Nov 072011

Quick post and pictures today. We started the day with a wonderful tour the the Bodleian Library given to us by Clive Hurst (Head of Rare Books). It is a remarkable place in so many ways. Many thanks to Clive for the tour and Richard for arranging it. It was one of the highpoints of the trip. Captions below try to hit the highlights…

We puttered about downtown Oxford a bit (presents for boys and girls) and had a lovely pub lunch. Best of all, I checked in at the White Horse to see about he wild game pie. I was told that they had been successful in the morning hunt and that while the pie would not be on the menu again until tomorrow, the first batch would be out of the ovens at 8pm and the chef had agreed to let me have a serving if I came in at 8:15. We have reserved the “special table” and I, for one, am quite excited.

Aug 232010

As I’m beginning to pull together things for the Baltimore Show, I was reminded yet again how much I love what I do. These five items are currently on my coffee table-370 years of printed matter. What a great way to spend one’s time.

Jun 212010

Aidan and I drove into DC to meet with Mark Dimunation (Chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress). Spending time with Mark is always great fun. Spending time with Mark *at* the LC and having him show you about, tell you interesting things about the building *and* show you around in the vault is quite extraordinary. Aidan was really amazed. As we stood in the middle of the reading room, he leaned over and whispered, “This is awesome.”…and this was *before* Mark put Charles Dickens’ cane and Lincoln’s life mask in his hands. It was awesome. It amazes me that Mark can get anything done on a day to day basis with such amazing things to explore and play with.

We then drove up to Philadelphia to settle in for the rest of the week at RBMS. We joined Philadelphia Rare Books and Manuscriptsat their lovely shop for an open house and dinner. Having chatted with Mark earlier in the morning about the nature of perogies, it was strangely pleasing to find them offered up for dinner. The house is wonderful (late 19th century officer’s quarters at The Arsenal)…do not miss the spectacular floors. We were greeted upon arrival by Frank Wood, sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch. We Mainers get about.

I’ve included many images below-tried to give good descriptions where I could. Each will get big and pretty if you click upon. Enjoy.

May 282010

Wither's A Collection of Emblems, Ancient and Modern (1634/5)

"Death, is unable to divide Their Hearts, whose Hands True-love hath tyde."

Frontispiece of Wither's Emblems

Vaughan's Fame and Confession of the Fraternity of R: C: (1652)


Title page of Tristram Shandy (1760)

Tristram Shandy's bound in marbled page.

Spent the last few hours beginning to catalogue three interesting items that just arrived. The first is a very nice copy of Tristram Shandy (published in nine parts between 1759 and 1767). This copy appears to be a complete and lovely Lynch pirate printed in 1760… As with the other two, more research will follow.

The second is a handsome copy of George Wither’s brilliant A Collection of Emblems (1635). It shows some early repairs and other minor issues, but is a pleasure to play with. I’ve included the emblem on “true love”.

The last of the day is a wonderful copy of Vaughan’s The Fame and Confession of the Fraternity of R: C: (1652). This very scarce work is the first English translation of what is arguably the most important work of Hermetica and a cornerstone volume of Rosicrucian writings.

I love what I do every day. Some days are just more fun than others.

Apr 282010

This first great manuscript library has announced plans to digitize 80,000 manuscripts from its archives. This collection comprises approximately 40 million manuscript pages and is expected to comprise 45 petabytes of data. The plan is apparently well established, expecting to take 10 years and evolving through 3 phases…with a staff of 60 growing to 120.

