September 2019

By now many of you will have heard the exciting news that scholars Jason Scott-Warren and Claire M.S. Bourne have identified John Milton as the annotator of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s copy of the First Folio. Bourne, an assistant professor of English at Pennsylvania State University, recently published an article on the Free Library First Folio’s interesting marginalia, which caught the attention of Scott-Warren, of the Centre for Material Texts at the University of Cambridge, England, who recognized the distinctive handwriting as Milton’s. He announced his discovery in a blog post, and soon several scholars were letting him know, via Twitter, that they agreed with his astonishing assessment.  

“The Free Library’s copy of the First Folio has long been celebrated for its notable marginalia, which include markings that attempt to correct perceived errors in the text, others that highlight key passages, and still others that point out textual variants, as well as sources for some of the passages,” according to a statement posted by the library. “This same marginalia now suggests the volume’s unique provenance.”

If you’d like to get a close-up look at this historic association copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, the Free Library has put it on display through October 19.

Sally Mann’s black and white photographs represent a 40-year quest to document the American South, the people who call it home, and the unending battle between life, death, and decay. Consider, for example, Hephaestus, Mann’s 2008 portrait of her husband, Larry, who suffers from muscular dystrophy. Larry’s exposed torso is partially eaten by the chemical reactions caused by wet-plate collodion photo processing, creating a ghostly, slightly mysterious composition. Most of Mann’s photographs possess that quality--by turns incredibly intimate and uncomfortably disturbing. Now, a Mann retrospective that’s been traveling across the country is coming to the High Museum in Atlanta.

On October 19, Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings, organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, invites visitors to survey over 100 photographs spanning Mann’s 40-year career. The High Museum’s recently appointed photography curator Sarah Kennel organized the show alongside the National Gallery’s Sarah Greenough.

“I’m thrilled to launch my tenure at the High with A Thousand Crossings, an exhibition that is not only dear to my heart, but also makes perfect sense for the museum, which awarded Sally Mann the first ‘Picturing the South’ commission in 1996,” said Kennel, whose previous employer was the Peabody Essex. “Mann’s drive to ask the big questions—about love, death, war, race and the fraught process of growing up—coupled with her ability to coax powerful emotional resonances from the materials of her art make her one of today’s most compelling artists.”

Portraits, Civil War battlefields, and landscapes figure among the photographs on display, recalling by their very arrangement photos hailing from the early 19th century. The resemblance isn’t happenstance; Mann combines antique processes with experimental techniques to achieve these complex pieces. Her kit includes an 8-x-10-inch view camera, high-contrast Ortho film, and the wet plate collodion process. By nature, these are cumbersome and wholly tactile applications. Out of this process come light flares scratches, and other indicia of an artist trying to bend time while also representing a certain idea of the American South as a repository of a collective memory marked by aggression and renewal.

“With this exhibition we continue to recognize of the importance of Mann’s work, which explores themes that will strongly resonate with our regional audience but that also addresses universal human concerns,” said Rand Suffolk, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Greene, Jr., director. “We are delighted to have Sarah on board to lead the project, and we look forward to bringing these powerful photographs to Atlanta.”

 Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings is on view Oct. 19, 2019–Feb. 2, 2020.

 

 

 

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Jennifer Garland, Assistant Head Librarian in the Rare Books and Special Collections library at McGill University in Montreal.

What is your role at your institution?

I am Assistant Head Librarian, Rare Books and Special Collections at McGill University Library in Montreal, Quebec. 

Our collection is based primarily in the humanities and social sciences, with particular strengths in children’s books, the history of the book, Canadiana, the history of ideas, and an important collection in natural history. I am curator of the architecture and art collection, which includes a wonderful selection of Renaissance architectural treatises, a print collection, hundreds of 18th-19th century woodblocks, and an archive of architectural drawings, photographs, and papers related to Canadian architecture. I work with researchers, teach classes, lead tours, prepare exhibitions, contribute to @mcgill_rare on instagram, and share responsibility for the planning and running of the unit.

How did you get started in special collections?

I first set foot in a special collections library around the time that I was deciding if I would pursue a masters in information studies or in art conservation. I went for the MLIS and completed my degree at McGill University. I managed to obtain a part-time student job in rare books and was hooked! After graduation, I worked elsewhere for a few years before returning to McGill for an academic appointment as liaison librarian, finally joining Rare Books and Special Collections in 2012.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you've handled?

