Thursday, June 22, 2006

New Method for Dating Prints and Books

Blair Hedges, professor of biology at Penn State, will soon publish a paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. Hedges has determined that wood and metal materials used in the printing process degrade at a steady rate, and that this degradation is visible in the prints themselves:
Hedges, a biologist whose hobby involves Renaissance prints and maps, developed his "print clock" method by first measuring time-related changes in 2,674 Renaissance works. He found that the number of breaks in the lines of images printed from woodblock carvings increased over time, while the image intensity became more pale in copperplate prints. "Because woodblocks and copperplates were expensive to replace, they commonly were reused for decades to produce multiple editions of a book or print," Hedges said. His methods include taking digital photographs of the prints, which he analyzes with standard statistical methods and with widely used image-analysis software. Working with black-and-white pixels, the software can detect and count breaks in the lines of woodblock prints and can measure fading of the etched and engraved lines of copperplate prints.
For the full article, click here. (Via Boing Boing).

From Writer to Reader: CBBAG Online Book Exhibit

From the B.C. Book Arts Guild Electronic Newsletter:
The Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild presents Personal Visions: Engaging With the Book, an online exhibit by five artists, including B.C.’s very own Terry Rutherford.

From exuberant funkiness to quiet elegance, the range of artists’ books is broad, but all combine the familiarity of the book form with the unexpected use of materials, structures, and content. In part, the wide variety is due to the background of the book artists. The interaction of their artistic development in other art or craft forms with the book form is evidenced both in conceptual approach and in the use of materials and technical processes.

Please view the exhibit here.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Tyee's New Book Blog

BC based online news magazine, the Tyee, has recently launched a book blog. So far it seems that this blog maintains a good balance of BC, national and international book news.

From Writer to Reader: The Ten Most Expensive Books Ever Sold on Advanced Book Exchange (ABE)

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. $65,000. Published in 1937, this first edition, first printing is in its original dust jacket. Only 1,500 copies of the first edition were printed, and they were sold out by mid-December. Purchased by a buyer in Arizona from a New York bookseller.

Milton, John. Areopagitica. $65,000. Published in 1644, this pamphlet by the author of the epic poem Paradise Lost defended the freedom of the press as the British government suppressed their opponent’s publications. Purchase by a UK buyer from an American bookseller.
More, Sir Thomas. Utopia. $60,000. More became a Catholic martyr when Henry VIII beheaded him. This 1518 fourth edition outlines his ideal state, and pleads for religious tolerance and universal education. Purchased by a UK buyer from an American bookseller.

Donne, John. Poems. $60,000. Little written by Donne appeared in print in his lifetime but hundreds of manuscript copies were circulated by hand. This 1633 edition was the first collection of his poems. Purchased by a buyer in Pakistan from an American bookseller.

Landmann Lt.-Col. George Thomas. Historical, Military, and Picturesque Observations on Portugal. $57,000. This 1818 first edition is described as ‘the most beautiful illustrated English book on Portugal of the period.’ Landmann fought in the Peninsular War, and his book details sieges and battles. Purchased by a buyer in Hong Kong from an American bookseller.

Koran. $46,061. This handwritten version of the Koran was published in the Arabic year of 1152 (1731 in the Western world). Purchased by a buyer in Pakistan from a bookseller in Germany.

Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States. $38,000. In 1847, Congress asked Schoolcraft to document the history, condition and future of the aboriginal inhabitants of the U.S. It is one of the most important works about the American Indian. Purchased by a buyer in California from a bookseller in Philadelphia.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. $36,059. The 1997 first edition of Rowling’s debut book are hard to find. There was a hardcover print run of only 500. Most copies are now owned by collectors. This one is in mint condition and unread. Purchased by a buyer in California from a bookseller in France.

Traite a’anatomie et de physiologie, avec des plans. $27,582. A very rare medical handbook, it was published in 1786 in Paris and is bound in full leather. Purchased by a buyer in Pennsylvania from a bookseller in Germany.

