Category Archives: Rare Books in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries

Poetic Thoughts, With Pictures


This is an image, with accompanying text, from a book called Poetic Thoughts, With Pictures. It was published in 1885 by the Artists’ Fund Society of Philadelphia to celebrate the organization’s fiftieth anniversary. Members contributed original paintings, like this one, of a girl with two puppies, called “Pets.”  Each painting was then matched with a poem. The verse that accompanies “Pets,” by William Wordsworth, is actually from a poem called “To a Butterfly.” The excerpt reads: “Sweet childish days, that were as long / As twenty days are now.” Most of the image-text combinations of Poetic Thoughts, With Pictures are as sentimental.

Two themes dominate the collection: love and nature. The former triumphs over the latter in George Wright’s “Love of Nature,” which portrays a young woman painting a landscape while her lover bothers her. The poem suggests that the woman’s bored expression is a pose: Though nature’s rays are “blessed and bright,” Thomas Moore writes, “Yet faint are they all to the lustre that plays / In a smile from the heart that is dearly our own.” The nature about which Moore wrote lovingly wasn’t just any nature. The landscape in “Lines, Written on Leaving Philadelphia” was one that would have been familiar to Wright’s audience.


Even if the tastes of the artists and their editors were cosmopolitan—Wordsworth was English, Moore was Irish—most of the thoughts and pictures are American, if not Philadelphian. The selection of poetry can be seen as an attempt to relate the global to the local. Just as one artist applied a poem about a butterfly to a painting about puppies, the artists took material from other contexts to describe their own. F. de B. Richard’s “Scene on the Brandywine,” of a river in southeastern Pennsylvania, is embellished with William Cullen Bryant’s “Lines on Revisiting the Country”—the “Country” here being New England.


At least they’re both in the United States: C. Philipp Weber’s painting, “A Memory of the Mammoth Cave,” which is in Kentucky, is paired with Felicia Hemans’s poem “The Caravan in the Deserts”—the Sahara Desert.


The Artists’ Fund Society of Philadelphia was formed “to promote the welfare of themselves and their professional brethren.” The Society administered a fund to benefit its members: “On the death of a member,” for example, “his family is entitled to receive a fixed proportion of the invested benefit fund.” Given the purpose of the organization, it isn’t surprising that the themes taken up in Poetic Thoughts, With Pictures deal with family, the home, and private life. Nor is it surprising that mortality is never far from the artists’ thoughts: The caption to F. F. De Crano’s “Sunshine,” a painting of a young woman smelling flowers, is an excerpt from a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem that describes “Buds that open only to decay.”


Poetic Thoughts, With Pictures is part of our Rare Books in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries collection.

Connecting the Collections: Eugène Delacroix

Currently the Digital Collections has 20 different collections. Searches can be done throughout the Digital Collections as a whole, or they can be done within specific collections.  Some subjects and artists appear throughout the Digital Collections, appearing in several different individual collections. One such artist is Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), the renowned French Romantic painter. Works by and about him appear throughout the Digital Collections, and we will look at a few of these items here.


This reproduction of the famous Delacroix self-portrait appears on the cover of an exhibition catalog entitled, Concerning Delacroix and Jules Breton, apropos of a special exhibition of their work at the galleries of M. Knoedler and Company (1888), which appears in the Knoedler & Co. Exhibition Catalogs collection. The catalog begins with this adulatory assessment of Delacroix’s significance, “If we may say, with an acute contemporaneous critic, that Delacroix represents the supreme, the last, and the highest manifestation of the French genius in the domain of art…” This is how many 19th-century critics viewed Delacroix, as we will see again later in the post.

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications collection, we have a 200-plus page 1991 exhibition catalog, Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863): paintings, drawings, and prints from North American collections:


This catalog features essays by art historian and Delacroix specialist Lee Johnson, as well as many reproductions of Delacroix’s work.

