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Book Trade / Bookselling Timeline


8,000 BCE – 1,000 BCE

In Ancient Egypt Only the "Book of the Dead" Papyri Were Commercially Produced Circa 1,550 BCE – 50 BCE

Detail from the Papyrus of Ani, showing Ani and his wife entering at left.  Please click to see complete image.

Detail of image showing cursive hieroglyphs.  Please click to see complete image.

Detail from plate 6 showing the name "Ani, The Scribe." Please click to view entire image.

Detail from plate 12 showing the name "Ani, The Scribe" in a different hand.  Please click to view entire image.

It is doubtful whether any book trade, as we understand the term, existed in ancient Egypt because literacy was limited to an elite group, chiefly scribes and priests. Instead information was transmitted by oral tradition or proclamation. It is believed that a small number of literate people may have personally copied texts that they needed. Only copies of the Book of the Dead, a funerary text used from the beginning of the New Kingdom, around 1550 BCE to around 50 BCE, were written for sale.  Some copies of this work have the place for the name left blank, to be filled in later.  Close study shows that the name of the owner was sometimes written in by a later scribe with different handwriting, suggesting that these funeral papyri were maintained in inventory before sale.  It is thought that illiterate people also wanted to possess the Book of the Dead, which guaranteed protection against the dangers of the afterlife, in order to add it to their tomb furnishings.

"A Book of the Dead papyrus was produced to order by scribes. They were commissioned by people in preparation for their own funeral, or by the relatives of someone recently deceased. They were expensive items; one source gives the price of a Book of the Dead scroll as one deben of silver, perhaps half the annual pay of a labourer. Papyrus itself was evidently costly, as there are many instances of its re-use in everyday documents, creating palimpsests. In one case, a Book of the Dead was written on second-hand papyrus.

"Most owners of the Book of the Dead were evidently part of the social elite; they were initially reserved for the royal family, but later papyri are found in the tombs of scribes, priests and officials. Most owners were men, and generally the vignettes included the owner's wife as well. Towards the beginning of the history of the Book of the Dead, there are roughly 10 copies belonging to men for every one for a woman. However, during the Third Intermediate Period, 2/3 were for women; and women owned roughly a third of the hieratic paypri from the Late and Ptolemaic Periods.

"The dimensions of a Book of the Dead could vary widely; the longest is 40m long while some are as short as 1m. They are composed of sheets of papyrus joined together, the individual papyri varying in width from 15 cm to 45 cm. The scribes working on Book of the Dead papyri took more care over their work than those working on more mundane texts; care was taken to frame the text within margins, and to avoid writing on the joints between sheets. The words peret em heru, or 'coming forth by day' sometimes appear on the reverse of the outer margin, perhaps acting as a label.

"Books were often prefabricated in funerary workshops, with spaces being left for the name of the deceased to be written in later. For instance, in the Papyrus of Ani, the name "Ani" appears at the top or bottom of a column, or immediately following a rubric introducing him as the speaker of a block of text; the name appears in a different handwriting to the rest of the manuscript, and in some places is mis-spelt or omitted entirely.

"The text of a New Kingdom Book of the Dead was typically written in cursive hieroglyphs, most often from left to right, but also sometimes from right to left. The hieroglyphs were in columns, which were separated by black lines - a similar arrangement to that used when hieroglyphs were carved on tomb walls or monuments. Illustrations were put in frames above, below, or between the columns of text. The largest illustrations took up a full page of papyrus.

"From the 21st Dynasty onward, more copies of the Book of the Dead are found in hieratic script. The calligraphy is similar to that of other hieratic manuscripts of the New Kingdom; the text is written in horizontal lines across wide columns (often the column size corresponds to the size of the papyrus sheets of which a scroll is made up). Occasionally a hieratic Book of the Dead contains captions in hieroglyphic.

"The text of a Book of the Dead was written in both black and red ink, regardless of whether it was in hieroglyphic or hieratic script. Most of the text was in black, with red used for the titles of spells, opening and closing sections of spells, the instructions to perform spells correctly in rituals, and also for the names of dangerous creatures such as the demon Apep. The black ink used was based on carbon, and the red ink on ochre, in both cases mixed with water.

"The style and nature of the vignettes used to illustrate a Book of the Dead varies widely. Some contain lavish colour illustrations, even making use of gold leaf. Others contain only line drawings, or one simple illustration at the opening. Book of the Dead papyri were often the work of several different scribes and artists whose work was literally pasted together. It is usually possible to identify the style of more than one scribe used on a given manuscript, even when the manuscript is a shorter one. The text and illustrations were produced by different scribes; there are a number of Books where the text was completed but the illustrations were left empty" (Wikipedia article on Book of the Dead, accessed 05-06-2012).


In 1842 Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius named this class of papyrus when he edited papyrus Turin 1791 as an exemplar, and had it published in Leipzig in 1842 as Das Todtenbuch der Ägypter nach dem hieroglyphischen Papyrus in Turin mit einem Vorworte zum ersten Male Herausgegeben. This was the first printed edition of The Book of the Dead. The modern numbering of the Book of the Dead spells (BD 1-165) is derived from Lepsius's edition of this papyrus.

(This entry was last revised on April 4, 2014.) 

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1,000 BCE – 300 BCE

The Beginnings of the Book Trade in Greece Circa 450 BCE

"It is not until the middle of the fifth century or a little later that a book trade can be said to have existed in Greece: we find references to a part of the Athenian market where books can be bought  (Eupolis fr. 327 K.-A.) and Socrates is represented by Plato as saying in his Apology 26D that anyone can buy Anaxagorus' works for a drachma in the orchestra. All details of the trade, however, remain unknown" (Reynolds & Wilson, Scribes and Scholars, 3rd. ed. [1991] 2).

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Possible Libraries in Ancient Greece Circa 410 BCE

"The increase of the book trade made it possible for private individuals to form libraries. Even if the tradition that sixth-century tyrants such as Pisistratus of Athens and Polycrates of Samos possessed large collections of books is discounted (Anthenaeus I.3A), it is clear that by the end of the fifth century private libraries existed. Aristophanes pokes fun at Euripides for drawing heavily on literary sources in composing his tragedies (Frogs 943), and his own work, being full of parody and allusion, must have depended to some extent on a personal book collection.

"There is no trace of any general library maintained at the public expense at Athens, but it is likely that official copies of plays performed at the leading festivals such as the Dionysia were kept at the theatre or in the public record office. Pseudo-Plurarch (Lives of the ten orators 841F) ascribes to the orator Lycurgus (c. 390-324 BCE) a proposal to keep official copies in this way, but the need would probably have arisen earlier. We know that after the original performance plays were revived from time to time. New copies of the text must have been needed for the actors, and if they had been obliged to obtain these by a process of transcription from private copies it would be surprising that an almost complete range of plays survived into the Hellenistic age" (Reynolds & Wilson, Texts and Transmission, 3rd ed. [1991] 5).

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Export of Papyrus Rolls from Greece to the Euxine Coast 399 BCE

A bust of Xenophon. (View Larger)

In his Anabasis, describing events that occurred between 401 and 399 BCE, Greek historian and soldier Xenophon reported in Book Seven, Part V, line 14, that books (papyrus rolls) formed part of the cargo of ships wrecked off Salmydessus on the north coast of Thrace. This is evidence that books were exported from Athens (?) to the Euxine coast by this date, reflective of an international book trade.

Reynolds & Wilson, Scribes and Scholars 3rd ed. (1991) 244.

(This entry was last revised on April 14, 2014.)

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300 BCE – 30 CE

The Book Trade in Cicero's Rome Circa 70 BCE

Marcus Tullius Cicero. (View Larger)

"We hear nothing of a book trade at Rome before the time of Cicero. Then the booksellers and copyists (both initially called librarii) carried on an active trade, but do not seem to have met the high standards of a discriminating author, for Cicero complains of the poor quality of their work (Q.f. 3-.4.5, 5.6). Most readers depended upon borrowing books from friends and having their own copies made from them, but this too demanded skilled copyists. It was perhaps for such reasons that Atticus, who had lived for a long time in Greece and there had some experience of a well-established book trade, put his staff of trained librarii at the service of his friends. It is not easy to see whether Atticus is at any given moment obliging Cicero as a friend or in a more professional capacity, but  it is clear that Cicero could depend on him to provide all the services of a high-class publisher. Atticus would carefully revise a work for him, criticize points of style or content, discuss the advisability of publication or the suitability of a title, hold private readings of the new book, send out complimentary copies, organize its distribution. His standards of excecution were of the highest and his name a guarantee of quality" (Reynolds & Wilson, Scribes and Scholars, 3rd. ed. [1991] 23-24).

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Details of the Roman Book Trade Circa 70 BCE – 100 CE

"Bookdealers, like many businessmen in Rome, tended to be freedmen, men of low social status. We come across a few names: the Sosii, for instance, who worked with Horace; Dorus, who Seneca says handled Livy; and Pollio Valerianus, the freedman Secundus, and Trypho, who deal with the books of Martial. They were, in simple terms the owners of small shops that dealt in luxury items. Perhaps as significant, they apparently only handled current literature and did not sell older works.

"Their business was conducted at the retail level: each bookdealer made the copies he sold. There was little or no distribution system to support the individual shop-owner and therefore, virtually no broad-based geographical distribution except on the individual level. If a bookshop owner in a provincial city sold a copy of a book, it implies that he had made that copy, not that he had bought a large number of copies from a Rome-based distributor.

"Most of the copies bookdealers sold were probably made at the specific request of a customer. The shop-owner merely needed to have on hand or to acquire exemplars of various texts from which he could make copies as necessary. A stock might be maintained of some texts . . . .

"We have no idea at all how many copies of a work might be made. A famous letter of Pliny mentions that Regulus had one thousand copies made of his eulogy for his son, but that is an unusual kind of text and Pliny thinks the number excessive and in bad taste. The question is actually close to meaningless in a world of individually made copies, since the number of copies would increase directly in proportion to the number of readers who wanted one and was not related to the number made at any particular time.

"Nor do we know how the individual copies were made. The most common method was undoubtedly having slaves make one copy after another from a master copy, as probably happened with Regulus' one thousand copies of his eulogy of his son. Various other methods have also been suggested. To extrapolate the pecia system back in time, a text might be divided into sections which would then be passed out to a number of different copyists. Alternatively, one person mght dictate a text to several others, who would write it out, thus producing an economy of time. Our modern insistence on economies of speed and scale, however, makes it difficult for us to keep in mind that such economies did not necessarily motivate the Romans.

"Book prices in bookstores also elude conclusive discussion, since they appear only very occasionally in the surviving sources. For example, as we have seen, Martial mentions that a deluxe copy of one of his books costs five denarii. The basic points, however, reduce the importance of the question. First, book prices would not have concerned the large majority of the population of the Roman world for the simple reason that they could not read. Second, the economic structure of that population – with a very small number of very wealthy people, a very large number of very poor people, and no significant middle class in the modern sense – put books at any price out of most people's reach. Third, as we have seen, the booktrade was merely an ancillary system of circulation beside the private channels that probably supplied the vast majority of literary texts. In short, not many people owned books in the first place, and, of those who did, not many bought them at bookshops.

"More tantatlizing questions are who patronized bookdealers and why. The answer may lie in the fact that Roman bookdealers were not in competition with the private channels of circulation in which so much of roman literature moved. If a Roman could acquire a text through those private channels, there was no reason for him to buy from a bookdealer. Neither Cicero nor Pliny, for instance, two of our major sources for the circulation of literary texts, ever mentions going to a bookshop. This, of course, does not prove that they never visited such a shop, but it may suggest that they obtained any texts they wanted through their friends. if a reader's circle of friends included neither the author of the text nor someone who owned a copy, then a bookstore might provide a helpful service. Catullus, for example, says that he will torment a friend by buying books of bad poetry and giving them to him (14.1-20). The joke may be based not only on the low quality of the poetry but also on the implication that the poets he mentions were so terrible that no one in his circle would know them or own a copy of their poetry.

"Since even the elite used bookstores as gathering-places and since booksellers put up advertisements on their doorposts, the shop would expose the work of unknowns to the literary upper crust. That exposure might conceivably and eventually produce social contact, which at least theoretically, might provide a way to break into the concentric circules of circulation and friendship and might even result in the discovery of a patron. Monetary gain directly from the sale of copies was not a factor.

"Other advantages have been suggested by modern scholars but are overstated. First, a bookstore was a place to send people who wanted a copy, as Martial sends his obnoxious Quintus, to whom he does not want to give a gift copy and with whom he does not want to acknowledge the degree of friendship that would imply. This, however, would only be done in awkward situations, not as a common practice. Second, bookshops have been thought to provide some safeguard for the accuracy of the text, at least early in its circulation, although the relatively unregulated circulation of texts would substantially limit this advantage.

"The Booktrade appears to become more important during the first century A.D., so that by Pliny's time it appears to have become an accepted method for the circulation of literature, although by no means the only method. Martial, as we have seen, often mentions the dealers who handle his books. . . . By Pliny's time, at least some authors thought it appropriate to give a copy of a work to a bookseller, who could then make and sell copies if anyone wanted them. Even if bookshops did become more important, however, private channels did not lose their importance. Such channels wold have continued to serve the literary needs of the established literary and social élite and would also have continued to provide non-literary works such as commentaries and lexica.

"The increasing importance of bookshops may be due to several factors. First, authors in Pliny's time may have wanted to reach further beyond the narrow circles of their own friends and their friends' friends. It would be misleading to think of this as an increase in author's ambitions, since this might seem to imply that earlier writers were men of modest ambitions. Rather, the change may have represented a somewhat broader conception of the potential audience for a literary work. Even so, wider distribution does not imply an enormous increase in the number and diversity of the reading public, since the potential audience remains the intellectual aristocracy. The change would still be profound, nonetheless, since it implies the partial freeing of literature from the bonds of friendship.

Second, a larger role for bookshops may reflect the emergence of a relatively new type of Roman writer. For old Roman writers, literature was always seen as merely one facet of the life of an aristocrat, albeit a very important one. Althought writing and reading undoubtedly affected their social relationships, those relationships were also based on other ties such as politics, marriage alliances and family traditions. For the newer writers such as Martial, however, arriving in Rome from abroad, lacking the ties of politics and the other elements of aristocratic friendship, literature provided a point of access to the aristocracy, a way of making contact with the elite. From them ltierature played a functional role in addition to its earlier one. Any financial advantage, however, came from the well-established system of patronage.

"Third, since, as has been argued above, bookshops enjoyed no special status above that of any luxury shop, that very commonality of commercial status may hint that literature was becoming something that could be bought and sold like perfume or expensive fabric. Since literature had been and remained a symbol of social status, its reduction to a marketable commodity may indicate a weakening of the hold of the traditional aristocracy on the control of access to social status. In earlier Roman society, one had to be a member of an aristocratic group to acquire access to works that circulated primarily with that group. In this later period, bookstores made it at least theoretically possible for access to literature to precede and perhaps even to facilitate access to certain refined circles.

"Yet, for all these suggestions, Roman literature remained the preserve of the aristocracy except in oratorical events and public performances. If bookshops helped literature move out of the strict control of aristocratic groups of friends, they actually did so only to help outsiders gain access to those élite circles" (Raymond J. Starr,"The Circulation of Literary Texts in the Roman World," The Classical Quarterly 37, No. 1 [1987] 213-223, quoting from 219-23.) Note that I could not include the approximately 30 footnotes associated with this quotation.

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Book Trade and Libraries in the Roman Empire Circa 30 BCE

"By the end of the Roman Republic the institutions and processes that govern and guard the transmission of the written word were already in existence, and under Augustus and his successors they were refined and consolidated. The book trade became more important, and we soon hear of the names of established booksellers: Horace speaks of the Sosii, later Quintilian and Martial tell of the Tryphon, Atrectus, and others. By the time of the Younger Seneca book collecting was derided as a form of extravagant ostentation. Augustus founded two public libraries, one in 28 B.C. in the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine, the other, not long afterwards, in the Porticus Octaviae. Thereafter libraries were a common form of both private and imperial munificence, in Rome and the provinces. Pliny founded a library in his native Comum and provided money for its upkeep; the best-preserved (and restored) ancient library is that built at Ephesus in memory of Titus Julius Celsus, proconsul of Asia A.D. 106-7; one of the most famous was the Bibliotheca Ulpia founded by Trajan, which long survived the disasters of fire and strife and was still standing in the fifth century" (Reynolds & Wilson, Scribes and Scholars, 3rd. ed. [1991] 24-25).

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30 CE – 500 CE

A Door-to-Door Bookseller in Egypt, Second Century CE Circa 150 CE

P. Petaus 30, an Egyptian papyrus fragment of a private letter in Greek from Roman Julius Placidus to his father, written about 150 CE by Petaus (Petaus komogrammateus) a village scribe of Ptolemais Hormou (El-Lahun) and surrounding villages, reads in translation as follows:

"Julius Placidus to his father Herclanus, greeting. Dius came to us and showed us six parchment codices (tas membranas hex). We selected none of those, but collated eight, for which I paid on account 100 drachmas. You will be on the lookout in any case. . . I hope you are well. . .by Julius Placidus."

"We get a glimpse here of the ancient counterpart of the door-to-door bookseller. Among his offerings are parchment codices. These were apparently inscribed with texts but were perhaps not well inscribed, since six were not bought. It is not clear whether the eight others that were collated and purchased were rolls or codices . . . (Gamble, Books and Readers in the Early Church [1995] 53).

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Commercial and Private Book Trade in 2nd Century Egypt Circa 150 CE

"If the book trade had come to stay, then the commercial copying and selling of texts did not replace their private reproduction and circulation, in Rome or elsewhere. . . . [an] interesting papyrus letter (P. Oxy.2192) alludes to private efforts to obtain texts in Egypt in the late second century. That letter carries a postscript in the hand of the sender that reads: 'Make and send to me copies of books 6 and 7 of Hypsicrates' Characters in Comedy. For Harpocration says that they among Polion's books. But it is likely that others, too, have got them. He also has prose epitomes of Thersagorus' work on the myths of tragedy.' Here the writer asks his correspondent to make copies of books that he wants and suggests an individual who owns them who might permit them to be copied. Following this postscript is a note written in a different hand. it reads: 'According to Harpocration, Demetrius the bookseller has got them. I have instructed Apollonides to send me certain of my own books, which you will hear of in good time from Seleucus himself. If you find any, apart from those I possess, make copies and send them to me. Diodorus and his friends also have some which I haven't got.' It is not certain who appended this note; it was probably added by a member of the letter writer's circle as a supplement to the preceding postscript. The letter reveals a group of friends who acquired books by making copies from exemplars owned by friends who lived elsewhere (Harpocration, Polion, Diodorus, and their circle). Yet there is mention of the bookseller Demetrius, who could serve as a fall-back source. Here, then, in provincial Egypt we see the independent coexistence of private and commercial means of obtaining books.

"We know that some of individuals named in this letter--Harpocration, Polion (Pollio), and Diodorus--were professional scholars, known for their lexigraphical work. The books requested are scholarly, not books that have popular appeal, so it is surprising that the bookseller Demetrius might have them. One would expect a bookseller to deal in popular literature, as apparently was the case with the Roman booksellers we know by name. In a setting where a scholarly community was active, an astute dealer probably did not disdain service to that clientele. Yet, as a rule, classical texts and especially scholarly tools and studies circulated principally if not exclusively through private channels. The practices of Cicero in late republican Rome, of the scholarly circle in Oxyrhynchus in the late second century, and of Libanius and his fellow scholars in fourth-century Syrian Antioch, widespread as these were in time and place, all attest that private copying and circulation formed the persistent norm for professional scholars.

"The reason for this was not only the limited market for scholarly works. The quality of commercial copying was not particularly high, whereas scholars were fastidious, at least about their books. The complaints voiced by many ancient writers about the quality of commercial copies were consistent and continuous. The employment of mediocre copyists and the failure to collate copies and exemplars--practices that Strabo (13.1.54) encountered in Alexandria as well as Rome--resulted in books that did not meet the scholarly standard" (Gamble, Books and Readers in the Early Church. A History of Early Christian Texts [1995] 92-93.)

Turner, Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World (1971) no. 68 (p. 114) reproduces the text and an excellent black and white image of P. Oxy.2192.

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Lucian's Diatribe on the "Ignorant Book Collector" Circa 170 CE

About 170 the Assyrian rhetorician, satirist and author of numerous writings in Greek, Lucian of Samosata (Λουκιανὸς ὁ ΣαμοσατεύςLucianus Samosatensis), ridiculed a provincial from Syria who aspired to join the cultured elite by collecting antiquarian and deluxe papyrus book rolls. In doing so he also implied criticism of booksellers, and suggested that there was at this early date some kind of a trade in antiquarian book rolls:

"You expect to get a reputation for learning [παιδεια] by zealously buying up the finest books, but the thing goes by opposites and in a way becomes proof of your ignorance [απαιδενσιας]. Indeed, you do not buy the finest; you rely upon men who bestow their praise hit-and-miss, you are a godsend to the people that tell such lies about books, and treasure-trove ready to hand to those who traffic in them. Why, how can you tell what books are old and highly valuable, and what are worthless and simply in wretched repair—unless you judge them by the extent to which they are eaten into and cut up, calling the book-worms into counsel to settle the question? As to their correctness and freedom from mistakes, what judgment have you, and what it is worth?" (Haines-Eitzen, Guardians of Letters. Literacy, Power, and the Transmitters of Early Christian Literature [2000] 26).

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The Decline of Literacy in the Byzantine Empire 330 CE – 1453

"The Byzantine empire is often thought of as an age of decline. Such a view does not do justice to its distinctive qualities as the home of a new style of art and as a civilising influence in eastern Europe. But there is a sense in which it was obviously inferior to the empire that had once controlled the whole Mediterranean area. In economic terms it was not able to provide for the inhabitants of its towns and villages the standard of living and amenities that had been enjoyed by the vast majority of the citizens of the Roman empire. We may infer that one of the direct consequences of the decline in standards was a reduction the number of people able to acquire an education. Although there is some evidence, principally from lives of saints, that elementary education was widely available, the impression must remain that literacy was less widespread and the average level of culture less high than had been the case in the ancient world. It is hard to imagine, for instance, a Byzantine province producing evidence of readers with such diverse and learned interests as those provded by the finds of papyri from the country districts of Greco-Roman Egypt. From the reduced economic circumstances of the Byzantine empire it would be tempting to infer that the prospects for the survival of ancient Greek literature were poor, and that there would be little chance of it being the object of scholarly study. Certainly a great deal was lost, and it is impossible to deny that the Byzantines failed to save many texts that had come down to them. Publishing and the book trade in general were so much less well organised than they had been in antiquity that the use of these terms in a Byzantine context is scarcely legitimate. Photius in the ninth century, to name only the most obvious example, read many texts that ceased to be copied soon after. But although some blame must attach to the Byzantines, care should be taken not to allocate them too large a share of the responsibility. At least some of the texts read by Photius will have been lost in 1204 when Constantinople was destroyed by the Fourth Crusade, and there were almost certainly many other books that Photius had not been able to read because even the resources of the richer society of antiquity had failed to guarantee production in sufficient numbers of copies for them to survive the hazards of war and accidental destruction.

"In view of their limited resources the Byzantines made a creditable effort to preseve a high standard of literary culture. As will become clear, they achieved what may be their greatest success at a time of economic and political decline in the late thirteen and early fourteenth centuries. By at all times they maintained, even if only in a small section of their society, an intense interest in liteature. One might suggest that though their cultural activies were confined to the few by economic circumstances, the intensity of activity was greater than at almost any time in antiquity itself. The Byzantines struggled against great odds to uphold their ideals, and these can be seen in various distinctive features of their society. The government required of its chief functionaries a good grounding in classical literature, and they attempted to display their culture in the documents drafted for public circulation by the excellence of their prose style and sometimes even by literary allusions. The government's expectations of candidates for employment in the top ranks of the civil service are made clear by an order of the emperor Constantius and his junior colleague Julian in 360 (Theodosian Code 14.1.1): 'No person shall obtain a post of the first rank unless it shall be proved that he excels in long practice of liberal studies, and that he is so polished in literary matters that words flow from his pen faultlessly.' Although this order may soon have been forgotten and does not appear to have been renewed by later emperors, in practice successive governments behaved as if it were still in force. . . ." (Wilson, Scholars of Byzantium [1983] 1-2).

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The Limitations of Book Production and Book Trade in the Byzantine Empire 330 CE – 1453

In "Books and Readers in Byzantium," a lecture given at the Colloquium on Byzantine Books and Bookmen held at Dunbarton Oaks in April 1971, and published as Byzantine Books and Bookmen (1975), Nigel G. Wilson provided a preliminary survey of book production and the book trade in the Byzantine empire, from which I quote. The links are, of course, my additions, and as usual, I have not included the footnotes:

"First, production and trade. A skeptic might well say that there is no evidence about the book trade, or even that there was no such thing. The skeptic is probably right in his belief, but instead of acceptiing it without discussion it may be worthwhile to analyze some factors which will have had an important effect on the production and circulation of books.

"The most obvious of these factors is the supply of writing materials. For much of our period it is clear that parchment was in short supply. There were, it seems factories, at Corinth, as Constantine Porphyrogenitus [De Administrando Imperio] tells us. In his commentary on this passage, however, Professor Jenkins saw here a reference to paper-making; but that looks to me like a slip of the pen, since I find it hard to imagine paper-making established as an industry in Byzantium as early as the middle of the tenth century. In Constantinople itself parchment was prepared at the Stoudios monastery, as we learn from the Magalai Katecheseis of Theodoros Studites. I suppose there must have been other factories elsewhere, but no evidence about them has come to my notice, nor do we know much about the two that can be identified. Parchment-makers are not mentioned as a guild in the Book of the Eparch. Are we to infer that there were not enough of them to make up a guild, or that they were regarded as a small section of the tanners whose affairs did not need to regulated by special provisions? At Corinth they are mentioned along with holders of imperial dignities, sailors, and purple-fishers as a group of people not liable to provide horses when requisitioned by the army. The context permits but does not require the inference that they were incorporated as a local guild.

"Another side of the picture is revealed when we find monks or men of letters unable to obtain writing materials. A journey might be necessary to find parchment, for in the tenth century St. Neilos was sent by his superiors to Rossano to buy some. But perhaps Italy was abnormal in this respect, since a great many surviving manuscripts believed to have been written in that area are either palimpsests or are made from parchment of extremely poor quality. On the other hand, there are signs that shortages were not confined to the poorer provinces. A schoolmaster in the capital in the twelfth century complains that writing material is hard to come by; I refer to John Tzetses, commenting on Aristophanes Frogs, 843, where the words used are τους χαρτας, which may be taken either as meaning parchment or as a generic term for paper and parchment. More than a century later we find Maximos Planudes writing to a friend in Asia Minor and asking him for parchment because the right quality is not on sale in his own neighborhood, which is presumably Constantinople. In the end, all he received was some asses' skins, which did not please him in the least. It may be that his friend refused to take the trouble to do what he asked, but it is equally possible that this inferior quality was sent because there was nothing else on the market.

"In the letters of the Patriarch Gregory of Cyprus there is a most interesting proof that the supply of parchment was seasonal; he says that he cannot have a volume of Demosthenes copied yet because there will be no parchment until the spring when the population begins to eat meat.

"Two more facts confirm the acute shortage. First, the yield of parchment from each animal was very low. A note in an Oxford manuscript (MS. Auct. T. 2.7) shows that two biofolia, equivalent to eight pages, might be expected from each animal; the text (fol. 419 verso) is εκοψαμεν δια δυο κατατομας προβ<ει>ες κ' και εποιησαν τετραδ<ι>α ι'. The low yield would be no surprise, because mediaeval animals were much smaller than their modern counterparts, which are the result of selective breeding since the eighteenth century. Secondly, it must have been a chronic shortage that forced booksellers into the unscruptulous habit of taking unwanted volumes, washing off the text, and using the parchment again. The canons of a church council forbid this practice in regard to biblical texts, and the canon lawyers Zonaras and Balsamon comment on it. Michael Choniates complains, no doubt with a good deal of rhetorical exaggeration, that the supply of books may fail altogether because whole shiploads of parchment have been sold to the Italians, and it is to be noted that this complaint was made long before the disaster of the Latin invasion of 1204, since it occurs in a text composed before his ordination. 

"With regard to the supply of paper I can be much briefer. It was an inferior substitute, being less durable, but it had the obvious advantage that eventually it became a good deal cheaper. It was already in use in the imperial chancery as early as 1052, which is the date of an extant imperial chrysobull. But early paper manuscripts are not common, doubtless because most of them proved to be too perishable. Even if we allow that there was already a good supply of paper at that date, which I am inclined to doubt, it remains true that at least in the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries there was no means of relieving the shortage of writing material.

"The supply of books is reflected in the prices they fetched. I have tried to show elsewhere [Reynolds & Wilson, Scribes and Scholars] that prices were high in relation to the salaries of civil servants, who were probably an important section of the reading public. Here I will explore the evidence a little more deeply. Stipends in the civil service seems to have begun at a lower level of 72 gold nomismata per annum, and in exceptional cases a man might receive as many as 3,500, but the average was probably a few hundred. The lowest book price I have found is three nomismata, paid in 1168 for MS Barberini gr. 319, a copy of the Gospels in small format written in the preceding century. Other prices are much higher, although it is not always possible to separate the costs of writing material and transcription. The prices are known of four of Arethas' books, and a reasonably consistent picture emerges from the following table:

Euclid (MS D'Orville 301), 387 folios, 22 x 180 mm., 14 nomismata.

Plato (MS E.D.Clarke 39), 424 folios, 325 x 225 mm., 13 nomismata for transcription, 8 for parchment

Aristotle's Organon (MS Urbinas gr. 35), 441 folios, 260 x 190 mm., 6 nomismata.

Clement of Alexandria (MS Paris. gr. 451), 403 folios, 240 x 190 mm., 20 nomismata for transcription, 6 for parchment.

"We may reasonably guess that the six nomismata paid for the Organon were for the parchment only, and the fourteen paid for Euclid were perhaps only for the transcription. The highest price, a total of twenty-six, is a respectable sum by any standards. A few other prices are known which confirm the picture of books as a commodity beyond the reach of the ordinary man. A copy of Chrysostom written in 939 (MS Paris. gr. 781) and consisting of 302 large folios cost seven nomismata, but what is included in the fgure seven is not clear from the world of the subscription. A metaphrastic menologion for January (MS Patmos 2345) written in 1057 carries a note saying that the scribe had been paid 150 nomismata for seven volumes, an average price of just over twenty-one. A liturgical book dated 1166 (MS Patmos 218) cost twelve nomismata, plus a further six for entering the musical notation. And in the thirteenth century we find the owner of a manuscript unable to afford the parchment eneded to replace some missing folios in MS. Vat. gr. 448.

"Given these limitations on production and ownership one has to consider what kind of trade can have existed in books. The key fact here is that booksellers are very rarely heard of. Agathias speaks of shops where one his contemporaries would attempt to engage in philosophical argument with the other customers. Michael Choniates speaks of booksellers in the passage cited already about the sale of parchment. But in general their activities remain a mystery. Until more evidence is found it may be best to assume that the trade in books was almost always in the form of secondhand transactions and special commissions given to professional scribes. . . . A fully developed book trade should not be postulated without special reasons; and so, for example, I believe that the suggestion by G. Zuntz that the manucript P of Euripides is a copy destined for the book trade has to be either unfounded or inadequately formulated.

"Similarly, the secondhand trade was limited. It should be noted that Michael Choniates, after losing his library in the sack of Athens in 1205, recovered some of his books and gave instructions to two of his friends to look out for a few particularly prized volumes that had not yet been found again: Euclid's Elements and Theophyact's commentary on the Pauline epistles, the latter being written in Michael's own hand. A similar case can be recorded from the fifteenth century: Constantine Lascaris recovered in Messina a text of Greek tragedy that he had lost eighteen years before; his own account of this coincidence is written on a spare leaf in the book, MS Madrid gr. 4677. It remains, of course, a question, whether these two coincidences should be regarded as typical experiences in the life of any Byzantine bookman." (pp. 1-4).

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The Earliest Surviving Document of the Christian Book Trade and Stichometry Circa 350 CE – 825

The earliest surviving document recording the Christian book trade is a stichometric price-list of books of the Bible and of Cyprian's works, the Indiculum Caecilii Cypriani orignally written in Africa, probably in Carthage shortly after 350. The charges for writing in Latin are calculated on a per line basis, using the length of a typical line of Virgil (Vergil) or 16 syllables, as the standard, or stichos. Lines measured in this way were called stichoi (στιχοι or επη) from the Greek standard based on the length of an average Homeric hexameter, similarly consisting of 16 syllables. Our source for this Greek writing standard is Galen, De Placitis Hippocratis et Platonis (On the Opinions of Hippocrates and Plato) Viii.I. 

One motive that the anonymous author of this text seems to have had was to provide a method of checking up on dishonest scribes and booksellers. He wrote:

"Because the index of verses in Rome is not clearly given, and because in other places too, as a result of greed, they do not preserve it in full, I have gone through the books one by one, counting sixteen syllables per line, and have appended to each book the number of Virgilian hexameters it contains" (Translated in Rouse & McNelis, 205). 

In their study of the Indiculum Caecilii Cypriani Rouse & McNelis (reference below) state (p. 202) that "the use of stichometry seems to die in the Latin West in late antiquity."

The earliest surviving text of this work is the collection of texts called Cod. Sang. 133, preserved in the Abbey library of St. Gall (St. Gallen), and probably written there in the late 8th or early 9th century. Chronologically, the next surviving copy of this text is Vitt. Em. 1325 (formerly Cheltenham or Phillipps 12266), written at Nonantola Abbey in the 10th or early 11th century, and now preserved in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma.

Bischoff, Manuscripts and Libraries in the Age of Charlemagne (2007) 2. Bischoff, Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and Middle Ages (1990) 184. Rouse & McNelis, "North African literary activity: A Cyprian fragment, the stichometric lists and a Donatist compendium," Revue d'histoire des textes, 30 (2000) 189-238.

♦ Special thanks to Jean-Baptiste Piggin, whose 5-28-2011 post in his Macro-Typography blog regarding the Cod. Sang. 133, enabled me to revise and improve this database entry on 05-29-2011.

In February 2014 a digital facsimile of Cod. Sang. 133 was available at this link.

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Herald of Christianity and Magus: One of the Oldest Surviving Illustrated Codices Circa 380 CE

Vergilius Vaticanus

The Vergilius Vaticanus (Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica, Cod. Vat. lat. 3225; also known as the Vatican Virgil or Vatican Vergil) is an illustrated manuscript written in Rome in rustic capitals toward the end of the fourth century, containing fragments of Vergil's (Virgil's) Aeneid and Georgics. It is one of the oldest sources for the text of the Aeneid,  and one of the oldest surviving illustrated codices on any subect. Therefore some of its images represent firsts in book illustration. For example, the image of the seige of Troy on leaf 19 recto is probably the oldest image of warfare in a codex.

The Vatican Virgil is also the oldest of three surviving lllustrated manuscripts of classical literature. The two others are the Vergilius Romanus (circa 450) and the Ambrosian Iliad (Ilias Ambrosiana) (493-508). Before passing into the Vatican Library, the Vergilius Vaticanus, of which seventy-five leaves survive, belonged to the humanist and poet, Giovanni Giovano Pontano, to the poet, literary theorist and cardinal Pietro Bembo, and to the humanist, historian and archaeologist, Fulvio Orsini.

"It is Italy that has left us the greatest legacy of books and literature from the late Roman world. In the Italy of the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries there were probably still stationers who employed scribes to produce books and well as scribes and artists who worked independently. The Codex Vaticanus [same as Vergilius Vaticanus] of Virgil and the Quedlinburg fragment of the Book of Kings in the Vetus Latin version are two products of this professional scribal activity from the end of the fourth century. Both manuscripts might have originated in the same scriptorium" (Bernhard Bischoff, Manuscripts and Libraries in the Age of Charlemagne [2007] 3-4).

Note: In his dating of the Quedlinburg fragment, and his consideration that both might have been produced by the same shop, Bischoff, who originally wrote his essays in German between 1966 and 1981, differs from later scholarship. 

"Even as the Roman empire collapsed, literate men acknowledged that the Christianized Virgil was a master poet.. . . . The Aeneid remained the central Latin literary text of the Middle Ages and retained its status as the grand epic of the Latin peoples, and of those who considered themselves to be of Roman provenance, such as the English. It also held religious importance as it describes the founding of the Holy City. Virgil was made palatable for his Christian audience also through a belief in his prophecy of Christ in his Fourth Ecologue. Cicero and other classical writers too were declared Christian due to similarities in moral thinking to Christianity.

•"In the Middle Ages, Virgil was considered a herald of Christianity for his Ecologue 4 verses (Perseus Project Ecl.4) concerning the birth of a boy, which were read as a prophecy of Jesus' nativity.

•"Also during the Middle Ages, as Virgil was developed into a kind of magus, manuscripts of the Aeneid were used for divinatory bibliomancy, the Sortes Virgilianae, in which a line would be selected at random and interpreted in the context of a current situation" (Wikipedia article on Virgil, accessed 12-03-08).

Possibly coincident with the type facsimile publication in 1741 of the text of the fifth century Codex Mediceus of Virgil, an edition of the illustrations of the Vergilius Vaticanus and the Codex Romanus engraved by Pietro Santi Bartoli was published in Rome: Antiqvissimi Virgiliani codicis fragmenta et picturae ex Bibliotheca Vaticana : ad priscas imaginum formas a Petro Sancte Bartholi incisae. Romae : ex Chalcographia R.C.A., apud Pedem Marmoreum, 1741. This contained 58 engraved plates reproducing images from the Vergilius Vaticanus plus 6 additional illustrations from the Codex Romanus. Catalogue records indicate that Bartoli's images may have been first published separately in 1677.

In 1782 Bartoli's engravings were reissued in an excellent edition combining images from both Virgil manuscripts together with related images from ancient engraved gems depicting events in Virgil.  The new edition was entitled Picturae antiquissimi Virgiliani codicis Bibliothecae Vaticanae a Petro Sancte Bartoli aere incisae accedunt ex insignioribus pinacothecia picturis aliae veteres gemmae et anaglypha, and published in Rome by Venantius Menaldini. The frontispiece, engraved title and dedication of this edition are spectacular. The 1782 edition contains 124 images plus the engraved frontispiece, title, and dedication.

In 1899 the Vatican Library issued a black and white facsimile of the Vatican Vergil as the first of its facsimile series, Codices e vaticanis selecti phototypice expressi, vol. 1. In 1980 they followed this with a facsimile in color as Codices e vaticanis selecti phototypice expressi, vol. 40. The best and most exact facsimile was issued by Akademische Druck-u. Verlagsanstalt, Graz, Austria in 1984. That edition reproduced the manuscript and its 19th century red morocco binding precisely, and included a commentary volume in English by David H. Wright. The definitive study of the manuscript, which places it within the artistic and cultural context of its time, is Wright's The Vatican Vergil. A Masterpiece of Late Antique Art (1993).

Reynolds, Texts and Transmission. A Survey of the Latin Classics (1983) 434.

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"The Earliest Evidence for Tooling on a Leather Bookbinding" Circa 400 CE

Page 215 of MS G.67, depicting the acts of the apostles. (View Larger)

An illuminated manuscript on vellum of the first half of the Acts of the Apostles (G. 67) written in Coptic of the Middle Egyptian dialect around the year 400, and presumably the first half of a two-voume set, is preserved in the Morgan Library and Museum.

"There is a miniature in the final quire of a crux ansata flanked by two peacocks and bearing three smaller birds. It is the earliest-known Coptic miniature. The place of discovery of this Coptic Acts has never been revealed, but it appeared in the antiquarian book trade in 1961 together with a Coptic Gospel of Matthew that must have belonged to the same find. This latter is now in the possession of William Scheide. Its script is very similar to that of the Glazier Acts, its dialect is the same, and the leaf size of both manuscripts is very nearly identical. Their small format suggests that they were made for private use. The Glazier Acts was originally dated as early as the fourth century, but recently a more generalized dating in the fifth century has been argued.

"The binding of the Scheide Matthew is now quite damaged, with loss of the entire spine or backstrip, but was identifical in type to that of the Glazier Acts. Apart from its boards, all that now remains are carbonized portions of the hinging strips. At least two other Coptic codices, also dated to the fifth century, still retain bindings of this type. One of them is in the Morgan Library, M. 910: a complete Coptic Acts, in the Sahidic dialect. Though severely damaged and partly distingetrated, from what remains the system of wooden boards, backstrip, hinge strips (four), and wrapping strips can be clearly reconstructed. The other example, a Sahidic Mark and Luke, is in the Palau-Ribes collection of the University of Barcelona.

"The fine state of preservation of the Glazier Acts binding, and especially of the goatskin backstrip is so fresh as to have cast some suspicion on its authenticity. However, considering the even more ancient Nag Hammadi find, it should not be assumed a priori that the binding is too good to be true, and that leather could not survive and remain flexible for so long. There have been various losses; the backstrip once extended at both ends, so that it could be folded over the top and bottom edges of the leaves for additional protection. The top extension is now frayed, and that at the bottom has been torn away. Two of the three wrapping strips survive, one only partially; and two of the bone securing pegs terminating the strips. Neither strip is now attached to the board. There are only remains of what were originally two plaited leather place marks, once laced into the upper board, one into the lower. In addition to fillets, the backstrip was stamped with a small tool of concentric circles, a common Coptic decorative pattern repeated on the bone pegs. This is the earliest evidence for tooling on a leather bookbinding.

"Three Egyptian bindings dated to the sixth century have survived in bindings which appear to exhibit later, fancier evolutions of this style; two are in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, and one in the Freer Gallery, Washington. The techniques of these bindings have not been entirely deciphered, but in all three examples, the number of hinging holes on the boards was greatly increased, to three dozen or more. In none of the three are there any signs of linkage between sewing and covers--with with the Glazier Acts and others of its group, only glue held the covers to the codex. The backstrips of the two Chester Beatty bndings were stamped with pictorial tools. The wooden covers of the Freer Gospels (a Greek text, but of Egyptian origin) are painted with portraits of the evangelists, two on each cover. It is generally thought that these painted figures were added later, perhaps in the seventh century, and were not part of the orignial conception of the binding. The evangelists are depicted holding codices, a traditional iconography, and it is curious to note that these are quite clearly represented as possessing jewelled covers. . . . "(Needham, Twelve Centuries of Bookbinding: 400-1600 [1979] 9-10).

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At the Beginning of the Dark Ages Production of New Manuscripts Essentially Ceased Circa 400 CE – 600

"There is a tendency to write about ancient literature and late antique manuscripts as if they vanished, all at once, in the chaotic centuries often called the Dark Ages—to see the history of transmission in this period largely in terms of large-scale physical destruction. Such a picture is slightly out of focus. Yes, the period AD 400-600 saw a great deal of destruction; but then, destruction from fire and the elements was not new to Roman history. The exceptional element was that the production of new manuscripts ceased; the market for new books rapidly diminished and, once the market dried up, the means of production disappeared. This was not so much a result of the physical destruction of either the readers or the bookshops, but rather because the traditional audience, namely the Roman senatorial class, within a couple of centuries dwindled in size and recycled itself as an ecclesiastical class with its own, albeit small, means of producing manuscripts.

"Lack of production, of course, does not equal lack of use—in many respects, quite the opposite. The newly emerging societies cherished Roman coins, and clipped them to make the smaller denominations appropriate to their greatly reduced money economy, since they did not mint large quantities of precious metals of their own. In similar fashion, Roman books whether papyrus or parchment continued to serve the needs of the shrinking literate class—not new books, but the enormous residue of the antique book trade that reposed in public and private libraries. These slowly gravitated to ecclesiastical libraries (locus of the new literate class), to be sent north with the missionaries. Benedict Biscop, for example, had no difficulty finding books to carry north to Norhumbria when he visited Rome in the 670s; but these were old books, already a century or two older than he.

"What is remarkable is the length of time that Christian Rome and its infrastructure endured. As we have suggested, Roman civilization, centred on the city, the forum, and the public baths, which was once thought to have been destroyed by the Visigoths and Ostrogoths who sacked Rome in the course of the fifth century, is now generally recognized as having remained, though undeniably altered, reasonably intact until the middle of the sixth century; indeed, the external trappings of this civilization were gladly appropriated by the Ostrogothic kindom of Theodoric (475-527), whom both Boethius and Cassiodorus served. The physical devastation of Roman Italy occurred, ironically, through the reassertion of imperial power—the reappearance in 540 of Byzantine armies in Italy under the emperor Justinian's general Belisarius. Rome changed hands five times in these campaigns.

"What survived Belisarius' legions fell to the Lombards, the last of the tribal groups to move into Italy. Any city, such as Milan, that opposed the Lombard advance was razed; those like Verona that opened their gates survived unharmed. It is no wonder, then, that little of ancient Milan, city of Ambrose, survived—or, conversely, that Petrarch in the fourteenth century could find what was probably a late antique manuscript of Cicero's letters to Atticus in Verona. Remarkably, the Roman aqueducts still functioned in the time of Pope Gregory I (pope 590-604); but gradually the Roman ruling class was replaced or absorbed by Lombard (or, in Gaul, by Frankish) peoples who had little need, or even less ability, to maintain the physical infrastructure of Roman civilization: the forum, public baths, roads, libraries, temples. As they became unnecessary, they were increasingly neglected. Eventually they served the only useful purpose left to them, becoming the quarries that provided the cut stone from which early medieval basilicas and royal palaces were built" (Rouse," The Transmission of the Texts," Jenkyns (ed) The Legacy of Rome: A New Appraisal [1992] 44-45). [As usual, the links are my addition.]

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The Church Assumes Role of Educator and Civil Service for the Tribal Kingdoms Circa 450 CE – 650

"The end of classical civilization in the West—roughly between AD 450 and 650, with regard to transmission of texts—is not so much the story of a violent physical destruction of the Roman empire as was once thought, but rather a matter of the barbarization of Roman civilization over 200 years or so, as the army, the government officials, the business classes, and the very population assumed the styles and customs first of the Ostrogoths and then of the Lombards. In the course of time, the forum, the bath and the temple fell into disuse and decay, their traditional roles in civic life forgotten as the public city-state was replaced by the private tribal kingdom. As Roman civilization faded, the Roman education of public school and private tutor slowly diminished; the body of literature that was the common property of the educated in Antiquity ceased to have an audience, and as the market for books disappeared the public stationers vanished. In Gaul, centurions like Martin (c.316-97) became saints, senators like Sidonius (c. 423-80) became bishops, and some patricians disenchanted with society, like Benedict (c. 480-550), removed themselves and formed communities with their fellows that lived according to a rule. Order and stability, once the obligation of the state, became the Church's responsibility. Literacy, necessary both to the teaching of a religion dependent on Scripture and to the function of the Church as administrative heir to the Roman state, became the near monopoly of the Church, which acted in effect as the civil service of the tribal kingdoms for the next 500 years" (R. Rouse, "The Transmission of the Texts," Jenkyns (ed) The Legacy of Rome: A New Appraisal (1992) 43).

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The Church Replaces the Roman State as the Source of Order and Stability Circa 450 CE – 650

"The Church gradually replaced the Roman state as the source of order and stability in the course of the fifth and sixth centuries. In the act of disseminating Christianity to the heathen the Church disseminated the remains of Roman learning to the barbarian. Gregory of Tours (540-94) emulated Gregory of Rome (540-604), in that each as bishop of his respective city organized the city's affairs, legal and financial. Each came from a family of senatorial rank, living in the twilight of ancient civilization. The importance to textual transmission of the joining of ancient and medieval, the connection of the past with the future, in the seventh century vividly represented in the conversion of England by Gregory I's missionaries and the growth of monastic culture, culminating in the Northumbrian renewal upon which, in turn, the eighth-century Carolingian renascence in Gaul rests in large part. The Church in England both north and south of the Humber was built by ecclesiastics from Italy; moreover, this took place at a time (c. 660-85) when the still-Byzantine portions of central and southern Italy harboured many ecclesiastics who had fled there to escape Muslim advances in the Middle East and North Africa. This explains why it is that Theodore, archbishop of Canterbury (669-690), was a Greek from Tarsus in Asia Minor, and that his companion Hadrian (d. 709), who knew Greek and taught it at Rochester, was originally from North Africa. The books from which Bede (673-735) studied at Monkwearmouth, and those which Boniface (c.675-754) read at Canterbury, were products of the late antique booktrade, some of which had passed via Cassiodorus' Vivarium and the library of the Lateran Palace, to be brought to England by Theodore, Hadrian, Benedict Biscop (c. 628-89) and their followers" (Rouse, "The Transmission of the Texts," Jenkyns (ed) The Legacy of Rome: A New Appraisal [1992] 45-46).

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500 CE – 600

St. Benedict Founds the Abbey at Monte Cassino and Later Formulates his Rule 529

St. Benedict. (Click to view larger.)

In 529 Benedict of Nursia, better known as St. Benedict (San Benedetto da Norcia), founded the Abbey of Monte Cassino in Compania, Italy. 

Benedict's Rule, formulated near the end of his life (547), based the foundations of monastic life on prayer, study, and the assistance of the sick. Benedict's rule was influenced by the rule of John Cassian who founded the first monasteries in Europe near Marseille, southern Gaul, about 415 CE.

♦ "Every monastery, therefore, was obliged to have a doctor to attend patients and a separate place in the cloister where the sick could be treated. It thus became necessary for one, at least, of the monks to collect scientific material, to study it and to hand on his knowledge to those who would, in time, take his place. In this way was started that practical teaching which was transmitted by word of mouth from generation to generation to the great advantage of the sick breathren of the monastery. As many codices of Latin and Greek learning as could be found were collected, and translations and extracts made for the use of those who, either because their studies had been only elementary or because they lacked the time,  were incapable of reading their authors in the original text.

"What was the position of the monkish doctor in these religious colonies? It is true that in Benedictine monasteries the doctor was not granted a well-defined position by the monastic rule, like the Prior, the nurse (a man, of course—with a post which was merely administrative), the chaplain, the cellarer or the librarian. The title of medicus was, therefore, not official; its holder had no disciplinary power, and it could not directly procure him any privileges. It was a mere name given to monks who, as a result of their studies, showed some special capacity for the art of healing. But, without having any official status among the dignitaries of the monastery, they yet had a high moral position in the community. In official monastic documents they signed after those monks who were invested with the highest monastic rank. Their elevated moral position is quite clear from the important missions entrusted to thrm by great personages of the day, missions of trust which would not have been given to individuals who were not held in considerable esteem. . . .

"The doctor treated his patients, prescribed the medicaments and prepared them himself, using those which he kept in the armarium pigmentorum. The herb garden, which existed in every monastery, allowed him to have at hand the medicinal plants he needed. The students whom he gathered round him in the monastery helped him to treat the patients and prepared the medicines. The work was done in the Infirmary, a place varying in size with the importance of the monastery, and set apart from the dormitory and the refectory of the monks themselves. Into the Infirmary were taken not only sick monks but also gentlemen, townspeople, and even labourers who applied for admission. The monastic doctor, besides his practice, had also to undertake the copying of medical texts. . . . In each great Benedictine monastery a real studium was formed, from which doctors were sent to the minor centres. The work of the doctor, however, was not limited by the monastery walls. At that time, when civilian medicine was generally represented by bone-setters and travelling quacks, the services of the monastery doctor were asked of the Prior whenever a person of importance or a member of his family fell ill in the neighbourhood. Permission was given freely and lasted during the whole treatment. The monastic doctor was never sent away on duty unless accompanied by another monk or by one of his pupils. Owing to his vow of poverty, he himself could receive no reward for his services, but splendid donations in lands, money or kind were made by great lords who willingly gave such gifts pro recuperata valetudine" (Capparoni, "Magistri Salernitani Nondum Cogniti". A Contribution to the History of the Medical School of Salerno [1923] 3-5).

Concerning books and study Benedict's rule stated in its 48th chapter, Of Daily Manual Labor:

"Idleness is the enemy of the soul; hence brethren ought, at certain seasons, to occupy themselves with manual labour, and again at certain hours, with holy reading. . . .

"Between Easter and the calends of October let them apply themselves to reading from the fourth hour till near the sixth hour.

"From the calends of October to the beginning of Lent let them apply themselves to reading until the second hour. . . . During Lent, let them apply themselves to reading from morning until the end of the third hour. . . and, in these days of Lent, let them receive a book apiece from the library, and read it straight through. These books are to be given out at the beginning of Lent" (Clark, The Care of Books [1902] 56). 

Benedict's Rule mentioned a library without mentioning the scriptorium that would later become an integral part of monastic life.

♦ Benedictine scriptoria, where the copying of texts not only provided materials needed in the routines of the community and served as work for hands and minds otherwise idle, also produced a desirable product that could be sold. Early commentaries on the Benedictine rule suggest that manuscript copying was a common occupation of at least some Benedictine communities. Montalembert drew attention to the 6th-century rule of St Ferreol that regarded transcription as the equivalent of manual labor since it charges that the monk "who does not turn up the earth with the plow ought to write the parchment with his fingers" (Wikipedia article on Scriptorium, accessed 02-22-2009).

