Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year-End Reading Report 2014

Another year draws to a close, if you can believe it. I got rather more reading done than last year, partly due to a big push to "read and weed" books I had on the shelves and wanted to read, but knew I wouldn't keep once I'd done so. In both January and December those books made up a good portion of what I read (and will again in January, too).

As I have for the past several years, I took part in the 75 Books Challenge for 2014 group at LibraryThing (see my group thread), and enjoyed that part of the reading process as well.

In 2014 I finished 196 books, the most I've read since I've been keeping track, for an average of one every 1.86 days. Total page count for books was 67,551. Again due to "read and weed" I read more non-fiction this year than I often do: 128 non-fiction titles this year, and 68 fiction. Among those were 120 hardcovers, 57 paperbacks, and 19 ARCs. Full way more statistical geekery, see this post.

And now, my favorite five fiction and non-fiction reads for 2014 (in no particular order within the lists):


Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell


Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall by Sir Thomas Browne

Before the Storm and Nixonland by Rick Perlstein

The Map Thief by Michael Blanding

A Feathered River Across the Sky by Joel Greenberg

The Meaning of Human Existence by E.O. Wilson

Happy New Year to you all, and good reading!

Previous year's reports: 20132012201120102009200820072006.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Links & Reviews

- Vincent Noce has a report for The Art Newspaper about the ongoing investigation into Gérard Lhéritier's alleged manuscripts Ponzi scheme.

- A Library Company of Philadelphia press release has more information on the identification of nature printing blocks used in Franklin's shop.

- Duke University will return a 10th-century Byzantine manuscript to Greece. The manuscript, like another returned last year by the Getty, was stolen from a Greek monastery in the 1960s.

- The BL has posted 46 newly-digitized Greek manuscripts.

- The Guardian reports that Navajo officials successfully purchased seven tribal masks at a French auction, which the U.S. government and tribal leaders had tried to stop going forward. Hopi leaders declined to bid, saying they viewed the sale as "sacrilege."

- Speaking of the BL, as of 5 January you will be able to photograph materials in certain reading rooms; this service will be extended in March to include the Manuscripts and Rare Books reading rooms.

- Several recently-funded provenance and marginalia projects are highlighted in the NYTimes (second section of article).

- The University of Illinois has received a $498,942 grant to catalog the Cavagna Collection of rare Italian books.

- John Overholt noted a neat column in the October 1876 Atlantic Monthly, "A Librarian's Work."

- Heather Wolfe writes about "Hard hands and strange words" (or, the trials and tribulations of paleographers) at The Collation.

- The schedule for the AAS's Digital Antiquarian conference (29-30 May 2015) is now available.

- Jonathan Kearns will open his own rare books and curiosities shop in the new year.

- Videos from the Case Western colloquium on the future of special collections are now available online.

- FB&C profiles Eric Johnson for their Bright Young Librarians series.

- There's an interview with Phillips Library director Sid Berger about his new book for ALA Editions, Rare Books and Special Collections.

- Yale researchers have identified Samson Occom as the author of a 1776 manuscript account of a young Mohegan woman's deathbed words (there's much more to this story: read the whole report).

- The MHS has completed digitization of six Civil War photograph collections.

- Manuscript Road Trip visits New Jersey, covering manuscripts at Princeton and Rutgers.

- Simon Beattie highlights the Russian edition of Dickens' No Thoroughfare, published in London for Christmas 1867 and passed by the imperial censor in Russia on 3 January 1868. Simon notes that this speed of transmission seems extraordinarily fast.

- The NYTimes has a piece on the renovation of the nave at Yale's Sterling Library.

- Ellen Terrell has a very neat post on the LC's Inside Adams blog about researching the Scrooge & Marley firm.

- A Havard Medical School study suggests that e-reading in bed may be bad for your health.

- Researchers have found that J.R.R. Tolkien, sent home from the WWI front with trench fever, barely escaped a massive German bombardment of his unit's position.


- Jill Lepore's The Secret History of Wonder Woman; review by Helen Brown in The Telegraph.

- Adam Nicolson's Why Homer Matters; review by Bryan Doerries in the NYTimes.

- E.O. Wilson's The Meaning of Human Existence; review by Richard Di Dio in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

- Nick Bunker's An Empire on the Edge; review by J.L. Bell at Boston 1775.

- Kathryn Harrison's Joan of Arc; review by Sarah Dunant in the NYTimes.

- Janice Hadlow's A Royal Experiment; review by Andrea Wulf in the NYTimes.

- Molly Guptil Manning's When Books Went to War; reviews by Janet Maslin in the NYTimes and Emily Cataneo in the CSM.

- Jeffrey Richards' The Golden Age of Pantomine and Linda Simon's The Greatest Shows on Earth; review by Jacqueline Banerjee in the TLS.

- Bradford Morrow's The Forgers; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"I hope and trust all will be well"

I've been spending some time while at home for Christmas organizing a number of family papers, and one caught my eye that I thought I'd share. This is from William Brooks (my maternal great-great-great-grandfather) to Ann Eliza Mortimer. He's writing from the farm he had purchased a few years prior (which my uncle still operates as a dairy farm) near South New Berlin, NY, to Ann in Cincinnatus. I've included a photo of the first page of the letter, and an unedited transcription. Beneath the transcription is, as they say, "the rest of the story."

