A spritely visit to the land of rare books.




The role of printed books in Western civilization recounted in diverting essays that recapitulate some significant events in the annals of bibliomania.

The Romneys—Rebecca is the rare-book expert on the History Channel’s Pawn Stars; J.P. is a writer and historical researcher—tell the secrets of paper and ink, publishing and buying, selling and collecting printed books. The authors offer bright character sketches of the book world’s saints and sinners, heroes and losers, savants and simple dopes. They reveal the ineluctable power of the printing press and the odd peccadilloes of antiquarian book people. They also include obligatory discussions of Gutenberg’s Bible and Shakespeare’s First Folio, which holds a certain “curse” in that “most of those who participated in the creation of Shakespeare’s Folio were dead within four years.” The drollery among the dusty bookshelves will attract general readers to the innocuous pleasures of bibliomania. Within the entertaining passages, the authors define terms like “incunabula,” “colophon,” and “ISBN” for the uninitiated, and they pay homage to renowned publishers across the years. Along with favorites of the bookish folk, the Romneys introduce characters like Marino Massimo De Caro, the talented rare-book forger; T.J. Cobden-Sanderson, who built and destroyed what has been called the most beautiful type font ever; and monastic Johannes Trithemius, defender of the art of handwriting against the advance of the new technology of the printing press. Here, too, is Mercator mapping the globe, Dickens pleading for royalties from America, and Mary Wollstonecraft serving as the model of a modern liberated lady. The authors’ description of the printing and dissemination of Western literature, mythology, and science employs a vocabulary beyond the usual antiquarian lingo, employing occasional double-entendres and mildly naughty words for a contemporary readership—some of the snarky parenthetical asides should amuse bibliomaniacal newbies.

A spritely visit to the land of rare books.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-241231-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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