Belle da Costa Greene: Additional Resources

Belle da Costa Greene standing looking right in full figure profile.

Clarence H. White (1871–1925). Belle da Costa Greene, 1911. Archives of the Morgan Library & Museum, ARC 2821.

Below is a list of selected resources about Belle da Costa Greene. It includes the only book-length biography (Heidi Ardizzone’s 2007 work An Illuminated Life), a major Festschrift begun during Greene’s lifetime and published shortly after her death (Studies in Art and Literature for Belle da Costa Greene, edited by Dorothy Miner), several pieces of recent scholarship, online talks and conversations, and a selection of news articles published during Greene's lifetime.

Greene’s parentage was known to few people outside her family during her adult life, though some suspected that she was of African American descent. In conducting research for her 1999 biography Morgan: American Financier, Jean Strouse discovered Greene’s birth certificate, along with census records and other documents that revealed Greene’s given name, place and year of birth, and parents’ names. Strouse’s New Yorker article “The Unknown J.P. Morgan,” as well as her biography of Morgan, detail her findings.

Until 2021, little was known of Greene’s education or employment before she began working at the Princeton University library. Daria Rose Foner’s blog post New Light on Belle da Costa Greene details recent discoveries: that Greene was educated at Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies (a predecessor of what is now called Northfield Mount Hermon School), that she was employed at Teachers College before working at Princeton, and that her patron was Grace Hoadley Dodge, a philanthropist and neighbor of J. Pierpont Morgan.

Of additional interest is The First Quarter Century of the Pierpont Morgan Library: A Retrospective Exhibition in Honor of Belle da Costa Greene, the catalog of the major exhibition the Morgan mounted in Greene’s honor in 1949, just after her retirement, to highlight the accomplishments of Greene and her staff during the Morgan’s first twenty-five years as a public institution. The catalog includes a tribute to Greene by the American book historian Lawrence C. Wroth.

Also listed below (with links to fully digitized copies provided by HathiTrust) are the earliest reports of the Pierpont Morgan Library, which document the institution’s ambitious activities during Greene’s long tenure as director. These publications comprise the reports submitted by Greene to the Morgan’s Board of Trustees and describe the institution’s major activities, including exhibitions, acquisitions, publications, lectures, and scholarly services—all spearheaded by Greene.

Ardizzone, Heidi. An Illuminated life: Belle da Costa Greene’s Journey from Prejudice to Privilege. W. W. Norton & Co., 2007.

Benedict, Marie, and Victoria Christopher Murray. The Personal Librarian. Penguin Random House, 2021. (A novel based on the life of Belle da Costa Greene.)

Brooklyn Public Library. On Passing. Podcast featuring Adwoa Adusei, Krissa Corbett Cavouras, and Daria Rose Foner, 18 November 2020.

Caldwell, Nicholas, and Philip Palmer. The Belle Greene and Bernard Berenson Letters Project, Facebook Live discussion, The Morgan Library & Museum, May 2021.

Cleaver, Laura, and Danielle Magnusson. “American Collectors and the Trade in Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts in London, 1919–1939: J.P. Morgan Junior, A. Chester Beatty, and Bernard Quaritch Ltd.,” in Collecting the Past: British Collectors and Their Collections from the 18th to the 20th Centuries. ed. Toby Burrows and Cynthia Johnston. Routledge, 2018.

Ferguson, Stephen. “A Look at Belle da Costa Greene,” Rare Book Collections @ Princeton blog, 3 August 1910.

Foner, Daria Rose. New Light on Belle da Costa Greene, The Morgan blog, 14 March 2021.

Foner, Daria Rose, Jennifer Tonkovich, and Sidney Babcock. The Women Who Made the Morgan: Belle da Costa Greene, Felice Stampfle, and Edith Porada, public talk for the Morgan Library & Museum, 3 March 2021.

Foner, Daria Rose, and Philip Palmer. Belle da Costa Greene and Bernard Berenson’s Epistolary Affair, Instagram Live conversation, 13 August 2020.

