Sunday, September 30, 2012

Links & Reviews

- In the Johns Hopkins magazine, Dale Keiger highlights the collection of forgery-related books and other materials recently acquired by Hopkins from Arthur Freeman.

- Peter Harrington Books has uploaded their full catalog on the great presentation copy of Frankenstein they're currently offering. Check it out here.

- Edgar Grissom's extensive collection of Hemingway books, proofs, and other materials has been donated to the University of South Carolina.

- The Georgia Archives story made the NYTimes this week, in a report by Kim Severson.

- The American Antiquarian Society has launched a new introductory video to mark their 200th anniversary. It features such folks as David McCullough, Jill Lepore, Bill Reese, and many others, and it's a good look at what the AAS does and means.

- A copy of the first edition in English of Machiavelli's The Prince brought £15,000 at an auction in Aylsham. The book had failed to sell with a higher estimate in July.

- In the Guardian, a report on the Wallace Online project, an effort to make the publications and manuscripts of Alfred Russel Wallace available online.

- Michael Chabon is the subject of this week's NYT "By the Book" interview.

- Over on the Ticknor Society blog, an introduction to bibliographic easter eggs.

- Laura Massey is profiled in the FB&C "Bright Young Things" series this week.


- John Fabian Witt's Lincoln's Code; review by Gary Bass in the NYTimes.

- Jeffrey Toobin's The Oath; review by Garrett Epps in the NYTimes.

- Umberto Eco and Jean-Claude Carriere's This is Not the End of the Book; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- H.W. Brands' The Man Who Saved the Union; review by Russell Bonds in the WSJ.

- Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise; review by Alex Koppelman in the LATimes.

- Walter Stahr's William Seward; review by Dorothy Wickenden in the New Yorker. NB: I love the title, "Union Man," with its double meaning (Seward is a fellow alumnus of Union College).

This Week's Acquisitions

Much to catch up on: this, plus a post on this weekend's great symposium at AAS, as well as links and reviews. All coming soon (sooner if the wifi on the train holds out this morning).

New this week:

- The Truth of the Christian Religion by Hugh Grotius (Liberty Fund, 2012). Publisher.

- What was History? by Anthony Grafton (Cambridge University Press, 2007). Amazon (used).

- The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton (NYRB Classics, 2001). Amazon (used).

- The Blood of Free Men: The Liberation of Paris, 1944 by Michael Neiberg (Basic Books, 2012). Publisher.

- Instant: The Story of Polaroid by Christopher Bonanos (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012). Publisher.

- The Price of Politics by Bob Woodward (Simon & Schuster, 2012). Publisher.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book Review: "The Victory Lab"

If you've ever wondered about those super-personalized emails you get from political campaigns, or been intrigued about just how those pollsters know which demographics are "breaking" for one candidate or the other, you may want to pick up journalist Sasha Issenberg's new book The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns (Crown, 2012). By reading and exploring decades worth of research in political science, behavorial analysis, sociology and other fields, and by interviewing the men and women behind the experiments, Issenberg digs deep into the tactics now used to run political campaigns.

For a political junkie, this makes for absolutely riveting reading. Those with a more casual interest in such things may easily get bogged down in numbers and minutiae, but I loved every page. Issenberg discusses the real-time experiments campaign consultants run to figure out exactly which mailers or emails or phone calls are working best, and the demographic slicing and dicing campaigns can now deploy in order to get the most bang for their buck. He even shares what studies have revealed to be the most effective "get out the vote" technique yet discovered: sending lists of peoples' own voting records along with those of their neighbors and suggesting that an updated list will be sent after the election (most campaigns don't use this one, since people don't actually seem to like it very much at all, for some reason ... ).

If you haven't had enough of politics yet this year, and want a crash course in how the game is played these days, grab this book and settle down.

