Archives for category: Libraries

The Scottish Book Trust gives you thirteen great book museums to visit. If there’s a Scottish flavor to this list, let that not diminish your enthusiasm for the quest. I don’t really find it too troubling but when you visit the main reading room at the 42nd Street main branch of NYPL you have to push your way through a crowd of tourists who gather inside the entrance to the room to goggle at all those people actually reading books. A museum of reading?

It is quite a handsome room though.

In some ways any library is a kind of book museum, just because they keep lots of old books; and indeed one or two of the 13 in the Scottish Book Trust’s list are indeed libraries. I’ve reported on museum-type displays at the University Library, Cambridge, at Chetham’s Library, at The Rosenbach Library, and at The British Library. So keep going. After The Scottish Book Trust’s list you can start on national libraries.

The insatiable bibliophile traveller will need to refer to Printing museums and Book towns too.

The SHARP listserv drew our attention earlier this year to this movie, discussed at Melville House’s blog. Here’s a trailer.

If you don’t see a video here, please click on the title of this post in order to view it in your browser.

The theft described turns out to be chaotic and pretty incompetent but really did happen at Transylvania University in Lexington, KY. The thieves dropped the two large Audubon volumes which were their real target as they ran out of the library but did get away with a few rare books which they tried to hawk to Christies in New York.

The movie has done the rounds, and may now be seen at Amazon Prime for example. It got an 88% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

What is all this about? It seems just fine that the Register of Copyrights (the Director of the U.S. Copyright Office) should be appointed by the Librarian of Congress. Suddenly we have a move to change this and make it a presidential appointment with Senate confirmation and a term limit. In April Publishers Weekly told us the story. Would anybody be too bent out of shape if it were any President other than the present incumbent? The initiative seems to be tied up with the identity of the current Librarian of Congress, and her attempt to replace an incumbent Register, who now has another job. There is also some potential money wasting being alleged. But doesn’t our Congress have better things to worry about? Maybe some members think there’s nothing more important than patronage.

What it was all about now seems set to become academic — Shelf Awareness of 17 December 2018 tells us “The Senate Rules and Administration Committee has indefinitely postponed voting on the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act, making it unlikely that the proposal will go to a floor vote before the 115th Congress adjourns. (That would mean supporters would have to start fresh with new legislation next year, where a Democratic House of Representatives might look differently on the whole prospect.) The legislation would make the register of copyrights a presidential appointee and set a 10-year term limit for the position. Currently, the register is selected by the Librarian of Congress and has no term limit. The bill was opposed by the ALA, the Society of American Archivists, and others. Critics noted, among other things, that the bill was being pushed through late in the session, that if favored commercial interests, and that it would represent a decrease of power for the Librarian of Congress.”

Carla Hayden, 14th Librarian of Congress

Not sure I’m able to see why this appointment should have become a party issue, and I wonder what commercial interests it’d favor. Can it all have gotten started because President Obama was the one who nominated Carla Hayden, the current Librarian of Congress, and a certain part of our government seems to have no aim more pressing than thwarting everything our last president did?

Websites with cultural aspirations (must include Making Book I suppose) love to reproduce photos of nice-looking book places.

Here’s a showing of bookshops and libraries in Scotland, followed by a library photo gallery from The Atlantic. Fascinatingly they both feature a phone box converted into a library from different ends of the UK. One wonders how people are meant to access the shelves in this Seoul library.

Photo: Aaron Choi/ Shutterstock

Even just to dust the books, if as I suspect, they’re only there for display.

Apparently they’ve converted a bus shelter in Sedbergh into a little free library by adding a few shelves of books.

Sedbergh is England’s Book Town, so this is an entirely appropriate use of space. What the status of bus service may now be is not touched upon by The Westmoreland Gazette or Bookshelf who’s story was linked to be Shelf Awareness on 5 October.

Atlas Obscura brings us a story about book sorting at New York Public Library. This machine explains why, if you put a hold on a book at NYPL, when it’s ready you’ll get an email saying “In the next 24 hours your book will be available at your branch library”. They must be sending the email at the same time as they send the book off to the Lyngsoe Systems Compact Cross Belt Sorter in Queens. The machine is made in Denmark and can be seen in operation in this ABC news report.

If you don’t see a video here, please click on the title of this post in order to view it in your browser.

If variety is the spice of life, librarians must live quite spicily. New York Public Library recently discovered a box of old questions directed at their staff between the 1940s and the 80s and they’ve been displaying some at their Instagram account. This post from The Gothamist lets you see a few of them.

© Tom Gauld or The Guardian

Tom Gauld also has a go in his recent Guardian cartoon.

Instagram seems to be a favorite venue for NYPL: see my recent post on Insta Novels.

In Philadelphia there’s a nice handsome Georgian house on Delancey Place, a few blocks from Rittenhouse Square.

Here lived the Rosenbach brothers, one an antiques dealer, the other the biggest rare book dealer in the world.