Gennari-Santori, Flaminia. “‘This Feminine Scholar’: Belle da Costa Greene and the Shaping of J.P. Morgan’s Legacy,” Visual Resources, 33:1–2, pp. 182–197.

Greene, Belle da Costa. “291,” Camera Work, XLVII (July 1914), p. 64.

Lapierre, Alexandra. Belle Greene. Flammarion, 2021. (A novel based on the life of Belle da Costa Greene.)

Miner, Dorothy, ed. Studies in Art and Literature for Belle da Costa Greene. Princeton University Press, 1954.

Miner, Dorothy, and Anne Lyon Haight. “Greene, Belle da Costa,” Notable American Women 1607–1950. Belknap Press, 1971.

Palmer, Philip. Almost a Remembrance: Belle Greene’s Keats. Online exhibition created in association with an exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum, 2020.

The Pierpont Morgan Library. The First Quarter Century of the Pierpont Morgan Library: A Retrospective Exhibition in Honor of Belle da Costa Greene. The Pierpont Morgan Library, 1949.

The Pierpont Morgan Library. The Pierpont Morgan Library: A Review of the Growth, Development and Activities of the Library during the Period between its Establishment as an Educational Institution in February 1924 and the Close of the Year 1929. The Plandome Press, 1930.

The Pierpont Morgan Library. The Pierpont Morgan Library: Review of the Activities and Acquisitions of the Library from 1930 through 1935. A summary of the annual reports of the Director to the Board of Trustees. The Plantin Press, 1937.

The Pierpont Morgan Library. The Pierpont Morgan Library: Review of the Activities and Acquisitions of the Library from 1936 through 1940. A summary of the annual reports of the Director to the Board of Trustees. The Plantin Press, 1941.

The Pierpont Morgan Library. The Pierpont Morgan Library: Review of the Activities and Acquisitions of the Library from 1941 through 1948. A summary of the annual reports of the Director to the Board of Trustees. The Plantin Press, 1949.

Smith, Stephanie Danette. Passing Shadows: Illuminating the Veiled Legacy of Belle da Costa Greene. Unpublished dissertation, Dominion University Graduate School of Library and Information Science, 2015.

Strouse, Jean. “Singular Women,” chapter in Morgan: American Financier. New York: Random House, 1999.

Strouse, Jean. “The Unknown J. P. Morgan.” The New Yorker, 22 March 1999.

Tonkovich, Jennifer. Origins of the Drawings Department at the Morgan, The Morgan blog, 13 April 2021.

Winslow, Karen. “Belle da Costa Greene, in Love with Islamic Book Art.” Blog of Institute of English Studies, University of London, 17 September 2018.

Selected news articles

"$10,000 Librarian Speaks a Word for $400 Sisters," New York Tribune, 22 November 1913.

“Belle D. Greene, Morgan Librarian. Noted Figure in Field, Holder of Post 1905–48, Is Dead—Paid Thousands for Rarities.” The New York Times, 12 May 1950, p. 27.

"Belle of the Books," Time, 11 April 1949, pp. 76-8.

"’The Cleverest Girl I Know,’ Says J. Pierpont Morgan." Chicago Tribune, 11 August 1912.

“Mr. Morgan’s Librarian a Woman,” Christian Science Monitor, 11 July 1911, p. 17.

“Spending J.P. Morgan’s Money for Rare Books: That Is One of the Pleasant Duties of the Librarian of the Financier, Miss Belle Green[e], Who at 26 Has Won Fame by Her Intimate Knowledge of Valuable Tomes,” The New York Times, 7 April 1912, p. SM8.

“Young Woman Librarian Continues Work of Great Morgan Collection,” New York Herald Sunday Magazine, 3 August 1913, p. 7.

Hungerford, Edward. “The Feminist Movement that Cashes in,” Munsey’s Magazine, 51:3 (April 1914), pp. 471–83.