Nicholas A. Basbanes
|Nicholas. A. Basbanes|
Basbanes in China conducting research for his book, On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History.
May 25, 1943 |
|Occupation||Author, journalist and lecturer|
|Alma mater||Bates College (BA), Pennsylvania State University (MA)|
|Subjects||Books and book culture|
|Spouse(s)||Constance Valentzas Basbanes|
Barbara Basbanes RichterNicole Basbanes Claire
Georgia Koumoutseas Basbanes, motherJohn G. Basbanes, father
Nicholas Andrew Basbanes (born May 25, 1943, in Lowell, Massachusetts) is an American author who writes and lectures widely about books and book culture. His subjects have included the “eternal passion for books” (A Gentle Madness); the history and future of libraries (Patience & Fortitude); the “willful destruction of books” and the “determined effort to rescue them” (A Splendor of Letters); and “the power of the printed word to stir the world” (Every Book Its Reader).
Basbanes’ ninth book, On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History, is not only a consideration of paper as a principal medium for the transmission of text over the past ten centuries, but also a wider examination of the ubiquitous material itself. The eight-year project, which was released in October of 2013, was supported in part by the award of a National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellowship in 2008. It was named one of the best books of the year by Kirkus Reviews and Bloomberg.
Early life and education
Nicholas Basbanes is the son of two first-generation Greek-Americans. He graduated from Lowell High School in 1961, and earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, in 1965. Following a year of graduate study at Pennsylvania State University, he did research for his master’s thesis in Washington, D.C., then entered U. S. Navy Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. He attended the Defense Information School in the spring of 1968 and received his master’s degree in journalism in 1969 while serving aboard the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CVA-34) during the first of two combat deployments he made to Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of Vietnam.
Discharged from active duty in 1971, Basbanes went to work as a general assignment reporter for The Evening Gazette in Worcester, Massachusetts, specializing in investigative journalism. In 1978, he was appointed books editor of a sister publication, the Worcester Sunday Telegram, a full-time position that included the writing of a weekly column for which he would interview more than a thousand authors over the next twenty-one years.
When Basbanes left the newspaper (by then known as the Telegram & Gazette) in 1991 to complete his first book, he continued writing the column and distributed it though Literary Features Syndicate, an agency that he formed that placed it in more than thirty publications nationwide. Two selections of his literary journalism were collected in Editions & Impressions (2007) and About the Author (2010).
Basbanes' first book, A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books, was published in 1995. It has since appeared in eight hardcover editions and more than twenty paperback printings, surprising figures for a work of nonfiction whose topic was dismissed as too arcane for a general readership by many New York editors who had passed on the opportunity to publish it.
Its topic is book collecting, but its focus is human nature – what Basbanes calls the “gentle madness” of bibliomania. Of the many people profiled in A Gentle Madness, none has created more interest than Stephen Blumberg, arguably the most accomplished book thief of the twentieth century, and to this day a subject of fascination for the bizarre methods he used to steal volumes from more than three hundred libraries in North America.
A Gentle Madness was named a New York Times notable book of the year, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction for1995. In 2010, the Wall Street Journal named it one of the most influential works about book collecting published in the twentieth century. In 2012, an updated paperback edition and a new electronic version of the book were published.
By 2003, with the publication of A Splendor of Letters, Basbanes was already acknowledged as a leading authority on books and book culture. One reviewer commented, “No other writer has traced the history of the book so thoroughly or so engagingly,” and Yale University Press chose him to write its 2008 centennial history, A World of Letters, which chronicled the inside stories of its classic books from conception to production.
In addition to his books, Basbanes has written for numerous newspapers, magazines, and journals. He writes the “Gently Mad” column for Fine Books & Collections magazine, and lectures widely on book-related subjects.
