December 2013 Archives

Our series profiling the next generation of special collections librarians and rare book curators continues today with Colleen Theisen, Outreach and Instruction Librarian in the Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa. 

How did you get started in rare books?
As an undergraduate I needed to complete an internship for my minor in history.  I was sent to the Western Historical Manuscripts collection in the basement of the University of Missouri-Columbia’s library to compile a libguide for National History Day. What kind of place was this that had historic papers and diaries, artists’ sketchbooks and even a small gallery of paintings, all in one place?  Lewis and Clark’s diaries and records from the Dred Scott trials rendered me speechless touching the actual pages that previously unreal names from my history books had created.  All the while 6-12th grade National History Day students were coming in and out the doors, having the same awestruck moments I was having, and then going on to make the words leap off the pages back to life in documentaries and performances. As sixth grade girls took to the stage in bonnets for their performance at the NHD contest, and the suffering from the pages of a handwritten pioneer woman’s diary momentarily became their suffering, I was hooked, and the experience of that place never left me.

Where did you earn your advanced degree?

I have a Master of Science in Information from the University of Michigan where I tailored my archives specialization with library science, history of the book, and museum studies classes to fit the diversity of work in Special Collections.

What is your role at your institution?

I am the Outreach and Instruction Librarian for Special Collections & University Archives which means that I coordinate the class sessions that come in to use Special Collections materials and serve as the primary instructor.  I am the social media manager for Special Collections, and I manage our exhibition space as well as coordinating our newsletters and some of our marketing.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

Favorites for me are tied up in favorite learning experiences.  I love the large fragment of the Iliad on papyrus at the University of Michigan because it was featured at the heart of the first lesson I designed using rare materials, tracing the text of the Iliad through time, when I was a TA for Great Books.  I love the 1967 Fluxus Year Box, because of a phenomenal class with 10-12 year old writers that turned into a funny and profound exploration of where or what the boundaries of art might be.

I have a new favorite every day and I do not want to lose that since it helps me figure out and communicate what might be exciting to our students and followers.  If forced to pick a general favorite, with its music, maps, anatomy, astronomy, math and more, collected and illustrated, I could never tire of looking at any and every copy of Margarita Philosophica.
What do you personally collect?

Lack of money, tiny apartments, and living abroad for an extended period have previously hindered my ability to collect much of anything, but I do have small collections of 1870s-1880s carte de visite photographs and stereographs from Japan, wooden kokeshi dolls, signed YA novels, and “vintage” Fisher Price Little People.  The books I chose from my grandmother’s library make up my favorite book collection.

What excites you about rare book librarianship?
In the abstract, I love that we’re called upon to wear every hat, and to invent some as well. In Special Collections we are librarian and archivist, but that also includes curator, teacher, scholar, conservator, writer, graphic designer, data entry specialist, genealogist, PR manager, social media content creator, web designer, historian, mentor, and even grief counselor. Recently I have added .gif animator, and video director.  I love bringing that excitement into the classroom and finding, building, and communicating with book loving communities online.  It’s exciting that everything I have ever done or learned is relevant, and yet it isn’t enough and never will be.  

Otherwise, I would just answer - the books.  Microminiature to elephant folio, to book arts that challenge if the word “book” fits at all, each and every one is exciting.
Thoughts on the future of special collections librarianship?

I think our special collections librarians will be called on even more to be creative collaborators.  Linked data, grant funded projects, digital humanities projects and outreach increasingly call upon expertise, collaboration, and coordination from across the library, the university, and across institutions.  In addition, the boundaries between library, archive, museum, or historical society are increasingly blurred as we are fighting the same fight to communicate our value, and as our digitized collections and metadata are increasingly united.  

More and more we need to make our work visible to counteract the stereotypes, misinformation, and lack of information about librarianship and special collections.  Whether it is creating a site for crowdsourcing transcription, a group to make historic recipes, a Civil War blog posting letters 150 years after they were written, a Tumblr community with animated .gifs of books, or videos as part of a YouTube community, we’re increasingly called upon to build and make things together with our communities of librarians, patrons, followers, friends, and fellow creators.   

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

The Rusty Hevelin Science Fiction Collection is in process, but anyone can follow the progress on our Tumblr devoted to processing of the zines, convention materials, and pulps dating back to the emergence of science fiction fandom in the 1930s.  We also continue our Fan Culture Preservation Project partnership with the Organization for Transformative Works, collecting fanzines. I think people would be surprised by the extent of the ATCA Collection (Alternative Traditions in Contemporary Arts) including The Fluxus West collection and the complementary International Dada Archive, Finally, we’re crowdsourcing transcriptions at DIY History where we just added pioneer diaries, and The Atlas of Early Printing is likely of interest to your readers, if for any reason it is yet unknown to them. And of course, our Special Collections Tumblr, named “new and notable” by Tumblr for 2013:

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

Food in the world of Downton Abbey opens with the new year tracing the culinary creations featured on the television show, whether upstairs or below, into the contemporary cookbooks of the time from our Szathmary Culinary Collection.

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac

“The Race for the Chinese Zodiac,” by Gabrielle Wang, illustrated by Sally Rippin; Candlewick Press, $14.99, 32 pages, ages 5-7.

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THE RACE FOR THE CHINESE ZODIAC. Text copyright © 2010 by Gabrielle Wang. Illustrations copyright © 2010 by Sally Rippin. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books Australia and Black Dog Books.

In Gabrielle Wang’s retelling of this classic Chinese creation story, the Jade Emperor announces a race to determine which twelve animals will have a year named after them in the zodiac. As the gong sounds, the animals plunge into a mighty river and make their way to the finish line.  Who will be first? Who stops at nothing to win?  Children and adults will find this a pleasure to read, and its quick pace mimics the feel of competitors vying for the top spot. Sally Rippin renders Charming Rat, Spirited Horse and all the other animals in Chinese ink and earth-toned linocuts. 

