Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year-End Reading Report 2015

Another year's reading comes to a close (though I intentionally didn't start any new books this week so that I could get through the big pile of journals and magazines that had accumulated over the last several months). In 2015 I finished 172 books, including some classics that I'd long intended to read and finally did.

And now, my five favorite fiction and non-fiction reads for 2015 (in no particular order within the lists):


Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

The Barsetshire Chronicles by Anthony Trollope

Slade House by David Mitchell


Do Not Sell at Any Price by Amanda Petrusich

Black Diamonds by Catherine Bailey

Galileo's Idol by Nick Wilding

The Most Disreputable Trade by Tom Bonnell

Winter World by Bernd Heinrich

Happy New Year to you all, and good reading!

Previous year's reports: 201420132012201120102009200820072006.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Links & Reviews

- Bookseller John Crichton of the Brick Row Book Shop is profiled in the San Francisco Chronicle. The shop marked its hundredth birthday in early December.

- Sotheby's sale of material from the Valmadonna Trust collection realized more than $14.9 million, setting a record for an auction of Judaica. The Bomberg Talmud alone fetched $9.3 million, and was sold to Stephan Loewentheil, reportedly on behalf of collector Leon Black.

- The Morgan Library & Museum announced that they acquired from the Pirie sale the large-paper copy of Orlando Furioso (1591).

- Peter Brantley writes for Publishers Weekly about how James Billington's retirement should be a "wake-up call" for librarians.

- No surprise to most readers of this blog, but Michael Rosenwald reports for the Washington Post on the "resurgence" of used bookstores.

- The BBC reports on the new details emerging about the early Koranic fragments identified at Birmingham University earlier this year.

- Over at The New Antiquarian, a poetic ode to the current Grolier Club exhibition by Terry Belanger.

- The Shakespeare exhibits are starting: the HRC's, "Shakespeare in Print and Performance," is up through 29 May. See a preview.

- Along the same lines, Heather Wolfe announces one of the Folger's many initiatives for 2016: Shakespeare Documented, "the largest and most authoritative resource for learning about primary sources that document the life and career of William Shakespeare."

- In the Guardian's "book to share" column, Robert Freeman highlights Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer.

- At Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie, Guillermo Moran shows the process of making a mezzotint bookplate.


- Page Smith's (posthumous) Tragic Encounters and Michael McDonnell's Masters of Empire; review by David Treuer in the LATimes.

- David Wootton's The Invention of Science; review by Matthew Price in the Boston Globe.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Links & Reviews

- The second "Virtual Issue" of The Library, containing articles about private libraries, is now available.

- Eric Kwakkel has a great post at Medieval Books about the recent work he and others have been doing to pilot the use of x-rays to reveal manuscript fragments hidden inside bookbindings. More here.

- A new database of early American library charging records, from the Easton (PA) Library Company, is now available at The team is still adding records, but this looks like a great start.

- The Sotheby's London sale of 15 December realized £1.6 million. See the full results. The sale included the very interesting archive of Robert Catterson-Smith, a collaborator on the Kelmscott Chaucer.

- Daniel Grant writes for The Observer on the 22 December sale of material from the Valmadonna Trust Library. And Sotheby's David Redden talked to a local NYC news station about the collection and the auction.

- UNC's purchases at the Pirie sale were announced this week.

- A bill to make the US Copyright Office independent has been introduced in the House.

- New from Oxford, the 15cBOOKTRADE Project offers a whole range of resources and useful tools for the study of early books. An accompanying database, TEXT-inc, was also released this week.

- New from the University of Southampton, The Austen Family Music Books, a digital collection of 18 music albums belonging to Jane Austen's family. See the announcement.

- Mitch Fraas answers the question "What do you do all day?" for Medium.

- At Echoes from the Vault, Briony Aitcheson writes about the identification during cataloging of a previously-unrecorded variant cancel title page for the first edition of The Wealth of Nations.

- Jennifer Maloney and Pia Catton report for the WSJ on the coming "bonanza" of Shakespeare-related events/exhibits/books, &c., to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death in 2016.

- New from The Appendix contributors, Backlist, a selection of curated lists of books.

- Dee Clayman writes for the OUP Blog about the ongoing work on the Herculaneum scrolls. John Seabrook's recent New Yorker piece on the project is also now online.

- Coming up in the fall of 2016, a series of interlinked exhibitions and an international conference in Boston on illuminated manuscripts.

- Over at POP for "Mystery Monday," "Who signed the Newberry Library's First Folio?"

- A rare Kay Nielsen watercolor illustration for a 1924 edition of Hans Christian Andersen stories sold for £32,000 at auction this week.

- Liberty University has received a collection of rare Bibles from Dr. Harold Rawlings.

- Andy Stauffer has a response to Jacob Nadal's column "Silvaculture in the Stacks."

- The Daily News reported this week on the $22 million overhaul of the NYPL's Schomburg Center.

- More from The Collation on the launch of Shakespeare's World.

- In the "Bright Young Librarians" series, Penn's Laura Aydelotte is featured this week.

- Stephen Heyman writes for Slate about the success of the UK bookstore chain Waterstone's and what lessons US bookstores could learn.

- The AP reports on a soon-to-be-published Civil War diary volume separated from its fellows when it was captured by a Union soldier during the conflict.

- The Carnegie Corporation of New York has awarded a $2.2 million grant to the Columbia University Libraries for the development of an online portal to the corporation's institutional records.

- A replica "handling copy" of the Gutenberg Bible has been produced for the John Rylands Library.


- Rebecca Rego Barry's Rare Books Uncovered; reviews by Ben Marks for Collectors Weekly and Kurt Zimmerman at American Book Collecting.

- Harold Holzer and Norton Garfinkle's A Just and Generous Nation; review by Andrew Delbanco in the NYTimes.

- Andrew Pettegree's Brand Luther; review by Colin Woodard in the NYTimes.

- James Shapiro's The Year of Lear; review by Blake Seitz in the Washington Free Beacon.

