Rare Books

Why do old books smell?That old book smell brings back so many memories, but what creates that smell?

Every time I catch a whiff of that special old books smell, I am transported through time and space to the cool welcoming basement of The Strand Bookstore in New York City, where I spent many hot humid summer afternoons, searching for some used book I've never seen nor even heard of, or sitting on the cold concrete floor, reading. The smell of old books isn't pleasant, exactly, but it is unmistakable -- and powerfully evocative.

"A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness," writes an international team of chemists from University College London (UCL) and the University of Ljubljana (UL) in Slovenia in their scientific paper (doi:10.1021/ac9016049).

"[T]his unmistakable smell is as much part of the book as its contents."

But what is the source of that smell?

Read more about it at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/grrlscientist/2012/may/01/1

Rare Engraving by Paul Revere Found in RI

Rare Paul Revere print found inside book by Brown University librarian.



Petition to spare libraries/ms of Timbuktu

I'm passing this along:

On Apr 10, 2012, at 9:42 PM, "Jennifer Yanco" <1989.wara@gmail.com> wrote:

I am writing to alert you to the situation in Mali, which is increasingly volatile. The conflict has spread to Timbuktu, home of thousands of manuscripts documenting the rich heritage of West Africa through the ages.

I write as a member of the scholarly community, which is concerned for the safety of this cultural and intellectual heritage housed in the many libraries and private collections in Timbuktu. I know that this will be of concern to your institution. Our West African colleagues, Drs. Habib Sy and Ibrahima Lo prepared a petition, urging the parties to the conflict to be mindful of the value of the heritage in these manuscripts and to spare them. We were sent a copy of the petition and were able to make an online petition, which you can now find on the WARA website home page (www.bu.edu/wara) and at the link copied below.

We a -- Read More

Death and Destruction at Cairo Library During Political Clashes

Cairo (CNN) -- The new round of bloody clashes between pro-democracy protesters and Egypt's security forces left 10 people dead Saturday, including six by live ammunition, even though the new prime minister denied that live fire was being used by his forces.

Meanwhile, 213-year-old Egyptian maps and historical manuscripts -- described as "irreplaceable" -- were destroyed after a library in Cairo was among structures set ablaze during the clashes, officials said.

Egypt's Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri, appointed by the military earlier this month, condemned the library attack, which he called an "arson committed by the protesters who portrayed no patriotism in protecting the symbols of the historical civilization of this nation." The 200,000-book library is called the Scientific Center.

Destroyed in the fire were the original manuscript of the "description of Egypt" and "irreplaceable maps and historical manuscripts preserved by many generations since the building of the Scientific Center in August 1798 during the French Campaign," Ganzouri said in a statement

Reports from CNN and DP News.

Interview with Norman Kane, bookseller

Interview with Norman Kane, 86 year old proprieter of the Americanist bookstore, interviewed by former employee, Nate Pedersen. Reflections on changes in bookselling and highlights of a career, published in Fine Books Magazine,
http://www.finebooksmagazine.com/issue/201109/americanist-1.phtml# -- Read More

Mark Twain House Employee Embezzled One Million Over Eight Years

An employee of the Mark Twain House and Museum in West Hartford, Conn., has admitted in court to embezzling $1 million from the organization that maintains the author's historic home. The Mark Twain House, like the homes of some of America's other best-known writers, has faced financial difficulties. Most, however, were not systematically plundered. Report from LA Times Jacket Copy.

Longtime (and now former) staffer Donna Gregory regularly raided the organization's coffers for eight years; she pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and filing a false tax return, Reuters reports.

According to court documents, Gregory submitted false information over the Internet to the Mark Twain House payroll vendor between 2002 and 2010. The misinformation allowed additional pay to which she was not entitled to be deposited into her bank account, classified as payroll advances.

She then adjusted the ledgers to cover up the advances by reclassifying the amounts as utilities, maintenance and similar items. She also falsified the Mark Twain House's bank statements to hide the advances, authorities said. Gregory used the Mark Twain House's check-writing system to write checks payable to herself and forged her supervisor's signatures on those checks, authorities said.

Keeping Scrapbooks Out of the Scrap Heap

From the New York Times: Next year is the centennial of America's great folk legend, Woody Guthrie, and fortunately for all of us, and thanks to a grant from the IMLS, we will be able to view some of the artifacts he collected over the years.