After reading the end notes to find out which Zodiac year is yours, try this fun post-reading activity: Enlarge the Chinese characters for each animal that are found throughout the book. Give children a big brush and let them trace the characters with bold brushstrokes.  

马年大吉(Wishing you luck in the Year of the Horse!)

“Again!” by Emily Gravett; Simon & Schuster, $17.99, 32 pages, ages 4-6.


Again! image reproduced with permission from the publisher, Simon & Schuster.

Here we have a great example of why physical children’s books still have an edge over their digital counterparts. In this story, Cedric the dragon prepares for bedtime, which also means mama dragon will read his favorite bedtime story.  As the title aptly suggests, the evening tale is read over and over, even as his very patient and accommodating mother starts to doze off. As a result, Cedric transforms from an almost angelic looking creature into a fire-breathing fiend. Dragons aren’t known for their patience, and Cedric demonstrates his lack of this particular quality with an ending that is sure to enthrall young children. (Without giving it away, this is where the paper copy triumphs over the e-version.) Fans of Emily Gravett’s award-winning illustrations will be happy to see that she has stayed true to her style - simple, engaging drawings that pop off white backgrounds. Readers will recognize Gravett’s work from her other award winning titles such as Wolves and The Odd Egg.
The Hürriyet Daily News reported earlier this month that the National Library of Turkey - unbeknownst to the Turkish government - sold off over 140 tons of rare and historical books into the secondhand market. Many of the books and periodicals did not have paper or digital records. Booksellers and collectors in Turkey bought the National Library books for between 15 and 50 Turkish liras per kilogram.  ($7.00 - $23.50 at today’s exchange rate per kilogram; just over 2 pounds).

The corruption was detected by the National Library when an historical book with the National Library’s stamp was sold to the Konya Manuscripts Library.

Roughly 102 tons of books were sent to the Library’s waste department in 2007; another 45 tons of similar books were sent at a later date.  The waste department then opened a secret auction for the books, selling them off by the kilogram to booksellers and collectors.

The Daily Hürriyet, who reported the scandal, went hunting for exlibris books from the National Library in the secondhand market in Ankara, where the library is located. The newspaper found several books with the National Library stamp, two from the 19th century and one from the early 20th century, priced between 400 and 1000 Turkish Lira. ($188 - $470)

Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik said via his Twitter account, “The National Library is the memory of the national culture and is the institution that bridges us with the international culture. It should be protected cautiously. It will be protected determinedly.”  Çelik went on to say, “It seems that the neglect has links to some interests groups outside. We will crack down on these.”
A rare copy of the “Cranwell” edition of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom has surfaced at Edinburgh auction house Lyon & Turnbull. The book, signed by Lawrence, is expected to fetch £20,000 (roughly $33,000) when it heads to auction on January 15th as Lot 297 of Sale 399.

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom - T. E. Lawrence’s famous recount of his role in the Arab Revolt of 1916 - 18, was first printed in the enormously rare “Oxford” edition in 1922. Only eight copies were printed. Lawrence then reworked the text over the next few years, aided by critical commentary from E. M Forster. 

In 1926, Lawrence again took The Seven Pillars of Wisdom to print, this time as part of the “Cranwell” edition, privately printed for subscribers. Of the 211 copies printed, 170 were complete and 32 were intentionally left incomplete, lacking three plates, intended as gifts to the men who had served with Lawrence in Arabia who might not be able to afford the high price of the full edition.  (The complete edition retailed for £31 in 1926, roughly £1500 today).

The copy heading to auction next month is one of these 32 incomplete editions and was gifted by Lawrence to Captain H. M. “Harry” Goldie, who had served with Lawrence during the Revolt.  An ALS from Lawrence to Goldie is tipped-in, which reads in part “You, having been one of us, get (if you want it) a gratis copy of the text of the subscribers edition.”

A complete printing of a “Cranwell” edition of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom copy sold at Bohmans in London last year for £50,450 ($82,334).

432px-Papiermuseum_Basel_2008_(14).jpgJust came across a story/slideshow on the Basel Paper Mill in the current issue of Victoria magazine. “Housed in a medieval-era timber-framed structure on the banks of the Rhine River in Switzerland, the Basel Paper Mill is dedicated to preserving and honoring the arts of papermaking and typesetting,” begins the story. I want to go! Sounds like the perfect place to spend a winter holiday!

Image of Basel Paper Mill exhibit, Courtesy Gryffindor/Wikimedia.
I present the stunningly beautiful cover of our winter 2014 issue, which was sent to the printer today. Inside: Hollywood stars and Pawn Stars, Kipling and Chandler, book art and rare maps, auction reports and the annual book collector’s resource guide, and more. Subscribers, look for it in your mailboxes just after the new year. Non-subscribers, what are you waiting for?

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The British Library uploaded over 1m photos into the public domain last week via Flickr Commons.  The enormously diverse images were drawn from 17th, 18th, and 19th century books originally digitized by Microsoft.  Microsoft then, in turn, gifted the scanned images to the British Library who wanted to ensure the photos would be released into the public domain.

The images include “maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colourful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and so much more that even we are not aware of.”

In an effort to learn more about the images and promote their usage, the British Library plans to crowdsource inventive ways to “navigate, find, and display” the photos. Each image has been tagged with information about its provenance, however there is little to no interpretation of what the images mean.  The British Library hopes that users of the collection will help fill in the blanks.

norway church bl.jpgThe original blog post about the release stated, “We want to collaborate with researchers and anyone else with a good idea for how to markup, classify and explore this set with an aim to improve the data and to improve and add to the tagging. We are looking to crowdsource information about what is depicted in the images themselves, as well as using analytical methods to interpret them as a whole.”