- Lisa Moses Leff's The Archive Thief; review by James McAuley in the WaPo.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Links & Reviews

- Launched this week, Shakespeare's World, a collaboration between the Folger, the OED, and Zooniverse to crowdsource manuscript transcriptions of 17th-century letters and recipes. Nicola Davis reported on the launch for the Guardian.

- For your reference, the entire NUC Pre-1956 (all 754 volumes!) is now available digitally via HathiTrust. The contents list may also be of use.

- Nick Basbanes' collection of research materials and inscribed books have been acquired by Texas A&M University.

- The sale of the first portion of Pierre Bergé's library at Hotel Drouot on Friday realized the equivalent of $12.8 million. More coverage from AFP.

- The results of a survey about allowing self-service photography in reading rooms are well worth a look.

- Karin Scheper, conservator at the University Library Leiden, guest-posts at medievalbooks about the process of deciding whether and how to conserve a damaged book.

- The AAS has acquired a collection of daguerrotypes related to the Thomas P. and David C. Collins firm of Philadelphia.

- Architects have been hired to draw up plans for a new building to house the Lambeth Palace Library.

- Not that all the readers of this blog don't already know the answer, but Howard Jacobson, writing for the BBC Magazine, asks "Is there still any point to collecting books?"

- The AAS' annual report is now available.

- John Sunyer reports for the Financial Times on the Maggs Bros move.

- New to me, anyway, the Centre for Printing History and Culture, a joint initiative between Birmingham City University and the University of Birmingham.

- The UK Intellectual Property Office has stated that faithful reproductions of existing public-domain works should be in the public domain.


- Rebecca Rego Barry's Rare Books Uncovered; review by Jerry Morris at Contemplations of MoiBibliomaniac.

- John Sedgwick's War of Two; review by Susan Dunn in the NYTimes.

- James Shapiro's The Year of Lear; review by James Smiley in the NYTimes.

- David Wooton's The Invention of Science; review by Steve Donoghue in the CSM.

- Jane Dawson's John Knox; review by Arnold Hunt in the TLS.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Links & Reviews

Attention this week mostly went to the Pirie sale at Sotheby's, which certainly seemed from my Twitter feed to be the most tweeted-about book auction in recent memory. It was great to see so much interest from around the bibliosphere for this important auction. The total as reported by Sotheby's is $14,908,379, though that does not include after-sale purchases.

- Just hours after the sale, the Folger Shakespeare Library posted a list of their acquisitions: thirty on the floor and another eighteen later.

- The National Library of Ireland was the high bidder on a manuscript and subsequent typescript of Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock, which made $187,500.

- For once, two pieces of good news about the Boston Public Library: the rare books department has reopened following a mold cleanup, and a map stolen by E. Forbes Smiley (but not one of those he admitted to) was returned to the library after being identified by the BPL's map curator. This raises yet more questions about just how forthcoming Smiley really was and how many more maps he stole are still out there.

- The Boston Globe has a long report on the ongoing debate over the so-called "Gospel of Jesus's Wife."

- December's Rare Book Monthly is out, with a report on the recent Boston fairs by Bruce McKinney, a look ahead at this week's Bergé sale, and a piece by Michael Stillman on Richard Stanley Haugh.

- On the Perne & Ward Libraries blog, Ann Eljenholm Nichols posts about the "Cambridge Fish Scribe," who "consistently 'signed' his work by drawing a fish around the catchword(s) written on the last folio of each quire."

- Eve Kahn reports for the NYTimes on Yale's purchase of the Ege collection of manuscripts and fragments.

- Kent-based bookseller Michael Kemp is selling his large collection of works by Mervyn Peake.

- In the November/December issue of Humanities, Richard Brodhead writes about the origins of the NEH and a way forward for the humanities in "On the Fate and Fortunes of Public Goods."

- Duke archivist Tracy Jackson writes about the very amusing collection of material from the Perkins Library suggestion book from the early 1980s.

- James Everest writes for the Royal Society's Repository blog about Robert Hooke's book collection and how he and other early Royal Society members dealt with the works of Athanasius Kircher.

- Jennifer Schuessler reported for the NYTimes about the (re)discovery of a first state King James Bible at Drew University.

- For fans of M.R. James, there's a BBC radio play, "The Midnight House," available now that bears a strong connection to James' story "The Mezzotint" in some respects. And five James stories are also available now for your listening pleasure.


- Taschen's new The Book Cover in the Weimar Republic and the Morgan Library's Graphic Passion; review by Peter Mendelsund in the NYTimes.

- Flora Fraser's The Washingtons; review by Annette Gordon-Reed in the NYTimes.

- Jon Meacham's Destiny and Power; review by Steve Donoghue in the CSM.

- Harold Holzer and Norton Garfinkle's A Just and Generous Nation; review by Howell Raines in the WaPo.

- Antonia Fraser's The Pleasure of Reading, Rebecca Rego Barry's Rare Books Uncovered, and Robert Calasso's The Art of the Publisher; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo. Rare Books Uncovered is also reviewed by Pradeep Sebastian in The Hindu.

- The Meaning of the Library, edited by Alice Crawford; review by Alberto Manguel in the TLS.

- Umberto Eco's Numero Zero; review by Terry Eagleton in the TLS.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Links & Reviews

- At Spitalfields Life, a peek inside Maggs Brothers Berkeley Square premises before the firm moves to new quarters. Lots of pictures, too.

- The Guardian reports on the upcoming Pierre Bergé library sale (Sotheby's Paris, 11 December).

- Gothamist gets a look inside the NYPL's under-construction Rose Reading Room.

- A University of Aberdeen release highlights manuscript fragments found in a German library which are written in a similar script to the Book of Kells.

- There's a new exhibit up at the National Library of Scotland, "Book Beautiful." It sounds like a good one if you're in that neck of the woods. More from The Scotsman.

- The Kelmscott Chaucer census blog reports on the three (count 'em, three!) copies of the Kelmscott Chaucer coming up for sale in December. Wow, that last one is something.

- There's an essay and slideshow of Judaica broadsides from the Valmadonna Trust collection in Tablet.