Orwell, George. 1984. $26,500. Orwell was hospitalized with turberculosis just after the book’s publication. He never left the hospital alive, so signed copies are very scarce. Some were given to hospital staff – this one is inscribed ‘For Elly with regards – Geo. Orwell.’ Purchased by a UK buyer from an American bookseller.”


Friday, June 16, 2006

From Writer to Reader: The 100 Most Important Canadian Books According to the Literary Review of Canada

It is always great fun to read what others consider to be "Great Books." A list of the "100 Most Important Canadian Books" published by the Literary Review of Canada is certainly no exception. The list contains many of the books you might naturally expect like Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel, Robertson Davies' Fifth Business and Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women. But it also contains titles that might be characterized as both dull and important at the same time such as the Final Report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism and the Report of the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, 1949-1951. Bully for the editors of LRC I say. No pandering to cheap and meretricious taste in this instance!

For the complete list of the "100 Most Important Canadian Books" please pay a visit to the LRC website.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

From Writer to Reader: Canadian Novels Most Frequently Taught in Post-Secondary Institutions

Todd Wong, a friend of mine, recently drew my attention to another attempt to highlight important Canadian books. It seems a survey conducted by Quill and Quire in 2000/2001 found the following results concerning the teaching of Canadian fiction in Canadian universities:
A novel by Professor Thomas King. . . has the distinction of being taught in more undergraduate literature courses across the country than any other work.

Green Grass, Running Water [was] taught in 15 Canadian literature courses, according to a survey by Quill & Quire magazine published in its November 2001 issue. The magazine examined the reading lists for the 2000/2001 academic year from 29 Canadian universities. . . . The next runner-up was Joy Kogawa’s Obasan, taught in 13 courses.

King ranked fourth behind Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Laurence in total number of works taught in Canadian literature courses.

Ten Atwood novels [appeared] on reading lists in a total of 37 courses. Her novel Alias Grace, studied in nine courses, was the one most frequently taught. Seven Ondaatje novels [were] studied in 29 courses and five Laurence works [were] studied in 26 courses.

A total of 24 Canadian literature courses featured works by King, including his novels Medicine River, Truth & Bright Water and [ his short story collection] One Good Story, That One.

The rest of the list of twenty authors whose works appear most frequently on undergraduate reading lists includes Alice Munro, Carol Shields, Tomson Highway, Mordecai Richler, Robertson Davies and Timothy Findley.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

From Writer to Reader: Loeb Classical Library

This note sent along by our intrepid Chair Howard Greaves:
May 6th heralds the publication of the 500th volume in the esteemed Loeb Classical Library. To celebrate, Harvard University Press is proud to publish the Loeb Classical Library Reader, a compact selection of the Library’s greatest hits.

The Loeb Library is the only existing series of books which, through original text facing English translation, gives access to all that is important in Greek and Latin literature. The Reader draws on thirty-three of antiquity’s major authors to give a unique sampling of this treasure trove, from Aristophane’s Lysistrata to Virgil’s Aeneid.

The Fate of the Art, The Hand Printed Book in the 21st Century

The Codex Foundation is hosting the first bienniale CODEX Symposium & Bookfair entitled: The Fate of the Art, The Hand Printed Book in the 21st Century. We are gathering together on the University of California, Berkeley campus a congress of the worlds finest book artists and artisans, private presses, curators, collectors and scholars in the spirit of an Old West rendezvous. The book fair will feature contemporary artists books and fine arts presses and will also include booksellers, bookbinders, papermakers, bibliophile organizations, and educational programs in the book arts. The San Francisco Bay Areas libraries, book arts, and bibliophilic organizations will be hosting additional events, exhibits and receptions during the week. This will be a historic bookweek on the grand scale in keeping with the great San Francisco tradition! Following the Codex Book Fair will be The 40th California International Antiquarian Book Fair, certainly one of the biggest and best in the world, starting on Friday, February 16th.

