August 2014 Archives

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Last week, the Library of Congress acquired a unique and iconic Civil War image of a Confederate soldier leaving for war with his slave. The image was donated by photograph collector Tom Liljenquist, who has been actively purchasing Civil War photos for the Library of Congress over the last four years.
The photograph - a 150 year old tintype - shows Sgt. Andrew Chandler of the 44th Mississippi and his slave Silas Chandler armed with a shotgun, two pistols, and two large knives. The enigmatic photograph raises questions about the involvement of slaves with the Confederate army. At the time of the photo, Andrew Chandler was 17 years old while Silas was about 23.


The photograph was privately owned by descendants of the Chandler family, but had made appearances in recent years on the shows History Detectives and Antiques Roadshow. It was also featured in a recent book, “African American Faces of the Civil War” by historian Rod Coddington. Collector Tom Liljenquist, who thought the photograph should be part of the holdings of the Library of Congress, convinced a family descendant to sell the photo for an undisclosed price.  (When the photograph was appraised on Antiques Roadshow, it was estimated at $30,000 - $40,000).

As for Andrew and Silas, they both survived the war.  Andrew was severely wounded in the leg at the Battle of Chickamauga and was helped home by Silas who was promptly sent back to the front with Andrew’s brother Benjamin. By the end of the war, Silas had seen four years of action.

[Image from the Library of Congress]

Write on, Beethoven

The music and the myth of Ludwig van Beethoven have enjoyed unending popularity over the past two centuries. Recently, he became the subject of a massive new biography, and a separate examination of his use of paper give modern admirers fresh insight into the mind of a tortured genius.  

Portrait Ludwig van Beethoven when composing t...

Portrait Ludwig van Beethoven when composing the Missa Solemnis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


A prolific writer, Beethoven composed nine symphonies, thirty-two piano sonatas, sixteen string quartets, and five piano concertos. Even while clinically deaf, he wrote some of his most profound musical scores. Beethoven’s reliance on sheaves of manuscript paper to compose, to communicate and to create is explored in Nicholas Basbanes’ most recent book, On Paper. Beethoven wrote and re-worked his music until what he saw on paper reflected the sounds in his head. Paper, like a piano, was essential to the composer, and through surviving sheet music historians are able to follow Beethoven’s creative process. Even a cursory look at any leaf of Beethoven’s handwritten music reveals ink smudges, swooping notes dashed madly across the page and holes in the paper where corrections were made, undone, then corrected again. Everything had to be set down on paper, because, as readers learn in the book, that Beethoven was, as professor Robert Winter says in On Paper, “creating sounds that did not previously exist.”  


Unlike Mozart, whose arrangements sprang almost fully formed from his hand to the page, Beethoven suffered over each and every note. Examples from both composers affirm two different men at work; one whose results are flawless from the outset, the other a tormented soul filled with divine music.


Jan Swafford’s new biography, Anguish and Triumph, aims to extricate the man from the cult of personality that surrounded Beethoven even during his own lifetime. Swafford, also a composer in addition to biographer, spent a decade meticulously researching a man known to be quarrelsome, thunderous, and totally incapable of cultivating personal or professional relationships. In this 1,104-page book, published by Houghton Mifflin, Swafford surveys the era and the ideas that informed Beethoven’s work, as well as offers critical insight into the composer’s music. Both books peel away the composer’s legend, and reveal the man within. 

Piano Sonata in A Major, op. 101, Allegro: man...

Piano Sonata in A Major, op. 101, Allegro: manuscript sketch in Beethoven’s handwriting. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



poster_enlarge.jpgComing up on Saturday of this long Labor Day weekend is the annual Library of Congress National Book Festival, taking place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Expanded hours and the new location promise an even wider array of literary events, including a poetry slam, dedicated pavilions to particular genres, and scheduled readings and signings by more than one hundred authors and illustrators, among them Billy Collins, Kate DiCamillo, Paul Auster, Jules Feiffer, Claire Messud, Percival Everett, and Alice McDermott. Politics & Prose of Washington, D.C., will be on hand to sell selected books by Festival authors.

The Library will also debut Christopher Columbus Book of Privileges: The Claiming of a New World at the festival. Published by Levenger Press, the volume is a 184-page, full-color facsimile edition of the earliest manuscript reference to the New World, of which the LOC owns one of four principal copies, and the only one to contain contain the Papal Bull Dudum siquidem, the four-page letter that Pope Alexander VI composed on Sept. 26, 1493, containing the first written reference to a New World. The translator, John W. Hessler (curator of the Jay I. Kislak Collection for the Archaeology and History of the Early Americas at the LOC), and the other two authors, Chet Van Duzer (who wrote Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps) and Daniel De Simone (Librarian at the Folger Library) will discuss the book at 3:30 in the LOC pavilion on the second floor of the convention center. Prior to that, “Magna Carta & Related Rare Book Items” is on the presentation schedule for 3:00 in the same LOC pavilion.

The theme of this year’s event is “Stay Up With a Good Book,” hence the lunar imagery on the poster art, seen at left, by illustrator Bob Staake. For a fun look at Book Festival posters, 2001-2014, go here.
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A previously unpublished memoir by beloved children’s author Laura Ingalls Wilder will see the light of day this fall. “Pioneer Girl,” which was rejected by publishers during Wilder’s lifetime, will be published in September by the South Dakota Historical Society. The memoir includes a variety of episodes from Wilder’s girlhood on the American frontier that she considered inappropriate for inclusion in her bestselling children’s novels.

“Pioneer Girl” was written by Wilder in 1930, a full two years before the publication of the first of her “Little House” books. Wilder’s chronicle of her pioneer family’s journey through the Upper Midwest in the late 19th century failed to attract a publisher. Wilder re-worked the memoir into a series of children’s books, which were picked up by Harper & Brothers.  The first novel, “Little House in the Big Woods,” was published in 1932.  In the next eleven years, six more “Little House” books, as well as “Farmer Boy” were released to critical and popular acclaim.  Over 80 years later, the books remain bestsellers and continue to attract new and devoted fans and collectors.

