Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Booklovers' books

If the smell of an old library makes you inhale deeply, treasuring the aroma of old leather bindings and yellowing paper, than we have some new books for you.
The Library: an illustrated history by Stuart A.P. Murray is a fascinating tour through centuries of libraries. From collections of tablets stored by Babylonian kings, baskets of scrolls housed in the ancient libraries of Alexandria and Rome, and medieval codexes protected in monasteries, to the first public lending libraries, the incorporation of computer technology into cataloging and the importance of school libraries, Murray covers everything. Lots of illustrations and interesting information makes this an enjoyable read for anyone who loves a good library.
There is a limit, however, and Allison Hoover Bartlett's new book The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: the true story of a thief, a detective, and a world of literary obsession is a true-crime novel without sex or gore. She digs into the crimes and personality of John Charles Gilkey, whose mania for stealing rare books landed him in prison again and again. His apartment full of books, however, was a testimony to how often he escaped punishment. An interesting look into the world of book collectors, dealers and bibliophiles, and what drives people to collect.
The Book of William: how Shakespeare's first folio conquered the world, by Paul Collins, is not a biography of the Bard, and it is not an analysis of his works. It's a book about how things got published in the 1620's, the financial support required, the censorship issues. It's a book about marketing, scams, auctions and booksellers. It's about the passage of time and the events that cause a book to become worth fifty-five times it's weight in gold. If you had a time machine, you could scoot back to 1623 and snap up a First Folio edition of Shakespeare's works for a few shillings. And then you could put it up for auction four centuries later and sell it for over $4 million dollars. Not a bad return on an investment.

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