Source: The Irish Times
By: Michael Parsons
The Jesuit Order in Ireland is to dispose of its internationally important collection of rare books and medieval manuscripts valued at more than €2 million. Thousands of books from the collection have already been shipped to London and will go under the hammer in a major auction at Sotheby’s next summer.
The international auction house says the “rich collection” – owned for the last 117 years by the Jesuit Community at Milltown Park, Dublin – is “one of the most important of its kind to come to the market” and includes rare printed books from the 15th century, early editions of Shakespeare, English and continental literature and medieval manuscripts.
A spokeswoman for Sotheby’s told The Irish Times that “before putting the books up for sale, the Jesuits contacted the National Library of Ireland to enable them to review the collection and consider if they would like a number of important books and manuscripts on long-term loan.
As a result, a group of books and manuscripts were delivered to the National Library of Ireland” last month. However, the bulk of the collection will be sold in an auction that is expected to raise £1.5 million (€1.8 million) and possibly more.
The collection is currently being cataloged and the auction will take place on June 7th next in Sotheby’s saleroom at New Bond Street, London.
The Jesuits will use the proceeds of the sale for charitable purposes including “the upkeep of churches, the care of invalid priests, relief of the poor and religious education.”
“The library at Milltown isn’t equipped to care for these fragile books that require such specialist conservation and facilities,” Sotheby’s said, “hence the decision to disperse the collection.”
Among the books that will not be sold and have, instead, been given by the Jesuits “on long-term loan” to the National Library are what Sotheby’s described as “a rare manuscript on the kingdom of Ireland”, De Regno Hiberniae sanctorum insula commentaries by Peter Lombard, the archbishop of Armagh who died in 1625, “and several incunabula [a Latin term for books printed before 1500], including books by Boethius and Thomas Aquinas, some of which are copies unique to Ireland”.
Specialist care required
A spokesperson for the Jesuits in Ireland said many of the books and manuscripts “are of such an age that they require specialist care and conservation” and that the sale would “allow for these precious books to be properly cared for and appreciated”.
The main Jesuit Library at Milltown, which serves the schools of philosophy and theology, will not be affected by the sale and “will still hold all the important and unique theology and philosophy books” needed by students.
The Government has already approved export licences allowing the collection to be shipped overseas. Sotheby’s told The Irish Times that “export licences have been granted for the sale by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, in consultation with the National Library.”
The collection is known as “the O’Brien Library” as it was originally assembled in the 19th century by Irish judge and noted book collector, Cork-born Justice William O’Brien, who died in 1899. He bequeathed the collection to the Jesuit community at Milltown Park. Ironically, O’Brien had bought some of the books at an auction in Sotheby’s in London in 1890.
Sotheby’s said that “the O’Brien library has barely ever been consulted by students or scholars in the past 100 years” and that “after the sale, Dublin will still be rich in libraries with similar collections”, including those at Trinity College and Marsh’s Library.
The Jesuits, an international Catholic religious order formally known as the Society of Jesus, established its “province” in Ireland in 1860. The order has long played a prominent role in Irish education. Among its best-known schools are Belvedere College, Clongowes Wood College and Gonzaga College. Pope Francis, a Jesuit formerly known as Fr Jorge Mario Bergoglio, spent some time at Milltown Park in 1980 learning English.
In 1993, the Jesuits in Ireland gave Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ on “indefinite loan” to to the National Gallery. The painting, believed to be worth at least €50 million, had hung, undiscovered for decades, in the Jesuit House of Writers at Lower Leeson Street, Dublin.[Top]
It’s one of the world’s most mysterious books, a centuries-old manuscript written in an unknown or coded language that no one — not even the best cryptographers — has cracked.
Scholars have spent their lives puzzling over the Voynich Manuscript, whose intriguing mix of elegant writing and drawings of strange plants and naked women has some believing it holds magical powers.
