Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book Review: "Pyg"

Russell Potter's Pyg: The Memoirs of a Learned Pig (Canongate, 2011; forthcoming in the US from Penguin) is pure delight from start to finish. Drawing on a brief "learned pig" fad which sprang up in 1780s Britain, Potter has imagined what that might have looked like from the perspective of the trained pig himself. His Toby, the "author" of the memoirs between these covers (Potter declares himself simply the editor) is a pig for the ages: move over Wilbur, this one can conjugate Latin verbs!

Embracing the idiosyncracies of 18th-century italicization and capitalization practices, set in a nice Caslon Antique type, and with a 1798 woodcut illustration of a learned pig at the start of each chapter (a nice touch), this is not only a very entertaining and enjoyable read, but also a lovely little book. Potter's scholarly apparatus (glossing Toby's Latin phrases, identifying historical characters from the text, &c.) are also welcome and make for fun reading.

Added bonuses are the cameo appearances by such literary luminaries as Samuel Johnson, William Blake, Anna Seward, and Robert Burns, and Potter's (Toby's) sharp sense of 18th-century style and sensibility. Deeply funny, but also brilliantly satirical and also just a darn good story. I recommend it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Links & Reviews

- Your must-read of the week is Bethany Nowviskie's opening plenary from this week's RBMS conference in San Diego, "Reality Bytes." Go. Read it (right after you finish this post, of course).

- Another key read from this week is an NYRB Exchange: Joan W. Scott, Caleb Crain, and Charles Petersen reply to Robert Darnton's "In Defense of the New York Public Library," and Darnton responds to their comments.

- The Boston Public Library is reportedly considering a plan to add "retail space" and possibly a restaurant to the main Copley Square branch. Sigh.

- Another Washington book made the headlines this week, but if you want some to see some important marginalia he wrote, look to Harvard's Houghton Library. They've got a copy of James Monroe's 1797 screed A view of the conduct of the executive, in the foreign affairs of the United States, connected with the mission to the French Republic, during the years 1794, 5, & 6 filled with Washington's marginal notations. John Overholt highlights the volume. Or see the LT record about this book.

- News broke this week that the Massachusetts Historical Society is selling a medieval Welsh manuscript that's been in the Society's collections since before 1830; the 14th-century manuscript will go under the hammer at Sotheby's London on 10 June, with a £500,000-700,000 estimate. It'll be the first manuscript in medieval Welsh to come up at public auction since 1923, and ArtDaily suggests this is "most probably the last appearance of a medieval manuscript in Welsh on the market," as most of the other known examples are already in instutitonal collections.

- Over on the Fine Books Blog, Justin Pedersen talks to bookbinder Tim Yancey, one of the founders of the Lost Gutenbergs project.

- More than $5 million worth of artifacts and documents have been returned to Chicago's Polish Museum; they'd been stolen decades ago, and were found the basement of a building owned by the mother of a former museum curator.

- The Library of Congress has launched a new exhibit, "Books That Shaped America." Coverage in the Washington Post, or see the press release (which includes the list and short descriptions of each).

- Stephen Gertz poses some of the "troubling questions" still lingering about the stolen Book of Mormon and the media's treatment of the case.

- Author Dawn Powell's diaries are currently up for auction. Report from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

- Some really excellent courses are on tap for the 8th Australian and New Zealand Rare Book School session, running 28 January - 1 February 2013 at the Universtity of Otago. James Raven will be teaching "The Business of Books in Britain," Heather Wolfe will teach "English Paleography, 1500-1700" (which I took last summer at RBS and loved), and Donald Kerr and Richard Overell are going to teach "Exhibitions: The Art and Practicality."

- Sarah Werner hosts a new Carnivalesque, early modern edition!


- Andrea Wulf's Chasing Venus; review by Tom Payne in the Telegraph.

- Fergus Bordewich's America's Great Debate; review by Donald E. Graham in the WaPo.

- Thomas Desjardins' Joshua L. Chamberlain: A Life in Letters; review by Michael Burlingame in the WSJ.

- Ray Raphael's Mr. President; review by David O. Stewart in the WaPo.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

George Washington Book Sets Record, Heads "Home"

A copy of the laws passed by the first session of the First Congress, bound for George Washington and containing marginal notes in his hand, set an auction record yesterday for an American book or historical document, fetching $9,826,500 including premiums. See the Christie's catalog description or the LT record (newly updated).

