We are readying for the new year with a toast to the top ten blog posts of 2014. A few are no-brainers. When two booksellers announced that they had found Shakespeare's own dictionary this past April, it was bound to catch our attention (and yours). Sylvia Plath is a favorite, so her place on this list is also unsurprising, and the Voynich manuscript is a modern mystery that has perennial appeal. But what else was popular among our readers over the past year? Take a look:

220px-Holmes_by_Paget.jpg#1 Supreme Court Refuses Appeal, 50 Sherlock Holmes Works Officially in the Public Domain. Great news for Sherlock fans this year: The U.S. Supreme Court left intact a ruling that 50 Sherlock Holmes stories published before 1923 are no longer protected by copyright.

#2 Sylvia Plath's Unabridged Journals & Enduring Influence. More than 50 years after her death, Plath's influence continues to reverberate throughout the literary community.

#3 Shakespeare's Dictionary Found?! Two NY rare booksellers believe that they have purchased--on Ebay, no less--an annotated dictionary that belonged to the William Shakespeare. The evidence is compelling.

#4 Nick Basbanes' Library of Inscribed First Editions for Sale. What would you give to own a copy of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose inscribed to the man who brought book collecting into the mainstream? Author of A Gentle Madness (and our featured columnist) Nick Basbanes amassed a collection of 600 inscribed first editions.

#5 Literary Anniversaries 2014. Publication dates, writers' births & deaths: Who doesn't like to ponder a list of all the important anniversaries in a given year?

#6 Guest Post: My Week at Bookseller Hogwarts. Bookseller Megan Bell of Underground Books tells us about her experience at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar.

#7 Biblio-Mysteries: The Forgers & First Impressions. The rare book trade is a dark underworld, peopled with deceptive booksellers, maniacal collectors, and greedy forgers--or so two new novels would have us believe.

#8 Possible Mexican Origin for the Voynich Manuscript. In a paper published with the American Botanical Council, two scientists have proposed a new theory: perhaps the Voynich Manuscript originated in Mexico.

#9 Guest Post: Collecting the Legacy Press. Bookseller Gabe Konrád of Bay Leaf Used & Rare Books interviews Cathleen A. Baker, the founder and driving force behind The Legacy Press.

#10 Rothschild Prayerbook Set to Break Record. A preview of the prayerbook that went on to earn $13.6 million at auction on January 29, 2014.  

For more of our top stories from the recent past, check out 2013's top ten & 2012's top ten.

A Home and the World

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The Home and the World: A View of Calcutta, photographs by Laura McPhee; Yale University Press, $50.00, 160 pages, 92 color illustrations. (Published November 2014) 


'Tis the season to be surrounded by family, so it seems fitting to share a particularly stunning photography book of Calcutta living spaces and their residents. Large-scale photographer (and Mass College of Art and Design professor) Laura McPhee set her lens on the vibrant, cosmopolitan capital city of West Bengal now known as Kolkata. For the better part of a decade McPhee has been traveling to the region, documenting the richly textured culture and history that seeps through the walls, courtyards, libraries and dining rooms of this megacity.  

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Dancing girls etched in the windows of the library, Pal House, North Kolkata, 2001. Reproduced with permission from Yale University Press. 

Once the capital of the India, "The City of Palaces" is a also city of contrasts - from the small, wealthy heart of the city nicknamed "White Town," to the sprawling slums that give Calcutta another, less glamorous title, "The City of Dreadful Night." Novelist Amitav Ghosh's insightful forward examines the dichotomy that has historically identified the city.  Art historian Romita Ray further discusses the vibrant Calcutta neighborhoods as well as how McPhee's unique photographing technique explores the diverse neighborhoods of a city both steeped in history yet racing towards the future.  It's worth nothing that McPhee's camera is not equipped with modern bells and whistles; rather, a mahogany 1950s collapsible Deardorff, complete with hood and tripod, captured the images reproduced in this book.  McPhee's photographs are fascinating portraits of a former colonial city as well as the 4.5 million people who call this place home. 


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A nanny with her two charges, Jodhpur Park, South Kolkata, 1998. Reproduced with permission from Yale University Press
Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Eric Johnson, Curator of Early Printed Books at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio:

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How did you get started in rare books?

