Rare Book Found in Toilet to be Auctioned

Here’s a neat AP story about a rare 1st edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species which will be auctioned at Christie’s in London on Tuesday.  The story seems to have originated with this report from the Oxford Daily Mail

The irony is that the book was kept on someone’s toilet bookshelf in Oxford, England, for many years — and now is expected to bring as much as $99,000 at auction!  The owner is said to have paid only a few shillings for the book when it was purchased some forty years ago.

You can find a description of the book on the Christie’s page here.

The story begs the question:  what unrecognized treasures might you have languishing on the bookshelves at your home?  For things like this happen all the time.

For example, back in the 1920s a book collector and Edgar Allan Poe enthusiast named Vincent Starrett wrote an article for the Saturday Evening Post called, I believe, “Have You a Tamerlane in Your Attic?”  Starrett of course referred to the great rarity, Tamerlane and Other Poems, Poe’s first published work, which he published anonymously in 1827.

As it turned out, a lady who read that article actually did have a Tamerlane in her attic (I think she lived in an attic apartment).  She tried to contact Starrett about it, but, missing him, instead gave her business to a prominent Boston bookseller named Charles Goodspeed — and the two of them made quite a good little profit.

About twenty years or so ago the twelfth and last copy of Tamerlane turned up in an antique shop in New Hampshire.  The man who bought it just paid fifteen dollars, then sold it at auction for a little under $200,000.

At any rate, if you’ve got a book or any kind of collectible which you think may be valuable, Greensboro Public Library may be able to help you identify the item and get some idea of its value, though, of course, we cannot do formal appraisals.  For that, you should go to a reputable antiques dealer or the appropriate specialist, e.g., a seller of fine and rare books. 

But we have lots of books — too many and varied to mention — and other resources, such as our p4A Antiques Reference Database of auction records, which you may find helpful in researching an item.  As another example, sometimes local history resources, such as our old Greensboro city directories, can be useful in determining when a local item was manufactured.

By all means, if you have something you’d like to research, please feel free to contact us (335-5430) at the Informations Services desk at Central Library.  We’d be glad to help in any way we can.

North Carolina’s Jobless Rate for October

North Carolina’s unemployment rate was up slightly in October to 11%, according to Friday’s News and Record.  County rates are due out next week.

In other news on unemployment, here’s an interesting article from CNBC on the broader national jobless rate, which includes the underemployed and those who have given up looking for work.  This statistic, called the U-6 rate by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, now stands at 17.5%. 

North Carolina’s U-6 rate (which is evidently based upon different statistical criteria than the national figure) stood at 16.5% at the end of the third quarter.  You can view the U-6 rates for all the states on this Bureau of Labor Statistics page.

Please remember, if you’re unemployed and looking for work, Greensboro Public Library has plenty of links for job seekers on this page.

John F. Kennedy’s Last Autograph?

Of possible interest to all you autograph hounds out there, JFK items have been in the news lately.

This CNN article tells of the recent sale of what may well have been President Kennedy’s last autograph, written on the front page of the Dallas Morning Herald on November 22nd, 1963.  He signed the paper for a maid named Jan White as he entered the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce on his way to give a breakfast speech that morning.  Later that day in Dallas, he was of course felled by an assassin’s bullets.     

And here’s another article from MSNBC which discusses the newspaper auction above as well as that of an autographed photograph of Kennedy, ca. 1956.

The signed newspaper sold for about $39,000, while the photograph went for over $4,000.

Why do people pay so much for ordinary items like this?  As an employee of the gallery which sold the photo put it, “What people are buying is the mystique.  They are taking home the autograph knowing that this person once actually touched this item, this person once actually left this imprint, this signature.”

The library has some books on autograph collecting, including Charles Hamilton’s The Book of Autographs:  An Introduction to the Joys and Techniques of Autograph Collecting by the World’s Fore-most Authority; and The Standard Guide to Collecting Autographs:  A Reference & Value Guide by Mark Allen Baker.  

I especially think the Hamilton book would be a good one.  Hamilton gained considerable notoriety in 1983 for his determination that the so-called Hitler diaries were fakes — after they had been authenticated by the famous historian, Hugh Trevor-Roper.

Of course, Greensboro Public Library also has lots of books on John F. Kennedy and the assassination.  It’s hard to believe we’re coming up on the 50th anniversary of the latter.

Library’s Church History Project

Greensboro Public Library is seeking additional copies of the written histories of churches and other faith communities.

The library sent letters to these organizations last spring, asking for written histories in any length from one-paragraph summaries to full-length books.

As of November 2009, the library has received twenty-one books and forty-two shorter histories, suitable for our file cabinets, in response to these letters. In all, the library now has books about seventy-five Guilford County churches and faith communities and file folders with information on 220 of these organizations.

If you belong to a faith community whose written history is not in the library, contact Helen Snow, North Carolina Librarian.

