Earlier this year, Richard J. Ring reacquainted bibliophiles with the writing of an exemplary American librarian in his book, Lawrence C. Wroth’s Notes for Bibliophiles in the New York Herald-Tribune, 1937-1947 (2016). Wroth not only served as librarian at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University from 1923 to 1957, but he was a serious scholar and author as well, focused primarily on colonial American printing. During this decade before and after World War II, Wroth accepted yet another assignment: he brought rare books and bibliography to the masses in a fortnightly column for a major city newspaper. In all, he wrote 237 columns.
Here selected, compiled, and introduced by Ring, the head curator and librarian of the Watkinson Library at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, Wroth’s columns are organized into four categories: people, exhibitions, institutions, and publications. Many names and places will be familiar to bibliophiles, who will relish encountering those giants of book collecting through Wroth’s eyes. From Wilberforce Eames and Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach to the collections at the Clements Library and the Huntington Library, Wroth provides a survey of the book world that he knew and loved. Ring deserves many thanks for mining these columns and bringing them to light.
Of particular interest are Wroth’s columns on a “perfect” (imagined) exhibit on the tercentenary of printing in the U.S. in 1939 that would show off all the colonial “firsts,” and, relatedly, his article on the 1947 sale of a Bay Psalm Book wherein his laments its pretty new binding. Wroth edifies with a light hand and in such a way that might remind readers of the work of Joel Silver, director of the Lilly Library at Indiana University, who writes a column for Fine Books every quarter.
Ring’s new book is paperbound, 240 pages, and includes seven color illustrations and a full checklist of Wroth’s columns. It was designed by Scott Vile of the Ascensius Pressand printed in an edition of 200 copies. The price is $40; interested readers may contact Richard Ring (richard.ring2 at gmail.com).
Image courtesy of Richard Ring.