"Benedictine scriptoria, and with them libraries, became active not in the time of St. Benedict himself, but under the impulse of Irish (and later English) monks on the continent in the seventh and eighth centuries. The influence of the Anglo-Saxon missionaries, principally the Wessex-born Boniface and his allies and helpers, was especially strong in Germany, leading to the foundation of episcopal centers such as Mainz and Würzburg, and of monasteries that were to become famous for their libraries such as Fulda (744) and Hersfeld (770). The Anglo-Saxons brought with them a script and books from the well-stocked English libraries. In the course of time the preparation (and even sale) as well as consumption of books became a characteristic aspect of continental monastic life and the library a central part of the monastery" (M. Davies, "Medieval Libraries" in Stam (ed) The International Dictionary of Library History I [2001] 105).

•The image is a portrait of Benedict  from a fresco in the cloister of San Marco in Florence.

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The Earliest Manuscript of the New Testament in Christian Palestinian Aramaic Circa 550

Several pages from te Codex Climaci Rescriptus. (View Larger)

The Codex Climaci Rescriptus, a 7-8th century Greek uncial manuscript of the New Testament as well as a 6th century Christian Palestinian Aramaic uncial manuscript of the Old and New Testament, represents in its Christian Palestinian Aramaic version of the New Testament, "the closest surviving witness to the words of Jesus Christ. It preserves the Gospels in the nearest dialect of Aramaic to that which he spoke himself, and unlike all other translations, those here were composed with a living Aramaic tradition based in the Holy Land." 

The palimpsest-manuscript in Christian Palestinian Aramaic was probably written in Judea, the mountainous southern region of Israel, in the sixth century. It was turned upside down and palimpsested in Syriac in the ninth century. It is thought that it passed to St. Catherine's Monastery in Sinai, which was built by the Emperor Justinian I between 527 and 565.

The manuscript was

"acquired by the pioneering Biblical scholars and twins, Agnes Smith Lewis (1843-1926) and Margaret Dunlop Gibson (1843-1920) in three stages between 1895 and 1906 (all in the vicinity of Cairo, the manuscript having presumably been 'liberated' from its monastic home in order to supply leaves for the antiquity trade there). They were staunch Scottish Presbyterians with a consuming interest in the early versions of the Bible, and profound belief in female education, in an age when it practically did not exist. They used their own fortune to become celebrated scholars in the fields of Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Syriac, and thrilled by Tischendorf's discoveries at Sinai, they set off to St. Catherine's on a 'manuscript-hunting' expedition in 1892. They won over the difficult patriarch, partly through their insistence that nothing was to be abstracted from the library there, but only photographs taken, and on that expedition they returned with pictures of the Syriac manuscript which would make them famous, the fourth century Syriac Sinaiticus (their lives and its discovery are the subject of a recent book, J. Soskic, Sisters of Sinai, 2009, which was adapted for BBC Radio 4 this April). Having returned home to Cambridge they were tipped off by a mysterious informant that spectacular manuscripts were to be had through various dealers in Cairo. This was quite different from the questionable removal of manuscripts from ancient libraries, and the twins regarded it as a rescue mission, returning to Egypt and acquiring a single leaf of the present codex . . . in 1895. They acquired a further 89 leaves from the present manuscript in October 1905, and in April of the following year, while passing through Port Tewfik, Agnes Lewis bought two palimpsest - manuscripts on a whim. Upon returning home she discovered that one contained another 48 leaves of the present manuscript, and that the two portions were separated by only a single leaf - that which the twins had acquired first in 1895. They published the entire text in 1909. Only one other leaf of this scattered manuscript has emerged in the last century. . . . On the death of the twins the manuscript was left to Westminster College, Cambridge."

Westminster College consigned the Codex Climaci Rescriptus to auction at Sotheby's London for sale on July 7, 2009 with an estimate of £400,000- £600,000. The quotations in this note were taken from Christopher de Hamel's much longer illustrated description of the manuscript as lot 14 in the catalogue of Sotheby's sale L09740, Western Manuscripts and Miniatures. According to Sotheby's website, the manuscript failed to sell in the auction. In June 2010 it was publicized that the Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores, bought the manuscript for their planned Bible museum expected to be located in Dallas, Texas.

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The Ashburnham Pentateuch Circa 580 – 620

A folio from the Ashburnham Pentateuch depicting Cane and Abel. (View larger)

The Ashburnham Pentateuch (sometimes called the Tours Pentateuch), a late sixth century or early 7th century illuminated manuscript of the Pentateuch, is the only western illuminated manuscript with narrative rather than purely decorative or iconic images that bridges the period between late antique and the Carolingian renaissance. It has been described by some scholars as Spanish, but probably came from Italy. One theory of its origin is that it was produced in the imperial scriptorium of Rome on commission from Galla Placidia to educate her son Emperor Valentinian III in the Christian doctrine. 

Though the manuscript originally contained all five books of the Pentateuch, it now lacks the whole of Deuteronomy as well as sections of the other five books. In Early Medieval Bible Illumination and the Ashburnham Pentateuch (2004) Dorothy Verkerk argued that the manuscript was written in Rome in the early seventh century, whence it traveled north to Fleury,

"where it was refurbished and given a decorated initial in the eighth century. From Fleury it was taken to Tours where a ninth-century addition was inserted and where it was studied, amended, copied, and emulated in manuscripts and frescoes. The manuscript was deposited at some point in the library of St. Gatien, and was moved to the Bibliothèque Municipale [at Tours] during the French Revolution, from where it was stolen, brought to England, and then finally returned to France in the nineteenth century" (Verbeek 58-59).

"It has 142 folios and 19 miniatures, and measures 372mm by 321mm. It is thought to have originally included as many as 68 full page miniatures. A full page table containing the Latin names of the books and Latin transliterations of the Hebrew names serves as a front piece to Genesis. The table is enclosed within a curtained arch. Some of the full page miniatures, such as that containing the miniature of Noah's Ark (folio 9r), contain a single scene. Other of the full page miniatures, such as that telling the story of Cain and Abel, contain many scenes which are placed in a register, with each scene having a different color background" (Wikipedia article on the Ashburnham Pentateuch, accessed 11-26-2008).

♦ The manuscript was at Tours when it was stolen in 1842 by mathematician, historian of science, palaeographer, and book thief, Guglielmo Libri, and sold by Libri in 1847, along with many other stolen manuscripts, to Bertram, 4th Earl of Ashburnham. In 1888 after a long and well-publicized dispute with the curator of manuscripts at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Léopold Delisle, the fifth Earl of Ashburnham sold the manuscript, along with other ancient French codices his father had purchased from Libri, to the Bibliothèque nationale de France, where it is preserved today.

For a detailed account of Guglielmo Libri's role in the history of the Ashburnham Pentateuch see my book, Scientist, Scholar and Scoundrel (2013).

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600 – 700

During the Middle Ages Book Production is Concentrated in Monasteries Circa 610 – 1200

From the early seventh century until roughly the year 1200 monastic scriptoria and other ecclesiastic establishments remained essentially the only customers for books, and they had a virtual monopoly on manuscript book production. Most codices were written on vellum or parchment, but as late as the eighth century some codices were written on papyrus.

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700 – 800

"The Oldest Western European Codex in Private Hands" (As of 2009) Circa 775

A page fromt he 'Canones concillorum,' written in both unical and miniscule.(View Larger)

When I accessed the website of German rare book and manuscript dealer Dr. Jörn Gunther in June 2009 I found the following manuscript offered for sale under the heading, "The Oldest Western European Codex in Private Hands."

The history of the writing of this manuscript as understood through its palaeography described below. The texts which it contains, and the details of its provenance reflect significant aspects of Carolingian manuscript production, and the history of collecting medieval manuscripts. Here is Dr. Gunther's description:

"Canones conciliorum. Manuscript on vellum, written by an insular scribe. Northern Italy, c.775.

"223 x 175 mm. 94 leaves. Internally complete, lacking one gathering at the beginning and some leaves at the end. The quires are signed with Roman numbers from II-XIII.– Written space fol.1-64v:165 x 130 mm, on fol. 65-94v: 175 x 135 mm, ruled in blind for one column of 24-25 and 19-20 lines. fol. 1-60v written in half uncials and precarolingian minuscules, fol. 61-94v in precarolingian minuscules in olive grey, light brown and dark brown ink. Many capitals in uncial with simple decoration with penwork ornament, including one initial in a form of a fish.– In fine condition for a volume of such antiquity. Right upper corner on fol.70 torn away with some loss of text.– 19th-century brown morocco by the Parisian bookbinder Marcelin Lortic.


"1. The codex was written by an insular scribe from Ireland or Northumbria, working in Northern Italy.

2. Monastery of Reichenau in Germany (at an early date).

3. Bound in Paris by Marcellin Lortic who opened his shop in the Rue St Honoré in 1840.

4. Ms. 17.849 of the collection of Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872); his oldest western manuscript and one of Phillipps's greatest treasures.

5. William Robinson Ltd., cat. 81: Precious Manuscripts, Historic Documents and Rare Books, London 1950, no. 92.

6. Dr. Martin Bodmer, Geneva, Switzerland (1899-1971).

7. Peter and Irene Ludwig, Aachen, ms.XIV 1 (1978-1983).

8. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu (1983-1988).

9. Now: Private collection, Europe.


"fol.1-58: Canones Conciliorum– fol.58-77v: Symmachiana, so-called ‘Symmachian forgeries’– fol.77v-94v: Decretals of Siricius, Boniface I, Innocent I, Zosimus, and Celestine I; end of text missing. Following the death of Pope Gelasius I († 496) Dionysius Exiguus (c.470- c.555), a skythian monk in Rome, was commissioned by the papal court to compile the ‘Collectio Dionysiana’ which united the canons of the councils and papal decretals. This anthology was the first compilation of this kind carried out in the Western Church and forms the foundation of Western Latin canon law. The compilation of Dionysius exists in three editions of which the codex at issue represents the so-called ‘Dionysiana II’. Manuscripts of the ‘Dionysiana II’ are rare uncombined with other texts, while only one codex preserved as a complete book is of an earlier date: ms.fol.v.II.3 in St Petersburg (Rossijskaja Nacionalnaja Biblioteka), a Burgundian codex dating from the 7th century (CLA 11 no.1061). Apart from this manuscript only a fragment in the Biblioteca Amploniana in Erfurt (Ampl.2°74) can be dated earlier having been written during the second half of the 6th century, presumably in Italy.

"After the Canones Conciliorum there follows as an insert, which cannot be found in this form in comparable collections, the so-called ‘Symmachian forgeries’, dating from thetime of Pope Symmachus (498-514; see Landau 1998). He was elected pope after the death of Anastasius II by a certain faction; a second faction declared the archpriest Laurence as pontiff. As a result of the turmoil which followed the elections, the ‘Symmachian forgeries were written, which strove to demonstrate by means of fictitious papal case files that the pope would not be subject to a human court of justice, but solely to the judgment of God.

"The third component of the book comprises decretals compiled under the pontificate of Pope Hormisdas (514-523) and contains the complete corpus of the old canon law, which consisted of the decrees of the Middle Eastern, Greek, African and Roman councils as well as those of the popes. The compilation is known as the Sanblasianus edition, because it was edited on the basis of a manuscript which first belonged to St. Blasien in the Black Forest and then to St. Paul in Lavanttal (Stiftsbibliothek, cod.7/1). Only seven manuscripts of this edition are preserved, three of which are older than the present codex (Paris, BN, lat. 3836, dating from the second half of the 8th century; Cologne, Dombibliothek, ms.213 dating from the first third of the 8th century and the Sanblasianus, which also dates from the mid-8th century). The oldest manuscript within the group (Cologne, Dombibliothek, ms.213) was written in Northumbria and brought to Cologne in the 8th century.

"The Canones conciliorum gained such an importance in subsequent decades that the text was duplicated again and again in the Frankish empire and from this later period over 100 manuscripts are preserved in the Frankish area alone. The codex was written by three different scribes. The main scribe (fol.2-60v) wrote the Canones conciliorum as well as the opening of the ‘Symmachian forgeries’. Palaeographic analysis reveals that this scribe came to the continent from an insular scriptorium and finally settled in northern Italy. It is not ascertainable, however, in which northern Italian scriptorium the manuscript was written. The palaeographic indications cannot be used to date the manuscript to a specific year, but it is very likely that it was executed in the years around 775, making the present manuscript contemporary with the famous copy of the Canones compilation, the so-called Dionysio-Hadriana,which was presented to the Frankish ruler Charlemagne (768-814) by Pope Hadrian I (772-795) in Rome in 774. After the presentation, the wording of the statute book was made compulsory for the Frankish empire, and numerous transcripts of the codex, originally kept in Aachen and now lost, were produced."

Note: I reformatted the description somewhat for this database, and left out the bibliographical references cited at the end of Dr. Gunther's description. The hyperlinks are my additions.

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800 – 900

"Mass Production" of Bibles at Tours: A "New" Development in Medieval Book Production 800 – 860

Bibles were the longest text widely copied during the Middle Ages, and by medieval standards the production of two whole manuscript Bibles per year by one scriptorium— specifically that at Tours— may be considered "mass production." In addition to Bibles the Tours scriptorium also produced copies of many of liturgical and classical texts. Tours Bible production levels were particularly remarkable in view of the quality of the calligraphy, and richness of decoration and illumination characteristic of some of these Bibles. Of the nearly 100 Bibles produced at Tours during the first 60 years of the ninth century three illuminated Bibles survived, among which perhaps the most outstanding was the Moutier-Grandval Bible.

From David Ganz's chapter 3, "Mass production of early medieval manuscripts: the Carolingian Bibles from Tours" in Gameson, ed., The Early Medieval Bible (1994) 53-55 I quote selections, with my habitual addition of links. The footnotes are, as usual, excluded:

"The copying of complete texts of the Bible, contained in only one or two volumes, which characterised the scriptoria of St. Martin's and Marmoutiers at Tours during the course of the ninth century, constituted a new development in medieval book production. While multi-volume and single-volume Bibles had been copied before, and the scriptorium at Wearmouth-Jarrow had made three copies of the Bible, whose layouts and similarities await study, the multiple reproduction of the biblical text during a sixty year period cannot be paralleled. Only the attempt by the abbey of Micy to provide several copies of the Bible recension prepared by Theodulf of Orléans deserves mention here. Theodulf's text was continuously revised during his lifetime, and was conceived as an accessible reference work, and so he chose a very small, three column 61-line format, with quires of five leaves. The copying involved elaborate scribal preparation, and the Bibles were produced within a short space of time. Six copies survive and two others have left traces, and there is clear evidence that Theodulf's text was used to improve biblical texts throughout the Carolingian empire.

"Carolingian book production was decisively affected by the steady supply of Bibles and gospel books which were copied at Tours. Forty-six Bibles and eighteen gospel books have survived from the period before 853; only three Bibles and seven gospel books may be dated later in the ninth century, an indication of the severe effects of Viking attacks on Tours in the reign of Charles the Bald, notably the burning of St. Martin's Abbey in 853, 872, and again in 903. So the Tours scriptoria were perhaps copying two full Bibles per year, for more than half a century. Nor was book production at Tours restricted to these Bibles: the abbey of St. Martin was also copying the works of classical, patristic and Carolingian authors. Works of Cicero, Servius, Hegesippus, Augustine, Orosius, Priscian, Isidore, the Paris Council of 829, Amalarius, Paul the Deacon, were all copied between 820 and 860. What has not been sufficiently acknowledged is that many of these volumes were also produced for libraries outside Tours. The earliest volumes to survive from the Tours scriptorium, produced from c. 730, were copied in order to supply the needs of a community of libraries. That sort of scriptorium was far more common than we have tended to realise, especially, if we have focused on twelfth-century scriptoria. Like the scriptorium of Luxeuil, which affirmed its monastic values through the extensive copying of works of spirituality both for individaul patrons and for religious foundations linked to that promient house, the scribes of Tours shared their resources by copying on commission. Their mass-produced gospel books, their Bibles and the anthology of texts which commemorate and celebrate the life and miracles of St. Martin, set Tours at the centre of a network of ecclesiastical spirituality. This was in marked contrast to most Carolingian scriptoria, which copied chiefly for their own libraries, occasionally duplicating a rare text or the work of a house author. . . . 

"The evidence of the surviving complete Tours Bibles in Monza, Cologne, London and Paris suggests that a complete Bible consisted of some 450 leaves, measuring c. 480 x 375 mm, with 50-2 lines per page. To copy a Tours Bible required some 210-25 sheep, whose shaped skins measured around 525 x 760 mm. The dimension of Carolingian sheep and their price await study, but has been suggested that sheep this sized required available pasture throughout the winter. The format of the Bible was a marked improvement on the 1,030 leaves of the Codex Amiatinus and the estimated 920 leaves of Ceolfrith's smaller pandect, or the 72-line format of the two-column eighth-century Spanish half-uncial Bible, León, Cathedral, MS 15. Though the size of the sheet was much larger, the number of leaves required to copy a Tours pandect was less than required to copy the multi-volume Bibles of Corbie, St Gall or Würzburg. But the saving in parchment depended on the excellence and the unformity of the scribes who copied the c. 85,000 lines of Alcuin's text."

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The "Moutier-Grandval Bible," a Masterpiece from the Scriptorium at Tours Circa 830 – 860

One of three surviving illustrated manuscripts of the Bible produced in Tours at the Benedictine abbey of St. Martin in the ninth century, the Moutier-Grandval Bible (British Library Add MS 10546) contains the entire Latin Vulgate text as revised by Alcuin of York. It was probably created during the abbacy of either Adalhard (834-843) or Vivien (843-851) or slightly earlier in the transition period between the abbacies of Fridigus (807-834) and Adalhard. 

Reflective of the scale of book production at Tours during this period, some twenty different scribes worked on this immense volume, which contains 449 folios measuring 495 x 380 mm. The decorated initials are followed by square capitals and uncials which lead into the text script, which is a form of Caroline minuscule, upgraded here by the introduction of some variant letter-forms such as "a"  The four full-page miniatures are derived from classical art.

"The large format, the generous margins, and the richness of decoration reveal the prestigious nature of the manuscripts. The hierarchy of scripts— a large initial, Versal capitals, Uncials and minuscules (in descending order) — are used to great effect.

"The emergence of the Caroline minuscule is one of the great developments in the history of calligraphy. It derived from ancient Roman Half-uncial scripts, incorporating features from local hands. The abbey of Corbie played a major rôle in its evolution, especialy with its Maudramnus script. . . .It is a mature script of enduring quality. It was to be copied and adapted in succeeding centuries by scribes in England, Germany and Italy. Humanist scribes revived it, early in the 15th century, as an appropriate hand for the copying of classical texts. The first Italian printers then adopted it, and it has remained the baiss of Western typography to this day.

"The script of the Moutier Grandval Bible, though very small, is extremely consitent and well formed. Even some of the largers scripts of the Gospels and psalters made at Tours (eg. British Library Harley Mss. 2790 ans 2793) lack its rhythm and structure" (Stan Knight, Historical Scripts from Classical Times to the Renaissance [2009] C5 (p. 51).d). 

From Tours the manuscript passed to the Benedictine abbey of Moutier-Grandval, Jura, canton of Berne, Switzerland (founded in 640 by the abbaye of Luxeuil). During the Swiss reformation in 1534 it was taken by the canons of Moutier-Grandval to Delémont (Delsberg) where they fled and established a new community. This community was  dissolved in 1802 by the concordat between Napoleon Bonaparte and Pope Pius VII. In 1821/22 the manuscript was apparently found at the former chapterhouse at Delémont by children and passed to 'demoiselles Verdat', owners of the property. It was bought from Verdat by Alexis Bennot (d. 1837), advocate, vice-president of the court of Delémont, and sold to Henry Speyr-Passavant (1782-1852), a bookseller from Basel, on March 19, 1822. In 1829 Speyr-Passavant issued a monograph on the manuscript that contained many testimonials as to its authenticity, and what we understand today as overstatements of its importance, by leading experts of the time: Description de la bible écrite par Alchuin, de l'an 778-800, et offerte par lui à Charlemagne le jour de son couronnement à Rome, l'an 801. Par son propriétaire, M. J. H. de Speyr-Passavant. In 1836 Speyr-Passavant sold the manuscript to the British Museum for £750, an enormous price for an illuminated manuscript at the time.

In August 2014 a digital facsimile of the Moutier-Grandval Bible was available from the British Library at this link.

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Apicius's De Re Coquinaria, the Earliest Surviving Cookbook Circa 850

The frontispiece of a 1709 edition of De re coquinaria. (View Larger)

The earliest surviving codex of the earliest cookbook, entitled De re coquinaria, and attributed to Apicius, a gastronome of the first century, was copied at the monastery of Fulda, Germany, by seven different monks. It was written in language that is closer to Vulgar than to Classical Latin, partly in Carolingian minuscule and partly in Anglo-Saxon script of the Fulda type, and because so many hands were involved, it is thought that this manuscript may have been used for training monks in the Fulda scriptorium. The manuscript

"was known to Poggio in 1417, but remained at Fulda until brought to Rome by Enoch of Ascoli in 1455. It subequently had a long series of Italian owners, beginning with Basilios Bessarion, and had sojourned in France and England before it emigrated to the United States in 1929" (L.D. Reynolds, Texts and Transmission [1983] 13-14).

The manuscript of 57 leaves is preserved in the New York Academy of Medicine Library, where it was recently restored and rebound. 

"The book had been rebound in the 18th century by a French book dealer in mottled calf with gilt edges. The book dealer had removed the 9th century binding to separate the Apicius from a text by Hippocrates—the two had been bound together. (The Hippocrates now resides in a collection in Geneva, Switzerland, and is bound in the same 18th century mottled calf as formerly on the Academy’s Apicius manuscript)."

Marcus Gavius Apicius, was a gastronome in the age of Tiberius,

"but the cookbook that bears his name, reveals strands and layers which been selected and combined from various sources, medical and agricultural as well as purely gastonomic, and successively added, as time went on, to what remains of the original Apician recipes. The Excerpta of the Ostrogoth Vinidarius, made a little later, [and preserved in a single eighth century manuscript,] is a highly abbreviated version of a similar compilation. These works were subsequently transmitted, except for the inevitable excerpting, essentially in the forms in which they existed in antiquity" (Reynolds & Wilson 235).

A slightly later and more elegant copy of Apicius is preserved in the Vatican Library (Urb. Lat. 1146) It was written and illuminated at Tours in the 9th century, under Abbot Vivian. Bernard Bischoff believed that this manuscript was produced as a gift for Charles the Bald. A facsimile of this manuscript was produced by Trident Editore in 2014.

Apicius's work was first printed in Milano by Guillaume le Signerre on January 20, 1498.  ISTC No.: ia00921000. In February 2014 a digital facsimile of the first printed edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

(This entry was last revised on 01-14-2015.)

Reynolds & Wilson, Scribes and Scholars, 3rd ed. (1991) 145-46, 235, 263.  Notaker, Printed Cookbooks in Europe 1470-1700 (2010) no. 1002.1

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Over 100 Booksellers and 30 Public Libraries in Baghdad 891

"It was said that Baghdad alone had over one hundred booksellers in 891, and that at the height of its cultural glory it had some thirty public libraries" (Harris, History of Libraries in the Western World [1999] 79).

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900 – 1000

The Earliest Recorded Book Auction Circa 950

". . . the earliest recorded book auction took place in the tenth century in Moslem Spain, during the Golden Ages of the Caliphate of Cordova. They seem to have been frequent events in the Islamic world during the Middle Ages and from the Moorish kingdoms the practice was carried to Christian Spain, where, as almonedas, a name derived from the Arabic word for 'proclamation', they later enjoyed a great vogue under the Hapsburg monarchs" (Hobson, Foreword to Munby & Coral, British Book Sale Catalogues 1676-1800. A Union List [1977] ix).

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The Archimedes Palimpsest: Recovering the Lost Mathematics of Archimedes Circa 950

On October 29, 1998 the Archimedes Palimpsest, a 10th-century copy written in Constantinople of an otherwise unknown work of Archimedes of Syracuse and other authors, palimpsested with Christian religious texts by 13th-century monks, was sold at auction by Christie's in New York for $2,000,000 to antiquarian bookseller Simon Finch acting for an anonymous American private collector. The Archimedes Palimpsest had disappeared in the 1910s or 1920s and ended up in a French collection. Its consignor at the auction, Anne Guersan, said that her father, Marie Louis Sirieux, acquired the book from in Constantinople in the 1920s. In 1932, her father-in-law Solomon Guerson, a French Jewish merchant in rare carpets and antique tapestries working in Paris, tried selling the palimpsest, and a manuscript curator identified a leaf as Folio 57 of the Archimedes Manuscript. It seems Guerson used leaves from his manuscripts to make elaborate forgeries. Not recognizing or appreciating the significance of the Archimedes undertext, sometime after 1938 Guerson possibly attempted to enhance the religious value of the palimpsest by painting on four of its leaves forgeries of portraits of the Four Evangelists that resembled images he had seen in Greek manuscripts at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. The paintings were forged after 1938 as they contain a synthetic pigment called phlalocyanine green, which was only available after that date. 

At some time in the distant past the palimpsest was in the library of the monastery of Mar Saba, near Jerusalem, a monastery acquired by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1625. Before the auction the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem contended that the palimpsest had been stolen from one of its monasteries in Constantinople in the 1920s. In 1998, prior to the auction, ownership of the palimpsest was litigated in federal court in New York in the case of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem v. Christie's, Inc. The judge ruled in favor of Anne Guerson and Christie's.

The palimpsest seems to have first gained the attention of scholars when the Biblical scholar Constantin von Tischendorf  visited Constantinople in the 1840s, and took a page of it. This page is preserved in Cambridge University Library. In 1906 the historian of mathematics Johan Heiberg studied the manuscript in Constantinople, realized that the undertext was Archimedes, and that the palimpsest included works otherwise lost. Heiberg took photographs, from which he produced transcriptions published between 1910 and 1915 in his edition of the complete works of Archimedes. Shortly thereafter Archimedes' Greek text was translated into English by historian of mathematics T. L. Heath

Because the erasure during the palimpsesting process was incomplete, from 1998 to 2008 scientific and scholarly work using digital image processing produced by ultraviolet, infrared, visible and raking light, and X-ray has made Archimedes' undertext legible. The most remarkable work in the palimpsest is Archimedes' The Method, of which the palimpsest contains the only known copy.

"At the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, the palimpsest was the subject of an extensive imaging study from 1999 to 2008, and conservation (as it had suffered considerably from mold). This was directed by Dr. Will Noel, curator of manuscripts at the Walters Art Museum, and managed by Michael B. Toth of R.B. Toth Associates, with Dr. Abigail Quandt performing the conservation of the manuscript.

"A team of imaging scientists including Dr. Roger L. Easton, Jr. from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Dr. William A. Christens-Barry from Equipoise Imaging, and Dr. Keith Knox (then with Boeing LTS, now with USAF Research Laboratory) used computer processing of digital images from various spectral bands, including ultraviolet, visible, and infrared wavelengths to reveal most of the underlying text, including of Archimedes. After imaging and digitally processing the entire palimpsest in three spectral bands prior to 2006, in 2007 they reimaged the entire palimpsest in 12 spectral bands, plus raking light: UV: 365 nanometers; Visible Light: 445, 470, 505, 530, 570, 617, and 625 nm; Infrared: 700, 735, and 870 nm; and Raking Light: 910 and 470 nm. The team digitally processed these images to reveal more of the underlying text with pseudocolor. They also digitized the original Heiberg images. Dr. Reviel Netz of Stanford Universityand Nigel Wilson have produced a diplomatic transcription of the text, filling in gaps in Heiberg's account with these images.

"Sometime after 1938, one owner of the manuscript forged four Byzantine-style religious images in the manuscript in an effort to increase its value. It appeared that these had rendered the underlying text forever illegible. However, in May 2005, highly focused X-rays produced at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Menlo Park, California, were used by Drs. Uwe Bergman and Bob Morton to begin deciphering the parts of the 174-page text that had not yet been revealed. The production of X-ray fluorescence was described by Keith Hodgson, director of SSRL: "Synchrotron light is created when electrons traveling near the speed of light take a curved path around a storage ring—emitting electromagnetic light in X-ray through infrared wavelengths. The resulting light beam has characteristics that make it ideal for revealing the intricate architecture and utility of many kinds of matter—in this case, the previously hidden work of one of the founding fathers of all science."

"In April 2007, it was announced that a new text had been found in the palimpsest, which was a commentary on the work of Aristotle attributed to Alexander of Aphrodisias. Most of this text was recovered in early 2009 by applying principal component analysis to the three color bands (red, green, and blue) of fluorescent light generated by ultraviolet illumination. Dr. Will Noel said in an interview: "You start thinking striking one palimpsest is gold, and striking two is utterly astonishing. But then something even more extraordinary happened." This referred to the previous discovery of a text by Hypereides, an Athenian politician from the fourth century BC, which has also been found within the palimpsest. It is from his speech Against Diondas, and was published in 2008 in the German scholarly magazine Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, vol. 165, becoming the first new text from the palimpsest to be published in a scholarly journal" (Wikipedia article on Archimedes Palimpsest, accessed 01-26-2014).

In addition to the website and digital editions, thanks to the generosity of its owner, the Archimedes Palimpsest was published in one of the finest scholarly and most physically attractive, large and impressive sets of printed books ever issued on an historical manuscript: Netz, Noel, Tchernetska & Wilson eds., The Archimedes Palimpsest. Volume I: Catalogue and Commentary; Volume II: Images and Transcriptions. Cambridge & Baltimore: Cambridge University Press for The Walters Art Museum, 2011. The set was designed by Jerry Kelly.

A popular account is Netz, Reviel & Noel, William, The Archimedes Codex. How a Medieval Prayer Book is Revealing the true Genius of Antiquity's Greatest Scientist (2007).

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A Vast Library at Cordoba in Al-Andalus Circa 961 – 976

A map of the Caliphate of Cordoba circa 1000CE. (View Larger)

Al-Hakam II, the Caliph of Cordoba in Al-Andalus (Moorish Iberia), was fond of books and learning, and amassed a vast library that may possibly have contained over 400,000 books, though this number cannot be substantiated, and may well be far greater than what was actually held in the library. During his reign a massive translation effort was undertaken, and many books were translated from Latin and Greek into Arabic. For this project he formed a joint committee of Arab Muslims and Iberian Mozarab Christians.

The catalogue of the royal library "alone consisted of forty-four volumes. Under Al-Haim II (961-976) this library was reported to have given employment to over 500 people. . . . Elsewhere at Moslem Spain there was a total of seventy libraries in the 10th century, several in Toledo. In addition to the royal library, these included libraries in universities in Cordoba, Seville, Malaga, and Granada , among others, and in numerous mosques. Private libraries flourished in Moslem Spain, and it was said that Cordoba was the greatest book market in the western world in the 10th century" (Harris, History of Libraries in the Western World 4th ed [1999] 81).

(This entry was last revised on 03-16-2014.)

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The Earliest Universal Bibliography 988 – 990

From 988 to 990 Muhammad ib Ishaq (Abu al Faraj) called Ibn Abi al-Nadiim (Abi Ya'qub Ishaq al-Warraq al-Baghdadi), a bookseller, stationer and "court companion" of Baghdad, published Al- Fihrist, an annotated index of the books of all nations extant in the Arabic language and script.

The English translator of al-Nadim's work, Bayard Dodge, suggests that Al-Nadim, working in his father's bookshop, "wished to assemble a catalogue to show customers and to help in the procuring and copying of manuscripts to be sold to scholars and book collectors" (Dodge p. xxiii).  This was the earliest universal bibliography.

"It is reasonable to believe that when al-Nadim died the original copy of his manuscript was placed in the royal library at Baghdad, while other copies made by scribes about the time of his death were assigned to his family bookstore, where some of them were probably sold to customers who came to purchase interesting books. Farmer says: ' Yagut (d. 626/1299) averred that he used a copy of the Fihrist in the handwriting of al-Nadim himself. The lexicographer al-Saghani (650/1252) made a similar claim. Either of these autograph copies may have been in the Caliph's library, which was destroyed utterly in the sacking of Baghdad in 656/1258)' "(Dodge p. xxii).

This work did not appear in print until an edition of the Arabic text was issued by orientalist Gustav Flügel in Leipzig, 1871-72.

The text was first edited from the earliest manuscripts and translated into English by Bayard Dodge as The Fihrist of al-Nadim. A Tenth-Century Survey of Muslim Culture, 2 vols., New York, 1970. For the translation of part one Dodge used MS 3315 in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin:

"We know nothing about the history of the manuscript until it was placed in the library of the great mosque at 'Akka, when the notorious Ahmad Pasha-al-Jazzar was ruler there at the time of Napoleon Bonaparte. After the fall of Ahmad Pasha, the manuscript was evidently stolen from the mosque. It was probably at this time that it became divided, as the Beatty Manuscript includes on the first half of Al-Fihrist. In the course of time the dealer Yahudah sold his first half to Sir Chester Beatty, who placed it in his library at Dublin" (Dodge p. xxviii).

For the translation of part two Dodge used MS 1934 which "forms part of the Shahid 'Ali Pasha collection which is now cared for in the library adjacent to the Sulaymaniyah (Süleymaniye) Mosque at Istanbul. In the library catalogue it is described as 'Suleymaniye G. Kutuphanesi kismi Shetit Ali Pasha 1934" (Dodge p. xxx).

Dodge indicated that he believed that each separate portion represents half of the same manuscript made shortly after the death of al-Nadim.

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1100 – 1200

Origins of the Paris Book Trade Circa 1170

"It is generally accepted that by c. 1170 at latest there were many glossed books of the Bible being made in Paris, and the surviving manuscripts display characteristics indicative of commercial production.

"The characteristics include simple matters of method and routine; the regularization (after two or three decades' experimentation) of the juxtaposition of gloss and text. It is not just the fact that these conventions emerged but also their rapid diffusion that, together, suggest centralized production in quantity—the concentrated and repetitive output associated with urban commercial production. There is even an informal and quite early (c. 1170?) accounting, jotted down on the back pastedown of a Parisian glossed Book of Numbers owned by Ralph of Reims, recording payment for books completed and the purchase of parchment for books yet to be written: 'Pentateuch, Job, Twelve Prophets, Matthew, and Luke, with parchment for the Psalter and the Epistles and note (?): 28 livres and 10 sous'; this is a direct indication of commercial production.

"If in the twelfth century there was no booktrade in the way it developed later in Paris; nevertheless there was clearly a structure of some sort, capable of producing a significant number of large books with complex layouts. We find most attractive the hypothesis that the large urban abbeys of Paris, and specifically the abbey of St-Victor, fostered the growth of the city's commercial booktrade by engaging lay scribes and illuminators to make manuscripts, when necessary. St-Victor's growth among Parisian abbeys to the first rank in importance in the middle of the twelfth century is well documented. By providing work for lay artisans, the abbey would in effect have encouraged the development of independent métiers. In this context, a well-known passage from the Liber ordinis of St-Victor (c. 1139) deserves to be cited once again: 'All writing,whether done inside the abbey or out, pertains to the office of the armarius [librarian]; he should provide the scribes with parchment and whatever else is necessary for writing, and he is responsible for hiring those who write for pay'. The implication is double: there were scribes for hire in Paris before the middle of the twelfth century, and St-Victor hired them (R. Rouse & M. Rouse, Manuscripts and their Makers. Commercial Book Producers in Medieval Paris 1200-1500 I [2000] 26).

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1200 – 1300

Beginnings of an Active Book Trade in Europe Outside of Monasteries Circa 1200

Detail of image depicting a monk at work in a medieval scriptorium (Lacroix).  Please click to view entire image.

Detail of a fourteenth century image showing Henry of Germany delivering a lecture to University Students in Bologna by Laurentius de Voltolina in the Liber ethicorum des Henricus de Alemannia, preserved in the Kupferstichkabinett SMPK, Staatliche Museen, Pressiischer Kulturbesitz, Min. 1233. 

Please click to view entire image.

Beginning around the year 1200, monasteries no longer remained the only purchasers of books in Europe, and manuscript book production started moving from the exclusive domain of monastic scriptoria to the secular communities. Intellectual life began to be increasingly centered outside the monasteries at the universities. There scholars, teachers and students, in cooperation with booksellers, artisans and craftsmen, organized an active manuscript book trade.

By the second quarter of the 13th century a much expanded demand for books for individual use encouraged the production of increasing numbers of picture books. Illustrated accounts of the lives of popular saints and other historical characters were typical productions.

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Introduction of the Pecia System April 4, 1228

The earliest dated evidence of the pecia system of providing "certified texts" of manuscripts in university bookstores is the Vercelli contract of 1228. This coincided with the foundation of the university at Vercelli, which was "the world's first university funded by public money": 

" 'Item habebit commune Vercellarum duos exemplatores, quibus taliter providebit quod eos scolare habere possint, qui habeant exemplantia [exemplaris?] in utroque iure et in Theologia compretentia et correctam tam in text quam in gloxa, ita quod solutio fiat a scolaribus pro exemplis secundum quod convenit ad taxationem Rectorum' ('Item, the commune of Vercelli will provide two exemplatores who are to have exemplaria in both laws and in theology, complete and correct both in text and gloss, so that the scholars may pay for their copies at a price set by the rectors'). This contract was signed on 4 April 1228 between certain masters of the University of Padua who wished to secede from that university and representatives of the commune of Vercelli, who were ready to bid generously in privileges to attract a new university to their city. The University of Padua was then only six years old and it is not credible that in such a short space of time the pecia could have been created there. The University of Padua was formed in 1222 by a secession from the University of Bologna, and it seems to be plain that it was in that older university that the pecia system had its origin about the year 1200.

"The spread of the system

"The pecia system existed in at least eleven universities: at Bologna [founded 1088], Padua [founded 1222], Vercelli, Perugia (founded in 1308), Treviso (1318) and Florence (1349) in Northern Italy: at Salamanca [founded 1134] in Spain (1254) and Naples in Southern Italy (1224); at Paris [founded 1257] and Toulouse [founded 1229] in France; and at Oxford. No trace of it has been found at Salerno, Montpellier, Orléans, Angers, Avignon or Cambridge, or in any of the German or Dutch universities. Actual exemplaria and pecia copies were identified by Destrez from Bologna, Paris, Oxford and Naples, but none from the other seven universities have yet been recognised; and we only know that they provided for the pecia system in their statutes" (Pollard, "The pecia system in the medieval universities," Parkes & Watson, editors, Medieval Scribes, Manuscripts & Libraries. Essays Presented to N.R. Ker [1978] 147-48).

"Generally speaking, the purpose of the system was to provide reliable copies of the works of contemporary scholastic authors in law, theology, philosophy and pastoral aids, and it worked somewhat as follows. A university bookseller (stationarius) would obtain an autograph copy of an author's work, or, if that were hard to read (or if the author were long dead), a fair copy or other reliable exemplar of the work. From this exemplar the stationer made a copy or exemplar of his own on equal quires or pieces (peciae), each one of which was numbered in sequence, so that the stationer, when requested for copies of the text in question, could hire out these pieces in turn for copying to professional writers. . . ." (L. E. Boyle, Peciae, Apopeciae, and a Toronto MS. of the Sententia Libri Ethicorum of Aquinas, in Ganz (ed.) The Role of the Book in Medieval Culture [1986] 71).

The standard and extensively illustrated monograph on the pecia system remains Destrez, La pecia dans les manuscrits universitaires du XIIIe et du XIVe siècle (1935). This reproduces manuscript pages full-size, which is helpful since the pecia marks are small, and might be illegible if the images were reduced: 

"PECIA (var. : petiapechiapesiapeçapecca ; vieux français piecepiès, etc) : L’exemplar est copié, suivant la longueur de l’ouvrage, sur une série plus ou moins grande de cahiers de quatre folios, non reliés, mais laissés indépendants les uns des autres, et dont chacun est appelé unepecia. Primitivement, le mot pecia est probablement un terme de tannerie ou de parcheminerie ; c’est une peau de mouton préparée en vue de l’écriture. Par extension, le morceau ou la feuille de parchemin la plus grande que l’on puisse obtenir de cette pièce, quand on en a rogné les parties extérieures inutilisables, s’appelle aussi une pièce : pecia. Cette feuille est rabattue sur elle-même, puis pliée en deux ; le cahier ainsi obtenu correspond sensiblement à notre format moderne in-4.0 jésus . . . ; c’est un binion, il a deux feuilles doubles, soit huit pages, seize colonnes. On lui donne le nom de pecia. Le mot pecia, pièce, désigne donc dans l ‘industrie du livre, . . . l’unité de cahiers dont se compose l’exemplar" (Destrez, pp. 5-6).

In December 2014 a very useful illustrated summary of the system, including a comprehensive bibliography, and reproductions of several examples of pecia marks, was available in Jean-Luc Deuffic's Bibliologie Médiévale blog at this link.

(This entry was last revised on 12-15-2014.)

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The Most Extensive Medieval Encyclopedia Circa 1250

About 1250 Dominican friar Vincent de Beauvais (Vincent of Beauvais, Vincentius Bellovacensis or Vincentius Burgundus), whose name is associated with the Dominican monastery founded by Louis IX of France at Beauvais, France, compiled the Speculum maius, the largest medieval encyclopedia, and probably the largest reference work compiled in the west until 1600. A compendium of all medieval knowledge, the Speculum maius, or Great Mirror, consisted of three parts: the Speculum naturaleSpeculum doctrinale and Speculum historiale. After the invention of printing all the editions included a fourth part, the Speculum morale, added in the 14th century and mainly compiled from the works of Thomas Aquinas, Stephen de Bourbon, and others. In this form the work contained eighty books and 9, 885 chapters, and extended to about 4.5 million words.

On November 15, 2013 I read medievalist Linda Fagin Davis's entry entitled "Monks and Minnesota" in her very distinctive Manuscript Road Trip blog. In that she reminded me about a two-volume medieval manuscript of Vincent's Speculum naturale which I sold to The Bakken Museum in Minneapolis during the 1970s. This was the first significant medieval manuscript that I ever handled. It was purchased by The Bakken because it contains some of the earliest recorded references to magnetism, as cited in Mottelay's Bibliographical History of Electricity And Magnetism (1922).

The Bakken's volumes were copied about 1280 by the monk Johannes de Resbais and his Cisterican brethren in the scriptorium of the Abbey of Cambron in Belgium. They were part of a seven volume set that eventually extended to about 1500 leaves (3000 pages) of vellum in small folio—an immense project of manuscript book production, and a very expensive set at the time for the cost of the vellum and the scriptorium labor. Linda Davis stated that "Johannes signed two of the volumes ('Johannes de Resbais wrote this; pray for him, beloved brothers, men of God'), and most include the fourteenth-century ex libris 'Liber sanctae mariae de camberonae” ('This book belongs to St. Mary of Cambron')." According to a catalogue of the Cambron Abbey library all seven volumes were still in the abbey as late as 1782. However, it is likely that they were dispersed in the closure of many religious establishments during the Napoleonic Wars (1800-1815). 

"Research into the medieval reception of Vincent's Speculum has turned up only two extant copies of the whole work from a handful that were made in the Middle Ages. The Speculum circulated mostly in partial copies, three hundred of which survive, most of them focused on the Speculum historiale. But even the Speculum historiale survives in only thirty-seven complete copies. Given its massive size, the Speculum was prohibitively expensive to copy except partially. Printing was the key to its circulation either as complete parts during the incunabular period or as a complete set of four in 1591 and 1624. But Vincent of Beauvais was widely known and used as a source in shorter, more portable and affordable encyclopedic compilations. Among these the Libri de proprietatibus by Bartholomaeus Anglicus was widely copied in the Middle Ages and printed nine times down to 1491 and in English as late as 1582" (Blair, Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age [2010] 43-44, see also 41-45).

When I sold the manuscript to The Bakken I knew little about medieval manuscripts, and had only modest appreciation of the significance of this very large compendium. Nor was I aware that the Speculum naturale was rarer than the Speculum historiale, though it would stand to reason that a compilation on "science" might have had smaller circulation during the Middle Ages. The Wikipedia article on Vincent of Beauvais provides a good summary of the vast scope of the Speculum naturale, chiefly adapted from the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1911):

"The vast tome of the Speculum Naturale (Mirror of Nature), divided into thirty-two books and 3,718 chapters, is a summary of all of the science and natural history known to Western Europe towards the middle of the 13th century, a mosaic of quotations from Latin, Greek,Arabic, and even Hebrew authors, with the sources given. Vincent distinguishes, however, his own remarks.

The Speculum Naturale deals with its subjects in the order that they were created: it is essentially a gigantic commentary on Genesis 1. Thus, book i. opens with an account of the Trinity and its relation to creation; then follows a similar series of chapters about angels, their attributes, powers, orders, etc., down to such minute points such as their methods of communicating thought, on which matter the author decides, in his own person, that they have a kind of intelligible speech, and that with angels, to think and to speak are not the same process.

Book ii. treats of the created world, of light, color, the four elements, Lucifer and his fallen angels and the work of the first day.

Books iii. and iv. deal with the phenomena of the heavens and of time, which is measured by the motions of the heavenly bodies, with the sky and all its wonders, fire, rain, thunder, dew, winds, etc.

Books v.-xiv. treat of the sea and the dry land: the discourse of the seas, the ocean and the great rivers, agricultural operations, metals, precious stones, plants, herbs with their seeds, grains and juices, trees wild and cultivated, their fruits and their saps. Under each species, where possible, Vincent gives a chapter on its use in medicine, and he adopts for the most part an alphabetical arrangement. In book vi. c. 7, he incidentally discusses what would become of a stone if it were dropped down a hole, pierced right through the earth, and, curiously enough, decides that it would stay in the centre. In book ix., he gives an early instance of the use of the magnet in navigation.

Book xv. deals with astronomy: the moon, the stars, the zodiac, the sun, the planets, the seasons and the calendar.

Books xvi. and xvii. treat of fowls and fishes, mainly in alphabetical order and with reference to their medical qualities.

Books xviii.-xxii. deal in a similar way with domesticated and wild animals, including the dog, serpents, bees and insects; they also include a general treatise on animal physiology spread over books xxi.-xxii.

Books xxiii.-xxviii. discuss psychology, physiology and anatomy of man, the five senses and their organs, sleep, dreams, ecstasy, memory, reason, etc.

The remaining four books seem more or less supplementary; the last (xxxii.) is a summary of geography and history down to the year 1250, when the book seems to have been given to the world, perhaps along with the Speculum Historiale and possibly an earlier form of the Speculum Doctrinale."

In her blog Ms. Davis told an extraordinary story of the Vincent de Beauvais manuscript, and reminded me of the remarkable coincidence, which I vaguely remember understanding forty years ago, that the Bakken's manuscript belonged to the same medieval copy of Vincent's encyclopedia as two volumes of the Speculum historiale at the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota, also in Minneapolis. From her account of the history of the original set of seven volumes I quote:

"S[peculum]H[istoriale] III was lost, probably destroyed.

"S[peculum]N[aturale] III was acquired by the British Library in 1845, where it is now MS Add. 15583.

"SH II/IV and SN I/II were acquired in 1836 by the great collector Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792 – 1872) in whose collection they were collectively known as MS 8753. Phillipps already owned SH I, having purchased it from the Abbey about a decade before; it was his MS 335. Did he know that the four volumes he bought in 1836 were sisters to the volume he already owned? Your guess is as good as mine.

"After Phillipps’ death in 1872, the five volumes in his collection were further divided. SH I was acquired by the Royal Library of Belgium in 1888 (it’s MS BR II.941). The four remaining Phillipps manuscripts were sold together at an 1897 auction as a single lot to dealer Bernard Quaritch.

"Quaritch seems to have had a hard time selling the volumes. He offered them for sale in 1898 for £60 (here’s the catalogue) and again in 1904 for the same price (here’s that catalogue), selling them at last in 1907 to noted bibliophile Sir Sydney Cockerell (1867-1962). Cockerell sold SN I and II to his friend C. S. St. John Hornby for £40 in 1907; he kept the other two until 1956, when he sold them to New York bookdealer H. P Kraus for £500 (a whopping profit). Kraus sold them in 1957 to the John Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota, where they can still be found under the shelfmark 1280 oVi.

"To recap, we have watched as two volumes (SH II and SH IV) made their way from Belgium to England to New York to Minnesota. But we’re not done yet.

"Hornby kept the remaining two manuscripts (SN I and II) until 1946, when he sold them for £100 to British collector John R. Abbey (1894-1969). In 1975, the volumes were sold at auction by Sotheby’s London to a dealer named Jeremy Norman, who bought them for £4000 (another whopping profit, this time for the Abbey estate) on behalf of…The Bakken! After a journey of hundreds of years and thousands of miles, four of the seven Cambron volumes have been reunited in Minneapolis, in libraries just a few miles apart."

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The Earliest Surviving Statute Regulating the Paris Book Trade December 8, 1275

The earliest surviving statute concerning the regulation of the book trade in Paris by the University became law on December 8, 1275. 

"Libraires represented a serious potential danger to the university, because they controlled the supply of books without which the university would be crippled. Therefore, the university's regulations of libraires concentrated first and foremost on the selling of 'used' university texts, attempting by a variety of means to ensure that the libraire did not swindle either the seller or the buyer, and that he took only a modest commission. The libraires had to guarantee their compliance by posting a bond. . . .

"In addition to regulating the sale of existing books, the university also regulated the rental of examplars from which students and masters could copy, or hire someone to copy, new manuscripts of their own. In this the university initially must simply have put its stamp of approval on a process already informally in operation. To judge from the wording of surviving regulations through the years, the university evinced concern primarily with rental price and correct texts. In 1323 the stationers were forbidden to withdraw an examplar from circulation without  first informing the university. . . ." (Richard A. Rouse and Mary A. Rouse, Manuscripts and their Makers. Commercial Book Producers in Medieval Paris 1200-1500 [2000] 76-77).

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1300 – 1400

Lay Readers and Book Owners by the End of the 14th Century Circa 1300

"By the beginning of the fourteenth century the text of Vegetius, in addition to being used as a manual for military fortification by Edward I of England [Edward Longshanks] (1272-1307), was extracted for the preachers' manual compiled by Thomas of Ireland (before 1 July 1306), moralized by medieval preachers, and translated into French by Jean de Vignay.

"This last is a reflection of the increasing importance, at the end of the thirteenth century and in the course of the fourteenth, of an audience of lay readers (or at least of lay book-owners). Growing urbanization, increased literacy, and an overall improvement in the economy—the general lot of western Europe since the twelfth century—ultimately produced a class of country nobility and urban courtiers who patronized bookshops, artists, and translators such as de Vignay. Through the work of such book producers, the deeds of Alexander and the Caesars became as much a part of the noble household as the sermon from the pulpit" (Rouse, The Transmission of the Texts," Jenkyns [ed] The Legacy of Rome: A New Appraisal [1992] 49).

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The Use of Manuscript Rolls in the Middle Ages Circa 1304 – 1340

Folio 323r of Codex Manesse: a portrait of Reinmar dictating poetry scribes, one of which bears a wax tablet. (View Larger)

The Manesse Codex, or Große Heidelberger Liederhandschrift, was produced in Zürich, Switzerland at the request of the Manesse family during the first half of the 14th century. It is the single most comprehensive source for the texts of love songs in Middle High German, representing 140 poets, several of whom were famous rulers, and it includes 137 miniature portraits of the poets with their armorial crests.

"The term for these poets, Minnesänger, combines the words for 'romantic love' and 'singer', reflecting the content of the poetry, which adapted the Provençal troubadour tradition to German. . . . The entries are ordered approximately by the social status of the poets, starting with the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI, Kings Conradin and Wenceslaus II, down through dukes, counts and knights, to the commoners" (Wikipedia article on Manesse Codex, accessed 03-09-2009)

The codex had an obscure history before it belonged to the Baron von Hohensax, and the Swiss writer Melchior Goldast published excerpts of its didactic texts. After 1657 the codex was in the French royal library (now the Bibliothèque nationale de France), where in 1815 the manuscript was studied by Jacob Grimm. In 1888 it was sold to the German government following following a public subscription headed by William I and Otto von Bismarck and placed in the Bibliotheca Palatina of Heidelberg. Today it is preserved in Heidelberg University Library.

The price the German government paid for the codex in 1888— £18,000— was the highest price ever paid for a book up to that date. The purchase price was paid to bookseller and publisher Karl Trübner who paid the money to the Fifth Earl of Ashburnham in return for 166 manuscripts, of which 99 had been stolen from French libraries by Guglielmo Libri and sixty-six had been stolen from the Bibliothèque nationale de France by Jean-Baptiste Barrois. This deal, which cost the French library £6000 plus the Codex Manesse, had been accomplished largely by the determination and industry of the adminstrative director of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Léopold Delisle, who by painstaking research over more than twenty years had proven Libri's and Barrois's thefts of the manuscripts, and had lobbied effectively for their return to France.

In February 2014 a digital facsimile of the Codex Manesse was available at this link.

Of particular interest for book history is the portrait of Reinmar dictating poetry on folio 323 available at this link. The poet dictates to a notary who records the poems on wax tablets. A woman sits opposite the notary writing down the text on a roll draped across her lap—a depiction of writing in the medieval roll manuscript format, of which very few examples have survived. It is also a record of the use of wax tablets at this relatively late date.

Rouse & Rouse, Authentic Witnesses. Approaches to Medieval Texts and Manuscripts (1991) 23, and plate 5.

