Sunday, September 29, 2013

Links & Reviews

- A decision in the long-running Google Books case may be coming soon, Library Journal reported this week.

- Bethany Nowviskie has posted the text of her talk last week at a University of Illinois symposium on the future of the humanities at state-funded research universities. Read the whole thing.

- Prominent on this week's list of IMLS grant winners was the Folger Library, which has received nearly $500,000 to create a free, searchable database of manuscript transcriptions as well as a virtual community of transcribers.

- The Washington Post had good coverage this week of the grand opening of the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon.

- A collection of nine early alchemical manuscripts, mostly from the 15th century, has been acquired by the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

- Michael Geist has an intriguing look at Library and Archives Canada's current mass-digitization plan, known as Heritage. Again, read the whole thing.

- The Morgan Library and Museum announced recently that it will digitize and post for use its collection of some 10,000 drawings.

- There's a new exhibit of association copies from the collection of Bryan A. Garner on display at the Lillian Goldman Law Library at Yale.

- A Haggadah written and illuminated by famed scribe Aaron Wolf Herlingen was found recently in a Manchester house. It will be sold at auction in November, and could fetch up to £100,000.

- There's now video up of Jack P. Greene's talk at a recent JCB conference on "1763 and the Re-evaluation of Empire: The View from Britain."

- Over at the LOC blog, Erin Allen profiles the tremendously important Peter Force Library, comprising some 60,000 items.

- At The Junto, Jonathan Wilson writes about "Locating the Literati: Charles Brockden Brown in Philadelphia."

- The Jane Austen ring purchased at auction by Kelly Clarkson will stay in Britain after sufficient funds were raised. It will be displayed at the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire.

- New, and quite possibly a tremendously useful resource as it grows: Geocontexting the Cultural Industries, 1500-1900.

- For Banned Books Week, Simon Beattie highlighted the Phillippiques of Lagrange-Chancel, and the University of Glasgow library blog focused on some copies of Tycho Brahe's works in their collections.

- This year's MacArthur fellows were announced this week.

- Over at Brain Pickings, some unusual techniques of famous writers, from Celia Blue Johnson's Odd Type Writers.

- From the AbeBooks blog this week, a quick look at the most expensive books (and manuscripts) sold.

- Nick Basbanes posted on the FB&C blog this week a question (plus some possible answers) he'd received about his new book On Paper.

- At Notabilia, the shelf-marks of Thomas Herbert, 8th Earl of Pembroke.

- The St. Andrews University Library is publishing a six-part collection to mark the six-hundredth anniversary of the university: 600 Years of Book Collecting.

- The February 2014 courses for the Australian and New Zealand Rare Books Summer School have been announced.

- From the UVA Special Collections blog, M.A. student Stephanie Kingsley on a recent bibliographical exploration she conducted using the papers of Virginia author Ellen Glasgow.


- Arlette Farge's The Allure of the Archive; review by Jacob Soll in the CHE.

- Andrea Barrett's Archangel; review by Jess Row in the NYTimes.

- Denise A. Spelberg's Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an; review by Seth Perry at The Junto.

- Jill Lepore's Book of Ages; review by Dwight Garner in the NYTimes.

- Lawrence Principe's The Secrets of Alchemy; review by Nicholas Popper in the TLS.

- Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things; review by Barbara Kingsolver in the NYTimes.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Links & Reviews

- Quite a fascinating post from Anthony Tedeschi at Antipodean Footnotes this week, on the discovery of a truly odd printing error in the University of Melbourne copy of the Gesta Romanorum (~1484).

- Some exciting news from Amherst College, where the Frost Library has acquired the Pablo Eisenberg Collection of Native American Literature, described as the most complete collection of Native American literature and history ever assembled.

- Adams Hooks covers a really lovely 16th-century English binding, the only one known to have a printer's device and motton in gilt on both covers (and now at Houghton).

- Heather Cole is profiled in the FB&C "Bright Young Librarians" series this week.

