Boston Public Library
Exhibitions

Chapter 3

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East Griffin

Southwest finial, McKim Building, Boston Public Library.
ca. 1895, stamped copper.

 

East Griffin (Southwest Finial, McKim Building Roof, Boston Public Library) [Front] East Griffin (Southwest Finial, McKim Building Roof, Boston Public Library) [Left]

This striking copper griffin originally ornamented one of the four finials decorating the roofline of the Boston Public Library’s McKim building. Each finial, which reaches more than fourteen feet at the height of its spire, features three griffins at its base; this particular griffin faced eastward and was located on the Blagden Street corner now abutting the Johnson Building.

The manufacturer of the finials is not known but the stampings and metalwork are of very good quality. Over one hundred years of weathering and various repairs over the years are evident in the visible pinholes and solder joints. In 2001, the four finials were re-fabricated in Vermont using the originals as models, and the copper reproductions were installed in the fall of 2002.

Print Department
 

Stack of Gold Leaf Books

Abelardo Morell (b. 1948).
2007, inkjet print.

 

Stack of Gold Leaf Books
Copyright © Abelardo Morell. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission of the artist.

This photograph by internationally known photographer Abelardo Morell is the most recent product of the longtime collaboration between Mr. Morell and the Boston Public Library. In 2000, the artist spent two weeks photographing objects in the BPL collections, and the project was so successful that he returned a year later to continue his visual exploration. Many of the photographs were published in his 2002 book, A Book of Books.

After several years of exploring other subjects, most notably his famous camera obscura photographs, Mr. Morell returned in 2007 to take this single image, the first color image he has taken of the library’s collections.

Print Department
 
 
 

Boston Public Library Competition Drawing: Front Elevation on Dartmouth Street.

Charles B. Atwood, architect (1848-1895).
1884, ink drawing.

 

Boston Public Library Competition Drawing [Front Elevation on Dartmouth Street]By the early 1880s, the Boston Public Library had outgrown its building on lower Boylston Street and the city announced a competition in 1884 for the design of a public library in Copley Square. Twenty designers competed for four top prizes and $10,000 in prize money. Charles Atwood, a Massachusetts native, won the $4,000 First Prize and praise from The American Architect and Building News, which stated that “Atwood’s plan appears to be the nearest approach to practicality… and adapted to the peculiar demands of a library.”

Ultimately, all of the designs from the 1884 competition were judged unsuitable and Atwood’s design was never constructed. In 1887, the library’s Board of Trustees awarded the commission to the renowned New York architecture firm of McKim, Mead, and White, and the “McKim Building,” as it is now known, opened to the public in 1895.

Fine Arts Department

 

Concept Drawing, Hatch Shell

E. de Sola.
ca. 1941, pen and ink wash drawing with hand coloring.

 

Image under copyright. All rights reserved.

Arthur Fiedler (1894-1979) and the Boston Pops first performed on the Charles River Esplanade on July 4, 1929, in a wooden shell constructed by the Metropolitan District Commission. The present day granite Hatch Shell was constructed in 1939 with a trust fund provided by Maria Hatch in memory of her late brother Edward. Designed by Richard Shaw, the Hatch Shell was awarded the 1941 Harleston Parker Medal from the Boston Society of Architects for “the most beautiful piece of architecture… within the limits of the City of Boston.

This rendering shows an alternative design for the Hatch Shell, probably for a juried student exhibition. It appears to be the work of E. de Sola, whose name is boldly inscribed on the back of the design board (“1st mention/17” is written at the top, in faint red crayon). The plan consists of a landscaped front view, a floor plan, and a side elevation. The design closely resembles the current Hatch Shell with one notable difference – the student used an actual scalloped shell as the major design motif.

Fine Arts Department
 

Satin Skin Powder; Satin Skin Cream

Calvert Lithographic Company, publisher.
1903, color lithograph with letterpress.