- Bloomberg View editorialized on the importance of the next Librarian of Congress, and John Y. Cole has a story in the Library of Congress Magazine about how each librarian has shaped the institution.

- In the NYRB, Bruce Holsinger has a brief piece on the history of writing on parchment.

- Caroline Alexander talks to the WSJ about her new translation of The Iliad.

- Tim Radford reports for the Guardian about a new study into the nature of 13th-century uterine vellum using a new technique.

- The 11th Australasian Rare Books Summer School will be held at the State Library of New South Wales, 1–5 February 2016.

- California bookseller Randall House Rare Books put out a press release on their role in selling the Brontë book with unpublished manuscript material to the Brontë Museum.

- Ann Blair has been named the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor at Harvard, effective 1 January.


- Mary Beard's SPQR; reviews by Dwight Garner in the NYTimes and Peter Lewis in the CSM.

- Stanley L. Quick's Lion in the Bay; review by Philip Kopper in the Washington Times.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Book Review: "Bibliotheca Fictiva" & "Fakes, Lies, and Forgeries"

Arthur Freeman, Bibliotheca Fictiva: A Collection of Books & Manuscripts Relating to Literary Forgery, 400 BC–AD 2000. London: Bernard Quaritch Ltd, 2014.

Earle Havens, ed. Fakes, Lies, and Forgeries: Rare Books and Manuscripts from the Arthur and Janet Freeman Bibliotheca Fictiva Collection. Baltimore: Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University, 2014.

When I am asked what sort of books I collect, I usually lead with "books about books" and "catalogs of peoples' libraries," but it's almost always the next one, "books about literary forgeries and hoaxes" that the questioner proves most interested in talking about. (Only later might I bring up the collection I actually work at the most, of Fenelon's Télémaque). Arthur and Janet Freeman, creators of the magnificent, dare I say well-nigh unsurpassable forgery collection documented in Bibliotheca Fictiva, are surely familiar with the particular reaction that the mention of forgeries not infrequently elicits: a sort of conspiratorial, knowing nod, eyebrows half-raised, as if what you'd actually said was that you make literary forgeries rather than collect and study them.

When I received my copy of Bibliotheca Fictiva, impressively produced by Quaritch, and began reading through it, one of my first thoughts was that I might just as well give up the ghost on my own meagre collection of forgery-related material: the thought of building a collection that could rival this is daunting to the extreme. There can be no contest, but there needn't be; I've neither the time, resources, nor inclination to collect as comprehensively as the Freemans have done, and there's plenty of good material out there to fill the small niche I'm interested in, anyway. Once I'd gotten over that initial, overwhelmed state and really dug into this volume, I found it immensely interesting and useful.

As Arthur Freeman notes in his preface, the collection was more than five decades in the making, eventually with an eye toward the composition of "a comprehensive history of literary and historical forgery, as a genre or tradition from antiquity to the near-present" (xi) which did not come to fruition. In 2011 the Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University began to acquire the collection, and this volume covers it to that time, with some of the additions made since. The "intimidating" outlines of the library, Freeman acknowledges, are "to some extent arbitrary and even personal" (xi): it covers "the entire range of literary forgery, that is to say the forgery of texts, whether historical, religious, philological, or 'creatively' artistic, in all languages and countries of the civilized Western world, from c. 400 BC to the end of the twentieth century" (xii). But not just the original texts: also their "first and ongoing exposures (or obstinate endorsements), in whatever printed editions seemed most significant (along with manuscripts and correspondence when applicable), with a special emphasis, inevitable for us, on evocative annotated and association copies" (xii). No small task, indeed.

Freeman introduces the collection with an eighty-page overview, broken into eleven sections (Classical and Judeo-Christian Forgery to the Fall of Rome; Medieval Forgery, Religious and Secular; Renaissance Forgery, to 1600; Seventeenth-Century Forgery; Eighteenth-Century British Forgery; Nineteenth-Century British and American Forgery; France After 1700; German, Austrian, and Dutch Forgery; Italy and Spain; Central Europe, Russia, and Greece; and The Twentieth Century). In each he briefly surveys the collection's holdings in that area, so these eleven sections taken together—given the wide scope of the library and the breadth of its holdings—can fairly effectively serve as a de facto introduction to the genre. While there are a whole lot of names, dates, and titles packed in here, Freeman manages to keep things moving nicely.

The meat of Bibliotheca Fictiva is what Freeman has termed "The Handlist," a catalog of the collection as it stood at the time of acquisition by Johns Hopkins. Items retained by the Freemans are noted (these include, Freeman reports, duplicates, modern reference books, certain association items, and collections related to the Fortsas hoax and the Guglielmo Libri thefts). In the introductory headnote to the Handlist Freeman outlines several areas in which the Bibliotheca Fictiva complements existing holdings at Hopkins (including the Book of Mormon). The Handlist is organized into thirteen sections—roughly corresponding to the eleven above—next by forger or topic, and finally by date (the index will be of great use). Some 1,676 entries follow, often with annotations as to their provenance, some with descriptions of the binding, and most with a short explanation of their significance.

Reading right through these entries, or at least for any particular area you have an interest in, will be well worth it: even setting aside from the scope, the library includes some truly remarkable material. There's the (unique?) single-sheet prospectus for the Irelands' Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments, with Samuel Ireland's manuscript addition offering a subscription refund to doubters; or there's Hugh Trevor-Roper's annotated review copy of Morton Smith's The Secret Gospel; or John Carter's own copy of Enquiry, with a letter from Pollard dated "the day after publication," calling the book "too much of a curate's egg." It takes sixty pages to document the vast sub-collection of materials relating to John Payne Collier's life and works. From the vile (Protocols of the Elders of Zion) to the ridiculous, they're here, and this volume is one anyone with even the slightest interest in the topic will want to have and refer to often.

