Sunday, March 29, 2015

Links & Reviews

- Rich Rennicks previews the New York Antiquarian Book Fair for the ABAA blog.

- Charles Dickens' desk from Gad's Hill Place has been purchased by the Charles Dickens Museum in London with a grant of more than £780,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

- Writing for the JHI Blog, Devani Singh reviews and comments on a current exhibition at the Cambridge University Libraries, Private Lives of Print.

- The University of Rochester Libraries have joined HathiTrust.

- New Folger Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints is introduced via a Q&A over at The Collation.

- Greece has criticized the British Museum for refusing UNESCO mediation over the Elgin Marbles.

- A copy of Robert Boyle's Sceptical Chymist sold at Bonham's this week for £362,500 (over estimates of £50,000-75,000.

- A new interactive literary map of Edinburgh will launch this week.

- The Library History Round Table has launched a blog.

- Eric Kwakkel posted about dirty medieval books this week.

- The University of Chicago Library News highlights a recent project to conserve a 16th-century Byzantine binding (part of the Edgar J. Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, currently being digitized).

- Peter Steinberg has posted about a recent research trip to the Lilly Library, where he's working on Sylvia Plath materials.

- Meredith Mann posts on the NYPL's holdings of material related to Madame du Châtelet.

- In the WSJ, Alexander McCall Smith writes on "The Secret of the Jane Austen Industry."


- Robert Middlekauff's Washington's Revolution; review by Richard Brookhiser in the NYTimes.

- Lothar Müller's White Magic and G. Thomas Tanselle's Portraits and Reviews; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- Robert Douglas-Fairhurst's The Story of Alice; review by A.S. Byatt in the Spectator.

- Matthew Carr's Sherman's Ghosts; review by James McPherson in the NYTimes.

- Alex Johnson's Improbable Libraries; review by J.C. Gabel in the LATimes.

- Laura J. Snyder's Eye of the Beholder; review by Jonathan Lopez in the WSJ.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Links & Reviews

- A great new resource from the AAS: they've released a searchable database of their Mathew Carey Papers.

- Remains found beneath a convent in Madrid are believed to be those of Cervantes (though they proved not to be the bones found in a coffin marked with tacks spelling out "M C").

- The Bibliographical Society has launched an annual "Virtual Issue," designed as "a retrospective gathering of key articles in a particular field" drawn from The Library and introduced by a guest editor. The first issue, on incunabula, has been edited by John Goldfinch.

- The University of Rochester has been awarded a $100,672 pilot grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund a digital humanities institute for mid-career librarians.

- The Beinecke Library has acquired several WWI-period Red Cross newsletters containing previously unrecorded Edith Wharton writings.

- Jay Moschella writes for the BPL's Collections of Distinctions blog about their holdings of Koberger imprints.

- The Cuban National Archives (ARNAC) has begun digitizing maps, photographs, and other materials from the collections.

- A collection of letters between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and constable G.A. Anson over the George Edalji case went to the auction block last week, but failed to sell. The collection revealed that Anson fabricated evidence to discredit Conan Doyle and his theories about the case.

- A 1590s tapestry map of Worcestershire will soon be displayed at the Bodleian Library as part of the opening exhibition at the newly-renovated building (which will also include the Magna Carta, a First Folio, and the Codex Mendoza).

- At The Collation, Sarah Hovde highlights an 1871 raised-type edition of King Lear at the Folger.

- Adam Hooks has a new post at Anchora, "Reading Devices."

- A collection of photographs purchased at auction in 2006 have now been reportedly confirmed as belonging to, and mostly taken by, John Ruskin.


- Mary Pilon's The Monopolists; review by James McManus in the NYTimes.

- Ruth Scurr's John Aubrey: My Own Life; reviews by Daisy Hay in the Telegraph and Frances Wilson in the New Statesman.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Links & Reviews

- The Guardian reported this week that the Vatican has received a demand for €100,000 in ransom for the return of two Michelangelo letters recognized as missing from the archives of St. Peter's Basilica in 1997. The fact that the letters were missing had not been publicly disclosed prior to Italian media reports of the ransom demand. A CBC report adds that the Vatican has refused the ransom demand.

