Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Biblioclasts are a class in themselves when it comes to collectors and dealers. These are individuals who break apart books or sets of plates and sell them separately.  As we read in the article by Karen Edwards "Rip, Slash, and Tear: Can Plundering Books be a Form of Preservation?" Fine Books & Collections 5 no. 5 (Sept-Oct 2007): 44-49, biblioclasm is not rare. Book dealers do purchase books or sets of prints and break them apart to sell individually at a higher price. These legitimate dealers can be confused with thieves who take items from libraries and sell to unsuspecting dealers and collectors. Maps, prints, plates, and illuminations are all candidates for theft. The most famous being Gilbert Bland, map thief extraordinary who stole from libraries across the United States, the last being from the Peabody, as described by Miles Harvey in The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime (NY: Broadway Books a division of Random House, 2001). Island of Lost Maps actually traces the history of map printing and theft through time, and the trial of Bland.

 The most famous biblioclast is Otto F. Ege (1888–1951) who was Dean of the Cleveland Institute of Art and collected medieval manuscripts. In a nutshell, he took the books apart, matted the leaves along with descriptions and sold them in portfolios to libraries and collectors around the world. Today, scholars are both studying the leaves Ege disbound, and are attempting to collate the leaves into books. Many of the university libraries that hold Ege leaves have digitized their collections and made them available on the web. Below is just a small sample of virtual exhibits and just two of the many articles about Ege and his amazing collections of leaves. 

Kent State University Special Collections has three sets of Ege leaves. There are others throughout the state, the country, and the world. Take a look at the leaves and at the articles to learn how scholars are piecing together these fragments.

Otto F. Ege Collection of Manuscript Leaf Portfolios at Dennison University, Granville, Ohio http://ege.denison.edu/index.php

Otto F.Ege Collection of Fifty Original Leaves from Medieval Manuscripts, Western Europe XII-XVI Century at University Libraries Digital Collections at the University of South Carolina http://library.sc.edu/digital/collections/ege.html

And at the University of Massachussets   http://www.library.umass.edu/spcoll/ead/mums570.html

Remaking the Book:Digitally Reconstructing the Otto Ege Manuscript Portfolios (June 13-14, 2005) University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon  http://library2.usask.ca/ege/   

Stiocheff, Peter. "Putting Humpty Together Again: Otto Ege's Scattered Leaves." CHWP A. 42 (July 2008) http://projects.chass.utoronto.ca/chwp/CHC2007/Stoicheff/Stoicheff.htm 

Shailor,Barbara A."Otto Ege: His Manuscript Fragment Collection and the Opportunities Presented by Electronic Technology."The Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries 60 (2003): 1-22 http://reaper64.scc-net.rutgers.edu/journals/index.php/jrul/article/viewArticle/4

Of course, Ege's disbound leaves are not the only ones that scholars are reconstructing . There are many others in our collections. Most recently, Eric Johnson, Associate Curator of Rare Books at Ohio State University is endeavoring to collect all the dispersed leaves of the Hornby-Cockerell Bible. Here is a link to just three of the hundreds of leaves that OSU has collected. http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.526213757394922.135022.200441529972148&type=1

What do you think about biblioclasm?

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