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Book News: Ancient Texts From Vatican And Bodleian Libraries Digitized

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • A Gutenberg Bible from 1455, an autographed and annotated manuscript of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, and the oldest surviving Hebrew codex are among the ancient texts included in a new by the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. The project, funded by a $3.2 million grant from the Polonsky Foundation, will make a number of "Hebrew manuscripts, Greek manuscripts, and incunabula, or 15th-century printed books" available for free viewing by the public. According to the project's website, "these groups have been chosen for their scholarly importance and for the strength of their collections in both libraries, and they will include both religious and secular texts." In an essay, the scholar Malachi Beit-Arié called the project a "unique cultural and scholarly enterprise which will provide students, scholars and the general public with easy access to these rich hidden treasures." The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said in a video interview that the collection is "something that inspires worship," adding that upon seeing the texts, "there is just a lifting of the spirits."
  • In an interview, the crime novelist Ian Rankin tells The Telegraph that it took "a good 12-14 years, and many books" before his writing began to pay.
  • Much more lucrative, apparently, is a gig overseeing Apple's compliance with punishment after losing its e-book antitrust case in July. In a court filing last week, Apple complained that its court-appointed monitor, Michael Bromwich, charges $1,100 an hour, in addition to a 15 percent administrative fee. Apple also complained that "Mr. Bromwich has already shown a proclivity to leap far beyond his mandate, and now this Court proposes amendments that would give him power to interview Apple personnel ex parte, something he will no doubt be quick to exploit." Bromwich was asked to monitor Apple after the company was found to have colluded with publishers to fix ebook prices. In a letter to Apple quoted by All Things Digital, Bromwich complained in turn of a "surprising and disappointing lack of communication from Apple."
  • The mythographer, novelist and historian Marina Warner writes about sea monsters and "the monstrous imagination," which she says "revels in excess and assemblage; tricephalous and multilimbed, with arthropod and reptilian features such as ruffs, tusks, fangs, tentacles, and jaws, many of these primordial monsters are hybrids defying nature. They belong to dark places, those underworlds under land and sea — volcanoes, ocean abysses — because they embody our lack of understanding, and mirror it in their savagery and disorderly, heterogeneous asymmetries of shape."
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    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.
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