- The Glasgow School of Art has released details of items recovered from the fire which destroyed the iconic Mackintosh Library last year. GSA director Tom Inns also said this week that the school plans to rebuild the library according to Mackintosh's designs (but with allowances for technological updates).

- Adam Gopnik writes for The New Yorker on the Warburg Library.

- A new, and excellent as usual, issue of Common-place is out, with a roundtable on Kathleen Donegan's Seasons of Misery, Meredith Neuman on sermon notes, and Lisa Wilson on early American stepfamilies.

- The Times of India reports on the planned sale of John Randall's collection of books and newspapers printed in India.

- The New York Observer highlights the NYPL's What's on the Menu? digitization and crowdsourced transcription project.

- A project to accurately date early Irish manuscripts has received funding of €1.8 million from the European Research Council.

- Dan Dwyer talked to Scott Clemons about the Aldus exhibit now on display at the Grolier Club.

- Rare Book Week is coming up soon: FB&C has all the details about all kinds of bookish events in New York in early April.

- The AAS has acquired a box of nine goose quill pens from around 1850, with the original labeled box.

- Greg Gibson reports on the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair for the ABAA blog.

- I missed this last month, but better late than never: Maine Antiques Digest profiled collector and curator Susan Jaffe Tane.

- Umberto Eco's latest novel, a bestseller in Italy, will be published this fall in the United States by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as Numero Zero.

- Jerry Morris writes on My Sentimental Library about Samuel Johnson's undergraduate library.


- Barry Strauss' The Death of Caesar; review by James Romm in the NYTimes.

- Reif Larsen's I Am Radar; review by Christopher Byrd in the NYTimes.

- Andrew Roberts' Napoleon; review by Charles Reinhardt in the CSM.

- Stephen Kurkjian's Master Thieves; review by Art Taylor in the WaPo.

- Erik Larson's Dead Wake; review by Daniel Stashower in the WaPo.

- Sally G. McMillen's Lucy Stone; review by Janet Napolitano in the LATimes.

- Molly Guptill Manning's When Books Went to War; review by George Bornstein in the TLS.

- Charles Stack's Liberty's First Crisis; review by James Sullivan in the Boston Globe.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Links & Reviews

- Gérard Lhéritier of Aristophil was taken into custody this week and placed under formal investigation for fraud, on suspicion that he'd been running a very extensive pyramid scheme. He's been released on bail.

- The Digital Humanities Awards for 2014 have been announced.

- A new edition of Trollope's The Duke's Children will reinstate some 65,000 words cut from the original publication.

- Another of the stolen books returned to Italy recently by US authorities had been purchased by Johns Hopkins University, the Baltimore Sun reports.

- Yale Law Library is hosting an exhibit to mark the 250th anniversary of Blackstone's Commentaries.

- Katherine Grandjean talked to the Boston Globe this week about her recent book American Passage: The Communications Frontier in Early New England.

- Dave Gary and Aaron Pratt were instrumental in bringing a collection of ~2,700 VHS tapes to Yale's Sterling Library; the Yale Daily News covers the acquisition.

- The AAS has posted an updated list of recent books and articles by AAS fellows, members, or readers.

- Writing for The Atlantic, Adam Chandler argues that by using a private email system as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton jeopardized the preservation of an accurate historical record.

- Simran Thadani writes for Unique at Penn about a fascinating copy of Edward Cocker's Arts Glory (1669).

- Library Journal reports on the NEH-Mellon Humanities Open Book project, which will fund open-access e-editions of out-of-print scholarly texts.

- From the Provenance Online Project, a copy of The Iliad (probably) owned by both Henry VIII and Edward VI.

- Michele Filgate reports on the ABA's Winter Institute for Buzzfeed: "The Rise of the Independent Bookseller in the Time of Amazon."

