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Call for papers: Mind the Gap

Call for Papers: Deadline extended to May 31, 2015

Mind the Gap: Recent Provenance and Antiquarian Material
A conference on provenance, planned for November 2015
at The Grolier Club, New York City

Organized by: John Crichton, Heather Wolfe, Nina Musinsky, Marcia Reed

Scholars researching book history have focused increasingly on the history of collecting and chains of ownership known as provenance. Yet these studies rarely touch on recent owners: Where has the book been for the last century? Traditionally auction houses have promised their consignors confidentiality when selling their collectibles; and booksellers have often felt the need to protect their business sources for understandable and legitimate purposes. In related areas of collecting however, such as master drawings and paintings, both authenticity and significance are routinely established by provenance. Such art works rarely pop out of a closet without a trace of where they have been for hundreds of years. Is it not appropriate to take a similar interest in the provenance of books and prints? Don’t we overlook important historical and bibliographical evidence if we ignore the documentation of their recent histories?

In light of recent thefts and forgeries, provenance has served to verify authenticity and legal ownership. But how do common practices such as sophistication, restoration, and rebinding effectively banish significant evidence of past owners, institutional collections, and readers? This conference investigates why detailed and complete provenance is integral to contemporary collecting and to bibliographical scholarship, documenting each work as a historical object and providing its social and political context. More than paying homage to estimable collectors and libraries, provenance information illuminates the continuing lives of books and prints as they are collected, sold, preserved, and researched as material objects.

Please submit proposals for participation by May 31, 2015 to: Marcia Reed (

Proposals should include:

1. Preliminary abstract of no more than 500 words

2. Letter explaining speaker’s interest and expertise in the topic

3. A brief 2-page CV with email address

Proposers will be notified by June 30, 2015.