Wednesday Eve Dec. 18/.61
My Dear Ann,
                         I salute you forty miles away. It is with deep regret that the prospects are so unfair for me to be with you next sunday ne,r to be separated. I have not had any news from you no answer from my letter last week so as to get your advice or council. I think it will be impossible for me to come as soon as we arranged it, and I will give you some of the reasons. 1st I am afraid to start in a waggon this time of year, for fear of getting snowed up, if we should get forty or fifty miles from home, it may snow in one night so that I could not get the waggon home in all winter, without a great deal of trouble.
2nd my cows gives considerable of milk, & I dont want to stop milking as long as the weather is open.
3d I have not butchered my hogs yet & I dont want to, till the weather is colder so as to keep the meat fresh.
4th Prince is lame (your pony you know) ha ha [these circled with dotted lines]. I dont know what the matter is but I hope he will get well in a few days. I cant come out there without him (that so) 5th. It is an excellent time to work, as the old saying is, I want to make hay while the sun shines. My dear, be of good cheer. hope on hope ever. all is well that ends well. and I hope and trust all will be well. I know you will be disappointed, and provoked, & even mad, and I shan,t blame you a bit. I was in such a hurry, so impatient, and now you are ready first. I have been very uneasy and watched the clouds for the last two weeks and dont see any more signs of snow than there was last July. every  o'[?] body is in a fever for sleighing. Now I will say to you. have evry thing all ready for the first sleighing. or we may come before, I will keep you posted by writing often. Jane is with me now, after an absence of nine days what do you think of that! in this land where women is so plenty and no boys. The young folks around here has all been down to the Donation tonight, they are just going past home now 10. O.clock. Mr Amsden has traded his house and shop for a farm in Pittsfield about three miles from New Berlin nice farm 133 acres keep 20 cows. Mrs Amsden is quite well she thinks of naming her baby Anna.
I have had an application tonight to board a young lady for her work and go to school this winter a girl in our neighborhood. What do you think about it, I did not say much to her nor I shan,t, till I see and hear from you. Jane & I are going to write a letter to England she has wrote hers tonight Mother is going to send her likeness in it to Aunt Martha. Mother was here to day & made a good visit drove her own horse. We had some Oysters tonight I got a keg supposed to be spoiled, but proved to be good, we feasted I can tell you. All that was lacking as Ann E Mortimer of Cincinnatus. Bless her little heart. May it never be grieved. 
Please write long & often I shall be happy to hear from you evry day.
Believe me ever true and faithful
            Yours With Love
                       Wm. Brooks

So, what happened? Well, it snowed! William and Ann were married just eight days after this letter was written, on 26 December 1861. And thankfully the oysters did prove to be good, or that might have been an early end to things.

And now, back to the organizing. Happy Holidays to you all!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Links & Reviews

- Yale has received a $3 million grant from the Goizueta Foundation to fund a digital humanities laboratory at Sterling Memorial Library.

- Researcher Jessica Linker has identified one of the printing blocks used by Benjamin Franklin to make "leaf prints" as an anti-counterfeiting measure. The block is in the collections of the Delaware County Institute of Science, but will soon be on display at the Library Company of Philadelphia.

- Paul Dingman recaps the first Transcribathon, held at Penn and sponsored by the Folger as part of their Early Modern Manuscripts Online project. I'm looking forward to the planned one at UVA this spring.

- Winchester Cathedral has put out a public call in an attempt to find eight illuminations missing from the Winchester Bible.

- Still waiting for more information about this, but type designer Robert Green, in association with a salvage team from the Port of London Authority, has reportedly recovered a "small quantity" of the type used by the Doves Press (and later dumped over Hammersmith Bridge by T.J. Cobden-Sanderson).

- The Harry Ransom Center refused to release the purchase price for the Gabriel Garcia Marquez archive after an AP request.

- Eric Rasmussen writes about the recent identification of a new First Folio, and about several long-missing copies which he'd like to find.

- The MHS has launched a new digital collection of material related to the Boston Massacre.

- The Torquay Museum plans to sell an unpublished Jane Austen letter to her sister Cassandra.

- The sale of a Neal Cassady letter to Jack Kerouac has been canceled (well, "indefinitely suspended," anyway) after the estates of both Cassady and Kerouac claimed ownership of the letter.

- Paul Romaine summarizes what looks to have been an excellent APHA panel on Early Renaissance Paper, featuring Angela Campbell and Tim Barrett.

- The DPLA announced the winners of its first "GIF IT UP" competition.

- New research at the University of York and Trinity College Dublin is exploring parchment genetics, with implications for agricultural history as well as bibliography.

- NARA launched a new online catalog, which includes transcription functionality. They've also added a public read-write API.

- A bit more has emerged on the five books from Oscar Wilde's library identified at the KB.

- Atlas Obscura covers the launch of a new series of videos highlighting the collections of the American Museum of Natural History.

- At The Collation, Erin Blake takes a close look at mezzotints.

- A new interim issue of Common-place is out.

- Simon Beattie highlights Edmund Harold's imitations of Ossian poems, published in English and German editions at Dusseldorf in 1787.

- Lauren Collins writes for the New Yorker about the Oxford University Marginalia Facebook group.

- More on "marginalia's moment" from Laura Miller at Salon.

- Over at the ABAA blog, Simon Beattie explores deckle-fetishism.

- Just a year after its grand opening, the Library of Birmingham is set to slash hours by nearly half and see some 100 layoffs due to budget cuts.

- Gerald Cloud has been appointed Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Curator of Early Modern Books and Manuscripts at the Harry Ransom Center. Congratulations to Gerald!

- John Schulman of Caliban Books has posted a guide to buying rare books as gifts, over at the ABAA blog.


- Patricia Jane Roylance's Eclipse of Empires; review by Lindsay DiCuirci at Common-place.

- A.N. Wilson's Victoria: A Life; review by Leah Price in the NYTimes.

- John Merriman's Massacre; review by Wendy Smith in the LATimes.

- Kristina Milnor's Graffiti and the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii; review by Emily Gowers in the TLS.

- Jules Witcover's The American Vice Presidency; review by Ellen Fitzpatrick in the WaPo.

- Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy's The Men Who Lost America; review by Eric Hinderaker at Common-place.

- David Nokes' Samuel Johnson: A Life; review by Jonathan Bate in the Telegraph.

- Meredith Neuman's Jeremiah's Scribes; review by Wendy Roberts at Common-place.