The Freemans' laudable decision to transfer the Bibliotheca Fictiva collection to Hopkins has prompted the publication of additional, complementary texts. The proceedings of a 2012 conference, "Literary Forgery and Patriotic Mythology in Europe, 1450–1800" will soon be published, and a lovely catalog of a Sheridan Libraries exhibition, Fakes, Lies, and Forgeries was released in 2014. As Winston Tabb notes in his Foreword, it is through "exhibitions and publications like this one, which share the fascinating hidden histories of fakes and forgeries throughout the ages and inspire future generations to explore them further" (iv) that we can acknowledge and thank the Freemans for providing the fruits of their long collecting labors to the scholarly community.

In his introduction, Earle Havens, the catalog's editor, outlines how the decision was taken not only to bring the collection to Baltimore, but also to keep it together, allowing for use, promotion, and study of collection as a whole, not simply as disparate items divorced from their context. He builds a good case for the relevance and usefulness of studying forgeries and their creators as a key component of the historical and cultural record: "to treat forgery as a mode, and at times even an expressive art, of literature" (vii). Along with a checklist of the exhibition, five interpretive essays are included. Earle Havens' "Catastrophe? Species and Genres of Literary and Historical Forgery" offers a broad overview of scholarly treatments of forgeries over time and a gallop through the "species of forgery" to be found in the Bibliotheca Fictiva, while Neil Weijer explores how one might grapple with historical forgeries (that is, forgeries of historical documents) when both "history" and "forgery" are pretty tough terms to pin down, "if all historical writing is essentially fiction?" (43). Walter Stephens provides an excellent overview of Annius of Viterbo's works and their afterlives, and Janet E. Gomez treats the distinction between "literature" and "literary forgery" using the Ireland Shakespeare forgeries, the Alberti Tasso forgeries, and Psalmanazar's Formosa as case studies. Finally, John Hoffmann delves into the nastiness, tackling the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as well other 19th- and 20th-century racist productions about miscegenation and the like. His conclusion is a fitting one for the whole book and for the topic: "The most important fact for a forger to keep in mind is the prejudice of his audience, and forgers play upon the public's credulity by indulging unquestioned assumptions. ... Forgeries make illusions seem real, but most important, they bring about real effects" (112).

Fakes, Lies, and Forgeries is beautifully designed and produced, with lovely color illustrations throughout. I await its companion volume with anticipation, and I hope that its contents, along with those of Bibliotheca Fictiva, will prompt much future scholarly inquiry. There could be no better monument to the work of the great collectors who built the Bibliotheca Fictiva.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Links & Reviews

Apologies for no post last week: Boston was busy, but as always being there reminded me how much I love that city and its book fair. It was a fantastic time, and the book fair seemed to be a complete success by all accounts. It was great to see so many friends, old and new, and I even came across some pretty neat finds, which I'll be writing about here in due course. But now, a backlog of news:

- Ken Gloss of the Brattle Book Shop talked to Boston Magazine about the history of the Boston Book Fair.

- Convicted artifact/book/&c. thief John Mark Matthew Tillman is being released on day parole. Tillman is serving an eight-year sentence for multiple counts of theft and possession of stolen property.

- There's a great guest post up at The Junto by a couple of the grad students involved with a project analyzing the reading practices of the Winthrop family over several generations.

- An early Shelley poem has been acquired by the Bodleian Libraries as their 12 millionth printed book. More coverage from the Guardian.

- A cache of 17th-century Dutch letters, many unopened, is now being explored by an international team.

- The Beinecke Library has acquired the Otto Ege collection of manuscripts and manuscript fragments.

- Karen Nipps writes for the Houghton blog about printing on the frozen Thames. There was a great example of one of these small handbills at the book fair last weekend.

- Tom Mashberg reports for the NYTimes on the new NYPL stacks being constructed beneath Bryant Park.

- Harvard Libraries have reduced spending by $25 million since 2009 following a massive restructuring process.

- The National Trust has warned that climate change is affecting rare books, gardens, and other properties under the Trust's care.

- Sotheby's will sell twelve selected items from the Valmadonna Trust Library on 22 December.

- The NYPL has acquired the archives of The New York Review of Books.

- Meanwhile, the archives of Time Inc. are going to the New-York Historical Society. More from the NYTimes.

- The WaPo covers this year's DPLA GIF IT UP contest.

- From Dustin Illingworth at The Millions, "Atlas of Interest: On the Hidden Life of Marginalia."

- The Brontë Society has acquired a copy of Robert Southey's Remains of Henry Kirke White containing unpublished writings of a young Charlotte Brontë. The £170,000 purchase was funded with grants various UK cultural institutions.

- The Boston Globe covered Harvard's major digitization project of colonial-period manuscripts. While I was in Boston I had the chance to see the current exhibition up at Pusey Library about the project, and it's entirely worth a visit if you can get there.

- Umberto Eco talked to the Guardian about his new novel, Numero Zero.

- Jennifer Schuessler writes for the NYTimes about an early papyrus fragment that turned up on eBay, and about the snarly ethical issues the market in such fragments can create.

- Keith Houston writes for the BBC Magazine about punctuation marks that failed.

- Writing for the APHA blog, Casey Smith notes a panel at the recent APHA conference about hands-on instruction in printing history, featuring RBS' own Amanda Nelsen, Josef Beery, and Todd Samuelson.

- Over at The Millions, there's an excerpt from Rebecca Rego Barry's new book, Rare Books Uncovered, about the 1580 Baret's Alvearie called's "Shakespeare's Dictionary" by its owners.

- There's a new exhibition about Pepys' diaries up at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

- The director of the Museum of the Aleutians (mentioned in my last) has resigned.

- The Collation got a face-lift.

- Something (perhaps) to keep a weather-eye on to see what happens with it: Stanley Gibbons Investments has launched a "rare book index," designed to "help guide investors and collectors looking to build a rare book portfolio as part of a long-term investment strategy." Hard to see how this could possibly be effective or useful, but we'll see.


- Umberto Eco's Numero Zero; review by Tom Rachman in the NYTimes.

- Michael Broers' Napoleon; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- Mary Beard's SPQR and Tom Holland's Dynasty; review by Ferdinand Mount in the NYTimes.

