Exhibit | April 30, 2014

Exhibition at Yale’s Beinecke Library Explores New, Small Collections

New Haven, Conn.—An exhibition opening Friday at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library presents 15 small, recently acquired collections that emphasize the richness and variety of the library’s holdings.  

The exhibition, Encounters: New Small Collections at Beinecke Library, features materials covering an expansive range of history, art and culture.  Thirteenth-century missals from a French cathedral are displayed alongside memorabilia from the Boy Scouts of America; correspondence documenting life in 1830s Texas is arranged beside advertisements from a New Haven-based toymaker; children’s photo books by famed photographer Edward Steichen are on view next to memorabilia from a Paris cabaret.

“Large, comprehensive archives and book collections tend to command the limelight, but curators are always on the hunt for interesting collections of any size or completeness,” says Timothy Young, the Beinecke’s curator of modern books and manuscripts, who organized the exhibition. “Many archives consist of just a single box - full of compelling evidence of a writer’s life or the history of a cultural moment. The collections displayed here, despite their modest size, offer exciting opportunities for research and learning.”

Exhibition highlights include:

  • Four manuscript books of texts for celebrating daily masses that were used over several centuries at the Cathedral of Beauvais, France. The books date from the 12th and 13th centuries. 
  • A pair of children’s books produced by Edward Steichen, one of the early 20th century’s most influential photographers, in collaboration with his daughter, Mary. On display is a selection of his original photographic prints used in the two volumes, along with first editions of both books.
  • Two scrapbooks maintained by the advertising firm that marketed products for the A.C. Gilbert Company in the 1920s and 1930s.  The New Haven-based company produced toys, games, and household products. The Erector building set was its best-known product.
  • Printed materials documenting the religious experience in Rome during the 15th and 16th centuries, including travel manuals that provided Catholic pilgrims directions to holy sites, along with procedures for obtaining official documentation of their visits.
  • Photos and memorabilia of the Chez Moune, a cabaret in Paris that catered to a mainly lesbian clientele. Opened in 1936 in the Pigalle district, the nightclub was a destination for women for decades. The photos, custom-printed matchbooks, and printed sign are relics of an era when the club attracted crowds looking for music, champagne, and a safe space to relax with friends.
  • A letter book containing Joseph Perkins Pulsifer’s manuscript copies of correspondence from 1831 to 1836 documenting his life as a merchant, his time in New Orleans, and the political and military activities of the Texas Revolution. The letter book is a miraculous survival, as all other volumes kept by Pulsifer were lost in the 1900 Galveston hurricane.

Other materials are drawn from: the Robert Giraud papers relating to French and Parisian slang; a collection of mother-of-pearl Chinese gaming counters, circa 1700-circa 1840; the papers of Ann Corios, one of the most famous striptease artistes of the burlesque era; the Jewel Welch photographs related to African American entertainers; the George W. Conover papers documenting the life of a rancher in the Indian Territory in the 19th century; the Bette Garber photographs of trucks and truckers; the papers of writer George W.S. Trow; African-American Eagle Scout Curtis Jackson’s memorabilia of the Boy Scouts of America; and the R.A. Harrison album containing early Victorian printing designs, 1842-1849.

The exhibition runs from May 2 through Aug. 16, 2014.

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library is one of the world’s largest libraries devoted entirely to rare books and manuscripts, and is Yale’s principal repository for literary archives, early manuscripts, and rare books. Researchers from around the world use the Beinecke’s extensive collections to create new scholarship. 

To view the exhibition labels for each collection on display, please visit http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/collections-represented-encounters-new-small-collections-beinecke-library.