Rare Books London.

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Early June has long been an important spot on the calendars of bibliophiles around the world. The original source of interest came from the fact that it always marked a unique concentration of opportunities to buy and sell books during a busy schedule of London book fairs and auctions. Those events alone were enough to lead a diverse flock of booksellers, collectors and other bibliophiles to converge annually on London, like swallows to Capistrano.

Recent years, however, have seen a greatly expanded scope and duration for what has now become known as Rare Books London. An impressive cohort of libraries and other bibliophilic groups have now joined their bookselling friends to organise an 18 day “fesitval of old and rare books” running from May 24 to June 10. In addition to the well-known book fairs and auctions, their schedule of events now includes 18 talks, 10 tours, and a special performance based on the writings of Samuel Johnson. More events will likely be added as the dates approach.

Information about everything that will be happening can be found on the RARE BOOKS LONDON website. Nearly all the events are free, but for many of them an advance ticket is required and spaces may be limited. It will be smart to reserve your places soon. Links for booking all the activities will be found on the website.

Rare Books London is a great idea and we are happy to be able to support it. If you think so too then you can also help support it and contribute to its success by posting, tweeting, pinning or just plain writing about it anywhere you can. After that I hope I will see you there.

A Busy Week For Bibliophiles.

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If you are a wandering bibliophile who will happen to be in New York City at the end of the month you should count yourself fortunate.  Bibliography Week 2017  will be taking place there from January 23 to 28 and a there is a full schedule of events that you should find of interest.  Lectures, exhibits and receptions are all on the list. The event does not appear to have its own website, but a full program of events will be found on the Grolier Club website.

We would love to be there ourselves, but that week we instead find ourselves in Stuttgart instead, where two major and long-lived book fairs will again be taking place.
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It does not sound like it will be aweek for staying home.

COLOUR: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts

A brilliant exhibition of illuminated manuscripts opened this weekend at the Fitzwilliam Museum. If you have any chance of getting to Cambridge before the end of the year this is something you absolutely should not miss.

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While a focus on the importance of colour in medieval and early renaissance art brings out a visually stunning selection of items to display, the attention paid to the technical aspects of the subject (pigment types, recipes, international pigment trade, painting techniques, modelling, alchemy, etc.) makes this more than just a collection of beautiful artwork, although it is certainly that too.

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Fortunately, if you cannot make it in person you will only be missing out on a portion of what has been done here.  There is, of course, an illustrated printed catalogue (420 pages) which includes general commentary along with extensive catalogue notes on the 150 items placed on display.  At £30 it is a remarkable bargain.

Cutting from a choir book. Historiated initial O. Christ's entry into Jerusalem. Venetian, attributed to Christoforo Cortese Early 15th C Vellum, 23.2 x 17 cm
Cutting from a choir book. Historiated initial O. Christ’s entry into Jerusalem.
Venetian, attributed to Christoforo Cortese
Early 15th C
Vellum, 23.2 x 17 cm

But perhaps even more impressive is the website created in support of the exhibition.  There, reachable by an obscure link near the end of the introduction, is a section of the website entitled “ILLUMINATED: manuscripts in the making.” where high resolution digitised copies of 20 of the manuscripts can be browsed and zoomed.  The quality of these images is exceptional; some of them nearly sparkle on the screen.  They are the first fruits of a manuscript digitisation project which has just been launched and which, together with the exhibition and its catalogue, celebrates the museum’s bicentenary.

Giovan Battista da Udine, The Adoration of the Magi from the Antiphonal of San Marco, Venice, c. 1567-1572
Giovan Battista da Udine, The Adoration of the Magi from the Antiphonal of San Marco, Venice, c. 1567-1572

COLOUR is really a remarkable event.  The Fitzwilliam has “the finest and largest museum collection of illuminated manuscripts in existence” and most of the items exhibited are from its own collection. Much of that collection came to it as part of the bequest of the museum’s founder Richard, VII Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion, in 1816. A provision of that bequest requires that the manuscripts cannot leave the museum building. Thus they can only be seen at an exhibition like the one now underway. Many are now on public view for the first time. All of which underlines the importance of this exhibition and the Illuminated project to digitise the Fitzwilliam’s spectacular collection.

Sano di Pietro Missal, Siena, c.1450
Sano di Pietro Missal, Siena, c.1450