HistoryofScience.com Blog

Friday, December 24, 2010

How to Advertise a Library

A snapshot I took in Las Vegas airport.

posted by Jeremy Norman @ 9:18 AM   68 Comments

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Bookbinding for Your MacBook Pro or Your iPad? Why Not?

We have TwelveSouth.com to thank for book-style cases for both the MacBook Pro and iPad.

I have to admit that these products look really good, even though they are unimaginatively titled "BookBook." Eventually I may spring for one to cover my iPad.

Note that they tout these book-style cases as security devices for three reasons:

1. To protect your computer.

2. To conceal your computer. Since these "stealth" cases conceal the valuable electronics in dull, old book covers, owners reduce the risk of having their computers stolen. I guess that anyone who would steal a computer would never want to steal a book.

3. To protect your individuality by setting you off from the crowd.

posted by Jeremy Norman @ 8:33 AM   33 Comments

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Dedication Copy of Mauriceau's Work Founding the Science of Obstetrics

Over the past 40 or more years it has been my privilege to handle many of the greatest copies of the greatest classics of science, medicine, and technology. Recently I was excited to sell the greatest copy of the most famous work in obstetrics, Mauriceau's Des maladies des femmes grosses et accouchees. . . . You will find more information and references in From Cave Paintings to the Internet.

Ever the self-promoter, Mauriceau issued his book with a frontispiece drawn by Antoine Paillet and engraved by Guaillaume Vallet, which included a cameo portrait of himself and a notice in small print at the foot of the page with the address of his office where he could be consulted as well as its cross-street, just to be sure people could find it. Incidentally you can enlarge all the images in this blog piece, and if you enlarge the image of the frontispiece you can pretty well read Mauriceau's address at the foot of the page. Advertising a medical practice like that at the foot of frontispiece a serious treatise was a unusual in the seventeenth century.

Mauriceau published a dedication in his book "A tous mes chers confreres: Les Maitres Chirurgiens Jurez de la Ville de Paris." This was the illustrious Confraternite de Saint-Come, established in the 13th century.

The dedication copy of the book, which Mauriceau presented to the Paris surgical society, was bound in contemporary red morocco, gilt, emblazoned on the front and back cover with an inscription that read "Ce Livre Appartient a la Compagnie des Maistres Chirurgiens Jurez de Paris." At the end of the printed dedication Mauriceau signed with his paraph. Later he noted in manuscript the publication of each new edition, in 1675, 1681, and 1694, by writing a notice to that effect and signing it, thus signing the final page of the dedication a total of four times! In addition, all pages of the text were red ruled by the binder--a highly unusual practice for a medical book. If you click on the image of the autograph inscriptions you will be able to enlarge it well enough to read the details and see how each inscription is written in a slightly different color ink.

posted by Jeremy Norman @ 5:35 PM   25 Comments

Friday, December 17, 2010

Who Owned the Head of France's King Henry IV?

I have heard of collecting many things, from the ordinary such as swizzle sticks, to the sublime, such as Rembrandts. I even know one antiquarian bookseller who collects shrunken heads, but until recently I had never heard of owning the head of a deceased monarch.

It seems, however, that ever since the French Revolution a series of French private collectors owned the head of King Henri IV who was assassinated in 1610 at the age of 57. After his death, the king's body was embalmed and he was buried in the Basilica of Saint Denis near Paris, but during the madness of the French Revolution in 1793 royal graves were dug up, remains mutilated, and mixed together in mass graves.

During the disinterment revolutionaries chopped off Henri's IV's head, which was stolen. The embalmed head then disappeared into unknown private collections until it resurfaced in 1919 when an antiques dealer bought it at auction for three francs. It then disappeared once again into secretive private collections until 2010, the 400th anniversary of Henri IV's death. This year the embalmed head with its internal organs intact, was subjected to a great deal of scientific examination using a combination of anthropological, paleopathological, radiological, forensic, and genetic techniques. Results were published in the British Medical Journal on December 14, 2010 in a paper entitled "Multidisciplinary medical identification of a French king's head (Henri IV)." Authenticity of the head having been confirmed, it will be reinterred in the Basilica of Saint Denis next year after a national mass and funeral.

But who deserves the credit for having preserved Henri IV's head over the centuries? It seems that collectors of relics like this don't want publicity, perhaps for good reason. None of the articles published on this bizarre case that I have seen mention the names of any of the collectors who owned the head.

posted by Jeremy Norman @ 6:39 PM   26 Comments

A New Role for Antiquarian Books: "Intellectual" Clutch Bags by Olympia Le-Tan

An intellectual in Hollywood?
Natalie Portman's 'Lolita' clutch, described in a December 4 article in the Los Angeles Times online, got a lot of attention. The "clutch" by French designer Olympia Le-Tan, is one of a limited edition of only 16 of each title in a series of "intellectual clutch bags" featuring hand-stitched versions of selected book titles from the 19th and 20th centuries.

The British newspaper the Telegraph has a slideshow of Olympia Le-Tan's clutches, with a peek inside Lolita with its snazzy purple-and-green print cover.

posted by Jeremy Norman @ 5:04 PM   21 Comments

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Sports Event for Bibliophiles

Though I do not recall previously discussing my personal sports proclivities in this blog, I am a serious practitioner of fitness-type sports such as hiking, biking, swimming and gym-workouts, but I have only the barest minimal interest in spectator sports. That said, Sotheby's sale in New York this week of James Naismith's founding document for basketball was a spectator sports event that I did enjoy.

As far as I know, basketball is the only sport the foundation of which can be traced to a specific document. Naismith's typed and handwritten document setting out in December 1891 the thirteen rules for the new sport of "Basket Ball" is that document. It was preserved by members of Naismith's family, and was sold to benefit the Naismith Foundation and Museum.

To promote the sale Sotheby's published a separate catalogue which was available online. The 2-page document sold for $4,338,500, including buyer's premium. According to CBSsports.com, the buyers were David and Suzanne Booth, who intend to donate the manuscript to the University of Kansas, of which Mr. Booth is an alumnus. Naismith joined the University of Kansas faculty in 1898, becoming the first basketball coach there.

posted by Jeremy Norman @ 9:16 AM   39 Comments

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