The weathered book is locked away in a vault at Yale University’s Beinecke Library, emerging only occasionally.
But after a ten-year quest for access, Siloe, a small publishing house nestled deep in northern Spain, has secured the right to clone the document — to the delight of its director.
“Touching the Voynich is an experience,” says Juan Jose Garcia, sitting on the top floor of a book museum in the quaint centre of Burgos where Siloe’s office is, a few paved streets away from the city’s famed Gothic cathedral.
“It’s a book that has such an aura of mystery that when you see it for the first time… it fills you with an emotion that is very hard to describe.”
Eternal youth? Da Vinci?
Siloe, which specialises in making facsimiles of old manuscripts, has bought the rights to make 898 exact replicas of the Voynich — so faithful that every stain, hole, sewn-up tear in the parchment will be reproduced.
The company always publishes 898 replicas of each work it clones — a number which is a palindrome, or a figure that reads the same backwards or forwards — after the success of their first facsimile that they made 696 copies of another palindrome.
The publishing house plans to sell the facsimiles for €7,000 to €8,000 (USD 7,896 to USD 9,025) apiece once completed — and close to 300 people have already put in pre-orders.
Raymond Clemens, curator at the Beinecke Library, said Yale decided to have facsimiles done because of the many people who want to consult the fragile manuscript.
“We thought that the facsimile would provide the look and feel of the original for those who were interested,” he said.
“It also enables libraries and museums to have a copy for instructional purposes and we will use the facsimile ourselves to show the manuscript outside of the library to students or others who might be interested.”
The manuscript is named after antiquarian Wilfrid Voynich who bought it around 1912 from a collection of books belonging to the Jesuits in Italy, and eventually propelled it into the public eye.
Theories abound about who wrote it and what it means.
For a long time, it was believed to be the work of 13th century English Franciscan friar Roger Bacon whose interest in alchemy and magic landed him in jail.
But that theory was discarded when the manuscript was carbon dated and found to have originated between 1404 and 1438.
Others point to a young Leonardo da Vinci, someone who wrote in code to escape the Inquisition, an elaborate joke or even an alien who left the book behind when leaving Earth.
Its content is even more mysterious.
The plants drawn have never been identified, the astronomical charts don’t reveal much and neither do the women.
Does the book hold the key to eternal youth? Or is it a mere collection of herbal medicine and recipes?
Scores have tried to decode the Voynich, including top cryptologists such as William Friedman who helped break Japan’s “Purple” cipher during World War II.
But the only person to have made any headway is… Indiana Jones, who in a novel featuring the fictitious archeologist manages to crack it.
Fiction aside, the Beinecke Library gets thousands of emails every month from people claiming to have decoded it, says Rene Zandbergen, a space engineer who runs a recognized blog on the manuscript, which he has consulted several times.“More than 90 per cent of all the access to their digital library is only for the Voynich Manuscript,” he adds.
The manuscript is named after antiquarian Wilfrid Voynich who bought it around 1912 from a collection of books belonging to the Jesuits in Italy, and eventually propelled it into the public eye.
The art of cloning
Only slightly bigger than a paperback, the book contains over 200 pages including several large fold-outs.
It will take Siloe around 18 months to make the first facsimiles, in a painstaking process that started in April when a photographer took detailed snaps of the original in Yale.
Workers at Siloe are currently making mock-ups before they finally set about printing out the pages in a way that makes the script and drawings look like the real deal.
The paper they use — made from a paste developed by the company — has been given a special treatment so it feels like the stiff parchment used to write the Voynich.
Once printed, the pages are put together and made to look older.
All the imperfections are re-created using special tools in a process kept firmly secret by Garcia, who in his spare time has also tried his hand at cryptology.
“We call it the Voynich Challenge,” he says.
“My business partner… says the author of the Voynich could also have been a sadist, as he has us all wrapped up in this mystery.”[Top]
By: Nia Williams
Stanley Gibbons Investments has launched a rare book index measuring the value of 30 first edition 20th Century classics.
