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Posts by Kathie Coblentz

Vegetable Drolleries

Revolt at the Salad BarHave you seen the Library's long-running exhibition "Lunch Hour" yet? If not, this is your last chance, for it closes on Sunday, February 17. To whet your appetite, I'd like to present a delightful volume that was recently added to the Spencer Collection.

The work is Drôleries végétales (Vegetable Drolleries), also known as L'Empire des 

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The Pompadour's Book: A Mystery Manuscript Owned by Madame de Pompadour

It's a small volume, neatly but unostentatiously bound in mottled calf. The gilt ornamentation is discreet, except for an impressive coat of arms on both boards. That becomes even more impressive when we identify it as the blazon of one of the standout personalities of 18th-century France, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, marquise de Pompadour — elevated from her haute-bourgeois background and a boring union with a certain M. Lenormand d'Étioles (nephew of her mother's lover) to become the official maîtresse-en-titre to 

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Celebrating the Centennial: The Tilden Library

Detail of Vernon Howe Bailey's drawing of the "Tilden Library" reading roomContrary to what you may have heard — or thought you heard, at least — this year does not mark the centennial of The New York Public Library. The centennial marks the opening of what many still think of as the Library's "main branch" on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, the Beaux-Arts landmark recently rechristened the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. But we could also call it the centennial of the Tilden Library, as I'll 

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Spencer Collection Book of the Month: The Rain of Crosses

The New York Public Library business card logoDid you know that The New York Public Library has an official color? I didn't either, and I've worked here since the Dark Ages (before the Internet). But we do, as I found out when I ordered new business cards recently. The color is red.

That's fine with me—I've always liked red (political considerations aside), and besides it gives me an excuse to select as the Spencer Collection Book of the Month for April a small volume containing two illustrations in vivid red. It is appropriate also because Easter falls in April this 

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Postscript to "Kippenberger's Quixote": The Missing Piece

About a week after my most recent post, something extraordinary happened. Regina Fiorito, a representative of the Estate of Martin Kippenberger (represented by the Galerie Gisela Capitain in Cologne) contacted the Library about it. "We would like to be in touch with Kathie Coblentz from the Spencer Collection, we read her blog today about a Kippenberger book. We (The Estate 

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Spencer Collection Book of the Month: Kippenberger's Quixote

Kippenberger's Don Quijote de la Mancha book object (detail)When is a book not a book? For this month's Spencer Collection Book of the Month, I have a couple of answers in mind.

From the point of view of contemporary art, the answer might be, "When it's a book object."—"Art which makes use of the book format or the structure of the book; typically ... unique sculptural works that take the form of, or incorporate, 

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Spencer Collection Book of the Month: A Wotton Binding

Volume bound for Thomas Wotton (Detail)After I'd spent four Sunday evenings in January engrossed in the doings of the Earl of Grantham and his household on the PBS "Masterpiece Classic" series Downton Abbey, this month's choice for Spencer Collection Book of the Month was obvious: a book that lingered for more than three centuries in the company of barons and earls, before being exiled from their presence in exchange for cold, hard cash.

Like

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Spencer Collection Book of the Month: Correspondence of St. Jerome

When I started blogging last May, I hoped to post frequently, but my "day job" of cataloging the books I'd like to write about kept getting in the way. This year, I made a New Year's resolution to blog more regularly. To get started, I thought I would pick a "Spencer Collection Book of the Month" at the beginning of each month and write a short post about it—just enough to share with my readers some of the things that make it special, because the Spencer 

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A Tour of the Stacks

On Sunday, December 5, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building was the site of the 2010 Holiday Open House, the Library's annual thank-you celebration for donors at the Friends level ($40) or above. Besides enjoying building-wide party fun, attendees were offered a rare opportunity to glimpse a part of the Library that is normally hidden from public view: the building's central stacks 

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Movable books in the Spencer Collection

Books with movable flaps, pop-up pages, and other "interactive" features are known to librarians as "Toy and movable books" and more than a thousand examples can be found in the Library's catalog. Most are modern children's books, but the genre has a surprisingly long history, pre-dating even the dawn of printing, and most early examples were 

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A Passenger to Remember: Introducing the Spencer Collection

"A collection ... of the finest illustrated books that can be procured, of any country and in any language ... bound in handsome bindings representing the work of the most noted book-binders of all countries..."

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The Titanic disaster portrayed on a contemporary songsheet coverSometime in 1910, according to an often-repeated story that has acquired the status of legend, William Augustus Spencer visited the new central building of the New York Public Library, still

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