- Simon Winchester's Pacific; review by Tom Zoellner in the LATimes.

- Dan Jones' Magna Carta; review by Edmund Fawcett in the NYTimes.

- H.J. Jackson's Those Who Write for Immortality and Leo Damrosch's Eternity's Sunrise; review by Richard Holmes in the NYRB.

- Sarah Vowell's Lafayette in the Somewhat United States; reviews by Charles S. Pierce in the NYTimes and Peter Lewis in the CSM.

- David Mitchell's Slade House; review by Scarlett Thomas in the NYTimes.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Links & Reviews

- The Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair is next weekend (and I look forward to seeing at least some of you there!). The ABAA has posted a few featured items that will be on offer.

- President Obama signed S. 2162 this week, providing for a (renewable) 10-year term for the Librarian of Congress.

- Harvard announced a major project this week: they are digitizing all known archival and manuscript materials in the Harvard Library relating to colonial North America. I'm looking forward to having a good dig-through of these soon!

- Following up on the #EEBOGate flurry last week, Carl Stahmer suggests some ways in which ESTC could play a role in "the development of a community supported corpus to replace EEBO."

- Dustin Kurtz visited Amazon's new brick-and-mortar store and told the tale for TNR.

- For POP's Mystery Monday, a (much-enhanced) look at the washed-out marginalia in Penn's copy of the First Folio.

- Michael Dirda has a good piece in the November/December issue of Humanities on what he sees at the perpetual doomsaying over the future of reading.

- There's a new blog devoted to Maps & Geography at the Library of Congress, Worlds Revealed.

- An Abraham Lincoln manuscript (a copy of the first paragraph of his second inaugural address which he wrote in a young boy's autograph book) sold for $2.2 million at Heritage Auctions on Wednesday.

- Barbara Basbanes Richter writes for the Fine Books Blog on a fabulous new letterpress printing program at RAW Art Works of Lynn, MA.

- Will Fenton writes for Slate on the challenge of preserving digital archives.

- Over at the Lost Art Press blog, a look at an 18th-century journeyman cabinetmaker's letter, hidden for decades within a cabinet now in the collections of the V&A.

- Megan Browndorf reflects on this summer's Library History Seminar XIII for the LHRT blog.


- David Mitchell's Slade House; review by Jess Zimmerman in TNR.

- James Shapiro's The Year of Lear; review by Fintan O'Toole in the NYRB.

- Roberto Calasso's The Art of the Publisher; review by Nick Romeo in the CSM.

- Stacy Schiff's The Witches; review by Arifa Akbar in the Independent.

Recent Reads

It's been an incredibly busy month, but I have found time to get through a few good fictions recently:

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, by George R.R. Martin: For fans of the "Song of Ice and Fire" series, this new edition of the three Dunk & Egg novellas puts them in one convenient place for the first time, and with a suite of effective illustrations by Gary Gianni to boot. These stories, set about a hundred years before the events in A Game of Thrones begin, highlight the exploits of an ordinary hedge knight and his anything-but-ordinary squire, and include a fair bit of useful and interesting backstory to the world of the Seven Kingdoms. Good entertainment all around.

Numero Zero by Umberto Eco. I will read pretty much anything Umberto Eco publishes, and I'm always delighted when a new novel of his appears in English. In this one, much slimmer than his usual offerings, Eco returns to his frequent themes of conspiracy theories, Italian politics, media criticism, and biting satire of journalistic practices and ethics. I suspect those with more knowledge of Italian media and politics may get more out of this one than I did, but the connections to Berlusconi's rise to power are veiled thinly enough even for me to catch. Hilariously funny in many places, and spot-on with much of its evisceration of modern media practices, this is very much worth a read if you're interested in Eco's themes.

Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix. Nix writes that his new novel was inspired by the works of Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, and Patrick O'Brian, and—not surprisingly—that combination works well. With Nix's fantastical elements added (in this Regency world Napoleon is magically imprisoned in Gibraltar and the crown employs sorcerers), you've got a real page-turner on your hands. I wished for a bit more world-building and explanation here, but on the other hand, it was also neat to get dribs and drabs of background information as the book went on. Good fun, and I hope Nix will invite us back to Newt's world again soon.

More reviews coming soon, with any luck at all ...

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Links & Reviews

- Proquest unleashed a major storm of outrage this week, first canceling and then restoring the Renaissance Society of America's EEBO subscription. Ellen Wexler covered the story for the Chronicle, and her piece contains good comments by Bethany Nowviskie, among others. Wesley Raabe asked librarians or scholars to consider posting their institutional purchase costs, to provide some transparency in EEBO pricing. Mitch Fraas pointed out the Hathi Trust ESTC collection, which currently contains more than 10,000 scanned titles. John Overholt, writing on Medium, argues "Together, we can FrEEBO," maintaining—quite correctly—that even with the walkback, "we ought to take this as a wakeup call. There is literally no reason for these centuries-old books to be the monopoly of a commercial publisher who owns not a single one of them." Let's make it happen.

- In the NYTimes Magazine, Bee Wilson profiles food historian/librarian Barbara Ketcham Wheaton for her work on a database, "'The Cook's Oracle,' in which she intends to log every recipe, ingredient and technique in the vast majority of all the cookbooks published in America and Europe."

- Historian Lisa Jardine died this week at the age of 71. See the Telegraph obituary for a good overview of her life and work. I also recommend Jacqueline Rose's remembrance.

- Kenyon College's The Collegian covers the publication of Travis McDade's new e-book about the David Breithaupt thefts, "Disappearing Ink: The Insider, the FBI, and the Looting of the Kenyon College Library."

- Another tranche of 50+ Rare Book School lectures (most from the early 1980s) are now online, at the RBS Lectures page or through your preferred podcast intake method (search "Rare Book School" in iTunes, Soundcloud, &c.).

- The Library of Congress has acquired 681 photographs of public libraries from the collections of Robert Dawson, who from 1994 to 2015 photographed more than 500 American public libraries.