The publication of “Pioneer Girl” this fall will include significant annotations from Wilder biographer Pamela Smith Hill, comparing the memoir and her novels with facts about Wilder’s early life.
infopage_header02.jpgMany collectors, booksellers, and librarians are making plans to attend Acknowledging the Past, Forging the Future, a national colloquium on library special collections on October 21-22 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. According to its web site, “This national colloquium will explore some of the factors that governed the growth and use of special collections of the past, as well as current and emerging challenges for special collections in the future. How can libraries and university faculty work together to educate students to become more aware of the hidden treasures that are available on their own campuses, and to gain a lifelong appreciation for them? How can collections from individual institutions work together to create a robust whole from the parts? How can scholars, libraries, potential donors, and collectors come together to forge new partnerships to employ these valued collections to advance knowledge and scholarship--particularly in a digital age? This colloquium will be a seminal event in acknowledging the historic strengths of special collections of the past, and for speakers and participants to chart a course for the next decade and beyond.”

We’re proud to note that longtime FB&C columnist Joel Silver, director and curator of books at Indiana University’s Lilly Library, will moderate one of the panels on “Acknowledging the Past.” Other panelists include booksellers Ken Lopez and Tom Congalton, Sotheby’s vice president Selby Kiffer, collectors Paul Ruxin and Jon Lindseth, and a number of “front-line” special collections librarians. There are also five featured speakers: Sarah Thomas, vice president, Harvard Library and Roy E. Larsen Librarian for the faculty of arts and sciences; Alice Schreyer, interim library director and associate university librarian for area studies and special collections, University of Chicago Library; Jay Satterfield, special collections librarian, Dartmouth College; Stephen Enniss, director, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin; and Mark Dimunation, chief of the rare book and special collections division, Library of Congress. Sounds like quite a lineup!

The colloquium is organized by the Kelvin Smith Library at Case Western Reserve, and presented in collaboration with River Campus Libraries at University of Rochester, Vanderbilt University, and Washington University in St. Louis Libraries. Major sponsors include Preservation Technologies, L.P. and Addison & Sarova Auctioneers. The full schedule of events is posted here, and early bird registration is open until September 1.

Dorothy West and The Harlem Renaissance

Dorothy West

Dorothy West (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Dorothy West (1907-1998) knew from an early age that she wanted to be a writer, but little did she realize that international success would come in her eighties, and that she would bear witness to the Harlem Renaissance, an artistic movement which took root in 1920’s New York.  Black painters, poets, musicians and writers from across America - many fleeing repressive Jim Crow laws in the South -  founded a dynamic core based in that Manhattan neighborhood, leading to a flourishing cultural and social phenomenon that continues to impact the arts - from rap music, African-American literature, sculpture and poetry - all can trace their roots to this moment in history. 


West’s background was different from many of her peers. She hailed from a prosperous upper-middle class black family in Boston where her father, a freed slave, had been a successful fruit merchant. West attended the prestigious Boston Latin Public School and enjoyed summers on Martha’s Vineyard.  Eventually she moved to New York and while living at the Harlem YWCA, she became friends with influential writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, Countée Cullen, Langston Hughes and Claude McKay.  


As a young writer, West won various prizes for her short stories.  Still, she struggled to find outlets that would publish her work - very few successful black publications existed in the 1920’s, and West focused on life in black America, a topic that most magazines with a white readership would not publish. Despite setbacks, she continued to write, leaving Harlem and moving permanently to Martha’s Vineyard in 1943, where she would write a weekly column for The Vineyard Gazette until her death in August 1998.


West’s first book, The Living is Easy, published in 1948, examines the complexities of being black and upper-class in Boston around World War I. This would be her only book for decades, until she met fellow Island resident and Doubleday editor Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Onassis encouraged West to complete what would be, at 85 years old, West’s breakthrough hit, The Wedding.  Oprah Winfrey turned The Wedding into a two-part miniseries starring Halle Berry, airing in 1998.  While success came late for West, she never relented in her literary pursuits. After The Wedding was published, she was asked in an interview to describe herself. West was a ‘serious’ child, and intently focused on her writing. Her mother suggested she loosen up a little. “‘You better learn to laugh, little girl, you’d better learn to laugh,’” West’s mother advised. “Before long, I discovered that I like life - and I like people.”
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The Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, Germany--one of the country’s finest special collections--suffered a terrible fire in 2004. Fifty thousand books were lost to the flames, a full 25 percent of which were considered by the library to be irreplaceable. One of the lost titles was Copernicus’s 1543 treatise De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, Libri VI, an essential work in the history of science.  

This month, ten years after the fire, the book was found amongst a group of damaged books awaiting restoration. (The above photo is of the Library’s copy.)

In the chaotic aftermath of the fire, books injured by flames, smoke, or water were put into groups based on their level of damage to await restoration. Copernicus’s work was placed in Group 4, amongst the most damaged books, where it languished for a decade while the books in Groups 1 - 3 were restored first. This year, the Duchess Anna Amalia Library finally began work on Group 4 and were overjoyed at finding Copernicus.

De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, Libri VI, written toward the end of Copernicus’s life, offers mathematical proof that the earth rotates around the sun and spins on its own axis. Even in its damaged state, the Library’s copy is thought to be valued at about $1.8 million.

Hopefully more pleasant surprises await the library’s conservators as they continue to restore the remaining damaged books.

[Photo Credit: Nikolaus Kopernikus: De Revolutionibus Orbium coelestium, Libri VI., Nürnberg, Petreius, 1543, Foto: Candy Welz © Klassik Stiftung Weimar]

Tor House, the iconic Carmel, California, home built by poet Robinson Jeffers, is a beautiful Tudor-style cottage. Jeffers designed the original stone cottage as a home for his wife and their twin sons. Construction began in 1918, and soon thereafter Jeffers began work on a second structure, Hawk Tower. Together, on a craggy knoll so near the sea, they seem to belong more to Ireland than coastal California. Tor House was where Jeffers did his writing, where he entertained literary friends, e.g. Sinclair Lewis, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Langston Hughes, and where he died in 1962. Now open for tours and events, Tor House is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Tor House.jpgThis original oil painting of Tor House by Australian artist Kenneth Jack, c. 1969, goes to auction next week at PBA Galleries in San Francisco. The painting is signed, and a note card glued to the verso is signed and inscribed to the artist’s friend Marlan Beilke in California, who specifically requested a portrait of the famous poet’s house. It’s a fine oil on board, ably executed, with literary associations -- certainly tempting for any Jeffers collector out there. The estimate is $2,000-3,000.  
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Action Comics #1, better known as the first ever Superman comic, is currently up for auction on eBay. With five days left in the auction, the bidding has already reached $1,850,101. (As of 10:30 p.m. PST on August 18th). The auction will likely exceed $2m, perhaps by a significant amount. The original price for the comic when it was released in 1938? $0.10.

