Rare Books

Delicate Precursor to the Modern Dust Jacket

A librarian at Oxford's Bodleian Library has unearthed the earliest-known book dust jacket. Dating from 1830, the jacket wrapped a silk-covered gift book, Friendship's Offering. Silk bindings were very vulnerable to wear and tear, so bookselllers would keep them in these wrappers to protect the binding underneath. When you bought the book you would take the wrapper off and put it on your shelves, which is presumably why so few of these covers have survived.

Unlike today's dust jackets, wrappers of the early 19th century were used to enfold the book completely, like a parcel. Traces of sealing wax where the paper was secured can still be seen on the Bodleian's discovery, along with pointed creases at the edges where the paper had been folded, showing the shape of the book it had enclosed.

The jacket had been separated from its book, and had never been catalogued individually. It remained hidden until the library was contacted by an American scholar of dust jackets looking for the earliest known example.

Overdue Book From Another Era

Talk about overdue: A book lost since Union soldiers raided a library during the Civil War was returned to a Virginia university (Washington & Lee) 145 years late. One of those UPI Odd Stories.

Most of the volumes taken from the Washington College library during the war between the states were returned soon after, but one -- a leather-bound book that was part of a four-volume history of a Napoleonic military campaign -- didn't make it back to Lexington, VA until February, the school's technical services librarian said Wednesday.

What drives people to steal precious books

The Financial Times wonders What drives people to steal precious books? “Book theft is very hard to quantify because very often pages are cut and it’s not noticed for years,” says Rapley. “Often we come across pages from books [in hauls of recovered property] and we work back from there.” The Museum Security Network, a Dutch-based, not-for-profit organisation devoted to co-ordinating efforts to combat this type of theft, estimates that only 2 to 5 per cent of stolen books are recovered, compared with about half of stolen paintings.

California Historical Society's historic books restored after flood

Society's historic books restored after flood The California Historical Society reopened last week after a December flood damaged more than 1,500 antique and historic books and its building. A car hit a fire hydrant in front of the society's Mission Street building after midnight Dec. 19, causing a geyser several stories high and a flood that seeped through the front doors into the building. Water soaked through the hardwood floors and into the book vault below, damaging the books.


Lincoln Cathedral (UK) Magna Carta on Display at Reagan Library

A copy of the Magna Carta is the centerpiece of a new exhibition at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley.

USA Today reports on the exhibition that runs til June 20 and will include scenes from life in England in 1215, the year the Magna Carta was recorded.

According to the cathedral's website, the bishops of Lincoln were among the magnates of medieval England and when the Magna Carta was drawn up in 1215, one of the witnesses was Hugh of Wells, Bishop of Lincoln, who returned with his copy to the city. Today Lincoln's copy of the document is only one of four originals from 1215 that still exist.

Treasures From a Musty Attic Go To the Historical Society

When cleaning out the attic of the Guilford H. Hathaway (MA) Library, Michael McCue and others found more than just some musty items and cobwebs.

Instead, they found historical treasures from the 19th century to the mid-20th century that they now plan to preserve at the Historical Society Museum on Slab Bridge Road.

Among the artifacts were pencil sketches of two town officials, Guilford Hathaway and George W. Hall; a handwritten list of World War II airplane spotters who were town residents; items from the town’s various Temperance Society groups; collars and other pieces of clothing from town marching band uniforms; and an 1897 original layout of the Assonet Burying Ground.

A Book Reveals the Mystery of the Tomb of Copernicus

The mystery was solved not by what was written in the book, but by a few strands of hair left inside a book by Nicolaus Copernicus.

In this AP story, also reported by Guardian UK, it's revealed that researchers have identified the remains of Copernicus by comparing DNA from a skeleton and hair retrieved from one of the 16th-century astronomer's books. The findings could put an end to centuries of speculation about the exact resting spot of Copernicus, a priest and astronomer whose theories identified the Sun, not the Earth, as the center of the universe.

The remains were found in a Roman Catholic cathedral in Frombork, Poland. "In the two years of work, under extremely difficult conditions -- amid thousands of visitors, with earth shifting under the heavy pounding of the organ -- we managed to locate the grave, which was badly damaged," Gassowski said.

Bringing a Trove of Medieval Manuscripts Online for the Ages

ST. GALLEN, Switzerland — One of the oldest and most valuable collections of handwritten medieval books in the world, housed in the magnificent baroque halls of the library in this town’s abbey, is going online with the help of a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

More from the New York Times


Lincoln Memorabilia Up for Grabs But Not to LOC

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum has one less competitor for a $20 million collection of Lincoln artifacts...the Library of Congress has pulled out of the bidding.

When Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, IN closed earlier this year, the owners decided to bequeath the entire collection of Lincoln photographs, signed documents, historic textiles and other artifacts to another institution. Several museums and historical groups bid for the collection, but only a few finalists were chosen. A winner is supposed to be announced by the end of the year.

Among the memorabilia are hand-colored engravings with an image of a tousled Abe that were dropped on the crowd at the 1860 Republican National Convention. Story from Gatehouse News.

Rutherford B. Hayes Library Visited by Light-Fingered Trio

Some say that President Hayes stole the 1876 election from his Democratic opponent, Samuel Tilden, but now it's the Hayes Library that has suffered a loss. Two of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center Library's rarest books, with a total value of about $130,000, are missing.

While authorities have arrested three people believed connected to the disappearances, it's still not known where the books are. The books are the Maxwell Code and the Freeman Code, some of Ohio's first laws, dating back to the 1790's.

One of the thieves was previously arrested in 2007 in connection with the theft of $20,000 worth of antique maps from a bookstore in Harrisburg, IL. He also has a prior arrest record for felony theft and receiving stolen property. Toledo Blade reports.


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