Sunday, May 01, 2016

Links & Reviews

The 4th Annual Virginia Antiquarian Book Fair was held this Friday and Saturday at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond. If you have a chance to get to this one next year, give it a try: the venue is quite nice, admission is free, and there were some really interesting books and ephemera to be had.

- Rick Ring has edited a selection of Lawrence C. Wroth's "Notes for Bibliophiles" column and the volume is now available from Scott Vile's Ascensius Press.

- Over at medievalbooks, a look at the evolution of several forms of medieval scripts, including an image of a ~1450 advertising sheet for different types of script.

- Folger conservator Austin Planncurley writes for The Collation about creating a replica of John Wilkes Booth's diary for the current Folger exhibit, America's Shakespeare.

- The May Rare Book Monthly is out, with Bruce McKinney's report on the New York Book Fair and an open letter from McKinney to the president/executive producer of the Armory, a piece by Michael Stillman on the ongoing dispute over Maurice Sendak's estate, and a report on a comics book heist in Macon, Georgia.

- The Kislak Center at Penn has issued a call for papers for a March 2017 interdisciplinary conference, "To the Ends of the Earth."

- Jonathan Kearns has posted his look back at the New York shadow shows.

- The Shakespeare's Beehive authors were interviewed for "CBS Sunday Morning" last weekend. The interview also includes comments from Heather Wolfe and Michael Witmore of the Folger, and the news that Koppelman and Wechsler have loaned the volume to the Folger for study.

- Manuscript Road Trip heads to Newfoundland this week to survey the manuscripts at Memorial University in St. John's.

- Liam Moloney writes for the WSJ on the recent renovations to the Vatican's Gallery of Maps.

- The New York Library for the Performing Arts has digitized its collection of Shakespeare prompt-books.

- A new electronic catalog of 15th-century printed books is now available.

- Harvard's Weissman Preservation Center is highlighted in the Harvard Gazette.

- Peter Harrington is exhibiting (and selling) a remarkable collection of Alice in Wonderland-related rare books. Boudicca Fox-Leonard reports for the Telegraph.

- Library of Congress catalogers write about 18th-century medley prints for the Picture This blog.

- British Library conservator Flavio Marzo reports on some 2005 work he did on the 1603 Montaigne volume which is thought to contain a Shakespeare signature.

- Erik Ofgang writes about the Voynich Manuscript for Connecticut magazine, featuring lots of comments from Beinecke curator Ray Clemens.

- From the BBC magazine, Sarah Dunant on the "lost art of reading other people's handwriting."

- A new animated Watership Down adaptation is coming next year from Netflix and the BBC.

- Maybe not bookish, but still terribly cool: workers digging for water lines near Seville found 1,300 pounds of uncirculated Roman coins.

- Bibliophile Paul Ruxin died in mid-April following a tragic accident. See the Chicago Tribune obituary or Jerry Morris' reflections for the Florida Bibliophile Society. I had the great pleasure to hear a talk by Mr. Ruxin at the Boston Public Library in 2007, and enjoyed the experience tremendously. My condolences to his family and to those who knew him.


- The exhibition on John Dee's library at the Royal College of Physicians; review by Sara Charles for Reviews in History.

- Joshua Hammer's The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu; review by Ben Macintyre in the NYTimes.

- Peter Onuf and Annette Gordon Reed's Most Blessed of the Patriarchs; review by David O. Stewart in the WaPo.

- Nicholas Guyatt's Bind Us Apart; reviews by Eric Foner in the NYTimes and Mark G. Spencer in the WSJ.

- Jack Lynch's You Could Look It Up; review by Micah Mattix in The New Criterion.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Links & Reviews

- Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare! Louis Bayard writes the Bard's obituary for the NYTimes. This week's "On the Media" is given over to him (and it's quite a good episode). Michael Pennington reflects on five decades of performing Shakespeare's plays for the TLS.

- The Shakespeare's Beehive authors respond to Adam Hooks (and others, in part).

- Sarah Laskow has a great piece at Atlas Obscura about Audubon's hoax species, created to fool Constantine Rafinesque. Sarah's piece is based on Smithsonian curator Neal Woodman's recent article in Archives of Natural History, "Pranked by Audubon: Constantine S. Rafinesque's description of John James Audubon's imaginary Kentucky mammals."