Long considered the “holy grail” for comic book collectors, approximately 50 - 100 copies of Action Comics #1 are thought to still be in existence. The last time the comic came to auction was in 2011 when actor Nicholas Cage sold his copy for $2.1m.

The copy up for auction is owned by comic book dealer Darren Adams, who purchased it a few years ago from a collector. That collector in turn purchased the comic from its original owner who had housed it in a cedar box since the day he purchased it in 1938. As a result, the comic is in exceptionally nice condition, rated a 9 out of 10 on a comic book rating scale.

Adams already turned down an offer for $3m for the comic book, so he is clearly anticipating a record-breaker with this eBay auction.

A portion of the sale’s proceeds will be donated to The Reeve Foundation, a charity set up by actor Christopher Reeve after a horse riding accident left him paralyzed.
Charlie.jpgIt’s not often that book jacket art makes headlines, but such is the case with Penguin UK’s fiftieth anniversary edition of Roald Dahl’s classic of children’s literature, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The new cover art for the 144-page paperback, seen here at left, was unveiled on August 6. It has been called “creepy” and over-sexualized, and, honestly, it hard not to see “Toddlers & Tiaras” in this image of a doll-eyed little blonde draped in a pink feather boa. Sarah Kaplan wrote in the Washington Post, “...it was controversial enough that bookworms worldwide tore their eyes from their reading to register their outrage.”

In an attempt at clarification (or rationalization), a company blog post notes that this new edition is packaged under the “Modern Classics” imprint, and its design should be more mature (as opposed to the whimsical children’s editions that feature the illustrations of Quentin Blake). “This new image for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory looks at the children at the centre of the story, and highlights the way Roald Dahl’s writing manages to embrace both the light and the dark aspects of life, ready for Charlie’s debut amongst the adult titles in the Penguin Modern Classics series.”

Penguin releases the new edition on September 4. For a view of the various covers used for the perennially popular novel over the past fifty years, check out the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Facebook page. You can even vote for your favorite through Sept. 15.

Image via Penguin. 

Happy Birthday Julia Child

English: American cook, author, and television...

English: American cook, author, and television personality (August 15, 1912 - August 13, 2004). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today Julia Child would be 102, and were she still alive to celebrate it, no doubt she would toast the occasion with a decadent Lobster Thermidor served with a chilled glass of pinot blanc.  When she died in 2004, the world recognized the loss of a tireless culinary and cultural visionary who reshaped the way Americans think about food.


Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published in 1961 and brought about a sea change in American cuisine. The hefty 761-page tome is filled with over five hundred classic French recipes of varying degrees of complexity. To render these meals accessible to the average American home cook, Child took great care to painstakingly explain each step so that anyone willing to follow the directions could replicate a gourmet meal.  Child knew firsthand that through endless practice and relentless attention to detail one could master the epitome of grand cuisine.  Indeed, reading through the book reveals an author devoted to sharing best practices and takes care not to speak down to her readers, writing with a passion that ensured her everlasting popularity. Tastes have changed in forty years, and some dishes (aspics, perhaps?) may have fallen out of style, but Mastering remains a wonderful kitchen resource for basic knife techniques, identifying cuts of meat and providing measurement equivalents.  I find her charts for timing for hard-boiled eggs and pan-fried steaks never fail. 


After the success of Mastering, Child continued to write, and published nineteen books on cooking and baking throughout the rest of her career. There were also thirteen television series, starting in 1963 with The French Chef, for which she received a Peabody Award in 1965. TV Guide even named her one of television’s greatest stars to ever grace the small screen.


The kitchen in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Child prepared countless meals is as iconic as the woman herself. Husband Paul Child had specifically designed the countertops to accommodate his wife’s impressive six-foot two inch frame. When she moved to California in 2001, Child donated the kitchen to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.  Child considered kitchens to be the “beating heart and social center of the household,” and in hers sought to enlighten our palates while taming Americans’ fear of butter and cream. As she said in a 1990 interview with The New York Times, “We should enjoy food and have fun. It is one of the simplest and nicest pleasures in life.” 

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Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Marie Elia, Processing Archivist with The Poetry Collection at University of Buffalo, State University of New York.

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How did you get started in rare books?


While I was in the poetry MFA program at Columbia University, I got a job assisting the Rare Books Librarian at the New York Society Library. They were in the middle of a post-retrospective conversion project, and my job was to compare the card catalog to the MARC record; if there were discrepancies, I pulled the book to verify the information. I have to admit that I disappeared into closed stacks more often than was necessary to do my job. Although I had worked in libraries before (my undergraduate library, Poets House), the work I did for the NYSL really illuminated the history of library work and the value of cataloging. I felt that I was connecting people to books in a tangible way, that I was helping to give people the experience of discovery.


Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?


I enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh’s MLIS program with the goal of becoming a library cataloger, preferably in a rare books collection. There were no rare books-specific courses, though, so I took on internships and volunteered anywhere that would take me to get experience. When I graduated in 2008, there were barely any jobs, and funding for positions was being cut everywhere. I was lucky to land an archival cataloging position with the Time Capsules Cataloging Project at the Andy Warhol Museum, where I got a crash course in archival processing. I had no experience in museums or archives before that job, but I think my work with rare books translated well to working with art and artifacts. I think all of these experiences gave me a really good special collections education.


What is your role at your institution?


I am the processing archivist in the Poetry Collection, the library of record for 20th- and 21st-century poetry in English. The collection was founded in 1937, but I am the first full-time archivist, so there is a lot of backlog!


Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?


Drafts of Paterson that William Carlos Williams wrote on his prescription pads. Williams was one of the first poets I loved, and I remember learning in high school that he was a doctor and would sneak in his writing between patients. To hold those fragments, to see the everyday reality of a figure that holds a mythological place in literature--that makes for a pretty good day at work.


What do you personally collect?