- The Junto is hosting another March Madness bracket this year: this time they're pitting primary sources against each other.

- For FB&C, Meganna Fabrega profiled the efforts of Sylvia Holton Peterson and William Peterson to reconstruct the library of William Morris.

- Christianity Today reported on the scheduled sale of books from the Edward Payson Vining Collection by Gordon College.

- Designer Robert Green has posted a digital prospectus of his reconstruction of the Doves Type [pdf].


- The Grolier Club exhibition "Aldus Manutius: A Legacy More Lasting Than Bronze"; review by Steven Heller in The Atlantic.

- Erik Larson's Dead Wake; reviews by Hampton Sides and Janet Maslin in the NYTimes.

- Adrienne Mayor's The Amazons; review by Simon Goldhill in the TLS.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Book Review: "Sometimes an Art"

Much of the discussion I've seen so far about Bernard Bailyn's new collection, Sometimes an Art: Nine Essays on History (Knopf, 2015) has centered around Gordon Wood's Weekly Standard review of the book, "History in Context." I read that, and much of the ensuing discussion, and I wanted all the more to read Bailyn's essays themselves.

Of the nine pieces collected here, eight began as lectures, a point I think worth emphasizing, as is the fact that they range in delivery date from 1954 to 2007. Bailyn notes in the preface that the connecting threads between the essays are these: "the problems and nature of history as a craft, at times an art, and aspects of the history of the colonial peripheries of the early British empire" (ix). Certainly a key sub-thread, if you will, is the importance of historical context, which comes up repeatedly, and in several of the essays Bailyn focuses on the use of new historical methodologies (some of which at this point seem anything but), which he embraces but with the caveat that "we must all still be storytellers, narrators—though of events lodged deep in their natural contexts" (52).

Bailyn recognizes what some see as a difficulty: "to explain contextually is, implicitly at least, to excuse" (38). "The problems in this kind of [contextual] history, in my view the deepest history, are difficulty and subtle, and they create great demands on historians: to suspend their present commitments sufficiently to enter different worlds, to broaden their sympathies for people not only distant but alien from themselves, to respond sensitively to apparent anomalies that lead into unsuspected complexities, to distinguish consequences from intentions, and yet to do all that while retaining both the capacity for moral judgments that do not warp the narrative and the conviction that change, growth, decline—evanescence—is what history is all about" (51).

Context is key, and Bailyn, several of whose own books have been—justly—criticized for failing to fully explore the contexts of their narrative arguments, writes strongly in its favor here. He also argues, in the opening essay (originally delivered at a conference to mark the launch of the DuBois Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database) for the importance of history and memory as complementary forces, which I quite like: "The one may usefully constrain and yet vivify the other. The passionate, timeless memory of the slave trade that tears at our conscience and shocks our sense of decency may be shaped, focused, and informed by the critical history we write, while the history we so carefully compose may be kept alive, made vivid and constantly relevant and urgent, by the living memory we have of it. We cannot afford to lose or diminish either if we are to understand who we are and how we got to be the way we are" (17).

In the fourth essay, the 1985 Lewin Lecture Bailyn highlights several historians whose work he found particularly creative, who had what he calls the "capacity to conceive of a hitherto unglimpsed world, or of a world only vaguely or imperfectly seen before" (89). While any of us would come up with a different list, it is difficult to take issue with Bailyn's formulation that writers of creative history must have "the capacity to project, like a novelist, a nonexistent, an impalpable world in all its living comprehension, and yet to do this within the constraints of verifiable facts" (94).

While a couple of these essays weren't of all that much personal interest, the sixth, delivered as the Baron Lecture at AAS, proved fascinating. Bailyn used the opportunity to revisit his book The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson, re-evaluating the work more than thirty years on. Here he even calls himself out, wishing that he had embraced and understood a broader context more clearly so that he might have better understood Hutchinson's actions.

