Last month the library cataloged (as always) an interesting array of material. Note that there are several early imprints that have come to the collection that are early painting and watercolor technical manuals and other titles on color theory. As I scan the list, I want to draw attention to several titles that captured my attention:
- Diffusion -- a new periodical in the collection that focuses on alternative photographic processes
- Fort Worth's Fairmount District -- new book, with lots of photographs, on the Fort Worth neighborhood from library friend Mike McDermott (Mike did some of his research here in the library)
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: 75 Years of Looking Forward -- ravishing publication observing SFMOMA's 75th year (thanks to the SFMOMA library for sending us a copy)
- For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights -- catalog of the exhibition currently at ICP New York
- Planting the World's Garden -- CD-ROM publication providing a fascinating look at early farm implement advertising in the U.S.
- Poplar Forest -- sensitive and beautiful limited edition photobook looking at Jefferson's country retreat
And so much more!
Each month the library posts a report listing all the books we have cataloged in the previous month. These reports constitute mainly new items entering the library’s collection. The report for May 2010 is now available, and you can access it <a href="http://www.cartermuseum.org/sites/all/files/2010-05ACMLibraryNewBooks.txt>here. This collection of new books is featured in the library reading room, and visitors may stop in during our public hours to view the material:
Wednesday: 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Thursday: 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
After reading about the upcoming open house event hosted by the Smithsonian art research centers for the American Library Association meeting in June, I couldn't help but think how strongly our own library and archives collections hold up in comparison to the Smithsonian pantheon. In fact, we're directly tied to the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art: as an affiliated research center, the library at the Carter is the only site in mid-America offering a complete collection of the unrestricted material from the the archives. Comprising over 15 million original documents, this collection offers an incredible depth of material to scholars working on American art research topics. Hats off to Doug Litts, a colleague of mine who works at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery Library, for his work on the following event page:
Yesterday the library received a new exquisite publication, The Feel of Steel. Published in a small print run of 150 copies, this limited edition book focuses on the history of steel-engraved banknotes in the United States. Engraving is a form of intaglio printing whereby a design is carved into a metal plate. The carved lines are forced full of ink, then the plate is pressed onto a sheet of paper under high pressure, and the inked designed is transferred to the sheet. The "feel of steel" in the title refers to the tactile quality of the ink as it rests on the printed sheet. Our current paper currency still exhibits this quality.
The book notes the difference between letterpress, or relief, printing and intaglio:
The creation of high-quality intaglio work is a far more demanding discipline than letterpress printing ... The training of picture engravers was a long process. Intaglio was a much slower and more costly process, but it produced magnificent images that could be achieved in no other way.
Banknote engraving employed some of the most accomplished artists in the country, and the author considers the art the "pinnacle of printing and the graphic arts" in America. While providing a detailed history of banknote printing, including technical discussion, it also includes some fine examples of engraved prints. Many of these original prints were printed from original banknote plates. The attached prospectus provides an overview of the book.
The museum has many examples of engravings in its collections, both in the fine prints and library book collections. Make plans to view this book and other books with engraved illustrations by visiting the library during public hours.
This morning I was taking a gander at a printed inventory in our files that details Amon G. Carter's personal library. My understanding is that by the time of his death in 1955, he had amassed about 4,000 titles. His collection was buoyed by the purchase of two private libraries: the Louis P. Merrill collection that focused on western cattle trade, range grasses, and Texas history; and the Frank B. Smith collection that focused on books illustrated by Frederic Remington and other artists of that genre. Carter's library came to the museum shortly after its opening in 1961. By this time, Carter's library had expanded to take in a wide range of subjects consistent with his varied interests. The original library of 4,000 titles got weeded to about 2,500 titles with subject matter most appropriate to the museum's mission. Today I tip my hat to Mr. Carter and his fine library that forms the nucleus of the museum's library collection. Today the collection includes over 100,000 items.
My office window opens to the the library reading room here at the museum, a space that many would agree is one of the stellar places to be in the museum. My understanding is that Philip Johnson, when designing the museum's expansion which opened in 2001, took special interest in getting this room just right. I think he succeeded. The room is paneled in book-matched Burmese teak, meaning that each veneer panel is a mirror of itself, essentially resulting in walls that are covered with the opened pages of books. The space offers soft, enveloping lighting from its arched ceiling with a complement of accent lighting at its edges. It is expansive without being overwhelming. It offers a quite and reflective environment for sustained contemplation. It is a room that is, in short, inspirational, as any effective reading room should be.
Today I pay tribute to this wonderful space by sharing these pictures taken this afternoon. I hope you'll come by and enjoy the space in person.
Recently I ran across a fascinating project, Unpacking My Library: Architects and Their Books, produced by Urban Center Books and the Municipal Art Society of New York. The project is a series of exhibitions and book that investigates the personal libraries of some prominent architects in the city. Quoting from the Web site's blurb about the forthcoming book:
What does a library say about the mind of its owner? How do books map the intellectual interests, curiosities, tastes, and personalities of their readers? What does the collecting of books have in common with the practice of architecture? Unpacking My Library provides an intimate look at the personal libraries of fourteen of the world’s leading architects, alongside conversations about the significance of books to their careers and lives.
Photographs of bookshelves – displaying well-loved and rare volumes, eclectic organizational schemes, and the individual touches that make a bookshelf one’s own – provide an evocative glimpse of their owner’s personal life. Each architect also presents a reading list of top ten influential titles, from architectural history to theory to fiction and nonfiction, that serves as a kind of personal philosophy of literature and history, and as advice on what every young architect, scholar, and lover of architecture should read.
I find that I think a lot about the personalities of libraries. Unlike a library amassed by a single person, institutional libraries like the Carter's bear the the influences of many individuals over the course of their development: librarians, staff, and many others. They also reflect the various projects the institution has tackled over the years. Collections such as ours also grow through gifts and on several occasions has taken in whole personal libraries (one big example is Eliot Porter's library). It's clear that many people can claim to have made a mark on the collection. It's an amalgam of all these influences. The point is, the Carter library has a personality, complete with idiosyncrasies. It is a unique and dynamic organism, and that's a part of what makes it such a treasure.