The Boston Athenæum’s Winter 2015 Book Talks & Lectures

(Boston, MA)—Winter 2015 public book talks and lectures at the Boston Athenæum feature “The Future of Book Publishing” with Michael Levin, Ideas of Order: A Close Reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnets with literary scholar and former Harvard University President Neil L. Rudenstine, and Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I, with historian and author Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer and a direct descendent of Charles I.

All events will take place in the Athenæum’s historic first-floor Long Room at 10 1/2 Beacon Street, Boston, in the heart of Beacon Hill. Ticket prices and reservation requirements are listed below; registration for reserved programs opens on the first business day of the month prior to the month of the month of the event (e.g., registration for February events opens on January 5). To register or for more information about Boston Athenæum programs, hours, and membership, please visit

The full series of winter public lectures and talks is as follows:

Wednesday, January 28, 12:00 noon. Free. No reservations required.

Book Talk: Colin Calloway on The Victory with No Name: The Native American Defeat of the First American Army. A book signing will follow the event.

Dartmouth College Professor of Native American Studies Colin G. Calloway explores a key military episode that has become an aberration in the American narrative and a blank spot in the national memory. In 1791, General Arthur St. Clair led the United States army in a campaign to destroy a complex of Indian villages in northwestern Ohio. Almost within reach of their objective, his 1,400 men were attacked by about a thousand Indians. In a dramatic defeat, the U.S. force suffered nearly one thousand casualties while Indian casualties numbered only a few dozen. The highly motivated and well-led Native American force shattered not only the American army but the assumption that Indians stood no chance against European methods and models of warfare. Calloway explores how and why this battle has been overlooked in American history and shows how it ultimately changed the ways in which Americans fought their wars.

Friday, January 30, 12:00 noon. Free. No reservations required.

Book Talk: Sarah Chayes on Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security. A book signing will follow the event.

A former advisor to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, foreign policy expert Sarah Chayes explains how government’s oldest problem is its greatest destabilizing force. She finds an unexpected link between political and military disasters in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Nigeria, and other hot spots around the world: corruption. She claims that unscrupulous, kleptocratic governments, bent on their own enrichment, have driven their indignant populations to extremes, ranging from revolution to militant puritanism. Drawing on the work of such classical political thinkers as John Locke, Machiavelli, and Nizam al-Mulk, Thieves of State presents a powerful new way to understand global extremism. 

Monday, February 2, 6:00 p.m. Open to the public. Tickets are $25 ($10 for members) reservations are required. For reservations, please visit

Lecture: Michael Levin on “The Future of Book Publishing: The Coming Collapse of New York Publishers and the Rise of Independent Books”

In the last two decades, new technologies have opened up more ways to publish a book and reach readers than ever before in human history. What does this mean for traditional publishers, authors, and agents? Can the major publishers survive? Where is the book publishing industry headed? What are the best ways to move forward to publish your own book? Athenæum member and New York Times bestselling author Michael Levin will present a lively conversation about the future of books and what readers and aspiring authors can expect in these fast-changing times.

Thursday, February 5, 12:00 noon. Free. No reservations required.

Book Talk: Neil L. Rudenstine on Ideas for Order: A Close Reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. A book signing will follow the event.

Considered by many to constitute the greatest single work of lyric poetry in English, Shakespeare’s Sonnets have delighted, intrigued, and mystified scholars and ordinary readers alike for several centuries. Published as a collection in 1609, the 154 fourteen-line formally metered poems are as passionate, daring, intimate and fiery as any love poems ever written in any language. Literary scholar and former Harvard University President Neil L. Rudenstine has written a guide that inspires a new understanding of this complex, multifaceted masterpiece, one that finds a dramatic arc linking the poems in a turbulent narrative of love, turmoil, transformation, lust, and betrayal.

Thursday, February 26, 12:00 noon. Free. No reservations required.

Book Talk: Charles Spencer on Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I. A book signing will follow the event.

On January 30, 1649, in the midst of a civil war, Charles I, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland, was executed for treason in front of a large crowd outside Whitehall Palace in London. The monarchy abolished, Great Britain became a republic, known as the Commonwealth, until the Royal Family was restored to a reestablished throne in 1660, under Charles II.