The index will help guide investors and collectors looking to build a rare book portfolio as part of a long-term investment strategy.
The index of first editions includes Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale and Live and Let Die, which are valued at £24,000 and £8,000 respectively; J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, valued at £65,000; while F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is the highest at £247,000. George Orwell’s Animal Farm has experienced significant value growth according to auction data, rising from £190 to £5,100.
Overall the index has shown 398% growth, an 8.8% annual growth for the last ten years.
“As an authority in the collectibles market, Stanley Gibbons aims to help guide and provide access for investors who are looking to diversify some of their wealth into alternative assets,” said Keith Heddle, managing director of Stanley Gibbons Investments.
“While the index may cause households to start examining their collections, it is important to understand that in order to be investment grade these books must be of a certain condition, have the ‘dust jacket’ still intact and have a particular history and rarity associated with them. That said, they can give immense pride of ownership as well as strong capital growth potential.
“There is a book in everyone and this resonates with investors.”
The rare books index follows the now established rare stamps and coins indices, which Stanley Gibbons says demonstrates these collectibles to be one of the most reliable, long-term ‘buy and hold’ alternative assets for investors looking for portfolio diversification and low volatility.
Over the past 10 years, the GB250 Index, which tracks the performance of the top 250 traded, investment grade British stamps, recorded a CAGR of 11.4%. The GB200 coin index, charting the performance of 200 rare British coins, showed a CAGR of 12.75% without a drop in that time.[Top]
Source: Campden FB http://www.campdenfb.com/article/buy-book-bibliophiles-collectible
ARTICLE | 10 AUGUST, 2015 12:37 PM | BY BRUCE LOVE
This is a rather large excerpt from an excellent article on book collecting and book collectors. I strongly suggest you follow the link next to Source to read the article in its entirety.
For almost a century people had walked through the library of one New England family every day without ever really thinking about the books on the shelves. Over generations a large collection of antique books had been accumulated, but had mostly remained in the library of the main family home.
“It was my great-grandfather’s collection,” says the Massachusetts-based bibliophile, who chose to remain anonymous so that he could speak freely about his family’s collection. “When I was in my early thirties I remember flicking through them and having the sudden realisation that they represented hundreds of years of thought.”
Over the course of a summer weekend’s browsing, he quickly began to realise the significance of collection – both in terms of value and personal meaning.
“Our family business was originally in manufacturing and our great-grandfather – the founder – had quietly amassed a considerable collection of rare books about our industry. Some were first editions – many of them signed by the authors. Quite a few of them dating back to the 1700s. Our family had either never known about the collection or forgotten over the generations.”
The great-grandson, then working in the family office and now pursuing his own interests, felt drawn to the collection and began collecting himself. He began by cataloguing the library, finding out along the way that it wasn’t insured for anything near its real value. He has since built on the collection considerably, keeping faithful to the same initial theme as his forebear.
“Caring for the same books as he did makes me feel much closer to my great-grandfather. I think it makes me more respectful of the legacy he created,” he says. “Building the collection further gives me great personal satisfaction and a feeling I am continuing that legacy.”
How then do books compare as a collectible? What is the market in first editions and rare books like? Can books be acquired for reasonable prices, or are they as astronomical as art?
One for the books
Based in New York, Thomas Lecky heads up the books and manuscripts department of auction house Christie’s. He was a literature major in school and was always fascinated with books.
In any given year, Lecky might see several centuries of history pass across his desk, from a range of fields as diverse as children’s literature, scientific texts, medieval manuscripts, French comics, or literary classics.
In his first year at Christie’s, Lecky was contacted by an adviser who was working with a descendent of John Quinn, a renowned lawyer and collector in the late-19th and early-20th century. Quinn’s descendent had in his possession a hitherto unknown manuscript of a section of James Joyce’s Ulysses.