 
Satin Skin Powder, Satin Skin CreamElaborate, eye-catching posters proved effective marketing tools for many advertisers in the early twentieth century. Most posters printed between 1880 and 1930 used the time- and labor-intensive method of stone lithography. This process produced posters both vibrant in color and rich in texture, such as this fine example of an advertising poster for skin products.

Other advertisements by this Detroit manufacturer, Satin Skin Company, extolled the 25-cent cream’s natural ingredients, including “essence of perfuming blossoms and healing herbal extracts. As dew revives the flowers, Satin Skin Cream nourishes your skin to a satiny texture.”

Print Department
 

Books Wanted for Our Men

Charles Buckles Falls (1874 – 1960).
ca. 1918, color lithograph.

 
Books Wanted for our MenBook drives for soldiers were instituted soon after America’s entry into World War I. Government officials recognized the morale boost that books could provide to troops and asked the American Library Association for assistance in creating, stocking and staffing war service libraries. This striking poster was printed by the U.S. Government Printing Office to further that effort.

Books that met war library circulation needs were distributed directly to the camps, and unwanted materials were sold to second-hand book dealers or sold for scrap. Soldiers preferred novels, tales of adventure, and detective stories. Other popular subjects included travel, foreign languages, history, military subjects and biography. As the end of the war neared, however, requests from the military camps changed markedly. Soldiers requested books on engineering, the trades, business, farming, and other subjects that would help to establish new careers after their return home.

Print Department

 

George Ticknor

George Sloane (1864-1942) after an 1831 portrait by Thomas Sully.
1895, oil on canvas.

 
George TicknorA founding trustee of the Boston Public Library, George Ticknor (1791-1871) was a Harvard professor of Spanish and French and author of the monumental three-volume History of Spanish Literature (1849), his pioneering study of Spanish letters, history, and culture. During his lifetime, Ticknor assembled one of the finest collections of books and manuscripts dealing with Spanish and Portuguese literature from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries.

Bequeathed to the library in 1871, the Ticknor collection totals nearly 4,000 volumes and is especially rich in every phase of Spanish literature. It includes early editions of Don Quixote (1605), the manuscripts of Lope de Vega’s El Castigo sin Venganza (1631), Fernando de Rojas’ Celestina (Seville, 1502), and the Obras of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, the 17th-century Mexican poetess. Today expanded through the Ticknor Fund, the collection includes Spanish and Portuguese works on art, science, law, theology, language, and Latin America.

Rare Books Department
 

Dessert No. IV

Carducius Plantagenet Ream (1837 – 1917) after a painting by William Harnett. Louis Prang & Co.
1871, color lithograph.

 
Dessert No. IVLouis Prang (1824-1909), a German immigrant, ran a highly successful printing firm in Boston during the late nineteenth century. His company produced high quality reproductions of major art work and greeting cards using the complex technique of chromolithography. Prang is often referred to as the “Father of the American Christmas Card” because holiday cards were rarely exchanged in America until his factory began producing them in the 1870s. The BPL’s Print Department is fortunate to have more than 1,500 chromolithographs and dozens of sample books of greeting cards produced by Prang & Company.

This tempting display of desserts is typical of artwork displayed in middle-class Victorian-era dining rooms. The painter, Carducius Plantagenet Ream, was one of the most important American still-life painters of the late 19th century and is best known for his table-top studies of fruit placed near china dishes or glasses.

Print Department
 

Our Lady of the MBTA

Allan Rohan Crite (1910-2007).
1953, gouache and gold leaf.

 

Image under copyright. All rights reserved.

Allan Rohan Crite began his training as an artist at the Children’s Art Center in Boston’s South End. He continued his education at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Massachusetts College of Art; and the Fogg Art Museum. A cultural historian and well as an artist, Crite used his art to instruct viewers about the common humanity that underlies the different cultures found around the world. His work often focused on religious themes and African-American experiences presented in the context of everyday life, as in this example of the Madonna standing in the midst of a crowded Boston subway station. Beginning in the 1950s, Crite maintained a close relationship with the library as both an artist and a patron. In the years prior to his death, the BPL was able to acquire an important collection of his works on paper through purchase and gift.

