Sunday, February 19, 2017

Links & Reviews

- The California book fair(s) are behind us and here comes New York. Recaps from Oakland from Tavistock Books, Oak Knoll Books, and Lux Mentis. It was my first visit to the CA Antiquarian Book Fair in Oakland; the Rare Book School table stayed busy for much of the fair and it was a treat to see so many friends and meet lots of new folks. Found a few good books, too!

- More on that theft of a shipment of rare books from a warehouse in London: see the stolen-book.org page for a PDF list of the titles. The ABA posted a statement about the thefts, the Guardian covered the story, and the Daily Mail ran a report (which the ABA secretary described as "more than a little sensationalist" - take it with a grain of salt).

- Brenda Cronin profiles Glenn Horowitz for the WSJ.

- Robert Darnton offers "The True History of Fake News" in the NYRB.

- Mark Samuels Lasner has donated his collection of British literature and art to the University of Delaware.

- Ella Morton writes for Atlas Obscura about "library hand," the penmanship technique once common on library catalog cards.

- Audio of selected presentations from RBMS 2016 is now available.

- The Harry Ransom Center has posted video of Eric White's recent talk there about the HRC copy of the Gutenberg Bible.

- Don't miss Matt Kirschenbaum's "Books.Files" in the new Archive Journal.

- Sarah Werner asks "what do digitized first folios do for us?"

- The Newberry Library has received a Mellon Foundation grant to create a website for training in Italian Renaissance paleography.

- At their annual meeting during Bibliography Week, APHA presented awards to Lisa Unger Baskin and to the U.S. Government Printing Office, and a Mark Samuels Lasner Fellowship to Amanda Stuckey.

- From Sarah Larson for the New Yorker: "The Librarian of Congress and the Greatness of Humility."

- The Internet Archive has reached the semifinalist stage in the competition for a $100 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

- APHA also offered a sneak peak into the forthcoming Printing History 21.

- Maddy Smith writes for the BL's Untold Lives blog about their recent acquisition of the only known copy of a 1650 schoolbook, The Grounds of Learning.

- Over at The Collation, an 1838 promptbook covered in coarse cloth.

- On the OUP Blog, Vincent Carretta asks if Phillis Wheatley's husband was a "crook or a dreamer"?

- New from the Bodleian: The William Henry Fox Talbot Catalogue Raisonné. See their press release for more.

- LitHub has launched a new series on librarians in the 21st century.

- Nick Holdstock writes for the Guardian about cataloging Doris Lessing's library.

- Daniel Pollack-Pelzner explores "The Radical Argument of the New Oxford Shakespeare" for the New Yorker's Page-Turner blog.

- Behind a paywall, alas, but Haaretz has a report on the Kafka manuscripts by Hilo Glazer.

Reviews

- Karen Baston's Charles Areskine's Library; review by Alexander Murdoch at Reviews in History.

- Anders Rydell's The Book Thieves; review by David Holahan in the CSM.

- Randall Fuller's The Book That Changed America; review by Jerry A. Coyne in the WaPo.

- "The Art of the Qur'an" at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery; review by Robert F. Worth in the NYRB.

- A November 2016 symposium on women's book history at Texas A&M; review by Kate Ozment at Early Modern Online Bibliography.

Upcoming Auctions

- Americana - Travel & Exploration - World History - Photographs - Cartography at PBA Galleries, 23 February.

- Books and Works on Paper at Bloomsbury, 23 February.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Links & Reviews

- The ABAA put out a security alert this week about the theft of a shipment of rare books from a West London warehouse.

- Mike Cummings has a piece in YaleNews, "Authenticating the Oldest Book in the Americas," about the recent scholarly work on dating the Grolier Codex.

- Two notebooks from the collections of Philadelphia's Girard College were recently returned; they went missing from Girard sometime between 1964 (when they were microfilmed) and the early 2000s, when their absence was noted.

- The February Rare Book Monthly features Michael Stillman's analysis of 2016 book auction prices, Bruce McKinney writing about a new book on the Eberstadt firm, and more.

