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Author: Julia Blakely

Julia Blakely is a Rare Book Catalog Librarian at Smithsonian Libraries. She has undergraduate and master's degrees in art history from the George Washington University and a M.S., with a specialization in rare books, from Columbia University. For many years she was a lab instructor at Rare Book School at the University of Virginia (formerly at Columbia) and currently serves on its William T. Buice Scholarship Committee. She is the Libraries' representative for the Smithsonian's Material Culture Forum. Julia wrote the bibliographical descriptions for An Oak Spring Flora (1997) and has worked with several other private collections.

Spotting a First Edition of Peterson’s A Field Guide to the Birds

Should you happen to spot—say, in a yard sale, thrift store or grandparent’s house—an old copy of that classic of ornithological literature, A Field Guide to the Birds, have a close look. The first printing of the first edition of 1934 is calling for prices well over $10,000 in the antiquarian book trade. One was recently spied by keen-eyed staff in an office at the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park. This volume has been transferred to a more suitable habitat, the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History, for cataloging, preservation, research access, and education. Curator Leslie Overstreet has gathered from branch libraries three others of this title to include in the rare book library’s holdings.

 

Women’s Work in the Early Book Trade

In 16th-century Spain, manuals detailing the finer points of sailing and navigation were printed. It was the Age of Discovery and the country was establishing lucrative trade routes across the seas while expanding their colonial empire. Other nations were keen to tap into the Spaniards’ great expertise found in this literature, as there was little maritime information published elsewhere. Books were a means of developing knowledge of geography and voyaging to be competitive in trade to parts unknown. Given the economic incentives, there was a high demand for translations.