- In the Telegraph, an excerpt from Vybarr Cregan-Reid's new book on George Smith and his (re)discovery of the epic of Gilgamesh.

- University of South Carolina English professor Gregg Hecimovich believes he has identified the author of The Bondwoman's Narrative, an 1850s novel by an enslaved woman.

- At The Steeple Times, twenty questions for bookseller Pom Harrington.

- From Nathan Raab, a Forbes blog post on crowdsourcing technologies and public engagement in history.

- A 1592 compilation of Frankfurt Book Fair catalogues from 1564-1592 goes under the hammer on 1 October.

- With the launch of Oyster this week, Ian Crouch asks "What does it mean to own a book?"

- Over at the John J. Burns Library blog, 17th-century traveler Thomas Gage's The English-American is highlighted.

- In the NYTimes this week, a profile of the Art Loss Register and its leader, Julian Radcliffe.

- Via Dan Cohen on Twitter, a new research paper, "Solving the Orphan Works Problem for the United States."


- Andrew Lycett's Wilkie Collins; review by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst in the Telegraph.

- A. Scott Berg's Wilson; review by Kevin Baker in the NYTimes.

- Robert O'Kell's Disraeli; review by Daisy Hay in the TLS.

- Melissa Mohr's Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing; review by Colin Burrow in the LRB.

- Anna Whitelock's Elizabeth's Bedfellows; review by Helen Hackett in the TLS.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Links & Reviews

- Quite an interesting story this week by Dean Beeby about Library and Archives Canada's ultimately successful attempt to obtain the Sherbrooke Collection at auction this spring. Archivists and others say that LAC could probably have managed to purchase the collection at a much more reasonable price had they actually had funds for acquisitions and been able to act more efficiently.

- New: Annotated Books Online, intended as a digital archive of annotated books from the early modern period.

- An upcoming episode of the History Channel show "Treasures Decoded" will be on the Vinland Map. One of those involved, history professor Richard Raiswell, is featured in a recent article on the show, but the article doesn't make clear what if any new information will be revealed.

- In the NYTimes T Magazine this weekend, a profile of author Peter Ackroyd.

- Anthony Tedeschi is highlighted in the "Bright Young Librarians" series over on the FB&C blog.

- New from Oak Knoll, wood engraver Alexander Anderson's 1793-1799 diary, plus Michael Twyman's A History of Chromolithography. And from W.W. Norton, a full-size, facsimile edition of the Bien Audubon.

- A Charlotte Bronte letter sold for £24,000 at an Edinburgh auction, doubling its estimate.

- At Notabilia, distinctive characteristics of Oxford bindings.

- From Booktryst, some thoughts on selling (or buying) books originally published in parts.

- A look at John Carter and his ABC, at American Book Collecting.


- A. Scott Berg's Wilson; review by Craig Fehrman in the WSJ.

- Alan Taylor's The Internal Enemy; review by Mark Smith in the WSJ.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

About those Folios ...

In all of last week's discussions about the possible sale of the Sterling Folios from the University of London, there wasn't all that much written about the actual books themselves. So, curious, I turned to Anthony James West's First Folio census (OUP, 2003) to see what he has to say about the volumes.

As one might expect, the Sterling Folios have quite a backstory, even if we don't know too much about their early life. The four volumes are uniformly bound, by the English binder James Hayday, in dark blue goatskin (West, I, 117; II, 101), with gilt edges (the First Folio also contains marbling beneath the gilt).

West notes of the First Folio (in a comment which extends to the other three) "The volume is notable both for its early migration to America and for its repatriation." This set of the four folios was purchased by Francis Calley Gray of Boston (1790-1859) around 1836, and was perhaps the first full set of Shakespeare folios to cross the Atlantic. Gray (Harvard, 1809) was the son of prominent Boston merchant William Gray, and went to Russia with John Quincy Adams in 1809 as a private secretary (William Gray also happened to own the ship, the Horace, on which JQA & Co. sailed).