- The AAS has acquired a collection of more than fifty manuscript sermons by Massachusetts minister Joseph Avery.

- David Sellers guest-posts on the Oak Knoll blog about printing, design, and bookselling in Havana, with some pictures from his recent trip there.

- Barbara Bair posts for the LC blog about the recently-digitized Whitman papers from the Charles E. Feinberg Collection.

- Peter Dobrin provides an update on the Sendak library matter.

- Provenance images from the collections at Bryn Mawr can now be found in the Provenance Online Project.

- The Concord Free Public Library has acquired a collection of Louisa May Alcott manuscripts.

- Over at Echoes From the Vault, the first post in a series on "book use and marginal contentions" in 18th-century books from the St. Andrews collections.

- Amy McDonald writes for the Devil's Tale blog about the Aldine Press Metadata Project.

- The ABAA has published an "In Memoriam" post for Bernard Rosenthal, with some wonderful stories from his colleagues.

- New: the Needham Calculator, useful for determining the category and size of 15th-century paper.

- Lorraine Berry writes for the Guardian on bibliomania.

- Lisa Fagin Davis has launched an Ege Field Guide, for identifying Otto Ege manuscript leaves "in the wild."

- Derek O'Leary posts on the JHI Blog about "Jared Sparks' American Archives."

- Over on the Course of Human Events blog, a look at the custodians of the engrossed parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence over the years.

Reviews

- Michael Sims' Arthur and Sherlock; reviews by Graham Moore in the NYTimes and Amy Henderson in the WaPo.

- Laurel Thacher Ulrich's A House Full of Females; review by Beverly Gage in the NYTimes.

- Robert McCracken Peck's The Natural History of Edward Lear; review by Adam Kendon in the TLS.

- Raymond Clemens' new edition of the Voynich Manuscript; review by Dustin Illingworth in the LARB.

- Matthew Mason's Apostle of Union; review by Daniel Crofts for Reviews in History.

- The Royal College of Physicians' exhibit on Sir Thomas Browne, "A Cabinet of Rarities;" review by Ruth Scurr in the TLS.

Upcoming Auctions

- Livres et Manuscrits at Sotheby's Paris, 8 February.

- Rare Books & Manuscripts at PBA Galleries (in Oakland), 12 February.

- Icons & Images: Photographs & Photobooks at Swann, 14 February.

- Remaining Books from the Library of Franklin Brooke-Hitching at Forum Auctions (online sale), 15 February.

- Books, Maps & Manuscripts at Freeman's, 17 February.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Links & Reviews

- Penn has acquired the only known copy of "Elegy on the Death of Aquila Rose," printed by Benjamin Franklin shortly after his arrival in Philadelphia in 1723. See coverage in Philly.com, the WaPo, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. The broadside was included in a scrapbook of material collected by Samuel Hazard in the 19th century and later purchased by manuscripts dealer Carmen Valentino. Both the broadside and the scrapbook are currently on display at Penn's Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center.

- The strong showing for Hamilton manuscripts at Sotheby's this week made the NYTimes, Bloomberg, and even SNL's "Weekend Update."

- The EMMO beta site is now live. See the Collation post for more info.

- Roberta Kwok writes about the Folger's Shakespeare's World crowdsourced transcription project for the New Yorker.

- Rare Book Week West 2017 is coming up soon!

- Heather Wolfe and Michael Witmore have a joint Collation post, "William Shakespeare, Scholar and Gentleman."

- The Jay I. Kislak Foundation has made a major gift of some 2,300 rare books and manuscripts to the University of Miami and Miami Dade College.

- Kathleen Lynch takes a deep dive into Folger First Folio number 54.

- Ana Marie Cox interviewed Carla Hayden for the NYTimes.

- Leo Cadogan is profiled in the "Bright Young Booksellers" series.

- The National Library of Israel has acquired the remainder of the Valmadonna Trust Library.

- Bookseller Ed Smith interviewed Kurt Brokaw about selling books on the sidewalks of New York.

- Michael J. Barsanti has been named director of the Library Company of Philadelphia.

