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These Books Will Never Be Threatened By eBooks - Rare Books Indeed

I take the guess that even the most eReader devotee amongst us would take pause over some of these rare books. They are the stuff of history and their thoughts are as potent as ever.  And - yes - I do realize that I would be among the first to take advantage of an opportunity to see them via the internet if I can not hold them in my hands.  But I would still rather hold them in my hands.


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Peering Into the Exquisite Life of Rare Books



  • Andrew Shurtleff for The New York Times
  • Andrew Shurtleff for The New York Times
  • Andrew Shurtleff for The New York Times
  • Andrew Shurtleff for The New York Times
  • Andrew Shurtleff for The New York Times
  • Andrew Shurtleff for The New York Times

    Jessica Pigza, an assistant curator for the New York Public Library's Rare Book Division, uses a magnifying glass to determine the type of leather used on a book cover.
      CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — On a steamy morning last week Mark Dimunation, the chief of the rare book and special collections division at the Library of Congress, was in a windowless basement room here at the University of Virginia, leading a dozen people in a bibliophile’s version of the wave.

      He lined up the group and handed each person a sheet of copier paper with a syllable written on it. After a few halting practice runs — “Hip-na-rah-toe ...” — the group successfully shouted out, “ ‘Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,’ 1499!”

      The phrase wasn’t an incantation ripped from the pages of a lost Dan Brown novel, but the title and publication date of a long erotic love poem printed in Venice by Aldus Manutius and often described as one of the weirdest and most beautiful books ever produced.

      And the occasion was just an ordinary class meeting at Rare Book School, an institution whose football team, if it existed, might well take “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili!” as its official rallying cry.

      For five weeks each summer Rare Book School brings some 300 librarians, conservators, scholars, dealers, collectors and random book-mad civilians together for weeklong intensive courses in an atmosphere that combines the intensity of the seminar room, the nerdiness of a “Star Trek” convention and the camaraderie of a summer camp where people come back year after year.

      Vic Zoschak, a retired Coast Guard pilot turned antiquarian bookseller from Alameda, Calif., took his first class in 1998 and has returned for 14 more. “Flying search-and-rescue missions was satisfying work,“ he said. “But here, I found my people.”