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Prices that Booksellers Should Charge for Manuscripts 1317 – 1342

The Bolognese statutes of 1317 (repeated in the statutes of 1347) provided a list of prices that booksellers should charge for manuscripts

This list of prices, published by Frank Soetermeer, Utrumque ius in peciis: Aspetti della produzione libraria a Bologn fra due e trecento. Oribs academicus: Saggi e documenti di storia delle universita, 8. (Milano, 1997) 314-317, reproduces a list found in Graz, Universitätsbibliothek 363, fol. 1rv.

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The Oldest Known English Public Advertisement Circa 1340

Portions of an early poster written on parchment by a professional Gothic scribe were found as part of the stiffening inside a bookbinding made in Oxford about 1340. 

"The fragments come from a single sheet, written on one side only in a whole range of different Gothic scripts, and they are stained and weathered. The supposition is that the poster was once tacked up outside a stationer's shop (presumably in Oxford) until it became obsolete or was replaced and so was taken down and stored as a useful scrap of thick parchment. One day its pieces proved ideal for padding out a binding, and thus the oldest known English public advertisement has come down to us. It shows short specimens of twelve different scripts for different classes of liturgical manuscript, from a large choir psalter to little portable processionals with music. There are similar Continental specimens from the fifteenth century, advertising the range of hands available from the scribes Herman Stepl, of Münster in Westphalia, for example, or Robert of Tours in the diocese of Nantes. Presumably the customer came into the shop, looked over the patterns as one might a menu in a takeaway restaurant, and left an order for a particular script" (de Hamel, Medieval Craftsmen. Scribes and illuminators [1992] 39 and plate 31).

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1400 – 1450

The Guild of Stationers is Founded 1403

The seal of the Guild of Stationers.

In 1403 the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London approved the formation of a fraternity, or Guild of Stationers. This guild consisted of booksellers who copied and sold manuscript books and writing materials, limners who decorated and illustrated them, and bookbinders. Each group appointed a warden to regulate their trade.

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The Voynich Manuscript: Uncrackable Code or Great Written Hoax? Progress in its Deciphering Circa 1404 – 1438

Several pages from the indecipherable Voynich Manuscript. (View Larger)

The Voynich manuscript, a mysterious illustrated manuscript book written in what long appeared to be an indecipherable text, has been the subject of much research and speculation for centuries. However, its author, script and language remain unknown, and for centuries it was believed that the manuscript might have been intentionally meaningless. The mysteries involved with this manuscript have resulted in various videos of which the following appeared to be the best in February 2014:

"Over its recorded existence, the Voynich manuscript has been the object of intense study by many professional and amateur cryptographers, including some top American and British codebreakers of World War II fame (all of whom failed to decrypt a single word). This string of failures has turned the Voynich manuscript into a famous subject of historical cryptology, but it has also given weight to the theory that the book is simply an elaborate hoax — a meaningless sequence of arbitrary symbols" (Wikipedia article on the Voynich Manuscript).

The book is named after the Polish-American book-dealer Wilfrid M. Voynich, who acquired it in 1912. Since 1969 it has been preserved in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University, having been donated by the American rare book and manuscript dealer, H.P. Kraus.

Progress on the deciphering the manuscript was made in the 21st century:

♦ In 2011 scientists, using carbon-14 dating, were able to date the vellum on which the manuscript was written to between 1404 and 1438. This pushed its origin back perhaps 50 years.  However, the meaning, if any, of the circa 250,000 characters and the many diagrams in the manuscript, remained unknown.

In June 2013, Marcelo Montemurro, a theoretical physicist from the University of Manchester, UK, published a study which he believes shows that the manuscript was unlikely to be a hoax. Using a computerised statistical method to analyse the text, Montemurro and Zanette found that it followed the structure of "real languages":

Montemurro MA, Zanette DH (2013) "Keywords and Co-Occurrence Patterns in the Voynich Manuscript: An Information-Theoretic Analysis," PLoS ONE 8(6): e66344. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066344

In issue no. 100 of the American Botanical Council's HerbalGram, published in 2013, Arthur O. Tucker, and Rexford H. Talbert identified some of the plants illustrated in the manuscript and suggested that manuscript possibly originated in Mexico:

Tucker & Talbot, "A Preliminary Analysis of the Botany, Zoology, and Mineralogy of the Voynich Manuscript," herbalgram.org, Issue 100, 70-84 (reprodcuing numerous color illustrations, and with a bibliography of 74 citations.

In January 2014 Stephen Bax, an expert in applied linguistics from Bedfordshire University, reported that he had deciphered 10 words in the Voynich manuscript and was optimistic that using his methods more words would be deciphered:

"A proposed partial decoding of the Voynich script," Version 1, January 2014.  http://www.academia.edu/5932444/A_proposed_partial_decoding_of_the_Voynich_script#

In January 2014 Bax also produced a video on the issued involved:

In January 2015 palaeographer Judith Fagin Davis posted an exceptionally interesting and well-illustrated account of the Voynich Manuscript in her blog, Manuscript Road Trip: The World's Most Mysterious Manuscript. Highly recommended!

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The Bedford Hours and its History Circa 1410 – 1430

The Bedford Hours, a late medieval book of hours, was probably produced in Paris for John, Duke of Bedford to celebrate his marriage to Anne, daughter of Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Production was was in several stages from about 1410 to about 1430, with new material added as the manuscript passed from owner to owner. Some of its miniatures have been attributed to the Bedford Master (possibly Haincelin of Hagenau, who was working in Paris at the time), or to the Chief Associate of the Bedford Master, or simply to the "Bedford Workshop".

The work of the Bedford Master and the Bedford Workshop have been identified in other manuscripts from the period, including the Salisbury Breviary (Bibliothèque nationale de France MS.lat. 17294), also owned by the Duke of Bedford. The style and quality of the illumination in the Bedford Hours is also related to that in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry illuminated by the Limbourg brothers. It is also possible that some of the miniatures in the Bedford Hours were based on images in the Très Riches Heures.

"The origins of the manuscript are not known with certainty, nor is there agreement on its initial patron. The inclusion of certain heraldic symbols in its decorative programme may suggest an original patronage in the French royal family, perhaps the dauphinLouis of Guyenne (d. 1415). Or this first stage in production might have taken place later, after Louis's death, the heraldic symbols having no immediate reference to patronage, but simply being part of the standard iconographic programme of the workshop.

"In the early 1420s the manuscript was in the possession of John of Lancaster, the Duke of Bedford and regent of France on behalf of his nephew Henry VI from 1422 until his death in 1435. In 1423, he gave the manuscript to his wife Anne of Burgundy as a wedding present. Personalizing additions to the manuscript's illumination that commemorate its ownership by the Duke and Duchess of Bedford include two large portrait miniatures (ff. 256v and 257v), showing John kneeling before St George and Anne of Burgundy kneeling before St Anne.

"In 1430 Anne gave the manuscript as a Christmas present to the nine-year-old Henry VI, who was staying with the Bedfords in Rouen before his coronation as king of France. This gift was memorialized in the manuscript itself, on f. 256r, in an inscription made at the duke's request, written by John Somerset, Henry's tutor and personal physician. It is possible that it was in preparing the book as a gift to Henry that the portrait miniatures of the Bedfords were added, along with other additions to the programme of illumination.

"Later owners include King Henry II of France and his wife Catherine de' Medici (identifiable by their coats of arms, added to the manuscript), and Frances Worsley (1673-1750), wife of Sir Robert Worsley, 4th baronet of Appuldurcombe. Edward Harley probably purchased the manuscript from Frances Worsley, but he did not will it to his widow with the rest of the Harley collection, instead bequeathing it directly to his daughter, Margaret Bentinck, Duchess of Portland...." (Wikipedia article on Bedford Hours, accessed 11-07-2013). 

After the death of the Duchess of Portland, on May 24, 1786 the English bookseller James Edwards purchased the Bedford Hours for £213.3s. at the sale of her collections. Edwards commissioned the antiquarian and writer Richard Gough to prepare a monograph on the manuscript. This work entitled An Account of a Rich Illuminated Missal Executed for John Duke of Bedford, Regent of France under Henry VI, and afterwards in the Possession of the Late Duchess of Portland, was printed by John Nichols and published by T. Payne in London in 1794. A work of 86 pages in quarto format, with 4 black and white engraved plates depicting full-page illuminations in the manuscript, this was the first monograph on an illuminated manuscript published in English, and may be considered the beginning of English scholarship on illuminated manuscripts. Most of its text was devoted to explaining details in each of the 59 full-page miniatures, and discussing details of its prior owners. My copy, which bears the bookplate of the Bibliotheca Lindesiana, contains pencil notes on p. 82 tracing later owners of the copy from which I quote:

"Subsequently belonged to the 5th Duke of Marlbourgh (£687.15.0). John Milner (£800) & Sir John Tobin of Liverpool (£1250), & in Jan. 1852 it was sold by the Rev. John Tobin, son of the last-named, with five other MSS to the bookseller William Boone, who ... transferred all six MSS... to the British Museum for £3000 (2 Feb. 1852)."

The Bedford Hours is preserved in the British Library (Add. MS 18850). In February 2014 a digital facsimile of all aspects of the manuscript was available at this link.

Backhouse, "A Reappraisal of the Bedford Hours" (1981).

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Serial Workshop Production of Medieval Manuscripts Circa 1420 – 1470

An image of Moses from the Book of Leviticus: folio 141v of a manuscript bible produced in the workshop of the scribe Diebold Lauber. (View Larger)

The scribe Diebold Lauber of Haguenau, Germany, who produced illuminated manuscripts of vernacular paraphrases of biblical history called "History Bibles", is thought to have employed an early form of organized "mass production" in the production of manuscripts—a kind of precursor of the "mass production" of books introduced by printing.  Around seventy examples of illuminated manuscripts produced by Lauber's shop have been identified.

"The wide assortment of products which he advertised suggests that Lauber may have kept a stock of his books. Lauber's workshop is often viewed as a precursor of a printing house, because rationalised methods of production were employed in order to reduce the costs of labour. . . . the quires are composed of individual leaves, and the text is written in simple gothic cursive letters. The text is structured by means of indices, titles and chapter headings.

"Also, the simply coloured pen illustrations drawn directly on the paper, in the most cases without a border or background, reveal a tendency towards serial production. With a limited range of artistic means, a small number of icongraphic types were used for various genres of texts. The illustrations most characteristic for Lauber's workshop were created by the painters of the so-called 'Malergruppe A', a group of artists active between 1425 and 1450. . . ." (Wagner, Als die Lettern laufen lerneten. Medienvwandel im 15. Jahrhundert [2009] No. 1).

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Vespasiano da Bisticci, Leading Bookseller of Florence Before the Era of Print 1440

Having begun his career as a cartolaio, a stationer or dealer in paper and parchment, Vespasiano da Bisticci became the leading bookseller in Italy during the decades immediately before the invention of printing, and during the first years of its introduction in Italy. He retired in 1480 supposedly disappointed by the changes in the book trade brought about by printing.

By the 1440s Vespasiano owned a bookshop in Florence patronized by members of Florence's humanist community, through whom he was in contact with local scribes, illuminators and binders. Though he was not particularly well educated and had only a modest knowledge of Latin, he was a very shrewd businessman, and he left valuable memoirs informing us of some of his achievements. These were first published in print as Vite di uomini illustri del secolo xv by Ludovico Frati (Bologna, 1892-93); they were translated by William George and Emily Waters as The Vespasiano Memoirs: Lives of illustrious Men of the XVth century by Vespasiano da Bisticci, Bookseller (1926).

When Federico de Montefelto, Duke of Urbino set about building a library he hired Vespasiano to supply all of its books. Vespasiano's description of its contents is especially interesting for its recitation of the authors and works that the Duke and his advisors felt should be included in his library. As one would expect, after more than five hundred years, some of these remain familiar to scholars; others, of course, have become more or less obscure. I was less familiar with the Renaissance names than the names from antiquity or early Christianity. Out of curiosity I looked up most of the names that were obscure to me in November 2014, and linked to them when a reference was available.

Another element of Vespasiano's comments, written toward the end the quotation below, is his reference to the catalogues of the library of the Pope (then at the Lateran Palace before it was established in 1451 at the Vatican), the library of San Marco (Florence), and those at Pavia and Oxford, which he had obtained in manuscript for comparison with the Urbino library. This is the earliest reference that I recall reading where the holdings of different libraries were compared. It is significant, I think that Vespasiano was aware of, and could obtain the catalogue of the library at Oxford in addition to major libraries in Italy. One wonders whether he was also aware of the much larger library at the University of Paris, and if he could have obtained a catalogue of the holdings there.

The process of creating and collecting Federico's library took fourteen years, especially since Federico resolved  

"to do what no-one had done for a thousand years or more; that is to create the finest library since ancient times. He spared neither cost nor labour, and when he knew of a fine book, whether in Italy or not, he would send for it. It is now fourteen or more years since he began the library, and he always employed, in Urbino, in Florence and in other places, thirty or forty scribes in his service. He took the only way to make a fine library like this: by beginning with the Latin poets, with any comments on the same which might seem merited; next the orators, with the works of Tully [Cicero] and all Latin writers and grammarians of merit. . . . He sought also all the known works on history in Latin, and not only those, but likewise the histories of Greek writers done into Latin, and the orators as well. The Duke also desired to have every work on moral and natural philosophy in Latin, or in Latin translations from Greek.

"As to the sacred Doctors in Latin, he had the works of all four. . . .After the four Doctors, he was set on having the works of S. Bernard and of all the Doctors of old, without exception, Tertullian, Hilarius, Remigius, Hugh de S. Victor, Isidore, Anselm, Rabanus and all the rest. After Latin works came Greek writings done into Latin, Dionysius the Areopagite, Basil, Cyril, Gregory Nazianzen, John of Damascus, John Chrysostom, Gregory of Nicea, all the works of Eusebius, of Ephreme the monk, and of Origen. . . . Coming to the Latin Doctors in philosophy and theology, all the works of Thomas Aquinas, and of Albertus Magnus; of Alexander ab Alexandro, of Scotus, of Bonaventura, of Richard of Mediavilla [Richard of Middleton], of the Archbishop of Antoninus and of all the recognised modern Doctors, down to the Conformità of S. Francis; all the works on civil law in the finest text, the lectures of Bartolo written on goat-skin. He had an edition of the Bible made in two most beautiful volumes, illustrated in the finest possible manner and bound in gold brocade with rich silver fittings. It was given this rich form as the chief of all writings. With it are all the commentaries of the Master of the Sentences, of Nicolao di Lira, and of all the Greek and Latin Doctors, together with the literal glossary of Nicolao di Lira. Likewise all the writers on astrology, geometry, arithmetic, architecture and De re Militari; books on painting sculpture, music and canon law, and all of the texts and lectures on the Summa of Ostiensis and other works in the same faculty. In medicine all lthe works of Avicenna, Hippocrates, Galen, the Continenti of Almansor and the complete volume of all the Councils, held since ancient times, and the logical, philosophical and muscial works of Boethius.

"There were all lthe works of modern writers beginning with Pope Pius; of Petrarch and Dante in Latin and in the vulgar tongue, of Boccaccio in Latin; of Coluccio and of Lionardo d'Arezzo, original and translations; of Fra Ambroglio, of Giannozzo Manetti and Guerino; the prose and poetical works of Panormita, and Francesco Filelfo, and Compano; as well as everything written by Perrotto, Maffeo Vegio, Nicolo Secondino (who was interpreter of Greek and Latin at the Council of the Greeks in Florence), Pontano, Bartholomeo Fazi, Gasparino, Petro Paolo Vergerio, Giovanni Argiropolo (which includes the Philosophy and Logic of Aristotle and the Politics besides), Francesco Barbaro, Lionardo Giustiniano, Donato Acciaiuoli, Alamanno, Rinuccini, Cristofano da Prato, Vecchio, Poggio, Giovanni Tortello, Francesco d'Arezzo and Lorenzo Valla.

"He added to the books written by ancient and modern doctors on all the faculties all the books known in Greek, also the complete works of Aristotle and Plato (written on the finest goat-skin); of Homer in one volume, the Ilia, the Odyssey, and the Batrachomiomachia; of Sophocles, Pindar and Menander, and all the other Greek poets; a fine volume of Plutarch's lives and his moral works, the Cosmography of Ptolemy illustrated in Greek, and the writings of Herodotus, Pausanius, Thucydides, Polybius, Demosthenes, Aeschines and Plotinus. All the Greek comments, such as those upon Aristotle, the Physica de Plantis and Theophrastus; all the Greek vocabulists—Greek into Latin; the works of Hippocrates, Galen, Xenophon, S. Basil, S. John Chrystotom, S.Athanasius, S. John Damascenas, S. Gregory Nazianzen, S. Gregory of Nicea, Origen, Dionysius the Areopagite, John Climacus, S. Ephrem the monk, Aeneas the Sophist, the Collations of John Cassanus, the book of Paradis, Vitae sanctorum patrum ex Aegypto, the Life of Barlaam and Josephat, a wonderful psalter in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, verse by verse, and all the Greek works on geometry, arithmetic, and astrology. Finding that he lacked a vast number of Greek books by various writers, he sent to seek them so that nothing in that tongue which could be found should be lacking; also whatever books were to be had in Hebrew, beginning with the Bible and all those dealt with by the Rabbi Moses and other commentators. And besides the Holy Scriptures, there are books in Hebrew on medicine, philosophy and the other faculties.

"The Duke, having completed this noble work at the cost of thirty thousand ducats, beside the many other excellent provisions that he made, determined to give every writer a worthy finish by binding his work in scarlet and silver. Beginning with the Bible, as the chief, he had it covered iwth gold brocade, and then he bound in scarlet and silver the Greek and Latin doctors and philosophers, the histories, the books on medicine and the modern doctors, a rich and magnificent sight. In this library all the books are superlatively good, and written with the pen, and had there been one printed volume it would have been ashamed in such company [emphasis mine]. They were beautifully illuminated and written on parchment. This library is remarkable amongst all others in that, taking the works of all writers, sacred and profane, original and translated, there will be found not a single imperfect folio. No other library can show the like, for in all of them the works of certain authors will be wanting in places. A short time before the Duke went to Ferrara it chanced that I was in Urbino with His Lordship, and I had with me the catalogues of the principal Italian libraries: of the papal library, of those of S. Marco at Florence, of Pavia, and even of that of the University of Oxford, which I had procured from England. On comparing them with that of the Duke I remarked how they all failed in one respect; to wit, they possessed the same work in many examples, but lacked the other writings of the author; nor had they writers in all the faculties like this library" (George & Waters, 102-105). 

Vespasiano was responsible for supplying over half of the thousand volumes in the library of the Duke of Urbino. He also performed the same service for Cosimo de' Medici. For that project Vespasiano engaged fifty-five scribes and illuminators who completed two hundred superb manuscripts in under two years. 

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1450 – 1500

"The Sale of a Printed Bible" March 12, 1455

An image of Pope Pius II in blessing, from a biographical fresco in the Cathedral Library of Siena. (View Larger)

On March 12, 1455 Enea Silvio Piccolomini, later Pope Pius II, reported in a letter to Juan de Carvajal, the Cardinal for whom he worked, that in Frankfurt the year before, "a marvelous man" had been promoting the sale of a printed Bible. Piccolomini stated that he saw parts of the book, and that it had such clear, large lettering that one could read it without eye glasses. He also noted that every copy had been sold.

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Johannes Mentelin Issues the Second Printed Edition of the Bible 1460

The Latin Bible printed by Johannes Mentelin in Strassbourg before 27 June 1466. ISTC No.: ib00624000.


A bust of Johannes Mentelin in the Humanist Library of Selestat.

The Biblia Latina, printed by Johannes Mentelin by 1460 was the second edition of the Bible and first book printed in Strasbourg. Twenty-eight copies survive, all on paper. There is a copy in the Scheide Library at Princeton. "Until Scheide's purchase in 2001, no copy had been sold for more than 75 years."

ISTC No. ib00528000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was availablefrom USB Köln at this link

"Gutenberg seems to have given little thought to his choice of a copy text; he used one of many manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate (the fifth-century translation attributed to Jerome). Yet this unconsidered aspect of the printed book proved extremely influential. Virtually all of the Latin Bibles subsequently published in the fifteenth century (a total of some 94 editions, 81 in plain text and 13 with an accompanying commentary) took a printed bible as their model. The earliest editions used a copy of Gutenberg's Bible as their copy text; later fifteenth-century editions used either Gutenberg or one of thes earlier imitators. Unwittingly, therefore, Gutenberg played a major role in fixing the text of the Vulgate as the standard authorised text of Scripture. This would cast a long shadow over sixteenth-century efforts at revision" (Pettegree, The Book in the Renaissance [2010] 30).

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"Passione di Cristo", the First Book Printed in Italy Circa 1463

Page from the first book printed in Italy. Click on the image to see the entire image.

In 1927 a unique fragment of the Passione di Cristo printed in Italian was discovered by the Munich antiquarian bookseller Jacques Rosenthal. It was believed to have been printed in Northern Italy, perhaps in  Bologna or Ferrara, and possibly by printer Ulrich Han, about 1463. In January 2013 a digital facsimile of this fragment was available from the Princeton University Digital Library, which provided this commentary:

"The leaves apparently had been retrieved as waste material from some unidentified binding. As a complete work, it would have consisted of 17 leaves, printed with 16 full-page metalcut scenes of the life of Jesus from the entry into Jerusalem to the Last Judgment, each facing a page with a related printed prayer in Italian. The full set of metalcuts is preserved in a unique incunable in the State Library of Munich, being a German-language counterpart to the Italian fragment, printed with the type used also to print the unique Scheide copy of the Almanac calculated for Vienna, 1462. Other incomplete fragments of printed German versions of the prayerbook also survive. On various grounds, the distinguished incunabulist Konrad Haebler proposed that the Italian fragment had been printed in northern Italy, in the vicinity of Bologna and Ferrara, about 1463: two years or more before the traditional candidate as the first Italian incunable, the works of Lactantius printed at the ancient monastery of Subiaco (50 km east of Rome) by Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, 29 October 1465. The Passione di Cristo fragment was purchased by a learned New Orleans attorney, Edward Alexander Parsons, whose massive library was acquired by the University of Texas in 1958, but Parsons retained the Passione di Cristo, which remained within his family until its 1998 auction. Thus, for more than seventy years it was not available for scholarly investigation. When cataloguing the fragment for sale, Felix de Marez Oyens studied the two partially preserved watermarks, and determined that in terms of localization and date, they matched almost precisely what Haebler had hypothesized on other grounds. Because the Passione di Cristo follows the Munich German edition, Leiden Christi, page for page, the entire edition can be reconstructed. The first five leaves are missing. Of the remaining leaves, the six with printed text are fully preserved (fos. 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16). Of the six leaves with metalcut images, one (fo. 17) is preserved in full; one (fo. 7) preserves about of each of its two metalcuts; and four (fos. 9, 11, 13, 15) preserve only narrow vertical strips on which the inner margins of the metalcuts are visible. The strip of fo. 11 is so narrow that it has not been reproduced" (http://pudl.princeton.edu/objects/9880vr06v#page/1/mode/2up, accessed 01-31-2013).

The fragment was purchased by William H. Scheide for the Scheide Library at Princeton at Christie's sale of November 23, 1998, lot 18.

Haebler, Die italienischen Fragmente vom Leiden Christi, das älteste Druckwerk Italiens: Eine Untersuchung (1927).

Paul Needham, "Prints in the Early Printing Shops," Parshall (ed) The Woodcut in Fifteenth Century Europe (Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2009) 38-91.

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Peter Schöffer Issues the Earliest Surviving Book List Issued by a Printer June 1469 – September 1470

A portrait of Peter Schoffer.

Between June 1469 and September 1470 printer Peter Schöffer of Mainz issued a broadside offering for sale 21 printed books issued from 1458 to 1469.

"Sixteen of the items can be identied as products of Schöffer's own printing workshop in Mainz, while the rest probably were printed by Ulrich Zell in Cologne. All the works listed are in Latin, beginning with the edition of Bible co-produced by Fust and Schöffer in 1462, followed by theological, legal and humanist texts as well as a treatise dealing with merchants' contracts. The 13th book title, which has been cut off this copy, was certainly the Psalter edition of 1459, whose printing types are reproduced in a sample below the booklist. A note added by hand on the lower margin of the page indicates that the bookseller could be contacted in the in 'Zum wilden Mann', probably referring to a locality in Nuremberg.

"The advertisement is characteristic for the early phase of organised book trade. The intinerant bookseller — seldom the printer himself — travelled with an assortment of books wherever demand was to be found, leaving printed lists with a handwritten indication of where he was staying, for potential customers, the latter being mostly members of universities or monasteries, but also other citizens with some education. Such book lists contained no prices, since these were to be negotiated between the bookseller and the buyer" (Wagner, Als die Lettern laufen lernten. Medienwandel im 15. Jahrhundert (2009) no. 77).

Only a single copy of this broadside survived, from the library of physician and writer Hartmann Schedel.  It is preserved in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München (ISTC no. is00320950):

"It survived, albeit as binders waste cut in two halves and pasted printed side down on the inner cover of a manuscript (Clm 458) with astronomical-mantic texts which was owned by the well-known humanist of Nuremberg, Hartmann Schedel. At the end of the 19th century, it was discovered and removed from the book binding" (Wagner, op. cit.).

♦ In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the broadside was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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Johannes de Spira Becomes the First Printer in Venice September 1469

Portrait of Andrea Navagero Beazzano and Augustine by Raphael, 1516. (Click on image to view larger.)

In September 1469, in order to initiate the new technology in their community, the Venetian Senate granted the German printer Johannes de Spira (Speyer) a five-year monopoly on printing in the city. This was the first monopoly on printing granted by a European government. Speyer probably set up shop in Venice well before September, since issued Cicero's Epistolae ad familiares in an edition of 100 copies in 1469. (ISTC no. ic00504000). "Four months" later he issued a second edition of 300 copies (ISTC no. ic00505000). Also in 1469 he published the first edition of Pliny's Historia naturalis, a long text, in an edition of 100 copies (ISTC no. ip00786000). In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the copy of the first edition of Pliny in the Bibliothèque de Saint Geneviève was available at this link.

From the text of the decree it appears that the Venetian Senate granted the monopoly to Speyer as a way of supporting his ongoing work, which they much admired. The manuscript of the grant is preserved in the Venetian State Archives (ASV, NC, reg. 1, c.55r). It is reproduced in color and translated in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org, from which I quote:

"The art of printing books has been introduced into our renowned state, and from day to day it has become more popular and common through the efforts, study and ingenuity of Master Johannes of Speyer, who chose our city over all the others. Here he lives with his wife, children and whole household; practices the said art of printing books; has just published, to universal acclaim, the Letters of Cicero and Pliny's noble work On Natural History, in the largest type and with the most beautiful letter-forms; and continues every day to print other famous volumes so that [this state] will be enriched by many, famous volumes, and for a low price, by the industry and fortitude of this man. Whereas such an innovation, unique and particular to our age and entirely unknown to those ancients, must be supported and nourished with all our goodwill and resources and [whereas] the same Master Johannes, who suffers under the great expense of his household and the wages of his craftsmen, must be provided with the means so that he may continue in better spirits and consider his art of printing something to be expanded rather than something to be abandoned, in the same manner as usual in other arts, even much smaller ones, the undersigned lords of the present Council, in response to the humble and reverent entreaty of the said Master Johannes, have determined and by determining decreed that over the next five years no one at all should have the desire, possibility, strength or daring to practice the said art of printing books in this the renowned state of Venice and its dominion, apart from Master Johannes himself. Every time that someone shall be found to have dared to practice this art and print books in defiance of this determination and decree, he must be fined and condemned to lose his equipment and the printed books. And, subject to the same penalty, no one is permitted or allowed to import here for the purpose of commerce such books, printed in other lands and places. . . ."

"Scholars and writers too went more readily to Venice than to any other city, in their search for publishers, attracted by the excellence of the local paper stock and typography as much as relatively liberal atmosphere in the city. In contrast to other early modern states where censorship and state regulation took on early to encourage and protect the nascent trade, in Venice, the trade was left virtually uncontrolled in the first years of its development. It was only in 1515 when Andrea Navagero was appointed for the task of the official revision of books that the state began to exercise a degree of control over what was printed. Even then, this literary censorship was primarily concerned with the quality of printed books to secure commercially successful correct editions. Thus the natural play of economic forces had left printers free to establish their printing enterprises and compete against each other in an open market. In other words, Venice was an ideal place from which to begin the 'printing revolution.'

"The rapid expansion of the printing industry leaves no doubt that Venice was the first city in the world to feel the full impact of printing, and to experience the most important revolution in human communications, and a favourable territory in which the system of copyright could develop. This, however, did not make Venice into a champion of literary property. It would take a long time before the copyright holder was identified with the moral or aesthetic personality of the writer.

"The best-known explanation for the emergence of author's rights is a technological one, viewing the need to protect literary production as a consequence of the invention of printing. In a manuscript culture, texts were treated as common property, and copying another man's work was often considered more of a favour than an injury. . . .

"It is not so much printing as the existence of a market in books and ideas that introduced concepts of intellectual property. As the literary market increased in importance, authors, who might well be writing for a living and competing for recognition, began to stress the distinctiveness of their products, in other words their intellectual or literary originality. Printing encouraged the development of such a market and expanded the concept of a book as a commodity (selling object). However, the concept of a book as a particular category of commodity - the work of the mind - was slow to develop" (Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org, accessed 07-24-2009).

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Printers Sweynheym and Pannartz Request Financial Assistance from Pope Sixtus VI 1472

In 1472 humanist Giovanni Andrea Bussi (Joannes Andreae de Bussis), bishop of Aléria, and the chief editor for the printing house of Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz after it moved from Subiaco to Rome, requested financial assistance for Sweynheym and Pannartz from Pope Sixtus IV. Bussi wrote that the printers, who typically published 275 copies in a single edition, had 10,000 unsold volumes and would have to go out of business without financial aid.

According to their own published claims in the fifth volume of their edition of  Nicholas de Lyra (Nicolas de Lyre, Nicolaus Lyranus) Postilla litteralis super totam Bibliam (March 1472), Sweynheym and Pannartz had printed a total of about 12,475 books since 1465. If so, they were far more successful in printing books than in selling them. 

ISTC no. in00131000. BMC IV 15b.

In July 2014 a digital facsimile of volume five of Nicholas de Lyra's Postilla issued by Sweynheym and Pannartz was available from the Bavarian Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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William Caxton Issues the First Book Printed in English 1473 – 1474

At Bruges in 1473 or 1474 English merchant, diplomat, writer, and printer William Caxton issued Caxton's English translation of Raoul Lefèvre's French courtly romance, Recueil des Histoires de Troye. The printed book, entitled The Recuyell of the Histories of Troyewas the first book printed in English. Caxton published the book with scribe, bookseller and printer, Colard Mansion, from whom Caxton probably learned the art of printing, 

A presentation copy with a specially made engraving showing Caxton presenting the book to his patroness, Margaret of York, is preserved in the Huntington Library, San Marino, California. Regarding the technical bibliographical aspects of this copy see Hellinga, "William Caxton, Colard Mansion, and the Printer in Type 1," Bulletin du bibliophile (2011) 106, footnote 2.

ISTC no.  il00117000.

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Caxton Prints the First Book Advertisement in the English Language 1476 – 1477

In 1476 or 1477 printer William Caxton issued the first book advertisement in the English language. The small broadside, which offered for sale Caxton’s edition of the Sarum Ordinal or Pye, the priest’s manual of variations in the Office during the ecclesiastical year, was intended to be displayed in the neighborhood outside Caxton's shop in Westminister Abbey. The seven-line Advertisement reads in its archaic spelling:

"If it plese any man spirituel or temporel to bye ony pyes of two and thre commemoraios of Salisburi use empryntid after the forme of this preset lettre whiche ben wel and truly correct, late hym to come to Westmonester in to the almonry at the reed pale and he shal have them good chepe. Supplicio stet cedula [please do not remove this handbill]."

ISTC no. 00355700 cites copies at the John Rylands Library in Manchester and at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. In January 2015 a digital facsimile of the Bodleian copy was available at this link.

Painter, William Caxton. A Biography (1977) 98-99.

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Law Books Are the Leading Subject in Venetian Publishing Circa 1485 – 1525

"For their commercial value, prestige, and simple quantity, law books eclipsed all other fields of Venetian publishing [in the 15th and early 16th centuries" (translated from Nouvo, Il commercio librario nell'Italia del Rinascimento [1998] p. 161 in Magno, Bound in Venice. The Serene Republic and the Dawn of the Book [2013] 20).

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The First Complete Printed Hebrew Bible April 22, 1488

On April 22, 1488, in Soncino, Italy, Abraham ben Hayyim completed the printing for Joshua Solomon Soncino of Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim, the first complete printed Hebrew Bible. It is thought that 200-300 copies were issued, and at a high price. In 1492 German humanist and Greek and Hebrew scholar Johannes Reuchlin purchased a copy in Rome for 6 gold coins, supposedly a year's salary for a government clerk at the time.

ISTC no. ib00525500.

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Gershom Soncino Sells the First Copy of His First Book December 19 – December 29, 1488

On December 19, 1488 printer Gershom ben Moses Soncino, in Soncino, Italy, issued his first book, the Sefer Mitzvot Gadol by Moses ben Jacob de Coucy.

On the end flyleaf of a copy in The Library of Congress there is an autograph bill of sale in Hebrew signed by Gershom Soncino translated as:

" 'Gershom, the son of Moshe Soncino (of blessed memory), Printer,' and issued to one Moshe ben Shmuel Diena, stipulating that the buyer might not resell the volume for a period of two years. The bill of sale is dated 'the 25th day of Tevet, (5)249 [ = December 29, 1488, here in the city of Soncino' ten days after the printed date of publication.'

Arthur Z. Schwarz, who first brought this to the attention of the scholarly world, suggested that this volume may well be one of the first, if not the first off the press. The colophon date is the day of the 'completion of the work,' i.e. the printing. Some days may have passed before it was ready for distribution. Soncino's signature is his only Hebrew autograph to have survived" (Jewish Virtual Library.org, accessed 12-10-2008, includes images).

ISTC no. im00866240. 

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Columbus's Description of the New World: the First Eyewitness Report to Become a Bestseller; in 2016, Reports of a Theft and Forgery of a Copy of the Third Edition February 15, 1493

Aboard the caravel Niña on February 15, 1493, sailing back from the New World, Christopher Columbus wrote an open letter to the monarchs of Spain, describing his monumental discoveries. When he docked in Lisbon on March 14, 1493 Columbus added a postscript and sent the letter to the Escribano de Racion, Luis de Santangel, finance minister to Ferdinand II and the high steward or comptroller of the king's household expenditures. Santagel had convinced  Isabella I to back Columbus's voyage eight months earlier, and Santagel was the first convey the news of Columbus's success to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand.

Santagel promptly turned over the text of Columbus's letter to printer Pedro Posa in Barcelona, and through its different printed editions which followed in close succession, Columbus's letter became the first bestselling eyewitness news account. The sequence of the earliest editions was as follows:

1. As early as April 1, 1493, Posa issued a 4-page pamphlet in small folio entitled Epistola de insulis nuper inventis (Letter on Newly Discovered Islands). Only one copy of the original printing survives. It was discovered in Spain in 1889, and passed through the hands of antiquarian bookseller Maisonneuve in Paris before reaching antiquarian bookseller Bernard Quaritch in 1890. In 1892 Quaritch sold it to the Lenox Library founded by James Lenox. This library later merged with the New York Public Library where the pamphlet is preserved today. (ISTC no. ic00756000.)

2. The second edition, published in Spanish in Valladolid, also survives only in a single copy. (ISTC no. ic00756500.)

3. The third edition, in Latin, was published in Rome by Stephen Plannck, probably in early May 1493. (ISTC no. ic00757000.)

On May 18, 2016 The New York Times reported that a copy of this edition was being returned by the Library of Congress to the Biblioteca Riccardiana Library in Florence, from which it had been stolen years ago, and replaced with a forgery. In 1990 the stolen copy was purchased an unidientified Swiss collector, and purchased by an unidentified New York dealer who consigned it to Christie's in New York, where it was sold in 1992 for $330,000. The copy was purchased at auction by an unidentified private collector who donated it to the Library of Congress in 2004. The seizure warrant issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware filed on August 6, 2014 reflects an extremely high level of bibliographical sophistication and forensic analysis, distinguishing between the authentic copy which was stolen and the forged copy which remained in the Riccardiana.

4. The first illustrated edition, with woodcuts supposedly copied from drawings by Columbus, was issued by Michael Furter, for Johann Bergmann, de Olpe, in Basel, Switzerland, probably in May, 1493. (ISTC no. ic00760000.) 

♦ In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the Basel 1493 edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link

5Giuliano Dati translated the letter into Italian verse for publication in Rome June 15, 1493. (ISTC no. id00045890). Dati's version was reprinted in Florence and Brescia in 1493. Of each printing of Dati's version only one copy survived.

Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 35.

(This entry was last revised on 05-18-2016.)

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The Nuremberg Chronicle June 12 – December 23, 1493

June 12, 1493 printer Anton Koberger of Nuremberg completed the printing and issued the Liber chronicarum written by physician Hartmann Schedel. A large-folio compendium of history, geography and natural wonders, the Liber chronicarum contained 298 printed leaves, including 1,809 illustrations from 645 woodcuts by or after painter and woodengraver Michael Wohlgemut (Wohlgemuth), his stepson Wilhelm Plydenwurff, and possibly some by Koberger's godson, the young Albrecht Dürer, who was apprenticed to Wohlgemut until 1490. Certain woodcuts were reproduced more than once, sometimes for the depiction of different people or cities. The images included a full-sheet map of Europe, a Ptolemaean world map, large and small city views, biblical and historical scenes, and portraits.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the Latin edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link

"From the outset, however, a German-language version had been planned. Translated by Georg Alt (c. 1450-1510), the city treasurer of Nuremberg, who assisted Schedel in compiling the Latin edition, the German edition was published on December 23, 1493. In addition to cosmetic differences (e.g., the Latin edition was printed using a typeface known as Antiqua Rotunda, while the German employed Bastarda Schwabacher), the German edition is very slightly abridged, with omissions that include certain abstruse thoughts as well as seeming repetitions. Occasionally, however, the German Chronicle includes minor but telling expansions on the Latin text. For example, in the Latin version one is told that a certain idea "can be found in Ovid" (folio IIr); the German version, however, informs its readers that this same idea "was elegantly expressed by Ovid, a poet." Such differences point to slightly different readerships: the Latin was aimed at the imperial, theological, and academic markets; the German at the upper middle class who did not possess a university education. Scholars estimate that approximately 1400-1500 Latin copies and 700-1000 German ones were printed. " (http://www.beloit.edu/nuremberg/inside/about/editions.htm, accessed 11-06-2012). 

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the German translation was available from the Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Weimar, at this link.

Though the information in the Nuremberg Chronicle was rapidly superceded, it remained famous for its extraordinary graphic design, its printing, its woodcuts and descriptions of cities. One of the woodcuts depicted the paper mill established in Nuremberg by Ulman Stromer in 1390. Probably because it was such a large and impressive volume, the work was a great commercial success, with unusually large printings for a fifteenth century book:

"The Latin edition was printed in at least 1400 copies, of which more than 1200 still exist today" (Wagner, Als die Lettern laufen lernten. Medienwandel im 15. Jahrhundert [2009] no. 11 (describing the annotated copy of the author, Hartmann Schedel, which is preserved at the Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek, Munich).

Most probably fewer copies of the German edition were printed, as it remains rarer on the market. Between roughly 1980 and 2009 there were 188 auction sales recorded for the Latin edition and 35 sales of the German edition, some sales presumably representing the same copies being resold.

In order to print and sell so many copies of an expensive book in the fifteenth century the printer Anton Koberger had to employ a geographically wide network of partners and sales agents.

"A revealing indication of the extent of Koberger's business is provided by a document of 1509, drawn up as a final settlement of the contract between partners involved in the production and sale of the Nuremberg Chronicle. This accounting reveals a network of outlets spread far and wide throughout Europe. We know that the Nuremberg Chronicle sold well, because there are at least 1,200 surviving copies logged in libraries today. But in 1509 there were still 600 copies unsold. For copies previously supplied debts were logged against the accounts of booksellers spread through the Germanic world: at Lübeck and Danzig, Passau and Vienna, Ingoldstadt, Augsburg and Munich. Linhard Tascher still had to settle for just over a hundred copies sent to him at Posen and Breslau (presumably for sale in Silesia); eighty-three Latin and twenty-eight German. A separate consignment of mostly Latin copies had been dispatched to Cracow. The Koberger agency in Lyon had to account for forty-one copies, and several hundred had been dispatched to agents in Italy, at Bologna, Florence and Genoa. Peter Vischer, the agent at Milan, had received the largest consignment for distribution in the peninsula, of which almost 200 remained unsold. The Venice agent, Anthoni Kolb, had just thirty-four left. Bearing in mind that these represent the unsold residue of what had been a very large edition, the geographical reach of Koberger's enterprise was every bit as impressive as the Venetian network of the previous decades. The bold confidence with which Koberger had taken on the Italian market was especially striking, even if transalpine demand for this masterpiece of German typography had ultimately not matched expectations" (Pettegree, The Book in the Renaissance [2010] 77-78).

Remarkably, the original manuscript exemplars showing the exact arrangement of the text and illustrations for both the Latin and German editions, as well has other original documents pertaining to the publication of these works, were preserved. The exemplar for the Latin edition is in the Stadbibliothek Nürnberg. The exemplar for the German edition is in the Nuremberg City Library. Adrian Wilson, a book designer and historian of book design from San Francisco, issued an outstanding book in which he showed the relationship between these manuscript exemplars and the printed editions: The Making of the Nuremberg Chronicle (1976).

Perhaps in 1941 an English translation of the Nuremberg Chronicle was prepared by Walter W. Schmauch of Chicago. This existed as a typescript for many years, preserved in the Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia.  The title page of the translation, of which I obtained a complete xerographic copy decades ago, reads: First English Edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle. Being the Liber Chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel, A. D. 1493. Translated from the First German Edition by Walter W. Schmauch of Chicago with Text Annotations and Woodcut Elucidations in Six Volumes.  The translation extends to at least 2000 pages of typescript. In 2003 Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, and the University of Wisconsin collaborated on publishing Schmauch's entire translation online; in November 2014 it was available at this link.

ISTC no. is00307000 (Latin). ISTC no. is00309000 (German). Both of these entries provide censuses of the many institutions which hold copies of the respective editions.

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The First Illustration of a Printing Office & Bookshop in a Printed Book February 18, 1499

The first illustration of a printing press and printing office in a printed book appeared in Danse macabre, published in Lyon by Mathias Huss. The image shows death visiting a printing office and a bookseller's shop. Huss's book was one of numerous editions of The Dance of Death, or Danse macabre. 

"The first known illustration of a printing press was certainly not drawn to enlighten future generations as to its characteristics. It appears in an edition of the Danse Macabre, published in Lyons by Mathias Huss in 1499. Death is depicted carrying off a printer and a bookseller, and, such as it is, we may take it that the cut illustrates a French fifteenth-century printing office. Unfortunately, although the general construction of press can be made out, the very aspect which would have been of most interest—the way in which the platen was hung—is obscured by the struggling figure of the pressman. However, the illustration does show clearly the supports, or stays, between the top of the top of the press and the ceiling, which were found to be necessary to keep the press stable; a coarse wooden screw, and a straight pole or bar. Particularly interesting is the plank held up by a stay and on which there is a box, to which we may presume a tympan is hinged by what look like leather straps. No winding mechanism is visible and it may be conjectured that the box was pushed under the platen by hand at this date. The other pressman (or 'beater') is holding an ink-ball, which hardly changed in appearance until it was replaced by a roller some three hundred and fifty years later. Two ink-balls were used to ink the forme. They were made of untanned leather or sheepskin, stuffed with wool or hair, and nailed around a wooden handle or stock. Ink was spread out on to a slab and rubbed out thinly with a wooden device known as a brayer.

"The little rest, or gallows, gives additional credence of the idea that there was a tympan to be thrown back on it when the forme was being inked. The unusual position of the pressman, who usually stood next to his companion, is probably the result of the artist's license as he wanted to show the figure of Death full face" (Kinsman, The Darker Vision of the Renaissance: Beyond  the Fields of Reason [1974] 25).

ISTC. id00020500

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1500 – 1550

The Rothschild Prayerbook is Illuminated Circa 1500 – 1520

The Rothschild Prayerbook, a Flemish manuscript book of hours, was illuminated from about 1500 to 1520 by several leading miniaturists in the final flowering of the Ghent-Bruges school of manuscript illumination. Most of the sixty-seven large miniatures are by the "Master of the First Prayerbook of Maximilian" (probably Alexander Bening, father of Simon) and Gerard Horenbout or the so-called Master of James IV of Scotland (possibly two names for the same artist). Other miniatures in the manuscript are by Gerard David, who was also a panel painter, or by a pupil working in his style. There are also two miniatures by Simon Bening, and work by other masters.

The early history of the manuscript is obscure, a feature shared by several important manuscripts of the late Ghent-Bruges school, which typically do not contain heraldry and portraits of their original owners. Elements in the book, such as extra mass texts and prayers beyond those usually found in books of hours, relate it to the Chartreuse des Dunes, near Bruges. By 1500 printed books of hours had, for the most part, replaced illuminated manuscripts, with the exception of luxury illuminated books like this, which were generally restricted to the higher nobility and royalty.  In the 16th century the manuscript belonged to the princely Wittelsbach family century, and then to the library of the counts palatine in Heidelberg. It left Heidelberg before 1623, after which its history is unknown until it resurfaced in the collection of the Viennese branch of the Rothschild family in the late 19th century.

In 1938, soon after the Anschluss, or German annexation of Austria, the prayerbook was confiscated from Louis Nathaniel von Rothschild. After the end of World War II the new Austrian government used legislation forbidding the export of culturally significant works of art, partly to pressure the Rothschilds to donate a large number of works to Austrian museums. Under this coercion the prayerbook was "given" to the National Library. In exchange the family was allowed to export other works. In 1999, after international pressure was brought to bear over this coercion, the Austrian government returned the manuscript and other works of art to the Rothschild family. Soon thereafter the manuscript was offered for sale at Christie's in London, where it realized £8,580,000 (then $13,400,000).  When I wrote this database entry in November 2013 this remained the highest price ever paid for an illuminated manuscript.

"This Book of Hours is one of a group of spectacular manuscrits-de-luxe that was produced around 1490 to 1520 for an international clientele and members of the Habsburg court in the Netherlands. These vast undertakings were achieved by the efficient coordination of labor and collaboration of several artists and their workshops. It is closely related to a Book of Hours in the British Library, the Spinola Hours (now at the J. Paul Getty Museum) and the Grimani Breviary (now in Venice, at the Bibl. Marciana). With the Rothschild Prayerbook, these are the most impressive productions of the illuminator Gerard Horenbout, who became court painter to Margaret of Austria, Regent of the Netherlands, in 1515, before relocating to England to work for King Henry VIII. As well as painting and illuminating, he designed tapestries and stained glass.

"The illuminated openings, where a miniature faces a complementary full-page border, are some of Horenbout’s most exceptional creations. These scenes are thoughtfully devised and precisely observed, and they provide a fascinating record of liturgical practices of the day and they are some of the finest and most remarkable of all Flemish miniatures. The description of the fabrics of the vestments, the integration of figures in architectural space, and the extensive and atmospheric recession are evoked with a detailed delicacy and a bravura naturalism.

"One of the beguiling features of the Prayerbook is the wide variety in the decorative borders. Many of them, as well as further miniatures, recognizably belong to the repertoire of the illuminator long-known as the Master of the Older Prayerbook of Maximillian, who is now generally accepted as being Alexander Bening, friend of Hugo van der Goes and Joos van Ghent. Alexander’s son also contributed miniatures to the Prayerbook, including the Vision of St Bernard (illustrated top of page). The delicacy and elegance of this scene and the subtlety of handling in the modeling of the flesh and the description of fabric and form demonstrate why Simon went on to become the most celebrated illuminator of his day.

"Several miniatures were painted by the anonymous artist known as the Master of the Prayerbooks of c.1500. This illuminator is particularly valued for his delightful secular work, above all in the Roman de la Rose in the British Library. In the Rothschild Prayerbook he was responsible for some miniatures in the Office of the Virgin, including the Nativity on one of the most colorful and engaging openings where the borders around miniature and text are used to show other episodes from the Christmas story with the lively addition of the scene of joyful, dancing shepherds" (http://artdaily.com/news/65970/Christie-s-announces-centerpiece-of-the-Renaissance-Sale--The-Rothschild-Prayerbook#.UnUUYFCshcY[/).

On October 31, 2013 Christie's announced that it would once again auction the Rothschild Prayerbook on January 29, 2014 in New York. The presale estimate was $12 million to $18 million. They issued an unusually elaborate catalogue for the sale, providing an unusually detailed description of the manuscript. In January 2014 the catalogue could be read on Christie's website at this link. The manuscript was purchased by a private collector bidding over the phone for $13.3 million, just short of the price realized in 1999, but still a record for an illuminated manuscript. In April 2015 it was announced that the manuscript would be displayed at the National Library of Australia from May 22 to August 9, 2015, having been purchased in 2014 by Australian businessman Kerry Stokes.

Walther & Wolf, Codices illustres. The world's most famous illuminated manuscripts 400 to 1600 (2005) 416-17.

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Daniel van Bomberghen, a Devout Christian, Issues the First Printed Edition of the Complete Babylonian Talmud 1519 – 1523

Having obtained permission from both the Venetian Senate and the Pope to become the first publisher of Hebrew books in Venice, from 1519 to 1523 devout Christian Daniel van Bomberghen (Daniel Bomberg) issued the first complete printed edition of the approximately two million word Babylonian Talmud.

Over his 40 year career Bomberg issued 240 editions of books in Hebrew.

"Based on current knowledge of contemporary Venetian printing practices, we can safely speculate that each Bomberg edition of the Talmud was produced in print-runs of approximately 1500 copies, though of course most of them did not find their way into full sets. We do have evidence from a book catalog printed sometime between 1541 and 1543 that a complete set was available for purchase for the price of twenty-two Venetian ducats. This was at a time when one of Bomberg’s typesetters earned somewhere between 2½ and 3 ducats per month. Thus, even when first printed, these volumes were considered expensive and accessible to only the wealthiest of individuals."

"Bibliographers variously surmise that the Bomberg Talmud was normally bound in twelve or fifteen volumes in a standard order, though this is problematic. Among the fourteen known complete sets that survive as sets from the sixteenth-century, in addition to this set two others are bound in six volumes, one in eight volumes, three in nine, one in ten, one in seventeen, one in twenty-two, and only four sets are bound in twelve volumes. Even among those bound in twelve volumes, there is no standard ordering of the tractates in the various volumes" (Mintz & Goldstein, Printing the Talmud from Bomberg to Schottenstein [2005] No. 20).

On December 22, 2015 antiquarian bookseller Stephan Lowewnetheil of the 19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop purchased the Valmadonna Trust Library complete copy of the Bomberg Talmud at Sotheby's, New York, for $9,300,000. It was announced that Lowentheil acted as agent for billionaire collector Leon Black

Sotheby's excellent description of the set, which comprised tractates from the first (1519/20-23) and second (1525-1539) editions, was available at this link. This was the highest price ever paid for any single piece of Judaica. The Valmadonna copy, which had been preserved for centuries in the library of Westminster Abbey, was the only complete set remaining in private hands, and one of the finest of the few complete sets that survived. 

The Valmadonna Trust Library was formed in the second half of the 20th century by Jack Lunzer. An excellent account of its formation was published in Tabletmag.com on September 9, 2009. Further information was provided by Tablet on December 22, 2015.

Unusual features of Sotheby's description included a complete census of extant complete copies of the Bomberg Talmud including condition comparisons of each set plus a long note concerning book prices in the sixteenth century which considerably expands the quotation from Mintz and Goldstein above.  I quote this in full, including its very extensive bibliography:


Even by sixteenth-century standards these Talmud volumes were expensive, so it seems we should expect more than a bibliophile's interest to explain why these particular publications were so desirable.  A brief survey may be useful to establish that these volumes would have been considered a luxury, where the scudoducataurea and florin/gulden were all roughly of the same value. (For reference purposes, it may also be noted that 20 solidi = 1 lira; 1 ducat = 124 solidi (or 6 ¼ lira ).  Already at the end of the fifteenth-century, legal and academic texts, in folio, regularly sold for between 1 and 2 ducats.  Similar prices for folios printed at other Venetian printing houses continued to be seen throughout the sixteenth-century.  Specifically concerning Bomberg imprints, in 1518 Philip Melanchthon purchased a Bomberg first edition Rabbinic Bible for 14 aurei, and two years later Johannes Reuchlin purchased one for 8 aurei.  Elijah Levita wrote in the second of his two poems following the colophon at the end of the fourth volume of Bomberg's second edition Mikra'ot Gedolot, that the price for the set was six golden ducats, or 1½ ducats per volume.  In fact, Damian Irmi (a wealthy Basel merchant trader with Italy) purchased a copy of Bomberg's second edition Mikra'ot Gedolot for Konrad Pellikan for eleven gulden.  The price for this Rabbinic Bible in Gesner's 1545 list was 10 ducats; Alfasi, three volumes, 18 ducats; Rambam, two volumes,10 ducats.  In a list written sometime after 1532 of books available from Koberger's bookshop in Nürnberg: Bomberg's first edition Mikra'ot Gedolot sold for 14 fl., or approximately 10 ducats.  Finally, it is interesting to note that Johannes Buxtorf the Elder (1564-1629, Basel) and Sebastian Beck (1583-1654, Basel), state that circa 1617 one of the old Bomberg Rabbinic Bibles cost between 30 and 50Reichsthalers, which was the equivalent of 75-125 fl.

