The Rare-Book Thief Who Looted College Libraries in the ’80s – Atlas Obscura

Our post today may not be a very funny “Friday Fun” item, but it sure is strange and interesting.

Read on about the man who eluded librarians, library security, and police for years, stealing nearly half a million dollars worth of rare books from college and seminary libraries, wiping away marks of previous ownership, and reselling them to unsuspecting booksellers.

Below is the beginning of this tale of library-book terror, followed by a picture of one of the 19th-century travel books the clever cleptomaniac confiscated.

On the evening of December 7, 1981, Dianne Melnychuk, serials librarian at the Haas Library at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, noticed an unfamiliar gray-haired man of early middle age lingering around the card catalog near her desk. He had attempted to appear inconspicuous by way of nondescript, almost slovenly dress, but at almost six-and-a-half feet tall, with a 225-pound frame, he stood out.

Something about him rang a bell. Melnychuk discreetly followed him up to the sixth level of the stacks, and carefully observed him from the end of a row of shelving. In spite of the glasses he wore that evening, his face clicked in her memory.

A little later the article tells us more about this infamous book thief and how he plied his trade:

Far from casual, James Shinn’s approach was premeditated. It is believed that he would compile a “want list” of valuable books by reading library journals to find titles of value. Next, he would scan the National Union Catalog to determine which libraries held the desired items. He made an extensive study of library security techniques that allowed him to accumulate tools and tricks to avoid them. And he rarely bothered with a book valued under $300.

To finish reading this fascinating story, visit the link below.

Source: The Rare-Book Thief Who Looted College Libraries in the ’80s – Atlas Obscura

Published in: on August 25, 2017 at 4:02 PM  Leave a Comment  

Friday Fun: Cubs-Diamondbacks’ bullpen antics during rain-delays

On this rainy Friday here in West Michigan, my thoughts turn to the rain delays at Wrigley Field in Chicago yesterday, when this cool front started to make its way through the area.

In another classic display of bullpen entertainment, the Cubs pitchers challenged the Arizona Diamondbacks to some friendly competition. And what you are about to see is the result.

Great, fun baseball stuff. Even if the Cubs lost. No wonder they are the lovable winners! 🙂

Need a good laugh on this cool, gloomy Friday afternoon? Cheer up with these images and video. Yes, by all means, watch the video found at the link below.

Here’s part of the description as found on the MLB.com website:

The D-backs beat the Cubs, 10-8, on Thursday in a game that featured three rain delays (Paul Goldschmidt homered after EACH one). Although much action happened on the field, perhaps the most important action occurred during the second stoppage in play in the Wrigley Field bullpens.

Source: Antics amaze in D-backs-Cubs delays | MLB.com

Published in: on August 4, 2017 at 3:59 PM  Leave a Comment  

Letis Collection Book Plates

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The last couple of weeks Andrew Koerner, my new summer library helper, and I have returned to cataloging some more books out of the Letis collection.

20170705_083725While the majority of the best books for our seminary library have been incorporated from this collection, we are now working on some of the specialty books (Dr. Letis had, for example, a good number of books on Roman Catholicism, feminist theology,  and biblical higher criticism.).
20170705_152913One of the interesting features of some of the older books is the book plates in the front. Some reflect Letis’ own stamp on the book he purchased,  while others reflect the former owner, including individuals and libraries – and in one case, a convent.
20170707_112323I post pictures of a few here for your enjoyment.
20170707_112059I bought some beautiful plates a few years ago from a local book store, and have placed them in a few of my favorite books. 🙂

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Published in: on July 7, 2017 at 9:44 PM  Leave a Comment  

Beautiful Miniature Books – in Iowa! Atlas Obscura

This week the geography folks at Atlas Obscura featured another great book item in one of its daily mailings (You are receiving these, right?!). This one is about a collection of miniature books at the University of Iowa. – including a teeny, tiny book containing the Bible book of Genesis (see the image here).

Here is the first part of the story about this collection. Read the rest at the link below. And visit the entire collection at the UI link in the quotation below.

In 1896, the Salmin Brothers, a Padua-based publishing company, produced Galileo a Madama Cristina de Lorena (Galileo’s Letter to Christina). It had an embossed cover and slipcase, but it had another, exceptional feature: It was sized at just 0.7 by 0.4 inches. Within, the text is printed in “fly’s eye type,” which is so small that when the Salmin Brothers first used it, for Dante’s Divine Comedy, it reportedly damaged the eyesight of the typesetter. This time, it was used in a title about one-third the size of the previous example—the smallest book ever printed with hand-set, movable type.

Galileo’s tiny tome is just one of some 4,000 miniature books held at the University of Iowa, most of which were gifted to the institution from a single collection. The donor, Charlotte M. Smith, was an avid collector of rare books, but as volumes began to overwhelm her bookshelves, she turned to miniatures. Her first purchase was a 3.75-inch-tall edition of Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit From St. Nicholas (more commonly known by its opening line, “‘Twas the the night before Christmas … ”).