- UVAToday highlights the digitization of selected volumes from the McGregor Library, housed in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

- Tim Carmody writes for Slate about the efforts of the NYPL Labs.

- The director of the Moscow Library of Ukrainian Literature has reportedly been detained by Russian authorities on charges that "some of the library's materials are meant to 'incite hatred' toward the Russian people."

- From Jan Marsh in the TLS, "William Morris and the demise of printing."

- Erik Eckholm reported for the NYTimes about the Harvard Law School Library's creation of an open-access database of American case law (by guillotining bound volumes and scanning 40 million pages). Karen Beck pointed out that the books from the library's Historical and Special Collections were scanned separately using a non-destructive method.

- Biographer Claire Harman believes that an 1843 Charlotte Brontë sketch, thought to be of a fellow boarding school student, is actually Charlotte herself, drawn while looking into a mirror. She's included the finding in her new biography of Brontë, out this week in the UK.

- The November Rare Book Monthly is out, and it includes pieces by Bruce McKinney on "Collecting on a Budget," Michael Stillman on the discovery of that Billy the Kid photograph, and Susan Halas on bookseller responses to McKinney's "clearing the backlog" proposal from last month.

- Bookseller Ed Maggs seeks assistance with the identification of a quirky c.1900 library catalogue.

- The 2016 "Blooks Wall Calendar" is now available from About Blooks (exhibition coming up at the Grolier Club in late January).

- An 18th-century German secret society's cipher book has been cracked, revealing the text to be rules and initiation rites.

- Authors Bradford Morrow and Nick Basbanes will talk book collecting and forgery at Swann Auction Galleries on 5 November. Full details here from Rebecca Rego Barry at Fine Books Blog.

- There's a good overview of last week's APHA conference on the Princeton Graphic Arts Collection blog.

- NEDCC has announced the expansion of their audio preservation services.

- Alberto Manguel's NYTimes op/ed "Reinventing the Library" is worth a read, though I don't think it's full on the mark all the way through.

- From the Romantic Textualities blog, a post on methods for teaching James Macpherson's Ossian.

- The Copyright Office has granted limited DRM-breaking rights for additional electronic devices, Cory Doctorow reports for Boing Boing.

- Missed this last time: Susan Glover, former keeper of special collections at the Boston Public Library, has officially been fired, the Boston Globe reported. She was on administrative leave from 20 April through 1 October. Beth Prindle has been appointed acting keeper of special collections.


- Michael Eamon's Imprinting Britain; review by Keith Grant at Early Canadian History.

- Peter Ackroyd's Wilkie Collins; review by Sara Paretsky in the NYTimes.

- Stacy Schiff's The Witches; reviews by Jean Zimmerman for NPR, Jane Kamensky for the NYTimes (if you only read one, read this one), Alexandra Alter for the NYTimes.

- Shirley Jackson's Let Me Tell You; review by Danny Heitman in the CSM.

- Tom Lewis' Washington; review by Scott W. Berg in the WaPo.

- Umberto Eco's Numero Zero; review by David L. Ulin in the LATimes.

- Lisa Morton's Ghosts, Roger Luckhurst's Zombies, and Sharla Hutchinson and Rebecca A. Brown's Monsters and Monstrosities from the Fin de Siècle to the Millenium; review by Jonathan Barnes in the TLS.

- David Mitchell's Slade House; review by Anna Russell in the WSJ.

- Valerie Lester's Giambattista Bodoni: His Life and His World; review by Barbara Basbanes Richter at Fine Books Blog.

- Sarah Vowell's Lafayette in the Somewhat United States; review by Ethan Gilsdorf in the Boston Globe.

- John Palfrey's BiblioTech; review by James Gleick in the NYRB.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Links & Reviews

- This month marks thirty years since Mark Hofmann's bombing spree led to the unraveling of his forgery scheme. The Deseret News reports on a panel discussion held at Provo's Writ & Vision about Hofmann's crimes, as did KUTV (with video). Salt Lake Tribune reporter Jennifer Napier-Pearce talked to Hofmann's ex-wife Dorie Olds, rare book dealer Curt Bench, and assistant LDS church historian Richard Turley in a half-hour video about the anniversary, which is well worth a watch. Dorie Olds is also the subject of a long profile by Peggy Fletcher Stack. Stack also wrote a piece on how the Hofmann forgeries led to a "revolution" in the way the LDS church managed its history.

- The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Google in the long-running Google Books case. Read the full decision. Also see the HathiTrust statement, or the full Infodocket roundup. The Authors Guild has indicated that they will appeal the case to the Supreme Court. In a must-read followup, Dan Cohen writes for the Atlantic "What the Google Books Victory Means for Readers."

- Max Lewontin writes for the CSM about the opportunities presented by the upcoming arrival of a new Librarian of Congress.

- A 9 October talk at Concordia University by Johanna Drucker, "Digital Humanities: From Speculative to Skeptical," is now available for our viewing pleasure.

- The Royal Institution is planning a seed-corn supper: they will sell ninety rare books from their collections at Christie's London on 1 December (sale info), hoping to raise £750,000 to fill a budget gap.

- Jeffrey Alan Miller, an Assistant Professor of English at Monclair State University, has identified a notebook in the archives at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, as what he's calling the "earliest draft" of portions of the King James Bible. Samuel Ward, the notebook's compiler, was one of those charged with creating the new translation, and these notes date from between 1604 and 1608. Miller makes his case in an article in the TLS, "Fruit of good labours," and Jennifer Schuessler followed up with a report in the NYTimes.

- Peter Verheyen has posted a thorough (and pretty fascinating) look at the demographic and usage data for the Book_Arts-L listserv over time.

- A planned exhibition of an early copy of Magna Carta was abruptly moved from Beijing's Renmin University to the British ambassador's residence.

- Much discussion over Megan Smith's post about "finding" the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments (presumably meaning the manuscript); the best followup with real explanation comes from Ann D. Gordon, editor of the Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton papers.

- A Button Gwinnett signature was on the block this week at Mullock's auction house in Shropshire, but failed to sell; it had been estimated at £60,000–80,000.

