The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 30, July 24, 2011, Article 11


Reader William P. Houston of Frankfurt am Main Germany poses a couple of questions about E-Sylum content. -Editor

Rare Book school A comment or two about things which have been and might come to be. The first is about an item which aired on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition, Sunday, 17 July 2011, headlined "Students Get Up Close And Personal With Rare Books."

The piece is by (Miss) Sandy Hausman, a reporter for Radio Station WVTF in Roanoke, Virginia. The audio is less than three minutes long. There is a nearly complete text in the Program Notes and a transcript which can be opened. All three of these vary slightly. The piece talks about the University of Virginia but is actually about "The Rare Book School." See . This school is located on the campus of the University of Virginia (but separate from it) in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Prof. Dr. Michael F. Suarez, S.J., is director of the school and is heard briefly in the report. The school lists what to me seems to be quite a large faculty. It holds a number of courses throughout the year in Charlottesville, Baltimore and Washington. Most of these courses (five to six days long) seem to be offered during the summer semester break period.

A slight pause here to regroup my forces. I am once again trying to get caught up with my reading of the latest E-Sylum issues. In doing so over the past few weeks it started to seem to me that although it is a publication for bibliophiles, there is precious little information of a more or less technical / conservation nature offered. Press releases from numismatic book sellers and publishers are interesting but not everything. Questions are sometimes raised about repairs, upkeep, lighting, binding, humidity and so on and over the next two or three weeks a few replies, beliefs, speculation and suggestions turn up but seldom is there an Expert Opinion offered.

Is there help for this (perceived?) problem just down the road? In Charlottesville perhaps? It seems there is a big herd of specialists hanging out there and maybe one or the other or even a few might just be agreeable to doing something nice and helpful for the Numismatic Bibliomania Society. And if things work out really well might do it for free. Perhaps it would be helpful if a way could be found to get in contact with the Rare Book School. Maybe somebody would be available for an Expert Opinion now and again or might be willing to write some type of bibliographic column for The E-Sylum.

Except that there are no columns in The E-Sylum -- except perhaps the two paragraphs starting each issue from The Editor. And this just might bring us to consider the speed at which things happen in The E-Sylum. Slowly -- from weekly issue to weekly issue. Digital snail mail. Dear Editor - this is not meant as criticism. Any plans in the direction of an interactive discussion site?

I heard that NPR piece myself and I was hoping someone would bring it up. It's very true that our exposure to rare book storage and conservation is limited, both in The E-Sylum and our print journal The Asylum. Only a few of our members (and probably none of our officers and editors) have this academic or practical experience. Thus our conversations are limited to responses (sometimes casual and ill-informed) to questions raised by readers.

I think this lack of focus on the book as an object is due to the difference between a bibliophile and a NUMISMATIC bibliophile. The primary interest of the former is in books; the primary interest of the latter is in coins. As a whole NBS people are less bibliomaniacs than they are info-maniacs. We want information about our coins, medals, tokens and banknotes. That knowledge is contained in physical books, but it is also resides in people and increasingly in electronic sources such as digital web sites, web forums and electronic newsletters such as The E-Sylum.

Would we welcome regular contributions on book care and conservation? Absolutely. Consider this a plea for help, readers. If you have this expertise and are willing to share, please do consider writing for The E-Sylum and/or The Asylum. Or reaching out to The Rare Book School or some similar group to participate. Or monitor blogs in the rare book world and comment on items that would be of interest to E-Sylum readers. But it needs to be one of you - it can't be me. I don't have that expertise. I'm happy to edit and publish any relevant material that is submitted, but I don't have the time to seek it out. While listening to the NPR piece I'll admit to briefly fantasizing about how fun it would be to sign up for the Rare Book School program, but that isn't practical for me.

As for the frequency of E-Sylum publishing, that's a good question. It's funny how perceptions have changed. Back in the bad old pre-E-Sylum days, NBS communications to members were limited to the one-way quarterly publication of The Asylum. The only two-way communications took place at the annual meetings, which were attended only by a much smaller group of folks who made the trek in person to the summer ANA convention. The Internet and The E-Sylum changed that dynamic overnight - suddenly nearly every member had instant two-way access to an NBS officer and weekly publication of articles, news and commentary.

The weekly publication schedule of The E-Sylum was a deliberate decision on my part. First, I felt that an electronic publication required an editor for the same reasons a print publication does. Without some editorial control these forums can quickly devolve into chaos. And without some regular publishing schedule they can fall into disuse for time and lay dormant from simple inertia. The weekly E-Sylum schedule was a Goldilocks decision - monthly was too long, and daily was too short. Since I work during the week and could use the weekend to catch up and finalize the issue, Sunday night became the regular publishing time. It's worked out pretty well.

In short, there are no plans to change The E-Sylum's publishing schedule. Without a weekly deadline (with a whole week in between for the editor to work) The E-Sylum just wouldn't be The E-Sylum anymore - it would be something else.

But NBS does already have an interactive forum on Facebook. Comments can be posted there at any time, like Chris Fuccione did on Thursday, posting a link to an article about the 1933 double Eagle case. Only 153 people "like" the NBS page and traffic is very light, but The E-Sylum started small, too. Perhaps the forum will grow over time, either on Facebook, Google+ or whatever environment comes along next.

NBS Facebook example

Below is an excerpt from the NPR article. -Editor

The university's Rare Book School estimates that it owns about 80,000 publications and print-related materials. And while some of those items are quite valuable, Michael Suarez director of the Rare Book School wants students to be able to handle them so they can better appreciate the history of paper, binding, typography and illustration.

"We insist that students touch and smell and shine light through items, and investigate them to understand the book in history, and understand the book as history," Suarez says.

"One of the most valuable things about this program is who you meet, and it's really nice to kind of have raw, distilled bookishness," adds Eric Johnson, a curator of books at Ohio State University.

That spirit gives Suarez and his faculty hope that books will survive even in the digital age. After all, he says, second to coins, they're the most common artifact left to us since medieval times a clear sign of their staying power.

To read the complete article, see: Students Get Up Close And Personal With Rare Books (

To visit the NBS Facebook page, see:


DAVID SKLOW - FINE NUMISMATIC BOOKS offers Mail Bid Sale No. 14 on October 15, 2011, including: Original 1865 Articles of Incorporation of the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society [ANS] . PH: (719) 302-5686, FAX: (719) 302-4933. EMAIL: USPS: Box 6321, Colorado Springs, CO. 80934. Contact me for your numismatic literature needs!

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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