I love colour dictionaries. These are books of colour samples, often hand-painted, created to develop a standardized visual language for describing the natural world. Robert Ridgway’s Color Standards and Color Nomenclature (1912) is one example that became a standard reference text for scientists, collectors, and others to assign precise names to their specimens. Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours (1821) is the first colour book I encountered and it will always have a special place in my heart. In this work, each pigment is described in terms of animal, plant, and mineral sources where the colour is found in nature, e.g. verdigris green may be found on the “tail of small long-tailed green parrot” and on “copper green.”

What do you personally collect?

I save the serious book collecting for the professional part of my life, but I do enjoy rummaging at book fairs and second-hand book shops and am slowly building a home collection of art and photography books.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Travel is a favourite extracurricular activity. Recent trips included exploring desert landscapes in US national parks and swimming at beaches along Canada’s east coast.

What excites you about special collections librarianship?

One of the highlights of my job is sharing collections, with an aim to make all visitors feel welcome in our reading room. I will never tire of seeing students’ enthusiasm for exploring/discovering/handling special collections and I love that students show me new and different ways of thinking about our collections. I am excited that there is still so much of the collection I haven't explored yet, and that "spend time in the stacks" is a recurring Friday afternoon appointment in my calendar.

Thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship?

I think special collections librarians will benefit from a continued and increased focus on collaboration with our communities, with colleagues at peer institutions, and at our home institutions. At McGill Library, we’ve brought together four special collections units as “ROAAr”: Rare Books & Special Collections, the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, the Visual Arts Collection, and Archives & Record Management. This cross-unit collaboration strengthens us individually and presents a more unified whole for research, collections activities, and management. ROAAr librarians and archivists also benefit greatly from collaborations with staff from other branches of McGill Library, working together on exhibitions, workshops, and special projects. We’ve also forged new networks through grant-writing, allowing for new research avenues or the bringing together of complementary collections from different institutions in a virtual environment.

Any unusual or interesting collection at your library you'd like to draw our attention to?

My colleagues are working to catalogue and digitize McGill’s collection of manuscripts. A selection of manuscripts written in the Arabic, Persian, Ottoman-Turkish, and Urdu languages is available online. The complete collection of Books of Hours was recently digitized and the team has started work on the medieval music manuscripts, including exemplars with beautiful illumination and calligraphy. One of these, a large 15th-century choirbook, was recently brought to life by a choir of students, librarians, and musicians, who sang from the manuscript at a special event, Saints Alive! 

We will soon launch the McGill Library Book Arts Lab, a pressroom to be used in teaching the history of the book and for outreach activities. At the heart of the pressroom is our magnificent Columbian printing press, recently reassembled after restoration off-site. During the restoration, the press was dated to 1821 by a serial number on one of the machine parts, making it the oldest known surviving press of its kind in North America, designed and manufactured by George Clymer.

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

Our fall exhibition will look back at fifty years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada. We are also working on a series of displays in our reading room to complement the fall 2019 McGill Conversations series - six evenings of conversation with writer and bibliophile, Alberto Manguel, and his guests, on topics ranging from detective fiction to fairy tales. Looking ahead, we will have special programming in place for McGill’s Bicentennial celebrations (2020-21) and two major conferences coming to Montreal in 2021: the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) Annual Conference, which I will co-chair, and the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) Annual International Conference. Follow our exhibitions and events here.

Last week, the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles announced a bold initiative to raise awareness of the world’s cultural heritage through education, research, and conservation. Titled Ancient Worlds Now: A Future for the Past, the $100-million endeavor will be shared among various projects, exhibitions, seminars around the world over the next decade and beyond.

“In an age of resurgent populism, sectarian violence, and climate change, the future of the world’s common heritage is at risk,” commented James Cuno, president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, in a press statement. “Cultural heritage embodies a global community united by a common need to make things of beauty and usefulness, and to compose stories and rituals about humanity’s place in the world. We will launch with urgency and build momentum for years to come. This work must start now, before more cultural heritage is neglected, damaged, or destroyed. Much is at stake.”

