Thursday, September 01, 2016

Antiquarian Book News

Penguin Leads Again

Ancient Egyptian texts written on rock faces and papyri are being brought together for the general reader for the first time after a Cambridge academic translated the hieroglyphic writings into modern English. Until now few people beyond specialists have been able to read the texts, many of them inaccessible within tombs. While ancient Greek and Roman texts are widely accessible in modern editions, those from ancient Egypt have been largely overlooked, and the civilisation is most famous for its monuments.

The written tradition lasted nearly 3,500 years and writing is found on almost every tomb and temple wall. Yet there had been a temptation to see it as just decoration. Museums often display papyri as artefacts rather than texts. Hieroglyphs were pictures but they convey concepts in as sophisticated a manner as Greek or Latin script.

Penguin Classics, which has recently published the book, Writings from Ancient Egypt, described it as a ground-breaking publication because “these writings have never before been published together in an accessible collection”.


Beware the False Stone

We previously reported that since Bonhams announced that at their sale on  9 November a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone which bears a tell-tale typo would have an estimate of £15-20,000 there has been some excitement. However, not all copies of the work signify the first edition. The typo in question appears in other, later editions of the book which may not command the high prices that the very earliest ones might. The book has several other identifying features that distinguish it from later printings. The typo in question the repetition of “1 wand” in the list of supplies that Harry is required to buy for school on page 53 of the book.

In addition to the typo the book, to be of significant value, must have been printed in the UK and the cover must be that of the Bloomsbury publisher rather than that of  Ted Smart with a publication date of 1997.

Beyond these signifiers, the first printing is identifiable from a distinctive line of descending numbers (10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1) on the reverse of the title-page. However, this number line may also appear on the gold-embossed “Celebratory” first editions which sell for only around £20 – the other conditions must also apply.

Bodleian Libraries uncover Mexican Codex

Researchers from the Bodleian Libraries and from universities in the Netherlands have used high-tech imaging to uncover the details of a rare Mexican codex dating from before the colonization of the Americas.

The newly revealed codex, or book, has been hidden from view for almost 500 years, concealed beneath a layer of plaster and chalk on the back of a later manuscript known as the Codex Selden, which is housed at the Bodleian Libraries. Scientists have used hyperspectral imaging to reveal pictographic scenes from this remarkable document and have published their findings in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

Since the 1950s, scholars have suspected that Codex Selden is a palimpsest: an older document that has been covered up and reused to make the manuscript that is currently visible. Codex Selden consists of a five-metre-long strip composed of deer hide that has been covered with gesso, a white plaster made from gypsum and chalk, and folded in a concertina format into a 20-page document. The manuscript underwent a series of invasive tests in the 1950s when one page on the back was scraped, uncovering a vague image that hinted at the possibility that an earlier Mexican codex lay hidden beneath.

Until now, no other technique has been able to unveil the concealed narrative in a non-invasive way. The organic paints that were partly used to create the vibrant images on early Mexican codices do not absorb x-rays, which rules out x-ray analysis that is commonly used to study later works of art.
Last Chance to visit in West Midlands
Marking the 400th anniversary of the poet and playwright’s death, ‘Our Shakespeare’ runs until Saturday 3 September 2016 and features treasures drawn from the Library of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Collection, along with items on loan from the British Library in London. Admission is free.

Our Shakespeare features around 100 items relating to Shakespeare and his work, including books, films, posters and photographs and never before seen local treasures. Highlights include:

The Library of Birmingham’s copy of the First Folio (1623) – one of the world’s most famous books and the foundation for every subsequent edition of Shakespeare’s works

Laurence Olivier’s 1955 screenplay of ‘Macbeth’ – the annotated draft of Olivier’s proposed (but never filmed) version of The Scottish Play

A 1963 Russian edition of Romeo and Juliet (Romeo I Dzul’etta) donated to the Library of Birmingham by a visiting Soviet delegation at the height of the Cold War

Photographs from Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s pioneering modern dress productions of Shakespeare from the 1920s.
Richard Le Gallienne: Liverpool’s Wild(e) Poet
An exhibition at the Liverpool Central Library
William Brown Street, Liverpool L3 8E, UK
5 August–31 October 2016
Admission is free
Liverpool Central Library commemorates the 150th anniversary of the birth in Liverpool of Richard Le Gallienne (1866–1947) — poet, critic, and novelist — with an exhibition in its Hornby Library. On display are over 50 rare or unique items, many highlighting his lifelong connections to Oscar Wilde (1854–1900). Original photographs, drawings, manuscripts, unpublished letters, Victorian periodicals, and first editions tell the story of Le Gallienne’s successful literary career, which took him from Liverpool to London, the US, and France. Drawn from public and private collections and local institutions (including family papers in the Liverpool Record Office of Liverpool Central Library), these materials show his importance to the Aesthetic and Decadent movements, his involvement with the Yellow Book, his intimate ties to late-Victorian feminists known as “New Women,” and his links to artists such as Max Beerbohm and Walter Sickert.

Most of all, this exhibition illuminates the role that Oscar Wilde played as his idol, mentor, and friend — a relationship that began when 17-year-old Dick Gallienne, clerk in a Liverpool office, heard Wilde lecture in 1883 at the Claughton Music Hall in Birkenhead. Inspired by Wilde’s personal style and ideas about art, he renamed himself “Richard Le Gallienne,” wore long hair and artistic clothes, and dedicated himself to becoming an equally flamboyant figure and unconventional writer, devoted to Beauty in all its forms.
Symposium in conjunction with the exhibition:
“Late-Victorian Literary Liverpool: A Symposium” Saturday, 29 October 2016

Liverpool Central Library will bring together scholars and collectors from the UK and the US for a one-day symposium about Liverpool as a literary and cultural centre at the end of the 19th century. This event is free and open to the public.
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