I collect books about botany. Of course, the visual component is a draw, but I am really fascinated by the development of botanical classification as well as the history of the use of plants in medicine and everyday life. After checking it out of the library three times, I finally bought Anna Pavord’s The Naming of Names: The Search for Order in the World of Plants.


What excites you about rare book librarianship?


In an age when information can be rendered in the most convenient format--a newspaper on your phone, a paperback on your e-reader--rare books and archives let you stop and look. They give you a break, a chance to see what is in front of you. And they connect you to your own history, as a writer or a doctor or just as a human. You cannot help but think about the person who made the book, the person who wrote the letter. I like pulling out rare books and manuscript material because I watch people go from awe to intimacy. They will ask, “Can I touch it?” And when they pick it up and look at it, you can tell they are thinking about other people who have held it, and how it came to be in their hands. I think rare books librarians and archivists connect people to each other in that way. 


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


I think special collections are inherently interdisciplinary; even a collection with the narrowest collecting policy will appeal to interest outside the scope. To continue to broaden our relevance, we have to explore our capacity to serve unexpected needs and to inspire new inquiry. As a processing archivist, I think I do this by creating rich documentation for collections so that people can find our materials through multiple access points. In addition to traditional exhibitions and outreach, I think good cataloging and sharing of resources will be the best way to bring our collections to new users. 


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


The Poetry Collection prides itself on its inclusivity, and it represents a broad range of poetry. I am currently working on our Victor E. Reichert Robert Frost Collection, recently donated by Victor’s son Jonathan. Victor Reichert and Robert Frost were close friends, and this material provides a really great personal view of Frost. The first collection I processed here was the Harry Jacobus Collection: Jacobus and Robert Duncan and Duncan’s partner Jess started the King Ubu Gallery in San Francisco, which later became the legendary Six Gallery. We have a great variety of collections here, from James Joyce to Mail Art.


Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?


We have loaned artwork and visual poetry to Art=Text=Art, opening at University at Buffalo’s Anderson Gallery in September. We also loan items for exhibition around the world: Materials from our Dylan Thomas Collection are currently on display at the National Library of Wales and the Dylan Thomas Centre as part of a yearlong centennial celebration of Thomas; they will return for exhibition at UB next year. Some of our Robert Duncan and Jess artwork is on loan for the traveling exhibition “An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan, and Their Circle,” which started at The Crocker Art Museum, traveled to New York University’s Grey Art Gallery and American University, and will move on to the Pasadena Museum of California Art in September.

 

Guest Post: My Week At Bookseller Hogwarts
by Megan Bell, First-Year

If bookselling is an extreme sport, as the venerable Messrs. Rob Rulon-Miller and Lorne Bair rousingly declared the first morning, the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS) is certainly high-altitude learning. In fact, I would and will go as far as to say it’s as extreme as Quidditch and CABS is a classroom overlooking the Pitch.

page3image256.jpgBefore I go on to make some siriusly riddikulus connections between CABS and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which is exactly what I intend to do, I feel I should provide some context as to why I think this is a reasonable connection to make. For one thing, the future of the book trade depends on future booksellers and future collectors. Though some may bemoan millennials as the digitization generation, I believe it is important to keep in mind that we are also the Harry Potter generation--you don’t have to convince us that books are magical.

Through our adolescence and into adulthood, we queued up, dressed in costume, sipped “Butterbeer” from paper cups, and spent hours counting down the minutes to midnight and a new Harry Potter book in our hands. The key idea here is the memory of finally having that book in hand, and that memory is imbued with feelings of excitement and joy and community. Though many of us have gone on to embrace the digitization trend, toting e-readers instead of books around in our bags and backpacks, our love of books began with a physical book, wrapped like a Christmas present in a beautiful dust jacket with illustrations by Mary GrandPré. In comparison to contemporary children’s and young adult books, these were fine bindings. The CABS faculty spoke to the sensual nature of books, how books are visual and tangible, of course, but also delightful to smell, and it is distinctly lovely to hear the susurration of page on page. This generation has sense memories of the entire Harry Potter series, and though it was the text that drove us en masse to these release events, we were indoctrinated early with a pleasure in seeing, touching, smelling, and hearing physical books (never tasting, I promise).

Furthermore, Rowling constantly points to the importance of books throughout the series, starting in the first book, where Harry, Hermione, and Ron must conduct serious research in the Hogwarts library to find the identity of Nicholas Flamel, and many events hinge on Hermione’s encyclopedic knowledge of Bathilda Bagshot’s classic Hogwarts: A History. The series admirably examines the vast landscape of the physical book, from required reading textbooks to Gilderoy Lockhart’s mass market titles, from the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts library to Diagon Alley’s independent brick-and-mortar Flourish and Blotts. The original handwritten manuscript of Hogwarts: A History is even contained in the Restricted Section and available by appointment only. Throughout the series, the characters must depend on and contend with books, and Hermione’s bibliophilia serves them well.

TL;DR: As the explosively successful films and the now multinational “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” attractions attest, the people at Warner Bros. and Universal Studios very smartly recognize and continue to capitalize on the Harry Potter generation, and the book trade would be wise to not discount them.

That said, the CABS experience was for me as full of pure magic as my first reading, at the tender age of eight, of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, from the august and brilliant faculty, full of gravitas and kindness, to the student body, a more enthusiastic bunch has never been witnessed, I’m certain. If you want to learn from the best, from people like Lorne Bair of Lorne Bair Rare Books, Rob Rulon-Miller of Rulon-Miller Books, Terry Belanger (Order of Merlin, First Class) of the University of Virginia and Rare Book School, Sally Burdon of Asia Bookroom, Brian Cassidy of Brian Cassidy, Bookseller, Dan De Simone of the Folger Shakespeare Library, Dan Gregory (formerly) of Between the Covers, Nina Musinsky of Musinsky Rare Books, Inc., and Steve Smith of the University of Tennessee Library, if you want the guidance of Head Girls Zhenya Dzhavgova of ZH BOOKS and Maria Lin of Rulon-Miller Books, if you want to be surrounded by world-class peers and fight side-by-side with them in the battle of antiquarian bookselling, then come to Colorado. By the end of the first day, I truly felt like a first-year muggleborn come to Hogwarts, sitting in the Great Hall on the first night, just after the sorting, looking around and thinking, “These nutters are my people.”

