Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2017 Issue

A Bombed Out Library Is Assisted by Another Over 2,000 Miles Away

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Books in the Mosul University Library (People In Need photo).

The story of the Mosul University Library, like that of so many things in Iraq, is one of enormous tragedy. The library survived the Iraqi War, though it brought numerous hardships to the city. There was off and on fighting, always danger, and many abandoned the city. Still, the university persevered. Then, in 2014, ISIS captured the city. A bad situation got much worse. ISIS controlled the city and the university until this past summer, when their last remnants were forced to flee. The university was finally liberated, but unfortunately, there was not that much left.

 

When ISIS took over the University of Mosul, it shut down most classes. Other than its own brand of fanatical Islam, they didn't believe in teaching much of anything. Only the schools of medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry were allowed to continue. Chemistry laboratories were apparently converted to bomb-making facilities. What exactly happened in the library is unclear. ISIS held public book burnings at the city library. Whether a large number of books were also burned or otherwise destroyed at the university library during this period is less certain. They would have had no use for most of the books there, but not being a prime location for a public display, they may not have had the time or manpower to devote to destroying the contents. There were over one million books and other documents and forms of paper within. They may have been too busy to undertake all that destruction in a library when they had a war to fight.

 

Regardless of how much or how little survived the years of ISIS occupation, the final battle for Mosul proved terribly destructive. ISIS snipers, some willing to fight to the end, inhabited buildings in the city. Others heaved firebombs at their targets. House to house combat with fighters who have pre-established positions is almost suicidal. So, government forces called in the bombers and rained bombs from the sky. Whether by bombs dropped from airplanes or firebombs thrown by ISIS' hand, the library suffered severe damage. Fires raced through its floors. The structure suffered enormous devastation, the books almost total destruction. The Mosul University Library was left as little more than a burned-out shell.

 

After such horrific events, it's heartening to hear a story of man's humanity, rather than inhumanity, towards man. The story of the Mosul Library's destruction made its way to employees of the Library of the Faculty of Arts, Charles University, in Prague, the Czech Republic, apparently through an article in the New Yorker. They wanted to help. I'm not aware of any particular connection between the Czech Republic and Iraq, other than a shared belief in helping others held by the best people of those and all lands. The people at the library in Prague began collecting monetary donations for the Mosul library. They didn't choose to collect books – language differences may have limited the value of such a contribution and donations of books are easier to come by. The Mosul Library already has many donated books in warehouses and the U.N. has helped with cleaning up the burned out premises. The bigger need now is rebuilding the badly damaged structure, and nothing is more helpful for this need than money.

 

Naturally, contributions at one library are limited, so the people at Charles University reached out to other university libraries and institutions. Not having connections with Mosul itself, the donors solicited the aid of People In Need. People In Need is Czech humanitarian organization that helps people both in their homeland and dozens of countries around the world. They were already operating in Iraq. Staff at the Mosul University Library will determine how best to allocate the funds, while People In Need will deliver the funds and see to it that they are put to the proper use.

 

The fundraising effort will continue until the end of December.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

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