The buyer, we found out fairly quickly, was the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association on behalf of Mount Vernon, where librarians are working to reconstruct Washington's library as part of the new Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington (upcoming next year). There was a brief bidding war over the book before all was said and done, but Ann Bookout, regent of the Ladies' Association board, carried the day.

Among printed books, only Audubon's Birds of America has sold for more at auction (the Hesketh copy, sold for $11.5 million at Sotheby's in December 2010).

Recent Acquisitions

Hmm, it's been a while since I've done this, hasn't it? These are pretty much all from this year's Book Expo America (the reason I didn't bring any books with me when I left home!), with a few more from my Charlottesville time at the end. A few more books from CVille so far have already been shipped home, so I'll list those when I'm back in Maine in a couple weeks.

- Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness (Viking, 2012). Publisher (BEA).

- Come August, Come Freedom: The Bellows, The Gallows, and The Black General Gabriel by Gigi Amateau (Candlewick Press, 2012). Publisher (BEA).

- The Christian World of The Hobbit by Devin Brown (Abingdon Press, 2012). Publisher (BEA).

- Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won't Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care by Marty Makary (Bloomsbury, 2012). Publisher (BEA).

- Rare Birds: The Extraordinary Tale of the Bermuda Petrel and the Man Who Brought It Back from Extinction by Elizabeth Gehrman (Beacon Press, 2012). Publisher (BEA).

- Wilderness by Lance Weller (Bloomsbury, 2012). Publisher (BEA).

- Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King (Walker & Company, 2012). Publisher (BEA).

- The $60,000 Dog: My Life With Animals by Lauren Slater (Beacon Press, 2012). Publisher (BEA).

- The Nervous System by Nathan Larson (Akashic Press, 2012). Publisher (BEA).

- The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony (Sourcebooks Landmark, 2012). Publisher (BEA).

- John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk (Grove Press, 2012). Publisher (BEA).

- The Last Policeman by Ben Winters (Quirk Books, 2012). Publisher (BEA).

- The Infects by Sean Beaudoin (Candlewick Press, 2012). Publisher (BEA).

- Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun by Elizabeth Foy Larsen and Joshua Glenn (Bloomsbury, 2012). Publisher (BEA).

- The Best American Magazine Writing 2011; edited by Sid Holt (Columbia University Press, 2012). Publisher (BEA).

- Pyg by Russell Potter (Canongate Books, 2011). Author.

- Samuel Johnson's translation of Sallust: A Facsimile and Transcription of the Hyde Manuscript; edited by David L. Vander Meulen and G. Thomas Tanselle (Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, 1993). Editor.

- Preliminary Handlist of Books to Which Dr. Samuel Johnson Subscribed by Donald J. Eddy and J.D. Fleeman (Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, 1993). Publisher.

- Book-Jackets: Their History, Forms, and Use by G. Thomas Tanselle (Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, 2011). Publisher.

- Gazette of the Grolier Club. New Series, Number 16 (June 1971). Daedelus Books.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Auction Report: June Sales/Preview

- Bonhams London sold Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs on 3 June, the top lot being Francis Frith's Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem (1858), a collection of twenty albumen photographs. It sold for £337,250. A collection of Howard Carter's papers fetched £109,250.

- On 7 June at PBA Galleries, Rare Americana, Travel & Exploration with Manuscript Material, Maps & Ephemera (results here).

- Swann Galleries sold Maps, Atlases, Natural History and Ephemera on 7 June. The top lot proved to be a copy of the first printed sea chart of New England/New Netherland, printed at Florence in 1647, which sold for $31,200.

- Bloomsbury had a Bibliophile Sale on 8 June; full results here.

- Christie's London sold Valuable Printed Books and Manuscripts on 13 June, for a total of £3,175,987. Top lot was a Bach manuscript, which sold for £337,250. A ~1504 antiphonal created for Elisabeth von Gemmingen made £289,250, and a Richard III letter fetched £109,250. A second edition Copernicus sold for £85,250. Lots of other interesting lots in this sale, too.

- Results for Bloomsbury's 14 June sale of Books, Manuscripts and Photographs are here.

- The 15 June Sotheby's sale of Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Americana, made a total of $2,671,067. The top lot was an original Apple I computer, which sold for $374,500. A lovely copy of Antonio Fracanzano de Montalboddo's Itinerarium Portugallensium e Lusitania in Indiam et inde in occidentem et demum ad aquilonem (Milan, 1508) fetched $212,500. The original subscription book for the Pennsylvania Society for the Encouragement of Manufactures and the Useful Arts made $37,500.