The house (plus the building next door) has been turned into a fascinating small museum. In addition to furniture and pictures you can see bookcases full of rare books and manuscripts, with pages from some of them on display in a glass-topped display case. The manuscript of Ulysses, most of Conrad’s manuscripts, several Dickens originals, a Chaucer manuscript. There’s also a recreation of Marianne Moore’s living room in New York. Her complete library, with many personally inscribed and annotated books from her friends such as Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot and Elizabeth Bishop, is part of the Rosenbach collections as well as all of her correspondence and drafts of her poetry and unpublished memoirs.

Although much stuff has been deeded and donated to the museum subsequently, one almost gets the impression that the basis of the display may in fact be what was left unsold when the music stopped and these dealers in antiquities sloughed off their mortal coils.

Dr Abraham Rosenbach got into the book trade by hanging about in the antiquarian bookstore of his maternal uncle Moses Polock, and started book dealing while still an undergraduate. But what really established him as the go-to book dealer for the quality was the commission he got to build up the Widener collection after Henry Elkins Widener had gone down with the Titanic. The library Dr Rosenbach compiled formed the basis of the Widener Library at Harvard. Rosenbach also worked for Mr & Mrs Folger, J. P. Morgan, Henry Huntington.

The Library and Museum, which is affiliated with the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation but independently run offers an interesting series of events, including Hands-On events which feature early editions and manuscripts, which obviously you can get really close to. Edward G. Pettit, Sunstein Manager of Public Programs at the Rosenbach, comes up with a varied list of activities. When we were there he let us see a copy of The Bay Psalm Book, the first book printed (1640) in British North America. They had recently arranged for a concert featuring a choir singing psalms from the book. The Rosenbach also runs a Bibliococktails series, held almost every second Friday, which include light refreshments and themed cocktails provided by Quaker City Mercantile, as well as a rotation of activities such as readings, music, and games. So if you’re planning a weekend in Philly, book your place.

They have a blog, The Rosenblog, which often carries reports on their events, plus research activities and exhibitions. They welcome researchers: make an appointment.

BoingBoing brings us the exciting news that the University of Michigan Library has acquired a book made up of pages consisting of plastic-wrapped American cheese slices. One suspects that library patrons will not be allowed to take out this volume, for fear that it might fall victim to the lunch menu. The book is one of an edition of ten produced by Ben Denzer, whose earlier works include “200 one-dollar bills arranged in serial number order, and a tiny volume of Chinese restaurant fortunes”.

If librarians store the cheese book carefully they can probably manage to keep the book worms and library mice at bay. Do libraries feature freezers?

Link via The Digital Reader.

Chetham’s Library in Manchester is the oldest public library in the English-speaking world. It was founded by the bequest of Humphrey Chetham,* who became fabulously wealthy as a result of trading in fustian, a cloth made from a mix of linen and cotton, and controlling the entire supply chain reaping profits all the way through: the Jeff Bezos of his day. A religious man, he wanted to use his wealth to overcome poverty by curing ignorance, and paid for the education of 20 boys. He once declined a knighthood, an affront for which he was fined. When he died in 1653, by his will he established a school for 40 boys, Chetham’s Hospital, as well as the library.

The building housing the library is even older, dating from 1421, when it was built for the housing of a college of priests attached to the nearby church, now Manchester Cathedral. It can be seen through the entrance gate archway in the picture above. The sandstone buildings can be seen to advantage in this photo, with the library wing in the distance — by which I don’t mean the downtown skyscrapers.

The school, which now occupies the site vacated by Manchester Grammar School — the red brick structure on the left of the gateway — is now a School of Music. Because it’s a place of study, access to the library is by guided tour, on the hour. Entry is free, with a suggested donation. They also have a few items for sale: notably a handsome little book about the library published by Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers in London. The place still acts as a free public library, though you’ll need to make an appointment to come in and consult a volume. Their catalog is on-line and may be found here.

The books in the library were originally chained, but now they are protected by gates closing off each bay. 

Chetham’s Library’s collections contain 40 medieval manuscripts, and 120,000 printed books, most published before 1850 when for space reasons they began to restrict their purchasing largely to Mancuniana. They have a copy of The Nuremberg Chronicle from 1493 with a 16th-century English translation in the margin.

Chetham’s will also left £200 for the provision of “five small libraries of books, designed to be ‘chained upon desks or to be fixed to the pillars or in other convenient places’. They were to be located in the parish churches of Manchester and Bolton and in the parochial chapelries of Gorton, Turton and Walmesley.” The one from Gorton has survived and has been acquired by the library. It may be seen here. The books in these little libraries were all of an elevating nature, and in English.

Perhaps the highlight of the tour is the very table at which Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx sat researching and writing during Marx’s visit to Manchester in 1845. They display it with books they are known to have consulted — not the actual copies, reprints. 

As a tail piece you may admire this blogger reading up on The Poor.

Thanks to Peter Sowden for notification of this survival.

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* Quaintly the Library pronounces his name to rhyme with cheat ’em, while the school, often referred to as Chet’s, uses a short e. Chetham spelled his name various ways and nobody knows how he’d have pronounced it.