A. MATTER OF TASTE: DISCRIMINATION IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY BOOK COLLECTING.
Catalogue of an Exhibition of Rare Books from the John Carter Brown Library
- Providence: The John Carter Brown Library, 2008.
- 8 x 11 inches
- 86 pages
- ISBN: 9780916617677
- ISBN: 9780916617677
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Order Nr. 100943
Curated by Susan Danforth, the exhibition that formed the basis for this catalogue demonstrated how the urge to collect, preserve, and ultimately share books can, however subtly, affect the physical character of the book itself. With a focus on acquisitions made in the nineteenth century - including several made by founder John Carter Brown - this exhibition uses selections from the Library collection to illustrate some of the effects that taste and trends in book collecting have had on the book as an object.
Some typical practices of the era-such as the use of book brands, ink library stamps on title pages and elaborate bindings-did not affect the integrity of the book as an expression of an idea, but according to Danforth, other practices are more problematic. The nineteenth-century collector's acceptance of "sophistication" (the gathering together of bits and pieces of several copies of a publication to make one "complete" volume) is a concern to scholars interested in textual integrity. Similarly, the use of carefully constructed facsimiles to complete imperfect books encouraged the specialized talents of artists and printers; the work of these skilled craftsmen could fool the eye of the casual observer and sometimes cause consternation in scholars' and collectors' circles. Knowledge of these past practices is helpful to today's scholars who use rare books as research material.
The JCB exhibition has been grouped into four broad categories: identification, embellishment, restoration, and an exploration of the challenges presented by facsimiles. Among the items on display are long-collected books published by Aldus Manutius and Theodor DeBry, as well as a section on the Aldines. The latter group of special books was actively collected as early as the sixteenth century and just as enthusiastically presented to the buying public in forged editions.