So, on Monday (yesterday) I went to Baltimore for the unfortunately-titled “Rare Books for Dummies” workshop sponsored by PALINET at the Peabody Library (part of the Johns Hopkins system). It was a good introductory workshop for someone who hadn’t read or studied anything on the history of the book before.
I already had. Years ago, at University of Illinois. And, having worked with and read about rare books in the intervening years, there wasn’t actually much in the way of brand new information for me to glean. But I did get to see some nice books. For example, there was a Hypnerotomachia Poliplili (we have a nice facsimile edition here at the State Library, but this was an original, of course).
That said, I was struck with the realization while we were being told about book illustration technologies that when we refer to a “plate” we’re taking the term from the actual printing plate that produced the illustration. “Duh,” as the kids say today. I just don’t remember having made that obvious connection before.
I was also struck by some similarities (I thought) between the Peabody and the State Library’s rare books collections. Things like the breadth of collection, that we aren’t actively seeking out tons of new acquisitions, that we’re both Dewey Decimal collections, that we both have some fine old high spots, that we have small staffs, that we don’t attract lots of readers. On the other hand, our new facility is, well, light years ahead of their beautiful cast iron reading-room-and-stacks.
Or it will be, once the construction is finally completed.