Book Review: "The Art Forger"

Maybe it's my fascination with forgeries. Maybe's it's that the book is set in Boston, right near where I lived for several years. I'm sure it's partly both of those things, but I'm also sure that much of why I absolutely loved B. A. Shapiro's debut novel The Art Forger (Algonquin Books, 2012) is that it's just a good book.

Claire Roth, a down-on-her-luck artist stuck doing reproduction work to make ends (sort of) meet, is surprised one day when a high-end Newbury Street gallery owner shows up and asks her to create a copy of a masterpiece to order. But this is not just any masterpiece: he asks Claire to create a copy of a Degas painting which she immediately recognizes as one stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the famous 1990 heist. Shapiro takes this basic plot and makes an absolutely wonderful tale of it, weaving in layer after layer of deceit, confusion, and historical detective work.

As the story unfolds, we learn more about Claire's checkered past in the art world, delve into the dark underbelly of the art market and explore what might have been behind the Gardner thefts, and also take a flight of fancy back to the days of Mrs. Jack herself.

I had to pace myself a bit so that I didn't zoom through this one all in one go. Shapiro clearly enjoyed the research process, and besides just being a good story, the novel also provides a readable take on just what forgery means and about the power of art and story more generally.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Links & Reviews

- Georgia governor Nathan Deal said this week (while signing a proclamation making September "Archives Month" in the state) that the Georgia Archives would remain open, but has not said how that will be accomplished. Meanwhile, seven of the ten full-time employees were laid off. The AHA weighed in this week with a strong letter opposing the closure of the archives.

- Over at The Collation, Erin Blake offers a curator's-eye view of the loan of a major piece of artwork. And Sarah Werner runs some numbers on the students who take her seminar in early modern book history, with fascinating results.

- Whitney Trettien examines the famous "black page" from Tristram Shandy in the larger context of mourning pages in seventeenth and eighteenth century print.

- From the "just go read it" department: Garret Scott's "True bookseller tales of the weird and supernatural."

- Jessamyn West offers some "guidelines for reporters" when writing about libraries. My favorite, probably not surprisingly, is #5: "There are some amazing things hidden in special collections ... and your chances of getting to see them diminish if you continually represent library archives as dusty, musty, smelly, unkempt, or populated entirely with hobbits and wizard-beings, strange and unknowable creatures unschooled in human customs. Introduce yourself and spend some time there and you’re likely to see some amazing things and learn some nifty things about your location, your neighbors or your academic institution." But all of them are important, and I hope reporters actually take the time to look at them.

- Michael Ennis talked to NPR this week about his new historical thriller, The Malice of Fortune.

- The NYPL announced that an $8 million donation will make it possible to keep more books at the Central branch rather than moving them offsite as part of a major renovation project. But critics of the overall plan say this step doesn't address the main issue

- Ted Widmer is stepping down as the director of the John Carter Brown Library; he's taken a position as special advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and will also be an assistant to Brown president Christina Paxson for special projects.

- On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of The Hobbit, Thomas Shippey looks at the legacy of the book and why it's been such a success. Corey Olsen does the same in the WSJ.

- The Vancouver Sun highlights the Vancouver Book Fair, held this weekend.

- A new biography of John Keats claims that the poet was addicted to opium.

- From Book Patrol, a look at Italian artist Frederico Pietrella's artwork, made using library date stamps.

- The longlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize was announced.


- Harlow Giles Unger's John Quincy Adams; review by Sol Schindler in the Washington Times.

- Sanford Levinson's Framed; review by John Paul Stevens in the NYRB.

- Juliet Barker's The Brontës; review by Carmela Ciuraru in the LATimes.

- John Bew's Castlereagh; review by William Anthony Hay in the WSJ.

This Week's Acquisitions

Slightly delayed, since yesterday was a day away from the computer for a hike in the White Mountains, which was lovely. The new books:

- City of Women by David R. Gillham (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 2012). Publisher.

- Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries by Jon Ronson (Riverhead, 2012). Publisher.

