Unusual workspaces (2): Mount Stewart

Mount Stewart
This is one of the more luxurious workspaces I’ve had the privilege of working in (even if the temperature inside averages about 13 degrees celsius). Continue reading

Wear & tear (2): Water

A number of factors play a role in causing damage to books. Fromold_books insects to UV-light, from dust to smoke, from handling or bad shelving, to simply suboptimal manufacturing processes. In this strand of posts, I’ll be sharing images of what this damage looks like. This time, water (or other liquid) damage.

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Bookplates (1): Michael Begon et amicis

Procopius Historia Paris 1662

Title page of Procopius’ collected works (vol. 1), printed in Paris in 1662, now at Hatfield House. Reproduced by kind permission.

In provenance research – the study of evidence of previous ownership of items – bookplates and other ex-libri can be a great resource. Taking into account that these plates could sometimes be recycled or added considerable time after a book had entered a collection, the identification of the individuals behind the bookplates can nevertheless be really rewarding. This is especially the case when plates turn up unexpectedly in unrelated collections or when we know for certain that the owner’s collection was dispersed.

This week’s bookplate turned up in the library at Hatfield House, pasted into an edition of the collected works by the 6th-century Byzantine scholar Procopius of Caesaria, printed in Paris in 1662-3 (fol., 2 vols.)

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Lady Verney’s memoir of John Hawksley (Erddig)

One of the great privileges of being a freelance rare books Erddig compressedlibrarian is of course having access to the amazing range of materials in environments as diverse as university libraries and historic houses. Whenever I find something of interest, I try to find out a bit more about the item (or collection) and post it here.

This week, inspired by a recent post about unusual workspaces, we return to Erddig in the Welsh marches.

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Wear & tear… (1)

old_booksA number of factors play a role in causing damage to books. From insects to UV-light, from dust to smoke, from handling or bad shelving, to simply suboptimal manufacturing processes. In this strand of posts, I’ll be sharing images of what this damage looks like.

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Of libraries and libraries (1): Borges’ The Library of Babel

Beinecke Library interior 2

Beinecke Library, Yale University Library. Wikimedia Commons (no copyright restrictions).

Libraries come in all shapes and sizes. They are collections of books as well as buildings. They range from a modest few bookshelves to a vast storage facility shelving kilometers of volumes. They are repositories of knowledge, but can even be contained in a single publication: think Diderot’s multi-volume Encyclopédie or the medieval encyclopaedias (in fact the word encyclopaedia means something like ‘general education’). Libraries can be material or metaphorical, real or imagined.

As part of the restart of my blog, I’m introducing a few recurring themes alongside posts on the fascinating or quirky books I find whilst surveying or cataloguing historic collections. One of these themes will be real and fictional libraries. First off: the library universe created by Jorge Luis Borges.

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Just in case anyone is still wondering…

Codex Amiatinus, image showing someone wearing white gloves

By Remi Mathis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Not sure if anyone is still under the impression that the infamous white glove (or any other glove for that matter) is necessary when it comes to handling books or manuscripts. The idea that someone should wear gloves is relatively recent and rather persistent.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but these usually relate to the health of the handler (in the case of mould for example) rather than because it is better for the book or manuscript. Old photographs are another exception.

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Unusual workspaces (1)

Lady Londonderry's Sitting Room, Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Mystery library space? ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

No brownie points or cake for anyone guessing where this might be (sorry!), apart from it being my upcoming workplace for a few weeks… This is therefore also a segue into more regular blog posts, which I realise is something that has slipped off my radar rather dramatically over the past few months.

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Waxing lyrical at Calke…

Mme Tussaud's wax works exhibition catalogue (ca. 1890)

“How could you be so stupid?” King Alfred looking sheepish after burning those cakes…

Phew, it’s been hectic since I lasted posted an entry in August (yes, I know…) – I’ve been kept rather busy with Kedleston’s Pleasure Grounds and have only recently started another round of book cataloguing. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been storing up some interesting nuggets for you!

So, are you ready to continue exploring the world behind the spines? This time, we’re off to Calke once more for a visit to Madame Tussaud’s wonderful wax works exhibition. Continue reading