Thursday, September 22, 2016

Other People's Books,
     Dead People's Books,
         Boswell's Books

In his 1860 Dictionary of the English Language, Joseph E. Worcester defined betweenity as the state of being between.   Now don't confuse this word with the word inbetweenity because being between Other People's Books and Boswell's Books was anything but boring!

Other People's Books is the short title of a book published by The Caxton Club in 2011.  The long title is Other People's Books:  Association Copies and the Stories They Tell.

Boswell's Books is the short title of a book published by Oak Knoll Press in 2016.  The full title is Boswell's Books: Four Generations of Collecting and Collectors.

In between the two is "Dead People's Books," my shortened version of the name of a book cataloguing group on Library Thing called "I See Dead People's Books," the forerunner of LT's Legacy Libraries.

Other People's Books:  Association Copies and the Stories They Tell was originally the name of an article by the late Boswellian and Caxton Club member Paul T. Ruxin that was published in The Caxtonian in September 2004.

Boswell's Books:  Four Generations of Collecting and Collectors was written by Terry Seymour.  Terry knows a little bit about betweenity himself.  Here he is standing between me and Paul Ruxin at the Book Launch Party of Other People's Books in March 2011:

STANDING: Joanne Ruxin, Terry Seymour, and Steve Tomashevsky.
SEATED: Jerry Morris, Avril Ellenport, Samuel Ellenport, Rebecca Sive (Steve’s wife), and the late Paul T. Ruxin.

Terry, Steve, Sam, Paul, and I all had essays that were published in Other People's Books.

I know a little bit about betweenity myself, as  I am often "in the state of being between"––in some cases, for eternity.

When the Caxton Club published Other People's Books, they put my essay between the essays of two notable writers in the book world: Philip R. Bishop and Mark Samuels Lasner.  And when I mentioned being between them in one of my blog posts, Mr. Bishop referred to my position of betweenity in his September 2011 essay, "Ever More the Association Copy."  He wrote:
"Well Mark, I think we have him sandwiched in, in perpetuity."

And in Boswell's Books,  in the section marked "Significant People in Boswell Book History," Terry Seymour has done me the greatest of honors by sandwiching me between two great bookmen, Edmond Malone and A. Edward Newton!

The alphabetical listing is purely the reason for my betweenity in this section of Boswell's Books.  And I am listed in this section because I was the captain of the Boswell Cataloguing Team on Library Thing's I See Dead People's Books Group.   My two cataloguing partners were Dave Larkin and Anna Ritchie.

Dave Larkin

Anna Ritchie

Jerry Morris

We catalogued the Boswell Library on Library Thing from October 2008 to August 2012.

Earlier in 2008, Dave invited me to help him catalogue Samuel Johnson's library on Library Thing.  Then I invited him to help me catalogue Charles Lamb's Library.  And afterwards, Anna Ritchie joined us in cataloguing the Boswell Library.

We thought we were done with the Boswell Library in November 2009, and Dave and I started cataloguing the library of Donald and Mary Hyde.   But I soon discovered that we had only "started" cataloguing the Boswell's library.

Early in February, 2010 James Caudle, the Associate Editor of the Yale Editions of the Private Papers of James Boswell,  offered additional lists of Boswell books for us to catalogue. He had belatedly read my notice in the September 2009 issue of the Johnsonian News Letter that Johnsonians and Boswellians could view the libraries of Sameul Johnson and James Boswell on Library Thing.

Unbeknown to me at the time, James Caudle was already supplying Terry Seymour with lists of Boswell books.  Terry was gathering material to write either a scholarly article or a book about the Boswell Library.   Terry had already published one book on the Everyman's Library Series, and was already working on a sequel.

By the Spring of 2010,  I was blessed with creating an awesome "Auchinleck Advisory Group" for we three Library Thing Boswell Library cataloguers.  We named the advisory group after the location of the great Boswell library:  Auchinleck, Scotland.

And I introduced everybody to each other in a series of emails,  some of which I will share with you:

Jim, Paul, Kim, Terry, and Dave

I would like to introduce my cataloguing partner, Dave Larkin (larxol) to this new Auchinleck fold.  Dave and I catalogued the libraries of Samuel Johnson, Charles Lamb, Donald and Mary Hyde and James Boswell –– at least we thought we were done with Boswell!