- Moriarty in the Stacks: The Nefarious Adventures of Thomas J. Wise by Katharine Greenleaf Pedley (Peacock Press, 1966). Colophon.

- Light on the Book Trade: Essays Presented at the Nineteenth Seminar on the British Book Trade in Honour of Peter Isaac; edited by Barry McKay, John Hinks, and Maureen Bell (Oak Knoll Press, 2004). Colophon.

- Images & Texts: Their Production and Distribution in the 18th and 19th Centuries; edited by Peter C.G. Isaac and Barry McKay (Oak Knoll Press, 1997).

- The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin (Doubleday, 2012). Publisher.

- 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars by Kurt Eichenwald (Touchstone, 2012). Publisher.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Links & Reviews

- The big news this week comes out of Georgia, with an announcement that as of 1 November, the Georgia Archives will be closed to the public, open by appointment only. Georgia's Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, said in a statement "To my knowledge, Georgia will be the only state in the country that will not have a central location in which the public can visit to research and review the historical records of their government and state. The staff that currently works to catalog, restore, and provide reference to the state of Georgia’s permanent historical records will be reduced. The employees that will be let go through this process are assets to the state of Georgia and will be missed." Kemp has said he will urge the legislature to restore funding for the Archives in a January session.

Joe Adelman has posted at Publick Occurrences about what this closure will mean for researchers. More than 8,000 people have already signed a petition opposing the closure of the Archives. Jackie Dooley reports at Off the Record that the SAA is planning an official response to the announcement.

- As promised, more on that incredible copy of Frankenstein inscribed to Lord Byron from Peter Harrington, including a video.

- Paul Tankard writes in the TLS about Mary Fairburn's illustrations for The Lord of the Rings.

- A rare, 40-volume Song dynasty encyclopedia is currently on display at the Taipei Book Fair. A Chinese publishing house recently purchased the text for $33 million.

- Elvis Presley's Bible sold for £59,000 this week at Omega Auctions in Cheshire. The buyer has been described as an American man based in Britain.

- More than fifty documents stolen from the University of Vermont's Special Collections by convicted archives thief Barry Landau were returned this week.

- Nicholson Baker is the subject of this weekend's NYTimes "By the Book" interview.

- In Lapham's Quarterly, Michael Dirda's "Beyond the Fields We Know" is an enjoyable reminder of early 20th-century ghost stories, and calls on readers to "honor the marvelous as well as the matter of fact! It is time we paid more attention to metaphysical fiction, whether labeled fantasy, supernatural thriller, or spiritual psychodrama."

- Staff at Cardiff University highlight their copy of Hooke's Micrographia (with images).

- Goran Proot teaches us how to take bibliographic fingerprints in a Collation post.

- Houghton Library notes the acquisition of an inscribed copy of Roger E. Stoddard's new bibliography, A Bibliographical Description of Books and Pamphlets of American Verse Printed from 1610 to 1820.

- Over at ArchBook, a look at "Swift's Parodic Paratexts." [h/t John Overholt]


- Walter Stahr's Seward: Lincoln's Indispensable Man; review by Michael Burlingame in the WSJ.

- Jeff Greenfield's forthcoming e-book When Gore Beat Bush; review by Barton Swaim in the WSJ.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

This Week's Acquisitions

New this week:

- Hacks, Sycophants, Adventurers, and Heroes: Madison's Commanders in the War of 1812 by David Fitz-Enz (Taylor Trade, 2012). Publisher.

- A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War by Amanda Foreman (Random House, 2012). Amazon.

Subscriber Maps, Redux

You may recall some previous posts relating to a little side project I'd been mucking about with, the mapping of book subscription lists (it started with Thomas Prince's Chronological History of New England and then I also mapped the subscribers to Audubon's Birds of America).

