Bibliographical Society

Annual Letter 2015

February 20, 2015

Dear Fellow Members,

I am writing to give you the details of our next annual meeting, which will be held on Friday, March 20, at 4:00 p.m. in the auditorium of the Harrison Institute / Small Special Collections Library. Following a brief business meeting, there will be a talk, and this year I am the speaker. Entitled “A Bibliographer’s Creed,” the lecture is my personal summary of the basic tenets of bibliography, formed during a lifetime of bibliographical study. It touches on many aspects of the book world (including bibliographical scholarship, textual criticism, book collecting, reading, and librarianship), criticizing certain practices but also offering a vision of the field as a humanistic discipline.

Following the talk, there will be a reception in the rooms of Rare Book School on the first floor of Alderman Library. In the business part of the meeting, preceding the talk, the winners of the Battestin Fellowships for 2015 will be announced. These fellowships, which are being given for the third time this year, are named in honor of Martin Battestin, emeritus professor of English at UVA, and his wife Ruthe, a literary scholar and long-time member of the Society’s Council, who has made extraordinary contributions of many kinds to the Society. The aim of the fellowships is to provide summer support for research in the UVA library by graduate students who are working on bibliographical or textual projects. The fellowship selection committee consists of David Gants (of Florida State University, and currently editor of the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America), David Whitesell (of the Special Collections Library at UVA, and a member of our Council), and me.

Also in the business part of the meeting, we will vote on the election of one Councilor. This year it is Ruthe Battestin’s term that is ending. As I mentioned above, she has supported the Society in many ways, only one of which is her handling of our biennial book-collecting contest, the fifth oldest in the country. Her long tenure has provided continuity and has been of immense benefit to the Society, and her continuing presence on the Council is essential. We are fortunate that she is willing to stand for re-election (term ending in 2022).

There is one open position on the Council, resulting from the resignation of Nicole Bouché, who has become the director of the Lewis Walpole Library, one of Yale’s special-collections libraries. We are grateful to her for the active role she played on our Council while she was director of the Small Special Collections Library at UVA and are especially indebted to her for her part in helping to set up the fellowship program. We wish her well in her new position. Her successor on our Council will probably be proposed during the coming year and would then stand for election at the next annual meeting.

Our meeting has been scheduled, as is our long-standing practice, so that it is part of the Virginia Festival of the Book. This year’s Festival, the twenty-first, runs from March 18 through 22, and its roster of programs can be seen on its website, at We hope that many of our out-of-town members will find more reasons to come to Charlottesville at that time because there will be many book-related events to attract them.

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 Since the last annual meeting, the Society has issued one new publication and is about to publish two more. The published item is a new edition of David Vander Meulen’s famous lecture Where Angels Fear to Tread: Descriptive Bibliography and Alexander Pope. This classic introduction to descriptive bibliography, originally published by the Library of Congress in 1988, has not been easy to obtain in recent years, and it is now available in a handsome new edition, with illustrations drawn from Vander Meulen’s own collection of Pope. Of the two publications soon to appear, one (due out by the time of our annual meeting) is a collection of my essays called Portraits and Reviews, presenting a selection of the biographical sketches and reviews that I have published since 1959. I hope it provides a window into the scholarly book world of the past half-century and illustrates the value of a biographical approach to bibliographical history. The other publication (which will appear in late spring) is the fifty-ninth volume of Studies in Bibliography, which will contain the usual wide array of important articles. In progress is a volume of collected essays by Paul Needham, one of the greatest scholars of fifteenth-century books in the history of bibliography. And Gordon B. Neavill’s bibliography of the Modern Library, which will be a major contribution to publishing history, will in due course be added to our substantial list of electronic publications. Each new volume of Studies is distributed by the University of Virginia Press, and the Society’s Secretary-Treasurer has a limited supply of most earlier volumes. All of the Society’s other available publications in printed form can be ordered, at a 10% discount, from Oak Knoll Books (

I want to give profound thanks to our vice president and editor, David Vander Meulen, and his assistant, Elizabeth Lynch, for the amazing job they do in seeing our publications through the press with the highest scholarly standards. They constitute, by themselves, a mini-university press. I also want to express our deep gratitude to Anne Ribble, our Secretary-Treasurer, for the efficient and cordial way in which she deals with the Society’s day-to-day business (including the fellowship competition). And it gives me great pleasure to thank all the members of the Council as a group for their loyal service to the Society: Ruthe Battestin, Terry Belanger, David Seaman, David Vander Meulen, and David Whitesell.

On behalf of the Council, I thank all of you for your support. I look forward to seeing many of you at the annual meeting, and I send best wishes to you all.

Yours sincerely,

G. Thomas Tanselle

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