Friday, October 1, 2010

RBMS Acquisitions Workshop June 22, 2010

This is a belated description of a workshop I attended this summer, at the Rare Books and Manuscripts Pre-conference in Philadelphia.

The workshop, called "Building Collections: Acquiring Materials and Working with the Antiquarian Book Trade," was taught by E.C. Schroeder (Head of Technical Services, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University) and Daniel J. Slive (Head of Special Collections, Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University). They discussed the history of rare books collection development after World War II and the book trade. We looked at different institutions' collection development policies and dealer descriptions, discussed how to find materials and the rare books "cycle." During lunch, our assignment was to survey the booksellers' showcase and pick out materials we might want to acquire for our collections. In the afternoon, there was a lot of useful discussion about how dealers and curators can work together, whether it is okay to bargain (turns out it is!), and how dealers can work as agents.

The main outcome of the workshop for me was that I felt emboldened by the discussion--especially the focus on trusting dealers and their research--to buy two unusual items at the showcase: an early 19th century herbarium (book of pressed flowers, with botanical information) and a late 19th century scrapbook with photographs, drawings, newspaper clippings and lots of other crazy stuff in it. These items can be used in classes about 19th-century science, print culture, women's education and travel. This image is from the scrapbook; it's a photographic portrait of the scrapbook's maker, embellished with hand-drawn ornaments.

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