The technical aspects are interesting. They are tentatively planning to use a Metis System Scanner and a 50MP Hasselblad camera. Most interestingly, they intend to use FITS (Flexible Image Transport System) for the images (“Once FITS, always FITS). FITS is an open standard used mostly primarily in hard science areas. FITS is/was designed specifically for scientific data and includes structural elements for describing photometric and spatial calibration information, together with image origin metadata. Obviously, the inclusion of such data at the time of scanning could make the images significantly more valuable and at least in part address some of the major shortcomings of digital images…loss of the “nature of the original object”. Added info can be found here:
Original Announcement from the Vatican Library
Lengthy and Italian
Vatican Library Site [N.B. Has a nice Erasmus quotation, but all links are broken…]

Mar 242010

I offer, for additional consideration on Ada Lovelace Day, Mary Katherine Goddard. She was the first postmistress in the US, but far more importantly, she was a printer. While the first copy of the Declaration of Independence was famously printed by John Dunlap, the second copy (and the first printed names of the signers) was printed by M.K. Goddard. She also printed one of the first accounts of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Technologist, printer of the founding fathers, and all around remarkable woman:

After the death of her father in 1762, she and her mother joined her brother in Providence, R.I. where he had established a printing shop, and where both mother and daughter began their careers as printers. Mary Katherine actively worked in publishing the weekly Providence Gazette until the end of 1768 when she joined her brother’s printing office in Philadelphia, where he published the Pennsylvania Chronicle. Though the publication remained under the brother’s name, William Goddard, Mary Katherine managed the shop, one of the largest in the colonies. In May 1773, William started a new printing business in Baltimore and began Baltimore’s first newspaper, the Maryland Journal. In February 1774, the Philadelphia shop closed and Mary Katherine moved to Baltimore to take over the new plant and newspaper.

The May 10, 1775 issue of the Maryland Journal made official what had been in practice for over a year when the colophon was changed to read, “Published by M. K. Goddard.” Mary Katherine proved to be a steady, impersonal newspaper editor and during the Revolution she was usually Baltimore’s only printer. From her press, in January 1777, came the first printed copy of the Declaration of Independence to include the names of the signers. Mary Katherine Goddard was also responsible for issuing several Almanacs, while in Baltimore, which now hold a place in the Maryland Historical Society. [MD Women’s Hall of Fame]

Mar 232010

Editor’s Note: The post today comes from my blog-quiet but ever-present wife, Suzanne. An engineer and business strategist by training, she has an uncanny ability to not only envision societal changes enabled by new technologies, and figure out the implications for her business clients (including yours truly), but to never forget the little details that keep our lives functional on a daily basis. I therefore dedicate today’s blog to Suzanne, Ada Lovelace, and all the other sung and unsung achievements of women in technology and science.

I know there have been any number of magnificent women who have managed to change the course of history through their achievements in technology and science. I also, sadly, know I am woefully ignorant of far too many of them. Raised with little to no awareness that there might actually be people who believed women were not as smart or capable as men, studying pioneering women in my chosen fields was not something I actively felt the need to do. I just assumed that as the doors of opportunity started to open to women, the math would take care of itself, and the ranks of all professions would become gender-balanced. I have since become older, wiser, and perhaps a bit more cynical as I recognize some of the remaining structural and institutional barriers. But this column is not about me, nor about how far we still have to go, but about those women who came before who enabled me to grow up thinking all things were possible.

Grace Murray Hopper, like so many women of her generation, threw themselves into work to help win World War II. But she was no typical Rosie the Riveter. Born in 1906 in New York City, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar with a bachelor’s in math and physics in 1928, and from Yale with a Master’s in 1930 and a PhD in 1934. By 1941 she was an associate professor in math at Vassar, but in 1943 took a leave of absence to volunteer in the US Navy Reserve as part of the WAVES. Assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard, she was one of the first programmers of the Mark I computer. This work led to her involvement with the development of the UNIVAC, her conceptualization of the idea of machine-independent programming languages, her development of the first compiler, and the infamous coining of the term computer “bug” when she discovered the reason the computer (then a large room full of vacuum tubes) was not functioning was a dead moth (see wikipedia for a photo). While turned down for transfer to the regular Navy (at 38, she was considered too old), she spent most of her working life in the Reserves, despite several short-lived attempts to retire in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Her list of accomplishments and awards is long; her accolades many.

