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Lilly Library

A Scrapbook Look at John Ruskin

John Ruskin

The Lilly Library has a new exhibition called “A Scrapbook Look at John Ruskin,” on display July 26th through August 27th, 2010. This exhibition is created around two scrapbooks made by John Ruskin and held by the Lilly Library. These scrapbooks were initially auctioned during a sale held at Ruskin’s estate in July, 1931, and eventually became part of Elisabeth Ball’s collection, which was donated to the Lilly Library in 1984. These scrapbooks are not only a unique index into Ruskin’s life and thought, but also contain a few interesting surprises: there is a dancing hippo in a tuxedo, monkeys flagellating each other, and a cheeky ghost who querulously asks, “Do you w-a-n-t to be sha-a-ved?” Beyond these amusing tidbits, the scrapbooks document the artifacts Ruskin thought were important to keep, and as a visually-oriented thinker, these documents are of interest for their insight into his own interests as well as what they say about life in Victorian England.

The other books in the exhibit display visual and intellectual connections seen in the scrapbooks, pursuing disparate yet complementary themes. Case one shows the shaping of Ruskin’s thoughts through his life experiences, using his interest in mountains, especially the Alps, as a focal point. It includes a first edition of Modern Painters, The Poetry of Architecture, and The Ethics of the Dust, as well as a magnificent copy of George Chapman’s Whole Works of Homer with John Ruskin’s bookplate and annotations. Case two shows how Ruskin had been shaped by his contextual surroundings, and the ways others have responded to his intellectual legacy. This case includes several editions of Ruskin’s fantasy story The King of the Golden River, William Morris’ edition of The Nature of the Gothic, James Abbott MacNeill Whistler’s pamphlet regarding the libel suit he pressed against Ruskin, and Marcel Proust’s translation of Sesame and Lilies.

This exhibition should be of interest to any aficionado of the nineteenth century, whether a scholar or a member of the community. It was curated by Emilee Mathews, M.A. Candidate in Art History and M.L.S. Candidate in Library Science, as part of an internship pursued through the School of Library and Information Science.

The Lilly Library’s summer hours are Monday through Thursday, 8am to 6pm, Friday 8am to 5pm, and Saturday 9am to 1pm. The exhibition is in the foyer of the library.

—Emilee Mathews

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