- The BL has launched a new Hebrew Manuscripts site.

- Carla Hayden appeared to breeze through her Senate confirmation hearing this week. Coverage from the Baltimore Sun, Roll Call.

- Nate Pedersen visited UVA last month and has posted a video of his tour with David Whitesell of David's exhibition on the gothic novel, "Fearsome Ink."

- The David Rumsey Map Center opened at Stanford last week.

- John Y. Cole has been appointed Library of Congress Historian, with Pam Jackson named as the new director of the Center for the Book.

- The Supreme Court denied cert this week in the Authors Guild v. Google case this week, ending that long saga once and for all (one can hope).

- Seth Gottlieb writes for the APHA blog about a recent "hand press crawl" he and some teammates took to research wooden common presses around New England. They are working this year on the design and construction of a press to be installed in RIT's Cary Graphic Arts Collection.

- Christopher Minty writes about New York printer James Rivington for The Junto.

- Anne Jarvis, currently university librarian at the University of Cambridge, will become university librarians at Princeton on 1 October.

- The Guardian has more on the dispute over the Birds' Head Haggadah, mentioned last week.

- Kayla Haveles posts at Past is Present about John Hancock's 26 April 1775 letter requesting that paper be sent to Isaiah Thomas at Worcester so that he can resume printing.

- State Library of Victoria cataloger Richard Overell writes about the process of cataloging the John Emmerson collection.

- Some 19th-century French woodblock-printed wallpaper is highlighted in the Princeton Graphic Arts Collection blog.

- Tom Teicholz writes about the Arthur Conan Doyle collection at the Toronto Reference Library for Forbes.

- At The Collation, Abbie Weinberg offers a "defense of the card catalog."

- John Schulman has a haggadah primer over at the ABAA blog.

- There's an excerpt from Chanan Tigay's The Lost Book of Moses in Tablet.


- Joshua Hammer's The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu; reviews by David Wright in the Seattle Times and Rebecca Rego Barry at Fine Books Notes.

- David Cesarini's Disraeli: The Novel Politician; reviews by Jonathan Rosen in the NYTimes and Benjamin Balint in the WSJ.

- Chanan Tigay's The Lost Book of Moses; review by David Holahan in the CSM.

- Andrew Dickson's Worlds Elsewhere; review by Jonathan Bate in the WSJ.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Book Review: "The Poet of Them All"

The Poet of Them All is a stunningly beautiful volume published by the Yale Center for British Art to accompany exhibitions of miniature designer bindings from the collection of Neale and Margaret Albert at the Grolier Club and the Yale Center for British Art this spring and summer. If the book is any indication of the quality of the exhibitions—and I suspect it probably is—I recommend visiting either or both if you have the opportunity.

An opening essay by James Reid-Cunningham, "Enigmatic Devices: The Art of Contemporary Designer Bookbinding," is as good a survey of the subject as any I've read, and he ably relates the varieties and styles of bindings in the exhibition to the historical traditions of designer bindings over the decades.

At the heart of the exhibition and of the volume is a suite of thirty-nine copies of Brush Up Your Shakespeare, a miniature book designed and letterpress printed by Leonard Seastone and published by Neale Albert's Piccolo Press in 2009. The unbound sheets were sent to thirty-nine designer binders from around the world, with each given complete artistic freedom (with no time constraints) to create a binding inspired by the book.

Additionally, Albert commissioned new designer bindings for two multi-volume sets of Shakespeare in miniature: a 24-volume New York edition from around 1910 and an 1825 edition in nine volumes published by William Pickering. Each binder got one volume to work with, and the results, individually and severally, are little short of breathtaking.

Each volume from the exhibition is presented with expertly-shot photographs from several angles, a description of the binding, and often a short statement from the binder about their particular inspiration for the design. At several points we are also given a two-page spread of photographs showing the process of the construction of the binding, offering a very neat perspective on how these exquisite little volumes come together.

