And can it mirror the life of its subject?
There is a whole genre of writing about books--that is, books about books. In fact, we receive catalogs from Oak Knoll Press, which specializes in these types of books. Usually these books are about a rare and valuable book, the library of someone important, or, sometimes, about the culture of antiquarian bookselling with its Dickensian cast of characters.
I recently received a request to acquire a book by Elisabeth Gleason on Casparo Contarini, a venetian diplomat who later became a cardinal and leader in the counter-reformation, including participating in the Conference of Regensburg (speaking of banned books, some of his letters were later on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum). It might be a bit of a stretch, but the life of the book, I thought, interestingly paralleled the life of the subject when it was "deaccessioned" (library-speak for removing a book from the collection) from a public library in Florida and resold, only to be a part of our theological library among works on Luther and Eck and others whose positions Contarini attempted to reconcile during his life.
Another book about a book that we just received is a beautiful book on the Macclesfield Psalter, an illuminated English psalter. The book includes a full-size page-for-page copy of the Psalter, and tucked in the back is an interesting description of the preservation work that was done on the deteriorating original. It should be appearing on our new books display in the coming weeks.
While an illuminated psalter is deemed worthy of preservation, and an old library book can be resold on Amazon or eBay, what happens to all the old books that aren't so lucky. Well, some are given very interesting new lives, as I found when perusing Paul Collins' blog, where he points to what some artists have done with old books, images of which are above and below.
Also, don't forget Luther's own program for sending theological books overseas, LILAP. I suppose I should confess that some simply end up being recycled when no one is interested in them anymore. So, the cup containing your morning coffee might have had a bit of the other copies of the life of Contarini that would have brought down the price on Amazon...
Will Keillor, Acquisitions Librarian