I suppose my first start was as a graduate student at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York (UK) when, in a codicology class session, the instructor dropped a mid-fifteenth century Book of Hours on the table in front of me and told me to "have at it." While pursuing my Ph.D. research I spent quite a bit of time reading fifteenth- and sixteenth-century printings of medieval theological and pastoral works, as well as the odd manuscript, at the British Library, York Minster Library and various other places. My real professional start in the rare books world, however, came about four months after defending my dissertation when I landed a job as a curatorial assistant at the Cotsen Children's Library, a division of the Rare Books and Special Collections Department at Princeton University. This is where the rare book world really opened up for me. The Cotsen Library exposed me to materials from all over the planet produced throughout history, from ancient Babylon to late-twentieth century picture books and everything in between. My boss there, Andrea Immel, was incredibly helpful and encouraging, and before I knew it, I was fully immersed in rare book and manuscript librarianship.
 
Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?

I earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. at the University of York's (UK) Centre for Medieval Studies, and I earned my MLIS from Rutgers University.
 
What is your role at your institution?

I'm an Associate Professor and the Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts at The Ohio State University. In addition to fulfilling traditional curatorial duties such as collection development and management, donor relations, public and K-12 outreach, and reference work, I also teach widely across the University's curriculum, including medieval manuscript studies and book history courses, and sessional instruction in courses across the disciplines, from math history to the Bible in English, Gothic Paris, and the history of witchcraft in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (to name only a few).
 
Favorite rare book that you've handled?

This is a tough question... Probably my single favorite piece at Ohio State is a late-fourteenth century manuscript copy of William of Pagula's Oculus sacerdotis, a pastoral handbook for priests and confessors. Not only is it an amazing text, but its physical qualities--from its highly imperfect, scarred parchment to the earlier manuscript fragments recycled as flyleaves at the front and rear of the codex--speak eloquently to the importance of a book's unique physical characteristics to a full understanding of the wider historical, intellectual, and socio-cultural contexts in which the text operated. Outside of Ohio State, I'd have to say my current favorite piece is a fantastic artist's proof edition of L'Alsace heureuse by Jean-Jacques Waltz (better known as Oncle Hansi) at the Cotsen Library. It offers a compelling look into the mind of a vitriolic pro-French Alsatian propagandist and the way that military, cultural, and political propaganda were packaged for children during World War I.
 
What do you personally collect?

I've collected things off and on most of my life, from comic books to small-press science fiction titles. I don't think I really collect anything systematically anymore, though I suppose my ever-growing collection of secondary source material on medieval manuscript culture, book history, and bibliography counts as an active collection.
 
What do you like to do outside of work?

Reading is a big leisure activity for me (and probably a clichéd answer, too!). Outside of the broader world of books, however, I like to be physically active. Hiking is a big favorite of mine, though a long walk around town works in a pinch. Much of my time outside of work is spent figuring out how not to spend that time thinking about work. Exercise helps me with this (although it has the added benefit of inspiring the odd Eureka moment for ongoing research projects).
 
What excites you about rare book librarianship?

Opportunities. The opportunity to learn ceaselessly and continuously. The opportunity to share the unique pedagogical value of rare books and manuscripts with students of all types, whether third-graders, undergraduates, Ph.D. candidates, or Elder Hostel groups. The opportunity to build upon the collecting efforts of previous curators to create meaningful collections that will continue to speak intelligently and compellingly for generations to come. The opportunity to handle and examine books and manuscripts that I otherwise could only dream of working with. And finally, I suppose, the opportunity to help researchers make sense of the past, uncover new texts and readings, and discover new ways that the authors, book producers, and readers of the past can continue to speak to us in the present.
 
Thoughts on the future of special collections / rare book librarianship?

