In 1995 Nicholas Basbanes introduced a resonant phrase to describe the obsessive passion people have had over the past twenty-five hundred years to possess books, a condition more commonly known as bibliomania, one he christened in his book A Gentle Madness. Reviewing the work in the Washington Post, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Michael Dirda judged it to be a gallery of wonderful characters, "each more appealing than the last."
Now, in Patience & Fortitude, Basbanes continues his discursive adventures among the gently mad, expanding his focus to probe the more comprehensive concept of book culture. Visiting many key "book places" around the world, he talks with a striking variety of kindred spirits, each one a living testament to the unending relevance of these essential artifacts in our lives.
Drawing its title from the unofficial names of the marble lions that guard the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, Patience & Fortitude explores the changing form of the book over the centuries and describes the nature of the institutions that have evolved to contain them, including academic, public, private, and national repositories.
Using the same narrative technique that made A Gentle Madness a national bestseller, Basbanes employs a lively balance of scholarly research with investigative journalism to document many pertinent book stories that have not been told before, and offers unprecedented depth to others that have barely scratched the surface. Picking up seamlessly where its predecessor left off, Patience & Fortitude profiles the experiences and thoughts of all kinds of dedicated "book people," be they librarians, readers, writers, bookmakers, booksellers, preservationists, or collectors.
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Nicholas A. Basbanes has worked as an award-winning investigative reporter, a literary editor, and a nationally syndicated columnist. The author of five books, he also writes a regular column for Fine Books & Collections magazine and lectures widely on book-related issues. He and his wife, Constance, live in Massachusetts.From Publishers Weekly:
A sequel of sorts to Basbanes's earlier A Gentle Madness (on the manic nature of bookselling and book-collecting), this copious volume takes its title from the formidable lions guarding the entrance to the main branch of the New York Public Library in Manhattan. Opening with the great libraries of the past, from Alexandria to Pergamum and Glastonbury, Basbanes, former literary editor of the Worcester Sunday Telegram, segues into such venerable active libraries as those at the Vatican, Wolfenbottel and the universities of Durham, Leiden and Oxford. He visits with shrewd, sometimes eccentric book dealers who happily recount tales of bygone bibliophiles, and illustrates a variety of collections, from illuminated medieval manuscripts to volumes more valuable for who owned them than for binding or content. "I absolutely insist on keeping the same crummy look," a bookshop owner tells him proudly. "Every time I make the place too neat, business goes down." But a pathos pervades the book, for despite the huge increase in readers and book buyers, one dealer observes "a radical dismantling of high culture well under way" since the 1930s. The collector in 1939 who bought a rare book about Native American languages "by selling bottles of his own blood" has no latter-day parallel. Basbanes closes with tales of crusty benefactors like Andrew Carnegie, and interviews with librarians faced with the dilemma of too many old books that no one now wants to read. Basbanes's fund of stories will delight readers who value books for more than just a good story, have a yen for second-hand books plucked from dusty shops or look to book catalogs for suspense and excitement. 32 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. Agents, Glen Hartley and Lynn T. Chu. (Oct.)Forecast: This will undoubtedly garner much attention in the book pages, as did its predecessor, aided by a six-city author tour, a 15-city NPR campaign and print features.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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