A recap of day 1: Sarah Thomas, vice president of Harvard Library and Roy E. Larsen librarian for the faculty of arts and sciences, gave the opening keynote address and spoke about providing "maximum access through minimal processing." Alice Schreyer, interim library director and associate university librarian for area studies and special collections at the University of Chicago Library, gave the session 1 keynote, in which she focused on the value of private collectors. FB&C columnist Joel Silver, director and curator of books at Indiana University's Lilly Library, moderated the first discussion on the changing nature of book collecting. A second keynote was given by Jay Satterfield, special collections librarian at Dartmouth College, who used his experience with students to talk about access to collections.
A recap of day 2: Geoffrey Smith, head of the rare books & manuscript library, at Ohio State University, moderated a second panel on private book collecting and donors, in which Sotheby's Selby Kiffer mentioned the rise of "highlight" or "cool stuff" collecting as opposed to the "in-depth" collecting more common in the past. (We particularly appreciate collector Jon Lindseth's admonition to the audience: "You need to subscribe to FB&C.") Stephen Enniss, director of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, gave the third keynote on special collections in the age of digital scholarship. This was followed by a panel and audience discussion on that topic, moderated by Daniel Cohen, associate professor, department of history & art at Case Western Reserve University. Mark Dimunation, chief of the rare book and special collections division at the Library of Congress, seen above, gave the closing keynote, titled "The Once and Future Special Collections." He spoke of reconceptualizing special collections as a "center of knowledge" which requires unlocking the backlog, utilizing crowdsourcing, and "bring[ing] the data forward."
According to Melissa Hubbard, head of special collections & archives at the Kelvin Smith Library, a video recording will be posted to the university's YouTube channel in a couple of weeks.
For those of you who wish to read longer, intelligent analysis of the speeches and panels, I direct you to a series of posts (links below) on the Exlibris electronic mailing list by Terry Belanger, retired founding director and current faculty member of Rare Book School. He writes in his first dispatch, "...the presentations were without exception worth listening to, and conference arrangements were superb."
I was disappointed to read, in report #2, that the "CLIR has decided to discontinue its current hidden collections program, revamping it to focus it on digitization projects. There is a blog on the CLIR thought processes." Especially since, in report #3, Satterfield admits that even at Dartmouth, "we have 100-year backlogs."
I - https://list.indiana.edu/sympa/arc/exlibris-l/2014-10/msg00168.html
II - https://list.indiana.edu/sympa/arc/exlibris-l/2014-10/msg00169.html
III - https://list.indiana.edu/sympa/arc/exlibris-l/2014-10/msg00172.html
IV - https://list.indiana.edu/sympa/arc/exlibris-l/2014-10/msg00185.html
V - https://list.indiana.edu/sympa/arc/exlibris-l/2014-10/msg00187.html
VI - https://list.indiana.edu/sympa/arc/exlibris-l/2014-10/msg00190.html
VII - https://list.indiana.edu/sympa/arc/exlibris-l/2014-10/msg00194.html
VIII - https://list.indiana.edu/sympa/arc/exlibris-l/2014-10/msg00210.html
IX - https://list.indiana.edu/sympa/arc/exlibris-l/2014-10/msg00234.html
Images Courtesy of the Kelvin Smith Library, Case Western Reserve University.
Several of Simon's contemporaries published memoirs of their lives in books, e.g. The Memoirs of a Publisher by F.N. Doubleday (1972), At Random by Bennett Cerf (1977), and at S&S, Turning the Pages by editor Peter Schwed (1984). Alas, Simon's manuscript went unpublished, and had been kept in the family until now. For anyone out there collecting publishers' memoirs, unknown pieces like this are rare.
Listed in the bookseller James Cummins' catalog alongside the typescript was a copy of S&S's first book, The Cross Word Puzzle Book (1924). Under the Plaza Publishing imprint, S&S printed it in a first edition of 3,600 copies, each with an attached pencil. The simple collection of puzzles, bound in blue cloth, had been the idea of Simon's aunt Wixie--and this particular copy in the Cummins catalog was hers, presented and inscribed by the publishers. It has already been sold for $10,000.
