2018 FABS TOUR OF DELAWARE
Howard Pyle (1853-1911), Caxton at His Press, 1902 for The Bibliomania or Book-Madness. History, Symptoms and Cure of this Fatal Disease, by Thomas Frogall Dibdin (Boston: The Bibliophile Society, 1903). Oil on canvas. Delaware Art Museum, Bequest of Harriet K. Richards, 1987
If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing twice. Twenty years ago, in 1998, members of FABS clubs visited Delaware as an adjunct to a tour of the Philadelphia region. This 2018 trip will be devoted wholly to the First State (the first to ratify the Constitution), which, despite its small size, has large attractions: four hundred years of political and industrial history; the beautiful Brandywine Valley; historic architecture; good food; and, of course and most important, a truly remarkable and wide range of books, manuscripts, and art held by libraries, museums, and private collectors. If the name Delaware just conjures up a part of the Mid-Atlantic passed through on a journey via road or rail between New York and Washington, D.C. you are in for a surprise—and a treat.
The dates are Wednesday, May 16, through Saturday, May 19, a time of temperate climate when Delaware’s famed gardens are at the best and, we think, a time with less competition from commencements, book fairs, and trips organized by other bibliophilic societies, not to mention Mother’s Day. Our host will be, as before, the Delaware Bibliophiles, who have developed a program that includes most of the collections which make Delaware unique as well as a public symposium. It’s a somewhat crowded schedule, but distances are short (the longest bus ride is estimated at forty minutes) and there is a lot to see.
Participants are expected to arrive 5.30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday evening to join members of the Delaware Bibliophiles and local librarians, curators, collectors, and “book people” at a reception at the Sheraton Wilmington, the FABS hotel located in downtown Wilmington, Delaware. Dinner will be on your own in one of the many restaurants in the nearby Market Street corridor or the Riverfront, areas of the city undergoing considerable revitalization.
Thursday will be, for lack of a better title, “du Pont day,” with visits to three of the family’s great legacies, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library; Hagley Museum & Library; and Longwood Gardens. Founded by Henry Francis du Pont, Winterthur (pronounced “winter-tour”) is a matchless museum of American decorative arts. We shall be given tours of the collections—spectacular furniture, paintings, ceramics, textiles, and objects—but spend most of our time in the separate research library. The library’s rare books are particularly strong in architecture, children's books, women’s magazines and domestic manuals, American and British trade catalogs; and the Arts and Crafts movement. Manuscripts include a vast array of items related to decorative arts and American culture; the staggering John and Carolyn Grossman Collection, 250,000 pieces of ephemera, documents everyday life from 1820 to 1902 (including, incidentally, the first printed Christmas card). After lunch at Winterthur, the group will move on to Hagley. Located on the site of the original du Pont powder works and including the original du Pont home, Hagley preserves and interprets history of American enterprise. Again we shall have a private viewing of extraordinary and rare materials, business and personal papers of the du Ponts, advertising graphics and the work of designers (such as Raymond Loewy), the library of Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (the finest collection on late-eighteenth-century French society and politics in North America), and the largest collection of patent models outside he U.S. Patent Office. The late afternoon will take us to Longwood, the estate of Pierre S. du Pont, celebrated worldwide for its famous gardens. Naturally the Longwood library focuses on horticulture and the allied sciences; the special collections and archives contain fine examples of botanical art spanning nearly 350 years; highlights include John Evelyn’s Sylva (1664), a complete set of Curtis's Botanical Magazine from 1788 to the present, and Reichenbachia (1888-1892), an unsurpassed series of chromolithographic orchid plates. Dinner at 1906 Restaurant will follow, with the evening capped by one of Longwood’s truly marvelous open air theater fountain displays.