If your faith community has never written its history, this is a good time to get started!

The church histories are on the second floor of the Central Library, 219 N. Church Street. Ask at the reference desk on that floor for assistance in finding the ones that you want.

The Stories of World War II Veterans

Veteran Roger Weigold is seeking veterans who will tell their war stories for an exhibit scheduled to open next year in the Greensboro Historical Museum’s hall of military history. The exhibit will include a searchable, interactive database spotlighting first-person narratives by local veterans.

So far, most of the stories which the Museum has collected are from World War II.

While you’re waiting for the exhibit to open, you can read veterans’ stories in books from the library.  Collections of World War II stories from the Guilford County area include:

Freedom’s Heroes: True Stories from Those Who Lived Them: Veterans of Guilford County, North Carolina, Who Served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

Personal Histories of World War II: Sixth Congressional District, North Carolina This two-volume set, unlike the other books listed in this post, is available only in the North Carolina Collection, where copies must be used in the library; there are no circulating copies.

World War II –: Hometown and Home Front Heroes: Life-Experience Stories from the Carolinas’ Piedmont, edited by Margaret G. Bigger.

The library has circulating copies of the following books by two local veterans about their experiences during World War II: Doing My Duty by Doug Dickerson and Parade of the Dead: A U. S. Army Physician’s Memoir of Imprisonment by the Japanese, 1942-1945 by John R. Bumgarner.

For other collections, as well as other individual World War II memoirs, check Greensboro Public Library’s online catalog under this subject heading: World War, 1939-1945—Personal narratives, American.

Spacecraft Detects Water on the Moon

Check out this neat story from CNN on NASA’s Friday announcement of the discovery of water on the Moon.  You can find another account from MSNBC here, as well as space.com articles here, here and here.

The space agency collected data using its Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS).  The sensing probe was preceded by a Centaur rocket stage which made impact in a crater named Cabeus on October 9th, located near the Moon’s south pole.  This created a debris cloud which was imaged and analyzed by the LCROSS before it also plunged into the lunar surface about four minutes later.

The water comes in the form of ice located in dark “cold traps” on the Moon’s surface. 

Scientists believe the discovery of water may be critical to future efforts to colonize the Moon, and may even help shed light upon “the history and evolution of the solar system, much as an ice core sample taken on Earth reveals ancient data.” 

You can link to NASA’s page on the LCROSS mission here

Greensboro Public Library has plenty of books on the Moon and the history of spaceflight to our satellite, if you’re interested.  Our titles include:  The Book of the Moon by Rick Stroud; Moon by Jacqueline Mitton (juvenile); Home on the Moon:  Living on a Space Frontier by Marianne J. Dyson (juvenile); Moon Missions:  Mankind’s First Voyages to Another World by William F. Mellberg; Rocket Men:  The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon by Craig Nelson; In the Shadow of the Moon: A Challenging Journey to Tranquility, 1965-1969 by Francis French and Colin Burgess; Apollo:  The Epic Journey to the Moon by David West Reynolds; and many more.

And please don’t forget that we occasionally have astronomy programs at our Kathleen Clay Edwards Family Branch.  Sometimes these programs include viewing sessions with their 8 inch Dobsonian reflector.

2010 Census Jobs in the Area!

If you would like to apply for a temporary 2010 Census job in the area, you can contact the local 2010 Census Greensboro office at 415 North Edgeworth Street, Phone 336-517-3150.  The pay is $13.50 per hour.  You can also learn more about the jobs available and the process at the very helpful 2010 Census jobs site.  That site also has a directory of other local 2010 Census offices across North Carolina.  Please consider helping count America!

75th Anniversary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

2009 is the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In the 1920s, Americans, becoming a nation of motorists, were looking for scenic areas to visit, and the media began to promote the idea of creating a national park in the Smoky Mountains. The North Carolina and Tennessee legislatures each appropriated $2 million to purchase land, since the federal government was not then authorized to buy land for national parks. Private donations added about a million dollars to this fund, and John D. Rockefeller gave another $5 million. Once the land was purchased, after many delays due to lawsuits from logging companies and protests from local farmers, Congress passed the legislation to create the park. The Civilian Conservation Corps, a federal program to give work to the unemployed during the Great Depression, built trails, campgrounds, and bridges. As soon as it opened, this 520,000-acre park became the most-visited in the national parks system, and today it attracts over 9 million visitors a year. It is known for its spectacular natural beauty, as well as for its recreational opportunities, including miles of trails for hiking and horseback riding. Other reasons for its popularity are that about one-third of U.S. residents live within a day’s drive of the park, that the weather is good for most of the year, and that it provides an inexpensive vacation.

Celebrate the anniversary by a trip to the park, enhancing your experience by referring to the park’s website and by reading books from the library’s collection.