Print Department
 

Ariadne and Harlekin from Ariadne Auf Naxos

Richard Strauss, composer (1864-1949). Ernst Stern, scenic/costume designer (1876-1954).
1912, color lithograph.

 

Ariadne auf Naxos [Ariadne] Ariadne auf Naxos [Harlekin]

The opera Ariadne Auf Naxos opened at the Kleines Haus of the Hoftheater in Stuttgart, Germany, on October 25, 1912. This short work was performed in conjunction with a German language performance of Moliere’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, also known as Der Bürger als Edelmann. This play, newly translated by Hofmannstahl, included incidental music by Strauss. Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal blended facets of traditional opera dramaturgy and characters with commedia dell’arte theatrical customs and characters.

Stern describes this particular art product, which contains 54 color plates, in his autobiography: “The music publishers instructed me to complete a portfolio containing the designs… After that all theatres producing “Ariadne” were to present it exactly according to the designs in the portfolio. The position of Strauss in Germany was so strong that such dictatorial conditions were possible.

Music Department
 

Self Portrait, Face Front

Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945).
1923, woodcut.

 

Image under copyright. All rights reserved.

A native of Germany, graphic artist and sculptor Käthe Kollwitz used her printmaking talents to explore the hardship and social unrest that she witnessed around her, express her strong beliefs in social responsibility, and champion the downtrodden and oppressed. Although she received significant critical recognition, she always insisted that her work remain accessible to the general public. As a printmaker Kollwitz mastered all the major printmaking techniques, including etching, woodcut, and lithography.

During the 1950s, the library was fortunate to acquire a substantial collection of her work in all media through gift and purchase which demonstrate the depth and breadth of her artistic career.

Print Department
 
 

The Sheep

Jacques Hnizdovsky (1915-1985).
1961, woodcut.

 

Image under copyright. All rights reserved.

Jacques Hnizdovsky studied at the Warsaw Academy of Art and at the Academy of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb, where he obtained a degree in painting in 1942. As a student, he was inspired by the prints of Albrecht Dürer to produce a series of woodcuts. After immigrating to the United States in 1949, Hnizdovsky began contributing prints to national competitive exhibitions, and during the 1960s and 1970s, he achieved great success as a printmaker.

The Sheep is the first print that Hnizdovsky exhibited with the Boston Printmakers; it won two purchase prizes in the Printmakers’ annual exhibition of 1961. Additional prints by Hnizdovsky are part of the archive of the Boston Printmakers, which now is on deposit at the library.

Print Department
 

Townsend’s Patent Folding Globe

Dennis Townsend (1817-1874).
1869, globe.

 

Published in Boston by George M. Smith, this folding globe is constructed of cardboard and mounted on a wire frame. It was intended “to meet the long felt want of a cheap and portable” globe for the use of all, “particularly adapted for home instruction and for use in primary classes.” Townsend, the inventor of this globe, lived in Windsor County, Vermont.

As one of its specialized interests, the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center collects 19th- and early 20th-century geographic educational materials including globes, text books, and puzzles in support of its educational outreach to school children.

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center
 

Imperial Federation Map of the World Showing the Extent of the British Empire in 1882.

McClure and Co., publisher.
1886, color lithograph.

 
Imperial Federation Map of the World Showing the Extent of the British Empire in 1886Everything about the design of this elaborately decorated world map glorifies the late-19th-century British Empire. It uses a Mercator projection centered on the Greenwich Prime Meridian, which places Great Britain just above the map’s central focal point. The British Isles, as well as all of the British colonies spreading out to the east and the west, are highlighted in red, while other geographical areas are left blank with only a minimum number of place names. Statistical information was supplied by Sir John Charles Ready Colomb (1838-1909), Member of Parliament, defense strategist, and advocate for imperial federation.

