By YVONNE FRENCH
Historian and author Daniel J. Boorstin, who served as Librarian of Congress from 1975 to 1987, was honored at a "Books & Beyond" program sponsored by the Center for the Book on Dec. 4.
"Dan's writings lift the reader up to a higher standard and direct us outward to look at aspects of life that we may have overlooked before—or we may not have seen as part of history, law, language, folklore, advertising. … He saw the Library of Congress as a multimedia encyclopedia," said current Librarian James H. Billington. "He comes as close as anyone living to being its encyclopedist. It is entirely fitting as our Bicentennial year draws to a close that we hail this eloquent contributor to, and statesman of, the world of the book."
Dr. Billington is the 13th Librarian of Congress; Dr. Boorstin was the 12th.
Dr. Boorstin described the satisfaction he gained from writing the works included in the bibliography. "For me, the task of the historian is not to chisel a personal or definitive view of the past on granite. Rather, it is to see the iridescence of the past, fully aware that it will have a new and unsuspected iridescence in the future."
The event marked the publication by Greenwood Press of Daniel J. Boorstin: A Comprehensive and Selectively Annotated Bibliography, edited and compiled by Angela Michele Leonard. Ms. Leonard is a historian and librarian who is currently assistant professor of history at Loyola College in Maryland.
Ms. Leonard called the book a "bio-bibliography, a biography of an individual's mind." She explained: "My task was outlining the scholar's mind and tracking his intellectual development." She examined all of Dr. Boorstin's areas of thought and located the sources from which he drew. "I joined my intellectual journey to his," she said.
Ruth Boorstin, Dr. Boorstin's wife and editor, said: "Angela has an eagle eye. She misses nothing. She seeks and never gives up." She presented Ms. Leonard with an eagle pin like the one she was wearing herself, saying it was "an eagle for Angela the eagle." Dr. Boorstin called Ms. Leonard's work "scrupulous and comprehensive."
The bibliography includes a chronology of Dr. Boorstin's life and work, as well as 1,300 entries describing print and nonprint material by and about him from 1930 to 1999. Dr. Boorstin is 86. The bibliography covers his "monographs; book reviews; newspaper, magazine and scholarly articles; chapters or sections of books; manuscripts and archival material; theses; audio books; videocassettes; sound recordings; microforms; CD ROMs; and Web sites," according to the introduction. Dr. Boorstin's work has been translated into 22 languages.
Five typewritten manuscripts of his 1998 book, The Seekers: The Story of Man's Continuing Quest to Understand His World, were on display at the ceremony. Each manuscript, some showing the caring notations of Mrs. Boorstin, showed the book at a different stage of development. The typewritten manuscripts for The Seekers are being added to the Boorstin Papers in the Manuscript Division.
Center for the Book Director John Y. Cole recognized in the audience Alan Fern, former Prints and Photographs Division Chief, now director of the National Portrait Gallery, his wife, Lois, and their guest Herman Liebers, who is honorary president of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. He also read several letters from people who could not attend.
Alberto Vitale, former head of Random House, Dr. Boorstin's longtime publisher, expressed his "admiration for [Dr. Boorstin] as a writer, historian, librarian emeritus and as a man of letters, who has contributed enormously to our culture and to the heritage of the United States."
Bob Loomis, Dr. Boorstin's editor at Random House, wrote, "His energy, his special ability to instill his enthusiasm for whatever he was writing about was unique in my experience. … He believed that history should tell us what life was really like at a certain time, not what the generals did, not what the politicians thought, but how people really lived and what they experienced and believed."
Lee Annenberg wrote: Dr. Boorstin "has made millions of his fellow citizens aware of how much books contribute to our lives as individuals and as participants in a shared civic life." Mrs. Annenberg and her husband, Walter, in 1994 gave in honor of Dr. Boorstin a major endowment to support the Center for the Book, which relies on private funding for all of its programs.
Dr. Boorstin established the Center for the Book in 1977 and immediately named Mr. Cole as its first director. "It was a lucky break for me because the job combined my professional, scholarly and personal interests," said Mr. Cole, who in 1989 edited the Library of Congress book The Republic of Letters: Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin on Books, Reading and Libraries, 1975-1987.
The Center for the Book stimulates public interest in books, reading and libraries. For information about its activities and those of its affiliated centers in 41states and the District of Columbia, visit its Web site at www.loc.gov/cfbook.
Ms. French is a writer-editor in the Librarian's Office.