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A splendor of letters : the permanence of books in an impermanent world
Basbanes, Nicholas A.
Adult Nonfiction Z4 .B397 2003

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From Publishers' Weekly:

The final volume in an acclaimed trilogy for bibliophiles (after A Gentle Madness and Patience & Fortitude) focuses on efforts to preserve books and other printed matter from the ravages of deterioration, destruction and obsolescence. The historical range here is expansive, encompassing texts by classical authors known today only through secondhand descriptions, William Blake's self-published illustrated volumes and used book sales at modern libraries. Even the most ancillary data have the power to fascinate: who knew, for example, that the Roman emperor Claudius was also probably the last scholar fluent in the language of the ancient Etruscans? But the research skills Basbanes displays are matched by the lively quality of his interviews, like an extended conversation with a Sarajevo librarian who saved thousands of Croatian volumes from the Serbian ethnic cleansing campaign. Other chapters, which describe how American libraries are regularly pruned of old books by less violent means, owe a heavy (and acknowledged) debt to Nicholson Baker's Double Fold, with minor updates to recap new trends in preservation. A final section elaborates on the potential threat of the e-book, but remains optimistic that love of the physical act of reading will enable the printed page to prevail. Even those who find the evidence unconvincing should find themselves compelled by story after story on the salvation of books. Basbanes's longtime fans will rejoice at more of the same, while new readers will no doubt be swiftly caught up in the book-loving spirit. (Nov. 28) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Book lovers will relish this third and final volume of Basbanes's "bibliophilia" trilogy, preceded by A Gentle Madness (1995) and Patience & Fortitude (2001), which explored the world of books from the perspective of those who work with them (e.g., publishers, librarians) or read them. In this volume, Basbanes discusses the new challenges the book industry is facing in an increasingly digital age and recounts some horrific events in modern history, such as the destruction of the Sarajevo University Library by Serbian nationalists. Prepare to be shocked, however, by his bold revelation that some librarians withdraw books merely because they haven't left the shelf in 50 years. Likewise, hold on to your seats as you learn that some librarians are not on intimate terms with Crispijn van de Passe's Hortus Floridus (1614). But rest reassured: experts like Basbanes, referred to as "the authority on books about books," will save us from the rough beast of ignorance by refusing to compost any book. In his "Battle of the Books," Jonathan Swift recognized that most of what sees print is more tomb than tome, but even Swift didn't anticipate an era in which every proof produces a book and every teen sets up a web page. This highly literate paean to books so juices up this reviewer that it must be strongly recommended to any one and any library intent on valuing the book as an artistic object.-Peter Dollard, Alma Coll. Lib., Mt. Pleasant, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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