In a previous email, Dave "kiddingly?" told Terry that I had enough cataloguing plans to keep us busy for the next fifty years.  And that was before Jim provided us with all this extra cataloguing references –– but who's complaining? :-)

Dave lives in East Sandwich on the shores of Cape Cod Bay [He now lives in Florida].  It should be noted that Dave is not a Boston Red Sox fan, but rather a Cleveland Indians fan.  Dave invited me to help him catalogue Johnson's library, and we've been cataloguing ever since.  Dave still has some cataloguing work to do on the Japanese Collection of the Hydes, while I still have work to do on the Henry Fielding Collection of the Hydes and the Undergraduate Library belonging to Samuel Johnson.  And I haven't even mentioned identifying the current owners of books formerly owned by "all of the above" ...  Yes, fifty years is about right.

Jim Caudle is the [associate] editor of the Yale Edition of the Boswell Papers (Dave, you can either thank or blame Jim for contributing all this new cataloguing reference material).

Paul Ruxin is a collector of books belonging to James Boswell, Samuel Johnson, and their contemporaries.  His books belonging to the Boswells are already catalogued on Library Thing.

Kim Coventry is the editor of the forthcoming Caxton book, Discovery By Association:  Insights From Collectors About Their Books, due out this fall.  Both Paul and I have essays in the book [Terry did too].  [tentative title; was later changed to Other People's Books...]

I "introduced" Dave to Terry in previous emails last month when Terry was inquiring about our work on the 1825 catalogue.
Dave and I will begin cataloguing the 1893 Auchinleck Sale this week.  If we have any questions, we certainly know who– or is it whom?– to ask.


I knew there was something I liked about you. I, too, am a long-suffering Cleveland Indians fan....

And I, a native of Cleveland, have followed the Tribe forever, and even attended the '54 World Series (and listened to the '48 Series on the radio)

Then you will remember broadcaster Jimmy Dudley, who lived on the fancier end of my street in Bay Village. I didn't get to a Series game in '54, but I did see the All-Star game at Lakefront that year, including a pinch-hit home run by Larry Doby. I keep an Indians hat in my car, to distract the Massachusetts drivers around me here.
Growing up in Bay Village gave me the pleasure of going through school with the lady now known as Lee Bridegam. Will B. has joined us for a couple trips back home for reunions. It attests to lively interior intellectual monologue he must maintain that he has remained awake through these weekends of 50-year-old gossip about people he has never met. He warned me, by the way, that if I kept up this cataloging stuff I would come across you.
Dave Larkin

Jim, Paul, Terry, Kim, Dave

I would like to introduce our other cataloguing partner, Anna Ritchie.  She is "aynar" on Library Thing.
When Anna catalogued her last lot from the 1825 auction catalogue, she lived in Scotland.  When Anna catalogues her next lot from the 1893 Auchinleck Sale, she will be doing it from Australia.  Anna moved there because of the economic downturn in the UK.   Don't be alarmed if she doesn't immediately respond to your emails; Australia is fourteen hours ahead of us – or we are fourteen hours behind her.
Now to introduce the Auchinleck fold to Anna:  

James Caudle is our resident expert from Yale University, where he is the [Associate] Editor of the Yale Editions of the Private Papers of James Boswell.  Jim provided all this new cataloguing material for us.

Paul Ruxin is a collector of books belonging to Samuel Johnson, James Boswell and their contemporaries.  Paul not only collects these books, he talks about them at book clubs throughout the United States.  We've already catalogued his books belonging to the Boswells, complete with images of the inscriptions.  Later on hopefully, we'll get to catalogue his books belonging to Dr. Johnson himself.

You've "met" Terry Seymour previously in at least one email,  but feel free to greet him again.  It wouldn't hurt to say hello to Dave too.  As for me...