The British Library went on to say, “We are very interested to hear what ideas and projects people use these images for and we would ideally like to collaborate with those who have been inspired to explore them.”

You can browse the collection on Flickr here and learn more about the effort from the BL’s blog here.

SpiritPhotography-MedRes.jpgProof of mystical power from beyond the grave? This album of twenty-seven spiritualist photographs taken during seances in the 1920s and estimated to be worth $4,000-6,000 sold to a private collector last week for $93,750. The silver prints were taken during seances at Dr. Thomas Glendenning Hamilton’s Psychic Room in Winnipeg, Canada. They show levitation experiments, psychic mediums in trances, and supernormal ephemera. All are cornered into black pages and accompanied by handwritten explanations, in an unknown hand, in white ink. Apparently the good doctor took to Ouija boards and other spiritualist investigations after his young son died, and these photos comprise one small part of a larger collection of the family’s papers, scrapbooks, and photographs housed at the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections.

Daile Kaplan, vice president and director of photographs & photobooks at Swann Galleries, called the result “stellar.” A second lot--a California mug shot album featuring a line-up of pimps and embezzlers--likewise sold high, at $22,500. Kaplan said, “As new collectors from the fields of Contemporary, Outsider Art and Material Culture enter the photographs marketplace, the gap between classical photography and other fields narrows, and values continue to rise.”

Image Courtesy of Swann Galleries. 
Our series profiling the next generation of special collections librarians and curators continues today with Sean Visintainer, Special Collections Librarian and Curator of the Herman T Pott National Inland Waterways Library at the St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.

What is your role at your institution? Please introduce us as well to the St. Louis Mercantile Library; a unique library that I’m not sure all of our readers will be familiar with.
I am the Curator of the Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways Library, a special collection at the St. Louis Mercantile Library - University of Missouri at St. Louis, and also a special collections librarian at the Library.  The Mercantile Library is the oldest existing general library west of the Mississippi River, founded in 1846.  From its inception the Mercantile has been a membership library, which includes borrowing privileges, discounts on research fees, publications, and attendance at our many yearly exhibition openings, lectures, colloquia, book signings, and other events.  The Library’s core collection focuses on St. Louis and regional history, westward expansion, exploration and science, the American river and rail experiences, rare books and the book arts, and the humanities.
Being part of a small staff with large ambitions, my day-to-day duties are fluid and varied, which makes my work exciting and challenging.  I work on collections processing and description; website design and editing; collection development; both in terms of rare books and archival collections; donor and board relations; presentations and talks; exhibition design; and special events and programs logistics. Lately, I’ve been working to develop the University of Missouri system’s new digital library instance, which has been at times interesting, daunting, and educational, sometimes all at once.
How did you get started in rare books?

While attending the University of Missouri at Columbia for my MLS, I took a class on special libraries, which turned out to be really eye-opening in terms of the possibilities of employment in the field.  We students got to tour the operations of architectural libraries, federal libraries, law libraries, medical libraries, corporate libraries, and many more institutions, but the libraries that really grabbed me were the special collections and rare books libraries.  There is something incredibly evocative about holding a rare book or historic archival item in your hand - it is a tangible and powerful link to our culture and history, and to the trials, travails and issues faced by our ancestors.  I knew from the first moment that I stood in one that I wanted to work in a rare books and special collections library.

Have you worked at other institutions as well?

I did some graduate work for the HOK Architectural Research Library, and I worked as a board member for the Rupununi Learners Foundation, an organization dedicated to increasing literacy and environmental conservation in the Rupununi region of Guyana, South America.  Libraries are a big part of the Rupununi Learners Foundation’s literacy efforts.  If I weren’t in the special collections and rare books field I could be perfectly happy working on literacy and digital divide issues in the developing world.

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

It is tough to say that I have just one, but a few items stand out to me.  The Mercantile’s material with the broadest appeal is probably our signed Audubon double elephant folio Birds of America.  The Birdshave the size, value, beauty and provenance to really awe viewers.  From our inland rivers collection, I really love Zadok Cramer’s early river guides, The Navigator, released yearly in the early 1800s.  These books existed before much mapping and description was available for America’s inland rivers, and they contain a lot of really interesting content, from local history and lore, early maps, travelers’ information, and even an early mention of the Lewis and Clark journey.  Not only river guides, but also drivers of immigration, facilitators of commerce, travel guides and historical artifacts, the importance of these books really bellies their modest appearance.

What do you personally collect?

I’ve been collecting as many auction and bookseller catalogs and bibliographies as I can get my hands on - a direct effect of my director, friend and mentor, John Hoover.  I also collect St. Louis and regional history, cookbooks and travel guides.  Travel guides are particularly interesting to me, because the information can be so ephemeral - post-civil war Syria, for example, will be a much different place than it was ten years ago.

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

There will be some really cool technological possibilities coming down the line that could directly impact rare book librarianship. For example, a colleague recently introduced me to Clavin, which might one day be used for applications like geotagging and mapping old travel narratives, or 19th century city directories.  With more books being digitized every day and more useful technology being invented, I suspect that the future of special collections and rare book librarianship will look very different than it does today.  It is a lot of fun to try and keep up with everything that is developing in the digital world, and to plan future possibilities for use in our Library.

Of course, digital representations, even with all their bells and whistles, can’t compete with a real, tangible object.  I love researching and purchasing materials for the Library’s collections.  There is something indescribably enjoyable about locating a work that I’ve been on the hunt for, or turning something up that I wasn’t aware of, and knowing that it will strengthen the Library’s collections.

Thoughts on the future of special collections / rare book librarianship?

As described a bit above, I think it will be imperative for rare books librarians to keep abreast of everything happening in the digital world, with an eye towards how to utilize those happenings in the future.