Several of the projects planned or already underway involve archaeological sites and monuments. The Getty Research Institute, for its part, will focus on book, art, and archive-related areas, including providing global access to the Florentine Codex, considered the most important manuscript of early colonial Mexico, through translation and creation of an interactive digital platform. Included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, the manuscript “is renowned for its bilingual, encyclopedic presentation of Pre-Hispanic culture and the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, and widely regarded by scholars as the most reliable source of information about Aztec culture.”

The term “banned books” means many different things, depending on where you live. In the U.S., Banned Books Week is an annual event, which celebrates “the freedom to read.” What a beautiful thought. Reading the books you choose should be a right, but it also confers a wonderful freedom, allowing you to travel in your mind to anywhere. This freedom can also allow you to see people who are similar to yourself, especially vital if you come from an underrepresented group of readers.

Within the U.S., more conservative schools and states tend to ban books which challenge the traditional family set up, or which discuss sexuality too openly. These are not the only reasons though. Classics continue to be banned. In 2017, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was still among the top ten most banned books because of its portrayal of violence and use of the ’N word.’  

As the American Libraries Association (ALA) says on its website; “[Banned Books Week] spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. It brings together the entire book community… in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” 

Today, Banned Books Week is celebrated in many countries around the world, including the UK, where there are listings, celebrations, and events. In solidarity with these organizations, and in the spirit of supporting freedom, the books department of Catawiki is holding a special themed Banned Books Auction. Here, they will be offering a variety of books that have suffered burning or banning, as well as a few that probably should have been banned!

Outside the U.S., the concept of ‘banned books’ is very different and books tend to be banned either by governments or by religious bodies. Often the political and religious reasons overlap. Totalitarian states, such as as the Soviet Union, modern China, or Nazi Germany tend to ban more books, and the more orthodox the religion, the more likely it is to have a black list. The best known of these, is the Index Librorum Prohibitorum [Banned Books Index] of the Roman Catholic Church.

Historically, many have died because of the books they owned. Just think of the Catholic and Protestant martyrs who died rather than give up their Latin/vernacular bible. Today, it is still dangerous to own specific books in some countries.

Here are my personal top ten (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) most bizarre reasons for banning a book (in no particular order).

    1    George Orwell - Animal Farm. No surprise that Orwell couldn’t find a publisher for this criticism of Communism in 1943, when Soviet Russia was an important ally in the war. And no surprise that it was banned by Russia. More surprising is that is remains banned in the United Arab Emirates, because it features a talking pig, which is seen as against Islamic values.

    2    Anne Frank - The Diary of a Young Girl. This poignant account of hiding from the Nazis was banned in Lebanon, as it was deemed to portray Jews in too favorable a light. (Lebanon also banned Keneally’s Schindler’s Ark, for the same reason.)

    3    Chaucer - The Canterbury Tales. This wonderful, if slightly ribald, collection of travellers’ tales was banned from the USA mail under the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act of 1873, which banned the sending or receiving of works containing "obscene," "filthy," or "inappropriate" material. The Decameron of Boccaccio also fell foul of this act.

    4    Mary Shelley - Frankenstein was banned in South Africa in 1955 for containing "obscene" or "indecent" material. (No, I cannot think what it is either!)

    5    Aristophanes - Lysistrata. Despite having been written as a comedy in 411 BCE, it found itself being banned by the Greek Government in 1967 because of its anti-war message.

    6    William Pynchon - The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption. This critique of Puritanism, printed in 1650, has the distinction of being the first book banned and burned in America. Although Pynchon was a prominent Massachusetts resident, who had founded Springfield in 1636, he suffered many indignities, and was forced to transfer his property to his son and skulk back to England.

    7    H.G. Wells - The Outline of History. I remember this three-volume set as a fairly innocuous Edwardian history, but it inflamed Nazi Germany, which banned it. Making the point that if you control history you can hope to control the present and future.

    8    Thomas Paine - The Rights of Man. It is not particularly surprising that this radical philosophical work was banned, but the British went the extra mile, charging Paine with treason for supporting the French Revolution. Later, this was also banned in Russia, following the Decemberist Uprising of 1825.

    9    Jackie Collins - The Stud. Banned in Australia in 1969, presumably on moral grounds. This really made it purely because I am amazed that a government would pay so much attention to Jackie Collins.