I believe the future of special collections librarianship depends on how we go about growing our user-base. It's not enough simply to care for books and make them available to students and researchers who might happen to walk into your office or reading room. Those of us in the profession need to be active ambassadors for our collections--and not just to the university students and faculty with whom we normally work. I'm a big advocate of cultivating new users while they're young, and you'll often find me teaching K-12 groups, as well as undergraduates and graduate students, either at our library or in their own classrooms with rare materials from our collections. Getting children, teenagers, university students, and their teachers and professors thinking about the ways that a book's physical instantiations directly influence our understanding of how it was produced, marketed, distributed, and read is essential to our profession's future. Think, for instance, of the different meanings imparted by a single Dickens novel in serial, single-volume, pirated, illustrated, folio, quarto, octavo, or cheap or deluxe-bound editions or formats. Each tells its own unique story about the possible ways it was valued, used, interpreted, and received by the culture that produced and consumed it. Attention to details like this compellingly demonstrate to students that books are more than just the printed or written letter forms and texts they contain and that physical form and written text work hand-in-hand to impart meaning. One of my favorite quotes about pedagogy sums things up nicely, I think: "Teaching therefore presupposes that the hearer is sought out where he is to be found" (Josef Pieper, Guide to Thomas Aquinas. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991, p. 32). We (curators and the materials in our care) need to be everywhere we can possibly be so we can reach as many minds as possible. Whether cultivated through carefully crafted hands-on instructional sessions, in-depth research advising and mentoring, diverse suites of educational public outreach, or well-designed interactive digital tools, by affording students an opportunity to have deep, consequential interactions with rare books and manuscripts (rather than just supplying them with the odd "jewels of the collection" class session), our profession can go a long way toward securing its future.
 
Any unusual or interesting collection at your library you'd like to draw our attention to?

Like any large rare books collection, we're blessed with many different assortments of materials that are particularly interesting or unusual. One of my favorite sub-collections is the Dr. Ivan Gilbert Trade Catalogue and Ephemera Collection, an assembly of approximately 10,000 items that provide a fascinating look into the birth and growth of American consumer culture from the 1830s to the 1970s. We also have an interesting collection of scales, including medieval examples of weights and measures and even a large scale used to weigh jockeys before their horse races. I'm also a big fan of our growing collection of artifacts that help provide valuable context to our medieval manuscript collection, including a pair of fourteenth-century parchment-making tools carved out of bone, a late-medieval friar's leather Bible bag, a thirteenth-century stylus used for writing on wax tablets, a fourteenth-century English seal matrix, and nineteenth-century examples of blades and scrapers used to prepare animal skins for writing. There is, of course, so much more I could describe...


Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

We have a couple of interesting exhibitions that cover an array of topics coming up in the next couple years. In 2015 we'll be mounting a major show featuring the manuscripts, photography, and archival materials of noted American author, William T. Vollmann (whose literary archive we hold), and in 2016 we'll be curating exhibitions celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of our William Charvat Collection of American Fiction and focusing on our substantial Highlights for Children archive. Further afield is our upcoming fall 2017 exhibition commemorating the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 3.43.54 PM.pngLast week the California-based auction house Profiles in History sold this yellow walnut desk along with significant documentation relating its provenance as "Abe Lincoln's Old Desk." Fetching $144,000 (premium included), this desk was used by the sixteenth president during his last four years as a member of the House of Representatives for the State of Illinois, where he served four successive terms between 1834-1842. The auctioneer stated in the catalogue description: "To the best of our knowledge, this is the only known Abraham Lincoln desk in private hands." Whether that still remains true, i.e. who was the highest bidder, is not yet known. But this does appear to be the very same desk offered by Nate D. Sanders, another California auction house, back in 2013.

Image via Profiles in History.

Requiem for the Bibliophile

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"Lament" reproduced with permission from Nancy Gifford


If Jorge Luis Borges thought paradise would be a library, then he might find the gates of hell in an exhibit mourning the death of libraries and printed materials. Requiem for the Bibliophile opened in September at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santa Barbara, where seven artists explore how the historical role of libraries is evolving to meet the needs of 21st century patrons. Each of the installations examine the power of the printed word and the emptiness that prevails when physical books are reduced to pixels. 

Artist Emily Jacir's installation of photographic prints documents the 30,000 books that were looted from Palestinian homes by Israeli forces in 1948, and asks what happens when a community is denied access to their literary history. There's also an installation called "Empty Bookshelf VII" by Jorge Méndez Blake, which looks like a newly assembled project from Ikea - functional, but without books, purposeless. 

By far, the standout piece is a ten foot high, thirty-two-foot-long collage called "Lament." Artist Nancy Gifford has been incorporating 'altered' books into her work for the past decade, scouring used book stores throughout the country and abroad for raw material. She gathered over 2,000 antique books for this installation - most in poor condition. "Book covers were once a form of artwork on their own, and "Lament" was an opportunity to breathe new life into a forgotten art, and to take these books off the shelf and expose them to a new audience," explained Gifford to me recently. 

