December 10, 2003 - February 7, 2004. The Winterthur Library Revealed: Five Centuries of Design & Inspiration. Curated by the Winterthur Library.
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December 10, 2003 - February 7, 2004
The Winterthur Library Revealed: Five Centuries of Design & Inspiration
Curated by the Winterthur Library

Printed materials that offer a rare and extraordinary visual catalogue of American design, art, history, and society will be on view at the Grolier Club from December 10, 2003 to February 7, 2004, as the club hosts The Winterthur Library Revealed: Five Centuries of Design and Inspiration, an exhibition drawn from the library collection at Winterthur, An American Country Estate.

Winterthur, located outside Wilmington, Delaware, is the former country home of the noted collector, horticulturist, and gentleman farmer Henry Francis du Pont (1880-1969), a key tastemaker of America's Colonial Revival era. Du Pont's private collection of books on American art and antiques and their European background formed the core of the Winterthur Library collection. The library continued to evolve to serve the needs of the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture, a graduate degree program fostered by du Pont and offered in partnership with the University of Delaware, which has served as an unparalleled training ground for curators and other scholars since 1952.

Because the research needs of students and scholars have shaped its policies, the Winterthur Library has collected materials well beyond the typical museum library. The collection includes architectural pattern books, artisan price and account books, domestic advice manuals, trade catalogues, cookbooks, diaries, travel accounts, fabric swatch books, full runs (with their covers) of the great consumer magazines, and dozens of European ornament books.

Among the highlights that will be on display in the show at the Grolier Club are:

  • A sample book of 432 textile swatches, typical of those produced in Manchester, England, in the late 18th century, when the city was the center of cotton cloth production,
  • An early 19th-century French volume known as a peddler's catalogue, charmingly illustrated with watercolors that feature such personal and household goods as gloves, hats, garters, Argand lamps, and thermometers.
  • A beautifully engraved and hand-painted trade label advertising the services of the portrait painters Raphaelle and Rembrandt Peale, two of the 17 children of noted 18th-century painter and scientist Charles Willson Peale.
  • Delightful 17th-century woodcut illustrations of exotic animals (including fanciful fables about the animals as well as practical instructions on their care and feeding) that inspired designs for household goods, motifs, and needlework patterns.

In addition to such highly influential classics as Thomas Sheraton's The Cabinet-Maker, Upholsterer, and General Artists' Encyclopaedia; Owen Jones' Examples of Chinese Ornament; and one of the few surviving examples of The Works in Architecture of Robert & James Adam to include hand-colored plates, The Winterthur Library Revealed offers such unexpected delights as a book of tattoo designs; a list of household furnishings for the official President's residence in New York, written in the beautiful, legible handwriting of George Washington; and a French dancing master's etiquette book, including illustrated instructions for dancing the minuet.

Partial funding for the exhibition is provided by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

The exhibit was curated by Winterthur staff members Neville Thompson, National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Librarian; Bert Denker, Senior Librarian for Visual Resources. E. Richard McKinstry, Andrew W. Mellon Senior Librarian; Lois Olcott Price, Senior Conservator of Library Collections; and Jeanne Solensky, Librarian in the Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera. A 110-page illustrated catalogue, with color and black-and-white plates, will accompany the exhibition. Copies will be available at the Grolier Club during the run of the show.

The Winterthur Library Revealed will be on view at the Grolier Club, 47 East 60th Street, December 9, 2003- February 7, 2004 (excepting December 24-26, and December 31-January 1, when the Club is closed). The exhibition is open to the public, Monday-Saturday, 10-5, free of charge.

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