    10    Harriet Beecher Stowe - Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This has been banned both by the Confederate states for its anti-slavery message and also in Russia under Czar Nicholas for promoting equality and undermining religious ideas.

    11    James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Karl Marx & Charles Darwin. The Roman Catholic Church has long published the Index Librorum Prohibitorum or list of prohibited books. These are books viewed as heretical, or contrary to the morality of the Church. Catholics are forbidden to read these without permission. What is curious about these authors is that, despite the widespread belief that the Index is very wide-ranging, none of them made the list. So good Catholics have always been able to read Marx and Darwin!

--Marc Harrison and his wife Marcia run Harrison-Hiett Rare Books in The Netherlands.

A very busy auction week coming up:

On Tuesday, September 24, Sotheby's London sells Charles Dickens: The Lawrence Drizen Collection. In a prefatory note to the catalogue, Drizen notes that he's been collecting Dickens material for more than 55 years, and has now "reached the age when the works need to be dispersed to other collectors, old and young, who will welcome the opportunity to acquire such fine books. The sale will be a very sad occasion for me." The auction includes more than twenty-five presentation copies, annotated "reading copies" used by Dickens during his performances, and more. Top lots are expected to be a presentation copy of the first book edition of Pickwick Papers, in an elaborate presentation binding and inscribed to Dickens' friend Dr. John Elliotson; and a dedication copy of the first book edition of Bleak House inscribed to Charles Knight (both estimated at £80,000–120,000). A first edition of The Cricket on the Hearth inscribed to the Count d'Orsay could fetch £70,000–90,000. If you're a Dickens fan at all, though, you'll want to spend some serious time looking through this excellent collection.

Chiswick Auctions will sell 300 lots of Books & Works on Paper on Wednesday, September 25. A restored copy of the first printing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone rates the top estimate, at £15,000–20,000. An illustrated 1517 edition of the Venetian Malermi Bible could sell for £8,000–12,000.

Also on Wednesday, Editions and Works on Paper at Forum Auctions, in 466 lots. Forum also sells Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper on Thursday, September 26, in 247 lots. A first edition of James Joyce's Dubliners (1914), inscribed by Joyce to Beatrice Randegger from Trieste in June 1914, is estimated at £100,000–150,000. The auction house has only traced three other inscribed copies at auction over the last seven decades. An early edition of Piranesi's La Antichità Romane rates an estimate of £20,000–30,000. Another first printing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone will be on the blocks here, estimated at £20,000–30,000.

PBA Galleries sells 213 lots of Rare Golf Books, Art, and Memorabilia on Thursday, in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Golf Heritage Society at Independence, Ohio. A presentation copy of John Smart's 1893 collection of etchings of Scottish golf courses, A Round of the Links, could sell for $15,000–25,000. Estimated at $8,000–12,000 are a first edition of Robert Forgan's The Golfer's Handbook (1881); Bobby Jones' Down the Fairway (1927); and a copy of the 1891 The Duffers' Golf Club Papers.

Rounding out Thursday's sales, Swann Galleries features Printed & Manuscript Americana, in 329 lots. A large collection of more than 2,000 documents relating to the works of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works in what is now West Virginia, mostly from 1820 through the 1860s, is estimated at $80,000–120,000. Papers from the Shugart family, including a notebook kept by Zachariah Taylor Shugart in which he documents his involvement with the Underground Railroad, could sell for $30,000–40,000. McKenney & Hall's History of the Indian Tribes of North America is estimated at $25,000–35,000. A copy of the Peter Force printing of the Declaration of Independence could sell for $15,000–25,000.

Closing out the week is the Fall Auction at Arader Galleries on September 28, featuring 214 lots. Audubon's wonderful Snowy Owl rates the top estimate here, at $225,000–300,000.

Las Vegas is home to more than glitzy casinos and pawn shops: the city can now claim a robust special collections program at nearby University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), thanks in part to a $5-million endowment recently established by alumna Beverly Rogers.

The endowment will fund the Beverly Rogers Rare Books Curator position. This is the first named position at the university library.

 “I am thrilled to establish this endowment for the UNLV Libraries because UNLV is my school,” said Rogers in a press statement. “I have a relationship with people in several departments and am excited about what this collection could mean for students, faculty, and the university.” 

