Book-ing Washington D.C.

This past Friday I traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest awards ceremony and reception at the Library of Congress. So with twenty-four hours on the clock, I visited two of the biggest and best libraries in the country--which happen to be right around the corner from each other.

042523W5.jpgFirst stop: The Folger Shakespeare Library. I sauntered through Manifold Greatness, the amazing King James Bible exhibit, part of which traveled from Oxford. My favorites from the exhibit were William Blake's biblical illustrations, a "squirrel" binding, and Queen Elizabeth I's red velvet-bound Bishops' bible. I toured the reading room, which is so lovely because it retains an 'old-fashioned' library feel (all too often scrubbed out of our state-of-the-art libraries). Tapestries on the wall, stained-glass windows, heavy wooden tables, and a bust of the Bard scanning the room. My private tour included a trip to the special collections areas, where I marveled at a collection of porcelain collectibles, costumes, and yes--the 82 folios. I only wish I had had the forethought to book a ticket for Othello, playing in the cozy, Elizabethan-style Folger Shakespeare theatre.
From there I walked to the Madison Building of the Library of Congress, where the NCBCC awards ceremony was held. About fifty people attended--collectors, booksellers, donors--to watch the talented students accept their awards. Michael Dirda, longtime book critic and author most recently of On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling gave a talk titled, "The Thrill of the Hunt: The Serendipitous Pleasures of Book Collecting." An enjoyable reception followed. More on this ceremony and the winning collectors will appear in our November e-letter next week.

On Saturday I thought I might take in a good bookstore or two (Second Story was at the top of the list) ... but John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book, invited attendees from the previous evening back to LOC for a special tour. I couldn't pass up that opportunity, and neither could FB&C freelancer Chris Lancette or David Culbert, chair of the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies. We met John Cole at 10:00, and for the next ninety minutes he and Barbara Tenenbaum wowed us with Jefferson's library and the current exhibit, Exploring the Early Americas, from the Jay I. Kislak Collection.

After which I hopped back on the train (which was late!), saving so much more for next year.