- Alex Christie's Gutenberg's Apprentice; review by Bruce Holsinger in the WaPo.

- Marilyn Johnson's Lives in Ruins; review by Wendy Smith in the WaPo.

- Jill Lepore's The Secret History of Wonder Woman; review by Carla Kaplan in the NYTimes.

- Thomas Foster's Sex and the Founding Fathers; review by Kelly Ryan at Common-place.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Links & Reviews

- The Center for Media and Social Impact has issued a "Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use of Orphan Works for Libraries & Archives."

- French scientists are working to date the Aztec manuscript known as the Codex Borbonicus.

- Jill Lepore writes on the theft of Justice Felix Frankfurter's papers from the Library of Congress, broadening that to discuss the state of the papers of all Supreme Court justices.

- Longtime friend of the blog Laura Massey has opened her own rare book business, Alembic Rare Books.

- The New York City Bar Association sale at Doyle New York on 24 November saw a very high total of $2,369,231, with all lots selling. I'll have more on this sale in the next FB&C.

- The NYTimes covers the ongoing dispute over the estate of Maurice Sendak, featuring the first interview with Sendak executor Lynn Caponera. There's more coverage and analysis of this case in the Connecticut Law Tribune.

- Molly Hardy discusses the NAIP and its possible uses in bibliometric analysis.

- From Atlas Obscura, "Lost Museums of New York."

- The Antikythera Mechanism has been determined to date from around 205 B.C., earlier than previously thought.

- Rachel Nuwer reports for Smithsonian on the digital reconstruction of Livingstone's diary.

- Terry Belanger's summary of the "Acknowledging the Past, Forging the Future" symposium, along with a PDF version of his full report, has been posted on the ABAA blog.

- A collector left a 13th-century Chinese scroll worth more than $1m on a Paris-to-Geneva train; the scroll remains missing.

- Jennifer Schuessler covered the "First Editions, Second Thoughts" auction at Christie's this week for the NYTimes. More coverage from The Guardian.

- The literary archive of Gabriel García Márquez will go to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

- The NYTimes reported on the launch of Digital Einstein, a digital repository of some 80,000 Einstein-related documents. Walter Isaacon wrote about the launch in a WSJ essay (which contains some misguided notions about what digitization means for scholars and viewing original documents).

- Andrea Cawelti posted on the Houghton Library blog about circulating libraries during Jane Austen's time.

- Johanna Drucker has published a new essay, "Distributed and Conditional Documents: Conceptualizing Bibliographical Alterities."

- Philip Pullman writes on William Blake in The Guardian.

- Jennifer Howard covers the "Failure in the Archives" conference for The Chronicle of Higher Ed.

- Newly-recognized unpublished Oscar Wilde materials, including a notebook from around 1880, a corrected typescript of Salome, and a partial draft of "The Ballad of Reading Gaol," will be displayed at the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia beginning in late January.

- A letter thought to have inspired Kerouac's On the Road, long thought lost, has been found and will be sold by the auction house Profiles in History on 17 December.

- An unpublished libretto by Raymond Chandler has been identified at the Library of Congress.

- A UK court has declared that a ban on sending books to prisoners was not lawful.

- Adventures in Book Collecting highlights collector Estelle Doheney.

- Five books from Oscar Wilde's library have been identified at the National Library of the Netherlands (KB).

- A manuscript of George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation (which I had the good fortune to see displayed at the Boston Book Fair last month) has sold to a private collector for $8.4 million.

- The BPL has launched a special collections blog, Collections of Distinction.

- Candida Moss reports for The Daily Beast on the online trade in early manuscripts.

- Sotheby's London will sell The Felix Dennis Collection, including works by Eric Gill, on 9 December. A Dylan Thomas manuscript and E.H. Shepard illustrations are expected to sell well.

- The Library History Round Table has issued its annual call for papers for the Justin Winsor Library History Essay Award. Submissions are due by 31 January 2015.

- Tim Parks writes for the NYRB about reading with a pen in your hand.

- An 18th-century manuscript map of New Mexico has been acquired by the New Mexico History Museum.

- A Shakespeare First Folio has been discovered in the public library of the French town of Saint-Omer. More coverage from the NYTimes, Fine Books Blog, OUP Blog. Eric Rasmussen talked to USA Today about identifying the book.

- Daniel Akst connects today's e-book subscription services with the membership libraries begun in the 18th century.

- Eric Kwakkel writes on the uses of shelfmarks, catalogs, &c. in the medieval library.


- Kate Williams' Ambition and Desire; review by Caroline Weber in the NYTimes.

- Margery Heffron's The Other Mrs. Adams; review by Muriel Dobbin in the Washington Times.

- Andrew Roberts' Napoleon Bonaparte; review by Michael F. Bishop in the WaPo.

- Kirstin Downey's Isabella: The Warrior Queen; review by Kathryn Harrison in the NYTimes.

- Cary Elwes' As You Wish; review by Neil Genzlinger in the NYTimes.

- Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography; reviews by Bich Minh Nguyen in the LATimes and Jennifer Maloney in the WSJ.

- Fredrik Sjoberg's The Fly Trap; review by Jennie Erin Smith in the TLS.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Links & Reviews

Another excellent Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair was held last weekend; it was great to see so many good friends there and in Providence! Apologies if I've missed anything big in this roundup; I confess I was unable to pay quite as much attention to Twitter and other news during the fair.

- Rebecca Rego Barry has a good Fair rundown.

- Princeton alumnus William Scheide died on 14 November at the age of 100. See the Princeton obituary for a full run-down of Scheide's important philanthropy to his alma mater and elsewhere.

- The Museé des Lettres et Manuscrits in Paris, along with an associated institute and Aristophil, a company run by the museum's founder, Gérard Lhéritier, were reportedly raided by anti-fraud police on 18 November. It seems the company, which raised funds for the purchase of rare books and manuscripts, may have been involved in a massive Ponzi scheme. More on come on this front, I'm sure!

