Reference Library for a Bibliomaniac

It is almost always bad form to simply post pointers to other blogs but I suppose if one can re-Tweet why not re-Blog.

The Reference Library for a Bibliomaniac seemed to me particularly worthwhile for members of the Ticknor Society.

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When Donald Knuth released Metafont, a computer program for creating digital fonts, he legendarily said “This is not for Times Roman.” The example font in the release was his own font, Computer Modern.

Knuth’s caution was not a legalistic one. He was simply reminding us that technology determines. Beautiful fonts in wood are different than beautiful fonts in lead.  You can’t faithfully replicate Times Roman in wood any more than you can in Metafont.  With Computer Modern Knuth was inviting us to look for the fonts that were beautiful in bits.

When a new technology comes along we typically do old things the new way.  Indeed, one of the chestnut selling points of a new technology is that it does old things better so the marketing sirens beckon us down this path.  Only slowly and after a while will the things that can only be done with the new technology emerge.  This is the natural grain of the new technology, what it wants to do, what it determines. Those with only silver threads left recall that computers were for computing mathematical tables and storing recipes.

Ob biblio?

“[Manuscriptlink] will reunite digital surrogates of dismembered medieval manuscript leaves into virtual codices, thereby restoring hundreds—if not thousands—of manuscripts lost through the dispersal of individual manuscript pages.”

Electronic books give way to distributed books; this page comes from a digital archive Peru, the next from a library server in Estonia, the third from a mobile phone in the apartment downstairs. Catalogers and bibliographers take note.

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The Library: A World History

The Library: A World History written by James W.P. Campbell with photographs by Will Pryce is time-traveling reading chair into libraries of the past.  While the book’s focus is the library as architecture, Campbell’s text makes it clear that form and function are interwoven in a much more complex manner when designing a library than, for example, when designing a gymnasium.  Campbell leaves it to Pryce’s photographs to show how each architect solved this tension between storing and using written material.

The book is by no means a tabletop bowl of eye candy. Campbell’s text is readable research in depth, sparkling with facts that both illuminate and amuse; the colony of one-inch bats that scour the Mafra Palace Library of book-eating insects each night, for example.

Regardless of one’s calling there is always at least one canon that one is obliged to read. For those whose stations of the word are the 40+ volumes of The Tripitake, there is a handy alternative to reading; one can turn a library containing the canon once around to dispatch the obligation.

More pictures from the book here.

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Ticknor Society Information Table at the Boston Book Fair

Call for volunteers for Ticknor Society information table at the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair 2013

The Board of the Ticknor Society is looking for volunteers to help promote the Society at this year’s book fair at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, November 15-17. Once again, we will have Ticknor members there during all book fair hours to tell people about our organization, promote our programs, and most important, sign up new members.

Volunteer stints run for two hours; there will be someone from the Board there to give instructions, and you will also receive them in writing. The best news: volunteers get free admission to the book fair.

If you’d like to help out, please get in touch with Board member Beth Carroll-Horrocks to arrange a time. As of mid-day Monday (11/4), the following slots are still available:

Saturday, November 16:

12noon-2pm: 2 people

2-4pm: 2 people

4-6pm: 2 people

6-7pm: 1 person

Please note: the Ticknor Society’s Collectors’ Roundtable will take place at the Book Fair this year on Saturday at 3:30pm.

Sunday, November 17:

12noon-2pm: 1 person

2-4pm: 2 people

4-6pm: 2 people

Beth’s contact information:


Home phone (we use answering machine to screen calls): 617-576-3483

Work phone: 617-727-2595

Information about the Book Fair:

The Ticknor Society’s annual Collectors’ Roundtable, as always, at the Book Fair:

Information about the Boston Book, Print, and Ephemera Show (Saturday only, at the Back Bay Events Center):

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Printing History Libraries in America at Houghton

Collecting Type on the Page:

Printing History Libraries in America

Thursday, November 7, 5:30 p.m.

Houghton Library, Edison and Newman Room

Several ambitious printing history collections were created in the United States between 1890 and 1940, during what is often considered the golden age of American type design and print production. These collections both served and reflected the increasing power of the printing industry. That of Philip Hofer was the last-begun, and it is clear that he learned from the strengths and weaknesses of the earlier foundations. This talk will outline the typographic ethos of America around mid-century, and then focus in on the long and cordial relationship between Hofer and his colleagues at the Newberry Library in Chicago — three successive curators of the Newberry’s Wing Foundation on the History of Printing (established 1919). As his collecting grew in scope and sophistication, Hofer began to have a profound influence on the collecting of type and book arts in Chicago, even as he attended closely to what his colleagues there were up to.

Paul F. Gehl is an historian of education and printing. He is the fourth individual to hold the title of Custodian of the John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing at the Newberry Library, and, since he assumed that role only in 1987, he is the first Wing curator who did not know the direct influence of Philip Hofer.

For further information please call Monique Duhaime at 617-495-2441 or write to

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Exhibition at the State Library

Elvernoy Johnson, the State Librarian, has announced an exhibition of materials from the collections of the Massachusetts State Library that bring into sharp focus the many dimensions of the textile industry in early 19th-century Massachusetts; the machinery, the water rights, the engineering, the business models, and the labor force, to name just a few.  The exhibition will run from September 10 to the end of the year.

If you haven’t visited the State Library or the state’s Special Collection library recently this is a golden opportunity to take a long lunch and spend some time (re)familiarizing yourself with these amazing and, sadly, all-to-overlooked biblio-resources.  These libraries contain much, much more than long-winded orations by politicians of yore.

Dropping by Room 341, you can also browse a fully-functional, up-and-running 19th-century version of Google — a massive card catalog. Take along your favorite millennial and spin a few “back in my day when books were books” stories.

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First Conservation Laboratory in a Library

The Boston Athenaeum is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first conservation laboratory in a library with a series of events starting October 29th. The PDF with details is here.

And on the topic of conservation, the British Library runs a Collection Care Blog that “take(s)  you behind the scenes into the Centre for Conservation and the Scientific Research Lab to share some of the projects we are working on.”

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Stories Told in a Frontispiece

Johannes Kepler embedded — one might even say encoded — editorial stories in the frontispiece of his 1627 Tabulæ Rudolphinæ. He expressed in graphic elements his views on a number of topics ranging from the history of astronomy to this feud with the family of Tycho Brahe.  The current issue of the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society includes a delightful article by Mikael Rägstedt that dissects Kepler’s frontispiece into its narrative glyphs and tells the story of and behind each one.

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I’ve been taking a couple university-sponsored MOOC courses and have found both the content and the technology of compelling quality. Professional organizations of all stripes are also starting to produce MOOC courses.  Ticknor Society fans and followers might be interested in the Caring for Yesterday’s Treasures—Today series being given by Connecting to Collections.

For something completely different, you can also type “book collecting” into the search box at udemy. Udemy hosts MOOC courses created by … well … anyone.  Some of the udemy courses are free and some have small fees.  Lectures to Accompany Wheelocks Latin Chapters 1-15 goes for $25, for example.

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Edgard Claes at the North Bennet Street School

The New England Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers and North Bennet Street School will host a lecture by Edgard Claes, one of the world’s foremost bookbinders, on Thursday, September 19th. While the lecture is free, you are invited to register to attend.

This is Mr. Claes’s first visit to the US and a great opportunity to hear one of the most innovative binders in the world today talk about his work.

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