I also think that with the time for physical research at the Library likely diminishing in the future, two things are important to keep in mind for the future: 1) keeping stats of digital use could end up being a large justification for the department or library down the line; and 2) outreach, especially in terms of programming and exhibitions, will be another great way to justify the continual acquisitions of rare books and related materials.

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

Both of our transportation libraries are top-notch.  We are and deserve to be on the “to see” lists of any serious researcher, author, media company or publisher working on rail and river transportation.  My director has spent many years assembling a fantastic Indian captivities collection as well - the library has a sizable amount of these documents, in book and manuscript form.
Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

We’ve got pretty full exhibition calendar for the upcoming year.  In January, I’ll be opening an exhibition with our railroad curator, Nick Fry, called Most Marvelous Machines, which will tell the story of steam travel in America in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Nick will also be putting together an exhibition about the railroad industry’s impact on and support of American elections, Whistle Stops: Campaigning by Train.  We’ve also got in the works exhibitions related to the 250th anniversary of the founding of St. Louis next year; Mapping St. Louis,about the early mapping of the city, and From Chouteau to Scharf, which will showcase the early printed histories of the city.

455px-Jack_London_young.jpgJack London wanted more than four cents a word, bless his freelancing heart. In a five-page letter London wrote on May 6, 1905, he chided his Cosmopolitan editor, John Brisbane Walker, about his article, “Revolution,” and the paltry fee he was offered via telegraph. “I couldn’t see why an article ten times stronger plus my name was not worth five cents a word,” he wrote. The article was, according to London, perfect for Cosmo.

That letter--which could have been penned by a freelance writer yesterday, though perhaps not to Cosmo--will, perhaps ironically, be sold later this week for an estimated $4,000-6,000. Profiles in History, a California-based auction house, has a few London letters up for grabs at its Property of a Distinguished American Private Collector Part III auction on December 19. In another editorially-minded letter from February 6, 1908, London, author of White Fang and Call of the Wild, writes at length about plot and technique in fiction: “But it cannot be denied that what is technically known as ‘the threads of the plot,’ however closely woven they may be during the story, must inevitably separate again. The trick is to end your story just at the inch before the division.”

A third lot of London features a typed letter from August 31, 1915--near the end of his brief career--in which he inquires (again) about pay rates for writers. Here he addresses Eric Schuler, the secretary and treasurer of the Authors League of America, writing, “The point of this letter is this: Is there any way in which you can send me samples of the rates that are paid to the first class, top-notch writers in the United States, both by magazines and by book publishers.” Once a freelancer, always a freelancer. Coupled with another letter and a signed photograph, this letter is also expected to reach $4,000-6,000 at Thursday’s sale, where a broad selection of literary, musical, political, and scientific manuscripts and rare books will be on offer.

Image via Wikipedia.

Stocking Stuffers


Give the gift of great books this holiday season. Below are four at the top our list. 

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THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN Reproduced by permission of the publisher, The Folio Society, London. 

“The Princess and the Goblin,” by George MacDonald, introduced by Maria Tatar, illustrated by Madalina Andronic; The Folio Society, $44.95, 192 pages, all ages.

This stunning edition of George MacDonald’s eerie tale of Princess Irene and her daring battles with subterranean-dwelling goblins will delight the fantasy fans on your holiday list.  In fact, this offering from The Folio Society would probably be adored by anyone who enjoys receiving beautiful books. Originally published in 1871, readers unacquainted with The Princess and the Goblin will likely recognize  similarities with Alice and Wonderland, another Victorian-era fantasy tale.  Here, a young, bored girl discovers a hidden stairway that leads her to an enchanted world filled with magical, otherworldly beings where she must do battle in order to save kingdom from the goblins. A favorite of J.R.R Tolkien, MacDonald’s tale of adventure and bravery will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Harvard University’s Professor of Germanic Languages Maria Tatar wrote the introduction, and readers will benefit from her instructive explication of MacDonald’s creative ideology.  Romanian artist Madalina Andronic’s bright and detailed watercolor and inks perfectly match this timeless flight of the imagination.


WITH A MIGHTY HAND. Text copyright © 2013 by Amy Ehrlich. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Daniel Nevins. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

 “With a Mighty Hand: The Story in the Torah,” adapted by Amy Erlich, paintings by Daniel Nevins; Candlewick Press, $29.99, 224 pages, all ages.

Award winning author Amy Erlich decided to tackle the Torah and render it accessible for children, or anyone interested in reading a new interpretation of this ancient story. Here she has managed to condense the five books of the Hebrew Bible into a single, flowing narrative. When Erlich began the project, her goal was to ‘follow the thread of the story’ by keeping the text as clear as possible without being mired in complexity and contradictions. Her mission was a success; simple, powerful words, with lots of white space in the background make for easy reading.  Bringing the people and places to life is painter Daniel Nevins in his debut as a children’s book illustrator. The pigment-laden images capture a world that existed over 5,000 years ago, yet are still exuberant and emotional.  With a Might Hand would be a lovely gift for a budding religious scholar or for children just starting Torah study. 


Image reproduced with permission from HMH Books for Young Readers.

“What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings,” by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski ; HMH Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 80 pages, ages 7-10.

Newbery Honor winning poet Joyce Sidman has crafted a book that will touch readers’ hearts and stir their emotions. What the Heart Knows offers poems to address just about every possible feeling; pleas for forgiveness, incantations to summon bravery, and chants simply to find happiness.  The book is organized into four sections, with each group exploring a different theme. Ultimately, Sidman’s words provide courage, comfort and strength no matter the topic.  This is the poet’s third collaboration with Caldecott winning illustrator Pamela Zagarenski, and it’s easy to see why; Zagarenski’s dreamy, expressive paintings are a perfect match for Sidman’s soulful verses.

