Arriving this fall: Cotton’s Library

I have been thinking that I really ought to post something about my upcoming book, here, at some point. I already began building a mini-site a couple of weeks ago, but good form seems to call for some sort of formal announcement here on the main blog.

Front cover of Cotton's Library (links to minisite)So: I have written another book, and it will be available this fall as Cotton’s Library: The Many Perils of Preserving History. Very, very briefly, this is the story of a proto-national-library founded four centuries ago by Sir Robert Cotton, and its long, (sometimes absurdly) difficult journey from a DIY project to a world-class institution worthy of its contents. (You can read more here.) I am proud to add that, barring any surprise announcements in the next few months, this will be the first book-length examination of this important collection’s whole, incredible history, ever.

Today seemed like the right day to make this announcement, meanwhile, for two reasons.

One, the planned release date for Cotton’s Library is exactly three months from now, on November 17. Which date was long celebrated in England as (the Tudor) Queen Elizabeth’s Accession Day, and is therefore a particularly fitting date to remember Sir Robert Cotton and his library, both of them being products of the Elizabethan era.

Two, this morning brought the first outside reaction to the complete, relatively polished draft text… and it was very, very good. The reviewer is, admittedly, an old college friend, but it’s been around a decade since we’ve had much contact, and I don’t believe she would hesitate to share a negative opinion. I valued her judgment as both an avid reader and a librarian; today I got it. She made several small critical suggestions which I expect no difficulty in implementing in the weeks ahead. Overall, though, she “thought the writing in this book much stronger than Brilliant Deduction,” which fwiw wasn’t exactly a dud. She offered “thanks for the read,” noting that “I feel smarter now.”

This feels very encouraging. I’ve done my best to produce a good book, and haven’t necessarily been haunted by doubt. But I still feel a bit like Bryan Talbot in his behind-the-scenes vignette from Alice in Sunderland, after the spirit of Scott McCloud offers the nascent project a thumbs-up. “Yes! This can work!” It’s going to work!

Also, my friend confided that “I LOLed at some of the jokes. :)” and… well. Ahem. Good writing, advancing understanding and appreciation of some unsung heroes of history (maybe even making a buck or two?), all of this is very good. But, y’know. Really, there’s no overestimating the importance of teh lulz.

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