- Bonhams New York will sell Fine Books and Manuscripts including Russian Literature on 19 June, in 450 lots. Some of the material is from the stock of Serendipity Books, including the Russian library of London bookseller Alec Flegon (est. $15,000-25,000). A very nice copy of the first de Bry edition in German of Le Moyne's Florida could sell for $25,000-35,000. The important Revolutionary War diary of Timothy Newell rates a $50,000-80,000 estimate. But it is a manuscript draft of Lincoln's amnesty policy which rates the top estimate, at $200,000-300,000.

- Christie's London will sell Fine Books and Manuscripts, in 459 lots.

- Also at Bonhams New York on 20 June, The Gentleman's Library, in 534 lots. Mostly non-book things, but the catalog makes for a fun browse.

- PBA Galleries sells Rare Books & Manuscripts, Fine Press and Illustrated Books on 21 June, in 354 lots. A 15th-century manuscript of Fasciculus temporum (the only known manuscript of this work in private hands) rates the top estimate, at $100,000-150,000. A first edition in English of Homer's works is estimated at $30,000-50,000.

- Swann Galleries will sell 19th & 20th Century Literature on 21 June, in 323 lots.

- On 22 June, Christie's New York sells Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts, in 295 lots. A copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle in German with contemporary coloring is estimated at $250,000-350,000. What the auction house is calling the largest Jefferson manuscript ever offered at auction, a small collection of documents relating to his suit against the Rivanna Company, could fetch $250,000-400,000. Also on 22 June, in a single-item sale, a copy of the first collection of the Acts of Congress, bound for Washington and with marginalia in his hand. It is estimated at $2-3 million.

- On 26 June, Bonhams Oxford sells Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs, in 784 lots, and at San Francisco the Serendipity Shelf Sale, in 631 lots.

Links & Reviews

- Yesterday marked the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Roxburghe Club, the world's oldest bibliophilic society. Books from the Roxburghe sale and a copy of the auction catalog are on display at Harvard's Houghton Library through the end of August.

- A Jen Howard query this week (which I think I missed originally since I was in the Rare Book School  zone) led to the creation of a Zotero group on "reading about reading," which has led to the creation of quite a useful list of articles and books.

- The inaugural prize for the most outstanding project submitted by an RBS-UVA fellow was awarded recently to Emma Whittington for textual criticism of Jorge Luis Borges' writings. [h/t Tess Goodman]

- Over at The Collation, Heather Wolfe reports on a very neat project she's been working on, to identify and track pew occupants in St. Margaret's Church, Westminister based on a manuscript "pew plan" in the Folger collections.

- The Manchester Central Library is accused of "cultural vandalism on an industrial scale," as staff are being asked to remove hundreds of thousands of books from the library's collections during a renovation. Managers maintain that no "valuable stock" will be lost, but the head of libraries' statement about that is a bit troubling: "The library has recorded use of material since opening in 1934 and it has become clear that a large number of items which had been added through time have never been used. Recent changes in technology have also ensured that many items are now available electronically." Those arguing against the weeding say that some collections at risk include "rare and in some cases unique books and periodicals, such as collections by Manchester poets and other local material which could be invaluable to future researchers and is available nowhere else."

- Jennifer Lowe continues to keep us updated on the Girolamini thefts, which seem to get more and more complicated. Two more conspirators were arrested, more books were recovered, and reports emerged that the plan may have been a very long time in the making.

- News broke this week that also seems to have something to do with at least some of the same people involved with the Girolamini thefts: several copies of Galileo's Sidereus nuncius have been revealed as recent forgeries. I haven't seen mainstream media pick up on this yet, and the ExLibris-L web archive interface doesn't seem to be working so I can't easily link, hence the longer excerpts here. [Update: The archive seems to be up again now; the thread begins here]. Nick Wilding  made the original post, noting that he and Paul Needham "undertook a thorough reexamination of the evidence after noticing a series of otherwise inexplicable coincides between the 'New York' Sidereus Nuncius, authenticated and analysed in Galileo’s O, ed. Horst Bredekamp (Akademie Verlag, Berlin, 2011) and a copy offered by Sotheby’s New York in 2005. Parallels were also apparent between these and two copies of Galileo’s Le Operazioni del Compasso Geometrico e Militare (first edition Padua, 1606) identified as forgeries [by Owen Gingerich] in a private study at the Library of Congress undertaken by Frank Mowery in 2005. Other forged titles have also been detected. ... The New York Sidereus Nuncius purports to contain an autograph inscription by Galileo, five bistre sketches in place of the usual lunar etchings and the library stamp of Federico Cesi. Several other examples of this fake stamp have been detected in circulation on genuine books: all Cesi stamps on the market since 2005 should be diligently examined." Owen Gingerich replied to a query on the thread about the nature of the forgeries: "These are the most sophisticated forgeries we have ever seen, of the entire books, including handmade paper imitating the original watermarks. The printing is made from plates so the letterpress shows indentation. Included are very convincing manuscript annotations."

