Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2010 Issue

News from the Library: A Large Gift, Major Scanning Project, and Binding Exhibition

Gallica03-10

The French site Gallica offers access to 154,000 books, 1 million items.


By Michael Stillman

Libraries, rare book rooms in particular, may be scrambling for dollars in this digital age, but there are still signs that appreciation for the printed word has not disappeared. One such example comes from the University of Pennsylvania, whose library just received the largest gift ever from a living donor. The gift, $4.25 million, is targeted for the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. It provides a great start to the library's $15 million fund drive to renovate and expand the special collections library.

The Penn Libraries will be using their gift to support both the new and the old. The old sixth floor rare book library will be transformed into a Special Collections Center. State of the art projects, such as digitization of old works, will be supported by the funds. Students will have a superior environment for work and study. On the other hand, the library will be able to do more to preserve its old books and make them available for study. The Penn Libraries appear to be integrating the need for current technology and modern surroundings with preservation and respect for the great old books and manuscripts they hold. This is the best way to preserve old books while keeping them relevant to future generations. Still, such actions will be hard without the support of generous people like the donor who presented this gift, who has chosen to remain anonymous.

Google Books has not been the most popular project in the world. Google's scanning project has been attacked from capitals around the globe, so it is a bit surprising to find support and cooperation from a library in, of all places, France. There have been concerns at the highest levels of the French government over Google gaining digital control over items of written French culture. This is not a concern for officials at the Lyon City Library. They have entered into an agreement with Google which will grant the latter access to scan 500,000 books from their collection over the next 10 years. The way the folks at the Lyon Library see it, it is better to make their cultural heritage available for all the world to appreciate than to keep it locked up in a safe in Lyon. With Google, they get to promote their heritage at no cost to them. Google is footing the bill. The first book scanned under this arrangement was a 16th collection of Nostradamus' predictions, and if you read them very carefully, you will find that the great seer predicted this very event would come to pass.

It should be noted that France does have its own national scanning program and digital site: Gallica. Founded in 1997, Gallica has so far scanned 154,000 books. Google, which started in 2004, has scanned 12 million. This may explain Lyon's decision to go with the American company.

On my shelf is a copy of an 1848 American edition of the French writer Chateaubriand's classic Memoires d'Outre-Tombe. A third of the spine is gone, revealing beneath it a copy of Harper's, the magazine I suppose, used in the binding. It probably isn't too much older than 1848 as the word "photograph" appears. I mention this as a segue to an exhibit being conducted by the Yale Law Library through May. Nearly 150 of the old books in the Law Library's Rare Book Collection contain visible fragments of medieval manuscripts in their bindings. Some of these are now on display in an exhibition entitled Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings.

While the environment was not a hot issue in the 15th and 16th centuries, conservation of resources based on economic necessity was. Frequently, bookbinders would cut up old manuscripts to use them in the bindings. These scraps are useful in determining the spread and popularity of medieval texts, and in a few cases, preserve the only surviving fragments of a particular work. So far, it has been determined that the fragments represent the Bible and liturgical works, musical notation, legal texts, a sermon, a work of Cicero, and two Hebrew manuscripts. The fragments include the oldest item in the Yale Law Library, dated from 975-1075. A number of the fragments remain a mystery.

Curators for the exhibit are Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University, and Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian at Yale.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 17:</b><br>Lot 14. [CRIMEAN WAR] HAMLEY. <i>The Story of the Campaign of Sebastopol.</i> 1855. £150 to £200
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 17:</b><br>Lot 17. JONGH & D'ALMEIDA. <i>L’armee Russe...</i> c.1898. Colour plates and many illustrations. £500 to £600
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 17:</b><br>Lot 18. [RUSSIA] LE PRINCE. <i>Oeuvres. 1782.</i> Rare folio format with 80 etchings and 74 aquatints. £4000 to £6000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 17:</b><br>Lot 21. [RUSSIA] MORNAY. Set of 8 hand-coloured aquatints of carriages, sleighs and occupants. c.1825. £1200 to £1800
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 17:</b><br>Lot 33. BOWDICH. <i>Excursions in Madeira and Porto Santo.</i> 1825. A fine copy. £800 to £1200
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 17:</b><br>Lot 37. QUIN. <i>An Historical Atlas.</i> 1836. 2nd edn, 21 hand-coloured maps revealing civilisation. £800 to £1200
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 17:</b><br>Lot 39. LE BRUN. <i>Voyages [...] par la Moscovie, en Perse...</i> 1718. 300+ engravings, panorama. £4500 to £5500
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 17:</b><br>Lot 48. BRIERLY. <i>The English and French fleets in the Baltic.</i> 1855. Colour lithographs. £7000 to £9000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 17:</b><br>Lot 60. DELLA VALLE. <i>Reise Beschreibung... in Turckey, Egypten, Palestina[...].</i> 1674. £1500 to £2000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 17:</b><br>Lot 77. MURRAY, Mrs. Watercolour Album of Heaths. c.1860. 55 original watercolours. £750 to £1000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 17:</b><br>Lot 91. ADDISON. <i>Works...</i> 1721. 4 vols, large paper copy, English red morocco. £2500 to £3500
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 17:</b><br>Lot 96. HOLBEIN. Imitations of original drawings. 1792-1800. Exceptional copy. £4000 to £6000
  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ian Fleming, <i>Goldfinger,</i> first edition, inscribed to Sir Henry Cotton, MBE, London, 1959. Sold for $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Joseph Brant, Mohawk Chief, ALS, writing after pledging support to King George III against American rebels, 1776. Sold for a record $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Sonia Delaunay, <i>Ses Peintures</i> . . ., 20 pochoir plates, Paris, 1925. Sold for a record $13,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Diana, Princess of Wales, 6 autograph letters signed to British <i>Vogue</i> editor, 1989-92. Sold for $10,400.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alexander Hamilton, ALS, as Secretary of the Treasury covering costs of the new U.S. Mint, 1793. Sold for $12,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Benjamin Graham & David L. Dodd, <i>Security Analysis,</i> first edition, inscribed by Graham to a Wall Street trader, NY, 1934. Sold for $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> George Barbier & François-Louis Schmied, <i>Personnages de Comédie,</i> Paris, 1922. Sold for $9,375.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Ilsée, Princesse de Tripoli,</i> Paris, 1897. Sold for a record $13,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ralph Waldo Emerson, <i>The Dial,</i> first edition of the reconstituted issue, Emerson’s copy with inscriptions, Cincinnati, 1860. Sold for a record $3,250.

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