Monday, June 9, 2014

Stories About Books and Libraries

From a Gradual manuscript at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library.

With apologies for not being at the keyboard/flatscreen much in the past month, I bring you a collection of book news that might be of interest to medievalists (or those who work with manuscripts).


American Libraries Direct, May 7, 2014:

Vatican Library moves into the 21st century
Aimee Chanthadavong writes: “The Vatican Apostolic Library has begun mass digitizing 82,000 historic manuscripts to make them available online. As part of the project, EMC Corporation has offered the library 2.8 petabytes of storage—enough to store about 40 million pages of digitized manuscripts. Speaking at EMC World 2014, Vatican Library Chief Information Officer Luciano Ammenti (right) said the project is halfway through.” IT World Canada has more information....
ZDNet, May 6; IT World Canada, May 6

The beauty of the injured book
Erik Kwakkel writes: “While our eyes are naturally drawn to pages filled with color and gold, those without decoration can be equally appealing. Indeed, even damaged goods—mutilated bindings, torn pages, parchment with cuts and holes—can be highly attractive. The visual power of damage may be generated by close-up photography, with camera and book at just the right angle, catching just the right amount of light. These images celebrate the beauty of the injured book, the art of devastation.”...
Medieval Fragments, May 2

 May 21, 2014:

The brave sage of Timbuktu
Joshua Hammer writes: “It was early in the summer of 2012, and at the Mamma Haidara Library in Timbuktu, Mali, a clandestine operation was underway. Night after night, a team under the direction of the library’s founder, Abdel Kader Haidara (right), quietly packed the ancient works of astronomy, poetry, history, and jurisprudence into metal chests, then spirited them out of the library in mule carts and 4x4s to safe houses scattered around the city.”...
National Geographic, Apr.

The lost desert libraries of Chinguetti
Vanessa Grall writes: “The sands of the Sahara have all but swallowed Chinguetti, a near ghost town found at the end of a harsh desert road in Mauritania, West Africa. This was once a prosperous medieval metropolis. A principal gathering place for pilgrims on their way to Mecca, it even became known as a holy city in its own right and over time, it was recognized as the seventh holy city of Islam, the City of Libraries. Against all odds, behind these walls sleep 6,000 books, some kept intact since the 9th century in the dry desert air.”...
Messy Nessy Chic, May 14

May 28, 2014:

World-class Glasgow art library destroyed by fire
The iconic library at Glasgow School of Art has been lost in a fire that swept through the building on May 23. The library was recognized as one of the finest examples of art nouveau in the world. The fire completely destroyed the school’s west wing library, but fire crews managed to preserve 90% of the building and 70% of its contents, including the museum and lecture theatre. Priceless watercolors, drawings, and letters by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh kept in a fireproof vault escaped undamaged. Initial indications are that a projector overheated and lit nearby combustible materials. To offer financial or practical support, visit the GSA website....
BBC News, May 25; Glasgow (UK) Herald, May 26

June 4, 2014:

The burden of writing: Scribes in medieval manuscripts
Sarah J. Biggs writes: “When we speak to visitors or students about our medieval manuscripts, we frequently find ourselves spending a significant amount of time talking about how such books were created. We discuss the ways that scribes worked and artists painted, and quite often we will then be asked just how it is that we can know such details. There are, of course, medieval manuals for craftspeople that still exist, but often we can find clues in the manuscripts themselves.”...
British Library: Medieval Manuscripts Blog, June 3

This one is really bound in human skin
Heather Cole writes: “Good news for fans of anthropodermic bibliopegy, bibliomaniacs, and cannibals alike: Tests have revealed that Houghton Library’s copy of Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de l’ame is without a doubt bound in human skin. Harvard conservators and scientists tested the binding using several different methods. According to Senior Rare Book Conservator Alan Puglia, they are 99.9% confident that the binding is of human origin.”...
Houghton Library Blog, May 24, June 4

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