“The manuscript had been passed down through the family, yet no one else knew that it existed. It was a great ‘working’ manuscript, showing Joyce diligently changing, revising, and moulding his language. It was exciting to see this ‘lost’ manuscript.”
In 2001, Lecky was fortunate to be a part of the Christie’s team that handled Jack Kerouac’s manuscript for On The Road. “This is a touchstone piece of American literary history. To see it so informally for the first time in a casual situation was humbling.” And last year his team sold George Washington’s annotated copy of the Bill of Rights. “It was a true privilege to work on it.”
In the book world, certain sales resonate more than others. The Cornelius Hauck collection was one such collection. The bibliophile had come from a German-American family of brewers that had called Cincinnati home since the mid-19th century. Between 1924 and his death in 1967, he amassed a collection of almost 4,000 books and manuscripts, dating from as early as the first century BC, all celebrating the book as an object, and containing many unique examples.
In 2006, Christie’s received an inquiry from the Cincinnati Museum Center seeking to sell the Cornelius Hauck ‘History of the Book’ collection, as it was known. “The names and titles on the list they initially sent to us weren’t much to go on. They weren’t necessarily that interesting texts, either.” But as Lecky read through further, and when he and his colleagues at last flew out to Cincinnati to view the collection, his reserved manner turned to quiet excitement.[Top]
The newest satellite show for New York City Rare Book Week will feature 60 fine book and ephemera dealers with fresh material. Located less than a mile from the NY Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Ave, Armory.
Free Shuttle bus drop-off service from this fair to the armory running continuously from 8:15 am – noon.
April 11, 2015
Wallace Hall at St. Ignatius Loyola Church
980 Park AVe. (between 83-84 sts)
New York, New York
The event runs for three days (Feb 6-8) and is the world’s largest antiquarian book fair with more than 200 booksellers from the United States and around the globe offering a rich selection of books, manuscripts, maps and other printed materials.
There are several special events planned, including a lecture on Jack London’s work as a photographer by London expert Sara Hodson; seminars on book collecting; a lecture by Daniel De Simone, the Eric Weinmann Librarian at the Folger Shakespeare Library; and an exhibition on the special collections at the F.W. Olin Library at Mills College.
This year, the fair moves to historic Oakland, CA — which the New York Times recently named as one of the top five world destinations to visit! The venue is the Marriott Oakland City Center, easily accessible via the 12th Street BART station. More information about the fair can be found at www.cabookfair.com[Top]
Youth matters: The digital age presents challenges for publishers.
The Japanese word, tsundoku, is a play on the words tsumu, to pile up and doku, to read. The composite word captures the almost tsunami of issues piling up for books and book collecting, which I’ll be addressing in detail at Bibliographica 2014 at the National Library next week.
Can printed books survive the impact of current disruptive technologies, even though the sale of e-books is plateauing out in a number of countries? While tablet sales have now overtaken dedicated readers like Kindle, Amazon has recently introduced its Kindle Unlimited service which offers “unlimited access to over 600,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks on any device for just $9.99 a month”.
Kindle Unlimited is almost a return to the British historical circulating libraries like Mudie’s, which had 7.5 million books in its inventory at the end of the 19th century. Boots, in the 20th century, advertised access to “the finest library service in the kingdom for less than the price of a newspaper”. The commercial medium may change, but the message remains, even centuries apart.
Hugh Mackay recently reported that over 50 per cent of Australians felt they could not live without their mobile phones, while recent Ofcom research revealed that the average UK adult now spends more time using media or communications than they do sleeping. Judy Wajcman in her recent book, Pressed For Time. The Acceleration Of Life In Digital Capitalism reflects that technological innovation is supposed to save time and energy, but in fact, people have never felt more pressured.
There is still the need, however, for human interaction in an increasingly digital age. Thus, more people than ever are attending literary festivals where you can hear and meet your favourite author. There are now 354 literary festivals each year in Britain alone. In Australia, literary festivals, from Brisbane to Perth, have seen record attendances and book sales in 2014.