CABS covers such subjects as the Care of Magical Creatures (Tips on the Care and Handling of Books), History of Magic (Descriptive Bibliography I and II), Charms (it’s duodecimo, not dew-decee-muh), Defense Against the Dark Arts (Fakes, Forgeries & Theft), Arithmancy (Collation), Herbology (printing and binding materials), Potions (Refurbishing Books), Transfiguration (turning a bought book into a sold book), and Divination (Evaluating & Buying Books, Scouting).

There’s even a CABS Sorting Hat (of sorts). The houses here are not Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin--you must be brave, ethical, studious, and ambitious to be a bookseller--but as Dan Gregory explained in “Marketing the Antiquarian Book Trade,” you may be a scholarly, humorous, service-oriented, or reading bookseller. Or you may belong in explorative, where dwell the brave in heart (the travels in their catalogues set these booksellers apart).

So I say to my fellow millennial bibliophiles, stop straining your ears for the sound of owl’s wings and consider this your letter of acceptance to CABS School of Bookcraft and Bibliography. If your Gringotts vault isn’t gleaming with galleons, you need only consult the Bookseminars.com scholarship page, as I did. It is with great and ongoing gratitude to the ABAA Wizengamot that I was able to attend CABS this year.

--Megan Bell co-owns Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia, with her husband, former CABS seminarian and “Bright Young Thing,” Josh Niesse.

Image of the author, courtesy of Zhenya Dzhavgova.
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The Vespasian Warner Public Library in Clinton, Illinois confirmed last week what its librarians had long suspected: one of the books in its circulating collection bore an inscription from President Lincoln. What’s more, the controversial book - “Types of Mankind” published in 1854 - provides a pseudo-scientific justification for racism.

Joan Rhodes, director of Vespasian Warner, brought the 700 page book to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, where state historians confirmed that Lincoln’s handwriting did indeed grace the inside of the book. The curators were quick to stress, however, that Lincoln did not subscribe to the racial theories presented in the book, but instead likely read the book to better familiarize himself with his opponents’ arguments.

While the inscription doesn’t bear Lincoln’s signature, it notes that the copy belonged to Clifton Moore, a colleague of Lincoln’s and a local attorney. Below the inscription is a note from another attorney stating that Lincoln wrote the inscription in 1861 shortly before he left for Washington to assume the presidency. Clifton Moore donated the book - along with thousands of others - to the Vespasian Warner Public Library when it opened in the early 1900s.

The book circulated for decades before finally being withdrawn, its binding worn from years of borrowing. (If it passed through the hands of any Lincolniana collectors, they certainly passed the test of temptation).

Now the book is resting in a safety deposit box where it awaits eventual restoration and display.


privatelife-cover.jpgI received a review copy of a startling book that pairs the poetry of Henry Wessells and the photography of Paul Schütze. The Private Life of Books, printed in an edition of 226 copies by Temporary Culture, is beautiful in every way: the words, the images, and the production.

Wessells is a true bookman--a writer, a reader, a publisher, and a bookseller, known to many in the trade as a rare book dealer for James Cummins Bookseller in New York City. The six poems printed here on the topics of reading, memory, and books will inspirit any bookish soul. Take for example, these lines: “All perfect books the acid gaze of time devours,/And only spoken words of love renewed endure.”

The eight tipped-in, duotone photos by Schütze show books on shelves, a bookshop at night, and close-ups of book edges. The images are otherworldly--and the viewer (at least, this viewer) comes away feeling that something odd and magical may be going on in that dark bookshop at night.

The text is printed on Mohawk Via Vellum Jute. It was set in original foundry Centaur types and digitized by the Nonpareil Typefoundry. Jerry Kelly designed the 24-page volume and the pages are hand-sewn in heavy card covers. A pictorial dust jacket with duotone photos (seen above) completes the package.

Prior to August 15, subscribers can snag a copy for $125. The price will then increase to $150. Tuck one of these away for the holidays--a bibliophile in your life will thank you.

Image via Endless Bookshelf.

Prison Noir with Joyce Carol Oates


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From Alexandre DumasThe Count of Monte Cristo to Piper Kerman’s Orange is the New Black, tales of jailbirds and their confines have long captivated readers.  Prison Noir, due out in September, is the latest in the award-winning Noir series from Brooklyn-based independent publisher Akashic Books.  This anthology, dedicated to prison literature, includes work by fifteen current and former inmates. One story is published posthumously: the author, William Van Poyck, was executed last June for the 1987 murder of a guard during a failed prison break.  Three of the contributors have been recognized for their achievements by the PEN Prison Writing Program. All the stories, set within jailhouse walls, explore anguish, lunacy, and sometimes, a desire for redemption.  Others offer an unsettling and unvarnished look at life in the clink. Akashic Books received almost one hundred submissions for the anthology.  Interestingly, most of the writing came from convicts in the Michigan penitentiary system, which supports various inmate writing programs. None other than literary luminary Joyce Carol Oates curated the collection and wrote the introduction.


Oates is no stranger to the gritty horror found in Prison Noir, having explored the depths and intricacies of modern life throughout her lauded career. Recipient of the National Medal of  Humanities and the National Book Award, she has spent a lifetime writing about the mythic pursuit of the American dream. For equally as long, she has encouraged others to share their thoughts on paper.  Oates believes firmly that writing is essential to maintaining one’s humanity, and provides opportunities for people to cultivate their written voice. In addition to teaching creative writing at Princeton University,  Oates has led writing various workshops in prisons across America, including California’s oldest state prison, San Quentin. 


As Oates writes in the book’s preface, “We may feel revulsion for some of the acts described in these stories, but we are likely to feel a startled, even stunned sympathy for the perpetrators.”  It would certainly be difficult to say that these stories are enjoyable to read. They aren’t. The stories are not poorly written, but some are searingly violent and difficult to get through. (Linda Michelle Marquardt’s “Milk and Tea” is particularly horrific in its description of a sadistic husband whose acts push his wife to commit murder.) Still, they offer a view of a secluded world that 2.2 million Americans call home. Perhaps most importantly, the book gives inmates a voice: their own. 


Prison Noir, edited by Joyce Carol Oates and published by Akashic Books, is 260 pages and will be available on September 2nd for $26.95 in hardcover, $15.95 in paperback, and in e-format for $9.99.  


