- A Library-Keeper’s Business: Essays by Roger E. Stoddard, and: RES Gestæ, Libri Manent: An Exhibition and Symposium Celebrating the Career of Roger E. Stoddard. Harvard Library Bulletin
For nearly every collector, librarian, book and manuscript dealer, or auctioneer who has been associated with the rare book world, even in the most peripheral fashion, the name of Roger E. Stoddard has been part of their everyday education [End Page 405]about and appreciation of books and their place in the transmission of texts and images down through the centuries. This sense of Stoddard's important place and many scholarly contributions is now in relief because he retired from Harvard University's Houghton Library at the end of 2004, an event underscored by these two works, which focus on his writings and on his book collecting for Harvard. In reading them we understand better than ever before that his consistent point of view has been from the position of the book qua book or collection qua collection. This is not to say that other librarians and scholars have neglected the book (quite the contrary), but for Stoddard the beginning and the end have always been the same: the book. It is as if he sees the whole of book history and culture from the perspective of the book itself, almost from the inside out.
One happy result of this has been a number of his publications ably identified and collected into a single volume by Carol Z. Rothkopf, A Library-Keeper's Business. 1It is a body of writings that conveys to special collections librarians—tyros and seasoned experts alike—what it is to practice their profession from the point of view of books and collections, not bureaucracy. Each of the book's eight sections emphasizes learning and librarianship, as in "The Librarian as a Teacher," "The Librarian as an Historian," "The Librarian as a Bibliographer," "The Librarian at the Lectern," and "The Librarian as a Collector . . . for Others."
To grasp the entire scope of Stoddard's teaching and scholarship it is best to start at the end of the book, where his publications are recorded. Among the 126 citations are revisions to entries in the Bibliography of American Literature, book reviews in the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, exhibitions such as "Latin Verse of the Renaissance: The Collections and Exhibition at the Houghton Library," and biobibliographical tributes to noteworthy librarians like Marcus McCorison. Each publication is suitably erudite, beginning with Stoddard's earliest publication in 1962.
The essays in A Library-Keeper's Businessare mainly works that began as talks or addresses to groups of librarians, book collecting clubs, and professional organizations. Many of them reflect a light touch and an ease of delivery from the lectern that may, at times, seem to belie the inestimable bibliographic qualityof nearly every sentence. But as in the publications of Ronald B. McKerrow, awealth of book information informs every statement—information about the book itself and from Stoddard's simultaneous thinking about the book, as, for example, in his challenging, thought-provoking essay "Morphology and the Book" (29–56).
Stoddard's interests and scholarship are wide and deep and no better revealed than in two of his major contributions to our understanding of books. The first is of long standing and almost conventional, although much too rarely pursued. It is the history of the intellectual control of books and documents, that is, the detailed study of early bibliographies and catalogs along with the scholars and collectors and booksellers who compiled them, especially booksellers, whose intimate knowledge of books often underlies librarians' successes. An exemplar of such studies is his "'Put a Resolute Hart to a Steep Hill': William Gowans, Antiquary and Bookseller" (69–96...