- On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013 (ISBN: 9780307266422)
- About the Author: Inside the Creative Process, Durham, NC: Fine Books Press, 2010 (ISBN: 9780979949135)
- A World of Letters: Yale University Press, 1908-2008, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008 (ISBN: 9780300115987)
- Editions & Impressions: Twenty Years on the Book Beat, Durham, N.C.: Fine Books Press, 2007 (ISBN: 9780979949104)
- Every Book its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World, New York: HarperCollins, 2005 (ISBN: 9780060593247)
- A Splendor of Letters: The Permanence of Books in an Impermanent World, New York: HarperCollins, 2003 (ISBN: 9780060082871)
- Among the Gently Mad: Perspectives and Strategies for the Book-Hunter in the 21st Century, New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2002 (ISBN: 9780805051599)
- Patience & Fortitude: A Roving Chronicle of Book People, Book Places, and Book Culture, New York: HarperCollins, 2001 (ISBN: 9780060196950)
- A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books, New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1995. (ISBN: 9780805061765); Durham, NC: Fine Books Press, 2012 (updated print edition, and first electronic edition) (ISBN: 9780979949166)
Selected magazine and op-ed essays
- “Bibliophilia: Still No Cure in Sight”, New York Times, April 14, 1991.
- “Fragile Guardians of Culture”, Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2004.
- “A Bitter End for Hub Gem”, Boston Globe, Feb. 29. 2004.
- “Honorable Death for a Rusty Warrior”, Los Angeles Times, May 6, 2004.
- “Bibliophiles Inside the Wire”, Los Angeles Times, April 24, 2006.
- “Iraq: The Cradle of the Written Word”, Christian Science Monitor, May 8, 2006.
- “When We Said Goodbye to the USS Oriskany”, Christian Science Monitor, May 26, 2006.
- “Famous Once Again”, Smithsonian, February 2007.
- “The Bard Out Loud”, Bates Magazine, June 2007, reprinted from The Book That Changed My Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them (Gotham, 2006).
- “The Paper Trail: Hand Papermaking in China”, Fine Books & Collections, March/April 2008.
- "A Paperless Society? Not So Fast." Los Angeles Times, December 8, 2013.
- Booknotes, Interview with Brian Lamb, October 15, 1995 (59 minutes):
- At the Miami Book Fair, Literary Lives, panelist, November 23, 2002 (65 minutes):
- After Words, Interview with David Kipen, January 4, 2006 (58 minutes):
- Nicholas Basbanes Tour of His Home Library, October 21, 2008 (57 minutes)
Appearances on the Diane Rehm Show
- November 8, 2001 (Patience & Fortitude)
- February 9, 2004 (A Splendor of Letters)
- January 31, 2006 (Every Book Its Reader)
- August 24, 2011, Readers' Review, guest panelist: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
- October 17, 2013 (On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History)
Appearance on the Leonard Lopate Show
- November 14, 2013 (On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History)
- January 31, 2006, Library of Congress, "The Power of the Printed Word,"
- November 14, 2013, the Strand bookstore in New York City, "Nicholas Basbanes on the Strange and Fascinating History of People and Paper," 
- Michael Dirda, “Genuine Book Cases,” Washington Post, July 30, 1995.
- Merle Rubin, “Can you have too many books? Musings on Bibliophiles From Classical Alexandria to the Internet,” Christian Science Monitor, December 27, 2001.
- André Bernard, “Fear of Book Assasination [sic] Haunts Bibliophile’s Musings,” The New York Observer, December 15, 2003. 
- Brigitte Weeks, “The Manifold Beauties of Books,” Washington Post, January 5, 2006. 
- Barbara Hoffert, “Barbara’s Picks, October 2013, Pt. 3: Basbanes, Boyle, Cahill, Drabble, Goleman, Holmes, Lepore, MacGregor, Venter, & Winterson,” Library Journal, April 15, 2013. 
- Martin A. Hubbe,"On Paper - A Celebration of Two Millennia of the Work and Craft of Papermakers," BioResources, 8(4), 4791-4792, November 2013.
- NEH 2008 Grant Obligations Massachusetts 
- Kirkus, "Best Books of 2013," Best Non-Fiction Books of 2013.
- Stephen L. Carter,"Best Books of 2013: Slavery and Bibliophilia," Bloomberg The Ticker, December 3, 2013.
- Chauncey Mabe, “The Book On Books: Nicholas Basbanes Brings a Journalist's Training and Sensibility to Writing About, well, Writing, and Books,” South Florida Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL), March 14, 2004. 
