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Archive for March, 2006

One day, all this could be yours

Not literally, but it’s the next best thing. Houghton is looking for candidates for one of the best jobs in librarianship: Curator of the Hyde Collection and Early Modern Books and Manuscripts. All you need is a library degree, an advanced degree in a relevant discipline, experence in a special collections library, knowledge of two European languages, and the ability to leap tall folios in a single bound. If that’s you or someone you know, please click on the link, and apply today.

Published in:John Overholt |on March 28th, 2006 |Comments Off on One day, all this could be yours

So that’s how it works

It can be difficult to explain to an unfamiliar audience how a book is composed of large sheets folded down to the size of the indivdiual leaves. This German translation of Rasselas will make an excellent visual aid in the future, however. It’s a relatively rare example of a book that was never folded and bound, so it still exists in loose sheets just the way they came off the printing press. This book has an octavo format, meaning that there are 8 leaves or 16 pages on one sheet. Having this particular sheet intact also proves something I might have guessed at from the finished product: the first four leaves of the book and the last four were printed together, and would have been cut apart before binding to go in their correct places.

Uncut sheet

Published in:John Overholt |on March 24th, 2006 |Comments Off on So that’s how it works

Mark your calendars now

2009 will mark the 300th anniversary of Samuel Johnson’s birth, and Houghton Library will be celebrating with a major exhibition and symposium. Obviously, we’re still working out the details, but this should be your best-ever opportunity to see the spectacular collections that Rick and I have been feverishly cataloging for the past two years. Bookmark the page linked in the title of this post for updates as they become available.

Published in:John Overholt |on March 23rd, 2006 |Comments Off on Mark your calendars now

When it says Lives, Lives, Lives on the label, label, label

As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite things is to discover some feature of a book as it was originally issued, that has been lost in most of the copies of the book as they exist today. This copy of Johnson’s Lives of the English Poets has just such a feature. When new, all copies of this four-volume set included a sheet of spine labels that the purchaser could affix to the spines of the temporary pasteboard bindings the set was sold in. The vast majority of purchasers would have either cut this sheet out to put the labels on, or simply thrown it away and put a more permanent leather binding on the books. That’s why it’s nice to find a copy with the sheet of labels intact and unused, 225 years later. I’ve also included a photo of another copy, where the labels were applied as intended.

Labels of Johnson's Lives of the English Poets
Spines of Johnson's Lives of the English Poets

Published in:John Overholt |on March 10th, 2006 |Comments Off on When it says Lives, Lives, Lives on the label, label, label

Poison pen letter

I found the following rather extraordinary denunciaton on the front endsheet of an otherwise unremarkable book of poems. There is no provenance information in this copy, and nothing to suggest what the origin of the poem is, or at whom its vitriol is aimed.

“Verses to the author of a letter in the public advertiser, signed Graystock: &[?] refused admittance into that paper
What wretched Grubstreet scribbler of the day,
Who prostitutes his venal pen for pay,
At Surry dares the envenomed shaft to aim,
And with invective loads his patriot name.
That the firm virtues of his generous mind
Defy a host of foes like thee combined,
Miscreant, take back thy charge of infamy,
Sot, slave, & coward, thou art all the three.
Base sot, in cellars bred, in brothels spawn’d,
Vile slave, whose principles for bread are pawn’d,
Impotent coward, skulking from the light,
Whose poniard* like the assassin’s stabs by night.
Come forth, grim phantom, & a form assume,
Burst the dark shelter of thy native gloom;
And mark me when thou darst a man appear
A man shall meet thee–till then thy sincere
*(from Johnson’s Dictionary) Poniard: A dagger; a short stabbing weapon. “She speaks poniards, and every word stabs” (Sha.)

Google, Granger’s Index to Poetry, and Eighteenth Century Collections Online have all failed to turn up the source of this first-class invective, leaving me to wonder if the poem is original to my book. Do any Catablog readers recognize the source of this screed, and if so, who was on the receiving end? Send me an email if you know the answer.

Published in:John Overholt |on March 5th, 2006 |Comments Off on Poison pen letter