Upon his return to America Gray was admitted to the bar and became a prominent lawyer, orator, poet, and art collector. His 1815 visit with George Ticknor to Thomas Jefferson at Monticello is well known (for a bit on this, see here), and he left an impressive collection of engravings to Harvard (see the catalog), "together with a choice library of works on art, and several valuable illustrated books, among them Rosellini's Monumenti dell' Egitto and Audubon's Birds and Quadrupeds of America" (Gray had been one of several donors to Harvard's original copy of Audubon's Birds, and perhaps gave his own copy of a later edition to the Museum of Comparative Zoology).

F.C. Gray's nephew William inherited the set of Folios in 1856, and they were purchased by Miss Mary Edgecombe (sometimes Edgcumbe or Edgecumbe) Blatchford (1838-1902) of Cambridge in 1879. West writes of Miss Blatchford "She was one of the two Americans who in 1901-2 helped Sidney Lee the most in gathering information about American First Folios for his census. He acknowledged her enthusiastic work in the Census introduction (p. 17), and there is ample evidence of it in her correspondence with Lee in the Sir Sidney Lee Collection at the Birthplace Trust Records Office. She mentions in her neatly completed copy of Lee's questionnaire there that she examined her Folio with Justin Winsor" (West, II, 100). Winsor had published, in 1876, his Bibliography of the Original Quartos and Folios of Shakespeare, with Particular Reference to Copies in America.

Miss Blatchford was the eldest daughter of Edgecombe Heath Blatchford (1811-1853) and his wife Mary Ann Hubbard (1820-1864). Blatchford, an alumnus of Union College (my own alma mater), was a lawyer by profession, and the Hubbards were a prominent Boston family: Mary Ann's father Samuel was a justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Mary Blatchford, who wrote the 1898 childrens' book The Story of Little Jane and Me, was a donor to many Boston-area institutions, held a proprietorship at the Boston Athenaeum (perhaps inherited from her mother), and as previously mentioned was of significant help to Sir Sidney Lee.

From Blatchford or her estate the volumes passed, it seems, to the Massachusetts General Hospital Trust, who arranged for their sale at Sotheby's London on 4 March 1935. As West notes, this re-crossing of the Atlantic did not go unnoticed, with a comment in the TLS that "the sentimentalist will hope that these four folios ill stay." They were purchased for £3,100 by the booksellers Lionel and Philip Robinson, a price mourned in the TLS as "somewhat disappointing," given that First Folios alone had previously sold for rather higher prices (the letterpress on the title page of this First Folio is in facsimile, with the portrait inlaid; the "To the Reader" leaf is also in facsimile).

The Folios were then sold for £3,500 to Sir Louis Sterling (1879-1958), an American-born industrialist memorialized in one death-notice as a "millionaire socialist." The same piece continued "The industrialist-philanthropist amassed a fortune in the phonograph and recording business and became a naturalized Britain [sic] after arriving nearly penniless by cattleboat in 1903. Explaining why he had given away more than $2.8 million in Britain, the man born Louis Saul Sterling in a New York tenement, said: 'I made all my money in this country, so I guess Britain is entitled to it.'"

Sterling was known for his assistance to Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis, received a knighthood in 1937, and endowed the Sterling Library at the University of London in the early 1950s. The library itself was opened by Queen Elizabeth (as the University's Chancellor) in October 1956. For more on Sterling's library, see the collection overview, or this 1939 TLS piece, reprinted on the Senate House site.

See what happens when you start pulling threads? Connections abound: who would have thought this set of four folios would stand just a degree of separation or two away from John Quincy Adams, Union College, and the early days of the British recording industry?

Like all books, the Sterling Library Folios have their own stories to tell us, of the people who made them, bound them, owned them, sold them, and read them. While there are many unanswered questions about these (when were they originally brought together? Who had them bound? Who owned them prior to the 1830s?), we know much of what we do know about them thanks to the good work of Justin Winsor, Sidney Lee, and Anthony James West, assisted by Mary Edgecombe Blatchford and the countless others who helped make their censuses of the Shakespeare Folios possible. Another reminder (here are some more) that these censuses are important scholarly works, worthy of our attention and our assistance whenever possible.