- The New York City Bar Association is set to auction off its rare books in a series of three auctions at Doyle New York. The first sale will be held tomorrow. The New York Law Journal also ran a piece on the upcoming sales, featuring some pretty shocking comments from Association staff and criticism from members.

- Bookseller Rick Gekoski's Guardian column "I quit: why I won't be finishing my history of the book" made the rounds this week. He's either completely missed the boat or is simply running in the wrong circles if he really believes his own statement: "I know of almost no creative writer or passionate reader who has the slightest interest in the history of the book." And as a bookseller, how on earth could he be "not particularly interested in the book as object"? Clearly he wasn't the right author for this book in the first place, and frankly I'm glad he's let it go.

- There's a story at Quartz by Daniel Hernandez about a Mark Twain-related plagiarism contretemps. See Kevin Mac Donnell's original review of the book in question. A co-author and editor of the book have issued a quite unsatisfying response.

- From Atlas Obscura, Secret Libraries of Paris.

- Scribner's is relaunching an e-magazine, Scribner Magazine.

- Amazon and Hachette have resolved their contract dispute, apparently leaving nobody very happy.

- A post from the Chicago SCRC blog highlights the Argos Lectionary, known as the "Gangster Bible" because Al Capone's gang reportedly swore their oaths over the book.

- Publisher David Godine is profiled in the Boston Globe.

- Over at AbeBooks, Beth Carswell has a feature article on Vesalius' Fabrica.

- The University of Michigan has claimed exemption from state public records laws, arguing that its employees do not have to keep official correspondence.

- Barbara Basbanes Richter has a short synopsis of the new Folger exhibit, "Decoding the Renaissance: 500 Years of Codes and Ciphers."

- James Atlas comments on the massive biography, and having received several 500+-page biographical tomes this month alone, I certainly get what he's saying!

- The winners of the 2014 National Book Awards were announced this week.

- A previously unknown Dylan Thomas notebook will be offered at Sotheby's London on 9 December.

- Amazon beat out Bowker and others for the rights to administer the .book domain name.

- Modern Notions has a short piece (with lots of good pictures) on Eric Kwakkel and his work on medieval doodles.


- Ezra Greenspan's William Wells Brown; review by Nell Irvin Painter in the NYTimes.

- Kirstin Downey's Isabella: The Warrior Queen; review by Richard L. Kagan in the WaPo.

- Pamela Smith Hill's Pioneer Girl; review by Lane Brown in the CSM.

- James McPherson's Embattled Rebel; review by Steven Hahn in the NYTimes.

- Mike Pitts' Digging for Richard III; review by Nick Romeo in the CSM.

- Jenny Uglow's In These Times; review by Peter Stothard in the TLS.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Links & Reviews

- On my way to Boston this week for the 38th Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair (look for me at the Rare Book School table) I'll be stopping off in Providence to give a talk, "Ownership Marks in Early American Books: Outliers & Oddities" as part of the Rhode Island Center for the Book's 2014 program, "Mine! Ownership Marks from Curses to Bookplates." See the full schedule of events and exhibits here.

- Speaking of Boston, the ABAA blog has been running a great series of posts on the Boston Book Fair and the Boston book scene writ large. Rusty Mott offers up "Recollections of the Boston Book Fair, by a Lifer," Peter Stern covers "Characters in the [Boston] Rare Book Trade," and Joyce Kosofsky writes about changes to the Boston rare books scene since the Boston Book Fair began.

- Many congratulations to Steve Ferguson, who has been named the Acting Associate University Librarian for Rare Books & Special Collections at Princeton.

- Thought this might be coming: the Rosenbach Library has filed a lawsuit against the executors of Maurice Sendak's will, charging that they are failing to comply with his wishes in various respects. There are some real howlers here, like the executors refusing to turn over rare Beatrix Potter books because they are "children's books, not rare books," or works by William Blake.

- Phil Collins has donated his collection of artifacts related to the Alamo and the Texas Revolution to the state of Texas.

- Both the Warburg Institute and the University of London claimed success after a judge handed down a decision in the dispute between the two sides. More from the Warburg Institute here.

- Some excellent news from New York: next year the Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair ("The Shadow Show") will take place on Friday 10 April at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, 869 Lexington Avenue at 66th St, New York (right across the street from the Armory show).

- The University of Chicago has received a $250,000 gift from Roger and Julie Baskes to enhance online catalog records.

- The Getty Research Institute has acquired a number of unpublished Joseph Cornell letters.

- Staff at the Imperial War Museum are pushing back against the planned closure of the museum's library.

- The Boston Athenaeum is digitizing its collection of Boston city directories from 1789 through 1900.

- The Ashmolean Museum is planning to reconstruct William Blake's studio as part of an upcoming exhibit on the artist.

- Richard Adams talked to the Telegraph about his writing, to mark the publication of a new edition of Watership Down.

- Over at Printeresting, a look at the Museum of Printing and Graphic Communication in Lyon.

- Bruce Holsinger writes for Humanities about the writing of historical fiction.

- The Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from the Conan Doyle estate, with the effect that Sherlock Holmes stories published before 1923 are determined to be in the public domain in the United States.

- Heritage Auctions is selling the archive of American Heritage Publishing.

- David Whitesell has compiled a few highlights from the new acquisitions to the McGregor Library this year.


- Bradford Morrow's The Forgers and Charlie Lovett's First Impressions; review by Rebecca Rego Barry at Fine Books Blog. The Forgers is also reviewed by Colin Dwyer for WSHU.

- Richard Norton Smith's On His Own Terms; review by David Nasaw in the WaPo.

- Jenny Uglow's In These Times; review by Nicholas Shakespeare in the Telegraph.

- Robert Darnton's Censors at Work; review by Alberto Manguel in the NYTimes.

- C.D. Rose's The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- E.O. Wilson's The Meaning of Human Existence; review by Danny Heitman in the CSM.

