- Book Talk: Essays on Books, Booksellers, Collecting, and Special Collections
In Book Talk Robert H. Jackson and Carol Z. Rothkopf have assembled a fascinating collection of essays regarding rare books and special collections in the age of the Internet. Prominent scholars and booksellers provide a "unique compilation and overview of the field today" for the reader (iii) in four sections: "Books," "Booksellers," "Collecting," and "Special Collections." Sponsored bythe Fellowship of American Bibliographic Societies (FABS), these essays began as talks to the various groups around the country. Essayists include Lawrence N. Siegler, Martin L. Greene, Ken Lopez, Roger E. Stoddard, and Geoffrey D. Smith, among others.
The compilation addresses the important issues of book collecting in an age when full texts are freely available online. How do the text and the physical book remain important? What will people collect, and how will they access the information about books and booksellers? What has been lost and gained as book shops have closed and more and more booksellers have turned to the Internet, either to reduce overhead costs or because it is easy to set up shop online? Throughout Book Talk the authors speculate on what will be collected in the future, as many of the rarest texts are now in institutional collections or in private hands.
Some of the most interesting ideas and controversies addressed deal with the changing nature of the trade due to the Internet. In "'Only Copy Known': Random Reflections on Rarity" Bruce Whiteman asks what "rare" means in this day and age. He reflects not only on the onslaught of online rare book sales but also on the availability of resources like the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) online. These resources have changed the definition of rare, according to Whiteman, causing books once thought rare to be seen as scarce. Ken Lopez explores the availability of online sales from a bookseller's perspective. Lopez examines the mixed blessing of more information becoming available online. He notes the ethical and legal issues when people who do not know book shops as well as specialists do plagiarize descriptions of books online but acknowledges that this information can become a tool for learning about books.
Peter Kraus, Ken Lopez, and Priscilla Juvelis all discuss the importance of the bookseller's catalogs and the amount of research a good catalog requires. John Crichton observes the changes he has seen in his shop, the Brick Row Book Shop, and how he has adjusted. The authors explore questions such as how a collector can truly know what he or she is buying through online services like eBay, the increasing prices of books that would not have been collectable in the past, and the role of the book shop. [End Page 202]
Essays examining particular texts include Martin L. Greene's analysis of the first and second states of Ernest H. Shackleton's Aurora Australis and the differences in editions. Greene's essay provides side-by-side comparisons of the texts so the reader can clearly see the changes made in the text. He hypothesizes about which state is the first and the reasons for the differences found in this book, hand printed under extremely difficult conditions.
Essayists mix the personal views with the professional views of booksellers, librarians, and others affiliated with the book trade. Roger E. Stoddard, retired curator of rare books at Harvard College, takes us on a stroll through a book-buying trip to Vienna. Book collector Arthur L. Schwarz tells us how his love of books and collecting developed. Priscilla Juvelis delights the reader with her account of becoming a bookseller and how she learned the trade.
All the essays explore the changing nature of book collecting due to technology. This collection is written by those who have built their lives and careers around books and who have observed the changes over the past several decades. It is a book that those interested in the history and the future of the...