Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2007 Issue

Memory: the next frontier

Printing.the

Printing: the first frontier


By Bruce McKinney

A thread that connects and unites all human beings is memory. Without it we are cavemen on the edge of oblivion. With it, we are linked with ever expanding knowledge, functioning in a world that evolves. Our comprehension [awareness, understanding] constantly increases, and has from the beginning of time, while our ability to deeply remember only recently became possible. I'm speaking of the breathtaking scope of memory made possible by the linking of unlimited numbers of processors and electronic storage devices. It is our next frontier.

We understand the importance of memory when we think of the occasional discovery of isolated tribesmen that, absent contact with the modern world, live in a primitive state. Our connection to the civilized world, it turns out, is tenuous. Break the cycle of information transfer and we are like them. What we know is not intuited. It is learned, transmitted from generation to generation by education and experience. Society so values memory that it organizes itself to ensure transfer is effective. It starts with pre-school and now includes organized education to at least age 18, often to 21 and increasingly beyond. Two hundred years ago life expectancy was barely 40. Today we spend half that time passing on our understanding of how things are done. Life is more complex and there is more to know, more to remember.

Five centuries ago, we arrived at a crossroads similar to the one we face today. A couple of millennia past, Greek and Roman scholars were making great discoveries, both in terms of physical and social sciences. Indeed, millennia prior to that the Egyptians accomplished architectural and construction wonders we still cannot fully grasp. Even more marvels were going on in Arabia, Persia, India and China. Yet, virtually all was forgotten with no practical means of passing this knowledge on. For a thousand years, the world plunged into the Dark Ages, rescued only when Gutenberg invented a means to save and distribute this knowledge to all mankind. Still, the press lacked the technical capacity to capture more than a speck of memory. Lincoln's thoughts could be preserved, those of tens of thousands of soldiers and slaves forgotten. Today, we are on the threshold of the next quantum leap, where everyone's memories, yours included, can be permanently saved. A new Renaissance unfolds.

These days the human experience itself looms as the next threshold for important research. What we did, how we did it and why are questions that when answered by tens of thousands, if not millions, will provide crucial information that helps future generations overcome many of the issues we face today. Access to this information about ourselves may well unlock the enigma of self-destructive actions, resolve many medical mysteries, show us the impact of behavior, experience and diet through lifetimes, across generations, even to the scores Lincoln spoke of in the Gettysburg Address. Our greatest goal, earnestly spoken here, may simply be to leave a sufficient permanent record that humans of the future might in time see in our behavior lessons to move beyond our most self-destructive communal act: war. Santayana said if we do not learn, we relive. Our greatest project, one in which every person on the planet should in time have an opportunity in which to participate, is simply this: leave a record that others may learn. Good will come of it.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Documents, The Library of Dawson Turner<br>4 March 2020</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Mar. 4:</b> Beck (Henry). <i>London Underground Transport,</i> 1934. Iconic original poster. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Mar. 4:</b> Turner (Dawson, 1775-1858). ‘Journal of a Three Weeks' Tour, with Thos. Phillips’, 1815. Unpublished illustrated manuscript. £7,000 to £10,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Mar. 4:</b> Sander (Frederick). <i>Reichenbachia,</i> 4 volumes, 1st edition, 1886-95. Ex libris Sir David Salomons (1797-1873). £3,000 to £5,000.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Documents, The Library of Dawson Turner<br>4 March 2020</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Mar. 4:</b> Mary I, Queen of England (1516-1558). Illuminated grant of arms on vellum to John Hombreston, 1554. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Mar. 4:</b> Restoration London. Album of important autographs, c.1660-90. Including a letter from Sir William Petty to John Evelyn. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Mar. 4:</b> Levellers. <i>The Womens Petition to Over Cromwell,</i> 1651. Extremely rare broadside, 2 copies in libraries. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Documents, The Library of Dawson Turner<br>4 March 2020</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Mar. 4:</b> Catherine of Siena. <i>Lettere devotissime,</i> Venice, 1562. Ex libris Giacomo Castelvetro (1546-1616), with marginalia. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Mar. 4:</b> Kane (Brig. Gen. Richard, 1666-1732). ‘A Plan of the Town, Mountain and Bay of Gibraltar’, 1712. Pen and ink and watercolour. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Mar. 4:</b> Costa (Emanuel Mendes da). <i>A Natural History of Fossils,</i> 1st edition, 1757. £600 to £800.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Documents, The Library of Dawson Turner<br>4 March 2020</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Mar. 4:</b> Blaeu (Johannes). <i>Britannia Anglo-Saxonum,</i> c.1646. £700 to £1,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Mar. 4:</b> Donne (John). <i>Devotions,</i> 1st edition, 1624. Contemporary vellum gilt, £700 to £1,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Mar. 4:</b> Baden-Powell (Robert). <i>Scouting for Boys,</i> 1st edition, 1908. £800 to £1,200.

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