The Fate of the Art, The Hand Printed Book in the 21st Century
February 12, 13, 14, & 15, 2007
The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum

Symposium lectures:

Breyten Breytenbach, South African writer, painter and activist
Book as the better part of being human...

Robert Bringhurst, Poet, Translator & Typographer
Spiritual Geometry : the book as a work of art

Sarah Bodman, Research Fellow, Centre for Fine Print Research, UWE, Bristol, School of Art, Media and Design
The hybrid lexicon: an overview of contemporary artists publishing in the UK

Felipe Eherenberg, Artist, Cultural Aggregate of Mexico in Brazil, publisher of the Beau Geste Press, London
Title to be announced

Dr. Stefan Soltek, Director of the Klingspor Museum, Offenbach, Germany
Verso recto : bookart as a matter of sidesteps ...
February 13, 14, & 15, 2007
ASUC Pauley Ballroom The University of California, Berkeley

For information concerning exhibitors, symposium schedules, registration, bookfair hours, directions, and accomodations
please go to:

Friday, June 09, 2006

From Writer to Reader: Literary Agents

At some point in every writer’s career thoughts must turn to securing the services of a literary agent to help market that incredibly good manuscript that is at present tucked securely away in a desk drawer. Apparently here, as in so many areas of commerce, the guiding rule is caveat emptor or buyer beware. The following excerpt is from an article entitled “Warnings and Cautions for Writers – Literary Agents” published online by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

“There are many successful literary agents who provide excellent representation to their client. Unfortunately, there are also many dishonest and incompetent ones, who relieve writers of money and waste their time – or even worse, damage their careers by squandering submission opportunities or placing them with bad publishers. A couple of decades ago, such agents weren’t terribly common. These days, due to changes in the publishing industry that have made agents the principal gatekeepers of the citadel of publishing, they are legion.

Dishonest agents prey on writers by charging fees, promoting their own paid services, engaging in kickback referral schemes, and misrepresenting their knowledge and expertise in order to obtain clients. These agents don’t earn their income from selling manuscripts to publishers, but from charging money to clients.

Dishonest agents may ‘represent’ hundreds of writers, turning them over twice a year with a six-month contact that requires $250 or more in upfront fees. Or they may be fronts for editing services, recommending editing to every writer who sends a query and charging thousands of dollars for critiques performed by unqualified minimum-wage employees. Or they may run pay-to-publish operations, into which clients are funneled once they’ve racked up enough rejections to become desparate.”

To read more of this valuable article, including several specific examples of “dishonest agenting practice drawn from Writer’s Beware files” please click here.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

From Writer to Reader: The Darker Side of Bibliophilia

Long time Alcuin Society director and seasoned bibliophile, Dr. Richard Hopkins, has kindly volunteered to contribute news and observations from the world of books to this blog. Look for his contributions, which will be regularly posted under the heading, "From Writer to Reader."

Here is his first post:

The Darker Side of Bibliophilia: Books Bound in Human Skin
(Reader’s Discretion Is Advised)

Over the last while I have discovered not one but two separate articles on books bound in human skin or “anthropodermically bound books.” The first of these is from M.L. Johnson, an Associated Press writer, and was found on I quote here from the article:
Brown University’s library boasts an unusual anatomy book. Tanned and polished to a smooth golden brown, its cover looks and feels no different from any other fine leather.

But here’s its secret: the book is bound in human skin.

A number of prestigious libraries – including Harvard University’s – have such books in their collections. While the idea of making leather from human skin seems bizarre and cruel today, it was not uncommon in centuries past, said Laura Hartman, a rare book cataloger at the National Library of Medicine in Maryland and author of a paper on the subject.

The best libraries then belonged to private collectors. Some were doctors who had access to skin from amputated parts and patients whose bodies were not claimed. They found human leather to be relatively cheap, durable and waterproof, Hartman said.