The library’s many guidebooks include Hiking the Carolina Mountains by Danny Bernstein (which includes about forty pages on the park) and Lonely Planet Great Smoky Mountains & Shenandoah National Parks by Loretta Chilcoat. Also look for guidebooks on North Carolina and for books about the country’s national parks, such as The Official Guide to America’s National Parks, published by Fodor, Frommer’s National Parks with Kids and National Geographic’s Guide to the National Parks of the United States. For the park’s history, try Birth of a National Park in the Great Smoky Mountains by Carlos Clinton Campbell and My CCC Days: Civilian Conservation Corps by Frank C. Davis. Davis was an 18-year-old from Mebane when he joined the CCC. Books on various aspects of the park include Mammals of Great Smoky Mountains National Park by Donald W. Linzey, A Roadside Guide to the Geology of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by Harry L. Moore, and Historic Buildings of the Smokies by Ed Trout.

Krugman in Greensboro; U.S. Unemployment Crosses 10% Threshold

Paul Krugman

In case you haven’t heard, economist Paul Krugman was in Greensboro last Tuesday as the latest featured speaker in Guilford College’s Bryan Lecture Series

Thanks to a friend, I was lucky enough to have a front row seat for Dr. Krugman’s lecture and later on (at a book-signing) tell him how much I have enjoyed his blog, especially over the last year or so as the financial crisis has gradually morphed into what folks are beginning to call “the Great Recession” (though I realize I’m not being too precise in my language here, as the recession officially started back in 2007).

Anyway, early on in his talk Dr. Krugman predicted the nation’s jobless rate would break through the 10% barrier this week, and sure enough that was what the Labor Department reported Friday, as unemployment jumped to 10.2% in October, up .4% from the previous month.  The last time unemployment topped 10% was in June, 1983

John Schoen, an MSNBC senior producer who has lately written a lot of gloomy articles on the job situation, notes that the broader unemployment rate — when you include part-timers and those who are still looking for work — is actually 17.5%.  This is also in line with what Dr. Krugman told us at his lecture the other night. 

Nonetheless, the speed with which the economy is losing jobs has slowed — down from approximately 700,000 per month in early 2009 to an average of less than 200,000 over the last three months, according to Schoen.  This is at least taken as a hopeful sign.

However, Dr. Krugman told us he believed recovery for employment would come slowly, and that job growth may remain tepid for years to come.  He says things will turn around eventually — perhaps with something like green industries leading the way — but, for the foreseeable future, it’s going to be rough going, and he expresses particular concern for younger folks just entering the job market.

The good news imparted by Dr. Krugman is that folks like Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke (see Greensboro Public Library’s books on Bernanke here) realized what a precarious situation the financial system was in last year and took the right actions to avoid the kind of meltdown that happened in the 1930s.  And he also thinks the economic stimulus has helped, though it was not so big as it should have been.   

Notwithstanding the Professor’s mostly grim picture of the economy, it was a great lecture, and Guilford College is certainly to be applauded in their efforts to bring notables such as Dr. Krugman to Greensboro.

Greensboro Public Library has several books by Paul Krugman.  If you’re interested, follow this link.

And, as always, if you’re looking for work please keep in mind the Library’s links for job seekers.

Attention Mountain Travelers!: Chimney Rock Park’s Elevator Down for Repairs; I-40 Blocked By Slide at NC-TN Border

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock

Just in case you’re planning a trip to Chimney Rock Park, one of western North Carolina’s most popular tourist destinations, the News and Record reports today that their elevator is shut down for repairs

If you’re not familiar with the Park, but still want to go and make a trek up to the monolith, the lack of an elevator means you’ll have to climb a vertiginous (a favorite word of one of my colleagues), winding set of stairs in order to reach the Rock — and, if you’re the least bit afraid of high places, you will find that walk pretty darn scary!  

Mountain travelers should also be aware of the rock slide which occurred on I-40 near the NC-Tennessee line on October 25th.  It is estimated that as many as three or four months will be needed to remove the debris.  The last open westbound exit is #20 (U.S. 276 to Maggie Valley).  Eastbound I-40 travelers are being rerouted to Asheville via I-81 and I-26.  Repairs have been delayed owing to recent heavy rains.

Of course, you can still visit our beautiful mountains, and gosh knows there are lots of things to see and do up there. 

And please, anytime you plan travel to western North Carolina or, for that matter, almost any other destination, keep in mind that Greensboro Public Library has plenty of guidebooks and other travel writing which may help you to plan your journey. 

For instance, visitors to our mountains can find recent titles in our collection such as High Vistas:  An Anthology of Nature Writing from Western North Carolina & the Great Smoky Mountains, edited by George Ellison; 100 classic Hikes in North Carolina:   Coastal Carolina/Piedmont/Blue Ridge Parkway/Pisgah National Forest/Great Smoky Mountains; Literary Trails of the North Carolina Mountains:  A Guidebook by Georgann Eubanks; and North Carolina’s Best Wildflower Hikes:  The Mountains by Kevin Adams.