By and large, these pieces do make for very interesting reading, and they have little at all to do with the topics covered in Wood's review, which mostly focuses on criticisms of Bailyn's other works. The object lessons Bailyn offers in the importance of understanding context, the desirability of good storytelling, and the complementarity of history and memory, &c., are hardly anything anyone would take issue with. That said, I do wish that a bit more had been done by way of introducing these essays in their own proper contexts, and in engaging with subsequent scholarship and argument in the areas covered: there is some of this at the end of the notes for certain essays, but more would not have gone amiss, and it would be fascinating to know what Bailyn thinks of the changes in scholarship that have occurred since these essays were originally delivered.

Well worth a read for anyone interested in the historian's craft, even granting that some of these seem rather dated now and may not seem quite as relevant as others.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Links & Reviews

- Gordon College's planned sale of some 500 books with an estimated value of $2-3 million from the Edward Payson Vining collection at Doyle New York this fall (postponed from April) rated an article in the Boston Business Journal this week, as well as coverage in the Boston Globe. The college has not provided a final list of the books to be sold.

- Islamic State militants continued their assault on Iraq's cultural heritage, destroying archaeological relics and sites in and around Mosul.

- The Folger announced this week which institution in each state and Puerto Rico will host the First Folio going on the road in 2016 as part of their The Wonder of Will: 400 Years of Shakespeare initiative. I'm delighted that one will be coming to UVA, too!

- Maine governor Paul LePage has proposed to end state revenue sharing with municipalities, offering to "make up the difference" by allowing towns to levy property taxes against non-profit institutions, including hospitals, private colleges, museums, archives, historical societies, and historic sites with property assessed at more than $500,000. Maine Antiques Digest has editorialized against the proposal, and the Association of Maine Archives and Museums issued a strong statement opposing LePage's plan.

- Rich Rennicks has posted some background on the Doves Press to complement the recent discovery of some of the lost type.

- Tom Mashberg has a piece in the NYTimes about twenty-five years of theories about the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum thefts.

- ILAB has called for entrants for the 17th ILAB Breslaur Prize, to be awarded in 2018.

- Two books stolen from the Historical National Library of Agriculture in Italy (by somebody in the de Caro ring?) will be returned; they had been purchased by a buyer in San Francisco. There's a lengthy report in the San Francisco Chronicle about the books, but it's so full of eye-roll-worthy statements that it's probably not worth your time.

- A large collection of books by and related to Robert Graves has been donated to Illinois State University's Milner Library.

- Michael Rosenwald reports for the WaPo about a new finding: "digital natives" prefer reading in print.

- Bibliophile Frances Currer's copy of Bewicks British Birds has turned up and is now being offered for sale by Quaritch.

- Rare Book Monthly has posted its articles for March.

- The Telegraph ran an obituary this week for literary forger and confessed manuscripts thief Lee Israel, who died in December.

- Stephen Berry talked to Jessica Parr about his new book A Path in the Mighty Waters for The Junto.

- Anthony Tedeschi notes a neat event coming up in Sydney at the State Library of New South Wales in April: a "pop-up book fair" organized by ILAB, and a display of all four of the library's four Shakespeare Folios.

- Ruth Scurr previews her new biography of John Aubrey in The Guardian.

- A second copy of The Book o' the Brig, containing the "new" Sherlock Holmes story noted last week, has come to light: and this one appears to be signed by Arthur Conan Doyle on the cover!

- The finalists for the Diagram Oddest Book Title prize for 2015 have been revealed.


- The new Aldus exhibit at the Grolier Club; review by Jennifer Schuessler in the NYTimes.

- James Fairhead's The Captain and "The Cannibal"; review by Gary Krist in the WaPo.

- Reif Larsen's I Am Radar; review by Carolyn Kellogg in the LATimes.

- Ruth Scurr's John Aubrey; review by Stuart Kelly in the TLS.

- Death Sentences, edited by Otto Penzler; review by Ted Fox in the Otago Daily Times.