Inside the Milberg Gallery: In the Company of Good Books - The Poet’s Corner

The following is part of a series of inside looks at the current exhibition in Princeton University Library’s Ellen and Leonard Milberg Gallery in Firestone Library - “In the Company of Good Books: Shakespeare to Morrison.” 

Curated by Jennifer Garcon, Librarian for Modern and Contemporary Special Collections, Gabriel Swift, Librarian for American Collections, and Eric White, Scheide Librarian & Assistant University Librarian for Special Collections, Rare Books & Manuscripts, the exhibition celebrates the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s “First Folio” and showcases Princeton’s diverse collection of English literature and many of the writers and readers who brought life to English literature around the world. 

The extraordinary books and manuscripts exhibited in this section of the exhibition do more than just keep great poetry alive–they bring readers into intimate connection with John Donne (1573-1631), who did not intend his poetry for publication; the admirable and versatile Katherine Philips (1632-1664); resilient Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784), exploited and then neglected by her admirers; young and ambitious John Keats (1795-1821); Robert Browning (1812-1889) as a boy, first encountering the poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley; and Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861), the definitive poetic voice of her age.

Title page of Phillis Wheatley's "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral."

Phillis Wheatley (1753–1784). “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.” London: A(rchibald) Bell, 1773. Robert H. Taylor, Class of 1930.

The young author of these poems was named Phillis after the boat that stole her from her West African childhood, and Wheatley after the Bostonians who enslaved her for 13 years. A prodigious learner, she became America’s first Black published poet in 1767 and in 1773 was presented as a curiosity to London’s society elites. Manumitted in November 1773, she died in Boston 11 difficult years later, unsupported and alone.

The exhibition is open through December 10, 2023 at the Milberg Gallery in Firestone Library. Please visit the website to view the gallery’s opening hours and for information about public tours, related programming, and how to visit.

Discover more through the companion digital exhibition.

Published October 17, 2023.

Media Contact: Stephanie Oster, Library Publicity Manager