The way each of these bookbinders has interpreted, complemented, and enhanced the printed texts comes through very clearly in this well-designed volume; the sheer variety and unmissable talent on display here makes this book a real treat from start to finish.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Links & Reviews

- The 2016 iteration of Rare Book Week New York is in the books. As usual, there were great things to be had at each of the fairs, and it was lovely to see so many friends (as well as so many good books). Jonathan Kearns has a roundup of the writeups (and offers his own), and Ian Kahn posted a video booth tour. I'll have a post soon on my "find of the fair."

- Entries are currently being accepted for the 2016 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest (through 31 May).

- Oak Knoll Fest will be held this fall from 30 September to 2 October.

- Another First Folio has been identified, this one in the library at Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute. The copy is believed to have belonged to 18th-century Shakespeare editor Isaac Reed. Emma Smith's identification, including a good amount of description, was published in the TLS. Lots of coverage, including from Jennifer Schuessler for the NYTimes and Sean Coughlan for the BBC.

- Emma Smith also has a feature on the OUP blog mapping the current locations of First Folios.

- Keith Houston offers a closer preview of his forthcoming book The Book.

- Lisa Fagin Davis visits Nova Scotia on her Manuscript Road Trip.

- Carla Hayden's confirmation hearings before the Senate Committee on Rules & Administration will be held on 20 April at 2:15 p.m. The hearing will be livestreamed here.

- The DPLA and Europeana have launched, "a collaborative approach to rights statements that can be used to communicate the copyright status of cultural objects."

- UVA announced that John M. Unsworth has been appointed University Librarian and Dean of Libraries.

- In other appointment news, Martin Antonetti is headed to Northwestern University this summer as Director of Distinctive Collections, and David J. Gary to the American Philosophical Society as Curator of Printed Materials. Many congratulations to John, Martin, and David!

Smithsonian highlighted a revolving circular book case from 1894 this week. I Googled around and could find no photos of these monsters in action: can anyone locate such? Were they ever made?

- Also from Smithsonian, a report on recent work on literacy in biblical times.

- The Notre Dame magazine explores a 1504 book reportedly bound in human skin and owned by Christopher Columbus. Spoiler alert: not so much, but the story's worth a read.

- Watercolors by Maria Sibylla Merian are now on display at the Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace.

- APHA is seeking an editor for Printing History.

- Tamara Plakins Thornton has a post at the UNC Press blog about her new biography of Nathaniel Bowditch.

- DPLA executive director Dan Cohen writes in the Atlantic about an interesting wrinkle in the digital divide.

- The University of Delaware is searching for a postdoctoral fellow in special collections and digital humanities.

- The David Rumsey Map Center opens at Stanford University this week with a series of what look to be very interesting talks.

- David D'Arcy writes for The Art Newspaper about the ownership battle over the 13th-century Birds' Head Haggadah, currently in the collections of the Israel Museum but once owned by a German-Jewish family whose descendants would like their title recognized.

- From Colin Hill Urbina in the Guardian, "I'm a professional bookbinder. Amazon's new Kindle won't put me out of business."

- The William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan has reopened after a $17 million renovation.

- The KU Libraries blog highlights a Hinman Collator for "Flashback Friday."

- Stephen Milner gave the Hofer Lecture at Harvard last week to present findings from a project undertaken to determine the origin of the parchment used in book production in Europe. Milner also reports on a recent visit to the Morgan Library to sample their books on parchment.

- Over on the ILAB blog, an interview with Andy Stauffer about the Book Traces project.

- David Kipen writes for the LATimes about the parallels between Shakespeare and Cervantes.

- Over at Jot101, "A Byron forgery—rediscovered."

- The Book Club of California is issuing Robert Bringhurst's Palatino: The Natural History of a Typeface in an edition of three hundred copies with letterpress specimens.

- There's a call for proposals for a 2017 NYU colloquium, "Libraries and Archives in the Anthropocene."


- Sarah Allan's Buried Ideas: Legends of Abdication and Ideal Government in Early Chinese Bamboo-Slip Manuscripts; review by Ian Johnson in the NYRB.

- Laura Claridge's The Lady with the Borzoi; reviews by Michael Dirda in the WaPo and Peter Lewis in the CSM.

- Laura Cumming's The Vanishing Velázquez; reviews by Jennifer Senior in the NYTimes and Henrik Bering in the WSJ.

- Peter Onuf and Annette Gordon Reed's Most Blessed of the Patriarchs; review by Peter Baker in the NYTimes.

