Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2005 Issue

An Interview with Terry Belanger of the Rare Book School,<br>Recipient of $500,000 MacArthur Award

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Next we asked about the digitization of books. Digitization promises to make the contents of millions of old books, once available only to those with access to rare book collections, accessible to everyone. However, some librarians are concerned their hard copies of books may be considered irrelevant, and ultimately, perhaps they will be so deemed as well. Technology can be totally disruptive to the worlds we find familiar. As someone who appreciates the physical book as much as its contents, and who works with librarians regularly, you might expect Terry Belanger would not approve. If so, you would again be wrong. He very much favors the process, but with the caveat it should be in addition to, not in replacement of, the original formats.

Asked about digitization, Mr. Belanger describes it as "an enormous plus. The goal of providing the widest possible access to materials new and old is and has been at the heart of American librarianship for more than 150 years."

Still, he goes on to say, "In our enthusiasm for digitization, however, we must be careful not to throw out the baby along with the bathwater. Substitutional formats are just that, and we need to ensure that future generations continue to have access to the original materials, even after they have been put into electronic form. We have no business handing posterity photographs or photostats or microfilms or CDs or computer files of the complete run of, say, the New York Times, with the explanation that any of these formats has relieved us of the burden of preserving original copies. Every generation needs its own songs; every generation needs its own originals.

"This being said, I'm not sure we need to preserve as physical artifacts all of the several hundred runs of the George Smith/Thackeray Cornhill Magazine that currently exist in American libraries. We need to work out a national plan for the long-term survival of a reasonable number of original copies in their original format, advertisements and all."

A reasonable enough proposal, though we suspect he may have stepped on at least a small hornet's nest in library circles by suggesting a cooperative national plan for preserving antiquarian publications which hints that some copies might be superfluous. Mr. Belanger declined to take sides in another controversy now swirling around digitization: the dispute between Google and copyright holders over digital copying of old, out-of-print books that are still under copyright protection. Google would like to make such books digitally available, while some of those holding copyrights are vehemently opposed, even if the books are long since out of print. Says Mr. Belanger, "I'm just a tourist on this one."

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>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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