Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2008 Issue

<i>In The News:</i> A Competitor for Google, A Book Show in Baltimore

Cuil

Cuil's results from a search for "rare books."


By Michael Stillman

A new search engine emerged with much fanfare this past Monday (July 28) to challenge Google's hegemony. The name is Cuil (pronounced "cool"). Cuil is not the only recent attempt to start a new search engine, but its pedigree is what has enabled it to garner much press attention. It is headed by Anna Patterson, who sold technology to Google to upgrade their searches in 2004, and her husband Tom Costello, a former Google engineer. Their names are enough to make you at least stop and look.

Cuil's search page looks much like Google's, except in reverse (the background is black instead of white), but the results page is much different. Instead of a vertical listing of results with a very brief description, Cuil provides columns of matches with a paragraph of description and an image. You are able to see more about the site with Cuil before you decide whether to go there. That's an advantage. Of course, that means it will take you longer to evaluate which sites to visit than with Google's more terse descriptions. In today's world where people believe every second counts, that's a disadvantage. So your choice may be a matter of taste.

In an interesting twist, Cuil does not necessarily extract its information from the site itself. We were surprised to see the description of the Americana Exchange site was taken not from here, but from Wikipedia. Obviously Cuil is doing some sophisticated searching and matching.

Cuil says it uses new technology to better analyze relevance to your keywords. Perhaps, but while the matches we found were at times substantially different from Google, it was not clear why they were superior. Cuil does provide a new feature - a box that allows you to "explore by category." Some make sense, some don't. For "rare books" it recommends academic libraries and research libraries, but also Hamilton County, Ohio. Are there an unusual number of rare books in Hamilton County, Ohio? Who knows?

One feature we do appreciate is Cuil's privacy policy. Unlike Google, they claim not to gather any information about their visitors, not even by IP address. They don't remember where you've been, which is fine, because that's none of their business...or Google's.

Most interestingly, Cuil says it searches 120 billion pages. It says this is three times as many as Google, but this is not certain. Google does not give out numbers. Google may actually search more, but that does not mean it displays all. This has been an issue in the book trade of late, as listings from various book listing and dealer sites no longer show up as often as they once did. Other times they appear under the dreaded "repeat the search with the omitted results included" link. No one sees them there. Google says it does this to avoid duplication, but many listings that consumers might like to see, perhaps copies offered at lower prices, are lost by Google's decision to limit matches. Booksellers may well like to see a competitor to Google that opens up more of their listings for consumers to decide which they want to pursue.

To visit Cuil, click here.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <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>

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