- E.O. Wilson's A Window on Eternity; review by Jonathan Weiner in the NYTimes.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Links & Reviews

- Sarah Werner and Matthew Kirschenbaum have written a piece for this year's edition of Book History: "Digital Scholarship and Digital Studies: The State of the Discipline."

- The AAS has acquired two photos of 19th-century printers posing with their tools.

- Nick Basbanes' piece on Rare Book School for the NEH's magazine, Humanities, is now online.

- Sotheby's has been sued by a consignor for an attribution: the seller argues that if the auction house had attributed the painting to Caravaggio rather than to a follower, the auction price would have been far higher.

- A fragmentary typescript of an unpublished memoir written by Simon & Schuster co-founder Richard Simon is currently listed in a bookseller's catalog for $5,000.

- UVA Today takes a look at the Book Traces project.

- Over at the Provenance Online Project, a few nifty GIF animations from old books.

- Eric Kwakkel found a fantastic example of a scribe putting some defects in his parchment to good use. And he writes about how, in certain cases, the destruction of medieval books actually served to lead to their survival.

- I'm not a big fan of the trend of historical institutions "updating their brands" by changing their names, but there's a report on the phenomenon in the NYTimes.

- The Fine Books Blog collects the links to Terry Belanger's recaps of the Case Western special collections symposium.

- Douglas Greenberg's essay on Michael Kammen in the LARB is highly recommended.


- Edward J. Larson's The Return of George Washington, 1783-1789; review by David Waldstreicher in the NYTimes.

- Francois Furstenberg's When the United States Spoke French; review by Hank H. Cox in the WaPo.

- Harold Holzer's Lincoln and the Power of the Press; review by David S. Reynolds in the NYTimes.

- Andrew McConnell Stott's The Poet and the Vampyre; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- Armand Marie Leroi's The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science; review by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein in the NYTimes.

Book Reviews: "Gutenberg's Apprentice" and "First Impressions"

A couple new biblio-novels have made appearances recently:

Alix Christie's Gutenberg's Apprentice (HarperCollins) is a fictionalized account of the Gutenberg workshop in Mainz during the production of the 42-line Bible. The story is told from the perspective of the eponymous apprentice, Peter Schoeffer, and Christie has at least to a significant degree tried to get the details right. She hasn't always succeeded, alas, and the actual plot of the novel is pretty lackluster, but Christie's writing is lovely and makes this historical reconstruction entirely worth a read. The contextualization of Gutenberg's (and Fust and Schoeffer's) work within the political and religious upheaval of 1450s Mainz alone would recommend it to anyone interested in the period.

Charlie Lovett has followed his The Bookman's Tale with First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen (Viking). Aside from the primal screams I must force myself to swallow every time an otherwise-sympathetic character in one of these novels steals a rare book or manuscript (surely, dear authors, there must be other ways to accomplish these things!) I quite liked this book as a biblio-mystery: it's got good characters, a quasi-believable plot, and a reasonable mystery with a healthy number of red herrings swimming around for good measure, even if the whole thing does follow a fairly obvious formula. I'm sure there's lots more fan service to Janeites in here than I caught, but the biblio-bits are quite nicely handled.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Links & Reviews

- There's a new Harvard Library policy governing access to digital reproductions of public domain works, and it's a good 'un. In part: "Harvard Library asserts no copyright over digital reproductions of works in its collections which are in the public domain, where those digital reproductions are made openly available on Harvard Library websites."

- Terry Belanger is doing the book world a great service by posting a series of dispatches from last week's National Colloquium on Library Special Collections ("Acknowledging the Past, Forging the Future") on ExLibris. See Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V (so far; more to come).

- ILAB has released a list of books believed stolen from the Cappuccini Library in Florence.

- The AAS has announced a conference and workshop, The Digital Antiquarian, to be held at the end of May and first week in June, 2015.

- The Thoreau Institute has purchased the Thoreau collection of bookseller Kevin Mac Donnell.

- Nate Pedersen talked to author Christine Jackson about her 2013 book John James LaForest Audubon: An English Perspective for the FB&C blog.

- A notebook from the 1910–1913 Scott expedition, containing notes by scientist George Murray Levick about photographs taken in 1911, was found last summer at the site of Scott's Terra Nova base camp.

- Over at I Love Typography, "The First Female Typographer."

- The New Haven Register profiles the team working on preserving and digitizing Yale's collection of papyri.

- The Soldiers National Museum in Gettysburg will close in November, and its collection of Civil War artifacts and other materials will be sold at auction.

- Eric Kwakkel has collected some excellent images of various ways parchment "goes bad," to complement equally excellent explanatory text.

- Brandon Butler writes about the new round of GSU copyright litigation in "Transformative Teaching after GSU."

- Ben Breen has a blog post at The Paris Review about his experience at RBS this summer.

- A deal was reached this week that will keep a Barnes & Noble open in the Bronx for at least the next two years.

- The Guardian highlights the new Cambridge University Library exhibition Private Lives of Print.

- Simon Beattie highlights a German pamphlet from 1930 advertising a "bibliotour" to the northeastern United States.

- Caroline Duroselle-Melish has been named the Andrew W. Mellow Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Sean Quimby has been appointed Director of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) at Columbia University.


- Jill Lepore's The Secret History of Wonder Woman; reviews by Etelka Lehoczky for NPR, Dwight Garner in the NYTimes, Carol Tavris in the WSJ, and Laura Hudson in the LATimes.

- Charlie Lovett's First Impressions; review by B.L. Clark at The Exile Bibliophile.

- Lucy Worsley's The Art of the English Murder; review by Sara Paretsky in the NYTimes.

- Laura Auricchio's The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered; review by Jonathan Yardley in the WaPo.

- Roger Clarke's Ghosts: A Natural History; review by Patrick McGrath in the NYTimes.

- Peter Wright's The Copyright Wars; review by Louis Menand in The New Yorker.

