Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2011 Issue

Books and Libraries:  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Renoreview

Special Collections would be axed at UN-Reno under Provost's proposal.

These are apocalyptic times in the book and library world as we know them. The year 2000 may not have been the beginning of end of the world for humanity, but for the book and library world, in hindsight, maybe. Two major events have come together to turn this world upside down. One is the development of the electronic reader, which has quickly evolved from another trendy device to the eventual heir to the printed book. The other is the devastating recession, the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the way we have chosen to respond to hard times. Buried within the inevitable change in how we read, and the role libraries will play in the future, is the question of what becomes of our old and rare books, and the great collections built over the years.

 

I think we can safely say the battle between electronic readers and printed books is over. Printed books will not disappear, at least not in our lifetime, but electronic editions will become the predominant form. Coming generations will read on a screen, not paper. That leaves the question of what becomes of all of those millions of old, pre-electronic era books out there, their texts gradually being retrofitted into digital impulses, but physically still held in collections in their original form. Here we look to the newswires, and see some news, both positive and disheartening.

 

Johns Hopkins University is adding a $30 million extension to its main library, called the Brody Learning Commons. According to the Johns Hopkins Newsletter, it is designed to be a "student-friendly space," as compared to the "bunker-feeling" of the main library. It has been carefully designed to provide wireless connectivity throughout with "no dead spots." There will be a café to facilitate social interaction, "integrating learning and coffee." Who needs Starbucks? "Indeed, it will truly be a 21st century library," the article states.

 

Oh, one more thing. The BLC will not have books. They are not being eliminated from Johns Hopkins, as the old library will still have stacks of them. It's just the place where students will want to go that won't have books. However, there is one exception, and this will enable those who cherish rare and antiquarian books to take heart - "Other than the rare books, the BLC will not have stacks for any other books." Recent and common books, as well as textbooks, may not be found in this human-friendly new library building, but a place is being set aside for a rare book room. We believe that this is the way it should be in this new age of digital reading. We need to preserve a part of our past, as that is who we are, so we can enable future generations to understand and participate in our history. It is important for coming generations to understand where we have been as they plot the course to where we will go. This is a good choice Johns Hopkins has made.

 

Some less encouraging news comes out of the University of Nevada in Reno. Here, budgetary constraints may lead to perhaps shortsighted short-range solutions. A brief notice on the home page of the university's special collections explains, "As many people have heard, Special Collections is one of the units on campus that would be closed as part of the Provost's proposal to reduce expenses to cover the university's budget shortfall of $59 million." According to their website, Special Collections houses 20,000 books, 200,000 photographs, manuscripts, architectural plans, and historical maps. The major areas of focus are Nevada and the Great Basin, the book arts, and rare books in general.

 

In justifying this cut, the Provost's proposal states that while preservation of material has been a historic function of libraries, and serves "an important public service function," it is "less directly connected to the University's broader instructional and research emphases than other discrete parts of the University Libraries." Specifically, the proposal states:

 

"The department and its specific collections would remain dormant into the foreseeable future.

 

Retrieval of materials housed in the Department would be made on an as-needed basis by other library staff.

 

Digitization projects reporting through Special Collections would cease.

 

Additions to the dormant collections in the form of purchased acquisitions would cease; gifts would be discouraged or redirected, as appropriate, to the State Historical Society."

 

Naturally, some library employees will be losing their jobs too. Obviously, any bookseller hoping to offer material to the University will have to wait a long, long time, perhaps forever. When a library says it will discourage even gifts, purchases are but a dream. There is nothing in the notice threatening to sell off their collection, but maintaining one of this size is not inexpensive. One can only wonder whether library-as-albatross eventually becomes library-as-source-of-revenue as unwillingness to adequately fund it drags on.

 

Once upon a time, we suffered through a Great Depression. Despite the enormous financial difficulties, we still managed to fund a Federal Writers' Project and other programs to keep our writing and art alive. A decade later the greatest peacetime expansion America has ever seen began, our arts and culture still intact. Such a commitment through even moderately hard times no longer appears to be so clear. What this bodes for our future is unknown.

 

 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Doyle<br>Stage & Screen<br>Auction April 28</b>
    <b>Doyle, Stage & Screen:</b> Lot 12. OKLAHOMA! Celeste Holm's vocal score for Oklahoma! inscribed by Richard Rodgers. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Doyle, Stage & Screen:</b> Lot 20. WILSON, DOOLEY. Fine inscribed photograph to Celeste Holm with Casablanca reference. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Doyle, Stage & Screen:</b> Lot 79. Original production script of the Broadway musical CATS with notes written by Claude Tessier. $600 to $900.
    <center><b>Doyle<br>Stage & Screen<br>Auction April 28</b>
    <b>Doyle, Stage & Screen:</b> Lot 139. STEPHEN SONDHEIM. Autographed musical manuscript signed for "Broadway Baby" from Follies. $500 to $800.
    <b>Doyle, Stage & Screen:</b> Lot 180.<br>Cecil Beaton. Headdress for Liza at the Ball, from My Fair Lady, circa 1962. $700 to $900.
    <b>Doyle, Stage & Screen:</b> Lot 177.<br>Cecil Beaton. Set Design for The Gainsborough Girls, 1951. $2,000 to $3,000.
  • <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 54. Fanciful engraving of earth's interior with magma core and errupting volcanoes (1682). $1500 to $1800.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 165. Rare state of Jefferys' influential map of New England in contemporary color (1755). $8000 to $9500.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 177. Mouzon's foundation map of the Carolinas (1775). $10000 to $13000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 183. Very rare first state of De Fer's map of the Lower Mississippi Valley (1715). $20000 to $25000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 253. Scarce Scottish edition based on Ellicott's plan of Washington, D.C. (1796). $2400 to $3000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 313. Stunning view of Philadelphia by John Bachmann (1850). $3250 to $4250.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 338. Rare Civil War map based on Bucholtz map of Virginia (1862). $9500 to $12000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 667. First map to accurately show Luzon in Philippines (1590). $6000 to $7500.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 682. Rare map of Shanghai International Settlement published just after WWI (1918). $7000 to $9000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 738. Coronelli's superb map of the Pacific showing the Island of California (1697) Est. $2400 - $3000
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 743. A cornerstone piece in the mapping of Australia and New Zealand (1726) Est. $6000 - $7500
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 781. An uncommon signature during Jefferson's Governorship of Virginia (1779) Est. $9500 - $11000
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Chaim Weizmann. Autograph letter signed, to General Sir Gilbert Clayton, 6 September 1918. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Sir Winston Churchill. Autograph letter signed, to Pamela, Lady Lytton, 1942. £20,000 to $30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Oscar Wilde. Five autograph letters signed, to Alsager Vian, 1887. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Napoleon I. Letter signed to Admiral Ganteaume, ordering the invasion of England, 22 August 1805. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Horatio, Viscount Nelson, and Emma Hamilton. Two autograph letter signed, to Catherine and George Matcham, 1805. £6,000 to £8,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.

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