With numerous illustrations conveying a message of “colonialism,” this map reflects the Map Center’s interest in collecting unique world maps that depict differing world views.

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center
 

Little Women or Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Part Second.

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888).
Boston, 1869.

 

Little Women or Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy.  Part Second.  [Title page and frontispiece]Abolitionist, feminist, and author, Louisa May Alcott was the daughter of noted transcendentalist Bronson Alcott and received her early education from an extraordinary collection of New England writers including Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller. Alcott achieved literary success with the publication of Little Women, a semi-autobiographical account of her childhood growing up with her three sisters. The is the first edition copy of Part Two, later retitled Good Wives.

 
Rare Books Department
 

Louisa May Alcott to Maggie Lukens

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888).
Boston, 1884.

 

Louisa May Alcott to Maggie Lukens [Page 1]In this letter of sympathy written to friend Maggie Lukens after the death of Lukens’ sister, Alcott reflects upon her own personal sadness at the loss of her sisters Beth and May:

“I know how hard it is to spare these dear sisters, having lost two, & how empty the world seems for a long time… Beth & May are always mine, though twenty five years have passed since we laid the poor shadow of one under the pines at Concord, & the dust of the other sleeps far away in Paris. Both are young, & bright, & live so always in my mind, for the pain & the parting, the years & sea are all as nothing, & I see them safe with Marmee waiting for the rest to come.”

 
Rare Books Department
 

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

Herman Melville (1819-1891).
New York, 1851.

 

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale [Title page]Now considered one of America’s greatest authors, Herman Melville achieved little critical or financial success during his lifetime. This first edition copy of Moby-Dick, Melville’s most famous work, failed to sell its initial printing of 3,000 copies, and total earnings from the American edition amounted to just $556.37. The epic novel chronicles Captain Ahab’s maniacal pursuit of the great white sperm whale Moby-Dick and provides an extraordinarily detailed account of 19th-century whaling industry practices based upon Melville’s own experiences as a young man working aboard a whaling ship. It also features one of the most recognizable opening lines in all of literature: “Call me Ishmael.”

 
Rare Books Department
 

Herman Melville to Alexander W. Bradford

Herman Melville (1819-1891).
Lansingburgh, May 23, 1846.

 

Herman Melville to Alexander W. Bradford [Page 1] Herman Melville to Alexander W. Bradford [Page 2]
Herman Melville to Alexander W. Bradford [Page 3] Herman Melville to Alexander W. Bradford [Page 4]

In this three-page letter, Melville complains bitterly to Bradford, a co-editor of the American Review, about how difficult it has been to write a response to an “obnoxious’ review of his first book Typee. The review, which questioned the veracity of Melville’s claim that Typee was based upon his real-life experiences as a captive in the South Seas, spurred Melville to pen a rebuttal for publication:

“I have endeavored to make it appear as if written by one who had read the book and believed it – & moreover – has been as much pleased with it as most people who read it profess to be.”

 
Rare Books Department
 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896).
Boston, 1852.

 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly [Front cover] Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly [Title page]

Harriet Beecher Stowe, active abolitionist and mother of seven children, wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin while living in Brunswick, Maine. Her story of Uncle Tom, a long-suffering black slave who endures terrible hardships at the hands of his owners, drew international attention to the plight of enslaved blacks in the United States and became the best-selling novel of the 19th century. In the first year after it was published, 300,000 copies of the two-volume book were sold.

 
Rare Books Department

 

Harriet Beecher Stowe to Anne Warren Weston

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896).
Undated.

 

Harriet Beecher Stowe to Anne Warren Weston [Page 1] Harriet Beecher Stowe to Anne Warren Weston [Page 2]

In this undated letter to Anne Warren Weston, a prominent Massachusetts abolitionist, Stowe expresses regret that numerous family responsibilities will prevent her from helping at an upcoming Anti-Slavery Fair as much as she had hoped, including writing a tract for distribution at the event:

“In regard to the tract, I very much wish Mrs. Follen would write it because it seems to me that I could not add any thing to what I have already said on the subject.”

