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Thursday, September 29, 2005

New Stuff

Our exhibitions have changed over for the season--not just the new Drawn Together, which is in the main gallery in the Sendak building, but also the selection of objects in the highlights gallery, the partner desk in the Doctor's library, the dining room table, and the Marianne Moore Room vestibule. [The radio you see here--a gift to the Doctor from Major Bowes, is now on display in Highlights.

We have also--for the first time in recent memory--installed in the Moore room a recording of Miss Moore reading some of her poetry. The poems are "A Face" and "What Are Years," and I hope to be hearing them several times a day, as my office shares a door with the room. (I'm behind the door with the chin-up bar.)

I've thought for a long time that the Moore room would benefit from having the sound of her voice animating the space. There is already a very particular quality to the room that is so different from what comes before it, but yet also serves as a perfect little diorama of the whole Rosenbach experience--beautiful and rare things in a lived-in, domestic space. [Eileen Neff's incredibly affecting temporary installation in the Moore room, called "The Whole World Including the Poet," brought this quality out in ways that I hope the new audio component might come close to.

I was recently showing a visiting curator some of Joseph Cornell's letters to Marianne Moore, including one dated June 21, 1944 in which he describes a new project where "romantic material [...] combined with a little writing and 'hommages' (in the form of objects)" will be assembled and "boxed in a little album-chest that will exhale a 'romantic vapor,' in the words of Marcel Duchamp." Moore and Cornell shared certain artistic sympathies that can perhaps be best discovered by the Moore room itself--a kind of large Cornell box whose arrangement was important enough to Moore to stipulate that it be reconstructed, lock, stock, and baseballs, here at the Rosenbach.

Anyway. We have a lot of new stuff in familiar places--good reason for you to stop by...

Friday, September 23, 2005

Uncle Ben's nice... part I of many

This week we said goodbye, for a little while, to some of our great Ben Franklin things to be featured in the great BF300 fooferaw soon to overtake the city. This image comes from what is arguably our greatest Franklin item and one of the greatest items in the museum--the only surviving copy of the first Poor Richard Almanac.

Dr. R. was a big fan of Dr. Franklin, buying pretty much whatever he found and keeping whatever he could. Our collection includes letters written by Franklin, books published by his press, even a portrait drawing. We will be showing off a set of Poor Richard Almanacs as part of our own Franklin celebration with an exhibition opening in September--look for it in an upcoming events calendar, as well as on WHYY. We just had a film crew here taping Judy Guston, our Curator and Director of Collections, talking about Franklin and almanacs for a documentary that will be shown nationwide, so keep an eye out for it.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Alice Now a Page-Turner at the BL

This story on the BBC web site is about the British Library's digitization of the famous MS of Alice's Adventures Underground as part of its remarkable "Turn the Page" program.

They don't mention the facts that seem so pertinent to us--that the manuscript was not so important to the British Library in 1928 when Dr. Rosenbach bought it! The purchase of the Alice manuscript was one of the most important events in Dr. Rosenbach's career, garnering him press all over the world, as well as criticism from many in Britain and the United States.

The manuscript was eventually given to the British Library by the Library of Congress in a deal set up by Lessing Rosenwald and Arthur Houghton, as well as Dr. Rosenbach, who got to buy the MS back from the estate of the man he first sold it to--Eldridge Johnson.

Here's an image of a page from a scrapbook kept by Alice herself, documenting the media coverage of the sale. This scrapbook is part of a small collection of documents recently purchased by the museum that document the Alice sale...

Friday, September 09, 2005

Is your town Nineveh?

Marianne Moore fans will recognize the poem title, but it turns out that there is at least one Moore scholar living in Mosul, Iraq--which is the site of ancient Nineveh. A few months ago the following email was forwarded to us:

Several years ago, I had some correspondence with a woman who signed her letters "Wafa AA." She said she was studying at the University of Mosul in Iraq and writing on Marianne Moore, and asked if I would send her my book _Language and the Poet_, which has two chapters on Moore. I did send it to her.

That was well before the war, and during the war I would
think of her whenever I heard news of Mosul -- e.g. that the University library had been decimated -- robbed, among other things, of its collection of valuable ancient Arabic MSS. Out of the blue, I recently heard from her again. She is "Dr. Wafa AA" now. She is directing a student who is writing on Moore (from whom I have also heard). She tells me there is a desperate and urgent need for anything and everything pertaining to Moore: her poems, her letters, her prose writings, books and essays about her. They just don't have anything in the library there. What has happened is the equivalent of a tsunami in the educational world.

I plan to send her a copy of each of the two new collections of Moore's poetry, but I am sure additional copies of these, or anything else pertinent to the scholarship and criticism on Moore, would be received with great joy. The mailing address is:

Dr. Wafa AA
P.O. Box 11173,
University of Mosul,
Mosul, IRAQ

The way to send things is via U. S. mail. I haven't yet checked on how much it costs to mail books, but it can't be much more than I paid a few years ago, which as I recall was under ten dollars. I'll check and let you know.

I'd greatly appreciate your forwarding this to anyone you think might be willing to send books and essays. I suspect that anything on twentieth-century poetry generally, in addition to the poetry of Moore, would be welcome.

With thanks for whatever help you can give me in publicizing this literary emergency,

Sincerely yours, Marie Borroff
Sterling Professor of English,
Emeritus, Yale University

So we got in touch with this professor and sent some of our Marianne Moore books (a set of the Marianne Moore Newsletter, a copy of the Complete Prose, not to mention copies of the Nineveh poem manuscript), and have since kept in regular contact. We have also been in touch with a student who's working on Aldous Huxley & have sent along a Huxley book as well.

Right now our scholar is looking for some more Huxley books, but he is also interested in articles that discuss Moore as an ekphrastic poet. We'll put you in touch with him if you're interested.

We have yet to ask how it came to pass that there are Moore scholars in Iraq, or how Moore's work looks in the context of Arabic or Persian letters... but soon.