While men are the main book collectors, women are the main book readers. Women are also the main attendees at literary festivals. In that context, it was good to hear Julia Gillard at the National Portrait Gallery on November 10 say that she had rediscovered “the joy of reading for pleasure”. Gillard mentioned that her current reading favourite was Hilary Mantel, although she refrained from making any cross-reference to the current government and that of Henry VIII.
While literary festivals usually attract an older demographic, younger readers flock to Comic Cons, which record large sales of graphic novels and comics, often linked to TV or film adaptations. Autograph signings by actors from popular TV series and films feature as a major part of these conventions. Autographs are often expensive, but buyers know their autographs are genuine, which is often a problem with eBay sales.
My purchase of a signed Ray Bradbury book in the late 1970s from a major Australian book dealer, proved not to be genuine, when I later checked the signature with Bradbury. So caveat emptor is always the motto. Buyers should also be aware that prices of signed first editions fluctuate almost as much as shares on the sharemarket. Nonetheless, the seller of a signed unread mint copy of the first edition of Richard Flanagan’s recent Booker prizewinner would surely have been overjoyed in selling it through the ABE website for $1500.
Amassing a large physical book collection doesn’t necessarily entail spending a large amount of money, but you do need the space to house it. Flats lend themselves more to paperbacks and e-books. Barry Humphries, a long-time noted book collector, can clearly afford to accommodate 30,000 books in London, while Nick Cave has been cited as having 100,000 books in his Brighton house. Other notable celebrity collectors include Bryan Ferry and Keith Richards, who apparently once contemplated a career as a librarian.
If you don’t have the time to seek out your favourite books in a particular subject, Philip Blackwell, a member of the famous Oxford bookselling family, offers the “Ultimate Library” service, with individual book collections customised for the home or hotel, as occurred with the Savoy Hotel in London.
Charles Stitz, in his excellent Australian Book Collectors volumes, documents numerous examples of collectors whose houses are overrun by books. Relatively few of these are seen, however, in The Canberra Times glossy Saturday magazine, Domain, which almost resembles “property porn” with its pictures of sumptuous house interiors. A famous New Yorker cartoon once showed a real estate agent telling prospective sellers to “lose the books”, as they would depress the house value.
Stitz has illustrated the problems faced by book collectors as families downsize or enter retirement homes. I vividly remember visiting the late Professor Oskar Spate in a retirement village in Holt and his angst at only having the space for three to five books in his small room. Access to content would now be alleviated by e-books, but not their physical presence.
Second-hand book dealers and libraries are increasingly reluctant to take large general book collections. University and state libraries prefer to be offered focused specialist collections. But, that is only if they fit their collection profile, have space to house them and resources to process them – a big “if”. Public libraries, other than the major state libraries, no longer generally hold large book collections and regularly “weed” collections.
Retirees and children are often the staples of public libraries, which seem to be morphing into social hubs, offering a range of community services beyond book collections. None seem, however, to have followed the example of Edith Cowan University Library in Perth, which has installed sleeping pods for readers to take “power naps”. Will librarians, in due course, become bibliographic baristas, just as some bookshops have joined with coffee shops to survive?
Internet access and digitisation has assisted public libraries to combat, in part, the Kindle Unlimited challenge. The entire digital collection of the San Antonio public library system is now available from kiosks at the local airport. A digital bookshelf, “The Library Wall”, was recently installed on a North London street to allow users to download non-copyright book titles into their mobile devices.
One segment of the book market that is booming, without even the necessity to read the content, is the high price limited signed edition, exemplified in the offerings of the German publisher Taschen. With the Rolling Stones in the country, why not buy one of its latest offerings, a limited Rolling Stones “Sumo-sized book”, numbered and signed by them, with a foreword written by Bill Clinton. A snip at £3500?
