Libraries, Archives, Technology, Impending Doom
So, the business I work for moved a couple weeks ago. Which means the art reference library I oversee got packed up, trucked across town, and now I’ve been slowly getting things squared away.
There are many odds & ends in my library that I’ve never paid much attention to — ephemera boxes; Japanese periodicals from the 1970s & ’80s; what seems to be an old French printer’s catalog, bound in what amounts to a metal box. This is on top of the three or four thousand volumes of art reference material that’s actually useful on a regular basis. Since I have the rare chance to rearrange everything in here, I figured it’d be good to get a better grasp on what exactly it is we have in here.
So I reached into a manilla envelope labeled solely with my boss’s first initial, last name, and the business’s phone number.
I pulled out the contents & half way out I had the though “this looks/feels like vellum, why in the world is there vellum in here?” When I’d gotten it out, sure enough, it was a vellum binding, a bit worse for wear. I’m all, “wft, mate?”
On the spine there’s a little piece of paper pasted on that reads, “Guillim 1611.” My jaw slowly starts dropping.
I (carefully!) open the cover a little. The title page confirms the 1611 date, and tells me that this is A display of heraldrie…, by John Guillim.
You heard me right. I’d just pulled a 400 year old book, likely with original binding, out of a manilla envelope that had been sitting there among my art reference library’s detritus. It is, as far as I can tell, a first edition, actually printed in 1610 (according to the colophon [and the internet]),
and a bit rare; later editions, particularly the 1638 edition, are a little easier to come by. I called my boss up to the library, asked him where the hell it came from, and gave him a good dressing down about leaving it in a manilla envelope on the shelf. He says he picked it up at the flea market in Paris forty years ago. He’d been interested in it for the printing, and it’s been sitting around first his apartment, then our old offices, and now the new ones, ever since. It makes me wonder what else is sitting around in here, and how meticulous I’ll have to be about going through all the other stuff just in case.