In general, books printed in Italy were considered expensive already by mid-sixteenth century, as we note that "in 1554 the jurist [Georg] Tanner wrote to Bonifacius Amerbach in Basel that the high price of Italian books prevented many buyers from making purchases."  And specifically about the Bomberg Talmud, we know from an entry dated 25 April 1541, in a daybook concerning purchases in Venice, that a Talmud set was not purchased for the University of Wittenberg because it was felt that the price was exorbitant.

Based on the examples cited above, it is safe to say that in the sixteenth century, each of the forty-four tractates in the Bomberg Talmud (allowing for two editions of Mishna Tohorot, one with the commentary of Maimonides and one with the commentary of Shimshon of Sens), if and when they were available, would have cost at least 1½ -2½ ducats.  Given Bomberg's standard for the highest quality both with regard to materials and workmanship, his folios likely were priced at the upper end of this range.  This results in the contemporary price for a full set to be somewhere around 110 ducats, plus the cost of binding.  For copies printed on heavy watermarked 'royal' paper such as the Valmadonna (#12) and Wittenberg (#1) sets, it is reasonable that they would have garnered two or three times that amount.  In order to put these figures in perspective, there is rather specific wage and income data available for sixteenth-century Italy and this data demonstrates the luxury of owning a complete Bomberg Talmud set. 

The prices we have calculated were realized at a time when a master craftsman earned 30-50 solidi/day, and a semi skilled laborer in construction earned 20-37 solidi/day.  In the mid- to late-fifteenth-century Italian typesetters earned 3ducats/month, a press operator earned 2½, and a foreman earned 5-9 ducats/month.  Contemporary Jewish sources also give a glimpse of wages for rabbis and teachers.  Elijah Capsali tutored Rabbi Isserlein for a sum of 37 ducats per year plus board.  Isaac Corcos, rabbi to the community in Otranto (southern Italy) received 70 ducats per year, Rabbi Azreil in Sulmona (central Italy) received 80 scudi (approximately 73 ducats), and Don David Ibn Yahya was to have received 100 scudi(approximately 92 ducats) as rabbi in Naples (though the promised sum never materialized).  For laborers, rabbis or teachers these wages range between 3 and 7⅔ ducats per month, and an income of anything more than 10 ducats per month would have been considered relative affluence.  And only with some level of affluence would an individual have had sufficient disposable income to purchase Bomberg folios.  Put in more descriptive terms, "a folio volume retailing for 6 or 8 lire, i.e., the equivalent of 3 to 6 days pay for a master, would be difficult but not impossible to buy."  However, while individual folios may have been within the price reach of a skilled laborer, he could not purchase such items on a regular basis and clearly that laborer would not be purchasing multi-volume sets all at once.  Finally, we bring these wage figures only to demonstrate the relative worth of the volumes, since the likelihood that laborers would have actually purchased such texts is negligible, not only due to the issue of disposable income, but we have said nothing of sixteenth-century literacy rates.

Dr. Bruce E. Nielsen, 
Judaic Public Services Librarian and Archivist,
University of Pennsylvania

references for “A Note about Book Prices in the Sixteenth Century”

Currency:  20 solidi = 1 lira; 1 ducat = 124 solidi; 

General folio prices: M. Lowry, "The Printer, the Reader and the Market," pp. 173-206 in, Nicholas Jenson and the rise of Venetian publishing in Renaissance Europe (Oxford, U.K.; Cambridge Mass.:  Blackwell, 1991) 179-180; P. F. Grendler, The Roman Inquisition and the Venetian Press (Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 1977) 12-14; S.Z. Baruchson-Arbib, "The Prices of Printed Hebrew Books in Cinquecento Italy," Bibliofilia 97.2 (1995) 149-61;

Melancthon: R. Wetzel, ed., Melanchthons Briefwechsel, 15 volumes (Stuttgart: Frommann-Holzboog, 1991), Bd. 1, 75 letter #24; 

Reuchlin: H. Scheible, ed., Willibald Pirckheimers Briefwechsel, 4 (Munich: C.H.Beck, 1997) 251, letter #693; 

Irmi: B. Riggenbach, ed., Das Chronikon des Konrad Pellikan (Basel: Bahnmaier's Verlag (C. Detloff), 1877) 116; 

Gesner: C. Gesner, Bibliotheca Universalis, vol. II (Tiguri: Christophorum Froschouerum, 1548) 41b-43b; 

Koberger: O. Hase, Die Koberger (Leipzig: Breitkopf u. Härtel, 1885) 386, where one florin = one rheinische Gulden, and 40 ducats = 55 gulden; 

Buxtorf: S. G. Burnett, From Christian Hebraism to Jewish Studies (Leiden:  Brill, 1996) 172 n. 12; 

Tanner: F. Kapp, Geschichte des deutschen Buchhandels (Leipzig : Börsenvereins, 1886) 1:312; 

Wittenberg: W. Friedensburg, Urkundenbuch der Universität Wittenberg (Magdeburg : Selbstverlag der Historischen Kommission, 1926-7) 1:225;

Wages: M. Lowry, "The Printer, the Reader and the Market," in Nicholas Jenson and the rise of Venetian publishing in Renaissance Europe (Oxford, UK ; Cambridge, Mass., USA : Blackwell, 1991) 187; Baruchson-Arbib, op.cit. 157-58 with comparison to consumables; R. Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading, 1450-1550 (Wiesbaden : Otto Harrassowitz, 1967) 36; 

Capsali et al.: A. Marx, Studies in Jewish History and Booklore (New York:  JTSA, 1941) 137, 164-65; 

Descriptive terms: P. Grendler, The Roman Inquisition and the Venetian Press, 1540-1605 (Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1977) 14." 

(This entry was last revised on 12-27-2015.)

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Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi Issues the First Manual on Humanistic Cursive 1522 – 1524

A pamphlet of 32 pages entitled La Operina, issued in Rome in 1522 by a bookseller and scribe employed by the Apostolic Chancery, Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi, was the first book devoted to Humanistic Cursive (Littera Humanistica Cursiva, Cancellaresca, Cancellaresca all'antica). Each page was printed from a woodcut by Ugo da Carpi rather than from type.

Osley, Luminario: An Introduction to the Italian Writing-Books of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (1972) 27-34, suggesting that the work may have been first published in 1524.

• In 1524 Arrighi turned to printing and designed his own italic typefaces for his works.

(This entry was last revised on 03-03-2015.)

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Robert Estienne Issues the First Surviving Publisher's Catalogue in Book Form 1542

 Robert Estienne, 16th Century Parisian scholar and printer, issued the first book-form publisher's catalog of which any copies survive in 1542.

In 1542 printer and publisher Robert Estienne issued from Paris Libri in officina Rob. Stephani partim nati, parti restituti & excusi. This was the first publisher's catalogue issued in book form, of which any copies survived.

"Estienne's publications are listed in alphabetical order, some under their authors, others under their titles; prices are added, but no dates given. The Paris printers, such as Estienne, Colines, Wechel, Chaudière, and Janot, pioneered this form of publisher's lists, and, between 1542 and 1550 issued more than a dozen of them, each surviving in only or or two copies" (Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development [1984] No. 13).

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1550 – 1600

Brother Juan Diaz Publishes the First Treatise on Mathematics Published in the Western Hemisphere and the First Textbook on Any Subject Besides Religion Printed Outside of Europe 1556

Engraved portrait of Hernan Cortes by W. Holl and published by Charles Knight.

A page from the Sumario Compendioso.

In 1556 Brother Juan Diez, a companion of Hernando Cortès (Hernán) in the conquest of New Spain, published the Sumario Compendioso in Mexico City at the press of Juan Pablos. The Sumario Compendioso was the earliest treatise on mathematics published in the western hemisphere, and also the first textbook on any non-religious subject to be printed outside of Europe.

In his introduction to The Sumario Compendioso of Brother Juan Diez, the Earliest Mathematical Work of the New World (1921), a facsimile and translation, David Eugene Smith wrote of the existence of possibly four copies including one (incomplete) in the Biblioteca Nacional at Madrid, which he used for his edition, and a copy in the British Library.

"Not again in the sixteenth century did the Mexican printers publish any work on mathematics, except for a brief Instrucción Nautica which appeared in 1587. The press was generally true to its early purpose to issue only books relating to the conversion of the native inhabitants to the way of the cross" (Smith, introduction cited above, 6).

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Queen Mary & King Philip Concentrate the Entire Printing Business in the Members of the Stationers Company May 4, 1557

To check the spread of the Protestant Reformation, On May 4, 1557 the Catholic Queen Mary and King Philip granted a royal charter to the Worshipful Company of Stationers of London, thereby concentrating the entire printing business in the hands of the members of the Stationers Company.

"The Stationers' charter, establishing a monopoly on book production, ensured that once a member had asserted ownership of a text (or "copy") no other member would publish it. This is the origin of the term 'copyright'. Members asserted such ownership by entering it in the "entry book of copies" or the Stationers' Company Register."

The Stationers Company charter was confirmed two years later by Queen Elizabeth, but this time with the goal of suppressing Catholicism.

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Georg Willer Issues the First Catalogue of the Frankfurt Book Fair 1564

In 1554 Georg Willer, a bookseller in Augsburg, issued the first catalogue of the Frankfurt Book Fair. This was the first comprehensive book catalogue issued in Germany. The quarto pamphlet of 10 leaves listed 256 books under the title of Novorum Librorum quos Nundinae Atumnales, Francoforti Anno 1564 celebratae, Venales Exhibuerent.

"The catalogues of the Frankfurt Book Fair, initiated by the Augsburg bookseller George Willer in 1564, represent the first international bibliographies of a periodic character, attempting to list every six months all new publications issued in Europe, and they can be considered the prototype of today's Books in Print. The books are arranged by subject; for the first time, place, publisher, and date are always mentioned" (Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development [1984] no. 24). 

Breslauer and Folter noted that in 1984 there was no copy of the first edition of Willer's catalogue in the United States.

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Francisco Bravo Issues the First Medical Book Printed in the Western Hemisphere with the Earliest Illustrations of Plants Printed in the Western Hemisphere 1570

Printer Pedro Ocharte, born Pierre Ocharte in Rouen, France, working in Mexico City, issued Opera medicinalia by the Spanish physician, Francisco Bravo in 1570. Ocharte had married the daughter of Juan Pablos, the first printer in the New World, and had inherited his equipment. Opera medicinalia included a woodcut title border and a few botanical woodcuts, including images to distinguish the false sarsaparilla of Mexico from the true Spanish sarsaparilla of Dioscorides. It was the first medical book printed in the Western Hemisphere, and its botanical images were the first illustrations of plants printed in the Western Hemisphere.

Of the original edition only two copies are known, of which the only complete copy is at the Universidad de Puebla, Mexico. In 1862 American bookseller and bibliographer Henry Stevens purchased an incomplete copy at an auction sale of the library of collector/dealer/book thief Guglielmo Libri in London. This he resold to the American collector James Lennox. The Lennox copy is preserved in the New York Public Library.

In 1970 London antiquarian booksellers Dawsons of Pall issued a facsimile of the complete Universidad de Puebla copy with a companion volume of commentary by Francisco Guerra. The two volumes were printed on hand-made paper by J. Barcham Green, Ltd. and bound in parchment by Zaehnsdorf in London. The edition was limited to 250 hand-numbered copies.

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Discovering the Autograph Manuscript of William Bourne's Book on Military Inventions and Naval Tactics 1575 – 1578

During the 1970s I purchased from the Heritage Bookshop in Los Angeles a manuscript by the English mathematician and technician William Bourne partly written in a very distinctive Elizabethan hand, and incorporating captioned line drawings illustrating the text. The title of the manuscript was Inventions or Devices. The Weinsteins, owners of Heritage, sold the manuscript as an early copy of the book, as most of the text was written in a standard Elizabethan secretarial hand, and priced it accordingly. But the author signed the manuscript in two or three places, and the dedication was written out in the same distinctive hand as the signatures. These factors caused me to wonder if it was possibly an autograph manuscript written by and for the author himself.

There were at the time one or two reproductions of pages of Bourne's handwriting in books from examples in the British Library, and the distinctive style of writing and illustration reproduced was virtually identical to my manuscript, both in the secretarial text and Bourne's possible autograph portions. Bourne's last will and testament was also preserved in the Kent County record office, if memory serves. As wills contain a reliable example of the signer's autograph signature, I sent for a copy of that, and it corresponded exactly to the signatures in my volume. So, I was most excited to conclude that I had discovered the original manuscript— partly autograph—of a complete Elizabethan work on military inventions and naval tactics, including such inventions as fire ships used by the English against the Spanish Armada. Bourne's manuscript was written out and dedicated to William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, chief advisor to Elizabeth I. It was first published in print in 1578.

"Inventions or Devises, published in 1578, is one of William Bourne's more important works. This book gives many guides and instructional tools for sailors, mostly concerning interactions with other ships. The 21st device listed is the earliest known description of a ship's log and line. The 75th device on the list is a description of a night signal or early semaphore system to be used between people on distant ships who had previously decided on a code consisting of a series of lights and fashion of standing. The 110th entry is a very early description of a telescope. He describes a device consisting of two glasses that, when arranged properly, will allow you to read a letter from a quarter-mile away or see a man, town, or castle from four or five miles away. This description predates the earliest known working telescope by 30 years.

"His design, detailed in his book Inventions or Devises published in 1578, was one of the first recorded plans for an underwater navigation vehicle. He designed an enclosed craft capable of submerging by decreasing the overall volume (rather than flooding chambers as in modern submarines), and being rowed underwater. Bourne described a ship with a wooden frame covered in waterproofed leather, but the description was a general principle rather than a detailed plan. However, Bourne's concept of an underwater rowing boat was put into action by the Dutchman Cornelius Drebbel in 1620, and Nathaniel Symons demonstrated a 'sinking boat' in 1729 using the expanding and contracting volume of the boat to submerge" (Wikipedia article on William Bourne, accessed 11-18-2013).

In those days there were, of course, no digital facsimiles available online, but I was able to obtain a xerographic facsimile of the first printed edition from University Microfilms. Comparison of the text with the printed version showed various textual differences and differences between images in my manuscript with those in the printed version. In the autograph dedication Bourne referred to his previous contacts with Burghley: ‘about 3 years past I delivered your Lordship a book’, which must have been Sloane 3651 (1572/73), which was eventually divided into two works published in print in 1578 as Treasure for Travellers and the Art of Shooting in Great Ordnance

Having worked in the antiquarian book trade for forty-nine years (as of 2013), I can report that it is not unusual for the reception of material by customers to be the converse of its historical significance. In this case the obvious institutional buyers of this invaluable manuscript passed it up through private offers and its appearance in two of our printed rare book catalogues. We catalogued the manuscript first in 1980 in our eighth catalogue entitled Twelve Manuscripts, which also contained notable items such as the autograph manuscript of J. S. Mill's Considerations on Representative Government (1860). Eventually, I consigned the Bourne manuscript to Christie's in London in their sale of November 29, 1999 where it was purchased by the American collector Lawrence Schoenberg. It is preserved in the Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection at The University of Pennsylvania (ljs345). A digital facsimile is available from the Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image at this link

I am very gratified that Mr. Schoenberg appreciated my discovery. From the description of the manuscript at the University of Pennsylvania I quote:

Inventions or Devices was first produced two years before its first printing and contains 133 devices, twenty more than the printed edition. This manuscript contains 10 illustrations, six more than the printed work. However, the manuscript does not have 20 devices that appear in the printed book including Bourne's original design for a submarine and a diving suit. The changes in the printed version show an increased interest in the military focus of the material over surveying and measurement. The manuscript is a complete, signed, authorial, pioneering work on military gunnery, tactics and navigation. This work formed the beginning of English literature of navigation."

In December 2016 Stephen Johnston, Assistant Keeper of the Museum of the History of Science at Oxford, informed me that he incorporated details from this HistoryofInformation.com entry into his A revised bibliography of William Bourne. Johnston updated the bibliography written by D.W. Waters and R.A. Skelton published in E.G.R. Taylor's Hakluyt Society edition of A Regiment for the Sea and other Writings on Navigation by William Bourne of Gravesend, a Gunner (c. 1535-1582) (Cambridge, 1963). 

(This entry was last updated in December 2016.)


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Andrew Maunsell Issues the First "Books in Print" 1595

In 1595 bookseller and bibliographer Andrew Maunsell published in London The First Part [the Seconde Parte] of the Catalogue of English printed Bookes. This was the first trade bibliography of English books, giving author, translator where applicable, a title full enough to ensure definite identification, format, and printer or bookseller and date. It listed those books printed in the preceding fifty to sixty years and which were still available from publishers and booksellers. The first part, consisting of 123 pages, listed theology-excluding anti-Reformation literature. The much shorter second part, consisting of 27 pages, listed "the Sciences Mathematicall, as Arithmetick, Geometrie, Astronomie, Astrologie, Musick, and the Arte of VVarre, and Nauigation; and also of Phisick and Surgerie."

In his Beginnings of Systematic Bibliography (2nd ed 1940) Theodore Besterman characterized Maunsell's work as the one in which a "a real technique of book-description is made use of for the first time" (p. 29). The Catalogue is also an alphabetical subject bibliography, with the larger subjects sub-divided and in each section works arranged alphabetically by author's surname—one of the earliest uses of the surname for indexing.

In his dedication to "Worshipfull the Master, Wardens, and Assistants of the Companie of Stationers and to all other Printers and Booke-sellers in generall" Maunsell wrote of learned men that

"have written Latine Catalogues, [Conrad] Gesner, Simler, and our countrman John Bale. They make their Alphabet by the Christen name, I by the Sir name; They mingle Diuinitie, Law Phiscke, &c. together, I set Diuinitie by itselfe; They set downe Printed and not Printed, I onely Printed, and none but such as I have seene. . . Concerning the Books which are without Authors names called Anonymi, I have placed them either upon the Title they bee entiuled by, or else upon the matter they entreate of, and sometimes upon both, for the easier finding of them."

Maunsell then explained his cross-indexing system, and how it should be used throughout the work.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) no. 36.

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Christophorus Guyot Issues the Earliest Surviving Catalogue of a Book Auction July 6, 1599

The first book auctions with lot numbers and printed catalogues took place in Holland. The first book auction with a printed catalogue took place in Leiden in 1593, though no catalogue survives. The earliest surviving catalogue of a book auction was issued by Christophorus Guyot in Leiden: Catalogus Librorum Bibliothecae Nobilissimi Clarissimique viri piae memoriea D. Philippi Marnixii. The sale took place in the house of the widow of the owner of the library, Filips van Marnix, heer van Sint-Aldegonde, on July 6, 1599.

Marnix was a Dutch and Flemish writer and statesman and the probable author of the text of the Dutch national anthem, the Wilhelmus.

"Less known to the general public is his work as a cryptographer. St. Aldegonde is considered to be the first Dutch cryptographer (cfr. The Codebreakers). For Stadholder William the Silent, he deciphered secret messages that were intercepted from the Spaniards. His interest in cryptography possibly shows in the Wilhelmus, where the first letters of the couplets form the name Willem van Nassov, i.e. William 'the Silent' of Nassau, the Prince of Orange, but such musical games -often far more intricate- were commonly practiced by polyphony composers since the Gothic period." 

Only two copies survive. Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) no. 40.

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1600 – 1650

Matteo Ricci Issues the First European-Style World Map in Chinese & the First Chinese Map to Show the Americas 1602

Drawn by Jesuit missionary, sinologist and polymath, Matteo RicciKūnyú Wànguó Quántú (坤輿萬國全圖 ("A Map of the Myriad Countries of the World") issued in 1602 was the first European-style world map in Chinese. Five feet (1.52 m) high and twelve feet (3.66 m) wide, it was printed from six large woodblocks and intended to be mounted on a folding screen. 

"Drawing of the map followed a first primitive map by Ricci, printed in 1584, named Yudi Shanhai Quantu (舆地山海全图). made in Zhaoqing, in 1584 by the Jesuit priest, Matteo Ricci. Ricci was one of the first Western scholars to live in China, master of Chinese script and the Classical Chinese language. Ricci created smaller versions of the map at the request of the governor of Zhaoqing at the time, Wang Pan, who wanted the document to serve as a resource for explorers and scholars.

"Later, Ricci was the first Westerner to enter Peking, bringing atlases of Europe and the West that were unknown to his hosts. The Chinese had maps of the East that were equally unfamiliar to Western scholars. In 1602, at the request of the Wanli Emperor, Ricci collaborated with Mandarin Zhong Wentao, technical translator Li Zhizao. and other Chinese scholars in what is now Beijing to create what was his third and largest world map.

"In this map, European geographic knowledge, new to the Chinese, was combined with Chinese information to create the first map known to combine Chinese and European cartography. Among other things, this map revealed the existence of America to the Chinese. Ford W. Bell said: 'This was a great collaboration between East and West. It really is a very clear example of how trade was a driving force behind the spread of civilization.'

"Several prints of the map were made in 1602. Only seven original copies of the map are known to exist and only two are in good condition. Known copies are in the Vatican Apostolic Library Collection I; Vatican Apostolic Library Collection II; Japan Kyoto University Collection; collection of Japan Miyagi Prefecture Library; Collection of the Library of the Japanese Cabinet; a private collection in Paris, France and one recently sold in London (formerly in a private collection in Japan). No examples of the map are known to exist in China, where Ricci was revered and buried.

"Ferdinand Verbiest would later develop a similar but improved map, the Kunyu Quantu in 1674" (Wikipedia article on Impossible Black Tulip, accessed 01-13-2010).

In December 2009 The James Ford Bell Trust announced that in October 2009 it had acquired for the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, one of the two "good" copies of the Kūnyú Wànguó Quántú  from Bernard J. Shapero, a noted London dealer in rare books and maps in London, for $1 million. This was the second most expensive map purchase in history after the Library of Congress purchase of the Waldseemüller World Map. The James Ford Bell copy previously was in a private collection in Japan.

The first public exhibition of the Kūnyú Wànguó Quántú was held at the Library of Congress in January 2010.

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Galileo Issues Images of Revolutionary Discoveries Concerning the Universe; and the Story of a Remarkable Forgery November 1609 – March 13, 1610

After learning in 1609 that a Dutchman, Hans Lippershey, had invented an instrument that made faraway objects appear closer, Italian scientist Galileo Galilei, a resident of Padua, applied himself to discovering the principle behind this instrument. By late in 1609 he built a telescope of about thirty power. This he probably first turned to the heavens in November or December 1609, with astronishing and revolutionary results. In contradiction to the doctrines of Aristotle and Ptolemy, which taught that the celestrial sphere and its planets and stars were perfect and unchanging, Galileo's telescope showed that the surface of the moon was rough and mountainous, and the Milky way was composed of thickly clustered stars. In November or December 1609 Galileo painted six watercolors on a notebook page showing the phases of the moon, as he observed them through the telescope. These images, on a sheet preserved in Florence, at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale (Ms. Gal. 48, f. 28r), were the first realistic images of the moon, and the first recorded images of bodies beyond the earth seen by man. 

On the night of January 7, 2010 Galileo set up a telescope on his balcony in Padua. He spotted three stars near Jupiter, and noted their positions in a notebook. Six days later Galileo returned to his telescope and found the same stars, but by then their position had changed. At that point he realized that the three stars were moons orbiting Jupiter— proof that the universe of stars was not fixed, as postulated by Ptolemy's geocentric theory, and evidence for Copernicanism. Three months later Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius, or Starry Messenger, was published in Venice in an edition of 550 copies. The Sidereus Nuncius described and illustrated with copperplate engravings the first astronomical observations made through a telescope. Its images provided revolutionary new information about the universe. Though it contained only the bare facts of Galileo's observations without any overt reference to the Copernican theory, Sidereus Nuncius aroused a sensation among the European learned community, for it provided the first hard evidence that the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic view of the universe contained inaccuracies. 

"He sent a copy of the book, along with the telescope he had been using, to the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo II de’ Medici. Dr. [Owen] Gingerich said the pamphlet amounted to 'a job application' to the Medici family for whom, in one of history’s first examples of branding, Galileo named the four satellites of Jupiter. 'Other planets were gods or goddesses,' said Paolo Galluzzi, director of the Florence institute. 'The only humans with position in sky were Medicis.' The ploy worked, Cosimo II hired Galileo as his astronomer, elevating him from a poorly paid professor at the University of Padua to a celebrity, making the equivalent of $300,000, a year, Dr. Galluzzi said. Galileo returned the favor by giving Cosimo another telescope, clad in red leather and stamped with decorations" (Dennis Overbye, "A Telescope to the Past as Galileo Visits the U.S.", The New York Times, March 27, 2009.)

It is thought that Galileo built dozens of telescopes, of which two survive, both in the Institute for the History of Science (Museo Galileo) in Florence, Italy. One covered in decorated leather, which Galileo sent to Grand Duke Cosimo II de' Medici, retains only one of its original lenses, but the other, covered only in varnished paper, contains its original functioning optics, and has its focal length labeled in Galileo's handwriting on the outside of its tube. This telescope was loaned to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia for an exhibition from April to September 2009. (The online article in The New York Times included a video showing the original telescope being unpacked in Philadelphia.)


In June 2005 antiquarian bookseller Richard Lan (Martayan-Lan, Inc.) purchased a copy of the Sidereus nuncius from Marino Massimo De Caro and antiquarian bookseller Filippo Rotundo that was represented as a proof copy, signed by Galileo, originally from the library of Federico Cesi, founder of the Accademia dei Lincei. Instead of copperplate engraved illustrations as in other copies of the book, this copy contained watercolors of the phases of the moon similar to those which Galileo made at the end of 1609 and which are preserved in Florence. It was known that the Venetian printer had sent Galileo thirty copies with blank spaces indicating where etchings would be placed. Presumably this was one of those copies, in which Galileo had personally painted images for presentation to Federico Cesi, instead of having engravings printed in. The copy was examined by all the leading authorities, subjected to various tests, and was generally considered a unique proof copy.

The Martayan Lan copy was included in the discussions in a symposium convened at the Library of Congress in November 2010 entitled "Galileo's Moons," intended to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Sidereus Nuncius and the acquisition by the Library of Congress of an uncut copy of the first edition bound in the original limp paper boards. Papers presented at this symposium accepted the authenticity of the Martayan Lan copy.

In 2011 De Gruyter published a rather grand 2-volume set, fully illustrated in color, based on research begun in 2007. Volume one, edited by Irene Brückle and Oliver Hahn, was entitled Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius. A comparison of the proof copy (New York) with other paradigmatic copies. Volume two, written by Paul Needham, was entitled Galileo Makes a Book. The First Edition of Sidereus Nuncius, Venice 1610. Regarding the significance of Needham's study, I quote from the review by G. Thomas Tanselle, Common Knowledge19, #3, (Fall 2013), 575-576:

"Needham’s book is based on eighty-three other copies, and he draws as well on Galileo’s letters, drafts, and various external documents. The result is a detailed account of the early months of 1610, from January 15, when Galileo decided he must publish his discoveries, to March 13, when the printing was completed; an additional chapter discusses the book’s distribution and Galileo’s corrections in some copies. The task of bibliography, as stated by Needham, is to know “the materials and human actions that produced (in multiple copies) the structure of a printed book.” Systematically he takes up the paper, type, and format of Sidereus Nuncius and provides a quire-by-quire analysis of its production, making exemplary use of many techniques of bibliographical analysis, each patiently and clearly explained, with accompanying illustrations. The book could serve as an excellent introduction to this kind of work; but even more remarkably, it demonstrates how interconnected are the physical object and its intellectual content. The title sentence, “Galileo makes a book,” has a double meaning: not only did Galileo write the text, but he also attended to its physical production, making the presentation of the text integral to its meaning. Needham does not neglect Galileo’s writing itself: he calls Galileo “an artist with words,” whose “prose embodies not just close reasoning, but also life and emotion.”

"This assessment applies equally to Needham’s own writing, which combines rigorous but readable technical analysis with an awareness of the human side of that work and the story it reveals. This combination recalls an earlier bibliographical classic, Allan Stevenson’s The Problem of the Missale Speciale (1967), another full-length treatment of a single book. Even the sense of humor displayed by Stevenson has its counterpart here: when, for example, Needham explains two hypotheses as to when the printing of Galileo’s book began, he calls the one that postulates a later date “the dilatory view.” At the end Needham praises the many nameless actors, such as papermakers and printing-shop workers, who played roles in the story; and he closes with “the mules and oxen whose humble labor moved sheets of Sidereus Nuncius across the face of Europe, under the eyes of the boundless sky.” This passage, occurring in a work of bibliographical analysis, epitomizes the work’s unusual accomplishment: it breaks new ground in the study of a major book, sets forth its discoveries in an engaging narrative, and in the process shows how bibliography can be essential to intellectual history."

Until early 2012 Richard Lan was privately offering the copy for sale for $10,000,000. Then Nick Wilding, an historian of science at Georgia State University who had been asked to review the 2-volume set mentioned above, presented concrete proof that the Martayan-Lan copy was a forgery:

  • The book bears a library stamp by the founder of the Accademia dei Lincei Federico Cesi. But the stamp in the Martayan Lan copy doesn’t match those in other books with Cesi's stamp.
  • The title page was different from genuine copies, but bore similarities to a 1964 facsimile and an unsold Sotheby’s auction copy.
  • There was no record of the Siderus Nuncius in the original library from which this copy was thought to come.

Slowly the thread of fabrication began to unravel. Discovery of the forgery coincided with the exposure of massive thefts of rare books from the Girolomini Library in Naples, for which Marino Massimo De Caro, and others were eventually convicted. In 2013 the Library of Congress and Levenger Press issued Galileo Galilei, The Starry Messenger, Venice, 1610. From Doubt to Astonishment. This volume contained a facsimile edition of the Library of Congress copy, an English translation, and the text of the papers delivered at the November 2010 symposium. However, as the editor of the volume noted, Paul Needham revised his paper (now retitled "Authenticity and Facsimile: Gaileo's Paper Trail") in light of his later acceptance that the Martayan Lan copy was a forgery. On December 16, 2013 The New Yorker magazine published a detailed background article on the forgery and how it was accomplished, by Nicholas Schmidel: "A Very Rare Book. The mystery surrounding a copy of Gaileo's pivotal treatise." While the article filled in many blanks concerning the Sidereus Nuncius forgery, it raised other questions concerning other unknown thefts and forgeries by Marino Massimo de Caro and his associates.

In February 2014 De Gruyter issued an originally unintended volume three of their 2011 two-volume set entitled A Galileo Forgery. Unmasking the New York Sidereus Nuncius, edited by Horst Bredekamp, Irëne Bruckel, and Paul Needham. When I last revised this entry in August 2014 the full text of the volume was available as an Open Access PDF at no charge. This was the most comprehensive account and proof of the forgery. In many ways it was the most remarkable and admirable volume of the set, in which the scholars, recounted how the forgery was discovered, drew their final conclusions proving the forgery, and explained how they had been deceived in the first place.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 855.

(This entry was last revised on 04-04-2015.)

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Adriaan Vlacq Issues the First Complete Set of Modern Logarithms 1628

In 1628 Adriaan Vlacq, a bookseller, publisher, and human computer, computed and issued the first complete set of modern logarithms in Gouda through Petrus Rammaseyn printers. Four years earlier, in 1624, English mathematician Henry Briggs had published Arithmetica logarithma sive logarithmorum chiliades triginta, pro numeris naturali serie crescentibus ab unitate 20,000 et a 90,000 ad 100,000 changing the original logarithms invented by John Napier into common (base 10) logarithms. In 1626 Dutch surveyer and teacher of mathematics Ezechiel de Decker contracted with Vlacq for the publication of several translations of books by John Napier, Edmund Gunter and Henry Briggs. A first book was published in 1626, with several translations done by Vlacq. A second book was made of the logarithms of the first 10000 numbers from Briggs' Arithmetica logarithmica published in 1624. The logarithms were shortened to 10 places. In 1627, De Decker's Het Tweede deel van de Nieuwe telkonst  was published, containing the logarithms of all numbers from 1 to 100000, to 10 places, much of which had been computed by Vlacq. Only very few copies of this book are known and its publication was apparently stopped or delayed.This Tweede deel of 1627 was the first complete table of decimal logarithms. 

In 1628 Vlacq republished the 10 decimal place logarithm tables as Arithmetica logarithma sive logarithmorum chiliades tentum, pro numeris naturali serie crescentibus ab unitate ad 100000. He appears to have had a connection with the Gouda firm of Petrus Rammaseyn and it is this firm that published the work, this time under Vlacq's name. A French translation, Arithmetique logarithmetique, ou, La construction et usage d'une table contenant les logarithms de tous les nombres depuis l'unité jusque 100000 by Vlacq was also published by Petrus Rammaseyn at almost the same time.

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Stephen Daye Issues the First Book Written & Printed in North America, North of Mexico 1640

The the first book printed in North America, north of Mexico, was the Whole Booke of Psalmes, edited by Richard Mather, John Eliot and others. Known as the Bay Psalm Book, it was also the first book printed in English in the New World. The book was printed in 1640 by Stephen Daye, a locksmith in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Because the Bay Psalm Book published a new translation of the psalms made in North America, it was also the first book written in North America, north of Mexico. One hundred and one years earlier Juan Pablos, in Mexico, had issued the first book printed in North America, and also the first book printed in the Western Hemisphere.

Of the original edition of 1700 copies, eleven copies remain extant. The finest copy, preserved in its original calf binding, is in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island.

"The first printing press to come to British America arrived in the winter of 1638/39. During 1639 an almanac and the 'Oath of a Freeman' were printed, although no genuine examples of either have been found. The ministers of the small colony were eager to produce their own version of the Psalms, one that did not sacrifice accuracy of translation to regulating of meter. Richard Mather, John Eliot, and several others made translations from the original Hebrew. Thus this first product of the American press represented a distinct break from Old England, both in production and translation" (Reese, The Printers' First Fruits. An Exhibition of American Imprints 1640-1742, from the Collections of the American Antiquarian Society [1989] no. 1).

On November 26, 2013 Sotheby's in New York auctioned a copy of the Bay Psalm Book. This was the first copy sold since 1947, when it realized $151,000. The presale estimate was $15,000,000-$30,000,000. The copy was a duplicate from the Old South Church in Boston, which, remarkably, owned two copies. In preparation for this auction Sotheby's published an extensive catalogue that researched all aspects of the physical book and its content. This information was available from the Sotheby's website at this link.

Prior to the auction on November 16, 2013 The New York Times published an article about the forthcoming sale from which I quote:

"David N. Redden recited the opening of the 23rd Psalm the way he had memorized it as a child: 'The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.

"Then he opened a weathered little book and read the version it contained: 'The Lord to mee a shepheard is, want therefore shall not I. Hee in the folds of tender-grasse, doth cause mee downe to lie.'....

"Mr. Redden, who is the chairman of Sotheby’s books department and has auctioned copies of Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence, among other historic and valuable documents, will sell that copy on Nov. 26. Sotheby’s expects it to go for $15 million to $30 million, which would make it the most expensive book ever sold at auction — more expensive than a copy of John James Audubon’s 'The Birds of America' that sold in December 2010 for $11.54 million (equivalent to $12.39 million in 2013 dollars), the current record. That beat the $7.5 million ($10.77 million today) paid for a copy of Chaucer’s 'Canterbury Tales' at Christie’s in London in 1998, and the $6.16 million ($8.14 million today) paid for Shakespeare’s First Folio at Christie’s in New York in 2001."

The price realized on November 26, 2013 was $12,500,000 plus the buyer's premium, or $14,165,000. While substantially below the low estimate, and probably just meeting the reserve, the price set a new record for the sale of a printed book.
In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the incomplete copy of the first edition in the Library of Congress was available at this link.
(This entry was last revised on 12-23-2016.)
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1650 – 1700

The Earliest Bibliography of Bibliographies 1664

In 1664 French Jesuit geographer, historian, and bibliographer Philippe Labbé issued the first bibliography of bibliographies: Bibliotheca bibliothecarum curis secundis auctior accedit Bibliotheca Nummaria 

"It is basically an alphabetical list, arranged by authors' first names, followed by eight intricate subject indices, among them one of publishers' and booksellers' catalogues. Appended is a very useful numismatic bibliography" (Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development [1984] no. 62).

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The World's Oldest Auction House is Founded 1674

Stockholms Auktionsverk (Stockholm's Auction House), the world's oldest auction house, was founded in 1674.

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Laws of Book Production and the Book Trade 1675

In 1675 lecturer on law in Halle and Jena, Ahasaver Fritsch published in Jena Tractatus de typographis, bibliopolis chartariis et bibliopegis (Treatise on Book Printers, Booksellers, Paper Manufacturers and Bookbinders). This treatise on the book trade focused on specifically on statutes, ordinances, liberties, disputes, censorship and inspection of printing offices and bookshops.

"Fritsch is one of the first writers on the subject to explicitly define an author's exclusive right to permit new editions of his work. The first publisher, however, has a right of priority to the publication of the new edition, provided that he offers the author terms which are as good as those promised by competing publishers (p.47). In Fritsch's view, however, the author's right is not meant to produce profit, but only honour. Quoting the Jena law professor Johannes Gryphiander (1580-1652), he states on page 37f.: 'The works of authors are sold to book printers and book sellers for a certain price, but in such a way, though, that the latter have the profit, whereas the honour goes to the former.' Fritsch' s views on authors' rights to new editions and his notion that the author may expect to gain honour but not profit, are probably based on his own experiences and hopes as an author and lecturer. However, when he presents a detailed justification of book privileges, Fritsch proves himself to be a judicious political theorist: privileges do not fall into the general category of monopolies which are to be rejected. He gives three reasons for arguing thus: (i) the demands of natural justness ('natürliche Billigkeit'), whereby the first publishers have to be protected, so that they may recoup their investment; (ii) publishers are encouraged ('angefrischet') by the award of privileges to have valuable new books printed at their expense; (iii) privileges are granted only for a limited term, so that they cannot seriously harm the public in any way. These three aspects sound quite modern: a special protection is justified on the grounds of the natural right not to suffer unjust damages and to recoup what one has invested. Furthermore, such special protection is justified as the means of providing an incentive for further publishing ventures. Nevertheless, such exemptions from the general rejection of monopolies are only to be allowed for a strictly limited term" (Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org, referring to the anonymous German translation of 1750).

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The First Bibliography of Rare Books 1676

In 1678 philologist and bibliographer Johann Hallervord published the first bibliography of rare books issued with the book collector in mind: Bibliotheca curiosa in qua plurimi rarissimi atque paucis cogniti scriptores in Königsberg and Frankfurt. Hallervord (1644-1676) mentioned more than 2800 authors, and included information on anonymous and pseudonymous works. As the son of a bookseller, and probably a scion of the Hallervord family of publishers in Stettin, Hallervord had access to important  public and private libraries in Königsberg and in the Baltic regions, on which he was able to base his research.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) no. 75.

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The First Book Auction in England October 31, 1676

The first auction sale of a library in England was the library of clergyman Lazarus Seaman sold on October 31, 1676. Bookseller William Cooper published a catalogue of the sale, which took place at Seaman's house:

Catalogus variorum & insignium librorum instructissimæ bibliothecæ clarissimi doctissimiq[ue] viri Lazari Seaman, S.T.D. Quorum auctio habebitur Londini in ædibus defuncti in area & viculo Warwicensi, Octobris ultimo. Cura Gulielmi Cooper bibliopolæ.

Though the main body of the catalogue was in Latin, Cooper took care to publish his conditions of sale in English. In his Foreword to Munby & Coral, British Book Sale Catalogues 1676-1800: A Union List (1977) Anthony Hobson reproduced the Address to the Reader published in the Seaman catalogue as "the ancestor of all subsequent 'Conditions of Sale' ":

"To the Reader.


"It has not been usual here in England to make Sales of BOOKS by way of Auction, or who will give most for them: But it having been practised in other Countreys to the Advantage both of Buyers and Sellers; It was therefore conceived (for the Encouragement of Learning) to publish the Sale of these Books in this manner of way; and it is hoped that this will not be unacceptable to Schollers; and therefore we thought it convenient to give an Advertisement concerning the manner of proceeding therein.

"First, That having this Catalogue of the Books, and their Editions under their several Heads and Numbers, it will be more easie for any Personal of Quality, Gentlemen, or others, to Depute any one to Buy such Books for them as they shall desire, if their occasions will not permit them to be present at the Auction themselves.

"Secondly, That those which bid most are the Buyers; and if any manifest Differences should arise, that then the same Book or Books shalle forthwith exposed again to Sale, and highest bidder to have the same.

"Thirdly, That all the Books according to the Catalogue are (for so much as know) perfect, and sold as such; But if any of them appear to be otherwise before they be taken away, the Buyer shall have his choice of taking or leaving the same.

"Fourthly, That the Mony for the Books bought, be paid at the Delivery of them, within one Month's time after the Auction is ended.

"Fifthly, That the Auction will begin the 31st of October at the Deceased Dr's House in Warwick Court in Warwick lane punctually at Nine of the Clock in the Morning, and Two in the Afternoon, and this to continue daily until all the Books be Sold. Wherefore it is desired, that the Gentlemen, or those Deputed by them, may be there precisely at the Hours appointed, lest they should miss the opportunity of Buying those Books, which either themselves or their Friends desire" (Hobson, op cit. x-xi).;

ESTC System No. 006092171; ESTC Citation No. R25610. 

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The First Attempt to Collect and Organize the Literature of Early Printing 1688

Cornelis a Beughem's Incunabula typographiae s. catalogus librorum scriptorumque proximis ab inventione typographiae annis ad annum Christi MD inclusive in quavis lingua editorum, published in Amsterdam in 1688, was the first attempt to comprehend and organize the collected literature of early printing, and the first use of of the term incunabula in the title of a book on the history of early printing. Beughem cited approximately 3000 titles. Beughem, a bookseller and city counselor at Emmerich, in the Duchy of Cleves under the rule of the Electors of Brandenburg, and author of several bibliographies, has been called the foremost bibliographer of the 17th century

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The First Book Catalogue Published in America 1693

The first book catalogue published in North America was the auction catalogue of the library of the non-conformist minister and natural philosopher Rev. Samuel Lee (1625?-91) issued in Boston by bookseller Duncan Cambell (d. 1702). It is known from a single surviving copy preserved in the Boston Public Library:

The library of the late Reverend and learned Mr. Samuel Lee. Containing a choice variety of books upon all subjects; particularly, commentaries on the Bible; bodies of divinity. The works as well of the ancient, as of the modern divines; treatises on the mathematicks, in all parts; history, antiquities; natural philosophy [,] physick, and chymistry; with grammar and school-books. With many more choice books not mentioned in this catalogue. Exposed at the most easy rates, to sale, by Duncan Cambell, bookseller at the dock-head over against the conduit.

"Bookseller's catalogue: 1200 short author entries, in Latin and English, arranged (not entirely consistently) by subject, within subject by language (either Latin or English), and within language by format. The subject headings are divinity (by far the largest); physical books (medicine and science); philosophy, cosmography & geography; mathematical, astrological and astronomical books; history, school authors; juris prudentia, miscellanie, and three miscellaneous lots of consecutively numbered entries"(Winans, A Descriptive Checklist of Book Catalogues Separately Printed in America 1693-1800 [1981] no. 1).

ESTC System No. 006467597; ESTC Citation No. W19259.

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1700 – 1750

The Bigot Sale, the First Book Auction Conducted in Paris for Which a Catalogue was Printed July – December 1706

The sale by auction of the Bigot family library was conducted by booksellers Jean Boudot, Charles Osmont and Gabriel Martin over the remarkably long duration of five months from July to December, 1706. Prior to this auction several auction catalogues for private libraries were printed in Paris but the libraries were sold privately before auctions could occur. The Bigot sale was in five parts comprising 450 manuscripts and over 15,000 printed books. It was the first book auction conducted in Paris for which a catalogue was published and the first of the 125 auctions conducted by Gabriel Martin, which, over the course of 25 years, established Paris as the leading center for book auctions.

Bookseller, publisher and writer Prosper Marchand organized and catalogued the sale for Martin and Osmont. One of the ways in which the sale was notable was in its introduction of the classification scheme which divided information into five great divisions that Marchand borrowed from the seventeenth century astonomer, scientific intermediator, and librarian, Ismaël Boulliau (Bullialdus). Gabriel Martin promoted this scheme, which originated in the seventeenth century, and may have first been applied in the catalogue of the library of Jacques Auguste de Thou, the Catalogus Bibliothecae Thuanae (1679). The scheme categorized information into the following subject areas: theology, jurisprudence, sciences and arts (initially called philosophy in this catalogue), belles-lettres (humane letters), and history. Book auctions in France would follow this scheme throughout the 18th century, and in the early 19th century Jacques Charles Brunet elaborated on this basic scheme in his Manuel du Libraire et de l'amateur de livres (1810). See Berkvens-Stevelink, Prosper Marchand: la vie et oeuvre (1987) 11-22.

The published auction catalogue was entitled Bibliotheca Bigotiana; seu, Catalogus librorum, quos (dum viverent) summâ curâ & industriâ, ingentique sumptu congressêre vir clarissimi DD. uterque Joannes, Nicolaus, & Lud. Emericus Bigotii, domini de Sommesnil & de Cleuville. . . . 

The Library was begun by Jean Bigot in the early 17th century, and continued by his son, Louis-Emery. It eventually passed to Robert Bigot, sieur de Monville, and was sold at his death in 1706. The library included that of Jean-Jacques de Mesmes, for whom Gabriel Naudé had written Avis pour dresser une bibliothèque in 1627. 

At the auction the abbé de Louvois purchased many books for the Bibliothèque du Roi. "This was Gabriel Martin's first catalogue, and according to Bléchet, Jean-Pierre Nicéron was an editor" (North, Printed Catalogues of French Book Auctions and Sales by Private Treaty 1643-1830 in the Library of the Grolier Club [2004] no. 12).

The Bigot manuscripts were purchased for the Bibliothèque du roi. Over 150 years later they were catalogued by Léopold Delisle as Bibliotheca Bigotiana Manuscripta. Catalogue des manuscrits rassemblés aux XVIIe siecle par les Bigot, mis en vente au mois de juillet 1706, aujourdhui conservé aux Bibliothèque nationale (1877).

Albert, Recherches sur les principes fondamentaux de la classification bibliographique. . . . (1847) 17-19.

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The Statute of Anne: The First Copyright Statute 1709

In 1709 British parliament enacted the Statute of Anne; short title: Copyright Act 1709 8 Anne c.21; long title: An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned. Named after Anne, Queen of Great Britain, this was the first copyright statute in the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the first full-fledged copyright statute in the world. It was enacted in the regnal year 1709 to 1710, and entered into force on April 10, 1710.  

The Statute of Anne granted publishers of books legal protection for 14 years with the commencement of the statute. It also granted 21 years of protection for any book already in print. At the expiration of the first 14 year copyright term the copyright re-vested in its author, if he or she were still alive, for a further term of 14 years.

"The statute determined that the 'copy' was the 'sole liberty of printing and reprinting' a book and this liberty could be infringed by any person who printed, reprinted or imported the book without consent. Those infringing copyright had to pay a fine of one penny for every sheet of the book, one moiety of which went to the author, the other to the Crown. In today’s terms this was a considerable fine. In addition the book in question was to be destroyed. Leaving in place the existing system of registration, the statute specified that action against infringement could only be brought if the title had been entered in the register at the Stationers' Company before publication. The formal requirements of registration enabled users to locate the owners of copyrighted works. The requirement for copies of published books to be deposited in university libraries ensured that there was public access to copyrighted works.

"Authors' rights

"The statute was the first to recognise the legal right of authorship, but it did not provide a coherent understanding of authorship or authors' rights. While the statute established the author as legal owner, and so providing the basis for the development of authors' copyright, it also provided a 21 year copyright term to books already in print. At the end of the 21 years granted by the statute the concept of literary property was still a booksellers' rather than an author' concern, as most authors continued to sell their works outright to booksellers. Given that the statute primarily intended to encourage public learning and to regulate the book trade, any benefits for authors in the statute were incidental. Throughout the 18th century, at the encouragement of the booksellers, rather than the authors, an understanding emerged that copyright originated in author's rights to the product of his labour. Thus it was argued that the primary purpose of copyright was to protect authors' rights, not the policy goal of encouraging public learning" (Wikipedia article on Statute of Anne, accessed 08-06-2011).

In February 2014 a digital facsimile of the original UK Parliament manuscript copy of the act was available from Primary Sources on Copyright at this link.

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Thomas Osborne Issues "The British Librarian", the First Periodical Published in English on Rare Books & Manuscripts 1737 – 1738

From January to June, 1737 London rare book dealer and publisher Thomas Osborne published six issues of The British Librarian: Exhibiting a Compenious Review or Abstract of our most Scarce, Useful and Valuable Books in all Sciences as well in Manuscript as in Print. The six issues were collected and republished as a book in 1738. The British Librarian was the first periodical published in English on rare books and manuscripts, and it may be the first periodical on these topics in any language, as the antiquarian book trade was beginning to become organized around this time. Notably, the earliest recorded full-fledged rare book catalogue— as distinct from an auction catalogue— was also issued in 1738.

The anonymous author of the periodical, William Oldys, included descriptions of unique manuscripts, of examples of early printing such as several works printed by William Caxton, and of other works which were considered rare and collectable at the time. He sometimes included details of bindings, and of private collections. While Oldys' descriptions lean toward the verbose, and there is a certain lack of analysis, the periodical provides valuable insight into how rare books were appreciated and marketed in the first half of the eighteenth century. It is especially helpful since, as Oldys remarks, booksellers' catalogues and library catalogues of this period were primarily listings, and almost never annotated.

William Oldys devoted his life to antiquarian and bibliographic pursuits, compiling valuable notes on Langbaine's Dramatick Poets (1691), writing an important "Life" of Sir Walter Raleigh (published in the 1736 edition of Raleigh's History of the World), and amassing a library of historical and political works. In 1731 Oldys sold his library to Edward Harley (1689-1741), second Earl of Oxford probably the greatest English collector of printed books and manuscripts of his time. From 1738 to 1741 Oldys served as the Earl's librarian, but had to give up the post upon his patron's death. In 1742 The Earl of Oxford's immense library of printed books was purchased by bookseller Thomas Osborne, publisher of The British Librarian and one of England's first rare book dealers. Osborne hired Oldys and Samuel Johnson to prepare a descriptive catalogue of the Harleian collection prior to its sale; the resulting Catalogus bibliothecae Harleianae was issued in four volumes plus a supplementary fifth volume of books from Osborne's stock, between 1743 and 1745. Oldys and Samuel Johnson also worked together on The Harleian Miscellany, an annotated reprint of selected tracts and pamphlets from the Harleian library edited by Oldys and Johnson, and published by Osborne.

After the death of Harley ", . . Oldys worked for the booksellers. His habits were irregular, and in 1751 his debts drove him to the Fleet prison. After two years' imprisonment he was released through the kindness of friends who paid his debts, and in April 1755 he was appointed Norfolk Herald Extraordinary and then Norroy King of Arms by the Duke of Norfolk" (Wikipedia article on William Oldys, which derives material from the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica).

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Johan Adam Schmid Issues the First "Full-Fledged Antiquarian Bookseller's Catalogue" 1738

In 1738 German bookseller Johann Adam Schmid issued from Nuremberg the first "full-fledged" antiquarian bookseller's catalogue describing books which were significant, rare and desirable to collectors, with printed prices listed for each book:

Bibliotheca anonymiana, sive catalogus bibliotheca locupletis, Raritate, selectu, Ligatura Librorum splendidissimae. . . cum Notis literariis perpetuis aequissimoque Librorum pretio.

The anonymous owner of the collection was Adam Rudolph Solger, deacon of St. Lawrence's, Nuremberg, and later head of the Nuremberg church administration and librarian of the City Library. Solger sold his first library, of which this is the catalogue, after being stricken by the death of his daughter. Blogie V, col. 745.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) No. 99.

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Benjamin Franklin Issues the First American Trade Catalogues April 11, 1744

In a Guide to American Trade Catalogues 1744-1900 (1960) page x Lawrence B. Romaine stated that the earliest American trade catalogue was the following list of books for sale issued by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia in 1744:

A Catalogue of Choice and Valuable Books, Consisting of Near 600 Volumes, in Most Faculties and Sciences, viz: Divinity, History, Law, Mathematics, Philosophy, Physics, Poetry, etc., Which Will Begin to be Sold for Ready Money Only, by Benjamin Franklin, at the Post Office in Philadelphia, on Wednesday, the 11th day of April 1744, at Nine a Clock in the Morning and for Dispatch, the Lowest Price is Mark'd in Each Book. The Sale to Continue Three Weeks, and No Longer; and What Then Remains Will be Sold at an Advanced Price. Those Persons that Live Remote, by Sending their Order and Money to Said B. Franklin, May Depend upon the Same Justice as if Present.