 
Rare Books Department
 

Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral

Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784).
London, 1773.

 
Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral [Title page and frontispiece]Born in Senegal, Phillis Wheatley was enslaved at the age of seven and purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston. She was encouraged by her owners to read and write and published her first poem at fourteen. This rare first edition copy of her poetry represents two major literary milestones for African-American writers: it is the first published book of poetry and the first by a woman.

 
 
Rare Books Department
 

Phillis Wheatley to Reverend Samuel Hopkins

Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784)
Boston, May 6, 1774.

 

Phillis Wheatley to Reverend Samuel Hopkins [Page 1]In this letter written and signed by Wheatley in her elegant hand, she acknowledges receiving money for five books and asks Samuel Hopkins for his assistance in distributing her work: “I have rec’d in some of the last ships from London 300 more copies of my Poems and wish to dispose of them as soon as possible.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Rare Books Department

 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer’s Comrade)

Mark Twain (1835-1910).
New York, 1885.

 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer’s Comrade)  [Front cover]Missouri-born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen-name Mark Twain, published more than thirty books and hundreds of short stories and essays. The author of such iconic works as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Life on the Mississippi (1883), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889), Twain was a master at rendering colloquial speech and helped create and popularize a distinctive American literature built on American themes and language. This is the first American edition of Twain’s most famous book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, generally recognized as one of America’s greatest novels.

Rare Books Department
 

Samuel L. Clemens to Chatto and Windus, publishers

Mark Twain (1835-1910).
Hartford, 1874.

 

Samuel L. Clemens to Chatto and Windus, publishers [Page 1] Samuel L. Clemens to Chatto and Windus, publishers [Page 4]

In 1873, publishers Andrew Chatto and W.E. Windus published Ambrose Bierce’s Nuggets and Dust Panned Out in California by Dod Grille. Although a friend of Bierce’s, Clemens despised his most recent production and penned this scathing review of his work to the publishers:

“Gentlemen: “Dod Grile” (Mr. Bierce) is a personal friend of mine, & I like him exceedingly – but he knows my opinion of the “Nuggets & Dust,” … It is the vilest book that exists in print – or very nearly so… . There is humor in Dod Grile, but for every laugh that is in his book there are five blushes, ten shudders and a vomit. The laugh is too expensive.”

 
Rare Books Department
 

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862).
Boston, 1849.

 

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers [Title page]Author, naturalist, and leading transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau is best known for Walden (1854), his celebrated memoir chronicling the two years he spent in a small, self-built house near Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. While at Walden, Thoreau completed a first draft of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, an account of an 1839 trip to New Hampshire and an elegy to his recently deceased brother John. Thoreau could not find a publisher and instead printed 1,000 copies at his own expense; fewer than 300 were sold, which put him heavily in debt.

 
 
 
 
Rare Books Department
 

Henry David Thoreau to Horace Greeley

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862).
Concord, 1848.

 

Henry David Thoreau to Horace Greeley [Page 1] Henry David Thoreau to Horace Greeley [Page 2]
Henry David Thoreau to Horace Greeley [Page 3] Henry David Thoreau to Horace Greeley [Page 4]

In this letter to his publisher Horace Greeley dated May 19, 1848, Thoreau acknowledges receipt of $50 and expounds upon his recent experience living in solitude at Walden Pond:

“For the last five years, I have supported myself solely by the labors of my hands—I have not received one cent from any other source…. For more than two years past, I have lived alone in the woods, in a good plastered and shingled house, entirely of my own building, earning only what I wanted and sticking to my proper work.”

 
Rare Books Department
 

My Bondage and My Freedom. Part I: Life as a Slave. Part II: Life as a Freeman.