On Friday morning the setting is the University of Delaware, in Newark— fifteen miles south of Wilmington. Here, in the massive Morris Library, we will see Special Collections and the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection. Special Collections encompass books, manuscripts, graphics, and much else encompassing six centuries, from illuminated manuscripts to contemporary artist’s books, taking in English, American, and Irish literature, history of science, Americana, printing and the book arts, horticulture, local history and politics, indeed every conceivable subject connected to the academic and cultural life of a major university. Of particular note will be selections from the Senate papers of former Vice President, Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and from Robert D. Fleck’s extensive collection relating to Delaware, a recent gift. The Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, housed in its own quarters, focuses on British writers and artists of the late-Victorian period (think Christina Rossetti, William Morris, Aubrey Beardsley) with presentation and association copies, letters, manuscripts, and drawings. We shall be the library’s guests for lunch then divide into two groups, one to tour the private collection of Andrew McKay (Delaware photography, the Civil War, among other areas), the other to visit the studio of Lead Graffiti, the distinguished letterpress operated by Ray Nichols and Jill Cypher. Everyone will then be reunited to travel to the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, PA, Renowned for its holdings of the Wyeth family, the Museum features work by N. C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, and Jamie Wyeth as well as a cross section of American art with an emphasis on illustration and artistic practice in the Brandywine valley. There will be time to see the library and side trips to the nearby studios (part of the Museum campus) of N. C. Wyeth and Andrew Wyeth. This busy day will conclude with a wine reception and dinner at the elegant University and Whist Club back in Wilmington (the club’s mansion sits where the U.S. Capitol was intended to be built). Members of the Delaware Bibliophiles will be invited to this event, with a number of them giving a “show-and-tell” about selections from their own collections.
The Delaware Historical Society, founded in 1864 for “the elucidation of history, particularly such portions as may refer to Delaware” is the first stop on Saturday. In its recently renovated headquarters reside the surprisingly interesting Delaware History Museum, the new Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage, and a research library, where we shall be invited to special viewing of manuscripts and printed materials, including important Colonial documents, dating from the earliest settlements of the region to the present day. Next up will be the Delaware Art Museum, which deserves to be known as more than one of the country’s best regional art museums. For the DAM holds the largest collection of English Pre-Raphaelite art outside the U.K., formed largely by Samuel Bancroft, Jr., a local industrialist who was also a book collector (member of the Grolier Club). It also has significant holdings in American illustration, in particular by the artist Howard Pyle and his associates and students. Gallery talks by curators will be coordinated with a visit to the Helen Farr Sloan Library, where its special collections—Samuel Bancroft’s Pre-Raphaelite books and related manuscripts, the library of painter John Sloan, and a major collection of publisher’s cloth bindings of the 1850-1930 period—inspire the theme of the FABS symposium to follow in the Museum’s auditorium after lunch. Provisionally titled “Books and Illustration at the Turn of the Century in Britain and America,” the symposium will be open to the public without charge and feature several nationally-known speakers. At 4 p.m. the FABS group will leave a tea reception to board the bus for the half-hour ride to New Castle. This historic and charming town—the Rockefeller’s original choice for an 18th century restoration—will be the site of the tour’s two-part finale. First, Rob Fleck, of Oak Knoll Books, has most kindly invited us to the eponymous and wondrous temple of “books about books” for browsing and a reception. Then we will walk a short way down Delaware Street to the Arsenal (built by the Army in 1811 as a fortification against British invasion) for a gala celebratory dinner.
Please note that the plans outlined here, while tentatively confirmed as of early August, are subject to change. We anticipate a tour fee of $625 per person, to include all receptions, lunches, and dinners from Wednesday night, 16 May through Saturday night, 19 May. Bus transportation to all venues from the FABS hotel in Wilmington will be provided, and the fee also covers all museum/library admissions. The tour fee does not include hotel accommodations, breakfasts, or other forms of local transportation. A block of rooms has been set aside at the Sheraton Wilmington at the rate of $129 per night, single or double occupancy. The 2018 FABS tour of Delaware is limited to 50 participants.