This summer in the Rare Book School collections I found another neat subscriber list, this one in the first American edition of Laurence Sterne's works, published at Philadelphia in 1774. This list offered a good opportunity to try out geocommons, which offers some different ways to display map data than Google Maps does.

For the Prince map (detailed at left), I plotted each subscriber individually, and keyed the pin color to the number of copies ordered (blue for one, red for two, green for three, yellow for six, &c.). This method worked just fine, although Boston (with 619 of the 1,421 total copies subscribed for) looks very jumbled.

In the Audubon map, since subscribing for just one copy was the norm, I keyed the pin colors instead to the subscriber type: government entities, educational institutions, libraries, learned societies, individuals, and royal families. Again, this worked just fine, and I think both maps make for useful visualizations of the subscription lists.

When I started working through the list of Sterne subscribers, I realized a couple things: first, I didn't want to try and figure out precise locations for each subscriber within cities, as that had proven with Prince and Audubon to consume a bit (hem hem) more time than I wanted to expend. And just plonking a whole bunch of points down in the middle of Philadelphia willy-nilly didn't really appeal to me either. So I decided to work with geocommons and see if I could come up with a more useful visualization method.

The resulting map is here (with a detail at left). This time, I keyed the pin sizes to the number of subscriptions ordered from each location, and adjusted the size of the marker accordingly. So here, Philadelphia (with 284 copies subscribed for) immediately jumps out as the key location. [NB: That said, because geocommons allows only a limited number of marker-sizes, it's still difficult to get a sense of just how dominant Philadelphia is: the next location, Norfolk, VA, had just 84 copies subscribed for].

The Sterne map is notable for its geographic range, with subscribers from New Brunswick to Grenada (there's a whole other project!).

Having done it once, it was simply a matter of running some numbers to make geocommons-style weighted maps for the Prince and Audubon lists, so I did that too: again with the limited number of marker-sizes the Prince map doesn't quite capture the sheer dominance of Boston (619 copies subscribed for, with the next highest being Charlestown at 69, followed by Harvard College at 34).

The Audubon map works well, though, since there are fewer locations and there's not quite such a single overwhelming one (London with 21, followed by New York at 18, Boston at 16 and Paris at 11).

So, overall, another useful way to visualize these subscription lists and learn a bit more from them.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Links & Reviews

- The big biblio-news this week was an announcement from Peter Harrington Books that they will be selling perhaps the most notable 19th-century association copy to ever come on the market. It's the first volume only of the first edition of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, inscribed on the front flyleaf "The Lord Byron from the Author." The bookseller will be accepting bids for the volume beginning 26 September, and the book will be on display at Peter Harrington from 26 September - 3 October. There's a bit more on the find here, and the announcement indicates that additional information will be released on 25 September.

- A very large archive of Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural drawings, photographs, models, manuscripts, &c. has been jointly acquired by Columbia University and the Museum of Modern Art.

- Bookseller Scott Brown responds to another bookseller's not-so-attractive offer to mind her shop for two months.

- In the Chronicle, Marc Parry reports that many crowdsourcing projects are discovering that in some cases the investment may not quite pay off. I think we've seen more than a few successful projects so far, though, and I expect that will continue.

- Over at The Collation, Heather Wolfe suggests some possible origins of a paper fragment used to repair a 1539 Thomas Cromwell letter.

- The ABAA blog highlights an upcoming celebration to mark the tercentenary of Mark Catesby's American explorations, which looks great!


- John Guy's Thomas Becket; review by Alida Becker in the NYTimes.

- Felix Palma's The Map of the Sky; review by Yvonne Zipp in the WaPo.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Book Review: "In the Land of Whispers"

George Robert Minkoff's "In the Land of Whispers" trilogy: The Weight of Smoke (2006), The Dragons of the Storm (2007) and The Leaves of Fate (2011) is, perhaps, the most ambitious fictional account of the English settlement of the New World (certainly it's the most deeply-researched and extensive treatment I've read in a long time).

