Reading Time At HSNY: Bedini’s Books

By Dr. Miranda Marraccini

This post is part of a series, Reading Time at HSNY, written by HSNY’s librarian, Miranda Marraccini.

Sometimes a mark in a book makes you feel as if you know someone. In this case, it’s an image on a bookplate of a cramped space filled with books, some splayed out, some haphazardly piled (image 1). Barely discernible behind the wings of one giant volume are the hands and cap of a man, reading. He’s hunched over in concentration or absorption (his expression isn’t visible). The Latin motto around the square image reads “Satis Temporis Non Est Nobis” or “For us, there is not enough time.”

Image 1

Besides the most obvious meaning of this phrase, a kind of memento mori about the brevity of life, there’s also a separate subtext for bibliophiles like us: there’s never enough time to read the books we want, and never enough books about time. I know as a reader I heavily identify with the first part of that subtext and as a librarian at the Horological Society of New York (HSNY), the second. This bookplate, and the book it adorns, belonged to the late Silvio Bedini (1917-2007).

A colorful American historian and longtime scholar at the Smithsonian Institution, Bedini was a bibliophile and horologist of the first order. He helped create the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology at the Smithsonian, a repository of rare books and manuscripts on astronomy, chemistry, and more. At HSNY, we recently acquired a selection of books from Bedini’s personal library, which had been sold to Second Story Books in Washington, D.C.

Bedini wrote many books about timekeeping, which we have in our library at HSNY, but he had diverse research interests, including dominoes, elephants, and incense, wrote The Washington Post in an obituary after he died in 2007 (see image 2, a collection of books by Bedini). He wrote the first biography of noted Black scholar and horologist Benjamin Banneker. Bedini was, by all reports, a “walking encyclopedia”: his son Peter called him a collector of “tidbits” like “how the Coca-Cola bottle got its shape, what is the most poisonous snake, how to write and break codes.” (This last “tidbit” came in handy when Bedini reportedly worked to …read more      

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

1 + two =