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Images reproduced with permission from Phaidon Press.

“Bugs at Christmas,” by Beatrice Alemagna, Phaidon Press, $12.95, 38 pages, ages 3-5.

 It’s Christmas Eve in the bugs’ cozy blanket world, and they’re trying to organize a holiday party.  Unfortunately, they each seem to have a different idea of how to celebrate; Little Yellow Bug wants to sing Jungle Bugs around a piano, while Little Long-Legged Bug prefers dancing the Santa Samba until he drops. The critters can’t agree on the best way to ring in Christmas until they learn that the spirit of love and togetherness triumphs over creative differences.  Beatrice Alemagna created these surprisingly loveable hairy creatures using appliqué, fabrics, and stitching techniques that together resemble the texture of a nubby, wooly quilt. 


Image Reproduced with permission from Quirk Books 

“Winter Cocktails,” by María Del Mar Sacasa, photographs by Tara StrianoQuirk Books; $22.95, 160 pages, all ages.


No, this is definitely not a book for children, but it would make a wonderful present to parents who have been busy helping Santa prepare for Christmas. These  winter drinks  infuse the body with warmth and ooze holiday spirit.  Recipe developer María Del Mar Sacasa shares 100 delicious liquid infusions such as English Christmas Punch, Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate and Pumpkin-Bourbon Eggnog.  Tara Striano’s enticing up-close photographs plus step-by step photo instructions will bring out the holiday barista in everyone.  Try out the Nutella Melt recipe here and enjoy in front of a blazing fire. 

Check out more great images from these books here!

The Independent reported on Sunday that British researchers have uncovered a large trove of early P.G. Wodehouse work.  The researchers found Wodehouse’s contributions to The Glove and Traveller, an evening newspaper in the Edwardian era that employed the young Wodehouse as a full-time assistant between 1901 and 1903. Wodehouse, born in 1881, was only 20 years old when he went to work for the newspaper.

Wodehouse’s columns graced the front page of the newspaper as part of a regular feature called “By the Way.” The columns, which were pithy comments on the morning news, often included poetry.  Researchers reported that over 500 previously unknown poems were discovered in the columns that are believed to have been authored by Wodehouse.

The researchers were part of a group called the Wodehouse Reclamation Project. They found The Glove and Traveller on microfilm in the British Newspaper Archive, part of the British Library, Boston Spa, in Leeds.

The project has printed one of the poems, entitled “The Usual Lament,” on its website along with further details of the discovery.  Plans are in place to collect the Wodehouse poetry for book publication in the next few years.

[Image of Wodehouse from Wikipedia]
The National Archives has significantly expanded its public exhibitions, opening a new gallery and visitor orientation center, thanks to a $13.5-million gift from philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, who made news late last month for his $14.2-million purchase of the Bay Psalm Book at auction. The gallery will feature a new permanent exhibit, Records of Rights, showcasing original documents, photographs, videos, and multimedia material to explore ideas of freedom, citizenship, and civil rights. Among the items on view are the original discharge papers of a slave who fought in the Revolutionary War, women’s “repatriation oaths,” and a 1860 census of Irish and Canadian workers who faced workplace discrimination. The exhibit will also include an original 1297 Magna Carta, a foundational document for the concept of freedom under law, on permanent loan from Rubenstein. The David M. Rubenstein Gallery and Visitor Orientation Plaza adds more than 7,000 square feet of public space to the National Archives and provides fresh context for the Charters of Freedom on view in the renovated Rotunda.

VSmall*20131205-02-004CP copy 2.jpgIn a press release issued by the National Archives, Rubenstein commented, “As Americans, we embrace the rights and freedoms guaranteed by our founding documents, while striving to ensure that these rights apply to all and are meaningful in the present. I’m honored that this new gallery will help the National Archives showcase its incredible collection of records that tell the story of who we are as a people, where we’ve been, and where we are going.”

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The seventeenth and final volume of the massive Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources will be published this week, bringing an extensive, century-long project to a close. The volume, “Fascicule XVII, Syr-Z,” will be published by Oxford University Press in conjunction with the British Academy. While the dictionary will be available to purchase this week in Britain, the American publication will follow in early 2014.

The project focused exclusively on British use of Latin. The compilation of the dictionary drew on over 1,400 sources spanning the millennia between the 6th and 16th centuries. Sources included the Domesday Book, the Magna Carta, and the Bayeux tapestry.

Medieval British Latin presented a particular challenge to researchers as its use was modified by an array of active British languages in the medieval period including English, French, Norse, Irish, Welsh, and Gaelic. Scribes would frequently just borrow a word from their native tongue if they were unfamiliar with the Latin equivalent.

Richard Ashdowne, current editor of the dictionary (and the project’s third) said to The Guardian, “For the last 100 years, the project has been systematically scouring the surviving British medieval Latin texts to find evidence for every word and all its meanings and usage. Much of this fundamental work was done in the early years of the project by a small army of volunteers, including historians, clergymen, and even retired soldiers; they provided the project with illustrative example quotations copied out from the original texts onto paper slips - an early form of crowd-sourcing.”

While the need for a dictionary of British medieval Latin has existed since the actual Middle Ages, the genesis of this particular project occurred with a 1913 presentation by R. J. Whitwell at the International Congress of Historical Studies in London. The interjection of WWI halted any momentum with the project, but the British Academy picked it up again in 1920 and work began in earnest on the multi-volume dictionary in 1924.

