Manuscript Digest:  November – December 2023 – This complimentary e-digest, now published bi-monthly, covers significant acquisitions and sales, manuscripts lost and found, rare books and ephemera, document conservation, and more news in this digest

In the News

Columbus Letter Delivers
Smithsonian Magazine, October 24, 2023
A fabled Columbus letter has sold for $3.9 million. Other copies have been stolen from archives and dogged by forgeries. Let’s say the scrutiny on this one was intense.

Dealer Finds a Treasure Map
Los Angeles Times, October 25, 2023
Tucked into a Getty estate sale was a treasure map. What else would you call a map purchased for $239,000 and now offered for sale at $7.5 million?

‘Internet Dog’ Fetches $175,000
Kovels Antique Trader, October 10, 2023
The most reproduced New Yorker cartoon of all time has fetched the highest price ever paid for a single-panel cartoon. (The caption is a howler.)
• Holding for laughter: UCLA’s new political cartoon collection

Curtis Weighs in at Auction
Fine Books & Collections, November 21, 2023
A complete copy of Edward S. Curtis’s The North American Indian has auctioned at a hefty price. But with 40 volumes and 20 supplemental folio volumes, it was bound to go big.

Who Was Hannah Crafts?
DNYUZ, October 14, 2023
Ten years ago a scholar announced he had identified the real-life Hannah Crafts, America’s first Black woman novelist. Learning her name was just the start of an archival odyssey.

Love Letters Signed, Sealed …
NPR | All Things Considered, November 6, 2023
… but not delivered. Written during the Seven Years’ War, they were lost and unread for 265 years. What they say about life and love in wartime.

Love’s Labour’s Found?
BBC, November 7, 2023
There it was, slipped into an old manuscript. A book inventory. On the list, after Loves labor lost — Loves labor won [sic]. A forgotten Shakespearean play? Scholars are still debating.
• Voilà! Medieval music manuscripts in 18th-century bookbindings

Fake Manuscripts Find a Real Market
BBC, November 14, 2023
In the 1880s a forger produced hundreds of fake Robert Burns manuscripts. Duped collectors bought them. More than 500 of the fakes may still be out there. And people collect them.

Mount Vesuvius, Meet Artificial Intelligence
The Guardian, October 12, 2023
A Nebraska student has won the challenge to decipher the first word in the Herculaneum scrolls, charred when Mount Vesuvius erupted. He did it using AI. And the word is —
• How AI could decipher medieval manuscripts, hieroglyphics, grocery lists …

The Lilly Gets Down with Dictionaries
Atlas Obscura, November 14, 2023
A trove of dictionaries — 20,000 or so — is being processed at Indiana University’s Lilly Library. It could be a dog’s life before we’ve heard the last word on this book bonanza.
• A tribute to the “word nerds” behind the OED

From Our Blog

Digital Florentine Codex Opens a New View of Aztec Culture

In the 16th century, Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún, began keeping records of the indigenous communities in central Mexico. The result is the Florentine Codex. Because many Nahua contributed to the codex, it takes an indigenous perspective missing from most historical accounts of the period. After centuries out of public reach, this cultural treasure is now online.

Other Items of Interest

For Scholars – Maass Grant applications open through February 14 > Apply now

For Keeps –  Cornell University’s Conservation Lab > Step inside