- Nate D. Sanders Auctions will sell a copy of the 1494 Basel edition of the Columbus letter on 30 January.

- Several photographs from the 1911 Scott expedition will be sold at Bonhams next month.

Reviews

- Randall Fuller's The Book That Changed America; review by Eric Foner in the NYTimes.

- Robert Gottlieb's Avid Reader: A Life; review by J. Michael Lennon in the TLS.

Upcoming Auctions

- Printed Books, Maps & Documents at Dominic Winter Auctioneers, 25 January.

- Fine Literature and Modern First Editions at PBA Galleries, 26 January.

- Travel & Exploration at Bonhams London, 1 February.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Links & Reviews

- This week's Sotheby's sale of a remarkable collection of Hamilton manuscripts garnered a NYTimes report and a Fine Books Blog post by Rebecca Rego Barry.

- The BPL has digitized their copy of Moxon's Mechanick Exercises (1683).

- Over at Literary Hub, Rebecca Rego Barry previewed the sale of some important pieces of Doubleday publishing history at Doyle this week.

- A "Book History Unbound" section has been added to the SHARP website, as a space for Book History contributors to post additional materials.

- ILAB released a warning this week about a book circulating with a forged Darwin inscription.

- The California International Antiquarian Book Fair celebrates fifty years this February; I'm looking forward to attending for the first time!

- Early American bookplates are the order of the day on the Princeton Graphic Arts Collection blog.

- A new digital collation tool is now available for download.

- Bruce Springsteen's archive is going to Monmouth University.

- The Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture at the University of Wisconsin Madison will host what looks like a fascinating conference in September, "BH and DH: Book History and Digital Humanities." See the page for the call for papers, &c.

- The new journal Libraries: Culture, History, and Society is now accepting submissions for the second issue.

- Nancy Campbell writes on the "Beauty of Books" for the TLS.

- On the OUP blog, James Cortada asks how map reading has changed over the past several centuries.

- A new podcast from AAS features interviews with AAS research fellows.

- A Watertown, NY woman was arrested after attempting to steal rare books from the Flower Public Library in Watertown.

- From Michiko Kakutani, "Obama's Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books," as well as the transcript of the interview for the piece.

Reviews

- A new translation of Dumas' The Red Sphinx; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- Ruth Franklin's Shirley Jackson and Miles Hyman's recent graphic adaptation of "The Lottery"; review by Emilie Bickerton in the TLS.

- Kevin Dann's Expect Great Things; review by John Kaag in the NYTimes.

Upcoming Auctions

- Alexander Hamilton: An Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts at Sotheby's New York, 18 January

- Books, Art and Ephemera: Whaling, Horror, 16th Century, &c. at National Book Auctions, 21 January

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Links & Reviews

- Joseph Berger's NYTimes report "A Secret Jew, the New World, a Lost Book: Mystery Solved," on the identification of manuscript stolen from the National Archives of Mexico, is not to be missed.

- Heather Wolfe's recent Shakespeare discoveries are highlighted in The Guardian.

- The Grolier Club is hosting a mini-symposium on Wednesday, 11 January, "The World of Bookplates," drawing on their current exhibition, "Bookplates at the Grolier Club."

- Alex Shashkevich writes for the Stanford News website about a recent collaborative initiative to get students using materials from the university's special collections and archives.

- Among the Rare Book Monthly pieces for January are the annual look at the top 500 auction prices for works on paper (2016), Bruce McKinney on Sven Becker's appointment as head of books and manuscripts at Christie's New York, and Michael Stillman on the badly-done California law governing the sale of signed materials.

- Speaking of AB 1570, there's a Change.org petition up now urging its repeal, which had more than 800 signatures as of this morning.

- The BPL has started a new blog series in unique items in their collections, and I'd missed a pre-Christmas post from Jay Moschella about the BPL's important Americana purchases at the 1896 sale of the library of S.L.M. Barlow.

- Georgianna Ziegler notes a beautiful new Folger acquisition: a tiny manuscript presented to the eldest son of James I in 1607 by calligrapher Esther Inglis.

