A pair of mythical beings, “Titan” and “Lion Dog,” offers an apt entry point to explore the connection between J. P. Morgan and his favorite Pekingese dog, Shun. The great financier’s legendary accomplishments frequently inspire outsized adjectives, and the fabled origins of the diminutive Pekingese conferred a mystical aura.
This is a guest post by Dr. Laura Diaz-Esteve, a historian of imperialism in Southeast Asia during the 19th and 20th centuries, with a focus on the American occupation of the Philippines.
Veteran historians had told me about the satisfaction of visiting an archive with preconceived ideas of your potential findings and discovering an unexpected line of inquiry even more interesting than what you had imagined. My visit to the Martin Egan Collection was my first practical encounter with such an experience.
Building and decorating J. Pierpont Morgan’s library was a carefully considered endeavor. After construction was complete, Morgan had panels of historic stained glass inset into the windows of his study, the librarian’s office, and the East Room, as well as in smaller spaces such as his bathroom and his manuscript vault.
This is a guest post by Araceli Bremauntz-Enriquez (she/her), Morgan Library & Museum Summer Graduate Fellow, CUNY, The Graduate Center.
Belle da Costa Greene, the Morgan Library & Museum’s first director, worked devotedly to expand, organize, and research the museum’s collection. Outside of her role at the Morgan, she acquired works of art and curated a substantial personal collection of works on paper, sculpture, and paintings.
The 15th-century Venetian artist known as the Master of the Pico Pliny enjoyed a career spanning 1460 to 1505, in which they produced hand-painted decoration in both manuscripts and incunabula and designed woodcuts for printed books.
The Morgan recently acquired a rare copy of the Ars moriendi blockbook, printed in the Netherlands about 1467–69 (identified in the literature on blockbooks as edition IIA, that is, the first state of the second edition). This fragmentary copy—only fifteen of twenty-four total leaves—was in a private collection in Belgium.
The Morgan has acquired thirteen letters written by the American writer J.D. Salinger (1919–2010) to his editor at The New Yorker in the 1940s and 50s, Gustavus “Gus” Lobrano (d. 1956). The letters are part of a larger acquisition of letters, manuscripts, and printed books related to Gus Lobrano and his daughter, Dorothy “Dotty” Lobrano Guth (1928–2016), who also worked at The New Yorker.
Douglas Cooper’s acclaimed 1938 translation of Vincent van Gogh’s Letters to Émile Bernard owes a debt to the uncompleted work of author and critic, Peter Burra, who died in a flying accident in April 1937. Intended or not, Cooper (writing under the pseudonym Douglas Lord) failed to acknowledge the work that Burra had already undertaken on the Bernard Letters with the result that his contribution to Van Gogh scholarship has been overlooked.
During the 2021 winter holiday season, the Morgan received as a gift Rondo, a group of twenty-four collages by feminist-art pioneer Miriam Schapiro (American, born in Canada, 1923–2015). The donors, Peter and Kirsten Bedford, commissioned them in 1988 for a series of clothbound artists’ books published under their San Francisco imprint, Bedford Arts.
The shelves of most rare book and manuscript libraries contain their fair share of mysterious items of unidentified origin or authorship, residing in obscurity beside works by the famous and celebrated as a lingering challenge to contemporary catalogers and researchers.