She then adjusted the books and covers further, ripping innards from their hardcovers, painting out spines and leaving only words Gifford felt were charged with meaning. "When I was invited to participate in this project, I wanted to explore what books represent," she said. Layering books one on top of another, they morph into a literary crypt. 

"Lament" was constructed over the course of one year - a time-lapse video Gifford created (seen here) shows the painstaking work and effort this piece required. The books are affixed with screws to eight archival birch panels. Each panel is 10 feet high and 4 feet wide, with seams were designed to camouflage that the work is modular. "The center of the piece exposes the covers' insides, representing the heart of the piece, and the black exterior is the "requiem," or death shroud," Gifford explained. 

Books have always been a positive part of Gifford's life. She remembers fondly the monthly bookmobile visits to her Midwestern hometown. "I cherished those humble experiences, and they planted the seed of fascination for holding a stamped leather binding. As I watch books lose their place in the world, my work with books has changed to reflect that, becoming less deferential and more destructive." In their battered, water-damaged, defaced states, Gifford's books still have valuable stories to tell. 

While Gifford mourns books that have gone from repositories of knowledge to ornamentation for interior decorators, it's not all gloom and doom. The artist created a fifteen-minute film entitled "Hope," which sees our increasing desire for reading material as a positive outcome, even if we're doing more of our reading on screens.  

Requiem for the Bibliophile runs through January 14, 2015 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santa Barbara. http://www.mcasantabarbara.org/exhibitions/requiem-bibliophile 


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"Lament" reproduced with permission from Nancy Gifford
Hoping to capture some of the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, that book's UK publisher, William Heinemann, has purchased a cache of erotic French love letters from the 1920s. The passionate love letters, written by a wealthy French woman to her younger, married lover were discovered by French ambassador Jean-Yves Berthault while helping a friend clean out an old apartment. The letters were hidden in a leather pouch beneath several jars.

Penned by one "Mademoiselle Simone" to an unidentified man named "Charles," the letters depict increasing erotic obsession in explicit detail.

"We have no way of knowing who Simone or Charles were, or what became of them, only that their affair ended in heartbreak," said Selina Walker of William Heinemann in an interview with The Guardian

"This is a time capsule of a book, a truly extraordinary testament to a period of time and a relationship that was as physical as it was passionate. And the fact that it was such a deeply buried secret for all these years makes it particularly special."

Foreign rights to the manuscript have been sold in several countries already and the book will be published in the US by Spiegel & Grau, a Random House imprint.
Brown Brothers, the first stock photo agency, was founded in New York City in 1904 by Arthur and Charles Brown. Utilized by major newspapers and presidents, Brown Brothers photographers snapped everything from Titanic survivors to Lyndon Baines Johnson. Now an archive of one million Brown Brothers photographs and negatives are for sale, with offers starting at $5 million. Historic documents collector and dealer Eric Caren, whose "How History Unfolds on Paper" collection was profiled in our Fall 2011 issue, is brokering the sale.

img093--BB--01903--72J--Houdini in chains--W.jpgHoudini in Chains, photographed by Brown Brothers. Courtesy of The Caren Archive.

The archive comprises 7,000 boxes, and the images it contains can be haunting: Ellis Island immigrants, charred bodies from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the Hindenburg disaster, and flag-draped caskets from World War II. There are also the more glamorous shots depicting the likes of Mark Twain, Harry Houdini, and Babe Ruth. It is estimated that 30 percent of the archive focuses on New York City. In fact, one of Caren's favorites is "one circa 1910 showing a bunch of eccentric NY Baseball Giants fans perched in a tree watching the game at The Polo Grounds in NYC."  

Caren, who previously handled the sale of the San Francisco Examiner press photos years ago, found this archive so exciting because they aren't wire photos, of which multiples can be found in the marketplace. He said, "This is likely 'The Last of the Mohicans' for massive and unique photography archives." Or, as the Brown Brothers company history put it, "We have photographs no one else has because we had photographers no one else had...No one--absolutely no one else in the world--has these photographs."