- Mark Hallett's Reynolds: Portraiture in Action; review by Norma Clarke in the TLS.

- Andrew McConnell Stott's The Poet and the Vampyre; review by Maxwell Carter in the NYTimes.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Links & Reviews

- Erik Kwakkel and Giulio Menna have launched a new website, Quill: Books Before Print.

- Philip Palmer writes on the Clark Library blog (The Clog) about manuscript captions added to early woodcuts and engravings.

- The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has partially reversed the GSU e-reserves decision handed down in May 2012. Jen Howard has a thorough report in the Chronicle. The appeals court found that the lower court judge had incorrectly weighed the four factors used to gauge fair use and returned the case for further examination. More on this decision from Kevin Smith.

- The Friends of Bangor Public Library have recognized collectibles dealer Paul Zebiak for his role in returning stolen posters and photographs to the library. Insider thief Russell Graves is serving a six-month jail sentence for the thefts.

- A new open-access journal of special collections, The Reading Room, launched this week.

- There's a report in the NYTimes about 14th-century birch-bark documents found in mud near Novgorod. More than a thousand such documents have been uncovered so far.

- A 31-year-old Bethesda, MD woman, Christina Wimmel, pleaded guilty to the theft of rare books worth more than $30,000 from her neighbor, collector-dealer Julia Jordan. Wimmel was sentenced to probation and the payment of restitution.

- The shortlist for this year's National Book Awards were announced this week.

- Curators at the Huntington Library have found amongst their uncataloged books two sections of the Yongle Encyclopedia (~1562), called the largest book ever printed in China.

- Toni Morrison's papers have been acquired by Princeton University.

- Jeff Peachey writes about the new Mark Landis documentary "Art and Craft" from a conservators' perspective.

- In Lapham's Quarterly, Colin Dickey reconsiders Virginia Woolf's novel Orlando.

- For Ada Lovelace Day this week, Sarah Werner highlighted an exercise she's used with her students to find early women printers in the book trade records. Joe Adelman posed a question about the integration of women printers into the history of early American printing at The Junto.

- The University of South Carolina has acquired the literary archive of Elmore Leonard.

- In the NYRB, Robert A. Schneider, editor of the AHR, replies to Robert Darnton's most recent NYRB essay, and Darnton responds: Overpriced Scholarship: An Exchange.

- Sam Roberts profiles Richard Norton Smith about Smith's new biography of Nelson Rockefeller.

- McSweeney's founder Dave Eggers announced this week that he is transitioning McSweeney's into a non-profit organization.


- Steven Pinker's The Sense of Style; review by Charles McGrath in the NYTimes.

- Cary Elwes' As You Wish; review by Alexandra Mullen in the WSJ.

- Jonathan Darman's Landslide; review by Sean Wilentz in the NYTimes.

- A trio of new books on reading in the digital age; review by Jennifer Howard in the TLS.

- Zephyr Teachout's Corruption in America; review by Thomas Frank in the NYTimes.

- Richard Norton Smith's On His Own Terms; review by Robert K. Landers in the WSJ.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Links & Reviews

- Emory University has acquired an important archive of Flanner O'Connor materials.

- A number of early Buddhist manuscripts, some dating to the sixth century, have reportedly been destroyed in floods in India.

- Sarah Werner writes on the Collation blog about the question of capturing bookseller and librarian notes in catalog records. And Erin Blake notes a new Hamnet URL and some nifty new search filters.

- The Bodleian Library has been successful in its bid to purchase the William Henry Fox Talbot archive of early photographs, as well as the photographer's diaries and letters. A 2017 exhibition is planned.

- The JHU student paper covers the exhibition of the Arthur and Janet Freeman Bibliotheca Fictiva Collection at Peabody Library (through February).

- D.H. Lawrence's manuscript of his short story "Her Turn" has been acquired by Harvard's Houghton Library.

- Manuscript Road Trip visits Virginia this week, and features a few of RBS's teaching manuscripts.

- Speaking of RBS, most scholarship applications are due this week, so don't forget to submit your applications!

- Eric Kwakkel explores the imagery of medieval desktops and highlights book clasps. He's also interviewed for an Independent article about early manuscript doodles.

- Yale conservators are working on the 7,000-item papryus collection, preparing the material for long-term access and use.

- Bob McCamant reported on this year's Oak Knoll Fest for the Fine Press Book Association blog: Day 1, Days 2/3.

- A copy of a 1916 silent film starring William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes has been found in a French film archive.

- A new database of British slave ownership is now available from UCL.

- The Economist has a long article on the future of the book, "From Papyrus to Pixels." Choose the magazine ("scroll") format for minimal obnoxiousness.

- Graham Bowley reports for the NYTimes on antiquities being damaged and/or lost in Iraq and Syria.

- The Paul Revere House has acquired a 1775 letter from Paul to Rachel Revere, previously conserved at NEDCC.

- Katherine Seelye reports for the NYTimes on the new Poe statue in Boston.

- Nine newly-digitized Civil War manuscript collections are now available from the Massachusetts Historical Society.

- Sara Georgini writes for The Junto on some early American diplomatic ciphers.


- Edward Baptist's The Half Has Never Been Told; reviews by Eric Foner and Felicia R. Lee in the NYTimes. 

- E.O. Wilson's The Meaning of Human Existence; review by Dwight Garner in the NYTimes.

- Peter Baldwin's The Copyright Wars; review at LISNews.

- Laura Auricchio's The Marquis; review by Frederick Brown in the WSJ.

- Stephen Pinker's The Sense of Style; review by Jacob Silverman in the CSM.

- Robin Varnum's Álvar Núnez Cabeza de Vaca: American Trailblazer; review by Marie Arana in the WaPo.

- James McPherson's Embattled Rebel; review by Ryan Cole in the WSJ.