Wilding added: "We currently think the binding and other texts bound in with the forged texts to be genuine, of the paper we are unsure, but the printing process itself seems to be photomechanical, probably photopolymer plates with some digital editing and based on several copies, chosen to create the impression of proof copies in some examples. Library stamps, marginalia/inscriptions and illustrations added by hand, binding immaculate." Following additional queries came this from Wilding: "The bindings of two of the copies of Le Operazioni del Compasso Geometrico e Militare, both bound without other works, were found by Frank Mowery to be recent, though carefully disguised to look original. The Sotheby's Sidereus Nuncius, which was described in their catalogue as being authentic "without the 5 text engravings BUT these supplied in facsimile printed directly on the original leaves" (current whereabouts unknown), was bound before a 1671 Orazion funeral per la more del sereniss. Ferdinando II, "recased into a contemporary gilt-panelled red morocco binding, red edges; some rubbing" (Sotheby's NY, 30th November 2005, lot 44). The New York Sidereus Nuncius is described and photographed in Galileo's O. Despite now knowing that the copy is fake, it has not yet been possible to identify signs of tampering, other than those described by Owen Gingerich. Reexamination of the copy will, we hope, allow us to understand the forger's techniques."

Paul Needham added a response later in the week: "I would like to add a clarification to Nicholas Wilding’s personal Exlibris post from yesterday, 11 June 2012, which summarized our joint studies of a dubious copy of Galileo’s Sidereus nuncius, Venice, 1610. I have communicated our results to my German colleagues in the production of the monograph to which Wilding refers: Galileo’s O (2 volumes, Berlin, 2011), Horst Bredekamp, Irene Brueckle, and Oliver Hahn. We have planned for additional materials testing to be carried out on this copy in Berlin, in the near future, including, in particular, detailed ink analysis in comparison with a control copy or copies. This will add significant information to the problem, and I emphasize that the results of these tests will be made fully available to all. I should also add that I was the author of volume II of Galileo’s O, under the title Galileo Makes a Book. It follows that if Wilding and I are right about this copy in 2012, I was wrong in 2011. I do not want readers to imagine that I am discreetly trying to finesse this inconvenient consequence."

More on this as it comes out, certainly.

- The Folger Shakespeare Library launched a Bindings Images Database this week. It includes more than 3,000 images of 1,000+ bindings.

- A mutilated first edition Book of Mormon stolen from an Arizona bookshop has been recovered, and a man named Jay Linford was arrested for the theft. Following the theft on 28 May, Linford contacted a Dallas book dealer and arranged for the sale of two leaves for $7,500.

- The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (BSB) announced this week that during a project to catalog the library's Greek manuscripts from the library of Johann Jakob Fugger, "philologist Marina Molin Pradel was able to identify numerous passages from the original Greek version of the homilies on the Psalms by Origen (185-253/4 A.D.), which were previously unknown." The digitized manuscript can be viewed here. Making the announcement on ExLibris-L, Bettina Wagner writes "This discovery underlines the necessity of and the wealth of new insights made possible by this laborious and thorough examination of the original volumes."


- Rebecca Stott's Darwin's Ghosts; review by Sinclair McKay in the Telegraph.

- Peter Pagnamenta's Prairie Fever; review by Scott Martelle in the WaPo.

- June Schlueter's The Album Amicorum and the London of Shakespeare's Time; review by Adam Smyth in the TLS.

- Glyn Parry's The Arch-Conjuror of England; review by Michael Dirda in the WaPo.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Book Review: "Shadow of Night"

The second volume in Deborah Harkness' All Souls Trilogy, Shadow of Night (Viking, 2012) is, I'm very pleased to be able to report, just as much fun to read as its predecessor, A Discovery of Witches (my review here).