Prior to the Puzzle Book's publication, neither Simon nor Schuster had been in the book biz; Simon was selling pianos when he met Schuster, who was editing an automotive trade magazine. But that little collection of crosswords and the ones that quickly followed were huge successes, bringing in $600,000 by year's end. Ninety years later, the company remains among America's "big five" publishing houses.
(Disclosure: I worked at S&S in the late nineties and co-wrote its 75th anniversary book.)
Image: Courtesy of James Cummins Bookseller.
A fit of despair over her troubled marriage to fellow poet Ted Hughes led Sylvia Plath to commit suicide in 1963. In the years that followed, Plath's work would achieve acclaim and accolades, assuring her a place in the pantheon of American poets. Plath's sharp, spare verses are the result of many drafts and revisions. Her journals, on the other hand, were an opportunity for Plath to write freely and unencumbered by critical eyes.
In the summer of 1950, just before matriculating at Smith College, Plath began recording the events of her life in almost obsessive detail, and would ultimately cover topics from her never ending quest for poetic perfection to Hughes' spousal infidelity. Since she died without a will, Plath's literary estate was left in the hands of her estranged husband. Hughes published her journals in 1982, however acknowledged that he had excised unsavory and unflattering entries from the last two notebooks spanning 1959 through 1962.
In 1981, Smith College president Jill Ker Conway facilitated the purchase of the Plath collection, which includes letters, poems, as well as the poet's personal journals. The college's associate curator of special collections, Karen V. Kukil, transcribed twenty-three original manuscripts and published them in 2000, (Anchor Books) unabridged and including more than four hundred previously unpublished pages. (A full review and examination of these journals, written by none other than Joyce Carol Oates, can be found here.)
While there aren't many events or celebrations planned on the eve of what would be Plath's 82nd birthday, her influence continues to reverberate throughout the literary community. Author Meg Wolitzer (The Interestings; Sleepwalking) references Plath frequently in her work. Belzhar (September 2014; Dutton Juvenile) - the title evoking Plath's The Bell Jar, - examines how a young girl grapples with grief by studying Plath's oeuvre and then writing her own journal. Two other recently published young adult books reference Plath as well - see Bookriot's reviews from earlier this month. These novels target the 13-17 female demographic, a group who may in turn be inspired to pick up a volume of the genuine article and see for themselves the introspective, cathartic power of Plath's poetry.
Ted Hughes & Sylvia Plath, Concord, MA, December 1959. Photograph by Marcia Brown Stern
Credit: Sylvia Plath Collection, Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College, © Marcia B. Stern
- Sylvia Plath Reads Her Poetry: 23 Poems from the Last 6 Years of Her Life (openculture.com)
- 3 On A YA Theme: Sylvia Plath (bookriot.com)
The highlights are thrilling: A Walden first edition--"the cleanest copy in existence," says Cramer--plus Thoreau's Aunt Maria's annotated copy of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack, two manuscript leaves from his "Walking" essay, unbound sheets of "Civil Disobedience," two books from Thoreau's personal library, Thoreau family pencils, and unrecorded variant editions. Topping all of those is an extremely rare manuscript leaf from Walden that references Baker Farm (seen below). "That sold it for us," says Cramer. Baker Farm is where the Thoreau Institute is located, so it feels very much "like it's coming back home," he adds.
When Cramer received a notice from Mac Donnell offering the collection, he was immediately very interested. He flew down to Texas to meet the bookseller and survey the collection. Mac Donnell, Cramer says, hoped it would end up in an institution. "It's a wonderful thing for both of us." Mac Donnell agreed, saying that it is "easier to let it go" back to Massachusetts.
Mac Donnell recently decided to sell the collection, much of which was detailed in a 1999 issue of Firsts magazine, in order to concentrate on other projects. He told us, "I'm focusing on Twain, writing scholarly articles for journals, under contract editing a collection of essays on Twain, etc. My Twain collection numbers over 8,000 items but I still find things. I had not added any exciting Thoreau to that collection in years. My wife has moved her antique glass into the bookcases that housed my Thoreau books so she's pleased!"