Someone will, soon enough. Prospective buyers can view the archive by appointment, and Caren reports "strong" interest from major institutions, picture agencies, collectors, and dealers. The Associated Press revealed that those institutions included "Columbia and Yale universities, California's Huntington Library, and the New York Public Library." The bidding will end on January 14, 2015.

The Caren Archive is also separately offering, for an undisclosed sum, an en bloc collection of 200,000+ printed, manuscript, and photographic originals dating back to the 1500s.
Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Sophie Ridley of Shropshire, collector of books on crafts and school education.

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Where are you from / where do you live? 

I'm a country girl through and through having been brought up in rural north Shropshire, close to the Welsh border.

What do you study at University? What do you do now for an occupation?

I studied Archaeology and Anthropology at Oxford University. Having graduated over the summer I am now aiming at a career in museums. To this end, I am building up as much voluntary curatorial experience as possible at local museums.

Please introduce us to your book collection.  What areas do you collect in? 

My collection covers the topic of crafts and their introduction to school education from the 1870s to the 1930s. It traces the transitional period from the highly restrictive education system of 'the three Rs' to one which recognised that a more varied education with practical elements was highly beneficial to children's learning. As such, I have books that were produced as educational treatises, those that aim to inspire and inform teachers, and others that were to be used by children themselves. I am also beginning to include recent books which trace the increasing resurgence of such themes in today's schools. These form their own contextualising section in the broad collection.

How many books are in your collection?

At present my collection stands at 32, but of course there are a number I am ever on the lookout for.

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

I hardly know, as I never set out to collect. Rather, the early development of my collection came about during my A-levels where in free periods I would head into town to my local British Red Cross charity shop. They have an interesting selection of older books that are restocked on a rolling basis. I would buy books on any topic that caught my fancy and from this the theme of crafts emerged. It was the chance find of a copy of the first three volumes in Holman's series of 6 volumes 'The Book of School Handwork' that introduced the educational element and really added direction to the crafts theme which came to dominate and ultimately form my collection.

How about the most recent book?

I have just got round to treating myself with my winnings from the Colin Franklin Book Collecting Prize. The book is a first edition of William Morris' 'The Decorative Arts, Their Relation to Modern Life and Progress: An Address Delivered before the Trades' Guild of Learning'. Morris was such an influential figure, both in promoting the value of craftsmanship and also with his socialist views that work should be satisfying. As such this book is highly pertinent to my collection. There is a further significance in that I spent three months this summer doing research work at Kelmscott Manor, his summer home. I am very glad to finally be able to nestle Morris' influential text amongst my other books.

And your favorite book in your collection?

As is perhaps common, I have no single favourite. Indeed, the book I would like to highlight here is far less directly relevant to the theme of my collection than many of the others. Kenneth Grahame's 'The Golden Age' captures a broad change in public attitude towards children, embracing their imaginative creativity. My copy, a first edition published in 1895, came at the cusp of the changes in education that my collection traces. The elevated value of crafts and social reform that Morris and his contemporaries set in motion at last began to seep into school education. Teachers began to recognise the benefit of practical 'handwork' even in subjects like history, geography and mathematics.

Best bargain you've found?

I like to think that all of my books have been relative bargains. The topic area is not one that is commonly collected and most of my finds have been from the fringe stalls at antiques fairs, from charity shops and on occasion even a car-boot sale.

How about The One that Got Away?

To my shame, this missed opportunity was entirely my own doing. At a local antiques fair I came across a lovely copy of Tom Stephenson's 'The Countryside Companion' which has a good section on rural crafts. Despite the very reasonable price of £2 I walked away, convinced it was one in a bundle that I was awaiting delivery of. Unfortunately I was mistaken and I haven't come across it since, but will certainly snap it up when I do.

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

This would have to be a copy of Edward Combes' 'On the Value of Technical Training, and the Teaching of Drawing and Handwork in Public Schools'. Published in 1889 as a paper in the September edition of the Journal of the Franklin Institute, it is not something that I have found to be readily available, even on the internet. This early work is heavily referenced in a number of texts already in my collection and I would dearly love to see what Combes says for himself, never mind find a copy for myself.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

As mentioned above, my collection was never set out to be such, and the topic area is quite an overlooked one. Therefore, I have no particular go-to bookshop or seller. Rather, I will still return to the Oswestry British Red Cross shop to browse and for the most part allow my collection to grow slowly through chance finds in unexpected places. It certainly makes each addition more exciting than if I have trawled for it on the internet, although on occasion this has proved necessary.