- Italo Calvino's The Complete Cosmicomics; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

- Colm Toíbín's Nora Webster; review by Darin Strauss in the LATimes.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Links & Reviews

- The DPLA has received a $999,485 grant from the IMLS to fund an expansion of the DPLA's service hubs network.

- Mozart's manuscript score of his Piano Sonata in A has been found at the National Szechenyi Library in Budapest.

- Martha Carlin writes in the TLS about a ~1643 manuscript description of Southwark which mentions Shakespeare and his contemporaries having carved their names into the panelled walls of the Tabard Inn.

- The Telegraph reports on the restoration of Mrs. Gaskell's house and gardens.

- Over at Aeon, David Armitage and Jo Guldi ask "how did history abdicate its role of inspiring the longer view?"

- A new exhibition has launched at Harvard's Houghton Library, "InsideOUT: Contemporary Bindings of Private Press Books."

- From Amanda French, "On some books in Edna St. Vincent Millay's library."

- Historian James McPherson talks books for the NYT's "By the Books" feature.

- The winners of the 2014 National Collegiate Book-Collecting Contest have been announced.

- An IMLS grant will fund the digitization of nearly 200 rare volumes from the Clark Art Institute's Julius S. Held Collection of Rare Books.

- Steve Moyer has a piece in the current issue of Humanities about artist John Gould and Ralph Nicholson Ellis, Jr., whose efforts to collect Gould's works nearly bankrupted him.

- The Boston Globe highlights the coming installation of a Poe statue in Boston, and BU professor Paul Lewis' long push to get the city to recognize Poe as a native son.

- Speaking of Poe, Susan Jaffe Tane spoke to FB&C about her collection of Poe, some of which is currently on display at the Grolier Club.

- A collection of Ray Bradbury's books, art, ephemera, &c. made $493,408 at auction last week.

- Arion Press, for their one-hundredth publication, will produce a new fine-press edition of Whitman's Leaves of Grass.

- News in June, but new to me: Bowdoin College has acquired a 328-volume collection of Sarah Wyman Whitman bindings, donated by collector Jean Paul Michaud.

- The NYT Arts Beat blog reported that some reviewers received copies of an ARC of Anthony Horowitz's new book Moriarty containing authorial back-and-forth with copy editors.

- The Royal College of Physicians will host a 2016 exhibition titled "Scholar, courtier, magician: the lost library of John Dee."

- Hannah Bailey guest-posts at The Junto about the importance of French archives for early American historians.

- Three 17th-century Japanese scrolls are now available digitally through the Princeton University Digital Library.

- First Folio thief Raymond Scott is back in the news after the prison where he committed suicide has come under scrutiny for not providing better mental health care. More coverage from the BBC and ChronicleLive.

- Also at The Junto, Sara Georgini provides an inside look at the process that goes into creating the Adams Papers editorial project volumes.

- From Jim Ambuske at the Scholars' Lab blog, "Visualizing Early America through MapScholar and Beyond."

- Author James Patterson plans to donate £130,000 to more than 70 independent bookshops across the UK. The funds will be used to promote programs designed to "inspire children to become lifelong readers."

- From Rare Books Digest, "Rare, Signed and Forged," in which the author lays out some suggested criteria for buying (or selling) signed books.


- Michael Farquhar's Secret Lives of the Tsars; review by Hank Cox in the WaPo.

- Ellen T. Harris' George Friedrich Handel: A Life with Friends; review by Weston Williams in the CSM.

- S.C. Gwynne's Rebel Yell; review by Allen Guelzo in the WSJ.

- Robert Darnton's Censors at Work; review by Felipe Fernández-Armesto in the WSJ.

Book Review: "The Forgers"

Bradford Morrow's The Forgers (forthcoming from Mysterious Press) was a must-read for me, given my particular interests in both bibliomysteries and literary forgery. Plus, it got blurbed by both Joyce Carol Oates and Nick Basbanes, and that can't possibly be a very common combination.

Morrow's time as a book dealer and collector serves him well here; it always helps, when writing about the rare book trade, to know what you're talking about, and by and large Morrow ably captures the atmospherics of the trade ... including some of its darker aspects.

"They never found his hands." With that first line Morrow draws the reader into a tale of brutal murder, blackmail, forgery, and psychological terror, about which I'll spoil no more than that. This suspenseful tale, told by the classic unreliable narrator, makes for a thoroughly enjoyable and pleasantly creepy read.

It's not a perfect book: some early foreshadowing sort of gives the game away, a few of the characters don't feel quite fleshed out, and there are a few slow spots pacing-wise. But no matter - it's quite a good book and I'll recommend it without reservation.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Links & Reviews

- A 28-year-old Bangor, Maine man, Russell Graves, has been sentenced to two years in prison (with all but six months suspended) for the theft of 75 Civil War cartes de visite and 50 WWI and WWII posters from the Bangor Public Library, where he had been working as a janitor. Graves was caught when he tried to sell some of the stolen material to Maritime International, a Bangor collectibles shop.

- Rebecca Rego Barry talked to Alix Christie about her new novel Gutenberg's Apprentice (a copy of which recently arrived here; I'm looking forward to reading it soon).

- Book Patrol reports on a now-abandoned plan by ILAB to develop a partnership with AbeBooks to promote the listings of ILAB dealers.

- There's an interesting piece in Wired about multispectral imagery and its use on Yale's 1491 Martellus map.

- Christian Dupont has officially taken up the reins as John J. Burns Librarian and associate university librarian for special collections at Boston College.

- Art and document forger Mark Landis is the subject of a new documentary which recently opened in New York, "Art and Craft." More from The Art Newspaper.

- The Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress recently acquired two manuscript diaries of Mathew Carey, covering portions of 1821–1825. Julie Miller highlights the acquisition.

- Jane Austen's House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire, will exhibit one of the manuscript booklets for Austen's unfinished novel "The Watsons" through December.

- At Antipodean Footnotes, a look at the University of Melbourne's copy of William Cowper's The anatomy of humane bodies (1698), which contains many manuscript notes by an English apothecary.


