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Rare Books and the Rare Book Trade
Rebecca Lawton
Manuscripts

'My year in St. Andrews was one of the best in my life'‘

Published on 03 July 2018
Rebecca Lawton (M.Litt Mediaeval History 2015) has been working on a collection of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts as part of a collaborative PhD between the University of Leicester and the British Library. ILAB would like to share her original blog post to demonstrate the work and research currently taking place in the field of rare books.
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Manuscripts

Germany buys back 1000-Year old Liesborn Gospels

Published on 30 Aug. 2017
Printing with movable types was only invented 500 years later, the Liesborn Gospel from the year 980, one of the oldest manuscripts still in private possession has now returned to its original place, the diocese of Münster in Germany after a 3Mill Euro investment by the German state and a number of regional trusts.
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Manuscripts

Video link to "Walking Tour of the Medieval Book Trade in Paris" by Les Enluminures

Published on 15 May 2017
On April 8, 2017, Christopher de Hamel and Sandra Hindman led a "Walking Tour of the Medieval Book Trade in Paris". Setting off from Notre-Dame, the small group of participants had the opportunity to step into the Middle Ages and learn all about the life and practice of illuminators, scribes, printers and binders. In the video - see link below - Les Enluminures presents snippets from the guided tour to discover.
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Manuscripts

Collecting - Famous Manuscripts and the History of Handwriting

Published on 25 Jan. 2016
In the digital age, it is no secret that calligraphy is a dying art. Why work laboriously and imperfectly on something that takes days to cross the country, when the computer will set it in flawless text that can be transmitted instantly? A careful look at the grand history of handwriting is not kind to the craft, either. Some historians consider Gutenberg's press, the very device that liberated us from writing by hand, to be the single most important invention of the second millennium. Not only did it make books more accessible, it gave the works themselves unprecedented longevity. Think of all the masterpieces of antiquity (if you can bear) that were lost to rot and ruin because scribes could only produce a handful of them at a time. Aeschylus wrote some eighty plays, of which only seven survive. Shakespeare may have suffered a similar fate, as a writer who luckily had the printing press to immortalize his works - he leaves us with nearly nothing written by hand.
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Manuscripts

Manuscript Collecting - An Endangered Species

Published on 27 Nov. 2013
I am the owner of Barry R. Levin Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, a firm of rare book dealers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and I was discussing with her the acquisition of a manuscript written by one of her authors. When I say manuscript, I mean the physical artifact — the words on the paper. Manuscripts are the most important literary collectible and over the years my firm has handled many of the major ones, a number of them for award-winning novels. We always try to purchase all notes and drafts, so that the creative process can be traced from the original idea to the final setting-copy. To that end I asked Perkins to make sure that her client included in the final manuscript package the final draft, the setting-copy (this is the manuscript copy sent to publisher from which the publisher's printer sets the type). She told me that the author had submitted his copy on a disk - that no setting-copy was sent to the publisher at all. From the standpoint of collectors, archivists and literary scholars, this has to be the last straw.
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Manuscripts

Rare Books on the Blog - Manuscript Road Trip: Mappa Mundi Wisconsinianae

Published on 11 Nov. 2013
Lisa Fagin Davis is currently serving as Acting Executive Director of the Medieval Academy of America. Since 1996 she has been travelling through North America collecting data on the numbers and cataloguing status of pre-1600 manuscripts. Her blog Manuscript Road Trip takes readers on a (virtual) state-by-state tour of manuscripts focusing on less-well-known collections, some of them in very surprising locations. Read her recent blog post
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Manuscripts

50 unseen Rudyard Kipling poems discovered

Published on 26 Feb. 2013
"Kipling scholars are celebrating the publication of lost poems by the author whose exhortations in "If" to "keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you" are regularly voted the nation's favourite poem. Discovered by the American scholar Thomas Pinney in an array of hiding places including family papers, the archive of a former head of the Cunard Line and during renovations at a Manhattan house, more than 50 previously unpublished poems by Rudyard Kipling will be released for the first time next month."
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From the Vault

A sneak peek in our archives

Article

Collecting Rare Books and First Editions - Moving Pictures

In the century before cinema and television changed our lives forever, there were other ways of creating moving pictures. One such inventive Victorian method was the zoetrope (from the Greek zoe, 'life', and tropos, 'turning'), 'a mechanical toy or optical instrument consisting of a cylinder open at the top, with a series of slits in the circumference, and a series of figures representing successive positions of a moving object arranged along the inner surface, which when viewed through the slits while the cylinder is in rapid rotation produce the impression of actual movement of the object' (OED). You can watch a modern version of one here.
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Article

One Hand on the Wheel - The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers During the 1990s

In 1985 I was elected to the committee of the ILAB, the international umbrella organization then uniting the national associations of eighteen countries, now twenty-one. The problems a small national association like the NVvA has to cope with do not differ fundamentally from those faced by the ILAB. The committee consists of members from various countries, who, when they agree to join the international committee, are expected to let the international collective interests prevail over the national and/or private interests. These responsible positions are not subject to any payment, and compensation for expenses is only partial. By raising the yearly financial contribution of the national associations to the ILAB treasury bit by bit, and through a levy on the booths at antiquarian book fairs sponsored by the national associations, the financial position of the ILAB slowly improved. In 1996, just before I retired as president of the ILAB, I was able to convince a majority in the General Assembly to vote for more appropriate reimbursement of costs for future members of the committees.
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Article

Taking a Gamble: On Being Wrong III

Here's something that has hung on the wall of every office I've had for the past five years (that four offices, in case you're counting). It's a single sheet; text and image on one side, text alone on the other. I have two more much like it. But I don't keep them up because I am interested in polo or Middle Eastern art. Or even because I like the images. They serve as a reminder.
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Article

La burocrazia che ci danneggia

A special law on books older than 50 years affects the rare book trade in Italy. Any books - despite their worth - which are older than 50 years must not be brought out of the country without permission. This law, says ALAI President Fabrizio Govi, affects the whole rare book trade.
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Article

Hard-Boiled Detective Fiction and The Private Library

One of the most popular components of a private library is the mystery genre, which comprises a vast array of sub-genres such as detective fiction. The genesis of the detective fiction sub-genre may be traced to a short story penned by Edgar Allan Poe in 1841 titled The Murders in the Rue Morgue. All the elements of what we today recognize as the essential characteristics of the sub-genre are found in this short story: a brutal murder; baffled police; an independent investigator that solves the case through superior intelligence, humbling the police in the process.
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