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Charles Darwin's Literary Inspirations

By Kristin Masters. Mar 30, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Biographies, History, Science

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution revolutionized the scientific world. An avid reader, Darwin built a personal library that included over 1,500 volumes of science, philosophy, and literature. Just as Darwin was influenced by what he read, he has also influenced generations of scholars and authors. A significant number of his letters, books, and papers belong to the Cambridge University Library.

     
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How To Begin Collecting History Books

By Leah Dobrinska. Mar 7, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, History

If you’re a history buff, you know that on March 7, 1530, King Henry VIII, who had his annulment denied by Pope Clement VII, separated himself from the Catholic Church and declared himself the new head of the Church of England, spurring on the English reformation. What better day to talk about how to begin collecting history books?

Have you considered beginning a history book collection? What should you know before you do? Here are a few questions to get you started, and to help guide your collecting efforts.

     
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Autobiography from the Civil Rights Movement

By Audrey Golden. Jan 31, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, American Literature, History

Have you been following news about civil rights activism on social media and in your community? Are you wondering more about how current protests for equality have ties to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s in America, as well as similar movements in other parts of the world? We want to say up front that we couldn’t possible write about, in a short article, all of the significant biographies and autobiographies that concern leaders of civil rights and freedom movements in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. With that being said, we have selected a handful of texts that we think are not only important to read, but also offer interesting and distinct modes of autobiography from the Civil Rights Movement.

     
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Ten Books to Honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day

By Andrea Diamond. Jan 15, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History

In the United States on the third Monday of every January, we have the opportunity to come together as a nation and celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. In the midst of the chaos and oppression that accompanied the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. rose above hate and violence to guide a broken nation toward a future where people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” As our country once again navigates divisiveness, we are faced with two choices: to be silent, or to lean into the discomfort and work for change. To celebrate this important holiday and find inspiration for continuing King’s work, consider these ten books.

     
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The Schomburg Center Purchases James Baldwin Archive

Are you familiar with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture? If not, you should be. It’s a division of the New York Public Library (NYPL) system, located on Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem. The Schomburg Center has a Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division that is open to researchers, in addition to divisions devoted to art and artifacts, moving images, recorded sound, and photographs, among others. There are a lot of good reasons to visit the Schomburg, but today we want to tell you about a recent addition: James Baldwin’s archive.

     
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Learning About the Baghdad Book Market

By Audrey Golden. Nov 17, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History, Literary travel

If you’re interested in rare book collecting or Arabic literature, we cannot emphasize enough the significance of the Iraqi literary and cultural traditions, and the importance of reimagining Baghdad outside the Western context of war, violence, and dictatorship. In 2015, the Los Angeles Times published an article entitled, “Iraq Book Market Comes Back to Life Seven Years After Bombing.” A number of other western and Arab media sites posted similar pieces, recalling a destructive bombing and signs of recovery in the nation’s capital city. Those stories were referring to Al Mutanabbi, or Mutanabbi Street, in Baghdad. For years, the street, which almost reaches the Tigris River, was known for its weekly book market. A car bomb devastated it in 2007, but it has again become a location for buying used and rare books in Iraq.

     
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A Snapshot of Great Eighteenth Century Poets

By Leah Dobrinska. Nov 15, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, History

The written word has a long history of conveying our greatest passions. And poetry, in particular, has often been the chosen vehicle to express such feelings as love, hate, disillusionment, and snark. Poetry has looked different in different times, but no matter its form, it never ceases to convey a striking snapshot of the world surrounding it. Perhaps it is poetry’s economy of letters—that which requires the great poetic masters to pack more punch in, typically, less space—that makes it such an enduring form. It does, after all, hold immense power. Today, we’d like to explore a particular moment in history—the eighteenth century—and the poets who populated it.

     
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Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and the Politics of Postcolonial Language

By Audrey Golden. Oct 27, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is a Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at UC Irvine, and he is a world-renowned playwright, novelist, essayist, and short story writer. Similar to many authors from the African continent, Ngũgĩ began writing in English, or the language of colonization in Kenya and throughout many regions of the continent. Yet throughout his career, Ngũgĩ has rejected the notion that African novelists must write in the language of the colonizer and has begun writing in his native Gĩkũyũ, a language spoken in Kenya and in parts of Tanzania and Uganda. Ngũgĩ translates his own work into English, and has become what he describes as “a language warrior,” or someone who wants “to join all those others in the world who are fighting for marginalized languages.” If you haven’t read the works of Ngũgĩ, we’d like to take this opportunity to make an introduction.

     
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Famous Literature Written from Prison

By Audrey Golden. Sep 22, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Book History, History

We don’t often think about where a particular novelist or poet was when she or he wrote a well-known work. When we do, most of us are unlikely to imagine the confines of a prison cell. However, many canonical works of fiction, as well as significant twentieth-century political texts, were drafted while their writers were incarcerated. In some cases, the texts directly address the writer’s imprisonment, while in others, the claustrophobic walls of a prison cell appear to have enabled the imaginative capacities of the novelist.

     
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The Incendiary Politics of Michel Houellebecq

By Audrey Golden. Sep 14, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History, Literary travel

Like many other readers, we’re not quite sure what to make of Michel Houellebecq. And if we enjoy reading one of his works of fiction, or if we find his work inspiring, do those sentiments reflect somehow upon our own politics? These are complicated questions, of course, and if you’re not familiar with Houellebecq, you might be wondering why we’re even asking them in the first place. To give you a quick primer: a recent headline in The Guardian* read: “Michel Houellebecq: ‘Am I Islamophobic? Probably, yes.’” The writer has been described as “the ageing enfant terrible of French literature,” and The Guardian tells us that he “has been under 24-hour police protection since the Charlie Hebdo attack.” At the same time, Iggy Pop has found musical inspiration in Houellebecq’s work and, well, we think Iggy Pop is cool. Want to decide for yourself? We’ll tell you a little bit more about Houellebecq first.

     
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About this blog

How can I identify a first edition? Where do I learn about caring for books? How should I start collecting? Hear from librarians about amazing collections, learn about historic bindings or printing techniques, get to know other collectors. Whether you are just starting or looking for expert advice, chances are, you'll find something of interest on blogis librorum.

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