THE BRITISH LIBRARY

American Collections blog

06 May 2010

Politics and Bookstore diversions

We have a General Election today in the UK, and this means that there are certain rules about what can be discussed on blogs by public servants.  But, I think I'm safe to say that in order to get into political zone, I watched a couple of episodes of West Wing, that great liberal fantasy, last night while bashing out a few stationary miles on the cycle trainer.

During the second episode ('In Excelsis Deo', series 1), President Bartlett visited a bookstore to pick up a few presents for Christmas.  Needless to say, his staff were not much amused by this scholarly expedition.

Would it be possible to recreate this scene at the BL?

1. BARTLET: Oooh! 'The Fables of Phaedrus,' 1886, first edition, red leather label, gilt lettering, engraved frontice. Phaedrus, you know, who was a slave, but later granted his freedom by Augustus, wrote his animal fables in iambic verse.

Not sure what is meant by first edition here, but there was a grammar school edition of Phaedrus published by Longman in New York and London, 1887 ([shelfmark 11306.aaa.33])

2. JOSH:A book which if I was stuck with it on a desert island, I still wouldn't read it, 'The Adventures of James Capen Adams, Mountaineer and Grizzly Bear Hunter of California.' I believe I would eat this book before I read it.

Conservation may have something to say about that. Published in San Francisco in 1860 at at 10882.bb.4. (Adams named one of his bears Ben Franklin, something Josh could surely have, ahem, joshed about).

3. BARTLET:All right. You know Zoey is starting Georgetown in two weeks, I was thinking about getting this for her. 'The Nature of Things. A Viviscalic Poem Translated from the Latin of Titus Lucrecius Carus.' Leo looks to Charlie with a disbelieving look.

Trickier.  It looks like Viviscalic is a transcription error, so that leads us to possibly this edition: 

Watson, John Selby. Lucretius on the nature of things : a philosophical poem in six books / (London : Henry G. Bohn, 1851.) [X3/2479]

Later, Josh presents Donna with a gift:

3. DONNA: Skis would have killed you?

I assume Heimlich Beckengruber on The Art and Artistry of Alpine Skiing is as fictitious as Bartlett himself.

A survey of 'In the Thick of It', may, of course, have come up with some different results.

Anyway, go vote.

[M.S.]


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