- The earliest known abecedary has been identified: it was excavated more than twenty years ago near Luxor in Egypt, and dates from the fifteenth century BCE.

- The Gabriel García Márquez archive is now open for researchers at the Harry Ransom Center.

- Rebecca Rego Barry's Rare Books Uncovered will be published by Voyageur Press in November.

- Bonhams London will sell a copy of the "Wicked Bible" (1631) as Lot 5 of their 11 November sale.

- Now online, the Newton Project's updated digital version of John Harrison's The Library of Isaac Newton.

- Mills College administrators announced this week that their MFA in Book Art & Creative Writing program will close complete in less than a month, as a cost-saving measure. Professor Kathleen Walkup has posted a letter about the proposed closure, along with background on the program and its curriculum, and there is a petition (signed by more than 2,800 people so far) expressing strong disagreement with the program's elimination.

- The NYPL has an exhibit up now highlighting work by female printmakers; I had the chance to see the show this week, and it's quite good indeed.

- The first issue of DHCommons journal is now available.

- More than 460 items from the estate of Lord Richard Attenborough sold at Bonhams for a total of nearly £780,000. Additional portions of the late actor's archive went to the University of Sussex, where they are currently being processed.

- Over at Notes from Under Grounds, graduate curatorial assistant Kelly Fleming writes about searching through booksellers' records to determine who was buying Shakespeare in Virginia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

- The Deseret News reports that a first edition copy of the Book of Mormon in the collections of the Adams National Historic Park in Quincy, MA was originally the personal copy of Emma Smith (her name is stamped on the spine), given to Charles Francis Adams in 1844 and signed by Joseph Smith.

- New from AAS, a screencast by Molly O'Hagan Hardy on how to convert MARC records to a spreadsheet file using MarcEdit.

- The Museum of the Aleutians, in Dutch Harbor, AK, is currently closed after several rare books were found in the director's house. The director, Zoya Johnson, has been placed on indefinite leave, saying she has no idea why the books were in her home: she reports that she must have taken them there several years ago in preparation to return them to the Russian Orthodox Museum in Anchorage (now closed), from which they had been on loan. Seems mostly like a mistake followed by misunderstandings, but it'll be interesting to see how it plays out.

- Travis McDade has a piece over at LitHub, "The Unseen Theft of America's Literary History," on the danger of document thefts from archives.

- A rare M4 Enigma machine sold at Bonhams New York for $365,000, a new record.

- A map of Middle Earth annotated by Tolkien was found in a copy of illustrator Pauline Baynes' copy of LOTR by staff at Blackwell's Rare Books. It's currently up for grabs with a price tag of £60,000.

- More on the upcoming exhibition on John Dee's library at the Royal College of Physicians from Culture24.

- The British Library has purchased an extensive Gilbert and Sullivan archive from the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.

- AAS has mounted a new online exhibition, "James Fenimore Cooper: Shadow and Substance."

- Stacy Schiff gets the NYTimes "By the Book" treatment this week.

- At Hyperallergic, Allison Meier profiles an odd manuscript in the collections of McGill University: known as "The Feather Book," it was compiled in 1618 by Dionisio Minaggio, chief gardener in the state of Milan. See the full manuscript.

- IFLA's Rare Books and Special Collections section has launched a new blog, Rare & Special.

- For Cultural Compass, Gerald Cloud examines a printing error in the the HRC's copy of the Gutenberg Bible.

- The BL's Endangered Archives Programme has announced that more than five million images have now been uploaded through the program.


- The second edition of Shakespeare's Beehive; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- David Mitchell's Slade House; reviews by Dwight Garner in the NYTimes and Ron Charles in the WaPo.

- Naomi J. Williams' Landfalls; review by Katherine A. Powers in the CSM.

- Geraldine Brooks' The Secret Chord; review by Alana Newhouse in the NYTimes.

- Stacy Schiff's The Witches and Alex Mar's Witches of America; review by Elizabeth Hand in the LATimes.

- James Shapiro's The Year of Lear; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- Richard H. Brown and Paul E. Cohen's Mapping the Revolution; review by Don Hagist at Journal of the American Revolution.

- Alberto Manguel's Curiosity; review by Robert Pogue Harrison in the NYRB.

- Bob Woodward's The Last of the President's Men; review by Michiko Kakutani in the NYTimes.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Links & Reviews

- By unanimous consent this week the Senate passed the "Librarian of Congress Succession Modernization Act of 2015," which provides for a ten-year (renewable) term for the next Librarian of Congress. The bill has now been referred to the Committee on House Administration in the House of Representatives. Coverage from Roll Call (prior to the bill's passage in the Senate).

- What is believed to be the most substantial Gutenberg Bible fragment currently in private hands (13 leaves comprising the book of Joshua and the beginning of Judges) will be available for sale this week at London's Frieze Masters art fair, with an asking price of €2 million.

- Meredith Farkas writes for TNR on priorities for the next Librarian of Congress.

- ILAB has posted a report by Umberto Pregliasco about recent changes to Italian law on exporting books: at the moment, it appears that exporting pre-1965 books from Italy may now be impossible, and Pregliasco adds that as things stand, even tourists visiting Italy may be barred from purchasing antiquarian books.

- A first edition of Darwin's Origin of Species, stolen from Mount Saint Vincent University by John Mark Tillman, was returned to Canada this week; Tillman sold the book to a collector who in turn sold it at Sotheby's in 2012.

- The British Library has acquired the manuscript of the earliest known translation (1523) of a work by Desiderius Erasmus into English. The manuscript was sold to an overseas buyer last summer, but was placed under an export ban to allow the BL to raise funds for its purchase.

- The Library of Congress announced this week that Chronicling America now includes more than 10 million pages of newspaper images.

- The Harvard Gazette highlights the HarvardX course series "The Book."

- NARA has announced the results of public requests for digitization priorities and the establishment of an agency-wide priority list.

- The Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia has started a new blog, Fugitive Leaves. The first post focuses on the anthropodermic bindings in the HML's collections: recent tests have confirmed that they have five human-skin bindings.