Most of the action this time around takes place in 1590, where/when witch Diana Bishop and vampire Matthew Clairmont have traveled in an attempt to understand the mysterious manuscript known as Ashmole 782. Harkness' background as a historian works wonderfully for this, and since Bishop also happens to be a historian, it makes for a very enjoyable kind of meta-exploration of the historian's craft. Short, present-day interludes are used to explore the shifts in history that might happen should some time-traveling actually be possible.

Delightfully, books and manuscripts remain a major part of the story, as we get to visit John Dee's library, the rollicking world of St. Paul's Churchyard, and the court of Rudolf II. Kit Marlowe and William Shakeaspeare make appearances, and a certain famously mysterious manuscript whose name begins with V and ends in -oynich even has a cameo role in the narrative. Along with books, we get to delve into the fascinating world of alchemy as it was, plus the heady political times of late Elizabethan England.

Harkness' good writing, deep knowledge of the period, and her willingness to be playful and enjoy herself as she tells her story make this a great read. Once again I find myself impatiently awaiting the next volume!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Links & Reviews

- I've still got to do my June auction notes (it's on the list) but in the meantime, J.L. Bell reports on a great Revolutionary War diary coming soon to an auction near you: Timothy Newell's account of the Siege of Boston, which will be sold at Bonhams on 19 June.

- Brian Cassidy's got a new post up, "Field of Booksellers," about his experiences at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, and recommends it highly.

- Maya Jasanoff won the George Washington Book Prize for Liberty's Exiles (very well deserved, in my view).

- Fine Books Press has published a new edition of Nick Basbanes' A Gentle Madness, with an updated preface.

- The National Library of Sweden has released a list of books [PDF] believed stolen from the library between 1995 and 2004.

- Launched this week,, a project of the Connecticut Humanities Council and CHNM.

- Arnoud Gerits, the president of ILAB, posted a response to the Girolamini Library thefts, which has prompted quite a bit of discussion in the comments thread as well. Another version of the announcement here, without the eBay-comments.

- From the Houghton blog, a John Herschel letter about the Georgium Sidus.

- Over at The Collation, "John Bell, bibliographic nightmare." Plus, the June edition of "What manner o' thing is your crocodile?"

- The Society of Early Americanists' list of recent books on early American topics has been updated.

- There's a crowdsourced transcription project working on the first edition of Johnson's Dictionary. [h/t John Overholt]


- Mark Kurlansky's Birdseye; review by Marie Arana in the WaPo.

- Paul French's Midnight in Peking; review by Joseh Kanon in the WaPo.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Book(s) Review: Wulf and Anderson on the Transit of Venus

I don't think I've ever written a joint book review here, but since the two under discussion came out right around the same time and cover pretty much the same ground, I'm going to make an exception. Mark Anderson's The Day the World Discovered the Sun: An Extraordinary Story of Scientific Adventure and the Race to Track the Transit of Venus (Da Capo Press, 2012) and Andrea Wulf's Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens (Knopf, 2012) both take as their subject what Wulf calls "the most ambitious scientific project that had ever been planned" (xxv): the international efforts to observe the 1761 and 1769 transits of Venus.

Both books are written with a popular audience in mind, and both succeed at explaining the importance of the transit observations and profiling some of the many observers who made the attempts. Both cover a great deal of ground in not a lot of space, so they tend to get a bit choppy in parts. That said, both also make for pleasurable reading, but in the end I found myself preferring Wulf's narrative to Anderson's.

Wulf's book is structured a bit more clearly, and she manages to profile a few more observers than Anderson, including those in what would become the United States and Canada (her anecdote about David Rittenhouse getting so excited just as the 1769 transit started that he fainted may be the best one of all of them). Anderson has a bit more on the French expedition to Baja California and Maxmilian Hell's trek to the far north of Norway, on the other hand. Both do quite well on Cook's journey to Tahiti, and in general on the organizational efforts that went into planning the various expeditions.

Wulf integrates illustrations into the text, which is a nice touch (though the reproduced maps are printed a bit too small and some of the illustrations are fairly tangential). She also provies good overview maps of the various observation points, comprehensive lists of the observers, and a very extensive bibliography/notes section. She recommends (and I've just spent way too much time enjoying) Rob van Gent's amazing bibliographic list of known original reports of the 1761 and 1769 transits (often with links out to the texts themselves).