The Thoreau Institute Library (a.k.a. The Henley Library, named for its founder, singer and songwriter Don Henley) collects, preserves, and provides access to 60,000 Thoreau-related manuscripts, books, maps, correspondence, art, and the Thoreau Society archives. Its location so near Walden Pond and other literary attractions and archives is a boon for both researchers and tourists. Cramer says the collection will be open in about a month. He is still sorting through the boxes and working on a catalog, a webpage, and some limited photography.
Image: A draft manuscript leaf of Thoreau's Walden, in which he writes, "Oh Baker Farm!" Courtesy of the Walden Woods Project.
Some of my favorite examples in the book: the 1894 "Peacock Edition" of Pride and Prejudice, with its lovely gilded cover design by Hugh Thomson; the 1930 World's Classics edition from OUP may be "shocking red," but is quite perfect in its compactness and simplicity; and a 2007 Daily Telegraph edition of Mansfield Park dons an "Edward Gorey-esque cast of black-clad characters, a butterfly with groovy sixties brightness, and snaking roses" by Brett Ryder. The book's author, Margaret C. Sullivan, who has also written The Jane Austen Handbook and edits Austenblog.com, comments on her favorite reprint: a 1960s Gothic Revival design of Northanger Abbey that presents the novel as a Gothic novel, full of terror and menace. She writes, "It's hilariously wrong and I think Jane Austen would have loved it!"
Jane Austen Cover to Cover is obviously a must for Janeites, and it will also be of interest to those interested in book design and popular book history. Although persnickety types might have preferred more in the way of bibliographical descriptions of size, binding material, etc. for each edition in addition the artistic details she offers, beginning and intermediate collectors will value Sullivan's book as a guide to an author so perennially in vogue that tracking her many editions would seem an impossible task.
Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) is being fêted in his homeland and abroad on the eve of what would be his 100th birthday. Thomas' works include 'Do not go gentle into that good night' and 'The hunchback in the park.' The subject of much literary criticism and commentary over the years, he has also been compared to giants like T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden.
Most events will take place at Swansea's Dylan Thomas National Literature Centre. The Centre is housed in the Guildhall, a Victorian-era building extensively refurbished and opened to the public in 1995 by former president Jimmy Carter. The building itself is worth a visit to Swansea and as the city's cultural and literary epicenter, it epitomizes the Welsh phrase Tŷ Llên, "A House of Literature."
Welsh poet and playwright Dylan Thomas, with his wife Caitlin (nee Macnamara) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Activities such as hikes along Thomas' favorite trails, music festivals and exhibitions commence on October 27, the poet's birthday, and run through the date of his death on November 9th.
A two day "Do Not Go Gentle" music and literary festival will take place at the Centre from October 24 through the 26th. The program includes local musical and artistic performances that the promoters believe would have pleased Thomas, who often found inspiration among the people of his beloved city. Thomas loved a good Welsh ale too, and so there will be plenty of local libations available.
The Centre recently opened an exhibit showcasing manuscripts of poems, lists of rhyming words and photographs of Thomas. These items are on loan from SUNY Buffalo Special Collections Library, which is also commemorating Thomas' centennial. The university's Thomas holdings are in good company at SUNY's Poetry Collection, one of world's the largest collections of English language poetry, broadsides and anthologies from the 20th and 21st centuries.
For Thomas fans unable to attend the festivities in Wales, plenty of activities abound in New York City, where the poet conducted reading tours over the last four years of his life. Thomas' last public engagement was on October 29th, when, after conducting a lunchtime reading at City College, New York, he visited the literary hotspot, The White Horse Tavern. Thomas mysteriously collapsed in the Chelsea Hotel a few days later, and died at St. Vincent's Hospital on November 9th. Tourists can visit these and other places associated with the poet by following the self-guided walking tour promoted by The Greenwich Village Walking Tour. A BBC made for TV movie about the poet's life in New York will premiere in America on October 29th. At one hundred, it certainly appears that Thomas' legacy continues to 'rage, rage against the dying of the light.'
- The Royal Mint commemorates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dylan Thomas with Alderney coins (coinweek.com)
- Dylan Thomas: The Hunchback in the Park (bbc.co.uk)
- Roaming and Reading: Dylan Thomas' Wales (mprnews.org)
- Remember, Remember, Dylan on National Poetry Day (swansea-events.co.uk)