NB: I couldn't find either Lee's or Winsor's Folio censuses online, which seems a shame. Though outdated now and vastly superseded by West's, their texts are still quite interesting, and it would be useful to be able to link to them. Also and as always, additions/clarifications/corrections appreciated!

[Update: Lee's census is in fact online, here. Thanks to Mitch Fraas and Sarah Werner!]

Monday, September 09, 2013

Book Review: "Shady Characters"

If you enjoyed Keith Houston's New Yorker blog post about punctuation history, or follow his own blog at Shady Characters, I heartily recommend his new book, Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, & Other Typographical Marks (forthcoming from W.W. Norton). It's a well-researched and very engagingly-written book filled with fascinating little details about pilcrows and dashes and interrobangs and manicules and other such delightful marks. Houston explores the origins and evolution of these marks, how their uses have changed over time, and dredges up all manner of excellent stories about them.

While the origins of some of these marks are disputed or unknown, Houston thoroughly explores the various options for each, and offers well-reasoned thoughts of his own where there is doubt. And there are more than sixty pages of endnotes, probably more than enough to sate the appetite of even the most fanatic of octothorpe fans.


Sunday, September 08, 2013

Catching up ...

I really will get back to a regular posting schedule, one of these days ... since I've last written I have managed to pack up and move to Charlottesville, and have about half the books unpacked and on their shelves again now (the remainder, which comprise the portions of my library that were still all jumbled together from the last move, are in boxes but on shelves, awaiting my sorting and shelving attentions). And I have started my job at Rare Book School, which promises to be exciting and challenging and wonderful in all kinds of ways. I've been enjoying getting to know Charlottesville in the fall, which is quite a lot different than Charlottesville in the summer, too.

Of course things haven't gone silent in the biblio-universe just because I've been fixated on shelf-locations and organizational schemas and boxes (oh, the boxes). In fact, rather the opposite! So, without further ado, and with apologies again for the long radio silence, here are my collected links and reviews from recent weeks. It is my fervent hope that I'll be able to keep up with these from here on. Wish me luck!

- The big story this week was of course the news that a plan was afoot by which the copies of the four Shakespeare Folios given to the Senate House Libraries, University of London by Sir Louis Sterling in 1956 would be sold at auction (reportedly at Bonhams this November) to fund an endowment designed to fund additional research at the libraries. This news took the book world by storm, and it was most heartening to see the strong, nearly unanimous reaction of shock and dismay.

The news broke with the release of a letter written by Professor Henry Woudhuysen, Rector of Lincoln College, to Senate House Libraries director Christopher Pressler, who had requested Woudhuysen's support for the planned sale. This is, I think, one of the strongest and most impressive responses to such a proposal I've ever read, and I was absolutely delighted to see it. If you haven't yet, you should go read the whole thing. I agree entirely with Ian Gadd's tweet in response to it: "Henry Woudhuysen’s response is comprehensive, magisterial, and unanswerable. This is why bibliography matters."

The Guardian covered the story on Tuesday, as did the Telegraph, and both articles featured strong quotes from scholars against the proposed sale. Director of UCL Library Services Dr Paul Ayris also issued a statement in opposition.

The sale would reportedly have required the permission of the Charity Commission, as it would have violated the terms of the original bequest which brought the Folios to the university in the first place.

Librarians and academics from around the world joined Woudhuysen in opposition, and The Bibliographical Society set up an online petition urging the library administrators to reconsider the sale; it garnered some 2,740 signatures before the library's decision to call off the sale was announced on Thursday evening.

Calling off the sale, University Vice Chancellor Sir Adrian Smith put out a statement announcing "The university has decided to focus its attention on examining alternative ways of investing in the collection. The money raised from any sale would have been used to invest in the future of the library by acquiring major works and archives of English literature." More from the Globe and Mail, including comments from Woudhuysen, who said "We wait to see what they do next. I’m not convinced that we’re out of the woods. There is always the possibility that they will return with another proposition and one would want to look at that quite carefully. They will have learned something from this."