Historian and author Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer, brother of Diana, Princess of Wales, and uncle to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, is a direct descendant of Charles I.  In his new book, he tells the stunning stories and fascinating fates of the 59 men who signed the King’s death warrant in 1649. 

Tuesday, March 10, 12:00 noon. Free. No reservations required.

Book Talk: Donald S. Frazier on Blood on the Bayou: Vicksburg, Port Hudson, and the Trans-Mississippi. A book signing will follow the event.

Historian, professor, and award-winning author Donald Frazier recasts a well-known story of the struggle for control of the Mississippi in the American Civil War as a contest for control of the Confederacy’s African-American populations. Although Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in 1863, the task of moving these liberated people into the Union and making use of their labor in the war effort fell to the Federal army and navy. Frazier’s book shows how the campaign to reduce Rebel forts west of the river also involved the creation of a black army of occupation and a remaking of the social and political landscape of Louisiana and the nation.

Thursday, March 19, 12:00 noon. Free. No reservations required.

Book Talk: Roseanne Montillo on The Wilderness of Ruin: A Tale of Madness, Boston’s Great Fire, and the Hunt for America’s Youngest Serial Killer. A book signing will follow the event.

It is the early 1870s in Boston. Local children begin to disappear from working class neighborhoods of the city. Some turn up bloody and bruised after torture. Others never return. With the city on edge, authorities believe the abductions are the work of a psychopath. Then they discover that the killer, fourteen-year-old Jesse Pomeroy, is barely older than his victims. Montillo’s historical novel is a tale of gruesome murder and depravity but at its heart the story of a great American city, divided by class, culture, and neighborhood, riveted by a criminal case that would have a critical impact on the judicial system and medical consciousness for decades.

Monday, March 23, 12:00 noon. Free. No reservations required.

Book Talk: Maureen Meister on Arts and Crafts Architecture: History and Heritage in New England. A book signing will follow the event.

In the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries, artist-led reforms spread through Europe and North America, transforming architecture and design. Known in English-speaking countries as the “Arts and Crafts Movement,” this new approach had a distinct impact in New England, where it looked back to the region’s colonial heritage and handicraft traditions. Architectural historian Meister explains how a group of Boston architects encountered English Arts and Crafts theorists and produced exquisite works of their own. Conservative in some ways, designer members like Ralph Adams Cram, Lois Lilley Howe, Charles Maginnis, and R. Clipston Sturgis also were forward-looking, blending the region’s visual heritage with Progressive Era idealism. Meister’s book, the first comprehensive study of New England Arts and Crafts architecture, will explore familiar, century-old landmarks from across the region.

Tuesday, March 24, 6:00 p.m.. Open to the public. Tickets are $25 ($10 for members) reservations are required. For reservations, please visit

Book Talk: Margot M. Ellis on Americans in Paris: Foundations of America’s Architectural Gilded Age

During America’s affluent Gilded Age, when great public buildings, grand avenues, luxury hotels and apartment buildings, office towers, parks, and the mansions of tycoons were going up everywhere, a prestigious design school in Paris had a strong effect on what Americans saw on their streets. American alumni of the Ecole des Beaux arts, considered by many to be the greatest art and architecture school in the world, included such powerful figures as Richard Morris Hunt, Guy Lowell, John Russell Pope, Julia Morgan, and many others. Author and editor Margot Ellis discusses these influential architects and the buildings they created for their native country, among them the most familiar and prestigious buildings and monuments in the nation.

About the Boston Athenæum:

Conceived by its founders as a “fountain, at which all, who choose, may gratify their thirst for knowledge,” the Boston Athenæum, founded in 1807, is one of America’s oldest cultural institutions.Today, the Athenaeum’s beloved National Historic Landmark building at 10 1/2 Beacon Street contains more than half a million books and other rare volumes and more than 100,000 art objects, among them works by John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, John Singer Sargent, Polly Thayer Starr, and Allan Rohan Crite. It hosts an active program of concerts, lectures, exhibitions, author talks, panel discussions, and more. The public is invited to visit the Norma Jean Calderwood Gallery and the first-floor rooms and to explore the benefits of membership, including full access to an eleven-story circulating and research library as well as invitations to member events. For more information, please visit

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