The three volumes cover the years 1607-1630, with most of the attention focused on the first few years of the settlement at Jamestown (the narrator throughout being Captain John Smith himself). But Minkoff manages to work in tales of earlier times, in the form of stories told to the Jamestown settlers by grizzled alchemist-mariner Jonas Profit, who sailed with Drake in the 1570s and 1580s. In the third volume, when Smith is in exile from Jamestown, it is letters from his friend George Sandys (the colony's treasurer) through which we learn the goings-on back in Virginia.

Minkoff captures quite well the roiling tensions between the Jamestown "gentlemen" who wanted nothing to do with the hard work of creating a colony in Virginia, the laborers who they expected to do said work, and the native people who the colonists relied on for survival (while simultaneously mistrusting deeply). Smith's own writing and publication efforts are an important part of the later volumes, as are his post-Jamestown travels to New England and his concerns over the rise of tobacco culture at Jamestown (not to mention the strong thread running throughout of his disputes with the colony's leaders over general strategy).

Carefully composed, in prose almost lyrical in its rhythms, Minkoff's series is one to be read and enjoyed slowly. While at times the language seems a bit overdone, in general it's simply a pleasure to revel in the complex narrative structure and lose oneself in the days of Hakluyt and Shakespeare.

This Week's Acquisitions

New this week:

- The Way the World Works: Essays by Nicholson Baker (Simon & Schuster, 2012). Publisher.

- The Book of Mormon: A Biography by Paul Gutjahr (Princeton University Press, 2012). Amazon.

- The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann (Ecco, 2012). Publisher.

- We Have the War Upon Us: The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860 - April 1861 by William J. Cooper (Knopf, 2012). Publisher.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Auction Report: September Preview

13 September seems to be the big day for sales this month:

- Christie's New York sells Asian Art Reference Books, from the library of C.T. Loo and others, in 129 lots.

- PBA Galleries offers Rare Books & Manuscripts: The Property of Jane Hohfield Galante and others, in 138 lots. The highlight is expected to be a copy of the Second Folio, estimated at $200,000-300,000. William Bradford's The Arctic Regions (1873), containing 141 albumen photographs by John Dunmore and George Critcherson, could fetch $140,000-180.000. An untrimmed copy of the first edition of Smith's Wealth of Nations rates estimates of $100,000-150,000, as does a German copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle. Most interesting for me, though, is Darwin's copy of Bewick's British Birds, which is estimated at $60,000-90,000.

- There will be a Bibliophile Sale at Bloomsbury, in 422 lots.

Here's what's up for the rest of the month:

- There's a huge sale of Children's, Conjuring, Private Press and Modern First Editions at Bloomsbury on 20 September, in 801 lots.

- Dominic Winter Auctions will sell Printed Books and Historical Documents, Important British Atlases & Maps on 19 September, and "A Gentleman's Library" on 20 September.

- Bonhams Oxford sells Printed Books and Maps on 25 September, in 688 lots.

- No preview yet for the 27 September PBA sale of Americana, African-American History, Travel & Exploration, Cartography from the library from Jane Galante.

Book Review: "1812: War with America"

Jon Latimer's 1812: War with America (Harvard University Press, 2007), described as "the first complete history of the War ... written from a British perspective," does much to contextualize the conflict within the larger framework of the Napoleonic wars, although I confess I expected a bit more on the internal British government debates over war policy and strategies, and there is very little here on the British "home front" at all. Certainly Latimer relies more on British and Canadian sources than most histories of the War have done, though, and that alone would make the book worth reading.

Most of the book is a traditional military history of the conflict, focusing on the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence region where so much of the back-and-forth occurred and on the Atlantic naval battles; scattered chapters branch off to discuss the war in other regions (Jackson's Creek wars, the raids on Washington and Baltimore, and the Battle of New Orleans). A final chapter covers the peace negotiations at Ghent, and here Latimer really makes clear the ways in which the British government was trying to simply get the somewhat pesky American conflict out of the way so they could deal with the wider European peace.