Source: Beautiful Miniature Books That Are Worth Sacrificing Your Eyesight For – Atlas Obscura

Published in: on June 2, 2017 at 6:28 AM  Leave a Comment  

End of Semester at Seminary

This past week the PRC Seminary concluded its second semester, with classes ending on Friday May 12 and exams yesterday, May 18. There are still some papers to be written (for Dogmatics) and the seniors are still busy preparing for their synodical exam in June, but most everyone is breathing a sigh of relief.

Because some were leaving for out of town rather soon, we held our annual Spring picnic last night at the home of Prof. and Mrs. R. Dykstra. Though the evening cooled off quickly, it was a beautiful night of good food, rich fellowship, and healthy fun. After a delicious potluck supper, outdoor games were played, and later group singing took place inside.

Below are a few pictures from the evening, including a nice group picture set up on Prof. Dykstra’s camera.

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Don Doezema shows off his bean-bag form, with Prof. Gritters waiting for his turn. In a classic battle between registrars and professors, the registrars lost. 😦

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Lots of bean bag toss was enjoyed, but also ladder toss and bocce ball.

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The whole Seminary family!

A week ago, we had our final grilled brat lunch together, complete with some extra guests from Singapore and a few of the wives. That time of fellowship was finished off with some intense games of ping-pong. Below are a couple of snapshots of that fun.

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As you will see, the seminarians take their game seriously, headbands and all. 🙂

Published in: on May 19, 2017 at 10:44 PM  Leave a Comment  

Boston Public Library’s ‘Car Wash’ for Books

For our “Friday Fun” item on this first Friday of May, we present this nifty carwash device for books, compliments of the Boston Public Library. The geography trivia website Atlas Obscura posted this last week (April 26, 2017), and it immediately caught my attention. What a clever invention!

Below is the introduction to this “bookwash” instrument. Be sure to catch the little video by clicking on the link below or on the image above. Quite amazing. But my manual device works fairly well top (two hands, vinegar and water mix, and paper towels). Enjoy!

Library books change hands all the time, and in the process, they end up getting pretty dirty, hence: the Boston Public Library’s book-sized “car wash,” which gets rid of dust and grime.

In a video the library recently posted to Twitter, the automated system, called a Depulvera, pulls books through a familiar looking series of stations to get their books clean. In the video, a book can be seen being pulled down the line by a conveyor system that drags it through a couple of steps, reorienting the book past a series of spinning brush bars, and finally out the other end, through a curtain of hanging plastic strips, just like in a full size car wash.

And it’s very satisfying to watch in action.

Source: The Boston Public Library Has a ‘Car Wash’ for Books – Atlas Obscura

Published in: on May 5, 2017 at 8:46 AM  Leave a Comment  

More Special Visitors to the PRC Seminary (and some beautiful blossoms)

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This week the PRC Seminary once again hosted some special visitors – two more Christian school classes. On Tuesday, April 25, the fourth graders from Hope PR Christian School (Walker, MI) paid us a visit (taught by Mr. Dan Hanko).

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After listening to Prof. R. Cammenga’s introductory talk on the seminary and its work, the students were given a tour of the building.

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Following that, the students gathered for devotions with the faculty and students, with the students introducing themselves for the benefit of the Hope CS students. And then it was time for snacks over coffee – or, in the students case, over juice boxes.

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On Thursday, April 27, Mrs. Jordan Pettit’s fourth-grade class from Heritage Christian School (Hudsonville, MI) made a visit to us. This group too was informed by Prof. R. Cammenga of the nature and labors of the seminary and then given a tour of the facilities.

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And, of course, shared homemade snacks were provided – something we always look forward to! 🙂

We are grateful that our Christian school teachers take an interest in the special school we have in our PRC Seminary, and that they take the time to stir up interest in their students. In this way we are encouraged in our labors – and we trust some special seeds of interest in the ministry of the Word are sown in the souls of a few of the young boys. May the Lord so work!

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As part of this post, I will also include some pictures of the beautiful trees blooming on our property. April and May are special times as the spring trees blossom here and everywhere in West Michigan. Once again, see the handiwork and glory of our Creator-Father!

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O, and it’s Friday – time for grilled brats! 🙂 Have a good day!

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Published in: on April 28, 2017 at 2:22 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Stadsbiblioteket (Stockholm Public Library) – Atlas Obscura

Ready to tour another world library on this Friday, compliments of Atlas Obscura?

Check out this beauty in Stockholm, Sweden. Amazing design and over 2 million volumes to browse. Visit the link below to see all of the images, but you get the idea from this one here.

Here is part of the description offered by “AO”:

The Stadsbiblioteket, the main branch of the Stockholm Public Library System, is one of the most distinctive buildings in the Swedish capital. The 360-degree tower of books at the top is a bibliophile’s temple to reading in-the-round. The graceful rotunda is open to the public, who can climb to the top of the stacks and peer down on the collections below.