- Joshua Hammer's The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu; review by Jeffrey Brown in the WaPo. Hammer has an essay/excerpt from the book in the WSJ.

- Samuel J. Redman's Bone Rooms: reviews by Barbara J. King in the WaPo and Edward Rothstein in the WSJ.

- Chanan Tigay's The Lost Book of Moses; review by Isaac Chotiner in the WSJ.

- Matthew Kirschenbaum's Track Changes; reviews by Dylan Hicks in the LARB and Eric Banks in Bookforum.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Links & Reviews

- From Amanda Bevan at the British Library's blog, "Shakespeare's Will: A New Interpretation," which contains some key new findings about the document based around recent conservation work.

- Erin Blakemore writes for Smithsonian about the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest.

- From Exeter Working Papers in Book History, a detailed compilation of information about Gutenberg.

- Alix Christie writes for The Millions on the persistence of physical books.

- Dan Boudreau has a great post at Past is Present on paper marbling.

- At The Collation, Abbie Weinberg puzzles through some scraps of an unsent Henry Folger letter found inside a 1907 auction catalog.

- The New-York Historical Society is cataloging the 12,000 small collections that comprise its American Historical Manuscript Collection, thanks to a grant from the NEH.

- From Peter Miller at the Chronicle, "A New Republic of Letters."

- Ian Spellerberg, author of Reading & Writing Accessories: A Study of Paper-Knives, Paper Folders, Letter Openers and Mythical Page Turners (Oak Knoll) is profiled in Collectors Weekly.

- New from Unique at Penn, a Victorian lady's reading journal.

- Rebecca Rego Barry talks to "The Library Cafe" about her book Rare Books Uncovered.

- Jeremy Mikula writes for the Chicago Tribune about the authorship questions surrounding that Houdini-Lovecraft typescript that resurfaced recently.

- The MSU Map Library received a package in the mail containing several maps with a note "These were taken from the MSU Library many years ago. I'm sorry."

- Kevin Smith writes about the latest ruling in the Georgia State copyright case.

- The April Rare Book Monthly is out, with the usual range of interesting articles.

- From Serge Kovaleski in the NYTimes, a peek into a new book by Robert Wittman and journalist David Kinney about the search for Alfred Rosenberg's diary.

- Adam Smith's books at the University of Edinburgh have been fully cataloged for the first time.

- Public Domain Review Press has announced a new (and quite neat-looking) edition of Lucian's Dialogues of the Gods.

- Elahe Izadi writes for the WaPo about the Newton alchemical manuscript recently acquired by the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

- A chair used by J.K. Rowling when she was writing the first two Harry Potter books sold at auction today for $394,000.

- Jennifer Schuessler writes for the NYTimes about Peter Onuf and Annette Gordon Reed's new book Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination.


- James Traub's John Quincy Adams: Militant Spirit; review by Joseph J. Ellis in the NYTimes.

- Louisa Thomas' Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams; review by Joanne Freeman in the NYTimes.

- Tim Blanning's Frederick the Great; review by Steve Donoghue in the CSM.

- Elaine Showalter's The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe; review by Carol Bundy in the WaPo.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Links & Reviews

- The AAS has launched a great new web exhibit: From English to Algonquian: Early New England Translations.

- Adam Hooks has added a new post at Anchora, "Shakespeare's Beehive 2.0." Take the time and read the whole thing.

- Coming up at the Bodleian Library at the end of May, a conference on "Mesoamerican Manuscripts: New Scientific Approaches and Interpretations."

- Jennifer Schuessler reports for the NYTimes on this year's Folger First Folio Road Show, dropping in on the Folio currently visiting South Dakota.

- The Oakland Tribune has a brief update on the case of the rare books stolen from North Oakland following the California Antiquarian Book Fair in February. A reward remains unclaimed and the books remain unrecovered.

- New York's Strand Bookstore is profiled in the "Interview with a Bookstore" series.

- Adrienne Lafrance writes for the Atlantic about a new project to figure out a way to preserve and visualize historic machine-programmed theater lighting designs.

- Peter Dobrin, reporting for the Philadelphia Inquirer, has an update on the legal feud between the Maurice Sendak estate and the Rosenbach. The library has asked a Connecticut court to remove the estate's executors and compel the estate to turn over books from Sendak's collection to the Rosenbach. The new court proceedings follow a failed settlement attempt in January.