I read Anderson's book last weekend, but knowing that I was going to spend yesterday afternoon (5 June 2012) on a train from New York to Charlottesville, during which the last transit of Venus would occur, I reserved Wulf's book to read then, and was really glad that I had. Sadly, the transit was obscured by clouds for me, so I've missed my chance now to see the spectacle (barring any fantastical medical advances which would keep me around until 2117, which seems an unpleasant idea). But as I watched the clouds, hoping they'd break briefly, I was reading of the French observer Le Gentil. In 1761 he never made it to a stable observation point and watched the transit from the deck of a ship in the Indian Ocean, unable to get reliable data. Spending the next eight years making preparations, in 1769 he was in Pondicherry, India ... where the transit was completely obscured by clouds.

I'd recommend either book without reservation to anyone interested in the topic. Wulf's came out a bit higher on my own reading scale, but your mileage may vary. Both tell a fascinating story well worth reading and exploring further.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Links & Reviews

- A bit more on the Girolamini library thefts: the German auction house Zisska & Schauer withdrew a whole bunch of lots from their 9 May sale; it's believed these were among the books stolen from the library. The former manager of the library has now confessed to the thefts, and is reportedly "assisting" with their recovery. Some additional recent info here, and at Echoes from the Vault. See the RBMS Security page for additional updates as they come in.

- Making the rounds this week was this story, about an Arizona woman whose (mutilated) first edition copy of the Book of Mormon has reportedly been stolen. She'd been selling framed leaves from the book for several years. A bit more here.

- Will Noel's TED talk, "Revealing the lost codex of Archimedes" is now available for your viewing pleasure.

- Judge Denny Chin dealt a setback to Google this week in the Book Search legal battle.

- From the "Bright Young Things" series, John O'Mara of Maggs Bros.

- I've probably said this before, but if you're not reading The Public Domain Review, you're missing some great stuff.

- Newly-digitized scientific manuscripts from the BL, including some John Dee material.

- A new acquistion for Houghton: a previously unpublished James Boswell letter to his brother David, describing (among other things) Samuel Johnson's 1773 visit to Auchinleck.

- The former Oregon state librarian has been sentenced to two years of probation, community service, and a fine for forging his employment application. Robert Hulshof-Schmidt stated that he had an MLS degree, but did not.

- Lisa Francavilla posts on a Thomas Jefferson facsimile letter that people often think is real. I hadn't seen this particular one, but I've killed more than a few dreams over the years when I have to tell people that they've got a facsimile of something rather than the real thing.

- The June AE Monthly is here.

- From medievalfragments, "New Evidence of Note-Taking in the Medieval Classroom." [h/t @PHRareBooks]

- Jerry Morris posts on "Biblio Researching 101," with an interesting provenance story.


- Daniel Richter's Before the Revolution; review by Christian J. Koot at Common-place.

- Paul Gutjahr's The Book of Mormon: A Biography; short review by Justin Moyer in the WaPo.

- Eric Rutkow's American Canopy; review by Colin Woodard in the WaPo.

- Andrea Wulf's Founding Gardeners; review by Emily Pawley at Common-place.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

This Week's Acquisitions

Nothing new this week.

Book Review: "Art and Anatomy in Renaissance Italy"

Art and Anatomy in Renaissance Italy (Metropolitan Museum of Art / Yale University Press, 2012), a reprint of an issue of the Met's Bulletin, is a 46-page illustrated essay by Domenico Laurenza, a historian of science who spent several years as a fellow at the Met studying the museum's collections of anatomical drawings, manuscripts, and printed books.

Laurenza subtitles his essay "Images from a Scientific Revolution," and, using examples mostly drawn from the Met's collections, explores the ways in which the "rediscovery of anatomy" during the Renaissance came about, and how the rise of print culture brought artists, printers, and scientists together, leading to "the nexus between art and science that assumed such unique forms during this period."

From Leonardo da Vinci to Michelangelo to Raphael, Laurenza examines different anatomical-art styles as they developed, and made an interesting discovery: a Raphael drawing proved to be the basis for a printed woodcut in a 1522 work by Jacopo Berengario de Carpi (significant, Laureza writes, because "a leading anatomist composed his treatise using, nearly verbatim, an anatomical illustration created by an artist-anatomist"). The plate from Berengerio de Carpi's work, Laurenza suggests, may have been the inspiration for a well-known illustration in Vesalius' De humani corporis fabrica.