- A 1611 King James Bible was found in a Wrexham parish church cupboard.

- From Paul Collins in the New Yorker, "An Unintentional Scottish Masterpiece," on a fascinating 1819 guidebook to Scotland.

- The Clements Library has acquired a copy of Diego de Valadés' Rhetorica christiana (1579), described as "almost certainly the first book written by a native of Mexico to be printed in Europe."

- Stratford Hall is working on adding material to the Lee Family Digital Archive, designed eventually to be "a comprehensive annotated edition of all the known papers of the immigrant founder Richard Lee (c.1602–1663/4) and his lines of offspring (7–8 generations)."

- New from the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, vHMML, a suite of digital tools for the study of (mostly Latin) manuscripts.

- David Skinner writes for the Guardian about a songbook which is believed to have belonged to Anne Bolyen, now in the collections of the Royal College of Music.

- The Texas Center for the Book will relocate to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in Austin.

- Adam Matthew will digitize the Stationers' Company archive; this will reportedly be available (to subscribers) in 2018.

- Not unrelatedly, Sarah Werner posted a great list of questions you should ask when you see announcements of new digitization projects.

- Houghton Library has acquired the archive of French writer Maurice Blanchot.

- Andy Stauffer talked to "With Good Reason" about the Book Traces project.

- The good folks at FB&C have launched a Rare Book Week Boston site, aggregating all the various bookish events happening around the book fair this year.

- The DPLA has received $250,000 from an anonymous donor to "strengthen DPLA's technical capabilities."

- Emory University has acquired a collection of Jack Kerouac material from Kerouac's brother-in-law and literary executor John Sampas. See the Emory press release for more.

- UVA will host a public forum next fall (14–17 September 2016) to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the NEH.

- A collection of early maps of Chicago was found at an estate sale last winter, and are currently being offered for sale through Harlan J. Berk.

- Yale's Beinecke Library has acquired the papers of playwright Donald Margulies.

- Over at Echoes from the Vault, a look at "Buried Treasure Amongst the Stacks," or, when the binding waste is more interesting than the book itself ...

- In the October Rare Book Monthly, Bruce McKinney offers an unconventional but rather intriguing plan to "clear the backlog" of lower-priced collectible stock.

- Erin Schreiner posts for the NYSL blog about recent grants that will allow the Society to describe and arrange their institutional archives.

- The AAS has received a $4 million gift from the Myles and Jean C. McDonough Foundation.

- D.J. Butterfield's Standpoint piece "Bibliophiles Beware: Online Prices Are a Lottery" prompted much discussion.

- Among the new MacArthur Fellows is Marina Rustow, who's been doing excellent work with the Cairo Geniza texts.

- Over at Unique at Penn, Mitch Fraas explores "What's missing in magazines" - that is, what's missing from digitized copies of 19th-century magazines.

- The second issue of furnace, a postgraduate journal from the Ironbridge Institute for Cultural Heritage at the University of Birmingham, is now available. The theme is "Cultural Heritage in a Digital Age."

- The Woodrow Wilson papers will be made available digitally through the UVA Press Rotunda American History online collection. More from UVA Today.

- A second edition of Shakespeare's Beehive is now available.

- Fairly simplistic, but OUP has posted an infographic on "Who was on Shakespeare's bookshelf?"


- Arthur Freeman's Bibliotheca Fictiva; review by H.R. Woudhuysen in the TLS.

- Sven Birkerts' Changing the Subject; review by Tim Parks in the NYTimes.

- Geraldine Brooks' The Secret Chord; review by Helen W. Mallon in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

- Sasha Abramsky's The House of Twenty Thousand Books; reviews by Rebecca Rego Barry at Fine Books Blog, Michael Dirda in the WaPo, and Tara Helfman in the Washington Free Beacon.

- Zachary Thomas Dodson's Bats of the Republic; review by Keith Donohue in the WaPo.

- Markman Ellis, Richard Coulton and Matthew Mauger's Empire of Tea; review by Sarah Besky in the TLS.

- James Shapiro's 1606: William Shakespeare and the year of 'Lear'; review by John Kerrigan in the TLS.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Bookish Remainders

Links and reviews coming soon (I was traveling this weekend) but in looking through the new catalog from Edward R. Hamilton (and if you don't get their catalogs, you probably should) I spotted a few remainders I thought I'd better point out to readers of this blog, since better prices for new copies of these are likely to be hard to come by:

- Book Trade Connections from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Centuries, edited by John Hinks and Catherine Armstrong (Oak Knoll, 2008). $6.95 (from $49.95)

- A History of Longmans and Their Books, 1724–1990: Longevity in Publishing by Asa Briggs (Oak Knoll, 2008). $7.95 (from $110)

- Nineteenth-Century Printing Practices and the Iron Handpress by Richard-Gabriel Rummonds (Oak Knoll, 2004). $14.95 (from $150)

- Publishing the Fine and Applied Arts, 1500–2000, edited by Robin Myers, Michael Harris, and Giles Mandelbrote (Oak Knoll, 2012). $14.95 (from $55)

- English Artists' Paper: Renaissance to Regency by John Kill (Oak Knoll, 2002). $7.95 (from $49.95)

- From Compositors to Collectors: Essays on Book-Trade History, edited by John Hinks and Matthew Day (Oak Knoll, 2012). $24.95 (from $75)

- Architectural Books in Early America by Janice G. Schimmelman (Oak Knoll, 1999). $4.95 (from $40)

- Strawberry Hill Press and its Printing House by Stephen Clarke (Yale University Press, 2011). $14.95 (from $85)

- The Mechanical Hand: Artists' Projects at Paupers Press (Black Dog Press, 2012). $7.95 (from $49.95)

- Remembering Shakespeare by David Scott Kastan and Kathryn James (Beinecke Library, 2012). $5.95 (from $25)

- Obelisk: A History of Jack Kahane and the Obelisk Press by Neil Pearson (Liverpool University Press, 2008). $9.95 (from $39)