HD: America’s First Book
Posted: 27 November 2013 05:07 AM   [ Ignore ]
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A copy has been sold into private hands.

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Posted: 27 November 2013 09:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I have some personal interest in this book and era inasmuch as Henry Dunster (first Harvard President in 1640) is my 9th great grand uncle and this Old South Church is in my denomination. But apart from being an American curiosity the Psalm(e) book (Psalter) is not of much literary value for reasons the New Yorker blog makes clear. Dave notes:

The sale is a bit disturbing in that it is another instance of public institutions placing historical and cultural important items into private hands. The church had every right and good reason to sell the copy, but the prospect that the book may no longer be available to researchers and the public is worrisome.

A digital copy can be examined in some detail, so I don’t get the worry about it being sold into “private hands” away from possible research. There is one copy (of a total of 15) left in the church’s library and I don’t think the church has the resources to keep this book up and available for public examination in any case.

Rightly is it going where it can be properly cared for—hopefully in perpetuity as you note, Dave—and the money raise by this sale will go to the funding of “21st century ministries” as the church puts it.

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Posted: 27 November 2013 01:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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A digital version, while very useful for many purposes, is not the same as having the physical book available for examination. There are many questions that can only be answered by examining the thing itself.

The same goes for having other copies available. Not all copies, even of printed books, are the same. There are variations between copies that can tell you a lot. Also, there may be handwritten notes and marginalia that give clues about how the book was received and used. So it’s not always enough to have one copy available. Sometimes you want many copies to examine.

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