On Collecting Books

The University of Calgary's Hotchkiss Brain Institute will be the new home for the Mackie Family History of Neuroscience Collection, and students and faculty alike are thrilled. The collection was started forty years ago by Dr. Robert Gordon, a now-retired neurologist, when he acquired the medical library of a distinguished physician. It is comprised of rare neurology books, some over 500 years old, and includes an original copy of Watson and Crick's Nature paper, in which the Nobel winners first describe the double helix structure of DNA, and the first neurological text, which was written in the 1600s by Thomas Willis, who is considered to be the 'father of neurology'. The University Library was able to purchase the collection after matching a gift given by Jamie and Brenda Mackie. The director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Dr. Samuel Weiss, PhD, is very excited about the acquisition and the implications it has for students. "The collection will provide a strong foundation for the knowledge that we have today and will act as a springboard for future research and education," Weiss says. The collection will be available to students, faculty, and the general public, and will provide a resource to those across the globe once it is digitized. It is valued at approximately $600,000. Rare Book Collection Unites Neuroscience History and Future [more]

A rare English language copy of Russia's Treasure of Diamonds and Stones is set to be auctioned off on October 14th at Heritage Auction Galleries' Signature Rare Books Auction in Beverly Hills. The volume was edited by Aleksander Evgenevitch Fersman and published in 1925, and is the result of the substantial effort to list and photograph the Russian crown jewels, a task that began in 1922. It was compiled by S.N. Troinitsky, who was the director of the Hermitage at the time, with the help of a committee of expert jewelers, including A. Fabergé, son of renowned court jeweler Carl Fabregé. The book was originally published in Russian, French and English, but today there are less than a dozen copies known of, and only a few in English, one aspect that makes this copy extremely rare. Russia's Treasure of Diamonds and Stones is also the singular record of the treasures of the Romanov Dynasty, which were mysteriously dispersed through private sales and a 1927 auction. It contains 100 unbound phototype plates, all of which feature descriptive text. The catalogue includes 25,300 carats worth of diamonds, 6,000 pearls, 3,200 emeralds, 2,600 sapphires and 1,500 worth of rubies, all of which is said to be "a small portion of the extraordinary collection". Stalin's government had commissioned the compilation in April 1922, but quickly changed their mind about its existence after it was published and recalled all copies, which were subsequently destroyed. James Hammond, Director of Rare... [more]

The Chapin Library at Williams College has recently acquired a 19th-century Qur'an manuscript from the Ottoman Empire. It measures six and one eighth inches long and four inches wide, and has a wallet style binding. Assistant Librarian Wayne G. Hammond describes the manuscript's condition as "superb", the result of the binding style, which protected the pages, and he surmises that, given its size, the manuscript was originally a personal volume. This Qur'an is handwritten in Arabic calligraphy and decorated with gold and other metallic illuminations. It was obtained from a local bookseller. Williams College added Arabic Studies as a major this year, which Hammond says helped influence the acquisition, as part of the Chapin Library's mission to "support all aspects of the Williams curriculum". In light of recent anti-Muslim sentiment, sensationalized by the media's coverage of the proposed mosque near Ground Zero and a plan by a Florida church to burn copies of the Qur'an (which, thankfully, did not take place), the acquisition of a rare Qur'an manuscript by a collegial institution brings hope for proper knowledge and understanding of a religion and people that have been unfairly stereotyped in America. Hammond commented, "I would hope we would always educate and help people understand and get along together. There is nothing worse than ignorance causing all the problems in the world." College gets rare Quran [more]

Andalouse This past Tuesday, our friend L.D. Mitchell at The Private Library, discussed Hand-Colored Plates, paying particular attention to the assembly-line process required to manually color engravings or lithographs. The workers were, more often than not, anonymous women or children. The designers and engraver/lithographers did not color the plates themselves. But these anonymous colorists were not left alone to improvise a palette, each of their own creation; they required a color scheme for reference. And these were not Venus Paradise Coloring Sets with numbers on the plate corresponding to a specific colored pencil. It was left to the original artist/designer or a primary colorist to create models for the workers to use as guides. One such colorist/modeler was Edouard Bouvenne, an artist in his own right yet of whom little is known; he is not found in Benezit (now, thankfully, available in an English edition). But he often provided models for colorists employed by Chez Aubert and Chez Bauger, two of the leading publisher-printmakers in France, 1820-1845. Bouvenne was a "figure of considerable talent who was able to give strong coloration to certain of Daumier's prints" (Fogle, Sabina. Daumier. L'écriture du lithographe. In Nineteenth Century Art Worldwide, Volume 7, Issue 2, Autumn 2008). Pétrin Original models for hand-colored plates rarely survived their function; they were heavily used. From time to time, however, vintage hand-coloring models do surface and two ye... [more]