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Special Collections and Museums
New Resources in Mark Samuels Lasner Collection 2020: A Selected List, October 2021
Bannerman, Helen. The Story of Little Black Sambo. London: Grant Richards, 1899.
Written and illustrated by Scottish author Bannerman (1862-1946) to pass the time on a train with her daughters, Little Black Sambo has deservedly gained a reputation for packaging racism and imperialism for a juvenile audience. Numerous popular American versions moved the plot from India to the Jim Crow South and turned the characters into demeaning caricatures of African-Americans. Today, the book’s value lies in teaching about racism and colonialism across cultures, in urging us to consider how children are indoctrinated into white supremacy, and in admitting how these attitudes persist today. Little Black Sambo is also a landmark in publishing history; the small size of the book, large print, and color plates strongly influenced the format of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit and generations of children’s books which followed. This copy belonged to Bannerman’s brother, Robert Ross Boog Watson, a papermaker who later had a printing business in Australia.
Bell, Vanessa. Virginia Stephen behind Leslie and Julia Stephen reading. Photograph, silver gelatin print, .
This is one of the most potent of all images of British author Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), taken by her sister Vanessa Bell (1879-1961), showing 10-year-old Virginia seated behind their father Leslie Stephen and much-loved mother, Julia, in the library at Talford House, the house in St. Ives that inspired To the Lighthouse. Even at age eleven, Woolf was a budding writer, contributing with her siblings to the family’s manuscript newspaper, The Hyde Park Gate News.
Breuer, Henry Joseph. Autograph letter signed to “Jerome,” November 1882.
On his visit to Cincinnati during his American lecture tour, Oscar Wilde met and praised the young artist, Henry Joseph Breuer (1860-1932), then working for Rookwood Pottery, an early manifestation of the arts and crafts movement. Months later, Breuer (who eventually won acclaim as a landscape painter in California) saw Wilde in New York. In this illustrated letter he mentions these encounters and Wilde’s comment on an unfavorable article in the Century magazine, depicting the English aesthete in a small watercolor sketch.
Burne-Jones, Philip. Lady Maud Warrender reading in an interior, 1912. Watercolor on paper, 1912.
The son of the Pre-Raphaelite painter and designer, Philip Burne-Jones (1881–1926) remains an overlooked artist, known, if at all, for his portrait of his cousin, Rudyard Kipling. The subject of this portrait is Lady Warrender (Ethel Maud Ashley-Cooper, 1870-1945), a lesbian aristocrat (daughter of the Earl of Shaftesbury) who tread the line between respectability and scandal as a concert singer, arts organizer, and patron of musicians and poets. This portrait predates the death of her husband Sir George John Scott Warrender in 1917, after which date Lady Maud became the lover of American soprano Marcia Van Dresser (1877-1937).
Disraeli, Benjamin, Earl of Beaconsfield. Autograph letter signed to Maria D’Israeli, 30 August 1839.
The future British statesman Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) wrote this letter to his mother immediately following his wedding in 1839 to Mary Anne Lewis, the widow of Disraeli’s colleague, Wyndham Lewis. About his new wife, who was twelve years Disraeli’s senior, he wrote, “She says she is the happiest of women, but I suppose that’s a compliment. I am quite sincere however when I say I am the happiest of men.” Mary Anne later became 1st Viscountess Beaconsfield, a title Disraeli did not take until he was out of government. A woman of wit, she once joked, “Dizzy married me for my money. But, if he had the chance again, he would marry me for love.”
Gaskin, Georgie. An Invitation. Pencil and ink on paper, 1892.
An illustrator in the Birmingham School of Art which flourished at the turn of the 20th century, Georgina Evelyn Cave Gaskin (1866-1934) joined her husband, Arthur J. Gaskin (1862-1928) in jewelry design. This drawing for an invitation reflects the influence of Morris’s Kelmscott Press on Georgie Gaskin’s early work; she later developed a less-elaborate, more personal style, seen best in the several children’s books she illustrated in the late 1890s. This invitation announced an “at home” to mark the marriage of the Gaskins’ patron, the omnivorous collector, Laurence W. Hodson, to Mary Bellis in August 1892.
Pirkis, Catherine Louisa. The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1894.
Although by no means the first fiction to feature a female sleuth, these stories by Pirkis (1839-1910), collected in this volume from periodicals, were of greater imagination and literary merit than most. Indeed, they were compared favorably, and even superior, to those of Arthur Conan Doyle, with Loveday Brooke seen as a “New Woman” version of Sherlock Holmes, independent and professional. An interesting feature is the presence of an imitation calling-card affixed to the front cover.
Warner, H. H., ed. Songs of the Spindle & Legends of the Loom: Selected & Arranged by H. H. Warner; With Illustrations by A. Tucker, H. H. Warner, & Edith Capper. London: N. J. Powell & Co., 1889.
Inspired by John Ruskin’s theories on labor, art, and the environment, this anthology of poems and stories about weaving is a “sustainable” object far ahead of its time. “This little book is the product of hand-work alone,” states the preface, and apart from the use of photogravure, it lives up to this claim with paper and binding materials made from flax. This copy (one of 250) bears the ownership signature of William Michael Rossetti.
Ruskin, John. Autograph letter signed to William Morris, circa February-March 1858.
In this earliest surviving letter between the two protean Victorians, Ruskin (1819-1900) praises and lambasts William Morris’s first book, The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems, published in 1858 when its author was 24. Morris wrote, “Good it is in many ways; wrong also in many ways … very generous & very intense, but too much of mere sensation … Your people all live on love … Do you suppose that in the Middle Ages there were no heads fit for using as well as hearts, or that people couldn’t think, inside of helmets? The only thing that I can make out you consider a head good for is to have hair on it – What a blessed book it is for the hair clippers!,” in the end telling Morris that it is more obscure even than Robert Browning. Morris’s presentation copy of The Defence of Guenevere to John Ruskin is in the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection.
Whistler, James McNeill. The Music Room. Etching and drypoint, 1859.
Acquired too late to be included in UD’s recent exhibition, Friends and Enemies: Whistler and his Artistic, Literary, and Social Circles, this early work fits in the show’s theme. Depicted in the interior of their prosperous London home are Whistler’s sister, Deborah, her husband, Sir Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), and Haden’s medical assistant. Seymour Haden was both an eminent surgeon and an artist of ability who had a crucial role in the revival of etching as a printmaker and as an historian of the medium. At first relations between Whistler (1834-1903) and Haden went well, the two working together and meeting socially. But as with many of Whistler’s friendships, there was a falling-out which also affected family relations. This rare first state etching joins the University’s growing collection of Whistler prints.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray, in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, July 1890. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1890.
In August 1889, J. M. Stoddart, the managing editor of the Philadelphia-based Lippincott’s, gave a dinner in London for Wilde (1854-1900) and Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), from whom he solicited contributions for the magazine. The result was Doyle’s The Sign of Four, the second Sherlock Holmes story, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Wilde’s novel underwent some censorship (to remove some of the more obvious references to homosexuality) before its first appearance here, taking up virtually the entire July 1890 issue, which circulated with both London and Philadelphia imprints. Wilde later expanded the text for the first British book edition, which appeared almost one year later.