The 16-page pamphlet was divided into sections, following the traditional method of classifying the books by size: Books in folio, Books in quarto, Books in octavo, books in duodecimo, and, as a final item, a pair of globes 16 inches in diameter made by in London by J. Senex. (This information comes from Romaine p. 71.)

When I wrote this entry in November 2014 I could not find a digital facsimile of the rare original. I did note that a facsimile edition of the copy in the Curtis Collection of Philadelphia Imprints at the University of Pennsylvania Library was issued in 1948 with an introduction by Carl van Doren.

Romaine page 358 also cited a pamphlet written and printed by Franklin on the Franklin Stoves issued the same year: An Account of the New Invented Pennsylvanian Fire-Places (Philadelphia, 1744). Though Romaine cited some disagreement in 1960 as to whether this was actually a trade catalogue, its commercial purpose seems to have become widely accepted, as per the introductory comments to the above linked-to copy of the text from the website of the National Archives.

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1750 – 1800

Bookseller Guillaume François de Bure Begins "Modern" Rare Book Cataloguing 1763 – 1782

"Modern" rare book cataloguing, with researched descriptive annotations, originated between 1763 and 1782 with the publication by antiquarian bookseller and bibliographer Guillaume François de Bure (Debure) of Bibliographie instructive; ou traité de la connoissance des livres rares et singuliersContentant un Catalogue raisonné del la plus grande partie de ces Livres précieux, qui ont paru successivement dans la République des Lettres, depuis l'Invention de l'Imprimerie, jusques à nos jours; avec des Notes sur la différences & la rareté actuelle, & son dégré plus ou moins considérable: la maniere de distinguer les Editions originale, d'avec les contrefaites, avec un Description Typographique particuliere du composé de ces rare Volumes, ou moyen de laquell il sera aisé de reconnoître facilement les Exemplaires, ou mutilés en partie, ou absolument imparfaits, qui s'en recontrent journellement dans le Commerce, & de les distinguer surrement de ceux qui seront exactement completes dans toutes leurs parties. Disposé par order de Matieres & des facultés, suivant de systême Bibliographique généralement adopté; avec un Table générale des Auteurs, & un systême complete de Bibliographie choisie.

This main work appeared in 7 volumes. Volumes 8 and 9, published in 1769, consisted of Supplement à la Bibliographie instructive, our Catalogue des Livres  du Cabinet de feu M. Louis Jean Gaignat. This was the auction catalogue of Gaignat's collection written and published by de Bure. More than a decade later, in 1782, de Bure issued a tenth volume, also subtitled verbosely:

"Contenant une Table destinée à faciliter la recherche des livres anonymes qui ont été announcés par M. de Bure le jeune dans sa Bibliographie instructive & dans le Catalogue de M. Gaignat, & à suppléer à tout ce qui a été omis dans les tables des ces deux ouvrages, précédée d'un discours sur la science bibliographique et sur les devoirs du bibliographe; et accompagné de courtes notes servant de correctif à différens articles de la Bibliographie, & d'additions à quelques-uns de ceux dans lesquels les noms des Auteurs Anonymes n'avoient par été dévoilés. 

De Bure organized his reference work, and the Gaignat auction catalogue, according to the basic five categories originally promoted by Gabriel Martin in the pioneering Bigot sale in 1706. Among the many notable features of the Bibliographie instructive, it was the first to identify and describe the Gutenberg Bible. De Bure's extensive description first appeared in Volume 1, Théologie (1763) pp. 32-40. In 1769 he provided a dealer's description of the same work in Volume One of the Gaignat sale catalogue, Supplement à la bibliographie instructive, lot 16, pp. 6-7.

Roughly one hundred years after the Bibliographie instructive was published Brunet II, 552-53 wrote of this work: 

"une production tout à fait neuve et assez remarkable à l'époque où elle parut: aujourd'hui même elle peut encore être consultée utilement pour plusieurs articles qui n'ont pas été décrits autre part avec autant de détails que là. Ce catalogue donne d'ailleurs une idée exact du goût qui dominait alors parmi des amateurs de livres rare et précieux."

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) No. 107.

My thanks to Jean-Paul Fontaine for pointing out the correct reference for De Bure's first description of the Gutenberg Bible.

(This entry was last revised on 06-15-2014.)

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The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe 1769 – 1794

The Société typographique de Neuchâtel, a Swiss publisher and bookseller, published about 220 works during its 25 years of operation, the majority of which were counterfeit or pirated editions. Using the extensive archives of the Société, which are held at the Bibliothèque publique and the Université de Neuchâtel, and database technology, The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe Project tracks the movement of around 400,000 copies of 4,000 books across Europe.  "It details, where possible, the exact editions of these works, the routes by which they travelled and the locations of the clients that bought or sold them."

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The Earliest Directory of the Book Trade? 1777

In January 2015, when I wrote this entry, the earliest printed directory of the book trade of which I was aware was the Almanach de l'auteur edited by Antoine Perrin in Paris in 1777, of which later editions appeared in 1778, 1781, and 1784. The source of this information was J. Grand-Carteret, Les Almanachs français (1896) Nos. 570 and 588 ff.

The full explanatory title of Perrin's work is:

Almanach de l'auteur et du libraire contenant:

1. Le nom des Ministres & Magistrats qui sont à la tête de la Librairie, ceux des Censeurs & des Inspecteurs.

2. Un Traité abrégé des formalités qu'on doit remplir pour obtenir les differentes permissions d'imprimer, de fair venir des Livres étrangers, de suivre les procès pendant en la Commission ou on Conseil, & enfin de ce qui'il faut faire pour parvenir à être reçu Libraire ou Imprimeur.

3. Un Tableau de tous les Libraires & Imprimeurs de Paris, avec la distinction de ceux qui sont retirés, & du genre de Libres que chacun d'eux à adopté.

4. Un Tableau de tous les Libraires & Imprimeurs du Royaume.

5. Un Tableau des Libraires le plus accrédités des principales Villes de l'Europe.

On y trouve aussi une list complette de tous les Ouvrages periodiques qui se chargent d'announcer les Livres nouveaux.

In January 2015 a digital edition of the work was available from the Hathitrust at this link.

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John Pendred Issues the Earliest Directory of the Book Trade in England 1785

In 1785 journeyman printer John Pendred issued from London the earliest directory of the book trade in England. Entitled The London and Country Printers, Booksellers and Stationers Vade Mecum, Pendred's printed directory survived in only one copy preserved in the Bodelan Library, Oxford.

In 1955 bookseller and bibliographer Graham Pollard published through The Bibliographical Society (London) an annotated edition of Pendred's work entitled The Earleist Directory of the Book Trade by John Pendred (1785). From Pollard's edition we have the text of Pendred's full and very explanatory title:

The London and Country Printers, Booksellers and Stationers Vade Mecum; Containing an Alphabetical Arrangement of the Letter-Press Printers, Copper-Plate Printers, Letter Founders, Booksellers, Bookbinders, Stationers, Print-Sellers, Music-Sellers, Paper Merchants, Paper Stainers, Paper Hangers, Card-Makers, &c. &c. &c.

In London, Westminster, and Southwark: With the Numbers affixed in their Houses. Also of those residing in the different Counties of England, Scotland and Wales, with the Number of Miles each Town is distant from London, and their Market-Days.

Likewise a correct List of Newspapers published in Great Britain, their Agents, and Days of Publication; and an useful Table of Stamps and Duties that are now in Use. Also a List of the Master Printers in Ireland.

Regarding the purpose and significance of Pendred's directory I quote from Pollard's edition p. xxii-xxiii:

"It is clear from the last line of his title-page and the note at the end that Pendred intended to issue the Vade Mecum annually to subscribers. He described it as 'very necessary for all Printers, Booksellers, Stationers, &c. Likewise for all Lottery-Office-Keppers, Shopkeepers, and others, who have Occasion to advertise in any of the News-papers in England, Scotland or Ireland. From this it appears that he sought his market among the advertising agents—not a numerous trade at that date, except for the lottery office—and among wholesale booksellers. In his concluding note Pendred says 'he hath spared no pains to render it of general utility both to Masters and Journeymen', and he goes on to mention that he has 'found it a difficult Task to obtain the Names of the real Master Letter-press Printers'. From this I infer that Pendred intended the Vade Mecum to be used by journeymen printers like himself, when in search of work.

Pendred's aims were utilitarian; his sources such as came to hand; and his treatment of them was sometimes careless. Nevertheless he has preserved for us a substantial body of information about the numbers of the book trade in 1785. In particular he tells us something about typefounders, printers, newspapers, and the wall-paper trade that we should not have known without his Vade Mecum.

If we exclude the professions, such as bankers and lists of officers in the navy and the army, Pendred published the earliest directory of any trade in this or, as far as i have been able to discover, any other country."

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The Beginnings of Papyrology 1788

The discipline of papyrology, or the study of ancient papyri, originated in 1788 when "Danish classicist Niels Iversen Schow published a Greek papyrus that recorded a series of receipts for work performed in 193 CE on the irrigation dikes in the Fayum district of Egypt.  The papyrus itself, a roll with twelve and a half surviving columns, had been bought in 1778 near Memphis by an anonymous merchant. As legend has it, the merchant bought only this one papyrus of the fifty offered for sale; 'the Turks' proceeded to burn the rest, delighting in the resulting aroma. Details of the story, especially its olfactory coda, have been contested, but it is certain that the papyrus that escaped destruction was donated to Cardinal Stefano Borgia. Hence, it is sometimes known as the Charta Borgiana, but it is also called the Schow papyrus after its editor. . . . Initially housed in the Cardinal's museum at Velitri, it now resides in the Museo Nationale Archeologico in Naples" (Keenan, "The History of the Discipline," Bagnall (ed) The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology [2009] 59-60).

Schow, Charta Papyracea Graece Scripta Musei Borgiani Velitris Qua Series Incolarum Ptolemaidis Arsinoiticae in Aggeribus Et Fossis Operantium Exhibetur . . . (Rome, 1788).

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André-Charles Caillot Issues a Bibliographical Guide to Antiquarian Bookselling and Collecting, with a Pioneering Exposition on Rarity 1790 – 1802

In 1790 antiquarian bookseller and publisher André-Charles Caillot published in 3 volumes Dictionnaire bibliographique, historique et critique des livres rares,

précieux, singulier, curieux, estimés et recherchés qui n'ont aucun prix fix, tant des auteurs connus que de ceux qui ne le sont pas, soit manuscrits, avant & depuis l'invention de l'Imprimerie; soit imprimés, et qui ont paru successivement de nos jours, en François, Grec, Latin, Italien, Espagnol, Anglis, & c. Avec leur valeur. Réduite à une just appréciation, suivant les prix auxquels ils ont été portés dans les ventes publiques, depuis la fin du XVIIe. Siecle jusqu'à présent. Auxquels on a ajouté, des observations & des Notes pour faciliter la connoissance exact & certaine des Editions originales, & les Remarques pour les distinguer les Editions contrefaits. Suivi d'n Essai de Bibliographie, où il est traité de la Connoissance & de l'Amour des Livres, de leurs divers degrés de rareté, & c. &c. Ouvrage utile et nécessaire A tous Littérateurs, Bibliographes, Bibliophiles, & à tous ceux qui veulent exercer, avec quelques connoissances, la Librairie ancienne et moderne.

In the introduction to their work the authors, who are not identified, explain how they were influenced by the Bibliographie instructive; ou traité de la connoissance des livres rares et singuliers issued by antiquarian bookseller Guillaume de Bure in 9 volumes from 1763 to 1769. They also provided a 10-page listing of the catalogues of about 100 auction sales of rare books that took place mainly in Paris from 1708 onward, together with the printed catalogues of a few private libraries, including the Catalogus Bibliothecae Thuanae (1679), from which they compiled their work. 

Perhaps the most notable feature of the work was the Essai de bibliographie, ou De la connissance & de l'amour des Livres, de leurs divers degrés de rareté, de la maniere de les classer, & de l'ordre de leurs facultés published on pp. 484-524 of volume 3.  This is one of the earliest discussions of the qualities of rarity in books, discussing the difference between absolute and relative rarity. By absolute rarity the authors meant books which were published in very small numbers, suppressed, or censored. By relative rarity they meant books which are sought after, collected or in demand even though they may be more or less common. In a footnote on p. 492 the authors referred to increased numbers of printers, lost morality, and increased production of scandalous, libellous or obscene literature as a result of the French Revolution.  In the Essai de bibliographie the authors also presented their refinement and expansion of the five basic subject categories under which information was organized in France since the beginning of the eighteenth century

In 1802 antiquarian bookseller and bibliographer Jacques Charles Brunet published a fourth and supplementary volume to this work. In the preface to that volume Brunet stated that the authors of the work, which was published by Caillot without attribution of authorship, were the abbé R. Duclos and the bookseller-publisher André-Charles Caillot.

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The "First Printer of National Liberty" Issues the Printing Manual for the French Revolution 1793

In 1789 the printing industry in Paris exploded. In the first few years of the French Revolution the industry was swept by a new generation of small printers, most of them former printing-shop workers or small book dealers who seized the opportunities opened by the declaration of freedom of the press and commerce, bought a few presses, and entered into the fast-paced world of revolutionary cultural agitation through the production of political ephemera. In 1793 French printer, bookseller and politician Antoine-François Momoro published Traité élémentaire de l’imprimerie, ou le manuel de l’imprimeur. Because of Momoro's revolutionary political connections, his work has been called the printing manual for the French Revolution. It was intended to put practical knowledge of printing within the reach of a wide audience, and to thus encourage the proliferation of printing. Written in an informal style, it remains "the single best source of 18th century printing shop slang." The famous profile cameo portrait engraving of Momoro, shown in front of bookcases and with his type case and printing press, characterizes him as "Premier Imprimeur de la Liberté nationale."

"The Paris bookseller François Momoro was thirty-three years old when the Revolution began. He had arrived in Paris from his native Besançon in 1780. In 1787 he was admitted as a bookseller by the Paris Book Guild. His bookshop stocked a mere eleven titles, which he estimated in 1790 to have a total value of 19,720 livres . Momoro was one of the myriad of small Parisian book dealers with little hope of advancement within the Old Regime book guild. But with the declaration of the freedom of the press in August 1789 Momoro's career prospects suddenly opened up before him. Embracing the revolutionary movement wholeheartedly, he quickly opened a printing shop at 171 rue de la Harpe and boldly declared himself the 'First Printer of National Liberty'. Within a year he had added four presses, ten cases of type, and a small foundry for making type characters; his business assets now totaled 30,108 livres . In the publishing and printing world Momoro was still a very small fry. But he was soon to make a big name for himself in ultrarevolutionary politics.

"Momoro understood the power of the press, and he believed in unleashing its revolutionary potential. . . . .He also used his press to launch a career in radical revolutionary politics, soon becoming the official 'Printer for the Cordeliers Club.' His printing business evolved along with the revolutionary politics of the Parisian sections, serving as a propaganda machine, first for the Cordeliers Club and then, by the winter of 1794, for the Hébertists. He produced pamphlets, minutes of meetings of the Cordeliers, and handbills and posters for several of the Parisian sections, and he also did a significant business by sending the publications of the Paris Cordeliers out into the provinces to be read before the tribunals of provincial clubs.

"When he was arrested in February 1794, the police inventoried his commercial stock. With the exception of a few sheets of a Manuel du républicain —found literally under the presses—Momoro's entire stock consisted of pamphlets, handbills, and, most important, sectional posters. His business was devoted exclusively to, and depended almost entirely on, the printed ephemera that sustained the revolutionary political life of the Paris sections. . . . (Hesse, Publishing and Cultural Politics in Revolutionary Paris, 1789-1810 [1991], accessed 10-10-2011).  

Momoro became radicalized during the Revolution and made powerful enemies, which eventually resulted in his arrest as an agitator, and decapitation by the guillotine in March 1794:

"After working for the fall of the Girondists in the struggle between the Commune and the Convention, he participated in attacks on DantonRobespierre (whom he accused of modérantisme), and the Committee of Public Safety. Pushed onwards by a report by Saint-Just to the Convention denouncing the "complot de l’étranger" woven by the Indulgents and Exagérés, the committee decided on the arrest of the Hébertistes on 13 March 1794. The Revolutionary Tribunal condemned Momoro to death, and he loudly replied "You accuse me, who have given everything for the Revolution!" He was guillotined with Hébert, RonsinVincent and other leading Hébertistes the following afternoon, 4 Germinal, Year II (24 March 1794)" (Wikipedia article on Antoine-François Momoro, accessed 03-05-2014).

Momoro was one of the very few printers who were victims of repression during this period of the revolution.

"Those arrested were principally journalists and men who had a political role like the printer Momoro who was condemned to death in the year II (1793-1794), not because he was a printer but because he was a political militant and a support of Hébert. An examination of the archives of the Revolutionary Tribunal and of the registers of arrests kept in the police archives (Cartons 1 to 12, AA) yields the following figures : 8 printers and booksellers condemned to death, 14 acquitted by the Revolutionary Tribunal; 13 sentenced to prison. Since there were more than four thousand printers and booksellers in Paris during the Revolution (figures taken from P.Delalain’s census), we can speak of a relative clemency on the part of the tribunals. This situation may be explained in great part by the refusal of printers and bookmakers to get politically involved. After all, most of them considered books and prints to be a means of earning their living and bringing in profit. But if we consider that journalists belonged to the same group as booksellers and printers because they often edited their own newspapers, then the figures change and give a much more terrible image of the repression: 19 condemned to death, 11 liberated, 18 acquitted.

"These figures are given by J.D.Mellot, E.Queval and V.Sarrazin in « La liberté ou la mort ? Vues sur les métiers du livre parisien à l’époque révolutionnaire », Revue de la Bibliothèque Nationale, N°49, Autumn 1993, pp.76-85" (Lise Andries, CNRS Paris, "Radicalism and the book in Paris during the French Revolution," undated, accessed 03-10-2014). 

The standard bibliography of the history of printing, Bigmore & Wyman, A Bibliography of Printing (new edition: 2001) II, 48. erroneously states that the first edition of Momoro's printing manual was published in 1786. The first edition appeared in 1793 and was reissued with a cancel title in 1796.

(This entry was last revised on 01-24-2015.)

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1800 – 1850

The First Practical Manual on Antiquarian Bookselling 1804 – 1805

In 1804-05 printer and bookseller Martin-Sylvestre Boulard wrote, printed, and published the first practical manual for antiquarian booksellers, entitled Traité élementaire de bibliographie, contenant la manière de faire les inventaires, les Prisées, les Ventes Publiques et de classer les Catalogues. Les bases d'une bonne Bibliothèque et la manière d'apprécier les livres rares et précieux. Ouvrage utile à tous les bibliographes et particulièrement aux Bibliothècaires et aux Libraires qui commencent in Paris in An XIII of the French revolutionary calendar (1804-05).

Janssen, "The Oldest Practical Manual for the Antiquarian Bookseller," Bulletin du Bibliophile (1997) 367-74.

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Brunet Compiles "Manuel du libraire," "The Best and Last of the General Rare Book Bibliographies" 1810 – 1865

Having previously published in 1802 a fourth and supplementary volume to Caillot and Duclos' Dictionnaire bibliographique, historique et critique des livres rares, in 1810 French antiquarian bookseller Jacques Charles Brunet issued in 3 volumes the Manuel du libraire et de l'amateur de livres, contenant

1.* Un Nouveau dictionnaire bibliographique, Dans lequel sont indiqués les Livres les plus précieux et les Ouvrages les plus utiles, tant anciens que moderns, avec des notes sur les différentes éditions qui ont été faites, et des remarques pour en reconnaitres les contrefaçons; on y a joint des détails nécessaires pour collationner les Livres anciens et les principaux Ouvrages à Estampes; la concordance des prix auxquels les éditions les plus rares ont été portées dans les ventes publiques faites depuis quarante ans, et l'évaluation approximative des Livres anciens qui se recontrent fréquement dans le commerce de la Librairie;

2.* Une table en forme de catalogue raisonné, Où sont classés méthodiquement tous les Ouvrages indiqués dans le Dictionnaire, et de plus, un grand nombre d'Ouvrages utiles, mais d'un prix ordinaire, qui n'ont past dû être placés an rang des Livres précieux

Brunet continued to revise and expand this encyclopedic guide during the rest of his life, completing the fifth edition in six volumes published from 1860-1865. Three supplementary volumes by booksellers Pierre Deschamps and Pierre Gustave Brunet were published from 1870 to 1880. This encyclopedic reference for antiquarian booksellers and collectors contained annotations concerning the scholarly and commercial value of rare books that in some cases remain unsurpassed in the early 21st century. More significantly it provided bibliographical, scholarly, and price information in one convenient, authoritative reference that was and often remains, invaluable for antiquarian booksellers, collectors, bibliographers, and librarians.

One of the many ways in which Brunet's work was useful and influential was in his expansion of the then-traditional classification scheme for information used in France since the beginning of the 18th century. This classification scheme, which divided information into five great divisions, originated in the seventeenth century, and was promoted by the first great book auctioneer in Paris, Gabriel Martin, who first employed it in the Bigot sale in 1706. The scheme, which was expanded in Catalogus librorum bibliothecae Joachimi Faultrier digestus a Prospero Marchand (1709), categorized information into the following subject areas: theology, jurisprudence, sciences and arts (initially called philosophy), belles-lettres (humane letters), and history. Thomas Hartwell Horne summarized Marchand's system in his Outlines for the Classification of a Library (1825) 3:

"The system of Prosper Marchand, an eminent Bookseller of Paris during the former part of the eighteenth century, is developed in his preface to the catalogue of the Library of M. Faultrier. Marchand first considers the different orders, according to which a Bibliographical System may be formed, viz. The natural order, the order of nations, the order of languages, the chronological order, and the alphabetical order. He then exhibits his plan, which he divides into three primary chapters, to comprehend the several classes of Books. To these he prefixes Bibliography, by way of introduction, and subjects Polygraphy as an appendix. The three primary chapters or fundamental classes are— Human Science or Philosophy, Divine Science or Theology, and the Science of Events or History. Philosophy is divided into two parts— Literae Humaniores or the Belles Lettres, and Literae Severiores, or the Sciences. The system of Marchand had many admirers when it first appeared, but it has been superceded by that of De Bure. . . ."

Marchand's preface to the Faultrier catalogue, incorrectly dated 1704, was translated into French and published in Claude-François Achard's, Cours elémentaire de bibliographie vol. 2 (1807) 100-106. In January 2015 I acquired from Librairie Paul Jammes in Paris a variant separate printing of Marchand's 52-page introduction to the Faultrier catalogue, with the addition of an index in very small type printed on its last leaf. This undated pamphlet, presumably issued in 1709, was entitled Epitome systematis bibliographici, seu Ordinis recte distribuendi Librorum Catalogi. My copy is bound in a volume with other works and may be lacking a separate title page, if one was issued. By comparing the online version of the complete catalogue with my version of the introduction, I have concluded that they were issued by the same printer, using the same typeface and the same ornamental head and tailpieces, but from a different setting of type. Most notably, on the first page of my version, Prosper Marchand identifies himself as the author, which he does not do in the full Faultrier catalogue. The index added to the text of my copy does not appear in the version that prefaces the Faultrier catalogue.

In Brunet's time Marchand's basic scheme, as modified by De Bure and others, was still used in French library cataloguing schemes, limiting the utility of subject cataloguing. In the third volume of his Manuel Brunet published Ordre des principales divisions de la table méthodique des ouvrages cités dans le nouveau Dictionnaire Bibliographique. This divided the traditional five subject categories into numerous sub-categories and divisions within those sub-categories. This he followed by listings of significant books in each of the categories and sub-categories in the classification scheme.

Breslauer & Folter,  Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) No. 118.

(This entry was last revised on 02-21-2015.)

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Congress Buys Thomas Jefferson's Library January 1815

In January 1815 Congress appropriated $23,950 for Thomas Jefferson's library of 6,487 books which he had collected over the previous fifty years, laying a new intellectual foundation, universal in scope, for the Library of Congress. The purchase price was estimated to be half of the value that the books would have realized at auction.

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The First Illustrated Antiquarian Bookseller's Catalogue 1829

In 1829 English antiquarian bookseller John Cochran of London issued A Catalogue of Manuscripts, in Different Languages, on Theology; English and Foreign History; Heraldry; Philosophy, Poetry; Romances; the Fine Arts (Including Calligraphy and some Splendid Persian Drawings;) Sports; Alchemy, Astrology, Divination; &c. &c. of Various Dates, from the Twelfth to the Eighteenth Century, Many of them upon Vellum, and Adorned with Splendid Illuminations. To Which is Added a Small Collection of Manuscripts in the Oriental Languages; with an Appendix Containing a Few Printed Books, Some of them with Manuscript Notes and Autographs of Eminent Persons. This catalogue, written by John Holmes who was later assistant keeper of manuscripts at the British Museum, listed 650 items, each with annotated descriptions, some quite extensive. Presented in a cloth binding with printed paper label on the spine, this antiquarian bookseller's catalogue was the first to include illustrations of items offered for sale— a folding engraved frontispiece and five additional lithographed plates. The lithographs are all dated May 1829.

A.N.L. Munby, Connoisseurs and Medieval Miniatures 1750-1850 (1972) 123 mentions Holmes and Cochran's catalogue in the context of a discussion of collecting by Bertram, the Fourth Earl of Ashburnham.

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The First Comprehensive Guide to Collecting Autographs 1836

In 1836 Pierre Jules Fontaine published in Paris Manuel de l'amateur d'autographesFontaine's book was the first comprehensive guide to collecting autographes. It provided a history of all the auction sales of autographs that had been conducted in France from their beginning in 1822 up to 1836.

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Sir Thomas Phillipps, the Greatest Private Collector of Manuscripts in the 19th Century, and Maybe Ever 1837 – 1871

From his private press at his estate at Middle Hill, Broadway, Worcestershire, England, Sir Thomas Phillipps issued Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum in bibliotheca d. Thomae Phillips, Bt., listing the most significant collection of manuscripts ever assembled by a collector. According to A.N.L. Munby, this catalogue of Phillipps's manuscript collection, published in fascicules, or parts, over more than thirty years, was issued in only 50 copies, of which only three surviving copies may be considered complete. The fascicules were printed by a variety of printers, only some of whom worked at Phillipps's estate, and Phillipps bound up copies from both corrected and uncorrected sheets, resulting in copies that are exceptional in their bibliographical complexity. The catalogue includes 23,837 entries, which, for various reasons outlined by Munby, describe a considerably larger collection that may have comprised about 60,000 manuscripts. In 1968 Munby issued, in an edition of 500 copies, a facsimile of a complete copy of the Phillips catalogue which belonged at the time to rare book dealer Lew D. Feldman: The Phillipps Manuscripts. Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum . . . with an introduction by A.N.L. Munby. (London: Holland Press).

"Philipps began his collecting while still at Rugby School and continued at Oxford. Such was his devotion that he acquired some 40,000 printed books and 60,000 manuscripts, arguably the largest collection a single individual has created. . . . A.N.L. Munby notes that '[h]e spent perhaps between two hundred thousand and a quarter of a million pounds[,] altogether four or five thousand pounds a year, while accessions came in at the rate of forty or fifty a week.' His success as a collector owed something to the dispersal of the monastic libraries following the French Revolution and the relative cheapness of a large amount of vellum material, in particular English legal documents, many of which owe their survival to Phillipps. He was an assiduous cataloguer who established the Middle Hill Press (named after his country seat at Broadway, Worcestershire) in 1822 not only to record his book holdings but also to publish his findings in English topography and geneology."

"During his lifetime Phillipps attempted to turn over his collection to the British nation and corresponded with the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer Disraeli in order that it should be acquired for the British Library. Negotiations proved unsuccessful and ultimately the dispersal of his collection took over 100 years. Phillipps's will stipulated that his books should remain intact at Thirlestaine House, that no bookseller or stranger should rearrange them and that no Roman Catholic should be permitted to view them. In 1885 the Court of Chancery declared this too restrictive and thus made possible the sale of the library which Phillipps’s grandson Thomas FitzRoy Fenwick supervised for the next fifty years. Significant portions of the European material were sold to the national collections on the continent including the Royal Library, Berlin, the Royal Library of Belgium and the Provincial Archives in Utrecht as well as the sale of outstanding individual items to the J. Pierpont Morgan and Henry E. Huntington libraries. By 1946 what was known as the 'residue' was sold to London booksellers Phillip and Lionel Robinson for £100,000, though this part of the collection was uncatalogued and unexamined. The Robinsons endeavored to sell these books through their own published catalogues and a number of Sothebys sales. The final portion of the collection was sold to New York bookseller H.P. Kraus in 1977 who issued a sale catalogue the same year: the last to bear the title Bibliotheca Phillippica. A five-volume history of the collection and its dispersal, Phillipps Studies, by A.N.L. Munby was published between 1951 and 1960" (Wikipedia article on Sir Thomas Phillipps, accessed 11-25-2008).

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Possibly the First Book Written During Hand Typesetting Rather than on Paper 1843 – 1865

In March 2014 English antiquarian bookseller Simon Beattie drew the attention of the Ex-Libris newsgroup to a book he planned to exhibit at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair beginning on April 3, 2014. This book, which he characterized as "The first unwritten book," was published anonymously by writer and printer C. L. Lordan, "From the Press of J. Lordan, Romsey," England, in 1843. Beattie raised the question to the readers of Ex-Libris whether they knew of any earlier book composed by its author on the "composing stick," the tool used to compose lines of type when typesetting was done by hand, rather than on paper.

Lordan's book was entitled Colloquies, Desultory and Diverse, but Chiefly upon Poetry and Poets: Between an Elder, Enthusiastic, and an Apostle of the Law. It was an octavo (206 x 129 mm) in half-sheets, [4], iv, [2], 200pp. plus a colophon leaf. Beattie stated that the method of writing the book was mentioned in a printed inscription on the leaf preceding the title-page. This leaf reads, "From Circumstances Herinafter Adverted to, The Sixty Copies of this Orignal Edition are Dispensed on Customary 'Considerations.' "

According to Beattie,

"The explanation is provided in full in a long dedication to John Wilson (a.k.a. ‘Christopher North’), the Scottish critic who edited Blackwood’s Magazine: ‘Of the little volume before you, one individual has been the composer, and compositor and imprinter throughout … The pen has been a stranger to the prose part of its composition, and the scribe’s office subverted: — with the exception of acknowledged quotations, I have been unaided by a line of manuscript or other copy. There is a rhythmical extravaganza in the sixth chapter, which I very reluctantly
signalize in this place, because the skeleton of twenty lines of it, or thereabouts, was pen-traced; the composing-stick has otherwise been my sole mechanical 'help to composition'." 

"Included are ‘colloquies’ about Wordsworth and Shakespeare, and ‘twenty minutes talk about Milton’. The text was published in a trade edition the following year, where it was described as ‘the first unwritten book’. The identity of J. Lordan has not been specifically determined; the typography looks fairly normal throughout, save for the first leaf and the colophon, which are printed in a rather primitive type-face. C. L. Lordan’s name appears in the imprint of a number of later books of Romsey interest, but as a publisher rather than a printer.

"OCLC locates 5 copies (BL, Cambridge, Folger, Library of Congress, South Carolina."

Users of this database may have noticed that I sometimes collect copies of items that I write about, especially in the field of book history. That only 60 copies of this very unusual volume were issued, and from the very unusual printing location— the town of Romsey, appealed to me, and I was pleased to successfully order the book. When I wrote this database entry on March 27, 2014 I planned to pick it up at the New York Book Fair in April. 

Whether Lordan's book was actually the first book composed by its printer on the composing stick was unclear from responses that came from readers of Ex-Libris. My first thought was that I had heard, but never confirmed, that the French 18th century printer novelist / pornographer Nicolas-Edme Rétif may have done some of his writing directly on the composing stick. Whether he actually issued a complete book in this manner was unknown to me; perhaps I will have time to research the question some day.

Other books written on the composing stick mentioned by readers of Ex-Libris were:

1. Beattie mentioned that possibly certain works by the paper historian and printer Dard Hunter were written during the hand-typesetting process.

2. Rowan Gibbs wrote that "Benjamin Farjeon is said to have done this with the first edition of his first novel, Shadows on the Snow, published in Dunedin [New Zealand] at the end of 1865. He was working as a compositor on the Otago Daily Times."

3. Others indicated that various, presumably short works, had been written directly into type in various book arts projects in the past few decades. 

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The First Annotated Bibliography of the History of Economics 1845

The Scottish economist John Ramsay McCulloch, Professor of political economy at University College London, wrote extensively on economic policy, and was a pioneer in the collection, statistical analysis and publication of economic data. His The Literature of Political Economy. A Classified Catalogue of Select Publications in the Different Departments of That Science with Historical, Critical, and Biographical Notices, published in London in 1845, was the first annotated and classified bibliography of classics in the historical literature of economics. Some of the annotations extend for more than a page and include extensive quotations. Each section begins with a general introduction, followed by a list of the principal works relating to that aspect of political economy, with notes on the individual works. There is a comprehensive author, title and subject index.

McCulloch was a noted book collector of books on a wide range of subjects besides economics. He published privately a listing of his library as  A Catalogue of Books, the Property of the Author of the Commercial Dictionary (London, 1856). McCulloch was also one of the earliest clients of the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch, and they remained close friends. In his Contributions towards a Dictionary of British Book-Collectors, fascicule VI, Quaritch and historian of economics James Bonar published reminiscences of McCulloch, a photograph, and two facsimiles of letters from McCulloch to Quaritch. After McCulloch's death in 1864 Quaritch sold McCulloch's library to McCulloch's friend, the banker and politician Samuel Jones-Loyd, 1st Baron Overstone for £5000. Bonar states that a significant portion of the books were destroyed in a fire at Overstone's house soon afterward. Lord Overstone's daughter bequeathed the surviving portion of McCulloch's library to the University of Reading.

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The Railroad also Becomes an Information Distribution Network November 1, 1848

On November 1, 1848 the first WH Smith railway bookstall opened in Euston Station, London.

Railroad transportation and railroad stations provided a whole new market for printing, publishing, and bookselling. Inexpensive novels or "Yellowbacks" were published to supply a wider range of society. It became a common practice to publish novels in weekly, fortnightly or monthly parts to spread the cost.

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1850 – 1875

Perhaps the Earliest Australian Type Specimen and Trade Catalogue 1858

In 1858 Specimens of the Fancy Borders, Types, etc., etc., Belonging to the Proprietors of the "Register" and "Observer" General and Fancy Printing Office was issued by the "Register" General Printing Office in Adelaide, Australia. This octavo pamphlet consisted of a blank at each end and 62 leaves printed on rectos including the title. Its title and four pages were printed in color with silver or gold on three of those pages. Until a copy appeared on the Australian antiquarian book market in February 2013 this publication appears to have been unrecorded.

This annotation appeared on the website of Australian rare book dealer Richard Neylon, of St. Mary's, Tasmania, who offered the copy for sale for $12,500 Australian on February 20, 2013:

"Nineteenth century Australian printer's catalogues or specimen books are, by decree, rare. Australian printers jammed their newspaper advertisements with as many faces as they could hold and pretty much left it at that. Degotardi's 1861 Art of Printing, the first Australian book on printing - more an advertisement and specimen book than manual, though it is a specimen book of printing processes rather than types - has always been a lonely book in Australian bibliography. There is a pretty long gap in the records until the next entries in which the printing trade displays its wares. Until we're well into the seventies there survives a handful of single sheets and scraps, nothing else until this book popped up. And this doesn't fill a gap, it pushes the line further back, predating as it does Degotardi by three years. Are these Australian types? Many of the cuts, maybe some of the ornaments are undoubtedly local but it's no big deal to cut a wood block or engrave a small plate. Odd as it may sound I'm not sure it's important. As far as we're able to figure out Australian typefounding had pretty much peaked by 1860. The first nationalistic boast of local types was in 1843 with the claim that the Government Gazette was now using type founded by Alexander Thompson of Sydney - Thompson shipped his type, seemingly all small, utilitarian, sizes to Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide in the 1850s - and Degotardi boasted using local type in his book but doesn't tell us whose. The type books that survive from the seventies and eighties all lay claim to the quality of imported types and it would seem that great influx of population, trade and imports following the gold rush suffocated any nascent local manufacture. The smallest type in this book is a bit rough - usually a prompt for spotting colonial manufacture - but whether it's worn imported or worn local type I leave to the experts to decide. What is curious to me is that the passages of smaller type in these specimens haven't been proof read properly. I spotted a couple of sloppy mistakes without looking hard. So, is it the first Australian type book? Quite probably. We are in gold rush Australia with affluent merchants and tradesmen oozing out from the up-till-now flea-bitten society of feudal grandees and underclass and a flood of imports - including type and ornaments from England and America - and with those imports came the trade catalogues of manufacturers and merchants. A trade catalogue is not just a feature length advertisement, it has added ambition and pretension; it carries a message of assurance, of substance, permanence even. As a species trade catalogues barely exist before the 1860s in Australia. Take out auction catalogues and we are left with a few seed merchant lists and a pitiful clutch of flyers, nothing much else. How could a canny printer help but spot a market deserving a jump start? And what better way to inspire than to produce their own elaborate and ambitious catalogue? It didn't work. Degotardi's work, under the guise of instruction, maybe had a different impulse but even allowing for the poor survival rate of such things we still only have nothing much like another real trade catalogue of any sort until the late 1860's when Prince, Ogg & Co of Sydney issued a modest but undeniably illustrated and bound catalogue of their wares. So now I'm doubling the claim made for this slender book: not only is it the earliest Australian printer's type book, it's close to being the earliest true trade catalogue we have."

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Constantin von Tischendorf Discovers and Acquires the Codex Sinaiticus: Controversial and Disputed February 4, 1859

The complicated story of how German biblical scholar Constantin von Tischendorf discovered the Codex Sinaiticus, and acquired it for Russia in 1859, is tinged with romance, and has often been retold. The adventure is compatible in character with other nineteenth century acquisitions of priceless historical treasures—acquisitions that could probably never happen today— yet the story remains disputed and controversial.

While a Privatdocent at the University of Leipzig in 1845 Tischendorf made his first visit to the extremely remote Monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai in Egypt, one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world. This meant traveling hundreds of miles through the Egyptian desert from Cairo to Mt. Sinai on the back of a camel, so a scholar like Tischendorf had to be somewhat of an adventurer even to undertake the journey. The monastery was built in the mid-6th century by order of Emperor Justinian I, enclosing the Chapel of the Burning Bush (also known as "Saint Helen's Chapel") ordered to be built by Helena, the mother of Constantine I, at the site where Moses is supposed to have seen the burning bush. The living bush on the grounds is purportedly the one seen by Moses. The site is sacred to Christianity and Islam.

At the monastery Tischendorf saw some leaves of parchment in a waste-basket. He retrieved from the basket 129 leaves in an early Greek uncial majuscule hand, which he identified as coming from a manuscript of the Septuagint. According to his account, the monks indicated that they had already used a number of similar leaves to stoke their fires. To which Tischendorf responded that the leaves were too valuable to be burned. Whether the monks had actually burned any of the leaves is seriously disputed by the current occupants of the Monastery of Saint Catherine. Unfortunately, there is no way for us to know whether or not Tischendorf's assertion was accurate. He asked if he might keep the leaves he pulled out of the wastebasket, but the monks, having been made aware of their value and significance, permitted Tischendorf to take only 43 leaves. These leaves contained portions of 1 Chronicles, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, and Esther. Tischendorf later deposited them in the Leipzig University Library, where they remain. In 1846 Tischendorf published the content of the 43 leaves, naming them the Codex Frederico-Augustanus in honor of the his patron and sovereign, Frederick Augustus, the king of Saxony.

Eight years later, hoping to find more leaves from the same codex, in 1853 Tischendorf made another expedition to the monastery, but after the excitement which he had displayed in his first visit, the monks were cautious and let him leave with nothing, even after his arduous journey. Never one to concede easily, Tischendorf undertook a third journey to Saint Catherine's in 1859, this time under the auspices of tsar Alexander II of Russia. Tischendorf reached the remote monastery on January 14, and once again found nothing. On February 4, the day before he was scheduled to return to Cairo by camel, he presented to the steward of the monastery a copy of the edition of Septuagint that he had recently published in Leipzig. In response the steward remarked that he too had a copy of the Septuagint, and produced from the closet of his cell a manuscript wrapped in red cloth. Amazingly, this was the Codex Sinaiticus

This time being careful to conceal his enthusiasm, Tischendorf asked to borrow the manuscript to study it later that evening. His wish was granted, and, according to his own account, Tischendorf spent the entire night studying the manuscript, too excited to sleep. ("It really seemed a sacrilege to sleep.") This next morning Tischendorf offered to buy the manuscript, but his offer was rejected. Then he asked if he could take the manuscript to Cairo to study it. This request was also rejected.

In Cairo Tischendorf visited a small monastery in the city that was also operated by the monks on Sinai. There he impuned the abbot of the monastery of St. Catherine, who happened to be in Cairo, to send for the manuscript. To this the abbot agreed and sent Bedouin messengers to fetch the manuscript and deliver it to Cairo. Once the manuscript was in Cairo it was agreed that Tischendorf could examine one quire of eight leaves at a time for the purposes of copying the text. With the help of two Germans who happened to be in Cairo and knew Greek, and an apothecary, and a bookseller, all 110,000 lines of text in the manuscript were transcribed in two months, and carefully revised by Tischendorf.

A well-documented summary of Tischendorf's discovery is in Metzger & Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament. Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration. 4th ed (2005) 62-67. From this I quote from pp. 64-64:

"The next stage of the negotiations involved what may be called euphemistically 'ecclesiastical diplomacy.' At that time, the highest place of authority among the monks of Sinai was vacant. Tischendorf suggestioned that it would be to their advantage if they made a gift to the czar of Russia, whose influence, as protector of the Greek Church, they desired in connection with the election of the new abbot—and what could be more appropriate as a gift than this ancient Greek manuscript! After prolonged negotiations, the precious codex was delivered to Tischendorf for publication at Leipzig and for presentation to the czar in the name of the monks. In the east a gift demands a return (see Genesis 23, where Ephron 'gives' a Abraham a field for a burying plot but nevertheless Abraham pays him 400 shekels of silver for it). In return for the manuscript the czar presented to the monastery a silver shrine for St. Cartherine, a gift of 7,000 rubles for the library at Sinai, a gift of 2,000 rubles for the monastery in Cairo, and several Russian decorations (similar to honorary degrees for the authorities of the monastery. In 1862, on the thousandth anniversary of the founding of the Russian Empire, the text of the manuscript was published in magnificent style at the expense of the czar in four folio volumes, being printed at Leipzig with type cast for the purpose so as to resemble the characters of the manuscript, which it represents line for line with the greatest possible accuracy." 

Metzer and Ehrman qualified their account of the transaction with a long footnote, indicating that "certain aspects of the negotiations leading to the transfer of the codex to the czar's possession are open to an intepretation that reflects adversely upon Tischendorf's candor and good faith with the monks at St. Catherines's." In particular they cite Erhard Lauch, "Nichts gegen Tischendorf," Bekenntnis zur Kirche: Festgabe für  Ernst Sommerlath zum 70 Geburtstag (Berlin, c. 1961) pp. 15-24 "for an account that includes a hitherto unknown receipt given by Tischendorf to the authorities at the monastery promising to return the manuscript from St. Petersburg "to the Holy Confraternity of Sinai at its earliest request."  A more popular, but scholarly account is is James Bentley's Secrets of Mount Sinai. The Story of Finding the World's Oldest Bible—Codex Sinaiticus (1986). This well-illustrated study reflects bias against Tischendorf.

♦ As kind of a side show, in 1862 Constantine Simonides, a forger of manuscripts who had been exposed by Tischendorf, by way of revenge made the claim in print in The Guardian that he had written the codex himself as a young man in 1839. Simonides claims were refuted by bibliographer Henry Bradshaw. This incident I deal with in an entry for 1862-63.

Book Trade notes:

♦ "In 1931 Ernest Maggs had travelled to the Soviet Union with a colleague, Maurice Ettinghausen, who was both a bookseller and a scholar. When they saw the priceless Codex Sinaiticus, Ettinghausen remarked to his hosts, “If you ever want to sell it, let me know." Some time later, Maggs received a postcard saying that the Soviet government would be prepared to sell the Codex Sinaiticus for 200,000 pounds. The British group countered with 40,000 pounds. Finally, a price of 100,000 pounds was agreed upon. This was the largest price that had ever been paid for a book. It was an enormous sum at the time. [In 1933] The British government agreed to pay half the amount and guaranteed the remainder if it were not raised by public subscription." (Wikipedia article on Maggs Bros., accessed 08-02-2009).

♦ From Rosenbach: A Biography by Wolf & Fleming (1960) 367-68:

"Some preliminary negotiations were under way with Amtorg [in 1932] for the Codex Sinaiticus, the fourth-century manuscript of the Bible which had been in Russia since its discoverer, Tischendorf, acquired it for the Czar in 1869, and which the Communists, interested in neither its contents nor its provenance, wanted to sell. It was a volume before which the the Doctor's flow of words was inadequate. It was simply the most important, exciting, and valuable book in existence; except for fragments, it was one of the three oldest manuscripts of the Bible known. To have handled it would have added luster to any reputation. In the dickering stage, Dr. Rosenbach told the Russians that the asking price of $1,600,000 was too high, but he hung on the fringes of the deal by assuring them in confidence, 'that I might interest some of our wealthy clients in its purchase for presentation purposes, if the price could be lowered considerably.'

"Ah, perfidious Moscow! Before the end of the next year Ramsay MacDonald announced the purchase of the Codex by the British Museum for £100,000. The news found the Doctor astonished and disappointed. It had been offered to him for $1,250,000, he told the Herald Tribune, and he could not understand how the British Museum had obtained it for less than half that figure. . . ."

[In July 2008 it was stated on the Codex Sinaiticus website that the "recent" history of the manuscript would be revised in light of previously unavailable documents.]

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Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" November 24, 1859

The title page of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

On November 24, 1859 Charles Darwin issued through the London publisher, John Murray, his book entitled On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. From its original publication, through the early years of the twenty-first century, this work remained one of the most widely appreciated, or disputed, classics in the history of science.

The idea of species evolution can be traced as far back as the ancient Greek belief in the "great chain of being". Darwin's great achievement was to make this centuries-old "underground" concept acceptable to the scientific community and educated readers by cogently arguing for the existence of a viable mechanism— natural selection— by which new species evolve over vast periods of time.  Darwin's work contained only a single illustration- a branching evolutionary tree, the first known presketch of which appears in Darwin's notebooks in 1839.

Though Darwin stated his case for evolution by natural selection persuasively and in the most diplomatic of tones, the work evoked a storm of controversy, causing Darwin to revise it through six editions during his lifetime. Since its publication the scientific evidence supporting evolution by natural selection has reached a massive—even overwhelming— preponderance, yet the controversy over evolution has never abated.

There is only one issue of the first edition of On the Origin of Species, and although three cloth binding and advertisement variants have been identified, no priority has been established. 1250 copies were printed, of which about 1,170 were available for sale; the remainder consisted of 12 author's copies, 41 review copies, 5 copyright copies, and "Darwin required ninety copies to be sent as presentations to friends, family, and scientists [Correspondence, 8: 554-6]" (Kohler & Kohler, see below, 333). Following Darwin's instructions, these presentation copies were sent out by the publisher, usually inscribed "From the Author" by the publisher's clerk.  The book was offered to booksellers two days earlier on November 22, and oversubscribed by 250 copies causing John Murray to propose a new edition immediately.

On the Origin of Species is undoubtedly the most famous book in the history of the life sciences, and one of the world's most famous books on any subject. It is also perhaps the most published book in the history of science and the most translated book originally published in English. As a result of this fame, a great deal of historical research has been concentrated on this work. Early in 2009 Cambridge University Press published The Cambridge Companion to the "Origin of Species," edited by Michael Ruse and Robert J. Richards. Most pertinent to book collecting and book history is the excellent chapter on "The Origin of Species as a Book" by Michèle Kohler and Chris Kohler.

Among the many very informative details the Kohlers include, of particular interest to the history of collecting rare books in the history of science is their observation that the first edition may have first been offered as collectable "rare book" by Bernard Quaritch Ltd in 1903 for £2-10-0, "a premium on the price of a new copy, not a discount." (p. 345). They also observe that the price of the first edition remained essentially static in the rare book trade until it began to rise in the 1920s, after which it very gradually moved upward. When I first opened my shop at the beginning of 1971 the price of a fine copy of the first edition in the original cloth was $1000. At this time the work was relatively common, and there were usually several copies of the first edition on the market at one time. In 2014 a fine copy of the first edition was worth approximately $150,000. This represented an appreciation rate far higher than most other science classics.

♦ In 2014 darwin-onlin.org.uk made available Darwin's complete publications, his private papers and manuscripts, and so-called "supplementary works." When I visited the site its index page advertised,"over 400 million hits since 2006."  Another site, the Darwin Manuscripts Project at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, provided DARBASE, a union catalogue of Darwin manuscripts in institutions and private collections.  An intriguing brief manuscript in Darwin's hand reproduced there showed that Darwin apparently considered writing a chapter "On the Geological Antiquity of Man And on the Descent (origin) of Species by variation." This was a topic of interest to me in 2014 as we prepared our book on The Discovery of Human Origins. My research till 2014 indicated that Darwin avoided publishing on the topic of human origins, leaving it to Huxley, Lyell and others. 

According to their children's accounts, Charles and Emma Darwin and their children had a happy family life, and Darwin was known not to be protective of his manuscripts after they were published. As a result, the Darwin children were allowed to doodle on the versos of some of his manuscripts, including the original manuscript of On the Origin of Species. In February 2014 reproductions of some of the more elaborate of those doodles were reproduced at this link.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 593.

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The Autograph Manuscript of Mill's "Considerations on Representative Government" 1860 – 1861

By 1980, at the end of my first decade as an independent antiquarian bookseller, I had accumulated twelve extraordinary manuscripts on diverse subjects, each of considerable historic significance. These we offered for sale in our eighth catalogue, entitled simply Twelve Manuscripts. At the time I had a sense that my ownership of several of these manuscripts was a once in a lifetime experience. What I did not appreciate was my exceptional luck in finding each of the manuscripts. Though it was, and continues to be, my privilege to handle many exceptionally fine and significant books and manuscripts in the course of business, I never again had the opportunity to assemble a comparable dozen.

Of the twelve, one of the most remarkable was the autograph manuscript of John Stuart Mill's Considerations on Representative Government, handwritten by Mill in 1860, and published in 1861. Looking back on my experience cataloguing and selling this manuscript, in 1980 Japanese institutions were very actively acquiring western rare books and manuscripts, so close readers of the description below will see that it was pitched toward the Japanese market. As it turned out, the manuscript did eventually sell to a Japanese bookseller who passed it to a Japanese university. By 2014 when I wrote this database entry, the balance of trade had shifted, and I suspected that the manuscript would have found a purchaser in the United States had it been offered for sale thirty-four years later. Our description from 1980 is quoted in full:

Complete Autograph Manuscript for one of "The Great Books of the Western World"

Mill, John Stuart (1806-73). Untitled autograph manuscript draft of Considerations on representative government. 224 leaves, mostly written on rectos with occaisonal notes on verso, with extensive current revision & later light revision. 23.5 x 18.5 cm. Gathered in 11 quires, marked A-K by Mill, each separately sewn, probably at a later date, uncut. In fine condition, in a full moroco box, gilt label. Composed in part if not entirely at Avignon, in 1860.

The most important Mill discovery of the century, this manuscript represents the only complete autograph manuscript extant of a major work of political theory by Mill. The only other known manuscripts by Mill relating to politcial theory are an incomplete autograph press copy of Principles of political economy (1848) at the Pierpont Morgan Library, and a manuscript of Chapters on socialism (1879), sold at Sotheby's in 1922, but presently unlocatable. In fact, there are a bare half-dozen manuscripts of major works by Mill extant, on whatever subject. Among these, only two others represent early drafts, as our manuscript does—an early draft of the Autobiography (1873) at the University of Illinois and an early version of A system of logic (1843) at the Pierpoint Morgan Library. The remaining major Mill manuscripts are an autograph press copy of A system of logic in the British Library, the final autograph copy of the Autobiography at Columbia University, and the scribal press copy of the Autobiography in the John Rylands Library. The autobiography and scribal copies of Three essays on religion (1874) were sold by Sotheby's in 1922, but like the Chapters on socialism have since disappeared.

Considering Mill's position as the major British philosopher, economist, and political thinker of the 19th century, and considering his productivity, it is remarkable that only a half-dozen of his major manuscripts are still in existence, and that, aside from correspondence, only about half a dozen interesting minor manuscripts remain extant. This scarcity of Mill manuscripts has come about because of the unusual and unfortunate circumstances in which Mill's library was disposed of at the turn of the century. While a few manuscripts remained in the hands of friends or family in England until donated to libraries or sold at auction, the large repository of Mill's papers and books at his home in Avignon (where he spent several months of each year from 1858 on) was sold in 1905 to a provincial French bookseller by members of the family who had little or no comprehension of its significance. Our untitled manuscript of Consdierations on representative government, which we know was composed in 1860 at least partly in Avignon, was quite probably part of this group, which the French bookseller sold off bit by bit. Thus it remained unknown to the public until now, in the hands of a French family who obtained it at auction in the 1930s.