- Charles N. Edel's Nation Builder: John Quincy Adams and the Grand Strategy of the Republic; review by Donald Breed in the Providence Journal.

- Justin Martin's Rebel Souls; review by Dennis Drabelle in the WaPo.

- Nick Bunker's An Empire on the Edge; review by Brendan Simms in the WSJ.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Links & Reviews

- Some pretty big news reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer: some 10,000 Maurice Sendak items long housed at the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia will return to the Sendak estate, since the author chose not to leave the material to the library in his will. A museum and study center at Sendak's home in Ridgefield, CT is planned. The Rosenbach will receive Sendak's collection of rare books and correspondence, as well as a $2 million bequest.

- There's a piece in the Harvard Gazette about the early Audubon drawings at Harvard.

- The Cambridge University Library has succeeded in raising £1.1 million to secure the Codex Zacynthius, thanks to a £500,000 grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

- New from Ikea, "BookBook."

- A foundation run by Warren Buffett's son Howard has purchased an archive of Rosa Parks-related items, including artifacts, photographs, and more. The material will be on a ten-year loan to the Library of Congress.

- The Church History Library in Salt Lake City is displaying early Mormon documents and books publicly for the first time.

- BYU Libraries have put out a pretty amusing video about book preservation (runs about eight minutes).

- Paul Collins talked to the LA Review of Books about his new book Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Life.

- Also from Paul Collins, "How to Pitch a Magazine (in 1888)" in The New Yorker.

- Christopher de Hamel is the new Senior Vice-President at Les Enluminures.

- Turkish filmmaker Oguz Uygur has created a lovely short film about paper marbling.

- Rizzoli Bookstore will reopen next year at 1133 Broadway, near Madison Square Park.

- The Summer 2014 issue of Common-place is out, and as usual it's full of goodies, including Erik Beck's "Finding a Lost Election" and a roundtable discussion on Sacvan Bercovitch's The American Jeremiad.

- Yale's Beinecke Library has acquired the papers of author/illustrator Mo Willems.

- There's an IndieGoGo campaign to install a climate control system at historic home of Edna St. Vincent Milay, to preserve the poet's personal library.

- Over at The American Literary Blog, a

- J.S. Makkos writes for The Atlantic about rescuing some 30,000 old New Orleans newspapers.

- Meredith Mann surveys printers' marks in the NYPL Rare Books Division.

- Alan Jacobs writes about David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks over at The New Atlantis.

- Also from Alan Jacobs, a short piece on the very obnoxious for their massively annoying "Tweet your question to an expert" thing.

- Simon Beattie posted on the ABAA blog this week, "In Search of 'Rare Books.'"

- The University of Michigan has acquired the archive of political activist Tom Hayden.

- There's a new short video up about Boston's Brattle Book Shop.

- There's a crowd-funding campaign afoot raise £520,000 for the purchase of William Blake's cottage on the Sussex coast.

- A book bound by the Restoration binder known as the "Naval Binder" has been found at Houghton Library.

- From Adam Hooks at Anchora, "Monumental Shakespeare."

- Over at This is Money, Brian Lake of Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers (and president of the ABA) discusses Dickens collecting and its ongoing appeal.

- There's a quick rundown of the Miniature Book Society's Boston conclave at the Oak Knoll Biblio-Blog.

- And speaking of miniature books, a Conan Doyle story written for Queen Mary's dolls' house is to be published this fall by Walker & Company.

- Over at The Collation, some tips from Erin Blake on how to get and use raw data from the Folger's OPAC.

- Caroline O'Donovan writes for The Baffler about Boston's designation of a Literary Cultural District.

- Now available from the BSA via Bibsite, "British Book Auction Catalogues, 1801–1900," by Lenore Corel and edited by Annette Fern.

- A large collection of books on the Jewish Enlightenment, or Haskalah, has been donated to the Cornell University Library by alumnus Steven Chernys.

- Also now available for purchase is Ann Jordan's Laeuchli's A Bibliographical Catalog of William Blackstone (William S. Hein & Co., Inc., $149).

- A piece I wrote for the most recent FB&C about book thefts is up on their website.

- The Free Library of Philadelphia has received a grant of $25 million over three years from the William Penn Foundation to pay for renovation of the Central Library and several branch libraries.

- Doris Lessing has left 3,000 books from her collection to the Harare City Library.

- Iain Watts posts on the Royal Society's The Repository blog about the diary of Sir Charles Blagden, which sounds like a remarkably interesting source (alas, Blagden had execrable handwriting) for British science from the 1780s through the 1820s. Watts calls for an online annotated transcription of the diary, which motion I'll very happily second.

- Australian businessman and art collector Kerry Stokes has been announced as the buyer of the Rothschild Prayerbook. Reports here and here (with video), via Antipodean Footnotes.

- The SEA has updated the list of current and forthcoming books on early American topics.

- A book at Juniata College purportedly bound in human skin has been demystified: it's bound in sheepskin.

- The longlist for the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize has been announced.

- From Jamelle Bouie at Slate, "A Few Helpful Rules for Reviewing Books About Slavery."


- Philip Gould's Writing the Rebellion; review by Edward M. Griffin at Common-place.

- Diane Ackerman's The Human Age; review by Rob Nixon in the NYTimes.

- Norman Thomas di Giovanni's Georgie & Elsa; review by Lorna Scott Fox in the TLS.

- Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist; review by Wendy Smith in the WaPo.

- David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks; review by Miriam Barnum in the Harvard Crimson.

- Joanna Scott's De Potter's Grand Tour; review by John Vernon in the NYTimes.

- Edward Baptist's The Half Has Never Been Told; reviews by Hector Tobar in the LATimes and Jonathan Wilson at The Junto.

- Jeff VanderMeer's Acceptance; review by Scott Hutchins in the NYTimes.