Kim Coventry is the editor of the forthcoming book to be published by the Caxton Club next fall,  Discovery By Association:  Insights From Collectors About Their Books.  We've kept Kim busy editing;  Paul, Terry and I all have essays in this book.  [The title was later changed to Other People's Books:  Association Copies and the Stories They Tell ].
Feel free to query anyone, but just remember that you're way ahead of us time-wise down there in Australia.

Thanks for the introductions, Jerry. I'm looking forward to helping as much as I can with this next bout of cataloguing.
I see from Jerry's email that I've managed to totally miscommunicate my situation along the way, so I'll take this opportunity to clear things up.
I'm from Scotland but moved to the Netherlands in 2008 and have done all my cataloguing from there. Australia was a long holiday at the end of last year, but I'm safely installed back in Amsterdam now. So the time difference is a fair bit smaller and, I hope, not much of a problem.
Looking forward to working with you all,



Jerry Morris advised me that you were one of the three people who did the catalog work on the Boswell library. I am fascinated by how you accomplished all of that research. I am a collector of Boswell and am at work on tracking down copies with actual ownership marks or signatures.
I hope you don't mind if I ask some questions.
How did you three decide to divide up the work? Is there any way to tell who did which entries? Do you have an academic background? Do you collect? Of course anything else you can add about your experience would be interesting to me.
Thank you.
Terry Seymour

Hi, Terry,
Thanks for your interest.  Let me see if I can satisfy your curiosity about our Boswell “research”.

I was an English major back in the 60s, but after a brief stint as an impoverished newspaper reporter (Columbus Dispatch), I ended up working  30 years for IBM, mostly systems and applications design, some of it for IBM Japan.  I was given an involuntary retirement in the Gerstner downsizing, and caught on for a little second career as Pfizer’s CIO in Japan.

I am not a collector in the sense of amassing rare or valuable volumes.  As I’ve told Jerry Morris from time to time, I live on the shore of Cape Cod Bay, without air conditioning, and I don’t think my environment would result in proper stewardship.  And who wants a book in a bank vault?  But I do have book clusters that result from various long-term or ephemeral interests – Japanese and Irish literature and culture, Colonial history, New England architecture, and others.  I won one of the old Saturday Review awards in college for my collection of Joyce-related books, and I used the prize to buy a used Harvard Classics.  And a quick check of LibraryThing  tells me I have six Everyman editions.  I can only see the 1961 Synge Plays (#968) from my desk.

I’m retired these days.  I came across LibraryThing through a reference in a New York Times article in 2007.  I cataloged my own library, and participated mildly on some of the “Talk Groups.”  Towards the end of the year, they were starting in on Thomas Jefferson’s library.  I got to thinking about who I might nominate to work on, and picked Samuel Johnson, mostly because I could get a copy of Donald Greene’s annotated sale catalog on E-Bay.  I also thought it would be interesting to see how Johnson’s and Jefferson’s libraries overlapped (and it was).  For Johnson, Professor Greene had done most of the research – it took him years in those pre-internet days.  Working from Greene’s identifications, entering was mostly a process of finding a library holding the book, using LibraryThing’s interface to pull the bibliographic data, and adding some comments as appropriate.

I solicited help from Jerry Morris because LibraryThing listed him at that time as the user who had the most books by and about Samuel Johnson.  He not only turned out to be interested, but to be exactly the type of detail-fixated, obsessive-compulsive fanatic that cataloging was invented for.  He got his own copy of Greene’s book, and we simply started from the front and the back to divide up the work.  All the time he was helping, of course, he was plotting on how to keep us busy for another 50 years.

Jerry took over the shepherd role and we did Charles Lamb as a warm-up exercise for Boswell.  With Boswell, Jerry would scan two or three pages of the sale catalog and use e-mail to get it to me and Anna whenever we were running low.  The sale catalog entries have a lot number, a title or some part of a title, place of publishing (often using the Latin abbreviations), and usually a date.

Using this information, the challenge was to find a library with a copy of the appropriate edition.  LibraryThing has interfaces to about 700 library catalogs around the world.  For Boswell, the most useful were Oxford and Edinburgh universities and the National Library of Scotland.  However, especially for books Boswell acquired on his travels, searches could lead you to the Vatican or Gemeinsamer Bibliotheksverbund or even Princeton.  Sometimes Worldcat could lead you to a source.  As a last resort, a printed bibliographic reference might be found using Google Books then entered manually. All this could take some time at the keyboard, but think what Professor Greene must have gone through back in the 70s, without even e-mail.

