Rare Books

Librarian Retrieves Stolen First Folio

Richard Kuhta, a librarian at the Folger Shakespeare Library has described the "heart dropping" moment he realised an ancient Shakespeare first edition he'd been asked to authenticate by a County Durham man was a priceless relic stolen a decade earlier.

Staff at the world renowned Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC called in the British Embassy, Durham Police and the FBI after being given the badly damaged book by Raymond Scott in 2008.

Scott, 53, of Manor Grange, Wingate, posed as a wealthy international playboy who claimed to have discovered the Shakespeare's first folio when holidaying in Cuba.

But experts at the library soon discovered the artifact, which had pages missing and its bindings and cover removed, was a unique 1623 first printing of the bard's collected works stolen in a raid at Durham University in December 1998.

Scott, who has denied theft, handling and transporting stolen goods, intended to sell the book at auction then share the money with friends in Cuba, a trial at Newcastle Crown Court heard. Experts estimated the first folio to be worth £1 million, even in its damaged state. They said in terms of its cultural value it was priceless.

Washington National Cathedral to Sell Off Rare Books

The Washington Post: Over the past two years, economic hard times have loomed as large at Washington National Cathedral as the Gothic spires that grace the city's skyline.

The cathedral has slashed its budget from $27 to $13 million, outsourcing its gift shop operation and shuttering its popular greenhouse and its continuing education college for clergy. Three rounds of layoffs have reduced the staff from 170 to 70, including, at the end of this month, the cathedral's conservator and the liturgist who oversaw the April memorial service for civil rights pioneer Dorothy Height.

Then news came this week that the cathedral, visited by every U.S. president since Theodore Roosevelt laid its foundation stone in 1907, was considering selling off part of its rare books collection, probably worth millions. Cathedral officials said the potential sale of the books is a separate matter from its ongoing budget difficulties. But they acknowledge that they no longer have the staff and resources to care for such a vast collection, which includes volumes donated by Queen Elizabeth II and Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie and a Dutch Bible that was the first written in modern language.

A Gentle Reminder to Special-Collections Curators

Let this, then, serve as a gentle reminder to rare-book curators that your job is not to keep readers from your books but just the opposite: to facilitate readers' use of the collections. If altruism or professional integrity aren't sufficient motivators to get you to play nice, you might consider the fact that you have a job only because people want to read what's in those collections, and you will keep your job for only as long as readers feel welcome to approach you to make use of the materials.

Full article

Historic Magna Carta Stuck in New York Due to European Travel Restrictions

The Magna Carta may have helped establish our right to protection against unlawful legal detention, but that doesn’t mean the venerated document can’t be held in New York a little longer than expected while Europe resolves its travel woes.

The Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan said a rare manuscript of the Magna Carta that it will show starting Wednesday would remain on display through May 30 while arrangements were made to transport it home to Britain. As all good schoolchildren know, the original Magna Carta was signed by King John of England in 1215 at Runnymede, putting limits on the king’s power and enumerating legal principles like the writ of habeas corpus. The version at the Morgan, which dates to 1217, is one of 17 surviving originals produced in the 13th century that bear the royal seal. It had been held by the Bodleian Library at Oxford University and was transported to New York for a special Oxford event, but could not be returned to Britain as a result of travel restrictions imposed after the eruption of an Icelandic volcano. Through the end of May, Britain’s loss is America’s gain.

Our First President Was a Scofflaw...Overdue Books!

He may have never told a lie, but George Washington apparently had no problem stiffing a Manhattan library on two books.

Two centuries ago, the nation's first President borrowed two tomes from the New York Society Library on Manhattan's Upper East Side (New York City being the Nation's Capital at the time) and never returned them, racking up an inflation-adjusted $300,000 late fee.

But Washington can rest easy. "We're not actively pursuing the overdue fines," quipped head librarian Mark Bartlett. "But we would be very happy if we were able to get the books back." Washington's dastardly deed went unknown for almost 150 years.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/04/17/2010-04-17_read_it__weep_by_george_prez_racks...

A Rare ‘Jungle Book’ Resurfaces in Britain

Librarians for Britain’s National Trust have discovered a rare first edition of Rudyard Kipling’s “Jungle Book,” BBC News reported. Officials of the trust said the book contained a handwritten note from the author to his daughter Josephine, who died in 1899, when she was 6.

Full piece here

Here is another article that shows a picture of the inscription.

Wikipedia entry for The Jungle Book

Charles Dickens Library Exhibit & Discovery Of 2 previously unknown letters from him

Slumming With Charles Dickens: New York Library Relives His American Tours
snippet: "The staging of Dickens In America led to the discovery of two heretofore unknown personal letters written by Dickens to John Bigelow in the 1860's."

The Reanimation Library...Recycling Images and More

Very cool project here in Brooklyn, NY, the Reanimation Library.

Below, a video explanation of the project via Rocketboom. Ella Morton interviews Andrew Beccone, master librarian and founder of the Reanimation Library:

Additional information at the Reanimation Library website.

Sounds like THE perfect place to send of some of those old weeded illustrated volumes....

Casanova Memoirs Donated to the French National Library

...the definitive sexy librarian...

PARIS — France's national library has acquired the memoirs of Casanova, a moving narrative written in French by the 18th century Venetian-born lothario. Times Online reports.

The memoirs, "The Story of My Life," had been in the hands of one of Germany's most prominent publishing families for nearly two centuries.
The manuscript was acquired by the Brockhaus family in 1820, hidden by Frederic-Arnold Brockhaus during World War II, then carried by an American military truck in 1945 out of Leipzig. It was finally published in 1960.
...it seems there's quite a bit he scratched out...

The manuscript was donated to the French National Library. Casanova, who was born in 1725, wrote his memoirs between 1789 and 1798, the year of his death. Here...a bit excerpted:

"(I have had) exploits with 120 women and girls, including a nun. As for women, I have always found that the one I was in love with smelled good, and the more copious her sweat the sweeter I found it."

Heat Up Your Kindle With a Free Penny-Dreadful

It's a red-hot, red letter day for Amazon Kindle owners. The British Library has announced that 65,000 rare 19th century literary first editions will be offered as free downloads to owners of the device beginning in Spring of 2010. Thanks to a joint venture with Microsoft, the no-cost titles will reproduce the original type-face and illustrations from such classic works as Charles Dickens's Bleak House, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge.

While having an electronic facsimile of a valuable first edition is a treat for fans of highbrow literature, what about readers seeking the pleasure that comes from biting into a nice, juicy, raw, piece of pulp? Can kinky Kindle owners looking for graphic kicks with a side of sensationalism find anything to sate their savage appetites from the staid British Library? Happily, along with the high class fiction, the UK library's freebies will also include the world's finest collection of cheap, tawdry, lowdown, lowbrow, Victorian trash. Get ready to heat up your cold Kindle with a torrid "Penny Dreadful."

From Seatle PI's Nancy Mattoon of Book Patrol.

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