The library is an example of Nordic Classicism, pioneered by Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund in the 1920s. The slightly chilly façade is, at the same time, oddly inviting, as if to say “we are here to work, but all are welcome.” This style was sometimes known as “Swedish Grace,” a simplified and accessible classicism that had great influence on everything from furniture design to sculpture.

By the way, you ought to subscribe to the Atlas Obscura emails too. Each day you will receive a list of unique places in the world to visit. Did you know there is museum of the alphabet in North Carolina? Go find out!

Source: The Stadsbiblioteket (Stockholm Public Library) – Stockholm, Sweden | Atlas Obscura

Published in: on March 24, 2017 at 6:31 AM  Leave a Comment  

Early March Madness for PRC Ministers and Seminary Students

Our “Friday Fun” item for this week comes a day late. But it is no less fun on Saturday morning. 🙂

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As you know, March in the U.S. is known as “March madness” time, because of all the basketball tournaments – both at the high school level and at the college level.

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Last week Saturday (March 4) saw a very special version of “March madness,” as down in Dyer, IN (Hoosier-land!) a group of PRC ministers from that area and a group of PRC Seminary students  (“Sons of the Prophets”, I have now learned) from up here combined to form a team to play against the basketball teams of Heritage Christian High School (the Defenders!). The big game was a fundraising event put on by the young people of Cornerstone PRC.

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Thanks to some pictures taken by Prof. R. Dykstra, who was in the area to preach last Sunday, we can show you some highlights.

DSC_0013Ryan VO and Ted A at the scorer’s table. Do you have a tape of the game?

After seeing his album of pictures and hearing who did the announcing (Ted Andringa) and listening to the stories of the contest at Seminary coffeetimes this week, I wish I had been there. Sounds like a great time was had by all – and for a good cause!

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Rev. G. Eriks shooting a big freethrow with the game on the line.

Who won the game? Well, just check out that last picture here.

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The scoreboard doesn’t lie – our students contributed to the one-point victory! Perhaps it was Coach “R” and his smart maneuvers throughout the game (That would be Sem student Stephan Regnerus). Go “Sons of the Prophets”! Are there any other challengers out there?!

In any case, thankful to report that there were no serious injuries. But I can imagine there were some mighty sore muscles Sunday morning. 🙂

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Published in: on March 11, 2017 at 8:33 AM  Comments (2)  

Ask a Librarian: What’s the Strangest Thing You’ve Found in a Library Book? | Tin House

4-leaf-clover-in-bookSaved for Friday’s such as this one, this article at the website “Tin House” (Posted Jan.10, 2017) contains the responses of librarians to the question, “What’s the strangest thing you have found in a library book?”

I have found a variety of special things in the (used) books we have purchased or been given, but none that compares with these! So, on this crisp March morning in West Michigan, let’s warm up with some laughter triggered by these amazing answers.

 

THE QUESTION

What’s the most interesting, memorable, or just plain weird thing you’ve found in a library book?

THE ANSWERS

**Winner** A taco, perfectly preserved and pressed like a flower in the middle of a book. It was so slim you wouldn’t know it was there until you opened the book. —Amanda Monson, Bartow County Library System

**Winner** I am a first generation immigrant from Russia. My senior year of college, at least the last semester of it, I had to write a senior thesis. I had gotten permission to write a historical fiction, a creative piece but one that would demonstrate my impressive researching skills. So, I chose to write about Soviet era Russia, primarily the political and religious oppression that existed. I was very familiar with this topic, having arrived in the U.S. as refugees due to the fact that our family was persecuted for our religious beliefs. I scoured the internet for books on the topic; I had to dedicate an entire bookshelf to those books. One little book called “Konshaubi: A True Story of Persecuted Christians in the Soviet Union” by Georgi Vins. Georgi Vins was a big name in our community. He was expelled from Russia, along with a few other dissidents, in 1979 in exchange for 2 Soviet spies. As I flipped through this very humble book, I landed on a page of photos. On one of them, I noticed three familiar faces. My grandfather, grandmother, and uncle’s. My grandfather served four 3-year sentences (total of 12 years) in the Soviet prisons for his involvement in the Baptist church. My uncle served 3 years. My uncle had just died that February. It was so shocking to see his face and the faces of my grandparents. I showed my mom, and she cried when she saw her parents and brother. It was, and still is, the most memorable and interesting find in a book. —Violetta Nikitina, Union County Public Library

**Winner** A letter in a sealed, stamped envelope that had never been sent. I decided to mail it. —Christina Thurairatnam, Holmes County District Public Library

Sonogram pictures of a developing baby. —Chantal Walvoord, Rockwall County Library

A piece of bologna! It was in a children’s picture book, so I think someone was snacking while reading. —Joy Scott, Steele Creek Library

Source: Ask a Librarian: What’s the Strangest Thing You’ve Found in a Library Book? | Tin House

Published in: on March 3, 2017 at 9:51 AM  Leave a Comment