Once the bibliographic information was entered, we would add any interesting comments about the book, and, if it could be found, any reference Boswell himself made about the work would be quoted in the “Review” field.  Lastly, some time would be invested to see if a copy of the title-page or an image of an illustration from the book could be found. If so, that was entered into the “cover” slot.

There’s no formal way to identify which of us made which entries.  We have our stylistic tics, of course, but to LibraryThing we’re all the same user.  Through some quirk of implementation, the system tolerates two or three of us logged on at the same time as the same user.  Entries with a lot of information about provenance and current owners are almost all Jerry’s, but more of that will be added over time.

Jerry’s got me working on Donald and Mary Hyde’s collection of Japanese books and manuscripts.  The Christie’s Sale Catalog is a 1st-class resource, so there’s not so much research to do.  Getting the Japanese titles correct is a challenge to my language capability though, just as the Latin titles in Boswell and Johnson had me wishing I’d studied a little harder in the 9th grade.  But these are the challenges that make this fun.

One frustration I find is that as a non-academic, I am cut off from most of the scholarly work published by experts.  Google is wonderful at turning up research directly related to the question you’re trying to answer, but when you go to look at it, you’re blocked by the JSTOR and Elsevier monopolies on journal articles.

That’s more than you bargained for about LibraryThing volunteers, but I’ll save the write-up for our archives.
Dave Larkin


Dave was correct in mentioning the frustration with us social media book cataloguers not having access to most of the scholarly works via JSTOR and all the other educational sources on the web.  But Anna helped me solve that problem.

I had read somewhere that the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the National Library of the Netherlands, was offering online access to JSTOR, Project Muse, EEBO, EECO, ESTC and so many others sites that it would be hard for a person to find time to sleep.  And all for only 15 Euros a year.

Even though the KB Library Pass would only cost me the equivalent of $18 a year, it would cost me $40 for a bank transfer to send the money to the Netherlands.  So Anna, a resident of the Netherlands, paid for my subscription each year in Euros.  Afterwards, I got her yearly subscriptions to the Johnsonian New Letter.  

Anna enjoyed the JNL. When she received her first issue, she replied,
I am indeed enjoying it; on the train this morning, as it happens, looking like a right swot. ;)

We catalogued our last Boswell entry on Aug 30, 2012.  And I called the cataloguing of the Boswell Library on Library Thing complete.   But then I read Terry Seymour's article, "An Appendix to Boswell's Books," which appeared in the March 2013 issue of the JNL.  As a teaser for his forthcoming book, which he thought was in its final editing stage at the time, Terry listed all 290 entries of the 1810 Catalogue of Greek and Latin Classics in the Auchinleck Library in his JNL article.  I had only come up with 279 entries.  So, once again, I was cataloguing and recataloguing the Boswell Library in June 2013.

Boswell's Books was finally published in April 2016.   I received my copy on April 20th.  The book itself weighed over six pounds. When I congratulated Terry on his book and thanked him for the kind words about me, he responded:
Great to see the order system is working. You are the first person I know of to receive an ordered copy. Enjoy. You contributed greatly to the book.

And I, in this blog post, want to share the accolades with my Library Thing cataloguing partners, Dave Larkin and Anna Ritchie.  Dave is enjoying his retirement in Bonita Springs, Florida, and still roots for the Cleveland Indians!  And Anna is a Senior Project Manager at Elsevier B. V. Amsterdam, and travels to London at least once a week.

As Dave mentioned in his email to Terry,  there is no formal way for the reader of the catalogue of the Boswell Library on Library Thing to tell "which of us made which entries."  But between us three, we made Boswell's Library available online to the masses.  And if our accomplishments, on some occasions, served as a backdrop for Terry to verify his own separate and scholarly research, we all three take a bow.  We thank our Auchinleck Advisory Team for helping us, and for giving us the opportunity to work with them on Boswell's Library.

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