An unnamed source in the rare book-industrial complex has brought three additional library blogs to my attention, each one worth adding to the blogroll. (I maintain my correspondent’s anonymity if only to assure my readers that The Bibliophagist shall guard the privacy of all who direct their correspondence, emails and billets doux to my care unless given explicit permission to blow your cover.)
The Beinecke Library maintains an on-line cabinet of curiosities, amply illustrated. Photographic collage from H.D., puzzle blocks, playing cards, and at least one reminder of the fitful diffusion of cultural capital across the porous borders of France and Belgium. (Georges Remi first launched the better-known boy journalist Tintin in a Belgian newspaper in 1929. Was this French counterpart intended to exploit contemporary popularity?)
Another literary figure who has elicited nearly as much respect as Tintin over the years is the illustrious Samuel Johnson. One cataloguer is going through the Hyde Collection of Johnson and Johnsoniana at the Houghton Library “one book at a time” and shares the results with the world.
(I note as an aside that Mary Hyde’s second husband, David, Viscount Eccles, was the source of the remark on the Brick Row Book Shop in San Francisco that has since served as something of a foundation document of this bookselling concern: “You see so many books here that everyone has forgotten.”)
Rounding out this trio is the Rare Book Blog at Princeton, a look at some fairly remarkable recent acquisitions and other library news. The blog includes a “vivid example of how the frugal decision of a bookbinder provides multiple evidence about the survival of texts” (with a fine image).
One great thing about the perhaps inherently easy-going rhetorical stance of online publications is that these blogs allow the less formal “cabinet of curiosity” format to return to the fore when writing about books and collections. It’s an old saw of collecting that the relationship between the reader (or collector) and the book as an object (rather than or perhaps in addition to the book as a text) is often what creates that gee-whiz frisson of possession or at least proximity. This is part of what creates value for books, value being a vexed question that unspools back at least as far as that noted darling of the bookseller set, Walter Benjamin.
(Bookseller and author Larry McMurtry in fact writes about book scouting in Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen , where he admits that the pursuit does not lend itself to compelling literary treatment. And while there is sometimes a correlation between my emotional response to finding a particularly interesting rare book and the financial advantages of selling same, the satisfactions of unearthing, say, a presentation copy of The Deserted Bride in a jumbled book shop in Cambridge, Mass., are not necessarily the stuff of paperback thrillers, pace Arturo Perez-Reverte.)