In other cases, wealthy bibliophiles may have acquired the skin from criminals who were executed, cadavers used in medical schools and people who died in the poor house, said Sam Streit, director of Brown’s John Hay Library.”
The other article is by Dan Alban and is entitled “Books Bound in Human Skin: Lampshade Myth?” What follows are two excerpts from that article:
Among the most unusual examples of the phenomenon is the autoanthropodermic binding of the Highwayman: Narrative of the Life of James Allen alias George Walton, the confessions of a highwayman bound in the author’s own skin. The cover bears the inscription “HIC LIBER WALTONIS CUTE COMPACTUS EST” (This book by Walton bound in his own skin). Facing the gallows, Walton specified that a copy of his memoir be bound in his own skin and given to John A. Fenno, a man whom Walton had attempted to rob on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Fenno had impressed Walton by bravely resisting the robbery attempt, weathering a gunshot wound, and assisting in bringing Walton to justice. After Walton’s execution, the book was delivered to Fenno, and his ancestors eventually donated it to the Boston Athenaeum, where it remains today...

In My Life With Paper, master book designer Dard Hunter tells of being hired by a young widow to bind a volume of letters dedicated to her late husband in his skin. Hunter later learns that the widow has remarried and wonders whether her second husband sees himself as volume two. Hunter concludes, ‘Let us hope that this was strictly a limited edition!’

24th Annual Awards on Display

Display Locations
24th Annual Awards
Excellence in Book Design in Canada

May 26 to June 9 2006
Emily Carr Library
Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design
Vancouver, British Columbia

June 12 2006
The University Golf Club
University of British Columbia
Alcuin Society Annual General Meeting
Vancouver, British Columbia

June 15 to July 4 2006
Vaughan Memorial Library
Acadia University
Wolfville, Nova Scotia

June 15 to July 31 2006
Du 15 juin au 31 juillet 2006 Redpath Library
McGill University
Montréal, Québec

July 1 to August 31 2006
Special Collections Division
W.A.C.Bennett Library
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, British Columbia

July 13 to August 2 2006
2006 Design Exchange (DX)
Toronto, Ontario

August 10 to September 22 2006
(Date to be Confirmed)
Isaac Barber Learning Centre
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia

September 24 2006
Word on the Street
Vancouver Public Library, Central Library
Vancouver, British Columbia

September 25 to October 14 2006
(Date to be Confirmed)
Vancouver Public Library
Central Library
Vancouver,British Columbia

October 4 to 8 2006
Schönste Bücher aus aller Welt
(Most Beautiful Books in all the World)
International Exhibit Frankfurt Book Fair
Frankfurt am Main, Germany

October 15 to 28 2006
(Date to be Confirmed)
Vancouver Public Library
Central Library Level 2
Vancouver, British Columbia

October 23 to November 17 2006
Royal Roads University Library
Royal Roads University
Victoria, British Columbia

November 25 2006 to January 7 2007
Nelson & District Museum, Archives, and Art Gallery
Nelson, British Columbia

March 22 to 25 2007
2007 Schönste Bücher aus aller Welt
(Most Beautiful Books in all the World)
International Exhibit Leipzig Book Fair
Leipzig, Germany

Spring 2007 (exact date TBA)
Fine Arts Building Gallery
Department of Art and Design
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta

Other venues may be added at a later date.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The end of print

Recently CBC aired a three part series called "The End," which explored the continuing viability of a number of different media, including the "End of Print." Despite the ominous title, this documentary seems to conclude that print isn't going anywhere; yet, the situation is changing, partly due to blogs like this one:
One of the biggest threats to print is the sheer volume and variety of writing that can be found online. By starting a 'blog' or web journal, anyone can became a writer and publish their work for others to see at no cost.
Electronic media will doubtless continue to impact the ways we use and perceive print, but the printing press did not make the manuscript extinct, nor will laptops kill off the book. Rather, it seems that more and more we employ several forms of the written word to facilitate different tasks: if you see any given student on a bus there is a good chance their backpack will contain handwritten notes, various books, and a laptop or other electronic storage device, like a USB flashdrive.

In any case, although "The End" aired a month ago, you can watch it online at the site linked to above.