What would you collect if you didn't collect books?

If I didn't collect books I would collect items made from bone. Whilst on an archaeological excavation I had the chance to make some replica artefacts out of bone. I developed a love for the material. This led me to choose Anglo-Saxon bone combs as the subject for my dissertation. These days, unfortunately, there is a rather negative view of bone objects - a feeling that it is a little macabre as a material. I think that this is a great shame as bone has been used by mankind from the earliest times as a key resource, only overtaken with the rise of plastics. A collection of bone objects would be a reminder of the great history of use, but also would be an array of items pleasing both through the craftsmanship displayed and the inherent material properties.  

Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 2.46.21 PM.pngWe at FB&C are excited to announce the publication of longtime writer, columnist, and blogger Nate Pedersen's new book: The Starry Wisdom Library: A Catalogue of the Greatest Occult Book Auction of All Time (PS Publishing, jacketed hardcover, £20, $31). Instead of stories, this anthology presents a fanciful "facsimile" of an 1877 rare book auction catalogue, listing 44 volumes "to be sold" by Messrs. Pent & Serenade from the collection of the Church of Starry Wisdom in Providence, Rhode Island. Among the offerings: the possibly 16th-century manuscript called "The Daemonolorum," Hieron Algypton, a seven-foot papyrus scroll dating to 200 B.C., and The Black Book of the Skull, printed by none other than Aldus Manutius in 1511.

The book features essays on the history of major occult tomes from the Lovecraft Mythos, written by contemporary horror authors--one of which, Nick Mamatas, we are proud to say is another FB&C contributor. Each essay takes the form of an auction catalogue entry, formatted to the usual cataloging standards by rare book dealer Jonathan Kearns of Adrian Harrington Rare Books in London, followed by a longer narrative on the volume's creation and provenance. The book's graphic design and six large illustrations perfectly evoke the funereal undercurrent of high Victorianism.

Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 3.15.24 PM.pngIn addition to editing all of the essays, Pedersen penned an entry on a volume containing Thaumaturgical Prodigies in the New English Canaan, later re-bound with: The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies. Providence: Bazalgette and Dagg. 1801, enhanced with an obsessed student's marginalia. It is also fun to note that the idea for The Starry Wisdom Library evolved from a 2012 story Pedersen wrote for the FB&C blog about collecting Lovecraft's grimoires--the "fake" books he mentions throughout his fiction.  

Congratulations, Nate!


Images: Cover and interior page, courtesy of Nate Pedersen. 
If anyone really needs an excuse to go to Paris, here's one for you bibliophiles: through January 31, The Bibliothèque Nationale de France is hosting an exhibition showcasing one hundred of its treasures. The world's oldest national library is also one of the largest, with fourteen million items in its repository.  Designating the most exceptional would be Sisyphean. Instead, curator Jean-Marc Chatelain limited his scope to the 11,000 materials that entered the Rare Book Reserve between 1994 to 2014. (In 1995, the BnF opened its massive Mitterrand location in the 13th arrondissement with 248 miles of storage space, giving the acquisitions department room to feather the nest.) 

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Catalog cover for Éloge de la rareté: Cent trésors de la Réserve des livres 

The displays, thirteen sections categorized by theme, are an attempt to help redefine what it means for a book to be considered 'rare' or 'exceptional,'  and so the examples run the gamut, from incunables, children's books, and contemporary artists' books. An 1805 edition of Voltaire's epic poem La Henriade, with engravings by draftsman Jean-Michel Moreau (Le Jeune) shares space with a pamphlet from the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition celebrating the opening of the #8 metro line. It's not all French either; there's a 1992 publication of Conrad's Heart of Darkness with etchings by artist Sean Scully

The Éloge de la rareté is also a bid to educate the general public on the existence of the Reserve, which has, for over two hundred years, maintained and preserved France's rich national patrimony. Vive la bibliothèque.    

Éloge de la rareté: Cent trésors de la Réserve des livres rares runs from November 25, 2014 to January 31 2015 at the François-Mitterrand location. Galerie 2. http://www.bnf.fr/fr/acc/x.accueil.html


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