A self-professed bibliophile, Rogers credits Used and Rare by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone as nurturing her love of collecting. Since the 1990s, Rogers has amassed an archive of approximately 1,300 items with a focus on Victorian novels and 19th-century forgeries, which includes a first edition of Jane Eyre and a first edition of John Donne’s Collected Poems with marginalia by George Eliot. Rogers is donating the trove to UNLV’s special collections as well, where it will be available for scholarly research.

Born in Pennsylvania, Rogers has called Las Vegas home since 1962. By working full-time, she put herself through college, earning a B.A. in history in 1977, followed by a career in sales for radio and television until marrying Intermountain West Communications owner Jim Rogers in 1997. After returning to UNLV to earn a master's in English in 2003, Rogers has devoted the past two decades to promoting literacy and education programs throughout Nevada. She is also involved with UNLV’s Black Mountain Institute, a writing and literacy center. On the heels of a $10-million donation, the Institute was renamed the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute six years ago. 

“This unique collection of Victorian literature, forgeries, railway editions, catalogs, serial magazines, and first editions is unrivaled in the Southwest,” said University Library dean Maggie Farrell. “We are honored that Bev has chosen to establish this endowment for UNLV and entrust her collection to our Special Collections and Archives.” 

UNLV will celebrate the donation and endowment with a lecture and exhibition highlighting some of the collection on October 3, when Rogers will also discuss her archive and evolution as a collector.

Here we are back to the books. Earlier this week, I posted part 1 of this Autumn 2019 books about books roundup. Now, without further ado, part 2:

Leah Price’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Books (Basic Books, $28) has been the talk of the book world for the past few weeks, with popularly shared excerpts like “Books Won’t Die” making the rounds. Price, also the author 2012’s How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain, makes a compelling case against the simplistic digital vs. print reading divide, which tends to view e-reading as shallow or ‘bad,’ and print reading as deep and ‘good.’ Her foray to the NYPL to see the first vegetarian cookbook in English especially satisfies the general reader, as does her chapter on bibliotherapy.

This year’s winner of the Alice Award has been announced: Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South. Southbound contains fifty-six photographers’ visions of the South over the first decades of the twenty-first century.  It was published to accompany an exhibition at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, College of Charleston, South Carolina, which is currently traveling to several art museums around the country. (Check here for current venues.)

For several years now we’ve been covering the Alice Award, an annual $25,000 prize for superior illustrated books sponsored by Futhermore grants in publishing, a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund. We also published a profile of the president of Furthermore, philanthropist Joan K. Davidson. The Alice Award is a worthy endeavor that deserves celebration each and every time.  

Southbound was chosen from over over 120 submissions. The two books short-listed for this year’s prize were Artists and Their Books/Books and Their Artists from the Getty Research Institute and Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa from the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University. Each will receive $5,000.

The award money goes to the supporting institution. Since 2013, Furthermore has distributed $210,000 to institutions to foster the publication of high-quality illustrated books.

The award ceremony will be held at the Strand Bookstore in New York City on October 28.

It’s September, that time of year that tends to bring us all back to the books, so to speak. The ‘books about books’ market is no different, but there seems to be a more-than-usual amount to share with you—a baker’s dozen in all, unevenly split with eight non-fiction titles, three fiction, and one adorable gift book. Let’s dive in! (Part II will appear on Thursday.)

First up is Edward Lear and the Pussycat: Famous Writers and Their Pets (British Library, £9.99), which merits this above-the-fold placement for several reasons: its author, Alex Johnson, is part of the Fine Books family, contributing to FB&C both online and in print; Johnson is also the author of several books we have enjoyed in the past, such as Bookshelf and Book Towns; and because this volume is wonderfully quirky and so much fun to dip into. Learn all about Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel, Flush, and Charles Dickens’ raven, Grip. Are we surprised that Sartre’s cat was named Rien? No, no we are not.

If illustrators are your interest, there are two new titles in Thames & Hudson’s Illustrators Series: Walter Crane by Jenny Uglow and Judith Kerr by Joanna Carey, both in pretty cloth hardcovers and fully illustrated in color, priced at $29.95. Crane illustrated children’s literature but was also a leading figure in the Arts & Crafts movement. Kerr is best known as the creator of The Tiger Who Came to Tea.