From the Rare Books in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries collection, we have Catalogue of celebrated paintings by great French masters, brought to this country from Paris, for exhibition only (1887), which includes a lengthy biographical sketch of Delacroix. It too begins with an adulatory assessment of the artist: “Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix, the greatest, noblest, and most illustrious painter of the French school of the nineteenth century…”


Finally, in the Auction Catalogs collection, we have Catalogue de sculptures originales: terres cuites, platres, bronzes groupes, statuettes, bustes, médaillons, esquisses, tableaux et dessins par J.-B. Carpeaux, dessins par Eug. Delacroix (1913), in which a number of Delacroix drawings were being auctioned.


Delacroix, like several artists in the Digital Collections, appears in a number of different collections, from exhibition catalogs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications, the Knoedler & Co. Exhibition Catalogs, and the Rare Books in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries collections, to auction catalogs in our Auction Catalogs collection. We will try to “connect the Collections” in future posts as well, focusing on artists and subjects represented in a number of different collections within the Digital Collections.

Page-turning viewing option now in Digital Collections

The content management software we use for our Digital Collections site is called CONTENTdm. Its development and maintenance are coordinated by the library cooperative organization OCLC in consultation with the CONTENTdm user community.

The software is updated about four times per year; last week we received the most current update (version 6.5), which included a feature that we have been looking forward to for some time:  an optional page-turning interface for viewing items. The “Page Flip View” button is located next to the Download and Print buttons, just above the window where the pages are displayed, as indicated here:


When the button is clicked, the page-turner opens and, after loading the document, looks like this:


Turn the page by clicking on a page: click on the right side to advance, and click the left page to go back. Another option is to view pages one at a time and scroll vertically through the document like this:


The Page-Flip View is a beta feature offered to CONTENTdm users in order to gather feedback to guide further development, so expect improvements over the next couple of development cycles. We acknowledge that it needs some work to be a really great feature, but this is a very welcome step in the right direction. Feel free to send your thoughts about it to me via email (dan[dot]lipcan[at]metmuseum[dot]org) and we’ll pass them along to OCLC’s CONTENTdm team.

Extravagant Table Settings

In the eighteenth century, elaborate banquets featuring lavish table settings and complicated codes of social protocol were the focus of court society.  The table settings were extravagant, displaying decorative gold and silver server objects including plates, flatware and serving platters.

A main feature of the dinner ensembles was fanciful napkin folding designs. Complementing The Museum’s 2010 exhibition, Vienna Circa 1780: an Imperial Silver Service Rediscovered, which featured napkin designs, the library purchased several books on napkin folding, including Serviettes and how to Fold Them (Belfast: Robinson & Cleaver, ca.1890,) and Kniffe zum Servietten Kniffen: der Hausfrau gewidmet (Braunschweig: Gebrüder Ring, ca.1900).


The former catalog, from linen manufacturer Robinson & Cleaver, provides a nineteenth-century take on elegant napkin folding.  As a furnisher of linens to the royal family, Robinson & Cleaver represented excellence in Irish linen and produced everything from damask to lace goods.  Focusing solely on serviettes, this catalog includes diagrams and step-by-step instructions on how to create napkin folding designs such as the “Fan,” “Water Lily,” “Cardinal’s Hat,” “Greek Cross” and “Collegiate.” Below are the instructions for “The Casket Open“:


The latter guide to napkin folding, Kniffe zum Servietten Kniffen, published by German flatware manufacturer Gebrüder Ring, highlights the company’s patented silver-plated cutlery with eleven spreads pairing different product lines with instructions for and depictions of decorative folded napkins.


The Library also owns Urbain Dubois’s (1818-1901) Artistic cookery: a practical system for the use of the nobility and gentry and for public entertainments (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1887).  His illustrated guide to gastronomy served as a major resource for festive banquets.


Dubois was an important figure in French cuisine.  He published eight cook books and served as chef to Prince Orloff of Russia and joint chef to Emperor Wilhelm of Prussia.  Artistic Cookery contains eighty copper-engraved plates illustrating three hundred and thirty-seven examples of meat, fish, and dessert dishes presented on elaborate serving pieces or stands, as well as sample menus and preparation instructions for both food dishes and their decorative serving platters that accompany the illustrations.