It is all the more remarkable, then, that the untitled manuscript salvaged from near oblivion should turn out to be of such high caliber—the complete first draft of Mill's most significant work of political theory, and the text chosen, along with Mill's On liberty (1859) and his Utilitarianism (1863), for the Great books of the western world series (volume 43 in company with the United States' Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, The Federalist, etc.). To the best of our knowledge this manuscript of Representative government is the only autograph manuscript of the complete text of any classic from the entire Great books series which remains in private hands. The few other existing autograph manuscripts for these epochal achievements in the history of thought are in institutions. Mill's manuscripts for Utilitarianism and On liberty have, of course, never been found.

Our manuscript of Representative government is not an early draft in any preliminary sense, but the first full draft of the text, with the author's extensive autograph revisions. Professor John M. Robson, the general editor of the multi-volume standard edition of the Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, has made a preliminary examination of the manuscript and prepared a two-page report, a copy of which is included with the manuscript. He confirms that the manuscript is entirely in Mill's hand, and considers it to be the first draft of the text (on the basis of Mill's coments in the Autobiography and the few extant manuscripts, Mill habitually wrote two complete drafts). Professor Robson points out to us that Mill made a large number of revisions in rewriting the work, altering its structure in in interesting ways and expanding the text, particularly changing the order of chapters from the middle on, although retaining chapter headings in a wording close to that in the printed version.

'It is my impression that a careful collation of the text [of the manuscript] with that of the first and later editions would result in deeper understanding of Mill's formulation of democratic theory, in terms of the detail and of the argument supporting the conclusions. Even more certain is the significance of the comparison for a fuller appreciation of the workings of Mill's mind as writer and as theoretician. Had this manuscript been available to me when I edited the text (in its first scholarly and collated version) for the Collected Works of J. S. Mill, Vol. XIX, the text and the commentary would have been significantly different [italics ours]; both will, in the future, have to be revised, if and when the manuscript becomes available to an editor" (communication from Professor Robson). 

From its publication in 1861, Considerations on representive government was a signal success. It went through three Library editions in the next four years and was widely quoted by practical politicians as well as other theorists, not only in England, but in new democracies such as Japan. It is a text still in print today—an eminently readable outline of the principal issues in democratic theory, by a proclaimed democrat and worker in the British Reform Movement from his youth who had carefully considered popular movements in North America, Europe, and the British Empire.

Like other works of Mill's maturity, such as his System of Logic and Principles of Political economy, Considerations on  representative government is characterized by thoughtful attention to central issues. In this work especially Mill directs attention to the potential dangers of political democracy, particularly the problem of combining the abilities of enlightened leadership with the need for wide participation. This was an issue of pressing urgency to the emergence of popular democracy in less modern states such as Russia and Japan. In fact, Representative government played an important role in the struggle to form a democratic government out of feudal Japan.

The text was translated into Japanese three times between 1873 and 1890, along with the texts of On liberty, Utilitarianism, Principles of political economy, and the Subjection of women. Mill's political ideas informed the famous memorial of 1874 calling for the establishment of a popularly elected assembly, and the memorial's author, Furusawa Uru, quoted from Representative government in his criticism of the conservative position. Although the conseravatives eventually triumphed, establishing a constitutional code in 1889 on the model of the German imperial constitution, the influence of Mill on the development of Japanese democratic thought cannot be underestimated. Even in the face of increasing government repression, interest in Mill did not entirely dissipate, and underwent a rebirth after World War II.

D.S.B. Holman, "J.S. Mill's library, Provence, 1906," and "J.S. Mill's library: a further note," Mill news letter (Spring & Fall, 1971) 20-21 & 18. Written communication from Professor John M. Robson, University of Toronto, general editor of the Collected works of J.S. Mill (a copy of his 2-page report will be supplied with the manuscript). Sugihara & Yamashita. "J.S. Mill and Modern Japan," Mill news letter (Summer, 1977) 2-6.

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Imprimerie Alfred Mame's Spectacular Portrayal of Large Scale Book Manufacturing 1867

In April 2013 I acquired a copy of a spectacular volume, Imprimerie - Librairie - Relieure. Alfred Mame et Fils à Tours. Notice et specimens. This folio work, in its original red blind-stamped and gilt cloth binding, with gilt edges, with pages measuring 395 x 270 mm., was issued at Tours in 1867 by Imprimerie Alfred Mame to advertise and promote its business. Printed on excellent paper, the work has only 18 pp. of text, interleaved with many full-page illustrations, followed by more than 100 pages of specimens of title pages, text and illustrations, sometimes printed in two colors, and including many fine examples of engraving. The folio format was used in order to include full-size folio specimens.

My interest in the volume was primarily in its spectacular engraved images of the different elements of large-scale book production in the mid-19th century. Mame clearly used machine presses on a large scale, as the image of his huge pressroom shows. Notably, however, Mame continued to employ manual typesetters, as before the development of the Linotype and the Monotype, mechanical typesetting remained troublesome and of inferior quality. The image of Mame's very large bindery suggests that virtually all of the binding work was still done by hand. A common element to all the images is that none show women employed in any of the book production tasks.

Mame's business model involved bring in house all aspects of book production including typesetting and printing, engraving, binding, and even bookselling. Mame also was part-owner of a paper mill. From the majority of the specimens shown the firm seems to have specialized in publishing religious or devotional books. Presumably, this may have been the largest topic of commercial book consumption in France during that very religious time. His firm employed about 700 people in production and 400-500 in sales in what appears to be a rather grand facility, though we may assume that the images glorify or beautify what cannot always have been ideal working conditions. Nevertheless, the environment may have been rather copasetic as, according to the Wikipedia, "Inspired by the social Catholic ideal, Alfred Mame established for his employees a pension fund for those over sixty, wholly maintained by the firm. He opened schools, which caused him to receive one of the ten thousand francs awards reserved for the 'établissements modèles où régnaient au plus haut degré l'harmonie sociale et le bien-être des ouvriers'. In 1874 Mame organized a system by which his working-men shared in the profits of the firm." (Wikipedia article on Aflred Mame, accessed 05-18-2013).

Bigmore & Wyman II, 16.

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Joel Munsell Produces a Sale Catalogue of His Collection of Rare Books on Printing and Related Topics 1868

Just after the American Civil War, in 1868 printer, publisher and author Joel Munsell of Albany, New York, decided to offer his personal library of rare and scarce books on the history of printing and related subjects for sale in a priced catalogue. This was entitled Catalogue of Books on Printing and the Kindred Arts: Embracing Also Works on Copyright, Liberty of the Press, Lbel, Literary Property, Bibliography, Etc. According to Bigmore & Wyman's Bibliography of Printing II (1880-86) 66, Munsell sold nearly the entire collection, on which he had spent about $3000, to the New York State Library in Albany.

As a collector and writer about books on the history of printing, as will be evident from this database, I often wonder how earlier collectors appreciated and valued the works we view as classics today. Reading Munsell's catalogue provides some insight in this regard, both in Munsell's choice of books and how he priced them relative to one another. The prices range in the catalogue from $1 to $25.00— prices which even updated to current values with respect to inflation, cannot in any way equate to the values of equivalent items today. Notably, the single highest price in the catalogue is $25.00 for Munsell's copy of the first edition of Moxon's Mechanick Exercises (1683-84), a work which, depending upon condition, would be valued in the upper five figures or low six figures in 2015. Beneath the price of Moxon, only a few books in Munsell's catalogue are priced $20. These include the Manuale Tipografico of Giambattista Bodoni (1818) originally issued in only about 290 copies. When I checked online in February 2015 a copy of the original edition was offered for $44,980. But other prices by Munsell are more difficult to understand and may simply reflect what he paid. For example a pamphlet by Camus, Notice d'une livre imprimé à Bamberg en MDCCCLXII (1462), which I purchased for around $150, is priced $7.50 by Munsell, and a late edition of Dibden's Bibliomania (1842) is priced $10. This book is very common today and can be bought for about $500. Perhaps Munsell fairly priced his copy of Fournier's Manuel typographique (1764-66) $10.00 in the money of his time, but strangely he characterized it as "unique", which it has never been. He then priced a very much rarer work by Fournier, Caractères de l'imprimerie, a duodecimo type specimen published in 1742, for only $1, characterizing it as "very curious."  He priced the Biographical Memoir of Luke Hansard by James Hansard (1829) $10. This scarce work in a deluxe binding cost me a bit over $300 in 2015. Another work where Munsell's prices seem very out of sync with the modern view is Paul Lacroix's Histoire de l'imprimerie et des arts et professions qui se rattachent (1852). This work with hand-colored plates can be bought today for about $200;  Munsell priced it $10. In constrast Munsell priced La Caille's, Histoire de l'imprimerie et de la librairie (1689), a book which sells for between $5250 and $2500 today, for only $5. On the other hand, Munsell priced Piette, Traité de la coloration des pates a papier (1863) $18, presumably reflecting its high cost and practical value, since the work was virtually new when he sold it. A copy of this book with pasted-in samples, issued in a very small edition, was offered for $10,000 in 2015. He also priced Savage, Practical Hints on Decorative Printing (1822) $10.  Savage's book might sell in the range of $7,500 to $15,000 today. However, later in his catalogue Munsell offers John Jackson's Treatise on Wood Engraving, Historical and Practical (1839) for $20. I have acquired three copies of this for around $200 each. 

From all of these comparisons of prices Munsell set with present values we may conclude that few books on the history of printing were perceived as scarce or especially expensive in 1868. Also, I think the market was more limited for this kind of book in the United States than it was in Europe at the time, and being aware of that, Munsell seems to have priced his books with the intention of mainly recovering his $3000 global cost. Beyond that there are vogues in all fields of collecting, and in my experience there are many bargains in rare books on the history of printing today.

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Henry Stevens Calls for a Central Bibliographical Bureau Which Would Also Store Images July 25 – November 29, 1872

American antiquarian bookseller and bibliographer Henry Stevens  published an auction catalogue of books, manuscripts, maps, and charts verbosely titled as follows:

Bibliotheca geographica & historica or a catalogue of a nine days sale of rare & valuable ancient and modern books maps charts manuscripts autograph letters et cetera illustrative of historical geography & geographical history general and local. . . collected used and described. With an introduction on the progress of geography and notes annotatiunculae [sic] on sundry subjects together with an essay upon the Stevens system of photobibliography. Part I. To be dispersed by auction . . . [in] London the 19th to 29th November 1872.

In his essay introductory to the catalogue entitled Photobibliography. A Word on Catalogues and How to Make Them Stevens calls for "A Central Bibliographical Bureau" which would produce standard bibliographical descriptions of items that could be used by other cataloguers and bibliographers.  Analogous to what later became national union catalogues of books, Stevens imagined that this could "be made self-supporting or even remunerative, like the Post Office."  He also called for a standardized system of recording reduced size images called "photograms" of books according to "one uniform scale." This would reduce "all the titles, maps, woodcuts, or whatever is desired to copy" to fit the images onto standardized filing cards on which bibliographical details could be written by hand, to spare the bibliographer the time and effort of transcribing title pages.  Negatives would be stored compactly, and prints made for reproduction in printed catalogues, etc. As examples Stevens had an albumen print of a title page pasted in as the frontispiece of the auction catalogue, plus a small circular photograph of "Ptolemy's World by Mercator" pasted onto the title page.   Stevens noted the he also made available a few copies of the auction catalogue on thicker paper with about 400 pasted-on "photograms."

Stevens later expanded on this idea in a paper entitled "Photobibliography, or a Central Bibliographical Clearing-House" presented to the 1877 Conference of Librarians held in London (see "Transactions and Proceedings of the Conference", pp. 70-81). In 1878 Stevens published privately a 16mo pamphlet of 49pp. entitled, Photo-Bibliography; or, a Word on Printed Card Catalogues of old, rare, beautiful, and costly books, and how to make them on a Co-operative System; and Two Words on the Establishment of a Central Bibliographical Bureau, or Clearing-house, for Librarians.  Bigmore & Wyman, A Bibliography of Printing (1880) III, 401.

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1875 – 1900

Morgand & Fatout Issue Perhaps the Earliest Antiquarian Bookseller's Catalogue Illustrated with Plates Printed in Color 1878

In April 2013 Roland Folter, an expert bibliographer, retired antiquarian bookseller, and noted collector of the history of bibliography and the book trade, suggested to me that the earliest antiquarian bookseller's catalogue illustrated with plates printed in color might be Bulletin Mensuel No. 8, October 1878, issued in Paris by the firm of Damascène Morgand and Charles Fatout. Upon hearing of this I was able to acquire a nicely bound copy of Volume I of the Bulletin (1876-78), containing the first 8 issues describing a total of 4562 priced items continuously numbered, followed by an elaborate index of authors and anonymous works found in the first volume. According to Roland Folter, the lot numbering continued in 9 subsequent volumes of the Bulletin, comprising 59 issues in 10 volumes (1876-1904), describing 46,593 lots on well over 10,000 pages with 91 plates (19 in color) and over 600 text illustrations, making it perhaps the most voluminous antiquarian bookseller's catalogue ever published. (This set was continued as Bulletin - Nouvelle Série, published in 21 individually paginated and individually numbered issues from 1904 to 1920.) 

Issue No. 8 contains 6 finely printed color plates of bookbindings, each with a tissue guard. In the introduction to this volume the publishers stated that they had desired to include facsimiles of bookbindings earlier but found the reproduction quality unsatisfactory until the availability of a new process they call a combination of photogravure and "chromotypographie." This appears to be a combination of photogravure – the modern form of which was invented in 1878 – and chromolithography.

Bulletin Mensuel resembles twentieth century antiquarian catalogues in terms of format and occasional annotations.  Some of the line cuts of title pages are even printed in both red and black. In issue No. 8 the booksellers also included detailed black & white engraved reproductions of medieval miniatures, another feature which may have been unusual for the time.  I find it interesting that the booksellers chose to reproduce bindings in color even though the spectacular bindings reproduced were by no means as expensive as some other books in the catalogue, especially the illuminated manuscripts. Clearly the reproduction quality for attempts at illustrating elaborate images of medieval manuscripts with their wide color range might have been unsatisfactory, or perhaps prohibitively expensive at the time, with many more color impressions required for each plate.

Another unusual element in the catalogue is that the second color plate, illustrating No. 3948, reproduces a miniature bookbinding in its original size. The Grolieresque mosaic binding on a miniature 1828 edition of Horace is priced only 270 F; certainly this is the earliest color reproduction of a miniature bookbinding in an antiquarian booksellers's catalogue. Were miniature books reproduced in their original size in antiquarian booksellers' catalogues prior to this?

Searching for information on Morgand & Fatout, I found the following information on Damascène Morgand in an online issue of the American magazine, The Curio, Vol.1, No. 3, published in November 1887. The article, written by the presumably forgotten journalist Max Maury, was entitled "The Great Booksellers of the World. Damascene Morgand, of Paris." From it I quote:

"A little farther at No. 55 Caen used to present an alluring stock of illuminated manuscripts, incunables, first editions XVII. and XVIII. century bindings, engravings and etchings in their earliest and most perfect states, and of late years, in 1875, I think Damascène Morgand, having bought out the Caen business, began his career of unprecedented success, built upon that solid experience acquired under old Fontaine's careful tuition. In 1882 his partner, Mr. Fatout, died, and the forty-seven year old Norman connoisseur began his rapid strides towards his world-wide reputation. The great bibliophiles placed orders in his hands with a feeling of full security; and in all the great public sales, Damascène Morgand, dignified, cold as steel and as sharp as a Yankee of Yankeeland, came forward as the buyer of the highest-priced lots and of unique examples of books, bindings, and prints. Such collectors as the Baron James de Rothschild, the Count de Lignerolles, Ernest Quentin-Bauchart, Eugène Paillet, Louis Roederer (of Champagne fame), the Baron de La Roche-Lacarelle, etc., took from his hands the most famous jewels of their choice libraries. From such customers a dealer learns more than he teaches, and, in fact, the spirit of the collector possessed Mr. Morgand as deeply as it did his buyers. As a tangible proof of his gigantic work, his firm has published, for the last ten years, monthly bulletins, embellished with costly illustrations fac-similes of frontispieces, reproductions of bindings engraved in colors, and the collection of these bulletins is sought after as the basis of every bibliophile's library of information."

Roland Folter also pointed out to me in an email on May 3, 2013 that 1878 appears to be a watershed year for the introduction of printed color plates in commercial rare book catalogues as, in addition to the Morgand & Fatout catalogue, a few copies of the Sotheby catalogue of the J. T. Payne sale in London on April 10, 1878 were "struck off on thick paper with Eleven facsimile Illustrations in gold and colours. Price 5s.", and a Bachelin-Deflorenne auction catalogue for a sale in Paris in June 1878, listing among other things a Gutenberg Bible, was issued with 5 color plates (2 folding). I have not seen the Bachelin-Deflorenne catalogue, and cannot judge the quality of its color plates, but as it predated the Morgand & Fatout catalogue by 5 months, it is conceivable that Morgand & Fatout decided it was time to introduce color printed images in their catalogue when they saw the color plates in the Bachelin-Deflorenne catalogue.

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Foundation of The Grolier Club January 23, 1884

On January 23, 1884 printing press manufacturer and book collector, Robert Hoe, and eight of his book collector friends, founded The Grolier Club in New York. It became the leading society of bibliophiles in the United States, and a leading venue for exhibitions relating to book history. 

The library of The Grolier Club became a leading research center for book history, for the history of libraries, the history of book collecting and the book trade.

I was very pleased to join The Grolier Club in 1989.

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1900 – 1910

The American Booksellers Association is Founded 1900

The American Booksellers Association was founded in 1900.

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1910 – 1920

Napoleon's Penis, and Other Napoleon Memorabilia 1916 – 1924

In 1916 the distinguished London antiquarian booksellers Maggs Bros bought the penis of Napoleon Bonaparte from the descendants of Abbé Ange Paul Vignali, who had given the last rites to Napoleon on St. Helena. Vignali brought the penis along with a collection of more conventional mementos of Napoleon to Corsica, and died in a vendetta in 1828. He passed on the mementos to his sister, who at her death passed them on to her son, Charles-Marie Gianettini. After holding the Vignali collection of Napoleon memorabilia for eight years, Maggs sold it to the legendary American antiquarian bookseller Dr. A.S.W Rosenbach of Philadelphia for £400 (then $2000) in 1924. 

Though the authenticity of the other Napoleon memorabilia in the Vignali collection was never in doubt, authenticity of the penis, which resembled something "like a maltreated strip of buckskin shoe-lace or shriveled eel," "rested mainly on a memoir by the valet, Ali (Saint-Denis), published in 1852 in the celebrated Revue des [Deux] Mondes. Ali claimed that he and Vignali had removed certain unnamed portions of Napoleon's corpse during the autopsy" (Charles Hamilton, Auction Madness [1980] 54-55).

With his characteristic flair Dr. Rosenbach received considerable publicity for this purchase.  According to the May 12, 1924 issue of Time Magazine:

"The collection numbers about 40 pieces, half of which consist of documents. The most interesting are: death mask from the matrix moulded by Dr. Antomarchi, Napoleon's doctor; a letter from Antomarchi to Vignali; the last cup ever used by the ex-French Emperor, a silver goblet inscribed with the Imperial arms; a silver knife, fork and spoon also engraved with the Imperial arms; a shirt, handkerchiefs, pair of white breeches, white pique waistcoats; Church vestments from the Longwood Chapel, some marked with the Imperial cypher; last, the most gruesome relic, a mummified tendon taken from the ex-Emperor's body during the postmortem" (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,718332,00.html, accessed 08-02-2009).

Dr. Rosenbach had the penis "enshrined" in an elaborate blue morocco and velvet box. In 1927 he exhibited it, along with the other Vignali relics, in the Museum of French Art in New York.

Though I had heard of this most unusual purchase in Dr. Rosenbach's career I was not aware that The Rosenbach Company had issued a catalogue  describing the collection until a copy of Description of the Vignali Collection of the Relics of Napoleon (1924) was offered early in 2010. This I acquired, and we mounted a scan of the 20 page catalogue in the Traditions section of our website.

In that catalogue the description of item number 9 reads as follows:

"A mummifled tendon taken from Napoleon's body during the post  mortem. (The authenticity of this remarkable relic has lately [in 1852!] been confirmed by the publication in the Revue des Deux Mondes of a posthumous memoir by St. Denis, in which he expressly states that he and Vignali took away small pieces of Napoleon's corpse during the autopsy.)"

As historic as the Vignali collection was, it was not readily salable. According to the standard biography, Rosenbach by Edwin Wolf II and John F. Fleming (1960), a work which was inspirational in my early career, the Vignali collection remained in the inventory of The Rosenbach Company for 23 years until it was finally purchased by collector Donald Hyde in 1947.

But wait, the story continues:

According to Charles Hamilton, when Donald Hyde died in 1966 his widow, Mary, also a serious collector, turned the Vignali collection over to Dr. Rosenbach's successor, John Fleming. Fleming in turn sold it to dealer Bruce Gimelson for $35,000. Finding the collection difficult to resell, as had Maggs and Rosenbach, Gimelson consigned it to Christie's in London for sale en bloc at a reserve price equal to his cost, but with no success. When the collection failed to sell London tabloids ran the naughty headline, "Not Tonight, Josephine!"

Eight years later Gimelson consigned the collection in Paris at Drouot Rive Gauche. This time the collection was dispersed, and the penis was purchased by John K. Lattimer, professor emeritus and former chairman of urology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, for the equivalent of $3000. The object fit in well with other historical objects in Lattimer's collection:

"Dr. John Lattimer possessed Abraham Lincoln's bloodstained collar and a treasure trove of items from his own idiosyncratic relationships to some of the most important historical events of the 20th century. He was an attending urologist to Nazi prisoners at the Nuremberg trials and had acquired Herman Goering's suicide vial. He worked on the autopsy of John F. Kennedy and possessed upholstery from the president's limousine in Dallas" ("The Twisted Story of Napoleon's Privates" http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92126411, accessed 05-23-2010).

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Foundation of Barnes & Noble 1917

In 1917 Wlliam Barnes and G. Clifford Noble opened the first Barnes and Noble book store in Manhattan.

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1920 – 1930

A Portion of a 15th Century Medical Library for Sale in 1929 1929

In 1929 London antiquarian booksellers Maggs Bros. issued Catalogue of Medical Works from the Library of Dr. Nicholaus Pol, Born c1470; Court Physician to the Emperor Maximilian I. Maggs further characterized the 34 items offered in the catalogue as "A remarkable collection of 'Editiones principes' and other early editions of Medical Authors, Classical, Arabian, and medieval from famous early presses of France and Italy in the original Gothic Bindings executed for Dr. Pol".

The asking price for the collection—£2500, even when the pound equalled nearly $5— seems exceptionally reasonable today, considering the optimal significance and quality of the books involved.

The catalogue was bought in its entirely by the Cleveland Medical Library and it is preserved in the Howard Dittrick Medical History Center at Case Western Reserve University.

"Through a clerical error, Dr. Harvey Cushing did not receive a copy of the catalogue, but his nephew Dr. Edward H. Cushing of Cleveland did. He promptly persuaded President Vinson of Western Reserve University to cable for the collection and hold it until the Cleveland Medical Library Association could raise the money. This was soon supplied by a donor who asked to be nameless, and the collection came to rest in the Cleveland Medical Library as a memorial to Mr. Charles H. Bingham" (http://www.cwru.edu/artsci/dittrick/site2/books/pol.html, accessed 08--02-2009).

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1930 – 1940

Bob Brown: Visionary of New Reading Machines and Changes in the Process of Reading 1930 – 1931

In 1930 prolific American avant-garde writer Bob Brown (Robert Carlton Brown), published an essay entitled "The Readies" in the international avant-garde journal transition issued from Paris, no. 19/20, 167-73, calling for a new reading machine, and new reading material for it called "The Readies."  Brown intended these innovations as ways for literature to keep up with the advanced reading practices of a cinema-viewing public, as epitomized in the then new expression for sound films, "the talkies." The first feature film originally presented as a talkie had been The Jazz Singer, released in October 1927. 

"The word 'readies' suggests to me a moving type spectacle, reading at the speed rate of the day with the aid of a machine, a method of enjoying literature in a manner as up-to-date as the lively talkes. In selecting the "The Readies' as title for what I have to say about modern reading and writing I hope to catch the reader in a receptive progressive mood. I ask him to forget for the moment the existing medievalism of the BOOK (God bless it, it's staggering on its last leg and about to fall) as a conveyer of reading matter. I request the reader to fix his mental eye for a moment on the ever-present future and contemplate a reading machine which will revitalize this interest in the Optical Art of Wrting.

"In our aeroplane age radio is rushing in television, tomorrow it will be commonplace. All the arts are having their faces lifted, painting (the moderns), sculpture (Brancusi), music (Antheil), architecture (zoning law), drama (Strange Interlude), dancing (just look around you tonight) writing (Joyce, Stein, Cummings, Hemingway, transition). Only the reading half of Literature lags behind, stays old-fashioned, frumpish, beskirted. Present-day reading methods are as cumbersone as they were in the time of Caxton and Jimmy-the-Ink. Though we have advanced from Gutenberg's movable type through the linotype and monotype to photo-composing we still consult the book in its original form as the only oracular means we know for carrying the word mystically to the eye. Writing as been bottled up in books since the start. It is time to pull out the stopper.

"To continue reading at today's speed I must have a machine. A simple reading machine which I can carry or move around and attach to any old electric light plug and read hundred thousand word novels in ten minutes if I want to, and I want to. A machine as handy as a portable phonograph, typewriter or radio, compact, minute operated by electricity, the printing done microscopically by the new photographic process on a transparent tough tissue roll which carries the contents of a book and is no bigger than a typewriter ribbon, a roll like a minature serpentine that can be put in a pill box. This reading film unrolls beneath a narrow magnifying glass four or give inches long set in a reading slit, the glass brings up the otherwise unreadable type to comfortable reading size, and the read is rid at last of the cumbersome book, the inconvenience of holding its bulk, turning its pages, keeping them clean, jiggling hs weary eyes back and forth in the awkward pursuit of words from the upper left hand corner to the lower right, all over the vast confusing reading surface of a page. . . .

"My machine is equipped with controls so the reading record can be turned back or shot ahead, a chapter read or the happy ending anticipated. The magnifying glass is so set that it can be moved nearer to or father from the type, so the reader may browse in 6 points, 8, 10, 12, 16 or any size that suits him. Many books remain unread today owing to the unsuitable size of type in which they are printed. A number of readers cannot stand the strain of small type and other intellectual prowlers are offended by Great Primer. The reading machine allows free choice in type-point, it is not a fixed arbitrary bound object but an adaptable carrier of flexible, flowing reading matter. . . .

"The machine is equipped with all modern improvements. By pressing a button the roll slows down so an interesting part can be read lesurely, over and over again if need be, or by speeding up, a dozen books can skimmed through in an afternoon without soiling the fingers or losing a dust wrapper. . . .

"The material advantages of my reading machine are obvious, paper saving by condensation and elimination of waste margin space which alone takes up a fifth or sixth of the bulk of the present-day book. Ink saving in proportion, a much smaller surface needs to be covered. . . Binding will be unnecessary, paper pill boxes are produced at the fraction of the cost of cloth cases. Manual labor will be minimized. Reading will be cheap and independent of advertising which today carries the cost of the cheap reading matter purveyed exclusively in the interests of the advertiser" (167-69).

Brown also intended his device as one way of achieving "The Revolution of the Word," as called for in the manifesto published in issue 16/17 of transition by its editor Eugene Jolas in 1929. Later in 1930 Brown privately published a 52-page pamphlet entitled The Readies in an edition of 150 or 300 copies. The imprint of the pamphlet read Bad Ems: Roving Eye Press. (It is possible that the publishing location was a joke.) The pamphlet represented an expansion with examples given, of Brown's essay from transition, a revised version of which it republished as chapter 3.

Written before anyone imagined electronic computers, and even longer before anyone imagined a hand-held electronic computer, one goal of Brown's vision of new media for reading was saving space, paper and ink through media more compact than traditional printed books. Though he could not foresee how the changes would actually occur, he was also an extremely early predictor of changes to the traditional codex book that would occur sixty years later with electronic publishing. In the pre-electronic computer era Brown, like Emanuel Goldberg and Vannevar Bush, saw the future of of information primarily in the context of film and microfilm, and in developing more verbally compact means of communication. While Goldberg and Bush were focussed on developing more efficient means of information storage and retrieval, Brown was focussed on the creative aspects of new writing and new forms of communication with the reader:

"This important manifesto, on a par with André Breton's Surrealist manifestos or Tristan Tzara's Dadaist declarations, includes plans for an electric reading machine and strategies for preparing the eye for mechanized reading. There are instructions for preparing texts as “readies” and detailed quantitative explanations about the invention and mechanisms involved in this peculiar machine.

"In the generic spirit of avant-garde manifestos, Brown writes with enthusiastic hyperbole about the machine's breathtaking potential to change how we read and learn. In 1930, the beaming out of printed text over radio waves or in televised images had a science fiction quality—or, for the avant-garde, a fanciful art-stunt feel. Today, Brown’s research on reading seems remarkably prescient in light of text-messaging (with its abbreviated language), electronic text readers, and even online books like the digital edition of this volume. Brown's practical plans for his reading machine, and his descriptions of its meaning and implications for reading in general, were at least fifty years ahead of their time.  . . .

"Brown’s reading machine was designed to 'unroll a televistic readie film' in the style of modernist experiments; the design also followed the changes in reading practices during the first quarter of the twentieth century. Gertrude Stein understood that Brown’s machine, as well as his processed texts for it, suggested a shift toward a different way to comprehend texts. That is, the mechanism of this book, a type of book explicitly built to resemble reading mechanisms like ticker-tape machines rather than a codex, produced—at least for Stein—specific changes in reading practices.  

"In Brown’s Readie, punctuation marks become visual analogies. For movement we see em-dashes (—) that also, by definition, indicate that the sentence was interrupted or cut short. These created a 'cinemovietone' shorthand system. The old uses of punctuation, such as employment of periods to mark the end of a sentence, disappear. Reading machine-mediated text becomes more like watching a continuous series of flickering frames become a movie" (Afterward from: The Readies, edited with an Afterward by Craig Saper, Houston: Rice University Press,[2009] accessed 05-23-2010).

After Brown published The Readies authors in the transition circle sent  him pieces intended for publication on the hypothetical machine. In 1931 he self-published these as a 208-page book, Readies for Bob Brown's Machine, in an edition of 300 copies also from the Roving Eye Press, but this time from Cagnes-sur-mer. That work, which contained contributions by 42 authors including Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, and Paul Bowle's first appearance in a book, contained two crude illustrations of a prototype of Brown's reading machine — a wooden contraption that hardly embodied machine-age sleekness; part of it looked a bit like a waffle iron. It is unclear whether Brown's machine ever operated; probably it did not. What matters more are Brown's futuristic ideas.


♦ Following the "all digital" policy of Rice University Press since it was re-organized in 2006, the Rice edition of The Readies was available as a free download from their website, or as print-on-demand from QOOP.com. When I clicked on the purchase button on 05-23-2010, I was given the following purchase options at QOOP.com:

"+Hard Bound Laminate for $25.85

"+Hard Bound - Dust Jacket for $32.35

"+Wire-O for $16.00

"+eBook for $7.00."

♦ When I attempted to access QOOP.com in June 2013 it appeared that the site had closed down. An electronic version of Bob Brown's The Readies was then freely available at Connexions (cnx.org).

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Allen Lane & Penguin Books Invent the Mass-Market Paperback July 30, 1935

In 1935 Allen Lane founded Penguin Books in London to bring high quality, paperback fiction and non-fiction to the mass market. Lane is credited with essentially inventing the mass marketing of paperbacks. According to company legend, Lane got his idea while standing in a railway station in Devon, where he had been spending the weekend with the mystery writer Agatha Christie and her husband. He couldn’t find anything worthwhile to buy to read on the train back to London. So he launched Penguin Books, with ten titles, including The Murder on the Links, by Agatha Christie. The books sold well right from the start.  

The key to Lane’s innovation was not the format; it was the method of distribution. Lane designed the mass-market paperback to be displayed in wire racks that could be conveniently placed in virtually any retail space. People who didn’t have a local bookstore, and even people who would never have ventured into a bookstore, could now browse the racks while filling a prescription or waiting for a train and buy a book on impulse. Lane believed that his books should not cost more than a pack of cigarettes. This meant that people could spot a book they had always meant to read, or a book with an enticing cover, and pay for it with spare change.

"Anecdotally Lane recounted how it was his experience of the poor quality of reading material on offer at Exeter train station that inspired him to create cheap, well designed quality books for the mass market. Though the publication of literature in paperback was then associated mainly with poor quality, lurid fiction the Penguin brand owed something to the short lived Albatross imprint of British and American reprints that briefly traded in 1932. Inexpensive paperbacks did not initially appear viable to Bodley Head, since the deliberately low price of 6d. made profitability seem unlikely. This helped Allen Lane purchase publication rights for some works more cheaply than he otherwise might have done since other publishers were convinced of the short term prospects of the business. In the face of resistance from the traditional book trade it was the purchase of 63,000 books by Woolworth that paid for the project outright, confirmed its worth and allowed Lane to establish Penguin as a separate business in 1936. By March 1936, ten months after the company's launch on 30 July 1935, one million Penguin books had been printed (Wiklipedia article on Penguin Books, accessed 07-11-2013).

In 1985, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the company, Penguin Books issued a boxed set reproducing in facsimile the first ten titles issued in 1935.

(This entry was last revised on 01-01-2015.)

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1940 – 1950

The Fitzwilliam Museum Exhibition of Printing: Precursor to "Printing and the Mind of Man" May 6 – May 16, 1940

Detail of cover of catalogue for An Exhibition of Printing at the Fitzwilliam Museum.  Please click to view entire cover of catalogue.

An Exhibition of Printing at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge was planned for May 6 to June 23, 1940, taking the year 1940 as the quincentenary of Gutenberg's invention of printing, just as had been done in 1840 for the quatercentenary, in 1740 for the tricentennial, and in 1640 for the bicentennial. Exhibitions of this kind normally require years of advance planning, but from the brief account in Nicolas Barker's Stanley Morison (1972) it appears that the prospectus for this exhibition was sent out only at the beginning of March, 1940:

"At the beginning of March a prospectus was circulated to librarians, members of the Bibliographical Scoiety, the Roxburghe Club, and others.

"Though more than half Europe is at present too tragically absorbed in the future of its civilisation to be able to pay much thought to its past, the five-hundredth anniversary of Gutenberg's invention none the less demands to be recognized. The conditions which make it impractical to hold a worthy exhibition in London are happily absent in Cambridge; and plans for stage here a modest tribute to Gutenberg's memory have developed into a resolution to make good the general deficiency with a major exhibition.

"The theme of the exhibition was then set out; a full representation of every aspect of human thought and action served by Gutenberg's invention; 'wherever civilization has called upon the craft of printing from movable type to promote its ends, there is subject matter for this exhibition'.

"The response for the request for loans was conspicuously prompt and generous. Nearly 100 lenders produced over 600 exhibits. . . " (Barker, op. cit., 376-77).

According to Brooke Crutchley, "The Gutenberg Exhbition at Cambridge, 1940," Matrix 12 (1992) 77-82:

"The decision to celebrate the quincentenary of Gutenberg's invention by holding an exhibition in Cambridge in 1940 was largely an act of defiance. The outbreak of war in September 1939 and the swift conquest of Poland were followed by an uneasy quiet in western Europe while armies lined up against each other in preparation for the battle that was to come. Meanwhile the Fitzwilliam Museum had sent its principal treasures to Wales for safe keeping, the windows of King's College chapel were boarded up, civilisation seemed to have been put on ice. An exhibition to show the contribution that printing had made over five hundred years, and would continue to make when the madness was over, might be seen as a challenge to the forces of destruction." 

As a guide and record of the exhibition, an unillustrated catalogue describing 641 items was published by Cambridge University Press and offered for sale for one shilling. On the cover was an emblem symbolizing Gutenberg's type designed by wood engraver Reynolds Stone.

The Foreword to the catalogue read as follows:

"There is no moral to this exhibition. It aims at portraying, as objectively as possible, the uses to which printing from movable type has been put since Gutenberg and his associates invented it five hundred years ago; the spread of knowledge more quickly and accurately than was possible before, the storing of human experience, the providing of entertainment, the simplication of the increasingly complicated business of living. Those books, papers, and other printing have been chosen (so far as the difficulties of the times would permit) which made most effective use of the medium of type; in other words, those which, composed and multiplied, most strongly influenced people and events. Others have been chosen for their illustration of events and trends of particular importance or interest; others again for their intrinsic curiosity as examples of the exploitation of print. All are shewn so far as possible in the original editions in which they were first presented to the world.

"The exhibition has been designed therefore to illustrate the development of man's use of movable type as a tool; its spread from Mainz through the countries of the world, through all the fields of knowledge, through the whole range of man's activities. Running through the story another theme presents itself and draws occasional comment--the development of the actual form of printing. The technical display deals with the old and modern methods fo type-founding and composition, and briefly illustrates the development of type design. That part of the exhibition is education; for the rest, though there is much to learn from it, it does not set out to teach. It is simply an illustration to that proud but unattributed saying: With my twenty-six soldiers of lead I have conquered the world."

Persons involved with organizing the exhibition and writing catalogue entries included writer on typography Beatrice Warde, antiquarian bookseller and writer Percy Muir, typographer John Dreyfus, writer and antiquarian bookseller John Carter, economist and book collector John Maynard Keynes, and scientist, sinologist and historian of science Joseph Needham. According to Sebastian Carter, "Printing & the Mind of Man," Matrix  20 (2000) 172-180, typographer Stanley Morison, typographic advisor to Cambridge University Press, was involved in the planning, but the bulk of the organization of the exhbiition was done by the Assistant University Printer, Brooke Crutchley, helped by John Dreyfus. The largest private lender to the exhibition was stockbroker (later intelligence agent), book collector and writer, Ian Fleming, who had pioneered in collecting influential books, or those which, in the words of Sebastian Carter, had "started something."

Among several innovative aspects of the exhibition was a display of books published in the year 1859, including, among others, Darwin On the Origin of Species, Mill On Liberty, Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management.

The catalogue did not appear until June 1940, after the exhibition had been closed on May 16, only 10 days after it had opened, because of war. It was reprinted in the following month. In my copy of the second printing the following statement appeared:

"As this catalogue was about to go to press, a sudden change in the war situation made it appear advisable to close the Exhibition when it had been open only ten days. The catalogue was printed off, nevertheless, so that copies might be sent to all who had helped and others be available for sale. The demand proved greater than had been expected, and this reprint was in hand in which a few errors and oversights have been made good."

When I originally wrote this entry for From Cave Paintings to the Internet on October 25, 2011, I had never previously seen a copy of the 1940 exhibition catalogue, in spite of my roughly 50 years experience in the world of books. Until reading the catalogue I was unaware how much this forgotten exhibition held early in World War II had influenced the 1963 exhibition, Printing and the Mind of Man. The overlap in choices between the 1940 and 1963 catalogues is significant, especially as Carter & Muir were heavily involved in both exhibitions held 23 years apart, and some of the same lenders, especially Ian Fleming, contributed notable items to both exhibitions. It would be useful some day to compare the selections of the two exhibitions carefully.  Before doing that I would observe that the organizers of the 1940 exhibition must have been well aware of the significance of Hitler's writings leading up to World War II, as they included the  February 24, 1920 Munich Auszug aus dem Programm der national-sozialistischen Deutschen Arbeiterpartei as item 620 in their exhibition, and Hitler's Mein Kampf as item number 623.

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Humphrey Bogart and Dorothy Malone Appear in Probably the Most Famous Bookstore Scene in Movie History 1946

Probably the most famous bookstore scene in movie history was in The Big Sleepa classic 1946 film noir of Raymond Chandler's 1939 novel, with a screenplay co-written by William FaulknerLeigh Brackett, and Jules Furthman. In the bookstore scene detective Philip Marlow played by Humphrey Bogart visited the Acme Book Shop and enjoyed a witty, pseudobibliophilic and teasing interchange with the seductive bookstore owner played by Dorothy Malone

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The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) is Founded 1947

In 1947 The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers was founded in The Hague "to uphold and improve professional standards in the trade, to promote honorable conduct in business, and to contribute in various ways to a broader appreciation of the history and art of the book."

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The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of American (ABAA) is Founded 1949

In 1949 the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America was founded in New York to promote ethical standards in the antiquarian booktrade both in America and internationally.

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1950 – 1960

11,638 New Books Are Published in the U.K. 1950

In 1950 11,638 new books were published in the United Kingdom.

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Probably the Best "Book Store" Film Noir 1952

Man Bait, originally released in England by Hammer Film Productions under the title of The Last Page in 1952 was a film noir directed by Terence Fisher starring George Brent and Marguerite Chapman. It also represented the screen debut of sexy Diana Dors, a Marilyn Monroe lookalike who was actually classically trained in acting, as the femme fatale.  

In the film the married manager (Brent) of a bookstore, which sells both new and rare books, is attracted to his sexy blonde clerk (Dors). He attempts to resist temptation but finally kisses her in his office, though the romance does not proceed beyond one kiss. Dors, who had become infatuated with a man played by Peter Reynolds, who she witnessed stealing a rare book in the store, blackmails the bookstore manager for kissing her (remarkably), sending a letter to the manager's wife. The manager's wife, a bed-ridden invalid, unbelievably dies as she gets out of bed to burn the letter. Dors is murdered by the ex-con, with her body stuffed into a shipping crate that was intended for a book shipment. The manager is framed for the murder. 

As unlikely as the plot is, in my opinion and the opinion of many of my colleagues, Man Bait is the best bookstore mystery film, and perhaps the most interesting film set in an antiquarian bookstore. The main area in which the film deviates from authenticity in book trade practice is the seemingly enormous bookstore staff (perhaps 10 people) working in a store which appears to do relatively insignificant business.

The original title of the film, The Last Page, is much more in character with the subdued, sultry sexuality of the film, compared to the graphic elements suggested in the revised title Man Bait, and the graphic elements of the posters advertising the film under that title which strongly emphasize the busty aspect of Ms. Dors.

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"Once the government can demand of a publisher the names of the purchasers of his publications, the free press as we know it disappears." March 9, 1953

In United States v. [Edward] Rumely 345 U.S. 41 (73 S.Ct. 543, 97 L.Ed. 770), decided on March 9, 1953, Justice William O. Douglas, in his concurrence, included the following: 

“If the present inquiry were sanctioned the press would be subjected to harassment that in practical effect might be as serious as censorship. A publisher, compelled to register with the federal government, would be subjected to vexatious inquiries. A requirement that a publisher disclose the identity of those who buy his books, pamphlets, or papers is indeed the beginning of surveillance of the press. True, no legal sanction is involved here. Congress has imposed no tax, established no board of censors, instituted no licensing system. But the potential restraint is equally severe. The finger of government leveled against the press is omnious. Once the government can demand of a publisher the names of the purchasers of his publications, the free press as we know it disappears. Then the specter of a government agent will look over the shoulder of everyone who reads. The purchase of a book or pamphlet today may result in a subpoena tomorrow. Fear of criticism goes with every person into the bookstall. The subtle, imponderable pressures of the orthodox lay hold. Some will fear to read what is unpopular what the powers-that-be dislike. When the light of publicity may reach any student, any teacher, inquiry will be discouraged. The books and pamphlets that are critical of the administration, that preach an unpopular policy in domestic or foreign affairs, that are in disrepute in the orthodox school of thought will be suspect and subject to investigation. The press and its readers will pay a heavy price in harassment. But that will be minor in comparison with the menace of the shadow which government will cast over literature that does not follow the dominant party line. If the lady from Toledo can be required to disclose what she read yesterday and what she will read tomorrow, fear will take the place of freedom in the libraries, bookstores, and homes of the land. Through the harassment of hearings, investigations, reports, and subpoenas government will hold a club over speech and over the press. Congress could not do this by law. The power of investigation is also limited.”

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1960 – 1970

NUC: The Largest Printed Bibliography, Complete in 754 Folio Volumes 1968 – 1981

In 1968 Mansell, in London, began publication of The National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints: a Cumulative Author List Representing Library of Congress Printed Cards and Titles Reported by other American Libraries (NUC). One of the largest sets of printed volumes ever published, and the largest printed bibliography, it was completed in 1981 in 754 folio volumes, containing a total of over 12,000,000 entries on 528,000 pages, and occupying approximately 130 feet of shelf space. It was produced manually by photocopying library catalogue cards.

Before OCLC was available outside of institutional libraries, in 1984 Breslauer & Folter, in their survey of historical bibliographical classics entitled Bibliography, its History and Development, characterized NUC as "The most extensive general bibliographical compilation of all time." In 2013, when I last revised this entry, their assertion remained valid if the scope of the comparison was limited to bibliographies printed on paper. 

Around 1995 NUC was superceded in certain respects (especially ease of access, ease of updating, and shelf space) by bibliographical databases such as OCLC WorldCat on the Internet.  Experts were quick to point out that bibliographical nuances and details present in some NUC entries were lost, or sometimes confused, in the electronic conversion. Whether any of those details would eventually be added or mistakes corrected in the database remained unknown.

♦ As a reflection of changing times and a shortage of shelf space, in November 2013 antiquarian bookseller Ian Jackson of Berkeley offered for sale in his Cedules from a Berkeley Bookshop, No. 28, a full set of NUC, "one of the few sets without library markings", for $754 or one dollar per volume, with the caveat that "Buyer removes."  This last element was crucial as the set weighed perhaps 10 pounds per volume. 

In conclusion, I cannot resist quoting Jackson's final paragraph of his description:

"Other attractions: the four volumes on the Bible remain the largest inventory in print, and in volume 671 (p. 565, s.v. Wolveridge) a presumably disgruntled employee has written 'Anyone paying good bucks for the crap in this catalogue has been royally screwed by us.' "

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1970 – 1980

Barnes & Noble Becomes the First American Bookseller to Discount New Books 1975

In 1975 the Barnes & Noble bookstore chain, purchased by Leonard Riggio in 1971,  became the first bookseller in America to discount new books, by selling New York Times best-selling titles at 40% off the publishers’ list price.

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1980 – 1990

The First Operational Online Antiquarian Bookselling Site 1988

In 1988 Larry Costello founded Antiquarian Databases International (ADI). A Bulletin Board System (BBS), ADI was the first operational online antiquarian bookselling site, and an extremely early venture in ecommerce, but it closed after only a few months.

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1990 – 2000

Precursor to Amazon.com's Online Bookstore 1992

In 1992 Charles M. Stack founded Book Stacks Unlimited, an online bookstore selling new physical books. Stack's store began as a dial-up bulletin board located in Cleveland, Ohio. It moved to the Internet as Books.com, eventually attracting a half million visitors each month. This was two years before Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com.

"Stack devised the concept in 1991 based on his personal fascination with reading and books, as he recalled in 1998:

"I've always read a lot, so that was the germ of the idea. I'll pick a subject and read every book ever published on it. That's hard to do if you shop at a walk-in bookstore. Even the superstores don't have more than a couple of titles per topic. My dream was to have a bookstore that had every book ever published to feed my own habit.

"Offering 500,000 titles, Book Stacks had 35 staffers who gave their book recommendations to visitors. Other features included a daily literary journal, summaries of new books, RealAudio interviews with authors and forums in which customers could ask questions and discuss books. Books could be searched by title, author, subject, keyword or ISBN number.

"In 1996, Book Stacks became a wholly owned subsidiary of Cendant Corporation, a consumer services company based in Stamford, Connecticut and previously known as CUC International. In 1997, Book Stacks became part of Cendant's virtual mall, netMarket, a one-stop Internet shopping site which included an online music store and an online video store, both operating from the Book Stacks offices in downtown Cleveland.

"Subsequently, it was purchased by Barnes & Noble; www.books.com now redirects to www.barnesandnoble.com" (Wikipedia article on Book Stacks Unlimited, accessed 11-08-2013).

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"The First Successful Online Bookseller Service" 1993 – 1997

In 1993 Richard Weatherford established Interloc, "the first successful online bookseller service." Arguing that "our mission is to help booksellers find books for their own customers," Weatherford opened the database to booksellers only. Interloc evolved into Alibris in 1997.

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Amazon.com is Founded July 1994 – July 1995

In July 1994 Jeff Bezos of Seattle, Washington, incorporated Amazon.com. The company originally promoted itself as "Earth's biggest book store." 

Amazon.com was very nearly called "Cadabra," as in "abracadabra." Bezos rapidly re-conceptualized the name when his lawyer misheard the word as "cadaver." Bezos instead named the business after the river for two reasons: to suggest scale, as the earth's biggest book store, and because website listings were often alphabetical at that time.

In July 1995 Amazon sold its first bookDouglas Hofstadter's Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought.

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Abebooks.com is Launched 1996

In 1996 the used and antiquarian bookselling website Abebooks.com was launched in Victoria, BC, Canada. On August 1, 2008, AbeBooks announced that it had been acquired by Amazon.com.

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"You've Got Mail", a Movie about Love, Email, and the Book Trade 1998

You've Got Mail, an American romantic comedy film set in New York City starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, was released by Warner Brothers in 1998. The film dramatized a romantic relationship that develops over email, featuring AOL's "You've got mail" slogan in product placement. Paralleling this film about computers and society was the film's subplot of the forced closure of a small independent bookshop by competition from a big-box chain bookstore — thus You've Got Mail was not only a film about computers and romance, but also a commentary about the changing face of the book trade.

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2000 – 2005

3,200,000 Books Are In Print in the U.S. 2000

Third generation Amazon Kindle, showing text from the eBook version of the novel Moby Dick

In 2000 there were 3,200,000 new printed book titles listed for sale in the United States. The number of book titles in print in the world may have been about 8,000,000 at that time.

The world market for printed books (pBooks) was estimated at $25 billion. At this time the world market for eBooks was estimated at $100 million.

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eBook Distributor is Acquired by Barnes & Noble June 5, 2000 – March 2009

On June 5, 2000 Steven Pendergast, and Mindwise Media LLC owned by Scott Pendergast founded Fictionwise.com. The company became one of the largest distributors of ebooks in North America, and was acquired by Barnes & Noble in March 2009.

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Somewhat Accelerated Prediction of the Future of eBooks May 3, 2001

The logo for the Women's National Book Association 

At the meeting of the San Francisco chapter of the Women's National Book Association on May 3, 2001 David Spiselman predicted that ebooks would be a 3.1 billion dollar business by 2004. He also predicted that by 2004 "screen quality will be superior to paper."

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859,000 New Book Titles Are Published Worldwide in 2003 2003

According to Bowker, as cited by Robert Darnton in Publisher's Weekly, 859,000 new book titles were published worldwide in 2003. This represented a significant increase over the 700,000 titles published in 1998.

"I have been invited to so many conferences on “The Death of the Book” during the past decade that I think books must be very much alive. The death notices remind me of one of my favorite graffiti, inscribed in the men's room of the Firestone Library at Princeton University:

"God is dead.


Then, added in another hand:

"Nietzsche is dead.


"The book is not dead. In fact, the world is producing more books than ever before. According to Bowker, 700,000 new titles were published worldwide in 1998; 859,000 in 2003; and 976,000 in 2007. Despite the Great Recession of 2009 that has hit the publishing industry so hard, one million new books will soon be produced each year" (http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20090914/451-on-the-ropes-robert-darnton-s-case-for-books.html).

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Amazon Introduces "Search Inside" 120,000 Books October 23, 2003

Gary Wolf

The Amazon.com logo

On October 23, 2003 Amazon.com made it possible to “search inside” the full text of 120,000 books from more than 190 publishers.  This allowed Amazon users to search not only the full texts of individual titles but all 120,000 collectively. 

On October 23, 2003 joujrnalist Gary Wolf published an article about the cultural history of digital libraries, and more specifically Amazon's "Search Inside," in Wired magazine, entitled "The Great Library of Amazonia," from which I quote a portion:

"The more specific the search, the more rewarding the experience. For instance, I've recently become interested in Boss Tweed, New York's most famous pillager of public money. Manber types "Boss Tweed" into his search engine. Out pop a few books with Boss Tweed in the title. But the more intriguing results come from deep within books I never would have thought to check: A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole; American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis; Forever: A Novel, by Pete Hamill. I immediately recognize the power of the archive to make connections hitherto unseen. As the number of searchable books increases, it will become possible to trace the appearance of people and events in published literature and to follow the most digressive pathways of our collective intellectual life.

"From the Hamill reference, I link to a page in the afterward on which he cites books that influenced his portrait of Tweed. There, on the screen, is the cream of the research performed by a great metropolitan writer and editor. Some of the books Hamill recommends are out of print, but all are available either new or used on Amazon.

"With persistence, serendipity and plenty of time in a library, I may have found these titles myself. The Amazon archive is dizzying not because it unearths books that would necessarily have languished in obscurity, but because it renders their contents instantly visible in response to a search. It allows quick query revisions, backtracking, and exploration. It provides a new form of map.

