Wednesday, May 30, 2007

We’ll Have To Wait For The Movie I Guess

The bibliophilic musical The Rosenbach Company was presented as I understand it only four times in 2006 and then for one night only in 2007 at the New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street on April 20th.

The musical, written by the graphic novelist Ben Katchor and composer Mark Mulcahy, is a “multi-media ‘chamber rock opera’ about the pleasures and perils of bibliomania,” according to press notes. Katchor created the projections and wrote the text and directed, while Mulcahy wrote the music and played one of the lead roles of Abe Rosenbach.

The musical chronicles the life of the brothers Abe and Philip Rosenbach, who were the famed dealers of rare books and antique artifacts. The piece was commissioned by the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia, a research center that holds the brothers’ personal collections of rare books and manuscripts. The brothers’ collection ranges from James Joyce’s Ulysses to John Tenniel’s original illustrations for Alice in Wonderland.

Some of the flavor of the production may be gleaned from two excerpts from a review by Seth Rogovoy:
There was a moment in the second act of The Rosenbach Company, probably about halfway through, when the clouds parted, the sky opened up, and it suddenly became crystal clear that this story ostensibly about two businessmen brothers in the early twentieth century in Philadelphia was about a lot more than the brothers: it was really a paean to the love of books – their look, smell, feel, even their taste. And more: the sense of love that books can inspire, the sense of the need for possession of a cherished object. But not just any object – books alone can truly inspire the sort of obsession that this show talked about, as bibliomania, because they combine an irrational obsession with something totally rational – a book , the printed words of an author, bound on pages between cloth covers. . . . Call it what you will – performance art, musical theater, avant-pop musical, or rock opera – The Rosenbach Company, which unfortunately will not be repeated, was undoubtedly one of the surprise hits of the summer season, transporting the small audience on hand to see it to another world full of laughter and genuine sentiment.
To read the rest of this excellent review please visit this site.

So its limited run very well means that we will all probably have to rely on a movie version eventually being produced. Any thoughts as to who would play the Rosenbach brothers, the more serious-minded, scholarly Abe Rosenbach and his more business-oriented, “dandyish” brother Philip? How about Mandy Patinkin for Abe and Elliot Gould for Philip?

(From Richard Hopkins)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Good Grief, More Bibliochic: High-Design Texts Or “Trophy Tomes”

As well as interior designers using books as objects of d├ęcor,
Publishers are also producing trophy tomes. These luxury limited editions are often massive, invariably encased in special boxes and bags, bedizened with baubles and dreamed up by high-profile fashion designers, architects and artists.

Last year, Penguin released a series of five Designer Classics to celebrate its diamond anniversary in Britain. Designers such as Paul Smith and Manolo Blahnik were invited to embellish their favourite Penguins. The limited editions of 1000 cost 100 [pounds each] – and sold out.

Mr. Smith’s version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover features a white silk slipcover, and lovingly embroidered floral pubic hair. Mr. Blahnik’s cover for Madam Bovary
is a sketched confection of frothy peignoir, fabulous footwear and a pair of groping hands reaching around the spine to goose Emma’s pert derriere.
The remainder of this readable article by Laura Penny and entitled “Guttenberg [sic] Goes Glam” may be found here.

(From Richard Hopkins)

Libraries Manage To Remain Progressive Even In Today’s Fast Changing World

Recent events in two leading world libraries show that libraries are indeed able to evolve successfully to meet current changes in the world. The first event was at the Bodleian Library at Oxford:

One of the remaining bastions of male domination has come crumbling down as one of the oldest libraries in Europe prepares to get to grips with the demands of the 21st century. For more than 400 years, the Bodliean Library – the main research library at the University of Oxford and the second largest in the UK after the British Library – has had a man at the helm. It has also never been run by anyone born outside these shores. But both of those taboos have been broken (Feb. 21, 2007), with the accession of [American] Dr. Sarah Thomas to the post of Bodleian Librarian.
For the remainder of the article please visit this site.

The second event was at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., an institution that turned 207 years old on April 24th, 2007. However, with the addition of the first-ever blog to its award-winning Web site, it quite possibly has never looked younger. Long a pioneer and leading provider of online content, with a Web site at that makes 22 million items available at the click of a mouse and receives 5 billion hits per year, the Library of Congress has launched its new blog at

For more information please click here.

(From Richard Hopkins)