May 20 - July 31, 1997
The Collector Collected: The Horblit Archive of
Sir Thomas Phillipps at the Grolier Club
Curated by Eric Holzenberg
In 1995 Jean Mermin Horblit donated to the Grolier Club a magnificent archive of materials relating to the nineteenth-century bibliophile Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), amassed by her late husband Harrison Horblit. In celebration of this gift the Grolier Club exhibited during May-July 1997 a group of over one hundred books and manuscripts documenting Sir Thomas's activities as a collector, would-be scholar, and printer.
Between 1819 and 1872 the wealthy bibliomaniac and antiquary Sir Thomas Phillipps assembled one of the largest and perhaps the greatest private collection of books and manuscripts the world has ever seen. Dispersed after his death in a series of sales lasting the better part of a century, Sir Thomas's fabled Bibliotheca Phillippica -- a collection of some 60,000 manuscripts and 40,000 printed books -- enriched countless libraries in Europe and the United States. Phillipps was also one of the great English eccentrics of the nineteenth century, notorious not only for his voracious collecting, but also for his passionate if inept forays into scholarly writing and publishing, as well as his somewhat bizarre domestic life. The books, manuscripts, drawings, photographs, and other objects exhibited were assembled over a period of thirty years by Grolier Club member Harrison D. Horblit, a legendary collector in his own right. Curator Eric Holzenberg illustrated the financial consequences of Phillipps's book-mania through his personal marked copies of sale catalogues, and correspondence with various long-suffering book-dealers; a selection of works from Sir Thomas's private Middle Hill Press illustrated his attempts to document his own collection, to produce scholarly editions of the manuscripts in his library, and to air his often unsavory political and religious opinions; and finally, diaries, photographs and other personalia were used to illustrate the series of devastating family disputes which troubled the latter part of his life, and contributed to dispersal of his great collection.
Accompanying the exhibition is The Middle Hill Press: A Checklist of the Horblit Collection of Books, Tracts, Leaflets, and Broadsides Printed by Sir Thomas Phillipps.
Click here to see the New York Times review of this exhibition.