Not Your Average Library Book Checkout

I started October a week behind in my re-reading schedule of the Wheel of Time series.  I started the seventh novel, A Crown of Swords on the 8th, but managed to finish it early on the 22nd, leaving me almost ten days to get some non-WoT reading squeezed in before I set out on the Path of Daggers in November.

Just in case you missed it, after I reported the Prologue for A Memory of Light released early in late September, Tor also released the first chapter , “Eastward the Wind Blew” a few days later.  Last week, in late October, Tor released an audio version of chapter two, which I have yet to finish listening to.  I’ve completed the first section of ‘The Choice of Ajah” prior to writing this blog and will listen to the rest later today.

I reviewed all my neglected book clubs and found several great books in the line up for next month, including the Demolished Man by Alfred Bester for the Beyond Reality group at GoodReads.  These days, I prefer to read ebooks as much as possible, since I can tote around my entire library wherever I go on my Nook Color.  However, this classic science fiction novel, written by Alfred Bester in 1953, just isn’t available in electronic format yet (and may not be any time soon).  In fact, it was last published by Gollanz in 1999 in paperback format and is not currently in print, so only used copies are available to buy.

So, I went searching for a copy at my favorite library, the Kansas City Public Library.  The reason this is my favorite library, aside from the fact that a branch is located in my office building, is they have a large, extensive catalog that rarely disappoints.  The Demolished Man failed to make the cut, though, and no amount of tweaking my search criteria could get this book to magically appear in the search results.

The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester in the leather-bound collector’s edition published by the Easton Press in 1986

I sighed.  My fallback library resides in my almost hometown of Leavenworth.  I hopped on their website and searched their catalog and found a copy available on the shelf.  I placed a hold, requesting pickup at the Leavenworth Public Library.  A day or so later, I received an e-mail telling me my reservation was ready for pickup.  Saturday afternoon, I stopped by and checked out the book you see in the photo to the right.  I couldn’t believe what I was holding in my hands.  A near pristine leather-bound collector’s edition of the classic.  It even sported a gold satin bookmark!  As far as I could tell, no one had read it since it was published in the early 80s.  While I enjoy the ease and convenience of ebooks, limited editions or collector’s editions of hardcover novels are just plain cool.

I flipped through the book once I got it home and found illustrations placed sporadically throughout the book.  Here are three examples:




And a shot of the title page and bookmark:


I’m looking forward to reading this novel, and not just because I lucked into checking out a collector’s edition from my local library. Here are some blurbs and the synopsis from GoodReads:

“One of the all-time classics of science fiction.” – Isaac Asimov

“A masterful compounding of science and detective fiction.”  – The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

“A magnificent novel… as fascinating a study of character as I have ever read.” – Groff Conklin in Galaxy Science fiction

In a world policed by telepaths, Ben Reich plans to commit a crime that hasn’t been heard of in 70 years: murder. That’s the only option left for Reich, whose company is losing a 10-year death struggle with rival D’Courtney Enterprises. Terrorized in his dreams by The Man With No Face & driven to the edge after D’Courtney refuses a merger offer, Reich murders his rival & bribes a high-ranking telepath to help him cover his tracks. But while police prefect Lincoln Powell knows Reich is guilty, his telepath’s knowledge is a far cry from admissible evidence

Blast from the Past: A Glimpse Into Rare Science Book Collection

My dad and I attended the general meeting of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City yesterday evening.  We arrived earlier enough to also attend the Astro 101 class.  The topic happened to be on binoculars, although I vaguely remembered it advertised as astrophotography.  Next month, perhaps, provided the speaker doesn’t postpone for the third time this year.  Nevertheless, we learned quite a bit about binoculars and the handout included a dozen or so winter observing targets.

With just five minutes to spare, Dad and I changed lecture halls in Royall Hall, walking across to the larger one where the general meetings are held.  Jay Manifold and Rick Henderson made several announcements.  Another club member, Bob Sandy, gave a brief ten to fifteen minutes demonstration of his equipment used to videotape the Transit of Venus, including the video from that event and also a separate one of the re-appearance of the asteroid Ceres from behind the Moon.

Jay introduced our guest speaker, Bruce Bradley Librarian for History of Science at the Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering and Technology, who spoke about the library’s rare books on astronomy. The Linda Hall Library, located just two hundred yards west of Royall Hall, is the world’s foremost independent research library devoted to science, engineering and technology.

Title Page of Starry Messenger by Gallileo

The collection Mr. Bradley oversees is kept in the Helen Foresman Spencer Rare Book Room in the History of Science Center at the library which is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. An appointment is not necessary for individual readers and visitors, but groups are advised to make an appointment in advance of a proposed visit.

In February of 2004, several ASKC members visited and marveled at these well preserved treasures:

  • The oldest book in the place printed by Nicolas Jenson in Venice in 1472, Pliny the Elder’s (23-79 AD) Naturalis Historiae Liber open to a section entitled”CAII PLYNII SECVNDI NATURALIS HISTORIAE LIBER X,” subtitled”De Natura auium Cap. i.” Beginning with a beautifully illuminated capital S in blue, red, green and gold, the colors appeared to have barely faded in 532 years.
  • Tycho Brahe’s Astronomiae Instauratae Progymnasmata from 1602 open to a star map showing the location of the supernova
    of 1572 in Cassiopeia.
  • Galileo’s Dialogo, printed in Florence,”Per Gio: Batista Landini,” 1632., displaying a Copernican diagram of the Solar System showing orbits of the planets, the Moon and the four large moons of Jupiter that Galileo discovered.
  • A handwritten observational journal of William Herschel open to a section containing observations of Saturn with drawings, formulas and figures.
  • A very large format book with a full-color, two-page drawing of Tycho’s observatory, labeled Stellaeburgum (also called Uraniborg) as it appeared in 1558.
On of Galileo’s illustrations/engravings of the Moon

At the October general meeting, Mr. Bradley started with a history of the founding of the library.  He then showed us many images taken of the rare books in the collection.  He also related interesting and intriguing stories about the men who wrote these early science books.  We even got a crash course in the Gutenberg printing process, right down to the materials used for the bindings, the paper and the ink.  Mr. Bradley spent quite a bit of time paging through a couple of Galileo‘s books (see excerpt at right) and explaining the challenges Galileo and his printer faced in publishing his ground-breaking astronomical observations and conclusions confirming Copernicus‘ theory of a sun-centered universe (solar system).

He concluded his talk with a question and answer session and an invitation to the Library to see these treasures first hand. I plan to make a trip during lunch to the Linda Hall library’s current exhibit, called ‘On Time: The Question for Precision‘ featuring revolutions in time keeping within the next week or so.