Written by Holly Phillips and Diane De Fazio

Kraushaar Gallery Exhibition Catalogs

We have a collection of 70 exhibition catalogs from the Kraushaar Gallery. These exhibitions were held between 1920 and 1936, when the gallery was located at 680 Fifth Avenue in New York City. At the time, it was being run by John F. Kraushaar (brother of gallery founder Charles W.)  and his daughter Antoinette. It primarily exhibited modern French and American painters, and it became particularly interested in the American realist group “The Eight,” half of whom have catalogs in this collection (William Glackens, George Luks, Maurice Brazil Prendergast and John Sloan).


The above is taken from the catalog Retrospective exhibition of paintings by George Luks, January 8-27, 1923. This painting, titled simply “The Wrestlers,” captures the realist style of this group of early 20th century American painters.

During this period, the gallery also exhibited important 19th century French artists, most notably Gustave Courbet, Honoré Daumier, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Edouard Manet. Below is a Toulouse-Lautrec painting of Oscar Wilde and Yvette Guilbert sharing a bottle of champagne at the Jardin de Paris (from this 1924 catalog):


The Kraushaar Gallery has a location in New York City to this day, now at 74 East 79th Street.

Four Recent Additions to the Rare Books Collection

Part of what makes the Digital Collections such an exciting resource is that new and diverse material is constantly being added to it. Four recent additions to the Rare Books in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries collection illustrate the rich and varied nature of the material being digitized. For instance, there is this publication from 1864 with the wonderfully loquacious Victorian title, How we spent the summer, or, A “Voyage en zigzag” in Switzerland and Tyrol with some members of the Alpine Club: from the sketch book of one of the party. This sketch book is filled with illustrations and captions that bring this “voyage” to life. HowWeSpentTheSummer

Then, in a completely different vein, there is this Italian publication from 1555, possibly printed by Prospero Danza, which is currently the second oldest item in the Digital Collections (the current oldest was published 5 years earlier, in 1550).


Next we have this 20th century napkin and cutlery trade catalog.  Its description reads, “Published by German flatware manufacturer, Gebrüder Ring, this catalog highlights the company’s patented silver-plated cutlery with eleven spreads pairing different product lines with instructions for and depictions of decorative folded napkins.”


Finally, there is this 19th century photographic album of The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella in Spain. Here is one image of the cathedral’s exterior:


To browse more items in the Rare Books collection, go here.

“Champions of Liberty” from the Civil War


In the Rare Books in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries, there is a small volume of 20 mounted photographic portraits of prominent American men from the Civil War period. Titled simply The Photographic Album, its alternative title, “Champions of Liberty,” seems more appropriate for the wartime leaders it represents. Most well known among these “champions” are Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, pictured below:



Each of the plates bears the statement, “Entered according to act of Congress, A.D. 1865, by James Dennis Jr. & Co., in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of Rhode Island,” and the name of each individual is inscribed in a florid – if sometimes difficult to decipher – 19th century script.  18 of the 20 men have been identified, but there are still two plates with unidentified individuals, shown below:


unidentified 2

The other individuals photographed are: William H. Seward, D.G. Farragut, Phil. H. Sheridan, Geo. G. Meade, Benj. F. Butler, Joseph Hooker, Winfield Hancock, N.P. Banks, John G. Parke, H.G. Wright, G.K. Warren, Alex S. Webb, C.C. Augur, A. Doubleday, J.K. Barnes, and Edward Everett.

For those interested in the Civil War, another item  of interest might be the exhibition catalog Manet and the American Civil War. It features a number of Manet seascapes from the 1860’s, two of which take as their subject the American warship Kearsage, which sank the Confederate warship Alabama off the coast of France in 1864.  Manet’s paintings “The ‘Kearsarge’ at Boulogne” and “The Battle of the Kearsarge and the Alabama” are both reproduced and discussed at length in this catalog.