Following Smith's Bibliographical Society president Christine Ferdinand posted a thorough synopsis of the reasons for opposition to the sale.

I've been digging a bit into the provenance of the Sterling Folios, and will have more on that soon. Pretty interesting copies, these!

- New from Lisa Fagin Davis, Manuscript Road Trip, a blog tour of lesser-known manuscript collections in the Lower 48. This will be fun to follow! On the same subject, Medieval Fragments recently posted on manuscripts in American collections.

- In The Nation, Scott Sherman has published a lengthy article on "The Hidden History of New York City's Central Library Plan."

- Ireland's Arts and Heritage minister has called on the Bodleian Library to return the 12th-century Annals of Inisfallen to Ireland, so that the manuscript can be displayed at Killarney House.

- Now at AAS, a personal account book of Boston museum proprietor Moses Kimball.

- The Sarum Missal, lost from the library of St. Paul's in the 19th century, was restored to the collection after it failed to meet estimates at the sale of the Mendham collection and was privately sold back to the cathedral library. Quite a good story on this in the Independent.

- Keith Houston blogs for The New Yorker about some of the punctuation marks described in his new book Shady Characters (which I've just finished reading; it's excellent).

- In my last I noted the arrest of German auction house director Herbert Schauer in relation to the de Caro thefts in Italy; the Telegraph ran an article on this development recently.

- A pre-Raphaelite mural was discovered on a wall at William Morris' Red House, now owned by the National Trust.

- Coming up in December at the Library of Congress, a full-day symposium on "Authenticity," which sounds amazing. I'll be there. Will you?

- There's an article in the new New Yorker about forger/con man Marc Landis, who has given hundreds of artworks and other forged documents to institutions around the country.

- Outgoing HRC director Thomas Staley was profiled recently in the NYTimes.

- From the LARB, William Giraldi's The Writer as Reader: Melville and his Marginalia is well worth a read.

- Three rare books were stolen from Jonkers Rare Books in June: first editions of Wodehouse's The Man Upstairs, Anthony Burgess' Time for a Tiger, and T.H. White's Dear Mr. Nixon. The shop discovered the thefts when a New York bookseller contacted them after having been offered the White book. "The thief is described as being in his fifties, of average height and chubby."

- The longlist for this year's Samuel Johnson Prize is out.

- A big-budget Bronte biopic may be in the works, according to the Telegraph & Argus.

- New: The Dutch in the Caribbean World, c.1670-c.1870, a guide to archival sources on Dutch colonies in the Caribbean as well as a summary of relevant laws and regulations.

- NPR highlighted the DPLA's efforts in a piece on "All Things Considered" recently. And the DPLA has officially moved into their new digs at the BPL.

- From John Overholt at Houghton Library, a look at some recently-digitized materials there.

- Arion Press and Andrew Hoyem are profiled in Harvard Magazine.

- Congratulations to several new members of the ABAA, announced this week.

- In August the Washington Map Society announced via its journal The Portolan, the discovery of what is claimed to be the oldest surviving engraved globe to show the New World. More from the Washington Post. As the Post article points out, there are some serious red flags being thrown about the provenance and ownership of the globe.


- Andrea Barrett's Archangel; review by Janet Maslin in the NYTimes.

- Thomas Healy's The Great Dissent; review by Roy Gutterman in the WaPo.

- A. Scott Berg's Wilson; review by Jeff Shesol in the WaPo.

- Joel F. Harrington's The Faithful Executioner; review by Richard J. Evans in the TLS.

- Charlotte Higgins' Under Another Sky; review by Emily Gowers in the TLS.

- Jonathan Lyons' The Society for Useful Knowledge; review by Laura Snyder in the WSJ.

- Nick Basbanes' On Paper; review by Pradeep Sebastian in The Hindu.