You can read a more extensive historical overview of the project here, on the project’s website.
I confess, I was utterly delighted when I heard that the Authenticity of Print Materials Symposium at the Library of Congress on 6 December had attracted such a large audience that it had to be moved to a larger room. More than 200 people from across the biblio-community were in attendance on Friday for the one-day event, organized by the Library’s Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

Following brief welcoming remarks by Mark Dimunation, Chief of the Rare Books and Special Collections Division, the morning session led off with three talks on the authenticity of paper. Tim Barrett, Director of the Center for the Book at the University of Iowa and a 2009 MacArthur Fellow, led off with a talk on the “Authenticity and Authentication of 15th Century European Papers.” Barrett discussed his research into what makes so many 15th-century papers particularly durable, beautiful, even “special,” the results of which are outlined at the Paper Through Time site. In short, Barrett and his team found that pre-1500 papers contained higher concentrations of calcium and gelatin, and also tended to be both thicker and lighter in color than later papers. These characteristics, combined with typical sheet sizes, suggested to Barrett that papermakers of this period were working to mimic parchment.

Barrett discussed his current efforts to replicate historical paper-making production rates at the University of Iowa, a process documented in the 11-minute film Chancery Papermaking. Tim reported that the team isn’t yet satisfied with their results, but that “the effort has already been revealing. Our respect for early artisans and the high-production, skilled work they accomplished has only deepened.” And his research into the composition of early paper is ongoing: he said that he hopes that with new technologies and other advances, that eventually scholars will be able to narrow down papers to individual mills, and that an international paper image database might someday be possible.

In closing, Barrett was the first but not the last speaker of the day to remark that authentication always begins with one’s intuition, a sense that something just isn’t right, and the experiential knowledge to know that’s the case. Finally, Barrett asked just why it is that we care about authenticity in the first place, suggesting that we care, at least in part, because an authentic physical object “directly connects us to a human record we can be proud of.”

Kim Schenck, the Head of Paper Conservation at the National Gallery of Art, followed Barrett with a discussion of “Assessing Quality in Prints and Drawings.” She discussed particularly the practice of misrepresenting facsimile prints as the real thing, which sometimes involves obscuring evidence of the facsimile or even in one case “carving” a fake watermark into a sheet of paper. Schenck also touched on the ways in which conservators look for evidence of prior “restoration” work, sometimes done innocently and performed at other times with intent to deceive. And she discussed changing conservatorial techniques, which at one time frequently included “overpainting” to enhance previously-damaged areas of an artwork, which used to be a common practice but has now fallen out of use. Schenck concluded with another key takeaway of the symposium: it is very important for conservators and others to share their successes and failures when it comes to questions of authenticity.

Cathleen Baker, Conservation Librarian and Exhibition Conservator at the University of Michigan, rounded out the panel on paper with her talk on “Characteristics Unique to Nineteenth-Century Machine-Made Paper.” Baker offered a technical overview of machine-papermaking during the period, with a focus on grain direction and its implications for printing and book-making. Like Barrett, Baker suggested that there is “no substitution for holding a great many books of known provenance and date so you know what the real thing feels like.”

The second morning session, and the one which I think had most of the audience at the edge of our seats, was “Authenticating and Deauthenticating the ML Sidereus Nuncius,” with panelists Paul Needham of Princeton’s Scheide Library and Nick Wilding, Assistant Professor at Georgia State University. Wilding offered an overview of the story of the copy of Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius which surfaced in 2005 and now belongs to the New York bookselling firm Martayan Lan. The copy was the subject of a 2007 work by Horst Bredekamp, and the 2011 study Galileo’s O by Bredekamp and Needham, which argued that the copy was Galileo’s autograph proof copy. But following 2009 revelations by Owen Gingerich that the illustrations cannot date from February 1610 and thus are a modern forgery, Wilding began to explore the other aspects of the copy (shorthanded throughout as SNML).

Wilding’s systematic and dogged investigations eventually revealed that the library stamp on the title page had been faked, and that printing errors threw the contention that this was Galileo’s proof copy into serious doubt. Additional work revealed that the title page appeared to be a composite image drawn from at least two different copies, and that the forgery had been created by means of a photopolymer plate technique (which is easily done, but leaves telltale signs behind). You can view Wilding’s slides for some excellent examples of the work he did to deauthenticate the SNML, or an overview of Wilding’s research.

Paul Needham began his presentation with the simple declaration “Let it be recorded, I was completely wrong.” He laid out some of the various things he checked and rechecked in coming to agree with Wilding that the copy was completely forged, including making measurements of the book’s inner margins at the center of gatherings and comparing those with known copies, examining evidence of retouching in the supposed proof copy which would not have been possible bibliographically (which he called the “not in this universe” proof, and more.

Wilding and Needham barely had time to discuss the paper and the binding, only noting briefly in response to questions that they’ve now determined that the paper was also forged and was not old sheets used for this project, and that while the binding’s boards were old, the rest of the binding was entirely forged. And there was little time to explore the social context of the forgeries and their purpose, let alone the broader implications (the circle responsible for these seems to have created more forgeries, some of them designed to replace authentic copies stolen from libraries). So there is much more to be learned about these, and I hope Needham and Wilding with both continue their investigations. A forthcoming New Yorker article by Nicholas Schmidle will also discuss the Galileo forgeries and their perpetrator.

The afternoon session, on color, opened with Lynn Brostoff, Senior Research Chemist in the Library of Congress’ Preservation Division. She discussed a recent project to analyze the coloration in the Library’s copy of a 1513 Ptolemy Geographia, utilizing x-ray fluorescence (XRF) technology to determine inorganic components in the various colors used in the atlas, and to determine why certain maps were suffering more than others from a condition known as verdigris syndrome. Read more on this project in the 2011 paper “Solving the Ptolemy Puzzle.”

Thomas Primeau of the Baltimore Museum of Art discussed some methods used to detect contemporary hand-coloring in early printed images. He suggested that certain early prints were made with the expectation that color would be added, and that stencils were often utilized for this purpose. Primeau concluded with some fascinating information about some fragments of stencils used as binder’s waste and discovered in a book at the New York Public Library; this example was particularly fascinating because the NYPL offered photographs of the stencil fragments after some of them had already been reconnected, which led Primeau to make entirely inaccurate conclusions about the stencils which were only corrected when he viewed them in person and could see that they’d been reconnected. “Presentation affects perception,” he reminded.

