Thursday, June 27, 2013

Books and Resources in the News

1535 sea battle at Golleta. From an uncataloged pictorial history in the Saint John's University Rare books collection.

Some recent posts from American Libraries Direct that may be of interest to "medievalists" (or: followers of "medievalism?")


Legal trove headed to Yale
A pocket-size handwritten copy of Magna Carta from the 14th century, the first book on the legal rights of women published in England (1632), letters to and from the 18th-century jurist William Blackstone, and the first English legal bibliography (Thomas Bassett’s A Catalogue of the Common and Statute Law-books of This Realm, 1671) are among the highlights of a rich trove of rare legal books and manuscripts just acquired by Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library....
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, June 17

Browsing habits of 14th-century readers
A new book by MIT Professor Arthur Bahr, Fragments and Assemblages, reveals that in the 14th century many people maintained eclectic reading habits. Consider Andrew Horn, the chamberlain for the city of London in the 1320s. The manuscripts in Horn’s possession, handed down to the city and preserved today, reveal a rich mixture of shorter texts: legal treatises, French-language poetry, and descriptions of London, all bound together....
MIT News, May 23

“Old book smell” is a mix of grass and vanilla
Joachim Koch writes: “Scientists say that ‘old book smell’ is more than just mustiness; it contains hints of grass and vanilla. That’s because of all the compounds used to make the book release its distinctive odors as they break down. For example, lignin, which is present in all wood-based paper, is closely related to vanillin. As it breaks down, the lignin grants old books that faint vanilla scent. It may even be possible to approximate the age of a book based on its smell.”...
International League of Antiquarian Booksellers

A medieval comic book
Damien Kempf writes: “This a page from the Bible of Stephen Harding, a manuscript produced in the early 12th century (Dijon, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 14). These scenes, which recount the life of biblical King David, read like a contemporary comic book: from top to bottom and left to right, with captions on top of each image (and sometimes within the images). It is one of the earliest, and most striking, examples of comic-like medieval pages.” The full manuscript is viewable on the French Enluminures website. It predates by 700 years the Glasgow Looking Glass from the 1820s, considered an early example....
Damien Kempf, June 15; Glasgow School of Art Library, June 25

Friday, June 14, 2013

Recent News Items for Medievalists

Of interest to Medievalists? A couple older items, plus one that is newer:

Camels in medieval book illustration
Have you ever asked yourself what a camel looked like in medieval times? Marvelously, we have some idea, thanks to drawings found in three of the greatest Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, all at the British Library: the Beowulf manuscript (Cotton Vitellius A XV), the Old English Hexateuch (Cotton Claudius B IV), and an illustrated miscellany from 11th-century Canterbury (Cotton Tiberius B V)....
Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts Blog, Apr. 30

Lambeth Palace retrieves stolen rare books
From an early edition of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 2 to illustrated accounts of the first expeditions to America, an extraordinary collection of some 1,400 rare books dating back to the early 17th century has been returned to Lambeth Palace in London nearly 40 years after it was stolen. In February 2011, the palace’s newly appointed librarian was stunned to hear from a solicitor dealing with the estate of the recently deceased thief, in which the culprit—who had been “associated with the library”—made a full confession and revealed the location of the books in a London attic....
The Guardian (UK), Apr. 29; BBC News Magazine, Apr. 24

Folger Shakespeare Library to get renovated
The Great Hall of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., where exhibits are usually staged, has just closed for the summer for a $1.5 million renovation. New windows will let natural light into the hall for the first time in decades, according to Garland Scott, head of external relations for the library. The renovation will also provide new exhibition cases and improved climate control to help preserve its priceless collection of books, manuscripts, and artifacts....
Washington Post: The Style Blog, May 31