Did you know that the Athenaeum collects signed first editions of books that win the Caldecott Medal, which recognizes the “most distinguished American picture book for children.” These can be found in a special cabinet in the North Reading Room. They are purchased through the generosity of Joseph & Andrea Schmidt in honor of their daughter Alexandra.
Here is Erika Torri's recount of how the collection started:
"During 2003 – 2006 the Athenaeum embarked on a visionary campaign to enlarge and combine all Athenaeum spaces into one institution. Many of the now available spaces to the public were rented out to other institutions or retail businesses.
In order to be successful with the campaign we included naming opportunities (many are still available and can be perused in our concert programs) and many were taken. One was naming a part of a cabinet in the North Reading Room (now the Melissa and Max Elliott Reading Room). Andrea and Dr. Joseph Schmidt decided to underwrite and name it in their daughter Alexandra Maurice’s name. It was a great cabinet with a nice plaque, which now had to be filled appropriately. I suggested the Caldecott Award Collection which started in 1937 and is still considered the “most distinguished award for an American picture book for children”. I was eager to find all books already published at that time, first editions signed and was quite successful. A few are still missing from the early years, but I am still looking and Librarian Kathi Bower Peterson has a watchful eye on all new titles and we are complete with the new items."
The Athenaeum collects signed first editions of books that win the Caldecott Medal, which recognizes the “most distinguished American picture book for children.” These can be found in a special cabinet in the North Reading Room. They are purchased through the generosity of Joseph & Andrea Schmidt in honor of their daughter Alexandra.
Artist Maurice Sendak won the Caldecott Medal in 1964 for Where the Wild Things Are.
Art from Where the Wild Things Are.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, created by artist Brian Selznick, was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 2008.
Page/Art taken from The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
The Athenaeum's Artists' Book Collection has become one of the most important collections in the Athenaeum's holdings. It was initiated in 1991 when Joan & Irwin Jacobs Executive Director Erika Torri received a generous donation from life member Hope Shipley.
Here is Erika Torri's recount of how it all began:
"Long before I became involved with the Athenaeum, I was involved with artists’ books. They fascinated me, I did a lot of research and collecting and when I joined the Athenaeum staff it was one of the first things on my mind. But the library was small, the budget was small, the acquisition budget tiny, and there was no way to splurge on something like artists’ books. After I had been there for some time a person very close to the Athenaeum came up to me; she liked the changes that had occurred since I had come, and she handed me $1,000. It was an enormous sum for us. “For your dream …” she said, and I knew what I wanted to do with it. Bill Kelly and Michele Burgess of Brighton Press had just published a book by well-known local artist Harry Sternberg—A Life in Woodcuts—and I bought it from them. It cost $980, and we had another $20 for an acid-free box to house it in. It was a fabulous purchase, and I was very happy.”
The collection has grown enormously through purchases, sponsored acquisitions, and generous donations - now numbering over 2,000 books - and so has its reputation. It is sought out by artists, researchers and collectors and can be viewed by making an appointment with the library staff.
Edgar Degas, 1882, Waiting, pastel on paper, Getty Center / Public domain
Edward Hopper, 1942, Nighthawks, oil on canvas, Art Institute of Chicago / Public domain
Johnny Hodges playing in Aquarium, New York with Al Sears circa November 1946 / Public domain
This week in art and music history for the week of July 19–25; compiled by our librarian, Kathi Bower Peterson.
July 19, 1834 French artist Edgar Degas was born.
July 19, 1868 Florence Foster Jenkins, amateur soprano, music supporter and philanthropist, who became famous for her off-pitch performances, was born in Pennsylvania.
July 19, 1886 Piano virtuoso and composer Franz Liszt performed for the last time at a concert in Luxembourg.
July 20, 1895 Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy was born.
July 20, 1932 Korean composer, performer, and artist Nam June Paik was born.
July 20, 1939 Artist Judy Chicago, née Cohen, was born in Chicago.
July 20, 1947 Mexican-American musician Carlos Santana, known for his music combining rock, blues, jazz, and Latin influences, was born.
July 21, 1817 English Romantic painter and illustrator Sir John Gilbert was born.
July 21, 1920 Russian-American violinist Isaac Stern was born.
July 22, 1882 American painter Edward Hopper was born in Nyack, NY.
July 22, 1898 Sculptor Alexander Calder was born in Pennsylvania.
July 22, 1949 American composer Alan Menken, known for his animated film scores, was born in New Rochelle, New York.
July 23, 1928 Pianist Leon Fleisher, who lost the use of his right hand for several decades and became famous for his performance of left-handed repertoire, was born in San Francisco.
July 23, 1971 Bluegrass fiddler and singer Alison Krauss was born in Champaign, Illinois.
July 24, 1803 French composer Adolphe Adam, known for the ballet Giselle, was born.
July 24, 1860 Czech artist Alphonse Mucha was born.
July 24, 1880 American composer Ernest Bloch was born in Switzerland.
July 24, 1927 Artist Alex Katz was born in Brooklyn, NY.
July 25, 1844 Painter Thomas Eakins was born in Philadelphia.
July 25, 1870 Artist Maxfield Parrish was born in Philadelphia.
July 25, 1906 African-American jazz saxophonist Johnny Hodges was born in Cambridge, MA.
July 25, 1965 Musician Bob Dylan performed on his electric guitar for the first time at the Newport Folk Festival; this controversial performance is considered a pivotal moment in rock and roll history.
Frequent visitors to the Athenaeum have probably noticed what appears to be a gumball machine, behind and to the left of the front desk. Well, guess what? That isn’t a gumball machine, but an artist’s book by local artist Judith Christensen called Book for a Buck! It is just one of the many artists’ books in the Athenaeum’s collection. For those unfamiliar with the genre, an artist’s book is a limited edition or one of a kind creation by an artist that includes text and is intended to be seen as a work of art, but does not always appear in the form of what most people recognize as a book. In the case of Book for a Buck, this dispenser includes multiple copies of small handmade books from Christensen’s The Travel Series enclosed in protective capsules; the object in its entirety constitutes an artist’s book. As an actual functioning vending machine, it dispenses a capsule when four quarters are inserted. Created in 1999, this unique object is one of a limited edition of six, and has been in the Athenaeum’s collection since 2000. Many artists’ books can be quite expensive, but for the low price of one dollar, anyone can acquire one with Book for a Buck.
Children's Storytime is available every Wednesday at 3 p.m. for children aged 1 to 9.