Special Collections

Mark Samuels Lasner Collection

The Mark Samuels Lasner Collection focuses on British literature and art of the period 1850 to 1900, with an emphasis on the Pre-Raphaelites and writers and illustrators of the 1890s. It comprises more than 9,500 books, letters, manuscripts, photographs, ephemera, and artworks, including many items signed by such figures as Oscar Wilde, George Eliot, Max Beerbohm, William Morris, Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Aubrey Beardsley.

Please note that only a small portion of the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection is listed in DELCAT.

In 2016, Mark Samuels Lasner generously donated his collection, worth more than $10 million, to the University of Delaware. It is the largest and most valuable gift in the Library’s history. To honor this gift, the University of Delaware put on an exhibition and symposium, detailed below.


“Victorian Passions: Stories from the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection”
February 14 – June 3, 2017

Partially blind since birth, Mark Samuels Lasner proves that having and realizing a vision does not require eyesight; instead, it takes imagination, knowledge, a will of iron, and a brilliant mind. After being orphaned at age eleven, he spent his adolescence in Connecticut with his grandmother. Among her friends was May Bradshaw Hays, daughter of Joseph Jacobs (1854–1916), the Jewish folklorist and compiler of fairy tales who had lived for decades in England. Hays introduced Samuels Lasner to the world of Victorian writers and artists, some of whom she had met as a child, and gave him a tea set that was a wedding present to her parents from William Morris (1834–1896), the poet and Arts-and-Crafts designer. With that, Samuels Lasner began collecting the Pre-Raphaelites. Later, he was drawn to the Aesthetes and Decadents of the 1890s. Eventually, he assembled a collection covering a wide range of intellectual and artistic movements from the second half of the nineteenth century in Britain. This exhibition celebrates his extraordinary collection, which he has donated to the University of Delaware Library, by displaying a few highlights from the more than 9,500 items. Each object tells a story about the passionate emotions of its creator. But the greatest passion on view is that of Mark Samuels Lasner himself, whose love for the Victorians unites everything here.

Curated by Margaret Stetz, Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women’s Studies and Professor of Humanities, Department of Women and Gender Studies

Click here for the online exhibition catalogue. 

“Celebrating the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection:
Rare Books and Manuscripts, Victorian Literature and Art”
March 17 – 18, 2017

On March 17 and 18, 2017, the University of Delaware hosted a two-day symposium, “Celebrating the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection: Rare Books and Manuscripts, Victorian Literature and Art.” In addition to Elaine Showalter, the speakers included Mark Dimunation (Library of Congress), Barbara Heritage (Rare Book School, University of Virginia), Ed Maggs (Maggs Bros. Ltd., London), Joseph Bristow (UCLA), Linda K. Hughes (Texas Christian University), Margaretta S. Frederick (Delaware Art Museum), William S. Peterson (Emeritus, University of Maryland), David Taylor (UK historian and author), and Margaret D. Stetz (University of Delaware).

Click here for the audio recordings of these talks. 



Access is by appointment only.


For further information contact:
Mark Samuels Lasner
Senior Research Fellow
University of Delaware Library
Contact Mark Samuels Lasner

Samantha Nystrom
Graduate Assistant for The Mark Samuels Lasner Collection
Contact Samantha Nystrom


Selections from the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection

(Click on an image for a close-up view.)

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