Margaret Ford, International Head of Group for Books and Science at Christie’s, was the day’s final panelist. She offered the auction-house perspective on hand-coloring, noting that coloring has long been seen as a premium feature of books (going back to the Nuremberg Chronicle), and that there was for centuries a clear financial incentive to colorize. Today, though, “coloring up” a book may serve to decrease a book’s value, rather than the reverse. Ford noted that it is often difficult to determine when color may have been added to a book, but offered several practical checks for those of us without access to a full-scale conservation lab: the language of the catalog description, evidence offered by the verso of the image and at any folds, knowing the stock and comparing other copies when possible is important. Like other panelists, Ford stressed the importance of consulting other experts in the field for assistance and advice.

That theme would be taken up in turn by the day’s keynote speaker, Michael F. Suarez, S.J., the Director of Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. Suarez’s began by challenging the very concept of “authenticity,” noting the frequent degradation of the term, the danger of using atypical outliers as exemplars (the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, or the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, he argued, are fascinating works, but severely unrepresentative as examples of books of hours or printed Renaissance texts), and the “gross inauthenticities” sometimes offered up in the name of authenticity. He cited particularly the National Trust’s rebuilding of Uppark House after a 1989 fire to look intentionally just like it had immediately preceding the fire, and the British Library’s Turning the Pages interface, which offers an experience quite unlike turning the pages actually would.

After pointing out that the early modern music movement eventually abandoned the idea that authenticity could ever actually be achieved, Suarez declared that we should not follow suit. He called for a revival of connoisseurship, defined as interiorized understanding and hard-won knowledge, and for a robust critical bibliography, characterized by the building of cross-disciplinary teams in which both scientific analysis and the profoundly humanistic study of bibliography can combine to help us learn more about the history of human makers and unmakers. By working to become not merely a community of experts, each speaking only to what we know individually, but rather a community of learners, Suarez concluded, we can together recover the human presences which created the books and arts of art we know and love.

The Symposium closed with a tearful tribute by Mark Dimunation to Dan De Simone, who is leaving the Library of Congress to become the Eric Weinmann Librarian at the Folger Shakespeare Library in January. It was a thoroughly interesting and provocative day, and I suspect the conversations sparked by the panels on Friday will lead to much fruitful research and discussion in the future.

The entire symposium will soon be available as a webcast via the Library of Congress; I’ll post a link when it’s available.

A collection of hundreds of printed and manuscript bibles dating from the 14th-19th centuries is in the process of changing hands. The collection, formed by noted bookseller John Gilson Howell (1874-1956) over the course of his life, had been owned by the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Ca. since 1955. Pacific has decided to sell the Howell bible collection through the Philadelphia Rare Book and Manuscript Co. (PRBM) and John Windle of San Francisco and most of the books are now resident here in Philadelphia.The collection consists primarily of printed bibles including a number of highly desirable editions. Among these are six incunabula including a 1480 Koberger bible as well as an array of other early printings such as the 1536 “mole” edition of the Tyndale New Testament, the 1550 Estienne Greek New Testament (USTC 150710), as well as the 1540 “Great Bible”, 1568 “Bishop’s Bible”, and of course the 1611 King James Bible.

1550 Estienne Greek New Testament from the Howell Collection (PRBM)

Howell’s shop, later run by his son Warren, was one of the most important 20th century American book dealer’s but the collection seems to have been almost entirely a labor of love or obsession on the part of the elder Howell. In fact, Jennifer Larson notes in her discussion of the Howell business that “a disproportionate share of the bookshop’s profits went into his [John’s] personal collection of rare and important editions of the Bible.” 1 Warren Howell seemed to share in this opinion and recalled in an interview that his father began the collection in 1918, tying up a great deal of capital in the process. By the 1940s and 50s when the younger Howell took the reigns of the business he tried hard to find a local institutional buyer for the collection. Eventually the Howells reached an agreement with Pacific for a gift-purchase of the collection which was concluded in 1955. Speaking a decade after the sale however, Warren noted that given the post-war market, if he had retained the collection “it would have been a gold mine.”

For now information about the collection is still available through the Pacific website as well as in a promotional pamphlet produced in the 1940s to aid in its original sale. However, as far as I can tell, no formal catalog of the Howell Bible Collection was ever published, though a typescript catalog of Howell’s purchases is available in the Graduate Theological Union library. Further details may be available in the Howell business and family archives held at Stanford University.

The bibles in the Howell collection have followed a familiar cycle: from the market to a collector/bookseller like John Howell, then to an institutional home, like at Pacific, and now back again into the market to be reshaped. Dispersing institutional collections is always a controversial and fraught process but in a way the sale of the Howell collection helps highlight for me the constant flux of the rare books ecosystem, and the role of material and economic forces in the creation and recreation of the things we call “collections.”

[**Update 10 Dec. 2013: PBA just announced an upcoming sale (Dec. 19) of Fine Books With Early Works From The Pacific School of Religion**]

[1] Jennifer Larson, “Warren Howell” in American Book Collectors and Bibliographers, First Series. Ed. Joseph Rosenblum. [Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 140], (Detroit: Gale Research, 1994), p.91. For more on the Howell business see the oral history conducted with Warren Howell in 1966 and digitized by UC-Berkeley: Two San Francisco bookmen : oral history transcript and related material, 1966-1967

A nearly forgotten literary novel from 1965 has won Waterstones Book of the Year, building upon strong word-of-mouth and high-profile blurbs. John Williams’ novel Stoner, first published by Viking in 1965, has won the coveted British prize, attracting attention from prominent modern novelists like Colum McCann who said it was “one of the great forgotten novels of the past century...The book is so beautifully paced and cadenced that it deserves the status of classic.”