I was lucky enough to hear her speak in the mid 1980’s at the national conference of the Society of Women Engineers. As one of a handful of computer science majors at the time, I should have been aware of her work. I wasn’t. I knew the names of Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie as if they were family members, we all admired the work of Tom Watson and giggled about his alleged quotation about the size of the worldwide market for computers (5), the Steves (Wozniak & Jobs) and Bill Joy were considered gods, and Bill Gates was highly respected for the company he was building. But until I saw her name on the keynote address, I hadn’t known about the accomplishments of Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper. While I can’t remember, all these years later, exactly what she told this room full of women, to this day I remember being in complete awe of what she did during a time when women were told their patriotic duty was to resign their jobs, go back to the kitchen, and let the returning men have the good jobs. And to this day, I can’t help but notice the respect in the voices of the men who speak of her accomplishments. So thank you, Amazing Grace, for all you did. And thank you to Suw Charman-Anderson, the founder of Ada Lovelace Day, for getting us to stop and remember those who came before.

BTW, for those of you wondering about a biblio connection, there are several. Grace Hopper, needless to say, published important scholarly works in her own right. Ada Lovelace wrote the world’s first computer algorithm/program for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine and translated Luigi Menabrea’s memoir on the engine. Sadly, she died at the tender age of 36. And finally, another famous bibliophile, Lord Byron, had the privilege of being Ada’s largely absent father (apparently, he was bitterly disappointed she was not a boy – little could he know what she would become).

Mar 202010

Montague Summers

“Here, then, is a host of material of the greatest interest and fascination waiting to be discovered. But the probability is that most of it has vanished beyond recall. However, perhaps there is some slight hope.” (Fr. Brocard Sewell, “The Manuscripts of Montague Summers” [pdf](1970))

There is more than hope, there is certainty. I have been exploring and cataloguing the archives of Montague Summers, thought to be lost in the 1950s. Father Sewell wrote an interesting article (pdf) in 1970 in The Antigonish Review about the loss of the collection and what might be contained within it. Having rediscovered its location, scholar Gerard O’Sullivan wrote a new artical in the Antigonish, The Manuscripts of Montague Summers, Revisited. He and I had been following each other on Twitter for some time and one thing led to another and the archive is now with me.

He was a colorful figure, writing on witchcraft, vampires, and werewolves, in which he claimed to believe. From an occult standpoint, he is probably best known for publishing the first translation of the Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), the 15th century treatise on witch-hunting. He has seen a surge of popular support in recent years for his Vampire, His Kith and Kin. This last because Stephenie Meyer appears to be fond of him and quotes him, now and again, in her  Twilight books. He also wrote on black magic, the Dark Mass, and such. Though a member of the clergy (RC), his writings (and some alleged personal activities)…and his long friendship with Aleister Crowley-cast a shadow over aspects of his life.

Ordination document on vellum.

He also wrote extensively on the histories of Restoration dramas, studies of the gothic novel, fiction, and a variety of essays (including a gem on Poe). The archive includes handwritten and typed manuscripts of both published and unpublished works and dozens and dozens of letters.

A personal favorite is the manuscript of Summers’ unpublished play, “William Henry: A Play in Four Acts”. William Henry Ireland was a poet and writer of gothic novels…but is most famous as a forger. His greatest forgery, and downfall, was forging a “new” Shakespearian play, Vortigern and Rowena. I am toying with having the boys perform this play this summer…they best hope I place the collection before school frees them.
Another wee gem is a note (below) to the gentleman who repaired Summers’ typewriter…or failed to so so. There are, in addition to piles of personal and professional letters,  also the documents of an interesting man’s life. Book contracts, etc. are to be expected, but ordination (to Deacon) on vellum was an interesting thing (more so as his status in the church has sometimes been questioned). So many things to play with…so many other things I should be doing. Wretched.
I have a representative list of the contents of the collection (though by no stretch complete), ask if you’d like to see it. Truly, it is hard to put words to how much I love what I do.

Witchcraft and Black Magic.

Jane Austen Horrid Novels Introduction.

The Vampires of the Carpathians

Letter to his (failed) typewriter repairman.