By the middle of the sixteenth century, though, anatomist had "assumed a dominant role in the genesis of anatomical illustrations." Laurenza writes of this development "They were not artists and thus did not know how to reproduce reality, except in a most approximate way." The anatomists had to "transform themselves into entrepreneurs," to find artists who could depict the results of the anatomist's research in a format suitable for publication in print. Laurenza contrasts the illustrations deployed by Charles Estienne and Vesalius, declaring the former "flat and less aesthetically appealing but more complete from a strictly scientific point of view."

Laurenza goes on to discuss the shift from woodcuts to engravings as the preferred method of anatomical illustration, provides an overview of the treatises published during the late sixteenth century on animal anatomy, briefly mentions the schism between Catholic and "reformed" anatomists, and then returns to his main theme to explore further the "divergence of scientists' and artists' interest in anatomy" over the course of the sixteenth century. A final short section covers anatomical écorché sculptures.

Gradually, Laurenza argues, "the anatomical interests of artists and scientists ... separated," as the epicenter of anatomical research shifted northward and anatomists grew more interested in what Laurenza calls "fine structure," "what lies below the forms immediately visible to the naked eye." Macroscopic anatomy became more an educational tool, and with the coming of photography the fields separated still further.

As one would expect (and hope), this is beautifully and lavishly illustrated, and the design is carried out very tastefully.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Auction Report: May Sales

- At Bloomsbury's 3 May sale of the Angling Collection of George Miskin, the top lot was a Henry Maurice Page oil painting, at £8,000. The top-selling book was a large-paper copy of Frederic M. Halford's Floating Flies and How to Dress Them, which sold for £6,000. Full results here.

- The 9 May Travel, Atlases, Maps, & Natural History at Sotheby's brought a total of £2,417,875. The top price, as expected, went to Linnaeus Tripe's Views of Burma, 120 albumen prints, at £277,250.  A collection of 250 maps of Southeast Asia fetched £223,250. Full results here.

- On 10 May, PBA Galleries sold the Library of Michael Killigrew desTombe, in 233 lots. The top-estimated lot, John Dee's Monas hieroglyphica (1564), did fetch the highest price at $38,400 (well under the $50,000-80,000 estimate). Full results here.

- Just 177 of the 227 lots in the Christie's Paris Importants Livres Anciens, Livres d'artiste et Manuscrits sale on 11 May sold, for a total of 3,644,787 EUR. The ~1490 Tuscan Mahzor did even better than expected, selling for 1,857,000 EUR.

- Bloomsbury sold Important Books and Manuscripts on 15 May, in 372 lots. Two lots shared the top price of £25,000: a Kelmscott Chaucer and a single leaf from the Gutenberg Bible. Full results here.

- Swann's 15 May Early Printed, Scientific, Medical, and Travel Books, in 400 lots. An illuminated liturgical manuscript sold for $36,000. The Hebrew Bible signed by Increase Mather sold for $7,800.

- Also on 15 May, Livres et Manuscrits at Sotheby's Paris, the total was 2,309,050 EUR. The Guillaume Apollinaire letters sold for 276,750 EUR.

- At Christie's 18 May Important Printed Books and Americana from the Albert H. Small Collection, 111 of 151 lots sold. The Third Folio (the only one of the Shakepeare Folios to sell) was the top lot, at $374,500. Audubon's Quadrupeds fetched $362,500, and the Humphry Repton lots did quite well. I'll have a more complete rundown of this sale in the summer FB&C.

- Bonhams sold the Angling Library of Alan Jarvis on 22 May: the top lot was William Blacker's Catechism of Fly Making, Angling and Dyeing (1843), which sold for £187,250.

- At Bonhams 23 May sale of the Stuart B. Schimmel Forgery Collection, the top lot was an album of Ireland's Shakespeare forgeries, which sold for £13,750. I was fairly surprised at some of the prices here, which seemed pretty low for the most part. A copy of Wise's forgery of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets fetched £7,750.

- The top lot at PBA Galleries 24 May Fine Literature & Books in All Fields was a first edition of Ulysses, which sold for $8,400.

- Sotheby's sold Music and Continental Books & Manuscripts on 29 May, for a total of £1,873,750. The top lot was a Mozart letter at £241,250.