Artists’ Books for All Hallows’ Eve

Artists’ Books are part of the Rare Books Collection in Special Collections. It is a growing collection of limited edition books – sometimes one-of-a-kind – that are, in themselves, works of art. The collection represents the work of artists from North America and around the world, each piece personally selected by the Special Collections Librarian and Curator. Selected works are photographed (with permission of the artist) by David Seiler, Visual Resources and Digitization Director, and are part of Scribner Library’s Digital Collections.

Ghost DiaryMaureen Cummins is a book artist who lives and works in New York State. She graduated with a BFA from the Cooper Union School of Art, and has her own print shop/studio in Brooklyn. Her website states that she has produced over twenty-five limited edition artists’ books, twenty-one of which Skidmore owns. On the eve of All Hallows’ Eve, and in the spirit of the season, two of her works are featured here: “Ghost Diary” and “A Twentieth Century Version of Poe’s Classic Tale: The Masque of the Red Death.”

Ghost Diary was inspired by a handwritten letter, written by Colonel Jonathon Rhea in 1807 to his children on the anniversary of their mother’s death. Five images accompany the text, and are original glass negatives dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The haunting, ethereal nature of this artist’s book has been elegantly captured in the digital images. To learn more about this work, visit the artist’s website .

MasqueA Twentieth Century Version of Poe’s Classic Tale: The Masque of the Red Death is just as the title describes. There are six chapters or sections of woodblock images, with the final image in each section in red and black. A page of text acts as a postscript to each section, as if narrated by Death itself. The ‘story’ is set in seventeenth century London, but the images depict cityscapes and interior landscapes of modern-day New York. The woodcuts are beautifully ‘brutal’, and evoke an atmosphere of violent destruction and ultimate despair. But, is the final “Guardian Life” image hopeful? What do you think?

Texts from the Classical World

classicalSkidmore College’s Special Collections & Archives holds a number of ancient Greek and Latin literature texts, 26 of which, dating from 1489 to 1875, have recently been photographed. From Homer to Saint Augustine, the authors represented span over 1000 years of literary output and hail from regions and intellectual perspectives across the ancient Mediterranean world. Some of the works were printed within the first 50 years of Gutenberg’s invention; others reflect the development of publishing and printing during the Renaissance and beyond.

Anna Hocker ‘17, a double major in Classics and History, is currently constructing a website dedicated to these texts. In addition to the photographs and metadata provided by the library, the website will provide synopses of the authors’ lives and literary productivity, and as well details about the publishers and printers. The latter will comprise A Concise History of Publishing and Printing, which will explain the progress of printing from the late 15th to the late 19th centuries. This portion of the website will outline the technological history of the printing press, as well as examine the role of classical texts during the Renaissance and how humanists used the voices of antiquity to teach their students not only Latin and Greek language and literature, but also the histories of these ancient cultures.

Click here to view the 26 photographed texts and stay tuned for more information about Anna’s project!

Elizabeth Fisher Adams

Elizabeth_Adams_photograph_Womens_Army_Auxiliary_Corps_uniformA descendant of former presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, Elizabeth Fisher Adams graduated from Skidmore in 1929 as an English major. Her fierce anti-isolationist views led her to leave a safe career as an English teacher to become an ambulance driver in France during World War II, two years before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The collection consists of, among other things, photographs and letters to her family, some of which eloquently describe the dark cloud of uncertainty hovering over a country on the brink of war. Take a look at “Midnight Thoughts” written in Paris on March 18, 1940, just weeks before the Germans invaded France. “At the Front,” written from the Belgian Front on May 14, 1940, describes what it was Elizabeth_Adams_photograph_gas_maskslike to actually be right in the thick of it, bombs dropping and gunfire blaring. Elizabeth had a unique perspective as an American woman, a volunteer, far away from home and family. It’s clear that she cared deeply for all the people affected. Her letters are passionate, sometimes beautiful, and sometimes funny. She went on to join the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and later, after the war, went back to France to help that country rebuild.


Browse the Elizabeth Adams Collection.