Monthly Archives: July 2014

Edition 16, pending review at Bibliotheque Municipale St.Omer, France

I had a fascinating conversation with Dr. Reny Cordennier at the bibliotheque in Saint Omer. As it is a public library, and as France has strict rules on the separation between church and state, the Addendum needs to be evaluated (to determine it doesn’t belong to a state defined sect, e.g. Scientology, etc.) for it to be included in their catalog. Leipzig had issues w their Addendum being included because it was only a single sheet broadside (not considered a ‘book’ to qualify for inclusion.).

The bibliotheque in Saint Omer has 206 incunabula. When he told me about the storage condition including safety from theft, I told him about the thefts in Goettingen (detected by an audit that used the original cataloging books). He shrugged his shoulder and said – these are old books. They will be cared for and most likely will be returned to the library they were stolen from, but maybe a century later. Ah librarians.

They will get back to me in September, after their holiday. He appreciated my ‘la Franchise’ (the virtue of being frank). Etre franc. For those that know me, I found this a wonderful pun. Yes, I’m in France.





Addendum Ed. 13 in review by Dr. Halle and Dr. Pfeil of Landes – und Murhardsche Bibliothek — Kassel Germany

Had a lovely conversation with Dr. Salina Braun who was able to receive me on Friday morning at Landesbibliothek in Kassel. Gutenberg Bible with Hubay #12, vol. 1 is stored in their Landes-und Murhardsche Bibliothek. She will share Addendum #13 with Dr. Halle and Dr. Pfeil to review. In return, I was given a hard copy book with the ‘hilabraht’ fragment: “you are exceedingly crafty, old Hun, you entice me with your words…” Google doesn’t seem to have a very good explanation, just that this written fragment is very old.

Two images of the old and new libraries in Kassel.







Heart warming visit to Goettingen. Edition 14 accepted.

I did way too much Friday. But most notably I learned about Goettingen University and their holdings from the endearing Helmut Rohfling. How a simple facsimile of the first ever math book that also displays geometry figures can make me cry, is bewildering. But I was overcome by gratitude. Yes. Someone had to make the first mark. Euclid had to think his thoughts. Someone had to make the paper. Someone had to sculpt the geometry figures. Someone had to pass the knowledge down to my high school geometry teacher like tending a delicate Bonzai. And I learn about trapezoids, and levers, and logic.


Again, a conversation where I forget so many things that were spoken. But to follow Eef from Berlin, Helmut suggested The History of the Pencil and The History of the Bookshelf. Page turners I’m sure!

I asked Helmut to tell me how librarians catalog These Things. So I got a wonderful tour. I saw books full of other books — cataloging books. And in Goettingen, you can actually use the original catalog books. So we did.


Notably, I was interested in the organizational structure. The first books catalog the History of the Theory of Librarianship.
Of course!


This was followed by the sciences through books 39, then theology begins in book 40. When a new field is discovered, say psychology, it has to be nestled in, there it was positioned in philosophy. But as it turns out, this “Hospitality, In-chain, and Array” (need to google the correct phrase) is unique to each library as each library prides itself on its own logical formula (tho perhaps proudly, Helmut noted that some other library systems -such as the British and Copenhagen libraries- adopted something of the Goettingen system). But with 3100 incunabula (books printed by press from Gutenberg to 1500) of the worlds 28000, Goettingen SUB might house a conceptual range of topics to have developed an excellent overarching structure. This library made it through the wars with no damage and obvious benefits.

So these catalog-books: Each book with an overview of contents. Notably book one, part I is The History of Typographical Art. Part III is the history of libraries. And so on.


He flipped to a random page and found an 8′-octavo or small book (meaning each printed sheet was folded several times and sewn into the book, then the folds cut to create 8 pages. Subsequently this referred to small books that were shelved together to conserve shelf space. As compared to the larger quarteros – 4 pages from folding, or folios -2 pages from folding.).


The reference looks something like this: 8′ Hist-Lit-Libr. I, 1176

We went to the stacks. It was warm, the air dry with that clean dust smell of old books, and the indirect light warmed up the yellow orange floor boards despite a quiet rainy Friday afternoon. We found the book. A pretty book. Books that may not have been opened in 50 years.



Later, when we returned to his office, he told me that he knew, for example, one of the librarians from my Leipzig visit. She came to the Goettingen library just after the wall came down. She came to see a rare old book she was studying without hope of ever actually seeing it. That is, until the wall came down.

Perhaps what I love about libraries is their patience, through out time and human volatility, for those moments of humanities repose. For those moments when we can read the words of another and be changed.

It is in this way, that I’m beginning to understand why I am on this peculiar mission. I knew it was peculiar from the start and I had these pangs of absurdity about my trip. Now that the Addenda are printed and the anxiety about how the first would be received, the actuality of the addenda is fading from the foreground. Yes, the idea of this project was fun and interesting to me, but 6 months ago I never thought I’d be on a treasure hunt for great libraries, their stewards, and the multitude of lives and neuronal connections embedded in text kept alive in the most fragile paper.

I’m off to Amsterdam to see an old friend and drink some wine. My head is over full. I have delivered 14 addenda to 13 institutions in 15 days. 7 accepted so far.


Edition 12 delivered to Biblioteka Seminarium Duchownego, steward of GB Hubay #28.

Today I had a great trip from Gdansk to Pelplin in search of Seminarium Duchownego.

I was given a tour of the grounds by a very charming seminary student named Mark. Mark introduced me to the very warm Wincenty Pytlik, director of the museum. I caught him just before leaving on holiday to Germany. They will review my Addendum when he gets back but in the meantime, they gave me a copy of 4 pages of their Gutenberg that they print in their basement. Really a sweet visit.





Delighted to leave Edition 11 in the good hands of Dr. Overgaauw, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.

Yesterday, a wonderful conversation with Dr. Overgaauw, Head of Manuscripts at Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin with Gutenberg Bible Hubay #3.

We talked about all sorts of things. He apologized that he could not show me their deluxe parchment version (the temperature in the library was too high to bring out their Gutenberg) as it would distort in the changing climate (I must say that I so value the quantity of windmills and solar panels combined with the lack of air conditioning here in a Germany. Good decisions all round.). They don’t know how they came to own this copy but it has beautiful rubrication that may be damaged by the shift in temperature and humidity.

Playfully, I asked, How many after the first 49 of my Addenda should I save for currently unknown Gutenberg Bibles (so that they may be addended when they become public)? He asked how long I anticipated living and I said a long time. His answer, under those conditions, was 2. Edition 50&51 shall remain in reserve.

At my question on the history of the footnote, he suggested I read “The footnote: a curious history” by Anthony Grafton. Harvard University press 1997 (He is also an expert and disagrees with some points but overall a good read). Notably, the tradition of cross-referencing within the text and footnoting at the bottom and end of the text came long before the printing press. And then also he suggested The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt who will be coming to Berlin this fall to give a talk. My kind of materialism. Heads up Dr. Greenblatt, when I deliver Harvard’s copy of the Addendum, I will also knock on your door and inquire about your latest research on Genesis.

I forget so much of what we talked about. However, he was the first to acknowledge the nod in the Textura. Plus, when I asked where to catch the B41 bus, he corrected me — the Gutenberg Bible is referred to as the B42 (with an audible wink, he also added that perhaps the bus I needed was the M41). Language makes me so happy and I realize knowing German would make my blogging so much more interesting because I’m certain I am meeting some great librarians/researchers/experts. My apologies and gratitude.

And of course, I am also pleased that he accepted Addendum, Edition 11 into the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin holdings. Decision on how it will be catalogued is forthcoming.