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credit: Charles Gross

Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Daryl Green, Rare Books Librarian in the Special Collections Division at University of St Andrews Library in Scotland. 

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How did you get started in rare books?


It was a bit of a sideways step for me during my MA year at the University of York (UK); I had decided to take on some part-time work during my dissertation write up period in the summer of 2007 and landed an assistant librarian job at York Minster Library. The Minster Library was where I cut my librarian teeth: learning how to catalogue early and rare printed works, how to manage a collection within the environment in a historic (read: uncontrollable) building, etc. I went to full-time after my Master’s dissertation (Medieval Studies) was finished and worked for another year and a half. Many a happy afternoon was spent that summer amongst the stacks of the Upper Hall Library, cataloguing and reporting ESTC books and losing myself in the moment; the aura of the old stacks, the sounds of the Minster Gardens, the smell of the books on wooden shelves, it was pretty idyllic. This was at a time when I was trying to decide if academia was the right thing for me, I had seen a number of my friends go on to happy career-starting positions but only after incredible amounts of time commitment and sacrifice. I saw special collections work as a way to stay connected to the primary materials and to the research community in a very real way, but also a career where I could punch out at 5 or 6 in the evening and have a life outside of work. I could also focus my academic interests into my subject specialities as a developing reference librarian, but still have the opportunity to delve into books, and the history surrounding them, from all centuries and all places; special collections work would allow me to be a specialist and a generalist at the same time.


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Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?

 

I decided to head back to the States for my MLS, partly because I wasn’t finished with the Midwest (where I grew up) and partly because there were more programs that offered specializations in rare books/special collections work in the States versus the UK. So, I started my degree at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in the fall of 2009, with the plan to finish as quickly as I could to avoid racking up any more student debt than necessary and to jump back into the work force as quickly as possible. I also found a part-time job in UIUC’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library, cataloguing on theQuick & Clean Project. I jumped in on the project as they were finishing up some continental imprints and then moving on to a whole swathe of annotated screenplays from 1950s and 60s Hollywood, and then afterwards on to processing their substantial incunabula collection, so the work and experience I got there was extremely varied and wonderful. I piled on the coursework thinking that I could probably finish in a year and-a-half, until a job posting came up at St Andrews in the spring of 2010 for a full-time rare books cataloguer; I interviewed successfully but convinced them to wait until I could finish my degree to start my contract. I sped up my coursework and took on some independent studies during the summer months (including a lovely bibliography seminar with Don Krummel) and managed to finish all of the degree requirements by July 2010, in effect completing the degree in less than a year!

 

What is your role at your institution?


I’m one of a pair of Rare Book Librarians here at St Andrews. The pair of us share all the facets of a rare books curator and play to each other’s strengths. I started off as a rare books cataloguer, and still always have a book which needs cataloguing up on the block in front of my monitors (it’s my bit of Zen for the day), and so a lot of what I do is manage the various cataloguing and intellectual control projects we have going on, including retro-conversion programmes, internships and processing new acquisitions. I also am a regular facet of the University’s Book History MLitt as an instructor of Material Bibliography as well as a guest lecturer on several courses in the Schools of English, History and Art History. I also do my fair share of fielding enquiries from researchers and students, collections development (which has gotten fun recently due to a substantial grant for acquisitions from the Carnegie Trust!) and all the other fun bits that come with the job. I also am the creator and sometimes-editor/contributor of Echoes from the Vault the Special Collection Division’s blog.

 

Favorite rare book / ephemera that you’ve handled?

 

I know that this can be hard for some people, but for me I’ve got a shining example of hairs standing on end, lightning strikes, founding moment from my halcyon days amongst the cornfields of Illinois that still haunts me. One of the collections of modern manuscripts that we were trialling MARC cataloguing on was a small collection of Arctic papers. I had the luck of pulling a manuscript copy for cataloguing of The North Georgia Gazette and Winter Chronicle which was produced and circulated in manuscript format by members of the first Parry Expedition for the North-West Passage while they were at their winter quarters in the Arctic; it was later published, in printed form, after the expedition’s return to London under the title: North Georgia gazette, and Winter chronicle. Illinois’ copy originally belonged to, and was copied out by, Charles Palmer, Midshipman on the H.M.S. Hecla and sometimes bard of the Parry expedition, while camped out at Winter Harbour on what is now called Melville Island in the Northwest Territories. A newspaper, copied out in hand, during an Arctic winter, in the cold and the dark, with uncertainty closing in around you on all sides; this manuscript oozed in atmosphere and history. Turnings its leaves, seeing the sometimes shaky hand, reading the stories, instantly took me to a Lovecraftian alien landscape full of monumental glaciers, everlasting twilight reflecting off of miles of polar-white landscapes and a small crew of two ships stranded in the midst of it all. That manuscript still gives me goosebumps.

 

What do you personally collect?

 

Being a student in two countries for the better part of a decade doesn’t leave much money or room for collections of anything but work books and academic journals. However, we’ve recently been developing our photobook collections at St Andrews, and I’ve really enjoyed learning about the genre. I’ve decided to start collecting inter-war and post-WWII photobooks by Italian photographers; most of these are still pretty easy to attain on a librarian’s salary and having an Italian wife and an excuse to regularly travel to Italian bookshops should make this good fun. I plan to start with Ferdinando Scianna, one of the first Italian Magnum photographers, who has got a pretty solid catalogue to go after.

 

What excites you about rare book librarianship?

 

The “aha” moment, that moment when you put the right book or manuscript in the right person’s hands. The greatest joy of being a rare books librarian/curator is being the conduit through which people get in touch with early, fragile, sensitive or rare materials which, for necessary reasons, are usually kept behind very well closed doors. When I’m in a room with a group of first or second year undergraduates taking them through the history of the codex and skipping around from medieval psalters to incunabula to fine press works can be overwhelming for some, but when you put a first edition of Two stories printed by the hands of Virginia Woolf into the hands of an eager Woolf reader you see the sparks fly, when you let a budding medievalist turn the pages of a manuscript for the first time you see their eyes widen. Creating that connection, fostering that desire to continue to connect to our collections, and learning what other people can tell you about books held in your collections is what it’s all about. Everything else about the job is great, but that part is sublime.