- William A. Davis, “Bible for Bibliophiles: Basbanes' ‘A Gentle Madness’ Confounds the Naysayers, ” Boston Globe, June 26, 1996, reprinted Bates Magazine, Spring 1997.  and John Baker, “A Mania for Books,” Publishers Weekly, vol. 252, issue 45, November 11, 2005. 
- "Notable Books of the year 1995,"New York Times,December 3, 1995.
- NBCC Finalists 
- Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2010. 
- "A Gentle Madness - A New Edition!". Store.finebooksmagazine.com. Retrieved 2013-04-15.
- Andre Bernard,"Fear of Book Assasination [sic] Haunts Bibliophile’s Musings," The New York Observer, December 15, 2013. 
- "Yale Press Centennial: A World of Letters by Nicolas A. Basbanes". Yalepress.yale.edu. Retrieved 2013-04-15.
- Nicholas Basbanes Website
- Works by or about Nicholas Basbanes in libraries (WorldCat Identities)
- A World of Letters: Yale University Press, 1908—2008
- Boston Athenæum Author Profile
- "Leading Authority on Books to Speak at Library Society Dinner," Library Connections,University of Missouri, Winter 2012.
- American Writers Museum Advisory Council
- “Nicholas Basbanes: A Love Affair with Books”, Abebooks.com, Rare Book Room
- Pradeep Sebastian, “Endpaper: Beyond Book Collection”, The Hindu, July 1, 2012
- Pradeep Sebastian,"Endpaper: Scroll Down Memory Lane", The Hindu, August 31, 2013
- Library Thing Profile
- William A. Davis, “Bible for Bibliophiles: Basbanes' ‘A Gentle Madness’ Confounds the Naysayers”. Boston Globe, June 26, 1996, reprinted Bates Magazine, Spring 1997.
- John Baker, “A Mania for Books”, Publishers Weekly, vol. 252, issue 45, November 11, 2005.
- Michael M. Jones,"Reamed Out: PW Talks with Nicholas A. Basbanes," Publishers Weekly, August 23, 2013.
- Bob Minzesheimer,"Five Great Books about Libraries", USA Today, May 8, 2013.
- "On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand -Year History,"Publishers Weekly, August 5, 2013.
- "On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History,"Kirkus Reviews,Volume LXXXI, No 19, September 1, 2013, Posted Online August 18, 2013.
- Helen Gallagher, "On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History," New York Journal of Books, October 15, 2013.
- Nicholas A. Basbanes,"10 Most Bizarre Uses of Paper in History," Huffington Post, HuffPost Books, The Blog, October 21, 2013.
- Ron Charles, “Nicholas Basbanes on the Enduring Importance of Paper,” The Washington Post, The Style Blog, October 28, 2013. 
- "On Paper," The New Yorker, Briefly Noted, p.83, November 11,2013.
- Peter Lewis, "On Paper," Barnes and Noble Review, Reviews & Essays, Cultural History, November 15, 2013. 
- Philip Marchand, "Open Book: On Paper, by Nicholas A. Basbanes," National Post, November 22, 2013. 
- David Walton, "Book Review: ‘On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History,’ by Nicholas Basbanes," The Dallas Morning News, GuideLIVE Books, November 30, 2013. 
- "Nicholas A. Basbanes > Quotes," goodreads.com.
- Interview with Mindy Todd, “The Point”, on the new edition of A Gentle Madness, July 2012
- Foreword to The Quotable Book Lover, edited by Ben Jacobs and Helena Hjalmarsson (New York: The Lyons Press, 1999). The quotations in Chapter 10, “Collecting Books: A Special Section by Nicholas A. Basbanes, ” pp. 209-228, were compiled from A Gentle Madness.
- Foreword to The Library: An Illustrated History, by Stuart A. P. Murray (New York: Skyhorse Publishing Co., and Chicago: American Library Association, 2009)
- Introduction to Robert A. Wilson, Modern Book Collecting, a new edition (New York: Skyhorse Publishing Co., 2010)
- Nicholas A. Basbanes,"The Evening Star and the Bobby Baker Story: A Case Study," Thesis (M.A.),Pennsylvania State University.
- Nicholas A. Basbanes,"Heritage 70 [cruisebook] USS Oriskany CVA 34"
- Nicholas A. Basbanes,Fine Books and Collections,