Rare Books

Rare Books

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

<a href="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/03/02/BAA1161R8N.DTL">Society's historic books restored after flood</a> 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.

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

<blockquote> 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. </blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/18/books/18libr.html">More from the New York Times</a></p>

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.

Browsing the World's Oldest Phonebook

A <A HREF="http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/video?id=541">three and a half minute video at the IEEE Spectrum</A> has a story on the worlds oldest known phone book. There are no phone numbers and only 40 pages-but guess how much it's worth!

Lost Religious Document Turns Up Not on E-Bay, But at Sotheby's

A 215-year-old Jewish manuscript discovered missing a decade ago will be returned by the German library where it surfaced, an Israeli official said Tuesday.

A 1998 inventory check at the Tel Aviv's Rambam Library revealed that the one-of-a-kind manuscript was missing. Titled "The Book of the Levite's Worship," it was a treatise on Jewish law written by a Berlin rabbi in 1793.

The police had no leads on the possible thief and closed the case, said Avigdor Levin, the top cultural official at the Tel Aviv municipality.

A year later, the manuscript was offered at auction at Sotheby's in New York for between $16,000 and $18,000 and was not purchased, but was later sold to an unidentified dealer and disappeared again before the Israelis could put their hands on it, he said.

The manuscript was finally found thanks to a stroke of luck. In 2005, a manuscript specialist at Israel's national library in Jerusalem received a copy of a book being held by the German National Library and realized it was the "Levite's Worship."

After a legal team established that it was indeed the missing book, the German library agreed to return it to Tel Aviv. Levin said the Germans displayed "a lot of good will." Story from the AP.

Bookfinder.com removes book from 2008 "Out of Print" Book Trends Report

Margin of Safety: The Story of Poliomyelitis Vaccine was the #5 book in the "History" category. The book has been removed from the 2008 report. More details here.

Treasures in the Basement

The Somerville (MA) Public Library basement, two floors below teenagers clustered around computers, stores not only 25-year-old issues of "National Geographic" but 250-year-old books.

Cataloging librarian and occasional Boston Globe book reviewer Kevin O'Kelly said "most people have no idea this stuff is here." Half-forgotten for years, the treasures in the basement will finally get some attention this fall. The library got a $2,500 federal grant through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners to hire a conservation specialist who will examine the collection and recommend improvements.

The collection includes "Magnalia Christi Americana" by Cotton Mather, the 17th century Boston Puritan leader, with a publication date of 1702. O'Kelly ran his finger over its thick pages. "This might be a facsimile but I'm pretty sure it's a first edition because if you touch this you can feel the impressions made by the printing press," he said.

Turn the Pages of Rare Books...with Technology

The British Library is bringing some of the world's rarest books online, with the intent of giving as wide an audience as possible the most accurate experience of reading the real thing.

Turning the Pages is a unique piece of software designed to allow readers to look at rare books in a natural way. With Turning the Pages, users can read the books in their original format, almost exactly as they were intended to be read by their original audience. This article on ZD.net allows us to turn the pages of "Alice's Adventures Above Ground. " Look ma, no gloves!

They Used -What- as a Bookmark?

Always good as a conversation starter...the things people leave in books that are not traditional bookmarks. Thousands of dollars, a Christmas card signed by Frank Baum, a Mickey Mantle rookie baseball card, a marriage certificate from 1879, a baby’s tooth, a diamond ring and a handwritten poem by Irish writer Katharine Tynan Hickson are just some of the stranger objects discovered by booksellers. And then there's the strip of bacon.

Abebooks has a listing of these items...some mundane, some bizarre, some deeply personal. What have you found?

Stolen First Folio En Route To Its Rightful Owner

Police have recovered a stolen 400-year-old volume of Shakespeare after a man walked into the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC and asked to have it authenticated.

The First Folio edition of 1623 was stolen nearly a decade ago from a display case at the Durham University Library in England. The book is considered one of the most important in the English language.

Police say the man claimed to be an international businessman who had bought the book in Cuba. The Folger contacted the FBI and discovered that the Folio had been listed as stolen; the 'businessman' is currently being held for questioning.

Jefferson's Library Once Again Complete

The Library of Congress has managed to re-create —with the help of rare-book collectors —-the missing two-thirds of Thomas Jefferson's Library. Mark Dimunation, of the Library of Congress, discusses Jefferson's tastes and rare-book detectives.

Listen to full story on NPR.


Thermal Volatilisation Analysis and You

A pioneering project to chemically "sniff" books could determine a tome's state of health and help protect valuable volumes from decay, scientists have revealed.

And the innovative technique could uncover what creates the distinctive musty smell familiar from antique bookshops.

The system, being developed at the University of Strathclyde, involves placing a book in a sealed chamber for between 24 and 48 hours.

Materials responsible for creating the book's odour are extracted and then examined to determine the "health" of the volume.

Full story here.

Recreated Library Speaks Volumes about Jefferson

For the past decade, a small group of rare book experts has sought to re-create Jefferson's library, scouring antiquarian book collections on two continents to acquire thousands of volumes. The entire collection of more than 6,000 volumes -- some originals and some replacements -- will go on display tomorrow at the Library of Congress, looking much as it would have 200 years ago <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/10/AR2008041004241.html ">Reports The Washington Post</a>

Oldest human voice recording!

We all hear growing up that the first recording of a human voice is Thomas Edison's "Mary had a little lamb." However, this may not be true. Audio historian David Giovannoni, has discovered a recording that predates Edison's by 17 years. Parisian inventor Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville used a phonautograph to create this artifacts.


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