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THE BIBLIO FILE is one of the world's leading podcasts about "the book" and an inquiry into the wider world of book culture. Hosted by Nigel Beale it features wide ranging conversations with authors, poets, book publishers, booksellers, book editors, book collectors, book makers, book scholars, book critics, book designers, book publicists, literary agents and other certified bibliophiles.

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Sep 23, 2009

John Bid­well is Astor Cur­ator of Prin­ted Books and Bind­ings at thePier­pont Mor­gan Lib­rary, before which he was Cur­ator of Graphic Arts in the Prin­ceton Uni­ver­sity Lib­rary. He has writ­ten extens­ively on the his­tory of paper­mak­ing in Eng­land and America. 

The Prin­ted Books and Bind­ings col­lec­tion at the Mor­gan con­tains works span­ning West­ern book pro­duc­tion from the earli­est prin­ted eph­em­era to import­ant first edi­tions from the twen­ti­eth cen­tury. Hold­ings encom­pass a large num­ber of high points in the his­tory of print­ing, often exem­pli­fied by a lone sur­viv­ing copy or a copy that is per­fect in every way. Areas of strength include incun­ables, early children’s books, fine bind­ings, and illus­trated books. 

The col­lec­tion is foun­ded upon acquis­i­tions of Pier­pont Mor­gan, who sought to estab­lish in the United States a lib­rary worthy of the great European col­lec­tions. Among the high­lights are three Guten­berg Bibles, works by Lord Byron, Charles Dick­ens, Edgar Allan Poe, John Ruskin, Mark Twain, Her­man Melville, and Wil­liam Mor­ris, and clas­sic early children’s books. The Carter Bur­den Col­lec­tion of Amer­ican Lit­er­at­ure, a major 1998 gift, strengthens the Morgan’s twentieth-century hold­ings with authors such as Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Vladi­mir Nabokov, Ger­trude Stein, and Ten­nessee Williams. 

I talk with John Bid­well about the col­lec­tion, what it con­tains, how it was acquired.