"Getting to this point represents a significant technological feat. Most of the material in the archive comes from scanned pages of actual books. This may be surprising, given that most books today are written on PCs, e-mailed to publishers, typeset on computers, and printed on digital presses. But many publishers still do not have push-button access to the digital files of the books they put out. Insofar as the files exist, they are often scattered around the desktops of editors, designers, and contract printers. For books more than a few years old, complete digital files may be lost. John Wiley & Sons contributed 5,000 titles to the Amazon project -- all of them in physical form.

"Fortunately, mass scanning has grown increasingly feasible, with the cost dropping to as low as $1 each. Amazon sent some of the books to scanning centers in low-wage countries like India and the Philippines; others were run in the United States using specialty machines to ensure accurate color and to handle oversize volumes. Some books can be chopped out of their bindings and fed into scanners, others have to be babied by a human, who turns pages one by one. Remarkably, Amazon was already doing so much data processing in its regular business that the huge task of reading the images of the books and converting them into a plain-text database was handled by idle computers at one of the company's backup centers."

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1,200,000 Unique Book Titles are Sold 2004

In 2004 1,200,000 unique book titles were sold. According to an article in the New York Times, only two percent sold more than 5000 copies.

According to R.R. Bowker, publisher of Books in Print, 375,000 new unique books were published in English during 2004.

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How Employment in Bookselling and Newspaper and Magazine Publishing in the U.S. Declined Since the "Great Recession" 2004 – 2014

By the end of 2014, five years after the end of the Great Recession, the United States economy regained the nine million jobs it lost. But not all industries recovered equally. On December 26, 2014 The New York Times feature, "How the Recession Shaped the Economy in 255 Charts," published this caption for its chart on the "Digital Revolution":

"Bookstoresprinters and publishers of newspapers and magazines  have lost a combined 400,000 jobs since the recession began. Internet publishers — including web-search firms — offset only a fraction of the losses, adding 76,000 jobs. Electronic shopping and auctions made up the fastest-growing industry, tripling in employment in 10 years."

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"The Long Tail" October 2004

Chris Anderson

A cover of Wired Magazine

A graph depicting "The Long Tail"

Chris Anderson published "The Long Tail" in the October 2004 issue of Wired magazine. In this article he described "the niche strategy of businesses, such as Amazon.com or Netflix, that sell a large number of unique items, each in relatively small quantities. Anderson elaborated the Long Tail concept in his book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More.

"A frequency distribution with a long tail—the concept at the root of Anderson's coinage—has been studied by statisticians since at least 1946. The distribution and inventory costs of these businesses allow them to realize significant profit out of selling small volumes of hard-to-find items to many customers, instead of only selling large volumes of a reduced number of popular items. The group that purchases a large number of "non-hit" items is the demographic called the Long Tail.

"Given a large enough availability of choice, a large population of customers, and negligible stocking and distribution costs, the selection and buying pattern of the population results in a power law distribution curve, or Pareto distribution. This suggests that a market with a high freedom of choice will create a certain degree of inequality by favoring the upper 20% of the items ("hits" or "head") against the other 80% ("non-hits" or "long tail"). This is known as the Pareto principle or 80–20 rule.

"The Long Tail concept has found a broad ground for application, research and experimentation. It is a common term in online business and the mass media, but also of importance in micro-finance (Grameen Bank, for example), user-driven innovation (Eric von Hippel), social network mechanisms (e.g., crowdsourcing, crowdcasting, Peer-to-peer), economic models, and marketing (viral marketing)" (Wikipedia article on The Long Tail, accessed 04-19-2009).

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2005 – 2010

300,000,000 Printed Copies of Harry Potter October 5, 2005

J.K. Rowling

The Harry Potter series

On October 5, 2005 Global sales of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter book series surpassed 300,000,000 printed copies.

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The Espresso "On Demand" Book Machine April 2006

The Espresso Book Machine

In April 2006 the first experimental beta Espresso Book Machine was installed at the World Bank InfoShop in Washington, D.C. to print and bind World Bank publications on demand.

"In September 2006 ODB installed a second beta machine at The Library of Alexandria, Egypt, to print books in Arabic. The first EBM Version 1.5 was introduced for ninety days at the New York Public Library during the summer of 2007."

In September 2008 the first Espresso Book Machine in a retail commercial setting was installed at Angus & Robertson in Melbourne, Australia.

Link to the PDF brochure for Espresso Book Machine 2.0 at ondemandbooks.com, accessed 08-31-2009.

♦ In November 2012 it was my pleasure to see the Espress Book Machine in operation at the privately owned Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Humorously nicknamed "Paige M. Gutenborg," the machine produced remarkably high quality paperback books at the speed of around 5 minutes per book. Customers supplied fully formatted black and white text as a PDF plus a separate PDF containing their design for a full color cover. The machine combined a double-sided xerographic laser printer with an ingenious binding and trimming mechanism. It printed the text on regular book paper and the color cover on coated cover stock. Since the binding machine was enclosed in plexiglass it was possible to observe the various binding processes, concluding with the machine dropping each finished copy out a small chute. When I watched the machine in operation it was being observed by a human operator.  My impression was that the machine required certain adjustments and worked best when "supervised" by a human.



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U.S. Publishers Sell 3.1 Billion Books Circa December 2006

In 2006 publishers in the U.S. sold 3.1 billion books. This was up just 0.5 percent from the 3. 09 billion sold in 2005. Of the 3.1 billion, 263.4 million were religious books, then the fastest growing category in U.S. book publishing.

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Sales of Books in America in 2007 2007

The Book Industry Study Group logo

The Association of American Publishers logo

According to the Book Industry Study Group in 2007 3,200,000,000 books were sold in the United States. According to The Association of American Publishers net book sales in the U.S. were $25,000,000,000, an increase of 2.5 percent over 2006.

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976,000 New Book Titles Published in 2007 2007

Robert Darnton

The Bowker logo

According to Bowker, as cited by Robert Darnton in Publisher's Weekly, 976,000 new book titles were published worldwide in 2007. This represented a significant increase over the 859,000 published in 2003, and the 700,000 published in 1998.

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The Amazon Kindle is Introduced November 19, 2007

The Amazon logo

A first generation Amazon Kindle

Amazon.com introduced the Kindle on November 19, 2007. This unconventionally-named ebook reader differed from other ebook readers because it incorporated a wireless service for purchasing and delivering electronic texts from Amazon.com without a computer. The 6 inch wide electronic-paper screen was limited to grayscale at 167ppi resolution. At its introduction 90,000 titles were available for download to the 10 oz. device. The first Kindle could store about 200 books.

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The Largest Atlas Ever Published as a Printed Book October 2008 – March 2012

In 2008 Gordon Cheers of Millennium House, North Narabeen, Australia, published a world atlas called Earth. The World Atlas. Containing 576 pages with 154 maps and 800 photographs, the volume measured 610 x 469 millimeters and weighed over 30 kilos. The publishers described it as the largest atlas ever published as a printed book.

"The book also includes four monster-sized gatefolds which, unfurled, measure six x four feet (1.82 x 1.21 meters) and reveal pinpoint sharp satellite images including shots of the earth and sky at night" (http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/10/16/earth.atlas/index.html#cnnSTCText, accessed 12-05-2008).

In December 2013 a virtual tour of a few pages of the atlas was avilable from the Millenium House website at this link

The book was offered for sale in two versions: "Royal Blue," limited to 2000 copies, and available in bookstores, and "Imperial Gold," limited to 1000 copies and for sale only by Millenium House. In October 2009 Amazon.com offered a copy of an unspecified version for about $7200 plus $3.99 shipping and handling. There was also a regular trade edition available in a 325 x 250 mm format called Earth Condensed.

When I revisited the Millenium House website in March 2012 I noticed that the publishers had surpassed their previous size record by producing the Platinum edition of their atlas in an enormous 6 foot x 4.5 foot format (1.8m x 1.4m) in an edition limited to 31 copies at the price of $100,000 USD per copy. As they stated:

"Once in a lifetime, the opportunity comes along to acquire something truly exquisite and unique—a piece of history, a rare collectible, a masterpiece... EARTH Platinum Edition is such an acquisition. With only 31 individually numbered copies of this immense, limited edition atlas available, this beautifully presented book will be sought after by fine institutions and discerning collectors. Superb cartography is displayed on the massive pages when opened: each spread measures a breathtaking 6 feet x 9 feet (1.8m x 2.7m), presenting an unsurpassed view of the world...." 

Though I was unsure whether the original 2008 version of Earth. The World Atlas was, as the publisher's claimed "the largest atlas ever published as a printed book," we can safely say that the enormous Platinum edition knocks out any previous competition in the size category.

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Authors, Publishers and Google Reach "Landmark Settlement" October 28, 2008

On October 28, 2008 The Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers (AAP), and Google announced a groundbreaking settlement agreement

"on behalf of a broad class of authors and publishers worldwide that would expand online access to millions of in-copyright books and other written materials in the U.S. from the collections of a number of major U.S. libraries participating in Google Book Search. The agreement, reached after two years of negotiations, would resolve a class-action lawsuit brought by book authors and the Authors Guild, as well as a separate lawsuit filed by five large publishers as representatives of the AAP’s membership. The class action is subject to approval by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

"If approved by the court, the agreement would provide:

  • More Access to Out-of-Print Books – Generating greater exposure for millions of in-copyright works, including hard-to-find out-of-print books, by enabling readers in the U.S. to search these works and preview them online;
  • Additional Ways to Purchase Copyrighted Books – Building off publishers’ and authors’ current efforts and further expanding the electronic market for copyrighted books in the U.S., by offering users the ability to purchase online access to many in-copyright books;
  • Institutional Subscriptions to Millions of Books Online – Offering a means for U.S. colleges, universities and other organizations to obtain subscriptions for online access to collections from some of the world’s most renowned libraries;
  • Free Access From U.S. Libraries – Providing free, full-text, online viewing of millions of out-of-print books at designated computers in U.S. public and university libraries; and
  • Compensation to Authors and Publishers and Control Over Access to Their Works – Distributing payments earned from online access provided by Google and, prospectively, from similar programs that may be established by other providers, through a newly created independent, not-for-profit Book Rights Registry that will also locate rightsholders, collect and maintain accurate rightsholder information, and provide a way for rightsholders to request inclusion in or exclusion from the project."
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Google Will Sell eBooks May 31, 2009

At the BookExpo convention in New York, on May 31, 2009 Google announced its intention to sell ebooks (e-books) directly to consumers through its Google Books service. In contrast to Amazon, which sold ebooks at the fixed price of $9.95 per title and only through its proprietary Kindle ebook reader, Google allowed publishers to set the price of ebook titles and make them available across browsers, cell phones, and other platforms.

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Amazon Sends Orwell eBooks Down the "Memory Hole" July 16, 2009

"In George Orwell’s '1984,' government censors erase all traces of news articles embarrassing to Big Brother by sending them down an incineration chute called the 'memory hole.'

"On Friday, it was '1984' and another Orwell book, 'Animal Farm,' that were dropped down the memory hole — by Amazon.com.

"In a move that angered customers and generated waves of online pique, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of the books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them.

"An Amazon spokesman, Drew Herdener, said in an e-mail message that the books were added to the Kindle store by a company that did not have rights to them, using a self-service function. 'When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers,' he said.

'Amazon effectively acknowledged that the deletions were a bad idea. 'We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances,' Mr. Herdener said" (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/18/technology/companies/18amazon.html, accessed 07-25-2009).

"Books in the real world are covered by a notion of copyright called the 'first sale' doctrine, which allows a purchaser to do pretty much whatever he or she wants with the book–including reselling it or lending it to a friend.

"But digital books–especially if they’re sold as part of access to a networked system such as Amazon’s Kindle Store and Google’s online books collection–don’t necessarily fall under those same rules. 'We have not matured our understanding of copyright to work in a digital environment in way that provides a set of protections and meets people’s expectations for how we use digital content,' said Brantley" (http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2009/07/17/an-orwellian-moment-for-amazons-kindle/, accessed 07-25-2009).

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USA Today Adds eBook Sales to its Bestsellers List July 22, 2009

On June 22, 2009 USA Today announced that it would add Amazon Kindle e-book (ebook) sales to its weekly Best-Selling Books list in its Best-Selling Books Database:

"Starting today, USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list becomes the first major list to include Amazon Kindle e-book sales. The move reflects both the growth of e-book sales and Kindle's role in that market. 'Since 1993, USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list has always evolved to reflect the ways our readers buy books,' says Susan Weiss, managing editor of the Life section. 'Adding Kindle to our group of contributors makes sense given the growth in the e-book platform.' E-books, for all devices, claimed 4.9% of sales in May, according to book audience research firm Codex-Group. That's up from 3.7% in March. This week, Barnes & Noble announced the launch of its own eBookstore with 700,000 titles."

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Darnton's Case for Books: Past, Present and Future September 14, 2009

"In The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future, Robert Darnton, a pioneer in the field of the history of the book, offers an in-depth examination of the book from its earliest beginnings to its changing—some even say threatened—place in culture, commerce and the academy. But to predict the death of the book is to ignore its centuries-long history of survival. The following are some of Darnton's observations.

"1. The Future. Whatever the future may be, it will be digital. The present is a time of transition, when printed and digital modes of communication coexist and new technology soon becomes obsolete. Already we are witnessing the disappearance of familiar objects: the typewriter, now consigned to antique shops; the postcard, a curiosity; the handwritten letter, beyond the capacity of most young people, who cannot write in cursive script; the daily newspaper, extinct in many cities; the local bookshop, replaced by chains, which themselves are threatened by Internet distributors like Amazon. And the library? It can look like the most archaic institution of all. Yet its past bodes well for its future, because libraries were never warehouses of books. They have always been and always will be centers of learning. Their central position in the world of learning makes them ideally suited to mediate between the printed and the digital modes of communication. Books, too, can accommodate both modes. Whether printed on paper or stored in servers, they embody knowledge, and their authority derives from a great deal more than the technology that went into them.

"2. Preservation. Bits become degraded over time. Documents may get lost in cyberspace, owing to the obsolescence of the medium in which they are encoded. Hardware and software become extinct at a distressing rate. Unless the vexatious problem of digital preservation is solved, all texts “born digital” belong to an endangered species. The obsession with developing new media has inhibited efforts to preserve the old. We have lost 80% of all silent films and 50% of all films made before World War II. Nothing preserves texts better than ink imbedded in paper, especially paper manufactured before the 19th century, except texts written in parchment or engraved in stone. The best preservation system ever invented was the old-fashioned, pre-modern book.

"3. Reading… and Writing. Time was when readers kept commonplace books. Whenever they came across a pithy passage, they copied it into a notebook under an appropriate heading, adding observations made in the course of daily life. The practice spread everywhere in early modern England, among ordinary readers as well as famous writers like Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, John Milton, and John Locke. It involved a special way of taking in the printed word. Unlike modern readers, who follow the flow of a narrative from beginning to end (unless they are digital natives and click through texts on machines), early modern Englishmen read in fits and starts and jumped from book to book. They broke texts into fragments and assembled them into new patterns by transcribing them in different sections of their notebooks. Then they reread the copies and rearranged the patterns while adding more excerpts. Reading and writing were therefore inseparable activities. They belonged to a continuous effort to make sense of things, for the world was full of signs: you could read your way through it, and by keeping an account of your readings, you made a book of your own, one stamped with your personality. 

"4. Piracy. Voltaire toyed with his texts so much that booksellers complained. As soon as they sold one edition of a work, another would appear, featuring additions and corrections by the author. Customers protested. Some even said that they would not buy an edition of Voltaire's complete works—and there were many, each different from the others—until he died, an event eagerly anticipated by retailers throughout the book trade. Piracy was so pervasive in early modern Europe that bestsellers could not be blockbusters as they are today. Instead of being produced in huge numbers by one publisher, they were printed simultaneously in many small editions by many publishers, each racing to make the most of a market unconstrained by copyright. Few pirates attempted to produce accurate counterfeits of the original editions. They abridged, expanded, and reworked texts as they pleased, without worrying about the authors' intentions. 

"5. E-Books. I want to write an electronic book. Here is how my fantasy takes shape. An “e-book,” unlike a printed codex, can contain many layers arranged in the shape of a pyramid. Readers can download the text and skim the topmost layer, which will be written like an ordinary monograph. If it satisfies them, they can print it out, bind it (binding machines can now be attached to computers and printers), and study it at their convenience in the form of a custom-made paperback. If they come upon something that especially interests them, they can click down a layer to a supplementary essay or appendix. They can continue deeper through the book, through bodies of documents, bibliography, historiography, iconography, background music, everything I can provide to give the fullest possible understanding of my subject. In the end, they will make the subject theirs, because they will find their own paths through it, reading horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, wherever the electronic links may lead. 

"6. Authorship. Despite the proliferation of biographies of great writers, the basic conditions of authorship remain obscure for most periods of history. At what point did writers free themselves from the patronage of wealthy noblemen and the state in order to live by their pens? What was the nature of a literary career, and how was it pursued? How did writers deal with publishers, printers, booksellers, reviewers, and one another? Until those questions are answered, we will not have a full understanding of the transmission of texts. Voltaire was able to manipulate secret alliances with pirate publishers because he did not depend on writing for a living. A century later, Zola proclaimed that a writer's independence came from selling his prose to the highest bidder. How did this transformation take place?

"7. The Book Trade. It may seem hopeless to conceive of book history as a single subject, to be studied from a comparative perspective across the whole range of historical disciplines. But books themselves do not respect limits either linguistic or national. They have often been written by authors who belonged to an international republic of letters, composed by printers who did not work in their native tongue, sold by booksellers who operated across national boundaries, and read in one language by readers who spoke another. Books also refuse to be contained within the confines of a single discipline when treated as objects of study. Neither history nor literature nor economics nor sociology nor bibliography can do justice to all aspects of the life of a book. By its very nature, therefore, the history of books must be international in scale and interdisciplinary in method. But it need not lack conceptual coherence, because books belong to circuits of communication that operate in consistent patterns, however complex they may be. By unearthing those circuits, historians can show that books do not merely recount history; they make it.(http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6696290.html)"

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eBook Sales Represent 1.6% of Book Sales October 7, 2009

"According to a report being released Wednesday by Forrester Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts, e-reader sales will total an estimated 3 million this year, with Amazon selling 60 percent of them and Sony Corp. 35 percent."

"According to the Association of American Publishers, e-books accounted for just 1.6 percent of all book sales in the first half of the year. But the market is growing fast. E-book sales totaled $81.5 million in the first half, up from $29.8 million in the first six months of 2008.

"And [Jeff] Bezos said Amazon sells 48 Kindle copies for every 100 physical copies of books that it offers in both formats. Five months ago it was selling 35 Kindle copies per 100 physical versions.

"Bezos said that increase is happening faster than he expected.

" 'I think that ultimately we will sell more books in Kindle editions than we do in physical editions,' Bezos said in the interview, which was held in the Cupertino offices of Lab126, the Amazon subsidiary that developed the Kindle" (http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/10/07/business/AP-US-TEC-Amazon-Kindle.html)

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2010 – 2012

The First Superman Comic Book sells for $1,000,000. February 22, 2010

On February 22, 2010 the web auction site ComicConnect.com in New York sold the first edition of the first Superman comic book, Action Comics #1, for $1,000,000.

"ComicConnect.com, one of the industry’s leading online auction/consignment sites, just sold an extremely rare, top-condition copy of the world’s most coveted comic book for exactly $1,000,000. That figure is more than three times higher than the prior record-holder, also set by ComicConnect.com.

"That comic book, of course, is Action Comics #1, which marked the debut of Superman in 1938 and promptly changed the course of pop culture forever.

" 'This particular copy has been in a private collection for more than 15 years, and it’s likely to disappear again once it’s been turned over to its new owner. However, ComicConnect.com will allow the media to view it briefly in its New York City showroom (873 Broadway, Suite 201, 212-895-3999). The showroom is also home to ComicConnect.com’s affiliate, Metropolis Collectibles (metropoliscomics.com), the largest vintage comic book dealer in the world.

" 'It’s the Holy Grail of comic books,' says founder Stephen Fishler, one of the leading experts on collectible comics.

“ 'Before Action Comics #1, there was no such thing as a superhero or a man who could fly,' notes Fishler, who created the 10-point grading scale which today is used universally to evaluate the condition of comic books.

“ 'It’s the single most important event in comic book history,' adds ComicConnect.com co-owner and COO, Vincent Zurzolo.

"Only about 100 copies Action Comics #1 remain in existence, and of those 100, only two have received a grading of 8.0 (Very Fine) or higher. This particular book is one of them, making it among the rarest of the rare.

"Up until now, the record-holder was another Action Comics #1, this one with a grading of 6.0. It sold on ComicConnect.com for $317,200 in 2009.

"According to the Overstreet Price Guide to Comic Books—the industry bible—Action Comics #1 is indisputably the highest-valued comic book of all time. In second place is Detective Comics #27, which marked the first appearance of Batman in 1939. An Action Comics #1 graded 8.0 or higher is priced about 25% higher than a comparable Detective Comics #27" (http://www.comicconnect.com/, accessed 02-25-2010).

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U.S. Book Sales in 2009: $23.9 Billion April 7, 2010

"The Association of American Publishers (AAP) has today [April 7, 2010] released its annual estimate of total book sales in the United States. The report, which uses data from the Bureau of the Census as well as sales data from eighty-six publishers inclusive of all major book publishing media market holders, estimates that U.S. publishers had net sales of $23.9 billion in 2009, down from $24.3 billion in 2008, representing a 1.8% decrease. In the last seven years the industry had a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.1%."

"Audio book sales for 2009 totaled $192 million, down 12.9% on the prior year, CAGR (compound annual growth rate) for this category is still healthy at 4.3%. E-books overtook audiobooks in 2009 with sales reaching $313 million in 2009, up 176.6%" (http://www.publishers.org/main/PressCenter/Archicves/2010_April/BookSalesEstimatedat23.9Billionin2009.htm)

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General Statistics on the U.S. Book Publishing Industry May 6, 2010

"The US book publishing industry consists of about 2,600 companies with combined annual revenue of about $27 billion. Major companies include John Wiley & Sons, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Scholastic, as well as publishing units of large media companies such as HarperCollins (owned by News Corp); Random House (owned by Bertelsmann); and Simon & Schuster (owned by CBS). The industry is highly concentrated: the top 50 companies generate about 80 percent of revenue.

"Demand for books is driven by demographics and is largely resistant to economic cycles. The profitability of individual companies depends on product development and marketing. Large publishers have an advantage in bidding for new manuscripts or authors. Small and midsized publishers can succeed if they focus on a specific subject or market.

"Publishers produce books for general reading (adult "trade" books); text, professional, technical, children's, and reference books. Trade books account for 25 percent of the market, textbooks 25 percent, and professional books 20 percent.  "

"About 150,000 new books are published in the US every year; however, most are low-volume products. The number of books produced by major trade publishers and university presses is closer to 40,000" (http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/permalink/?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20100506006043&newsLang=en, accessed 05-06-2010).

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For the First Time E-books Outsell Digital Books on Amazon.com July 19, 2010

During the months of April, May, and June 2010 sales of ebooks (e-books) exceeded sales of hardcover physical books at Amazon.com. "In that time Amazon said, it sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books, including hardcovers for which there is no Kindle edition."

The New York Times online, which reported this information, did not compare Amazon's sales of e-books versus their sales of paperback books during the same period, but indicated that  "paperback sales are thought to still outnumber e-books."

"Book lovers mourning the demise of hardcover books with their heft and their musty smell need a reality check, said Mike Shatzkin, founder and chief executive of the Idea Logical Company, which advises book publishers on digital change. 'This was a day that was going to come, a day that had to come,' he said. He predicts that within a decade, fewer than 25 percent of all books sold will be print versions.  

"Still, the hardcover book is far from extinct. Industrywide sales are up 22 percent this year, according to the American Publishers Association."

The shift at Amazon is "astonishing when you consider that we’ve been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months," Amazon's chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, said in a news release, published in Amazon.com's Media Room.

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eBook Edition Released Prior to Hardcover Edition September 8, 2010

HarperCollins publishers released the ebook edition of Deepak Chopra's fictionalized biography of the Prophet Muhammed entititled Muhammad prior to the hardcover release on September 21.

This was the first time that HarperCollins released an ebook edition prior to a print edition.

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The Google eBookstore Opens December 6, 2010

On December 6, 2010 Google opened its online digital bookstore, Google ebooks.

"Google executives described the e-bookstore as an 'open ecosystem' that will offer more than three million books, including hundreds of thousands for sale and millions free.  

"More than 4,000 publishers, including large trade book companies like Random House, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan, have made books available for sale through Google , many at prices that are identical to those of other e-bookstores.  

 " 'We really think it’s important that the book business have this open diversity of retail points, just like it does in print,' Tom Turvey, the director of strategic partnerships at Google, said in an interview. 'We want to make sure we maintain that and support that.' Customers can set up an account for buying books, store them in a central online, password-protected library and read them on personal computers, tablets, smartphones and e-readers. A Web connection will not be necessary to read a book, however; users can use a dedicated app that can be downloaded to an iPad, iPhone or Android phone.  

"A typical user could begin reading an e-book on an iPad at home, continue reading the same book on an Android phone on the subway and then pick it up again on a Web browser at the office, with the book opening each time to the place where the user left off.  

"The Google eBookstore could be a significant benefit to independent bookstores like Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore., that have signed on to sell Google e-books on their Web sites through Google — the first significant entry for independents into the e-book business.  

" 'This levels the playing field,' said Oren Teicher, the chief executive of the American Booksellers Association. 'If you want to buy e-books, you don’t just have to buy them from the big national outlets' (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/07/business/media/07ebookstore.html?hp

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U.S. E-Book Sales are Predicted to Reach $1,000,000,000 in 2010 December 11, 2010

American e-book sales will reach almost $1 billion by the end of 2010, according to new research.

"A report published by technology and market research company Forrester presented a five year forecast for e-books in the US. The firm surveyed 4,000 people for the report and found 2010 will end with $966m worth of e-books sold to consumers. By 2015 the industry will have nearly tripled to almost 3bn, a point at which Forrester said the industry will be 'forever altered'.

The study has also found e-book buying falls very low on the list of how people acquire books, with just 7% of adults who read books and are active online reading e-books. However, Forrester said this 7% 'read the most books and spend the most money on books'.

"A blog by Forrester researcher James McQuivey said: 'We have plenty of room to grow beyond the 7% that read e-books today and, once they get the hang of it, e-book readers quickly shift a majority of their book reading to a digital form. More e-book readers reading a greater percentage of their books in digital form means our nearly $3 billion figure in 2015 will be easy to hit, even if nothing else changes in the industry.'  

"McQuivey too urged publishers to take digital seriously in order to prepare for a day when 'physical book publishing is an adjunct activity that supports the digital publishing business' " (http://www.thebookseller.com/news/133944-us-e-book-sales-to-reach-1-billion.html, accessed 11-12-2010).

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eBooks Represent 9-10% of Trade-Book Sales December 23, 2010

According to an article in The New York Times, in December 2010 ebooks represented 9 to 10 percent of trade-book sales.

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The New York Times Begins Ranking eBook Best Sellers February 11, 2011

On February 11, 2011 The New York Times introduced best-seller lists including ebook (e-book) best sellers. They offered rankings of titles when print and e-book sales were combined, and also offered separate rankings for print and e-book titles in fiction and non-fiction categories, hardcover and paperback, etc.

"This week’s Book Review introduces revamped best-seller lists, the result of many months of planning, research and design.  

"On the Web, there are three entirely new lists. One consists of rankings for fiction and nonfiction that combine print and e-book sales; one is limited exclusively to e-book sales for fiction and nonfiction; and the third, Web-only list tracks combined print sales — of both hardcover and paperback editions — for fiction and nonfiction.

All the other lists, though presented in reworked formats, will be familiar to readers. The Book Review’s related columns — TBR: Inside the List, Editors’ Choice and Paperback Row, all written by Book Review editors — remain in their accustomed places in print and online. We continue to offer extended rankings, a full methodology and a list archive online.  

"As before, The Times’s News Surveys department, which directs the paper’s polling operations, including its political and election polls, will collect and analyze the data reflected in each list."

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Borders Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy & Closes the Last of its Bookstores February 16 – September 18, 2011

In February 2011 Borders, the second largest brick and mortar bookstore chain in the United States, headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, filed chapter 11 bankruptcy. Borders' stock closed at 25 cents on February 12, 2011, reflecting expectations that the chain could be liquidated. The company was unable to compete adequately against Internet booksellers led by Amazon.com, or against the leading brick and mortar chain, Barnes and Noble. By September 18, 2011 Borders closed the last of its more than 1200 bookstores across the United States. This was reflective of a larger trend of brick and mortar bookstore closures, in which more than a thousand American bookstores closed between 2000 and 2007.

"Sales at Borders declined by double-digit percentage rates in 2008, 2009 and in each quarter in 2010 it has reported.

"Borders, which has 6,100 full time staff, operates 508 namesake superstores as well as a chain of smaller Waldenbooks stores.

"The company said it would close about 30 percent of its stores in the next several weeks and plans to continue to pay its employees.

"Borders' largest unsecured creditors include major publishers that provide the books it sells. Borders owes Pearson PLC's Penguin $41.2 million, Hachette Book Group USA $36.9 million, and CBS's Simon & Schuster $33.8 million, according to court documents.

"The case is In re: Borders Group Inc, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, No: 11-10614" (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/16/borders-files-for-bankruptcy_n_823889.html?. accessed 11-16-2011).

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The Second Best-Selling Book in America Priced Like an App (99 Cents) February 25, 2011

The second best-selling book in America, a thriller by Lisa Gardner called Alone, first published in hardback in 2005 at a list price of $25, was made available in February 2011 as an ebook for $0.99.  The ebook sales of this novel drove driven it to the top of bestseller lists. 

"There are a few things going on here that are notable:

"1. Lisa Gardner's latest thriller hits shelves on March 8, so it's clear that her publisher decided to release this older title at a steep discount in order to generate buzz around this author.

"2. Books, like other media, are suddenly being priced like apps. This has far-reaching implications for how all media will be priced in the future, and could indicate a race to the bottom as consumers become increasingly unwilling to pay a premium for new titles when classics come cheap" (http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/mimssbits/26437/?nlid=4177, accessed 02-28-2011).

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The Environmental Impacts of eBooks and eBook Readers March 2011

The Green Press Initiative issued a synthesis of various reports on The Environmental Impacts of eBooks and eBook Readers:

"Since the data suggests that sales of E-books are likely to increase while sales of printed books are likely to decrease, it is logical to question the environmental implications of this transition. In 2008 Green Press Initiative and the Book Industry Study Group commissioned a report on the environmental impacts of the U.S. book industry which included a lifecycle analysis of printed books. That report concluded that in 2006 the U.S. book industry consumed approximately 30 million trees and had a carbon footprint equivalent to 12.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, or 8.85 pounds per book sold.

"Determining the environmental impacts of an E-book presents a challenge that does not exist in estimating the impacts of a paper book. That challenge is the fact that user behavior will significantly influence the impact of an e-book. This is due to the fact that the manufacturing of the E-reader device accounts for the vast majority of an E-books environmental impact. Because of this, on a per book basis, a reader who reads 100 books on an e-reader will have almost 1/100th of the impact of someone who reads only one book on the same device. Additionally, two readers who each read the same number of books per year, can have a very different per-book environmental impact if one buys a new E-reader every year while the other keeps his for four years before replacing it. Because of the impact that user behavior can have on the environmental impact of E-books, any analysis will either have to make assumptions about the behavior of a “typical” reader of E-books, or else identify a break-even point in terms of the number of books that must be read on an E-reader to offset the environmental impacts of a corresponding number of paper books. However even this can be confused by the fact that it is not clear that reading one E-book offsets one paper book. For example, the ability to instantly download any book at any time may encourage E-reader owners to read more books in which case each e-book read would not necessarily correspond to a printed book that would have been read. Additionally someone who buys a printed book and later lends it to a friend to read would in effect halve the environmental impact of reading that book. As such any analysis should strive to account for this and determine a break-even point in terms of “printed books offset” rather than E-books read. Additional complexity is added by the fact that most E-readers can be used for a variety of tasks other than reading books. For example, most can read newspapers and magazines in addition to books and some E-readers can also read blogs and surf the internet. Tablet computers can allow a user to check e-mail, play games, view photos and videos, listen to music and surf the internet in addition to other things. Thus for the owner of a Tablet computer, who only spends 10% of his time using the tablet to read books, it would seem reasonable to assume that only 10% of the manufacturing impact of the tablet should be counted towards the impact of that users E-books. . . .

"As the number of printed books that the E-reader offsets increases, so do the benefits of that E-reader. At some point these gains offset the impact of manufacturing and using the E-reader. This “breakeven point” will be different for different metrics of environmental performance but for most it is likely somewhere between 30 and 70 printed books that are offset over the lifetime of the E-reader. For greenhouse gas emissions this number is probably between 20 and 35 books while for measures of human health impacts the number is probably closer to 70 books. In assessing the impact of an E-reader the idea of printed books offset must be carefully considered. As mentioned above, if the owner of an E-reader reads more books because of the ease and convenience of downloading a new title, then every book read on the device does not necessarily correspond to a printed book that is offset. Additionally the numbers in the figure above are based on a very simple comparison that is not likely to be replicated in the real world. The assumption is that the reader would either purchase a new printed book once and not share it with anyone else or that the reader would read the books on an E-reader and only use the E-reader for reading books. If a person would normally share a printed book with others, buy some used printed books, or borrow many of the printed books from the library then the numbers would need to be adjusted to account for that. Additionally, if the E-reader is used for other activities such as watching video, browsing the internet, checking email, or reading magazines and newspapers, it is unfair to assign the full impacts of producing the E-reader to E-books. More research is needed on typical user behavior in terms of time spent reading E-books verses other activities on E-readers and Tablet computers in order to make a more accurate comparison. If the trend of the iPad stealing market share from the Kindle continues, it seems likely that users will spend more time on the other activates that tablets like the iPad are optimized for. Additionally, if someone already owns a tablet computer or an E-reader, the marginal impact of downloading and reading an additional book is quite small. Thus for someone who already owns a device capable of reading E-books, the best choice from an environmental perspective would likely be to read a new book on that device."

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In its First Year Apple's iBookstore Sold 100,000,000 Books March 2, 2011

In March 2010 Steve Jobs announced that 100 million ibooks (ebooks) were downloaded since the company introduced its iBookstore in one year earlier.

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Ebooks Outsell Physical Books on Amazon.com May 19, 2011

Since April 1, 2011 Amazon reported that it sold 105 books for its Kindle ebook (e-book) reader for every 100 hardcover and paperback physical books.

At this time ebook sales represented 14% of of all general consumer fiction and nonfiction books sold, according to Forrester Research.

Amazon introduced the Kindle on November 19, 2007.

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What Would an Infinite Digital Bookcase Look Like? October 18, 2011

Digital information is not constrained by traditional limitations of cost and space, raising the possibility of collecting and presenting virtually unlimited numbers of books. What would an "infinite digital bookcase" look like and how would it work?

On October 18, 2011 Google demonstrated a spectacular design in the "Official Google Blog:

"As digital designers, we often think about how to translate traditional media into a virtual space. Recently, we thought about the bookcase. What would it look like if it was designed to hold digital books?

"A digital interface needs to be familiar enough to be intuitive, while simultaneously taking advantage of the lack of constraints in a virtual space. In this case, we imagined something that looks like the shelves in your living room, but is also capable of showcasing the huge number of titles available online—many more than fit on a traditional shelf. With this in mind, we designed a digital bookcase that’s an infinite 3D helix. You can spin it side-to-side and up and down with your mouse. It holds 3D models of more than 10,000 titles from Google Books.  

"The books are organized into 28 subjects. To choose a subject, click the subject button near the top of your screen when viewing the bookcase. The camera then flies to that subject. Clicking on a book pulls it off the shelf and brings it to the front and center of the screen. Click on the high-resolution cover and the book will open to a page with title and author information as well as a short synopsis, provided by the Google Books API. All of the visuals are rendered with WebGL, a technology in Google Chrome and other modern browsers that enables fast, hardware-accelerated 3D graphics right in the browser, without the need for a plug-in.  "If you’ve finished your browsing and find a book you want to read, you can click the “Get this book” button on the bottom right of the page, which will send you to that book’s page on books.google.com. Or, you can open the title on your phone or tablet via the QR code that’s in the bottom left corner of the page, using a QR code app like Google Goggles. You can also browse just free books by selecting the “Free Books” subject in the subject viewer.

"Bookworms using a modern browser can try the WebGL Bookcase today." 

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Action Comics #1 Superman sells for $2.16 Million November 11 – November 30, 2011

A nearly pristine copy of the first issue of Action Comics, containing the first appearance of Superman, sold for $2.16 million. The copy, which may have been stolen from the collection of the actor Nicholas Cage, was graded at 9.0 on a scale of 1 to 10. The copy was auctioned starting November 11 online at www.comicconnect.com with a reserve price of $900,000. The auction sale was completed on November 30, 2011. Neither the name of the buyer nor seller was disclosed by the auction house.

Though 200,000 copies were printed, only about 100 copies of Action Comics No. 1 are believed to be in existence, and only a handful of those in good condition.  

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Statistics on European and U.S. eBook Sales December 1, 2011

". . . Electronic book sales are growing quickly. The European Federation of Publishers, an industry group based in Brussels, estimated that e-book sales would rise 20 percent or more this year from an estimated €350 million, or $462 million, in 2010.  

"Sales of printed books, which account for more than 98 percent of all book purchases, are stagnating. Sales of all books reached €23.5 billion last year, down 2 percent after adjusting for currency fluctuations, from their level in 2007." 

"In 2010, U.S. e-book sales rose to $878 million, or 6.4 percent of the trade book market, according to BookStats, an annual survey of the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group. In adult fiction, e-books accounted for 13.6 percent of all revenue in 2010, the group said" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/02/technology/eu-e-book-sales-hampered-by-tax-structure.html?_r=1&hpw, accessed 12-02-2011).

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2012 – 2016

Surprisingly Active 21st Century Trade in Medieval Manuscript Books of Hours 2012

"During the Middle Ages, books of hours were more popular than any other text, even the Bible. These intricately illustrated devotional texts began to appear around 1250 and contained a series of psalms meant to be read at eight specific hours of the day, hence their name. Hymns, lessons, and biblical readings were rendered with varying degrees of color and ornamentation. The books were widely owned in Europe until their use was prohibited by the church in the 16th century. Today, says dealer Sam Fogg, of London, books of hours are 'almost the only way you can acquire medieval painting that looks like it was when it was new, with the colors still glowing and the gold still shines.'

“ 'People aren’t aware that you can just buy these things,' says Timothy Bolton, deputy director of Western medieval manuscripts at Sotheby’s London. Experts estimate that approximately 100 books of hours change hands every year at auction or through a dozen or so private dealers. 'Of all the types of manuscripts extant from the Middle Ages, books of hours are easiest to acquire, because so many remain in private hands' notes Sandra Hindman, owner of Les Enluminures, a gallery in Chicago, Paris, and, as of this month, New York, that specializes in the books" (http://artinfo.com/news/story/804319/illuminating-the-surprisingly-accessible-market-for-medieval-books-of-hours, accessed 05-15-2012).

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Sales of eBook Readers in 2011 January 5, 2012

"In 2011, manufacturers shipped about 30 million e-book readers over all, up 108 percent from 2010. . . .  

"Then in 2015, the reader market will shrink to 38 million, presumably because consumers will be attracted to tablets.  

"Sales of touch-screen tablets have continued to be strong. Apple’s iPad shipped upward of 40 million units in 2011 alone, according to estimates by Forrester, a research firm.  

"Amazon and Barnes & Noble are blurring the lines between e-readers and tablets with the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet. Forrester Research estimates that in the fourth quarter of 2011, Amazon shipped about five million units of the Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble shipped about two million Tablets" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/technology/nook-from-barnes-noble-gains-more-e-book-readers.html?src=rechp, accessed 01-05-2012).

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Discovery of the Afghan Genizah January 23, 2012

On January 23, 2012 Reuters reported from Kabul that a cache of ancient Jewish scrolls were discovered in Samangan Province of northern Afghanistan. Written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Judeo-Arabic and Judeo-Persian – the Persian and Afghan Jews' long lost equivalent of Yiddish, which was written in Hebrew letters, the manuscripts are the first physical evidence of a Jewish community in Afghanistan a millenium ago.

"The 150 or so documents, dated from the 11th century, were found in Afghanistan's Samangan province and most likely smuggled out -- a sorry but common fate for the impoverished and war-torn country's antiquities.  

"Israeli emeritus professor Shaul Shaked, who has examined some of the poems, commercial records and judicial agreements that make up the treasure, said while the existence of ancient Afghan Jewry is known, their culture was still a mystery.  'Here, for the first time, we see evidence and we can actually study the writings of this Jewish community. It's very exciting,' Shaked told Reuters by telephone from Israel, where he teaches at the Comparative Religion and Iranian Studies department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  

"The hoard is currently being kept by private antique dealers in London, who have been producing a trickle of new documents over the past two years, which is when Shaked believes they were found and pirated out of Afghanistan in a clandestine operation.  

"It is likely they belonged to Jewish merchants on the Silk Road running across Central Asia, said T. Michael Law, a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at Oxford University's Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.  

"They might have been left there by merchants travelling along the way, but they could also come from another nearby area and deposited for a reason we do not yet understand,' Law said" (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/23/us-afghanistan-jewish-scrolls-idUSTRE80M18W20120123, accessed 01-03-2013).

In March 2012 it was reported that approximately 200 documents had been found from the Afghan Genizah (Geniza), the most significant find of Hebrew manuscripts since the Cairo Genizah, discovered late in the nineteenth century.

On January 3, 2013 The National Library of Israel in Jerusalem announced that after long negotiations with antiquities dealers it had purchased 29 manuscripts from the Afghan Geniza "out of the hundreds that are said to be available."

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Creative Destruction of the Book Trade by Amazon? February 8, 2012

" 'If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever,' George Orwell wrote in 'Nineteen Eighty-Four.' In 'Animal Farm,' he concluded that revolutions are inevitably betrayed by their leaders. His novel 'Burmese Days' ends with the hero killing himself because he is unfit to live in this sour world. He shoots his dog too.  

"As a rule, modern civilization disappointed Orwell when it did not actually sicken him. But in at least one respect he was way too optimistic. Bookselling, he wrote in Fortnightly in November 1936, 'is a humane trade which is not capable of being vulgarized beyond a certain point. The combines can never squeeze the small independent bookseller out of existence as they have squeezed the grocer and the milkman.'

"Jump forward three-quarters of a century, and a certain Seattle-based combine is being accused of exactly that. All sorts of merchants, but particularly booksellers, were infuriated by Amazon’s effort before the holidays to use shops on Main Street and in malls as showrooms for people to check out items before ordering them more cheaply online. The retailer’s refusal to collect sales tax is a persistent grievance. Independent booksellers have even been forced into the novel position of hoping that their one-time foe, Barnes & Noble, survives so that it can serve as a bulwark against Amazon. Publishers, if anything, are more fearful than booksellers.  

"Now take a look at the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek two weeks ago. It shows a book in flames with the headline, 'Amazon wants to burn the book business.' What was remarkable was not just the overt Nazi iconography but the fact that it did not cause any particular uproar. In the struggle over the future of intellectual commerce in the United States, apparently even evocations of Joseph Goebbels and the Brown Shirts are considered fair game.  

"From Amazon’s point of view, the cover is incorrect even if you disregard any Nazi connotations. What would be the use to Amazon of a charred hulk? It does not want to destroy the book business, but simply to reinvent it — or, as its opponents would have it, seize control of it. (Amazon declined to comment)" (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/08/amazon-up-in-flames/?hp, accessed 02-08-2012).

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U.S. Justice Department Sues Major Publishers Over the Pricing of eBooks; Amazon Wins April 12, 2012

“ 'Amazon must be unbelievably happy today,' said Michael Norris, a book publishing analyst with Simba Information. 'Had they been puppeteering this whole play, it could not have worked out better for them.'

"Amazon, which already controls about 60 percent of the e-book market, can take a loss on every book it sells to gain market share for its Kindle devices. When it has enough competitive advantage, it can dictate its own terms, something publishers say is beginning to happen.  

"The online retailer declined to comment Wednesday beyond its statement about lowering prices. Asked last month if Amazon had been talking to the Justice Department about the investigation — a matter of intense speculation in the publishing industry — a spokesman, Craig Berman, said, 'I can’t comment.'  

"Traditional bookstores, which have been under pressure from the Internet for years, fear that the price gap between the physical books they sell and e-books from Amazon will now grow so wide they will lose what is left of their market. Barnes & Noble stores, whose Nook is one of the few popular e-readers that is not built by Amazon, could suffer the same fate, analysts say.  

“ 'To stay healthy, this industry needs a lot of retailers that have a stake in the future of the product,' Mr. Norris said. 'The bookstore up the street from my office is not trying to gain market share. They’re trying to make money by selling one book at a time to one person at a time.'

"Electronic books have been around for more than a decade, but took off only when Amazon introduced the first Kindle e-reader in 2007. It immediately built a commanding lead. The antitrust case had its origins in the leading publishers’ struggle to control the power of Amazon, which had one point had 90 percent of the market.  

"Apple’s introduction of the iPad in early 2010 seemed to offer a way to combat Amazon" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/12/business/media/amazon-to-cut-e-book-prices-shaking-rivals.html?_r=1&hp, accessed 04-12-2012).

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Massive Thefts from the Girolamini Library in Naples; Auction Aborted April 19, 2012

On April 19, 2012 La Biblioteca de Girolamini (Biblioteca statale oratoriana del monumento nazionale dei Girolamini), the oldest library in Naples, and an Italian national treasure opened to the public in 1586, was impounded by the Italian police because of mismanagement and thefts.

"Girolamini Library’s Disappearing Books

"Two thousand intellectuals protest at director, a self-styled prince with no degree

"Would you entrust the contents of one of Italy’s – and the world’s – richest libraries to a self-styled “prince doctor” who is neither a prince nor a graduate? Yet that’s just what has happened. The “nobleman” in question is in charge, with ministerial approval, of Naples’ historic Girolamini library, where Giambattista Vico once ruminated. And when hundreds of academics raised the alarm in the press, said nobleman rushed to report the theft of a shedload of books.  

"It all started a couple of weeks ago. Florence-born Tomaso Montanari, who teaches history of modern art at Naples’ Federico II university and wrote a book called A che serve Michelangelo? [What’s the Point of Michelangelo?] advancing serious doubts on the attribution to the Renaissance genius of a crucifix purchased by the Berlusconi government for more than €3 million, wrote a piece for Il Fatto newspaper. Montanari said he had visited the Girolamini library, which holds over 150,000 ancient manuscripts and books, and found an appalling dust-layered mess with invaluable tomes lying on the floor and empty Coca-Cola cans on the ancient reading desks. Professor Montanari wrote: “The library is closed today because it has to be reorganised, says Fr Sandro Marsano, the enthusiastic, exquisitely polite Oratorian priest who welcomes visitors to the stupendous 17th-century complex. No, it’s closed because of the strange goings-on, say people who live nearby and mutter about heavily laden vehicles leaving the library courtyards late at night”.  

"The piece was a headline-grabber, not least because Montanari listed the question marks hanging over the new director, “Professor” Marino Massimo De Caro: “Whatever the case, it’s beyond belief that one of Italy’s great cultural shrines should be entrusted to a denizen of the ‘undergrowth’ described by Ferruccio Sansa and Claudio Gatti in their recently published book. De Caro is the middle man in the Venezuelan oil affair, ‘one of the most spectacular instances of convergence between Berlusconi supporters and D’Alema’s group’”. De Caro is also honorary consul for Congo, former assistant of Senator Carlo Corbinelli, former head of PR in north-eastern Italy for the public-sector pension fund INPDAP, executive vice-president from 2007 to 2010 of wind farm and solar energy firm Avelar Energia, owned by Russian oligarch Victor Vekselberg, former owner of an antiquarian bookshop in Verona, and former partner in the Buenos Aires antiquarian bookshop Imago Mundi owned by Daniel Guido Pastore, himself involved in Spain in inquiries into the theft of books from the national library in Madrid and the Zaragoza library.  

"De Caro entered ministry circles thanks to Giancarlo Galan, as a note from the ministry reveals: “Dr. Marino Massimo De Caro was invited to collaborate with the ministry by Minister Giancarlo Galan on 15 April 2011 as an expert consultant on issues concerning relations with the business system in the arts and publishing sectors, and on topics relating to the implementation of regulations concerning authorisation to build and operate facilities for the production of energy from renewable sources, and their appropriate insertion into the landscape. On 15 December 2011, Minister Lorenzo Ornaghi confirmed Dr. Marino Massimo De Caro’s appointment, along with those of other advisers to Minister Galan, as an expert consultant on issues concerning relations with the business system in the arts and publishing sectors”.  

"Here is a passage from Gatti and Sansa’s book Il sottobosco [The Undergrowth] referring to a phone tap: “On 27 December 2007, De Caro complained about a Carabinieri captain from the artistic heritage unit in Monza who was ‘bothering’ him about a book purchased at a public auction in Switzerland”. He is under investigation for handling stolen goods, he says, and this has hampered his appointment as honorary consul of Congo since the foreign ministry will not grant approval. (...) On 17 July 2009, De Caro was finally able to relax when Milan deputy public prosecutor Maria Letizia Mannella ‘established that the incunabulum has not been physically recovered, despite repeated searches’, and found there was no case to answer. In other words, since the allegedly stolen goods could not be traced and the three individuals involved were accusing each other, the prosecutor decided no further action need be taken”. No further action. But among all the candidates, were there none with an unblemished record to direct a library whose ancient books had already been ransacked in past decades?

"The day after Montanari’s protest, De Caro explained to the Corriere del Mezzogiorno that he his CV was kosher: “I graduated from Siena and I taught history and technology of publishing on the master’s course at the University of Verona”. He added: “I consulted for Cardinal Mejia, the Vatican librarian, I published a book on Galileo and I was director of the library at Orvieto cathedral”. De Caro went on to explain to Il Mattino newspaper: “My grandfather’s godfather was Benedetto Croce. My family, which passed down the title of Princes of Lampedusa, merged with the famous Tomasis thus becoming di Lampedusa, something we are proud of”.  

“Goodness gracious me!” might have been the reaction of comedian Totò, who himself claimed the title His Imperial Highness Antonio Porfirogenito, descended from Costantinople’s Focas dynasty, Angelo Flavio Ducas Comneno of Byzantium, prince of Cilicia, Macedonia, Dardania, Thessaly, Pontus, Moldava, Illyria and the Peloponnese, Duke of Cyprus and Epirus, Count and Duke of Drivasto and Durazzo. “Not true” came the reply the next day, again in Il Mattino, from the real Prince Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi: “The librarian’s assertions about his descent from the princes of Lampedusa are fabrications. The title of prince of Lampedusa was granted by Charles II of Spain to Ferdinando Tomasi in 1667. The Caros therefore have no claim whatsoever to the title of prince of Lampedusa. ... Our egregious librarian should have all this at his fingertips. And I would advise the prior of the Girolamini to keep a close eye on an archivist who prefers a shared surname to supporting documentation”.  

"OK, then, but he’s still a professor. That’s what it says in a press release from Il Buongoverno, a national association established in Milan and “chaired by Senator Riccardo Villari, with Marcello Dell’Utri as honorary national chair. The secretary is Senator Salvatore Piscitelli. (...) National organising secretary is Professor Marino Masimo De Caro”. Goodness gracious me again! It’s a pity that even though official ministerial notes and statements repeatedly refer to him as “doctor”, De Caro never actually graduated from the University of Siena, where he enrolled as a law student in 1992-93 and remained a student until 2002. Nor does the computer at the University of Verona have the least record of our hero’s having taught there. //But the funniest part of the story comes last. Even before all the tweaks were applied to his self-celebratory CV, hundreds of intellectuals were signing an appeal to the minister Lorenzo Ornaghi to ask him how a library as important as the Girolamini could be entrusted to “a man bereft of even the minimum academic qualifications or professional competence to honour the role”. By yesterday evening, this devastating denunciation had attracted just under two thousand signatures, including those of Marcello De Cecco, Ennio Di Nolfo, Dario Fo, Franca Rame, Carlo Ginzburg, Salvatore Settis, Tullio Gregory, Gustavo Zagrebelsky, Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, Adriano La Regina, Gian Giacomo Migone, Alessandra Mottola Molfino (president of Italia Nostra), Lamberto Maffei (president of the Accademia dei Lincei), Dacia Maraini, Stefano Parise (president of the Italian library association), Stefano Rodotà and Rosario Villari among others.  

