Sunday, 16 April 2017

The Lost Library Book and the Antiquities Market

Something missing...
In the text of a review by Sarah Keating, of the book 'The mystery of the library book that went missing for a century'* involving an early printed work removed from Dublin's Marsh’s Library there is a brief discussion of book theft in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
In the 18th century, the catalogue records various missing copies of English-language travelogues. In the 19th century, “it was popular novels and popular science that went walking”. In 1863, one user was sent to prison for 12 months with hard labour for smuggling a book from the library. It wasn’t until the late 19th century, however, “that rare books started to go missing. There was a new awareness that there a market for these early books and the knowledge they contained.” 
The existence of the market promoted the creation of a supply. This is an analogy to the collection-driven exploitation of archaeological sites. Collectors deny the existence of the market has any influence whatsoever on giving cruddy old bits dug out of an ancient site any commercial value. They are simply lying of course, because a twelve year old can see that such a statement is wrong.

*The Lost Library Book by Amanda Bell, with illustrations by Alice Durand-Wietzel, is published by Onslaught Press on May 14th

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