The rather bleak novel is about William Stoner, a Midwestern academic in the early 20th century whose career stalls as his marriage falls apart.  Stoner begins a brief, but ill-fated affair with a younger scholar, before retreating into himself as his life draws to a close.

First published by Viking in 1965, the novel went out of the print the following year.  Attempts to revive it have been launched periodically by American scholars and journalists. The book was most recently re-issued in America by the New York Review of Books in 2006.  Despite these occasional efforts, Stoner has never really caught on in the States.  In Europe, however, Stoner has been steadily building buzz over the last year, becoming a bestseller in France and now winning a major bookseller’s award in Britain.

Its author, John Williams, was born in Texas in 1922.  After earning degrees from the University of Denver and the University of Missouri on the G.I. Bill, Williams returned to Denver to serve on its English faculty for 30 years. Williams died in Arkansas in 1994.

While copies of Stoner reprints are readily available, if you’re looking for a true first edition expect to pay $800+.

Throughout the year, and especially in the fall, we receive many new books from publishers, some of which seem relevant and interesting to our readership (i.e., you), but few of which we can actually get around to reviewing. So here’s a list of the ones we didn’t get to read (yet) -- one might strike you as a the perfect holiday gift for someone on your list, or yourself.

On the top of my to-read pile is Warren Lehrer’s A Life in Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley (GOFF Books, $34.95). Not just a graphic novel, but an “illuminated” novel, it contains 101 books within it, all written by the protagonist, and showing the dust jacket art, catalogue copy, and excerpts. It sounds ambitious and brilliant, and I can’t wait to dive in.  

Small-BookofLegendaryLands_Eco_cover copy.jpgUmberto Eco, no stranger to book lovers, has a new volume out called The Book of Legendary Lands (Rizzoli ex libris, $45), promising readers a tour of the fabled places in literature and folklore. It is a hefty volume with lavish color photography, bound in white cloth and covered with a jacket that reproduces a Thomas Cole painting.

Shakespeare fan? I have two for you. One is the door-stopping Royal Shakespeare Company edition of William Shakespeare & Others: Collaborative Plays (Palgrave Macmillan, $39.95), edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen. It includes plays thought to be authored or co-authored by the Bard, but excluded from the First Folio. The other -- Neil MacGregor’s Shakespeare’s Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in Twenty Objects (Viking, $36) -- is a romp by comparison. But don’t let that fool you. The objects he chooses have cultural weight: a rapier is meant to remind us about the danger of London streets in the sixteenth century, and plague proclamations much the same.

If you value Proust over Shakespeare, perhaps the newly edited and annotated edition of Swann’s Way (Yale University Press, $22). The new edition celebrates the 100th anniversary of the book’s original publication. It looks like a friendly edition of a book that is otherwise impenetrable.

Yale-Little History.jpgTwo “little histories” might be the right speed. John Sutherland’s A Little History of Literature (Yale University Press, $25) offers a genial look at literature from Greek myths to Fifty Shades of Grey, while the re-issued illustrated edition of E.H. Gombrich’s A Little History of the World (Yale University Press, $22) has great color photography and easily digestible chapters.  

And for those interested in scholarly longreads, a trio of titles from University of Pennsylvania Press will do: try Blind Impressions: Methods and Mythologies in Book History by Joseph A. Dane ($65), Jeremiah’s Scribes: Creating Sermon Literature in Puritan New England by Meredith Marie Neuman ($69.95), and Bound to Read: Compilations, Collections, and the Making of Renaissance Literature by Jeffrey Todd Knight ($59.95).

Happy reading! 
The great repositories of the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican Library) have joined forces to create an online archive of their ancient texts.  Entitled the Polonsky Foundation Digitization Project, the initiative officially launched its website last week.

Over the course of the next four years, 1.5 million pages from both libraries will be made available for free online. The project was funded by a £2 million award from the Polonsky Foundation. Dr Leonard Polonsky said of the project “I am pleased to support this exciting new project where the Bodleian Libraries and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana will make important collections accessible to scholars and the general public worldwide.”

The digitization project will focus its energies on three primary groups of texts: Hebrew manuscripts, Greek manuscripts, and 15th century printed books.  The project announced on its website that these areas were chosen for “their scholarly importance and for the strength of their collections in both libraries.”  Both religious and secular texts will be included.

The project will also include scholarly essays and video interviews with librarians at both institutions about the significance and history of the rare texts.

The two libraries focused on a group of historically significant Bibles and biblical commentaries for the project’s launch last week. Highlights already available online include the Bodleian’s Gutenberg Bible (one of 50 surviving copies) and the lavishly illustrated 13th century Hebrew bible commonly called the Kennicott Bible.
BitingBook.jpgHarry Potter fans, take note: you will be both awed and disappointed by The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. Rides aside, I’m talking about the ‘bookishness’ of the place. For one, they sell a sad version of this neat biting book (The Monster Book of Monsters) that doesn’t do justice to the original. 

TomesScrolls.jpgAnd while the wand shop, the candy shop, and the magic tricks shop are open, the books and paper shops are not. This bookshop called Tomes and Scrolls -- declares the awning “Bespoke Wizarding Bookshop since 1768” -- is, alas, only a facade, which seems like a lost opportunity, at least to me! There’s also Scrivenshafts, a quill shop selling the “Finest parchments, inks and quills,” also closed for business. I later saw a quill in another shop, but even my eight-year-old was disappointed that the nib was a ballpoint pen.

Perhaps this will change when the new Diagon Alley opens in 2014. 

Images © Top: Brett Barry, Middle: Rebecca Barry. 
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