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895).
New York, 1855.

 

My Bondage and My Freedom.  Part I: Life as a Slave. Part II: Life as a Freeman. [Title page and frontispiece]Frederick Douglass was born a slave in Maryland in 1818. After his escape to freedom in 1838, he gained international prominence as important abolitionist, women’s suffragist, writer, editor, orator, statesman and reformer. This is a first edition copy of My Bondage and My Freedom, the second of three autobiographies Douglass published.

 

Rare Books Department

 

Frederick Douglass to Robert Adams

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895).
Boston, March 23, 1888.

 

Frederick Douglass to Robert Adams [Page 1]This touching letter was written by Douglass to Robert Adams, a well-known “conductor” on the Underground Railroad in Fall River, Massachusetts, on the occasion of Douglass’s 80th birthday:

“Do you know that yours was the first eyes that beamed kindly upon me in Fall River seven and forty years ago? My dear old friend, I shall never forget that look of sympathy you gave me. I was then only three years from slavery. I had not fully realized the possibility that a whiteman could recognize a colored man as a man and a brother but I saw such recognition in your face and have ever since, in sunshine and storm, felt safe in your friendship.”

 
Rare Books Department
 

The Scarlet Letter. A Romance.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864).
Boston, 1850.

 

The Scarlet Letter. A Romance [Title page]Born in Salem, Massachusetts, Nathaniel Hawthorne began his career as a short-story writer but achieved lasting success as a novelist. He is best known for The Scarlet Letter, his darkly romantic masterpiece set in Puritan New England and inspired in part by his own family’s involvement in the Salem Witch Trials. One of the first mass-produced books in America, it became an immediate best-seller, with more than 2,500 volumes sold within ten days.

 
 
 
 
 
Rare Books Department
 

Nathaniel Hawthorne to David Mack

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864).
Boston, 1841.

 

Nathaniel Hawthorne to David Mack [Page 1] Nathaniel Hawthorne to David Mack [Page 2]
Nathaniel Hawthorne to David Mack [Page 3] Nathaniel Hawthorne to David Mack [Page 4]

In this letter to David Mack dated July 18, 1841, Hawthorne discusses his recent yearlong stay at Brook Farm, a utopian experiment in communal living founded by Unitarian minister George Ripley and his wife in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. Hawthorne expresses his doubts about the farm’s long-term success:

“I recall speaking very despondingly, or perhaps despairingly, of the prospects of the institution… I form my judgment, however, not from anything that has passed within the precincts of Brook Farm, but from external circumstances—from the improbability that adequate funds will be raised or that any feasible plan can be suggested, for proceeding without a very considerable capital.”

 
Rare Books Department
 

Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman (1819-1892).
New York, 1855.

 

Leaves of Grass [Front cover]American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist Walt Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon and often called the father of free verse.

In 1855, Whitman self-published 795 copies of this first edition of Leaves of Grass, his innovative and highly controversial book of poetry. Throughout his life, he continued adding, editing, shifting and deleting poems through the many editions of this work, the last of which appeared in 1892-3 and is known as the “Deathbed Edition.”

 
 
 
Rare Books Department
 

To a Locomotive in Winter

Walt Whitman (1819-1892).
New York, 1874.

 

To a Locomotive in Winter [Page 1 recto] To a Locomotive in Winter [Page 2 recto]

Written in Walt Whitman’s own hand, this early manuscript version of To a Locomotive in Winter shows Whitman’s creative process as he revised and reworked the poem, changing words and even pasting paper overlays of new passages until he was satisfied with the result. This manuscript poem is dated February 23, 1874, but Whitman continued to modify the text and it was considerably altered when published in 1876 in Two Rivulets, a companion volume to the 1876 edition of Leaves of Grass. This poem was republished in the 1900 edition of Leaves of Grass, well after Whitman’s death.

 
Rare Books Department


Chapter 1


Chapter 2


Chapter 3

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