Rare Books

Google Lets You Custom-Print Millions of Public Domain Books

Wired's Epicenter blog details the latest venture to come out of Mountain View CA, public domain books printed on demand.

"What’s hot off the presses come Thursday? Any one of the more than 2 million books old enough to fall out of copyright into the public domain.

And now Google Book Search, in partnership with On Demand Books, is letting readers turn those digital copies back into paper copies, individually printed by bookstores around the world."

Sheik of Bookbinders

Not even a civil war could stop the old bookbinder of Beirut

Riyad is a man who gives context to this city in which I have lived these 33 years Saturday, 12 September 2009

They call him "Sheikh Tijlid" – Sheikh Binder – because he is the oldest and the most honoured bookbinder in Beirut.

There are only five left in Lebanon, repairing old newspapers, handwritten 17th-century Korans, ministry archives, cutting and pasting and then modelling fine leather covers and impressing on that wonderful soft leather the title of each volume in gold leaf. Riyad Shaker al-Khabbaz lives for his bunker of an office with its ancient iron presses, its century-old steel Arabic typeface from Germany, France and England. Some of his presses come from the homes of priests – who were the bookbinders of Beirut in centuries past.

He hands me a Koran, written in black and red ink, the margins adorned with yet more handwriting, interpretations of the sura – 300, 400 years old? – and he tells me about his client. "He is a man who greatly loves a Lebanese woman and he wants to give this to her as a gift. It is worth $100,000."

Read more about it at
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It Takes All Kinds...First Folio Thief Arrives at Court in Style

A man accused of stealing a Shakespeare folio valued at £3m arrived for a court appearance in a horse drawn carriage; report with video at BBC.

Raymond Scott, 52, of Wingate, County Durham, was dressed in Highland tartan and was accompanied by a bagpipe player at Durham Crown Court on Friday.

He faces charges relating to the theft of a first folio that went missing from Durham University Library in 1998.

Google OS & Librarians

Google is set to debut an operating system based on Chrome. (via New York Times). Ishush has a brief analysis that suggests this is good for the 'biodiversity' of the web climate, citing Jaron Lanier's criticism that "software makes us stupid..." but maybe an OS built by a company whose name has been made on "organizing the world's information" will be a natural fit for libraries?

Baseball Auction Has Stolen Items, Including from NYPL

From the New York Times:

While the Federal Bureau of Investigation examines whether some materials that were supposed to be sold at Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game auction next week were stolen, a baseball historian offered evidence indicating that at least one of the items was taken from the New York Public Library.

Oldest Christian Bible- Now Online

The Codex Sinaiticus is the oldest surviving Christian Bible, dating from around 1,600 years ago. For all but 100 of those years, it sat in a monastery in Sinai.

800 pages of the book, written in Greek on parchment, are now available online for the world's perusal.

More on this story from the BBC site which includes an audio report about how the Codex was discovered and what it took to put it online.

Cambridge University to Make Incunabula Available Online

You won't have to leave your chair to see the Gutenberg Bible (1455) anymore.

That and the first printed edition of Homer's works are among ancient books being published online by Cambridge University Library over the next five years.

The money for the project has come from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation.

World Digital Library putting human history a click away

A globe-spanning UN digital library seeking to display and explain the wealth of all human cultures has gone into operation on the Internet, serving up mankind's accumulated knowledge in seven languages for students around the world.

More here:

Delicate Precursor to the Modern Dust Jacket

A librarian at Oxford's Bodleian Library has unearthed the earliest-known book dust jacket. Dating from 1830, the jacket wrapped a silk-covered gift book, Friendship's Offering. Silk bindings were very vulnerable to wear and tear, so bookselllers would keep them in these wrappers to protect the binding underneath. When you bought the book you would take the wrapper off and put it on your shelves, which is presumably why so few of these covers have survived.

Unlike today's dust jackets, wrappers of the early 19th century were used to enfold the book completely, like a parcel. Traces of sealing wax where the paper was secured can still be seen on the Bodleian's discovery, along with pointed creases at the edges where the paper had been folded, showing the shape of the book it had enclosed.

The jacket had been separated from its book, and had never been catalogued individually. It remained hidden until the library was contacted by an American scholar of dust jackets looking for the earliest known example.

Overdue Book From Another Era

Talk about overdue: A book lost since Union soldiers raided a library during the Civil War was returned to a Virginia university (Washington & Lee) 145 years late. One of those UPI Odd Stories.

Most of the volumes taken from the Washington College library during the war between the states were returned soon after, but one -- a leather-bound book that was part of a four-volume history of a Napoleonic military campaign -- didn't make it back to Lexington, VA until February, the school's technical services librarian said Wednesday.

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