- Kirk Johnson highlights the work of bookbinder Donald Vass, who has worked for the King County Public Library system for more than a quarter-century.

- New and with all kinds of interesting things to be found, Early Modern Typography.

- This year marks the 75th anniversary of the opening of Harvard's Houghton Library.

- Rick Rojas reports for the NYTimes on the big move for a large collection of New York City court archives.

- Pradeep Sebastian surveys 2016's books about books for The Hindu.

- The British Library has returned a book from its collections after determining that it was stolen from an earlier owner by the Nazis.

- Jay Sylvestre of the University of Miami gets the "Bright Young Librarians" treatment at the Fine Books Blog.

- The Kelmscott Chaucer census blog notes that two copies have recently found new institutional homes.

- Two librarians in Florida have been suspended for apparently falsifying circulation records by creating fake patron accounts. Reportedly they did this to avoid the books being "automatically culled," but it poses a problem since the libraries receive some funding based on circulation.

Reviews

- Robert Parkinson's The Common Cause; review by Annette Gordon-Reed in the NYRB.

- Lawrence Bergreen's Casanova; review by Anthony Gottlieb in the NYTimes.

- Dava Sobel's The Glass Universe; review by Eileen Pollack in the WaPo.

- David Silverman's Thundersticks; review by Casey Sanchez in the LATimes.

- Alison Bradford and Joyce Chaplin's The New Worlds of Thomas Robert Malthus; review by Mark Micale in the TLS.

Upcoming Auctions

- Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps & Photography at Lyon & Turnbull, 11 January

- Rare Medicine & Science: Inventory of Edwin V. Glaser Rare Books (with additions) at PBA Galleries, 12 January

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Links & Reviews

One last roundup for 2016:

- David Barnett writes for the Independent about the enduring power of M.R. James' ghost stories.

- French publisher Le Seuil has threatened to sue the Van Gogh Museum over questions of the authenticity of several recently published Van Gogh sketches.

- A great post from Dan Hinchen at The Beehive about the wonderful things you can find when answering a reference question.

- The AAS has posted images from their Bien edition of Audubon's Birds.

- Over at Echoes from the Vault, Keelan Overton reports on her recent research on the St. Andrews Qu'ran.

- Kate De Rycker guest-posts at The Collation about her work preparing an edition of the works of Thomas Nashe.

- Rebecca Onion surveys five great digital history projects of 2016.

- Erik Kwakkel has been appointed Scaliger professor at the University of Leiden.

- The first batch of Kafka papers from the estate of Max Brod have arrived at the National Library of Israel.

- Michael Melgaard surveys the used and rare bookshops of Toronto.

- Scholars are concerned about the preservation of an extensive rare book collection at a soon-to-be-closed abbey in Altomuenster, Germany.

- PBA Galleries will offer stock from antiquarian bookseller Edwin V. Glaser in a 12 January sale.

- The January Crocodile mystery post is up at The Collation.

- I'm not entirely sure what to make of this, but pass it along: The Book As ...

- Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, died this week at the age of 96. NYTimes obituary.

- Leah Dobrinska has a "defense of marginalia" at The New Antiquarian.

- Lisa Fagin Davis posts about "training the next generation of fragmentologists" at Manuscript Road Trip. Speaking of which, Leiden University student Éloïse Ruby posts for the KB's blog about analyzing fragments from the KB collections.

Reviews

- Julia Baird's Victoria the Queen; review by Janet Maslin in the NYTimes.

- Matthew Rubery's The Untold Story of the Talking Book; review by Dennis Duncan in the TLS.

Year-End Reading Report 2016

Another year over, and in the case of this one, good riddance.

I read 140 books in 2016, and here are my favorites:

Fiction

Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright

The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula K. Le Guin

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

The Way We Live Now and the Palliser Novels by Anthony Trollope

League of Dragons by Naomi Novik

Non-Fiction

The Problem of the Missale Speciale by Allan Stevenson

Where We Lived by Jack Larkin

American Literary Publishing in the Mid-Nineteenth Century by Michael Winship

The Invisible Bridge by Rick Perlstein

The Skull Collectors by Ann Fabian

Happy New Year to you all, and good reading! I'm going to start 2017 with a re-read of one of my perennial favorites, Watership Down, in tribute to Richard Adams.