 

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

 

I think, by now, most libraries have realised that in an age of ever-increasingly homoginized research collections, special collections are what define one library from another. The role of the special collections librarian is to now not only preserve, curate, and develop collections under their care, but also to champion the institutions research strengths both to the home and the away crowd. I’d like to think we might be able to learn a bit from our ‘main library’ colleagues, though, and develop a more collaborative approach to several problems such as backlog cataloguing, electronic resource development, collections development and storage. Even though most of us special collections librarians are part of a large university or institutional library, we still operate, for most of the year (save that one special weekend in June for Americans, and those few days at the end of August for the Brits), on our own islands promoting our own collections and trying to shout to the world about them. If, instead, we could harness some of the good that comes out of collaboration, I think we’d be all the better for it: discussing regional collection strengths, developing digital resources collaboratively that provide access to a wider array of collections in more dynamic and impactful ways, and defraying the rising financial and environmental costs of collections storage across several institutions.

 

I’d also love to see more collaborative work which aims to engage contemporary artists with historic collections and archives. The output of artists in residence programs based in libraries and archives can really be electrifying and, in most cases, brings the collections to an audience that wouldn’t normally be reached and encourages further engagement. One of the most stunning projects that I’ve seen recently (and no, this is not just me name-checking an East-Fifer) is the collaboration between film researcher Virginia Heath and musician King Creosote who drew on the motion picture resources from the National Library of Scotland & the Scottish Screen Archive to create A Century in Film: From Scotland With Love; watch it just as soon as you can.  

 

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

 

Oh, yes. A couple of really quirky birds are the Beveridge Collection and the Alchemy Collection. The personal collection of the Rev. John Beveridge donated to the University in the mid-20th century and has three main strengths which reflects the collectors interests: Norway, Esperanto and beekeeping. I’ll repeat that: Norway, Esperanto and beekeeping. Fantastic! There are even some items in his collection which cross the boundaries, such as Norwegian Gazettes in Esperanto. The Alchemy Collection was assembled by John Read, professor of chemistry at St Andrews in the second quarter of the 20th century. Read was basically given an envelope full of cash and the remit to build a collection of books and manuscripts on the history of chemistry by the Department of Chemistry, a task which he not only worked at for the rest of his career, but which resulted in some magnificent early printed books and manuscripts (including early editions of Brunschwig, Ulstadius and manuscripts in the hand of Newton).

 

The collections here at St Andrews are fantastically deep and wide and historically under-exploited; our retro-cataloguing projects are finding wonderful pockets of books in the general reserve 17th and 18th century collections and feel like we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what may lie beneath. One of the collections that I have my own “cataloguer’s eye” on is the collection of John Sturgeon Mackay, mathematical master at the Edinburgh Academy until his death in 1914. This small but incredibly focussed collection of mathematical works features first editions of Euclid’s works in several languages, etc. A nice little project that I hope I can find time for myself soon.     

 

Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?

 

Well, currently St Andrews doesn’t have much of a dedicated exhibition space for its Special Collections, due to redevelopment projects, etc. So we’ve really concentrated our curatorial efforts into our digital presence, to try and widen the impact of our collections across several user groups and the general public. To this extent we’ve expanded Echoes from the niche rare books blog that it started out as into an admittedly also niche, but very successful, blog highlighting items from all of our collections and with contributions from all of the Division’s curators, as well as cataloguers, archivists and guest posts by academics and researchers. The blog, and the activities surrounding it, has been a nice outlet to express our curatorial voice and to reach more diverse audiences (from academics to hobby bakers and from artists to knitters) to than a local exhibition could. The last three years we’ve been running focussed year-long threads on bindingsillustrations and this year’s star has been our historical how-to thread. We’ve got a few other digital resources coming down the pipe soon, so watch this space.

 

We do have a small, temporary exhibition facility in our historic King James Library which I’ll be mounting a small display on Italian translator and Cardinal Daniele Barbaro in September in conjunction with an academic workshop coming to town, but the space and conditions limit the use of this space to the most temporary of exhibitions.

bloomsbury_cover.jpgWho knew the Bloomsbury Group was known for its discernible palate and not just its literary taste? The Bloomsbury Cookbook: Recipes for Life, Love and Art (Thames & Hudson, $39.95), a new book by Jan Ondaatje Rolls, looks at E.M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Lytton Strachey, Roger Fry, and others in their literary set from a culinary point of view--perhaps the only view not yet explored. As Anne Chisholm writes in the foreword, “Jan Ondaatje Rolls has indeed found a way to cast new light onto Bloomsbury, not by yet again re-examining their personal or professional lives or analyzing their emotions, but by walking into their kitchens and dining rooms, unearthing their cookbooks, trying out their recipes (even the less tempting ones) and, above all, by immersing herself in their writings and paintings. She has followed the scent of cooking through novels, diaries, letters and memoirs...”

If you wish to make Mrs. Dalloway’s dinner, for example, listed here are the ingredients and directions for cucumber vichyssoise, mayonnaise of cold salmon, chicken in aspic, chocolate ice cream, and homemade gateau de pommes. Among the other nearly 300 recipes are Strachey’s rice pudding, Vita’s [Vita Sackville-West] magnificent Strasbourg pie, Monk’s House tea, Hogarth Eccles cakes, Armistice chocolate cream, and marrow and ginger jam.

It’s a fresh approach, and one that appeals to both cookbook enthusiasts and lovers of Edwardian and WWI-era English literature. Plus, the book itself is lovely--a generous hardcover with purple endpapers and a ribbon marker, featuring 165 illustrations of artwork by those in the Bloomsbury circle, photographs of them, and original art by British designer (and granddaughter of Vanessa Bell), Cressida Bell.

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In response to the ongoing investigation of the Girolamini Library thefts, ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers) released an official note of protest yesterday to the Italian judiciary.  The protest was particularly inspired by the recent arrest of Danish rare book dealer Christian Westergaard and the confiscation of eleven books from his stock in connection with the case. The protest note, reprinted in full below, has been sent by ILAB to Italy’s Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Justice.