"Well, on the very morning when these intellectuals were making their reservations public, “Doctor” “Prince” “Professor” Marino Massimo De Caro turned up at the public prosecutor’s office to present formal notification of a crime. He had just realised that one thousand five hundred books were missing from the library" (http://www.corriere.it/International/english/artic(oli/2012/04/17/girolamini.shtml)

On May 9, 2012 the book auction house Zisska & Schauer in Munich, Germany, published the following statement on their website concerning their auction to be held that day: 

"Zisska & Schauer regrets to announce that the following lots registered under ownership numbers 4 and 132 of the present Auction Sale No. 59 have been withdrawn until recently expressed ownership concerns can be satisfactorily resolved: 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 88, 89, 90, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 103, 105, 106, 107, 108, 110, 111, 112, 115, 116, 118, 119, 120, 121, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 143, 144, 145, 147, 149, 151, 156, 157, 164, 175, 176, 178, 179, 180, 184, 185, 189, 194, 195, 196, 198, 202, 207, 210, 212, 213, 216, 217, 218, 221, 222, 224, 225, 226, 227, 232, 235, 237, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 249, 250, 251, 253, 256, 258, 261, 264, 265, 266, 270, 271, 277, 282, 283, 289, 297, 307, 308, 309, 310, 311, 316, 317, 320, 322, 325, 328, 329, 333, 336, 340, 341, 342, 346, 348, 349, 350, 351, 352, 353, 354, 357, 355, 356, 358, 363, 364, 366, 367, 374, 380, 382, 383, 384, 388, 393, 400, 402, 404, 407, 409, 414, 415, 416, 419, 420, 421, 422, 423, 424, 425, 428, 429, 433, 442, 443, 444, 447, 448, 449, 450, 451, 452, 453, 456, 459, 460, 462, 466, 467, 470, 471, 473, 476, 477, 479, 480, 489, 506, 507, 508, 509, 512, 513, 514, 515, 518, 525, 529, 530, 532, 533, 534, 536, 537, 539, 541, 546, 547, 548, 549, 551a, 552, 553, 556, 558, 559, 560, 561, 563, 564, 565, 566, 567, 568, 571, 572, 573, 577, 579, 580, 582, 588, 589, 591, 598, 599, 600, 601, 605, 607, 608, 619, 620, 627, 630, 636, 643, 657, 659, 660, 661, 662, 666, 667, 668, 669, 670, 671, 672, 673, 674, 675, 678, 679, 680, 681, 682, 684, 685, 686, 687, 688, 689, 693, 695, 696, 697, 699, 700, 701, 702, 703, 704, 707, 709, 710, 712, 713, 715, 716, 717, 719, 720, 721, 722, 723, 724, 725, 726, 727, 728, 730, 735, 736, 738, 741, 754, 757, 763, 794, 795, 801, 815, 816, 840, 857, 858, 860, 864, 878, 891, 896, 906, 911, 918, 919, 920, 925, 926, 927, 950, 955, 957, 959, 960, 974, 975, 976, 977, 985, 988, 989, 994, 998, 999, 1040, 1753, 1973, 1980, 2001, 2020, 2038, 2049, 2051, 2055, 2063, 2065, 2068, 2069, 2070, 2076, 2081, 2088, 2098, 2099, 2101, 2103, 2105, 2108, 2118, 2120, 2121, 2124, 2135, 2248, 2255, 2304, 2306, 2312, 2320, 2324, 2370, 2373, 2376, 2378, 2379, 2384, 2386, 2390, 2398, 2401, 2575, 2586, 2589, 2591, 2593, 2594, 2595, 2597, 2603, 2642, 2663, 2666, 2676, 2682, 2686, 2688, 2704, 2707, 2709, 2711, 2713, 2719, 2721, 2723, 2735, 2748, 2775, 2776, 2780, 2782, 2787, 2796, 2797, 2804, 2818, 2820, 2831, 2846, 2847, 2850, 2854, 2855, 2856, 2860, 2861, 2863, 2864, 2866, 2867, 2869, 2870, 2880, 2887, 2888, 2892, 2893, 2897, 2898, 2899, 2900, 2902, 2904, 2914, 2919, 2921, 2944, 2945, 2947, 2950, 2952, 2956, 2957, 2958, 2960, 2963, 2965, 2968, 2969, 2970, 2974, 2977, 2981, 2987, 2988, 2989, 2994, 2999, 3002, 3003, 3032 and 3053."

Provenance information had been removed from roughly 500 books in this auction, clumsily and in haste, to the point of defacing some of the volumes; it was believed that they had been stolen from the Girolamini Library in Naples.

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Microsoft Invests in Barnes & Noble's Nook eBook Reader Division April 30, 2012

On April 30, 2012 Microsoft announced  that it would invest $300 million in Barnes & Noble’s Nook division for a 17.6 percent stake. The deal valued Barnes & Noble's eBook reader business at $1.7 billion.  Notably that is nearly double what Barnes & Noble’s entire market capitalization was on Friday, April 27, and more than what Barnes & Noble was valued at any time since mid-2008.

Barnes & Noble, the largest bookselling chain in the United States, wagered heavily on the Nook, competing against Amazon’s Kindle and Apple's iPad.

"The Nook division’s growth has come at enormous financial cost, weighing down on Barnes & Noble’s bottom line and prompting the strategic review. The retailer added on Monday that it was still weighing other options for the business.

"Through the deal, the two companies will settle their patent disputes, and Barnes & Noble will produce a Nook e-reading application for the forthcoming Windows 8 operating system, which will run on traditional computers and tablets.  

"The new division, which has yet to be renamed, will also include Barnes & Noble’s college business. It is meant to help the business compete in what many expect to be a growth area for e-books: the education market, something that Apple has already set its sights on.  

" The new company and 'our relationship with Microsoft are important parts of our strategy to capitalize on the rapid growth of the Nook business, and to solidify our position as a leader in the exploding market for digital content in the consumer and education segments,' William J. Lynch Jr., Barnes & Noble’s chief executive, said in a statement (http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/04/30/microsoft-to-take-stake-in-barnes-nobles-nook-unit/?hp, accessed 04-30-2012).

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Growing Adoption of the eBook Format in the U. S. May 29, 2012

"One thing, however, is certain, and about it publishers agree: e-book sales as a percentage of overall revenue are skyrocketing. Initially such sales were a tiny proportion of overall revenue; in 2008, for instance, they were under 1 percent. No more. The head of one major publisher told me that in 2010 e-book sales accounted for 11 percent of his house’s revenue. By the end of 2011 it had more than tripled to 36 percent for the year. As John Thompson reports in the revised 2012 edition of his authoritative Merchants of Culture, in 2011 e-book sales for most publishers were “between 18 and 22 percent (possibly even higher for some houses).” Hardcover sales, the foundation of the business, continue to decline, plunging 13 percent in 2008 and suffering similar declines in the years since. According to the Pew Research Center’s most recent e-reading survey, 21 percent of American adults report reading an e-book in the past year. Soon one out of every three sales of adult trade titles will be in the form of an e-book. Readers of e-books are especially drawn to escapist and overtly commercial genres (romance, mysteries and thrillers, science fiction), and in these categories e-book sales have bulked up to as large as 60 percent. E-book sales are making inroads even with so-called literary fiction. Thompson cites Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, published in 2010 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, one of America’s most distinguished houses and one of several American imprints now owned by the German conglomerate Holtzbrinck. Franzen’s novel sold three-quarters of a million hardcover copies and a quarter-million e-books in the first twelve months of publication. (Franzen, by the way, detests electronic books, and is also the guy who dissed Oprah when she had the gumption to pick his earlier novel, The Corrections, for her popular book club.) Did Franzen’s e-book sales depress his hardcover sales, or did the e-book iteration introduce new readers to his work? It’s hard to know, but it’s likely a bit of both" (http://www.thenation.com/article/168125/amazon-effect, accessed 06-03-2012).

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Penguin to Merge with Random House October 29, 2012

On October 29, 2012 Bertelsmann, based in Gütersloh, Germany and Pearson, based in London, announced that they planned to combine their book publishing divisions, Random House and Penguin.  This merger, which could put as much as 25% of the American new book production in the hands of one company, was seen as the result of the growing power in the eBook market of dominant technology companies including Amazon, Apple and Google which pressured publishers to adjust their eBook strategy during a period in which traditional brick and mortar bookstores were disappearing.

"Under the agreement, Bertelsmann, which owns Random House, would control 53 percent of the merged publishers. Bertelsmann and Pearson would share executive oversight, with Markus Dohle of Random House serving as chief executive and John Makinson of Penguin becoming the chairman.  

"The deal would consolidate Random House’s position as the largest consumer book publisher in the English-language world, giving the combined companies greater scale to deal with the challenges arising from the growth of e-books and the rise of Internet retailers like Amazon.  

“ 'Together, the two publishers will be able to share a large part of their costs, to invest more for their author and reader constituencies and to be more adventurous in trying new models in this exciting, fast-moving world of digital books and digital readers,' said Marjorie Scardino, chief executive of Pearson, which is based in London.  

"By taking control of the company, Bertelsmann . . . hopes to avoid the problems that plagued a 50-50 partnership with Sony of Japan, in which the two companies combined their music recording divisions. The venture, Sony BMG, was riven by management turmoil and differences over strategy, prompting Bertelsmann to sell its share to Sony eventually" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/30/business/global/random-house-and-penguin-to-be-combined.html, accessed 10-29-2012).

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eBooks Accounted for 22% of All Book Spending in Second Quarter of 2012 November 5, 2012

"E-books accounted for 22% of all book spending in the second quarter of 2012, only a one percentage point gain from the first quarter of the year, but up from 14% in the comparable period in 2011, according to new figures from Bowker Market Research. In the year-to-year comparison, the hardcover and trade paperback segments both lost two percentage points each to e-books, while mass market paperbacks’ share fell from 15% in the second quarter of 2011 to 12% in this year’s second period. 

"With the fall of Borders and the growth of e-books, Amazon increased its market share of consumer book spending between the second quarter of 2011 and 2012, although its growth slowed between the first quarter of 2012 and the second period. Still, the e-tailer was easily the largest single channel for book purchases in the second quarter, with an 11 percentage-point lead over Barnes & Noble. B&N’s share of unit purchases fell by two percentage points between June 2011 and June 2012, most likely due to sluggish sales of print content through BN.com. Independent booksellers managed to hold their own in the period, maintaining a 6% share of units" (http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/retailing/article/54609-e-books-market-share-at-22-amazon-has-27.html, accessed 11-05-2012).

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The CEO of Barnes & Noble No Longer Reads Physical Books November 20, 2012

Because in 2012 Barnes & Noble was by far the largest chain of brick and mortar bookstores in the U.S. and probably also in the world, the statement by its CEO that he no longer read physical books—the mainstay of Barnes & Noble—was particularly significant in confirming the direction in which the format of the book was evolving: 

"It's not everyday that the CEO of a major American company say he doesn't use his company's most important product, at least in terms of how much money that product rakes in. Which is probably why it's worth two minutes of your time to listen to Barnes & Noble CEO William J. Lynch, Jr. tell Bloomberg News' Nicole Lapin precisely that in an interview on Friday.  

" 'I don't really read physical books anymore,' Lynch told Lapin while apparently standing in a Barnes & Noble lined with paper books. 'I like to read digitally. My wife is reading a lot of physical books.' 

"We get it: Barnes & Noble, the legacy book seller that introduced its line of NOOK ereaders in 2009, is and has been for some time a digital-first company. It knows that every year a growing portion of the public is reading books on tablets in lieu of physical copies. And for its survival, it wants those tablets to be NOOKs.  

"But it's still a curious thing for Lynch to say, since the majority of B&N's business is still selling pulp and ink. Last quarter, the company made $1.1 billion in revenue from selling books in stores and at BN.com. NOOKs didn't fare as well. The tablet, along with all accessories and content sold on it, only made B&N $192 million, comparable to the same quarter the previous year ($191 million), around the time Amazon's Kindle started winning the hearts and minds of small-tablet buyers.  

"Whether it likes it or not, brick and mortars are still Barnes & Noble's bread and butter. In August, the company attributed that success to 'the liquidation of Borders’ bookstores in fiscal 2012 and strong sales of the Fifty Shades of Grey series,' paidContent's Laura Hazard Owen noted" (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/20/william-j-lynch-jr-barnes-noble-ceo_n_2167662.html, accessed 11-22-2012).

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"How the antiquarian book market has evolved for life on the web" December 19, 2012

From Wired.co.uk December 19, 2012:

By Chris Owen.

"Digital marketplaces such as Amazon have disrupted -- some might say ruined -- the traditional publishing industry. And following a flurry of launches in the last year, e-readers look set to appear in Christmas stockings everywhere. But what does all of this mean for the trade in antiquarian books?  

"Decades ago, the antiquarian book market was dominated by specialist sellers sitting in dusty shops stacked to the ceiling with first editions, signed copies, manuscripts, and rare folios. Then came the internet. With the advent of global access to information, (and stock), came the opportunity to reach out to a broader audience, and stores were battling with the new boys in the form of Abebooks (one of the very first sites on the web), and of course Amazon, which, lest we forget, started as an online book store.  

"Looking back, in 1997, there were around a million books available on the web -- at the time a seemingly huge number, but a fraction of the 140 million estimated books available online today. Books still form a massive volume of online retail trade; research has suggested that 41 percent of people who shop online have bought a book through the web.  

"Sam Missingham, co-founder of Future Book, agrees, "Amazon's second hand market has revolutionised the way people buy second hand books. There's almost no book I can't buy now if I want a copy -- 10 years ago I people could have taken a year scouting through second hand shops and still not have found what I want. Now one five-second search on Amazon and you can have it delivered to your door."

"However, this marketplace brought with it opportunity and also threats -- according to Julian Wilson, Books Specialist at Christie's in London, 'There's never been a better time for people to buy such a wide range of rare books at low prices. A culture of price under cutting is causing prices to fall dramatically in the low to mid end market. For instance, 17th-century county maps of England are selling at about 30-40 percent of their value 20 years ago.'

"Missingham agrees to an extent, but suggests the mid-market is perhaps just 'shrinking slightly'. She adds, 'the mid-market for ebooks on Kindle store is being overloaded with self-published books of varying quality -- indeed oft described as a tsunami of shit.'

"At the top end however, the market is booming. Antiquarian literature has seen consistent growth, and the likes EEBO (Early English Books Online) is allowing collectors to compare rare items and verify their credentials, while Abebooks and the records kept by resellers and auction houses has allows them to price items effectively. Indeed, the likes of EEBO and other collectables sites are proving invaluable in the battle against forgeries, and in clearing up subjective opinion on veracity of rare books.  

"Wilson cites a recent example where he was unconvinced that a Harry Potter first edition hardback, potentially worth £10,000, was bona fide. On examining the title page closely, he discovered it was taken from a paperback and had been almost perfectly inserted into a second edition hardback, itself worth only £200.  

"Similarly he remembers a faked frontispiece in a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, an almost legendarily rare item in the antiquarian book market. Convinced there was something amiss, he and his colleagues spent hours at the British Library comparing it to verified copies of the First Folio, as well as other online resources, and ultimately were able to put their finger on the problem: the chain lines in the paper (a distinct book "fingerprint" as it were), were different to confirmed editions.  

"Ironically, the market was also affected by the dotcom boom itself and the boom of the modern digital age -- not through the surge of online retail, but by the entrepreneurs behind the multi-million dollar sites which emerged, who drove a spike in the antiquarian book market, one previously driven by 45-65-year-old collectors which have (and still do) dominate the scene.  

"These new collectors wanted the flagship books; the likes of Darwin's The Origin of the Species. What this meant for the market was that individual books shot up in price (and have remained high) -- a first edition of Darwin's 'Origin' was worth perhaps £20,000 in 1994, but by 1999 had shot up to around £80,000 and remains around there today, nudging toward £100,000 for very fine copies.  

"However, first editions of the rest of Darwin's leading work, such as The Descent of Man remain static at around £5,000, while his other lesser known works can be found still for prices in the hundreds of pounds. This skew is true for 'Origin…' as it is for many other seminal works -- Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations being a prime example, which Christie's sold for a record-breaking £157,250 in 2010.

"Interestingly, it is around this time that the collectables market started to witness a change in marketing strategy. Previously auction house brochures detailed the items' condition and quality; from the mid-nineties, explanations of the importance started to emerge and dominate in order that potential buyers (who had no collectables history, nor academic insight into the literary world), could understand what they were buying.  

"It's natural to think that such a drive in the top end might push the collectable books market the same way as philately, where rare stamps are now holding their value better than anything aside from gold, and indeed are proving to be a highly lucrative investment strategy. However, a statute binding all members of the Antiquarian Book Sellers Association strictly forbids this: sellers cannot position rare books as investment opportunities. It's an intriguing polarity, and one that could be affected by an additional factor, the proliferation of the e-reader.

"The democracy that cheap, easily-downloadable books brings could be seen as a threat to the sector, and indeed there has been concern that it too will drive a race to the bottom and devalue the printed page. However, Wilson thinks this could in fact bring with it a great opportunity to put value back into the publishing sector, through initial discovery of books, and the subsequent creation of ultra-limited, beautifully-made original products.  

"While this may drive a collectables market, it may not drive the sales figures (and revenue) that investors will demand. However, it does open up the debate about whether publishers should also take a longer term market responsibility as well as the shorter term financial one. 

"Missingham suggests that there are other issues to heed, namely the community aspect of any web-based marketplace, 'the main issue is how to find and discover the quality books online. Talk in the industry is of reliable gatekeepers reducing in number, the surge of dubious, untrustworthy online reviews being the main issue'.

"There's much talk of similarities between the second hand book industry and that of the humble independent record shop. While the likes of Rough Trade, itself a British icon, are prospering, the number of small private stores across the country has plummeted in the last decade -- predominantly as a result of the digital music boom, and the devaluing of music amid the clamour for "free" content. Let's hope the books trade can learn from music's mistakes."

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With the Decline of Brick & Mortar Bookstores Public Libraries are Becoming More Commercial December 27, 2012

“ 'A library has limited shelf space, so you almost have to think of it as a store, and stock it with the things that people want,' said Jason Kuhl, the executive director of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. Renovations going on there now will turn a swath of the library’s first floor into an area resembling a bookshop, where patrons will be pampered with cozy seating, a vending cafe and, above all, an abundance of best sellers.  

"As librarians across the nation struggle with the task of redefining their roles and responsibilities in a digital age, many public libraries are seeing an opportunity to fill the void created by the loss of traditional bookstores. Indeed, today’s libraries are increasingly adapting their collections and services based on the demands of library patrons, whom they now call customers. Today’s libraries are reinventing themselves as vibrant town squares, showcasing the latest best sellers, lending Kindles loaded with e-books, and offering grassroots technology training centers. Faced with the need to compete for shrinking municipal finances, libraries are determined to prove they can respond as quickly to the needs of the taxpayers as the police and fire department can. “I think public libraries used to seem intimidating to many people, but today, they are becoming much more user-friendly, and are no longer these big, impersonal mausoleums,” said Jeannette Woodward, a former librarian and author of 'Creating the Customer-Driven Library: Building on the Bookstore Model.' 'Public libraries tread a fine line,' Ms. Woodward said. 'They want to make people happy, and get them in the habit of coming into the library for popular best sellers, even if some of it might be considered junk. But libraries also understand the need for providing good information, which often can only be found at the library.'

"Cheryl Hurley, the president of the Library of America, a nonprofit publisher in New York 'dedicated to preserving America’s best and most significant writing,' said the trend of libraries catering to the public’s demand for best sellers is not surprising, especially given the ravages of the recession on public budgets.  

Still, Ms. Hurley remains confident that libraries will never relinquish their responsibility to also provide patrons with the opportunity to discover literary works of merit, be it the classics, or more recent fiction from novelists like Philip Roth, whose work is both critically acclaimed and immensely popular.  

" 'The political ramifications for libraries today can result in driving the collection more and more from what the people want, rather than libraries shaping the tastes of the readers,' Ms. Hurley said. 'But one of the joys of visiting the public library is the serendipity of discovering another book, even though you were actually looking for that best seller that you thought you wanted.'  

“ 'It’s all about balancing the library’s mission and its marketing, and that is always a tricky dance,' she added.  

"While print books, both fiction and nonfiction, still make up the bulk of most library collections – e-books remain limited to less than 2 percent of many collections in part because some publishers limit their availability at libraries — building renovation plans these days rarely include expanding shelf space for print products. Instead, many libraries are culling their collections and adapting floor plans to accommodate technology training programs, as well as mini-conference rooms that offer private, quiet spaces frequently requested by self-employed consultants meeting with clients, as well as teenagers needing space to huddle over group projects" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/28/us/libraries-try-to-update-the-bookstore-model.html?ref=global-home&_r=0, accessed 12-28-2012).

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Online Reviews Used as Attack Weapons to Kill Sales of a Book January 20, 2013

"Reviews on Amazon are becoming attack weapons, intended to sink new books as soon as they are published.

"In the biggest, most overt and most successful of these campaigns, a group of Michael Jackson fans used Facebook and Twitter to solicit negative reviews of a new biography of the singer. They bombarded Amazon with dozens of one-star takedowns, succeeded in getting several favorable notices erased and even took credit for Amazon’s briefly removing the book from sale.  

" 'Books used to die by being ignored, but now they can be killed — and perhaps unjustly killed,' said Trevor Pinch, a Cornell sociologist who has studied Amazon reviews. 'In theory, a very good book could be killed by a group of people for malicious reasons.'

"In 'Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson,' Randall Sullivan writes that Jackson’s overuse of plastic surgery reduced his nose to little more than a pair of nostrils and that he died a virgin despite being married twice. These points in particular seem to infuriate the fans.  

"Outside Amazon, the book had a mixed reception; in The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani called it 'thoroughly dispensable.' So it is difficult to pinpoint how effective the campaign was. Still, the book has been a resounding failure in the marketplace.  

"The fans, who call themselves Michael Jackson’s Rapid Response Team to Media Attacks, say they are exercising their free speech rights to protest a book they feel is exploitative and inaccurate. 'Sullivan does everything he can to dehumanize, dismantle and destroy, against all objective fact,' a spokesman for the group said.  

"But the book’s publisher, Grove Press, said the Amazon review system was being abused in an organized campaign. 'We’re very reluctant to interfere with the free flow of discourse, but there should be transparency about people’s motivations,' said Morgan Entrekin, president of Grove/Atlantic, Grove’s parent company" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/21/business/a-casualty-on-the-battlefield-of-amazons-partisan-book-reviews.html?hpw&_r=0, accessed 01-21-2013).

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Flash Marketing of E-Books May 2013

In 2013 Flash Marketing was especially effective in selling e-books:

"One Sunday this month, the crime thriller 'Gone, Baby, Gone,' by Dennis Lehane, sold 23 e-book copies, a typically tiny number for a book that was originally published in 1998 but has faded into obscurity.

"The next day, boom: it sold 13,071 copies.  

'Gone, Baby, Gone' had been designated as a Kindle Daily Deal on Amazon, and hundreds of thousands of readers had received an e-mail notifying them of a 24-hour price cut, to $1.99 from $6.99. The instant bargain lit a fire under a dormant title.  

"Flash sales like that one have taken hold in the book business, a concept popularized by the designer fashion site Gilt.com. Consumers accustomed to snapping up instant deals for items like vintage glassware on One Kings Lane or baby clothes on Zulily are now buying books the same way — and helping older books soar from the backlist to the best-seller list.  

“ 'It’s the Groupon of books,' said Dominique Raccah, the publisher of Sourcebooks. 'For the consumer, it’s new, it’s interesting. It’s a deal and there isn’t much risk. And it works.'

"Finding a book used to mean scouring the shelves at a bookstore, asking a bookseller for guidance or relying on recommendations from friends.  

"But bookstores are dwindling, leaving publishers with a deep worry about the future of the business: with fewer brick-and-mortar options, how will readers discover books?  

"One-day discounts are part of the answer. Promotions like the Kindle Daily Deal from Amazon and the Nook Daily Find from Barnes & Noble have produced extraordinary sales bumps for e-books, the kind that usually happen as a result of glowing book reviews or an author’s prominent television appearances.  

"Web sites like BookBub.com, founded last year, track and aggregate bargain-basement deals on e-books, alerting consumers about temporary discounts from retailers like Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Barnes & Noble.  'It makes it almost irresistible,' said Liz Perl, Simon & Schuster’s senior vice president for marketing. 'We’re lowering the bar for you to sample somebody new.'

"E-books are especially ripe for price experimentation. Without the list price stamped on the flap like their print counterparts, e-books have freed publishers to mix up prices and change them frequently. Some newly released e-books cost $14.99, others $9.99 and still others $1.99.  

Consumers are flocking to flash sales, said Russ Grandinetti, Amazon’s vice president for Kindle content, because the deals whittle down the vast number of choices for reading and other forms of entertainment.

" 'In a world of abundance and lots of choice, how do we help people cut through?' Mr. Grandinetti said. 'People are looking for ways to offer their authors a megaphone, and we’re looking to build more megaphones.'

"Mr. Grandinetti said one book, '1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die,' was selling, on average, less than one e-book a day on Amazon. After it was listed as a Kindle Daily Deal last year, it sold 10,000 copies in less than 24 hours.  

"Some titles have tripled that number: on a single day in December, nearly 30,000 people snapped up digital copies of “Under the Dome,” by Stephen King, a novel originally published in 2009 by Scribner. For publishers and authors, having a book chosen by a retailer as a daily deal can be like winning the lottery, an instant windfall of sales and exposure" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/27/business/media/daily-deals-propel-older-e-books-to-popularity.html?hp, accessed 05-27-2013).

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E-Books Account for About 20% of Trade Book Sales May 15, 2013

According to BookStats, the Center for Publishing Market Data:

"eBooks are now fully embedded in the format infrastructure of Trade book publishing. The consistent growth of eBooks demonstrates that publishers have successfully evolved the technology environment for their content – more so than other historically print-based content industries. eBooks grew 45% since 2011 and now constitute 20% of the Trade market, playing an integral role in 2012 Trade revenue. The most pivotal driver of eBooks remains Adult Fiction, with Children’s/Young Adult also showing strong numbers" (http://bookstats.org/pdf/BookStats-Press-Release-2013-highlights.pdf, accessed 11-08-2013)

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Amazon Sells More than 25% of New Books in the U.S. July 5, 2013

According to an article by David Streitfeld in the July 5, 2013 issue of The New York Times, Amazon.com now sells

"about one in four new books, and the vast number of independent sellers on its site increases its market share even more. It owns as a separate entity the largest secondhand book network, Abebooks. And of course it has a majority of the e-book market."

The main issue raised in Steitfeld's article, entitled "The Price of Amazon," was Amazon's ability to control the prices of new books and ebooks.

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Sixty Percent of Book Sales, Print & Digital, Now Occur Online July 19, 2013

An article entitled, "Here's How Amazon Self-Destructs," published in Salon.com on July 19, 2013 pointed out that by forcing the closure of most physical bookstores in the United States Amazon had eliminated the main way that readers learn about new books--that is by visiting physical bookshops:

"According to survey research by the Codex Group, roughly 60 percent of book sales — print and digital — now occur online. But buyers first discover their books online only about 17 percent of the time. Internet booksellers specifically, including Amazon, account for just 6 percent of discoveries." 

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The Burning of Two-Thirds of an Historic Antiquarian Bookshop in Tripoli, Lebanon January 4, 2014

On January 4, 2014 it was reported that most of an historic library in Tripoli, Lebanon were burned:

"Two-thirds of a historic collection of 80,000 books have gone up in smoke after a library was torched in the Lebanese city of Tripoli amid sectarian tensions. The blaze was started after a pamphlet insulting Islam was reportedly found inside a book.

"Firefighters struggled to subdue the flames as the decades-old Al-Saeh library went up in smoke on Friday in the Serail neighborhood of Tripoli. Despite firefighters’ best efforts, little of the trove of historic books and manuscripts was recovered from the wreckage.

"A demonstration had been planned in Tripoli after the pamphlet was found but was reportedly called off after the library’s Greek Orthodox owner spoke with Muslim leaders. Lebanese news outlet Naharnet also reported that one of the library workers was shot and wounded Thursday night.

“The library owner, Father Ebrahim Surouj, met with Islamic leaders in Tripoli. It became clear the priest had nothing to do with the pamphlet, and a demonstration that had been planned in protest over the incident was called off,” the source said.

"However, Ashraf Rifi, former head of the Internal Security Forces, told AP the attack had nothing to do with a pamphlet and was, in fact, triggered by speculation that Father Surouj had written a study on the internet that insulted Islam.

" 'This criminal act poses several questions [about] the party behind it that aims at damaging coexistence in the city and ruining its reputation,' Rifi told AFP. The Lebanese police have launched an investigation into the incident.

"Sectarian tensions have been rising in Lebanon recently as a result of the ongoing, two-year conflict in neighboring Syria. Until recently, the violence usually spared Christian minority groups. In December the northerly city of Tripoli saw a spate of attacks on the Alawite community in the latest spillover from Syria’s civil war" (extracts from http://rt.com/news/library-fire-lebanon-violence-176/, accessed 01-04-2014).

On January 5, 2013 more images of the library, the relevant documents and interviews wee available at this link, and at this link, and at this link.

Then, on January 16, 2014, Elias Muhanna, assistant professor of comparative literature at Brown University, posted on newyorker.com a piece entitled "Letter from Lebanon: A Bookshop Burns," indicating that the so-called library was actually an antiquarian bookshop—a cultural landmark in the community.

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Trends in Reading, Book Reviewing, Publishing and Writing as of the Beginning of 2014 January 4, 2014

On January 4, 2014 The New York Times published an opinion piece entitled "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Reader, by Colin Robinson, a veteran of traditional publishing who in 2009 founded a "digital upstart" company to attempt to adapt to the radical changes that occurred as a result of digital books and the Internet. This I quote in full:

“TO read a novel is a difficult and complex art,” Virginia Woolf wrote in a 1925 essay, “How to Read a Book.” Today, with our powers of concentration atrophied by the staccato communication of the Internet and attention easily diverted to addictive entertainment on our phones and tablets, book-length reading is harder still.

"It’s not just more difficult to find the time and focus that a book demands. Longstanding allies of the reader, professionals who have traditionally provided guidance for those picking up a book, are disappearing fast. The broad, inclusive conversation around interesting titles that such experts helped facilitate is likewise dissipating. Reading, always a solitary affair, is increasingly a lonely one.

"A range of related factors have brought this to a head. Start with the publishing companies: Overall book sales have been anemic in recent years, declining 6 percent in the first half of 2013 alone. But the profits of publishers have remained largely intact; in the same period only one of what were then still the “big six” trade houses reported a decline on its bottom line. This is partly because of the higher margins on e-books. But it has also been achieved by publishers cutting costs, especially for mid-list titles.

"The “mid-list” in trade publishing parlance is a bit like the middle class in American politics: Anything below it is rarely mentioned in polite company. It comprises pretty much all new titles that are not potential blockbusters. But it’s the space where interesting things happen in the book world, where the obscure or the offbeat can spring to prominence, where new writers can make their mark.

"Budgets have been trimmed in various ways: Author advances, except for the biggest names, have slumped sharply since the 2008 financial crash, declining by more than half, according to one recent survey. It’s hard to imagine that the quality of manuscripts from writers who have been forced either to eat less or write faster isn’t deteriorating. Meanwhile, spending on editing and promotion has also been pared away.

"Things don’t get better after the book leaves the publisher. Price cutting, led primarily by Amazon, has reduced many brick-and-mortar bookstores to rubble, depriving readers of direct interaction with booksellers. Despite some recent good news, the number of independents has been halved in the last two decades, and the chain stores that surviveincreasingly employ part-time, unskilled staff.

"The decline in libraries weakens another vital prop for readers. Librarians, described by the novelist Richard Powers as “gas attendant[s] of the mind,” saw a national decrease in their numbers of nearly 100,000 over the two decades to 2009. Two-thirds of public librariesreported flat or decreasing budgets in 2012.

"Then there is today’s increasingly rare bird, the professional book reviewer. Stand-alone book sections in major newspapers such as The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post have disappeared. The New York Times Book Review is now just a third of the length it was in its 1970s heyday. Online reviews like The Los Angeles Review of Books and The New Inquiry are striving to fill the gap. But their rates of pay, predictably, do not rival those at the more established publications they are replacing. Cyril Connolly caustically described the book reviewer as having “a whole-time job with a half-time salary,” a job “in which the best in him is generally expended on the mediocre in others.” Today, it’s more of a part-time job with no salary.

"This variety of channels for the expert appraisal of books has been replaced with recommendations thrown up by online retailers’ computers. But as with so much of the Internet, the nuance and enthusiasm of human encounters is poorly replicated by an algorithm. For more personal interactions, many have turned to social reading sites such as Goodreads or LibraryThing.

"The growth of these sites has been phenomenal. Shortly after its purchase by Amazon in the spring of last year, Goodreads announced it had 20 million users. Whether this is an amelioration or a reflection of an increasingly atomized culture is a question that can be filed in the same drawer as Facebook friending or dating on Match.com. Certainly the range of collective knowledge in pools of this size is incontestable. But it derives from self-selecting volunteers whose authority is hard to gauge. And though the overall network is vast, recommendations are generally exchanged within tight circles of friends. This results in another typical Internet characteristic: the “mirroring” of existing tastes at the expense of discovering anything new.

"THERE are many who will not mourn the displacement of literary culture’s traditional elite, dominated as it was by white, middle-aged men of comfortable means and conservative taste. Jeff Bezos, the C.E.O. of Amazon, aimed to exploit such disillusion with the old ways when announcing the launch of Kindle Direct. The self-publishing e-book program would, he claimed, produce “a more diverse book culture” with “no expert gatekeepers saying ‘sorry, that will never work.’ ” But to express discomfort at the attrition of expert opinion is not to defend the previous order’s prerogatives. Nor is it elitist to suggest that making the values and personnel of such professional hierarchies more representative is preferable to dispensing with them

"On the desolate beach that is the lot of the contemporary book reader, the footprints of one companion can still be found. They belong to the writer, who needs the reader not just to pay her or his wages but also to give meaning to their words. As John Cheever put it: “I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss — you can’t do it alone.”

"The troubling thought occurs, however, that this last remaining cohabitant may also be about to depart the island. With falling advances, writing is evermore dominated by people who don’t need it to earn a living: Tenured academics and celebrities spring to mind. For these groups, burnishing a résumé or marketing a brand is often as important as satisfying the reader.

"And then there are the hobbyists, those for whom writing is primarily an act of self-expression. This past November, National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) encouraged more than 300,000 participants to produce a novel in 30 days. It would be churlish to gainsay the right of the legions taking up “noveling,” as Nanowrimo describes it, to exercise their creative selves. But such endeavors are not much helping readers. Indeed, to the extent that they expand the mind-boggling proliferation of new titles being published (more than 300,000 in 2012), they are adding to the problem.

"Faced with a dizzying array of choices and receiving little by way of expert help in making selections, book buyers today are deciding to play it safe, opting to join either the ever-larger audiences for blockbusters or the minuscule readerships of a vast range of specialist titles. In this bifurcation, the mid-list, publishing’s experimental laboratory, is being abandoned."

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My First Purchase of a Hardcover Book for One Cent on the Internet January 21, 2014

In January 2014 I finally succumbed to temptation, and curiosity, and purchased a hardcover book for one cent plus $3.99 postage from a bookseller in Toledo, Ohio through Amazon.com. Prior to this I had assumed that anything sold for such a low price had to be junk. However, the bookseller said the copy was in good condition and I decided to go for it.

The book arrived by media mail on January 21. So what did I get for this extremely low price? My order was for Cyberspace: First Steps, edited by Michael Benedikt and published by MIT Press in 1991. What I received was a hardcover book in an intact dust jacket. It shows signs of wear, but is clean internally and I would call it a good copy. 

When I placed my order for the one cent copy I thought there was a certain irony in a bargain purchase of a book on the theoretical and conceptual issues involved in the design, use, and effect of virtual environments, since before the Internet no bookseller would have sold a book of this kind for one cent. My theory is after one online bookseller listed the book for one cent others joined in to meet the competition. There were several copies of this book listed for a penny; others were as expensive as $20 or more. My guess is that there is not that much difference between my one cent copy and some of the more expensive ones. It is a question of guessing what the right price is. Just as I previously hesitated to order such a bargain, not all buyers will trust the quality of a one cent purchase.

The business model for selling books for a penny on the Internet presumably means making a profit on the postage. The assumption is that these dealers get their books for nothing and may earn a dollar or two on the shipping. Amazon, of course, takes a small commission. The winners here are the consumer and Amazon, and maybe the postal service. Selling books for a penny does not seem like the best business plan to me.

Will I buy more books for a penny after this experience? Most certainly.

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"Cheap Words. Amazon is good for consumers but is it good for books?" February 17, 2014

On February 10, 2014 I read an article in NewYorker.com by George Packer entitled "Cheap Words. Amazon is good for consumers but is it good for books?" The article was dated February 17, 2014. In my opinion the whole article was very much worth reading, but since I could not quote all of it, selections are quoted below:

"The combination of ceaseless innovation and low-wage drudgery makes Amazon the epitome of a successful New Economy company. It’s hiring as fast as it can—nearly thirty thousand employees last year. But its brand of creative destruction might be killing more jobs than it makes. According to a recent study of U.S. Census data by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, in Washington, brick-and-mortar retailers employ forty-seven people for every ten million dollars in revenue earned; Amazon employs fourteen.

"In the book industry, many of those formerly employed people staffed independent stores. Two decades ago, there were some four thousand in America, and many of them functioned as cultural centers where people browsed and exchanged ideas. Today, there are fewer than two thousand—although, with Borders dead and Barnes & Noble ailing, the indies are making a small comeback. Vivien Jennings, of Rainy Day Books, has been in business for thirty-eight years. “We know our customers, and the other independents are the same,” she said. “We know what they read better than any recommendation engine.”

After Amazon’s legal triumph, some publishing people were driven to the wild surmise that the company had colluded with the Justice Department, if not micromanaged the entire case. They grasped at the fact that Jamie Gorelick, a deputy attorney general in the Clinton Administration, and a friend of Attorney General Eric Holder, serves on Amazon’s board, and that three weeks after Judge Cote’s decision President Barack Obama appeared at an Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga—where workers earn, on average, eleven dollars an hour—to praise the company’s creation of good jobs. The coup de grâce came last November, when the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service announced a special partnership to deliver Amazon—and only Amazon—packages on Sundays, with the terms kept under official seal. To some people in the book world, Obama’s embrace of their nemesis felt like a betrayal. One literary agent said, “It’s strange that a President who’s an author, and whose primary income has come from being an author, was siding with a monopoly that wants to undercut publishers.”

Since the arrival of the Kindle, the tension between Amazon and the publishers has become an open battle. The conflict reflects not only business antagonism amid technological change but a division between the two coasts, with different cultural styles and a philosophical disagreement about what techies call “disruption.”

“Book publishing always has a rhetoric of the fallen age,” a senior editor at a major house told me. “It was always better before you got here. The tech guys—it’s always better if you just get out of my way and give me what I want. It’s always future-perfect.” He went on, “Their whole thing is ‘Let’s take somebody’s face and innovate on it. There’s an old lady—we don’t know we’re innovating unless she’s screaming.’ A lot of it is thoughtless innovation.” . . . .

"Book publishers’ dependence on Amazon, however unwilling, keeps growing. Amazon constitutes a third of one major house’s retail sales on a given week, with the growth chart pointing toward fifty per cent. By contrast, independents represent under ten per cent, and one New York editor said that only a third of the three thousand brick-and-mortar bookstores still in existence would remain financially healthy if publishers didn’t waive certain terms of payment. Jane Friedman, the former Random House and HarperCollins executive, who now runs a digital publisher called Open Road Integrated Media, told me, “If there wasn’t an Amazon today, there probably wouldn’t be a book business.” The senior editor who met Grandinetti said, “They’re our biggest customer, we want them to succeed. As I recover from being punched in the face by Amazon, I also worry: What if they are a bubble? What if the stock market suddenly says, ‘We want a profit’? You don’t want your father who abuses you physically to lose his job.”

"In 2009, after a career at publishers large and small, Robinson was laid off by Scribner, amid downsizing. Faced with his own professional extinction, and perhaps the industry’s, he co-founded a new company, OR Books, with a different business model. Robinson did research and found that fifty to sixty per cent of the list price of a book goes to Amazon or to another retailer. When he was starting out, in the eighties, that figure was more like thirty or forty per cent. A small-to-midsize publisher has to spend between ten and fifteen per cent on sales, warehousing, and shipping. This leaves little more than twenty-five per cent of the book’s price for editorial counsel, production costs, publicity, paying the author, and whatever profit might be left over. A shared sensibility for a certain kind of fiction or nonfiction writing unites everyone along the way: authors, agents, editors, designers, marketers, reviewers, readers. “The only point at which Bezos enters that chain is to take all the money and the e-mail address of the buyer,” Robinson said. “There’s an entire community of people, and Bezos stands in the middle of it and collects the money.”

"Instead of going through Amazon, OR Books sells directly to customers, using printers in Minnesota and the U.K. It pays about fifteen per cent to the printer and keeps the rest. “After four years, we’re just profitable,” Robinson told me. “It works.”

"To the Big Five, locked in a death struggle with Amazon and the distracted American reader, this kind of experimentation might seem unrealistic. To survive, they are trying to broaden their distribution channels, not narrow them. But Andrew Wylie thinks that it’s exactly what a giant like Penguin Random House should do. “If they did, in my opinion they would save the industry. They’d lose thirty per cent of their sales, but they would have an additional thirty per cent for every copy they sold, because they’d be selling directly to consumers. The industry thinks of itself as Proctor & Gamble. What gave publishers the idea that this was some big goddam business? It’s not—it’s a tiny little business, selling to a bunch of odd people who read."

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Amazon May Control "More than a Third" of the U.S. Book Trade May 8, 2014

On May 8, 2014, in an article regarding a dispute between the publisher Hachette and Amazon.com published in The New York Times, David Streitfeld wrote that Amazon "controls more than a third of the book trade in the United States."

Less than a year earlier, on July 5, 2014, Streitfeld wrote that Amazon sold:

"about one in four new books, and the vast number of independent sellers on its site increases its market share even more. It owns as a separate entity the largest secondhand book network, Abebooks. And of course it has a majority of the e-book market." 

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Amazon States its Economic Position on the Sale of E-Books in the "Amazon/Hachette Business Interruption" July 29, 2014

On July 29, 2014 in its Kindle forum blog Amazon.com, which probably controlled more than one-third of the book trade in the United States, stated its position on the very public dispute between Amazon and Hachette publishers over the terms of e-book sales. Amazon believed that the price of $9.99 was the optimal price at which sales of most e-book titles would be maximized. They also believed that 35% of the revenue gained from e-book sales should go to the author, 35% to the publisher, and 30% to Amazon. This global proposal for e-book distribution and income sharing represented a huge sea change in the traditional economics of printed book publishing, under which publishers set retail prices on a title by title basis, authors rarely received more than 10% of revenue received from printed books, and trade discounts were negotiated between the publisher and distributors and book stores. The Amazon Books team wrote:

"A key objective is lower e-book prices. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there's no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out-of-stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market -- e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can be and should be less expensive.

"It's also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.

"The important thing to note here is that at the lower price, total revenue increases 16%. This is good for all the parties involved:

* The customer is paying 33% less.

* The author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that's 74% larger. And that 74% increase in copies sold makes it much more likely that the title will make it onto the national bestseller lists. (Any author who's trying to get on one of the national bestseller lists should insist to their publisher that their e-book be priced at $9.99 or lower.)

* Likewise, the higher total revenue generated at $9.99 is also good for the publisher and the retailer. At $9.99, even though the customer is paying less, the total pie is bigger and there is more to share amongst the parties.

"Keep in mind that books don't just compete against books. Books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

"So, at $9.99, the total pie is bigger - how does Amazon propose to share that revenue pie? We believe 35% should go to the author, 35% to the publisher and 30% to Amazon. Is 30% reasonable? Yes. In fact, the 30% share of total revenue is what Hachette forced us to take in 2010 when they illegally colluded with their competitors to raise e-book prices. We had no problem with the 30% -- we did have a big problem with the price increases.

"Is it Amazon's position that all e-books should be $9.99 or less? No, we accept that there will be legitimate reasons for a small number of specialized titles to be above $9.99. 

"One more note on our proposal for how the total revenue should be shared. While we believe 35% should go to the author and 35% to Hachette, the way this would actually work is that we would send 70% of the total revenue to Hachette, and they would decide how much to share with the author. We believe Hachette is sharing too small a portion with the author today, but ultimately that is not our call."

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As E-Books Gain Market Share Traditional Roles of Publisher and Bookseller Change July 30, 2014

An article by Jason Abbruzzese and Katie Nelson entitled "How Amazon Brought Publishing to its Knees — and Why Authors Might be Next" published on Mashable.com on July 30, 2014 stated that, according to the Codex Group, by this date Amazon controlled more than two-thirds of the U.S. online book market. It controlled 67% of the sale of e-books, 41% of all new book purchases (print and digital) and 65% of online book purchases (print and digital). From it I quote:

"As other media industries like music and magazine/newspaper publishing suffered from declines, e-books took hold quickly as a revenue source, particularly after Amazon introduced the Kindle in 2007.

"Other media segments were not so lucky. The music industry suffered a revenue decline of more than 50% from a high of $14.6 billion in 1999 to $6.3 billion in 2009. Book publishing has not had to endure any such contraction.

" 'We have to give a tremendous amount of credit to Amazon and Jeff Bezos and his team for the investment that they were willing to make in those years,' Entrekin said. 'They did it in an orderly manner, in a way you could trust, and it's helped us.'

"There was a time when e-books were just a small part of the overall market, but now e-books are reaching parity with print. In 2013, some 457 million e-books were sold vs. 557 million hardcovers, according to the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group. (Paperbacks were not included in that estimate.)

"The sales growth magnifies publishers' unease with the with the $9.99 price point that CEO Jeff Bezos had decided on — a number that had no basis in economics but rather in psychological pricing, according to Brad Stone's defining book on Amazon, The Everything Store. Amazon recently defended that price in a blog post, claiming it is better for consumers, publishers and authors.

"The $9.99 e-book introduction came after publishers had already seen the prices of books fall as chain stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders drove out independent sellers through lower pricing.

"Publishers accepted that, said David Vandagriff, an attorney who has spent decades representing both authors and publishers, but they never quite cottoned to the $9.99 e-book. That price point continues to cause problems and is believed to be the primary sticking point between Amazon and Hachette.

" 'The publishers, they had to resign themselves to Barnes & Noble, but they didn't go through that process quite as well or quite as thoroughly with Amazon," he said. 'They always thought Amazon was underpricing.' "

The article went on to present a chart predicting that e-books would surpass the sale of printed books in 2017.  It also pointed to the increasing trend of authors self-publishing their books so that they effectively received 70% of the proceeds with Amazon taking 30%. This left out the traditional roles of publishers and booksellers altogether. 

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What Would George Orwell Think About the Amazon versus Hachette Dispute? August 14, 2014

On August 14, 2014 The New Yorker published an insightful commentary by American journalist, novelist and playwright George Packer on the Amazon.com dispute with Hachette publishers over e-books. The article, entitled "Amazon vs. Hachette: What Would Orwell Think?", framed the dispute in the context of George Orwell's ideas about changes in the publishing industry during the 1930s. From it I quote the first few paragraphs:

“ 'Review of Penguin Books' might qualify as the single most obscure thing that George Orwell ever wrote. It was published in the March 5, 1936, issue of New English Weekly, when the writer was thirty-two years old. Like other struggling novelists, Orwell was doing a lot of reviewing to get his name in print, and, in this case, he’d undertaken the thankless task of reviewing a batch of ten Penguin paperbacks, sold at sixpence apiece, including such immortal titles as The Owls’ House,' by Crosbie Garstin, and “Dr. Serocold,” by Helen Ashton. A few years ago, when I was compiling a two-volume edition of Orwell’s essays, 'Review of Penguin Books' would not have made the long list even if I’d remembered that it existed. All the stranger, then, that this eight-decade-old trifle surfaced last weekend in the business dispute between Amazon and Hachette and, from there, moved onto Twitter and into theTimes.

 "For the past four months, Amazon has been making it hard for customers to buy Hachette books while the two companies fight over e-book terms. A group of nine hundred writers signed an open letter that appeared in Sunday’s [New York] Times, calling on Amazon to leave authors out of the contract dispute. The Amazon Books Team preëmptively replied by creating a Web site called readersunited.com. (In politics, this is known as “grasstops”—a fake-grassroots campaign created by special interests.) The Web site provided Kindle customers with talking points to help convince the C.E.O. of Hachette to 'stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks.'

"Members of the Amazon Books Team—they aren’t stupid—unearthed Orwell’s 'Review of Penguin Books' and quoted its first sentence: 'The Penguin Books are splendid value for sixpence, so splendid that if the other publishers had any sense they would combine against them and suppress them.' In 1936, mass-market paperbacks were a new technological innovation, as e-books are now. Orwell thought that cheaper books would not lead to higher revenues, because buyers would spend less money on books and more 'on seats at the ‘movies.’ ' Readers might benefit—publishers, booksellers, and authors wouldn’t. Amazon chided Orwell for his shortsightedness: '[W]hen a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books—he was wrong about that.' No one could miss the analogy to the e-book revolution and its critics.

"The Times jumped in to mock Amazon for missing the note of irony in Orwell’s words. He wasn’t actually urging the formation of a publishing cartel, just pointing out the danger that cheap paperbacks posed for “the publisher, the compositor, the author and the bookseller.” In fact, the advent of paperbacks left Orwell ambivalent. “In my capacity as reader I applaud the Penguin Books; in my capacity as writer I pronounce them anathema,” he wrote. Orwell didn’t have much of a head for business, and his powers of prediction sometimes failed him. In another 1936 piece, “Bookshop Memories,” he wrote, “The combines can never squeeze the small independent bookseller out of existence as they have squeezed the grocer and the milkman.” Around the same time, he argued that the Nazi threat wasn’t as dangerous as a war of the “imperialist powers.” (He changed his mind about that.) So maybe Orwell was wrong about paperbacks, too. But then, so is Amazon."

Reading Packer's complete article is highly recommended.

Ironically, in 2009 Amazon had previous run-in with Orwellian concepts when Amazon sent Orwell's e-books down the "memory hole." 

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eBooks May Track Reading Habits December 10, 2014

Historically solitude was an essential component of reading, with many children becoming readers in part to enjoy the privacy it offers. By 2104 when we had become accustomed to the possibility that emails and Facebook posts could be surveiled by government security agencies, reading physical books continued to maintain that privacy. However, it became evident that reading eBooks was a less private experience, at least from the marketing point of view. On December 10, 2014 Alison Flood published an article in The Guardian entitled "Ebooks can tell which novels you didn't finish." in which she reported that ebook retailers could tell which books were finished or not finished, how fast they were read, and precisely where readers stopped reading a particular ebook and moved on to something else. According to her article, only 44.4 percent of British readers who used a Kobo eReader made it all the way through Donna Tartt’s international bestselling Pulitizer Prize winning novel The Goldfinch, while a mere 28.2 percent reached the end of Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave (1853), from which the Oscar winning film was adapted. Yet both these books appeared—and remained for some time—on the British bestseller lists.

 “After collecting data between January and November 2014 from more than 21m[illion] users, in countries including Canada, the US, the UK, France, Italy and the Netherlands, Kobo found that its most completed book of 2014 in the UK was not a Man Booker or Baileys prize winner. Instead, readers were most keen to finish Casey Kelleher’s self-published thriller Rotten to the Core, which doesn’t even feature on the overall bestseller list…Kobo also revealed that the people of Britain were most likely to finish a romance novel, with 62% completion, followed by crime and thrillers (61%) and fantasy (60%). Italians were also most engaged by romance (74% completion), while the French preferred mysteries, with 70% completion.”

“A book’s position on the bestseller list may indicate it’s bought, but that isn’t the same as it being read or finished,” said Michael Tamblyn, president and chief content officer at Kobo. “A lot of readers have multiple novels on the go at any given time, which means they may not always read one book from start to finish before jumping into the next great story. People may wait days, months, or even until the following year to finish certain titles. And many exercise that inalienable reader’s right to set down a book if it doesn’t hold their interest.”

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Amazon.com Opens its First Physical Bookshop, "Amazon Books", in Seattle November 2, 2015

On November 2, 2015 Amazon.com announced that it opened a physical bookstore in Seattle. 

"Amazon Books is a physical extension of Amazon.com. We’ve applied 20 years of online bookselling experience to build a store that integrates the benefits of offline and online book shopping. The books in our store are selected based on Amazon.com customer ratings, pre-orders, sales, popularity on Goodreads, and our curators’ assessments. These are fantastic books! Most have been rated 4 stars or above, and many are award winners.

"To give you more information as you browse, our books are face-out, and under each one is a review card with the Amazon.com customer rating and a review. You can read the opinions and assessments of Amazon.com’s book-loving customers to help you find great books.

"Prices at Amazon Books are the same as prices offered by Amazon.com, so you’ll never need to compare our online and in-store prices. Nevertheless, our mobile app is a great way to read additional customer reviews, get more detailed information about a product, or even to buy products online.

"Amazon Books is a store without walls – there are thousands of books available in store and millions more available at Amazon.com. Walk out of the store with a book; lighten your load and buy it online (Prime customers, of course, won’t pay for shipping); buy an eBook for your Kindle; or add a product to your Amazon Wish List, so someone else can buy it.

"At Amazon Books, you can also test drive Amazon’s devices. Products across our Kindle, Echo, Fire TV, and Fire Tablet series are available for you to explore, and Amazon device experts will be on hand to answer questions and to show the products in action.

"Tomorrow is literally Day One for Amazon Books, and we hope you will visit and share your ideas and feedback by dropping a card in our suggestion box or clicking the link at the bottom of the page.

"We are located at 4601 26th Ave. NE in University Village, next to Banana Republic and across from JOEY Kitchen. We are open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and on Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m"

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