Woody Guthrie saved paperwork documenting his peripatetic life, from utility bills for New York apartments to fliers protesting shanty demolitions in Seattle and lyrics for folk songs performed at a Los Angeles radio station. He and his family put some of the artifacts in scrapbooks, but that did not fend off damage over the years.

A scrapbook page with a letter from Woody Guthrie to his sister. Grants are helping preserve deteriorating scrapbooks.

The glues and album bindings weakened and failed. The page edges turned brittle and crumbled. Newspaper clippings yellowed and tore.

The Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives, which the family helps run at a tiny office in Mount Kisco, N.Y., has long had to keep researchers away from the more fragile scrapbooks. “Anytime anyone looked through, I knew we would lose a portion of it,” said Tiffany Colannino, the collection’s archivist. -- Read More

On Mistakenly Shredding a Prized Collection

Carla Tracy, director of the Thomas Tredway Library at Augustana College in Illinois writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Shortly after I began my career as a librarian, the Web made its appearance to the general public. Even with the broad scope afforded me through my educational background, I didn't believe the Web would amount to much. I could not imagine that this unimpressive resource would shake the very concept of the library as it had been known for hundreds of years.

The shaking hasn't stopped yet. College librarians are faced with the challenge of expanding digital media and study space while reducing print media. That reduction includes withdrawing books from the shelves, which, in effect, means selling, recycling, giving away, storing off-site (for those who can afford it), discarding, or shredding texts. Suddenly college librarians, among the world's greatest lovers of books, are viewed in certain corners as book destroyers.

If a library is a growing organism, then I've felt the growing pains keenly on our campus these last few months. In leading our library staff through an effort to remove certain books used only once in the past 25 years, if at all, I stand at the head of a series of events that inadvertently sent part of a reprint collection, written in classical Chinese, to the recycling center.

More from Chronicle.com.

J. P. Morgan Library's John Bidwell Talks about Curation & Such

Before he became the first name of a bank, J. P. Morgan was a Wall Street mogul who, a century ago, bequeathed his collection of 14,000 or so rare books to what his son would transform into the Morgan Library and Museum on Madison Avenue. Since then, the collection has grown to about 80,000 printed books, supervised since 1999 by John Bidwell, 63, the Astor Curator of Printed Books and Bindings. He majored in history at Columbia University, and received his master’s at Columbia’s School of Library Service and his doctorate in English from Oxford. Dr. Bidwell commutes from Princeton, N.J., where he lives with his wife, Andrea Immel, a curator at Princeton University Library.

What makes a book rare: There are plenty of books that are valuable and not rare, and plenty of books that are rare and not valuable. Example: The Morgan is celebrated for being the one institution in the world for having three Gutenberg Bibles. You might say it’s not extremely rare because there are 50 known copies in various states of completeness in the world. On the other hand, we have plenty of early books that are the only known copy in the world, some of them deservedly so.

Library rat: I’ve had no other job but to work in libraries since I was a college undergraduate. As soon as I realized it was time for me to go back to graduate school, I knew I wanted to work in rare book libraries, and that’s all I’ve done.

More from The New York Times.

It was Almost Gone With the Wind...

NYTimes reports: SOUTHPORT, CT — Long thought to have been burned the way the North set fire to the cotton at Tara, the final typescript of the last four chapters of Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind” has turned up in the Pequot Library in this Yankee seaport town. If not quite a spoil of war, the manuscript is a relic of some publishing skirmishes, and it will go on exhibit starting on Saturday, before traveling to Atlanta, Mitchell’s hometown, in time for the 75th anniversary of the novel’s publication in June.

A page from the final draft of a late chapter of “Gone With the Wind.”

The chapters, which contain some of the novel’s most memorable lines — like, “My dear, I don’t give a damn” and “After all, tomorrow is another day” — were given to the Pequot in the early 1950s by George Brett Jr., the president of Macmillan, Mitchell’s publisher, and a longtime benefactor of the library. Some pages from the manuscript were actually displayed at the Pequot twice before — in a 1979 exhibition of Macmillan first editions, also donated by Mr. Brett, and in 1991 for a show honoring “Scarlett,” Alexandra Ripley’s authorized, if not very good, sequel to “Gone With the Wind.” -- Read More

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