December 2009 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Classes for Collectors

This year Rare Book School at the University of Virginia has announced five new courses, two of which are focused on book collecting. Provenance: Tracing Owners and Collections will be taught by David Pearson, Director of Libraries, Archives, and the Guildhall Art Gallery in London. From the course description posted on the RBS website: "Provenance research includes recognizing and deciphering various forms of ownership markings, tracing owners and their books, and understanding the value of this information. The course will focus on all these areas, and aims to give participants an improved personal toolkit for interpreting the different kinds of provenance evidence they are likely to encounter. Topics covered will include inscriptions, paleography, bookplates, heraldry, bindings as provenance evidence, sale catalogues, tracing owners, and the recording of provenance data in catalogues. The primary focus will be on pre-20th century printed books."

Law Books: History and Connoisseurship will be offered by Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian at the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale University. According to the course description, "It is aimed at individual book collectors who collect in some aspect of the history of the law and for librarians who have custody of historical legal materials. The course will survey printed and manuscript legal materials and introduce its bibliography and curatorship. Topics include the history of the production and distribution of law books; catalogs and reference books; philosophy and techniques of collecting; and acquiring books, manuscripts, and ephemera in the antiquarian book trade."

Says Ryan L. Roth, program director at RBS, "Collectors represent a small but loyal bunch of recent RBS attendees. One of the strengths of the RBS program is that it brings together people with different backgrounds, and collectors represent an important part of the mix." He added, "In crafting the course schedule one challenge is to balance the need to provide general instruction with specialist topics of the sort RBS uniquely provides."

In my humble opinion, RBS is a wonderful, rewarding experience. I attended the special collections librarianship course lead by Alice Schreyer in 2004 and have been plotting my return ever since. For those who haven't visited the RBS site in a while, you might be surprised to learn that while the majority of the courses are held in Charlottesville in the summer, some are offered at other times of the year in Baltimore, Washington DC, and New York.