- Over at The Collation, Erin Blake writes about the Folger's current effort to systematically update call numbers to match the second edition of STC.

- Simon Beattie has turned up another fascinating biblio-curiosity: a guide for Soviet librarians on how to write catalog cards.

- John Dugdale writes for the Guardian about the recent run of "rediscovered" manuscripts, highlighting Michael Scammel's NYRB piece about Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon, the original German manuscript of which was identified last year in a Zurich library.

- New from the NYPL, the Photographers' Identities Catalog, containing biographical data on more than "115,000 photographers, studios, manufacturers, dealers, and others involved in the production of photographs."

- Scholars are condemning plans by the trustees of the venerable Society of Antiquaries to reduce staff at the Society's library from 3.5 full-time positions to three part-time positions.

- Since it's making the rounds, I post this Telegraph slideshow of "the most valuable rare books in existence" only as a PSA to stay away from it, since it's chock-full of baloney.


- Claire Harman's Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart; review by Elizabeth Toohey in the CSM.

- Abby Smith Rumsey's When We Are No More; review by Nicholas Carr in the WaPo.

- Frank Cioffi's One Day in the Life of the English Language; review by Mary Norris in the TLS.

- Piers Paul Read's Scarpia; review by Allan Massie in the WSJ.

- Iain Pears' Arcadia; review by Scott Bradfield in the NYTimes.

- Several new books on Samuel Pepys, including Kate Loveman's Samuel Pepys and His Books; review by Arnold Hunt in the TLS.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Links & Reviews

- Rare Book Week NYC is coming up soon! Book fairs, auctions, and exhibits galore.

- The Chemical Heritage Foundation has purchased Isaac Newton's manuscript copy of an alchemical treatise by George Starkey; the document also contains a record of one of Newton's own alchemical experiments. CHF curator James Voelkel says that digital images of the manuscript will soon be available via The Chymistry of Isaac Newton.

- The British Library has launched Discovering Literature: Shakespeare, a collection of articles, digitized materials from the library's collections, &c. Coverage from the Guardian.

- Hugh Schofield writes for the BBC Magazine about the Aristophil ponzi scheme.

- Eric Kwakkel's talk at the University of Toronto's Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, "Commercial Books Before Gutenberg," is now available for your listening pleasure (and there are lots of other good lectures available there too).

- The BBC reports on the Mapping Paper in Medieval England project, based at Cambridge.

- The Jewish Theological Seminary's Geniza Collection will be deposited at the Princeton University Library until the fall of 2019, when the JTS's renovated rare book room opens.

- Charlton Heston's collection of Shakespeariana (including two 17th-century quartos), plus a number of movie props and other materials, will be sold at Bonhams Los Angeles this week.

- Books on early American topics swept the Bancroft Prizes this year.

- Christie's London will sell copies of all four Shakespeare folios on 25 May; the First Folio is reportedly an unrecorded copy.

- On the Houghton Library Modern Books and Manuscripts blog, Ryan Wheeler highlights some books bequeathed to Houghton by Thomas Carlyle.

- Texas A&M has acquired an early map of Texas and related documents once in the collections of surveyor James M. Manning.

- The typescript of a history of superstition written at least in part by H.P. Lovecraft (under commission by Harry Houdini!) has been found, and will be sold by Chicago's Potter & Potter auction house on 9 April.

- From Exeter Working Papers in Book History, "Sir Walter Scott and the Parisian pirates: a bibliographical paddle in murky waters."

- The NYPL announced that digitization has been completed on a number of fascinating early American manuscript collections, including the papers and receipt book of printer Hugh Gaine.

- A volume of Grimm's fairy tales signed by Anne Frank will be sold at Swann on 5 May.

- The Diagram prize for oddest book title has been awarded to Too Naked for the Nazis.


- Claire Harman's Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart; reviews by Deborah Friedell in the NYTimes and Jonathan Rose in the WSJ.

- Elaine Showalter's The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe; review by Rebecca Steinitz in the Boston Globe.

- John Aubrey's Brief Lives, edited by Kate Bennett; review by Ruth Scurr in the TLS.