Rare Books

Marginalia as Gold Dust

From the New York Times (scroll about halfway down to Found in the Margins):

In the last few months, foundations have given out hundreds of thousands of dollars to support research on the scribbles in the margins of old books.

Johns Hopkins University, Princeton and University College London have received funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to partner on a database, “The Archaeology of Reading in Early Modern Europe.” It will focus on 16th-century marginalia from the writers Gabriel Harvey, Isaac Casaubon and John Dee. Earle Havens, a library curator and professor at Johns Hopkins, said in an interview that the three “could not open a book without a pen in their hand.”

“The Archaeology of Reading” will result in searchable transcriptions of the annotators’ outrage, gossip, cross-references to other books and uncensored colloquial reactions. Harvey’s annotations are particularly revealing; he longed, futilely, to overcome his humble origins as a rope maker’s son and become a prominent legal figure.

Lisa Jardine, a professor at University College London, said that in Harvey’s marginalia, “You watch him move up the social ladder, but then he can’t straddle the final hurdles.”

Volumes marked up with handwriting used to be described as “dirty books” among dealers, she added. But in the modern age of words mostly appearing online, marginal notes can actually increase value. “Now they’re gold dust,” she said.

Now on View at the Library of Congress, One of the Four Surviving Copies of the Magna Carta

Via the Washington Post: A yellowing piece of parchment covered in Latin, the Magna Carta now on view at the Library of Congress is as charming as a tax form. Hey, no one ever said cornerstones of constitutional law and civil liberty had to be pretty.

Magna Carta (experts drop the preceding “the”) got off to a rough start. When King John signed the “Great Charter” in 1215, on a field near London, he had no intention of appeasing its authors, barons who chafed at too-high taxes. But because they’d captured London, the king had no choice, says Nathan Dorn, curator of “Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor,” a new exhibit at the Library of Congress.

The barons made at least 41 copies and sent them to every county in England. The document on view is one of four surviving copies; the original is lost.

Boston Archivists Demand Patience

A copper box sealed for over 113 years inside the head of a piece of statuary, a lion, at the Old State House in Boston has finally been opened.

Inside... there was a surprise book with a red cover...but we don't know the title or contents. Historians deem the book and other contents of the box too fragile to be quickly examined. They will need to be examined in a temperature and pressure controlled environment.

The society first learned of the possible existence of the time capsule three years ago from the great-great-granddaughter of Samuel Rogers, a craftsman who had worked on renovations to the building and was believed to have placed the box in the lion's head and catalogued its contents. A 1901 article from The Boston Globe surfaced later, alluding to contents of a copper box "which will prove interesting when the box is opened many years hence."

More from ABC News.

Moving Day for Priceless Historical Documents

From the New York Times a fascinating look at how invaluable historical documents and artifacts are secured while in transit.

Rare books stolen from Becker College Library

A British man named Joseph Heath was ordered to pay $3,000 to Becker College library after stealing 100 rare books, including one signed by Abraham Lincoln, The Telegram reports.

The 53-year-old Leicester native had smuggled around $115,000 out of the antique book collection of the library. One of the books he took was a first edition o Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

Heath, a janitor at the college, had offered the missing books or sale to private collectors, as well as posting them on Craigslist.

Heath’s book pilfering was discovered when he tried to sell books to the Leicester Historical Society, and one of the board members recognized the editions.

Virginia History and Bunny Men

From The Washington Post:

"We Virginians, we really love our history,” said Laura Wickstead, director of the Virginia Room at the City of Fairfax Regional Library. “That’s for sure.”

“We’re sitting within a virtual stone’s throw of the Library of Congress, the National Archives and these fabulous university collections,” Laura said, “but even these smaller public library collections are superb and have things you don’t find other places.”

There’s certainly a lot to love. After all, this is the part of the country that produced George Mason, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Virginia was a hotbed of the Civil War. More recently, it’s where the mysterious urban legend known as the Bunny Man did whatever it is that Bunny Men do.

Sarajevo Reopens 477-year old library After Wars Destruction


Via Boston.com:

Shown above: Bosnian security worker passes by old books on display during opening ceremony of Gazi Husrev-bey library in Sarajevo, on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014. Sarajevo reopens the 477-year old library on Wednesday, that contains the biggest collection of oriental books and manuscripts in Southeast Europe, after it was rebuilt with the financial donation from Qatar. Dodging bullets and bombs during the 1992-95 Bosnian war and the city's siege, Sarajevans moved the manuscripts eight times to different locations to save them from destruction. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)

The Cleveland Public Library Found a Lost First Edition Copy of 'A Christmas Carol'

The Cleveland Public Library Found a Lost First Edition Copy of 'A Christmas Carol'
http://www.theatlanticcities.com/arts-and-lifestyle/2013/12/cleveland-public-library-found-l...
Cleveland librarian Kelly Brown had far more modest plans when she first began collecting items for a holiday traditions display at the Cleveland Public Library. But when she began poking around the stacks, she stumbled on a fairly unexpected Yuletide surprise: a first-edition copy of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

First book printed in the US sells for $14.2 million at Sotheby's

From CNN.com: "The world's most valuable book sold Tuesday for $14.16 million at Sotheby's in New York, according to the auction house.

The rare Bay Psalm Book is the first book ever written and printed in what is now the United States. Its sale set a record for a book sold at auction, Sotheby's said."

An Ancient Library and Advice from the Buddha

Fascinating piece in the New Yorker about an ancient Chinese library in Dunhuang, unearthed about one hundred years ago, and where scholars are now in the process of digitizing thousand year old Chinese manuscripts.

A portion of the article equating print with prayer...

"The paper items preserved in the Library also shed light on the origins of another information technology: print. The Diamond Sutra, one of the most famous documents recovered from Dunhuang, was commissioned in 868 A.D., “for free distribution,” by a man named Wang Jie, who wanted to commemorate his parents. In the well-known sermon that it contains, the Buddha declares that the merit accrued from reading and reciting the sutra was worth more than a galaxy filled with jewels. In other words, reproducing scriptures, whether orally or on paper, was good for karma. Printing began as a form of prayer, the equivalent of turning a prayer wheel or slipping a note into the Western Wall in Jerusalem, but on an industrial scale."

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