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2008 Symposium


The 2008 Caxton Club/Newberry Library Symposium on the Book

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Rare Books and The Common Good: American Perspectives

Our third annual symposium will address the future of rare books and rare book libraries. Although the term "rare" suggests costly and inaccessible, in fact the research materials in specialized libraries are of enduring public value and use. Speakers and panelists will pose fundamental questions about the role of printed books in the digital age, and ask what collectors and collections will look like as the twenty-first century progresses.

The program will begin with historical perspectives and then suggest paradigms based on the American experience for collectors and readers of the future. Among the themes of the symposium: the power of our printed and manuscript heritage to stimulate both scholarship and public discourse; the value of books on paper in an increasingly digital world; the potential of digitization projects to expand public awareness and use of rare books; the rationale for libraries, especially in America, to collect books that are, deliberately or by historical accident, rare and expensive; and where such books stand in a hierarchy of public priorities for the still-new century.

This day-long symposium is open to the general public.


Session I: American Perspectives, 9:00 AM, The Newberry Library

Daniel Meyer, University of Chicago Library
"Building a Metropolitan Collection: Rare Books and Manuscripts in Chicago Cultural Institutions"

Chicago history offers an interesting paradigm for the place of rare books in American life. Mr. Meyer has studied the collecting history of the city and will set the scene for the more future-oriented talks that follow with an account of Chicago's intertwined civic and institutional ambitions.

Edward Tenner, Princeton University
"Treasures and Tools, Creating Rarity"

Professor Tenner will describe his research into the role of collectors in expanding the frontiers of scholarship, especially in his own field, the history of technology. He will argue that in the age of the Web, the uniqueness and physical features of each printed book become more rather than less important.

Francis Wahlgren, Christie's
"Dealers Going, Going, Gone: Has the Auction House Replaced the Antiquarian Dealer?"

Mr. Wahlgren, well known from his appearances on Antiques Road Show, points out that the role of the auctioneer has changed radically, moving in recent years from a removed and exclusive realm to a more retail approach. He asks the question: "Are auction houses to blame for a decline of retail book selling?"

Session II: The Problematics of Collecting, 2:00 PM, Alliance Française Auditorium

Alice Schreyer of the University of Chicago Library will lead the panel discussion. Mark Dimunation from the Library of Congress, Richard Kuhta from The Folger Shakespeare Library, and Joel Silver of Indiana University's Lilly Library will offer brief responses to the morning talks, and then join the morning speakers to discuss rare book collecting today. The audience will be invited to participate.


The morning session will be held in Ruggles Hall of the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton Street, Chicago. The afternoon session will be held at the Alliance Française de Chicago Auditorium, 54 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago.


The program is free and open to the public, but seating is limited and advance registration is required. Please use this form to preregister.