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.