Their offerings, however, have been topped by the Ferrari Opus Enzo Diamante. Encrusted with diamonds, signed by all living Ferrari Grand Prix drivers, it was marketed as the most exclusive book in the world when published in 2011. Only one copy was made available in each country at a price of £155,000. The Australian copy was apparently quickly snapped up after being displayed at the 2011 Grand Prix in Melbourne.
These books are far more than “tree flakes encased in dead cow”, which is how one commentator has called the traditional printed book. Books will remain an effective information and entertainment source in a variety of forms, such as those accessed in the new Digital Public Library of America. The definition of a book may expand, but books and their content will remain “a fundamental channel of culture”, as The Economist magazine recently reaffirmed.
Colin Steele, Emeritus Fellow at the ANU and long-time Canberra Times book reviewer, will give the keynote address at the Annual Conference of the Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand at the National Library on Thursday, November 27.
- M.A. (Liverpool University)
- Grad.Dip.Lib. (University College London)
- Emeritus Fellow 2004, The Australian National University
- Director, Scholarly Information Strategies, ANU, 2002-2003
- University Librarian, ANU, 1980-2002
- Deputy University Librarian, ANU, 1976-1980
- Assistant Librarian, Bodleian Library, Oxford, 1967-76
Tough read: World’s smallest book is more for mice than men at John Rylands Library
Manchester’s bookworms may have difficulty reading John Rylands Library’s newest acquisition – as it now owns a copy of the world’s smallest book.
Measuring just 2.4 by 2.9mm, the tiny leather-bound text is said by library curators to be the smallest mechanically-printed book on the planet.
Unlike other miniscule manuscripts, this ABC-picture book was painstakingly crafted using conventional book-binding techniques – giving it a real spine, leather cover and 26 traditional paper pages.
Readers need tweezers to turn the tiny pages where they will see uniquely designed letters drawn by renowned German typographer Joshua Reichert.
IN DEMAND: Only 300 copies of the book were made and published for as little as £100 (© Cavendish Press)
The book, produced in Leipzig, Germany, in 2002, was created as a feat of printing expertise to commemorate the work of Jonannes Gutenberg who was widely credited for the invention of printing technology in Europe.
Much smaller printing presses than usual were used to craft 300 copies which were later sold for as little as £100.
It pips smaller ‘books’ – one fitting on the width of a human hair and another created using the same technology as money printers use to prevent forgery – because of its delicately traditional creation.
The Guinness World Records smallest reproduction of a printed book measures just 70 micrometres by 100 micrometres but was created using an ion beam on a pure crystalline silicon page rather than conventional ink on paper.
THE REAL DEAL: With 26 paper pages, a real spine and leather cover the text is officially the world’s smallest mechanically-printed book (© Cavendish Press)
Held in Manchester’s John Rylands Library in partnership with the University of Manchester, the book is kept safe from giant fingers in a box alongside other small books from their collection and has been part of the collection since 2012.
Julianne Simpson, Rare Book and Maps Manager at the library said that when it emerged there was a smaller book than their previous record-holder – a tiny edition of the Lord’s Prayer – they had to buy it.
“We love it as a library interested in printing and fine printing so it’s the sort of thing that is attractive to us,” she said.
“Some of the other really small books in the world aren’t what we would consider proper printing.
“This even has its own little leather binding. It’s made like a normal book. We have a small collection of small books and keep them all together in a box. We get them out occasionally but have to keep a very close eye on them.
“It’s a very quirky typeface and it’s printed in multiple colours which sets it apart from most others like this. It’s just showing off really!”
CAUGHT SHORT: The book measures just 2.4mm by 2.9mm (© Cavendish Press)
The John Rylands library has an astonishing collection of around half a million old and rare texts.
Ms Simpson added: “If you have good eyesight you can just about make the letters out. It’s probably not the right book to curl up with alongside the fire.