MEMORANDUM OF ILAB TO THE ITALIAN JUDICIARY


In March 2012 Professor Tomaso Montanari first brought to light a cultural theft, which then appeared to be limited to the Girolamini Library, based in Naples. We now know that the Director of the library at the time, Marino Massimo de Caro, widened his trail in plundering through other libraries in Italy as well: Montecassino, Naples Municipal Library, Ministry of Agriculture Library, a Seminary in Padua, and the Ximines Observatory Library in Florence. Soon after the discovery of the theft the Italian authorities announced that four books from the Girolamini Library were offered in Auction 59 (May 2012) at the Munich Auction House Zisska and Schauer, and arranged for them to be seized by the German police. The auction house thereupon recalled all books from this consignment - a total of 540 titles - and handed them over to the German authorities in Munich, where these books have been stored to this day.

The President of ILAB at the time - Arnoud Gerits - then informed the members of ILAB in an open letter and he immediately offered his assistance and cooperation to the Italian investigating authorities to uncover the truth of this scandal. When Tom Congalton was elected the new President of ILAB in the autumn of 2012, he gave renewed assurances to the Italian authorities of ILAB’s willingness to assist in every conceivable manner to get to the bottom of this case. Both offers, as well as many others made subsequently, went unanswered by the Italian authorities.

On April 8 in 2013, the President of the Italian Association of Antiquarian Booksellers, ALAI, Fabrizio Govi, attempted to relate the criminal route of Marino Massimo de Caro in a speech in the Library of Congress; in the edition of the “The New Yorker” ofDecember 16 in 2013, Nicholas Schmidle described in detail how the former Director of the Girolamini Library was further implicated. Both of these, the speech made by Fabrizio Govi and Nicholas Schmidle’s article, were also brought to the attention of the Italian authorities.

In 2013 the Italian antiquarian bookseller Giuseppe Solmi was arrested by the Italian Carabinieri, and released a short time later. The charge: dealing in books stolen from one of the libraries in which Marino Massimo de Caro was operating. On the 2nd of August of the same year the auctioneer Herbert Schauer was arrested on the strength of a European arrest warrant, and deported to Italy several weeks afterwards. The charge: dealing in books stolen from one of the libraries in which Marino Massimo de Caro was operating and participation in a criminal association. Herbert Schauer was condemned to a five-year prison sentence early this summer, but meanwhile the arrest of Mr. Schauer was lifted by the Italian Court of Cassation.

The latest case in relation to this affair concerns the Danish antiquarian bookseller Christian Westergaard. He was arrested several weeks ago in front of his family. The charge: dealing in books stolen from one of the libraries in which Marino Massimo de Caro was operating. To be sure, Christian Westergaard was released the same day, but the eleven books that had been secured by the Danish police during a mutual assistance procedure remained in safekeeping by the Danish police. The most astonishing thing about the latter case is the fact that all eleven books were also included in the catalogue of Zisska and Schauer’s Auction 59 and hence had already been secured by the German authorities since May 2012. For all eleven of the books that had been secured by him, Christian Westergaard was subsequently able to prove when, where and from whom he had acquired them. This includes also books he had acquired from the Macclesfield Auction at Sotheby’s in London (2006ff).

It was only a few days before the start of the first auction of Philobiblon/Bloomsbury (Rome) when the Carabinieri confiscated all lots of the auction by order of the court at Naples. It was suspected that some books of this auction had been stolen from the Girolamini library. The President of ALAI, Fabrizio Govi, appointed two independent experts to check the books, and Mr. Danesi and Mr. Parkin reported that not a single book of the auction could be traced back to an Italian Public Library.

ILAB protests against this unprofessional approach by the Italian authorities in the strongest terms. A simple glance at the lists of the items stored in Munich would have shown straightaway that the books seized in Denmark could not possibly be those volumes that were stolen by Marino Massimo de Caro, nor does it appear to be clear to the investigating authorities that in the vast majority of cases there are naturally a number of copies of printed books, whatever age they may be, that differ in their state of preservation, binding, or provenance.

ILAB further protests against the fact that, through the procedures chosen by the Italian authorities, respectable citizens and business people are falling under suspicion of criminal actions and consequently their reputations are being frivolously compromised. The shock experienced by the families of those arrested under undignified circumstances is also mentioned here for the sake of completion.

ILAB is also protesting against the fact that, as a result of these measures, an entire profession is being stigmatized and might be at risk of losing its credit standing with private and institutional clients, as well as banks, which has taken decades to build up.

ILAB is a long way from giving advice to the Italian judiciary, but we are renewing our offer to the investigating authorities to assist in having these criminal actions thoroughly cleared up and to cooperate unconditionally. By providing you with some expertise required to differentiate between different copies of the same title, we might be able to help prevent a repetition of potentially embarrassing and unnecessary events such as the regrettable arrest of Christian Westergaard. Once again ILAB requests the Italian authorities to provide us with lists of the stolen books which could be included in our stolen books database.

As President of ILAB, I would be happy to meet with the relevant authorities at any time.

-Norbert Donhofer, President of ILAB (on behalf of the Committee of ILAB)

Greener Diploma.pngThe original 1870 Harvard College diploma earned by Richard T. Greener, the first African-American to graduate from the school, goes to auction this week in Chicago. Rescued by contractor Rufus McDonald from an abandoned home’s attic in 2009, the document and related archival materials made headlines. Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. called it an “extraordinary” discovery.

For some, the auction result, whatever it is, will come with a sigh of relief. While McDonald succeeded in selling two other documents for $52,000 to the University of South Carolina, where Greener was the first African-American faculty member, he became disillusioned with Harvard’s offer for the diploma. In October of last year, he told the Chicago Sun-Times that he would “roast and burn them” rather than take an “insulting” offer, which he claimed was $7,500. Others have stated that Harvard later offered more, even as much as $35,000.

McDonald recanted his incendiary statement and has now consigned the ornate vellum document to auction, with an estimate of $10,000-15,000. “Our firm is honored to be facilitating the sale of this incredibly important document,” said Mary Kohnke, director of fine books and manuscripts at Leslie Hindman. “Greener’s Harvard diploma is a symbol of the power of the individual spirit to overcome incredible prejudice and break down institutional and social barriers.”

The question is: will Harvard finally secure the historic document or choose to avoid a situation laden with hostility and drama?

Perhaps the Morgan Library will make a bid to safeguard the diploma. Richard T. Greener also happened to be the father of Belle da Costa Greene (born Belle Marian Greener), the librarian credited with helping J.P. Morgan build his legendary collection of rare books and manuscripts. She also served as the Morgan’s first director until her retirement in 1948.

Image via Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.
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