Filled with sometimes mind-boggling detail of the numbers of guns on each ship in a battle, the particular regiments involved in a campaign, &c., the book is a bit of a slog at times, and Latimer's willingness to take British claims at face value while dismissing American arguments gets to be a bit much after a while. On the other hand, it's also incredibly thorough and engaging, and I'm sure I'll look to it again.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Links & Reviews

- Your must-view series this week is Lew Jaffe's "American Name Labels": Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six.

- From the ABAA security blog, a list of rare science fiction titles reported stolen from Temple University Libraries.

- The Colebrook Book Barn is profiled in the Litchfield County Times.

- Michael Dirda writes for The American Scholar about book-shopping in Charlottesville (he missed the best places, I'm sorry to say), but it's a fun post anyway.

- Steve Ferguson posts a provenance conundrum involving John Bunyan, and a neat piracy warning found on the front pastedown of a copy of The Universal Directory for Taking Alive and Destroying Rats ... (1768).

- Arthur Souza, 52, was indicted this week for the thefts of books from several Cape Cod libraries.

- You can now watch the "American Artifacts" segment on the Eliot Indian Bible at AAS, and there's a preview of today's segment on early political memorabilia.

- Over at Letterology, a preview clip from the upcoming Linotype documentary, about which I am incredibly excited. [h/t @PHrarebooks]

- Juliet Barker talked to NPR this week about the updated edition of her family biography, The Brontës.

- Jason Novak revisits George Bickham, offering an "updated" version of The Universal Penman.

- From the Beehive, a look at some of Harbottle Dorr's "idiosyncratic index subjects" ("Pimps and Cooks appointed to places in America"; "Printers on their bad spelling"; &c.).


- Lawrence Norfolk's John Saturnall's Feast; review by Judith Flanders in the WSJ.

- Katherine Frank's Crusoe; review by Randy Boyagoda in the NYTimes.

- William Souder's On a Farther Shore; review by James P. Sterba in the WSJ.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Auction Report: August Recap

Here's a look back at the August auctions:

- Results for the 2 August PBA Galleries, Fine Press, Illustrated Books and Miscellanea: The Library of Byron L. Niskian, with additions sale are here. Audubon's Common Raven was the top lot, at $5,100. Bengston and Ruscha's Business Cards (1968) failed to sell.

- Leslie Hindman Auctioneers sold Fine Books and Manuscripts on 8 August. The proof copy of Audubon's Great Blue Heron fetched $85,400, while the third edition of Newton's Principia sold for $18,300. Quite an interesting copy of the Gettysburg Edition of Lincoln's works made $54,900.

- On 16 August PBA Galleries sold Fine Golf Books & Memorabilia; results are here. The copy of George Fullerton Carnegie's Golfiana (1842) sold for $18,000. Charles E.S. Chambers' Golfing: A Handbook (1887), sold for $13,200.

- Results for the 16 August Bloomsbury Bibliophile Sale are here.

- PBA sold Fine Literature, Cookery & Gastronomy, and Books in All Fields, on 30 August. Full results here.

September preview coming soon!

This Week's Acquisitions

New this week:

- Bibliography and the Book Trades: Studies in the Print Culture of Early New England by Hugh Amory (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004). Amazon (used).

- McSweeney's Issue 12: Unpublished, Unknown, & or Unbelievable; edited by Dave Eggers (McSweeney's, 2003). Amazon (used).

- McSweeney's Issue 11: It Can Be Free; edited by Dave Eggers (McSweeney's, 2003). Amazon (used).

- Island of Bones by Imogen Robertson (Viking, 2012). Publisher.

- The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text; edited by Royal Skousen (Yale University Press, 2009). Amazon. (You'll see a few similar things coming in; I've decided that I need to understand Mormonism more than I do).