Inside the Milberg Gallery: In the Company of Good Books - Poets into Print

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 three great American poets represented in this section played distinctive and contrasting roles in relation to their printed works. Walt Whitman (1819-1892) participated in every aspect of the production and marketing of his poetry, reshaping and repackaging “Leaves of Grass” through many editions. Frances Watkins Harper (1825-1911) sold her inexpensive volumes individually as she toured the country as a lecturer, converting the proceeds into activism. Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)–too reticent to publish–bequeathed her poetic legacy to later editors to discover and excavate afresh. 

 Merrihew & Son, 1886.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911). “Sketches of Southern Life.” Philadelphia: Merrihew & Son, 1886.

 

Watkins Harper inscribed this anthology of poems on post-emancipation life for Caroline Griggs Crosby of Garnavillo, Iowa, adding her own signature and address: No. 10, 244 South 12th Street, Philadelphia. This was the home and headquarters of her friend William Still (1821-1902), the intrepid Underground Railroad conductor whose monumental 1872 memoir of that operation includes a lengthy chapter on the poet’s heroic work in violation of the Fugitive Slave Law. 

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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 31, 2023.

Media Contact: Stephanie Oster, Library Publicity Manager