Previous year's reports: 2015201420132012201120102009200820072006.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Links & Reviews

Another busy week in the world of books!

- The Irish Times reported this week that the Jesuit Order in Ireland will sell "thousands" of rare books from its collections at Sotheby's London next summer. Some additional books and manuscripts have been deposited at the National Library of Ireland on long-term loan.

- A copy of Isaac Newton's Principia set a new auction record for a scientific book this week, selling for $3.7 at Christie's New York.

- The ISTC is now live at its new home.

- The Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand has issued a call for papers for their 2017 conference, "Connecting the Colonies: Empires and Networks in the History of the Book."

- A remarkable collection of rare books and manuscripts has been bequeathed to Trinity College, Cambridge by Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe.

- The British Library has acquired nine copper plates used to print diagrams and maps in several East India Company publications in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The plates were previously in the possession of a scrap metal dealer.

- Xinyi Ye has posted a video profile of Boston's Brattle Book Shop (one of my very favorite places, it must be said).

- The Fine Press Book Association seeks an editor for their journal, Parenthesis.

- There's a new Common-place out; it includes a Q&A with Carla Mulford about her recent literary biography of Benjamin Franklin, and John Garcia on print culture and popular history during the Mexican War, among other interesting pieces.

- Video of Matthew Kirschenbaum's 2016 Fales Lecture, "Bookish Media," is now available online.

- Bookbinder Michael Chrisman has been sentenced to twenty-one months in jail after defrauding a business partner; Chrisman had promised to bind seventy facsimile Gutenberg Bibles, but instead sent false invoices and used the funds for personal expenses. Chrisman was also ordered to pay some $483,000 in restitution.

- Registration is now open for the "Bibliography Among the Disciplines" conference in October 2017.

- The University of Michigan Special Collections have completed an eight-year project to digitize Islamic manuscripts from the collections.

- AbeBooks have posted their top sales of 2016.

- Mark Boonshoft writes for the NYPL blog about literary politics in 1790s New York City.

- Caroline Duroselle-Melish posts about sophistications in the First Folio over at The Collation, while Elizabeth DeBold explores explores "The Mysterious Case of Folger First Folio 33."

Reviews

- Joanne Limburg's A Want of Kindness; review by Katharine Grant in the NYTimes.

- Matthew Rubery's The Untold Story of the Talking Book; review by Kevin Canfield in the WaPo.

- Boston's "Beyond Words" exhibition; review by Jane Whitehead at West 86th.

- Caroline Winterer's American Enlightenments; review by Benjamin Park at Professor Park's Blog.

No Upcoming Auctions

Happy holidays, good cheer, and good books to one and all!

Recent Reads

Just a few stray thoughts on some recent reads. I'll have another of these posts before the end of the year.

Ben Winters' "The Last Policeman" trilogy was good, but he takes it to the next level with Underground Airlines. Set in an alternate America where the Civil War never happened and slave culture clings on in four southern states, Winters' tale is chock full of slightly-twisted historical threads - like any good counterfactual, it explores what might easily have been had things gone just a bit differently. It's uncomfortable, chilling, heartbreaking ... and it deserves a wide audience.

Rick Perlstein's third volume of narrative political history, The Invisible Bridge covers the tumultuous years between Nixon's reelection and the 1976 Republican convention. A straight-up chronicle of these years in politics would probably be an interesting enough read, but as in the previous volumes, Perlstein deftly brings in the cultural contexts surrounding the political news of the day. This, combined with Perlstein's lively writing style and his great skill at sussing out the stories behind the headlines, makes this another excellent read.

My first foray into the magical world of Dorothy Dunnett. I found The Game of Kings a tough go at first (even, for a few nights, a book sure to send me to sleep after just a couple pages), but once I got into the rhythm of the thing, I was off and running. Not the sort of book you can read without giving it your full attention, since it's full of intricate plot threads that are easily lost and hard to locate again, but full of great historical detail, rich wordplay, and moments of pure comic genius.

