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.