shakespeare plays to its inflight entertainment options.

- The Brontë parsonage at Haworth has purchased a script from the first film adaptation of Wuthering Heights, made in the 1920s and shot in the Haworth area. No copy of the film itself is known to exist.

- As part of their second sale from the library of Franklin Brooke-Hitching on 30 September, Sotheby's will sell a number of books and other artifacts from the 1914 Shackleton expedition.

- Over at The Junto, a list of forthcoming books on early American topics.

- The diploma of the first African-American student to attend Harvard, Richard Greener (also the father of Belle da Costa Greene) sold for $12,500 this week at a Chicago auction.

- Bookbinding scholar Anthony Hobson died in early July; read an obituary by Nicolas Barker in The Independent.

- Daryl Green of the University of St. Andrews is featured in the FB&C "Bright Young Librarians" interview series.

- Historians have authenticated an inscription in an 1854 book on race as being written by Abraham Lincoln.

- The State Library of Massachusetts has digitized the manuscript of William Bradford's autograph manuscript for Of Plimouth Plantation, now available here. The interface leaves rather a great deal to be desired, I must say, but I suppose better something than nothing.

- Donald Kerr posted on ExLibris-L about a new census he's compiling, of the 1913 work La prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France by Paul Cendrars with artwork by Sonia Delaunay-Terk. Contact him if you have any information about copies of this work.


- Edward Dolnick's The Rush; review by Walter Borneman in the NYTimes.

- Michael Schmidt's The Novel: A Biography; review by John Sutherland in the NYTimes.

- Lev Grossman's The Magician's Land; reviews by Sarah Lyall in the NYTimes and Gwenda Bond in the LATimes.

- Helen Rappaport's Four Sisters; review by Natasha Randall in the TLS.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Links & Reviews

Another Rare Book School season has come to a close, so here's a catchup post of links and reviews I missed over the last couple weeks:

- Many congratulations to the American Antiquarian Society, which was honored with a National Humanities Medal this week for "safeguarding the American story."

- The Provenance Online Project blog has launched, with some excellent first posts.

- David Whitesell writes on the Notes from Under Grounds blog about UVA Special Collections' acquisition this spring of 19th-century American and English books in original dust jackets. The 700 titles in 829 volumes are, David writes, "the largest such holding ever documented."

- From Sarah Werner at The Collation, 10mo!

- The Boston Athenaeum has announced that Elizabeth E. Barker will be the next Stanford Calderwood Director.

- HiLobrow has begun a series on contributors' favorite typefaces, including, so far, Matthew Battles on Aldine Italic and Sherri Wasserman on Toronto Subway.

- A two-parter at medievalfragments: Portable Medieval Manuscripts and Giant Medieval Manuscripts.

- Speaking of RBS, Rick Ring blogged about his experiences this week in "Teaching the History of the Book" over at The Bibliophile's Lair.

- Michael Paulson writes in the NYTimes on efforts by historian James Fenimore Cooper, Jr. and Congregational Library executive director Margaret Bendroth to preserve New England church records.

- The Folger Shakespeare Library launched Folgerpedia this week, a wiki designed to be an "infinitely updateable, constantly growing encyclopedia of all thing Folger and of interest to the Folger community."

- During renovations of UVA's Rotunda, masons discovered pieces of the original dome, destroyed in the 1895 fire.

- In Intelligent Life, Charles McCann writes about Roald Dahl in the "Notes on a Voice" column.

- Mike Widener notes a new installment in Mark Weiner's series of short videos about rare law books. Weiner writes that in "Water, Paper, Law," "an eighteenth-century Italian legal treatise about water inspires some thoughts about law, rare books, and the passage of time."

- There's an interview with John Ferling about the American Revolution on the OUP Blog.

- The Scholars' Lab crew launched Neatline 2.3 this week.

- Lenny Bruce's papers have been acquired by Brandeis University.

- Will Noel talked to FB&C's Nate Pedersen for the "Bright Young Librarians" series.

- Houghton Library reference assistant Leah Lefkowitz posted about an Elizabeth I letter in the library's collections.

- Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy talked to Tom Cutterham for The Junto about his book The Men Who Lost America.


- Lev Grossman's The Magician's Land; review by Edan Lepucki in the NYTimes.

- Robert J. Mayhew's Malthus; review by Justin Fox in the NYTimes.

- Danielle Allen's Our Declaration; review by Gordon S. Wood in the NYRB.

- Paul Sorrentino's Stephen Crane: A Life of Fire; review by Jayne Anne Phillips in the NYTimes.

- Elizabeth Drew's Washington Journal; review by Maura Casey in the WaPo.

- Rick Perlstein's The Invisible Bridge; review by David Ulin in the LATimes.

- John Dean's The Nixon Defense; review by Carolyn Kellogg in the LATimes.

- Michael Blanding's The Map Thief; reviews by John H. Kennedy in the Vineyard Gazette and Nick Romeo in The Daily Beast.