First published in 1771 as L'An 2440, the title of Louis-Sebastien Mercier's utopian fantasy was edited to Memoirs of the Year Two Thousand Five Hundred when William Hooper's English translation was published at Philadelphia in 1795. This change was made simply "for the sake of a round number," according to the "Advertisement" preceding the text, as "there appears no reason for fixing it to any particular year." Extremely popular in its day (it is one of the books profiled by Robert Darnton in his The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France), the book employs many of what we now think of as typical utopian tropes: man wakes up and finds himself hundreds of years in the future, and spends an incredulous day walking around learning how things are done, and wakes up at the end to find it'd all been a dream. But, as Darnton points out, Mercier's work was one of the first to use these techniques, which were entirely fresh and new to his original readers. There's not much plot at all: the narrator is simply guided from place to place, learning how people are clothed, fed, educated, governed, &c. in the very Rousseau-ian society of far-future France. I found it a somewhat intriguing window into the historical moment, but unless you've got a real soft spot for utopian fiction, probably safe to give this one a miss.

After reading Keith Houston's book on punctuation several years ago, Shady Characters, I have been looking forward to his new one, The Book, with much anticipation. It didn't disappoint: it is a nicely-produced and well-written history of the book. Basic, but lively and chock full of interesting tidbits. Well done to Norton for lavishing so much attention on the design.

Dave Eggers' The Circle is a dark satirical look at a society where (most) people happily give themselves over to an all-consuming online presence ("The Circle"), with dramatic consequences. It's not exactly subtle, but for all the heavy-handedness, many (if not all) elements of the plot seem all-too-creepily plausible.

I really enjoyed Nancy Marie Brown's The Ivory Vikings, which provides an in-depth look at the Lewis Chessmen and their cultural context. There's a bit of speculation and a small amount of padding here (see the subtitle, "The Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them"), but overall I was completely drawn into Brown's wide-ranging narrative, and even the speculation is carefully done and well explained.

Mutiny on the Bounty (the original version, but Charles Nordhoff and James Normal Hall) is one of those books that somehow managed to seep into my consciousness without ever actually having read it. I'm sure I saw one of the movie versions at some point, which gave me the basic outline of the plot. But that bare-bones version of the story that I thought I knew doesn't hold a candle to the actual novel, which is rich, riveting, and extremely well told. When I picked it up I didn't think it would be one of those books I had a difficult time putting down, but I very nearly read it all in one sitting.

I reread Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell this summer in advance of watching the BBC adaptation of the novel, and was extremely glad I did. It had been at least ten years since I read the whole thing, and I definitely needed a refresher. The book was just as good as I remembered it, and I was also extremely happy with the adaptation.

Marc Hartzman's The Embalmed Head of Oliver Cromwell: A Memoir is pretty much precisely what the title suggests: a memoir narrated by a decapitated head. Weird, yes, but Hartzman has done his research and manages to tell the story of the afterlives of Cromwell's head in a surprisingly vivid way. Would it have worked just as well as a series of narrative vignettes without the fictional component? For me, yes, since I enjoy books like that, but perhaps not for others. A worthwhile experiment!

Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea Quartet was one of those those series that, once I started reading, I couldn't believe I'd waited so long. "The Tombs of Atuan" was by far my favorite, but I liked the others too.

Colin Dickey always comes up with fascinating topics for his books, and Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places is no exception. As he writes at the outset, Dickey is concerned with the following question: "how do we deal with stories about the dead and their ghosts, and how do we inhabit and move through spaces that have been deemed haunted?" Drawing on several years' worth of observations from around the country, from famous haunted places to locations you've probably never heard of, Dickey deftly searches for the nuggets of truth at the heart of the ghost stories we tell ... and also for why we tell those stories.

Trollope's The Way We Live Now: darker than the Barsetshire books, but with the same way of getting at the humanity of his characters. Delightfully complex, wickedly funny - it may look like a long read, but the time just flies right by.